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It doesn't happen the way Derek expects it to.

Not that he spends a lot of time daydreaming about what his and Stiles' first kiss is going to be like, because he doesn't. He probably would if it hadn't been for how he keeps denying himself that train of thought like a plague.

He knows how Stiles feels; has known for a while now. The way his heart skips a beat at even the simplest touch, the way his eyes linger whenever they spot each other from across the room. It's not just attraction, because if it was Derek would've been scared. Well, more scared than he already is, because the fact that Stiles' heart pounds with something as warm and soft as affection for him is downright terrifying.

And he knows how he feels. He feels vulnerable.

But the few times when he does think about it—those lonely nights when he's on the brink of sleep and can't keep himself from going down that road no matter how hard he tries not to—he pictures it being desperate. On the edge of a battlefield, after they've survived another fight, when he's too exhausted and relieved to keep his guard up. He pictures himself hauling Stiles in by the collar of his shredded shirt and slam their lips together. Because they can, because they're alive, and because it's what they want.

Derek expects their first kiss to taste blood, because that is who they are.

That's not how it happens.

 

 

It happens on his couch on a Saturday morning, with the sun shining through the big window. Scott, Stiles and Kira are standing by the window; their low voices the only sound to be heard. Derek is on the couch with a book in his lap, where he's been since they finished breakfast and Isaac headed out. He's filtered out the teenagers' conversation into a low buzzing, not disturbing his reading in the slightest. It almost feels like the loft's own heartbeat, pulsing through the walls, and it's comforting in a way Derek never thought people's voices could be.

Maybe it's because they're pack. Maybe it's because he's had enough of dead silence.

"Derek," Scott calls out, drawing him out of his peaceful bubble and cause him to look up to see the young alpha in the middle of the room. His hand is intertwined with Kira's, and once again Derek asks himself how the hell he became part of a pack involving both wolves and foxes. "We're leaving."

They're already heading for the door, and Derek just hums in response before looking back to Stiles still standing by the desk, their eyes meeting and heartbeats quickening at the same time. He darts his eyes to the door as it slams shut, not able to maintain eye-contact with Stiles without feeling his chest tighten, and casually returns to his book.

All his senses remain fixed on Stiles as he moves across the floor, however, and he reads the same sentence three times over without catching a single word. He keeps up the facade though, pretending to still be skimming down the page when Stiles flops down on the couch next to him. No words are spoken as he shuffles closer until he's pressed up against his side, their arms brushing, but the sound of Stiles' racing heartbeat is enough to fill the silence.

Touch is a new thing, but it's not their new thing. Ever since Stiles and the Nogitsune got separated, and his body and mind became his own again, Stiles has developed a few new habits. Needs may be a more fair term for it, and while Derek has no idea how it works, physical comfort seems to help. He's noticed how Stiles hugs his dad more frequently than before, and never leaves much space between him and whichever pack member he ends up next to. It's subtle enough when they're all sitting on the couch, and Stiles just shuffles an inch closer to Scott, but Derek still notices.

It's the most with Scott, and judging by the total lack of surprise in Scott's expression whenever Stiles nudges him makes Derek think they've probably talked it over. They're comfortable with each other, and Scott doesn't even hesitate to throw his arm around Stiles' shoulders whenever it happens.

Isaac had looked confused when it first happened to him, but clearly didn't mind and quickly got used to it. Derek knows that boy needs all comfort he can get and is pretty sure the help goes both ways.

When it first happened to Derek, he'd stopped breathing. Not because Stiles was overstepping a line, because he didn't do more than what he already did with the rest of the pack, but because it took every last bit of Derek's self-control to keep himself from giving in to his pounding heart. To have Stiles seek his company, his touch—it makes him ache.

He's not startled by it now, not even surprised the moment their skin make contact, but it's still a struggle. Every time they touch he can feel Stiles' emotions bleeding through, like they're leaking, and Derek is scared of drowning.

"Where are they going?" He asks in a mumble, eyes still moving down the page.

