Finally I will give in, Feel his fingers on my skin
I will soak him in, then I'll fall apart
Till we are whispers in the dark
We are the silences wrapped around our beating hearts
Blue as oceans from the skies are waving longingly goodbye to the seashore
Now I see the earth is round, nothing like it seems from the ground, flat and dismal
-blue farewell, melissa mcclelland
The summer air was stifling, and Stiles had two oscillating fans going and the front door to the diner propped open. But that didn’t make it any more bearable. If he was honest, it probably just made it worse. The sleeves of his plaid button up were rolled above his elbows, his shirt untucked and unbuttoned. He didn’t care who saw his undershirt; it was hot.
“Order up!” he called through the window, and Scott grabbed the order sheet before turning back to the grills. Lunch rushes were always the worst, and this one was hell. Had he mentioned how hot it was? Because it was hot. Kinda like it was. In Hell.
“Stiles,” Mrs. McCall yelled from the doorway to the back. Stiles glanced over his shoulder. “When the lunch rush dies down, how about starting to change out those chairs with the new ones? Shop dropped them off earlier today; they’re sitting out behind the building.”
Stiles flicked his hand in a fake salute. “You got it, boss. Ten-four.”
She disappeared behind the door as a deep voice said, “You’re doing it wrong.”
“Huh?” Stiles turned on his heel and glanced at the dark-haired man with thick stubble and even thicker shoulders sitting at the end of the counter, staring at a menu.
“The salute. It’s wrong. And besides, you’re only supposed to salute officers, and never indoors.”
Stiles walked over, scratching his chin. The man continued staring down and didn’t bother to glance up when Stiles stopped in front of him. “O…kay…um, I’m not a soldier.”
Stiles raked his eyes over the man, took in his build, the rigid posture of his shoulders. “But you are.”
The man nodded. “Yep.”
“Crap, I didn’t mean to offend you, I was just – “
“You didn’t offend me,” the man cut in. He looked at Stiles fully then, bright hazel eyes unlike anything Stiles had ever seen. It kinda took him off guard, and he wasn’t sure how much he liked them looking through him like they were boring into his soul. It kind of weirded him out. “But I know quite a few soldiers who might be.”
Stiles sighed. “Okay, no more fake salutes.” He pulled out his pad from the back pocket of his pants. “What can I get you?”
“What do you recommend?”
Stiles pursed his lips and angled himself sideways so he could read the menu laid on the counter in front of the man even though he’d had it memorized since he was thirteen. “It’s all good, really. Scott’s a great cook, but personally, I suggest the hamburger or the melt.”
The man looked up with a small smile, which made him look much more handsome and much less like someone who could break Stiles’ neck with his bare hands if he tried. “Hamburger it is then.”
Stiles scribbled it down as the man added fries and a Coca-cola to his order. He nodded and clipped the slip in the window before grabbing a bottle from the ice box. After all his remaining tables had left and the only other person left in the dining room was soldier boy, Stiles did his routine: wipe down tables and counter, refill saltshakers, straighten ketchup and mustard on the tables.
When he finished, soldier boy was still sitting at the counter, taking his sweet time with that hamburger. Thirty minutes, really? And he’d only eaten like half of it? Stiles really hoped he wasn’t going to be robbed. Maybe this guy was another Bonnie and Clyde or John Dillinger. He might not be well-traveled, but he read the papers and listened to the radio. These things happened. They just never happened in Beacon Hills. Nothing happened in Beacon Hills. Beacon Hills was the most boring town in the entire world (or at least Northern California).
He knew this first hand, mainly because his father never shut up about how bored he got sitting around the sheriff’s station or going out on calls about cows.
Stiles poked his head through the kitchen door. Scott was scrubbing down the grill. “Hey, gonna go grab those chairs for your mom. There’s some guy out here eating. Just keep an ear out and make sure he doesn’t rob us or something.”
Scott grinned. “Sure thing.”
Stiles walked down the long hall through the diner and to the back door, propping it open with a rock while he carried the chairs back and forth into the dining room four at a time. By the time he set the remaining chairs down, he was burning up and drenched in sweat. He stripped off his plaid shirt even though soldier boy was still there, and poured himself a large glass of water.
Before going to switch out the chairs, Stiles set a new bottle of soda in front of the man, figuring that if he was going to sit at the counter all afternoon, he might as well be well hydrated. Didn’t want any heat-related casualties on his hands. Then, he went about his work.
“Want some help?”
Stiles turned around and found that soldier boy had turned in his chair and was now watching him. Stiles shrugged. “You don’t have to.”
“I don’t mind.” The man stood up, easily picked up the chair he’d been sitting in (much more easily than Stiles did), and stacked it on the growing tower of old chairs.
“What? Do you not have something better to do with your Wednesday afternoon other than stack chairs? Not that I’m complaining, because this makes my life so much easier, especially since this might be the hottest day in all of existence, but still. I’m Stiles, by the way.”
“Derek,” the man answered.
“Well, thanks for the help, Derek.” They worked for a few minutes in silence, and then Stiles asked, “So, you passing through or visiting family?”
Derek hesitated before answering, “Passing through.”
Stiles nodded. “So, you’re really a soldier?”
“Are you going overseas?” Stiles asked.
Derek shook his head. “Not planning on it. But if the US joins the war, I’ll do what the army tells me.”
“Don’t let my friend Scott learn that you’re a soldier. You’ll never get rid of him. He wants to be a soldier so bad.”
“Then why doesn’t he join up?” Derek slid a new chair under the counter and came back for another.
“He has really bad asthma, but he wants to try after he graduates.” Stiles ran a hand through his hair, and Derek nodded. “I mean, we’re both seventeen and could enlist. He wanted to enlist as soon as he turned seventeen, but his mom wouldn’t let him. I just wanna finish my senior year and hope by the time I turn 21 there won’t be a draft anymore. I mean, I’d love to get out of this town, do something exciting like travel the world and see Paris or London, but the war in Europe seems really bad according to the papers. I don’t want to enlist.”
“It’s not for everyone,” Derek stated.
Stiles placed the final chair at a table and stood back admiring their work. He pulled up his shirt and wiped off his sweaty face, grimacing because the shirt was so soaked it didn’t help much. He was definitely going directly home and showering.
“Not too bad,” Stiles said. “Thanks for the help, Derek.”
“What are you doing with these?” Derek pointed to the two large stacks of old chairs.
“You haven’t thought about that, have you?” Derek smirked and grabbed the first stack. “Where do you want them?”
“Whoa!” Stiles yelled, hands flailing as Derek held like ten chairs. “If you break something, I’m not sure the diner will be able to pay for it.”
Derek sighed and rolled his eyes. “It’s not heavy. Now, where?”
Stiles decided taking like two chairs would be kind of ridiculous when Derek carried ten, so he led the way through the narrow hallway towards the backdoor, making sure nothing was in Derek’s way. After both sets of chairs had been moved outside, Stiles poured two glasses of water. He gulped his down like he’d been the one to carry twenty chairs outside.
“Your meal’s on the house,” Stiles said after he finished his glass. Derek was still sipping his. “For helping me.”
“That’s not necessary.”
Stiles nodded. “Oh, yes it is. You earned it, buddy.” Derek took a final sip of his water and set the glass carefully on the counter. “Thanks, by the way, for the help.”
Derek gave him a clipped nod as he pulled his wallet from his back pocket, and despite Stiles’ protestations, dropped money on the counter.
“Nice to meet you!” Stiles called as Derek left the diner. When he glanced down, his eyes widened in shock at how much money was on the counter. Derek had left him a tip almost five times what his meal cost.
He was so getting a free meal if he ever came back.
Derek woke at 5 a.m. on the dot. He conducted his morning regiment – two hundred pushups, two hundred sit ups, eight mile run. By 7 a.m., he was freshly showered, dressed in civilian clothes, and standing outside the diner.
The dining room was teeming with life. And right in the middle of it, with explosive energy, was Stiles. He was wearing a white apron over his plaid shirt (blue instead of red like yesterday) and he was carrying around a coffee pot, topping off mugs as he meandered through the crowd. His mouth never stopped moving the entire time he circulated. Derek wondered how the coffee didn’t get cold by the time he finished one sentence.
He contemplated not going into the diner. And he probably wouldn’t have, except the diner was the only place in town to eat. Thinking maybe it was a mistake, Derek opened the door and walked inside. He managed to squeeze in at the counter in the same seat as the day before. He was glancing at the menu when Stiles noticed he was there.
