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Derek wakes up to the sound of birds chirping right outside his window, loud and happy and cheerful, exactly the kind of noise he hates; it's surprising because they usually stay well away from the Hale House that Derek can't have them for breakfast if he decides to, and because, when he checks his watch on the nightstand, it's past eight in the morning. He never wakes up that late, instincts rousing him with the sun every morning, every day of his life. He doesn't remember a day he woke up this late, bar some special circumstances - after almost losing his arm (make that his life) to wolfsbane poisoning, for example.

It'd been a long night, fair enough, but that didn't change anything. Getting Erica off that old crone she'd tried to snack on wasn't any more strenuous than spending hours stuck in a pool, and he'd woken up with the sun after that particular night, so this? This is not making any sense.

Derek sits up slowly, blinking his eyes open and wondering if he can get away with jumping out of the window and gutting the couple of birds in the closest tree, when he realises something...wrong. His vision is not quite blurry, not exactly, but it's not as sharp as it should be, and everything feels a little sluggish when he moves his head around, taking in his bedroom. This is making no sense, no more than the sudden empty feeling in his chest, something like a hole in his stomach, throbbing hard and making Derek feel slightly sick.

Nothing a bout of running in the woods won’t solve. He's not into wolfing out during the day but there has to be some exceptions, and this has to be one. He'll make his own fucking rules if he needs to.

In two minutes he's dressed and out of the house, rolling his shoulders to loosen the muscles, settling himself into his shifting, when. It doesn't happen. However natural and easy it should be, something he's done all of his life, it's not happening. He's not shifting. What the hell?

Slowly, carefully, Derek takes the few steps down his front porch and sets his bare feet in the damp soil, frustrated and confused. He tries again, and again, but every time he should start feeling the wave of energy, every time his body should start changing, accommodating the wolf inside him, nothing happens (the hole inside him grows bigger, starts eating away at him).

For a moment he stops and breathes, slow, measured breaths that usually help him centre himself, control himself. It's like a full moon night, keeping himself entirely focused on his very own, personal brand of anger and hatred and disgust, and he taps into it now, hopes for the best.

It doesn't change anything. Even incredibly focused, calm as the ocean on a still day, breathing quiet and rhythmical, he can't shift when he gathers his energy. It's simply not doing anything, there is nothing inside him but an obvious, gaping dark hole.

He doesn't get defeated for half an hour, trying to shift harder and harder, starting to run in human form and hoping the change will happen gradually, but nothing, nothing, nothing, and it's freaking him out, and for the first time in a while (notwithstanding being paralysed in a pool), Derek is truly, honestly scared.

;;

Derek runs. It’s a stupid idea, all things considered, but he can’t even think about taking his car, not when his eyes are going funny and his heart is beating a million miles a minute, not when he can barely hear the world around him over the beat of his own blood in his ears. He runs, but he doesn’t have his usual stamina, he can’t shift and halfway to Stiles’ house his legs give out, breathing shallow and pained as he holds a hand to his chest, his skin too tight for his body, his muscles trembling. His knees hurt, and so do his lungs, and his eyes, and he’s so panicked he could cry. He has to keep going, he knows that, it’s like these adventurers on the North Pole, one step after the other.

It takes him a moment to get back to his feet, but after he manages, it’s instinct; apparently he’s not lost all of it with his sudden loss of...were-ness. He can’t smell the way he usually does, but he knows where Stiles lives, and it’s Sunday. Step after step, Derek falls back into a rhythm, walking determinedly to Stiles’.

No idea why Stiles is the first person Derek thought of. It should have been Scott, surely, who has been human long enough to understand exactly what Derek is going through. And yet, Derek is barely even sparing a thought for Scott, which is unusual enough. But Stiles is just so, so human, he understands and enjoys it more than anyone Derek has ever met, Scott included, and, right now? Stiles feels the safest out of everyone Derek knows.

It’s probably a bad idea, but it’s the best Derek has.

He gets to Stiles’ at some point – he’s not actually wearing a watch but he’s hot under his leather jacket and sweaty in an uncomfortable way that he’s not used to. Is this what humans go through every day?

For a second, Derek hesitates to knock on the door. He smells – he hasn’t showered in over a day – and he feels; he doesn’t quite know how he feels, besides empty and panicked. How is Stiles going to be able to help? But even as he’s thinking it, his knuckles rap against the door, three quick knocks before he’s pushing his hands in his pockets, desperately wishing he could just jump on the roof or hear Stiles’ beating heart all the way from outside.

But he can’t. For the first time in his life, Derek can’t hear a human heart beat, can’t jump feet high, can’t run for miles on end without getting tired. He can’t feel the wolf inside him, this other half of him making him bigger, stronger, faster. Even more than empty, Derek feels...alone.

The door opens after an agonising minute and there stands Stiles, a mix between a frown and raised eyebrows making him look almost comical only it’s not, it’s really, really not. And it only takes a few seconds for Stiles’ face to settle into something more concerned, which is even more alarming.

“Derek, you look...green. Is everything okay? Scott?”

“Scott’s fine.”

“Then why are you here?”

I’m not fine.”

Stiles doesn’t reply, which tells Derek that he’s not going to let him in until he knows more, and he still doesn’t really trust Derek (not that he’s given Stiles any reason to trust him), and for once Derek can’t just barge in and claim. It’s unsettling, but Stiles is suddenly like an equal, like the one with the upper hand because he’s lived this for all of his life.

“I’m human,” Derek says too fast, the words bitter on his tongue. It doesn’t seem quite fair that this is happening now, happening at all really.

“You’re human? Human like, we all shit and need showers every so often human, or human like not healing in two seconds and not growing fangs when someone is mean to you?”

Derek sighs, looking down at himself for a moment, wishing his fangs would drop, his fingers turn into claws. But nothing happens. He has no idea how long he’ll be able to sustain this without going mad.

“The latter,” he lets out between gritted teeth, the whole thing grating right under his skin, where it really hurts because there are too many nerve endings.

Stiles leans back against his front door, whistling low as his eyes roam up and down Derek’s body, looking for all he’s worth like he’s assessing the damage. “Must be quite a change for you, huh?”

“Can I come in?” Derek is sweating again, his stomach in knots, like he’s going to be sick. He can’t quite breathe, he’s panting and his eyes are blurry again.

“You’ve never been this polite, Derek, I am impressed,” Stiles pauses, a beat too long, and then inhales a gasp. “Are you? Oh, fuck, come on, get in before you freak out the neighbourhood,” Stiles urges, opening the door wider and pulling Derek in, the house cool and dark when he closes the door behind the two of them. “Never thought I’d ever see you have a panic attack.”

There’s a veil in front of Derek’s eyes, not the red tinge of shifting, but something milky white, everything seemingly further away than it is, which is why he bumps into the couch before Stiles sit him on it. There’s a buzzing in his ears, too, strong and insistent and making him want to rock back and forth to shake it off. He’s hot, and cold, and sweating and shivering; he wants to punch something, break something, howl at the moon and get his own self back. He’s a different person. He’s not a wolf. He’s not an Alpha. He’s nothing.

“Come on, that’s right, breathe, slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth, slowly I said, don’t pant,” Stiles is saying next to him, barely coming through the buzz but somehow managing to guide Derek back to the moment, his living room on a Sunday morning, the soothing, rhythmical quality to his words. Slowly, but surely, Derek’s vision becomes clear again, the buzz in his ears grows quieter, his tongue unsticks itself from the roof of his mouth. He can breathe normally again.

