They are in Santa Rosa when he gets the first text.
Derek stares at it for what feels like a solid, entire minute but is probably under twenty seconds.
Cora's sleeping. She's contorted herself into a little ball, hair everywhere, face oddly calm.
Like this she looks all of twelve, looks innocent and Derek lets himself imagine a world where he got to see her turn that age, got to bicker with her and scare away her crushes, and--
The phone beeps again.
for the Kate thing i mean. i'm sorry for bringing it up and rubbing your face in it
Derek contemplates not answering, thinks about letting this be, letting his radio silence do the talking for him, let this be the end of whatever convoluted and unnecessary relationship he and Stiles have, and let Stiles' guilt go cold over time.
Something inside his chest clenches at the thought, though. Maybe it's his body's muscle memory, that still feels the phantom press of Stiles against him, panting, heart about to burst, holding him above water for hours on end, coming back for him. Maybe it's his own guilt over Jenn-- Julia. Maybe it is that he doesn't want to lose what few reluctant allies he has.
(Maybe it is that he remembers Stiles winking at him, getting on his face, brushing his hand softly against his arm, in a silent gesture of... of something he cannot describe.)
It's okay, he sends back.
Cora snores softly, then, scratches her nose in her sleep and Derek smiles, just a tiny bit, lips curving upwards the faintest bit.
He goes to sleep feeling strangely peaceful.
When he wakes up the following day, Cora's already in the shower, and he has two new texts waiting for him.
They are from Stiles. Not that he was expecting it to be anyone else, truth be told.
The first one says it isn't. they werent your fault, and it makes Derek's hands sweaty, makes his pulse quicken.
He opens the second one, to avoid looking at the first one any longer.
ur an asshole for skipping town w/o saying goodbye
It loosens up the tight ball of tension settled on his stomach, which he thinks was Stiles' intention, his weird way of shoving them to comfortable ground. It makes him want to push Stiles' buttons a little, which isn't new, but feels refreshing. Feels uncomplicated in the way not many things feel like, nowadays. So he does.
Why would I say goodbye to you?
Cora gets out of the bathroom, dressed and toweling her hair, complaining about the shower's shitty water pressure. He holds his tongue for a second, holds back the language that wants to spill out, because Cora's a teenager now. She's not a kid anymore, she can curse if she wants to.
Even if it erases a little the Cora that lives in his memories.
He puts the phone away and looks for something to wear after he showers.
“You better not have used all the hot water,” he tells Cora, voice stern.
Cora rolls her eyes at him.
“And what if I did?” She asks then, defiant.
“I'm leaving without you.”
She snorts and he hides a smile as he goes into the bathroom, clothes in hand.
It's almost two weeks or so later, that he gets another text from Stiles.
They're making their way from San Diego to Santa Fe. It's been quiet. They've gone to Yosemite in the meantime, spent a couple of days camping there. None of them talking about their memories of pack and summer vacations and their Alpha's fierce love and protection, but never really needing it.
It's been a draining couple of days, but Derek thinks that it's done them good. Cora seems more at ease with him, looks at him different, talks to him different. She's started telling him about her past, about where she's been, how she got away (“I tried to save them,” she says one night when they're both resting on the grass, looking at the clear night sky, voice tiny and trembling almost imperceptibly, “I tried, but I couldn't. And then, when everyone was-- when the firemen came, I panicked and run away.”).
“I have a pack waiting for me in Misiones.” She said, once, and Derek's heart had sunk at the finality of her voice. At the implications of that, at the ticking clock hanging over them.
But she's here right now, isn't gone quite yet. He's driving with her riding shotgun and scowling at his musical choices, trying to make him engage in road games.
She is the one who picks his cellphone up from the car's armrest when it starts ringing, snorting mockingly and indelicate when she sees who's texting him.
“Stiles,” she drawls, and makes a move to open the text.