“Derek!” Stiles said cheerfully. He set a mug down in front of Derek and filled it with coffee. “I didn’t expect to see you again. Thought I scared you away with all the hard work yesterday.” Stiles smiled widely, and for some reason, Derek returned the smile.
“You call that hard work?”
Stiles huffed. “Yeah, that’s hard work. Especially after being on my feet all day.” Someone called out Stiles’ name, and he held up one impossibly long finger before running across the diner, returning quickly like a yo-yo. “Sorry about that. It’s a bit crazy around here sometimes. What can I get you?”
“Eggs, toast, and milk.”
Stiles nodded as he jotted it down on his pad and then went back to work.
Derek stared at the chipped counter as he waited for his food. He’d been in Beacon Hills for less than twenty four hours. His CO had made him take leave, told him he’d gone too long without taking any, and to get some R&R. He could have gone anywhere, gone to San Francisco or Hollywood or even to Yosemite, but instead he’d come home. Yeah, he had some business he had to take care of, but that would only take a day, and he didn’t have to do that until Monday.
He just had nowhere else to go.
“Something interesting on that counter?” Stiles’ voice penetrated his thoughts as a plate appeared in his vision. “I’d love to know if there’s something interesting around this place. It’s Dullsville.”
“I heard that,” a woman with dark, curly hair said from down the counter.
Stiles motioned his head her way. “That’s Mrs. McCall, my best friend Scott’s mama. She owns this place. She used to run it with Scott’s dad, but then he died and everyone thought she should sell it, because she’s a woman, you know, but she had no other source of income. Plus, it’s the only diner in town.” Derek nodded, wondering why Stiles was telling him all of this. “I’ve been working here since before I could see over the counter, and will probably work here until I die, unless I decide to become a deputy like my dad. But I don’t think I really want to do that. I don’t think I’d make a very good policeman.” Derek titled his head as he watched the way the boy flailed and moved in jittery little motions. No, he would make a terrible policeman and a terrible solider. Derek wasn’t even sure how he managed to carry around a coffee pot.
Stiles disappeared for a few moments, and Derek started eating his breakfast. A few minutes passed, and Stiles was opening the icebox behind the counter, right across from where Derek sat. “Cola with breakfast? What happened to orange juice or milk? Some people.” He glanced at Derek’s empty milk glass. “I’ll get you another.” Stiles fluttered off again, and Derek smiled to himself.
It was ten minutes before Stiles returned with a fresh glass of milk. Derek had eaten all his eggs, but hadn’t touched his toast yet. “Sorry, one of my dad’s deputies decided to talk to me, and he wouldn’t shut up!” Derek chuckled at the irony.
The diner was loud and crowded, usually everything Derek hated. But he’d been alone too much lately. Sitting alone in the hotel just made the loneliness overwhelm him, made the silence ring in his ears. People bumped against his chair as they walked behind him, customers rotated in and out of the chair beside him, bumping his elbow or speaking cordially, and every time Stiles walked to the ice box or kitchen window, he said something random to Derek or offered him a smile. It was everything Derek hated, but there was no place else for him to be.
When Derek tried to pay for breakfast, Stiles refused his money, but when Stiles disappeared to take care of another customer, Derek dropped a stack of bills beside his plate.
Derek returned to the diner later, after the dinner crowd. He’d spent the entire day driving around the country outside of Beacon Hills. He tried to relax, to find something to release the knot that had been settled in his chest for the past six months. The knot was still there as he drove back into town.
As he walked by, he glanced in the windows and saw the dark-haired woman behind the counter. He ordered a hamburger to go and ate it in his hotel room.
At 5:30 the next morning, Derek walked through the diner door. Stiles was slumped sleepily on the counter, blearily staring at a container of sugar he was supposed to be filling. When he heard the bell on the door jingle, he looked up.
“Derek!” Stiles immediately perked up and rubbed his eyes. “Why are you here so early? Only farmers wake up this early, and I doubt you know how to milk a cow.”
“Soldier,” Derek answered simply, sitting in his usual chair at the counter.
“Ah, yes.” Stiles yawned as he pulled out his pad. “What’ll you have this morning?” Derek ordered the same as the day before and Stiles slid his order through the window. “Still here, then?” Derek nodded. “Here for our lovely tourist attractions?” Stiles gave him a lopsided grin.
“I’m from Beacon Hills,” Derek found himself saying. He looked at Stiles in surprise, whose expression mirrored his own. He wasn’t sure why he told him that, hadn’t intended to tell anyone who he was. “Well, Beacon County, out past town.”
“Really?” Stiles recovered from his surprise and clapped his hands. “That’s great! But I’m pretty sure I’d remember you, and I know pretty much everyone between working here and my dad.”
“I left as soon as I was eighteen,” Derek explained, still half-horrified at his sudden bout of verbal over share.
“When was that?” Stiles asked. He leaned his hip against the counter, listening like he actually cared.
“Huh, I was only twelve. Probably why I don’t remember you.” Stiles turned and grabbed the plate that appeared in the window. Instead of setting it down directly, he carried it around the counter and set it in front of Derek as he dropped into the chair beside him, apparently joining him. “Did you join the army then?”
“Um, the National Guard. I’ve been stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo.” At Stiles’ blank face, Derek added, “about halfway down the state.” Stiles opened his mouth and nodded in comprehension.
“Is your family still here?” Derek’s hand froze around the salt shaker as he tried to decide how to answer. Stiles seemed to sense his discomfort because he said quickly, “I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer that. It’s none of my business.”
“No, it’s okay,” Derek said slowly. “They died in a fire.”
“You’re Derek Hale,” Stiles whispered, almost to himself, as the pieces fell into place. Derek looked at him sharply. “My dad’s the sheriff.” Stiles shrugged. Derek nodded, and after a few beats, Stiles awkwardly got up and went about his morning preparations. Derek ate his eggs in silence, disappointed that he’d ruined their conversation.
Stiles wasn’t behind the counter at lunch, so Derek went to the supermarket instead. Later, as the sun was going down, Derek ran ten miles, so by the time he walked past the diner, it was after nine. The open sign was still in the window, and Stiles was behind the counter, moving around erratically.
Derek entered the diner and was hit with the sound of music and Stiles’ off-key singing. Stiles’ attention turned to him when he heard the bell, and he smiled and reached over to switch off the radio.
“The show’s on the house,” Stiles joked, and the edges of Derek’s mouth quirked.
“I still think the price is too high.”
Stiles made a face at that. “Do you always make it a habit to run at night? You’ve been running for hours, I think.”
“I usually run in the mornings,” Derek explained as he took his usual seat, “but sometimes I like running as the sun sets.” He suddenly noticed how sweaty he was, his hair wet and shirt completely damp. He really should have gone back to the hotel first, but he’d been solely focused on heading to the diner immediately after his run.
“There are better places to run than through town. But you probably know that, since you’re from here.” Stiles waved his hand around in slight embarrassment.
“You could show me,” Derek suggested. “It’s been a long time. A lot has changed.”
“Nothing has changed,” Stiles laughed bitterly. “This place will never change. In the year 2000, I’ll be almost eighty and still working in this diner, and Beacon Hills will look exactly the same.”
“Why don’t you leave?”
Stiles shrugged. “Why would I leave? My dad’s here, Scott and his mom’s here, and they’re all I have. I have a decent job, and could probably get a number of any other jobs in town if I wanted.” Stiles shrugged again.
“Sounds okay, I guess.”
“Sounds safe,” Stiles said. “I’ll have a decent job, maybe I’ll marry a nice girl I’ll eventually fall in love with, have a few kids, live a moderately happy life. What more could I ask for?”
Derek cocked his head to the side, studying Stiles. “You’re too young to be that jaded.”
“I’m not jaded, Derek. I’m realistic.”
Something in Derek ached for Stiles. Derek had stopped hoping after the fire, had dedicated his life to the army, something he was good at that could give him purpose. But Stiles had no reason to feel that way.
Derek ordered dinner and Stiles started cleaning. Derek watched him, watched the coiled energy thrumming through Stiles’ limbs, the simple grace with which he sometimes moved, the long line of his back and legs. When Stiles set the plate on the counter between them, he noticed how graceful his fingers were, and when he looked up, he got lost in the color of Stiles’ eyes, the soft curve of his lips.
Derek ate as Stiles rambled to him about the people of Beacon Hills. Derek knew he was interested in men, always had been. He didn’t care what society said; he was who he was. Sure, he’d tried to make it with a woman, with Kate, but that had been a disaster and confirmed what Derek had already known. But he never intended to act on it, to become involved with a man. He was married to the army, would have a long career and retire a general. Or more than likely, he’d die on a battlefield.
