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Win Or Lose, I'm With You

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by foreverblue-navy

Derek’s look softens when he sees Stiles in one of the many rows of chairs, dressed in what he wore to his own mother’s funeral, with his father by his side. He gives a faint smile, one that looks more like a ghost, and Stiles knows that Derek didn’t expect him to turn up.

Stiles can’t bring himself to stay too long at the funeral, it hits too close to home and his own chest tightens when he gets a look at what’s left of Derek’s family. The three siblings huddle near each other at the front of the service, only Laura crying, and none of them speak.

He waits around a bit to see if he can talk to any of the remaining Hales but he spots Derek’s grimace at people coming up to him and offering their condolences. Stiles has lost someone before and he doesn’t know what to say. Nothing he can come up with will make Derek or his sisters feel happy.

Derek knows he’s here. Derek knows that he has Stiles’ support.

Stiles walks side by side with his father, past the headstones until they reach his mother’s grave. They stare at it a while, the wind prickling at their skin and Stiles feels hollow and empty. It’s quiet and awkward, and even though it’s been a few years he and his father don’t know really how to talk about it.

They don’t have flowers like they normally do, but they stare at the careful scratch of Claudia Stilinski on the grave. His father leaves first, squeezing Stiles’ shoulder and saying he’ll wait in the car.

Stiles looks down at his shoes and his hands are in his pockets. He has to keep on telling himself to breathe but he knows that what Derek’s feeling is probably worse. He lost his parents, an older brother and an uncle in the car crash.

“Hey, hey,” Stiles hears a croaking voice and he turns around.

Derek’s hurrying towards him, his cheeks pink and hair moving in the wind. He looks handsome in his formal clothes, but his tie is now loose around his neck like Derek’s been pulling at it. He stops when he sees where Stiles is, his gaze floating down to the name of the gravestone.

“Oh, sorry,” Derek goes pale and turns back around.

“No wait!” Stiles calls, racing after him and catching his arm to keep him there.

He looks tired. “Sorry,” Derek says, “I didn’t realize...”

Stiles gives him a dry look. “I never told you.”

Something weird moves across Derek’s face and they stand and look at each other awkwardly. Stiles wants to say something comforting, he does, but he and Derek have only been on a few dates and have had only a little more make out sessions than that. Stiles has met the rest of his family, though, after they’d been caught in the backseat of Derek’s car and Stiles was forced to come to dinner. Stiles has seen a glimpse of what Derek is missing.

“I was gonna,” says Stiles. “I was gonna go home. But I can stay? If you want.”

Derek’s eyes seem hollow but he shakes his head. “No. You go. Erica and Boyd are here.”

“You sure?”

He nods.

“If you want,” mumbles Stiles. “You can come over tomorrow. Or the next day. Text me or something.”

Derek’s mouth opens but he stutters instead of speaking. He takes a step forward, like he wants to reach out for Stiles but he doesn’t. Stiles offers him a weak smile, sad, and he closes the distance between them and places a light kiss to the edge of Derek’s jaw. Derek stills at the contact and Stiles dips his head as he steps away.

He hopes Derek realizes that if he needs Stiles then Stiles is here. He walks Derek back to the service in silence and Derek’s eyes roam over him when he leaves, like he’d much rather get out of here and not face what’s going on. Cora goes up to Derek and tugs on his hand, nestling her nose into Derek’s side.

Stiles raises his hand and gives a brief wave, and he walks off with his shoulders hunched. The bitter taste of loss rests in the air and his own grief comes in pulsing waves on the car ride home.

“I’m proud of you for being there for him,” his father says when they pull up to the house. Stiles just nods, his stomach swirling and playing up. He feels a little peaky and he’s happy when his father lets him go into his room, collapse on his bed and stare at the wall until sleep claims him.

♦♦♦♦

He doesn’t hear from Derek during the rest of the summer. Stiles texts him a few times but he’s not sure what more he can do. Every morning he drags himself out of bed and goes for a long run before the weather is too hot to.

He thinks about texting Scott and meeting up with him but that friendship is still quite new and Scott seems busy with his summer job and his summer romance. Jackson’s been distant. Stiles doesn’t really care.

School approaches and he finds that he’s thought more about Derek than anyone else. It’s Sunday night, his father is on a late shift, and he’s caught up with most of his shows. He pulls out his phone, calling Derek before he can stop himself.

“Stiles?”

“Hey,” Stiles croaks, sitting up in his bed and knocking his laptop off his legs. “Hey.”

He hears Derek grimace. “Sorry I haven’t replied to you or anything.”

His voice is kind of flat and it seems that he’s forcing out his words. Stiles swallows, searching for something to say but his throat feels kind of dry and he’s not quite sure what Derek wants to hear.

“I’ve been busy,” Derek says when the silence goes on.

“No, no, of course,” says Stiles quickly. He pauses. “Are you busy now?”

Derek sighs. “I was just, I was going to go to sleep. That’s all. I’m tired.”

Stiles forces a smile even though he’s sitting in his bedroom, alone. “Yeah, me too. School tomorrow.”

Derek says nothing.

“You still going to do lacrosse?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” says Stiles awkwardly. “I might call again tomorrow, if that’s okay?”

“Yeah,” Derek replies. The line goes silent, Stiles’ heart beginning to beat loud in his chest. He hears Derek’s tired sigh. “Goodnight, Stiles,” he mumbles. “See you later.”

The phone cuts off and Stiles lets it drop to his lap. He stares at it dejectedly before rolling over and switching off his bedside lamp. The room goes dark and it takes a long time before he falls asleep.

♦♦♦♦

Stiles turns up to lunch a little after the rest of his friends. Scott greeted him with a bright smile in their first class together, something Stiles wasn’t quite expecting but made him feel a lot better. He doesn’t see Jackson until he reaches their lunch table and when he does his mouth parts in surprise.

There’s a sweep of red hair near Jackson’s shoulders that’s not hard to miss and his stomach drops a little when he sees Lydia Martin leaning over his arm.

Stiles’ eyes aren’t the only interested ones in the cafeteria. He has sat with Jackson at more or less the same table since freshman year, and with his flashy car, his hot, boyish face and his lacrosse captain status, they can be described as somewhat popular. Stiles wouldn’t put himself in that category, but he’s been best friends with Jackson since he was a kid and he might be there by association.

He lowers himself onto one of the seats quietly, and he feels the awkward shift of everyone next to him. Scott remains unaware, smiling at Stiles and asking again how his summer was.

“Fine,” Stiles replies, thinking of Derek. He turns his gaze to Jackson and Lydia, and she offers him a lipstick covered smile. Stiles looks down at his food.

“Stiles,” Jackson drawls, his arm around Lydia’s shoulders tightening. She rolls her eyes but leans into it. “Hope you’re not mad, buddy.”

“Why would I be mad?” Stiles says, narrowing his eyes. It’s hard not to feel slighted when the whole school is probably aware of the horrific crush he’s had on Lydia since he first laid eyes on her. He’s expecting his heart to give way a little at having his best friend suddenly announce that he’s going out with Lydia Martin, but it doesn’t come.

Jackson smirks.

Scott scrunches up his face next to him, leaning over to whisper in Allison’s ear. He gets whatever answer he’s looking for, straightening abruptly and letting a small squeak of understanding escape. Stiles sighs at the friend he made last year after Scott got transferred from another school. He’s on the lacrosse team, and unlike Stiles, he’s not on the bench.

Stiles grits his teeth together, the rest of the table oddly silent. Lydia sits and peers at her nails, clearly enjoying the discomfort of the boy who wouldn’t stop asking after she’d already said no. Stiles was too stubborn there, he’s willing to admit.

“Besides, I’m kind of dating someone,” Stiles tells them. He sees Allison’s eyebrows rise and each head at the table turns to face him. Jackson’s expression only flickers for a moment, though, before his grin curls slightly and he leans forward.

“Really?” he asks. “Who?”

Stiles hesitates. “Um,” he says. “Derek Hale.”

The laughter comes a few seconds after the small slip of silence.

“Stiles,” says Jackson, “I think you’re forgetting all those times on the field when Hale looked like he wanted to murder your guts. Are you sure you’re not mistaking a wet dream for reality?”

He scowls at him and he feels Scott pat his arm sympathetically. Derek has been bristly on the field; it’s all been part of the fun, part of the build up, ripping at each other so that they could get their hands on each other later.

Lydia’s look flitters between pitiful and amused. “Stiles,” she says too sweetly, “While I do admit Hale is quite nice on the eyes, the fact that he doesn’t go to our school and therefore is not available to backup your claim is not looking so good for your story.”

Stiles splutters, glaring at them all. “You think I’m making this up?” he yells.

“Well, are you really dating him?” Lydia asks.

Frustration blooms under his skin and his words trip as they fall out of his mouth. Honestly, he isn’t sure if he and Derek are dating. Or even if they were dating. His family dying complicates things and Stiles realizes he can’t actually give a proper answer. The rest of the table seem to notice this, and he gets a few sympathetic looks from Scott and Allison as they interpret his silence as a no.

“Maybe I can set someone up with you,” Jackson tells him.

“I don’t need your help,” Stiles spits.

His friend shrugs. “You’re right. If you’re on the bench again this year, I don’t think even I will be able to find you a date.”

Lydia hits him on the arm. “You haven’t had trials yet, Jackson. Don’t speak too soon. Stiles here might have surprised us over the summer.” Her eyes run down Stiles’ front and he gives her a harsh glare. She meets him with a smile.

It’s not worth fighting their disbelief when Stiles doesn’t know exactly where he stands with Derek. He hasn’t seen him since the funeral and it’s been a few weeks. He spends the rest of the meal with an angry red on his cheeks, stabbing his food while none of his friends think he can get a date.

Scott offers to play video games with him after school, and Stiles gladly accepts.

♦♦♦♦

It’s early, and morning birds chirp outside Stiles’ window. He still has ten minutes before his alarm goes off but he gets up anyway, throwing on some running gear and stomping blearily to the kitchen. He swallows a banana down and heads outside, starting at a light jog over the sidewalk.

After yesterday, Stiles realized that he has to see Derek even if he doesn’t want him there. There’s a knot in his stomach at his friend’s words and Stiles misses him. Stiles is painfully aware that things might have changed considering he’s barely heard from Derek, a reason why he didn’t try harder to convince his friends that something was going on between them, and he finds himself on a different route to his normal summer run.

It’s early enough for there to still be a chill and the air is raw and cold up Stiles’ nose. He doesn’t let himself second guess knocking on Derek’s front door, even knocks twice, and then he hears the sound of footsteps coming to the door.

Laura answers it wearing a nightgown and her eyes widen in alarm. “Stiles? Is everything okay?” she asks, her voice still stripped from sleep.

Stiles nods quickly. “Yeah, yeah, it is, I was just wondering if Derek was here.”

She raises an eyebrow but turns silently and heads up the stairs. Derek returns later wearing only his boxers and he has a delightful case of bed head. He rubs his eyes and gives Stiles a small, surprised smile.

“Hey,” he says, voice rough with sleep. “What’s up?”

“Come for a run with me?” Stiles asks hopefully.

Derek looks him up and down and without another word he disappears up the stairs. When he returns, wearing running clothes that fit a lot nicer than Stiles’ do, Derek gives Stiles a questioning look. Stiles shrugs at him, not wanting to dump his probably insignificant problems on Derek, and they start to run.

Derek turns them down the path he normally takes and they’re a good match for each other in terms of fitness. Stiles has been running every morning since at least the beginning of summer and Derek’s always been athletic. They pass through trees and they run along a dirt trail until they end up in some sort of clearing.

His own cheeks are red and he’s panting slightly. Stiles puts his hands on his knees and Derek gives him another side eyed look. The skin around his eyes looks dark and heavy, and the lack of sleep shows.

“Everything okay?” Derek asks him, stepping closer.

Stiles nods. He drops to his knees before sitting on his backside and shuffling towards the nearest tree trunk. The ground is a little wet but he doesn’t care. Derek sits down next to him, their shoulders touching as their lungs rise and fall.

“I’m thinking about quitting lacrosse,” he blurts out.

“What?” Derek asks, turning to him. It’s hard not to see the disappointment there. Stiles throws him a look.

“I’m sick of being on the bench, I’m sick of being second to everyone and being second to Jackson,” he mutters. “The only good thing about lacrosse last year was seeing you.”

Derek frowns. “I’ll still be there.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like we play you every game and you’re not at practice ever. You know, Jackson pretty much told me I shouldn’t bother signing up again,” Stiles sighs, rubbing his face. Derek raises an eyebrow.

“I thought you two were ‘best friends,’” he says, somewhat sourly.

Stiles jabs him in the side but he shrugs. “Yeah, being best friends since three seems to be coming to an end, fortunately. Jackson’s turning into a dick.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Derek mutters.

“I’m going to join the track team,” Stiles tells him. “My friend Allison’s on it.” Derek blinks, but he shuffles closer to Stiles against the tree and the warm press of his shoulder means some kind of support. They sit there without speaking until Stiles checks the time on his phone and decides that they should head back.

They walk slowly down Derek’s street and Stiles gets the feeling that Derek doesn’t want to say goodbye to him quite so soon now that they’re actually together. He tugs at Stiles’ sleeve when they reach the driveway. “Can we do this tomorrow?” he asks tentatively.

Stiles grins, biting his lip. “Yeah, okay. See you bright and early!”

Derek rolls his eyes and shoves Stiles’ side. “At least I’ll have some warning this time before you just show up at my door,” he mutters.

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “But you don’t mind.”

Derek gives him a quiet smile as he slips inside his house.

♦♦♦♦

He turns up to the lacrosse trials with Jackson. Lydia is sitting in the bleachers, smiling slightly when she spots her boyfriend. She’s probably the reason Jackson had been distant over the summer, even if things were strained towards the end of last year.

They get changed and when they get to the field Stiles walks over to the second group gathering.

“What the hell are you doing, Stilinski?” Jackson yells after him. Stiles ignores him and approaches the smaller group of students. They eye him warily, probably because he’s friends with Jackson, but Allison is there with her eyebrows raised and a smile on her lips. He gives them all a little shrug and a wave.

The track coach heaves a sigh and sends them running. It’s good. Stiles is fit enough. He’s not bad if he compares himself to the students who were on the track team last year. When he passes Jackson, Danny and Scott as they play on the field, Scott gives a loud whoop and Jackson looks murderous.

Actually moving, feeling the hot, sticky air on his skin feels good. It feels better than working his butt off at practice only to sit on a bench for all of a game. Maybe if he works his legs a little faster, a little stronger, he could compete and his father could come and see him. Stiles picks up his pace.

When they finish running, sweat is over his lip and is staining his clothes.

“Good job, Stilinksi,” the track coach says, as they head towards the locker room. The other students give him the beginnings of a smile, excited for new talent.

Allison nudges her side into his before she heads to the girls’ changing room. “Have any more surprises up your sleeve?” she asks, her grin wide and dimples showing.

♦♦♦♦

“I didn’t know you were trying out for the track team!” Scott says excitedly at lunch the next day. Stiles shrugs but he feels pleased with himself.

Jackson’s lips press into a line. “I didn’t know either,” he glares.

Stiles hums in response. He’d met up again to run with Derek this morning and he seemed to have let go of the fact Stiles was quitting lacrosse. Derek had been quieter and it had taken longer for him to answer questions, but his sweaty hand had still brushed against Stiles’ before their run ended, like he wasn’t upset in any way.

Allison gives Stiles a sweet smile. “I think it’s great and I thought you did quite well.”

“Thanks, Allison,” Stiles says back, and next to him Scott beams at her, taking her hand and squeezing it. Allison’s cheeks go a pleased pink and she offers to practice running with Stiles if he wants to.

He hesitates.

“You don’t have to,” she says quickly, looking around. Jackson’s still prodding at his food angrily. He’s probably going to miss speaking down to Stiles at practices, exercising his captain status to make Stiles feel like shit. Stiles is used to it, it’s been that way for a while, but it was nice not hearing it for once.

He turns to Allison. “I’m kind of already running with someone? If that stops, then yeah, sure.”

Stiles doesn’t elaborate and none of them ask. He vaguely wonders if any of them think he’s lying but Allison doesn’t look too distressed and he smiles at Jackson’s confused expression.

♦♦♦♦

“So,” says Derek. “You got on the track team.”

Stiles nods.

“That’s good.”

They stare at each other just outside Derek’s house. It’s quiet and Derek hesitates when he looks back towards his front door. His two sisters are probably still asleep and Derek tells Stiles to wait a second before he jogs inside.

He emerges two minutes later with a bag over his shoulder and he stares at Stiles like he expects him to figure out what he’s trying to ask.

Stiles glares at him.

“It’s a Saturday,” Derek says.

“Yeah, it is.”

“I’m coming over,” he says firmly, not waiting for Stiles’ response before he starts marching down the road. Stiles rolls his eyes and follows, watching the way Derek’s shoulders relax when Stiles doesn’t argue.

They get home and Stiles fetches Derek a towel so that he can shower after their run. Later, when they’re both downstairs in front of the TV, Stiles’ father comes in from his shift at the station, eyebrows drawn up in surprise before he greets Derek.

“How are your sisters?” he asks.

“Fine,” Derek replies, distant. He pauses. “Thanks for asking.”

The Sheriff leaves them be and once he’s gone and his questions have disappeared, Derek and Stiles settle and hang out. It’s almost like when they had hung out at the beginning of the summer. But it’s different because Derek barely smiles when he forgets Stiles is there, and Stiles isn’t waiting or hoping that Derek will kiss him.

They sit there until Derek’s phone rings and he has to go. Stiles drives him home.

♦♦♦♦

Lydia has already given up listening to Jackson rant about their rival lacrosse team. Stiles is only listening because Derek’s name keeps on popping up every half a minute. It’s beat Hale this, beat Hale that, make sure that they win the cup.

