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There are books, and websites, and word-of-mouth, and an endless supply of lore and legends to be waded through and dissected – but, even with all of that information and not-information at his disposal, it's not enough. Werewolves are a vast expanse of unknown that Stiles has only barely dug his fingers into, still has so much more to go through, and he is learning – but he's not learning, it appears, fast enough.

 

It could be something in the air, or in the water – something unreal. It isn't familiar, whatever it is, and Stiles has never seen it before. He doesn't notice it until it's pointed out to him, and then his eyes can see the curl of dark lavender petals and dark green vines that are wrapped around the tree, and he wonders what it is. The smell is faint – licorice and vanilla – and he only notices the scent of it because of how close he is to it, because Derek is leaning against the tree it's wrapped around, and something is wrong with him.

 

Where the plant comes from and what it is are irrelevant, are unimportant – because, when Derek inhales shakily and starts breaking out in a cold sweat, Stiles realizes he should be much more concerned with what it does.

 

He takes a step closer, tentatively, and Derek curls away from him.

 

“Don't,” he says, and Stiles holds his hands up, palms out, as a show of peace.

 

“Not doing anything – do you see me doing anything? Just standing here watching you freak out, that's all,” Stiles says, and when Derek's eyes roll to look at him they're exasperated, and they're also colorless and pale – like his face. “Gotta say, the last time I saw you like this you tried to get me to saw your arm off. So I think I'm justifiably concerned.”

 

Justifiably concerned because Derek looks like he's edging towards full on convulsions, looks like someone with a fever – delirious and delusional. He's not shaking, not really, but he's very nearly rocking back and forth on his heels, almost like he's trying to knock sense into himself. His hands are curled around his own forearms, arms crossed over his chest, and he's the very definition of 'not okay.'

 

It's something to do with the flower – and he only knows this because it's right there , because Derek had seemed stranger the closer they had gotten to it, and because Derek has no idea what it is, only has a faint idea of what it can do – which is more than enough evidence for Stiles that it's bad, bad, bad.

 

“I think you should get away from that thing,” Stiles offers, and he thinks it would be easy to just drag Derek away from it, because he's not exactly looking like his ferocious self at the moment, but he doesn't make any move to grab him. There's a weird tension in the air that he can't describe, can't really pinpoint, but, just like he realizes the flower is bad news, he recognizes that Derek seems to think Stiles getting near him is dangerous.

 

Derek doesn't move away from the tree – not in so many words. He slides down to his knees, one kneecap resting against the tree trunk for a moment, like he's catching his breath, like even bending is too much exertion right now – and then he knocks his shoulder into the bark and manages to fall in a direction opposite of where he currently is. He falls into dirt and leaves and hard ground, and Stiles thinks, ' Fuck this ,' and, in one quick stride, is at Derek's side. He curls his fingers into Derek's leather jacket, takes a deep breath, and then he's backing up in tiny steps – tiny, quick steps – dragging all six feet of Derek's heavy, dead weight backwards away from the tree.

 

Stiles prides himself on thinking on his feet; it's what has kept him alive so far. He starts to reconsider that idea very quickly. Maybe Derek doesn't know what is causing this, or how to fix it, or even what he needs in terms of help – but, he was probably right when he warned Stiles away from him.

 

They are three feet from the tree when Derek's body twists like he hadn't just been suffering from a debilitating curse, like suddenly his body is entirely in his control – all superhuman strength and agility, and his fingernails – claws? - sink into Stiles' left wrist, where it's still curled around his jacket, and everything turns upside down. He hits the ground so hard his teeth clash, the air shoved out of his lungs, and when he tries to inhale it's all dust and dryness. There is a heavy weight on him that is pinning him down and he thinks, briefly, that maybe he should have kept his hands to himself.

 

Derek is strangely quiet, strangely still, above him – and he's breathing loud enough that Stiles can hear it even over his own. Stiles' knees ache from his impact with the ground, tiny pebbles and bark grinding into the palms of his hands, and every inhale tastes like dirt and leaves, and something sweet. He can taste vanilla on the tip of his tongue, can taste it more prominently when he licks his lips, and it makes him feel lightheaded. The pressure on his spine is too hard, like it might snap him in half, and it is a stark contrast to the careful breath, the contained fury in the mouth very near his ear.

 

“I'm going to let you up,” Derek says, and his breathing is ragged, his skin cold with sweat against Stiles' cheek, “and you're going to run.”

 

It's not easy to move, but it's easier than speaking, and Stiles manages to nod his head. There is dirt in his hair, smeared against the side of his face from where it's been pressed against the ground, and his heart is pounding in his chest so loudly he can hear it like a drum in his ears. There is static in the back of his head that wasn't there before, that is maybe from having the wind knocked out of him, but it's difficult to focus through; it's difficult to focus with Derek so close.

