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oh what a shame

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Everyone says that humans are God's greatest creation. Angels want to protect them. Demons want to destroy them.

Admiration. Hatred. He wonders if the root of it all is simply envy.

-

He's been a demon for a while, was an angel even longer before that. The switch was not so much a change in ideologies than a desire for a change in pace. His personality, too much heart and not enough obedience, leading to not very fun times with his superiors, wasn't never very suited for Heaven and Hell was one part bureaucracy and one part bloody messy torture, neither of which he really liked. Same shit, different day, or something like that. Only difference was that in Hell, no one really cared about what he did, so long as he got his wings a little dirty once in a while. Clean and well-groomed meant you weren't rolling around in enough suffering and that drew unwanted attention.

They're two extremes, Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, good and evil, all that jazz, and he's always been frustratingly moderate. The first couple hundred years as an angel, he had tried, really, tried to get all gung-ho about good ol' dad and the distinct coldness that all his "siblings" seemed to only know how to exude. He had tried again as a demon, poked at a few souls and even tried for the whole antagonistic thing demons were supposed to have with angels, which also didn't really work out because Lucifer was only mad for all those times Michael victory-danced on his head and sure, Michael could be a real dick, but he was very unimpressed with this as an excuse to wage war against all of Heaven. He never felt like he belonged, never felt particularly settled wherever he was, a little like Goldilocks and her trespassing tendencies. His penchant for mischief, but never cruelty, and his natural inquisitiveness never quite fit anywhere.

He's always liked Earth though, always liked to drop in and visit when he could. He likes the humans and even the monsters (not mutually exclusive, he later learns). They're interesting, unpredictable. They have a nature, just as angels and demons do, but some fight it and some embrace it and it's all so fascinating. He talks about it often with a seraph, who had decided to associate herself with him back when he was still an angel, when she saw him drag himself out of obedience school for the fifth time. She's a pretty powerful angel, been one for a long time too and she's mouthy, cunning, but smart enough to keep herself out of trouble. And she meets him on Earth to visit him every once in a while.

"Human, huh?" The angel repeats, for probably the hundred thousandth time, once every time he brings it up, her finger twirling her soft red hair as her wings flutter. Her lips curve, her smile sharp. "Seems promising. I think I could use a change too." He raises an eyebrow. That's a new one.

There, with her perched on a boulder and him swinging his legs on a tree branch in their favorite spot on Earth, a forest in Beacon Hills, California, they make the decision, the one that's been sitting and festering in the back of their minds for hundreds of years, ever since they felt that sliver of doubt. They're excited and a little scared too, if they're honest with themselves, because it's a pretty big leap, going from angel and demon to human.

-

He can't become fully human like the seraph can, who will give up her grace and her memories to reborn as a human (he doesn't worry about not being able to find her, he's almost positive she'll manage to convince whoever's in charge of these things to drop her in Beacon Hills). He's not going to possess some poor kid or dig up a corpse. There's too much stuff to deal with when using those methods (needing to have a consistent personality to not arouse suspicion, the possibility of being recognized and the hassle of having to relocate).

What he can do though, he learns after poring over every demon-related text he could get his hands on, is bind himself to a body, an empty vessel. He'll still have some of his powers, and the typical demon repellents (salt, holy water, traps) won't hurt him but he will never be able to leave the body willingly or without something short of a rarely-used exorcism ritual. The binding is more than the simple manipulation of blood and flesh; it will tie his mortality to the body. It's simple enough to do, maybe because whoever made it up assumed that most demons would value their pride too much to confine themselves in a human body; all that's needed is enough intent, really.

Wandering the halls of Beacon Hills Hospital, he glances into a room and sees a couple, a lovely woman with warm eyes and a man in a deputy's uniform holding her hand. The woman is in labor and they're scared and excited, eager to see their child.

The baby is stillborn, but they don't know that yet.

He waits beside them until the baby is out and before anyone can realize what's wrong, he slips in and takes that first impossible breath. A miracle, he later hears the nurse whisper, fiddling with the small golden cross hanging on his neck, as he carries him away to get cleaned up. If he could laugh, he would. He gurgles instead.

It's almost overwhelming, the bright light of the room prickling his barely-seeing eyes, the breaths he takes that abruptly turn into cries, the warmth of another person's hands on his sensitive skin. It's been a long time since he's been corporeal and he's an infant now, so the newness of the world increases tenfold. He feels what might be a twinge of guilt when the kid's - now his - mother holds him close, her smile tired but blindingly happy. He tells himself that it's mercy, as he instinctively curls his tiny fingers around his father's pinky, watches his father's eyes spark with joy. That it's better than letting them go home empty.

-

He actually never learns to properly pronounce the name his mother gives him, which says a lot coming from someone who has been around names like Zadkiel and Azazel. It only sounds nice when his mother says it (it sounds awkward and clunky in his own mouth when he tries to say it years later) and so eventually, to his father's relief, he starts going by Stiles.