“Better? Here, have some water. Wanna tell me what happened? And why you’re here?”

Derek drinks half the glass in one go after Stiles pushes it into his hand, keeping himself to pour the rest over his head with barely there self-control.

“I think Erica’s mother cursed me, and you seemed like the best person to come to.” Derek’s voice is raspy, his throat hurting as he chokes out the words.

“Trying to decide if that’s flattering or insulting. What do you expect me to do?”

“Nothing! I don’t know. I just couldn’t stay up there alone, I didn’t think, it was a stupid idea, I should go.”

“And do what? Go to Scott’s? He’s my best friend and I don’t like to say this, but he’s not the brightest crayon in the box, if you hadn’t realized, and he’s probably going to manage to link this up to Allison in some way and leave you behind while he checks on her. Stay here for now. My dad is pulling a double shift, he won’t be back before tomorrow morning. We can try and figure this out, okay?”

Derek can’t focus on his anger enough to find arguments against this; he came here, after all. Slowly, he nods, and Stiles grins brightly, looking satisfied.

“But first, you’re going for a shower.”

;;

It takes a while, to get used to it, and that’s not even right, it’s not the right words, the right expression, it doesn’t fit what Derek’s going through because Derek doesn’t fit in his own skin anymore, world tilted upside down and shaken until he’s dizzy trying to keep upright. He and Stiles don’t talk much on that first day, even after Derek’s showered and clean and possibly feels a little bit more...normal, for a lack of a better term. They talk to other people, though, Scott, and Erica and Boyd and Isaac, but it’s not like any of them have a solution, not even Erica, who is at the core of all this.

So this is the way it is, with Derek being...human. He still has a hard time choking the word out, even four days after first waking up and being unable to shift, because it makes him feel like a cripple, like he’s suddenly ungainly, not sure of his body anymore, like Bambi trying to get on its legs for the first time. It’s not really becoming, and the fact that Stiles seems to find it an endless source of amusement is not doing wonders to Derek’s already broken down ego.

“You’re just complaining for the sake of complaining, because it’s really not that bad. Funnily enough, we all manage to survive it.”

“I’m not complaining,” Derek replies from the top of his coffee mug, once again standing in the middle of Stiles’ kitchen.

“You’ve been scowling enough for this statement to be completely untrue.”

Derek growls, and Stiles grins as he fills his mouth up with cereal. “That sounds much less threatening than you think it does since you can’t actually go through with it,” he says while chewing.

“You underestimate me.”

“Maybe. Pretty sure you can’t rip my throat open with your teeth without a lot more effort than before, though, and I’m pretty sure that’s not underestimation.”

“You’re enjoying this way too much.”

Derek sighs, flinging the dregs of his coffee into the sink before rinsing it up, keeping his hands busy to see them not shaking. He’s been so bored, unable to take care of his pack as usual, that he’d taken to clean up the Hale House, and quickly-earned habits are hard to die in the early days.

“Derek, I really do want to help you, you know?” Stiles says, voice soft, a little concerned, closer than it was before. Derek reaches out and Stiles drops his cereal bowl in his hand, a spoonful of milk in the bottom of it.

“I know.”

;;

To pass the time, to feel less helpless, Derek starts tearing the Hale House down, and rebuilding it. He starts upstairs, tearing out the remnants of carpet to reveal woodwork that has, incredibly enough, survived the fire; he gets rid of the broken windows, washes the walls with a borrowed pressure washer, buys cans and cans of paint – beige, red, brown. He had to resist buying black, remembering all too well how the house used to look, how gorgeous it was, all wood and natural colors, sun streaming through the windows, gently filtered by the trees around.

It’d been a happy place to live. The pack had been running around, unbothered, no Argents to hunt them at the beginning, and Derek grew up pretty much like any kid. He didn’t use to be this angry at everything. But then his parents were killed, his uncle was paralysed, his sister was thrust to the top of the pack without being anywhere close to ready, and Derek was lost. So fucking lost, right inside his own chest and his own issues that he didn’t even realize he was also losing his sister.

And then it was too late, it was too broken, and Derek is this way, now, hollowed out by years of misery and loneliness and misunderstandings. Laura’s gone, Peter’s gone, and Derek couldn’t do anything else than to try and give himself a new pack, that he can’t even face right now; he’s just another liability to them the way he is at the moment, and they deserve better.

It takes him days, everything taking so much longer with no supernatural strength or speed, but it’s effort, the good kind of effort, the sort that empties his mind enough that he can go through from one day to the other without wanting to rip himself open and hope for the best. He’s half of who he is supposed to be, but he refuses to give in and wallow. He knows Erica is on the case, and so is Stiles, and they’ll find a way to get him back to normal, Derek knows this for a fact.

So he keeps himself busy. He paints the bedrooms brown, paints the hallways beige, paints one wall of the bathroom red, tells himself he’ll tile the rest. It’s mind-numbing and easy enough, but he knows downstairs will be more of an issue – he might have to knock down some walls and install some new support beams, and it’s going to take a while. Maybe he’ll be back to normal by then, back to being the Alpha of his pack, back to having a purpose.

Maybe he will be.

;;

“Scott is getting really worried, you know. It’s not like they care if you’re human or a werewolf, Derek, your pack actually cares about you, which is almost scandalous considering the way you’ve treated them,” Stiles announces as he walks inside Derek’s house, the sound of bags rustling moving through the living room. Derek listens from the kitchen, cursing Stiles for deciding to come here today. It’s not been a good morning.

“It’s a miracle I’m still coming, to be honest, considering the way you’ve treated me, huh, don’t think I have forgotten, I have a list, not forgetting anything. I brought you pancake mix, by the way, because I’m not sure when the last time you’ve properly eaten and – Derek, you’re bleeding.”

Derek looks up finally, seeing Stiles in the kitchen doorway, brown paper bag in one hand, looking aghast.

“It’s not stopping,” is what Derek replies, which is stupid because he knows it’s not stopping, he is human, it’s not going to stop.

“Well, duh, welcome to mortality, you’re not going to make it heal just by glaring at it. Do you have any kind of supplies around here? Alcohol, bandages, stuff like that?”

Derek has never felt more helpless. “I’ve got whiskey.”

For some reason, this earns him a laugh. “Okay, am going to get you some medical supplies, put some pressure on it with a towel or something so that you don’t bleed all over the floor. I’ll be right back.”

When this is all over, when things are put back in their place and Derek is back to his normal self, when he is not struggling with every day, with how little control he has over his life, he’ll do his best to right his wrongs with Stiles. But right now, all he can do is listen to Stiles, taking off his shirt and pressing it to the wound, a long gouge along his forearm, to stem the blood flow. He watches Stiles leave the kitchen, jogging through the living-room and disappearing through the front door again, closing it with a bang behind him, and Derek sits there, holding his shirt to his arm. It was an accident – he lost control when he managed to dislodge a wood panel off the kitchen wall (they needed to be replaced), and the crowbar went and sliced open his arm – just a stupid accident that he wouldn’t even have blinked at before, all things considered, but to watch the blood run down his arm and nothing else happening had been hypnotising, morbidly fascinating.

