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We Got Something Magic

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Stiles has always dreamed of the Wolf.

He’s always been a vivid dreamer, his dreams often seeming more real to him than his waking life. They’re dictated by the peculiar dream logic that makes the impossible seem totally normal, but that’s not what makes his dreams so visceral, so real. It’s everything else about them, especially how he feels in them; all of his senses seem heightened, all of his emotions feel deeper, more rooted in his body. There’s often a sense of something tugging just at the edge of his awareness, something he should know but can’t quite grasp, can’t quite name. It’s like a word is just on the tip of his tongue or there’s a shape on his periphery that he’s too slow to turn and see.

The feeling chases after him when he wakes, and as he grew up, he became so accustomed to it that he often fails to consciously notice it. It becomes a part of him, just like the Wolf, which makes a kind of sense, he supposes, since the feeling is always stronger when dreams of the Wolf. He’s not sure exactly how old he was the first time he had the dream, probably five or six. He remembers waking up in the middle of the night, the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling shining a faint greenish yellow.

His mother had put the glowing plastic stars on his ceiling in lieu of the nightlight he declared himself too old for when he turned five, and they had become his way to reorient himself to wakefulness. Even after he moved out of his childhood home, in the various college apartments he and Scott had shared, he had always glued a single small star to the ceiling above his bed, and it was the first thing he did when he moved into his first solo apartment in Seattle. His mother’s constellations, and then the single star, are his anchor to his waking life. His real life, he reminds himself.

The stars on the ceiling of his childhood bedroom were nothing like the stars in his Wolf dream, which shone with an almost blinding white light in the dark sky that curved over the tree-encircled meadow he stood in. The meadow was a perfect circle, too perfect to be real, and Stiles stood in exact center of it. He had no sense of what he looked like, but he felt older, felt like a grown up. There was snow on the ground, a lot of it, but he wasn’t cold, and the moonlight that reflected on it sparkled almost as brightly as the stars. It felt like his entire existence was rooted there, like he was waiting for something. In the elastic time of dreams, it felt as if he had both always been there and had just arrived.

When the Wolf arrived, the brightness of the stars and snowy moonlight mellowed, as if someone had turned a dimmer switch like the one in the dining room he liked to spin back and forth as fast as he could to see if he could make himself dizzy. Even when everything else looked washed out and pale, the Wolf’s eyes always burned a fiery, rich, glowing red, the only color in a sea of gray.

The Wolf is the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, awake or asleep. He’s very large, with an inky black coat that shimmers with the muscular strength beneath. Stiles has never been scared of him, has always wanted to run to him, wants to touch him and feel the soft thick fur, look closer into those red eyes. But he’s never been able to move in the dream. He simply watches as the Wolf trots out from the tree line toward him and stops about ten feet away, staring at him with a confused expression on his face that seems almost human.

And that’s it. One moment he’s there, gazing into those red Wolf eyes, and then he’s awake, looking for plastic stars.

The first time he had the dream as a kid, he got up the the next morning and declared to his parents that he loved wolves and needed to learn everything he possibly could about them.

“Wolves, huh?” his dad asked, ruffling his hair as he walked through the kitchen to the coffee pot. “Where did this new interest come from?”

“My dream,” he said, like it should have been obvious.

His mother put another piece of French toast on his plate and kissed his head. “Duh, John,” she said, smiling. She turned on the old-timey radio she kept on the windowsill above the kitchen sink to her favorite oldies station, and his dad, dressed in his deputy’s uniform, grabbed her hand and danced her around the kitchen to “Brown-Eyed Girl” while she laughed and twirled, the long, flowing skirt she wore spinning around them. Stiles devoured the rest of his breakfast while laughing at his parents, and when he carried his plate from the kitchen table to the sink his mom grabbed his hand and the three of them danced in the kitchen until it was time for Stiles to go to school and for his parents to go to work.

When he returned home from playing at Scott’s house that evening, his mother presented him with a stuffed wolf, the first of many wolf-related purchases that she would make for him. The stuffed wolf was gray and white, not black like one in his dream but that was okay, because he hadn’t told her yet what the Wolf looked like. She also bought him two books, one an illustrated kid’s book that told the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the Big Bad Wolf’s perspective, and another that he couldn’t quite read yet that was full of photos and facts about wolves. They read them together every night.

Two months after the first Wolf dream he received a certificate in the mail from the World Wildlife Foundation declaring him the proud guardian of a Canadian Timber Wolf named Apollo. It came with an 8x10 glossy photo; Apollo was dark gray with a white chest and golden eyes. Stiles tacked the photo and the certificate on the wall next to his bed, and he continued to do so with each one he received. There was no rhyme or reason to when his mother would make a donation in his name, but over the years the wall steadily filled with certificates and photos, some from WWF, some from Wolf Haven International, some from Wildlife Defenders. When he couldn’t sleep, he would close his eyes and list the names of all of the wolves his mother had “adopted” in his name: Apollo, Thor, Mariposa, Duke, Odin, Zoe, Athena. He would picture each one in his mind, the whispered mantra of their names lulling him to sleep.

The Wolf dream returned frequently, sometimes two or three times a week. For years, it was always exactly the same, no detail changed from that first time.

Then, one night when he was ten, when the Wolf walked up to him in the center of the meadow, instead of standing and staring at him until he woke up like he always did, he sat back on his haunches and howled. It was a piercing, heartbreaking sound full of pain and rage and for the first time, dream!Stiles tried to run to him, but he couldn’t make his body move. The Wolf howled on and on, a long plaintive cry that cut through to Stiles’ core and seemed to echo off the moon, ricocheting into his heart.

He woke with a gasp, the Wolf’s pained howl still echoing.

It upset him so much he refused to go to school the next day, and for some reason, his parents didn’t fight him on it too much on it and they let him go to work with his dad, where he spent the early morning behind the front desk with Rhonda, the daytime receptionist. He was drawing – a wolf, of course – on scrap paper he pulled out of the recycling bin when his mom walked in. She had two teenagers behind her – a boy and a girl, twins by the look of them, probably students of hers at the high school. She was escorting them to the station to talk to his dad, who had rushed out sometime before with a few deputies, yelling at Stiles to stay put and listen to Rhonda. His dad walked in not long after his mom did, and they both looked at him and smiled softly, the expression not reaching their eyes, as they took the two teenagers into his office. Rhonda was sniffling and wiping her nose with her hand while she was trying to answer the phone, so Stiles jumped down from his chair and headed towards the bathroom to get her toilet paper.

On his way back to the receptionist desk he stopped for a moment, looking into the slightly opened door of his dad’s office where he could hear his mother quietly consoling the girl. From where he stood, the only person he could see was the teenage boy, his handsome face pale and blank, pale green eyes staring straight ahead at Stiles, but with a look that was seeing right through him. Stiles was just a kid, but he could tell that the boy was broken. For some reason the look on his face made the memory of the Wolf’s howl echo even louder in his head. So loud he didn’t hear Rhonda calling for him until she was standing right next him, sighing in relief and pulling him back to her desk. She thanked him for the tissues and hugged him and gave him a dollar to buy a Reese’s from the vending machine, but he didn’t feel like eating.

When he saw the Wolf again a week later, the dream was back to normal.

~*~

His wolf obsession continued unabated throughout his childhood, until he was too old to be obsessed with things from his youth. Until his mother died when he was twelve. He removed the pictures and the certificates from his wall the day after her funeral.

He makes a donation in the name of Claudia Stilinksi every year on her birthday.

He doesn’t open the large envelopes that arrive a month later.

~*~

Despite the devastating death of his mother and his father’s subsequent flirtation with alcoholism, Stiles’ life is for all and intents and purposes, good. His father loves him dearly; learning how to be a family of two had made them close. He grew up comfortably in the small California town where his dad eventually became sheriff, and Stiles had his best friends Scott and Lydia. Allison moved to town right before freshman year and fit seamlessly into their little group, which had by then somehow grown to include Lydia’s douchenozzle boyfriend Jackson. At least Jackson was friends with Danny, who Stiles had harbored a mild crush on for years. Their little group had had the typical high school drama, of course, but nothing major. The worst thing that had happened to Stiles when he was a teenager was getting rejected when he asked Danny to prom. Upsetting, but he got over it quickly. He attended Berkeley on a partial academic scholarship, majoring in English with a minor in web design. Scott spent two years at Diablo Valley before transferring, and they had lived together for all four years of college, during which they had an absolute blast and further solidified their friendship into the brotherhood it was always meant to be, something that’s about to become legal when his dad marries Melissa this Christmas.

Sometime during sophomore year of college, during his hardcore burnout phase, Stiles began to worry about the vividness of his dreams. He convinced himself that feeling more awake while dreaming meant that he was actually dead in real life and only alive in his dreams: convoluted stoner logic that seemed epiphanic at the time. He told Scott about it, who laughed and told him to do his laundry because all of his clothes smelled like bong water.

A couple months later when he finally forced himself to be a more responsible stoner – only after eight pm on weekdays, and no more going to class high – he rescued his GPA and stopped getting into his head about it too much. But he still couldn’t quite shake the thought that there was something…off about his dreams, and by default, about him too. Maybe the dreams were a symptom of some yet-to-be-diagnosed psychosis that would make itself more fully known at any moment; maybe it was a side effect of his ADHD. Whatever the cause, he knew it was wrong somehow, to feel so alive in his dreams when his waking life was good. He felt guilty, like he didn’t have the right to escape to a dreamworld, something his logical, self-effacing tendencies told him was a privilege reserved for those who had lives troubled enough to warrant such a dramatic escape.

It’s not that he’s unhappy; far from it. There’s just something more that he feels in his dreams that always makes him the tiniest bit sad when he wakes up, like he’s lost something before he’s even had the chance to have it.

It’s worse when he dreams of the Wolf.

In the approximately seventeen years that he’s been dreaming of the big black Wolf with red eyes, with the exception of that one night when he was ten, not a single detail of the dream has changed. What has changed, however, is how he feels when he wakens. As he’s gotten older, that feeling of loss at waking that strikes him after seeing the Wolf has gotten stronger and stronger. Once, in his senior year of college, right after an exhausting week of midterms, he woke up sobbing, feeling like his heart was being torn out of his chest, the loss of the dream hitting him harder than any loss he had felt since his mother’s death. Scott and Kira, who was pretty much living with them by then, had run to his room to make sure he was okay. He lied and said it was a nightmare. They both crawled into his bed and held him until he fell asleep again.

 

~*~

By some miracle, Stiles lands a great job right out of undergrad with a successful independent publisher in Seattle. It’s a small house, and Stiles is paying his dues copyediting, managing the various author websites, and reading the slush pile, but he's been promised opportunities to develop his own projects soon.

The office is located in a renovated historic house in upper Queen Anne, and Stiles gets an apartment at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill and, having lived in Berkeley the past four years, has no problem adjusting to Seattle life. He quickly makes friends with a few of his coworkers and one of his neighbors, and counts himself lucky that he can wear tattered graphic tees and a beanie to work. The music scene is incredible – he saw Gaslight Anthem at the Crocodile for ten bucks last week! And legal weed? Pretty fucking legit. He even likes the rain. It sucks to be so far away from his dad, but there are promises of frequent visits and his dad has Melissa now, so Stiles doesn't feel too bad about leaving him alone. Plus, Scott and Kira got jobs in Portland and are only a three hour drive away, and Lydia called just yesterday to tell him that she’s been accepted to med school at UW and will be moving to Seattle in a month. Stiles is thrilled and utterly relieved when Lydia immediately rejects his offer to let her move in with him, even though he only has a one bedroom. “Stiles, you know I love you, but if we lived together I would fucking murder you and no one would ever find your body,” she says sweetly, and they both know it’s true. He loves his friends.

He’s been in Seattle for nearly six months when he has the Wolf dream again, only the fourth time since he’s moved, the longest he’s ever gone without it. When he wakes, the familiar pang of loss is there, but so is the relief that he hasn’t lost the dream, even more so this time, because he had been starting to worry that the Wolf wasn’t coming back.

He sighs heavily, glancing at his phone where it’s charging on the nightstand. It’s nearly six am, and he’s wide awake. Might as well get up.

He stumbles to the kitchen to make coffee, red eyes and black fur on his mind, thinking that, with the exception of Scott, who he met in preschool, the Wolf is his oldest friend. It might be a further sign of his vaguely-defined weirdness that he considers a creature invented by his childhood subconscious to be a friend, but oh well. The Wolf is part of him; part of him that he doesn’t understand fully, but an important part of him nonetheless.

He decides right then he wants to acknowledge the Wolf somehow, acknowledge his admittedly strange but compelling presence in his life.

And just like that, he decides to get a wolf tattoo. No, not a wolf. The Wolf. His Wolf. He leaves his coffee to brew and slips on some flip flops to walk down to his storage closet in the basement of his apartment building, not bothering to change out of his pajamas. There, among the many boxes of books he doesn’t have the shelf space for but he couldn’t bring himself to get rid of (and choosing which ones would live on the wall of bookshelves in his apartment and which ones would wither and die in storage was torture), is the box that holds an eclectic mix of childhood memorabilia, most of it wolf-related.

It’s one of those file boxes with a lid that his dad long ago liberated from the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s department, and he lets his fingers dance nervously over the lid before he opens it. He finally does after steeling himself with a deep breath, but he doesn’t let his eyes focus on the unopened envelopes stacked on top of the pile – eleven of them, now. He’ll add the twelfth in a few months.

Instead he reaches beneath the stack to a file folder filled with tattered-edge pages and bent-edged photos. He pauses for a second before putting the lid back on the box, grabbing the stuffed gray and white wolf, damaged and tattered, before he puts the box away and locks the storage closet.

Back in his apartment with a mug of steaming coffee, he pulls the photos from the folder and lays them out on his kitchen table, leaving enough room for the blank pieces of paper he starts drawing on. He’s not an especially talented artist, but he understands perspective and lines well enough. He draws the Wolf from memory, using the photos of his adopted wolves for reference, trying to get the shape of his eyes just right, the line of his powerful jaws. Several balled-up pieces of paper later he has something he’s almost satisfied with. He has to stop so he won’t be late to work, and he doesn’t even notice until he’s in the shower that he’s been whispering to himself since he started drawing.

“Apollo, Thor, Mariposa, Duke, Odin, Zoe, Athena…”

~*~

Liz, one his coworkers, has the most beautiful tattoos he’s ever seen, so he asks for an artist recommendation. Stiles spends his lunch break perusing the artist portfolios on the Triskele Tattoo website, becoming more and more impressed with each photo he sees. The website says that they do consultations on a walk-in basis, but all of their artists are typically booked at least three months out. His enthusiasm dampens a bit at that – having made the decision to get the Wolf tattoo, he wants it now, patience never really being a thing at which he excelled. Liz assures him that the long wait for an appointment is a good thing, a sign of a truly good artist, and Stiles can’t help but agree. He’d rather wait and get the tattoo he wants, that will do justice to the Wolf, rather than give in to his impatience and get something shitty, but he decides to go in for a consultation as soon as he’s done working.

Fortunately, it’s Friday and his boss has a soul, so at three she tells everyone to clear out and have a good weekend. Stiles grabs a latte and jumps on a bus to Cap Hill and is walking into Triskele Tattoo by forty-five after.

The shop is small, wedged between a record store (they still have record stores in Seattle!) and an independent coffee shop. It’s brightly lit, with low black leather couches and a coffee table covered in leather-bound portfolios in the waiting area. He had expected the standard flash-covered walls, but instead the shop is sparsely decorated with only a few professionally framed and breathtakingly beautiful photographs of forests and the Pacific ocean. There’s no one behind the counter when he walks in, but the bell on the door rings his arrival and he expects to see someone soon. He can hear the buzz of a machine from the back, then a woman’s loud, throaty laugh.

The saloon-style doors that separate the back from the front swing open and a young guy with a short, bright pink Mohawk and a thrashed Nirvana t-shirt saunters through to stand behind the counter. He’s tall with dreamy blue eyes slightly smudged with eyeliner and when he smiles Stiles thinks of cherubs. Punk cherubs.

“Hey man, what can we do for ya,” Punk Cherub asks, leaning his elbows on the counter.

Stiles feels a little nervous, not expecting such handsomeness. “Um, yeah, I wanted to get a consultation on a tattoo?” He hopes framing it as a question will prevent an eye rolling duh from the cute guy, and either it works or the guy isn’t a jerk because he just smiles again.

“Cool, what are you thinking about? Color? Black and gray?”

“Black and gray. With just a tiny bit of color.” He pulls the paper from his messenger bag and flattens it on the counter. He’s suddenly very self-conscious of his amateur drawing, especially when one of the guy’s eyebrows goes up a bit and his smile turns into a little smirk. “I’m not the best artist…” Stiles says feebly.

“No worries, man. Our artists can definitely work with this. You’ll probably want Erica. She’s our resident black and gray expert, and she’s great with animals.” The guys smirks again, like he’s laughing at inside joke.

“Yeah, I saw some of her stuff online. It’s awesome.”

“And lucky for you, she’s working today. She’s finishing up a piece right now, but she can meet with you when she’s done, if you don’t mind hanging out for a bit.”

“Yeah, that’s cool. Thanks,” he says, turning towards the couch. Punk Cherub looks like he’s about to say something else when a voice sounds from the back.

“Hey Isaac! Get your ass back here and get me a clean fucking rinse cup!” Punk Cherub, Isaac, rolls his eyes and smiles at Stiles, grabbing his drawing and disappearing back through the swinging doors.

Stiles settles into the couch and gets his book of his messenger bag, but he decides to flip through the portfolios instead. Each of the three albums is several inches thick, suggesting a lot more photos than what he saw online.

He grabs Erica’s – her name carved into the red leather cover in elegant lettering that was clearly done by a very sharp implement in a very skilled hand. Isaac is right. There are a few excellent color pieces, but it’s clear that her passion is black and gray. The detail and shading of each piece is exquisite, as is the placement of each tattoo, the lines and curves of the art flowing organically with the wearer’s body. There are sugar skulls, memorial portraits, a large piece on a man’s thigh that looks to be a scene from The Inferno, fierce tigers, the Virgin Mary on a delicate foot, classic roses, an incredible owl on the muscled bicep of a woman, and even a couple of wolves. Stiles gets more and more excited to have her tattoo him with each page he flips.

After looking through Erica’s portfolio, he grabs the next, this one with the name Laura carved into the purple cover in much simpler lettering than Erica’s, but no less skilled. Her specialty seems to be script and small, detailed pieces – Stiles didn’t even know tattoos could be that small and still be so intricately detailed. Her work is just as stunning as Erica’s, and Stiles is feeling more and more confident in his decision to come here. He should buy Liz a bottle of wine to say thank you.

The third album is black, the name Derek stamped into a small square of metal that’s been screwed to the cover. This one has the most unassuming and plain cover, but inside it’s an orgy of color: Derek is obviously their color expert. His work seems to run the gamut of styles from classic sailor pieces to minimalist, abstract to watercolor and everything in between; he seems to be a master of them all. There are vibrant landscapes, simple, elegant animals, a truly masterful back piece of the Alchemy tarot card. There’s even a couple of multi-panel comic book pieces that Stiles practically drools over. He almost wishes he wanted his Wolf to be in color, just so he could wear this man’s incredible art on his body forever. He decides that his second tattoo will be in color, by Derek.

Not long after he’s looked through all of the portfolios the saloon doors swing open and a middle aged guy with a bandaged forearm walks out, followed by one of the most beautiful women Stiles has ever seen. Long, thick blonde hair that falls in perfect curls down her back and big brown eyes and bright red lips, and god, do you have to be a model to work here? If Stiles were into women, he’d be tripping over himself to either flirt awkwardly or run away in utter terror. She’s covered in tattoos; pretty much all of her skin that he can see, a fair amount, since she’s wearing a low cut, thin-strapped tank top, is inked beautifully. There’s a bright magenta and purple peony on her neck that Stiles is pretty sure he just saw a photo of in Derek’s portfolio.

Erica hugs her client goodbye and then levels her eyes at Stiles. “Are you my wolf boy?” she practically purrs, smiling mischievously.

“Uh, yeah, I guess that’s me. Hi, I’m Stiles.” He stands and extends his hand, which she takes in a firm – holy shit, really firm – handshake.

“Hey Stiles, I’m Erica. Nice to meet you. Thanks for waiting. Come on back.” She turns without making sure he’s following.

Behind the saloon doors, the shop is divided by half-walls into four workstations, two on each side of the narrow path that leads to another backroom and the bathroom. Three of the stations look like tattoo spaces, and the fourth holds various pieces of equipment and a large drafting table, with a hand-lettered sign on the half-wall that says "if you don’t fucking work here, don’t fucking come in here." Isaac is sterilizing Erica’s workstation, so she takes him to the one across from hers, the little square downright plain in comparison to the chaotic spray of stickers and art that's covering Erica’s. There are some drawings on the wall above the drafting table, clearly tattoos waiting to be inked, but other than that, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest whose space this might be.

“Derek’s off today, so he won’t mind if we sit here,” she says, kicking a rolling stool over to Stiles while she sits in the other chair at the small drafting table nestled in the corner. Derek’s workstation is as plain and unassuming as the cover of his portfolio, and Stiles is suddenly quite curious about the man whose space seems in such stark contrast with the vibrant work he creates.

Erica spreads his drawing out on the table in front of her and flips on the lamp clamped to its side. “I like wolves,” she says approvingly, smoothing her hand the paper. Across the way, Stiles thinks he hears Isaac snort in laughter. Erica ignores him. “Did you draw this?”

He feels his cheeks redden. God, he’s such a loser, showing his crappy drawing to a real artist and asking her to lower herself to recreate it. “Um, yeah, I know it’s not the best, I’m better with words than I am with drawing, but it’s, um, a specific wolf, so I want to make sure it’s just right.” He wonders if that makes him sound crazy; after all, it’s not a portrait of a person, how much should it matter if it looks exactly like he wants it to? Wolves have pretty similar features, so maybe Erica thinks he’s nuts for wanting something so particular.

She slides her assessing eyes away from his drawing to study his face, holding his gaze for a second too long before responding, like she’s trying to puzzle something out. “Of course,” she finally says. “Each wolf is an individual.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, breaking into smile and letting out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

“If you don’t mind,” Erica says, looking back to the drawing, “I’d like to redraw it. Nothing too major, just smooth out the lines, add a little more depth, maybe change the perspective, stuff like that. It’ll be this wolf, just…”

“Better?” Stiles supplies, laughing.

Erica laughs too. “Yes. It will be better. But of course, it’s going on your body, so you have final say. Sound good?”

“Sounds great. Thanks.”

“Where are we putting this guy, and how big do you want him?”

“That’s what he said!” Isaac calls from across the way.

“You wish!” Erica hollers right back, not missing a beat.

Stiles, who had been grinning at her double entendre, snorts with laughter and Erica rolls her eyes. “I like you, kid,” she says, even though she can’t be that much older than him.

“My back,” he says. “Left shoulder blade.” Just behind my heart, he thinks. “About this big?” He holds his hands up in circle, the tips of his long fingers not quite touching.

“Rad. Stand up and strip.” Stiles does as he’s told. Isaac turns their way to ask Erica a question and stops mid-sentence when he sees Stiles standing there shirtless. Stiles knows he as a certain appeal to some guys, and apparently Isaac is one of those guys because he is openly staring, and yeah, Stiles is hella flattered. He’s not as gangly as he used to be, but he’s not super buff by any stretch of the imagination; his lanky frame has filled out as he’s put on muscle in recent years, mostly thanks to Scott’s manipulative use of puppy eyes to get Stiles to go to the gym with him. He’s not really used to people staring at him so openly and it flatters and flusters him.

Erica seems to take pity on both of them and turns Stiles away from Isaac with a gentle hand on his shoulder. She places her hand on his back, where he told her he wanted the tattoo. “About here,” she murmurs quietly and Stiles doesn’t think it’s a question so he doesn’t answer. Her warm hand lightly traces the skin on his back curving against his shoulder blade. “Yeah, this is going to look badass, dude. It’s gonna look like this wolf grew right out of your skin.”

“Promise?” He tries to make it sound like he’s joking.

“Promise. And, this is your lucky day, wolf boy. I had a cancellation, so I can get you in tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Stiles practically yells.

“Is that okay?”

“Fuck yeah, that’s awesome! I was dreading having to wait for months. Thank you. Shit, I am so excited.”

“Good. You can put your shirt back on.”

Erica is studying his drawing again, and he can see her eyes tracing his amateur lines, her hand twitching to make them better. He’s dying to see what she draws. “Isaac said you wanted some color?”

“Yeah, the eyes. I want his eyes to be red.” He’s sliding his shirt on over his head as he says it, and when his head pops out of the whole, she’s staring at him, her big brown eyes wide.

“Red eyes?” Her nostrils – each one decorated with a tiny gemstone – flare slightly.

“Yeah. Not like evil, though. Just red. Like a magical, but not evil, glowing red. If that makes sense.”

She regains her composure quickly, so quickly Stiles wonders if he imagined her strange expression. “Yeah, that makes sense. We'll look at my colors tomorrow. If I don’t have the right shade, I’m sure Derek does.” That gets another snort from Isaac, and this time Stiles has no idea why.

They discuss the price and Stiles pays a deposit; he leaves with Erica’s card and a half-hatched plan for asking Isaac out tomorrow. He can’t wait.

Chapter Text

His appointment with Erica is at noon, but he misjudges how the long the bus will take and he gets to Cap Hill almost forty minutes early. He settles into the coffee shop next to the tattoo parlor with his book and tries not to fidget too much in anticipation. He doesn’t even care about the pain or the needles, he’s just itching to make his Wolf permanent.

The coffee shop is great – an excellent soy latte and blueberry muffin, comfy chairs and good music, not too loud. Since he decided last night that it wasn’t really cool to ask someone out at their place of work, he nixed his plan to ask out Isaac, but hey, surely the artists at Triskele send him over here for coffee right? Maybe this needs to be his new weekend coffee shop. The idea of going on a date – even with, no especially with someone as cute as Isaac – scares him as much as it excites him. He’s had a few short term, casual relationships that always fizzled out in mutual disinterest, and enough one night stands to know that he doesn’t really like them but they're better than nothing. Stiles has never been all that comfortable dating. He’s always worried that the other person is just humoring him, will get tired of him and his twitchy body and endless chattering and biting sarcasm, which is always what happens so he’s not wrong for worrying about it, right? It’s only been in the past year or so that he’s started to feel like he wants to something meaningful, something long-term. With everything else in his life settling into place pretty nicely, a romantic partner seems like the last missing piece. It’s not like he thinks this Isaac guy’s gonna be that missing piece, but hey, he’s hot and seemed to think he was too so why not give it a shot?

He walks over to the shop at exactly noon, and is greeted by Erica herself at the front counter. “Stiles! My wolf boy. It’s good to see you again. Come on back.” He follows her to her workstation this time – the rest of the shop appears to be empty – and pulls a piece of paper from a folder with a dramatic flourish. “What do you think?”

Stiles is fairly certain he stops breathing for a solid ten seconds, because he’s looking at the Wolf. His Wolf. dream!Wolf. Erica has taken his crude sketch and brought it to life, the lines and textures subtle and precise. She had adjusted the angle slightly to add more depth to his body, and she somehow managed to capture his coiling strength and power, even though Stiles’ drawing had in no way indicated that. The eyes are perfect too, just the exact shape of his Wolf’s, and she even shaded them lightly with a red colored pencil.

It’s more than he could have hoped for, and shit, his eyes are starting to feel hot and are going blurry with tears because this is the first time he’s seen his Wolf when he’s been awake.

“It’s perfect,” he says, voice quiet as he wipes a tear away with the back of his hand. “Perfect, Erica. Thank you.”

She doesn’t look at him like he’s crazy for crying, and it makes him want to hug her. He doesn’t, but the way she lightly squeezes his arm lets him know that she gets it.

Erica says she’s too short for him to lie on a table, so she has him strip off his shirt and sit in a padded ergonomic chair that he rests his knees on and leans forward over, kinda like one of those massage chairs without the circle to put his face in. Stiles settles into the chair with his back to Erica, positioned so he’s looking directly into Derek’s empty, plain workstation. Erica is getting her equipment ready behind him when the front door opens and another breathtakingly beautiful woman walks in the front door and straight through the saloon doors.

“Hey Laura,” Erica calls. Laura is tall and slender with a long shock of straight black hair and blue-green eyes. Yep, definitely have to be a supermodel to work at this particular tattoo shop. Jesus, Stiles is going to get a complex if he stays here too long.

“Hey girl,” Laura, responds. “I got you coffee.” She reaches over to set the coffee on Erica’s desk, smiling at Stiles and glancing down at the drawing. “Cool wolf,” she says.

“Stiles drew it,” Erica says. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“Well not really,” Stiles protests. “I drew a very rough approximation of the wolf I wanted, and Erica made it awesome.” He’s not about to take credit for the magic that’s about to be permanently inked into his skin.

“Red eyes?” Laura asks, thick, perfectly sculpted black eyebrows rising slightly.

“Red eyes,” Erica and Stiles say at the same time. Laura exchanges a look with Erica that he can’t really see from his vantage point.

“Cool,” Laura says, walking over into Derek’s station and rummaging through his toolbox.

“He’s going to kill you if you take any more of his shit, Lo,” Erica calls.

“I’ll just tell him it was you. Duh.”

Erica smirks and tosses her hair over her shoulder, leaning forward to whisper conspiringly into his ear, loud enough for Laura to hear. “I’m the only one allowed to touch Derek’s stuff, because I’m his favorite.”

Stiles smiles, but something twists in his gut. He doesn’t even know who this Derek guy is, but the idea of him with a woman like Erica ignites an inexplicable jealousy that he forces out of his mind.

“You may be his favorite,” Laura says, “but that’s not why I’m not allowed to touch his stuff. He’s making up for our childhood and all those years our parents made us share toys. He hated sharing with me.” Laura walks to her own station behind Derek’s, apparently not having found whatever she was looking for.

“That’s a pretty shitty quality in a twin,” Erica remarks drily.

“So, uh, this is a family business?” Stiles interjects. If this Derek is Laura’s twin, then holy Christ, he must be hot. Stiles’ strange jealousy might be the tiniest bit justified then.