 

Derek jerks away from him, up and off of him, and the pressure is gone – and Stiles scrambles to his knees, to get out of the dirt. His intention is to help Derek – to at least get him out of these woods and back to the charcoal remains of his house – and he's not planning on running away. He's also not planning on the weird constricting feeling in his chest, that doesn't dissipate when Derek moves off of him. He's not planning on the tingling in his hands and fingers, in his bones, and he's not at all prepared for the way the crisp autumn air has seemingly burnt into ash – because the air is dry, and hot, and he can't breathe. It feels like he's burning up from the inside out.

 

He doesn't run. He slides forward, to the crunch of leaves under his knees, and Derek's skin is cold, clammy underneath his hands, when Stiles catches his jaw. Derek inhales, and his eyes are colorless and strange, and he looks like he might try to back away again, but Stiles kisses him first.

 

Everything is weird and strange, and still, for a moment. Stiles has no idea what he's doing – or why, why he's kissing Derek – but his body is only half under his control, and the half-control he has is tenuous at best. Derek's mouth is cool underneath his own and it makes breathing easier, makes the burning in his skin lessen. Then hands curl around Stiles' wrists – including the one on his jaw – and the grip is tight, with the dig of fingers into his skin, and it hurts, and hurts – it hurts . It feels like Derek might break his wrists, fingernails digging into the bones there, and Stiles can't help the pained noise he breathes into Derek's mouth – because, fuck . Derek breathes again, inhales again, and then his mouth is pressing back – demanding, urgent, and Stiles tries to ignore the burning in his wrists and opens his mouth to the wet slide of tongue pressing against his lips.

 

It is another groan – pained – from Stiles – involuntary – that makes Derek's mouth stutter, and stop, against his own. There's a little bit of control there, like Derek still has some say in what his body is doing, but it's stretched thin and it's brittle, and it's definitely being tested.

 

“You are so fucking stupid,” Derek breathes, voice shaking, and he is caught somewhere between fury and, and something else, something that looks a lot like fear. “Why would you – it's contagious, you fucking-”


“I'm okay, it's cool,” Stiles says, and he does mean it, mostly – except for where he just kissed Derek Hale and that's weird, insanely weird – truly, fucking weird. He feels disorientated, but it could have everything to do with Derek's roughhousing and nothing at all to do with the strange werewolf voodoo they're playing with. “You need my help and this is me giving my help. All one hundred percent willing and able to help, okay?”

 

I don't want your help,” Derek hisses, and he's still close enough that Stiles feels the words against his skin. “I want you to get the hell out of here.”

 

“And you're just going to lay out here, in pain, possibly left to die when you start going into convulsions?” Stiles asks, and it's difficult to feel the pain in his wrists anymore – maybe he's getting used to it, maybe his body is adapting to overwhelming pain as some sort of survival mechanism. “Or maybe you'll lose control completely and maul the first person to come by? Is that your preference? Because this is me consenting to being mauled – god, what is my life, honestly – and offering you a guilt-free solution to your problem.”

 

You can't consent to this.”

 

“Funny, because that's exactly what I'm doing.”

 

He expects to see the look on Derek' face that says, quite clearly, that he thinks Stiles is an idiot; he doesn't really expect it to make Derek angry . He growls, and his grip on Stiles tightens – and there's the pain again, the one that he thought had dissipated – and his teeth seem sharper, seem longer- It's strange though, because it does hurt, but it's just on the wrong side of being too painful and just on the right side of being... something else.

 

He realizes, sort of absently, that maybe he doesn't feel as normal as he thought he had. He thinks that maybe the fact that his breathing is more difficult has nothing to do with being thrown to the ground; he thinks that maybe the difficulty breathing has more to do with the strange pressure in his chest that persists - is constricting, painful and suffocating, and he wonders if this is how Derek feels. Derek's hands on him are painful, but they're also good – good in a way he can't really explain or understand, and he wants them everywhere.

 

“Stiles,” Derek says, and it's through clenched teeth, and it sounds a little like begging, a little desperate.

 

“Derek,” Stiles counters, because he can be just as stubborn, but his head is spinning. He swallows thickly, licks his lips. The burning in his skin hasn't lessened, is tight and hard to breathe through, and his heart is beating so loudly he can hear the pounding of it in his ears like a drum. He swallows again, even though his mouth is absurdly dry. “Derek.”

 

There is an exhale, and Derek's grips lessens.

 

“God damn it,” he says, and it looks as though it takes all of the self-control he has left to remove his hands from Stiles, to curl them tightly around his knees, to hold himself there. He inhales slowly, exhales in a loud rush, and yet says nothing.

 

“Okay,” Stiles says, through the haze that is his mind. “This is me giving you permission to fix this. However it is you fix it – whatever fucked up ritual or virgin sacrifice we have to do – this is me consenting, okay? Get over your freaking issues and get on with it, okay? Because I don't know what this thing does to werewolves, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a heart attack or that my brain is going to fry from overheating or, or something.”

 

I have to fuck you,” Derek says, voice blunt, and his eyes are still strange. “Do you get that? That's what you're agreeing to. That's the solution, Stiles. You can't stop, you can't say 'no.' There's no going back, do you get that?”

