All Derek can do is stare at the casket as it's lowered into the ground. When he'd gotten the call, he'd cried for days, cried so hard he couldn't breathe. He'd yelled until his throat was raw, screamed until he threw up. But at the funeral, his cheeks are dry, his voice is gone. He just stares. Even with the physical pain of Laura holding his hand, even when people try to talk to him. He doesn't have anything left to say.
Laura's crying on his shoulder, saying "They're gone, Der. There was nothing we could've done."
He just shakes his head. He could've done something.
It's just one funeral, one casket. They'd thought it would be easier that way. It's not. His whole family - mother, father, brother, aunt, cousins, all of them - reduced to ashes. All that's left of them is in jars, nestled in a single casket. If he could, Derek would cry for the fact that his family, his huge, wonderful, vibrant family, was able to be contained in a six foot pine box.
Even though Laura is standing beside him, and Peter on the other side of the casket, he knows now that his whole family is dead. It wasn't just the ones they're burying who burnt in the fire. It was all of them, too, from the inside out.
And Derek can't help but think - can't help but know - that if he had just been there, if he hadn't left to begin with, his family wouldn't be dead. He wouldn't be dead.
"Der, I'm telling you, you really just need to get back out there."
This was not the day Derek had planned. All he had wanted to do when he stopped by Laura's shop was to get his usual coffee. Instead, he's getting a lecture about his love life. Again.
"It worked for me. I know you remember how I was two years ago. I wouldn't even talk to anyone but you and Peter, much less date. But I did. And now look where I'm at, I'm getting married!"
He knows she's getting married, she's only mentioned it every ten minutes for the past two weeks since she proposed to Boyd.
"I just don't want to, okay?" It's not what he wants to say, but they've had this argument so many times that he can map out every reaction she'll have to his responses. This one is easiest.
Laura reaches across the counter and rests her hands on his. They're warm from his coffee that she's been withholding. It would be so easy to reach across to grab it and flee. But he knows he'll never hear the end.
She tries to stare him down, all the while holding his hands. It's a thing she does, because it's a thing their mom used to do. She'd know she had him caught in a lie or ready to spill his feelings, so she'd reach over and hold his hands and just look at him. It doesn't work when Laura does it, she's not his mom.
Laura sighs and pulls her hands away. "It's been nearly two years, this isn't healthy."
"I don't care if it's healthy," he bites out, "It's better this way."
"I'll change your mind." She promises, finally handing over his coffee.
He takes it with a glare and storms out of the shop into the cool winter air.
A year ago he felt guilty every time he stormed out on Laura or left a conversation angry, but she does this so often now that he doesn't think twice. He wishes she would just get it. He doesn't want to date, dating is what caused all of this to begin with. Dating is what killed his family.
It's late when he gets the call, starting him out of his trance. He's been drafting plans for the new coffee shops for hours, lost in his work. In the past two years it's been his only escape.
He's still wary of late night calls, still starts to tremble as he reaches for the phone, even more so when it's an unknown number. What if it's Boyd calling about Laura? Or what if something happened to Peter?
He tamps down his fears and answers.
"Hi, is this Derek?" It's a sickly sweet voice, sugar coated and syrupy. It immediately puts him on edge.
"Who is this?" He's starting to actually get worried. He doesn't get calls from strangers often, and definitely not from ones who know his name.
"My name is Dr. Morrell, I'm calling on behalf of your sister."
Derek's stomach drops, it takes all his focus to just keep listening and not drop the phone.
"Laura?" His voice is hoarse, barely a whisper. He's afraid of what's coming next.
"Your sister told me you were having some trouble coping?"
"Coping? I don't understand..." The only thoughts going through his head are ones of car accidents and house fires.
He's hunched over on himself, on the ground beside his bed, when he hears Dr. Morrell respond.
"Yes, I received an email from her a couple days ago about your difficulty dealing with the tragic deaths of your family a few years ago. I told her that I would need to speak with you directly in order to help so she gave me your number."
"Laura." Derek grinds out. He's still having trouble breathing, was on the verge of panic just moments ago.
He takes a long minute to get his breathing under control and to let the adrenaline stop flooding his system before he responds.
"I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're talking about."
"Now, Derek, there's no reason to lie. I could hear your panic a minute ago. Did you think I was calling to give you bad news about your sister?"
He really needs to talk to his sister about meddling in his personal life. He knows she has honest intentions, but it really isn't her place. Especially when it involves other people, and ones as slimy as this one. Talking to this woman makes him want to vomit and scream at the same time (which would result in projectile vomiting with his luck). He puts on a calm bravado, though, before responding for Laura's sake.
"I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I'm fine. I really don't need any help."
"You might think that, Derek, but I know you're hurting. This is a safe space. You can talk to me. I just want to try to help you understand your problems so you can move past them. I only have your best interests in mind."
He lets out a snort. Now he's getting irritated. He should have just hung up after she told him why she was calling because she's clearly not going to give up easily.
"Sure you do." He's been to see his fair share of therapists, before and after the fire. They have big talk about "his best interests" and how they want to help him, but somehow he always ends up feeling the same but with a lighter wallet. "What's your game here? Do I have to give you my credit card number and then you'll talk to me for an hour while I whine about my feelings? Sorry, but I'm not interested."
"Oh, no, Derek." She keeps saying his name, that old trick to try to make it seem like she actually cares. "Money's not an issue. I just want to help you stop blaming yourself."
He freezes at that. "I'm sorry?" His voice was barely a whisper.
He's never actually verbalized the fact that he blames himself, how the blame is justified. If he hadn't dated Kate, if he hadn't run away when she cheated, if he hadn't been 3000 miles away when the electrical fire started, he could've saved them.
"I know loss of loved ones can be difficult, Derek, especially en masse, as you and your sister experienced. But there's never a reason to blame yourself when you're not at fault."
He can't help but sneer, it's the same line therapists have been feeding him for years, and he's sick of the bullshit. "Like you would know? I wasn't there. It was my fault."
The line is silent for a moment before she speaks again.
"Why don't you tell me about them? Your family?"
He sighs. He thinks about hanging up, but this woman called because Laura had asked her to. If he doesn't give in now, he'll have to deal with days of phone calls and badgering from his sister. Besides, maybe talking a bit will get Laura off his back.
"They were, uh, they were great." He hasn't spoken about them since the fire, not in a 'before' way.
"Who's 'they,' Derek?"
He wishes she'd stop saying his name, sickeningly sweet across the line, but he sucks it up and responds anyways. He sighs and lets it all come out.
"There was my brother, he was nearly ten years younger than me, but we were still pretty close." It hurts to talk about them, but he has to give her something. "And there was my aunt, she was always just a really happy person. And my cousins, twins. They were a handful, they had a thing for playing pranks on everyone. And my dad, he was always the voice of reason when the rest of my family was insane." He stops to take a breath. This is harder than he'd expected, it feel like he's opening floodgates. He's kept the dam up for a reason; if he keeps going, he doesn't know if he can stop.
"Aren't you leaving someone out, Derek?"
Dr. Morrell's syrupy voice makes him want to clam up and not talk anymore, but he knows that's just asking for Laura to bug him for weeks on end.
"Yeah, my mom. She was... amazing. She was definitely the head of the family. She kept us all together." His voice is starting to break. He hasn't spoken about her in so long. "She always knew what to do," he lets out on a shaky breath and then is silent, maybe this is enough.
"This is good, Derek, it's good for you to talk about them."
"Yeah, I guess." His breath is coming back to him now, and, if he's being completely honest with himself (which he's not) he feels like the weight on his chest has lessened slightly.
"So family is important to you?"
He doesn't want to answer, he feels like she's leading him somewhere. But he knows that he can't stop here.
"Yeah. Family has always been a big thing for us. For me." His family was his support structure, his anchor.
"Do you think you might want to build a new family, then?"
He's not sure how much longer he can take this conversation, but he bites out "I still have a family," anyways.
"Derek, you know what I mean." She doesn't even make an effort to hide the condescension in her voice. "I understand that you love your sister and your friends, but you know that's not the same. Do you want to build your own?"
