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“You need to unwind, Derek,” was the last thing Erica had said before leaving the office for the evening, and Derek had nodded absently and forgotten all about it by the time the doorbell went a few seconds ago. Now there’s a tall lean kid standing in the doorway of his apartment, unselfconsciously raking a hand through his hair and sizing Derek up with warm dark eyes, and Derek reflexively thinks he wouldn’t mind unwinding with this one.

“Pizza?” he asks, though he can’t remember ordering any. It’s been a long day; maybe his reptilian brain took care of dinner. It wouldn’t be the first time.

The kid shrugs. “Sure, if you’re offering,” he says in a deep, scratchy voice that bumps him up a few years, from late teens to early or mid-twenties. “Mushrooms are a total deal-breaker for me, though. Just so you know.” He’s straining to look over Derek’s shoulder as he speaks, and his eyebrows rise. “Man, she sure wasn’t kidding. You better tip well.” He pulls his hands from his pockets and moves as though to push past Derek.

Derek stops him. “Hold on,” he says, comprehension dawning. “One second.”

The guy shrugs again. He scratches his jaw and watches with interest as Derek checks his phone. Hope you enjoy your present, the text from Erica says. Payment’s taken care of. You can thank me tomorrow.

“So you’re a werewolf, huh,” the guy says when Derek looks up at him again. His gaze drifts down from Derek’s face to the rest of his body, slowly, shamelessly. When it’s traveled back up and their eyes meet again, the corner of the guy’s mouth twitches up into a cocky little half-smile. “I fucking love working with werewolves.”

 


 

The guy’s name—pseudonym, whatever—is Stiles. “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of me,” he says before firmly dragging his tongue across the head of Derek’s dick. “I used to do some pretty good porn, y’know. Back in the day.” His eyes flutter shut and he sighs out a quiet noise, slides his hand down Derek’s dick and chases it with his lips, the wet scorching heat of his mouth.

Derek’s spine arches away from the backrest of the couch as he shivers. “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of me,” he says breathlessly, giving in to the urge to curve his hand around the back of Stiles’ head. “I used to do some pretty good TV appearances back in the day.”

Stiles huffs out a muffled laugh around his dick, then holds still and waits until Derek makes eye contact again before taking him all the way down. Derek feels briefly but intensely grateful for the layer of latex between him and Stiles’ skilled, relentless mouth; he wouldn’t have lasted thirty seconds without it.

 

Stiles looks good in the simple gray henley and tight-fitting jeans he’s wearing, but he looks even better getting rid of them with swift, graceful movements. “God, you’re hot,” Stiles says as he straddles Derek’s hips again, confidently, easily, like it’s all he’s ever done in his life, like the two of them have done this a million times before. The warm pads of his fingertips start trailing up Derek’s stomach, leaving a swath of goose bumps in their wake, and then Stiles’ hands are on his shoulders, pushing them down into the mattress. “Look at you, you’re fucking stunning, seriously, fuck, can I—”

“Sure,” Derek says, neither knowing nor caring what he’s agreeing to. Lying down has reminded him of how exhausted his body is. Stiles is pleasantly heavy on top of him, and there’s something about his clean scent that’s comforting, calming. Derek’s mind feels sharp and languid at the same time, still reeling from the blowjob, the deep scratchy sound of Stiles’ voice, the way Stiles keeps moving, talking, touching, releasing little gasps against Derek’s skin. Derek doesn’t care what exactly Stiles wants to do to him; all he wants is more of Stiles. More, then sleep.

“Oh yeah,” Stiles breathes. He nudges his nose up against the underside of Derek’s chin. “You smell great, fuck, I can’t wait to feel you inside me,” and he’s pressing long open-mouthed kisses to Derek’s throat, sealing one across his Adam’s apple before moving up to his jaw, the corner of his lips.

“Can I just,” he murmurs again, and then their mouths are meeting, Stiles’ fingers resting feather-light on Derek’s cheek. Stiles moans into his mouth, tongue pulsing up against Derek’s, hand moving down Derek’s body again to cup his throbbing dick, and Derek thinks yes and oh fuck, fuck.

Stiles rides him to orgasm, hot and tight and wet, the intoxicating smell of sex and sweat swarming all around them, and Derek’s eyes slip shut right after he comes. He struggles to keep them open, watches dumbly as Stiles ties off the condom and moves as though to get off the bed. His dick is still half-hard, flushed a dark shade of red, the tip glistening with precome.

“Wait,” Derek says. It’s sluggish, but it’s loud enough to make Stiles pause and look back at him. His cheeks are blotched and his hair is messy. He looks— he looks disheveled, well-fucked, and a small aftershock of lust draws through Derek’s body.

“Come back here,” he says roughly, reaching out, “you should, I want you to—” and Stiles flashes him a quick, startled smile. He lines his warm heavy body up with Derek’s again and wraps a hand around himself, the head of his dick sliding along the crease of Derek’s hip. Derek runs his fingers through Stiles’ hair and strokes the smooth skin of his neck and shoulders, listens to the beautiful sounds Stiles makes. He closes his eyes.

 

When he opens them again, Stiles is standing next to the bed, dressed, twirling his phone around in his hands. “I’ll ask your secretary to add the customary five percent to the bill,” he says in a quiet voice. “That cool?”

Derek blinks a few times. “Yeah,” he says, when the meaning of the words registers. “Yes, of course.” He starts to push up onto one elbow. “I should…”

“No, no,” Stiles says, waving a hand at him. “You should sleep. You go to sleep, all right? Don’t worry about me stealing any of your outrageously well-matched and probably equally outrageously expensive minimalist furniture, your secretary will know where to—”

“She’s my boss,” Derek mumbles into his pillow.

Stiles tilts his head, looks down at him. “What was that?”

“She, uh.” He wants to say never mind, it doesn’t matter, but Stiles is still looking at him curiously, and. “Erica’s not my secretary. She’s my boss.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Seriously? Your boss orders you hookers?”

Derek tries not to wince— none of the people Erica had sent to his apartment previously had referred to themselves as such. Then again, he had already deduced that Stiles isn’t exactly the sugarcoating type.

“Yeah,” he says. “Every now and then.”

Ever since he’d sworn off conventional relationships and the ongoing success of Hale Consultancy left him little time or energy to attempt one night stands, that is. Erica likes to joke that Derek is married to the job and that hiring escorts isn’t cheating if it’s the company credit cards paying for them. Derek always hopes she’s kidding about the second part; just because he stepped down doesn’t mean he’s not still emotionally involved.

Stiles hasn’t looked away yet, so Derek specifies, “When she thinks I need to relax, or blow off steam.”

You know what you need, Derek? A good hard fuck, Erica—who has absolutely no concept of either shame or privacy, whether her own or someone else’s—had said to him a little over half a year ago, and that’s how the more-or-less bimonthly arrival of a sex worker on Derek’s doorstep had begun. There are days when he wishes he’d never invited Erica into his pack; there are many more days when he wishes he’d met her a hell of a lot earlier. Something tells him he wouldn’t have been half as lost after Kate, after his parents’ and Laura’s death, if Erica had already been part of his life back then.

Stiles whistles. “Well, sounds like you’ve got it made,” he says, looking away and at the floor. He starts fiddling with his phone again. “Cool, okay, so maybe I’ll see you around.” He does a little wave and starts walking away from Derek’s bed, slender hips swaying as he goes. His shoulders look broader from behind. Unexpectedly, something twists in Derek’s gut.

“Hey,” he says before Stiles disappears around the corner. “Stiles. Tell her to make it ten, okay?”

Stiles turns and gives him the same little half-smile as before. There’s no edge of cockiness this time, though. “I will,” he says, and then, softer, “thanks, Derek,” and then he’s gone.

 


 

“Good morning,” Erica says in a sing-song voice from where she’s leaning against the doorframe of Derek’s office. “Have a good night?”

Derek looks up from his laptop screen. “Is that a frappuccino you’re holding?” he asks suspiciously. “And you didn’t get me any coffee because…?”

“Because this is in fact a chocolate peanut butter milkshake and if I’d gotten you one you probably would’ve thrown it back in my face and growled something about what the Western world is coming to,” Erica says. “So, did you have a good night?”

“Erica,” Derek says, ignoring her question a second time just to rile her up. “We’re a respectable company. We’ve got a reputation to uphold. You can’t just prance around the office drinking chocolate peanut butter milkshakes. People will walk all over you.”

Erica lazily flicks out the claws of her free hand one by one and lets her eyes flash yellow. “I’d love to see them try. Now tell me what you thought of my present.”

Derek sighs, pushes away from his desk. His swivel chair squeaks. “I liked your present,” he says. “A lot. Thank you. It was very thoughtful of you.”

Erica strides into the room and takes the seat opposite his, swinging her legs up to rest her heels on his desk. She squints at him. “I figured it’d been a while,” she says, “and I thought maybe you’d like to try something different for a change. Was I wrong?”

Derek isn’t exactly sure what she means by something different, but his thoughts are already flashing back to Stiles— his voice, his long sure fingers, the anchoring feeling of his weight. The low noises he’d made while bringing himself off on top of Derek. “No,” he says roughly. “You weren’t.”

Erica contemplates him for a few seconds. “All right,” she says. “Let’s take a look at those research grant requests that came in for finalization this morning.” Slurping from her milkshake, she reaches across the desk to pull Derek’s laptop toward her.

 


 

Dinner that night is Chinese takeout for one. After finishing, Derek finds himself sitting at his kitchen counter with his sleeves rolled up and a glass of whiskey at his elbow, googling for Stiles’ website.

