everything i’ve ever let go of had claw marks on it (you’re in a car with a beautiful boy) | derek/stiles
The Jeep shrieks around the corner, blue as it’s ever been, bumps a curb and misses a cone. It skids to a stop an inch from Derek’s left boot, and that’s on purpose—it always has been, after all.
“Get in,” says Stiles, and Derek does.
Stiles drives like he talks like he fights like he lives: reckless. He throws the gearshift like it’s the winning shot in one of those lacrosse games he never quite managed to play, and Derek keeps his eyes on the road. If he looks to his right, the countryside will stream by fast enough to make him dwell on the word fleeting; if he looks to his left, he’ll have to stare at the way Stiles’ fingers tighten and release on the steering wheel. They’re old habit, run in, the two of them in this bone-tired machine, and Derek knows there’s value in that. Derek knows that breaking patterns leads to chaos. Derek knows he doesn’t know very much.
“You have three days,” is what Stiles says, when they’re ten minutes to the nearest highway ramp. “I don’t care what it is this time—ravenous flesh-eating werefleas, the zombie apocalypse, the first and last coming of the Great Spaghetti Monster, I don’t care! If I’m not back on campus by Monday, I’m going to fail Statistics, and as much as I appreciate the exciting new twist you put on the whole ‘the dog ate my homework’ thing…”
“Monday,” Derek says, “fine. The Great Spaghetti Monster?”
Stiles doesn’t bite, which isn’t fair. Not so long ago, that would’ve been a twenty minute argument, with Stiles doing most of the arguing—not so long ago, this would’ve been sharp and vitriolic and easy, tinted ever so slightly with the scent of fear, all swords and no scabbards. Derek knows how to work with swords, how to dodge them and snarl at them and fall on them if he has to, but college has made Stiles smell weary and weathered, older in a way Derek can’t quantify.
Stiles hasn’t smelled of fear in years, doesn’t smell like it now, but the car they’re both in reeks of it. Derek knows what that means. Derek knows what that’s always meant. Derek is, for the thousandth time, relieved that Stiles isn’t a werewolf.
“Where are we going, Derek,” Stiles says, and it’s not a question so much as a guided exhalation of breath. Derek shifts in his seat, once, twice, and knows whatever answer he gives will turn out to be the wrong one.
“West,” he says, and Stiles snorts, throws his hands in the air for half a second, doesn’t argue.
Three hours in, radio dragging a country tune by its ankles through rough static and Derek’s hair on end with tension, Stiles says, “Oh, come on, Derek, what is it, will you just tell me? Are you dying? Is Scott dying? Are we driving away from a nuclear werewolf bomb? Did somebody poison the watering hole? What?”
“I thought you said you didn’t care,” Derek says. He says it carefully, because it pays to be careful, with Stiles; when you’re not careful, he figures out what you’re not saying a lot faster. Derek doesn’t want Stiles to figure out what he’s not saying—he figures it’s only fair if he gets the chance to figure out why he’s not saying it first.
“I said I had to get back to campus by Monday,” Stiles says, “which, for the record, is something I felt it necessary to state up-front because you have no concept of other people’s time. Since when does ‘This rescue mission has a time limit’ mean ‘Don’t tell me what we’re up against?’ What dictionary are you working off of?”
“This isn’t a rescue mission,” Derek says.
“Then what is it?”
Derek lets one fang grow, just a little, just the point, hidden inside of his mouth. He digs the sharp edge into the soft flesh of his lower lip, tries to let the pain pull him back to logic; it doesn’t work, because this is a human problem, a Stiles problem, and they never play by the wolf rules. Derek knows the answer to that question; he just doesn’t want Stiles to know the answer to that question. He’d thought, by this point, that he’d have figured something out.
“I wanted to see you,” Derek says eventually, and Stiles pumps his breaks in the middle of the goddamn highway.
“You know,” Stiles starts, forty-five minutes and one narrowly averted pile-up later. His heart is beating…oddly, not too fast and not too slow but somehow not how it should be beating, either. Derek can hear it, lurching along unevenly like it’s trying to keep a lost beat; he waits, but Stiles sighs like a growl, doesn’t finish his thought.
“No, you know what,” Stiles starts again, hours later, as the waning gibbous is starting to rise, “that’s it, Derek, that’s it, we’re not doing this.”
“Exactly,” Stiles says, and Derek’s long since known a snarl when he heard one. “I’m pulling off at the next exit, and I’m turning around, and I’m taking you the fuck back to Beacon Hills unless you start talking. Like, right now.”