When he tries to think about it, he couldn’t tell how long he stood there just watching his own blood. He’s barely ever seen it before, and it’s enthralling because it’s his own; it tastes different than any other when he tries it, something deeper in the metallic twang of it, and it feels thicker than blood he’s had on his tongue before. It’s strange in how comforting it is.

Stiles is back much earlier than Derek expects him to, coming straight to the kitchen and dropping a bag on the table, sitting himself in front of Derek. Without a word, which is uncharacteristic enough, Stiles wraps his hand around Derek’s wrist and pulls it away from the wound, Derek’s shirt falling to the floor soundlessly when he lets go of it.

“Okay, doesn’t look too bad. No stitches needed anyway, which is good because you wouldn’t want me to stitch you up, really, I failed Home Ec, so this would be a pretty bad idea.”

Derek just grunts, all too aware of Stiles’ fingers on his skin, and he looks away when Stiles goes to rummage into the bag.

“So you never had to clean up a wound, ever?”

“Not on myself. I know how to do it, Stiles.”

“I’m sure,” Stiles replies, bringing an alcohol-soaked cotton ball to the wound. Derek winces even though it doesn’t really hurt, but it’s a completely foreign sensation, and all of his focus zeroes in on that patch of skin, the gouge and the broken skin and Stiles’ fingers around it, sure and steady.

“It’s kind of an awkward one, anyway, to clean up yourself. Right, okay, this looks better. Pass me the bandages?”

Derek does, and Stiles cuts a strip of it long enough to cover the wound, cutting two pieces of tape up with his teeth, remarkably quick and efficient with the whole thing, Derek can’t actually keep the words in, “I’m impressed.”

Stiles shrugs. “My dad doesn’t really like when the EMTs poke him, so I’ve tended a number of wounds. Also, Scott, before you turned him and he didn’t want his mom to do it. Alright, here you go.”

“Thanks, Stiles.”

“It’s okay. Are you going to make me pancakes now? Because I’d say I deserve it.” Stiles leans back in his chair, looking sort of smug, and Derek can’t help but smile. This thing between the two of them keeps on surprising Derek, in how comfortable it is. It didn’t used to be. Derek would have been all too eager to get Stiles out of his house before, and Stiles would have been too happy to leave; it seems they’ve found some sort of middle ground now.

“Sure, okay.”

;;

“Just go, okay? It’s fine, I’m fine, I don’t need you guys to worry, I don’t need you to come over, either. It’s fine, just fine,” Derek grits through his teeth, looking straight at Scott, who still manages to look rather impressed by Derek. He probably doesn’t even realize just how much more powerful than Derek he is right now, too used to being the Beta to Derek’s Alpha, but he could overtake Derek without a second thought if he’d wanted.

Derek assumes Scott wouldn’t want to. They’ve grown up differently, and this is not something Scott has ever craved, or needed, not like Derek wanted, after Laura’s death. He’d needed the power because he didn’t know what else to go for, to ask for, to get revenge for Laura’s death; it was the only way for him.

But Scott doesn’t care about any of that. He cares about Allison, and Stiles, and his mother; he doesn’t care anymore about the anger he used to feel when he still thought it’d been Derek biting him, he’s grown to accept it and it’s not even what keeps him in control during full moons. Derek can admit to himself that he’s a little impressed with Scott, and how he managed to turn things around for himself. It’s not going to change things for Derek right now, though, it’s not going to make anything better to ask Scott for help, so Derek doesn’t. Instead, he pushes away, because it’s easier.

“I just wanted to see how you were doing. We can’t just keep on getting our news from Stiles, it’s making Erica really antsy, you know.”

“I never asked Stiles to come,” Derek bites out, wishing he was somewhere far, far away.

“Funny, you went to him first.”

“Is that why you came here, Scott? Because I could do with less judgment right now.” It comes out in a rush, and Derek doesn’t mean to say it but once it’s done, it’s too late and it’s hanging in the air between them, the accusation they threw at each other.

“You’d rather be alone than with your pack, really?”

Derek lifts his chin, clenching his jaw. “Right now, it’s your pack, Scott.”

And it hurts to say, but it’s the truth; Derek cannot be the Alpha of his pack if he’s not even a werewolf. So it’s up to Scott, at least for now. And Scott seems to get what Derek isn’t saying, but he nods, sniffing lightly.

“Okay.”

“And you have to stop coming here.”

“Derek,” Scott whines, but Derek growls, managing to sound menacing enough. “Alright. You deal with Stiles, then.”

Derek, surprisingly, feels like he can actually do that.

“Why does Stiles need dealing with?” He can’t help but ask anyway and Scott smiles, taking another step in the room, like he thinks he’s just got an invitation because Derek is not throwing him out right away.

“He firmly believes you need him, now, that you can’t get a papercut without crying at him. His words.”

Derek snorts, holding up his forearm for Scott to see the wound there, still red and angry, a deep welt along the muscles of his forearm.

“Ouch.”

“Yeah, I got some mean paper.”

Scott chuckles, shakes his head. “It’s like you’re made for each other.”

Derek would flip Scott off, but he guesses it’s a point he can concede, under these circumstances. It still doesn’t change anything, and he still can’t allow Scott to hang around like this, like it’s okay for them to be friends right now. It’s not okay; Derek is too much of a liability.

“You done?”

Scott sighs, loud, like a child. “I’m done.”

;;

Derek doesn’t actually remember how he ended up lying in bed with Stiles by his side, the two of them staring at his damp-spotted ceiling, not really talking but not really quiet either, just something easy sitting right there between the two of them.

Derek thinks it started when Stiles woke him up around noon, something about humanity didn’t need to mean laziness, and Derek might have admitted that being able to shut down like this wasn’t actually such a bad thing. To which Stiles had answered by needing to lie down, a hand on his heart.

And here they are now, and it’s absolutely terrifying in how normal it is.

“I like the paint job. It’s nice.”

“Thanks.”

“Why don’t you ask the pack to help you?”

Derek focuses on a particularly large damp stain. He should probably repaint the ceiling too. “I’m doing this so I don’t spend all my time worrying about them. They’d be finished way too quickly, and I’d go back to being useless.”

Stiles shifts, moving to his side and propping himself up on one elbow, still (far) away enough for it to be comfortable. “Do you think I’m useless?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Stiles, for once, this isn’t about you.”

“I know. I’m trying to prove a point, so please answer the question, ok? Do you?”

“You’re not useless.”

“And yet I’m human. A mere mortal, with no superpowers and fangs on the full moon. I still manage to keep myself, and you guys, most of the time, because you all think you’re so strong you can’t get hurt. Which is wrong, but that’s not my point. My point is, I’m human, and yet I’m not useless. Why should it be different for you?”

Derek takes a deep breath, his thoughts confused, muddled, every time they take this path, when he goes into this dark place of resentment and guilt in his head, this place he taps into on full moons.

“I’ve always been useless, Stiles. I was the second child, and it’s always been Laura looking after me, not the other way around. I’ve never shown the skills she had, even when I became the Alpha; I made mistakes she would never have made. I have barely any control over my pack as it is, and I’ve now been stripped of it.”

And there it is, Derek letting out his thoughts and feelings on something he’s tired of having no control over to Stiles, like Stiles is pack, like – he trusts Stiles. It hits Derek straight in the jaw and in the gut, how he trusts Stiles, more than he trusts Scott, Erica, Isaac or Boyd, because Stiles has never tried to cross him, to kill him, to take his place, to protect his own over Derek’s life. Stiles would never leave Derek in a ditch even if he may have wanted to, and he doesn’t have an agenda and secrets like the other members of Derek’s pack do. Stiles…hasn’t let Derek down.