He knows that if he called Erica, she would pass on Stiles’ contact information in a heartbeat. Hell, she’d cheer him on, probably. He doesn’t know why he doesn’t call her. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to admit, out loud, that part of him already wants to see Stiles again, feel his confident touch again, bathe in his enthusiasm.

The website, once Derek finds it, is nothing like he was expecting. It looks professional; sleek, discreet, minimalist. He can’t help but smile, remembering Stiles’ jibe at the expense of his interior design. He doesn’t know what he was expecting instead. Typos, maybe. Loud colors. Flashy advertisements.

What he definitely wasn’t expecting were the kinds of pictures he finds. Stiles is fully clothed in all of them, no provocative poses. Derek sips from his drink and clicks through the gallery. It’s all there; the big eyes, the moles dotted haphazardly along Stiles’ jawline and the side of his neck, the upturned nose that’s slightly too big for his face but suits it in a charming, boyish way. The distracting shape and fullness of his lips and the ever so faint dust of stubble on his upper lip. The lines that frame the corners of his mouth when he’s looking straight into the camera, trying not to smile. The long eyelashes and the self-assured tilt of his chin.

There’s a page of videos, too. I used to do some pretty good porn, y’know, echoes through Derek’s mind. He lets the cursor hover over one of the play buttons for a while. Then he bookmarks the link, exits out of the browser, and goes to pour himself another whiskey.

 


 

It’s a hectic week, and Derek feels a strange mix of riled up and wiped out by the end of it. Times have changed a lot since his parents founded the company. The social position of werewolves has continued to improve, business opportunities arising accordingly. Hale Consultancy provides a wide range of services these days— from giving corporate presentations to distributing information packages, from funding werewolf-related research to legally representing Lycanthropic Americans. In other words, they’ve always got their hands full.

Erica handles the CEO position effortlessly, but whenever Derek sees her in full force he’s glad he’s in an advisory position now and not in charge anymore. He’s not the angry, distrustful person he used to be; he now knows, and acknowledges, that he would crack under the pressure. Watching Erica crush a board of business representatives earlier today was as much a nerve-racking experience as it was a gratifying one. He’d passed up on drinks with Isaac and Boyd, gone home instead, but his body is still buzzing, skin itching. It feels like there’s something clawing at the inside of his throat. Something that wants out.

He contemplates unearthing his running shoes, going for a run. He contemplates calling Malia and going for a real run, snapping at each other’s heels, chasing each other through the woods, maybe taking down a deer just for the thrill. He doesn’t call her, though, stays on the couch, clicks on and exits out of various shows on Netflix. He has a second glass of whiskey even though the alcohol will peter out in his blood vessels before it has a chance to reach his brain.

He ends up on Stiles’ website again.

The pictures are the opposite of erotic, but somehow they radiate sexuality anyway. There’s something about Stiles that’s mesmerizing even when he’s a static, pixelated image on a computer screen— even like this, he draws Derek in.

Derek goes to the page with videos again, considers watching one of them. The thought alone has him half-hard in his sweatpants, groin tingling with arousal, but he doesn’t press play. He scrolls up again, stares at the email address and phone number at the top of the page. BOOK ME NOW! it says right above them.

He still feels restless, jittery. Maybe that’s why he crumbles so fast.

Stiles picks up on the second ring, before Derek can decide this is a bad idea after all. Before he can hang up and watch one of Stiles’ videos instead, jerk off to it with his hand down his pants because he can’t be bothered to take them off or even push them down to his knees. Before he can feel vaguely embarrassed about jerking off to one of Stiles’ videos like a teenager and take a shower and go to bed early and forget all about Stiles, his skilled mouth and his sure fingers and his warm dark eyes.

“Stiles Stilinski speaking.”

He sounds— normal. Again, Derek has no idea what he was expecting instead. A sultry phone sex voice?

“Hey,” Derek says. “Stiles. It’s Derek. Derek Hale.” He pauses, wonders if he should be more specific, maybe mention the date of their first appointment, but Stiles is already chuckling warmly.

“Hey, Derek,” he says. “Glad to hear from you. How’s your outrageously well-matched and expensive furniture doing?”

“Good,” Derek says. “I mean, it’s all still there, so—” He winces when he realizes what he’s implying, but Stiles laughs again.

“I gotta admit I was tempted by that juicer,” he says. “Very tempted, but I decided against it. Y’know, professional integrity and all that. Sure looked like one hell of a juicer, though.”

“Yeah, my little sister got me that for my birthday,” Derek says. “I think it was meant to be some sort of ironic gift.” Then again, you never know with Cora.

“What’s a guy like you need a juicer for anyway? Don’t you have people to juice your juice for you? That’s just tragic.”

Derek is startled by the sound of his own laughter. “Actually, I’m usually the one going on coffee runs, so I guess if I did have a person to juice my juice for me, which I don’t, just so we’re clear, that person would probably be… me.”

“Seriously?” Stiles says. “You’re the coffee guy? Whoa. I never would’ve— but anyway, shit, I’m sorry for getting us all off topic. I’m assuming you were calling to make another appointment? Because calling is fine, of course, it’s just that most people prefer to email me, or to make the first appointment via phone and have the rest of our correspondence go via email from there on. It’s easier.”

“Um,” Derek says. He hadn’t really had a concrete purpose in mind. He’d just felt jittery and reckless. “Yeah, I’d like to make another appointment.”

“Great,” Stiles says, and he sounds like he means it, too. Derek can’t help but feel pleased about that. “Do you have a preference for a certain day or time?”

“Um,” Derek says again. He drums his fingers against his kneecap, thinks, oh, what the hell. “How about tonight?”

“Tonight?” Stiles echoes. “Tonight as in, right now?”

He sounds a little incredulous and a little… something else. Derek says, hastily, “Of course I’m not expecting you to—”

“No, I mean, it’s a possibility,” Stiles says, and this time Derek is able to pinpoint the something else in his voice: amusement. “I do happen to be free tonight. But a rush order, Mr. Hale, that’s going to cost you extra. Like, a lot extra.” His voice is different now, deep and flirtatious.

“That’s fine,” Derek says. He palms his dick, just once, to take the edge off. “I don’t care.”

“Like, a lot a lot extra.”

Derek says, “Okay.”

“Like a lot a lot a lot extra.”

Stiles just sounds amused now. It’s because of that, and because of the relief of all the built-up agitation slowly drawing together and morphing into anticipatory lust, that Derek feels comfortable saying, in a lower voice (a sultry phone sex voice, he supposes), “I don’t care what you charge me. I want you now.”

 

Stiles arrives half an hour later, surprising Derek by moving in for a heated, open-mouthed kiss straight away. “Hey there, big guy,” he breathes into Derek’s beard as he fists his hands into Derek’s shirt and crowds him backward into the apartment, kicking the door shut behind them. “You were very forward on the phone. I gotta say I’m kinda into it.”

“Good,” Derek says, and he can’t help it, they’re so close to the wall— he pushes Stiles back against it and takes his face between his hands and aligns their mouths again. Stiles tastes and smells wonderfully clean and fresh, just like last time, and Derek wonders if he uses scent masking products, maybe from one of the lines funded by Hale Consultancy’s research department.

Then Stiles sucks Derek’s bottom lip into his mouth and sinks his teeth into it, gently, spreading his legs wide and sliding his hands down to Derek’s ass to pull him forward, into the tight warm space between Stiles’ thighs. The bulges of their erections meet and Stiles’ breath hitches, and Derek forgets all about product development for the time being.

“You’ve had a rough week, huh,” Stiles murmurs against his cheek, squeezing his shoulders. “I can feel it— all that tension— you should let it all out, just…” His eyes fall shut and he half-moans as Derek starts pressing hurried kisses to the base of his throat. “Fuck,” he says breathily, his hips moving against Derek’s ever so slightly. His lips are puffy, glistening, and Derek drags the pad of his thumb along them before tangling his hand into Stiles’ hair, tugging his head to the side to gain better access to the pulse points of his throat.

“You should let it all out,” Stiles says again, in a low voice. He’s cupping the back of Derek’s head with both hands, rutting up against him more determinedly now. “C’mon, just let go, lose control. Wolf out a little.”

Derek lets out a laugh against Stiles’ skin, and Stiles shivers. “That’s not exactly how it works,” Derek says, smugly brushing his fingertips across the goose bumps he’s caused. “We don’t lose control that easily.”

Stiles smiles a little deviously. “Really now,” he says. “Well, in that case, challenge accepted.” And without breaking eye contact he slides down the wall, to his knees.

 


 

They arrange to meet again the next Friday, and then the Friday after that, and then the Friday after that. Before long, Stiles is coming over every Friday evening. All of their appointments follow more or less the same pattern: Stiles comes in; they make out; Derek ends up with his pants around his ankles and his fingers buried in Stiles’ hair, Stiles blowing him, deep-throating him, watching Derek unravel from below with a complacent glint in his eyes.

Or, alternatively: Stiles comes in; they make out; Stiles guides Derek to the bedroom, moving to ride him when he senses that Derek is tired or presenting himself facedown with his ass in the air when he senses that Derek feels wired or frustrated, telling him to stop holding back, telling him harder, faster, mouth wide open and obscenely pink against the white of the pillow, fingers digging into the mattress.

Most of the time, Stiles seems to know what Derek wants before Derek even knows he wants it. Then again, most of the time, what Derek wants most of all is Stiles in general. Stiles, who is bold and enthusiastic and moves with aching self-confidence; Stiles, who does filthy things with his mouth and tongue and hands, things that leave Derek gasping for more.