 

It's not what he wants, obviously; it's definitely not ideal. He doesn't want to lose his virginity in the middle of the woods, in the dirt and leaves, with him and a werewolf high on something , but it's going to happen regardless because the alternatives are terrifying. He really doesn't want to lose his virginity, in the middle of the woods, to Derek Hale – but he also doesn't want to die of overheating, and he doesn't want Derek to tear himself apart in the woods in a blind rage – and there's a lot of things he doesn't want, and his virginity isn't that important in the scheme of things.

 

There's the realization that whatever is happening is way worse in him than it is in Derek, and it's developing faster and faster. He realizes that he should have listened, that he should have kept his distance – because it could have been just one of them freaking out and going insane rather than both of them – but it's a little too late to change it now. He recognizes that he's a little in over his head, that maybe they both are, but that's how it feels most of the time anyway. He's helped Derek through being shot, has helped him kill a man , and this is something he can do – this is something he is going to do.

 

“Okay,” Stiles agrees, and his wipes his damp palms on his jeans and he doesn't run. “Okay.”

 

Mentally preparing himself is impossible, but he tries regardless. It doesn't make it any less disorientating when Derek slowly uncurls himself from his own control, when he slides a hand to the back of Stiles' neck and kisses him. It's different from when he was the one instigating this madness – way different, because Derek kisses him like he wants him, like this is something he's been waiting for since they came across those damned flowers, and it's overwhelming.

 

Derek's fingernails are sharp on his skin, his canines sharp against Stiles' tongue, but he's – more or less – still human. There's something raging beneath his skin that is a little different than what is happening to Stiles, but maybe that's because he's got years of experience learning control and Stiles scarcely knows the meaning of it.

 

He pushes his hands underneath the hem of Stiles' shirt, pushes it up, over his head, and tosses it somewhere out of their way. The dusk-chilled air and cool ground feel obscenely good against Stiles' burning skin – as does the cool slide of Derek's fingers, dragging down his ribcage to catch at the leather of his belt. The buckle is loud – incriminating – in the quiet of the woods, but the sound of it feeds whatever is thrumming itself through Stiles' blood.

 

The boiling in his skin makes it difficult to hear the quieter sound of the buttons on his jeans being undone, but he feels the roughness of Derek's hand sliding against his hipbones and into the front of his jeans. Cold, cold fingers curl against the heat of him and his body writhes, involuntarily, closer, a moan crawling itself out of his throat and into the mouth against his own. He doesn't realize that he's clinging to Derek, fingers curled against his shoulder, eyes closed and very nearly panting, until he does open his eyes and Derek is staring at him, expression completely unreadable.

 

Stiles knows his face is red – either because he's burning up alive or because, because something – but he ignores it in favor of shifting, manipulating his hips just so, and making it possible for Derek to grasp at the denim on his thighs and pull his jeans halfway down his hips. It's too dry to be enough – even when Derek spits in the palm of his hand – and the friction makes him hotter, but he doesn't want it to stop regardless. His thighs tense and shift, impossible to really move within the confines of his jeans, but it doesn't stop him from trying.

 

For all of his impatience, for his violence and anger and aggression, Derek's movements are all carefully restrained – like whatever is controlling him is just on the edge of seeping through. There are moments when his touch is too hard, grip too tight, and then there's a breath wherein it relaxes – like he's suddenly becoming aware of it – and maybe it's the wrong approach. Because fighting back against whatever this is feels a lot like his skin stretching thin, feels like being pulled apart at the seams, and Stiles can't imagine that it's any better for Derek.

 

“It's okay,” Stiles says, when he finds his voice, when he has enough control to form words. There are a lot of stupid things he's done, a lot of them, and maybe this is one of them, but it's also something he feels desperately like he needs to do. “You don't have to hold back. Just don't... don't fucking break my neck or anything, okay? But just – it's okay. I can take it.”

 

Derek kisses him again and it's a little different – something much closer to being chaste, even as crazy as that is with his hand still curled around him – and he breathes in, slowly, and nods. He's too far gone to manage anything as difficult as words. Stiles uses the pause to push his jacket off of his shoulders, to pull his shirt over his head, to feel as much of Derek's cool skin against his burning hands as he can possibly manage.

 

Everything would be easier if it were under different circumstances. If they were in Stiles' bedroom, where his bed is comfortable and there's hand lotion and other first world pleasures. At this point Stiles would even feel grateful for a rainshower, something cool and soothing and wet – but there's nothing. There's dry dirt and dead leaves underneath them, and his own dry, burning skin. Everything would be better under different circumstances, but under different circumstances this wouldn't even be happening. Derek is not Lydia, is not even a girl, and they may be friends but this is all a little bit 'friendlier' than Stiles had imagined them getting.

