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Your Face is Like a Melody (It Won't Leave My Head)

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Stiles has never really considered himself anything special, especially next to Scott after the whole werewolf thing happened, and he’s certainly never considered himself to be anything but human. The incident with the mountain ash might have given him a bit of pause, but really, Stiles is mainly trying to not dwell on the fact that the one thing he ever actually accomplished in this whole mess turned out to be a completely ineffectual hindrance, so he hasn’t given much thought to the implications of it actually, briefly, working for him.

So, Stiles has never really thought of himself as anything but a regular kid or, more recently, Scott’s human sidekick. And sure, sometimes it sucks, especially after Allison turned out to be some sort of badass werewolf-hunting Katniss type, and because now the only other normal human he knows is Danny, and Danny is a) oblivious to all of the supernatural madness going around him and, b) so attractive Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if he was part veela or something, really, but Stiles generally likes being the token human researcher, and only relying on his brain – and, okay, the minor abuse of prescription chemical stimulants – to keep up with the werewolf/kanima population of Beacon Hills.

So, no, Stiles has certainly never thought of himself as magic, or psychic or anything like that. Or, at least, he didn’t. Not until Matt.

+++

Stiles was always a bright kid, cheerful, excitable and eager, but bright and eager aren’t the traits most three-year-olds look for in a playmate. Coupled with the fact that even then he was never able to sit still for long, it kind of made sense that Stiles spent most of his time alone – or bugging his parents whenever they were available. No one could ever accuse him of being antisocial, but he was too smart for preschool and too young for kindergarten, and he didn’t really have any peers to play with. So when he started drawing the same boy over and over, scribbled and messy but consistent, his parents naturally assumed Stiles had an imaginary friend.

And over dinner, with a new drawing pinned to the fridge, when Stiles would tell them about the boy, they put it down to their son’s over-active imagination. The boy he drew had dark hair, green eyes, and, according to Stiles, was named Derek. He was ten years old and had about a billion cousins, but only one sister. Derek liked to swim, Stiles would babble on, lisping through his missing front tooth and pushing his vegetables around his plate distractedly, and he couldn’t carry a tune to save his life, but he could throw a wicked backflip. Unlike Stiles, Derek actually liked peas, and was allergic to peanuts but he loved ice cream almost as much as Stiles did. His favorite time of year was spring, even though his birthday was in the fall, and he was great at baseball.

Stiles didn’t think Derek was imaginary, but it was true that he only ever saw Derek when he was asleep. He’d dream up conversations with Derek, in which Stiles would find out all sorts of things about him, most of which he’d tell his parents about the next day. He never told them that Derek was a werewolf, though, because Stiles understood that it was supposed to be a secret. He didn’t know why, since being a werewolf sounded like just about the coolest thing ever, but he didn’t want to break Derek’s trust, even if he was imaginary.

Their refrigerator, over the years, was papered in drawings of Derek, and sometimes of Derek and Stiles, but, inexplicably to his parents, the only drawings Derek wasn’t in, there was a wolf in his place. The drawings got better as Stiles got older, but they were always of the same thing, always of Derek, and Stiles’ parents just chalked it up as another thing that made their son so special.

But Derek wasn’t the only thing Stiles dreamed of, and sometimes Stiles’ dreams would even come true, which just made him more sure than Derek was real. He dreamt up Scott the week before they met in first grade, and even had a nightmare about his dog getting hit by a car a couple days before his parents told him Dobby ran away. But a night without Derek was rare, even though, unlike Stiles’ other dreams, he never came true in the daytime.

Still, none of them, not even Stiles, ever really thought Derek existed until the Hale house burned down when Stiles was nine. The article that ran in the local newspaper had a picture of the Hales before the fire, and the caption below it said that only three of the dozen or so people in the photo lived: Peter Hale and his niece Laura and nephew Derek. The picture was taken the year before, and the boy in the front row was smiling just like he had done from the Stilinski fridge for the past six years.

Stiles didn’t tell his parents about how every night for a week before the fire, he’d woken up to the smell of smoke and burnt wood, but they still thought it was strange and unbelievable that Derek was, apparently, real. But they didn’t have a chance to worry too much because, when Stiles’ mom got sick later that month, everyone, including Stiles, pretty much forgot how weird it was that Stiles’ imaginary friend actually existed, and since the remaining Hales had moved away, it didn’t seem all that important anymore.

Stiles stopped having the dreams after his mom died, but that was mostly because the insomnia he developed meant he stopped sleeping long enough to even have dreams in the first place. Sometimes, though, when he wasn’t busy missing his mom and trying to cry himself out, Stiles would feel a different kind of loss, a pang of longing for the best friend he never even met.

+++

As he got older and the pain of his mom’s death dulled, Stiles was eventually able to sleep enough to dream again, but he never really dreamed about Derek. Sometimes he almost would, but what used to be clear and crisp had become fuzzy and distorted, like he was watching Derek through dirty binoculars, and he’d be left with a vague feeling of sadness and unease that he never used to have. He’d always wake up as if from a regular dream, the images always fading quicker than they did before. More often, he’d have dreams that didn’t involve Derek but turned out to be pretty accurate. He didn’t know what to do with them, particularly when they came true, and he felt guilty when he couldn’t stop the bad things happening. After Scott’s dad walked out on him and Mrs. McCall, Stiles felt kind of helpless because, really, how was Stiles supposed to warn them without sounding like a crazy person?

