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A Phenomenon When You Came Along

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There’s something about being on the road --- the way the heat vapor hazily distorts his view, the way the steering wheel tries to tug him one way and the other, the way the sky is an endless expanse that feels like it should be explored --- that makes him smile. The tape deck plays his mom’s old cassettes, 80s pop-rock accompanying Scott’s soft snoring. Stiles rests one hand on the wheel, one on the gear shift, shrugs his shoulders to ease tense muscles that are at odds with his sense of calm.

They’ve been driving most of the past two days. They take three hour blocks behind the wheel. Stiles loves his shifts the most. He’s always been a terrible passenger and it’s hard sometimes to remember that Scott’s got better eyesight, hearing and reflexes. He told Scott to watch out for a cactus back in Nevada, because it looked like a person by the side of the road. Scott won’t let him forget it. Talked about it constantly at the Blackjack table. Stiles maintains that they don’t know for sure it wasn’t a shapeshifter.

He thinks about the night before periodically, the gaudy flashing lights of Vegas, the muted sense of abandon. They hadn’t gone as wild as Stiles had always planned, when he was thirteen and maybe not without a care, but overall fairly careless. They went out of their way to visit Vegas, but they didn’t truly make the most of the opportunity. Their fake IDs could have gotten them anywhere, but they played a couple rounds at the roulette table, one game of Blackjack, walked around most of the time, and drank nothing. It was still awesome.

Stiles liked the atmosphere, the heady scent of excitement and risk-taking, the men and women dressed up in their finery. Scott had looked different in his simple shirt and blazer combination, all sleek lines and maturity. Stiles’ gaze kept wandering in his direction. When they’d called it a night it’d still been early. Stiles had flopped onto his sheets, wondered if Scott was doing the same in his own room, and started a mental itinerary for the next time they were going to be there. There’d be less need to be responsible, because they’d be back here on the journey home, and they’d decided they could stay more than one night. Stiles had ideas.

It takes a while for Stiles to focus his attention back to the present. One of the things he loves about driving is how he can be wholly consumed by more than one thing at a time. How he can react to the road while still musing about anything else. When Scott’s awake they mostly talk and sing along to whatever song’s playing (Scott’s rendition of Heart’s ‘Alone’ has to be heard to be believed), but Stiles is okay with the silence too. People always think that because he can talk a lot he always has to, but Scott knows better. Stiles likes time to reflect, to philosophize. It isn’t emptiness to him, it’s potential. So he’s happy when Scott wakes up, but stares blearily out the windshield instead of attempting to engage in conversation.

Another hour goes by and dusk starts to fall. It transforms the sky into crimson and gold for a while, before everything is cloaked in navy blue, makes the road look more mysterious, all darkness and hidden corners. Stiles flips on the high beams, eyes ever watchful.

“Another hour until the motel, right?” Scott murmurs, scratching at the back of his neck. “Wasn’t I supposed to take over a while back?”

“It’s okay, I’m good.”

“Yeah, you’re the best,” Scott replies automatically.

It’s one of their stock phrases, something they’ve said since childhood --- as natural to them as their ability to communicate through eyebrow-raises, their super-secret handshake and their unending loyalty to one another, but Stiles thought they’d retired it when they were fifteen, so he glances at Scott quickly.

“Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten how to be us and then you say something, or look at me a certain way, and it all comes back.”

“I think just because things change, it doesn’t mean they’re overwritten.”

“Yeah, and this, this right here, us alone together again, it’s like data recovery for the soul,” Stiles says, latching onto the idea. Scott bursts into a laugh and Stiles grins. “Dude, we’re so deep. It must be time for food. We’re never this sagacious when we’re full.”

“Sagacious,” Scott says flatly. “And you mock me for my vocabulary usage.”

“No one uses sedulous in everyday conversation. No one.”

“You asked me to describe Derek’s work ethic in one word.”

“I thought that word would be ‘great’ or ‘good’, hell I actually thought it would be ‘terrible’.”

“Lie,” Scott says with a small smirk.

Stiles rolls his eyes, switches his focus back to the road. The turn off isn’t too far ahead, but the exhaustion he’s been staving off with energy drinks is settling into his bones, sharp pin-pricks that give the worrying sensation of an itch. Part of him wants to stay on the road forever, just exploring, safe in his metal roll cage with his best friend by his side. Part of him desperately needs sleep.

He never thought he’d ever want to stay at another motel after the Glen Capri, and he doesn’t, not really, but it’s the most convenient of all the options. There aren’t any luxury hotels for miles even if they could afford one, no camping grounds, they don’t have a tent. The motel it is. Stiles spent approximately nine days researching and the worst complaint he saw was about the patterns used for the bedding.

By the time they pull up it’s definitely twilight. Stiles practically hears an eerie 1950s theme tune and sees several awful sparkly vampires. Except not, because the whole point of this is to escape the supernatural, for a little while. And now he’s thinking about how much cooler this trip would have been in an Impala. Sometimes he hates his brain. Scott jumps around and shakes out his limbs as Stiles locks the car and they stand looking at the motel for way too long to be acceptable before they start walking toward it.

The clerk at the desk looks at them askance. Stiles is so used to that he’s flipped back around to being surprised. They ordered a room with only one bed, because it was the cheapest option and they’ve never had a problem with being too close. In Stiles’ estimation no such thing exists. But the dude who hastily shoves the key over the counter clearly has a problem with it. Stiles rolls with it when Scott responds by rubbing a hand over his neck and leaning in to whisper in his ear. Scott’s become a master of subtle resistance. The guy --- Brad his nametag states --- looks set to snatch the key back, but Stiles has it twirling between his fingers before he can.

“We’ll pay up front,” he says, making it obvious for Brad that he’d probably get fired if he suddenly denied them entry. One of the many things the reviews said about this place was how it was obviously desperate for customers. The website for the motel extensively mentioned ‘inclusivity’.

When they’re out the door, Stiles dives in and pecks Scott on the cheek. It feels like the thing to do. Scott’s startled chuckle has a warm, throaty tone to it that has Stiles clutching his hand tighter around the keys. Brad, the little douche-engine that could, makes an indignant sound so loud even Stiles can hear it.

The room is okay. It’s nothing great, but they haven’t been attacked by a giant cockroach, or the truly hideous orange and green bedspread. Stiles dumps his duffle under a small formica table. He calls his dad as Scott calls Melissa, tells him about the journey so far. They’ve been texting intermittently throughout the day, but he needs to hear his dad’s voice. It’s weird to think he hasn’t been gone that long. In some ways it feels like weeks already.

“You can use the shower first, if you want,” Scott says when he’s off the phone, sitting on the bed and undoing his laces.

Stiles watches his fingers work for a moment, glances back at his bag, trying to remember if he placed his towel on the top like a champion, or at the bottom like an idiot. The fact he can’t remember leads him to conclude it’s likely to be the latter option.

“Is that your way of telling me I reek?”

“Yeah,” Scott admits, because when he wants to be obvious he is.

Stiles opens his bag, digs under his clothes for his towel and heads into the small bathroom. Under the spray, he purposely doesn’t let himself think about what it would be like if their little show for Brad had been real. There are lines. Some of them are straight, some of them are curved, and he’s been staring at them intently for a long time, even as he’s passed them by. It doesn’t have to be an issue. He can control himself. It’s about one of the only things he can control.

So he doesn’t think about the tone of Scott’s laughter, or the warmth in his smile, or the light that’s so often missing from his eyes, but can come back when bidden. He doesn’t think about the strength promised in the cut of Scott’s body, or the smoothness of his skin, or the softness of his lips. He washes himself down methodically, never lingering in one place, never touching too slowly or for too long.

Dried off and in his pajamas Stiles stares at himself in the mirror. His hair’s slicked down, reminds him of when he used to favor a buzzcut. The dark circles under his eyes are fading, his cheeks are beginning to look less gaunt. He looks more 25 than 35, which, considering he’s 18, is heading toward good. He brushes his teeth as he does a little hot shoe shuffle, ignores the clanking sound the pipes make as he runs the water to wash away his spit.

Scott’s dozing, partially spread eagled on the bed. One of his hands rests on his belly, the other is flung wide. His legs are akimbo, toes pointing outward. There’s enough space for Stiles to lie down as long as he doesn’t mind an arm under his back. He doesn’t mind an arm under his back. Scott barely stirs when Stiles settles next to him, and he knows that Scott could be alert at the first sign of danger, minutes before Stiles would be aware any existed, but it’s nice to see him so relaxed, so peaceful. Stiles allows the calm to claim him, falling into his own nap.

Two hours later he awakens to the sound of a grumbling stomach. He’s not sure if it’s his or Scott’s. His head’s resting in the junction of Scott’s elbow and his leg’s trapped under his knee. It’s surprisingly comfortable. He could stay here for days, he realizes, wedged against Scott like they’re parts of the same puzzle.

“I missed us,” Scott says on a snuffle, glancing at Stiles from under his lashes.

Stiles feels the corner of his lips twitch against his volition. He wriggles closer to the trunk of Scott’s body and pats him on the opposite shoulder, savoring the sticky warmth and security. He doesn’t bother moving his hand afterwards.

“Me too.”

*

They drive again at dawn, stopping at a gas station for a breakfast Stiles can feel clogging his arteries. They finished their apples a state ago. Stiles swallows down his medication and resigns himself to the next several hours wide awake. Scott drives, safe and steady and completely terrifying, as always. Stiles taps complex rhythms to distract himself, screaming ‘We Built This City’ at the top of his lungs whenever it comes on --- they only have three cassettes, so it comes on several times over the course of a day. He’s in the middle of a particularly impressive ‘rock and roll’ when Scott pulls off at a rest stop. The sun bakes them as they stand surveying their surroundings.

“Even my blood’s boiling,” Stiles says with a whine.

He pulls the hem of his shirt up and drags it over his face. It’s relief for a second or two, and then flicks straight back to being horrible. Scott’s eyes slide over him as he fans himself dramatically, stomach tensing at the meagre breeze. He presses his lips together and flares his nostrils, gaze steadfastly averted. Stiles thinks he probably looks disgusting, sweat and dust painted across him like a second skin. Scott leans into the car to grab a bottle of water, tosses it without bothering to check his aim. He strips off his own shirt, toweling himself with no regard for Stiles’ desperate need to keep his libido tightly wound.

“The sun’s the worst,” Scott says with his own nasal wail. “Tell me again why we didn’t rent a different car? A car with A/C?”

“How dare you act like any of this is Roscoe’s fault. He’s sensitive to your slights, Scott, you know this. Remember how he broke down the first week Dad gave him to me, because you said you weren’t sure about his paintjob? Do not be surprised if we end up stranded in the middle of nowhere.”

“I’m pretty sure Roscoe broke down because Jackson removed his spark plugs in retaliation for you egging his car at Halloween.”

