The first warm night of spring, Stiles crawls out his window and hauls himself up onto the roof, stretches out on the tile beneath the sky and settles his telescope in his lap. There’s no moon tonight, and the stars blink impossibly bright against a backdrop of inky black, the trees cutting out the light from the few street lamps down the block. Stiles’ house backs into the woods of the preserve (like most of the houses on the Not-Filthy-Rich side of the county).
His bare toes poke out from beneath his track pants, this side of a little too chilly in the soft breeze that rattles through the leaves below him. He stretches out on the roof and tries to find Sirius, it’s been a long time since he’s found himself stargazing and it takes him a moment to get his bearings before he finds the star.
Stiles lets the telescope fall against his chest with a contented sigh and closes his eyes. He hasn’t been up in here awhile and it feels familiar in a way that clenches strangely at his chest and stomach, like coming home after a long vacation or finding an old stuffed animal buried in the closet. He’s tired and drained and his limbs begin to feel heavy with drowsiness as he rests in the solitude of the night. The crickets chirping loudly all around him sound fake, like some kind of Noises from the Suburbs Soundtrack for city dwellers in swanky high rises.
Stiles thinks he was just starting to doze off when the sound of a loud throat clear behind him makes him flail, whole body spasming in shock and he turns without conscious thought and whips his telescope at his would-be assailant.
“Jesus fuck!” He shouts, when he sees the tall, angular form of Derek Hale standing behind him in a pair of well-fitting sweatpants and an old hoodie. He catches the instrument easily, stays silent and immobile save for the quirk of an eyebrow. “What is wrong with you!” Stiles pouts, turning back around to face the front yard below them.
“Sorry,” Derek says and he moves forward to sit beside Stiles without invitation. Stiles snatches the telescope back from him and scowls his displeasure. “What are you doing up here?” Derek asks. Stiles rolls his eyes at him, waves the telescope in his face.
“The fuck you think?” Stiles asks. Derek doesn’t respond. “What you aredoing up here is a much better inquiry,” Stiles says, looking at Derek expectantly.
“Was running, heard you up here, thought something might have been wrong,” Derek says simply, soft shrug of his shoulders. Stiles fidgets in his seat and doesn’t meet his eyes.
“Oh,” he says. “N’aww, just couldn’t sleep,” he admits.
“Me either,” Derek offers, staring at the scuffed toes of his old sneakers. Silence falls between them, then, Stiles claps his feet together absently and Derek watches the movement.
“You hungry?” Stiles asks then and Derek looks over at him, a surprised, bemused expression on his face. Stiles produces a half-eaten jar of peanut butter from beside him, brandishes it in Derek’s face and plucks the spoon out from it, takes a large, messy mouthful. It gives him an excuse not to speak, scraping the sticky substance off the roof of his mouth. Derek stares at it, thoughtfully, and Stiles assumes he’ll grimace the way people usually do when Stiles tries to be friendly, but he just takes the spoon out of Stiles’ hand and scoops it into the jar.
“I prefer nutella,” he says, before he accepts the proffered snack, sweeping a broad tongue over the metal utensil. Stiles gapes at him, aware of the congealing peanut butter paste balled up on his tongue. There’s the grimace. He swallows heavily and keeps staring.
“I didn’t even know you ate people food,” Stiles says. Derek gives him a look and Stiles shrugs. “I’ve never seen you, how would I know?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Hey! Rude. No more for you,” Stiles starts, swiping at the jar. Derek takes another mouthful though and smirks at him around the spoon.
“I love nutella though, dude, if they ever made like…peanut butter nutella, man, that’d be like…worthy of some kind of Nobel peace prize or something,” Stiles decides. Derek shakes his head, allows the peanut butter and the spoon to be plucked from his grip.
“I should go,” Derek says, a few minutes later and Stiles looks over at him, shrugs halfheartedly but doesn’t protest. Derek doesn’t move though, it’s another long minute of comfortable silence before he finally stands.
“Can you get down alright?” Derek asks then, peering over the edge of the rooftop to the landing below. Stiles rolls his eyes and stares up at him, face hidden in the shadows.
