THIS REMINDS ME, the other day it occurred to me that I should stop making stuff up and give in to my actual destiny, which is to write a prep school AU, which quickly evolved into: Kate as Derek’s older juvenile delinquent girlfriend who sweet-talks him into all kinds of bad behavior including just like, a little minor arson. She has him do all the heavy lifting; she’s 18, she’s got a record, she can’t risk it, and he’s sixteen and blind with wanting her so he says yes every time.
He doesn’t realize that they’re targeting the dance studio where his little sister takes lessons– all those suburban houses look the same from the back, he doesn’t know– and he doesn’t realize that this one will really catch, the ground dry in a drought, flames sparking up across scattered leaves and onto the porch and the can of gas Mrs. Pressman keeps out back for emergencies. Everyone makes it out safe but Derek dreams about it every night: the last firefighter emerging with smoke-black Cora clutched in his arms, her little pink tights ripped and charred, the hack of her cough for days after. Confession doesn’t ease the burden, but it does get him sent to some reform school for fuckups and headcases.
WHICH is where he meets Stiles, who’s also sixteen and grieving his mother’s death, whose behavior has been erratic and mostly non-violent, but eventually even there was nothing a small-town Sheriff could do, too many teachers complained, couldn’t pay for the local private school, had to send him to one of his old buddies from the academy who does security at Beacon Academy for Rowdy Boys. ARE THEY ROOMMATES. Yeah, you know, I think they are.
At first they don’t get along. Obviously. Stiles is like, they put me in with an actual delinquent, I’m just having a hard time, I don’t want to live with this nutty pyro! And Derek is kept awake by Stiles’ unending stream of nightmares, the twitching and talking and screaming. That’s what drives them together, Derek gaunt and shadow-eyed, saying “dude, you have to talk to someone about whatever’s going on in your head, I can't sleep.”
“Talking about what was going on in my head is what landed me here. Not making that mistake twice.”
“I know the feeling,” Derek says before he can stop himself.
“No, you don’t.”
“Listen, asshole, I turned myself in.” Derek is across the room before he means to be, fingers twisted in the front of Stiles’ shirt, their faces too close. “I knew I was dangerous and I knew this would be a shithole, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone anymore, I didn’t want–”
“Hey.” Stiles reaches up and untwists each finger, one by one by one. “Okay. Okay. I didn’t know.” He settles back onto the edge of his bed and Derek sinks down next to him, puts his head in his hands.
“I said I had dreams about killing people,” Stiles says softly. “Every dumb asshole who showed up to mom’s funeral, their big dumb grinning faces, saying sorry, sorry, like it was their job to grieve her, like they knew, like they had any right to–” he sucks in a breath and unclenches his own hand where it’s buried in the sheets. “I wasn’t going to do it.” He says. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt, either.”
They start talking a little bit, sometimes, while they do homework, sitting together at meals. Derek’s family comes to visit and Stiles sees how he is with them: lost in the fray of so many voices and opinions and bodies, second to youngest and not even the baby anymore. He just looks and looks at Cora and doesn’t touch her, seething with how much he loves her, how scared he is to love her, and Stiles feels the exact same burn spreading, flames licking under his own skin. The Sheriff comes and he and Derek talk about his case, a little bit, his legal strategies. Seeing his father’s gruffness get soft loosens something in Stiles. “I miss you,” he admits at the end of the visit, bringing up the words from all the ugliness twisted up inside of him, feeling out the idea that loving someone might not always end hideously after all.
The nightmares slow but they don’t stop. At some point Derek takes to just crawling into bed with Stiles, their long bodies spilling over its edges, and it’s not like he sleeps so much better, really, except in the earliest hours of the morning, when they’re both warm and pliable and too tired to pretend, when Stiles wraps his arms around Derek’s body and pulls his face against his neck, and the morning sunlight comes in through the window and somehow, for a few hours, they both feel safe.