Stiles shrugs lightly, their shoulders sliding against each other. "I don't know."

It's probably a lie, because unlike Derek Stiles had actually been engaged in the conversation before the couple left, but Derek can't tell with the way Stiles' heart is throbbing right now. Or he really doesn't know because he simply wasn't paying attention.

Derek hums, turning the page even though he hasn't read a word from the last five paragraphs. Stiles doesn't move for a moment, remaining tense before letting out a sigh as his body finally goes heavy and relaxed, his pulse steady. He shifts to fold his legs next to him, putting more of his weight against Derek's side.

He's still wearing the sweatpants he slept in—Derek's sweatpants, because he'd forgot to bring his own. They're rolled twice at the hip, because unlike his jeans Derek likes them big and loose. Stiles doesn't seem to mind, but can't help but fumble on the soft fabric on his knees. Derek can tell he's restless and possibly nervous, looking like he's bouncing on the inside to fight the urge to move. It's nothing new—Stiles has probably been fighting the battle to keep still since the day he was born—but this time he's not only resisting to move but to move closer.

Derek curses internally, clenching his jaw as he keeps staring at letters he can't see.

"Come here," he sighs softly, lifting his arm for Stiles to slip under.

Stiles does so without hesitation, scooting impossibly closer and drops his head on Derek's chest. He lets out a content noise once he's settled, and Derek swallows as he rest his arm on the back of the couch, not trusting himself in putting it over Stiles' shoulders.

A comfortable silence falls between them, but the throbbing of Stiles' heart is still loud in Derek's ears. It's hypnotizing, and he's lost count of many times he's listened in on it during the last couple weeks. Just to make sure it's there; that it sounds like it should. He's practically memorized it by now, would probably still be able to play the beat in his mind when Stiles isn't there.

"I had a nightmare," Stiles mumbles into Derek's shirt after a while.

Derek only just manages not to flinch. Not because Stiles startled him by breaking the thick silence, but because he'd hoped Stiles wouldn't remember.

"I know," he says quietly.

He'd woken up in the middle of the night to the frenetic sound of Stiles' heartbeat. The boy had been tossing and turning in his sleep, hands jerking and grasping the blanket around him. And it's not the first time; Derek knows that. He's seen the dark shadows under Stiles' eyes lately.

Derek is well familiar with being haunted by nightmares. It's an understandable side effect, and when come to think about it: maybe the touching is too. Stiles is innocent, but if things had ended differently with Scott giving him the bite, they all know his eyes would've been blue. His hands were the weapon; his touch had been deadly. Perhaps it made total sense for him to reach out to the people around him now, to be able to touch without doing harm. Derek desperately tries to swallow the lump emerging in his throat by that realization.

"I know you do," Stiles returns, sounding light but the quickening of his heart betrays him. "Just trying to make conversation."

And Derek can't help but smile weakly at that, feeling himself lean further into Stiles before he can stop himself.

"Not a very joyful one," he points out, but at the same time he just wants to say keep talking.

"No," Stiles agrees with a sigh, and it breaks Derek's heart. He stays quiet for another moment before Derek feels him inhale a breath to speak again. "So what are you reading?"

Derek blinks, trying to recall which book he'd been deeply buried into only a few minutes ago and now is staring down at with what could've just as well been blank pages.

"I have no idea," he admits.

Stiles actually laughs, and the sound of it keeps Derek from panicking over how he just pretty much gave away how easily he forgets the rest of the world when he's with Stiles. He doesn't ask, and Derek isn't sure what that means, but he's relieved.

He almost flinches when Stiles reaches down with one of his hands to close the book in Derek's lap. Just the brief touch of fingertips brushing over his knuckles is electrifying, and Derek is grateful Stiles can't see his face in this position. Stiles makes sure to leave Derek's thumb on the current page, and as soon as Derek can focus on the book's cover rather than Stiles' finger resting on the back of his hand, he recognized Under The Dome.