But there was something about Stiles. Something Derek couldn’t put a finger on, but in a few short days he had wiggled himself under Derek’s guard, gotten between the cracks. Derek had come to Beacon Hills to help loosen the knot in his chest, and somehow, whenever Derek was with him, Stiles did just that. Stiles’ inane chatter and wide smile made the emptiness not seem so empty anymore.
Derek snapped from his thoughts and glanced at Stiles, staring at him expectantly. “Huh?”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “I said there’s this town carnival tomorrow and asked if you’d like to go.”
Derek didn’t hesitate. “I’d love to.”
“Allison’s meeting me there,” Scott said, adjusting his shirt for the fifteen zillionth time since they left Stiles’ house. It was a short walk to the fairgrounds, and Scott had been nervously fidgeting the whole way. “I think she’s sweet on me. Is she sweet on me? I’m sweet on her.”
“I know,” Stiles groaned. He’d known Scott was sweet on her since she’d moved to town the year before. “I think she likes you, too.”
“Maybe I’ll walk her home. Should I walk her home?”
“I don’t know, Scott. Maybe? Just see how it goes.”
When they got to the carnival, it was packed with just about everyone in the entire county. Just inside the fairgrounds, Scott leaned against a building to wait for Allison, and Stiles stood with him, kicking up dust with his feet.
Stiles looked towards the voice, face breaking into a smile when he saw Derek walking towards him tentatively. He was dressed in a simple navy cotton shirt and jeans. Stiles had really only seen him sitting down, and as he watched Derek approach, he noticed the solid mass of his body, the lean waist in contrast to the broad shoulders, the quiet confidence in his stride.
“Derek!” Stiles turned to Scott, who was looking at him curiously. “Scott, this is Derek. He’s the one who helped me with the chairs the other day.”
“Oh!” Scott extended his hand and shook Derek’s warmly. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” Derek stuffed his hands into his jeans pocket and looked around. “I haven’t been to the carnival since I was a kid.”
“I’m sure it’s just as exciting now as it was then,” Stiles joked.
Allison found them then, and after a round of introductions, Scott went off with her hand in hand, leaving Stiles and Derek alone.
“Well, what do you want to do first?” Stiles asked, walking down the fairway slowly.
“What do you usually do?”
“Eat too much, goof off with Scott, ride things until I puke.” Stiles shrugged. “Not sure any of that sounds appealing.”
“Maybe food first?” Derek suggested, and Stiles led the way. “So, why aren’t you here with a girl like Scott?”
Stiles sighed. “Well, that would first require a girl.” He glanced at Derek out of the corner of his eyes, tall, broad, perfectly chiseled jaw, muscles. He was an All-American guy. “A problem I’m sure you’re unfamiliar with.”
“Don’t be so sure.”
Stiles gaped at him in open disbelief. “You don’t have to be modest. Doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’ve accepted that I’m not the sort of guy most girls find appealing.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Derek said seriously, his voice quiet and low. The words made something inside Stiles tingle, and it was uncomfortable. He shook it off.
In line at the food booth, Stiles spotted Lydia across the row of picnic tables. He waved awkwardly, and she smiled and waved back. Derek looked between them.
“She’s lovely. Why didn’t you ask her?”
Stiles pointed at Jackson, who’d just joined her. “That’s why. Jackson. He’s like the richest kid in town He’ll be Ivy League after school, Harvard or Yale. I’ve been in love with Lydia since the third grade, but she only has eyes for Jackson.” Stiles sighed and ordered their food at the window. Stiles tried to pay, but Derek beat him to it. “Derek, I have a job, you know. And I’ve been doing really well in tips lately thanks to a particular soldier passing through.”
Stiles could have sworn that Derek’s cheeks flushed a bit pink.
“Save your money,” Derek said. “I have plenty. Consider it a thank you for being so hospitable to a stranger.”
Stiles grabbed his food and headed for a picnic table. “My momma always used to say she never met a stranger. Dad says I’m just like her.”
“I’d have to say I agree,” Derek said, swinging his long legs over the bench. “Unless I’m just a special circumstance.” This time, it was Stiles’ turn to blush. Derek looked at him oddly before grabbing a French fry from the cardboard container. “Does your mom like that you take after her?”
Stiles stared down at his hamburger. “She, um, she died when I was a kid.”
“I’m sorry, Stiles.”
Stiles smiled up at Derek. It wasn’t often that he met people who didn’t pity him; Scott was the only one who understood. But Derek understood, too, probably more than Stiles. Stiles still had his dad.
“Let’s ride the Ferris wheel!” Stiles said, grabbing Derek’s arm and dragging him to stand in line. “You’re not afraid of heights, are you?” Derek shook his head, and Stiles bounced excitedly on his feet. When they got into the car and moved into the air, Stiles leaned over the side and looked down. “This is so neat!”
“Easily amused, aren’t you?”
Stiles turned towards him and pouted. “I love the Ferris wheel. I used to ride it every year with my mom. I haven’t ridden it since she died.”
“Why this year?” Derek asked. The ride creaked and jerked as it rotated them further up.
Stiles shrugged. “I just thought it’d be fun. You on the Ferris wheel is pretty hilarious. Plus, my friends always ride it with their boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s such a couple-y thing to do.”
Derek lifted his eyebrows. “You’ve never ridden it with a girlfriend?”
“Please. Like a girl would ever let me take her out.”
“Those girls are stupid,” Derek said quietly. Stiles glanced over at him just as the Ferris wheel started turning, sending them through the air in a large revolution.
“Do you want to hear something stupid?”
“I’m sure it’s not stupid.”
“It is,” Stiles said, pausing for a moment as he and Derek crested over the top of the ride. He could see the entire town. He reached over and hit Derek on the chest and held his hand there as he pointed out. “Look! My mom always said that she could see our house from here.” He held his breath as the Ferris wheel rotated over the top again. “I don’t think she could see it.” Stiles turned to Derek and smiled, then realized his hand was still flat against Derek’s chest. “Oops! Sorry.” He looked back out, embarrassed.
“What were you going to tell me?” Derek asked.
“Oh!” Stiles waved his hand around. “It’s not important really. It’s just that you’re the first friend I’ve had since Scott.”
“Really?” Derek asked.
Stiles blushed and looked at his hand. “That makes me sound so sad. It’s just, everyone tolerates me at school, but they all say, ‘That Stilinski kid is weird.’ They’re right. I’ve never felt like I belonged. I’ve always felt like there was something more out there for me. Do you ever feel like that?”
“All the time,” Derek replied.
They rode the Ferris wheel twice, and Derek played a few of the carnival games, knocking down all the milk bottles four times in a row, much to the carnie’s chagrin.
“Good job!” Stiles said, patting Derek on the shoulder. “That guy was not happy you beat his game. He really didn’t want to give you that.” Stiles pointed to the ridiculously large stuffed teddy bear Derek held. Derek gave it to a little girl who walked by.
He played the shell game next, and Stiles laughed at him when he lost twice in a row. Derek glared at Stiles, and Stiles laughed even harder. “Sore loser!” Stiles exclaimed, throwing his arm around Derek’s shoulders. “Don’t be so mad! It’s just a game.” The carnie handed Derek his prize, a tiny stuffed wolf. Derek grunted and walked away, Stiles’ arm sliding from his shoulders and down his back.
“Here,” Derek said, handing the wolf to Stiles as they walked away from the booth.
“I don’t want it,” Stiles said, trying to give it back to Derek, but Derek wouldn’t take it. “Come on, what am I going to do with a stuffed wolf?”
Derek shrugged as he laughed. “Put it in the diner.” Stiles grumbled as he shoved the tiny thing into his pocket.
They circled the carnival twice more before deciding to leave. As they exited, Stiles said, “Well, this was fun. Hope you didn’t get too bored.”
“Where are you going?” Derek asked.
Stiles pointed his thumb over his shoulder. “Home, which is that way. It’s a quick walk.” But as Stiles stood in front of Derek, he really didn’t like the sound of that. He didn’t want to go home, wanted to stay with Derek, talk to him, get to know him. He wasn’t quite sure why.
“You don’t have a car?”
“That…doesn’t really surprise me.” Stiles grinned.
“You want a ride home?”
“Nah,” Stiles said, shaking his head. He didn’t want to impose, and something about being around Derek felt dangerous.
“Okay.” Derek shrugged and started walking off. “See you.”
