The first time it happened, it was after Derek paid Stiles’ rent. Derek had gone to visit Stiles in his apartment for the first time. Stiles had been there for exactly a month; he’d moved in prior to the start of college to get used to the area, look for work, and settle into a routine of looking after himself before classes started. Everyone else in the pack had been there, and the sheriff had spent a week staying with Stiles to help him get settled, and Derek eventually gave in to the pointed glances and unsubtle comments and went to see Stiles.
The apartment was nice, in a smarter building than Derek had expected Stiles to be able to afford. Those were the thoughts running through his head as he headed up to Stiles floor, carrying the picture frame with the photo of the pack – Scott had insisted he had to take a housewarming gift. Of course, Derek stepped out of the stairwell to the sound of Stiles pleading. There’d been an administration error with his student loan payments and they hadn’t come through yet. He’d been on the phone with them for three days now and he’d been promised it would all be sorted soon. He’d have the money in a couple of days and then he’d be able to pay.
The angry man looming over Stiles wasn’t moved in the slightest, calling Stiles a deadbeat and a moocher. He threatened to grab Stiles and throw him out of the building by force and sell his belongings to make up the money.
Derek clapped his hand on the man’s shoulder.
“If you lay one finger on him,” Derek snarled in the man’s ear, “I will rip it off and make you eat it. Understand?”
His hand tight around the man’s shoulder, Derek manoeuvred him away from Stiles and stepped in so that he was between them. The man looked a lot more hesitant now, but he didn’t leave.
“He owes me this month’s rent,” the man said. “I won’t be bullied.”
“No, you prefer to do the bullying,” Derek said.
“He is in my building and I have a right to be paid for it.”
“And I will pay,” said Stiles. “I told you, my student loan was delayed but you’ll get the money.”
“That’s what they all say. I want the money today or I’m calling the police to have you evicted.”
“How much does he owe you?” Derek asked, because money he could do. He had the insurance money he was paid after the fire, and the money from Laura’s life insurance policy. He had the remains of the benefactor money and he’d been given control of Peter’s assets after he was locked away. He didn’t even hesitate to pull out his chequebook. When the landlord gave a number, Derek doubled it and handed the cheque over.
“That should cover him for next month as well,” Derek said. “Now I suggest you get lost while your bones are all still intact.”
The man left. Derek turned to Stiles, who was leaning against his apartment door, looking defeated.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles said.
Stiles opened the door and let Derek in. The space smelled of Stiles, his scent clinging to every surface and fixture. He’d made it his own. Derek breathed in that scent. He wanted to wrap himself up in it, to coat himself in Stiles like he belonged with him as well. He tried to squash down those thoughts though; he didn’t need to be creepy around Stiles.
“I should have just called my dad as soon as the payment failed to come through on time,” Stiles went on, “but I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t coping. I swear, I’ll pay you back as soon as I get the mess sorted out.”
“Forget about it,” Derek said. “Consider it a housewarming present.”
He set the photo, the real present, down on the coffee table. As he straightened, Stiles launched himself at Derek and planted a kiss on his lips. Derek stood there in a frozen daze, too taken aback to respond.
After that second of stillness from Derek, Stiles pulled back, obviously embarrassed. A beautiful pink touched his cheeks. He looked everywhere except Derek, shrinking into himself.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “That… I shouldn’t have done that… I shouldn’t have just thrown myself on you like that… That was… It’s OK if you don’t want… Just forget I ever…”
Maybe it was the scent of Stiles surrounding him, maybe it was that trace of taste on Derek’s lips, maybe it was the fact that Stiles had been so enthusiastic a second before, that Derek gave voice to something he’d been thinking for far too long.
“I want to,” Derek said in barely a whisper.
They stood there for what felt like a long while. Stiles looked back at Derek at last. They he launched himself at Derek again. He kissed with fiery, frantic desperation, pawing at Derek’s clothes like they were an enemy to be defeated. Derek poured himself into things with equal passion. They didn’t even make it to the bedroom and made love on the rug in the living room.