Derek takes one of his hands from the wheel and stops her, without actually knowing why. He just gets this unexplainable need to keep this for himself, even though it's probably Stiles sending him a random pissed off text, just to fuck with him, to somehow make him pay for not being there when he has to.
That makes her look at him with an openly nonplussed expression for a second or two, before some sort of understanding dawns on her and she lets a frankly disconcerting amused smile take over her face.
“Oh my God,” she says, letting him take the phone away from her and put it again where it was. “Really, Stiles?”
He'd want to say that he doesn't know what she's implying, that her words go over his head. As it is, he settles on saying, “didn't anyone in your pack teach you to be less nosy?”
The shocked silence that follows his remark makes his palms sweat, makes him think that this is it, he's crossed some invisible line, but when he looks at Cora from the corner of his eyes, she looks... gentle.
“You're my pack, too.” She tells him, like a reassurance.
Derek nods, throat dry, eyes stinging but focused on the road.
Derek drives a couple more hours into the night, until they find a somewhat decent looking hotel (“look, I just want to stay somewhere that doesn't look like a location from a horror movie,” Cora'd said); after checking in, he thinks back to Stiles' text, drops his bag on his bed (tries not to breath in the wave of vaguely stale air and cheap laundry detergent that emerges from the duvet after the impact) and reads it while Cora turns the TV on.
i kinda miss your ugly mug
He can feel his eyebrows rising in disbelief and his face heat up. He certainly wasn't expecting that.
Cora looks away from some lousy summer blockbuster from some years ago to give him 'you're acting weird' eyes, and ask him, “so, what does he say?”
Cora doesn't call him out on the obviousness of his lie, just lifts an eyebrow at him, bores holes into him for a few seconds and then, with a minute shake of her head and an eye-roll, she turns back to her mess of loud explosions and poorly written dialogues.
He hesitates with his thumbs on the screen, thinks over the possible answers.
I don't is a lie, but I do too is bigger than he can do right now, when he doesn't even know why he keeps humoring Stiles, keeps this thing with no heads or tails up.
“Jesus, stop freaking out over a text,” Cora tells him, turning the TV off and lying down on her bed, “just send him a picture of your dick or something.”
He frowns, even as he feels a steady heat rising on his cheeks and all the way up from his neck and on the tips of his ears.
“I don't care.” Cora interrupts him, and Derek makes his hands into fists, lips thin, tense, “this is definitely not my business. Just, stop. It's making me want to claw my face off; you're so embarrassing right now.”
He's a second away from just growling at her, when he realizes that he's playing right into her hands. He clears his throat, sits down on his bed, tries to appear composed, uninterested, says, “you're very bad at this.”
Cora grins at him.
“That's a lie. And a bad one.”
Cora thinks we're 'sexting'.
Cora's already drooling a little from the corner of her mouth when Stiles texts him back.
dont answer that
ngl im flattered that she thinks i could score someone like u
Oh God, teenage self-confidence crises are not something Derek's good at. He couldn't even deal with his own, ended up looking out for scraps of his self-worth inside Kate Argent's bed, and look where that got him.
Do you really need me to tell you that you're pretty and special, Stiles?
Lol no, i know im hot shit
but u r on another level
Danny risked his clean record for ur bod
It strikes Derek that this is the most inconsequential conversation they've probably ever had, the first real one where nobody is at risk of losing anything; that in the space of a few weeks of absence and sparse texting they've built a bridge of sorts between them, somewhere they can meet without vicious cracks. And that it's all been building to this moment, to this ridiculous moment where Derek is kind of pissed, and he huffs, suppressing the urge to call Stiles and responds, Appealing to Danny isn't the be all end all.
u have obvs never seen his abs
There's an obnoxious choked off sound behind him, the bed shaking minutely with it, and he almost crushes the phone in his hand, noticing that Cora's successfully sneaked up on him.
Which says some things about the both of them, things he can't decide whether are good or bad. And things about his current situation with Stiles, too. And he'd better not think of those.