“No Derek, if you hadn’t come along I’d have been forced to remain here ‘til the end of my days. Become one with the squirrel population, beg employment as an Elf next Christmas and wither away to nothing—“
“Alright. I get it,” Derek huffs. “I was just asking. Don’t break your neck,” he snaps, moving away to the other side of the house. “Getting sick of funerals.” It’s mumbled and low and sad and hits like a sharp jab to the stomach, turning peanut butter to rock in his gut. Erica’s face flashes painfully out of the emptiness and he opens his mouth to…he’s not really sure so he snaps it shut and turns away. Derek is silent when he flits off into the trees.
Stiles doesn’t see Derek again for a couple of weeks. He makes it out onto the roof sporadically, some nights are too cold to be comfortable and others he sleeps restfully and yet others he lies in bed and stares up at the ceiling in the pitch blackness of his bedroom and wonders if this is what it’s like to be dead. Those nights he tumbles out of the covers and climbs onto the roof and breathes deeply.
Stiles doesn’t startle this time when Derek’s footsteps scrape softly on the rooftop behind him. He’s wearing running clothes again and there’s sweat dampening the hair at his nape and temples. He tugs his sweatshirt off and balls it up into his lap as he takes the seat beside Stiles.
“I was thinking about whether or not you’d still shift if you were on another planet,” Stiles says without preamble. He shifts in his seat and sets the open jar of peanut butter between them, offers Derek an Oreo cookie wordlessly from the bag in his hand.
“I don’t think it matters what lunar cycle we’re bound to,” Derek says, rustling the plastic of the bag as he reaches for a cookie. He swipes it through the peanut butter, layering it thickly up on top before he eats it in one mouthful.
Stiles considers this for a moment and shrugs, “What if it was a planet without a moon?” He asks. Derek looks at him for a moment, it’s a familiar look, he’s seen it on Scott’s face and his father’s before, but Derek shrugs and answers him. “We’re not always bound by the moon, I can control the shift at will. It just might mean we’d have more control over it,” Derek suggests.
“Like maybe you wouldn’t have to transform if you didn’t want to?”
Silence descends then, quiet save for the soft rustle of plastic and the crunching of their cookies. Stiles tosses the empty bag away a few minutes later and laughs. “You’re gonna have to go for another run,” he says. “Wouldn’t want those abs to go all soft and squishy,” and he pats at Derek’s stomach for emphasis. “Okay, wow, I mean I know I was all up on that that one time but wow.” Derek rolls his eyes and pushes Stiles’ hand away. Stiles can see a faint flush rising up Derek’s face though and he grins pleased down at his fingers scrabbling over one another in his lap.
“You should come running with me,” Derek tells him and Stiles throws his head back and laughs. Derek quirks a brow.
“I’m sorry it sounded like you were suggesting exercise for fun.”
“You’re on the track team,” Derek says, voice rising in question.
“Yeah for like…the women,” Stiles tells him, can’t keep a straight face and laughs at himself.
“Yeah, you don’t see the huge queue of romantic partners just waiting to get with this?” Stiles opens his arms to gesture to the empty street below them.
“So it’s going as well as your plans usually go?” Derek asks. Stiles balks, look of mock outrage across his face.
“My plans are flawless.”
“Like the time you told Scott to sniff his teammates at lacrosse practice?” Derek asks.
“Uh…it worked!” Stiles says, insulted.
“Yeah, it was really downplayed and subtle. Very sophisticated,” Derek nods.
“You know I share my snacks with you and you just sit there and insult me, it’s uncivilized is what it is.”
“Yeah, it was like I was raised by wolves or something,” Derek says, looking out across the neighborhood. Stiles’ surprised laughter chokes off in his throat as he watches Derek’s profile. Derek looks over at him then, and smiles.
“You know you’re kind of funny when your fangs aren’t getting in the way,” Stiles says.
“Yeah and you’re kind of pleasant when your sarcasm isn’t getting in the way.”
“Hey my sarcasm is part of what makes me a delight,” Stiles scoffs.
“That was a nice Goonies reference too, by the way,” Derek remarks before he’s shifting where he sits and pulling himself to his feet. Stiles’ mouth gapes, taking Derek in, looking at him like he’s seeing him for the first time. He grins and leans forward.
“You know they made out by the end of that movie,” Stiles says, heart skipping a beat, face flushing, rush of adrenaline. Derek gives him a considering sort of look as he backs up towards the peak of the rooftop.
