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No Rest for the Wicked

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Stiles comes with Derek’s chest pressed along his back, Derek’s hand stroking his cock with the perfect rhythm, the perfect tightness. He moans and shoves back against Derek’s hips, and Derek follows him over the edge, body shuddering against Stiles’. It’s good.

Sex with Derek is always good. Derek is strong and gentle and knows Stiles’ body better than anyone else.

But after they’ve cleaned up and kissed goodnight, Derek rolling over to face the wall, Stiles remains on his back, staring up at the ceiling. Five years with Derek and he should be ecstatic that the sex is still good. Scott and Allison hit a rough patch around the three year mark that Stiles had to hear all about for months before they got the spark back, or whatever. Stiles supposes that’s normal.

Thing is, the sex used to be crazy good. Like, insane. Derek once tied Stiles down and made him come with nothing but his fingers and his tongue. Stiles once pushed Derek, bare-ass naked, against the floor-to-ceiling window of a 17th story hotel room and fucked him until he came all over the glass.

Stiles can’t remember when, exactly, they stopped doing that kind of stuff. He knows it’s probably as much his fault as Derek’s that things have gotten so… formulaic. Maybe a little sucking or frotting first, then it’s one finger, two finger, three fingers, cock. But it’s hard to initiate anything more when Derek seems just fine with this.

Maybe if it were just the sex, Stiles wouldn’t be so concerned. But it’s not.

&

Stiles stumbles into the kitchen the next morning to find Derek already dressed and making breakfast. “You’re going to be late,” he says, not turning away from the stove.

“Perks of being the quirky computer guy,” Stiles says with a crooked smile that Derek doesn’t see. “The very, very few flaws I do possess are overlooked because of the collective gratitude for fixing the shared printer. Again.”

He gets a sort-of-grunt by way of response. After an awkward moment, he says, “I’m going to take a shower. Save some of that for me?”

Derek finally turns to look at Stiles. “Of course,” he says, like he’s a little hurt that Stiles felt he had to ask. Another pebble of guilt drops into the rock pile that’s made its home in Stiles’ gut.

“Uh, thanks,” Stiles says, giving Derek a quick smile before heading into the bedroom.

By the time he’s out of the shower and dressed (jeans, Chucks, flannel shirt – the uniform of a laid-back IT genius), Derek is snapping his briefcase closed, his blazer and tie already on. The suit is perfectly cut, the lines accentuating the breadth of his shoulders and chest, and by all rights, he should look mouthwatering. Except that, as long as Stiles has known him, he’s never quite looked comfortable in a suit. Weird for a super-successful PR guy who’s worked at Hale & Hale since he graduated college, but Stiles has to say he prefers Derek out of the suit.

“You gonna be late tonight?” Stiles asks, trying to sound as non-judgmental as he can.

“Probably,” Derek says. “Peter still treats me like his secretary instead of a partner.”

Stiles ignores the delectable-looking plate of French toast on the table in favor of approaching Derek and smoothing down his lapels. “One of these days you’re just going to have to tell ol’ Uncle Peter to shove it.”

Derek’s expression goes blank and Stiles knows he’s said exactly the wrong thing. Peter may be a monumental dickhead who Derek complains about constantly, but he’s Derek’s only living family member. Sometimes Derek will take Stiles’ stabs at Peter with good humor, but Stiles has never quite figured out exactly where the line is.

Obvious he’s crossed it now, though. Derek simply says, “Right,” steps back out of Stiles’ reach, and grabs his briefcase. “See you tonight.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, following Derek to the front door like a lost puppy. “Tonight.”

Derek closes the door behind him and Stiles locks it, then leans his forehead against the wood. “I love you,” he mumbles quietly.

Because he does love Derek, loves him desperately despite the growing space between them that seems to stretch a little wider every day. He loves Derek, but he’s losing him. And Stiles knows it’s his own fault.

&

The lobby of the Shiruba Consulting Agency is sleek and shiny, all polished chrome and mahogany. The Argents are nothing if not image-conscious – the sofas and chairs are overstuffed leather, even though no one ever sits in them. Stiles says hello to Mrs. Argent behind the front desk as he passes her. He’s too afraid not to – her smile is all teeth and there’s an old-school M2 carbine under the desk.

He keys in this week’s 9-digit passcode to get into the hallway, breathing a sigh of relief when the bulletproof, blast-proof door shuts behind him. There’s only one door at the end of the hall, and Stiles has to wait for his retinal scan before he can verify his voiceprint with a phrase he picked out himself. “The only water in the forest is the river,” he says, and with a buzz, the solid titanium door clicks open.

Intel is three levels down, where he’s supposed to meet Lydia for a briefing. If he’s lucky and it’s a slow day, he and Allison might be able to head up to R&D to check out Danny’s latest gadgets. But after this morning, Stiles isn’t feeling particularly lucky, and sure enough, both Allison and Chris are hunched over the table-sized touch screen with the interactive mapping software. And Lydia only lets other people – including their boss – play with her toys when they have a new target.

Stiles crosses every possible digit when Allison looks up at him. “Vampires,” she says.

Goddamn it.

“Not it!” Stiles cries immediately, touching his nose. Which is probably not the best response when his immediate superior is in the room, but Chris is so used to Stiles being… well, Stiles that he doesn’t even blink.

“Good try, Stilinski, but Allison is still walking off the sprain from the qilin attack.”

“I thought those only punished the wicked,” Stiles says with a wink. Allison just rolls her eyes.

At least Stiles has the wits not to say anything about Allison being the boss’s kid. Besides, Allison must still be in genuine pain if her father can tell – she’s usually pretty good at hiding it. And even if she were at 100%, she specializes in precision kills at a distance, and fighting vampires is all about hand-to-hand (well, hopefully stake-to-chest) combat. Still though, motherfucking vampires are the worst.

What all those movies and teen novels forget is that vampires are dead. They look dead. They smell dead. They don’t feel pain and, given half the chance, they will turn you into the human version of a raisin in about 30 seconds if you’re lucky. They’re more like zombies (which, thank god, do not exist)(yet) except they sort of explode with coagulated blood when you stake them. The whole thing is just so… messy.

Stiles clings to one last hope. “Didn’t Greenberg just get back from the coast?”

“He’s still in decon, scrubbing off the slime,” Lydia says, not looking up from her computer. “He’ll stay in quarantine for at least two weeks until we figure out what he got hit with and whether it’s contagious. There are pustules.” She looks up and narrows her eyes at Stiles. “Glowing pustules.”