"Not anymore." He can tell that Dr. Morrell's on the edge of her seat now, dying to keep pushing, but hee interrupts her before she can get the first word out. "I'm sorry, Dr. Morrell, but I really have to go. It is pretty late." He tries to let his voice show how much he appreciates the 10pm phone call.
"Of course, Derek." She doesn't sound like she means it. "Thank you so much for your time, hopefully I'll be hearing from you again? You can listen to your interview with the article I'll post tomorrow morning."
The line is dead before he can get an answer.
He's not sure what the hell just happened, but if it's what he thinks, Laura is dead.
Discussions with Dr. Morrell for Dec 26th
Crestfallen in California
About a week ago I received an email to my blog from a young lady. She was very concerned about her brother. Their family had died in a tragic fire two years prior, and since then, her brother hadn't connected with anyone on a deeper level than friendship. She was concerned - she had found love and was happy, yet her brother refused to even look. She was convinced that her brother was holding himself back from building his own family because he felt responsible for their family's deaths. She asked me for advice on the matter, but I told her that, truthfully, I couldn't give her any without talking to him first. She was kind enough to give me his phone number and I proceeded to interview him (recording and transcription below - names edited out for privacy). I'm hoping that my talk with him will help him to reconnect with others and to seek out a relationship.
Being a journalist is Stiles's dream job. Being a journalist that essentially runs a blog (well, co-runs, though Lydia's really in charge) about prominent blog posts, is not. Okay, so it's technically a column, but it's online so how much did it count? A lot, actually, considering it's a recent addition to the New York Times Online and he and Lydia were hired almost straight out of college because they were so impressed with their own blog. But that's not the point. The point is that being a journalist is Stiles's dream job. Reading blog posts by sleazy psychiatrists (former psychiatrist, technically) who use their title to weasel information out of unsuspecting victims and then share it with the world: not his dream job. In fact, it makes him a bit nauseated.
But unfortunately, doing such a thing is a responsibility of his sorta-dream-job. And Lydia threatened to cut his Christmas vacation short if he doesn't get some work done. So he now has a six hour flight from Hawaii to California during which to sift through the hundreds of blogs he monitors to find their most interesting blog posts to share. What a fun trip.
In all truth, Stiles actually hates flights - which is unfortunate considering he lives in New York, his boyfriend's family lives in Hawaii, and his father lives in California - so he is a little bit grateful for the distraction. But this post is not a distraction, this post is threatening to bring his dormant air-sickness to the surface.
He'd been following Discussions with Dr. Morrell for about a year now and had very rarely come across an article that disquieted him, despite the nature of the blog. It was rare for him to even share one of her posts, but she was still on the list, so he still had to monitor her blog. She normally dealt with things of an Ask Amy nature, "I don't like my boyfriend's new friend," or "I'm no longer interested in sex with my partner." But never anything dealing with something so personal, and hardly ever in a way where the patients themselves didn't contact Dr. Morrell directly. She also never posted anything that actually intrigued Stiles.
Crestfallen in California, however, was different. He felt a sense of kinship with the man from the interview. Not only was his story so personal and dark, but listening to the recording, Stiles realized he didn't seem to want to participate or even be aware of the nature of the interview.
Stiles felt for him, because he knew loss, though not on that scale. But he knew what the death of a loved one felt like, and he knew how annoying it was to be bugged about it. Even the "I'm sorry for your loss"s got old. But nothing was as bad as the concern for your well-being that people had after the loss. People had treated him like glass for years after his mother died. It took some serious yelling at Scott - who almost cried - for him to go back to treating him like normal. His dad had spent years and way too much money trying to get him to open up to therapists and psychiatrists about his feelings over her death. It never helped, and he never wanted it. Trying to force him to talk about it was the worst thing anyone could do for him. He just needed to wallow for a little while - okay, a few years. But clearly that hadn't stunted him too bad, considering he's at a pretty good place in his life now.
The point is that concerned family members and psychiatrists alike seemed to not realize that everyone deals with death differently. Stiles, and Crestfallen, as it seems, deal with it by shutting the topic out and moving with their lives in every other way possible. Not very conducive to the careers of nosey blog-running psychiatrists.
The good part of Stiles really hopes that this post is the one that will finally get her blog shut down. The asshole part of Stiles hopes that the post garners so much popularity that he can find out more about the guy. Other than the niggling familiarity in the back of his mind, the story just interests him. He wants to know more about why exactly Crestfallen blames himself for his family's deaths. He wants to know why it's keeping him from being able to date. He wants to know more about the guy's family, who he seems to have so much love for that he's punishing himself for their deaths.
Stiles just wants to know more and always likes a good mystery.
Derek still isn't 100% sure about what happened in that conversation last night with Dr. Morrell, but he is 100% sure that he wants to kill Laura.
Well, not literally. But he's going to find someway to exact revenge. He's the architect for her business, after all, he can figure out something. Phallic shaped architecture in the new design plans? A good possibility.
He had called Laura as soon as he'd gotten off the phone with Dr. Morrell, but she'd just said "Don't worry, Der. Even if she does post it, I'm sure no one will read it. You're life's not that interesting, after all."
But he has a feeling. A bad one. He just knows that the conversation he had last night is somehow going to lead to a very bad day for him. Or maybe even a bad week, or month. He just knows. It's the way his life works.
It turns out he's right, because around noon he gets a call from Laura.
When he answers, she screams in his ear.
"DEREK! THEY LOVE IT! YOU'VE GOTTEN TWO MILLION HITS. PEOPLE WANT TO DATE YOU. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?"
He hangs up his phone and drops it in the toilet. On purpose.
Unfortunately (or maybe not), it seems that Discussions with Dr. Morrell is not going to be shut down. Quite the opposite, in fact.
After spending a few hours with his dad and forcing him to get at least a few vegetables on the meat-lover's pizza they ordered, and after a quick phone call to Danny to let him know he got in alright and would see him the next day, Stiles decided to go back and check Dr. Morrell's posting again.
When he initially checked it, it was just a few hours after it had been posted in the early hours of the morning, so it only had a few hits. Now though, it has millions. It had blown up in the last twelve hours, receiving over three thousand comments.
He decides to do the thing you're not supposed to do and read the comments. As he does, he begins to feel even more nauseated than he had earlier. Not a single person (at least in the 'most liked' section) had pointed out how problematic the post was or the fact that Morrell was clearly exploiting his feelings for her own blog ratings. No, every person, male and female alike, wanted to know where to get his phone number, how to contact him, how to ask him for a date -- which, yes, Stiles would love to know too, but are they just going to ignore how gross this all is? They all commented on the sexiness of his voice and how they would be "more than willing to get him out of his rut."
Stiles wants to throw up. Because he's like these people. He's just like them, and he can't even deny it. Even through all of his concern for the invasion of the guy's privacy, he still wants to know more. He's no different from the millions of other commenters.
Despite his queasiness, he also notices that many of the commenters reported being directed there from other prominent news sources and even other blogging sites. Now he has to post this story to their column. And Lydia is going to kill him for not being the first to it.
He posts it, grudgingly, but he adds a whole six paragraphs where he discusses the problems of Dr. Morrell's exploitations, her history of breaking doctor/patient privilege, and the sleaziness of the comments. Lydia will rib him later for including his opinions without her permission first, but he knows she'll secretly be proud for calling the assholes out, so he doesn't worry too much.
Two hours and eight beers later, he decides to look at the blog post.
The hit-counter reads 8 million.
It says there are 6 thousand comments.
He does what he knows he shouldn't do: he reads them.
He gets through two pages before he's feeling the urge to join his laptop with his cell phone.
Instead, he closes out of the web page, closes the computer, and takes a few deep breaths.
He decides to spend the few hours relaxing before Laura shows up to his apartment like he knows she will. He probably over reacted just a little bit when he threw his phone in the toilet bowl, but it was a better alternative to saying quite a few choice words and damaging his relationship with one of his only living relatives. Regardless, she's probably worried about not being able to contact him. Or she just wants to bug him.
