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"Pretend this is our den, kay?"

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Derek and Stiles have very different stories about how they met. Stiles’ version is the correct one, obviously, but if you listen to Derek, you get this ridiculous story involving Stiles following him home like a lost puppy dog. The way Derek tells it, there he’d been, minding his own broody business on the playground, making a fortress of solitude out of the sand, when up comes this spazzy kid, (who is barely a year younger, so shut up Derek and stop calling Stiles “kid,”) who decides to build an extension onto Derek’s sandfortress without permission. Next thing you know, Stiles is following Derek home and making Derek’s mom put together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for him.

But if you ask Stiles, you get the real story. There he’d been, making his seventh lap around the monkey bars and keeping one eye on his parents, (they can wander off and get lost if you don’t watch them,) when he saw this lonely looking guy sitting in the corner of the playground. Stiles’ mom was always telling him to be friendly to other kids, and the guy with the black hair kept sneaking glances at the other children on the playground, like he wanted to be involved, but was just waiting for someone to invite him. And Stiles had always been a magnanimous fellow, so he took pity on the poor guy and started improving his sandcastle.

The addition was much needed. The other kid’s sandcastle was of the “pointed pile of sand” type, which really lacked architectural variety. So Stiles started building a square building off to the side.

“What are you doing?” the kid asked.

“I’m putting in a greenhouse.”

“Why?”

“Because my mom always wanted a greenhouse so she dun’ have to have the flowers she worked very hard on freeze.”

The kid’s face twisted up. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“You don’t make any sense,” Stiles retorted. You always had to toss the insults right back at the sender. Like rubber, like glue and all that.

He crossed his arms. “What’s your name, kid?”

Stiles scowled. “I’m Stiles, and I bet we’re the same age. Bub. I”m four.”

“Oh yeah? I’m five.”

If Stiles could have raised one eyebrow at that age, he would have. “That barely even means anything.”

The two boys were quiet for a few moments. Stiles returned to building the greenhouse, because he was nothing if not a diligent worker.

“I’m Derek,” said the black haired kid.

“Kay.”

“Wanna come to my house for PB&J?”

“Kay.”

And that was that. Derek started it. That’s Stiles’ story and he’s sticking to it. Derek had dragged him over to his parents and asked the equivalent of “can we keep him?”

You would think that Stiles is joking, but that was sort of what ended up happening. He started asking his parents to take him to Derek’s house whenever he had an hour or two of free time. More often than not, they would. His mother would call jokingly say that Stiles lived at the Hale House, and one of these days “he’ll refuse to come home because Derek has better racecars than we have at home.”

Luckily, their parents got along. Stiles can’t imagine what his life would have been like if they hadn’t. His dad drank beer with Derek’s dad in front of the TV, and they would talk baseball like the most stereotypical dads in the most stereotypical of fifties sitcoms. The Sheriff was a quieter guy than Derek’s dad, but George had a way of pulling conversation out of anybody. He was approachable, even with his big black beard and tendency to wear leather jackets. George just had eyes that sort of twinkled, and were surrounded with a freakin’ spiderweb of smile lines. Stiles’ mom would exchange tips about fertilizer with Kiana while each of them held their sons on their hips. Stiles always thought that was funny, because Derek thought he was too big to be picked up, but his mom was freakishly strong and freakishly affectionate, so he was lifted into the air just as much as Stiles was. Stiles didn’t mind being picked up at all. He could play with his mom’s hair, and learn valuable facts about nitrification and soil density at the same time. One of those days he’d have to learn what those terms meant, though.

Once their parents were dutifully occupied with their playdates, Derek and Stiles would wander outside into the woods. Derek’s parents really trusted him in the woods for some reason, and Stiles’ parents trusted Derek’s parents, so they could scamper through underbrush and up short trees like a pair of woodland creatures, free of supervision. They often did play Woodland Creatures, where Derek would always pick Wolf, and Stiles would switch between Cheetah and Giraffe. So he didn’t really understand the concept of separate ecosystems back then, what’s it to you? Stiles also didn’t really know what noises cheetahs or giraffes would make, so he got to pick whatever noise he wanted. Derek could howl like nobody’s business, and even growl. Sometimes Stiles thought that the only reason Derek always picked Wolf was so that he could show off his awesome growling skills. Stiles couldn’t really blame him. The kid was talented. Stiles’ giraffe noises generally sounded like an operatic soprano.

Once Derek and Stiles were finished scampering over fallen logs and ruining their clothes, he would lead Stiles by the hand to a spot where a hollowed out tree made a sort of wooden cave over the underbrush. They would settle down into the pine needles, avoiding the mushrooms because mushrooms were gross, and then pretend to sleep. Neither of them ever actually did, because naptime sucked, but Derek would say, “We’re mates, and this is our den, so we gotta sleep together in our den, kay?”

So pretend to sleep they would. It was sort of uncomfortable, because there were always tree roots in the way of Stiles’ head, but sometimes Derek would let Stiles put his head on Derek’s arm, so that was better.

On one of these occasions, Stiles asked, “what are mates, anyway?”

Derek blushed and said, “doesn’t matter.”

So naturally, Stiles poked and prodded until Derek mumbled, “s’like being married.”

“Oh, well that’s not so bad.”

Derek looked hopeful. “It’s not?”

“Course not. We’re gonna get married when we’re older, right?” Stiles had just assumed. There was nobody in the world he liked better than Derek. Okay, so maybe his parents, but that was just because you have to like your parents.

“Hmm,” Derek scratched his chin. It was a habit he’d picked up from his father, who always stroked his beard when he thought. “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

“Obviously.”

“Shut your piehole and pretend we’re going to sleep.”

When Stiles started school, he wasn’t as afraid of it as everyone else, because he had a cool older friend who could show him what to do and play with him at lunch and recess. He was proud to see the looks of jealousy on the other kid’s faces while they awkwardly mingled with each other as he skipped off to the big kid playground to play with Derek. Okay, so maybe they weren’t actually that jealous, since kindergarteners make friends ridiculously easily, but Stiles liked to imagine they were jealous. Even if they weren’t, they should have been, because Derek was easily the best best friend ever, no question.

This isn’t to say that Stiles didn’t have any other friends. Scott was totally his best buddy in class, especially since Scott mostly did whatever Stiles said. He got pretty familiar with Derek’s friends, Erica, Isaac and Boyd, too. It got to where Stiles felt like a regular socialite, because he had friends in two different grades. That was a big deal. Not even Jackson had friends in two different grades, so Stiles was obviously much more mature and cool than Jackson was, because even the big kids liked to play with Stiles. Stiles never shared this opinion with Derek, because he didn’t want to admit that Derek was a big kid, or else Derek would never let it go.

During recess and lunch, they would all play Woodland Creatures. Erica, Boyd and Isaac always picked wolves too, but that was just because they were basically Derek’s pets and wanted to be just like him. Stiles was sticking more to Cheetah lately, and Scott always wanted to be a bunny for some reason.

“Bunny again, Scott?”

“They’re pretty and cuddly!” Scott wheezed. His eyes looked kind of teary, so Stiles didn’t bring it up again, and sent dagger eyes at the others if they looked like they were going to give Scott a hard time again.

Stiles maintained that none of the others were as good at Woodland Creatures as he and Derek were.

“It’s like, you gotta, you know, really be an animal. Animals don’t think ‘cause they have really small brains, and they just do what they want. So that’s how you play,” Stiles tried to explain once.

Derek nodded furiously. “Exactly. Exactly,” “exactly” was Derek’s new favorite word, “see, Stiles gets it, n’ that’s why he’s my favorite.”

Isaac burst into tears.

It wasn’t all their fault. It was also a lot harder to play Woodland Creatures on a playground. Tarmac and plastic were not conducive to a very nature-like environment. Plus, nobody else really understood the concept of a den. Technically, their den was the spot underneath the stairs on the play structure, but Erica would squeal something about cooties that came with cuddling, Scott was too busy hopping around to lie down, and Isaac and Boyd had usually wandered off somewhere to play with the My First Lacrosse Sticks by the field, (Beacon Hills brainwashed them young,) before Den Time came around. Stiles had no problem lying down next to Derek in their den. It was his favorite part about Woodland Creatures, anyway, and part of the reason that he was the best at the game. After Derek and his wolf noises, of course.

Not even Derek’s family, who lived right next to the forest, were as good at Woodland Creatures as Derek and Stiles were. And that was in Stiles’ very objective opinion. Sometimes Derek’s older sister would want to play with them, but when Den Time came, she wanted to be Stiles’ mate instead of Derek, and then Derek cried until one of their parents took her away. Derek and Stiles were mates, everybody knew that. Other than Laura, there was Freddie, who was a baby, and all the grownups, and since everybody knew that you don’t ask grownups to play with you because they play wrong, Derek and Stiles were mostly on their own.

“Are you going to play that game of yours again?” Kiana asked casually as she rubbed sunscreen onto Stiles’ face. Derek never needed sunscreen for some reason, and it was totally unfair.

“Yeah! Woodland Creatures!” Stiles chirped, hoping that if he wriggled enough, Kiana would give up putting sunscreen on him. “I’m probably gonna be a cheetah, because cheetahs run at seventy em-pee-aych! And that’s faster’n a wolf, so there!”

Kiana raised a single strong eyebrow. “Does Derek pretend to be a wolf?”

Derek coughed uncomfortably. “I just pretend.”

“Good boy,” she patted Derek on the head. Stiles had no idea why. They played pretend all the time, it wasn’t exactly praise worthy.

“Sometimes we pretend we’re wolf mates!” Stiles piped up. Maybe he could get a head pat too.

“Stiles!” Derek hissed. He was blushing, and Stiles felt a pang of satisfaction.

“Is that so?” Kiana murmured. She was stroking her chin.

“It’s okay, ‘cause we’re gonna get married when we grow up!”

“Stiles, you’re embarrassing me!”

“It’s alright,” Kiana said thoughtfully, capping the sunscreen. “You might change your mind once girls lose their cooties though.”

