Stiles knew when he was six that he would always love Derek. Derek was seven, and the coolest kid ever . Their moms were friends and they’d known each other for as long as Stiles could remember.
They were playing in the Hale’s backyard (it was so much bigger than Stiles’) when he tripped and fell, landing with a sharp pain in his wrist. Stiles burst into tears and Derek ran over, trying to comfort him. Stiles couldn’t move his wrist because it hurt too much, before Derek grabbed his other hand and the pain seemed to fade.
“It’s not that bad, see? Don’t cry, Stiles, please. It’s all better. ”
Stiles sniffs and nods and their moms are by their sides instantly. Derek lets go of his hand and the pain is there again, just not as strong. He gets picked up in his mom’s arms, and the next day Derek signs his cast.
“There, now everyone can see you’re my best friend,” Derek said with a smile as he finished scrawling the giant ‘K’ at the end of his name, before a love heart underneath.
Stiles tries not to smile when Derek kisses his cheek.
All it had turned out to be was the wishful thinking of a six year old.
“Stiles, wake up.”
Stiles pulls his blankets over his head with a groan, trying to block out the voice.
“Stiles,” it repeats, pulling the blankets away.
“Dad, why,” he whines, turning over to glare at his dad.
“You’ve got school.”
Stiles groans again and sits up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. It was the first day of second semester junior year and already it was filled with regret after deciding to go early so he could be on time this year.
“You stayed up all of last night playing games with Scott, didn’t you?”
“No, not… Not all night.” He tries, but it’s met with the expected sigh.
Waiting for Scott by his locker when he gets to the school isn’t exactly Stiles’ favourite pastime, especially when he probably wasn’t even awake yet. He runs his fingers through his hair tiredly and watches the front doors.
“Excuse me?” Comes from behind him. “Sorry, it’s just that that’s my locker.”
Stiles moves to the side with an apologetic smile. “You new?”
“Is it obvious?” She sighs.
“I generally make a point of knowing who has lockers next to mine,” he shrugs. “Especially when they’re at school as early as me.”
As least it wasn’t Jackson this year. That had been hell.
“I’m Allison,” she offers.
She smiles and starts to unload books and Stiles hears the front doors open, but the voice that echoes through the hall makes him turn back to his locker and do the same as Allison.
“What’s your schedule?” He asks quietly, staring dumbly at his chemistry book.
“Hey, Stilinski!” Jackson’s smug voice calls, when there’s a hand pulling his shoulder to face him.
“What do you want, Jackson?” Stiles asks staring him down. Stiles isn’t going to give him the satisfaction of seeing him shrink away, even if after being shoved into lockers in middle school by him is always going to be give him a lingering fear.
“You and McCall had better not be trying out for lacrosse this afternoon.”
“Yes, because I’m going to let a severe asthmatic try out for a sport. What kind of idiot do you think I am?”
“Just try not to get in my way this semester, Stilinski.” Jackson rolls his eyes and walks away before Stiles can reply.
“Does that happen often?” Allison asks with a frown. “You should probably tell someone.”
“It’s hard when you’re the sheriff’s son. Everyone either thinks I’m a snitch or that I’m too sensitive.”
Allison grimaces and Stiles thinks maybe he’s going to have a friend other than Scott.
Except at lunch when Lydia sits down at their table and starts a conversation with Allison, which brings Danny, who he doesn’t mind so much, but it also brings Jackson. And half the juniors in the lacrosse team.
He tries to stay out of their immediate attention, but choosing to sit there quietly is not the easiest task for him. As if on cue, the cafeteria goes quiet as some of the seniors walk in. Honestly, Stiles doesn’t get why people treat them like they’re superstars. Sure, they’re popular, and they play lacrosse, and Hale and his friends look like goddamn models, but he doesn’t get why it’s the same thing every damn year on the first day.
Stiles rolls his eyes at Scott, who smirks down at his tray. He thinks it goes unnoticed, but when everyone starts talking again, Jackson zeroes in.
“You jealous of Hale, Stilinski?”
Stiles chokes on his drink, because out of everything, it wasn’t that. “You’re joking, right?”
“He’s got the popularity, the muscle, the money,” Jackson jabs. “Why are you even sitting here anyway? Aren’t we an insult to your tortured little poet’s heart? Are you going to write about us to your dead mom?”
The entire table stiffens, and Stiles tries to reign in his fury.
“You know, just when I thought you couldn’t be more of a dick, you prove me wrong. As tortured as you think I am, Jackson, at least I know not to throw someone’s dead parents in their face,” Stiles says tonelessly, picking up his bag as he stands. “And for the record, I was sitting here first.”
He walks away before he can see the look of guilt flash across Jackson’s face, ignoring the stares he can feel boring into his back. Being dramatic is better than getting detention, Stiles tells himself. At least he didn’t punch him.