“Just the Hale twins,” Erica answers.

“Although Erica and Isaac are practically family,” Laura adds, something like sarcasm in her voice and a gleam in her oh-so-pretty eyes.

“Speaking of your broseph, where the hell is he?” Erica asks.

Laura cackles from her station. “Check your texts. He’s been on an epic bitch rant all morning because the universe hates him and loves to watch him suffer.”

“Oh no, what poor soul had the misfortune of pissing off our sweet Der-Bear today?”

“Whoever is in charge of Sound Transit maintenance. Mechanical difficulties. He’s been stuck on the ferry for an over hour in the middle of the damn Sound.” Laura is grinning wildly and laughing, and Erica laughs and her eyes widen as Laura talks.

“Oh shit. Derek trapped on a boat with hundreds of other people? That is literally his hell. Has he gotten out of his car and glared the ferry engine into submission yet?”

“Yeah, he’ll either do that or just jump overboard and swim to shore to get away from all the people he’s probably about two minutes from murdering.”

Isaac pops in through the swinging doors. “I just suggested that to him,” he says, waving his phone. “He replied, and I quote, ‘you’re even dumber than you look if you think I’m going to leave the Camaro on the goddamned ferry.’”

The three of them laugh, and Stiles smiles even though he knows he’s not really in on the joke. He’s good at that. Erica takes pity on him, it seems, and explains. “Derek lives on Bainbridge Island, mostly because he likes being close to the forest and the water, but also because he hates being around people. Him getting stuck on the ferry is…well, it’s damn near poetic.”

“Wow, a twin who hates to share and a tattoo artist that hates people. This guy sounds like all kinds of well-adjusted.” Isaac and Laura laugh. Derek sounds like a challenge. Stiles likes a challenge.

“Yeah, Derek’s a piece of work, but he’s our piece of work, right guys?” Erica yells, earning a howl from Laura and another laugh from Isaac, who, while still very cherubically pretty, doesn’t seem as compelling to Stiles as he did the previous day.

~*~

Erica places the stencil on his back and directs him to a wall-length mirror where she holds a hand mirror so he can see the placement. The curve of the lines she’s drawn are in perfect harmony with the cut of his shoulder blade. He gives her the okay and a big smile and she gets him settled back on to the weird chair and gets to work.

The pain is minimal; he’s not sure if it's the placement of the tattoo or adrenaline or his utter delight at getting marked with his Wolf, but he definitely understands why some people say tattoos are addictive because he could get used to this. Erica talks to him throughout, and it first it seems like she’s just trying to distract him from the pain but he quickly realizes that she is genuinely interested in getting to know him, and he is so glad, because for some reason Stiles can’t get enough gorgeous ball-busting women in his life, and is it way too dorky and lame to ask an entire tattoo parlor to be his friends?

After awhile, Laura announces another text from Derek saying that the ferry had to be towed back and that he won’t be in at all today, which she seems much less amused by than before. Erica pulls off her gloves as tosses them into the hazmat container without looking. “Well that sucks. I was going to make him help us choose the right shades of red for your wolf’s eyes, Stiles, but I guess that’s all me now.” She scoots her wheeled stool across the way in to Derek’s station and begins rummaging through his toolbox.

“I have complete faith in you, Erica.” Stiles says, taking the break to stretch.

She scoots back over to him with several bottles of ink in various shades of red. She immediately rejects two of them after shaking them, the ball-bearings inside the bottles rattling, and then decides to go with two others. She hasn’t steered him wrong yet, so he trusts her to make the call.

And it’s a good call. Thirty minutes later he’s back to awkwardly looking at his back with the hand mirror, and his knees nearly buckle at the beauty of the tattoo. It’s more than what he had let himself hope for. It’s as if Erica had been in his dreams all along, memorizing his Wolf right along with him, because she has captured him perfectly, right down to his almost-human eyebrows that looked more like angry caterpillars in Stiles’ drawing. The red of his eyes is perfect, Erica somehow managing to layer and blend the two shades into glowing embers. Erica takes a few photos with her camera, and he has her take a few with his phone before she bandages him up.

He leaves with aftercare instructions (Erica: “Unscented, plain as fuck lotion only. Under no circumstances do you put whatever frilly lotion you use to jack off on this, do you hear me, Stiles?” Stiles: “Erica, I’m an adult. I jack off with lube, thank you very much”) and a touch-up appointment scheduled for a month later. Erica hugs him goodbye and tells him not to be a stranger. He’s so happy it feels like he floats all the way home.

~*~

The dream changes that night.

This time, when the Wolf is walking towards him, instead of letting him stop and stare as usual, Stiles steps forward. He’s never been able to move in the dream before, and the Wolf looks as surprised as he feels. He takes another step, approaching the Wolf cautiously, not wanting to alarm him. The Wolf stops, tilts his head, and then yips, quietly once, and then again more loudly. Finally. The voice in his head isn’t his own, and he doesn’t recognize it. Then, let’s go.

And so he goes. He follows the Wolf out of the meadow, and as soon as they get to the trees the Wolf starts to run in a slow lope that Stiles easily matches pace with. He meets his red eyes, and there’s something like joy in them, and Stiles laughs, happiness bubbling through him.

They run together all night.

Chapter Text

Erica schedules her touch-ups for the last hour of the day the shop is open, so Stiles’ appointment isn’t until 8pm, but he’s still almost late because he gets distracted helping Lydia unpack. He apologizes for running out on her before they’re done and they agree to meet up afterwards for an official “Welcome to Seattle, Lydia/Watch out Seattle, Lydia’s Here” drink.

The Wolf dream has been more frequent since the tattoo – not every night, but a couple times of week like when he was a kid. Sometimes they run through the forest like that first night, and sometimes the Wolf meets him in the middle of the meadow and lies near his feet, never close enough for Stiles to touch him. He often wakes with his hands curled in his pillow, seeking warm fur that lies just out of reach. The dreams have Stiles constantly upbeat and cheerful – Liz asked him last week if he had a secret sex god boyfriend, yeah, I wish – and he can’t wait to see Erica again, which is probably why he stumbles into the shop with the bumbling grace of an excited puppy, tripping over his feet and catching himself on something big and sturdy.

So of course, that’s when he comes face to face with the mysterious Derek for the first time. Or rather, that’s when he comes face to impressively hard chest, because the big sturdy thing Stiles is clutching is Derek. Or the man he assumes to be Derek, who it seems, was on his way out the door just in time to literally catch Stiles’ impressive entrance. Because Stiles is Stiles, he reacts to running headfirst into a stranger by using the stranger’s abs to balance himself, and because Derek is apparently an actual Olympic god, and because Stiles is still Stiles, he says “oh my god you’re so hard” as he clutches him.

His embarrassment compounds exponentially when he finally looks up to the face of the man whose granite abs he’s clutching. Derek is...wow. Derek is gorgeous, beautiful, all of it. Stiles actually understands the word breathtaking now. Derek's features are quite similar to Laura’s, but with a harder masculine edge that makes Stiles buzz with a new heat. He’s not that much taller than Stiles but the rippling mountains of muscle that are his shoulders and arms make him so much bigger, and Jesus, that’s a deep-V on that almost too-tight black shirt, and oh, that’s some manly chest hair. And are those…oh god. Stiles can see through the thin tight cotton of his shirt that both of his nipples are pierced. Stiles’ breath feels shallow as he forces himself to look back up at Derek’s face. And speaking of manly hair, Derek has perfected the sculpted five-day scruffbeard (or maybe on him it’s only a one-day beard?) and good god Derek’s eyes.

Stiles has never swooned before, but he’s fairly certain that’s what he’s doing when he looks into them. Hazel seems like a pitifully inadequate word to describe them, and gold-speckled emerald is only a little bit better. There are no words for the beauty of this man’s eyes, and Stiles knows a lot of words. Their indescribable color is electrified by the stark contrast between them and his black hair, just long enough to be casually mussed, with the barest hint of a widow’s peak that Stiles wants to put his mouth on while he traces his fingers along the back of his neck to see if it’s matched there. He’s got cheekbones to rival Spike’s and a jawline that, fuck, Stiles hates clichés, but yeah, that jawline probably could cut glass. And eyebrows, oh man the eyebrows. They’re thick and dark and unruly and they shouldn’t be so damn hot but they are, especially the way they jump up in something that looks like shock or confusion, those  eyes going wide as Derek reflexively grabs Stiles’ forearms and they stand there for a second, just clinging to each other, staring.

Finally Derek’s face goes blank and he steps back, letting go, and Stiles is man enough to admit that he’s disappointed when Derek stops touching him. He pulls his own hands back and straightens up, running a hand through his hair and then letting it settle on the back of his neck like he does when he’s nervous. “Um, hi,” he manages to squeak out. He should really just walk away and save whatever’s left of his dignity, but it’s not that often (read: never ever ever) that he’s eye-to-eye with absolute human perfection, so he’s not backing away until he absolutely has to. Which might be pretty soon, because those eyebrows are starting to look downright menacing, but Stiles takes that mostly as a challenge. A challenge is more than able to, ahem, rise to meet.

“You must be Derek,” he says, offering a handshake. “I’m Stiles.” He forgoes explaining how he knows who he is, because your sister and your coworkers talked about you a lot and I assumed you were hot because your twin sister is and your art is incredible is what he really wants to say, but he’s gotten better at controlling his brain-to-mouth filter as he’s gotten older.

Derek’s eyebrows settle again and after a beat he offers his own hand and Stiles finally tears his gaze from Derek’s face and maybe he gasps just the tiniest bit when he sees Derek’s right hand and arm, which is tattooed from the first knuckle of each finger up to the wrist, up around his sculpted forearm and bicep, disappearing under the fabric of his shirt. The black and gray sleeve is an intricate labyrinth of designs that Stiles itches to get closer to, to examine and memorize with his eyes and his tongue. Derek’s hand in his is firm and warm, and when he finally speaks his voice his much gentler than he expects and Stiles melts even more. “Hi…Stiles. It’s nice to meet you.” The way he says if makes it sound kinda like there’s a silent I guess? at the end of it, but Stiles will take what he can get.

Stiles isn’t pulling his hand away, and neither is Derek, and that is interesting. Stiles is trying to figure out what to say – his brain is suggesting either how are you real or please please please let me touch you I can make you feel so good I promise but he’s so good at controlling himself now – so he just stands there for a second with his mouth open like an idiot. Derek’s mouth is a wide, pink-red obscenity that’s just slightly open as he stares right back, revealing the tips of bright white teeth that Stiles can practically feel scrape across his jaw, his want for it is so bad.

“Stiles!” Isaac hollers as he steps behind the counter, his voice jarring both he and Derek from whatever strange reverie they were in. “It’s good to see you again, man.”

Isaac’s smile is so wide and genuine and so very much the antithesis of the just-shy-of-angry that seems to be Derek’s default expression that Stiles can’t help but smile as he offers Isaac a little wave. “Hey, man, what’s up.”

Derek steps away then, around Stiles to the door. “Excuse me,” he says brusquely, taking care to not brush Stiles’ shoulder as he walks past him. He’s out the door before Stiles can respond, but his face must show his fluster.

“It’s Derek’s turn to get coffee, and the coffee shop closes soon,” Isaac offers as way of explanation. “Come on back, Erica’s been talking all day about how she’s excited to see you again.”

Erica welcomes him with an aggressive hug whose strength that belies her short stature. The woman is strong. She seems genuinely happy to see Stiles, and they sit and catch up for awhile before she starts moving to set up the machine. They’re still sitting just chatting when a shadow falls over them and a black paper coffee cup is thrust under his nose.

Derek is glaring down at him like he’s trying to activate some latent mind control skills into forcing Stiles into accepting the cup. Confusion battling with excitement, Stiles reaches for it, and tries not to gasp in delight as his fingers brush against Derek’s. “It’s just an americano,” Derek says gruffly. “I don’t know your coffee order…obviously,” he finishes weakly, and if Stiles didn’t know better he’d think Derek was embarrassed, but there’s no way in hell a man that gorgeous is ever embarrassed, so Stiles must be projecting. Lydia is always accusing him of projecting.

“Thank you,” Stiles finally manages to sputter out. “This is awesome, dude. You didn't have to get me coffee. Americanos are awesome. You’re awesome.” Derek’s eyes haven’t left his and Stiles knows they’re doing that staring thing again and now Erica is watching and he thinks he sees Laura glance up from the tattoo she’s working on to watch them too.

“You’re welcome,” Derek says, the corners of his mouth going up in the smallest, quickest smile Stiles has ever seen. Derek’s holding a full drink carrier in his other hand – the hand that isn’t still lingering on Stiles’ around the hot cup of coffee that Derek bought for Stiles – but he doesn’t seem too interested in delivering the rest the cups, seems content to just stand there with his fingers underneath Stiles’ as they stare at each other.

“Jesus, Derek,” Laura finally snaps. “If you don’t bring me my coffee I’m going to rip your throat out with my teeth.”

Derek rolls his beautiful eyes and turns away finally to make the rest of his deliveries. Stiles is disappointed to see him walk away again but is quickly consoled by the excellent view of Derek’s superb ass he gets from his this vantage point on low-to-the-floor tattoo chair he’s sitting in. His enjoyment is cut short though, when he hears Erica behind him. “Okay, let’s do this. Shirt off, wolf boy.”

Shit. He’s suddenly incredibly self-conscious, realizing that he’s going to have to sit there shirtless with Derek sitting across from him. Derek’s done handing out coffee and he’s back at his station, sitting at his drawing table, which faces Erica’s station and Stiles, who is still sitting there, toying with the hem of his t-shirt. Derek's looking down at whatever he’s working on, like he couldn’t care less about Stiles pulling his shirt off just a few feet in front of him, because of course he doesn’t. Even if he is into guys, which Stiles doesn’t know for sure, there’s no way in hell he’d be interested in Stiles. Guys who look like Derek can get anyone they want…like other guys who are 200-pounds of like, only muscle with amazing eyes and… yeah, well. Stiles no longer suffers from the crippling lack of self-esteem that plagued him in high school, but there’s a long way between fledgling confidence and whatever it takes to be confident enough to take his shirt off in front the living statue of masculine perfection that is Derek Hale. Such confidence likely doesn’t exist for mere mortals like him. Derek is so incredibly out of his league, they’re not even playing the same sport.

And, weirdly, it’s that thought that gives Stiles the push to just suck it up and strip his shirt off. If there’s no way in hell Derek would ever be interested in him, he doesn't have anything to lose, right? He settles into the chair, shirtless and facing Derek straight-on, feeling his heart race and hoping he’s not blushing too noticeably. Erica’s hands are soft and warm as she traces them over his tattoo, her loose hair tickling his side as she leans over to take a closer look. Stiles makes himself focus on the feeling of her hands on him instead of the way Derek’s eyebrows are furrowed so deeply there’s a series of lines running across his forehead, lines that Stiles’ hands are practically aching to smooth with gentle caresses. He forces himself to look away when Erica speaks again. “This won’t take long at all,” she says. “You’ve kept almost all of it. Your skin likes to be tattooed, Stiles.”

He risks another look at Derek, a jolt of surprise and excitement surging through him when he sees that Derek’s eyes are on him, an unreadable expression on his face as he looks Stiles up and down. Stiles may not think he's all that great to look at, but apparently Derek does. Because he is definitely looking, eyes wondering over Stiles' bare torso like it's...prey. He flushes red under the heat of his gaze, and Derek's eyes go wide for a second when he catches Stiles watching him.

Stiles can’t stop himself from raising an eyebrow and grinning just a bit, half in surprise, half in reckless, futile flirtation. When Derek doesn't immediately look away, he widens the grin, starting to think that his flirtation isn't so futile. Nothing to lose, right? He winks.

If he didn’t know better, he’d think Derek actually growls quietly before focusing back on whatever he’s working on.

It should scare Stiles, or maybe even offend him, but it doesn’t. He grins even wider, not bothering to hide his delight at having affected Derek in that way, in any way. He hears Erica snort behind him as she sets to work. It stings for just a second before he settles into the now-familiar burn and drag of the needle. “So,” Erica says casually, “what do you have going on tonight after this, Stiles?”

“Taking my friend Lydia out to drinks. She just moved to town to start med school at UW. I’ve been helping her move boxes and unpack all day, actually. Sorry if I’m all sweaty and gross,” he adds as an afterthought, fighting the urge to sniff at his own armpits to see just how gross he really is.

“Oh, I don't know, Stiles, I’m sure there’s some people who think you smell absolutely delicious,” she purrs, and that’s a weird thing to say to someone. He knows he’s full-on blushing now, feeling more heat rise in his chest as he risks another glance at Derek, who’s glaring and staring down at his table, a look of concentration on his face like he’s mapping the new world or something.

Go big or go home, Stiles thinks. “Would you, um, like to join us,” he asks Erica, and then, a little louder, “everybody, I mean. You should all come out for a drink, give Lydia a proper Seattle welcome.” He doesn’t look at Derek. Well, he tries really hard not to look at Derek.

“Sounds fun,” Erica says, stopping to wipe the tattoo with a neatly folded paper towel before putting the needle back to his skin. “But we wouldn’t want to intrude on your night out with your girlfriend.”

“Oh, Lydia’s not my girlfriend,” Stiles corrects her quickly. Maybe a little loudly, but whatever. “We’ve been friends since sixth grade. Practically my sister,” he adds.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Erica asks, trying just a bit too hard to seem casual.

“Nope,” Stiles answers, popping his mouth on the p just a bit. “I’m gay,” he adds, and then, “but no boyfriend either.”

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Erica nod and smile like she’s won a prize or something. “Well I’m sure that won’t be true for long,” she says. “If that’s what you want, I mean. You’re too adorable for any guy with eyes to leave you alone for long.”

Now it’s Stiles’ turn to snort-laugh. “Um, thanks?” Compliments make him uncomfortable and he usually responds with witty self-deprecation, but he can’t think of anything to say at the moment, because Derek has stood up and is reaching to pull down a drawing from where it’s been tacked to the wall to above his table, his shirt riding up above the waistband of his jeans. The buzzing of the machine, the music blaring from the shop’s sound system, the hot sting of the needle against his skin – it all just kind of fades into the background as his eyes zero in on the thin line of skin revealed by Derek’s movement. Derek’s twisted to the side a bit, giving Stiles a view of the insane cord of muscle that runs from his hip around and down to disappear under his jeans. It’s damn near pornographic, and Stiles has to look away, shifting slightly in the chair to not-so-subtly adjust his growing erection. It’s possible that he groans.

He hears Erica laugh. Derek just sits back down, that laser-focus look back on his face, the set of his broad shoulders square and firm. “I’d love to get a drink with you and your friend,” Erica says. “Isaac, how about you?” she calls, and for the first time Stiles notices that Isaac’s been in the back the whole time, wearing gloves and loading pieces of equipment into the autoclave.

"Definitely," he answers.

“Laura?” Erica calls, and Stiles’ heart starts racing even faster.

“I’m going to take a rain check tonight. I’m beat. Next time for sure, though.”

“Derek, you want to join us for a drink?” Erica calls, not even acknowledging Laura’s response. Stiles feels nearly nauseous with anticipation and tries to prepare himself for the inevitable disappointment. From what they all said about Derek the last time he was here and from his brisk demeanor tonight, Stiles’ is guessing that Derek isn’t really the going out for drinks kind of guy.

“Sure,” Derek says, in that quiet, gentling voice that sends a shiver of want through him. “Sounds fun.”

Apparently Stiles was right to assume that Derek would say no, because Laura and Erica look as surprised as he feels. Derek just kinda smirks and flashes those bright eyes at Stiles for a second before looking back down to his work, letting his sister and friend stare at him. Laura’s eyes are narrow and suspicious, but Erica recovers quickly and laughs. “All right then. Let’s get you finished up so we can get our drink on, wolf boy.”

Chapter Text

As it turns out, drinking with Derek is a terrible idea, because Stiles drinking at all is a terrible idea. He doesn’t really drink all that often, preferring the relaxing high and no-hangover miracle of weed to the blurry sloppiness of being drunk. And the hangovers. Christ, he is cursed with epic hangovers that would make Job question the existence of a benevolent higher power. But it’s pretty much impossible to be even a semi-social twenty-something without alcohol involved, and Stiles is anxious about hanging out with Derek and several double gin and tonics in quick succession will definitely help with that, right?

So, so wrong. Some people are mean drunks and some people are sad drunks, but Stiles is an enthusiastically happy drunk whose already limited brain-to-mouth filter pretty much disintegrates after the second drink. This isn’t much of a problem when he’s lounging around the pool at Lydia’s house or at their favorite college bar with his best friends. Friends who love him no matter what absurd crap he says, no matter how loud and sometimes, handsy, he gets. Friends who graciously smile and roll their eyes when he starts telling Lydia about how he used to try to masturbate while thinking about her way back when he was in denial about being gay (“seriously, Lyds, I tried. I really did. Hard. Well, not hard. That was the problem, you see? You’re so beautiful, so perfect…I just…I just like guys, okay?”); friends who aren’t above videoing him calling Jackson “so pretty, like, porcelain doll pretty” before asking him again if he’s sure he doesn’t want to “give the whole dude-lovin’ thing a try,” but who have the good grace to not post it on Facebook (thanks, Scott).

Stiles is a ridiculous drunk, but he’s blessed with friends who know him well enough to not hold it against him. Tonight is different though. Lydia is here, but the second she stepped into the shop to meet him – she had gotten tired of waiting, she announced with a haughty flip of her strawberry blonde hair – Laura took one look at her and decided that she wasn’t so tired after all, and she and Lydia have been snuggled into the corner of their booth for the past hour, which hey, you go get yours Lydia, but that means she’s left Stiles alone with three of the most intimidatingly-beautiful people he’s ever seen, sucking down drinks like he’s dying of thirst.

Erica’s boyfriend Boyd shows up, and Stiles just rolls his eyes at his tall, dark handsomeness. It’s like he walked into a tattoo parlor and found himself in an alternate universe run by the CW. Actual people in the real world shouldn’t have perfect hair like Erica’s (or Lydia’s for that matter), or Isaac’s absurd cheekbones or Boyd’s sun-bright smile…or Derek’s…everything. Stiles is glad to meet Boyd, though, because he seems nice and mellow and his presence confirms that Erica and Derek aren’t a thing. Derek seems more relaxed with Boyd around too, the tension easing out of his big shoulders, his eyes coming up from his glass more often. Boyd’s arrival also means that the conversation turns to him for awhile, and Stiles takes refuge from feeling like he has to talk to chew his straw and surreptitiously stare at Derek.

“What was that,” Derek asks, head swinging sharply to stare him, eyes falling to where he's working his straw like a chew toy.

“What?” he responds. Smooth, Stilinksi, the increasingly harder-to-hear sober part of his brain says.

He and Derek have exchanged glances and a few brief sentences over the course of the evening’s chaotic group conversation, but this is the first time Derek is speaking directly to him without everyone's attention on them.

“Sorry,” Derek says, looking like he’s going to turn away from him, but he doesn’t. “I thought you said something to me,” he adds softly.

“Surreptitiously,” Stiles slurs, because even though he didn’t realize it, he must have said it out loud, even if it was only a mumbled whisper. Derek must have insanely good hearing.

“What?” Ha! Now it’s Derek’s turn to be confused and unsmooth.

“That’s what I said,” Stiles explains, heart starting race as he processes the fact that he’s having a conversation with Derek. Well, it’s not much of a conversation, but it’s something.

“Surreptitiously,” Derek repeats, not slurring at all.

“I was trying to be surreptitious,” Stiles elaborates, as if that explains anything.

Derek’s eyebrows narrow further in confusion, like Stiles is a particularly annoying puzzle he can’t figure out. It’s a look he knows well, but there’s a simmering heat to the way it’s cast on Derek’s features, which could just be Derek, or maybe it goes along with the rest of the way Stiles’ body tingles with hot anticipation and sensation around him.

Before Derek can respond though, Isaac asks him a question and they get pulled back into the main conversation. The gin is making Stiles soft-limbed and warm, and then he’s talking again, but he’s not exactly sure what about, losing his train of thought when Derek picks up his pint glass of beer and takes a long swallow, his strong neck muscles moving smoothly, captivating Stiles’ attention. Stiles is an excellent multi-tasker though, even drunk, so he just blabbers on until he thinks he’s at a place where stopping will make sense. He’s still staring at Derek, and shit, that obnoxious sound of a slurping straw in an empty glass is definitely coming from him.

“Gonna go grab another drink,” he mumbles, sliding from their large corner booth, needing to put some distance between him and Derek so he can catch his breath and calm his wildly beating heart.

It’s crowded and noisy, and but he battles his way to the bar and buys another drink. He doesn’t want to go back to their table yet, so he just goes with the crowd, eventually finding a small square of space next to the photobooth tucked awkwardly into a corner in the back of the room. There’s a tangle of expensive-looking heeled boots sticking out from under the curtain of the photobooth and squeals of drunken laughter each time the flash flickers. The women eventually pour out in a wave of tequila and perfume, cackling at the black-and-white strip of photos the machine spits out at them.

It’s a little quieter in the corner once they leave, and Stiles leans his spinning head against the wall behind him. He wants to close his eyes and relax, but he’s managed to find a spot that lets him stare at Derek from a distance, and he can’t seem to not watch him, trying to memorize him from every angle.

Soon, though, a guy appears in front of him – a little blurry, but maybe cute – telling him his name, which Stiles pretends to care about, just keeps on pretending to listen to Mark or Mike or whoever he is while watching the way Derek leans in with comfortable familiarity to say something to Boyd, who smiles and laughs in response. The corner of Derek’s mouth ticks up slightly and Stiles audibly gasps, holding his breath for the smile he’s aching to see. He doesn’t though, because MikeMark is talking again, loudly enough in Stiles’ ear to be heard over the crowd and the music and to pull his eyes away from Derek.

“Your ex?” The guy is saying.

“What?” Stiles’ lack of eloquence tonight is truly remarkable.

“The hottie you’re glaring at. Your ex, right?” The guy is leaning in closer, but Stiles can’t really respond because the thought of being Derek’s ex-anything seems at once both too good to be true and utterly devastating. The guy takes his nonresponse as confirmation though, and moves even closer, pressing a hip into Stiles’ and whispering in his ear. “I can help you make him jealous,” he coos, hand skating across Stile’s stomach to wrap around his waist. He snorts lightly at the suggestion that Derek would ever in a million years feel any Stiles-related jealousy, but he finally does close his eyes then, because he’s tired and he doesn’t know who this guy is but he’s warm and nice and seems to want him, and at this point, maybe it’s enough. His eyes are shut tight but he’s still seeing Derek’s, and that hint of a smile, letting himself pretend for just a minute that the weight he feels against his side is Derek’s, even though this guy is much too small to even compare.

He feels a kiss on his neck, the rush of drink-cooled lips against his skin sending a chill through him. He doesn’t want this. Doesn’t want this stranger. It occurs to him distantly that Derek is practically a stranger too, but somehow that feels wrong, even though they just must met earlier this evening. Just a few hours ago in fact, but nearly everything in him screams that it’s wrong to think of him as a stranger. Maybe it’s the booze, but he feels like he’s known Derek his entire life.

He starts to pull away from the wall, trying to get away, but the guy seems to be taking it all wrong because he pushing harder into Stiles, grinning now. “That’s right,” he’s saying. “Forget about him. I know his type. Too pretty for his own good. Let’s get out of here. By the time I’m done with you, you won’t even remember pretty boy’s name.”

“Derek,” Stiles says, the first thing he’s said in minutes, his head starting to throb, his voice sounding sad. “His name is Derek.”

The guy just laughs, squeezes his side where he’s still holding on to him. “Who cares,” he breathes. “What’s your name?”

“Stiles.”

The voice that says his name does not sound at all like his own – surely he never growls like that? The slight weight against him is gone suddenly, like MikeMark jumped away or something. Stiles finally opens his eyes, has to blink a few times before he’s really sure what he’s seeing.

Derek is towering, possibly glowering, over MarkMike, and hell, was that guy always this short, or does everyone just look tiny and out-of-focus in comparison to Derek? “Hey there Derek,” Stiles purrs, “it’s nice to see you up close again,” he’s saying, grinning like a loon even though Derek looks so mad. It should scare him, that look, and it seems to be doing the trick on MikeMark, because he’s sputtering and stumbling away, saying something like “sorry man, I didn’t think you two were still together,” which makes Stiles laugh even more.

“Stiles,” Derek says again, although there’s less of a growl to it. He steps forward and takes Stiles' drink from his hand – he had forgotten it was there, still half-full. “Are you okay?” Derek is saying, the furrow of those thick angry eyebrows softening into something that Stiles chooses to interpret as concern, even though Derek still looks pretty pissed and Stiles is feeling drunker by the second.

Derek raises Stiles’ glass to his face but not to drink; he sniffs at the glass, nose wrinkling slightly, eyes closing. It takes Stiles a second to realize what he’s doing before he groans, hand reaching forward to land on Derek’s forearm of its own accord. “Dude, you can’t smell roofies,” he says. “Besides, I’m just regular-trashed, not drugged.” Stiles had the misfortune of actually experiencing rohypnol once in college – nothing happened to him, thank god, but he remembers the distinct heavy solidifying of his limbs before the blackness crashed down on him, and this isn’t anything like that. He’s just wasted.

Derek keeps smelling his glass though, breathing in deep before finally deciding that Stiles is right. “Are you okay?” he asks again, like he really cares.

“Yeah man, I’m good. Just…just need to sit down for a sec, I think.” The bar is getting more and more crowded, and Stiles is suddenly burning up and feeling lightheaded. Derek moves quickly to his side to steady him, and Stiles lets himself lean into the touch a bit. He’ll blame it on the booze later. He watches Derek’s eyes dart around them, finding no empty seats and no easy path to the door, so he huffs and pushes Stiles towards the photobooth, roughly shoving the curtain out of the way to deposit Stiles gently on the short little stool inside. He relaxes immediately and leans back against the wall, so grateful to be sitting again, no matter where he is. Derek has disappeared, probably bailing after doing his Good Samaritan deed for the week, helping out the idiot kid who stares at him too much and can’t hold his liquor.