“Ahh, Jackson. Terrible times.”

“Has Lydia told you what he’s up to?”

Stiles takes a swig of water, shakes his head, trusting Scott’s peripheral vision. “No, man. Lydia knows I have negative fucks to give when it comes to Jackson Whittemore. And don’t you think that’d be a little weird? It’d be like you keeping Kira up to date on Allison.”

“I do keep Kira up to date about Allison,” Scott says with a little wave of his hands.

Stiles rocks back on his heels, presses his water bottle against his forehead. It gives no relief. “Of course you do.”

“You know we skype every Wednesday,” Scott continues, frown creasing his brow into an adorable wrinkle.

“Yeah, well, I don’t know anything about Jackson and I’m happy that way,” Stiles states definitively.

It’s a conversation killer for the next ten minutes, as they climb back into the car and continue the trek through Colorado, but then Scott switches the stereo off halfway through ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’.

“I love this song, I do, but this has to stop,” he says. “I can’t listen to this cassette again. Your mom would have wanted you to listen to some of your own music. Modern music. With less melody and more beat.”

“Dude, first you diss Roscoe and now you’re besmirching Starship? What is up with you?” Stiles says, injecting as much indignation as he can into his voice.

He’s not actually angry. He has to admit that listening to the same songs over and over lost its humor a state ago. He digs into his glove compartment and pulls out his ancient iPod and adapter, planting them in Scott’s lap.

Scott gives a thankful sigh, sets it up. Stiles expects some Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift or Beyoncé, because Scott has an unabashed love for all three, and not just because he’s fondly visualizing their accompanying videos, but instead ‘Alone’ starts playing for the fiftieth time and Scott starts to croon along.

“You bait and switched me, you asshole,” Stiles shouts.

Scott merely grins through, “And the night goes by so very slow, oh, I hope that it won't end though --- alone.”

*

They have another night at a motel before they get to Scott’s grandparents’ place in Kansas. This reservation was for twin beds. Stiles jumps on his before Scott can barrel past him, crosses his ankles and folds his arms behind his head. Scott watches him with wry amusement.

“Are we gonna go to the diner we saw or is this you turning in for the night?” he asks, stretching his arms up and over like his whole body’s sore. It speaks a lot to Roscoe’s lack of comfort that even a werewolf is feeling his effects. Stiles is oddly proud.

“I could eat,” Stiles answers. “Just wanted to mark my territory.”

Scott rolls his eyes so epically his whole head follows suit. He nudges Stiles out their motel room, fingers a brand against the small of his back. Stiles leans into it, pretending to be obstructive, but really just wanting more of Scott against him, more pressure, more heat. Scott curves a hand over his hip and propels him even faster.

The diner is a sterile place full of glass, stainless steel and chrome. The waitress who takes their order smiles at Scott like he’s made of sunshine and then brings him a free slice of pie. Scott thanks her, giving a radiant grin that could power a room without any need of solar panels. Stiles scoffs into his burger, not chewing enough before he swallows it down. He splutters into his soda, annoyed when his straw won’t cooperate with his need not to choke to death. Once he’s finally regained his ability to breathe he continues to glower at the token of Kristi’s affection.

“I’ll share,” Scott says, already slicing the giant wedge in half.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Stiles states.

Scott eats a fry, swirls his finger along the top of his glass. He looks earnest in the worst way when he says, “I don’t get it either. I’d totally attempt to seduce you with my cherry filling.”

“I’m sensing there’s a ‘but’ there.”

Scott smirks, spreads his hands until they’re indicating his body from top to toe. “But clearly I don’t have to.”

Stiles tosses a curly fry at his head.

*

The digital clock on the nightstand glows 3:02. Stiles has been checking it at about fifteen minute intervals, waiting for sleep to come. He can hear Scott in his own bed, breathing indicating he’s awake too. But he wants the illusion they’re going to sleep soon. Doesn’t want to disturb the quiet. He keeps his eyes firmly shut and imagines wolves jumping over a fence on the moon.

He doesn’t bank on a rustle of sheets and then Scott’s voice piercing through the dark. “Stiles?”

“Yeah, Scotty?”

“How do you stop thinking about it?”

He sounds fragile in a way he hasn’t for a while and Stiles can’t take it. He twists around and faces Scott, watches the dip and rise of his chest in the dim light cascading in from the motel sign outside their window. “Usually I hop in the shower and get acquainted with my best friend, lefty. Occasionally I stretch out wide and let righty get in the game too.”

There’s a snort and then a perfectly aimed pillow has landed on his head. Stiles barks a laugh through the fabric as he hears a muffled, “You know that isn’t what I meant.”

He keeps the pillow. Scott must remember the rules from his tenth birthday party. In war there can be only one victor, and it’s usually the one with the largest cache of weapons at their disposal. He sits up, rubs a hand through his hair.

“I try not to think about it in the first place,” he says honestly, giving Scott half a shrug. “Way I figure, I can tear myself up inside thinking about what I woulda, coulda, shoulda, or I can keep moving forward. Keep up the distractions, enjoy the fun moments, run away from my problems. It’ll probably come crashing down on me some time, but it’s working for now.”

He walks over to Scott, clutching the pillow, acting like he’s returning it like the charitable, caring friend he is. He carefully times his breathing and heartbeat so Scott won’t sense his deception. He reaches up to ruffle Scott’s hair and socks him in the belly with the pillow at the same time, skipping away with a laugh as Scott growls and flails. Scott arms himself in two seconds flat, crawls to his knees and adopts a predatory stance. He looks half-wild, eyes flashing red, and rather than be remotely scared, Stiles is delighted. It’s been a long time since he’s seen Scott unbridled. He clutches his pillows tightly, starting a circular motion with his arms as he advances. Scott’s expression is caught between laughter and aggression, teeth bared, eyes watchful.

Scott dodges his swing and whacks him in the knee. It unsteadies him for a moment, nothing more. Stiles feints left and then brings his pillow down on his back, but Scott anticipated the movement and has successfully wheedled his extra pillow out from his fierce grip at the same time. Stiles jumps away as Scott begins a two-pillowed assault, climbs onto his bed to arm himself with a throw cushion. He knows Scott has multiple advantages, but he still likes his chances, because Scott also has a sense of fair play. He’s careful, he’s considerate, and he worries about everyone’s safety above his own. All Stiles has to do to win is ignore the rules, and he’s been doing that for years now.

He ducks and rolls when Scott hits him again. Rather than escaping, he pushes right into Scott and sends them both careening to the floor. Scott gives a startled yell and Stiles wrests one of his pillows free, thumping him square in the face three times in quick succession, voice loud with maniacal laughter. He tickles with his other hand, digging his fingers in under the sleeve of Scott’s shirt. Scott wheezes with his own giggling, murmuring, “no” over and over, “you’re so cruel”, “you are the worst”, “I hate everything”. But Stiles knows it’s just for show. By now, Scott could easily have flipped him off.

Eventually, Scott tires of his attacks and he grips onto Stiles’ hips, lifts him up and over until his back’s on the floor. Stiles thinks he’ll go back to bed, but he’s wrong. Scott kneels above him and does the exact same thing he had, pummelling him with pillows and tickling all the while, until they’re both breathing heavily. Stiles’ hair is wet with perspiration and his jaw and chest are aching. He’s exhausted, now, eyelids feeling too heavy to stay open. He can’t remember the last time he felt this good. Scott slumps onto him, nestling into his neck. He’s a reassuring weight.

“Gimme two minutes and I’ll help you back up,” he mumbles into the thin skin at the base of Stiles’ ear.

“Mmmghph,” Stiles replies eloquently.

He wakes up several minutes later to find he’s on his bed with Scott wrapped around him. He falls immediately back to sleep.

*

Scott’s in the shower when Stiles wakes up. There’s only half an hour until check out. They’re running so, so late that Stiles groans and knocks his head into the mattress several times before surfacing. Scott’s grandma, Selena, hates him as it is, so Stiles decides against his own shower and hurriedly scrubs himself down with bottled water. He’s shirtless when Scott comes into the room, hair flattened against his head, pink darkening his cheeks. Scott quirks an inquisitive eyebrow at him and Stiles foregoes explaining to pull on the rest of his clothes and grab their stuff.

They agreed that Scott should be the one to drive up to his grandparents’ place, given that one of the reasons Selena hates Stiles is Scott’s two year old tales of his terrifying driving.

Stiles squirms in his seat, humming along to, “let the world around us just fall apart, baby we can make it if we’re heart to heart,” having successfully argued for a return to Starship’s comforting pop-rock above the Katy Perry they ended the previous day on.

“She’ll learn to love you,” Scott says, in what he clearly thinks is a comforting tone.

“I’m not good enough for her grandson.”

Scott gives a shocked grunt. “Is that what she said?”

“She said it in Spanish rather than English, so I don’t think she intended for me to understand her, but yeah.”

Stiles bounces his knee, focusing on the movement to center himself.

“I guess she’ll have to deal, then,” Scott says, mulishly.

Stiles grins at him. “I dare you to say that to her face.”

“We won’t be able to afford to eat if we have to go stay at another motel,” Scott reasons, with his own smile firmly in place. He stretches his hand over, taps Stiles’ bouncing knee. “You know she couldn’t be more wrong, don’t you?”

“Yeah, of course. I mean, I think she thought we were boyfriends rather than best friends when she said it anyway.”

“That doesn’t change what I said,” Scott responds with another tap. Stiles bites at his lower lip to distract himself from the drag of his fingertips.

“I got over any feelings of inadequacy weeks ago,” he jokes.

“If it hadn’t been for you,” Scott starts, but Stiles won’t let him finish.

“I know, I know,” he says, “We’re not talking about it, remember? Because talking leads to thinking, and thinking leads to less fun.”

“Okay.”

“I texted Ron at Truckhenge that we’d be late, so he’s still expecting us.”

“We’re really going there?”

“Yup, turn at Northeast Seward Avenue.”

Scott gives a mock-aggravated sigh. “I knew I should’ve put more time into reviewing our schedule.”

“Ahuh, sucks to be you. C’mon, we only have three stops like this on our way to Florida.”

“And twenty on the way back. You’re prevaricating.”

Stiles doesn’t respond, because it’s a truth that doesn’t need to be spoken. He recognizes that it’s kind of Scott’s grandparents to let them stay the next couple of nights. He understands that Scott hasn’t seen them for three years. That they’re family and Scott thrives on familial connection. He gets all of that, he does. He simply finds it difficult to want to be somewhere he isn’t wanted. He made light of Selena Delgado’s words, but they hurt when he first heard them, and it’s a thought he’s struggled against more than once. Maybe he isn’t good enough for Scott. Maybe that explains a lot of things.

