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It takes Stiles a long moment to recognize what’s going on after he pushes his way into Derek’s loft. The lights are low, and the sound of the keys jangling echoes around the apartment as he pulls them from the door .

“Derek! Deaton asked me to drop something off for you. I’ve got this suspicious brown package, and I figured leaving it on the front step wouldn’t be a good idea, so-”

He stops. Derek is sprawled out on the rug in the center of the loft, a dusky-skinned brunette pinned beneath him. Her neck is arched, mouth open on a moan, hair spread out in a wanton mess. Her hands are biting into Derek’s biceps, pressing hard enough to leave half-moon marks from her nails.

Derek’s naked, his back glistening with sweat. The muscles roll, his whole body moving like a wave as his hips snap forward. The sound of flesh hitting flesh is loud, and the moan that follows has Stiles’ throat closing. There’s a split second where Stiles can almost convince himself that Derek doesn’t know he’s there, but then that dark head turns his way and green eyes meet his, pupils blown.

He almost drops the package. Instead, he sets it unsteadily by his feet and flees.

The door slams shut behind him, loud in the quiet of the landing, and he races down the stairs. He wrenches the driver side door of the Jeep open, then piles into the front seat. He’s in reverse and squealing out of the parking lot before he realizes his seat belt isn’t on and he doesn’t give a shit, safety be damned.

He’s five minutes out before he notices that he’s shaking. His hands are trembling against the steering wheel as he pulls to the side of the road, and he can feel them shuddering against his cheeks when he leans forward to press his forehead into the wheel. He takes quick, sucking breaths, trying to calm his racing pulse and the gnawing shock in his stomach. He lets long enough to turn off the Jeep, until the only sound he hears is the pounding beat of his own heart.

It’s not like he doesn’t know that Derek has sex. And it’s not like they have a thing between them, like Stiles is any reason for Derek to stay celibate. It’s just weighted glances and hesitant touches. Awkward silences. Too little personal space. Tangled sheets and empty spaces in emptier beds. It’s nothing real, and the panic and bile that Stiles feels mixing in his gut makes no logical sense.

Stiles has to fight the urge to vomit or cry. He feels like an idiot.

Stiles breathes slowly, feels each gulp of air as it moves into his lungs and out. It’s calming, the slow rise and fall of his chest, and it helps him move past the ache that rests somewhere between his ribs and his heart. He’s able to swallow back the bile and the tears, until he’s turning the key, shifting into first, and pulling off the side of the road.

He didn’t see anything.

---

Derek hears the door slam, can feel it in the slight breeze that kicks up in the apartment, but the woman (Sheila? Shelly? Michelle? There was an shuh sound in there somewhere) is arching her back again, pressing her breasts against his chest, and rolling her hips until he’s groaning and bending down to kiss her silent. For a second, he considers going with it, forgetting the stricken look on Stiles’ face as he turned tail and ran, but something aches in his chest, and he’s pulling away.

He shuts the door behind her ten minutes later after she slips her number between his fingers and the door knob. He crumples up the scrap of paper and tosses it, then bends down to pick up the package that Stiles left. His scent clings to the brown packaging, and Derek traces the careful folds of paper, running his fingers where Stiles’ once were.

There’s a hint of desperation in the air, something astringent that clings to the back of his throat, making it hard to swallow. It’s tangled with the smells of sex and Stiles and perfume, and it sends an unpleasant shudder through Derek’s body.

He opens the packaging, peeling the paper back so it doesn’t tear. Tucked neatly inside, over the closed box within, is a note written in Deaton’s careful hand.

This is the last that my suppliers in North America could find, and I don’t have any overseas contacts who know where to procure more. I’m working on growing my own crop, but it will take a few months. Remember, only once a week with or after a meal, or you risk overdosing.

You need to tell him. This won’t work forever.

Derek frowns. He’s well aware that what he’s doing is unnatural, that he should man up and face what he’s been avoiding for the last two years, but Stiles is still only seventeen, and once he stops taking the rare blend of wolfsbane that Deaton’s been supplying him with, he doesn’t know that he’ll be able to control himself.

He’s barely held it in check as is. He finds himself sneaking onto the Stilinski’s property a couple of times a week, just to catch the cinnamon and brown sugar smell of Stiles, or see him leaving for school or coming back from his part time job at the sheriff’s office. He’s desperate for any sign, does whatever he can to be close. It has his wolf pacing, makes him have to fight the urge to shift every time he and Stiles meet. He wants to bite, to claim, to own Stiles in every way possible. Wants to bury his fingers in Stiles’ hair, bury his cock in Stiles’ mouth, his ass. Wants to watch Stiles fall apart under his mouth and tongue.

Instead, he sublimates his feelings, losing himself in men and women that remind him of Stiles. Brown hair, golden eyes, pale skin dotted with moles. Sometimes a bad pickup line, something with just the right amount of snark and self-deprecation, can get him half-hard and aching.

It’s a disease, and it’s one he wishes he could be free of. But the bond between mates - even when it’s not been acknowledged or accepted by either party, not fully - is strong, and it pulls Derek to pieces.

---

Stiles makes it home, eventually. It starts raining about halfway there, the kind of misty rain that’s just enough to need wipers and a light jacket but keeps the whole world gray and cold.

It matches his mood almost perfectly.

He gets to his room without making too much noise and leaves the lights off. He shucks his wet coat, tosses it onto the floor near his overflowing laundry hamper, then sits on the bed, pressing his head into his hands.

He wants to forget what he saw at Derek’s apartment, wants to try to stop seeing that slow roll of muscle, the careful trail of sweat moving across his back, but it keeps replaying in his brain, on a constant loop of self-flagellation and sickening want.

He imagines that it was him pinned to the floor beneath Derek’s body, that he was the one with his head thrown back in passion, face flushed and open. He wonders what it would feel like to press his fingers into Derek’s skin, what his mouth tastes like, and Stiles feels himself start to grow hard.

He groans, frustrated, and flops back onto his bed, hands still pressed to his eyes. The zipper on his jeans digs uncomfortably into his dick. He’s embarrassed and turned on, and it fucking sucks.

He finally pulls his hands away from his eyes to pull his shirt off. It slides over his heated skin, then joins his jacket on the ground. He thumbs at the button of his jeans, groaning when his fingers brush too close to his erection. Pulling the zipper down is a relief and a torment. He slips out of his boxers, his cock bouncing up against his stomach, hard and flushed red.

He slides between the sheets and tries to go to sleep, ignoring the way his pulse is beating heavy and even in his dick. When he closes his eyes, though, all he can see is Derek, all naked skin and sweat. It makes him harder, makes his dick start weeping where it’s pressed into his sheets. Stiles can feel the wet spot against his thighs and gives up trying to fight it.

He throws the sheet back, baring himself to the cool air in his room, and palms the heavy weight of his erection. It feels so damn good, and he thrusts his hips up, pressing his dick between his abs and his hand.

He imagines it’s Derek’s fingers instead of his, and it’s almost enough to set him off. He moans, then stuffs his hand in his mouth to muffle the noise. He eases off, opens his fist to lick at the palm until it’s dripping. He pulls his fingers into his mouth, breathing heavily against them and laving at them with his tongue, and imagines it’s Derek’s dick spreading his mouth wide.

He brings his hand back down, wraps it around his dick, and groans at the smooth, wet slide. Eyes shut, he pretends the panting gasps, the murmured encouragements, are Derek’s.

That’s right. You love it, don’t you? Want my hands on you all the time, huh? Want me to fuck you, to make you come on my dick. Gonna make you feel so good, Derek whispers in Stiles’ mind. Gonna make you mine.

Stiles groans, the sound muffled against his knuckles, and thrusts up. He can feel his orgasm building in his balls, can feel them pulling up tight and heavy against his cock. He pulls faster, starts milking it from his body. Then he remembers that second, that moment where Derek’s eyes met his, pupils blown and mouth panting.

For that stripped-bare second, it was like Derek wanted him back.

On that thought, Stiles chokes out Derek’s name, arches up, and is coming, covering his hand and chest in thick, white strips. The orgasm sings through his blood, fogs his mind, finally clears the sight of Derek’s naked back from his memory. It’s one of the better orgasms he’s had, and Stiles sinks listlessly into the mattress, heart racing and body limp with exhaustion.

It’s only a moment that he lies there and enjoys the creeping lassitude before shame, hot and hurtful, fills his chest. Derek doesn’t give two shits about him, and here Stiles is, jerking off after watching Derek fuck some random chick. He’s disgusting. His hopeless crush is disgusting.

It’s no wonder Derek doesn’t want him.

Stiles rolls out of bed and stumbles towards the bathroom, grabbing a clean pair of boxers on the way.

He needs to scrub more than just the come off of his skin.

---

Derek can feel the window sill give beneath his claws, feels splinters digging into his fingers. The scent of Stiles and sex is heavy in the air, thick enough to seep out through the small cracks between window and frame. His wolf is howling, and between the aborted sex earlier and the sight of Stiles getting himself off, Derek is so hard, he could drive nails.

He swears he heard Stiles say his name when he came, is convinced he saw those wide lips wrap around the syllables of his name before they opened on a moan.

He backs away from the window, leaves only his claw marks behind, frustrated and lost.

---

They nod at each other the next day, meeting up with Scott, Isaac, and Boyd to discuss pack politics, their border patrols, and Erica's continued absence. Derek does his best to not look Stiles in the eye, and their interactions are stilted and awkward.

“Did you get that package?” Stiles asks right before he leaves, hand on the Jeep’s door.

“Yeah.” Derek says, still doing his best to keep his wolf in check. “Thanks for bringing it over.”

“Oh, it was nothing,” Stiles says, shrugging. “Sorry about interrupting your... date.”

There’s that astringent scent again, and Derek finally recognizes it as yearning and grief.

“It’s alright,” the words are leaving his mouth before he even thinks about it, “it was nothing.”

“Right.”

There’s a long pause, and Stiles is opening the door of his Jeep, climbing in, turning over the engine, driving away before Derek can gather the courage to say anything else.

Chapter Text

Derek takes his last dose of wolfsbane the day Stiles turns eighteen. It burns going down and settles in his stomach like hot lead. He holds the empty package carefully, catalogues the few remaining petals that have turned to dull purple and brown, then throws the whole damn thing out before leaving the loft.

He’s spent too long depending on the medicinal crutch, spent too long ignoring exactly what he wants, and now he’s going to have to face it before someone (not Stiles, never Stiles) gets hurt. With the Alpha pack running around Beacon Hills, he doesn’t have the time or energy to keep fighting.

Though, to be honest, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do instead.

---

Stiles is pacing on the front porch of the Hale house, Scott leaning against one of the supporting posts.

“Dude, calm down. Derek’s always running late, he’ll get here.”

“Calm down?” Stiles throws his arms in the air, exasperated. “They attacked my dad. I have plenty of reasons to not be calm right now.”

Scott sighs and shifts his weight so he’s standing. He grabs Stiles’ shoulders when he passes by, stops him and stares him down.

“Your dad was fine. He shot the guys, then got behind a mountain ash line where they couldn’t get him. He was stuck in his office for a couple of hours, but no one died. He didn’t even get a scratch, just a sprained ankle when he tripped letting us in.”

Stiles sighs and collapses against Scott, lets his forehead fall onto his best friend’s shoulder. He’s so thankful that they finally decided to tell his dad, so glad that he doesn’t have to lie about this part of his life any longer. Seeing the blood and his father’s body sprawled on his office floor, it’s left Stiles shaken and paranoid, even though the sheriff was, is, fine.

“It’s just not what I expected my eighteenth birthday would be like,” he mumbles, then straightens.

“It’s alright, man.” Scott grins and pats him on the shoulder. “I’ve got a pack of Marlboros, some scratch-off tickets, and the most hardcore porn you can get at a gas station in the car.”

Stiles laughs, then pulls Scott in tight for a hug.

“Thanks, man,” he’s smiling, feeling better than he has in weeks.

They pull apart, and Scott goes back to texting Allison.

To be honest, Stiles has been off kilter from more than just his father’s brush with the Alphas. It doesn’t happen as often, but he still has flashbacks of that night, of walking in on Derek and-

He shakes his head, starts pacing again. He’s been down that road one too many times, replaying the scene until he’s memorized that careful roll, the sounds, the smells. It leaves him dazed and unhappy, but he can’t stop remembering, can’t seem to get the images to leave his mind.

He’s been able to repress his feelings enough that the initial awkwardness between him and Derek has stopped. For a week or so afterwards, Stiles could barely look him in the eye. But when Derek didn’t make a big deal out of it - didn’t say anything about it, actually - Stiles was able to breathe a sigh of relief and keep acting like nothing was wrong.

He still lusts. He still wants and hurts. But it’s easier for him to pretend that he doesn’t while Derek keeps a careful distance between the two of them and keeps his shirt on.