Stiles had asked Derek to get tested after one of their first appointments. When the results come in, he inspects the letter and gives Derek a thumbs up. Then he makes Derek lie back, sucks him to the brink of orgasm and finishes him off with his hand, leaning in with his eyes closed to let Derek’s come spurt onto his face, his parted lips. He grabs Derek’s hand to drag his fingers through the mess and then laps the come off them, off Derek’s fingers, takes them into his mouth, moans around them, cheeks hollowed, eyes gleaming mischievously.

(Derek is too stunned to participate in anything else after that, so at his sleepy insistence Stiles stretches out next to him and strokes himself slowly as Derek watches through his eyelashes.)

 

Stiles talks. He talks a lot, and he talks dirty. He tells Derek to hold his head down if he wants, to fuck his mouth a little, or to pin his wrists above his head while taking him. He tells Derek how good he feels, how good he makes Stiles feel, how he doesn’t want Derek to stop, don’t stop, don’t stop, Derek, please. He tells Derek he could fuck Stiles without a condom next time, if that’s something Derek would like, and that night he shows up more loose and prepped than usual, his hair still wet from a shower.

Coming inside Stiles is almost a transcendental experience. Derek feels utterly wrung out afterward. He keeps one arm coiled tightly around Stiles’ shoulders, doesn’t let go. Doesn’t want to let go. He can’t resist the urge to slide his other hand down Stiles’ sweat-damp back and feel how wet Stiles is with his come.

Stiles’ breath catches when Derek strokes two fingers down between his ass cheeks where he’s filthily slick with lube and come, dips his fingertips inside. “Sensitive,” Stiles murmurs against his chest, body shuddering weakly against Derek’s.

Derek says, “Sorry,” and retracts his fingers.

“No,” Stiles says roughly. “Keep touching. Feels good.”

So Derek does, keeps caressing Stiles with long thorough strokes until Stiles’ breathing grows heavy again and his hips start moving against Derek’s.

“I’m not sure I’ve got the strength for a second round,” Derek tells him, and right at that moment, as though concurring, Stiles’ stomach growls.

“Oh my God,” Stiles says, cracking up. “I’m sorry, I haven’t had dinner yet.”

“You what?” Derek says, aghast. “It’s…” He checks the alarm clock on his nightstand. “It’s ten thirty.” When did that happen?

“I know, I was gonna eat after— what are you doing? Don’t move. You’re surprisingly comfy, especially when taking into account the fact that you’re about five hundred pounds of sheer muscle.”

“This is unacceptable,” Derek says, prodding at Stiles’ shoulder when he doesn’t budge. “Get off me, I’m gonna order food. I don’t let my— I don’t let people go hungry.”

I don’t let my pack go hungry. It’d been on the tip of his tongue. He can feel his face go hot, but Stiles, thank God, hasn’t noticed. He rolls over with a demonstrative groan and casts his forearm across his eyes.

“Sushi?” Derek says. He remembers a vague remark Stiles made last week, or the week before, about sushi night with his friends Scott and— Derek has forgotten the other name.

Stiles rolls over again. “You’re such a weird client,” he mutters into Derek’s pillow, which Derek takes as a yes, so he goes to find a pair of underwear and his phone.

When the sushi arrives and Derek carries the boxes into the bedroom, Stiles’ eyes go comically wide. “Holy shit, you are ridiculous,” he says emphatically, sitting up. “What’s that, like two hundred dollars’ worth of sushi? Jesus Christ.”

“I’ve got a big appetite,” Derek defends himself as he sits down on the edge of the mattress and hands Stiles a pair of chopsticks. “Come on, dig in.”

“I was gonna say aren’t you worried about me spilling soy sauce all over your sheets, but if that happened you’d probably just buy a completely new bed anyway,” Stiles says as he moves into a cross-legged position and idly covers himself up with a corner of the sheets. He takes the lid off one of the boxes, making happy noises as he peers inside.

“Right,” Derek says dryly. “That would make so much sense, because obviously I’ve never heard of washing machines.”

“Hey, just how fucking loaded are you exactly?” Stiles talks over him, around a mouthful of California roll. “Because if you really do have too much money, you should totally feel free to set up an automatic payment and just have me come over every night.” He waggles his eyebrows, reaches for another piece of maki.

Derek says, quietly, without overthinking it, “I could.”

Stiles looks up at him. “What?”

“I could do that,” Derek says. “If you wanted me to. If you wanted it too.”

Stiles is still looking at him. For a second he looks shocked. Then he looks small, somehow, and then there’s an expression on his face that Derek can’t place but that makes his mouth go dry anyway. He’s about to say something, take it back, apologize, anything to make that expression go away, when Stiles’ face smooths out again and he shoves the maki roll into his mouth. “I couldn’t,” he says, waving his chopsticks around, “Derek, I couldn’t possibly accept that offer,” and Derek nods and they leave it at that.

 


 

“Derek,” Erica says, click-clacking into his office with a print-out in her hand. “You got a minute?”

Derek swivels around to face her. “Yeah,” he says. “Sure. What’s up?”

“Did you just say ‘what’s up’? You have been awfully chipper lately, but that just takes the fucking cake,” Erica says as she perches on his desk. “Is all this because of Stiles? I should send him a thank you note.”

Derek’s heart jolts at the mention of Stiles’ name, but he knows better than to be surprised. He says, “Is this the part where I act like I can’t believe you know? Erica, you’re my second in command. You file my taxes. You know everything about me.”

Erica shrugs. “Cora asked me to keep an eye on you before she left for South America,” she says, inspecting her nails. “Might be interesting for her to know that you’re squandering your half of your substantial inheritance on escorts.”

An escort,” Derek says tightly. “Singular. Last time I checked Stiles was just one person. Please cut the polysyllabic crap and get to the point.”

“Oh, touchy,” Erica says, and she smiles. “All I’m saying is, a simple thank you would’ve sufficed. I did handpick him for you, in case you’ve forgotten. Which wasn’t easy. I don’t just send any old call boy to your apartment. Do you have any idea how long it took me to find him in the first place, let alone decide whether he’d make a good match for you? Nights, Derek. Nights of work. On my own time, may I add.”

Skeptical, Derek arches an eyebrow at her. “So you’re not actually here to berate me about squandering my substantial inheritance on—”

“Hell no. I just felt like riling you up a little, that’s all. It’s weird to see you this relaxed. Just wanted to make sure the dark and twisty Derek I used to know is still in there somewhere.” She ignores his offended glare and continues, “Anyway, let’s get down to business. Isaac has a bold proposal I need to talk to you about.”

She hands him the print-out. Derek glances at it, then takes it into both hands, rereads it. He says, “Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“He seriously wants us to start pushing for the legalization of ancient pack law.”

“Aspects of it, yeah,” Erica says, eyes bright. “What do you think?”

“What do I— it’s 2014,” Derek says incredulously. “Isaac doesn’t actually think there’s a chance in hell the American legal system would reinstate something like trial by combat, does he?”

“God, imagine how much fun that would be, though,” Erica says, pulling a face when Derek throws her a look. “Come on, Derek. Just think about it for a second. It’s not like it wouldn’t make sense. You know just as well as I do that there are laws we’re all magically bound to— I’m not saying trial by combat, necessarily, but pack territory law in general—”

“Which includes instantaneous state banishment,” Derek says, “do you really think—”

“—so we might as well try to make them official,” Erica finishes, unperturbed.

“And you know just as well as I do that a bill like this will never go through,” Derek says. “You know my parents tried it, right? We—”

“But that was ten years ago,” Erica says. “And back then there was the whole Deucalion controversy, remember, which didn’t exactly help matters much— I mean, I can imagine why humans were hesitant to give our kind another inch of space with some political nutjob running around basically trying to instigate a coup— completely ridiculous— but look, of course I’m not expecting this proposal to go anywhere, and neither is Isaac.”

“So why—”

“Just hear me out, all right? Something like this would bring the subject into public awareness again. More widespread understanding and acceptance of our rules and rituals could be the next step in werewolves’ emancipation. And who knows, maybe ten years from now…”

“So it’d be like a publicity stunt, really,” Derek says. He shakes his head. “You guys are insane.”

Erica gives him an innocent smile. “Isn’t that the reason why you turned us?”

“Not exactly, no,” Derek says, but Erica is already getting up, pulling the print-out from his hands and hitting him on the head with it. “Think it over,” she says, leaving it on the corner of his desk. “Food and drinks tonight?”

“I can’t, it’s Friday,” Derek says absently, and he can feel the tips of his ears burn as Erica walks away cackling.

 


 

The days after his spur-of-the-moment offer to Stiles, Derek had worried that he’d overstepped a boundary somehow. He was unable to shake the fear that Stiles would act differently during their next appointment, be more distant; worst case scenario, that he would not even show up at all.

But Stiles does show up. His smile is loose and confident as usual, and he moves in for a kiss as usual, molding his body against Derek’s and softly pressing his fingertips to either side of Derek’s jaw as usual. Then he steps back and says, casually, “Hey, I was wondering, would you like to try something today? Something new?”

“Of course,” Derek says. The last time Stiles had asked him a question like this, it’d been about barebacking. Something tells him this is different, though. Despite the casual tone of voice, Stiles looks— he looks hopeful but tense, and his heart rate, when Derek focuses on it, sounds a little faster than normal.

“Okay,” Stiles says, nodding to himself. “Okay, so you wear ties to work, right?”

 

Derek ends up on his back with both wrists tied to the headboard of his bed and Stiles straddling him, dick flushed and filling up already, starting to curve up against his belly. Stiles catches Derek looking and grins. “Enjoying the view?” he asks, giving himself a few slow strokes, and Derek watches, nods.

