It’s not that Derek doesn’t want to tell him. Derek really has no problem telling him, but it’s not a big deal. On the next full moon he just has to give Stiles back the little obsidian wolf figurine and it’ll be like nothing happened, poof, so, really—does Derek have to tell Stiles? It seems a little unnecessary, in the grand scheme of things.
The little wolf stares at him from his dresser. It’s got an awfully judgy little face for not actually having, like, eyes.
Derek sighs. Yeah, okay.
The next day, Derek shows up on Stiles’s front porch, hands shoved in the pockets of his jacket. He shifts back and forth on his feet and tries to psych himself up. He can do this. He’s a badass werewolf, he can totally tell Stiles that they accidentally got werewolf married because—because Stiles was thinking about him, and happened to give him a token of his, uh, affection under the silvery light of the last full moon. Platonic affection, Derek thinks sourly, so he doesn’t get why his wolf feels all warm and fuzzy and bonded all of a sudden.
Honestly, it’s like—why aren’t people accidentally getting werewolf married all the time, if it happens this easily?
Stiles’s eyes are bright and surprised when he opens the door to Derek, and then he smiles, like he’s delighted, and Derek can count on his one hand the amount of smiles that wide that Stiles has exclusively sent his way over the past six years, so he just stands there, because what.
“Derek,” Stiles says. “What’s up?”
Derek opens his mouth, ready to explain how they got magically bonded because Stiles was being super nice to him, and then he just—can’t.
He can’t, because he can already see this going stupidly bad, and Stiles was being nice to him, and he feels warm all over and happy and it’s freaking ridiculous, but he can’t.
“What is it? Liam fell in a hole?” Stiles says, still grinning, and Derek pushes past him and into the house with a low growl and a roll of his eyes.
“Shut up,” he says.
Stiles says, “Sure,” and, “Mi casa es—not your house, but whatever, come on in.” He claps his hands together and cocks his head at Derek. “Wanna watch a movie?”
They don’t watch a movie. They watch three episodes of The Astronauts Wives Club.
“That’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back,” Derek says.
Stiles slaps Derek’s leg and says, “You loved it, don’t lie. History! Space! Douchebag bro-bonding husbands! I wanna make those meatloaf cupcake thingies, what do you think?”
Derek thinks he wants to grab Stiles’s hand and park it back on the meat of his thigh, so it’s probably time to go.
Derek is highly aware of all the space that isn’t between him and Stiles on the couch, so he gets to his feet and pulls on his jacket and heads for the door.
Stiles follows him and hangs onto the doorframe and says, “What, no goodnight kiss?” with a smirk and Derek wants to punch him in the head and also rub his face all over Stiles’s neck, Jesus Christ.
Derek shoots him a glare and then stomps off down the steps.
Derek moves the little wolf figurine so it’s sitting on his bedside table. He wakes up with it clutched in his fist, thumb smoothing over the belly.
“I thought we were using doors now,” Stiles says when Derek swings down through his window from his roof.
“I thought we were keeping windows locked and closed now, like regular sane people with monsters after them.” Derek strips off his jacket and tosses it onto the bed.
Stiles salutes him from his sprawl in his desk chair. “Touché.”
They stare at each other for a long moment. Derek thinks about how he wants to thumb Stiles’s moles and lick the tip of his nose and maybe go down on him. Crap.
Finally, Derek says, “I think we should watch some more douchebag bro-bonding and the wives that should leave them.”
“Buckle up, Derek,” Stiles says, crawling onto the bed with his laptop. “It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”
Stiles falls asleep with his head on Derek’s shoulder and Derek stares down at him like a fond creep until a throat clears from the doorway.
The sheriff stares at him, one eyebrow arched.
“It’s not what it looks like,” Derek says.
The sheriff just shakes his head. “I don’t want to know.”
Stiles stretches and mumbles, “Peanut alien carp face monsters,” his breath hot along Derek’s collarbone. He blinks open his eyes and says, groggily, “Dad.”
“Bed,” his dad says, pointing at him. “Bed without company,” he elaborates, when Stiles just wraps an arm around Derek’s waist and says, “M’kay.”
