“Did you see that?” Stiles demands of the air around him. “I mean, seriously, did you see that?!”
“I saw,” Derek says quietly.
Stiles doesn't hear him, too busy jumping onto Scott's back and ruffling his hair. Scott laughs and submits to the action, grabbing at Stiles' legs so he doesn't fall. Derek finds himself crossing his arms self-consciously, feeling like he shouldn't be here.
“Come on, Scowly,” Stiles says, jumping down and turning to Derek. “You're allowed to be excited about this. We are the baddest of the badasses and just proved it.”
The ground is strewn with shifter bodies – a clan who thought they could make an incursion into Beacon Hills on the assumption that the resident packs were at war – and Stiles is right to be exuberant about it. For a moment Derek has a powerful sense of deja vu, even as he rolls his eyes at Stiles. It's like the old days – when it was just Scott and Stiles he had to worry about. Sometimes he gets nostalgic for that.
“It was awesome,” Stiles persists, stepping toward Derek's space. “Admit it. We're awesome.”
“Isaac, Erica and Boyd might disagree,” Derek says. Stiles makes a face at him before rolling his shoulders in some kind of shrug Derek is disconcerted to realise he can interpret as apologetic.
“Okay, yeah, the Beta Trio probably would've preferred the Justice League to sort their shit out sooner so they weren't all roughed up first,” Stiles says with an expressive wave of his hands. “But when we did we totally fucked up the bad guys. Even you have to know that.”
Derek really, really does – but he thinks the only way he maintains any kind of control over the whatever-the-hell-it-is he has with Stiles is by not giving into him. At all. He feels one corner of his mouth twitch up without his consent and the answering grin from Stiles is blinding.
“That'll do,” Stiles says, leaning into Derek's space to clap a hand on his shoulder. “Half a smile from you is like the Fourth of July fireworks of Derek Hale Has Feelings Too. Proud of you, buddy.”
Derek shrugs Stiles' hand off and turns away to start dragging the bodies into a pile. He doesn't know much about shifters, it's mostly half remembered facts from Peter's lectures when he and Laura were kids, but he knows that their beliefs demand that they be burnt after death.
“Hey, hey, Superman, what are you doing?” Stiles asks, appearing in Derek's vision again.
“Shifters burn their dead,” Derek says. “I thought we should -”
“Say no more,” Stiles raises his hands. “Scott?”
“Yeah, okay,” Scott nods and comes to help Derek while Stiles disappears into the night. Derek doesn't even try to stop himself from extending his hearing range to keep tabs on him. “He's got stuff that'll burn pretty well in the Jeep. Don't ask why.”
“I wasn't going to,” Derek shrugs, dropping another body on the pile. “Thank you. For coming.”
“I didn't do it for you,” Scott says instantly because of course it's important that he establish his independence at all times. Derek is resigned about it two years after this all started. “But – thank you for listening. To Stiles.”
“I always listen to Stiles,” Derek says, shooting Scott a look. “I just don't always do what he says.”
“He's right, like, eighty percent of the time,” Scott says, looking back. There's something briefly calculating in his expression. “You should do what he says more often.”
“Maybe,” Derek shrugs again, something tense pulling between his shoulders at Scott's expression. “If you weren't so territorial over him.”
“He was my friend first,” Scott says, so matter-of-factly that Derek has a feeling he's thought about this before. “But that doesn't mean – I can't actually get him to not do something if he's set his mind on it. I'm starting to get that he's weirdly invested in helping you guys out. Given everything that's happened – I'm not going to stop him from doing that.”
Derek watches Scott move a few bodies while he tries to figure out how to react to that. He's oddly reminded of the time Stiles called him at two in the morning and said 'I need help reacting to something'. It had been something about werewolves that Stiles had read on the internet, Derek doesn't even remember what now, and Derek had dismissed it instantly as being bullshit. He'd ended up staying for over an hour once he realised Stiles was stuck in a research spiral because he was panicking about midterms and had no-one to talk to. It was during that period where Scott was spending so much time with Isaac Derek was beginning to entertain suspicions that Scott was trying to steal him.
Stiles keeps a lot of shit in his head and it's not like Scott is oblivious to it, he'd be a terrible friend if he was, but Derek's noticed the way Stiles talks around his issues and always refocuses Scott's attention on his own problems. Scott does the only thing he can in that situation and stays by him. Derek envies it, really, because he's never had a friendship like it.
He's getting wildly off track.
“I think he'll like that,” Derek says cautiously, trying not to give himself away. Stiles shows up in the weirdest places to talk to Derek, does it all the time, but always seems a little guilty when he does.