But then Derek’s back, pushing aside the black curtain to shove a glass in Stiles’ face. “Water,” he barks. “Drink it all.”

“God, you’re as bossy as Lydia,” Stiles mumbles, gratefully reaching for the water and gulping it down. It’s the most delicious thing he’s ever tasted.

Derek leans against the opening of the booth, half-in, half-out, watching him drink. “That must be why my sister seems to like her so much,” he says wryly.

Stiles laughs. “Those two still out there scandalizing everyone?”

“No, Lydia took Laura back to her place a few minutes ago,” Derek says with the pained expression of a man talking about his sister's sex life.

“Atta girl, Lydia,” Stiles smiles, not at all bothered that she bailed on him. They have an understanding when the possibility for sex is on the table. “Way to snag yourself one of the Hale hotties.”

Derek looks very amused by that, and Stiles feels the heat crawling into his cheeks again, so he buries his face back in the water glass. Derek jerks forward a bit, like he’s been bumped from behind, stepping awkwardly into the photobooth to get out of the way. He leans back against the camera wall, putting as much distance between himself and Stiles as he can in the little box. It’s weird, totally weird, how he’s just standing there watching him, but Stiles likes it, likes Derek’s proximity, likes the feel of his gaze on him. He feels himself slide down on the stool a bit, slouching so that his shoulders are resting firmly against the wall behind him, wincing just slightly as he presses against the newly touched-up tattoo that’s still bandaged under his t-shirt. It gives him a nice view of the line of Derek’s torso, hunched forward slightly so his head doesn’t hit the ceiling of the booth. Maybe it’s the angle from which Stiles is looking up at him, but Derek’s shoulders are so broad they seem to span the entire width of the box they’re sharing, making Stiles feel like he’s been locked in a too-small cage in with a too-large, barely-tame animal…but in like, a sexy way.

“You should sit,” Stiles says. “You’re too big to be a standing man in here.”

“There’s only one seat,” Derek replies, a tiny grin playing at the corner his very pretty mouth.

“I can share,” Stiles grins right back. “Sharing is caring, Derek.” He slides over as far as he can, pressing himself into the corner, letting one butt cheek and leg fall off the stool to make room for Derek. He looks up at Derek from under his eyelashes, blinking hard. Through the gin-soaked haze, he’s sure he looks seductive and inviting.

Derek just stares at him for a second, one eyebrow crooked up, mouth open slightly. “Okay,” he says finally, taking a small step forward. It takes some awkward maneuvering and too many burpy-giggles on Stiles’ part, and the empty glass gets dropped (but doesn’t break), but eventually they’re both seated on the stool. Stiles’ is half in Derek's lap and it feels so good because so much of him is touching so much of Derek.

“See,” he breathes a little too heavily, “isn’t this better?”

The way they’re sitting leaves no option but for them to lightly wrap their arms around each other, Derek’s circling his waist, his own settling around Derek’s shoulders like they’ve been there before or something. “Yeah,” Derek whispers against his collarbone. “This is better.”

Stiles thinks he should be freaking out; he’s crawling over Derek like a drunk puppy and who knows what he might say, and it’s taking all of what little self-control he has left to not swing his other leg over Derek’s lap and just attack his mouth. But he doesn’t and he’s not freaking out. They’re in a loud bar full of people, but tucked away behind the half-curtain of the photobooth it's like they’re all alone. It feels intimate in a way Stiles has never experienced before, and it’s exciting and new and exhilarating, even through the numbing haze of alcohol.

Stiles can’t wait to find out what this feels like sober.

Derek isn’t freaking out either, seemingly content to sit there and let Stiles lean into him and onto him, supporting his drink-heavy body with ease. Stiles feels his fingers working into Derek’s hair at the back his neck, pressing slightly against the strong tendons there. To his delight, Derek moans softly and shifts his hips, repositioning so he’s leaning more closely into Stiles. It’s overwhelming, the way Derek is softening and relaxing against him. It makes him seem…not weak, Derek could never seem weak…but vulnerable, maybe? Like he’s letting his guard down for Stiles, and he hasn’t known Derek long, but he understands the rarity of that, even through the tunnel of inebriation. His eyes catch Derek’s, mouth falling open dumbly when he sees how much of that impossibly golden-green is gone, filled in by the dark caverns of his wide pupils.

He doesn’t want to be drunk the first time Derek kisses him. He wants to remember it, every hitch of breath and press of lips and flash of his tongue. He’s not thinking too clearly about much of anything at this point, but on this his mind is blindingly clear. Derek, and whatever it is he’s feeling between them, deserves more than a slobbery, drunken first kiss in a photobooth in a crowded bar, regardless of how very hot Stiles knows it would be, regardless of how much he wants it.

Swinging his head away from Derek, heart pounding, he glances at the camera across from them. “We should take pictures,” Stiles announces, just for something to say, just to give himself something else to think about.

“Okay,” Derek says, and for a guy who seems so closed-off and severe, he’s sure been amenable to all of Stiles’ suggestions tonight. Derek manages to pull a few dollars from his pocket and slide them into the machine.

They don’t say anything, don’t plan poses or even try to pose. They just sit there, wrapped up in each other, listening to the pop of the flash and the snap of the camera. Stiles notices that Derek closes his eyes at the flash, and he thinks that’s a shame; those eyes need to be memorialized for all eternity, even if it’s just in black and white. Right before the last snap, Derek leans in even closer to him, nuzzling behind his ear and breathing in deep, like he’s trying to inhale Stiles. It’s the most erotic moment of his life, he thinks, as the camera captures it.

They sit for a few minutes, still not speaking. When the little strip of photos slides out of the slot next to the camera, Derek grabs it up and tucks it into the back pocket of his jeans. “Let’s get you home,” he says, scooping Stiles up before he can object or ask to see the pictures.

He leads Stiles out of the bar, clearing a path with his shoulders and his eyebrows. The cold, damp air smells incredible when they get outside, even if it is heavily tinged with cigarette smoke. Derek takes his hand and walks him away from the bar, back towards the shop. The cool air makes him a bit more alert, but he’s still unsteady on his feet, his mind still fuzzy and pine-scented. “Where we going?” he asks, not really caring, just happy to feel Derek’s hand in his.

“I’m parked at the shop,” Derek tells him, leading him around the back of the block to the small private parking lot behind Triskele. Derek clicks the remote on his keychain and opens the passenger side door of a sleek black Camaro that Stiles does not think is sexy as hell. At all.

“Do you remember where you live,” he asks, gentle hand on the small of Stiles’ back as he guides him into the car, “or do I have to call Lydia to interrupt something I really don’t want to know anything about?”

Stiles likes the sound of his laugh when he’s around Derek. “I ‘member,” he says. “Sure you’re okay to drive,” he asks sleepily when Derek glides into the driver’s seat. Derek just gives him a bitchplease look, as if anyone in Stiles’ condition has any right to talk about anyone else’s drinking. But he’s the sheriff’s son. Safety first and all that. Derek’s face is softer when he speaks again. “I only had a couple beers. I’m fine.” There’s a knowing little smirk there that Stiles is way too far gone to begin unpacking, so he lets it go.

He relaxes into the soft leather of the bucket seat, letting Derek lean over him to buckle his seat belt, and even manages to not slur too much when he tells Derek his address. He's sleeply and dizzy, thrilled to be getting a ride home from Derek but terrified of its implications. Even if he weren’t so very drunk – so very drunk that he doubts he’d even be able to get it up – he wouldn’t want his first time with Derek to be like this, doesn’t want it be a drunkenly rushed, one time thing.

The Camaro is rumbling through the drenched, crowded streets of Cap Hill before Stiles speaks again, his voice drowning out the soft sounds of The Black Keys coming from the stereo. “I’m not having sex with you tonight,” he informs Derek, proud of how matter-of-fact and confident he sounds. “Not tonight. Nosiree, Mr. Sexy Man. No matter how much I want to, not gonna happen.”

“Stiles, I would never,” Derek says, the words hitting him like a punch to the gut, making him feel suddenly very nauseous, even though the gin is doing just fine with that all on its own. They’re approaching a red light; Stiles weighs the potential embarrassment of jumping out of the car and running away against crying and then probably throwing up in Derek’s pristine Camaro.

He's reaching for his seatbelt when Derek’s tattooed hand leaves the gearshift and settles low on his thigh. “I would never take advantage of your current state like that,” he clarifies, thumb running soothing little circles against the outside of Stiles’ knee.

“Oh.” Stiles relaxes again, moves his hand from the seatbelt to cover Derek’s, keeping it there all the way home.

~*~

A week later, Stiles has sufficiently recovered from another torturous hangover and is still firmly on the I’m-Never-Drinking-Again train, trying his best not to replay his foggy memories from that night over too many times. He especially can’t stop thinking about the way Derek walked him to the front door of his building and then got back in his car, but didn’t drive away until Stiles leaned out his living room window to say thank you, to let him know that he made it safely inside his apartment, like Stiles was worth keeping safe.

He’s at Eliot Bay Bookstore, distracting himself from thoughts of Derek by indulging one of his not-so-guilty pleasures: young adult novels. He’s got two under his arm and a third in his hand that he’s reading the first chapter of when he hears a soft, slightly sarcastic voice to his left. “Don’t you think you’re a little old for Confessions of a Teenage Werewolf?”

Until that moment, Stiles had thought that knee-melting smiles were a thing that only happened in books with titles like Confessions of a Teenage Werewolf, but he’ll be damned if his knees, all of his traitorous bones in fact, go a little soft when he sees Derek’s little smirk that’s haloed with just the right amount snark in those eyebrows.

It looks like Derek hasn’t shaved at all since Stiles saw him last, and he’s rocking a full-on beard now and Stiles thinks he should get some kind of reward for not immediately rubbing his face on it. Derek has a couple of books in his hands too but Stiles can’t tell what they are, so in lieu of a snappy comeback he goes to his usual plan B, the first pop culture reference that pops into his head. “It’s for my niece, Torple,” he quips.

The eyebrows go up. “Oh yeah? Do you need to excuse yourself to go the whiz palace now?”

Stiles has to pick his jaw up from the floor before responding, all witty repartee gone as his mind goes blank at Derek’s response. Scott is the only other person in the world who gets Stiles’ near-constant references, because Scott is a good bro who watches everything with Stiles. He’s the Troy to his Abed.

“Oh come on,” Stiles finally sighs in mock exasperation. “That face and body and you’re a Parks and Rec fan? That’s just not fair to us mere mortals, dude.” Stiles is a bit shocked at his forwardness, but he figures that since he gave up the game pretty spectacularly the other night (god, even the thought of alcohol is still making his stomach turn) there’s no point in trying to play it cool.

He knows he made the right call, though, when Derek’s little smirk turns into a full on grin, and holy hell, what strange sorcery is this? That angry face that Stiles hasn’t been able to get out of his head all week suddenly transforms with the sweetest smile he’s ever seen. It’s unreal, really, practically a violation of the laws of physics or something, how a face capable of such intimidating hostility is also capable of glowing like fucking sunshine. Derek’s eyes actually sparkle, goddammit, and Stiles is pretty sure he sees dimples, actual dimples buried under that dark beard, soot-filled parentheses bracketing that bewitching, wide, white smile.

Stiles decides right then and there to make it his mission in life doing whatever he can to make Derek look like that forever.

Derek hasn’t said anything in response to Stiles’ admittedly awkward and obvious come on, but that smile says plenty, speaks all kinds of possible secrets. He clears his throat and shifts on his feet, trying to settle his anxious energy and the slamming of his heart against his chest. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee,” he asks, gesturing vaguely towards the café in the back of the store. “You know, for the other night. For the ride home.”

There’s a voice in the back of his head that’s yelling at him for bringing that night up, for reminding Derek of what a disaster he was, but it’s not like Derek wasn’t there to experience it firsthand, and he still decided to approach Stiles anyways, so he can’t be too horrified by it, right?

“I’d like that,” Derek says.

Stiles is so happy he thinks his wide smile might rival Derek’s.

Chapter Text

It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, having coffee with Derek, but still weirdly comfortable. It’s perfect. Derek isn’t nearly as laconic as he seemed the other night, and he’s quick-witted and quietly sarcastic and smart and well-read and a good listener and likes all the same TV shows and fuck, Stiles is in deep.

Stiles talks a lot, as usual, but Derek seems to actually like listening to him ramble. He tells him about his friends and his job, about coming out to his dad when he was a freshman in high school, about growing up as a small-town sheriff’s son. He tells him about how he majored in English in college because his mom did and that he sometimes thinks about going back to school to get his teaching license so he can teach high school English too. Derek gives him a strange look when he says that, his eyes going wide for a second. “What,” Stiles quips. “You don’t think I’d be a good teacher,” he asks, pretending to be offended.

Derek clears his throat and blinks a few times, like he’s trying to focus his vision. “I think you’d be an excellent teacher,” he says, heartbreakingly sincere.

“Oh. Thanks, dude. Man, I'm talking a lot. Your turn. Tell me more things about you. Are you originally from Seattle?”

“No. Laura and I moved up here to live with our uncle when we were seventeen.” The way Derek says it suggests that his vagueness is deliberate, so Stiles doesn’t ask for details, but Derek surprises him by offering more. “Our parents died. Peter took us in.”

Stiles doesn’t want to say I’m sorry, because he hates it when people say that to him, so he just wraps his hand lightly around Derek’s where he’s clutching his coffee mug. “My mom died when I was twelve,” he says quietly, offering tragedy for tragedy.

He feels Derek’s knee press lightly into his under the table, contact that manages to say more than any words could. They sit like that for a moment, eyes locked, the loud din of the cafe fading away as they watch each other, something unspoken but somehow all the more real passing between them. An uncanny feeling weaves through Stiles, something like déjà vu, but stronger, more insistent. He feels like there’s something he’s not quite grasping, a realization just beyond his perception that tugs at his mind, at his heart. It’s that feeling from his dreams, he realizes, amplified and urgent and wholly, completely, utterly because of Derek. There’s something familiar about the way Derek’s looking at him too, but Stiles just can’t focus enough to figure it out, too enamored with the feel of Derek’s hand under his own, with the way his entire body is tingling with heat and desire infinitely stronger than anything he’s ever felt before. Everything feels brighter, sharper.

It’s like his waking like life has finally caught up to his dream life.

To Derek.

He’s not sure how long they sit there like that, just staring at each other, smiling softly, letting whatever powerful force of fate or love or the universe or hell, magic for all he cares, wash over them, light them up, anchor them to each other.

They’re jolted out of it when Derek’s phone dings with the rapid-fire blast of multiple text messages sent in quick succession. “Shit,” Derek huffs, shaking his head slightly as if trying to wake up. Stiles does the same.

He drinks his coffee while Derek checks the texts, eyebrows growing closer together in annoyance as he reads. “It’s Laura,” he explains, glancing up. “I have to go. I have a client waiting for me at the shop. I completely forgot about the appointment.”

“Shit, dude, I am so sorry.”

Derek just smiles and shrugs as they rise from their table and clear their mugs. “I’m not.”

~*~

When they stand in line at the register to buy their books, Derek leans into his shoulder, the press of his solid heat against him both comforting and thrilling. He buys a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel and a Pre-Raphaelite art book and Stiles sure as hell buys Confessions of a Teenage Werewolf.

Derek asks to exchange phone numbers as they stand on the sidewalk before they part ways, and Stiles has to bite his lip to keep his hands from shaking as he keys his number into Derek’s phone. Derek totally notices, but he just smiles softly and leans in close as he takes his phone back, leaving a chaste kiss on Stiles’ cheek, the brush of his beard and soft lips a promise aching to be fulfilled.

~*~

By the time he gets home from work the next day, Stiles’ can’t-get-Derek-out-of-his-head problem turns into a full-blown obsession. He's desperate to find out as much as he can about him, this miracle of a man who is starting to make him seriously believe in magic. Or something.

He doesn’t really like googling people he knows – it just feels weird – but Derek doesn’t have Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, so Stiles is left no other choice.

He starts by searching for Triskele Tattoo, which is clearly well-regarded in the body art world. He finds several articles that name the shop as one of the best on the West coast, as well as a bunch of tattoo expos that feature Derek, Erica, and Laura as winners of various contests. Much to his delight, he finds a magazine article naming the Hale twins winners of the "Sexiest Tattoo Artists in America" contest. The accompanying article doesn’t really have a lot of personal information about Derek, describing him as “brilliant,” "versatile" (I hope, Stiles says to himself with a grin and many, many sexy thoughts), “insanely talented,” “mysterious,” “enigmatic,” “intense," "taciturn," "surly,” and “smoldering” (twice). There are a couple of photos of Derek in the shop tattooing, and one of he and Laura taken when they were nineteen-year-old apprentices.

The real prize, though is the posed photo. Hot. Damn. Derek is dressed in snug, tattered jeans and a thin white tank top, that fucking chest hair peeking out of the top, barbelled nipples hard under the fabric. He's fucking rippling with muscle, for Christ's sake, tattooed arm bright against the plain white wall he's leaning against, thumbs tucked into the waistband of his jeans, pulling them just low enough to reveal those rock hard abs Stiles has had the privilege of actually touching. Accidentally and then drunkenly, but still. Derek is looking straight at the camera, those goddamned eyes sparking like emeralds, mouth pouty and pink. He has less stubble than he does now, showing just how sharp the cut of his jaw really is. Damn right he's smoldering. He's breathtaking.

After saving the article and the photo to his computer (he's been imagining Derek when jacking off since they met - of course he's going to jack off to Derek's insanely hot photo), he returns to the google search results, finding a few shorter articles about Derek and the shop even a few Tumblr posts with Derek’s magazine photo tagged “hot tattooed men” and “holy shit just fucking fuck me already” (amen to that). It’s not until the fifth page of results (when Stiles googles, he googles hard) that he sees an article that makes his stomach flip in a way that’s totally different from the way the others had.

He almost skims over it, thinking it’s a story about another Derek Hale. Tragedy in the Preserve: 11 dead in suspected arson of the Hale home. It’s the web address underneath the article title that stops him.

The Beacon Hills Gazette.

He clicks on the link, dread creeping over him. There’s a picture of the charred remains of what was clearly once a very large house surrounded by aggrieved looking firefighters. His eyes dance across the screen, reading so quickly that he’s only catching snippets: prominent environmental lawyer Talia Hale and her husband, architect James McTavish-Hale amongst the victimssuspected arson…possibly targeted due to her high-profile victory in the controversial landmark case Sierra Club v. Rocky Mountain Ranchers Association…nine other family members also perished…eldest children, seventeen-year-old twins Laura and Derek Hale were at school at the time of the blaze…recently-elected Beacon County Sheriff John Stilinski promises a full investigation….

Derek is from Beacon Hills.

Derek's entire family was murdered when he was a teenager.

He swallows hard, a huge rush of mixed emotions swirling through him, making him dizzy. He breathes deep, forces himself to focus, to keep reading. He has to know as much as he can now.

He looks again at the date on the article, figures he was ten years old at the time. He searches his memories for any recollection of the fire, but comes up empty. His mom was diagnosed when he was ten; his entire world disappeared into the fear of losing her for those two long, painful years of her illness. He doesn't remember a lot from that time other than that, so he tries not to remember it at all.

He rereads the article, stunned anew at seeing his father’s name mentioned alongside Derek’s. His dad was at the fire. His dad investigated the fire. His dad probably met Derek, probably interviewed him, maybe even was the one to tell him….

Stiles’ goes cold with a sudden chill that has nothing to do with the damp breeze that floats in from the slightly-open window in his living room, pieces of the puzzle falling into place.

Derek and Laura must have gone to Beacon Hills High, where his mom was an English teacher. The thought of his mom knowing Derek fills his chest with an ache that’s both full of pain and hope, bringing hot tears to his eyes, and then all of sudden it clicks, the memory overwhelming him.

That day in the station, his dream Wolf’s howl echoing in his head as he watched the haunted, tortured face of the teenager his mother had brought in. He hasn’t thought about that day in years, but he can still remember the boy’s face with startling clarity. Derek’s young, tender face. Eyes pale with grief, the shine of unshed tears making them glow like sunlit jade.

Jesus Christ. Stiles is breathing shallowly and his heart is starting to race.  What are the chances that he would walk into a tattoo parlor a thousand miles from Beacon Hills and meet Derek? Derek Hale, a student who meant enough to his mother that she comforted him at the sheriff’s station. Derek Hale, whose beauty and grief had transfixed him so many years ago before he really knew what he was looking at.

Derek Hale, who he's completely and utterly in love with.

Well there it is. He’s been avoiding acknowledging it so directly because it's insane to fall in love with someone he just met, isn't it? But even though they just met, they've been connected, circling each other, for a long time, and doesn't that mean something? And what passed between them yesterday...that definitely means something and he's pretty sure it's love but it also feels like even more, even though he doesn't know what that really means. It's attraction, sure, the most intense attraction Stiles has ever felt, but that doesn't explain every instinct telling him that Derek is right. Telling him that Derek is his to love, to take care of, and that he's Derek’s to love and care for too.

He steps away from his laptop for a second, badly needing to settle his emotions. He lights a joint, pulls hard on it until it’s half gone, staring blankly out the rainy window before sitting back down. He scrolls to the end of the article and is relieved to see that the Beacon Hills Gazette website is thorough and well-organized, with several chronologically organized links to articles about the arson investigation. There’s also a link to an L.A. Times obituary about Talia Hale. Stiles scans through half a dozen articles as fast as he can, thirsty for more knowledge about Derek, but still too jittery and anxious to settle down and read slowly, smoke curling up from the joint and clouding around him.

The official list of victims of the tragic Hale fire was released today… extended relatives visiting for a family reunion…youngest victims include Teresa Hale, 3, and Cora Hale, 9...delays in the arson investigation of the house fire that killed 11…Ms. Hale gained both acclaim and notoriety for her passionate and inspired leadership as the primary attorney representing the Sierra Club and a dozen other environmental organizations in their lawsuit against the Rocky Mountain Ranchers Association for their wolf hunting practices, for which she received death threats…no accelerant found…it’s unclear why no one was able to escape the blaze…Ms. Hale is survived by her eldest children Derek and Laura, and her younger brother Peter Hale of Seattle, who has taken guardianship of the teenaged twins…public memorial service for Ms. Hale and her family…daughter Laura asks that in lieu of flowers, mourners make a donation in the Hale name to Wolf Haven International…potential witness in Hale arson case missing, investigation stalled…

There’s even a link to an article from the sports section dated six months before the fire, about Derek leading the baseball team to the state championships. There’s a picture too: Derek, young and sweet, smiling as he high-fives a team member. It breaks Stiles’ heart, knowing what that happy young man is about to face.

Stiles contemplates calling his dad to pick his brain about the fire and the investigation, but he doesn’t feel like explaining himself to him, or reminding him of those days of his mother’s illness.

He uses this as justification for breaking the law...again. He’s done this before, in high school when his ADHD and voracious intellectual curiosity got the best of him and he hacked the Beacon Hill’s sheriff department’s secure databases. Well, hacked is a strong word for it. Really he just guessed his dad’s password on the second try.

Twenty minutes later he’s finished downloading the entire Hale arson investigation file, a large PDF of scanned documents, photos, and interview transcripts. He says a silent prayer to his mother, thanking her for helping his dad write a grant proposal to the Department of Homeland Security to digitize their archives. He puts out the roach in an empty soda can and settles in to the couch to read.

He pieces together a frustratingly incomplete story. Derek’s parents were hosting a family reunion and had six extended family members staying with them in their large, secluded home in the middle of the Preserve. It was assumed that Derek and Laura were also expected to be in the house and may have been targeted as well, so they had 24-hour police protection until their uncle took them away to Seattle after the funerals. Like the newspaper articles said, no accelerants were found and everyone was stumped as to why no one in the family had managed to escape, especially since several of the bodies – what little was left of them – were found just inside a door or window, like they ran to the exits but were unable to make it out, even though evidence also suggested that the doors were unlocked and a few of the windows had been open.

The next few pages he reads make his stomach turn with grief. His father brought in a witness for questioning, a mechanic with a history of assault and arson who said he had been approached by a young woman named Kate, no last name given, who wanted his help starting a house fire. They couldn’t reach an agreement on payment so he didn’t help her, but she did reveal to him that she had detailed information about the house and its occupants because she was sleeping with the teenaged son of her target. “Crazy bitch has the poor kid thinking she’s in love with him,” the man had said.

Stiles looks up from the screen when the transcript of his father’s interview starts to blur, his eyes growing hot with tears. Derek’s pained expression that day so many years ago not only bore the grief of his family’s death, but his own heartbreak and manipulation and abuse. His own guilt.

He wipes his eyes with the back of his hand and forces himself to continue scrolling through the file, feeling more and more like he shouldn’t be reading any of this.

The next page reports that when his father tried contacting Derek in Seattle to follow up on the witness’ statement, but Peter Hale, his legal guardian, refused to allow him to speak to Derek. His father made a note to call again on Derek’s eighteenth birthday, but by then the witness, their only lead, had disappeared. The case remains unsolved.

The joint finally hits him full force. He’s overwhelmed and confused and wants nothing more than to hug Derek.

He collapses onto his bed and hopes to see his Wolf in his dreams.

~*~

When Stiles is upset, he cleans. In fact, that’s pretty much the only time he cleans, which means he mostly lives in chaos and clutter between impressive but short-lived bursts of pristine cleanliness. He knows it’s a classic method of dealing with stress – when feeling unmoored, like life is out of your control, controlling the space around you offers a semblance of comfort. It helps him think too, lets him focus on something meaningless while whatever’s really bothering him retreats to his subconscious to work itself out.

He’s cleaned out and scrubbed his fridge, swept, swiffered, and mopped the floors, and is heading down to the basement to change his third load of laundry, but he still doesn’t know what to do about Derek. About what he knows now about Derek’s past. About how Derek is also from Beacon Hills. About their strange connection.

About how’s pretty sure he’s in love with him, crazy as it may seem.

The first time he resorted to cleaning when he was stressed was in early high school, when he had figured out he was gay and wasn’t sure how to tell his dad. He wasn’t scared or really even worried; he knew he was one of the lucky ones, that his dad would have no problem accepting his sexuality. But it still seemed like a big deal, the first big thing they would have to talk about since his mother’s death, and it made Stiles’ constant ache at losing her throb even harder in his chest, burn hotter in his eyes.

If she were still alive, he would have told her first, because he always told her everything, even the truth about his Wolf dreams. He would have told her easily, and she would have smiled and hugged him and probably would have teasingly asked if he had his eye on anyone, making him groan in embarrassment and it would have been perfect. They would have told his dad together and it would be easy, no big deal, with her there smiling at him.

But that couldn’t happen, so Stiles had to tell his dad alone, and he was nervous. First he cleaned his room and reorganized his bookshelves, finished all of their laundry, vacuumed every vacuum-able surface he could find, and was scrubbing the grout between the kitchen counter tiles with bleach when his dad came home from work, surprising him.

“What’s wrong?” his dad had asked immediately from the kitchen door, squaring his shoulders like he was preparing for something terrible.

“What?” Stiles said, looking up from his tedious scrubbing. With a toothbrush. “How do you know…why do you think something’s wrong?”

His dad sighed, shoulders relaxing a bit as he shrugged out of his uniform jacket. “Your mom,” he said finally. “She used to clean like this when she was upset. I…I came home to her cleaning like this the day she found out about…” his voice tapered off, letting the awkward wave of his hand finish for him.

He looked pale and defeated, terrified even. Stiles had thought that he would have been pleasantly shocked to find him cleaning of his own volition, or hell, that he would he would even be suspicious of him, thinking that he was trying to butter him up for something. He never expected that he would react in this way, like a man who was about to lose everything he has all over again.

“Dad, I’m gay,” he blurted out, needing to fill the silence, needing to say something, anything, to stop his dad from looking that way.

He blinked once, then again, eyes finally focusing on Stiles before breaking into a huge smile, followed quickly by a soft glare. “Jesus, Stiles. You scared the hell out of me. I thought something was really wrong,” he groused before wrapping him up in a hug.

Relief flooded through him, his dad patting him hard on the back as he relaxed into the embrace, wondering exactly when he got tall enough that the sheriff’s star on his chest no longer dug into his face when they hugged. Probably around the same time he stopped hugging him.

It had been just the two of them for a few years now, but that was the first time it had actually felt like they were still a family.

~*~

Taking a lesson from his high school self, Stiles decides to just be forthright and honest with Derek about what he’s learned. He’s not sure how Derek will react to his totally-not-but-definitely-kinda-sorta stalking of him, but he’s pretty sure that Derek is the kind of person who’d be more upset about a lie than some industrious googling and a minor felony, so Stiles is going to be upfront and honest.

After at least a dozen drafts, Stiles sends Derek a text asking if he’d like to go out for dinner sometime. He leaves his phone on the coffee table, determined not to check it every other minute, and goes to clean the bathroom. He doesn’t even get halfway there when his phone buzzes with a new text.

How about tonight?

Chapter Text

When living with Scott, their idea of hospitality was to offer any guests the first toke on a fresh bowl. Stiles is pretty sure that’s not the tone he wants to set here, so he’s kind of at a loss at what to do when Derek, who he asked to meet him at his place before dinner, steps into his apartment.

But all worries about being a good host fall away when Derek reaches for his hand and pulls him in for a hug, whispering a hello against his neck, filling him with want and need and love.

Stiles just smiles and mumbles something that sounds kinda like hello, but he’s too lost in the rush of emotion and the way Derek’s back feels under his hands to do anything other than melt into him.

“Come in,” he says finally, reluctantly pulling away. He leads him into the living room, where he walks to one of his bookshelves, scanning the titles. He reaches up to run a hand lightly over the brightly-colored spines of Stiles’ dozen Vonnegut novels.

“Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers,” Derek says, tattooed finger tapping against Cat’s Cradle. Stiles stands close behind him, tilting his head up to rest his chin on Derek’s shoulder, another of so many gestures of intimacy that come naturally when he's with Derek, making it feel like they've been together for years. It's slightly disorienting, like his very understanding of time itself is expanding.

“Mine too…obviously,” he answers, smiling. And then, a little softer, “he was my mom’s favorite, too. These were all hers. Sometimes I re-read them just to see her handwriting in the margins.”

