Stiles is settled comfortably on Scott's couch – seriously, he needs to ask where he got this thing, because it's like sitting in a damn hug – next to a lump of what he's pretty sure is a cuddling Scott and Allison, when Scott's doorbell rings. Scott looks at him, and Stiles shrugs.
"Not my door," he says. "You answer it."
"I don't know who it is," replies Scott. Stiles blinks.
"That's why you should answer it."
"But everyone's here already," says Scott slowly, as though explaining a very simple Maths equation to a teenager in Advanced Calculus.
Hey, even Stiles had bad days.
Erica and Lydia, sitting in the chair opposite the couch, curled around each other in a way that Stiles thinks is adorable but is clearly affecting Boyd quite differently, look at Stiles. Stiles shrugs and does his best to fix a nonchalant smile of innocence on his face, and Erica's eyes widen. Lydia's mouth falls open.
"No," says Lydia.
"You did not," says Erica. Scott sighs, and Allison scrunches her face in confusion. Stiles steels himself.
"Who the fuck is at my door, Stiles?" asks Scott.
"I may have invited someone," Stiles answers, and Erica groans.
"You totally did," she exhales, and Lydia shakes her head.
"You're a masochist, Stilinksi," she chides. "An actual masochist."
Scott is still regarding Stiles in that mildly perplexed way that Stiles secretly thinks makes him look a little like a puppy.
"You brought him here?" he asks. Stiles shrugs again.
"Technically, I didn't bring him - "
"You know what I mean!" Scott stands up, presumably to answer the door, before turning back to Stiles. "I know you patched things up with him, but - "
"Um," says Lydia. "What?"
"When did this happen?" Erica chimes in.
Stiles wonders if Derek is getting cold outside. If it's even Derek, that is. He hasn't texted.
"At the gym," responds Scott, clearly deciding to answer where Stiles has refused. "We sort of ran into him. It was pretty awkward, and it only got more awkward when Stiles came back from talking to him about an hour later and had stubble burn all over his face."
Allison pulls a face, and Stiles fixes her with what he hopes is a withering glare. Scott's the last person to judge anyone on displays of affection. Stiles is pretty sure he knows more about Scott's orgasm face than he's ever known about any of his own sexual partners, purely owing to Scott's appalling sense of timing and college predilection for doing it on the couch.
"Well, if you're not going to let him in, I will," he says, deciding that enough's enough, and if he's going to start taking control of this situation, then now's as good a time to start as any. Scott puts a hand up, gesturing for Stiles to remain seated, and turns around.
"It's my damn house," he mutters. "I'll answer it."
He walks out, and the atmosphere in the room seems to immediately ramp up the tension to Level Unbearable. Stiles shifts, hands in his lap, as Erica and Lydia regard him coolly from their vantage point across the room. He can actually feel their glare boring into his soul. He wonders if they can see his bones.
Allison sighs. The room is silent, but they can hear Scott opening the door and mumbling a decidedly displeased-sounding greeting to whomever is behind it.
Boyd clears his throat.
Stiles is not prepared for this.
Because here's the thing. Stiles was President of the Debate club at high school. He's chaired a few protests in his time as a college student – he's particularly proud of the newspaper front page with his face on, right above the caption 'Student Demonstrator Stuart Stillinki Fights For Change'. He'll always speak up if he hears some sort of hateful tirade in a public place, and sure, he's been banned from a not insignificant number of restaurants for starting arguments with homophobic patrons.
But Stiles does not argue with his friends.
It's not because he hates arguing. Stiles values a good debate, is always more than pleased to educate the masses via the medium of arguing, because sometimes you need to call someone a douchebag to get your point across. It's not always mature, and he's not proud of it, but sometimes it just feels damn good to argue.
It does not feel good to argue with his friends. His friends are like the atoms that make him; they are fundamentally part of him, bonded so closely with each other that they might as well be on a molecular level, and arguing with them is like flaying himself. He hates it. It destroys him.
So, he's not prepared for this. He's actually sort of dreading it with that freezing, aching pang of horror that coils in the pit of his belly and worms its way through his skin and veins.