Truckhenge is authentically awesome in an over-the-top kind of fashion that Stiles would like to assume can only be found a little ways out of central Topeka, but realistically knows exists everywhere. Scott’s actually into it more than he is. There are five other travelers there who’ve already been through the guided tour, but Ron still shows them his artwork, chatting away in a friendly, unassuming manner. He tells them about the family’s farm that once was, regales them with stories about his creative inspiration while forcefully proclaiming he’s not an artist, and lambasts the nearby Westboro Baptist Church with the kind of colorful language that Stiles is sure he’s going to imitate in years to come.

This is the kind of thing road trips are made for, Stiles thinks. Offbeat attractions and eclectic characters. Beacon Hills has its own quirks, always did, even before creatures that go bump in the night, but it pales in comparison to this.

Vintage trucks point toward the sky, anchored by what Ron calls ‘an imperial shit-ton’ of concrete. They don’t really bear any resemblance to Stonehenge. They have words scrawled on them, one saying ‘rise up’, another saying ‘freedum isn’t lost’. There’s a sign nearby saying ‘warning: man with idea’. They walk around for an hour, with the sun blazing down on both them and Ron’s installation entitled ‘Beer Bottle City’.

It’s not the weirdest thing Stiles has ever seen, not by a long shot, but it’s still bizarre. Scott gets a certain light in his eyes that speaks of giddy enthusiasm. Stiles thinks this whole trip’s been worth it just to see that again.

“You boys just passing through?” Ron asks, not so curious as to sound suspicious, but enough that it’s not a pleasantry --- he genuinely wants to know.

“Visiting my grandparents for a couple days,” Scott confirms.

“Been getting a lot of your kind passing through lately.”

“Our kind?” Scott asks, warily.

Stiles can see the calculation in his stare. It’s entirely probable Ron could know hunters and be able to spot a werewolf a mile off, but it’s equally as probable he’s homophobic and has misread Scott and Stiles’ relationship, like so many others have over the years. There could be plenty of reasons he hates the Westboro Baptist Church, while still agreeing with many of their views.

“Californians,” Ron explains. “The current ‘global financial crisis’ has everyone traveling around this great big land we call home rather than jetting off. Fan-fucking-tastic for me. I should start charging more admission.”

Stiles smirks to himself, kicks at the dust. “You don’t charge any admission.”

“Exactly!”

An hour later, after looking at some native plants and telling Ron that they really don’t want to try fishing, but thanks all the same, they’re on the road again.

The drive to Scott’s grandparents’ place is painfully short. Stiles doesn’t quite understand how he’s successfully survived werewolves, a kanima, Gerard Argent twice, the kitsune, thinking he’s lost his mind, wendigoes, and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with Lydia, all with a stiff back and a brave face, but the thought of Scott’s well-meaning family has him wanting to violently throw up and crawl into a fetal position.

Scott hip-checks him as he heads toward the house. He then proceeds to snuggle Selena and speak the only Spanish he knows, leaving Stiles with the bags. Stiles doesn’t grumble. He plasters on a smile, wrestles the bags out of the back of the Jeep, successfully avoids falling on his ass.

“Is that little Zbigniew I see?”

That’s the other thing. Scott’s grandparents refuse to call him by his chosen name. And constantly give him an appellation that isn’t true. He’s steadfastly not going to point out he’s a quarter-inch taller than Scott most days.

“Hey, Mrs. Delgado,” he says, putting his duffle down so he can give her a little wave.

She tuts, drags him in for a kiss to the cheek. He tries not to wriggle as she hugs him tighter.

“You’re sunburned,” she says with a wrinkle of her nose. “Come inside, I have the perfect cream for that. It’ll be soothing and have you looking all fresh-faced and handsome, as usual.”

“Oh yeah, she really detests you,” Scott murmurs as he takes his bag and leads the way to the guest room.

Scott’s grandpa, Benito, is there, putting a blanket no one will need on the end of Stiles’ bed. He straightens up, smiles at them both.

“Good to see you finally made it,” he says with a conspiring wink. “Got caught up in Vegas?”

“No, Truckhenge,” Scott replies, seemingly oblivious to Benito’s look of disappointment. Stiles knows it’s intentional ignorance.

Scott and Benito hug and Stiles gets a hearty clap on the back. He’s a little overwhelmed already and it’s only just gotten dark. He wonders if he could fake a headache and stay here, curled up under the covers.

“Sorry we couldn’t spare another room,” Selena says, coming into the bedroom with a jar of lotion. She begins smearing the cream over Stiles’ nose, lathering it perilously close to his eyes. “James broke up with his girlfriend and put half his worldly possessions in Benito’s study. He’ll be here later with his mother and sister.”

James is Scott’s cousin. He’s around Derek’s age, and last time Stiles met him, he was about half as friendly. His mom, Rosa, is almost identical to Melissa. Stiles has never met Scott’s cousin Anna, but Scott used to chat to her on facebook a lot, before life turned upside down.

“It’s okay that we’re in the same room,” Stiles says, not sure if Selena was talking to him or Scott. “We’ve been sharing during most of the trip so far.”

She gives him an assessing look and he can feel heat rising up the back of his neck.

“Come down for dinner when you’re all washed up. I made tacos for you, special. They were always your favorite, weren’t they?”

Stiles nods vigorously, because it’s true, and because he’s never been able to handle the way she looks at him like she can see all his carefully concealed secrets.

Scott slides a hand over his shoulder, gives it a light press. “You don’t need to feel anxious. You’re family.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to do with that. He can’t explain that that’s actually one of the reasons he’s freaking out, that he’s getting things twisted and it’s making him question everything he thought he knew, that he isn’t used to a larger family and he doesn’t have the skills to deal with it right now. He nods, miserably, washes his hands beside Scott at the sink, purposely not looking into the mirror.

Watching him at dinner, Stiles is reminded that Scott’s always been a nice, polite young man in a way he never has. Scott’s outwardly grateful, saying thanks every minute, plus he gets up to help serve the side dishes. He even finds time to nudge his leg against Stiles’, quick glance an attempted reassurance.

The food is delicious. Selena’s family used to own their own restaurant when she was young and she has all their old recipes. Stiles really does love tacos and even though he’s been suffering from a low hum of nausea all day, he finds that as soon as the food is set in front of him, he’s ravenous. He eats silently, reminding himself to slow down, and listens to the conversation around him. To his left, Anna teases James about getting a new girlfriend when he’s barely broken up with the last. Stiles wonders how someone with such a personality deficit could attract anyone, let alone any two. To his right, Scott’s telling Rosa about his favorite works of art at Truckhenge. She seems genuinely interested, which is sweet. He’s not sure even Melissa would feign curiosity about some guy’s novelty attraction intended as a major ‘fuck you’ to the county he lives in.

“Nursing, huh?” Benito says suddenly. It’s a non sequitur, but Scott acts like it’s an ongoing conversation. The rest of the table goes quiet, like this is something that must be heard.

“That’s the plan.”

“Didn’t get good enough grades to become a doctor?”

Stiles wants to leap in and defend Scott, for so many reasons, not least the assumption that good grades aren’t needed for nursing, that being a nurse would be inferior to being a doctor, but he knows Scott wouldn’t want that. He hasn’t always managed to be this restrained. He’s learned a lot. He’s had to learn a lot.

“Scott was close to being salutatorian,” he offers instead, realizing that it’s a mostly futile pronouncement given that Scott’s extended family has no idea what he’s been through in the last two years and therefore has no idea just how incredible it is.

“That’s wonderful,” Selena says, giving her husband a stern glare. “Pay no attention to Benito. You follow your heart. If your heart says nursing, we won’t question it.”

“Thank you,” Scott says sincerely.

“If you were almost salutatorian then you should have no trouble becoming a doctor, though,” Benito says with his own glare at Selena.

Stiles’ fingers tense against the handle of his fork. He takes a slow, steady breath.

“Maybe not,” Scott says mildly. It’s the same kind of mild he uses against any of his foes. Stiles watches him carefully, notes the steel in his gaze. “But, you know, high quality nurses are always needed and I like the interaction it involves, the personal connection. I can specialize or I can diversify. Also, I’ll be out there helping people in a fraction of the time it takes to become a doctor. Mom’s my hero and I would do anything to be half the person she is. So, yeah, nursing, that’s what I wanna do.”

Benito shrugs at this. There’s a twinkle in his eye. “All right, it sounds like you have your reasons.”

Scott tips his head in acknowledgement. “I’m glad you can see that. Pass the salsa, please?”

Stiles is about to internally celebrate the peaceful end to the tension, when Selena leans forward and asks, “And what are your plans, Zbigniew?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” he replies succinctly. It’s the perfect death knell to the conversation.

He hasn’t planned anything beyond this trip. He honestly never thought he was going to live to see college so now that it’s a possibility, he’s at a crossroads. He could do anything, but his only passion the last few years has been survival. He hasn’t been thinking about it. Just one more avoidance in a long line, necessary for his safety and sanity. It’s not like he’s going to be the first kid to go to college without knowing what to major in. Not like he’s the first teenager to see the life stretching before him as a maze to be negotiated.

The rest of the evening goes smoothly. After dinner they move to the family room. James talks more as he drinks more wine, telling Stiles about the furniture store that he owns. He sounds like he’s trying to hire Stiles as a salesperson, which is entirely likely, he supposes. He could be good at selling people bedroom sets and wardrobes they don’t need, if he wanted to be. He really doesn’t want to be. Anna and Scott get into a conversation about a book he’s never read so he tunes most of what they say out and simply enjoys the lull and flow of Scott’s voice.

He starts to yawn at around 11. Can’t stop. He stifles each yawn with his fist, with his napkin, with a slice of cake, but there’s nothing for it. Scott begins to yawn shortly after, eyes going lazy.

“Go sleep,” Rosa orders. “We’re showing you around Topeka tomorrow so you’ll need your strength.”

“No, why? I’ve been around Topeka before,” Scott mock-grumbles.

Anna punches him lightly on the arm. “You have, but Ziggy hasn’t.”

“If you’re gonna shorten his name, could you at least use the shortened version everyone else uses? It’s Stiles. You know it’s Stiles.”

James gives a never-before-seen smile. “Nope. He’s Ziggy now.”

“Stop terrorizing our guests,” Selena commands.

“Or we’ll terrorize you back,” Scott says, pretending to snap at Anna’s fingers. He looks comfortable, at home. It reminds Stiles that there are parts of him he has no clue about.

“Um, goodnight,” Stiles says, standing. “Thanks for the lovely meal.”

There’s a murmur in response, but he’s already walking at that point.

Upstairs, he leans against the wall and tries to relax his muscles. He turns to Scott. “Is it all right if I shower first?”

“Of course,” Scott says. He goes to a nearby linen closet and pulls out a towel, hands it over with a small, concerned smile. “If you need anything else, just tell me, okay?”

