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Love, Like a Sentence of Death

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You're a dirty needle
You're in my blood
And there's no curing me
And I want to run
Like the blood from a wound
To a place you can't see me

-- Furious Angels by Rob Dougan

Their first kiss is bloody and ill-timed, too slick and actually kind of disgusting. Derek is covered in cobwebs and asbestos, and can barely move. Stiles is bleeding—too much, from too many places—and there's no one else close enough or conscious enough to know what they're doing. Derek is a chickenshit, or maybe just too smart and cautious to do this any other time, but now he uses his shaking hands to turn Stiles' head, angle his mouth up so he can reach it.

It's clumsily done, and even after Derek fixes it on his end he gets the impression Stiles hasn't kissed many people, or maybe none at all. But what he lacks in finesse he makes up for in the way his one good hand grips the collar of Derek's jacket, and the happy, surprised sound in the back of this throat.

When they finally break apart, Stiles smiles, a loopy, half-out-of-it grin, as Derek's thumb intercepts a rivulet of blood headed for the corner of his eye.

~*~

Two days after Stiles gets out of the hospital, Derek sneaks in through his window and then has to wait in Stiles' bedroom a long time to talk to him. He waits through dinner—chicken noodle soup--and then through the washing of the dishes and the taking out of the trash. Then he waits some more, idly surfing the Internet on Stiles' computer, while Stiles and his dad watch something sports-related on TV. Finally, he hears Stiles thudding up the stairs, a little more slowly than usual, a hitch in his step that isn't usually there.

Stiles freezes when he opens the door and sees Derek standing next to the window. Derek takes in the sight of him and tries not to wince; he has yellowed bruises and old scabs all over his arms and his face, a Frankenstein ladder of a fresh scar on his forehead where someone stitched him up, and his left hand is still intricately splinted and wrapped.

"Hey," Stiles says, and then swallows, staring for a second before he remembers to close the door behind him.

He takes a step toward Derek, and Derek stiffens. Stiles stops where he is.

"How are you?" Derek asks him. They haven't seen each other since Scott and Allison loaded Stiles into her car and drove off for the hospital. Derek's been healed for weeks.

"Um. Good?" Stiles says, like he's not sure.

"Good," Derek says, nodding.

Stiles doesn't respond to that, watching Derek like he's waiting for him to say something else, but Derek doesn't. He can't seem to stop looking at Stiles—battered, but upright and walking--and feeling grateful.

"Is that the only reason you came by?" Stiles asks finally.

"Yes," Derek tells him. A lie.

The disappointment is naked on Stiles' face. This is harder than Derek thought.

"Are you sure?" Stiles asks, the first flicker of defiance showing through, and Derek feels what he's startled to realize is a jab of genuine fear.

He swallows it down. He can handle a kid, even one as ballsy as Stiles. "Yes. Nothing's changed."

Stiles isn't cowed. Derek's not sure why he thought he would be, but it seemed like a good idea to come here and show him that things are back to normal. It seemed smart to take care of it in private, instead of in front of everybody else the next time they ran into each other. It seemed like it would be a lot easier.

"I would disagree with that," Stiles says, hands on his hips. He has to hold the injured one at a weird angle to make it work. "A lot. I heartily disagree."

"I don't care," Derek bites out. Also a lie.

Stiles stares at the poster on the wall next to Derek's head, jaw working. The color's rising in his cheeks, his heart suddenly thundering. When Derek opens his mouth to speak, to reiterate his point that nothing has changed, Stiles' eyes snap back to him, glittering, furious. He advances on Derek, who only manages to hold his ground because he's already backed up against the wall.

Derek holds up a hand, palm out, to stop him. "Stiles," he says, low, a warning.

Stiles knocks his hand away. "Shut up," he snaps. The hair on the back of Derek's neck stands on end. "This is on you." He pokes Derek in the middle of his chest with two fingers, hard. "You kissed me, asshole. You did it."

"I thought you were dying," Derek hisses, cornered and desperate.

Stiles reels back from him, shaking his head as if to clear it, like Derek's struck him. He walks a circle in the small space between the desk and the bed, and when he turns to look at Derek again his cheeks are still red, angry red, but everything else about him is cold.

"Sorry to disappoint you," Stiles says, and the tone of his voice is awful, flat. He walks out of his own room, slamming the door behind him. Derek hears him thump unevenly down the stairs, probably moving too fast for how unsteady he is on his feet. Derek doesn't move, and he hears it all: Stiles telling his dad he's going to Scott's, closing the front door a little too emphatically, getting into his Jeep, driving away. Leaving Derek standing stupidly in his room, hands stuffed in his pockets, feeling like he can't breathe. He can't even fucking breathe.