“Weren't you sleeping?” He asks, not bothering to hide his conversation with Stiles from her, since that would only prove to be both unproductive (the entertained noises she's emitting tell him she's seen more than enough) and suspicious.
Cora just gets closer to him and hooks her head over his shoulder. Derek fights his body's reflexes, makes himself stay soft under her touch.
“Woke up and didn't feel like going back to sleep yet. This is better. You two are pathetic in an adorable way.”
He does something he hasn't done since he was maybe fourteen, in that moment: he puts his hand on Cora's face and pushes her back with all the meanness only an older sibling can muster at any given time, and he can feel her smiling under his palm all the while.
“Okay, okay.” She says, taking his hand off her face, rolling off the bed.
He wonders if this playful side of her is something that he had to earn, if her initial aloofness was her way of keeping him at arm's length until he proved himself worthy of it. Wonders what he did to bring her walls down, if that's the case.
“But just so you know?” Cora interrupts his thoughts, “you reek of jealousy.”
Instead of giving in to his knee-jerk reaction of wanting to deny it, he responds with, “jealousy doesn't have a smell.”
She smirks at him, takes her toothbrush out of her backpack and closes the bathroom door delicately behind her, doesn't say another word.
Derek... Derek wants to say 'to hell with it', wants to text Stiles back with a petty mine are better, but he still retains some shreds of sense, so he just replies with And you obviously sell yourself short.
Which is perhaps even worse.
that was a compliment!! r u ok?
Good night, Stiles, go to sleep.
Derek starts giving Cora driving lessons on the road between Austin and Sandusky. They make stops on Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis, Cincinnati. It takes them a week to get there, but that's okay, there's no hurry, nothing pressing they have to do.
Cora is a fast learner, and their heightened reflexes and abilities make the process even quicker. By the time they're parking outside Cedar Point, she's good enough that they can take turns when Derek wants a break.
It's something he never thought he'd get to do, a small private miracle on four wheels.
Cora had made a comment before leaving Santa Fe, something along the lines of, “we'd get places faster if we could switch.”
And he'd asked, “do you have a license?”
She'd looked at him with fondness, and said, “I can't get my license until I turn eighteen in Argentina. And I don't even know the first thing about driving.” The last part coming out a little muffled, as if it embarrassed her.
And that'd been that. That had been something simple he could do for her, something good, something that'd be useful and would stick with her no matter where she went.
As the days go on, he can feel his edges going rounder, can feel adrenaline pouring out and some sort of calm sinking in. He starts mourning, starts dealing with all the death and mayhem, starts letting his anger out in ways less destructive than seeking death of his own. Finally understands that dying won't absolve him, won't help anyone.
Cora notices, helps him along. Fights him, rises to the challenge of his cathartic process.
Despite everything he would've thought a few months ago, Stiles helps too.
Sometimes, in the dead of night, when the enormity of everything threatens to eat him whole, his cellphone will vibrate on his bedside table and it'll be him. Sending him... Well, what seems to be anything and everything that goes through his brain, unfiltered.
y did u have to turn isaac though
scott allison and isaac r doing the weirdest mating ritual
Ethan and Aiden are still here, I don't know why.
Is it only me that's waiting for everything to fall apart?
Knowing that he's not the only one waiting for the other shoe to drop makes him feel less paranoid, knowing that it's Stiles, and that Stiles is trusting him with these confessions makes something warm unfurl inside him, reaching every part of his body from within.
Cora is driving when Stiles calls for the first time. They're finally leaving Ohio and they've decided to go to New York. He'd told Cora that that's where he was living with Laura until she went back to Beacon Hills, and she'd told him that she wanted to go there, boldly, looking at him dead in the eyes, the roughness from before sitting on her like a cloak.