And somehow this matters more than blood ties and family, for this moment here Derek knows that Stiles is not going to go and tell all of this to Scott, that he’s just going to stay here and take it and listen because whatever he shows to the world, there is also this, this part of him who cares so much it hurts him sometimes. Derek gets that, he understands that but he wants to see it on Stiles, wants to touch it a little, be allowed to see this other side of Stiles, if only for a moment, in the strange comfort of his bedroom.

“Remember that time you kept Isaac from eating me alive?” Stiles asks softly, later, when he’s sure that Derek is finished.

“Yes.”

“I’d have died without you there.”

“Laura died because of me.”

Stiles hesitates, wavering on the bed for a second, and then Derek watches him swallow hard before bringing his hand to Derek, linking their fingers together, a little loose, an escape route easily accessible for both of them. Derek brushes his thumb over Stiles fingertips as they look at each other.

“Sometimes I think my mother died because of me,” he says, his eyes incredibly dark, and Derek takes a sharp intake of breath, not sure what to say to this confession.

He doesn’t say anything, but he tightens his fingers around Stiles’, and Stiles doesn’t let go.

;;

 

It’s kind of weird in how it’s...not weird. He doesn’t spend more time with Stiles after that afternoon, and nothing really changes, either. It’s been three weeks now, and Derek still hates it, most of the time, allows these feelings to grow and churn at his gut and he’ll use that later, when things are back to normal and he’s back to being the Alpha of his pack. It’s like memories of exactly how fucked up it all feels, how wrong, and it’s fuelling a fire deep inside Derek’s chest, something that hurts when he turns to it, exactly what he needs.

“You know you’re an idiot,” Scott says one evening, when Derek didn’t close the door in either his, Erica’s, Boyd’s or Isaac’s face. They’d all piled up in the living room like puppies, Isaac playing with bubblewrap from all the renovation materials Derek’s bought recently. He’ll get to really start on the living area soon.

“Excuse me?”

A bubble pops in the silence that ensues after Derek’s question, just before Erica laughs, always the boldest of them all.

“You know, in all the research we’ve been doing about that curse, what keeps on coming up is shit about trust and self-discoveries,” she says like she knows a secret only she is privy to.

“Not following,” Derek replies, because he is, but he’d like for her to explain herself some more. He’s done the reading, but leading them on and getting them to think tactical and strategic is always good. Erica sighs.

“You’ve been pushing everyone away, refusing to let us help, refusing to believe we can help at all. Basically you haven’t been trusting us, and I’m pretty sure this is the exact reason why you’ve been stuck as human for almost a month now. I think that’s why Scott is calling you an idiot.”

“I’m saying he’s an idiot because he is. He’s a stubborn one, at that.”

Isaac snorts, popping more bubblewrap, focused on this more than on the conversation going on around him.

“How is that helpful, Scott?”

Scott shrugs – he looks more like a teenager than he’s done in the past year, right now. He probably had a fight with Allison. “Look, it’s easy. What we’ve read told us that this curse was engineered to strip you out of your power so that you could learn humility or something like that. If it goes through trust and letting other people in and letting them show you that being human is fairly cool, well then, allow it to happen. If not with us, then with Stiles. He’s the only one you’ll talk to about this, so make the most of it. He’s the only human you know anyway.”

“So what, you want me to just go to him and ask him to show me the world and its shining shimmering splendour?”

Erica tilts her head at him, but it’s Isaac that jumps on it, so quick it makes Derek smile. “Did you just quote A Whole New World?”

Derek doesn’t reply, his smile growing this tiny bit bigger as Isaac chuckles, turning back to his bubblewrap. Scott is grinning too, and Derek guesses maybe he should show them more often how he’s not always a miserable bastard out to make their lives hell. Maybe. It works too well too often.

“Will you try, at least?”

What Derek isn’t quite telling the four of them right now, is that he already has. He’s started opening up to Stiles because it was natural and easy, and he’s...sort of enjoying it.

“Yeah, maybe. I’ll think about it.” It’s not completely a lie.

;;

“Ok, you have to stop, this is getting ridiculous,” Stiles says one evening, and it’s lucky it’s the summer holidays, because it’s a Thursday and yet there Stiles is, looking for all he’s worth like nobody’s going to be looking for him.

“Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“Ah-hah, you’re hilarious. When was the last time you left the house?”

Derek doesn’t answer, because it’s been long enough he doesn’t quite remember how the sun feels on his skin. Stiles nods.

“Exactly what I thought. Come on, we’re going out. I’ve got something to show you.”

Derek would growl and grumble, he wants to, but the idea of getting out of the house is actually tempting, even if he’s managed not to for a while now, relying on Stiles and Scott bringing him food and ordering most materials for the house online (a mistake, he’s realized too late). Breathing something else than wood chips and ash would probably do him some good.

So he doesn’t growl and grumble as he follows Stiles to his Jeep, doesn’t even say anything untoward as they drive away from the city and Stiles runs a commentary of his day, Lydia being a bitch to him again, Scott being an idiot about Allison at him again; a teenager’s worries, but still always tinged with maturity, with the knowledge that even if it sucks, these are their good years. Derek isn’t sure if it’s because Stiles lost his mom young; Scott doesn’t have his father around but he never thinks half as much as Stiles does. Maybe it’s about being the odd one out, or about being the Sheriff’s son, or it’s just the way he is, Derek can’t tell.

What he can tell is that he enjoys this, this drive up a hill in the middle of nowhere, the stars and moon clear above them, Stiles talking about random things until he puts the car in park, turning towards Derek.

“What do you know about astronomy?”

“I’m well-versed in the moon cycles,” Derek replies, his lips quirking when Stiles huffs out a chuckle at his answer.

“Come on.” Stiles opens his door and jumps out of the car after grabbing something from the back of the car, and Derek follows, raising an eyebrow when he sees the blanket spread over the grass and Stiles sitting there, leaning back on his hands, looking up at the sky.

“Whatever you’re about to say, Derek, no, this is not some kind of elaborate seduction plan. I just wanted to do some stargazing, and I don’t like doing it alone.”

Derek, somewhat reluctantly, makes his way to the blanket, sits next to Stiles.

“Why not?”

Stiles is stubbornly not looking away from the night sky. “Do you know much about my mother?”

“Just...the bad stuff.”

“She was absolutely passionate about astronomy. For as long as I can remember she’d take us out, wake me up in the middle of the night and bundle me up and get my dad to drive miles out of the city for a clear sky. And we’d sit down and she’d tell me stories about Andromeda and unicorns until I fell asleep again. I’d have the best dreams.”

Derek stares at Stiles staring at the sky, his brown eyes reflecting light; he’s not crying but he’s got a faraway look, like he’s not really there with Derek right now. It’s fascinating.

And suddenly Stiles points at the sky, a bit to his left, and makes a noise at the back of his throat. “Over there, look. Three stars make the head, then those two are the back, with the three here making its belly, and here, here and here, the legs. Lupus.”