-

He has to relearn everything. It's one thing to know how to do things in theory, like walking and talking, but it's another to try to do those things in a body that's not quite yours yet. He's inherited this kid's body, his organs and muscles, his hormones, his brain. He inherits the way the kid would have thought (a mile a minute and nonstop), the way he would have experienced emotions (intensely but privately). He inherits his ADHD, his terrible coordination which is further mucked up with his own clumsiness of handling his new body. But he likes it, this body. Things actually lined up pretty well, he thinks. If he were born human, maybe this would have been the body he would be born into.

He's a bit awkward, understandably so since beyond his parents, he had lived and interacted only with virtually emotionless beings and a bunch of sadists and psychopaths. He likes to run his mouth and blather on about the world (everything's still bright and shiny and new even at age 7), too hyperactive even for the other kids. When he gets older, his ramblings whittle down to barbs, words with an edge of painful truth. I'm 147 pounds of pale skin and fragile bone, sarcasm is my only defense, indeed. He's never been particularly strong in terms of raw power but he's always had his sharp silver tongue. He may have been an angel but he was a demon last. Weakness is easy, familiar, and it's only instinct that makes him exploit it.

Arrogant little shit, he hears the college kid behind the counter at the convenience store mutter, and after that, he learns how to soften his words, how to hide it all behind sarcasm and dark humor.

Either way, it doesn't earn him many friends.

Friendship was always interesting to observe, back when Stiles was a demon, even an angel, and he had wanted it, wanted a lot of friends but for a long time, he couldn't find someone who he even liked (more accurately, consistently liked, the seraph's poorly concealed superiority complex could really get on his nerves sometimes), much less someone who would stay by his side, follow him to wherever life may lead him.

When he finds Scott, who is sensitive and earnest and doesn't mind that sometimes he says some odd things, who just cocks his head, smiles and shares his Legos with him even though Stiles constantly breaks them down, he thinks that maybe he's alright with just this one friend.

-

Lydia Martin is in his class in third grade. He takes one look at the devious and deceptive curl of her smile, the way she puts her foot down and demands the world, and he knows that the seraph made it.

Of course, she doesn't remember him. In fact, she hardly even notices his existence but he tells Scott that he has a crush on her and publicly pines for her for the next couple of years just to stay on the barest edges of her radar. Because she's going to know him, one day.

Later, when he's old enough to drive, gets that atrociously blue Jeep for his birthday, he starts making plans to follow some leads on where the seraph's grace could be as he digs around the bargain bin at Macy's for Lydia's birthday gift. They're never meant to be easy to find, obviously, because falling is a big deal and it's kind of moot if a former angel can find their grace within five miles of their home. As he tries to remember the mileage of his Jeep, his hand touches something at the bottom of the bin and it's like an electric shock going through his entire body. His fingers wrap around it and he looks at the simple locket sitting in the palm of his hand. The locket is warm in his hand, pulsing with power that only he can see. It costs 15 bucks, which is all he has left in his wallet, and later in the parking lot, he looks up at the sky and laughs at this cosmic joke. He doesn't give it to her though, not yet, because he has a feeling there's going to be a time and place for this if it was this easy.

God and his stupidly enigmatic ways. That's one thing that's always been around since Stiles has existed.

-

He inherits the kid's life, in some ways. His mother dies of cancer. What would have been the kid's grief and sorrow and guilt becomes his. He knew to expect the emotions, maybe a few tears, because no one, no human, monster, demon, angel, feels good about losing something.

After the funeral, one moment he's trudging up the stairs and into his bedroom, still feeling numb in his suit, the next, the room suddenly seems too large, too empty and oppressive all at once, and he finds himself scrambling to the corner of his room, curling up with his head between his knees. A panic attack, his mind supplies, you need to breathe. And he tries, sucking in deep breaths as tears sting in his eyes, but it doesn't get better, his heart pounding louder and faster against his ears, his vision swimming. This is what fear is, his mind again supplies, quite unhelpfully. He realizes that watching humanity had been like watching movies; he can't just leave when things start getting too heavy because this is all real and it's happening to him.

It's almost too much, feeling so ridiculously human when he's a demon, for god's sake, crying alone in his bedroom for his - not his - dead mother, missing her soft hair and her smile and the stories she used to tell him and the way she always told him that she loved him every chance she got even though he was what he was and did what he did, with his father - his father who loved his mother so much and didn't deserve this, goddammit, he didn't deserve this - downstairs drinking his sorrows away. None of this is his, but he cries all the same, the pain of loss and guilt burying itself deep where it will stay for years to come. He tells himself to breathe but he can't and he can almost lose himself in this -

- but then he hears a quiet "Stiles?" and feels an arm around his shoulder pulling him away from the wall. He lifts his head to see Scott's watery puppy eyes and something in him loosens and he sobs harder and to his confusion, Scott starts crying too (empathy, he realizes with wonder) but for some reason, he feels like he's going to be okay.