Stiles’ mind was yelling at him, screaming for him to turn around and walk home and let that be that. But there was another part of him, a part of him that was bored with tiny Beacon Hills and safe and the same mundane life. Derek was different, Derek was interesting, Derek was…Stiles didn’t quite understand what Derek was, and it terrified him.
“Derek, wait.” Derek spun around, eyes bright. The night was illuminated by bright carnival lights, the sounds of screams and laughter floating from beyond the gates, the smell of grease and livestock heavy in the air. There were people milling around them, but Stiles didn’t notice any of them. “I changed my mind.”
Derek’s face broke into a huge grin, and something in Stiles shifted.
Yeah, this wasn’t safe at all.
“Want to come in?” Stiles asked after Derek stopped the car in front of his house. Derek hesitated, and then followed Stiles inside. Stiles stopped just inside the door and looked around self-consciously. “It’s not much, but we like it.” It was a small house that his dad had bought after Stiles’ mom died. It was in a nice neighborhood, two streets away from Scott, and a quick walk from the diner.
“It’s nice.” Derek walked around the living room, stopped before a picture on the mantle. “Is this your mother?”
Stiles joined him, standing close so he could look at the picture too since Derek’s body took up so much space. “Yeah. Just after they got married.”
Stiles reached out and touched the frame affectionately. “Yeah, she was.”
“You look just like her. You have her eyes.”
The comment caught Stiles off guard. He glanced over at Derek, who wasn’t looking at the picture. He was looking at Stiles, way too close, invading his personal space.
Stiles took a step back and inhaled. His pulse was racing, and he felt flustered and he wasn’t sure why. He stared at Derek, confused and scared. This didn’t make any sense. What he was feeling, the way he felt about Derek, it didn’t make any sense. And it wasn’t right.
“I should go,” Derek finally said. The silence had gotten awkward, and although Derek made towards the door, Stiles didn’t think that was the body language of someone who wanted to leave.
“My dad isn’t going to be home for hours,” Stiles blurted. Derek froze, his back rigid and body completely still. Stiles felt his face burn crimson as panic bubbled in his throat. What had he done? What if Derek beat him unconscious? What if Derek told everyone? Stiles hadn’t said anything aloud, but he was pretty sure the implication was screaming there just underneath the surface.
Finally, Derek turned around to face him, his face carefully blank.
“I mean,” Stiles stammered, trying to dig himself out of this hole. “If you want to, um, have a drink or eat some ice cream. Really, I don’t know why I said that.”
Derek crossed the room in three quick strides, and Stiles pressed himself against the mantle, cowering in on himself. “Please don’t hurt me,” Stiles begged. “I’m sorry. I – “
“Stiles,” Derek said in a commanding tone. Stiles looked at Derek fearfully, waiting for the blow to come. Derek moved his arm, and Stiles flinched. But Derek’s fist moved past his head, palm flat against the wall by Stiles’ head. Stiles looked at the impressive swell of his bicep and tried not to think about how much strength and force that would put behind his fist. Softer, he asked, “Why do you look so scared?”
That was not the question Stiles expected. He stared at Derek, trying to read his expression, but the man was just looking at him. He was standing extremely close, in Stiles’ space again, and if Stiles concentrated really hard, he could smell Derek’s soap, hear his soft breaths.
“Please don’t hit me.”
“Why would I hit you?” Derek placed his other hand on the wall by Stiles’ head.
“I don’t know,” Stiles said, his face somehow getting even redder.
“Stiles,” Derek said, leaning even closer, only inches from his face. “Is it okay if I kiss you?” Stiles’ eyes widened in shock, but his body thrummed with excitement. He opened his mouth, his breath coming in short, shallow gasps. “If you say no, I’ll leave, and you’ll never see me again.”
“No!” Stiles shouted. The disappointment on Derek’s face was palpable, and he dropped his hands and turned away. Something in Stiles ached, and he quickly grabbed Derek’s wrist. Derek looked down at Stiles’ hand on his wrist, then at his face. “I mean, please don’t go. I don’t want you to go.”
Derek pulled Stiles to him, bodies flush, and looked into his face. “Are you sure?” Derek asked. “I want you to think about this seriously. Because – “
“Derek,” Stiles interrupted. Derek raised an eyebrow. “Just kiss me.”
That’s all Derek needed. He clasped the back of Stiles’ head and pressed their mouths together gently. Kissing Derek was nothing like Stiles had imagined kissing would be like. Well, he’d only ever imagined kissing Lydia, and he’d imagined her soft and smelling of roses. Not Derek. Derek was gentle against his mouth, just lightly brushing his lips against Stiles and not trying for anything more. His lips were warm and chapped, and his stubble was rough against his face, Derek’s hands calloused and coarse against his neck and cheek. A faint hint of musk clung to his skin.
When Derek pulled away, Stiles stared at him, speechless. He just kissed someone. Another person someone. A guy someone. That should bother him more than it did. There had always been something Stiles felt was missing, something more he was waiting on, but he figured he’d never find it. Now Derek was standing in front of him, waiting patiently as he just stared at him with a soft look in his beautiful eyes that made Stiles’ knees weak. There was no way that something this wonderful was wrong. “That’s not how I imagined my first kiss,” Stiles said breathlessly.
“How did you imagine it?” Derek asked, tracing his knuckles down Stiles’ cheek.
“Nothing as good as that.”
Derek leaned forward and dragged his nose against Stiles’ temple. “I didn’t know that was your first kiss. I’m sorry.” He pressed his warm lips against Stiles’ skin, and Stiles wanted to feel them on his mouth again more than he’d ever wanted anything.
“Never apologize,” Stiles said, turning his face, his eyes fluttering shut as Derek’s lips and stubble brushed against his forehead. “I’m glad it was.”
Derek smiled, and Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s back to keep from falling as Derek kissed him again.
Derek tried to tell himself this was a bad idea. Even as his lips were pressed against Stiles’, Stiles’ arms around his waist holding him tightly, he tried to believe this would just end in disaster. That Stiles was just seventeen, didn’t know what he wanted from life, that Derek was just a passing curiosity. Something he might feel ashamed about as he rocked into whatever wife he married years down the road. Derek didn’t like the bad taste that left in his mouth, thinking about Stiles being married, in the arms – and bed – of someone else. Derek knew that was dangerous thinking, thinking he’d never allowed himself to indulge in. But as Stiles’ lips grew more confident, his fingers curling and uncurling against the small of Derek’s back, he didn’t care.
“Couch?” Stiles asked when he pulled away. His eyes were so bright, his cheeks so pink, excited and aroused. Derek nodded, and they pulled apart, but kept their hands on each other as they moved across the living room. But Stiles stepped away, Derek disappointed at the loss of contact, and walked over to the windows and closed the drapes. “Just in case,” Stiles explained as he tugged the last, white linen curtain over the window.
“No, it’s smart,” Derek said, sitting on the couch as he watched Stiles cross the room. Stiles walked with an undeserved self-consciousness. He was skinny, yes, and gangly, but Derek was pretty sure he didn’t realize just how desirable he was. “Do you think anyone saw inside before? I should have been more careful.”
Stiles placed a comforting hand on Derek’s leg as he dropped beside him on the sofa. “We weren’t visible from the window.” Stiles hesitated before tentatively running his hand along Derek’s thigh, then across his shoulder and over his bicep.
“Are you nervous?” Derek asked tenderly, his hand sliding up Stiles’ arm.
“Don’t be,” Derek said. “I’ve never done this, kissed a man, before tonight either.”
“Really?” The way Stiles said it sounded like a sigh of relief.
Derek laughed. “I was involved with a woman before, right after I joined the army.”
“Really?” Stiles pulled his legs under him and settled down to listen. Derek grabbed his hand and threaded their fingers, and Stiles looked down at it with a small smile around his lips. “What happened?”
Derek stared at the far wall as he spoke. “I tried to love her, even though I was only interested in men. It was a couple of years after my family died, and I just…I wanted a normal life. I thought getting married, having kids, joining the army would do it. She was a bit crazy. Hated that I was in the army, that I didn’t make more money, and after some bad fights, she left me.” Stiles squeezed his hand, and Derek looked over at him. “Can’t say I was too sad, though. It didn’t feel right marrying a woman, lying to her, for the rest of my life.” Derek reached out and trailed his fingers down Stiles’ neck. “I’ve never told that to anyone before.”
“Why me?” Stiles asked.
Derek studied Stiles, who looked so vulnerable sitting there beside him. “I don’t know,” Derek admitted. “I just liked you from the moment that you spoke to me.” He reached forward and grabbed Stiles’ shirt, tugging him closer. Stiles crawled into his lap, wrapping his arms around Derek’s neck while he kissed him.
