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I found you hidden in plain sight (why'd I take so long?)

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I found you hidden in plain sight (why’d I take so long?)

 

Coming back to Beacon Hills, if Derek is being honest with himself (which, it’s a thing now, he tries—he really does), hadn’t really been part of his plan. Which, there hadn’t really been one when he left. After all of it, after the nogitsune, after Allison, and Aiden—Derek had stuck around for the funerals at least, he owed them that much, but it was so hard, too hard, to even think about just waking up the next morning and going back to doing the same thing.

Wasn’t that the definition of insanity—he thinks he’s read that somewhere—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

He’s not proud about how he did it, leaving like that, no goodbyes, but it was necessary, mostly because at the time Derek didn’t think he could actually go through with it if he had to stand there with Scott just looking at him, reeking of grief, with those angsty, puppy-dog eyes. Or Stiles, who looked so broken and wrong that Derek wouldn’t have trusted himself to know how to fix him, wouldn’t have even trusted himself to try.

Derek has always been shit at fixing things.

They didn’t need him, anyway, is what he tells himself when he’s feeling guilty about it. They were a pack, and the pack survives—Derek was the outlier, the one who didn’t belong, didn’t quite fit.

So he runs.

Again, it’s not his proudest moment.

So he drives aimlessly for a long time, stopping only to sleep; in motels in quiet towns he’s never heard of, or more often than not, in the back of his truck underneath the stars. He visits some of the packs he knows were loyal to his mother, knows he could have a place in them if he wanted, but he doesn’t, so most of the time he never stays more than a day or two.

He ends up in Maine, in a town he literally picked off a map if only because it was the literal geographical opposite of Beacon Hills. He rents a property, does nothing but sit on his porch and read for the first few weeks, running in the woods anytime he needs to let out the wolf. He keeps waiting for trouble, but it never comes. There’s nothing. It’s so quiet and calm and utterly and completely benign that Derek, for the first time he can remember, actually starts to feel bored. So he takes some classes, ends up signing up for a paramedic certification course, where the training is easy because he’s used to blood and guts and plenty of gore, so very little, if anything, phases him.

He gets a job at a hospital the next town over, thinks it’s nice to use his abilities for something other than killing monsters.

He works, he eats, and he sleeps. It’s bizarrely normal.

Until it’s not.

And seriously, Derek’s life has been laughably empty of what Stiles would have called “werewolf bullshit.” But the universe has its own fucked up sense of humor. Even though, when it happens, Derek doesn’t feel a bit like laughing. Thankfully he’s alone in the hospital locker room, stripping out of his uniform stained with blood from a particularly gruesome car accident on the interstate that had ended with Derek siphoning what pain he could from the only survivor, a young girl, whose heart gave out before they even made it to the hospital parking lot.

He’s washing road grime off his hands when it hits him, hot as literal flames licking through his veins and his body, a heady surge of power that makes his blood beat against the walls of his skin. His claws and his teeth lengthen, and he’s gripping the side of the sink so hard it cracks. When he opens his eyes and sees the irises flaring red in the mirror, he actually has to bite down on his own arm to stop the roar that’s caught in his throat.

Derek still doesn’t feel like laughing, later, when he falls out of bed in the middle of the night and wakes up on his floor, fully shifted as an actual wolf.

Seriously. Fuck his life.

And then, within a day, he feels overcome with it, a pull, a little like someone has shoved a hook straight into his chest and is yanking on the lead, reeling him in like a fucking fish on a line. It’s a maddening feeling, makes him feel like his body is as ill-fitting as clothes that are too tight, too small. He makes it a week before the feeling is so overwhelming that he can barely control his shift. The home he’d made for himself no longer felt welcoming.

Instead, somehow, it had become a prison. 

Getting the leave of absence he asks for is almost suspiciously too easy. (“ Son, you haven’t taken a day off in almost two years. Nice to know you’re actually human.”)

Ha fucking ha, Derek thinks.

 

 

Stiles is pretty sure he’s hallucinating. He’s got to be. There’s no other plausible explanation, he thinks, as he sits on the sidelines of the lacrosse field and feels the cold, hard bench underneath him, the roar of the crowd at his back like the worst white noise machine in the world.

There’s no other reason why he sees it, the hulking, black figure of a wolf peering at him from the tree-line behind the bleachers. Its eyes flare in the glaring glow of the stadium lights, but they’re the wrong color, he thinks: blood-moon red instead of cobalt blue, but the familiarity of it all makes his stomach roll and clench.

“Stiles? Hey, Stiles… you okay?”

It’s Liam who asks, earnest and so annoyingly kind that Stiles wants to rip his freaking head off.

“I’m okay, man. I’m fine. Just, you know, bored. So much bench, so little time, am I right?” he says offhandedly, still scanning the tree-line for that strange apparition. It isn’t worth it, trying to ask Liam if he’s seen anything—he can imagine the strange look he’ll give him just fine enough in his head, thanks.

“Are you sure? Do you need me to get Scott?” That is the last thing that he wants. Stiles doesn’t think he can handle those hopeful puppy-dog eyes that Scott gives hime, when he can just look at Stiles and know he’s struggling. Yeah, he knows about the nightmares, about the panic attacks that paralyze him both in sleep and in wakefulness, but he doesn’t even want to entertain the thought of how Scott’ll stare at him if he finds out he’s actually progressed to a full-blown “I see pink elephants” (or red-eyed wolves, rather) psychotic break.

“No-no, I’m fine. I promise. I’m good, dude. I swear.”

Liam eyes him warily, and Stiles does his best to keep his heart rate steady, even. He’s had to practice this quite a lot—meditation and shit. Lying to werewolves is hard.

“Okay,” Liam finally says, though he says it like he doesn’t quite believe him.

That’s all right. Stiles doesn’t really believe himself when he says it, either.

 

Later, Stiles lies in bed and counts his fingers, tries to meter his breaths, but it doesn’t really matter—The nightmares always come anyway. So he waits, like he does so many nights, for his dad to peek into his room to check that he’s asleep (he isn’t, but he’s gotten pretty good at faking after all these years) before leaving for the station. It’s only after Stiles hears the car peel out of the driveway that he gets up and makes the familiar jump out the window down to the jeep.

Stiles could walk out the front door, he knows he could—but fuck it, he’s nostalgic, okay?

His heart races as he climbs into the front seat and speeds off to the same place he’s been going almost every night for the last year and a half. At this hour, it’s so startlingly quiet in Beacon Hills that the car’s rattling engine is positively deafening, and the sound of it keeps him on edge because even though his father’s not home most of the time, he feels like he must be able to hear it even all the way across town at the station.

But Stiles hasn’t been stopped yet, so if he knows, maybe he just lets it happen. It wouldn’t really surprise Stiles anymore. Not much does these days.

The loft is empty, like it always is, just like he’d found it that night after the funerals. Stiles had come here thinking that maybe Derek could help him somehow; because he never seemed to look at him like he was quite as broken as he felt.  Maybe because he was broken too, knew what it felt like to somehow feel too much and somehow nothing all at once.

Only he wasn’t there.

He was just gone.

No one had seemed surprised. Everyone had expected him to come back eventually, chalking it up to Derek just being Derek, mysterious and withdrawn as usual. They told him to forget it, not to worry, but Stiles knew better.

Because if you leave without saying goodbye, Stiles thinks, you probably don’t have a reason to come back in the first place.

The first time he'd fallen asleep there had been an accident, when he’d finally been driven out of his house by night terrors that made him thrash so hard he’d wake up bruised and bloody from where he’d clawed at himself, his throat hoarse and sore from screaming. A few times he’d actually woken to the walls of his bedroom shaking (that whole Spark thing, yeah, any hope of harnessing that was straight out the window at this point), and his father had eventually taken down the shelving units above Stiles’s bed so they wouldn’t collapse on top of him.

Doctors didn’t help. Therapists didn’t help. Pills didn’t help.  Not even time helped, despite how god damn insistent everyone seemed to be that it would. Time heals all wounds, his ass.

Stiles knew better than to believe that anymore. 

After all of that, he’d needed a place that was quiet, still, that wasn’t the stifling gloom of his bedroom, or his house, where his father’s watchful, worried face felt like it could crush him. Like it would crush them both.

It’s stupid, Stiles thinks, as he crawls into a bed that isn’t his (that he certainly never slept in when its actual occupant was around), wearing clothes that don’t belong to him, that this is the only place he feels anything close to safe. Anything close to comfortable. It doesn’t make sense.

But somehow, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. 

Derek hadn’t intended to hide when he came back. He wasn’t like, ashamed. Not anymore, at least. But when he’d finally made it home (no, not home, not anymore, he reminds himself) -- to the loft -- it was early morning, just past dawn. He’d driven straight through the night, if only because he knew he wouldn’t sleep anyway, certainly not at some roadside motel that reeked of industrial cleaner and strangers with poor hygiene. He was exhausted, that bone-deep kind that reminds him of that feeling of swimming with all his clothes on. Heavy enough to sink through the floor.

But when he sees Stiles slip down the back stairs, backpack slung over his hunched shoulders, it’s not just confusion that keeps Derek in the cab of his truck like someone’s actually glued him to the seat.

It’s shock. 

Because up close like this, there’s really no escaping it—the thump, thump, thump of the sound that’s been haunting him for days.

It’s Stiles. 








Chapter Text

II.

It’s not like he intends to spend the day, for lack of a better term, creeping on Stiles. But seeing him like that, how pale he was...not in that milky-white, marblesque way, but a sickly way. It was just wrong. The boy, he smelled wrong, too, not quite like when he was possessed (Derek doesn’t think he’ll ever forget that smell). But sour and sad. Lonely. Mostly, Derek just doesn’t understand how the rest of the pack, how Scott (Scott, he seethes. Scott, the so-called "true alpha" who was supposed to take care of Stiles. Take care of all of them. What the fuck point was being in charge if the boy didn’t fucking do anything?), didn’t seem to notice. Or if they did, they certainly weren’t trying to fix it.

It takes every ounce of self-control Derek has not to just fly out of the trees, grab Stiles, and drag him back to the loft ( den, his wolf so unhelpfully prompts). To take care of him the way he’s inexplicably aching to. It’s a strange feeling, one he hadn’t wrestled with much when he’d been an alpha before, which maybe explained why he’d been so fucking bad at it the first time around. Honestly, he’s not anxious for a repeat, but it’s obvious Stiles needs help (needs him, that same brutish voice he's desperately trying to ignore growls insistently). Derek didn’t come all this way to do nothing. Doing nothing certainly wasn’t going to stop that ceaseless pounding in his ears he hasn’t stopped hearing since he got here.

Somehow, he manages, and yeah, Derek’s willing to admit that skulking is exactly the right word to describe what he does all afternoon, wearing the skin of the wolf, keeping watch, sifting through the cacophony of heartbeats coming from the school until that same rapid hummingbird’s thrum singles itself out, boring into his head like a drill to his frontal lobe. Derek watches and waits until he’s so exhausted from lack of sleep he can hardly stand anymore. It almost hurts, tearing his eyes away from the boy sitting on the bench he hardly even recognizes, but he does it anyway.

When he finally gets home (and shit, when exactly did he start calling it that again?), drags his tired body upstairs to hopefully, finally get some sleep, it’s opening the door that nearly does it, knocks him right off his feet. It’s everywhere . That same scent, that same lemon-bitter bite of sadness that’s been swirling through his senses since he passed that damn Welcome to Beacon Hills sign. It triggers that same desperate feeling he’s been running from since he’d left Maine, a ripple up his spine that spreads under his skin until he’s cracking his fingers to keep his claws from popping and grinding his teeth so hard he nearly breaks his jaw to keep his fangs from dropping. 

Jesus. 

Derek hadn’t even bothered to pack up the apartment (not that there’d been much to pack in the first place) since he owned the building and all. Looking back, maybe that was a subconscious choice on his part, like some part of him he wasn’t ready to listen to had known right from the start that he’d be back here. Sometime. Someday.

But there isn’t even a layer of dust. Because Stiles had obviously been taking care of the place, keeping it clean and tidy. It was exactly as Derek had left it. Like Stiles had just been waiting for him to come back. Expecting him to walk through the door any second.

It’s all exactly the same.

Except for his bedroom, which he thinks, as he stands in the doorway, Stiles has turned into what looks more like a nest than an actual bed. Rumpled sheets, random books strewn about, and what he realizes are quite a few of the threadbare, tattered shirts and sweaters he hadn’t bothered to take with him when he'd left.  

And Derek, he can’t even bring himself to try to sleep there, because the sight and the scent combined with the heartbreaking image of Stiles curled up in there, all alone, is just too much for him to handle. Because it had been Stiles who'd jumped into the front seat of that police car and stared him down all those years ago, even though Derek could smell the fear rolling off of him.

It had been Stiles who’d held Derek’s head above water that night with the kanima for hours, just so he wouldn't drown.

Now...now it was Derek’s turn.

Stiles has really been trying here. Trying to convince himself and everybody else that he was not having a complete mental breakdown. But he’s starting to think he honestly, maybe might be. That’s the only explanation he has for what he’s been seeing -- that same fucking black wolf with those glowing garnet eyes. Eyes that won’t stop following him, that he can’t stop seeing even when he closes his own fucking eyes and tries desperately not to. 

So what does it mean, he wonders, when you’re seeing wolves where there are no wolves? 

Because he’s pretty sure it means he’s fucking crazy. 

Unless…

It’s a stupid thought. One Stiles hasn’t allowed himself to imagine, let alone voice into actual words. He’s not crazy enough to believe it could be true, not in the slightest (really, he isn’t ). He’ll just have to prove it to himself and then he can know for sure that what he’s seeing couldn’t possibly be real. Then, the matter would be settled, and he could move on to other options. The super fun ones, he thinks ruefully, like telling his dad he’s really gone nuts all on his own this time, no supernatural assistance required. Hello, padded walls. Hello, Thorazine. Nice to see you again.  

That’s what Stiles tells himself is the reason behind ducking Scott, Liam, and Mason in the hallway as they all head toward the locker rooms for practice. Like they need him, anyway (the bench will be fine all on its lonesome, he figures). Honestly, he’s not expecting to be missed. He white-knuckles the steering wheel all the way across town and doesn’t realize how long he’s been holding his breath until he finally parks the car and sees the lot empty, save for some beaten-up old truck thinks must belong to the super. 

No sign of mysterious red-eyed wolves anywhere. 

But he’s here, and he might as well really really make sure, right? At the very least, maybe he can get a few hours of sleep since this is practically the only place he manages to do that anyway. The stairway is empty, same as it always is, and the loft door is padlocked, same as it always is. 

Everything is exactly as it has been for the last eighteen months, six days, eight hours, and he thinks, glancing at his watch, fourteen minutes. Not that he’s been counting. 

Until the door slides open, that is, and he’s trapped in the doorway with that same fucking black wolf, its eyes flashing crimson and staring into him so intently Stiles feels like his feet actually get rooted to the floor. 

The sound he makes comes out harsh, a loud hissing exhale that shatters the quiet like glass. The wolf doesn’t move, doesn’t blink, doesn’t even seem to have heard him, so that’s promising. Do hallucinations move? He doesn’t think so. Maybe it’s stupid to turn his back on a god damn wolf, but if it’s not real, it doesn’t matter, right? That’s what Stiles is mumbling to himself as he does, squeezing his eyes shut and counting his fingers, drumming them anxiously against his pant leg.

One, two, three, four, five... all the way to ten. And his toes, too. Just in case. 

Not a dream. Not asleep. Okay, okay, okay. He can do this, okay. 

He’s just about ready to turn around and check if any of his desperate coping mechanisms had actually done their job when he feels those same eyes on him, and then, god damnit, a hand on his shoulder. Stile’s eyes squeeze shut again, willing the weight of both of them away, but he’s pretty sure hallucinations don’t exude body heat, and that hand on his shoulder is hot enough for him to feel through his t-shirt. 