Afterwards, as Derek bathed in the afterglow of the event, wondering how he’d managed to get what he’d always wanted, Stiles said, “Thank you. For the rent.”
Something went cold inside Derek. He tried to dismiss the fear but he couldn’t get rid of the sick feeling inside that he’d just taken advantage of Stiles. Yes, Stiles had initiated this. No, Derek would never, ever have asked. But Stiles had just thanked him with sex, and that made something inside Derek feel rotten.
The second incident occurred only two days later. Derek had been unable to get what had happened out of his mind. It hadn’t been his intention to use Stiles, to manipulate him with gratitude, but he couldn’t shake the self-disgust that this was what had happened. So Derek decided to visit Stiles and get things out in the open between them.
All his planned words vanished when he arrived at the apartment and found Stiles trying to make a satisfying meal out of a packet of noodles and half a mouldy onion.
“Seriously?” Derek asked. “All the grief you give your dad over his diet and this is what you choose to eat?”
“Give me a break,” Stiles said. “My loan payment still hasn’t come in and now I have a phone bill a mile long because of the amount of time I’ve spent on hold trying to sort it.”
He returned to the task of trying to cut the mouldy bits of the onion.
“Give me that,” Derek said. Stiles handed over the onion and Derek threw it in the trash.
“Hey,” Stiles complained, but without any real feeling behind it.
“I’m going to buy you groceries,” Derek said.
“OK, but only because I don’t have anything to feed you.”
So they headed out and Stiles showed the way to the nearest grocery store. Derek started filling the trolley with fresh vegetables as soon as they got inside.
“You don’t have to get so much stuff,” Stiles said.
“Are you going to get scurvy by Christmas if I don’t?”
Stiles relented and added a cabbage to the vegetable collection. This wasn’t how Derek had expected this visit to go, but the abysmal state of Stiles’ kitchen supplies needed addressing and Derek had the money. It was something he could do as a friend and then they could continue on as pack mates and nothing more.
“When we get back,” Stiles said, “I’m going to fry you one of those nice steaks and then I’m going to bend you over the kitchen table and fuck your brains out.”
Derek stood in frozen horror in the middle of the meat aisle, because that was definitely not where he’d wanted this to go. Before he could find the words to express everything that was wrong with what Stiles had just said, someone cleared their throat behind him. Derek turned to see an old woman looking at them with as much horror on her face as Derek was currently feeling.
“Don’t mind us,” Stiles said, cheeks turning slightly pink, “just making dinner plans.”
He put a hand on Derek’s arm and guided him rapidly out of the meat aisle before they needed the floor to open up and swallow them.
“What you said back there,” Derek said, as they were loading soda into the trolley, “you don’t have to do that.”
“Oh, it’s fine,” Stiles said. “If you’re buying me this food, you deserve to eat some of it.”
“That wasn’t exactly what I meant.”
“Huh? What do… Oh! Special offer!” Stiles was distracted by a display a few metres away, and started adding bottles to the groceries. The conversation was apparently over and Derek had no intention of attempting to restart it in public. He didn’t need everyone around to know what a horrible person he was.
Derek paid for the groceries and carried most of the bags back to Stiles’ apartment. Stiles carried a couple of the lighter ones.
“Thank you for this,” Stiles said. Derek felt dread settle in a dead weight in his stomach. He hadn’t intended for Stiles to feel indebted in any way. This visit had been about making things better between them.
“You don’t have to thank me,” Derek said.
“I get to eat real food today. I really think I do.”
“I mean this is a gift. I don’t expect you to repay me in any way. I’m not expecting anything. You’re not obligated to do anything. I’m not asking for anything.”
Stiles gave him a side-long look, “When you repeat it that many times, it makes me suspicious that you’re leading up to asking me for a huge favour.”
“No! No favour. I just want to be completely clear. I have the money so if you need help with groceries or rent or anything, all you have to do is ask and I’m happy to help.”
“Careful, Sourwolf. If you keep this up, people will realise you’re a complete softie.”