~*~

Derek would like to ignore it and never speak of it again, but that's the exact opposite of how Stiles operates. A few weeks later, fully healed and pissed as hell, he shows up at Derek's apartment, the one Derek thought no one knew about.

Normally, Derek's really good at dealing with someone else's anger, because he understands it, and has plenty of his own to answer with, but as soon as Stiles walks in the door Derek feels like he's at a disadvantage. Maybe because he knows Stiles has every right to be pissed.

Derek thinks about offering him a seat, but there's only the bed to sit on, or maybe something to drink, but that might just encourage him to stay, so he stands in the middle of the room, thumb marking his place in his book, and watches Stiles, hands in his pockets, do a slow inspection of the place. It's the first time another person has been here since Derek moved in.

The apartment is small and pleasantly cluttered, just one big room with a TV and a futon bed, a galley kitchen, and a bathroom with a big, brand new shower, the best thing about the place. Stiles picks up a random book and looks at the spine, checks the view from the single window, pokes his head in the bathroom and says, "Awesome shower."

Stiles can look around as much as he wants. There's nothing here Derek doesn't want him to see, and for once the place is spotlessly clean, because he's been spending a lot of time at home. He hasn't been hiding or anything; he's just been a little unmotivated to go anywhere.

But maybe there is something here Derek doesn’t want Stiles to see, because he involuntarily twitches when the toe of Stiles' sneaker comes within inches of the box sticking out from under the bed. It's from Derek's favorite pair of boots, and it's a good box. Heavy black cardboard, with a rope handle on the side.

Stiles doesn't miss Derek's reaction. "Don't worry, dude," he says, indifferently nudging the box out of view with his foot. "I don't even wanna know what kind of kinky shit a guy like you keeps under his bed." Derek has nothing to say to that.

Derek waits and waits for Stiles to say what he came here to say, but he doesn't seem in a hurry. He wrinkles his nose disapprovingly at Derek's DVD collection, and checks out the contents of the refrigerator, which is mostly lunch meat and strawberries. There's a counter with two creaky stools that divides the kitchen from the main room, and once Stiles has looked at everything there is to look at but Derek, he leans back against it on his elbows and stares at Derek for a long time.

"Listen, it's not going to happen," Derek says eventually, because Stiles is just dragging this out and he wants to fight about it already so Stiles will leave. He was going to go get some Chinese food for lunch, and if he waits too long it'll be crowded and he'll get seated in the humid corner by the buffet. "I'm a lot older than you are, so this is never going to turn into some special teenage romance. I don't want to make out in the back seat of my car, and I'm not taking you to the prom. So just get it out of your head."

Stiles rolls his eyes and makes a talking mouth motion with his hand, looking profoundly bored with Derek's little speech. "Prom's over and done, so you're off the hook," he says. "And I was in the hospital for it, anyway."

It's not accusatory in the slightest, but Derek's got a hair trigger when it comes to guilt. "Sorry about that," he says immediately. "Were you going to…?"

"No, I wasn't gonna go," Stiles scoffs, visibly irritated by the question when Derek was only trying to be nice. Derek has the weird feeling they've somehow swapped places. Usually he's the one standing around staring and being unreasonable.

"That's not the point, though," Derek says, trying to get the conversation back on track. He wonders if it's usually this hard to dump someone you didn't even actually date.

"I know," Stiles says. "Anyway, that was a nice try, but if you think you're going to run me off by being a massive dick, I think we've already established it seems to have the opposite effect on me."

Derek can't even be offended by this, because every word of it is true.

"So try giving me a real reason," Stiles says, rolling one hand in an "out with it already" gesture, like he's a game show host awaiting Derek's answer.

"I don't want you to do something you'll regret," Derek says, resorting to honesty because nothing else is working. It comes out more gently than he intended, and he's a little embarrassed by that, and even more embarrassed when Stiles starts laughing.

"Oh my God!" Stiles chokes out. "Are you serious? Dude, pretty much everything I've done since you and I met has been regrettable," he says.

Derek makes himself freeze; he's not even going to fucking blink. One of the most aggravating things about Stiles is that he has the ability to carelessly and unwittingly hit Derek where it hurts the most, without even trying. Everything?

He tries to tamp down the anger, because he wants to be reasonable about this. If Stiles would just be fucking reasonable and admit Derek is right, everything could go back to normal. Stiles could still be the one bad decision Derek's managed to walk away from.

"This is different," Derek insists. He can dwell on the "everything" comment later. "You're young and you don't know what you're doing. People do stupid stuff when they're lonely, they make bad decisions. They trust people they shouldn't."

Stiles' eyebrows twitch up. "You still don't trust me?"

"What?" Derek's brain scrambles to follow. This fucking kid. He just won't listen. "No, I meant you shouldn't trust m—"

"And also," Stiles continues, "you're not really all that young, as you just pointed out."