“Stiles.” 

Stiles can’t help it -- he shudders when hears that voice, because it’s unmistakable. And then he’s twitching his fingers automatically, flexing them nervously into his palm because if he doesn’t distract himself, he thinks he maybe, might pass out. When he can’t fight the urge anymore, he turns around on his heel, finally lets himself open his eyes, and suddenly, he’s stuck all over again. All Stiles can do is stand there with his mouth opening and closing uselessly like some flopping fish trapped on land and gasping for air. He should say something, he thinks, anything, but it feels a little like the air got sucked out of the room. And Derek, god Derek , is just watching him, his stupid, ridiculous eyebrows all furrowed in concern. 

Finally, mercifully, his brain reboots and he can process what he’s actually seeing. And oddly enough, the emotions he’d expected to feel, surprise, relief, hope, barely register. The only thing he feels right now is fury. It sits heavy like an anvil in his gut. 

“Fuck off.” 

Derek’s not stupid. He’s not expecting the welcome wagon by any stretch of the imagination. But he can’t act like he’s not a little taken aback by the sheer amount of venom in Stiles’s voice. He flinches violently under Derek’s hand, and then he’s gone before Derek can even open his mouth again. His feet might feel like lead weights, but his ears still work, and he can hear how Stiles is practically falling down the stairs to get away from him, he’s going down them so fast. 

He shuts his eyes, wincing reflexively because the pounding in his head is back again, only it’s sped up, which just makes it even worse, because now instead of getting beat with a blunt object, it just feels like being jabbed with a hundred needles one after the other. There’s that feeling again, that shiver that gets under his skin like a sliver he can’t dig out, and suddenly he’s halfway down the hallway before he finally realizes he’s moved at all. When he makes it outside, he sees that it’s raining. While he’d slept, the sky had turned dark, an ominous shade of grey, all of which should have been a pretty good indicator of how this was going to go. 

Stiles is still in the parking lot, and it’s not just the boy’s rapid heartbeat that worries Derek now. It’s those frantic, rattling breaths that Stiles is making as he braces himself against the hood of his jeep like his legs will buckle if he lets go. Derek’s by his side in an instant, though he’s reticent to touch him considering how well that had gone the first time. But the sour scent of panic is thick enough in the air for him to taste it, even despite the rain. It makes his eyes water,  clouding up his brain and making that dumb animal part of him recoil in his chest. 

“Stiles, stop,” Derek grits through clenched teeth. “Breathe”

“Fuck you,” Stiles gasps, and Derek nearly rolls his eyes, though he’s, strangely enough, somewhat relieved. Because at least the boy is just as stubborn as he was before he left, and if he’s talking, he’s not passing out. Yet. 

“Be pissed at me all you want, I deserve it,” Derek says, steady. And soothing, hopefully. “If you don’t breathe, you’re going to pass out.” It’s taking an inordinate amount of self-control not to reach out and curl Stiles’s long fingers off that scratched blue metal he’s currently digging his nails into. “And you can’t yell at me if you pass out.”

“If I pass out,” Stiles manages to wheeze, “bet I could at least punch you on the way down.” 

“Maybe,” Derek says softly, “but I’m pretty fast.” Stiles makes a choked sort of sound that might’ve been an almost-laugh. His lungs don’t sound quite so strained, which Derek thinks is promising. Still, he makes no move to get any closer. After what feels like an eternity, Stiles’s breathing slows, quiets, and the war drums in Derek’s ears finally go silent, replaced instead with the sound of fat drops of rain splashing violently against the pavement. 

“I’m fine now,” Stiles mutters, wiping away the hair in his eyes, soaked and sticking to his skin the same way his clothes were. “Now move. I’m going home.”

“You can’t drive home,” Derek says, his tone clearly indicating he’s leaving no room for argument. “You just had a panic attack.”

“Like you care.”  They’re both drenched, the sky pouring buckets over their heads, though Derek finds it relatively easy to ignore the cold. Stiles, on the other hand, his teeth are chattering so loud it sounds like they're going to fall out of his mouth. 

“Come inside.”

“No.”

“God damnit, Stiles."  It would be easy, he thinks, to just throw the boy over his shoulder and carry him inside, and honestly, for a second he considers it, that familiar beast that lives under his skin growing increasingly impatient. "Come inside.” 

Derek feels his eyes flash, his vision flickering red, and Stiles blinks at him, clearly stunned. “How --”

“You can ask me anything you want. Just come upstairs before you freeze to death.” 

It might be slightly underhanded, appealing to Stiles’s insatiable curiosity, but Derek realizes, somewhat stunned himself as he watches Stiles consider his offer, obviously torn, that’s the least of what he’d have promised to keep Stiles from leaving like that. And honestly, what the fuck does that mean, Derek wonders, bewildered.

“Okay,” Stiles finally says, though it’s a little tentative. The next words aren’t. “I’m still mad at you.”

That’s fair, Derek thinks. For now, he’ll take it.

Chapter Text

III.

Derek is surprised as anyone that Stiles actually agrees to go back with him to the loft. He doesn’t bother trying to talk, doesn’t say a word as he follows the boy up the stairs. Stiles keeps glancing back occasionally, a strange expression on his face that Derek can’t quite read. Like he’s thinking still about running (exactly why Derek is behind him, rather than in front), or maybe wondering if when he looks back Derek might be gone again. 

He can’t really blame him for either. 

Derek shuts the door behind them, and by the time he turns around, Stiles is standing there with his arms crossed stubbornly like he’s already gearing up for a fight. A fight Derek knows he probably deserves, but he’s pretty sure both of them are too fried to have right now. 

“So are you going to answer my questions now?” Stiles asks. 

Derek fights the urge to roll his eyes and sighs, swiping droplets of rain away from his eyes. “Go take a shower and I promise I’ll answer all your questions.” 

“You didn’t say there’d be more conditions,” Stiles retorts, scowling, but Derek can see him shivering, can see the goosebumps on his arms, hear the rattling of his teeth.

“You really want to play twenty questions while we’re both dripping water all over my floor?”

Stiles huffs, but he doesn’t argue any further, shockingly, because frankly only one of them runs hotter than normal, and it certainly isn’t him. He must literally be freezing, Derek thinks. 

Derek watches him uneasily as the boy pads down the hallway to the bathroom, though Stiles pauses, his hands on the doorknob, gnawing anxiously at his lip stuck between his teeth. “I don’t have any clothes to change into.” It’s barely a whisper, probably because he knows Derek can hear him anyway. 

Derek doesn’t answer but goes right for his bag, the one he’d tossed carelessly in the living room when he first got here, and rummages for a t-shirt and some sweatpants. They’re going to be way too big, but they’ll do, he thinks, feeling inexplicably pleased at the thought of the boy wearing his clothes. If Stiles were a wolf, he would understand the gesture. At least this way, Stiles will be blanketed in Derek’s scent, which he thinks might curb the way his nerves are starting to feel frayed at the edges, because Derek really hates this. The way Stiles keeps looking at him. He doesn’t like feeling helpless like he can’t do anything to fix it.

He can be here, though. He can do this. At the very least he can do this.

Stiles just stares at the clothes for a moment, like he’s considering refusing. Practicality must win out, because he finally grabs them and slips into the bathroom before Derek can say or do anything else, the door shutting with a deafening, divisive click behind him. 

For a long time, Derek doesn’t move, listens until he hears the squeak of the showerhead turning on, and finally, for a moment, he’s able to unclench, just a little. Not relax, god, in no way is he feeling like that’s even a remote possibility here, but he’s not going to peel his skin off in the next thirty minutes or so. Which was something he was honestly getting a little worried about.

There’s a distinct possibility he might be losing his mind here. That’s what it feels like, because ever since he got back, since he looked into Stiles’s eyes, it feels like the threads of all that control, that calm he’d worked so hard to hold onto this past year, it’s slipping right out of his hands. Derek’s not human, sure, but he normally at least tries to fake it. But there’s a not small, only-a-little-bit-moderately shameful, extremely wolfish part of him that wants to break down that door because even that feels like too much distance. It’s really kind of starting to freak him out. 

Finally, he forces himself to move, mostly because he desperately needs to dry off and change-- his clothes are sticking to his skin in a way that’s incredibly uncomfortable. That takes about two minutes, of course, and then he’s stuck just pacing back and forth like some kind of idiot. 

After about thirty minutes, he starts to get antsy, worried. The shower is still going, but the roar of the water droplets is all he can hear. It’s too loud for him to hear anything more than that. With each passing minute, the wolf in him grows more skittish, uneasy. He has a bad feeling he just can’t shake. And so far, his feelings, especially those regarding Stiles, haven’t exactly been wrong.

So, maybe it’s a bad idea, but he’s past caring at this point; Derek makes the executive decision to check on him. He probably shouldn’t bother with the pretense, but he grabs a towel from the closet in the hallway, and knocks once, adding a tentative, hoarse “Stiles?” 

No answer.  He knocks again, but nothing. “Fuck,” he growls, and he supposes the way he lets his forehead thud against the door in frustration might count as one last attempt. Well, it’s not like Stiles can get that much more pissed at him than he already is. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? The door’s locked, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even take that much strength for him to twist the knob and break it open. 

At least he was in control enough not to break the door down like that animal under his skin was itching to. Derek thinks Stiles should give him credit for that, at least. 

What hits him first is the air, which is so thick with steam and moisture that it nearly chokes him, and he has to shut his eyes just for a second to keep them from watering. When he opens them, lets them flicker with the shift, he can see through the haze and Stiles is definitely still in there. The shower is not quite opaque—he can see him crumpled there against the porcelain tub, he’s so still, so quiet— like a corpse. His wet clothes aren’t on the floor, so it’s with a sick feeling like a sucker punch to his gut that he realizes Stiles is still in there, fully dressed, which explains why he looks so dark and shadowy through the glass.

Derek curses, growling, "Stiles,” but there’s no answer, so he doesn’t hesitate, just slides the shower door open. Droplets splash onto his face and he realizes that the water has run ice cold, but when he looks down, he sees that Stiles hasn’t moved an inch, his eyes squeezed shut. Derek doesn’t think about what he’s doing, not really, when he reaches into the shower and fumbles with the knobs until the spray finally ceases. Leaning down, he wraps the towel around Stiles’s shoulders before gathering him up in his arms. The boy doesn’t even try to fight him, limp as a ragdoll, but at least he’s breathing, which counts for something, Derek supposes. Like this, Stiles seems so strangely small in a way he never has to him before, so light that he can’t see how the boy doesn’t just blow away every time he walks outside. Now Derek is dripping wet all over again, his shirt soaked clean through, but he doesn’t care—barely feels the chill as he carries Stiles back into the bedroom and sets him down on the bed. 

“Leave me alone,” Stiles mumbles weakly. Derek sees just a flash of golden brown when his eyes flicker open just for a second, before closing again. “I don’t want you here.”

“This is my apartment,” Derek answers, though why he’s bothering to try and argue with Stiles now. Who even knows.

Derek realizes, stupidly, that he’s going to need a hell of a lot more than one towel, plus dry clothes for the both of them. There’s that instinct in him that’s snarling at the thought of leaving the boy's side, but it’s necessary. With a sigh, he leans down, murmuring, “I’ll be right back. I know you hate me, but please, please don’t move.”

Stiles is apparently aware enough to give him the finger, but he lets Derek prop him up against the headboard anyway. When Derek comes back, he pulls Stiles upright, ignoring his squirming, and starts wiping his face, covering his hair with the towel, and rubbing gentle circles on his scalp. Stiles mumbles protests, but they’re so slurred and quiet that not even Derek can understand them.

“Why are you doing this?” Stiles asks petulantly, slightly muffled under the towel. 

“Because,” Derek says, exhaling in frustration when Stiles tries to bat his hands away, “for some reason you’ve inexplicably insisted on trying to drown yourself in not just one, but two ways tonight. Someone has to keep you from getting hypothermia.”

Stiles laughs, but it’s bitter. “Like you care.”

He’s rocked with a sudden and overwhelming flash of a déjà-vu, and he remembers how he used to do this for Cora and his baby brother whenever he'd helped his mother with bathtime, when they’d had a family that wasn’t broken into pieces. Wasn’t scarred, burnt to the ground. When Derek was someone who could be counted on. Someone who could be relied on to take care of people. “So you’ve said,” Derek mutters through gritted teeth, but doesn’t stop. 

Because god, he does care.

Derek cares more than even he can fucking understand. 

This can’t be real. None of it’s real, that nagging voice in his head whispers, echoes, repeats, over and over. The water on his face has drowned everything else out as he floats in a steamy haze. Time drips, slow, like the condensation sliding down the shower door. He doesn’t know how long it’s been. Stiles doesn’t even feel a thing, doesn’t even notice when the water turns to ice, and doesn’t even pick his head up at the sound of the door being thrown open. It’s merely his imagination, he’s sure of it. As is the hoarse calling of his name from the doorway of the bathroom. Stiles simply drifts, fades, because what’s in here is better than what’s waiting for him out there. Because what’s waiting out there is a lie, has to be. Because Derek is here, he’s here, but he won’t stay. When he goes back out there, Derek will be gone. Stiles knows it. So he’s just not going to. Instead, he just sits there, practically asleep under the frozen spray falling over him, only somewhat registering the door of the shower sliding open and the water suddenly ceasing. The icy drips of his hair make the only sound against the porcelain tub before he hears soft breath near him, feels it, impossibly hot against his chilled skin. Stiles’s body folds into a pair of strong arms but he still can’t bring himself to believe it. 

 

It’s just his mind. Making believe the wolf’s actually come back for him.  

 

It’s not until Stiles feels how cold he actually is that he believes it to be true. Pressed up against Derek’s warm torso, Stiles can finally feel how freezing the water actually is, and how much he desperately wants to be warm again. This can’t be a dream, because it’s too fucking uncomfortable. 

Stiles still has his eyes closed when Derek props him up against the headboard. His hair drips icy rivets down his neck, and he shudders in misery until the wolf returns with another towel. God, he wants to hate him. So badly. He does. But all he wants right now is to be warm again.

(And for Derek not to leave him ever again, that stupid god damn voice reminds him.) 

“I hate you,” Stiles intones petulantly. Don’t stop, please, is what he really means. Derek ignores him, thankfully. “I’m cold.” 

“Of course you’re cold,” Derek whispers. “You took a fucking ice bath.” And then Derek is grabbing him by the waist, holding him still, before yanking on the hem of his shirt to signal he’s about to take it off. If Stiles was more coherent, he would put up more of a fight, because the last thing he wants lately is for anyone to see him naked, let alone Derek. “This needs to come off,” Derek growls. “You need dry clothes.”

“Fuck you,” Stiles mumbles, though he knows Derek’s right because his own clothes are so waterlogged and stuck to him that it’s starting to make his skin crawl, how itchy and uncomfortable he is. So he just lets him, raises his arms, and lets Derek strip him like he’s some kind of invalid, a child that can’t dress himself. How far is it, really, from the truth right now, anyway?

Stiles doesn’t have super hearing or anything, but Derek is close enough that Stiles hears his harsh intake of breath when he finally peels the last of his wet clothes off. He knows exactly why Derek’s making that sound, it’s not for any kind of good or flattering reason. Stiles has seen himself in the mirror lately. He knows what he looks like. 

He’s always been skinny, but with the lack of sleep, the nightmares when he did, the paralyzing anxiety, the panic attacks. It hadn’t exactly done wonders for his appetite. 

“Stiles,” Derek says, soft and quiet and so fucking sad it makes Stiles want to cry just from hearing him say his name like that. 

Stiles has kept his eyes resolutely shut, but he opens them now, raises them to hazard a glance at the wolf’s face. He looks wrecked in a way Stiles doesn’t understand. Pained in a way that he hasn’t ever seen Derek look at him before. “Please don’t,” he whispers.

