It is a normal, sunny Thursday, alright. Stiles was just strolling through the park after class, nothing to see here, nothing strange was happening, until something does. It’s just- see, there’s this dude standing in front of a homeless looking man sunning himself on the grass. The painter’s got a nice set up and everything, an easel, a canvas, an entire leather case of brushes and paints galore next to him on a stool. Looks like he’s got them mad skillz as well, because the likeness is surreal.
Something feels off with painter guy.
Look, it’s not that Stiles thinks painting is a girls’ thang, haha. That men can art doesn’t shock him, even though Stiles himself can’t art for the life of him. Seriously, during fifth grade Missus Cardon had him forcefully removed from her class because he had whacked other students one too many times with too many brushes. There was also that close call with that carving knife. Stiles still maintains to this day that it wasn’t his fault that he slipped on water and someone’s ear (Missus Cardon) was in flailing range.
So, uh, Stiles freezes, when he sees him. For weird reasons, because it’s not the visage of a man in medieval rags and terminator eyes rolling around in dewy grass that has him go data corrupted; cannot compute. It’s definitely not the act of painting itself that has him immobilized and staring on the spot like an idiot (because, hello, it’s NYC, some would call it the city of starving artists, painters on streets are nothing to glance at). It’s not even the obvious fact that painter can see the homeless looking dude that had him stopping in the first place.
The man is gorgeous. That’s right- Stiles never knew he is that kind of person until now either. You know, that kind of sleaze who openly gawps at people just because they’re hot or something. But this guy is a straight up Greek god; he’s got dusky skin and a thick head of black hair, a physique that Adonis himself will kill for. Anybody can tell that he’s hawt as the sun even from his back, where his tight black jeans, wifebeater combo shows off his broad shoulders (unf), a shapely tri-swirling tattoo, and an ass that Stiles will do anything to bounce something off of, no, volunteer to bounce himself on. Dude’s got the entire Tall Dark and Handsome trope down to an art (heh).
He’s also, unfortunately, exactly Stile’s type. Unfortunate, because there is no way the guy’s ever going to waste a look on a guy like Stiles-
Wait. Painter guy can see the homeless guy.
Stiles may or may not have developed either: a) a very serious psychological disorder, or b) a third eye, when he was a kid.
“How did you do that?” The words just ran out of his mouth of their own volition. Stiles can’t even be mad at himself for asking so frankly—he needs to know, now.
…aaaand the creature startles, bouncing on the grass and kicking out a hoofed foot. Homeless guy grunts out a frightened, confused noise, then in a blink of an eye he shrinks and disappears into the grass with a ‘pop!’.
Well, that’s one less problem to deal with, at least. Even though Stiles does feel a little guilty about scaring him off.
Tall Dark and Handsome sighs in annoyance (oops), says, “do what?” in a totally nonchalant tone, like he hadn’t been painting a satyr-kind thing like one of Leo’s French girls. And his voice is higher than Stiles would’ve expected. He doesn’t turn around to face Stiles when he talks, which rude. It’s also kind of turning Stiles on. Why must he be like this?
While Stiles is left searching for a response and still looking like a fish with a dangly lower jaw, Mister TDH is already packing his shit up, sliding the brushes back into their stretchy elastic bondage (bad, Stiles. No dirty thoughts) and sliding the palette into the ribbed sides of the case. Stiles decides to just- ask.
Worst case scenario is TDH thinking that Stiles is clinically insane (which might probably be true) and they’ll never see each other again. Probably.
“Uhh, that thing you’re painting just then?” Stiles says. He sounds like an asshole. Shit.
Mister TDH’s shoulders tighten. When he speaks, he sounds even more annoyed. “What, is it illegal for a man to paint or something?”
“No,” Stiles hisses. Like a cat. Or like that sphinx head that used to hiss at him every. single. time he walked into the old apartment building where he used to live in. He doesn’t live there anymore since the tiny people (the internet says brownies) took over. “How did you see him?”
TDH whips around and.
Time slows down.
He looks. As fucking beautiful as Stiles would’ve imagined him to be, had he not seen his face. His beauty is a living, breathing thing, cocooning him in an almost glow that stains the air around him with the same kind of ethereal richness. It may not be illegal for him to paint, but it just might be illegal for his eyes to be mostly indescribable. What even is on his driver’s license for the eye color spot? ‘Gunmetal blue but greyish green with flecks of hazel brown also occasionally color changing’? And his stubble, with that jaw. God is real; he sculpted this man’s jawline to perfection and personally shaves this man every morning just to grow him immaculate five-o’clock shadows every day. His cheekbones can cut diamonds—they are that sharp. His eyebrows are that thickly defined.
His thick, defined eyebrows, that look angrier and angrier by the second. Stiles realizes that Greek god had just said something. And like a total inept he had completely missed it.
“I’m sorry, what?” Everything is coming back to focus, even though Stiles is still swaying on his feet a little. Damn, TDH is so pretty that he gave Stiles an out of body experience. Cross that off of his bucket list.
“I said,” TDH sounds seriously pissed, and when he frowns like this, he looks like the grumpy cat. “What did you just say?”
“Oh, right.” Stiles clears is throat. “I, uh, I wanted to know how you did it. See the… the dude, that is.”
“…You mean the leshy. That you just scared away.” Is that what it is? A leshy? It sounds like ‘fleshy’. Who the heck named it?
