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A Little Less Sixteen Candles

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Come over.

That's it, the entirely of the text Stiles gets from Derek in the middle of class.

He refrains from freaking the hell out solely because Scott is currently sitting in front of him and he just saw Derek's little trio of miscreants in a creepy clump in the hallway three minutes ago, and also because if anything were wrong he figures Derek would be trespassing on school property without a care in the world for being taken as some kind of perv. He would not be sending Stiles some random text.

Still, though. Just in case. What, NOW? Kind of in school, here.

Ms. Myers nearly catches him texting under the desk, so it's another five minutes before he feels safe to check the message behind the vibration that immediately came back.

No. After school.

Stiles sends back a quick K -- later discovers he hit L by accident -- and makes a mental note to see if Scott knows what's up and if they can use his mom's car for this pow-wow later. Stiles is running seriously short on gas and funds both.

Scott bolts for work the second the bell rings. Stiles decides the three quarters in his pocket will, if he sucks up his shame enough to use them, buy him enough gas fumes to get him to Derek's and back, no harm, no foul.

Far less foul than pissing Derek off by not showing up, at least. Exams start in two days. He really does not need a cranky werewolf giving him grief on top of everything else.

When he goes to Derek's, nobody is there. Derek is sitting alone in the dark.

"Sitting alone in the dark is maybe the sort of macabre cliche you should refrain from indulging in if you want to, you know, give this whole normalcy thing a real go," Stiles mentions. "Scheduling problems? Scott has work. And not that I don't appreciate being included in these little shindigs, you're very equal opportunity lately, but I wouldn't sneeze at being included in the cancellation notices, too. Do you know how much gas costs these days?"

Derek stares at him. For a really long time. He really does still have a lot of work to do on the normalcy front. "Sorry," he finally says. "It wasn't -- never mind. Nobody else could make it. I'll let you know next time."

"Awesome. I'm gonna book, then, gotta study. Later!"

He can feel Derek staring at him as he leaves. Like even his eyes have claws.

Creepy.

******

The day before his last exam, Stiles is trying to cram everything he never learned about economics into his head at once when the chair across from him in the library squawks and Derek sits down.

Stiles stares.

Derek opens a book and starts to read.

Stiles lasts all of ten more seconds. "Okay, I'll bite. What are you doing here?"

There's something cagey lurking behind all the blank innocence on Derek's face when he looks up. "Reading," he says blankly. "I know how to, you know."

"Rest assured, Derek, of all the things I have ever suspected of you, illiteracy is not one of them. Why are you reading?"

"Because I feel like it."

Stiles takes a deep, calming breath. And then another for good measure. In, out. In, o -- "Now. At this table. You feel like reading -- is that Little fucking Women? Are you actively trying to mess with my head?"

Derek's expression is still a veneer of calm over a storm of other emotions, but this time Stiles has no trouble identifying what's being repressed. When unleashed, it usually results in him being slammed against unforgiving surfaces. Recognizing that makes him swallow hard and squirm in his seat as Derek glares at him, nostrils flaring. "Yes -- no. Yes, I feel like reading and I feel like reading here. Do you have a problem with that? And it's just Little Women. There's no fucking in it. It's not that kind of book, they don't fuck."

"If you say so, not like I ever read it," Stiles says. He watches Derek warily, tries to figure out where the joke is. "Fine, whatever. Enjoy your oh-so-chaste tale of girls going not at all wild."

Five minutes later, Derek clears his throat, turns a page, and says quietly, "I hate this book."

Stiles blinks and his pen slides off in a dark slash of ink right in the middle of scribbling laissez-faire. "Why are you reading it, then?"

"It was my little sister's favorite." Derek doesn't even look up at him. "Sometimes I try to figure out why."

"Oh." Stiles chews his lower lip and decides to valiantly ignore the outstanding question of why Derek is undertaking this endeavor in Stiles's face all of a sudden. He scratches out a doodle on the corner of his sheet of notebook paper, decides it has a distinct robot flair to the sharp lines, and sets about making it so. "Sometimes when I'm alone at home I blast really shitty 80s music," he admits after another brief silence. "My mom kept a radio on the sill over the sink. She'd do dishes to it."

"You do it to pretend she's still there?"

"No." Stiles looks up, catches Derek watching him through his lashes. "I do it to make sure it still hurts. I think if it stops hurting I might stop remembering her as well, you know?"

Derek tips his head in silent acknowledgment. Stiles gives up on his robot and goes back to studying. Two hours later he wakes up with spit gluing his cheek to a page and Derek is nowhere in sight.

