The House that Built Us
It starts innocently enough: Scott, Stiles, and Derek pouring over a pile of dusty mythology tomes they've pulled out of the vault - "Seriously, had your family never heard of banks? Safety deposit boxes?" "Shut up, Stiles." - and Stiles stretches and pops his back for what seems to be the fifteenth time in an hour.
"I'm so going to have a reading nook in my future dream home," he says to the room at large.
Scott and Derek hum their approval and agreement without looking up, and the moment passes.
Little do they know, it's only the beginning.
For some unspoken reason, Derek's loft becomes some sort of HQ for the pack. He thinks it's mostly an issue of space - and safety, as Melissa had complained over a list of repairs that need done after housing two teenaged werewolves. Even after they've all graduated, they somehow find their way back.
"Aww, it's like their den! It smells like all of us," Stiles coos when he rolls the door open to discover all the wolves settled in various states of comfort.
It's the beginning of fall break of their senior year of college - except for Lydia who finished her bachelor's in two years and is already making a dent in her graduate work - and they have all once again - unannounced, Derek might add - found themselves perching in their usual places.
Derek barely looks up from his book when Stiles settles himself on the opposite end of the couch.
Scott and Isaac are enthralled by a mindless video game, both hunched on the floor in front of the coffee table. Allison and Kira are sitting across from one another at the small breakfast table that Derek built himself, discussing fighting strategies of ancient Japan. Lydia is re-reading a book about astrophysics (for fun) at the breakfast bar, making hasty notations in the margins. Erica and Boyd are wrapped around each other, passively watching Scott and Isaac. All is well, as far as Derek is concerned.
He doesn't notice how much time passes before Stiles is stretching his long, slender legs across Derek's lap, the weight of them warm and comfortable.
"I like open concept," Stiles says, and Derek wonders briefly if he is simply thinking out loud. "And lots of seating. Like, maybe a big, cushy sectional. A couple of recliners. Lots of room to lounge."
Derek nods, mostly out of habit. He's become accustomed to hearing Stiles without really listening to him.
When the pack is home in the summers, it becomes more and more apparent that perhaps the loft isn't as big as they've led themselves to believe. Certainly, when the full moon rises, it's location isn't ideal. Malia complains on more than one occasion about the noise and inconvenience of city dwelling for their kind.
Derek is perched on the hood of the Jeep while Stiles uses what light he can from the headlights to extract a rather large thorn from Scott's hand.
"Why do I always get stuck doing this?!" he commiserates. Dereks simply chuckles in response while Scott tries to hold in a growl of pain. "I'm going to have a separate entrace for the medical treatment of wounded animals - "
"Hey!" Derek and Scott grunt in unison.
" - and a bathroom that's easy to clean. I'm getting tired of trying to scrub blood and muck out of grout. Maybe I'll just have a whole separate building just for doctoring you guys up." Derek and Scott both scoff at that. "I'll even put in a recovery room."
Scott mutters something about hospitals and antiseptic, which rouses a particularly rowdy bout of laughter from Stiles.
"Yeah, I'd like to see you march your little True Alpha ass into the ER and explain some of the shit I've handled for you guys."
When Derek looks up, his eyes meet Stiles' and he's struck with a memory of laced bullets and the smell of burning wolfsbane.
It's early autumn the first time Stiles mentions a kitchen.
They're grilling out at the Stilinski house - because Derek's poor excuse for a balcony at the loft was not deemed fire safe by the sheriff - Stiles sprawled across a patio chair, nursing a bottle of beer.
"Someday, I'll have a kitchen I can really do shit in." Derek shoots him a skeptical look over his shoulder. "What?! I can cook!" Derek softens when he sees the faraway look in Stiles' eyes. "My mom taught me. The basics, anyway. Until I was old enough to get a bit more creative. Who did you think kept Dad alive all these years?"
It's a chilly evening in January when Derek starts thinking he needs a change. The loft just isn't cutting it anymore.
They're all growing up, and he realizes that it's time he did, too. After all, Scott and Allison just got a place of their own: a townhouse in a new development on the edge of town. Boyd, Erica, and Isaac moved in together in a large, old, Victorian in the Historic District, and Derek is well aware that Boyd is just waiting for the perfect moment to present the ring he keeps hidden in the back of an old dresser drawer.