“What is it you want me to talk about?” Derek says, and wishes, distantly, that he did’t see better by moonlight. The look Stiles gives him from the other side of the cab is so beaten-raw and heartbroken that Derek has to look away. He catches a half-second of sickening rush; when he looks back, Stiles’ eyes are fixed firmly on the road. He caves. “I mean—”
“I know what you mean,” Stiles snaps. He flexes his fingers against the steering wheel, thumbs tapping a dangerous inch from each other. “But you know what, Derek, I’m not—I’m not sixteen anymore, and this isn’t some forbidden thing anymore, and I’m not going to just keep—keep coming when you call me and carrying around this stupid torch and waiting around like you’re going to—and it’s not like I don’t get it, okay, it’s not like I haven’t perused the whole insane grimoire of your assorted issues, but I know you know, because you have to know, because god knows how many times you’ve smelled it on me. So just—make a fucking decision, Derek, god. Do something, say something, go all alpha on it, I don’t care, but screw these road trips to nowhere where we play like I’m still a kid. I’m not, and you’re not, and I’m done, okay? So you’re gonna have to shit or get the hell off the pot.”
“Pull over, then,” Derek says, and Stiles glares, swears, does as he’s told.
Stiles fucks like he drives like he talks like he lives: reckless. Derek spreads him out against the backseat of his bone-tired machine and strips him bare, rips his clothes off for the show of it. Stiles just grins at him, lifts his eyebrows, says, “Dude, really, you’re going for machismo? Right now? Because like, aside from the number of times I’ve saved your sorry ass from certain death at this point, which I think is like 70—”
“Sixty-five, and I’ve got three on you.”
“Whatever,” Stiles says, “my point is, we’re fucking in the back of my Jeep because Tall Dark and Capable Of Removing My Jugular was too scared of his feelings to just ask me out like a normal person. I think the time for machismo has passed.”
“You know what I remember fondly,” Derek says on a growl, “is the ability to make you be silent.”
Stiles’ scent shifts then, gets darker and hotter and headier, harder for Derek to ignore. His eyes are half-lidded, and of the hundreds on hundreds of things Derek can hear just now, nothing’s as worth it as his caught breath.
“You were working with fear tactics,” Stiles whispers. His hands skate up under Derek’s shirt, and there’s trust and there’s love and then there’s this: the boy who got old enough to know better and still doesn’t, the man who grew up far too young. They’re each both of them, and neither of them is either one, and Stiles scrapes a teasing bite against Derek’s hipbone, says, “There turn out to be more effective ways to shut me up.”
“So, I think we should take the whole week,” Stiles says the next morning. He is cheerful in a way that Derek can only describe as grotesque. He will not let Derek drive. He has purchased a pair of sunglasses from a gas station; they don’t fit him, and his hair is too long, and he’s wearing one of Derek’s shirts, the torn-up remains of his own tied around his forehead like a bandana. He looks like an outlaw who didn’t get any of the memos on how to do outlawing correctly, and Derek, of all people, would know.
“I’m embarrassed to be seen with you,” Derek says, which makes Stiles’ grin go shit-eating and smug. “And you said you had to be back by Monday.”
“No, you’re lying now.”
“Freaking walking polygraph,” Stiles mutters, but he’s still grinning. He’s only got one thumb beating against the steering wheel today, a dull tap tap tap as his other hand fiddles with a dial on the radio. Derek is fairly certain that free hand is going to end up on his thigh soon; he knew this was a bad idea. Stiles, given an inch of confidence, will use it to justify strutting for miles.
“Will you really fail Statistics?” Derek says, after a considering pause. Stiles’ heartbeat jumps and settles, and he shrugs around a long swig of water, which is answer enough. “No. You’re not failing classes for me—ugh, see, this is exactly why—”
“Oh my god, Derek, I’m twenty,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes across the passenger seat. “And technically a junior, which I managed in between, you know, battling literal evil. If I was going to let your gigantic creeper lycanthropic ass ruin my life, don’t you think you would’ve managed it years ago?”
“I,” Derek says, “you—well, but that’s not, it’s different, we weren’t—”
“You are wrong in the head,” Stiles says happily. He reaches out with that free hand, and Derek’s guess was off; it doesn’t go to his thigh, but to the nape of his neck, warm and more soothing than he’d really prefer. It figures, he thinks, that Stiles would figure that out—he always gets to the things Derek doesn’t tell him. He’s probably been planning this for years.
“This is just going to make you harder to deal with, isn’t it,” Derek says, resigned, and Stiles’ laugh paints the morning golden yellow.
“Man,” he says, “you have no idea.”