"Stiles, what’s your favorite story?" Derek smiled into the little four-year old’s eyes with the biggest smile. He held his hand as they sat in the middle of the woods, breathless from the previous game of hide and seek.
“You mean, like, a bedtime story?” His eyes were big and golden, an he couldn’t keep the smile off of his face. He was happy when he was with Derek.
“Of course, silly.” He reached a hand out to tickle him, and he smiled when his giggle chimed through the air. It was his favorite sound in the world.
Stiles thought about it. His mommy had told him a lot of bedtime stories. Of course he really didn’t need to think about it, he knew exactly which one was his favorite. “Red Riding Hood.” He smiled at Derek, but Derek looked shocked. Stiles couldn’t figure out why. “What’s wrong Derek?”
He shook his head, shaking the thought away. There was no way Stiles could know. He smiled at him, not quite as truly as before. He loved Stiles so much. And so he hoped that one day he would know and understand what Derek was, what he was born to be.
“Do you know that story? It’s kind of scary, Stiles. Your mom told you it?” He was reluctant to ask, afraid of what he would say.
“What? No it’s not! Here, I’ll tell it to you.” He loved how happy Stiles always was, how optimistic. He almost never stopped smiling. “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Red. Red was good. He was sweet, kind, loving, and fun. His mommy loved him very much. But, every once and awhile his mommy would have to go away. She would go visit her friends and they would go on big adventures and fight bad guys!” Derek smiled with a heartbroken look behind his eyes. He understood that the story was really about Stiles and his mother. It broke his heart to realize that he didn’t know that. But, he let him continue, loving the way he told the story. “His mommy would leave a lot, so to make sure she was always with Red, she gave him a red riding hood.” He really had no idea that the story was about him. Derek quickly zipped up Stiles’ red hoodie with a knowing smile as he continued. “Whenever his mommy left, though, she wouldn’t leave him alone. She would leave him in the care of a pack of wolves. The littlest wolf would play with Red. The wolf had beautiful blue eyes. This wolf was kind and sweet, just like Red. This wolf wasn’t bad. This wolf loved Red. This wolf would never hurt Red. This wolf protected him. But, there were bad wolves. There were bad ones and good ones! Red’s pack was all good wolves, and Red was lucky enough to have one of the good ones as his best friend. Red’s wolf would be there to protect him, love him, and watch over him until the end of time.” He was laying in Derek’s lap now, his blue eyes studying his face. He looked content, peaceful. This made Derek happy. The fact that he knew about him, deep down, comforted him.
“That’s a good story. I like it. Your mom tells good stories.” He sat up quickly and looked at Derek with the biggest smile.
“Do you love my mommy? ‘Cause my mommy loves you!” Derek smiled and pulled him into his lap, wrapping his arms around him.
“I love her very, very much. She’s like family. But I don’t love her near as much as I love you.” He hugged him tightly, kissing the top of his head and leaving his chin there. Stiles giggled again, playing with the zipper of his red hoodie.
“You know, Derek, you’re like my own personal wolf. Like in the story. You take care of me.” He was silent for a moment. “I love you, Derek.” Derek’s heart felt heavy as tears welled in his eyes. He didn’t say anything. He just held him tight, never wanting to let go.
And he knew that though he may not know now, one day Stiles would. One day, Stiles would know exactly what Derek was, and he would accept it. And Derek would love him all the more.