Derek slammed the loft door with all his considerable strength. It clanged like a gong, but it still wasn’t quick enough to prevent Stiles from slipping in behind him.
“Dude,” Stiles said, “what is your problem?”
Derek shucked off his blood-spattered jacket without turning to acknowledge him. “Go home.”
Because Stiles was nothing if not contrary. He couldn’t possibly do what he was told just this once. Derek was not that lucky a person. He threw his jacket down on the couch, heedless of the stains it would probably leave, and tugged his shirt over his head. It was covered in blood too, and Derek was tired. All he wanted was some peace and quiet and a damn shower.
He was about to toss the shirt down too when Stiles caught hold of his arm.
“You’re pissed at me,” he said, no trace of a question to it. “I saved your damn life and you’re pissed at me for it.”
Derek yanked his arm free and rounded on him. “You charged headfirst into a fight with an alpha werewolf!”
“An alpha werewolf who was about to kill you!”
Derek scoffed. “I would’ve been fine.” He gestured to his bare torso, the scratches there not deep enough to still be bleeding, though they wouldn’t heal over for a few more hours yet. “I am fine.”
“Yeah, you are,” Stiles said with a sharp smile. “You’re welcome for that. Since, you know, it was my spell that stopped the alpha from ripping your fucking spine out.”
“He wasn’t going to—”
“Yes, Derek, he was!” He snatched the shirt out of Derek’s hand, unfurling it to showcase the long rips in the fabric where the alpha’s claws had caught him. “So I’m very sorry that it stings your macho-manly, werewolfy pride that your bacon got saved by a measly little human, but how about you just balls up and express some fucking gratitude instead of being a shithead?”
“It’s not about the—” Derek’s teeth clicked together with how quickly he cut himself off. With a snarl, he snatched the shirt back and threw it aside.
Stiles threw up his hands. “Then what’s it about, Derek? Because I don’t get it! You could be dead right now, and you’re not, and you’re mad about it, and if it’s not some stupid pride thing, then I really don’t know what’s going on right n—”
There was a growl trapped in Derek’s throat, too insistent to force words through even if he could think of any to say. It filled up his head with white noise and all he could think to do was grab Stiles by the front of his own shirt, haul him in close, and shut him up the way he had wanted to for so long.
Their lips collided, too hard to really be pleasant, but Derek didn’t care. Stiles’ mouth opened in surprise, his flailing hands landing on Derek’s shoulders, fingertips pressing divots into bare skin with the force of his grip. Derek’s teeth found his bottom lip and Stiles’ gasp stuttered into a moan.
Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the kiss was over.
Stiles shoved him back. One hand stayed splayed over Derek’s chest, holding him at bay, while the other came up to linger over his red, kiss-swollen lips.
“Dude, what the—" He let out a sound that was half groan and half scream of frustration. “Dude, you can’t be an asshole and then kiss me out of the blue! That’s not okay!”
“No, what’s not okay is you throwing yourself at an alpha like he couldn’t tear you to shreds in a heartbeat!” Derek’s hand found Stiles’ wrist, feeling the delicate bones, the rapid beat of Stiles’ pulse against his fingertips. “You’re constantly putting yourself in danger, Stiles. That’s what’s not okay.”
Whatever Stiles had been gearing up to say got caught between his teeth. The breath fell out of him in a rush that brushed warmly across Derek’s cheek. His eyes fell to Derek’s hand, not pulling or restraining, but simply holding onto him. When he met Derek’s gaze again, all the anger had fled from his face.
“What, like you’re not putting yourself in danger all the time?” he said. “You’re always in danger, Derek! You’re always the first one into any fight. How do you think that makes me feel?”
Derek swallowed against the sudden tightness in his throat. “I don’t know.”
The palm against his chest disappeared. He didn’t have time to grieve the loss before it found him again, pressing, wide and warm, to the nape of his neck instead. Long fingers slid into the soft hair there, sending a shiver through him that he couldn’t repress. His eyes fluttered closed and when he opened them again, Stiles had stepped in close enough to set Derek’s heart to pounding.
“I feel,” he said, slowly and clearly, “like I’m gonna lose you every time you go into one of those fights. And I feel like—” He had to stop, throat working around a swallow. “I feel losing you would break me.”
Derek said Stiles’ name, feeling the weight of it and all it meant on his tongue like he never had before, but Stiles shook his head.
“That’s how I feel, okay?” he said. “And that’s why you can’t ask me to not save you. If what you feel for me is even half of what I feel for you—” A smile tugged at his lips then, lopsided and helpless. “—then you have to know that you can’t ask that of me. You can’t.”
Derek wanted so badly to ask it anyway, to beg Stiles to stay as far away from the fighting as he possibly could, to stay safe, for him. But the shine in Stiles’ eyes and the ache in Derek’s chest told him it would do no good. There would have been no force on earth strong enough to stop Derek from acting if it had been Stiles the alpha had had his claws on. That Stiles had come running to him, ignoring Scott’s panicked shouts and the alpha’s warning growls, with nothing but a handful of powder and some magic words was evidence enough that the same was true for him.
He couldn’t ask, couldn’t beg, couldn’t plead for what he knew he wouldn’t get. All he could do was bridge the distance between them.
Their second kiss was gentler. A soft brush of lips, an exchange of sighs. It was all Derek could do not to bury his face in Stiles’ neck, breathe him in and never come out. But for all that the battle was over, the war wasn’t done. There would be more fights, probably soon, and neither of them were the type to hide.
Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles’ waist. Against his cheek, he breathed, “Just be careful. Please.”
Stiles didn’t make him any promises. That might have been for the best; Derek didn’t want to hear the lie in Stiles’ heartbeat any more than he wanted to make the promise himself. As he tightened his hold, Derek told himself that it was okay. If they couldn’t be trusted to look after themselves, then it was a damn good thing they had each other.