“I just want to be clear.”
Stiles grinned, “Perfectly clear.”
Derek actually relaxed at that. They reached the apartment and Derek unpacked the groceries while Stiles cooked the steaks, which they ate rare with salad.
“Oh my god!” Stiles moaned around the first mouthful, sounding like he was having an orgasm from the taste. The sound did distressing things inside the front of Derek’s pants, especially given that he knew Stiles wasn’t going to feel obliged to pay favours after the meal. Derek tried to focus on his food and not on the sounds Stiles was making and the memories they stirred of the last time he had been here.
When the meal came to an end, Derek planned to excuse himself. He’d done what he needed to do; he’d cleared the air. But Stiles came round the table, leaned into Derek’s ear, and whispered, “I believe I promised to fuck you against the kitchen table.”
Tension flood back into Derek’s body. He froze, all sense of horror restored, even as Stiles planted kisses against the side of his neck.
“That’s not…” Derek started. Stiles kissed right below his ear and a shiver ran down Derek’s spine. “I mean…” He wasn’t sure what he’d meant. Somehow, Stiles’ kisses were short-circuiting the parts of his brain that could form thoughts into words. “You don’t…” He’d thought Stiles understood that this wasn’t expected or necessary, but how could Derek articulate that while Stiles was so thoroughly nuzzling his neck?
Derek pushed Stiles away from him so he could twist round in his seat and face him. He intend to stop this before it went any further and explain that he didn’t want to be paid back in this way. But Stiles took the opportunity of the broken contact to pull his t-shirt over his head, leaving his chest exposed. Derek stared at the expanse of skin that Stiles so rarely showed to anyone.
“You like what you see?” Stiles asked.
“Yes,” Derek said, because what else could he say to that?
Stiles smiled and leaned in to kiss him on the lips, and Derek just gave in to it. He knew he deserved to burn in hell for what he was doing, but he was already burning from the sight of Stiles and so he gave in to his desires.
It became a pattern without Derek ever meaning it to. He bought Stiles a textbook for a course because he was complaining about the price, and then they made slow love in Stiles’ bedroom. Derek treated Stiles to the nice steak restaurant because he wasn’t getting enough protein in his diet, and they had sex on the couch as they got in. There was a film Stiles was desperate to see so Derek bought tickets, and Stiles gave him a blowjob in the cinema parking lot. On and on, with every nice thing Derek tried to do being answered with sex.
Every time, Derek told himself it was the last time, but he wanted to do nice things for Stiles. He wanted to help out. He just didn’t know how to say no when Stiles repaid him for the gifts. He knew that what he was doing was disgusting and wrong. He knew that he was as bad as Kate had been. But when Stiles got naked, all Derek’s resolve to refuse crumbled. He did everything in his power to make the encounters pleasurable for Stiles, but that wasn’t enough to alleviate his guilt about it all. Stiles was young and struggling and Derek was taking advantage of that.
If he had any decency left, he ought to turn himself in to the authorities, but he wasn’t sure what crime exactly he’d confess to. Stiles was over eighteen and it wasn’t like any money had passed between them. Derek couldn’t be arrested just for being a despicable human being.
Derek decided to stay away from Stiles. If he never went near him, he wouldn’t be tempted. He would just stay in Beacon Hills and they’d be fine.
Unfortunately, that didn’t take into account that everyone connected to Stiles was also in Beacon Hills. Derek was in the store one morning, picking up a few groceries, when someone called his name. He turned and found the sheriff there. For one terrifying moment, Derek thought that he somehow knew what Derek had been doing, but the sheriff greeted him with a broad smile and asked him how he was doing. Derek gave short but hopefully polite responses to the small talk, all the while looking about for an escape route.
Then the sheriff dropped the bombshell.
“I don’t know if Stiles has talked to you about Thanksgiving,” he said, “but the boys are coming home for the holiday so we were going to do a joint family dinner with Melissa and Scott. You’re more than welcome to join us.”
