On Stiles’ sixteenth birthday, his dad brought home a boyfriend for him.
He didn’t actually mean to, and Derek wouldn’t actually be Stiles’ boyfriend for a while, but…eh. Semantics.
Dad was late getting home from work, which wasn’t all that uncommon, but was kind of aggravating on special occasions, and they had plans to go out for pizza and to see a movie and it was his birthday and Stiles was starving. So when he finally heard the garage door go up, he slapped his computer shut and scrambled to get his shoes on ASAP.
"Stiles? Come down here, please!" Dad called, when Stiles was already halfway down the stairs, and halfway into his jacket.
"Oh, sure, now you’re in a hurry when I’m the one who’s been wait—whoa!" Stiles said as he skidded around the corner and saw his dad standing in the kitchen next to a strange guy hunching uncomfortably in what looked like clothes consisting entirely of things borrowed from the guys down at the station. The guy’s black hair was long and tangled and wild, and the lower half of his face was hidden by a thick layer of scruffy facial hair. But between those two things was a pair of intense green eyes, and they locked on Stiles instantly.
"Wow, who’s the wolfman?" Stiles asked, and the guy snarled at him—snarled!—and took a step back, eyes darting toward the door, like maybe he was going to go running off into the woods.
"Stiles!" Dad chided, and grabbed the guy by the elbow, which seemed like a risky proposition, but Dad didn’t look worried. “Bad choice of words," he said to Stiles, and then muttered, “You’ll get used to it," to the hairy guy.
"Sorry," Stiles said automatically, and then waved his hands around in the direction of the hairy guy and gave his dad a Well? look.
"Stiles, this is Derek Hale," Dad said.
"Wow, I thought you were dead!" Stiles blurted, and the guy—Derek—snarled again. Stiles was now two for two in accidental insults. “I mean. We all thought you were dead." Which…wasn’t much better, if the look on Dad’s face was anything to go by, but Stiles was only being truthful.
Derek Hale had been presumed killed in the house fire that had wiped out his entire family, over ten years ago now. It had been a horrible tragedy, and school let out early so everyone could go to the mass funeral, and everyone had wondered for years what had become of little Derek Hale, because they never found his body. It was a Beacon Hills legend. So why was he standing in the Stilinski kitchen looking like he just walked out of one of those survivalist reality shows?
"But you’re obviously not dead," Stiles concluded, and gave Derek a double thumbs up for this accomplishment.
"He’s been hiding," Dad said, in a tone that implied Stiles would get more details later, if Dad didn’t kill him first. “He’s going to be staying with us while we figure out if he has any relatives somewhere."
"Great!" Stiles said, with an enthusiasm he didn’t actually feel. Derek was still staring at him, maybe like he was interested in talking to him, maybe like he was interested in eating him. Thank God Stiles’ room had a lock on the door. “So!" he said to Derek. “You like pizza?"
Derek did, in fact, like pizza. He also seemed to really like Stiles, despite their rocky start. He followed him around the house most of the evening, and hovered suspiciously at his shoulder while Stiles paid the terrified delivery guy for the pizza, since going out was obviously not in the cards. After dinner, when Dad put in a movie and immediately went to sleep in his recliner, Derek followed Stiles up to his room and spent some time walking around in it and looking curiously at everything while Stiles and Scott had what was going to go down in history as the most mind-blowing Skype chat ever. It wasn’t how his birthday was supposed to go, but it was pretty damn awesome anyway.
Their number one priority the next morning was getting Derek some clothes of his own, because all his borrowed stuff was either too big or too small or too polyester. They made a trip to Target, which Derek spent following Stiles at what was most definitely a distance that violated all the personal bubble rules, but Derek didn’t really seem to have a personal bubble at all when it came to Stiles, so it wasn’t worth protesting. He was surprisingly picky for a guy who had spent the last ten years naked in the woods, and also very particular about color palettes. It took way longer than Stiles had thought it would to find the guy a small stack of clothing, even though it was all just jeans and T-shirts.
