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Derek Hale's Very Bad, No Good (Nice) Summer

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Nobody comes near Derek’s house. They barely even dare wander up the hill it sits on. Where the iron wrought gates swing open to let Derek pass, often unwanted visitors are chased away, swearing they saw the gates twist into angry, sharp pointed teeth. The house itself is huge, with dozens of rooms Derek has never even discovered. Sometimes on Saturday afternoons, he and Scott go hunting through the passages to investigate the hidden depths of their home. Once, they discovered a room filled with gold, and another filled with snakes. Derek’s always wanted to find the snakes again; Scott’s always talked whimsically of the gold. He wants to buy a carrier pigeon with which he can send Allison romantic letters when they're not at camp.

Derek hates camp. He hates the cheery nature of his fellow campers, the ugly bright orange and blue t-shirts they all have to wear. He loathes the fireside sing-alongs and the team activities. He’d rather sit in his room and read Steve Preisler. The worst thing about camp is Stiles. Stiles Stilinski is everything Derek absolutely despises about humankind. He’s bright eyed and enthusiastic, laughs loudly at Derek’s saccharine morbid remarks, and he never gives up on trying to follow Derek around. When he looks at Derek it makes him feel warm and awful inside. It’s disgraceful is what it is. A weakness he must one day conquer. It's not at all something to be thinking about, or even romanticising. He doesn't have time for that.

“Derek! Welcome home,” His father swings his golf club from the balcony above Derek. A ball goes flying through the air and a window smashes in the distance.

“Dammit, Hale!” Mr Harris from across the field leans out of his window, waves a bucket at them. “I’ve got a whole damn room filled with these!”

“Sell them!” Derek’s father calls cheerfully, “They’re worth a thousand dollars each!”

Harris glances at the bucket, narrows his eyes at them, and then slams his broken window shut.

Derek snickers, and his father winks at him as he looks over the side of the house, “Good day at school?”

“Abysmal,” Derek says darkly, “A girl asked me to a dance.”

“Ah,” his father beams, waves his cigar at him, “You’ll find the right person to want to do that with.” His mother appears on the balcony, smiles at his father, “When you know,” his father kisses her hand, nods at Derek, “You’ll know.”

“I’m going to ask Allison to the dance at every chance I get at camp,” Scott says brightly, shouldering past Derek and in through the front door.

“How exhilarating,” Derek intones drily.

The doors clang shut behind them, and Derek traipses across the marble floor, heading for the stairs.

“Derek!” Laura appears wild haired and her dress smoking. “What was that herb you used last year to make Jackson Whittemore’s hair fall out?”

“Not telling,” he sniffs.

“I should certainly hope not,” Talia descends the stairs, “You know I don’t like you playing tricks on your camp friends, Derek, darling, it’s a terrible reputation to have for later life.”

“It worked out for Uncle Peter.”

Peter appears from nowhere, idly tapping his claws against the nearest pillar, “Did I hear my name?”

“Uncle Peter,” Scott bounds through the kitchen doors, a bowl of steaming soup in his hands, “A boy in my class said you made his dad cry when you were my age, what did you do?”

“Nothing you need to worry about, my dear boy,” Peter smiles sharply at him, and then glances up at Talia. “Dinner?”

“When you make it,” she breezes easily, touching Derek’s face as she passes by, “Your father wants a word.”

Derek trudges up the stairs, fingers messing with the straps of his backpack. In his head he’s preparing his argument for why he doesn’t need to go to camp this year. He’s seventeen, nearly an adult, he wants to drive across the country to visit Salem, not sit around roasting marshmallows and listening to Finstock tell the story of how he wrestled an alligator for the hundredth time. He casually ignores thinking about the faded, worn with touch letters Stiles has written him all year; stamps down on any desire to return to camp just to see Stiles’ face light up when he sees Derek. It’s not something that appeals to him. He doesn’t have those kind of emotions where Stiles is involved. Stiles will understand; he’s destined for good, bright things, and Derek is decidedly not.

“Derek,” Ralph turns from the balcony, club swinging from his shoulder, “Care to take a shot?”

Derek eyes the club warily as he takes it, glances at his father, “Anywhere in particular I should aim?”

Ralph gestures across their land, “The world’s your oyster, my boy.”

Derek rolls back his shoulders, emulating his father and swings fast.

“Superb!” Ralph cries as the ball hits the wing of a stone eagle in their graveyard. The eagle ruffles its feathers, turns away. “Find that one before dinner, you know how your mother feels about disorder in the yard.” Ralph claps him on the shoulder, “So, your mother and I have been talking about the summer.”

Derek carefully sets the club against the wall, tries not to look too hopeful. He blinks expectantly, “And?”

“We’re always worried that sending you and Scott there makes you feel like you’re not wanted at home, when you know that’s not the case,” Ralph points at him and Derek winces as cigar smoke clouds his face. “We just want you to experience everything we couldn’t, Derek.”

“I do,” Derek says flatly, “I go to school don’t I?”

“How I wish I could have, too,” Ralph shakes his head somberly, “If only our family had been accepted all those years ago. I fear I would have been a lone wolf my whole life, had I not seen your mother across the piazza on that fateful night.”

Derek tries to keep his expression neutral, the story of his mother and father’s romance, and their never ending affection for one another is nice, sweet, if you like that sort of thing. Derek has heard it a thousand times; he sees it in action every day. It enraptures a tiny part of him, but mostly makes him feel like he’s sucking on a lemon. He’s not sure if he’ll ever find anyone he has the desire to kiss all the way up the arm. He doesn’t want to make out with someone’s clothes, for god’s sake. He never even considered kissing the skin of Stiles’ shoulders as they went pink and warm looking last summer. Nope, not at all.

“Yes,” he prompts, as his father starts humming to himself and gazing at a picture of his mother. “Camp.”

“You’ll be eighteen by next year, plenty of time to try something new, and exciting. But, this year, we want you to keep Scott company. He’s such a good boy, Derek, earnest and he’s too kind for his own good.” Ralph gestures at Derek again, “You need to care of your little brother.”

Derek scowls, accepting his fate without argument at the steely look in his father’s eyes.

“Fine,” he says shortly, “Anything else?”

“No, my boy,” Ralph sweeps his club in the air again, grins at him, “You’ll have a spectacular time. I know you like to see the darker side of things, son, and I was the same. But, camp is important for keeping your spirits up!”

“I don’t want to have my spirits kept up; my spirits are fine where they are.”

“Nonsense,” Ralph waves a dismissive hand at him. “You need people, Derek, you’ll be glad you went when you’re older.”

“Or, suffering the consequences in a mental asylum.” Derek feels his eyes light up, “Couldn’t I volunteer—”

“The matter is settled, Derek,” his father says warningly, “We want you to be happy.”

“Can’t you want me to be the way I am? I’m fine the way I am!”

“Yes, and you’ll be fine at camp,” Ralph gestures to the door, “On your way, son.”

Derek makes an aggravated noise, stamps across the hall, stepping over the trick floorboard and into Scott’s bedroom.

“Don’t you knock?!” Scott rolls off his bright red duvet, and shoves something under the bed.

Derek rolls his eyes, “I don’t care about your proclivities, little brother.”

Scott flushes, shoves at his shoulder, “What do you want?”

Derek smiles sharply at him, grabs him by the back of his hoodie, “We’re going upstairs.”

“Oh,” Scott brightens, “Okay, what for?”

“I want to see what we have in the way of axes, and whether any of them are compact enough for my suitcase.”

“You can’t take an axe to camp,” Scott hisses, following Derek up the winding flight of stairs.

Derek unhooks the latch for the attic door, swings it up and clambers into the room. The armor in the corner stands to attention, and a carpet floats over lazily.

Scott throws himself on it, wafts around the room as Derek considers weaponry.

“Stiles says you never write back.”

Derek hums, picks up a large battle-axe, “It’s a wonder he hasn’t taken the hint.”

“I think you’re being a dick just for the sake of it,” Scott huffs.

“Thank you for your oh so valid input,” Derek snaps, whipping around with the axe. It clunks behind him, the weight forcing him to drop it, and he sighs, picks up a lighter looking one.

“Just because he’s nice, and you’re not,” Scott sighs, picks at a scab on his elbow. Derek scrunches up a face at him.

O soave fancìulla strikes up downstairs, his father calls for his mother to dance. There’s the sound of an explosion and Laura shrieks. The grandfather clock in the hall chimes, Scott pops the inside of his mouth with his finger, one leg trailing against the dusty floorboards as Derek picks out another axe.

“Here,” Derek waves Scott over, “Stand tall.”

Scott ambles across the floor, winces when Derek mimes slicing his head off.

“Do you have to do that?”

“No,” Derek grins at him, “But, you’re a perfect target to practice with.”

Scott jumps to the side when Derek swings the axe again, “Derek! That one was really close!”

“It won’t hurt,” Derek scoffs, “I’m just testing it out.”

“I like this one,” Scott grabs a small dagger, brandishes it at Derek. Derek laughs, startled and jerks away. “Yeah,” Scott sticks his tongue between his teeth, jabbing the dagger into thin air. “This would be fun.”

“Careful,” Derek warns, “You might develop a blood lust.”

Scott rolls his eyes, tosses the dagger back at the wall and it slips easily into place. “You’re such a killjoy.”

“That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Derek throws an arm around Scott’s neck, wrestles him into the floor and Scott yells, punches his side.

“Boys!” Talia calls up the stairs. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing!” They call out simultaneously.

Talia steps out of a closet to their right, eyebrows raised, and Derek lets go of Scott immediately.

Their mother clucks her tongue, picks up some chainmail draped over an ornate mirror, “Here it is.” She gives them both a warning look, “No blood shed before dinner.”

“Yes, mom.”

Talia nods, climbs gracefully back into the closet and disappears. When Scott races over to open the doors, there’s nothing but musty old clothes inside.

“We have to remember that one!” He says excitedly.

Derek hums his agreement, pulls out a square notebook he keeps in his pocket, and adds the closet to the list of furniture pieces they can use in future games of hide and seek.

Not that he ever enjoys playing; he just likes the peace and quiet whilst Scott looks for him for hours.

Derek does his homework on the roof, lies back to contemplate the dark sky. Scott’s napping beside him, occasionally murmuring terms from that wretched lacrosse sport he plays. Derek sees nothing appealing about racing after a ball, only goes to games to silently cheer his brother on. He’d never tell Scott he was there.

Talia calls them to dinner and Scott races downstairs, with Derek following at a more languid pace.

He wonders if chopping off his own hand would be too dramatic a plan to avoid camp.

*

“And with a final cry, I was lost, swept to sea with nothing but my wit to keep me alive!” Peter waves his hands in the air dramatically, and Derek’s young cousins all make hushed noises of awe. Peter cocks an eyebrow, smiles devilishly, “Of course, the sea was no match for me.”

Derek turns back to The Wasp Factory, lets Peter’s story wash over him.

In the next room there’s music and laughter; Derek must be forced to sit and be sociable until the acceptable time for bed.

The problem with having an outrageously large, excitable family is that they all like seeing each other all the time. His parents encourage gatherings, and always want Derek to join in. Derek doesn’t mind spending time with his relatives, but he is at heart a quiet, reserved character, and none of them seem to truly understand that. They constantly ask about school, about what he wants to do at college, which family member’s footsteps he’ll be following in. Laura loves the attention, talks of her spells, her plans to join the Coven Talia belongs to, and Scott’s slowly evolving into a social butterfly. Derek’s much happier letting his siblings cover the conversation, and sitting with his younger cousins as his uncle tells them long, long tales of his youth.

A rousing Hungarian dance song begins to play, and Peter’s eyes light up.

“Peter!” Ralph appears at the door, tossing aside his smoking jacket, “Care to duel?”

“It would be an honor and a privilege,” Peter says easily, his eyes glowing for a moment.

Ralph laughs in delight, crooks a finger at Derek, “You’re going to make sure he doesn’t throw a knife in my back, aren’t you, kid?”

“You’d never see me coming,” Peter crows, and then handsprings into the ballroom.

They’re quick with their knives, swirling around one another as Talia looks on in approval. Scott squeezes Derek’s arm tightly when their father catches a knife between his teeth, and the room bursts into applause.

“Show offs,” Derek mutters in a surly voice, turning away and heading for the kitchen.

“I want to do that one day,” Scott says with certainty, following Derek.

As they move down the corridor one of the portraits of their grandmother tsks and tells Derek to tuck his shirt in.

Derek grabs a bowl, digs around in the freezer for ice cream, and then slides the carton across to Scott. They sit on the counter, Derek with an apple and Scott with his ice cream.

“D’you think I could?” Scott continues after a moment.

“Catch a sharp, metal blade between your teeth?” Derek eyes his brother’s teeth, smirks, “Doubtful.”

Scott elbows him, waves his spoon at Derek’s teeth, “I suppose you’d have more of a chance with those big things of yours.”

Derek scowls, clamping his mouth shut immediately. He trails his hand in sink water, picks the violets sitting on the window sill up and drenching them. When he settles them back on the sill, the cloud covered moon catches his gaze.

“Good night for Gotcha,” he muses.

“No,” Scott pales, shakes his head fervently.

Derek arches an eyebrow at him, “You scared?”

No,” Scott insists hotly.

“Sounds like you’re scared.”

“You always make me think you’re going to kill me!”

“Maybe I am,” Derek leans slowly in towards him and then yells boo suddenly, and Scott drops his spoon.

“Asshole!”

The kitchen door opens, and Laura cocks her eyebrow at them both, pointing between them, “What is this, what’s happening, why don’t I have ice cream, too?”

Scott throws the carton to her, and she catches it, snaps her fingers and a spoon flies across the table.

“God, I’m getting good at that,” she grins, tosses back her hair, “So, what are we talking about? Did you tell Derek about Stiles, Scott?”

“No,” Scott mimes cutting his throat.

“Tell me what,” Derek says shortly, throat constricting, “What about Stiles?”

“Nothing,” Scott shrugs, “He’s coming to stay after camp, no big deal.”

“No big—” Derek feels his eyebrows furrow together, “In our house?”

“That is where we live,” Scott drawls sarcastically.

“He can’t,” Derek huffs, “He won’t like it.”

“Are you kidding? He’s been waxing poetic about it for two years,” Scott shrugs, “Said he wants to see your room, though, I dunno why.”

Laura smirks at Derek around her spoon, and Derek shoves his hands in his pockets, unable to reply because all of the blood in his body has gone to his face.

“Let’s play Gotcha,” Scott says brightly into the silence, “I’m feeling lucky.”

Yes,” Laura discards the ice cream, hitches up her dress and yanks up her tights. “I’m down. You can be on my team, Scotty.”

“Who do I get?”

Laura shrugs, “You can play by yourself, you must be used to that.”

Derek throws his apple core at her head.

Gotcha is one of the only games Derek deeply enjoys. The aim is to find your opponent in the dark, wave your flashlight at them, yell Gotcha, and if they scream, you get a point. Derek lives for scaring the crap out of Scott. His hair once shot up above his head in surprise when Derek cornered him in the crypt, and he didn’t talk to Derek for a week.

Once Derek’s cousins get wind they’re playing, they flood outside, and Derek is stuck with the loudest, most idiotic of the bunch. He shakes them quickly, prowls the grounds by himself. Every so often a scream goes up into the air, and it makes his skin tingle with apprehension. He likes this kind of fear, the quiet, predatory way he can stalk out his target, really terrify them. One of his cousins, Irvana, stumbles past looking terrified. Her eyes are darting around, and her hands are shaking.

Derek leaps out of the thorn bush he’s been lingering in, snaps on his flashlight, “Gotcha!”

Irvana lets out a bloodcurdling scream, and Derek smiles brightly at her. Score one.

“You’re horrible,” she huffs, storming back towards the house. Derek shrugs, slips back into the darkness. He ticks off his younger cousins easily; they’re still too fascinated by the graveyard to notice him appearing from behind gravestones, and gets his count up quickly.

He lingers by the swamp, curls his fingers around their swamp monster’s tentacles in a brief hello, and then Scott and Laura announce their presence up by the house, talking in what they must think are hushed whispers.

“We have to get him one day,” Laura grumps, “He can’t win at this forever.”

“It would be just like him,” Scott complains, “To be the best at scaring people shitless—he’s practically king of it at school—I don’t think anyone dares go near him unless they’re invited, and even then they look scared.”

Derek rolls his eyes at all the delicate flowers in his class. It would appear his relatives are letting him down, too, as he hasn’t heard much screaming from the opposing team—Derek always gets stuck with the losers—it’s up to him again. He slinks to the house in the shadows, clambers up the drain pipe to get over the sunroom, drops down in front of both Laura and Scott just as they’re rounding it.

“Gotcha!”

“Holy shit!”

“Fuck!”

“Derek!”

Derek grins, waves the flashlight at them, “Maybe you should both pay more attention to your surroundings.”

Creeper,” Laura hisses.

“I can’t help it if I’m amazing.”

Laura hits him on the arm with her flashlight, “Loser! This is why you have to go to camp again, to learn how to be normal.”

“I don’t want to be normal,” he scoffs, “Where’s the fun in that?”

“You’re gonna be a loner,” she sing songs.

You already are,” he retorts, aware it’s not a very good comeback, but with nothing else to throw at his sister.

Laura shrugs, “I don’t have to go to camp.”

“I hate you.”

“I can live with that, dear brother.”

“Are we finished yet?” Scott asks sleepily, “I really wanna go inside.”

There’s another scream from the swamp, and Derek narrows his eyes, “I believe that was Yvette, so, total scream score nine to me, three to you. I win, good night.”

He turns tail, lets himself into the sunroom and sits amongst the Dionaea muscipula, pondering Laura’s words about being normal until one of the flowers nips his fingers. He decides he doesn’t have a taste for anything other than what he has here, just as the Dionaea doesn’t have much of a taste for him.

*

“Derek,” his mother’s voice is soft and quiet; he feels her hand brush across his forehead. “Derek, darling.”

“Five more minutes.”

“Not today, my love, camp is today!”

Derek groans, buries himself further into the covers, “Five more hours.”

Talia laughs and sits down by his legs, “It’s just three weeks, darling.”

“They’re the worst three weeks of my life.”

“And I thought your father was dramatic,” Talia strokes his side. “Why don’t you come and have some breakfast, see if you feel better afterwards?”

Derek sighs, throws back the covers so he can look at her, “It’s not a lack of food that’s making me grumpy, mom.”

“Really?” Talia hums, glances at him with fond amusement, “I always find things much more pleasant once I’ve had a bagel, or two.”

Before Derek can respond, Scott flies into the room, “Camp! Stiles! Derek! Get up!”

“Ugh,” Derek groans and rolls over to face the wall. His room vibrates, as if sensing Scott’s happiness and Derek’s lack of enthusiasm.

He can feel Scott rolling his eyes, “Don’t try and scare me away with your room’s stupid moodiness. Come on, get up!”

“I believe your brother speaks for us both,” Talia stands, and Derek feels oddly bereft without his mother’s touch, curses himself for still wanting it at seventeen. He’s not a child anymore, he doesn’t need babying, he doesn’t need camp. He doesn’t—

“Hey, are these all of Stiles’ letters?”

Derek rolls out of bed, snatches the pile from where he’d left them out last night and away from Scott’s prying eyes.

“Those are mine!”

Scott shrugs, “Whatever, he wrote to me with glitter pen, mine look cooler.”

“Good for you,” Derek snipes, clutches the papers covered in spindly black writing tighter. The letters detail the lively activities from Stiles’ life, a life Derek always feels strangely included in when he reads them. He glares at Scott, at once protective and possessive over what seems like such a small, trivial thing, but one that he guards jealously all the same. Scott and Stiles are destined to be friends forever; they bonded within moments of meeting. Derek had no interest in bonding with anyone at first, and it was only Stiles’ persistence that led to them ever speaking, or Derek begrudgingly (and then less so; he almost started looking forward to it), spending time with him. He’s only ever going to have these letters and stolen moments when Scott was distracted and Stiles sought Derek out to remember him by. He wants to keep them his. A piece of Stiles he can treasure. Privately.

“Get out! If you want me to get dressed to go to camp, I need some privacy first.”

“If you take longer than forty five minutes to do your hair, I’m going without you.”

“What a tragedy that would be,” Derek mutters sourly.

“No sarcasm before breakfast!” Talia calls as she passes by again, arms filled with laundry.

“I’m so excited I could burst from it,” Laura declares, beaming at Derek across the table ten minutes later.

Derek digs his spoon into his grapefruit, glares at her.

“I mean, all the sunshine, all the singing, all the joy, Derek, aren’t you just vibrating with glee?”

“Dear me,” Ralph folds the newspaper in half, looks at his eldest child with concern, “Should we have enrolled you, too, Laura? I feel awful, we didn’t even ask.”

“God, no, dad, thanks,” Laura winces, “Please, no. I have actual plans for the summer.”

“Do they involve getting a job?”

Derek smirks behind his grapefruit. Laura glowers at him.

“Maybe, I was sort of—planning on working on my spells full time?”

“They won’t pay rent, Laura, darling, and you’re twenty, now. You need to be taking responsibility for these things.”

“But, dad—”

Derek excuses himself, flips Laura off behind his father’s head and his father snaps around, catches Derek in the act.

“Not gentlemanly,” he scolds. “What have I told you about being kind to others, Derek?”

“That I should do it as little and as sporadically as possible?”

“Exactly—no!” Ralph glares between them both, “I take full responsibility for your temperaments coming from my side of the family, but, there’s still no reason not to try and be more like your mother.”

“Blast!” Talia curses from the laundry room, “Who left bladderwort in the damned washing machine?”

“Oh no,” Laura moans, leaping from her chair, “Is it dead?”

“It’s certainly not happy now,” Talia states grimly, coming into the room and washing her hands.

Derek wonders if other families have meat eating plants living in their washing machines.

He tries one last time before they leave; gazing in what he hopes is a convincingly desperate way at his father. “Please, don’t make me go.”

“You’ll have a marvelous time, Derek,” Ralph cuffs him gently under the chin, “Maybe meet a nice girl or boy this year!”

“He met one already,” Talia says, patting Derek’s hair, “He’s just nervous about seeing him again.”

“Ah ha! Yes, I thought as much,” Ralph nods looking pleased, “Give him the old Hale charm, Derek. Don’t be nervous, nerves are a waste of time!”

“I am not nervous,” Derek argues vehemently, “Stiles does not make me nervous.”

“Your hands were sweaty every time you sat next to him at lunch last year,” Scott reveals.

The little brat.

“I’m going to kill you,” Derek says to his brother sourly.

“Darling, please, no death threats when you’re off to camp.”

“At camp?”

Talia smirks, “Keep them quiet, at least.”

“But—”

“Derek,” Talia fixes him with a stern look, “We’re not asking you to change who you are, or climb a mountain without oxygen—”

“I can do that, let me do that, please, I would—”

All we’re asking is that you go to summer camp, with your brother, and have a good time.”

Talia begins to steer him towards the door, and Derek attempts to dig his heels into the floorboards. His feet drift across the wood without touching them, and Talia deposits him in the car.

“Be good,” she kisses his frown and then kisses Scott’s cheek, “We love you.”

“You don’t,” Derek insists, “You’d never send me away if you loved me.”

“See you in three weeks,” Talia steps back, “Write lots!”

“I won’t write at all,” Derek slams the door petulantly.

*

Peter drives them to camp, talking wistfully of his own youthful summers.

“Of course, I spent much more time around the girl’s cabin than either of you,” he grins wolfishly at Scott in the rear view mirror. “Though, you could change that this year, couldn’t you, Scott?”

“We’re not allowed there after dark, or unaccompanied,” Scott says with pink cheeks.

Peter laughs, and Derek resists the urge to bash his head into the steering wheel. Scott looks deeply uncomfortable. Derek settles for clearing his throat, turning on the radio and braving Keith Urban’s latest track to cover up their uncle’s teasing. Scott looks grateful when they catch eyes.

“Well,” Peter turns into the wooden archway, welcoming them to Camp Crystal Lake. “This looks wonderful.”

Derek gazes at the log cabins with their bright red checked curtains mournfully.

“This looks like hell,” he retorts.

“Now, Derek, that’s not a positive way to look at this,” Peter says cheerfully, but Derek can see the smirk on his face. “Think of all the friends you’ll make.”

“I highly doubt—” Derek stops talking when they see the campers signing in, and his eyes find Stiles immediately. He’s taller than he was last year, his hair’s grown out and he’s laughing at something a girl with blonde hair is saying. His gaze travels to where Derek’s still staring at him, and his laugh fades, he straightens up, looks back at Derek with a smaller, more private smile on his face.

Scott leaps from the car, and Stiles’ almost pensive look vanishes as Scott flies at him. They fall to the ground laughing and hugging.

“Oh god,” Peter pushes on sunglasses, “What a nightmare.”

“I thought you said it looked wonderful,” Derek mutters.

“I’m an excellent liar,” Peter turns and smiles dazzlingly at him, “Learn the tricks of the trade, Derek.”

“I don’t need them,” Derek tugs on his t-shirt, wets his lips as he tries and fails not to keep staring at Stiles. “I have St John’s Wort in my bag.”

Peter barks out a laugh, claps him on the back, “Just like your mother.”

Derek shrugs away from his touch, leans into the car to grab his bag just as Scott and Stiles are making their way over.