Derek’s sense of panic rose to new levels because he couldn’t think of anything more horrifying than spending Thanksgiving with the guy he was taking advantage of and all the people who loved him. He would say something that would give him away and then if the sheriff didn’t kill him, Scott would.
“I haven’t talked Thanksgiving with Stiles,” Derek said, “but I was going to go visit Cora.”
He hadn’t made any plans with Cora but that was the first excuse he could think of he thought would get him out of this. The sheriff knew him as the sad, lonely werewolf without a pack, especially now that everyone else had gone off to college. The sheriff probably expected Derek to be spending Thanksgiving alone, which explained the invitation, but Derek could invoke Cora’s name and escape the torment of having to try and look this man in the eye, knowing everything he was doing to Stiles.
“Oh,” said the sheriff. “Well that’s good. Family’s important. You should spend time with your sister. But maybe she could come back to Beacon Hills for Christmas and we could all do something then?”
Derek made a noncommittal noise.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to your shopping. See you around, Derek.”
Derek nodded. As soon as the sheriff moved away, Derek headed straight for the checkout, even though he didn’t have half of the stuff he needed yet. He just needed to get out of there to avoid any possibility of further interaction with Stiles’ father.
Derek tried to avoid Stiles but it was hard to do so when Stiles texted him and invited him over, saying that they should spend some time together if Derek was heading off to South America to visit Cora. Derek arrived at the apartment, determined that this time it would be different. It seemed like it would be OK because Stiles’ invitation was to just chill out and watch movies on Netflix. If Stiles didn’t expect anything else and Derek didn’t do anything special, he might be able to get through this evening behaving like a decent human being.
Stiles was just finishing up a paper for one of his courses when Derek arrived, apologising because he’d been distracted earlier.
“I really meant to finish this before you got here,” Stiles said.
“It’s OK. I’ll just get us some takeout while you finish.”
“You’re the best.”
So Derek headed down the street to the nice pizza place, which was right next door to the pizza place they would never, ever be ordering from again. He was surprised to realise how much more he knew about the takeout places around Stiles’ apartment than he did about the ones near his loft back in Beacon Hills. He ordered the pizza with double cheese and extra pepperoni because Stiles believed that pizza base was just an unfortunate necessity and that the ratio of base to toppings should be as small as physically possible.
It turned out to be the right choice, judging by the orgasmic moans Stiles made as he bit into the first mouthful of cheese and meat and not much else. Stiles had finished up his paper while Derek was out and queued up a movie, so now they sat together on the couch to eat the pizza and watch. It wasn’t a very big couch, so Stiles was pressed right up against Derek, a warm and distracting presence.
Stiles ate messily while the movie started. Derek barely followed what was happening on the screen, distracted by the moans beside him, the way Stiles was constantly moving, the way he sucked melted cheese off his fingers like he was giving them a blowjob.
Stiles looked sideways at him and caught his eye. Derek quickly turned back to the TV, hoping Stiles hadn’t read what he’d been thinking right then. Derek silently cursed himself for not being able to keep his mind out of the gutter for five minutes. He was trying to be better, damn it! He was trying to be the friend Stiles deserved not the asshole who kept using him.
Stiles picked up another slice of pizza. He picked a bit of pepperoni off the top and popped it into his mouth before making a point to lick grease off every finger on that hand. Derek fought to keep his eyes on the TV but how he could avoid looking when Stiles was doing that with his tongue? He could almost believe Stiles was doing this on purpose just to torment him.
Stiles finished the last slice and Derek let out a breath of relief. Maybe Derek could get through the rest of the movie without feeling like his pants were two sizes too small.
Stiles lent a little closer and murmured in his ear, “That was really good pizza.”
The warm air of his breath brushed against his ear making a shudder run down Derek’s spine.
“You seemed like you were enjoying it,” Derek said, forcing himself to stay calm. He locked eyes with the TV and refused to look away.
“You seemed like you were enjoying me enjoying it,” Stiles teased. His hand slid up Derek’s thigh.
