The day Derek returned to Beacon Hills, he found a boy of amber eyes waiting for him.
Derek had never sold the loft. That was like giving up the memories; the good and the bad. And Derek would do anything to give up the bad, but the good? He couldn’t bear to lose those. When the pack— his pack— was together and safe. When the loft was filled with the scents of right, mine, home, and he thought that maybe, just maybe he could find a reason to settle down.
But then one by one, everything was ripped from his hands. Derek found himself standing in an empty loft one day with nothing but the silence and then there was nothing, nothing to keep him anchored down. He ached to feel a hand on his shoulder. The gentle touch of long fingers against his skin. Pulling him back to the ground and keeping him rooted to the spot.
But there was nothing.
Derek had left his loft that day and hadn’t looked back. Fast forward one year when there was a familiar pull in his chest, a tug on his heart, and he found himself climbing right back into his car and driving home.
He’d always told himself if he ever returned, it wouldn’t be for Beacon Hills.
When Derek came back, there was a boy of amber eyes and pale mole-dotted skin waiting for him. Derek stood in the doorway of his loft, bag in hand, and just looked at him.
Stiles was facing the window. It was storming outside, lightning cracking across the dark sky. Stiles turned around slowly and Derek felt his heart lodge in his throat. He swallowed hard, taking careful steps forward, and Stiles went impossibly tense. Slowly, Derek paused and set his bag down.
Derek nodded. “So are you.”
“Scott caught your scent coming back into town. I figured… I figured you’d come here.”
Once more, Derek nodded. It felt like it was all he could do. He still couldn’t believe it was Stiles standing in front of him. Something about that seemed so different. So wrong. Derek had slept fitfully for an entire year, remembering soft smiles and sarcastic remarks. He’d woken up in a cold sweat numerous times, reaching for a warm body that was never there.
One that had never been there.
Derek swallowed hard, his throat dry. “There’s something wrong, isn’t there?”
“I couldn’t imagine you’d care Sourwolf, judging by how you left.”
Derek felt like he’d been punched but he didn’t move. Didn’t say a word. Stiles’s face suddenly twisted and he crossed the room in large strides, slamming a hand against Derek’s chest.
“You left, Derek, do you realize that? You left us! You left us to fend for ourselves, a bunch of teenagers!”
Derek could have easily caught the boy’s hand. But he didn’t move.
“You left us,” Stiles said, shoving him. “Godammit, Derek, do you know the things that happened? My dad nearly died. Beacon Hills was nearly ruined . I— I—”
He cut off suddenly, eyes filling with tears. Derek’s heart twisted.
“I killed someone, Derek.”
Dereks’ breaths caught. Stiles ran a hand through his hair, turning back around and moving a few steps away. Only to whirl right toward back Derek.
“This time it was me, not the nogitsune. Me, Derek. I got blood on my hands. I got called a murderer by my best friend! Do you have any idea what that’s like?”
The silence reigned. Stiles’s face twisted.
“You don’t care, do you? I shouldn’t have come. I’m sure this skinny, defenseless teenager is the last face you wanted to see on your arrival here, right? It’s not Scott. It’s not anyone of importance.”
“Did you ever even consider coming back, Derek? Once in the past year?”
Derek’s chest ached. There were a million words on his tongue. A million stories to be told. Like when he’d climbed into his car multiple times and glared at the road, determined to force himself to drive. He’d show up in Stiles’s bedroom, pulling himself through the window just like the old days. Scare the ever-living crap out of the kid and maybe even confess a few things.
Things that had been building up in Derek’s chest with each passing day. He was haunted by ghost laughter, phantom touches. Brown eyes passed on the street that would sometimes catch the light, flashing to amber, and Derek would find himself turning right back around, searching for the scent of cinnamon.
He didn’t say a word though. Stiles barked a laughed and started forward, shouldering past.
“Whatever, Derek. Welcome back to Beacon Hills.
The boy froze in the doorway of the loft. He was trembling, hands clenching in and out of fists at his sides. Slowly, he turned back around, amber eyes swimming.
“I told myself you would have believed me. About Theo, about Donovan. I told myself a million times you would’ve stayed by my side.”
“I would have,” Derek said softly. Stiles clenched his jaw.
“But you weren’t ever there, were you?”
Derek closed his eyes. To his nose, Stiles’s scent smelled wrong. Sour and stale. Like he’d spent far too much time wrapped up in misery, battling against himself. Back in New York, years and years ago, Laura used to tell Derek he smelled like that. When she was rubbing circles into his back, begging him to come to the kitchen and eat.
“You don’t have to be here now either, Sourwolf. Feel free to leave again,” Stiles said, turning away. And Derek just stood there, watching him go.