Stiles lifts his hand in a wave, grins at Derek, “You worked out how to shave.”

Derek scowls, “I see you still don’t need to.”

“Prefer it smooth,” Stiles sniffs.

“Yes, I would, too,” Peter says into the slight silence that hangs between Stiles and Derek as they stare at one another.

Scott coughs, clearly mortified and elbows his uncle.

“Yes, yes, do you need signing in? Must I do anything else responsible?”

“Leave?” Derek suggests.

Stiles snorts, covers it with an awkward choking sound, and Peter gives Derek another wide smile.

“It would appear you made friends without my knowledge, kudos to you nephew,” he saunters over to the sign in desk.

Scott claps his hands together, bounces back on his heels, “I hope we’re in the same cabin this year.”

“I think we can pick this time,” Stiles gestures at one of the cabins, “My shit’s in that one.”

“Derek! Scott!” Coach Finstock bounds towards them, his grin manic and a little terrifying; Derek wonders if he could ask for tips on how to look so very frightening when smiling. “Welcome back!” He throws an arm over both their shoulders, ruffles Derek’s hair. Derek ducks away from him, catches Stiles sniggering and glowers as hard as he can.

“Need some sunglasses?” Finstock waves a pair of lurid green plastic sunglasses at Derek, “Everyone from your cabin is wearing green this year.”

“I thought we could pick—”

“You’re one of our eldest, now, Derek,” Finstock says brightly, “You’ll be in the adult cabin.”

Derek arches an eyebrow at him, “I’ve always wanted to re-enact my very own version of Misery.”

“Atta boy,” Finstock cries blithely, unaware of Scott glaring at Derek and Stiles cracking up behind him.

Derek strides towards the end cabin, muttering under his breath about plans for vengeance and hoping the canoes from last year are available to take him out to the middle of the lake. He might get some peace there.

“Derek!” Stiles catches up to him, skids to a halt as Derek swings round. “Hi,” he says after a moment, suddenly looking bashful. “You came back.”

“Under duress,” Derek says sourly. “And, I won’t be here long; I’m planning an escape.”

“Awesome,” Stiles claps his hands together, “I love a good runaway story. Will we have to huddle together for warmth?”

Derek blinks at him, watches curiously as Stiles’ cheeks go pink.

“I mean—just, that Scott and I would be coming, too.”

“We could get chased by wolves, maimed, possibly die.”

“At summer camp?” Stiles beams fondly at him, rocks back on his heels, “Nothing bad happens here, Derek. Unless you count the time you set Finstock’s eyebrows on fire, and that was more awesome than bad. And an accident.”

“It wasn’t an accident,” Derek says stiffly.

“I know,” Stiles winks at him in an exaggerated fashion, “I was just saying that in case there are any spies in the trees.”

Derek snaps his head to the nearest tree, narrows his eyes at it. Stiles starts laughing excitedly, shakes his head at Derek.

“Oh man, I’m messing with you.”

“Don’t,” Derek huffs, “It’s most discomfiting.”

Stiles takes a step towards him, and Derek is very suddenly aware of how very much taller he’s gotten, how broad his shoulders are becoming. It’s been a long year, he hasn’t looked at Stiles for twelve months, hasn’t held his gaze, felt the heat of his body, been drawn to the ever present curve of his lips as he looks steadily back at Derek.

“Do you often find yourself in discomfiting situations?” Stiles asks in a low voice.

“Only with people I abhor,” Derek snaps.

Stiles’ smile widens, and he ducks his head, falls back a distance. “I missed you.”

Derek’s jaw drops a little, and he feels his hands tighten around his bags, “I—”

“Stiles!” Scott bounces towards them, “Come on, lunch is soon!”

“Yeah, buddy,” Stiles glances back at Derek, smiles softly, “Later.”

Derek jerks his head, turns on his heel and pretends his hands aren’t at all clammy from just a few looks and words exchanged with Stiles. He has dark, dangerous plans, and they cannot be blighted with sunshine and optimism. It’s bad enough he’s related to Scott; although, where Scott’s sunny disposition comes from is a mystery to Derek.

When he enters the cabin, he takes in two other figures, both taller than he is, but one broad and the other lithe. The skinnier kid strolls around his bed, sticks his hands in his pockets as he looks at Derek.

“Hey, you Derek?” His expression is apprehensive, and Derek hopes they’ve heard the horror stories about him from other campers. He doesn’t want to be bothered.

“I am,” he says calmly.

“Isaac, Boyd,” Isaac points to the other guy, who closes his book, regards Derek silently.

“Vernon,” he corrects Isaac after a moment, “But, everyone calls me Boyd.”

“Super,” Derek says flatly, placing his bag carefully on the bed and removing his jacket.

Isaac whistles, “You not burning up with a sweater on?”

“I run cold,” Derek shrugs, refusing to take off any more clothes and bare his skin to sunlight. He messes with one of his suspenders, looks out the window at the lake. “I’m going for a walk,” he announces shortly.

“Cool, can I come?” Isaac grabs his own pair of sunglasses, looks at Derek hopefully, “I haven’t had a chance to look around, yet.”

“Okay,” Derek says slowly, glances at Boyd, “Are you coming, too?”

Boyd snorts at what’s obviously a despairing expression on Derek’s face.

“Not if it’s gonna kill you.”

“You can come,” he sighs out, “I don’t talk much, though.”

“You and Boyd will get along great,” Isaac says brightly, slapping Derek on the back.

Derek tries to smile— catches Boyd openly grinning at his discomfort—and scowls instead.

As they move in silence around the lake, Derek takes the opportunity to scan for visible weaknesses at the perimeter.

Isaac tosses a couple of pebbles across the water, shudders when they get too close to the edge. Derek picks up a stone of his own and drops it straight in over the grass.

“It’s not deep,” he points to where you can see the pebble making its way to the bottom.

“I hate going too near water,” Isaac mumbles, “It makes me nervous.”

“Nobody will make you go in,” Boyd promises, and Isaac glances at him gratefully.

He runs a hand through his hair looking abashed, “It’s stupid.”

“No, it’s not,” Derek huffs, “Everyone has something they’re afraid of.”

“Not afraid,” Isaac argues, “I just have… trepidations.”

Boyd snorts, and Isaac punches him on the shoulder. Derek supposes he ought to get used to more people touching him over the next few weeks. He wonders if he could get some sort of electric current going round his body…. Or, possibly a cattle prong?

“So, what’s this about a girl’s camp?” Boyd squints across the lake to where the girls cabins are visible, “We allowed to go see them?”

“Yes,” Derek says morosely, “There’s a lot of socializing.”

“You’ll be right at home then,” Boyd teases, but when Derek snaps his head to look at him there’s no judgement on his face, just soft amusement.

He shrugs awkwardly, “I don’t have any interest in fraternizing with strangers.”

Fraternizing, trepidations,” Boyd shakes his head, “Jesus, you two should write a book.”

Isaac pretends to push him in the lake.

*

Once they’re all gathered together, Finstock runs them through the rules of the camp. He gives Derek a steely glare when he reminds them they’re not allowed to leave, and Derek catches Stiles smirking at him, rolls his eyes in favor of smirking back. All of his escape plans have backfired miserably over the years—the time Jackson caught him trying to climb over the camp’s perimeter fence and yelled blue murder was particularly awful, fucker—and this year he’s going to do it right. He’ll bide his time, avoid as many activities as he can, and then use one of the camp’s social nights to slip away, spend a couple of weeks in the wild. It’ll be bliss.

“Finstock’s sure convinced you’re gonna be trouble,” Boyd says to him as the group breaks apart at the end of the speech.

Derek shrugs nonchalantly, “No more than usual.”

“You’re like a legend,” Isaac simpers, pretending to swoon. Derek kicks at his ankle and he staggers to the side laughing.

“Shut up.”

“No, seriously, what did you do to get his panties so twisted?”

Derek allows himself an inch of a dark smile as he looks at them, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

Boyd rolls his eyes, “So, nothing.”

They amble over to the lunch cabin, and Derek accepts a charred hamburger from an excessively cheerful server.

“What if I’m vegetarian?” he asks, eyeing the burger disdainfully.

The server smiles toothily, waves at a bowl of rice. Derek takes his tray over to the nearest empty table without another word. Before he can settle into his book—Isaac and Boyd moving towards a louder table—there’s an elbow jostling his, a pair of legs swinging onto the bench, and Stiles is clattering down beside him.

“So, how pumped are you to be back at camp?”

“Ecstatic,” Derek says flatly.

“Uh huh,” Stiles smirks around a fry, Derek tries not to notice how nice and white his teeth are. “You look like you’re overflowing with joy.”

Derek pulls out a hipflask with a skull on the front, drinks from it slowly, and then offers it to Stiles.

“’S’it alcoholic?”

“Arsenic.”

Stiles snorts, rolls his eyes, “I bet it’s cherry cola.”

Derek proffers it to him again, “You wanna call my bluff?”

“You’d really let me die to prove a point?” Stiles takes the flask, narrows his eyes at Derek. “You wouldn’t feel guilty at all?”

Derek shrugs, grins sharply at him, “I guess we’ll find out.”

Stiles takes a sip, scrunches up his face and then beams, “I knew it, fucking secret sweet tooth.”

“Shut up,” Derek grabs the hipflask back, “I don’t trust the cafeteria soda.”

“You just want everyone to think you’re hardcore so they’ll leave you alone.”

“Doesn’t seem to have worked,” Derek arches a pointed eyebrow at Stiles.

“I’m different,” Stiles says, smiling softly at him, “Or you would have stuck your fork in my thigh by now.”

Derek swirls his fork in the air, “There’s always time later.”

Stiles grins around his own burger as Scott flops down opposite them. “We can’t go to the girl’s camp until Thursday,” he sighs mournfully. “What if Allison forgets me?”

“Didn’t you talk yesterday?”

“There are lots of pretty girls at camp,” Scott sighs, rubs his nose, “She might get distracted.”

“I dunno,” Stiles shrugs, licks around his spoon and glances at Derek over it, “You don’t tend to forget the significant ones.”

Derek determinedly stares at his plate, ignoring the fact his ears are definitely burning.

“Campers!” Finstock claps his hands together, beaming brightly. Underneath the table, Stiles knocks his toes against Derek’s shin, and Derek finds his foot and clamps his legs around it. Stiles squawks, tries to break free, and Derek smirks at him, holding him fast.

“Keep still,” Scott hisses to Derek, and Derek freezes, once again pretends his plate of half-eaten food is deeply fascinating to avoid Stiles looking smug, jiggling his foot against Derek’s.

“Archery,” Finstock is saying, “Is about precision and concentration, and not—” he glares in Derek’s direction, “About mining shooting your fellow campers.”

The entire cafeteria swivels round to look at Derek and he shrugs, looks back at them coolly. He wasn’t pretending, either. If Finstock hadn’t spotted him he would so have gotten Jackson neatly in the shoulder and provided them with a peaceful summer. Instead, they had to listen to his endless gloating about girls and money.

Scott elbows him nonetheless, “You promised mom you’d be nice this year!”

“I did no such thing,” Derek retorts, glaring at a scrawny kid still staring at him apprehensively.

“Leave him be, Scotty,” Stiles waves his juice at them both, “I’m sure Derek’s aim’s improved this year, right?” He gives Derek a significant look and glances between him and Scott, eyebrows lifted expectantly.

Derek sighs, rolls his eyes as he wonders what he did to deserve such a dramatic brother, “Yes, fine, I promise not to shoot any campers. It’s not like it would have done him any permanent damage anyway. I was aiming for somewhere with padding.”

Stiles chokes on his juice, and splutters through a laugh, waving an apologetic hand at Scott.

Apparently, no one believes Derek when he makes promises because Finstock watches him like an eagle the entire time they’re aiming for the targets, and Scott and Stiles hover either side of him.

Derek bares his teeth at Stiles at one point, and instead of looking shocked Stiles laughs and growls back at him, making claws with his hands.

“Terrifying.”

“You have no idea,” Derek warns.

Stiles tilts his head to one side, expression fond as he looks at Derek, “You’re so weird.”

“Thanks,” Derek says with a scowl, trying to embrace the fact one more person thinks he’s strange.

“It was a compliment,” Stiles says loftily, setting up his next arrow and letting it loose to fly neatly into the bulls eye ahead of them. He turns to beam at Derek, and Derek must be getting sunstroke from all day in the heat because he suddenly feels lightheaded, and his heart is racing.

Stupid sunshine.

*

Evidently, Finstock hasn’t lost his thirst to tell every newcomer about his battle with an alligator, and Derek zones out, staring into the fire as Finstock rambles on. Scott’s wrestling with two marshmallows and three crackers; trying to fit them all in his mouth at once, and every so often he jostles Derek’s side as he squirms around. He seems to think contorting his body into awkward shapes will make it easier to get the s’mores down.

Derek’s not a fan of s’mores; they look messy and sticky and far too sugary. The one he’s had so far has been making his blood zing and his heart race, and it’s not because of the view at all.

Opposite him, across the flames, Stiles is licking his fingers and smiling contentedly. Derek watches, riveted, as Stiles notices he has sugar on his wrist and his tongue pokes out to lick at the pale skin there, too. He glances up, catches Derek’s gaze and lifts an eyebrow, mouth curling into a sly smile when Derek doesn’t look away.

“Your jaw is by your feet,” Scott says with his own trap full of marshmallow.

Derek twists to look at him, pokes one of his bulging cheeks, “Shut up.”

“Jush go talk to him,” Scott continues unfazed. “He likesh you, too, even though I dunno why.”

“Thanks,” Derek says drily.

Scott shrugs, eyes the girls camp across the lake, “At least the person you’re mooning over is on the same island.”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Derek sits back, leans against the log they’re sitting on and flicks imaginary dirt off his pant leg. If he casually glances over at Stiles—just to check in—as he does so, then that’s his business. Stiles is laughing at something Isaac’s saying—Isaac looks bewildered, as he is wont to do any time anyone is nice to him; Derek keeps resisting the urge to hug him; it’s awful—and his neck is thrown back, long and exposed and beautiful. Derek looks away, heart pounding.

“You could always swim across,” he suggests to his brother.

Scott pulls a face, “The lake’s cold.”

“No colder than the swamp at home.”

“You guys have a swamp?!” Stiles has appeared from across the fire and is towering over them both. Derek is looking directly at his legs. It’s… not an unappealing sight.

“Yeah,” Scott says merrily, and Stiles moves to sit beside him, knocking his foot against Derek’s knee. “There’s a monster in there, too.”

Stiles laughs, “Really?!”

“Really,” Derek leans back to look at him, juts his chin at the lake, “Could be one in there, too.”

“Maybe they’re friends,” Stiles muses, eyes glinting with mischief.

“Our swamp monster doesn’t like other monsters,” Derek sniffs.

“Uh huh, that’s what they all say. But, I bet they’re just crotchety; you’d know all about that,” Stiles teases.

“He goes and sits with it, and they brood together,” Scott tells him.

Derek opens his mouth to protest, but Stiles laughs, “Sure, sure, who wouldn’t wanna hang with a monster.”

“Lots of people,” Derek mutters, glaring at the fire.

Stiles leans his knee up against Derek’s shoulder, his whole lower leg brushing against Derek’s arm, and it warms him a little.

“I think monsters are pretty cool,” he says softly.

“You’d like him,” Scott says brightly, “At least; I think it’s a him? I shouldn’t have assumed,” he sighs and rests his elbows on his knees, gazing across the lake. “I’d take on a hundred monsters just to hang out with Allison for the day, though.”

Stiles hunches up a shoulder, looks at his friend, “So, why don’t we go across tomorrow? Sneak out?”

Derek can’t think of a reason why he shouldn’t encourage his brother to break Finstock’s rules, or to disobey Camp order in general. He’d be a total hypocrite. But, he can’t help but desperately not want Stiles disappearing off to fraternize with girl campers unchaperoned. What if he meets some beautiful, normal girl that doesn’t spend time with swamp monsters, and doesn’t sometimes wish Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was alive to talk to?! He says nothing and continues to glower at the flames as Scott leaps at the idea.

After a few minutes of listening to their planning, he decides he’s tired—needs to be where other people aren’t—and stands.

“Hey, dude,” Stiles catches his wrist, “Where you going? ‘S’early!”

“Long day,” Derek intones, trying to ignore how warm Stiles’ fingers are looped around his skin.

“Yeah, but we haven’t had a chance to—” Stiles waves his free hand around, “It’s the first night! We need to—”

Someone behind them kicks dirt at Derek, and when they turn around, Jackson Whittemore’s smirking at them, “Whoops.”

Derek brushes his back down as Stiles and Scott stand, both of them suddenly looking grim.

“Jackson,” Derek says calmly, “I see your hair grew back.”

Jackson rolls his eyes, “I did that on purpose, Hale, it was a fashion choice,” he gives Derek’s plain black clothes a once over and smirks harder, “Like you’d know anything about that, though.”

“Black never goes out of fashion,” Scott says blithely, “Just like manners.”

“So quaint,” Jackson elbows his friend Danny, who turns from where he’d been talking to a tall, new guy and takes in the scene.

“Dude, what are you doing?”

“Nothing,” Jackson shrugs, “Welcoming the whole freak gang back.”

“Yeah? Why don’t we go get a drink?” Danny claps a hand on his shoulder, makes an apology face to Derek, “Leave them in peace.”

“Whatever,” Jackson juts his chin at them, “You’re all freaks.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles clutches his chest, eyes wide, “We are?! How did I not realize?! Derek!” He turns to Derek looking earnest, “Do you think this is why I choose to bother people that weren’t bothering me, and why I must have attention on me at all times?”

“It makes sense,” Derek nods, turns back to look at Jackson, whose expression is confused; Danny looks torn between exasperated and amused.

“Well, my whole life has been a lie,” Stiles shakes his head, clucks his tongue, “Gosh, thanks, Jackson, you really cleared up some stuff for me tonight. I am a freak,” he says slowly. “Feels good to say it out loud.”

“Whatever,” Jackson huff, obviously aware that Stiles is mocking him, but with no witty come back ready in the face of their disinterest.

Stiles smiles sweetly at him as he storms off, “Bye Jackson!”

“You shouldn’t encourage him,” Derek murmurs, “He’ll only try and make things worse.”

“He’s a pain in the ass every year,” Stiles scowls, “You know he pushed me in the lake last time?”

“Yes,” Derek says shortly, “I remember.”

“Derek made all his hair fall out in revenge,” Scott tells Stiles.

Derek winces, “I didn’t—”

“Dude!” Stiles looks at him in surprise, “I didn’t know.”

“I didn’t—I mean— it wasn’t for you, he’s just a dick.”

“Uh huh,” Stiles rocks back on his heels, face suddenly bright and happy. “Think we should go to bed, Scotty,” he says after a moment of staring at Derek. “Don’t wanna ruin the ambiance of the evening with anything more emotional.”

He winks at Derek as Scott sniggers, grabs his arm and begins to tug him towards their cabin. Stiles waves at Derek, grinning like he can’t stop, “See you tomorrow!”

Derek goes to bed feeling somewhat mollified. Perhaps, there are some good things about camp. Marshmallows are maybe a little delicious when he stops worrying about the effects they have on his heart.

Boyd lets out a snore; Isaac grinds his teeth; Derek folds his arms over his chest and shuts his eyes.

*

“Our annual swimming race is this morning!” Coach Finstock gathers them all around, and Derek lingers at the back, is surprised when Boyd and Isaac stay with him. He can tell Isaac’s not willing to participate; but he’s a little confused why Boyd isn’t getting involved. Derek assumed him to be into athletics considering his physique. For seventeen, he sure looks like he could snap a small tree in half. If Derek didn’t know thirty five ways to kill a man, and that Boyd slept in a faded t-shirt with a rabbit on the front last night; he’d be concerned.

As it is, he says nothing when Finstock demands everyone charge at the water and the three of them duck into the tree line.

Isaac looks around, claps his hands together, “How long d’you think we’ve got before he notices.”

“Boyd! Lahey! Hale! Where on god’s green earth have you disappeared off to?”

Derek winces, “Five seconds, that’s got to be a new record,” he jerks his head backwards, “Come on, I know somewhere he won’t find us.”

Isaac begins to follow, but Boyd pauses, arches an eyebrow at Derek.

“We’re not gonna be your first two victims of camp, right? Because, I have plans for life.”

Isaac snickers, and Derek glares at him, “If I’d wanted to kill you I probably would have done it when you snuffling and talking about marshmallows in your sleep, last night.”

Boyd shrugs, looking completely unruffled, “Hey, man, marshmallows are delicious.”

“I’m not going to murder you,” Derek huffs, “Although, I’m thinking about it now.”

“Come on,” Boyd rolls his eyes, claps him on the shoulder, “For someone who talks about arsenic in a loud voice, and keeps poisonous herbs in his bag you sure do get offended at the idea of people thinking you’re homicidal.”

“There’s a difference,” Derek hisses. 

Isaac leaps up at a low hanging tree branch, curls his legs around it and drops down to hang from his knees. “I wish we could do this all the time.”

“Watch yourself,” Derek nods further along the branch to where a grass snake is slowly awakening, staring at Isaac.

“Shit!” Isaac falls in a heap at their feet, shaking the branch and the snake lands between them. Boyd steps away, grabbing Isaac and shoving him along with him. Derek eyes the snake cautiously, then slowly picks it up, carrying it into the undergrowth and depositing it carefully as far away from them as possible.

Isaac’s still flushed and clutching his chest when he reappears, “How did you—why would you ever—”

Derek shrugs, “I’ve handled larger reptiles.”

Boyd looks vaguely impressed.

Finstock suddenly comes crashing through the trees, waves his megaphone as he gets close, “Are you serious, Hale? Not this year! Get back down to the shore.”

“But—”

“Get!”

“Coach, Isaac can’t,” Derek says quickly, crouching down and pointing at Isaac’s foot—just a little pink from where he fell, “Look.”

“What?” Coach Finstock peers down frowning, “What am I looking at?”

“Poison Oak,” Derek pulls a face, “He can’t be going in the water with that.”

“The water’d be good for him!”

“It really hurts,” Isaac whines, scratching at his foot and making the skin look worse.

Finstock rolls his eyes, “Fine, fine, take him back to the cabin and I’ll send someone up with cream.” He points between the three of them, “No funny business, no illicit drugs, or—gambling.”

Derek snorts, but nods somberly when Finstock glares at him. “You’re getting involved this year, Hale. I’m going to make sure you’re part of every team, if it’s the last thing I do.”

“One can only hope,” Derek says sourly.

Finstock huffs and storms off.

“Thanks,” Isaac elbows him.

“If you tell anyone, they won’t believe you,” Derek hisses.

“I’m beginning to think the rumors about you buryin’ a body here last year are true,” Boyd says gravely.

Derek smirks, glances at his hand, “I’m pretty good at hiding evidence, know exactly how to use a wood chipper…”

“Alright, alright,” Isaac moans, “Let’s get the hell out of here before he comes back. No death threats for at least an hour.”

“Half,” Derek argues.

“Whatever, misery guts; you just did a nice thing for me.”

Derek huffs, because it wasn’t like he did it on purpose, he just didn’t feel like going swimming, either.

*

“Pair up,” Finstock yells, and everyone looks around nervously. Finstock rolls his eyes, “You’ve got to have made friends by now, kids! You,” he points at Derek, and Derek tries to shrink into the wall. “Come ‘ere.”

“No, thanks,” Derek says quickly, “I’m fine.”

“A regular wallflower!” Finstock smiles nastily, “Well, we can dance that right out of you. Here, now, Hale.”

Derek looks for Scott, for Stiles, for someone, but Scott and Stiles seem wrapped in whispered conversation and aren’t paying attention, and no one else is making eye contact. Fuckers. He’ll show them. He’s been dancing the Tango with his mother since he was five.

“Good,” Finstock beckons Derek into the middle of the cabin, spreads his hands wide to address the room. “You punks don’t know a thing about balance judging from your terrible attempts at ballet this morning—

 (Derek lurked, and managed to avoid letting Ms Morrell to corner him into the steps; she wasn’t impressed)

“—and this afternoon it’s going to be different! Some may turn their noses at the Waltz, but I’m partial to it,” his eyes gleam as he looks at Derek a little demonically. “And, if learnt correctly, it can be damn near beautiful to watch.”

“But, Coach, we’re all guys,” someone interjects.

“So?” Finstock looks at the boy in question expectantly. “That mean you can’t learn how to dance? That mean you won’t one day be glad you have the skill? Or, is the dancing with another boy that so sets your loins a trembling with fear? Because honestly, unless one of them’s got a machete in their pocket I don’t think it matters a damn who you’re dancing with. You’re all blood and guts underneath,” he claps his hands together, nods at Derek, “You remember from last year?”

Derek nods stiltedly.

Fantastic, Stilinski!”

Stiles jerks from where he and Scott have their heads still bowed together in conversation, “Coach?”

“Quit yammering on about that Warcraft game of yours and get over here.”

Stiles blinks at him in sudden, obvious fear. “You want… me? To dance,” he adds in a strangled voice, “With Derek?”

Derek tamps down on the slight twinge of hurt at both the look of trepidation on Stiles’ face, and his implied horror at the very idea of dancing with him.

“He won’t bite,” Finstock snaps, “Get over here.”