Stiles resists the urge to make a face at her because he is a professional, and because vampires might actually be preferable to pustules of any kind. Maybe. Doesn’t mean he has to like it. “At least tell me there aren’t many of them. I swear to god, my pores are still leaking garlic from the last time.”

“Just three of them,” Chris says, “but they’re close. They’ve been spotted on the outskirts of Oakland and we’ve narrowed down possible locations to half a dozen abandoned buildings west of town.”

Stiles sighs, resigned to his fate, and heads to the armory to gear up. On the way, he texts Derek that he’s going to be late for dinner again. Even if he finds the vampires quickly, he’s going to be spending a long time in the sterile shower afterward.

Why does it have to be vampires?

 

&&&

 

Derek sighs in relief when he sees Stiles’ text, then immediately feels guilty about it. But at least he won’t have to lie about what he’s doing tonight. Or, for that matter, suffer through another awkward dinner where they talk about everything except how they’re drifting apart.

“Erica,” he says, and she’s immediately perched on the edge of his desk, already-short skirt hiked to near-obscene levels, when he looks up. “You ever get the urge to tell Boyd what you do? What you are?”

She bites her bright red lower lip and appears to think it over. “Not really. It would make some things easier, but he’s just so… not like us. In a good way. I want to keep him out of our world as much as I can.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, his tone betraying his uncertainty.

“You’re not thinking about telling Stiles,” she says, dropping her voice. The walls are supposed to be soundproof, but Peter’s hearing is scary good, even for an alpha, and he’d raise holy hell if he thought Derek was considering talking about them or their work to an outsider.

“Not really,” Derek sighs. “Just… all the lying. I don’t think he knows, but it’s pushing him away anyway.”

Erica leans over and hugs him, which mostly results in her breasts pressing against his face. If he were inclined that way, he might be tempted to do something terribly unprofessional. But instead it just makes him feel awkward, and he’s pretty sure she knows that.

“Poor thing,” she coos, stroking his hair. “Don’t worry. You’ll work it out.”

“I am uncomfortable in my place of employment,” Derek says, his voice mostly muffled by Erica’s… by Erica.

“Sorry, big guy,” she says, pulling away and patting him on the cheek in a way that belies her apology. “I can tell you’re upset. I thought a little light sexual harassment would help take your mind off it.”

“I think you misunderstand the core concept,” Derek says, but he can’t keep the corner of his mouth from twitching up.

“So report me,” Erica says with a grin. “It would amuse the hell out of Peter, if nothing else.”

“Yeah, he’d find a creepy punishment to fit the creepy crime. I don’t actually want to subject you to that.”

“I appreciate it,” says Erica, hopping down off the desk and straightening her skirt. “I’ll be nothing but professional from here on out.”

Derek grunts, trying to keep a straight face. “You’re a worse liar than Isaac.”

“Oh please, I wasn’t even trying.”

“I like these talks that we have. We really should do this more often.”

She pulls a face at him. “Who’s the liar now? All right, you want to talk shop? What’s Peter got you on today?”

“Group of hunters coming into town around sunset. Only surveillance duty so far.”

“No Codebreakers?”

“No word on that from Isaac, but Peter wants me to stay on top of them just in case.”

Surprisingly, Erica ignores Derek’s phrasing in favor of leaning down and whispering “Is it just me or does Peter seem to be getting more and more para—”

“Paranormal?” Peter interjects, because of course he chooses that very moment to come out of his office. Derek barely manages not to flinch at the smirk on his face. “I don’t see how that’s possible, though I suppose I could always try my hand at necromancy.”

Derek’s saved from having to respond by Erica, who turns with a smile like nothing just happened and asks Peter, “So, anybody need slicing and dicing today?”

“Not yet,” Peter says with a disturbing red glint in his eye. “But it’s not even noon.”

&

These are brand new hunters, Derek can tell. They made no attempts to disguise their movements as they came into town, but it wasn’t out of bravado – they genuinely don’t seem to know what they’re doing. Their base camp, while obviously temporary, is basically indefensible, and they haven’t even bothered with mountain ash. Derek almost feels sorry for them, but then, inexperienced hunters can do just as much damage as experienced ones if they stumble into a little luck. Plus, Derek has no idea what they’re even doing here, and that’s what he needs to find out.

So far, it’s mostly been inane small talk and extremely Freudian weapon cleaning. Derek wonders if they even know how to use half of what they have. He doesn’t have an uninterrupted line of sight from his perch in the rafters, but he knows there are five of them, including one kid who can’t be more than 15. Unless he’s older than he looks, that’s a violation of the Code right there: no minors. It makes Derek worry what other rules these hunters might be willing to break.

Still, it’s hard to stay focused, because Stiles keeps drifting back into his mind. He thinks of the dark circles under Stiles’ eyes – his boss always keeps him too late, debugging payroll software or whatever it is that he does. He’s obviously good at it, to which their joint bank account can attest, and Shiruba seems to need him around often enough. They even send him out to do on-site troubleshooting and training out of town, sometimes for days. It’s coincidentally great for Derek, who also has to travel for his job, even if he can’t say why.

But Stiles has never really expressed any enthusiasm for what he does, and frankly, Derek has a hard time imagining him sitting still in front of a computer all day. Derek knows his own constant lies are the main source of their problems, but Stiles’ job isn’t helping any. Derek is the last one who should tell someone – particularly Stiles – to quit their crappy job, as Derek is currently crouched in the skeleton of an abandoned warehouse, spying on a group of heavily armed people he hopes he won’t have to kill, but it seems to Derek that Stiles could do so much more with his life. He misses the bright, passionate man he first met, and wonders whether long-term relationships are supposed to—

Then he’s snapped back to the present by one of the hunters saying the name “Argent.”

“…must have some scary good people. Shit, Dash just texted me that a guy singlehandedly took down an entire coven of vampires in Oakland today.”

Despite Derek’s general disgust for hunters, that’s a hell of a thing; vampires are fucking nasty pieces of work. A woman in the group, looking awed, nods her head. “That’s got to be Argent work. They only hire the best.”

“So what makes you think they’ll hire any of us?” the young guy asks. “If we can even find them.”

A big, burly guy answers. “We know they’re based out of San Francisco. How hard can it be to find them?”

Holy shit, Derek may have stumbled onto something big. Peter has long suspected that the Argents’ base is local, but they’ve never been able to prove it. Despite what the big guy is saying, though, San Francisco is a big, weird place, and the Argents have always been tremendously well-hidden. They generally keep to the Code, but when they don’t… Well, that’s why Derek keeps doing his job at all.

So Derek does his best to push all guilty thoughts of Stiles out of his mind and listens for anything that might give him further clues.