Stiles takes the longest shower he has on the trip so far. He scrubs himself down, attempts to loosen the tight coil of his body. He feels spring-loaded. He doesn’t even know why he’s finding it so hard to cope. He suspects it might be because everything’s so normal, and isn’t that fucked up? This is the first point on the trip that feels like down time, like they don’t have a deeper purpose. It has him antsy and frustrated. He’s always been high strung, quick to irritation and quicker to excitement, and after two years of battling supernatural forces, he has what his doctor would refer to as an elevated arousal rate. Which --- part of him really wished it meant sexual arousal, because at least he could easily deal with that. It doesn’t. He’s been entrenched in a fight or flight response for months at a time, so coming down from that is hard.

Stiles can ignore many things, but his body’s rebelling against him. It’d be easy to dismiss it, to roll his eyes at himself and wonder why he’s reacting this way when Scott’s obviously fine. But Scott’s not fine either. His small, broken voice last night was proof of that. So he’s stuck. He’s forced to accept that they’re irrevocably changed by what they’ve been through, what they’ve been compelled to do. There’s no easy slide back into a real, wholesome life, no matter how hard they try. Just because they succeeded in returning Beacon Hills into being a stable, relatively monster-free town --- that doesn’t mean they walk away unscathed. He may only have two visible scars, Scott may not have any at all, but the lacerations cut more than skin deep.

He realizes he hasn’t brought any other clothes into the bathroom with him when he dries down, slips his boxers back on with a wince. They’ll be acceptable for another night, probably. He walks quickly to the bedroom, hoping Selena and Benito don’t decide to check up on them. He doesn’t think he could take the mortification in his already fragile state.

The door to the room’s closed. When he tentatively opens it, he sees Scott smoothing down a comforter over what looks like a double bed. He belatedly figures out it’s the singles pushed together.

He gestures limply. “What are you doing?”

“Thought it’d be more comfortable,” Scott says. “I was kinda cramped last night.”

“Oh… kay.”

Scott looks unsure, hesitant. “You want me to change it back?”

“No. No, it’s --- it’ll be good.”

Scott leaves the room. Stiles sits on the edge of the bed, drags his towel over his hair. He doesn’t bother with his shirt. It’s still hot. He texts his dad, Lydia, Derek, Isaac, Danny, and Allison, giving them updates and successfully distracting himself for ninety seconds. Then he plays as many games of Angry Birds as he can while waiting for their responses. They range from a single ‘okay’ (Derek) to a longer ‘good to hear you’re safe and sound’ (Dad), to a six text long description of what’s happening at home (Allison).

He isn’t fretting. That isn’t his way. He isn’t agonized and confused. If he believes this hard enough, maybe it’ll be true.

He slides up the bed eventually, pulls the sheet over himself for show rather than necessity. It’s shockingly cozy on top of the comforter. He can’t even feel where the two beds join. He stares up at the ceiling and wonders if he’d be making his life unbearably awkward if he asked Scott about the whole… thing. There’s a marked difference between sharing a bed to save money, sharing a bed because they collapse in a heap together, and actively choosing to share a bed because reasons. Especially when Stiles isn’t fully cognizant of the reasons.

He’s not going to hope Scott’s reasons follow the same path as his. He’s over that type of optimism.

Stiles has closed his eyes when Scott slides back into the room. Scott flicks off the bedside lamp and clambers next to him. He immediately rubs his hand down over Stiles’ neck and arm, fingers a gentle but firm glide. It’s the worst kind of good. The kind that Stiles shouldn’t revel in.

Stiles tilts in Scott’s direction. “Are you scent marking me?”

“Yeah, is that a problem?”

“No. But why?”

“Instinct. Unfamiliar place, different smelling shampoo, Alpha senses running away from me. I have to anchor myself and you help. You always have.”

“So it’s like you’re reclaiming me.” Stiles huffs out a deep breath, rolls until he’s facing Scott. He can only see his eyes shining in the dark, but it’s enough. “Is that what this whole trip is about?”

“We planned this when we were eleven. Most of the plans were yours. You wanted to celebrate the anniver---”

Stiles cuts him off. He doesn’t need to hear that part. He knows every ridge and bump of that part like one of his scars he can’t stop touching. “Yeah, sure, but we basically hadn’t talked for three weeks when you turned up on my doorstep with a flourish and announced you had tickets for Disney World, so…”

Scott pokes him in the forehead. “Us not speaking wasn’t a choice. Neither of us had any time, as you know, since you were too busy for me too. We texted.”

Stiles can’t help himself. All of his confusion comes bubbling out of him; a chemical reaction to Scott’s nearness, to a surplus of evasion.

“Answer the question, Scott.”

“Yes, it’s about reclaiming you. I know you’re not mine to claim, but I need you, Stiles, and you can’t tell me you don’t feel the same way. I don’t call you my best friend out of some misguided, juvenile need for labels, I do it because you’re the greatest person I have ever had or will ever have by my side.”

Stiles opens his mouth several times, but no sound comes out. There’s no adequate response. Scott twists until he has his back to him and Stiles can hear his angry, labored breathing.

“You’re feisty when you’re worked up,” he says, because he has to say something, and he has a horrible feeling he’d go too far and reveal too much if he was sincere.

“Shut up and be the big spoon.”

Stiles carefully wraps his hand around Scott’s waist, pulls him close into the curve of his body. They’re both shirtless so there are several points of contact between them with nothing in the way. It’s good in a way Stiles hasn’t allowed himself to have. Right in a way he shouldn’t want. Scott’s skin is warm and smells of lemon-scented soap. Stiles does some of his own scent marking, softly skimming his fingers over his forearm and chest. It makes a surge of electricity shoot up his spine, but he doesn’t stop until Scott speaks.

“No more tickling,” Scott says. It sounds more plea than order.

“It’s not deliberate,” Stiles replies, quietly. His chin is tight against the back of Scott’s neck. He could get attached to having Scott within his arms, solid and his to hold. “I don’t mean the tickling. I mean everything. I never wanted --- But you know that. You’ve never acted like I’m to blame. You’ve always had my back. You’re not just my best friend, Scott, you’re my savior.”

“I wasn’t alone,” Scott points out. “We’re all saviors.”

“So why can’t we save ourselves?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s okay not to have all the answers. Perhaps the whole point of life is that we’re supposed to rely on one another.”

“You’re being all wise again.”

“Must be hungry.”

Stiles buries his laugh into Scott’s shoulder. He drifts off shortly after, exhaustion finally overtaking his racing mind.

*

Topeka is like any large country town masquerading as a capital city. It’s quaint, it’s charming, it’s fiercely protective of its city status. It wants to be larger than it is in every way, to appeal to a wide spectrum of tourists and convince them to settle down there. Stiles enjoys it immensely with a strange mixture of ironic and completely candid affection.

Gage Park is by far his favorite of all the places they visit. There are only so many museums he can go to before he is over it, and while he has a healthy appreciation for the historic, he doesn’t really have the attention span or the patience for all old all the time. There’s a vintage carousel and a mini-train at Gage Park. He and Scott ride the mini-train four times. They would’ve gotten five turns if James hadn’t forcibly shoved them toward the zoo.

Stiles can’t deny it, he’s starting to feel young again. Uninhibited, spontaneous. He eats ice cream, he comments on the people around him in soft-spoken asides that have Scott alternately frowning and bursting into laughter. He snatches Scott’s waffle cone and runs off as fast as he can, licking it all over when Scott finally catches up to him.

Scott raises an eyebrow. “You really think that’d stop me from claiming what’s mine?”

Scott grasps his wrist, holds it steady, and takes a big, obvious bite of the saliva-covered treat. Stiles watches him, transfixed.

Anna slides to a stop near them and gives a loud, disgusted ‘yech’. “They’re flirting again, James, make them stop.”

James and his girlfriend Tasha saunter over. “There’s no stopping young love.”

“They’re sweet,” Rosa adds. “Why would you want to stop that?”

Scott doesn’t say anything like Stiles expects him to. He doesn’t vehemently deny that they’re a couple, doesn’t even give Stiles a look of great amusement. He takes one more bite of his waffle cone and nudges the rest to Stiles’ mouth.

“You deserve it,” he says with an evil grin.

Stiles eats the rest. He’s never believed in wasting food. He also doesn’t want to reveal how on edge he is. He’s sure he’s overreacting.

They go to a place called Grover’s Smokehouse for lunch. Tasha complains about the décor, the sticky table, the service, and the shortage of fries, but Stiles likes it. His ribs are delicious and they didn’t cost much, so he’s happy. He hasn’t been to a restaurant that almost exclusively serves barbecued meat before. His dad would think he’s in heaven. He takes a few pictures and sends them, gets a, “glad you’re enjoying yourself, look at me in my misery” text back and a picture of his dad with a carrot stick wedged in his mouth.

For the afternoon they walk along the Shunga Trail, a concrete pathway that crosses Shunga creek, and Stiles and Scott tell everyone about their successes in Lacrosse during Junior and Senior year as they dodge cyclists. There’s a reasonable amount of fabrication in their retelling. For instance, they recount a game neither of them were actually at. Scott’s gotten scarily good at lying, can always find a way to bend the truth. It’s simultaneously disconcerting and admirable.

By evening, Stiles is worn out. He’s had way more fun than he anticipated, but he’s also longing for some alone time, a space to decompress. He’s social, he’d probably class himself more of an extrovert than not, but he doesn’t deal well with constantly wearing a mask. Eventually, the protective shell wears thin and he says his every thought. His every invariably cutting thought. He asks if it’s all right if he lies down for a while. Scott looks concerned for all of three seconds, but must sense that Stiles has his reasons.

He flops down onto the left bed. Scott separated them in the morning, muttering that he didn’t want his grandparents to get an impression. Stiles hadn’t mentioned it at the time, but he’d noticed how Scott hadn’t said ‘wrong impression’. Stiles doesn’t sleep. He can’t. He googles random subjects he’s thought about on the trip so far and gets into a conversation with Derek about werewolf packs that reside in Kansas. He reads through directions for the rest of the road trip for the nine hundredth time, reacquaints himself with the list of attractions he and Scott want to experience first when they make it to Disney World. He unpacks and repacks his duffel, wondering if there’s a way to create more space. He has a leisurely hour and a half to himself before he decides to brave spending time with everyone again.

Scott smiles at him when he hovers in the doorway, which is nothing new, but does somehow stop him from breathing for a full five seconds. He thinks he shouldn’t be shocked by an expression he’s seen a hundred times before, but he is, he can’t help it. Scott also shuffles over on the couch and pats the cushion. Stiles settles next to him, listening to the surrounding conversation and contributing when he’s called upon.

After dinner they announce that they’re heading to bed early. They’re starting off at five in the morning, planning to drive from Topeka to Atlanta all in one day. It’ll be fourteen hours of driving as a conservative estimate.

Selena drags him into a hug when he least expects it, Scott already in their room. She brackets his arms, looks him up and down. “You’ve grown into such a good man,” she says. He can’t believe it, but she sounds proud. He blinks at her, feels a blush creeping over his skin. “I know I don’t need to tell you to take care of Scott for us.”