Knowing Jackson, he’d try to get his dad to file an assault charge or something as equally ridiculous if he punched him. Stiles has perfect grades for a reason, okay? He needs to get a scholarship for college. It’s no secret that he and his dad struggle on a sheriff’s wage but usually it’s not thrown in his face like that.
He ends up punching a locker.
Which is a mistake, because it hurts like hell.
At least it wasn’t Jackson’s face.
Stiles is kind of glad that he has a free period after lunch because then he doesn’t have to face anybody. That’s what he thinks, at least until someone sits down next to him.
Under the staircase.
Where he’d been hiding.
The legs give it away instantly, not that Stiles had been looking, but Hale had very distinguished legs. Especially in jeans that tight.
“What do you want, Hale?” Stiles asks tiredly as he nurses his sore hand. “I’m not in the mood.”
There’s a pause before Derek answers, “I wanted to see if you were okay.”
Stiles tries not to scoff, but he fails. “Why?”
“I heard what Jackson said.”
“And? Do you want a medal?” He sneers.
It’s not like Derek cared, he hadn’t in years.
“No, Hale. Just leave me alone.”
He was used to being called Stilinski. No one called him Stiles except for his dad, Scott, Scott’s mom, and now Allison.
Derek wasn’t allowed to act like they were still friends.
“Fine,” Derek snaps.
He’s gone in an instant.
Things are different after that.
Not good different either, or bad different.
Scott and Allison start dating which is probably the most normal thing Stiles expected. But then Lydia is constantly sitting with them at lunch.
She talks to him now, which he would have been overjoyed about if he was still prepubescent. He’d gotten over her a long time ago, but right now he was still living in denial about his crush on Derek. Which he would never speak of to anyone. Ever. Just because he was as hot as the sun didn’t mean that Stiles wanted anything from him.
Speaking of Derek, that was another different thing. Stiles would catch him looking in his direction every so often (not that Stiles was looking at Derek in the first place, like what even) before Derek would look away. If he didn’t know any better he’d say Derek looked sad, but Stiles hasn’t been able to tell Derek’s emotions in years, not since they’d stopped being friends.
Jackson doesn’t talk to him at all, which is probably the best part.
Two weeks after the not–punching–Jackson incident, Stiles finds a note in his locker at the end of the day.
He keeps it closed and shoves it in his bag because he doesn’t trust the people in this school as far as he could throw them. It could be a prank for all he knows.
As soon as he’s in the safety of his room, he opens it and stares at the handwriting. It’s too pretty to be anyone’s Stiles knows, but he recognises the words instantly from the amount of times his mom read it to him and how many times he’d read the book from cover to cover after she’d passed.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a boy there lived whom you may know
By the name of Stiles Stilinski;
And this boy he lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
Stiles laughs at the changes, smiling to himself as he tucked the note away inside the pages of his mom’s old Poe book.
He keeps running into Hale.
Around town, around school, and it’s starting to grate on his nerves.
Stiles is studying in the library during his free period school when he sees Derek walk in. Stiles gets up to avoid him, grabbing some of his books to re-shelve and pretend that he isn’t hiding, when a freshman comes up to him and asks which section the history books are in.
As soon as the freshman is gone, Derek is waiting for him. Stiles holds back from swearing and raises his eyebrows expectantly.
“Have my sisters talked to you?” He grits, looking over Stiles’ shoulder.
“Why would your sisters talk to me?” Stiles scoffs. “It’s not like we’re friends.”
Derek meets his glare and something softens in his face. Stiles turns away to continue shelving when Derek sighs. “Stiles…”
“What? Can’t you see I’m busy?”
Stiles puts the books on the tray and turns back to Derek, clenching his fists. “You’re sorry? Really?”
He can still remember everything like it was yesterday, how he was in freshmen year and Derek was sophomore, popular and already in first string of lacrosse and captain of the swimming team. The people he had hung out with back then hadn’t liked Stiles.
“You never what? You never treated me as your best friend? Never interfered when your ex and her friends shoved me into a locker and went through my shit in freshman year? Or how you should have never blamed me for not supporting you when the reason I never went to your lacrosse tryouts is because they beat the shit out of me beforehand?”
He doesn’t mean to get right up into Derek’s space, but he’s angry. He’d bottled this up for years, and now Derek saying sorry like it would fix everything just made it spill over.
Derek’s look goes murderous before he nods and Stiles sees him clenching his hands into fists, shaking slightly. “I should have.”
“You’re damn right you should have,” he whispers furiously. They are in a library after all.
“I never– if I’d had known–”
It makes Stiles pause and he doesn’t mean to look down at Derek’s lips, but he does. His teeth look sharper for some reason, but Stiles tears his eyes away and back to Derek’s face. He hesitates. “You… You didn’t know?”
“No, Stiles, how could you think that I did– that I would let them do that to you?”