He stood still for a long moment. Long after Stiles’s footsteps had faded, long after the boy’s scent had been carried by the wind from his loft. He just stood there like an idiot, the ache in his chest returning tenfold as he gazed at the empty doorway and realized that yeah, he’d probably deserved that.
Some part of him also wondered if he hadn’t been the only one lying awake at night these past few months.
Slowly, Derek turned around. He surveyed his loft, taking in the cracked windows, the blood staining the floor. The empty bed shoved in the furthest corner, the metal pole that had never been replaced. Something formed in his stomach and it wasn’t pleasant. The boy who’d just walked out turned void in his memories and it only made them more bitter.
Derek stayed still, the silence overwhelming. Then, slowly, he picked up his bag again and turned back toward the door.
This time, he wouldn’t deny Stiles what he wanted.
But when Derek stepped out of the loft, into the cool night air, he found a blue jeep waiting for him. Stiles’s headlights were on and the boy was just sitting there. He looked like he was debating with himself and the moment amber eyes landed on Derek, Stiles straightened.
Derek moved carefully over.
Stiles rolled down his window, looking from Derek, to the bag he carried, and then back. “You’re really leaving again.”
He sounded hollow. Derek swallowed and forced a nod. “I shouldn’t have come.”
“So Scott’s not enough then, is that it?”
Stiles shoved himself out of the car, driving a finger into Derek’s chest. Derek went stock-still as even the aggressiveness of the touch sending shivers down his spine. “Scott’s not enough for you, right? Scott’s pack isn’t enough for you? Derek, what the hell?”
“I didn’t come here for Scott.”
The tension in Stiles’s shoulders ebbed a little. But the boy still glared. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“I never came back to Beacon Hills for Scott.”
“So what then, you just had to do a last sweep of the loft? You forget something, asshole?”
“Yeah,” Derek said softly. “You.”
Slowly, he hand fell away and he just blinked. Then his face twisted and his scent turned sour again. “Goddammit, Derek, no! No, you can’t do that!”
Derek’s heart sunk. But it seemed Stiles wasn’t gone.
“I tried to hate you, you know that? I tried to hate you so damn hard from the moment you left Beacon Hills without a goodbye. Ask Scott! Even he stopped coming around the house I was trying to hate you so hard.”
Derek didn’t move. Didn’t say a word. To be honest, he was too scared to.
“Do you know how hard it is?” Stiles said, sounding broken. “To try and hate someone that you loved?”
His heart skipped a beat. The world around Derek blurred. He’d missed something.
“Fuck,” Stiles said. “And now you’re leaving again.”
Stiles paled, taking a step away. His back bumped into the open door of his car and he shook his head, running a hand through his hair. “Don’t, Derek. Don’t.”
“You’re heart skipped a beat.”
Stiles sounded so shattered, so pained, that Derek found himself complying. It was like Stiles had flashed red eyes and told him to back down. He dropped his gaze, forcing himself to nod, and tightened his grip on his bag. “I’m sorry.”
“I hate you.”
His heart skipped a beat. Derek didn’t say a word.
“I fucking hate how much I love you.”
Derek was almost terrified to look back up. Stiles searched his face and then moved forward, prying Derek’s fingers off of his bag. It slipped out of his grasp and dropped to the street with a dull thud. Derek didn’t even notice it.
Shivers raced up his arm as Stiles carefully took his hand. The boy’s eyelashes fluttered.
“Don’t leave again, Derek. Don’t leave again.”
Derek closed his eyes. Stiles grip tightened as if he was searching for a lifeline. Something to anchor him down. Derek had searched for that so many times in the past few months, he couldn’t even begin to explain the unraveling in his chest right now.
Stiles stepped forward, touching their foreheads together. “Don’t leave me, Derek. Not again.”
“If you say anything other than okay, I swear to god, I’ll hate you forever.”
No skip this time. Derek took a trembling breath. His other hand cupped the back of Stile’s neck and pulled him closer. The boy’s breaths were warm against his skin. “Okay.”
Stiles’s scent changed. It died down and then warmed up, coming off him in waves. Derek nearly shuddered, suddenly surrounded by something he’d been craving for months. His grip tightened on the back of Stiles’s neck and the boy made a soft noise at the back of his throat.
And for a moment, standing there in the darkness, everything was alright. Derek finally felt whole. Alright.
He should have known it wouldn’t last.
It was little things at first. Scott didn’t exactly come around very much and Derek found himself spending most of his time in Stiles’s room, even when the boy was at school. He’d lounge back with a book or Stiles’s laptop and wait. It wasn’t much. It wasn’t exactly a good reason to say, his mind kept whispering.