Emboldened by Stiles’ actions, Derek swiped his tongue against Stiles’ lips, and Stiles opened his mouth with a surprised “ah!” Derek grinned against his mouth as he slipped his tongue inside Stiles’ hot mouth, and Derek didn’t hide the moan that escaped from him when he finally made contact with Stiles’ tongue. It was soft and warm, and Derek could feel Stiles’ hesitance as he tried to figure out what to do. Derek tried to encourage him, show him what to do, and Stiles was a quick learner, soon vying for purchase in Derek’s mouth.
After they’d been kissing for awhile, neither of them having moved them their spots, Derek slid his fingers beneath Stiles’ shirt and trailed his fingers up his warm back. Stiles pulled back, his eyes slightly dazed, his lips kiss swollen. Derek wanted to kiss them again and again.
“Is that okay?” Derek asked, pausing his hands as his brow creased in worry. “I can stop.”
“No,” Stiles said, shaking his head. “It’s okay. More than okay. The okayest of the okays.” Stiles toyed with the hem of Derek’s shirt. “Can I?”
“Please,” Derek croaked out. Stiles slid his hands beneath Derek’s shirt, and Derek watched as the emotions and thoughts fluttered over Stiles’ countenance while his long fingers explored Derek’s skin. “You’re so beautiful,” Derek said.
Stiles halted. “You don’t have to say that,” Stiles said, bashful and obviously uncomfortable with the compliment.
“I mean it.” Derek cupped Stiles’ cheek, and Stiles leaned into his touch. “You’re wonderful.”
“I think you’re wonderful, too,” Stiles said, his cheeks flushed red. Derek leaned forward, quickly closing the space between their mouths.
After an hour of kissing and touching, Derek reluctantly said, “I should go.”
“Why?” Stiles whined, kissing along Derek’s neck.
“Because your dad will be home soon. And if I stay any later, the neighbors will talk, and they might not believe that you were just entertaining a friend.” Derek angled his face so he could catch Stiles’ mouth in another kiss. Five more minutes passed before Derek finally managed to move them both to their feet. At that point, Stiles’ hands were beneath Derek’s shirt, glued to his chest. Derek still hadn’t removed his hands from where they were hidden on Stiles’ sides.
“I don’t want to leave you,” Derek said as he moved to the door. He kissed Stiles again, tongue slipping easily past Stiles’ swollen lips into his mouth. Stiles’ tongue met his enthusiastically, and Derek felt his head spinning.
“I don’t want you to leave.”
Derek kissed across Stiles’ cheek and then pressed a kiss to his pulse point. “Thank you, for tonight.”
“I should be thanking you,” Stiles laughed.
Derek brushed the backs of his fingers across Stiles’ pink cheeks. “Good night.”
“Good night.” Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck, pulling him extremely close, and kissed him one final time.
It took all of Derek’s strength to physically pull himself away from Stiles and walk out of the house. When he got into his car, he chanced a glance at the house and saw Stiles peeking out from between the drapes.
Derek couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned. His body was in a state unlike it’d ever been in before. Sure, he’d been turned on, had gotten erections in the past, but this was different. Even when he’d had sex with Kate, it’d taken a lot to get him hard. She’d made fun of him for it, said he was a prude who wanted to wait until they were married, said he wasn’t a man, said something was wrong with him. He’d never told her what the problem really was. She’d done a number on his mind with what she had known, there’s no telling what kind of emotional torture knowing he was attracted to men would have earned him.
But here he was, hours after leaving Stiles, hard and worked up unlike he’d ever been before. No person had ever done this to him. He never dreamt it would happen. He’d had sex, and it was nothing worth writing home about, but after tonight, he’s pretty sure he was going to change his mind.
Derek touched himself, hard from thinking about Stiles, his fist imaging Stiles in all sorts of inappropriate ways as he came harder than he ever had in his whole life. He didn’t dare think of what it would be like to come with Stiles.
A couple of hours later, Derek stared up at the ceiling, still wide awake. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Stiles wasn’t supposed to happen. Not now. Not ever.
Derek knew he couldn’t be with Stiles. Those kinds of relationships didn’t work. And with the country on the brink of war… But when he listened to Stiles, when he looked at him with his arms around him, there was hope. Hope that Derek didn’t have before.
No one had ever made Derek’s knees weak the way Stiles had tonight.
And it scared the hell out of him.
Derek contemplated just leaving town. He could drop back in on Monday and no one would know he’d been there. He went for his morning run, purposefully avoiding the downtown area, and then got the ingredients for breakfast and lunch from the supermarket. He ate them alone in his hotel room, but the loneliness was palpable. It was worse than before. Before, Derek had no one. Derek had accepted his station in life. But now.
Now there was Stiles.
When he knew the dinner rush would be over, Derek found himself standing in the shadows across the street from the diner. He could see Stiles clearly through the large windows, the inside of the diner bright against the black night.
Stiles looked different. His shoulders were slumped, his face closed and lacking its usual joy. When he spoke to a customer sitting at the counter, he smiled, but Derek could tell even from this distance it didn’t reach his eyes.
Stiles obviously regretted it. Maybe he should leave, after all. Leave Stiles to his safe life in Beacon Hills instead of sticking around to ruin it.
Derek turned his attention as someone entered the diner. Stiles’ head immediately snapped to the customer, and when he looked at them, the disappointment was obvious.
Stiles didn’t regret what happened. Stiles was afraid Derek did.
Less than a minute later, Derek was opening the front door and stepping into the stuffy diner. Stiles glanced over his shoulder idly as he took the man’s order, but when he caught sight of Derek, his entire face lit up. Derek smiled and took his usual seat.
“Hey!” Stiles said giddily when he had time to finally come over. “I thought I wouldn’t see you again. Thought you may have found a better hamburger somewhere else.” He smiled, but Derek could see uncertainty beneath that expression.
“Better than Scott’s? Never!” Derek smiled, feeling better than he’d felt all day.
“One hamburger and a Coca-cola?” Stiles asked, and Derek nodded. After Stiles called the order through the window, he drifted back in front of Derek. “What did you do today?”
“Had to run some errands,” Derek lied. Stiles nodded, believed him. He snapped his fingers suddenly, then spun around to open the door to the ice box. He pulled out Derek’s cola and set it in front of him. Then, Scott pushed a plate through the window, and Stiles grabbed it and headed for the other customer.
When Stiles returned, Derek said quietly, “I almost didn’t come back.”
Stiles’ face fell. “Oh.”
“It’s not what you think.”
“Then please, enlighten me.” Stiles crossed his arms, and for the first time since Derek met him, he looked young and angry and hurt.
Derek glanced around cautiously, though he knew no one was close enough to hear. “I thought you may have regretted it.” Stiles looked at Derek like he was a stupid. “And I was scared.”
Stiles sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Then you’re stupid.” Both of Derek’s eyebrows shot up. “That first thing you said? No. Not possible. Like, the least possible thing that could ever happen. The second thing?” Stiles paused. “I feel the same way, but I don’t care.”
Another plate appeared through the window, and Stiles spun around to grab it before setting it down in front of Derek.
Stiles didn’t know what he was doing. Stiles never knew what he was doing, but now he really didn’t know what he was doing. He’d spent half the night excited and thinking about Derek, then he’d gotten scared and nervous. But then he realized that he’d never felt the way he did when he was with Derek, with or without the kissing. Derek made him feel something he’d never felt before, and that was enough for Stiles.
When Derek hadn’t show up for breakfast, and then lunch, Stiles started to get worried. He didn’t know what to expect, really. Derek was a soldier passing through town; it’s not like they had some grand future together. But he really hoped he’d get to see him at least once more.
Then he showed up in the diner, and Stiles knew he’d fallen hard for soldier boy. And he was okay with that.
Derek spent his free time on Saturday at the diner with Stiles. Not that Stiles minded, of course. He quite enjoyed the company. The diner was always bustling, and hot; it was still so stifling hot. One of the oscillating fans started making an ominous squeaking sound as it worked, and then died.
“It’s three times as hot now,” Stiles had complained, peeling off his damp button up and fanning himself with a menu.
Derek, seated at his usual spot, had rolled his eyes and replied, “No, it’s the same temperature.”
“It’s ridiculously hot. I’m melting. Melting, Derek, like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Have you seen that movie? It’s great. Most of it’s in color!”