Kira and Malia and Cora rent a two bedroom in a building just ten minutes' walk away. Lydia and Jackson are almost never in one place long enough to really put down roots, but Lydia has so many speaking engagements and apparently Jackson is writing a book, so they at least have their lives started.
Then there's Stiles. Stiles, who still lives in his childhood home, still sleeps in the bedroom he has since the day John and Claudia brought him home from the hospital. He's teaching now, kindergarten at the public elementary school, which leaves him plenty of time for what he likes to call his "pack requirements" - "I don't have any cool powers like you guys. I have to do something so you'll keep me around!"
Derek wonders what's keeping him in the loft. These days, he's hard pressed to even enjoy being there.
It's his growing disappointment in his situation that leads him out to the preserve. The old house has been gone for a few years now. He doesn't remember much from that year, just berserkers, Kate, and the feeling of losing the only sense of self he'd ever known.
He sits in the Toyota, staring out at the darkness, the reach of the headlights only half as far as his wolf sight. The clearing hasn't grown in yet, so there's still a house-sized emptiness.
He's pretty sure he knows how to fill it.
Quietly, Derek beings the process of rebuilding on his family’s land. He doesn’t tell the rest of the pack what he’s doing; listens to them talk about their lives and when the conversation does get around to him, he talks about spending his days reading or going about transcribing and translating ancient research from both the Hale and Argent collections.
Occasionally, Stiles will turn a curious eye on him, but no one asks why he smells of fresh lumber and evergreens.
He’s bracing a wall one warm spring afternoon when his secret is discovered.
“Doesn’t look like you’re buried in books,” the sheriff calls over the echo of a nail gun.
Derek sighs, casting his eyes downward and smiling softly in response. When the wall is successfully placed, he dusts his hand on his faded jeans and walks down the short drive to where John waits, leaning against his cruiser.
“I suppose I couldn’t keep it a secret forever,” Derek shrugs.
“I’m just glad you aren’t out here on your own,” John replies, gesturing to the handful of builders working diligently to put together the frame of Derek’s design. “Though my son seems to think you’re sneaking off to join the dark side or some such nonsense.”
Derek chuckles. Even after all this time, Stiles hasn’t changed a bit from the precocious sixteen-year-old Derek met just yards from where he now stands.
“No sir,” he says earnestly. “Just thought it was about time I put down roots.”
John nods approvingly. “Better not keep you, then. I hope with surroundings like this you’re going to have a decent deck for relaxing and grilling. I know Stiles loves the open air out here. Can’t say I blame him.”
Derek quirks a brow at the sheriff, wondering what he’s getting at. “Let him know he’s welcome to come see it, since he’s already so sure I’m not spending my days archiving.”
John offers a friendly smile, sliding into his cruiser and starting the engine. “That’s your news to break, kid.”
Derek tells them all one night when they’ve congregated in his loft for an impromptu movie night. Lydia and Jackson are even there, a strange lull in their forever packed schedules.
For the most part, their reactions are what he expected: joy, support, wanting to see his plans, and the errant comment about whether or not Isaac has his own room since he’s been spending more time at Derek’s any way.
“Can I live with you full-time out there?” Isaac implores, “I can’t take any more wedding talk!”
Derek only nods and smiles when Erica throws a bridal magazine at Isaac’s head.
Stiles is suspiciously quiet.
Construction goes on as planned, and Derek is really beginning to see it all take shape. The sight of it causes a warmth to bloom in the center of his chest, and despite the fact that it’s going perfectly, there’s still something missing.
Stiles is the only member of the pack who doesn’t come out to visit.
Derek is lost in the pages of a book, laid out across the couch, the loft quiet as he enjoys his solitude.
There’s a lull in construction, waiting for orders to come in, for final arrangements to fall into place, so Derek has been enjoying the respite from the work, the constant din of equipment, machinery, voices.
Stiles doesn’t knock to announce his presence - but Derek remember a time when he ever did, so isn’t surprised - just rolls back the door unceremoniously, tossing his messenger bag to the floor.
“Stiles,” Derek says by way of greeting, eyes never leaving the page.
Stiles sighs heavily, crossing the room and folding himself to the floor, leaning back against the couch.
“Knew I was coming, then?”
“Jeep needs a tune up. I could hear her at least five blocks away.”
“Not even going to be a challenge when you move to your new den.”
Derek chuckles softly, laying his book down across his abdomen, folded open to hold his page.
“Didn’t think you were acknowledging it,” he says softly. His fingers itch to reach out, to thread themselves through the messy head of hair before him.