He settles down on his couch in front of the TV and opens up Netflix. He knows Laura will probably mock him for his choice in shows or something, but he doesn't really care. The ability to marathon TV shows is one of the few things that has kept him sane these past two years (along with coffee, alcohol, cinnamon rolls, and exercise) so he soaks up all he can.
He's right, and she storms in three hours later, hair whipping behind her as she yells.
"Derek Anthony Hale!"
He doesn't respond, just pauses the episode and waits patiently for her to start her inevitable rant.
"You can't do that, Der! You can't just shut me out with no warning and leave me to worry!" She's trying to make him feel guilty, and he does, a little, but he won't admit it.
"You can't just give my number out to random bloggers."
She takes a deep breath and sits down next to him. She clearly knows she's in the wrong, but she's Laura, she's not going to admit it.
"I know you feel better for it. I know that it helped."
"How do you know that?" He's not going to admit that it helped at all. It did in a way, it felt good to get it all off his chest, to actually talk about his family. But it still made him feel sick to talk to Dr. Morrell, to hear her sugary voice prying into his personal life.
The way she looks at him, he knows he's caught.
"Because it's Sunday evening and you're not wallowing at the cemetery like you have every other Sunday for the past two years.
He huffs out a breath and turns away from her.
"Maybe I just didn't feel like going today after seeing my personal life broadcast to 8 million people."
"Derek, freezing rain hasn't stopped you from going a single Sunday. But last night you actually talked about them, and you're still here. You're doing alright."
She's right. She usually is. But he can't tell her that.
Derek gets up to get another pack of beer from the fridge. He knows Laura will be there for a while, he might as well be a gracious host.
"It doesn't change anything."
"Okay, fine, fine. No more talk about feelings tonight. But you know your story got picked up by the New York Times?"
He drops the case of beer on his foot.
Laura doesn't talk about it anymore that night.
Over the next few days, Stiles develops an unfortunate habit of listening to Crestfallen's recording whenever he gets a chance. He loads it onto his iPhone and listens to it all the time - when he's running the backroads of Beacon Hills, when he's driving to the airport to pick up Danny, when he's cooking dinner for all of them. Danny notices, but when Stiles tells him he's just listening to transcriptions of blog posts for work, he shrugs it off. Because Danny is a good boyfriend. One that Stiles doesn't deserve.
Though Danny seems to think differently, because on New Years Eve, he proposes. Well, not proposes-proposes, with the ring and bended knee, but he asks Stiles if he'll marry him. It's not like it comes out of left field, they've been dating for over a year, since he got the position at the New York Times and he started shamelessly flirting with the hot IT guy who was always extra nice, even though he clearly didn't want to put up with Stiles's shit. Stiles finally wore him down enough after six months that he said yes to a date.
But they've been dating for a year, and Stiles is only 24 and Danny is too nice for him.
So he says yes.
His dad is excited, but when he's getting ready to get on the plane back to New York a few days later, he just gives him a look that says, "Are you sure you're ready for this? Are you sure you want this? With him?"
He's not, but he nods and smiles anyways before giving his dad a hug and boarding the plane, iPhone already replaying the recording.
When Stiles finally gets back to work and checks the blog post again, it's gone viral. His post in the column is the most read on the New York Times Online right now, outside of any news stories.
Stiles spends a moment in smug satisfaction in seeing his by-line on the New York Times Online homepage before he remembers what the article is about.
He does the thing you're not supposed to again, and reads the comments, this time on his article. All it is are thousands of people telling him he's taking things too seriously, that "the dude clearly needed help," and quite a few expletives, with only a few dissenting comments here or there. He wants to scream (he won't admit that a part of it is the fact that millions of other people are privy to his obsession).
Derek is at work a week later when Laura calls him.
"Hello?" he answers, a note of apprehension in his voice. Laura only calls him at work if it's urgent.
"Hey baby bro, how are you?" She sounds like she's trying too hard to sound innocent.
"I'm fine. What are you up to, Laura?" Nothing good, he knows.
"Well... you remember that blogger last week?"
Of course he remembers, she'd tried to call him four times in the past week for a 'follow-up interview.' He'd considered smashing his brand new phone.
"Spit it out, Laur." He doesn't need her to beat around the bush for his sake, she never used to, she doesn't need to now.
"Okay, okay. So I talked to her. And she said that she keeps getting messages from people who want to talk to you and want to date you."
"Is there a point to this?" She'd been telling him all week about all the comments on the post, about all the people who found his story so sad and intriguing and who wanted to know him, to help fix him. He doesn't want to be fixed, he wants to be left alone.
"Well she asked me if there was any way your fans could talk to you. So I made you an email account."
"I made you an email. So you can interact with your fans!" She sounds giddy with excitement, and says, "I'll text you the information for it!" before hanging up."
Apparently people really like this email thing. A lot. Within a few hours of Dr. Morrell making a post about his email address, he has thousands of emails. He reads the first twenty or so, a series of "Hi, I read Dr. Morrell's blog post about you. I'd really like to get to know you!" It's all the same, so he stops.
Laura started this, Laura can deal with it.
Despite all of his protests, Derek does start dating again finally, if only to get Laura off his back.
At first, it's a series of blind dates, set up by Laura. First is a man named Ennis, who, while attractive, gives off douchey vibes and seems to be too much brawn and too few brains. Next is a woman named Kali, beautiful and well-spoken and strong, but she doesn't like to wear shoes and she has this toe nail thing, and Derek just can't. The last are Ethan and Aiden, twins. Derek doesn't know when he ever gave Laura the impression that he was at all interested in an incestuous-polyamorous relationship, but just, no, that's definitely not for him. He can hardly date one person, but two? He doesn't even see that date to the end before he's high-tailing it out of the restaurant, earning him a sympathetic look from the host.
That's the end of Laura's blind dates.
He decides to take dating into his own hands, and he meets her through his work. She's contracted him to design a new housing development, so technically she's his boss, but she's the first person he's wanted to date in ages. Ms. Blake, or Zoë, as she tells him to call her upon their second meeting. She's beautiful, with bright, blue eyes, and mid-length light brown hair, full lips and a nose that would look too sharp on any other face.
He asks her out after their third business meeting, and she says yes.
She's interesting and intelligent, and he likes. her. But he knows right away that she's not the one.
He holds out though. It feels good to be dating again, if not right. It feels good to have Laura off his back.
It doesn't last long though, before Laura is on him again.
Laura had suggested a double date with Boyd and Zoë, and Derek had agreed, because it was Laura, so, really, he had no choice.
They make dinner and sit around the table for a few hours nursing their drinks and half-playing trivia games. All in all, he thinks, the evening is nice.
When he comes back from walking Zoë to her car at the end of the night, though, Laura lets him know how not nice the evening was.
"I don't like her." She says, matter of fact.
Derek sits back down at the table and just stares at her for a moment, before lowering his forehead to the table and leaving it there.
Laura takes that as her cue.
"Her laugh is annoying, for one, and she doesn't ever talk unless you ask her a question, and she hesitates before everything she does."
Boyd is silent, nodding beside her. He knows Boyd will tell him later how he shouldn't listen to Laura, just do what he feels is right, but it doesn't make him feel any better at the moment.
Laura keeps going. "She's nice and all, but she's not right for you, Der. You don't need nice." She says the word like a curse. "And she doesn't make you laugh or even smile. You just don't seem happy. You two aren't good together, I know you noticed."
He did, he noticed all those things. He noticed them from the start. But he likes dating her, it's easy. He likes her, why end it over a few small things?
"You're wrong," he says, and it's all he has to say, so he gets up to go to bed. Laura and Boyd can clean up.
Stiles regrets finding the post about Crestfallen in California, because it has literally taken over his life. Only a week after Dr. Morrell posted the original blog post, she followed up with an email address for Crestfallen.
Which, way to ruin Stiles's life. Really, his fiancé works in IT and has real hacking skills. Stiles has access to all sorts of ways of tracing email addresses. And if Stiles has the chance to know things, he will know things, because he's a nosey fucker like that.