They’re just waiting on Derek to figure out what’s going on with these damn Alphas. Attacking the local law enforcement was a risk, one that blew up in their face when the Sheriff didn’t have the decency to be clueless to the supernatural risks running around his town. He’s ready to help in whatever way he can, the urge to kick some ass riding high, but is stuck at home, foot elevated and iced.

Stiles has been doing research, of course, and figures they’ll be able to make a strike against the pack on the new moon. An Alpha’s power is tied directly to the phases of the moon, and by waiting for when the moon is at its weakest, Stiles figures they’ll be able to hit them hardest. They don’t have any humans in their pack, and between his spark, Allison’s bow, and Lydia’s firebombs, he figures they have a good shot, even with the rest of the pack weakened by the moon.

He’s been having a hell of a time convincing Derek that it’s a good idea. He keeps insisting that they’re just going to get hurt, that he can handle things, but from what Stiles has seen, he’s not buying it. Today’s the last time he’s going to pitch the idea, and if Derek shoots it down?

Well, he can’t say Stiles didn’t warn him.

---

Derek pulls up to his old home and parks. When he opens the door, the scent of Stiles and nervousness hits him hard enough to make him stumble. Even with the wolfsbane burning a hole in his gut, the urge to claim is strong. He fights against it, takes a deep breath, then slams the door of the Camaro shut and walks towards the house.

“Derek,” Stiles says, rushing down the steps to meet him. “I think it’s time to stop worrying about my skin and start doing something. They went after my dad.”

Derek pushes past Stiles, presses his hand for a split second (and oh, does it feel good, that small touch, it sings up his arm and into his blood, it hums beneath the surface until his skin is vibrating with it) against Stiles’ arm, and then asks Scott what the hell is going on.

Scott gives him the basic rundown, the Sheriff’s brush with the Alphas and Stiles’ insistence that they enact his idiotic plan.

“I’ve told you, you’re not getting involved in this, Stiles.”

“Why not?” Stiles shouts, running his hands through his hair. “They’ve clearly made me a part of this by attacking my dad. If that’s not a statement of intent, I don’t know what is.”

Stiles sighs, lets his arms fall limp to his sides.

“Look, it’s a good plan, and we don’t have anything else. If it gets too rough, Lydia, Allison, and I can lay down cover and we’ll all split.”

Derek still doesn’t like the plan, doesn’t like the thought of Stiles in harm’s way, but he recognizes that it’s as good an idea as they’re going to have. Even though it goes against his every instinct, he nods.

“Fine,” and Stiles’ face is lighting up, a large grin breaking out. “But the second things start to get hairy, you’re gone. Got it?”

Stiles is nodding, already turning to grin at Scott. Derek feels the wolfsbane in his gut, feels it burning with the barely-banked lust in his veins, and wonders if he’s ever going to learn how to handle this and stay sane.

---

The plan was so good. Stiles knows it was. He’d figured out every contingency, conceived of all possibilities, and there was no way his brilliant, amazing, flawless plan was going to fail.

So, of course, it all goes to shit within minutes.

Allison, Lydia, and Stiles are all up in tree stands they’d borrowed from Deaton, scents masked. Lydia’s stocked each of them with molotov cocktails. Allison’s got a crossbow ready to go, and Stiles has his dad's backup piece, a six-shot revolver that’s loaded with wolfsbane bullets. Stiles also happens to have an extremely useful fire spell that he’s planning on pulling out before the end of the fight, just to see how effective it is against the Alphas.

Scott is supposed to lead the Alphas back this way. Once they break through the tree line, Stiles has an almost-complete ring of mountain ash that he’ll close with a spell once the Alphas are penned in. Derek, Boyd, and Isaac have hidden themselves in small ditches and will jump out on Allison’s signal. It’s their job to hem the Alphas in, to get them to step into the circle before Stiles closes it.

And if anything goes wrong, Stiles, Lydia, and Allison will rain fire from the sky. It’s beautiful.

Everything is in place, everyone is ready to go, and it all gets fucked up royally.

First off, the Alphas come in from the wrong direction. Scott’s a great guy and Stiles’ best friend, but his sense of direction sucks. So, instead of breaking through the treeline from the north-west, he’s barrelling in from the south, which leads the Alphas straight to the ditch where the others are hiding.

They all stumble comically, their feet falling through the thin layer of leaves and sticks that Stiles used to cover everyone up. He can hear Isaac and Boyd cursing as they get stepped on, but Derek just bursts out, already transforming into his Alpha form and growling at the Alphas.

The Alphas are on the wrong side of everything, so instead of herding them into the center of the clearing, Boyd, Isaac and Derek are forced to give up ground, to try and tease them to walking deeper into the woods. It’s painfully obvious what they’re doing, and it only takes another moment before one of the Alpha twins notices, scents the air, and points to the trees where Allison and Lydia are.

Allison lets her arrow fly and catches the werewolf in the meat of his shoulder. He growls, then wrenches the arrow free and jumps, already halfway up her tree. Allison hurls one of the cocktails down, catches the Alpha with a glancing blow, and the whole tree bursts into flames, the werewolf falling to the ground in a charred heap.

Stiles lets out a victory whoop, and then realizes that the fire isn’t going out. It’s licking up the dry bark of the tree and heading straight for Allison. She meets his eyes, bright from the flame, and then dives from the treestand, executing a complicated series of flips. She lands in a crouch, looking like the badass she is, and nocks in a bolt, aiming for the closest were.

Scott is losing it, tearing through the Alphas until he’s as close to Allison as possible. He’s darting between them, lashing out to leave bright red marks on their skin. They heal quickly, but Scott’s got Allison behind him, at least marginally out of trouble.

Lydia’s thrown her cocktails down already, bathing the ground in flames. She scrambles from the treestand less gracefully than Allison, then makes a break for the treeline. Stiles knows that it’s the best choice for her, since she’s used up all of her weaponry, but he still worries. Derek guards her back, though, stopping the barefooted female Alpha from following.

“You brought your pets along, I see,” she sneers, swiping a long leg towards Derek, who jumps over it and lands in a roll. He ducks under her arm as she throws a punch and wraps a hand tight around her throat. Derek’s slamming her up against a tree - Stiles’ tree - and saying something suitably intimidating, when Stiles hears something tear, and the stand shifts and falls.

He hits the ground hard, feels something crack in his chest. It’s suddenly harder to breathe, and when he coughs, rolling onto his side, his lips are wet with blood.

“Well, fuck,” he groans, then wobbles to his feet.

There’s fire and screaming and bodies twisting through the chaos, and he’s got a punctured lung. His lips are frothy and pink, and it feels like there’s a fifty-ton weight on his chest. He wraps his arm around his ribs, cradles himself as he starts to make for the treeline.

One of the Alphas, the still-living twin, lands in front of him, grinning maniacally.

“You smell good,” he says, slinking closer and closer to Stiles. “Smells like you’re ready for me.”

Stiles groans, then raises a hand. He starts chanting, quickly mumbled Latin phrases he only half-understands, and feels his hand start to warm. There’s a flame flickering in his palm for an instant, and then it’s shooting out from him, bathing the wolf in fire. The force of it knocks Stiles back, tosses him flat on his ass. He starts coughing, blood flecking his face. He swears he can see the stars peeking through the canopy of trees.

Turns out, it’s just white spots as he loses consciousness.

---

Derek sees Stiles fall, sees him get to his feet and face off with Ethan. Derek’s chest tightens, fills with fear and pride for his mate, who is so strong that a punctured lung can’t keep him down. He has to turn back to Kali, has to focus on keeping his skin in one piece. She’s deadly fast and nimble, too flexible by half, and getting in under Derek’s guard over and over again.

He finally gets her down, keeps her down, and that’s when he notices that he can’t see Stiles. He can still smell him, knows that he hasn’t gone far, but the familiar line of his shoulders is missing from the fight in the clearing.

His wolf loses it. Just takes over completely, shuts down every bit of humanity that Derek has worked so hard to keep. In an instant, he’s all instinct, and it’s telling him to kill whatever is between him and Stiles.

When he finally comes to, finally pulls his humanity to the surface, he’s surrounded by broken bodies. Stiles is passed out underneath him, his breathing fast and shuddering. Blood flecks his lips, and Derek moves to brush it away, but his hands are deep red and wet, so he stops.

Scott, Boyd, and Isaac are all standing to the side, panting heavily and looking at Derek like he’s suddenly a threat. He sighs, shakes his head.

“I’m fine, I’m back... Just... We need to get him to the hospital.”

Scott’s the first to rush forward, to shove Derek off of Stiles. Derek starts to growl, but holds it back, clamps his lips tight over the protective urge. Stiles comes to when Scott lifts his arm up and over his shoulders. He raises his head, groggy, and looks around, confused.

“Where’s Derek? He’s gonna be so pissed.” Stiles starts coughing again, and that’s the last thing he says as Scott rushes him to the Jeep parked nearby.

---

Stiles wakes up in the hospital, an IV stuck into the hollow of his elbow, oxygen pumping through the thin tubes stuck up his nostrils, and a pulse-ox monitor clipped to his finger. Judging by the happy green lights shining from the display, he’s doing alright. His chest is achey, but it’s not the lancing pain it was before. When Stiles turns his head, the whole room blurs, and he figures they’re giving him something good. Probably morphine.

His dad is slumped in an old recliner off to the side, just barely fitting in between the hospital bed and the wall. Stiles reaches his foot off the bed and kicks at the chair, causing it to rock just slightly. His dad snorts, then sits upright, eyes wide and panicked.

“Hey, Dad,” Stiles says, and it comes out gruff and quiet.

“Oh, hell, kiddo.” His dad’s up and out of the chair, limping and pulling Stiles into a tight hug. It hurts his ribs. He winces, but goes with it anyway, wrapping his arms around his dad, the tape holding the IV pulling against his skin.

“I’m alright,” Stiles says, leaning into the warmth of his father. “I’m alright.”

His dad pulls back, cups Stiles’ face in his hands. There are tears in his eyes, and Stiles has to swallow past the guilt.

“Don’t you do that to me again. I don’t know what you were thinking, taking on the Alphas on your own.”

Stiles starts to say something, but his dad shakes him softly.

“I mean it, kid. Don’t do that again. I had a nice long talk with Hale, and he’s not going to let you get away with that kind of shit again. You’ve given me more than enough gray hairs, Stiles. I don’t need you giving me any more.”

Stiles nods, then settles back onto the hospital bed, panting. His dad tells him what happened (fractured rib, punctured lung, slight pneumothorax; they had to punch a needle into his chest to get the air and blood out) and how long he should be in the hospital. Stiles nods through most of it, then starts to nod off at the end. His dad ruffles his hair fondly and leaves him to rest.

The machines are beeping quietly. The whirr of the oxygen is quiet and soothing. The morphine drip isn’t hurting, either. It’s all rather relaxing, considering where he is and what he’s there for. He sighs, which makes his ribs twinge slightly, and settles into the mattress, closing his eyes.

He hears the door open a while later, just a quiet snick of the latch, and he forces his eyes open.

It’s Derek.

---

Derek hates the hospital. Hates the feel of it. Hate the smell, all antiseptic and death. Walking into Stiles’ room is a relief, the cinnamon-sugar smell stronger than the blankness of the ward. Stiles is blinking at him, eyes heavy-lidded and foggy. He’s pale with dark circles under his eyes. Derek can see the IV where it goes into his arm, and it feels like an invasion, even though it’s not under his own skin.

“Hey Derek,” Stiles says, slurring slightly. “Long time, no see.”

Derek sits on the side of Stiles’ bed, careful to not crush anything important. He doesn’t respond, just takes in Stiles, makes sure his wolf knows that his mate is alive and okay. He knows it’s awkward, can see it in the tension that slowly builds in Stiles’ face and shoulders. He knows he should say something, do something to break the tension.

Instead, he reaches up and cups Stiles’ face, lets his fingers slip into the warm space behind his ear. His thumb traces over Stiles’ cheek, brushes gently against moles he’s long since memorized.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” he murmurs, hand still gentle. “Don’t do that again.”

Stiles scowls and pulls his face away. It’s flushed where Derek’s palm had been resting.

“You think I don’t know that? Figured it all out when I fell out of a tree and broke my rib. I don’t need you telling me what I’ve already told myself.”

Stiles looks away, shifts until the thin hospital blankets are tucked up underneath his chin. He’s pouting. Derek shouldn’t find it endearing, but he does. He reaches out again, runs his fingers through Stiles’ hair. Stiles sighs, closes his eyes, and leans in to the touch, just slightly.

“Why do you have to be such an ass?” He asks, eyes still closed. Derek smiles and keeps running his hand through Stiles’ hair.

“I don’t know.”

Stiles sighs, then turns his head into Derek’s caress.

“Y’know,” he says, sleepily, “I’ve always got your back. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dumb idea or not, if you need me, I’m there.”

“Just keep your ass in one piece, okay?” Derek says, enjoying the feel of Stiles’ hair against his fingers.