“No,” Stiles admits, “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Scott safe.”

“Thank you, Stiles,” she says, before kissing him on the cheek and letting him go. He stares after her for longer than is strictly advisable.

Back in the room Scott’s pushed the beds together again. He’s chatting to someone on his phone, looking relaxed and happy. He isn’t holding tension in the set of his shoulders, isn’t hunched or arched. He’s loose, unguarded. It’s the perfect look on him. Stiles is struck all over again by how his body reacts against his will whenever he’s not keeping a tight hold on the reins. He can feel his blood pumping a mile a minute, a cacophony of sound reverberating through his entire being.

This feels like an obstacle course laid out before him. If he turns left he might end up drowning in quicksand. If he turns right he’ll have to climb over a 10 foot high wall. If he pushes forward he’ll be forced to crawl under an unending stretch of barbed wire. And if he doesn’t try at all he’ll always wonder what could have been.

He walks forward, strips out of his clothes. It’s a relief to remove another layer of artifice and he isn’t as self-conscious as he probably should be. He stretches up, rolls his hips forward. Scott watches him carefully. He must be imagining the heat in his eyes, but there’s something there, barely concealed. Stiles twists his arms from side to side, gives a full-bodied wriggle. He keeps expecting Scott to look away, but that doesn’t happen. Hell, Scott stares at him as he finishes his call, sets his phone to charge. Stiles flexes a little more, just to see the reaction. It’s small, but it’s there. Scott’s throat works and his eyelids flutter for a second.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it,” Stiles says, sitting on the bed. “Selena called me Stiles.”

“I’m shocked,” Scott murmurs, giving him the mischievous smile he always uses when he’s being sarcastic. Stiles finds it adorable, did so even before his hormones starting playing merrily with his soul. He smirks despite himself.

Stiles is definitely not imagining Scott focusing on his mouth. He licks his lips and Scott follows the movement, wets his own lower lip like they’re playing a game of call and answer.

He needs to make a decision. Should he keep pushing, or should he avoid doing so like he’s successfully evaded everything else? There’s a reason he hasn’t talked to Scott about this. In fact, there are several. His top concern is --- what if he’s imagining half of it? Scott’s never shown this kind of interest in him before, and there’s no certainty he’s showing it now. It could be rampant misinterpretation of completely platonic gazing. Another one is --- what if Scott is attracted to him, but not interested in them changing the nature of their relationship? What they have is good. It doesn’t need sex to be better. If the closest they ever physically get is half-naked cuddling, then Stiles will still have had a life fulfilled. And then there’s one of the other reasons, one that has been tearing strips away from him, piece by tiny piece --- what if he brings it up and then everything’s awkward for the rest of the trip? They’ve been having fun. He doesn’t want to fuck it up.

He’s always assumed they’ll grow apart as they grow older. And they did, for a while. They drifted. They’ve been through all kinds of hell and they needed the space. They’ve been forced to grow up before their time; to be responsible, to put away childish things. Now that it feels like there’s still a chance for them to be young and carefree, he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize their delicate arrangements.

The decision’s practically been made for him. Stiles lies down and pulls the sheet over his legs. Scott gives a little grunt when he accidentally skims his calf with his foot, flips over onto his stomach and wraps a hand over his torso. His hand sears through Stiles’ T-shirt, burning tantalizingly against his rib cage.

“The light,” Stiles says, measuring out the vowel sounds like they’re a rare commodity.

Scott lifts his hand up, waves it around vaguely. “You were the one who came in last.”

“Can you sleep with it on?”

“Always.”

“Me too. Guess that solves that problem.”

Scott gusts out a sigh against the side of his face. It tickles and torments. “Sleep, Stiles.”

Stiles rolls his shoulders, kicks his legs about a little. “You’re the bossiest person I know.”

“I’m an Alpha. Bossiness is a necessary facet of my personality.”

“I like that you can use phrases like necessary facet while falling asleep.”

Scott buries his face against Stiles’ neck. His lips brush, soft and damp, against his skin as he says, “I like that you can stop talking any second now.”

Stiles does stop talking. If only because it’s hard to talk when your tongue has welded itself to the dry roof of your mouth.

*

Stiles wakes up with an aching hard-on. He’d expected this sooner, given how wired he’s been the whole time, but no, this is his first boner waking up entangled in Scott. The light’s off, so Scott must have gotten up at some point, and lain down again basically on top of Stiles. He’s heavy, hot, and smells pleasantly musky. His everything is doing nothing to dissuade Stiles’ dick from piercing a hole through his boxers. And, of course, because his life is a series of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad events, the alarm goes off and Scott startles awake. He stares down at Stiles for a second, blinking and smacking his lips together, and then gets up and stumbles toward the window, pulling at the blind and peering outside.

“Dark,” he mumbles, clearly half-asleep.

“Yeah,” Stiles replies. “Sure is, buddy.”

He takes it as the reprieve it so obviously is and damn near runs to the bathroom. He feels guilty, and betrayed by his body, but he hasn’t touched himself since Vegas and it only takes three strokes before he’s coming into a wad of tissues. He’s resigned himself to the fact Scott’s probably fully aware of what he just did, but he still takes pains to act like absolutely nothing happened as he goes through his usual morning routine. When he goes back into the bedroom, toiletries bag in his clutches, Scott’s fully dressed and holding his toothbrush.

“I’ll ---” Scott says, gesturing toward the door. “And then we can go.”

“Yeah,” Stiles answers absently.

Stiles hadn’t thought 5 am really existed before Scott became a werewolf. He’s seen it too many times since then to deny it, but part of him still thinks it’s the wrongest of the wrong that he should ever be awake during it. As such, he’s even more sluggish and uncoordinated than usual. His feet drag, his hands flail listlessly.

He puts his toiletries bag in his backpack, zips it up, starts to strip the bed and turn it back into two twins. Halfway through, Scott reappears, more alert and ready to assist.

They leave their thank you present and card on the stairs, pack their duffels in the car, and are away.

*

The drive is uncomplicated. They drive straight on through Kansas City and St. Louis, which Stiles thinks is a shame, but he supposes they can spend more time there on the way back. They talk about everything and anything. Scott demands he explain Star Wars in fine detail and then says that he now never needs to watch it. Stiles gets graphic about how he’s going to tie Scott up and sit him in front of a television and blu-ray player. They stop off for food and gas several times, take an extended break at one truck stop, napping together as the sun beats down on them. After that, Scott takes his shirt off and fans himself with the map print outs they brought just in case. It’s incredibly distracting. Stiles has to constantly remind himself to keep his eyes on the road. When Scott takes over the driving it is both a blessing and a curse.

They go out of their way to visit Rock City. The barn advertisements pique their curiosity and Stiles had written it down before they started on their road trip as a possible stop along the way. It’s expensive, but worth it. They navigate through walking trails and move around incredible rock formations. They go into caverns and stare at blacklit statues. There’s also a Starbucks, so Stiles can finally get a decent coffee. He’s been having intense cravings for days.

The view is spectacular and the romantic in Scott pulls him up to Lover’s leap and tells the oft-told story of star-crossed lovers. Apparently a local Native American man was in love with a woman from a rival tribe and when his people found out they threw him from the lookout. Stiles thinks the story’s probably reductionist as well as untrue, but Scott looks so wistful when he’s telling it, he doesn’t cut in.

“They say he never revealed her name,” Scott says, rubbing his hand over the back of his neck. “He sacrificed himself for her.”

It doesn’t take a genius to realize Scott’s drawing parallels between the story and his relationship with Allison.

“Who says that?” Stiles asks, because he can’t help himself sometimes, his cynicism is a part of him and has been for a while.

“The people of the internet,” Scott answers, giving him a playful tackle. He grasps hold of his shoulder and reels him in for a one-armed hug, then sweeps his free hand around toward the view set out before them. “They also say people can see seven states from up here. I’m thinking you won’t be able to, but I will.”

Stiles crosses his arms against his chest, forces himself not to lean into Scott’s arm. “Name them, then. Go ahead. Tell me all the states you can see.”

Scott starts on the left. “There’s Tennessee over there. Next is Kentucky. Then it must be Virginia. Um…” Scott pauses, tilts his head to the side, bringing it closer to Stiles’. “South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and of course, Alabama.”

“You know you’re not the only one who reads things on the internet?” Stiles asks, not really asking. “I read that it’s total bullshit. Because of where we are, half of those are below the horizon.”

“For you maybe, but I have werewolf senses, remember?” Scott whispers into his ear.

“They can’t beat actual physics,” Stiles returns.

“They can and do, frequently,” Scott says with a laugh. “You’re just gonna have to accept it, I’m magic and you’re not. I can see seven states and you can’t.”

“Pfft,” Stiles says with a roll of his eyes. “Like it’s a valuable life skill.”

It’s 7 pm by the time they leave, the sky a mixture of pinks, oranges and reds. Scott really does look magical bathed in this light; his features softer, his lips pinker, his eyes darker. Stiles has never thought of him as beautiful before. Handsome, yes, attractive, obviously, but not beautiful. Here, his beauty is impressive. It’s dangerous.

“I’ll call the B&B and apologize for us being late,” Scott says, suddenly, not seeming to care that Stiles had his phone poised ready to take a picture. In fact, he poses for a second, tipping his head up and giving Stiles a flirtatious smile.

“Good idea,” Stiles says, looking down at his phone. He didn’t completely capture the play of light over Scott’s smile, but it’s a keepsake photograph nonetheless.

He tries not to think about the fact they’re going to be sharing a bed again tonight. In concept it’s so much more torturous than in reality. He categorizes all the potential slip-ups he could make, all the ways things could go wrong. There’s a sliding scale of terror that has such waypoints as ‘as bad as that time I tried to kill Scott because I was hallucinating he was evil’, and ‘as bad as when Jennifer kidnapped my dad’, on the opposite side to ‘as bad as that time I said I’d never eaten a smorgasbord when I meant I’d never eaten a schnitzel’ and ‘as bad as the time I told Lydia she has hair.’

“We can be as late as we want,” Scott says. “We have our own cabin and the key’s under a fake rock.”

“We can go get something to eat, then. Awesome.”

*

They’ve settled into bed and are tucked around each other when Stiles’ phone goes. He frowns at it, contemplates throwing it against the wall, but then realizes it’s his dad’s ringtone.

“What’s wrong?” Stiles queries worriedly, immediately pacing.

“Nothing. I wanted to catch you before bed, is all.”

Stiles squints at the clock to confirm that he’s right in what he’s about to say. He’s right. “It’s two in the morning.”

“No it’s not, it’s… oh. Yeah. Time zones. My bad, kiddo.”

“It amazes me that you’re in charge of the law and order of an entire town.”