 

It's good that it's Derek – if it had to be anyone – because he knows Derek isn't going to accidentally shred his lungs or maim him or anything. He trusts Derek, maybe more than he should without knowing him super well, and there are definitely worse choices he could have for uncomfortable sex in the middle of the woods; if it were a choice between uncomfortable, drugged out sex with Jackson or possibly dying a horrible, painful death, then he thinks he might favor the horrible, painful death.

 

Stiles manages to writhe out of the rest of his jeans, to move them from where they're restricting his legs, and that's as far as he manages to get before Derek takes over again. He pulls them closer, until they're crushed together amidst twigs and dirt, and his own jeans are gone – and it's just skin, Derek's chilled against his own burning, and Stiles' breath stutters in his throat. He works one of his legs over Derek's hip, because the angle is better, because it seems like the thing to do, and Derek scrapes his teeth down Stiles' neck all the way to the base of his throat.

 

There are hands – someone's hands – sliding over every bend and curve of Stiles' body. They're rough and callused and the fingernails are sharp, pulling almost too hard against skin. Briefly Stiles wonders how this is supposed to help whatever weird curse the plant has done, because it feels like it's making it worse, like he won't be able to breathe until Derek is doing more, anything more. He arches himself into Derek's hands, into the pads of his fingers, and bares his throat to the searching teeth; he can't remember why he was regretting this, why he wanted it to be anyone else – because now all he wants is Derek.

 

The ground burns against his bare back when he's pressed into it, hard dirt grinding into his skin. Derek's hands are on his hips, impossible strong, his thumbs pressing into the curve of the bones there, and his knees nudge Stiles' own out of the way. There's another brief glimpse of realization Stiles has then, wherein he knows he's going to be a wreck at the end of this – bruised and dirty, sore and looking a mess – and there's little left to do but accept it. The adrenaline in his veins, the weird pollen in his lungs, keeps him from really feeling the pain of it – just keeps him grasping for more.

 

He stops thinking at the first press of fingers inside him, spit-slick and still far, far too dry, and not nearly as careful as they might be under any other circumstances. It's difficult to feel the pain, the burn, because his body is out of his control and it's arching against Derek's touch, against the cold of his fingers. He breathes in choked gasps, trying to allow his mind and his lungs to catch up with his body, and Derek leans over him and pushes, and pushes. They need time, far more time, but even if Derek were capable of patience right now Stiles' body ignores his own protests and arches into the fingers curling inside of him.

 

There is pain, and pain, and pain – that he feels, but also doesn't feel. There is moisture on his face, that could be sweat or could be tears, or could be both. He hopes Derek doesn't remember this part later, the part where – even through the adrenaline and whatever that damned flour is pumping through his veins – there's still enough pain that Stiles is having trouble ignoring it. There is no part left of him that has the ability to tell Derek to stop – and there's maybe no part of Derek that would be able to – so he digs his fingers into Derek's biceps and breathes.

 

There is a hand on his thigh, and the feeling of those fingers leaving him, and he gasps into the cool air. His body and his mind are not on the same page, not even on speaking terms, and it's the pollen's effect on him more than anything that pulls a moan from him, low and desperate, and they're close enough that he can feel the chill of goosebumps it sends across Derek's arms. Then the grip on his thigh is tighter, another hand between the small of his back and the ground, and then a slow, steady push that makes the poison in his lungs feel like static.

 

“Breathe,” Derek manages to say, and Stiles doesn't know when he stopped. Derek presses his face into Stiles' neck, his own breath heavy and labored, and Stiles is certain that this ache, that is spreading over his entire body, is never going to go away. It spreads like fire, feeding off the burning in his skin, and he tightens his fingers against Derek's arms until his knuckles turn white, and there's nothing he can do to make it stop.

 

He breathes through it, breathes, and breathes, and gasps, and tries not to suffocate. His body trembles, out of his control, underneath every stutter of Derek's hips, every push that is too much. He feels like he's choking – and he needs this, feels it thick like syrup in his veins, and his limbs and muscles are tingling, but it's all otherworldly and it feels nothing like normal. Everything pushes him closer, makes his skin feel smaller and smaller, like it's being stretched too far over his bones. He is making unintelligible, embarrassing sounds into Derek's ear, pained and needy and desperate, but they only seem to make Derek breathe harder.

 

It feels a little like he's falling apart at the seams, crumbling and unable to hold himself together, and it's warm – and cold – and painful – and amazing. Derek's fingers are curling bruises into his hips, his teeth leaving marks along his shoulder, and it's too much. It's good, and not good, and it hurts in a way he can't quite describe when it all peels away, when he watches Derek's composure and control slide away into messy little pieces in a way no one else has probably ever seen. It's that – it's the way Derek clings to him, and moans against his throat, vulnerable and trusting – that is enough to make Stiles let go.

 

One minute he's staring at the canopy of dead leaves over them, sparse limbs scattered out like spiderwebs in the sky, and then it's the back of his eyelids. It's feels like falling, like tumbling, and he can't catch his breath through it – can't force his tongue to form words or sounds. It's just quiet, quiet and stark, and, for a very long minute, he is dizzy and numb and it feels – it feels good, but it also feels like he's been covered in a layer of cling wrap that someone has finally peeled away. It feels like the air on his skin, like the dirt on his back, and it feels like control, and reality, and it is surprisingly welcome.