Stiles doesn’t answer, just snuggles into the blankets and Derek’s touch. They sit like that for a few minutes, Derek slowly stroking Stiles’ hair and Stiles breathing quietly through each gentle touch.

“I’m sorry about busting in on you,” Stiles whispers, almost quiet enough for Derek to miss it. “Didn’t mean to mess up your game or anything.”

Derek doesn’t know how to respond, doesn’t know what to say to that quiet apology.

“I just... I never said sorry, and I can’t stop thinking about... Never mind, just. Sorry.”

Stiles tilts his head, moves it so that Derek’s fingers slide free and fall. His eyes are still closed, dark circles and delicate lashes. Derek wants to run his fingers over that skin, wants to feel it against his hands and mouth. He yearns, aches. It’s a struggle to pull away, to put distance between him and Stiles.

“It’s alright,” he says, standing up. “Get some rest.”

Stiles hums, the sound racing up Derek’s skin and leaving goosebumps in its trace. It’s too close to a moan, too close to the sounds he wants to hear from Stiles’ lips.

Derek leaves, shuts the door quietly, and curses himself all the way back home.

---

Stiles turns eighteen and dreams about Derek. It’s different from the others that he’s had; there’s no sweat, no moans and slick skin. Instead, they just sit together, quietly, on the porch of the Hale house. Hands clasped, bodies leaning into each other. They listen to the quiet sounds of the forest, to the quiet sounds of each other, until the sun dips below the horizon and everything is washed in red and gold.

Derek stands, lets his fingers fall from Stiles’ grasp, and walks into the woods. Stiles wants to follow, but is unable to move, body frozen like dreams do (he can never run away when he’s being chased; he can never chase when he wants to run). Derek walks into the woods, turns for a moment, eyes glowing red in the night, and disappears.

When he wakes up, Stiles is crying and doesn’t remember why.

Chapter Text

It takes two months and some change for Stiles’ ribs to heal. He’s out of breath a lot of the time, tender and achy throughout the day. Sleeping is the worst. He lays in the dark, waiting for the pain meds to kick in enough for him to sleep, his chest throbbing. When he does eventually fall asleep, it’s disjointed and foggy, the vicodin giving him strange dreams where beasts come running from the forest to attack him, to tear him to shreds. They only stop when he opens his eyes, panting and sweating.

He hasn’t seen much of Derek while recuperating, though the rest of the pack has been by to see him almost daily, especially Scott. Stiles doesn’t think it means anything, but after the visit in the hospital, he finds himself questioning everything. He doesn’t know how much of his memory of that first night is clouded by morphine and vain hope, but he remembers a warm hand against his face, fingers in his hair. He thinks about texting or calling, but it feels weird. He finds himself putting his phone away before he’s even turned it on, just staring at the blank screen and wondering.

The first day that Stiles is able to breathe without cringing, he’s out at the Hale house with the pack, helping with training. Derek growls at the betas when they get too rough with Stiles. He knows it’s just Derek, looking out for the injured human, but it makes him feel warm in a way he doesn’t want to examine closely. Hope hasn’t been much of a balm over the last few years, and Stiles doesn’t want to start looking for it now.

He and Scott finally celebrate Stiles’ eighteenth birthday, tucked back in the woods with a bottle of Jack and a pack of Marlboros. The first drag has Stiles coughing so hard his vision whites out. He still finishes the cigarette down to the filter. Scott’s only able to get a puff or two in before he’s putting his out.

“Smells too bad,” he says before tossing the rest of the cigarette into the underbrush. “They’re all yours, buddy.”

Stiles pockets the pack and forgets about it.

---

The last two and a half months (seventy two days, not that Derek’s been counting) have been unbearable. After that night at the hospital, Derek had gone home, Stiles’ scent clinging to his fingers. He’d pressed his hand to his face, breathed it in until he was aching. Derek had locked the door, put the chain on. He’d curled up in bed, legs pulled up tight with the covers. He’d fallen asleep with his hand pressed close to his face, breathing in what little of Stiles he could have.

Then the wolfsbane had worn off.

Things had never been comfortable, even when he was taking it. There’d always been a low level pull, a deep aching want like a bruise, that he’d never been able to shake, just ignore. Now, though? Now it has him on edge, has him shifting whenever someone mentions Stiles’ name or comes to visit smelling of him. Derek’s wolf paces at the edge of his consciousness, restless and snapping. The want becomes an aggression, a burning need to take that has Derek fighting against himself constantly. He’s snappish and distant. He ignores his betas questions about why he hasn’t visited Stiles, why he’s avoiding everyone. They eventually let it go, just add it to the long list of “Things Derek Won’t Talk About.” Isaac seems the most insecure about the silence, pulls back in on himself until Derek’s forced to take him aside and try to explain. He never says anything about mates. Something in his tone must give it away, because Isaac is nodding and looking at him in commiseration.

“Scott,” Isaac says. “I understand.”

Derek’s forced to lock himself in on the full moons, something he hasn’t had to do since he was a child. It’s agonizing. He barely remembers anything besides the pain, a gaping wound in his heart where he wants Stiles to be. When Derek wakes up in the morning, the bars are scored with claw marks, his blood is spattered around the room, and the ache is only worse.

He tries to stop sneaking around the Stilinskis’ house, tries to keep himself away. He doesn’t trust himself around Stiles, not with how bad things are without the wolfsbane. On the nights when he lets his wolf run, though, he finds himself, time and time again, beneath Stiles’ window, wanting and waiting.

Always waiting.

Deaton calls a month and a half after Stiles ends up in the hospital to tell Derek that he has some of the wolfsbane prepared. Just a small amount. Deaton’s first crop wasn’t very productive, but he’s working on it.

Derek takes the limited supply and tucks it into the cabinet in his bathroom. He’s starting to adjust, starting to get control over the mating bond and its pull, but he never knows when he might need the extra help.

Just in case.

---

Stiles is running late. His latest (and, thank god, last) appointment with his doctor had taken longer than he’d expected. He’s off the vicodin, so his dad’s letting him drive again, and Stiles is speeding towards the Hale house, cursing quietly. They’re working on tracking today, one of Stiles’ favorite training exercises. He almost always gets caught, but tricking the wolves is a challenge he can get behind. With how badly things went two months ago because Allison, Lydia, and he weren’t hidden well enough, Stiles is feeling particularly stubborn about getting it right.

He pulls up to the house just in time to see most of the pack disappearing into the trees. Isaac is hanging back, though, and nods when Stiles jumps out of the Jeep.

“They’ve got a head start on you, but you should be able to get yourself good and hidden before they start coming back this way.”

Stiles grins, then pulls his backpack out of the back of the Jeep. It’s a gorgeous day, warm and sunny, and Stiles is looking forward to spending some time outside after having been cooped up for so long.

“Sweet. I’ve got something awesome planned this time, should work pretty well.”

Isaac grins, then tilts his head towards the woods.

“Gotta get in there, but I’ll see you when we come back.”

“Yeah, if you can find me,” Stiles grins, then waves as Isaac takes off into the trees, already shifting.

Stiles slides his backpack on, then leisurely walks into the forest. He’s not trying hard to get lost, not right now, so he doesn’t feel bad about leaving a painfully obvious scent trail. He walks for about ten minutes, then slides the backpack off and starts rummaging.

It’s filled with dirty laundry, collected from various pack members - mainly Scott - over the past month. He slides each piece on until he’s wearing about five shirts and a couple pairs of pants. He walks for another five minutes, then sheds a piece of clothing. Then does it again. And again, until he’s back to just his own clothes, and there’s a scattered trail behind him that’s a giant mix of his scent and the packs’.

He’s sweating a little from the heat and the exertion, but Stiles feels pretty fucking happy with himself. There’s a stream nearby, so he sits on the bank and slides his shoes and socks off. He tosses them into his bag, then starts walking down the center of the river. He knows it’ll cover his scent, make it harder for the pack to find him. It feels good, the pebbles on the bottom of the stream smooth and cool against his bare feet. He keeps walking, the water running over his feet like a caress half-forgotten.

Stiles wonders how long it’ll take to wash him away.

---

Derek catches the scent before he’s even fully aware of it, turning, half-shifted, to bare his fangs at Isaac. The beta frowns, then shakes his head.

“He’s back that way, if you’re going to be like that,” he says, pointing towards the woods behind him. “He showed up a little late. Said he had something good planned.”

Derek takes slow, deep breaths until he gains control and shifts back.

“Sorry,” he murmurs. “The others are up ahead.”

Isaac tilts his head to the side, then smiles.

“I can hear them. I think they’ve found Allison.”

Derek pauses, tries to focus past the hints of Stiles wafting from Isaac.

“They’ll probably need you.” Derek says, eyes focused over Isaac’s shoulder, back towards the house.

“They need you more,” Isaac says, frowning. “You’ve been off.”

“I know. I... I can’t explain it, no more than I have before.” Derek turns, starts pacing. Stiles’s scent is building, growing stronger until it’s all Derek can do to focus.

“Have you... I’d tell him. Even if it’s not what you want to hear, an answer from him has to be better than this.” Isaac steps forward, starts reaching to place a hand on Derek’s arm. Derek flexes his hand, feels his claws pricking into his skin. He’s losing control, losing the ability to think.

“Did you tell Scott?” It comes out more growl than anything else, Derek’s fangs filling his mouth. He can’t breathe.

“This isn’t about me. And, for the record, I did. It sucks, but it’s better than always wondering. He’s happy, that’s what really matters. And I don’t think Stiles is happy right now.”

Derek’s tenuous hold on control slips, falls. He shifts and roars at Isaac, who takes a step back, stunned. He cowers, eyes wide with fear, but Derek doesn’t care.

His mate is nearby, his scent strong on the wind, and the wolf is ready to claim.

---

Stiles doesn’t spend much time on the preserve by himself. Experience has proven that it’s a dangerous place to be, especially if you aren’t of the werewolf variety. Today, though, it’s easy to forget. Sunlight is spilling through the trees, catching on the ripples of water that Stiles’ feet kick up, and breaking into cascades of color. It’s quiet, just the sound of wind whispering through branches and birds quietly calling.

His feet finally start to get cold, so Stiles steps out of the stream. He sits, starts tugging his socks and shoes back on, when he hears a rustling behind him. Turning, he sees a pair of red eyes and fangs, and then he’s flat on the ground, his face pressed into the bank. There’s a heavy weight on his back, making his ribs feel like they’re going to cave in, and a growl, followed by panting, warm breaths, against his ear that has him stilling, hardly breathing.

Shit.

Whoever has him pinned to the ground presses their nose into the space behind Stiles’ ear, breathing in deep.

“So good,” he murmurs, voice deep and familiar. “You smell so good.”

There’s a flick of wetness, followed by a long, slow trail of tongue up his neck. The moan that rumbles out from above him has Stiles finally placing the voice. He’s heard it too many times in his dreams to not be able to place it.

Derek?” He struggles, then groans when Derek presses him deeper into the ground. “What the hell are you doing? Let me up, you’re crushing me.”

Derek whines, high and tight in his throat, and shifts his weight. It releases some of the pressure from Stiles’ chest, but he’s still pinned.

“C’mon, man. Get up.” Stiles pushes, tries to shift Derek’s weight. He growls again, the sound vibrating through Stiles’ chest.

“Derek.”

“Mine,” he growls, then bites down softly on the back of Stiles’ neck. His fangs press against Stiles’ skin, and suddenly, Stiles can’t breathe.

“Derek, don’t... You know I don’t want that.”

“Should mark you. Let everyone know what you are, who you belong to.”

Derek runs his teeth down the curve of Stiles’ jaw, lets his fangs hang and catch against the skin. It sends shivers running down Stiles’ body. Derek follows the trail his teeth made with his tongue, brushes away the faint tang of sweat from Stiles’ skin.

“Are y-”

“Need you,” he whispers it into Stiles’ ear, then grinds his hips down. Stiles can feel the hardness of Derek’s dick where it digs into the cleft of his ass. Part of Stiles thrills at it. He can feel himself getting hard, feels his heart rate kick into high gear.

The other part feels the press of fangs against his skin and starts to panic.

“Can’t keep fighting. Don’t want to,” Derek moans, nuzzles into the space between Stiles’ neck and shoulder.

“Dude, let me the fuck up,” Stiles says, pushing against the ground for leverage. He shifts Derek’s body slightly, and then he’s face first in the ground again, rotten leaves bitter against his tongue.

“No,” Derek says, his mouth next to Stiles’ ear. “You’re mine. You stay.”

There’s a dog joke in there somewhere, but Stiles is too panicked to make it.

Derek’s pressing down hard again, still grinding against Stiles. The extra weight on his ribs is making it hard to breathe. The mind-numbing panic isn’t helping, either. Stiles takes gulping breaths of air, trying to stop his vision from going gray at the edges. Derek’s claws prick against Stiles’ skin; his teeth press against the curve of Stiles’ shoulder.

“Derek,” Stiles says, the panic ripe in his voice, “you have to stop. I don’t want this.”

Derek stills, then presses his face into Stiles’ shoulder.