So he asks Danny to help him trace it. He's suspicious, (and rightfully-so), but is also a good fiancé and believes Stiles when he tells him it's for work - which it's not, because Stiles can be an asshole, but not a big enough asshole to release the dude's location.
Unfortunately it's going to take Danny at least a few days to trace the email back to an IP address, for technical reasons that Stiles does not understand (which is why he's a journalist and not an IT guy). In the meantime, life hates him, so Morrell posts another Crestfallen interview, though this time just an email exchange, and this time with his sister.
Stiles tries not to be disappointed in the fact that he doesn't get to hear more of Crestfallen's voice, but fails when the emails with the sister reveal that the guy is dating again (though his sister apparently hates his new girlfriend). It's stupid, he doesn't even know why he's bothered - he doesn't even know the guy, after all - but he is.
Because life continues to hate him, when he sees the new post he's around the worst combination of people possible - Scott and Lydia. Both are his best friends, but Scott has an uncanny ability to tell when something was bothering him, and Lydia is relentless when it comes to finding things out. So the two of them together --
"What's wrong, dude? You've been moping for days and today it's even worse." Scott's giving him the look, the one that makes Stiles want to tell him things.
He covers with a quick lie, though. "Nothing, really. I'm just sort of burnt out. I wish Christmas vacation had been longer."
"Don't try lying to us Stiles, this is not you being burnt out. This is how you were acting two years ago when I told you we were never going to date," Lydia says, no-nonsense. She won't let Stiles get away with lying.
"Yeah, dude. And it doesn't even make sense that you're like this. You're dating Danny. Wait! Did Danny break up with you? Is that what it is?"
"No, nothing like that. Danny and I are good, great even. We're engaged and everything," he says, waving a hand dismissively. He sighs and puts his laptop on the coffee table from where it was in his lap before putting his head in his hands. "I don't really know what it is. It's just... you know that article I wrote over vacation? The one about the post from Discussions with Dr. Morrell?"
Lydia's even more intrigued now. "The one about the guy with the sexy voice?"
"Yes, that one. Well, I just haven't been able to get it off my mind. Like, I just want to know everything there is to know about the guy. And I've listened to the recording so many times in the past few weeks that I have it memorized." He sighs, and looks up to see Scott's confused expression.
"I thought you just said that you and Danny were doing good?" He asks, which is not where Stiles wanted this conversation (the one he didn't want to have to begin with) to go.
"Then why are you obsessing over another dude?" He hates when Scott uses logic.
"I'm not obsess--"
"You're obsessing, Stiles. And considering you've never even met him and it's been less than three weeks, I'd say it's even worse than it was with me." Lydia sets down her book (Web Design for Dummies - "If the tech guys can't make the site look right, I'll damn well do it myself!") and moves to sit down next to him before grabbing his hands in hers.
"What are you doing?" He's suspicious. Lydia's giving him her look of sympathy, which is not good, because Lydia doesn't sympathize.
"Stiles, maybe you should try to contact him. Ask him out on a date. If you're really so obsessed with him, maybe it's a sign that you and Danny aren't right for each other."
If he hadn't spent the past four years getting to know Lydia, he would think she was being sincere. But he knows Lydia, all too well, and there's no way she's not fucking with him. She just referred to 'signs' after all. Lydia Martin does not believe in 'signs,' nor fate.
He narrows his eyes at her and pulls his hand away. "Are you trying to use reverse psychology on me?"
She just shrugs, apropos of nothing, before going back to her book.
Stiles slouches back down on the couch. Now he feels even more guilty over his obs-- interest, which was probably Lydia's goal. But he really can't help it. All he's been able to think about for days three weeks straight is that voice, his story, how familiar he seems. Stiles only heard the man three weeks ago but he feels like he's known him his whole life.
Scott notices how he's sulking even more and wraps an arm around him, because Scott's a good friend who knows that cuddles are the best way to cheer him up, unlike Lydia who is perfection-coated-evil.
"Maybe Lydia's right, man, maybe you should try to contact him."
Stiles shifts in Scott's arm around him to look at him incredulously.
"Dude, she can't be right, she was trying to use reverse psychology on me. And I can't just email him!"
"Why not? Even if you never hear anything back, you can at least say you tried. And if you do get a reply, maybe it'll give you some answers."
Stiles grins at Scott. "See, dude. This is why I love you. You give me cuddles when I'm sad and sometimes you even give reasonable advice!"
Two hours later, Lydia has left to go do something with Jackson, Scott is half asleep on the couch, there are 17 drafts in Stiles's email, and Stiles is pacing the living room.
"I don't even know what to say! Why did you ever think this was a good idea? Why did I ever think this was a good idea?"
"That last one was pretty good, you should send that one." Scott says groggily, his face smashed into a pillow.
"In the last one I asked him to fly across the country to meet me on Valentine's Day in New York City. Who asks that? Who would actually do that?" Stiles is nearly screaming, has been for the past half hour.
"Meg Ryan," Scott says, matter-of-fact.
"OH MY GOD! I'M MEG RYAN!" He's definitely screaming now.
Scott pushes up from the couch, wide awake now. "And I'm Rosie O'Donnell. How did you not know this already? You literally found out about this guy over Christmas through an interview about how he lost his family. How did you not know this?"
"I really hope he's more attractive than Tom Hanks."
Since the fire, Laura's taken to staying at his apartment whenever Boyd's out of town. She's here tonight.
They had moved to New York together shortly after Derek had graduated high school, Laura only moving with him so he wouldn't be alone. He'd originally planned to stay in California for college, but when Kate cheated on him, he decided he needed a change, decided NYU was best for him. After the fire, when they moved back to California, they stayed living together for a while, more because it was comfortable than for any other reason. But after six months or so, Laura was sick of feeling sad all the time, was sick of dwelling in the past, wishing for a family that was never coming back. She moved out, into her own apartment, started dating again, opened a new coffee shop (naming it Talia's was the only way she's allowed herself to dwell).
Derek stayed in the same apartment, didn't date, kept working for the same architecture firm. He doesn't like change. Which is why he likes these nights so much.
It's selfish. Laura doesn't like to be alone. Sometimes she has nightmares late at night, crawls into Derek's bed at 2 a.m., like she used to when they were kids and it was him having nightmares.
She does it tonight.
Unfortunately, it's under false pretenses.
"You're getting a lot of emails."
Derek just grunts, buries his face further into his pillow, tries to drown out her voice.
"Most of them are shit, but there's this one that I think you should read." She's poking him now, in his ribs, trying to rouse him. "He seems perfect for you. He lives in New York."
Derek rolls over, annoyed with Laura's relentless poking. "He lives in New York and you think he's perfect for me? There's like three thousand miles between us."
"He wants you to meet him there on Valentine's Day."
He can't help but snort at that. "Like Sleepless in Seattle? Oh yeah, he's perfect."
"It was mom's favorite movie. It's a sign, Der."
"You want a sign? I already have a girlfriend, that's a sign," he says, pushing her head back into the pillows before rolling over. "Go to sleep, Laur."
It's another few days before Danny calls Stiles to tell him he's done tracking the email address. He has Danny email it to him, partially because he's feeling guilty and he doesn't want to spend any more extra time talking to him right now than necessary.
Stiles has never believed in fate or destiny, or 'signs,' as Lydia referred to them. He's always considered himself to be perfectly logical (most of the time) and has always believed that things happen when you work hard towards them. But he's floored when he looks up the IP address. He's even more shocked when he sees the name attached to the email account (because his fiancé is awesome and can find those sort of things).
He spends a few minutes freaking out, and when he feels like he can breathe again and can properly form a sentence, he goes to find Scott in his room.
Scott is on his computer, Skyping with Allison even though she just left their apartment two hours ago. Stiles flops down into the bean bag chair in the corner, and Scott, sensing Stiles's distress, ends the call with Allison.
"You okay?" Scott asks.