“They said– they said you knew,” his voice breaks like he’s fourteen all over again.
Like they did when they were kids trying to pick which was a lie, Derek takes his hand and places it over his heart, speaking slowly. “I swear I didn’t know.”
Derek pulls him into a hug and at first Stiles stands frozen, before wrapping his arms around Derek in return and burying his nose into the side of his neck. He still smells like Stiles remembers, and he holds him tighter. “I missed you,” Derek whispers.
“Me too,” Stiles sniffs. “I missed you too.”
“Mom will be happy we made up,” he says quietly.
Stiles laughs and lets go of Derek, realising he was probably enjoying that hug too much. He probably shouldn’t be attracted to his best friend.
“Do you want to come over after school?”
Derek smiles and nods, meeting him by his jeep at the end of the day. The ride home is filled with tentative conversation, and Stiles slumps down onto his bed when they get to his house. It feels right with Derek being there again, like they hadn’t spent the last three years avoiding each other.
“Why were you looking for your sisters?”
“I thought they might have taken something from my room.”
His Poe book is sitting on his bedside table, and Derek picks it up with a smile as he thumbs through the old pages.
“You remember when my Mom used to read that to us?”
Derek smiles before it falls, and he takes the note out of the page it’s bookmarking. He looks kind of frozen as he reads it over. “Where did you get this?”
“Someone left it in my locker the other day. I was worried it was a prank, but it was actually really sweet. Are you okay? You look kind of tense.”
Derek puts the note back in the page of the book and collapses next to him, staring up at the ceiling. “I’m fine. Just kind of hungry.”
“Dude, you know where the kitchen is.”
“If I went downstairs you’d just make me bring you back something.”
“You know me so well,” Stiles laughs.
“…I’m just saying–”
“You coming to the game tonight?” Derek asks, sitting down next to him at their lunch table.
Scott’s stops talking and stares mid-sentence, Allison’s eyes go wide, Lydia looks between the two of them with narrowed eyes, and Jackson looks confused.
“I wasn’t planning to…?” Stiles says slowly.
“You should come,” Derek suggests with a nudge of his leg.
“So what were we all talking about?” One of Derek’s friends ask as they sit down with them and turn to start conversation with the others.
At the end of the day Stiles drives home and showers, and his dad ends up in the car with him.
“It’s good to see you two getting along again,” he muses as he drives. “I know Talia has been protesting for years.”
“I’m not even going to respond to that.”
His dad laughs and pulls into a parking spot at the field and when they get out, Stiles feels like an intruder. He’d always tried to avoid this sort of thing after what had happened. He follows his dad slowly into the bleachers over to where Derek’s family is sitting, when Talia wraps him in her arms. It’s old and familiar and he hugs her back tightly, before Laura wraps him in her own hug afterwards.
Stiles hears a shout of his name and he looks around to see Lydia with Scott and Allison on the front row, waving him over. He turns to look at his dad and the Hales and they all smile.
When he gets to them, Lydia grabs his arm and pulls him down in the seat next to her. “When the hell did you find time to bag a guy like Hale?”
“We’re friends,” Stiles feels his face heat up, and then the team are running out and Derek sees him and smiles. His blush gets worse.
“Our moms were friends, okay? We’ve been in diapers together.”
“I thought you two hated each other.”
Scott makes a sound of hurt, being the only one who knows what actually happened. “They had a huge misunderstanding, Lydia.”
Lydia nods and lets it go, but Stiles can feel her calculating eyes as he cheers when Derek scores a goal.
They’re tied and it’s nearing the end of the match and Derek is looking frustrated as they start to line up. Stiles is sitting there chewing his nails in nervousness, why was this so interesting now?
The ball is passed and the players go running. Derek gets it passed to him and he’s fast.
“Come on, Derek,” he whispers to himself. “You can do it.”
Derek swings and to Stiles it feels like the entire crowd is holding their breath, when the goalie misses and it continues into the net, just moments before the final whistle.
Stiles jumps to his feet with everyone and cheers, clapping proudly as Derek takes his helmet off and it takes him a few moments before he makes eye contact with Stiles. He smiles and turns back to his celebrating team before they start to move over to the bleachers.
Stiles is trying to fight the smile at Derek’s helmet hair, but he fails when Derek pulls him into a hug.
“Dude, no, you’re all sweaty– that is so gross, you’re gross,” Stiles complains, but he hugs him back.
“Thank you,” Derek says softly, pulling away and sharing a private smile.
“For being here.”
Derek hanging out with him at school gets people talking, but Stiles couldn’t care less. He had his best friend back and with Derek comes his friends Erica, Isaac, and Boyd. They were kind of cool too, but anyone was better than Jennifer and her little gang.