"Stephen King?" Stiles asks, sounding in awe and it makes something inside Derek move. "I didn't know you read fiction. Doesn't he got one involving werewolves?"

"Not that I've read," Derek says, shrugging faintly under Stiles' weight. "There's plenty of ghosts though."

Stiles just hums thoughtfully, not withdrawing his hand even though Derek expects him to. In the end he's the one to move his hand away, because the lingering touch is driving him crazy and making his chest grow hot and heavy. He slips his thumb free, not caring that he'll lose the page. His skin feels cold where Stiles touched him as he tosses the book on the table.

He regrets his decision immediately when suddenly he doesn't know where to put his hands. He settles with his palm spread on his knee, hoping to come across as casual as he lets out a heavy sigh. Stiles doesn't move, but his heart is beating like crazy and he smells happy and nervous altogether and its intoxicating.

Derek freezes when Stiles comes to rest a hand on his stomach, fingers carefully clutching the fabric of his shirt.

"It helps," Stiles murmurs, and Derek can tell how afraid he is of being rejected.

Derek closes his eyes and presses his lips tightly together, but only manages to keep himself still a short moment before tilting his head to the side and exhales into Stiles' hair. With the way he's got his ear above Derek's heart, Stiles may be able to hear how fast it's going, but without the werewolf senses he can't tell that it's aching for him.

They don't move for what feels like forever, but it's impossible to keep track of time. The only clock Derek knows of is Stiles' racing heartbeat. His eyes are open again but he hasn't withdrawn, still breathing into Stiles' messy hair. He's watching Stiles' hand rise and fall on his stomach as he breathes, and he knows it's all in vain to try keeping it steady.

Somewhere in the back of his mind there's a voice growling at him to back away before it's too late, but maybe part of him understands that it's already too late because he can't move an inch.

When Stiles finally does, it still happens gradually. Maybe that's why Derek doesn't back out sooner, letting it happen so slowly it's driving him crazy. He's perfectly still as Stiles tilts his head up, his scalp colliding with Derek's jaw which clenches. The hand on Derek's stomach slides a bit further up before gripping tightly again and stays there.

Realization of what's about to happen hits him when he feels Stiles nose press into the side of his neck, hot breath curling over his sensitive skin. He can feel Stiles' heart pounding against his own ribs, the two of them pressed so close together. He digs his fingers into his own thigh to maintain what little control he's got left.

Derek closes his eyes just as Stiles moves up to eye-level with him, breath catching as their noses bump together. He can feel Stiles' hot breath ghost over his lips, ragged and anxious. Derek fails to swallow the lump emerging in his throat when their foreheads come to rest against each other. He inhales sharply, flaring his nostrils and feels his whole body shudder. Everything smells of Stiles and them and their mutual emotions and Derek would be a fool if thinking he could run away this time.

It's just a chaste brush of lips at first, their mouths barely touching, but it's enough to take Derek's breath away. Then Stiles leans in again, and this time it's a real kiss. Their lips are closed, both of them trembling against each other, and Derek can't even tell their running hearts apart anymore. Stiles exhales through his nose, daringly pressing himself just a little closer, and Derek lets it happen. Stiles' lips are soft and warm from the sun, and fit against Derek's in a way that makes him sigh.

They barely pull apart when it ends, faces remaining close. The ghost of Stiles kiss lingers on Derek's lips.

"Derek," Stiles whispers, voice thick. "It's okay."

First then he realizes that he's shaking, panting heavily as the emotions wash over him and makes it hard to breathe. He opens his eyes, and the sight of Stiles in front of him makes his heart clench. He's so close; close enough for Derek to count his eyelashes. His lips are wet and parted, eyes open and wide. Derek swallows, the lump in his throat only growing bigger.

"No," he rumbles. "No, it's not."

Stiles swallows, and Derek can see the hurt in his blown eyes.

"Why not?"

His voice sounds like glass about to break, and it makes Derek swallow harshly again. He can still escape; can lie and run away from this like he's done every other time. But it's not fair because Stiles doesn't know and it occurs to him then that maybe he's not the only one who's terrified.

