“No,” Stiles says, clutching his stuffed animal. Derek has the grumpiest face Stiles has ever seen, but his eyes are also the prettiest. They shine like lights and Stiles isn’t afraid to follow him into the trees at the edge of Derek’s property.
Derek walks faster.
“Where are we going?” Stiles asks, and he gets no reply. He tries to stay close, because the trees are tall and Stiles doesn’t know where he is but then – then he’s alone.
He calls out again, and this time when Derek doesn’t answer him he starts to panic. Stiles walks faster, starting to breathe funny like he sometimes does. He wonders if he should turn around but he doesn’t know the way.
“Derek?” he says, lips trembling. Stiles wipes his nose.
“Are you crying?” someone says.
Stiles yelps and turns around, hitting Derek in the chest when he sees him.
“N – no.”
Derek stares at him. “Yes you are.”
“Am not!” Stiles shouts. He pushes at Derek, not caring that Derek is older and bigger than him.
Derek scowls down at him. “I’ll beat you up if you keep following me.”
Stiles sticks out his chin. He can’t tell if Derek is lying or not, but when Derek turns around Stiles continues to follow him. This time Derek walks slower and keeps checking back to see if Stiles is still there.
They make their way to a tree house, and Stiles’ eyes widen.
“Cool,” he says. He tugs on the rope ladder.
“I helped make it,” Derek says proudly. “With my dad.”
Stiles grins at him and starts making his way up the ladder. He doesn’t know how long they sit there, but Derek is surprisingly nice company. They play princesses and dragons and Derek carries him all the way home on his shoulders.
“Derek saved me!” Stiles yells out when he spots their parents. Derek drops him to his feet, cheeks red as he kicks at the ground. “There was a dragon and he saved me and now he has to marry me!”
Stiles’ dad leans over and ruffles his hair. “I bet he will, kiddo.”
Their moms laugh and Stiles doesn’t know why.
“Kiss me,” Stiles says a few years later, and he watches the way Derek trips over nothing. Stiles giggles. When Derek turns to face him, he’s glaring, the softest trace of pink over his cheeks.
Stiles grins. “You heard me.”
Derek looks like he wants to be anywhere but there, surrounded by trees and very much alone. Stiles has never been kissed before, but he finds himself looking at Derek’s lips. They look like they’d be soft.
Stiles is suddenly a lot more nervous than he was a few seconds ago, but he keeps on going. Stiles has never been one to do anything halfway. “What, are you a big baby?” he says.
Derek glares at him. “I am not. You’re the baby!”
Stiles pouts his lips. He makes kissing noises, and this is better. It’s not so scary when he acts like it’s a joke.
“Your daddy keeps on saying we’re gonna get married one day,” Stiles tells Derek. “How are you going to marry me if you don’t even know how to kiss me?”
The vein in Derek’s forehead is throbbing, and his eyes look darker than Stiles has ever seen them. Stiles’ heart is going crazy in his chest, and he’s sure that Derek is going to punch him.
“I hate you,” Derek says.
“You love me.” Stiles says, gulping when Derek takes a step closer.
“No I don’t. You’re just a kid.”
“You’re just a kid!” Stiles’ voice is big as he yells, but he feels small right now. Derek is only a step away. His eyebrows are pinched together and his ears look funny from this distance.
Derek stops right in front of him.
“I dare you to kiss me,” Stiles taunts, and he’s not expecting the way Derek says a naughty word under his breath and then leans forward.
Stiles yelps. He just dodges Derek’s mouth before he’s laughing wildly and running through the trees, calling out a series of ew ew ew as Derek chases him back home.
He runs until he sees his mother, hiding under her arm and trying not to feel like this is the most exciting thing he’s ever done.
“Are you making trouble?” she asks, stroking Stiles’ short hair.
Stiles shakes his head, looking up when he hears Derek huffing and puffing behind him. He still looks mad, and maybe a little disappointed.
“What are we doing?” hisses Stiles. “You’re going to get us killed.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “Stop being so dramatic,” he says, grabbing Stiles’ elbow and leading him through the trees. Stiles falls quiet, and in the night air he can acutely feel the heat of Derek’s hand coming through his shirt.
Twigs crunch under their feet and it takes ten minutes before Stiles realizes where they are. They’ve come from the other end of the woods and it’s been a long time. He and Derek still see each other a lot, but they’re not kids anymore and they spend most of their time at school or on the lacrosse field.
“Oh,” he breathes, and Derek smirks at him.
Stiles almost rushes towards the tree house, and when he laughs the sound echoes back at him. He turns to Derek and he can see his eyes, looking amused and shining in the moonlight.
“Dude,” Stiles says.
Derek puts his hands in his jean pockets. He’s shrugging it off, but damn, this means so much. They spent so much time in that tree house and here they are now, years older, wishing those days had never ended.
“Let’s go up.”
“The ladder is gone,” Derek says. “And it’s dark. You’re probably going to fall.”
Stiles scoffs. “Why did you bring me here if we weren’t going to go in?” He jumps up and dangles from one of the branches, looking down and grinning at Derek. His shirt has ridden up and he can feel the cold, can feel Derek’s eyes on him.
Derek looks away after a moment, but he walks forward. He places his hands under Stiles’ ass and god, why is this happening to him? He pushes Stiles up so he can swing a leg over the branch, and then Stiles climbs awkwardly over to the door of the tree house.