"You're the one who's—"

"Legal now," Stiles says. "And the whole point of this is that you won't be lonely anymore." Stiles flips his hands up in a Duh! gesture.

"Stop twisting my words!" Derek yells. He's so frustrated, so fucking frustrated with everything. With how he can't get the upper hand back with Stiles, and he can't stop thinking about him, and he can't forget that stupid kiss. Before he can stop himself, he's whipped his arm back and thrown his book, sending it crashing into the wall next to the door. "We aren't talking about me!"

Stiles calmly looks at the book, spread brokenly on the floor, pages creased, then back at Derek. "Are you sure about that?"

Derek doesn't answer. He can't, his chest is heaving; he makes himself breathe slowly in and out through his nose and tries to get control of himself. He stares at the book, forces his shoulders to loosen, his hands to unclench. He has no idea what to say next. Every word just makes things worse anyway.

When he looks at Stiles again, Stiles' eyes are fixed on him, calculating. Then he smiles, and Derek thinks, Oh, no.

"You know what I think?" Stiles asks, still smiling. "I think you want it just as much as I do, but you're afraid."

"That's bullshit," Derek says, but when Stiles steps closer, Derek takes an answering step without really thinking about it, and the bed's right there anyway.

~*~

"This doesn't mean anything," Derek says, that first time, as his hand moves steadily up and down, making Stiles strain into his fist. Stiles' eyes are glazed, unfocused, but they sharpen and narrow like he's about to tell Derek to go to hell, until Derek runs his thumb gently over the wet tip of Stiles' cock, and instead he turns his hot face into Derek's shoulder and moans.

He tongues his way down Stiles' chest, past the rapid-fire whoosh of his heartbeat, sucks teasingly at the skin just to the left of his bellybutton as Stiles writhes on the sheets beneath him. The sound Stiles makes when Derek closes his mouth over the head of his cock sounds almost like pain, and there's an answering twinge under Derek's ribs.

It doesn't mean anything. If he keeps saying it, Derek might believe it, too.

~*~

A few weeks later, in Derek's bed again, Stiles arches his back and digs his fingers into Derek's ass and says, "God, yes, fuck me," and Derek does it, powerless to deny him. He'll do whatever Stiles asks, as long as he keeps showing up here and eagerly reaching for Derek's belt, smiling soft and small when he wakes up from a post-sex nap and sees Derek's face, shoving Derek's shoulder and telling him to stop being an asshole, like Derek couldn't snap him in half if he wanted to, and sometimes he does still want to, because he's so goddamn infuriating.

Stiles seems so harmless most of the time, if you're not paying attention. Young and goofy, a wise-ass kid who bounces through life like it's a video game, ready for the next adventure, and the next. Stiles, with his big puppy paw hands and his funny faces, and the fragile flutter of his pulse in his throat when Derek noses his way under his chin. He's not harmless at all.

He gets Derek inside him and talks to him and touches his face, and he extracts all kinds of promises and confessions, cracks Derek open and scoops out every ugly, squirming thought and feeling he'd hoped to hide forever. He knows that Derek thinks about him when he's not there, that he misses him.

He knows that Derek still has the cheap Spider-Man valentine Stiles gave him last year—gave everyone last year, so it didn't even mean anything—and a crumpled paper fortune from one the few times they ever went out for dinner just the two of them. The fortune says, The person you are waiting for is waiting for you.

Afterwards, when Derek would rather just curl up and die than admit any of the things he's said are true, Stiles never brings any of it up, or throws it in his face, but Derek sees the way it slowly changes things between them, the way Stiles' growing knowledge of what this is and where he fits and how helpless Derek is to stop any of it slowly shifting the balance of power. Derek doesn't even try to lie to him anymore.

"Stop fighting it," Stiles murmurs in his ear once, when Derek's shaking over him, pushing his face into the pillow so Stiles can't see it, but Derek can't stop, even though he knows he's only delaying the inevitable. It's a slow, painful surrender, and Derek resists every step of the way, because he doesn't know what else to do. Sometimes Derek hates how fucking persistent Stiles is, and other times he's worried that he'll give up on him.

Derek's life has been dominated by one bad choice after another, and he's a pretty shitty judge of people, so it's not really a surprise just how much he's managed to underestimate Stiles.

~*~

It's the last summer before most of the kids leave for college, and the universe has decided to give Derek a break from the endless shit parade that has been his life for so long, and there's literally nothing going on, no threats of any kind. His pack is big now, and stable, which means they're mostly just hanging out and having fun.