Stiles traipses across the floor looking like a man going to his death. Derek supposes perhaps he is. Maybe dancing with Derek will be the death of him; a humiliation too strong to bear. He doesn’t know why he’s upset about this; he wants people to be afraid of him, to not want to be near him. Maybe it’s a Stiles thing… He maybe… didn’t want Stiles to be afraid of him.

He pulls himself up short, rolls back his shoulders as Stiles approaches, aware of the rest of the campers looking on and snickering. It helps, when he glances over Stiles’ shoulder, to see Scott glowering at a particularly loud Jackson.

Stiles clears his throat, eyes fixed on the wall behind Derek.

“So.”

The music starts up, Derek sighs, “So.”

“Come on, boys!” Finstock yells, “I’ve got a Waltz to teach, and I can’t do it myself!”

“Why not?” Stiles hisses.

“I’m sorry I’m not your ideal dance partner,” Derek snaps, holding up his arm and looking impatiently at Stiles. “But, if you don’t step on my feet, I promise not to bite.”

Stiles huffs, sticks his hand firmly in Derek’s and grabs his waist, stepping into his space suddenly. “I’m not afraid of you biting me, dumbass.” Though, his bright red ears tell a different story.

Derek is so cross, he doesn’t realize he’s allowing Stiles to lead until they’ve begun to dance.

“Then what,” he snaps back, “Am I such a hideous person to dance with?”

“No,” Stiles says shortly, stepping forward and leading Derek backwards. “You’re very—very—”

“Very what,” Derek moves to the right, squeezing his fingers into Stiles’ shoulder and Stiles’ eyes flutter shut.

“Very nice,” he says finally, opening his eyes and looking steadily at the floor as they bring their feet together. 

Nice,” Derek echoes, “That’s a blatant lie. It’s not an adjective that would ever go into describing me. Eyes on your partner,” he adds curtly as they step backwards.

Stiles rolls his eyes, shaking his head as he glances back at Derek, “You know you’re handsome, Derek, that wasn’t the problem.”

“I—what,” Derek falters in his surprise and Finstock strides over.

“Don’t stop! That was perfect. Boys! Look at this frame,” he gestures to where Danny and Jackson are barely touching one another, and then back at Stiles and Derek. “You need to be in closer proximity like these two, don’t get silly on me, Whittemore. Boyd! Brilliant!” He points to where Boyd’s leaning into Isaac, their hands neatly folded into one another’s, and Isaac’s arm curled around his waist. “Look at that posture!”

Derek exhales through his nose sharply, drops his hand from Stiles’ shoulder and grabs his waist. “If you’re not scared to dance with me, then we should do it properly, don’t you think?”

“No my dance space, your dance space?” Stiles bitches, running his hand along Derek’s shoulder and then stilling.

“No,” Derek huffs, “That movie is stupid and ridiculous.”

“I like it,” Stiles retorts, “It has a nice, rebellious tone to it, with an awesome soundtrack.”

“That’s not good music,” Derek insists.

“What, because it doesn’t have anyone weeping over rocks, or singing about umbrellas?”

Derek can’t help the chuff of laughter, quirks his mouth in a slight smile as he glances at Stiles, “You saying Incubus are bad music?”

“I’m not saying they’re good.”

The beat changes, and Finstock waves a hand around, signaling for them to join into fours. Derek had forgotten they were with other people, and it seems Stiles was relaxing a little because he tenses up all over again as Finstock directs them to stand with two boys they don’t know.

“Spanish Waltz, altogether, same principle but much more fun!” Finstock steps around them, “Waltz balance forward, back, and change places! Shouldn’t be too hard for a bunch of brainers like you guys,” he grins fiendishly around the room. “Get going!”

Stiles pulls a face at the guy across the circle, and Derek smirks into his hand. Stiles glances at him as he steps into the middle, touches his partner’s hand, Derek holds his gaze until they’re reunited. Stiles relaxes into his grip, ducks his head when he smiles suddenly.

“What?” Derek feels his stomach drop, “Are you laughing at me?”

“No,” Stiles tips his head back briefly, squints at Derek, “I have never laughed at you, Derek.”

“That’s… true,” he says finally.

“Watch my feet,” Stiles says quietly when Derek goes to step on his toes.

“Oh,” Derek feels himself flush, “My mom—I’m used to leading. She taught me both, but she said I should always—know how to lead.”

Stiles gives him a soft smile, “’S’long as you don’t mind me tellin’ you when you’re gonna step on my toes, I don’t mind which you do. I’m pretty versatile,” he adds lightly, “In all departments I think.”

Derek steps on his own toes.

*

Boyd and Derek are the only ones not panting as they row across the lake. Isaac’s barely moved, wrapped in two lifejackets and with his knees and arms tucked tightly into the long canoe, refusing to look at the water. Scott’s red in the face, determinedly rowing hard, and Danny looks exhausted.

“Why are you all rowing so hard?! Do we have to get to New York by Sunday?”

“Gotta beat Jackson,” Scott grits out. “Allison mentioned him last night, can’t—”

“Whaddya mean, last night?” Boyd pants out, “When did you see her?”

“I didn’t,” Scott looks up dreamily, “She had a cellphone delivered to me and we’ve been texting.”

Derek pulls a face at his brother’s sappy expression, grits his teeth and starts to row harder, “Keep up.”

“This is torture,” Stiles whines from the back, “I’m not built like you guys, I’m just skin and bone!”

Derek smirks at him, “You’re doin’ alright.”

“A fine compliment,” Stiles snarks, “But, it doesn’t help my arms feel less pain.”

“I always thought love meant you felt no pain at all,” Isaac jibs at him, and Stiles accidentally lets go of his oars.

“What?! Why would you—”

“Nothing,” Isaac glances between Derek and Stiles looking smug, “Just musing out loud.”

“Oh,” Stiles grabs his oars again looking flustered, “What an odd thing to say randomly.”

“Yep,” he pulls out his bright green sunglasses, smiles widely at Stiles.

Stiles kicks at where Isaac’s sitting.

“Hey!” Isaac jerks away, “Ass!”

“Slipped,” Stiles says innocently.

“Quit it,” Boyd calls from the front, “And row!”

“Are we winning?” Scott glances behind them, “They’re catching up, shit, go!”

“Scott, you realize Allison won’t know we win, or lose unless you tell her, right?” Derek cuts him a glance, “And, she won’t care about your rowing prowess, or lack of, either way.”

“She might,” Scott groans, “She’s really strong.”

“I hear she bench pressed a car,” Stiles says in a swooning voice.

“I hear her hair is insured for ten thousand dollars,” Danny shouts tersely, “But, I really couldn’t give a crap, I just want this race to be over!”

“That’s the spirit,” Isaac cheers, “Keep going, boys!”

“I hate you,” Danny hisses at him, “Hate.”

“Save your breath,” Isaac pats his leg, “Row.”

Finstock’s up ahead at the dock, waving a banner, and Derek strains his muscles, pushes through the pain, oddly enjoying the burn.

“Great race Team Boyd!” Finstock blows the whistle to announce their win, and Boyd keels over the side of the canoe and into the lake. He comes up beaming and shaking off water.

He splashes some at Derek, and Derek tries to avoid it, loses his balance and slips overboard, too.

“Haaaa!” Scott jumps up pointing and laughing, and Stiles kicks at the back of his knees making him lose balance, too, and he lands with a splash next to Derek.

Derek grins when he comes up pouting in outrage, and shoves his head back under the water.

“Hey, foul!” Scott splutters as he emerges again, leaping at Derek and tackling him under the water.

Derek lets himself drop, grabs his brother’s arms as they roll around in the water. They play fight gently, Scott shoving at Derek’s shoulders as Derek tweaks his hair, yanks on his foot. They both come up grinning.

“Jesus, you were down there a while,” Finstock’s peering over the edge of the dock. “Don’t need to worry about fratricide or anything, do I?”

Derek quirks an eyebrow at Scott and Scott rolls his eyes, splashes water in Derek’s face.

“Nah, Coach, we’re good.”

“Excellent!” Finstock picks up the megaphone and starts yelling encouragement at Jackson’s team.

Scott tugs on Derek’s shirt, pulls him towards the shore. Derek follows him out, shaking water from his face and stops short when he sees Stiles staring at him. “What?” he asks self-consciously. “I got seaweed in my hair?”

“No,” Stiles stutters, “You just—” he waves at Derek’s torso, and Derek blinks down to see his shirt’s gone a little see through, and is clinging to his stomach.

“Oh,” he shrugs, “I’ll get a new one when I get back to the cabin.”

“Nonsense,” Finstock interrupts, and tosses one of the dreaded camp shirts at Derek. He snatches it out of the air, glares down at the orange and blue concoction; he’d been trying so hard to avoid wearing one.

“Be a team player, Hale!”

Derek sighs, strips off his shirt and Stiles turns on his heel suddenly, a noise slipping from his throat and starts digging in one of the coolers with the back of his neck bright red. Derek should remind him to wear sunblock.

“Hey,” Boyd elbows him, his own new and dry blue and orange shirt fitting snugly across his shoulders, “They’re a little small.”

Derek tugs it over his head, snorts when he sees it barely covers his stomach, “I’ve worn worse I suppose.”

He thinks back to when he, Scott and Laura were children, and their parents would dress them in hideous matching clothes; Scott and Derek in black sailor suits, and Laura in a black dress with a wide white collar, it wasn’t a good look for any of them. They look positively creepy in the photographs; Derek’s actually partial to them in an strange way, but Laura keeps them hidden from view. 

Derek knows he has a penchant for black clothing, and it’s never bothered him. Orange and blue, however, might be a straw too heavy, and he shrinks into the shadows as the other teams row in.

Scott ambles over, pulling at the collar of his own shirt and beaming in the sunshine. “You having fun, yet?”

Derek arches his eyebrows, “I’m not sure fun’s the word. I can’t feel my fingers for a start.”

“I could get you some ginger,” Scott suggests.

“Thanks,” Derek gives him a half smile, hunches his shoulders, “I’m fine, though.”

“Alright,” Scott leans against the tree with him, blows his hair out of his eyes, “Thanks for coming back.”

Derek glances at him in surprise, and Scott looks up at him, shrugs, “I know you really didn’t want to. But, I like it here; I like how happy everything is. I love home, but, sometimes…” he looks down at his feet dubiously, and Derek nods, clears his throat.

“Not always what you want.”

“Right,” Scott breathes out in a rush, “Yeah, exactly.”

“’S’okay,” Derek peeks a look at where Stiles is throwing a water bottle at Isaac’s head, back to where his brother is panting a little but not in need of an inhaler—only gently out of breath from the fun of the day—and where his cheeks are pink with happiness. “It hasn’t been all bad,” he says neutrally.

Scott scoffs, “Please, like you’re not doing your weird happy stare thing at Stiles every chance you get.”

Derek straightens, cuffs him round the head, “I do not have a weird happy stare thing.”

“Oh, sure, you wouldn’t notice it,” Scott argues, following him as he moves to the BBQ. “But, I’m your brother, and you don’t use that particular stare on anyone back home.” He grabs a hot chicken wing, waves it at Derek, “I know all your stares, Derek.”

Derek helps himself to another wing, fixes Scott with a look, “Do you know this one?”

Scott beams around his chicken, “Means you’re thinking about killin’ me, but would never. I see it a lot.”

“You don’t know I’d never,” Derek threatens idly.

Scott shakes his head fondly, “You come to all my lacrosse games, you love me.”

Derek feels his mouth fall open, “I don’t—how do you—”

Scott shrugs, “I’m not blind, dumbass, and I can always feel when you’re there.”

“Oh,” Derek stares at the hot coals, wondering if it’d help his mortification if he lay down in them.

Scott claps him on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, bro, I went to that art project you took part in last spring, and it was awesome. I took pictures, sent some to Stiles. We think you’re just swell.” Scott scratches his nose with his free hand, “Although, in very different ways.” He wiggles his eyebrows, “I’m gonna go text Allison about our win.”

Derek waves his chicken wing at him faintly, calls after him, “Go team.”

Scott waves happily. Across the benches, Boyd pretends to dump Stiles in the lake for teasing Isaac, Finstock yells at the last team still rowing, Derek thinks of home and his books and darkness in comparison to the endless sun he’s squinting in. Stiles rubs the back of his neck, smiles suddenly in Derek’s direction and Derek can’t help but give him a small smile back.

The darkness isn’t going anywhere; he can enjoy this for just a little while longer.

*

Laura answers the phone laughing, and Derek clutches the cream plastic tightly, suddenly missing home.

“Hello?”

“Laura,” he breathes out.

“Oh, hi Derek,” Laura sing songs, “We were just talking about how much we hope you’re enjoying camp.”

So, that’s why she was laughing, dammit.

“Is mom there?”

“Yep.”

“Laura.”

“Oh, did you want to talk to her?”

Scott tugs at Derek’s sleeve, “Lemme talk to her—”

Derek puts his hand very firmly in Scott’s face, and pushes him away.

“Hey, mmf—Derek—”

“Derek, darling, I hope those aren’t muffled cries of pain coming from your brother,” Talia’s voice comes over the line, and Derek jerks his hand away.

“No, mom.”

“And, are you having a wonderful time together?”

“No, mom, of course not, why would we be—”

“Yes!” Scott leans into Derek’s neck and yells down the receiver, “Mom, it’s even better than last year!”

“It is?” Talia laughs brightly, “Well, that’s splendid. Have you both been participating in the activities?” Though her tone is light, Derek can hear the warning behind the words, and he rolls his eyes at the beige wall of the office.

The campers are each allowed one phone call a week, which Derek believes to be barbaric in the first place; what if he has an emergency and needs his mother’s advice on how to lance a boil?

Scott’s taken the phone from him, and is cutting into Derek’s phone call. He tries to snatch it back, but Scott jabs him sharply in the ribs and he winces, turns away. His eyes catch on where Stiles is sitting on the bench outside the office, feet scuffing against the dirt, and seemingly lost in thought.

“Goodbye traitors,” he addresses the phone and Scott, and then makes his way outside. He ignores Scott tell their mom he’s gone to talk to his boyfriend; it’s something he’ll remedy later when he returns home angrier and more intent on his plans for destruction than ever.

Stiles looks up when the door swings open, bites his lip on a smile as Derek approaches.

“Hey sunshine.”

Derek gives him a flat look, sits beside him stiffly, “Hello yourself.”

Stiles shakes his head, grinning ruefully as he drags his feet across the dusty mud.

“So, you get to talk to your mom?”

“Yeah,” Derek settles against the back of the cabin behind them, the wood warm from the sun. He takes in Stiles’ twitching hands, the way his eyes have gone distant again, and frowns. “Did you not catch your dad?”

“I called work,” Stiles leans back, rolls his head to the side to squint at Derek in the sun, “Got his secretary.”

Derek nods slowly, “Being a sheriff keeps him busy, I imagine.”

Stiles seems to try and smile, shake off his disappointment, and then sighs, shuts his eyes. “Yeah,” he says faintly, “Sometimes, more important than remembering your only kid is calling from a summer camp on the other side of California for the first time in a week.”

Derek winces, “Stiles—”

“’S’cool,” Stiles says quickly, “I just… miss him, you know?”

Derek does, strange as it is to admit even thinking about it, he misses home, and his parents, and even Laura, terribly.

“You wanna take your mind off it?”

Stiles sits up, cheeks suddenly flushing a charming red, “Uh, what did you have in mind?”

“Come on,” Derek stands, grabs his hand and Stiles makes a noise of surprise Derek saves to memory.

“Where are we going?”

“To have some fun,” Derek gives him a sharp grin, “My kind.”

Stiles’ eyes light up, “You finally letting me in on the plans for world domination?”

Derek rolls his eyes, squeezes his fingers in a minute castigation, “There are no plans for world domination, Stiles.”

Stiles sighs wistfully, even though his eyes are warm, “Then there’s definitely no hope for us, you see, I need to marry someone who has plans to rule the world.”

Derek trips over nothing, and twists to blink at Stiles somewhat shyly, “And, the plan was to rule the world with me?”

“Yep,” Stiles sighs loftily, “Guess I’ll have to start looking elsewhere.”

“I have something better than that,” Derek says in a strangled voice, intensely aware of their twined fingers, the way Stiles is looking at him, and how hot he feels under his shirt collar.

“Better than the whole world? Oh my, what a lucky boy I am.”

Derek snorts and pushes him into a tree. Gently.

“Okay,” Stiles pants breathlessly ten minutes later as Derek leads him up the hill to the side of the campsite, “Where are we going?” 

“You’ll see,” Derek promises, “Be patient.”

“Not my strong suit,” Stiles sighs, wiggling his fingers against Derek’s. “Wow, hey, look—” he points ahead, and Derek pauses to follow his gaze.

To their right, there’s a couple of horses galloping around a paddock, one a pale grey and the other midnight black. Stiles hums in delight as he moves off the path they were on and over to the fence.

“D’you think they’re for camp?”

Derek shakes his head, edging cautiously after Stiles.

“Come on,” Stiles waves an arm at him, “Get closer.”

“I’m okay here,” Derek manages, eyeing the horses warily.

“Derek,” Stiles clambers up the first rung of the fence as the grey horse starts to trot over, glances over his shoulder to smirk at him. “They won’t bite.”

“They most certainly will bite.”

“I didn’t imagine you to be afraid of horses,” Stiles drops his voice as the horse comes up to him.

“I’m not,” Derek insists, hovering behind him.

“Then come say hello,” Stiles holds out his hand to the horse, and Derek wants to yank it away. She seems content to butt against his palm with her nose, however, and Stiles laughs, runs his hand along her neck slowly. “She’s very beautiful.”

“Mmmm.”

“Derek,” Stiles twists to look at him, and juts his head at the horse, “You okay?”

Derek clears his throat, “They—I don’t like animals that move suddenly.”

“C’mere,” Stiles says softly, holding out his free hand and tugging on Derek’s shoulder until he’s up beside Stiles. Stiles arches an eyebrow asking for silent permission as he takes Derek’s hand, and Derek jerks his head, allowing Stiles to press his hand carefully against the horse’s neck.

“Oh,” he says in surprise, “She’s very soft.”

“Uh huh, and strong,” Stiles pats her side, shoots a grin at him. “How you holdin’ up?”

Derek rolls his eyes, “It’s not like I’m going to have a breakdown.”

“Still,” Stiles’ smile goes into something quieter, and more fond, “Your hand’s all sweaty.”

“I—” Derek goes to pull his hand away and Stiles tightens his hold over Derek’s fingers.

“’S’cool, it’s normal when you’re apprehensive.”

“Oh, shut up,” Derek grouches, stepping off the fence and glancing towards the path again, “You still want to—”

“Yes!” Stiles smooths his hand down the horse’s neck one more time and then jumps off the fence, claps his hands together, “Lead the way.”

He glances back towards the horses, the black one having come close to the fence to investigate the source of commotion and the grey one with her tail whipping excitedly.

“We can stay,” Derek suggests hesitantly, “I only wanted to take your mind off—”

“You did already,” Stiles brushes their shoulders together, quirks a smile at him. “We should probably be getting back, anyway, I bet Finstock’ll have a search party out for us soon enough.”

Derek shakes his head, “It’s that social with the girl’s camp tonight, no one will have noticed.”

“Ah,” Stiles shoves his hands in his pockets, cuts a glance at him, “You looking forward to it?”

Derek snorts, “Unlikely, when have you ever known me to be enthusiastic about social gatherings?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles chews at his bottom lip, and his footsteps are suddenly agitated as they walk. “Maybe there’s a girl you wanna hang out with, or something.”

“I don’t want to hang out with anyone,” Derek says flatly. Stiles pulls up short, frowns, and Derek raises his eyebrows, “What?”

“You don’t even—” Stiles gestures between them, “You don’t even like hanging out with me?”

“No, I mean yes,” Derek adds quickly, looks away nervously, “You’re—different.”

Stiles narrows his eyes at him, “Different.”

Derek smirks a little, knocks their shoulders together again, “Nice. You’re nice.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Stiles says laughingly.

*

The social is exactly the same as last year; some disco lights, a line of tables with food on them, and a gigantic space between the girls on one side of the main cabin, and the boys on the other. Derek lurks by the door, wondering when he’ll be able to sneak out and get some reading done. Beside him, Boyd’s not-so-casually gawping at a beautiful blonde girl with wicked heels on Laura would adore, and Isaac’s staring determinedly at a pretty redhead.

Scott and Allison are breaking all the traditional awkward camp meet and greet rules by standing in the middle of the dance floor, half dancing and half giggling every three seconds. Derek takes a sip from his hipflask, considers finding a fire extinguisher.

“Stop looking at them like that,” Stiles chides, sidling up to his side and hip checking him.

“Like what.”

“Like—you’re torn between heckling and throwing confetti.”

Derek winces, “I certainly hope I don’t look like I want to throw confetti.”

“I could make you some,” Boyd offers without taking his eyes off the blonde.

On closer examination, Derek actually thinks he recognizes her from last year, but she looks a lot healthier. He vaguely remembers her being very pale and avoiding eye contact every time the boys and girls met. Her name was Erica he thinks.

“Yeah?” Stiles looks at Boyd with interest, “You into crafts?”

Boyd snorts, “My baby sister is. I generally cut when I’m told to, and hold ribbon when I’m told to.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad to me,” Stiles says wistfully, “I never have anyone to do crafts with.”

“I’m sure you’ll get the chance whilst we’re here,” Derek says in a faux commiserating tone.

“That’s not what I meant,” Stiles shoves at his shoulder, “I mean, it’s just kind of boring being an only child sometimes.”

“My brother’s a pain in the ass,” Isaac mutters, “Except when he’s supplying me with alcohol. Right,” he claps Boyd on the arm, “I’m going in.”

He marches across the dance floor, right up the petite redhead, and she looks up at him expectantly over her drink. Isaac removes her drink after a moment of talking, and then they’re sailing onto the dance floor next to Scott and Allison.

“Damn,” Boyd says under his breath, “I can’t let that stand.” He strides across the dance floor to the blonde, and she beams dazzlingly when he introduces himself.

After that, most of the campers seem more happy to mingle, and soon the cabin is awash with chatter and movement. Derek feels swamped by it all, glances out of the window again.

“Hey,” Stiles knocks his elbow, “You wanna get out of here?”

Derek looks to where Finstock’s talking to the girl’s camp leader, nods decisively, “Yeah, he might not notice for a couple of minutes.”

“He does seem to have taken a shine to you this year,” Stiles teases as they slip out of the door.

“It’s not a shine,” Derek sighs, “He’s convinced I’m going to try and burn the place down.”

Stiles laughs, ambles over to the edge of the lake and sits down, feet dangling over the edge and skimming the water.

Derek sits beside him, stretches back and breathes easily for the first time in hours.

“Would you?” Stiles asks after a moment, resting one of his hands near Derek’s.

Derek can feel his pinky finger almost brushing his own, and it makes his heart race stupidly.

“Maybe,” he says after a moment, “If they tried to make me sing.”

Stiles scoffs, lifts up his hand to flick Derek’s ear, and when he puts it back it’s closer, his fingers resting on top of Derek’s. “I don’t believe you.”

“Why not?” Derek turns his head to look at him, feels his breath catch when Stiles’ face is much closer than he remembers.

Stiles hunches up his shoulder, “You’re not really as mean and evil as you pretend to be.”

“So seems to be your belief,” Derek retorts drily, “But, I do really hate singing.”

“I love singing,” Stiles says brightly.

“I would never have guessed.”

“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?”

Derek grins at him, shrugs himself, “That you’re loud and enthusiastic and—” he pauses, frowns out at the lake, “Lots of vibrant adjectives that imply you’d like singing.”

“Vibrant, huh?”

“Yeah,” Derek rests his chin on his shoulder, blinks at Stiles, “Yeah, it’s awful.”

Stiles’ shoulders drop, and he exhales hard on a laugh, punches Derek, “Asshole.”

Derek smirks, “Yeah, so?”

“So, nothing,” Stiles shakes his head, looks out at the water with a smile still lingering on his face.

Derek watches him until Stiles looks back at him, and then he glances quickly away. Stiles’ hand twitches against his. Derek feels his breath stutter, stares across the lake as he touches his pinky finger against Stiles’ again. He strokes along the side of Stiles’ hand, and Stiles lets out a sigh—but, it’s not an unhappy sound, in fact, it could almost be content—and then he hooks his finger round Derek’s, holds him fast.

“Yo, kids!” Isaac strides down the bank a few minutes later looking flushed, “We’re—” he stops, looks between them both and then grins, “Uh, should I—”

“Shut up,” Stiles says immediately, standing and folding his arms, “Shut your mouth forever and ever and—”

“What,” Derek cuts him off, looking at Isaac expectantly as he stands himself, dusts his pants off and pretends his face isn’t still flushed just from barely holding hands with Stiles again. “Was there something you needed?”

Isaac rolls his eyes, “Sorry for interrupting the moment of burgeoning intimacy—”

Stiles makes a noise of irritation, and Derek is sure his own face isn’t a happy one.

Isaac continues blithely, “—But, Finstock wants everyone back so he can make a speech, and he said he saw you two sneak out.”

“Fantastic,” Stiles drawls, “Did he announce it to the whole room?”

“Nah,” Isaac shrugs, “Just told me to come tell you both to quit canoodling and get back inside.”

Derek hopes he’s about to burst into flames, because it feels like he should. Any moment now.