******

Stiles gets a summer job at the video store and pilfers a handful of two for the price of one rental coupons to spread the perks of his first foray into the world of employment to all of his nearest and dearest.

For the hell of it he offers one to Jackson, too, the next time they all invade Derek's digs.

Jackson gives him a dirty look. "You know the last guy who had that job died," he says balefully. "Violently. In the store."

"Nope, pretty sure the last guy just got convinced that Stockton is like, an urban renaissance waiting to happen and moved down to get in on the ground floor." Stiles shrugs. "The guy before him, sure. Death. Violent. In the store. Same goes for a disturbing number of other locations a kid in this town has a shot in hell of getting summer work. Pickings are getting slim, my man, and beggars can't be choosers."

"I wouldn't know anything about that, thank god," Jackson mutters. But he plucks the coupon out of Stiles's grasp on his way out, and Stiles is reasonably sure he is not imagining the quick, "thanks," that trails in Jackson's wake.

Baby steps, Stiles tells his inner zen. Baby steps.

Derek doesn't comment on his employment glory at all. "I don't have a television," is all he says. "Or a DVD player."

"And the list of things wrong with you gets ever longer," Stiles says cheerfully. He ignores how much Derek obviously wants him to scurry along like everyone else has, given how his jaw is twitching in a concerning fashion. "Take some anyway, come pick out whatever bizarro stuff floats your grumpy little boat. You can come over and watch at my place."

Derek's jaw twitches some more. His eyelid, too, just a little. "You're...inviting me over."

"Sure, why not? Word to the wise, though: Lydia hates gore, I have never known Allison to express appreciation for anything made before 2007 and even that's a stretch, and Scott is picky as hell about comedies in that way where if nobody else finds it at all funny he'll probably be literally rolling on the floor laughing. Jackson will never admit it, but I have it from reliable sources that he owns all the Step Up movies on Blu-ray and tries to claim they count as sports movies, so. I have no idea what your other little delinquents will like and I'm not sure I want to know, so that's on you to figure out. Choose wisely and let me know when to make the popcorn."

In the midst of what Stiles had hoped to be a very helpful rundown of a very complex situation, Derek's mouth tightens more and more into a moue of annoyance. Stiles knows he probably shouldn't have gone there with the dig about Derek's spawn -- and it would probably help, he tells himself with a mental kick, if he stopped thinking of them as spawn -- but he kind of feels it was mild as these things go and definitely not worth the way Derek jerks his head and looks away in an obvious fit of pique.

A fit Derek, as per freaking yooz, does absolutely nothing to explain. "Saturday," he says tersely. "Make it Saturday."

Stiles gives a snappy salute even as he rolls his eyes. "Sir, yessir," he mutters. "But don't forget to come pick out a movie!"

"Stiles," Derek says sharply as he heads for the door. "Your store, does it have a decent selection of older stuff?"

"Fair to middling," Stiles hedges with his hand on the knob. "Why, got something in mind?"

"If you have it, set aside Rebel Without A Cause for me. That's what I want."

Stiles thunks his head repeatedly against the doorjamb. "You might actually be the single biggest cliche ever to walk the earth. James Dean, Derek? Really? That's the direction you're choosing to go? You know, the coupon gets you one free, why not go all out and do a double feature with something from the early Brando oeuvre?"

"No," Derek says evenly, behind him. "Edward Scissorhands."

One last good, solid thunk for good measure. For emphasis. "Oh my god," he mutters, and yanks the door open. "Right. Well then. Saturday! It'll be...awesome, or...something."

******

It's something, all right.

Three weeks later, Stiles has just about managed to earn enough to pay his dad back for having to replace the recliner that wound up splintered into pieces during the process of deciding whether Isaac or Jackson got to sit in it.

Why Jackson, with his gobs of money and it being basically his fault, didn't pony up for the damn thing, Stiles doesn't know. It might have something to do with being, so far as Stiles has ever been able to tell, genetically hardwired for utter douchery. And Derek was no help at all, just sat there between Stiles and the arm of the couch where he'd wedged himself and watched the whole thing go down. "No, please," Stiles had finally said bitingly, tearing his attention from the horrifying wreck of his father's favoritest chair and fixing it on Derek, "stay put. Don't trouble yourself. Is there anything else in my house you'd like to watch get destroyed without doing anything to stop it?"

Derek had just turned an utterly unconcerned gaze on Stiles. "Teenagers break things. I'll make sure they clean it up." He dug his hand into the bowl of popcorn sitting on Stiles's lap. "This is good, by the way. Thanks."