&

It’s nearly dawn by the time he gets home, absolutely no wiser about the whereabouts of the Argents. A painfully green group of hunters like that was hardly likely to have better intel than the Hale pack, but stupider people have stumbled onto bigger secrets before, usually without realizing it.

When Derek gets to the bedroom, he sees Stiles passed out across the bed, too deeply asleep even to snore. His prescription painkillers sit next to a glass of water on the bedside table – his carpal tunnel must really be acting up, because Derek knows Stiles doesn’t like to take medication unless he absolutely has to.

Derek sits lightly on the edge of the bed. Stiles’ face is smoothed out in sleep, no worry lines creasing his soft, pale skin. Derek forgets how young Stiles is sometimes – hell, Derek forgets how young he is sometimes – because Stiles can seem like such an old soul, so smart and determined. Derek loves the hell out of him, has since the day they met. So why can’t he seem to say it anymore?

 

&&&

Five Years Ago

&&&

They met in Beacon Hills, of all places: Stiles’ hometown. It was the first time he’d been back since his dad had passed, but he managed to push that out of his head – he was there for the job. A Darach had been making sacrifices, trying to reactivate the Nemeton, and what a fucking shitstorm that would’ve been.

Except when Stiles got there, she’d already been killed. Claw marks, clean and precise, the width of a human hand. Had to be a werewolf. Intel didn’t mark her as the current emissary for any known pack, but she could’ve gone rogue or been seeking some kind of revenge against an old pack.

That was why Stiles liked werewolves – he’d never actually had to fight one. Pack structure meant they took care of their own, which included keeping disputes internal. In the rare event of a dangerous omega, a pack would either take it into the fold or dispatch it. Neat and tidy, no need for humans to get involved.

Druids, on the other hand… Well, Stiles assumed there were some light, peaceful Druids out there somewhere, but he’d never run into one.

Only problem was the werewolf had simply left the body near the Nemeton, which could’ve ended up inadvertently finishing what the Darach started if Stiles hadn’t buried her a safe distance away and used a leaching spell to draw her blood out of the ground before it could get to the Nemeton’s roots.

Even though Stiles wasn’t looking to stay in town any longer than necessary, he stopped in at Jungle, the only gay club in a 50-mile radius and one of his old haunts. He didn’t usually do the club scene anymore, but he’d come into town prepped for a magical fight and he needed to ground himself out somehow.

He’d seen Derek from the back first, sitting at the bar, all broad shoulders and defined triceps in a black t-shirt. The type Stiles would usually brush off as a meathead gym bunny, but something about the empty bar stool next to the guy beckoned him over.

He sat down just as Derek ordered a top-shelf whiskey, and Stiles let out a low whistle. “Celebrating? Or drowning some very potent sorrows?”

Derek turned to him then, and to this day, Stiles is surprised he didn’t simply fall off the stool at the sight of Derek’s face. “Just broke up with my girlfriend,” he’d said, but the slight glimmer of amusement in his eyes was at distinct odds with his stony expression. “It didn’t end well.”

“You don’t look too choked up about it,” Stiles said, heart nearly pounding out of his chest as Derek didn’t look away.

Instead, he looked Stiles up and down at a very leisurely pace. “I’m sure I’ll get over it.”

“Need help?” Stiles asked with a grin, emboldened by the magic and adrenaline and pure lust pumping through his veins.

The bartender set Derek’s drink down, but Derek just tossed a wad of cash on the bar, leaving the whiskey behind in favor of pulling Stiles onto the dance floor.

They’d barely entered the crush of other bodies before Derek had reeled Stiles in close, his hand spread possessively against the small of Stiles’ back. The beat of the music was quick and light. Stiles smirked, moving in until their foreheads were almost touching and leading Derek in an playful rhythm that was little more than a tease, feeling Derek’s breath ghost over his lips   Derek was grinning, too, as Stiles ran his palms down Derek’s arms and back up again. Stiles did a little shimmy with his hips and Derek laughed, hands slipping lower to cup Stiles’ ass. They moved so easily together it was as if they’d been doing this for years, and seeing the intensity in Derek’s eyes, Stiles felt another tug deep in his gut.

Then the beat suddenly changed to a slow, pounding bass rhythm and Derek robbed Stiles of all remaining thought by spinning him around and hauling him in hard until Stiles’ back was pressed against the living wall of muscle that was Derek’s chest. Stiles’ body reacted before his mind could catch up, reaching back to drape one arm around Derek’s neck, closing his eyes and tilting his head back until it was resting on Derek’s shoulder.

When Derek started up a slow, sinuous roll of his hips, Stiles couldn’t help groaning aloud – Derek was holding Stiles so close that he could feel the heat of Derek’s erection grinding up against his ass, and Stiles went from half-hard to get-me-out-of-these-jeans-now. Stiles pushed back a little harder on the next downbeat, drawing a hungry growl out of Derek, whose hand slid from Stiles’ hip to his stomach, fingers stretching out until his pinky was dipping below the waistband of Stiles’ jeans.

Stiles didn’t give a shit if everyone in the club was watching them, he just wanted Derek’s hand to keep pushing down, wanted to feel those thick, strong fingers wrapping around him. He hadn’t had a drop of alcohol, but he was so drunk on pheromones and lust that all he could think to regret was that he couldn’t see Derek’s eyes in that moment, know if the heat in them was anything approaching the heat of Derek’s skin.

But Stiles would get his chance later when Derek was pressing him down into the bleach-scented sheets of the closest motel, thrusting into Stiles at that same languorous pace that made Stiles feel like he was burning up from the inside. Derek’s eyes were indescribably beautiful, not just for their undefinable color but for the way they focused so completely on Stiles in between wet, breath-stealing kisses. And when Stiles wrapped a leg around Derek’s waist, deepening the angle and pulling him in closer, Derek swore breathlessly and fucked Stiles harder – not faster, but harder – until Stiles had to brace his hands against the creaking wreck of a headboard.

Just when Stiles was sure he was going to go mad from it, a strong, sure hand wrapped around his cock and he felt his eyes start to roll back in his head. When it finally hit, his orgasm felt like it had been pulled up from his toes, and he gasped Derek’s name for the first time all night. There was a shocked, hoarse sound above him, and Stiles realized Derek was coming, too. Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek and they held tight to each other, rocking their way back down until Stiles was too sore and Derek too sensitive to take any more.

The next morning, Derek seemed every bit as stunned at still being in bed with Stiles as Stiles was. But it was a surprise of contentment, not regret, like Derek couldn’t quite believe Stiles hadn’t bolted in the middle of the night.