Derek had fixed the fan for him, back in Mrs. McCall’s office, and Stiles had missed him so much he kept running back there to check on the fan’s progress. After the sixth time Stiles had popped in the doorway, Derek got up and kissed him, and then told him to not come back until he was finished. Stiles stayed away for an impressive ten minutes before he just had to see Derek again.
After Stiles’ shift, they saw back to back films at the theater in town. They sat in the back and shared popcorn and made fun of the ridiculous plots, and even had a few people shush them. Stiles’ dad was at work that evening, so Derek came back to the house with him.
They were stretched out on their sides on Stiles’ couch, arms wrapped around one another, when Derek asked, “Are you working Monday?”
Stiles propped himself up on his elbow and glanced down into Derek’s face with interest. “Yeah, but I can probably ask Mrs. McCall for the day off. Why?”
“There’s something I have to do, and I’d like you to come with me.”
“I’d love to,” Stiles answered, and Derek looked so pleased that Stiles had to lean down and kiss him before he said something stupid.
Monday morning, Derek picked Stiles up at 9:30 a.m. He’d told him to dress nicely, so Stiles had put on the only suit he owned. It was black and hot and didn’t breathe, but it would have to do.
When he saw Derek coming up the walk, he didn’t expect him to look like he did. Derek wore his dress greens, perfectly tailored and close fitting. Stiles kind of gaped at him.
“You look…amazing,” Stiles said, resisting the urge to close the distance between them and kiss him. “I didn’t expect you to look like…”
“A soldier?” Derek smiled a half-smile as Stiles nodded.
Derek wouldn’t tell him where they were going, and Stiles didn’t ask. He figured Derek had his reasons, and he was just happy he asked him to come along.
Stiles was surprised when Derek pulled the car into the parking lot of the county cemetery. Derek got out of the car wordlessly and pulled on his uniform hat, and Stiles followed him past the rows of headstones. Derek’s back was rigid, his shoulders painfully straight, as he marched forward.
They stopped beside a long line of gravestones. A man in a similar uniform, but with more medals and stripes than Derek’s, was waiting for them holding something.
“Corporal Hale?” Derek saluted his superior, and the officer returned the salute. “On behalf of the United States Army, we give you our condolences.” Derek nodded, and then he took the triangular-folded American flag the officer offered him. After another salute, the man walked away.
Stiles was so busy watching the exchange that he didn’t look down at the gravestone they were standing at. He let out a soft gasp when he saw the inscription.
Laura Hale, 1916-1941
“They laid my sister’s gravestone today,” Derek explained, his voice thin and rough. “This is why I came back to Beacon Hills. To lay my sister to rest with the rest of my family.” Starting beside Laura’s stone, there was a line of gravestones. Twelve to be exact. Most with the name Hale.
“They all died in the fire,” Derek explained. “Except my uncle Peter. He died a few years later, in an asylum. He survived the fire, but it drove him insane.”
Stiles wanted to say something, wanted to reach out and comfort him, but he didn’t know what to do, so he just stood there.
“I joined the army because of Laura. She always told me she thought I’d be a good soldier. She wanted to be in the military so bad, thought it was so unfair that women could vote but not serve their country, and then the war happened. She went overseas last year, as a military nurse. Six months ago,” Derek’s voice broke, and he paused. Stiles didn’t care who saw; he reached out and took Derek’s hand. Derek threaded their fingers, and Stiles squeezed his hand. “Six months ago a bomb hit a hospital in Britain. They couldn’t identify the bodies they were burned so badly.”
“Derek, I’m so sorry,” Stiles whispered, his chest constricting as he realized that the stone was a memorial plaque only. Derek would never be able to properly bury his sister.
They stood like that for a long time, long enough that by the time they were back in the car, Stiles’ jacket, shirt, and pants were soaked with sweat. Derek didn’t say another word as they stood there; he just stared at the gravestone.
In the car, Derek sat in the driver’s seat, staring at the steering wheel, before he said, “Thank you for coming with me.”
“I didn’t want to bury my sister alone.”
They drove back into town, back to Derek’s hotel. Derek had never invited him there before, and Stiles looked around the small room, taking note of the small, military-issue duffle bag, the neatly arranged toiletries on the sink, the freshly made bed.
Indifferent to Stiles’ presence, Derek stripped out of his uniform and hung it up carefully while standing in his underwear. He reached into his duffle bag and pulled out a fresh pair, and then disappeared into the bathroom.
Unsure what to do, Stiles removed his sweaty suit. He was sitting awkwardly on the edge of the bed in his underwear when Derek came out of the bathroom. Without a word, Derek crawled onto the bed, stretching out on his stomach. Stiles watched him, and when Derek was settled, he looked at Stiles from behind dark lashes. His eyes were full of unspoken sorrow and grief, and Stiles settled beside him, his head on a pillow.
Derek latched onto him immediately, arms going around Stiles’ small frame, his face pressed against Stiles’ skin. He wrapped his arms around Derek’s body and ran his fingers soothingly across his back, his shoulders, up and down his arms. Derek’s shoulders shook, and Stiles didn’t say anything as Derek sobbed silently against his chest.
Stiles woke up disoriented. He blinked groggily and sat up, glancing around the dim room, unsure of where he was. Sparse light was filtering in from around the dark curtains blocking the window, and the hotel room started to come into focus. He felt a body move beside him and heard a low grunt. On his left, Derek was lying on his stomach, head buried in the pillow. Stiles made to leave the bed, but Derek stirred and pushed himself up on his elbows, looking just as disoriented as Stiles felt.
“What time is it?” Derek asked, dropping back onto the bed.
Stiles fumbled blindly on the table beside him, finally grabbing Derek’s watch. “Five.” Stiles rubbed his face with one hand as he set Derek’s watch back on the nightstand. They’d gotten back to the hotel room after noon, and they’d lain in bed for awhile after that, and Stiles hadn’t even realized he had fallen asleep until he woke up.
Derek extended an arm and draped it over Stiles’ stomach, his fingers brushing lightly over Stiles’ bare skin. The touch sent shivers down Stiles’ spine, and he closed his eyes and focused on the feel of those callused fingertips on his lower belly.
Until his stomach growled. The sound was loud in the quiet room, and Derek opened one eye, quirking his eyebrow.
“I’ve only had breakfast. I’m starving.”
Derek rolled to his side and yawned. Stiles was mesmerized with how he looked, face sleepy, hair pressed messily against his head, sheets pooled around his waist leaving his bare chest visible. Stiles turned his eyes away in embarrassment, trying not to stare.
“What?” Stiles stared intently at the ceiling. “Hey,” Derek slid his hand up Stiles’ bare chest before cupping Stiles’ cheek and gently tugging his face to the side so he could look at him. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
Stiles’ eyes drifted down to Derek’s well-defined chest, and Derek let out a soft “oh.”
“I’ve never…” Stiles waved his hand towards Derek’s chest. “Except Scott, but that was different. We’ve been swimming in the lake and the river and stuff, and I never really looked and now it just feels kinda weird because I want to look, I mean, I’ve had my hands on your chest, but you were still wearing your shirt, and god, you were wearing your pants, and now neither one of us are wearing our pants, and I’m wearing my underwear, and – “
“Stiles!” Derek cut in gently. Stiles stopped talking, nearly out of breath. Derek was propped on his elbow, and he looked down at Stiles with a slightly pained look on his face. “I’m sorry. This should never have happened. I should never have brought you here, put you in this situation – “
“Derek,” Stiles tried as he sat up.
“Stiles, please, let me finish.” Stiles dropped back against the headboard and mimed locking his lips, and Derek smiled sadly. “We’ve known each other for less than a week. It’s extremely inappropriate for us to be lying in our underwear in bed, especially when you’re seventeen – “
“Derek!” Stiles shouted. “I don’t care. I don’t care that I’ve known you for a less than a week or that you’re older and I’m only seventeen or that you’re a guy. I like you. I like the way you make me feel, and the way I feel when I’m around you.”
Derek sighed as he pushed himself into a sitting position. He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, and Stiles wanted to wrap his arms around him and hold him. “I feel the same way.”
Stiles waited, but Derek just kept staring down at the sheets. “Then what’s the problem?”
Derek lifted his eyes, and Stiles was shocked at how sad they looked. “I’m leaving for training at Fort Ord tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Stiles felt like someone had punched him in the gut, and he tried not to let it show. “Well, I figured you had to go back sometime.”
“Stay with me tonight,” Derek said, his voice quiet. Stiles couldn’t believe what he just heard. “I want to listen to the radio with you, and talk to you, and if you’ll let me, hold you and kiss you for the few hours we have left.”