Derek frowned, then declared, “never!” and picked Stiles up, (he could do it just barely, wrapping his arms around Stiles’ waist, then leaning backwards until Stiles was suspended a few centimeters above the ground,) then waddled out the backyard into the sun. It was uncomfortable, but it also made Stiles feel kind of nice. Except on the inside, instead of the outside.

Once they were outside, and the door swung shut behind them, Derek set Stiles down, then glared at the door. “She just called us adorable.”

“Gross! Wait, I didn’t hear anything.”

Derek shrugged. “I got better hearing. Because I’m older.”

“Shut your piehole!”

Around the end of kindergarten, Stiles got out of class, grabbed his lunchbox, and then stood with Scott as they waited for their parents. Stiles’ mom was picking him up today, because she didn’t teach her class on Wednesdays and Thursdays. She’d said something about getting new red paint for his train set after school, so Stiles was excited.

Except then Kiana came to pick him up instead, Derek in tow. Her smile was weird. “You’re going to come to our house today. Surprise sleepover!”

Stiles grinned, and Scott wailed, “that’s not fair! It’s a weekday!”

Kiana cleared her throat. Why were her eyes flickering around everywhere? “Well, Stiles’ parents are... busy, so we’re taking him home today, alright Stiles?”

Stiles nodded, and high fived Derek. It was going to be awesome. Surprise weekday sleepovers were way cooler than normal sleepovers.

He was going to race Derek to the car, but Kiana picked him up, which she almost never did, and held him very tight against her shoulder as she walked over to Mrs. Aarons to sign him out. Derek reached up and grabbed Stiles’ dangling hand. It was a stretch for him to do it, but their fingers did manage to tangle together with some effort.
“She smells sad,” Derek whispered loudly.

“Sssh, Derek,” was Kiana’s immediate rebuke.

The first night of sleepover was great. Derek and Stiles were sent immediately up to Derek’s room, so that George, Kiana and Peter could talk in hushed voices in the living room. Stiles wasn’t really concerned. Whenever grownups had to talk quietly, it was about something boring, like money or medicine. As long as Stiles didn’t have to take medicine, he didn’t care.

He and Derek sat on Derek’s racecar bed, and Stiles watched while Derek finished his homework. Derek looked so professional doing it, running a hand through his hair as he thought, occasionally “hmm”ing like some kind of grecian philosopher. Then they played with Derek’s racecars until dinner (macaroni and cheese, which normally they only got on special occasions.)

Stiles felt weird around bedtime. Usually his mom or dad would come in and read him a story around now, but they hadn’t even called. Kiana had tucked them in, but it was just a quick kiss to the forehead and a glass of water on Derek’s bedside table and next to Stiles’ air mattress. The woman was a saint in most ways, but clearly had no idea how to tuck a kid in. Derek was a deprived child.

“You okay, Stiles?” Derek’s voice was loud in the dark room. Everything is louder in the dark, and every shadow larger. “Your heart’s running too fast.”

“I usually get a bedtime story.”

“Can you not sleep because of that?”

“Kinda.”

Derek switched on his bedside lamp. The sudden burst of yellow light made Stiles’ eyes hurt. “Get one of my books from the shelf.”

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

“Do you wanna bedtime story or not? I’m good at reading.”

Derek was terrible at reading, but he let Stiles underneath his covers, and, curled up against Derek’s side, Stiles didn’t really feel like criticizing Derek’s stuttering, mispronounced words. Derek was the best mate ever. Scott wouldn’t ever read a story to him. Mostly because the guy could barely work through the alphabet, but that wasn’t the point.

“A-and she went me-me-merriiiillly on her w-waay, sainging, ‘I tot I could I tot I could I tot I could’ the end,” said Derek.

Stiles gave him a big squeeze around the middle. He didn’t say anything out loud, because most of his thoughts were kind of sissy-like, but Derek was totally the best best friend ever.

Derek kissed his forehead, and returned the hug. “I can sort of hear what they’re saying downstairs,” he confided.

“When m’I gonna get old enough to hear like you do?”

“Probably never.”

“Hey! Wait, what are they saying?”

Derek’s eyes flicker to him in the new darkness of the extinguished lamp. “I didn’t hear everything, but something about a fire burning down a house. Isn’t that scary?”

Stiles gulped. “Yeah.”

“Mates are supposed to comfort each other when they get scared, so can you stay in my bed?”

Was that even a question? “Yeah.”

They spent that night curled up underneath Derek’s Wolverine comforter.

And the night after that.

And the night after that.

Yet, by Saturday, Stiles just wanted to go home. He liked the Hales, but there was only so long that a guy could go wearing Derek’s hand-me-down pajamas and eating George’s substandard pancakes before he wanted to see his parents.

But that afternoon, George and Kiana Hale sat him down and explained that he wasn’t going to see his parents again.

Looking back now, Stiles realizes that they had broken the news in the best way possible. They hadn’t minced words, or said that his parents had gone to a nice farm upstate or some stupid shit like that. They kept their facts simple. There had been a fire at Stiles’ house. Stiles’ parents had died. It wasn’t Stiles’ fault. Stiles was going to live with the Hales now, because his dad had written something down on a piece of paper that said Stiles would go to the Hales if his parents died. Apparently when your parents were both all the family the other had, next of kin is your best friend’s family.

Stiles spent the rest of the day feeling like the floor was missing, lost and unsure of what to do with himself. Usually when he got bored he would go bother his mom until she came up with something for him to do, but the feeling he had just then wasn’t quite boredom. Then Stiles remembered that even if he was feeling bored, there wasn’t anything his mom could do about it, and the feeling redoubled in his chest.

That night, Derek whispered into Stiles’ shoulder that Stiles was pack now. Stiles thought that sometimes Derek took the wolf thing too seriously. Then again, if it meant that they could kiss each other’s foreheads before they went to sleep in the same bed, warm enough together to chase the loneliness away, then Stiles wouldn’t complain.

He missed most of the rest of kindergarten that year. Luckily, it was only a few weeks before the year ended anyway, so he would be starting first grade next year the same time that he would normally.

That was about the only thing that was normal. Stiles cried a lot more now. Sometimes it would be over his parents, and sometimes over smaller stuff, like realizing how many shopping trips they would have to go on to replace all of his clothes. Sometimes it was something even smaller, like dropping his cheerios all over the floor. He wouldn’t have cried over it before, but something about seeing all those little circles, lost and scattered across the cold tile floor of the kitchen made him hurt inside.

The Hales were good about it, though. They hugged him and said sshhh soothingly in his ear and helped him pick up every one of the lost cheerios. The guest room became Stiles’ Room, and all of his new toys and clothes were put in it. There was a bed too, but Stiles didn’t use it.

At first, George or Kiana or Peter would try to put him to sleep in Stiles’ Room, then just sigh exasperatedly when they’d find him tucked up against Derek the next morning. By the time summer started, they’d given up, and would send them both off to bed in Derek’s room.

“We can’t blame him for wanting some contact comfort with his pack,” he heard Kiana rationalize to George.

A few hours after that, they sat him down and gave him what Stiles now calls The Werewolf Talk. George transformed into his Beta form as proof, then quickly switched back again, in case Stiles got scared.

He didn’t. He turned to Derek and raved, “that’s so cool! Your family are superheroes? How come you never said?”

Derek’s eyes grew big, and his hand tightened around Stiles’. “You can never ever ever tell anyone about The Secret.”

Kiana nodded, and set her hand on his knee. “We’re trusting you a lot, Stiles. You need to know about us, but nobody else can.”

“Kay. Like Superman. What are your powers?!”

George smiled indulgently. “It’s always the first question. We get sharp teeth and nails, and our eyes glow, like you saw. We’re stronger and faster than most people, and we can hear better too-”

“So it’s not because you’re older!” Stiles exclaimed, looking accusatorially at Derek, who shrugged unashamedly.

Kiana rolled her eyes. “What have you been telling him.”

“He asks a lot of questions, mom!” Derek protested.

“I’m gon’ be a scientist when I grow up, since scientists have to ask a lot of questions before they make discoveries!”

“He’s gonna be really good at it too!”

Stiles grinned and gave Derek a hug. It had become his default reaction when he wanted to say something sissy-ish.

“Wait!” Stiles sat up straight, “does this mean I can be a werewolf too? Then I could hear as good as Derek?”

Peter snickered. Peter always snickered, no matter the context. “That’s a question for when you’re older, kiddo.”

Ugh. That was Stiles’ least favorite answer.

“Wait! Does Derek do the claw teeth eye thing too?” If Derek had been refraining from superhero shenanigans with him, Stiles would be really mad.

“Not until he’s older,” Peter repeated.

Derek rolled his eyes. It was Derek’s least favorite answer too. “Well obviously I don’t. Obviously I’m not super strong, since I can’t even pick you up right.”

That was quite the thorn in Derek’s side, actually. Somewhere, (probably from pretending not to watch Laura’s Disney Princess movies,) Derek had gotten the idea that the ultimate expression of love was picking someone up in a bridal carry. He’d tried a few times with Stiles, but Stiles had just freaked out when he’d started slipping steadily downwards in the first few seconds. It was a nice gesture and all, but Derek could practice with some teddy bears until he was older and stronger, to keep from smashing Stiles’ pretty head into the hardwood floor.

As the months wore on, Derek did get older and stronger, and Stiles did too. At six, Derek was one of the tallest second graders in the school, but Stiles was catching up with him, and he was only five, so there.

When Stiles was five, Derek kissed him for the first time. Stiles still makes fun of Derek, because their first kiss was prompted by a rerun of Arthur about Valentine’s Day, and took place on the couch in front of the TV.

Francine was handing a valentine to Arthur, whose weird looking aardvark face was contorted in embarrassment. Then she leaned in for a kiss, and the TV screen alternated between a close-up of Francine’s cartoonishly puckered lips, and Arthur’s terrified expression. On the couch, Derek leaned over, put his hand on Stiles’ cheek, and gave him a peck on the lips.

“Thank you,” said Stiles.

“You’re welcome,” said Derek, because his parents raised him to be polite.