Truthfully, Stiles wasn’t entirely sure his legs still worked, but he put his hand to Derek’s face, letting his thumb trace Derek’s lower lip. It was far, far too intimate for a club hook-up, though soon they’d be eating breakfast together at a diner down the street, happily realizing that they both lived in San Francisco and were just passing through town.

But still in bed, Derek nipped at Stiles’ thumb, and Stiles let out a little sigh of disbelief. “It’s like you were waiting at that bar just for me.”

Derek grinned, and Stiles’ fingertips explored the new shape of Derek’s mouth. “I wasn’t planning on going home with anyone. Turned down three guys before you got there.” He flicked his tongue across the pad of Stiles’ middle finger, making Stiles shiver. “So, yeah, maybe I was waiting just for you.”

 

&&&

 

Stiles kicks his feet up on his desk. Well, not his desk, per se, since his job doesn’t actually require a desk, but it’s the one desk in Lydia’s massive workspace – which essentially takes up the entire floor – that Stiles is allowed to touch. He watches Lydia’s intel peons scurry about, tracking selkie migration patterns and trying to sort the genuine leads from the hoaxes. Something about the chaos is soothing, and Stiles realizes that as long as he doesn’t think about Derek, about how he didn’t come home until close to sunrise again the other night, Stiles actually feels pretty good. The vampire thing went about as smoothly as it could have, considering there were seven vampires, not three. Stiles didn’t get badly injured – only a pulled muscle in his back, hurt like a bitch but didn’t leave a mark – and he even got Chris to double his bonus because he never should have been sent in alone against seven vampires. Hell, even three was pushing it.

Lydia fired one of her underlings for the bad information, so maybe Stiles shouldn’t be down here, but Danny banned him from the lab for causing a smallish chemical fire this morning. Plus, Lydia gets all flushed and snappy when she’s angry, and even though that particular ship sailed a long time ago, Stiles can still appreciate the singular beauty of her unquenched rage.

Eventually, she stomps over to Stiles – a pretty impressive feat in Louboutins – but he’s not holding his breath for any kind of apology. Sure enough, she throws her hands up and groans, “Incompetence. I am surrounded by utter incompetence.”

Stiles just grins. “They can’t all be geniuses like us, Lyds.”

She narrows her eyes, but apparently the “genius” comment cancels out the hated nickname. “We have a reputation to maintain here. I can’t be sending hunters out into the field with bad intel. It makes us look reckless and sloppy.”

“Aw, I’m touched,” Stiles coos, clamping a hand over his heart. “I’m glad I’m still alive, too. But you’ve got to stop spending so much time worrying about me. I’ll admit that seven vampires is a personal best, but there’s no need to get all aflutter.”

Lydia’s mouth forms a thin line, and for a moment Stiles worries that he’s gone too far. Even if she’ll never admit it, he knows she feels guilty for putting Stiles in danger and ashamed in general for having made what could have been a costly oversight, even though it’s not directly her fault. But after a moment, she just sighs and shoves his feet off the desk, nearly sending him toppling off the chair, too.

“What we need is more informants and better mapping software. Danny can make some modifications, but Argent’s got him working on offense so much that he’s practically got to help me off the clock. You know he was working with wolfsbane yesterday?”

Stiles makes a face. “When’s the last time we had to deal with a werewolf?”

“Exactly!” Lydia says. “I haven’t registered any ferals or unusual pack activity in months. Allison seems to think something big is about to happen, but unless Chris knows something and isn’t sharing – which he’d better not be, for his sake – it’s just the same old shit.”

“He’s probably just, I dunno, being prepared.”

“Does Chris strike you as the Boy Scout type?”

Stiles instantly gets a mental image and groans. “Please don’t make me think about my boss and best friend’s father-in-law in a scout leader uniform. My boner is easily confused these days.”

Lydia quirks an eyebrow. “’These days’?”

“Not now. Take me out after work and get me shit-faced and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Please,” Lydia says, rolling her eyes. “Apparently it’s taken you five years to realize you’re in an actual, functional relationship and now you’re panicking.”

Stiles opens his mouth to protest, but before he can, Allison’s coming over.

“Stiles, my dad’s looking for you,” she says.

“Hello to you, too,” Lydia snaps.

“Sorry,” Allison mutters perfunctorily, immune to the unquenchable rage. Then, to Stiles: “It seemed pretty urgent.”

“Any idea what it’s about?” Stiles asks, sitting up properly in the desk chair.

“No, but he said to tell you to meet him on B5.”

Lydia’s eyebrows shoot up, mirroring the look Stiles is sure is on his own face. B5 is the lowest level of the complex. It’s supposedly something of a panic room crossed with a bomb shelter, and the only one with an office in there is Gerard. Stiles and Danny have a bet going that the old man actually lives down there, because in the seven years that Stiles has been working for the Argents, he’s seen Gerard precisely once a year at the annual state-of-the-company meeting. And once a year is plenty to creep Stiles out. He isn’t allowed on B5; only Chris and possibly Allison ever go down there.

“Why do I have the feeling I’m either being promoted or I’m never going to be heard from again?” Stiles asks, glad his voice doesn’t crack.

Lydia just rolls her eyes again. “If they were going to disappear you, would they be this obvious about it?”

“I don’t know!” Stiles says. “For all we know, Danny made them a memory eraser and doesn’t even remember doing it. They might just Eternal Sunshine me out of all your minds! Oh god, what if we’ve had dozens of colleagues— Ow!”

Stiles rubs his ear where Lydia just flicked it, and Allison tells her, “Thank you.” She turns. “Stile, they’re not going to do anything to you. I see the books – you’re one of our most valuable assets.”

At least Stiles has the presence of mind to take some offense. “One of?”

“Get your ass out of my office and downstairs, Stilinski,” Lydia says, and Stiles hops to his feet before Lydia can reach for his ear again.

“Right. I’ll be going now… to accept my medal for Most Vampires Killed Singlehandedly. That was seven, by the way. Seven vampires. Ah-ah-ah.”

Neither of them even crack a smile at his hilarious Count impression, so he scoffs in their general direction and heads for the elevator.

&

 Chris is waiting for him when he steps out onto B5, and the smile he’s wearing is small but genuine. “Excellent work with that coven, Stiles. You probably saved a lot of lives.”

"Thanks,” Stiles says, feeling like he should stand up for Lydia as much as he can. “Four of them were recently turned. They’re almost never that aggressive about recruiting, especially near major cities.”