He didn’t talk about his dreams anymore, and he didn’t tell his dad but Stiles kept every drawing he ever drew of Derek, collected neatly in a binder under his bed. Sometimes when he couldn’t sleep, he’d shuffle through them absently, trying to remember what a full night of sleep felt like, committing Derek’s small, sketched face to memory.

+++

Which is how, when Scott and Stiles run into Derek in the forest, he recognizes him immediately.

Derek looks different now, seven years later, but Stiles just knows that it’s him. It helps that they’re so close to the Hale house, but Stiles knows he’d recognize Derek no matter where they were. When Derek starts walking towards them, the part of Stiles that isn’t internally fist-pumping at Derek being real and here is reeling at the sound of his voice, the breadth of his shoulders. Which, huh. Is an interesting development that Stiles will focus on more when his incredibly hot not-imaginary friend isn’t angrily kicking him and Scott off his property.

The next night, Stiles dreams about Derek like he used to, for the first time in almost a decade. Derek is ignoring him, pacing anxiously in what used to be the Hales’ family room but is now just a burnt out shell. A beam of moonlight falls through the partially caved in roof and Derek pauses, and before Stiles’ eyes, shifts into a large gray wolf, lets out a strangled howl and lopes out of the ruins of his family home.

Stiles wakes with a start, and before his eyes are even all the way open, he’s stumbling to his computer. Too anxious to sit still while it boots up, he flings himself back to his bed, pulling the binder of drawings out from under his mattress, shuffling through it until he gets to one of the last drawings he did: Derek, a tall sixteen year old boy with bright, electric blue eyes, standing in a ray of moonlight, casting a shadow shaped like a wolf.

Over the course of the rest of night, it’s possible Stiles gets a bag of Skittles and his Adderall confused a few times, and by the time Scott gets there, Stiles has a stack of printed out research and visual aids, kept carefully separate from Stiles’ childhood drawings, to flap around in Scott’s face in an attempt to make him understand. Stiles’ eyes are fever-bright, he’s sweating and he knows he sounds frantic. He’s absently glad that Scott is used to his under-slept and overmedicated antics, but he doesn’t take into consideration that his best friend has never been a werewolf before, and he has to brace himself for Scott’s punch while trying to stop shaking long enough to talk his friend down.

Before Stiles can say anything, Scott lets his hand fall, apologizes and runs away, tail between his legs. It’s enough to deal with knowing that his best friend is now a werewolf, but knowing that the only other werewolf he knows, probably the person who turned Scott in the first place, is the boy Stiles dreamed up every night as a kid is almost too much to take. He bangs his head against the wall, hard, because, really, what is his life.

And then, because he doesn’t know what else to do, Stiles sits back down at his computer, collapsing into his chair heavily, and continues to research the shit out of lycanthropy, for the distraction as much as the potentially useful knowledge.

+++

It takes months, but Stiles eventually apologizes to Derek for getting him arrested for his own sister’s murder, and after a few rounds of saving each other’s lives, Stiles thinks Derek might even mostly forgive him. He’s still not quite able to talk to Derek without making even more of a fool of himself than normal, but at this point Stiles is willing to blame it more on Derek’s propensity to go topless than the intimidation factor.

Stiles spends a lot of time pretending the dreams he had as a kid never happened, and ignoring the ones he’s having now, which are much less prophetic, involve a lot less clothing and create a lot more laundry for Stiles to hide from his dad. And it’s just weird, really, to have a raging hard-on for your imaginary friend who isn’t exactly imaginary and is also a werewolf and, oh yeah, hates your guts. The only dreams he has now that don’t come true, actually, are the ones involving Derek and nudity.

But even as hard as he tries, his mind will sometimes stray back to his dreams when he’s around Derek. It’s decidedly more embarrassing when Stiles accidentally remembers one of his more recent, far dirtier dreams because he swears Derek can smell the arousal on him and that’s just mortifying, isn’t it. But still, it’s almost worse when Stiles lets something from his childhood dreams slip.

+++

The first time it happens is the morning after Derek gets shot and Stiles almost chops off his arm. On a whim Stiles drives out to the diner off the highway and brings a large styrofoam container of vegetable beef soup to Derek’s house, but it’s not until he gets out of his jeep and sees Derek’s nostrils flare, eyes narrowed at the bag in Stiles’ hands, that he realizes it wasn’t a whim. It was a memory of a dream he had when he was six, about how Derek’s dad would always bring him and Laura the same diner’s same vegetable beef soup when they were weak from a particularly difficult full moon. The look on Derek’s normally blank face is complicated, and Stiles barely has time to catalog it all before it smooths out into cold fury. There’s confusion, lingering annoyance, longing, sorrow, and set into his eyebrows, worst of all, there’s a little bit of fear.