“Will you?” Scott asks, his expression shrewd. It's easy to forget when Scott's being a normal teenager and saying stupid shit that he's actually disturbingly intuitive at the worst possible moments. Derek feels his shoulders hunch up.
He's saved from replying by Stiles' noisy return. The bodies are all piled together and Stiles pulls out a chemical concoction Derek recognises by scent alone. One of Lydia's werewolf incinerating cocktails.
“You two should go home,” Derek says when the fire is blazing. “It's late.”
“So late it's early,” Stiles says over a laugh. “Ready to go, Scott?”
“I've actually got -” Scott stops and coughs. Stiles nudges him with his shoulder. “Plans. I, um, you'll be okay getting back?”
Stiles sighs and Derek resists the urge to look over at him.
“You want the Jeep,” Stiles says, not even bothering to make it a question. Scott scuffs the ground with a shoe. “Oh, don't give me the Bambi eyes, dude, I'm going to give it to you anyway. So long as Supes here doesn't mind driving me home.”
“It's fine,” Derek says before either of them can turn to stare imploringly at him. It's tiring as hell being an adult surrounded by teenagers.
“Just make sure you get her back in one piece this time,” Stiles says, handing his keys over. Scott gives him an impulsive one-armed hug. “Yeah, yeah, I'm the best, I know. Just go before I change my mind about enabling you.”
Scott leaves them in the clearing. Stiles subtly shifts downwind of the fire and after a moment Derek joins him silently. It's a milestone for him, really, being this close to a fire and not feeling a justified panic welling up in him.
“Allison?” Derek asks, not taking his eyes away from the fire.
“Yeah,” Stiles says wearily. “They're doing something, I don't know what. Pretty sure they're not back at the Epic True Love stage. I actually think they're pretending they can be friends right now. If I was a better person I wouldn't have a bet with Lydia on how long that'll last.”
“You don't have to stay here,” Derek says after a moment. “You could wait in the car.”
“No,” Stiles puts a hand out to stop Derek from digging into his pocket for the keys. “If you think I'm leaving you here, standing in front of a big-ass fire by yourself, then you really don't know me, dude.”
“When did you start to care?” Derek doesn't mean to put it so bluntly but it's a fair question, he thinks. Stiles was still happy to let him die just over a year ago.
“Somewhere around the time it became obvious we're really bad at not saving each other's lives,” Stiles says, lifting his shoulders in a partial shrug. The air of studied nonchalance is transparent – Stiles talking around the truth again. “Besides. You're not actually that bad when you're not being a power-tripping Alpha dick.”
“Thanks,” Derek says, letting humour into the tone. Stiles leans close enough to bump their shoulders together.
“I figure someone has to worry about your self-care,” Stiles adds after a moment. “God knows you don't.”
Derek wonders sometimes if he should tell Stiles about the legion of therapists he's visited over the years. He knows enough about his personal issues to write a thesis, he figures, but it's been hard to care enough about himself to do something about it. For the first time in a long time - with the pack, with the whatever-the-hell-it-is with Stiles - Derek's thinking about trying.
Stiles stands with him until the fire burns down to something that isn't going to cause a forest fire – which is only a few hours because apparently shifters burn quick – and helps him cover the ashes with leaves. The next good rain will erase whatever's left. Stiles squeezes his shoulder and smiles at him before leading the way back to the car.
“So I figure that was probably insensitive earlier,” Stiles says as they pull out onto the road. Derek spares him a glance. “You're a Marvel guy and here I am throwing around DC heroes.”
“How did you -” Derek stops, a vivid memory, of Stiles raising an eyebrow (but not saying anything) when spotting a X-Factor trade in Derek's apartment, rising unbidden.
“Yeah, I noticed,” Stiles says, probably having the same memory. “And, seriously, that's awesome taste right there. The point is this – you are totally Wolverine and I get that. You probably have more right than anyone else in the world to relate to Logan.”
“My favourite character before -” Derek stops and briefly tightens his fingers around the steering wheel. Stiles makes a soothing noise. “I liked Johnny Storm.”
“That tells me a whole lot about young Derek,” Stiles says, clapping his hands together. “I guess that changed?”
“Yeah,” Derek says, shifting. “It changed. Wolverine getting his memories back – knowing about all the bad shit he'd done – struck a chord.”
“I bet,” Stiles goes quiet for a moment. “It's perfect, really. You being Wolverine. Because Scott is, like, all the best qualities of Cyclops without the tremendous douchebaggery that goes with being Scott Summers. We've even got our own personal Schism going on here.”
Derek laughs and sees Stiles turn to look at him in surprise. It might be the first time Stiles has heard him laugh. To be honest Derek is just as surprised as Stiles is.
