I’m sorry I have a lot of headcanons that involve Derek Hale in nothing but cashmere sweaters and boxer briefs and hot chocolate and wooly socks reading old books that smell like vanilla and smiling at the funny parts and holding his PB&J sandwich in mid air until he gets to the end of the paragraph
And maybe Stiles would be living in the apartment directly across and one up from him and seeing him and wondering how anyone can be so calm and happily introverted and noticing how he stares at his lit-up phone on the the end table until it goes dark like he’s screening calls and maybe he sees him out on the street out of nowhere on a Monday morning looking put-together and clean shaven and slightly miserable (and honestly like a different person) and it’s like a mirror image of how Stiles looks in the glass of the shop window he’s standing beside and he kind of wants to see more of the happy, relaxed, shut-off-from-the-world guy he noticed while he was trying to vacuum the spot behind the couch that Lydia always manages to notice and cast judgement on whenever she visits.
Maybe Stiles checks and checks and Derek never has anyone over to visit so he’s at least single but possibly completely alone in the city just like Stiles is save for the intermittent visits from his friends and when his dad will allow himself the time off
And maybe Stiles and Derek get to the door of the subway at the same time one morning and Derek’s face holds an actual expression of curiosity and intrigue when Stiles babbles out an apology and tells him to go first but then it disappears and then Lydia is there asking what the hold-up is but Derek’s already gone and Stiles loves her so so so much - he wouldn’t be a 25 year old ring bearer for just anybody’s wedding - but right there in that moment he curses her flawless red-headed existence
And maybe it becomes a thing like maybe Stiles times his leaving of the house at the exact moment the lights in Derek’s apartment shut off every morning but the one time he gets it down to the second he hangs back and watches Derek disappear down the escalator because what the fuck are you supposed to say to someone when all you can think of is ‘hey so I think I fell in love with you when I saw you wearing a lived-in sweater and reading on your couch and I have trouble sleeping sometimes because it’s so quiet and I guess you’re quiet but it’s the sort of quiet I wouldn’t really mind and I was wondering if there’s room on your ugly blue couch for me?’
Yeah, he stands back and chews his lip because you don’t say anything; you watch them go. Maybe they’re more beautiful in your head and through a window anyway.
Okay and now I’m thinking that maybe Derek’s boss is way too into his life and maybe she gave him a houseplant to take care of because she thinks he needs to have some other living thing in his apartment and the little card stuck in the soil said it needs plenty of sunlight and okay he might not have even wanted the damn thing but he knows she’s just going to keep asking and he’s bad at lying and he doesn’t know enough about plants to do it convincingly so he clears some of the books off his window ledge and finds it a space. Maybe he sits staring at it for a while wondering what its purpose is and what do plants even do, like where is the attraction here.
And maybe he huffs out a sigh and looks up and he kind of freezes because it’s a Saturday afternoon in July and most of his neighbours have their windows open because there’s enough of a breeze in the air to forgo the AC until it’s really hot.
And he’s not moving because there’s a Sinatra song drifting out of a window and it’s spliced with this bubbling laughter and a few curses and it’s only when he stands up and his eyes catch on a flash of auburn-red that he sees them. It’s the couple from the subway and they’re dancing and Derek didn’t actually think people did the fucking waltz outside of forced social interaction, but they’re there and they’re laughing and she’s running a frustrated palm over her face and he’s looking flushed and sheepish and it’s probably not right how much Derek wants, right in that moment, more than he thinks he ever has.
There’s being introverted and there’s being lonely and Derek was sure he was one and denied the other and for the ten seconds at that subway door weeks ago he wanted to initiate a conversation. He wonders if he could pinpoint it to the wide, striking eyes, or the pleasant sound of someone who is used to talking all the time like they’re comfortable in it like Derek never really was or just the age old rule of opposites attracting but in those ten seconds Derek stepped outside of his desire for the safe and the familiar and let himself be intrigued. If Laura were there she’d have given him a gold star. But maybe it was better that she wasn’t because sharing her disappointment would have been much worse than trying to forget his own.
But that was then and now Derek marvels at fate and the fact that that person who made his world stop for that moment lives right across and one up from him and if it’s some kind of hint from the universe that even though it worked out this way that the Guy From The Subway is well and truly taken. Extremely taken, if the way the girl in his arms keeps talking about ‘the wedding’ and how her voice seems to rise every time she says it.
Derek thinks he would probably be excited too, if he had what she did. (Or maybe ‘who’ - that is, if developing a fascination with a stranger he once reached for a door handle the same time as at the subway during Rush Hour was at all healthy). He doesn’t know whether it was a good thing he never noticed the engagement ring on her finger that first time but he guesses he could have only spent more time feeling irrationally shitty about it.
He’s still got his books.
