Stiles still remembered what it was like the first time he had heard the electronic voice on the other end. He was used to being sent to voicemail by virtually everyone he knew, Scott mostly. Derek, for some reason, had always answered his phone no matter who was calling, so Stiles couldn’t remember the last time he’d been met with the man’s voicemail.
So after Derek left Beacon Hills and Stiles called him, when he heard the electronic voice advising him the person he had called was unavailable, he hadn’t known what to do other than hang up.
It had felt like a piece of their already tiny Pack had been snuffed out. Stiles had a hard time accepting that, so he’d started calling once a day before going to bed, but every time, he was met with voicemail and he hung up.
Time passed, and for a while, Stiles thought that maybe something had happened to Derek. Maybe he was captured, or injured, or worse—dead. But he always talked himself out of those thoughts, because Derek’s phone was never off. It just rang through to voicemail, so he obviously charged it. And the fact that it never said the number had been disconnected meant he still paid the bill.
How he paid, Stiles didn’t know, because Derek didn’t seem to have a job, ever, so where he got his money from was a mystery to all.
So, in conclusion, someone had either stolen Derek’s phone and was charging it and paying the bill for it, or—more likely—Derek saw who was calling and let the phone ring.
Since it was probably the latter, the next night when Stiles called and it rang through to voicemail, for the first time since Derek’s departure, he took a deep breath when the beep sounded, and spoke.
He didn’t say anything of interest, he mostly just started rambling about school and what everyone had been up to. The voicemail only allowed him to leave a message that was around eight minutes long, and when he tried to call back to leave a new message, it said the mailbox was full. Stiles assumed his message had taken up all the available space in it and just hung up.
When he called back the following evening, he expected to once again hear that the mailbox was full, but surprisingly it went through to the beep and Stiles started rambling again.
He knew it was entirely likely that Derek had just deleted the voicemail and gone about his business, but he tried for optimism and left him another one. The voicemail cut off around the eight minute mark again and Stiles hung up.
It turned into a bit of a routine for him, calling Derek on a nightly basis and leaving him a voicemail. He never said anything about him leaving, or about what new horrors were going on in Beacon Hills, he just talked about random things like school and his dad and Scott and how stupid the new Marvel movie was. Anything he could to just be a normal teenager calling a grumpy old dude.
Not that Derek was old, he was only two or three years older than Stiles, but hardly the point.
Stiles had gotten really good at timing himself so that he could get as much out of his eight minutes. Sometimes he managed to come in right under the wire, but other times he was mid-sentence when the machine cut him off.
Which was why he was a little surprised the day he watched the time tick down and tried to speak faster before being cut off, and then noticed the timer click past eight minutes. He’d stopped mid-sentence, assuming maybe the time had been calculated incorrectly, but when he continued speaking for an additional four minutes before it cut him off at twelve, he realized that the timer hadn’t messed up.
Derek had changed his plan to allow more room in his voicemail.
That meant either he was listening to every message Stiles left him, and had gotten tired of him being cut off, or he was expecting other calls and Stiles kept filling up his inbox. Well, he should’ve known better if it was the latter because Stiles could talk like nobody’s business and Derek should be well aware of that.
The next day when Stiles called, he struggled not to try and force everything into eight minutes, because he was so used to having to do it. It was strange, but he didn’t have any problems filling in the extra few minutes.
After that, the routine changed to twelve minutes instead of eight. He still avoided talking about anything bad happening in town. He didn’t mention the group of Hellhounds that had tried to take over their territory—apparently, they were assholes and Parrish was the exception—or the dragon that had tried to take a chunk out of Liam when he’d been walking home alone one night—yes, apparently dragons were real, who’d have thought?
One night, after a particularly hard fight against Fairies—those bitches were mean!—Stiles had called and left what was possibly the shortest message he’d ever left. He’d been in a lot of pain, and hadn’t wanted to say anything about the fight, which was difficult when breathing hurt. He figured a short call was better than none at all, so he just told Derek about the latest episode of Game of Thrones and then called it a night, hanging up. He’d been his normal self the next day, but he knew Derek would’ve picked up on the fact that something weird had happened the day before.
Still, he persevered. He left voicemails, went out with the Pack to fight bad guys, and made sure to keep the two separate. With Derek, he was just a normal dude doing normal dude things, and he liked that. He missed it, too. Being normal. He barely even remembered what that felt like.
The only night his routine changed, he didn’t have a choice. He had to call Derek, because it was impossible not to, but all he got out was less than fifteen words.
“Dad got attacked by a Golem. He’s in the hospital. I can’t talk today.”