“I have the worst feeling I may have set myself up as the Jean Grey in this situation,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “Only, you know, without the constant sexual tension.”
“No,” Derek says, pulling up a half a dozen houses away from the Stilinskis'. “You're Madrox – helping one or the other. Both or neither.”
“You're probably right,” Stiles admits. “Wish I could do his trick, though. Multiple Stiles' would really make keeping school and Dad and werewolf business separate a hell of a lot easier. Dad still wants to be involved.”
Derek doesn't add that the multiple facets of Madrox's character coming out in his dupes reminds him a lot of all the different personas Stiles wears like clothes. It's probably not the time.
“Thanks,” Derek says quietly as Stiles puts a hand on the door handle. He looks up to meet Stiles' eyes. “You were right. It was pretty awesome.”
Stiles' grin splits his face and lights up his eyes and Derek feels his heart stutter in his chest. Jesus Christ.
“Any time, dude,” Stiles says. “Well. Any time within reason. Especially on school nights.”
Stiles is gone with that, to sneak back into his house, and Derek's left with a realisation settling deep into his bones.
When the hell did he find time to start falling for Stiles?
At first, in the long two year period after the Fire where Derek was an actual constant asshole, Derek swore off feelings in general. Wouldn't let himself feel anything other than the guilt that became his new anchor. He fucked a lot of people as they made their way slowly across country to New York and because he was so caught up in not feeling anything it took that entire two years to realise he wasn't really sexually attracted to anyone.
He'd pick out aesthetically pleasing people and let them blow him or fuck him but it was no more exciting to him than the mechanical jerking off he did in the shower every day to clear his morning wood. At first he figured Kate had broken him in one more way but when he could finally look back without anger (somewhere around his twentieth therapist) he realised he hadn't really gotten anything out of his time with her either. Other than the burnt husk of a home and a lingering mistrust of humans that is.
He had definitely loved her though, which still makes him hate himself to this day.
Laura had told him the casual fucking would stop – she hated the way he came home smelling used and raw – and put him into Community College when they got to New York. And that's where Derek met Kat.
Kat was a year older than him, and smarter than him, but she grafted herself to his side during their first class and wouldn't let go. He was bigger by then, his final growth spurt coming through, and he'd put on muscle because his punishing workout was almost the only reason he got out of bed most days. He assumed that Kat wanted him the same way everyone else had and because he actually liked her he tried to explain that wasn't going to happen.
“Oh, so you're ace?” Kat had asked, pushing her glasses up her nose. “Cool. Me too.”
“Ace?” he'd asked and she'd made a sort of motherly noise that made his heart seize up for a moment and tugged him close to thread an arm through his.
“Oh, baby,” she said, squeezing his arm. “Let's get coffee.”
They skipped class and Kat talked him through the asexuality spectrum, as she called it. It was cliché, Derek figured, but having a word for it really did make him feel a little less lost.
He doesn't think about it that much now – it's not like he has time for it given the nightmare Beacon Hills has been since his return – but Stiles changes everything. Just like he has been since Derek realised Stiles really would have cut his arm off, heartbeat speeding with fear or not.
“So,” Stiles says when Derek lets him into his apartment. “You've been weird. Weirder than usual.”
There'd been a text message: coming over. try not to be working out shirtless. it's super distracting. and then fifteen minutes later Stiles was knocking on his door. It's been about a month since the thing with the shifters, all quiet at the front, and Derek has maybe been being a little weird about Stiles.
He thinks this evening has probably been brought on by him knocking on Stiles' front door when Stiles asked him to come around and look at some research for him.
“I'm not being weird,” Derek says defensively, because he can't help it and it's instinctual around Stiles. Stiles gives him a pointed look and drops down onto Derek's couch with a whoosh of air.
“You knocked on my door,” Stiles says. “Instead of committing yet another act of B&E.”
“I told you,” Derek says, moving cautiously around the room to sit in his chair. It's red and battered and ridiculously comfortable – Stiles had picked it up from the side of the road the week Derek moved in. “I was trying to be respectful now that -”
“- my Dad knows,” Stiles says, leaning forward to rest elbows on his thighs. That had been a fun conversation from everything Derek's heard about it. “Yeah. But the thing is – that didn't stop you from coming in through my window before.”
“I just don't think it's appropriate,” Derek says, picking at a loose thread on the arm of the chair. Stiles surprises him by laughing.
“Oh, dude, seriously?” Stiles' eyebrows lift. “The third time we met you asked me to saw off your arm. Then you made me hide you from my Dad in my own room. Appropriate sailed right the fuck by us a long time ago.”