He hears the scuff of footsteps on the carpet, and then Scott is here, and Derek is following.
He looks like Stiles feels: terrified.
Scott takes his seat next to Allison on the sofa, and Derek remains standing, uncertainly. He clasps his arms behind his back, then thinks better of it and folds them in front of his chest, and finally drops them to his sides, clearly aiming for casual but ending up with very afraid indeed.
Stiles aches a little.
"Hi," says Derek to no-one in particular, and Stiles can tell by the stiff line of his shoulders that he's tense, worried about what the others will say, how they'll react. With good reason, apparently, because Lydia huffs a disbelieving laugh and Erica rolls her eyes.
"Just to make it clear," Erica replies. "You were not technically invited. Stiles didn't even tell us he'd brought you as his contraband Plus One until you showed up at the door and it was too late to knock some sense into him."
Derek's eyes flick uncertainly from Erica to Stiles and back again, and Erica's unwavering glare meets him relentlessly. Stiles sighs.
"Guys," he begins, and Lydia raises both her hands in an exasperated gesture.
"Don't," she says warningly, and Stiles sees the bob in Derek's throat as he swallows nervously. It should be funny, seeing a guy built like some sort of Greek god being terrified half to death by two girls who probably weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet, but it's not funny at all because these are Stiles' friends, and he doesn't want this, doesn't need this.
Lydia opens her mouth to speak, presumably to continue the tirade of well-intentioned but ill-informed abuse that Erica started, and Derek flinches back. It's such a small movement that Stiles probably wouldn't even notice it if he weren't already highly atuned to the other man – he's watching him so carefully that he reckons he could probably make out the pulse in his wrist if he tried, see the rise and fall of his chest with each inhalation and exhalation, even under his thick jacket and scarf – but it's a movement of fear nonetheless, and something in Stiles snaps. He thinks it might be his conscience, or possibly a tendon in his knee from the speed at which he leaps up from the sofa and rises to stand next to Derek, taking his hand in his own and feeling the slightly elevated pumping of blood in his thumb as he entwines their fingers together reassuringly.
He hears Allison and Scott draw simultaneous surprised breaths, sees Erica's eyes widen in shock, sees Boyd straighten in his seat in anticipation of the confrontation ahead. Lydia, as always, remains perfectly composed; a slight quirk of her eyebrow is the only tell that she's not entirely in control.
"You know what?" says Stiles, voice calm despite the blood rushing in his ears. He feels a little sick. "You all need to stop."
Lydia's eyebrow arches slightly higher.
"Stop what?" she asks. "We're just looking out for you."
"And I appreciate it," Stiles tells her, still trying to keep his voice level and not allow even the slightest hint of the anxiety he's feeling show. "But I don't need you to protect me. Not like this."
Derek squeezes his hand a little more tightly, and Stiles wants to kiss him quite a lot, but he's fairly sure that would be more than slightly inappropriate in the current circumstances.
Scott clears his throat, and Stiles turns his head to face him. Scott does not look impressed.
"Dude," Scott starts. "Can you explain what's going on right now? Because I'm confused and I'm trying to make sense of things, but it's like trying to follow an episode of Jersey Shore. Nothing's making sense. One minute, you hate the guy and he's broken your heart, and the next minute, you're making out at the gym and inviting him to watch films at my house."
Stiles rubs the bridge of his nose with his free hand.
"It's a long story," he says, and he really doesn't mean to brush Scott off, but he can see that that's how Scott's taken it because Scott rolls his eyes in that way that means he's either pissed off or really hurt and trying to hide it. Stiles curses silently. He needs to explain, he thinks. In as concise a way as possible.
He takes a deep breath.
"Here's what's happened," he begins, and looks at Derek. Derek nods for him to continue, giving him permission to recount the whole sorry story, and Stiles wonders if things will make sense the second time round, because they sure as shit didn't make sense when they actually happened. The whole thing is one big, confusing mess, and although he's pretty sure they're on the home stretch towards making things all right again, he thinks that the home stretch is always the hardest part.
