Stiles and Scott watched the clock like hawks.
The desks were scrubbed of graffiti and stacked out of the way on the far end of the wall. Textbooks had been collected and piled neatly in the corner, organized by subject. The room had been swept and now all there was to do was wait.
Stiles felt like each second of the last day of school was taking forever- the last day of fifth grade! In less than sixty seconds, he would be a sixth grader, the top dog of the elementary school.
Stiles almost cried in outrage when the clock struck 2pm and the bell didn’t ring.
“Wait for it,” Scott breathed. “You know the clock is fast.”
A shuffle behind him made Stiles glance around. A boy, Derek, Stiles recalled, with green eyes and eyebrows slightly too large for his face, blinked at him, shuffling his feet.
The bell rang, drawing Stiles’s attention back to the clock. He and Scott let out a victory yell. They had survived another year of school.
“Ask your mom if you can come over to my place!” Stiles yelled, throwing his backpack over his shoulder, darting across the classroom after Scott.
"I'm so totally asking her!" Scott cheered, voice carrying down the hall. He burst through the door at the end of the hall, flying down the steps. "We'll have sleepovers every night!"
"Wait for me!" Stiles called, racing after Scott and letting the door slam behind him with no heed to who might be behind him.
“Hurry up!” Stiles yelled. “We have a quiz in Mrs. Elrod’s class and if we’re late she’ll eat our souls!”
Scott laughed, struggling to keep up, his hand clutching at his side.
Stiles took the front steps two at a time, freezing when he realized Scott had fallen behind.
“Wait!” Scott wheezed, clutching his chest. He leaned back against the warm bricks of the school, sinking to the ground and pulling his bag onto his lap.
His breathing was coming in short, thin gasps, and he was fumbling with the zippers on his backpack. “Inhaler,” he rasped.
Stiles was already moving toward him, brushing Scott’s hands out of the way. He unzipped the front pocket, producing Scott’s inhaler and helping him get it to his mouth.
Scott took two puffs of the inhaler, leaning back to allow his lungs to open more.
“Thanks,” he said, breathless.
Stiles gave a tight shrug; he hated when Scott’s asthma acted up. It made him feel shaky and like maybe Scott was gonna die. “That’s what friends are for.”
Stiles helped Scott stand, letting him lean on him for support and shouldering Scott’s backpack as well as his own.
“Still okay?” Stiles asked.
A group of students were climbing the steps now, so Stiles and Scott waited for them to pass.
The backpacks started sliding off Stiles’s shoulder; someone behind him shoved them back into place.
“Hey, thanks,” he said absently, starting to turn around to grin at his helper.
Scott tripped over the lip of the doorway and Stiles cursed, just managing to catch them both before they face planted.
Stiles laughed at the close call. The door banged shut behind them, and Stiles forgot about whoever had helped him with the backpacks.
“Your dad is so going to kill us,” Scott informed Stiles gleefully, jumping into the passenger seat of the Sheriff’s jeep.
“He’s got the police cruiser tonight. He won’t ever know,” Stiles promised, starting the engine.
“We’re not even sixteen yet,” Scott wiggled in excitement.
Stiles shrugged. “We’re freshman, we might as well be old enough to drive. They should lower the age limit. And besides, we’re only going for a drive, it’s not like we’re sneaking into a bar or anything.”
Stiles backed out of the driveway carefully, pulling onto the main road.
Scott turned on the radio, skimming through the presets until he found a channel playing an upbeat song, and turned the volume up.
“This is awesome,” Scott laughed as they passed the grocery store.
They had just turned onto a side street to find a spot to turn around when the jeep began to jerk.
Stiles’s eyes grew wide. The jeep’s engine stopped and he coasted to the side of the road.
“Shit,” Scott said, voicing Stiles’s thoughts.
Stiles popped the hood and they both jumped out, running to look under the hood.
“I don’t know anything about cars!” Scott cried, panicked.
“Shush, we’ll be fine,” Stiles said, trying not to freak out as well.
Bright headlights in the distance made them both look up.
They were both tense and nervous when the car slowed to a stop beside them.
“You need help?” A teen, around their age, asked, leaning out the window.
“Eyebrows,” Scott muttered under his breath.
Stiles wanted to hit him. “Uh, maybe. The engine just died.”
“That’s Derek,” Scott hissed. “I didn’t know he was older than us.”