“Wish you did. Wish you wanted me.” He presses, nuzzles the space between Stiles' shoulder blades. Derek whines again, and it sounds absolutely wrecked. He starts to pull away, and Stiles takes the opportunity to wriggle free. He flips over, gets up on his elbows and stares at Derek, who’s half wolfed-out.

“What the fuck?” Stiles shouts, pushing himself further away.

---

Derek’s starting to come to the surface, starting to gain control. He’s bathed in Stiles’ scent, and it’s calming his wolf somewhat, though there’s an ache there, something hot and burning in the center of himself. Stiles is sprawled out on the ground in front of him, stinking of fear. Derek smells hints of his own arousal hanging in the air and can feel the zipper of his pants biting into his cock.

"Stiles?" He asks, still trying to figure out what's happening.

“What the absolute living fuck is wrong with you? Jesus Christ, Derek!” Stiles stands up, starts brushing leaves from his front. He’s only wearing one shoe.

Derek feels himself grow cold. He can see red marks on Stiles’ neck, twin lines spaced apart like fangs.

He stumbles to his feet, falls away from Stiles who’s looking more and more confused.

“Dude, what’s wrong?”

“I...I can’t-” Derek turns and runs.

He doesn’t know how he gets back to his apartment. His car isn’t outside, and his legs are aching as he nearly crawls up the stairs. He slams the door shut, keeps the lights off.

He just needs to get to the bathroom.

When he throws the medicine cabinet open, the small pouch on the second shelf looks like a godsend.

He downs the whole thing, consequences be damned.

How will he want you now? He thinks as he starts to drift off on the bathroom floor. Now that he knows how broken you truly are.

Chapter Text

Stiles is pissed. His shoes are wet. He’s in the middle of the woods, alone, and there are stains ground into his shirt that are never coming out. He didn’t think to bring a flashlight, so he’s stumbling his way towards his Jeep using the quickly fading sunlight. He’s got hints of bite marks on his shoulders, an extremely confused boner, and he’s fucking done.

He finally gets to the Jeep and climbs into the driver seat, slamming the door shut. He fishes in his pocket for his keys and pulls his hand out, disgusted. The carton of cigarettes, forgotten over the last few days, is soaked, the hard pack squished and mushy in his hand. He flips what’s left of the lid open. All of the cigarettes are broken and damp, soggy tobacco sticking to his hand. It’s not like he was going to smoke the rest of the pack, but it’s another log on the fire. They were a birthday present - albeit a dumb one - from his best friend, and they’re ruined.

He jams the keys into the ignition, shifts as soon as there’s power, and starts tearing towards Derek’s apartment. Stiles knows he should be going slower, should be wearing a seat belt, but he’s never been this angry in his life (probably an exaggeration, but he doesn’t care, he’s pissed the fuck off).

He’s not completely sure what’s going on, but he deserves some sort of explanation for the attack in the woods and Derek’s subsequent retreat. Whatever is going on in that idiot’s head, Stiles deserves to know the pieces of it that relate to him.

Stiles pulls up to Derek’s loft, shifts into first, and turns the Jeep off. He takes a deep breath, gets himself ready for a fight, but then can’t find the Camaro in the parking lot. He frowns, starts to wonder how Derek got here in the first place or if he’s even here at all. Stiles feels like he’s about to burst, all the anger welling up and ready to spill over. He decides to fuck it and go into the apartment anyway. He’s got a key, he’ll fucking wait.

When he gets to the landing leading to Derek’s apartment, he finds the door leaning open. The anger disappears in an icy rush, and he’s pushing his way in.

“Derek?” He calls out into the darkness. There’s moonlight coming in from some of the windows, but it’s hard to see anything distinct. He starts peering into different rooms, flicking on the lights as he goes. Most of them are empty and unused. The main living room and kitchen seem to be the only places that Derek spends any time, dirty dishes and well-read books lying about haphazardly. Eventually, Stiles thinks he hears a groan, and he hurries down the hallway towards the noise.

He finds Derek curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor. Stiles hasn’t ever seen him this still, and it takes him a moment to realize he can’t tell if Derek’s breathing or not.

“Shit.”

Stiles kneels down, starts shaking Derek’s shoulder. He falls onto his back, body limp. There’s a small bag in his hand, and Stiles picks it up. There are a few purple petals inside, and he starts cussing.

“Dude, why do you have wolfsbane, and why are you passed out on top of it? What in the hell are you doing?”

He leans down and presses his ear against Derek’s chest. A slow, reassuring beat echoes back. Stiles breathes out, presses his forehead into Derek’s chest.

“Jesus Christ, Derek.”

Stiles sits up, eyes the stall shower that’s tucked into the corner. There’s not much of a lip between the stall and the floor. Stiles thinks he can manage it. He grabs Derek under his arms and starts pulling. He weighs a ton, and the friction from the bathmat doesn’t help. Still, Stiles is able to pull Derek’s dead weight into the shower stall, cussing the whole way. Derek groans when his back rubs over the metal lip, then starts to twist.

“Hold on, man. Stop wiggling, I don’t want to drop you.” Stiles sets Derek down as gently as he can, his body propped up against the wall. Derek blinks up at him, then frowns blearily.

“Hallucinations. Great.” He groans, tucks himself further into the corner of the stall. “G’way, Stiles.”

“I’m saving your ass, dickwad. Just... stay put.”

Stiles steps out of the stall, then reaches in for the cold water. It comes on full-blast, icy cold where it splashes on his skin. Derek jerks, his eyes wide open and his hands raised to shield his face.

“What the hell?” He sputters, reaching for the knob. Stiles bats his hands away, keeps it going until Derek’s shirt is soaked and sticking to him, his hair hanging limp around his face.

“Be glad I’m not making you puke, asshole.” Stiles shuts off the water, then grabs a towel and throws it at a still-gasping Derek.

“Dry yourself off and get up. We need to talk.” Stiles starts to walk out of the bathroom. He’s getting angry again, now that the life-or-death situation seems to be resolving itself.

“Go away, Stiles. I don’t have anything to say to you.” Derek sounds listless and drained. Stiles feels it like a barb in his chest, a sharp stinging pain that he can’t ignore. He breathes around it and turns.

“I don’t care. I have things I need to say to you, and you’re going to listen.”

Derek is still sitting in the shower stall, the towel balled up on his knees. He’s got his head buried in the towel, curled up like a wounded animal or a small child with a blanket. Stiles can tell that Derek’s panting, his hunched shoulders rising and falling quickly. Stiles sighs and leans against the wall, then lets his body slide down until he’s sitting on the cold tile floor by the door.

“Dude, you have to talk to me.”

The only answer is Derek’s quiet breaths, muffled by the towel.

---

Derek is shaking, and it’s not just from the ice cold water drenching his clothes. He can feel the wolfsbane burning through his system. It’s pouring through his veins, eating away at his flesh from the inside out. Past the pain, everything feels muffled. He can’t hear Stiles’ heartbeat as loud as he usually does. Can’t catch his cinnamon-sugar scent, even though it should be flooding the small room.

It’s like everything is an inch too far, but Derek can’t make himself care enough to reach..

He keeps his face buried in the towel, breathing through each shudder as it racks his body. He hears Stiles shift, hears the soft thud as his head hits the wall, and risks turning his head to look at him.

Stiles’ eyes are closed. He looks tired and frustrated. There are still smudges of dirt on his cheeks, and there’s a leaf stuck in his hair. Even through the wolfsbane, even with all of the things telling him he shouldn’t, he can’t, Derek thinks Stiles is beautiful, even tired and disheveled. Lust and love roil together with the wolfsbane in his gut, and Derek suddenly starts scrambling for the toilet, knees sliding on the wet tiles of the shower.

He makes it just in time, and everything that comes pouring out of him is black and thick. It chokes him, and he starts coughing, gagging. Then Stiles’ hand is on his back, rubbing calming circles as Derek keeps vomiting.

“Hey, it’s alright, just go with it. Let it out.”

Derek gasps after the last wave, leaning over the bowl with his eyes watering and his nose running, thick and black-tinged. He hears the sink turn on, and then there’s a warm, wet cloth wiping over his face gently.

“Let me help,” Stiles says, clearing the stain and stink from Derek’s skin. “Just let me know if you think you’re going to throw up again.”

“No,” Derek croaks out, his voice rough and broken. “I think it’s passed.”

He takes the cloth from Stiles and finishes wiping his face clean. Stiles runs a hand over Derek’s hair quickly, then stands.

“I’m going to get you some water,” he says. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Derek flushes the toilet, then lays down on the cool tiles next to it. He throws an arm over his eyes and just breathes. The fire is gone, replaced by the low thrum of adrenaline and his racing heart. He doesn’t hear Stiles come back into the bathroom, too caught up in his own body. There’s just suddenly a cool hand on his arm and an icy glass pressed into his palm.

“C’mon, sit up.” Stiles pulls until Derek’s sitting again, forehead resting against his knees. He lifts the glass to his lips, takes a careful sip and rinses his mouth before spitting into the toilet again.

“Thanks,” he says, taking another careful sip. Stiles sits down and leans his back against the wall opposite Derek and waits.

The silence stretches out between them, broken only by Derek’s small sips and Stiles’ breathing. Derek can tell that Stiles is waiting, wanting something from him that Derek isn’t sure he can give. It’s awkward, and no one is more surprised than Derek is that he’s the first to break.

“I’m... About earlier, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” The confession echoes around the bathroom, loud in the empty silence.

“What exactly were you doing, anyway?” Stiles asks, knocking his foot against Derek’s. Stiles’ face is serious and turned away, expression dark and difficult to read.

“It’s hard to explain.” Derek says, leaning his face into his knees. He can’t handle this. His heart is pounding. His throat burns. And through it all, the scent of Stiles is slowly breaking through the wolfsbane haze and driving Derek to distraction.

“Try me.” Stiles nudges Derek’s foot again, harder this time. Derek raises his head, frowning.

“I... It’s... Just let me apologize and leave it.” He wishes Stiles weren’t so damn persistent. That he’d just let it be, let Derek try to pretend that it never happened, that it never can happen.

“I think I deserve an explanation for being assaulted in the middle of the freaking woods, Derek.”

There’s so much heat, so much anger in his voice. It hurts, knowing that Derek deserves every ounce of Stiles’ ire.

“I can’t, Stiles. I just...”

“Do you want me?”

The breath is knocked from Derek’s lungs in a rush, blood burning with something besides wolfsbane.

God, if you only knew.

---

It’s the hardest question Stiles has ever forced himself to ask. The palms of his hands are stinging, emotional pain manifesting in needles pressing against the inside of his skin. Derek is looking at him with an expression somewhere between shock and pain. He looks like he’s been poleaxed.

“Tell me. Do you want me?” Stiles presses again. He can’t let this go, not now. Not after he’s put the question on the table.

“Yes,” Derek sighs, letting his head fall back against the wall, “but I can’t.”

The answer speeds through his blood, sets his heart racing. Any anger he was still feeling is gone, washed away in a rush of sudden, overwhelming excitement. He sits up, starts leaning towards Derek.

“Why?” It comes out wrecked. Stiles can’t keep the hope out of his voice, can’t seem to stop himself from moving closer.

“I... You wouldn’t understand,” Derek says, rubbing at his eyes.

“I don’t understand now.” Stiles gets onto his hands and creeps across the cold tile. His hands are sweating and slide gently across the floor as he moves closer. He settles into the spread of Derek’s legs, fitting his body in as close as he can.

“Derek,” he says, reaching out to pull Derek’s hand away, “look at me.”

Derek opens his eyes. Stiles can feel them trace over his face and settle on his lips. Derek’s pupils are wide, and his mouth slides open on a gasp.

“Don’t.” He says, trying to push Stiles away. Stiles presses back, slips in closer until he’s only inches away from Derek. He moves his hand to cup Derek’s face, who leans into the touch. Stiles trails his thumb over the soft pad of Derek’s lip.

“Stop me if you don’t want this.” He can’t tear his gaze away from Derek’s lips, from the open invitation in his eyes.

“I can’t,” Derek says. Stiles shudders and leans in until there’s only a whisper between their lips.

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No,” Derek groans, and then they’re kissing.

Derek’s lips are firm against Stiles. They slide against his, gentle yet insistent. Stiles can’t focus, just buries his hands in Derek’s hair and pulls him closer. He groans, and Stiles dives in, pressing his tongue against Derek’s, tracing it over his teeth when his own tongue ducks back.

Derek sits up and pushes Stiles until he’s lying on the floor; the tiles hard and cold against his back, Derek warm and hard along his front. Derek groans against Stiles lips, then grinds his hips down. Stiles arches up, presses his body against Derek’s and pulls him down so they’re touching everywhere.

Every touch, every glancing slide of lips or hands on skin sets Stiles’ heart racing, his blood thundering through his veins until he feels like he’s burning up from the inside. Everything is focused to the places where he and Derek touch, and Stiles can’t help but smile against Derek’s lips. He slows the pace, turns the frantic, bruising kisses into something softer, something less lust and more love. His chest feels full and aching, and he’s so fucking happy, he laughs softly.