Laura made gagging noises from the armchair. Stiles didn’t care, she was just jealous. He gave Derek a hug.

They learned fairly quickly to keep kissing out of school. Their classmates were grossed out by kissing, no matter the gender of the people doing it, so Mr. Griffin pulled Derek and Stiles to the side during one recess and gently explained that they probably shouldn’t do that in front of their school friends, because it made them uncomfortable. Adults didn’t give them any more trouble than that. Beacon Hills may have been a small town, but it was a small Californian town, so if anyone tried to separate the two little boys who said they were in love, then they’d be facing some sort of discrimination lawsuit. Scott just cried and said that it wasn’t fair, because he should get to marry Stiles, since Derek was old and therefore gross.

Around the time Stiles was in fourth grade, Derek and Stiles’ relationship was less of a strange, romantic oddity, and more of something that the girls sighed over as they pursued their own, elementary school caliber boyfriends.

“None of the boys are as nice to me as Derek is to you,” Allison Argent complained to Stiles one day, as they finished up their advanced math packets.

Scott stared at her hopelessly across the classroom, but Stiles wasn’t supposed to say anything, because bros don’t tell girls about their bros’ crushes on them. Or something. There had been so many repetitions of “bro” that Stiles wasn’t really sure what Scott had been trying to say.

Stiles shrugged. “I’m just lucky, I guess. Plus, Derek’s older, so he doesn’t feel like doing stupid stuff, like pulling on your pigtails, to get attention.”

Across the room, Scott made frantic motions across his throat. Stiles rolled his eyes. If Scott thought that the pigtail pulling plan was making Allison like him, then he was way off.

Allison nodded sagely. “Mature men. That’s what I need.”

“You can’t have Derek,” Stiles cut in quickly.

“Psh, obviously. What about his friend with the very curly hair?”

Scott sniffled, and then slammed his head into his desk. Way to go Scott. That forehead bruise will really get her attention.

Around the time that Allison and Isaac broke off their week long relationship, George and Kiana started trying in earnest to get Derek and Stiles into separate beds. They were too old, apparently, to keep sharing.

If is was what growing up means, Stiles thought angrily in the chill of the bed in Stiles’ Room, then I don’t want it. That got Stiles thinking about Neverland, where little boys that didn’t grow up went. Stiles wasn’t stupid, he was nine, he knew that Neverland wasn’t real, but running away... There was a plan that could have real world implementations. Especially since there was a real live set of woods in Derek’s backyard, perfect for hiding in, and living off of the land. Stiles could totally collect berries and eat squirrels. Except he’d have to kill the squirrels. Okay, so he’d be a vegetarian. Whatever. He and Derek could make it, of that, Stiles was sure. Derek was ten, anyway, and almost middle-schoolers should be totally qualified to run away.

He crept down the hall, glad that the grownup’s super hearing wasn’t as strong when they were asleep, because the Hale House was old and creaky and very obvious when he was trying to sneak around surreptitiously. Stiles knocked their secret code softly into Derek’s door. Tap. Taptap. Tap.

“Come in, Stiles.” The words were barely audible from behind the door, but Stiles walked inside anyway.

Derek wordlessly held up the edge of his blanket, and Stiles crawled underneath it.

“My parents are going to get mad at us when they find us in the morning,” Derek cautioned.

“I know,” Stiles said into the fabric covering Derek’s chest. “I have a really cool super awesome plan.”

Derek agreed to it, and even though they were sleepy and the bed was way warmer than outside, they packed up both of their backpacks with extra underwear and Transformers, bundled up in their jackets and good shoes, and slung their special, thermally insulated sleeping bags over their shoulders. On the way out, Stiles filled up a grocery bag with Doritos and orange juice cartons. For survival. Derek snagged An Herbologist’s Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the Sierra Nevadas, because he thought ahead.

They snuck out the back door, being extra careful to not let it slam shut. Derek took a second to stare at the house, because “this’ll be the last time we see it.”

The forest wasn’t as scary at night as Stiles thought it would be. It helped that his heart was running at a million miles an hour, and he was brimming with excitement at the knowledge that he and Derek were going on an adventure. He did keep obsessively looking over at Derek, making sure he didn’t lose track of the black haired boy, but Stiles did that most of the time, so it wasn’t a big deal. He did get the feeling that if Derek went missing, the forest would suddenly get a lot scarier.

It was never a question where they would go. The hollowed out tree and stood the test of time well, with only an extra foot or so of moss to show the progression of time. It hadn’t rained in a while, which was usually the story in that area of California, so the pine needles were dry and springy and perfect for setting their sleeping bags on. Stiles arranged their backpacks carefully underneath the overhang of the tree. Now that they had run away, these were their only supplies. It made Stiles feel like a rugged explorer. Like Lewis and Clark and Saca... Sacajee... whatever. Except Stiles didn’t have a baby on his back. He did have Optimus Prime though, which was way cooler.

They tried to tell scary stories with the flashlight, but when it came right down to it, neither of them were very good at scary stories, since most of Derek’s involved werewolves, which Stiles had all heard before, and Stiles didn’t remember the plot to any. Plus, they were both tired, after all that intense forest hiking in the middle of the night.

“I think George and Kiana will miss us,” Stiles mused. He had to slide down really deep into his sleeping bag so he didn’t get dirt into his hair.

“Well, it’s their fault because I missed you ‘cause they made you go to your room. Besides,” Derek sighed, “they’ll probably find us tomorrow.”

“What?”

“They have super smell, remember? They’ll track us once they start wondering where we went.”

“Darnit,” Stiles huffed. “Why didn’t you say anything earlier? This is like, massive betrayal. Like Benedict Arnold, or Scar levels.”

“Stiles,” Derek’s hand clumsily petted his head in the dark, and Stiles resented it, “I just figured, I’d never run away before, and you wanted to, so I went with you.”

That was so Derek. Doing stuff just because Stiles wanted to. It made Stiles feel sort of bad. “You’re really nice to me.”

“Well, you’re my mate. Mates gotta be nice to each other.”

“I’m not as nice to you, I don’t think,” Stiles muttered ashamedly.

It was sort of a sissy thing to say, but Derek just leaned over and gave him a kiss. It made Stiles’ chest feel tingly. When he had first started feeling it a few months ago, he’d been worried there was something wrong with his heart, but Kiana had reassured him that it was part of growing up. Now that Stiles thought about it, it might have had something to do with them separating him and Derek.

“Derek?”

“Mm?”

“I’m gonna be nicer to you, kay?”

“Kay. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”

It was Peter that found them the next morning. He took in their little campsite, then sighed and sat down. “So, you two crazy kids run away?”

“We’re not crazy!” Stiles protested. “We were being torn apart by the pressures of society and so we had to run away to be safe among the trees!”

Peter laughed for a long time. Stiles got the feeling he wasn’t taking them seriously. “Okay kids. I gotcha. And would “the pressures of society be mommy and daddy dearest making you sleep in separate beds?”

They nod in unison.

“Mommy and Daddy get to sleep in the same bed,” Derek pointed out. “We should too.”

Peter rubbed a hand over his eyes. “Aren’t you two kids something. Well,” he slapped his hands against his knees, “I’ve got to take you back now. Your parents are freaking out.”

When they got taken back to the house, and George and Kiana’s Very Serious Faces (patent pending,) they got the Sex Talk, subtitle: When Two Boys Love Each Other Very Much. Stiles thinks that that talk was much worse than the Werewolf Talk was. Even years later he cringes at how George stroked his beard continually and refused to make eye contact with anyone, and how Kiana had used “love” as a euphemism for way too many things. Peter had just sat back and watched, amused, as his brother and his sister-in-law haltingly lurched through explaining sex to a nine and ten year old. Stiles remembers being weirded out by the whole concept, and also weirded out by how Derek kept nodding like he understood what they were saying. Derek’s parents were giving them the Sex Talk, subtitle: When Two Boys Love Each Other Very Much so that they understood the significance of sleeping in the same bed, and would be responsible about it, but Derek seemed to be taking their explanations as suggestions.

Not that Derek got very far. He tried kissing Stiles’ neck instead of his lips one night, and Stiles just pushed him away, giggling because it tickled too much.

But puberty, with all of its angst and voice cracking, waits for no man. When Derek turned twelve, and almost immediately started sprouting peach fuzz, Stiles was jealous, but then Derek couldn’t get out a sentence without switching between octaves, so at least Stiles had that on him. Until the acne started up. That was fun, in the sense that it was no fun at all. Body odor was also fun in the same not fun at all way. Derek had to try at least eight different types of deodorant before he found one that his nose didn’t object to, and then he insisted that Stiles wear the same type because, “Dammit, Stiles, how am I supposed to make out with somebody that reeks of Old Spice from a block away?”

So Stiles switched deodorants. That was the only break Derek got though, because when he asked Boyd, Isaac, and Scott to switch, they just looked at him like he was crazy.

“Who doesn’t wear Old Spice?” Scott asked incredulously.

“You aren’t going to tell me what deodorant to wear,” Boyd stated simply.

Isaac shrugged. “I would, but I don’t think my dad will buy me any new stuff until I finish up the current stick.”

Derek was too scared of Erica to make her do anything.

Several months later, Stiles was in his room, finishing up a book report on Of Mice and Men, when Derek walked in and started sniffing at his neck.

“Hiii Derek,” Stiles drawled, spinning around in his desk chair to face him. “Good afternoon to you too.”

Derek hummed in agreement and started nibbling at Stiles’ neck.

“Well alright,” Stiles put his arms around Derek’s shoulders and leaned back. “If you insist - ow! Biting? Not fun when it’s not a hickey.”

“S-sorry,” Derek slurred against Stiles’ neck. “I just-have you always smelled so good?”

“Oh, you mean my natural man-musk? I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about man, oh, hi.”

Derek had climbed into Stiles’ lap. That was new. And also not good for the chair at all, which groaned under their combined weight. Moving up to Stiles’ mouth, Derek licked into it with enthusiasm. Neither of them were very good at french kissing yet, so Stiles’ chin got covered with spit, and his whole face got pushed backwards under the force of Derek’s ministrations, until his neck was at an awkward angle, bent over the back of the chair.