Derek pulls Stiles' arm up and around him to place a kiss on the back of his hand. “I do that too. I don’t…I don’t have much of my parents’ things. But I do have my dad’s copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He underlined all of his favorite quotes. Sometimes I just flip through it and read those parts, trying to figure out why he liked something.”

Derek turns to face him, and there’s a ghost of that broken boy from his memory in Derek’s expression. Before he can talk himself out of it, Stiles lifts a hand to cup his face, pressing his fingertips into the soft dark shadow of his beard, tracing the line of his hard-edged jaw.

The kiss is gentle at first, a gesture of comfort more than anything. Derek’s lips are even softer than he imagined, as is his beard, which tickles against his skin in the very best way. Derek wraps an arm around his waist, hands settling against his back to pull him closer, deepening the kiss, tongue gently pressing against his lips, tentative, like he’s asking permission. Stiles opens his mouth for him, eager enough for the both of them.

The hot burst of arousal that sparks through him when his tongue meets Derek’s makes him completely lose track of everything that isn’t the electric and eager pulse of it, those gorgeous lips pulling and pushing and tumbling against his own. At first he’s not quite sure how he’s still standing, but then Derek wraps those giant arms further around him, pulling him even closer into his rock-hard body, holding him up.

It goes on and on, but it still feels too soon when Derek pulls away, those adorable bunny teeth nibbling lightly on Stiles’ lower lip as he does. “Wow,” Stiles whispers, trembling, leaning his forehead against Derek’s.

“Yeah,” Derek whispers back, trembling too, using his hands on Stiles’ back and a gentle nudge of his hips to guide him toward the couch, sitting them down, a much more comfortable version of how they had entwined themselves in the photobooth. Derek buries his face in his neck again like he did that night, this time pressing a soft kiss just behind his ear.

“Derek,” Stiles manages to breathe out, voice low and husky in a way he’s never heard before. “As much as I want this, and god, you have no idea how much I want this, I was hoping we could talk about some stuff before we go to dinner.”

Derek pulls away, keeping them close but settling back against the couch, eyes locking with his. “Of course. I’m sorry.”

“Dude, please. Never apologize for kissing me, like ever, okay? That was amazing. More than amazing…that was...well, I actually can’t really think of a word to describe how incredible it was, so please just trust me when I say – “

“Stiles.”

“Yeah?”

“It was amazing for me too. More than amazing.”

“Yeah?" He asks, smiling, his pounding heart mellowing a bit, relieved. “Good.” He takes a deep breath and goes for it. “I want you, Derek. I want to be with you, to date you, to see what this could be, what we could be.”

“So do I.” Derek says it earnestly, quickly, like he’s scared of it.

Stiles smiles and lifts Derek’s hand to his mouth, planting a kiss across the intricate lines of his tattoo. “Good. So if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right. Total honesty, okay?”

Derek stiffens immediately, his tension growing more palpable the longer Stiles searches his face, cataloging the twist of fear he sees there here, hating himself for putting it there. “Honesty is good,” Derek finally says, cautiously.

“Good." He glances away from Derek towards the bookshelf, stalling because he's not quite sure where to begin. He eyes the row of Vonnegut novels and smiles. “I think we share a karass."

Derek smiles and nods. “I think you’re right.”

“You do? Are you just messing with me? Humoring me because I think we’re cosmically linked in a meaningful way according to the tenets of a religion invented by one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century?”

“No, I’m agreeing with you because we're both from Beacon Hills, and I don’t believe in coincidences.”

Stiles feels his eyes bulge a bit and his mouth fall open in surprise. “You know that I'm from Beacon Hills too?"

“Yeah.” Derek looks a little sheepish, and Stiles remembers that he’s supposed to be the one confessing something here, but Derek keeps talking. “Yesterday, when you said that you were from a small town in northern California and your dad is a sheriff and that your mom was an English teacher... plus this, connection that we feel…I pulled the paperwork you filled out at the shop to find out your last name. That’s when I knew for sure.”

“You knew my parents. My mom.” It’s not a question, but a quiet, pained whisper of hope, of awe.

Derek squeezes his hand and pulls him forward to kiss his collarbone, resting his forehead on his shoulder for a moment before he responds. “She was my favorite teacher,” he says. “I had her as a freshman, and again as a senior. She’s the reason I love Vonnegut. We read Slaughterhouse Five in class and I loved it so much she gave me Cat’s Cradle to read on my own. I used go to school early to talk to her about it. That’s why…that’s why…”

Derek’s voice is so soft Stiles can barely hear him as he drifts off, the sounds of his heard pounding so loud he’s sure Derek can probably hear it. Is Derek telling him that his mother was the reason Derek escaped the fire? That’s…that’s so much more that he feels capable of understanding. He takes a deep breath and holds Derek’s gaze, not caring that his eyes are welling with tears.

“I know, Derek. About your family. About the fire. I, um, I looked you up.”

Derek smiles, his eyes still sad. “I figured you did.”

“And that’s not all. I know it wasn’t right and it was a violation of your privacy, but I…I was able to get access to the sheriff’s file…I know about Kate. I’m so sorry to bring it up, and I know that if you want to talk about this it should be on your terms, when you want to, and fuck, Derek. I’m sorry. But I read the file and I couldn’t stand the thought of me knowing and you not knowing that I know, you know?”

“Miraculously, I do.” Derek gives him a sad smile and leans his head against Stiles’ chest and runs his hand up his side, resting it over his pounding heart. “I’m not upset with you. I understand. I was going to tell you as soon as I knew for sure that you wanted…something with me. I want you know what you’re getting yourself into, with someone like me. It changed me, what happened with her, with my family. Made me a difficult person to love. Laura said that once when we were fighting about my refusal to go counseling.” He tries to sound unaffected, tries for a wry smile, but Stiles can see the effort it takes.

I love you, Stiles thinks, biting his tongue so he doesn’t say it. “She’s wrong,” he says instead. Then, “I saw you. The day of the fire. I was there, at the sheriff’s station. I was standing in the hallway outside my dad’s office and I saw you...do you remember?”

Derek closes his eyes and nods, breathing heavily before he answers. “I remember thinking that I wished I could be you,” he says finally. “Young. Innocent.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to say to that, so he just holds Derek against him, hand around the back of his neck, fingers tangling into his hair. “You can tell me about it, if you want,” Stiles offers quietly. “Or not. Whatever you want.”

“I’ve never told anyone all of it. Not even Laura. She knows something, tried for years to get me to tell her, but I haven’t.”

“I understand. You never have to tell me if you don’t want – “

“I want to. I need you to know, Stiles. Need you to know what I’ve done, how I’m damaged, so you can decide if you really want to be with me, because once you say you do, I won’t let you go.” Derek’s so intense and earnest, his eyes wide and imploring, so utterly beautiful. There’s a tender vulnerability there, but just under the surface Stiles senses something else, a thrum of strength that belies the aching look in his eyes, something resolute in him that has allowed him to survive what he’s gone through mostly intact; a powerful grace that, oddly, reminds him of his Wolf.

“I already told you. I want you. I want us. There’s nothing you can say, absolutely nothing you can tell me about yourself that will make me change my mind.”

Derek raises an eyebrow as if to say don’t speak too soon, but he tells him anyways.

“She approached me after baseball practice, after everyone else had left. She said she was a scout for university baseball teams. Had a business card and everything – fake of course. Beautiful, charming, flirted with me. I was…I hadn't had the best luck with relationships. My first girlfriend Paige…it didn’t end well, and after her I dated this closeted guy who was a total asshole and treated me like shit, and fuck, Kate was…nice. Complimentary. Made me feel special. Fuck, it was so stupid.”

“Derek, you were young. Vulnerable. She took advantage of you.”

He continues as if Stiles hadn’t spoken. “I was hooked. She took me out to expensive dinners, flattered me, told me that schools would be at each other’s throats to sign me, that I was the complete package, all that bullshit. I ate it up. She also made me promise to keep our relationship – that’s what she called it, that first day we met – a secret. She said that technically, it was too early to be recruiting me, but that she wanted me so badly she was willing to break the rules. Of course I agreed.”

“It wasn’t long before were sleeping together. She told me she loved me. I thought I loved her. She asked me a lot of questions about my family, about my mother and…her work with the environmental groups. Said it was routine, that schools like to learn about a recruit’s family, looking for red flags or potential publicity problems. I told her whatever she wanted to know. I brought her to our house, when everyone was gone, of course. Fucked her in my childhood bedroom while she was probably memorizing the layout of the place.”

“A couple of days before the fire, I told her that I wouldn’t be able to get away to see her for a few days because we had a lot of family visiting. She seemed really interested to know more about them, and I told her. It had started to seem weird, her interest in my family, in our house, but I ignored it. I had this…instinct, that something was going to happen…but…I wanted so badly to believe that she really loved me, so I ignored it. Pathetic. After the fire...I figured out who she really was. She…her family had a history with my family, had made threats against my mom because of her work.”

Derek’s silent for a beat, and then: “She murdered my family, and I helped her.”

“Derek, you didn’t. She took advantage of you. You were just a kid. It wasn’t your fault. None of it was.” Stiles hates his ineffectual words that ring like hollow assurances in the echoing chasm of Derek’s pain and guilt.

“I know that, rationally,” Derek says. “But it’s hard to really believe it. It's gotten better in the past few years. Laura and Peter and the rest of the pa – my friends, having them close helps too. It’s been better – everything’s been better – since I met you.” Derek smiles again, soft and sweet, and his eyes are still sad but Stiles thinks he might see something like hope there too.

“For me too,” he agrees, kissing Derek’s temple. God, he could spend the rest of his life just like this, covering Derek with kisses, exploring him with his mouth and hands and heart. “Everything. I’ve never felt this way about anyone, ever. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just like – “

“We belong to one another. A duprass, maybe. A karass of two.”

Stiles laughs lightly, relief bubbling through him. “I’m so happy to hear you say that. I was worried that you didn’t feel it, that I might have been alone in this.”

“No way. You’ll never be alone again, if that’s what you want. If you’ll have me.” Stiles answers him with a kiss, passion surging forth to prove that Stiles would never consider not devoting himself to Derek.

Derek breaks the kiss after a minute. “There’s more,” he says. “More I need to tell you. But I’m not ready right now. Is that okay?”

“God, Derek, yes. Of course. Take all the time you need.”

“Thank you.” He cups Stiles’ jaw, kisses his temple, and then stands, pulling him up to his feet with him. “Let’s go to dinner. I’m starving.”

~*~

Back at Stiles’ apartment after dinner, Derek presses Stiles up against the door the moment they get inside, his mouth urgent and insistent. Stiles gives as good as he gets, and soon they’re stumbling into his bedroom, pulling at each other’s clothes.

Derek has him pushed back against the wall across from his bed as he bites and sucks a hickey into his neck, Stiles not giving a damn about, welcoming enthusiastically, in fact, the mark he’s leaving there. Stiles wants it there for days, wants his whole body to be marked forever with Derek. He moans, a pleading sound, not really sure what he’s asking for, only sure that he wants whatever Derek’s willing to give him.

Derek spins him around then, quickly but carefully, notching his hips into the curve of his ass he leans into him. Stiles leans his forehead against the wall, his cock, already hard, jolting with need as he feels the firm, generous length of Derek’s against his ass through way too many layers of clothes. Derek keeps his hips locked against him but leans back to run his hands up Stiles’ back, across the snug pull of his shirt. “I haven’t seen it, you know,” he whispers, one big hand settling on his back over the freshly-healed tattoo. “Erica told me about it, but I still haven’t seen it.”

Derek sounds needy, almost like he’s begging. Stiles strips off his shirt, no hint of the hesitation he felt in the shop the day they met.

He hears a harsh intake of breath behind him, then feels Derek’s warm hands glide up his back, fingers tracing the lines of his Wolf, gentle, cautious, as if he might scare him away. The touch sends a thrill of excitement through him, enlivening him in a way he’s only felt while dreaming. He gasps with the power of it, the surge of emotion and pleasure and pure bliss that courses through him as Derek’s fingers trace the Wolf on his back, reverent and tender and urgent, all at once. It feels like his skin is on fire in the best way, like sparks of magic are snapping off Derek’s fingers and into his heart, lighting him up. “Derek,” he moans again when Derek’s mouth finds his neck once more, one hand cradling his shoulder blade and the Wolf, the other circling around his waist to press against his stomach, holding him close.

Derek is shaking, the force of his big, trembling body sending reverberations straight to Stiles’ bones, to his heart. He’s clutching onto Stiles like a lifeline, breathing heavily, like he’s trying to get his emotions under control. Stiles wants to tell him that he doesn’t have to, doesn’t have to hide how he feels from him, but he doesn’t want to push, so he just gives Derek the time he needs. He’s not exactly sure why his tattoo his affecting Derek in this way, but he thinks it might have something to do with how he nearly cried when he first saw Erica’s drawing of the Wolf, with whatever this cosmic connection between them seems to be.    

When Derek’s grip on him loosens a bit, he turns to face him again, searching his face for a sign of what he’s feeling. His eyes are closed tight, his breathing still slightly ragged as he continues to fight for…what? To not say something or do something that he thinks will scare Stiles away? He can’t handle not knowing why Derek seems to wrecked, so on edge. “Derek, open your eyes,” he says. “Look at me. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing wrong,” Derek whispers through clenched teeth, still keeping his eyes closed. “Just…overwhelmed. By you. By this, by how I feel about you.”

“You’re not the only one,” Stiles says with a smile, trying to lighten things up a bit. Whatever is happening between them is certainly intense, but Derek looks like a man in a life-and-death battle for self-control. “Hey,” he says, softer, reaching up to smooth his furrowed forehead, relishing in the feel of those wildly expressive eyebrows against his thumbs. “Look at me,” he says again.

Slowly, with a quiet exhale, Derek lets his eyes fall open just a bit. Stiles’ heart skips a beat, startled by a trick of the light in the nearly-dark room, or maybe it’s his lust-fevered imagination getting all mixed up with his memory of Derek that day in the station, a dreamed howl in his heart, but he swears Derek’s eyes are glowing red, just like his Wolf’s. He gasps and blinks; but then Derek’s eyes are fully open, jade-green halos around wide black pupils, searching Stiles’ face. “It’s beautiful,” Derek says hoarsely. “You’re beautiful,” he adds, voice stronger.

Stiles smiles and pulls him in to another deep kiss, helping Derek pull his shirt off as they stumble to the bed, Derek rolling them so he’s covering him, caging him in with his arms on either side of his head. Stiles lets him hold him there for a minute as they kiss, enjoying the warm, solid weight of him all along his body, they way all of his senses are filled with Derek. “Get up,” Stiles says against Derek’s mouth, pushing on his chest. “I need to see you.”

Derek rolls his eyes but obliges him, pushing up to his knees between his spread legs. Stiles scoots back and sits up to get a better look, and for once in his life, he’s speechless. Derek is all soft skin pulled taut over hard muscle, the wide span of his shoulders falling in an elegant cascade of abs to his hips, where his dark jeans are riding low, where he’s teasing the button, eyes narrow and mouth open as he watches Stiles look him up and down. There’s just enough light coming in through the window for Stiles to make out the rough outlines of the tattoo sleeve that covers his right arm, a graceful, dense collage of grays and black with subtle highlights of color throughout. On the corded muscles of his forearm, there's a gnarled-limbed tree and some kind of flower, petals highlighted purple. The tree’s limbs crawl up Derek’s arm to the bottom of his bicep, where they give way to a roughly heart-shaped iceberg topped with a volcanic-looking mushroom cloud. It’s crossed with six thin lines that circle all the way around his bicep, two parallel running across lengthwise, and between them, two sets crisscrossing each other like…a cat’s cradle. He circles Derek’s bicep, thumbing over the tattoo. “Ice-9,” he says, and Derek smiles softly, lifting a hand to brush his fingers over Stiles’ mouth.

“Yeah.”

The tattoo continues up over his shoulder, but Stiles gets distracted by the glint of metal peeking through Derek’s dark chest hair, and then his mouth is there, tongue teasing the barbell resting diagonally in his nipple. His slides a hand up Derek’s abs, fingers dipping into the valleys between each muscle on their way up to tease his other nipple, pulling gently on the barbell there. Derek gasps and thrusts his hips a little, hand coming up to clutch at the back of his head. “Fuck, Stiles,” he grunts, a delicious sound.

Stiles pulls his mouth away, very pleased with himself when he sees the impressive bulge in Derek’s jeans. “What do you want, Derek?” He asks, heart racing at all of the possible implications of the question.

“You,” Derek says simply, and then, “I want to blow you.”

Derek smirks at the look of open-mouthed awe Stiles knows he’s wearing, but come on

“Is that okay?” Derek asks, and Stiles knows for sure then that Derek is impossibly perfect. He wonders if he’s dreaming; decides he doesn’t care.

“Yes, that is very, very okay, oh my god, Derek, fuck, do you have any idea how incredible you are? What you do to me?”

“I think I have an idea,” he smirks, hand cupping Stiles’ cock through his pants. “Take these off. Now.” It almost sounds like a growl when he says it, the command sending shockwaves of pleasure through him. He'll gladly obey any order from Derek that makes him burn with heat like that.

Derek stands to pull off his own pants and boxer briefs, making Stiles gasp yet again when he sees the tattoos slung pornographically low on the front of his hips. There’s one on each side, mirror images, each nestled in the deep groove of muscle that gives way to the wild growth of dark hair at the base of his big, uncut cock: four jagged lines on each side. Claw marks. Stiles doesn’t know how, but he’s certain they’re wolf claw marks.

Derek is tugging Stiles’ pants from where he’s gotten them snagged on his feet, pulls them off with a snap and tosses them to the floor before pouncing on him, covering him once again with his magnificent body and kissing him filthily, tongue fucking into his mouth. They’re skin to skin, hard cock to hard cock, and Stiles is thrusting up into him, meeting him with his own thrusts, both of their dicks starting to leak before Stiles pulls away, panting. “Fuck, Derek, I’m not gonna last long,” he whimpers, already dangerously close.

Derek snaps his hips back and shifts down a bit, releasing the friction, moving his head down to growl into his neck and sniff deeply, inhaling his scent like he did that first night a week ago. God, was it only a week ago?

“You got a thing for smelling me, don’t you,” Stiles murmurs into his hair.

“You smell good.” Derek nuzzles at him, biting lightly at the hollow of his throat before moving further down, licking a hot, slow line down his torso.

“Whatever you say, big guy,” Stiles laughs, coming up to rest on his elbows so he can watch Derek, who isn’t lying about liking the way he smells, because when he gets down to his cock he grabs the base with one hand – making Stiles buck and hiss – and buries is face in the crook of his groin, breathing in deep. “Holy…fuck,” Stiles gasps, hips thrusting up again, because fuck if that isn’t hot as hell, the way Derek groans as he breathes him in and then looks up to catch his eyes, predatory smile, wild and hungry.

No, Stiles isn’t going to last long at all.

Derek licks a wet, slow line from the base of his cock up to the head, tongue circling and teasing the slit, drawing thick precome that he laps up greedily before wrapping his kiss-reddened lips around him and sliding down and back, and again and again before swallowing him down completely, until Stiles' leaking cock hits the back of his fluttering throat.

Stiles doesn’t recognize the sounds coming from his mouth, doesn’t know anything except the hot wet perfection of Derek’s mouth around his dick. He meets Derek’s lust-darkened eyes when he looks up at him from under those sweet dark lashes every now and then as he sucks his cock like he’s been thirsting for it all his life.

Derek is on his knees, one hand bracing himself on the bed, the other reaching between his legs to stroke his own dick. Stiles wants to tell him to stop, that he’ll get him off, but fuck, it’s so hot, and Stiles is so close…and fuck, Derek moans around his cock just as it hits the back of his throat again and Stiles explodes in pleasure, his orgasm tearing through him, a pulsing force that arches his back and thrusts him up as he spills down Derek’s throat. Derek takes it, swallowing and sucking him through it.

Stiles is limp heap of buzzing, empty-minded pleasure for awhile, basking in the afterglow of the most intense orgasm of his life. When he comes back to himself, he sees Derek, straddling him now, spit-and-come slicked hand quickly sliding back and forth over his dick. Stiles sits up and moves closer, wrapping his hand around Derek’s, smiling in delight when Derek’s precome-soaked head drips across his chest. Stiles presses his mouth to Derek’s abs and turns to rest his head there to watch their hands move together, faster and faster. Stiles runs his other hand up Derek’s thigh, through the coarse hair, and slides his hand up further, thumbing over the sharp point of his hipbone and crawls his long fingers inward to find the wolf claw mark tattoo there. He presses firmly with his fingertips while squeezing harder around Derek’s cock. Derek arches his back and grunts and growls, the hand not rapidly stroking his cock tangling in Stiles’ hair, pulling just hard enough to get him to twist and bare his throat. Derek comes then, shooting thick ribbons across Stiles’ neck and chest, the blistering heat of it sinking into his skin like a brand.

~*~

Derek collapses on top of him, panting heavily in to his neck, getting himself just as messy with his come as Stiles is, rubbing their chests together. After a slow, meandering kiss, he rolls off him and they clean up lazily with Stiles’ shirt. They gather the rumpled sheets and blankets from the foot of the bed and settle into sleep, bodies curving towards each other with ease and comfort like they’ve been doing this years.  

Chapter Text

When Stiles wakes up with Derek next to him, he curses himself for falling asleep, even though it’s the best night’s sleep he’s had in a long time, dream-free and deep, blissfully content. But despite that, he still can’t believe he wasted precious hours sleeping when he could have been watching Derek sleep, because wow.

Derek’s face looks softer, almost serene. His mouth – god that mouth, he thinks, remembering the hot, wet feel of it around his cock – is still slightly downturned in sleep, but when Stiles reaches a hand up to lightly stroke his beard, he’s rewarded with a gentle smile, soft and quick as Derek slumbers on. If it weren’t for the beard, he’d look young, more like the boy from Stiles’ memory. He wonders if this is what his life will be now: waking up to discover anew the astonishing loveliness of this man. It seems too impossibly perfect to even hope for.

Derek is on his side, curled toward him, arm stretched across Stiles’ stomach. Stiles can’t see as much of him as he wants, so he rolls from his back to his side to face him, smiling at the way Derek’s massive arm, sleep-heavy and dense, stays pressed against his waist but still lets him move, moves along with him. But then all of Derek is moving too, his eyes still closed as he rolls toward Stiles, settling on his stomach, head turned towards him. The blankets fall to his waist, and Stiles takes it as an invitation to explore the majestic landscape of Derek’s back.

He lifts a hand to lightly trace the tattoo between his sculpted shoulder blades, three spirals pivoting from a central point on his spine, solid black and vibrant against Derek’s smooth skin. Stiles outlines each spiral with his fingers, placing soft kisses down Derek’s side as he slides down the bed. He pushes the sheets back, gasping and rutting unabashedly against Derek’s leg as he takes in the glorious perfection of his ass. He runs an exploratory hand from the tattoo down his spine, glancing up to watch his face as he gently cups one perfectly formed butt cheek, the curve and muscle fitting into his hand like it was made to be there.

Derek’s eyes are open, barely, looking down the bed at Stiles and smiling sweetly, sending shivers of pleasure through him, skin reddening. “Good morning,” Derek murmurs when Stiles meets his eyes.

“Morning, beautiful,” Stiles mumbles back, words half-buried in the dimples of Derek’s lower back, just above the rising mound of that ass that he’s dying to explore further. He runs his hand down to caress the tender skin of his cleft, lightly dusted with dark hair that makes Stiles lick his lips. He wants to taste Derek so badly, wants to fuck him open with his tongue before giving him his cock, already ablaze with need and aching heat.

He’s not sure what exactly Derek wants though, has no idea, in fact, what Derek’s preferences are when it comes to sex. Stiles loves bottoming as much as he loves topping and he’s hoping Derek feels similarly because he has so, so many plans for them.

“Derek,” he murmurs against his skin, tongue darting out to taste. “Can I…fuck, Derek, can I eat you out? Can I fuck you? It’s okay if you don – “

“Yes.” Derek rises to his knees and elbows, a fucking vision with his hips arched and his ass in the air just inches from Stiles’ face. “Please,” he adds, his voice urgent and needful.

Stiles chest feels like it’s going to explode, his heart is racing so fast with anticipation and love and want. The emotional punch his words cause are matched only by the raging swell of pure, instinctive need that flares through him at the sight of Derek presenting himself to be taken. “Fuck, Derek,” he whispers, feeling his eyes widen as he watches his hands, trembling, spread Derek’s ass, revealing his tight pink hole. “How are you real? How are you mine?”

Derek answers by sitting up and reaching back to grip Stiles firmly by the bicep, yanking him up the bed into a fierce, greedy kiss. “Stiles,” he growls against his mouth when he finally pulls away to bury his face in his neck. Derek licks a long, wet line from his collarbone to his ear, humming with pleasure. “I can taste my come on you,” he whispers.

Stiles moans something that’s maybe oh god or oh Derek, but they’re pretty much the same thing as far as he’s concerned. His hips buck hard, seeking, and Derek bites into his neck.

“I want your come on me,” he continues. “Want you to fuck me and come all over me, mark me up. Make me yours, Stiles.” He still has the edge of pleading in his voice, but it’s coupled with that deep timbre that echoes his steely strength.

Stiles pulls away from him, eager to follow his commands, settling in behind Derek on his knees as he turns back on to his elbows. He mouths at Derek’s ass, biting playfully as he licks a path towards his crack, spreading him with his hands. He dives down to mouth at Derek’s heavy balls for a moment before licking a wet, sloppy line up to his hole, tip of his tongue circling the tight ring of firm muscle before pressing in softly. The taste of him and the sound of Derek’s gasping whimper might as well be magic for the spell they cast on Stiles; it triggers something in him, releases the last of his inhibitions, frees him to give in to the brute force of his lust.

Derek seems to have given in too, his body relaxing and opening as he pants and moans, heading falling to rest on his forearms. Stiles pulls away long enough to spit against his twitching hole, slipping a finger in with his tongue as he returns to devouring him. He thrusts and teases and nibbles, stretching him with his fingers as he works him over with his mouth. He’s ravishing Derek, and Derek is letting him.

It’s not long before Derek is begging, words breaking over his growly moans, hole stretched and wet. Stiles tears himself away and reaches for the bottle of lube he keeps in the nightstand. Derek pulls him into a kiss on his way back, tongue licking filthily over his lips, grunting in pleasure to taste himself on Stiles’ mouth. Stiles slicks his dick and has to squeeze the base to stop from coming right then and there.

He sits back on his knees behind Derek, but it’s suddenly not want he wants. As perfect and utterly fucking erotic the sight of Derek on his knees is, Stiles wants to see his face, wants to watch the way his eyes will probably flutter when he slides into him, to gaze in wonder at the shape of his mouth as he moans his name. “Derek,” he says huskily, pulling slightly on his hip. “Derek, I want to see you.”

It sounds like Derek actually purrs in pleasure at his request. He moves quickly, turning to pull Stiles up the bed, settling him so he’s sitting with his back pressed against the headboard. Stiles delights at how easily Derek can manhandle him, how he handles him with just the right balance of care and rough urgency. Derek straddles him, his big, tattooed hand circling Stiles’ cock and guiding him towards his stretched, wet hole. “Is this okay,” he asks, hand squeezing.

Derek’s own dick, flushed red and eager against the ridged plane of his abs, is shiny at the head with precome. Stiles runs a finger over the slit, gathering some on the tip and bringing his finger to his mouth, sucking, Derek’s salty and bitter taste exploding across his tongue. “Yeah, this is okay,” he says with a wicked grin as Derek bites at his bottom lip, pupils big and black as they watch Stiles’ mouth.

Derek sinks slowly onto him, his body hot and wet and so fucking tight as he slides down, settling himself firmly across Stiles’ hips as he takes in his entire length, mouth hanging open in a silent moan. Stiles is gasping with the overwhelming pleasure of it all, twisting his hands into the sheets to keep from thrusting up into him before he’s ready for it. Derek cups Stiles’ face in his big hands and kisses him softly as he begins to slowly roll his hips.

Stiles can’t take it anymore, snapping his hips up to meet Derek’s teasing rolls. Soon the kiss turns urgent and greedy, then breaks altogether as they pant into each other’s mouths, Derek riding his cock with fevered abandon. Derek is so gorgeous and strong like this, giving in to the pleasure of being fucked, muscles flexing as he throws his head back in bliss. Stiles nuzzles his chest, closing his eyes, smiling at the deeply intimate and oddly erotic sensation of the hair there brushing over his eyelids. Stiles wants to write epic poems about Derek’s chest hair.

He opens his eyes and sucks hard on the barbell in one nipple, hands circling around Derek’s wet dick. God, he’s dripping, his big, uncut cock sliding up and down Stiles’ abs as Derek rises and falls on his dick, clenching tight around him with each upward drag.

Stiles watches Derek’s face, tracking the small bead of sweat that falls from his temple into his beard. “Derek,” he pants, hands reaching back to cup his ass, long fingers kneading into where they’re joined, making Derek gasp. “Derek, I’m so close…fuck.” He throws his head back as the heat pools from the back of his knees up to his balls and his belly, his entire body clenching as his orgasm builds. Derek slides off his cock and Stiles gasps at the loss of his perfect wet heat, but then Derek’s has his hand wrapped around both of them, stroking hurriedly. Stiles spills first, and then Derek, covering each other with their combined come, moans shuddering through their quaking bodies.

“Oh my god,” Stiles pants, head falling to rest on Derek’s broad chest.

“Yeah,” Derek pants back, sounding even more wrecked than Stiles. He moves off of him, lying down on his back and pulling Stiles to lay next him, pulling his head back to his chest. He runs his come-covered hand through Stiles’ hair, sighing deeply. Stiles thumbs playfully at the nipple he’s eye-level with, tugging slightly on the barbell, earning him a soft little moan from Derek. “I hope you don’t have plans today,” he says, settling in against Derek’s almost too-warm body, with a contentment that he’s never felt before. It’s early Sunday morning and the possibility of a day in bed with Derek sounds like actual heaven. “I want to spend the day in bed with you, seeing how many times we can make each other come.”

Derek laughs and pulls him closer. “I’m tattooing Isaac at eight tonight. I’m all yours until then.”