He discusses strategies over the lunch table to anyone who will listen. Stiles smiles to himself, realizing he could probably tell this all to Derek if he wanted to. Not that he will.

“What is it, Stiles?” snaps Jackson.

“You seem awfully focussed on Der – Hale.”

Jackson sneers. “He’s who I have to beat.”

Stiles shrugs.

“Our first game is on Thursday,” he says. “Even with your little crush, I expect you to understand why that’s so important.”

Lydia sighs. “Jackson, shut up. I can’t hear what Allison’s saying about her new dresses.”

To Stiles’ surprise, Jackson closes his mouth and sinks back into his chair. The tension stays in his shoulders, even as Lydia leans into him, still talking to Allison. It doesn’t even bug Stiles to see Lydia and Jackson together, even if he still admires her sharp words and her soft hair.

Jackson opens his mouth about Derek again but Lydia narrows her eyes. “You have read the paper recently, haven’t you?”

Jackson scoffs.

“Hale’s family was in a car accident this summer. Stop fretting. Your game will be fine,” she says.

“That doesn’t mean he can’t play just as well,” Stiles puts in, but with little heat. He kind of wants to shrink into his seat as he defends Derek. He doesn’t want to get into the whole him and Derek thing again, not when it was so embarrassing the last time.

“Stop it with your little crush,” Jackson snaps.

Stiles shrinks into his seat.

♦♦♦♦

Allison is wearing black running shorts and a pink sports bra that shows off her bare torso. Most of the track team are stretching together before they start training, and Stiles and Allison talk to each other at the edge of the group.

“Jackson keeps looking over and frowning,” she says.

Stiles shrugs, feeling the stretch in his legs. He carefully avoids Allison’s gaze.

“What happened with you two?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles says at her, and it’s a wonder why he’s not angrier about it. It probably has a lot to do with how Stiles spends most of his time thinking about Derek and his family. “The summer happened. I stopped caring about lacrosse last year and he’s always been a dick. I just used to care about what he thinks.”

She hums. “He has picked up some bad habits, but I don’t think you’ve done yourself any favours by giving up on lacrosse.”

Stiles glares at her. “I can do what I want.”

Allison lifts her chin and rakes her eyes over him. “I know,” she says, moving into another stretch, her position precise.

Stiles grits his teeth and tries not to look guilty.

“And I like having you on the team, Stiles. It’s a good idea.”

“Thanks,” he says, wishing more people would like it. “Can we run?”

Allison barely nods before she zips off, leaving Stiles behind. He catches up with her and as he moves, he pounds his frustration at Jackson onto the ground.

♦♦♦♦

Derek comes to his house as often as he can without feeling guilty for leaving his sisters alone at home. They don’t talk about his family, even though sometimes their deaths sit neatly in the air. It’s a feeling Stiles has to get used to again and he’s not sure if he likes it but he’s going to be here for Derek anyway.

They have their morning runs and they go further every day. Derek has days where he smiles and days where he barely says a few words. Stiles talks about the people on the track team. They’re already good friends with each other and they’re letting Stiles in slowly. He says to Derek that he’s glad he’s got Allison on the team, and he complains about Jackson a lot. It’s fun and Derek lets him, even smirks sometimes.

Stiles drags Derek out to a movie one evening, forcing him into the leather jacket that he had left at Stiles’ house over the summer. Derek glares at him and Stiles pats his hands over his chest, smoothing the fabric over. Derek takes a step closer.

“Why do we have to go out?” he grumbles.

“It will be fun.”

Derek looks at the floor, his shoulders sagging forward and Stiles lifts his chin with his fingers. He presses gently until Derek looks up to see Stiles’ small smile. Their eyes meet and it takes a few seconds before he gets a short nod from Derek.

“Fine,” he says, opening Stiles’ front door and stomping outside. Stiles grins at his retreating figure.

♦♦♦♦

It’s barely past nine by the time the movie is over. It was a shitty, cheap one, but it had been entertaining enough. Derek had let Stiles rest his head on his shoulder, leaning over the armrests on the seat. He wanted to link their fingers together but decided against it.

Derek goes to the bathroom when they head back outside. Stiles turns on his phone and sees a flurry of texts from Scott, and one from Jackson. He begins to read them but he stops when his name is called out.

“Hey! Stiles!” Scott calls, jogging over to him. Stiles looks up and sees most of his friends entering the theatre. Allison’s hand slips out of Scott’s as he comes over and Jackson and Lydia stay hovering at the door. “You here for the movie?”

“Um,” he says. “No. I already saw one.”

Scott frowns. “By yourself?”

“Um, no,” he flushes. “No – I was, I was with someone.”

Scott stares at him incredulously, noticing the way Stiles’ cheeks are red. He’s not embarrassed to be here with Derek but he doesn’t want the shit his friends might give him for going out with the rival lacrosse star.

He sees Derek out of the corner of his eye and he shakes his head at him, his gesture towards the exit small and contained. Derek stops, frowning, and his eyes fall on Stiles’ friends. Derek’s face turns hard and his eyes travel up and down Scott in judgement from across the room.

“Stiles?” says Scott.

“Um,” he says desperately, hoping Derek will get the message and go outside. “Look, uh, I have to go, okay?”

He spots Jackson stalking over, his shoulders square. His arm is around Lydia like she’s some sort of prize, and her face looks pissed but she doesn’t throw him off. Stiles grits his teeth together, barely able to relax until Derek starts walking towards the exit.

“Hale,” Jackson sneers, spotting him.

Scott groans. “I wonder what he’s doing here.”

“What anyone else does at a movie theatre,” Stiles says, “Watching a movie, probably.”

Allison covers her smile.

They watch Derek leave and Stiles opens his mouth, trying to explain why he has to go. He doesn’t quite manage, and right now he’s too afraid of what Derek’s thinking of him to stay, so Stiles says goodbye to his friends and rushes for the door.

They took Stiles’ jeep and it’s not hard to spot Derek leaning against it with his hands in his pockets. He kicks at the ground and Stiles runs over, slightly out of breath. He stops a few paces from Derek, staring at him worriedly until Derek glares.

“You haven’t told them about me,” he snaps.

“Derek –”

“It’s not that hard to do.”

Stiles rubs his face, not sure what to say. Finally, he lets his eyes meet Derek’s, already too tired for this. “You were the one who dragged me away from the game last season where no one could see us to stuff your tongue down my throat. It was you who didn’t want anyone to know.”

“That was while it was new! When we hadn’t won the cup yet,” Derek hisses.

Stiles shrugs. “Whatever. I don’t think my friends would understand or appreciate whatever this is,” his says in a flat voice, waving his hand around. “I don’t want to tell them.”

“Fine,” Derek says.

They don’t speak much when Stiles drops him off, but the next morning Derek’s waiting by the door for Stiles to come by. They run further than they normally do, in silence, and by the time they get back to Derek’s house they’re both very red in the face, muscles sore and aching.

His skin is hot and sticky and Stiles is surprised when Derek steps forward, almost aggressively, and gives Stiles a short, hard kiss with closed lips. It’s as close to an understanding that the both of them can manage.

♦♦♦♦

“What was up with you at the movies?” Scott asks. They’re waiting for class to start and he twists around to look at Stiles with a confused frown.

Stiles swallows, rearranging his pencils at the front of his desk. There’s a bustle of chatter in the air and Stiles doesn’t want to keep the truth from Scott but he doesn’t really feel like he has any other choice.

“Nothing, I guess I started to feel a bit unwell,” Stiles tells him. “So I left.”

Scott seems to know that he’s lying, but he lets it go. They’re not good enough friends for him to be able to push the issue, but he also seems to understand that Stiles doesn’t want to talk about it.

He doesn’t bring up Derek, and Stiles lets out a sigh of relief.

♦♦♦♦

“Are you okay?” Stiles asks.

“I’m fine,” Derek grunts, picking up his pace. Stiles’ lungs burn as he struggles to keep up. Things have been a little strained since the movie incident, despite Derek’s claims to being fine with it. Stiles doesn’t attempt conversation when they reach the clearing, just stands there with his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath.

Derek looks at him, frowning. “Ready to go?”

Stiles looks up. “Just a sec,” he says. “Do you have to be at school early or something?”

Derek shrugs, running a hand through his damp hair. He shuffles awkwardly on his feet, moving slightly towards the path they’ve just come from. Stiles leans against a nearby tree, stays there for longer than necessary, wanting to stretch out the time he has with Derek because he knows it’s going to be over too soon.

It’s been like this almost all week. Sometimes Derek will give Stiles a brief touch of affection, a hand on his lower back or on his shoulder, but apart from the occasional smile, Derek’s been cold, grumpy. Stiles feels the guilt start up again when he watches a flat expression take hold of Derek’s face.

He doesn’t want Derek to be a secret, but Stiles is struggling to come up with another option, not wanting the shit his friends are sure to give him. Stiles had been looking forward to this morning, wanting to see Derek because it was better than school, better than Jackson, but the air is still strained when they say goodbye to each other at the end of their run.

School is as miserable as he expects it to be, taking a test in chemistry that he barely studied for, and all he can think about is Derek, cursing him for being such a big, fat grump.

“Stiles.”

He looks up, and Scott is peering at him over the test script he’s about to hand back to the teacher.

“What?” he hisses.

“You keep on sighing,” Scott tells him, closing his mouth when the teacher glares. Stiles’ face colors and they both wait for the papers to be handed in. Once they hear the bustle of the other students packing up, Scott leans forward on his desk. “What’s wrong? Didn’t the test go well?”

Stiles shrugs. “It was fine,” he says, voice flat. He deliberates mentioning Derek. Out of all his friends, Scott might understand. He hasn’t been exposed to the lacrosse rivalry as much as the others. It might be okay to tell him, and Stiles could let all his shitty feelings out.

“Alright. Want to talk about it?”

Stiles decides against it.

♦♦♦♦

He’s invited Derek over for a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, hoping to settle the tension between them. Derek looks worse than usual, worse than any of the other days Stiles has seen him this week. Stiles is nervous, wearing his good jeans and a semi new shirt, but the cloud over Derek’s face stops him from noticing.

“Bad day?” Stiles asks tentatively.

“Let’s just watch the stupid show,” he mutters, collapsing on the couch. Derek leans forward and takes some of the food Stiles had carefully laid out.

“Buffy is not stupid,” Stiles says under his breath, but he lets the issue drop. Clearly today something has happened, but at least Derek didn’t cancel on him. It’s got to mean something that he still came to Stiles when he’s feeling like this.

His father comes in from work before saying goodnight almost straight away, having the early shift the next morning. Derek says nothing when he’s asked a question, and Stiles meets his father’s gaze worriedly.

There’s not much they can do, and as much as Stiles loves Buffy, he can’t fucking concentrate on it, too attuned to the miserable vibes Derek’s sending out. He curses himself for even thinking about what he looked like this evening, because clearly, nothing was going to happen there.

They reach the climax of the episode, and the action scenes get louder, Buffy kicking ass on the screen. Stiles sighs, looking for the remote. It’s next to Derek.

“Hey, Derek, can you pass me the remote?” Stiles asks. He nudges Derek’s foot with his own when he doesn’t respond, shuffling closer so that their shoulders touch. “C’mon Derek, we might wake up my dad.”

All he gets is a grunt, barely heard over the crashes and bangs of the action sequence. Stiles looks over and Derek’s staring directly at the screen, lips pressed firmly shut. He waves a hand in front of Derek’s face and says his name louder.

Derek inches away from him, and Stiles can’t feel the line of warmth against his arm anymore. He clears his throat.

“You do it.”

Stiles glares at him. “The remote is literally on your other side.”

He says nothing. Stiles twists around so that he’s facing Derek, frustration welling up inside him. Guns go off around them and Derek refuses to look at Stiles. He folds his arms and stares straight ahead, pushing his chin up a little.

“Derek.”

“Stiles,” he replies lightly.

“Pass the remote.”

Derek sinks into the couch a little more.

“Or at least turn it down yourself,” he hisses.

“You have feet,” Derek points out. “You get the remote.”

Stiles’ mouth drops open. He gives Derek a few more seconds to stop being difficult, but his nostrils flare and he doesn’t move. Irritation sets on Stiles’ fingertips and he kind of wants to punch Derek’s face right now. He doesn’t care that it’s a nice face, or that he might bruise it. Derek’s being stupid on purpose and the way his lips twitch, he knows it.

“Fine,” Stiles snaps, and he takes his feet off the coffee table. He gets on his knees, ready to climb over Derek before he changes his mind. Stiles flexes his fingers and reaches out for Derek’s ankles, pulling them around so that Derek sinks in his seat.

Stiles wastes no time climbing over him, ignoring Derek’s surprised yelp and sitting right over his crotch. He presses his knees hard into Derek’s sides so that he can’t move, and when Derek tries to push him away Stiles catches his hands and pins them above his head.

“What are you doing?” snaps Derek.

Stiles grins. “You’ll see,” he says, and then he proceeds to start tickling Derek. One of Stiles’ hands is large enough to wrap around Derek’s wrists so that he can’t move, and the other starts at his armpits, pressing in harder than is necessary.

“Stiles!” Derek yells, squirming underneath him. Stiles ignores his continued protests and works his way to under Derek’s ribs, squeezing tighter with his knees so that Derek can’t escape. His breaths become shorter and his eyebrows knit together in anger.

“This is fun, isn’t it?” Stiles says, breath short. Tickling Derek is taking a lot more effort than he thought.

Derek snarls, his cheeks flushed as he jerks under Stiles’ unforgiving fingers. “Stop it!”

Stiles shakes his head, biting his lip. He rolls his hips a little, too distracted by how angry he feels to realize what he’s doing. His fingers press harder into Derek’s side and then Derek throws his head back, lifting his hips so that he meets Stiles’ body.

“Why are you doing this?” he groans, except it’s kind of different to the irritated and pained sounds from before. Stiles lets go of Derek’s hands immediately, blushing hard. Derek sits up and the movement causes Stiles to slip closer into Derek’s lap, both of them rocking gently together and breathing heavily.

Stiles drops his gaze to Derek’s lips, wanting to reach forward but he doesn’t. “Pass me the remote.”

Derek shakes his head, his wrists gently resting on Stiles’ hips.

“Why are you being so difficult?” he snaps.

Derek glares at him. “I’m allowed to be difficult.”

“No you’re not!”

“You’re supposed to be nice to me!”

Stiles pushes his chest, and Derek falls back to his elbows. “Not when you’re being a dick.”

It’s hard not to notice Derek’s heaving chest, a red flush falling over his face and to the edge of his collarbone. His shirt has been stretched and pulled, and it reveals one shoulder. Stiles wants so much to clutch him closer, but he’s too mad for that.

Derek closes his eyes. “You – you’re, it’s not fair. I’m, I, I can be a dick if I want to. I’m allowed to,” he rambles, “My family’s gone, they’re gone, and I’m allowed to be mean if I want to.”

Stiles’ heart aches, but he’s not going to let Derek think that. He’s not going to let him get away with that. “Wrong,” he says.

Derek’s eyes snap open. “What?”

“Wrong,” he says again, and proceeds to tickle Derek again. He yells but Stiles puts a hand over his mouth, muffling the sounds until Derek’s just glaring again. Stiles removes the cover of his hand and replaces it with a single finger, running it along Derek’s lips as a reminder to be quiet. Derek gives him a dirty look and tries to bite it.

“Stiles!” Derek huffs, and this time his hands are free and he doesn’t waste time trying to tickle Stiles back. Stiles squirms too, but his knees are around Derek again and he’s got the better grip.

“I’m not going to let you get away with everything,” Stiles winces when Derek’s fingers find a particularly weak spot and he lets out a high pitched sound. “Just because you’re hurting,” his lungs feel dry as he tries to attack Derek with more tickling. “It only means that I’m going to be – fuck –more understanding – that hurt – and more – ouch – forgiving!”

He lets go of Derek and sags forward against his chest. He feels Derek’s breathing and his hands let go of Stiles’ body. Stiles is pretty sure they’ve both got a problem in their pants, what with the poorly disguised grinding going on, but he’s happy to ignore it.

After a moment Derek’s arms come around him, pulling him closer so that his chin rests on Stiles’ head. The TV is off, the remote buttons pressed under Derek’s body during their ruckus. He feels Derek’s thumb run in circles just under his shirt and Stiles sighs.

“Thank you,” Derek whispers softly. Stiles says nothing, simply presses himself closer to Derek and they lay there until Derek’s phone goes off. Stiles drops him home, as always, and in the car Derek pauses before he leaves.

Derek reaches forward and cups Stiles’ cheek. He offers a firm, hot kiss and Stiles melts into it instantly. They kiss each other until Stiles pushes Derek away, ignoring the way he whines in protest.

“Your sister is waiting for you,” Stiles tells him, and Derek presses his lips down Stiles’ neck.

“So?” Derek mumbles against skin.

Stiles rolls his eyes, trying to calm the beating of his heart. “Text me when you want to come over next.”

Derek pulls back and nods, giving a faint smile before he leaves the car.

♦♦♦♦

Stiles lets out a breath of relief when Derek greets him with a shy smile. He was worried Derek wouldn’t want to acknowledge the night before. They stare at each other for a second, the early morning air doing nothing to calm down Stiles’ rapidly heating face.

He takes a step forward, feeling a little ridiculous, but Derek doesn’t stop him when Stiles reaches out to squeeze Derek’s fingers.

God, it hadn’t been like this at all before the accident. Derek had usually taken to snatching Stiles up instantly, waiting until he was alone before kissing him mercilessly. They had been on a few dates but Derek had been full of smirks and wide smiles, and there was hardly a moment when they weren’t touching, excepting the times when they bickered freely on the lacrosse field, enjoying it way too much. Stiles had been awkward then, but now it’s coming from both sides. Now there’s so much different and Stiles feels like whatever there is between them is so much more fragile.