Derek carefully extricates himself from Stiles’s octopus hug. He looks longingly at the window, but the sheriff jerks his head toward the door, and Derek reluctantly makes his way downstairs. He hopes against hope that he can get outside and gone without a lecture, but the sheriff stops him by the front door, a hand on his arm.
“Nothing happened,” Derek says, before the sheriff can open his mouth. “You don’t have to worry about Stiles or—”
“Stiles is a 21-year-old man-child without the good sense god gave a rock, but I’m under no illusion that I can tell that boy what he can or cannot do after the high school career he’s had.” The sheriff leaves his hand on his arm, a steady weight. “I’m more worried about you, son.” He watches Derek’s face carefully. “Everything all right?”
Derek swallows hard. “Fine.”
“Right, well. It’s not that I don’t believe you, Derek, but—”
“I’m fine,” Derek says. “Really.” He’s not fine, there’s an ache in his chest that he can’t—won’t—define, but he’s not going to tell his secret father-in-law that.
He’s got two weeks before he has to give Stiles back his token, divorce the tentative mating bond, reverse the magical werewolf marriage of the moon—his mom always called it pink moon fever, that first honeymoon month. She’d sing the howl of blessing, press the words ‘may your love shine bright through all the phases of the moon’ onto bowed foreheads, hands clasped in promise. But his mom was, oddly enough, a hopeless romantic, and Derek doesn’t take after her in that regard at all. Right.
The sheriff huffs, like he doesn’t believe him, and squeezes his arm once before letting go.
“You’re the worst, I hate you,” Derek tells the little obsidian wolf—it’s not even the wolf’s fault, it’s not even because it’s a wolf, Stiles could have given him a paperclip, it’s the thought that counts, not the actual object.
Derek thought it was the intention, too, except Stiles obviously didn’t want to werewolf marry him, who would want to werewolf marry Derek? So apparently Derek’s pathetic enough that even the slightest bit of positive attention and thoughtfulness makes his wolf think mate and forever, and it’s seriously the worst.
Derek curls up into a ball on his bed and shoves the wolf up under his pillow.
At the next pack meeting, Derek squeezes in between Liam and Mason on the sofa and Stiles gives him a weird look across the room and Scott frowns at him.
Stiles had straightened up from his sprawl on the loveseat when Derek had arrived, but Derek isn’t going there. He’s going to keep his hands to himself, even though his wolf is clamoring to get all over that, it’s practically panting, it wants to thump its foot and howl and bend Stiles over the upholstered arm of the couch—his wolf is an asshole.
It wasn’t this bad before, right? Derek would have noticed if it was this bad before.
Sure, Stiles has always been attractive in that Scott’s annoying sidekick way, with his plaid shirts and long fingers and big, distracting baby-deer eyes, that belie the fact that Stiles is actually nothing like a baby deer.
Derek’s heart is starting to pound too hard and Liam’s subtly trying to scooch away from him and Malia is giving him crazy-coyote eyes.
She says, “What’s up with you?”
Derek gets to his feet. “I need to—” He cuts himself off, wishes he had the power to Batman himself into the shadows. He used to be able to do that, where has all his game gone?
Stiles says, “Dude, we haven’t even ordered pizza yet,” and pats the seat next to him and what is Derek supposed to do with that?
He scowls and slinks past Scott and drops down next to Stiles and somehow manfully resists threading their fingers together.
His wolf chuffs in satisfaction anyway.
He flat-out avoids Stiles after that. His wolf is a pacing, caged, wild thing that wants to show up on Stiles’s front porch with dead rabbits and bouquets of flowers, and it’s getting worse, the closer it gets to the next full moon.
He wants to curl up on Stiles’s lap and push his head up under his t-shirt and bite at the skin over his heart.
He wants to tug on Stiles’s hair and snuffle behind his ears and rub his ankles.
There’s this almost overwhelming urge to make Stiles happy and it’s starting to shake him apart, to make him mad. He’s getting angry, is the thing, because where’s the consent in all this? Did Stiles ask for this? Did Derek? Is there going to be this hollow notch in his heart now, another piece of his soul missing, after all this is over?