“Derek, who?” Stiles whispered, watching Derek pull his car around so it was nose-to-nose with the Jeep.
He got out of his car and went around to the trunk. “Let’s try jumping it first, see if that does the trick. You’ll have to take it in to a mechanic either way.” Derek said, coming around the side of the car holding jumper cables.
Stiles nearly laughed, his dad would have to take it into a mechanic. There was no way was he going to.
They hooked up the cables and turned started the ignition. The jeep roared to life.
“Your dad,” Scott whined, glancing at the time on his phone. “He’s going to be home any minute.”
Derek unhooked the cables and closed the hood on the jeep, then turned to them.
“Thank so much for your help, but, uh, we got to go.” Stiles said, jumping back into the jeep. “I’ll find a way to repay you!” he called, slamming the door and peeling off.
Stiles cursed being an adult for the tenth time since he turned eighteen. Not only was senior year hard, but now he was expected to do things like buy his own clothes, put gas in his own car, and…
“Get the groceries, dad said. It will be easy, dad said,” he grumbled to himself, ignoring the old women glaring at him.
He hunted every aisle for things on the list his dad gave him, and even threw some things he wanted into the cart.
“What’s a loofa and why does Dad want one? It sounds like a Hawaiian fruit.”
He googled what a loofa was and blinked at the picture. “A Hawaiian fruit that’s apparently a bath accessory. That’s not even a food! I’m at the grocery store, not Bed, Bath, and Beyond.”
His phone rang and he stared down at Scott’s name.
“I hate this,” he answered. “I can’t find anything. I’m done with being an adult.”
Scott laughed on the other end. “How much more is on the list?”
“Too much! I don’t even think keeping the “change” is worth it at this point! I’ve been in here an hour.”
Scott fell silent, then asked gravely, “Do you need me to rescue you?”
“Yes!” Stiles snapped. “Oh, thank god, I found the loofa.”
“Your dad…never mind. Want to come over after you’re done? Motivation to get out of there and get home.”
“I don’t need any more motivation, I’m ready to drop all this and leave. I’m walking up to the check out now, thank god. I’ll call you back.” Stiles waited for Scott to acknowledge him before hanging up the phone.
He nearly threw the money at the cashier and snatched up his bags, bolting for the car and dialing Scott at the same time.
“I’m free!” he yelled into the phone.
Scott laughed loudly. “Well, hurry up then.”
Stiles jumped into the front seat of the car, putting the groceries on the passenger seat and shutting the door. There was a guy hauling ass down the parking lot. Stiles was gratified that he wasn’t the only one making a break for it at top speed.
“Kay, let me put you on speaker,” Stiles said, setting the phone on his lap before peeling out of the parking lot.
Stiles lounged on his bed, his cheek resting against his Econ book. Scott was sprawled across the floor of room on the throw rug his mother had sent to liven up their dorm. They were each trying to force their brains to cooperate and focus on studying.
When Stiles announced he was too hungry to study, Scott whipped out his phone and pressed speed dial 3.
“I miss being a kid,” Scott announced, hanging up the phone with the pizza place. “We owe the delivery guy nineteen dollars and ninety-four cents.”
“So twenty dollars,” Stiles mused, kicking his feet up on the bed. “Not bad for a large pizza.”
Scott frowned. “Twenty dollars less for gas and coffee.”
Stiles gave a dismissive wave. “It’s pizza. Money well spent.”
Scott shrugged. “If you say so.”
When there was a knock on the door, Stiles jumped to his feet, grabbing the twenty off the desk. He marched toward the door, his mood uplifted by the idea of greasy, cheesy goodness.
“Hey—He-ey,” he repeated, flirty, at the sight of the delivery guy, leaning his hip against the door. Then his eyes went wide and he slammed the door shut, pressing his back against it. “Oh my god.”
Scott erupted into laughter, rising to his feet and taking the money from Stiles. “What’d you slam it in his face for?” he demanded, still shaking with mirth.
“He’s gorgeous and I just opened the door like this is a bad porno!” Stiles hissed.
Scott snickered and grabbed for the door handle.
“Don’t you dare open that door until I’m hidden,” Stiles commanded, face bright red. There really wasn’t anywhere to go, so he pressed into his closet nook and closed his eyes. At least he was out of sight of the door.
“Hi, oh, hey Derek,” Scott said, opening the door. “Sorry about that. Here you go.”
