Stiles doesn’t even realize that Derek is back in town until he shows up at Stiles’ door one afternoon with a tandem bicycle.
“Um,” says Stiles.
“I need someone to try this with me,” Derek says, like that’s a sufficient explanation. Stiles flails his arms at the bike, then at Derek, before dropping them limply back to his sides because what. “You’re back?”
Derek watches him move with a tiny, indulgent smile. “Evidently.”
The little grin is almost too much for Stiles, because god, Derek looks good. His hair’s grown out, and it’s cowlicked up a little bit on one side like he didn’t spend much time in the mirror after waking up this morning. He’s lost a lot of bulk, and Stiles loses a small stretch of time staring at the softened curve between his neck and his right shoulder.
“So are you coming, or what?” Derek says, offering a bike helmet with actual rainbows on it. “There’s a nice path through the park that’s never too crowded this time of day.”
“I have no idea how to ride that thing,” Stiles points out. “It looks dangerous.”
“I heard you stabbed a goblin with a dinner fork last week,” Derek says, bone-dry. “I think you can take your chances.”
“Jesus I missed you,” Stiles breathes out, and grabs the helmet. “Let’s roll, weirdo.”
It’s a total disaster, obviously, and it’s the most fun Stiles has had in months.
That weekend, Derek literally drags him out of bed at dawn and makes him stand barefoot on his dew-covered lawn to watch the sun rise. Stiles complains about ants and ticks and how goddamn cold it is, but he offers no other resistance. Afterwards, Derek shoves a bag of apple cider donuts in his hand and tells him to get a few more hours of sleep. (Stiles doesn’t sleep another wink, obviously, because he can’t stop thinking about the way Derek put both of his big, warm hands on his biceps and squeezed before he left Stiles on his doorstep.)
A few days after that, Derek brings him to a pet store and he spends an hour literally covered in puppies (with Derek hovering at a safe distance so that the dogs will stop trembling in terror). He suggests karaoke on a random Tuesday night, and it barely takes any convincing at all to get him to butcher Heart’s “Alone” while Stiles gleefully waves the lighter he borrowed from Derek solely for this purpose.
It’s so bizarre and unexpected and really kind of addictive to have so much of Derek’s attention that Stiles almost doesn’t want to question it.
But questioning things is kind of what Stiles does, so.
“Dude,” he says, nudging Scott in the middle of Algebra. “Have you noticed that Derek came back from his walkabout acting like some kind of hotter, weirder Zooey Deschanel?”
Scott frowns. “Do you know what—he did bring me cupcakes the other day. He said they were homemade.”
“And you didn’t think to share them?”
“They were really bad,” Scott explains. “Like, I think there were four entire eggshells in there.”
“Who cares? Derek made them. Oh my god, you didn’t tell him they were bad, did you?”
"No!" Scott says, appalled. “I’m not a monster, Stiles, jeez."
It all comes to a head at Isaac’s birthday party, which Derek throws for him at the loft.
“Dance with me,” Derek says, ready to pull Stiles into the middle of the floor in front of everyone. There’s an *NSYNC song playing, and Derek looks kind of extremely terrified at the prospect of grooving to it, as a matter of fact.
But he’s asking Stiles to dance anyway. And, oh god. Looping a sparkly green feather boa around Stiles’ neck.
“Okay, wait,” Stiles says, pausing to adjust the boa at a jaunty angle. “I don’t want to discourage whatever soul-searching you’ve been doing, buddy, but maybe you should back up into your comfort zone a little bit. Because, seriously, all the blood is draining out of your face right now.”
“It’s not for me.” Derek blows out a frustrated breath. “I’m… Scott told me. About the sacrifice, at Deaton’s. He said… he says you haven’t been sleeping. That you’ve all… that you, in particular, have been…”
“I’m fine,” Stiles says, automatically. Derek gives him an unimpressed look, and it’s such a classic Derek expression that Stiles grins.
“You’re sad,” Derek insists, plucking a stray green feather off Stiles’ shoulder.
“I’m not,” Stiles says, stepping closer. “Not right now. But dude, you don’t have to bake us cupcakes and take us roller-skating and teach us to whimsically appreciate nature to make this okay. We’re happier just having you back, you know that, right?”
“We?” Derek takes him tentatively by the waist, and Stiles is practically melting already.
“Me,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “Obviously. I rode a tandem bicycle just to spend time with you, Hale.”
“I’m the one who rented the damn thing. I had to walk it all the way to your house. People saw me.”
“Your sacrifice will be rewarded, sir,” Stiles says, and flings his arms around Derek’s neck.
(It’s a really nice hug, until Derek gets a face full of feathers and sneezes.)
When the night winds down and everyone's filing out of the loft, Derek grabs Stiles' elbow. "Hang back a minute."
"Oh no, you're not going to give me brownies, are you? I mean," Stiles says hastily when Derek's eyes narrow, "not that your brownies wouldn't be delicious. I'm sure. Mmm."
Derek scoffs and kisses him, pulling him closer by the awkward grip he's still got on his elbow. "Mmm," Stiles says, a lot more sincerely, and backs them up against one of the support beams that Derek meticulously wrapped in Christmas lights for the party.
"Okay," Derek says against his mouth, his voice soft and a little dreamy as he moves his hands up to slide over Stiles' shoulders. "It's late. You should go home and rest now."
"I sleep better after making out for at least twenty minutes," Stiles counters, kissing bravely down Derek's neck. "Probably."
"Mm, fine, okay. Take off the stupid boa and text your dad that you'll be late."
"Ugh, where's your sense of whimsey and adventure, jerk," Stiles says happily, digging his phone out of his pocket.