Then the chair fell over in a clatter of cracking plastic. Derek got a hand between Stiles’ skull and the floor, sparing him a concussion, but then just kept biting and sucking and nipping and-

“Derek! Derek! Calm down, we’ve got time! I don’t know what you’re on, man, but oh holy crap are you humping my leg? I’m sorry for the dog jokes but this is just weird-” Stiles thought he might have an idea, based on The Sex Talk Part Two, subtitle: When A Growing Werewolf Loves a Boy Very Much, “wait, when’s the full moon?”

Derek just groaned and started working a hand up Stiles’ shirt. It all felt... really nice, but was also super embarrassing, because Stiles got a feeling that it was all because Derek was moonsick.

“Laauuurraaa!” Stiles called. She was the only other person in the house, and even if she wasn’t, he sure as hell wasn’t going to call one of Derek’s parents into the room. He was nothing if not considerate.

“What do you want,” she groaned as she swung around the doorframe with plugs in her nostrils and smelly wet paint on her nails, “I’m halfway through painting my-oh come on, I don’t want to see that.”

“I don’t want you to see it either!” Stiles pushed halfheartedly at Derek’s shoulder. Why did the guy have to start bulking up and get all difficult to manhandle? Not that Stiles minded the view, no sir, but in situations like this, he wished that Derek had stayed around his size. “I think he’s becoming a man. Wolf-man, that is.”

“Oh,” Laura cooed as she picked her brother up off of Stiles and swung him, protesting, over her shoulder, “look at my little Der-Bear all grown up and needing to be locked in the basement.” Her nose wrinkled. “God, Stiles, I resent you so much right now. I do not need to be smelling my brother this turned on.”

“It’s not easy being this attractive!” Stiles retorted. “Now go lock him up in your creepy torture basement.”

“I resent that too!” she hollered from the stairs.

The full moon came and went, thankfully over the weekend, and Derek staggered into his room like a guy coming home after a bender the next morning. Hair askew, circles under his eyes, shirt on inside out. It was almost adorable, if Stiles didn’t know that it was because Derek had been thrashing around as a wolf monster in the basement.

“So, how was it?” Stiles asked when Derek collapsed onto the bedspread, face first, half of his body sagging off the bed onto the ground.

“Exhausting,” Derek groaned into the bedspread.

Stiles started pulling at Derek to get him fully onto the bed. It hurt his back, and made his sleep-sore arms ache, but Stiles knew how Derek got when he didn’t sleep enough, and it wasn’t pretty. It was very hard for Derek not to be pretty, because he had clearly won the genetic lottery in a big way, but on no sleep days? Derek was not the greatest person to be around. So he levered Derek’s legs onto the bed, stripped him down to his boxers and undershirt, and flopped a blanket over him.

It was about eight in the morning, but Stiles wouldn’t mind some more sleep. He had trouble falling asleep when Derek wasn’t in the bed. (Note to self: don’t call Derek “security blanket” ever again, he doesn’t like it.)

Derek was asleep by the time Stiles shoved a pillow under his head, and didn’t stir even when Stiles jostled around so he could tuck his head under Derek’s chin.

When Derek woke up, they went on a walk through the woods. It had been a long, busy week and they’d barely had any time to themselves, barring Derek’s moonsick gropefest.

“So how was it?” Stiles asked as he balanced on a maze of tree roots. “Was it everything you ever dreamed it would be? A smorgasbord of wolfy goodness?”

Derek idly stripped a few pine needles from a branch. “It was tiring, obviously. And, I dunno, communal? Does that make sense?”

Stiles watched Derek climb easily up a tree, pulling himself up by sheer virtue of his arm muscles. When had he gotten so much confidence in his body? When did he start moving around with such ease, like he’d tapped into some aquifer of wisdom that Stiles had yet to find? Stiles was both impressed with and jealous of Derek, in ways that he hadn’t quite worked out yet. Instead, Stiles asked, “when did you become a monkey?”

Derek grinned, his teeth flashing white among the branches, dyed deep brown from the rains. Stiles didn’t have to be a werewolf to smell the damp pine and petrichor filling the air, to see the water droplets hanging in Derek’s hair from where the trees had rained onto him. When had Derek gotten so handsome? He looked like some sort of forest god, which sounded ridiculous, but Derek had a kind of regal way among nature that Stiles- Stiles was just going to shut down that train of thought before he started fangirling and plastering posters of Derek all over his room.

“Since I grew into my werewolf superpowers.”

Oh yeah, Stiles had asked a question.

Looping his knees around a tree branch, Derek swung upside down, almost face to face with Stiles, who gasped delightedly. “Are you offering me a Spiderman kiss?”

Derek chuckled. “It honestly hadn’t occurred to me, but that’s a good idea.”

His hair was soft and damp under Stiles’ hands as he pulled Derek’s head in. As it turned out, Spiderman kisses felt sort of weird. Derek’s nose dug into Stiles’ chin, and Stiles’ tongue felt disoriented in the upside-down cavern of Derek’s mouth.

“Just come down here,” he mumbled against Derek’s lips.

So Derek did, displacing a large amount of leaves as he jumped to the ground.

Stiles never really got tired of kissing Derek. He should have, they’d been doing it for six years or more now, but it helped that as they got older, the kisses took on a different bent. Six year old Derek never pinned Stiles against a tree and bit at his lower lip. Stiles wouldn’t have even liked it then. He liked it now, though. Very much.

“What, no -mmph- leg humping?” Stiles giggled between kisses. He never could keep quiet.

Derek groaned and pulled back. “Don’t hold that against me. Moonsick, remember?”

“I’m not -mmph- holding it against you,” Stiles panted as he followed the line of Derek’s jaw with his mouth. “I wouldn’t have minded if you were -ngh- in your right mind as you did it.”

“Oh,” Derek said succinctly, and rolled his hips up against Stiles’.

Oh indeed. Derek always had the best ideas.

Except when they had to wait for everyone else to leave the house one way or the other before they could go inside, stinking like sex, to wash up.

Occasionally, the eighth graders would go on a field trip that lasted all day, and it sucked, because it meant that Isaac, Boyd, Erica, and most importantly, Derek, were gone from school that day, leaving Scott and Stiles to loll around at their lunch table, minus four-sixths of their usual gang.

“So...” Stiles mused, casting around for a conversation topic. “How’s the family?”

Scott pulled his gaze away from where Allison, Lydia Martin, and all of the other girls that had reaped puberty’s blessings early were sitting. He fixed Stiles with an odd, appraising gaze. “My mom’s alright,” he said slowly, “she got a promotion at work, and my dad walked out on us. Remember that, Stiles?”

“Oh crap,” Stiles moaned, “I’m sorry man, it totally flew my mind.”

“I was just talking to you about it last week.”

“Oh, uh, oh. Sorry. Derek was playing footsie with me under the table and I got distracted, you know how it is.”

Scott tilted his head to the side, grimacing. “See, I don’t. Clearly you know how it is, but I don’t know what it’s like to forget that your friend’s dad abandoned his family a few months ago, because you can’t rip your focus away from your creepy, over-involved relationship with your housemate slash boyfriend slash life partner for more than a few seconds.”

Well crap. Clearly Scott had been stewing over this for a while. This would be a good time to stare at the lunch table and trace the lumpy, greasy surface with a finger or two.

“I’m really sorry man. He’s you know, a big part of my life, and sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that other stuff’s important.”

Scott shook his head, forehead furrowed. “See, I don’t understand that. Like, can he really consume that much of your focus? I mean, my mom’s a big part of my life, but it’s not like I don’t know that you got your first one hundred percent on a book report last month, or that the anniversary of the fire is coming up, and you’ve been having trouble sleeping, because I’ve been distracted by talking to my mom.”

“Yeah, well, your mom doesn’t touch your dick,” Stiles mumbled under his breath.

Scott’s eyes bugged out. “TMI, dude! Also, that’s creepy.”

“What? It’s not like I don’t like it.”

“Again, TMI. And you’re barely thirteen, don’t you think it’s a bit of an early start?”

“I’ve known him since we were four, Scott.” Stiles was starting to get angry. Scott didn’t know what he was talking about. Sure, they might look a little strange from the outside, but he was happy and so was Derek, so what did it matter?

Scott grumbled something about why did he even bother and took a bite of his sandwich.

Stiles stormed off to go eat lunch with someone else. Then he realized that there was no one else to eat lunch with, and found himself fuming behind the school, leaning against the side of one of the sixth grade classrooms as he finished off his apple. Worst of all, he felt guilty.

When he got home that day, he threw himself at Derek and practically dragged him out into the woods. Werewolf superhearing was great, except when you lived in a house of them. Consequently, Derek and Stiles had been spending a lot more time out of the house.

Once he’d grown into his werewolf self, Derek had taken to biting Stiles during their “Special Sexy Alone Times.” He was careful to keep it underneath where Stiles’ clothes lay, since they were still trying, and mostly succeeding, to keep the specifics of their Special Sexy Alone Times from the prying eyes of parents, uncles, and siblings. Freddie was getting old enough to ask questions, and there was an awkward moment when he’d asked why his brothers were holding hands were they’d had to explain that Stiles was not in fact related to the Hales. That didn’t need to get more complicated with him asking why Stiles had bite marks.

Derek did have his reasons for the supremely inconvenient biting. Sometimes Derek and Stiles would just lie in bed and exchange secrets, (it was easier to say things with closed eyes in the night,) and Derek once whispered into Stiles’ hair was that the reason he bit at Stiles was because he wanted Stiles to be like him. Derek couldn’t pass on the lycanthropy, but he wished he could, and the desire tended to rear its head when Derek was irrationally horny. His exact words about the werewolf thing were something like “I want to run with you and the moon,” which was so corny that Stiles had to hide his blushing face under his pillow, afraid that Derek would see it, even with no lights in the room.