“Yes,” Stiles said, voice thick in his throat. “Yes, to all of that.”
While Stiles went into town to check in with his dad and pick up dinner, Derek packed. There wasn’t much to pack. All the clothes he’d worn he’d bought on his way to up to Beacon Hills, his own personal effects not much more than fatigues and a uniform. He had no personal items, and was going to put Laura’s flag in a safety deposit box at the bank on his way to the train station in the morning. After he checked and rechecked his bag, he went for an evening run. The air was still thick and hot even after six, but he knew training at Fort Ord would be worse than this, and he couldn’t afford to get soft.
His body was rife with emotions. Being at Laura’s grave earlier somehow made it finally feel real in a way it hadn’t yet. He would never see his sister again. As he ran, he wondered how he would have gotten through all of that without Stiles. Stiles had been so caring and didn’t press, just let Derek do what he needed to do, even when that was cry. At first, Derek had felt embarrassed that he showed so much weakness in front of another person, but when Stiles held on to him, he just clung tighter. At one point, Derek was pretty sure that he heard Stiles sniffling above him. Kate would never have done that for him. Kate would have made him feel weak; Stiles was strong for Derek when he couldn’t be.
After his ten miles, he returned to the hotel room, a little surprised that Stiles hadn’t returned yet. He took a quick shower, and when he stepped out of the bathroom with a towel slung around his waist, he found Stiles sitting on the bed.
“Hi,” Stiles said with a small smile.
“Hi.” Derek grabbed his underwear and undershirt. “Just let me – “
“You don’t have to put on a shirt,” Stiles blurted, his cheeks burning furiously. “I mean, unless you want to.”
Derek laughed, felt his own face blush. “Okay.” He left the undershirt on top of his duffle bag as he walked back into the bathroom. “Though I think it’s unfair that you’re the only one benefitting from this,” he joked as he finished toweling off and pulled on his underwear.
Back in the room, Stiles had stripped down into his underwear. Derek noticed that they were different from earlier, which meant he must have gone home, changed, and probably taken a shower. Stiles stood self-consciously by the bed, his hands in fists by his side. “I just thought, since you would be shirtless, I should be, too.”
Derek crossed over to him and easily slid his arms around Stiles’ thin waist. “I think that’s a great idea.” Derek kissed him lightly. “Now where is dinner? I’m starving.”
They ate dinner stretched out on the bed, lying on their sides propped on their elbows. “I’m working the lunch and dinner shifts tomorrow,” Stiles explained, “which means I don’t have to be in until late.”
“What did you tell your father? I don’t want to get arrested for kidnapping and sodomy.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “I told him I was going to be at Scott’s until late. Between goofing off with Scott and working late, I come in at all sorts of hours. He doesn’t really keep track.”
Derek looked at him seriously. “You’re sure?”
“Positive.” Stiles smiled a nervous, embarrassed smile. “I’m yours all night.”
Derek tried to focus on that, and not how much harder it was going to be to leave as soon as the sun came up.
Stiles’ body was warm under his, and responsive. A flutter of fingertips across Stiles’ belly made him laugh, a scrape of stubble against Stiles’ cheek made him sigh, a kiss on Stiles’ mouth made him smile, a brush of lips on Stiles’ neck made him gasp, and a bite of teeth into Stiles’ shoulder made him moan. Derek mapped Stiles’ body with his mouth, kissing from mole to mole like he was connecting the dots, tracing abstract patterns into his pale skin. Stiles’ hands never left Derek’s body, in his hair, on his shoulders, gripping his arms, sliding up his chest or scraping down his back. Derek loved listening to Stiles’ constant stream of noises and rambling commentary.
“Your stubble kinda tickles…or wait, no now your fingers tickle, stop it Derek, please, I can’t…I never thought the inside of my elbow would be sensitive…or my armpit, that’s just weird, Derek, I can’t believe your nose is there, no, I don’t mind actually, it’s just weird…I can’t believe I’m not the only one who wanted to lick someone’s nipple, it feels so good, can I do it to you, too?”
Derek laughed and rolled onto his back, pulling Stiles with him. “You can do what you want,” he said against his mouth, and Stiles grinned before heading straight for Derek’s nipple. Stiles stared at it for a minute, and Derek watched him in amusement as he studied it, turning his head one way and then another, before tentatively swiping his tongue over the tight bud. Derek didn’t stop the satisfied sigh that passed his lips, and Stiles licked it again, more fully. Derek wrapped his hand around Stiles’ head, fingers threading in his hair, as Stiles licked attentively at his nipple, biting in teasing little nips. Derek had already grown half-hard from kissing his way over Stiles’ body, but with Stiles teasing and touching him now, his cock was hardening significantly.
He told himself to breathe. The last thing he wanted to do was scare Stiles away, and Derek didn’t care what they did as long as Stiles was with him.
Stiles kissed him all over – his face, neck, chest and shoulders and torso, then his back. Stiles stretched himself on top of Derek’s back, dragging his toes over the swell of Derek’s calf as his finger idly traced the tattoo between Derek’s shoulder blades.
“What’s it mean?” Stiles asked before placing a kiss in the center.
“It’s a triskelion. It’s a family symbol.”
“It’s beautiful.” Stiles traced the outline of the curves with his tongue before dragging his tongue up to Derek’s neck. He placed small bites along the chords in Derek’s neck, and Derek moaned softly into the pillow. He felt Stiles’ erection pressing tantalizingly against his ass, and he tried not to focus on the small, probably unconscious, little hip rolls that Stiles was making against him.
Stiles licked, kissed, and nibbled his way back to Derek’s tattoo. He was kissing the outline when suddenly he made a strangled sound in his throat and rolled quickly off Derek’s back. Derek sat up sharply, immediately worried. Stiles was curled into a ball, back to Derek.
“What? Stiles, what’s wrong?” He placed a hand on Stiles’ shoulder, but he flinched away.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles said pathetically. “I’m so sorry.”
Stiles finally glanced over his shoulder, face as red as a tomato. “I, um…” Stiles moved his hand around, and since his body was still away from Derek, he couldn’t figure out what he was trying to communicate. But when he took notice of where Stiles’ hand was pointing, it clicked.
“Oh!” Derek suppressed a smile.
Stiles turned away again, hiding his face in a pillow. “This is so humiliating.”
“Why?” Derek wrapped himself around Stiles’ back, placing kisses all along his arm, shoulder, neck, and cheek. “It’s happened before, right? After you’ve woken up or when you did it to yourself?”
Stiles shifted his body just enough so he could look at Derek, his face curious. “You mean, I’m not the only one who does that?”
“What? Touch yourself?” Stiles nodded, and Derek laughed. “God, no. Every guy I know does it. I’ve been in the army for quite a while, and it’s difficult to hide that kind of thing.”
“I thought it was wrong, that I was weird, but I do it a lot, sometimes multiple times a day, and – “
“No, Stiles,” Derek said, cutting him off with a kiss. “There’s not one thing in the world wrong with you.”
Stiles smiled in relief. “I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t make this weird or upset you – oh!” Stiles stopped talking when Derek rocked his hips, and his painfully hard cock, against Stiles’ ass.
“You didn’t upset me at all,” Derek whispered against his ear. “I just wish you would have told me so I could have helped.”
“Oh!” Stiles exclaimed in surprise, Derek rocking in slow thrusts against him. “You want…to touch me?”
Derek growled against Stiles’ neck, kissing and nuzzling the soft skin there. “I’ve been touching you all night,” Derek said with a more forceful thrust of his hips. “What makes you think I wouldn’t want to touch your cock, too?”
“Oh,” Stiles said again, this time more breathless. Derek glanced over Stiles’ shoulder and saw he was half-hard again.
“Stiles,” Derek said, cupping Stiles through his wet underwear. “I think you like the sound of that? Or is it the feel of me against you?”
“Both!” Stiles exclaimed, and Derek laughed quietly against his neck. “I…I don’t know what’s happening. I’ve never been this excited before.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Derek shifted them until Stiles was under him, the sheets resting lightly over their legs. He rocked his hips against Stiles, watched in fascination as Stiles’ eyes fluttered shut. Derek moved his hips again, and Stiles instinctively grabbed Derek’s ass, digging his fingers into Derek’s flesh and almost making him come. “I have a confession,” Derek said, pausing as he tried to calm down. Stiles was hard beneath him, but he wanted to make this last, wanted to make it good for Stiles. “I’ve never been this excited before either.”