The notes keep coming too, each with different parts of Poe’s work. Stiles never takes the book with him to school because he doesn’t want it to get destroyed, but he doesn’t open the notes at school anyway. Derek reads them sometimes, but Stiles doesn’t really mind. When Derek reads them out loud to him makes something stir in his gut, because it makes it more real, that these are for him.
Stiles feels kind of guilty that it’s helping his crush grow rather than shrink, and that he’s focused on Derek more than whoever had been giving him the notes.
One day Stiles gets to school later than he usually would, having slept through his alarm and his dad hadn’t been there to wake him up. The hall is full of people and Stiles navigates his way to his locker, silently hoping that there was a note because he’d been rushing home the day before.
There’s a soft smile on his face at the sight of it, shoving his books into his locker. Stiles goes to put it in his bag, when a hand reaches out and steals it from him.
“What’ve you got there, Stilinski?” Jackson sneers, loudly, drawing the attention of the hall.
“Jackson, give it back,” he pleads quietly, seeing Scott and Allison walk through the front door hand in hand, and Derek and his friends coming down the stairs. Lydia and Danny are nearby too, both staring at Jackson with wide eyes.
Jackson doesn’t listen, unfolding it and a choked laugh escaping him. “Stilinski, is someone writing you poetry?”
But then he starts reading.
It’s like half of his nightmares rolled into one, the words coming out of Jackson’s mouth just sounding twisted and dirty.
“‘From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were. I have not seen as others saw’– really? That’s just what we need, another delicate flower like you. ‘I could not bring my passions from a common spring. From the same source I have not taken my sorrow’– wow, this is just. ‘I could not awaken my heart to joy at the same tone. And all I loved. I loved alone’— Wait, Stilinski, are you leaving love letters to yourself?”
Stiles doesn’t try to hold himself back, his fist colliding with Jackson’s face. There are shouts before Stiles is being held back by Boyd and Erica, but the only thing that makes him stop struggling is the sight of Derek shoving Jackson back into the lockers.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? Huh, Whittemore?!” Derek yells, pressing him harder against the lockers. “You think that shit is funny?”
Jackson doesn’t say anything, he looks too terrified as blood runs from his nose.
“You talk to him again and then I’ll be the one breaking your nose.” Derek pushes off of him and turns back to Stiles, eyes flicking over his face. “Are you okay?”
Stiles nods, but his hand is killing him. Breaking Jackson’s nose was so worth it, even with the pain it caused.
Derek frowns and takes his right hand, thumbing over his knuckles gently. The pain seems to fade and then Derek smiles softly, like he’s remembering the same thing Stiles is.
“All better,” Derek whispers.
His touch lingers on Stiles’ skin even as they’re sent to the principal’s office.
It’s not as bad as it could be. Jackson says it’s his fault, so Stiles and Derek don’t get in that much trouble. He has to hold in his laughter whenever he sees Jackson’s two black eyes, but the only thing that’s upset him about the whole thing is that the notes have stopped. Whoever had been leaving them mustn’t have been able to get over the humiliation they were both shoved into because of Jackson.
At least, that’s what Stiles thinks until he’s studying with Derek over at the Hale house.
They’re in Derek’s room and Stiles is pouring over his notes when Laura calls for Derek for his help with something, and Stiles decides to take a short break.
There are sporting trophies and books and there’s a picture of them from when their families went to the beach together when they were kids. Stiles picks the frame up with a smile, how Derek’s eyes are closed shut and he’s got a huge smile on his face and even though Stiles is grinning, he has some of his teeth missing. They’re sitting next to a sandcastle they’d made before Derek’s uncle Peter had helped them build a moat around it.
He puts it back down on the bedside table before he notices a little slip of white right next to it. He shouldn’t look, but when he goes closer to it, he sees it has his name in short, neat letters that he’s come to recognise in his anonymous notes. He picks it up with a frown, seeing words from Annabel Lee.
I was a child and he was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Stiles Stilinski—
Second stanza, not first.
Realisation goes through him before he climbs back onto Derek’s bed and stares at the handwriting in Derek’s workbook.
The door opens and Derek walks back in, seeing Stiles with the note in his hands. His eyes go wide and panicked, but words don’t come out of his mouth.
“It was you?” Stiles breathes, staring Derek down.
Derek nods stiffly, like he wants to run. “Not the first one. Cora found it and I didn’t know what she’d done with it until I saw you had it.”
“That’s why you were looking for her in the library.”
“Yeah,” he agrees quietly. “If you feel uncomfortable because you know it’s me, just tell me and–”
He trails off as Stiles walks towards him, and Stiles takes a deep breath to prepare himself. “I’m really, really, glad it’s you.”
“Really,” Stiles nods. “And I’ve kind of been wanting to kiss you for a while now.”
Derek smiles and cups his cheek, leaning forward to kiss him.
It’s as perfect as Stiles imagined.
Turns out that he had been right when he was six.