Then, Stiles starts touching him.

He touches Derek like he’s never seen him naked before. He touches Derek slowly and contemplatively, all over— he traces his fingertips along Derek’s forearms and biceps and runs his palms down Derek’s chest, watches Derek’s hips jolt upward as his fingers tip-toe lightly across the sensitive skin of Derek’s lower abdomen.

When his hands have finished their languid exploration of Derek’s body, Stiles starts exploring it all over again, this time with his mouth. The hard line of his dick juts up against Derek’s stomach, sending tingles to his crotch, as Stiles moves closer to drag his lips along the insides of Derek’s wrists. He rubs the tip of his nose against the hollow at the base of Derek’s throat before meticulously sucking a hickey into his skin. He watches the hickey disappear and does it again as Derek listens to the too-loud sound of his own shallow breathing and the roar of his pulse in his ears.

After what seems like an eternity, Stiles finally takes a break to come up and kiss Derek. The kiss starts out slow and lazy but grows sloppy and progressively filthier, until Derek has to break away to gulp in air.

Stiles doesn’t waste a second, starts working his way down again. He takes one of Derek’s nipples into his mouth, the corners of his lips twitching upward when Derek shudders helplessly. Stiles licks and suckles at Derek’s other nipple until it’s hard and wet and then he breathes on it, deliberately, and Derek is shivering and he can’t seem to stop, he can’t stop. Stiles is nosing at the trail of hair that runs down from his navel, sinking his teeth into the curve of Derek’s hipbone, letting his mouth graze along the insides of Derek’s thighs, and Derek can’t, he can’t take it anymore.

“Oh my God,” he says, his voice unrecognizably rough. “Fuck, you’re— you’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”

Stiles glances up at him, smiles sweetly, and starts mouthing at Derek’s balls.

Eventually Stiles jerks them off together, every muscle in Derek’s body quivering as he tries desperately to keep from coming too soon, from this being over too fast. From this being over at all. He finds he doesn’t want Stiles to stop, wants him to keep going forever, wants to always be the object of Stiles’ intent gaze and meticulous touch. He pushes the thought away, toes curling as the pace of Stiles’ strokes accelerates.

“You’ve been holding out on me,” Derek says hoarsely once Stiles has cleaned them both up and untied him. His entire body feels warm and heavy, loose. Stiles’ head is resting on his chest; Stiles is idly, unnecessarily, massaging one of Derek’s wrists.

“You really think so?” Stiles says, an undercurrent of amusement in his voice. “I don’t suggest stuff like this very often. Clients usually prefer it when they’re enjoying the sex more than I am.”

He says it flippantly enough, but it makes Derek feel like a stone has been dropped in his stomach. “Don’t say that,” he says.

Stiles raises his head, looks at him. “What?” he says, gently placing Derek’s forearm on his stomach and reaching for the other one with both hands, pressing the pads of his thumbs to either side of the pulse point. “It makes sense. I mean, I’m not paying them, they’re paying me. It makes sense that some of them want to act out certain fantasies, or don’t want to spend time on things like…” He trails off.

Derek doesn’t even want to know what Stiles means by certain fantasies; the words alone make his skin crawl. “Things like what?” he asks instead.

Stiles shrugs. “Well, I don’t— I mean, I’m just saying, like, the prep part isn’t exactly the sexiest part, is it?”

 


 

On the morning of their next appointment, Derek texts Stiles, Would you be okay with coming over unprepped tonight?

Stiles replies, Sure. Why?

You’ll see, Derek texts back, and Stiles sends him a smiley face.

When Stiles arrives, Derek has already fluffed up several pillows and placed them strategically in the middle of the bed. Once Stiles has gotten undressed and made himself comfortable, Derek kneels behind him and fingers him until he comes with deep, unabashed moans, dick untouched, hands clawing into the sheets, feet scrambling against the mattress.

“Fuck,” Stiles says emphatically when he’s caught his breath. His hair is tousled and dark with sweat, his bottom lip swollen and red from sucking it into his mouth or maybe from biting down on it. There’s a dazed expression on his face, one Derek recognizes from the mirror from when he goes to the bathroom after he and Stiles have had sex. He feels a little smug about that.

Actually, he feels a lot smug about that.

“Yeah?” he says, peeling off the plastic glove and throwing it in the trashcan along with the now-empty bottle of lube— he is nothing if not thorough. “Good.”

“Jesus Christ,” Stiles grunts, pressing his hands to his flushed cheeks. “Gimme a second here, will you? Jesus fucking Christ.”

“Take all the seconds you need,” Derek says. “You could also take a shower, if you want.”

Stiles lowers his hands, squints at him. “Are you implying that I stink?”

“Not at all,” Derek deadpans. “The only thing I’m implying is that my fingering technique is extraordinary enough to warrant a shower to cool down afterward.”

Stiles’ laugh is a thing of beauty; it’s loud and full-bodied, his eyes scrunching up, his hands fluttering around. Derek could probably watch Stiles laugh for hours without getting bored.

“Well, okay,” Stiles says, as he pushes himself up onto his elbows. “I’m not about to pass up a chance to play with your fifty-function shower head.” He pulls a face. “Whoa, I didn’t even mean for that to sound dirty.”

“My shower head only has five water functions,” Derek says. “I still don’t understand where you got the idea that I’m some sort of big-spender multimillionaire—”

“Your bathroom has a urinal,” Stiles says.

“How is that even unusual?” Derek protests.

Stiles crawls over to him and clumsily kisses him on the mouth while getting off the bed. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it, Mr. Hale. Just go find me a towel.”

 

Derek is twenty minutes into an episode of The Walking Dead when Stiles emerges from the bathroom again. He’s wearing his own shirt but a pair of Derek’s sweatpants, which hang low on his narrow hips. The sight of him makes Derek’s head whirl.

Stiles pads over to the couch and curls up to Derek’s side without hesitation. “What are we watching?” he says, reaching for Derek’s laptop screen to angle it back a few degrees, and all of it feels so natural, so right, that Derek has to give in, has to wrap an arm around Stiles and pull him closer, bury his nose in the nape of Stiles’ neck for a second, inhale deeply.

“You smell nice,” he murmurs almost involuntarily, and as he’s saying it he realizes that this is the first time he is able to smell Stiles without the interference of the scent masking products he uses. Maybe that’s what’s causing this heady, languorous feeling.

“Yeah, that’s what Scott says as well,” Stiles says. “He always gets extra cuddly after I’ve taken a shower. Keeps trying to convince me not to use deodorant, which, gross. Seriously, I don’t know what it is with you alphas.”

It’s an assumption people commonly make. Even though Derek wouldn’t want it to be true, not anymore, he still feels a dull ache somewhere in the vicinity of his midriff when he says, “I’m not.”

Stiles looks up at him. “You’re not what?”

“I’m not an alpha,” Derek says, flashing his eyes by way of proof.

Stiles studies them carefully. Derek holds still, tries not to let the weight of Stiles’ warm brown eyes affect him. It’s difficult. He’s just about to look away when Stiles says, slowly, “Okay, so I know red means alpha, and yellow means beta. What does blue mean?”

It means I had to mercy-kill my high school sweetheart, Derek doesn’t say. He’s not surprised that Stiles doesn’t know what his eye color says about him. It’s not exactly common knowledge, not even among the werewolf community. “It means I’m special,” he says, making his words drip with sarcasm.

Stiles barks out a laugh. “That you are,” he says, and he nestles himself against Derek’s side again. “Oh, The Walking Dead. Kira’s addicted to this show. She makes me and Scott watch it all the time.”

Scott, best friend. Kira, best friend’s girlfriend. Derek’s been paying attention, scooping up all the little bits and pieces of personal information Stiles chooses to bestow upon him, cradling them to his chest until they seep into his veins, the pathways of his brain. He doesn’t even really mean to do it; it just happens. “What do you like to watch?” he asks.

Stiles shrugs. “Anything, really,” he says vaguely, and makes clear that the bestowment of personal information is over for the time being by reaching for the space bar.

“Don’t let me fall asleep,” Stiles mumbles after a while, and Derek says, “Sure.”

Not ten minutes later, he can feel Stiles drifting off, his heart rate slowing down and his breathing deepening. “Stiles,” Derek says, shaking him a little. “Hey.”

“Shut up,” Stiles groans, pressing his face into Derek’s chest.

“Hey, you’re the one who told me not to let you fall asleep,” Derek says. “I’m just following orders here.”

Stiles sits up and scowls at him, then stretches out. “Yeah, I should be heading home,” he says in a sleep-rough voice, scrubbing a hand through his hair, and then suddenly his eyes widen, the distinct tang of norepinephrine entering his scent as his heartbeat spikes. “Fuck, we didn’t—”

“We’ve done everything I wanted us to do tonight,” Derek reassures him, and Stiles looks skeptical but doesn’t argue.

 


 

After that night, they start doing different things more often. Instead of merely anticipating Derek’s wants, Stiles starts suggesting and initiating things that he seems to enjoy— really enjoy, even more than everything they already did before. The fingering was one of those things, tying Derek up and excruciatingly slowly dragging an orgasm out of him another. But there are other things, too.

Stiles likes it when Derek murmurs words of praise into his ear while they have sex. He likes coming on Derek; it makes him all quiet and pliant, rosy-cheeked, mouth soft as he looks up at Derek with big eyes and rubs his come into Derek’s skin. One time when Derek is on top of him, Stiles tilts his head back and shoves his hands into Derek’s hair and pulls his head down. Derek takes the hint and carefully, carefully sucks a mark into the side of Stiles’ throat, and Stiles goes completely still under him, breathing coming rapid, jagged, loud.