But he didn’t leave anyway.
As the days stretched on, though, Derek could see the difference. Stiles was talking to himself more. Sleeping less. He counted his fingers when he thought Derek wasn’t looking and covered his whiteboard in strings of red. Derek was almost scared to ask.
He did, though. And Stiles just waved him off.
“It’s nothing. I don’t think.”
“Can I help?”
“Wanna come to school with me and make sure my teacher isn’t a Nazi werewolf?”
Derek raised an eyebrow. Stiles waved a hand through the air, turning back toward his board and chewing on the back of his pencil.
“Never mind. I haven’t even proved anything yet.”
And so the days went on. Stiles got increasingly more on edge, Derek didn’t know how to help him. Then one day, the boy came home pale and trembling, and Derek realized enough was enough.
“Stiles,” he said, cornering him in his room. “Talk to me.”
“Not much time. I think they’re coming.”
“Who is coming?”
“I’m not sure I really want to know.”
Derek drew back in frustration. Stiles continued to pace the room, running his hands through the air until it was thoroughly frazzled. Then he came to a sudden stop, his scent souring, and turned back to Derek.
“Will you go out with me? Tonight?”
Derek’s heart skipped a beat. Despite the past few weeks, despite the hours they’d spent together, they hadn’t really discussed the things said that one night. It’d been a topic widely avoided. Stiles would claim to ‘love’ a movie or food and they’d both go stock-still, avoiding each other’s eyes.
But Stiles’s face was pleading. Derek could hear his heart beating like a drum again his chest. Slowly, he nodded.
The way Stiles looked at him made Derek feel like he was seeing a ghost. Or maybe it was the other way around.
He found himself parked in front of the school later that night. Stiles had finished his dinner long ago, chowing down on curly fries like it was his last night on earth. When Derek had raised an eyebrow, Stiles had only rolled his eyes, grinned half-heartedly, and then stolen some of Derek’s too.
It all felt a little bit like years ago. The stakeouts they’d have when looking for Erica and Boyd. The quiet nights in the car before Stiles had been possessed by the nogitsune. Tonight wasn’t quiet, though. It was storming outside, lighting cutting through the dark night.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” Derek asked. “The days when I was gone?”
Stiles was looking out the window, fingers tapping nervously against the arm of his seat. Quietly, he shook his head. Derek swallowed hard.
“Do you want to talk about what’s going on now?”
Slowly, Stiles turned to look back at him and the expression on his face nearly broke Derek. He looked terrified.
“Stiles,” he said softly. “Please.”
“You never forgot me, right?” Stiles asked. “When you left?”
“And you’ll never forget me. No matter what happens?”
Stiles laughed but it sounded strained. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Sourwolf.”
“Tell me what’s wrong. Please.”
“I might be going somewhere,” Stiles said quietly. “I don’t know where and I don’t know for how long. You might… you might not remember me, Derek.”
“Stiles, I don’t understand.”
“I don’t hate you,” Stiles said. “I could never hate you, Derek. No matter what happens. I know you’ll figure it out but if you don’t… it wasn’t your fault. Neither of us ever asked for this.”
Derek took the boy’s hand, panic rising up in his throat. Stiles’s face softened.
“I fucking hate how much I love you, Sourwolf.”
But then suddenly, the boy was kissing him. Leaning forward and pressing their lips together before Derek could get out another word. He tasted like salt, smelled like cinnamon and fear. Hungry hands tangled through Derek’s hair, pulling him closer. Like Stiles was trying to taste every part of him, feel every inch of his presence before the end of the night. Or the end of the storm, maybe.
Derek closed his eyes and despite his screaming mind, let himself feel. Let himself kiss Stiles back, hard and wanting.
This had haunted him for months. This dream, this want. It had been followed him into his waking hours and out of them. Derek had never been able to escape.
He still couldn’t.
Stiles smelled like terror. Tasted like hope. The words ‘I love you too’ lingered on Derek’s tongue. But then as lightning cracked across the sky and suddenly, Stiles’s lips were yanked away from his own, the words never came.
They never came.
“Remember I love you,” was whispered in his ear. Derek’s eyes flew open right as there was another crack of lightning. Amber eyes alit with terror. Derek’s heart leaped into his throat and he reached out.
But Stiles was gone. Gone with the taste of salt still on Derek’s lips. The whisper of cinnamon filling the stale air of the jeep. Gone with the fear. The complete and utter fear.
Remember I love you.
Derek blinked once. Looked down at his hands, around at the empty jeep. Out the window where the storm had quietly died down. And then he blinked again, heart sinking in his chest.
When the hell had he returned to Beacon Hills?