It's not appropriate because breaking into Stiles' house when he knows he has some nebulous feelings (that he's not examining right now) for him basically raises him from creeper to Actual Stalker and Derek has done a lot of stupid shit since he came back but that's really going too far.
“You with me, Wolvie?” Stiles asks and Derek snaps his eyes up from where he's pulled the whole thread loose from the chair.
He refuses to admit that his heart flips at the nickname – or that it flutters when he catches Stiles' eyes and there's something almost gentle in them. He sort of preferred it when Stiles mocked him all the time. It was a lot easier.
“I'm sorry,” Derek says and Stiles blinks, opening his mouth to say something and Derek continues speaking right over the top of him: “I shouldn't have done those things. I was – it was hard when I came back. You and Scott were the only people I knew.”
Stiles looks about as surprised by the sudden honesty as Derek is. Stiles has a habit of surprising honesty out of Derek and he really should've recognised that for what it is a long time ago. In his defence he'd given up on feeling anything for someone again when he was sixteen and surrounded by the ashes of his family.
“I honestly never thought I'd hear you say that,” Stiles says, setting his chin in his hands and staring at Derek. “Full disclosure – I'm now wondering if you're possessed by a demon.”
“Life isn't Supernatural, Stiles,” Derek says, sighing. It's an argument they have every time something new shows up.
“First you avoid me and then you knock when you show up to my place?” Stiles remains still where he would usually gesture and Derek knows that means he's being deadly serious. “Then I come over to shout at you about it – which, okay, I haven't done yet – and you apologise to me? Come on, Derek, you know that's weird.”
“Am I really that bad?” Derek asks and that is not what he meant to say. He starts to wonder if someone put truth wolfsbane in the coffee again.
That had not been a good day for anyone.
“It's not that you're bad,” Stiles says after a moment of contemplation. “You just – you really don't play well with others. And before you say it – yeah, I know the same goes for me.”
“Maybe I'm trying to be better,” Derek suggests.
“Are you?” Stiles pins him with another focused gaze. Derek doesn't shiver but it's a close run thing.
Jesus, he's got it bad.
“I really don't know,” Derek admits. It doesn't hurt the way it should – probably because Stiles was with him when Peter betrayed him. Hard to pretend you know what you're doing when a five foot nothing high school junior has to burn your undead uncle to death (again) because you can't.
Lydia had actually kicked the corpse, too, before bisecting it. Stiles had looked a little turned on, smelled it too, and Derek had barely restrained himself from saying something. Lydia had been folded into Scott's pack after Jackson and his family moved out of Beacon Hills. At that point Scott was so angry at Derek – for reasons Derek still doesn't understand – he'd told his pack to keep away from Derek's. Apparently Lydia made an exception for Peter and no-one can stop Stiles when he's set his mind on something.
“Jesus,” Stiles breathes, looking at Derek with his mouth hanging open. “Whatever's gotten into you is pretty bad, huh?”
“Looking that way,” Derek says, shrugging his shoulders.
“Well,” Stiles leans back and claps his hands against his thighs. “Whenever you want to talk it out – I'm around.”
“You're always around,” Derek says, letting a smirk pull at his mouth. “I can't get rid of you.”
“Pfft,” Stiles pushes to his feet and waves his hands dismissively. “The packs would be lost without me, you know that.”
I'd be lost without you. It's a big thing to realise. Derek doesn't quite know what to do with it. He follows Stiles to the door of his apartment and watches quietly when Stiles hesitates on the threshold.
“Serious about that,” Stiles says, lifting a hand to squeeze Derek's arm. “I know it's hard for you to, whatever, open up around the betas – it'll ruin your image – but if you need to talk, I could listen. If you bring the food.”
Stiles' mouth flashes up into the smile he uses when he's defusing situations. Which makes Derek's behaviour a situation to be defused. He hadn't realised. He's also staring a little too long at Stiles' mouth and, now that he thinks about it, he's spent an inordinate amount of time doing that while they've known each other.
Laura would've figured this out years ago. It's her voice echoing in his ears that makes him open his mouth and say, again: “I'm sorry.”
“Hey, dude, the radio silence freaked me out a bit,” Stiles shakes his head. “But I guess I just got used to you talking. It's not really been that much worse than the old days.”
Stiles is not old enough to be saying 'old days' with that amount of weariness in his tone.
“I meant -” Derek stops and fists his hands at his sides before forcing himself to relax. “All the bad shit I did back then. I'm sorry I did it.”
“Like slamming my head into the steering wheel?” Stiles asks, something balancing just under his curiosity that Derek can't read.
“Especially that,” Derek says. He resists the urge to fold his arms across his chest when Stiles narrows his eyes at him.