“Yeah, well we haven’t gotten to the end yet,” he says with a shrug, and disappears.
The next time Stiles sees Derek he’s getting gas at the station across the street from where Stiles is sitting in the passenger’s side of Scott’s car. He’s pretty sure Derek doesn’t know he’s there and he watches for a minute as Derek gets out of the Camaro and starts pumping.
“Derek, Derek, Derekderekderek,” he whispers voice rising a little higher and higher until he sees Derek all but twitch at the ears and glance up. Stiles smashes his face against the window and opens his mouth wide, blowing air to puff out his cheeks. Stiles can’t tell if Derek is embarrassed or embarrassed for him.
“What are you doing?” Stiles jumps in his seat and turns around to where Scott is staring at him in concern.
“There was a spot,” he says, wiping his face print with the sleeve of his shirt.
“No, I don’t even want to know,” Scott shakes his head and clambers into the front seat. Stiles waves at Derek on the way by, he can’t quite tell what the look on Derek’s face means.
It’s the night after Easter, one am the morning after to be specific, that finds Stiles sitting on his roof once more. The telescope is still sitting beside him but he knows it’s just an excuse, he hasn’t stargazed for weeks now.
Derek shows up about fifteen minutes later, he’s wearing jeans this time and a soft blue hooded sweatshirt. There are two spoons stuck at odd angles in the fresh jar of peanut butter sitting crooked beside Stiles and Derek takes one without a word.
“You ever get sick of peanut butter?” Derek asks.
“Do you ever get sick of air,” Stiles counters, shocked. Derek huffs out a wet sounding laugh, chokes on the peanut butter coating his throat.
“Do you celebrate Easter?” Stiles asks, his hand bumps against Derek’s as he scoops a spoonful out of the jar. “Or…do werewolves even have religions?”
“There are some Lycan religions, mostly pagan in origin but yeah, some of my family was Catholic so we celebrated Easter,” Derek tells him. He laughs then and Stiles watches him, the moment he takes to gather his thoughts familiar, reassuring. “We used to do Easter Egg hunts in the backyard of the house, but it wasn’t really fair.”
“Super sniffers,” Stiles laughs. Derek nods. “The human cousins used to hate it. After awhile Peter…he’d…” Derek sighs and Stiles swings his legs over the edge of the roof and doesn’t say anything. “He started hiding some up trees.”
Stiles smiles softly, let’s his pinky bump against Derek’s accidentally on purpose where their hands rest against the rooftop side by side.
“Okay, how is it so cold? It’s April,” Stiles grouses, a few minutes later, plucking his arms out of his sleeves and tucking them against his chest inside his loose t-shirt. Derek spares him a glance before he tugs his sweatshirt off and drapes it over Stiles’ back, jerks the front around him securely, pulls up the hood and slaps it dramatically down over Stiles’ face.
“Hey!” Derek laughs, watches as Stiles struggles to push the hood up away from his face without extricating his limbs from inside the warmth of his sweatshirt. He succeeds, barely, peaks out under the edge of the soft fuzzy blue cotton and smiles at Derek.
“You have school tomorrow,” Derek tells him. Stiles sighs and drops his head back.
“Why are you dredging up painful memories?” Stiles asks. Derek smirks, “you should get some sleep.”
“It’s not that late,” Stiles argues.
“You need your beauty rest,” Derek tells him, checks his wrist for a watch that isn’t there, “you’re cutting it pretty close.”
“Fuck you,” Stiles huffs, indignant.
“Maybe another night.”
“Jesus Christ, Derek,” Stiles chokes, looking back at him as Derek pushes himself to his feet.
Stiles sits out on his rooftop for another quarter of an hour before he decides he should go to sleep. He pushes his arms out of his sleeves and through those of the sweatshirt he realizes is still draped over his shoulders. He smiles, small and private, twists the cover back on the jar of peanut butter and drops a little too loudly onto the roof below him.
He collapses in a heap on his messy unmade sheets, tugs the hood up over his head and falls asleep on his stomach, face buried in his pillow.
Stiles wears the sweatshirt for the next three days, Scott asks about it the first time, stares at it in question and says, “why does that smell like Derek?” And Stiles scoffs at him, pulls out his English notebook and retorts, “why does your face smell like butt?” And Scott doesn’t ask again.