“Hi,” Derek says, looking at Stiles’ grip on him. Stiles lets go, biting his lip.

“Sorry,” he mutters, but Derek reaches for his hand again, lacing their fingers together, and they walk slowly until they reach the end of the road. They haven’t started running yet but Stiles feels like he’s lost his breath already.

Stiles misses the warmth of Derek’s palm as soon as they’re forced to let go of each other, hands going sweaty when they start to run, but not just because of the exercise. It’s quiet between them, but Stiles is lost in his head, thinking of Derek, wanting Derek, wanting everything to be okay and hoping this piece of peace lasts for as long as it can.

“I was thinking,” says Derek, when they’re back in front of his house.

“Yeah,” Stiles says.

“You should come over tonight, after school. Laura wants to see you.” Derek tells him, gaze just short of his.

Stiles blinks. “Um, tonight?”

“Or tomorrow,” Derek says quickly. “If you’re busy.”

“Yeah, sure,” Stiles says, grinning goofily. “I’m hanging out with Scott tonight, but tomorrow I’m free. Dad has a late shift anyway, so he won’t miss me. It’ll be all good.”

Derek gives him a soft wave when he leaves, a smile hiding in his cheeks.

♦♦♦♦

He spends the day with a buzz in his head, looking forward to his night with Derek and his sisters. The others pick up on his good mood, even Jackson, who is quick to bring up lacrosse again – not that he talks much about anything else.

“The bench misses you, Stiles,” he says.

Stiles shrugs, plucking some food off Jackson’s plate. He gives Stiles a dirty look.

“Sadly, that’s a one way relationship, since I don’t miss the bench at all,” he says brightly, trying not to let his old friend get to him. Scott rolls his eyes when Jackson scowls, and he happily takes his attention from Allison for the rest of lunchtime and puts it on Stiles, seemingly pleased that Stiles is more willing to talk than he was the week before.

Lydia, who is sitting with them, gives Stiles an odd look.

“What?” he mutters.

“Nothing,” she says, smiling sweetly before she slides her arm around Jackson’s waist. Stiles ignores it, and once his classes finally finish he’s out the school doors and climbing into his jeep without so much as a goodbye to his friends.

Derek looks a little drained when he sees him, but he drags Stiles into the house with a pleasant look on his face. Stiles drops his bag just behind Derek’s bedroom door. The house seems far emptier than the last time Stiles was here and far too quiet. Cora is downstairs watching the TV and Laura seems pleased that there’s another person in the house.

Derek looks at him. “We’ll probably order pizza.”

Stiles grins. “That’s cool.”

Derek throws himself on the bed without another word and he picks up his book. Stiles hovers awkwardly at the edge of the room, unsure about what to do. Finally, he kicks off his shoes and hauls some homework from his bag. He’s surprised when Derek makes room for him on the bed.

 They stay quiet, the occasional ruffle of paper filling the air. Stiles tries not to sigh. He sort of misses the Derek who spent time with him before the crash, the one that made the effort to talk to him or ask him questions. Stiles knows he can’t do anything about it and it’s not like being in Derek’s room isn’t nice, because it is.

Derek stretches on the bed and his toes bump into Stiles’ leg. His book drops down and he rubs his eyes, staring at the time.

“Oh,” he says, “sorry. I didn’t realize how long we’ve been sitting here for.”

Stiles smiles weakly at him. “It’s fine.”

They order the pizza and all four of them eat downstairs. Laura’s in some sweatpants, her hair tied in a messy bun. Cora doesn’t seem to pay much attention to Stiles but she kicks up a fuss when there’s no pineapple on the pizza.

Laura tries to soothe her but Cora stops shouting and suddenly grits her teeth together, her silence cold and angry as she eats. Stiles tries to smile at her but it isn’t well received.

Derek’s knees nudge into his own.

“How’s the track team?” he asks.

“It’s going well, I think.” Stiles snorts. “Jackson’s pissed whenever anyone mentions it but I like it. The people there are warming up to me and sometimes we laugh together. Mostly about Jackson, to be honest.”

Derek rolls his eyes. He lets Stiles talk about school, home, running, but he doesn’t say much. His eyes barely leave Stiles except to look at his food and even though the conversation is very one sided, Derek at least looks interested.

After pizza they go to bed almost straight away. Stiles pulls the air mattress from some random cupboard in the hallway and he sees the closed doors to bedrooms that aren’t used anymore. It reminds him of the things he has at home that have no use but sit at the edge of the room anyway, gathering dust just because it belonged to his mother.

The light is turned off and Laura comes in and says goodnight.

Stiles is almost asleep when Derek speaks up.

“Stiles?” he whispers.

“What?” he groans back, stuffing his face in his pillow.

“Nothing,” Derek replies quickly.

Stiles glares in the darkness. “You can’t just say nothing when it’s obviously something,” he hisses. “Especially if you’re just going to wake me up.”

He hears Derek scowl.

“You weren’t asleep,” he says forcefully. Stiles grunts. “Would you come up here? Bring your pillow.”

Stiles stays still on the floor, not sure what Derek’s asking for. Derek remains stubbornly quiet as he waits for Stiles to stand, and sleepily Stiles grabs his pillow and falls onto the bed. He doesn’t feel guilty when he kicks Derek by accident.

As soon as he’s settled, Stiles feels the press of Derek’s body next to him. His heartbeat is loud in the air and they both stay awake for too long, their breathing too quick, before finally, finally Stiles drifts to sleep.

♦♦♦♦

 “Ugh,” Scott groans.

Stiles glances up at him, feeling light as he remembers his night with Derek a couple of days before. He knows he might have a dreamy expression over his face but he can’t help it, especially when he thinks of Derek’s small smile when they woke up the next morning, everything too hot under the covers.

“What is it?”

“Jackson,” Scott admits, looking over his shoulder in the parking lot. They’ve both just finished practice, and it had gone well for Stiles, doing sprints with his team mates and cheering each other on even though they were all breathless from the exercise. It had felt good.

“Big surprise there,” Stiles mutters.

“He’s really hyped up about the game, even though it’s not for a while yet.”

“Is he still going on about Der – Hale?” Stiles asks, cheeks pinking up. He hopes Scott doesn’t notice.

He gets given a curious look, but Scott shrugs. “Nah, it’s more than that. I think he feels like he’s got to prove himself or something – like this is his last year of school or whatever and the last time we won the cup was forever ago. Practice is good, it’s just, kind of not at the same time? I don’t know.”

Stiles nods at his friend. “I get it. It’s not all fun and games.” He grins. “Though I bet it would be better if Jackson took that stick out of his ass.”

Scott hits him on the arm, but otherwise he’s smiling too. They see Jackson enter the parking lot, striding over to his Porsche with a bit of a limp, hair still wet from the locker room showers.

“See?” Stiles whispers, trying not to laugh when Jackson glares over at him. “Stick right in his butt.”

“He took a hit at practice,” Scott says, and they’re both trying to keep in their giggles.  “Though he might be playing up his injury a little since Lydia stayed to watch.”

Stiles rolls his eyes and gags, climbing into his jeep. Scott waves at him as he drives off, and Stiles hums on the way home, looking forward to his run with Derek the next morning.

♦♦♦♦

They both lie on the grass in that small clearing. The sun is surprisingly bright for so early in the morning, and Derek and Stiles stay there, breathing heavily, despite the fact they should be leaving for school soon.

“Have you ever been with anyone?” Derek asks, his voice carefully uninterested. Stiles sits up and frowns at him, brushing loose dirt off his legs.

“What?”

Derek turns over and stares at him, propping himself up on one elbow. His white shirt is slipping off his collarbone, almost like it’s on purpose, and Stiles looks at his knees. “Well have you?”

“Is that what you spend time thinking about? Whether or not I’ve had sex?”

Derek gives a slight scowl as he turns onto his back. He puts his hands behind his head, his dark underarm hair peeking out under the cotton of his shirt. He lets out a small breath and mutters towards the sky.

“It’s better than everything else I could be thinking about.”

Derek’s voice is bitter and Stiles says nothing. He knows that Derek has his sisters to think about, the fucking crash, everything. They listen to the breeze scattering the loose leaves around them and Stiles has to swallow before he speaks.

“No.”

Stiles watches Derek sit up abruptly. “You haven’t?”

Stiles’ cheeks go pink very quickly. He shoves Derek’s torso away and stands up. Derek has a tiny smile on his face that could be mistaken for a smirk, and as soon as he’s up he takes a step forward and kisses Stiles’ lips.

There’s sweat over their skin, salty, but Stiles still leans into it. His hands are by his sides and there is a wide gap between the two of them, except where Derek’s palms hold Stiles’ face and where their lips are pressed together.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Derek says when he stands back.

Stiles narrows his eyes. “Good.”

Derek kisses him again, soft, and they decide to head home.

♦♦♦♦

Of course the good moments don’t last for long, and Stiles hasn’t seen Derek for a week, not even in the mornings for their daily run. Stiles still stops by his house, hopeful, but it’s a lost cause. Derek’s told him he’s been going into school early to redo a test he did poorly on.

Stiles feels a little guilty, because they’ve done some homework together but he never asked Derek if he needed any help. He frowns at the thought, and one afternoon he spots Derek with a blonde haired girl, hunched over books in a diner.

Stiles recognizes her from the funeral and from before that, it’s Erica, and she hardly notices it when Derek glares at her, instead flicking his fingers away to write something on the paper in front of him.

It’s a relief to see Derek, even if it’s only for a second.

Still studying? Stiles texts when he gets home.

Yeah, he gets back, Derek’s reply surprisingly quick. I’m doing the test tomorrow.

Good luck.

Thanks. Laura wants me to do well.

And you don’t?

Stiles waits for a few minutes before he hears back, biting his lip and hoping he hasn’t asked any questions Derek doesn’t want to answer. He sighs in relief when the text notification finally pops up on the screen.

Most of the time.

Okay, Stiles texts back. That’s good. He doesn’t get a response after that, even though Stiles is a little desperate for one.

♦♦♦♦

Stiles doesn’t know why he agreed to go out on the weekend, when he already has to deal with Jackson the rest of the time at school. They’re in one of Beacon Hill’s nicer diners and their whole group is there.

It’s tiring sometimes, listening to his old friend talk. He likes to tease Stiles, and Scott is getting more and more focused on Allison to notice. It’s not like Stiles lets Jackson get away with what he says, returning the jabs, but he doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.

He’s had enough, even though Lydia sometimes flicks her long, red locks of hair onto her boyfriend’s face when Jackson says something particularly biting. Lydia’s like that. She’ll stick up for Stiles without actually sticking up for him. He refuses to shoot her a grateful look when Jackson shuts up.

Stiles sighs loudly. He remembers when everyone on the team used to be kind of close. He remembers when Jackson came over to his house all the time in middle school and they got up to all sorts of nonsense while Stiles’ father was at work.

He’s known Jackson since they were kids, god damn it, but their interactions seem more like obligation now that they’ve reached their last year of high school.

Stiles is just grateful that he and Scott got on so well once he had moved to town.

The diner door opens and Stiles straightens when he sees Derek come in, towing his little sister behind him. Cora’s face looks dark, her eyes stony. Stiles tries to smile at them both. Derek notices all Stiles’ friends sitting at the table and he barely nods back.

Stiles sinks into his chair.

“You okay, buddy?” asks Scott.

“Yeah, sure,” Stiles says. They haven’t noticed Derek yet.

Cora tugs on her brother’s sleeve, demanding some ice cream.

“I said no,” Derek tells her. “We never get ice cream.”

She calls her brother’s name, loud, and Jackson’s eyes flit to the counter.

Jackson sneers, muttering something under his breath. Stiles kicks him, hard, hoping Derek didn’t hear anything and he’s glad when Jackson’s attention is drawn back to Stiles. It’s not the time to kick up old arguments about lacrosse. It’s not the time to bring up who is better, who cries when they lose.

Derek ignores Jackson and places his order. Cora tugs on his sleeve.

“I want ice cream!” Cora says, as Derek takes the paper bag of food over the countertop. He pulls out his wallet, purchase in hand and he shakes his head.

She pauses, hands clenching at her sides. “Mark used to buy me some, even when Mom told him not to.”

Stiles watches Derek’s face falter, licking his lips as he stares at his younger sister. It’s painfully obvious that Cora is using her older brother’s name to guilt Derek into getting the treat. Stiles wonders if he should say something, and he’s just fucking glad that everyone in the room – including Jackson – is silent.

“No,” Derek says at his sister, voice rough, and she lets out a high pitched wail. She stomps on her brother’s foot and shoves Derek away.

“I hate you! I want Mark,” she shouts, and she rushes out of the shop. Derek stands there, looking pained.

“Shouldn’t you be able to handle that?” Jackson says at him and Derek snarls. He looks murderous, and Jackson shrinks as Derek hurries nearer, but it’s not Jackson Derek’s going after, it’s his little sister, and he rushes out of the shop with the paper bag still in his grasp.

As he bursts past the lady at the counter lets out a faint whine of protest. Her voice trails off and Stiles realizes that Derek never got around to paying. Stiles stands and finds a twenty to place on the counter.

Stiles feels his friend’s eyes on him as he leaves the shop.

Both lacrosse teams used to fucking bicker all the time on the field, but right now it’s different. It’s different in that Derek doesn’t wear a grin. It’s different because Stiles is normally the one to start it so that he can have an excuse to flirt with Derek, and this time it’s different because Cora is small and screaming.

Stiles’ run slows to a jog outside and he sighs in relief when he sees that Cora didn’t get very far. She’s sobbing into Derek’s shoulder, and he runs a hand through her dark hair. She’s too big to be picked up, so Derek’s crouching down.

“Hey,” breathes Stiles and Derek darts his head up.

He glares. “Your friend is a dick.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” says Stiles, eyes darting to Cora whose hand clenches on her brother’s shirt as she sniffles. It’s heartbreaking seeing them there, on the dull concrete of the sidewalk, and Derek looks like he’s trying his best to keep it together.  “I paid for your meal, so don’t worry about it.”

“And I suppose your friends think you came out here just so you could get your money back,” Derek snaps, grabbing his wallet out of his back pocket. He throws a ten at Stiles and it flips through the air before Stiles half heartedly picks it up.

Stiles gives a small smile. “I don’t care about what my friends think right now; I care about you.”

Derek turns his gaze away, but his lip quivers. Cora pulls up her head, and Derek uses his thumbs to wipe away the tears on her cheeks.

“I want Mom,” Cora whispers, hands scrambling on Derek’s chest. “I want dad. I want Mark. I want Peter. I want them back.”

“Hey, I know,” Derek says back, throat thick. “Shh, shh, it’s okay, it’s okay.”

Stiles stands there awkwardly, not wanting to leave but not wanting to encroach on something so private. Derek crowds Cora to his chest again and he stares hopelessly at Stiles. He waves his hand, gestures for him to go.

Stiles turns slowly, heading back to the table with a defeated look on his face. The girls eye him, but he puts the ten on the table with a shrug before retrieving his wallet. Lydia’s face is calculating, like she thinks she knows what is going on, but she doesn’t.

“You actually like him, don’t you?” she says.

Jackson scoffs. “No he doesn’t. Stiles is always picking fights with Hale.”

Allison ignores him. “Is his little sister okay?”

Stiles twists his face, but he nods. He doesn’t know how to deal with this, how to support Derek and be there for him when stuff like this happens. He pulls out his phone and sends a text.

Come over tonight.

If you want.

♦♦♦♦

Derek slips in his fucking window at midnight. That means his sister doesn’t know that he’s there, having snuck out. He stumbles when he hits the ground, tripping over the junk Stiles has by the window.

Stiles throws the covers aside and gets to his knees, blinking in the dark as he pulls Derek by the shoulders and onto his bed. Derek falls willingly, elbowing Stiles in the ribs. He mumbles an apology and clutches at Stiles’ body.

He runs a hand through Derek’s hair. “You okay?”

“I haven’t cried,” says Derek.

“What?”

“Since the crash. I haven’t cried.”

“That’s okay,” Stiles whispers. “I’m sorry about Jackson and everyone.”

Derek snorts. “We’ve always been shitty to each other. You started it.”

Stiles rolls his eyes and Derek sits up in the bed. His hand tugs at Stiles’ shirt to bring him closer and Derek leans forward and kisses the corner of Stiles’ lips. He rubs their cheeks together and Stiles feels something warm start up inside him, an ache in his stomach as Derek’s thumb trails down his neck.

“I know what you were doing though,” Derek whispers, his breath tickling Stiles’ ear.

Stiles shudders.

Derek pulls back and his eyes glint in the faded light of the room. He swallows and looks Stiles in the eye. “Am I too different? From then?” He asks quietly.

Stiles shakes his head, hand finding Derek’s shoulder and holding on too tight. “No. No. Derek, no. Not too different.”

“But different all the same,” Stiles can see him frown.

“Yeah, but, like, you’re still you. You still like the same stuff. You still think my friends are stupid. I bet you still do that stupid thing when you have the car and you jangle the keys as much as you can so you can brag about your ride. You’re still really good at lacrosse. You’re just a lot more of a dick than you usually are,” Stiles tells him. He gets shoved, but then Derek pushes him back to the mattress.

Derek comes closer and threads his fingers through Stiles’. He squeezes hard when he tries to speak, making Stiles grimace, but Derek’s next words come out in a quiver. “You’re wrong. I’ve changed. I hate people, I hate them and their stupid families and I miss mine. Cora misses them. I want them back, I want them back so badly, and Laura doesn’t ever want to talk about it.”

“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay,” Stiles whispers, stroking his hair.