Stiles sighs, loudly, and stomps after Isaac, spinning on his heel when he gets to the doors, “Well? Are you gonna stand and brood out here all night, or are you gonna come listen to Finstock talk all of our ears off about camp unity again like last year?”

Derek smirks, “Heaven forbid I miss that.”

Stiles smiles back, and Derek feels his insides flip. It occurs to him, much later in bed once Isaac and Boyd have drifted off, that he was supposed to be trying to escape this evening, and he hadn’t thought to at all.

*

Week two begins with Finstock revealing an army like obstacle course for them all to participate in.

“It’s a race,” he declares enthusiastically, “You’ll go in pairs, one cabin versus another, until you’ve all finished. You get a three points for a win, two for a draw, and nothing for a lose,” he beams at them all, “Losing cabin’s on clean up duty for everyone.”

Stiles and Boyd both volunteer to go first from their cabins, and Derek watches in horror as they slide through mud, clamber over a spider web like rope contraption, and through a long tunnel.

“I’m not doing it,” he tells Finstock, “I have allergies.”

“Allergies? To what, Hale?”

“Exercise.”

“Try again.”

“Mud.”

Finstock’s left eye twitches, and he points at Derek and then the course, “Get in there.”

“Fun? I’m allergic to fun?”

“Dammit, Hale, get your ass into that mud now.”

Derek steps onto the course, over emphasizing his delicate footfall. Finstock pulls at his own hair, “Derek!”

“This is how I’m choosing to participate,” Derek tells him, “Am I going to be punished? Should I stop?”

Finstock must catch the hopeful look in his eye because his own expression hardens, and he waves his whistle in Derek’s face.

“This is happening, Derek, you can either get to it, or sulk here all afternoon, but either way, by god, you will do this.”

“I loathe you,” Derek says crossly.

“I know, kid, but I’ve gotten used to it over the years. I sleep better knowing you’re all out there, living in fear and loathing of me,” he beams at Derek, gestures to the course. “Go on, now,” he breathes loudly, “Enjoy.”

Scott’s ahead, squirming through the mud delightedly, and he splatters some in Derek’s face as Derek gets on his knees beside him.

“I’m going to wreck terrible vengeance on you for that,” Derek threatens.

“You once held me out of the window of our attic,” Scott beams at him, “You didn’t drop me then; you won’t hurt me now.”

Derek leaps at him, yanking at his ankle and tugging him back through the mud to get ahead. Scott yells—whether in excitement at Derek joining in, or in horror of suddenly being behind, Derek can’t tell—and struggles to catch up.

“Ass, you can’t cheat!”

“Say losers everywhere,” Derek tosses over his shoulder, crawling quickly across the mud patch and staggering to a stand.

Scott knocks his knee as he runs past, and Derek stumbles, tries to grab his shirt and only catches his laughter.

“Come on, old man, keep up!”

Derek forgets himself as he starts to run after his brother, scrambling over the spider web netting and up towards the climbing wall. Despite Derek being naturally stronger, Scott is quicker, and he’s already halfway up, making fast work of the climb.

He rolls over the top, peeks back at Derek and wiggles his eyebrows, “Need a hand?”

Derek growls, throws his arm up to grab hold of a grip near to him. Scott flinches as if expecting Derek to have gone for him, and then disappears down the other side with a hoot of laughter.

“Sucker! I’d have gone for my hair.”

“There’s enough of it,” Derek retorts, dropping and rolling next to him and ruffling his hair.

Scott bats him away, eyes the stepping stones over the water obstacle, “Last one in has to sleep on the bed of nails at home for a week.”

“Deal,” Derek sniffs, “I have better balance than you anyway.”

“Not even,” Scott cries, rushing at the stones and leaping across them.

Derek watches in surprise as Scott nimbly begins to make his way across, and then Boyd’s voice comes yelling from the end of the course, reminding him of the race.

“Our cabin needs points, Hale! We’re not going on cleaning duty!”

Derek snaps into action, hopping across the stones carefully, keeping his eyes trained on Scott.

“You’re going down!” Scott calls, twisting to grin at Derek, and losing his footing with a shout of disbelief. He slips into the water, clawing at Derek’s leg as Derek passes him.

“Cheater!” Derek crashes down beside him, water coming up to his waist and soaking his clothes.

“Your rules,” Scott retorts, scrabbling out of the water and beginning to crawl through the metal tubing. Derek hurries to follow him, grimacing at Scott’s feet in his face, and then as they both break out they set off at a run across the last, blessedly empty part of the course.

Derek puts on a burst of speed, his brother hot on his heels, and at the last second he feels Scott grab him round the waist and they both tumble over the finish line together.

Finstock appears above them, both panting and laughing breathlessly, eyes suspicious. “What happened there?”

Derek blinks up at him, “We drew?”

“No,” Finstock gestures at Derek, and then at the course, “You took part.”

“’Course he did,” Scott rolls onto his back, starfishes out beside Derek, “I made it a competition he could be invested in.”

Derek rolls his eyes, “You didn’t know that would work.”

Scott shrugs, “I know you pretty well.”

“Alright, alright, brotherly moment over,” Finstock nudges them with his foot, “We need a new race to determine which cabin wins.”

Stiles barrels through the crowd, stops short in front of them as they help each other to a stand.

“You—” he gestures to Derek’s shirt, and then at his face, stepping closer. “You’ve got—” he smudges his thumb across Derek’s cheek, wiping at the mud Derek must have there.

Derek sucks in a breath, catches hold of Stiles’ elbow as he sticks his tongue between his teeth in concentration.

“Gone?” Derek asks in a quiet voice after a moment.

“Nearly,” Stiles flicks his gaze across Derek’s face, drops it to his mouth and then up to his eyes again, “Same ugly mug as ever,” he teases.

Derek squeezes his elbow, tugs him even closer for a second and rubs his cheek all over Stiles’ clean one. Stiles squawks in protest, fingers gripping helplessly at Derek’s shirt and trying to shove him away.

Derek pulls back smirking, “Seemed fair.”

“Asshole,” Stiles grumbles, rubbing at his own face, and glowering at Derek. When Derek looks back at him a second later, he’s smiling however, and he figures there’s no real damage done. His own cheek is tingling ridiculously.

“Get a room,” Scott huffs, leaping on Stiles’ back as he says so.

“So. Heavy. Dying. Can’t—” Stiles lets out a strangled noise, and pretends to stagger under Scott’s weight, before taking off across the field, Scott yelling in delight.

“I don’t know what you’ve been drinking this year, Hale,” Finstock points at Derek, and he schools his expression into something serious, “But, keep it up.”

Derek blinks at him silently. Finstock makes a noise of irritation and marches off to yell at the next two cabins lined up to race.

*

Jackson’s cabin wins, and he has the cabin with the least points wash all of his clothes for him and then iron them. Derek, Isaac and Boyd sit watching them work from the bench outside of their cabin, Boyd shaking his head.

“This isn’t right; he’s not the King of this place.”

“They did win,” Isaac sighs, “To be fair—”

“Danny won, too,” Derek cuts in and nods at where Danny’s tossing a Frisbee with one of his own cabin mates, ignoring Jackson completely. “He’s not having them clean his dirty laundry for him.”

“You used to have beef with him, right?”

Derek eyes Boyd warily, “Not exactly, I just… don’t play well with others.”

“You play well just fine with us.”

“Because you’re not constantly calling me a freak, or abnormal, or poking me into doing a damn trick,” Derek points out.

Can you do any magic tricks?” Isaac looks at him hopefully.

Derek rolls his eyes, “I don’t know; if I snap my fingers will you disappear?”

Isaac huffs, and shoves at his shoulder, “Funny.”

“I try,” Derek replies drily.

Jackson spots them, swaggers over with his hands in his pockets, “I would ask if you need anything laundered, but,” he glances significantly at Derek’s shirt, “You seem to live in the same outfit. Hoping it’ll come back into style some day?”

“What do you want, Jackson?”

“Nothin’,” Jackson’s gaze sweeps over them.

“Then go away,” Boyd says flatly. “Far away.”

“Head’s up!” Danny calls, tossing the Frisbee towards them, and Derek snatches it out of the air easily.

“Nice reflexes,” Danny says as he jogs over, hip checks Jackson, “Hey, man, why don’t you come and play?”

“Fine,” Jackson gives them all one last look before snatching the Frisbee from Derek, “You should play, see how good you are when you’re with real people.”

“I don’t play with charlatans,” Derek dismisses him, sits back, but Boyd stands.

“I’ll play.”

“Yeah,” Isaac straightens up, begins stretching his muscles, “Me too.”

Boyd glances at Derek, “You in?”

“No,” Derek insists, gets up to head into the cabin, “I’m going to read.”

He listens to them play, zones out as he focuses on his book for a while before there’s a clattering and Stiles is letting himself into the cabin, shiny with sweat and breathless. Derek feels his mouth fall open.

“Derek!”

“That would be my name,” Derek says calmly, closing his book and his mouth at the same time, trying not to look at the sheen of sweat on Stiles’ collarbones.

Stiles snickers, throws himself on the bed and drapes an arm over his face, “You’re missin’ a good show.”

“Yeah?” Derek slides his book back on top of the pile, looks down at Stiles stretched out across his bed. He thinks perhaps this show is better than anything outside.

“Boyd full on tackled Jackson, flattened him,” Stiles grins lazily up at him from under his arm, “Was a good ‘un.”

“I can imagine,” Derek sits awkwardly on Isaac’s bed, blinks over at him, “When did you join in?”

“’Bout an hour ago,” Stiles yawns, and Derek starts; he hadn’t realized it had been more than twenty minutes since he’d started reading. When he looks at his watch he sees two hours have past.

Stiles lets out a small sigh, and then his whole body relaxes into sleep.

“Stiles,” Derek says quietly, prods his shoulder carefully. Stiles mumbles something, mouth twitching sweetly around incomprehensible words and Derek shuts his eyes to the sight. “Stiles,” he tries again. There’s silence but for Stiles’ breathing, and Derek stands, yanks his blanket off the end of the bed and drapes it over Stiles. Stiles hums and rolls over.

Stiles is asleep in Derek’s bed.

There’s the sound of broken glass in the distance, and then Finstock’s yelling Derek’s name.

Derek hops out of the cabin, blinking blearily in the late afternoon sun, “Coach?”

“Oh,” Finstock looks between him, and the broken window of Cabin Four. “Never mind, as you were, Hale.”

Derek smirks; there’s a beautiful boy asleep in his bed—and, though he can’t do anything about it, it’s still a nice view—and for once, it wasn’t him that was up to mischief and getting caught for it. Today is a good day.

Finstock snaps the Frisbee in half, and points at Jackson as he starts yelling. Derek saunters back to his cabin, to read, obviously.

*

Derek considers his emergency backpack, and thinks desperately of a way he could escape in thirty seconds. Out the bathroom window? Finstock would find him immediately. Sit on the roof? He’d get sunstroke. Fake a disease? He could always eat the St-John’s Wort…

“Come on, Derek,” Scott calls from outside the cabin, “It won’t be that bad!”

“It will,” Derek huffs.

“You’re good at painting,” Scott says earnestly, poking his head round the cabin door, “I’ve seen your art, remember?”

“I don’t want to do it here,” Derek hisses, “Art is one of the things I actually enjoy in life, I like it. If I do it here, it’ll be ruined.”

“You’re such a drama queen,” Scott scoffs, “Come on, it’s not like Finstock’s going to put anything on display.”

Derek grimly remembers the mural they had to paint last year of an ocean scene with rainbows and Noah’s ark on the water. He’d painted a shark eating into the boat and Finstock had sent him to the Cheer Cabin for the day.

Derek’s a pro at handling the Cheer Cabin, but he still doesn’t relish the idea of spending any time in there.

“He won’t like anything I do; he’ll say it’s all too dark and morbid and then tell me off for expressing myself.”

“What are you, eight?” Scott marches into the room suddenly, and snags Derek by the ear.

“Scott!”

“Embrace it, big brother,” Scott says brightly, “You’ve done really well so far, and I’m having an awesome time! I’d like to keep doing that, and for some weird reason I enjoy your company these days.” He stops at the foot of the cabin, letting Derek catch up with him and lets go of his ear, “I’d say it was something to do with the company we’re keeping, but you’d probably vehemently deny it, right?”

“No,” Derek says shortly, surprising himself and Scott by the way his eyebrows shoot up. “I know—what you’re getting at and I… like that company.”

Scott eyes him warily, “You can’t hurt him, Derek. You’re not allowed to mess with him, or make him a game.”

Derek nods seriously, “I’d let him win Gotcha.”

“Well,” Scott’s face brightens, “You must like him a lot. More than me, even.”

“Nonsense,” Derek elbows his brother awkwardly, “You’re my favorite family member.”

Scott trips over nothing, looks at him shyly, “Really? I’m even above Laura?”

Derek startles out a laugh, “Don’t tell her.”

“You’re my favorite, too,” Scott blurts out, and then looks away scowling, “Even though you’re mean.”

“Heartfelt,” Derek says drily.

“Don’t push it,” Scott huffs, “We are related after all. I don’t like talking about my feelings as much as you think I do.”

They make for the field where Finstock’s set up canvases for everyone in comfortable silence, shoulders knocking occasionally. Before they get there Scott clears his throat, cuts a glance at Derek. He looks away when Derek catches him, scratches the back of his neck, sighs to himself. Derek rolls his eyes.

What.”

“Just… I want you to be happy.”

Derek frowns, “I don’t really… do that.”

“Yeah,” Scott rolls his own eyes, “I get that you’re all dark and into being macabre, and I know you like that. I know it’s how you keep… safe. But, Stiles won’t hurt you either.”

Derek clenches his jaw, looks away, “I’m not afraid of being hurt, Scott.”

“Why didn’t you write back to him ever, then?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Derek shrugs, begins to walk towards where Isaac and Stiles are jabbing at each other with paintbrushes.

“Hey,” Scott grabs his arm, “It matters to me, okay? I’m—on your team, Derek, always.”

“Okay,” Derek says slowly, “Thanks?”

Scott sighs, makes for the canvas next to Stiles’, “You suck sometimes, you know that?”

Derek scrunches up his nose at him, “So do you.”

“Brotherly love,” Stiles teases as they step either side of him, “Such a touching sight.”

“Shut up,” both Derek and Scott say together, and Stiles laughs, flicks paint at Scott, winks at Derek.

Derek focuses on choosing purposely bright colors for his palette. He paints a tree, and then can’t resist adding dark storm clouds gathering overhead. Finstock passes by them, applauding Boyd’s painting of a train; ignoring Isaac’s plain blue canvas representing ‘the sky’; and stops in front of Derek’s.

“Cheerier than your first year,” he says finally.

Isaac leans over to examine Derek’s canvas and smirks, “What did you paint your first year?”

“My great-aunt Calpurnia.”

“Oh, and that’s—”

“She was burned as a witch,” Scott mumbles, pinching the bridge of his nose, “And Derek went into detail.”

“She deserves to be commemorated,” Derek says firmly.

“I prefer this one,” Finstock says sharply before stalking away.

Derek cuts a glance at Isaac, smirks, “She was pretty cool, she’d have liked it.”

“Your family sounds cool in general,” Isaac sighs.

“I’m going to meet them,” Stiles preens, and he and Scott fist bump.

“Really?” Boyd looks at Derek over Stiles’ head, expression far too knowing, “How exciting.”

“Whose room will you be staying in?” Isaac adds innocently.

Derek accidentally adds a gigantic pink splodge of paint to Isaac’s canvas.

*

By hook, or by crook, Derek manages to avoid joining in the patchwork hour. Scott, however, had seemingly thrown himself into it, and made a slightly wonky looking throw he wants to present to Allison at the next dance.

“D’you think she’ll like it?”

Derek mimes hanging himself—as this is the third time Scott’s asked in an hour—and Stiles sniggers with laughter from the desk in their cabin. Derek pretends there’s something fascinating just outside the window so as not to look too closely at how his insides jump when Stiles laughs.

“If she doesn’t, Derek’ll just hang her upside down from her ankles till she changes her mind,” Stiles declares loftily.

Scott glares at Derek, and Derek’s mouth falls open in protest, “I would never do something that nice for Scott.”

Stiles barks out another laugh, tosses a pen at Derek and he snatches out of the air.

“Nice catch.”

“Thanks,” Derek shrugs, “Good genetics, I guess.”

“I’ll say,” Stiles mutters, standing suddenly and waving at the door, “I’m gonna go post this letter to my dad. Scotty, you wanna come with?”

“No,” Scott sighs mournfully, gazing down at his patchwork, “I think this needs some more work.”

“It looks great,” Stiles promises, and when Derek snorts, he steps on Derek’s toes. “Walk me to the office,” he tells Derek, “So, nothing scary eats me on the way.”

“A predator wouldn’t go for you,” Derek retorts, even as he’s standing, following Stiles to the door without question, “You’re too stringy.”

Lithe, asshole,” Stiles runs a hand down his front, and Derek watches him do it, eyes intent on where his long fingers splay out across his stomach, flitter away to slide into his pocket. When Derek flicks his gaze back up to Stiles’ face, his expression is suddenly thoughtful as he looks back at Derek. “I could be good enough to eat,” Stiles says finally.

Derek half stumbles as they head down the cabin steps and Stiles snickers, even though his cheeks are flushed.

They make their way through the glade of trees that sit between the cabins, Stiles telling Derek about his terrible lack of needlepoint skills, and Derek listening indulgently, trying not to think of Stiles’ fingers and if they’d be nimble in other ways.

“Well, well,” Jackson steps out of his cabin, smirks across at them, “If it isn’t two of the weirdest weirdos to ever waste oxygen on the planet.”

Stiles baulks, almost steps in front of Derek, and Derek wants to casually remind him of how he was the one that super glued all of Finstock’s megaphones to the wall—preventing him from being able to yell at them for three whole days—and braved an hour long interrogation with the Coach, claiming total innocence. Stiles had laughed for long, wonderful minutes, and Derek had pretended to sulk and made him swear to secrecy on pain of death. Stiles had blinked big, sincere eyes up at him, sworn he’d take Derek’s horrible, genius secret to the grave and—

Oh.

Derek’s perhaps been purposely overlooking how seriously Stiles treats him. There’s never condescension or cruel mockery— teasing sure, jest, ribbing, endless snarking with him, but never something with an edge, never—never the way Jackson talks to them.

“Fuck off,” Derek snaps at Jackson, curling his hand round Stiles’ arm and pulling him forward.

“It’s nice you got someone lookin’ out for you, Stilinski,” Jackson drawls, “Seeing as how your dad ships you off here as soon as he can, and your mom’s not around.”

Before Derek can stop him, Stiles is marching the few short feet between them and Jackson and punching Jackson clean across the face.

“Don’t ever talk about my mom,” Stiles breathes fiercely, “Ever.”

“Fuck!” Jackson rolls around in the dirt, “You broke my nose!”

“I can do more than that,” Stiles threatens, lifting his hand again, and Derek shouts his name, catches his wrist as gently as possible.

“Don’t!”

Stiles pulls up sharp, looking between Derek and Jackson who is still writhing on the floor.

“But—”

“He’s not worth it,” Derek promises, “C’mon, you got a letter you need to post to your dad.”

“I’ll have one soon enough, too,” Jackson yells, “My father will hear about this!”

“He’ll probably send Stiles a medal if you’re as annoying at home as you are here,” Derek snaps, sliding his fingers into Stiles’ and pulling him away.

Stiles remains silent, letting Derek lead them through the trees without interruption, his hand tight in Derek’s.

Eventually, Derek stops, twists to glance at him and beckons for Stiles to show him the damage to his knuckles.

“Dumbass,” he says quietly, running the pads of his fingers gently over the red skin.

Stiles hisses, jerks his hand away, “He fucking deserved it, Derek, and you shouldn’t have stopped me!”

Derek frowns, backing up a little, “Stiles, people like him say shitty things all the time, you can’t—”

“Can’t what?” Stiles prods his chest, “Let them get away with it? I should just be like you, right? Ignore it, brood over it in silence, not write back to someone for an entire year in case I have to do something like, I don’t know, emote?!”

Derek feels his face shut down, glares at his shoes, “If that’s what you think, that I don’t—”

“Don’t,” Stiles sighs out, his voice cracking, “Just don’t. I can walk the rest of the way myself, thanks. I promise not to endanger myself, or have any strong emotions on the way.”

“That’s not what—Stiles!”

Stiles waves a dismissive hand over his shoulder, and Derek watches him storm off, his stomach settling somewhere in his sneakers.

*

Jackson tells on Stiles. Derek’s protests that Stiles was provoked fall on deaf ears, and Finstock sends Stiles to the dreaded Cheer Cabin to spend time in solitary confinement. Derek watches him go dolefully, Scott vibrating with outrage beside him.

“We’re getting Jackson back,” Scott hisses, as Jackson glances at them both looking stupidly smug with a tissue up his nose.

Derek turns to eye his brother, “I thought you didn’t believe in violent retribution.”

“Not when he messed with my best friend,” Scott even looks menacing as he says so, and Derek feels supremely proud.

“I’m speechless,” he says in response.

Scott rolls his eyes, “Don’t act like it’s not on your mind, too.”

“I was thinking we put a rat in his bed, and one in the bathroom, one under the bed, one in his shoe—”

“Sure, sure,” Scott nods and then arches an eyebrow at Derek, “But, then where would we be finding loads of rat, Derek? And, that sucks for his cabin mates, too. Danny’s one of them, we like Danny.”

“Do we,” Derek asks grimly, “Do we really?”

“Well, I like him enough not to put him through Jackson shrieking in his ear about rats, and then him maybe stepping on one.”

“What’s happening?” Boyd appears beside them, and Derek shifts to look at him curiously. “What, you think you’re the only one that likes Stilinski?”

Derek clenches his jaw, “You—”

“Not like that, dumbass,” Boyd rolls his eyes, “Shit, you really are clueless. Look, if Stilinski got crap for punching that fool Jackson, I say we get ourselves some payback for him.”

“Yep,” Isaac throws an arm over Boyd’s shoulders, nods at them both, “I concur.”

“You and your fancy words,” Boyd teases.

“Shut up,” Isaac sniffs dismissively, “What’s the plan?” he adds with a look at Derek.

Derek stares at them both, “You could get into trouble.”

“So?” Isaac scratches his jaw, shrugs, “What’s the point of camp if you don’t learn how to be men and get into scraps and graze some knees and—”

“This isn’t the seventies,” Derek interrupts flatly; “We’re not going to start a brawl and then shake hands and sing kumbaya.”

“We could do that,” Scott flexes his hand, “The first part I mean; I don’t want to do any singing. But, I’d like to punch him.”

“Look, I have a better idea,” Derek cuts in quickly before his brother ends up with a record for assault. He’s all for exacting revenge—even if he wishes no one else was going to take part; he doesn’t want anyone getting into trouble with him—but, they need to be far more subtle than punching Jackson. Again. And, he has a plan.

*

Isaac’s dressed completely in black when they meet behind Scott’s cabin after lights out. Derek snorts, waves a hand at him, “You wanna go steal some art after this, too?”

“It’s to blend in,” Isaac huffs, tugging a balaclava over his head. “Not all of us have souls so dark they disappear in the shadows.”

“Derek’s too pale to do that,” Boyd jabs at Derek’s cheek, “How have you not caught any sun while we’ve been here, man?”

“I have a strict skin regime,” Derek bats his hand away, “Quit it.”

“Pack it in,” Scott snaps in a steely voice, “We need everyone on high alert, and you can’t be fooling around.”

Derek smirks at Boyd over Scott’s head and Boyd grins, “You gonna smash a wall with your head, or—”

“Look, Stiles is my best friend, and I don’t care if you think I’m being dramatic because he deserves retribution.”

“Remind me never to hurt any of your family members,” Isaac murmurs.

“You couldn’t if you tried,” Derek dismisses, glancing at his hands.

“You all part ninja?”

“Something like that,” he says airily.

“Come on,” Scott peeks around the cabin, nods, “We’re good.”

The boys slink through the cabins, and away towards the fields. Derek leads them along the same path he and Stiles took in the first week, eyes flicking through the trees just in case someone else is about. For someone so lithe and wiry, Isaac is loud and snaps twigs, falls into the smallest hedges, and eventually Boyd sighs and throws him on his back.

“Dude!”

“This is easier.”

“You’re so comfy and warm,” Isaac sighs, rests his head on Boyd’s shoulder. Boyd rolls his eyes.

“How much further?”

“Not far,” Derek gestures at the clearing on the right, “Over there.”

“Wait,” Scott throws an arm out across Derek’s chest, and when Derek looks down at it, he slowly lowers his barricade. “Sorry, but, what if all of us going over spooks the horses?”

“You’re right,” Derek swallows back his apprehension, thinks of Stiles sitting alone in that damn cabin. “I’ll go.”

“But, you hate horses!”

“I’ve met them once before,” he rolls back his shoulders, looks to the end of the paddock where the horses are resting, “I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll come,” Scott insists, “Just in case.”

Derek rolls his eyes, “They’re just horses; they’re not going to maul me.”

“Whatever,” Scott clambers over the fence, sets off across the field, “Come on!”

On their approach, Derek insists they give the horses a wide berth. However, as soon as they spot Scott, they trot over curiously. The grey one butts her nose against Scott’s shoulder and he giggles, strokes a hand across her mane.

“You’re very beautiful,” he tells her.