A few more days went by and Dad had no luck at all finding any Hales anywhere, or at least any willing to claim Derek as a relative, and he didn’t want Derek left alone while he was at work. Since it was summer vacation, Stiles was elected babysitter.
Derek sticking to him like glue meant spending a lot of time in the house, because he seemed to get—understandably—overwhelmed and stressed if he was exposed to the chaos of civilization for extended periods of time. But overall, Stiles thought, he was adapting pretty well. He didn’t do weird stuff like pee in the yard, or try to eat raw meat. In a lot of ways he was a normal teenager who liked watching movies and eating too many donuts.
He had some peculiar, wolf-like habits, like patrolling the perimeter of the property when they were outside, and sniffing things—including Stiles—more than was probably normal, and his sense of hearing also seemed unnaturally acute. But hey, everyone had their peculiarities, right? Stiles liked to eat grape jelly on his scrambled eggs. Derek had lived with a pack of wolves for years, so it wasn’t that weird that he could mimic a growl so perfectly.
Stiles decided to kill some time by bringing him up to speed on everything that had happened in the ten years he’d been living in a hole in the ground. He had thought it would be easy—hello, Wikipedia!—until it had become apparent that Derek didn’t really remember how to read. He’d learned to read at an early grade school level before he’d disappeared into the woods, obviously, but hadn’t used those skills in a decade. He obviously needed a refresher.
Because he loved projects, Stiles printed some exercises off the Internet, and then when those proved a breeze for Derek, he dug out some of his favorite childhood books, like James and Giant Peach, and they started working their way through them a chapter at a time. Derek was smart, and learned quickly. He’d be reading Tolkien by the end of the month if Stiles had anything to say about it.
A great deal of the time, though, Stiles just did stuff around the house with Derek looming nearby like a hairy shadow. Right now he was standing in the bathroom doorway watching Stiles give his hair a quick trim with the clippers. He didn’t seem to like the noise, but it wasn’t making him go away.
"Can you do that to me?" he asked when Stiles was done, shocking the hell out of him, and not just because Derek’s voice was lighter and less terrifying than Stiles expected it to be. He spoke so little Stiles was always surprised by it all over again every time.
"Yes!" Stiles said immediately, because Derek’s tumbleweed of hair was a tragedy, and also didn’t smell all that great. He would gladly get up close and personal with it if it meant getting rid of it forever. He motioned Derek out of the way so he could dart across the hall and grab his desk chair before Derek changed his mind.
Derek obediently sat down on the chair and tugged his shirt over his head as instructed and Stiles felt his eyes bug out like a cartoon character. Apparently living in the woods made a guy really, really fit. Like fitness magazine model fit.
Stiles spent a good hour doggedly hacking away at Derek’s hair. It was so twisted and tangled that the only way to get it off was to go at it near his scalp with a pair of scissors. It came off in big chunks, and at least one of them had a twig in it. Derek sat patiently through the process, watching Stiles in the mirror.
"I remember you," Derek said suddenly, when Stiles was making a pass with the clippers, trying to even things out as best he could.
"I hope so," Stiles said, trying to play it cool and not make a big deal out of the fact that Derek had spoken and it wasn’t a direct request he had to voice in order to meet an immediate need. He didn’t want to freak him out and send him back to silence. “We haven’t been more than twenty feet apart in days."
Derek shot him a disgusted look. Stiles wasn’t sure if the speed with which he’d picked up that particular habit was hilarious or aggravating. “No, I mean I remember you from…before."
Before the fire, he meant. Before his family died.
"Do you? We were just kids." Stiles had been in kindergarten, Derek only a grade or two ahead of him. They had gone to the same school—all the Hale kids had gone to that school, six of them, Derek the last as the baby of the group—but hadn’t been friends.
Stiles didn’t remember much at all from that time, except that his mother sent him off to school one day with a kiss on the forehead, and when he came home later his dad was in the house alone and he never saw his mother alive again. That had kinda obliterated everything else around that time.
He stepped around behind Derek and gently pushed on his head until he tipped his chin down so Stiles could get at the back of his neck.
