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Stiles is different after.

After they evict the nogistune from his body. Brain. Soul. However you want to put it. He’s different after.

Derek watches him. Watches to make sure nothing like this ever happens again, watches to make sure Stiles doesn’t do something stupid, watches because sometimes, sometimes when he dreams, Stiles is in it. Sometimes when he dreams, Stiles is in it and it’s… confusing.

Yeah. Confusing. That’s the word.

So he watches.

The dark circles fade from under Stiles’ eyes as the months pass. Most of the way. Sometimes they’re worse than other days, and he smells of exhaustion, and guilt, and misery, and it reminds Derek so much of himself when he was the same age that it hurts. On those days, he watches Stiles a little more closely. He knows that mindset all too well. The thing about watching, though, is he ends up looking, too.

He’s looking when Stiles fidgets, chews on his nails and pens and hoodie strings, taps long fingers restlessly against his thighs, and he’s looking when he ends up with several teenagers watching some movie about gnomes in his apartment because apparently none of them have homes, and Stiles laughs.

“Don’t any of you have homes?” Derek mutters, shifting uncomfortably in the recliner he’s not sure he likes yet, but a certain irritating teenager forced him to buy. He’s not even sure he likes the new apartment yet. It doesn’t smell right, smells like new paint and under that, the people who lived here before he moved in. Makes something in the back of his head snarl unhappily.

“You lived in a train station,” Stiles says from the floor where he’s leaning against Scott’s legs, without taking his eyes off the television. “And Scott and Isaac broke two of our lamps.”

“Stiles ate my mom’s hidden brownies,” Scott says instantly. “The expensive ones I’m not supposed to know about.”

Derek raises an eyebrow at Kira and Lydia, waiting for their excuse.

Lydia raises one right back. “My house is too nice for a roomful of werewolves. And a kitsune. And Stiles.”

“I kind of enjoy your presence,” Kira says brightly, then blushes. “Um, I also may have blown out the power on the block the last time we had movie night at my house.”

“And melted the DVD player,” Stiles says with a grin. “She’s not allowed to watch Carrie again.”

“It’s not fair what happens to her,” Kira says indignantly.

Derek still doesn’t quite get why they’re all in his home, but at least it’s easier to keep an eye on them this way. Make sure everyone handles moons okay, nobody gets possessed, or starts any electrical fires. You know, the usual things.

Stiles leans back against Scott’s legs as the movie starts. Derek’s got a couple of oversized floor cushions that are pretty much closer to mattresses than cushions that they all seem to like well enough when there are too many of them and not enough couch. Not really his thing, but the girl at the store looked about fourteen, was super earnest in her enthusiasm, and Derek… well, the next thing he knew, he had two giant floor pillows and an assload of throws in his car.

He’s a sucker for Girl Scout cookies, too. He’s pretty sure they target him.

Stiles would probably be sitting further away from everyone if he had the choice, Derek thinks. He pulls away sometimes, puts space between him and the others like he’s afraid to touch them. Like he's afraid he'll hurt them. These days, though, none of them really let him get too far away. Scott especially likes to make sure Stiles is within touching distance during down times, like he needs to reassure himself he’s still there.

Derek can’t really blame them.

Barely ten minutes into the movie, Stiles starts to gnaw his cuticles. Stiles chews on basically everything, Derek will admit, pens and hoodie strings and his lacrosse gloves and – he’s a menace, godsdamn – but this is… his nails are bitten to the quick, blood so close to the surface Derek can almost smell it, and he’s halfway to reaching over to pull Stiles’ hand away from his mouth when Scott smacks Stiles in the face with a liquorice wand.

Stiles snorts a laugh and takes it, along with the beef jerky, popcorn, and several more liquorice wands that Scott plies him with over the course of the movie.

Derek, meanwhile, may or may not be having a minor freakout. He’s not supposed to want to… touch.

He’s not.

 

 

On a cool November evening, Stiles goes missing. Stiles goes missing and everyone, understandably, freaks the fuck out. The Sheriff yells at Scott, and ends up apologizing just as quickly, guilt in the lines deepened by worry on his face, Scott’s hands shake so hard he can barely manage the touchscreen on his phone, Lydia mutters to herself while standing with her eyes closed, listening in the way that honestly creeps Derek out a little, and Kira keeps alternating apologizing profusely for nothing and sparking occasionally.

Derek leaves them all to it, a little more confident he’ll be able to find Stiles without the nogitsune hiding him.

Although to be honest, he’s equally parts shocked and relieved when he finds Stiles in the woods, heart beating and drunk off his ass on the stump of the nemeton.

“You are the stupidest person I’ve ever met,” he tells Stiles, and calls the kid's father. “No, he’s just being a stupid teenager,” he says when the Sheriff quietly worries that it’s all happening again, feeling ridiculously awkward. He’s not supposed to be the one that shows up when things are normal. He’s the supernatural disaster person, not… this. “He’s okay. He, uh…”

The Sheriff sighs. “What’d he get into?”

“…peach schnapps, from the smell of it,” Derek admits, running a hand through his hair. “He’s fine, honest. I’ll bring him home. Make sure he stays.”

Stiles is half passed out when Derek pulls him to his feet. He’s half boneless, floppy and a little too handsy.

“Do you know how much you made everyone worry?” he asks, dumping Stiles into the passenger seat of his car. “The last time you went missing, you were possessed by a thousand year old trickster spirit who tried to kill you and half of Beacon Hills. You can’t do this."

He slams the passenger side door and gets in on his side, fully prepared to continue giving Stiles hell – only to find him completely passed out. Head against the window, long, pale line of his neck exposed… and maybe possibly drooling a little. Derek sighs and throws his jacket over Stiles. The Stilinski house is empty when he gets home, thank gods. He’s not in the mood to deal with people and a drunk Stiles at the same time, he’s just not. One or the other is bad enough.

“C’mon, get up,” Derek says gruffly, pulling Stiles’ keys from his jacket pocket. At least he remembered to bring a jacket. “You’re not gonna sleep it off in my car.”

“Y’r so mean,” Stiles slurs and kind of… flings himself bodily over Derek. “What’d I ever do t’you t’make you mean t’me?”

“Well, you tried to kill me a couple times,” Derek says lightly, guiding him into walking. “C’mon, move.”

“I tried to kill everyone,” Stiles says and he’s positively pouting.

“Yes, you did, congratulations,” Derek mutters, unlocking the front door. “Walk.”

So bossy,” Stiles sighs and kind of walks, mostly leaning on Derek. The stairs are… interesting, with Mr. Octopus-limbs barely managing to stay upright, let alone walk up them under his own power. Derek dumps him onto his bed without fuss, letting him land with a bounce. Then he crouches down and pulls Stiles’ shoes off, catching each ankle in his hand and using it to rearrange Stiles’ sprawling limbs so they’re actually on the mattress.