 

Stiles doesn't know how long he lays there, with the imprint of leaves and twigs pressing into his bare skin, but he knows when Derek moves – because a heavy weight is gone from him, and he feels cold and very exposed. The other thing he is starting to feel is pain. It's a static ache, almost numbing, and it's nowhere in particular; it's everywhere.

 

Sitting up is one of the most painful things he's done in maybe ever. It makes him feel like he's a hundred years old, or like he's been thrown in front of traffic, and he is biting his lip so hard he is starting to taste blood. There are small, bloody half-fingerprints on his hips, from Derek's hands – from his nails, where they had dug in so hard they had broken skin – and the smear of it is disorientating. His skin is peppered with angry red bruises that will turn purple with time, that are already darkening, and they're in the shape of fingers, and teeth, and he can't even see all of them.

 

There's no mirror, and he can't see a lot with the way the sun is setting, but he looks – and feels – like he's been in a fight and lost. There are several places Derek's hands and mouth have broken skin, but the contrast is that the marks Stiles' own fingernails had dug into Derek's biceps are already, slowly healing. Which is an advantage he has, as a werewolf, which Stiles does not.

 

There are a lot of things he expects, and a lot of things he doesn't. He doesn't expect Derek to fish around the bushes and dirt for his clothes, and he definitely doesn't expect him to help him – carefully, easily, slowly – back into them. They are worse for wear, torn and dirty, but they're better than nothing, even if it doesn't exactly feel worth it to bend and twist himself back into them. Standing is difficult, hurts everywhere it possibly can, and he's mostly using Derek to prop himself up, as someone to balance him, while he works his legs and hips back into his jeans.

 

He doesn't expect Derek to help him, and that thought makes him wonder what exactly he was expecting: for Derek to leave him in the middle of the woods alone and naked? Even if he doesn't have a lot of experience with this sort of stuff, Derek doesn't strike him as the kind, and Stiles feels momentarily guilty for not giving him enough credit.

 

“Okay,” Stiles starts, and he's in a sort of hysterical amount of pain, and he's also limping – which is super funny when you hear jokes about it, but is not funny at all in person – and he can't look Derek in the eye, which is weird. It's difficult without the strangeness under his skin urging him on, and he feels like maybe Derek is judging him, and he just doesn't even know what to do. “So you were right, you know, about the stupid plant. I'm giving you a point for that one.”

 

“Stiles-”

 

Stiles huffs out a breath. “Can we just not make this any weirder than it needs to be? I don't really know what to say to you, and I don't really want to talk about it out here in the middle of the woods. Also, I really, really need a shower.”

 

He does chance a look at Derek then, but there's not any judgment on his face. He looks conflicted – looks borderline guilty, maybe even a little shameful. It doesn't look right on him, especially when it wasn't his fault – especially when neither of them were at fault.

 

“I can take you to Scott's,” Derek offers, because some part of him probably realizes that there's no way Stiles is going to deal with his father right now. It's also an out. It's a way of saying “I understand if you don't want to be around me right now,” and Stiles appreciates the gesture. It's also completely unnecessary.

 

“Take me to your house,” Stiles says, and some of the tension in Derek's body lessens.

 

- - - - - 

 

The Hale house is a mess of ash and bad memories, and the half-hearted attempts Derek has pushed towards it in terms of fixing it have done little to change that. There's a draft through the entire structure that makes the wood and charcoal creak and shift, like an old house but worse, and Stiles thinks one day they'll wake up and the whole thing will be a crumpled heap beneath them. Derek lives there regardless, like the only way to live with his guilt is to sleep in the ashes of his dead family, and Stiles is long past trying to convince him otherwise. Although sometimes Derek shows up at his house, from the window – because, sometimes, Stiles hints that there's plenty of room for him to sleep under an actual roof.

 

Derek's done enough work that Stiles can't see the beginning of night through the roof in his room anymore. There's also running water, even if the bathroom reminds him of something he might have seen once in a slasher film taking place at an abandoned truck-stop, but beggars can't be choosers. The water is at least hot, in quantity enough that it doesn't turn cold on him, and he stands underneath the steam and the hard spray and stares at his toes on the grimy tile.

 

The water stings, all down his shoulders, his back, his hips, his legs. There are cuts and abrasions and scratches covering his body like they're markings on a road map, and they sting and burn. He scrubs at them regardless, because the last thing he wants is for them to get infected, and if he's had a more painful shower then he doesn't remember it. He scrubs at them, trying to see what each one might be from, and he scrubs, and scrubs, because stopping means getting out of the shower and facing Derek.