Derek pulls his hipflask out, “See if you can get her to keep still, and to pee.”

Scott snorts, “Such a weird sentence.”

“Scott! This is serious.”

“I can’t just make her pee, Derek! I don’t have a bowl of warm water nearby.”

Derek huffs disgruntledly, slinks over to the trough the horses must feed from, considers his options. Before he can duck to see if there’s any puddles the black horse snorts, ambles towards Derek.

“Oh,” he backs away, “I’m not… going to hurt you.” The horse blinks at him. “Uh, Scott?”

Scott’s a short distance away, still petting the grey horse, and Derek swallows, holds out his hand cautiously. “Hello.”

The horse ducks into his hand, tips back his head excitedly and Derek tries not to flinch as he pats it.

“Yes, good horse.”

His eyes catch on a large puddle of what’s definitely piss, and he edges towards it, keeping his eyes on the horse.

“I promise I’m not stealing anything from you,” he says casually, “I just need some of this, for a friend.”

The horse stamps its front hoof on the grass and Derek blanches.

“It’s important,” he hunches over, breathes through his mouth as he runs the hipflask through the puddle and fills it. As he stands again, he eyes the horse nervously, “Thank you.”

“Derek,” Scott hisses, “When you’re done bonding with Black Beauty, we gotta jet before someone catches us!”

“We weren’t bonding, asshole, and besides, you’re the one that stopped paying attention to anything other than your new friend.”

“I’m going to bring Allison here,” Scott says happily, and then snaps out of his daydream and looks at Derek, “Did you get it?”

“Yeah,” Derek waves the hipflask at him.

Scott claps his hands together, “Part two begins.”

Boyd and Isaac are lounging along the fence when they make their way back over, and Derek shakes his head ruefully, “Why did you even need to come again?”

“Solidarity,” Isaac pumps his fist in the air, “Team effort.”

“I don’t see any of you carrying horse piss in your hoodie,” Derek snarks.

“Yeah, but I’m the one that’s gonna crawl in Jackson’s cabin window and put it in his cologne,” Isaac cracks his knuckles, “Boyd and I voted.”

“What?” Derek follows as they all head back towards the cabins, Scott giving the horses a final wave. “No, it needs to be me, you’ll trip over something.”

“I’m doing it,” Isaac cuts in, “Because if any of them wake up, it’s a hell of a lot safer for them to see me in their cabin, than you.”

“Jackson’ll probably think you’re there to murder him in his sleep and scream the camp down,” Boyd points out.

Derek grudgingly secedes to their logic. It would be just like Jackson to think Derek’s there to kill him… his fears wouldn’t be totally ridiculous, either.

Jackson’s window is half open, and the boys give Isaac a leg up, wincing as he stumbles around inside.

“Shhh,” someone groans.

They hold their breath, and Scott peeks in through the window to make sure Isaac gets around safely.

“To the left, yeah, that’s his stuff. Careful!”

“Really?” Isaac snaps back in a whisper, “Because I thought I’d just clatter round like an elephant!”

“What’s happening?” Danny’s voice comes through the window, and they all freeze in place.

“Uh,” Derek listens as Isaac moves around the cabin, “This is a dream. You’re dreaming about me.”

“Mmm,” Danny’s bedclothes rustle as he apparently seems satisfied with Isaac’s answer, “Makes sense.”

Isaac’s face appears at the window, and Scott lets out a muffled cry of surprise, falls on top of Derek. Isaac grins toothily, “Did it.”

“Great,” Derek mutters, “Get the hell out of there, dream boy.”

*

Derek waits until Isaac and Boyd are both snoring—having spent nearly an hour listening to Isaac tell and re-tell his courageous adventure through Jackson’s cabin—and slips out of the window. No one’s bothered to keep check on the cabins since Derek made it obvious he wasn’t going anywhere in the first week. He would try and take advantage of Finstock’s lax security, but he wants to actually stay for the moment. Other than the Jackson incident, Derek’s having a surprisingly good time at camp. He’s sort of glad he came back; if not for Scott, then definitely for Stiles. Hence why he’s climbing through knee high undergrowth and sneaking up the hill to the Cheer Cabin at the dead of night, cursing himself for being an idiot.

There’s no one sitting outside like they used to when Derek was inside, and he eases the window open silently, whispers Stiles’ name. On not hearing a response, he clambers through the window, and something heavy hits him on the back of the head. He falls to the floor with a groan, and then there’s a flashlight in his face, and Stiles is hovering over him.

“Shit, Derek, I didn’t realize it was you!”

“Who did you think it was?” Derek moans, clutching the back of his head, “Jason Voorhees?”

“You never know!” Stiles says hotly, sitting back on his heels once he’s checked Derek’s not bleeding. “What are you doing here?”

“I came—” Derek licks his lips, suddenly feeling stupid. “I thought I’d come and see how you were doing.”

“Oh,” Stiles narrows his eyes, “You did, huh?”

Yes,” Derek grits his teeth as he sits up, glares across at him in the darkness, “I’ve been in here before, remember? I know it’s not exactly the most lively place.”

Stiles snorts, flicking the flashlight to the one VHS tape of what looks like Space Jam and a small pile of Girl Scout magazines.

“I watched the movie three times, and then tried to nap,” Stiles pulls a face, “It hasn’t been the best day.”

“Last year I watched Sense and Sensibility four times.”

“Is that where you learnt the power of non-communication?” Stiles asks snarkily.

“No, I’ve had that since birth,” Derek snaps back, “What’s your excuse?”

“Excuse?” Stiles scrambles to his feet indignantly, “I don’t need one! I thought I was communicating just fine. I seem to do alright with everyone else; it’s only you that doesn’t seem to get the message.”

“And, what is the message?” Derek huffs, waving around them, “Because, I just went and collected horse piss for you, and if that isn’t obvious enough about the way I—I—what? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Horse piss,” Stiles echoes, his face scrunched up in disgust, “What.”

“We put it in Jackson’s cologne,” Derek says defiantly, “Scott wanted to get some justice for you, because of what Jackson did and—I’m—I’m sorry I didn’t stick up for you at the time,” he adds in a more defeated tone.

Stiles’ lips quirk upwards, “You put—”he breaks out into laughter, and then suddenly bowls into Derek’s arms, hugging him tightly.

Derek freezes, unsure of what to do at first, and when Stiles seems to be settling in for the long haul, pats his back awkwardly.

“You’re shit at this,” Stiles says into his shoulder.

“I don’t really—”

“Put your arms around me, moron.”

“Okay,” Derek huffs, obeying nonetheless. He wraps his arms around Stiles’ waist, and Stiles tightens his own grip until they’re flush against one another. Stiles is warm and solid against him, and it’s actually surprisingly comfortable. Derek can feel every point of contact, Stiles’ fingers against the nape of his neck, their hips bumping and their legs brushing, the soft cotton of Stiles’ shirt against his own hands. He clenches his fingers in the material, lets the warmth from Stiles’ back bleed into his skin until Stiles pulls away, shakes his head at him.

“You’re ridiculous.”

“Thanks,” Derek says sourly.

“In the best way,” Stiles adds, gesturing to the lumpy couch. “Come on, tell me everything.”

“There isn’t much to tell,” Derek says stiffly, suddenly very aware of how empty his hands feel as he follows Stiles to the couch. “We went back to where the horses were, and—uh—” he scratches the back of his neck. “Collected some samples.”

Stiles sniggers into his hand, and Derek glares at him.

“I’m sorry, it’s just—I literally cannot picture you following a horse around. A horse. Dude, you braved a horse for me.”

“Scott was very insistent we get payback,” Derek says embarrassedly, “It was… an experience.”

Stiles laughs again, leans back against the couch and eyes him with affection, “Thanks.”

“I guess we’ll know in the morning if it worked.”

“Twenty bucks says we hear Jackson shouting from here.”

“I’ll take that,” Derek drums his fingers on his knee, thinking of how forward he’s been appearing here in the first place. He’d just wanted to check on Stiles, to tell him about Jackson to cheer him up, to—to—see him.

“I should go—”

“No,” Stiles says quickly. “No, please, I don’t—I’ve been going out of my mind all day up here, man. Stay, please.”

Derek turns to look at him in the dark, nods slowly, “Okay.”

Stiles rubs his eyes, “Even though I’ve done nothing today, I’m actually pretty tired, though. You wanna get some sleep?”

Derek nods, “Sure.”

“Cool,” Stiles kicks his legs up along the couch, mimes that Derek should do the same and slowly, Derek lifts his legs up along the couch. “Scoot over,” Stiles says quietly, and Derek shifts forward so that Stiles is lying behind him. Hesitantly, Stiles throws an arm over his waist, “So you don’t fall.”

“Thanks,” Derek says in a strangled voice.

“Is this… okay?”

“Yep.”

“Derek.”

“It’s fine,” he insists, grabbing Stiles’ hand and holding him firmly in place.

Stiles lets out a long breath against his neck, squirms closer to Derek, “Sorry I was a dick to you.”

“You weren’t,” Derek argues, “You were just—”

“No, I was, man, I was angry and I lashed out. I don’t mind that you didn’t write back, really.”

There’s a pause as Derek tries to find the right way to explain himself and he sighs, “I’ve never been good at—words. I wanted to, all the time, but… I’m not normal, I don’t have every day stories to tell you, and nothing happens. My letters would be very boring, and yours are so—” he swallows, squeezes his eyes shut. “I liked reading them.”

“I’d read anything you wrote,” Stiles says sleepily, cracks a yawn and Derek can feel where Stiles’ heart is beating against his back. “’S’okay, though, I like talking to you, like someone’s really listening.”

“I was, I mean, I did—I read every one of them.”

“You could try this year,” Stiles mumbles into his shoulder, “You could tell me about your swamp monster.”

“Or the dragon,” Derek muses, “I never thought to write about them.”

“You—” Stiles inhales sharply, “You have a dragon?”

“Yeah, somewhere.”

“I—I’m pretty sure I’m imagining you saying this,” Stiles slurs, “But, just in case you’re not, when I come to visit you hafta show me.”

“’Kay.”

“Promise?”

Derek squeezes his fingers, “Promise.”

*

Sunlight streaming through the window wakes Derek, and he squeezes his eyes shut against it, pushes into the heat all along his back. Stiles is still asleep behind him, his hand twitching against Derek’s chest every now and again, just over his heart.

He thinks he should feel more panicked. He hasn’t shared a bed with anyone since he was eleven, and Scott was convinced Laura was going to put a rabid bat in his room for accidentally spilling lemonade on her LOST dvds. He insisted he sleep in Derek’s room for protection. Derek’s pretty sure top-tailing with his brother and glaring at the wall whilst Scott wriggled around all night wasn’t like this at all. He can feel Stiles’ breath warm on his neck, where Stiles’ knees are bent up against his, and where his heart is still beating against Derek’s back, slower than the night before.

There isn’t any panic, though. It’s not like when people at school touch him, or get in his space. It’s not even like when his parents and his siblings pester him into hugs or throw their arms around him. This is different. Derek feels stupidly cherished wrapped in Stiles’ arms. For the first time, in perhaps ever, he feels deeply content.

Stiles drifts awake behind him, scrunching his face up and rubbing it against Derek’s shoulder, before pulling back suddenly.

“Woah, hey,” he rasps out.

Derek twists awkwardly on the couch until he’s facing Stiles, takes in his sleepy eyes, his skin freckled from the sun and his mouth curved in a warm, lazy smile. He finds himself smiling before he can stop it happening, and Stiles’ own grin widens, one hand clutching at Derek’s back as he uses the other to rub his face.

“’Time is it?”

“Early,” Derek frees his own arm from where it’s been wedged between them and squints at his watch, “Eight.”

“Ugh,” Stiles shuts his eyes again, leans forward to bury his face in the crook of Derek’s neck like it’s the easiest thing in the world, “’S’too early to be alive.”

Derek scrunches up his nose in agreement, still smiling and shuts his eyes.

“’S’a good look on you, you know.”

“Hmm?”

Stiles pulls back a bit, and Derek feels him brush a thumb over his cheekbone, “When you’re smiling.”

“’S’cos it’s early,” Derek says with his eyes still closed, yawns and leans into Stiles’ touch. “This is the real me, when I get out of bed, though,” he shakes his head, “Then it’s stoic until midnight.”

Stiles laughs, shuffles closer, and when Derek opens his eyes there’s only a breath of space between them.

“I like both,” Stiles says quietly, running his finger down the side of Derek’s face. “Bed Derek and out of bed Derek.”

Derek lifts an eyebrow, “Bed Derek?”

“Mhm, you’re totally in my bed, right now,” Stiles’ grin turns wicked and he widens his eyes at Derek. “Whatever will they say when they discover you’ve been breaking the rules again.”

“Probably make me stay here.”

Stiles smirks, “Real tragic, that.”

“We might get bored,” Derek murmurs, bravely pressing his hand to Stiles’ hip and clutching it tightly. “We might—”

“Derek,” Stiles interrupts, “I swear to god, if you don’t kiss me in the next five seconds—”

Derek laughs, “I haven’t brushed my teeth.”

Stiles nudges closer, fingers gripping Derek’s shirt, “I don’t care.”

“You will,” Derek insists, “I should—”

Stiles rolls his eyes and makes a frustrated noise before closing the distance between them and pressing his lips to Derek’s. Derek stills against him, heart in his mouth. Stiles slides one of his hands up Derek’s neck, cups his jaw gently and Derek surges into him, pressing him back against the couch. He can feel Stiles smiling against his lips, and he pulls back to kiss the corner of his mouth, to catch the way it feels and keep it saved in his memory forever. They’re both quiet as they look at one another, breath coming fast and ragged, and Stiles rubs his thumb under Derek’s chin in soothing circles.

Derek leans forward and kisses him again, eyes wide to take in the exact way Stiles looks right before their lips meet. Stiles inhales sharply as his eyes flutter shut and he surges across the couch to meet Derek. He tugs until Derek’s half on top of him, hands lacing together around his neck and holding him tightly.

It’s wonderful, like something’s cracked open in him and he doesn’t want to fight it, wants to keep kissing him forever.

He feels warm and tingly all over.

“Stilinski!” Finstock bursts through the door, and groans, “No! Christ, you’re going to get me sued, Hale. Up, up!”

Derek rolls off the couch, eyes fixed on the floor as his face burns. Stiles scrambles to stand behind him, hand trailing down his back and stopping to rest against the bottom of his spine. Derek finds himself relaxing into it.

“Coach.”

“Breaking and entering, out of bed after hours, cavorting around with another camper when he’s supposed to be considering his actions and learning from them!” He turns to point at Stiles, “How are you supposed to learn that violence is never the answer, if your punishment is that you get to canoodle in here with Hale all night?!”

“Oh, I’ve learnt my lesson,” Stiles says gravely, but Derek can hear him smirking.

Finstock makes a noise similar to that of an angry bear— like he knows what Stiles means, too—and then takes his hat off, running a hand through his hair. “You, I can expect this sort of mischief from,” he tells Derek, “But you,” he waves his hat at Stiles, “Is he threatening you?”

“What?!” Stiles steps in front of Derek incredulously, “No, not at all, Coach—”

“I would never hurt Stiles,” Derek insists, his good mood evaporating as quickly as it arrived. He never gets to keep nice things; he should be used to it by now. He’s never even wanted them before, and this is why. They’re temporary, they dissolve before his eyes.

Finstock eyes them both, fingers twitching manically, “I don’t like this.”

“We’re all very uncomfortable right now,” Derek mutters. “No one likes this.”

“That’s enough lip, Derek,” Finstock looks at him sternly, and Derek isn’t afraid of people normally, but Finstock has a surprisingly terrifying stern expression in his ammunition because Derek is suddenly afraid. He doesn’t want to be sent home, or banned from camp, he wants to stay here, he wants to keep seeing Stiles.

“It won’t happen again,” he blurts out. “I’ll—I won’t put a foot out of line for the rest of camp.”

Finstock snorts at the same time Stiles does, and Derek nudges the back of Stiles’ knee with his own.

“Oh, uh, me too,” Stiles says quickly. “I promise not to punch Jackson again.”

“Christ,” Finstock pinches the bridge of his nose, “You’re staying here,” he tells Derek, “And you, young man,” he points at Stiles, “You’re coming with me.”

“But—”

“You’re both still in trouble! But, obviously keeping the two of you together isn’t going to be punishment at all,” he clenches his jaw, “I should have known better when Lahey said Derek was still sleeping this morning, dammit. You lot pulling the wool over my eyes after all this time; I’m too old for this!”

He storms out of the cabin, and Stiles twists to look at Derek beseechingly, “What do we do? Where d’you think I’m going?”

“Don’t worry,” Derek promises, “If something happens, if they try—” he grabs Stiles’ hand, squeezes it tightly, “I won’t let them keep us apart.”

Stiles laughs suddenly, shakes his head, “Oh my god, that was so forbidden romance cliché, jeez, Scott would be dying of envy.”

Derek scowls, and Stiles pulls their hands up to his mouth, kisses Derek’s knuckles, “I’m glad you came to see me,” he says softly. “See you later, I hope?”

“Yeah,” Derek manages, “Yeah, see you.”

“Stilinski!”

Stiles gives him the quirk of a smile, and then darts out of the cabin, glancing over his shoulder at Derek through the door before Finstock slams it shut.

Derek looks around, the room so familiar from last year, but suddenly the silence—the space he so craved away from his fellow campers in years gone by—is no longer welcome.

*

Having taken the VHS tape apart out of curiosity, and the video player itself, Derek has begun to make cranes out of pages of the Girl Scout magazines. He’s just folding a wing into place on his fourteenth bird, when the door rattles and he sees Isaac and Boyd peeking inside.

“Dude!” Isaac whispers, and Derek rolls his eyes.

“No one can hear you, moron.”

“There might be spies!”

“You’re worse than Stiles.”

“Five seconds,” Boyd taps his watch, “New record.”

“Shut up,” Derek unfolds himself from the couch, comes over to the door, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m sorry, should I answer? You just said to—” Derek makes a face through the glass and Boyd rolls his eyes, “We came to see you, dumbass.”

“And where is Stiles?”

“He’s been allowed to join back in with activities—he and Scott went water rafting.”

“He looked miserable,” Isaac informs him, “But, Jackson—”

Boyd begins to laugh, and Derek blinks at him in shock; he’s not seen so many of his teeth before.

“I know,” Boyd keeps grinning, “But, if you’d heard him this morning, oh man. You’d be laughing, too. Even you wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face.”

“It was glorious,” Isaac says dreamily, “He was practically writhing around on the floor, surrounded by flies.”

“Scott filmed it on that phone Allison gave him, so you can see it all when you get out.”

“Which will be never,” Derek says flatly, “Finstock caught me up here.”

Boyd clucks his tongue, “The things you do for love, right?”

“It’s not—”

“Man, don’t even front, you can’t tell me you’d willingly be sticking around if you weren’t into him, big time.”

Derek glances at the ceiling of the cabin, “I’d rather not discuss this.”

“Fine,” Isaac interrupts before Boyd can argue—even as he rolls his eyes at Derek, “We just thought we’d come up and say hi, and to tell you Finstock has no idea anyone put anything in Jackson’s cologne. Jackson’s declaring it a knock off; says he’s going to sue the company that made it.”

Derek almost smiles, “And Scott?”

“He’s fine, said when he phones home today he’s gonna tell your dad you got in trouble for romantic reasons, and your dad’ll be over the moon.”

Derek sighs, “Yeah, he probably will. He wants me to be normal.”

“You’re alright,” Isaac smirks, “For someone who likes talking about homicide, shows his intentions for courtship by creeping into cabins at the dead of night and uses horse piss to exact revenge.”

“Strong words indeed,” Derek says flatly.

Isaac opens his mouth on a huff, and then there’s a shout from behind them.

“Boys!” Finstock appears looking exhausted, hair sticking up in different directions, “God, I don’t know why I try.” He continues to grumble as he gets closer, and Derek folds his arms, glaring at him through the glass as Boyd and Isaac fidget, shoving at one another. “For someone who doesn’t seem to like people,” Finstock glances between the boys and Derek, “You do sure seem to have made a lot of friends.”

“They’re not my friends,” Derek insists, “They’re just making sure I don’t escape.”

“We weren’t,” Isaac says loyally, “We came to see him, because it’s not fair he has to stay up here when he should be joining in with everyone else. You’re the one who’s all about camp unity!”

Finstock scowls, eyes Derek, “You got some sort of cult going I don’t know about?”

“You’d be the first to know,” Derek says drily, “Right before I roast you on a spit,” he adds to himself.

Boyd chokes into his hand, and then wheezes loudly, clutching his throat when Finstock looks at him sharply, “Allergies.”

“Oh, whatever,” Finstock snaps, marching forward and unlocking the door, “Go, be in the sunshine!”

Derek flinches, waits for another reprimand, and then blinks in surprise when one doesn’t come.

“Really?”

“I give up,” he snarls, “First you don’t wanna be here, now everyone and their mother’s missing you—go,” he waves a hand, “Before I change my mind.”

Derek gives him an inch of a smile, “Thank you.”

“Oh, don’t thank me yet! You’ve got to prove I’m not making a mistake here, Hale, you can lead us this afternoon in our trust exercises!”

The smile vanishes.

“Trust exercises—”

“Yes, and you can be paired with Jackson.” Finstock begins stomping down the hill again, “Nobody else’ll go near him because he smells so damn bad.”

Isaac lets out a strangled laugh and Finstock spins on his heel, narrows his eyes, “If I find out you had anything to do with that—”

“Coach, I actually saw Jackson trying to sneak out before lights out last night,” Boyd jumps in, “I reckon he tripped in something bad, didn’t wanna tell anyone.”

Finstock hums suspiciously, and then harrumphs, waves a hand at them, “I don’t even care, thank god this damn summer’s nearly over!”

As soon as he’s disappeared, Isaac and Boyd both turn to grin at Derek. Derek tries not to smile back, and then rolls his eyes as he cracks, and both of them half tackle him to the floor.

*

“If you so much as look at me wrong, I’ll sue you,” Jackson tells Derek later in the afternoon.

Derek gives him a twisted smirk, and arches an eyebrow, “How will you know which way is wrong, Jackson?”

Jackson scowls, “I’m onto you, Hale.”

Derek pretends to shudder, “I’m terrified.”

“Pay attention!” Finstock shouts from the front, manoeuvring Danny around, “Now, when I count to three, Mahealani here is going to fall into my arms.”

“Coach—”

“And, he’s going to do so without complaint, correct?” Finstock eyeballs Danny, and Danny sighs resignedly.

“Sure, Coach.”

“Great! One, two, thr—”

“Coach Finstock, may I have a word?” Ms Morrell is standing to the side, and Coach spins around just as Danny falls backwards.

“Ow!”

“Danny!” Coach drops beside him, “Mahealani, how many fingers am I holding up?”

Danny grunts, and everyone collectively holds their breath as he squints up at their Coach, “Four?”

“Close enough,” Finstock helps him to his feet, gestures for someone to help him to the nearest bench, “Be good for five minutes,” he yells at everyone else. Ms Morrell smirks as if she doesn’t believe for a moment they’re going to be behaving once their backs are turned. Indeed, the second Finstock’s out of earshot, Scott and Stiles are pushing through the group to get to Derek.

“Derek!” Scott ploughs into his side, throwing his arms around him. Derek tries to brace himself, but slips, and they crash to the floor together.

He blinks up at Stiles a little dazedly, feels suddenly shy when he remembers their last meeting, the kiss.

“Hi.”

“Hi yourself,” Stiles says brightly, even as his cheeks are flushing with color, and he’s shoving his hands in his pockets looking nervous.

“You should have told me you were gonna sneak out,” Scott sits up to thump Derek’s shoulder, “I would have come with.”

“I didn’t—” Derek feels his own face go hot, “I just wanted to—”

“He was going for a Romeo and Juliet thing,” Boyd cuts in, and Derek scowls at him as Stiles smothers an awkward laugh into his hand.

“It was nothing like that,” Derek huffs finally, getting to a stand and helping Scott up, “But, it doesn’t matter now, are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Scott drops his voice, “Jackson doesn’t know it was us. Plus, Allison thought what we did was really brave and smart.”

“Double win,” Stiles says lightly, wiggling his eyebrows at Derek over Scott’s head.

“Campers,” Finstock addresses them from the front, and they all swivel to look at him. “Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Ms Morrell needs to step away from the girl’s camp tomorrow, and so they’re going to be joining us!”

There’s a loud cheer, and Derek winces as Scott is one of the loudest shouters from next to him.

“This is awesome!”

“Is it,” he deadpans, “Is it really.”

“You can meet Allison,” Scott elbows him enthusiastically, “Properly this time.”

“We met properly last time.”

“Actually,” Stiles interrupts, “If I recall correctly, you shook her hand and gave her a suspicious once over, and then walked away.”

“Sometimes, I find myself overwhelmed—”

“Don’t even,” Stiles teases, “You just didn’t like her because she smiled too much.”

Scott looks between them, his expression suspicious as Derek doesn’t immediately bite Stiles’ head off, or say something mean. Before Derek can say anything to rectify his mistake, however, Scott points at them both

“You guys hooked up!”

“What?!” Stiles splutters, face going even redder and his smile widening because he sucks at lying.

“You did,” Scott states assuredly, “He doesn’t look like he’s even thinking about saying something mean, he just looks—” Scott jabs at Derek’s cheek, “Soft. He looks all soft and—you broke my brother!”