Derek doesn’t say anything, but he reaches out, and then they both watch, like Derek’s hand is somehow moving all on its own, as he trails tentative fingers over Stiles’s collarbone, sharp and jutting.

And he doesn’t stop there. 

Stiles can’t speak, doesn’t even bother trying. Just trembles under the touch, the graze of Derek’s impossibly large palm down his side, the painfully protruding rungs of his ribcage. Derek’s eyes flash red, and Stiles shivers. 

“I’m so sorry,” Derek murmurs.

Stiles can’t even bring himself to feel embarrassed at the choked sob he tries to swallow back down in his throat. Like his dignity even matters at this point. “You left.”

“The pack didn’t need me,” Derek says, agonized, like he’s trying to convince himself of that fact. “I thought you’d all be --” 

“Fuck the pack,” Stiles hisses. What pack, honestly, he thinks. The only time they even resembled something remotely close to that was when Scott needed them for something, needed their help for some bullshit reason. “I don’t care about them.” 

Derek exhales a rattling breath, opens his mouth like he’s going to say something, but Stiles doesn’t give him the chance: 

“You left me.” 

Chapter Text

IV.

“You left me.”

And Derek wouldn’t even have to be a werewolf to decipher the emotions that flit across Stiles’s face, from sadness and hurt, before settling on anger that tastes so sour in his mouth it’s like licking a penny. And he doesn’t blame him for it, that anger, that fury Stiles has been spitting toward him since Derek showed up here. How could he? Not now, now that he’s seen Stiles, seen how damaged he really is. 

Derek hadn’t been lying. What he said, it had felt true when he’d disappeared that night. He’d left thinking that they’d be better off without him, that they didn’t need him like they needed each other. He’d always thought that sticking around here, ultimately it would have been worse for them, for Stiles, because everyone he’s ever tried to protect always seemed to end up getting burned, anyway.

So what can he say that would make it better? Nothing, Derek thinks, watching the boy, staring at him for a long, tense moment, taking in the ashen, gray coloring of his face, the way his cheekbones appear sunken and hollow. Stiles has always been pale, always been thin, but he’d been strong too—now he just looked like he was wasting away.  

The angles of his collarbones and his ribs are so sharp, it looks like it hurts. And Derek knows in his bones, sees the hard line of Stiles’s mouth, that there isn’t a way he can ever make this right. Even if he sucked every last bit of pain from Stiles’s body, that there’d be an ache, a part of him broken that can’t ever heal right.

Stiles’s eyes are fixed firmly on the mattress, his fingers twitching nervously around the edges of the damp towel he’s clutching. “Why did you even come back?”

Derek opens his mouth because wants to say something, anything, but nothing comes because he doesn’t know how to do this, not when any apology he offers would carry the same weightlessness as saying nothing at all.

But it didn’t make sense—it doesn’t, he thinks. It doesn’t make sense why his leaving would have such an effect, like it actually mattered, like Stiles actually had cared. Like he’d missed him. The idea is so foreign and alien that Derek almost laughs. Because it honestly had never even occurred to him that he’d even be missed.

Stiles shakes his head, reaches for the dry clothes Derek's laid on the bed beside him, pulling the shirt over his chest where it hangs off him, so big the collar slips down over one of his frighteningly narrow shoulders. “I don’t know why I even bother trying to --”

Derek growls, frustrated, because when has ever been good at this? Talking. He’s spent so much time alone this past year as it was, and it’s not like before that he was a particularly good conversationalist. “I had to.”

Stiles scoffs. “And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” 

Derek is quiet again, considering how the hell he’s even going to explain something he doesn’t even fully understand himself.  “I had to,” he says again, clenching his fists so hard he draws blood from his palms. “Two weeks ago, I woke up like this—“and he pauses, flashing his newly alpha-red eyes to punctuate the words, “and I just knew I had to come back.”

Stiles sniffs, and Derek realizes when the taste of salt hits heavy on the back of his tongue, that he’s crying. Silently, but it’s enough to make Derek’s heart feel like it’s being put through a cheese grater. “Why?” the boy asks softly and slightly muffled (from wiping his nose with his too-long sleeve). 

Derek could probably come up with some bullshit reason, but he’s never lied to Stiles and he doesn’t plan to start now. So he’s quiet again, considering how the fuck he’s even going to explain something he doesn’t even fully understand himself. He can’t, other than the obvious answer, which is a touch too close to too mortifying for him to admit right now.  All he can do is stare pointedly, helplessly, and hope Stiles gets the hint so he doesn’t have to just come out and say it. 

Stiles blinks at him, and it’s a horrifyingly awkwardly silent moment before realization seems to dawn across his face. “...Me?”  And then there’s that laugh again that’s nothing like Derek remembers because it’s nothing close to the sly, mischievous ones that he can’t believe he used to find so irritating. Now, now he just misses it.  

Derek nods, thankful for the dim room because he can feel the tips of his ears turning hot and red. 

The boy is quiet, his mouth twisting in a frown. “You know what that sounds like to me?”

Derek cocks his head. “What?”

“I think that sounds like bull.” 

“Well it’s not,” Derek says, biting back another snarl of irritation. 

“Says you,” Stiles mumbles. Derek sees that he must’ve managed to pull on the pair of old sweats he brought because the boy’s hugging his knees now, fiddling with the bottom cuffs that are hanging comically over his feet.   

Derek sighs. He gets it now, he thinks, why Laura had to come back, why she couldn’t resist the pull no matter how much Derek begged and pleaded with her not to go. Because Stiles is being infuriating, and still the only thing Derek can do is clench his hands into fists to fight the nearly irrepressible urge to brush away the tracks left by hot and bitter tears on Stiles’s cheek. But Derek stops himself, goes rigid, lets the air between them settle heavy, like an invisible curtain. “I’m sorry," he finishes, a little desperately. “I brought you into all of this, and I didn’t trust myself not to break you more.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Stiles finally offers quietly, shrugging his shoulders and hugging his knees even tighter to his chest like maybe if he folds himself up small enough he could disappear. “It doesn’t matter now, anyway.”

Derek lets out this sound, a clipped whine, distinctly animal. “Why--why didn’t anyone do anything? Scott’s your alpha -- he’s -- he was supposed to take care of the pack...he was supposed to take care...of you.”  

Stiles has imagined this scenario a hundred times, no, a thousand. What it would be like when (if) Derek came back. He never thought he’d be wrestling with so many conflicting feelings. There’s a part of him that’s still so fucking pissed, that wants to smash his fist into Derek’s face even though he knows he wouldn’t even do any damage. Most likely, he’d just break his hand.

It’s not fair, Stiles thinks. The more Derek talks, the more Stiles’s fury drains away, morphs into something else he doesn’t quite understand. 

Because there’s a part of him that wants to cry from sheer relief. Feels comforted by the mere presence of Derek in a way that he’s never fully allowed himself to examine before because he’d always thought no good could come of it. Because Derek would never feel the same, could never feel the same.

At least, that’s what he’d always thought. But none of the scenarios he’d pictured had ended with Derek looking at him like this. Like he’s ready to get on his knees and beg for Stiles’s forgiveness or something. Like Stiles matters. Like maybe, just maybe... he’s the only thing that matters.

There’s also a not small part of him that’s terrified by that. 

“I don’t think Scott really thinks of himself that way, you know, like our -- like my, um, alpha,” Stiles says. And if Stiles is honest, he doesn’t really think of him like that either. Never has, really. He’s always just...just been Scott. His dopey, mostly-loveable, somewhat unreliable best friend. Who made bad choices. A lot of them. 

“You feel like that because you’re a human,” Derek says pointedly. “Scott might like to think he still is, too, that he doesn’t think like that, but you’re part of his pack. The wolf part of him has claimed you. It should be instinct.”

“Well, maybe someone should tell him that,” Stiles says, like a half-hearted joke, attempting a smile that he’s pretty sure is mostly a grimace. “Is that -- is that what you felt like when you were our alpha?” He’s not sure why he’s asking, like it even matters now. 

Derek turns his head like he’s trying to avoid meeting Stiles’s gaze, which only confuses him further. There’s another one of those loaded silences they can’t seem to shake. Stiles is pretty sure he’s not going to answer, which shouldn’t be all surprising. It’s Derek. Verbosity wasn’t exactly his forte. Which is why he’s a little stunned when Derek looks at him again and says in a voice, low, like he’s telling a secret, “I know when I was your alpha, you felt like mine.” 

Stiles has to physically bite down on his own tongue until it’s throbbing just so he doesn’t open his big, stupid mouth and blurt out the first thought that pops into his head when Derek says it. So did I. He breathes out, twitching nervously for a stretched moment of quiet, gnawing at the skin around his thumbnail just to keep his hands and his mouth busy. 

It doesn’t work though, because much like before when they’d both watched Derek’s hand over his skin like a hot brand, Stiles can’t seem to control himself. Before he knows it, his fingers are already reaching out to glide over Derek’s jaw, his nails sliding over his beard, which had grown much thicker than before he’d left. Stiles isn't sure what he’s expecting, other than Derek, you know, threatening to tear his throat out maybe, probably. 

He doesn’t though. 

 What he doesn’t expect is this: Derek doesn’t flinch away exactly, but a tremor ripples underneath Stiles’s hands, and he watches, part mystified, part fascinated, as the sharp tips of fangs appear poking out of the man’s mouth, and an all-too-familiar red bleeds into his green and gold irises. 

Stiles’s body does that same involuntary shiver it’s been doing every single time the wolf has flashed those eyes at him so far tonight. Even though he’s hardly felt up to doing much in the terms of self-pleasuring lately, even he can freely admit that he’s always kind of had a thing, a fucked up sort of thing, for the teeth and the claws, and yes, the eyes. But it’s never felt like this. He’s never wanted...

“Sorry,” Derek says, and Stiles is jolted out of his thoughts, yanking his hand away automatically, when he feels the rough scratch of the man’s voice, all wolf, over his skin the same way his stubble had scraped the tips of his fingers. “Haven’t been able to control it very well since I started fully shifting.”

“So that was real then?” Stiles murmurs. “Full wolf. Cool.”

Derek huffs. “Trust me, it wasn’t very cool the first time when I fell out of bed and woke up on my floor with a tail.” 

Even Stiles can’t help letting out a feeble sort of chuckle at that image. 

Derek leans his head back, and with a yawning hiss, the fangs disappear, though his eyes stay that same startling shade of scarlet. 

“So, who’d you kill to, you know, make that happen,” Stiles says, well, blurts, realizing only seconds later how that sounds. Well, it’s not any worse than all the times he’s told Derek to basically go fuck himself tonight, so maybe it isn’t really that bad in the grand scheme of things.

Derek, to his credit, only laughs ( a laugh, Stiles thinks, an actual laugh. From Derek, of all people ). “No one. I told you, it just happened.”

The gears in Stiles’s head start to turn. “Can that really just happen?”

“You’re asking me like I know?”  

Oh right, he thinks. This was Derek Hale: worst werewolf ever. “So does this make you like...a true alpha, like Scott?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I don’t really believe in that. And even if I did, you think I would end up being one?” 

Stiles shrugs. Out of all the weird shit they’ve seen, it’s not the weirdest. “You’re not so bad.” 

“I thought you hated me,” Derek says, smirking, one of those absurd eyebrows arched in a way that shouldn’t seem so...something. 

“I think I’m too tired to hate you right now,” Stiles retorts, and it’s true. He realizes how true it is when his eyelids suddenly feel like someone’s taped weights to them. It comes over him so fast that he has a stray, suspicious thought that somehow it must be Derek’s doing. “I’m not done asking my questions.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that,” Derek murmurs, and Stiles glares at him, though considering his eyes are half-lidded, it’s probably not all that threatening. It’s even more undercut by the fact that he’s pretty sure Derek’s trying to tuck him in. 

“Stop that,” Stiles grumbles, swatting at the hand closest to his reach. “M’not a baby.” Somehow in the last few minutes, he’s slid down into the bed, curled up in a position that rather undermines his previous point because it could definitely be classified as fetal. 

“Go to sleep, Stiles. If you get some sleep and eat something when you wake up, you can keep asking me whatever you want.”

 “You can’t keep changing the rules, Sourwolf,” Stiles whispers drowsily. “It’s not fair.”

“Sleep, Stiles,” Derek says, and Stiles can’t seem to help the fact that his eyes seem to shut right there and then.

Before he entirely drifts off, there’s a brief moment of panic that slams through him. “Don’t leave while I’m asleep,” he says. “Please.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“Okay,” Stiles whispers. “Good.”

Chapter Text

V.

Derek realizes, with some trepidation, as he listens to the sound of Stiles’s breathing, his heart, go the slowest he’s heard since Derek had shown up here yesterday, that he’s not quite sure what Stiles meant by don’t leave. Will Stiles freak out if he wakes up alone? Is he supposed to stay here in this bed the whole time? 

And god...why is the thought of that so strangely tempting?

Because the idea of leaving Stiles alone, in here (fuck, at all, if Derek’s being truthful), it sends unfamiliar bolts of anxiety shooting through him. Makes his hackles rise in a way he knows he absolutely doesn’t have the right. At least Derek’s self-aware enough to realize that fact. 

Stiles stirs a little beside him, mumbling under his breath. There might be some words in there, but not even Derek can make them out. The stirring becomes moving outright, and Derek forces himself to go stock still as Stiles burrows somehow farther into both the blankets and the crook of Derek’s arm. It actually kind of tickles, the wisps of Stiles’s hair, grown longer than he’s ever seen it, brushing his nose, hot breath huffed into his neck. 

At least the boy smells better than he did before. Less of that acrid vinegared mix of exhaustion and anxiety and rage. Sweeter, much more enticing, though he suspects the fact that Stiles is drenched in Derek’s scent now, wearing his clothes (sleeping in his arms! that voice offers helpfully) , has a good deal to do with that.

“Stiles,” Derek murmurs, because his arm is going a little numb, and Stiles won’t stop wiggling.

Stiles just huffs another indignant noise into Derek’s throat, his fingers hooked against Derek’s chest, fisted into his t-shirt. “Shut up. G’sleep.” 

And then he’s apparently asleep again, his breathing petering off into those soft, little quiet snores. 

Okay, fair enough, Derek thinks. Still, it’s a long time before he’s able to let himself drift off, that wolfish part of him convinced like if he actually lets his eyes close, doesn’t keep watch, something bad might happen. 

For Derek, the descent into sleep is a fretful one. He hears Stiles’s quiet, even breaths, and he tries to let them lull him under, but he can’t. His mind is still going a mile a minute. Next to him Stiles is slack and boneless, feels like he's relaxed for the first time since Derek’s been back. It feels natural, feels right for Derek’s scent to be soaked into the boy’s skin, permeating like an aura.

If this is why he was meant to come back, Derek doesn't understand it, not yet. But the wolf in him seems to.  Like this, Stiles’s humanity, it’s impossible to ignore, in Derek’s arms, his blood pulsing determinedly through skin as thin and delicate as paper, that Derek can literally feel how easily it would give under his hands.

With Stiles practically splayed on top of him, Derek can feel the sharpness of his hip bones, how frail he's really become and it makes the wolf in his chest physically ache, because so much of what he is has hurt the boy, and he's not sure how much of it can be undone. If Stiles even wants him to bother trying. 

Right before Derek drifts off, something dawns on him, and it comes out, though he knows he’s still sleeping, whispered into the curve of the boy’s neck.

“Jesus, Stiles. You never stopped being mine, did you?”

For the first time in what feels like forever, Stiles sleeps. And not in the usual way during those rare times he actually managed to let himself go under where he’s in some agonizing purgatory between sleeping and waking. Where his mind only raced, and there were never any good dreams. Only nightmares that played themselves out endlessly like a ticker tape on repeat. Blood, death, the void. 

Empty, empty, empty. 