Derek pulls back, hair mussed and lips swollen. His pupils are blown so wide, his eyes look black. He stills, stops. Just stares at Stiles’ lips and the flush that’s rising to his cheeks.

And then he’s pushing away and groaning in pain, his body suddenly twisting into a tight ball wracked with shudders. He falls to the floor, muscles tight and veins running black beneath the skin.

---

Derek groans, curls in on himself, and pulls at his hair. He’s hard and aching, his body singing with the joy of finally claiming what’s his. What’s left of the wolfsbane tightens in his stomach, burning, fights against the happiness and lust until Derek is forced to scream against the pain.

“Derek, holy fuck!” Stiles is suddenly at his side, pressing gentle hands against his skin. It burns, it burns, it burns, and Derek can’t pull away, can’t fight it. He sobs, body shuddering and twisting with each touch.

“Stiles, god-” he groans again, falls to the floor in a boneless slump. “Call Deaton. Quickly.”

And then Derek’s alone on the cold floor, body shaking, and it’s all he can do to breathe through the pain.

Chapter Text

Derek doesn’t remember the trip to Deaton’s, not really. Just frantic fumbling; hurried, stumbling steps to the Jeep; Stiles’s hand in his the whole ride. He remembers the sharp prick of a needle as Deaton starts an IV. He remembers the smell of antiseptic and blood, of fear.

He remembers passing out, vision going white around the edges, Stiles’ mouth wide on a shout Derek never hears.

He dreams.

He’s in the woods around his old house. He can hear his family inside, laughter bright and cheerful on the wind. He turns, starts running, but he trips with every step. The ground is hard against his palms, and they start to bleed. It runs down his arms, dripping to the ground until it’s a deep pool surrounding him, warm and up to his neck. He tries to swim, but he can’t move, he’s drowning, and then there are strong arms wrapped around him, keeping him afloat.

He can smell cinnamon over the tang of blood and breathes easy.

---

Stiles doesn’t want to remember the night he’s had. It had taken him three tries to dial Deaton’s number correctly, and the rushed and half-coherent explanation he’d garbled over the phone hadn’t helped at all. Deaton had barked at him to get Derek to the clinic, and then things start to get fuzzy in Stiles’ recollection of the night.

He remembers dragging Derek’s half-conscious and writhing body down the stairs and into his Jeep, thankfully avoiding any neighbors. He remembers driving as quickly as he can, seat belts fastened around both him and Derek. He thinks he ran a red light on Main, but he isn’t sure.

He remembers holding Derek’s hand when he moaned in pain, fingers tight enough to turn his skin white.

Deaton had helped him carry Derek into the clinic, body still arched in pain. Stiles had to hold him down when Deaton started the IV, Derek screaming and twisting. Whatever concoction Deaton had pumped into Derek’s body had settled him, knocked Derek into a deep sleep. They’d carefully moved him to the couch in Deaton’s office. Stiles had tucked him in, pressed the edges of a worn blanket under the heavy weight of his body, let his fingers trail against Derek’s too-warm skin.

Now, Stiles is just trying to catch his breath. He’s sitting in the waiting room, trying to come to terms with everything that’s happened tonight. It’s all a giant mess in his head, and he finds himself carding his fingers through his hair, desperately trying to find some kind of foundation to stand on so he can figure this out. Hope burns bright in the center of his chest, lodged there with the memories of earlier, of Derek’s lips on his, his body warm and strong above Stiles’.

Deaton comes out of his office and shuts the door quietly. He sits down next to Stiles, not speaking, just letting the silence hang between them. He waits.

“So, what in the hell is going on?” Stiles finally asks, looking at Deaton’s worn face.

“It’s not my place to say,” he says, sighing. “Just know that Derek is going to be fine, he just needs some time to heal.”

“Is there anything you can tell me?” Stiles asks, exasperated and so damn tired of all the secrets.

“If you see him trying to take any more wolfsbane like you found in his apartment,” Deaton says, catching Stiles’ gaze and holding it, eyes serious and face taut, “do not let him. If he takes any more, it could kill him.”

Stiles nods, looks down at his clasped hands and the floor.

“Okay, I can do that.” He says, leaning back. “You know how long he’s going to be out?”

“Probably another hour or so, if not longer. His body’s gone through a lot tonight. It’s going to take time for him to heal.” Deaton stands and looks at the clock.

“It’s late. Your father is going to be worried about you.”

Stiles nods but doesn’t move.

“I’ll text him, tell him I’m at Scott’s tonight.” He looks up at Deaton. “I’m not leaving him.”

“Okay,” Deaton says, heading towards the back of the clinic.

He pulls an old army cot out from a back closet and sets it up in his office. The springs are worn and dig through the thin fabric and into Stiles’ skin. It takes him a long time to get comfortable, spread out next to the couch and Derek’s sleeping form. When he finally finds a spot on the cot that doesn’t make him want to punch something, Stiles lies still and watches the careful rise and fall of Derek’s chest.

There’s still an IV in his arm, medication pumping into his system with slow, measured drips. But the blackness beneath his skin has been replaced by a warm flush, and his body is loose and relaxed, peaceful.

His careful inhales and exhales lull Stiles, make him drowsy until he’s fighting to keep his eyes open. He falls asleep to the sound of Derek breathing, quiet and sure.

---

Derek wakes up feeling like a well-used speed bump, and he groans, rolling onto his side. The room is dark, and Stiles is passed out on a thin cot next to him, body curled into a wild tangle of limbs. If Derek felt less like shit, he’d try to figure out how the position is anything close to comfortable. His body gives a sympathetic twinge instead.

He rolls off the couch, pulls the IV out of his arm, and settles the blanket he’d been wrapped in around Stiles’ shoulders. Stiles murmurs something and snuggles into the blanket, pressing his face into the well-worn fabric. Derek feels a pang in his chest, tucks the blanket tighter around Stiles, and walks out of the office.

Deaton’s waiting on the other side of the door, sitting in one of the hard plastic chairs that fill the waiting room.

“How much did you take?” Deaton asks, rising slowly.

“Does it matter?” Derek asks. He leans against the front counter and crosses his arms.

“Depending, yes.” Deaton stands across from Derek, eyes assessing. “If you took a small dose and this happened, I have some serious concerns about your well-being.”

“I took all of it,” Derek says, frowning, “and I don’t want to hear it.”

“I’ve told you before, Derek, you have to be careful. It’s only a temporary fix. It won’t stop the bond from forming or growing stronger.”

“I know. It’s just... I attacked him. I couldn’t control the wolf, and I...” Derek shakes his head and pushes away from the counter to start pacing.

“You knew the risks that came with suppressing the bond. You’ve always known that it was a possibility.”

Derek sighs and presses his fingers to his eyes, rubbing away the sleep and some of his lingering headache.

“I just never thought it would actually happen,” he says. “I thought I could keep it in control.”

“It’s not about control,” Deaton sighs. “But we’ve been over this before, I won’t waste my time trying to explain it again.”

“I can handle it,” Derek says, rubbing at the curve of his elbow where the IV had gone into his arm. “I’ll talk to Stiles.”

“You should’ve started with that,” Deaton says, heading towards the front door. “You need to be careful. It was a close call tonight.” He pauses by the front door, hand resting lightly on the knob. Derek can tell Deaton wants to say something more, but the vet shakes his head and the moment passes.

“Lock up when you leave.”

Derek nods, turns back towards the office. Stiles is still passed out, his body sprawled across the cot. Derek’s wolf rumbles its approval. It likes that Stiles is close by, that they’ve finally claimed him, though Derek is still terrified to acknowledge the bond that’s growing between him and Stiles. The wolf grumbles, pushes against Derek’s reluctance.

I’ll hurt him, he thinks. I’ll break him.

The wolf grins, confident in its knowledge of the bond. It knows that it will never hurt its mate, but Derek, the human part of him that knows of love and loss and fear, isn’t so sure.

He leans back into the couch, settles into the worn cushions, and watches over Stiles as he sleeps.

There are so many things he needs to say and not nearly enough words.

---

Stiles wakes up slowly, body protesting as he shifts on the cot. A blanket slides off of him and onto the floor, and it takes his brain a minute to catch up with it.

“Derek,” he gasps, sitting up quickly. Derek’s on the couch, head ducked down. “Are you okay? How do you feel?”

Derek looks up. There are bags under his eyes, and he looks tired and drawn.

“I’m... I’ve been better.”

“I bet,” Stiles says, trying to dispel some of the sudden, heavy tension in the room. “I was worried I was going to have to dispose of your body or something, and I don’t think my dad would be too happy to find me in the middle of a crime scene.”

“Sorry to spoil your evening,” Derek says.

“Oh, no,” Stiles says, scrambling. “I’m glad you’re okay, don’t get me wrong. It’s just... It’s been a weird night.”

Derek nods, then looks down again. Stiles doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he picks the blanket up from the floor and starts folding it into a neat square. He sets it on the cot next to him and weaves his fingers together, trying to keep his hands from fidgeting nervously.

“We need to talk.” Derek sounds pained, like the admission is being pulled from his body against his will.

“Yeah,” Stiles sighs, “yeah, we do.”

“There’s a lot going on that I can’t explain,” Derek starts, shifting on the couch. “I... You might find out some of it later, depending, but right now, I can’t go into it, what it means.”

Stiles nods and tightens his grip.

“My wolf, it... It thinks you’re it’s mate,” Derek says, letting it out in a rush. “It wants to claim you.”

“So before,” Stiles asks, the words catching in his throat. He remembers cold tiles and heated breaths and struggles to finish. “That wasn’t you.”

Derek shakes his head.

“No.”

It echoes in the office. Stiles’ ears start to ring, his heart pounding under the weight of a single syllable.

God, that hurts, he thinks. He takes a shuddering breath, tries to loosen his hold on his hands. He can feel his nails biting into his palms, can feel the pain radiating up his arms to settle deep in his chest. God, that hurts.

“What do we do now?” He asks instead, unable to look further than his clenched hands and the dark linoleum floor beyond.

---

Derek can’t think. His wolf is howling, biting and thrashing against the tight leash Derek has on it. He can feel Stiles’ pain, the thin bond between them singing with it.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“I’ll... I can stay away, keep taking the wolfsbane to-”

“No,” Stiles interrupts, eyes flashing with anger and pain. “Deaton says it can kill you, and I’m not okay with that. What does your wolf need?”

“Touch,” Derek says. “And it needs to protect you, to keep you safe. It wants... other things, too, but I won’t force that on you. I can find a way to take care of it.”

Stiles laughs, but it sounds broken instead of amused.

“If you need to fuck me,” he says, voice thick with anger, “you can fuck me.”

He stands, hands curled into tight fists.

“At least, then, I’ll get something out of this,” he says, turning towards the door.

“Stiles, wait,” Derek says, rising from the couch.

“Don’t, Derek.”

Stiles’ back is to him, shoulders bowed and tense. He’s holding himself still, body a solid line of taut muscle. Derek can’t see his face, can’t get a read on the mess of emotions clouding the air between them.

“Just... Call me. When it gets bad.”

He opens the door, steps out into the dim hallway.

“I’ll be there.” He turns, his face twisted into a tight smile. “I’ll always have your back.”

The door shuts quietly, but Derek feels it like a punch, like all the air has been sucked out of the room with Stiles.

He fights back the urge to howl and slumps onto the couch, head cradled in his hands and heart aching.

I’ll break him, Derek thinks. I’m already halfway there.

---

Stiles makes it into the driver seat of his Jeep before he collapses. He fights back a sob, takes a deep, shuddering breath, and lets it out.

You knew, he thinks, pressing his hands to his eyes and banging his head into the headrest, that he didn’t want you. You knew. Don’t act like it’s a big surprise, like you didn’t know what you were getting into. It’s the wolf, not him.

A choked sob wrenches itself free, and Stiles feels tears gathering beneath his palms. He laughs softly, then wipes his face dry.

Take what you can get, he thinks.

He keeps repeating it to himself the whole way home, waiting for himself to believe the lie.

You’ll learn to live with it.

Chapter Text

Stiles goes to school the next day, feeling like well-worn shit. Scott picks up on his mood, quietly asking him if everything’s okay, and Stiles shrugs it off as a lack of sleep. Scott knows better than to pry, but he brings Stiles a cup of coffee in second period and passes his notes over before the end of class. It doesn’t do anything to ease the ache in Stiles’ chest, but it does settle him enough that he’s able to focus on more than just how much his life fucking sucks right now.

The day drags out. Harris pisses him off, says something just a shade past abusive, and it has Stiles standing up - stool clattering to the floor, hands clenched, face tight in anger - and storming out of the room. He catches Detention, Stilinski! All week! before the door shuts and he’s far enough down the hall that all he can hear is the blood rushing in his ears.