He's grateful that Derek's here now. With him in the room, it feels less like he's just telling his story. As clichéd as he knows it is, it's more like he's telling their story now. Like he's not trying to sway anyone's opinion, make anyone feel sorry for him or have anyone tell him that he's in the right, that he's completely entitled to feel a certain way. He's just relaying the facts, making a statement, giving testimony.
"Derek acted like a dick," he goes on to say, and he feels the bristle of ashamed indignation from Derek. He looks up at him. "You know you did," he adds, and Derek has the good grace to flush in embarrassed agreement. Good. He's not trying to deny it. That's a start. This wouldn't work if he was still in denial mode.
"We're all in agreement on that part," she mutters. Stiles raises an eyebrow.
"But here's the other part," he continues, and spreads out his free hand in a benevolent gesture reminiscent of a wise man imparting knowledge. Or so he hopes. "You all sort of acted like dicks, too."
Erica snorts indignantly. Lydia looks marginally ruffled.
"In what way?" she asks. Stiles raises an eyebrow.
"I'm not meaning to attack anyone here," he clarifies. "I'm just telling you how it is. And look, the fact is that everyone involved – myself included, if I'm honest – acted kind of horribly. People got involved where they shouldn't have - " Here, Erica blushes, clearly remembering the text, and looks down at her lap. " – gave advice that they knew was biased in favour of one person, and encouraged me to do the things they wanted me to do, rather than the things that would have been beneficial for me. And you know, that's sort of understandable. Really. You all thought you were helping. You all thought you were doing what was right by me, and I'm thankful for that. Really. I am.
"But the problem is that you weren't helping. Not really. And you must have noticed that, surely? You must have seen that I was doing everything you were telling me to do, and it wasn't working. And not one of you said to me, 'Stiles, just sit down, do whatever you think is right'. You were all too busy telling me what you thought was right. And I listened to you all. That was my mistake. I took too many people's advice, followed too many people's orders, when I should have been following my own. I should have been making those decisions myself, rather than letting you all decide for me. It's not all your fault. Really. It's not. I'm not blaming you for my awful decision making, no more than I'm blaming myself for Derek's.
But it has to stop. I know that you all meant well. I know that you all mean well, all the time, because you're the best friends I've ever had, and I love you all. I'm pretty sure that we'd all be married by now if we were Mormons. You're all awesome, and you always want to help, and that's great. I'm lucky. The thing is that I need you to not want to help all the time. I need you to be able to look at what I'm doing wrong and just let me do it, because it's my life, in the words of Gwen Stefani, and if I fuck things up to the nth degree, then it has to be on my shoulders. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
The room falls into a hushed silence as Stiles' monologue breaks off, and Stiles can actually hear a clock ticking upstairs.
Scott blinks. Boyd sucks a deep breath through his teeth.
"You idiot," Lydia says, but there's a small smile playing on her lips, and Stiles feels a weight drop from his shoulders that he didn't even know he was carrying. "Talk Talk did that song first."
"1984," Erica nods. "Instant classic."
The silence stretches for a few moments longer, and Stiles is about to speak again – he doesn't know what he's supposed to say, but anything is better than this awful nothingness – when Lydia takes things into her own hands.
"Stiles." Her voice is kind, but Stiles can detect a hint of amusement there, too. "Honestly, if you'd just told us that in the first place, we'd have backed off in a heartbeat. I hate to make this whole thing so anticlimactic, but you know, we're here for you as much as you need us to be. No more, no less. Certainly not to the point of sabotage, I would hope." She purses her lips. "Next time, if you feel that we're intruding, just tell us to butt out of your business, and we'll do our best to make sure that we aren't cramping your style. We won't take the initiative to back off if you give us every reason to believe that we're helping, though."
"Like I said, it's just as much my fault. I shouldn't have let things go as far as they did."
Lydia nods curtly.
"Then I hope you'll accept my apology, at least, and I'll accept the inference of yours."
"I'm sorry, too," Erica adds. "For what it's worth, I mean. I'm not going to sit here and say that I'll never charge in uninvited again, because spontaneity is one of my many charms, but I guess I can try. I mean, I'll do my best."