He clutches the edge of his kitchen counter, bows his head and makes himself breathe. Pushes out heavy pants until he can control them, until he makes his heart slow down by sheer force of will.
It doesn’t matter, he thinks. He’s going to be fine.
“You’re acting weird.”
Derek looks up at Scott and loses count of how many push-ups he’s done, but it’s not like he’s planning on stopping anytime soon—he just starts over.
“No, really, why are you acting so weird?” Scott asks. “Is this because Stiles’s asked you to werewolf court him, or whatever, because I think we all thought it was a joke, but he was pretty nervous about it, dude, so don’t you think—”
“He didn’t—” Derek freezes. He says, “He didn’t ask me to werewolf court him, Scott,” what the hell, “he magically werewolf married me,” because of course Stiles—kind of—knew what he was doing, of course he did. Fuck his life.
He collapses onto the floor, rolls over and throws an arm over his eyes.
Scott says, “Don’t be so dramatic, dude.”
Scott pokes him in the side with his shoe. “He said you could just give it back, no big deal.”
No big deal, right. This must be Cora’s doing, he knew she was being too cagey and amused on their last skype call, it’s just that Cora is always cagey and amused, it’s hard to differentiate between her levels of sarcastic asshattery.
His wolf is a pleased, purring mess in the center of his chest and Derek wants to tear all his hair out.
Scott crouches down next to him; Derek peeks out and watches him frown. Scott says, “Are you going to give it back to him?”
Derek says, hoarse, “Yeah.”
Derek is going to give it back to him.
The day before the full moon, Derek carries the wolf figurine around with him in the pocket of his jacket, a hard little reminder.
He goes for a long run in the woods. He goes to the edge of their territory and scrambles up a tree and howls, hears it echo throughout the preserve. Three howls answer him back. Liam, high and reedy. Scott’s a massive, deep and melodiously round sound. And Stiles, wavering in pitch, weak and happy, human but game; it collapses at the end in a bout of laughter, and Derek knows what he has to do.
Derek didn’t have to accept the wolf in the first place.
Stiles had said, “Here,” and curled his hand into Derek’s and left it there, a warm, light weight in his palm. Derek had held it up in the moonlight, ran his fingers over the smoothly cut details, the little flecks of fur on the tail, the ears, and he didn’t have to tuck it into the back pocket of his jeans.
He didn’t have to say, “Thank you,” and watch the pleased grin bloom over Stiles’s face.
He didn’t have to nurture the fluttering in his heart, the wild pumping of his blood. Didn’t have to stare into Stiles’s eyes and think mine and always.
No one outside of his family had ever shared something like that with him on the full moon, though; he hadn’t been prepared, despite all his mom’s stories, and now he’s left with this. With an other half, one that probably can’t feel the pull to mate the same way he can.
It’s dark already when Derek texts Stiles: do you know what it means?
Stiles texts back: do YOU?
On the edge of the preserve, Derek hands Stiles a small box tied with a ribbon. He looks into his eyes and nods, because he’s too nervous to smile, and Stiles face kind of—collapses.
Just folds up with grief for a split-second before soldiering onward and Derek feels like a stone has settled in his stomach.
He says, “I—” and opens and closes his mouth, because he doesn’t know what he did wrong, this time.
Stiles says, quiet, “It’s okay,” and hugs him, a careful fold of his arms around Derek’s back, and Derek just stands there, hands at his sides, numb. What did he do?
But Stiles doesn’t give the box back, and Derek is—
He says, a pained hush, “What’s wrong?”
“Derek, I—” Stiles pulls away and gives him a watery smile. “Nothing’s wrong, big guy. I’m just gonna go, okay?”
Derek doesn’t know what to say. It can’t be an outright rejection, right? Because he’s taking his gift, his token. Stiles hastily stuffs it into his backpack and twirls his keys around his finger before nodding at him, decisive, and then walking off to the jeep.
Derek’s wolf is whimpering like a kicked puppy, and he rubs a palm over his heart.
Derek doesn’t see Stiles for three days.