He slams his way into the bathroom and leans over one of the sinks, panting until his heart rate starts to slow. In the mirror, his eyes look haunted, the skin under his eyes dark and puffy. Stiles sighs, turns on the cold water, and splashes his face until he can think clearly.

It’s all a mess in his head and his heart. Rationally, he recognizes that what Derek needs and what he wants are two different things. Emotionally, though, it stings and writhes beneath his skin, keeping him on edge. Stiles has known what he’s wanted for awhile, might even put the big L word on the label for his feelings for Derek if pressed.

Right now, though? Knowing what may come and what it won’t mean? He wishes he didn’t feel anything at all.

---

Derek doesn’t call Stiles.

He thinks about it. He holds his phone, finger hovering over the call button, and thinks about it. Remembers the feel of Stiles’ lips against his, the tug of fingers in his hair, the weight and warmth of Stiles pressed beneath him. He wants so badly, and then he remembers Stiles’ broken voice and stiff shoulders, and he turns off his phone, tucks it into his dresser drawer, and doesn’t call.

He still hovers around the Stilinski property on his patrols, still searches the wind for sugar and cinnamon. He still dreams and wakes up hard and feeling empty. Derek fights the wolf, fights the pull of the bond that’s only growing stronger every day. Sometimes he can feel Stiles on the other end, all pain and confusion and broken want. Those are the worst days, when Derek knows how much Stiles is hurting, and that it’s all on Derek.

For what it’s worth, though, Stiles doesn’t call him, either.

---

Stiles isn’t sure what to expect at the first pack meeting after finding Derek on his bathroom floor. It’s been almost a month with no contact. No calls, no texts. Not even for basic pack stuff. Instead, Scott gives him small updates and looks confused when Stiles doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Stiles sits in his Jeep for a few minutes - trying to slow down his racing heart and sort out the mess of emotions tangled up in his chest - before going inside the Hale house. Scott waves from the couch in the front of the living room, while Boyd and Isaac are in the middle of a vicious game of Egyptian Rat Screw on the floor. Lydia walks in from the kitchen carrying a bowl of popcorn, and Allison arrives after Stiles has gotten comfortable on the couch next to Scott.

Derek’s nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s the big, bad Alpha?” Stiles asks, nudging Scott.

“He said he had to run out and get something from Deaton’s,” Scott says, shrugging. “Said he’d be back in time for the meeting.”

Stiles nods and tries not to fidget. He pulls out his phone, surfs Cracked for a minute or two, then opens Angry Birds and works on his high score.

That keeps him busy for about five minutes, and then he’s grabbing some of the popcorn from the table and heading towards the betas on the floor. He sits down, and Boyd and Isaac both look up at him with the same what-are-you-doing-Stiles expression on their faces.

“What’re you doing, Stiles?” Boyd asks, shuffling the cards.

“Thought I could join you for the next game, try out my lightning fast reflexes against you guys?”

Boyd raises a questioning eyebrow, while Isaac just frowns.

“I don’t think that’s going to end well for you,” Isaac says. “I mean, we could break your hand or something.”

“You guys wouldn’t do that,” Stiles says, laughing.

“Have you been watching us play?” Boyd asks.

Stiles frowns, then thinks about it. He’d really only seen flashes of hands and cards flying from fingers, the sharp sound of slaps cutting through the air. He sighs, then shifts to stand up.

“I guess you’re right. And I do like my hands.” He puts them out in front of him, wiggling his fingers.

“They drive the ladies wild,” Stiles says, smirking.

“Just keep telling yourself that,” Derek says from the front door, making Stiles jump. Derek looks good. He’s wearing a dark green henley that sets off his eyes and a tight pair of jeans that hug his legs like a lover. He kicks his shoes off, bare feet light against the dark wood floor. Stiles heart starts racing again, and he can feel his palms grow damp.

None of the wolves seem to notice, or, if they do, they just chalk it up to Stiles being Stiles. For him, though, it’s like all the air’s been sucked out of his lungs. He feels a humming tension build beneath his skin, that same persistent pricking that’s been dogging him since he kissed Derek. Stiles rubs at his arms until it goes away, then sits back down next to Scott.

The pack meeting is pretty straight forward, just a rundown of patrols and anything unusual in their territory. It ends up becoming more of a game night, with ERS replaced rather quickly by Texas Hold’em. They bet using their pocket change as chips. Normally, Stiles does pretty well, but Derek sits across from him, staring. His eyes are barely on his cards, more focused on Stiles than the game. It makes Stiles awkward and sloppy, and Lydia ends up wiping the board with everyone instead of going heads up with Stiles like normal. She gloats over her ten dollars worth of winnings, then does some fancy card shuffle that she’s been working on for months.

Stiles would be impressed if he weren’t so damn uncomfortable.

It takes awhile, but eventually, it gets dark and people start making noise about leaving for the night. They clean up the cards and popcorn, start saying their goodbyes, and Stiles is trailing after Scott, ready to make his escape, when Derek walks out of the kitchen and calls for him.

“I need to talk to you,” he says, and Stiles feels a shiver race up his back.

Scott raises an eyebrow, then looks between Stiles and Derek like he’s seeing them for the first time. Stiles shakes his head, trying to explain without words that there’s nothing going on, nothing more than what Scott can see. He doesn’t know if he’s effective, because Scott just winks at him, then strolls out the front door, calling after Isaac.

The door closes. Stiles doesn’t want to turn around, doesn’t want to face Derek, but he forces his feet to move until he’s looking at the asshole who’s about to rip his heart out.

“What do you need?” Stiles asks, preparing for the worst.

---

It’s been driving Derek to distraction all night, the way Stiles smells; a mix of his usual scent and the salty tang of despair. This close, the bond pulses underneath his skin, sets his wolf to pacing the longer Derek goes without touching Stiles. It wants to comfort, to protect, and all Derek can think about is the taste of Stiles’ mouth and the feel of his skin.

“I just... I’ll be quick, I promise.” Derek says, walking forward until he’s only a breath away from Stiles.

Stiles nods, then turns his head to the side, not meeting Derek’s eyes. It hurts, but he deserves it. Derek reaches out, brushes his fingers against Stiles’, then leans in and presses his nose into the crook of Stiles’ neck, eyes closed. Here, his scent is amplified, gathered and collected under clothing during the day. It’s overwhelming, and Derek nuzzles closer, groaning softly, trying to mix his own scent in with Stiles’.

He can hear Stiles’ heartbeat pick up, can feel it against his lips where they rest against Stiles’ neck. Derek opens his mouth, pressing a soft kiss to Stiles’ warm skin. Stiles shudders and leans into him. Derek’s hands come up to hold Stiles’ arms and pull him closer, until their chests are pressed against each other. Stiles’ arms stay at his sides, but Derek can feel Stiles’ muscles tighten as his hands close into fists.

Derek stays there for a long moment, breathing slow and steady. He feels grounded, feels solid in a way he hasn’t since his wolf first recognized Stiles as their mate. The world around him has narrowed into the places where his skin touches Stiles, where their pulses beat in counterpoint. Derek can feel the want building, can feel his body responding to Stiles’ nearness, and he steps away, pulling himself back into reality.

Stiles is still looking away, but his mouth is parted and his eyes are closed. Derek can tell that this is hurting Stiles, that he’s suffering, and he finally gives in to what the wolf wants and carefully wraps his arms around Stiles, pulling him into a tight hug and burying his nose back into Stiles’ neck.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs, lips ghosting over Stiles’ pulse. Stiles starts to shake, but he reaches out and presses his fingers against Derek arm.

“I know,” Stiles says. He sounds wrecked, sounds like his world is crumbling, and Derek can’t do anything but kiss the memory of the words from his lips.

Stiles groans and collapses against him. He frees his hands and buries them in Derek’s hair, pulling him closer. His lips are dry and chapped, but they soften against Derek’s. The kiss is a little too hard, a little too rough, but Derek doesn’t care, just lets his lips catch and brush against Stiles’. Stiles nips at Dereks’ bottom lip, teases his mouth open with tongue and teeth, and Derek lets him in. He tastes like popcorn and desperation. Derek moans and presses closer, feels his hardness brush against Stiles’, and now he’s the one shuddering.

He lets his tongue brush against Stiles’ lips until they open, and Derek teases Stiles’ taste from his mouth, letting his tongue brush gently against Stiles’. He pulls back and nips at Stiles’ jaw, lets his lips trail down the long arch of his neck and settle in the hollow of his throat. He feels Stiles swallow back a moan, his Adam’s apple bobbing beneath Derek’s lips. Derek lets his legs go limp, falls to his knees and presses his face into Stiles’ stomach. He wraps his arms around Stiles, pulls him close and tight. Stiles’ fingers are still in Derek’s hair, and they brush through it slow and gentle, tracing the shell of Derek’s ear until he shivers.

It’s all too much and not enough. Derek sinks lower, lets his hands drag against the fabric of Stiles’ sweatshirt until it’s balled in his fists. His mouth rests against the fly of Stiles’ jeans, and he breathes out, feeling the moisture of his breath pool on the denim.

“Derek,” Stiles gasps, his hands tightening in Derek’s hair. “What’re you doing?”

“Tell me,” he says, letting his lips brush against the hard outline of Stiles’ cock. “Do you want me?”

Stiles sighs and pulls at Derek’s hair until his head tilts back. Stiles lips are red and parted. He’s blushing, and his eyes are golden circles around dark pupils.

“Yes,” he says, eyes dark and mouth twisted in a small smile. “More than you know.”

Derek smiles back, then presses his face against Stiles’ dick.

“I think I have an idea,” he says before biting at Stiles’ zipper and pulling down slowly.

“Jesus,” Stiles gasps. He starts pulling Derek’s hair until Derek’s forced to stand, and then he’s kissing Derek, desperate and impatient.

“C’mon,” he says into Derek’s mouth, “don’t make me wait.”

Derek groans and pulls Stiles towards the stairs. They stumble a bit, not wanting to break apart and tripping a little in their haste, and make their way upstairs. Derek presses Stiles into the wall in the upstairs hallway and snakes his hands into the gaping fly of Stiles’ jeans. Stiles arches his back, pressing against Derek’s hand and pulling him in for an open mouthed kiss.

“Please,” he gasps, “Derek.”

The door to his bedroom is open, and they fall through it, scrambling for zippers and buttons and skin-to-skin touches. Stiles pushes Derek down on the bed, then pulls his sweatshirt and t-shirt off in one move. He’s lean from years of lacrosse and running from monsters. Freckles are scattered across his skin. Derek pulls him close and traces paths between them with his lips and tongue until Stiles is pushing him back down and climbing onto the bed to straddle his legs.

He helps Derek get his shirt off and then leans down to bite at the curve of Derek’s collar bone. He soothes the sting with his tongue, then catches Derek’s moan with a kiss. Derek traces his hands down the gentle slope of Stiles’ back and grabs at his hips, grinding up against Stiles. He flips them over so Stiles is lying on the bed, and presses a soft kiss to Stiles’ lips and cheeks and eyelids.

Stiles starts shaking again, then pulls at Derek’s pants.

“C’mon, let’s go,” he says, gasping as he fumbles with Derek’s belt. Derek reaches down and helps him, their fingers tangling together. His belt slides free. Stiles slips the button of Derek’s jeans open, pulls the zipper down quickly, and then wraps his long fingers around Derek’s cock. Derek lets out a quick shout, and then he’s kissing Stiles again. He tangles his fingers in Stiles’ hair, pulls him close while Stiles pulls Derek’s cock free of his pants.

“Figured you’d go commando,” Stiles says, squeezing. Derek’s hips jerk forward, and he presses his teeth against Stiles’ pulse and bites down, gentle but firm.

Stiles pulls away, Derek’s teeth catching just a bit, and hisses in pain. Derek quickly kisses the sting away, murmuring an apology into Stiles’ skin.

“Shut up,” Stiles says, wriggling out of his pants, “and fuck me.”

Derek sits up and drinks in the sight of Stiles spread across his bed. The flush that covers his cheeks has spread to his chest, painting his body a soft rose. His waist narrows to slim hips, and his cock rests against his belly, hard and long and perfect. Derek dips down to press a kiss to the thick vein running up along the bottom, and Stiles’ hips hitch up on a curse.

Derek presses the flat of his tongue against Stiles’ cock and runs it up to the tip, catching a drop of precome as it gathers on the head. When Derek opens his mouth wide enough to capture Stiles’ length, he expects Stiles to grab at his hair again. Instead, when Derek looks up, Stiles has his arms raised over his head, grasping at the bedspread. Derek pulls back until Stiles is about to fall free, then waits until he looks down at Derek, brow furrowed.

“What’re you doing?” He asks, lifting his hips to try to get Derek to move. Derek doesn’t answer, just reaches up for Stiles’ arm and pulls it down. He tangles his fingers with Stiles’, then presses Stiles’ palm into his hair and squeezes. Stiles’ head drops back onto the mattress with a soft bounce. He curses, but his fingers tighten in Derek’s hair. Derek sucks Stiles back in, relaxing his throat until the head of Stiles’ cock is bumping against the back of his throat. He hums to make Stiles writhe, and there’s a sudden burn in his scalp from where Stiles has pulled too hard.