"Not at all." Stiles has his head tipped back against the top of the bean bag chair, hardly even moving to respond. He feels Scott grab his hands to pull him up, all dead weight.
"Come on, dude. Lay down, you look like you need it."
He does. Scott curls around him, and he just lets himself be cuddled into feeling better for a good long while before he speaks again.
"He's more attractive than Tom Hanks."
"Hmmm?" Scott asks. Cuddling makes him sleepy.
"I know who he is. And he's way more attractive than Tom Hanks."
Scott fidgets, awake now. "How do you know who he is?"
"There's a chance I may have had Danny track his email address for me."
"Let me get this straight. You asked you fiancé to track the email address of the man you're obsessed with so you can obsess over him even more?"
"Yes." He buries his face further into Scott's shoulder now, embarrassed.
"And you thought this was a good idea, why?"
Stiles groans before sitting up. "I don't know, dude. I just kept thinking about him and I thought actually knowing something would help. But it hasn't! Now I know where he lives and it just makes me want to go see him!"
Scott raises an eyebrow at him.
"Remember Derek Hale?"
Scott's eyes bulge. Stiles can't help but wish he had his phone with him to take a picture of how ridiculous Scott looks.
"Derek Hale? As in the guy you didn't shut up about from fourth grade to senior year? Yeah, I remember him." Scott pauses a moment and just stares at the floor, considering, before looking back to Stiles. "Huh. This makes so much sense now."
"Dude, that's not the point! What am I going to do?" Stiles is practically shrieking. He has a boyfriend, a fiancé. And he's obsessing over someone else, but now it's even worse. Now he feels like he's cheating. Because before the voice from that recording was just an idealized man that existed in his mind. Now he's real, tangible, and he's someone Stiles actually knows. He actually knows what Derek is like, and he's been in love with him since he was eight years old.
"You're never going to get over him if you don't go see if there's a chance." Scott's looking at him knowingly, that way he does sometimes. It makes Stiles have to look away.
"How will I get away with that?"
He looks back at Scott, who's staring at him with a sly look on his face.
"I think that your story on Crestfallen in California needs a follow up."
Stiles starts nodding, a grin spreading across his face. "I think the follow up requires a personal interview, for which I have to travel to California." He jumps off the bed to go book his flight, before clapping a hand on Scott's shoulder. "Thanks, dude."
Derek can't remember the last time Laura did something nice for him without an ulterior motive. Which is why he's immediately suspicious when she offers to treat Derek to a free coffee. She says she needs him to help her look over some paperwork for the shop expansion, though he doesn't believe her. But he goes with it, like he always does, because it's Laura, he can't get away with refusing her.
He knows as soon as he walks into the coffee shop that she really is up to something. Something just feels off, and when he sees her behind the counter, she has a look of smug satisfaction. But still, it's Laura, so he walks up to the counter.
"You promised a free drink?"
Laura grins wickedly. "Of course I did. Why don't you go wait over there where Erica's sitting? I'll bring it out to you in a sec."
He narrows his eyes at her - when does Laura ever offer to bring his drink to him? He turns to see where Erica's sitting, to check if it's some kind of set up, but nope, it's just Erica sitting, nursing her coffee and messing around on her phone, probably waiting for Isaac, looking for all the world like she'd rather be somewhere else. He's starting to walk over to her when he catches movement out of the corner of his eye.
He turns to see a man, standing abruptly from the table where he's sat, flailing a little as he does. He's staring at Derek, eyes wide behind a pair of stupid hipster glasses that somehow compliment his face. He has unruly hair that he's trying to hide with ugly beanie and underneath the too-many-layers-for-California that he's wearing, Derek can see a smattering of freckles and moles and long limbs. Everything about him fills Derek with a familiar irritation that he'd missed.
He says "Hi," and the man says it back. As he's about to ask him if he is who he's sure he is, Erica notices him, calls his name. Derek turns to look at her, to tell her to just give him a second, but as he does he feels a rush of air by his side. He turns back to see the man with the ugly beanie disappearing out the door.
"Laura, was that--?" he asks, turning back to his sister.
"Stiles Stilinksi? Yep." She's got that grin on her face, the one that tells Derek that Stiles was the whole reason she'd lured him here.
Derek had practically been in love with Stiles for as long as he could remember, not that Laura knew that - or at least she shouldn't. He'd spent years irritated by him, constantly having to babysit him and play with him when their parents would hang out. Even though there was a two year age difference, they'd become friends, though forced. They'd only tolerated each other, rarely spent time together by choice. But once Derek started high school, he'd realized that twelve-year-old Stiles Stilinski was the truest friend he had. It didn't take long for his grudging friendship to grow into grudging affection.
"He's the reason you offered me free coffee, isn't he?" He tries to sound irritated, but he can't bring himself to. Seeing Stiles brings back memories and feelings he'd thought were long gone, from before the fire, before Kate.
"I don't know what you're talking about." As Laura turns away with the pretense of making coffee, he can see her smirk.
He should have known this was a horrible idea. The dude has a girlfriend. He has a fiancé. Why did he think it was a good idea to fly 3000 miles to try to meet him?
Well, not meet so much as reunite, considering they'd known each other most of their lives. He'd spent many years being babysat by him and Laura when their parents would hang out. He and Derek could have even been considered friends at one point - reluctant ones, but friends, nonetheless - until Derek graduated. He moved away just a few months later, had never come home for breaks or when he presumably finished college. That was six years ago.
But now Stiles has seen him again, the person who infuriated and infatuated him for nearly a decade, and it was worse than he'd ever expected. Stiles had never expected that the Derek who had caused him so much sexual frustration in his teen years could be even more attractive now. He still has the strong jaw, intense eyebrows, and the bright hazel eyes which Stiles had practically memorized, but now he has stubble like he hasn't shaved in a few days, lips downturned into a frown that's surprisingly beautiful on his face, hair that is so perfectly styled that it probably isn't styled at all, and the body of a Greek God.
And to make matters worse, he has a girlfriend. One with long blond hair and plush lips, who looked so happy to see Derek.
And he has a fiancé.
He has to go home. Now.
Derek's not exactly sure why he's here. He hasn't seen Stiles in six years, they didn't even talk when they saw each other earlier, so why does he feel the need to drop by the Sheriff's house unannounced?
Regardless, he is here, so he might as well follow through.
When the Sheriff answers the door he looks the same as always, if a bit worn around the edges, and not at all surprised to see him.
Before he can even ask, the Sheriff is saying, "You're here for Stiles right, son? I just brought him to the airport about an hour ago, seemed like he was in a bit of a rush to get back home."
He's not really sure how to respond, so he just nods. The Sheriff puts a hand to his shoulder and squeezes, nodding his head in response and turns to go back inside.
The Sheriff's about to close the door when Derek finds his voice, asks, "Is he happy?"
He opens the door back up and looks at Derek for a long moment before responding, "I think he is."
"What the hell was I thinking, Scott?"
Stiles is pacing back and forth in their living room again, arms flailing and hands clenching and unclenching. Scott's just watching him, patiently, being the good friend that Stiles doesn't know if he deserves sometimes (okay, he does deserve him because he sat through six months of Scott being too nervous to even speak to Allison, plus another six months of him talking about how pretty her eyelashes were).
"At least now you have some answers?" Scott tries.
"Dude, he has a girlfriend, I knew that before I wasted a thousand dollars trying to go see him."
Scott leans forward, forearms on his knees, palms pressed together against his chin. "But you said his sister doesn't like her, right? That has to mean something, right?"
Stiles stops pacing and plops down into the chair across from Scott with a sigh. "I saw him, man. He looked happy. And you should have seen her, she was gorgeous and looked so excited to see him. And his sister even looked like she was coming around to her. I can't get in the middle of that."
"Are you sure it isn't just like when Meg Ryan thought she saw Tom Hanks happy with his girlfriend, but it was just his best friend?"
Stiles laughs at that. "Dude, there's no way my life can be exactly like Sleepless in Seattle. But even if it were the case, I can't really know unless I actually try to get in the middle of their relationship. I can't do that."