“It’s been a long day. How are you, anyway?”

“I’m exhausted, and you?”

“The same.”

“Stiles, come back to bed,” Scott calls, half-muffled, but still clear enough that he’s sure his dad would’ve heard.

His dad gives a surprised snuffle and then says, “Is that Scott?”

“Yeah.”

“You boys really sharing a bed?”

Stiles rubs at his fingernails with his thumb, swallows thickly. “Yeah.”

“Cuts costs, I suppose.”

Stiles lets out a derisive snort. There’s a tone there that suggests he and his dad will be having that conversation when Scott’s nowhere in earshot. His dad is the best. “Thanks for understanding.”

“I miss you, Stiles. I hope you’re having an incredible time.”

“I miss you too, Dad. And you know what? I really am.”

Stiles climbs back into bed. He takes comfort in Scott tugging him close and gusting a breath into his hair.

“Need you. Warmth,” Scott says against his temple.

“Dude, it’s like 70 degrees, and humid.”

“Used to it.”

“I’m nothing more than a glorified teddy bear to you, am I?”

“Mmm,” Scott rumbles. “I’ve named you Squishiski.”

“Oh my God.”

Scott pulls back for a second, smiles down at Stiles. He looks fond, and teasing, and everything Stiles has no hope resisting. He rubs his thumb over his cheekbone and then pinches his cheek. “Shh, Squishiski, sleep,” he says, slow like a hypnotist.

“I’m paying you back for this, when you least expect it.”

“I look forward to it.”

*

Their next stop is Fort Wilderness Resort at Walt Disney World. Stiles is keyed up with a combination of anxiety and nervous excitement that is detrimental to all surfaces in the car. He tries to stop tapping, but he can’t. Every song gets an extra percussive accompaniment. Scott’s arm becomes part of his performance. His firm, muscled arm as it stretches toward the gear shift. Stiles’ fingers dance the tango along its length, in perfect time with the music.

“You’ve had your Adderall, right?” Scott asks, a vague note of concern in his tone.

Stiles narrows his eyes at him, stops tapping. “Yes.”

Scott raises his eyebrows, casts a glance at his hands. “Are you sure you haven’t taken too much?”

“Dude, offensive and incorrect.”

“I don’t know how it works.”

Stiles nods vigorously. “No. Despite the fact I’ve known how to work your puffer since I was eight.”

It’s Scott’s turn to go narrow-eyed. He glares at Stiles. “Because my mom showed you. You’ve never let me near your medication. I’ve asked. You’ve denied.”

“Nothing’s stopped you from doing some research. You seem to love it oh-so-much these days.”

“I always thought you didn’t want me to,” Scott says, suddenly soft-spoken. “Why are you being like this?”

Stiles lets out a breath, bounces back in his chair. “I don’t even know.”

“Wanna take a break for a while? There’s a truck stop yards ahead.”

They stop. Stiles gets out the Jeep and begins to pace. He has all this excess energy and nowhere to place it. Scott watches him for a moment, then comes over.

“What do you need?” Scott asks, carefully.

This isn’t a panic attack, but it’s close. Stiles can feel it burbling at his edges, threatening to overcome him. He flings his arms out wide, can hear himself making a small, broken sound.

Scott wraps his arms around him. It’s the kind of full-bodied hug they’ve only shared once or twice, both times when they each thought the other was going to die. It’s somehow more intimate than their cuddling in bed. They’re face to face, chest to chest. Stiles can hear Scott’s heart thumping near his own. He’s hyper-aware of every hot, lean line of him, the shift and play of his muscles as he exhales and inhales.

“Scott…”

“Relax. Breathe with me.”

Stiles can’t do it at first. Scott’s breathing so slowly and his chest feels squeezed so tight, he needs more air. He sucks in a shuddery breath and concentrates on Scott’s hand smoothing between his shoulder blades, their knees pressed tight, the outside of a shoe knocking against his own.

“You’re safe. You’re secure,” Scott intones.

“I know,” Stiles says, laugh latching onto his words. “I’m not scared.”

“Could’ve fooled me.”

Stiles shakes his head, cards his fingers through Scott’s hair for an illicit, snatched moment. “It’s excitement.”

Scott grunts, pulls back. He gives Stiles a calculating look, like he’s trying to add him together and then find his square.

“You terrify me sometimes. You don’t even have to try.” Scott drags a hand up over his jaw and then gives him a gentle tap. “You should drive.”

Stiles does drive and it’s infinitely better. Scott makes pointed comments about how still he’s being and how easy it must be for Stiles to concentrate because of it. Stiles sticks his tongue out and guns the engine.

It seems like no time at all before they’re driving on the North Fort Wilderness Trail. They check in at the Reception Outpost. Stiles doesn’t pay much attention, too consumed by looking out the window and staring into the forest, reading the Gazette and chuckling at the idea of them going to a campfire sing-a-long featuring Chip ‘n’ Dale, so he’s surprised when Scott drives him toward a cabin. It’s all dark wood and rustic touches; the fake kind of rustic he likes --- the kind with all the amenities a person could want. Stiles shuffles into the room, notes the kitchenette and the bright upholstery of the furniture.

“I thought we were roughing it? Weren’t we gonna rent a tent?”

“You hate camping,” Scott says, as if that’s answer enough.

Stiles has been wondering this for a while, but it bubbles out of him when he sits on the double bed and it’s both springy and sinfully comfortable.

“How could you afford all this?”

“Unlike someone I know, I worked all through High School, put some money away in a savings account.”

“But that’s your college fund.”

Scott sits next to Stiles, nudges their shoulders together. “I have one of those too. We were always gonna do this, so I was prepared. It’s that simple.”

“I’ll pay you back.”

“No,” Scott says, crisp and authoritative. “I refuse to take a penny. You don’t owe me a thing.”

Stiles opens his mouth, frowns when Scott places his hand over it. He wants to lick it, to provoke a reaction. The reaction he wants probably wouldn’t be the one he’d get.

“Don’t argue about this, Stiles,” Scott continues, faux-menacing. He lifts his hand incrementally, raising a warning eyebrow.

“Let me at least pay for dinner,” Stiles says quickly, challenging Scott’s eyebrow raise with one of his own.

“All right. I’m gonna go freshen up.”

Stiles texts everyone that they’ve made it to the resort safe and sound, sprays on deodorant and changes his shirt. He thinks about debt and how he could possibly pay Scott back for everything he’s given him --- not only this vacation, but a thousand other things besides. But then Scott comes back into the room and he doesn’t have time to worry about it. He’s too busy trying to interpret something that looks a lot like an appreciative once-over.

*

They start the next day as early as they feasibly can. The idea is that they’ll hit a different theme park each day, starting with Magic Kingdom and finishing up with Hollywood Studios. They’re also going to Blizzard Beach at some point, but Scott says when they’re going to go is a secret. Scott’s actually a lot better at keeping secrets than Stiles ever wants to credit him for.

The morning is spent navigating the different lands within the park. They eat hideously overpriced food and wait in lines while playing word games. They buy even more horrendously overpriced merchandise and wear half of it. Scott buys a little girl a new ice cream when she drops the one she’d been eating, and when she thanks him she calls him Aladdin.

“Should I be charmed or offended?” he asks, looking at Stiles with the most confusion Stiles has ever seen. He laughs so raucously he thinks his head’s going to fall off.

Stiles’ favorite attraction they go to in the morning is Stitch’s Great Escape.

“Part of me wants to be cynical and jaded and unimpressed, but the biggest part is like, oh my God, this is so awesome,” Stiles yells, grinning.

Scott giggles back at him. “I know, right?”

The great thing about Disney World, Stiles reflects as he sits next to Scott and pats his stomach after eating a ludicrous amount of food, is that it reminds him that there’s still a place for childish wonder in his life. Rationally, he knows it’s a money-making business, that several of the Cast Members are out of work actors, that everything’s cardboard, smoke and mirrors, but seeing the enjoyment it brings to the people around him cancels out all the negative thoughts he could harbor. He knows his mom would have loved every second of this. Every ride and every activity. But since he couldn’t go with his mom, Scott is the next best person he could go with. Scott jumps up and down in joy, he befriends the other people standing in line with them, he throws himself headlong into feverishly enjoying everything --- and none of it’s faked, Scott really loves it here. It makes Stiles love it all the more.

They go on the Jungle Cruise, with Stiles mocking their guide the entire time. This is one of the hokey rides he’s not at all ashamed to mercilessly tear apart. He whispers into Scott’s ear and gets chuckles and playful pinches as a response.

“Shh, that could be you one day,” Scott teases, giving the underside of his knee a tickle. “I can easily imagine you in one of those costumes.”

The tour guide makes one of the worst puns Stiles has ever heard at that moment and he pokes Scott in the side as retaliation.

“There’s no way in hell I’d ever be reduced to uttering ‘you’re giraffing me crazy’,” he says.

“Ah, but you just did!”

They take a selfie in front of Cinderella Castle, both wearing Mickey ears. Scott sends it to Isaac and gets ‘which one of you’s Minnie?’ in return.

“So jealous,” Stiles says with a roll of his eyes. He looks at his reply from Derek. “‘How is this any different from Disneyland?’,” he recites in indignation. “Our pack sucks, Scott. They all suck.”

“No, I think he was asking for real. We should send him a list. With pictorial evidence,” Scott says with a sunny grin.

They spend the rest of the day doing just that. Stiles doesn’t know how successful they are, since they take photos waiting in line for Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, both of which they could have done at Disneyland, but it’s enjoyable knowing that Derek desperately wants them to stop.

“Look, there’s one row instead of two,” Stiles sends with a picture of Space Mountain. “God is in the details.”

The best reaction comes when Stiles sends him a text of Goofy with the caption ‘long lost relative?’ Derek actually calls at that point to cuss him out. It’s glorious. It has the added bonus of helping distract him from the fact Scott’s shirt is clinging to him in all the right places from their time at Splash Mountain.

They stay to see the fireworks at Cinderella Castle, even though the show’s at 10 pm and they’re supposed to be visiting Epcot in the morning. Stiles has loved fireworks ever since he can remember, likes the colors, lights and sounds, adores the expectation and suspense. There’s something about fear in a controlled environment that Stiles can’t get enough of.

He stares up at the fireworks, oohs and ahhs with the crowd and is about to surreptitiously sneak a glance at Scott, only to discover that Scott’s already staring at him. Scott’s gaze looks molten in the glow from the display, sparking with promise. Stiles turns abruptly away, pretending to be distracted by a particularly loud boom. For the first time in a long time he feels like a coward.

*

Back at their cabin, Stiles deliberates. He vacillates. He procrastinates. He ate a cookie earlier. It isn’t sitting well in his churning stomach. Scott watches TV and he watches Scott. The tension between them is practically tangible.