“Nothing is okay,” Derek snaps at him, but he comes closer. Stiles sighs. He doesn’t know what else to say but Derek’s probably getting defensive because he’s shared too much. It happened before the crash too, when they were kissing in the backseat of Derek’s car after a game and Derek revealed that he liked Stiles more than he had previously let on.

Stiles had grinned, staring at him goofily until Derek had snapped: “Stop looking at me like that!” Stiles had rolled his eyes and started kissing him again, whispering against his lips that Derek ought to take him out on a date.

Derek holds him tighter and Stiles likes the press of their warm skin against each other, where their shirts have risen up over their stomachs. He wishes that when his mother died he had someone to crawl to the way Derek has come to him. Stiles only had his father who was too broken anyway, a bottle of whisky never far away.

He reaches for his phone to set an early alarm for Derek, so he can get up and be at home before his sister has time to worry. Derek grumbles when Stiles moves, dragging his head up so that he can place a wet kiss on Stiles’ neck.

When the alarm blares the following morning, Derek groans and Stiles says a muffled goodbye into his pillow, barely opening his eyes. Derek pinches his side for the hell of it, since Stiles cares too much about sleep to even look at Derek when he goes.

Ten minutes later the Sheriff comes in. He clears his throat.

“So Derek Hale just said good morning to me and then scampered off,” the Sheriff says.

Stiles sits bolt right and peers at his father with blurry eyes. “Wh-what?” he gurgles.

His father smirks. “Do I need to have a talk with you?”

He shakes his head slowly, trying ignore the blood rushing through his head from sitting up so quickly. “No,” he squeaks.

“Not on a school night,” he’s told. “And next time he’s staying for dinner and breakfast.”

Stiles nods. He can do that. If Derek wants to do that. Either way it’s still fucking embarrassing watching his father lift his eyebrow when asking to talk because a boy stayed the night in his bed. Stiles picks up his phone and sends a text that insults Derek’s sneaking skills.

♦♦♦♦

Occasionally, Derek is able to stay the night, but only when Stiles’ father doesn’t have the late shift. He stays for breakfast as promised, and even though the blow up mattress lies on the floor in Stiles’ room, Derek always joins him on the bed, arm circling around Stiles’ waist.

Sometimes they barely kiss before Derek falls asleep, dead to the world far too fast as Stiles tries to get over the fact he has another boy in his bed.

These kinds of nights don’t happen very often, and today Derek is only here for the afternoon. He keeps on rubbing his face, staring at his homework strewed across the foot of Stiles’ bed. Derek tells him his test had gone well, and now he doesn’t want to get behind again.

Stiles reads one of his textbooks, chewing on a highlighter and glancing at Derek far too often. His shoulders look tense and there’s a prominent crease over his forehead. Stiles bites his lip, not wanting to say anything, but then Derek sighs loudly, more forceful than usual.s

“Hey,” he says softly, “You okay?”

Derek turns abruptly and stares at him. “I’m fine,” he says stiffly.

Stiles blinks. “Okay.”

There’s a beat of silence between them and then Derek scrambles forward, a glint of something in his eye. Stiles gulps and he settles further into the pillows, stretching his legs out to make room for Derek.

“You don’t have to keep asking me that,” he says, lips hovering away from Stiles’.

“What?” Stiles blinks.

Derek drags his lips across Stiles’, touch light. It makes Stiles shiver, just for a moment, and he wonders if something is going to happen. They’re still the only ones in the house, even though Stiles’ father is bound to be home soon, and Derek’s eyes darken.

“Um,” says Stiles, voice low and breathless, watching – and feeling – the way Derek runs a palm up his thigh, fingers just pressing under the waistband of his jeans. Derek kisses him properly and Stiles clutches at his shoulders, trying desperately hard to keep his head clear. “Derek,” he says, pushing at him a little. “Derek.”

He sits up, a frown on his face. “What’s wrong?”

“I haven’t really done this before, remember?” Stiles mutters, turning his head away and feeling his cheeks go red. Slowly, Derek reaches out and his fingertips brush against Stiles’ jaw, hovering there before he lets his touch trail over the tendons in Stiles’ neck.

“I remember,” he breathes. “You don’t have to worry about it.”

“Yeah?” Stiles replies, voice small.

“Yeah,” Derek tells him, and Stiles pulls him closer, Derek’s weight falling over him as their mouths open together. It’s warm and wet and Stiles is very interested in the press of Derek’s body, in the way Derek nips at his lip. Derek’s palm is sliding underneath his shirt and Stiles fights back a gasp, wanting this, wanting it so much.

They stop when they hear a door slamming shut downstairs.

“Stiles, I’m home,” his father calls out.

“Fuck,” Stiles mutters, pushing Derek off him. He pouts, moving towards his homework reluctantly, and a few minutes later the Sheriff is opening his bedroom door.

“Oh, Derek, hello, I didn’t know you were here,” he says.

Derek smiles politely. “I was going to head home soon.”

The Sheriff nods before disappearing and Stiles lets out a breath of relief. He doesn’t really want Derek to leave and the feeling must be mutual because Derek packs up slowly, keeping his eyes on Stiles and Stiles just wants to kiss him again.

“Stiles,” Derek says quietly, when they’re both leaving Stiles’ room. “I know that I’ve been,” he clears his throat, “A bit grumpy, but uh, it’s because I don’t have to pretend to be happy around you, not like at school or practice or anything. I can just be.”

Stiles looks at him, expression soft. “No one’s expecting you to be happy.”

“Yeah,” he says, throat hoarse. “I know – it’s just, it’s easier for them if I am and then I don’t get their pity.”

Stiles nods, understanding instantly. It was like that, when his mother first died and the people at school looked at him like he was too fragile, like he was a bit of a charity case and Stiles hated it.

“Well, I’m whoever you need me to be,” Stiles says.

Derek rolls his eyes. “No, you’re just Stiles,” he says, before admitting, “I like that.”

Stiles doesn’t fight keeping the smile off his face, too tired to even try.

♦♦♦♦

The day has been long and the sun feels too hot when Stiles steps out on the field. He’s a little late to practice, hoping he won’t get yelled at, and he jogs over to the rest of the track team, spotting the lacrosse players already in the middle of the field. Scott waves at him.

“Hey,” Allison says. Stiles nods at her, quickly paying attention to their coach.

They stretch and run, and Stiles doesn’t think that he’s bad at it. He doesn’t question his spot on this team and each time he looks at Jackson and his old team mates, he doesn’t regret one bit jumping ships.

“Race the rest of the way?” Stiles asks.

Allison looks up at him, grinning at his words. She picks up her pace suddenly, not giving Stiles any warning that they’re about to start and Stiles is left behind, shaking his head for a second. He can’t help the smile on his face even though his chest hurts and his legs are tired, trying to speed up and pass her.

It’s going well when a lacrosse ball comes flying out of nowhere. Stiles stumbles, dodging it, and he hears Jackson laughing gleefully.

Stiles pulls the finger at him and the balls keep on coming, one hitting him in the thigh. He reaches Allison who stands by their water bottles, loose hair stuck to her forehead. She gives the lacrosse team a dirty look, and they stop aiming at Stiles when he gets close to Allison, not wanting to hit her.

“Fuck them,” he says under his breath.

“I bet they think they’re just having fun with one of their friends,” she says lightly, passing Stiles his water bottle. He takes a long gulp, panting when he finally answers her.

“Doubt it,” he grimaces. “At least I didn’t start swearing at them, I don’t think coach would have liked that.”

Allison smiles. “Yeah, maybe not.”

Stiles changes quickly in the locker rooms, and he’s just coming out when Jackson and Danny walk in, Scott close behind him.

“Sorry,” Scott mutters, quietly. “I couldn’t stop them.”

Stiles shrugs.

“Had fun out there today, Stilinski?” Jackson smirks, laughing when Stiles grits his teeth together, not bothering to think of a comeback.

He may speed a little on the way home but Stiles can’t bring himself to care, irritation still hanging over his skin. He can’t fucking wait until he and Jackson don’t go to the same school anymore. Graduation is too far away.

The house is quiet and Stiles settles for slumping on his bed, limbs spread out, trying to decide whether or not it’s worth cooking dinner when his father has the night shift. He sighs, and then he hears someone from outside.

The knocking on the door is loud, and Stiles is almost worried as he hurries down the stairs. He swings the door open and finds Derek standing there, hands clenched at his sides. Stiles blinks at him.

“Are you okay?”

Derek nods stiffly. “Fine,” he mutters.

“Derek.”

He takes a step through the door, passing close to Stiles. The door shuts with a soft click and Derek pauses, forearm brushing against Stiles’ chest. Derek turns and he brings a hand up and moves a thumb over Stiles’ cheek.

“It’s nothing,” he whispers. “Just home.”

Stiles doesn’t believe him but he’s distracted. Derek leans forward and lets his lips hover just over Stiles’, like he’s testing the waters. They don’t do this often enough and Stiles gets why, he really does, but damn does he miss it.

His breath hitches and Derek walks him into the wall, hands dropping to Stiles’ hips, gripping tight. Their lips finally touch and Stiles makes a noise into it, fisting Derek’s shirt, wanting desperately for more.

Stiles clutches at Derek’s hair, opening his mouth, letting Derek in with his tongue. He can hear every tiny breath Derek makes before he goes in for more, can hear every scrape of his clothes against the wall. It’s good. It’s more than fucking good, until suddenly Derek is crowding even further in, moving his teeth along Stiles’ neck and kissing him with much more intent than he’s ever done. It’s too much too soon, and Stiles normally wouldn’t be complaining but it feels wrong.

 “Derek, stop,” Stiles manages, and the hot movement of Derek’s mouth over his neck ceases. His breath still hovers over Stiles’ skin and his hands clutch tighter at Stiles before he pulls away. Derek stays alarmingly close, eyes bright as he stares at Stiles.

Stiles swallows.

“You sure you want me to stop?” Derek breathes quietly, hands moving underneath Stiles’ shirt and spreading over his skin. They rest under Stiles’ shoulder blades and Derek moves his thigh so that it’s pressed against Stiles’ crotch. He smirks when Stiles whimpers, kissing him on the mouth again and biting at his lip.

Stiles can’t help the way his hips press forward and his fingers catch around the band of Derek’s jeans. He’s lost in it. Derek kisses him harder, pushing him more firmly against the wall and he pulls at Stiles’ hair. He can hear the sound of his blood in his ears as Derek’s fingers make for his zipper and Stiles flushes in anticipation.

“You’re so distracting,” Derek mumbles, rubbing a hand over Stiles’ underwear. Stiles moans, head hitting the back of the wall and he presses back into Derek’s hand. His knees threaten to give way and he opens his eyes. Derek’s dark look stares back again and he looks determined. But there’s something coating Derek’s words and actions and Stiles pushes him away.

Derek glares at him, huffing. Stiles’ cheeks are red and he hastily does up his fly.

“I said stop.”

“You seemed to be enjoying yourself,” snaps Derek, glancing down at Stiles’ crotch.

“Derek, I, I don’t want my first time to be when you’re only using me to forget about whatever you don’t want to feel,” he says. Derek’s eyes narrow and he steps closer but Stiles is ready to shove him away.

“That’s not fair.”

Stiles straightens, but he still needs to use the wall to lean against. He’s turning down sex, he’s turning down Derek and he didn’t ever think this situation would exist. Derek’s staring at him moodily, looking at Stiles like he’s the source of all his problems. His own nostrils flare because that’s unfair, and he doesn’t care right now about being gentle with Derek’s feelings.

“Don’t fucking blame me for not wanting to take advantage of you,” he hisses.

Derek raises his eyebrows. “Take advantage of me?” he scoffs. “You’re the one who has never done anything; maybe I’m taking advantage of you!”

Stiles ignores that even though it stings. “Look me in the eye and tell me why you’ve stormed over, without taking me out to dinner, without any warning and tried to take my clothes off! You’re trying to forget about your life. Well, I’m happy to be a distraction for you, but not when it’s my dick and not when I want our first time to be because you actually want to have sex with me without it being about your dead family!”

Derek stares at him. Their breathing fills Stiles’ empty hallway and it sounds awful when he puts it like that. Stiles opens his mouth wanting to take at least some of it back, but he doesn’t. He can’t. The ghosts of his yells fill the room and Derek’s eyes look wet. A single drop falls down his cheek but he’s quick to wipe it away.

“Is this about why you won’t even tell your friends that we’re dating,” he says darkly.

“What?”

“It’s the same reason, isn’t it?” Derek says quietly, his voice hard and unforgiving.

Stiles searches over Derek’s face for some clue into his line of thinking but all he finds is hurt and anger, and Stiles is responsible for that right now. He looks to the floor, waiting for Derek to elaborate.

“Look me in the eye,” Derek says bitterly, “And tell me that you don’t want to have sex with me, or be with me, because you don’t want to be associated with someone whose family is half dead. It’s too much fucking responsibility to deal with, isn’t it? You’re pitying me and you feel obligated to keep hanging out with me but not enough to tell your friends we’re actually dating.”

“Derek... that’s, that’s not true and you know it.” Stiles blinks up at him, suddenly defeated. His hands twitch at his sides and he wants to reach out and touch Derek but he doesn’t think it will be welcomed. He wants to explain, desperately, but he knows Derek probably won’t listen. Stiles doesn’t want to make things worse than they already are.

Derek closes his eyes and Stiles sees his whole body begin to shake lightly. He scrambles forward, wanting to hold Derek close, but as soon as he gets near Derek shoves him aside and storms out the door. He slams Stiles’ front door, the sound final and haunting.

Stiles opens it as fast as he can but his fingers are fumbling. Derek’s already jogging away, already on the pavement and Stiles yells after him. He’s too tired to follow.

♦♦♦♦

Everything is dull without his morning runs with Derek. He walks past the house and stands there for a good few minutes but he doesn’t knock on the door. At school Stiles eats lunch with everyone else but he’s distracted; he wants Derek to talk to him, he wants to drive over to Derek’s house after practice and apologize for how harsh his words were.

It’s close to awful, knowing Derek probably hates him right now. Scott frowns at lunch over their cheap meals and at least he asks if Stiles is okay. Jackson doesn’t look like he cares. Talk comes up about the upcoming game against Derek’s high school. Stiles tries not to listen.

“Are you coming, Stiles?” Scott asks.

Jackson hears and he glowers. “He would if he had had the decency to try out for the team.”

Stiles sighs.

“Have you ever heard of loyalty, Stilinski? Jackson asks.

“Yes, and I’m coming to see you play. Actually, I’ll probably just be cheering for Scott.”

Jackson curls his lip and Scott looks pleased, though he dips his head and tries not to get into it.

♦♦♦♦

Watching from the bleachers is only a little different to watching from the bench. Scott waves at him from the field but Stiles is too busy looking out for Derek. The other team is huddled together before the game starts, the white numbers on their green uniforms standing out.

He feels a little heavy once he manages to spot Derek over the grass. His knee jumps wildly through all the first half, and of course Derek’s team is winning again. They always win. Stiles’ eyes trail over Derek’s moving figure and he wishes that he’d reply to his texts.

Stiles is sitting alone. He wants to move to the field when the timer pauses at half time, but he’s sure Derek doesn’t want to see him. When Jackson’s hand waves in the air and gestures for his mates to come around, Stiles’ heart lurches.

He bounds down the bleachers when Derek’s head turns at Jackson’s words. Stiles can’t hear them but he wants to, badly. The closer he gets the more he can see the sweat lined down Derek’s face, his lips pressed together as he stares at Jackson with a blank look.

Jackson’s lips are curled into a smile and the rest of the team is laughing gently.

“Let’s go,” he hears Boyd say, and Derek flits his gaze around. As he turns, his eyes fall on Stiles coming to a stop at the edge of the field. He’s panting, his mouth open and he tries to call out. Nothing happens.

Derek stares at him.

Stiles is tempted to rush forward, to tell Derek what he wants to hear, but his own trembling lips stop him. Boyd touches Derek’s elbow and they move away, lacrosse helmet dangling from Derek’s fingers as they go to the rest of their team.

“Stilinski!” Jackson laughs, a small sneer on his lips. “I told you Hale didn’t like you.”

“What?” he stumbles, and Jackson shoves his helmet at Stiles while he grabs a water bottle to drink from. His smirk settles as he chugs down the water and Stiles glares at him. He doesn’t explain though, and Stiles lets his eyes drift over the other team. Derek’s head whips away instantly, and now Stiles can only see the back of his head.

Jackson snatches back his helmet and stomps to his team. Stiles stands until the buzzer sounds and he realises that he doesn’t want to be here. He drags his feet over to the car park, hands in his pockets, and he misses Derek.

Stiles spots the dark Camaro parked two spaces down from his jeep. One of the doors is wide open and he hears someone swear loudly. He’s not sure if he’s welcomed but he goes over anyway, knocking on the tinted windows.

“What – oh – hi, Stiles,” Laura shuffles around and then slides out of the car. She’s wearing ratty jeans and her hair catches in the wind. She rubs a hand over her eyes before smiling faintly at him.

“Everything okay?” he asks.

She gives a slow nod, eyeing him up and down. He hasn’t talked to Derek for two weeks and he’s not stupid to think Laura hasn’t noticed.

“Here to watch Derek?”

“Yeah, I promised him,” Laura sighs. “Cora won’t leave the car. She refuses. And she’s too big for me to drag out.”

“Well, the game will be over soon if you don’t get over there,” Stiles tells her and she narrows her eyes. Stiles looks at the ground, clearing his throat awkwardly. Of course she knew that.

“Why aren’t you at the game?” she asks pointedly, folding her arms. Stiles shrugs.

Her cold front is obvious and Stiles doesn’t know why he’s staying. Maybe it’s the hope that Laura will tell Derek that he’s been here, that he cares, that he wants more than what Derek accused him of. He rocks back and forth on his feet and scrunches up his face.