“Yeah, I know, I’m mean, I’m bossy, whatever. You wanna pass out again already?”

Stiles is quiet and Derek glances up at him halfway through taking Stiles’ socks off. His arm is over his face, hiding him so it’s hard to tell if he has passed out. Derek pulls Stiles’ socks off, and tucks his feet down under where the sheets and blankets are bunched around the foot of his unmade bed. It smells like Stiles, like his skin and sweat and laundry soap, and other things Derek tries not to smell.

“Sorry,” Stiles breathes suddenly. “Didn’t mean t’worry ev’ryone. Stupid… ‘m stupid.”

Derek sighs and straightens Stiles’ blankets, pulling them one by one over him. He feels strangely tender with the gesture, like something’s softened inside him. “All teenagers are stupid,” he says, smoothing blankets around Stiles’ knees, up to his arms. “It’s normal.”

Stiles makes a rude noise.

Derek pulls the pillow out from under his head and throws it in his face. Then he ignores Stiles’ flailing and disgruntled noises while he grabs a chair and pulls it closer to the bed. “Look,” he says as he sits, once Stiles has settled again. “Look, you have like six months until you graduate and go to college. Stop doing this. Find another way to deal and then–”

“Like it’s so easy!” Stiles interrupts, bitterly.

“And then get the hell out,” Derek finishes over him. “Leave. Give yourself space from this place.”

“What?” Stiles says, softly.

“Get out,” Derek repeats, more gently. “Go somewhere else and get this shit out of your head as much as you can. Drink for fun, not because you’re depressed. Meet people.” Fuck people, he thinks, but he can’t make himself say it, the words bitter in his mouth before he, instead, says, “Learn something. Get space.”

Stiles is quiet for a long few moments and Derek almost thinks he’s asleep before he says, “Okay. Yeah.” He flops over onto his stomach, curling up around his pillow. “I don’t care if you stay and do the weird Edward Cullen thing,” he sighs.

Derek grins into the darkness. “Fuck off and go to sleep.”

 

 

Derek isn’t exactly fond of Christmas. He wasn’t when he was a kid – gods, being a Christmas baby was the worst as a kid – and now it’s hard. It’s hard. He can’t help thinking about family Christmases with a million people in one house, sneaking into Laura’s room when they were little and giggling together until it was late enough – six on the nose, their dad’s rule – to wake their parents up. Cora sneaking into his room when she was little and him letting her nap with him until it was late enough to wake their parents. Six on the nose. Dad’s rule.

He wonders if Cora remembers that, but he’s too afraid to ask.

She’s spending Christmas with… well, with her family. They were kind to him when he brought her home, when he made sure she and they would be safe as best he could. They’re good people and she thrives there in a way she never did in Beacon Hills, especially with her horses. He misses her. He thinks about travelling down to spend it with her, but her family is not his. And he knows they’d be lovely and welcoming because they’re good people, but he’s not sure he’d… be good people. Not now. So he drives down and spends a few days with her late in November, and stays in California for Christmas.

He’s really not expecting to get a phone call on December twenty-third from Kira.

“Nothing’s wrong,” she says right away. “I’m calling so you don’t ignore my texts. Because you do.”

Kira is easy to get along with. She’s quiet, she doesn’t cause too much damage besides the occasional shattered lightbulb or blown fuse when she gets excited, she doesn’t pick at his sore spots. Sometimes she needs somewhere to be that isn’t Scott’s or her own house, and… well, he was never a very good brother and he’s been out of practice for a long time.

But he lets her be around him, sometimes, and it’s not terrible.

“Scott and Melissa are doing a dinner on Christmas Eve for all of us,” she says.

“No.”

“It’s not going to be formal or anything, Scott said,” Kira continues as if he hadn’t said anything. “No Secret Santa or anything like that. It’s just going to be all of us getting together and eating and maybe watching a stupid movie.”

“Good for you.”

“Stiles will be there,” Kira says and her voice is so… teasing that for a moment, Derek is fourteen, and Laura is teasing him about a crush he had, on a girl or a boy, he’s not even sure anymore.

“Don’t,” he says, and hangs up.

He has to go for a run after that just to rid himself of the sheer, aching embarrassment.

 

 

Derek is nodding off over a book that wasn’t supposed to be so damned dry when a knock on the door startles him so badly he almost falls off the couch.

He stumbles to the door, his body still heavy with sleep, and is somehow not surprised to see Kira on the other side. “I’m not going to Scott’s stupid party thing,” he says and tries to close the door.

At some point she got fast and slips inside before he can. “We haven’t even seen you in weeks,” she says, picking his book up off the coffee table. “I read this. Do you like it?”

“No, it’s boring as hell,” he admits. “Still not going.”

“Yes you are,” she says cheerfully. “Or else I’m going to call your sister and rat you out that you haven’t socialized in weeks and you’ve been living on cheap pizza and Chinese food and reading crappy books.”

“I’m not afraid of Cora.”

Kira grins, suddenly excited. “Oh! Lie! Scott and Stiles have been teaching me how to tell. Man, I thought you’d be better at that, though.”

He hates everyone.

 

 

It’s loud. There are way too many people packed into one house, talking and laughing and loud. Derek sees Malia Tate laughing at something Allison Argent is saying, the two of them sitting a little closer than socially necessary. Allison says something that makes her eyes go bright, then holds out her plate until Malia takes something off it and pops it in her mouth, unabashedly laughing with her mouth full.

The two of them being a thing… being a thing together, is not something he could say he ever expected, but, hey, whatever makes them happy. It’s not his business.

And, honestly, they both deserve a little happiness.

Not far away, Lydia is sitting with that Danny kid, intensely debating something that Derek is quite sure he wouldn’t be able to follow. And Danny still calls him Miguel for some reason. So he heads in the opposite direction. Maybe he’ll grab some food himself. There's certainly enough of it, and some of it smells pretty good. 

Derek,” a very familiar voice shouts, managing to be heard over all the noise.

Derek immediately braces himself, barely managing to stay on his feet when a blur of blonde hair throws herself onto him.

“Hey,” he says quietly, only a little breathless.

“Oh my God, I missed you!” Erica says way too loudly in his ear.

“Yeah, same,” he manages to reply, giving into the urge to squeeze her until she squeaks. “How are you?”

“We’re good,” Erica says, bouncing back only to grab Boyd’s hand and yank him closer. “We’re really good. How are you doing? Banging any new serial killers?”

“Oh, you’re so funny,” he says with an eyeroll. “I’m not seeing anyone. And I know you already know that so shut up and tell me how you’re doing.”

“I’m starving.” Erica grins, teeth sharp and white against the deep red of her lipstick. “Come and eat and we’ll talk, okay?”

“Okay,” Derek says.