"So what are you gonna do then?" Scott asks.
"Forget about him. I have a fiancé. An awesome fiancé. Danny's the best. How could I...? I just need to go back to my life how it was before I heard that stupid recording."
Scott nods, leans back against the couch. "So, it's Saturday. Wanna play some xbox and eat Cheetoes and drink beer until we're sick?"
Stiles gets up to grab the controllers and turn on the TV. "Don't you and Allison have plans?"
"Not anymore, bro," Scott answers as he goes to the kitchen to grab snacks and beer, pulling out his phone to text Allison.
Stiles knew there was a reason Scott's his best friend.
Derek doesn't normally believe in signs. But it's February 13, and he's supposed to be packing for a trip to the beach with Zoë. Instead, he's packing for a trip to New York with his sister. On Valentine's Day.
They've been in plans to expand Talia's into a chain for four months now, and for some god-forsaken reason, the funder, Duke (of the prestigious Duke Inc.), decided to call a meeting for the expansion for February 14. Derek doesn't understand why it's necessary to meet with him on Valentine's Day, or why it has to be in New York of all places, but as the architect he's required to be there to go over costs. Technically, he could send Erica in his place, but he fears what will happen if he makes her work on Valentine's Day.
So it's up to him. He really wants to kill Laura for this, though. He wouldn't be surprised if this was some scheme to keep him from being with Zoë on Valentine's Day.
He has to admit though, it seems like a sign. He's never taken anything as a sign before, always believing in logic and calm reasoning instead. But there's a reason things aren't working out with Zoë, right? There's a reason that Laura hates her, that they can't manage to go on a single date without something seeming to get in the way, why their Valentine's Day plans are ruined, right? There has to be a reason for it.
So he breaks up with her. It's been a long time coming, since they first started dating (okay, so not a long time, only a month or so).
He realizes as he's doing it that it was probably a bad idea to date a coworker, especially one who's basically his boss. She's understanding, if telling him that it'd be best for them to find another architect for the project can be considered understanding. He should have seen it coming, but maybe that's a sign, too, that it means going to New York this weekend for the coffee shop expansion is for the best.
"Where should I take Danny for dinner tomorrow? I feel like I really owe him after all that stuff about... you know... even if he doesn't know about it." Stiles is with his computer, scrolling through lists of restaurants in Manhattan.
"Dude, you're never going to get a reservation now, it's the day before Valentine's Day." Scott's sitting next to him, playing xbox with no care in the world. He, of course, already has his reservations, has had them for months. He and Allison have been together for four years, now, there's no way he'd ever drop the ball.
He's still scrolling through restaurant websites (all of them say "no reservations left for Feb. 14), ignoring Scott, when his mail pings. He's going to ignore it, except the little notification pops up in the corner of his computer and he sees who it's from.
"Scott... I just got an email from Crestfallen in California..."
Scott pauses his game and leans over towards Stiles to see the screen. "Well, open it."
"But why would he be emailing me?"
"Dude, just open it and find out."
Stiles huffs a breath but opens the email anyways. "It's his sister... she says she got my email." He looks at Scott. "What email?"
Scott backs away, nervous suddenly. "Uh, I might've sent that email you wrote."
"Well you weren't ever going to! And it was worth a shot to see if he'd respond!"
Scott's right, Stiles knows it, so he can't really be angry about him going behind his back.
"Well he didn't. His sister did."
"Yeah, but she said that he wants to meet you, and he's coming here."
"What if he doesn't show up though? I can't ditch Danny for Valentine's Day on the chance that my high school crush might show up."
Scott shrugs and turns back to the xbox. "It's your decision, dude."
He should've known, he really should've, but nope, he trusted Laura. Of course the story about the meeting was a lie. He's met Duke, the guy would never give up his Valentine's Day for a meeting that could be held any other time. But he believed Laura. Which is why he's on a plane to New York right now.
She'd called him once he was at the airport, told him to go ahead and board the plane, that she was running late but would be there. If she missed the flight, he'd at least already be on his way. He'd trusted her, even though his gut was telling him not to. And then when he was on the plane, waiting for take off, she'd called him again.
She'd done it just before they were told to shut their phones off, must have planned the whole thing down to a minute.
When he'd answered he'd been expecting to hear that she was going to be getting a later flight, or that she'd called Duke to make sure it was okay that it would only be him at the meeting.
Instead, he'd been greeted with laughing. She was laughing at him.
"Wow, you are too easy sometimes, baby bro."
"You're not coming, are you?" He'd known it all along, but had pushed the thought away.
"Nope." She had glee in her voice, happy to have tricked him.
Derek had sighed. "What's the point of all this, Laur?"
"Remember the email I told you about? The one I thought would be good for you?" She could barely contain herself.
"You're setting me up on a blind date for Valentine's Day?" It was just like her.
She giggled at that. "No, it won't be a blind date."
Derek huffed out another sigh, irritated now. "Get to the point, Laura." It was Valentine's Day and he was on his way across the country, to spend it with some random person he had no interest in knowing - he was not in the mood for her shit.
"The email. It was from Stiles Stilinski."
Derek froze at that.
"You knew that all along? Why didn't you just tell me from the start?"
"All he'd signed his email with was 'Stiles.' I didn't know for sure until that day he came into the shop. When I got there that day, Boyd said he'd been sitting there for hours already. So I called you. I knew as soon as he saw you that he'd sent the email." She was all too happy to tell the story, having kept it in for weeks. It was quite the feat for her, considering she normally couldn't keep a secret to save her life. "So you're going to meet up with him, right?"
Derek sighed but didn't answer, not wanting to give Laura the satisfaction.
"He said he'd wait for you at the Empire State Building at sunset."
"Just like the movie?"
"Just like the movie," she'd replied with a chuckle before hanging up.
So now, here he is, flying across the country on Valentine's Day, to meet with his high school crush - the same high school crush that Derek had punished himself all through high school for having. When he'd first realized he loved Stiles, he had been 14 and Stiles was 12. The age difference had haunted Derek all through high school, even at 18 he'd felt awkward being in love with a 16 year old. When he'd first mentioned his friend Stiles his Freshman year, his friends laughed at him for being friends with a middle schooler. They never would've understood it. But he would have waited years, anyways, was ready to, but by then it was too late, Stiles was already well into his love of Heather. So Derek did his best to put Stiles out of his mind, had dated Kate. When she'd cheated on him, it'd left him so broken. He'd kept his heart safe for years, just to have it first crushed by Stiles's love for Heather, then by Kate's infidelity. He'd needed a fresh start, so off he went to New York.
Stiles feels anxious all day on Valentines Day. He's been doing his best to forget about Derek, to forget about the possibility of Derek waiting for him that night - not that he actually thinks Derek will come.
But today is about Danny. Him and Danny. Their relationship. Their engagement. And Stiles is doing his best to remember that, to not let his mind stray to Derek, waiting for him at the Empire State building.
But Danny. Stiles would do anything to marry Danny. Danny, who is perfect and smart and kind and attractive and who his dad loves. Danny, who doesn't infuriate him or push his buttons. Danny, who Stiles doesn't have a decade's worth of history with. Danny, who he's guaranteed to have a nice, easy marriage with. Danny, who is just way too good for him.
Derek's flight lands in mid-afternoon. He tries calling Laura when he lands, but she ignores him.
He hasn't missed New York, much. When he'd moved there, he'd been so excited to live in the City, to experience it all, to start a new life. But now it just brings back memories, good and bad, but none he wants. This is where he was when his family died, the City will never lose that for him.
He's got hours to kill, but instead he goes straight for the Empire State Building, sits down on a bench outside, and waits.
Only a couple more hours.
Hopefully he'll show.
Stiles is quiet most of the day, and that's probably how Danny know's something's wrong.
They'd been having a nice day, had gone for a walk in Central Park, had spent the day walking around Manhattan, window shopping. Stiles was having fun, but his mind was preoccupied. He was distracted, and it showed every time Danny tried to start a conversation.