“I’ll look after her, if you want,” he mumbles.

Laura’s eyes widen. She glances over her shoulder, and Stiles can see how much she wants to fulfil her promise to Derek and see the rest of his game. Stiles steps forward and turns her by the shoulders. She’s not afraid to whack his hands away but he forces her to move towards the field.

“You got to hurry!” Stiles tells her, climbing into the car and pulling the door shut behind him. Her body hovers outside the car for a second, but then she’s jogging towards the game. Stiles lets out a breath and tries to smile, searching for Cora in the backseat.

The filthy look she sends him is impressive for a nine year old.

“I don’t want you,” she spits.

Stiles shrugs. “Your family kinda doesn’t. I’m used to it.” He’s not, but he likes to delude himself. “Want to play a game?”

“No.”

“Aw, want to watch your brother play a game?” he asks.

“No.”

“Want me to leave?”

Cora faces him, eyes bright until she realizes him leaving isn’t an option. She swipes her hand forward, nails out, but Stiles catches her wrist and he squeezes her hand gently. Cora snatches it away and she looks up at Stiles with narrowed eyes.

“You made Derek sad,” she says snottily.

Stiles raises his hands. “Okay there buddy, way to be direct.”

She sits up a little straighter. “He said a bad word. And then he said your name afterwards.”

He glares at her.

“And then,” she continues, her smile twisting. “He said he never wanted to see you again!”

“Did he now?” Stiles says flatly. He checks the time on his phone and there’s still fifteen minutes left of the game. Cora takes in his expression and sits back, looking satisfied. Stiles sits there awkwardly, not sure what he’s supposed to say to a nine year old who seems to hate his guts.

He holds out his phone. “Ever played Temple Run?”

Cora gives him a sceptical look but takes the phone.

♦♦♦♦

“It’s my turn!” Cora snaps at him, elbowing him in the ribs. Stiles has moved to the backseat, and he slips off the edge of the trail. He has wings on though, and he smirks when Cora folds her arms and huffs. “That’s not fair!”

“It’s the rules,” Stiles says back at her, and he’s off again. Cora watches intently while she leans over his side and she’s not afraid to play dirty and pinch Stiles’ leg to get her turn again. “Hey, no fair!” Stiles yells at her and she smirks. Stiles thinks she may have learnt that look from her brother.

Cora’s fighting Stiles for the phone, giggling slightly when the front door opens. Derek’s head dips through and Stiles’ heart jolts. Cora wins the battle easily, not caring to notice her brother, and Derek’s eyes flit from Stiles to her.

“She good?” Derek asks.

Stiles nods, staring back with a wide expression. “Derek –”

He climbs back out of the car and it slams. Stiles hurries to his feet, following him out and calling his name again. Derek stops and looks at him over the roof of the car.

“You lied to me,” he says.

“About what?” Stiles splutters.

“You told your friends,” Derek says, “Months ago. They didn’t believe you.”

Stiles’ face goes bright red. He kind of wants to get away but he’s not sure where he can go. Cora still has his phone and all Stiles wants to do is hide. He flails before opening the driver’s door and plopping himself inside.

Derek saves rolling his eyes until he’s in the passenger seat next to Stiles. Cora ignores them, as predicted, and Stiles stares straight ahead, knees bobbing against the wheel.

“Stiles, stop it,” Derek orders, and a large hand rests on his leg. Stiles freezes instead and he refuses to look at Derek. He doesn’t sound too angry, he supposes, and flushing Stiles looks down at his hands.

“I, I let you believe I hadn’t because who wants to date a loser whose friends don’t even believe him when he says he’s got a date? It didn’t exactly help that you’re Derek Hale and we only ever tried to get a rise out of each other.”

“I liked bickering with you on the field,” Derek says.

Stiles gives a small grin. “Same. I guess I could’ve tried harder to get them to believe me, sure, but they didn’t seem worth it at the time and there was the crash and I wasn’t even sure we were dating, so no point in bringing it up again. And then, I still wasn’t sure, until I realized you were sort of breaking up with me two weeks ago.”

Derek looks away from him and Stiles chances a glance over. He looks sweaty, like he’s worked hard, and Stiles knows that they’ve won. Beacon Hills never does against Derek’s team.

“I don’t think you’re a loser,” Derek says quietly.

Stiles snorts.

Derek glares. “I don’t. You’re amazing. And you were right.”

“I was right?” Stiles teases. “That’s a first.”

Derek twists in his seat and shoots him a dirty look. Stiles bites his lip in a promise to stay quiet and Derek must seem to know that he’s only making jokes because he’s nervous.

“I shouldn’t have pushed you and you were right about why I was there in the first place. I didn’t want to hear it.”

“Yeah, you sure didn’t,” Stiles says back at him, “You just wanted a nice, ol’ fu –”

Derek jerks his head towards Cora in the backseat. Stiles grimaces and looks over, but Cora is still playing with his phone. “Don’t tell me you got her hooked on another game; she’ll just steal my phone so she can play it.”

Stiles licks his lips, sitting forward. “Derek, you’re talking to me.”

He rolls his eyes. “Yeah.”

“Does this mean you’ll reply to my texts and you’ll hang out with me again?”

“I might even take you on a date,” he says airily, and Stiles grins. Something warm starts up inside him and he smiles through Derek snatching his phone off Cora, despite her protests, and he happily clambers out of the car.

He walks around and Derek hands him his phone. Stiles throws his arms around him.

“I’m all sweaty,” Derek groans, but he dips his head into Stiles’ neck.

“I don’t care. I missed you.”

Derek breaks away and flashes him a smile. “I’ll text you.”

Stiles walks away from the car in a bit of a daze, waving half heartedly at Laura who is standing a few cars down. He heads over to his jeep and sits on his seat, happy to stare out the window until he can bring himself to leave. He yelps when a large hand bangs on the window.

“Holy Jesus!” he swears, and he winds down the glass. Boyd is there, and he rakes his eyes over Stiles.

“Saturday, ten o’clock, milkshakes at the diner on Hall Street. Don’t be late,” he says, and Stiles just stares at him. Boyd turns away – probably to hide his smirk – and Stiles yells after him.

“What if I have plans already?”

From behind, Stiles sees Boyd’s large shoulders give a shrug. He swears under his breath but he figures he’s better off than where he had been an hour ago. Stiles checks his phones and he has a text from Scott and from Derek.

Hey, did you head off already? We lost, but the team’s still going out for pizza. Minus Jackson. He’s probably crying somewhere. Want to come?

And:

Thanks for entertaining Cora. See you this weekend? Boyd mentioned inviting you for milkshakes.

Stiles grins to himself. He skips out on the pizza and hurriedly replies to Derek. He’s not one to thank the stars, but hell, he’s thanking them right now.

♦♦♦♦

He’s the first to arrive at the diner. Stiles sits at the booth opposite the door, his knee banging nervously against the underside of the table. He chews at his lip, not quite sure what he’s in for. All he’s seen of Derek’s friends are a few glimpses; a couple of times over the summer, before the crash, and then at the funeral.

“Stiles,” comes a pointed voice. His throat goes dry as two bodies slide into the booth opposite him. Erica’s curls flit around her face as she offers him a grin, but it’s lost almost instantly as she and Boyd rake their eyes over him.

Stiles tries not to squirm and searches around for Derek. His stomach drops when he sees nothing, and he returns his gaze to the pair’s waiting looks.

“Um,” Stiles says.

Boyd ignores him. “Derek’s cool.”

Stiles squints, licking his lips before he nods.

“He thinks you’re cool,” Boyd tells him. “Don’t fuck it up.”

And that’s that. Erica smiles a little too sweetly at him, but they let him talk about training with the track team and they order their milkshakes just as Derek comes into the diner, slightly out of breath. None of them call him out on being late, his hair a mess and his shirt severely wrinkled.

He gives a relieved smile that all three of them seem to be getting along, even if Erica is still leaning forward a little more than necessary and Boyd glances at him a little too often. Stiles feels a hand move around his knee and squeeze as Derek comes in next to him, their thighs lining up. He shifts into Derek’s side, because now that all of them are here Stiles feels like everything is more real.

Derek’s friends don’t hate Stiles. They’re not alone. People know, people know and it feels fucking good. He bites his lip to stop smiling, and Derek steals some of his milkshake. It’s beyond nice, even with Derek and his tired eyes.

“I like you, Stilinski,” Erica says, glancing between him and Derek. Her lips curl into a smile and Boyd sits next to her, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

“Good to know,” says Stiles, just as Derek groans in his seat. “You’re okay.”

She pouts, expecting something better, and Boyd hides his smile before he stands and offers his hand to pull Erica to her feet. They leave the two of them alone.

“That wasn’t so bad,” breathes Derek.

“No,” he says, a small grin on his face. “They’re pretty cool.”

♦♦♦♦

They’ve scheduled a date for later in the week but Stiles opens the door to a dripping figure with tired eyes and mud spread across cheeks. Derek stares at him, looking defeated, and begins to kick off his shoes. Stiles leaves the door open, gesturing at Derek to stay put before he returns with a towel.

Derek takes it wordlessly, patting his face and smearing brown over the fabric. Stiles cups his elbow and pulls him inside, ignoring the smell of sweat as he leads Derek to their bathroom. They walk past Stiles’ father, who peers up from his newspaper and says nothing.

“Shower,” says Stiles. “And then we can cuddle.”

Derek’s dry look is half hearted but he doesn’t object. Stiles closes the door and leaves Derek to it, and a few minutes later the sound of water through the pipes start. Stiles plops himself back on the couch and pulls out his phone to text Scott not to come by like they had planned.

“Stiles?” his father says, and Stiles looks up from the small screen in his hand.

“Uh, yeah?”

He looks pointedly up the stairs and Stiles’ gaze drops down to time on his phone. Derek’s been up there for more than half an hour, the sound of the water still strong.

“Shit,” he says, hurrying off the couch and letting the cushions fall to the floor in his haste. His father sighs but he climbs up the stairs two at a time and clumsily knocks on the bathroom door. Stiles’ pulse is rattling and he doesn’t care enough to wait for Derek to respond.

He slips into the bathroom and Derek’s standing under the spray of water, face blank. His eyes meet Stiles’ but he doesn’t react and Stiles pulls off his socks and makes his way towards the shower. Derek’s still got mud caked over him, down his neck, over his wrists and on his calves.

He’s very much naked, but Stiles does his best to ignore it. “Pass me the soap?” he asks, but Derek only stares at him under wet eyelashes.

“Derek.”

He heaves a sigh and Stiles pushes his shirt past his elbows. He turns when he bends down to roll up the bottom of his sweats, pushing them to his knees so that they don’t get wet. Derek passes him the soap and faces Stiles, head drooped.

They’re quiet when Stiles runs the soap over Derek’s hot skin. The water is now lukewarm at best, but Derek doesn’t seem to care. Stiles tries to make quick work of it, but there is a surprising amount of mud, and he doesn’t want to rub Derek’s skin raw.

He reaches for the face cloth and with the utmost concentration Stiles uses the corner to wipe Derek’s face and neck. Derek looks at him, breathing slow as he lets Stiles wash him. It’s hard not to notice how beautiful Derek is, the water parting down his body lovingly.

Stiles gets rid of the dirt on Derek’s wrists, reaching for his hand which lays limply by his hip. Stiles refuses to get distracted by anything, even though he hasn’t seen said anything before. He knows that he’s blushing slightly, and his face burns when he crouches past Derek’s junk to wash his ankles.

The mud is stuck to the hairs of Derek’s leg and he turns willingly enough when Stiles asks him to. When he stands again a wet hand grips his shirt and Derek pulls him in for a quick kiss. It takes Stiles by surprise, but Derek doesn’t let him slip as Derek’s tongue runs over his lips.

Derek pulls away and turns, ignoring Stiles’ now wet lips to pass him the shampoo. He dips his head forward again and sighs when Stiles runs his fingers over his scalp. Stiles is thorough, scratching Derek behind the ears and trying to make it feel good. Derek has his eyes closed and tension seems to bleed from him.

“Time to rinse,” Stiles says softly. Derek grumbles but allows himself to be put under the now cold spray of water. He shivers a little when they turn the shower off, but Stiles has a fresh towel and is drying Derek off as best he can. “You can dry your own junk,” Stiles tells him, slipping from the bathroom to get Derek some soft clothes.

Derek snorts but he takes the towel. Stiles hears Derek follow him down the hallway and thank god, he doesn’t need help getting dressed. He pulls on another pair of Stiles’ sweats and a long sleeved Henley that’s too small for him, and stares at Stiles expectantly.

“I have to make dinner,” Stiles tells him. “Do you wanna sleep here or come downstairs and keep my dad company?”

Derek eyes the bed before dragging his feet over. He pulls back the covers and snuggles in and it’s one of the most adorable things Stiles has seen. Derek closes his eyes but he manages to snatch Stiles’ hand when he comes close.

“Your sister know you’re here?” Stiles asks.

Derek shakes his head.

“Alright, well, I have to get downstairs,” he says. Derek opens his eyes and lets his gaze run down Stiles.

“You’re wet,” he says.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “And whose fault is that?”

Derek scowls and drops Stiles’ wrist. Stiles bites his lip in a smile and decides that he can put up with slightly damp clothes from where the spray of water hit him. He runs a hand over Derek’s hair before he heads downstairs. His father asks him a wordless question and Stiles shrugs, reaching for his phone to text Laura.

She calls a few seconds later.

“Stiles?” she asks. “Can I speak to Derek?”

“He’s sleeping,” Stiles informs.

She sighs over the phone. “Oh. It’s just, he said he’d cook dinner tonight and I was wondering if he was still going to.”

“Derek can cook?” Stiles says in a wondrous voice. He didn’t know that.

He hears a forced laugh over the phone. “He tries. So, can I speak to him?”

Stiles looks at the food he’s just laid on the counter. It’s not enough for more than three people but he can hear how tired Laura is over the phone. Her voice is strained and Stiles wonders how far away she is from crying.

“Why don’t you come over here?” he says instead. “I don’t really want to wake him and I’m cooking anyway and stuff. I’ll text you the address if you can’t remember.”

Laura opens her mouth. “Maybe another –”

“Great!” Stiles says loudly. “I’ll see you in half an hour.”

He hangs up and stares at the phone, expecting it to ring again but it doesn’t. He texts the address and then steps into the living room.

“Seems we have more guests,” his father says, one eyebrow raised. Stiles nods and grabs his keys from the table. Then he rushes to his jeep and does the fastest grocery shop he’s ever done, buying extra food so that they have enough.

It’s still lightly pouring with rain when he returns and at the same time he’s pushing open the front door, plastic bags in hand, a car pulls by the side of the road and then Scott hops up. He’s carrying an overnight bag and Stiles swears to himself.

“I thought we were gonna order pizza or something?” Scott says, rushing up to the door and taking one of the shopping bags from Stiles.

Stiles turns to face him. “Did you get my text?”

Scott shakes his head and rummages in his bag for his phone. His face falls when he reads it. “Man, Mom’s got a date. She’s kicked me out of the house,” he says seriously. “You can’t cancel on me last second.”

Stiles rubs his face and then shakes his head. “Sorry, dude, of course not. Well,” he bites his lip. “We have guests coming, too.”

“That’s fine! Is it one of the deputies?”

He huffs. “No. Be good.”

Stiles opens the door and they both tumble into the kitchen. Scott helps him unpack all the groceries and Stiles is too busy preparing the meat and chopping the vegetables to notice Scott slip away. His bag is gone and Stiles hears soft footsteps go up the stairs.

He stomps into the lounge and points at his father. “Make sure he doesn’t wake Derek up.”

His father gives him a tired look but he does what Stiles asks, just when Stiles dashes back into the kitchen to make sure that nothing burns. The food hisses in front of him and Stiles doesn’t hear much upstairs. His father returns with Scott at the collar, his mouth gaped wide open as he stares at Stiles.

“Why is Derek Hale in your bed?” he says under his breath.

Stiles gives him a dirty look.

“Stiles!”

“What?” he says lightly.

Scott groans. “Fine. I’m sorry. I’ll be nice,” he says stiffly.

Stiles jabs the wooden spoon at him and a piece of mince goes flying off and it makes a wet spot on the front of Scott’s shirt. “You better. His orphaned sisters are coming around for dinner too.”

The doorbell rings right on cue and Stiles’ father is up to answer it. Scott smiles when they come in, not introducing himself, and he helps quietly with dinner. Laura looks fresh faced, makeup done and lips red. Cora clings to her leg, quiet as always, but she gives a small wave when she spots Stiles.

“Derek?” she asks.

“Upstairs,” Stiles says quietly and she wanders up on her own. Laura sighs, watching her go.

“Glass of wine?” the Sheriff asks her and she blinks before nodding. Stiles’ father leads her to the living room and they start talking in low voices.

Scott turns to Stiles, his mouth wide open. “Derek hates us!”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “I don’t think you’re important enough for that.”

He gets a dirty look but then his lip quivers as he considers it. Scott drops his head and continues helping prepare the dinner. Something inside Stiles clenches because he’s not sure how Derek’s going to react to Scott being here. He hopes he doesn’t mind Stiles inviting the rest of his family and forcing him to eat here.

When the dinner’s ready and Scott has set the table, Stiles is the one to go up and wake Derek. In his bed, Cora’s head is tucked under Derek’s chin, the covers over them both. It’s absolutely adorable and Stiles has to pause a moment before he calls out their names.

Cora opens her eyes immediately and sits up, beginning to poke her brother’s face.

“Cora, stop it,” Derek groans, swatting her hand away. He sits up and rubs his eyes, taking in Stiles.