"Because I'm falling in love with you and it's scaring the hell out of me."

It's barely a whisper, and at first Derek thinks Stiles can't hear him, but then his breath catches and heart jolting. He lets out a shaky breath, gaze flickering between Derek's eyes.

"Why?"

Because Stiles is fire: hot flames burning under his skin whenever they touch. Stiles is electricity: sparks shooting up his spine as their eyes meet. Stiles is innocence: amber eyes glowing like gold in the sunlight from the big windows.

Stiles is everything he's afraid of. Everything he can't have.

"Because I feel vulnerable when I'm with you," he finally murmurs, admitting it out loud for the first time. "Defenseless. Because it feels like you've ripped me open and slipped inside."

He glances down to where Stiles' hand is still resting over his heart, but in truth he's already holding it in his palm, able to crush with a simple flick of his wrist. Stiles follows his gaze, and maybe he understands what Derek is thinking because his fingers immediately release their grip of his shirt, as if about to withdraw his hand, but Derek reaches up to place his own above Stiles', keeping it there. They lock eyes again, Stiles looking hesitant.

"I trust you," Derek says quietly. "More than I've ever trusted a human in my entire life. And you—" He closes his eyes, inhaling deeply through his nose. He knows the right thing to do is to look Stiles in the eye when saying this, but he can't make himself. It's already hard enough to get the words off his tongue. "I've never—"

"It's okay," Stiles interjects softly. "You don't—"

"No, I need to say this," Derek grits out. "I need to tell you. This is— I've never had this."

He can hear Stiles swallow harshly and it's surprisingly nerve-racking.

"Derek," he says, voice trembling, "look at me."

And Derek does—doesn't even hesitate to open his eyes again—because there's no way he's going to deny Stiles now. His breath catches when their eyes meet, faces only inches apart. Stiles' eyes are big with pupils blown and it makes Derek wanna throw his head back and howl. There's a mark rapidly fading on his bottom lip, as if he'd just let it go with his teeth.

"One of the first things I ever said to you," Stiles begins, "was that I wasn't afraid of you." A weak smile is tugging at the corner of his lips, and Derek can feel something inside him burst at the memory. It feels like a lifetime ago, and in a way it probably is. "I was lying," he continues, scoffing breathlessly. "Obviously. And I bet you could tell because my heart was pounding like crazy."

Yes, Derek thought to himself. He could. The smell of the boy's fear had been filling up the whole cop car the moment he slide into the front seat, a stench that had made Derek's nostrils flare where he sat handcuffed in the back. Stiles had been terrified.

Stiles tilts his head back to be able to look at him properly, lips drawn into a thin line. His hold on Derek's shirt tightens again, hard knuckles sliding against Derek's palm.

"I'm not scared of you, Derek," he says firmly. "Only of how you make me feel."

Derek breathes heavily through his parted mouth, feeling his heart flutter inside his chest at Stiles' words. The second heart slamming against the side of his ribs is racing with fear, but not the same kind as back in that cop car. Stiles hasn't reeked of fear around him for a very long time. This is not the fear of being slammed into a wall or getting his throat ripped out; it's the fear of rejection.

He lets out a deep sigh in defeat, eyes falling close for a second before he moves his hand from where it's been resting on top of Stiles' on his chest, following it with his gaze as he cups Stiles' jaw. Derek can feel as well as hear his pulse jump at the touch, but his scent is still warm and welcoming.

"I don't want you hurt," he murmurs, eyes slowly moving up Stiles' face.

Stiles lets out something that might've been intended to be a scoff but the thick emotion in his throat makes it come out as nothing but a shaky breath.

"Likewise," he says quietly. "But we both know it's probably gonna happen sooner or later anyway. This is Beacon Hills, and you're Derek Hale and I'm Stiles Stilinski." He pulls a sad smile. "Our lives are pretty much doomed."

