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lift you to your higher ground

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"It's basically required," Cora says as they get settled in their hotel room. It's swank, two queen beds on the 23rd floor of Parc 55 downtown; Derek even sprung for ludicrously overpriced valet parking. "It's in the guidebook."

"Trip Advisor is not a book," Derek says from the bathroom, yanking his jeans up his thighs and tucking his dick back where it belongs, inside his briefs and to the left. His dick complains, but the constriction of pants is the least of his dick's problems these days. He takes a deep breath before he turns on the sink to wash his hands. "Don't you not—like people?"

"Aww," Cora says. "It's almost like we're getting to know each other."

Somewhere between Beacon Hills and San Francisco, Cora decided they were on vacation. She was driving down the highway, pulled over to buy oranges at a roadside stand; they ate them standing up by the car with juice dripping down their chins. The last time Derek did something just for fun, it was watching The Incredibles with Erica on her laptop sitting on a bench in the old subway station, their feet resting on the plastic milk crate Derek was using for a coffee table. Even with Jennifer, everything felt like some kind of slow-motion emergency.

On the MUNI train into the Castro, Derek's not thinking about Jennifer at all. Instead, he's captivated by the guys crammed in with them, tight jeans and slick hair, openly courting his gaze. Cora keeps her eyes on the grody floor and the assortment of feet gathered around them. Just before she gets off the train, she says, "I like gay clubbing. Nobody there is—hot for my bod, you know? Nobody tries to touch me."

Derek jerks his eyes up from the ass of the guy in front of them. "Has somebody—"

Cora rolls her eyes. "No, I don't like people," she says with exaggerated care. "I don't care what's in their pants."

"Okay." Derek aims for a reassuring tone.

"Unlike you," Cora says, arching an eyebrow.

The club Cora picked has a sign about wet t-shirt contests on Thursdays, but some of the guys in here aren't even wearing shirts. There's a lot of glistening bare skin and one guy in gold spandex shorts. Derek doesn't know where to look: the pull of sanctioned desire is as seductive as a spell. He hasn't been in a gay club, ever, and it's thrilling and terrifying to feel himself sized up like meat. Stripped of his alpha bulk, stripped of—whatever certainty he had—Derek feels vulnerable, like he might bare his neck to the first person who puts their hands on his waist, presses strong thumbs into the cradle of his hips.

Cora disappears onto the dance floor; Derek gets his first blowjob from a guy in the bathroom, pants tugged down around his thighs, bracing himself against the walls of the stall to stay upright while he tries not to hyperventilate. He comes so hard he almost falls over, jerks the guy off in a daze. Mr. Blowjob has tawny hair artfully gelled, muscled biceps beneath the sleeves of his tight white t-shirt, moles dotting the curve of his jaw and a few on his cheek. Derek can't stop staring.

"I think I broke my dick," Derek says to Cora in New Mexico. They're drunk on the local pack's wolfsbane-infused homebrew and sprawled out on sleeping bags under the stars, bellies full of the rich, spicy beef chili from dinner. "How do you tell?"

Cora yawns, scratches her belly beneath her loose flannel shirt. "What, like you hurt yourself jacking off? I've been there. That's rough."

Derek clears his throat.

"I don't like people," Cora says. "You like dick and psychopathic women, dude."

"I didn't used to like dick." Derek digs his heels into the grass, scrapes them through it as he stretches his legs. "You think it could be a curse?"

"You need therapy," Cora says. She passes him another beer.

Hungover, wearing shades and nursing a hangover potion the pack's emissary swears by, they confer about their next destination in the car. "I want to head up to Kansas," Cora says. "Some people there I haven't seen in a while."

Their route cuts through Texas and the Oklahoma panhandle, then straight across the breadth of Kansas, through wheatfield after wheatfield. It's not the most boring drive Derek's ever made, but he's achy and miserable, and he has to turn off the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows three hours in before the narrator's voice turns his wolfsbane-induced headache into a migraine. He makes it through another hour of silence before he cracks. "So, last night—you think there's really something wrong with me?"

Cora grunts. "I don't remember anything after the shots."

"You told me to go to therapy," Derek says. "After I told you about my dick problem."

"TMI." Cora pauses. "You hurt yourself jerking it?"