“Get off me,” Derek huffs, batting Scott’s finger away, “I’m not broken.”

“I was gonna tell you—” Stiles begins, and Derek clears his throat, “Well, I mean, I wasn’t gonna tell you details, but at some point,” he glances at Derek guiltily, “It’s the best friend code!” He starts to wring his hands together, “I mean, I know you’re like the most private person ever, but—”

“I can’t believe this,” Scott breathes out.

“Don’t be mad! And, Derek, don’t be mad—oh my god, I don’t know how to win this one.”

“Pray,” Boyd suggests, and Stiles flips him off, glancing nervously between Scott and Derek.

“Look, I didn’t wanna kiss and tell, but—”

Derek squints at the sky, tries to ignore Isaac and Boyd silently sniggering into their hands.

“I’m not mad,” Scott’s saying, grabbing his best friend’s shoulder, “This is awesome!”

“It is?”

“You’ve had a crush on him for years, dude, finally!”

“Wow,” Stiles blushes harder, “Thanks for that, Scotty.”

“It’s okay, he had one on you, too.”

“Scott!” Derek half shouts at him—tries to yank him away from Stiles—but, they both ignore him.

“I mean, your first kiss,” Scott finishes with, and Stiles makes a noise like a dying whale and covers his face with his hands. “Oh,” Scott pulls a sheepish face, “Sorry.”

“We’re gonna—” Boyd tugs on Isaac’s arm, “Go.”

“What? No! It was just getting fun,” Isaac protests. Derek bares his teeth at him, and Isaac huffs, “Fine.”

Scott’s hopping up and down looking nervously apologetic, and Derek juts his chin at him, “Go away.”

“But—”

“Scott.”

“Ugh, Stiles, I’m—”

“It’s okay,” Stiles says in a muted voice, waving a hand at Scott without opening his eyes, “You can go, I’ll just die here.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“Nothing to forgive, Scott, honestly, bye!”

Scott turns to Derek, still looking agitated, and Derek rolls his eyes, mouths that everything will be fine. Scott wanders off dubiously, hovering by a nearby tree. Derek snorts, his brother is nothing if not the least subtle person on the planet.

“Stiles.”

“I’m not here,” Stiles mutters.

“Stiles, it’s not a big deal,” Derek tries to pull at the hand still covering Stiles’ face, and Stiles tightens his grip on his face. “Stiles, you’re going to hurt yourself—Stiles—dammit—it was mine, too,” Derek blurts out.

Stiles freezes in place, and Derek wishes the earth would swallow him up.

Slowly, Stiles takes his hand away from his face, squints at Derek with one eye, “Really?”

Derek huffs, hunches up his shoulders, “It’s not like I’ve got people lined up around the block to be… Kissing.”

Stiles scoffs, “Have you even ever… looked in a mirror?”

“Have you?”

“It’s different! You’re all—and I’m—you know—”

“No, I don’t,” Derek steps into his space, ducks his head until Stiles has to meet his gaze, blinks at Derek with his beautiful, big eyes. “Drawing a blank,” Derek says faintly.

“I just,” Stiles wets his lips, “Wanted it to be with someone special. So, I waited until… I know that’s stupid, but—”

Derek feels his own eyes go wide, and he swallows hard, “I’m… you think I’m—me?” He waves a hand at himself, “I don’t like ninety per cent of all things, and everyone I know at school thinks I’m weird. I prefer to be alone, I like plants that bite, I—I’m not special.”

“Yes, you are, you total moron,” Stiles says firmly.

You are,” Derek shuts his eyes, tries to pretend they aren’t at camp, but somewhere quiet and secluded, and not being observed by his damn brother and his… friends. “You are very—you—”

“I get it,” Stiles interrupts, and when Derek opens his eyes he’s smiling widely at Derek. “It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything else.”

“I want to,” Derek snaps, frustrated at himself, “I just don’t know—how.”

“’S’cool,” Stiles grabs his hand, laces their fingers together, “We’ll get there.”

Derek thinks of his parents, and how ardent they are with one another. He thinks of the way Scott talks about Allison, and how easily Isaac had slid across the dance floor to talk to Lydia. He remembers all the couples he saw at school doing things as casual as holding hands and kissing before parting ways for class. He’s never done any of that, never wanted to, never had anyone he even thought of like that before Stiles. He thinks he’d like to try, with Stiles, to articulate the way he feels, to—he pulls on Stiles’ hand until Stiles is right in his space, and kisses him. It’s just brief, simple, but sweet and it feels good.

Stiles hums, tugs on Derek’s shirt collar and deepens the kiss. Derek melts into it, catching hold of Stiles’ hips and slipping his fingers just beneath the hem of his t-shirt to brush against skin. It makes Stiles shiver and when he steps in closer, his feet trip into Derek’s, crushing his toes, but he doesn’t care, can’t feel it anyway. Stiles bites gently at Derek’s bottom lip, and it catches him off guard, punches a startled noise out of him. He drags his fingers up Stiles’ side, scrapes his nails against soft skin, and Stiles grins. Derek licks at his teeth, chases his smile, wants all of it.

“God, get a room!” Scott yells from across the way, and Stiles laughs against Derek’s mouth, pulls back smiling shyly at Derek.

“That was—”

“Yeah,” Derek’s gaze is fixed on Stiles’ mouth, on how red and lush his lips are, feels a little awed that he was just touching those.

Scott ambles back over looking torn between grossed out and happy for them.

Derek figures they should cut him some slack, and steps away from Stiles, trying not to smile at nothing.

He can’t let people assume he’s going to be happy all the time now.

Stiles lets out a laugh, scratches the back of his neck and then shoves at his shoulder, “I can’t even think straight.”

“’S’probably a good thing considering,” Scott muses.

Stiles laughs until he gets the hiccoughs, and Isaac chases him around a tree claiming it’ll help cure him.

*

The girls arrive the following day, all wearing their camp t-shirts, and looking far more poised and put together than the straggle of boys gawping at them.

Allison gives Scott a cheerful wave, and Scott trips over Derek’s feet in his haste to wave back.

Derek takes advantage of Finstock struggling to keep everyone in order, and sneaks away towards the lake shore, anxious for a few minutes peace. Isaac talked about the girls coming across for an hour after lights out the night before. Derek can still hear the ghost of his voice; it’s awful. He picks up a stone and tosses it hard across the water.

“Nice,” someone says behind him, “Nothing says emo cliché like skipping stones across a bleak looking lake.”

Derek spins, ready for a fight, and then sees it’s Erica, and relaxes his stance.

She tilts her head to one side, “You remember me.”

“Yes,” Derek nods awkwardly, “Hello again.”

“You look more tanned than last year,” she bounces towards him smirking, “Found a reason to come out of the shadows at last.”

Derek feels his lips curl without permission, scowls quickly, “None of your business.”

Erica rolls her very heavily lined eyes; she reminds him of Laura intensely.

“Are you kidding? The whole camp’s talking about you, you know.”

“They always do,” Derek huffs, glancing around furtively for an exit strategy. Both Scott and Stiles are talking animatedly to Allison up on the field, and Boyd’s nowhere to be seen. Derek had been sure Boyd liked her; why isn’t he down here distracting her?

“So,” Erica saunters over to a rock, sits on it and glances at her nails, “How’s your year been, Derek Hale?”

Derek eyes her suspiciously, small talk? Really?

“Fine,” he says after a moment of her looking at him expectantly, “No better or worse than last year.”

“You’re a regular chatty Cathy,” she teases, leaning back on her hands. “I’m only down here because Finstock’s going to try and get us all to play volleyball, and I don’t feel like letting forty boys stare at my chest for an hour.”

“Understandable,” Derek nods, sits down cautiously beside her.

“You play?”

“No, I have no interest in… sports.”

“Huh, I always figured you for a baseball fan.” Derek arches an eyebrow in question, and Erica shrugs, “There’s a beautiful science to it.”

“Ah,” he feels his lips twitch, “You think I’m a nerd?”

“No,” she laughs, “Far too disinterested in labels like that. Though,” she looks him up and down, “You’re definitely a hottie.”

Derek swallows, “Uh.”

“I’m not hitting on you, moron,” Erica rolls her eyes; “You’re not my type. Besides,” she smirks, “I have a feeling Stilinski would claw my eyes out if I even tried.”

Derek rolls the idea around in his head, tries not to feel too smug about the idea anyone thinks Stiles might be jealous over him.

This whole camp experience has been very odd in terms of discovering things about himself; odd, but not totally unwelcome. He wonders if it’s something about growing up, or falling in love, or—his brain short circuits.

Erica tilts her head, lifts her own eyebrows, “You okay?”

“I—” Derek looks at his hands, clears his throat, “I’ve never been in love before.”

Erica blinks at him in surprise, and Derek empathizes; he has no idea where that came from, or why he said it out loud.

“I’ve heard it’s nice,” Erica says into the silence.

“It’s unsettling,” he shakes his head, “Discomfiting.”

The word makes him think of Stiles smiling at him on that first day back at camp, and he grins at his hands, the feeling in his chest uncomfortable perhaps, but not unwanted. He’s leaning into it, not rallying against it. He wants this, he wants Stiles, wants to keep the feeling he gets when he thinks about Stiles and when he’s with him.

“Figures,” Erica sighs, blows her hair out of her face, “The first summer I’m hot, and you’re the one getting the action.”

“Thanks,” Derek huffs.

“Please, I remember you from our first year here; you looked like you wanted to murder everyone. I’m amazed you’re not in prison.”

“Again, thanks.”

Erica grins, reaches over and ruffles his hair, Derek stares at her stonily and she pulls her hand away grinning.

“You should definitely tell him, and get some before summer’s up.” She glances to where the game’s begun, and Boyd’s smashing a ball over the net. “I intend to.”

“Overshare,” Derek says drily.

“Coming from the person that just confessed they’re having a summer of lurve,” Erica smirks, “You can’t talk.” She stands, brushes off the back of her legs, and nods at Derek, “You wanna go heckle from the sidelines?”

Derek shrugs, “You heckle, I’ll stand and look like I want to… murder everyone? Is that how I look?”

“Not anymore,” she pats his cheek, “Now, you look all happy and cheery.” Derek glares at her and she laughs, “Well, as close as you’ll ever get.”

As they make their way across the field, Derek can see Stiles eyeing them nervously, and Erica snickers into her hand.

“God, he’s not subtle.”

“Shut up,” Derek huffs.

“Was fun chatting to you, Derek,” she saunters off as Stiles jogs over, head jerking and hands brushing his sides in agitation.

“Hey, where’ve you been?”

“I went for some quiet time,” Derek pulls a face, “And Erica interrupted.”

“Oh,” Stiles nods, “Cool, okay, cool.”

“Stiles, you don’t need to be worried.”

Stiles scrunches his eyes shut, rubs the back of his neck, “I know, I know, I’m not being cool, right?”

Derek feels a smile bloom across his face without permission, and he jabs Stiles in the ribs making him squawk in surprise. “You never were cool to begin with, so I’m not surprised you can’t manage it now,” he says when Stiles looks at him again, indignation written across his face.

Stiles’ mouth drops open, and then he grins, punches Derek on the arm, “Asshole.”

“Yeah,” Derek shrugs, “So?”

“So, nothing, I hate you, shut your face with your smiling and everything,” Stiles prods at said smile. “It’s not pretty at all.”

“You callin’ me pretty?”

“Yep,” Stiles backs towards the game, wiggles his eyebrows at him, “Nothin’ you can do about it unless you I dunno, gosh, join in.”

Derek hesitates, aware he’s being totally played, and then shrugs, strips off his hoodie. “I’ll play.”

“Alright,” Boyd crows as Derek comes towards them, “Who’s having Hale because dibs not us, his hand-eye coordination is shit.”

Derek flips him off, folds his arms uncomfortably as Finstock mimes having a heart attack in the background.

“You can all go to hell,” he says flatly.

“We’ll have him on our team,” Scott calls brightly, throwing an arm around Derek’s shoulders, “We can be Team Family!”

“Joyous,” Derek intones.

Scott snorts, and shoves him towards the net, “Just don’t fall over your own feet too much.”

Derek turns to retort something angrily, and a ball hits him in the face.

*

When Derek comes to, Allison Argent is hovering over him nervously, biting her lip.

“Derek?”

“You,” Derek glowers up at her, “You hit me.”

“Yeah, Derek, I’m so sorry!”

Derek tries to sit up, and a hand to his chest stops him, “Derek,” Stiles comes into view, face flooding with relief, “Dude! Don’t do that to me!”

“He was still breathing, Stilinski,” Jackson huffs from somewhere, “He wasn’t dead.”

“Shut up, Jackson,” Isaac snaps.

Someone presses an icepack to the side of Derek’s face, and slowly—with Stiles’ hand clutching his arm in support—Derek sits up.

“How long was I out?”

“Like less than two minutes,” Allison wrings her hands together, “I’m so sorry; this wasn’t how I wanted us to be reacquainted.”

“It’s exactly how I imagined it,” Derek says in a dark voice, “You trying to kill me.”

Allison seems to forget her apologies, and rolls her eyes in a manner so similar to that of Derek’s closest family members that he immediately likes her more.

“Don’t be so dramatic, I thought you were paying attention.”

“Whose fault is that?” Derek turns to glare at Scott, and then winces when his whole head begins to swim. “Can I go somewhere where everyone isn’t staring at me?”

“You can go back to your cabin,” Finstock shakes his head as he helps Derek stand, “If I’d known this is what would happen the first time you got involved, I would never have encouraged it so much.”

Derek gives him what he hopes is his best I told you so glare, and Finstock snorts and walks off.

“Shit, you are gonna have one handsome shiner in the morning,” Stiles informs him, fingers dancing round Derek’s face as they walk.

“I wish someone had filmed it,” Isaac sighs dreamily, “I’ve genuinely never seen anyone get hit in the face and go down like that before.”

Derek narrows his eyes at him, flexes his fingers, “Wanna experience it first hand?”

Isaac snickers, hip checks the cabin door open, “You should be nicer to the person going to get you pain meds, Derek.”

“Bite me.”

“There’s not going to be any biting,” Stiles interrupts, maneuvering Derek over to his bed and pushing him down on it. Derek blinks up at him dazedly, and Stiles stops moving, stares back at him. “Well,” he flushes, “Uh—”

“I’m gonna go get the pain meds,” Isaac announces and smirks when they both jump. “Before you kill yourself trying to get out of that one smoothly.”

“I don’t care about the pain,” Derek huffs, “It doesn’t even hurt that much.”

“Whatever,” Isaac disappears back out of the door, “Use protection.”

Stiles harrumphs after him, though his face is red when he sits down next to Derek. “You really ought to be more aware of your surroundings,” he chides after a moment, reaching up to stroke Derek’s face again.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Derek insists, leaning into the touch. His cheek is throbbing, but he’s had a lot worse. Laura once nearly cut his arm off when they were play fighting on the stairs with fencing swords of their parents.

He tells Stiles as much, and Stiles laughs before he goes suddenly pale, “Oh my god, I’m going to meet your sister.”

Derek shrugs, “So? She’s not that scary.”

“But,” Stiles makes a noise of panic, “She wasn’t—before.”

“Before?” Derek feels bewildered, and Stiles gestures between them, “Oh. So?”

“So, what if she hates me?! What if I’m banned from never seeing you or Scott again!? What if she boils my head in a pot, Derek? Scott’s told me she’s a witch,” Stiles leaps to his feet, “She might feed me to her pet toad, or take me out to sea on her broomstick, or—”

“Stiles,” Derek almost laughs.

“Don’t!” Stiles glowers at him, “Don’t mock me, dude.”

“I’m not, I’m not,” Derek waves a listless hand at him, “Come back, please, I can’t get up.”

Stiles hesitates and Derek fixes him with a look. He huffs and stalks back to the bed, sitting beside Derek and crossing his arms.

Derek grabs his hand, squints at him, still smiling a little foolishly, “She won’t hate you. She’s been your Champion for years because you were nice to Scott when I wasn’t. And, I don’t know what you think you know about witches, but Laura doesn’t have a pointy hat and a pet toad.”

“Oh,” Stiles licks his lips nervously, “So, she won’t cook me?”

“No,” Derek feels his lips twitch, “Although, she does have a broomstick.”

“Derek!”

“I promise not to let her try to take you flying on it; I know how you feel about heights.”

“That was one time! And Finstock was trying to get us to climb a sheet rock, dude.”

“You did look a little nauseous.”

“Yeah, and you claimed we couldn’t do it because you believed Jackson had messed with your equipment.”

“It got us both out of it, didn’t it?”

“You—” Stiles’ confused expression clears, and he smiles suddenly at Derek, “Oh my god, you genius! You should tell me these things! All this time I’ve been under the illusion you literally hated everything, and—”

“I never hated you,” Derek cuts in quietly.

Stiles goes very still before squeezing Derek’s hand, “I know.”

Isaac bursts back into the room yelling ah ha! And then deflates when he sees them still sitting innocently on the bed.

Derek scrunches up his nose at him in distaste, “You wanted to catch us in flagrante?”

“No, shut up,” he tosses painkillers at Derek and he catches them easily, “Do whatever you want.”

“I do tend to,” Derek says loftily, snapping the lid off and taking a handful.

“Dude, those are pretty strong—”

“I’m generally impervious to most over the counter medicine,” Derek shrugs, “I’ll be fine.”

Stiles eyes him with amusement, pats his arm, “This is gonna be a fun evening,” he tells Isaac.

Derek smiles widely at him, and then realizes his error and tries to scowl.

“It so is,” Isaac breathes.

*

“Fire is pretty,” Derek announces to everyone sitting with him around the bonfire.

Erica snickers into her drink as Boyd shakes his head, burying his face in her shoulder for a second. Scott pats Derek’s hand and murmurs his agreement without interrupting the flow of his discussion about corporal punishment with Allison. And Stiles—Derek looks around in confusion—

“Where’s Stiles?”

Isaac shrugs, “Stealing you leprechaun’s gold, or finding you a centaur to impress you with?”

Derek smiles dopily, “He doesn’t need to impress me.”

“You’re gross,” Isaac snaps a twig in half, disintegrates both pieces with his fingers, “You have a horrible look on your face.”

“You have a horrible face,” Derek snaps back, catching a piece of driftwood on fire and waving it at Isaac’s feet.

Isaac scowls and kicks sand over it. “You’re being irresponsible!”

Derek mimics his cross face, and that’s when Stiles reappears. Derek tries to school his expression into something less childish, but suspects all he’s doing is making it worse. He sighs, flops back over the log so he doesn’t have to look at anyone. The sky is nice to look at. Stars are very beautiful and far away, and they never get bothered by anyone.

“I’d like to be a star,” he muses.

Stiles hums from somewhere by his knees, messes with Derek’s sneaker lace, “You’d scare the paparazzi.”

“Nooo,” he points at the sky. “A star.”

“Ah haaaa, I see. Well, you’d make a very dark, terrifying fireball that’s for sure.”

Stiles sits down beside him, tugs until Derek’s head is in his lap and cards his fingers through Derek’s hair. Derek breaks his rule about people ruffling his hair both because it’s Stiles, and he’s under the influence of drugs so it doesn’t even count! It doesn’t even feel that nice.

He’s a liar. He wants to keep Stiles’ hands forever.

“I’d like to be that kind of star best,” he insists after a long moment where his eyes droop shut without his permission.

“I’d make wishes on you,” Stiles says lightly, scratching his fingers against Derek’s scalp gently and making him shudder. It should feel terrible, someone so intimately invading his space—and with such ease—but, it feels good. It’s like he’s being cared for, like Stiles is touching him just because he wants to.

In the background, Finstock strums a chord on his guitar, and Derek groans. He twists to bury his face in Stiles’ stomach.

“Make him stop.”

“He hasn’t even started,” Stiles says laughingly.

“I’m so sad that you being high doesn’t immediately fill you with joy, and give you the urge to sing,” Isaac complains from his seat on the log.

Derek huffs into Stiles’ t-shirt, and feels Stiles’ muscles jump when he laughs. It’s a nice sensation, and Stiles smells really good. He sniffs approvingly.

“Are you—” Stiles ducks his head so that only Derek can hear him, “Are you sniffing me?”

“Mhm, smell good, like home.”

“Home?”

“Yeah, mom’s detergent, ‘s’nice.”

“It’s Scott’s shirt.”

Derek sits up so sharply he gets a head rush, and Stiles falls about laughing. Derek shoves at his shoulder, “Asshole.”

Stiles catches his hand still grinning, holds it in his lap as Finstock begins to sing in earnest.

“Yeouch,” Boyd groans, flopping down next to them and covering his face with his hands. “Can we do something?”

“It’s better than last year,” Erica says, patting his chest, “He did a whole medley of Bryan Adams songs.”

“Don’t remind me,” Allison shudders, pulling her knees up to her chest.

Scott stands up, seemingly suddenly determined, “Let’s get out of here.”

“And go where?”

“Anywhere,” he grins, twists to beam at Stiles, Derek and Boyd, “Anywhere’s better than lying on the ground listening to Coach murder Everything I Do again.”

“Hey,” Stiles points at him, “That was by far the best in his collection.”

Boyd cocks an eyebrow, “Bryan Adam’s or Coach’s?”

“Oh, Coach’s,” Stiles rubs his fingers nervously across the back of Derek’s hand, messes with the sleeve of his hoodie. “My mom loved Vanishing.”

Erica nods, “That one’s decent.”

Finstock begins caterwauling 18 ‘Till I Die, and they all wince.

“Let’s go,” Derek decides, tugging Stiles to a stand, and swaying into his space, “Sorry.”

Stiles smiles at him, grabs the front of his hoodie to steady him, steps in close, “’S’really not a problem.”

Derek finds himself smiling back, and Scott rolls his eyes in the background, “Move it, losers!”

Allison snickers and Derek narrows his eyes at her, “’S’your fault I’m like this.”

“Not all the time,” she retorts teasingly.

They amble back to Scott and Stiles’ cabin, cast about on the steps and pass around a bag of marshmallows Erica nabbed when no one was looking.

Derek forgets himself, forgets to be watchful, and falls asleep on Stiles’ shoulder. When he rouses, it’s just the two of them on the steps, Stiles playing with his hair again. He rubs his eyes looking around.

“Where is everyone?”

“I reckon Scott and Allison’s walk turned into making out,” Stiles wiggles his eyebrows at him, and Derek rolls his eyes. “And, Boyd and Erica went back to your cabin about half an hour ago.”

Derek groans, “Fantastic.”

“If you’re not tired, I think the singing’s stopped, we could go hang out by the bonfire again?” Stiles looks at him hopefully and Derek nods.

“Okay, yes, I’d like that. That would be—”

“Nice?”

“Acceptable,” Derek corrects just to be contrary, and Stiles laughs, shoves his hands in his pockets and follows Derek back to the fire.

Once they’re settled, Stiles twists to examine Derek’s face, “How you feelin’?”

“Bruised,” Derek shrugs, “Doesn’t hurt anymore, though.”

Stiles wiggles his fingers, “Magic touch.”

“Or, various drugs,” Derek argues.

“True,” Stiles bites his lip, “How blurry am I right now? You sober enough to remember this?”

Derek grins, leans forward to brush their noses together, “And this.”

Stiles hums, darts out his hands to hold Derek close, “That’s good.”

Derek nods wordlessly and then ducks until their mouths are almost touching, waiting for Stiles to give him some sort of signal of consent, of wanting this as badly as he does. Stiles sucks in a breath, closing the distance between them and then they’re kissing again. Derek winds his arms around Stiles’ back, pulls until Stiles is sitting in his lap and Derek is surrounded by him. He wonders if it will feel more intense every time they kiss, because so far each time feels bigger somehow.

Stiles grinds his hips down against Derek’s and Derek thrusts back blindly, seeking out the sweet kind of friction they have going. He slides one of his hands round to tentatively rest it on Stiles’ ass and Stiles makes an approving noise, rocking into Derek harder. Every time they pull apart for an instant, Derek wants to dive back in. Stiles is making these tiny, breathless noises that are making Derek nuts.

He’s a controlled person; he knows how to move with stealth, knows a hundred ways to wreak silent revenge on someone without them ever knowing it was him, he can balance a dagger on his finger and he spends a great deal of time around a variety of creatures that would eat him if they weren’t used to him, if they weren’t treated with care, caution. Yet, this, kissing Stiles, makes him feel like he’s going to lose all of his control, and he’s surprisingly okay with it. It’s terrifying, but when Stiles threads his fingers through Derek’s hair and tugs, Derek goes with it, leans back and lets Stiles kiss a trail up his neck.

He gives up the control.

It’s not so scary when it’s Stiles in his space, touching him, sucking what feels like the kind of gigantic hickey Derek’s only ever rolled his eyes at in movies before under his ear. He startles himself with the groan he lets out, and Stiles grins against his skin, kisses the mark he’s left.

He sits up, squirms around in Derek’s lap as he laces their hands together, squints at Derek, “Hi.” Derek smiles and Stiles pokes at the corner of it with their joined fingers, “That’s a nice thing to see. I’m gonna call that one mine. I put it there, ‘kay?”

Derek rolls his eyes, but keeps smiling nonetheless, “If you must.”

“I must,” Stiles sighs out dramatically.