And as much as Derek wants to argue with that, he can't. He knows Stiles is right. No matter how bad he wishes defeating the Nogitsune would've been the end to all their struggle, he knows there will be more. Before he used to blame himself, used to think that trouble would follow wherever he went and thereby drive it away from Beacon Hills by leaving, but he knows now that's not how it works. The town is a beacon itself, and it'll need alphas and betas alike to protect it.

He pauses, lips parting but closing again without any words coming out. Stiles' smile falters when there's no reply, like he just realized what he'd said and how hopeless it sounded. Derek clenches his jaw, wanting to explain that's not the only reason he's scared. It's not just about Stiles getting hurt or used because of him, though that should be reason enough. The words get stuck in his throat, part of him still refusing to speak his mind out loud. His heart is thumping away, almost painfully hard against his ribcage.

"I don't want myself hurt either."

It sounds foreign even to his own ears, despite the fact that he's been chanting them inside his head for what feels like forever. This is the final exposure—weakness as uncle Peter would call it—and Derek may as well have his throat bared only inches away from Stiles' fangs.

But Stiles has no fangs. Stiles has blunt human teeth and big, beautiful eyes that soften at Derek's confession.

"I know," he says.

"I know you do," Derek replies in a heartbeat, because he does. It should be a relief but it's not. It's terrifying; that Stiles knows him so well. That he figured him out before anyone else did.

Stiles stares at him for a moment, neither of them speaking. Then he sighs deeply, eyes shying away as he ducks his head down. Derek can still feel his racing heart, can tell he's nervous as well as excited, and patiently waits for him to sort his thoughts before putting them into words. His hand remains on the boy's face, illuminated in the morning light, thumb stroking across his cheek.

"Derek," he says softly again, and Derek can't help but feel something inside him flutter just from hearing Stiles speak his name. "Listen; I know I can't promise to protect you or the pack. Hell, I can't even protect myself." He laughs hollowly, and it's about the saddest thing Derek has ever heard. "I've neither fangs nor claws. I won't be able to take a bullet for you. I won't heal." He pauses, jaw clenching as he glances up again to catch Derek's gaze. "But I still will. I'll fight alongside you just like I always have, but I'm not foolish enough to think I'll be able to keep you any safer than you can keep yourself."

His fingers release their grip on Derek's shirt, pressing his palm flat over the werewolf's beating heart. Derek can feel it skip against Stiles' hand, and he knows Stiles can feel it too. He watches the Adam's apple bob as Stiles swallows.

"But this?" He mumbles, with a voice as steady as his gaze. "This I will keep safe." He pauses, lips parted, before adding: "If you let me."

There is more to be said; Derek can tell by the way Stiles hesitates to close his mouth. So he waits, hand still on Stiles' face. Eventually Stiles gives a small shrug as he looks down again.

"I know I'm just a teenager," he starts, and his voice is low—careful; as if he expects Derek to bolt at the reminder. "And most people would say I have absolutely no idea what I want yet, but—" He shakes his head solemnly. "I haven't felt like a kid in ages."

And that, if anything, is what makes Derek want to bolt. Because sometimes he thinks back on the two kids he found in the woods less than a year ago, one of them a pup and the other a happy bundle of nerves. Because sometimes he looks around when they are all gathered and those boys are nowhere to be found: in their place a confident alpha and the one who plans the pack's every battle. Because sometimes Derek still blames himself for them having to grow up so fast.

"Derek," Stiles says again. "I won't— I would never—"

"I know you're not like her," Derek hurries to say, hating the thought of Stiles comparing himself to Kate, and suddenly he can taste ashes. He also realizes his track record consists of more than one person these days. He blinks slowly, inhales and exhales. "Them," he whispers. Stiles swallows. "You're not. I'm just—"

Afraid, he finishes inside his head. I'm so very afraid.

Stiles doesn't frown or narrow his eyes in confusion, doesn't look like he needs Derek to finish the sentence. He looks like he knows, and somehow Derek is not surprised. This is why they work; because Derek has never been good at using his words but he doesn't have to with Stiles. He leans back in, their hair brushing before he's leaning his forehead on Derek's again. They're too close to maintain eye-contact, so Derek's gaze falls to Stiles' lips.