“Shit,” Stiles says, “Shit, shit, sorry, sorry, I – I thought you might be feeling under the weather still and soup helps us mere mortals when we’re sick, right, so I figured the best soup in town might help you get back to all of your wolfy potential.” When Derek doesn’t respond, just continues staring like he can set fire to Stiles with his mind – and, wow, bad analogy to make outside the Hale house, Christ – Stiles places the bag carefully on the bottom step of the porch, scuttling back to his car with his head tilted in a display of submission he read about online, “I’ll just leave this here and go then.” Back behind the wheel of his jeep, he chances a glance back over and blurts out another, “Shit, sorry, shit,” before throwing the jeep in drive and getting the fuck out of dodge before he makes things worse.

And, okay, it’s definitely worse than when Derek smells arousal on Stiles, because then he just gets a look that’s somewhere between disgusted and constipated, and as embarrassing as his stupid crush is, Stiles would rather Derek stare at him like he’s a freak than have to see the broken, confused look on his ridiculous face whenever Stiles remembers something he shouldn’t know at all.

+++

After that, Stiles is extra careful about what he says and does around Derek because, as much as Stiles wants him and as much as he sometimes misses the childhood friendship they never really had, and no matter what he says, Stiles is still a little scared of Derek, and he’s even more afraid of putting that wounded look back on Derek’s face. So Stiles tries, tries his hardest, to convince himself that the soup was a coincidence, and to just forget about everything else he learned in his dreams.

And he succeeds for the most part, but of course there are times when he slips up.

Like when he’s at the comic book store and can’t resist buying The Spectacular Spider-Man issue 110, because he remembers it was Derek’s favorite when he was 11, and Stiles stealthily slips it into the Camaro behind Derek’s back, but he knows Derek’ll be able to smell Stiles’ scent on it anyway. Or how Stiles always has his mini-fridge is stocked with cream soda, Derek’s favorite, for the nights he drops by unexpectedly. Or when Laura’s birthday rolls around and Stiles makes sure everyone leaves Derek alone for the day. And how, after Derek kills the alpha, Stiles removes everything having to do with baseball from his and Scott’s rooms, because Peter used to take Derek and his cousins to games on the weekends, and Stiles doesn’t want that to be what Derek thinks about every time he shows up uninvited at either of their houses.

+++

The more it happens, the more suspicious glances Derek sends him, and the more sure Stiles is that everything Derek told him in his dreams is true, but Stiles is a big fan of ignoring problems til they go away on their own, and the fact that he’s been having psychic visions about Derek Hale since he was three? Yeah, that’s a major problem. Also a problem is the fact that he has apparently been in love with Derek for just about his whole life, but Stiles can only handle one crisis at a time, and for some reason the possibility of being a fucking magical seer is easier to deal with right now.

And Stiles still doesn’t even really think he’s psychic or whatever, because shit like that just doesn’t happen to him, until the weird feeling he had about Matt turns out to be so fucking spot on. He didn’t think it was the same, not like his dreams about the fire or Scott’s dad or his pet dog, because he never dreamed about Matt. For the first time, he got flashes of something while he was awake, and he just wrote it off as too much Adderall and too little sleep, but apparently the vibes of evil Matt’s stupid face gave off were just as prophetic as Stiles’ dreams.

And when he sees Matt die minutes before he’s actually killed, Stiles is glad, because at least that way he’s prepared to see Derek actually rip matt’s throat out with his actual teeth. And while the five minutes of warning doesn’t completely stop the nightmares, he’s pretty sure they’re nowhere near as bad as they could be, had it been a surprise.

+++

And whatever, as the sun rises and everyone goes their separate ways after they all help clean up the mess Matt’s corpse left, he breaks his rule about not acting on the things he knows about Derek that he shouldn’t. Because he remembers so clearly how afraid Derek was of his power when he was young, how much he didn’t want to hurt anyone with his inhuman strength and abnormally sharp teeth.

And the set of Derek’s shoulders as he walked back into the woods with Isaac, Erica and Boyd was more defeated than it had any right to be.

So after dropping Scott off at home, Stiles drives around aimlessly until the grocery store opens, and he spends ten minutes in the freezer section pretending he doesn’t remember Derek’s favorite flavor before buying a tub of chocolate fudge ice cream and stealing a plastic spoon from the deli.

He drives out to the Hale house, because he knows that’s where Derek will be, and Stiles can’t even remember if it’s a psychic thing or just a product of apparently knowing Derek as a person now, the way he just knows that Derek always goes back there after having to do something terrible. Stiles knows if he goes in there, he’ll find Derek sitting on the floor or what used to be Laura’s room, staring at his hands like they’re still covered in blood, even though Stiles knows they won’t be, going over every single thing he could have done to prevent things turning out how they did, even if the bloodshed was inevitable, one way or another.

But he doesn’t plan on going in, doesn’t plan on seeing Derek at all, just plans on leaving the ice cream and spoon on the porch, trusting Derek will hear him and come investigate before it gets too melty. Derek, however, seems to have other plans, because he steps out of the front door right as Stiles pulls up. He doesn’t say anything, just stands with his arms crossed, staring Stiles down as he carefully places the ice cream at Derek’s feet, like some sort of sacrificial offering.