“Dinner’s ready,” he says lightly. Neither of them move until Derek gives Cora a little push. Cora’s eyes narrow and she pushes Derek’s face away as she gets out of the bed. Derek throws his legs out of the bed and buries his head between his knees. Stiles sits down next to him, letting the side of his body press against Derek.

Derek’s hand reaches out for Stiles’ knee and he grips it tight. “Laura’s here?”

“Yeah.”

“I, I forgot – I promised to cook.”

“I know,” Stiles says. “And I offered to cook for you.”

Derek grunts his thanks.

“Scott’s here,” Stiles blurts out. Derek rises slowly before turning to Stiles and giving him a murderous look. His eyes are dark but Stiles, though he still feels horrible, just stands and offers his hand to Derek.

“McCall?” Derek asks nastily before mumbling something along the lines of make him go.

“Don’t give me that,” Stiles huffs. “If you’re going to show up unannounced after your practice you can’t complain about the people I have already invited over.”

Derek gives him a dirty look and Stiles is hungry and too irritated to make himself stay and convince Derek to come downstairs. He leaves, coming down the stairs two at a time before he plops himself at the head of the table. No one asks where Derek is.

Everyone’s already dug in, which he’s glad about, and Laura looks as though she’s glad she doesn’t have to cook for once, or even clean up the dishes after. Cora pokes at her food before eating it and ten minutes later Derek comes down the stairs.

He shoots death glares at Scott throughout the whole meal, glowering until Stiles kicks him.

“Hey!” Derek grumbles.

“You’re ruining the atmosphere of this beautiful meal that I cooked,” Stiles snaps at him, and to be fair Scott looks just as uncomfortable, but at least he’s not being a dick about it. Laura stifles a giggle and Derek’s eyes dart up, his whole face softening.

“You’re wearing makeup,” he says quietly.

Laura straightens in her seat but she looks down at her food.

“You look nice,” Derek tells her, his voice breaking a little. Stiles catches his father’s eye over the table and he looks sad. There’s so much to remind them of Stiles’ mother right now but it’s not the time.

“Thank you, Derek,” she says, smiling a little.

He blinks down at his food. “I’m sorry for forgetting about dinner tonight.”

“That’s fine.”

The meal moves along from there and Scott looks like he’s in way over his head. He helps Cora cut up her food though, and Laura and Derek watch like they’re seeing someone else do it.

♦♦♦♦

They stand on the porch, Laura and Cora already in the car. The evening is settling in and Derek looks to the ground, only a step away from Stiles.

“I suppose McCall wasn’t that bad,” Derek mumbles. Stiles’ smile is small and his hands reach out to Derek’s arms. His face still looks flat, heavy, like he doesn’t want to be anywhere. Stiles gently pulls him forward and Derek’s chin presses sharply into Stiles’ shoulder. It hurts, but Stiles lets him stay there, running a hand briefly through Derek’s hair.

“Your sisters are waiting,” Stiles whispers. He feels Derek sigh against him and then he turns his head, nose pressing into Stiles’ neck for a moment. He pulls away and without a word he disappears towards the car.

Stiles hears the engine sound and he watches them leave. It’s barely been a few months since Derek’s family died and even Stiles feels its heavy weight. He rubs his eyes and steps inside the house. Scott is waiting for him and he holds out a glass of juice.

“I’m sorry about Jackson and everyone,” he says. “I’m sorry we didn’t believe you about Derek.”

Stiles shrugs. “It’s fine. I didn’t try very hard to convince you.”

Scott rubs a hand through his hair, scratching at his head as he finds his words. “He’s not that bad,” he finally says. “I think I could like him if I saw him when Jackson isn’t trying to aggravate him and when we aren’t on the field.”

Stiles rocks back on his heels. Everyone knows that Whittmore and Hale in the same room has never gone down well, especially since Derek’s team takes home the cup almost every year.

He and Scott move upstairs, Stiles’ father squeezing his neck before he goes to bed. They share a bed together and it’s not weird but surprisingly easy. Stiles is glad to have a friend who makes him laugh more than he makes him scowl.

“How’s the track team?” asks Scott.

He allows himself a smile. “I’ve been running all summer and almost every morning with Derek. It’s helped a lot, and I think the coach will let me run at the next meet.”

Scott punches him lightly in the shoulder. “Good job, man.”

♦♦♦♦

Allison approaches him with her books clutched firmly to her chest. Her pretty curls fall around her face and she smiles sweetly, eyes cast down nervously. Stiles waits, eyes squinting, not sure what she wants.

“Hi Stiles,” she says.

“Allison.”

“Scott told me about Hale, um, Derek.”

Stiles takes a step back, shutting his locker door with a firm sound. His throat tries to spit out a lie but it’s too difficult. Allison grabs his arm, fingers locking around his wrist to stop him from leaving. She looks distressed.

“He didn’t say much, but he told me that it’s Derek you run with in the mornings, right?”

Stiles nods, quickly glancing over his shoulder. He’s not sure what he’s nervous for but Allison’s smile fades a little.

“Jackson’s with Lydia in the library, don’t worry about him finding out.”

“I’m not worried about him finding out,” Stiles says at her, but he knows he doesn’t want to deal with the shit Jackson will send him if Stiles starts talking about Derek again. He meets Allison’s gaze and she stares at him knowingly. They’ve been friends for the past couple of years and Stiles forgets it sometimes, because she’s better friends with Lydia and now there’s something happening with her and Scott.

“So you’re running with him?”

Stiles licks his lips. “Yeah.”

Allison straightens. “Do you mind if I run with you? I really want to Stiles. I think it would be nice.”

Stiles splutters. “Allison,” he tries. “I honestly don’t think that this is a good idea.”

Her look turns sad and Stiles scrunches up his nose and kicks his heel against the ground. She waits for him, getting under Stiles’ skin until he says yes. He groans out a fine and she beams, stepping forward and kissing Stiles on the cheek.

“Thanks Stiles!”

“I have to ask him first!” Stiles yells after her.

He thinks about texting Derek but he might not turn up the next morning. Stiles knows it’s a dick move to surprise him, and the way Derek’s mouth curls when Allison turns up the next day, eyes bright and smile friendly, he knows he’s going to get shit for it later.

“Thanks for letting me run with you guys,” Allison tells Derek.

He glowers.

Allison turns to Stiles, eyebrow raised. “You didn’t ask him, did you?”

Stiles starts running. He hears Derek huff but soon there are two sets of footsteps thumping against the ground behind him. They go further than they normally go, as if Derek’s trying to outrun Allison but she keeps up easily.

Stiles grabs his arm just before they decide to turn around.

“Hey,” Stiles says, voice breathless. Derek reluctantly turns. “Allison’s a good friend, okay? She wanted to meet you properly.”

Derek doesn’t say anything.

“I don’t know what you want, Derek, but if you want me that comes with my friends too,” Stiles whispers quietly. He sees Allison far enough away that she can’t hear, stretching her legs.

Derek grits his teeth together. “I just want to spend time with you.”

“You still are.”

“Alone,” he says flatly.

“Derek, please.”

“Okay,” Derek says, after a pause. He shrugs off Stiles’ grip but he squeezes Stiles’ fingers. They run the rest of the way back at a slower pace, and when they reach Derek’s house he turns to Allison and politely says that it was nice to run with her.

Stiles grins all the way back home.

♦♦♦♦

He picks Derek up for their date. Stiles’ hands are sweaty when he knocks on the door and Laura answers, smiling despite the shadows under her eyes. She turns her head over her shoulder.

“Cora, Stiles is here. Do you want to say hi?” Silence meets them and Laura shrugs, inviting Stiles inside. She calls up the stairs to Derek, telling him that Stiles has arrived and they both hear Derek’s loud grumble that he’s not ready yet.

“He’s been looking forward to your date all week,” Laura says softly, her voice barely above a whisper. “Thanks for taking him out.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to say. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and tries to smile.

“Um,” he says. “My father wanted to know if you were keen on having dinner with us this weekend?”

Laura gives him a quiet nod. “That would be lovely.”

Stiles looks up and he sees Derek hovering at the bottom of the stairs. He has a faint scowl on his face but Stiles smiles brightly, knowing that he’s only nervous. Derek’s hair has a bit too much gel in it and his cheeks are shaved clean.

“Hey.”

Derek smiles tentatively at him and he comes up and kisses Laura on the cheek. “I’ll try not to be home late.”

She raises her eyebrows and waves them off. When Derek walks past Stiles he can smell his aftershave in the air, and something happy tightens inside of him. Derek wants tonight to happen, he wants a proper date with Stiles.

They go to a drive thru and pick up some food before heading over to where they’re showing a movie in the park. Stiles grabs a picnic blanket out of the backseat of the jeep and Derek carries the thicker blankets to keep them warm.

“What are we watching?”

Stiles grins. “Star Wars.”

“Star Wars in the park?” Derek asks, sceptical. Stiles nods.

They walk in silence and choose a spot at the edge of the crowd. It’s cold and after they eat their food Derek scoots over immediately, throwing the blanket over the two of them and crossing their ankles over each other.

Stiles leans back on his hands so that Derek can press himself against Stiles’ chest. He’s warm. Warmer than anything. Stiles lets himself get nervous, lets himself feel whatever people are supposed to feel on dates with people that they care about. His hands are getting sore against the ground but he doesn’t move. He can’t bear to, with Derek so close to him.

Derek turns his head. “Mark liked the Star Wars movies.”

Stiles freezes. “Oh.”

He sits up and rolls his eyes, huffing. “I’m allowed to talk about them, you know.”

Stiles worries his own lip, eyes roaming over Derek’s face. His eyebrows are drawn tight together and his lips are in a flat line. Slowly, Stiles lifts his hand and pushes it across the ground until his fingers press lightly against Derek’s.

His palm twitches and Derek is quick to grab Stiles’ hand properly. The sound of lightsabers hitting each other is loud around them.

“And you can talk about your Mom if you want,” he says awkwardly, shifting his gaze back towards the screen. Stiles doesn’t say anything. He hasn’t had much opportunity to talk about his mother over the years and now he doesn’t need to even if he sometimes wants it.

But it’s nice, knowing that Derek wants to be there for Stiles. It feels really nice.

“Oh shit,” Stiles whispers, a few minutes later.

“What?”

He buries his face in his hands and jerks his head to get Derek to look in front of them. He blinks and his eyes scan the area. Stiles groans.

“What is it?” Derek says again, more insistent.

“Lydia,” he mumbles. “She’s in front of us.”

Derek’s nostrils flare. “I thought your friends knew, I thought it was okay.”

Stiles shakes his head and hisses at him. “It’s Lydia, Jackson’s girlfriend.” Derek stares at him. “Fuck, you don’t get it, have you forgotten that you’re on the rival lacrosse team?”

Derek smirks. “No.”

Stiles hides his face again. He’s not sure if Lydia’s seen them but when he chances a glance in her direction she’s looking at him with a knowing spark in her eyes. Her gaze drags to Derek before she very deliberately turns back towards the screen and puts her arm around someone’s shoulders. Jackson.

“Fuck,” Stiles mutters.

Derek leans forward and puts his mouth against Stiles’ ear. His breath tickles the skin. “Why don’t we go then? We don’t have to stay. We could go somewhere else.”

Stiles catches his eye before he nods. He kicks off the blankets, the fabric getting caught around his ankles. He lugs it over his arms and they’re both stiff as they walk away from the crowd, Stiles scared that Lydia might tell Jackson to look over his shoulder.

Derek and Stiles climb into the jeep and Stiles hits his fist against the wheel. “Fuck, I’m sorry, I just, I don’t know how to deal with him anymore.”

Derek looks at him carefully and he leans over and squeezes Stiles’ knee. “It’s okay, Stiles. Let’s go somewhere else.”

Stiles nods and starts the jeep. Derek gives him directions until they pull over at a secluded road. He’s the one to undo both seatbelts with a small click and he starts to move his whole body forward. Out of the corner of Stiles’ eye he sees the line of Derek’s jaw coming slowly closer. He could stop him if he wants to. Stiles could say no.

He doesn’t want to. Stiles turns his head abruptly and he kisses Derek. Instantly, Stiles feels Derek’s relieved breath over his lips and his hand comes up to Stiles’ cheek, Derek’s fingertips playing at the line of his hair.

The air is cold but it’s suddenly charged and Stiles’ fingers shake as he scrambles at Derek’s chest, trying to find a hold on his shirt. Derek moves Stiles’ lips open with his tongue and it’s not long before they start to clutch at each other over the gear stick. Fuck, Stiles has missed this.

Derek’s mouth is hot and smooth and insistent. His fingernails are at the back of Stiles’ neck, just at his hair, and Stiles groans into Derek’s mouth, trying to get his hands under Derek’s shirt.

Derek pulls back, panting, his hand dropping to Stiles’ thigh. “Stiles, this isn’t working, you got, you got to come around the car.”

Stiles feels like he’s in a daze, his knee hurting from where it was pressed into the gear stick. His eyes drop down and he sees Derek’s lips, red and shiny.

“We don’t, we don’t have to, right?” Stiles croaks.

Derek blinks before his hands drops and he sits back in his seat. “Of course,” he says, ears pinking up.

Stiles leans forward and dumps a kiss on his cheek. He doesn’t bother getting out of the car and he’s not graceful when he climbs over the gear stick and onto Derek. He lands with a thump and Derek huffs. Stiles has to wriggle until he’s semi-comfortable and he drops another kiss to Derek’s cheek, slowly making his way to Derek’s mouth.

“This is good?” he says, “Just like this?”

Derek swallows and nods eagerly, shifting so that he can reach Stiles’ lips. His hands rest on Stiles’ hips, large and warm, and Stiles tries to get Derek out of his jacket. This time it’s slower, more careful, and it’s the best thing Stiles has had happen to him; Derek under him, the both of them getting hard. He can’t stop himself from rolling his hips, stuttering out a moan as he rubs his dick against Derek’s thigh through his jeans.

“Fuck, Stiles,” Derek manages, biting down on Stiles’ shoulder, over his shirt. “You’re giving me mixed signals.”

Stiles draws his palm hard over Derek’s crotch before he pulls back and smiles dopily. Derek lets out a harsh breath and he rolls his eyes, glancing at the time.

“We should get back.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says.

“Try not to worry about Jackson,” Derek says quietly.

Stiles snorts.

“And we can do this again, right?”

“Make out in the jeep?” Stiles asks, grinning.

Derek gives him a flat look and his hands are at his sides again. He looks up at Stiles, eyes shining hopefully.

“I mean go on another date,” he tells Stiles.

Stiles smiles and kisses Derek again, his mouth tingling a little at the contact. He nods and Derek smiles, relieved, his teeth showing just behind his lips.

“Of course,” Stiles whispers. This time he opens the jeep door and walks around. When the cool air hits him he can’t help but smile, the night seeming normal and light despite their run in with Lydia. He walks Derek to his door when they drop by the house and Stiles kisses him again.

Derek pulls him in for a tight hug. Their cheeks rub together when Derek breaks his hold of Stiles and his breath is warm over Stiles’ face.

“We’re still running tomorrow?” he asks.

Stiles nods.

“With um, with –”

“Allison.”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “With Allison?”

Stiles smiles. “I’ll tell her you were looking forward to it.”

♦♦♦♦

Stiles tries to keep composed when he approaches his friends at lunch. Scott waves at him cheerily, frowning a little when Stiles’ response is a little half hearted. He’s too busy looking at Jackson, staring at him and wondering if he knows properly about him and Derek.

He sits, and Jackson is complaining about lacrosse to Danny.

Lydia catches his eye and her lips curl into a smirk. She takes a sip of her drink, still eyeing Stiles carefully, and ever so slightly she shakes her head. It takes Stiles a moment to understand what she means, but he can finally settle when he realizes that Lydia said nothing to her boyfriend.

It’s a surprise, but one he gladly accepts.

“You okay?” Scott asks.

“Yeah,” he says, but his breath comes out shaky.

There’s a big game coming up soon, for both lacrosse and then Stiles and Allison’s running. Everyone at the table has been working hard for something, for a title, for the chance to actually run in front of a crowd. That makes Stiles nervous, and that makes Jackson harder than ever to deal with.

♦♦♦♦

He feels a little guilty about not wanting Jackson to know about Derek, but he’s afraid Jackson’s going to make it into something it isn’t. He’s afraid Jackson will remind him of ‘loyalty’ and let his hatred of Hale and his team transfer itself onto Stiles’ shoulders, just because he’s there.

Derek just smiles at Stiles when he and his sisters come around for dinner later that week. He kisses Stiles’ cheek as he walks in, making Stiles flush, and his father gives him an eyebrow raised look when the front door is shut.

“I’ll help you,” Derek says, following Stiles into the kitchen.

“The salad stuff is over there,” Stiles says, pointing behind him without looking. It takes a moment for Derek to move. “What?” Stiles asks.

“Are you okay?” Derek says after an awkward pause, his words coming out slow and unsure. Stiles turns to face him. He rubs his eyes but he nods.

“Yeah, yeah, of course I am,” he says.

“Did your friend see us the other night?”

Stiles glares at him. “Jackson’s not my friend.”

Derek raises his hands in apology, eyebrow quirking up. He doesn’t seem offended if his hidden smile is anything to go by. He waits for Stiles’ shoulders to relax, and then Derek takes a step forward into Stiles’ space.

Their foreheads are a breath apart from each other.

“Did he see?” Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head.

“Good,” Derek breathes, and Stiles can’t understand why he’s so calm. Stiles looks up and Derek’s gaze is steady on him. Soothing. He smiles at Stiles. “I want to kiss you but I think everyone else wants their food.”

Stiles feels the back of his neck heat up. He thinks Derek might come forward anyway, and he does, but it’s only to brush their noses together before Derek walks to the lettuce leaves, the tomatoes, and the avocado.