He dreams tonight, too, but this time, it’s different. There are things that look familiar. The trees around him as he runs, the sky above his head, the moon that’s round and full, bright enough to light his path. The grass under his feet is cool, but the air is warm. He runs, and runs, and runs. 

When he stops, the trees blur and he’s somewhere else he doesn’t recognize. 

It feels like he blinks or something because suddenly it appears. That damn tree, gnarled and ancient and pulsing with a familiar power that makes his skin crawl, the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. It’s dark, but Stiles doesn’t feel scared, doesn’t feel panicked, strangely enough. 

Maybe because he’s not alone.

Like it’s been there all along, there’s that huge, black wolf with those blood-red eyes, sitting atop the nemeton, just watching him.

Stiles feels like his insides have been frozen for so long he forgot what warmth felt like.

That’s how he feels when those eyes gaze into his. 

 Warm. 

 

There’s no screaming, Stiles doesn’t jerk awake, there’s no plunge back into consciousness like jumping into an ice bath. It’s slow when he blinks back to awareness, and that same feeling from the dream stays. There’s no way to tell what time it is because god knows where he put his phone, and oh yeah…

He’s in bed with Derek fucking Hale.

And not just, like, in bed together. Like entwined. Derek’s hands are splayed over Stiles’s stomach in a way that feels shockingly possessive (is it though? Is it really that shocking? That voice in the back of his head needlessly supplies). Derek’s hands are just as hot as the breath he’s puffing against the back of Stiles’s neck where the wolf’s currently got his face buried. 

Stiles can feel his heart start to race, unintentionally, and he can’t really seem to control it. Especially around Derek. He’s torn between the urge to move away because nobody’s been this close to him in so long, he’s sort of forgotten what it felt like. Intimacy. And the urge to somehow get closer, if that’s even possible, almost like a part of him wants to crawl inside Derek and just stay there. That part of him isn’t small, and it also seems to recognize that the longer they stay like that, the more it feels like they’re being stitched together, like threads getting tangled in a knot. 

“Christ, how can you be so quiet and still be so loud? Your heartbeat is deafening.” 

Stiles goes still and tense, and his hands somehow go automatically to Derek’s arms, gripping them like he actually stands a chance of being able to keep Derek from moving them. To his surprise, they stay. In fact, it almost seems like Derek’s the one holding on tighter, digging his fingers into Stiles’s hips like he’s trying to do the same thing. 

“Sorry,” Stiles says breathlessly.  

 “Shouldn’t be surprised--” Derek grumbles,  “--heard you all the way across the damn country.”

Derek hums, and Stiles shivers, feeling the scratch of his beard through the worn fabric of his shirt. Derek’s shirt. The one that smells like him, and that Stiles is not going to want to give back because all the other shirts he’d stolen from the wolf no longer carried his scent. When Derek leaves again, he’s going to need it. “What the hell does that mean?” Stiles asks automatically, realizing with a jolt, that he’s been digging his fingernails into Derek’s wrists. He has to consciously will them to unclench, that’s how hard he was clutching him.

Funny, that Derek hadn’t even seemed to notice. 

“Means what I said,” Derek whispers. “I heard you. That’s what knocked me out of bed that night. I heard you, so I came here.”

Stiles’s rational mind doesn’t not seem to be able to compute this. “You expect me to believe that you heard my freaking heartbeat from wherever the hell you ended up? And that’s what drove you here?” He snorts, shaking his head. “That’s absurd.”

Derek makes this sound Stiles thinks is a growl, which all that does is send another shiver through him. “I can turn into a literal wolf, an actual wild animal, and that’s the thing that’s most absurd to you?”

“You’re not wild,” Stiles retorts, without thinking. That’s not true, the voice reminds him, prompting that image of Derek’s eyes blazing, his fangs jutting out of his mouth, sharp as razors. 

“Says you,” Derek says, his voice that hoarse rumble, all wolf, apparently determined to remind Stiles of that fact. Suddenly there’s that trembling all over again, because Stiles can swear he feels teeth being pressed into his shoulder.  

No, Stiles thinks. It’s not the most absurd thing, because all of this is absurd. Because it was strange to think about the fact that only two years ago, the most contact he and Derek ever really had was an occasional touch.  A hand on the other's shoulder. The occasional threat of bodily harm. Now he wants nothing more than to stay like this, for Derek to keep holding him and not let go.

And it’s absurd how not absurd it feels. 

“Stiles.”

“Stiles.”

He’s not sure how many times Derek’s said his name so far, but it must have been a lot. Apparently, Derek had taken his long, stretched moment of self-reflection as something bad, because he’s suddenly moving away, muttering some half-nonsense apology and relinquishing his grip on Stiles’s waist.

 Stiles has to bite down hard on his own lip just to stop himself from actually whining at the loss. “You don’t have to--” he starts, fumbling. He’s not pathetic enough to try to hang on (yes he is).

“I’m gonna figure out something to feed you,” Derek says, ruffling his own hair in a way that’s so endearingly boyish that Stiles almost hates him for it. “Something tells me you haven’t been keeping anything edible around here. Stay in bed. Try to go back to sleep if you can. I’ll wake you.”

Just like before, Derek’s voice is doing that thing where he’s all stern and commanding, letting Stiles know he’s leaving no room for argument (no matter how much Stiles thinks there might be one). It’s somehow irritating and appealing all at once. That damn not-small-part of Stiles finds it very appealing, if he’s being honest. Still, Stiles humphs and half-heartedly swats at the wolf, even though he’s right, before burying his head under a pillow.

“I’ll be just outside.I won’t leave, I promise.” 

It takes an inordinate, unimaginable amount of will to tear his hands away from Stiles. He’s been here less than forty-eight hours and had never imagined staying long, but somehow the idea of leaving again sends him into a tailspin of panic. Makes that wolf in his gut want to howl and bite and scratch in protest at the mere thought. It’s not something he can stomach at the moment, so he’s just not going to think about it. 

Besides, he and Stiles both know he’s not going anywhere right now. That’s gotta be worth something. 

If he’s not going to let himself think about that, he’s also not going to let himself think about how good it felt, waking up with Stiles. All tangled together, their scents mingling in a way that made that beast in his chest curl up lazily and purr, content. How Stiles had felt, all lax and warm...

No, he’s not going to think about that.

 At least he has something to distract himself. A menial task. It all seems to be autopilot now anyway, the instinct to provide, to take care of, to protect. The irony of the fact that providing here means ordering takeout is not lost on him.

At least in California, you can get delivery no matter what time it is, he thinks, glancing at the clock face on the microwave. 

 

About an hour later, he hears the soft padding of Stiles’s feet on the concrete, doesn’t bother turning around to look at him from where he’d settled on the couch, reading and waiting for their food to arrive. 

When Stiles finally appears in front of him, Derek has to dig his fingernails into his palm, keep his hands clenched around the book he’s holding just so he doesn’t immediately grab for the boy.

Stiles is giving him a strange look. “That’s a library book, you know.”

Derek glances down, askance, not quite sure why he’s mentioning it. Oh, right, he thinks, eyeing the claw marks on the cover, wincing a little when he hears the sound of pages ripping. Probably can’t return that one now. 

Stiles shrugs. “I think it’s like six weeks overdue, anyway.”

“I found it wedged between the couch cushions,” Derek says, realizing he’s talking just to talk. Which never happens. He’s just worried if he stops, Stiles will too. The silence between them is much too loaded to let that happen, he thinks. “The Once and Future King. Not exactly light reading.” 

Stiles shrugs again, and then he’s crawling onto the sofa next to Derek, curling up small like he’s worried if he doesn’t, Derek’s going to be mad at him for taking up too much space or something. Derek didn't think he'd feel such a palpable sense of relief, just having Stiles back in the room with him, just having him close. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel so strange when Stiles reaches for his hand, squeezing it like he's checking to make sure it's real. “‘The best thing for being sad is to learn something,’” he mumbles, “or so says Merlin, at least.”

Derek makes a noise like he’s agreeing, even if he doesn’t quite understand the reference. He almost never does when it comes to Stiles. Instead, he just holds his hand steady, splayed on his lap, letting Stiles trace the lines on his palm with his fingers like he’s reading a map. 

“This is weird,” Stiles says.

“What?” Derek rasps, “My hand? You take up palm reading too? If you see something bad, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know --”

Stiles makes a face but doesn’t let go. “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“I know,” Derek says, mirroring Stiles’s earlier shrug. It’s not like he’s got any answers. Not any more than he’s already given, at least. 

It should feel weird. All of this should be weird. 

But it doesn’t, and somehow, it’s not. 

“Food’ll be here soon.”

“I’m not hungry." Stiles’s nose wrinkles in obvious disgust. Big surprise, Derek thinks. Still, that familiar curiosity must win out, because Stiles can’t seem to resist asking, “What’d you get?”

“I remembered you liked Indian --”

“Did you plan on blowing the house up afterward?” Stiles quips, “because that’s the only way to get the smell out.”

“Which is exactly what I thought you’d say,” Derek says, matter-of-fact. “So I ordered Chinese.” 

Stiles hums like he approves, but it’ll be a miracle if he actually does eat anything, Derek thinks, surveying him. Stiles looks somehow even thinner, feels even frailer than he had in Derek’s arms before. It’s distressing, the waxy gray of his skin, which is nothing like the porcelain white that the wolf remembers.

Derek opens his mouth to say something, but there’s the sound of footsteps, another heartbeat, unfamiliar, and he’s up and across the room to the front door before there’s even time to hear a knock. It’s embarrassing, how hard he has to clench his jaw to keep from baring his teeth at the fucking delivery guy because his instincts are all messed up as it is with Stiles being so vulnerable and all this power buzzing in his veins he still doesn’t know what to do with. He doesn’t need to add accidentally mauling a person to his growing list of innumerable sins. 

He offers a big tip, so the dude doesn’t seem to mind.

Stiles is stunned by how quickly Derek moves. Stiles just watches him curiously for a moment, because he’s all scowls and raised hackles, that familiar vein pulsing in his jaw the way it always used to when Derek got pissy about something. That something being Stiles, usually.

“Did you growl at that guy?” Stiles asks, arching an accusatory eyebrow because he’s fairly certain that’s just what he’s witnessed. 

“No.” Derek’s actually blushing, Stiles thinks incredulously. That’s real embarrassment coloring his cheekbones. The tips of his ears are red too, and it's as adorable as it is confusing. “I told you, it’s been harder since-- I’m just having some trouble controlling myself.”

The unspoken is something even Stiles doesn’t need spelled out for him. I’m having trouble controlling myself around you, is what Derek really means. 

“Senor Chows won’t deliver here anymore if you bite one of the drivers,” Stiles offers casually because he can’t stop thinking about how protective Derek’s been since he got back. Stiles also can’t stop thinking about the fact that he doesn’t seem to mind it very much. In fact, if he’s being truthful, he thinks he kind of likes it?

Derek rolls his eyes. “Will you just sit down, shut up, and eat something?”

“I’ll sit down,” Stiles says, offering an exaggeratedly dramatic bow that makes Derek's eyes do that thing again, “but I can’t promise I’ll eat anything. And I’m not shutting up either, because I have more questions.”

Derek sighs. “Of course you do.”

 

At least Derek isn’t being as pushy about the whole eating thing as he’d expected. Stiles had anticipated him putting some overladen plate in front of him and glaring at him until he finally cracked, gave in. Instead, the wolf had just slid some soup dumplings in front of him ( “I didn’t want to make you sick. I remembered you liked them.”) with very little fanfare.

It doesn’t even smell that offensive, surprisingly, but even if he had, by some miracle, an appetite, Derek is far too distracting. He doesn’t look that different, Stiles guesses. Not at first glance. But there was something different in the way he carried himself, and there was definitely something different in the way Derek looked at him. 

And definitely, definitely something different in the way they were together, he thinks, staring at his hand and thinking about how good it had felt when Derek held it (How good it felt when Derek held him).

“Sorry,” Derek says suddenly, and Stiles blinks, tearing his eyes away, confused. “I’m probably grossing you out, eating all this,” he adds, gesturing to his plate, admittedly piled high. 

“Oh, it’s -- it’s okay,” Stiles mumbles. “I don’t mind.”

“Haven’t realized how long it's been since I ate. I hunted a bit in the woods when I was watching you, but I’m fucking starving all the time. Have been ever since I started shifting--”

“Hunted? Like... as a wolf. Hunted what? Deer?”  Stiles asks, suddenly both very interested and slightly horrified at the thought. 

Derek flashes his teeth again in one of those predatory grins. “Bunnies.”

“Ha ha,” Stiles says, not able to hide his half-smirk. 

“This is much better though,” Derek adds, chewing thoughtfully. “The Chinese food in Maine is awful.” 

Stiles's ears perk up almost immediately. “Maine? That’s where you were?” 

Derek nods.

“Why?” Stiles asks because honestly, he thinks he was expecting something a little more exotic than that. 

“It wasn’t here,” Derek murmurs. 

And Stiles guesses that’s true because it technically was the literal opposite of Beacon Hills, California. It was on the other side of the country, like three thousand miles away. “What’d you do there?” 

Derek is quiet for a moment and Stiles isn’t sure he’s going to answer. “Nothing, for a while. Rented a cabin, read a lot. I actually got bored.”

That must have been a new experience, Stiles thinks. They hadn’t had a lot of time to be bored, those years they spent nearly dying, like, every week practically. “That must’ve been nice,” Stiles offers, chewing nervously on his thumbnail. 

“I have a job -- or, had, I guess--” Derek says, fumbling a little awkwardly. “--I was an EMT.”

It’s hard to imagine, Stiles thinks. Derek doing normal, human stuff like...having a job, getting a paycheck. He’s got a million more questions, especially in regards to that whole have v had slip of the tongue, because what the hell does that mean? How long is Derek going to stay with him if he’s got some whole other life waiting for him that Stiles is just selfishly keeping him from? Some whole other life that isn’t here…

His heart starts to pound again in that way he can’t stop, his mind racing…

But everything comes to a screeching halt when Stiles feels Derek’s hand, impossibly hot, sliding over his, his fingers curling around Stiles’s wrist. “It’s ok, Stiles. Ask me something else.”

Stiles takes a deep breath, waits for Derek to move his hand, but he doesn’t, thankfully. “What happened to the Camero?” 

“I sold it. Wasn’t really mine, anyway. I was borrowing it from Laura in the first place. The truck out there, that’s mine.” 

 “You sold your car for that?” Stiles blurts. 

The wolf just laughs, and Stiles stares at him because it’s not a sound he’s used to hearing come out of Derek’s mouth. “Truck’s not so bad. Could do without the Zeppelin’s Greatest Hits stuck in the tape deck, but it does the job.”

Stiles snorts. “Who’d you buy the truck from? Dean Winchester?” 

Derek doesn’t get the reference, of course.

“So,” Stiles says, apparently exhausting all of his casual questions because he moves onto the harder stuff. The stuff Derek doesn’t really want to think about at the moment. “Are you going to talk to Deaton?”

 Derek grimaces. “I guess I have to. Full moon’s in a few days, and it’s sort of polite to let an emissary know what werewolves are around.”

Especially an alpha in a territory that happens to already have one. Though, he guesses Beacon Hills has always been Hale territory, probably still is, technically, not that Derek’s ever given much of a shit about birthright.  

Stiles gapes at him. “Not about that, you idiot. I mean, about,” and then the boy just sort of motions vaguely between them, “you know, this. The whole alpha thing, and um, other stuff--” 

Derek knows exactly what he means by other stuff. And that’s exactly what he’s trying to avoid thinking about. About what’s happening between them. It’s the smart thing to do, the logical thing to do, so obviously Stiles is pushing for it. “I don’t exactly trust him, Stiles.” For perfectly valid reasons, Derek thinks bitterly. He can still taste Gerard’s rancid flesh in his mouth if he thinks too hard about it, that night. 