And because Stiles can’t abide by silence, he starts babbling, “It wasn’t your fault. I mean, if you didn’t... if you didn’t, he’d just have used Jackson to hurt more people, to kill more people, right? You did what you had to do, like you always do.” He’s avoiding Derek’s eyes, and even without super-senses, he can practically smell the apologetic awkwardness oozing off of his own body. “I just don’t want you to blame yourself, okay? So, you know, don’t.” he finishes lamely, and climbs into his jeep, still not looking at Derek’s face.

When he glances back in the rearview, though, Derek’s got the tub of ice cream open, spoon in hand and a look on his face that Stiles has never seen before. It’s almost a smile, but there’s still that sad, baffled edge to it that Stiles remembers from the soup incident. But then Derek takes a bite, and his eyebrows smooth out and he looks almost content. The feeling in Stiles’ belly is legit warm and fuzzy, because, for once, he feels like his stupid premonition dreams actually helped Derek more than they hurt him.

It’s almost hard to drive home like that, because his heart feels like it’s going to beat out of his chest, and he has to fight with himself so he won’t go back and literally throw himself bodily at Derek and just hug him until Derek stops blaming himself for everything terrible in his life.

Then Stiles has to pull over because his hands are shaking so much and, fuck, he’s exhausted. After the night he had last night, this whole being stupidly in love thing is a little bit more than he can handle, and it’s all he can do to drive himself safely home and collapse into bed, so tired he doesn’t even have any dreams, supernatural or otherwise.

+++

When everything’s settled down – when Jackson’s an actual werewolf, Allison’s stopped trying to kill everyone and Derek’s pack of misfit toys is functioning almost like a family– Stiles decides to maybe test the waters a bit. Because knowing he can make Derek almost-smile is something he can’t resist.

So between explaining all the supernatural bullshit to his dad, trying to rebuild their relationship and attempting to keep Scott out of trouble, Stiles works off the mental list of things he knows Derek liked when he was a kid, systematically figuring out what’s the same and what’s changed.

Honestly, it involves cooking a lot. Stiles teaches himself to make eggplant parmesan, which used to be Derek’s favorite, and when he brings enough to feed a small army to a pack meeting a few weeks after Derek regains his alpha powers, Stiles watches Derek’s reaction as closely and stealthily as he can. And Stiles would swear that as he swallows his first bite, Derek actually smiles briefly, before taking a pull of his beer and effectively distracting Stiles from his objective with the way his lips wrap around the mouth of the bottle. And when Isaac and Erica badger him into making cookies, Stiles agrees only because he wants to try out the snickerdoodle recipe he’s pretty sure is close to the one Laura used to make when she and Derek were kids. Or when he drags the pack to the midnight premier of the new Spider-man movie, because Spidey was Derek’s favorite when he was little, but when he makes sure to buy Derek a box of Sourpatch kids, it’s more of an inside joke with himself than a reference to one of Stiles’ dreams. It still makes Derek laugh, though, a genuine laugh that Stiles hasn’t heard since he was little and dreamt about Derek playing baseball with his dad and uncle.

Every time Stiles does something he knows Derek will like, the look on the alpha’s face morphs. It becomes less sad, and he smiles more often than not, but there’s suspicion in the set of his eyebrows, and he starts sending these long, complicated looks, even when he’s minding his own business.

He doesn’t tell anyone about the dreams, and no one knows he’s kind of psychic except his dad who, to his credit, put it together himself. He doesn’t even plan to, doesn’t really want anyone to know, because some part of him still feels like the idea of him being a seer is more ridiculous than Scott being a werewolf, or Lydia being some kind of freaky witch. Even the fact that she’s being trained by Doc Deaton (in, Stiles assumes, spell-casting, potion-making, and how to be creepy and mysterious without breaking a sweat, not the setting of casts on small animals that constituted Scott’s vet training) seems more likely than Stiles being special in any way.

Stiles has, for the most part, accepted that he’s a little bit magic, but he still doesn’t want anyone else to know. But then he has a vision about Danny getting possessed by an incubus, and he demands that the pack storm in and save Danny based on nothing but a hunch, and when he and Derek burst into Danny’s bedroom right as the weird, demonic ghost-thing is hovering over Danny’s sleeping form and Stiles’ ‘hunch’ turns out to be dead-on, he ends up having to explain some things.

Including all the freaky shit that happens in their town when Danny wakes up and asks why there are eight people that don’t belong in his bedroom and Jackson standing over his bed, which Stiles does an internal cheer over because, part veela or not, Danny needs to know some of this shit for his own safety.

But then Isaac asks how Stiles knew about the incubus, and Derek does this weird thing with his eyebrows that practically forces Stiles to spill – he thinks it might be an alpha thing – and that’s how Stiles ends up outing himself as a fucking seer to the werewolf pack he’s somehow a part of.

Seriously, his life.