“To be fair,” Stiles says. “I had just pretty much pimped you out. If I'd known about -” the pause spells KATE in large, heavy letters “- I wouldn't have done that.”
“Not an excuse,” Derek says, shaking his head. “I shouldn't have done it.”
Stiles is quiet for a long moment, his eyes flicking from Derek's to Derek's mouth and then down his neck and across his shoulder. Derek tracks the movement almost compulsively.
“It won't happen again,” he says softly when Stiles' eyes come back to his.
“It hasn't,” Stiles says, just as softly. “Apology accepted.”
Some of the weight Derek's been wearing for the last month lifts off his shoulders (but none of the guilt from the act in the first place). He takes a breath and nods.
“See you around,” Stiles says, stepping back through the doorway and spinning away.
“Yeah,” Derek says, just loud enough for Stiles to hear.
He shuts the door and presses a hand against his heart, feeling the racing beat. It's officially a Situation.
“You do remember the part where I told you there's no one way to be ace, right?” Kat says when Derek calls her. “Just like everything else - you're the only one who can know what you want.”
“I didn't think I'd -” Derek makes a fist against his knee and looks up at the ceiling. “I thought I didn't do l- feelings any more.”
“Identity can be fluid, D,” Kat says, the only person Derek's ever let get away with calling him that. “You told me you knew for a fact that you weren't aromantic.”
“That was a long time ago,” Derek says.
“And you really haven't loved anyone since?”
“No,” Derek says, closing his eyes. He's been trying really hard not to put that word and Stiles in the same sentence in his brain but it's becoming increasingly obvious that he's failing.
“Well, okay. You said you were pretty fucked up by the way your last relationship ended. Could be that you weren't letting yourself feel anything. I did that after Nancy.”
“Maybe,” Derek admits.
“And listen, okay? I know you're really fucking crap at talking about, well, anything – but if you're having these feelings you sort of owe it to yourself to at least talk to the guy about it. He could feel the same way and, D? You deserve it. I know it's hard for you to believe it. But you do.”
In all the time Derek spent with Kat in New York the one constant was her repetition that he deserved to be happy. She didn't know what he was carrying, he never even told Laura, but she knew it was something big and bad and she still insisted. There's been no-one to tell him that in the past two years.
“Yeah,” Derek lets out a long breath. “You're right. I should – he's a total asshole but he's good with this stuff.”
“He's an asshole too? Sounds perfect for you.”
“Haha,” Derek says, rolling his eyes. “Jackass.”
Derek smiles at the call-and-response and relaxes against the back of his couch. He lets Kat talk about the city and the friends he hasn't bothered to speak to since he left and her art students. It's been about a year since he called her, and the last time was just to confirm he wasn't dead because she threatened to come out to Beacon Hills if he didn't return her calls, and he's forgotten what it's like to have her in his ear.
“Let me know how it goes,” she says before hanging up without a goodbye. Same old Kat.
He says 'yes' to the dead air anyway.
He waits another month before he approaches the subject with Stiles. All up it's been about three months since Stiles' grin winded him with realisation. He hasn't exactly done nothing in that time – he's let himself relax fully around Stiles, tried to show him with short touches and a steady presence that there's something there if Stiles is interested.
He actually already knows Stiles is interested, which is Erica's fault and he's sworn to secrecy over it. Erica and Stiles' entire friendship is founded on a love for Batman that Derek's Marvel loyalty has never allowed him to understand – but she loves him almost as fiercely as Scott does and is still embarrassed that she broke his confidence during the Truth incident.
(“You can't tell him I told you, please, because he never wanted you to know,” she said as soon as the 'Stiles likes you likes you' had fallen out of her mouth. “It's not that he doesn't think you would like him back? He's just had enough rejection for high school and figures it'll go away by college.”
Derek invites Stiles to dinner, says he'll cook, and hopes that Stiles gets the hint. Stiles is going to Berkeley in the Fall but they've got most of spring and a long summer stretching out ahead of them – Derek likes the idea of spending that time together. Something about it makes him feel content in a way he hasn't felt since Before.
“So,” Stiles says when Derek answers the door before he can knock. “This is a date, right?”
Derek just nods, a little surprised by Stiles' button-up shirt and black pants. He can count the times he's seen Stiles out of his habitual layers (or t-shirts in summer) on one hand. He looks good. And nervous – really nervous the longer he stands there. Derek steps back and lets Stiles into the apartment.
“God, that smells good,” Stiles says, lifting his head and sniffing at the air. “What are you making?”
“Lasagne,” Derek says, closing the door and following Stiles into the kitchen. Stiles, being Stiles, is already bending to peek into the oven. He straightens up when he hears Derek's footsteps.