Chris, who’s forgotten more about vampires than Stiles will probably ever know, shoots him a look that says he knows exactly what Stiles is trying to do, but he just turns to the control panel next to the biggest, shiniest set of blast doors Stiles has ever seen. Stiles watches in silence as Chris goes through multiple scans and types in a long series of codes. More confirmation that Gerard must be one seriously paranoid dude. Stiles takes a moment to pray he’s not about to be led into a bunker filled with jars of urine and toenail clippings.

But Gerard’s office – or whatever it is – is lushly furnished and immaculate. If Stiles didn’t know he was five stories underground, he might’ve thought he was standing in a penthouse, save for the lack of windows. It seems the Argents intend to ride out the apocalypse in style. There’s a huge mahogany desk at the far end of the room, and the man himself stands up as Chris and Stiles approach.

“Ah, Mr. Stilinski, so good to see you,” Gerard says, offering a pale, bony hand to shake. Stiles manages not to wince at his smile, but barely – it’s the expression of someone who knows all the mechanics of a smile but not the reason behind it, and the few times Stiles has seen it, it’s always creeped the hell out of him. Today is no exception.

“You too, sir,” Stiles says, focusing on calming his heartbeat. It’s usually something he only needs to do around creatures with supernatural hearing, but the skill comes in handy here.

Gerard walks out from around the desk and walks over to the overstuffed leather couch, motioning for Stiles to sit. Then Chris comes over with two tumblers of scotch, one for Gerard and one for Stiles, and that’s when Stiles really starts to get concerned. He tries to turn down the drink – he’s never liked scotch, and Derek is always telling him he has no appreciation for the finer things in life – but Chris basically forces it into his hand. “It’s Macallan ‘39,” Gerard says. “You might find you’ll need it in a moment.”

“I’m going to need to drink before noon?” Stiles asks, trying to force out a laugh. “How many vampires are there this time?”

“I’ve been very impressed by your work, Mr. Stilinski, though that’s only part of the reason you’ve been selected for this particular assignment. The good news is I’m funding this assignment myself and I’m prepared to be extremely generous upon its completion.”

“Implying there’s bad news,” Stiles says, not inclined to talk around anything at the moment. Gerard didn’t get to be the wealthiest hunter in the western U.S. by being generous. “Who’s the target?”

Chris holds up a file folder. “The target is a werewolf.”

That can’t be all there is; it’s unusual, but not especially dangerous. “Why hasn’t the pack taken care of it?”

Chris sighs. “Because he killed most of his pack.”

What?” Stiles says. He’s never heard of that kind of behavior from a werewolf. It would go against their most basic instincts.

Gerard’s face creases with some approximation of sympathy. “I’m terribly sorry to have to give you this news, Mr. Stilinski, but I think in time you’ll come to appreciate finally knowing the truth. Chris?”

Chris opens the file and lays it on the table in front of Stiles. Dozens of pictures inside show Derek’s face. They’re all profile shots, but the subject is unmistakable.

“No,” Stiles croaks out quietly, carelessly dropping his glass on the table to sift through the pictures and documents. “No, this is wrong. I’ve been with Derek nearly as long as I’ve been with Shiruba. This has to be a mistake.”

“I’m afraid not, Stiles,” Chris says.

“Think back,” Gerard says, leaning forward in his chair. “In all the time you’ve known him, has Derek ever been sick or injured?”

“No, but he just… He works out a lot, he takes good care of himself.”

“How many photographs do you have of him looking directly at the camera?”

Stiles thinks of his favorite picture of them, the one he always uses as a bookmark in whatever he’s reading at the moment. In the photo – taken by Allison – Stiles is cracking up at something Scott said and Derek is looking at Stiles, not the camera, an expression of open adoration on his face. “He… he doesn’t like having his picture taken,” Stiles says, his voice growing weak.

A warm hand squeezes his shoulder, and when Stiles looks up, there’s real sympathy on Chris’s face. “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you to hear, but it’s true. Derek’s a killer, and we hunt those who hunt us.”

Stiles’ mind is reeling, trying to latch on to something other than no no no. Not Derek. Not the man who laughs at Stiles’ lame jokes and knows exactly how much sugar goes into Stiles’ morning coffee. Not the man who gripes about doing dishes and rubs the knots out of Stiles’ back until Stiles is little more than a puddle of goo. Not Derek.

“But… okay, say it’s true. He’s a werewolf. Say…” Stiles tries to swallow, but his throat is too dry. “Say he did kill his pack. We still only target supernaturals who kill innocent humans. Technically.”

“He did kill a human,” Gerard says icily, and there’s nothing even approaching sympathy on his face.

“Who?”

Gerard grimaces. “My daughter.”

 

&&&

 

Derek’s about to leave for the day – at 5:00, a miracle to end miracles – when Peter stops him before he can make it out the door. “Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” Derek sighs.

“We have a huge lead on the Argents.”

Peter says it just like that, no sly hinting or verbal jabs at Derek. That’s most of the reason Derek turns back around. “Did you just find this out? We’ll need to call everyone else back in. I think Isaac and Erica are still in the parking lot.”

“No,” Peter says. “There’s something I need you to take care of on your own.”

Something about the way Peter says it sends a chill down Derek’s spine, but that’s all the more reason to find out what Peter wants from him. It can’t be good, not if it needs to be kept private.

They go back into Peter’s office. Derek’s never liked it in here – there are no windows, for one thing. Then there’s Peter’s collection of taxidermied birds, which is way too Norman Bates-y for Derek’s liking. But ever since the fire, Peter’s been a little… off, which is understandable, and he’s still Derek’s alpha. He’s never once commanded Derek to do anything, though he easily could. Truth be told, he can usually talk Derek into doing what he wants. It’s a little disconcerting how easily he can get into Derek’s head, but he’s the only family Derek’s got.

Peter shuts the door behind him even though there’s no one else in the office, heightening Derek’s instinctual sense of claustrophobia and making him edgy. The predator in him senses danger, so Derek is thrown completely off course when Peter asks, “How’s Stiles?”

It’s bizarre, not least because Peter never seems to care about Derek’s personal life, and Derek wouldn’t bring problems with his relationships to Peter, either. “He’s fine.”

“Travels a lot, doesn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Comes home late?”

“Not all the time, but I’m usually—”

“How much do you know about what he does?”

“I don’t really know much about computers,” Derek snaps, annoyed by all the questions. “What does any of this have to do with the Argents?”

“I think we’ve isolated one of their hunters. I had Isaac take a closer look into that vampire attack last week.”

“Since when do we care about vampires?”

“Derek, where does Stiles work?”

Derek rolls his eyes at the non sequitur, but Peter stares him down. “Shiruba Consulting. He’s in IT. Will you just—”

“Not Shiruba, Shiruba,” Peter says, gliding lightly over the r and rubbing the bridge of his nose as if Derek’s stupidity is physically painful to him. “As in the Japanese transliteration of silver.”