+++

After that, the whole pack – mostly lead by Scott – makes a point of ensuring Stiles get as much rest as possible, and after the third time one of his visions saves them from certain death, he supposes they have a point. He still tries to utilize his knowledge about Derek, but it’s harder because he has to be sneakier because he does not want to have to explain to Derek that he spent his childhood having visions about, and falling pathetically in love with, the stupid sourwolf.

One time, Derek gets kidnapped by witches, and everyone – including Erica, who actually has experience with this sort of thing – thinks Stiles is having a seizure or something when the vision comes through. They’re just hanging out at Stiles’ place, him, Scott, Isaac, Boyd, and Erica, not really doing anything of consequence when all of the sudden, Stiles convulses with pain and lets out something disturbingly close to a howl. He’s falling off the couch and shaking on the floor, and his blood feels like it’s burning through his veins, like his bones are melting and acid is bubbling up in his throat. Stiles’ eye squeeze shut without his permission and all these images of Derek filter through the red haze of pain: Derek in a sunny, well-lit room, tied to a table with ropes woven out of wolfsbane. Derek surrounded by blurred figures. Derek writhing like he’s on fire, trying to put out the non-existent flames. Derek screaming, face contorted in more agony than Stiles has ever seen or experienced.

But he’s doing both now, seeing it and feeling it, and he dimly realizes he’s actually feeling Derek’s pain, distantly registers how weird that is, but he’s too busy running to his jeep while trying to explain what’s going on to really focus on anything but getting to Derek, now.

After, he’s be glad he grabbed one of his dad’s guns on his way out of his house, more out of instinct than any real effort to make a plan, because apparently regular old lead bullets are enough to stop witches, and later he knows he’ll make jokes about how maybe someone should’ve just shot Voldemort in the face and solved everyone’s problems early on, but immediately after all’s said and done, after he’s eliminated the threat and torn Derek’s bindings off, it’s all Stiles can do not to cling to him for dear life, not to touch him all over to make sure he’s okay, not to scream and cry and kill the witches again for hurting Derek in the first place.

He does, maybe, go off on a slightly hysterical rant about never scaring him like that again, Derek, goddammit, but neither of them mentions it afterwards.

+++

In the aftermath of the witch incident, Stiles decides to do some research, because the whole thing about feeling Derek’s pain was neither pleasant nor useful, and Stiles is nothing if not morbidly curious. In the end, he goes to Deaton, because the internet and the public library aren’t any help in the matter. And, as awkward as the conversation is for Stiles, he really feels bad for the vet, actually, because having to explain to a teenager what soul bonding is and how it’s apparently happened with a surly werewolf with communication issues? Probably not the most fun night the guy’s ever had.

+++

Stiles works really hard after that to forget that he’s apparently Derek’s mate, and to not think about how it’s impossible for Derek not to know it by now. It’s kind of difficult not to realize, though, that the only reason Derek wouldn’t have said or done something about it was because he simply didn’t want Stiles for a mate, or for anything for that matter. And Stiles makes an effort to avoid Derek for a while because, really, the knowledge is kind of hard to deal with.

Then Derek’s birthday happens, and of course Derek doesn’t tell anyone, so Stiles shouldn’t even know what day it is, let alone what kind of cake to bake Derek, but he does. He knows both, and he spends two days making a tres leches cake with whipped cream frosting because it’s Derek’s favorite. He plans to leave it in the loud old fridge Derek installed in the corner of his partially renovated kitchen when Derek’s busy with his betas, but, like always, Derek seems to take joy in inadvertently ruining Stiles’ plans. So when Derek walks into Stiles’ kitchen, just as he’s finishing up the decorations, he doesn’t really have an explanation planned.

“Have you finally learned how to use doors or did I leave my window open again?” Stiles says, hoping that the way he’s angling his body to hide the cake is more subtle than his attempt at deflection, “I mean, I understand that things like, you know, actually knocking or announcing your presence like a functional human being, instead of just showing up like a creepy creeper who creeps, might still be beyond you, but even the raptors in Jurassic Park learned how to work doorknobs. It’s a valuable life skill, you might want to look into it.”

“Stiles.” Derek doesn’t even tell him to shut up or stop talking, he just says Stiles’ name all gruff and commanding alpha, but still manages to express the point with the one word.

Stiles deflates a little, still admirably shielding the cake from view, but the kitchen looks like a bakery exploded all over it, and from the way Derek’s nostrils are twitching, Stiles knows Derek can smell the cake anyway.

“So, um, what can I do for you?” Stiles asks, determinedly not thinking about how the olfactory processes are more closely connected to memory than any other sense, and how it’s possible that under Derek’s blank mask, he’s having flashbacks to the last birthday he had with his family, before the fire.

“Stiles, what are you doing?” Derek asks, and as Stiles babbles out an answer – a lie, really, and a pretty transparent one at that, even if Derek wasn’t like a lie-sniffing bloodhound – he sways in counter-rhythm to the way Stiles is shifting restlessly from foot to foot, finally craning his neck enough to catch a glimpse of the cake. Stiles cuts off mid-sentence, too busy trying to gage Derek’s reaction to keep up a constant stream of words.