So Stiles is maybe still just a little bit annoyed when he peels into a parking space one day and hops out of his Jeep only to turn and find Derek lurking a mite too close at his shoulder. "Jesus!" he yelps, flailing a bit. "Warn a guy, would you?"

Derek gazes at him. "Sorry," he says. He doesn't sound sorry at all. "Are you going to get coffee?"

"Uh." Stiles glances pointedly at the coffee shop ten feet away. "I was considering something of the coffeeish persuasion, yes."

Being the prolonged subject of one of Derek's lengthy, unblinking stares is, Stiles realizes for so completely not the first time in his life, really unsettling. It feels like being caught in a snare, held at Derek's mercy and forced to pray that he even has mercy, and Stiles actually sags with relief when Derek finally cuts his gaze away and nods absently. "Yeah, I -- me, too. Only I didn't have any -- would you mind?"

At some point, Stiles swears, he's going to stop being surprised by Derek entirely.

That point is not today, though, because what the hell. Like, he gets that it's way too hot to run around in jackets that feature very helpful pockets and that nobody who goes for the kind of fit Derek's jeans have would dare ruin that fit by jamming a wallet in anywhere, but would it really be so hard to carry a five or two around with him?

Stiles looks longingly at the poster of a delicious, delightful blended mocha plastered in the coffee shop window and considers the just-barely-enough amount of money in his own pocket that's the last he's got until he gets his next paycheck in the morning. Then he looks back at Derek and his hesitant, hopeful, hangdog expression and sighs heavily.

His giant frosty treat will have to wait for tomorrow. Today he appears to be springing for two smaller, less tasty drinks.

In line, Derek stands so close that Stiles can feel the heat bleeding off his body and the waft of breath against the side of his neck as he orders. Eventually he's going to have to man up and have a serious talk with Derek about personal bubbles and how some people have them, but for now he just forks over the last of his cash and hauls Derek over to the side to wait.

To wait...in awkward silence. Derek keeps glancing back towards the cash register like he's confused about something, but Stiles has exactly zip desire to delve into the mysteries of how Derek Hale makes sense of the universe right now. "So this has been fun," he drawls as their order comes up and he plucks the cups from the counter. "We'll have to do it again."

Derek levels a surprised look on him. "Yeah?"

"Oh, absolutely." Stiles nods solemnly. "The mooching, the taciturn silence, the swift parting of ways? Swell times, just...just peachy. Keen, even!"

"I didn't as -- " Derek stops short and his mild -- dare Stiles even call it pleasant -- expression is so a thing of the past. "Wait, you're leaving," he says flatly. "Now."

"Uh, yeah? My shift starts in five minutes." Stiles thrusts one of the coffees forward. Derek's fingers brush his as he takes it and Stiles could swear Derek shudders slightly. Which, geez. Stiles may not be a werewolf, but it's not like his ongoing humanity gives him cooties or anything. "Yeaaaaaaah," he says, backing away and shoving down annoyance he can't really explain. "Like I said. Real good times. See you later, Derek."

******

Stiles really isn't sure what exactly he did to piss Derek off, and even less sure why he cares. It's not like it hasn't been a common occurrence in life since the day they met.

Still. For once he hasn't done anything to deserve the penetrating death glares Derek has been giving him. He bought him coffee and never even asked to be paid back! But in the weeks since, every time he's been in Derek's vicinity he's had the distinct impression that Derek is fixating on him and plotting something.

Something most likely involving Stiles's inhumane and gory death. Given the history of both threats Derek has actually made against him and things Stiles has actually witnessed Derek do, Stiles doesn't think his fears are beyond reason.

So he maybe starts avoiding, just a little bit. Nothing much, just picking up an extra shift or two that might coincide with times he knows everyone has plans.

The new course of action lasts all of a week. Then he trudges into his room after a long shift to find a bundle of tiny purple flowers mixed in with sprigs of green sitting on his desk. The levels of weird are many and varied: there are flowers in his room that he didn't put there, which means that someone came into his room to leave him flowers, which means that someone gave him flowers at all. There's also the fact that it's not an arrangement so much as a clump of freaking weeds that don't even smell good when he presses his nose in, and there is, as he confirms after a little poking around in the leaves to make sure, no note with them.

Weird.

Stiles sets the freakish little bouquet aside and goes to brush and floss his teeth. When he's all minty fresh he settles in at his computer and gets to googling. It takes a few tries, and a lot of peering at pictures, but after a few minutes he's pretty sure he's figured out what he's got, if not why.