That cold terror was back. This wasn’t what he wanted.
“The movie,” Derek said, voice squeaking slightly. “Don’t you want to watch the movie?”
“I’d rather thank you for the pizza,” Stiles said. He nibbled at Derek’s earlobe. Derek gave a groan. Stiles’ hand was over the crotch of Derek’s jeans, feeling him through the fabric.
“That’s not… ugh… necessary,” Derek said, as Stiles nibbled again, hand stroking him.
“One part of you seems to think it is.”
“No!” Derek said, because this had gone far enough. He’d been going along with this for far too long. He needed to put a stop to it, once and for all. He couldn’t keep using Stiles like this.
Stiles shifted away from him on the couch, hand retreating. Derek felt cold where Stiles’ touch had been warming him moments before.
“Derek, what’s wrong?”
“I have to go.”
Derek stood and was out the door before he could do anything he’d hate himself for later. He ignored the sound of Stiles calling out his name as he fled the building.
The text came before he reached his car. Are you OK?
What could Derek say to that? He wasn’t OK. He was a disgusting asshole and Stiles deserved better.
Derek shoved the phone into his pocket and drove off. A minute later, it buzzed again. He waited until the next traffic lights to check the message. I’m sorry.
He wanted to scream. He didn’t want apologies from Stiles. He didn’t deserve them. Not when Derek was the one who ought to be falling on his knees and begging for forgiveness.
All Derek could do though was pull over and type out a quick message in reply. You don’t need to apologise.
Thanksgiving with Cora was surprisingly pleasant, though she did ask him about five times what he was running away from that he’d decide to come and visit her like this. He didn’t admit what was going on with Stiles. He couldn’t bear for his sister to hate him for what he’d been doing.
He decided, for at least the fifth time, that he was going to end things. He would go to see Stiles, say what he needed to say, and end this situation once and for all. He wasn’t going to get distracted by sex. He didn’t go back to Beacon Hills right away, going straight for Stiles’ apartment instead. He needed to get this done with. He spent half the journey psyching himself up for it, practicing the words he needed to say, trying to phrase an apology that wouldn’t sound like hypocritical bullshit.
He made his way up the stairs in the apartment building, rehearsing his words inside his head, only to freeze at the sound of thumps and swearing coming from inside the apartment.
Fear rose in his throat. He ran forward and flung the door open.
Stiles was standing in his kitchen area, attacking a baking tray of smoking, black charcoal with a knife. He’d been bashing the tray against the trashcan, trying to dislodge the charcoal. What really made the scene strange though was the glitter. It covered everything: the floor, the counters, the oven, Stiles.
“Crap! Derek! You weren’t supposed to be back yet.”
Derek looked around, all his urgent words overruled by the burning need to understand what the hell was going on here.
“What happened?” he demanded. “Did Tinkerbell explode in your kitchen?”
Stiles dropped the baking tray into the trash and sank down onto the floor. The movement sent up a cloud of glitter from the sparkly mess covering the floor.
“I’m pathetic,” Stiles said. “I can’t even handle glitter properly. Three year olds can handle glitter.”
He looked like he was about to break down in tears. Derek hesitated, unsure of how to respond to this, aware only that Stiles was obviously upset and that took priority over anything Derek had come here to say. He needed to fix this, but he still wasn’t sure what the problem was.
“What happened?” Derek asked, trying to find a path across the floor to Stiles that wasn’t completely covered in glitter.
“I’m the most useless boyfriend ever,” Stiles said.
Derek froze. He’d been in the middle of reaching out to rest a comforting hand on Stiles’ shoulder, but now he just stood there, hand hanging in mid-air.
“What?” was all he could manage to say.
“God, I don’t know why you put up with me. You’re always so generous and I know you always say I don’t need to worry about paying you back, but you buy me food and books and movie tickets and, god, you’re the reason I didn’t get kicked out of my apartment. I just wanted to do something nice and I figured I had time to make you something for Christmas because I never, you know, pay for anything. I was going to knit you a scarf. I even looked up some knitting tutorials on YouTube, but do you know how much yarn costs?”