Stiles once confessed that he didn’t really remember what it was like living with his parents. It had once taken him five straight minutes to remember his mom’s first name. At that, Derek had pulled Stiles on top of him and stroked his back, whispering soothing nonsense into his ear until Stiles fell asleep. Stiles sometimes thought he was being classically conditioned, because he started to feel expectant whenever he brought up his family, because when he did, Derek would grow even cuddlier than he was normally. Maybe they couldn’t have Special Sexy Alone Times in the house, but they could cuddle like nobody’s business. The rest of the family still thought it was cute.

When Stiles was fourteen, he and Derek bicycled to the spot of Stiles’ old home. It had been burned almost to the ground, and then subsequently bulldozed, but Beacon Hills wasn’t developing so rapidly that it needed to rebuild anything on the spot, so there was a square of weedy grass, and a chain link fence attached to a faded realtor’s on the spot of Stiles’ childhood home. Stiles couldn’t feel any connection with it. It was too distant from his vague memories of a mantle with photos on it, a window seat that always had a half read book lying on one of the pillows, a kitchen with a floor that was always slightly sticky. But Derek came up from behind him and wrapped his arms around Stiles’ stomach and laid a head on his shoulder, and it occurred to Stiles that he had something of a tragic backstory. He’d never thought of himself that way.

It was a sort of morbid curiosity that led him to ask George about how the house burnt down all those years ago. Stiles knew it wouldn’t make him feel better, but he wanted to know anyway.

George sighed and set his book down, tugging at the graying hairs underneath his jaw. “I don’t think the firefighters ever came to a definite conclusion. It was either arson or a few tipped candles in the wrong place.”

George could probably smell Stiles’ shock. “Arson?”

“Now, that was just a possibility, Stiles, they never got any concrete proof. It just seemed like a possible cause because your father had just busted a pretty powerful family of gun dealers, and it seemed like they could have had a vendetta. I suppose you don’t remember, you were so young, but we kept a very close eye on you the first year or so after the fire, just in case the theoretical arsonist decided to come back. Not that there’s anything to worry about now,” George reassured Stiles quickly. “No matter what happened, that was years ago, you’re safe, and we’re very happy to have you here.”

Man, George was just the sweetest guy. Stiles realized for a moment just how close he’d been to being some poor orphan, smelling like ash, shuffled from family to family until he hit eighteen and was left to his own depressing devices. Stiles gave George a hug, thanked him, and went back upstairs to watch True Blood with Derek. (It made them laugh, and neither of them really minded the view.)

So, Laura’s fancy college had a ski week, and Stiles and Derek’s high school didn’t. And because the Hales were also fancy and enjoyed skiing and trusted Stiles and Derek alone in the house for some reason, George, Peter, Kiana, Freddie and Laura all trekked off to Lake Tahoe, snow gear in tow. Leaving Derek and Stiles all alone with each and every one of the house’s horizontal surfaces, which they quickly christened. They did it with enthusiasm and vigor, if not very much stamina.

At the end of one such christening, Stiles smoothed a shaking hand over the hardwood surface below him and breathed out, “man, I’m never going to be able to keep a straight face when we eat at this thing anymore.”

Derek’s hands continued their slow movement across his body, unperturbed. Afterwards, his hands tended to retrace the route he’d taken, as if memorizing his actions for future reference. “Sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry.

“You don’t sound sorry,” Stiles commented. “You don’t,” he rocked backwards against Derek, “feel sorry.”

“I’m really not,” Derek confided into Stiles’ ear before biting gently into the curve of it. “Dining room table sex gets a top spot on my list.”

Rolling over so he could see Derek’s face, Stiles smiled impishly. “Do you have a list? A sex list? Because I sure do. Dining room table sex gets on it, right after bathtub sex and whatever the hell we did on the stairs.”

Derek looked reassured. “You liked that? Good, I thought you might be sort of uncomfortable with the stairs digging into your back.”

“I was otherwise occupied.” Stiles wound himself closer to Derek so it was perfectly clear what he meant. Really, it was just an excuse to feel Derek’s burgeoning six pack against his own, less defined stomach.

Hand cupping a rather intimate part of Stiles, Derek raised a single, thick, suggestive eyebrow. “Wanna be occupied again?”

Now, Stiles understood that he had something of a Derek addiction. It had started young, and was therefore hard to shake. But now it wasn’t just an addiction to Derek’s smile and terrible jokes, it was a bone crushing need to wind himself closer and closer to Derek’s body, to feel it warm and hard (in more ways than one,) against his own. It was as much lust as it was comfort. Pressed against Derek, he felt like he was in an alternate reality where there were no tests, or arguments over curfew, or fires. It was just warmth and security and a feeling like if Stiles fell, Derek would catch him. Also, orgasms were really nice when Derek was involved. Not that Stiles had much comparison, because most of his orgasms had involved Derek.

The point is, Stiles really, really enjoyed sex with Derek. However, for all that Stiles enjoyed it, there was only so much Little Stiles could take before it gave up. He could scream at it internally all he wanted, but the poor thing had it’s limits.

Stiles groaned, thudding his forehead against Derek’s chest. “Damn werewolf stamina. Can we just hold off for a few minutes?”

“Sure.”

Simple as that. Even though Derek was visibly ready for round too many to count. Had Stiles told Derek today that he’s awesome?

“Yes, multiple times,” came the dry reply. Pesky brain/mouth filter. Could Stiles get a repairman for that? “but I don’t know how much those statements had to do with me and how much they related to my-”

“Well you’re awesome. I’ll say it again.” Stiles planted a big, sloppy kiss on Derek’s stubbly cheek until he grimaced. “Awesome. Awesome. Gorgeous. Scintillating.”

“Scintillating?”

“Sparkly. It was a vocab word last week.”

“I’m sparkly?”

“Shut up. Your soul is sparkly.”

Derek laughed and laughed, shaking Stiles and the dining room table as he did so. It squeaked ominously. “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

“Oh do you now?” Derek asked teasingly. They’d said it so many times that Derek would sometimes just roll his eyes, because saying the words was so redundant.

“Nah, I just hang around for the eye candy,” Stiles retorted sarcastically.

Derek bit at Stiles’ shoulder, looking thoughtful. You wouldn’t think he’d be able to pull it off, but pull it off he did. Don’t mind me, just mulling over one of life’s many great question’s while I suck a love bite into Stiles’ shoulder. As you do.

“You ever wonder why we’re together?” Derek asked.

“What, like in general? Right now in particular? Why we were both born in the same two year period in the same town?”

“Just, in general I guess. Why we got together in, oh, first grade and never left. You ever think it’s just because it’s convenient?”

Stiles pulled back to look Derek in the eye. He did not like where this conversation was going. “You’re just with me because I’m convenient? Someone to keep your bed warm? A nearby body for sex?”

Derek winced. “No, no, no. No. I don’t know, just- a lot of people have childhood sweethearts, and sometimes I wonder if the reason we’re together still is just because we get along and never bothered to break up.”

To put it gently, Stiles was feeling conflicted. Derek was supposed to be his forever guy, and now he was saying things that were... not encouraging. And Stiles wanted to be angry at him so much, to rage at Derek for dismissing the past twelveish years so easily, but Stiles hadn’t been truly mad at Derek in years. The last he could remember, it had been because Derek was acting overly possessive because Stiles had befriended Lydia Martin.

He shook his head slowly. “Is that... do you not... oh my god. I’m just, I’m just going to... go take a shower.”

Stiles’ heart was pounding as he ascended the stairs, and he knew Derek could hear it, but he was still sitting on the dining room table, naked as the day he was born, watching Stiles go with a shocked expression on his face. Well, Derek, clearly you don’t understand that words can hurt. It’s like he never listened in kindergarten.

The shower sputtered for a moment before the water pressure leveled out, and Stiles twiddled the knobs. Years ago, when they redid the bathroom, the plumber messed up the knobs, so turning the dial towards red made cold water and vice versa. Stiles would normally give a little internal chuckle every time he started the shower, but now the little burst of humor fell flat.

He heard heavy footsteps outside the door, and felt a brief moment of panic that the rest of the family had gotten home early, when Derek burst into the bathroom.

“No,” he stuttered out, “I’m not just going to let you stay mad at me.”

“Fucking... Derek,” Stiles groaned, facing towards the shower again, like he could ignore the feel of Derek right behind him. “It’s... Nobody else understands me like you do, Derek. And it’s not just because we ended up growing up together. Even from the very beginning, you wouldn’t put up with my shit and I wouldn’t put up with yours, and I do these little things every day to make you happy, and you do for me, don’t think I don’t notice when you turn down the thermostat because you know I don’t like sleeping too hot.” Stiles chuckled wetly. “And your feet get so cold, but you do it anyway. It’s like, is there even a word, it’s like-”

“Trust?”

“That’s so simple.”

“It means a lot, I think.” Derek suddenly looked a lot more naked than he already was. “Like you know what’s best for me, and I can always rely on you, no matter what, because nobody knows me like you.”

Derek didn’t always talk about feelings, but when he did, he struck right at the heart of the problem with the precision of a top notch assassin.

“Crap.” Stiles spat. “Crap. am I crying?”

One of Derek’s broad fingers wiped off his cheek. “Little bit.”

“Dammit,” he groaned, leaning into Derek as he started to shake. “I was being so independent and assertive and stuff, storming off in a fury and everything, and now I’m crying like a little girl.”

Derek’s arms squeezed tight around him. It was a bit like being hugged by a boa constrictor. “Wanna see if make-up sex can make the list?”

“Yes,” Stiles allowed, “but it’s sort of weird that that comment was preceded by me comparing myself to a little girl-whoa!”

That was his Derek, always with the unnecessary picking up.

“Well this isn’t emasculating at all,” Stiles grumbled good-naturedly. “Why wouldn’t I want to feel like a damsel that just fainted?”

Derek just adjusted his grip under Stiles’ knees and shoulders and stepped over the lip into the shower. “Best day of my life when I finally got the muscles to do this.”