Stiles had no intention of being there when Derek saw the cake, and now that he is, he’s really regretting the decorating choices he made. He recreated one of his drawings of Derek as a kid wolfing out and wrote in bright red icing Happy Birthday Sourwolf!!!, three exclamation marks included. It’s not too embarrassing or telling, as long as Derek doesn’t notice that the Derek on the cake is wearing his favorite hoodie from when he was a kid, one he borrowed from Laura when he was eleven and never gave back. Stiles shouldn’t know about the hoodie, shouldn’t know that Derek still has it, even though it’s way too small for him now, and Stiles is praying that Derek doesn’t recognize it, but judging from the way his eyebrows are drawing together, he does.

“Stiles, what are you doing?” Derek asks again, but the inflection is different this time, and Stiles can tell that he’s not just talking about the cake.

And for once, he’s at a loss for words. It’s not like he planned to never tell Derek, it’s just that... no, okay, Stiles was hoping that Derek wouldn’t ever find out. Shortly after he realized and accepted that he was in actual love with Derek, Stiles came to terms with the fact that he was doomed to spend the rest of his days pining. It’s not like it was with Lydia, although eight years of having a crush on someone completely unattainable was pretty good training for the rest of his life, now that he thinks about it. But it’s not the same, not at all, because this? This isn’t just a crush. It’s not infatuation and it’s not puppy love. For Stiles, this is it. Derek is it, and Stiles understands that he’s only 17 and inexperienced and too young to know what he wants, and whatever argument you want to make, he’s probably already had with himself. But there’s just something in him that knows that Derek’s it for him, just like he knew about the incubus, and the soup and spider-man.

And, if Deaton’s talk about soul bonding is anything to go on, Stiles’ gut is right on this one.

Derek is literally the guy of Stiles’ dreams, and he’s spent most of his life falling in love with him in one way or another, so it makes some kind of sense that Derek is the only person he’ll ever feel like this about. And after Derek hijacking Stiles’ dreams and subconscious for the past 14 years, Stiles was bound to end up completely gone on the dude.

“Um, making a cake?” Stiles tries, but instead of growling or pushing Stiles against the wall and threatening him into giving a better answer, Derek’s just looks a little lost and disappointed that Stiles won’t tell him the truth. And it’s too close to that broken look he got over the soup, and Stiles can feel his resolve not to tell Derek about the dreams breaking under the weight of wanting to keep that look off his sourwolf’s face. So Stiles sighs and forces himself to look Derek in the eye.

“Well, it’s your favorite, right?” Stiles nods jerkily at the cake, hoping that will be enough. When it’s not, he adds weakly, “I had a dream about it.”

And Stiles can practically see the gears whirring in Derek’s head, his eyes darting between stiles’ face and the cake. They land on the binder, shoved haphazardly on top of a pile of cookbooks and stiles barely has time to mutter out a horrified fuck before Derek’s snatched it up and is rifling through it. Stomach plummeting, Stiles opens his mouth and lets everything just pour out, deciding to preempt whatever conclusion Derek’s about to come to, even though the truth is probably worse than whatever Derek’s thinking.

“I’ve been dreaming about you since I was three.” he blurts out and immediately averts his eyes, “Almost every night. I don’t know why they started that early, because I didn’t actually meet you until, like, thirteen years later. God, I didn’t even know if you actually existed until I was eight.” The and your entire family burned to death goes unsaid, but Derek flinches minutely like he heard it anyway. “I drew you all the time, like, over the lines in coloring books and on placemats at restaurants. My parents thought you were my imaginary friend, because I would talk about you all the time and I just knew things about you. That’s how I knew about the soup and Spiderman and everything. I’d have a dream about you playing baseball or running around as a wolf on the full moon, and the next day I’d draw it in crayons and pin it to the fridge.” Derek doesn’t say anything, so Stiles continues awkwardly, “I think they’re pretty good, you know, for a little kid.” Not terribly accurate, though. He could never make Derek look enough like Ray Liotta, and thank god he grew out of that phase.

There’s a heavy silence as Derek flips through the drawings, and Stiles fidgets around for a while, growing more and more uncomfortable. He, predictably, snaps and continues rambling.

“It’s not even just dreams anymore, though. Do you know how I found you last month? When the witches got you? I don’t, actually. It was just instinct, really, and it’s kind of a miracle I didn’t drive off the road or something on the way. I probably have Scott’s literal side-seat driving to thank, actually, because everything hurt so much I couldn’t really think. It wasn’t like my dreams or visions that time, I more just felt them torture you and drove towards the pain. It sucked, a lot, so please don’t get kidnapped again, because I could really do without having to go through a repeat performance of that, okay?”

“What.” Derek’s head has snapped up, eyes are trained on Stiles now, the drawings in his hands totally forgotten. And okay, the surprised and slightly furious look Derek’s got going on his face is kind of justified, because Stiles definitely didn’t tell him the truth about that night, and he definitely didn’t mean to. “You felt them torture me. And you got behind the wheel anyway.” They’re not really questions, and Stiles is about to quip about verbal punctuation when Derek growls, running a hand through his hair. “Were you ever going tell me?”