 

Derek, who is confusing the shit out of him, and who is not who he thought he was at all, and also who he has no idea what to do with. Derek, who had all but carried him back to his house, and hadn't pointed fingers, and hadn't left Stiles to fend for himself. There's guilt – of course there's guilt – and Stiles can see it plainly in his face, but there's something else too. There's something like resignation there, like Derek realizes they had been given little other choice out in those woods, that it is possible for them both to come out blameless from this and move on with their lives, and it's not what Stiles expected. It feels a little like Derek is focused on making amends, rather than wallowing in actions that can't be taken back, and it's different – it's just really different.

 

Stiles rests his head against the tile, watching the water go down the grate in the floor, and he's too exhausted to stand, too sore to stand. He aches too much to do anything.

 

When he can't waste more time under the water, he dries off and carefully, slowly, changes into the clean clothes Derek had all but demanded he borrow. The t-shirt is too large, the cotton pants too long, but they're clean and they don't smell like dirt and blood; they do, however, smell like Derek. He shouldn't know what Derek smells like, but he does now. He knows a lot about Derek now, all of which feels far too intimate and personal. Derek is a private person, wherein the word 'private' is in sixty foot tall letters, and he doesn't let people in; he did, and it lost him his family, and now he doesn't – ever. Derek hasn't exactly opened his doors and invited him in, not so much as the doors have been forced open and Stiles has been flung in without permission, but he's there all the same.

 

When he leaves the bathroom, Derek is sitting on the bed, toweling his wet hair. Stiles doesn't know if there's another bathroom, or another shower, or if Derek just hosed himself off outside – and it's weird, because they might as well have just taken a shower together. At this point he feels like there's nothing really sacred between them.

 

“Scott called your dad and told him you're staying over there for the night,” Derek says, without turning around to look at him. Which he didn't have to do, which he wasn't asked to do, but it's good that he did, because Stiles probably wouldn't have thought to right now.

 

Stiles nods, sort of absently. “Did you tell Scott?”

 

“If I had he'd already be charging out here to challenge me for your honor or something.”

 

Which is probably likely. Not that Stiles has lot of that left – it's somewhere in the woods, ground into the dirt.

 

He lays on the bed - because to sit he would have to put far too much pressure on his hip to make it bearable and it's just not worth it - and he lets Derek rub hydrogen peroxide on his slow-healing, human wounds. The burn of it is worse than the water in the shower, but at this point he can't feel it anymore, and - bizarrely, strangely, insanely - it feels better to have the tips of Derek's fingers brushing against his skin again. In a day full of strangeness, Derek is somehow familiar.

 

There is no more heat in his skin, burning like a fever. The house is cold, drafty, and the peroxide is cool. He lays on the bed, in Derek's clothes, with Derek's hands on him – again, and he feels tired and weird and he doesn't really know how he's going to explain the bruises, and the cuts, to his dad. Maybe a really crazy lacrosse practice – maybe.

 

“Has that ever happened before?” he asks, even though he knows the answer. “You going crazy from vegetation.”

 

“No,” Derek answers, and the fingernail marks on his biceps are almost healed over – almost like it never happened. “I usually smell it and stay away – it's dangerous.”

 

“And you just thought this would be the best time to not be on the lookout for crazy, sex flowers?”

 

Derek looks up from dabbing cotton against a deep scratch – one that he made with his own hands, digging them too hard into breakable skin, and his expression is strangely complacent. “You distract me.”

 

“Enough to almost get us killed?” Stiles says, incredulous, but he's a little taken aback when Derek looks at him a little while longer, disturbingly honest, and says, “Sometimes.”

 

Stiles shakes his head and continues, “So are we just going to pretend it didn't happen and move on? Because I'm totally cool with that happening, but I just want to make sure we're on the same page. I don't want to be all moving on and you're having some sort of internal crisis or something.”

 

“We're moving on,” Derek says, and he grabs a butterfly bandage. Stiles' mouth feels dry, even though it shouldn't, even though it's cool – because that's exactly what he wants too, obviously.

 

He thinks that sometime, somewhere, he's going to have to have some sort of freak-out. Because what happened was not normal, not in the slightest, and it might even be abnormal to not be freaking out. There's also the fact that shit like this just apparently happens to him now – weird, paranormal, unexplainable shit. Apparently he can just be possessed by creepy succubus flowers in the middle of the woods and have sex with Derek fucking Hale, because apparently that just happens.

 

“Awesome,” he says, and he watches Derek slowly piece him back together.

 

It takes an hour or Derek to finish, and it ends with Stiles' body littered with an array of bandages and tape and stark white reminders. His skin aches, his limbs ache, his bones ache, and he doesn't want to know what the bruises are going to look like tomorrow. He lays in Derek's bed, close enough that Derek's thigh is pressed up against his own – because when Derek had tried to go downstairs, to sleep in the basement or whatever-the-fuck he had thought was the done thing, Stiles had given him an incredulous look; like, are you kidding me – we were just forced to fuck by a damned flower and you're worried about sleeping next to me? Really?