Derek doesn’t see it; it’s a mess of stars and he’s not exactly sure where Stiles is pointing at, if he’s not looking too far left from it, but it doesn’t matter. Derek’s stomach flips strangely as he makes a little noise of appreciation, willing Stiles to go on. He can barely remember a time where he wanted to listen to someone this much; Scott only babbles on about Allison, Erica is all about power and revenge, and he definitely didn’t follow Kate around like a puppy because of her enthralling tales.

A shiver runs through Derek’s spine at the thought of Kate, her wicked smile, her troubled mind, how easily she’d broken him down, buried him in guilt. Never again. He’ll never be that stupid again.

“And over there we got Leo, with its fierce head and the bright star at its breast. Do you see it?” Stiles asks, pointing high up in the sky and lying down on the blanket to see it better, bringing Derek back to the moment. Derek follows, and his thoughts mellow, completely enthralled by this new face of Stiles, by this open, naked trust between the two of them, completely and utterly unexpected. He wants to ask why, what has he done to deserve this, how can he deserve this, but Stiles smiles as he talks about the stars and their story, and Derek just takes it in, his hand brushing against Stiles every now and again.

;;

Derek starts on the outside of the house when he’s not sure what to do any more on the inside. It’s far from perfect, and it’s possible it’ll all fall down on his head one day, but it’s looking almost like a normal, inhabited house by now and there are barely any chances for any of his usual guests to want and go upstairs through the stairs, which are still fairly charred. It’s his next point of action, but it requires a lot more research into carpentry than Derek can suffer for now so, outside it is.

It reminds him of that movie Stiles made him watch a week or so ago when he’s standing on a ladder painting the back wall of the house; it was called something like The Diary, or something like that, and Stiles had made popcorn, and he cried. A little, okay, and he managed to keep himself in check when Derek mocked him, but still. Stiles cried in front of a chick flick movie that made Derek fall asleep at least twice.

Derek should be worried. He should be worried that it’s been two months now that he’s human, and he should be worried that he’s spending so much time with Stiles they end up more often than not just watching some random movies they find on Netflix, or go out to look at the stars. He should be worried that he can tell Virgo and Scorpio apart in the night sky now. He should be worried that he can sort of talk to Stiles about his parents, sometimes, when he sees a picture of Stiles’ mother on the mantelpiece, and he should be worried that he enjoys it when Stiles tells him stories about the thing his mother would do when he was a kid.

Derek should be worried about it all, but he’s not. It’s been so long since he’s let anyone in, since he’s let anyone let him in, too, it’s refreshing. And he’s still waiting for the other shoe to drop, he’s still waiting for Scott to come in the house one day and tell him all the things Stiles has told him, mock or resent Derek for missing his parents, for being lonely, for using what he is to build his own family. It hasn’t happened.

Derek is too used to betrayal to give himself completely over, to trust Stiles completely, with everything he’d like to say, or do, or change. But allowing some of it is still a relief, his shoulder muscles loosening slightly whenever he’s around Stiles, and it becomes easier to smile – smirk, at least, tease a little, show a side of him that he doesn’t show to anyone else. He’s a little bit more vulnerable but he can back off. It’s. It’s surprisingly comfortable.

If Derek gets distracted by his thoughts enough that paint drips all over his hand, nobody has to know.

;;

“When’s the last time you played sports?”

Derek frowns, looking at Stiles from where he’s sitting in the grass in the back of his house, Stiles tossing a football in the air every so often. Derek runs his hands over his knees, shrugging minutely; he’s not sure Stiles is really paying attention.

“I work out regularly.”

Stiles stops then, looks straight at Derek, with one of these smiles that Derek can’t quite read, like he’s got an idea that he knows Derek will hate, but he’ll share anyway, whatever it is, even if it might get him shoved against a wall. He might have threatened Stiles more than once, but he never would have gone through with it. Ever.

“See, that’s not what I mean. I mean some lacrosse, some football, some team sport or something with at least someone else around, a bit of contact and tussling around. I’m not surprised you never do any of these, because it’d mean too much control, wouldn’t it? How not to bend someone’s ribcage in a tackle, or making sure you don’t make lungs collapse or break someone’s knees. And when you’re in the middle of it and there is so much adrenaline coursing through your body, you can’t control everything that happens.”

Derek doesn’t answer, if only because there is nothing to answer to that, Stiles has it all figured out. Derek has enough guilt as it is not to add on to it with stupid mistakes and hopeless ventures into things he knows he cannot control. It’s much better to keep himself removed.

“It’s not a problem right now though, is it?” Stiles asks, throwing the ball towards Derek, who catches it easily, standing up slowly. He’s not exactly wearing the right clothes for this, but he still takes his jacket off, a challenge in his every move. Stiles is right, right now there is little to no risk in playing around, in getting close during a game. He can’t really harm Stiles all that much, besides a few bruises that he’ll share anyway.

“You really want to do this?” he asks anyway, and Stiles actually, honest to God chuckles.

“Oh yeah.”

It starts with a bit of throwing and catching, innocent enough, and Derek, surprisingly, appreciates that he can put all of his strength behind his throw without being afraid that Stiles catching it could mean internal bleeding. There’s a rhythm to their moves, even when Stiles tries to play it up, going left instead of right, down under instead of high up, but instinct and reflexes are not something Derek completely lost.

Until of course he’s taken by surprise by Stiles slamming into his back, a mean tackle mixed with laughter as Derek huffs and puffs against the hard packed dirt, coughing against the leaves and grass. He hears Stiles yell, “Touchdooooooown!” and sees his feet shuffle around; Derek can’t even keep himself from smiling as he brings himself up to his knees, looking up at Stiles.

“Playing dirty, huh?”

“It’s the only way I ever win,” Stiles replies, a fire in his eyes that Derek has hardly ever seen, because for once he has a chance to prove that he can win, maybe. Derek has seen Stiles scared too many times, seeing him ready to attack and pounce is something else, it’s…attractive.

Derek tries his best to put that most random thought out of his head as he gets on with the game, and it’s like the odds have shifted, it’s not only about spending some energy and having a bit of fun but it’s about winning too. It’s about a show of strength and maybe Stiles wants to have the upper hand for once, but even with some strong tackles Derek didn’t know Stiles had in him, Derek keeps on getting the ball back.

It ends with a hard tackle from Derek to Stiles, sending the two of them sprawling on the hard ground, Stiles huffing out a breath as Derek lands on top of him, the ball bouncing off a few yards away from the two of them. Derek knows that he should move, but Stiles has curled his hands around Derek’s shoulders, and once he’s got his breath back, he starts laughing, something delirious in the angles of the sound that Derek can’t move, frozen into place as he feels Stiles’ chest move under his own.

And then, without thought or reason, Derek joins in, a small part of him unlocking itself as he gives in, resting his forehead against Stiles as he laughs, dirt under his fingernails and a feeling close to freedom bumbling up in his chest. He misses who he is, every day an ache, an empty, gaping hole inside of him, he still wonders exactly who he is right now, what he is supposed to do, but in this exact moment, with a warm body under his and laughter tapering down to long breaths and random chuckles, Derek can’t help but think he may be able to survive this.

The laughter dies, slowly, and when Derek pushes his head up and away from Stiles’ shoulder, their eyes meet, suddenly a little more serious, a little less delirious. Derek feels strangely sobered up, and at the same time he feels completely drunk because he must have to, he has to do what he’s doing, leaning down and brushing his lips against Stiles. There is no reaction at first, but then Stiles is kissing Derek back, just a couple of short, dry kisses, their eyes still open, still clear, no questions there.