“Well,” Stiles says offhandedly, “maybe I could talk to him and Sco--”

Derek can’t seem to stop it. He growls automatically at the mere thought of Stiles going to Deaton on his own. And the added presence of Scott (another alpha, that beast prods, the boy belongs to us, not him) isn’t exactly helping. “I don’t want you to do that.”

Stiles's eyes flash defiantly. “You’re not the boss of me. I’m not going to do something just because you tell me to.”

“Maybe not,” Derek says. “But it’s worked pretty well on you so far.” 

Stiles looks confused until Derek nods pointedly at the now-empty plate in front of him. He’d eaten every bit of his food, apparently hardly noticing that he’d been doing it in the first place. That had sort of been Derek’s goal from the beginning, distracting him enough to get him out of his head, hell, even his body, if only for a few minutes. Laura had pulled the same trick on him in the beginning, back when Derek had gone so long without eating, sick with guilt and grief, that the mere sight of food had sent his stomach turning. 

That mouth of his twists into a pout that Derek absolutely should not find so enthralling. “Dick.”

“Brat,” Derek counters, folding his arms in a way that he knows is probably annoyingly smug. 

 

It doesn’t even take much cajoling for Derek to convince Stiles to go back to sleep. Although when Derek had motioned uncertainly toward the couch, suggesting Stiles take the bed, his heart had started doing that scary tachycardia thing again. The scent of overwhelming dread filling Derek’s head and setting them both on edge.

It had taken another whole five minutes of holding him close, murmuring soothing words into his ear, the promise he didn’t have to sleep alone, to actually get Stiles to step into the bedroom again. The boy climbs up onto the bed but doesn't immediately dive under the covers. Stiles is clearly cold, covered in goosebumps Derek can see from where he’s still standing by the door. 

Derek can practically feel the heat from his eyes on him, waiting there, just watching him. He feels his breath catch in his throat at the sight.  

 

Derek’s spent the night with the occasional man or woman over the years, but he'd never let one into his bed like this. To stay. But then again, there's never been anyone even remotely close to Stiles until now. It’s a sobering realization. That the craziest part of this whole thing is that he wants it, wants Stiles close, wants him in his bed (though it feels less like his bed now that Stiles had seemingly claimed it in his absence). 

He can't remember the last time he craved the simple comfort of touch. Maybe when he was still young, back when he and Laura still went through the perfunctory motions of the pack, but he learned quick enough over the years to stop reaching.

 But Stiles's eyes look so dark, lashes fluttering in a way that Derek knows isn’t meant to be as seductive as it looks, his hands bunched in his lap and pulled into the sleeves of the shirt the boy had borrowed from him.

There's that a surprisingly logical voice nagging in his ear, warning him to turn around and go back to the couch. But it's too late now. Pinned under Stiles’s unintentionally beckoning gaze, Derek’s well and truly caught, and if he's telling the truth, he's not an unwilling prisoner. 

But still, he moves carefully, slides into the space next to Stiles all slow, because Derek needs to give him the chance to pull away, to refuse, even though they both know that’s not going to happen.

That other voice, the wolf, whispers gleefully that they could probably do whatever they wanted to Stiles right now, thinking with almost perfect certainty that Stiles would let him. Derek opens his mouth but shuts it with a click, hesitant to speak because there's a part of him still convinced this is part of some dream, that he’ll wake up on the floor of his cabin like an idiot. 

But he can see the goosebumps on Stiles’s perfect, pale skin now that he’s close, can feel how hard he’s trembling.

“M’cold,” Stiles says quietly, ducking his chin like he doesn’t want Derek to see his face. 

“Of course you are. You’re shivering,” Derek chides softly. He knows what Stiles wants, so he just reaches for him, doesn't bother asking, pulling the boy gently against him so his back is to his chest. Derek winds his arms around Stiles until they're a sturdy cage to keep him there, grabbing at the sheet to pull it to the boy’s waist. Derek doesn't bother covering himself with it -- he's too warm for them normally, so with Stiles, he’d likely cook. 

Stiles lets out this shaky, little exhale, but doesn’t speak. Derek just ducks his chin into the curve of the boy’s shoulder, palm splayed against the flat plane of Stiles’s belly, between the sharp points of his hip bones.

“Shut your eyes. Sleep, Stiles.” 

 

When Derek finally does fall asleep, he dreams. Memories he’s buried, forgotten, somehow bubble up like water. But in the midst of all that, he finds himself wrenched back into consciousness, wakes up immediately when he feels something wrong, like the hair on the back of his neck is prickling in warning; something slashes across Derek’s eyelids, pain, sharp and throbbing, like a slap across the face. His eyes flicker open, and he gasps his first waking breath, his hands clenching immediately around Stiles—whose body is flailing wildly, blanketed in a sheen of clammy, cold sweat, frantic, unintelligible murmurs and whimpers torn from his throat. 

The boy is digging his nails so hard into Derek’s arms that he’s drawing blood, and it’s only the wolf’s brute strength that keeps Stiles from hurting himself in his thrashing. 

“Shit,” Derek grimaces. “Stiles, Stiles…wake up. Come on, come back,” he says, and his own voice sounds rougher than he intends it to, more of a command and less of a request. 

The boy doesn’t stop struggling—in fact, Derek’s attempts to soothe and quiet him seem to only exacerbate the problem. And Stiles, he might be screaming in his dreams, but the sound is coming out in real life much the same, and it makes Derek’s ears ring because the sound is so utterly offensive and wrong, it’s awful to hear. It’s brutal and wild, sounds like something dying, and Derek’s cringing, even as he struggles to keep Stiles from clawing his eyes out with blunt nails. 

Eventually, after a few seconds that feel more like an eternity, Stiles comes to enough to wake up, and everything stops, and the only noise is just the boy chasing breath he can't quite catch. 

“Okay, okay,” murmurs Derek soothingly, even though he feels completely wound up and overwhelmed. And Derek, he's no stranger to nightmares, knows what it's like to wake up screaming with the taste of ash in his mouth. Whatever Stiles is fighting right now, Derek can’t bite or scratch or kill.

All he can do is just be here. So he just, a little hesitant because he doesn't want to spook the boy, loosens his grip so Stiles can breathe. But he doesn't let go, lets his hands rest gently on his back, with all the reassurance he can muster. 

"This happens every night, doesn't it?"

“Yes,” Stiles chokes. Then the boy’s hand shoots up, grabs Derek’s arm so hard it actually hurts.

“Fuck,” Derek curses, the pain a shocking sting he didn’t expect from a grip like that, and he can’t help the sudden appearance of his claws, the way his teeth lengthen. 

Stiles makes another gasping sound.

“Sorry,” Derek says, wincing, trying his best to keep the points of his nails from digging into Stiles’s skin any more than they already have. It’s never been this bad before, back in Maine and alone, he could even ignore it most of the time, the more beastly of his urges. And when he was an alpha way back then, it had been even easier with all that adrenaline-and-terror-fueled control, the inexhaustible pressure of constant threats and life or death decisions serving him better than chains ever could. Back when he was fighting just to survive, wanted to feel flesh and bone give under his claws and his teeth, control was easy. The rage was enough. But this isn't a battle, not really, and he's tried (is at least trying) to let go of most of that—excising it all like poison from a wound. The anger isn't there to steady him anymore, and he finds he feels strangely adrift. 

“No,” Stiles murmurs, his breathing still slightly unsteady. He’s apparently realized how tightly he’s been holding Derek’s bicep, because Stiles finally pulls away, lets his fingers release. “It’s okay, I didn’t mean to --” and then Stiles trails off. “I think,” Stiles says slowly, with an audible gulp. “I think you might have to talk to Deaton for real after all.”

Derek hears that hitch in Stiles’s breath again. “Why?”

Stiles doesn’t answer, but he jerks his chin toward Derek’s arm, and the wolf turns his head curiously, not quite understanding the strange tone in the boy’s voice. But then, Derek thinks he maybe gets it, because he can see that there, burned like a brand, bright red and inflamed on skin that’s never bore a single scar, not in his whole life, is a perfect imprint of Stiles’s hand. 

Chapter Text

VI.

There’s a weird sense of deja vu, he thinks, driving with Stiles to the animal clinic. Though, back then it would have been him sullen and quiet in the passenger’s seat of the jeep with Stiles rambling on about nothing, and yet somehow everything. Stiles is so quiet now. Derek actually finds he misses the rambling, doesn’t quite remember why he ever found it annoying in the first place.

He pulls into the drive, kills the engine.

“We’re going to be fine, you know that, right?” 

Derek doesn’t need to look at Stiles to know he’s rolling his eyes. “You can’t know that,” Stiles huffs, picking at some invisible lint on his sleeve (the boy still hasn’t changed out of Derek’s clothes since last night, and Derek can’t really find it in himself to even pretend to be mad about it). “Besides, you’re not the one who burned someone’s flesh just by touching them. I’m like the human fucking torch over here.”

That’s fair. Stiles had been, well, freaked out, to say the least. And Derek probably would have been, too, it was just that Stiles had been so distraught, it had sort of ceased to matter to him. Objectively, he should’ve been more worried, probably. What with the whole enormous handprint scar that wouldn’t seem to heal, the fact that neither one of them seemed to be able to handle being apart from the other for more than a few minutes.

Instead, Derek just feels strangely content, zen. He reaches for Stiles’s hand, but the boy moves it away, glaring at him. The wolf can’t help growling, annoyed. 

“We definitely shouldn’t be doing that,” Stiles says, exasperated, “or do you not remember the whole burning flesh thing?” At least he seems disappointed, Derek thinks. But Stiles has a point, and not just because of the handprint thing. It was what had happened after, when Stiles had slid his fingers over the mark that had sort of thrown them for a loop.

Yep. Derek definitely remembers that part.  

“I’m sorry, Derek -- I didn’t mean to --” Stiles says, scrabbling frantically to his knees, looking at his hands like they might fly up all on their own and strangle him or something. 

It takes Derek a minute to even hear the boy, admittedly. He’s still fixated on that shiny stretch of skin, waiting to see if it disappears. He’s never had a scar before, so he’s kind of strangely fascinated.

“It’s not even healing!” Stiles whispers, sounding slightly hysterical now and covering his face fretfully with his hands. 

That snaps him out of it, because Stiles’s heartbeat is fast approaching the danger zone again, that cloying scent of adrenaline threatening to suffocate Derek right here in this bed. “Stiles, it’s okay. It doesn’t hurt.”

“I broke you -- I did something --”

Derek doesn’t respond, but he unceremoniously takes a clawed finger to his own forearm, slicing through the flesh, barely even flinching when blood starts to well and drip from the wound.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Stiles hisses. “Are you insane?”

“I’m fine,” Derek says, “look,” holding up his arm as proof. The cut’s already healed, just like normal, that brief flash of pain nothing more than a memory. Same as usual. Same as it’s always been.  

Stiles's mouth opens and closes with a click, eyes wide, because he’s obviously shocked. “Then why…” he trails off, doesn’t wait for Derek to offer an answer or some kind of explanation (which, fine, because Derek definitely doesn’t have one), instead he slides his hand over Derek’s skin, curling his fingers around his arm where the mark still gleams.

It feels like too many things happen at once. Derek feels that same flare of heat from before, only it seems to travel through his entire body this time, a tremor that shocks his veins like what he thinks getting struck by lightning must feel like. His vision goes red, and he feels his eyes flicker, and then suddenly his fangs are dropping, and his claws are lengthening, too, because just like the last time Stiles put a hand on him like this, he’s apparently lost any and all control he’s ever claimed to have.

“Derek,” Stiles says, but his voice is so strangely breathless, and he doesn’t let go. Derek wants to ask him why, because there’s some logical voice in the back of his mind suggesting that might be the smart thing to do, but then the boy’s eyes lock on him. They’re gilded, dark, and the weight of them would be so close to being too much if Derek didn’t suddenly have the errant thought that getting crushed by that wouldn’t be so bad. 

“You should probably let go,” Derek whispers, more than a little bit shocked by how hoarse his own voice sounds.

Stiles nods, but he’s still got that dreamy look on his face, and he doesn’t move his hand either, a fact which Derek is inexplicably pleased by. “Uh huh.” 

Derek couldn’t actually tell you who moves first. He feels maybe like it was him. He’s faster than Stiles, obviously, but it doesn’t really matter, he guesses, because the end result is the same either way. The only coherent thought he has when he realizes Stiles’s mouth is on his is technically two thoughts --mainly, why hadn’t Derek done this sooner, and how does he get more of it?

As far as first kisses go, it’s neither gentle, nor sweet, but Derek has never been much good at either of those things, and Stiles doesn’t seem to mind judging from the way he’s arching against him, digging his long fingers into Derek’s hair. And because the boy is gasping against his mouth now, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for Derek not to do it, he can't help but suck insistently on the boy’s bottom lip before sliding his tongue inside. 

Somebody moans. Stiles, he thinks, and Derek’s wondering exactly what he needs to do to get him to make that sound again when one of them finally has the sense (and it’s definitely not Derek) to pull his hand away from where it’s been anchored. 

Both of them are gasping for breath still, and at some point, Stiles had ended up in Derek’s lap (Derek has no memory of this happening), and he really has to bite down hard  so he doesn’t whine when the boy clambors off of him, cheeks flaming. “Oh my god -- I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have --" Stiles’s eyes are horror-wide, his normally pale skin mottled pink and red. From Derek’s beard, he thinks, oddly satisfied by that, and from obvious embarrassment. Does Derek feel embarrassed? No, he thinks, mostly he just feels cheated, fighting the urge to lunge forward to catch Stiles’s mouth again. “I,” Stiles murmurs, “I didn’t know that would happen.”

Derek didn’t either, but somehow the only thing he’s wondering, again, is why it hadn’t happened sooner. It seems obvious now that he’s staring it right in the face. 

“Would you stop that?” Stiles says suddenly, and Derek’s brought hurtling back to reality, that memory still so vivid and sweet on his tongue, like he can taste the boy again, he’s confused for a moment where he actually is. 

“What?”

“Stop thinking about it,” Stiles grumbles. His cheekbones are splashed that familiar pink again. 

“How do you know what I’m thinking?” Derek retorts automatically, fiddling with his seatbelt and drumming his hands nervously on the steering wheel. 

“Trust me,” Stiles snaps. “I know. Which is exactly why I told you we should not be touching. At least not until we talk to Deaton and figure out what I’ve done to you --”

Derek rolls his eyes. “We’ve been over this. You didn’t do anything to me. I’m fine. I told you.” 

“We’ll see,” Stiles mutters, undoing his seatbelt and scrambling out of the truck. 

The boy has smelled like an overwhelming, all-consuming blanket of guilt and dread, and that coupled with the fact that Deaton is literally one of the last people on earth Derek wants to see, he’s not exactly looking forward to going inside. “Do I have to?” 

“Yes. Out of the car, Sourwolf. Mush.” 

“What did I say about the dog jokes, Stiles. You get one. That’s it. Then I start biting back.”

“They’re funnier now that you turn into one.”

Derek growls. “Not a dog.”

Stiles sticks out his tongue, and Derek really wishes he wouldn’t, because it only makes him think of grabbing it between his teeth again. At least Derek can see the boy flexing his hands at his own side and feels slightly better knowing that Stiles is fighting the urge to grab for Derek’s hand just as much as he is.  

Stiles really probably shouldn’t be teasing Derek like this. In fact, he should probably be trying to be nicer, doing whatever he can so Derek doesn’t leave again. But he’s crabby, and irritable, and jesus fuck, horny. None of which is helped by Derek’s sudden inability to keep his hands to himself. It was bad enough that Stiles had apparently worked some accidental magic juju or something on the guy, which only makes Stiles feel insanely guilty, because it’s not like Derek could actually feel that way about him. 

He wouldn’t have left if he did, right?