“I kinda thought -” Stiles pauses, rubbing a palm over the back of his hair. “I thought maybe you were subtly building up to this? You've been pretty handsy.”
“Did it make you uncomfortable?” Derek asks, tucking his hands into his pockets to stop himself from folding his arms.
“No, God, no,” Stiles shakes his head, his mouth slipping into the shy smile Derek's been seeing more often lately. “I liked it.”
Derek lets out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding and smiles back at Stiles. Stiles' eyes brighten.
“I sort of want to kiss you, right now,” Stiles says because he's Stiles and can't help himself. Derek is surprisingly used to it. “I don't know if that would be okay?”
“I like kissing,” Derek says before he can stop himself. Because that's not a weird thing to say at all, Derek Hale.
His internal voice sounds a lot like Laura these days. It doesn't hurt the way it used to.
“Cool,” Stiles says, eyes drifting down to Derek's mouth and back up again. “I wasn't sure, you know? Because, um, with the -” he waves a hand and Derek blinks. He knows.
“You know,” he says, eyes widening a little. Stiles nods.
“Uh, yeah,” Stiles says, putting his hands into his pockets. It makes the material of his shirt pull a little across his chest. Derek likes it. “I had, have, a friend – Heather, you met her once – she was, is I mean, ace. I might've read up on it when she told me. I'm pretty good at spotting it. Not that – I mean, you guys aren't things to be spotted – I just -”
Derek steps into Stiles' space and presses two fingers against his lips. Stiles' eyes go wide and his breath catches in his chest and when Derek listens he can hear Stiles' heart beating double time.
“Stiles,” Derek says, leaning down. “It's okay.”
Derek kisses him, idly wondering if this is Stiles' first kiss or if that happened before he came back, and Stiles is sweet and enthusiastic. Derek cups his neck and makes him slow the kiss, licking into Stiles' mouth swallowing the moan Stiles tries to hold back. One of Stiles' hands slides into his hair and the other goes around his waist, pulling him close.
Derek could get used to this.
After a long, sweet, moment Derek breaks the kiss and presses his forehead against Stiles'.
“Wow,” Stiles says. He laughs at himself, then, and Derek likes feeling that up close. “Way to sound like a teenager, Stiles.”
“You are a teenager,” Derek points out, pulling his head back to look at Stiles. Stiles' cheeks are flushed and his eyes are bright and he's oddly beautiful in a way Derek isn't quite sure he'll ever get used to.
“Does that bother you?” Stiles asks, biting his bottom lip. Derek smooths a hand over his shoulder, down his arm, and twists their fingers together.
“No,” he says. Stiles may be young in years but he's not young emotionally – not any more – and Derek made his peace with that a while ago.
(He still blames himself, though. Even if Stiles has said he's felt old since his Mom died and he decided he had to take care of his Dad.)
Stiles smiles at him, the shy one again, and moves out of the way so Derek can pull the lasagne out of the oven. Stiles moves easily around Derek, gathering the things to set the table, and Derek's hit by the forcible realisation that Stiles carved a place out in his life long before Derek realised his feelings for him. It makes him smile.
“You can stand there smiling at me all night, dude,” Stiles says, waving a hand in front of his face. “But I prefer my lasagne hot.”
Derek shakes himself and turns to portion the lasagne out, leaving enough for his lunch tomorrow, and carries the plates out to the table. Stiles instantly sets a leg against his under the table when Derek sits down and there's nothing sexual about it – Derek's had people do this to him with that intent before – just a point of contact between them while they're eating.
Stiles talks about a case the Sheriff is working on – and Derek spares a thought for how that conversation is going to go, the Sheriff seems the type to meaningfully clean his guns at someone who wants to date his son – and Derek talks about getting a job after the pack splits up for college. It's a topic they've covered before, because Stiles has ideas, but Derek still doesn't know what he wants to do. Something with his hands maybe.
It's nice. Actually, more than that, it's good. Derek can't recall ever feeling this relaxed around someone who wasn't family. Kate had made him feel reckless and out of control and he'd believed her when she told him that sex was something he wanted from her. Stiles is the opposite and Derek doesn't know if he'll ever have the words to tell him how grateful he is for that. From the look Stiles gives him while they wash up the dishes he thinks Stiles might already know.
“So what's on the table here?” Stiles asks when they're sitting on the couch. He's curled into Derek's side and Derek's enjoying the freedom to rub his hand up and down Stiles' arm. “I'm not pushing for anything. I just – I really don't want to fuck this up. My feelings for you are kinda huge, dude.”