 

It's better this way, because Derek is warm, warm in a way he hadn't been hours ago. He's warm, and the Hale house is cold, and Stiles doesn't really know why he's staying here instead of going home to his nice, warm bed, but he's there anyway. He thinks he could get inside without his dad noticing, and could probably think up some excuse as to his appearance the next morning, but there's some part of him that wants to stay and he doesn't want to examine it enough to argue it down.

 

“You're not freaking out,” he says, even though he doesn't really want Derek to freak out. He doesn't really know what he would do if Derek was freaking out.

 

Derek turns, onto his side, and it's hard to see him in the sparse light. “How do you know?”

 

Which is –

 

Okay.

 

Stiles doesn't actually know.

 

“Don't freak out,” he says, instead. “I'm not freaking out – for some reason. So, don't freak out. If you freak out, then I'm going to freak out, so just don't. We're going to handle this like two normal adults.”

 

“I don't get to handle things like a normal adult,” Derek says, voice still laced with that blunt honesty that Stiles doesn't know what to do with, “and you're not an adult.”

 

“Fuck you,” Stiles snorts, and turns his head to look at Derek's outline. “Fuck you very much. If I'm adult enough to deal with your werewolf-pack shit, and I'm adult enough to help you kill your uncle, then I'm adult enough to take my half of the responsibility for this.”

 

There's a sound in the dark, that is far too close to a laugh, or a snicker, to be coming from Derek – but that's exactly what it sounds like. He says nothing else though, doesn't even begin to explain himself or what he finds funny in Stiles' indignation, and it's unsettling in a strange, warm way.

 

Stiles stares into the dark, trying to imagine the house is just old and not also incredibly creepy, and that it smells of something other than charcoal and open air. He stares into the dark, and feels the warmth of Derek next to him, and his body aches in weird, unexplainable ways; his chest aches in weird, unexplainable ways and it's terrifying.

 

“Quit staring at me,” he says, turning back to glare at the dark outline that is Derek. “It weirds me out.”

 

“You used to be scared of me,” Derek says, and Stiles can almost make out his mouth in the dark – can see the movement of his lips, forming words – and there should be a pause between thinking of kissing Derek and then actually doing so, but there isn't. One moment Derek is talking, and then he's talking against Stiles' mouth, and Stiles scarcely remembers moving. There's the thrum of something in his chest that is probably his heart – stupidly, traitorously, beating loudly against his ribcage – and it hurts to move, to shift enough, and he regrets it.

 

The pad of Derek's thumb is careful against his cheek, and it doesn't push him away; Derek doesn't push him away. It's hardly a kiss, is more chaste than it has any right to be after the day they've had, after the things they've done, but that's how it turns out by the time Stiles pulls away. He still can't really see Derek, because it's too dark, but he knows Derek can see him.

 

“How long does it take for that thing to wear off?” he asks, and he can't see Derek, but there is tension in his hand that he can feel. It feels a little like surprise, which is strange.

 

“It wore off hours ago,” Derek says, and his voice is carefully blank.

 

Fuck , Stiles thinks, and swallows the lump in his throat, and licks his lips. Because that doesn't make sense, doesn't explain his actions, doesn't give him any excuse whatsoever.

 

Go to sleep, Stiles,” Derek tells him, and his thumb moves slowly across Stiles' cheek, in a way that is startlingly intimate and strangely comforting.

 

The morning is going to be worse, is going to be full of daylight and things that are unavoidable, but it feels good to close his eyes.

 

- - - - -

 

It's not the slivers of light coming in through cracks in the glass, through uneven boards in the ceiling, that wake him up. It's not the sound of birds chirping, not the ache in his body; it's the way the mattress shifts when Derek moves off of it. Even when he wakes up, Stiles pretends to be asleep, long enough to hear Derek's feet move across he floor, and into the bathroom, and for the door to shut. Then he opens his eyes, to the brightness of sunshine streaking across the bed, and he exhales slowly.

 

Sitting up is easier in some ways and more difficult in others. There are places where he's more sore than he remembers, and there are some bruises that, despite their ugly appearance, don't hurt at all. There are scratches and scrapes he can't really feel, unless he presses on them like an idiot, and there are muscles that ache even when he doesn't move.

 

He stares at the ceiling, at the shitty patching job Derek did, and he thinks about never getting up. He could lay there for the rest of his life, and never face his father, or Scott, or anyone else who might be curious as to what the hell happened to him. He would probably have to face Derek though, as he's laying in his bed – covered in bruises from his hands, from his mouth, from his teeth – wearing his clothes. Facing Derek means facing that he's confused as to where they stand, if they stand at all, and where they go from here.

 

The door to the bathroom opens and he expects Derek to get dressed, or to just leave the room, or to tell him to move his ass out of his house, but he doesn't. He moves across the room, moves back onto the bed, laying back down on his side; all of his actions a reversal of the ones previous, and it puts them right back at square one.