He thinks Derek will ask for it back, and he awkwardly fingers at the edges of it the next time they’re up on Stiles’ roof but Derek goes home without mentioning it and Stiles doesn’t bring it up either.
After about a month of clandestine rooftop meetings Derek is unusually quiet; which is an alarming amount of quiet because he’s not particularly loquacious to begin with. Stiles wonders if he’s said or done something wrong when Derek bumps his shoulder and says softly, “I have something for you.”
“Really?” Stiles asks, a little embarrassed at his enthusiasm and the way his voice still cracks sometimes when he’s excited. Derek is smiling though as he nods, reaches beside him to the jacket he’d been carrying with him, which Stiles suspects was only ever meant to hide whatever it is that he wants to show Stiles.
Derek turns and shoves his hand beneath the leather, “it’s not that exciting, really,” Derek says. Stiles’ heart is pounding in his chest though, like he thinks Derek is about to produce a fucking wedding ring or a box of Trojans or, “Oh my God! Is that chocolate peanut butter!” Stiles shouts.
“Yeah,” Derek says, kind of shyly and he hands it over to Stiles’ snatching fingers.
“Oh my God!” It’s a good thing the Sheriff had a late shift because Stiles isn’t bothering to keep his voice down.
“It’s just a jar of peanut butter, Stiles,” Derek says, embarrassed.
“Yeah but it’s chocolate peanut butter this is like way better than condoms.” Derek goes tense beside him and Stiles freezes, eyes wide. “Oh. I didn’t…you know for example? Also, better than carrot sticks, calculus homework, and the bubonic plague to name just a few things this is better than…”
“I…” Derek says, flushing, “here,” and he rustles something else up from under his jacket and presses a ziplock bag into Stiles’ chest with a soft, amused shake of his head. Stiles takes it from him, stares down at it, confused, turns it over in his hand and holds it up to the light of the nearly full moon to see.
“Oh my God are these animal crackers??” He asks, pushing the jar back into Derek’s hands so he can open them.
“Yeah,” Derek opens the jar, uses a claw to tear off the safety seal on the inside and hands the jar back to Stiles, watching him, smirk playing at the corner of his mouth.
“You got me chocolate peanut butter and animal crackers?” Stiles asks, voice soft and confused, staring at Derek sitting beside him looking awkward and suddenly uncomfortable. “Why?”
“You wanted them.”
“You got me chocolate peanut butter and animal crackers,” Stiles says again, staring at them in his lap in awe.
“Yeah?” Derek asks.
“It’s not a big deal Stiles it cost like $8.99 at the gas station…”
“Yeah but, no one’s ever gotten me anything before ever.”
“That’s not true,” Derek says and Stiles stares at him. “You have friends…birthdays,” Derek trails off.
“Yeah but like…that’s not the same, we’re not…” Stiles isn’t sure how to finish that sentence and Derek looks down at his lap.
“We’re not friends you mean?”
“Are we?” Stiles asks, honestly. Derek shrugs. “Is this what friends do? I don’t have friends like this Derek.”
“I don’t have friends at all,” Derek laughs, small and self-deprecating.
“Derek,” Stiles chastises, sadly. Derek shakes his head.
“Maybe this was a bad idea,” he starts moving like he’s going to get up. Stiles sets the gifts down next to him and grabs him around the forearm.
“Don’t,” he shakes his head, looks up at Derek pleadingly. Derek stays where he is and Stiles sighs. “Worst part of the night is when you leave,” he admits, doesn’t meet Derek’s eyes and can’t. He’s too afraid what he’ll see there, or won’t. Derek settles back beside him but doesn’t say anything, and for the first time in a long time the silence that follows is stilted and awkward.
“I put,” Stiles tries, sighing, looking down at his lap, “I put Lydia up on a ridiculous pedestal and I thought that if I was more then, I could, I dunno win her. But I was never in love with her, you know, I was in love with the idea of being with this person I made in my head.” Derek looks at him kind of stricken and Stiles blushes and shakes his head. “Stop looking like that I’m not saying I’m in love with you, you idiot, I’m just saying…I think I like you. You know you you and I just…”
“Stiles,” Derek starts, mouth open stares between Stiles’ eyes like he’s looking for something, something hidden there. Stiles isn’t sure if he finds what he’s looking for or not but Derek turns away.