“Can’t live in denial forever.”
Derek doesn’t miss the heavy resigned note to Stiles’ voice, the strength of disappointment in his scent, the uneven pattern of his heart.
“Thought you’d be happy I’m going to have more space,” Derek says, and it’s hard for him to keep the hurt out of his voice. “It’s not like the loft is going to magically grow as the pack does.”
Stiles snorts derisively, picking angrily at the frayed cuff of his khakis.
An uneasy silence falls between them. Derek knows there’s something else Stiles wants to say. If Derek has learned anything, it’s how to wait out one Stiles Stilinski.
“Who is she?” Stiles finally inquires. His voice is soft, hesitant, and Derek wonders if he would have even heard it if not for his enhanced hearing.
“Who?” Derek feels lost, like he dove into murky water and can’t find his way to the surface.
Stiles turns incredulous eyes on him, his face displaying every bit of hurt his voice belies. “The girl you’re - no, you know what? If you’re just going to play dumb, it’s not worth it.”
Stiles stands, his anger and frustration quiet, but no less present. Derek feels like he’s fallen into a pit of quicksand.
“Stiles, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I thought you and I had sort of...that we were some sort of…” he walks to the door, slinging his bag over his shoulder and throwing open the door. “Fuck it. You obviously don’t…” Derek can see that Stiles is warring with himself about something. Derek is trapped, helpless to do anything but stare in shock. “Have a nice life, then.”
Stiles’ words echo in Derek’s head, in his loft, for hours after the door has closed in his wake.
Derek tries to fix it - whatever “it” is - to no avail. His calls and texts to Stiles go unanswered. Scott only talks pack business to him, and spends the rest of his time glaring in Derek’s general direction. Isaac, Boyd, and Erica either don’t know anything or don’t want to talk about it. They’ve all become masters of deflection. Cora tells him he’s an idiot, but won’t expand on why.
Derek continues working on the house, but the lack of unannounced company at the loft these days has him wondering if it’ll even be worth it.
No one mentions Stiles’ absence. The few times Derek sees John around town, the sheriff offers only a polite wave. He doesn’t linger.
Derek starts to wonder how the hell this became his life.
He moves the first week of October. Isaac and Boyd help him haul boxes and small furniture. Larger pieces are already in place. Derek actually bought real, grown up furniture and had it delivered and assembled by real-life professionals. Someone should be proud of him.
Boyd and Isaac don’t stick around long, and soon enough, he’s left alone in this enormous house that smells too new. Sounds too quiet.
He’s making dinner in his “big enough to really do shit” kitchen when he hears it: the tell-tale rumble of the Jeep’s engine turning into the preserve.
Derek continues to stir his homemade Alfredo sauce, keeping an ear focused on the sound as it travels down familiar dirt roads between the preserve entrance and Derek’s drive.
He listens intently as the Jeep pulls up in front of the house and the engine shuts down. Patiently, he waits for the sound of footsteps on the porch.
By the time the tentative knock echoes through the house, Derek has two plates of pasta set at the table and a glass of white wine in his hand.
On the porch, Stiles looks unsure of himself. It’s been so long since Derek has seen him that way, he almost doesn’t recognize the young man before him.
“Hi,” Stiles says softly. “Am I...I don’t mean to impose.” He gestures to the glass Derek holds in front of himself and looks pointedly at the set table.
“You’re not,” Derek responds easily, moving aside for Stiles to enter. “I was just sitting down to dinner.”
“I won’t keep you then,” Stiles sighs, looking around them. “Just had to come see it for myself.”
“You hungry?” Derek asks, padding to the table. He’s barefoot, in a pair of comfortably worn jeans.
Stiles hesitates, rubbing a hand anxiously over the back of his neck. His hoodie is rumpled at his middle, jeans askew around his hips. He looks like he’s been sitting in the Jeep for awhile. Derek is intimately familiar with exactly how Stiles folds himself into the driver’s seat to think.
“I don’t want to interrupt,” he says haltingly. Derek can see that he’s fighting the urge to turn tail and run.
Derek rolls his eyes good-naturedly, gesturing to the plate and glass across the table. “For the last time: you’re not interrupting, Stiles. Just sit. Eat.”
Stiles looks at him in obvious disbelief. “Who is that plate for?”
Derek sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. So his instincts had been right after all: Stiles thinks Derek is with someone. Idiot.