“You... you were making me a Christmas present?”
Stiles gave a bitter laugh, “I was going do. I thought this was the perfect time to get started decorating the box because you were away with Cora. I had all these plans but apparently I can’t be trusted not to set my kitchen on fire baking practice cookies and the glitter...” Stiles gestured about him. “I’m a mess.”
There was glitter all over Stiles as well as the room. Little sparkles shone on his face and his hair but Derek wouldn’t have described it as a mess.
“You do look a bit like a sparkly Twilight vampire,” Derek said.
“There’s no need to insult me,” Stiles said, but he smiled a little as he said it, which had been the whole point.
Derek was still trying to process the fact that Stiles had called himself a boyfriend and that he’d gone to all this trouble to make Derek not even a Christmas present, but practice cookies for the real Christmas present. The evidence of caring was currently sparkling off every visible surface. Derek cupped Stiles’ cheek and bent down to kiss him softly on the lips.
“Was that to distract me from being so pathetic?” Stiles asked.
“It’s because you called me your boyfriend.”
Stiles looked up at him, his earlier distress now replaced by a look of confusion.
“What’s so special about that?” Stiles asked.
“You’ve never called me your boyfriend before.”
“Of course I have. I call you my boyfriend all the time.”
Something lurched inside Derek. The usual guilt was dissolving in confusion. “I’ve never heard you.”
“Are you kidding me? I changed our Facebook relationship status as soon as we started dating. Technically, before, since I changed it after we had sex that first time and we didn’t have our first real date until later.”
“You changed our Facebook status?” Derek asked.
“Seriously, dude, do you even own a computer?” Stiles scrambled to his feet in another cloud of glitter. He looked at Derek, as though seeing him for the first time since he’d walked in. “Are you OK?”
“You’re my boyfriend.”
“Yeah,” said Stiles, then he looked nervous, “I mean, I thought we were, we never really discussed labels so if there’s something else you’d rather be called, I don’t mind. Partners. Significant others.”
Derek kissed Stiles before he could get another word out. Derek kissed with all the fierceness and passion that had been previously choked by guilt. Stiles thought this was a real relationship. Stiles wasn’t doing this out of gratitude. From the things he’d been saying, that thought had never even occurred to him. Stiles actually cared about him, and all the sickness and self-loathing Derek had been feeling vanished into the kisses.
They stopped kissing so that Derek could paw Stiles’ clothes off, frantically bearing skin.
“If I’d known commitment was such a turn-on for you,” Stiles said, “I’d have called you my boyfriend every time we had sex.”
Derek yanked off clothing, not caring that his t-shirt tore as he pulled it off. They made love on the kitchen floor, Stiles’ skin sparkling with the glitter. It was slow and gentle, despite Derek’s desperate need to be with this person, this person who he loved, and who might come to love him back, who certainly cared enough to try and make him something as a present.
As they lay on the kitchen floor afterwards, Stiles said, “I still haven’t solved my dilemma about what to do for you for Christmas.”
“You don’t need to do anything.”
“But I want to,” Stiles said. “I feel like I’m taking advantage of you.”
Something clenched inside Derek again as he wondered how long Stiles had been feeling that way, whether he’d been feeling as guilty as Derek had. He wished they’d had this conversation right back at start but he didn’t want to tell Stiles the truth. He didn’t want to acknowledge that he hadn’t realised they were boyfriends. He just wanted to move on, to focus on making things better from this point forward.
“I like doing nice things for you,” Derek said.
“Well, I want to do nice things for you too. I want to be the best damn boyfriend I can be.”
“You already are.”
Derek turned his head to kiss Stiles’ forehead as they lay together. It was a soft, romantic moment. So naturally Stiles had to spoil the atmosphere by announcing, “I think I’ve got glitter up my ass.”
Derek burst out laughing in a way he hadn’t feel able to for weeks. He definitely had the best boyfriend.