 

 

It’s not that Derek doesn’t like Erica. It’s an easy relationship with her, her teasing and bossy and loud, and now that he’s not her alpha, him able to be quiet and teased and bossed around. And it’s nice; it feels like a friendship. He honestly enjoys being around most of the people here. None of them are completely terrible. Probably. But it’s so loud, talking and laughing and heartbeats. And there are too many smells, makeup and perfume and cologne and sweat and skin and a million kinds of food. He’s… it just all ends up being a little overwhelming, and he finds himself with a headache and an upset stomach.

He finally ducks away when no one is watching and sneaks upstairs, planning on using Scott’s bathroom to hide from anyone who might use the upstairs one. It’s too weird for him to hide in Melissa’s bedroom, like an invasion of privacy. It kind of, honestly, reminds him of when he was thirteen and his mother made him get something out of her purse. Completely wrong, basically.

He walks through Scott’s bedroom holding his breath, reaches into the dark bathroom, and flicks on the light.

“Holy mother of God,” Stiles shouts from the floor.

Derek nearly has a freaking heart-attack. “Why are you sitting in the dark?!?”

“Because I didn’t want anyone to see that I was in here,” Stiles wheezes, leaning back against the bathtub with a hand pressed to his chest. “Make noise when you walk!”

Derek reaches behind him and closes the door. “You could also just have closed the door, you idiot.” He hesitates a moment, then flicks the lock on the bathroom door. “What are you doing in here?”

Stiles shrugs, picking at the hole in the knee of his jeans. “Needed some space, I guess. Too many people. Quit looming. You’re killing my neck.”

“You’re not even looking at me,” Derek says, but he moves before he can really think about it, sitting down on the floor next to Stiles. “How’s school?”

“Better.” Stiles shrugs. “My head is… better. You were right.”

“I usually am,” Derek says drily.

Stiles bursts out laughing, loose and easy like Derek hasn’t heard in gods only know how long. “Good one. How are you doing, big guy? I kind of… wasn’t expecting to see you here."

“Kira threatened me,” Derek admits. He grew up with sisters. No shame here.

Besides, Stiles is sitting next to him, a line of warmth along his side that Derek is having too much trouble ignoring. He smells way too good, soap and skin and laundry detergent, and Derek doesn’t know why it’s suddenly something that makes him dizzy.

Stiles nods. “Got Christmas plans?”

“No.”

“My dad and I are spending the day together,” Stiles says. “We’re not much for Christmas.”

“Neither am I,” Derek admits.

“I figured.” Stiles sighs and, just a little, leans into him. “You wanna just… sit for a bit?”

His nerve endings are tingling. Derek swallows against a dry throat, and nods.

 

 

Derek takes himself out for dinner on Christmas. Better sitting alone in a restaurant than sitting at home, alone and miserable. He leaves a big tip because he always leaves a good tip, but also because it’s the holidays, and his waitress tells him she has kids when he asks about her holiday plans. Erica likes to say he has a soft heart. Then he catches a movie and it’s already dark by the time he gets home.

When the elevator doors open, there’s a shape in front of his apartment door and Derek tenses for a moment before recognizing the heartbeat.

He’s not going to examine the fact that he has Stiles’ heartbeat memorized.

“What are you doing here?” he asks as he reaches over Stiles’ head to unlock the door. “Also I know you have a key. I’m kind of surprised you don’t have a key to my car.”

Stiles is suspiciously quiet.

Derek stops with the key still in the lock. “You have a key to my car.”

“Only for emergencies.”

“How do you even do that?” Derek opens the door and steps around Stiles, leaving the door open behind him. It’s not an invitation, he tells himself. Stiles would come in whether he left the door open or not. He has a key, for gods' sake.

“Uh, you probably don’t wanna know in case I ever get caught,” Stiles mutters, and scrambles to his feet, following Derek inside. “I actually gotta get going. I told Dad I was only going to be gone for an hour and it’s been… an hour. But, hey, here.” He catches Derek by the arm, and Derek lets himself be turned, surprised when Stiles shoves a small box into his hands. “I don’t know if you still celebrate it or what but… I wanted you to know someone was thinking about you. Happy birthday.”

Then he squeezes Derek’s arm and bolts, gone before Derek can think to stop him.

He opens the box standing there, only to find one singular, misshapen, sloppily-frosted, cupcake, with a candle in the box next to it. It’s kind of squished despite the paper towel all around it to keep it from banging around in the box.

Derek has to take a moment to sit down because yeah, he can’t deny it anymore.

He’s gone on Stiles.

 

 

It’s kind of a surprise. He hasn’t exactly been looking to date since the second person he fell for tried to kill him. Kinda turned him off the whole thing for a while.

And yet… it’s not a surprise, either. He’s been… trying not to look at Stiles for months. He’s a few months shy of nineteen, so young, and healing has been hard for him. It wouldn’t be… besides, Stiles doesn’t even want him to… to look. Or touch. Or… more. He’s not interested, Derek knows this. Stiles is into Lydia Martins and Malia Tates and briefly, Danny Mahealanis.

It’s a surprise and it’s not and Derek can’t breathe for a long time after really realizing it.

Then he eats the cupcake, alone in his apartment, and aches.

 

 

“Hi,” Stiles says and Derek groans.

“It’s three in the morning.”

“I know.” Stiles coughs. “Uh. I’m kind of stuck in the middle of nowhere? And the last motel I stayed in tried to kill us all and this place kind of reminds me of it? Could you just… talk me down?”

Derek groans again and rolls out of bed, reaching for his jeans. This is why he has six boxes of Thin Mints in his freezer. In January. “Where are you exactly?”

“Some… motel that I don’t really want to check into. I shouldn’t be driving,” Stiles admits. “My friend drove us here, then got a cab home. I didn’t drive. Was drinking tonight. I just… can I talk to you for a bit?”

Derek presses down a little thread of jealousy at the idea of Stiles’ three AM friend. He has no right to be jealous. He doesn’t, he reminds himself fiercely, and pulls his jeans over his hips. “Where are you exactly?”

Stiles names a place about an hour away. Derek sighs, patting his pockets to check for his keys and wallet.

“Okay, I’ll get there as fast as I can. You wanna keep talking, or you wanna sleep it off for a bit?”

Stiles is quiet for a long moment. “You don’t have to… I can stay here and drive myself home.”

“I’ll be there in about an hour,” Derek says. He grabs a shirt, and pulls it on as he heads for the door. “Make sure you’re somewhere safe. Do you want to keep talking?”

“Okay,” Stiles says, his voice a little rough. Then he clears his throat, and launches into some story.

 

 

Stiles falls asleep on the phone. Derek… kind of can’t bring himself to hang up, and ends up listening to him breathe like a creep. And he knows it’s creepy. It’s just… he kind of needs to know that Stiles is okay. Not that there’d be much he could do, but it makes him feel better.