“Really?” Stiles’s eyes were wide and full of interest and desire and something else Derek didn’t dare think about. “Have you had sex before? When you had the girlfriend?”
“Yes,” Derek answered. “And with a random woman one of the officers set me up with.”
“Was it like this? Or was it better?”
Derek leaned down and kissed Stiles deeply, his tongue trying to discover every secret place in Stiles’ map. “It was nothing like this,” Derek said with a roll of his hips. “No one has ever done what you’ve done to me, Stiles.” Derek kissed him again. He grabbed Stiles’ wrist, pinning his arm above his head and threading their fingers. Stiles squeezed his hand as they rocked against each other, foreheads pressed together as they panted against each other’s mouths.
Everything dissolved around Derek as pleasure overcame him, and he moaned Stiles’ name as he came, gripping Stiles’ hand as his hips thrust against him quickly. When Derek finally opened his eyes, dazed and feeling sated in a way he’d never felt before, he found Stiles watching him in open awe. Derek kissed him and shifted his body enough so that he could slip his hand inside the band of Stiles’ underwear.
Stiles made a gargled sound in his throat when Derek wrapped his fingers around Stiles’ cock, and Derek stared in wonder at the flush spreading across Stiles’ cheeks and down his neck and chest. Stiles had pulled his lip between his teeth and was biting down on it as his hips pushed into Derek’s grip. Derek couldn’t believe that he was touching another man’s cock, and more importantly, he was touching Stiles’ cock. He tried to memorize the feel of it in his hand – how hot it was, the length and width, the ridge around the head. Derek stroked Stiles a few more times and then Stiles arched up, moaning loudly as he came hot and wet over Derek’s hand. Derek almost came again, surrounded completely by Stiles.
Stiles fell back to the bed, his breath heavy.
“I,” Stiles started. “I don’t know what just happened.” His eyes popped open, and Derek thought he was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, all bright eyes and pink cheeks and full lips, his softening cock still in Derek’s fist. “That was…I’m incoherent.”
Stiles had never felt this way before, never believed it was possible to feel this happy and alive. No one had ever told him that something like this existed – complete and utter bliss. Because that’s the only word he could think of to describe how good he felt. Sure, he knew his father had loved his mother, and that Scott was sweet on Allison, but no one ever talked about this feeling. The feeling of lying in someone’s arms and being content just to hear them breathing in your ear. The joy that came from hearing another person laugh, seeing the way it made their eyes crinkle. And when his dad told him about the birds and the bees, he had never talked about how it made you breathless, made sounds you didn’t know were possible come out of your mouth, made you tremble afterwards.
Stiles laughed suddenly, and Derek’s eyebrows knitted in question from where he was leaning over him, watching him as he traced the edges of Stiles’ face with his fingertips.
“What’s so funny?”
“I was just thinking,” Stiles said between laughs, “about how a few weeks ago, Scott told me he kissed Allison when they went walking in the woods. He told me she let him use his tongue and touch her knee.” Stiles broke out into a fresh wave of laughter, and Derek stared at him in amusement. “I was so jealous, and Scott had talked about it like it was the most erotic thing in the world.” Stiles ran a hand over Derek’s chest. “I think I have him beat.”
Derek smiled. “Perhaps.”
“I mean, I can’t imagine him, or anyone, having the kind of sex we just did.” Stiles let his fingers idle over Derek’s nipples as he remembered the feel of them under his tongue.
Derek leaned down and said against Stiles’ mouth, “What we did was just the preview. There’s so much more we can do.” He kissed Stiles, but Stiles was distracted. He pushed Derek away.
Derek pressed a kiss to his lips as he trailed fingers across his hips. “Be creative, Stiles. Maybe one day we’ll do them all together.” Derek kissed him hard then, and Stiles’ mind raced through all sorts of scenarios he couldn’t actually imagine happening. The images were too exciting and too scandalous to even hope for.
“But,” Derek said when he pulled away. “Scott and Allison can have amazing sex, too. You think this is more exciting because it’s forbidden and secret.” Stiles nodded. “That’s not what makes it great. What makes it great is the two people doing it. And sometimes, forbidden and secret ends very badly.” Stiles didn’t like the way that made Derek’s brow furrow, and he trailed a hand over Derek’s fuzzy eyebrows, trying to physically smooth them. Then, Stiles moved his hand over Derek’s cheek, liked the way his stubble rubbed against his palm. Derek leaned down and covered Stiles’ mouth, kissing him intensely. When they broke, Stiles was breathless again.
“Why didn’t you take it slow with me?” Stiles asked. His hands fluttered over Derek’s shoulders and his chest. He couldn’t take his hands off Derek’s body, didn’t want to waste a moment not touching him.
“What? Take you for a walk and try to cop a feel of your knee?” Derek smirked as he slid his hand beneath the sheets and tickled Stiles’ knee. Stiles howled in laughter as Derek’s fingers slid against it in feather touches. Derek laughed as he pinned Stiles to the bed, and Stiles tried to thrash as Derek kept tickling him.
Finally, Derek let go and Stiles sat up, trying to catch his breath. “Jerk,” Stiles said. “I was being serious.”
“I didn’t see the point,” Derek admitted. “I was only in town for a week, and the odds were so low that you would be interested. Then when you were,” Derek shrugged. “Why wait?”
“Weren’t you worried about my virtue?” Stiles teased.
Derek lifted on eyebrow. “I think you threw that out the window the moment you kissed me.”
“I’m okay with that,” Stiles said, crawling into Derek’s lap and wrapping his arms around his neck.
Stiles watched from the edge of the bed as Derek got dressed. They hadn’t slept at all, had stayed up all night talking and kissing. Now, Derek was dressed in his fatigues and was currently lacing up his boots.
“How long are you going to be training?” Stiles asked.
“A couple of months.” Derek tied one lace and moved on to the next.
“What are you going to be doing?”
Derek shrugged. “Artillery drills, basic war scenarios, stuff like that.” He finished his shoelace and stood up. Derek looked different. Maybe it was the different posture with which he held himself, the crisp, clean uniform, the flat hair, or his clean shaven face.
Stiles stood up and ran his hand against Derek’s smooth cheek. “I miss it already.”
“I miss you already,” Derek said, pulling Stiles into his arms and kissing him. When they parted, Derek stared at Stiles for a few minutes, trying to get the courage to say something, so Stiles waited patiently. “Would you write to me?”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “Of course, you big idiot. If you left without leaving me your address, I’d have kicked your ass, even if you could probably kill me with your bare hands.”
They kissed for awhile longer, until Derek had to leave. “Be careful,” Stiles said, unable to let go of Derek’s shirt just yet.
Derek didn’t say anything. He just cupped Stiles’ cheek and looked at him like he wanted to memorize his face. No one had ever looked at Stiles like that before, and it made Derek leaving hurt even more.
“I’ll write,” Stiles said. “Every day. Even if I have nothing to say. You know me, I can always find something to say. It’s you I’ll have to worry about. You have to find something to write me about, even if it’s just how bad the food is.” Stiles laughed, though it was forced.
“I promise, I’ll write you.” Derek kissed him one final time. Stiles held him close, arms wrapped around his chest and back, clinging tightly to his warm body. He tried to tell himself this wasn’t the last time he’d see Derek, that it wasn’t the last time he’d kiss him, wasn’t the last time he’d feel his lips and tongue against his own.
When they broke apart, Derek stepped back and picked up his duffle bag. Stiles led the way out of the hotel room, glancing around to make sure no one was around to see the sheriff’s son emerging from a drifting soldier’s hotel room. They stood a few feet apart, just staring at each other, neither one of them prepared to move.
Stiles made the first move. He waved at Derek and said over a lump in his throat, “Goodbye, soldier boy.”
With that, Derek hefted his duffle bag over his shoulder and walked to his car, and Stiles hurried in the opposite direction.
Stiles worked the lunch and dinner rushes in a daze. His chest felt hollow, his body like lead. He’d dozed a bit when he’d gotten home, but he was too upset, his mind still reeling from the night, still reeling from Derek, to let him rest. After he’d messed up a few orders, Scott pulled him aside.
“What’s wrong? You’re not yourself, and you look like hell.”
“Nothing. I’m fine.” Stiles smiled, but the action physically hurt his face.
Sometime after nine p.m., Stiles had his back to the door when he heard the bell tingle. Hope shot up in his chest as he spun around, but his heart broke a little more when he saw a stranger instead of Derek walking across the threshold. Stiles glanced at the empty chair, aching inside.
It wasn’t until that moment that he realized Derek was truly gone.