The thing is, he’s never liked being in the dark. Once he’s curious about something he wants to find it out to its bitter end. He’ll risk his life to attain answers, so risking a relationship doesn’t seem such a big deal. And he’s curious about Scott, because he keeps looking at him like he’s the moon and he’s caught up in his thrall. Even though he’s apprehensive, he’s at the stage where he’s also reckless and uninhibited, because he needs to know, definitively, once and for all. It’s possible his exhaustion is also contributing to his bravery. He’s always been the most courageous when he’s running on empty.

He sits next to Scott on the couch, uses the remote to switch off the TV.

“You keep looking at me like you’re waiting for something. I have to ask --- what is it that you want from me, Scott?”

Scott shrugs one shoulder, gazes at Stiles intently. “Whatever you’re willing to give.”

“I’d give anything for you. You know that.”

“Yeah.” Scott’s voice comes out husky, his pupils widen. Stiles thinks he’s remembering the multiple times he’s nearly died. And that’s not --- he’s trying to provoke some answers here. Needs to clear the air and point out that there’ve been some signals that are giving a likely false impression.

“Okay. I think we may have had a miscommunication. I was referring to sexalicious things, asking what you want. Snuggle-wuggle-wiggle times. The hokey pokey. Bangin’. Coitus I-don’t-think-I-could-interruptus. Between me and you.”

“Mmm,” Scott hums. His eyes flick to Stiles’ mouth, then back up. “So was I.”

Stiles stops breathing. His lungs have ceased working. His throat is blocked. This is the calm before the storm, or maybe the eye of the hurricane. He never expected this, not in his heart of hearts. He thought he’d make Scott laugh, prove to himself that it’s all been in his imagination. There was no scenario that played out in his mind where Scott returned his attraction. He hadn’t planned for that eventuality at all.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m never sure. About anything. But I’m willing to find out, if you are? I just… I want you to be happy,” Scott says, voice whisper-soft and just as fragile. “I want to be the person who makes you happy.”

Stiles shuffles closer, desperate to get his hands on Scott. He places one hand on his shoulder, the other on his leg. “I’m already happy with you, you know that, don’t you? You don’t have to sex me up to make me feel good.”

“I know,” Scott says with a look that’s a mixture of affection and desire. “But I’d enjoy sexing you up. My motivations aren’t entirely altruistic.”

“So hot,” Stiles sighs. He’s not sure if he’s teasing or not.

He leans forward. Scott meets him halfway. The anticipation is like the second hand on a clock, always ticking away, but largely ignored. Stiles closes his eyes, though he wants to keep looking at Scott, wants to witness every reaction.

Their first kiss is tentative, clumsy. Their teeth clack together and their noses get in the way. Scott cradles the back of his head, angles differently to adjust their position, until suddenly everything clicks. He relaxes into Scott’s coaxing, licks insistently into his mouth. It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t matter. It’s incredible. Stiles kisses deeper, longer, tries to tell Scott how much he’s wanted this, how good this feels, with each brush of their lips. Scott is heat and taste against him, fingers tethering him close, gripping the folds of his shirt. Stiles loses himself in it, in learning what Scott likes. He gives vocal appreciation for Scott’s many talents. He has a way of using his tongue that Stiles thinks should be illegal.

When they pull apart to take steady, sustained breaths, Scott strokes a thumb over his jaw, gazes at him heavy-lidded.

“Bed?”

Stiles pretends to reel back. “What kind of boy do you think I am?”

“A tired one,” Scott answers, honestly. He presses another kiss against the corner of Stiles’ lips.

“That is true. Okay. Bed.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to expect. He tells himself he’s building this up to be more than it has to be. It’s just sex. Sex that he’s never had before. With a person he loves. Who has had sex. Multiple times. He wants to be great for Scott, wants to get everything right. He’s keenly aware at this point that all the porn he’s ever watched is woefully inadequate. He takes off his shirt slowly, eyes trained on Scott. He’s finding it hard to move correctly, his limbs jerky and uncooperative. Scott divests himself of his own clothes, similarly lacking grace.

In bed, they kiss more, hands exploring wider expanses of skin. Scott sighs against his mouth, rubs a hand down his side. He doesn’t make any move to rock their hips together. Eventually he twists until he’s lying on his back, a warm, fond smile cast at Stiles.

“We should sleep.”

“Oh, you actually meant sleeping?”

Scott frowns. “Yeah, there's time isn't there?”

“All the time,” Stiles says.

He wonders if Scott sensed his fear, considers telling him it’s the kind of fear he feels on rollercoasters and during firework shows. But they don’t have to rush, and he can be patient, occasionally.

*

He wakes up hard, rubs a hand down his belly and toward his cock without thinking about it. He opens his eyes at a throaty moan, realizes in an instant that everything has changed. Scott’s sitting against the headboard looking at him, lips parted, chest working fast. His boxer-briefs are tented, material looking damp already. Stiles pushes up and lands a kiss on his lips, straddles his thigh. From this position he can do almost anything he wants. It’s a good place to be.

“Good morning,” Stiles intones, startlingly aware of Scott’s fingers trailing up his spine, his lips kissing a path down his neck.

“Very,” Scott replies into his Adam’s apple.

Stiles cards a hand through Scott’s hair, gently rolls his hips into Scott’s thigh. “What do you wanna do today?”

“Epcot!”

“I was hoping you were gonna say me.”

Scott grins, sly and arresting. “That too.”

“Tell me if this is horrible.” Stiles drags his fingertips over the bulge of Scott’s underwear, waits for his response. Scott moans again, bucks upwards, bites into his lower lip.

He captures Stiles for another kiss, using the distraction technique to wriggle until he’s gotten into a position where he’s kneeling. He holds Stiles’ hips firm, thumbs pressing into the indents there like they were molded for him.

“Not horrible,” Scott gasps.

They kiss for a while, Stiles getting more confident as Scott lets him explore. He really likes biting into Scott’s lower lip, soothing with his tongue. He loves the sounds Scott makes; breathy and low at the same time. He likes brushing a thumb over one of Scott’s nipples and listening to his moans. Obviously sensing that he doesn’t want him to be, Scott’s not exactly gentle. He digs his fingers into Stiles’ sides a little harder than Stiles thinks he otherwise might, nips his jaw whenever they’re not kissing.

Stiles palms his cock again, blood thundering through his veins so loud it’s almost all he hears. He pushes Scott’s boxer-briefs down until he’s springing free; rock-hard, red-tipped, and leaking. He’s seen Scott naked before, but never hard like this, never aroused because of him. It makes his throat go tight, a knot of longing building at the base of his stomach. Scott’s thicker, but not as long as he is. He curves to the right as opposed to the left. The differences are intriguing. He thinks he could spend hours mapping them. He eases down his own boxers and doesn’t think coherently at all. He surges forward until their dicks are aligned. It would be awkward if it wasn’t so right.

“It’s like they’re sharing a secret,” he says with a laugh.

“You’re the worst, you know that? You’re totally ruining the romance.”

“If you wanted romantic, you’ve made a huge mistake.”

Scott grins at him, scoots even closer. “Let me touch you.”

Scott wraps a spit-soaked hand around them both, watching intently as he strokes them. His hand is firm, dripping with their precome in a few seconds. Stiles knows he isn’t going to last, that this will all be over in a pathetic amount of time, but he doesn’t care, he can’t, because Scott’s peering up at him from beneath his eyelashes with a look of complete possession and it short-circuits his brain.

His lips are deep pink, glistening, perfect for another kiss. Stiles kisses like it’s the last thing he’ll ever do. It doesn’t take too much imagination. He remembers all the times he thought it was true, puts all his passion into breaking Scott apart. He only stops when Scott whimpers, shivering.

He can’t quantify what he wants, just knows he has to have it. He chokes on air, undulates his hips. Scott licks the sweat from the hollow of his neck, uses his free hand to smear his own sweat in its place.

“Are you gonna be weird about rubbing your come into my skin?” Stiles asks, trying not to keen as Scott strokes under his head like he’s coaxing the come out of him.

“Yeah.”

“I’m showering after this. It’s gonna go down the drain.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll remember,” Scott says, voice throaty and intense.

He fucks into his fist, pressing them tighter together. It’s burning hot --- the sense of urgency, the need. Stiles pushes his hips erratically, wraps his hand around Scott’s wrist.

“Yeah, Scotty. C’mon.”

He comes before Scott does, can’t stop himself. One second he’s grinding hard into the curl of Scott’s hand, the next he’s spurting all over them, grunting as his come hits Scott’s abdomen. He squeezes his eyes shut, shudders as he tries to breathe. His whole body has gone from tense to lax in two seconds and it’s the best feeling in the world. It isn’t hyperbole to say that it’s the best orgasm he’s ever had. He’s barely sentient when Scott comes, his own release jetting high.

He mashes them together, mouths at Scott’s collarbones, then tips them to the side. They land in a sprawl on the bed, Scott’s leg trapped underneath his. Scott’s too busy lazily painting designs into his happy trail with their combined come to care. Stiles kisses him again, going deep with it, filthy.

“Are you good?” he asks, watching the sweetest smile develop. Scott’s dimples have dimples.

“I’m good.”

“Yeah, you’re the best.”

An indeterminate amount of time passes before he gets up, trudges to the bathroom. He means to get a washcloth, but when he’s there he looks at the combined bath and shower, sizes it up. Back in the bedroom Scott’s spread eagled on the bed. He looks debauched, obscene, his hair all in disarray and his mouth ruby red.

“Come shower with me,” Stiles demands.

Scott gets up, unhurried, but not reluctant. He follows Stiles into the bathroom, climbs under the spray with him, immediately settles back against the tiles and pulls Stiles close.

“I don’t think we need to go to Epcot,” Stiles murmurs, pushing his thigh between Scott’s and anchoring his rolling hips. “Your body is a wonderland.”

Scott winces and groans, knocking their heads together. “We’re going. It’ll be fun and educational, which is the best kind of fun.”

“I’ll give you educational. Turn around.”

Scott does exactly as he’s ordered. Stiles finds himself staring at the planes and lines of his back, the tightness of his muscles. He has half-formed notions about what he wants to do. He wants his mouth over every inch of Scott, his fingerprints impressed where no one else will see them. He wants to watch his palms spread over his damp skin and know it’s all for him.

Common decency has prevented his gaze from lingering for too long in the past, but now he’s allowed to trace between Scott’s shoulder blades with his tongue, to gently press his fingertips into the crack of his ass and feel his tightly furled hole. Scott props his forearms against the shower wall, stands with one foot in front of the other, like he’s bracing for an impact. He leans his head on his arms, moans into each of Stiles’ exploratory touches.

He’s hard again, it’s impossible not to be. He ruts into Scott’s thigh as he reaches around and wraps a hand over his cock. He’s gratified to find Scott’s hard too, deep moan reverberating as soon as Stiles’ fingers play against his skin. Even though the movements are the same, the sensations are completely new. Stiles can feel every hitch of Scott’s breath, every shudder on an exhale.