After hanging up, he sat in the waiting room with his hands clenched together, Scott on one side and Lydia on the other. Mrs. McCall came by every now and then to check on him, but he couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if his dad didn’t make it. He wouldn’t be able to handle it if he lost his dad, and every time he was on the verge of a panic attack, Lydia and Scott had to try and pull him back from it.
He was still sitting there three hours later, Lydia snoozing with her head on his shoulder and one of his hands clenched in both of hers, and Scott gone to get them both some coffee, when his phone rang. Everyone who was available to be there was already present, and they’d sent the rest of the Pack home. He couldn’t think of any of them calling him, so he figured it had to be something unrelated to his dad, like a Telemarketer or Finstock or something.
He ignored it the first time it rang, but when it died down and then began vibrating almost immediately once more, he reached into his pocket with his free hand, trying not to jostle Lydia, and pulled his phone out.
The name staring back at him wasn’t what he’d been expecting and for a moment, he was scared to answer. What if answering this call meant his dad died? What if he answered and the voice on the other end wasn’t Derek’s?
Just before it rang through to voicemail again, Stiles answered the call, and brought the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” he asked quietly, his voice strange to his own ears.
There was silence for a moment, and then, “Stiles.”
It was Derek. The phone had said it would be, but Stiles hadn’t believed it until he heard his voice come down the line. Until he could confirm without a shadow of a doubt that it was him.
“How’s your dad?”
“I haven’t heard anything yet.”
They were both silent for a while, and Stiles was painfully reminded of how hard of a time Derek had speaking to people. But he didn’t hang up, and Derek didn’t hang up, either. While he wasn’t saying anything, he was just there in case Stiles needed him, and that was enough.
“Where are you?” Stiles asked after a few more minutes of silence.
“Just past the border into Colorado.”
It was weird to realize that Derek wasn’t that far away from them. He figured it made sense, Derek hadn’t been gone long, and if he was truly after Kate, she was on foot so her progress would be slow-going.
“How’s the hunt?”
“Over. Finished a while ago.”
“Oh.” Stiles wanted to ask why he hadn’t come home, but he knew the answer. Derek had nothing left in Beacon Hills. No Pack, no family, no one he considered a friend. “Why didn’t you ever answer when I called?”
Derek was silent for a moment, as if debating his answer, or debating even giving one. Eventually, he said, “I didn’t want to be three states away when you called asking for help. I didn’t want to hear you being attacked while not being able to do anything.”
“I wouldn’t have called you,” Stiles admitted. He didn’t mean for it to be an accusation, it was merely a fact. Stiles wouldn’t call someone who wasn’t even there if he was in a life or death situation. He’d call people who were actually around to do something about it. “Why did you listen to the voicemails?”
“I like hearing you talk,” Derek said.
There were many things Stiles had been expecting after asking that question. That answer hadn’t been one of them.
“Any time we ever spoke before, it was always about what next problem we were facing and needed to solve. The voicemails are just you... talking.”
“Oh.” Stiles had never considered that. He’d never thought that, as much as he wanted to be normal, maybe Derek wanted that, too. Maybe Derek wanted to live in a world where he could be a Werewolf but not have to spend his life fighting other Supernatural beings. Maybe that was why Derek had stayed away. It was easier being elsewhere and ignoring the problems at home than being at home where they stared him in the face.
Stiles looked up when Scott rounded the corner, making his way back towards him and Lydia.
“Scott’s coming back.”
“I should go.”
“Yeah. Thanks. For calling, I mean.”
“Your dad is a good man. He’ll be okay.”
Derek hung up before Stiles could say anything else.
Derek had been right in the end. His father was okay, though that didn’t stop Stiles from worrying incessantly about him the following day. He was supposed to take it easy and book some time off work, but when Stiles woke up, his father was gone and he found him sitting in his office at the station, insisting he was fine to do paperwork and there was a lot of it to be done.
Stiles wasn’t happy about it, but he just brought his dad a salad at lunch time and forced him home for dinner. When his father crashed for the night, Stiles grabbed his phone to make his usual nightly call, lying down on his bed and sighing with the phone at his ear.
It rang twice, then the line clicked, and Stiles sat bolt upright.
“Hello?” he asked when he heard nothing from the other end.
Derek had answered the call. Derek had actually answered the call. Stiles immediately lost everything he’d been planning on saying, having a script ready for his twelve minutes that was now completely irrelevant because Derek had answered the call!
“Hi,” Stiles said, not sure what else to say.
“How’s your father?”
“He’s okay,” Stiles said slowly, finding this to be weird. “He was told to take it easy, but of course he went to work. Started arguing with me that paperwork is easy and he didn’t listen to any of his deputies when they told him to go home. You know, typical for my dad.”