When he gets there, he doesn’t hang up even when he’s standing next to Stiles’ Jeep. Mostly because Stiles is sleeping with his face pressed against the window and the noise he makes when Derek raps on the window is utterly hilarious.

Then he hangs up.

When Stiles opens the door, Derek has to hold back a snicker. He smells like alcohol – and people, but not sex, the nasty, jealous little voice in his head says before Derek stamps it down – and sweat, his hair is a godsdamn disaster, and he has glitter smeared across half his face. He looks exhausted, a complete mess, and absolutely wonderful. Derek wants to lick the glitter off his face, press his nose into the crease of Stiles' neck where the sweat gathers, wants to press him against the Jeep and hold him.

Wants everything he can't have, he knows, and forces his voice to sound normal. “The hell’s on your face?”

Stiles yawns. “It was really pretty makeup at the beginning of the night,” he mumbles and climbs out of the car. “Heather’s gonna be a makeup artist. She likes to practice on me and Danielle. S’her girlfriend,” he says as he folds into himself, shivering a little. “I don’t think you've ever met them.”

Derek hesitates only a second before shrugging off his jacket and tossing it to Stiles. It’s the middle of winter and Stiles is only wearing a T-shirt.

And if that means his scent rubs off on Stiles a little… well, he doesn’t really mind that.

“C’mon, get in the car before you freeze to death.”

“You didn’t have to come get me,” Stiles says a few minutes later, quiet. “But I really appreciate it. So thanks. It’s nice knowing someone will come get your ass when you’re stupid.” He glances at Derek. “I wasn’t being… stupid like I was before. Just normal stupid.”

“I figured,” Derek says, smiling just a little. “Considering the glitter. Usually self-destructive stupidity isn’t so sparkly.”

Stiles giggles and damned if it’s not the cutest thing Derek has heard in years. “Yeah. Or at least mine wasn’t. M’okay,” he says absently, arranging himself against the window. “Promise. Imma sleep now, ’kay?”

“Okay,” Derek says. “I’ll wake you up when we get there.”

Stiles mumbles in his sleep. Nonsense things, nothing that makes sense, but it’s kind of ridiculously endearing.

Derek is so, so gone.

 

 

“Hey, sleeping beauty, we’re almost there,” Derek says. “You wanna wake up?”

“Mmm five more minutes,” Stiles mumbles.

“I’ll dump you on your front porch like this,” Derek threatens mildly.

“Dude,” Stiles says, grinning with his eyes shut. “Last time I got drunk around you, you tucked me in. An’ I’ve seen your Girl Scout cookie stash. You’re a softie.”

“I will kick you out right now.”

“No, you won’t,” Stiles mumbles. “Softie. Softie werewolf. Soft werewolf.” He yawns. “Warm werewolf… little ball of fur.”

“Stop.”

“Happy werewolf… sleepy werewolf… growl, growl, growl,” Stiles finishes.

“There is something very wrong with you,” Derek says, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.

 

 

Derek frowns down at the tiny furry thing in his lap. “Quit rolling, you’re going to get milk up your nose,” he says and turns the kitten back over onto its stomach. “Why do I always get the weird one who wants to drown itself?”

“You like the weird ones,” Kira says, grinning from where she’s feeding her own kitten.

“So that’s why I hang out with you.”

“And Stiles,” Kira says, and winks.

Derek freezes. “What.”

Kira rolls her eyes and reaches for a cloth. “I’m not blind, Derek. I see how you look at him. You look at him like…” She shrugs, continuing with her voice soft. “Like you’re checking to make sure he’s there and you’re sad when he’s not. Like you’re kind of amazed that he exists.” She shakes her head. “Derek, you kinda look at him like he hung the moon.”

Derek stares at the kitten in his lap. Kira named them, but he can’t remember which one is which. He keeps his head down looking at it, waiting for the hot flash of embarrassment to pass. He thought he was hiding it. He can’t believe he’d been so damn obvious.

This is worse than the time he was seven, decided he was in love with Batman, and Laura ratted him out to their mother.

“Oh my God, is this one of those things I’m not supposed to talk about?” Kira asks, her voice suddenly guilty. “You guys need to start telling me these things. Like, oh, hey, don’t talk about Allison’s grandfather because he tried to mass murder people. Oh, what happened to Lydia’s ex-boyfriend no one talks about? Giant lizard creature.

Derek snorts. “They’re long stories?” he says weakly. “No, um… well, yeah, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell people about it,” he mumbles, his ears burning.

“Oh,” Kira says softly. “You haven’t told him.”

“He doesn’t need to know.”

It’s not Stiles’ fault that Derek has… feelings. Stiles has absolutely no responsibility here and it’s not fair for Derek to unload his feelings on him when he doesn’t feel anything like that. Derek is the one who wants things. Wants Stiles. Derek is the one who aches with wanting to touch him, with wanting to keep him and mark him and cherish and –

Derek is the one who wants. It’s on him. Not Stiles.

“He might disagree,” Kira says, very carefully. “But I’m not gonna pressure you.”

Derek nods. “Thanks. I – quit rolling,” he scolds the kitten lightly and turns it back over. “You’re gonna choke, you little weirdo.”

 

 

Phone calls from Stiles start to be a regular thing. Which is weird because of the whole thing where they used to only call when somebody was dying, or in immediate danger of doing so. But it’s also… Derek kind of likes it. He likes hearing Stiles talking about his day, or his classes, or whatever weird thing he thinks of. He thinks of a lot of weird things, and Derek likes them.

“I have a date,” Stiles says one day, and that, that Derek does not like.

For a long moment, his chest constricts too hard to say anything.

Stiles takes that as a cue to keep going. “I know, you probably don’t care, but I sort of like knowing that I should come home at a certain time, and if I’m not, I’m probably getting dead, not laid. Also, man, this guy is so not my type and I’m kind of nervous.”

Derek gropes behind him until he finds one of the kitchen chairs and slowly sinks into it. “Uh. Why?”

“I dunno. Dating’s weird.” Something on Stiles’ end makes a shuffling noise. “I mean, it’s not like I can tell people anything that actually happened. Like, hey, werewolves and demon lizards, and oh, yeah, I was possessed for a while there! How were your high school years?” He gives a half-choked laugh. “God, sorry, you… I shouldn’t say this shit to you.”

“No,” Derek says. “No, it’s fine. It’s okay. I’ve got dick all for advice though,” he admits. “You know my track record. Plus I haven’t dated a guy since I was like twenty.”

There’s a moment of dead silence. Derek actually wonders if the call has dropped until Stiles says, “You dated guys?”

“I date guys,” Derek says, leaning back in the chair. “There just… hasn’t been anyone lately. Of any gender. Not that I…”

Wanted, he thinks, but doesn’t say. Nobody that he’d trusted and really, truly wanted, not until Stiles, he thinks, but he can’t say.

“Yeah,” Stiles says quietly. “I know.”