Derek glares at the highway. "You said that, too."

"Your dick hasn't healed yet?" Cora says, like she's actually interested now. "Maybe it's a curse."

"That's what I said," Derek says. "Hey, there's a McDonald's."

They get Big Macs with extra cheese and giant sodas that they'll barely be able to wedge into the Toyota's cupholders. Derek goes to the bathroom while Cora waits for the food. He studies his dick while he pees. It looks normal, fat and uncut, nothing mysterious.

Derek didn't think about it as a problem before, not exactly. He took a lot of cold showers, hooked up with Jennifer, and tried not think about it at all. In Beacon Hills, his dick issues seemed localized, not like the spark that was going to set Derek's boner forest ablaze.

"I'm not Dr. Phil." Cora's eating a bag of sea salt & black pepper chips, so it comes out a little garbled. "I don't know if this is better or worse than when you were trying to be intimidating."

"I was intimidating," Derek says.

"Uh-huh," Cora says before she stuffs another handful of chips into her mouth.

They went down to Joplin after they had dinner with some of Cora's thoroughly human high school friends at KU—"high school?" Derek mouthed; Cora glared and mimed zipping her lips—and now they're trundling up 44 toward St. Louis. Every other exit has a sign advertising a vineyard, a B&B, another B&B. Derek was unaware before Cora and Trip Advisor that Missouri had wine country, but they've hit up three wineries with Derek's real ID and Cora's very convincing fake and the back seat is full of bottles of mediocre Chardonnay.

"So," Cora says as they pass through Kirkwood. "I have something to tell you."

It turns out that although Beacon Hills's school year started over a month ago, Northwestern's doesn't begin until mid-September, and this is Cora's last summer hurrah. "We've got three more days," she says as they hunker down over dinner in Chili's. "Then I kind of have to—go to college."

"That's good," Derek dips a chicken finger in honey mustard sauce, thinking. "I mean—"

"You don't have a pack!" Cora puts down her burger. "You can't just bring your sexual identity crisis along with me to college."

Derek takes a big bite of chicken.

"Oh god," Cora says, like she's just now realizing. "You were totally going to do that, weren't you. That was your plan."

"I didn't have a—" Derek protests.

Cora socks him in the arm. "Buy me one of those drinks now," she says. "The ones with the rainbow colors. I want one."

They do the full tour of Evanston, campus, all the places Cora might want to get takeout from, Urban Outfitters, the art museum. In the bookstore, Derek buys Cora one of those ubiquitous bulky Northwestern hoodies, which she rolls her eyes at but begrudgingly accepts. He waits until she's busy arguing with her new roommate over desk placement to sneak off and buys her a year of private parking space. "Keep it," he says, pressing the keys to the Toyota into her hand. "This is—it's a good car, good safety ratings—"

Cora looks unimpressed. "We're werewolves."

"I want you to be safe," Derek says.

"I know, bro," Cora says. Her face softens. "I hope you figure out what's up with your dick."

They hug awkwardly in the parking lot. "Come home at Christmas?" Derek says.

"Buy a new home," Cora says. "I'll think about it."

Derek spends the night before his flight back to California clubbing in Boystown. He's the one who gets down on his knees this time, sinking his nose into the musky nest of curls at the base of the guy's dick and licking up to the tip before he slides the whole thing in his mouth. Derek almost gags when it hits the back of his throat, but he doesn't stop, just puts his hand at the base so he can jerk the guy off and suck him without dying of asphyxiation. His mouth is full, he's salivating, almost drooling; beneath his jeans, he's rock hard. He barely manages to hold off until his hookup buddy comes before he reaches down to help himself out.

"Man," tonight's Mr. Blowjob says, running a hand through Derek's hair. He's skinny, pale, freckled, with warm brown eyes and a crooked smile. "You're super into that, aren't you?"

Derek wipes come off his lips with the edge of his thumb and swallows the last bit down, hot, sour, and salty. If this is a curse, it's the best one he's ever had.

Scott meets him at the bus station two towns away in the Camaro. "This is a sweet ride, man. Do I have to give it back?"

Derek sighs and holds out his hand. "Keys."

They go through the drive through at In 'N Out and eat in the car. "Do you want me to be your alpha?" Scott says through a mouthful of burger.