“I’m glad he’s doing better.”
“Yeah, me too.” Stiles picked at a loose thread on his comforter, trying to think of what to ask Derek, because he never usually had to think about that. Usually he just talked, and now he didn’t know what to do with himself.
“You can just talk, Stiles. Pretend this is the voicemail.”
“It’s not that easy,” he admitted.
Hearing Derek say that was strange. Derek liked their normal conversations as much as Stiles did, and it still kind of blew his mind to realize that. So, he took a deep breath and tried to remember what he’d been planning on talking about.
Finding nothing of his scripted evening in his brain, he just changed course and started talking about Scott’s new girlfriend and how Lydia didn’t like her. She was a bit pretentious, which was probably why Lydia didn’t like her, because she was the queen at being pretentious, but at least she looked good doing it and had reason to be.
From there he just started talking about school and Lacrosse and how Finstock had almost taken someone’s head off when trying to teach a freshman how to swing his crosse. Scott had ended up showing him instead while Liam and Mason took the injured party to the nurse.
He kept thinking he’d run out of normal human things to say to Derek, but he didn’t. Every time he was done with one topic, he easily jumped into another. He talked about University applications, about worrying his dad would stretch himself too thin trying to pay for it, about the latest movies he’d seen, what TV shows were going to be cancelled. It was easy speaking to Derek, and Stiles realized that it could’ve always been this easy if only he’d tried.
He and Scott only ever spoke about the Supernatural and Scott’s love life. He and Lydia spoke about other things, too, but it was also primarily about the Supernatural. It was shocking to realize that, out of all of his friends, not one of them could have a conversation with him without bringing up the fact that Supernatural shit existed in the world.
Derek had been born a Werewolf, he’d grown up as one, everything about his life was Supernatural. He probably didn’t even know how to have a conversation about anything else. And somehow, Stiles was managing with him, and he probably liked it more than Stiles could comprehend.
He figured it was the same feeling Stiles got whenever Scott would talk about his mother. Stiles’ own was gone, and it still hurt, so hearing Scott talk about her, and praise her, and express his love for her, somehow it made Stiles happy. It was like he was living vicariously through Scott, and he figured that was what Derek was doing now.
When it got late enough for Stiles to squawk when he saw the time, he bid Derek good night, and almost hung up right after, having forgotten it wasn’t a voicemail and that Derek was actually there on the other end.
He only barely managed to catch him speak before he hung up.
“Good night, Stiles.”
The next day was much like the day before, and while Stiles wondered if he’d ever run out of things to say, he realized that was a stupid thing to think because he couldn’t possibly run out of things to say.
It was still awkward at first when the call started, but when he pretended he was speaking to the voicemail, it got easier. Derek bid him goodnight before Stiles hung up again.
After that, it turned into the new routine. Stiles would call, Derek would answer, and Stiles would just start talking. He’d started taking cooking classes with his dad, both so he would survive at university and his father would survive without him. He spent a lot of time telling Derek about that after their first class, and for the first time ever, Derek spoke back.
Stiles had been scared to even breathe, lest Derek clam up, or worse, hang up, but he didn’t. He just told Stiles about how he used to take classes with his mother, Cora and Laura back when they were younger, and how they’d made fun of him for being really bad at baking.
That night seemed to shift something in their relationship, because after that, they started having actual conversations instead of Stiles just talking at Derek. It was different, and nice, and he learned a lot of things about him that he hadn’t known before.
Derek had been in university to become an architect when Laura had died and he’d returned to Beacon Hills.
He had always intended to tear down the old Hale house and rebuild it after coming back but had never gotten around to it.
He was a huge lover of sweets, but always did his best not to tell anyone because girls in high school used to fill his locker with chocolates and he didn’t want to get fat.
He still had a hard time sleeping most nights, and usually left a window open so that nobody could trap him inside and light the place on fire.
Just—random things that Stiles hadn’t known. How Derek had cried the first time he’d found out he couldn’t have a cat because they reacted badly around Werewolves, how he’d almost broken his neck jumping off the roof of the house as a child because Laura insisted that he could fly and he’d believed her, how he’d refused to believe for years that Santa Claus wasn’t real and insisted his parents were trying to trick him into being bad so he wouldn’t get any presents.
Everything he learned just made him feel more and more like he and Derek could’ve been better friends when he’d been around, if only they had thought to try and talk about things other than the Supernatural problem of the week.
“I miss you,” Derek had suddenly said one day, interrupting Stiles mid-rant about the season finale of Criminal Minds.