Eyeing the mountainous ranges of Derek’s biceps and pectorals, Stiles couldn’t help but agree (internally, he’d never say it out loud, since Derek’s head was big enough, thank you,) that the day Derek got his muscles was a good day indeed.

The Ski Week of Many Sexytimes was the happiest Stiles had felt in a long time, even though the whole house smelt suspiciously like Febreze for weeks after the rest of the pack came home. In retrospect, Stiles realizes, it was also the happiest he would be for a very long time.

“We have a long-term sub for Calculus,” Allison informed Stiles and Derek when they came to sit down at their table. “You guys have it next period, right?”

Stiles nodded. He’d never really liked being a year ahead in math until it meant that he got to share a class with Derek. It almost (almost) made the ridiculous amount of homework they got in that class worth it.

Allison smiled mischievously. “Aaaand it’s my Aunt Kate. Calculus just got fun.”

“What’s the evil smile for, baby?” Scott asked curiously as he sat down with a tray of cafeteria... something.

Allison leaned into Scott’s shoulder. “My Aunt’ll be subbing my math class. I doubt I’ll have a hard time in it for the rest of the semester.”

Scott kissed her cheek. “You’re great at math, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble either way.”

“So...” Stiles flicked his eyes meaningfully between the two of them. “When did this happen, huh? You finally muster up the courage, Scott?”

They cocked their heads in unison. “Well, about three weeks ago,” Allison pointed out.

Well crap. Why did this keep happening? Rhetorical question really, Stiles knew exactly why he was behind, even without Scott’s dagger eyes. That was the trouble with going to make out with Derek behind the bleachers at lunch more often than not. Not only was it stereotypical, it meant that they were never up to date on lunchtime gossip.

“Well congratulations,” Derek said smoothly. “We’re happy for you guys.”

Erica snickered. “Did you know about me and Boyd then?”

“Uhhh,” play it cool Stilinski, “you mean the friends with benefits thing?”

“Stiles!” Erica admonished. “When was the last time we were just friends with benefits, Boyd? Before winter break?”

Boyd nodded, calmly taking a sip of his water, while putting his other arm around Erica’s shoulder. That really should have been a clue, Boyd and Erica (Berica?) had been doing that a lot lately. Stiles had just thought it was because Erica was perpetually cold and Boyd was warm and helpful, but apparently there had been feelings involved. Go figure.

“We’re sorry,” Derek grimaced. “I guess you two are pretty private.”

Erica looked like she was about to say something snarky, but thankfully Isaac jumped in. “Do you at least know I’m dating Greenburg?”

Poker face, poker face. “Of course we did, Isaac, and we’re very happy for you two.” Ugh, Isaac had terrible taste, but bros don’t knock other bros’ boyfriends.

Isaac’s ace twisted up in disgust. “That was a joke, ew no.”

“Good one, man.” Scott held up a fist for Isaac to bump.

“You are all terrible people!” Stiles announced just as the bell rang. “Now adieu, my so called friends, adieu. Parting is such sweet sorrow, but we must off to Calculus.” He pointedly grabbed Derek’s hand and marched out of the cafeteria.

That was it, he was going to have to cut down on the semi-public PDA with Derek at school. Exchanges like that had gotten too common. Scott didn’t even get shocked and disgusted anymore, he just looked disappointed. Everyone else treated it like a running joke. As a symbol of dedication to his new plan, Stiles didn’t even let Derek give him a piggyback ride up the hill to the math buildings.

The class was getting a head start on their homework when Ms. Argent, henceforth known as the She-Witch, strutted over to Derek’s desk with her godawful stripper heels and super long earrings that brushed her shoulders. How did she even keep them out of her hair? You couldn’t trust a woman with earwear that impractical. Mr. Argent leaned over Derek’s desk, a few dozen degrees more than she needed to, brushing her cleavage against his shoulder as she whispered (for no good reason, the class was plenty loud,) into Derek’s ear.

“Need any help? I know that finding the area is hard for a lot of people.”

Derek shook his head mutely. Stiles could see from where he sat behind him that Derek’s neck was turning red.

“Hmm,” Ms. Argent sighed, “that’s a pity, I’m sure we could have had a very nice conversation about... math. You let me know right away if you need anything.” With that, she sauntered away. Stiles was half expecting her to make some ridiculous one liner like “you could find my area any day,” but apparently Ms. Argent considered that below her, even if unnecessarily short skirts weren’t.

Stiles got out of his seat and leaned over Derek’s desk, brushing his very flat chest across his shoulder as he whispered in his ear, “I do not like her. No siree.”

Making a noise of assent, Derek ran a knuckle across the hand Stiles had resting on the desk. “I feel the overwhelming need to bathe, now.”

After glancing towards Ms. Argent, who was sitting at Mr. Jacobs’ desk, pretending not to look their way, Stiles nuzzled against the side of Derek’s face and murmured. “I will help you.”

So Stiles was a bit territorial. Who could blame him?

After that first day, Stiles practically sat in Derek’s lap as they went through worksheets. The cutbacks on PDA didn’t count in Calculus, since in that case, the PDA was a necessity. The people sitting next to them had gone through elementary and middle school with Stiles and Derek, so they were used to it, but Ms. Argent wasn’t, and kept shooting irritated glares their way. Stiles wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Obviously, Derek was hot, and he’d be all over that even if he hadn’t already been for the past decade or more, but Ms. Argent was almost thirty, and a teacher, albeit a temporary one, to boot. What was her angle? Did she think flirting would be a good way to get students to like her? Because anybody could have told her that flirty teachers are just awkward and uncomfortable making, like, on a posed family photo level of awkward.

It wasn’t just Ms. Argent’s skanky ways and inability to teach Calculus that got on Stiles’ nerves. They kept running into her when they went downtown, which wouldn’t have been too unusual, except that it happened no less than five times. She seemed to always be listening to their conversations, even in the hallways. Derek couldn’t smell any werewolf on her, she was just unnaturally attentive.

There was one tense moment when he ran into Derek on his way to the bathroom, and the hallways were empty because it was the middle of fourth period, so Derek felt comfortable observing from a hundred or so feet away, “you smell happy.”

And Stiles was, until he saw Ms. Argent pinning up some sort of poster around the corner, and smiling like she had just won the lottery.

It became a list that rotated through Stiles’ head every time he saw her:

Ms. Argent keeps texting at her desk, glancing up at Derek, then returning to texting, like she’s taking notes.

Ms. Argent smokes, and when she does, she strikes a match, (who even using matches instead of lighters these days,) and watches the hotbright flames run down almost to her fingers before she lights her cigarette and drops the match to the ground. It fizzles out on the concrete, but she never stamps on it for good measure, and Stiles was conscientious of fire safety for obvious reasons, so anyone that carefree about fire safety was on his blacklist.

Ms. Argent, when startled, always drops a hand into her pocket, like she has some sort of weapon in there. Stiles was willing to bet that it wasn’t just pepper spray.

But then everything went to shit, and Stiles was distracted from his quiet enmity with Ms. Argent in a big way.

He was staying home sick on either the worst or second worst day of his life. Stiles quite enjoyed staying home sick, especially since he was only suffering from a minor fever, so he didn’t even feel that bad. Just bad enough to warrant staying home sick and being pampered by the Hales. It was Memorial Day, so George, Peter, and Kiana didn’t have work, and Freddie didn’t have school. BHHS, since it was chartered by the devil, was still in session, to the annoyance of Stiles’ classmates. The point was, Stiles had a lot of company for his convalescence, even if he didn’t get Derek, who had a Government test that day. Stiles almost didn’t mind, since Derek, who had never been sick a day in his life, always got clingy and fretted overmuch when Stiles got a cold. Like, to the point of wiping Stiles’ nose. Unnecessary to the nth degree.

Stiles was feeling well enough that after lunch, he went on a walk through the woods outside. Walking around helped clear his nose, and the warm, late spring air soothed his headache. He ran his hands over the trees he passed, quick pats to say hello. Stiles saw the old hollow tree, and sat underneath it for old time’s sake. Their initials had been inexpertly scratched onto it somewhere, and Stiles leaned back to try and find them on the ceiling of the old wooden cave.

And then he fell asleep, because that was what happened when Stiles got put on cold medicine.

Stiles could have gone his whole life without knowing that smelling smoke will wake him up in a heartbeat. He stuck his head out of the tree, then started stumbling his way back to the house. If there was a fire somewhere, he would prefer not to be in the very flammable forest. He’d seen enough forest fires on the news to know that California forest fires could burn long and hot and dry and fatal.

Except, it turned out, there was no forest fire.

Stiles’ first thought was “what are the chances?” Callous, maybe, but a good question. How could this happen twice to the same person in less than twenty years? His second thought was “thank god Derek is at school,” and his third was “fire department fire department where is the fire department please please please.”

The Hale House, burning, looked odd. Considering that Stiles’ whole life was currently being destroyed inside of it, the outside seemed pretty intact. It was only the surprisingly loud noises that the fire made as it roared through the interior of the house, and the crimson brightness visible through each and every one of the windows that revealed the destruction taking place.

First, Stiles sprinted in a circle around the house. The Hales had probably gotten out, or there was a fire engine on the other side that he couldn’t see, or something. It’s not like they wouldn’t have noticed the raging house fire.

Apparently not. Stiles finished his lap of the house with a blossoming sense of panic in his chest making it hard to breathe. He frantically dug in the pocket of his pajama pants, hoping that he had forethought to bring his phone with him into the woods.

He had. The 911 operator’s voice was so calm was she asked him questions that Stiles felt shaky, like he wasn’t quite reaching reality.

“Where is the fire sir?”

Stiles opened the front door, using the sleeve of his red hoodie to keep from scalding his hand.

“Do you know how long it’s been burning?”

Everything was smoke. Black and smoggy. To think Stiles had once liked the smell of candles.

“Have the neighbors been evacuated?”

No neighbors. Nobody else who could have been there, could have stopped it. Where was everyone?

“Is there anyone in the house?”

Good question, honey.

“Yes! Yes! My Uncle Peter, I see him!”