"Not really," Derek says. Everyone he'd want to be his alpha is dead. Boyd would have— "If that's a problem…"

Scott swallows, shakes his head. "Nah," he says. "I get it, dude."

There's a surprisingly warm silence on the drive back to Beacon Hills, and, blessedly, some things remain unchanged: Derek still has absolutely no desire to see Scott's dick.

Derek has been to Jungle once or twice since he got back, which isn't a pattern, isn't enough to get the vibe of the place. So he's not expecting to roll up and find a drag show in full swing, let alone see Stiles in the back of the audience dressed up himself. Stiles has false lashes, rouged cheeks, and red lips, framed by a flirtatious brass-blonde wig and a dress cut low to expose his hairless chest. Derek barely notices Lydia sitting next to Stiles, can't stop looking at Stiles's soft cheeks, broad shoulders. He can't decide if he wants to duck beneath Stiles's skirt or unwrap him like a present.

Which—this is exactly the kind of fantasy Derek spent guilty months jacking off to before he left, thinking about this weird kid, this kid. Except now Derek knows what it would be like to get his hands on Stiles, can imagine the way the muscles of Stiles's belly will tense when Derek sucks him off, how it will feel when he twists his hands in Derek's hair and pulls. It's like Derek's opened a door, or a can of Pringles filled with dicks—he just can't stop. Every moment of those quick, dirty bathroom hookups flashes through his mind with Stiles penciled in, the moles dotting his cheeks and jaw, his intent gaze, the perfect bow of his mouth.

Yet again, Derek has made a terrible mistake.

"Stop staring," Lydia says sharply over the thudding bass of the music. She crooks a finger at Derek. "Come sit down."

Stiles jerks upright, glances over, and Derek, in full possession of his dignity, flees.

The loft's only a few blocks away from Jungle. Derek gets himself under control long enough to strip off his shirt and jeans without doing violence to them before he climbs into bed and jerks off. He wants Stiles here, in his bed, on top of him, making Derek do things to him. Derek wants to smell Stiles, bury his face in Stiles's armpit, his groin, which is totally normal for humans and not werewolf instinct, according to Google. Just thinking about that, his face pressed against Stiles's thigh, is what sends Derek off, leaves him panting and remorseful and guilty with come spattered all up his chest and over his fingers.

It's not Stiles's fault that he's the source of Derek's shiny new sexual awakening. He's Derek's type, that's the problem: strong-willed, loyal to his principles, a little on the amoral side, gorgeous, pushy. Derek likes to be pushed around. He just never thought, before, about what it would be like for a guy to do it. Stiles already pushes, grabs Derek's shoulder, drags him out of danger, slaps him awake. Derek just wants to take that a little further, that's all: he wants Stiles's nails scoring into his back, biting bruises onto Derek's neck, marking Derek up for as long as Derek can hold back the urge to heal—

Abruptly, the alarm lets out a shrill whoop and begins flashing, which is just what Derek deserves for being a creep and also not keeping a box of tissues by the bed.

"What the fuck is going on?" Stiles says as he stumbles through the hole in the wall. He's barefoot, evening bag and discarded heels dangling from one hand; his wig is missing. "Did you come back for Peter?"

Derek yanks a fresh t-shirt over his head before Stiles can look too closely at his flushed, hastily-scrubbed chest. "Peter?"

Stiles comes to a stop in front of the big table, stares at Derek with thousand-yard eyes for a long moment before he shakes his head. "He's—that's why we were—" He hunches his shoulders and the hem of his dress rides up; Derek smells it before he even sees it.

"You're hurt," Derek says. "Where's Lydia? What—"

"She's fine," Stiles says, not looking down.

The thing about Derek's fantasy of Stiles is that it can't possibly survive when he has Stiles up close. Stiles is lean and rangy, not quite grown into his limbs, and when he sits down on the bed with Derek between his legs, it's so Derek can clean out the scrape on his knee where it met the curb outside Derek's building. Stiles smells like sweat, makeup, and someone else's cucumber body wash; he texts Lydia, who left with Danny, while Derek digs through the human first-aid kit that Stiles brought over here last month. "You don't have to do this," Stiles says, sounding uncomfortable, hesitant now that his anger is ebbing. "I'm—"

Derek smoothes a tan fabric bandage over Stiles's knee. He'd have pegged Stiles the type to sneak Hello Kitty band-aids into their emergency kit, but everything inside is plain and essential. "You got hurt because of me. I'm sorry."