The first time Stiles brings a toy, he whips it out of his bag confidently, but the tips of his ears are pink and Derek can hear his heart beating fast. Derek takes the toy and fucks Stiles with it until he has moaned himself hoarse, until he’s spurting come all over his stomach and the sheets, until he collapses onto his stomach and pushes his face into Derek’s pillow and continues moaning helplessly into it as Derek fucks him through the aftershocks of his orgasm.

 

Stiles gradually becomes less sparing in his bestowment of bits and pieces of personal information. Derek learns that he grew up in a small town “somewhere up north”; that Stiles played lacrosse in high school (“I sucked so bad, I drove our coach insane,”) and that he and Scott have known each other “since, like, basically forever”. He learns that Stiles’ favorite pizza topping is ham and pineapple (“Don’t pull that face, mister, Hawaiian pizza is the best, I will fight you on this,”) and that Stiles writes.

“Not, like, seriously,” Stiles says, with an eye-roll. “I mean, it’s just a blog. I post, y’know, funny things, social commentary, that sort of thing. Under a pseudonym, of course.”

That’s another thing Derek learns, much to his surprise: that Stiles Stilinski is Stiles’ actual name. There’s something in Stiles’ voice when he talks about this that tells Derek he shouldn’t ask any more questions— like when Stiles had been telling him about college and Derek had asked him what he’d majored in and Stiles had gone rigid and distant almost straight away.

Derek does wonder about it later, though, wonders about the circumstances under which someone might conceivably feel more comfortable using their real name when going into porn and prostitution than when starting a writing blog. The kinds of scenarios he comes up with make his stomach curl.

 


 

Derek fell in love with a girl for the first time, and a few months later she was bleeding to death in his arms. He met the woman he thought he would marry, and a few weeks later she burned his parents’ house down with them inside. He inherited the alpha power he’d once coveted— because Laura killed herself after the fire. He became CEO of his parents’ company, something he’d fantasized about as a kid, and he had to step down because he couldn’t deal with the pressure.

Of course, he’s reminded of all this when this thing with Stiles—this good thing with Stiles—comes to an end.

 


 

Something’s off; Derek knows it the moment Stiles comes in. He can’t smell it on him, but he can sense it, somehow.

“What’s wrong?” he mumbles against Stiles’ mouth.

“Well, the fact that your dick is not inside me right now, for starters,” Stiles says without missing a beat, but Derek has already detected the spike in his heart rate.

He pulls back, says, “If you’re—”

“I’m just tired, that’s all,” Stiles interrupts him. “It’s been a pretty long week.” He pats Derek’s biceps. “C’mon, big guy, lemme give you a nice blowjob. That’ll cheer me up.”

Derek allows Stiles to guide him to the bed. Once they’re naked, though, he gets Stiles to lie back and goes down on him instead of the other way around. He knows he’s not as good at this as Stiles is, but he enjoys it nonetheless— Stiles’ choked-back noises, his quiet monosyllabic mutterings (“Yeah”, “Fuck”, “Derek”), his habits of petting the hair behind Derek’s ears and trailing his fingertips up and down the sides of Derek’s neck in a way that makes heat pool in his stomach.

He loves the way Stiles smells down here, loves the fact that no scent-masking product would ever be able to fully suppress that mouth-watering smell. He loves the way Stiles feels around him, hot and tight, when he works two lubed-up fingers into him, feels for the right spot.

“Oh, fuck,” Stiles gasps, hips twitching up from the mattress, and then, when Derek touches his prostate again, “fuck, wait, wait, I want you to…” He paws at Derek’s shoulder, grabs wildly for a condom with his other hand.

While Derek is sinking inside, Stiles is murmuring encouragements, his legs locking eagerly around Derek’s waist, but Derek can feel his attention slip away again after the first few dizzying thrusts. He pauses. Stiles slides an arm around his neck to pull him down, grabs Derek’s chin with his other hand to tilt it up and kiss him, but—

Derek pushes up onto his hands. Stiles frowns up at him.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asks.

“Nothing,” Stiles says, stone-faced.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not— nothing’s wrong,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “I’m just a little distracted today, okay? I’m sorry.” He makes eye contact again, winks. “I’ll feel better when you fuck me for real, though.”

Derek studies Stiles’ face, tries to tease apart truth from mask. He likes to think he’s become good at telling when Stiles is putting up a front and when he’s being sincere, but sometimes it’s impossible. This is one of those times. “Are you sure?” he says.

Stiles sighs. “Yes, I’m sure. Something happened today that— I saw someone today who reminded me of things I don’t really like to be reminded of,” he says. “Things that are in the past now. That’s it. All right? You gonna fuck me now or what?”

“I don’t know,” Derek says. “Maybe.” He ducks his head, presses a kiss to Stiles’ collarbone.

“So that’s how it is, huh,” Stiles says, a teasing note in his voice. “My attention drifts for a second and suddenly I’m the one who has to do all the work here.” He starts grinding down, to the extent that he can in this position, clenching deliberately around Derek. Derek bites down on the inside of his cheek, tries to resist meeting Stiles’ movements.

“Oh, fuck,” Stiles murmurs, eyes glazed and half-lidded as he continues to rock down on Derek’s dick shallowly. “Please,” he says now, voice low, fingers curling around Derek’s jaw, pulling him down again. Their mouths meet briefly, sloppily. “Please fuck me,” Stiles whispers against Derek’s lips. “C’mon, Derek.” There’s a dark, playful glint in his eyes when he says, impatiently, “Come on, Derek, you know you can’t resist me.”

And Derek gives in, presses his face to the long inviting line of Stiles’ neck, thinks, as he thrusts into Stiles, as Stiles pants harshly into his ear and fingernails dig into the skin of his shoulders, I know, I know.

They lie side by side afterward, Stiles’ breathing slowing down and evening out within seconds after he’s come. Derek cards his fingers through the silky-soft hair at the back of Stiles’ neck. He strokes one of the faint bags under Stiles’ eyes with the pad of his thumb, watches Stiles’ closed eyelids twitch, and for the first time he dares to admit to himself that he’s in too deep.

 


 

Three days later, he gets a text from Stiles. Derek, I have to cancel our next appointment, I’m sorry. I’ll let you know more when I know more.

After that, Derek doesn’t hear from him again for over a week. He doesn’t get a response to his reply (That’s fine. Next Friday?). From Monday onward, there’s a constant buzz of agitation under his skin. By Thursday, he’s convinced that something is wrong.

“He said something about someone reminding him of things he didn’t want to be reminded of,” Derek tells Erica. “What does that mean? Do you think that means he’s in trouble?”

“Just text him again, Derek,” Erica says, casting her eyes upward. “God. He’s not a street worker, so it’s not that likely that he’s dead in a ditch somewhere.”

“Thanks, Erica, that’s really helpful and not at all insensitive,” Derek says.

He texts Stiles again. Is everything okay?

His phone buzzes with a response almost straight away, and his heart starts pounding. Stiles’ text reads, Thank you for inquiring after my services. However, I’m currently in an exclusive contract and therefore unavailable.

That doesn’t answer my question, are you okay? Derek sends back.

Within a few seconds his phone buzzes again. Thank you for inquiring after my services. However, I’m currently in an exclusive contract and therefore unavailable.

Derek puts his phone away.

He tells himself it’s fine.

 


 

He texts Stiles a few more times and emails him twice. Each time he gets the same automatically generated response. Thank you for inquiring after my services. However, I’m currently in an exclusive contract and therefore unavailable.

Again, he tells himself it’s fine.

“Exclusive contract,” Erica echoes when he shows her the message. “So what, he’s like a kept boy now?”

“Sounds like it,” Isaac says. “Dude, sucks to be you. That really blows. I’m sorry.”

“At least you’re free for Friday night drinks again,” Boyd says. “It’s been rough without you, man. Isaac’s pool skills make grown men cry.”

“Fuck you,” Isaac says, flicking a piece of paper at Boyd from across the conference table.

There’s a headache brewing behind Derek’s eyes. He says, “Can we just get this meeting started, please?”

 

Erica follows him to his office afterward. “Derek,” she says when she’s closed the door. “I should apologize.”

“It’s not your fault,” Derek says, leaning back against his desk. His chest feels hollow.

“It kind of is, actually,” Erica says.

Derek shakes his head. “You sent him to me once,” he says. “I’m the one who kept asking him to come back.”

“I thought it was a good thing,” Erica says. “For you. You were— you were relaxed, content. I thought…” She gestures vaguely. “I thought it was a good thing,” she repeats.

“Yeah,” Derek says. “Me, too.”

Which must be why, more than anything else, he feels resigned. He knows the drill by now: when good things happen, bad things follow. In his life, good things that stay good are few and far between. He’d already blown through his allocated share of good things for the past year. Stiles had been a windfall, a bonus. A gift.

Derek knows better than to be surprised that he is gone now, too.

Erica smiles softly, sympathetically, at him before leaving. Derek twirls a pen around in his hands. He imagines Cora wearily shaking her head at him. “You never change, Derek. Falling in love with a hooker? Really?”

 


 

That Friday night, he calls Malia.

It’s a relief to slip into his wolf skin; he can barely resist the urge to throw back his head and howl at the moon, let it all out. Instead he races after Malia. She’s smaller than him, light on her feet, but he manages to catch up with her eventually and tackle her to the ground. She mouths at his throat, playfully, and he snaps back at her. When his jaws clamp around her front paw too harshly she yelps and limps backward on three paws, then growls, eyes flashing. Derek crouches, makes a noise, licks her paw by way of apology when she inches closer again.

