What blows my mind here is that… she really doesn’t have to do all of this. Like for real. She doesn’t. She could sit in one of her mansions, in all her queen of pop glory, post few pics or stories on Instagram each month and people would be happy. She would probably sell just as many CDs and she’d still sell out all the stadiums in the world… but she still chooses to spend hours with fans. You think she has to perform at these radio shows? No, she doesn’t. But she still chooses to because radio was always sticking up for her. She could sell meet&greets for thousands of dollars and people would fight to buy them but nope… she does them for free. And there’s so much more that she doesn’t have to do. But she does. Because she cares. And she’s loyal. And I’m a bit emotional now. I think that we sometimes take all of this for granted. Like we’re living in the same age as Taylor Swift… I feel like that’s the story our grandkids are gonna ask us to tell over and over again…
He laughs, rough and edging just slightly on bitter.
“Yeah, that happens when you disappear for two years.”
Derek’s eyes flit downward, and Stiles waits for him to comment on the FBI vest strapped to his chest but he doesn’t. His eyes only go so far as Stiles’ mouth, flicking back to his eyes and then down again, lingering, before sliding away. A warmth blooms out from Stiles’ chest, crawling up his neck and coiling downward, and this definitely isn’t the time for this but they haven’t seen each other in a year and a half, not even pictures because why the hell would Stiles have a picture of Derek (and he’s spent too long cursing not having pictures of Derek) and he finds his own eyes lingering.
“…You look exactly the same.” And that’s not true because Derek actually looks better, but there’s no real way to explain that Stiles hadn’t been able to hold all of the goddamn perfection of Derek’s face in his memory. He’d thought he had, but his eyes keep flitting around now and holding, catching on little details, little rushes of rediscovery in those eyes, that jaw, his teeth, his mouth, his…
Stiles wets his lips, and Derek’s looking again.
“I should have called,” Derek says at the same time, and Stiles blinks, breaking off, confusion pinching his brows because Derek hadn’t known Stiles was coming. He’d had no reason to call. Except… “After… Peter told me what happened, and I…”
“It’s fine.” It wasn’t, but it wasn’t any less fine than anything else from that shit show. It wasn’t any worse than Derek leaving town and getting rid of his phone to begin with.
“I felt sick the whole time you were gone,” Derek presses on, quick and urgent, like the words had been fighting for months to bubble loose and are finally breaking free. “I felt… Cora said it seemed like I’d just… emptied out. On the full moon, I could barely––”
“Stop it.” It stung, because he’d thought Derek would care. For the longest time he’d felt like Derek should care, and deciding he didn’t was the first stepping stone to pulling himself together after… after the Benefactor.
Or… fuck, maybe Derek had cared, but he hadn’t cared enough to stay, to keep in contact, to check in when Stiles had needed… needed someone.
No, fuck. Needed him.
“This isn’t the time,” he says, firmly, because a fucking FBI SWAT team is nearby somewhere and there’s still a target painted on Derek’s back, and the fact that Stiles wants to crawl onto his lap and beat the crap out of him at the same time doesn’t matter, because Stiles is here to save his life. Again.
Derek parts his lips, looks like he wants to argue… and ends up just nodding, looking away up the street.
Stiles makes it a whole three steps toward the next corner before swinging back on him, balled fist smacking his bicep.
“Why didn’t you call?”
Derek doesn’t flinch at the blow. Sighs softly. When he meets Stiles’ eyes, the look in them’s enough to send months of coiled anger scattering.
“I would have gone back.”
“…What?” Stiles feels breathless on the word. Derek looks away, hands lost in the depths of his pockets and stance set in the defeated posture of a man with no way to win.
“If I’d heard your voice. If you’d asked. If you’d even sounded anything less than happy––” He grits his teeth, sharp and sudden, head ducking against some ugly thought. “…And I didn’t want to hear you happy, either.” That falls out lower, tight and rough like a secret shame.
“You didn’t want to hear me happy,” Stiles echoes, numb, and then slowly: “Without you.”
And he only understands Derek’s meaning because it’s been echoing in his own chest for over a year–– that stupid, selfish war of wanting to know he’s happy, and not wanting to know he’s happy, not wanting to hear him making a life and finding bliss in a way Stiles couldn’t give him. He’d always wanted to know Derek was doing well, so much that he’d lain up at night sometimes picturing new, bright, sometimes ridiculously corny futures for him… but the thought had always been as agonizing as it was hopeful and Stiles had never slept well afterward. And then he’d spent other nights up hating himself for being selfish enough to half-hope Derek might not be happy.
Might fail out there in the world, and come home.
Derek’s eyes are on his again, wide and shock-soft in a way Stiles had only glimpsed on him once before: the rush of thinking you’re alone in the world and realizing for one beautiful instant that you’re understood.
He can feel a matching expression lighting up his own eyes.
“We’re idiots,” he breathes, and Derek shakes his head, barely seeming to feel the movement.
“I couldn’t go back there.”
“But you could have known I fucking missed you as much as––” He breaks off, despite everything suddenly unsure. “…you missed me?”
“I missed you.” Derek promises, not missing a beat.
“You missed me,” Stiles echoes, and it’s everything he never knew he needed to hear. They watch each other for too long, stunned, awed stillness.
And then the slam of a car door in the distance pulls them back; reminds them where they are and what’s happening. Derek blinks away, looking out and alert toward the street, but Stiles can see a faint flush around his ears, a happy pull that won’t quite die on his lips.
“This isn’t the time,” Derek says, and Stiles nods. There are villains to stop. People to save.
“This isn’t the time,” he echoes, but he’s smiling as he turns to head up the street. “Later.”