“Hey, if you…” Scott starts, adjusting position. He arches his back into Stiles’ body, squeezes his thighs against his cock. He’s wet and tight, a channel for Stiles to slide into. “Like that,” he says.

Stiles tests it out with a couple hesitant thrusts. He’d thought everything had been perfect before, but this is infinitely better. He becomes hyper-focused on timing the pull and drag of them with stroking Scott off. Scott eases against him again and again, rivulets of water cascading down his back. He could happily do this all day, find Scott’s hidden desperation, the things he wants and doesn’t know how to ask for. He wonders what it’s like for Scott, with his heightened senses and his added strength. Is he longing to turn around, lift Stiles up against him, seat him on his cock? Or is he happy with Stiles’ mindless thrusting, the catch of them as they slide together?

He ensures Scott comes before him, this time. Presses his thumb against the slit of his cock and taunts him into letting everything go. Scott gives a breathy shout, trembling thighs squeezing even tighter. Stiles follows him in no time at all, collapsing and humming as water rains down on them.

*

Stiles couldn’t give anyone an accurate account of Epcot. He spends the entire day watching Scott. He could say that the place is gigantic, that there are fewer adult couples and more families, but beyond that it’s a blur. He knows they visit the Mexico Folk Art Gallery more than once, and O Canada! more than twice. He’s aware that they wander around the pavilions like they’re on a field trip, him interested more in what isn’t being said than what is. He knows they do the whole Test Track thing, and SeaBase. He has pictures of them at the Advanced Training Lab and Spaceship Earth. He goes on Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure and successfully completes the mission.

But all he remembers are a collection of Scott’s smiles, from the indulgent to the quizzical. He remembers the way Scott is super attentive, genuinely fascinated by each new fact and story. He remembers wondering if it’d be okay for him to hold his hand, tug him close and tie them tight, show all the world they belong together.

He should enjoy it more. He feels guilty that he doesn’t. But it feels like an obstacle in their way. A task to be completed before he can prove his mettle.

He asks if they can grab food to eat at the cabin when it gets dark and Scott must sense how much he needs them to be alone again, because he agrees, doesn’t insist they eat at Trail’s End.

Stiles is much more comfortable when they’re sitting in their cabin eating home-made cheese quesadillas and Scott’s talking about his favorite exhibit.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice that you couldn’t have cared less,” Scott says, lightly kicking his shin.

“I’m sorry. It’s kinda hard to give a crap about Dame Judi Dench’s classy voice giving a history lesson when I’m wondering if intercrural sex renders my virginity null and void.”

Scott tenses, pauses in lifting his food to his mouth. “But Lydia,” he says, raising an eyebrow.

Stiles coughs, shrugs. “We never made it that far. I kept building it up into this huge event and she couldn’t understand why I felt like there was intense pressure. It was like, because I wanted everything to be perfect, I couldn’t see how to accept things as they really were. It was basically all the flaws of our relationship distilled into my dysfunction.”

Scott nods, but he looks distracted. He wriggles in his seat, takes a long, slow drink of his water.

“Are you all right?”

“Yep. My instincts are reacting more than my brain wants to allow, but I’m fine.”

Stiles narrows his eyes at him. “You like that you’re my first.”

“So much. You have no idea,” Scott says, looking at him like he wants to devour him whole.

Stiles licks his lips. It’s a premeditated move. “Do you think they’d have lube at the Trading Post?”

Scott blushes. An actual, full-faced blush. “I, er, I already have lube.”

Stiles’ deliberately tempting smile widens into a grin. “Oh my God, so presumptuous.”

“I prefer to think of it as considerate and well-planned,” Scott returns, but he’s still blushing and his eyes are crinkling at the corners.

Stiles wants to kiss Scott until he forgets everything he’s learned in the last eight hours, until he’s sex-dazed and incapable of rational thought. He tugs his clothes off as soon as he can, slides his hands wherever he can reach. He lies on the bed and spreads wide so Scott can settle into the vee of his legs.

He clutches harshly onto Scott’s hair when he opens him up so sweetly; strong, capable fingers slick and careful. Scott is focused and intent, his lips pouting as he concentrates. The muscles of his other arm ripples as he holds himself up. It makes Stiles want to shudder apart, to know that Scott cares this much about making it good for him. And it is good, it’s incredible. He never really knew he could feel like this. The last few years have been fraught with horror and mayhem, small pockets of joy snatched whenever possible. He hasn’t had this --- slow, artfully measured gratification, the luxury of elation.

When Scott finally pushes inside him, his cock thick and filling him like his own fingers have never been able to, Stiles stares at him wide-eyed. His fingers tangle in the bed sheets, his heels dig into Scott’s lower back. He can’t stop himself from moving with shocky tremors, flexing and tightening against Scott without conscious thought. Scott manages to find his prostate and hits it mercilessly, seeming to take great pride in how Stiles can’t close his mouth.

Stiles’ hips shift in involuntary snaps and his chest heaves with the effort of giving him enough air. He lets his body dictate his actions, uncaring if he’s bucking too wildly, yelling too loudly, too fierce and too vulnerable.

“That’s it,” Scott murmurs roughly, shunting him further up the bed with his thrusts. “Take it just like that. You’re perfect, Stiles, you’re amazing.”

“You’re way too verbal,” Stiles responds, attacking him with a kiss.

He bows his back further, rolls up until he’s making Scott go deeper, harder. He doesn’t care that his breathing’s stuttering, only that Scott’s is too. What little rhythm they’d cultivated is destroyed as he strips his cock and comes as Scott’s pushed deep within him. Scott tenses, eyes going unfocused. He sucks in a breath and then lets it out as a groan. His hips furrow and then he’s clearly gone, whole body shaking as he attempts to hold himself above Stiles.

Stiles’ legs slip off his slippery sides and he presses Scott down with a gentling hand on his back, muttering that it’s okay, he can take his weight.

*

It’s easier to concentrate on Disney World after they spend all night fucking. Stiles is exhausted, bone-weary like he was all through High School, twinging in all kinds of places he usually doesn’t think about, but now he has a good reason to be. He keeps his sunglasses firmly seated on his nose, swigs coke, eats greasy food, and generally has an awesome time while half-asleep. His experiences are made up more of impressions than details, but he records a lot of it, sending texts to his dad or select members of the pack. (He’s positive Derek’s blocked him in some way.)

Animal Kingdom is massive and weirdly but touchingly noble. He wants to find it hypocritical, but he’s been on the receiving end of ‘sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a choice, it’s all about educating the masses’ enough times that he doesn’t bother. It is, of course, Scott’s favorite of everywhere they’ve been. Stiles swears he sees Scott flashing his Alpha eyes at some of the animals, communicating with them on a primal level. Stiles is more at home in DinoLand U.S.A.

“Are you in the over-it phase?” Scott asks when Stiles sleepily watches out the window of the Wildlife Express Train for the fifth time.

“No, I’m in the lackadaisical-I-feel-like-I’m-floating-you-made-me-see-stars-last-night phase,” Stiles says with a smug smile.

Scott ducks his head, scratches at his eyebrow. He looks shamefully pleased.

On their last day in Orlando, they spend the morning at Blizzard Beach, the afternoon at Hollywood Studios. Stiles wants to kiss Scott in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, but doesn’t know if he would welcome his advances. He thinks he might, but he’s noticed Scott hasn’t gotten overly close and familiar as they’ve walked around. In their artificial cabin, cut off from the rest of the world, they never stop touching, but here there’s more reservation.

Star Tours is pretty much the greatest thing Stiles has seen barring Scott’s o-face. He is so offended that Scott spends the whole tour looking confused. They get to visit Kashyyyk! They encounter Admiral Ackbar! Scott’s unimpressed and Stiles despairs of him. He makes a point of talking through The Great Movie Ride because Scott seems much more into it. He’s nothing if not horrendously petty.

He had been wondering why Scott insisted he bring his blazer in their return to the cabin to get changed, but when he takes him to the Hollywood Brown Derby, he understands. It’s a classic, carefully planned date, he realizes, staring at Scott across the table. There’s candlelight and wine bought with Scott’s fake ID.

He feels inadequate. He doesn’t know how to act or what to say. It occurs to him that he doesn’t know what comes next. He doesn’t have any clue what they do from here on out. The possibilities are limitless. Do he and Scott date now? Is that how things are supposed to be? How do they label themselves? Do they even need labels? How do they explain this to everyone without them? How do they explain this to everyone at all?

This whole time he’s been telling himself it’s all about the journey, but before he had a set destination. Now, he’s free. He’s never anticipated he could have everything he ever wanted. The prospect of happiness is somehow the scariest thing he’s ever had to contend with.

Scott appears to take his muted behavior as fatigue, but he must also sense that something else is up, because he’s all right with them going back to Fort Wilderness Resort and going to bed early. He’s more than all right with Stiles practicing his blowjob technique on him. It’s a very successful distraction that Stiles is quite proud of, when all’s said and done. It’s a shame it doesn’t send him straight off to sleep, but he finds himself lying awake staring at the ceiling, painfully aware that Scott’s doing the same thing.

“You’re glad we did this, aren’t you?” Scott asks, sounding as insecure as Stiles has started to feel.

“Scott, I’ve had the best time here with you.”

Scott huffs out a breath. When Stiles peers at him, he looks pinched and concerned. “Right. That’s not what I was referring to.”

Stiles straddles his thighs, gazes down at him. He traces his fingers over his torso, mapping all he can see. “Scott…” he says, slowly. “I’ve had the best time here with you. And I hope it continues. It continues, doesn’t it?”

Scott definitely looks at him like he’s the moon and he’s caught in his thrall. He cradles his jaw so tenderly, Stiles thinks his heart will burst.

“Always.”

*

The road trip back to Beacon Hills is full of misadventure, problems and strife. Roscoe breaks down, twice. Their stop in Nashville is probably the biggest mistake Stiles has ever made, considering his intense dislike of country music, but his intense love of plaid. Scott actually gets a cold that attacks him every hour on the hour with sneezing and coughing fits before his body heals itself. It’s bizarre. But they kiss a lot to make up for it, and Stiles gets to see what Scott looks like when he’s falling apart around his cock, fingers transformed into claws, so, checks and balances.

They’re back at the diner in Colorado, the one where Scott scored free pie on their way to Disney World when Kristi the waitress saunters up to their table. Stiles does not act jealous. He feels jealous, agonizingly so, but he’s careful about keeping it tucked up inside.

“I was trying to figure it out last time you were here,” Kristi says, sliding two slices of pie they neither ordered nor paid for across the table at them. “Are you guys best friends or boyfriends?”

“Yeah,” says Scott with an infectious grin.

Stiles returns it, capturing Scott’s hand and lacing their fingers together. He can’t contain his affection. “Both. Both is good.”