Peter, always the one with a spring in his step, was skidding down the stairs, barely on two feet, soot covering most of his face, which looked badly burnt. Stiles hooked two hands under his armpits and started dragging Peter backwards. Get him out, get him out, get them all out.

“Peter! Where is everyone?”

Both Stiles and the operator heard his reply. “Dead... checked... were asleep when...”

The air outside the house was so much cooler and cleaner, but Stiles could barely take it into his lungs.

“I’m... I’m sorry sir,” the operator said, even her calm professional voice cracking. “There’s a fire truck on the way to your location.”

Peter wheezed, and his eyes closed.

“Peter! Peter!”

His heart was beating, but his eyes wouldn’t open.

I’m sorry sir.

So sorry.

Looks like everything has been burned away, all over again. Sorry.

A veritable flotilla of emergency vehicles show up at the scene. Peter was immediately driven off to intensive care, but Stiles stayed behind to get checked out for smoke inhalation and watch the firemen direct water streams at the house. They were filled with frantic urgency as they barked orders back and forth, brandishing hoses and those fireman axes, but Stiles just felt numb. Killed in their sleep. It could have been worse. Of course, they could have also not been killed at all.

There was a squealing noise from the driveway, and Derek’s camaro pulled up. He parked the car terribly, and left the door open as he flew out, head whipping back and forth as he ran towards the nearest firefighter, spewing frantic questions. Stiles could tell from where he sat inside the ambulance that Derek was trying very hard not to wolf out. The firefighter pointed towards the ambulance and Derek spun around, then rushed to Stiles faster than was necessarily human.

But Stiles was wrapped up in a reassuring, desperate hug before he could worry about what the emergency responders saw. Derek huffed out shaky breaths against his ear. “Stiles... what... how... didn’t even know if you were alive, jesus.”

So Stiles choked out one of the hardest explanations of his life, and then he and Derek just sobbed and sobbed hot tears and hung onto each other until one of the paramedics gently pried one of Stiles’ arms away to take his blood pressure. There was something reassuring about the methodical way that they did their job. Detached bedside manner, maybe, but no amount of consolations or back pats would make Stiles feel better.

They camped out beside Peter’s bedside for two days before Laura showed up, walking into the room dazed and disoriented. Part of it was grief, and part of it was the redeye she’d taken from NYU to get home.

“I’ll let you guys talk for a few minutes,” the social worker said in the apologetic whisper she used for everything.

Laura watched the social worker go, then collapsed forward so that she could wrap her arms around Stiles, and by association Derek, who hadn’t removed his arms from around Stiles’ waist for more than a few minutes in the past two days.

“Are you guys okay? Ugh, stupid question. I mean, are you physically okay?”

Stiles nodded tiredly. “Yeah. Derek’s been pretty quiet though. The doctors are saying that it’s trauma. He hasn’t talked since I had to break the news at-at the house.”

Laura’s eyebrows, almost a carbon copy of Derek’s, pulled up in sympathy. “Oh, Der-Bear,” she breathed as she ran a soothing hand down the back of his neck.

When she tried to copy the motion on Stiles’ neck. Derek growled and snapped his teeth at her. Laura snapped back, red eyes glowing. They would never look right on anybody but George, in Stiles’ opinion.

“Sorry,” Stiles pressed Derek’s head into his shoulder to get him to stop looking Laura in the eyes, “he’s been doing that too. It’s been worse with people he doesn’t know though. One of the doctors tried to touch my shoulder and he almost bit his hand off. It’s like having a really dedicated bodyguard that keeps almost getting us kicked out of the hospital.”

Laura rubbed at her temples, leaning forward to put her elbows on her knees. “We’re going to be having a rough time, I can tell.”

The next few weeks found Laura, Derek, and Stiles existing in a sort of limbo. They’d been pulled out of school for obvious reasons, and there was nowhere to go home to, so the three survivors camped out in a hotel room a mile or so away from the hospital, cut off from any semblance of normality.

Laura would sit at the little hotel desk, and use the flimsy Ramada pens to fill out piles of confusing paperwork about insurance claims, custody, lawyers, wills, cremation, invitations to the funeral (a single, combined one for all of the people lost,) medical bills, and an obituary in the local paper. Stiles and Derek would stay in one of the rigid hotel beds for most of the day, staring at the wall because everything on the TV seemed so flat and unreal. As it was, Stiles had Derek’s face nestled against the back of his neck, and Derek’s wide hands drifting across his torso, making sure Stiles was all still there. That felt more real than the tinny voices drifting out of the TV. It felt more real than the rest of his life at the moment.

When Laura would leave to get food from the convenience store down the street, (Derek freaked out when room service came in,) Derek’s hands would verge lower, and he would kiss gently, gently at Stiles’ face, working his silent way across Stiles’ body like he was made of glass. Stiles wanted the Derek he would trade inside jokes with and poke gentle fun at, but it seemed like too much to ask for when Derek had lost so much. Besides, worrying about Derek’s mental state gave Stiles something to do other than think about how his second family had just died, and how if he had gotten onto the scene any earlier, then maybe Laura wouldn’t have to be filling out forms for three separate life insurance claims.

They would be rolling in money, apparently. Stiles personally got quite a bit out of George and Kiana’s wills, something that, when he found out, made him bury his face into Derek’s chest and not come out for a long time. They had been such good people, and had given him so much already.

The weeks dragged on. Laura would have taken them back to New York already, but there was still the chance that Peter would come out of his coma. Still, as time wore on, the hope that he would grew fainter and fainter. They daydreamed about it. Peter miraculously reviving, even though his brain waves showed about as much variation as those of an artichoke. He was a proper adult, not like Laura, terrified and barely out of her teens. He’d come in on a white horse, capable, responsible, as sarcastic as ever, and then Derek and Stiles wouldn’t have to move to follow Laura back to college. They’d have a legal guardian that had actually acted as a parent for most of their formative years. Laura herself was just as eager for Peter to wake up. In her words, “not that I don’t want to be your mom at twenty, Stiles, but I don’t want to be your mom at twenty. Especially like this.” Then she reached out to flick his ear like she used to, but Derek clawed at her and she had to withdraw.

Laura was “getting a breath of fresh air” on the hotel balcony when Stiles got a paper cut from a piece of hotel stationary on the desk. Derek was immediately next to him, whining low in his throat and licking at the thin little red slice that had been cut into the pad of his index finger.

“Derek, Derek,” Stiles tried to pull his finger away, “this is getting so out of hand I can’t even.”

Blue-gray-sad eyes flicked up to look at Stiles’ face. His voice was rough from disuse.“I-you... don’t get hurt, okay?” Derek licked again at Stiles’ finger. “Okay? No more...”

Oh. If that was all. Stiles wordlessly grabbed Derek’s hand, and they went to the bathroom to patch up Stiles’ finger with the sparse first aid kit under the kit. Then he walked Derek over to the bed, kissed his forehead, and told him to wait for a second, he had to talk to Laura.

A few minutes later, Laura leaned against the balcony railing and let out a long breath. “Are you sure?”

Stiles raised an eyebrow. It was a habit he’d picked up. “No, I’m asking you because I have no idea what I want. What do you think, Laura?”

“Okay, okay, Mr. Touchy. I’ve just got to make sure, informed consent and all that.”

“Derek’s going to freak out, I’m warning you right now.”

“I’m his older sister and his Alpha,” Laura chuckled darkly, “and you don’t think I can take it.”

“I’ve just got to make sure,” Stiles mimicked.

“Smartass,” Laura grumbled before leaning in and sinking her fangs into Stiles’ shoulder.

A howl rose up from inside the room, and the sliding glass door tore open, slamming against its track and rebounding violently. Derek clawed at Laura, opening slashes on her arms that immediately healed over before she slammed him backwards against the railing with a well aimed kick. Withdrawing her fangs gingerly from Stiles’ flesh, she pivoted on the ball of one foot to roar in Derek’s face until he leaned so far backwards that he was in danger of falling off of the balcony and into the pool.

Once she was certain that Derek had been duly cowed, Laura stalked back inside the hotel room, closing the injured door behind her as she growled under her breath about not signing up for this.

Derek ran a shaking hand over Stiles’ shoulder, where a crescent moon of ripped skin was etched.

“I know, I know,” Stiles sighed, sitting next to Derek on the grimy, chilled tile of the balcony floor. He nudged Derek with his uninjured shoulder. “Stiles got another boo-boo. But,” he said, smirking as he pulled the band-aid off of his finger, “he won’t be getting any more.”

The pale line of where Stiles’ finger had been split open was gone, despite having been cut only a few short minutes earlier.

“Would you look at that,” he murmured, rubbing a thumb across his finger, “none of you ever said how weird this felt. Could I jump off this balcony and be alright?”

“D-don’t jump off the balcony,” Derek choked out.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “My point is that I’m an indestructible werewolf now. Or, on my way. You know, I still don’t really know how long it takes for the bite to really take hold. You’d think there’d be a handbook or something, but no.”

Derek insinuated an arm between Stiles’ back and the railing, and pulled Stiles into his lap.

“Now there’s the manhandling Derek I know.”

“Well, here’s the impulsive Stiles I know.”

Stiles shrugged. He wasn’t going to apologize.

“Seriously, Stiles. Big life decisions shouldn’t be made because you think I’d like the result.”

Punching Derek lightly on the chest, Stiles said calmly, “hey, I always say I don’t do enough for you, don’t I?”

Derek shook his head ruefully, then pulled Stiles in so he could stick his tongue in Stiles’ mouth.

Laura’s annoyed voice filtered out of the room. “You’re going to give everybody a show if you stay out there!”

Her little brother groaned, thudding his head against the railing behind him.

“Ah well,” Stiles stood up, and pulled Derek with him. “Let’s go inside. We could pretend it’s our den, what do you say?” He winked.

Derek grimaced. “Old reference.”

“I’ve always been a fan of retro.”

“Stiles, that isn’t even retro, it’s just a kind of outdated and obscure throwback to a game-”

“-seduction tactic!”

“I was five!”

“You planned ahead!”

“Boys!”