“Just until then?” Stiles quips, meaning to be playful but there’s an edge of worry to his voice that he’s sure Derek notices.

“I’m yours as long as you’ll have me,” Derek says, pulling him up for a kiss.

~*~

They don’t spend the entire day in bed, but they do spend the morning there, limbs tangled and messy with come. Derek seems to have a thing for coming all over each other and then relishing in the feel and smell and taste of it like a wild animal, and Stiles is more than happy to oblige. They share a joint and talk between long, lingering kisses that turn into long, lingering blowjobs. Eventually hunger drives them from bed and into the shower, where Derek rims him until he collapses in frenzied elation when he comes, his big arms holding him up before he stands up to come in hot spurts across Stiles' ass.

They walk a couple blocks to Stiles’ favorite diner and eat a huge breakfast before going back to his apartment to smoke another joint (turns out Derek is an expert joint roller and the way his cheeks hollow and his lips pucker when he smokes makes Stiles’ stoner heart burst with joyful lust). When Derek confesses that he’s never watched Battlestar Galactica Stiles insists on remedying that travesty.

They order Thai for dinner, and when Derek answers the door wearing only jeans Stiles feels bad for poor delivery girl, who stands there gaping for a solid thirty seconds before she can speak. Stiles tips her generously and shakes his head at Derek, an exuberant pride rising in his chest as he closes the door. “You’re a menace. A hotness menace.”

“Look who’s talking,” Derek replies, planting a loud kiss on Stiles’ cheek and tweaking his nipple before grabbing the bag of food from his hands and heading towards the kitchen.

When Derek has to leave, Stiles walks him to his car, wrapping him a big hug that he never wants to end. Derek must feel the same, because he growls when Stiles finally pulls away.   

“You’re kind of a beast, you know that,” he says, smiling.

Derek laughs and nuzzles his face back into Stiles’ neck, biting softly.

~*~

It’s a tortuous eight days before they see each other again. Derek is booked solid with appointments before going to Boston for four days to judge an expo. He invited Stiles to go with him – hesitatingly, like he was worried the offer so soon in their relationship would scare him away. With anyone else, something like that probably would have, but not with Derek. Stiles can’t get away from work at such short notice so he doesn’t go. He and Derek discover the joys of skype sex while he’s gone, which helps with missing each other, but he still sleeps poorly, missing Derek, and only dreams of the Wolf once.

All of the waiting is worth it when Derek says he wants to make it up to Stiles by having him over to his place for a long weekend. Three whole days of Derek. At his secluded house in the woods. On an island. Stiles is so giddy with anticipation he can’t sit down on the ferry and paces the deck for the entire twenty minute ride, practically running off the dock into Derek’s arms where’s he’s leaning against the Camaro like a damn movie star.

They drive for awhile, Stiles chattering freely about his week at work and hanging out with Lydia and making plans with Scott to fly down to Beacon Hills together in a couple of months for their parents’ wedding. Stiles wants to invite Derek, but he’s not sure how he’ll respond to the idea of going back to Beacon Hills, so he doesn’t. Derek doesn’t say anything about it either, so he decides to let it go for now. Derek tells him about Boston – he went on three tours of historical sites with costumed guides, the giant nerd – and he doesn't take his hand from Stiles’ the whole time.

Stiles can’t help but gasp when he sees Derek’s house. It’s nestled on a small cove on the northwest corner of the island, no other houses in sight, a dense forest behind it and the glistening waters of the sound in front. The house is a clever blend of craftsman and modern, the western and eastern walls almost entirely glass, giving incredible views of the forest and the water, filling the place with gorgeous light. Stiles feels awed and at home.

Derek gives him a tour, telling him about his studio that takes up most of the second floor – he’s a photographer and a painter as well – and how most of the decorating choices are Laura and Erica’s. They finally sit, cuddled close together, on a huge, insanely comfortable couch in the living room, big windows letting in the sunlight of a rare clear fall day falling toward night, casting the room in a stunning glow that almost feels magical.

Derek seems a little tense, a little worried, like he’s working up to saying something. “Everything okay,” Stiles asks, hating the look of worry that keeps darting across his face.

“Yes, yeah, I guess. I just…I’m just so happy you’re here, and I can’t wait to spend every second of the next three days with you, and I don’t want to ruin it but there are some things I feel like I need to tell you.” He's talking quickly, the way Stiles does when he's nervous. It cracks Stiles' heart a bit, Derek's anxiety.

“Okay,” Stiles replies, trying to hide his own nervousness. His heart is beating so hard he’s sure Derek can probably hear it though.

Derek studies his face for a long time, his eyes clear and wide, almost imploring. He takes a deep breath before finally speaking. “It’s my dream too, Stiles,” he says finally.

That is pretty much the last thing Stiles expects, so it takes him a second to really understand what Derek’s trying to tell him. Or what he thinks Derek’s trying to tell him. Derek’s still watching his face closely, like he’s trying to read his reactions there so he can brace himself. “What exactly are you saying,” Stiles finally asks.

“You have a recurring dream of a wolf. A big, black wolf with red eyes. Your tattoo. Since you were a kid, right?” It’s barely a question.

Derek still seems so anxious, so Stiles moves closer, locks their fingers together. “How do you know that? The only person I’ve ever told is my mom. She wouldn’t have told a student that.”

“She didn’t, Stiles. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s my dream too. In my dream, I’m the wolf. I’m in a forest, waiting at the edge of a clearing, when a fox appears in the middle of it. I run to him, and he acts like he wants to greet me but can’t. I had that dream for years, until one night it changed. Do you know what happened when it changed?”

Stiles sits back to gape at Derek, keeping their hands together, mouth hanging open. What Derek’s saying is impossible, isn’t it? People can’t share dreams…can they? His Wolf always felt mysteriously otherworldly, magical, even…and so has Derek. The way he feels about Derek – the way his entire world brightened when they met, the way he feels like he’s home like he never has before when he’s with Derek, hell, when he even thinks about Derek. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does, and Stiles finally decides to just give in all the way and choose to believe. In magic, in fate, in destiny, in whatever the hell it is that brought him and Derek together. He’s not just ready to believe, he’s ready to worship whatever twists and turns of the universe that brought him the gift of Derek’s hopeful eyes, wide and sparkling in the sunset light. “We share the dream,” Stiles says slowly, believing it more as he says it, smiling at Derek’s sigh of relief.

“We do. I was thirteen when it started. You would have been, what, six?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, swallowing hard. “This is crazy. I mean, I believe you, it feels…true, you know? But this is still seriously crazy.”

“Yeah, I guess it would be for you,” Derek says softly, like he’s talking to himself.

Stiles wants to ask him what exactly he means by that, but he remembers Derek’s question. “I do remember, the first time the dream changed. It was the night before the fire, wasn’t it? You howled.”

“Yes."

“That’s why I was at the station that day, you know. The dream upset me so much – I was so worried about you, I couldn’t go to school. And then I saw you. I was thinking of my Wolf when I saw you, hearing him howl.” Stiles thinks about how his mom had saved Derek from the fire, about how his mom had saved his Wolf. His eyes grow hot and he blinks hard to keep the tears from spilling over.

“And I was thinking about my Fox," Derek says, his own eyes shining. "About how badly he wanted to come to me but couldn’t." Derek leans over and kisses his forehead before continuing. "The dream changed again, after your tattoo. We can run together now.” Derek smiles at the memories, making Stiles melt even more.

“Why am I a fox to you? I’m me…an adult, even when I was a kid. I’ve never felt like a fox. And why are you a wolf?”

“I think...and please don’t laugh at me too hard for saying this, but I think your spirit animal is a fox.”

Stiles does guffaw a little, because spirit animal. Well, why the hell not? It makes about as much sense as the rest of this. “Okay…” he says slowly, mind racing with questions. “So that explains why you didn’t recognize me when we first met, right. I mean, we’ve been sharing dreams for years but I’ve looked like a fox to you, and you’ve always looked like a wolf to me. Huh. And why didn’t we have the dream when we were together? It seems like something should have changed about it then, right? When we actually slept next to each other for the first time.”

“I think the dreams are more about our psychic connection. I think they’re supposed to bring us together.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Especially with the whole…spirit animal situation.” Stiles pauses, letting it all sink in. He lifts Derek’s hand to his mouth and kisses his palm. “I knew you were too perfect to be just some regular guy. You’re magical.” He smiles against his palm, closing his eyes when Derek moves to cup his jaw.

“Look who’s talking,” Derek says before kissing him tenderly.

“You’re my Wolf,” Stiles says with a smile and a sigh.

“Yeah, and you’re my Fox. Which reminds me. I have a surprise for you,” Derek stands and pulls his shirt off, his smile wide and breathtaking.

“Oh, I love this surprise already.” Stiles wiggles his eyebrows and moves forward to sit on the edge of the couch, eager to touch Derek, who's smiling softly as he steps closer to him and drops to his knees between Stiles’ spread legs. He lifts Stiles hand up to his chest, where his left pec has been shaved and is bearing a fresh tattoo. It’s a black and gray fox with golden eyes, done in the same style as his Wolf, clearly Erica’s hand, a companion piece to his Wolf. Stiles hears himself gasp as he runs his fingers over it, smiling at the twitch of Derek’s pec as he does, making it look like the fox is responding to his touch. “Derek, this is…incredible. When did you get this?”

“When I told you I was tattooing Isaac. That was a lie. Erica was tattooing me. That night, at dinner, after we talked about Beacon Hills and your mom. I texted her and made her rearrange her schedule so she could do it. I knew for sure then that you were my Fox, and I wanted to mark myself for you, like you had done for me, even though I hadn’t even seen your tattoo yet. It just felt like something I really needed to do. I hope you like it,” he finishes softly.

Stiles leans forward and places a kiss on the fox, his eyelashes brushing against Derek’s chest as he closes his eyes and sighs, so incredibly overwhelmed. Derek’s hands go to the back of his head and run softly through his hair, then press gently into the tendons of his neck. Stiles moans and melts into the touch, leaning down a bit further to take the nipple underneath the fox into his mouth, sucking gently, teasing the barbell with his tongue.

Derek cups his jaw again, this time with both hands, and pulls him into a searing kiss, a low growl rumbling from his throat.

Stiles breaks the kiss and laughs. “That reminds me,” he says against Derek’s cheek. “How come you know you’re a wolf in the dream, but I don’t know I’m a fox? What’s with that?”

Derek’s body goes rigid, the tension from before seizing up his shoulders again as he leans back to look at Stiles. “That’s the other thing we need to talk about.”

Chapter Text

“Derek, please. You’re freaking me out here.” Derek sits back on the couch, carefully not touching him. Stiles would pout at the loss of his touch if he weren’t so concerned about the deep line of worry creasing Derek’s brows and the tight line of his lips.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s just…I’ve never told anyone this before, and I don’t really know how to say it, because I honestly can’t even begin to guess how you might react.” Derek is still shirtless, the lines of his shoulders standing taut with tension.

Stiles scoots across the couch and cautiously places his hand over Derek’s heart, over the fox tattoo. “Derek, I meant what I said the other day. There’s nothing you can tell me about yourself that will change how I feel about you. So just tell me, okay?” He hopes he sounds reassuring; he’s telling Derek the truth, but that doesn’t stop the fact that he’s still anxious as hell, as if Derek’s feelings were contagious.

Derek takes a deep breath. “The dreams. I’ve always known what they meant. That one day we would meet. I didn’t know who you were at first, like you said, but I’ve always known I’d meet a man, a fox spirit, who would share my dream.”

“You’ve always known? How?” Stiles doesn’t see how this is connected to his question about Derek experiencing the dream as a wolf, but he's willing to go with it.

“That’s something that happens, sometimes…to my kind. Dream sharing.” Derek looks at him warily, like he's waiting for him to laugh or run away.

Stiles is so confused. “To your kind? Twins?” Derek actually rolls his eyes a bit, and Stiles breathes a sigh of relief. Whatever he’s trying to tell him can’t be that bad if he can still do that, right?

“Werewolves.” Derek says. With a straight face. “I’m a werewolf, Stiles.”

Stiles doesn’t laugh, even though he kinda wants to. But everything about Derek’s expression and how he’s holding himself, the steady beat of his heart under Stiles’ hand – a sense of surety he feels, maybe Derek’s, like the anxiety – it all tells him that Derek is completely serious. “A werewolf…,” he says slowly, drawing the word out. “You said your kind. There are others?” Stiles isn’t really going along with this, is he? Dream sharing is one thing, but werewolves?

“Yes. I’m the alpha of our pack. Laura, our uncle Peter, Erica, Isaac, and Boyd.”

“Werewolves,” Stiles says again, still searching Derek’s face for a sign that he’s totally fucking with him. It’s not there. “Like, you turn into a wolf on the full moon?”

“Not just the full moon. We can control it, mostly. It takes practice, like controlling your emotions. It’s harder on the full moon, or when we're feeling something emotionally intense.”

“And you turn into a wolf? Or like a half-wolf man?”

“Most of us can only shift partially, to what’s called a beta form. I can also shift into an actual wolf. The wolf you see in your dream. The alphas in my family have always had that ability.”

“An alpha. Derek…this…this is totally crazy.”

“I know. But it’s true. I can show you, if you want.” Derek moves then, away from him, but Stiles flinches all the same, and then immediately feels ashamed as he sees Derek’s crestfallen face.

“Stiles, I will never hurt you. Never. And I’ll never shift in front of you without warning. Not until you’re comfortable with this. If you still want me, that is.” His voice breaks a little bit at the end, his wide eyes darting away from Stiles’.

And that, Stiles realizes, is what Derek’s anxiety is really all about. Not that Stiles won’t believe him, but that Stiles will leave him because of it. Stiles doesn’t want to leave, not at all, but this...he’s got to think about this.

He stands quickly, suddenly needing some space. Derek’s shoulders slump in defeat. “I’ll drive you to the ferry, or I can call you a cab, if you’d rather…” he says softly.

Stiles sits back down, practically in Derek’s lap, wrapping his arms around his neck, using his forearms to hold his head still, forcing Derek to look at him. The sadness in his face looks too much like the hollow expression he saw in his teenage face years ago, and Stiles has to close his eyes against it. When he opens them again Derek’s are closed, so he places a soft kiss on each eyelid before speaking. “Derek, I have absolutely no intention of leaving you. Not tonight, and not ever, okay?”

Derek nods, swallowing hard. “Promise?” he asks.

“Promise.” He kisses him softly, as tenderly as he can. “Now that we’ve got settled, and you’ve put all of this me leaving nonsense out of your mind for good, I have to think about what you just told me for a minute, okay?”

“Yeah, okay, of course. Take all the time you need.”

Stiles can’t think straight so close to Derek, especially shirtless Derek, so he stands and walks to the kitchen, rummaging though the cabinets until he finds a water glass. He fills it from the faucet, focused on steadying his breathing.

He’s in love with a crazy person. Does that mean he’s crazy too? Does it matter?

Stiles takes a big gulp of water and stares out the windows overlooking the water for a few moments. “Do you have heightened senses?” He calls out, the question slipping from his mouth without him consciously deciding to ask it.

Derek doesn’t seem surprised; in fact, he still seems stunned that Stiles is still here. “Yes,” he answers after a beat. “Hearing and smell. Heightened strength, speed, and endurance, too.”

“Healing?” Stiles isn’t quite sure why he’s talking about werewolves as if he actually believes in them. Well, he thinks he knows why, but he’s not quite ready to acknowledge it yet.

“Yes.”

“Like Wolverine?”

To his surprise, Derek laughs. “Yeah, like Wolverine.”

Stiles laughs too and leans against the counter. “My boyfriend is Wolverine. Awesome.”

“Boyfriend?” Derek asks, voice hopeful.

“Well, yeah dude. I hope that’s okay.”

Derek doesn’t say anything, just collapses against the back of the couch, his relief palpable. Ever since he arrived, it's like he’s been feeling Derek’s emotions as his own. He suspects it has something to do with their dream sharing…which is apparently a thing that is happening because Derek is a werewolf.

A werewolf.

Stiles turns to refill his water glass, turning the word over in his mouth quietly, wondering if Derek can hear him. Something on the stainless steel refrigerator door catches his eye, the only thing on the fridge, in fact, a long narrow strip of black and white photos tucked under a small, plain magnet. The photos from that first night they met, when Stiles drunkenly wrapped himself around Derek and Derek let him. Stiles never saw the photos, and as he plucks them off the fridge to examine them more closely, he understands why, belief starting to settle through him, making his heart race with excitement and wonder.

The first three photos are essentially the same. Derek, eyes closed, resting his forehead against Stiles’ soft smile. The fourth one though, the photo that captured the moment Derek nuzzled into Stiles neck, breathing in deep – scenting him, he realizes now, the words coming to him from somewhere deep in his memory, from his childhood obsession with wolves – with Derek? Stiles’ eyes are closed in the photo, his face showing pure bliss, and Derek’s are slightly open, maybe. It’s hard to tell because there are auroras of light where they should be, radiant lens flares that obscure most of his face, in fact. It casts just enough light across Stiles’ exalted face that so that it looks like he’s slightly glowing, bathed in the heavenly light from Derek’s eyes. Stiles has always thought Derek’s eyes were unnaturally beautiful, but this?

He takes the picture with him when he returns to the living room, sitting back down next to Derek. “Okay,” he says, taking a deep breath, setting the strip of photos on the coffee table. “Show me.” What he really means in prove it, but he doesn’t want to sound like an ass.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Derek asks.

“To watch you turn into a wolf? A wolf I’ve been dreaming about pretty much my whole life? Pretty sure I’ll never be ready for that, so we might as well just go for it.”

“Stiles, I’m not going to shift fully right now. I don’t want to shock you.”

He hates to admit it, but be feels incredibly relieved. “Oh, okay. That's…considerate.”

Derek looks toward the photos and smiles softly. “It’s hard to control our eyes in the flash,” he says casually, making conversation to put Stiles at ease. “I was pretty distracted here…couldn’t really focus on it.” He’s still smiling when he looks back to Stiles, eyes wide and hopeful.

“Distracted because you were scenting me?” Stiles asks, his shaky voice belying the growing conviction he feels.

“Yes.”

“Because you’re a werewolf.”

“Because you smell good. And because I’m a werewolf.”

“Prove it,” Stiles says, finally.

Derek actually smiles, like he was expecting it. He turns so he’s seated sideways on the couch, fully facing him.

Something warm and familiar stirs inside Stiles when Derek’s eyes turn a glowing red, vibrant and shimmering. Derek still looks like Derek, but his eyes are the eyes of his Wolf. Stiles isn’t scared or repulsed and even stunned – he’s enraptured. He feels drawn to the jeweled light in Derek’s eyes like a month to a flame and moves closer on instinct, hand reaching up to touch Derek’s face. His eyes flare even brighter and Stiles smiles, laughter bubbling through him.

“Holy shit, dude. You’re for real.” He keeps one hand on Derek’s cheek, and brings the other up to tug through Derek’s hair, the same rich black as his Wolf’s coat. He wonders if his Wolf’s – Derek’s – coat feels the same. Part of him is dying to find out, but he’s also still not quite sure he’s ready to see that.

Holy shit, werewolves are a thing that exist and Derek is one of them. An alpha, which apparently is a thing that means something.

“I’m real,” Derek confirms. “Are you okay?”

“I think I am, as crazy as it sounds. Do you have fangs? Can I see your fangs?” The wonderment of his new knowledge of the supernatural is just as strong as his curiosity, it seems. Derek said he’s a fox spirit. Foxes are inquisitive, right?

“Are you sure?” Derek asks, and it’s adorable, really, how worried he is about scaring him.

“Definitely. I want to see more of you.”

Derek seems to believe him, because his mouth opens slightly where Stiles’ wrist is hovering over it. He feels the fang before he sees it, entirely too long and sharp to be human, grazing over the delicate skin of his wrist. He drops his hand and runs his fingers across Derek’s bottom lip, cautiously moving to trace them over the fangs that jut up from his teeth. Derek is so still Stiles thinks he’s holding his breath, his body rigid. He finally relaxes and breathes again when Stiles pulls his hand away, wrapping it around his. His eyes glow red a moment longer before dimming back to their normal color, the fangs sliding away.

“Wow,” Stiles says quietly, studying his face. He’s exhilarated and amazed, buzzing with energy and love. Derek is a wolf, his Wolf, has been with him all this time. Derek’s always been his, and he’s always been Derek’s. It’s still a bit of a shock, the enormity of it all, but it’s a good shock, a shifting of his perception that makes him feel centered, whole.

That’s it, he realizes with a smile, goosebumps rising along his arms, hair on the back his neck rising. The feeling from his dreams that has always tugged at him, whispered just at the edge of his understanding – he knows what it is now.

“Derek, when you said the dream sharing was something that happened to werewolves, what exactly did you mean?”

“It doesn’t happen for all of us, but sometimes, yes, long before they ever meet, some werewolves share dreams.” Derek is speaking carefully, choosing his words very deliberately, like he’s trying to ease Stiles into something difficult. Given the evening's other revelations, Stiles isn’t quite sure what Derek could have left to say that could still surprise him.

“I’m not a werewolf,” Stiles says.

“No, you’re not.”

“But we still share the dream.”

“Sometimes, it can happen with a human. If the…bond is particularly strong.”

“The bond?”

“The mate bond. The dream sharing, Stiles. It only happens with mates. To bring mates together. If you were a werewolf too, we would have recognized each other instantly.”

“I think we did,” Stiles replies, surprising Derek. “I mean, I didn’t know you were my Wolf, but I definitely felt something. Felt like I’d known you forever.”

“Yeah, me too. Your scent…smelled familiar to me.” Derek moves closer on the couch so he’s pressed right up against him, hip-to-hip, thigh-to-thigh. He nestles his face into Stiles’ neck, scenting him like he did that first night. “You smelled…you smell, like home to me.” His voice his husky and his words are soft and slightly lisped; Stiles feels the lightest brush of fangs against the tendon of his neck and he moans with pleasure, marveling at the fact that he’s not the least bit scared because he trusts Derek so completely.

“So we’re mates, then? Wolf mates? Soulmates?” Just a few weeks ago Stiles was lamenting that he hadn’t had a boyfriend in ages, and now he as a werewolf soulmate who just happens to be the hottest man in existence, as far as he’s concerned. It’s a turvy-topsy world.

“If that’s what you want,” Derek says. “If you don’t, we haven’t solidified the bond yet, so we could still theoretically break it – "

“Derek, what did I say about me leaving you? Totally not going to happen, ever. Why in the hell would you think I wouldn’t want to be your mate?” He knows Derek has some self-loathing issues that stem from his relationship with Kate and his guilt about the fire, but he can’t possibly believe that Stiles wouldn’t want this, can he?

He can, it seems, judging by the defeated look on his face. “I just…I don’t want you to feel obligated, or compelled…or I don’t know. When I was younger, and bitter about everything that happened…I used to try to convince myself that mates were bullshit, that if they did exist than it was a violation of free will. I don’t believe that, never really did, but I can see how someone might. Especially someone not raised with the idea like I was.” His shoulders sag a bit, not completely dejected, but resigned.

Stiles ponders this for a moment, searching his thoughts and feelings for indication that he’s not making the decision to be with Derek of his own free will. There’s nothing; he’s confident that he could walk away at any time if he wanted, but the idea of ever wanting to seems unfathomable.

He kisses Derek, slowly but with urgent purpose, trying to make his body tell him all of the things he’s struggling to put into words. “Derek,” he says finally, heart pounding and palms beginning to sweat. “I want this. I want you, of my own free will. Even if I never had the dream, even if we weren’t connected the way we are, even if we met each under the absolute worst of circumstances – I can say without a doubt in my heart that I would want you. Would love you. Will love you, no matter what. I love you. Which is the first time I’ve said that, I’m realizing, and holy shit, why is that the scariest thing that’s happened tonight?”

Derek cuts off his breathless chatter with another kiss, this one needy and eager, his tongue swirling into Stiles’ mouth greedily. They’re both panting a bit when they finally stop, Derek cupping Stiles’ face in his big hands, pressing a soft kiss to his nose. “I love you too.”

~*~

Upstairs, in Derek’s massive bed, curtains fluttering in the breeze of the open window, cool fall air drifting over their naked, sweaty skin, Stiles smiles around Derek’s flushed cock as he looks up to meet his red, incandescent eyes. Derek’s stretched out on his back, hands tangled in Stiles’ hair, tugging lightly; they still for a moment, and then Stiles feels the delicate graze of wickedly sharp claws tease against his scalp. He moans around Derek’s – his mate’s – dick and his own flushed cock pulses another spurt of precome against the bed where’s he’s nestled between his legs.

Derek’s hips snap up as he groans and gasps, his hands darting away from Stiles’ head to clutch at the sheets, rending them loudly as he bucks and comes in shuddering gasps, cock pulsing hard and wet into Stiles’ mouth. He swallows as much as he can, relishing Derek’s taste, but he can’t take it all so he pulls off and strokes him through the aftershocks, grinning as the last few bursts of hot come spray across his cheek.

Derek hooks his hands under his armpits and hauls him up the bed so he’s straddling him, licking the come from his face. His hands cup his ass and squeeze in rhythm with Stiles’ hurried strokes on his cock as Derek licks a sloppy line across his cheek and down his jaw, settling his teeth into the tender spot behind his ear. His teeth are blunt and human, but they grip him firmly, possessively, sparking a thrumming buzz of powerful, coiling heat that explodes as he comes, his vision going white for a moment as he shoots hard across Derek’s rippling abs.

Derek falls back to the pillows, bringing Stiles with him to lay half-across his chest, spreading his come on them both. Stiles runs his fingers through the mess on Derek’s abs, watching in open-mouthed arousal as Derek gently grabs his hand and brings it to his mouth, sucking Stiles’ fingers and licking them clean.

“I want to see more of you,” Stiles says suddenly, surprising them both. “More wolf you. Maybe not, you know, full wolf yet, because that’s still kinda, whoa, you know? But you said something about a beta shift, right? Can you do that?” He’s thinking about the glow in Derek’s eyes, the feel of his claws, gentle on his skin but fierce on Derek’s poor sheets, the urgent surge of arousal it sent through him to see Derek like that, to feel that raw power. Apparently, wolfly Derek does it for him.

Derek seems to know exactly what he’s thinking. “It turns you on, doesn’t it? Seeing me lose control of my wolf a little bit,” his smile is half smirk, half cautious wonder, all open adoration.

Stiles likes the way he says my wolf, like it’s a part of him but still distinct, another complex facet of the miraculous Derek Hale. “That’s a good thing, right?” He rolls to his side and rises up to his elbow, resting his head on his hand, facing Derek. “This whole mate thing would be a lot less fun if it didn’t turn me on. Now beta me, wolf man.”

“You’re such a dork.”

“And you’re a werewolf.”

“God, are you ever going to let me live that down?” Derek tickles his ribs, the bastard, making Stiles squirm as he cackles. Derek’s laughing too, a sound that wraps itself around Stiles’ heart and settles there, filling him with warmth.

Derek rolls them so Stiles is back on top of him, claw-shredded sheets tangled around their legs. “You ready?”

“Yes,” Stiles answers, winking and bucking his hips.

Derek smiles and then quirks his head awkwardly to the side, and abruptly again in the other direction, eyes burning red. It seems to happen both quickly and slowly, the shifting of his features; one second he’s Derek, bearded and dimpled, and the next he’s…well, he’s a damn wolf man. His brow is heavier and his eyebrows – hey, where in the hell did his eyebrows go? – well, they’re just gone, apparently, or maybe that’s them buried in the coarse spray of hair that’s sprouted on his face, easily doubling his already thick beard. His eyes are an even deeper red, his fangs more pronounced. He’s just lying there, supine – lupine, Stiles thinks with a silly grin – but nonetheless Stiles feels an instinctive, massive strength emanating from him that goes beyond Derek’s impressive physicality and speaks of the ancient, mystical power he’s made of.

Stiles runs his hands through the fur on his face, so much thicker than his regular beard, probably what his wolf coat feels like. Underneath his jawline is the same, and he traces the familiar sharp edge to the hinge and up around the shell of his now-pointed ear. The squeal of delight he gives in response to the utter adorableness of Derek’s pointy wolf ears should embarrass him, but he’s too busy covering them with wet, open mouth kisses to care too much.

“You’re beautiful,” Stiles says against Derek’s neck. He hopes Derek never tires of hearing it, because he’s pretty sure he’ll never tire of saying it.

“I love you,” Derek replies, words soft and wistful as they tumble from his fangs.

~*~

It’s late and they’re still up, cuddled together in Derek’s bed, kissing as Derek patiently answers all of Stiles’ questions about werewolves and the supernatural. Stiles remembers Derek saying something about how they hadn’t solidified the mate bond yet, and when he asks Derek’s cheeks go a delectable shade of red he’s never seen on him before, even the tips of his non-pointy human ears pinking. “Well,” he starts, in the cautious way he has of carefully choosing his words, “I’m sure you’ve noticed that when we’ve had sex, I, um, haven’t asked to top.”

Stiles has noticed, but he hasn’t given it much thought, distracted as he’s been with all of the other unbelievable things Derek does to his body. When he tells Derek as much he smiles, clearly relieved. “Is that something you want though? Something you like?”

Stiles answers immediately, unable to hold back, because, yeah, he wants that. “Fuck, Derek, yeah, I want you to fuck me. But only if you want to,” he adds hurriedly, because clearly there’s a reason he hasn’t so far?

“I do,” Derek squeezes his ass and closes his eyes, rutting softly against him, their dicks twitching where they lie against each other, soft and comfortable. “But there’s something…when a male alpha is with his mate, or when a male beta is mated with a female alpha….”

“Are you talking about knotting?” Stiles finally blurts out, unable to withstand the pained look of embarrassment on Derek’s face any longer.

Derek’s go wide with a mix of relief and shock. “How do you know about knotting?”

“There was a joke about it in Confessions of a Teenage Werewolf. I googled.”

“Seriously? Isn’t that a book for teenagers?”

“Kids these days. I blame the internet.”

“Stiles.”

“You are talking about knotting, right?” Stiles is leaning over Derek’s chest, tracing his fingernails over the soft lines of Derek’s fox tattoo, his tattoo for Stiles, and even in Derek’s obvious discomfort, he’s tracing the line of Stiles’ wolf on his back.