So forcing it on him, intentionally or not, doesn’t that make him just as bad as all those other people who’ve taken advantage of Derek? Just the thought of it makes Stiles feel sick to his stomach.

God, and Derek won’t stop looking at him, like he can see through Stiles’s clothes are something, which doesn’t help the whole wanting to climb the stupidly beautiful werewolf like a goddamn tree. 

And it wasn’t like he was all that anxious to go see Deaton. It’s not like he was Stiles’s favorite person or anything, either. Especially not after what he’d done to Derek. And Stiles had sort of made a point not to come back here after the nogitsune, anyway. It might not be in him anymore, and he knows he hadn’t technically been in control when he’d watched the oni run Scott through with Kira's sword, or when Stiles had twisted it into his gut, felt that blood pour out of Scott’s stomach and onto his hand. He hadn't been in control, but he still remembers what it had felt like. 

“It’s okay, Stiles, you don’t have to come inside if you don’t want to,” Derek murmurs. Stiles hadn’t realized he’d just been standing there all frozen in the doorway until he feels the wolf’s hand, as big and broad as the rest of him, spread over his back. Derek’s breath tickles his ear, makes him shiver.

It almost physically hurts to do it, but he shakes the older man off with a shrug. “I’m fine. It’s fine.”

The look Derek levels him with makes it clear he doesn’t believe a word that Stiles is saying. But it doesn’t matter because that’s not why they’re here. 

For a minute, they both just sort of stand there in the lobby, again, awash in the harsh sting of antiseptic and cold steel and mountain ash. Stiles shudders reflexively, because he can’t feel the ash anymore, but he still remembers how it had felt the last time. A crushing weight pressing in on him from all sides. He wonders how Scott could stand it. Derek looks just about as uncomfortable as Stiles feels, so he obviously must sense it too. 

They’re still standing there like idiots, sort of dumbstruck and visibly cringing, when the most-of-the-time-veterinarian comes out from the back room, raises his eyebrows in a way that's not necessarily judging, but kind of feels like it, and says, "Oh.”

“Oh? Just oh? You’re not even surprised, are you?” Derek asks. 

Deaton doesn’t seem perturbed by this, nor does he deny it. “The prodigal son always returns. Though, I have no fattened calf for you, I’m afraid.” And he just starts tinkering around his office like it’s an average afternoon and Derek’s one of his clients who’s wandered in off the street to buy prescription dog food. “Something else on your mind?” Deaton asks, arms crossed, his voice annoyingly serene.

 

Derek doesn’t answer, but he flashes his brand-new (well, returned, Stiles thinks) alpha eyes in Deaton’s direction, and Stiles watches the veterinarian’s expression shift to something much more calculating.

 

“Ah, I see,” Deaton says, and Stiles doesn’t think he’s imagining the cold, disappointed edge to his voice. “That’s what you’ve been doing while you’ve been gone.”

 

“Jesus Christ,” Derek grits, pulling on his hair in frustration. “Why does everyone think I killed someone?” 

From the slightly murderous look on the wolf’s face, Stiles wonders, if only for a second, if this had been a mistake. If Derek was struggling to control himself with just Stiles around…

“Where’s Scott?” Stiles blurts suddenly.

“He’ll be here soon. Just getting out of practice, I think --” Deaton says, sounding slightly confused.

In retrospect, Stiles thinks it might not have been a good idea, bringing up Scott. Because Derek lets out one of those long, low growls as soon as the name leaves his mouth. 

Derek at least has the decency to look embarrassed, the tips of his ears turn bright pink.

Deaton frowns. “That doesn’t make things any more clear, if you’re wondering. Stiles, would you like to --”

Oh good, Stiles thinks. All the attention is squarely on him now. Lovely. “Um,” he starts, digging his nails into his palm, “could there possibly, maybe be the slightest chance of that ‘one true alpha in a hundred years thing’ actually being maybe, um, two?”

“That seems highly unlikely,” Deaton says, side-eying Derek (which, okay, rude, Stiles thinks), “all things considered.”

Stiles can’t help bristling. “What’s that supposed to mean? ”

“Stiles, I just mean Derek’s taken an innocent life, and as you know, --”

“So have I!”

Derek doesn’t give a shit what Deaton thinks of him, truly. And he’s pretty sure if he has to hear the words “true alpha” again, he’s going to puke. Mostly he’s just worried about Stiles. It’s automatic now, the worrying, and he just doesn’t seem to be able to help himself, because Stiles’s heartbeat is like a klaxon going off in his brain. He’s across the room, peeling Stiles’s blood-stained fingernails away from his palm without even realizing it. Stiles doesn’t swat him away this time, thankfully, just sort of folds himself against Derek’s chest and takes shuddering breaths until his pulse stops racing. “It’s okay,” Derek murmurs (and he doesn’t nuzzle against Stiles’s jaw, he doesn’t) . “I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care about power anymore. I don’t need to be anyone’s alpha. I don’t need it, and I don’t want it.” 

“I think,” Deaton says, offering a knowing look in Stiles’s direction that is kind of enough to make Derek freak the fuck out. Just a little bit. “It’s a little late for that.”  

“‘It's just powder until a spark ignites it,’” Stiles mutters under his breath, “‘be the spark. That’s what you said to me.”

“What are you talking about?” Derek asks, glancing between Deaton and Stiles, who are currently sharing a look he definitely doesn’t get. 

“I did it. It was me,” Stiles says, bewildered. “I did this to you.”

 

“I don’t understand,” Derek says. “Are you saying I’m an alpha again, because...Stiles willed it?”

After Stiles’s outburst, it had all sort of just spilled out all at once. Why he left, where he went, how he fell, literally, into a full shift that night in Maine. The pull, how Beacon Hills had felt like a magnet yanking him back. He hadn’t exactly been wanting to disclose the other developments in his relationship (is that what they had now?) with Stiles, especially with fucking Deaton, of all people. But when he’d tried to skip over that part, Stiles had kicked him in the shin and yanked Derek’s shirtsleeve up, revealing his shiny, brand-new scar.

That had piqued Deaton’s interest. “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” he says. “Am I to gather this is your handprint?” the vet asks, glancing at Stiles, who's been watching the whole subsequent examination with a nervous energy that Derek’s literally been able to feel, pressing like a sharp needle to skin. 

Stiles nods.

“And what exactly were you doing when this happened?”

Stiles’s face goes absolutely molten red, and Derek thinks his own probably doesn’t look much better. “I had a nightmare. Derek was there, and I -- grabbed him. He was comforting me. That’s it.”

 God, Derek really hopes he doesn’t have to say what happened next. Because he’s not going to explain to Deaton that Stiles had touched that mark, and subsequently, Derek had experienced one of the most intensely passionate kisses he’s ever had in his life. 

Or, that all he’s been thinking about since then is how soon until he can do it again.

No, Derek would most certainly rather die first. 

“It won’t heal,” Stiles says quickly, changing the subject. “But um, other stuff has, you know. It doesn’t seem to have messed with his ability to, I mean.” 

“I’ve never had a scar before,” Derek offers up, because the expression on Deaton’s face has changed to something Derek really, really doesn’t understand. 

“That’s not a scar, Derek,” Deaton says. “That’s a brand.”

“A what?” Stiles squeaks. 

“There are plenty of references to it in lore. You can call it whatever you want,” Deaton says, shrugging in a way that seems oddly nonchalant. Perhaps even a little bit amused, which kind of makes Derek feel like reconsidering the not-killing-people-that-piss-him-off stance he’s recently adopted. “Brand, claim, soul-mark, mating bond --” 

Derek feels his throat go dry. 

“I didn’t mean to, I just -- it was an accident,” Stiles babbles, starting to sound more than a little hysterical. Like Derek could blame him. “Is there any way to make it go away? Get rid of it, so Derek doesn’t have to --”

“Mating bonds are rare. They don’t happen by accident,” Deaton says, “and I haven’t seen many,” he continues, and Derek doesn’t miss the glance in his direction, “only one -- but I know they don’t just go away.”

Only one, Derek thinks. His parents. 

“This—I can’t,” he says, sudden and desperate, and his breath feels like it’s caught in his chest, and he tries to speak, to finish his sentence, but he can’t, his tongue lying fat and useless in his mouth.

And being in this office feels stifling enough already, with the walls lined with mountain ash that feel like they’re pressing down against him, like he’s being shoved into a box that’s just not big enough and he’s running out of air.

So Derek just turns on his heel, bolts out the door, past Stiles, but he doesn’t reach for him, doesn’t quite trust himself to touch him, anyway, even though the wolf in him howls in protest as he passes.

 Maybe it’s the coming moon, maybe it’s just him. Derek’s always been a fuck-up, so it’s not like he’s surprised.

“Fuck,” he breathes, taking in sharp gasps of air, shaking his head to try to quell the way he can already feel it, underneath his crawling skin, the shift shuddering through him, starts to feel his bones cracking and wonders how it’s possible that this is even happening, how he hasn’t quite lost control like this since he was sixteen.

His vision shifts from red to white to red again, and he wonders, briefly, with a hysterical laugh, if being a werewolf prevents panic attacks.

 

He feels Stiles even before he sees him, even before he smells him, jesus. The boy doesn’t get too close though, and Derek is unprepared for how devastated he feels by that.

“You have to breathe, Der,” Stiles says, though Derek can hear the slight trembling in his voice. Again, he doesn’t blame him. 

Derek is still shaking, his hands clenching the front of his truck so hard he hears the metal whine and start to give as it warps under his grip. His claws catch painfully on the hood of the car and the sound is a ghostly sort of wail that makes his ears ring. There is a crushing sense of dread so heavy and tangled up in him, it feels like someone is doing a dance with shoes and bells on his chest right where his lungs should be. 

"Fuck," Derek spits as he hears Stiles's voice, fuzzy like a bad radio frequency in the back of his mind. "This is what you feel like all the time, isn't it?"

Finally, he manages to turn to look up at the boy where he's standing, meet his eyes, and when he does, that shudder rips through him again. The one that sends his own eyes flashing repeatedly, but he tries to do as Stiles says and just...breathe. Honestly, he feels more like screaming, but eventually the breath comes--he feels oxygen, sweet and rich, fills his lungs again. "Stiles? Come here, please..." Derek manages to croak, soft and low, a little unsure, like he thinks Stiles might refuse. “I won’t -- I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I’m not worried about that,” Stiles murmurs. And he really must not be, because he’s so close again that Derek wouldn’t even have to reach to touch him. “Are you okay?” 

Derek laughs, but it’s bitter, choked. The farthest thing that Derek feels right now is okay. “Well, at least one of us isn't worried about that.” Despite his words, he can’t help but reach for him anyway, curling his fingers around Stiles's bony wrist to pull him close. He doesn't yank him forward or anything, overwhelmingly conscious of his movements, and it really shouldn’t please him so much, the way Stiles doesn’t even try to fight him. Doesn’t try to get away. Doesn’t do anything a normal, rational human would do. 

Which is only one of the many reasons why Derek loves him.

Jesus.

 When Stiles is satisfyingly close again, Derek visibly unclenches but he doesn't let go. Instead, he brings the boy's wrist up to his mouth, noses at the skin just underneath his palm where it's thinnest, scenting him until Derek feels calm again. 

The gesture is intimate, perhaps shockingly so, but Derek can't bring himself to care. He guesses they’re past politeness and decorum, anyway.  He's still grappling with the sudden realization that he needs Stiles just as much as the boy seems to need him, and isn't quite exactly sure when that happened. 

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says, breathless. When Derek glances up at his face, he sees that Stiles’s eyes are closed. Derek can't help the noise that escapes him, a rumbling sound deep in his chest to mark his approval when something almost like the scent of what he’s pretty sure is happiness rolls off of the boy at Derek's attentions. Despite Derek's apprehension, Stiles doesn't seem particularly weirded out by what is admittedly textbook animal behavior. 

“What for?” Derek asks.

“That you’re stuck with me. I’m sorry -- I’m sure I could find a way -- I didn’t mean to fuck up your life.”

At that, Derek stills, his eyes hardening, his voice suddenly steely. “You didn’t. You haven’t. Don’t say that about yourself.”

Because if anyone’s the fuck-up here, it’s not Stiles. 

“Even if it’s true?” Stiles mumbles, ducking his chin and avoiding Derek’s gaze. 

“It’s not,” Derek repeats. “I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about you -- I -- Deaton’s not exactly wrong about me. I’m not good at this. I’m a fuck-up, I fuck up. And people I...people I care about get hurt. I won’t let that happen to you. I can’t -- I already hurt you once, Stiles, I can’t do it again --”

“You won’t,” Stiles whispers. “I trust you.”

If Derek were stronger, if he were a better man, he would let go, back away, see how somehow all of this seems to be moving them forward into something he can't quite understand yet, how it feels a little like forgetting a word he's known for years, but it's on the tip of his tongue. “Why?”

“Just do,” Stiles says softly. He doesn’t offer any more of an explanation, not with words anyway. Instead, he just tilts his head back, bares that perfect curve of his throat, and then Derek’s rational brain sort of whites out. 

Because Derek's not a good man.

 Hell, he's not even technically human. 

How on earth can he be expected to say no? 

 

Chapter Text

VII

“It’s okay,” Stiles says softly. “I--I want you to.”

Derek exhales a harsh, steadying breath from his nose. That little tilt of Stiles's neck, the way he willingly, willfully lays that skin bare to Derek is almost too much--fuck, it is too much. And Stiles is Stiles, so Derek won’t even dare pretend to think, to even suggest, that Stiles doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing. That he doesn’t know exactly what it means to bare his throat like that to a wolf. Maybe that’s why he does it. Some part of him must know there isn’t a chance in hell of Derek saying no, not when neither one of them seems incapable of ignoring the brand that still burns fresh on his arm. 

Or Derek of ignoring how his blood practically sings for the boy anytime he gets close. It’s only gotten worse the more time they spend together. 

Considering how quickly he’s been losing control lately, it doesn’t seem like a good idea. But then again, Derek’s never claimed to be the smart one here. Derek clenches his teeth to keep his fangs in check, but there’s not much else he does to restrain himself when he crowds Stiles up against the hood of his truck, arms braced on either side of the boy, and just lets himself give in. 

Derek’s surprised by his own gentleness, honestly, when he pulls at the neck of Stiles’s t-shirt, already too big, so it reveals that pale stretch of skin that gleams like a blank canvas. With a low, rumbling growl, he ducks his head, skims a trail with his lips up the slope of the boy’s shoulder to his throat, slow, meticulously breathing in his scent. 

There’s a hitch in Stiles’s own breathing that Derek can feel under his mouth, but Stiles doesn’t pull away, doesn’t even speak. Just somehow tilts his head back even farther, letting his eyes fall shut with that same dreamy sort of look on his face he'd had when they'd kissed.

 It feels far too much like a victory when Derek allows himself to nuzzle against the skin under Stiles’s jaw, pressing the scratch of his stubble there until he's satisfied with the way their scents have mixed. "You know, a few years ago you would have really made fun of me for this,” he murmurs, letting the blunt points of his teeth scrape dangerously close to Stiles’s collarbone.

“Oh, I’m fully intending on doing that,” Stiles says softly, slightly breathless, a little bit choked, which should not please that beast in Derek’s chest so much, but it does. 

 Still, there’s something in Stiles’s voice, an uneasiness Derek doesn’t like. “Mind reading is not one of my superpowers, Stiles,” Derek mutters, pulling back, brow furrowed, his eyes searching Stiles's face for what, he's not exactly sure.

“Oh, um,” Stiles says, wincing slightly at the admission, “it’s just that you wouldn’t have been doing this a couple of years ago, so --”

That’s true. Back then, Derek had flinched away from every touch, every attempt to connect, too fixated on trying to get revenge for him and his to even entertain the thought of trusting anyone that way. Anger, rage, brute force, those had been the anchors he'd clung to. Not that any of them had ended up working in his favor.