Stiles grins shakily at her, and she returns it more confidently. Boyd has been watching her, slightly awestruck, and Stiles wonders if it would be totally hypocritical of him to give Boyd her cell number.
It would, he thinks. She's a smart one. She'll figure it out.
Derek shifts his weight onto his other foot and Stiles feels the change in his posture against his side. It feels weird, standing this close to someone else in a room full of his friends. He wonders if he'll have to get used to it.
"You've been awfully quiet throughout this whole dialogue," states Scott, nodding at Derek and ignoring Lydia's quiet whisper of 'diatribe'. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
Stiles looks at Scott.
"Dude," he says. "Did you listen to nothing I said?"
Scott raises his hands in mock innocence.
"Yeah, and I won't get involved in matters that aren't my place to get involved in," he promises, before spreading his hands wider. "But this is my house, man, and there's a strange dude in my living room. I gotta make sure his intentions towards my best friend are honest."
Stiles looks at Derek. Derek looks at Stiles, and Stiles nods at him to answer Scott's question if he feels comfortable. Derek clearly takes it as the encouragement it is rather than the command that Stiles feared he might believe it to be, because he stands a little straighter, and runs a hand through the short hair at the back of his neck.
"I did behave like a dick," he admits. "And I've apologised for that. I mean – I've said sorry, as much as that counts, and I guess I'll just have to keep proving that I mean it, because I do."
Lydia nods in approval. Scott doesn't look convinced. Stiles is just surprised that Derek, as a man of comparatively few words, is apparently capable of public speaking. Derek takes another deep breath, and his gaze falls to the floor.
"The things is," he continues. "As I'm sure you all know, I'd just got out of a pretty bad relationship before Stiles. And it – it doesn't excuse what I did, I know that, that's not what I'm saying at all, but - "
He looks at Stiles, and Stiles smiles at him, trying to reassure him. Derek smiles back, but it's a slightly scared little thing, and suddenly Stiles knows what he's about to do. He opens his mouth to interject, because seriously, Derek's apologised now, and this gesture is one gesture too many. He doesn't need to do this. Stiles appreciates it, sure, but as far as he's concerned, they're square now. They've both fucked up. They've both promised to atone for it in the ways that they can, and this isn't atonement. This is just self-punishment.
Stiles needs this, but Derek doesn't.
"Derek - " says Stiles, but Derek shakes his head, and Stiles thinks to himself that maybe if Derek thinks he has to do this, then he does. If this is what Derek thinks will make them even, will clear his conscience, then maybe he has to do it after all, even if Stiles thinks it's an unnecessary step in the right direction.
'I need you to not want to help all the time', Stiles had said, and isn't that true of everyone? Doesn't everyone need to fuck up a little sometimes? Doesn't everyone need to do what they think is right in that moment? Stiles isn't alone in that, he knows, not at all, and if Derek wants to do this, then he has to let him. As long as Derek knows that Stiles will be there, too, not saying a word.
"Kate didn't just break up with me," Derek begins, finally, and Stiles' breath hitches in his throat. "I know that some people think we just had a bad break-up, but that's – we didn't." He closes his eyes, and counts to five before opening them again. "I was an orphan by the time I was sixteen. That's not really important here, but I guess – it's sort of hard to know where to start. We didn't have that much. We weren't well off. My parents weren't lawyers, or doctors, or bankers – we lived in a house with eight rooms total, and we lived sort of hand to mouth. Until I was eighteen. Things changed then.
"I'd been dating Kate for about three months, and things were going OK. Then, on the day I turned eighteen, I got a letter in the mail from the bank. It turned out that my parents hadn't been as short of money as we'd thought. They'd been putting money aside every month – a lot of money, as much money was left over after paying our meagre bills and discount rent – for me and my sister, and it had accumulated a fair amount over the decades they'd been doing it, with interest and all. And suddenly I wasn't poor anymore. I had $50,000 just handed to me, like that. And of course, the first person I told was Kate, because I thought she was the woman I was going to marry. I know. Just turned eighteen, and I thought I'd found the one. It was stupid, but I didn't know what she was like then."
He smiles, sort of sadly, and even Lydia looks sympathetic.