It takes a moment for the pieces to fall into place, and even when they do, Derek’s mind automatically rejects it. “That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”

“A man matching Stiles’ description – down to the plaid shirt – was seen entering and leaving the warehouse in Oakland. And your group of hunters was right – it was an extremely professional job. Tell me, did Stiles come home that night?”

Yes, he was asleep when I got…” Derek trails off, remembering the bottle of pain pills on the dresser, Stiles’ pinched look the next morning when he got up. He’d had a few extra bruises, but then, Stiles is always coming home with odd bruises. He’s clumsy, he’s always bumping into things… “Are you trying to tell me Stiles is a hunter?”

Peter narrows his eyes. “I’m telling you that Stiles is one of the best hunters in the country. And to get that way, he had to be Argent-trained.”

“Do you need me to count all the leaps in that logic for you?” Derek snarls, but his mind is reeling. Peter is making some huge assumptions, but… it’s not impossible. Derek knows very well that Stiles is stronger and tougher than he looks. And he has scars – each one with a story of clumsiness or youthful recklessness, of course. What Peter’s saying can’t be true, but Derek is hard-pressed to think of hard evidence to contradict it.

Peter’s still talking when Derek tunes back in. “…didn’t want to believe that any of us, let alone my own nephew, could be duped into getting close with a hunter, but…” Peter smirks sadly. “It’s happened before.”

White-hot rage flashes through Derek’s system. “Don’t you fucking dare compare Stiles to her! He’s not a hunter and he has nothing to do with the Argents.”

Peter’s eyes flash red, and it’s only then that Derek realizes he’s got a clawed hand around Peter’s throat. Peter doesn’t look the least bit cowed, though; in fact, he looks as smug as ever, like he’s just won a bar bet instead of turning Derek’s life inside out. “Prove me wrong” is all Peter says. “Come back tomorrow and tell me it honestly isn’t true, that Stiles is exactly who you think he is, and I’ll believe you.”

“Fine,” Derek says, dropping his hand and sheathing his claws. He doesn’t know why, but he feels like he’s already lost something to Peter. He tries in vain to slow his racing heart. “Fine.”

“But if it is true,” Peter says slowly, fixing Derek with a penetrating stare, “you know what you have to do.”

&

Stiles is already home when Derek gets there and has started to make dinner – unusual in itself. Derek had thought all he’d have to do was look Stiles in the eyes and all the doubts Peter had planted in his mind would vanish, but instead Derek finds himself almost wanting to back out of the room. When he looks up, there’s a coldness in Stiles’ eyes that Derek’s never seen before.

“Hi, honey,” Stiles says with false brightness. “Hard day at work?”

It doesn’t necessarily mean Peter’s right, but Stiles’ guard is all the way up. He’s so closed-off that it’s in his scent. His heartbeat is even, but then, the first training any decent hunter gets is in biofeedback for concealment. And Stiles is acting unnaturally calm.

“Not too bad,” Derek replies evenly, watching for Stiles’ response. “Yours?”

“Started work on a new project,” Stiles says, turning his attention back to the vegetables he’s chopping.

“Anything interesting?” Derek asks, slipping out of his suit jacket in case he has to move fast.

“Oh, the usual. You know.”

Derek sees an opportunity to get information. “Um, no, actually I don’t. You don’t talk about your work much.”

“Thought you weren’t interested in computer stuff.”

“Try me.”

“All right,” Stiles says. “But first, can you hand me the potato peeler? It’s in the back of the drawer by the dishwasher.”

Derek is about to retort that he knows where the potato peeler is because he’s the one who usually cooks, but before he can say anything, he yelps and yanks his hand back. Instead of the tray that usually sits in the back of the drawer, there are half a dozen very sharp and very much not kitchen-related knives arranged point-out. The cuts on Derek’s hands aren’t deep and they’re quickly healing, but Derek is still trying to process what the hell is going on when he whips around to face Stiles.

Who is staring intently at Derek’s already-healed hands. Shit.

“What the hell are you?” Stiles asks quietly.

“I think you already know,” Derek replies.

Before Derek can blink, Stiles hauls back and throws the knife in his hand. It’s an expert throw, the knife spinning blade over handle, and Derek catches it mere inches from his face. He has less than a second to glimpse the rage on Stiles’ face before Stiles vaults over the breakfast bar and pulls a handgun from somewhere beneath.

Derek dodges the first three bullets – clustered at the level of his heart – easily, but the smell of wolfsbane hits his nose and he ducks out of the kitchen altogether. The living room windowsills are lined with mountain ash, and even though Derek could probably make it to the door, he has to deal with this now. “What the fuck, Stiles?” he cries out, searching the room for an advantageous position.

“You can’t be that thick,” Stiles taunts, entering the room with gun drawn. “If I know what you are, you must know what I—shit.”

Derek springs from behind the couch and Stiles only has time to get two wild shots off before Derek knocks the gun from his hand. One of the bullets grazes Derek’s shoulder – not enough to put a lethal dose of wolfsbane in his system, but it stings like hell and keeps him from healing. It slows him down just enough that Stiles eludes his grasp, tumbling sideways behind the loveseat.

“Stiles, you don’t have to do this,” Derek growls, because he can’t even begin to think I don’t want to have to kill you.

“You broke the Code,” Stiles says, his voice strained. “You killed an innocent.”

Derek feels like he’s swallowed mistletoe. How does Stiles know about Paige? Nobody outside of Derek’s family knows about Paige. “It’s… more complicated than whatever you’ve heard.”

“Oh yeah?” Stiles says, poking his head up to look at Derek. “What color are your eyes? Show me.” When Derek hesitates, Stiles says, “That’s what I thought.” And brings out a double-barreled shotgun.

Derek dodges most of the buckshot, but not all of it. Fortunately, it just seems to be regular buckshot, but his body quickly heals around the hot metal piercing his abdomen and he howls. Stiles pulls the trigger again, but Derek’s already in the dining room, swatting chairs out of the way and putting the table on its side – he can hear Stiles reloading.

“You work for Argent,” Derek says, not making it a question.

“Yeah, you remember the Argents, don’t you?” Stiles swings around the corner into the room, blasting more buckshot for cover. “Chris, Gerard… Kate.”

At the mention of her name, Derek roars and instinctively shifts, not so much bursting through the upturned table as reducing it to splinters. Seeing him wolfed out seems to freeze Stiles in place, because he doesn’t fire the second cartridge before Derek grabs the shotgun and snaps it in half. He backs Stiles up the three steps to the wall, then grabs him by the throat and lifts him easily off the ground.