Derek tightens his lips around Stiles’ dick, then wraps his thumb and forefinger around his base, squeezing. Stiles bucks up, pulls at Derek’s hair.

“Move, dammit,” he groans. Derek huffs out a small laugh, then starts trailing his lips and hand up Stiles’ spit-slick length. Stiles body tenses then relaxes as Derek keeps moving, taking Stiles’ cock as deep as he can and slowly wrapping more fingers around his base, until Stiles is fucking up into Derek’s hand and mouth.

“Fuck, your mouth,” Stiles whimpers. “I’m gonna- c’mon, just like that. Right there, oh fuck.”

Stiles comes, body bowing in a graceful arc as Derek swallows. It’s bitter, with a slight hint of cinnamon and sweat, and Derek moans, trying to memorize the taste.

He pulls back with a soft pop, then leans over Stiles, who is limp and heavy-eyed. Derek kisses him slow, gentle, just soft brushes of lips. He doesn’t try to deepen it, keeps it just on the surface, until his chest is full and heavy with the weight of his heart.

Stiles kisses him back carefully at first, then starts to push for more. Derek pulls back, then watches, breathless as Stiles writhes beneath him, Stiles’ fingers pressing against his hole, slick from spit and precome.

“Fuck me,” he says, eyes hard and shining. “You need to fuck me.”

“Turn over,” Derek says, holding Stiles’ hip in a soft grip. Stiles sighs, and Derek can’t tell if it’s in relief or excitement. Still, when he grabs Stiles’ ass and pulls it apart, the moan that comes out - muffled against the bedspread, Stiles’ face pressed into the quilted mess - has him fighting back his own.

He presses an open-mouthed kiss to the dip of Stiles’ spine, then presses a gentle finger against Stiles’ hole, watches as it slides in slowly. Stiles curses, then turns his head to the side.

“C’mon,” he says, voice wrecked. “Do you want me to beg?”

Derek leans forward to kiss Stiles silent, then reaches for his side drawer.

“Not yet,” he says, pulling out lube and a condom. The wrapper is loud over the sound of his and Stiles’ panting breaths. Derek groans as he slides it on, then fucks into his hand for a second as he takes in Stiles - ass up, hand slid between his body and the bed so he can tug at his hardening cock.

He opens the lube, pours it over Stiles’ crack until it’s running over his balls, then slides his dick into the crease. Derek groans as he watches his cock move against Stiles’ skin, and then he’s pressing the head against Stiles’ hole. It gives slowly, Derek trying his best to be gentle. Stiles muffles any cries into the bed, but Derek takes his time, and, eventually, he bottoms out.

He leans forward, starts peppering kisses over the sharp ridge of Stiles’ shoulder blades. He’s overwhelmed, unable to describe or contain the emotions spilling over. He wants to wrap himself around Stiles, wants to surround himself and be surrounded. He wants (and it’s so much more than just sex; he wants to love, to give, to open, to be consumed), and he gasps out Stiles name because it’s the only word that fits.

Stiles starts to make grumbling noises beneath him, so Derek pulls back. Stiles is so tight and hot, Derek has to close his eyes or he’s going to come. He gives into the wolf, into his own twisted need, and fucks Stiles. He loses track of time, subsumed in the feel, in the smell, in the sound of Stiles on his knees and keening.

“So beautiful,” Derek says, hands digging into the soft flesh of Stiles’ hips. “You’re fucking perfect.” Stiles stills beneath him, then starts pushing back, fucking himself on Derek’s cock.

“Gonna make me come,” Derek gasps, losing his rhythm and just trying to get as deep inside Stiles as he can.

“C’mon,” Stiles says through gritted teeth, “c’mon. Give it to me.”

Derek groans and feels his orgasm build and spill over, unexpected and so damn good. He folds in half, presses his mouth to Stiles’ neck, and rides it out, hips stuttering until they stop, Derek’s skin pressed against Stiles’.

He lays his hands on the bed by Stiles’ sides, then leans his head down against Stiles’ back and breathes. He keeps kissing the moles that dot Stiles’ back, catching the salty tang of sweat from his skin. Stiles shifts, then pushes back until Derek falls onto his side on the bed and slides free. He takes off the condom and ties it shut, then rises from the bed with a grunt. Stiles is lying on his side. His eyes are closed and he’s panting. Derek runs a gentle hand over his hair, and Stiles pulls away, rolling onto his back.

“I’ll be right back,” Derek says, gesturing towards the bathroom. Stiles nods, eyes still closed.

Derek throws the condom away, then goes rummaging through his linen closet for a clean washcloth. It takes a moment for the water to warm up, and while he waits, Derek lets himself give into the elation that’s filling his chest.

I can make this work, he thinks, a wide grin splitting his face. I can do this.

He walks back into the bedroom, warm washcloth in hand, just in time to hear the front door slam shut, his bed rumpled and empty.

Chapter Text

Stiles is exhausted. He and Derek have been sleeping together for two months, and even though it’s amazing (he has never been so sated in his life, so loose-limbed and mind-numb; his muscles are contentedly sore and his thoughts, for those few seconds of bone-breaking orgasm, can finally still) it leaves Stiles so emotionally wrung out, he barely makes it home before needing to curl up and give into the ache. It’s been putting cracks all through him, until he feels like he might break apart whenever Derek presses his hand to the small of Stiles’ back or brushes his fingers against Stiles’ skin.

He sometimes remembers that first night together and wonders how much of the gentle consideration and care that Derek took with him was Derek or his wolf. Wonders if maybe there’s more going on beneath the surface. Stiles reimagines it, pretends for a moment that it’s Derek that wants him, and it makes hope bubble fitfully in his heart. But it’s hasn’t been like that first night since, with soft words and gentle touches. It’s all heat and fierce passion now. It burns Stiles up, leaves him feeling like a wasteland afterwards.

He does his best to keep it together, and he thinks he’s doing a good job of it, at least with Derek. Scott knows something’s wrong, keeps trying to get Stiles to open up about it, but Stiles is afraid that if he were to let any of it out, he’d lose his tenuous control over his emotions and let it all spill out. He knows Scott would be there for him, would help him get it all back together again, but a part of him (one he doesn’t acknowledge, one that enjoys the suffering because that means this whole thing is something more, something that will endure) doesn’t want to share the burden. So, instead, Stiles breathes through it - lying in his bed at night, body aching and well-used - and puts the pieces back in place before falling asleep.

He knows it isn’t healthy, but he’s working with what he’s got and holding on by the skin of his teeth.

---

Derek stops trying after that first time. Instead, when he and Stiles fuck, it’s quick and dirty. He lets Stiles set the pace, lets him control things, and lets him leave, still sticky with sweat and come. Derek lays in bed afterwards, spreading his arms and legs out to the four corners of the mattress, searching for hints of Stiles’ scent in his sheets, trying to map out where exactly he went wrong.

It takes awhile for the pack to pick up on things. Scott pulls him aside, all righteous anger and wagging finger. Derek doesn’t hear a word he says, just nods along and watches Stiles watching them. He isn’t frowning, isn’t smiling, just staring, face blank and empty, and it feels like he’s digging pieces of Derek’s body free to lay on the ground by his feet, unwanted offerings at an empty altar. They fuck that night, Stiles bent over the back of Derek’s couch, and Derek has to fight the urge to whisper apologies and prayers into Stiles’ skin.

His interactions with Stiles, outside of the bedroom, are awkward and stilted. They shuffle around each other and the thing that’s growing between them, unable to acknowledge it. Derek tries to find that comfortable friendship they’d been creeping towards, but he can’t. Stiles keeps him at a careful distance, only letting him close during sex. Even then, when their skin is pressed together, when Derek holds Stiles so close that the space between them is microscopic, there’s still a universe between.

His wolf settles somewhat, appeased for the moment with the physical connection. Derek can tell that it won’t last long, not with how his emotions are tangled and torn by this half-relationship that leaves him both satisfied and unfulfilled. Still, it lets him settle a bit. He loses the restlessness that’s been dogging him. He starts to feel more confident as an alpha, starts to better lead his pack. So, even though everything about his relationship with Stiles is messed up and twisted and not-quite-right, it’s good for him.

At least a little bit.

---

Stiles likes to imagine that things will keep going as they have been. The pack’s territory has quieted down, a carefully negotiated truce between the Argents and the Hale pack keeping any outside interference to a minimum. The Alphas are well and gone. Any neighboring packs know to stay away or at least contact Derek before passing through. There’s the occasional flare up now and again, but the pack knows how to handle themselves now, and, overall, it’s quiet in Beacon Hills.

Shit hits the fan, though, when Erica shows up on Derek’s front step. She’s thinner than when she left, her face worn. She’s not just physically older than when they last saw her - almost two years ago, when she disappeared - there’s a weight on her shoulders that makes her seem closer to ninety than nineteen.

The pack welcomes her in with open arms, especially Boyd who looks like a piece of himself has been returned. She starts to open up after a couple of days, starts to tell them bits and pieces of what’s happened to her over the last two years. None of it is good, but she seems to settle back into the routine of things, inch by careful inch. Derek clears out a spare room in the Hale house, and she moves in. She finds a job at a local bookstore and starts taking classes at the community college, catching up on what she’s missed.

---

It should could as a surprise when the hunters that took Erica come gunning for her. Derek hates to admit it, but he’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time.

He doesn’t trust the good things in his life to last long.

They have a stand off in the front yard of the Hale house. Derek’s pack - Scott, Isaac, Boyd, Allison, Lydia, Stiles, and now Erica - are arrayed in the lawn with the hunters, ten heavily armed men, stinking of wolfsbane and fear, spread out among the trees. Stiles has a fireball pulsing in his hand, just waiting for a push of will to engulf, while Allison and Lydia are armed with a crossbow and shotgun. The wolves are all shifted, crouched down low with claws and fangs bared.

“This is your last chance,” Derek warns, stepping forward so that he’s between the hunters and his pack. “You can leave now, or you can die.”

The lead hunter smirks, then raises his gun.

“Let’s see you try,” he says before pulling the trigger.

He’s burning on the ground before Derek can blink. He loses track of the specifics after that, shifting to his full Alpha form and tearing through enemies left and right. He only stops when he smells copper on the wind, scented with sugar and cinnamon.

He turns in time to see Stiles take another bullet to the leg, this one punching through the meat of his thigh instead of grazing his skin. He falls to the ground, groaning, then glares up through the too-long shock of hair partially covering his eyes.

“Wrong guy to mess with, asshole!” He shouts, then his hands fill with fire, and the hunter falls to the ground, body writhing and hidden by flames. The heat’s so intense, Derek can feel it from where he’s standing.

Stiles stumbles to his feet, then falls again, and Derek is at his side, lifting him and pressing against the wound to staunch the bleeding. Erica is crumpled on the ground behind him, bleeding from a cut on her forehead, but it’s healing as Derek watches, and he stops caring.

“Derek,” Stiles says, trying to squirm free. “Dude, let me down. I can take care of this. You need to fight.”

Derek growls and tightens his hold on Stiles, who reaches down and presses his hand over Derek’s on his leg. There’s a sudden coolness, replaced by a burning so hot, Derek has to pull away. When he looks down, there are green sparks flickering around the edges of Stiles’ gunshot wound. As he watches, they start to knit together, muscle tissue forming to fill in the missing spaces, and then, there’s just smooth, pale skin. If he hadn’t seen it, Derek would have never known that Stiles had been shot in the first place.

“Now put me down, you fucking romance novel. I’m fine.” Stiles wriggles free and gets to his feet, then readies another fireball.

“C’mon, we’ve got some ass to kick.”

And he steps back out into the fray, flinging fireballs like nothing’s happened.

Meanwhile, Derek’s world has narrowed to red blood and the scent of smoke on the wind.

The fight doesn’t last much longer after that, Derek giving into the wolf’s need to protect, and the rest of the pack tears through their enemies. They let one of the hunters go, a message to other groups that the Hale pack isn’t one to be messed with.

Afterwards, when all the bodies have been buried or burned, and the pack is limping into the Hale house, exhausted and singed around the edged, Derek grabs Stiles, keeping him outside.

“Dude, what is it?” He asks, sounding so tired, Derek almost doesn’t push.

“You can’t do that,” he says instead, feeling Stiles’ steady pulse under his fingers.

“Do what?” Stiles sighs. He pulls his arm back, and Derek lets it slide free.

“I can’t have you getting hurt,” Derek says. “Not now.”

“Not now? What’s that supposed to mean? We’re fucking, it’s not that big of a deal.” Stiles takes a step towards the house, and Derek feels his heart clench.

“It’s more than that, and you know it.”

The words are out of his mouth before he’s even aware of it, and Stiles stops, body tense and unmoving.

“Do I?” Derek flinches at the tone, doesn’t say anything when Stiles turns around to face him.