Derek sighs. “Yes. I don’t really know how exactly it works, because it’s never happened to me, obviously, and it’s not really something I had a chance to talk to my dad about, which even if I had, god, can you imagine how awkward that conversation would have been?”

Stiles loves Derek like this, embarrassed and rambling, like he’s picked up some of Stiles’ quirks already.

“What about a female alpha mated with another woman?” Stiles asks, mind zooming right past the part where Derek’s dick will grow to undetermined size inside his ass.

“What in the hell are you talking about?”

“You said that when a female alpha is mated to a male beta, he gains the ability to knot, right? Since clearly” – Stiles waves his hand down towards their touching dicks – “the mystical matchmakers are cool with the whole gay love thing, it stands to reason that something has to happen when a female alpha has a female mate, right?”

“Your brain is amazing,” Derek says, eyebrows high. “And I have no idea.”

“Do you think Laura does? I mean, she has the potential to be an alpha right, since you’re twins? Do you think she had the knotting talk with your mom?”

“Oh my god, Stiles.”

“What? I’m curious! Like a fox! Do you think she knows?”

“Cats are curious. And I don’t know. I’ve never talked to my sister about our supernaturally enhanced genitals.”

It takes them awhile to recover from their fit of giggling after that, but when they do, Derek’s voice is soft and hesitating again. “So you’re not completely freaked out by it?”

“About being knotted by you? Nah. Sounds fun.” Stiles knows now that Derek can tell that he’s telling the truth with his werewolfy lie detecting skills, which he’s grateful for, since he’s not sure how he’d convince him otherwise. But it is indeed true – maybe now that’s he opened his mind to accept the impossible, maybe he’s hardwired to be into whatever Derek has to offer, maybe he’s just a kinky fucker – but he's very excited at the idea of getting tied to Derek, getting filled by him….

Apparently werewolf life detector skills aren’t necessary, because Stile’s cock is now doing an excellent job of letting Derek know just how not freaked out by it he is. Derek strokes him lazily, his own cock stirring. “What will change…” Stiles asks, a little breathless as Derek picks up the pace. “Afterwards. After the bond is solidified. Will we feel differently?”

“I think so,” Derek replies, shifting his hips to bring his dick into his hand, using his generous precome to slick them up, the hot friction of their cocks together in his broad hand melting Stiles from the inside out. “We’ll feel stronger about each other…”

“Don’t know how that’s possible,” Stiles pants, back arching.

“We’ll be able to sense each other’s presence more…feel each other’s emotions sometimes. Not all the time. Just intense emotions.”

“Derek,” his name is a broken moan in the back of Stiles’ throat, needy and urgent as he fucks into the tight heat of Derek’s fist.

“I’m going to knot you soon,” Derek whispers in his ear, tugging his orgasm from him with deft fingers. “And then you’ll be mine forever,” he adds, groaning as Stiles comes all over him for the second time that night.

~*~

It’s late morning when Stiles finally wakes, gray-speckled sunlight filling the room. Derek’s room, he thinks with a smile. The man in question is sprawled beside him on his back, taking up an impressive amount of space on the impressively large bed, limbs heavy over Stiles’ legs and chest. Derek doesn’t budge an inch when Stiles slides out from under him, and he feels quite proud, having fucked a werewolf into a sex coma.

He uses the bathroom and brushes his teeth with Derek’s toothbrush, even though his own is in his backpack downstairs. His pajamas are in there too, but he just digs through the clothes hamper in the bathroom until he finds a pair of dark blue flannel pants. He has to pull the drawstring all the way and they still hang low on his hips, but he feels a soft thrill at going commando in Derek’s pajamas.

Stiles helps himself to Derek’s kitchen, which is fully stocked and equipped, easily finding everything he needs to make coffee and his mom’s French toast. He hums softly as he cooks, wondering if he can wake Derek with the smell of food.

The first piece of battered bread has just hit the hot pan when he appears in the kitchen doorway, naked and sleepy-eyed, hair a tangled, flattened mess, dried come on his chest.

“You’re the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen,” Stiles says, utterly sincere.

“Breakfast?” Derek asks, nose twitching.

~*~

After breakfast and a long shower, they relax on the couch, each with a book, a record playing on Derek’s old-school vinyl player that Stiles couldn't help but roll his eyes at. But Derek’s not holding it against him, judging by the way he pulled Stiles’ bare feet into his lap and has been rubbing them absently for the past forty-five minutes. Stiles isn’t sure how’s he lived as long as he has, not being touched by Derek. It feels like he needs it now, like oxygen. He wonders whether that will intensify or subdue after they’ve solidified the bond and can’t decide which one he wants, thrilled yet again at all he has to discover about being mated to a werewolf.

He rests his book on his chest and watches Derek, memorizing every sharp curve and line of his sculpted profile, imagining him as his Wolf, easy to do now that he’s seen him halfway there. He wonders if he’ll dream of Derek again, if the dream will change like it had after the tattoo and the fire.

“The fire,” Stiles says loudly, wincing as it spills from his stupid mouth. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up, and definitely not like that. Fuck, I’m an ass.”

Derek closes his book and turns to face him. “Stiles, it’s okay. I can talk about the fire, if you want to. It helps me to talk to you about it, actually.”

“It does?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh. Well, I just realized that the fire…it wasn’t because of your mom’s work, was it? It was because you’re werewolves?”

“Yes. Kate was a hunter. From a family of hunters that has history with my family.”

“People actually hunt you?” The thought makes him sick to his stomach, and suddenly Stiles understands even better Derek’s anxiety at telling him the truth about himself.

“For centuries. Some hunters follow a code, and only hunt wolves who hurt people. Others want to exterminate us. Kate was the latter.” The bitterness in his voice is visceral, and for the first time, Stiles can see his potential to be utterly terrifying.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to – “

“Stiles.”

“Right, okay. Go on.”

“When my mother was young, soon after she inherited her alpha power from her father, she was attacked by two hunters. She bit one of them. An alpha’s bite will either kill a human or turn them, and this hunter turned. The other, his brother Gerard, killed him. That’s the only code the Argents ever follow. They’d rather die – kill each other or themselves – than be one of us. Gerard had a vendetta against my mother after that. He raised Kate to hate us, to kill us.”

“Wait – Derek – did you say Argents? The hunter that…Kate Argent?” Stiles stomach twists with nausea again. He’s not surprised to discover another connection between them, but this one fills him with dread.

“Yes. Do you know her?” Derek’s face pales, the fear written in the tense lines of his forehead stabbing into Stiles’ heart.

“Not her, no. But Allison, my friend Allison Argent. I think Kate is her aunt.” Stiles thinks back to high school – he never met Kate herself, and Allison always seemed uneasy when she talked about her, but she came to visit every once in a while and bought them beer for their after prom party junior year and that’s pretty much all Stiles cared about at the time. The memory feels like a betrayal to Derek, somehow.

Derek is quiet, focused on steadying his ragged breathing. “Allison is Chris Argent’s daughter?” he asks after awhile.

“Yeah, they moved to Beacon Hills right when we started high school. She and Scott dated until senior year. We’re all still close – she’s Lydia’s best friend, and she’s even friends with Scott’s fiancé, Kira. I have no idea if she knows about Kate or werewolves. If she’s a hunter.” The thought of Allison, currently training to be an FBI agent – sweet but tough, compassionate and kind, being anything like the woman who manipulated Derek and murdered his family is utterly incomprehensible to him.

“Peter looked into the Argents extensively after the fire, when he was still trying to find Kate. Which he never did, even though she was visiting Beacon Hills, apparently.” There seems to be a lot Derek’s not saying, complicated as his relationship with his uncle seems to be. Stiles decides not to push it. “Chris was estranged from Gerard, it seems, because of his hunting habits,” he continues. “I don’t think Chris ever hunted us the way Kate did.”

“So,” Stiles says, feeling a little more hopeful. “If he raised Allison to know about werewolves, he raised her to follow the code.”

“Probably,” Derek says grudgingly.

“Well that’s…good, right? I mean, since she’s my friend and all.”

“Yeah, that’s good. I’m not upset that you’re friends with her, Stiles. I know that she’s not Kate, that she had nothing to do with it.” It’s clear that Derek is trying to reassure him, but that he’s struggling with it.

Stiles is a little relieved, but Derek still seems agitated and tense. After a while he stands and goes upstairs without a word. When he comes back down he’s changed into low-slung basketball shorts and a threadbare white tank top. “I’m going for a run,” he says, kissing Stiles firmly on the top of the head.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asks, voice tinged with worry.

“Yeah. I just need to…I just need to run for a while. I’ll be back before dark.” He kisses him again, and then he’s gone.

~*~

Stiles tries his best to keep himself busy while Derek’s gone, but he can’t stop seeing the look of frustrated anger and pain on his face as he turned away and walked out the door. He wonders if he’s shifted, if he’s running the forest surrounding his house as a wolf. Stiles pictures him like that, majestic and wild, outrunning his demons. He hopes it helps.

He’s smoking a joint on the front porch, watching the sun sink over the water as he leans back in a deck chair, relaxing slightly for the first time since Derek left. He knows this won’t change anything between them, isn’t worried about that. He just hates the idea of Derek alone, hurting. Of Derek hurting, running away from him instead of toward him.

Stiles closes his eyes against the bright reflection of the sunlight on the water, and when he opens them again, Derek is there, standing right in front of him staring down, blocking the light. His shirt is gone but his shorts are intact, a light sheen of sweat shining on his torso. He’s silhouetted by the sunset and Stiles can’t really see his face clearly, so he’s surprised when Derek falls to his knees, collapsing heavily on to him, burying his head in his lap. His sobs are quiet, deep quivers that rumble through his big body as he clutches him, tension leaving him with each shuddering breath. Stiles strokes his hair and doesn’t say anything, awestruck once again at the fragile, tender heart that’s been put in his care.

~*~

Eventually Derek quiets and stills, even falling asleep for a few minutes where he lay with head still in Stiles’ lap. When he wakes he pulls him into a deep kiss before standing quickly and without warning, throws Stiles over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

“Oh my god, you beast,” Stiles laughs. “Oh, hello, beast ass. It’s nice to see you again,” he says, realizing Derek’s undignified manhandling of him puts him in prime butt-biting position. Derek growls as he gets a mouthful, much to Stiles' delight.

Derek carries him upstairs and tosses him on the bed with another growl, leaning over to kiss him before reaching over to dig a bottle of lube from the nightstand. He places it in Stiles’ hands and steps away, leveling a predatory gaze at him. “I’m going to take a shower. Get yourself ready,” he orders softly, running a thumb over Stiles’ lower lip before walking away.

Stiles can’t get out of his clothes fast enough, heart pounding and cock throbbing with anticipation. His body responds instinctively, and he positions himself on all fours on the bed. He opens easily as he slides a well-lubed finger in, and soon he’s got two fingers in and is working up to a third, even though the angle is getting tiring, his cock heavy and needy.

He smiles when he hears the moaning, gasping growl behind him, and then Derek’s there, body hot and still damp from the shower, slicking up his hand and sliding a finger in along with Stiles’, who cries out with the sweet, aching burn of the stretch. Soon Derek replaces his fingers with his own, and Stiles falls down to rest on his forearms, loose-limbed and pliant under Derek’s touch.

Derek continues to open him meticulously, slicking him up more with his thick precome, eventually getting in all four fingers and the tip of his thumb, driving Stiles insane with his patience. After what feels like an eternity, Derek has stretched him to his liking and pulls his hand away. Stiles feels like he’s gaping, like’s he’s been carved open, gasping and throbbing for Derek to fill him.

“You ready,” Derek asks, voice low and rough.

“God yes, Derek, please, please fuck me,” Stiles moans, biting his forearm in desperation. He’s never wanted it this badly, never felt this empty.

Derek is trying to be gentle, bless him, but Stiles can’t wait for that, shoves back hard as soon as he feels the wet head of Derek’s cock press against his open hole. Derek snarls and rocks his hips, snapping into him and bottoming out with such force it rattles his teeth. “Fuck, Derek,” Stiles moans, unsure how’s he actually still able to form words, because he’s pretty sure his brain is melting from the heat of how thoroughly he’s being fucked.

Derek sets a rough, urgent pace, grasping Stiles firmly by the hips, centering him as he dissolves. He feels so impossibly full, like his entire existence is rooted to where he’s joined with Derek. Desperate, needy moans echo around him, and he vaguely recognizes them as coming from his own mouth. Derek bends over him and pulls him up, pressing his chest to his back as he wraps his arms around his waist and holds him, hips still pounding furiously as he mouths at the back of his neck. Stiles lets his body go limp, held up only by Derek’s strong arms and hard cock, hand reaching back to squeeze Derek’s flexing ass, spurring him on.

When the hot panting of Derek’s breath against his neck is too much for him to handle, sending buzzing shimmers of lust straight his leaking cock, threatening to make him come before he wants to, Stiles leans back over, resting on his elbows again. Derek slows his pace, finally stopping altogether, shoved in deep, breathing loud and heavy. Still panting from the merciless fucking, Stiles slowly, teasingly, rolls his hips, smiling against the sheets beneath his face at the hissing snarl that rumbles from Derek’s chest, at sweet, simmering friction of Derek's cock filling him up. He keeps the pace slow as agonizingly long as he can, thrusting his hips in a sinuous curve as he fucks himself on Derek’s cock. Soon, he can’t tease anymore, and he’s rutting back shamelessly, greedily, trying to get Derek deeper and deeper still.

Derek begins meeting his backward thrusts, both of them chasing their orgasms in a frenzy now, their bodies going rigid when Derek suddenly stops thrusting,  buried deep, a keening growl, not very human sounding at all, echoing through the room. Stiles loses all sense of time, his only awareness the growing, pulsing heat of where Derek’s growing inside of him, the base of his cock stretching him even further, filling him from new angles, pulling just on the good side of painful against his tender, worked rim.

It takes a moment for Stiles to realize that Derek is coming as he swells, his entire body trembling as he releases pulse after pulse inside of him. Stiles thinks he can feel it, can feel the spray of his mate’s hot come coating his insides, but he’s a little fucked out of his mind at the moment and can’t be too sure of anything but his unequivocal love for Derek. And Derek’s cock, because holy hell. He had no idea his body was capable of pleasure this intense, could not have even begun to fathom just how satisfying it feels to be tied to Derek this intimately.

And tied they are. The base of Derek’s cock has swollen considerably, locking them together as he continues to come, though less forcefully now. Stiles feels utterly spent but also more alive than he’s ever felt, and he hasn’t even come yet, dick still hard and leaking against the bed. He doesn’t even care though, is perfectly content to stay exactly as he is, skin sparking with crackling heat where Derek’s hands trace over his back as he thrusts softly into him. “Stiles,” he whines, voice broken and raw. The air is thick with the smell of sex and sweat and a spicy, earthy scent that Stiles can’t identify but somehow knows anyway is the smell of magic. He feels a burst of energy in his heart, radiating through him, and he knows it’s their mate bond, and whatever mystical power it contains, snapping into place, solidifying, completing them.

Stiles is abuzz with heady energy as Derek reaches around for his cock, his hand on him for only a second before he’s coming, biting into the sheets as he bucks and spasms with the overwhelming force of it, Derek’s knotted cock shooting harder into him as he clenches. Derek catches as much of his come as he can, spreading it over his back so he can lick it off, each swipe of his tongue sending shivers across his skin.

Derek’s doesn’t stop licking at his back and nibbling at his neck when he moves them, still tied together, slowly and carefully, so they’re lying on their sides, Derek’s thighs fitting in neatly behind his. He feels drunk with love and wonders absently at how much of his feelings are Derek’s, giddy at the thought of Derek feeling his emotions too.

Stiles’ eyelids are heavy and he feels weightless, even the heavy pull of Derek’s knot against his rim only a feather-touch in his post soul-bonding haze.

~*~

After Derek gets him off one more time while they’re still tied together, his knot eventually goes down and they deal with the messy business of pulling apart. Stiles is still too weak-limbed to do much, so Derek carries him to the shower, a huge, multi-headed stall with a large stone bench that he sets Stiles on, letting the steaming hot water pour over him. Derek leaves him there while he changes the sheets, then comes back to join him, cleaning him head to toe, inside and out, Stiles mumbling only semi-coherently the entire time.

“You’re magic drunk,” Derek says, laughing, washing Stiles’ hair as he sits on the bench, leaning against Derek’s thigh. “Or maybe just sex drunk,” he adds, leaning down to kiss his cheek.

“I’m Derek drunk,” Stiles mumbles back, grinning and looking up at him through soapy lashes.

Once they’re both clean and dressed in fresh pajama pants, Derek tucks Stiles into bed and disappears downstairs. He comes back a bit later, arms loaded with food. Stiles is just about to fall asleep, content against soft clean sheets, but when he sees the food he realizes he’s ravenous. “Oh my god, I love you,” he exclaims, grabbing greedily at the plate of sandwiches Derek is carrying.

He brought chips and cookies and Gatorade too, the silly, perfect man. They eat with vigor, getting crumbs all over the clean sheets but not giving a damn, perfectly sated and utterly content. Derek is practically preening with pride, looking the happiest and most relaxed Stiles has ever seen him.

“This is totally an alpha wolf thing, isn’t it?” Stiles asks, tickling his ribs. “You carried me up to your den, knotted me, cleaned and groomed me, and now you’re feeding me. You’re totally taking care of me, wolfy-style.”

Derek smiles that wide, gorgeous smile that Stiles knows will never lose the power to stun him. He grabs Stiles’ hand from where it’s poking into his side and brings it to his mouth, kissing the palm before biting gently and growling, shaking it like a dog with a toy. Stiles howls with laughter and tackles him, pinning him back to the bed, knocking over the half-empty plate of cookies.

“Of course I am,” Derek says, shifting his hips so Stiles can settle more comfortably on top of him. “You’re my mate,” he says, as if it makes sense.

Stiles smiles, because it totally does.

~*~

The next several weeks go by in a blur of sex and work and sex and friends and sex. He and Derek spend every night together, the weekdays at Stiles’ place in the city and the weekends at Derek’s on the island. Laura and Lydia get serious enough that Lydia is told about werewolves too, and she and Stiles have a genuine nerd freak out about supernatural research.

Stiles gets to know Derek’s pack better, feeling like a fool in hindsight when he sees them with his newfound knowledge. It’s not just their preternatural beauty, although that should have been his first clue. It’s also the way they move around each other, graceful and aware, strength in every gesture, attuned to each other and especially to Derek.

One evening he’s hanging around the shop waiting for Derek to finish a tattoo on a very pretty young woman who very obviously finds Derek attractive and who Stiles is most definitely not shooting imaginary laser eyes at every few minutes. The whole pack, with the exception of the mysterious uncle Peter, is here. Boyd is up front with Isaac and Erica, helping them take down Derek’s framed photos that decorate the waiting area and replace them with Erica’s paintings. Laura catches Stiles watching them, and raises a shapely eyebrow in a questioning look that’s so similar to Derek’s it makes him laugh.

“I was just noticing,” he explains, “how you all move. You’re all in tune with each other, kinda like you’re all moving to a beat only you can hear.”

To his surprise, Laura doesn’t laugh at him, but smiles and gives him a considering look.

“We are,” she says at last. “Derek’s heartbeat.”

~*~

Stiles wakes up in Derek’s bed on the morning of what would have been his mother’s fifty-fourth birthday. He must be doing a terrible job of hiding his sadness, because Derek is awake at once, curling around him and holding him tight, waiting for Stiles’ heartbeat to settle before murmuring against his temple. “What’s wrong,” he asks finally.

“Today’s my mom’s birthday,” he sighs. “My dad always used to make a big deal out of it, and we’d always do some big thing together, like go to the beach or to Disneyland. Her birthday and my birthday were the only days she ever took off work.”

 “I remember,” Derek says, hand stroking soothing lines down his side. “We had a sub those days. I skipped class.”

Stiles laughs, but it sounds a little hollow. “It’s been a rough day for me ever since…well, you know.” Derek nuzzles into his side, worrying a little patch of beard burn on his ribs before kissing and licking the spot.

“Why didn’t you tell me,” he says quietly. “I'll cancel dinner.” Derek has invited everyone to his place for dinner, as cooking massive amounts of food for his pack is one of his not-so-secret alpha pleasures.

“No, please, I want to see everyone. It’s good for me to be normal, you know? I just have to remind myself that she wouldn’t want me to mope, would want me to have fun.” It’s the same pep talk he gives himself every year, but this is the first time he actually believes it.

~*~

They stay in bed for a while, Derek covering him with tender kisses as Stiles talks, slowly at first, and then quickly, like he can’t help it, about his mom. Derek tells him everything he can remember about her too, which is quite a bit, given their friendship and his exceptional werewolf memory. Stiles gets to her know better because of Derek – gets to know who she was as a teacher and a mentor. Stiles wishes with all of his heart that she were still alive to know that he and Derek had found each other, but it almost feels like she does, when Derek talks about her.

They eventually get out of bed, Derek getting to work in the kitchen making enough bolognese sauce to feed a platoon, or a small pack of werewolves and two humans. Stiles goes out on the back porch to call his dad. They talk a couple of times of month as it is, but they always make sure to talk on this day, even though they rarely speak of her, just speaking around her, like they’ve done for years.

They chat for awhile, his dad catching him up on everything going on with Melissa and Beacon Hills before Stiles tells him about Derek. He leaves out the werewolf and mates for life parts, of course, but he does tell him that they’re serious, that he loves him.

“I’m thrilled for you, son,” his dad says. “Derek was a good kid. It was a damn tragedy, what happened to him and his family,” he adds with that tone of frustration and sadness that he gets whenever he talks about a particularly brutal case. “You know,” he says, pausing briefly before going on, “your mom really liked the Hale kids. Derek especially. Talked about him a lot. Said more than once that she’d hope you’d grow up to be like him.”

“Really?” Stiles asks softly, tears spilling freely from his eyes.

“Really, son. She’d be over the moon that you two are together.”

“Thanks, dad.”

“Love you, kid. See you soon.”

Derek is there when he hangs up, arms circling his waist and kissing the back of his neck. He smells like spices and tomato sauce and home and love, and Stiles relaxes back into to the heat of his chest, letting Derek hold him up.

~*~

It’s almost time to sit down to dinner when Stiles steps outside to the front porch, wanting a break from the chaos of a house full of werewolves. He’s enjoying himself, feeling more and more at home with Derek’s pack all the time, but he’s had an emotionally exhausting day and needs a bit of a breather before sitting down to eat.

He’s not outside long before Laura joins him, sidling up next to him silently where he’s leaning against the deck railing.

She doesn’t say anything for a minute, her eyes, so much like Derek’s, studying him closely. He looks away, over the water, letting her make her assessment. Stiles wonders what she sees when she looks at him – her brother’s boyfriend? Her alpha’s mate? Some weird kid who’s cast a spell on Derek? Another malicious asshole trying to manipulate him?

“You know,” she says finally, thoughtfully. “We had to share a car in high school. Our mom’s old ’69 Camaro. Gorgeous car. Derek still has it, here in the garage. You should have him show it to you sometime. Anyways, we bickered about it a lot but managed to make it work. We had a lot of the same friends so we were almost always going to the same place anyways. Except for when he started going to school early, to geek out about sci-fi with Ms. Stilinski, the nerd.” She smiles, eyes crinkling a bit at the corners just like Derek’s. “I used to bitch and moan about having to get up early. Turns out it saved us. She saved us.”

It still overwhelms him to think about his mother’s friendship with Derek and how it saved him and Laura, and the look of gratitude and wonder in her eyes pushes him over the edge, tears blurring his vision. “Yeah, I guess she did.” He wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, sniffling slightly.

He feels a slight tug under his ribs and the hair on the back his neck stands, warm, gentle comfort flooding through him. Derek, sensing his distress. Stiles smiles, expecting to see Derek come to check on him any moment. This mate thing is pretty cool.

“You look like her,” Laura says quietly. “You have her eyes. You’re a lot like her, actually. What I remember of her, you know.” She shrugs, like she’s suddenly uncomfortable.

“Thank you,” Stiles says softly, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and pulling her into a sideways hug. She wraps her arms around his waist and holds on tight, squeezing him with her crazy werewolf strength before loosening her grip so he can continue breathing.

“I’m so happy he found you,” she whispers against his chest.

~*~

“Stiles, please tell me this isn’t Jackson all over again?” Lydia has her hands on hips and is actually tapping her foot, the very picture of disappointment, except for the smile that keeps twitching at the corner of her mouth. “I thought being with Derek would mean you would finally stop hitting on all of my dates?”

“Hilarious,” Stiles says, finally releasing Laura from the hug.

His shirt is damp with tears where her face was pressed against him, and she runs her hand over the spot, apologetic smile on her lovely face. “Sorry about that,” she murmurs before walking over to kiss Lydia on the cheek.

“Whatever,” Lydia laughs, “it’s not like he’s not accustomed to being covered in Hale bodily fluids.”

“Lydia!” Stiles yells. Laura groans in disgust, Lydia cackles, and Derek, who is, as predicted, coming outside to check on Stiles, drops his wine glass in shock. It shatters across the deck, wine staining his adorable bare toes.

“Dinner’s ready,” he says, looking up from his feet, smiling.

~*~

Late that night, after everyone has gone home, Derek grabs a pile of blankets from a hall closet and leads Stiles outside to the beach in front of the house. He lays one blanket out and uses the other to cover them as he tucks Stiles in close, resting his head on his chest so they’re both looking up at the stars.

“Meteor shower tonight,” Derek explains. Stiles appreciates the romance – he really, truly, does – but he’s he thrilled just to be touching Derek. Shooting stars are just window dressing when he has that.

Derek spots three meteors before Stiles spots one, and then he just gives up and lets Derek point them all out. After awhile he gets up the courage to ask Derek the question he’s been thinking about since he talked to his dad this afternoon.

“Derek, will you go back to Beacon Hills with me for my dad and Melissa’s wedding? I know you haven’t been back since the fire, and I understand if you don’t want to.”

Derek is quiet for a moment before he answers. “I’ve been thinking about it. Even talked to Laura about it." He pauses and takes a deep breath before going on. “It scares me, going back. But I think it might be good for me. And I want to be there for you, be there to celebrate with you and see your dad again. And meet Scott and Kira. So yes, Stiles, I’ll go with you.”

“Are you sure?”

Derek grabs his hand tightly, like it’s a lifeline. “I’m sure. Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

They’re snuggled in the small cabin of the boat, Stiles’ socked feet resting in Derek’s lap. It’s Boyd’s boat, Derek explained as he loaded Stiles with sweaters and blankets and a thermos of coffee before unceremoniously hauling him onto the thing. “One of the perks of being the alpha,” he joked. “Their stuff is my stuff.

Derek laughs more easily now; his glare is less sharp, his stiff demeanor softening bit by bit, the walls he’s been building for so long steadily crumbling. Last week, Laura told Stiles that she’s starting to see the Derek from before the fire, the cocky-but-friendly kid who cried every time he watched A League of Their Own; who punched one of Laura’s high school boyfriends for calling her a bitch before apologizing and giving him a lecture on feminism. The kid who led the Beacon Hills baseball team to two state championships and also started the school’s first art club. The Derek his mom knew.

They’ve been on the water for almost two hours and Derek still won’t tell him what they’re doing or where they’re going. He’s just been smiling softly as he pilots the boat, pointing out different geographical features of the archipelago of islands scattered in the Puget Sound as Stiles chatters on, fingers playing with the seasickness wrist bands Derek gave him. It’s early evening, so overcast it feels almost dark already, the water shining like polished obsidian. He watches Derek, feeling his mellow contentment settle around his heart, pushing his own back to him.

As they glide along the water, Stiles ponders a question that he’s been turning over in his head for almost two months now, since he and Derek sealed the mate bond. And enthusiastically continue to seal it, he thinks with a grin, still feeling the tender, pleasing ache from the previous night’s adventure, riding Derek’s knot for nearly an hour. He hasn’t asked yet because he’s not sure what he wants the answer to be, but their rapidly approaching trip to Beacon Hills has him thinking more and more about the idea of forever with Derek and what exactly that might mean for his status as a human.

“Do you want to bite me?"

“Always,” Derek answers, winking. Stiles reaches for his hand and unhooks the thumbhole sleeve of Derek’s favorite sweater so he can lick the elegant script tattooed on his knuckles. One of Stiles’ new favorite pastimes is memorizing Derek’s tattoos with his tongue. The art on his hand is Laura’s handiwork, lupu vir – Latin for the wolf is the man – and a delicate wolf paw arcing around his thumb.

“You know what I mean,” he laughs, sinking his teeth into the mound of Derek’s thumb. “Do you want me to turn me? Make me your mate for real.”

“What do you mean ‘for real’?” Derek’s brow furrows in confusion. “You are my mate for real. Did you miss all the knotting? I could show you again, if you’ve forgotten.” His devious little smirk is a sight to behold.

“I’m serious,” Stiles replies, mostly failing in his attempt to be stern and admonishing. “You’re like, superwolf right? As an alpha don’t you want your mate to be a wolf too?” Stiles hadn’t realized just how worried he’s been about this until now. Despite his confidence in Derek’s feelings for him, he can’t help but wonder – in more ways than in one – if he’s not enough for Derek, because Derek is figuratively and literally magical, and Stiles is just plain old hyperactive, skinny, sarcastic Stiles.

“I want my mate to be you, just the way you are.” Derek’s completely serious now, hand squeezing Stiles’ thigh.

“But you’re the alpha.”

“Why does that matter?”

“You’re like, I don’t know, the most special of the special creatures. It seems like you should have a mate who's just as special as you.” The word special seems pitifully inadequate to fully express just how astonishingly awe-inducing Derek is, even before when Stiles didn't know he was a werewolf, and it seems almost meaningless now, especially with the way Derek’s looking at him, eyes almost blue in the ocean twilight.

Derek opens his mouth to say something, then closes it quickly, continuing to look Stiles over slowly instead. “Do you know what my mom told me when I told her about you? About the dream, I mean, and how I saw a fox instead of a wolf?”

“I didn’t know that you told her.” It makes him happy to know that Derek shared the dream with his mother too, and for not the first time, Stiles wishes he could have known Talia Hale.