“Gonna kill me?” Stiles chokes out, thrashing so hard that Derek nearly loses his grip. “Gonna kill me like you killed Kate?”

Derek’s laugh comes out as a snarl. “I didn’t kill Kate Argent. I wanted to, but somebody else got there first.”

“Right,” Stiles says with a sneer. “It was just the rest of your family you burnt to a crisp.”

Derek vaguely registers his hand loosening, Stiles slipping through his grasp and landing on the floor with a loud curse. But all Derek can see is flames, he hears screams and smells the smoke and ash filling his lungs. Stiles thinks Derek was responsible for all that. And maybe his blindness to what Kate was, how she was using him, played a part in it, but Stiles is accusing him of lighting the match.

He’s brought back to reality by a burning point of pain at his throat. Stiles had obviously been hiding a very sharp dagger, and even the scent of the wolfsbane it’s coated in burns Derek’s nostrils. But that all seems inestimably far away, particularly compared to the look of disgust on Stiles’ face. All the fight drains out of Derek at once, his claws and fangs receding. He can see a hint of puzzlement flit through Stiles’ expression, but his hand with the dagger is completely steady.

The moment drags out, the sound of their breathing loud in Derek’s ears. Finally, he manages to say, “Do it.”

Stiles twists the knife a little, digging the point in until Derek feels a drop of blood roll down the skin of his throat. “I will,” Stiles warns, his heart already beating so fast that Derek can’t tell whether it’s a lie. “My orders are to bring back your head. Literally.”

There should be some kind of animal instinct driving Derek to protect his own life, but all he feels is numbness. “Go ahead. If you believe I murdered my own family, that I burned eleven people—”

“Werewolves.”

“—eleven werewolves alive, then kill me. You’re all I have, and I can’t live with you believing I deserve to die.”

A tiny tremor runs through Stiles’ hand. It’s very slight, but it’s there. “This is some kind of trick,” he says, sounding anything but certain. After all, if Derek wanted to kill him, he could have done it easily a moment ago.

“I’ve lied to you about a lot of things,” Derek says, “but I’m not lying about this. If you honestly think I would do that, for any reason, put me out of my misery. Isn’t that what you do? Put down wild animals?”

“Goddamn it, Derek!” Stiles hisses, but his eyes don’t leave Derek’s.

He must find whatever he’s looking for, because after a few tense moments, he drops the dagger altogether.

All Derek wants to do is slink away. He doesn’t know where he’ll go from here and he’s definitely not safe from the Argents, but he can’t think any farther than getting out of this wrecked room.

Except as soon as he starts to leave, he hears Stiles say “No.” Derek turns back, fully expecting to see the dagger pointed at him again, but instead Stiles’ hands are empty and open at his sides. His eyes are wet, but his voice is strong. “You don’t get to just walk out of here.”

Derek’s heart sinks – Stiles may not be able to do the deed himself, but he’s still going to try to drag Derek in front of the Argents for execution. Derek would almost rather die at Stiles’ hand.

But when Stiles moves toward him, his hands fist in Derek’s shirt and he crushes his mouth to Derek’s in a searing kiss.

 

&&&

 

When Stiles was little, he was rarely without a cast, splint, or bandage for very long. People assumed he was accident-prone, but his mom knew the truth – Stiles didn’t just want to know that the stove was hot. He wanted to know exactly how hot the stove was and if all four burners were the same. His mom kept saying he’d drive her to an early grave, which was funny right up until it really, really wasn’t.

Point is, Stiles has never been afraid to dive right in, to suffer the consequences if it means getting to experience that one bright flash of adrenaline. So maybe the fact that he’s throwing himself at an alleged murderer – and a confirmed werewolf – isn’t all that surprising.

Stiles can’t think through all of the conflicting information, the lies upon lies, but he does know two things for certain: the Derek he knows would never kill those he loves, and if Derek walks away from him now, Stiles will never see him again. The thought of life without Derek, whatever he is, is intolerable. He’s everything to Stiles, and Stiles can’t let him leave at least until they figure this clusterfuck out.

Also, the sight of quiet, buttoned-up Derek roaring and turning their dining room table into toothpicks? Unexpectedly hot.

He has to know whether Derek still feels the same way about him, because all of Stiles’ secrets have just been dragged into the spotlight as well. And since they’ve told each other so many lies, he doesn’t trust Derek’s words.

He does, however, trust the tongue invading his mouth and the hands lifting him until he can wrap his legs around Derek’s waist. God, Derek’s been hiding the full extent of his strength this whole time. He could snap Stiles’ neck without breaking a sweat, but instead he’s holding Stiles tight, and this should be so low on his list of priorities right now, but all Stiles can think about is the fucking crazy things they’ll be able to do in the bedroom.

Or, y’know, against the wall of the kitchen. Whatever.

Because when Stiles moans long and loud, Derek takes the opportunity to bite with blunt human teeth at the juncture of Stiles’ neck and shoulder. Derek’s always paid special attention to that spot, to the point where it gets a Pavlovian response from Stiles’ dick. He tilts his head back, baring more of his throat, and Derek practically sobs, grinding their hips together. Stiles is already rock hard in his jeans and he can feel that Derek’s getting there. Fuck, yes, they’re doing this right here, right now.

There’s no room between them, but Stiles scrabbles at Derek’s shirt anyway, sending buttons flying. In response, Derek somehow shreds Stiles’ shirt down the back without so much as scratching Stiles’ skin. It’s so efficient that Stiles can’t even be mad about (what used to be) one of his favorite shirts.

It’s not enough, though, and they have to untangle their limbs – and Stiles has to return to the ground – to get to more skin. They can only make it so far, though, before they can’t stand to be apart anymore: Derek ends up shirtless with his pants pushed down to his knees, while Stiles has his shirt half-on but his jeans are only hooked around one ankle. In his defense, he tried to get out of them completely, but as soon as he had one leg free, Derek guided it up around his hip and thrust forward and Stiles completely forgot to care.

There’s too much friction for it to be perfect, but something about that feels right, and Stiles moves against Derek’s hard thrusts with an almost painful urgency. This, this is what he remembers it being like, Derek fucking him like the world is ending, like this is his last chance to make Stiles scream.

As it is, Stiles can’t even find it in him to speak, especially when Derek licks his own hand and slides it between them to encircle both of their cocks. The tight, hot slide of skin on skin makes Stiles tremble, glad for Derek to still be holding his thigh up. Part of him feels empty, wishes Derek were fucking into him for real, but Stiles couldn’t pull out of Derek’s grasp even if he wanted to. They both need this so badly, hell, Derek’s whimpering, and somehow Stiles finds the words to urge him on, to tell him to go faster, grip tighter until Derek suddenly shivers and comes, growling so deep that Stiles can feel it rumble in his chest.