Stiles is silent. "Wow," he says eventually. "Derek Hale apologizing. Was that painful?"

"Why were you at Jungle?" Derek says.

"Staking out your undead uncle," Stiles says. He folds his arms, chafes his shoulders—the loft is cold, and he's barely wearing anything, just a sequined dress with no back, a low front, and barely any bottom. When he leans forward, the hollows in the bodice that breasts would have filled swing out, sparkly, empty pockets. "What about you?"

Derek shuts the latch on the first-aid kit. "I was—why everyone else goes to Jungle."

"Barbra Streisand night?" Stiles says.

There's no reason for Derek to lie. He takes a deep breath before he looks up. "I was going to pick up a guy."

"Huh." Stiles taps his fingers against his bottom lip. They come away red; there's already lipstick on his teeth. "You know, there's an app for that. Grindr. You're—I bet you could just get guys to come over, like pizza delivery."

"I don't like pizza," Derek says. "And I wouldn't know how they smelled."

Stiles shoots him an incredulous look. "Who doesn't like pizza? How are you real?"

Derek sighs. "Do you want a jacket?"

"I'm not your prom date." Stiles stretches out his uninjured leg and starts to toe his heels toward him from where he dropped them on the floor. "I'm going to go home, and you're going to—not team up with evil, I don't have time for evil you."

Before, Derek would have just left it at that, something to obsess about at 2AM or loop over and over in his head as he pushes himself through another merciless round of pull-ups. Instead, he picks up one of Stiles's shoes and carefully holds it out, like Stiles is Cinderella awaiting his prince instead of a high school kid stuck inside a nightmare full of druid trees and demon wolves. "Fine," he says. "I'll try not to defect to the dark side."

"You're acting really weird," Stiles says. "Are you under some magic compulsion?"

"Maybe." Derek studies the scuffs on the sole of Stiles's shoe. They don't all look new. "The internet says it's normal."

"Liking guys?" Stiles says tentatively. "Yeah, that's definitely—"

"I like you," Derek says.

"Wow, what a curse," Stiles snaps. Then he flails. "Wait, what? You—"

"You're 17 and I didn't even like dick until—" Derek lets go of Stiles's feet. "You should go home."

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Yeah, you should know better that to tell me that, that's practically a dare." He reaches out and fists a hand in Derek's t-shirt.

Derek's never kissed any of the guys he's hooked up with, and Stiles isn't a practiced kisser, or even a good one. Stiles's lips are chalky with lipstick and he tries to start out with tongue like he can skip straight to Kissing 401 without so much as a hello brush of closed mouths. Derek has to cup his jaw and hold him still to set the pace, pulling back until Stiles gets with the program, lets Derek tease at his lips with his tongue and work them apart again. When they pull apart, Stiles's lips are glossy with spit, his lipstick a clownish blur. He touches his mouth again, thoughtful.

"I didn't—" Derek says.

"I can't stand you," Stiles says. "I never know what you're—I can't stand you."

Derek puts his hands on Stiles's shoulders, the chill skin there. "You're cold."

Stiles rolls his eyes and reaches backward without looking to drag Derek's duvet over his shoulders. For a moment he seems like a kid playing dress up, pulling on a blanket as a cape, but when he tugs Derek forward by the arm, the illusion collapses. "You're not—I don't—" He half-ducks his head, a quick, abortive movement, before he steels himself to look Derek in the eye. "I want to kiss you again."

"Okay," Derek says, scooting forward to slot himself between Stiles's knees, surrendering the last of his self-control.

The second try goes better, with Stiles letting Derek take the lead, slow everything down. Stiles can be reckless, but he's also careful and patient when it's necessary, with intent strong enough set a mountain ash line. He reflects Derek's motions like a mirror, rising to meet the press of Derek's lips on his and backing off when Derek surfaces for air, but only far enough to let their noses shift against each other. When Derek drops his hand to Stiles's side, sharp sequins and glossy beads cutting into his palm, Stiles runs his own up Derek's flank, fingers splaying like a brand over Derek's ribs where they come to a stop. "You can't just—run away," Stiles says between kisses. "Just because—you can't— we need you."