After a moment, Derek makes himself say, “Tell me about the guy.”

“He’s nice,” Stiles says. “Which if you’ve noticed, isn’t exactly my type.”

“What, mean?”

“Yes!” Stiles laughs. “Wicked hot, ridiculously smart, and a little mean. That’s totally my type. Nice is kind of a novelty. But I mean, I guess it’s good? It was the politest come-on I’ve ever had.”

“Nice isn’t bad,” Derek agrees, a little tentatively.

They talk for a little longer, while Stiles gets ready, and Derek tells him to call after, if he wants, before hanging up.

Then he puts his phone on the table, digs his claws out of the underside of the chair, and goes to change into running clothes.

“It kind of sucked,” Stiles says, later that night. “He was nice and all, but… kind of too nice? Nothing exciting.” He sighs. “And I feel bad because he was so nice.”

“How kind of you,” Derek drawls, the knot in his chest loosening.

 

 

It gets to be a thing. Stiles tells him when he’s got a date, calls him after to make sure he gets in okay. More often than not, the dates are flops, and Derek – Derek really hates hearing about them, he’ll admit, but he’s… they’re friends. He’ll listen, if Stiles wants to talk. But usually Stiles ends up eventually bouncing to six other subjects anyways.

“Met this dude at the library last week,” Stiles says one day. “We’re gonna go to a movie. I’ll call you when I get home. Should be around eleven.”

“Text me if you’re not,” Derek says, because he always does. No matter how much he may be jealous, he wants more to know Stiles is safe. In every way.

“Yeah, I will,” Stiles says, and he always does. Never has. He’s always phoned.

Derek tries not to read too much into it.

That evening, he goes out to dinner with Kira. She’s a chatter, exuberant and bright, and spending time with her honestly is a bright spot in his day.

And she doesn’t seem to mind if he’s a little distracted during the meal.

He showers when he gets home and he doesn’t start to worry until it’s midnight and Stiles hasn’t called or texted. He runs his fingers along the sides of his phone. It’s not… it’s weird. It is. He knows it’s weird, and creepy, and vaguely stalkerish. And, yes, there’s a good part of him that wants to keep Stiles, and maybe make him smell like Derek forever, and possibly spend several hours mapping the moles on Stiles’ skin with his mouth like he can’t help but picture in the dark of the night when it’s too late for guilt.

But also. Also Stiles always calls.

Derek mutters a curse and sends a text to him, as casual as he can make it.

Then he gets up and paces for the next half hour. Finally he can’t stand it and he phones Stiles.

It goes to voicemail.

“Hey,” he says slowly. “You… that book you wanted for your paper is here. Give me a call when you figure out when you’ll be around.”

He hangs up before he says something stupid. Something feels wrong. He’s trying to convince himself it’s not, and it isn’t working. And if something is wrong on Stiles’ side… well, there’s no use in being stupid. Derek curses again and phones Scott, tells him to call or text Stiles, is probably a little meaner than he needs to be telling him not to sound suspicious. When Scott phones back a little while later to say he didn’t get an answer, Derek hangs up in the middle of him saying it’s probably nothing.

He sinks onto the couch and calls the Sheriff.

It’s incredibly awkward, for one thing, trying to explain why he knows when the Sheriff’s nineteen year old son should be home from his date, and why exactly Derek’s worrying that he’s not.

“Ah,” John says, just as awkwardly. “He’s probably just–”

“He’s supposed to text,” Derek interrupts, then, more quietly. “He likes to know someone knows where he is. So someone knows if he…”

Goes missing, Derek thinks and can’t say.

“Okay,” John says. “If I interrupt my kid doing something I never needed to know about, I’m blaming you. And don’t speed.”

“What?” Derek asks blankly.

“Don’t speed when you drive there,” John says. “I don’t need to bail you out if he’s in trouble.”

Five minutes later, Derek’s on the highway.

Not speeding.

 

 

 

Somehow, Derek isn’t surprised when he checks the rear view mirror and sees the McCall’s car. Nor is he surprised by the faint strands of light he can just see leaking from the car – Kira must be stressed – and he’s only slightly surprised to see Allison’s car not far behind. He’s more shocked at just how quickly they all managed to catch up with him, but even that isn't exactly overwhelming.

Finding him is easier than any of them expects. Derek automatically heads to Stiles’ dorm when he hits city limits, argues with security, and gets kicked out into the parking lot for his trouble.

“He’s not here anyways,” Lydia says from where she’s standing, leaning on the open door of Allison’s car.

“Can you find him?” Allison asks, and in the end, it’s not hard for them to find Stiles. Lydia closes her eyes and does her thing, and they find him.

He’s freezing when they find him, shivering and practically blue. The asshole who took him kept him in some abandoned basement that’s cold enough Derek can see his breath. Tied him up so he couldn't move to keep himself warm, didn't give him a blanket, or a godsdamned jacket, leaving him in only a flannel shirt and a pair of jeans. Date clothes, because Stiles trusted this dick, and he took advantage of that. Tried to smash his fucking head in. Derek inhales slowly, and carefully removes his claws from his own thighs. He forces them back, but barely.

“What do you want to do with him?” Allison asks Scott, twisting the asshole’s arm further up behind his back.

Malia lets the claws on one hand pop free. “I have some ideas.”

“Get him moving?” Scott says to Lydia and Derek, then turns to Allison and Malia. “No maiming in front of Stiles. Outside.”

Derek crouches down in front of Stiles. They untied him the second they got to him, obviously, but he’s out of it, rambling about hallucinations and basements and traps to Lydia and it’s terrible.

“Hey, hey,” he says, catching Stiles’ shoulder and giving him a very light shake. “Hey, idiot, you’re not hallucinating. You’re concussed. You gonna be able to walk?”

Stiles blinks at him, blank. “Whu…?’

Derek sighs. “Not a word from either of you,” he warns Kira and Lydia, and picks Stiles up in a manner that’s more embarrassing than it really should be. Probably because Kira knows and Lydia… well, Derek’s not usually surprised by Lydia figuring anything out. And he’s not exactly hiding things well right now.

He gets Stiles into the backseat of his car, and catches his hands. They’re freezing.

“You hurt anywhere?” Derek asks, chafing Stiles’ hands between his. “Besides your head?”

“Ow,” Stiles says, tugging at his hands as he starts to shiver. When he tries to twist away, Derek can see... blood. There's a bite on his neck, deep and ragged. Human, Derek thinks, but it doesn't help the rage boiling in his stomach. “Ow, ow, stop.”

“You’re gonna get frostbite,” Derek mutters. “You were supposed to call. If you ever do this again, I will lock you in one room for the rest of your life ,so you can’t get yourself in trouble.”

“You’re mean and… I don’t feel good,” Stiles blurts.

Derek barely manages to get out of the way before Stiles pukes on his own shoes.