The why takes another few stabs at search strings to come up with flower meanings, and finally he has it.

Milk Vetch: Your presence softens my pain.

It hits Stiles like a ton of bricks. Derek.

It has to be. Derek broke into his house -- not so strange, in and of itself -- to leave him an aesthetically deficient but seriously flattering bunch of weeds.

Derek freaking Hale gave him flowers.

After asking if he could join Stiles for coffee.

After practically sitting in Stiles's lap during movies and refusing to budge.

After searching him out just to sit with while he wallowed in memories.

After inviting him over when oh god, nobody else was ever supposed to be there at all.

Stiles is an idiot.

Stiles is also having a tough time breathing, all of a sudden. He tries, for a minute, to calm himself down. So Derek has a thing for him. Okay. No reason to have a panic attack or anything.

Only he can't seem to get it under control. Downstairs, the front door opens and shuts, and his dad's footsteps come up the stairs and down the hall. "Stiles?" The door opens after a quick, soft rap. "Just wanted to say good night, son, I -- what the hell, Stiles?"

Stiles blinks up at his dad from his desk chair. Or tries to, anyway. He'd thought he was just tired but his eyes freaking hurt now, and when he opens his mouth to speak he discovers his tongue has been replaced by a thick wad of dry cotton.

And yeah, nope, really can't breathe.

The last thing he remembers thinking is that he really hates when he goes and puts that terrified look on his dad's face.

******

The good news is, he doesn't die.

That's about all the good news there is to be had for awhile, though. Stiles first wakes up with one tube down his throat and another up his dick, some pretty heavy duty steroids pumping their way through his very unhappy body, and Scott's mom eventually breaking the news that he's probably going to spend the rest of summer recovering from a poison oak reaction as severe as he's had.

He rapidly reaches the conclusion that sleeping through as much of that time as possible is probably the best course of action. So he does that. He does that like a pro for nearly two days.

On the morning he's supposed to be released, he wakes up before dawn and pretty quickly zeroes in on Derek, sitting tense and watchful in the corner. "You tried to kill me," he mumbles sleepily.

"I did not try to -- " Derek stops and takes several deep, careful breaths. "This isn't what was supposed to happen," he finally mutters. "How could I have known you'd be allergic?"

Stiles tries to wet his lips with his still-slightly-swollen tongue. "The fact that the vast majority of the population is allergic to poison oak and would never, ever, ever use it as part of a bouquet could have been something to tip you off to a potential risk," he offers. "Though I'll grant you that you couldn't have known I happen to be like, really allergic. Also, I flossed with it all over my hands sooooo...that was extra bad."

"I didn't know any of it," Derek says sullenly. Stiles finds it kind of unfair that he's the one in a hospital bed but Derek's the guy in the room he feels bad for. "It's not one of the plants I ever had to learn to be careful around. It was just there. I thought it looked okay."

"With the flowers you picked off some roadside?" He lets his eyes slip shut but can still feel Derek glowering at him from across the room. "S'cool, man. Figured out what they were before that whole thing where I started dying. And what you've been trying to do."

Derek doesn't answer right away. "I'm not good at this," he finally says.

"I figured that out, too, believe it or not." Stiles yawns. "Let's talk about it in a couple weeks when I don't want to claw my own skin off more than anything else."

"Yeah," Derek says softly. He's silent then, and Stiles starts to drift back towards sleep.

Until a sudden, urgent thought shoves back to the forefront of his mind. "Derek. I'm glad, you know. About the -- if I, if having me around...you know."

It's true, too. It's always been obvious that wedged into the spaces where most people keep like, social skills and other useful techniques for functioning in public, Derek keeps an overabundance of grief and guilt. It's not anything Stiles would ever have called him out on, what with how Derek also carries around an overblown tendency towards committing violence, frequently with abnormally sharp body parts, but he never could help noticing it.

Noticing it, and sympathizing with it. He'd be glad to provide that kind of help to anyone.

What he hasn't figured out yet is if he's particularly glad to provide it to Derek.

"It does," Derek tells him. "You do."

He's starting to think that maybe he is.

******

Getting out of the hospital is nice and all, but ultimately he's left stuck at home with very little to do but kill time, itch, and ponder Derek Hale.

Not exactly what he'd planned to do with the last little bit of summer vacation but hey. Things happen. In between visits from his friends, harassing them by text at all hours when they're not around, and pestering his dad out of sheer stir-crazy boredom in the evenings, Stiles ponders.

He ponders hard.