He ignores the way his wolf wants to burrow into a den in Stiles's backyard and wait and stalk, and mainlines way too many episodes of Grimm and forgets to shower, camped out on his couch with containers of Chinese food and liters of root beer and an entire bag of pixie stix.
It’s not like Derek hasn’t had worse days.
On the fourth day, he picks up a familiar heartbeat outside his door. He waits, but nothing happens, and Derek eventually shuffles out of his blanket cocoon and makes his way to the door. He pauses and places his palm on the thick metal—he tilts his forehead to it, thinks about changing into sweats that don’t have grease stains on them or a shirt that isn’t ripped at the neck, maybe he should brush his teeth, and he then opens the door anyway.
Stiles doesn’t even startle, but Derek can smell the nerves on him, the sweat prickling on his palms, the v of his back. He shifts on his feet, fingers fiddling with the buttons on his shirt.
Finally, he says, “You gave me a paperclip.”
“You gave me a paperclip that looks like a cock and balls when you use it, you asshole,” he says, and Derek shrugs again, because he’d thought Stiles would appreciate that, and that’s the whole point, right?
Stiles rubs a hand up the back of his neck, ducks his head. “I thought. I thought you were giving it back to me.”
Derek stares at him, silent. He thought what?
“The wolf,” Stiles clarifies, like Derek couldn’t figure that out, even though it’s completely ridiculous.
“Why would I wrap it up?” Derek says, bewildered. “Why would I put a bow on it?”
Stiles shrugs. “Because you’re an asshole?”
Derek snorts and backs up to let Stiles inside and tries to tamp down the hope that’s making his wolf circle and yip, because Stiles not knowing it was a token when he took it—that could go either way.
But Stiles’s hands are empty when he reaches for the hem of Derek’s t-shirt. He tugs on it and says, “So are we married in the eyes of werewolf law now?”
“There’s no werewolf law, Stiles, it’s like—” How does he explain that it’s the will of the moon without sounding like a jackass? That his wolf thinks they belong to each other? That his wolf is pleased?
Stiles nods and keeps on nodding as he reels Derek closer. “Werewolves are romantic losers, I get it. Do we get a honeymoon?”
“The first month is the honeymoon,” Derek says absently, distracted by Stiles’s palms sliding over his back, up under his shirt.
“Aww, man. I knew I should’ve asked Cora for more specifics,” Stiles says. He nips at the underside of Derek’s jaw.
Derek shudders and says, “Cora probably thought this was funny.”
“Cora thought this was hilarious, but she loves you, so.” He pulls back and looks directly into Derek’s face. “I’m not saying this is perfect, but I figured, you know, werewolf married. How bad could that be?”
Derek gives him a flat look. “You’re kidding me.”
Stiles grins and slowly starts walking Derek backwards, deeper into the loft, his hands on Derek’s hips. He says, “I’ve been in love with you since I was sixteen, Derek, nothing else seemed to be working.”
Derek doesn’t know what to say to that, it’s crazy on so many levels, how had Stiles jumped from let’s talk about how much I like you to let’s get our souls joined under the mating moon? Does Stiles know how serious this is for a werewolf?
“Stiles, you can’t—”
“I have a month, right?” Stiles asks. He gently shoves Derek down on to the bed when his legs hit it and climbs onto his lap, knees on either side of his hips. “Like I gave you?”
Technically, yeah, but after the first token wolves are pretty much overly-invested, so. “You do,” Derek says. Derek’s in this, regardless, but he’ll get over it. He always does.
Stiles palms Derek’s shoulders and pushes him down flat. He leans over him and says, “I don’t need it.”
Derek sucks in a breath. “You don’t.”
He shakes his head, grinning, and his fingers deftly slip Derek’s shirt up his chest.
The giant loft windows throw shadows across the bed, illuminate Stiles face with the soft, yellow light of streetlamps outside. Derek covers Stiles’s hands with his own, says, softly, “‘May your love shine bright through all the phases of the moon,’” and feels it all the way deep down in his bones.
“Werewolves are such saps. Sing me a song of your people,” Stiles says, and Derek howls.