 

 

 

“The hell is your problem?” Stiles demands as he throws open the door to Derek’s apartment.

Abruptly awake, Derek falls off the couch, his book going skidding halfway across the room, and his elbow almost taking out the coffee table. Not his most graceful moment.

“Son of a bitch,” he mutters, squinting at Stiles blearily. “You’re supposed to be at school.”

“I took a few days off. You might have noticed I got kidnapped. It’s a good enough of a excuse, don’t you think?” Stiles snaps. “And speaking of, I got kidnapped! I got kidnapped, and you noticed enough to bug Scott and my Dad, and I’m pretty sure I have fuzzy memories of you taking off my puke-covered sneakers, and you don’t even think to maybe come see me at the hospital, dickface?”

“What?” Derek says stupidly.

Stiles slams the door hard enough to make Derek wince, steps over where Derek is still sitting on the floor, and flops onto the couch. “Sometimes I don’t know if we’re supposed to be friends or what. God, sometimes you suck at being a person.”

“So I’ve heard,” Derek mumbles. He braces one hand against the couch and starts to push himself to his feet.

Halfway there, Stiles kisses him.

Derek possibly loses his balance and ends up back on the floor.

“Shit,” Stiles says, biting his lip. “I – Kira said you – well, she hinted very subtly when I bitched, she didn’t tell me anything, and – shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to – if you didn’t want me to–”

“I wanted you to,” Derek says a little too loudly. In the silence following his words, he clears his throat and says, softer, “I wanted you to. For, um, for a while.”

Stiles grins, wide and a little stupid. “Yeah?”

Derek nods. “Yeah.”

“How long’s a while?” Stiles asks.

After some hesitation, Derek shakes his head. “I don’t… I don’t know. Christmas? Before that… but Christmas, I realized that…”

“That you wanted to kiss me?” Stiles says.

Derek can feel his ears heating up.

“More than that?” Stiles leans forward towards him, his hands moving restlessly on his knees. “Like… like what are we talking here?”

Derek swallows, staring at Stiles’ hands. “I dreamed about you. Not like that,” he says a little sharply when Stiles blushes and tries really hard not to think about the times when it was. “Just… you’d be there when I needed to… figure stuff out. Talk to someone I could trust.”

“Oh,” Stiles says quietly. “I dream about you, too,” he says. “Stupid things like… having you in my Jeep and driving somewhere. And, uh. Like that, too.”

“You think…” Derek shifts, moving to his knees so he’s taller, closer to Stiles. “You think you’d wanna try that kissing thing again?”

“Yeah, I’d like that,” Stiles says and closes the distance between them.

The second kiss is better. Largely because Derek doesn’t end up on his ass on the floor in surprise and it actually lasts longer than five seconds. But also because it’s Stiles, and there might be clumsy, awkward kisses with him, but there won’t be bad kisses. Derek doesn’t see how there could be bad kisses when Stiles inhales, sharp and almost surprised even though he’s the one initiating, when he cups his big hand around Derek’s jaw, fingers brushing his ear, holding on like he never wants to let go.

Probably a good thing, considering Derek feels like he’s drowning with how much he wants.

“Yes, good, this is good,” Stiles mumbles against Derek’s mouth, his free hand coming down to grasp his shoulder. “I like this. Can we do this a lot?”

“Okay,” Derek says, moving closer when Stiles tugs on him, nudging a knee between his to balance against the edge of the couch. He ends up stretched over him as Stiles falls back against the cushions, head tipped back. Derek ducks his head down and presses an open-mouthed kiss to Stiles’ throat, enjoying the little pleased noise Stiles makes. He has so much beautiful, pale skin, and Derek wants to touch every inch of it.

“I like you touching me,” Stiles says breathlessly, his hands moving over Derek’s back, slipping under his shirt. “We should do this, like, all the time. And you should take me out for dinner and if you get stupid and bail because you fail at being a person, I’ll hunt you down and shoot you.”

Derek pauses, pulling back to look at him.

Stiles blinks. “Too soon?”

Derek shrugs and goes back to mouthing at Stiles’ neck. He bumps into the bandage covering the bite on Stiles’ neck and spends a moment biting back pure, hot rage over the fact that someone dared bite him. It’s not exactly a proud moment, but it is what it is.

“Don’t lick my open wound, weirdo,” Stiles says, laughing as he wiggles under Derek. “C’mere, you can lick better places.”

Derek has to look at him again, because really. “You’re horrible at pick-up lines.”

Stiles shrugs. “I’ve already got you, don’t I?” He combs his fingers into Derek’s hair, tugging slightly. Derek closes his eyes, pressing into the touch. “And I told you, I’m gonna keep you.”

“Okay,” Derek says and goes back to mouthing at Stiles’ neck. “S’good,” he says distractedly between tracing the moles up the side of Stiles’ throat. He finds a good spot for a mark and scrapes his teeth there, gently. “Can I…”

“Oh, yeah, yes, absolutely,” Stiles says, his heart pounding so loudly Derek can’t not hear it. “Totally a thing, yes.”

Derek grins, briefly, and proceeds to suck a large, dark mark into his skin, enjoying the ragged, shuddering breaths that Stiles makes. When he’s satisfied, he pulls back and lightly rubs his thumb over the bruise. “It's good because..." He presses down lightly on the bruise, and Stiles hums. "’Cause I’m not planning on letting you go anytime soon,” he admits, and kisses him again.

Slow this time. Frantic, rushed kisses have their place, but Derek wants to explore, wants to learn the way Stiles tastes, and feels, and responds as slowly as he has the patience for. Derek kisses him slow for the way Stiles seems to smile, just a little, the corners of his mouth turning up in the moment before it deepens. He kisses him slow for the way Stiles’ bottom lip is chapped, a little rough, like he’s been chewing on it, and for how it scrapes just a little when they kiss. He kisses him slow until Stiles is muttering little noises and moving restlessly underneath him.

Stiles pulls away, breathless. “You should – you can bite my neck some more, I like that,” he says, his head falling back as his hands tug at the hem of Derek’s shirt. “And you could take this off and maybe we could do the slightly reckless thing and have sex just a little?”

“How the hell do you have sex just a little?” Derek asks, sitting up and pulling his shirt over his head.

Stiles stares at him. “I… I dunno, handjobs? Anything that doesn’t involve fluids? Man, don’t take your clothes off if you want intelligent answers from me.” He makes grabby hands at Derek. And Derek hates that he has the word “grabby” in his head now, he really does. “Stop being so far away, asshat.”

“Gods, you’re demanding,” Derek says, and proceeds to start stripping Stiles’ shirts off. He’s only wearing three layers today, at least, but it’s like trying to take a shirt off an octopus and when he yanks the last T-shirt over Stiles’ head, he ends up looking like an angry hedgehog with the hair sticking up everywhere. “Good thing you’re pretty.”