"You never needed me." The certainty sits heavy in Derek's gut, threatening to curdle the warmth building there. "I just—"

Stiles digs his nails in. "Don't tell me what I need," he says. "You have your head so far up your own ass—"

Derek laughs, and Stiles yanks him forward hard enough that they both tumble back onto the bed.

Derek's fantasies were all total bullshit, except where they weren't: this is what kept him jerking it and submerging himself in punishing cold water, the knowledge of Stiles's scent and the weight of his body. True, Derek imagined Stiles bent over him, possessive and greedy, but the inverse has similar appeal. Derek sinks his teeth into the tender skin beneath Stiles's jaw, and Stiles exhales like he's been punched, a sharp breath that turns into a harsh moan. "Derek," he says, shifting; Derek can't feel the boner beneath the frippery of Stiles's dress, but he knows it's there, can smell Stiles's arousal and hear the sharp uptick of his pulse. "Derek, you gotta—"

"Tell me," Derek says before he bites down again, sucking hard this time: he wants to mark Stiles up like canvas, write mine, mine, mine there like he's a kid pissing his name in the snow. "Tell me."

Stiles whines. "Touch me," he says. "Help me—this dress is seriously cramping Mr. Pointy—"

Obligingly, Derek reaches between them to tug Stiles's dress up while Stiles shimmies his hips."I don't know why I like you."

"Yeah, but you do." Stiles bucks up into Derek's hand when Derek slips his fingers beneath the waistband of Stiles's underwear—he's even got girls' underwear on, the smooth, seamless kind that squish him in, hide the equipment he's packing. The angle is awkward, Derek's elbow is almost hyperextended and he's holding himself up on one arm, but fuck, Stiles's face, screwed up beneath his smeared makeup, moles barely peeking through heavy foundation. "You like to watch, you like to—"

Derek runs a nail down the side of Stiles's dick and teases beneath the head with his thumb. Stiles is circumcised, the head of his dick rising naked from the shaft with a rosy flush like the one spreading up Stiles's panting chest. "Come on," he says. "I want to see you come, Stiles—"

"Ugh," Stiles says, and then his head tips back and his mouth tightens and his eyes clench shut, and he shoots over Derek's hand, hot and gooey and perfect.

Derek comes in his pants.

After a few minutes of heaving breaths and awkward silence, Stiles shoves Derek off him and slides out of bed so he can strip off his dress. He eyes it critically before padding over to the bathroom. Derek can hear the sink running, the rustle of beads against the ceramic basin. When Stiles comes back, his face has been washed, fake lashes removed, but he still has a stubborn ring of black eyeliner around each eye. "Don't stare at me," he says. "Cut it out."

Derek rolls onto his back and thumbs at the button on his jeans. His briefs are already getting cold and clammy; if he doesn't clean up now, he's going to regret it later. He unzips carefully, wriggles his briefs and jeans down his hips together until he can push them off all the way, kicking them off the end of the bed.

Stiles exhales sharply. "Maybe I should borrow some clothes."

"They're—" Derek points in the general direction of his duffle bag, half-unpacked. "If you want—"

"Oh my god," Stiles says.

When Derek looks up at him, Stiles has his eyes shut, arms clutching at his shoulders. There's a heavy, sinking feeling in Derek's gut. He gets to his feet, goes to Stiles, puts a reassuring hand on Stiles's shoulder; their fingers brush.

"You're just—you're really naked," Stiles says to their feet. He sighs. "I can't even tell if anything is real anymore."

"I don't know how to convince you," Derek says.

Stiles groans, pulls the hand beneath Derek's away to rub at his face. "You're such an asshole."

"Yeah, I know," Derek says.

Another moment passes before Stiles ducks his head to press his cheek against Derek's neck, the waves of his hair brushing against Derek's chin. Derek reaches up and cups the base of Stiles's skull. When all he wanted was Stiles's body, it seemed like a curse. This is so much worse.