Stiles waited until the door closed to peer out. Scott was still laughing.
“It is official!” Stiles declared to Scott. “I have my own apartment.”
“Congratulations!” Scott cheered. “Now I have a place to crash when I don’t want to stay in the dorms.”
“Come help clean it up and you can come over anytime!” Stiles agreed. “Man, the person who was here before me left a mess.” He wedged the phone between his shoulder and cheek and toed a box of miscellaneous junk.
“Maybe you’ll find something useful,” Scott mused. “I can come over this weekend and help you go through things, if you’d like.”
“That would be amazing,” Stiles said, lifting a sheet of bubble wrap off the floor and holding it at arms’ length. “Bring some black trash bags with you.”
It was Saturday morning when Scott showed up with a roll of trash bags and long gloves.
“Let’s do this,” Scott said, pushing past Stiles into the apartment.
They had cleaned out the kitchen and dining room, throwing away probably eighty percent of the things they found. Random old college books, trash, and other, unidentifiable things.
“Dude, you picked a nice place,” Scott said sarcastically, wrestling a big piece of stubborn cardboard into a bag.
Stiles rolled his eyes. “That’s why I got it cheap. The landlord said there were some squatters here after the last tenant left. He said it was mine for half the deposit if I cleaned it up, and it didn’t seem like that big of a job. Mostly trash, you know?”
“Yeah, I can see.”
They finished the living room, and the bedroom didn’t look half as bad as the rest of the place, so Scott bid Stiles good luck and left in time to grab dinner before his night class.
Stiles tossed his backpack of clothes into the closet, tilting his head curiously when he heard it thump against something.
He turned on the closet light and peeked inside. His backpack sat leaning against a shoebox.
“Stupid squatters,” Stiles muttered, nudging his pack aside and picking up the box. He felt something slide around in the box and curiosity bit at him.
Stiles sat on the bed and flipped the lid up, expecting to find dirty needles or maybe a severed hand.
Instead, dozens of photos stared back at him, a young boy with bushy eyebrows and green eyes glaring into the camera like he was surprised.
Next to the kid in several of the pictures appeared to be family members, siblings or cousins. Stiles smiled, flipping the photo of the three kids over to see if there were names or a date.
“Laura Hale, Derek Hale, and Cora Hale” was written on the back. Derek Hale. The name flickered in his head, a distant memory.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and typed the name into Facebook’s search bar.
Derek Hale, 24, Beacon Hills, CA pulled up immediately, the profile picture of a dark haired young man scowling back at him. Apparently Derek hadn’t gotten any better at taking gracious pictures.
Stiles smiled a little. He used to go to school with Derek. He had vague recollections of Derek hovering on the outskirts of social groups, never quite joining, never adding to the conversations, though Stiles wasn’t sure if that was because he chose not to, or because he couldn’t find anything to add.
Stiles also remembered slamming the door in his face a couple years ago when he delivered a pizza to him.
His phone number was listed under his profile information—so he obviously didn’t know how to set up a private profile—and Stiles’s finger hovered over it.
He took a bracing breath and pressed it, bringing the phone to his ear.
It rang three times. “Hello?” the answer was rough, disgruntled and disoriented.
“Hey,” Stiles said lightly, flicking through the pictures. “My name is Stiles Stilinski. I just moved into an apartment off of 6th street, and I think I found some of your old pictures in a shoebox. I was wondering if you wanted to come pick them up.” The words came out in a rush. Stiles waited in anxious silence for a reply.
“Yeah, thank you. I’ll swing by in the morning if that’s okay.” Derek’s reply was softer than his greeting, and there was some rustling in the background.
Stiles nodded, then realized Derek couldn’t see him. “Yeah, sure dude. I’ll be here until ten, then I’m off to class.”
“Thanks,” Derek said again, and hung up.
It was nearing nine thirty when there was a knock on Stiles’s door. He crossed the apartment, finally daring to let his bare feet touch the carpet. He pulled the door open and blinked at the man in front of him.
Derek’s childhood pictures hadn’t done him justice, and he’d certainly changed since he’d been delivering pizzas to college freshmen.
Stiles realized he’d been gaping at him and began to slam the door in panic but Derek caught it, hand slapping against the wood.
“You’ve done that enough in the past, don’t you think?” he said, brows lifting. “Can I have my pictures? I didn’t mean to leave them here.”