It had stunned him into silence, and for a few long seconds, Stiles didn’t know what to say or do. But the words had definitely filled his chest with a warmth he hadn’t been expecting and he eventually smiled and said,
“I miss you, too.”
“I didn’t even know I cared enough to miss you until I heard your first voicemail,” he admitted. “But as soon as I heard your voice, complaining about your locker sticking and Scott making first string yet again while you were relegated to the bench, I realized I missed you.”
Stiles was silent for a few seconds. “You remember what I talked about in the first voicemail I left you?”
“I remember what you talked about in all of them.”
It was at that moment that Stiles realized what they had been doing. What they had started, and had continued for months. What that phonecall at the hospital had shifted in their relationship, and what every conversation they’d had since then meant.
“Dude,” he asked slowly, his heartrate picking up, “are we dating?”
Derek said nothing for a moment, and Stiles thought maybe he was going to snap at him to stop being an idiot and hang up, but after an almost excruciatingly long silence, he spoke.
“We might be.”
Stiles sat up and raked a hand through his hair, bending one knee and letting out a small exhale of a laugh. “Shit. How did that even happen?”
“You talk a lot.”
“Funny,” Stiles said with a snort, rolling his eyes.
“I heard that eye roll from here.”
“Werewolf hearing. It’s that good, apparently,” Stiles teased.
Derek laughed, a sound Stiles had gotten accustomed to the last few weeks, and when he made a return comment, Stiles grinned and lay back down, continuing their bickering right where they’d left off. It wasn’t until he’d hung up that he remembered what had derailed their conversation in the first place, and he kind of couldn’t believe it.
When he hesitantly brought it up with his dad the following day at dinner, the sheriff’s eyebrows flew up and he said, “Wait, you mean you weren’t already dating before then? I thought that was the reason you called him every night!”
Even Scott had been surprised when he’d told him what his father had said, because apparently Scott had thought the same thing. Everyone in the Pack had been under the impression that Stiles and Derek had been dating before Derek had left, and they just hadn’t told anyone. Stiles called him every day because that was what people who were dating and apart did, and to realize that not a single person had thought anything about it was a little bit overwhelming.
Stiles had ended up telling Derek everyone’s comments that evening over the phone, and he’d just made a noise that sounded like he could see what they were getting at and told Stiles maybe they had been dating all that time and just hadn’t known it.
That seemed a little too crazy for Stiles, considering Derek had been sleeping with Braeden at the time, but that had just turned into a long joke about Derek cheating on him and being a bad boyfriend. Eventually, they moved away from the conversation and went back to arguing the differences between Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams and who was better at what they did.
They didn’t even bring up their relationship-but-maybe-not-relationship again until almost two months later, when Stiles had been so tired Derek had insisted they hang up, and he’d mumbled,
“Okay, yeah, night, love you.”
It had been an automatic reaction, and something he knew he’d said hundreds of times to people like his dad, Mrs. McCall, Lydia and Scott, but somehow the second the words had left him with Derek, he felt like he’d been shot full of adrenaline and he immediately hung up.
It meant something different when he said it to Derek, and he struggled not to panic as he sat there in bed, exhausted beyond belief but unable to sleep because he’d just dropped a bomb on Derek and hadn’t meant to.
Derek didn’t call back, and Stiles didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing. He tried not to dwell on it and eventually managed to get two hours of sleep before his alarm went off the next morning.
He didn’t mention anything to anyone, but both Lydia and Scott commented that he was acting weird, and his dad asked if everything was okay when they sat down to dinner that night. He didn’t know how to tell them that he’d realized he was in love with Derek, so he just played it off as being tired from a bad night’s sleep and went to his room shortly after eight.
When he called Derek, his heart was slamming against his ribcage and he almost didn’t know if he wanted to speak to him. What would be worse in this case? Derek pretending it hadn’t even happened, or Derek awkwardly telling him he didn’t feel the same way?
Turned out neither of those were the worst case scenario, because the absolute worst case scenario was what he ended up getting.
Which was the phone ringing through to voicemail.
When the line beeped, he sat there for a good few seconds without saying anything, feeling his chest constrict. Gripping the phone tightly in his hand, he licked his lips.
“Hey. I, uh, I guess you’re busy. Or out or... something. Um, I wasn’t—I don’t have anything to talk about today, so I just... Bye.”
He hung up the phone, staring down at it and trying to figure out why it hurt so much.
Stupid thing to try and figure out, really, since he knew exactly why it hurt so much. It was because he did love Derek, and apparently saying that had been too much for him and now things had changed.