It’s nowhere near fireworks and explosions and heartbeats picking up crazily and bodies reacting madly to the touch; it’s quiet and slow and over fast, and somehow it’s just right. Derek has never thought about kissing Stiles before this exact moment, and he can’t imagine it should be any different, because it’s exactly how it should be. Derek has stopped believing everything should be fireworks and explosions after Kate.

He ends up being the one to pull away, but he doesn’t run off, and neither does Stiles. Derek just rolls off Stiles, and stares at the sky as Stiles’ fingers loosen around the fistful of Derek’s shirt he’s still holding on to, both of their breathing loud in the silence between them.

;;

“You look like you’re actually enjoying this,” Isaac says as he looks at Derek from the Hale House’s kitchen doorway, a chocolate bar held between his fingers. Derek raises an eyebrow, putting the finishing nail in the wooden panel he is fixing before looking at Isaac.

“Enjoying what?” Derek plays dumb, which makes Isaac roll his eyes. It’s surprising that he came alone, but it’s been happening more often lately, Erica or Isaac or Boyd on their own, just coming in to check in, to make sure Derek is still alive, still human and not a werewolf again. Not that Derek would waste any time letting them know he’s back, when he is, and they know this. Derek guesses they still come because, somehow, they care. Which is a strange thought.

“Being human.”

Derek shrugs. “I deal with it. I’m not going to just stop, Isaac.”

“Erica doesn’t think you want to go back to being a werewolf. I don’t think that’s true, but it doesn’t feel like you’re very eager to get back to normal, either.”

In as quick as he can in this almost powerless body of his, Derek is standing right in front of Isaac, inches between them as he snarls a little, trying to find the right words to how exactly he’s feeling about the situation. They don’t understand; they can’t possibly understand, because they’ve not been something for all of their lives only to have it ripped away without consent or thought. Derek asked them, gave them a choice, explained to them what he was giving them, when everything he’s ever known had been taken away.They can’t understand.

“My life has been ripped away from me, so fuck the lot of you for taking bets on when things will go back to normal.”

“It’s not – what we’ve been doing.” Isaac grabs the hand Derek has been twisting in his shirt, pulling it away from him forcefully. It’s not a challenge, because Isaac is still looking away from Derek. “For God sake’s, Derek, we just want you back.”

Derek takes a step back, shocked by the words, and how he’s not thought about it for a while. The image of Stiles laughing under him comes back behind his eyelids, Stiles looking up at the stars, lying on Derek’s bed, their fingers entwined. He’s been so focused on discovering exactly why being human isn’t all that bad that he’s not given a spare thought to his pack and how this was affecting them for too long. Way too long. He is such an asshole, because the next words he says are hard to come out, and he’s not entirely sure how much he believes them; he still remembers all too well how chapped and perfect Stiles’ lips were against his own, and how much he wants to do it again, how stupid it is that he wants to do it again. He can’t help himself, and it feels all too human.

“I just want to be back, too.”

;;

It’s been raining for a solid two days, which is a try in itself on the house, but it’s still holding itself up and there are no puddles in the living-room, which is already a victory for Derek. He doesn’t expect anyone to come round in this weather; the roads are hardly safe and the woods will be even worse, but, werewolf super-hearing or not, the sounds the Jeep makes when it approaches the house are loud, and Derek sighs, putting on a shirt as he pads downstairs carefully.

Stiles is drenched by the time he bursts in through the front door, wearing a grin on his face and holding what seems to be a dart board.

“Hey, so, I was going through my attic the other day and I found this,” Stiles says, brandishing the board. “Your decoration is a bit Spartan, not that I mind, but you’ve got a bunch of teenagers spending time here regularly, so I thought it’d be good for you to have it.”

Derek takes a breath through his nose, nods. “Thanks.”

It’s strange that Stiles seems not to want to talk about the kissing that happened the week before, and seems perfectly fine with everything. He’s twitchy, and jittery, as he moves around the house, but nothing more than usual.

Or so, that’s what Derek thinks, until. Well, until Stiles lets go of the dart board, leaving it by the side of the couch, before turning to Derek. “So, what the hell was that, last week?”

Derek blinks. Stiles might not be very experienced but surely, he’s not that bad. “Um. Do you really need me to spell it out?”

“No, okay, fine, no, I know what it was, and I guess maybe I thought we were headed that way, maybe, but you can’t blame me for wanting to talk about it, do you? To hear you say a couple of words about it, because I am refusing to stay confused about the situation, and I’d like to know if you plan on doing it again or not, so I can be prepared, you know, and not make a fool of myself.”

Derek gives a moment for Stiles to gather himself before speaking; maybe he needs the moment himself. “I think it’d be better if it doesn’t happen again,” he replies, trying for composed, but the words come out short, clipped, and his whole body is fighting him against them, wants to take them back, pull Stiles close. Derek closes his hands into fists and wishes he could shift, just enough to dig his claws into his own flesh.

Stiles rolls his shoulders, squares them out, like he’s getting ready for a fight he knows he can’t win. “Why? And don’t tell me it’s because you don’t actually like me, because we both know that’s bullshit. You like me, and maybe it’s scaring you, I could buy that.”

“I’m not good at – this, Stiles. As you can witness right now.”

“And yet this is the first time I see you give up entirely without a fight. I’d say it’s wounding me, but I’m used to it, so I guess it’s just another one of these disappointing moments in my life where I care but I’m not being cared about. It’s more than often unintentional so don’t worry, I’m not blaming you.”

Derek takes a step forward when Stiles shakes his head and looks away, drops of water falling off his brow to splatter over the wooden floor. He’s got it all wrong; it’s Derek’s problem, not Stiles. It’s memories and Isaac’s words and too much knowledge and all this guilt, all of it too much all at once.

“Stiles, wait, that’s not. It’s just – I can’t trust myself in these situations. Last time, last time I – I lost everything.”

Stiles doesn’t say anything for what seems the longest time; it’s like time stops as they stare at each other with Derek’s barely whispered confession hanging in the air between the two of them, Stiles’ breathing hard enough to dispel the words, but they’re there, they’re too much. Derek can see the exact moment Stiles puts two and two together, and he winces, unable to help himself.

“No. No, Derek. Oh, God, now this makes so much sense, but it’s so stupid! You’re blaming yourself for the fire, aren’t you? You think you suck at this because of Kate Argent and the tricks she played on you. None of it was your fault,” Stiles says slowly, like the words are molasses. Derek can’t help the step back he takes, but he clenches his jaw, getting himself ready to fight back.

“I’m not inventing things for the sake of it, Stiles,” Derek says, but Stiles interrupts him.

“She played you! You were 17, and she played you, because she was older and beautiful and she could have you. She tricked you, Derek, it doesn’t make you responsible. It makes you a victim, just like the rest of your family! And, so what, anyway? Do you not believe I’m not going to use you the exact same way? What do you have to lose that I would want to destroy? Do you not see that you have nothing? Especially right now, you have nothing but me! What, what did you even think?”

Derek didn’t think, he just reacted; action, reaction, usually the wrong one, which is why he always ends up in these situations where he feels like an idiot because things could have gone so much better, but now he’s losing grip on what’s happening, and Stiles looks dejected by the lack of answer, a little betrayed too, his eyes way too easy to read right now.