“Oh, uh, yeah, sure.” Stiles ducked his head, caught between curiosity, humiliation, and a sort of hazy attraction. “They’re, uh, over here.”
Stiles walked over to the kitchen, grabbing the shoebox off the counter.
“Man, did you leave in a hurry or something?” Stiles asked, his mouth moving faster than his brain could keep up. “How can you leave pictures?”
“Family emergency,” Derek said simply.
“Oh.” Stiles felt his face fall. “I’m sorry.” He raked his brains for something else to say. “What did you mean, about me doing that enough in the past?” he asked, feeling his cheeks start to burn.
Derek lifted a brow and took a deep breath, like he was about to start a long story. “Well, a couple years ago, you slammed the door in my face after ordering a pizza,” he started, and Stiles let his head drop onto the counter.
“In my defense, that was because I completely humiliated myself,” he said, muffled.
Derek chuckled quietly. “Before that, you a bag at the register in the grocery store—that was in Beacon Hills, in high school. It was, hmm,” he tipped his head thoughtfully side to side, “a blue loofa and two oranges.”
Stiles squinted at him, lifting his head hesitantly. “What?”
Derek nodded. “Yep. I chased you out of the store to give you your bag, and you slammed your car door in my face, then raced out of the parking lot.”
Stiles’s mouth popped open as the memory swam to the surface. “Oh my god. I remember that!” He looked at Derek, mouth still parted. “That was you! I remember you running down the parking lot, I swear I just thought you were trying to get out of there as fast as I was.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Derek said wryly. “And before that, your jeep broke down in the middle of the road-”
“I definitely remember that! Dude, you saved our asses, you have no idea!” Stiles crowed, hopping up onto the counter in his excitement. He swung his legs. “My dad’s the sheriff of Beacon County, and we were only fifteen—we just had our permits, had to have a licensed adult in the car. When that jeep broke down, I thought we were as good as dead,” he laughed, smiling fondly at Derek. “I mean, Dad totally found out and grounded me for a week, but it wasn’t until the jeep wouldn’t start the next morning and I said someone said we should take it to a mechanic.”
Derek’s smile lit up. “You slammed your door in my face and said thanks while you drove off.”
Stiles winced. “Yeah, I guess that was a dick move. Every man for himself when your fifteen and can get grounded, I suppose.” He tilted his head curiously. “You remember all of these?”
“Yes,” Derek admitted. “You did it twice before then, too.”
“What? More?” Stiles groaned, covering his face with his hands.
Chuckling, Derek leaned back against the counter and told Stiles about the two times he let the door slam in Derek’s face, once in middle school—“Scott was having an asthma attack! You were helping me with my backpack?”—and once in elementary school—“Summer break means no holds barred, man.”
“Wow,” Stiles said, leaning back against the cabinets. “You remember all of that.” He smiled. “Why?”
Derek gave a one shouldered shrug. “Just…things that stuck in my mind.” He looked around, scratching his jaw with his shoulder like he felt awkward. “What brings you here?”
“My dad, well, me too. But he didn’t want me to stay in the college dorms because I was pissing too many people off and thought space would be better for me.”
Derek raised an eyebrow. “Pissing people off how?” He set his box on the counter beside him.
“I would get mad at them for partying too late.” Stiles shrugged simply, as if that was the answer to everything.
Derek laughed loudly. The sound made Stiles grin, warmth spreading from his cheeks down to his chest and further down to his stomach.
“Seems a bit backwards,” Derek said after a second. “My older sister used to get in trouble for partying too much.”
“Why would I pay for college just to blow it on parties?” Stiles demanded. “Grade school and high school may have been free but college sure isn’t. Got to get the most out of that money as possible.”
Derek grinned. “Thanks again for saving the photo’s for me. I really appreciate it.”
“Of course,” Stiles said. His heart sank when he realized the conversation was winding to a close. “If I find anything else of yours, I’ll give you a call.”
“Thanks,” Derek said awkwardly. He didn’t make a move toward the door.
Stiles bit his lip. He didn’t know how to ask, but he felt like he had good chances. But what if Derek just had a good memory? He had certainly remembered a lot of little things, but that could have just been a Derek-thing.
“Do you want to get coffee sometime?” Derek asked, putting the shoebox of photo’s under his arm and avoiding Stiles’s gaze.
“Yes!” Stiles said quickly, a grin big enough split his face.