“I told both of my parents. They were mates. They shared dreams for almost twenty years before they met. My mom said that seeing an animal other than a wolf in the mate dream likely meant that I was just seeing his spirit, and that meant that he was human. An incredibly special human. It’s rare, for humans and wolves to be mates, that’s true, but it’s because most humans don’t have the strength, or the character, to be paired with a wolf. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re kind of a lot to deal with.” Derek smiles again, leaning over to kiss him, teeth pulling softly on his bottom lip when he pulls away. “You may not be a werewolf, Stiles, but you’re extraordinary. You’re everything I want.” It’s a rushed whisper against his cheek, quiet but urgent.

“Oh,” Stiles says, a little dazed as the hot flood of their feelings swirls in his chest. He pulls Derek over for another kiss, reaching up to stroke his beard and bring him closer, delighting in how Derek’s mouth makes him feel stripped bare in the very best way.

“Do you want me to bite you?” Derek asks against his neck after he’s broken the kiss. He sits back up and returns his attention to navigating the boat, slowing the engine, letting Stiles think about that huge question.

“I don’t think so. I mean, part of me wonders what it would be like, you know. Of course, who wouldn’t? But…I like being human.”

“I like you human, too. But if you ever decide that it’s something you want, I’ll do it for you. And I’ll still love you.”

“Best mate ever.”

“You know, if I were to bite you,” Derek goes on thoughtfully, “you might not turn into a werewolf. Actually, I’m pretty sure you’d be a fox.”

“A werefox? Is that a thing?”

“Not that I’ve ever heard of. But sometimes – some people, if they have a really strong spirit, when they’re bitten, they take the shape of their spirit instead of a wolf. It doesn’t happen often, but I think it would with you. I think maybe that’s what my mom meant when she said you were special.”

“Huh.” Stiles looks out the window and ponders this for a few minutes. He knows Derek sees him as a fox in his dream, but he’s never really thought seriously about what it would like to actually be one, for his body to shift and transform like Derek’s – which he still hasn’t seen. To have four legs and paws and a fur coat and to really run alongside his wolf like in his dream. It’s tempting, but not something he can really wrap his head around right now.

“Derek,” he says, smiling twitching at the corners of his mouth, breaking the silence. “We when get home, can we watch The Fox and the Hound?”

~*~

The sun – what little of it they can see peeking behind the heavy gray clouds threatening a night of steady rain – is just starting to set when Derek finally slows and stops the engine, letting the boat bob slightly in the calm water. He leads Stiles out of the cabin to the small deck, lined on each side with cushioned benches. Derek still hasn’t revealed what in the hell they’re doing in the middle of the ocean (okay, not really, there’s an island, like half a mile away) as night is falling, but he’s practically buzzing with excited energy so Stiles knows whatever he has planned, it’s going to be spectacular.

It’s damn cold, but Stiles is wrapped in a worn flannel blanket cuddled up against Derek’s solid heat as they stretch out on one of the benches looking over the water. Stiles is about to ask again what they’re doing out here when Derek grabs his hand and points, whispering. “Look.”

He follow the direction of Derek’s hand and sees, maybe fifty feet from them, the water breaking with the smooth, dark dorsal fin of a massive orca, surfacing. It blows a spray of water before diving back down, snapping his huge tail against the surface as another one, a little further out, breaches too. Stiles’ mouth in hangs open in wonder as he marvels at the incredible sight. Another orca surfaces, closer to them, nose first, playful, as if saying hello. It seems Derek has lead them right to the edge of a large, active pod, just close enough to get a spectacular view, but not close enough to disturb or endanger them.

Derek is watching in wonder too, eyes darting to watch Stiles’ rapt expression more than he’s watching the whales though. “Can you smell them? Is that how you knew where to go?”

“There’s a reason Boyd’s the most popular and successful whale-watching boat captain on the Sound,” Derek whispers, breath warm against his temple. Stiles laughs, befuddled and thrilled once again by just how weird his life has gotten since he met Derek.

They watch the pod for a long time, feeling a rush of exhilaration each time one of the magnificent creatures surfaces and dives. Eventually they start to stay down longer, surfacing farther away, until they’re quickly fading smudges against the horizon.

“Wow,” Stiles breathes, feeling like he can speak normally again. “That was…amazing. Coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Thank you.”

“Glad you liked it.” Derek hugs him closer as they sit awhile longer, the gentle swaying of the boat rocking them steadily. “I don’t want to bite you,” Derek says after awhile, picking up their earlier conversation. “But, if you were ever severely injured or sick, I would, to heal you, to save you. If that’s what you want.”

Stiles thinks about this for a moment. “Yeah, I would want that, I think. Life-saving bites approved.”

Derek looks at him, face blank in that way he gets when he’s trying to carefully choose his words. “I would have bitten her,” he says after a while. “Your mom. Offered to, I mean. If I had still been there when she was sick. I would have tried to save her.”

“Derek,” Stiles croaks, voice breaking. He’s too overwhelmed to say anything else, but he knows that he doesn’t have to. Derek will feel how deeply he’s moved in the press of his kiss, in the desperate way that he clings to him, in the ache in his heart.

~*~

It’s late when they get home, but Stiles isn’t tired. He feels very awake, in fact, thrumming with energy, eager and greedy for Derek.

Derek, who’s lying diagonally on the bed, head towards the foot, naked and lazily stroking his hard cock when Stiles comes upstairs with a loaded pipe and lighter. He’s looking forward to getting very stoned, letting his body melt and soften, and then taking his sweet, sweet time fucking Derek until they’re covered in come and unable to move.

“You read my mind,” Stiles tells him, gaze raking over the long, elegant lines of Derek’s thighs, dusted with dark hair. He tosses the weed on the bed so he can strip, imagining biting into the flesh there.

Derek’s cheeks hollow prettily as he takes a hit, those cheekbones sharpening to knife-edges. Turns out werewolves have to lace alcohol with wolfsbane to feel its effects, but pot affects them just fine on its own. Stiles is glad for it; stoned Derek is a little silly, a giant affectionate puppy, a big cuddly bear. “I could smell your leaking cock from downstairs,” Derek informs him, blowing smoke rings, because he’s a cocky showoff, and Stiles fucking loves him for it.

“You’re so romantic," he says as he straddles Derek, pressing a wet, open-mouthed kiss on each of the wolf claw tattoos on his hips, then moving up his body to take the pipe from him. He takes a long hit, closing his eyes at the slight burn in his throat, holds it as long as he can before bending down to exhale into Derek’s open mouth, falling into a messy, smoky kiss.

It practically kills him, taking it slow, but Stiles wants it to last. They smoke and talk and laugh and kiss, languidly bucking their hips now and again to grind against each other, cocks leaking, groans becoming insistent. Derek breaks first, tossing the cashed pipe and lighter to the floor and rearing up to grab him firmly by the back of the neck, kissing him deeply. He moves his lips down to kiss and lick at Stiles’ chest, fingers teasing his nipples into hard peaks before sucking each one into his warm mouth. “Need to taste you,” Derek murmurs into his skin before lying back again, hands sliding to Stiles’ waist to pull him up his chest until he’s straddling Derek's neck, straining cock falling across his mouth.

Stiles yips and gasps, twitching with anticipation. Derek’s big hands hook under his thighs and move up to cup his ass, pulling him just a bit further and spreading him open over his waiting mouth. The hot rush air and the soft tickle of his beard against his cleft and hole pulls a squeaking moan from Stiles before breaking off into a gasping keen when Derek’s lips circle him in a wet kiss, the tip of his tongue pushing in before darting out again. “Derek,” he pants, feeling like he’s dissolving into a heap of molten pleasure as Derek's tongue ravishes him. He can’t help his pathetic little mewls, greedy sounds that fall from his open mouth as Derek’s tongue works harder, faster, Stiles' cock rubbing along the side of his face, dripping precome in his beard.

Stiles can’t help but rut against his face, softly at first, asking permission. He hears a pleased growl from underneath him and the hand on his ass squeezes, spurring him on. He ruts faster, adding friction to the rapid wet thrusting of Derek’s tongue, a riot of powerful sensations that has him abuzz with heat and love. He finally grips his dick and slicks it down with precome before rising a bit to pull Derek’s mouth away from his split-slick hole, rubbing his cock over his swollen, red lips. Stiles slides the head in, smiling as Derek closes his mouth around him, sucking hard. He begins thrusting again, harder now, hips snapping, swearing at the hot wet heat of Derek’s mouth. He turns back to see Derek’s other hand, the one not still squeezing his ass, stroking his own dick, hips snapping up while Stiles fucks his gorgeous face.

It’s incredible.

He has just enough self-control left to slow his thrusting before he gets past the point no return, taking a few panting breaths and squeezing the base of his cock while Derek still sucks eagerly at the tip, tongue teasing the slit. Derek’s eyes are bloodshot, pupils wide, his face shiny with spit and Stiles’ precome, thoroughly ravaged. Stiles has beard burn on his asshole, and he fucking loves it. He scoots back down Derek’s chest, stopping to kiss him, cock twitching at the taste of himself on his lips.

He’s sex-stupid and stoned, uncoordinated as hell, but he manages to turn around on top of Derek without kicking him in the face, an accomplishment he’ll remember to feel proud of as soon as he’s able. Now though, he’s still on top, mouth just inches from Derek’s cock, his own dick and roughed up ass hovering back over Derek’s face again but from a new angle. Derek doesn’t waste anytime getting back to work, and not to be outdone, Stiles dives in, the rich taste of Derek’s thick precome coating his mouth as he licks at him, teasing the foreskin before swallowing him down.

Derek rolls them so they’re on their sides, arms and legs tangled in a sweaty twist as they suck each other, voracious and frenzied, feverish. Derek’s cock is piercing hot, stretching his mouth wide, fucking delicious as it slides across his tongue. Derek does something with his own tongue and his teeth on the head of his dick, making Stiles gasp and pull back, body going rigid as he comes, spasms shaking through him, rattling his bones. Derek swallows the first pulse but then pulls off, letting Stiles finish across his face and neck, a rumbling growl shaking through him. Stiles gets his mouth back around Derek while he’s still trembling, sucking hard, wanting to be covered too. He reaches up to Derek’s neck and scoops up a sticky puddle of his come, running it between his fingers before bringing his hand back down to tease at Derek’s hole, roughly shoving two come-slicked fingers into him up to the first knuckle as he buries his face at the base of Derek’s cock, swallowing around him.

Derek nearly howls as he comes, and Stiles can’t see his face but he knows his eyes are burning red. Like Derek, he takes the first pulse of scorching come down his throat and then slips off, smiling as the rest of his impressive load sprays across his chest, drenching him. “Fuck yes,” he can’t help but pant, body twitching with the urge to come all over again as his mate marks him so thoroughly. Derek is keening softly, hips still thrusting erratically, fingers clutching into Stiles’ thighs hard enough to bruise.

By the time Derek stills, he’s shoved himself completely onto Stiles’ fingers, so Stiles keeps going, adding Derek’s come from his chest, massaging his prostate as he stretches him. Stiles rises up to his knees, spreading Derek’s legs around him. He can finally see his face, flushed and raw, eyes half-closed, fangs jutting from his panting mouth. The sight of them sends a shock straight to his cock, already starting to harden again. He’s never had a refractory period this short before, but then again, Derek.

Derek, who’s still hard, who never went soft after soaking him in come, who’s moaning and pleading for Stiles to fuck him. “Soon, wolfman, soon.” He pets Derek’s thigh and pushes a third finger in. Their combined come isn’t the best lube but Derek doesn’t seem to mind at all, seems to be melting into the burn. Stiles loves this about him, loves that he can be a little rough and know that he can’t really hurt him, just like Derek loves how fragile he is, loves how his skin bears his marks so easily.

He fingers him until his pleas begin to sound more like snarls, puling away long enough to grab the bottle of lube from the nightstand, knowing that come isn’t going to cut it and it’s starting to dry on his chest anyways. When he turns back he nearly dissolves with the burst of love and want that fills him at the sight of Derek, a goddamned vision, legs spread wide, knees up, canting his hips up, holding himself open. Stiles is fully hard again; he slicks himself and pushes into Derek with a firm slap of his hips, arching back with the swell of power he feels in his chest when Derek’s loud sigh of pleasure pushes through him. He fucks him slowly at first, long, slow strokes that have them both shaking with each sundering drag. Derek is meeting each thrust forcefully, like he’s trying to take all of Stiles inside of him for good.

His second release is cresting with each desperate thrust, arms and legs going weak, falling on top of Derek, kissing messily, tasting his own come on his lips, hips still bucking. He’s lost all finesse, all control of his body, his entire existence narrowed down to the clench of Derek around him. It feels like something cracks and splinters deep within him, flooding him with light and burning pleasure; he comes with a grunt, biting into Derek’s collarbone, locking his hips tight against Derek as he fills him, body finally going limp and heavy as he shudders through it.

Derek’s still thrusting up, dick seeking friction. Stiles wants to get him off again but he’s not sure he can move, wrecked and wrung out as he is. Derek doesn’t seem to mind though, because he’s moving out from under him, letting Stiles fall out of him with a hiss. Stiles splays across the foot of the bed on his stomach, his skin still tingling with the aftershocks. Derek rises to his knees, straddling Stiles' back, stroking himself hard and fast. There's a sharp intake of breath and a deep moan, and Derek spills across Stiles’ back on to the wolf tattoo, thick ropes of come splattering against his sweaty skin.

The last thing he feels before falling asleep is Derek’s chest, hard with muscle and soft with hair, damp with sweat, pressing heavily into his come-covered back, a slightly-fanged bite nibbling gently into his neck.

~*~

For once, Derek is awake before him, green-gold eyes big and close, right there in his face when Stiles peels his own eyes open from a heavy, dense sleep. He’s laying the right way on the bed, head buried in his favorite pillow, cozy in the sheets. A shrug and roll of his body tells him that he’s not itchy with dried come, so Derek must have cleaned him up before tucking him in.

“You’re alive,” Derek whispers, face still close.

“Barely.” His voice is thick with sleep. “Can someone be sexed to death? I think you’re trying to sex me to death.”

Derek just smiles, tongue playing connect-the-dots with the moles on his cheek and neck.

Chapter Text

Derek grows increasingly silent and tense during the flight to Sacramento, and then even more so during the two-hour drive from the airport to Beacon Hills. He’s stony and silent by the time Stiles steers the rental car into the driveway, hands fisted in his lap, breathing tight and controlled.

“We can go,” Stiles says, ready to put the car in reverse and drive away, wasting money and time and pissing everyone off, but he doesn’t give a damn about that, not when Derek looks like he’s on the verge of a panic attack.

“No, I’ll be okay.” He says it like he’s trying to convince himself more than Stiles. “It’s just…overwhelming. The pull of our territory.”

Derek had told him about this, had warned him of it. The Hales have been the supernatural guardians of this area for centuries, the land itself echoing with the same mystical power that runs through Derek, trying to anchor the wolf to his territory.

“Do you always feel its pull?” Stiles had asked.

“Yes. It was stronger at first, right after we left. It’s dulled over time, but it’s still there. I know it’s trying to bring me back to my family’s land…but, every time I think about it, I just taste ash. I’ve learned to ignore it.” Derek had offered him a weak smile as they packed their bags, and Stiles felt again that pang of guilt for asking Derek to come with him. “I’ll be fine, Stiles,” he had said, more than once. “It has to happen eventually. Laura and Boyd think it will be good for me. I trust them. I trust you.”

Sitting in his driveway next to Derek in the too-clean smelling rental car, Stiles hopes to all that is holy that he is worthy of that trust. He uncurls one of Derek’s fists, wraps his fingers up with his. “Come on in, then. Dad and Melissa won’t be home until later. We can relax and get settled.”

Stiles’ bedroom is largely unchanged, save for the bare walls and empty closet, which he tosses their bags into as Derek falls heavily on the bed, burying his face in a pillow. “Smells like you, but different,” he mumbles into the fabric, curling into as small of a ball as his bulky body will let him. Stiles curls up behind him and presses  against his broad back, wrapping his arms around him and holding tight. Derek relaxes instantly, body and breath softening. “Better,” he murmurs, lifting Stiles’ hand to kiss the inside of his wrist.

Derek falls asleep while Stiles stares at all of the tiny holes in the wall next to his bed where he hung the adoption certificates and wolf photos, the wolves his mother gave him. He eventually falls asleep too, holding on tight to the wolf she gave him without even knowing it.

~*~

Stiles wakes to the familiar early evening light filtering into the room. They've turned over in their sleep, Derek now spooned around his back, heavy arm slung possessively across his waist.

It’s strange, waking up in his old room with Derek. For a moment he imagines he’s back in high school, thinks about what it would have been like if he had met Derek back then. Derek would have been in his early twenties; according to Laura, in those days he was even angrier and surlier.

He’s well into a fantasy that involves a lot of too-close talking and bickering that bursts into passionate angry-but-really-we-yell-because-we-love-each-other-sex with Alternate Universe Derek when actual Derek starts to shift closer, mouth hot on the back of his neck.

“Feeling better?” Stiles rolls his hips just a bit, exploring.

“Better,” Derek murmurs, the teasing of his lips growing more insistent. Stiles closes his eyes and focuses, trying to zero in on Derek’s emotions. It’s still hard for him to control when and what he feels from him, a weird mental and emotional gymnastics that Derek says he’ll get better at with practice. He mostly just feels Derek’s emotions when he’s feeling something powerful, but every once in a while, when he really tries, he can feel a tingle of something else that is and isn’t part of him. Derek.

He’s much calmer now, less tense, the anxiety that was rolling off him in waves before their nap still there, but nowhere near as intense. Derek’s got his hand under his shirt, drifting down to tease at the button of his pants. “Do we have time,” he asks, fingers tucking under the waistband of his boxers.

Stiles can just reach his phone on the nightstand; it’s just after five. “Dad said both he and Melissa are working until seven tonight,” he answers with a smile.

Derek responds by rising up a bit and turning Stiles towards him, pulling him into a tender, warm kiss. “Much better now,” he says when he pulls away, yanking up Stiles’ shirt.

Stiles rolls away, off the bed, pulling off his shirt as he rises. Derek whines and Stiles rolls his eyes and laughs, walking to the closet to get lube from his suitcase. When he turns back around, he sees that Derek has undressed with record speed, lying back across the pillows, arms crossed casually behind his head as he watches him.

“God damn,” Stiles whispers, chest aching with just how lovely he is, how utterly insane it is that a man so perfect is naked on his bed. That a man so perfect looks at him with such loving adoration. It’s the most powerful thing in the world, that look in Derek’s eyes.

He finishes stripping quickly, tossing the bottle to Derek and tripping over his pants as he tries to step out of them and walk to the bed at the same time.

He manages to make it back to Derek in one piece, crawling over him clumsily in his effort to get his mouth around a nipple and hands around his dick. Derek manhandles him so he’s turned, ass in the air, within reach of his lubed fingers. He wastes no time stretching him, pressing in gently but insistently, knowing exactly how to make Stiles’ body go pliant and open.

Stiles ignores his own cock, red and leaking small streaks across Derek’s abs, to focus on Derek’s, teasing his foreskin with his fingers, biting his lip at the spurt of precome he works from him. He gathers it up and turns, catching Derek’s eye, not breaking his gaze as he rubs his slick fingers across Derek’s nipple before leaning down to lick it off, teeth biting and pulling lightly on the barbell. Derek shoves his fingers in harder as he gasps, making Stiles smile and groan against his chest.

“I need your knot,” he huffs, fingers pulling at the other barbell.

“Come and get it,” Derek replies with a buck of his hips and a quick slap to his ass. Stiles can’t even pretend that he doesn’t find it ridiculously hot.

He turns towards Derek’s flushed cock, dripping now, putting his back to him and straddling his hips. He wants Derek to see, wants him to watch how his body opens and takes him. “Oh fuck, Stiles,” Derek groans, hands cupping and spreading him as he slowly lowers himself down.

No matter how many times he takes him, Stiles will still gasp and shudder at the pure, hot pleasure that surges through him from the inside out as Derek’s cock fills him. He’s gasping, short little panting breaths that shake through him as he stretches, the burn settling into buzzing heat. Derek’s breathing hard too, hands moving up to cradle his waist.

Stiles leans forward just a bit, bracing his hands on Derek’s strong thighs, twisting back to watch Derek’s face as he slowly rises up and down, shuddering at the sweet tight friction, the ridge of his cock tugging against his rim. Derek’s face – god, Derek’s face – is spectacular, mouth hanging open, blunt, uneven human teeth jutting out slightly as he grunts. His eyes are wide and dark at first, but when Stiles presses down hard, takes Derek in as far as he can with a firm snap of his hips, his eyes flash red, and a soft growl rumbles from his chest.

It’s a siren call to him, Derek wolfing out during sex. He stops his teasing and begins riding Derek in earnest, rising and falling as fast as he can, body hot and liquid, simmering, his cock, still untouched, bouncing against his stomach. Derek isn’t thrusting up into him, goddamn him, perfectly content it seems to lie back and watch Stiles fuck himself on his cock, hands squeezing steadily at his ass.

Stiles’ thighs are trembling, sweaty and taut, starting to ache. “Derek,” he moans, his voice sounding broken and far away.

Derek reaches up and pulls him back, rescuing his legs, thank god, bringing Stiles to lie back against his chest. It changes the angle of his dick in the best way, and fuck, he’s almost there.

He’s twists back to kiss him, fucking his tongue filthily into his mouth as Derek starts to fuck up into him, hips snapping hard and fast. Derek hooks one arm across Stiles’ waist, holding him close, and reaches down to wrap his other hand around his dick, and that’s it, Stiles is done, coming with a mewling grunt as Derek strokes him, spilling hotly over his hand, ass clenching tight around Derek’s swelling cock.

The hand on his waist grips him tight and Derek bites into his neck, hips stilling, bowed upward as he comes, his knot settling in tight against Stiles’ rim, powerful sprays of come splattering inside him. Stiles’ mind goes blissfully blank for a long time, recognizing nothing but the warm comfort of being tied to Derek, his body still trembling.

Derek finally relaxes a bit and stills, humming in pleasure, his mouth still kissing and teasing Stiles’ neck, ear, shoulder, any part of him he can get to. They lie there like that for awhile, Stiles stretched across Derek like a blanket, the wolf tattoo on his back pressed against the fox tattoo on Derek’s chest.

Derek insists on getting him off at least twice when he knots him, so Stiles smiles in anticipation when his hands begin to move again in slow, teasing drags across his stomach. Stile purrs and flexes, pulling the knot against his rim in a way that makes them both gasp and twitch. Derek lifts his hands so Stiles can see them and then slowly, carefully, lets his razor-sharp claws slide free.

“Oh god,” Stiles moans, mesmerized, as Derek's claws trace lightly up his sides, deadly points brushing feather-light across the thin skin of his ribs. One hand runs up to turn Stiles’ chin back towards him so Derek can capture his mouth in a bruising kiss. The other hand, still lethally clawed, reaches down to lightly grip his cock, careful but sure.

Stiles wants to rut and buck, body alight with Derek’s slow torture. But he doesn’t; he’s perfectly still except for the heavy rise and fall of his chest, letting Derek show him just how careful he can be.

He’d be impressed with his own self-control if Derek’s didn’t put it to shame so thoroughly. Derek’s jacking him slowly, hand just tight enough to give him some friction, claws pointed away from the tender skin of his leaking cock. “Derek,” he moans again, more urgent.

There’s a bite and pull on his earlobe, making him hiss, then Derek’s thrusting up, achingly slow, each thrust deeper than the last, timed perfectly with the tugs on his cock. His knot is pressing hard inside of him, making him dizzy with how solidly full he feels. Derek moves faster, teeth clamping into his neck. Stiles starts meeting his thrusts, bucking his own hips in rhythm with his, knowing that his movement might change Derek’s clawed grip on his cock but not caring, needing this too much.

Derek anticipates his movement, shifts his hand just so to accommodate Stiles’ needy little ruts. When Stiles rocks his hips just right it pushes Derek’s knot against his prostate, making him nearly scream. He bears down, clenching, needing it so fucking bad, needing the hot, swollen press of Derek’s knotted dick to milk him from the inside out. Derek clamps a muscled forearm low across his hips and holds him down while he arches up, his mouth wet and hot against Stiles’ ear. He’s panting, words a shapeless mumble as he encourages him, spurs him on. “That’s it, pup,” he’s saying, and fuck, Stiles’ eyes roll back in his head at that. “I love watching you come on my knot,” he continues. Pleasure threads through every inch of his spent and wrecked body as he twitches and snaps against Derek’s solid warmth as he comes, emptying himself over Derek’s hand, again.

Derek, always in a state of low-grade orgasm when he’s knotting, moans along with Stiles, coming more powerfully as Stiles comes down from his own high. Stiles brings one of his hands to his mouth to lick his come from his fingers, tongue darting lightly, cautiously, over the claws. Derek’s hips seize up hard as he finishes, filling Stiles with one more burst of hot come before falling still, still clutching him, claws still whisper soft on his skin.

~*~

The shower is laughably small compared to Derek’s, and they trip over each other more than once as they clean up, bodies slick with soap and come. Stiles is thrilled to see Derek smiling again, the rest and sex having worked wonders it seems.

They manage to get clean and dressed and are watching TV in the living room when his dad and Melissa get home, both of them still in their work clothes and calling out eager hellos as they come in the front door together. Stiles jumps up to hug his dad, and dammit if both of their eyes aren’t a little wet by the time they break the embrace.

“It’s good to see you, kid,” his dad says, patting him on the shoulder.

Melissa wraps him up next, ruffling his still-wet hair and kissing his cheek, and when he pulls away he sees his dad, ignoring Derek’s offer of a handshake and wrapping him in a huge bear hug instead, patting his back affectionately. Derek tenses for just a second before relaxing, reaching up to return the hug. “It’s great to see you again, son,” his dad says, and Stiles has to look away because Derek’s eyes are starting to look suspiciously shiny too.

He gives up any pretense of trying to keep it together when Melissa hugs Derek. Melissa, who makes his dad happy in a way Stiles never thought possible again; Melissa, who was already another mom to him before his own mother died, who pulls Derek into a hug just as fiercely as his dad did. “Welcome to the family, Derek,” she says, and Stiles isn’t sure if it’s his own happiness or Derek’s that he’s feeling.

That night, after Derek and Melissa have both gone to bed, Stiles sits at the kitchen table with his dad, each drinking a beer, chatting casually. “You know,” his dad says, changing the subject away from the Mets. “After you told me about you and Derek, I took another look at the Hale fire.”

“Oh yeah?” Stiles asks, trying to sound neutral, like he isn’t intimately acquainted with every detail of the file in question. He even knows the answer to the question that stumped his dad and the other investigators, why no one was able to escape the house. Mountain ash, a mystical barrier that affects werewolves. Kate Argent had circled the house with it before setting the fire.

He can’t tell his dad any of that of course, so he just lets him go on. “I’m not sure how much Derek has told you about the incident, and I’m not asking you to tell me anything he’s told you. I wouldn’t do that to you, and besides, it would be hearsay anyways.” He attempts a smile, and Stiles has to appreciate the effort he’s making. He knows how much an unsolved case – especially one so brutal – eats at him.

“Thanks, dad.”

“You’re welcome. But I do want you tell Derek something for me. Tell him that he can talk to me, as the sheriff, not as your father. I’ll reopen the investigation immediately if he wants to make another statement, okay?”

“I will, dad. I'll tell him.” He will, but he knows what Derek’s response will be. Stiles has already suggested – more than once – that he revise his original statement to the police, name Kate as the murderer. “There’s no point,” Derek had said. “There’s no evidence, no motive that they can know about. There’s nothing they can do. Besides, Peter has been searching for her for years, and he’s never been able to find her. Do you really think the Beacon county sheriff’s department can?” He didn’t mean it as an insult to his dad’s work; it’s simply the unfortunate truth.

When Stiles had asked Derek why he never went with Peter on his quests to hunt down and kill Kate, he was quiet for a long time before answering. What he said shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did. “My mom always used to tell me that I was a predator, but that didn’t mean I had to be a killer. I don’t want to be a killer.” He had said so softly and sweetly Stiles had to kiss his eyes closed.

Part of him wants to tell his dad everything, about Kate and what she did to Derek, about werewolves and mountain ash. But they’re not his secrets to tell, so he just smiles and nods, thanks his dad again before heading upstairs to bed.

~*~

Derek’s introduction to Scott and Kira is less emotionally fraught, thank god. Derek and Scott seem slightly suspicious of each other at first, circling each other like two dogs who want to play with the same toy. Derek and Kira hit it off immediately though, bonding over their shared love of leather jackets and motorcycles.

They’re out for drinks the night before the wedding, Scott and Stiles nursing their third pitcher of beer while Derek and Kira, across the bar, play another game of Big Buck Hunter. At first Stiles thought it was unfair of him to challenge her to a game, because hello, werewolf reflexes and vision. But Kira is more than holding her own, even beating him a few times. From what Stiles can tell through his beery haze, they’ve tied the last few rounds and neither one of them seems willing to give up first.

“Dude, our parents are getting married tomorrow,” Scott says, also watching Derek and Kira with a smile.

“Fuck, man. It’s wild. We’re finally gonna officially be brothers.” He doesn’t really mean it to sound so sappy.

“Shit, man, don’t make me cry in my beer.”

 “You started it, asshole!”

Stiles refills their glasses, almost spilling when he jerks his head to look over at where Kira is hollering and jumping with obvious victory, Derek hanging his head in shame, but smiling.

“He’s pretty cool, I guess,” Scott says, reluctantly.

Stiles just smiles, the word smitten bouncing around in his foamy brain. “Yeah he is,” he sighs dreamily.

“He loves you a lot,” Scott says. “It’s so obvious. And you too. I’ve never seen you this happy.”

“I didn’t think I could be this happy,” Stiles answers, and it’s not sappy at all, just the plain truth.

Derek and Kira are walking back to their booth, Kira still dancing her awkward little victory dance, Scott watching her and smiling like a big goofy dork.

“You too,” Stiles says. “You seem really happy, still, I mean. With Kira. She’s fucking awesome.”