“Okay, listen up,” Malia says when they’re stretched out on his couch afterward, she using a serving spoon to scoop ice cream out of a tub, he with his phone in his hands and her socked feet in his lap. “I totally get that you’re heartbroken or whatever, but don’t you dare try to take it out on me like that. Next time I’ll scratch your eyes out, we clear?”

“I’m not heartbroken or whatever,” Derek says, checking his messages again.

“You need ice cream,” Malia says. She holds the tub out to him. “Here.”

“I’m fine,” Derek says. “I don’t need ice cream.”

Malia shrugs. “Suit yourself. More for me.” She spoons up another mouthful of ice cream. Then she says, “Why were you dating a hooker anyway? That’s not a thing people normally do, is it?”

“I don’t know,” Derek says. “I guess not, no.” He checks his phone again.

 


 

He keeps telling himself it’s fine.

The thing is, he hadn’t realized how big a part of his life Stiles had become; how much the reliable expectation of a few hours with Stiles at the end of the week had meant to him. Even though they had only met on Fridays, the brightness of Stiles’ presence had somehow lit up every day, permeated every aspect of Derek’s life. Had made it different, made it lighter. It wasn’t even just the sex— Derek missed listening to Stiles’ stories, missed watching him talk. He missed hearing him laugh.

Pathetic, Cora’s voice says in the back of his mind.

And it is. It is pathetic. It’s pathetic that Derek, on the third Friday night without him, surfs to Stiles’ website to watch one of his porn videos just to see his face again. It’s pathetic that he has to exit out of the page within minutes because seeing Stiles’ face without being able to reach out and touch it, kiss it, makes the center of his chest and the back of his throat ache. It’s pathetic that his human form feels so— so cramped, so cluttered with sharp-edged feelings that he decides to shift.

It’s pathetic that eventually, after aimlessly trotting around his apartment and failing to get comfortable on the couch, he curls up on the foot of his bed, covers his nose with his tail, closes his eyes, tries not to think of this side of the bed as Stiles’ side.

 


 

Three more weeks pass before Derek sees Stiles again.

It happens when he least expects it. He’s on a coffee run. He has just pushed into the Starbucks around the corner from their office building and is waiting in line, idly tapping his foot, watching the barista take orders, letting his gaze drift, when suddenly, there, at the far end of the coffee bar, is—

Stiles. It’s Stiles.

With every passing day, Stiles had seemed not only further away but also, strangely, like he’d never existed. Like Derek had made him up, dreamed those big eyes and that delicate jawline into being. It startles him to see Stiles like this, materialized once again, not a figment of Derek’s masochistic imagination; real after all, doing something as mundane as waiting for coffee while wearing a faded, oversized hoodie of an undeterminable color, the sleeves falling past his hands.

Derek’s chest aches.

He also appears to be moving. He has left the line, is pushing his way through the crowded Starbucks, murmuring apologies here and there. Stiles has received his drink; he’s picking it up with both hands, cradling it between his palms, turning away from the bar, head down. Derek, heart pounding, stops moving.

Stiles doesn’t. He walks straight into Derek, cup bursting open, a wave of coffee and whipped cream and God knows what else spilling down the front of Derek’s suit. There are gasps; there’s a brief moment of semi-shocked, semi-amused silence before the rush hour coffee shop noise comes flooding back in. People are gaping, and Stiles—

Stiles hasn’t even looked up, just says, “Fuck, fuck, I’m sorry,” and tries to push past Derek.

“Stiles,” Derek says, incredulous, and Stiles’ head snaps up. He’s wild-eyed, his cheeks blotched.

“Derek,” he says, and then, voice tight, panicked, “I can’t— I can’t fucking deal with this right now, I,” and pushes past Derek.

Derek’s ears are ringing. “Stiles,” he says, grabbing for Stiles’ wrist, but Stiles slaps his hand away, snaps, “Don’t touch me,” and his eyes are wet and Derek doesn’t know what to do, so he just trails after Stiles, follows him through the throngs of people; whispering people, staring people.

Outside, Stiles stops moving, finally. He sags back against the brick wall and covers his face with his hands. His breathing is ragged, his chest rising and falling choppily. His heart is beating faster than Derek has ever heard it beat and Derek doesn’t know what to do. “Is there anything I can do?” he asks.

“Don’t touch me,” Stiles says through his hands. “Don’t talk to me. But don’t go,” he adds. “I just— just give me a second, all right?”

Derek waits. He dabs at the coffee stain on his chest with his sleeve. The suit is ruined, but his burned skin has healed already. Only a dull itch remains. Derek rubs at it and looks at Stiles, who is still standing with his back pressed against the wall and his hands pressed against his face, catching his breath. Derek tries not to focus on the unmistakable smell of another werewolf that is overlaying Stiles’ scent.

“Okay,” Stiles says after a while, scrubbing his hands down his face before lowering them. They’re shaking. “I’m here. Hi.”

“Hi,” Derek says. Even in his faded oversized hoodie and with his blotched cheeks and his unhappily pinched face, Stiles looks— “It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too,” Stiles says. His gaze flits down to the coffee stain on Derek’s chest. “I’m sorry about that. I— all those fucking people staring, I just—” His voice trembles, and he looks away.

“It’s fine,” Derek says. “I’m just…” He doesn’t know what he is. “Glad to see you,” he finishes.

“I’m glad to see you too,” Stiles says, giving Derek a soft smile, but then his face falls. “I should probably go,” he says.

“Me too,” Derek says. “Let me get you a new coffee first, though, I—”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“But I’m wearing yours,” Derek protests.

Stiles shakes his head. “I’m in an exclusive contract,” he says. “I’m not even supposed to be talking to you.” He looks away again. His hands have stopped shaking.

Derek’s stomach sinks. “It’s just coffee,” he says dumbly. “Does being in an exclusive contract mean you can’t even accept coffee from—” He cuts off, doesn’t even know what he was going to say. A friend? Another client? He finds he’s refusing to think a former client.

Stiles laughs bleakly. “In this case it does,” he says, and pushes away from the wall. “I’m sorry for ruining your suit.” He starts walking away.

“Stiles,” Derek says, and then, when Stiles doesn’t stop moving, “Stiles, please.”

Stiles stops moving, looks over his shoulder.

“Are you in trouble?” Derek asks helplessly. “Because if you are, I could— there are options—”

“I’m not in trouble,” Stiles says, voice flat, emotionless. “Let it go, Derek.”

As he stands there, watching Stiles recede down the sidewalk, Derek thinks it sounded a lot like let me go.

 


 

The only reason why Derek agrees to Erica’s plan is because of the way Stiles had looked. Even before he’d panicked, Stiles had looked pale, tired, and his voice had sounded— he’d sounded listless, resigned. He hadn’t sounded like himself at all. His heart hadn’t skipped a beat when he said he wasn’t in trouble, but Stiles, Derek knows, is an expert at omitting the full truth of things when he feels like it. This is in Stiles’ best interest; that’s the only reason why Derek agrees.

“Better safe than sorry,” Erica says, catching Derek’s eye and, apparently, reading his mind. “And you know Danny, he’ll be very discreet. Everything he finds will stay between the three of us.”

“Still feels wrong,” Derek says. “Prying into someone else’s life without their permission or knowledge.”

“It’ll feel better once we’ve saved him from the claws of a gang of human traffickers. Or drug dealers. Or serial killers,” Erica says, pulling a face when Derek gives her a look. “What? Things like that happen, you know.”

“I do know. Thank you for reminding me.”

“Well, I—” Erica starts, but then Danny enters the conference room and she zeroes in on him instead. “And?” she says.

“And, I found loads of information,” Danny says, dumping a pile of papers and manila folders on the table. “Your friend’s an interesting one.”

He’s not my friend, Derek wants to say, but then he catches sight of a grainy black-and-white picture of a much younger Stiles, standing with his arms wrapped proudly around a man who looks to be his father. He leans in closer.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty tragic backstory,” Danny says, tapping the print-out. It’s a news article, Derek sees; the headline mentions a Sheriff Stilinski. “Mother died of brain disease when he was eight, father got shot on the job and was in a coma for a couple of years before kicking it. I didn’t print the hospital bills, because even just looking at them has scarred me for life. I could email them to you if you want.”

Derek doesn’t respond. His ears are ringing, but it’s not the man in the picture he’s seeing in his mind.

“Do you want to stop?” Erica says, touching his wrist. “We—”

“No,” Derek says tersely. “Danny, when did all this happen? Do you have a timeline?”

“Dad died when he was a few years into college,” Danny says, browsing through the papers. “Hold on, let me check.”

Erica blinks at the piece of paper in her hands. “He majored in Criminal Justice and did a minor in Lycanthropy Studies,” she says. “That’s interesting.” She picks up another sheet. “Hey, I’ve heard of this blog. Does he run it?”

“Yeah, he’s a pretty good writer,” Danny says. “Loads of monthly traffic, too. It’s pretty impressive. But that’s not the most interesting part— found it.” He grabs one of the manila folders. “Okay, so I stumbled upon an encrypted FBI file. Needless to say it’s not encrypted anymore.”

“Jesus,” Erica says. “What? Derek, have you been fucking an undercover—”

“It’s not something like that,” Danny says. “It’s pretty sad, actually. He’d gotten a conditional job offer for when he finished college, but they pulled it back because of his involvement in illegal activities. Looks like it was all very hush-hush, there’s only one agent who signed off on the case.”

Erica is nodding slowly. “Right,” she says. “Okay. Cop dad, Criminal Justice major. What are we thinking? Dad gets shot, hospital bills are racking up high, he starts turning tricks, gets found out by his future employer who cuts him some slack by, y’know, not sending him to jail, daddy dies and suddenly he’s an orphan with sky-high hospital bills and student loans and a useless degree but a lucrative business as an escort?”