It’s rhetorical he can tell, and Stiles means to say something snarky and playful, because the tension in the room and the set of Derek’s eyebrows is really starting to freak him out, but whatever flippant response he was planning on gets stuck behind his teeth and something else entirely falls out of his mouth.

“I don’t know, were you ever going to tell me I’m your mate?” Derek looks like Stiles punched him in the stomach, and Stiles turns around so he doesn’t have to look at Derek’s face. Unfortunately, his mouth is like a runaway train at this point, and he’s like the conductor watching it crash into a mountainside but unable to stop it from happening. “I guess I just thought if you didn’t even want to acknowledge that we’re fucking mates, you wouldn’t want to hear about me getting your referred pain when you’re being tortured.” Stiles shrugs, blatantly failing at being casual, he knows, and waits with his shoulders tensed around his ears, staring down at the cake in front of him. “It’s okay, I understand.” Even though it’s not and he doesn’t. “But don’t get mad at me for not telling you things when you’re keeping secrets too, okay?”

Derek doesn’t answer and, as the silence stretches, the details of the decoration start to blur, and Stiles blinks rapidly, trying to clear the stupid moisture out of his eyes. “Are you going to say anything?” he finally snaps, loudly, wiping the back of his hand against his eyes like a little kid, but when he glances over his shoulder, Derek’s gone and the drawings in the binder are rustling forlornly from the slight breeze coming through the kitchen’s open door.

+++

Stiles makes Scott deliver the cake to Derek because his dad is lactose intolerant and fuck it’s going to waste after all the time Stiles spent on it.

+++

He doesn’t see Derek until the next life-or-death situation the pack is put in. This time it’s Stiles and Jackson, cornered by hunters in the woods. Jackson’s been shot with a wolfsbane-laced bullet, and Stiles is pretty sure there’s a crossbow bolt sticking out of his thigh, but he’s almost positive it missed all the major arteries and stuff, not immediately life threatening but hurts like hell.

One of the hunters is advancing on Jackson with a knife that glints suspiciously silver in the moonlight, so Stiles does the only thing he can think of and launches himself at the man’s leg, teeth sinking into the muscle in his calf and then almost biting through his own tongue when the hunter shakes him off.

It causes enough of a distraction, though, that none of the humans, Stiles included, notice the werewolves surrounding them. Stiles doesn’t actually know they’re even there until Derek is leaping out of the shadows, landing on the hunter’s back and slashing open the man’s throat in one swift move, before pouncing onto the hunter with the crossbow. Isaac and Erica are dragging Jackson out of harm’s way while Boyd provides backup for Derek.

Stiles feels completely useless, still on the ground with Scott crouched protectively in front of him, but he mostly just tries to stay out of the way and not distract anyone, even though he’s freaking the fuck out on the inside.

He feels the shot almost before he hears it, feels the bullet tear through the muscle of his shoulder, but when he looks down at the wound, there’s no blood to show for the searing pain. It takes less than a second for him to start screaming Derek’s name, but significantly longer for Scott to subdue him. The last thing he sees before passing out from the pain is Boyd skewering the hunter on his claws, and Derek’s eyes shining a bright, painful red, staring directly at him.

+++

When he wakes up the first time, Allison and Scott are sitting together in the armchair by Stiles’ bed, talking quietly. Scott notices he’s awake first, his wolfy senses probably tingling, and asks softly, “Hey, buddy. How you doing?”
Stiles ignores the question, croaks, “Derek?” and if he had the energy, he’d probably be embarrassed, but as is, he just lets Allison pet his head gently and falls asleep to their assurances that everyone’s fine.

+++

The next time he wakes up, his dad is carrying a tray of food. He looks exhausted, and Stiles apologizes so profusely for scaring him that he almost passes out before he even eats any of his soup, and the Sheriff ends up having to keep watch to make sure Stiles doesn’t spill or drown in it as he tries to spoon it into his own mouth with clumsy fingers.

+++

When Stiles wakes up again, the room is empty and dark. He dozes slightly, coming fully awake again when his desk chair squeaks. Derek is sitting there, staring intently at Stiles. He looks exhausted, tired and worn, and his shoulder is covered up by the gray Henley he’s wearing, but he’s movements are normal, not stiff or pained-seeming.

Derek follows his gaze and grunts out a, “It’s healed,” pulling the collar of the shirt aside to show Stiles his unblemished, tanned skin. “Your leg?” He asks then, directing Stiles’ attention his thigh.

“’s fine,” he mumbles, rubbing his thigh gently, pulling the blanket aside to peek beneath the bandage, “just hurts.”

Derek gets up, walking slowly over to the bed before sitting on the mattress. His hand falls onto Stiles’ leg just above the wound, palm hot on bare skin. He squeezes slightly, and Stiles gasps, at first for the skin-on-skin contact, and then again when the veins in Derek’s hand turn black. He sits up, trying to push Derek off, about to panic, remembering the same thing happening when poison was flooding through Derek’s system. But then his other hand comes up to Stiles’ shoulder, and Stiles registers Derek shushing him, muttering soothing words and rubbing his thumb over his collarbone gently.