Amazingly, the motion of his hand barely slacks, and he can jerk Stiles harder now that his hand is wet with his own release. That’s the thought that sends Stiles over the edge, shuddering and crying out as he digs his fingers into the hard muscle of Derek’s shoulders. If he had his own claws and fangs, Stiles thinks, he wouldn’t be able to hold them back now.

 

&&&

 

They don’t even make it to the couch. Luckily, Derek manages to pull his pants up before sinking to the floor, so at least his bare ass isn’t on the tile. Stiles doesn’t seem to mind, though he’s put most of his shredded shirt on – backwards. Derek still can’t stop looking at him, at his kiss-reddened lips and wide, dark eyes. He somehow manages to look completely wrecked and content at once, and it’s a look Derek hasn’t seen on him in a long time.

For a while, they just sit there, breathing – facing each other, almost close enough to touch, but not quite. At some point, Derek’s eyes slip closed so he can focus on Stiles’ rabbit-quick heartbeat as it starts slowing back down. Unsurprisingly, Stiles breaks the silence. “Never had to kill a werewolf. Never even had to fight one before.”

Derek opens his eyes and Stiles is smirking, the little shit. “No kidding,” Derek shoots back, lifting an eyebrow.

“Shut up,” Stiles groans. “You’ve got claws and fangs. I’ve got—”

“Really shitty aim. I noticed.”

Stiles squawks indignantly and half-heartedly swats Derek in the chest. “’f I was really trying to kill you, you’d be dead. Pretty sure the reverse is also true.”

He says it lightly, but there’s a profound truth there that cuts through all the bullshit. “What do you kill? Other than vampires.”

Stiles actually brightens at that. “You know my work!”

“I know you don’t have carpal fucking tunnel syndrome.”

Stiles frowns. “Well, not from typing. I might have a repetitive stress injury from all the staking.” He looks up at Derek, more earnest now. “I’ve never killed anyone or anything that hadn’t already murdered at least one human. And the intel always came from my friend Lydia before. This is the first time I was working directly on Argent orders.”

Well, Stiles definitely believes what he’s saying, and Derek doesn’t think it’s wise to question this Lydia’s loyalties at the moment. “I’ve never murdered anyone, human or otherwise.”

Stiles bites his lip and Derek hears a distinct skip in his heartbeat. “But… the blue eyes…”

“Not Kate,” Derek says, squeezing his eyes shut. He doesn’t want to tell Stiles this story, but Stiles isn’t going to believe anything less than the truth, if he believes Derek at all. “Paige. The first girl I fell in love with. Peter convinced me she needed the bite, then found an alpha to give it to her before I could think it through. It… didn’t take, and she was in so much pain… The only thing I could do for her was end it.”

“Jesus,” Stiles mutters.

“We were both 15.”

There’s a long moment where Stiles seems to be working something out in his head, and he finally says, “Wait, the Argents told me you set… that the fire was set 20 years ago. That would’ve made you 15. So…”

“There really was a fire,” Derek says, figuring he may as well get it all out now. Whatever happens, there’s a strange feeling of relief that comes with unburdening himself to Stiles. “My parents didn’t die in a car crash and I’m not – I wasn’t – an only child. But Peter really is the only one left.”

“And, um.” Stiles looks like he has to force the words out of his mouth. “And Kate?”

“She… seduced me. I didn’t know who she was and I was still so fucked up after Paige that I told Kate everything.”

“Wait,” Stiles interjects shaking his head, “I saw Kate’s birth and death dates. She was ten years older than you.”

“My first girlfriend had died in my arms and a pretty older woman was paying attention to me. I’m not… I made a lot of bad choices, okay? And I may be partially responsible for my family’s death, but I didn’t kill them.”

“No, no, that’s not where I was—” Stiles smacks his forehead in exasperation. “God, Derek, Kate killed them? And committed statutory rape in the process?”

Derek looks away. “You don’t have to believe that, if it’s too much. Just as long as you know I didn’t, I couldn’t, murder my family.”

“Derek, look at me,” Stiles says, taking Derek’s face in his hands when he does. “Just say it one more time for me, please.”

“I didn’t kill my family,” Derek repeats slowly. “And I still love you.”

Well. He didn’t quite mean to say that, but it’s no less true.

“I believe you,” Stiles says, his heartbeat and breathing steady. “And I still love you, too. I think I’d still love you if you were a murderer.” Derek’s face must do something obvious, because Stiles quickly follows that up with, “But I believe you when you tell me you’re not. And the jury’s technically still out on this, but I think you’re probably the same person I’ve always known.”

Derek lets out a breath he didn’t even know he’d been holding. “And you?”

Stiles drops his hands and shrugs, his cheeks flushing. “I’m a hunter and I stick to the Code, but everything else is just me. I couldn’t be anyone else if I tried. And I have, believe me.”

At that, Derek reaches out and pulls Stiles into his arms. He’s never erred on the side of being too trusting before – not since Kate – but he hangs on to the fact that Stiles didn’t kill him. Barely even hurt him, in fact. Except… “Fuck, where’s the kitchen knife?”

“Uh, wherever you dropped it?”

“I’m going to need it,” he sighs, pressing Stiles’ fingers against the bits of buckshot healed beneath the skin of his abdomen.

Gratifyingly, Stiles turns a little green.

 

&&&

 

Stiles has dealt with a lot of nasty things in his life, but according to his roiling stomach, nothing beats performing minor surgery on his… on his magically-healing werewolf boyfriend. In hindsight, it makes one hell of a lot of sense. “I knew you looked too uncomfortable in a suit,” Stiles mutters as he removes the last piece of metal from Derek’s flesh.

He didn’t think Derek heard him, but as Derek sits up, he says, “And I knew you were too built, considering you eat entire tubes of cookie dough in one sitting.”

“Okay, the guy with the werewolf metabolism does not get to criticize my eating habits,” Stiles says, dropping the knife when he realizes he’s sort of punctuating his words with it. He doesn’t want to point anything sharp at Derek ever again. “Do you, um.” Stiles swallows loudly. “Do you even want me around anymore?”

Derek pauses, tugging his shirt back around him. “I hate what you do. Or at least who you work for. But I don’t want to— I can’t do this without you, and we’re both in danger now.”

“So… what do we do?”

Derek’s eyes go blue, and Stiles feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “We fight back."