“Uh, yeah? I mean.” It’s possible that TDH has no idea what he means. Flailing his hand totally makes his point clearer. He hopes that it helps TDH understand that Stiles has no idea what’s going on either. He’s never met another person who saw them, sees what he sees, before; let alone anyone who knew what the hell they’re even called.
Wait. “Are all of them called leshies?”
“What do you mean, all of them?” TD’s eyebrows are less murderous, but his face looks more confused in general, though his mouth corners stay down. Now this is what Stiles is used to; people’s being baffled by him. He got this.
“Like, you know, Pokémons? Is that basically what leshies are?” And wow, even Stiles himself is cringing; especially when TDH just squints at him like he has no idea what drugs Stiles is on. Stiles is on none of them. He worked hard to make sure that he doesn’t make people make him take drugs, though that probably is a bad thing. Right.
At one point, Stiles did try to pinpoint when the, the seeing manifested. He thinks it’s probably during first grade or something, when it was still acceptable for him to have imaginary, er, friends. Or imaginary terrors, more like. All he can theorize is that kiddy Stiles, who started reading superhero comics at around that point, kept it a secret just like how Superman and Batman kept their secrets to the rest of the world. Honestly, which little kid doesn’t want a superpower? It wasn’t until he was older that the seeing had become traumatizing. Once or twice. Or five. Like when that fucking horse thing nearly drowned him in a lake. He had had nightmares of Dad fishing out his corpse from the lake back in Beacon Hills all the way through high school. Or that time with that really old rotting infrastructure that the forest department says used to be a house, mysteriously burnt down a long, long time ago. There had been crawling presences, things, watching him when he stumbled across it, again and again. He had eventually stopped going into the Preserve.
He kept his silence, but it became less and less about trying to be a superhero, and more and more about trying to be normal. He had kept his silence. Until now.
TDH stares at him for a while, more guarded now. There’s tension pulling at Stiles, almost beckoning him forward; TDH’s attention on him is unnerving.
“No,” TDH says, finally. “I meant the leshy as in the type of spirit you just saw. It’s a woodland spirit. How long have you been seeing unusual things?”
Stiles- Stiles nearly swallows his tongue, with how hard he gulped. TDH’s beauty isn’t trapping his attention as much as before, not with such a heavy question. A tricky question.
“I don’t know,” he says, because he doesn’t. “Around five, or something. Are you real?” He blurts out, because if TDH isn’t real then- then Stiles doesn’t know what he might do, to have this final chance at knowing what’s real and what not crushed. And TDH has the grace to snort.
“I’m real,” his voice is the driest. He should be re-nicknamed Sahara for how dry his voice is. Stiles is impressed. And also- TDH says he’s real. Don’t hallucinations always say they’re real? Or was that a made up Hollywood thing? Everything is- everything is getting weird. How does Stiles know?
TDH keeps talking, which surprises Stiles, because he seems like the strong and silent type. “I doubt you would’ve been able to dream me up. And you can see what other people don’t,” TDH looks at him even more, like he is scanning him for an extra organ tucked away, or like he is dissecting him in the name of art, memorizing his features. Stiles hates that he can feel himself heating up, from neck up and down south. His nipples are perking up, rubbing uncomfortably at his shirt’s thin, worn fabric. It’s like his body is coming to attention and his brain hasn’t caught up yet, which is a rare contrast from what usually happens.
“I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t even know your name. You haven’t even told me how you can see them yet either,” Stiles says, and his heartbeat is doing something; when he moves his hands, his fists are clenching and clammy with cold sweat. TDH’s eyes burn a low blue for a moment, and-
Fuck. He’s not real, of course he’s not-
Suddenly, there’s a solid body right in front of him, radiating warmth and blocking out the sunlight, and a hand circle one of his wrists, another cradling his jaw, thumb caressing at the thin skin under his eye, which had squeezed shut without him realizing.
His head is swimming- he’s not drowning, it feels like it, it’s getting harder and harder to-
“Breathe,” says the body in front of him, and Stiles-
Stiles breathes. He doesn’t open his eyes, but he doesn’t need to see to know that it’s TDH in front of him. He smells like pine, and smoke, and the woods. He’s also warmer than usual for a guy in a tank top in April, sunlit as today is.
“My name is Derek.”
What? Stiles immediately snaps his eyes open, because that has got to be a fake name. Nobody like TDH is gonna be a Derek. “Your name-? No way, that is too common to be your name. You’re lying. Are you lying?”
…A peculiar, annoyed subsonic sound radiates out of ‘Derek’s’ throat. Something that Stiles can feel all the way down to his toes. That’s- that’s unnatural. That’s not a sound a human makes, almost like a growl. This has never happened before, even with the seeing.
TDH huffs out an almost snort, almost amused at Stiles’ no doubt visible confusion. “No,” he’s rolling his eyes. What a dick. Stiles is half invested in him already. “My name is actually Derek. And if you want to know-”
Stiles doesn’t hesitate in cutting him off again. “Yes!”
“-if you really want to know, you have to understand that there’s no going back.” Derek pauses.
“You can’t pretend to yourself, anymore.” Derek doesn’t look like he’s jo- he’s serious.
According to a stranger in front of him, there is no turning back. But according to said stranger, Stiles will finally, finally, know. Is letting go years and years of uncertainty worth never being able to feel like everybody else, ever again?
Stiles takes a shuddering breath. Something about Derek, some special quality that Stiles hardly ever sees, is drawing him in, again—up close, Stiles can count his eyelashes, can almost taste what he knows, can see that the flecks of hazel are actually flecks of something lighter. Golden. He thinks, he has the answer.