Slowly, Stiles relaxes and gradually realizes it doesn’t hurt so much anymore, remembering Scott telling him about gentling the sick dogs at the vet and taking away some of their pain. It’s better than Vicodin, even if it looks kind of disgusting, and he can’t help but shift into the warmth of Derek’s palm.

“It goes both ways, you know,” Derek murmurs after a few moments, “the referred pain. That’s how I found you tonight. Fuck, Stiles, you scared the shit out of me. You always scare the shit out of me.” The hand on Stile’s shoulder squeezes almost painfully for a second and then relaxes again, Derek’s thumb rubbing into his skin almost apologetically. “You shouldn’t have been able to feel it, though. Not when I was shot earlier and not when the witches had me before. Humans aren’t supposed to feel the bond until after they’ve accepted their mate.”

“Derek…” Stiles starts, but Derek talks over him.

“I didn’t tell you because you were too young. We mate for life, Stiles, it’s forever. Teenagers aren’t supposed to make that kind of commitment.” He huffs out a sigh, and Stiles is vaguely impressed at the number of words Derek’s managing to string together in one go. “I didn’t know you could feel it too, and, Stiles, you don’t even like me. I didn’t—” He cuts himself off with a groan, and switches topics, “Deaton calls it soul bonding, says that it’s more voluntary for seers than it is for wolves. He says the dreams were an indication of the bond, but that you wouldn’t be able to feel when the witches had me, or when I was shot unless…”

“Unless I was in love with you?” Stiles supplies, and Derek averts his gaze, looking a little bit like a puppy, begging for a treat but expecting a rolled up newspaper to the nose instead, and Stiles rolls his eyes so hard it hurts. “Oh shut up, dude, of course I am.” He laughs at the way Derek’s head snaps up, and awkwardly shuffles into a sitting position, high knee almost touching Derek’s. “Do you think I spent two days baking you a birthday cake because I was bored? Do you think I kept all those drawings of you because I’m sentimental? Do you think all those times I saved your ass and risked my life for yours was actually because I thought Scott and I needed your help?” Derek doesn’t say anything so Stiles takes the silence as a yes and throws his arms up in exasperation. “Well, you’re wrong. I did all that because I do like you, you idiot. I’ve had a ridiculous crush on you since I was, like, three, and I’ve probably been in love with you for just about as long which, to be honest, I don’t think is entirely supernatural bullshit. I’m pretty sure I’d want you even if you weren’t my soul mate or whatever, which is ridiculous, because you’re kind of a dickhead sometimes, you know? It’s probably magical Stockholm syndrome, actually, maybe I should go to deprogramming camp, what do you think?”

“Stiles,” Derek starts, mouth twitching.

“No, don’t Stiles me.” Stiles continues, distracted by the smile slowly creeping up Derek’s face. “I’m your mate, you stupid, emotionally constipated, sour bastard, whether you like it or not. I love you, okay, and you love me too, don’t even deny it, dude.” Stiles concludes gleefully, and he’s pretty sure at this point he’s won, if the not-quite-scowl on Derek’s face is anything to go by.

It takes a little more convincing, of course, because Derek is a stubborn bastard and can’t seem to realize that Stiles isn’t exactly a kid anymore. And then the safety argument is brought up, which results in a rant about Stiles’ relative security as a human member of the pack versus Derek’s mate, and in the end, he’s pretty sure that it’s less having gotten his point across and more having annoyed/aroused Derek into submission. Either way, when Stiles just huffs, “Shut up and get over here, dude,” the words are barely out of his mouth before Derek is on him and they’re kissing, which, yes, kissing is awesome, Stiles decides, they should never not be doing this, they should call in sick from life and just do this forever.

Then it’s a flurry of movement and hormones and probably pheromones as he scrambles up into Derek’s lap, and the hand still on his leg ensures he’s pain-free enough to manage it with only minor awkward flailing. His fingers bury themselves in Derek’s hair, palms cupping his jaw, Derek’s free hand is pressing bruises into Stiles’ hip and Stiles amends his previous assessment from awesome to best thing ever, even though his tongue is getting kind of numb and achy from where Derek is biting at the already sore flesh and the way his head is spinning isn’t entirely pleasant.

Still, the way Derek’s mumbling against Stiles’ lips, words that sound suspiciously like Stiles and fuck and me too, love you too? That kind of makes up for everything.

And then, when Derek tips Stiles onto his back and tears off his shirt, Stiles has to amend his previous amendment because this? This is the best thing ever.

+++

But later – when they collapse on the bed, skin stuck together with sweat and other questionable fluids; after Stiles has discovered that all those dreams about Derek that he had, the ones with a lot less clothes that resulted in a lot more laundry, flushed cheeks and an inability to look Derek in the eye afterwards, were actually way more prophetic than he’d thought, and way, way more accurate; when Derek’s wrapped his naked body around Stiles’ like a cuddly octopus, hand held flat against Stiles’ fluttering heart; when he won’t stop kissing the skin behind Stiles’ ear, murmuring growly endearments and promises – Stiles will decide that maybe it’s just Derek that’s the best thing ever. Which is cool, because Stiles is pretty sure he knew that all along.