But what the fuck did Derek think being together meant?! Sure, they’d kind of fallen into it and hadn’t even realized they were pretty much dating until it had slapped them in the face, and other people had already thought they were, but that didn’t matter. If you were dating, it was because you cared about one another, you liked spending time together, you loved each other. Was Derek so emotionally stilted that he didn’t even understand that?
He sat on his bed for a long while, thinking things over before calling Derek back, trying not to get angry. It wasn’t Derek’s fault his childhood had gotten fucked up and Kate had ruined pretty much everything about relationships for him.
He stood up while the line rang, beginning to pace and raking his hand through his hair. He knew he needed to be moving during this one-sided conversation, because if he didn’t, he’d go crazy. And he was anticipating a lot of hair tugging and eye rolling on his part, so movement was good. Pacing was good.
When it went to voicemail again, this time, Stiles took a deep breath before the beep, and then started talking the second it went off.
“Okay, so I’ve had time to think and calm down over your lack of response which, rude, by the way. Rude to just leave me hanging after last night, and if I find out that you’re purposefully ignoring me, I’ll fucking shove wolfsbane up your ass. If you’re lying bleeding somewhere, then—I mean, sorry. And hopefully you’re not. I’d prefer for you to not be. I’m just venting, okay?! You didn’t answer the phone when I called!
"Not that you have to answer the phone whenever I call, but it’s just... look, I didn’t mean to say it last night, okay? Like, yes, I meant it, I wasn’t just saying that or anything, I did legitimately mean what I said, I just hadn’t exactly planned on saying it right then. I’d been hoping to have gotten a little further into our relationship-but-not-a-relationship, I was just tired, and it slipped out.
"And, yes, I hung up after saying it, but I panicked, and I know you’re not good at this sort of thing. I mean, I’ve not exactly had the best track record with relationships, either, given the only one I’ve ever had was with Malia, and that was like, well I mean, we had sex while in the nuthouse together so that’s kind of not normal.
"I mean... by regular people standards, it’s not normal. I guess for me I’d have to get some in a nuthouse, because only a crazy person would sleep with me, apparently, but I digress! Look, point is, I get that it freaks you out, and I get it if you don’t want to say it back, I never said that you had to. I wasn’t expecting it. Shit, I wasn’t expecting it to come out of my own mouth, and I’m the one who fucking said it, so, you know.
"But ignoring me isn’t going to make this go away. If that was too much for you, fine, I’m sorry that I feel that way, but I really think that we should talk about this before you just—”
Stiles cut off when his door opened, mid-pace across his room facing it. He barely had time to notice the leather jacket, strong legs and stubble before someone grabbed his face and kissed him.
He was still holding the phone against his ear, his other hand hanging at his side, and his eyes wide open. Definitely not the way he’d been expecting his first kiss with Derek to go, but he also hadn’t been planning on telling him he loved him while half-asleep and exhausted.
When Derek pulled back, opening his eyes, he brushed his thumbs gently against Stiles’ cheeks and said, “I love you, too.”
“Wrah?” Stiles got out, which he recognized wasn’t a word, but it was all his brain could conjure.
Derek rolled his eyes, the action foreign to Stiles, as was the small smile on his face.
“Sorry I missed your call, I was driving.” Derek leaned forward and kissed his left cheekbone, then his cheek, and his jaw, down his neck. “Didn’t want to get pulled over, or I’d get delayed getting here.”
“What?” Stiles managed to get out, and oh good, a real word!
“I didn’t want to say it over the phone,” he admitted, pulling back so they were looking at each other again, but not releasing his face. “I’ve been gone long enough, and while I know the Supernatural will sneak into our relationship now that I’m back, I’d rather have you half of the time in person, than all of the time over the phone.”
“You came back for me?” Stiles managed.
“I don’t do well with long distance.” Derek’s eyes shifted down, looking at Stiles’ parted lips. “I’m going to kiss you again, and it’d be great if you kissed back this time.”
Stiles nodded more enthusiastically than he’d meant to, and Derek smiled before kissing him again. This time, Stiles kissed back, pressing forward and dropping the phone so he could bury both hands in Derek’s hair. When he opened his mouth, Derek didn’t hesitate, pressing his tongue inside and circling it around Stiles’. It was the most amazing and surreal thing to ever happen to him, and when the sheriff came up to make sure they were doing all right ten minutes later, they hadn’t moved from the middle of the room, content with just kissing, and knowing that a lot more was coming later.
And to think, this had all been possible because Stiles had opened his mouth after Derek’s phone had beeped, and told him that he hated his locker at school, because it wouldn’t stop sticking.
The world was a strange, strange place.