"The first I knew about her real character was when she skipped town three weeks later, with nearly $30,000 of my money, and several detailed reports about my mental health at the time. The police found her, of course, but she'd already got her story pretty much sorted. She told everyone that I, in a state of depression from losing my parents, had planned to run away with her, and gave her that money to start our life together. She said she'd left the state to do just that, and I'd had a change of heart and told her that she could just keep the money and I was going to stay here, alone.
"And I have no idea how she did it, because she wasn't much older than me, but she must have studied Psychology or Law or something, because she convinced two judges that although I was depressed enough to give her the money, I wasn't ill enough to be considered legally irresponsible. The money was hers. I couldn't get it back. I couldn't afford to go to college, not after paying the legal fees,
"So, that's what happened with Kate. I know it might not sound that bad, because it was all about money in the end, but it was about more than that, you know?"
The silence returns, and Derek swallows.
"Yeah, I know," says Lydia, softly, and Stiles still can't say anything, because what the fuck can he even say to that? How does he respond to a life story that's so twisted, he can't even fathom how it happened? It's so implausible that it has to be true, and it's at once better than worse than what he imagined.
If he ever sees Kate again, he doesn't know how he'll restrain himself from murdering her brutally. Because Derek is a good guy. He's a good guy who's too afraid of people to always do what's right, and he's snarkier than any human has a right to be, but he's here now, taking a lot of shit for mistakes that weren't all his and telling his biggest secret, something that Stiles knows he hasn't told anyone else out of embarrassment or shame or something like that, and here he is, telling it to people he doesn't even know, because he thinks it will make it up to Stiles.
Stiles thinks he might just be the best person he knows.
He's about to do something stupid like take Derek's face in his hands and kiss the life out of him when there's the noise of a clearing of a throat, and he turns instead to look at the sofa. Allison shifts in her seat, and Derek looks at her. She looks apologetic.
"I think I'd better excuse myself," she says.
"I don't blame you," Derek tells her, but she shakes her head.
"I know, but - " She stands up, and starts to walk towards the door. "I have to think about things. My aunt is... I don't know what she is. Not anymore." She looks at Scott, who seems torn between going with her and staying to see how things are resolved here. She offers him a conciliatory smile. "I'll call you later," she tells him, and she's gone.
Again, silence. This is becoming routine, Stiles thinks.
Then again, he also thinks that he needs to take Derek home, preferably right now, and let him know how grateful he is for what he's done for him, how sorry he is for what's been done to him, and how dedicated he is to making sure that nothing else like that ever happens to him again. If clothes happen to be surplus to requirements, then he can deal with that, too.
"We should be going, too," he says, and Scott looks at the ceiling, exasperated.
"This is the weirdest night of my life," he sighs, and Stiles shrugs apologetically.
"I'll call you later, too," he promises. "We'll have a three-way call with Allison and it'll be totally awesome and not at all awkward."
"See that you do," says Scott, and Stiles crosses his heart. Derek rolls his eyes, and honestly it's a relief that he seems to be regaining some sense of something other than fear in the realisation that the people in this room aren't judging him.
Stiles wonders if anyone – of the few people he might have told, if he's told anyone – has judged him, and the thought sends a spike of something unpleasant through his stomach.
Then Derek meets his eye, and that unpleasant spike suddenly turns into something far more pleasant.
He really does need to get out of here.
"Well, bye guys," he says, and begins to drag Derek out of the room. Erica eyes him like she's considering calling the men in white coats, and Stiles doesn't really blame her, but he's finding it really hard to care.
"See you tomorrow," Scott returns. "You'd better be able to sit down, because you have a full day of lectures."
Stiles fixes him with his most saccharine smile, and continues the process of getting the fuck out of there before his arousal actually burns the place down.
"Derek," calls Lydia, when they're nearly at the front door, and Stiles closes his eyes and curses her bad timing. Derek raises an eyebrow, clearly finding Stiles' behaviour to be concerning rather than alluring, and looks towards the living room.
"Yeah?" he calls back.
"Thanks," Lydia says. "Next time, you'll actually be invited to one of these things."