“You’re a dickhead,” Stiles says fondly and pulls him in close. “You’re lucky I like you.”

“I know,” Derek says. He cups his hands around the back of Stiles’ neck. Presses a kiss to one rumpled eyebrow. “Trust me, I know.”

“You better,” Stiles say,s and pitches them both sideways, wiggling around until he’s on top. “’Cause, like, I’ve kind of been into you for longer than I can remember. Like possibly that time I made you strip in front of Danny and I realized you were, like, hot. And then fear boners got a lot more complicated,” he says seriously, rubbing his hands up and down Derek’s sides. Derek tries not to be too distracted by it, but it’s kind of a losing battle. “And then I actually started to like you,” Stiles says, grinning. “Can you imagine how shocked I was?”

Derek shivers, goosebumps rising on his skin where Stiles touches. “Well, considering I had an epiphany in a bathroom…”

Stiles rubs his thumb lightly over one of Derek’s nipples, humming pleasantly at the way it beads under his touch. “Guess you can. I think it was about when I was lying on the floor of the police station paralyzed and I felt safer being there with you.” Stiles smiles, a little, his cheeks pink. “I mean, I immediately tried to repress any feelings I had whatsoever. But that’s probably when I think I started to like you.”

“I still don’t know if I like you,” Derek mutters.

Stiles laughs. “S’okay, Scott says that all that time and he puts up with me anyways.”

“Don’t – don’t talk about Scott during sex,” Derek says, wincing. “Not if you want me to have any sort of erection.”

“Okay, okay,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. He tilts his head, eyes not quite on Derek’s face. More in the direction of the thumb he’s tracing along Derek’s collarbone, honestly. “I kinda really do like you,” he says, his voice soft and serious. “I just… I want you a lot and I’m not good enough with words to say how much.”

Derek reaches up and curves his hand around the back of Stiles’ head. “I think I get it,” he says quietly and pulls him back in.

Stiles just nods against his hand before kissing Derek again, desperation leeching into the kiss more with each touch.

And Stiles is a toucher. He trails his fingers over Derek’s shoulders and arms, the weird patch on his stomach that is usually slightly numb since the whole impaled on a pipe thing, and his way-too-sensitive ribs since… childhood, he’s always been ticklish. Stiles rubs his cheek against Derek’s jaw, probably giving himself stubble burn, probably scenting Derek, if the way he grins when he catches Derek looking at him is any indicator, if the satisfaction on Stiles’ is any indicator.

Derek traces his fingertips down Stiles’ side, tracing the feel of small, almost faded scars here and there. He doesn’t remember the injuries from most of them, and wonders how many are from mundane causes, and how many aren’t.

“Why are you poking my appendix scar?” Stiles asks breathlessly in his ear.

Derek huffs a breath. Shakes his head. “Curious. I don’t have any. Tell me about yours sometime?”

“Sure,” Stiles says. “Most of them are stupid. Tripping over things or falling off things. You gotta tell me your stupid childhood stories, too.”

“Remind me and I will,” Derek agrees, tipping his head back so Stiles’ mouth can get at that spot. He shudders when Stiles finds it, fingers going tight on one slim hip as he arches up and, oh, gods, friction.

“Oh,” Stiles says, his voice going just a little high. “I think we should – do you – God, I want to do everything to you. With you. Tell me? Tell me what you want?”

Derek inhales shakily, absently rubbing the curve of his jaw along the soft, delicate skin just under Stiles’ ear. It turns red under the friction and he presses a kiss to it to soothe the sting even as Stiles hums in pleasure.

“You,” Derek mumbles, stupid, his head and voice and throat thick. “I don’t – touch me? Put your hands on me?” He closes his eyes, leaning his forehead against Stiles’ for a moment. “I don’t care, I just… need this. Need you.” His breath catches in his throat as Stiles’ fingers catch in the waist of his jeans. “I need you,” he says again, hoarse and all too honest.

“S’okay,” Stiles says softly. His hands move down to Derek’s fly. They shake, just a little, and Stiles worries his lip with his bottom teeth while he works the button open. “I’m right here. Tell me what you – what you think about?” he says unsteadily. “Want me to suck you off?”

Possibly Derek has to take a moment to just… breathe… at that image. Because holy hell is it an image. And he really, really considers it because he’d have to be dead not to. And, with his family’s history, probably even that wouldn’t stop him. Not with – not with this, he thinks.

But Stiles is shaking. Shivering and panting against him, and Derek, Derek isn’t much better.

“Not this time,” he manages and reaches between them, brushing his knuckles over the tightly-stretched denim over Stiles’ dick. “Like this? Like – like this.”

Stiles’ grin is sharp and white. “Okay. I’ve got you. I’ve got this,” he says and sounds moderately more confident. “Totally got this.”

Derek just… nods and buries his nose in the curve of Stiles’ neck. He’s overwhelmed in the best possible way, head spinning with scents, and touch, and senses overloaded, and he wouldn’t want it any different. He wants the smell of Stiles on his skin for days, wants to move and have the scent surprise him, wants to leave his own scent on Stiles so everyone knows who he has waiting for him, who’s the one who gets to touch and fuck and kiss him, who gets to love him.

“Okay,” Stiles says, half under his breath. “Just… one second, okay?” he says and reaches for his own zipper. Before Derek can even offer to help, Stiles hastily unzips his jeans, sighing with relief. “That is so much better.” He leans in and drops a kiss onto Derek’s shoulder, a surprisingly sweet, soft touch for the moment it happens during. “Your turn.”

There’s a strange sort of shyness in his touch, Derek thinks. For someone who is so enthusiastic, who touches like it’s something he needs, it’s like when he starts to think, he makes himself self-conscious.

Derek rubs one hand up his back, letting it rest on the back of Stiles’ neck for a moment before gently pulling him in. “Are you nervous?” he asks, stroking his fingers through the hair at the base of Stiles’ skull.

“Sort of,” Stiles admits, but he flashes a grin. “Not in a bad way. Just like… first days and new food and starting new medication when you realize your brain is kind of fucked up and could use some help getting better.” He shakes his head. “I’m not scared, or – or anything. Just new things are new. And fun. And exciting. But not bad, you know?”

Derek nods. “Yeah. When – when you say new, do you mean this is new because it’s you and me or… this is new?”

Stiles chews his bottom lip, avoiding Derek’s eyes. “Mostly kind of both?”

Oh.

Derek tugs him down closer and brushes a kiss against the corner of Stiles’ eye. “Okay.” He presses a kiss to one of the little moles next to his mouth, smoothes a thumb over one eyebrow. “We don’t have – you know we don’t have to,” he says, the words thick and awkward on his tongue even as Stiles rolls his eyes. “We can go slow,” he says instead. “So it’s not–”

Stiles cuts him off with a kiss, harder than Derek expects, until when he pulls his away, his pretty pink lips are red and swollen. “I know,” he says and shoves his hand into Derek’s pants. “I’m good. I’m… totally touching your dick.”