The table is set and Cora is next to her brother, shoving her plate towards him so that he cuts up her food. Laura looks like she’s about to protest because Cora is old enough to do it herself, but Derek shakes his head and slices his sister’s food with a barely there smile.

“How’s school?” the Sheriff asks Derek.

He shrugs. “Fine.”

Laura kicks him under the table.

Derek sighs and puts a pleasant expression on his face. He turns to Stiles’ father. “We have a big game coming up. My friend Erica is a little annoyed by me and Boyd because we spend most of lunch practicing if we can.”

“And your studies?”

“Alright, I guess.”

Stiles’ father seems to give up on the small talk and even though the meal is quiet, it’s still nice. Cora picks at her food, eating slowly, and Laura begins to ask him about his running.

Stiles shuffles on his seat, sitting up and brightening.

“I’m going to run,” he says. “After the lacrosse game the track team is running. It’s going to be so cool not having to sit on the bench as much as I did last year.”

Laura smiles at him. “Can we watch you?”

Stiles’ smile falters and he glances between them.

“Yeah,” he croaks, “Sure.”

Derek leans over and squeezes his knee.

♦♦♦♦

Stiles can feel the tension in the air as soon as he steps out of his jeep. The lacrosse final is tonight and Stiles doesn’t know how to feel about it. He’s used to excitement, fun, but even though Derek’s playing he finds that he cares little about the outcome of the game.

Scott waits for Stiles at the school’s front steps, rubbing his fingers against each other.

“How are you feeling?” Stiles asks him.

Scott’s lips twist with worry, and he shrugs. “God, I don’t know. Jackson was pretty tough at practice yesterday.”

“It will be fine,” Stiles says, clapping his friend on the shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll win.”

He raises an eyebrow. “What about Derek?”

Stiles stuffs his hands into his pockets, thinking about how later today Derek and his friends will be at Beacon Hills for the final. Stiles can’t wait to see him, to see his sure movements on the field but at the same time there’s that school rivalry Stiles can’t do anything about.

“I’m sure he’ll win, too,” Stiles says lightly, and at least he gets Scott to laugh.

“And I’ll stay after and watch you, too,” Scott says, “Even if we win or if we lose.”

Stiles feels his cheeks turn red from the attention, liking it a little too much. He’s going to run, he’s going to compete, with Allison by his side. He’s got a chance to really shine for once, and Stiles is so nervous for it that last night he couldn’t sleep, imagining every single way it could go wrong.

“You’ll be awesome,” Scott says earnestly, and it feels good to have a friend that doesn’t tear him down.

Stiles throws himself into his school work for the rest of the day, vaguely listening to the chatter and chants and the excitement that the lacrosse final brings. He avoids everyone at lunch, but mainly it’s so he doesn’t have to face Jackson, not convinced the stress won’t leave Jackson a little meaner than usual.

The end of the day comes fast. There are crowds of people on the bleachers and Stiles spots his father, and right next to him are Derek’s siblings. Stiles finds himself smiling, knowing they’re there for Derek but also for Stiles, like they promised.

Allison bumps his arm as they watch the lacrosse team file onto the field. “So, who are you rooting for?”

Stiles snorts. “You know, I don’t even care who wins.”

She hums, waving at Scott with a dimpled smile when he catches her eye. Stiles looks out for Derek on the field and it takes a while, but then he sees him. He looks handsome, a little rugged, but fully determined. Stiles is hit with pride, with affection, and he knows how hard it has been for Derek lately. The fact that he’s here, ready to play against dickheads like Jackson, means so much.

It’s an even match, mostly. It’s gritty, tough, and Stiles cheers when Scott takes an impressive shot. Derek catches his eye once on the field, smiling slightly, before turning back to the game with a sharp focus.

Then, then it’s almost over, Stiles sees his own race getting nearer, the time is running out, and then Derek’s team scores twice more in the last five minutes. The time stops, and it’s surprisingly anti-climactic.

Allison exchanges a look with him, mouth twisting. “Better go and see them.”

“We have to warm up,” Stiles reminds her.

She nods, but then she’s darting off to a disappointed Scott, kissing his sweaty cheek and talking to him until Allison finally gets a smile.

“Stiles!” Derek says, tapping his shoulder. Stiles twists around, grins, and throws himself at Derek for a hug. He seems surprised, but his arms wrap around Stiles’ waist, and Stiles doesn’t care who sees them.

“Well done!”

Derek rolls his eyes, and there’s a sparkle there that Stiles rarely sees anymore. “You shouldn’t sound so happy, we did just kick the ass of your school’s team.”

“Uh huh,” Stiles says. “But they kicked yours back, even if they didn’t win.”

Derek just smiles, squeezing Stiles’ fingers briefly. “I’m going to stay,” he says. “You’ll be great, I know you will.”

Stiles holds in a breath, and Derek looks so sure that he’ll do well. He turns away and goes to warm up, leaving Derek to celebrate with his friends, Erica cheering from the stands and Boyd grinning widely. Stiles spots Jackson, still on the field, mud all over him. His expression is sour, and Stiles doesn’t expect anything else.

“Alright,” their coach says. “Do us proud. Let’s have at least one win for Beacon Hills’ High School tonight.”

Most of the crowd disappears before Stiles starts to run, but it doesn’t really matter. The people he cares about are here, cheering him on, and Stiles thinks that he can do this. He can really do this and he’s going to win.

When he starts to run, he can feel it. There’s power in his legs and the people he’s racing seem inconsequential. The finish line gets closer and closer and Stiles’ lungs burn as he pushes himself. It’s exhilarating when the race is over and he’s won it, he’s won, and other people still have to race but this was his race, his time, and Stiles can feel himself grinning.

“Stiles! You did it,” Allison laughs, passing him a water bottle.

“Thanks,” he rasps, throat dry, “Good luck for yours.”

She smiles. “Thank you.”

Allison wins her race. It’s clear almost as soon as she starts running, and Stiles’ skin is still thrumming with energy as he watches her. Then it’s all over and Stiles can’t wait to see his father, to see Scott, and Derek’s waving at him, rushing to meet Stiles half way down the steps. A snotty voice stops him.

“What are you still doing here?” Jackson snaps.

Derek’s eyes narrow. “That’s none of your business, Whittemore.”

“I’m sure it is, this is our turf.”

Derek raises an eyebrow, “Yeah, that we beat you on. I’m here to see Stiles run.”

Jackson scoffs, disbelief clouding his features. “Why the hell would you want to do that?”

Stiles sees Derek shift, unsure, worry dancing over his face because Jackson’s not supposed to know, Jackson’s face shouldn’t be dawning with realization about why Derek’s really here.

“You’re actually here for him?” Jackson bends over and laughs, and it sounds like a wheeze. Stiles walks closer, steps small, but he can’t just leave the two of them here, arguing. They hate each other. Jackson catches Stiles’ eye, sneering. “Why the fuck would you date him, Stiles, you’re on our team? But no, you’d just rather go around and sleep with the opposition. I see how it is.”

Stiles grits his teeth together. “If you haven’t noticed by the way I haven’t turned up to practice, or by the way I, you know, won my own race on the track team, I haven’t been a part of your team all year.”

“Well, I don’t know why you’re hanging out with this dick.”

“Well,” Derek says, sounding as stupid as Jackson. “I’m pretty sure I’m not the dick here, you are.”

Stiles explodes, everything good he was feeling quickly replaced with anger. “Would you two just stop?” He’s yelling, he knows he’s yelling but he can’t stop. He turns to Jackson. “And you, why don’t you just go home and cry or whatever it is you do when you lose, and Derek, Jackson’s a dick but can’t you leave it alone for one minute?”

Stiles know he’s being harsh, especially as he sees Derek’s face fall, but he runs past them and up the bleachers, up to his father, Scott, Laura and Cora.

“You okay?” Scott says. Once Stiles nods it’s not mentioned again, and he’s being hugged by his friend, warm and tight, the disappointment from his own game gone. “You aced it, Stiles!”

“Thanks,” he says, feeling giddy again. Laura smiles at him, biting her lip as she glances at Derek slowly walking up the stairs.

“You did very well, Stiles,” she says, squeezing his shoulder. Cora says nothing to him, but Stiles wasn’t expecting very much from her.

The Sheriff’s smile looks shaky, proud, and they barely say anything to each other before his father’s arms come around his shoulders. Here’s the hug Stiles wish he got last year whenever he came off the field.

“Proud of you, kid,” he says, pulling back. “But you’ve got a kicked puppy over there.”

Laura snorts.

Stiles looks at the ground. “Right,” he mutters. “I should probably, um, yeah.” Stiles turns back around, feeling guilty as he wanders the short distance towards Derek.

Derek runs a hand through his hair, glancing over his shoulder. “Um, Jackson’s gone,” he says.

“Good.”

“Sorry?”

Stiles sighs, “It’s fine, sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped. Come here,” he says, and Derek’s smile is as beautiful as it is hopeful. They’re both still damp with sweat but Stiles hardly cares as Derek buries his face into Stiles’ shoulder, telling him more than once how well he ran, what it was like to watch.

“And I’ll take you out on date to celebrate,” Derek says to him, linking their fingers together. There aren’t many people to see them, just parents who are slowly leaving and don’t care whether or not two boys are holding hands.

Stiles feels lighter. “You’re paying,” he says, lips stretching wide.

They walk to the parking lot and say goodbye, going off to two homes to celebrate. Derek nods at Scott, shaking his hand for a good game, face absolutely sincere as he does so. Scott stares after him as they leave.

“He’s not so bad,” Scott admits. “When he wants to be.”

Stiles bites his lip. “Pizza at my place?”

Scott’s eyes widen. “Yes, please,” he groans.

♦♦♦♦

The weekend comes and Derek picks up Stiles on the dot of seven, his hair styled and shirt ironed. They choose a small restaurant at the edge of town, sort of cheap, but it’s incredibly nice. Derek’s back is straighter with the worry of lacrosse off his shoulders, and he even tells Stiles that his school work is going to be easier without practice almost every afternoon.

“I got the marks back for my test,” Derek says quietly, a pleased smile on his face.

“Yeah?”

“Eighty nine,” he says, a red tinge on his cheeks. “Erica helped me study, well; made me study, and then I did work with you. So, uh, thanks.”

“It was all you, Derek,” Stiles says, suddenly happy.

It’s not all perfect on their date, even if it feels like it is. When Stiles asks about Laura and Cora, Derek is vague, when something about the past comes up and Derek accidentally starts talking about his family, his face closes down for a second, clearing his throat before moving on.

Stiles isn’t fussy. He has Derek, and that’s all he can ask for.

At the end of their date, Derek pulls the Camaro up to the side of Stiles’ house. He turns off the engine and slides his seatbelt off. Stiles has his hands in his lap, trying not to give himself away, trying not to show how much he wants Derek to come inside.

“My dad’s got the late shift,” Stiles says, looking ahead. All he sees is darkness and the streetlights in rays through the raindrops. Derek looks at him. “Do you want to come inside?”

He turns his head and he sees Derek’s eyes go dark, questioning and wanting. He seems hesitant though, like he’s not sure what Stiles is asking for.

Stiles almost trips when he exits the car. He pulls his keys out of his pocket and he walks briskly to the front door, unlocking it and hearing Derek come in behind him. His footsteps sound even, more sure, and Derek looks amused when he finally steps into the house.

The door clicks behind them. Stiles stares at Derek with his mouth open, his hands hung open at his sides. He doesn’t know what to do.

Derek shuffles back on his feet. He scratches his cheek. “Um, Stiles, we don’t, we don’t have to do anything.”

“I want to,” Stiles whispers. He sees Derek’s breath hitch and there’s an underlying tension in the air that Stiles wants to fucking break. Derek’s fingers quiver, like he wants to reach out, and his eyes drop to Stiles’ mouth.

He waits for Stiles to move and it takes Stiles so long that it’s a surprise when he lurches forward and grabs Derek by the shoulder. Their kiss is wet and hard in an instant, Derek pushing back at him as they try to get everything coordinated.

Derek doesn’t seem to know where to put his hands, because they’re on Stiles’ waist, on his ass, cupping his cheeks. They step over each other’s feet, clutching at clothes, and they fall onto the couch, giggling.

“Move over,” Stiles orders breathlessly, pushing Derek onto his ass. He climbs on top of him and guides their mouths together, moaning as Derek sucks at his lip. Derek tries to push his jacket off but it gets stuck, and when Derek grins his face looks lighter than it’s done for a while.

The jacket falls to the floor with a thud and Stiles lifts up his arms, breathing in as Derek slowly removes his shirt. Derek’s mouth lands on Stiles’ chest, kissing upwards and brushing lightly against his nipple, his lips dragging hot against Stiles’ skin before Derek’s sucking a bruise under his collarbone. Stiles bucks his hips upwards, nails clenching at Derek’s shoulder.

“Fuck,” he stutters, rocking forwards. Derek’s teeth scrape up his neck. “I need, let me,” Stiles manages, reaching down and fumbling with Derek’s zipper. Derek lets him, his breath sharp when Stiles puts a hand down his underwear and his fingers clasp around Derek’s hard cock. He runs his thumb over the head, slowly, and Derek sinks back into the couch, half a moan coming out of his lips.

Stiles bites his lip in concentration, watching Derek’s eyelashes flutter as he twists his wrist, and then Derek slaps his hand away.

Stiles frowns. “What?”

Derek kisses him, hard and biting, and Stiles forgets everything with the rough slide of their mouths. He’s straining in his pants, aching almost, and his lips feel bruised and broken when Derek tips him off his lap.

“Upstairs?”

Stiles nods and they can barely keep their hands off each other as they make their way to Stiles’ room. His things are on the floor, everything’s a mess, but Derek doesn’t seem to care as they step through, pushing Stiles away so he can take off his clothes.

Stiles can’t help but stare as Derek reveals his torso, beautiful and toned. He pushes his jeans down and pulls his socks off and he just stands there, eyes dark as he watches Stiles undress himself. Stiles has never felt so bare, so naked, and it thrills him to his bones. He feels hot with Derek’s gaze, a little shy, but mostly he wants Derek’s hands on him again.

He walks over to the bed and sits, palms spreading out on the sheets. Derek licks his lips and steps forward, pressing Stiles’ chest with a wide hand until his back is on the bed. He climbs over Stiles and hooks a hand behind Stiles’ thigh, urging him around properly.

Stiles wants to kiss him and his mouth starts at Derek’s shoulder, too wet, until he gets to Derek’s mouth, pressing in with his tongue as Derek lines his body over Stiles’. His hands grip hard at Stiles’ hip and he mutters in Stiles’ ear, his breath hot.

“You’re so fucking gorgeous,” Derek tells him, and Stiles’ response is broken into a moan when their cocks brush together. His fingernails scrape at Derek’s back, and it’s so fucking hot when Derek takes Stiles’ hand and licks the underside of his palm, guiding it to their cocks.

“Fuck,” Stiles says, and he swears again when Derek’s hand joins him and he thrusts his hips up.

It’s white hot pleasure, all around him, and Derek doesn’t stop kissing him. Their rhythm together gets erratic and the drag is so fucking good, building up fast. Derek’s lips move to Stiles’ cheekbone, pressing lightly, soothing over his temple, and Stiles lets out Derek’s name.

“Come on, Stiles,” he says ruggedly, “Come on.”

When Stiles orgasms he clutches at Derek. His come runs between them and everything behind his eyes goes dark for a second. He vaguely registers Derek letting go of him and thrusting against Stiles’ hip, body shaking over Stiles before dropping down on him with a thump.

Stiles is sweaty but he feels strangely relaxed. Derek has his head buried in Stiles’ shoulder, breathing against Stiles’ skin. He stays there and Stiles doesn’t know what he’s thinking, he just knows that Derek’s weight is getting uncomfortable over the mess between them, but Stiles runs a soothing hand up and down Derek’s back, over his smooth skin.

“Derek?”

He shuffles over him and finally moves to the side. “Sorry,” he mumbles.

Stiles sits up, suddenly self conscious. He tries to find the sheets to pull over him but they’re at the foot of the bed. “Was it, was it okay?”

Derek looks up and he smiles. His thumb swipes under Stiles’ eye. “It was so fucking good, Stiles.”

Stiles bites his lip, suddenly happy, and Derek reaches for the tissues near Stiles’ bed and cleans them up a little before he slides on his boxers. Stiles follows him to the bathroom and they use the wash cloth and then they brush their teeth. Derek tries to kiss the mint away from Stiles’ mouth until he’s flushed again and half hard.

Derek is quiet but his face looks relaxed as he climbs onto the bed next to Stiles. He wraps his arms around Stiles’ waist and drops his head to Stiles’ chest.

“Thanks for being here,” he whispers. Stiles runs a hand through his hair.

“It’s okay.”

♦♦♦♦

 They’re woken by the sharp trill of Derek’s phone. They both groan, ignoring it before it rings for a second time. Derek climbs off Stiles and onto the floor, looking for his jeans.

“Laura?” he says tiredly.

Stiles glances at the time. It’s almost midnight and Stiles needs to close his curtains, the moon shining in through the window. He sits up on the bed when he sees Derek tense.

His shoulders roll in on themselves. “No, I’m with Stiles. At his house.”

Stiles inches closer on the bed, placing his fingers gently on Derek’s back. He only relaxes minutely. Derek hangs up the phone, his face away from Stiles and he gets up, shoving Stiles away to put on his pants.

“Derek?”

“Laura’s downstairs, she’s been knocking,” he says, beginning to rush down the stairs as he buttons his jeans.

Stiles rubs his eyes, confused, his head in a daze as he gets dressed too and zips his way to the front door. It’s wide open and there are streaks of tears down Laura’s face, her keys are in her hands as she waves them about, her eyes wide and panicked.

“Come inside,” Stiles orders, his hand firmly gripping Laura and Derek. He can barely hear what she’s saying, and Derek glares at him as he drags them both to the living room.