Derek grins at that, and even Stiles manages to laugh. It's fine, he thinks, or at least it will be. He opens the door, and he can feel the half cold evening air. It's nice out. Maybe he won't take Derek straight home. Maybe they'll get coffee first, he decides. Or dinner, if Derek can pay half.
"And use protection," Lydia adds, and Stiles decides to screw the coffee.
You're going to be late for college again.
Dude! Really? Seriously? That's a thing you just did?
Apparently so. You really are going to be late, though. You should seriously consider getting up.
You are RIGHT HERE. I watched you type that. You're watching me type this. You could have just TOLD ME. In voice words.
You aren't using 'voice words' either.
You started it! And I am not going to be late. Classes don't start until 12 today.
You could end it, you know. And they don't? Oh. Guess I got you up for nothing, then. Awfully sorry about that.
Well, I wouldn't say for NOTHING...
Hey, dude. I'm having a guys' night at my place tomorrow, and for some reason, Allison said I should invite you, even though I made it clear that we weren't going to be braiding hair and swapping secrets, so it totally wasn't your thing. 9pm, bring your favourite Sylvester Stallone film and I put you in charge of bringing the beers. You in?
Oh, and bring Derek.
I am so in that it hurts, you know that. I can't say no to the Italian Stallion. And dude, really? You sure?
Yes, I'm sure. He can bring the nail polish.
But really. Yes. He's totally welcome, dude. I mean it.
Thanks, bro. Really. Thank you.
Tell him to bring Cheetos I fucking love them
Stiles Stilinski is in a relationship with Derek Hale
32 people like this
Stiles Stilinski is not going to leave his phone lying around his apartment anymore because apparently his boyfriend is a soppy idiot who thinks the best way to express his affection is through public displays of romance
12 people like this
Stiles Stilinski is divorced
19 people like this
Derek Hale really isn't as funny as he thinks he is
23 people like this
Boyd just kissed me is this the real life is this just fantasy
Can't it be both? It's about fucking time, by the way. You've been dancing around each other for what feels like centuries. Civilisations have grown and faded in the time it's taken one of you to finally instigate a good game of tonsil tennis.
PS Boyd is a very good kisser, 10/10 would recommend
I'm going to turn my phone off now.
Me too, why am I texting you when I could be kissing Boyd?
That is one of the greatest mysteries of our time.
Facebook message from Laura Hale:
I know you probably don't want to talk to me right now, but I just wanted to say thank you. Derek's told me that you know about Kate, and he said you took it really well. He also told me that I've been behaving like - and I quote - 'a butt-hurt stepmom'. So there's that too, I suppose.
I just wanted you to know that I only meant the best, and I sincerely hope that you and my brother are together for a long time. I think you're good for him, Stiles, and I hope he's good for you, too.
Facebook message from Stiles Stilinski:
Laura, seriously, it is aaaaall good. No hard feelings. You thought you were helping. I can't hate you for that.
Also, sorry if you heard anything last night. You know. THINGS. We were trying to be quiet but I think the beer rendered that impossible. I, too, am sorry.
Facebook message from Laura Hale:
Can I take my apology back, just for that?
Facebook message from Stiles Stilinski:
Not a chance.
I have big news. Seriously huge news. You might want to sit down.
Are you sitting down?
Oh my God, yes, OK, I am sitting down.
You're totally not, are you
I bet you're pumping iron RIGHT NOW
Derek I cannot have this conversation with you while you're in a tank top
I am not 'pumping iron', and I am not wearing a tank top. I'm sitting at my kitchen table, listening to Laura rant about something and reading the newspaper. What do you want to tell me?
Aw, you're an old man, I love it. I GOT A NEW PHONE
... good? I think? That's... good. Congratulations.
You don't get it, do you
It was symbolic. We are now no longer bonded by technology. We have different phones now. We don't need to accidentally switch phones as an excuse to talk to each other. Also I really hate Blackberrys
I think we stopped needing to switch phones as an excuse to meet up when we passed the six month mark without swapping phones once, deliberately or otherwise. But I am happy you got rid of your Blackberry. I should do the same.
Dude no I love your foresty background
Never change it
Love you too, Stiles.