“I kinda noticed,” Derek says, his mouth dry.

“Yeah,” Stiles says, breathless. “Can I – can I just –

“Stiles,” Derek interrupts. “Anything you want is okay.”

“Actually we’re going to have a nice long talk about boundaries and limits,” Stiles says, basically all in one breath. “But, um. Later. Okay, I’m gonna… yeah.”

“Okay,” Derek says, and then, again, “Okay,” when Stiles’ long, hot fingers pull him out of his jeans. “Yeah.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees and this might be the stupidest conversation they’ve ever had, if you could even call it a conversation, but Derek can’t even think about that because Stiles is scrabbling at his own jeans, roughly jerking them down around his hips and then – and then he’s arching against Derek with the softest noise and sliding their dicks together.

“Fuck,” Derek says without meaning to. He slides a hand over Stiles’ hip, dipping into the loose waist of his jeans on the downstroke before he settles it back into place on his hip. “You’re – can you just… fuck,” he repeats, and presses his face into the curve of Stiles’ neck. “Never wanted anything like this,” he says, hoarse and too honest. “I – Stiles.”

Stiles shifts, bracing his hand on the arm of the couch behind Derek’s head. “I know.” He rocks his hips unevenly, the rhythm shaky and somewhat hesitant. “I know, me too. Damn it, I’m sorry, sorry, I can’t – I’m not gonna last much longer, I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay,” Derek mumbles, his lips touching Stiles’ skin with each word. “We can do this again.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, and arches against him, hard, and comes all over Derek’s stomach.

Derek reaches down, wraps his hand over Stiles’ hand as he pulls his hips back, still shivering. “Can you – can you just keep going for a minute? Just…”

“I’ve got you,” Stiles murmurs. He lets Derek guide his hand just how he needs it until he’s gasping and adding to the mess on his stomach.

It… doesn’t really take long.

Derek is only a little embarrassed by how quick it is.

 

 

“You’re kind of… bitey,” Stiles says later, when they’ve finally made it to Derek’s bed. Possibly with a little distraction between the bed and the living room. “And licky.”

“Sorry.”

Stiles shrugs, resting his chin on Derek’s pillow. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it.” He rubs his thumb over the mark Derek left earlier. “This is nice. Actually. Can I leave them on you or would they just heal?”

Derek reaches over, and gently rubs his fingers over the bruises on Stiles’ hip. They’re faint, more smudges than anything, but he feels like an ass. “You can try if you want. I could probably make them stay until I fall asleep.”

Stiles gives a wicked grin. “Well. We’ll have to experiment. Those are okay, too, you know,” he says, nodding at where Derek may or may not be sneaking any trace of pain from the bruises. “It didn’t hurt in a bad way. And I kind of like the soreness,” he admits, his cheeks turning pink.

Derek frowns. “Tell me if you change your mind.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Stiles rolls his eyes and gently nudges Derek’s shin with his toes. “Conversation. Boundaries. Limits. We’re having one sooner than later.” He stretches, slowly. “’Cause it’s okay to – I like that sometimes. So we’re gonna talk about what you like and what I like and what we don’t like and… you know. Got it?”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “Okay.”

A moment later, Stiles slides his hand up Derek’s stomach, absent, his long fingers splaying across Derek’s pec. “So I have to go back to school soon.”

Derek’s stomach drops. He swallows, and nods shakily. “I know.”

Not looking at him, Stiles traces increasingly smaller circles with his thumb around Derek's nipple. “I only have a few days’ leeway because of the… you know, kidnapping thing.” He sneaks a peek at Derek, eyelashes fluttering and sending shadows over his cheeks. “I was kind of thinking of getting an apartment up there next year.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. More space. More privacy. I mean, I’d probably still have roommates, but at least I wouldn’t be sharing an actual room,” he says, as the circles his thumbs are tracing getting small enough to rub around the areola. “And… well, I mean, if you wanted – I hope you’d want to. I–” Stiles shakes his head. “You could come visit me.”

“I – stop it for a second,” Derek blurts, grabbing Stiles’ hand. “I can’t concentrate when you do that. You want me to visit?”

“Well, yeah,” Stiles says. “I want this to be a thing that… stays.”

Derek inhales, carefully, and slips his fingers into Stiles’ hair. “Me too.”

 

 

Stiles is different, after.

Derek watches him. Watches to make sure the dark circles stay gone from under his eyes as much as possible. Watches a little extra close on the days when Stiles smells of exhaustion, and guilt, and misery, and things he just doesn’t need to feel. Watches him on the days where, sometimes, still, he dreams and Stiles is in it and it’s… sometimes it’s still confusing, but it’s good. Always good.

And he looks, too. He’s looking when Stiles fidgets, chewing on pens and his fingernails and the strings on his clothing. He’s looking when he ends up with several teenagers in his living room watching some movie about… Derek doesn’t even know, there’s a giant hamster looking thing that’s supposedly some kind of bug and a big blue blob thing and Stiles, sitting on a cushion on the floor, laughs.

“Don’t you people have homes?” Derek mutters, waiting until Stiles leans forward to swing a leg over his back and drop into the recliner.

“You lived in a loft that had technically been condemned,” Stiles says, leaning back against Derek’s legs and dropping his head back to grin at him. “And Allison and Kira broke one of our windows sparring the last time we had movie night at our place.”

“Scott got into my dad’s Wolfsbane stashed and accidentally got himself stoned,” Allison says immediately from where she’s stretched with her legs across Malia’s lap. Malia’s absently drawing designs with a marker on Allison’s thigh, either ignoring them or choosing to stay quiet. Derek never knows with her.

“Accidentally,” Stiles snorts.

“Stiles lost Prada and we had to spend two hours looking for him,” Lydia says, calmly painting her nails on Derek’s couch with Allison’s head in her lap.

“Lydia lost her patience and shattered every mirror in the house,” Kira says brightly from where she and Scott are curled up on the loveseat. “My mom won’t let more than three of us in the house at once.”

Stiles laughs, again, and rests his cheek against Derek’s thigh. There’s a mark on his neck, still purple and red and fresh from this morning, and he smells like Derek and him and a little bit like sex. Not obnoxiously, just… something nice. Something that smells like them. Maybe Derek doesn’t really get why they all end up here, but he doesn’t mind it. Easier to make sure they’re okay. And… nice.

Predictably, not even ten minutes into the movie, Stiles begins to chew on his nails. It’s a terrible habit, worse than the pens and glasses and hoodie strings, anxiety leaving his nails bitten to the quick and so close to bleeding Derek almost smells blood.

Derek reaches down and gently pulls his hand away from his mouth. He shoves a Girl Scout cookie into Stiles’ free hand and keeps the other, interlocking his fingers between Stiles’ abused ones.

And holds on.