 Derek might not be the smart one here, but even he can see how Stiles’s eyes are fixed on Derek’s shirtsleeve, can hazard a guess what he’s looking at, what he thinks it means. “You think I only want you now because of this, don’t you?” Derek asks, nodding toward his arm. 

“Well,” Stiles says, shrugging, gnawing anxiously on his bottom lip in a way that only makes it even harder for Derek not to stare at him hungrily, “I mean, don’t you?”

“Bonds don’t work like that.”

Stiles huffs. “Okay, Sourwolf, how exactly do they work, then?” Stiles is clearly skeptical, and Derek can’t really blame him.

It makes sense that he’d think that. Stiles is human, so why would he even know what a bond like this meant? It’s not like Derek’s some kind of expert, either. There are some obvious, glaring holes in his werewolf knowledge, as Stiles (and everybody else) had loved to point out on numerous occasions in the past. But he knows enough to know that’s not how this works

“It’s not like being under a spell or something. It’s not something you forced on me, Stiles." Derek thinks Stiles must have just jump-started the whole process with the whole making him an alpha thing. Blown that link that even Derek can admit has always been there between them, an unspoken connection, wide open. “There’s a reason I didn’t pack up and sell the loft before I left,” Derek says. 

Stiles frowns, obviously still confused. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” Derek says, sighing and doing his absolute best not to sound frustrated at his own stilted communication skills, because he's pretty sure he's, without a doubt, sucking at explaining this, “that some part of me always knew I’d be back here.

“But you didn’t even like me,” Stiles says insistently, “actually, I’m pretty sure you hated me.”

“I didn’t hate you.” 

“So all the threatening of bodily harm was what,” Stiles asks, arching an eyebrow, “werewolf flirting?”

“I wasn’t exactly a shining paragon of mental health back then, Stiles,” Derek says, feeling his face grow hot, “and you were a distraction I didn’t need or want at the time.”

Stiles snorts, crossing his arms. “That makes me feel loads better, thanks.” 

How can he explain that Stiles had always been a distraction? Right from the start, when he'd wandered onto Derek's property in that stupid hoodie, with his milky white skin, that mouth of his, those wide, golden-brown eyes. The way he never shut up, the way he moved, too much frazzled, frenetic energy for someone that slight. And god, the way he'd smelled (like a walking porno movie) anytime Derek even so much as glanced in his direction. A distraction the wolf part of him had admittedly craved, even back then, when the idiotic, slightly-more-human part of him had desperately tried to ignore it. “You were sixteen, Stiles. And too tempting.”

Stiles actually seems genuinely surprised by this. “Me? Tempting? That’s a good one, Sourwolf. ” 

Of course he wouldn’t believe him. Which is stupid and makes no sense, because it’s not like Derek’s ever lied to him before. Why the hell would he start now? “Listen -- I’m not, I’m not good at this, okay?” Derek growls again in frustration, because god, why does he suck so badly? He takes a breath to steady himself before admitting, somewhat bashfully, “You were pretty. And you smelled good." 

Especially to the wolf that always lingered just under Derek’s skin. 

“Oh my god,” Stiles says suddenly. “Did you throw me up against all those walls just so you could smell me ?”

“Wh--no, I mean maybe. That, maybe might have been one of the reasons,” Derek says, dodging Stiles’s gaze because this is becoming more than a little bit mortifying for him at this point. “Besides you being incredibly irritating,” he adds, glaring, though it’s hard to be irritated now that he sees Stiles is smiling again. 

“You’re ridiculous,” Stiles says. 

Derek opens his mouth to refute this, but his brain sort of ceases to function altogether, because Stiles digs his fingers into Derek’s shirt and lunges forward, crushing their mouths together.

This whole thing is ridiculous. Stiles knows that for a fact, because he’s not sure how it’s possible that in the span of a couple of days he could have gone from feeling so alone, empty, forgotten, to suddenly having all of this. Having Derek. Derek, who Stiles had taken one look at that night years ago in those woods and instantly had several important realizations, the first of which being, wow, he was definitely not straight. 

And the second being, Stiles wanted him . Of course, he wasn’t delusional. For one thing, at the time, Derek had been sort of terrifying (in a sexy way, he thinks, but still). And Derek had been Derek, all broody and mysterious and most definitely clearly unattainable. Once he’d left, Stiles had resigned himself to locking those feelings in a metaphorical box and sinking it to the metaphorical bottom of the ocean. Never to be seen again.

But somehow, now, he was kissing Derek . And more importantly, Derek was kissing him back. 

And god, he was good at it, too (because of course he was). Stiles has been kissed before, sure, but not like this. It’s not any more gentle than the one from this morning, but it’s somehow different because it feels like neither one of them is holding back. Derek growls, and then the next thing he knows, Stiles is on the hood of the truck, wrapping his legs instinctively around the wolf’s waist like he’s worried if he doesn’t, Derek might try to get away or something. 

Derek’s tongue licks into his mouth, urgent, searching, and Stiles feels like he can’t do anything but hang on, because the wolf’s hands are vice-grip tight on Stiles’s hips, holding him so hard Stiles can already imagine the bruising imprint of his hands that’ll be left behind. He groans at the thought, feels so warm that he almost can’t remember what it was like to be so cold before. 

Stiles doesn’t have Derek’s super senses, sure, but from Derek’s ragged breathing, the way Stiles can feel his heart thundering under his palm where he’s got it anchored on Derek’s chest, the wolf’s feeling as wrecked as Stiles is. Finally, tragically, he has to pull back to breathe (it might be the hardest thing Stiles has ever done), and Derek huffs like Stiles’s need for air offends him. 

“I guess,” Stiles mumbles, hiding his blushed face in Derek’s shoulder, “--I guess we’ve got that part down.” When his heart starts to race a little bit less, and the hazy fog that had settled in his brain the minute Derek had stuck his tongue in his mouth has thinned a little, Stiles feels like he can finally look at him. He’s not expecting that wrinkle in Derek’s brow, the slight frown on his lips. “Oh, I mean -- was I that bad?”

“No,” Derek says immediately. “No, no. I just --” and he trails off, leaning down to nuzzle Stiles’s forehead, which sends another shiver down his spine. “Just sorry for keeping you waiting so long is all."  

Something about the way he says it, all soft and sad and sincere, it makes Stiles’s heart feel like breaking and bursting all at once. This is all he’s ever wanted. How it’s happening, he really can’t fathom. “So don’t,” Stiles whispers.

This time it’s Derek pulling back with this weirdly adorable confused expression on his face that makes him look about twelve years old.  

“Don’t keep me waiting anymore,” Stiles says, reaching up and pressing his soft grin into Derek’s neck. There's something intensely satisfying about the tremble he feels under his mouth when he lays a kiss there and murmurs, “ -- let’s go home.”

“You want me to take you back to your house?”

“No, dummy,” Stiles says. Derek sounds so obviously disappointed by the thought that it makes Stiles laugh, and Derek lets out another one of those irritated growls that doesn’t help. “I want you to take me home.”

 

The ride back to the loft is excruciating. Too long, and strangely quiet. Stiles keeps his hands to himself because he’s kind of scared of what might happen if he doesn’t. Not in a scared of Derek kind of way, but from how tightly the wolf’s been gripping the steering wheel, cracking his knuckles incessantly, to ward off the shift, Stiles guesses, testing the limits of Derek’s control in a moving vehicle seems unwise. 

There’s a small part of Stiles, that needling voice of doubt in the back of his mind he’s not sure will ever go away, if it’s even possible at all, that this will all be a dream. That he'll fall asleep, blink too long, open his eyes and find out none of it was real. 

But Derek is real. 

He feels real. 

Especially now when Derek’s got him up against the wall of the service elevator, and it’s funny because the position isn’t technically unfamiliar. Context, he guesses, really does matter. Kissing Derek, getting kissed by Derek, it feels a lot like what Stiles would imagine trying to wrestle a hurricane would. The way the wolf's hands and his mouth seem to somehow be everywhere, all at once. The way his skin burns so hot through his clothes that even Stiles can feel it, despite the many layers between them. 

Derek’s fingers are holding his chin so tightly. Not cupping his cheek, not tracing along his jawline in some tender, sweet gesture. No, it's not that at all. Derek’s holding him in place, and there’s something thrilling about that. The weight of him, solid muscle, big and broad, pinning him to the wall with enough force that struggling wouldn’t matter. There wouldn’t even be a point to try. 

Every scrape of Derek’s teeth, blunt, but still dug into the sensitive skin of Stiles’s throat as he marks every bit of it he can reach, burns. In a good way. Just makes Stiles cling to him even harder, like something bad just might happen if he lets go. His fingers actually ache now as one hand curls into the wolf’s bicep, the other tangled in Derek’s surprisingly soft dark hair.

Derek finally manages to pull himself away from his thorough detailing of Stiles’s neck and throat to catch his mouth again in a heated tangle of tongue. When the wolf pulls back, Stiles is the one chasing him now, but Derek bites down hard on his clavicle. That flash of pain shoots through him before settling, molten hot, in Stiles’s belly. God, it’s not like Stiles has any idea what he’s doing. The only thing he’s sure of is that he wants, wants so much, wants more, all of Derek, and if something doesn’t happen soon he’s going to explode into a thousand pieces.

“Derek,” he manages to gasp, yanking on Derek’s hair, making him growl, “we shouldn’t be doing this here. Other people live here, don’t they?”

Derek just makes some vague, humming sound of agreement as he licks determinedly up the side of Stiles’s throat, a sloppy, wet path to a spot behind Stiles’s ear he seems especially enamored with. “I own the building,” Derek murmurs, scraping his teeth over Stiles’s earlobe, which okay, Stiles was not expecting that to be such an erogenous zone (although everywhere Derek touches him seems to be one). “I’ll allow it.”

Stiles laughs, but it’s cut off by Derek kissing him fiercely again. “Don’t want my first time to be in an elevator, Sourwolf.”

Derek goes still and pulls away, which is like the opposite of what Stiles wanted to happen. 

The way he can’t seem to keep his hands to himself, it feels a lot like a dam breaking, because now that he’s tasted Stiles, touched him, Derek can’t seem to be able to stop. But even through his admittedly lust-induced haze, his lizard brain recognizes first time, which brings him all but crashing back to reality. 

“No, no, no,” Stiles whines into Derek’s t-shirt. “I didn’t mean stop. I meant change locations.”

“Stiles,” Derek murmurs, “I wasn’t going to --I don’t want to h--”

Stiles lets out a surprisingly wolf-like growl and fists Derek’s t-shirt in his hands and shakes him (well, attempts to, anyway). “You’re not going to break me, okay. You’re not.”

Again, at least one of them believes it. Derek can tell because Stiles’s heartbeat might be racing, but there’s no skips, no falters. All the boy smells like is want, lust, need, and something so sweet that Derek almost can't bring himself to distill it into a word because he’s pretty sure it’s love. “We don’t have to. We don’t have to do anything you don’t w--”

“Sourwolf, I swear to god if you're not inside me in some way in the next forty-five minutes, I may actually cry,” Stiles says, with this desperately fierce look in his eyes. 

Derek groans, feels his eyes flickering again, and shuts them for a minute, trying to steel himself so he doesn’t completely lose it. “You’re giving me a deadline?” he finally croaks, managing to crack a weak smile, swiping a thankfully claw-free thumb over Stiles’s mouth.  

“Not a deadline. Parameters,” Stiles mutters, and then he’s flicking that devilish tongue of his over his fingertip before taking the digit into his mouth and sucking in a way that really can only be described as filthy. “I’m open to negotiation.” 

The wolf in Derek howls, wants, and it takes every bit of restraint he has not to just pin Stiles to the wall again and do just that--take what he wants. “Good,” Derek says hoarsely, “because what I have planned for you is going to take a hell of a lot longer than forty-five minutes.” 

 

At some point, Derek remembers them leaving the elevator, but the actual journey to the door is kind of a blur. Just skin, teeth, Stiles’s hands sliding under his shirt, dragging his nails down Derek’s back. Fuck, he doesn’t even bother looking for his keys, just holds Stiles’s squirming form still long enough to reach behind him and break the lock.

“Was that really necessa--” Stiles starts to say, but Derek doesn’t bother letting him finish, the words breaking off into a gasp he happily swallows when Derek catches his bottom lip between his teeth and sucks. 

“Shut up,” Derek grumbles.

“That’s familiar,” Stiles says, laughing as he peppers these sweet, soft little kisses against every part of Derek’s face he can reach, stroking his beard with these gentle strokes of his hands. It makes Derek go a little cross-eyed with need, leaning into the touches with a soft, rumbling sound (it's a purr, okay. He can admit that). And he'd never thought he'd be like this, chasing after another person's touch like he can't breathe without it. Derek had always thought that urge had been burned out of him. Gone dormant the same way those inactive volcanoes did. 

Not anymore. Not when even just the barest, quickest press of Stiles's mouth against his rips a groan out of his throat that's practically pornographic.

Somehow he manages to get the door shut with absolutely no help from Stiles, who has seemed to take it like a personal challenge to literally climb Derek like a tree. When it shuts with a resolute slam, the sound is loud enough to startle them both into stopping long enough to breathe, actually look at each other. 

Stiles’s eyes are darker than Derek’s ever seen them, but they’re bright and clear, and coupled with his bruised mouth, fuck, he looks so good it feels like all the air Derek’s finally gotten into his lungs gets promptly knocked out of them. All of that, plus the pinkish-purple bruises peeking out from the collar of Stiles’s shirt (that make the wolf in Derek especially pleased) is too much. Way too much.

And somehow, like before, not enough.

Derek stares long enough that Stiles starts to squirm again, ducking his head and blushing. “See something you like, Sourwolf?”

“Yes,” he breathes. “All of it.”

Stiles goes beet red again. “Less talking, more kissing. Bed, please, Derek. Take me to bed.”

Like Derek is ever going to refuse him anything ever again. 

 

“You’re so good, Stiles,” Derek murmurs, “So good for me. Perfect. Mine.” The words spill out like a prayer as he whispers them against Stiles’s throat while he carries him across the hallway to the bedroom where Derek lays the boy down reverently in the nest of unmade blankets.

"Thought I said less talking, Sourwolf," Stiles says, swatting at him playfully.

If Derek has to spend the rest of his life worshipping at an altar, he thinks Stiles would be the perfect one. He could be rough now like before. The wolf in him would revel in it. But Derek, the man, needs to prove that it’s more. More than the heat and blood and the sharp edges of his claws. He wants to try at least. For Stiles, he wants to try.

He sits back on his heels between the boy’s legs, just tracing circles like a question across Stiles’s hip bones. Derek would kill for him, but he would have back then, long before. But now, now Derek thinks he would bring the world to its knees for the boy, just with a word. “Are you--”

Stiles props himself up on his elbows, fixing Derek with a glare. “If the next words out of your mouth are some version of asking me if I’m sure, I’m going to tear your throat out with my teeth.” 

Derek smirks, presses the curve of his mouth against that bared strip of skin above the waistband of Stiles’s sweats. “Fair enough.” 

“Good,” Stiles breathes out, “that’s settled. So do something. Want to feel you. Just, just want you.” 

The words coming out of the boy’s mouth are too much, dizzying, distracting. Derek’s torn—torn between the urge in him that screams take, because Stiles is begging for it, literally, but also to run, retreat because how is possible for Stiles to trust him so much?

Stiles is the bravest person he’s ever met, Derek thinks, because even though the boy knows he’s prey, it’s like he revels in it, bares his throat to the wolf with no fear. But to be fair, he’s always been like that, used to being underestimated by others who couldn’t see past his gangly limbs and nervous, buzzing energy. Derek will be the first to admit that he was one of them, used to use his brute strength and his sharp teeth to try to intimidate the boy. It had been a similar thrill to hunting, tracking—seeing the flashes of uncertainty in Stiles’s gaze, the defiant jut of his chin whenever Derek got too close.