Derek hadn't put up a fight. He'd nodded, said, “yes, okay.” and started packing his things, thinking about closure, about an apartment building where Laura had tried to make him whole, tried to become an Alpha on her own, had grown up way too fast, an apartment that still had their few possessions, with a lease that Derek's still paying because it's become second nature.
They are listening to a classic rock radio when his phone starts vibrating on the armrest, ringing with a song that clashes badly with the Queen one currently playing and that Derek doesn't remember either having or programming as a ringtone, and he can't help but look at Cora (who is fighting a grin and losing badly) with both his eyebrows raised, “Avril Lavigne?”
“Hey,” she says, gruff, taking one of her hands from the wheel and poking him on the ribs, “don't act like you didn't own Let Go and listen to it on repeat for weeks.”
He can feel himself blushing, and he's about to ask her how she even got a hold of his phone without him noticing while Avril continues singing When You're Gone, but he realizes that Stiles is calling him, which makes him give up the fight and stare at the phone with his brows furrowed, his heart beating loudly.
“Oh my God, Derek. Just pick up.”
“Derek?” Stiles sounds out of breath, and it makes him curl his free hand into a fist, kicks him into overdrive.
“Stiles? What is wrong?”
There's a few seconds of silence, Stiles breathing in and out messily. Derek looks at Cora, feels his fangs wanting to descend, his claws wanting to lengthen, she nods, and starts to slow the car down, looking to pull it to the side of the road.
“I'm okay,” Stiles gets out, finally. “I'm-- just-- panic attacks, you know?”
Cora closes her eyes in relief, before making various hand gestures at him that he guesses mean that she wants him to take this outside, doesn't want to overhear them.
He does, closing the door with care. Walks away from the car, far enough that Cora would have to put conscious effort into prying on them.
Stiles keeps breathing noisily, gasping again and again. Derek wants to help him, but doesn't know how.
“Stiles?” He asks, softly. “Are you okay? Do you... Do you need me to do something?”
“I,” Stiles gasps, “No. Just, just talk to me?”
There are at least a dozen questions Derek wants so ask then, like where is Scott? Why aren't you calling him? Why are you calling me? What's going on?
He knows there's an explanation, knows that no matter how far they've come since he left, he's not going to replace Scott in Stiles' emergency contact list, knows that shit is hitting the fan for Stiles to be calling him, and he can barely repress the itch to demand that Stiles tell him what the fuck is going on, right now. But he also knows that Stiles is more likely to hang up on him than actually give him any information he doesn't want to give, and then Derek won't even be able to do this for Stiles. Stiles is fucking stubborn like that.
He wets his lips, closes his eyes, tries to quell the rage that is coming up at nothing at all, at an invisible enemy he doesn't even know, at the fact that Stiles won't trust him enough to--
“I've been giving Cora driving lessons,” he starts.
If he concentrates enough, he can hear Stiles' heart beating loudly, even on the other end of the line. He knows it shouldn't be possible, it's probably his mind playing tricks on him, but he finds a small comfort in counting Stiles' beats as they slow down with every word that leaves his mouth.
It takes Stiles some time to come down, and by the time he's breathing regularly, Derek's lips feel numb and overexerted, his tongue heavy, like they've been used more in this past half an hour than they've been used in the past few months.
“Derek,” Stiles stops him, sounding almost tender, “thanks.”
“Will you tell me what's going on?” He tries asking, voice rough and used.
“It's nothing, really.” Stiles lies to him. It makes him feel overheated and makes him want to punch something, pummel something to the ground. Makes his teeth grit.
He's about to say don't fucking lie to me, when Stiles goes on, “did Scott ever tell you what we had to do to find the Nemeton?”
Cora doesn't ask him anything when he goes back to the car, face ashen, lips thin and tight. She just pulls the car back into the road, turns the radio up, lets him be.
When they arrive to the apartment that night, the landlord takes a look at both of them and says sorry and nothing else. Derek's grateful for that, for the lack of empty words. He thanks him and shows Cora in.