And then about a week before school starts he ponders and gets hard, which in addition to adding an unfortunate double entendre to his already out-of-whack life, sort of pushes him in the direction of the answer to a question he's been avoiding actually asking himself during all the pondering.

All he even thinks about is Derek watching him and Stiles comes faster and harder than he ever has before. Adding other elements to the fantasy is...well. Thank god for his dad's willingness to tactfully ignore certain muffled noises that occur behind closed doors.

Still and all, that's the full extent of Derek's involvement in his life for the rest of break. It's not until Stiles is driving home after the first day of school that Derek finally texts, the first Stiles has heard from him since the hospital.

My place at six.

It's a near thing, but Stiles manages not to hyperventilate in the middle of afternoon traffic when he realizes they've gone and come full circle, the only difference being that this time he knows what the hell is going on.

The nerve-wracking thing of it, the thing he hasn't been able to get around despite weeks of thinking this whole mess through, is that his experience with dating is admittedly limited.

It basically consists, in fact, of an ill-advised incident in which he asked Kara Frost to the spring dance in eighth grade in hopes of getting Lydia to a) notice him and b) find herself consumed with jealousy.

Lydia did actually notice him that night. Unfortunately, she only did so after Stiles dropped a glass of punch on her satin heels. Even Stiles, in his wishiest of wishful thinking, couldn't escape that fact that it was clearly not jealousy consuming her.

Apoplectic rage was a far more accurate way to describe it.

He's pretty sure that was the moment his crush on her turned into something else, something bigger that stirred the swamp of hormones recently taking over his body in a new and different way. Lydia Martin with flashing, irate eyes was possibly the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

Kara just paled in comparison, like anyone not Lydia was basically doomed to do. Still, he held her hand and screwed up enough courage to chance a quick kiss at the end of the night, and when his dad picked him up from the school parking lot Stiles asked to go by the hospital so that he could crawl onto his mother's bed and tell her about it. He sort of felt bad about lying, the way he tried to describe Kara like she was even half as amazing as Lydia, but his mom stroked his hair and seemed so happy that he didn't feel bad for long. Her smile actually looked like a smile that night, instead of a strained effort layered into place over a grimace of pain.

She died in June. Stiles didn't really pay attention to girls -- or much of anything, actually -- during freshman year.

So he's maybe a little behind on this particular curve, but no matter. He's always been an excellent observational learner and has had little to no choice in the matter of observing, sometimes while cringing in horror, a great many milestones and speedbumps along the course of Scott's relationship with Allison.

He can do this. He can totally do this. He can absolutely, without a doubt and with suaveness and sophistication, go on a date with Derek Hale.

On second thought, no. No, he cannot.

He has nothing to wear and his soap smells like oatmeal. He can't even blame that on the poison oak; he's always had really sensitive skin.

He is so screwed.

******

In the end Stiles raids his dad's bathroom for aftershave with a spicier kick than his own, exchanges the khakis he'd worn to school for a clean pair of jeans, and swaps his t-shirt and button-up for just a t-shirt, one he hasn't worn in over a year and is a bit less baggy than he remembers it being.

It might even cling a little. Apparently he went and grew without even noticing. Sweet.

He sets out for Derek's with something at least resembling confidence. He smells good, looks...well, a little less hurriedly slapped together than usual, and for once he's walking in with his eyes wide open, aware of what's going on.

Or not. He walks in just in time to see Derek handing out a pile of dusty old books and lecturing on how witches are not to be underestimated, no matter what.

It's an actual freaking meeting.

Stiles is an idiot.

Luckily he's an idiot who switches gears fast, and he plasters on an expression of bland interest as he flings himself down on the sofa next to Allison. "Witches? We have witches? Do they have warts?"

Derek's eyes lock on him. "Stiles," he greets slowly. His nostrils flare and his jaw clenches briefly and for a second, he looks furious. "You're late. I already explained that we have at least one witch. I was at the bookstore on Cherry today and it's under new ownership. There was a warding spell in place that hasn't been there before."

Stiles takes a second to just set aside everything going through his head about how Derek nearly wooed him to death, hasn't so much as crossed Stiles's radar since the hospital, suddenly just calls him to a pack meeting like everything's normal, like none of it ever happened, and now has the gall to give off immediate Stiles, you are a fuck-up beyond belief vibes. None of it is at all cool, but it's also neither here nor there with witches on the table. "Is that something you can just feel?" he asks curiously. "Like a disturbance in the Force or something? Should we start calling you Derek Wan Kenobi?"