“Fuck, you can’t just say things like that to me,” Derek says, shocked at how absolutely wrecked his voice already sounds. But the words are hollow, it’s not like he’s going to deny the boy anything (as if he could), and with a snarl he’s pushing Stiles back into the mattress, kissing him hungrily like he’s trying to devour him. He’s not shy about pressing more of his bulk against him now, knows and trusts that he can take it. “I want to see you,” Derek rumbles, “I want to look at you. Let me --”

Stiles just whimpers weakly, nods against his mouth, and then they’re both scrambling upright long enough for Derek to yank Stiles’s clothes off until he’s fully bare, laid out in front of him. Stiles is trembling now, and Derek sees his fingertips twitching at his sides nervously. “I’m sorry, I know I’m not --”

Derek doesn’t even want to hear him say it, that any part of him isn’t good enough. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” he murmurs. And fuck, he means it, god, does he mean it. As if he needs to prove it, he tracks his mouth over every bit of skin he can reach, scraping his beard roughly over Stiles’s chest, his nipples, and the curve of his belly. He lets his claws come out, drags them down over the boy’s flanks to rest at his hip bones, the sharp tips pressing just hard enough to leave marks, tiny pinpricks of blood that he chases with wet presses of his tongue.

Stiles is hard, and Derek wants nothing more than to take him into his mouth. Get Stiles off at least once, because selfishly, he wants to see it, but also because it’ll be easier that way. Relax him through the more uncomfortable parts of what’s to come. “Can I taste you?”

 …

Stiles has strangely never felt more powerful than he does right now, knowing that it’s his words, his body, that are making Derek lose control like this. The roughness, it's so good, because it's just Derek, how he’s always been, and there’s something immensely comforting to Stiles about that. Especially now, when Derek doesn’t seem to be holding back as much as before. 

 He’s enjoying it all too much, the way Derek’s scratching his skin with the rough hairs of his beard, the claws that he’s always found so strangely arousing. The idea that they could shred Stiles’s thin skin to ribbons, it somehow makes it hotter. Which definitely means Stiles is a little fucked up, but then again, they both are. So maybe that’s okay.

Admittedly, his brain is a little fuzzy under the onslaught of all of this, that he almost doesn’t hear Derek’s question at first. 

Can I taste you?

At that, Stiles can’t help but let out a sound that he recognizes, mortifyingly, as a squeak. “Like, with your mouth?”

Derek laughs, the vibrations rumbling against Stiles’s stomach, making him jerk. Derek doesn’t even flinch though. “No,” he says, grinning into the flesh there, “with my eyeballs, obviously.”

Stiles rolls his eyes, but his stomach also flips nervously. Still, he means it wholeheartedly when he speaks next. “Anything," he says, a little bit breathless, "anything you want.” 

This appears to be all the permission Derek needs. Because then he’s kissing his way down Stiles’s legs. The anticipation is enough to already get him trembling. Derek hasn’t even touched him yet. Instead, he seems more than happy to take his time, nosing his way around Stiles’s groin, digging his fingers into Stiles’s thigh like he's trying to keep him there.

When he starts nipping with his teeth, Stiles whines. “Do you need me to draw you a map or something?” 

“Knew you’d be mouthy in bed,” Derek says, but he doesn’t sound the least bit mad about that discovery. In fact, there’s another one of those stupidly beautiful smiles on his face that Stiles wishes he could see all the time. Can’t believe he had to go so many years without seeing it in the first place. 

Derek must take pity on him though, because he doesn’t make him wait any longer, surging forward and licking a heated stripe over Stiles’s achingly hard cock before swallowing him down completely.

“Jesus, fuck, Derek.” The words spill out, a fractured cry, followed by several more nonsense words, garbled from the gasping breaths he’s struggling to take. Derek’s mouth, all that warm, wet heat, it crowds out every other thought in his head other than yes, Derek, please, and more. His fingers fly off the bed, burying in Derek’s hair, pulling hard enough to make Derek growl, which only sends torturous vibrations that practically get him coming right then and there. Not like he’s going to last much longer anyway. He’s eighteen, for fucks sake, and Derek is Derek. 

Stiles has kept his eyes squeezed shut for most of it, not trusting himself to open them. But he wants to watch, wants to see Derek’s face. When he finally manages to prop himself up on his elbows again, meet Derek’s gaze, the sight makes him let out an embarrassingly whorish moan, because he literally watches the red bleed into Derek’s eyes as the wolf bobs and sucks and works Stiles’s cock like it’s the best fucking thing he’s ever tasted.

It’s too much. Stiles can’t hold off anymore, and who could blame him. He tries to speak, warn Derek, but his mouth is too dry, his tongue useless. 

Stiles comes with a cry, and Derek doesn’t even stop, just takes it all. Stiles’s toes are still curling, his whole body still shuddering with aftershock when Derek finally pulls off.

“Oh my god.”

...

Stiles's orgasm hits fast and unrelentingly as a bullet, and Derek hadn't been expecting it, but it doesn't surprise him. Endurance isn't something that most teenagers were known for, after all---and he doesn't think the boy's had any reason for it to be. So when Stiles goes rigid beaneath him, throws his head back like he’s looking to the sky, Derek takes what he can, letting the rest spill over his hands and the smooth planes of Stiles's thighs, and it’s gorgeous, fucking gorgeous, and Derek doesn’t even hesitate, lapping at it with his tongue, sucking it off his fingers.

He looks up, sees the furtive blush on Stiles's cheeks and he is struck by an urgent need to chase it away with gentle, soothing licks into the boy's mouth. 

"Don't be embarrassed. You were perfect. You are perfect," he murmurs, nosing happily against Stiles's ears.

“Just don’t stop - I don’t want to stop, I want you to --” Stiles babbles, his fingers still threaded in Derek’s hair and tugging insistently. 

“Oh, baby, don’t worry,” Derek whispers, “I’m not done with you yet.” 

Stiles lets out this pleased little noise, and then he’s yanking on Derek’s shirt, begging again, “I need to see you, too. Please, please…”

Derek lets Stiles pull his shirt off, lets the boy clumsily crawl into his lap. He’s not used to this, hasn’t been touched by someone like this in so long, it rattles him a little, how intimate it feels, how good it feels, when Stiles sucks marks that won’t stay against Derek’s chest, laves kittenish licks up to Derek’s throat, pausing to rub a thumb over his racing pulse. Derek stiffens, he can’t help it, because it’s instinct -- the way he shudders, fighting back the shift, eyes flashing, unable to quell the rumble in his chest. 

“It’s okay,” Stiles says, and then he’s got a hand on either side of Derek’s face, pulling him close until they’re kissing again. Then Stiles lets his hand glide down Derek’s still-shaking shoulders to curl around the brand that had started this whole thing, fitting it over the scarred flesh there.

Like before, it feels like a gunshot going off in Derek’s veins, how quickly it shoots liquid fire through his whole damn body. “Stiles, I need to --” What he needs is to be in Stiles like yesterday. Christ. Derek doesn't think he’s ever been so hungry for another person like this before. Feels like the weight of it might crush him, like he may actually starve to death from the hunger.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Stiles nods frantically, sliding off Derek’s lap. And then Derek can only watch, slack-jawed, as Stiles gets on his hands and knees, his spine bent into that perfect arch, all smooth, gleaming white, and begging for Derek to touch and taste. 

“Do you have --” are the only words Derek manages to speak, and that’s not before he spends far too much time appreciating the sight of the boy all but presenting to him, the wolf in his chest pacing restlessly. Wanting. 

“In the nightstand,” Stiles whispers.

Derek moves so fast it’s only a second before he’s already back, tiny bottle in hand, arranging himself behind Stiles, running a soothing palm up and down the slope of his back, pressing his lips to the little divots of flesh above Stiles’s ass, following the path with his hands. “Did you touch yourself in my bed while I was gone?” Derek asks quietly, awed. He must have, he thinks. Why else would he have lube in Derek’s bedroom, of all places?

The beat of silence, the way Stiles’s heart starts to pound, it’s an answer in itself. Although Stiles’s quiet little whisper -- “Yes” -- nearly breaks him. Fuck, he’s hard, and Stiles looks so damn good like this, all sprawled out, ass up, begging for it. Like a fantasy come to life, only it’s not a fantasy at all. It’s real. 

And the image of Stiles lying in Derek’s bed, fisting his own cock, drenched in his scent, saying his name...

That. That is what nearly really does break him. “Jesus, Stiles, you’re so --”

“I missed you,” Stiles murmurs, voice cracking. “I missed you so much.” 

“I’m here now,” Derek says softly, soothingly, “I’m here now and I’m not going anywhere. Gonna make it so good for you, baby. I promise.” And he means it. Wants it. Has never meant anything more in his whole life. 

Stiles only whimpers, needy, arching back into the touch when Derek finally spreads him, teases his rim with a dry thumb before pulling away to slick up his fingers. “Please, just touch me, please -- “

Derek shushes him, places a sweet kiss to the dimples in his back before pushing a finger inside. It’s probably not comfortable, Derek knows that, so he just focuses on gentle, easy, working into him, a slow glide. “God, you’re so tight --” 

“Want more, I can take more, you can go faster -- “ Stiles pleads, trying to rock his hips back. Trying to urge Derek on.

“I really, really can’t,” Derek rasps. There it is, that gravelly voice of the wolf bubbling up in his throat and it feels like he can’t stop it, couldn’t if he tried. If he gets too rough, if he lets himself go too far and too fast, he’s going to lose it. In the razor-sharp claws and teeth showing up uninvited kind of way. 

Stiles whines again, so Derek adds a second finger, stretching and scissoring them lazily until he brushes that bundle of nerves that turns Stiles’s pouting into a shriek that makes Derek’s cock twitch and throb because the sound is so fucking intoxicating that he only wants to hear it again, and again, and again.

“Now, now, now,” Stiles is practically chanting it, his fingers twisting in the sheets above his head. “Do it, please, I need you, please.” 

Derek huffs, but slides his fingers out anyway, replacing them with the blunt head of his slicked up cock, just teasing, rubbing at Stiles’s hole, bracing himself, trying to calm down long enough to actually do this. Derek’s not sure he’s ever shook so hard in his life, feels like he might shatter to pieces already. Finally, finally, he feels okay enough to breach him, push into him, so achingly slow that Stiles is practically seizing underneath him, mumbling these desperate little pleas for more and faster that really aren’t helping him with his control in the slightest. “Please, please stop fucking talking, Stiles,” Derek growls, tightening his grip on Stiles’s hips to the point that he swears he hears Stiles’s bones creaking. Fuck.

It’s a slow process, one that doesn’t start out all that comfortable. But with every inch of Derek’s cock that enters him, the pain, the discomfort, it starts to melt away until all that’s left is fullness, heat, little sparks of pleasure that light up the backs of Stiles’s eyelids from the slow drag of flesh inside him. When Derek finally bottoms out, Stiles snaps his hips back automatically, letting out a punched out cry that tears a snarl out of Derek’s throat that sends gooseflesh rippling across the back of Stiles’s neck. 

Derek is being so gentle with him, and Stiles understands why, he really does. At least his rational brain does. His weeping dick, his body that’s been thrumming for Derek since he first got a hand on him doesn’t care much beyond needing him in a way Stiles has never needed anything before in his life. Like he might die if Derek doesn’t fuck him. Which sounds so stupid when he thinks about it, but it’s true. “Oh my god, Derek,” Stiles moans, recognizes the sound for exactly what it is, “you feel -- it’s so good -- you’re so big -- I can’t.”

He doesn’t even know what he’s saying, because the sensations are all too overwhelming that his brain feels like it’s short-circuiting. Frying like an egg in his head. And Derek’s done this to him, Derek, who’s draped over his back, kissing and licking what must be every freckle, mole, and scar he has. “Such a brat,” the wolf grunts, hot and rough, in the shell of his ear before sucking on it. “You never listen.” 

That’s true, Stiles thinks, hazily, shuddering when Derek bites at his shoulder blades, rocking into him. “Make me,” he whispers, the words trailing off into nothing more than, “oh, oh, oh,” when Derek starts to thrust into him hard, fast, as wild as the wolf Stiles knows lurks just under the older man’s skin. 

Derek inside him, filling him, hitting that spot that makes stars burst inside his head, his gut, it’s pushing Stiles to a place he’s never gone before. Nothing has ever felt like this before. He’s heard people say sex, fucking, it was like filling a need, an emptiness.

But it doesn’t feel like that with Derek. It feels less like a piece sliding into place, and more like a key turning a lock, opening a door inside him he didn’t know existed. Full of things he never thought he’d ever get to feel. 

“Stiles.” Derek sounds as destroyed as he feels. His thrusts becoming more erratic, his breathing coming in gasps he presses against the knobs of Stiles’s spine. “Are you --”

Yes, Stiles thinks. He’s so close, he just needs -- with a hiss, he’s sliding a hand down to take his own cock in hand, but Derek growls, bats his hand away. Stiles keens, and Derek sinks his teeth into the back of Stiles’s neck, and suddenly everything blurs because Derek starts pounding him with relentless fury.

“Come on,” Derek snarls, “come.”

How can Stiles disobey when Derek’s voice is so low and commanding and alpha. He wails, shudders, as his cock twitches, jerks, and he comes, spilling into Derek’s hands, streaks of it painting his stomach and the mattress. He’s only vaguely aware of a popping sound, and suddenly the bedroom’s swathed in darkness because both lights they’d had on have apparently burnt out. At this point, Stiles hardly cares.

Derek’s mouth is open, and he’s breathing these choked out groans when Stiles finally feels Derek’s hip’s faltering. The wolf groans, curses, and then Stiles feels him spurting inside him, filling him up, which is admittedly a strange sensation, but one that Derek must appreciate, because he’s rubbing one of those big hands of his over Stiles’s stomach, massaging his cum into the skin there. Which should be gross, but really just makes Stiles’s cock twitch pathetically, despite the fact he just had the most intense orgasm of his entire life. 

He’s boneless and limp, thankful that Derek’s holding him up because he’s pretty sure he’d be collapsing into the bed if he wasn’t. Derek’s placing these soft kisses up and down his back, tracing soothing circles over Stiles’s tired muscles, and it’s nice. God, it’s so nice. 

Derek’s murmuring these sweet little praises in his ear, and all Stiles can think is love, love, love, even though he’s not going to say it now. Can’t bring himself to be a part of that cliche. He’ll wait until Derek’s not literally inside him to share that sentiment. 

Stiles can feel his own thundering heartbeat start to slow, Derek’s too. They both groan in unison when Derek finally softens, slides out of him. When he speaks clearly enough for Stiles to actually understand what he’s saying, it’s coupled with a breathless laugh, “I told you it’d be way more than forty-five minutes.”

“You’re a doof,” Stiles mumbles, sticking out his tongue when Derek licks the side of his face.

“You broke the bedside lamp, you know,” Derek hums, nuzzling that spot behind Stiles’s ear he likes. “And the light in the ceiling. I’m pretty sure I heard the kitchen lights short out, too.”

Stiles goes still, eyes widening in shock. “That was me?”

Derek snorts. “Well, it definitely wasn’t me.” 

Huh, Stiles thinks. Well, that whole spark thing was sure going to make things interesting. “I’m sorry,” he adds sheepishly. 

“You should be,” Derek says solemnly, although Stiles can tell he’s kidding from the smirk he feels Derek trying to hide in his collarbones, “I’m going to have to keep so many extra light bulbs around here.”

“Well, I apologize for being such a burden,” Stiles jokes, despite still feeling slightly mortified that it had happened at all. “Think it’s worth it?”

Derek’s face breaks into the biggest, most genuine grin he thinks he’s ever seen. “Definitely.” 

Yeah, Stiles thinks, letting Derek muscle him into what is apparently his preferred position, holding Stiles tightly against his chest. Definitely worth it.