 

It doesn't feel early enough to use that as an excuse to go back to sleep, not with the sun as bright and warm as it is, but Derek's face is half buried in the pillow and, even if his breathing hasn't evened out yet, his eyes are closed. There are no fingernail marks on his biceps, no bruises on his shoulders; for all intents and purposes, nothing happened to him at all. He doesn't lay like he's sore in a thousand places, doesn't lay like he's a stranger in someone else's bed, and his hand is close enough that Stiles can feel his knuckles against his side.

 

There is no strangeness in his veins, no purple flowers hanging from their vines on the walls, and no real way to account for the constricting tightness in his chest. There's no real way to explain the way he's watching the lines on Derek's face, the curve of his jaw; there's no real way to explain why it feels like he's been caught doing something wrong when Derek's eyes open and he's still staring at him.

 

“I look like shit,” Stiles says, instead of any of the thousand things floating around in his mind.

 

“You look alive,” Derek replies, half muffled into the pillow, and it is definitely a slice of perspective in the morning light.

 

“Is it actually something you can die from?”

 

“It was after you kissed me. If you had left, when I told you to, then you would have been fine.”

 

Stiles stares at him for a long minute, blankly, and then deadpans, “You would've died if I hadn't stayed.”

 

“Maybe, maybe not. But if you stayed...” Derek says, and his voice trails off and he reaches slowly across the tiny space between them, to press his fingers against the teeth marks that are not healed on Stiles' shoulder. Now I have to live with this, he doesn't say, but he doesn't need to; the message is there regardless. It makes Stiles' mouth feel dry, makes his heart beat a little faster, and he tries not to focus on the seriousness in Derek's eyes. Because it makes it seem like Derek likes him – in a way Stiles doesn't really want to examine, can't really examine . . .

 

Except that he is. Except that he's been doing it all night, all morning. He's been picking apart the pieces that Derek keeps leaving at his feet – glances and words and silences and hesitations – and they're a puzzle he's putting together almost against his own will. He wants to know, and he doesn't want to know; he doesn't even know how he feels, so what would he do with knowing how someone else felt?

 

“Well, sorry if I don't agree that you maybe-dying in the woods because of a stupid flower is worth not having to deal with a little discomfort,” Stiles says. “Unless this is your way of telling me some sort of 'werewolves-mate-for-life' thing, in which case you are more than welcome to go die in the woods, Jerkface McGee. God, I'm not going to have all your freaky little werewolf babies, am I?”

 

Derek snorts, his fingers still lingering on Stiles' skin, and his voice is somewhere between amused and derisive. “You're not my mate.”

 

Which, of course he's not. He's not a girl, definitely not a girl, and he's also not a werewolf. He's maybe an honorary member of Derek's pack, but nothing so intimate as one of them, and he's – blessedly, wonderfully – human. So of course it's silly to worry about strange werewolf mate-bonding and whatever else it is he's read that could be a load of shit or could have some merits; it's not like Derek would ever tell him about werewolf mating habits.

 

There is something else though, something in Derek's behavior and the way he interacts with Stiles, that make no sense – except when sometimes it does. Like the aggression and the anger that could be born out of frustration. Like the distance in him, in his eyes, as he traces his fingers along Stiles' shoulder, which is starting to feel more and more like reluctance. It's all speculation, and there's no real basis for it, but Stiles knows what longing looks like – has dealt with it for most of his life, because he's a nobody and, you know, that's how it goes – and he's starting to recognize it in the harsh image that Derek projects.

 

“Do you wish that I was?” he asks, even though it's absolutely not his place to ask questions like that, questions that he isn't really sure he's prepared to hear the answer to. Twenty four hours ago he would have never been laying in bed with Derek Hale, remembering a kiss in the dark that hadn't been fueled by strange curses at all, trying to imagine what being his would be like. It's completely insane, and it's likely some sort of coping mechanism his brain is using to shield him from dealing with the events from yesterday, but it's not-

 

It's not like it's hard to imagine.

 

“You're smart,” Derek says, in lieu of a straight answer, although it's definitely nothing he's ever said to him before. “You're courageous, and loyal, and you know when to give and when to take.”

 

Stiles frowns. “You make it sound like you're describing a pet.”

 

“I don't feel the same about you as you feel about Lydia, if that's what you're asking,” Derek continues, and he shifts closer, voice low, “What you feel for Lydia is carefree and simple, and it will pass with time. You don't want to be with her for the rest of your life; you think she's pretty and you want her, but you don't want to keep her.”

 

Stiles knows the tips of his ears are turning red, which is absurd but also entirely out of his control, and he purposely doesn't move away because he refuses to let Derek always be in control of every damned situation.

 

“You could never be my mate, Stiles,” and his voice is honest, is open, and he doesn't look away. He stares until Stiles feels like he should look away, like he should stop staring, but he can't either. “I've known you weren't my mate since the day we met.”

 

“Well, that's not what I asked, is it?” Stiles says, petulant, and stubborn, and there isn't a wavering inside him that is unsure if he wants to know the answer or not anymore; he wants to know, desperately wants to know. “I asked if you wish I were.”

 

“Sometimes,” Derek admits, and he doesn't move away.