"Tell me," Stiles whispers. "Tell me everything you're afraid of."

Derek's throat clicks when he swallows, eyelids falling shut again. It's a childish illusion of safety—a baby playing hide and seek behind its own hands—but it's all he can do to escape the overwhelming reality that makes him want to curl up in a ball and hide. This is the only way he can answer, and once he does—once he opens his mouth and lets the truth spill out—he doesn't stop.

"I'm scared of how you make me feel. I'm scared of how I want to submit to you. I'm scared of how much I trust you. I'm scared of what your father thinks of me. I'm scared I won't be able to protect you. I'm scared of what will happen if I kiss you again, and I'm scared of what will happen if I don't."

The sound of Stiles' heartbeat is maddening.

"I love you," he says, voice unsteady but his pulse ringing truth. Derek feels like he's falling, and the noise he makes is a painful one before Stiles hurries to continue. "You don't need to say it back. I know it's— You won't have to. I understand if you can't. It's fine."

But it's not fine, because Stiles is just as scared as he is, and yet he's the only one with courage.

"And I love you," Derek croaks out, finally moving his hand from the back of the couch to the back of Stiles' head. There is fire beneath his fingertips, and Derek is terrified of getting burned but he won't pull away. "Fuck," he breathes, "I love you so much and I don't want to lose you."

"You won't," Stiles pants back in a heartbeat, leaning forward and trying to shuffle impossibly closer. "Damn it, you won't."

Derek lets out a whimper as the very last piece of his restraint comes tumbling down. He pulls Stiles in to press their lips together, much more desperate than the first time. Stiles' surprised groan gets muffled against Derek's mouth, but he only smells of happiness and warmth. He responds to it with equal force, and Derek sighs into the kiss as his heart tries to break free from its ribcage.

They kiss like they're dying, and save the lack of blood it's exactly how Derek pictured their first. He parts his lips for Stiles to deepen the kiss, and he licks into his mouth like he'd been waiting for Derek to make the move. His hand remains clutching on the front of Derek's shirt, but he's twitching, and Derek can tell he still needs to be closer. Closer than he's been with the rest of the pack.

Derek doesn't even stop to consider before following his instincts and hauling him into his lap. Stiles doesn't allow either of them to break the kiss, just moans softly down Derek's throat as he straddles his thighs. Both his hands reach up to twist his fingers in Derek's hair, causing the werewolf to growl low in the back of his throat as his own hands grabs Stiles' hips to hold him in place.

"Stop denying me," Stiles murmurs against him.

"Resisting you," Derek corrects, voice hoarse and deep. His wolf is practically purring.

He can feel Stiles grinning against his lips, and it makes the butterflies inside his stomach swirl by knowing he's the reason. He smiles in return, chuckling helplessly between their heated kisses. It feels like something inside him loosens, his chest not feeling as heavy as he inhales. He's never been this out of air.

Eventually they allow themselves to slow down, to catch their breaths with their noses still bumping as they switch between panting into each other's faces and lazy kissing. Derek is still holding him tightly, hands wrapped around Stiles' waist. His thumb slips under the hem of Stiles' shirt and he can't help but shudder upon touching bare and hot skin.

Stiles is watching him with intense eyes when Derek focuses his vision again, and first then he notices that they've stopped kissing. They're just watching each other, chests heaving and the air around them thick with something warm and soft. Derek keeps his thumb on Stiles' skin as he reaches up with his other hand to trace Stiles' swollen bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. His pupils are blown, only a thin ring of golden brown outlining them. Derek is confident he's never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

"Stay," he says quietly.

A soft smile stretches across Stiles' lips, hands sliding down to the back of Derek's head. Derek can't keep his eyelids from fluttering as Stiles plays with his hair, and is pleased when it draws a simple chuckle out of him.

"Try make me leave," he replies firmly, and Derek's pretty sure neither of them is only talking about tonight.