"Only if you want me to kill you," Derek says flatly. Stiles narrows his eyes and Derek at least has the grace to look momentarily uncomfortable with his choice of threats. "Or call you a droid."

"No way, I am totally Han Solo. I drive Luke over there around and everything!"

Scott snorts with laughter and Allison elbows him. "Think through me being Leia for a minute," she suggests. Scott immediately sits up straight and glares at Stiles, pulling Allison closer to his side.

"You're definitely C-3PO," he declares.

Derek smirks, and then it's back to business. "It was only a protective spell," he says. "To keep moods calm and discourage violence. But it's a magic I haven't felt in Beacon Hills since I was a kid, and if there are witches here again then you all need to be prepared. Their dealings with werewolves tend to be...delicate. It can get political. I will handle anything that comes up, but I need all of you to at least try not to make anything come up."

For the next two hours, Derek fills them all in on the gist of everything he remembers learning about witches when he was growing. Stiles listens with his nose buried in one of the books, trying hard to ignore the strange looks Derek keeps giving him and trying even harder not to think about anything he'd thought was going to happen here tonight.

He fails big time on both counts.

At eight Derek kicks everyone out. Stiles considers lingering, to at least see if Derek might have any inclination at all towards following up on...everything, but Isaac pulls Derek aside first to have some low-toned conversation, and Scott is asking him for a ride home since it's less out of the way than for Allison.

Stiles, completely aware that he is going to go home and jerk off to frustrated thoughts of everything he still is not getting to try with Derek, really kind of hates his life at the moment.

******

Stiles gets home to a note from his dad about a surveillance operation that will probably run late and twenty dollars to order a pizza if he wants.

He pockets the twenty and makes a sandwich instead. Thanks to someone he lost out on a lot of income at the end of summer, and that's been even harder to recover from than the near-death experience. He'll take every bit he can get.

He eats at the counter, no need to dirty a plate, and once he's put everything away he trudges up the stairs.

And straight into an ambush. The second he tumbles into his room Derek is a blur of motion pushing off of his bed, snagging him with a firm hand wrapped around the back of his neck to spin him around and shove him right back out into the hall.

"Hey!" Stiles yelps, resenting his utter lack of coordination as he fails to keep his own feet from tangling beneath him. "What are you -- this is not okay, Derek, this is so many crimes all at once -- "

Derek cuts him off with a low rumble that sounds suspiciously, disturbingly close to a growl. He frog-marches Stiles into the bathroom and leaves him in the corner while he yanks back the shower curtain and stares at everything in the tub like he's waiting for something to leap out and attack him, like there's something lurking there.

He finally nods and steps back in satisfaction -- and then his gaze falls on the bottle of aftershave Stiles left sitting on the sink counter.

"Hey, no, don't -- " Stiles winces as Derek unscrews the lid and dumps the entire thing down down the drain. "I'm gonna have to replace that, you know. It's my dad's."

"Why the hell are you wearing it, then?" Derek snaps, deigning to speak to him at last. Stiles crosses his arms and glares mulishly, refusing to answer.

He's pretty sure he's embarrassed himself enough for one day.

Derek disagrees, apparently. He glares right back and points at the shower. "Get it off."

"Dude. What is your problem?"

"You stink, is my problem," Derek snarls. "You smell like formaldehyde, Stiles."

And there it is, definitely more humiliation in the cards for him. Derek must see something on his face indicating just how close to the end of his rope he is, because he takes a deep breath -- through his mouth -- and holds up his palms in a conciliatory gesture. "It doesn't mix well with your body chemistry. Just get it off."

"Formaldehyde?" Stiles finally mutters. "Really?"

Derek grimaces. "More like the actual rotting corpse. I was trying to be nice."

"Your technique could use work," Stiles snaps. "Fine. Go, shoo. I will shed myself of the offense to your delicate sensibilities and then we are going to talk, buddy. Like about whether I'm gonna have to invite you along every time I buy toiletries from now on, if you're going to be insane and all."

"That's a good idea," Derek says agreeably. "That would work well, I think."

Stiles rubs the heels of his hands into his eyes before staring pointedly in the direction of the door. "Out." Derek obeys with one last suspicious look around the bathroom, and as he strips and gets into the shower Stiles gives deep and careful consideration to his life choices and whether his libido might be leading him down a dysfunctional path.

He can't really find a way around the answer to that being a resounding yes. Especially when he gets out to find a tidy pile of clothes stacked on the lid of the toilet where nothing had been before, and everything he'd been wearing cleared away.