Derek feels like he can't go anywhere without running into three or four of them, lounging in the big corner booth at the faux-retro diner, or tumbling out of the liquor store, loaded down with bottle-shaped brown paper bags and Pringles. On a Saturday night, a wandering group of two often becomes six, becomes ten, and eventually they're all together somewhere and hopefully nothing gets broken or damaged.

"Hey, there's the big man," Boyd says when he saunters into the taqueria, punching Derek in the arm as he walks by.

Derek nods in return and slaps his little red basket full of burrito down on the table across from Robbyne, who is older and kind of boring and just happy to finally have a pack of her own after being alone for nearly a decade. She's been loyal and low-maintenance since she joined up, though, which are qualities Derek has learned to appreciate deeply, so he always takes some time to talk to her. Plus, watching Stiles eat can be distressing, and he can't drink out of a straw without looking like he's being attacked by it, so Derek's not going to sit with him. He's at another table with Scott and Erica, and they might be doing animal imitations, or re-enacting a movie. Derek would rather not know.

Even when he's making a conscious effort to not focus on Stiles too much, Derek can't ever fully tune him out. He eats his burrito and talks to Robbyne and Draza, the newest of the new guys, always with one ear tracking the rise and fall of Stiles' voice, a background hum of bottled energy that these days is most noticeable when it's absent.

"I’m not buying you guys alcohol," he says in the direction of Stiles' table at one point. If Stiles gets caught with booze, the main suspect is going to be Derek. He's not going to budge on this.

No one at Stiles' table even looks over at him; they're too busy executing a perfectly synchronized eyeroll. It's not like they can actually be surprised he was listening, or that he said no.

"Ugh," Erica says, slouching down in her chair. "What's the point of having him around if he won't be our cool older friend who buys us beer?"

"I know, right? Useless!" Stiles agrees, throwing his arms in the air, as if two hours ago Derek hadn't made him come so hard he banged his head against the wall, back forming a tight, beautiful curve beneath Derek's hands.

For a guy who usually seems to have everything going on in his brain not just on his sleeve but written in giant, flashing letters above his head, Stiles never acts any differently toward Derek when they're around other people, even when Derek sometimes wonders what it would be like if he did. He's actually so blasé about it that often when Derek looks over at him, dancing a silly dance with Allison, or doing that stupid bro fist thing with Scott, it seems impossible that he's the same Stiles who can, just with his hands and his voice, drag words out of Derek that he never thought he'd say, and then fall asleep nestled against his side like a kitten while Derek stares at the ceiling and tries not to think about how terrified he is.

Like the black cardboard box under the bed that holds a Spider-Man valentine and the last postcard he'll ever get from Laura and a dozen other useless things Derek wishes he could bring himself to throw away, he'd rather Stiles just leave him closed tightly and hidden away, and never look at what's inside. But it's too late. Stiles said, a few months ago, that he didn't want to know what was in that box, but now he does know. He knows that, and so much more.

Derek doesn't believe for a second they're hiding what they're doing from anyone; he's not delusional. But so far no one has said anything about it, or given them weird looks when they run into Derek and Stiles coming out of The Happy Donut at 2am, balancing two or three donuts on top of their coffee cups, reeking like they spent the bulk of the night screwing each other senseless.

None of their friends act like it's a big deal, or like it's an impending disaster, but then they don't really know what's going on, do they? They just think Derek is fucking Stiles. They have no idea what Stiles is doing to Derek.

~*~

"Tell me this doesn't mean anything," Stiles demands, mouth a bare inch above Derek's, fingers tight around his wrists, pressing them into the bed. They both know he can't really hold Derek down, but Derek lets him do it anyway.

"Let me touch you," Derek pants. He's so close to coming, and he wants to feel Stiles clench around him while he does it, watch his face when his mouth drops open on a hoarse groan.

Stiles lifts up a little and Derek bucks up to follow, desperate to stay inside. "Say it," Stiles again, this time more softly, but just as determined. This is the last inch of ground Derek's yet to give, an ongoing argument.

Derek grits his teeth and sits up, tries to kiss him to shut him up, but Stiles hangs onto his shoulders and uses them as leverage to dodge him. Derek's hands clench on his ass, try to hold him down as he chases his mouth. The long muscles in Stiles' thighs flex as he lifts up again, sinks down.

"I need to come," Derek shudders out, a last ditch effort, but Stiles is unsympathetic.

"Tell me it doesn't mean anything," he says again, not soft at all this time. His hands grab at Derek's head, clutch at his hair, forehead pressed against Derek's as he rides him with aching slowness.

"I can't," Derek admits helplessly, finally, words months in the making. It sounds like pleading. "You know I can't."

"It's okay," Stiles whispers, hands going gentle as he stills in Derek's lap, and he finally lets Derek hide his face in his neck. "It's okay. Me neither."

The End

Gif by qhuinn