It takes a long time.
They pass months in fear, and seasons in an unsteady, trembling kind of dislike, and years in a sort of enemy-of-my-enemy partnership that never really gets on the right side of easy. At least not until it does.
It takes a long time, but then one day, Stiles is standing in Derek’s kitchen, twenty years old and surviving on coffee, frozen pizza and weekend benders. He’s seen too many different kinds of shape-shifters to list, nearly failed three different midterms due to monsters getting too close to his bed, and completely stopped keeping track of the tally on life-saving between them.
“I really thought growing up would have better perks,” he says, three weeks out from turning twenty-one, nothing to fight, and sipping from a glass of milk because Derek won’t bend enough to let him have something stronger.
“No, you didn’t,” Derek answers, something like humor playing at the corners of his mouth. He broadcasts his feelings in neon, if you know which keyholes to look through. Stiles isn’t sure when he learned them all, probably somewhere between graduation and helping Scott and Allison load up just what they could grab before someone noticed.
Derek scrapes at the label on his hipster beer with the broken edge of his thumbnail. His feet are bare, his sleeves pushed up. It's a not-so-new normal, a sharp contrast from his predator image of Stiles' high school years. If it weren't for the obscene attractiveness, Derek would look soft, maybe ever approachable. He can't remember when that happened, either.
There’s a single mom that lives two doors down from Derek.The kid is some sort of retro-loving third grade genius with wild curls and bright eyes, and she has Derek wrapped completely around her finger. Stiles caught them playing hopscotch once, Derek laughing. Somehow Stiles always ends up helping carry in groceries while Derek gives a secret handshake goodbye, and gets a wink when he gets out his key to Derek’s door.
There are a lot of reasons, but Stiles doesn’t know why he does it, just like he doesn’t know when standing barefoot in Derek’s kitchen became something normal. He’s gotten better at a lot of things, finally put on some muscle, stopped tripping over his own feet, finally learned to install that brain-to-mouth filter thing so that it works a good sixty percent of the time. But he still does things without thinking, sometimes, just because it seems like the right thing to do. He puts his milk down with just a little too much force, the heavy bottom of the glass echoing loudly, the shot at the beginning of a race.
He hooks his pinky in the yellow plastic bracelet Derek had been puppy-eyed into wearing, and he smiles, because this is Derek Hale, alpha werewolf, the stuff Stiles’ nightmares haven’t been made up of in a long time. Stiles smiles, because it’s been too long, and maybe he never expected certain perks, but that doesn’t mean he never thought of them when he dared to cast a wandering eye on future activities.
He doesn’t shrug, or argue, he just tugs. Derek lets himself be moved forward by a thin strip of rubber around his wrist and a fraction of the weight of Stiles’ want.
Derek huffs, like he wants to laugh but doesn’t dare. Like he’s got too much air in his lungs, like letting out that soft breath of finally.
Stiles kisses him, slow, and in-depth, and like they’ve got all the time in the world. And when he does break away it’s with a breathless laugh, because controlling his happiness is still something he’s working on. Derek’s got a smile on his face that Stiles has never seen before, not really, not in all their years.
“This is going to be so awesome,” Stiles says, promises, and when Derek laughs, he has to kiss him again, has to, because he’s right. This is going to be amazing.