Derek puts an arm around Stiles's waist and draws Stiles toward him until their hips are aligned, Derek's soft, sticky cock pressing against the sleek polyester of Stiles's underwear. "Come back to bed."

"Trying to fix me with your dick?" Stiles mumbles.

"No," Derek says firmly.

Derek wipes himself off with his discarded briefs and digs a single-serve packet of lube out of his bag. He has yet to experiment with anything more complicated than a single, uncomfortable finger up his ass, but who knows what Stiles likes. Derek has new data points for Stiles's dick, what it looks like hard beneath taut fabric and nestled soft between his tights, how it feels sliding through Derek's circled fingers, but his general desires remain a large, confusing muddle. They just had sex with Derek fully dressed while Stiles was still in a dress. And now Stiles has gotten back into bed and yanked the covers up to his chin.

"Are you okay?" Derek says, resisting the urge to tug at the duvet. "You're—"

Stiles is chewing on his bottom lip. "I wasn't thinking about it before. It happened kind of fast."

"Oh," Derek says.

"Not too fast," Stiles says quickly. "Just—I was wearing more clothes."

Derek sighs and thumbs the packet of lube in his hand. "I want to blow you. Is that okay?"

"That's it?" Stiles drops the hand he has clenched on the duvet, and it slips down his chest, baring his throat before it settles just above his nipples, like he's a Hollywood star with a no-nudity clause in her contract.

"Do you want me to put fingers in your—" Improbably, Derek flushes.

"Seriously, you can't say 'butt'?" Stiles says, then backtracks. "Uh. Maybe?"

Stiles ditches the panties, but stays on his back, and Derek settles between Stiles's legs. His thighs are creamy pale like they've never been exposed to light, the hair on them light and fair; there are a few moles down here, too, one on the join of his hip, others, a handful scattered on his inner thighs. Derek puts his nose into Stiles's groin and inhales the scent of musk and sweat and come where it hasn't been overzealously scrubbed away with Derek's damp bathroom towel. Stiles is—he smells like the both of them, dirty, lusty. Derek can't repress a happy sigh, nosing Stiles's curls, mouthing his balls.

"Uh, that's not my dick." When Derek glances up, Stiles is watching him with rapt fascination; he doesn't look displeased. Derek scrapes his nails down the outside of Stiles's thighs, curving down toward the backs of his knees, and Stiles lets out a choked breath. "Do whatever—okay, look, you obviously—"

Stiles's dick, unlike the rest of him, is perfectly average: that's still enough to overfill Derek's mouth, to make him want learn out how to suppress his gag reflex. This, however, is the second blowjob Derek's ever given, so he goes for wet and sloppy again. Stiles twists his fingers in Derek's hair and fucks his mouth like no one's ever told him that's rude, and Derek slides his hands under Stiles's ass, lifts him so he has better leverage. When he teases a dry finger at the clenched whorl of Stiles's asshole, Stiles's hips buck and he shoves his dick down Derek's throat. Derek coughs, sputters; Stiles lets out a high whine and comes just like that, his dick slipping out from beneath Derek's lips mid-spurt, jizz splashing onto Derek's cheek, his earlobe, and dripping down onto his shoulder.

"Uh," Stiles says loopily. "Sorry, that could have—"

"Jerk me off," Derek says. Stiles rolls his eyes and does.

Derek dozes. When he comes to, Stiles is pinned under him, heartbeat speeding up as Derek shifts against him. "You awake?" Stiles says.

"No," Derek mumbles into Stiles's armpit. He has one arm thrown over Stiles's waist, the other squashed beneath him. Derek rubs his nose against Stiles's skin, the soft, silky hair that's full of his musk and sweat beneath the gross deodorant smell. "You're still here."

"You're on top of me, dude." Stiles laughs, a weird nervous chuckle. "So, yeah, I can't really—"

Derek rolls over and shoves himself back so quickly he misjudges the distance between him and the edge of the bed. He ends up twisted in the covers, his legs on the mattress, shoulders on the ground, ass in traction.

After a moment, Stiles peers over the edge of the mattress. "Hey," he says. "You seem a little freaked out right now."

"Oh, I'm freaked out," Derek says.

"We can both be freaked out," Stiles says. "Come on, up." He holds out his hand.

Derek takes it.