“I can’t find Cora,” she hiccups, turning to Derek. “I thought she might be with you and she’s not anywhere at home.”

Derek grabs his sister’s shoulders, getting her to look him in the eye. His face is starting to get blotchy, starting to get as panicked as his sister’s. His breathing is quickening, his bare chest moving up and down as he tries to get his sister to talk.

“Laura,” he pleads.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Stiles has to push away the own panic he’s feeling. He tamps down on it, scared for Cora, scared for Derek, and he finds a phone and rings his father. He sounds tired on the other end, but as soon as Stiles opens his mouth and nothing comes out the Sheriff’s voice becomes firm, easy to listen to.

“Stiles,” he says.

“Laura’s here. They don’t know where Cora is,” he manages to get out.

“Is everyone else safe?” he asks.

Stiles looks towards Derek and Laura. “Yeah.”

“Okay, we’ll send out some people to their house and to look for her. I’ll come over and we’ll sort things out, okay? Can you put Laura on the phone?” he says.

 Stiles hands the phone over and he watches Derek sink his head into his hands. Stiles tries to say something, that everything will be fine, but Derek shoves him away and heads upstairs. He returns with keys in his shaking hands, shirt and jacket on.

Stiles stands up. He snatches them away and the teeth run raw against his hand.

Derek growls at him. “Stiles.”

“You’re not driving,” Stiles snaps at him. Derek glares, holding his gaze with murderous eyes. Stiles doesn’t break it and he holds the keys in his hands with a tighter grip. They don’t have to wait long before a cruiser is pulling into the driveway, and Stiles’ father is stepping out.

He comes forward and places a hand on Derek’s shoulder.

“We’ll find her, Derek, okay?” he says.

Derek doesn’t reply.

Stiles watches from the corner of the room as his father asks where Cora might be, asks about the places where his deputies should look first. There’s already a search team out, and Derek looks like he wants to burst from his own skin.

“I have to help,” he insists.

The Sheriff nods. “Stiles, you go with him. I’ll bring Laura in the cruiser.”

Derek grabs Stiles’ wrist in a harsh movement, yanking him out the door. Less than ten minutes have passed since Stiles’ father arrived, and they’re already in the car, Stiles starting the engine.

“Where should we go?” he asks quietly.

Derek buries his face in his hands.

“Turn right,” he finally says. Stiles reaches over for Derek’s knee, squeezing once before he starts driving.

♦♦♦♦

They’ve been out for almost half hour without any luck. Derek’s been in contact with everyone through his phone and they’ve had no luck either. Cora is still missing and Stiles doesn’t know where to fucking look.

They’ve tried the cemetery, they’ve tried both schools, someone else is looking at the preserve. Stiles pulls to a screeching stop at the edge of the road and he twists in his seat.

“Derek, think, okay?” Stiles says at him. “Take a breath and think. Where might she want to go to?”

He shakes his head, and Stiles notices that his eyes are wet with tears, his nails scraping at his jeans. Derek’s body is shaking.

Stiles leans over and urges Derek to look him in the eye. It’s heartbreaking to see Derek like this, to see him looking fucking terrified. “Breathe,” he says, “Breathe. It will be okay, just breathe.” He hopes to hell he isn’t lying.

Derek’s mouth parts and his breath is locked in his lungs before it finally gushes out. He grabs Stiles’ hand, nails pressing into his skin, before he manages to suck in some air. Derek doesn’t break their eye contact, keeps holding Stiles’ gaze until his chest rises and falls more evenly.

“Good,” Stiles says, trying to be soothing. “Good. Now just try and think. Anywhere. And then when we’re on the way there, you can think of something else.”

He nods.

“The park?” he asks. “She likes it there.”

“We’ll go there.”

Stiles lets go of Derek and puts the jeep into gear. He heads towards the park, his stomach twisting as he notices that Derek’s shaking his head. When they get there, they see Erica and Boyd with flashlights, looking  around themselves.

Stiles catches Erica’s eye as he winds down the window.

“She’s not here,” Erica calls out, her voice ringing clear. Boyd stands tall next to her. “The rest of the lacrosse team are searching around town too, Derek.”

Stiles nods and he turns back to Derek. He hopes he realizes there are so many people looking for Cora, that someone has called all of Derek’s friends to come help.

“Where next?”

Derek bites his lip. “She...she and Mark used to go somewhere together, they used to buy ice cream from that place in town but it’s closed down now,” he falters.

Stiles blinks at him.

“Do you want to go there?”

Derek nods.

There’s less traffic in this part of town, and it’s actually not that far from Derek’s house if you take the pedestrian shortcut between private houses. Stiles can’t help but glance over at Derek as he drives, and if he multiplies the worry he’s feeling he knows that it must be so much worse for Derek and Laura.

He pulls up in front of a dusty shop, a notice taped to one of the boarded windows. Derek jumps out of the car as soon as they pull to a stop, and Stiles follows close behind.

Derek stares at the empty shop. They can barely see through the glass door.

“Fuck,” Derek swears, kicking at the base of the window and the sound beats loud in the air. Stiles flinches. He turns to Stiles. “Do you think she got inside?”

“We’ll try,” Stiles says, even though it’s probably pointless.

Derek tries immediately for the doors, pushing and pulling at them properly. Stiles can see the sweat at his temple, can see Derek’s palm print streaked on the glass doors in a wet mess. Derek kicks the doors again, using his shoulder, and then they hear a loud thump on the other side of the doors as a chain unravels and falls to the ground.

They push the door open.

“Cora?” Derek says, stepping in. Stiles follows him and their eyes have to adjust to the lack of light, the darkness almost blinding. All Stiles can hear is their breathing. “Cora?” Derek says again.

Stiles blinks and it looks like they might have to give up looking here. Derek’s posture deflates and then becomes rigid, and he turns his body so that Stiles can’t see him. There’s a faint sniff in the darkness and Stiles’ heart breaks.

“Derek,” he says softly.

“I don’t know what to do.”

“Someone will find her,” Stiles says firmly, believing it with all he’s got. “Someone will find your sister.”

Derek doesn’t say anything. His body sways and he loses his footing, falling to his knees on the dusty, grimy floor of the closed down shop. Slowly, Stiles steps behind him, fingers trembling as he places a hand on Derek’s shoulder.

There’s a shuffle across the room. A door creaks open and Derek freezes beneath Stiles’ touch.

“Cora?” he croaks.

There’s a mad rush of feet and suddenly there’s a little girl coming forward. Cora looks smaller than Stiles has ever seen her, and she’s immediately in Derek’s arms. Her hair is knotted and her cheek presses against Derek’s chest, her broken sobs muffled against his chest.

“You scared us,” Derek tells her, clutching her so hard she can’t reply.

Stiles steps outside and reaches for his phone. His father answers with a hard voice.

“We haven’t got anything, Stiles –”

“It’s alright,” Stiles says, throat surprisingly sore. “We got her. We got her.”

It’s less than five minutes before the Sheriff’s cruiser turns up at the closed down store. Derek has Cora in his arms, lifting her up and cradling her to his chest as much as possible as he steps out of the shop. Her face is hidden and she’s quiet, clinging to her brother.

Laura sprints to her, and it’s only then that Cora moves from Derek’s arms.

Stiles goes to Derek.

“There was a broken entrance around the back,” Derek says, voice thick. He’s staring at nothing, eyes almost glazed over. Stiles offers his hand, unsure, but Derek takes it. His fingers squeeze hard, too hard, but he lets himself fall back into Stiles’ embrace.

“We’ll go home,” Stiles says. “We’re gonna go home.”

 ♦♦♦♦

Somehow they all end up at Stiles’ house, hot drinks made and Cora sitting snug between her siblings on the couch. Everyone looks exhausted and Cora has her eyelashes tilted downwards, like she’s trying hard not to fall asleep.

Stiles goes upstairs and changes his sheets, cheeks heating up as he remembers being with Derek. He knows Cora is okay now, so he lets a smile creep onto his face, recalling the weight of Derek’s body over his, wishing a little that their time together had lasted longer.

Someone clears their throat behind him.

“Oh, uh, hey,” Stiles says, jumping. He’s holding a pillow in his hands and it half covers his face. Derek is by the door, eyes soft but tired. “You guys wanna go home? Or do you want to sleep up here?”

Derek glances at the made bed, a ghost of a smirk on his face for a second. He holds out his hand and Stiles drops the pillow, stumbling forward so that he can take it. Stiles’ fingers wrap around Derek’s, firm, and then Derek is drawing him in for a hug.

“Maybe we’ll stay,” Derek says, and then his body is shaking, weight falling over Stiles.

Stiles’ knees almost buckle but he manages to keep them upright, dragging Derek to the bed before they collapse over each other

“Sorry, sorry,” Derek groans, trying not to knee Stiles in the gut. He buries his face in Stiles’ throat, breathing heavy, and Stiles whispers to him, running a hand through his hair and holding him close.

“She’s okay,” Stiles tells him. “Your sister is okay. She’s safe. We’ll figure everything out together, I promise.”

It takes time for Derek’s breathing to slow down but he finally sits. Stiles stays with his back on the fresh sheets, staring up at Derek. He feels oddly exposed, even though he’s fully clothed, and Stiles reaches up, his thumb brushing against Derek’s slightly rough cheek before his arm flops to his side.

Derek leans forward and presses a kiss to his lips, achingly gentle, a barely there sort of touch. Stiles smiles at him, his head dizzy when he sits up.

“You stay here,” Stiles says. “I’ll get Laura and Cora, and you can stay here for the night.”

“Can we have pancakes in the morning?” Derek asks. “Cora likes them.”

Stiles nods. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Five minutes later, Stiles and his father are in the doorway, watching the three of them fit onto the bed. Cora is in the middle and soon they’re all curled around each other. It’s sweet. They don’t pay much attention to the Stilinskis hovering at the edge of the room, eyes falling shut, and Stiles fights his tired sigh as he heads down the stairs.

“You did well tonight, son,” his father says.

Stiles looks up. He wrinkles his nose. “No I didn’t.”

The Sheriff raises an eyebrow. “You kept Derek calm. You helped find Cora. You did good.” He claps Stiles on the back, and then disappears to his own bedroom.

Stiles sleeps on the couch downstairs, alone, but he doesn’t mind. He thinks of the Hales upstairs. He thinks about how complicated everything is, and how he’s not going to hide anything anymore. Stiles can deal with Jackson. He won’t keep things vague or leave it to circumstance anymore. Derek deserves better.

 ♦♦♦♦

The next morning his father has an early shift, waking Stiles up on the couch as he moves around downstairs.

“Are you going to manage?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Stiles groans, stuffing his face back into the cushion. His father is gone ten minutes before he manages to drag himself from the couch, neck sore and body stiff. They have everything they need for pancakes, a pleasant smell soon coming from the stove. Cora is surprisingly the first one down the stairs.

He hair is in a tangled mess, and the salt from her tears still stains her face but Stiles smiles brightly at her.

“There we go.”

“Thanks,” she mumbles, and Stiles hears her stomach growl just as she brings the first bite of food to her lips.

“When you’re finished you can play that game on my phone again if you like,” Stiles tells her. Cora shrugs, but she brings her chair closer to the table. A moment later Derek stumbles down the stairs, shirt wrinkled and eyes in a panic. Once he sees his sister he sighs in relief, walking forward and running a hand over her hair.

He looks back at Stiles. “Morning.”

“Hi.”

Stiles is suddenly nervous, a string of butterflies in his stomach. Derek hesitates, but then he steps forward and presses a closed mouth kiss to Stiles’ cheek. Stiles flushes red, even more embarrassed when he sees Cora looking at them. She thankfully says nothing.

The Hales don’t stay long, eager to get home, and Stiles rings Scott and asks if they can hang out for the rest of the afternoon. They both have some homework to do, but they have a good time, and Scott doesn’t comment on how strangely quiet Stiles is.

“How was your date?” Scott finally says.

Stiles looks over at him. “It was good. It got complicated, though.”

“Yeah, I heard about Cora. She okay?”

Stiles nods.

“Derek okay?”

“I think so,” Stiles admits. “As much as anyone in their situation can be.”

Scott smiles. The next day at school Stiles almost forgets that the last time he saw Jackson, they had been yelling at each other. He sees Lydia first in the corridor and Stiles is thinking about avoiding his locker, but he puts his shoulders back and steps forward.

“Stiles,” she says, twisting around. Lydia leans back against the locker, heavy textbooks in her arms, and she scans his body. “Congratulations about your race.”

Stiles feels his cheeks go red. There used to be a time when Lydia’s praise would have sent his heart soaring, would have made him feel on top of the world for weeks. “Uh, thanks,” he mutters.

“Jackson’s on the field,” Lydia tells him. “Practicing.”

“Why would you tell me this?” Stiles asks, irritated.

Lydia rolls her eyes. She makes Stiles hold her books as she goes back to her locker, humming quietly she stares at the mirror glued to her door. “I do like Jackson, you know. Even though he’s a bit of a dick sometimes.”

He snorts.

“He’s on the field because he’s feeling guilty.”

“Right,” Stiles says.

“Okay, maybe it’s more because he’s upset that we lost the game, again, but you should take what you can get,” Lydia says. Stiles doesn’t reply, just stands there holding her things until she’s ready for them. He’s exhausted as he waits, the events from the weekend still fresh in his mind.

“Wait,” says Stiles, when Lydia’s about to leave. “Why didn’t you ever tell Jackson about me and Derek? When you saw us at the park?”

Lydia is already a few steps away, but she turns. Her eyes are on the floor and her lips are pressed together in frustration. Stiles is almost ready to wave her off, not really caring anymore, but she opens her mouth to speak.

“When you’re not trying to get me to fall in love with you, I guess, you’re okay. I thought maybe we could be friends or something,” she says. “And now you’re with Derek I know you’re not going to try anything.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, quickly.

Lydia looks up, startled. “That’s okay with you?”

He nods.

Suddenly, she grins, and the thick skinned girl reappears, Lydia’s steely confidence back in the room. “Good,” she says. “Now go talk to Jackson.”

Stiles groans but he chuckles to himself, everything slowly settling into place. He grabs an apple from his bag, quickly eating it before he finds himself down at the field. Jackson has a deep frown on his face, almost angry, and he swears when he aims for the net with his lacrosse stick and misses.

“Dude,” Stiles says.

“What do you want, Stilinski?” he spits.

Stiles shrugs. “Shame about the game,” he says, almost taunting. Jackson glares at him before he bends down and picks up another lacrosse stick. He throws it at Stiles who catches it easily.

“I’m going in the goal, I’m sick of trying to score,” he mutters. Stiles doesn’t say much and for a few minutes he practices with Jackson, feeling the weight of the stick in his hand. He’s not used to it, and he whoops when he finally gets a goal past Jackson.

He gets glared at, but it’s worth it.

“So what,” Jackson finally says at him, when they’re packing up. Their lunchtime on the field has passed easily, and Stiles can almost remember why they used to be friends. “Are you and Hale dating now or something?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “We are.”

“Look, Hale’s still a dick; I don’t care what you say.”

“So are you,” Stiles points out, dodging when Jackson aims a light punch for his shoulder. “And it’s not really any of your business.”

“Whatever,” Jackson mutters. “I really don’t care where you go putting your dick. And I’m glad you like the whole running thing, or whatever, you’re not bad at it. I know we used to be friends and shit, so I’m allowed to say that.”

“So is that like, past tense?” Stiles asks tentatively.

Jackson shrugs. “I dunno. It started when you buddied up with McCall and forgot about me.”

Stiles’ mouth drops open.

“You got on a lot better with him than you ever did with me,” Jackson says, “And I kind of resented you for it so I got with Lydia over the summer.” He scratches his cheek. “But she’s turned out alright, I guess. So.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. Jackson seems to think they’ve had enough interaction for one day, and he disappears quickly, nodding at Stiles as he leaves. Stiles knows he hasn’t really gotten any kind of apology from him, but it doesn’t really seem to matter. He’s sure that Jackson’s never going to give him one anyway.

He never stopped to think about Jackson’s freaking feelings when it came to Scott’s arrival at Beacon Hills’ High School, but Stiles decides that it’s happened now and he can’t do anything about it, nor does he want to. He’s okay with how things are right now, and Stiles doesn’t want to put in the effort of making things completely better between him and Jackson.

He takes a look at his phone. Derek has texted him.

Running tomorrow?

Yeah, Stiles replies, a small smile on his face. See you then.

♦♦♦♦

Allison doesn’t join them, and the quiet between Stiles and Derek is nice, almost soothing. When they reach the clearing they take the time to sit, to lie on their backs and stare at the sky. Derek looks over to him.

“Do you think it’s going to get easier?” he says, sighing.

Stiles turns his head, staring at the column of Derek’s throat. He moves his hand to the side, letting their fingers brush together. Derek’s skin is warm.

“What do you mean?”

“Just, everything,” Derek says, curling over and facing Stiles.

Stiles tries his best to smile, leaning forward to brush their lips together. Derek’s hand falls to his hip and his lips open easily, sighing softly into Stiles’ mouth.

“I think so,” Stiles says, dropping a chaste kiss to Derek’s cheek. “I mean, I hated lacrosse and now I’m on the track team. Jackson was a pretty shitty friend, but now I’ve got Scott, Allison,” he wrinkles his nose, “And maybe Lydia.”

Derek looks sceptical. “Really? The red head?”

Stiles nods, biting his lip. He knows his problems haven’t been as heavy as Derek’s, but things still hurt for him during the year and he happens to feel good as he links their fingers together. It’s easy between them, right now, and it’s probably not always going to stay this way but Stiles thinks they’ll make it work.

Derek seems to think so too, smiling at Stiles hopefully. Graduation will come, and the people who are worth it will stick around. That’s all he can ask for.