He almost hates it that Derek can lift himself up without any help. Almost.
It’s dark and dusty inside. Stiles’ head hits the roof of the tree house, and when he crawls over the wooden ground he thinks he gets a splinter in his thumb.
“Ow, fuck,” he says.
“You okay?” Derek says in a low voice.
Stiles says nothing and he feels Derek behind him, face right by Stiles’ ass, and he did not expect the day to turn out like this.
There’s very little room in the tree house for them and Stiles holds his breath as Derek manhandles him into a sitting position, grabbing Stiles’ legs and twisting him around. Stiles is grateful for the darkness, for the way it hides his blushing cheeks.
Then they’re sitting opposite each other, backs against the wall and their legs bent and tangled together. Stiles feels his thumb throbbing.
“Happy now?” Derek asks.
“Yeah,” Stiles says breathlessly.
“It kind of smells.”
“A little,” Stiles says. He puts his hands on his knees and winces when small piece of wood in his finger rubs against his pants. “Splinter in my thumb.”
He can faintly see Derek’s careful look.
“Here,” he says, reaching for Stiles’ hand. Stiles says nothing as Derek’s fingers run gently along his skin, and then Stiles full on trembles when he feels Derek’s lips press against his palm.
“Shh,” he says, and his tongue is warm, so warm, tracing upwards until he finds the splinter. Then Derek sucks and Stiles can barely think. His breath is shuddery and he can’t feel the pain anymore, too focused on the feel of Derek’s mouth.
Derek makes a satisfied noise. “There. I think I got it.”
He lets Stiles’ hand go, and fuck. He’s very aware of Derek’s legs right against his own, the space too small for this, and Stiles is horribly aroused. But Derek brought him here, brought him to this tree house where it means something to them both.
“Remember,” Stiles says, voice hoarse. “When I dared you to kiss me?”
He thinks he sees Derek smile. “Yeah.”
“I won’t run away this time.”
There’s a flurry of movement and Derek’s hands are reaching for his, tangling their fingers together. Derek leans forward but there’s only enough space to press their foreheads together. He hears Derek swallow.
“Stiles,” he says, voice urgent.
“I – I want you. A lot.”
“Me too,” he whispers back, holding Derek’s hands tight. “I wanna kiss you.”
Derek huffs. “It was your idea to get in the tree.”
“You brought us here; what did you think was going to happen?” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “Now, how the hell are we going to get down?”
Derek ends up leaving first, and he lands on the ground with a graceful thump. Stiles more or less falls out of the tree house, but it isn’t as high up as he remembers and Derek tries his best to catch him.
Derek’s unable to hold back his laughter as he helps Stiles up.
Stiles scowls, brushing the leaves off his backside. “Hey! Don’t laugh at me, asshole. You clearly know how to kill the romance,” he mutters.
Derek rolls his eyes and then kisses him.
When they wander out of the woods, Stiles has marks down his neck and Derek’s hair is a mess. They’re holding hands and smiling goofily at each other, barely noticing their parents’ surprised looks at their entwined fingers.
Stiles slams the front door shut, ignoring the way Derek calls his name. He’s too mad to go outside and talk it through. He’s too scared that he’ll say something he might regret.
He goes upstairs and tries not to cry. They’ve never fought like this before and Stiles wants Derek’s goodnight kiss, he wants everything to be okay.
“You alright, son?” his father says.
Stiles shakes head.
“Everything will work out,” he says. “Your mom and I fought a lot. Still do and we’re happy.”
He gives his father a weak smile, heading up the stairs. Stiles falls asleep with tears in his eyes and he wants Derek to sneak in his bedroom window and tell him that it will be okay. That they’ll stay together even when Derek goes to college and Stiles stays in high school.
The next morning he wakes with an ache in his chest and he knows he needs to see Derek, see him and talk to him and make sure that this isn’t the end.
He steps outside and his heart stops. Derek is there.
“Stiles,” he says, standing up. His eyes look tired. He’s wearing the same clothes as the night before.
“What the hell, dude? Did you stay out here all night?”
Derek rubs his eyes and says nothing.
“I – I love you,” Derek says. “I don’t want to lose you.”
“Fuck,” Stiles says, rushing forward. He throws his arms around Derek’s neck, rubs his nose against Derek’s cheek. “I love you too. I love you. We’ll make it work, I promise. It won’t matter that we’re apart.”
Derek sighs in relief and they hold each other, hold each other for a long time.
The day that Stiles comes back from college with his degree, the day that he comes back for good, Derek takes him to that tree house again.
It looks exactly the same, worn down and small, but it sparks a lot of happy memories in Stiles’ heart. He stares up at it and grins.
“I don’t think we’re going to fit in there,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “We could try though.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “I’m not going to fall for that again.”
Derek stands behind him, winds his arms around Stiles’ waist. Stiles leans his head back and lets it rest on Derek’s shoulder.
“Why did you bring me here, then?” Stiles asks softly, kissing the edge of Derek’s jaw.
He feels Derek take a deep breath. “I could fix it all up again,” he says. “Make sure it’s safe.”
“Our kids could play there,” Derek says quietly. Stiles stills. “And then our grandkids.”
He doesn’t know what to think, what to say. With wide eyes he turns around and faces Derek, hands falling to his sides as Derek steps backwards.
Derek looks at him, love in his eyes, and then he gets down to one knee. He asks Stiles to marry him and Stiles says yes, happiness flooding his heart.