Stiles seriously hopes Derek is not planning to burn his clothes in revenge, or anything. Jeans are expensive and those still fit, damn it. "You're not planning to burn my clothes, are you?" he demands when he stalks back into his room.

"They're in the washer," Derek says mildly, right freaking behind him. The door clicks shut and Stiles whirls around and this...this is an an entirely new way of being pushed against a wall by Derek.

Stiles votes to make the change permanent. It's familiar and all, being pressed and caged in, Derek's body too-hot and too-close, having to look up and wonder what's about to happen. But at the same time it's this strange new world in which Derek doesn't threaten him, doesn't intimidate him.

Derek just leans in and sniffs him.

Stiles bites his lip and tries desperately not to get hard just from the brush of Derek's nose along his jaw.

He fails miserably. He sags in relief when Derek relents and releases him, backing away with his gaze locked on Stiles. "Better," Derek says, and drops into the chair in the corner. "What the hell, Stiles."

"I thought you were inviting me over!" Stiles blurts defensively. He sits on the edge of his bed and pulls his feet up, sits cross-legged and twists his hands in his lap. "Only me, capisce? For...you know. A do over? Once more, with feeling?"

Derek gets the glowering look that Stiles has learned to identify as I am internally self-flagellating right this very minute, do not try to stop me. "I wanted to," Derek grumps. "ButI needed to get everyone up to speed on the witch thing. I was going to ask you to stay after so that we could...figure this out."

"Only then I smelled like death."

"Then you smelled like death," Derek agrees. He inhales deeply and jesus, just the sight of it stirs something in Stiles, the reminder that Derek is like, seriously into how he smells. "That was stupid, you know. You didn't need to do anything differently for -- because of me."

"Well, excuse me for trying," Stiles grouses. "I haven't done this much. The whole....seeing someone...thing."

"What, like I have?"

"Uh...you look like you, dude," Stiles points out. "So...yes, I would say. Very much emphatically yes, the odds and every single rule of the universe argue in favor of you having done this a time or two."

Derek looks at him like he's too stupid to live. Derek should freaking patent that look. "Well," he says slowly, with exaggerated patience, "let's see. There was Kate Argent. And then there was a period of time during which I dealt with the fact that the woman I thought I was falling in love with used the kinds of innocent things you tell the person you think you're falling in love with to murder my family."

Stiles presses his lips together and blinks a few times, considering. "I'm going to concede this point," he finally announces graciously. "And just for you, I'm even going to throw in a promise that I will never try to kill your little winged monkeys. Unless they're trying to kill me, in which case I admit that all bets will be off. Also, if we're doing this?" He flails his hands and figures that's good enough to encompass everything he means. "I will probably have at least mild expectations that you keep them from trying to kill me."

Derek gazes at him for so long that Stiles has the deeply disconcerting thought that mild expectations are actually too much of an ultimatum. But then Derek cracks a wry smile. "I'll do my best," he murmurs. "Does that mean we're doing this?"

Stiles pretends to think about, and looks Derek up and down. "Well. If I say yes, I think it's reasonable to assume I will at some point get to have sex with that. If I say no, I run the risk of you making more misguided gestures that land me in the hospital. Under the circumstances, I believe I'll choose yes."

"You should probably know that bringing that up makes me want to tear your throat out," Derek mentions placidly.

"Sure you wouldn't rather tear my clothes off?" Stiles says with a cheeky smirk.

Derek's eyes narrow.

Oh.

******

Despite Derek as a general concept providing a lot of inspiration lately to jerk off like it's going out of style, Stiles hasn't really zeroed in on any kind of concrete anticipation of what actually kissing Derek might be like.

As it turns out, it's awesome.

As it also turns out, it takes another frustrating week of frustrated frustration for Stiles to find this out. After his little jab, Derek did not in fact tear anything out or off or up; what he did was get up, pass close enough to Stiles to take one last good, long whiff, and leave.

Like Stiles smelling right was all the satisfaction he needed that night. Which, it may well have been, but Stiles himself? Kind of jonesing for way more than that.

Denied.

The rest of the week is taken up with trying to get into the swing of school again, and after Scott says Derek bailed out of town for the weekend, Stiles spends most of Saturday and Sunday shooting hoops with Scott and Jackson and Isaac, who have decided they can and should join the team and take it by storm.

Stiles plans on passing. The anticipation of warming the lacrosse bench all spring is more than enough athletic excitement for him.

By Monday, Stiles is 99.8% sure that he's going to tell Derek it's over. Not that it ever really got started, but still. Whatever it is that has consisted of botched attempts at dates, severe health consequences, and a disconcerting amount of G-rated sniffing, he is going to nip it in the bud.