“You made it pretty clear that you don’t want any part of it. It’s just some... biological imperative for you, like birds migrating or something.”

“Just because my wolf-” Derek starts, but stops when Stiles shakes his head and rubs at his eyes.

“I don’t really care, Derek. This... whatever it is between us, I understand that you need it, and that’s fine. I can’t change that. But for me? It’s not instinct telling me I have to do something. It’s...” He sighs, shifts his weight, looks anywhere but at Derek.

“Look, I’m part a of this pack, and I’m going to be in danger, and I’m going to get hurt. That’s not going to change because you and I are fuck buddies or whatever this is. Don’t ask me to give that up to keep you happy.”

“I can’t- What am I supposed to do if you-?” Derek can’t get the words out, can’t breathe past the panic that’s slowly overwhelming him.

“I don’t know,” Stiles says, mouth crooked in a half-smile, “find someone else?”

“There isn’t someone else, Stiles. Not for me.” Derek feels like he’s being ripped in two. He fights the urge to yell, to scream until Stiles understands what Derek can’t say. He’s kept it locked down for so long, the pressure has built to the point of explosion.

“Don’t you mean your wolf?” Stiles asks, eyes wide. Derek can feel his confusion, his anger, his hope over the bond like a rope around his neck. He can’t breathe, can’t say anything.

---

Stiles is holding onto his temper by a thin thread, body vibrating. He’s gotten pretty good at reading Derek over the past two months, but the mix of anger and hesitation on his face is one that Stiles hasn’t seen before.

“Hold the fuck up. What are you trying to tell me right now?” He asks, stepping closer. They’re only a few feet apart now, but Stiles feels each step like a weight around his neck.

“It’s... not just the wolf. That wants... That claimed you.” Derek turns aside, can’t bring his eyes to meet Stiles.

“Are you fucking with me?” It comes out broken and quiet. Stiles feels hope rising in his chest, but he quashes it, shoves it down until it’s subterranean. “Because I can’t handle that, Derek. I can’t.”

“I’m not... I care about you.” Derek says. He crosses his arms, eyes still averted.

“Then why the fuck have you been lying to me for two months?” Stiles asks, shouts.

“I couldn’t let you get hurt.” Derek says, finally meeting Stiles’ eyes. “I... I wanted to keep you safe.”

“From what? From your emotions? What’re you gonna do, feelings me to death?” Stiles throws his hands up in the air, starts walking back towards the porch.

“The people I care about get hurt,” Derek says, and Stiles can hear the frown in his voice “and I couldn’t-”

Stiles turns around, stalks towards him, and presses finger into Derek’s chest.

“Well, good fucking job. Because I’ve been hurting since I first kissed you.” Stiles says it to hurt, knows he doesn’t mean it (not completely, not entirely; his heart has been breaking in slow, steady pieces, but part of him has enjoyed the burn) and regrets it almost immediately. He can feel the anger drain out of him, leaving him tired and wrung out.

“Stiles, I-” Derek reaches for him, and Stiles backs away, holds a hand up to stop Derek from coming any closer.

“No, not tonight. Not right now. I’m too tired and pissed off, and I don’t want to say something I’ll regret in the morning. Just... I’m going home, and you’re going to take care of your pack, and we’ll talk about this tomorrow. In the meantime, I need you to back the fuck up and let me get to my car.”

Derek frowns, steps forward. Stiles echoes him and moves back a pace.

“What’m I going to tell them?” Derek asks.

“I don’t know,” Stiles says. He runs a hand through his hair, then reaches into his pocket for his keys. “Lie to them, tell them the truth. I don’t really care right now.”

He steps around Derek, who turns to keep Stiles in sight.

“I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Stiles says. He feels like shit. Derek nods.

Stiles gets into his Jeep and drives off, Derek bathed in red from his tail lights and the still smoldering fires in his yard. Stiles tries not to think about the heartbroken expression on Derek’s face in his rearview mirror, and ends up tossing and turning the rest of the night, that haunted expression foremost in his mind.

Chapter Text

When Stiles wakes up the next morning, he feels like he hasn’t slept at all. His eyes are gritty and his mouth tastes like he decided to chew on his gym socks (the ones he kept in his locker for three weeks because he forgot about them before Christmas break. They were green when he pulled them out). The walk to the bathroom is stumbling, but he makes it. He turns the shower on, then quickly brushes his teeth while the water heats up. The mirror is fogged over by the time he’s rinsing his mouth and stepping out of his boxers. When the warm spray starts pounding on his sore back, he sighs contentedly.

It’s easy for him to forget, hot water flowing over his body, that there’s something important looming on the horizon. He lets his mind drift, lets it all slide down the drain with the soap suds and dirty water. He feels clean, refreshed, ready to move forward and actually talk, when he steps out of the shower and grabs a towel.

That careful calm is shot through when he walks into his room, skin still damp, and finds Derek sitting on his bed. His head is bent, and he’s holding Stiles’ shirt from the night before, worrying the fabric between his fingers. Stiles can sense Derek’s quiet uncertainty like an itch beneath his skin, and he coughs quietly to get his attention.

Derek looks up, then sets the shirt down on the bed next to him, and looks away.

“Hi,” Stiles says, walking past him to reach his dresser. “I told you I’d call.”

“I couldn’t wait,” Derek sighs. Stiles rummages for a clean pair of boxers and hears the bed creak as Derek shifts.

“Give me a minute to get dressed,” Stiles says, grabbing a shirt and pants. “I don’t think this is a conversation we should have while I’m naked.”

“Probably not,” Derek quietly agrees. He stands and walks over to the window, opening it slowly. “I’ll wait outside.”

“Dude,” Stiles says, sighing. “I’ll go to the bathroom to change, don’t be stupid.”

Derek has the decency to blush, then sits down awkwardly in Stiles’ desk chair. Stiles rolls his eyes, then heads back to the bathroom to wriggle his way into his clothing. He’s tired of the bullshit and the half-said things that keep getting in the way. Whether he likes it or not, Stiles is ready to speak his mind and lay it all bare.

He fixes his hair, a quick swipe of fingers with just a little gel, rolls his shoulders, and heads back to his room, ready for battle.

---

Derek paces Stiles’ room while he’s away, trying to think of all the things he needs to say, all the things he has to do to make sure this doesn’t end right here, right now. It’s a mess in his head, all jumbled up like a jigsaw puzzle when you first open the box. He finally settles back onto Stiles’ bed, presses his face into the soft bedding for a quick moment . It calms him until he hears quiet footsteps coming down the hall. He sits up, takes a breath, and waits.

Stiles walks back into his room smelling clean and spicy-sweet. Derek wants to roll around in it, blend his scent with that refreshing mix until Stiles smells like them. Instead, he stares at the carpet, heart pounding in his ears, waiting for the worst.

Stiles sits down in his desk chair, then sighs.

“So, mates, huh?”

Derek nods.

“What does that mean, exactly?” Stiles asks, leaning back until his chair gives out a protesting groan.

“It’s... The wolf looks for someone it sees as an equal, someone it can trust and depend on. In return, it wants to protect and... care for its mate. There’s a... a bond that forms, that ties them together.” Derek can feel his face flushing.

It’s so damn hard to get the words out. He knows he’s not saying what he needs to say, but he doesn’t know what words to use to explain the ball of emotion lodged in his chest that’s just Stiles. Derek closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, tries to calm down.

“And what does that mean for you? Not the wolf, just... you.” Stiles presses, rolling his chair closer. Derek can hear it catch on the carpet as it moves forward.

“I... It’s hard to explain.” He finally looks up, meets Stiles’ gaze. He’s got a soft smile on his face, looking so calm and confident that it eases some of the ache in Derek’s heart. He can feel his pulse slowing, and he breathes, each breath easier than the last.

“You’re going to have to try.”

“It means that...” Derek runs his fingers through his hair, shakes his head. “I care about you. I... You’re important to me, you make me feel...” He can feel the anxiety coming back, and when he clasps his hands in front of him, his claws are peeking through.

“Hey, it’s alright.” Stiles lays his hand on top of Derek’s, and the claws recede.

“See? I believe you when you say that. I know you mean it. And that’s... It’s hard for me.” Derek turns his hand over and laces his fingers with Stiles’.

“I know.” Stiles squeezes his hand, and Derek tightens his in return.

“I just... I need you.”

The room falls silent, their hands clasped together. Derek can tell that Stiles is thinking, giving Derek time to calm down. Part of him feels the silence as a weight on his shoulders, pushing him forward when he’s not ready to move. The rest of him, though, recognizes it for what it is, just a peaceful moment between two people who know each other better than they should. It soothes him, until he’s no longer thinking of the awful possibilities.

“Why did you have wolfsbane, when I found you?” Stiles asks. Derek stiffens, then sighs.

“It was to stop the bond,” he says. “I didn’t want to force it on you, and I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You’re done with that,” Stiles says, voice firm.

Derek nods, not knowing what to say, hope a tight ball lodged in his throat.

“Why couldn’t you just tell me this all in the beginning?” Stiles asks, voice quiet.

“It’s... I’ve felt like this for awhile, and I couldn’t... I didn’t think you’d...”

Stiles squeezes his hand again, then starts running his thumb across the ridge of Derek’s knuckles.

“How long?” Stiles asks.

“A long time. Years.” Derek sighs. He tries to pull his hand away, but Stiles keeps a tight grip, his thumb still rubbing small circles into Derek’s skin.

“Okay,” he says, squeezing Derek’s hand again. “What do we do moving forward?”

Derek lifts his head quickly, confused.

“You don’t want to go?” He asks, heart in his throat.

“No,” Stiles says, grinning. “Not in the least.”

“Why?” Derek asks. It comes out like a gasp, like a breath after someone’s punched you in the gut. It’s a rush, filled with pain and hope and disbelief.

“Because I love you, you dumbass. Why do you think I’ve been putting up with this in the first place?” He laughs, mouth wide and eyes bright, and Derek can’t help but cross the space that’s between them to kiss the laughter from Stiles’ mouth. Stiles slides his hand free from Derek’s, but only to raise it to Derek’s face and gently cradle it, pulling him closer with soft, slow pressure.

Derek feels the kiss like fire in his veins, like an inexorable pull towards Stiles, like gravity. When Stiles pulls away, Derek opens his eyes, unsure of when he closed them.

“So, moving forward?” Stiles asks, still smiling, eyes framed with little laugh lines that Derek wants to trace with his fingers. So he does, raising his hand to trail it gently against Stiles’ freckled skin.

“I’m not sure,” Derek says, still wondering, still awash with relief. “The only other mated pair I knew were my parents, and I don’t... I wasn’t paying attention.”

Stiles nods, then turns his face to press a kiss into Derek’s palm. He shivers at the touch, and Stiles grins into his skin.

“I guess we’ll just play it by ear,” he says, his lips whispering against the sensitive skin of Derek’s palm, “though we really need to work on communication.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek says. He slides his hand down to cradle the back of Stiles’ neck, pulling him in until their foreheads touch. “It’s... I’ll work on it.”

Stiles looks up into his eyes. Derek can see every shifting hue this close, gold and brown and black blending together into some strange mix that’s both beautiful and elusive.

“I’ll push you,” Stiles says, “if you need it. And I’ll work on it, too.”

He leans in and kisses Derek, soft and open. Derek groans and pulls Stiles closer, until he’s tumbling out of his chair and into Derek’s lap. Stiles shifts, gets his legs across the breadth of Derek’s, and buries his fingers in Derek’s hair. The kiss quickly shifts from comforting to something else, something that tears through Derek like wolfsbane or flames; it sends fire racing up his spine, sets his blood to pounding, until all he can feel and hear and taste is Stiles.

Stiles pulls back, then smiles and buries his face in the crook of Derek’s neck. He bites down, not hard enough to break skin or really hurt, but enough to have Derek groaning and raising his hips off of the bed. Stiles chuckles into his pulse, then presses an open mouthed kiss over the bite.

“We done being stupid about this?” He murmurs into Derek’s skin. Derek huffs out a quiet laugh, then nods, bringing a hand up to cradle the back of Stiles’ head.

“Yeah,” he says, “yeah, I think so.”

“Good,” Stiles says, the words muffled against Derek’s neck, “‘cause I was getting really fucking tired of it.”

“You know... I haven’t said it yet, but you know... I love you, too.” Derek says, the words choking him with how inadequate they are.

“Good,” Stiles says, sitting up. “I’m a catch.”

Derek pauses, takes in Stiles. His hair, still damp from the shower and now ruined from Derek’s hands. His lips full and red, his mouth spread wide in a smile. His eyes crinkled at the corners from laughter. His wide shoulders, sloping into slim hips. His long legs spread around Derek’s. His hands, long and graceful, pressed into Derek’s skin. His loyalty and determination. His strength. His kindness. Derek takes it all in until he feels like he’s going to burst, and he smiles.

“Yeah,” he says, leaning in for another kiss, “you are.”