"You had a Buzz Lightyear lunchbox," Derek said, as Stiles went to work cleaning up the hairline, and Stiles lifted the clippers away just in time to avoid shaving a furrow into the hair on the back of Derek’s head. He hadn’t expected that at all.
"Whoa," Stiles said. “I did. You remember that?"
"Yes," Derek said, and he sounded almost shy about it.
"I loved that lunchbox," Stiles said. He’d gone through a phase where he would only eat ham sandwiches with pickles for lunch, which had necessitated carrying his own to school every day. He still had the lunchbox, and it still smelled faintly like pickles.
Derek didn’t seem to want to share anything else, so Stiles focused on finishing up the hair—it was a pretty drastic change, but definitely an improvement. He looked less like a maniac already. A little clean up around the ears and he’d be done, except it was hard to tell where Derek’s hair ended and his beard began.
"How would you feel about doing your face, too?" Stiles asked. “I could buzz off most of it, and then you can shave the rest."
Derek looked at Stiles’ face, eyes obviously tracing his jawline, his chin, lingering on his upper lip, and then looked at himself in the mirror, like he was trying to imagine his own face as bare as Stiles’. Which wasn’t going to be possible, because Stiles only shaved like twice a week, whereas Derek was probably the kind of guy who had stubble three minutes after he put the razor down.
"Okay," Derek said, and tilted his face up, trusting, as Stiles turned the clippers on again.
Stiles ended up doing the shaving bit, too, slathering Derek’s face with foam and running the razor over what was left behind by the clippers. It was weirdly intimate, and made even weirder by the way Derek closed his eyes and sort of leaned into Stiles, nostrils flaring now and then, like he was enjoying it on a level that wasn’t strictly one dude helping another dude with his personal grooming. But Derek probably hadn’t been touched by another human being in ten years, Stiles reminded himself, aside from the doctor who had examined him right after he’d been found. Let him enjoy it.
The final step was cleaning the last of the shaving cream off with a warm washcloth, and Derek seemed to really like that part. He rubbed into the touch like a cat as Stiles slowly unearthed his attractively defined jawline. His eyes looked even more striking now, without all the hair to detract from them, and his cheekbones were a thing of beauty.
"Holy shit!" Stiles said, when Derek was staring at himself in the mirror, short-haired and clean shaven and a little freaked out.
Derek Hale was fucking hot.
"Dude, I don’t think he wants me here," Scott said nervously, very carefully not making eye contact with Derek, who was hunkered down in the corner next to Stiles’ dresser and glaring balefully at Scott. Nothing made Derek revert to wolfy behavior faster than a stranger in the house, and he seemed particularly offended that Scott was in Stiles’ room. Every time he made any sudden movement, Derek would twitch, and glare harder, and he was probably only refraining from actually growling because Stiles had forbidden it. He was making it nearly impossible to play Call of Duty.
"Please don’t leave!" Stiles begged, shameless in his desperation. He’d been trapped in the house with Derek for three days now, because Derek’s discovery had been all over the news, even going national—an orphan raised by wolves was a spectacular story—and they couldn’t go anywhere right now without being followed by someone with a camera. Even their daily field trip, which both of them looked forward to every day even if it was just to Starbucks or the grocery store, was impossible right now.
At first it’d been kind of cool, having the freaky, feral guy staying at his house, and Stiles had suddenly become very popular as word had spread and everyone wanted to come over and see the famous Derek Hale, who had been living in the Beacon Hills Preserve all this time. Except, well, it was kind of shitty that all of a sudden people who had been only vague acquaintances or even outright enemies suddenly were being all friendly, and it was even shittier to trot Derek out like some circus act, and so the only person Stiles let into the house was Scott. And Scott was definitely well and truly over the novelty of Derek.
He stayed another hour, but Stiles got the feeling it was just out of politeness, and when he left Derek trailed down the stairs after them, like he was making sure Scott was really leaving. He had a definite victorious look of “And stay out!" on his face as the front door closed behind Scott.
Stiles turned and pointed a finger at him. “Just for that: math lesson." Derek’s look of triumph deflated as his shoulders fell and he turned and trudged into the kitchen like a man going to the gallows.