Derek tips his head forward, leans into Stiles’ shoulder and wraps his arms round Stiles’ waist to hold him tight for a moment. The fire crackles behind them, Stiles hums to himself, messes with the hair at the nape of Derek’s neck.

“We’re gonna hang out after camp, right?”

“What?”

Stiles clears his throat, begins to shift about nervously and Derek clutches at his hips, stills him.

Stiles.”

“I mean, like, this is all nice, very nice, but, what happens next? It’s not like we live next door, and you’re apparently terrible at mail correspondence. I’m just—” Stiles glances at him from under his lashes, expression dubious, “I don’t want to wonder if it was just a… summer thing, I guess.”

“It’s not,” Derek says quietly, “I know I’m not very good at communicating—” he glares when Stiles starts to snicker, “—shut up. I’m trying.”

“I know,” Stiles grins, pets his fingers along Derek’s temples, “It’s wonderful, really, weird too, but wonderful.”

“You’re an asshole,” Derek huffs with no heat, trying to push Stiles off his lap.

“Hey—hey—we were just gettin’ started,” Stiles whines, clinging to Derek like an octopus. “You were gonna get your feelings on, then we could totally get it on.”

“Get it on,” Derek repeats flatly. “How amorous.”

“Don’t judge me; I have no moves, no lingo, no hip jive to win you over with.”

“You already did,” Derek scowls, “You’re perfect the way you are.”

Stiles’ mouth falls open, and then his face brightens with a huge smile, and Derek feels his heart turn over.

“Stiles, I—”

“Stilinski! Hale!” Finstock appears over the ridge from the cabins, points at them both, “Bed time.” They begin to move and Finstock grits his teeth, pinches the bridge of his nose, “Not together.”

Stiles stills from halfway off Derek, “So, you want me to move, or—”

“Dammit, Stilinski, you go first! Hale, you sit on your hands until I give you permission to move.”

Derek glowers at him, but does as he’s told. Stiles makes a whipping noise, and Derek feels his eye twitch.

“’Night,” Stiles says teasingly, smacking a loud kiss to the top of Derek’s head as he goes by.

Finstock stomps over to where Derek’s sitting, and considers him silently for a moment.

“Coach?”

“Don’t mess up a good thing, Hale, or your parents’ll have me hung, and I want to keep breathing. Now, look, I want to talk to you about being a camp leader next year—”

Derek baulks, and Finstock cracks up, throwing his head back so violently Derek wonders if his head’s flown off.

“Just kidding,” Finstock wipes his eyes, “Oh, mercy, we’d all die. Ahh,” he juts his chin at Derek’s cabin, “Get outta here, kid, and no tom foolery once the lights go out. You stay in your own bed, y’hear?”

Derek feels his expression twist into something mortified and horrified, and Finstock begins chuckling again, trampling over the now dead fire and disappearing to his own cabin.

Boyd stands next to him as they do their teeth, jabs his toothbrush into the hickey on Derek’s neck, “Subtle of him.”

Derek bares his teeth, spits crossly with his cheeks burning.

Isaac laughs into his pillow.

“You can both fuck off,” Derek grouches, clambering into bed.

“Damn, not even getting some makes you cheery.”

Derek pulls the blankets over his head.

*

Isaac peeks open one eye, glances at where Derek’s sitting bolt upright.

“Eyes shut,” Derek reminds him.

“This is so boring,” Isaac hisses back, “Can we skip out?”

Derek folds his hands in his lap as everyone around them exhales on Finstock’s orders. They’ve been doing yoga for half an hour. In front of Derek, Stiles is stretching up, his shirt riding high and revealing a slither of skin between his shorts and his shirt.

Derek has no intentions of going anywhere.

“No, concentrate.”

“Ugh,” Isaac sighs, yawns exaggeratedly.

Stiles flops backwards, grins up at Derek from the grass, “You having fun?”

“I’m having quiet time,” Derek retorts, closing his eyes to the view determinedly.

“Here,” Boyd drops a pile of daisy stalks in Derek’s lap, “I don’t need those.”

Derek scowls, brushes them away, “What am I supposed to do with them?”

“Make a much greener, less pretty daisy chain?” Boyd waves his own chain of daises at them, “Made this for Erica.”

“Oh, shit, I forgot there’s that dance tonight. Jeez, for a boy’s camp we sure do spend a lot of time with them,” Isaac muses lightly.

“I don’t see you complaining,” Derek murmurs with his eyes still closed.

“Sorry I didn’t meet the one my first week of camp a million years ago, and never needed to look elsewhere.”

Derek opens both eyes to glare at him, hoping Stiles is too busy trying not to fall over to be listening. “Shut up.”

“Both of you shut up,” Danny says from their left, “Some of us enjoy this?”

“You’re definitely lying,” Isaac tells him, “You’re just enjoying looking at my limber self.”

Danny chokes on a laugh, slaps Isaac’s leg and Isaac loses his balance, collapses on top of Scott and Scott shrieks.

“At the back,” Finstock says through gritted teeth, “Shut it. This is a quiet, calm activity.”

“Sorry Coach,” Scott calls cheerfully.

Derek watches as Finstock practically folds himself into a pretzel, and decides he can easily do that. He’s a calm, composed person; he can totally pull it off. He bends his arms and knees up, pushes on his hands until he’s in a bridge shape, and then realizes his mistake. He’s supposed to be resting on his shins like this?! He breathes through his nose, trying to remain outwardly calm.

“Dude—” Stiles sits up in awe, gazing at Derek. “How are you—”

“I’m flexible,” Derek tries to shrug, tries to be nonchalant as his shoulders feel like they’re coming out of place.

“I’ll say,” Stiles breathes out.

Isaac stands, slaps Derek hard on the stomach and makes him collapse inwards.

“Isaac!” Scott chides.

“What? Stilinski was gonna have a heart attack.”

Derek groans and pretends he isn’t relieved his limbs are all still working. He rolls over until his face is buried in the grass and he can’t see anyone.

“Wasn’t gonna,” Stiles insists from somewhere to his right. “Maybe you were.”

“He’s not my type,” Isaac sniffs. “I’m going to see if Lydia’s interested in getting bendy with me later, though.”

“She won’t be,” Scott cuts in, “Lydia came here to study the social habits of the North American camp experience. She’s not interested in boys.”

“She was interested last week, and at the bonfire and—”

“Cut it out,” Derek sighs. “It’s bad enough we have to socialize at all.”

“You’d rather we all sat in the dark and talked about Edgar Allan Poe?”

Derek stands, knees Isaac in the back as he passes, “I’d rather we didn’t talk at all.”

Stiles jogs after him, walks with him back to Derek’s cabin and shuffles nervously at the foot of the steps as Derek heads for the door.

Derek turns, looks at him expectantly, “You coming in?”

“Actually… Are you… Do you…” Stiles runs a hand through his hair, turns away, “Never mind.”

Stiles.”

“Sorry, it’s just—do you really wanna go to this thing tonight?” Derek arches an eyebrow, and Stiles laughs awkwardly, looks at his feet, “Right, yeah, my bad.”

“So—”

“D’you wanna skip it and we can go to that place you told me about?” Stiles says the words in a rush of breath, and his whole face goes red as soon as he’s spoken, but he meets Derek’s gaze stubbornly.

“Uh,” Derek takes a step down, hovering just above him, “Yeah, we could, if you want to? You don’t want—”

“You think I wanna watch Scott and Allison be all cozy and adorable together whilst a load of horny teenagers try to get their freak on in a super casual manner with Finstock overseeing everything?” Stiles snorts, “Nah, I think I’d rather go somewhere else.”

“Right,” Derek nods curtly, “Escape plan.”

“No, dumbass, I mean—” Stiles scuffs his foot on the step, “Somewhere with you, that’s not… with everyone else?”

“Oh,” Derek stills, feels suddenly bashful. “Yes, that would be…”

“Nice?”

“Shut up.”

Stiles grins, leans in and presses something into Derek’s hand, “Be available for flight at nineteen hundred hours.”

“Military time,” Derek clucks his tongue, “Wow, must be serious.”

“Shut up!” Stiles yells as he dashes away.

Derek looks down at his hand and sees Stiles has placed a daisy in it.

That’s just…. Nice, yeah, very nice.

*

Isaac redoes his tie in the mirror for the third time, muttering to himself as Derek and Boyd watch.

“Can either of you help? Or, have you both become paralyzed with awe at how handsome I look?”

Boyd snorts, rolls off his bed and yanks at Isaac’s tie to pull him in, “The trick is in the loop,” he tells him.

Isaac nods and slants a look at Derek, “You feel more at home now you’re in your fancy suit again?”

Derek tugs his suspenders over his shoulders, examines himself in the mirror, “I feel fine.”

“It’s weird,” Isaac meets his eye in the glass, “I got used to seeing you in t-shirts.”

“They were perhaps a little more comfortable considering our activities.”

“It’s ok to admit you enjoyed wearing casual clothes, man,” Isaac claps him on the shoulder; “Satan will still love you.”

Derek smirks at him, “I’m not a Satanist, moron.”

“Damn, I was hoping you’d have some sway with someone down there about how well I do, tonight.”

“Be kind, be polite, be respectful,” Boyd tells him, turning away to pick up his daisy crown. “That’s how you always should be, regardless of whether she’s into you or not.”

“Thank you, Yoda.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Derek feels a surge of fondness for them both, Isaac pulling a face at Boyd in the mirror, and Boyd pulling one back; both of them having rolled with his strange demeanor without question for weeks, and been nothing but welcoming.

“Oh my god,” Isaac swats Boyd’s chest, pointing at Derek, “He’s having feelings, look.”

Derek feels whatever happy expression he had on his face fall off, and he scowls at Isaac, “Fuck off.”

Isaac grins, “Much better.”

They shove at one another as they leave the cabin, and Derek feels a frisson of excitement. He’s going on a date; albeit, it will be a camp version of a date, but it’s still time with Stiles, officially alone.

Scott bounds towards them at the entrance of the main cabin, his hair slicked neatly to the side and an excited smile on his face.

“Hey!”

Derek nods at him, tries to tighten his tie a little, and Scott bats his hands away, “It’s fine, Stiles did it.”

“Don’t go messing with my handiwork,” Stiles warns as he comes out of the cabin, a plate of cake already in his grasp. “Oh,” he stops short, arches an eyebrow at Derek as he gives him a once over.

Derek stares up at Stiles at the same time, admiring the way his shirt fits neatly over broad shoulders, and tapers in to show his narrow waist. Derek knows Stiles is surprisingly fit underneath the camp shirts, and gigantic sweaters he insists on wearing, but it’s still making him a little breathless seeing it.

Stiles is smirking as he comes down the steps, “You clean up good.”

“I always look like this,” Derek points out, smoothing a hand down his shirt front, “This is what I was wearing when I arrived.”

“Shit,” Stiles widens his eyes, “Was it? I was just so distracted by the black cloud of despair hovering over your head.”

“Ha ha.”

Stiles leans in close, elbows him, “How’s your face?”

Derek makes a show of touching his cheeks, “Still there.”

“Oh, I see how it is,” Stiles shakes his head, “You take a ball to the face and you get funny? Remind me to throw some more your way.”

Scott groans from the steps and stalks inside before Derek can realize the innuendo. Clearly, by the way his cheeks flame up, Stiles hadn’t realized either.

“Fuck, I really didn’t plan that.”

“Perhaps you should take up volleyball,” Derek suggests lightly, “Maybe you’ll be struck with some wit.”

“Bite me,” Stiles tosses airily over his shoulder as he twists to go inside.

Derek smirks, catches up and sails past, mutters, “If you ask nicely,” as he does so.

Stiles trips over a table set up by the entrance.

Erica waves them over, proffers a hipflask at them, “’S’got the good stuff in.”

“No cherry cola?” Stiles asks innocently, shooting Derek a smug look.

“No,” Erica gives him a funny look, “Why would I—look, do you want some, or d’you want me to find some kiddie’s drinks for you?”

Stiles scrunches up his nose at her, “It was an in joke.”

“My loss, clearly,” she deadpans, sneaking the hipflask back in her purse after Derek declines a sip. He’s certain he already has the jitters; something nervous twisting in his stomach every time he looks in Stiles’ direction. Stiles catches him staring at one point, winks, and Derek feels his whole face heat up.

To rectify feeling so happy inside, he pours Jackson’s liquor filled drink down the back of the wall and refills it with salt water.

Scott sidles over, and nods at Jackson, “D’you think he’ll notice?”

“I didn’t know you had.”

“I see everything,” Scott beams at him, “You taught me to always be aware of everyone in the room, because you’re a paranoid person.”

“With good reason,” Derek sniffs.

“I’m the only person that’s ever caught you doing anything mischievous.” Scott narrows his eyes thoughtfully, “Apart from mom, maybe.”

“You’ll be my reluctant partner in crime forever,” Derek clutches his chest dramatically, and Scott knocks their shoulders together. He grins ruefully as he glances across the room at Stiles.

“I think someone else wants a turn at being your partner in crime, you know.”

Derek stills, shoves his hands in his pockets, “Yeah?”

Yep,” Scott juts his chin, “Go on, if Finstock asks I’ll tell him you felt sick from that head injury yesterday.”

“I’m sure he’ll be quick with some sort of comment about my having had head injuries from birth.”

“He loves you really.”

“Scott,” Derek clutches his brother’s shoulder briefly, “Not everyone likes me, and I encourage that.”

Scott rolls his eyes, shrugs him off, “People are allowed to like you, dumbass, and I’m allowed to want you to have friends and—” he looks over at Stiles again, lifts an eyebrow, “Boyfriends?”

“It would have been both,” Derek says distractedly as he looks Stiles’ way too, and sees him looking right back over the top of his cup. “But… I don’t know if he wants that. I’m not—I don’t know how to be a boyfriend.”

“There isn’t a manual,” Scott scoffs, “Besides, you like him; he likes you, half the battle.”

“Ever the optimist,” Derek says fondly, and then shakes himself, grabs Scott’s shoulder, “Don’t have sex with Allison ‘till you feel ready, be safe, don’t drink too much—”

“Derek,” Scott laughs, “I know your face is trying to say intimidating, but you just sound so mom like.”

Derek squeezes his shoulder harder, “I can do intimidating,”

“Alright, alright,” Scott huffs, waves him off, “Go, have fun, if you can bear it.”

He tries to pretend his hands aren’t sweating as he makes his way over to where Stiles is hovering. Stiles nods at the door, and Derek nods in return, and wordlessly they head for the exit.

Stiles exhales sharply as the doors swing shut behind them, glances nervously over his shoulder, “You think we’re good?”

“I think as long as we’re not setting fire to anything, Finstock won’t care tonight.”

“Where d’you wanna go?”

Derek shrugs, “Wherever you want.”

Stiles kicks at his foot, “Come on, you must have a million secret locations in this place you’ve never told anyone about. Take me to one of them?”

Derek shakes his head, sighs pointedly, “I would, but that’s where all the bodies are.”

Stiles laughs, grabs his hand and tugs, “One of them must be nicer than the rest.”

“Yeah,” Derek says faintly, still awed at the way it feels every time Stiles holds his hand. It’s stupid, but delicious. He wonders if this is perhaps the way his mom and dad feel, and then stops that train of thought because, gross. “I—you wanted to see that place we were gonna go before you punched Jackson, right?”

“Fucking Jackson,” Stiles huffs as they begin to walk towards the back of the cabins, “He gets in the way of everything.”

“I’m not sure,” Derek stops walking, draws Stiles in close, “Kind of ended up working in my favor.”

Stiles kinks an eyebrow at him, smile soft and flirtatious as he looks at Derek, “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Derek breathes out, eyes flicking all over Stiles’ face, drinking him in, feeling like he never get enough of him. “Come on,” he clears his throat, “It’s not far.”

“I still can’t believe Scott and I had to do all sorts of shit last year, and you just snuck off,” Stiles complains, and Derek wonders if he’s imagining the way his voice is a little higher than before.

He squeezes Stiles’ hand, “It was in everyone’s best interests.”

“Not mine,” Stiles huffs, “I burnt so bad that day we had to do macramé outside, Derek.”

“You always forget to put your sunscreen on,” Derek shakes his head over his shoulder at Stiles.

“I know,” Stiles sighs, scratches his nose, “I get so many damn freckles.”

“I like them,” Derek says casually, “They give your face character.”

“Pfft, they’re not anything special.”

Derek stops again, backs Stiles up against a tree nearby and Stiles’ breath hitches, but he goes without a word. Derek ghosts his breath over Stiles’ face, “I like them.” He kisses one of the moles on his cheek, “All of them,” he adds, peppering quick kisses across Stiles’ cheeks and the abundance of freckles covering them.

Stiles’ breathing is coming fast against Derek’s face, and his hand has Derek’s shirt bunched up tight between his fingers. He swallows hard, tips his head back against the tree as he pulls Derek closer, their noses brushing together.

“Derek,” Stiles wets his lips, and Derek’s gaze drops to them before he flicks it back up to Stiles’ eyes.

“Yeah,” he mutters, one hand sliding round Stiles’ waist and the other resting by his head against the tree. The bark is cool underneath his palm, and it gives him something to hang onto when his head is spinning.

Stiles pushes his nose against Derek’s cheek, darting in closer and closer to Derek’s mouth without touching. Derek lets out an unchecked noise of want, ducks to nip at Stiles’ lower lip and then Stiles is surging forward, kissing him hard. They fall against the tree together, Derek losing track of his hands as they slide up Stiles’ sides, tug at his shirt and thread through his hair. Stiles rucks Derek’s shirt up, splaying his hands across the skin of his lower back and Derek arches into him, spine tingling.

“So,” Stiles says into his mouth, and Derek chuffs out a laugh because he knows Stiles will always have to say something. Stiles will always need to process aloud, and he’ll apparently even do it right in the middle of kissing. Derek is more than okay with it.

He kisses the corner of his mouth, dips to kiss his neck out of curiosity, and Stiles moans breathlessly.

“So,” Derek reminds him.

“Yeah, can’t—really—”

“Focus,” Derek murmurs, pressing his teeth to Stiles’ skin and then biting down gently.

Stiles hisses, fingers digging into Derek’s back, “Fucker.”

Derek pauses in his attempt at making a large Derek mark on Stiles’ neck, and looks up, arches an eyebrow.

Stiles scrunches his eyes shut, “Didn’t even think about that.”

“’S’okay,” Derek grins, “I have.”

One of Stiles’ eyes cracks open, “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Derek shrugs awkwardly, “Maybe, sometimes.”

“Just to clarify, we are talking about sex here, right?” Stiles asks drily.

Despite their current position, Derek still feels his cheeks heat up, clears his throat and nods bashfully, “Yes.”

“Oh, good, I’ve thought about that, too.”

“You have, huh?”

“Mm,” Stiles smirks, pulls Derek flush against him and Derek can feel where Stiles is hard against his thigh. It makes him inhale sharply, rock into him. Every inch of his skin feels electrified, all of his senses zoned in to where Stiles is touching him, the way his breathing is coming fast in Derek’s ear, how he tastes under Derek’s tongue and his heart is thumping hard into Derek’s palm when he splays his fingers over his chest.

“You alright there, big guy?” Stiles’ hands sweep up his back to clutch his shoulders gently.

Derek nods, “Nervous,” he grunts out.

“Me too,” Stiles commiserates, “Which is weird because even though you tried real hard to make me afraid of you,” he ducks his head until Derek meets his eye, “You never actually succeeded.”

Derek scowls, suddenly affronted, and Stiles laughs, “Come on! You were the very picture of cliché; lurking under a tree and glaring at everyone.”

“Shut up!”

“That’s exactly what you said the very first time we met,” Stiles continues to laugh, shaking in Derek’s arms, “I don’t have friends,” Stiles knits his eyebrows together, pouts in an exaggerated fashion, “I hate everything, you’re too cheerful, I don’t trust you, drink this poison.”

“That was three years ago! And, I do not sound like that, nor did I ever offer you poison.”

“Oh, you were so cute,” Stiles sighs out fondly, scrubbing one of Derek’s cheeks with his knuckles. Derek grabs his wrist, holds him still.

Stiles swallows, face going serious, “Is this where you tell me everything’s been an elaborate plan to get out of having to be sociable with everyone else.”

“No,” Derek scoffs, “I could have easily escaped in the first week.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

Derek shrugs, “This year I wanted to stay.”

“I’m glad,” Stiles says quietly, fingers trailing over Derek’s cheek.

Derek turns into the touch, kissing Stiles’ palm on a whim and Stiles sucks in a breath, “Derek.”

He opens his mouth to say something, and it begins to pour with rain.

“Shit!”

Derek’s briefly distracted with the way Stiles’ shirt goes see through in seconds, and then snaps into action, catching Stiles’ hand and heading for the cabins.

They run through the trees, slipping on the mud and Stiles yells with laughter when Derek trips over a volley ball and begins cursing.

The rain chases them all the way back to Derek’s cabin, and Stiles’ teeth are chattering as he follows Derek up the steps. He glances at Derek’s neatly stacked pile of books, the daisy Stiles gave him sticking out between two pages and smiles up at Derek.

“You’re actually a closet romantic underneath the dark demeanor and the fierce everything, aren’t you?”

Derek rolls his eyes, “I wasn’t aware there was a need to be in the closet about being amorous. If you’d ever met my parents, though, you might think differently. They can never quit it.”

Stiles pulls a wistful face, “Doesn’t sound too bad.” He clutches his arms tightly. “God, it’s cold in here.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” Derek frowns, steps towards and runs his hands up and down Stiles’ arms without thinking. Stiles blinks up at him, and Derek feels his breath hitch, catches the way Stiles’ gaze drops to his mouth for a second.

“Clothes,” he says suddenly, “You should take your clothes off—”

Stiles makes a choking noise, and Derek stumbles backwards, “To get dry,” he adds hastily, “You can borrow something, if you want?”

“Aw shucks,” Stiles kicks his toes against the floorboards in a faux bashful manner, “You gonna give me your Letterman jacket?”

Derek throws a grey henley at his face, and Stiles pulls it away smiling. He starts tugging off his shirt and Derek looks up at the ceiling, trying desperately not to stare.

“Thanks,” Stiles says after a second, and then gestures at Derek. “You just gonna stand around makin’ a puddle on the floor?”

“Oh,” Derek peels off his shirt quickly. Behind him, Stiles coughs and Derek hears his bed creak as Stiles drops back on it. When he turns around, Stiles is staring determinedly out the window. He moves to sit beside him, tugs at the sleeves of his dry shirt, tries not to think about Stiles being on his bed.

“Finstock’s probably getting everyone to go for a stormy walk,” Stiles murmurs, “I bet a tornado wouldn’t stop him.”

“The man’s more dangerous than me,” Derek agrees.

Stiles turns his head to look at him, “You’re not that dangerous, you know.”

“I am,” Derek insists.

“Nope,” Stiles ruffles a hand through Derek’s damp hair, and smiles affectionately, “You’re all soft and gentle on the inside.”

“Shut up,” Derek catches his wrist, stills his hand. Slowly, he brings it down between them and Stiles doesn’t pull away, turns his hand up instead. Derek runs the pads of his fingers across his palm, laces their fingers together wordlessly. Stiles squeezes his hand tightly.

A flash of lightening illuminates his face in the overcast room, and there’s the quirk of a smile on his face as he looks back at Derek. Derek’s not sure his heart’s ever beaten this fast in his life. He needs to say something, needs to lighten the moment, to maybe tell Stiles how he feels.

“Did you know, you can work out how many miles away the storm is by counting the seconds between lightning and thunder—”

“And then dividing it by five,” Stiles continues, smirking at him. His tongue pokes out to wet his lips, and Derek can’t help but drop his gaze to Stiles’ mouth. It’s enticing. Stiles’ fingers twitch against his.

“Derek.”

“Yeah,” he clears his throat, snaps his eyes up to meet Stiles’, “You still cold?”

“No,” Stiles wiggles his fingers, “Though, I always have cold hands.”

“Me too,” Derek murmurs, looking down at Stiles’ nice slender hand tangled with his own. “My mom always says, cold hands, warm heart,” he rolls his eyes fondly, and then pauses when he sees Stiles’ smile break even wider. “What.”

“Nothing, it’s just—” Stiles leans forward and brushes their foreheads together, “My mom used to say the same thing, and she was right.”

Derek makes a noise of derision, and Stiles pulls back his head to roll his eyes, “Shut up, you have a warm heart, Derek Hale. You’re weird and wonderful, and you have—”

“I love you,” Derek blurts out, and then bites the inside of his cheek in a panic. Another flash of lightning alights Stiles’ face, his eyes wide and surprised. And then he blinks, expression going awed as he smiles shyly.

“Yeah?”

“Yes,” Derek says firmly, swallowing his fear, and glancing out of the window before looking back at Stiles determinedly. “I do. I love you.”

Stiles’ face splits in a grin, and then he’s pushing Derek back onto the bed, stretching out on top of him, “Say it again.”

Derek blinks at him, traces the curve of his smile, “I love you.”

“Fuck,” Stiles arches into him and Derek can’t help the full body shudder he gives as their bodies collide. 

“I didn’t—I don’t—”

“What?” Stiles snaps his head up, expression wary, “You don’t—”

“No,” Derek says hurriedly, “I do, mean it, I just—didn’t want you to think I said it because we’re… here.”

Stiles’ face softens and he snickers, “In a cabin, storm overhead, no friends bothering us and all we’re missing is some sort of romantic soundtrack?”