“You,” he says, smiling as Stiles visibly starts. “I heard you coming. And I know how much you like pasta.”
Stiles narrows his eyes suspiciously, but doesn’t hesitate in toeing off his sneakers - it’s become a bit of a rule in Derek’s home - and slipping out of his hoodie. Beneath it, he wears a dark blue henley, sleeves pushed up to his elbows.
Dinner is quiet; Derek waiting Stiles out, Stiles unsure of how to start a conversation with someone he’s been avoiding for weeks.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles finally states, leaning back in his chair and running long, steady fingers through his intentionally messy hair.
Derek looks at him over the rim of his wineglass, eyebrows raised in expectation of more.
“I thought...with the house, and the turning over a new leaf thing, there had to be a reason. And I just - the others, I didn’t tell them what I thought, just that I was...well, they knew I was hurting, and - look, they - I mean, Scott - told me that I was wrong. And that I had to come out here and see for myself.”
Derek chuckles, a low, breathy sound, and Stiles fixes him with an incredulous look. “You thought I was doing this for someone.”
Stiles nods, eyes cast resolutely downward.
“You weren’t completely wrong,” Derek says evenly. “Let me show you around.”
Stiles follows Derek through the enormous kitchen, back through the open dining room, into the sprawling living room, furnished with a cozy looking sectional, several easy chairs and cushions, a frankly unbelievable media center. Through one of the bay windows toward the side of the house, Derek points across the dark lawn to a smaller building, set apart from the main house, but still connected by a breezeway. Derek tells him that it’s essentially a guest house, but that he’s outfitted it with a sizeable, easily cleaned bathroom stocked with any and all manner of first aid supplies - both for natural and supernatural wounds.
Derek finishes their tour in the study. It has been Derek’s pet project since the cool night in January when he decided to do this. The room is warm, cozy, holds a large desk with plenty of workspace, plenty of chairs to read in, and shelves upon shelves of books. On the far wall is a large window that looks out onto the back of the property. Built into the small cove created by the window is a sort of bench seat, outfitted with cushions and pillows, a throw blanket or two.
When Stiles, on his tour of the room, gets to the nook, he turns to Derek, his arms crossed over his chest, eyes sharp in the warm lamp light.
“This is my reading nook,” he says, voice even. He takes a few steps toward Derek, where he leans against the desk. “And that out there,” he gestures in the general direction of the ‘guest house’, “is my were-thing hospital.”
Derek nods. “Yep.”
Stiles takes another step toward Derek, his hands falling to his sides, fists curling easily. “And that’s my enormous kitchen - “ he steps closer yet, “ - and my open concept great room with comfy couches and state-of-the-art entertainment system.”
They’re nearly nose to nose now, and Derek can’t help but grin as he watches Stiles.
“And I bet if I went out back, there’d be a deck. Lots of places to sit and relax in the open air. A nice grill.”
“The pool isn’t finished yet,” Derek shrugs. “But it should be ready by next summer.”
Stiles stands silent before him for a beat before releasing a pleased sigh, bright eyes tracing Derek’s face.
“You fucker,” he says sharply, pulling Derek forward by the collar of his sweater and bringing their mouths together in a searing kiss.
Derek’s arms wind themselves around Stiles’ middle, keeping him close as he works to memorize the softness and curve of Stiles’ lips, the warmth and weight of his tongue as it sneaks past the seam of Derek’s lips to explore his mouth.
When they part to catch their breaths, Stiles rests his head on Derek’s shoulder, laughing quietly. Derek’s fingers work their way beneath the hem of Stiles’ shirt, tracing unnameable patterns onto the hot skin at the small of his back.
Stiles pulls back to look into Derek’s eyes. “You know, most people just use words,” he teases, “but you, you have to go and build me a fucking love letter.”
Derek laughs, shrugging fondly and pulling Stiles flush against his chest.
Pressing his lips to Stiles’, he mutters, “So, when are you moving in?”
Stiles kisses him chastely before pulling away again, this time out of the circle of Derek’s arms. Derek pouts briefly at the loss of contact.
“Might have to see that the bedroom is up to par first,” he says, an exaggerated look of consideration on his face.
“That can be arranged,” Derek rumbles, crossing the space between them and winding himself around Stiles once more.
Stiles laughs, fingers threading into Derek’s hair when Derek kisses his neck.
He never really leaves after that.