That night Derek has nightmares. They are vague, and muted, as if he was watching them through a veil, but he wakes up bathed in cold sweat, heart trying to beat its way out from his chest, claws slashing through the material of his blankets.
Cora is there, looking at him with worried eyes, and she offers him a glass of water. He takes it, gladly, and he squeezes her hand. Lets her know that he appreciates this, the way she's letting him come to her on his own.
There's a text waiting for him, too.
im sorry for yesterday dude
The following day, Stiles calls for the second time, just as Derek is starting to pack all of Laura's things and Cora has gone out to get them lunch. He looks at the name flashing on the screen and his breath catches.
“Derek!” Stiles chimes back, annoyingly bright, as if he hadn't scared the crap out of the Derek merely two days ago. Hadn't confessed to him that he'd signed a life sentence. “How are my favorite Hales doing? Has anyone been damaged beyond repair yet? Are we going to hear about you on the news?”
Stiles' fucked up humor shouldn't make him smile but it does. It's like a sum of their entire relationship, Stiles making Derek react in all kinds of ways he shouldn't.
“Why do people put up with you?”
“I grow on them, like fungi.”
It's worrying how natural this feels, Stiles talking his ear off, making it easier to fold Laura's clothes (that still smell faintly of her, make him ache deep down where there's a hole in himself) and get them in boxes. How they banter just as easily as they did before but without the edge of malice that used to tinge their encounters.
When Cora comes back with plastic bags that smell of deep fried things and a two liter Diet Coke some time later he's still on the phone with Stiles, listening to him talk about a new girl in town (Kira Something) that has sparked somewhat of an uproar. He's not particularly interested, but Stiles is, and that seems to mean something to him.
She takes on the picture he makes, phone cradled between his ear and raised shoulder, as he keeps packing up, and rolls her eyes hard enough that he's surprised they don't get stuck. She mouths pathetic at him, but there's warmth in her gaze.
Almost a week later they are ready to go. They don't know exactly where, but there's boxes in the car, and they've donated most of the furniture and arranged for the rest to get delivered wherever they end up going and they've already cleared things up with the landlord. Derek has said goodbye to Laura here, to the Laura that had done everything in her power to provide him with a pack, with an Alpha.
That's when Stiles calls for the third time, just when Derek is buckling himself up in the driver's seat, Cora sitting next to him with a map on her lap, finding somewhere to go that doesn't sound like 'death by boredom'.
“Derek.” Stiles says, as soon as he answers the call. “Derek, you need to come back.”
“What? Stiles, what's going on?”
Stiles takes a deep breath, curses.
“There's been murders.” He says, rushed. “And people disappearing overnight. Including Aiden. It's just like the Darach. But we're 99% sure that your uncle has something to do with this now. And there's a pretty good chance that he's targeting me, and that means he's targeting my dad too.”
“Fuck,” he hits the steering wheel once, then grips it tight enough that it creaks under his hand.
“Derek,” that's Cora's voice, “Derek, you have to calm down.”
“Derek,” Stiles sounds even more worried than before, slightly hysterical, “dude, don't do anything drastic? Just, come back? I mean, you don't have to, I guess, I don't want to be a burden, but we could do with your hel--”
“I'm on my way there,” he gets out through gritted teeth, a hint of fang catching on his bottom lip. “Stay somewhere safe. Go to Argent if you have to, just for God's sake, Stiles, don't bait him, don't go out looking for him.”
“Dude, I wouldn't--”
“Yes, you would,” He talks over his indignant voice, “because you have no self-preservation instinct and you're a huge fucking asshole and you probably think you could try to one up him in whatever sick game he's playing, but I swear to God if you get yourself killed, Stiles, I--”
“What?” Stiles cuts him, petulant, disguising the fear in his voice. “What will you do? Kill me again?”
That deflates him.
“Just,” he rubs the space between his eyebrows, “please don't. Don't get yourself killed.”