“Yeah.” It’s Scott’s turn to smile and sigh now, and Stiles cackles.

“Look at us. How’d we get so lucky to end up with such gorgeous weirdoes?”

Derek plops down heavily on the bench beside him. “Excuse me,” he huffs, kissing Stiles softly on the mouth, beard brushing over his lips. “You’re the gorgeous weirdo.”

~*~

His dad and Melissa get married the day before Christmas Eve in a short, private ceremony in the justice of the peace’s office with Scott, Stiles, Kira, and Derek serving as witnesses.

The reception, though, is huge; a gorgeous party organized by Lydia’s mom at the country club. It seems everyone in town has come out to wish the sheriff well. It’s clearly the party of the year in Beacon Hills, even before the buzz of gossip that comes when people recognize Derek, not only back in town but hand-in-hand with the sheriff’s son. Common courtesy and Derek’s eyebrows seem to keep the gawkers at bay though, and they have a great night toasting his dad and Melissa, dancing and drinking and laughing.

Stiles is taking a break, sipping water at a table off to the side of the dance floor watching Derek and Kira dancing across the room. If the sight of Derek in a suit wasn’t enough to destroy him, the sight of him rolling up the sleeves of his pressed shirt and loosening his tie is enough to make Stiles’ mouth water. He’s about to get up to tell him as much – possibly even to stop him so he doesn’t humiliate himself by pouncing Derek on the dance floor – when a figure appears in the chair to his right.

“Hello Stiles,” Allison’s dad says, voice quiet. Quiet enough that Derek can’t hear.

Mr. Argent looks mostly the same since the last time Stiles saw him a couple of years ago, his ice-blue stare intimidating long before Stiles learned about his werewolf-hunting past.

“Chris,” Stiles answers curtly, sitting up straighter, eyes on Derek. He has no idea how Derek might react to seeing Chris, but he really doesn’t want to find out now.

“It’s good to see you.”

Stiles doesn’t say anything, focused as he is on getting his heartbeat settled. Over the music and din of conversation, he knows Derek can’t hear them if they keep their voices low. But his heartbeat is another story, so he tries to steady it, not wanting to alert him.

“Stiles, relax,” Chris is saying. “I’m here as a friend of your father’s.”

“Not as a hunter?”

“No. I haven’t hunted in a long time. And even when I did, I followed the code. I raised Allison to follow the code as well.”

This gets Stiles attention enough to pull his eyes away from Derek. “Allison knows? How long?”

“She’s always known. Since she was old enough to understand.”

Stiles thinks this over, thinks back over high school when they were all obsessed with lacrosse games and prom, Allison was learning to hunt werewolves behind all of their backs.

“Does she know about Kate? What Kate did to Derek’s family? Do you?” His voice is harsh with accusation. Chris Argent may seem like a good guy, but that doesn’t change the fact that his sister abused Derek and murdered his family. It’s going to take a hell of a lot for Stiles to trust the guy again.

“Allison knows that Kate is unwell. That she’s dangerous.”

Stiles scoffs, rolls his eyes. He really doesn’t want to be having this conversation. “I’m really just here to say congratulations to your father and Melissa,” Chris continues. “I also want to apologize for Kate, for what my father turned her into. I’d tell Derek myself, but I don’t think this is the time.”

Stiles is at least grateful for that, starts to soften towards him a bit. He always liked Mr. Argent, even when he was intimidated by him, even when he made Scott’s life a living hell for awhile when he and Allison were dating. “Thank you,” Stiles answers. It sounds weird, but he doesn’t know what else to say, just wants Chris to leave so he can go to Derek and breathe normally again.

“I want you know, Stiles, that I’m happy for you and for Derek, and that he faces no threat from me. Just the opposite, in fact.” He slips a hand into his suit and pulls out a black business card, the Argent Arms logo shining silver. “Here’s my number. Hold on to it. Call me if you or Derek ever need anything, okay?”

He says it solemnly, very serious. Stiles refuses to think of his tone as ominous, but he’d be lying of it didn’t feel that way a little bit. He takes the card from him, sliding it into his pocket next to his phone. Chris nods once and then he’s gone.

~*~

They dance together the rest of the night, after Stiles’ heart settles and he takes a shot of whiskey to calm his nerves. It feels strange, keeping something from Derek, but he looks so happy, downright joyful, so he decides to hold off on telling him about Chris. It all falls out of his mind anyways when Derek clutches him tight in a lazy slow dance, beard tickling his ear as he sings softly into Stiles’ ear to Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Stiles laughs into his neck, worrying a fast-disappearing mark there, not giving a single fuck about all the eyes on them.

The sheriff and Melissa are staying in a hotel tonight, so Derek and Stiles leave soon after that, saying quick goodbyes before speeding home to a thankfully empty house. They make it to Stiles’ bed, barely.

~*~

“I’m going to the house.”

Stiles looks up from his laptop on the couch to see Derek at the bottom of the stairs wearing jeans and a white tank top, face determined. Stiles knew this was coming – knew Derek would decide eventually to go see the ruins of his family home.

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“No. Well, yes, I do. But I don’t think you should. I want you there, but...” he drifts off, looking away from Stiles, as if he’s embarrassed. “I don’t know how I’m going to react,” he says finally. “I might not be able to control myself and I don’t want to scare or hurt you.”

Stiles wants to push him on it, can’t stand the idea of Derek going out there to confront his past alone. But he also knows how stubborn Derek is, and how protective, and he doesn’t want to add to his anxiety by making him worry about keeping him safe.

“Okay, if that’s what you want,” he agrees, hating it.

“It’s best this way.” He walks over and kisses him slowly but forcefully, strong thumb tracing under his eye, tilting his head up. “I love you.”

~*~

Stiles keeps as busy as he can, trying not to think about Derek alone in the ashes. It’s cold and raining steadily, and he knows it’s silly, but he can’t help but think about how cold Derek might be in only that thin tank top. Derek’s always warm though, and if Stiles’ suspicions are right, he’s fairly certain Derek’s full wolf right now anyways.

He’s cleaning the kitchen when he hears a noise out front, breathing a huge sigh of relief and nearly running to fling the front door open.

It's not Derek though. It’s a woman, raising her hand to knock, smiling sweetly when she sees him. “Hi there,” she says, squeezing water from her blonde, rain-soaked hair. Stiles looks over her shoulder to see an SUV parked at the curb, hazard lights blinking in the dark. “My car broke down, and would you believe it, this is the day I forgot my phone at home. Can I borrow yours?”

There’s something aggressive in her eyes, something off about her that Stiles can’t quite put his finger on, but it’s a strong enough feeling, a twist in his gut, that he’s searching his mind for a viable excuse to turn her away before she even finishes talking.

It must be all over his face, because before he can open his mouth in response her smile goes dark and mean, and fuck, she’s got a gun pointed at his head.

“Hi Stiles,” she says, thumb clicking off the safety. “I’m Kate.”

~*~

Stiles knows the combination to his dad’s gun safe, knows how to use each weapon inside it, but that does precious little good to him now, tucked away as it is upstairs in his dad’s closet.

Kate’s pushing him into the kitchen, shoving the end the pistol hard against his chest and he walks backwards, hands up. She pushes him into the counter and sits down at the kitchen table, keeping the gun on him, studying him closely. “Put your hands down, you idiot. Keep them where I can see them.”

Stiles lets his hands fall to the counter, holding on tight. He’s furious and scared and disgusted, wanting nothing more than to kill this woman for Derek. His heart is pounding, solid and heavy, and he wonders, hopes, that Derek can hear it, wherever he is.

“Allison used to talk about you all the time, you know,” Kate says, voice dripping with condescension as she sets the gun down on the table, still pointing at him. “Loved her buddy Stiles. Always went on and on about how smart you are.”

“Go to hell,” he grits out between clenched teeth.

Kate goes on as if he hadn’t spoken, manicured fingernail tracing idly over the trigger. “Tell me, Stiles. How smart do you think it is for a pathetic little shit like you to be fucking an alpha werewolf?”

He can’t say anything, so consumed he is with hatred and rage. “Although,” she goes on thoughtfully, as if they were girlfriends chatting over drinks, “I guess I’m not really one talk, am I? Tell me Stiles, do you like all the moves I taught our boy?”

“Fuck you,” he spits out, lunging forward before he realizes what he’s doing. Kate is prepared for it though, is crazier but faster, getting her hand on the grip of the gun before Stiles even gets close to the table. He skids to a stop, retreats. He needs to calm down, needs to get his on head straight.

He needs to drag this out, keep her here long enough for Derek to come back. Surely Derek can sense his distress, is on his way to him? That’s part of the whole mates deal, right?

“Now, now, Stiles. Don’t go being stupid just because you’re dumb enough to settle for my sloppy seconds.”

“You’re disgusting.”

“That’s not what Derek used to think. I do have to admit, though, you got the better deal, I think. I mean, my god, did he grow up good or what? Really, I’m surprised he’s with you, to be honest. He could do so much better.”

“Is that why you’re doing this? To make me doubt my relationship with Derek? You’re even stupider than I thought, lady.”

Her laugh is nasty, bitter. “Oh no, sweetie,” she says finally. “I’m just here to cover my tracks. Clean up a loose end I should have taken care of years ago.”

“Why now?” He couldn’t really care less about the psycho’s motives, but he wants to keep her talking. Fortunately, she seems to like the sound of her own voice.

“Because of you, dummy. I was pissed, at first, that Derek and his she-bitch sister survived the fire, but hey eleven out of thirteen ain’t too bad, right? And you know, I hate to admit it, but I had a little bit of a soft spot for the guy. It’s hard not to, for someone who fucks you so good, you know? Anyways, I was perfectly content letting him be, just checking in every once in awhile to make sure he wasn’t causing any trouble for me. And then I hear from a friend that not only is Derek Hale back in Beacon Hills, but that he’s also fucking the sheriff’s son?”

Stiles swallows hard against the bile rising in his throat, hands clenching into fists. He’s never felt so much hate before. It scares him.

“Did you really think I’d just wait around for Derek to tell his new father-in-law about me? I was stupid to let Derek live once. I’m not going to make that mistake again.” She flips her hair and tightens her grip on the gun.

“You’ll never be able to kill Derek,” Stiles spits at her, ready to lunge for the gun again, not giving a damn if she fires.

“Oh, honey,” she coos, voice sickeningly sweet. “I already did.”

~*~

Stiles hits the floor hard when his knees give out, Kate’s words hitting him as though he had been shot. He lands hard on his ass, head banging back against the cabinet. He forgets to breathe for a long moment, heart seizing up at the thought of Derek, dead.

Surely he would have felt it happen? She must be lying, messing with him. Stiles refuses to believe it. Can’t believe it.

“I was waiting for him at the house,” Kate goes on. “Wolfsbane bullet to the heart isn’t as pretty as fire, but I had to be sure this time. That makes you my last loose end, Stiles.”

At first, Stiles thinks the crack that reverberates through the room means that he’s been shot for real his time, but he doesn’t feel anything but a scatter of glass across his arm. Glass, from the window of the kitchen side door, shattering into a million pieces as a large shape hurls itself into the room with a vicious, ear-splitting roar.

Derek, shirtless and bleeding profusely from a blackened, steaming bullet wound in his back, his face contorted in a beta shift, growl shaking the walls. Stiles takes his eyes off of him long enough to see the look of surprise and fear on Kate’s face before Derek is on her, claws rending up her side with a sickening rush of blood, his fangs sinking into her neck.

Stiles has never seen Derek like this, shifted in anger, snarling in rage instead of lust. It thrills him and terrifies him, astounds him, finally understanding the full weight of Derek’s power.

Kate’s garbled scream brings him out of his daze and he realizes with a sputtering shock what he’s watching.

Derek is moments from killing Kate.

Stiles is moments from losing Derek forever.

As much as he wants Kate dead, and god, as much as he wants Derek to have the satisfaction of exacting revenge, he knows that it would break him, slowly, over time, quietly, to have killed someone, anyone, even her. He’s fierce and wild, but his heart is tender. He’s a predator, but he’s not a killer.

“Derek,” Stiles rises to his knees, hot sticky blood from the wound in Kate’s side pooling around him. He may already be too late. He places a firm hand on Derek’s shoulder, pulling him back slightly, trying not to flinch at his growl. “Derek, please. Please stop. Derek.”

He finally pulls back from the bite, face shifting back to semi-human, fangs still sharp and eyes still red, as he meets Stiles’ imploring gaze. “Derek, I know you don’t really want to do this,” he says, stomach turning at the mangled twists of torn flesh that was Kate’s shoulder.

“Stiles,” he whispers, half-question, half-whine, before he passes out, falling towards him, black blood sputtering from his mouth.

~*~

He doesn't remember calling Chris Argent, but he’s there, pulling Derek from his lap, laying him out on his stomach on the bloody kitchen floor, yelling at Stiles to help him. Chris has already shoved a few towels against Kate’s neck and side; she’s unconscious too, and Chris doesn’t seem overly concerned with whether she lives or dies. Even though Stiles just stopped Derek from trying killing her, he no longer cares much either, not with Derek so frighteningly still.

“Wolfsbane,” he hears himself saying, his voice hollow and distant. “She said she shot him with wolfsbane. In the heart. She said she shot him in the heart.”

Chris is leaning over Derek’s back, examining the wound. “Almost,” he says. “Looks like it barely missed the heart, but it is wolfsbane. Hand me that bag.”

Stiles does as he told, biting his nails as he watches Chris work. He pulls a small vial of glowing blue liquid from the bag, pulls the stopper and lights the fluid with a silver lighter from his pocket. It flames up with spark and a rush of color, and then Chris pours the vial into the bullet wound, Derek’s skin hissing and steaming.

Chris leans back, watching Derek closely. “What did you do?” Stiles asks, starting to sound hysterical. Derek still isn’t moving. “Chris, is he going to be okay?”

Before he can answer Derek howls, back bowing, flipping over from his stomach. His eyes are fluttering and he’s contorting like he’s having a seizure, but Stiles still breathes a huge sigh of relief because he’s alive.

And so it Kate. She’s coughing too, starting to squirm where she’s lying not far from Derek. “Chris, get her out of here, now,” Stiles orders, surprised at the edge of commanding fury in his voice, even more so when Chris listens.

When they’re gone, Stiles gets Derek, done arching in pain but still breathing harshly and wincing, maneuvered so his head is in his lap. He rests one hand on his chest, reassuring himself with the steady pulse of Derek’s heartbeat, his other hand tangling in his hair.

Derek is covered in dirt and that disgusting black goo, red smears of Kate’s blood drying across his face, staining his hands. They’re both too stunned to move, grasping tight to each other, convincing themselves that they’re okay, murmuring quiet reassurances.

Eventually Stiles gets them to their feet, helps Derek up the stairs to the shower. He pouts when Stiles doesn’t join him, but he insists on cleaning up the kitchen as soon as he can. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he promises.

He does want to get the kitchen cleaned up and remove all evidence of the fight before his dad and Melissa get home, but that’s not the only reason he didn’t join Derek right away.

Stiles stands in the kitchen, stomach churning anew as he stares at the blood on the floor, sweaty hand running over Derek’s phone that he snagged from the pocket of his jeans after he stripped for the shower.

He scrolls through Derek’s contacts quickly, reading Peter’s phone number quietly aloud to remember it as he punches it into his own phone. He composes a quick text message and presses send before getting to work cleaning up Kate’s mess.

Chapter Text

Usually it’s Derek who likes to lick Stiles from head to toe, scenting him and making sure every inch of his fragile body smells and tastes like him. But this morning, the house quiet, Derek still twisted around him in sleep, Stiles is struck with the overpowering urge to see, touch, taste every last bit of Derek to make sure he’s really okay. Again.

He extricates himself carefully from Derek’s warm grasp, sneaking away to use the bathroom before returning to his room and silently closing the door behind him. His dad and Melissa are both working extra long night shifts this week to earn more time off for their honeymoon, and Stiles is confident they wont be up for hours.

The covers are already mostly off the bed, tangled in a knot around Derek’s feet. He’s naked, lying half on his side and half on his stomach, bent towards where Stiles had been sleeping. Stiles stands by the door a minute, watching him, smiling softly at the way Derek’s cute little nose is twitching against the sheets, searching for Stiles’ scent.

Always stunned by just how gorgeous Derek’s body is, he’s even more so now, grateful for his strength, the memory of him bloodied and broken painfully fresh. He thinks about how close he came to losing him last night, the thought filling him with an abysmal, soul-deep fear. The only thing that saves him from dissolving into tears is the expansive plane of Derek’s back, flawless and smooth, showing absolutely no evidence of the poisoned bullet that nearly killed him.

Last night, after cleaning up the broken glass and leaving a vague note of explanation and apology for his dad, Stiles cleaned up the mess of blood in the kitchen – stopping twice to retch into the sink – before joining Derek in the shower where he scrubbed his back clean and cried into his neck before falling to his knees, hands searching his body for other injuries.

They had crawled in to bed afterwards, still damp from the shower, arms and legs entwined, pressed close together, both still shaken, unnerved.

“Thank you,” Derek had murmured into his chest. “For stopping me. I want her dead, but I…thank you.”

“I told Peter. He knows she’s here.” Stiles hadn’t decided when he was going to tell Derek about his text to Peter, but the words pour out of him, split open as he is.

Derek was quiet for a long time, eyes big and close as they searched Stiles’ face. For what, Stiles had no idea.

“Thank you,” he said again when he finally responded, right before they both fell asleep, twisted around each other, holding on for dear life.

Now, gray winter morning light shining dully through the cracks between the curtains, watching Derek start to stir as he’s realizing Stiles is no longer in bed, any lingering doubts about his text to Peter are laid to rest. If Kate survives her wounds, she’ll be even more determined to kill them. He wont let that happen, wont let her get to Derek ever again. He loves Derek too much to let him kill her, but he knows she needs to die, is willing to do whatever it takes to help Peter kill her so Derek doesn’t have to.

The text was brief, just Chris Argent’s address, and the words she’s here. A few minutes later he sent another: Chris saved Derek tonight. Don’t hurt him. He has no idea if Peter will listen to him, but he feels better that he at least tried.

Stiles moves to the bed, resting his knees at the end and pulling the tangled sheet away from Derek’s feet. Derek’s eyes flutter softly but stay closed, hips shifting against the mattress. Stiles wraps his hands loosely around his ankle, lifting his heavy leg so he can kiss the bottom of his foot, his hairy little werewolf toes curling in. Stiles smiles and kisses up his ankle, lips and tongue dragging along the dark hair of his shapely calf. Derek’s awake now, eyes barely open, attentive to Stiles’ every move as he walks up the bed on his knees, mouth never leaving Derek’s skin. He nips at the back of his knee, marveling at how pale he is there, strong blue veins webbed brightly under thin skin.

Derek’s hand reaches back to rest on Stiles’ head, burying his fingers in his hair. He crawls it down his shoulders as Stiles moves farther up his body leaving wet, open-mouthed kisses up the back of his thigh, in the crease where his leg meets his glorious ass. Stiles is hard and Derek is too, but it’s not about getting off right now, not yet. It’s about reassuring himself that Derek is solid, whole, real, alive. About reassuring Derek that he’s solid, whole, real, alive, loved.

Derek whimpers in response when he buries his face in his ass, and Stiles can’t help but remember the bloodcurdling, terrifying roar that ripped from him right before he attacked Kate as she was about to shoot him. It stuns him, the sounds he can pull from Derek.

He ignores the urge to lick into Derek for a moment, continuing his long path up the elegant lines and curves of his body, stopping just below the triskele tattoo on his back, where the bullet wound was, no trace of it now. He knows it won’t last long, but he chews and sucks a bruise there anyway, marking his new skin and leaning back to watch it disappear.

Stiles licks a path around the triskele before moving back, down, mouth getting wetter, his licks sloppier as he returns to Derek’s ass. He spreads him and licks slowly, breathing softly against his hole before he licking lightly, circling him with the wet tip of his tongue. Derek’s hips buck, pushing back against him, a soft moan rumbling from his chest. He still has a hand in Stiles’ hair, pulling harder as he starts to tongue him faster. Stiles’ moan is lost in the warm cleft of Derek’s ass, and as much as he loves the feeling of Derek’s hand on his head, urging him on, he’s got to get to more of him, needs to taste him and lick him open more thoroughly. He pushes his hand away and rolls Derek, making him lie flat on his stomach, hips canted up slightly. Stiles settles between his thighs, muscled cheek in each hand, spitting into him before diving in to thrust his tongue in, groaning when he hears the rip of fabric as Derek’s fangs tear into the pillow in his struggle to keep silent. Stiles takes pity on him, pulls back, drunk on the intimate view and taste and sound, all the perfect little pieces of Derek that are for him and him only.

Derek’s hips are bucked up enough that Stiles can just see his dick, flushed and leaking steadily into the sheets, and fuck, he needs to taste him there too. He gives his hips a tug, mumbling into his skin. “Roll over, big guy,” he says quietly, voice husky. Derek obeys, turning and spreading his legs around Stiles, cradling him between his strong thighs. Derek’s hole, slick with Stiles’ spit, opens easily when he slides a finger in as he swallows his cock, lapping up his precome as he goes. Derek has a hand on each side of Stiles’ head, fingers running soft circles through his hair, across his cheeks where they’re hollowing as he as sucks him slowly, lovingly, mouth exploding and sparking with the rich taste of him.

“Stiles,” Derek whisper-moans, hips rocking up ever so slightly. Stiles answers by pressing his tongue firmly against the underside of his cock and pushes in a second finger.

Derek comes with a gasp, emptying himself with bitten-off grunts across Stiles’ tongue, hips thrusting jerkily. When he finishes, Stiles pulls off and scoots down, resting his cheek against the inside of Derek’s thigh, arms tucked underneath him, holding him close. Derek runs his hands over his hair, his shoulders, soothing and warm.

Stiles rolls his tongue around the taste of Derek’s come in his mouth, his cock throbbing. He doesn’t really want to move though, is entirely too comfortable where he is. Derek tugs on his hair impatiently, insistently, as if he’s personally offended that Stiles hasn’t come yet. Stiles let him pull him up by the armpits, hands falling to his waist to guide him into position, straddling Derek’s chest, his big hand wrapping around his cock. Derek works him fast, eyes locked on his. Stiles bites his lip to keep from yelling when he comes, one of Derek’s fingers pressing against his hole, body seizing and clenching, painting Derek’s chest.

They’re both asleep again in minutes, stuck together, still holding on tight.

~*~

It’s a long day, hanging out with his dad and Melissa and pretending both of them hadn’t nearly died in the kitchen the night before. Derek is tense and stiff, like he’s on alert, bracing for the worst. If his dad or Melissa notice, they don’t say anything, seem to be entirely too wrapped up in giving each other heart eyes all day. It’s ridiculous really, sickening, almost, how lovey-dovey they are. If he wasn’t so grateful for their distraction Stiles would be complaining about it, loudly. He does whisper something to Derek about it at one point, when his dad stops midsentence to gaze longingly into Melissa’s eyes when she comes into the kitchen to start making lunch.

Derek just looks at Stiles like he’s the dumbest person on the planet, his stiff demeanor cracking slightly. “I was just thinking that this is what it must be like for everyone around us.” He gives him a little smile that Stiles just has to kiss as he laughs, which earns him a groan from his dad, which in turn earns a smirk from Derek, and Stiles finally starts to think that everything really is going to be okay.

Just as they’re sitting down to a late lunch of Melissa’s incredible tamales, Stiles’ phone buzzes in his pocket. Ignoring his dad’s no phone at the table rule, he glances at it quickly. From Peter, two words.

It’s done.

Stiles slides the phone back into his pocket, looking up to Derek’s knowing gaze.

“Everything okay?” his dad asks, passing him the salad.

“Uh, yeah. Everything’s good.”

~*~

They’re clearing the table when his dad’s phone rings and he disappears upstairs to answer it, coming back down several minutes later in his uniform.

“Heading in early?” Stiles calls from the kitchen, biting his lip, trying to sound casual.

“Yeah, pretty nasty car accident on Route 9.” He’s pulls his coat from the hall closet and steps into the kitchen. “Stiles, you’re still friends with Allison Argent, aren’t you?”

~*~

Officially, Kate Argent, notorious for her alcoholism, had too much to drink and wrecked her SUV into a telephone pole. Violent as the crash was, it immediately caught fire, burning long and hot before the fire department arrived, her identity confirmed via dental records, actual cause of death unknown.

Unofficially, Chris Argent had let Peter Hale into his home and looked the other way when he ripped her throat out. Together they had staged the accident. Peter disappeared without a trace, and Chris, after lying expertly to his father, left town, claiming he had to go to his sister’s home in Montana to deal with her effects.

“It’s over,” Derek says, after he relays the details of his phone conversation with Peter. They’re alone, finally, Melissa having left for her night shift not long after his dad left to supervise the investigation into Kate Argent’s accident.

“You’re sure?” Stiles asks, knowing he is but still wanting to hear it again.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” Derek has him pulled in close, his head resting on his broad chest, hands petting slowly in his hair. They stay that way for a long time, wrapped up in each other and talking softly well into the night like they have all the time in the world, because they do.

~*~

Stiles must have fallen asleep against him at some point because all of sudden Derek’s shaking him awake, pulling him up from the couch. “Come on,” he’s saying, excited. “I want to show you something.”

Stiles rubs his eyes and lets Derek walk him out the front door to the rental car. “Derek, what the hell,” he asks, finally fully awake, finally realizing that it’s the middle of the night and he was quite comfortable, fucking blissful, really, sleeping against Derek’s warm chest.

“I made a decision and I don’t want to wait. Get in the car.” Derek tosses his hoodie at him before he slides into the driver’s seat, and Stiles has never seen Derek this…well, giddy seems like an utterly absurd word to use in relation to Derek, but yeah, kinda. The feeling is infectious though, whether it's the simple power of Derek’s blinding smile or their mate bond, Stiles is started to feel eager and excited too.

Derek drives quickly, and in no time they’re in the preserve, turning up a long, secluded driveway that gives way to a small yard and a decrepit, burned out husk of a huge house. Stiles catches his breath when he realizes where they are. He’s looking at the ruins of the Hale house, the place where Derek's family burned to death.

He turns to Derek, deeply confused and slightly worried. “Der, um, you seem really happy about being here and I’m not sure I really understand. Are you…okay?” He studies his face in the dim moonlight, wondering of the stress of everything that happened with Kate had pushed Derek over some edge Stiles didn’t know he was teetering on.

“Stiles, breathe. I’m okay. Of course being here is hard. But I’m really excited about what I want to show you, okay, so just go with it.” He leans in and plants a reassuring kiss on his mouth before getting out he car, leaving Stiles to follow.

He follows Derek around to the back of the house, where there was clearly a spaciously landscaped yard long ago, overrun by the encroaching forest now. “Peter has been in talks with the county to buy it back,” Derek says, peeling his shirt off over his head and turning to face Stiles. He throws the shirt at him, Stiles just catching it before it hits his face.

“Um, okay. Does that have something to do with why you’re stripping?”

Derek goes on like he hadn’t spoken, unbuttoning his jeans. “What do you think about some day, not any time soon, but some day, maybe coming back here? Fixing up the house. Living here.”

The question is enough to distract him from Derek’s hands, slowly unzipping his jeans now. Stiles’ gaze falls from Derek’s eyes, so big and hopeful, to his chest, where his fox tattoo glows warmly against his moonlit skin. He thinks about the dream that made Derek a part of his life, a part of him, long before they ever met, about the strange twist and turns of magic that brought them together. It feels right, feels like honoring that somehow, to come back here and rebuild this house, build a life here together.

“Yeah,” Stiles says finally, smiling broadly. “I want this to be our home some day.”

Derek lunges forward and kisses him sloppily, clumsy in his happiness. “Good.” He says, punctuating it with a hard press of his lips against his before he steps away again, stepping out of his jeans completely and handing them to Stiles.

“So, the stripping?” Stiles asks, crooking one eyebrow up in his very best Derek impression.

“I like these clothes,” he says by way of explanation, and yeah, Stiles knows where this is going. His heart begins to race, hands getting jittery, nervous excitement rushing through him. He’s been both dying to and completely scared of seeing Derek shift into a full wolf. His Wolf.

“You ready,” Derek asks, stepping out of his underwear. Stiles swallows and nods, too excited and nervous to speak. “I love you,” Derek says, smiling before closing his eyes.

When he opens them, they’re red, and his neck bends and twists like it does when he beta shifts. Then his whole body begins to twitch too, the shift rocking through him as he falls forward. The air around him seems to shimmer and shake, buzzing with hot magic, everything around him going blurry for a second. When Derek hits the ground his arms are legs, his hands big, black paws. When Stiles looks up from the ground where he's staring in awe at those familiar paws, he’s face-to-face with the Wolf from his dream.

He's not sure how long he stands there, mouth agape, eyes unblinking. Wolf-Derek is huge, so much bigger than he seems in the dream, emanating even more uncanny strength and power. He’s gentle though, tentative as he steps forward, paws – paws – soft on the ground, slowly getting closer to him.

His movement jolts Stiles from his daze and he lurches forward, wrapping his arms around Wolf-Derek and burying his face in his thick black fur, laughter bubbling through him even as his eyes grow hot and wet with tears. Wolf-Derek yips, licks a slobbery line across his ear.

“Dude, this is so weird,” he laughs, tugging him closer. Wolf-Derek smells like Derek but different, earthier, wilder. Stiles breathes him in deep, wanting to remember it, wanting that scent to live inside of him. It’s overwhelming, his dream coming to life like this, the bone-deep happiness, the utter wonder that he is somehow lucky enough to have this, to have Derek. It's so impossibly perfect it makes him weak in the knees, and he falls to the ground, breathing heavily as he tries to wrap his mind around all of it, still smiling like crazy.

Wolf-Derek presses up against him, nudges him and yips until they’re both lying on the damp grass, Stiles half on him, face nuzzled into the coarse fur of his neck. Derek’s big body warms him, and Stiles settles in, murmuring a whispered babble of feelings into his wolfy chest, words spilling out of him, desperate to let Derek know just how perfect he is, just how much he loves him, has always loved him, will always love him.

Stiles falls asleep eventually, bathed in moonlight, curled tight against his Wolf.