"You don't want to get married, do you?" He doesn't even preface it, just asks as soon as the host seats them for dinner.
Stiles takes a moment to recover, shocked by the question. He takes another moment to answer, he wants to be honest.
"But not to me?" Danny asks, and he's just too good.
"This is the worst thing I could ever say, but it's not you, it's me."
"I know, it's okay. Well, it's not. But I knew this was going to happen." He doesn't look hurt, he almost looks like had time to prepare for it.
"You... You knew?" Stiles is having trouble keeping eye contact, ashamed. But he owes it to Danny.
"Stiles, you're not good at not being obvious. You've been acting weird for weeks, ever since I asked you to marry me. At first I thought it was cold feet, but then I figured it out."
Stiles gapes at him, but Danny just keeps talking.
"Well, not figured it out. Lydia told me."
"Damnit," he grunts under his breath, looking down at the table.
"I'd already figured out something was wrong before she told me, though. You really think it'd take me a week to trace an email address, anyways? Stiles, I'm on the FBI's watch list. It took me ten minutes. I just... I wasn't sure about giving you the information, so I didn't right away. But then I figured that it was pointless. You're you, you're going to do what you need to no matter what, so it was no use keeping it from you. I knew you were going to make whatever decision felt best."
"I decided today on you," Stiles says, looking at Danny again.
"No you didn't. Maybe you want to be with me, but you're always going to wonder about him."
"You're too good for me," Stiles says with a smile.
"I'm not going to say it's okay, because it's not. You were a dick. But it's better this way."
Stiles nods, looks out the window next to their table.
"We don't have to stay here if it's too weird now," Danny says, hesitant for the first time, like he was actually going to have Valentine's dinner with Stiles even after Stiles broke up with him. He's too good.
"It's almost sunset," Stiles comments, not answering Danny.
"Have somewhere to be?"
"Wow, you can really be dramatic sometimes, Stilinski. Sleepless in Seattle, really?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm Meg Ryan, blah, blah, blah."
Danny chuckles before looking back at him, face serious.
"So you think he's up there?"
"I don't know. His sister said he'd be, but he's always been a stubborn asshole."
"He sounds exactly like what you deserve." Danny reaches across the table an puts a hand on his shoulder, squeezes. "If you're going to leave me on Valentine's Day, you'd better do it all the way. Go get him."
The sun's been set for half an hour when Derek decides to give up. He never did go up the building, not one for clichés. Now he's wondering if he should've, did he miss Stiles somehow? He's been sitting right outside, even if he'd missed him going up, he'd at least have caught him coming out, right? But it's been long enough now that Derek's sure that Stiles stood him up, or that Laura was wrong somehow.
He's pulling out his phone to call her, starting to walk down the block to try to find something to eat before heading back to the airport to wait out the next flight when he hears someone call his name.
He turns to see Stiles, running through the throngs of people, the same long, flailing limbs as always. This time he's not wearing the stupid hipster glasses or the beanie, dressed much nicer in plaid button up. His hair is still unruly, though, and he's panting like he just ran a mile.
When he reaches Derek he stops, hunched over, to catch his breath before straightening to look Derek in the eye.
"You're late." It's all Derek can say because he can't believe Stiles is actually here, right in front of him.
"You waited," Stiles points out, contrary as ever.
Derek chuffs out a laugh. "Yeah, I did."
If he's honest, he's been waiting eight years.
"You hungry?" Stiles asks. He's got his hands in his pockets and he looks nervous, but he's looking straight at Derek, won't look away. "I know a place around the corner that's pretty good."
He wants to get his hands on Stiles, to touch him, to kiss him, but he's waited eight years, he figures he can wait another hour or two.
"Wait, you thought that I was in love with Heather?" Stiles asks, gaping at Derek.
They're almost back to his apartment now, walking slow. They had made small talk while they were waiting for their food, but were silent through most of dinner, both of them starving, Stiles after walking out on his original Valentine's dinner, Derek after waiting on a bench for four hours. Stiles had paid, insisted on it, it was the least he could do after Derek had actually flown across the country to see him.
They decided to walk back to Stiles's apartment, only a mile or two. They had a a lot to talk about, and walking and talking seemed less confrontational than sitting in Stiles's living room would. Plus, Stiles isn't sure that they wouldn't let the talking fall to the wayside if they went back to his apartment right away.
"You were, weren't you? I remember you telling me how awesome she was when you were twelve."
"Yeah, dude, I was twelve." Derek scowls at being called 'dude,' (which he's told Stiles not to call him about six times already) but Stiles ignores it. "And I mean, I had a crush on her, sure. But I've pretty much been in love with you since I was eight."
Derek reaches a hand out for Stiles's arm, stopping them in the middle of the sidewalk. Stiles's apartment is on the next block, and he's getting more and more nervous as they approach. He's grateful for the chance to think before they get there.
"You've been in love with me since you were eight?" Derek's eyes are wide and he looks like he's about to laugh.
"Yeah, man. And when I make heartfelt confessions is not the time to laugh at me."
"I'm laughing because I've loved you back for over a decade and I never knew you loved me until now." Derek's smiling the biggest Stiles has ever seen.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Like I said, I thought you were in love with Heather. And there was always an age difference. I would have waited for you but I couldn't have asked you to give up the chance for prom dates and all that shit just for me." Even as he says it, he's still grinning.
"Is that why you left?" He knows he's ruining the moment, but he needs answers. All of a sudden, Derek was just gone, leaving a hole in Stiles's life.
Derek's face falls and he's solemn as he replies. "No, that was because of Kate."
"The woman you were dating Senior year?" Stiles had tried to put her out of his mind. He'd always hated her, thought she was no good for Derek, but he'd always chalked it up to jealousy. Now he's starting to feel like he was right all along.
Derek looks distant as he answers, looking away from Stiles and then at the ground, hands in his pockets. "Yeah, she, uh... she cheated on me."
Stiles reaches out and pulls Derek's hand from his pocket, holds it. He doesn't say anything, because there's not much to say.
"She's why I left. She's why I wasn't around when my family died. She's why they're dead." His voice is empty as he says it, like he's repeated it so many times that it's almost lost meaning.
"Hey, it's not your fault. At all."
Derek looks back at Stiles, meets his eyes as he says, "It's my fault, if I'd been there, they wouldn't have died, I could've done something."
Stiles shakes his head and looks away. It's a long moment before he speaks again. He takes a deep breath and tries to keep his voice from cracking. "If it's your fault they died, then it's my fault my mom died, okay? When she got cancer, I got scared. I didn't go to see her in the hospital until the very end. Maybe if I'd been there all along, she could've held on. But I wasn't." He meets Derek's eyes again as he says, "If your family's dead because of you, my mom's dead because of me. And they're not."
Derek's face falls from it's empty expression as he pulls Stiles into a hug. They stand there for a long while, Stiles's cheek on Derek's shoulder and Derek's face buried in Stiles's neck.
Stiles wipes his eyes and pulls away. "Come on, dude. We're being really cliché, standing in the middle of the sidewalk hugging right now. Let's go inside."
They get upstairs to Stiles's apartment. It's a decent one, in Queens. Apparently he shares it with Scott, who Derek is happy to hear is at his girlfriend Allison's apartment tonight. One reunion is enough for today, and he'd like to have the apartment for just him and Stiles.
But they're not done talking yet - eight years of separation will do that.
"Did you know it was me when you emailed Laura?"
Stiles blushes, anxious all of a sudden. "Uh, well honestly I didn't email you? I mean, I wrote the email, but Scott sent it." Derek will have to thank him for that. Stiles goes on, "But no, I didn't know it was you... Not until I had my ex-fiancé track your email address." He cringes as he says it.
Derek knows he could be jealous, but he's not. Stiles is here with him now, he left anyone else to be with him. And Derek's not free of guilt either. "Well, I didn't get on the plane on my own volition if that makes you feel any better."
Stiles laughs as he asks, "Laura?"
"Well, she always was sneaky. She kept looking at me funny and whispering to that huge dude when I was at her coffee shop that day." Stiles blushes again as he recounts it.