He's begging. Pleading.
Cora looks as astonished about this as he feels, but he can't. He can't lose anyone else. Much less Stiles.
“I” Stiles starts, before choking out, “okay.”
It's a 45 hour drive to Beacon Hills.
They make it there in three days.
The first person they see upon arriving is Scott. He's got dark circles under his eyes, and he doesn't look at all surprised by Derek and Cora dropping off at the Vet's place.
“Peter needs Stiles' 'spark',” Scott tells him, as he makes them go into the back. Deaton is nowhere to be seen. “He needs it to be Alpha again. He can't become one otherwise. Coming back from the dead took something away from him.”
“Where is he?” Derek asks.
Scott levels him with an unimpressed look, the kind of look he'd expect on an overprotective brother dealing with their sibling's dates. If the situation wasn't what it is, Derek would feel some sort of embarrassment, or some need to posture.
“He's safe, Deaton is working on some wards with him.” Scott tells him, eyes hard. And that wasn't Derek's question, wasn't what he wanted to know, but it'll have to be enough.
Cora asks,”what about the other murders?”
“Those we have no clue about, we think Peter may have an accomplice.”
“But what for?”
“We don't know.” Scott admits.
They prepare a plan of attack, prepare themselves to hunt Peter down, prepare themselves to kill him again and to make it permanent this time (Lydia takes care of that, researches everything and plots everything and Derek can feel himself respecting her more and more).
They make their move a few nights later, set him a trap in the woods, wait for him with baited breath, not thinking that he will fall for it, but trusting that he won't be able to help himself and that they'll be prepared enough to overpower him and whatever allies he's got.
At the end, though, things don't work out the way they'd planned them.
“What is that?” Isaac sounds as shocked as Derek feels, as a golden fox with bushy and numerous tails makes their way to them, only to transform into a woman.
“Kira?” Isaac breathes out, confused.
The woman smiles at him.
“Isaac,” she says, smiling at him, and then she turns to him. “Derek.”
He doesn't questions how she knows who he is, isn't sure he wants to know.
She goes on, “I think this might be yours?”
She moves aside then, and they can see a body laying on the ground. A mangled body, clearly dead.
“Yes,” he starts, against his better judgment. “that is ours.”
“Great!” She replies, her smile widening. She turns around, then, facing the trees, in the direction where the rest of them are supposed to be. “You can come out, you know?”
And they do, Scott first, and Lydia behind him with Cora at her side, Allison behind them, crossbow in hand.
“Who are you?” Scott is growling, eyes going from red to yellow to dark brown, fangs and claws out. “Are you the one behind the killings?”
Kira seems to be choosing her words carefully.
“I wouldn't call them killings, really.” She says, eyes fixed on Scott. “You unleashed powerful and dark magic here by using the Nemeton. Something had to be done about it.”
“So you decided to go in a killing spree?” Asks Lydia, voice dripping with sarcasm. “What a brilliant idea.”
Kira looks at her then, eyes conveying something that looks a lot like, what a cute child.
“No. I made sacrifices. The lives of a few, for the sake of the many. This one,” she points to Peter's corpse. “was the last one. Now that I've satisfied the Nemeton, it will fall asleep again. Hopefully, forever.”
“That's still murder,” Scott points out, walking towards her with purpose, but before he can reach her, she's gone.
They look for her for a few hours, but she's nowhere to be found, and they still have to deal with Peter's body, have to make sure that he doesn't get the chance to come back ever again.
Lydia does some sort of ritual that looks violent and involves lot of severing limbs with Scott and Allison's help, some chanting in Latin, and then setting everything on fire. That's the only part that makes Derek flinch, and more for the rest of his family than for Peter himself. Cora holds his hand until the fire is nothing but smoke and ashes that scatter around.