Their neighbors complained about the shouting, but nobody cared.

The funeral was held almost a full month after the fire, partially because it took a while to rally all of the attendees that George and Kiana and even Freddie would have wanted there, but also because it had taken poor Laura a while to put the service together all on her own, while Derek and Stiles lazed around in their shared depressive fugue state.

The service was held in the church that George and Kiana were married in, and subsequently never attended. Three urns, the smallest one in the middle, were laid out on a table in the center of the dais, and those that had known the departed took turns standing at the podium and spilling out memories and platitudes into the squealing microphone that echoed around the drafty chapel.

It hurt, not that Stiles expected any less. He squeezed Derek’s hand and they sat, dressed in black, on the first bench. They stood and sat when they were supposed to, and they burst into tears like everyone else when Freddie’s best friend, all of eleven, sniffled out a few words from where he stood, propped up on a stool behind the podium.

Peter wasn’t there, but Stiles saw Scott, Allison, Boyd, Erica and Isaac sitting in a solemn row on one of the pews. Laura must have invited them, because Stiles was just realizing that he hadn’t talked to them in months. It didn’t feel right, but Stiles didn’t even know what he would say now. Hey guys, I’m doubly orphaned and also a werewolf now. What have you been up to?

“I thought that all funerals were supposed to be accompanied by rain,” Stiles said tonelessly as they filtered out of the church, and looked up at the bright June sky.

Derek just shook his head. His stubble matched his suit. He looked like he had been swallowed up by a shadow, and only his hands and face had been spared. Stiles, had he not known him, would have pegged Derek as a brooding anti-hero from a mile away.

Finally, he replied, “There’ll be more rain in New York.”

Stiles snorted humorlessly. “Appropriate.”

They packed up the belongings that they had, some salvaged, most newly bought, not long afterwards. It was faintly ridiculous that they had to buy suitcases to put their things in, because they didn’t even have those anymore. Not that Stiles was too bothered by it. Possessions weren’t exactly number one on his list of priorities. The fire had burned away everything that wasn’t essential, until all that Stiles cared about was that the people he loved were happy and alive.

Derek and Stiles were returning from one last visit with Peter when Stiles’ phone rang. It hadn’t done so in weeks, there was nobody who would call him that he wasn’t constantly surrounded by.

“Stiles? Is this still your number?”

“Allison? Yeah. What is it, homegirl?”

“Um,” her voice shook, and Stiles gripped the phone tighter, casting a dubious look at Derek, who could hear every word. “I, uh, I have something to tell you.”

“Yeah?”

“So, my family... well, hold on, you probably know some of this. Well, maybe. I don’t know. I’m not even sure if they’re crazy or I’m crazy, but a whole bunch of them just got out of prison -long story, has to do with gun smuggling, it doesn’t matter- and they started going on about how I needed to get involved in the family tradition of -God this sounds crazy- the point is, they think you’re werewolves-”

“We are.”

Derek shot Stiles an exasperated look, and Stiles just gave him a “what?” expression back.

“Oh. Oh, okay. I wasn’t going to ask, but... hm. So I guess you’ll take me seriously when I say that my Aunt Kate just told me that she burned down your house because it was full of werewolves.”

“Stiles? Are you there?” Allison must have gotten irritated with the silence on the line. How long had it been since Stiles said something?

“W-yeah. Yeah. Um, I think we’re going to have to postpone our move to New York.”

So it was that the next day, Stiles and Derek went to meet Allison, who brought Scott, who brought Isaac, who brought Erica, who brought Boyd to the library, where they staked out a study room and pored over microfiche, an honest to god book on werewolf hunting that Allison’s crazy grandfather gave her, (which led to everybody else finding out about werewolves in the most awkward way possible,) and the bits of police reports that they could access legally.

Eventually, Stiles got frustrated with the limited nature of the police reports they could read, and called Lydia, asking her to bring her hacker friend Danny. Danny brought Jackson for some reason, but it turned out that the guy wasn’t too much of a jackass when Lydia was around to glare at him until he calmed down.

Together, they read until their eyes hurt, tossed theories back and forth until the librarians opened the door to their room and asked them to keep it down, and ate the junk food that Scott would bring in at regular intervals until they overdosed on it. It was the most fun Stiles ever had investigating a felony.

Actually, multiple felonies, since as they went over the evidence they managed to compile, it was looking more and more like Kate was also behind Stiles’ house burning down all those years ago. Stiles’ father had arrested her brother and dad, and she, a woman who had never been playing with a full deck of cards and a tendency for pyromania, burned down the house in revenge. She moved away, but then, knowing that her family would be getting out of prison and wanting to be near them, moved back to Beacon Hills over a decade later, when she realized that there was a family of werewolves living in the town. Her hunter upbringing wouldn’t let that stand, and the rest is bloody, terrible history.

They didn’t tell the Sheriff that version when they brought their evidence to the station. Sheriff Mills heard the story in which Kate Argent, fueled by vengeance and insanity, realized when she came back to Beacon Hills that a member of the Stilinski family survived, and decided to finish Stiles off, but missed and just got most of the Hale family.

Either way, four months later, Kate Mary Argent was arrested for two accounts of arson, and five counts of murder in the first degree. Stiles and Derek still have a copy of the official indictment (given to them illegally by an old friend of Stiles’ father) framed in a corner of their apartment somewhere.

On the day that Kate was convicted in court, Derek found Stiles outside the courthouse, leaning against one of the lighthouse statues by the entrance and hyperventilating.

He ran his hands over Stiles’ face and neck, looking no small amount of terrified. Seeing Derek’s big broody face scared made Stiles laugh, but it came out high and breathy and quick.

“Stiles, Stiles what is it?”

Stiles shook his head mutely. “I just... my family was murdered. Both of them. It just sort of hit me when they were reading the sentence. It’s like,” Stiles waved a hand hopelessly, “like there was this part of me my whole life that was really angry that I never knew why my parents died, and now it’s been filled and,” Stiles huffed out a hysterical breath, “what do I even do now?”

Derek pulled Stiles against his chest. “First of all,” he said, the rumble of his chest already working to calm Stiles down, “breathe slower.”

He waited until Stiles was less in danger of passing out, (could Stiles even pass out anymore? Was he capable? There really should be a handbook,) then continued, “then we do whatever we want with the rest of our lives.”

Derek seemed surprised when Stiles started laughing raucously. “Seriously, that’s all you’ve got? Vague, man. Very vague. I will give you credit for making a grand romantic statement though.”

Derek scowled halfheartedly. “Here’s something specific: I seem to remember some plans to get married when we grow up.”

That shut Stiles up. “Oh.”

“How’s that for a grand romantic statement?”

“Pretty good,” Stiles squeaked.

That’s Stiles’ story about how Derek proposed. If you want, you can listen to Derek say that his official proposal was on top of the Empire State Building, after a day of traipsing around their favorite spots in the city, but that’s totally not the right version. Stiles prefers his, honestly. It came first, and he never needed an Empire State Building to convince him to say yes. He just needed Derek.

 

Epilogue

“No, listen man,” Stiles says into the phone, which is balanced precariously against his shoulder and his head, “don’t do flowers. Or at least don’t just do flowers. Allison did not get engaged to sickeningly romantic you to just get flowers on Valentine’s Day.”

Scott sighs hopelessly. Stiles is used to the sound of the rush of static from the other end of the line at this point. Most of their conversations tend to involve Scott sighing hopelessly over the phone at some point. “What am I supposed to do? I think I ran out of ideas three Valentine’s Days ago.”

“You just can’t -whoa!- get her a heart shaped necklace -aah!- or chocolate, flowers -whoops!- or a teddy bear, ‘cause you’ve -oh god!- done those before.”

“Stiles...” Scott starts suspiciously. “If you’re having sex while on the phone with me again I am going to be so mad at you.”

“What? Ew! Dude, I could not get it up while talking to you on the phone. I’m trying to flip pancakes with one hand. It’s hard.”

“Yeah right. It’s like... um... seven PM over there, right? No way you’re making pancakes.”

“Hey!” Stiles protests as he sponges off batter from the stovetop’s surface, “so Derek and I like pancakes for dinner sometimes. You don’t need to go judging our awesome lifestyle.”

“Whatever you say,” Scott replies suspiciously. “What are you getting Derek?”

“A Batman themed Valentine’s Day card and the creepiest looking stuffed cheetah I can find,” Stiles replies promptly.

“Why do I go to you for advice?”

“Because I am your infinitely wise best friend.” It’s true, actually. Stiles hasn’t lived in Beacon Hills for five years, but solving a crime together turned out to be just as much of a bonding experience as the Hardy Boys books made it out to be. “Just because you don’t get me’n Derek’s inside jokes doesn’t mean that I don’t have a bitching Valentine’s Day present for him.”

“You’re insane.”

“Mmmm, Derek, do that again,” Stiles groans into the microphone as he successfully flips the last pancake.

“I knew it!” Scott exclaims before his excitement quickly fades away. “I’m, um, going to hang up. And also I hate you forever.”

Stiles chuckles, “whatever man. Lemme know if you figure something out for Allison,” and hangs up.

“From what I could hear,” comes a dry voice from the upstairs loft of their apartment, “you’re either cheating on me with somebody else named Derek, or trying to weird Scott out.”

“Definitely cheating on you,” Stiles teases. “Now c’mere, I have a very nutritious dinner planned.”

A few quick steps and a flying leap off of the couch later, (because who needs stairs when you have super werewolf coordination,) Stiles is on the loft with Derek, who is just shutting his laptop.

“Pancakes again?”

“Don’t knock the cakes, mister,” Stiles darts forward, catching Derek by surprise when he grabs underneath Derek’s knees, knocking him backward into a perfectly executed bridal carry, “or else I’ll drop you.”

Derek wrinkles his nose, shifting so that his face isn’t smooshed into Stiles’ chest. “Every time. It would be so much easier if we took the stairs separately.”

Stiles shakes his arms ominously. “Hey now, the threat still stands.”

Derek just smiles and shakes his head. He knows Stiles won’t drop him.