He’s still got them three nights later when he’s got the houseplant wedged between his feet as he’s sitting on a pillow on his window ledge since the quiet in his apartment doesn’t seem to have the same attraction as it once did. He sits by the window and listens to the traffic and thinks about downloading some Sinatra, but then that’s not really the noise he wishes was in his home.
It’s involuntary how he looks up once the lights switch on in that apartment right across and one up and he looks away again when he sees the redhead burying her hands in dark hair and kissing so deeply he feels like a creep to keep looking. But he has to look back, because despite himself and the reasons not to, he’s memorised the set of broad shoulders leading into a slender waist and the way The Guy From The Subway’s hair looks when it’s tousled first thing - and the guy she is kissing is not him.
He thinks about it for a week. The Guy From The Subway seems to have gone somewhere and Derek supposes it makes sense since his fiancée has had this guy staying there and kissing her and touching her like she doesn’t belong to someone else. He wonders what it says about him that he doesn’t even know their names but it makes him sick.
Maybe it’s just nauseating to see someone destroy what should be a beautiful thing in their lives.
And then The Guy is back and the roiling feeling in his stomach gets worse because they greet each other with the familiarity of old friends when one of them gets home and the Other Guy doesn’t have the look of someone completely evil; his default expression is kind and his smile looks genuine and innocent and from the open expression on his face Derek thinks he wouldn’t suspect anything either.
And the redhead lounges by the window in sunglasses and tiny shorts and she’s beautiful and mesmerising even to him but when she catches his eye and raises her hand in a delicate wave and a smile with too much knowledge he closes his drapes even though it’s three in the afternoon.
And The Guy From The Subway is home alone sometimes and he dangles his legs off the fire escape while talking on the phone to someone who makes him give these secret, fond smiles Derek remembers from when he had a family and he fills the relative quiet with off-key singing and watching his TV shows too loud and his voice is just as pleasant as it was that first day and he paces and Derek is sure you can’t fall in love with someone’s bad habits but he’s not certain what else you’d call the feeling in his chest.
And then the night comes where they’re all home together and they’re drinking wine likes it’s a celebration out on the fire escape and laughing and talking about the future and Derek is really good at pretending he isn’t listening to a word but he can’t help but stop mid-paragraph when he catches the end of a joking sentence from The Guy that sounds awfully like ‘….just because you’re marrying my best friend!’
And Derek’s window is ajar and he wishes he could lean out without being obvious but for all his eavesdropping he doesn’t think he’s gotten any better. So he sits and he trains his eyes on his book and he can’t even remember the title and he wonders when the world became more important to him than the ones between the pages and it feels something akin to fate whenThe Other Guy and She offer hugs and announce that they’re going back inside.
It’s almost August and the night is balmy and Derek doesn’t think it’d be totally obvious if he cracked the window open a little more, swing his legs out, pushed the damn plant out of the way
And The Guy’s face is flushed from the wine and he’s looking at the stars and Derek doesn’t think there are many to be seen above the light pollution of the city’s skyline but he doesn’t really want to look at them anyway.
He’s maybe wondering what to say that isn’t completely stupid when the silence is broken for him. And The Guy says “dude, I think your plant is dying” and Derek looks at it and then up and there’s a half-grin that’s a little fuzzy from alcohol but it’s no less attractive on that face.
He says “I’m only keeping it because my boss thinks I’m lonely” and he’s not really sure why he shared that but the laugh he gets in reply makes a feeling curl in his chest that he thinks might be worth it.
And the guy says “Maybe your apartments too hot - you rarely open a window” and Derek doesn’t think to ask how he knows that but he can hazard a guess. So he nods and says “it’s been a hot month” like its a profound thing, which it isn’t, but the guy looks riveted.
He says “yeah, you stopped wearing sweaters” and Derek feels his brows climb but he guesses he has no real right to act like his privacy has been invaded when he stopped reading on the couch a week ago.
So Derek says “not really sweater weather” like it’s an apology, and the guy grins this sleepy, soft thing at him and stretches, and says “the tank tops aren’t a huge step down I guess”. And it’s while Derek’s looking down at himself that he misses the guy getting up, unfolding his legs and moving to go back into the apartment, but before he goes, he turns and jerks a thumb at himself and says “Stiles”
And Derek tries not to look disappointed through the jerk of finally having a name because Stiles looks like he’s leaving and Derek was congratulating himself for holding a conversation.
So he says “Derek” as if the guy asked, which he didn’t, but Stiles just gives that smile again, the one like he knows he’s devastating and nods, and says “nice to meet you, Derek” and reaches the door. “It’s 14c, in case you get sick of your own company tonight”
And the door opening carries out the sounds of life and music and what it’s like to actually exist in the real world for a while, and Derek looks at his book, and looks up at the window, and thinks that maybe, for the first time in his life, his own company isn’t enough, and he’s got a good idea of who’s would be a good substitute. So he closes the book, closes the window, and goes.