“I don’t know what you feel in all of this, okay, I’m really bad at this,” Stiles sighs.
“You’re really young,” Derek says, and it sounds honest and confused.
“I know that,” Stiles says, trying not to feel indignant about it. “Look, I’m not going to argue petulantly that I’m an adult okay, cos like I practically just jizzed myself over animal crackers,” Derek snorts beside him and Stiles smiles in spite of himself. “I know I’m only sixteen and I’m not…I dunno sophisticated and mature and like want to have wine and cheese parties.”
“Stiles…” Derek sighs. “What? I’m a twenty three year old werewolf not a middle aged housewife.”
“I know I just—“
“I’m not good at this either, Stiles. You’re sixteen and whole and healthy and I’m…damaged.” Stiles stares at him, the sharp cut of his jaw, clenched tight, the tilt of his lips and angle of his brows. “Why me?” He asks suddenly, turning to Stiles in question.
Stiles doesn’t think about the answer, finds it on the tip of his tongue without effort, “cos you make me feel like I matter and that’s, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Why would you think you don’t matter?” Derek asks, voice stricken and tight. Stiles shrugs and looks away.
“I’ve always,” he shrugs again and shakes his head, runs a palm up the back of his hair, getting longer now. “I’ve always felt like everyone’s second choice, you know? Like, people like me okay and everything but I’m always second to someone else. My mom, Allison and then Isaac,” he shakes his head.
“Why would you think that?” Derek asks.
“Because it’s true?” Stiles laughs.
“Being loved differently isn’t the same as being loved less,” Derek tries. Stiles shakes his head again.
“Sometimes, I just think if I weren’t here, if I had never been, what would it matter? And I know that it isn’t true but I still can’t help feeling like everything would have been better.”
“I’d be dead like three times over, Stiles,” Derek says, voice hard and angry. “Do you even know how important you are? To everyone? To…” he doesn’t say it but Stiles hears it anyway and he ducks his head.
“Peter once told me I lack heart,” Derek says suddenly and Stiles looks over at him, mouth falling open just slightly.
“And you listened to him?” Stiles asks, incredulous.
“You’re an idiot, Derek. Like Grade A moron,” Stiles says and Derek scowls at him. “Everything you do is based on emotion. What a toolbox! No, Peter is like Home fucking Depot,” Stiles declares. Derek quirks a brow but his lip is twitching.
“You bit the lost boys because you know what it’s like to feel alone, and the thing you want most is family, and even though you fuck up like you’re trying to get a doctorate in it you always try to do the right thing,” Stiles sighs heavily and stares at Derek, hard. Derek is looking at him, eyes wide, mouth parted, front teeth visible in that way that makes him look young and human.
“And you bought me chocolate peanut butter and gave me this really awesome sweatshirt I’m never giving back either B-T-dubs, until it stops smelling like you and then you can wear it for a bit again and like you come here every night and I fucking know it’s not for the view, okay, cos like—“
“It is,” Derek says, interrupting. He’s nodding seriously.
“For the view.”
“Yeah my neighbors’ lawn gnome collection is really a splendid kind of statement.”
“Your face is the view,” Derek explains.
“My face is the view?” Stiles balks, but he’s smiling and can’t stop it. “That’s what you’re going with? I make these beautiful sweeping declarations of my growing love and fondness for your grumpy Alpha ass and you’re going with my face?”
“It’s a nice face,” Derek offers.
“Your face is a nice face,” Stiles huffs.
“I’m pretty attached to it,” Derek shrugs. Stiles rolls his eyes with his whole body. “It’s a good thing you’re rich.”
“It’s a good thing I have extremely low standards,” Derek counters.
“I’m a catch, pal! But not a catcher I might want to pitch, I don’t know yet though. I’m down for finding out though,” he starts and Derek presses a palm over his face. “But I’m not really picky either at this point, I’d be cool with just dancing around first base, maybe softly caressing third. Like anything really, we don’t even have to be in the same room we could try sexting. I have a pretty big vocab.”
“Mouth, stop talking.”
“Ooh!” Stiles lets out, kind of sappily. He shifts a bit, turns to Derek, “so, have we reached the end yet?” Stiles asks, leaning closer. Derek shrugs, “close enough,” and pulls him in for a kiss.