Stiles was just drifting off to sleep when he heard the creak of the guest room door—Derek’s room—opening, and then the soft padding sound of Derek’s bare feet in the hallway. He expected him pass by on his way to the bathroom, but instead what Stiles heard next was a light tapping on his door.
"Come in," he mumbled, rolling enough to look as Derek opened the door. He took one step into Stiles’ room and then stopped, hand still on the doorknob. He was shirtless, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts with Stormtroopers on them. He’d picked them out himself, and Stiles had beamed with pride.
"What’s up, buddy?" He knew Derek had nightmares sometimes, and didn’t always sleep much, but he’d never come to Stiles’ room in the night before.
"Can I sleep in here?" Derek asked.
"Sure," Stiles said, and he was just about to tell him to just clear a spot anywhere on the floor when Derek flopped down on the bed and snugged up behind Stiles. “Oh, you meant…" Stiles said, trying not to shiver as Derek’s hot breath fanned over his neck.
So this was new, but actually not all that surprising. Derek had been getting a little more touchy-feely with Stiles, ever since the shaving thing, and Stiles hadn’t exactly discouraged it, because it seemed to make him happy. Sometimes you just had to roll with things, and Derek’s psyche was probably already messed up enough without Stiles getting all uncomfortable about cuddling. It felt kind of nice, anyway.
He shifted a little, getting comfortable, and felt Derek move as well, settling his head on Stiles’ pillow.
"You gave me a piece of candy," Derek said, when they were finally still, like he was sharing a secret.
"What?" Stiles asked, already starting to drift. Candy?
"When we were kids. You gave me a piece of candy. It was your last piece."
Stiles’ eyes popped open. “I remember that," he said. He hadn’t thought about it in years, but he remembered it now.
He’d gotten a package of Starburst from his grandmother and smuggled them to school in his lunchbox, in flagrant violation of his mother’s candy policy. He’d opened them on the playground at recess, and had immediately started handing them out, because every time Stiles got ahold of something—stickers, candy, Pokemon cards—he could never resist the urge to share it. When the package was all but gone, just one left in the palm of his hand—strawberry, his favorite—there was one kid still standing hopefully in front of him. Derek Hale.
Stiles had known who he was, but they’d never spoken to each other. Derek and his siblings were always a tight-knit group, and Derek himself was kind of quiet and weird, whereas Stiles was loud and weird. Stiles didn’t have it in him to turn him away the only kid not to get a piece of candy.
"Here," Stiles had said, and handed it to him. After hesitating for a second, Derek had plucked it from his hand.
"Wait," he’d said, as Stiles had turned to walk away.
He’d unwrapped it, slowly and precisely, and then bitten it in half and handed one piece back to Stiles. Because Stiles was six years old and a heathen, he hadn’t even cared that some strange kid he didn’t know had probably gotten his cooties all over it. He’d popped it in his mouth and then Derek had said, “You wanna play swings?" and they’d spent the rest of recess gliding back and forth past each other in companionable silence.
The fire was only a few days later. The Hale family was dead, all of them burned up in their house, and the school had been full of crying people, kids and adults both, and Stiles never saw Derek again.
Two weeks later, Stiles mom died.
"Yeah, I did," Stiles said to Derek. “You shared it with me. That was really nice of you."
Derek made a small, pleased sound, like it meant a lot to him that Stiles hadn’t forgotten it. “For a long time," he said, “that was the last good thing I could remember happening to me."
Stiles didn’t know what to say to that, so he didn’t say anything. He felt Derek’s hand slowly, tentatively creep across his ribs, slip down over his stomach until it was curled around him, tugging him closer, fitting him into the warm, solid curve of his body. And maybe this was weird, and maybe it was wrong to let this happen, but all Stiles could see was that little boy on the playground, the happy look on his face when Stiles handed him a piece of candy, neither of them knowing that they were both days away from losing so much. So he let his hand cover Derek’s, and then he let Derek twine their fingers together, and then he let himself fall asleep.