Then Derek texts him in the middle of European History and that plan gets shot all to hell.

After school. Just you. Nobody else. If you reek, go home and fix it first.

Asshole. But so okay, new plan. Stiles takes a surreptitious whiff of his pits and decides he's just fine and dandy, and he is going to get some action today.

And for once, for one amazing, blissful, wonderful once, he and Derek are completely in sync. Stiles lets himself into the loft that, while rundown, is still miles beyond burnt-out shells of despair or decrepit train depots, and meets Derek halfway to jab a finger into his chest. "You done messing with my head yet?"

"There were witches, Stiles," Derek gripes, even as his fingers hook into the belt loops on Stiles's hips and tug him in. "I had to deal with the witches."

"Are they planning to do us grievous harm?"

"Possibly."

"Today?"

"Unlikely." Derek smiles briefly and then ducks his head and noses behind Stiles's ear like he's checking or something. "I'm willing to take the chance if you are."

"Oh my god, are you kidding me?" Stiles snaps. "To hell with chances, I don't care about chances -- "

Somewhere in the midst of Stiles smacking Derek repeatedly on the arm because it's about the mildest possible way for him to express just how completely insane he is going to go if this doesn't happen already, Derek catches his wrist in a firm grip and -- and catches his mouth at the same time and it is happening.

Happening in warm, biting kisses, Derek tugging and sucking his lip, scraping his teeth across the tender inner skin again and again until he takes Stiles by surprise and presses his advantage, pushes his tongue forward in a smooth sweep.

Stiles squeaks. Derek rumbles happily.

The problem with being an uncoordinated klutz is that it doesn't exactly help situations like Derek driving him across the room and against the arm of a sofa. Stiles tumbles right over it and takes Derek down with him in a flopping heap that knocks most of the breath out of Stiles. "Ow," he mentions, just for the hell of it, and then Derek is mouthing clumsily at his neck and trying to haul them both further along the cushions at the same time. "Um, ow, okay -- wait, just, we can -- fuck."

In between arms flailing and tugging and knees digging into the cushions for leverage, Derek's thigh presses between Stiles's legs and presses, drags and oh god that is good. That is a good, amazing, excellent thing that has Stiles's very, very deprived and hungry body chasing after seconds with a vengeance. Stiles hooks his leg up and around Derek and gasps into his mouth. "We could have done this all summer if you'd been less of a loser."

Derek bites Stiles's lip and drags his leg hard against Stiles again and then plays dirty, he plays filthy and knees up, peels his shirt off and flings it to the side. It's nothing Stiles hasn't seen before -- hell, it's nothing Stiles hasn't traded in before like so much currency, but he hadn't been looking with quite the same eye.

Or the same hard-on. Derek smirks down at him as his mouth falls open and he ogles openly. "We could have done this all summer if you'd been less of a nitwit," Derek retorts.

Then he presses his palm down hard on Stiles's trapped cock and that's about it in terms of higher cognitive function for Stiles. "Good point," Stiles chokes out. It's all instinct from there, grasping for Derek with the grabbiest of hands, dragging him back down just to get his fill of Derek's mouth and the expanse of Derek's back under his palms, the weight of Derek's body over his, the pressure and friction of Derek slotting against him and finding a rhythm.

All of which is so good that Stiles is extremely proud of it taking more than thirty seconds to get dangerously close to too much. "Derek," he whispers. He digs his fingers into the bunching muscles of Derek's lower back and tips his head back, lets Derek at the column of his neck. "This is about to get messy. Just saying."

Derek freezes.

Stiles opens his mouth to complain, vociferously if necessary -- and then Derek is flicking open his slacks, tugging the zipper down and oh dear good God, there is a hand that's not his own wrapping around Stiles's dick and giving it a firm squeeze. "Hold on," Derek murmurs. "Don't -- " Another few shifts and the bump of knuckles, the scrape of metal teeth disengaging and Derek wedging fully between Stiles's legs and lining them up, gripping them together. "There, there, just -- okay, you can -- "

Stiles most certainly can. Does, in fact, bites down hard on his lip and comes with a stifled moan all over his stomach and the crumpled edge of his rucked up shirt.

Derek licks his neck and follows close behind, spilling on Stiles's skin, a deep noise of content vibrating out of him. "Was that less losery enough for you?" he murmurs, settling down into the sticky, sliding mess.

Stiles blinks up in the rafters. "Uh. Um. Hey."

"Hm."

"Wanna get some coffee sometime?"