“You know what? I’m not going to get hurt over this. Thanks for nothing, Derek,” Stiles says as he walks away, and as the front door closes, Derek can’t help but think that, if he was still part wolf right now, he’d be howling at the acute loss in his chest. Soon enough there will be nothing left of him.

;;

Derek wants to believe that it’s Scott that triggers the whole thing in his head, but he knows better; he can’t quite lie to himself as well as he used to, which is a problem until it’s just the way it is, and the way he has to deal with things. He’s been faced with so many hard, cold truths lately, being in denial about it all seems pointless.

And yes, Scott comes to the house and calls Derek and ass, but there is no denying that Derek has not stopped thinking about Stiles and his words since their fight – which feels even more one-sided now than any of the fights they ever had in the past. Fact of the matter is, for once Derek had nothing back to say to Stiles’ anger because Stiles was right, and for once Derek couldn’t really deny it.

Erica talked about self-discoveries and epiphanies and trust; maybe the most important self-discovery Derek has made, besides actually managing to enjoy his humanity, would be that denial gets you nowhere. It’s new, and it sort of hurts because it’s so foreign, and it’s stretching under Derek’s skin uncomfortably, but there it is. Possibly, he’s an idiot, and he ruined the one good thing he had going on in this whole mess that is his life at the moment.

So whatever Scott could have said would not have changed anything; he could have thrown all of the insults he knows at Derek and it would have made no difference, because Derek is already thinking it, feeling it to the very core of his being, near that terrible hole in his chest where he used to be a wolf. Stiles made things better, made breathing easier; he made it simpler for Derek to accept where his life was, and to actually enjoy letting go, to have some fun.

They had fun, and that is such a weird thing for Derek to think, but if he’s to stop being in denial about everything, he should probably start there.

Maybe he needs to man up, own up to his own mistakes, and admit that Stiles is not Kate, that maybe he doesn’t have an agenda in getting close to Derek, in helping him out. Maybe he also needs to admit to Stiles that trusting him completely will take a while.

Basically, Derek needs to learn how to speak his mind to Stiles, and it might be his biggest challenge yet.

;;

Derek is pretty sure this is really bad idea, but he doesn’t have a better one. He’s not going to stalk Stiles at school, because school is out for the summer, and he’s not going to ask Scott for help, there are limits to the things he is willing to do, and this is not one of them.

He waits and makes sure that the Sheriff’s car is out of the driveway before jumping the fence over to the backyard, and then he waits there, under Stiles’ window. There is no way Stiles won’t see him, but if he doesn’t come out, then. Then maybe that’s all the answer Derek needs. He’s fucked up beyond repair, and all Stiles was willing to give, he’s already done so.

What Derek hadn’t anticipated, as he waits here bored out of his mind, making a list of all that’s left to do in the house, a list of all the things he has to train the pack on, even if he doesn’t go back to being a werewolf any time soon, he’s got to own and help them out with what he knows at the very least; what he hasn’t predicted is the rain. Steady, sudden and hard rain, big fat drops that gets Derek soaked in a matter of minutes. Still, he stays right where he is and he counts the drops of water hitting his face until it’s too much.

“Are you an idiot? You’re not a werewolf anymore, right now, whatever, you can’t just stay under the rain like this, you’re going to catch your death!”

Derek doesn’t move, and his jaw clenches as he watches Stiles advance towards him, stepping under the rain himself until he’s right in front of Derek, pushing him at the shoulders. Derek staggers backwards, surprised by Stiles’ vehemence.

“Come on! Say something!” Stiles erupts, childish and finally looking his age as rain drips down his face. “So tired of your mysterious dark wolf bullshit, Derek!”

“I’m sorry, Stiles.”

Stiles freezes, apparently not having expected that. He looks straight at Derek, still angry, droplets of rain sticking to his eyelashes. In this moment, right there, Stiles is almost unbearably beautiful, and Derek never thought he’d ever think this.

“I’m sorry I fucked up. I got scared, you were right. I have my reasons to be, and I can’t promise you it’s not going to happen again, but I’m sorry anyway.”

Stiles crosses his arms over his chest. “Think that’s going to be enough?”

“Probably not. I like you, okay? And yes, Kate fucked me over, and it’s not going to go away, but I’d still like for – this, between us, whatever it is, I’d like it to go on. You have no idea how much you’ve helped me, do you?”

“Helped you with what?”

“The whole being human thing, I don’t think I’d have managed without you. I don’t think I will manage without you. You’ve made it…pretty easy.”

“You’re a man of so many words, Derek.”

Derek can’t help but smirk, feeling a knot loosen in his chest.

“Yeah, I know. I want to try, though. I’m not going to promise I’m going to be great at any of this, but I’m learning, I’m getting better, and that’s thanks to Scott, and the rest of the pack, and – and you.”

Stiles finally lets his hands hang at his sides, giving Derek a sort of exasperated look. “We’re going to be fighting all the time, aren’t we?”

Derek gives him a full blown smile. He’s getting cold, and the rain is getting harder. “Yeah. Yeah, we probably will.”

He doesn’t allow Stiles to answer, instead steps into Stiles’ space and pulls him close, a hand around the back of Stiles’ neck and the other over his back, and the kiss this time is much more forceful, tasting of rainwater and sweat and a little bit of anger, and Stiles pulls back too quickly, panting, a drop of water hanging from his bottom lip. “Wait, wait. Wet. Cold.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Stiles pulls Derek closer for a second, fingers closed around the leather of Derek’s jacket; he breathes out long and slow, and Derek mouths around Stiles’s temple, starting to walk towards the open door leading back inside the house. Stiles is trembling a little by now, goosebumps raised all over his skin, and Derek runs a hand over his back, steering Stiles towards the warmth of the house.

“You chose your time, really,” Stiles lets out between gritted teeth to keep them from chattering, and his skin is clammy under Derek’s palms.

“Bathroom,” he replies in a slightly harder tone than he intended, but he can’t help needing to feel Stiles warmed up, his protective instincts coming up on top of everything else. Stiles doesn’t even answer, though, just nods and tugs Derek up the short flight of stairs and then to the bathroom, shivering as he turns the shower on to full blast. Derek can’t help but pulling Stiles close to him again, Stiles’ back to his chest, and he lets his lips slide from Stiles’ hair to the curve of his shoulder, over his soaked t-shirt, smelling damp and salt, completely different to the way he’d smell a human being if he was a werewolf. Here it’s subtle, barely there; the traces of an early morning shower and a couple of hours lazing around the house, still warm despite the rain that froze Stiles to his bones. Stiles breathes against Derek, a little quick, his hands opening and closing over Derek’s forearms, but he doesn’t move, lets Derek kiss him, grow acquainted with the taste of his skin, the feel of it under his lips.

Derek doesn’t move until the bathroom is starting to steam up, and then he lightly pushes Stiles under the shower spray, slotting himself right next to him, unwilling to let go of him, even when Stiles turns around and hisses as the water, almost too hot, hits his skin. He grabs at Derek, pushes his leather jacket off his shoulder and down his arms, throws it out of the shower with surprising eagerness.