“You won't fuck up,” Derek says, ducking his head to press a kiss against Stiles' temple. “I – I've never really done anything since I figured it out. I know that I like close intimacy – and that I like kissing – but not much more than that.”
“You've done stuff before?” Stiles asks, zeroing in on the part Derek doesn't really want to talk about.
“When – after we left Beacon Hills,” Derek says quietly, staring unseeing at the wall. “I did a lot things.”
“For 'things' can I read 'people'?” Stiles asks, smoothing a hand over Derek's chest.
“Yeah,” Derek nods, tilting his head to look down at Stiles again. “But it was – mechanical. Scratching an itch.”
“A bodily function,” Stiles nods. “Like going to the toilet.”
“Pretty much,” Derek agrees. “I was pretty fucked up back then. More than I am now.”
Stiles lets out a low whistle and Derek raises an eyebrow at him.
“I genuinely can't imagine how fucked up you were back then,” Stiles says. “I mean – you are seriously fucked up now.”
“I know,” Derek says. He feels something coil in his chest, something mean, and Stiles seems to sense it because he leans up to press a brief kiss at the corner of Derek's mouth.
“S'okay,” he says, smiling ruefully. “I'm pretty fucked up too. We all are.”
“I think I'd like to,” Derek pauses and tries to put his words in the right order. “Maybe be with you while you -” he makes a hand gesture that makes Stiles blush.
“Oh, yeah?” Stiles says, ducking his head to hide his blush against Derek's chest.
“I think so,” Derek says, holding him tight for a moment. “Sex doesn't gross me out, Stiles, it's just not something I need. You won't have to hide.”
“I have to admit,” Stiles says, slightly still against Derek's side. “That's kinda doing it for me.”
Derek can't help the smirk as he catches a brief hit of Stiles' arousal.
“I know,” he says, smug because he's allowed to be. Stiles digs an elbow into his side.
“Creepy werewolves,” Stiles says, sighing and leaning into Derek again.
Stiles goes quiet and Derek enjoys the feel of Stiles breathing against him. His heart feels a little full and tender, like each moment of this evening has been feeding into his affection, and he just wants to bury his face in Stiles' neck and never let him go.
“Not tonight,” Stiles says after a long moment. “I'd like to go slow.” He laughs at himself. “Sixteen year old me would not believe this.”
“Sixteen year old you was obsessed with sex,” Derek points out. “You reeked of arousal almost as much as fear. Which isn't healthy.”
“Hey,” Stiles says, pulling back and mock-glaring at Derek. “I had good reasons for being afraid. And the fear set off the constant jerking off.”
“I had to fight the urge to put a peg over my nose whenever I was near you,” Derek says, trying to hold back the grin that's threatening.
“I thought you guys had to make a conscious decision to smell things like that,” Stiles says, looking betrayed.
“Normally,” Derek says, lips twitching. “But with you it was like it permeated everything you owned. Do you have any idea what your room smells like?”
“Oh my God,” Stiles says, his cheeks colouring. Derek breaks, curling over himself as he laughs, and Stiles hits him gently on the shoulder. “You son of a – you're a terrible person.”
“You knew that already,” Derek says, shifting to push Stiles down against the couch. Stiles' hands come up automatically to cup his face and Derek turns into the touch.
“Yeah, I do,” Stiles tugs until Derek leans down to kissing distance. Stiles initiates and he's already getting better at this. Derek's not surprised, Stiles has always been a quick study once you get him focused.
Being the sole object of Stiles' focus is heady and Derek feels warm from it after a few lazy kisses.
“God, you're perfect,” Stiles mumbles against Derek's lips and it's like a shock to his heart, the way it cracks him open.
No-one's ever called him perfect before.
Another month and Derek's lying on his side on his bed, Stiles stretched out beside him. Stiles is shirtless, his pants and boxers pushed down past his hips, and he's beautiful. His hand curves around his cock and his stilted exhales soundtrack the room. Derek props himself up on one arm and leans over Stiles to catch his mouth, letting Stiles take what he wants.
“Derek,” Stiles breathes out against Derek's mouth, breaking the kiss and Derek drops down again.
He shuffles a little closer, eyes on Stiles' face as Stiles works himself slowly. Stiles lifts his head a little when Derek slides an arm under his neck, settling back against it with a soft noise. Derek lays his palm on Stiles' chest, over his heart, and lets his hearing extend to catch the beat. Stiles' hips rock off the bed for a moment.
“Yeah,” Derek says softly when Stiles turns his head to look at him. “Let me see you.”