"Yeah, she called me and tricked me into coming into the shop so I'd see you there." He pauses for a moment, thinking. "Why'd you run out and leave so fast?"
"Because, dude. Your girlfriend looked really happy to see you, and I had a fiancé."
"My girlfriend?" Even if there had been another day he didn't know about, he never brought Zoë there because Laura would make faces behind her back.
"Yeah, the blonde woman? Really pretty? Big boobs?"
Derek snorts. "Erica? You thought Erica was my girlfriend?"
"Yeah, wasn't she?" Stiles asks with a confused look.
"Not even close. She works for me."
"So you and your girlfriend..." Stiles looks nervous for the answer.
"Good," Stiles says on an exhale, and a second later he's lunging forward to kiss Derek.
Derek starts kissing him back immediately, licking into his mouth. He's wanted this for so long - since he saw Stiles running down the sidewalk tonight, since he saw Stiles in the coffee shop, since he first realized he loved Stiles and it was completely inappropriate to do this. But now he can.
He wastes no time getting his hands on Stiles, his face, his chest, his back, his hair - that goddamn hair. Stiles has his hands fisted in Derek's shirt, and it's not long before he feels Stiles pushing at his blazer.
"Off, off, off!" Stiles says - pants - as he breaks the kiss. Stiles goes to mouth at his neck and Derek groans; this is the most human contact he's had since his family died, he and Zoë never got to this point, this was supposed to be their weekend - Stiles bites at his neck and all other thoughts are gone.
"Bedroom," Derek rasps, throat gone raw.
Stiles nods, pushing him towards a door, and by the time they're through it their shirts are off and they're scrambling at belt buckles.
Stiles gets his pants off first, boxers too before reaching for Derek.
"This is all coming off, now. I'm not wasting any time later," Stiles says into Derek's mouth as he's kissing him again, pushing his pants down. A second later Stiles is mouthing down his neck, down his chest, as he's pushing Derek's boxers off and grabbing his cock. Derek's already hard, has been almost since the moment Stiles started kissing him, and he only gets harder as Stiles strokes, kneeling in front of Derek and kissing at his abs.
It takes Derek a second to get his bearings, but when he does he pull's Stiles up by the armpits, fitting his mouth back over Stiles's as he pushes him back onto the bed.
Stiles breaks the kiss to moan out, "Derek, I wanna blow you."
But Derek is already kissing down his body, licks around his belly button before shaking his head.
He still hasn't touched Stiles's cock, wants too so bad, but instead he kisses and caresses everywhere but.
Stiles barely hold out for a minute before he's whining, "Then stop teasing and get on with it."
Derek chuffs a laugh into the crease of Stiles's hip. "Bossy."
"Shut up, you sound like your twelve again."
Derek ignores him in favor for licking a long strip up the underside of Stiles's cock, licking at the tip, tasting the precome. Derek looks up at him, holds his gaze, and swallows him down all at once.
Stiles tries to buck his hips, but Derek's already pressing his forearm across him. He wraps his free hand around the base of Stiles's cock and pumps for a few strokes as he sucks and bobs his head on the rest.
For as mouthy as Stiles can be, he's not saying anything now, but Derek can hear his breath hitching and little groans escaping him.
It's too quiet though, without Stiles's talking. Derek pulls off, says "say something," before licking at Stiles's cock again.
"Dude, I can't," he says on a laugh, "I have to concentrate or this is going to be over really quickly."
Derek doesn't want this to be over quickly, so he moves on from Stiles's cock, licking down his balls, behind them, pressing his tongue flat against his hole before licking in.
Derek see's Stiles's cock jump from where he's looking up at him, sees him reach a hand for Derek's hair pulling him closer, deeper.
Derek keeps licking, in and around, and his jaw aches but he doesn't ever want to stop, until Stiles is pulling on his hair, pulling him up and away.
"Derek, I wanna fuck you, please say I can fuck you."
Derek nods, bites kisses into Stiles's neck, says, "Only if I can ride you."
"Oh my god," Stiles says as he lurches towards the bedside table, rifles around before coming back with lube and a condom.
Normally Derek would just prepare himself, but he's had to look at Stiles's hands all day, had to see him flip a butter knife between his fingers, play with the him of his shirt, scratch at his neck. All he's been able to think about all night is those fingers in his ass, and he's going to get it, so when Stiles presses the lube towards him, he pushes it back.
"You do it."
Stiles smirks like he knows what Derek's thinking, leans up to kiss Derek deep as he fumbles with the lube. He warms the lube between his fingers before he's reaching behind Derek, running them up his balls and his seam and circling his hole. He's trying to go slow, teasing at his hole, barely dipping one finger in before pulling back to circle again.
Derek breaks the kiss, grunts, "More," before pushing back towards Stiles's fingers.
Stiles takes the hint and pushes one in, slowly, down to the knuckle, before he's pulling it out and pushing it back in. After a few more thrusts he's adding a second, then a third, fingering Derek open.
Derek's pushing back against Stiles's fingers, practically fucking himself on them, and he could do this forever, but he wants more.
"Come on, I'm ready." He groans as he feels Stiles pull his fingers out, and he's empty for a long moment as Stiles tears at the condom packet and rolls it on.
"You ready?" He asks, cock nudging against Derek's hole.
Instead of answering, Derek lowers himself down, slowly, achingly slowly, until he's fully seated. He waits a second, until Stiles exhales the breath he's been holding, before saying, "Are you ready?"
Stiles grips his hips firmly, nods enthusiastically, so Derek starts moving.
He starts off slow, moves his hips in circles for a while, a hand on Stile's chest and one holding his own dick, before he feels loose enough that he can start moving up and down.
Before long Stiles is babbling out "oh my god" and "I've wanted this for so long," and "so fucking amazing," as Derek fucks himself on Stiles's dick.
Stiles grabs Derek's hand from his chest, entwines his fingers with his as he pulls Derek forward, teeth clashing as they kiss. Stiles pulls away from the kiss after a moment and buries his face in Derek's neck. He stills Derek's hips with the hand Derek's not holding and fucks up into him, fast and hard, hitting that spot inside Derek, chanting Derek's name like a prayer. He gives one last hard thrust before he's coming.
Derek stays seated on Stiles's cock, kisses him through his orgasm, trails his lips down Stile's neck to his collar bone, his shoulder, bites at it as Stiles comes down.
Stiles comes back to himself after a moment, laughing out, "Dude, that was awesome, your ass is awesome," before pulling out and flipping them.
Stiles pulls the condom off carefully, ties it off and throws it in what Derek assumes is the direction of the trashcan. He leans back down to Derek, and kisses him again, deep.
"Can I suck you off?" he says into Derek's mouth.
Derek can't do anything but nod, exhausted but so hard still, but when Stiles gets a hand around him for the first time since they started, he groans.
Stiles gives him a few strokes before licking at the head where Derek's dripping with precome. Stiles licks up the underside and the sides of his cock a few times before looking up at Derek.
"I want you to fuck my mouth."
Derek has no objections to that, he's been haunted by that mouth for years and can't imagine anything better.
Stiles wraps his lips around Derek's dick, licks at the underside of the head. When he hums, Derek's hips jerk up. Stiles just takes it, urges him on, and Derek is snapping his hips up, his cock hitting the back of Stiles's throat, and it's only a few thrusts before he's coming with Stiles's name on his lips.
Stiles swallows down Derek's come, licks up what he misses, before crawling back up the bed to wrap himself around Derek's body.
Derek rolls over in Stiles's arms so he's facing him, leans over to kiss him again. It's more of a chaste kiss than what they've had so far, but he can still taste himself on Stiles's lips, and it's a taste he never wants to forget. He hums against Stiles's mouth before pulling away to bury his face back in Stiles's neck.
"So was that worth the wait?" Stiles asks, his voice is raw, and Derek did that.
Derek is falling asleep when he hears Stiles say, "You know, I don't believe in fate, but I'm glad all the signs led me back to you."
Derek is too.