The sheriff calls Scott when the morning is almost upon them and he listens in shamelessly. There's reassurances from both sides, Peter is dead and Stiles is okay, and then the sheriff launches into an explanation about how every single one of the people who'd been found dead or had disappeared had been culprits of some kind of gruesome crime.
Scott tells him about his part of the story, about this Kira girl and her sacrifices to the Nemeton. Neither sound especially okay with this, but they're both visibly glad that at least the people dying hadn't been completely innocent.
He can hear Stiles' voice in the background, then, as close as if he were standing right next to him. The need to talk to him is so strong that he has to dig his own claws in his arms.
“Come on,” Cora takes a hold of him, pushes him in the direction of their car. “you two can talk tomorrow. We have to sleep now. You have to sleep now.”
Scott eyes them warily until they're out of view, and Derek has resigned himself to the fact that after talking to Stiles, after solving whatever tangled mess of feelings they've become, he's going to have to talk to him, listen to his threats and disclose some humiliating truths. It's going to be great.
They spend the night at the loft.
Derek gets a text from Stiles that says, talk tomorrow?
Derek wakes up to someone banging on his door.
Cora groans, turns around on the couch and looks at him with pure hatred.
“I fucking hate you two.”
He isn't sure what to say to that when he can hear Stiles on the other side of the door, muttering to himself, so he just shrugs, says, “I didn't tell him to come here.”
And she faux smothers herself with her pillow.
He isn't sure what to expect when he opens the door, doesn't know what is going to happen, what he's going to do, what he's going to say.
Turns out he doesn't need to say much, because as soon as the door's open, Stiles is pushing his way inside and yelling at him, getting all up on him, pointing at him with an accusing finger.
“You don't get to tell me what to do, Hale.” He spits out. “And you don't get to call me an asshole after leaving without fucking saying goodbye, you asshole.”
Derek is about to start yelling himself, about to start telling Stiles that he has no right to come here yelling at Derek when he'd been hiding murders and fucking keeping him in the dark, risking himself recklessly, but Stiles goes on.
“And you have no right to use my feelings for you to make me do whatever you want, no fucking right.”
“Oh, please, don't fucking pretend like you don't know. Don't fucking, I called you during a fucking panic attack, what did you think that meant?”
“I thought that you couldn't reach Scott.”
“Oh my God, pathetic, the both of you.” Cora grunts, getting up from the couch and taking her jacket from its arm. “I'm going to get some breakfast. You two better be done being morons by the time I come back.”
And then she's gone, and the both of them are left staring at the door.
Stiles recovers first, and he slaps Derek's arm a few times, face scrunched up, everything in him screaming frustration.
Derek gets tired of it, takes Stiles' hand on his own, locks eyes with him. Finally says to hell with it, like he's been wanting to from day one.
“I love you.”
Stiles' face does a billion things in about three seconds. Finally, he looks him dead in the eye, tugs at his hand until Derek lets him go and hisses, “I love you too, you asshole. And I'm going to kiss you now.”
And he does. He swiftly closes the distance between them, grabs Derek's face with tenderness and puts his rosy, fleshy lips on Derek's. Just rests them there, lets them touch, and then he opens his mouth a little and breathes against him and Derek's gone, following suit; there's tongue and heat, and lips brushing and yielding and sliding, and it's so good that Derek might fucking cry with it.
“I love you,” he says again, against Stiles' mouth, putting his hands on him, on his shoulders, and his throat, and the back of his head.
“Me too,” Stiles whispers back, biting his bottom lip, tangling his fingers in Derek's hair and tilting his head, moving him where he wants him.
They're parting too soon, and Derek feels obligated to say, “I've got a lot of issues, things I have to work through. This is not going to be easy, we're probably going to get hurt.”
Stiles nods, holds his hand, holds his gaze, says, “I know. I've got issues, too. But we're gonna do this together.”
And that sounds good. That sounds doable.
(When Cora takes her flight to Argentina, a few months later, Stiles is right next to him, holding his hand.)