“That’s kind of what I’d gathered, yeah,” Danny says.

Derek feels sick. “Did you find anything more recent?” he asks. “Did you find out what he’s caught up in now?”

“Not exactly,” Danny says. “But I did found this.” He slides an article in Derek’s direction. “He was involved in Deucalion’s porn business a couple of years back.”

“You’re kidding,” Derek says.

Ruthless, Derek’s mother had always called Deucalion; powerful but unloved, except by those as callous as him. About a decade ago, he’d set back the werewolves’ rights movement years by essentially attempting to incite werewolves to seize power— an inevitability, in Deucalion’s eyes; a development that should happen the sooner the better. These days he operated mostly on the fringes of society, clinging to the old ways. It’d been years since the last time Derek had heard his name.

“Well, fuck,” Erica says. “That’s— fuck.”

Derek stares at the piece of paper. He vaguely remembers a conversation with Stiles; vaguely remembers the warmth of Stiles’ cheek against his chest, remembers Stiles saying he was glad to be doing what he was doing now, running his own business, making his own choices. It didn’t make sense for Stiles to go back into porn.

Not voluntarily, at least.

“Okay,” Erica says. She claps her hands. “So? How do we proceed from here?”

Derek shakes his head. His voice sounds hollow when he says, “I have no idea.”

 


 

The answer walks into their office building three days later.

“Derek,” Erica says from the doorway of his office. “You have a visitor.”

It’s Stiles. It’s Stiles, with his hands thrust into the front pocket of the same hoodie he was wearing when Derek ran into him at Starbucks. Erica flashes Derek a brief smile of encouragement and closes the door.

“Hey,” Stiles says, looking back at the closed door and then at Derek again. “I’m sorry to have come here, I just— I’m assuming these walls are soundproof and shit, right?”

“Right,” Derek says. “All the necessary precautions.”

He has to force himself to stay seated, to not give in to the primal urge to jump to his feet and touch Stiles and scent-mark him and take him home and draw him a bath and order him food and wrap him up in soft warm clothes. You’re such a fucking sap, Cora would say.

It could just be Derek’s imagination, but Stiles seems even paler than last time. There are dark circles under his eyes. There’s also a look of grim determination on his face that Derek has never seen on Stiles before.

“I didn’t lie,” Stiles says. “I’m not in trouble.” His gaze flits around the room, lands on the couch against the back wall, but he doesn’t sit down, continues to hover near the door. “You might be, though.”

Derek frowns, waits for him to continue.

Stiles takes a deep breath. “You’re probably familiar with Deucalion’s pack.”

Derek’s stomach goes cold, even though Danny’s research had already pointed them in this direction. He nods.

“Ever done business with the guy?”

Derek shakes his head.

“Okay, so here’s my advice: don’t,” Stiles says, smiling wryly. “He’s a fucking snake and he can’t be trusted. Promise me that if he ever approaches you about anything, don’t believe a word he says.”

“Deucalion is your exclusive contract,” Derek says.

Stiles nods.

“Does he hurt you?” Derek asks, managing to keep his voice from shaking. He grabs onto the rim of his desk for support. “Is he forcing you to—”

Stiles lets out a joyless laugh, shakes his head. “No,” he says. “It’s not like that. It’s the opposite of that, actually. He’s not forcing me to do anything. He just buys me presents and expensive clothes and takes me for dinner and brings me along to parties to parade me around.” He lets out the same not-quite-a-laugh again. “This is about ownership and status more than anything else. When Deucalion sees something he wants, he gets it. That’s how it goes.”

“And now he wants you,” Derek says, voice toneless.

“And now he wants me back,” Stiles corrects him. “I worked for him before. Years ago, when—” He cuts himself off, looks at the floor. “Anyway, that doesn’t matter now. He was never happy about me leaving in the first place. He’s wanted me back for years and now he’s got me back. I just wanted to warn you. Don’t trust him, okay?” He turns back to the door.

“So you’re staying,” Derek says. “You’re staying with him.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I have to.”

“No, you don’t,” Derek says.

“Yes I do, actually.”

“Stiles,” Derek says. “You shouldn’t— if this is just about the money—”

Stiles twists around again. “Of course it’s not about the money. It’s not about the money at all, Derek, Jesus, do you even— I could live off your money. I stopped taking on new clients after I met you, okay? Meeting you was one of the best fucking things that happened to me in a long time. You made me feel like I had a way out. You made me want a way out.”

Derek’s pulse is pounding in his ears. “But I thought…”

“What, you thought all my clients treat me the way you treated me?” Stiles says hotly. “Hell, maybe you even thought I treat all my clients the way I treated you. You think I stay for four hours and charge them for only half of them because we spent the other two hours eating sushi and talking and I don’t even want to overcharge them because it would feel wrong? Jesus Christ, Derek. You really think everyone’s as nice as you?”

“But—”

“But what? Just because I have a nice-looking website and charge a shitload of money and call myself an escort rather than a whore you think I have a nice clientele? Is that it? I fuck people for money, Derek,” Stiles yells at him. “The kind of people who pay for sex aren’t usually like you.”

“So stop,” Derek says, “stop, quit, don’t do this, ditch Deucalion, why—”

“Because I told him he had nothing on me,” Stiles says in a softer voice. “I reminded him that I had nothing left to lose. Which was true, for a long time. But then he reminded me that now I do have something to lose.”

It’s too much information to process all at once; Derek’s mind is reeling. It takes a while for the implication of Stiles’ words to sink in. When it does, Derek feels like his heart lifts and shatters at the same time. It’s a bizarre feeling.

“He’s using me as leverage,” Derek says. “Over you.”

Stiles nods. “He promised me he wouldn’t try anything funny, and I believe him, for now, but I wanted you to know. I wanted you to be careful. He reminded me that, unlike me, you have a whole fucking lot to lose, and your entire kind with you.” He snorts. “I tried to remind him that your kind is his kind as well, but I should’ve known that doesn’t matter to him much. Duke’s never been too concerned with anyone but himself.”

“Stiles,” Derek says. “I want to help. Let me help.”

“I came here to warn you. I didn’t come here for your help.”

“Please,” Derek says, “let me—”

“Stop it,” Stiles spits at him. “I don’t need you to save me, all right? I don’t need your help, I’m not some sort of pathetic fuck-up you found on a street corner—”

“I don’t see you that way at all,” Derek says, perplexed, “why would you—”

Stiles lets himself fall back onto the couch, face in his hands. Derek can hear his heart racing. He remembers the pointers Stiles gave him when they were standing outside Starbucks— don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me. Don’t go. Derek doesn’t move, doesn’t say anything.

“I’m leaving now,” Stiles says when his heart rate has slowed down again. “Don’t try to stop me.”

“Okay,” Derek says softly, and he watches Stiles go.

Then, he presses the button on his desk phone. “Erica,” he says.

“Yeah?”

“Did you catch all that? Because I’m assuming you did.”

“We’re going to do something about this, right?” Erica says by way of answer. “He basically just declared his love for you, we can’t let that creep have him, you’ve got to—”

“Of course we’re going to do something about this,” Derek says. “But I need you with me.”

“Damn right I’m with—”

“I mean, I need for there to be one of my pack members present when I confront Deucalion,” Derek says, and he waits for Erica to fully grasp what he’s saying.

“Oh my God, you’re going to challenge him,” Erica says slowly, reverently. “Really? You’re going to involve pack law in this? You’re going to try to banish him? Derek—”

“I know what I’m doing,” Derek says. “This is the best way to deal with this. Trust me.”

 


 

The years haven’t been kind to Deucalion. He looks meaner than Derek remembers him looking; his skin is coarser, his face sharper, more angular.

He still talks in dramatic movie quotes, though.

“Consider me charmed, Derek,” Deucalion says loftily. “It’s been quite a while since the last time I found myself called to a clearing in the woods by the leader of another pack. Very quaint. Feels a lot like the old days your parents helped to eradicate by aligning forces with the humans, instead of allowing our species to continue growing stronger in the shadows until it was time for us to strike.”

Behind him, Deucalion’s dark-haired beta snarls. Erica reacts with a low growl.

“I’m glad you brought one of your pack members as well,” Derek says, ignoring Deucalion’s spiel. “That will speed up the process considerably.”

“Really now,” Deucalion says, amused. “Should I take this to mean you’re not just here to threaten me, to persuade me to let the human out of his contract? I have to admit, Derek, his loyalty to you impressed me. It also made taking back what’s mine a lot easier. I suppose I should thank you for that.”

“I’m not here to reason with you,” Derek says, feeling his claws dig into his palms. He uncurls his hands to show them openly. “I’m here to challenge you.”

He can hear the effect his words have on Deucalion, hear the rise in his blood pressure, the uptick in his heartbeat. Deucalion bares his teeth in a cold smile. Behind him, his beta does the same.

“Really now,” Deucalion says in a low, mocking tone of voice. “You’d be foolish enough to challenge me, one of the most powerful alphas in the state, to a territorial dispute over the ownership of a human. A human whore.”

Derek lets his eyes flash. “You’d be foolish to accept a challenge from Talia Hale’s heir instead of running away with your tail between your legs now you still can,” he says.

“Talia Hale,” Deucalion says quietly. “But then of course, that name doesn’t mean much these days. Not after your parents’… unfortunate demise. The underwhelming collapse of a once-great family.”

Derek growls. Deucalion smiles again.