Stiles' eyes widen imperceptibly and they follow their familiar pattern – Derek's eyes, his lips, his throat, his shoulder – and back again as Stiles' hips rut up toward his hand. If Derek had the facility to register it he knows that this is pretty hot – instead he just feels privileged, getting to see Stiles at his most vulnerable, open and yearning and all of that directed at Derek.
“Perfect,” Derek says, ducking his head to press a kiss against Stiles' shoulder. Stiles' breath hitches at the contact, his heartbeat skipping.
He feels Stiles' strokes speed up, his hips lifting regularly off the mattress, and listens as his heartbeat fluctuates rapidly. It had alarmed him the first time he heard someone's heartbeat while they were having sex – the changes in speed and the way it would sometimes stop altogether – but here it just feels good. Knowing he's the cause of Stiles feeling so good.
“God, Derek, God,” Stiles sounds desperate, his breathing wildly out of control, and Derek leans across to kiss him again, capturing the needy sounds breaking out of Stiles' throat.
Stiles' hips stutter, his strokes going fast and then glacially slow, and Derek pulls back in time to watch Stiles' eyes go impossibly wide before slamming shut as he comes. He jerks a little, like his muscles are tensing and releasing sporadically and yet all at once, and a low moan tears itself from his throat. The scent of it is thick in the air, unavoidable, and Derek ducks his head to smell at the skin of Stiles' neck where the only scent is Stiles.
“Fffuck,” Stiles sighs out when his body is relaxed again on the bed. “That was unexpectedly intense.”
“Good?” Derek asks, lifting his head to look at Stiles. Stiles' eyes are at half-mast as he reaches for the tissues Derek had set on the bed before he started.
“How can you even ask that?” Stiles says, grin splitting his face. “You were right there.”
“I didn't want to assume,” Derek admits, cupping Stiles' jaw and kissing him chastely.
“Assume away,” Stiles says, tossing the used tissues in the direction of the wastepaper basket. “Because, yes, that was totally awesome for me. Jesus, just having you watch me was hotter than anything that has ever happened to me.”
“Good,” Derek kisses him again, a little harder.
Stiles tugs his pants back up and then curls onto his side to face Derek. He tucks one hand under his cheek and uses the other to stroke Derek's cheek, fingers catching on the stubble.
“I think I'm just a little bit in love with you,” Stiles says, watching as Derek turns his head to kiss the palm of Stiles' hand.
“Same,” Derek says, bringing his hand up to capture Stiles' and entwine their fingers.
“Yeah?” Stiles asks, ducking his head and looking up through his eyelashes. That look right there should be illegal.
“Yeah,” Derek confirms, pulling Stiles closer to him. “That okay?”
“More than okay,” Stiles says, burying his face against Derek's chest.
Stiles becomes a sleepy weight against him and Derek rolls onto his back, manoeuvring Stiles until he's spread across his chest. He'll let him sleep for an hour or so and then they've got dinner with the Sheriff.
Derek's actually looking forward to it.
A year later, a rare weekend with Stiles back from college, and Derek stands on the porch of the newly renovated house. He did the carpentry himself, finding the act of making something out of simple blocks of wood oddly cathartic, and it feels like a home again. It's early and Stiles should still be sleeping peacefully in their bed.
But Stiles is never where he should be.
“Morning,” Stiles comes up behind him and slides his arms around Derek's waist. He rests his chin on Derek's shoulder and fits them together.
“I didn't mean to wake you,” Derek says, bringing his hearing in from where he'd been listening to distant birds waking.
“You didn't,” Stiles says, pressing a kiss against his shoulder. “Or, I guess you did – my Derek's-brooding sense was tingling.”
“I'm not brooding,” Derek says, leaning back into Stiles' arms. “I'm thinking.”
“There's a difference?” Stiles says, humour in his words.
“When you finish college do you want to move in?” Derek asks. Stiles' hands flex against Derek's abdomen.
“Really?” Stiles asks. “You see this lasting?”
“I'm planning on forever,” Derek says, no longer surprised by his honesty around Stiles.
“Oh,” Stiles says. His heartbeat is steady in his chest. “Then, yeah – I'd like to move in.”
“Good,” Derek says, turning in Stiles' arms and catching him in a quick kiss. “I like having you here.”
“I like being here,” Stiles says, pressing in for a longer kiss, his hands settling on Derek's hips.
“Love you,” Derek presses the words into Stiles' mouth with his kisses, still awkward at saying it out loud.
“I know,” Stiles pulls him in tight and buries his face against Derek's neck.
Derek will make fun of him for the Star Wars reference later (and Stiles will bring up that one time Derek said 'I'm the best there is at what I do' when a particularly batshit hunter tried to take him on) but for now he's content to be quiet. There's nowhere else he'd rather be.