“You’ll ruin it,” he says breathlessly, his eyes roaming over Derek’s chest, the thin black wifebeater soaked in a matter of seconds, plastered to Derek’s skin. Derek has to admit he’s never really felt this exposed, this raw, and he flexes his hands over Stiles’ hips as hot water washes over them, the two of them just breathing into each other’s mouths. “I – You probably know already but um, I’ve never done any of this stuff before,” Stiles says shakily, and Derek bites his lip not to smile.

“Could have guessed.”

Not that he’s the most experience 23 year old on the planet, having had Kate, and then a couple of one-night stands that were never truly satisfying and didn’t really teach him anything. This is new territory for him, mostly, and he’s not about to rush through any of it.

“S’not a big deal, is it? I mean, the mechanics are pretty basic.”

“Stiles,” Derek keeps himself from growling because it’s pretty ineffectual and definitely not what he wants to inspire right now, “shut up.”

Kissing Stiles is more efficient than any words, Derek quickly learns, and as he sucks on Stiles’ tongue for a second, Stiles makes this noise, coming from somewhere deep, a sound low and growly and as he makes it, he rolls his hips into Derek’s, which, yeah. For an inexperienced guy he is learning the ropes pretty fast.

Stiles’ jeans are rough against the skin of Derek’s stomach where his shirt has ridden up, but he’s unwilling to move, to do anything than to rob Stiles from all of his witty comebacks and thoughts with kisses, with tongue and lips and a bit of teeth from time to time; he’s unwilling to do anything than to let Stiles give back as good as he’s getting, with all of the eager enthusiasm of his teenage years. He grips at Derek’s clothes like he wants to tear them, shifts his hips and squirms and Derek has to pull away after a moment, laughing softly under his breath as Stiles mouths at his jaw, only to stop a second later.

“What? What’s funny?”

“Nothing, just –“ Derek looks up, brushes his thumb across Stiles’ cheek, disturbing the path of a chain of rivulets of water. Again, right there, with his pupils blown wide in the semi-darkness of the bathroom and with water dripping down his lips, his shirt sticking to his chest – showing some rather nice muscles, it’s a wonder why he wears such baggy clothes - Stiles looks ridiculously good. “Nothing, really.”

“Am I doing something wrong? Am I being ridiculous? You have to tell me these things, I know you don’t believe in communication, but I do, and I want to know if I’m messing things up, you can’t just leave me hanging.”

Derek shakes his head with a smile, his hand dropping down to Stiles’ jeans, thumb popping open the button on them. “You’re not doing anything wrong, Stiles. It’s just – you’re really into this.”

“Is it a problem?” Stiles asks, a slight frown on his face. Derek smiles bigger.

“No.” It’s fucking attractive, that’s what it is, is the rest of what he wants to say, but the words don’t pass his lips, stuck at the back of his throat. Stiles lets out of huff through his nose, so relieved his body relaxes immediately into Derek’s touch.

“Oh, good, because I swear if I don’t come in the next 10 minutes I will cry.”

Derek has to laugh again, and this time Stiles joins in, fingers digging into Derek’s neck, pulling him in again, and as his chuckles die, Derek finds his way to more kisses along the underside of Stiles’ jaw, up his chin back to his mouth, the mood shifting again as Derek slides his hand over Stiles’ stomach, over his shirt and then under, toying with the undone button of his jeans before Stiles starts shifting his hips, small keening noises turning impatient. Derek’s focus zeroes in on exactly this, the faint pulse he feels under his fingertips, Stiles’ maddening sounds, and the way Stiles’ skin feels against his hand as he pushes it inside Stiles’ pants, made too tight by the water. For a second, Derek fights with them frustratingly, until he gets the zipper down, enough access for him to slip his hand inside Stiles’ boxers, getting the exact reaction he wanted as Stiles gasps, tilts his head back against the tiled wall, water cascading down the sharp angles of his face.

Derek’s fingers move through coarse hairs as he avoids touching Stiles’ cock for just a second longer, ignoring the whimper Stiles lets out and the way he holds onto Derek’s shoulders, like his knees are not keeping him up. When he wraps his hand around Stiles’ erection, Derek presses his forehead to Stiles’ collarbone and grits his teeth not to rut into the groove of Stiles’ hipbone, willing himself to be the stronger man, to be better than this, to make Stiles come if it kills him.

“Oh, fuck,” Stiles moans, his fingers pressing hard into Derek’s scalp when he cards them through Derek’s wet hair, looking absolutely incredible to Derek when he pulls away, takes in the view, from his bare feet slipping against the bottom of his jeans, his curled toes, all the way up to his cock in Derek’s hand. There’s the minute movement of his hips, the visible contractions of his stomach muscles, and up, up to his face, scrunched up and beautiful, lips parted as he pants through Derek’s rhythm on his cock, and Derek can’t resist kissing him again, even if they’re both breathless.

Stiles bites on Derek’s bottom lip when he comes, all over Derek’s hand but quickly washed away by the water still coming down hard over the two of them, and then he trembles all over again, just like earlier, only this time he’s grinning and his eyes are closed and he’s palming his way around the small of Derek’s back, fingers curling in the waistband of Derek’s soaked jeans. He looks like a cat lying in the sun; sated and satisfied and sleep warm, happy to be right where he is, and Derek is not really all that willing to move, either, if only because he knows just how much of a pain taking their jeans off is going to be.

He clenches his jaw as he opens his own pants, slips his hand past his boxers to grab his own erection, straining hard against his clothes; he’s been desperate for a while now but he won’t ask anything of Stiles, not right now – they have all the time they want to get to know each other’s bodies. It’s a little embarrassing, anyway, how fast he comes, a choked gasp escaping him as he falls back against Stiles, pressing him to the wall for a moment. Stiles lazily blinks his eyes open.

“Did you just? Oh, man, not fair, I wanted to see that!”

Derek can’t help his smile as the cliché words escape him, “Next time.”

;;

Derek wakes up to the sound of a car, and instantly, he knows. He can smell it in the air, can feel it inside his chest, can sense it through his veins; the car is well over two miles away, there are no birds in the trees around the house, and the air is damp with upcoming rain. Derek sits up, closes his eyes, and takes a long, deep breath, filling up his lungs and body with everything surrounding him, making one with the mended hole in his chest.

Once he’s out of bed, he takes a long time stretching, just rediscovering his own body, finding it exactly the way it is supposed to be, without that emptiness inside that he never really got used to. Five months, it took, for Derek’s state of normality to come back, and he enjoys it for a while, all alone in the peace and quiet of his renovated home. He shifts, just because he can, then shifts back, curls into bed for a moment and just listens to the silence surrounding his environment.

He doesn’t even want to think about why, or what. It’s not Stiles – this has been going on for three weeks almost, and if it was to have had an effect on Derek’s condition, it would have done so before, surely. It’s not about epiphanies or self-discoveries, because things have been pretty steady and terrifyingly normal for a while now, so. He doesn’t know what it is. Maybe the curse just…faded. Which is certainly anticlimactic, and Stiles will have a field day on this one, but – Derek is a werewolf again.

He really can’t care about much else, right now. And he can’t wait to tell Stiles, damn their careful planning of junk food and shit movies after Stiles is done with classes, this takes precedence and Stiles will be all too happy to have a reason to skip a couple of classes.

It’s ridiculous, but as Derek drives to the school to pick up Stiles after sending him a text to let him know in broad strokes that something important happened, all he can think of is to show Stiles the good sides of being a werewolf. It’s only fair, after all that Stiles showed him about being human.