“I accept your challenge, Derek Hale,” he says, flashing his own claws, eyes bleeding red. “If it’s your wish to die for a human, so be it.”

“I was thinking banishment, actually. Not necessarily a fight to the death,” Derek says. “But if you’d rather die than relocate your pack…”

Deucalion’s face twitches. “You can still back out of this, you know,” he says as he grows taller, his voice rough, his skin turning a sickly shade of gray. “There’s no shame in changing your mind.”

“Shut up,” Derek says, and he attacks, shifting mid-leap.

 


 

“You never told me you could change into an actual wolf,” Stiles says, wide-eyed, when Derek wakes up. “This is the sickest shit ever.”

He’s stroking Derek’s head. It feels good. Comforting. Derek closes his eyes again. He thinks he’s home; it smells like home. Home and pack and Stiles.

“He can hear me, right?” Stiles says to someone. “When he’s like this? Or—”

“Of course he can hear you,” Erica’s voice says. “It’s still him. Just in his full wolf form.”

“I didn’t even know something like this was, like, scientifically possible,” Stiles says. “How—”

“He’s special,” Erica says, with barely concealed pride in her voice. “It’s incredibly rare. The trait runs in his family, but it doesn’t get passed on to the next generation automatically. On the contrary, it has to be earned. His uncle lost his mind and went on a self-destructive murder spree after trying to force the full shift.”

Stiles is still petting Derek’s head with both hands, moving on to his muzzle. Derek stretches out, luxuriates in the feeling. Stiles tugs gently at one of his ears. “When will he turn back?” he says. “Or is he stuck like—”

“Oh my God,” Erica says. “You’re not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, are you? You’d think Derek would risk his life and the fate of our pack, of our company, and, by association, the entire werewolves’ rights movement,” she says pointedly, and Derek winces, “for someone a little quicker on their feet. Of course he’s not stuck like this. He knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s easier for him to let this form heal fully before shifting back, otherwise the healing process would take longer. He took a pretty serious battering back there.”

“Erica told me you almost ripped out Duke’s throat,” Stiles says to Derek. There’s awe in his voice. Derek preens a little. “Kinda wish you had.”

“Except you kinda don’t,” Erica says, “because that’s the point at which werewolf law starts overlapping with official law and your loverboy here would’ve bought himself a one-way ticket to werewolf jail. But Deucalion and his buddies are unofficially, magically banned from this state. Our emissary is updating the pack line as we speak. None of those who carry his scent mark will be able to get through, and you’ll be safe from him wherever you go as long as you carry ours or our symbol.”

“I have no idea what half the words you just said mean, but banishment and safety sound good enough to me,” Stiles says. He cards his fingers through the fur at the back of Derek’s neck, nuzzles his face into it. “Thank you, big guy,” he murmurs into Derek’s coat, and Derek makes a noise, thumps his tail against Stiles’ thigh.

 


 

Derek waits for Stiles to leave the room (he strains his ears, listens to Stiles wander around the living room and settle in on the couch with Derek’s iPad) before turning back. His human form feels as strained and bruised as his wolf form; all his muscles are aching. He drags himself to the bathroom and takes a long shower, washes his blood off his skin and scrubs Deucalion’s blood out of his hair.

When he gets back to his bedroom, Stiles is sitting on the bed.

“Hi,” Derek says.

“Hi,” Stiles says. “Erica went to talk to some people whose names I’ve forgotten. Other members of your pack, probably. She made me promise to keep an eye on you.” He smiles at Derek. “She also told me that she adores my blog and that she was just saying all those things about tools and sheds to make you feel bad. I think I like her.”

“Good,” Derek says. He drinks in the sight of Stiles— his mouth, his face, his tousled hair. He drinks in the fact that Stiles is sitting on his bed. He hadn’t dared to hope for that to happen ever again.

Stiles must be misinterpreting Derek’s taciturnity, because he says, “I could— I hope it’s all right that I’m here.”

“Of course,” Derek says. “Of course it is.” He pauses, realizes that maybe— “Erica has explained everything to you, right? She did tell you that you don’t have to stay with us?” he says. “You don’t— our protection stands even when you’re…” When you’re not with me. He doesn’t want to say it, but he does want Stiles to know that he’s free to go, free to choose.

“I know,” Stiles says. “She told me.” He gets to his feet, starts walking toward Derek. “I wanted to stay,” he says quietly. “No one’s ever fought someone for me before, you know that? You’re really something, Mr. Hale.”

He’s standing right in front of Derek now. “May I?” he asks, touching the towel around Derek’s waist, and Derek nods, struck wordless by Stiles’ scent, the tilt of his chin, the length of his eyelashes, the fact of his presence.

“Good,” Stiles breathes, and then the towel is gone and his warm hands are on Derek’s skin, and they’re kissing and it’s frantic— more frantic than it’s ever been before, or so it seems to Derek. Maybe it just seems that way because it’s been so long since the last time they did this. Stiles makes a quiet noise when Derek wraps his arms around Stiles’ waist and pulls him closer, Stiles’ fully dressed body aligned with his completely naked one.

“I missed you,” Stiles murmurs against Derek’s mouth, and those three words are better than all the things he’d said in Derek’s office— better than meeting you was one of the best fucking things that happened to me in a long time and you made me want a way out and now I do have something to lose. It’s simple, concrete, honest, and it makes Derek shiver with how much he’s missed Stiles too, how much he’s missed this too.

He knows he wouldn’t be able to put it into words, so instead he crowds Stiles back and down onto the bed, crawls on top of him, kisses his nose, his jaw, his neck. Stiles’ eyes are dark; he’s got one hand curled around the back of Derek’s neck, the other one sliding down Derek’s back, coming to rest in the dip above his ass.

“Are you healed enough for this?” Stiles asks in a low voice, and Derek answers the questions by starting to thumb at the button of Stiles’ pants. Stiles laughs, lifts his hips to allow Derek to get rid of them. He strips out of his shirt, and then they’re both naked, naked and eager, touching each other everywhere. Stiles’ hand finds Derek’s dick, and Derek’s hand finds Stiles’ dick, and that’s as far they get— the two of them jerking each other off, laughing breathily against each other’s mouths and stifling gasps in the curves of each other’s necks.

As soon as the haze of orgasm starts pulling away, the weight of soreness and fatigue descends on Derek again. They’re lying side by side; Stiles’ fingers are brushing through the hair at the Derek’s neck, and Derek focuses on the feeling, tries to keep from drifting off. The combination of his warmly aching muscles and the heat of Stiles’ body next to his is making it difficult, but he wants to stay awake, wants to continue to look at Stiles’ face, wants to continue to feel his touch, wants to continue to be reminded that this is real.

 


 

When Derek opens his eyes again, Stiles is standing next to the bed, dressed, twirling his phone around in his hands.

Derek blinks a few times, pushes up onto one elbow. He gathers the sheets around his middle. He says, voice rough, “You’re leaving.”

Stiles tenses up, glances at him. “I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t want to.” He pauses. “But I was considering it, yeah.”

Derek’s stomach clenches into a tight ball. “You can go,” he says. “Of course you can go. We won’t retract our protection, even if you never speak to any of us again we can—”

When he looks up at Stiles, Stiles’ eyes are shining.

“I don’t want to never speak to you again,” Stiles says miserably. “But it’s—” He looks at the floor, swallows.

Derek waits.

“I don’t know how to do any of this,” Stiles says, sitting down on the edge of the mattress. Derek’s heart jolts hopefully. “I got into the business when I was nineteen, okay, I’ve never…” He trails off. “This,” he says, gesturing between the two of them. “I don’t know how to do this.” He huffs out a laugh. “I know how to fuck, I know how to— but I don’t know how to…” He shakes his head. “You fucking fought someone for me, Derek. I don’t—”

“My high school girlfriend, she died,” Derek says, and Stiles blinks at him. “I— she’d been attacked, by a feral werewolf, and she asked me to…”

Stiles is still looking at him, big-eyed.

“That’s what my eye color means,” Derek says. “That’s what blue means. Blue marks a werewolf who has taken the life of an innocent person.”

The words weigh down heavily on his tongue. Stiles moves as though to reach for him but deciding against it halfway through. He puts his hands into his lap, threads his fingers together.

“And you probably know that most of my family died in a fire,” Derek says. His throat closes up like it does every time he tries to talk about this, but he continues regardless, wants Stiles to know— needs Stiles to know. “But the part you probably don’t know about is that they were murdered by a woman I thought I loved at the time. Who used me to get closer to them, close enough to them to wipe them out and, afterward, to claim that she’d done humanity a favor.” He clears his throat. “So that was my second girlfriend. Then I dated someone else and that didn’t work out, and then I didn’t date for a long time, and then I fell in love—”

“—with a hooker,” Stiles cuts in.

“Yes,” Derek says. “Then I fell in love with you.”

Stiles looks at the floor, doesn’t say anything.

“So I— I’m just saying, it’s not like I have a lot of experience with any of this, either,” Derek says.

Stiles nods, slowly. “Okay,” he says. “Yeah, okay.”

“What I’m trying to say is,” Derek says, “if we want to do this…”

“We could maybe take it slow,” Stiles says.

“Yes,” Derek says. “Exactly.”

“Maybe start small,” Stiles says. “Like, start with a date.”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “That’s what I was thinking. If you’d want that.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says with a small smile. “Yeah, I think I’d like that.”

“Okay,” Derek says. “So.”

“So,” Stiles echoes, his smile growing.

“Would you like to go on a date with me sometime?”

Stiles grins at him. “Sure,” he says. “I think I might be free this Friday night, actually.”

“Good,” Derek says. “It’s a date, then.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “It’s a date.”