Derek rolls his eyes, “We don’t need that.”

“I know,” Stiles simpers, “We have love.”

“Right,” Derek moves to sit up and Stiles barks out a laugh, puts his hand on Derek’s chest and shoves him back down, straddles his waist.

“You’re such a grump! I think that might be what I love most about you,” he taps his chin thoughtfully as he looks at the ceiling, “Or, your charm, you are very charming.”

Derek knows he should be irritated, but all he can focus on is the first part of Stiles’ comment. “You—”

Stiles glances back at him, bites his lip, “Mmm, mhm, since forever, weirdo. I literally wrote you love letters.”

“Those weren’t—”

“They were,” Stiles squirms around, suddenly looking embarrassed, “I just didn’t know how to say it. I told you shit in those, though. They were like—”

“A piece of you,” Derek says faintly.

Yes, asshole, why you gotta make me say these things?! You’re supposed to dig silence, and brooding and—”

Derek has had enough of talking, and leans up far enough to catch Stiles’ lips in a kiss. He melts into it immediately, hands cupping Derek’s face and thumbs stroking across his jaw. Derek falls back onto his pillow with Stiles following eagerly.

The rain is drumming against the windows, and every so often thunder seems to make the cabin vibrate. Their breathing, clothes rustling, lips parting and meeting are the only other sounds that fill the room. It’s as though they’re in their own world.

Stiles’ fingers trail up his sides, dragging on the soft cotton and Derek shivers as they slide beneath the fabric, trailing across his skin. He bunches up the material of Stiles’ shirt in his fists, pushing it up so he can get his hands on Stiles’ back, pulling him closer. His skin is damp from the rain, but still warm and Derek pushes the shirt up further to touch more. Stiles sits up, yanks the shirt over his head in one quick movement. Derek can’t help but stare at his chest for a moment, so much pale, lightly toned skin he wants to put his mouth to.

Stiles scrunches up his face, “Look, I know I’m not as built as you or anything, but don’t laugh—”

Derek shakes his head, leans up to kiss his now bare clavicle, trails his tongue along it and down to his chest. Stiles’ hands fly up to clutch his shoulders, sucking in a breath between his teeth.

“There are no circumstances under which I would laugh at you, Stiles,” he murmurs, ducking to press a kiss over Stiles’ heart. “Wasn’t that the deal?”

Stiles hums, runs his fingers along Derek’s cheek, “I love you, too, you know.”

Derek’s aware thousands of people say those words every day, trade them over the phone, murmur them in farewells, in greetings every morning, and yet, hearing them out loud from Stiles makes them sound like the most important they’ve ever been. It feels momentous. He feels significant, like nothing else outside the room matters for as long as Stiles is looking at him, those words falling from his lips.

He nods slowly, knows there’s probably a stupidly awed expression on his face. Stiles doesn’t seem to mind, however, and bends to kiss him softly. Derek presses back immediately, pushes up until they’re chest to chest. Stiles winds his arms around Derek’s neck and goes easily when Derek keeps pushing until they’re stretched out on the bed again. He tugs at the collar of Derek’s t-shirt, and Derek grabs at it, breaks away from Stiles’ mouth to yank it over his head.

Stiles runs his hand along Derek’s chest, splays his fingers out against his ribcage and Derek twitches, tries to arch away. Stiles laughs, “You ticklish?”

“N-o,” Derek hisses when Stiles trails his hand ever so lightly along his ribs. “Stiles.”

“What? You said you weren’t ticklish,” Stiles blinks up at him innocently, “I’m just minding my own business, feelin’ you up a little bit.”

Derek huffs out a breath that breaks into a laugh when Stiles digs his fingers into his side.

“Stiles, don’t!”

“Don’t what?” Stiles twitches his fingers, “Don’t touch you here?”

“No.”

“Huh,” Stiles drags his fingers lower, dances them over Derek’s stomach, “Here?”

Derek nods, “There’s okay.”

Stiles’ expression goes serious and he looks up at Derek as he pushes his hand lower, palms the front of Derek’s pants, “And here?”

“Yeah,” Derek gets out in a strangled voice, “There’s good.”

“I’ve never done this before,” Stiles says in a low voice, “Except with myself of course.”

“Of course,” Derek chokes out a laugh.

Stiles rolls his eyes, “I’m jus’ warnin’ you in advance, might not be the best.”

Derek catches hold of his wrist, “You don’t have to, ‘m’not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles shifts and brings his hand up to lick his palm. Derek groans at the sight. “I want to.”

“Okay,” Derek breathes out, “Yeah, yeah, I want you to. It’ll be good no matter what, it’s already perfect.”

Stiles smiles sweetly at him, and then pushes Derek off him for a moment, “Take your pants off,” he demands.

Derek smirks, “Yessir.”

“Damn right,” Stiles mutters, shimmying out of his own and clambering back into Derek’s lap before he’s even totally out of his pants. He tugs on Derek’s bottom lip and Derek kicks his pants off from around his ankles. They hit his pile of books, and it’s a testament to the moment that he doesn’t immediately leap to pick them up.

Instead, he rocks up into Stiles, focuses on the sweet slide of skin against skin. Stiles’ hand curling hesitantly round his dick and making him pant against his mouth. He runs his own hands down Stiles’ back, cups his ass as they fall back into the sheets and yanks him even closer.

Stiles’ feet tangle with his as they stretch out and there’s miles of skin, of Stiles on top of him to touch. He can’t keep his hands still, trying to learn the patterns of his moles, the lines of his muscles, what makes him lose his breath and arc into Derek.

“Derek,” he breathes out, “Derek, just—can you—”

Derek nods wordlessly, slides his hand down Stiles’ stomach and wraps it around his cock. It feels different to his own, and twitches in his palm, Stiles bucking into his touch and gasping. Derek pumps his fist curiously, watches Stiles’ mouth fall open, his own hand stilling around Derek for a second.

Stiles makes a noise at the back of his throat, toes curling and uncurling as Derek speeds his hand up.

“Like that?”

“Yeah, god, just like that,” Stiles drops down to mash their mouths together and Derek tries to kiss him back. He’s never had such sensory overload before. His skin feels like it’s on fire everywhere Stiles is touching him.

He jerks his hand, accidentally elbows Stiles in the stomach, “Sorry, sorry—”

Stiles cuts him off, kissing him harder and grinding into him. He shoves his hand down to grasp Derek again and Derek bucks into it. He glances down between them, takes in Stiles’ pale wrist twisting, his own fingers wrapped around Stiles, pre come making them slick and wet and Stiles’ dick, velvety smooth and hot in his hand.

“You gonna come?”

Derek nods, and Stiles grins against his mouth, “Thank god because I’m about three seconds away from blowing, dude.”

Derek laughs despite himself, and Stiles grins, kisses him as he speeds his hand up. He breaks away a second later, bites down on Derek’s shoulder. Derek lets out a harsh breath, scrapes his free hand down Stiles’ back and Stiles tenses up, lets out a muffled cry and comes all over Derek’s hand.

“Fuck,” he moans raggedly, blinking down at Derek and smiling lazily, “Fuck.”

Derek keeps thrusting his hips up in a broken rhythm, unable to quite stop himself and Stiles grabs his hand, winds them together round Derek’s cock.

“’Think you should come so we can start over in a bit, see what else we can do,” he pants out. “I think maybe I could try blowing you, I think I’d—”

Derek feels his face scrunch up, squeezes his eyes shut and thrusts into Stiles’ hand as his orgasm shatters through him.

Stiles exhales sharply, flops down next to him and they both blink languidly at the ceiling.

“Yeah,” Stiles sighs, “That was worth waiting for.”

Derek twists to look at him in the dark, the rain still pouring in earnest outside and casting shadows across Stiles’ face. He runs his cleaner hand along Stiles’ cheek, “You okay?”

“Mhm,” Stiles presses his lips together in a smirk, “I feel gooood. You?”

“Yeah,” Derek manages, grabs Stiles’ hand again and kisses it, “Good.”

They lie catching their breath for a few minutes, and then Stiles begins kicking his shin, rolls to lean over him, “How long d’you reckon you need before you can go again?”

Derek laughs, shaking his head and reaches up to kiss him, because he can.

*

Derek comes to in the morning with Stiles curled into his side, head resting on his chest and arm strewn across him.

Taped to the side of the bedside cabinet is a polaroid picture of them both asleep, and underneath Isaac has written, ‘Gross.’

When he lifts his head to glare at Isaac’s bed, there’s no one there, and Boyd’s bed is empty, too.

He hums thoughtfully, and Stiles rouses, rubs his face into Derek’s skin, “Go ‘sleep.”

“Can’t,” Derek rasps, “Up now.”

Stiles lets his hand travel down Derek’s body and Derek feels him smirk, “I’ll say.”

“Stiles.”

“Mmm, shhh,” Stiles slurs sleepily, “’S’okay, I’ll take care ‘f’you.”

“Not that I don’t appreciate the—” Derek bites his tongue as Stiles begins to stroke him slowly, “Sentiment,” he gets out, “But, I think Boyd and Isaac might have been here over night.”

“So,” Stiles yawns, tightens his grip, “’S’not like we were having sex. We should wait for that, ‘till we’re in your bed. I always imagined it there.”

Derek gnaws at his bottom lip, tries not to push into Stiles’ hand too much. He watches the sheet rise and fall where Stiles is rocking into his thigh lazily. Every time he shifts, the sheet slips lower, and Derek pushes at it until the line of Stiles’ body is visible, his bare skin enticing in the early morning light.

“We should—”

Stiles pushes up and kisses him, and Derek doesn’t say anything else until he’s spilling into Stiles’ hand several minutes later, Stiles’ name on his lips.

Stiles rubs his face, gives him a wicked look, “Morning.”

“You look altogether far too pleased with yourself,” Derek huffs dazedly.

“I am,” Stiles reaches over him to pull the picture off the side, squints at it. “Man, I knew I slept with my mouth open, but damn. How did you sleep through the breathing.”

Derek grins, runs his thumb along Stiles’ bottom lip, “’S’cute actually.”

“I never, ever want to hear you say that again.”

“That you’re cute?”

“Yep, I’m a lot of things, and you’re allowed to say some of them, but cute?” Stiles shakes his head, “’S’too weird coming from you.”

“I thought you said I was weird.”

Stiles hunches up a shoulder, “So, sue me I’m contrary.”

“And cute.”

“Shut up.”

There’s a rap on the door, and Derek grabs a shirt from the floor, tosses it at Stiles as he gets up, yanking on his pj pants as he goes.

Isaac’s on the other side, and he’s radiating smugness, “You have sex hair.”

“You have shit hair,” Derek snarks back.

“Good one,” Isaac breezes into the cabin, heads for the bathroom with a wave to Stiles, “Everyone’s packing up,” he yells. When he re-emerges it’s with a toothbrush jammed in his mouth, “You’re lucky I got lucky last night, and that Boyd was off romancing Erica in her cabin. I only came back for condoms.”

Derek pulls a face, “Too much information.”

“Hey,” Isaac points his toothbrush at them, “It wasn’t exactly a pretty sight, walking in on the two of you snoring in each other’s arms.”

“Shut the fuck up, I bet we looked adorable,” Stiles scoffs, standing and pulling on his own pants. He glances at Derek, “I better go.”

“Yeah,” Derek tries for bracing, assumes it comes off awkwardly when Isaac snorts and disappears into the bathroom.

Stiles comes to stand in front of him, toys with the hem of Derek’s henley between his fingers, “So.”

Derek grins—can’t seem to stop smiling for too long at all this morning—and cups his face, kisses him sweetly. “You good?”

“Yeah,” Stiles wets his lips as he steps away, and Derek’s whole body wants to follow, press him down into the mattress again, “Weird,” he crooks a grin back at Derek, “But, good?”

“Me too.”

“Okay, I’ll go give Scotty all the details,” Stiles says teasingly.

Derek narrows his eyes, “Ha ha.”

“Don’t worry,” Stiles reaches out to squeeze his hand for a second, “All your secrets are safe with me.”

Derek’s face softens, and Stiles beams up at him. Isaac comes back out into the cabin and Stiles ducks his head, presses a kiss to Derek’s shoulder as he passes, and the door swings shut behind him.

Isaac ostentatiously sprays Oust all over Derek and his bed. Derek tackles him onto his own bed, and makes him eat the sheet.

Boyd lets himself in as they’re wrestling, and whistles loudly. They both look up, and Derek lets go of Isaac’s ear as Isaac spits out pillow feathers.

“Really,” Boyd says flatly. “You two are incredible.”

“Thank you,” Isaac drawls, rolls off the bed. “You have a nice time with Erica?”

“Yeah,” Boyd shrugs, flicks his ear on his way to the bathroom, “What’s it to ya?”

“Just askin’,” Isaac juts his head at Derek, “You missed the lovebirds snuggling.”

“Damn,” Boyd calls sarcastically.

Derek ignores them both to sit on his own bed, feeling where it’s still warm from Stiles being there. He picks up the picture, slips it into his favorite Preisler book.

“So, you and Lydia hit it off?”

“Nah,” Isaac tugs on clean socks, “She really was doing that science thing Scott said she was.”

“Then—”

Isaac grins, “Turns out Danny didn’t hate me as much as he claimed to.”

Boyd ducks out of the bathroom, arches an eyebrow at Isaac and he shrugs, “He was very bendy.”

Boyd flicks his toothbrush in Isaac’s direction and he shrieks in horror.

They decant the cabin steps for their last breakfast, and Isaac lets out a sigh, “You know, I really thought I wasn’t gonna live to see this day.”

“Which day?”

“This one, literally, as soon as I heard I was rooming with Derek Hale I thought I’d be dead in a week.”

Derek scowls and elbows him in the solar plexus, “Don’t tempt me now then, idiot.”

“You wouldn’t now,” Isaac sniffs loftily, “You’ve grown accustomed to my face.”

“Shut up,” Boyd groans, rubbing his temples, “Oh my god, you getting laid is even worse than Derek, at least he’s quiet about it.”

Derek smiles to himself, thinking of Stiles, and Boyd jabs at his cheek, “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, silent reflection.”

“Whatever,” Isaac swings back the cafeteria doors, kicks at Boyd’s foot, “You’re gonna miss me.”

“I live like half an hour from you, man, I’ll probably never get rid of you.” He glances at Derek, “You gonna come visit?”

Derek startles, having never been asked by any campers ever if he’ll be keeping in touch. Most of them couldn’t wait to see the back of him.

“I—yeah, if you really want me to?”

“Duh.”

“I wanna see your house,” Isaac sighs wistfully, “I never thought I’d say it, but I’m jealous of Stilinski.”

Derek’s hands tighten around his tray when he remembers what Stiles said about coming home with him, things to do with his bed.

“Yeah,” he manages, “He and Scott haven’t shut up about it all summer.”

As if hearing his name, Scott looks up from the table he’s sitting at with Stiles and waves enthusiastically. Derek grimaces, and then meets Stiles’ eye, ducks to glare at the floor so no one sees his smile.

“As if anyone even thinks you’re scary now,” Boyd scoffs, weaving through the tables to sit down next to Scott.

“They might,” Derek argues, following him quickly.

“Who might what?” Stiles looks up at him expectantly and then bites his lip when his eyes fall on Derek’s neck and the marks Derek has there. His cheeks go rosy and he jabs at his cereal viciously.

Bravely, Derek rests his hand on Stiles’ knee under the table. Stiles stills under him and he panics, before Stiles slips his hand off the table and twines their fingers together.

“So, who might what?”

“Derek thinks someone here might still find him remotely terrifying, but,” Boyd lifts a pointed at eyebrow at where their arms are touching, obviously aware of what’s going on under the table, and smirks, “As if that’s happening.”

“You’re totally his kryptonite,” Isaac crunches down on his apple, waves at Danny across the tables. Danny nods back, and Jackson glares at them all.

“Don’t think we’ll be getting any postcards from him,” Stiles comments lightly.

“I’m glad he’s not coming back next year,” Scott says vehemently, “He doesn’t deserve this place.”

“Wait,” Derek drops his spoon, “The first year I don’t come back, and Jackson doesn’t either? How is that fair?”

“Maybe you should come back,” Stiles suggests, “Keep us all in line as Finstock’s second in command.”

“I couldn’t keep you in line if I tried,” Derek says fondly.

Isaac makes retching noises and Scott cuffs him round the back of the head without pausing from devouring his piece of toast.

“Alright campers,” Finstock claps his hands together, surveys them all. “It’s been a hell of a summer. You’ve all been acceptable. I…” After a moment of silence his smile fades, and his eyes begin to well up, “Just, get out of here,” he cries, and turns on his heel and sweeps out of the doors.

“Huh,” Scott chews on a crust, “Was he gonna cry just?”

“I think he’s gonna miss Derek,” Stiles snickers.

“Ha ha,” Derek pokes him in the ribs, “You will.”

“Na uh.”

“Yeah huh.”

“Na—”

“Alright,” Isaac stands, “We get it, you’re gross and adorable and I had no idea Derek could actually look happy, but can I eat my breakfast in peace? I did, after all, not get to sleep in my own bed last night.”

“I didn’t realize you had a problem with the sleeping arrangements,” Boyd says lightly.

Isaac tosses his apple core at his head, and sits down in a huff.

*

Derek folds the last of his clothes back into his travel bag, and breathes a sigh of relief. He’s finally going home. It’s not that he hasn’t actually sort of… deeply enjoyed camp on many levels he never thought possible, but… it’s really not somewhere he wants to return to ever again.

Unless, it’s to visit Stiles and steal away somewhere with him for hours…

He clears his throat, turns to survey the now empty cabin. Isaac’s sitting on his bed, leg swinging down to rest on the floor, messing around with a paper airplane Derek made him; Boyd’s meticulously going through his travel checklist. He glances up when he notices Derek staring, and arches an eyebrow.

“You good, man?”

“I have—I’m very appreciative,” Derek stutters awkwardly, “Of you both. If you hadn’t been here, I would have had a fucking terrible time of it.”

Instead of smirking, or laughing it off, Boyd stands and strides over to Derek.

“No,” Derek says quickly, but before he can stop him, Boyd is hugging him tightly. “Oh, Christ,” Derek groans, “Why.”

“Savor it,” Boyd mutters, “You won’t get another one till Christmas.”

“We can spend all of Christmas at yours, right?” Isaac interrupts from behind them as Derek claps Boyd on the back. “Because, I bet it’s way more fun at your house than mine.”

“You can stay as long as you like,” Derek tells him.

“I’m glad we met,” Isaac says in return, “And, thanks for savin’ me from that snake, and for sticking up for me, for being… really cool.”

Derek lifts an eyebrow, holds out a hand to feel Isaac’s forehead and Isaac bats him away scowling.

“Fuck off; you’re not the only one that doesn’t like to spew about his feelings.”

Laughing, Derek turns to grab his bag, “See you both soon?”

“Yeah,” Boyd waves a hand at him, “Don’t get into too much trouble.”

Derek smirks, “No promises.”

He makes his way through the cabin area, silently wishing them all good riddance, and then scowls when he sees Finstock marching towards him.

“Hale!”

“Coach."

They look at one another for a moment, and then Finstock grunts, shakes his head, “You were less of a nightmare this year, but I can’t say I’ll miss you much.”

“Ditto,” Derek tells him.

Finstock harrumphs and stalks towards the lake, “Don’t be putting super glue on anything when you have a job, kid,” he yells over his shoulder, “They generally fire you for it!”

“That’s okay,” Derek calls after him, “I’ll just come and work here.”

Finstock visibly shudders, and grinning to himself, Derek heads towards the front office.

Peter’s leaning against the side of the cabin, smiling charmingly at Ms Morrell, and as Derek gets close he sees her roll her eyes, head inside without a goodbye.

Peter shakes his head, smirks when he sees Derek, “Women are so much more challenging these days.”

“Perhaps they just realized they could all do better,” Derek says lightly.

“Ah, nephew,” Peter claps him on the shoulder, “I’ve missed you.”

Derek scrunches up his nose at him, “I doubt that.”

“The house has been too quiet without you both,” Peter waves a hand in the air, and Derek turns to see Scott and Stiles stumbling towards them. “Now the fun really begins!”

“If you say, or do anything that makes Stiles uncomfortable I will put scarab beetles in your bed,” Derek warns him in a low voice.

Peter smiles brightly at him, “I would never, Derek. Good afternoon, boys!”

“Uncle Peter,” Scott gives him an awkward hug, “You’ve met Stiles before, right?”

“Yes, the illustrious Stiles,” Peter holds out his hand, “A pleasure I’m sure.”

Stiles glances at Derek, who nods minutely, and then takes Peter’s hand, “Hi there.”

“Have you had a wonderful summer?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Peter smirks, looks pointedly at the sizeable hickey on his neck and then at the one on Derek's, “How fabulous. Scott, walk with me, tell me all about the lovely Allison.”

Stiles lingers behind with Derek, squints at him in the sun, “You ready to go home?”

“Yeah,” Derek looks around the camp-site one last time, and then reaches out to take Stiles’ hand, “Are you?”

“Hell yeah,” Stiles squeezes his hand, “What’s there to be scared of?”

Derek huffs out a laugh, kisses his knuckles quickly, “Nothing at all.”

*

The iron gates salute Stiles when they pull into the drive, and he squirms in delight, waves back. Derek rolls his eyes and calls them show offs just as a golf ball flies past the car. Talia and Laura are standing on the steps of the house, Talia looking calm and composed as she comes down to greet them, Laura rushing out to hug Scott and punch Derek on the shoulder. Ralph ambles through the hall, golf club over his shoulder and cigar hanging from his mouth.

“Welcome home, boys! How was it?”

“Awesome,” Scott exclaims excitedly.

“And, you must be Stiles,” Ralph turns to beam at Stiles, and Stiles shrinks back into Derek a little nervously.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“And we you, Stiles my dear fellow, come,” Ralph puts an arm over Stiles’ shoulders, “How are you at dancing?”

Stiles chokes on a laugh, glances back at Derek, “Not too bad.”

“Marvellous! We’re having a party to welcome the boys home this evening, and you and Derek must dance, I insist!”

Laura elbows Derek as they head inside, “So, you didn’t die?”

“No, it was a close thing at one or two points, though. Allison tried to murder me.”

“She did not,” Scott huffs, “She accidentally hit him in the face with a volleyball.”

Laura cracks up, ruffles Derek’s hair, “Oh, Derek.”

“Shut up! She did it on purpose.”

“She did not!”

A suit of armor stands to attention as Talia leads them to the kitchen; Derek’s grandmother tells Stiles his hair needs brushing; Stiles twists to give Derek and Scott an amazed look.

“This is so cool!”

“It’s a little weird,” Scott argues nervously.

“Well, yeah,” Stiles waits for Laura to pass, tugs on Derek’s shirt until he’s up in his space, beams between them both, “Weird and wonderful.”

Scott pulls a face when Derek smiles stupidly at Stiles, “I’m getting ice cream, finish this before you come inside the kitchen, where I eat food.”

Stiles jabs him in the neck as he passes, and he squawks in outrage.

“So, yeah this is your house,” Stiles says casually, “Kind of the most awesome place I’ve ever seen.”

“Better than camp?”

“Yeah huh,” Stiles smiles brightly at him, “You guys have moving armor, and gates that saluted me! Plus, your bedroom is here.”

Derek ducks his head blushing, peeks back up at him, “So, you don’t mind it?”

“Are you kidding? I’m gonna stay forever if you’re not careful.”

“That’s okay,” Derek blurts out, “I think… that would be nice.”

Stiles’ grin widens and he leans in to kiss Derek softly, “Not too abhorrent?”

"Definitely not," Derek breathes out.

“Boys!” Talia calls from the kitchen, “What are you doing out there?”

“Oh, mom, like you don’t know,” Laura retorts.

“I don’t blame them a jot, I can never be too far from your mother.”

“Gross, dad.”

“Scotty, when will the dear Allison be visiting?”

“Soon, I hope.”

Derek rests his forehead against Stiles’ for a second, pulls back, “Come on, you need to eat before you meet the swamp monster.”

Stiles’ eyes light up, “Oh my god.”

They head into the kitchen, and Talia snaps up a plate with roast beef sandwiches on for each of them, smiles benignly at Stiles, “Did you have a nice time at camp, dear?”

“Yes, thank you,” Stiles says between bites.

“We were so worried about Derek, you know, I think you’re the only reason he even agreed to go back.”

Derek feels his ears go hot, and takes a large bite of his own sandwich.

“I thought I was the reason you went back,” Scott says incredulously, waves his fork at Derek, “I’m hurt, Derek.”

“You were the reason I went back,” he huffs, and Scott preens, “Stiles was the reason I stayed,” Derek continues and Scott scrunches up his nose at him.

“Manners, Scott,” Talia chides gently.

Stiles’ feet wrap around Derek’s under the table, his father puffs a cloud of smoke out of the window, Laura mutters something in Latin under her breath and beams when her nails go bright pink, the clock strikes, Scott digs into his ice cream. Derek is home. Derek is glad of it. He glances across the table at Stiles who winks at him, mouths I love you and then looks surprised at his own daring. Derek beams at his hands. He’s glad of everything.

For a moment, anyway. He's not making any promises about being nice too often. He thinks perhaps he's very lucky Stiles seems keen to encourage his weird, slightly dark ways.

Dammit, there he is being happy again.