--

It was just another one of his "adventures", one of his methods of satisfying his curiosity and curbing his appetite for mischief. He indulges himself in the occasional prank, sometimes perhaps nearing on mean-hearted but definitely far tamer than what he had to do back when he was a demon, but he prefers to be distracted by a bit of illegal detective work. Stolen cars, escaped fugitives, the rare dead body, he would look over his father's shoulder as his father pored over the files half-conscious and then drag Scott along to investigate. Sure, the danger and intrigue is nice, but it's the motive behind every crime that he finds most thrilling of all.

But he definitely did not expect his habits to throw him back into the supernatural world.

He had predicted, at this age, maybe having to deal with Scott's epic crush on Allison, dealing with the constant need to jerk off, but it seems to be just his luck to have to deal with Scott and Allison's burning romance in the middle of some hunter and werewolf wars. And with his luck, Scott gets bitten to which Stiles thinks, better him than me because who knows what will happen if a werewolf bites a demon in a human's body? And because Stiles doesn't really want to deal with weepy Scott when he inevitably goes out of control and kills someone or a small animal, he helps Scott along with his lycanthropy, dusting off his mental library of the supernatural.

He has the pleasure of meeting one of the last of Hale pack, Derek, who is pretty much the epitome of temptation, all aggressively attractive and good under all that guilt and self-hatred and the terrible personality he puts up as a front. Derek is far from perfect but despite all the threats he spits out, he'd probably sooner kill himself than let someone even remotely innocent die on his watch.

Stiles is well-versed in matters of temptation, having lived lives where he had to avoid it and then embrace it and learn how to wield it like a weapon. He's a teenage boy now, physically and mentally and okay, emotionally too, so he can't help that he wishes that he could still slip out of his body and through the cracks of the Hale house. If he wanted to, if he put in a little effort, he could have Derek, pliant and wanting under him, he could probably pull out some of that old charm and grab Derek by the lapels of his leather jacket and touch him until all of his dumb smug "I'm the Alpha"'s dissolve into breathy moans. Some demons, given the opportunity, would have taken it in less than a heartbeat.

But Derek reminds him of some of the souls he would see down in Hell, the ones who already came with open wounds and old scars. He reminds him of the good souls who were condemned to Hell for the decisions they made for the people they loved. He never touched those souls, no matter how much the other demons would goad him, his instinct to protect stronger than his aversion to punishment. (Later, he'll learn about Kate, the human who managed to make a place for herself in him with honey-laden words and empty promises before setting fire to everything he loved.)

So when Derek pushes him against walls, gives him those complex stares, Stiles wants so much, so badly, but he just looks, licks his lips, and breathes.

How interesting, he thinks as he tracks the movement of Derek's gaze. It's rare for his old lives to converge at a single point, the demon wanting to simply take, but the angel holding him back.

-

He does his best as the "human" of their ragtag pack. He remains firmly on Scott's side, the demon on his shoulder, the pragmatic voice that tries to balance out Scott's ridiculous bleeding heart. Scott wants to protect everyone, wants to always do what's right but Stiles knows better. He's going to protect what he's always had, his father, Scott, Lydia (even though she doesn't know it yet), and fuck everything else. But with Scott rolling around and tangling himself with the Argents and Derek and his werewolves like a kitten in a pile of yarn and rapidly approaching the point of strangling himself with this metaphorical tangle of yarn, Stiles accepts sullenly that he's going to have to enable Scott's heroic tendencies for a little while if he wants them all to come out of this in one piece.

It's really a mess. There are baby werewolves who don't know what they're doing, and it's fair to call them babies because Stiles is older than all of them combined times like 100, and kanimas and many near death experiences. Stiles, without a human body, could have probably taken care of all of this with relative ease, could have taken charge and led better than Derek ever could. But Stiles, in a human body, is bogged down by hormones and chemicals and feelings, anxiety and fear (and attachment), and can't stop his rapidly beating heart when Derek throws down a saw and tells him to cut off his arm. But he fights, as hard as he can, fights down panic attacks and shaking hands to do what he needs to do. To protect his own.

-

He tells himself, in the beginning of all of this, that first and foremost, he doesn't want his secret out. There's the whole negative stigma that comes along with being a demon so he'd like to put off that confession for as long as possible, preferably forever. So he spends nights on his computer, asks Google all the right questions, compiles information into the morning, making sure he has sources for all the information he already knew. Instead of knocking the kanima away from them at the pool, he holds Derek above water for two hours, his arm wrapped tightly around his chest. That's plausible enough.

But he could've fought Gerard Argent back when he was beating the shit out of him. He could explain away overpowering an old man easily enough. But he doesn't. Instead, he doesn't lift a hand, watches Gerard's fist as it rears back for another strike, takes every hit because all he can think of is Boyd and Erica strung up from the ceiling and with every bright burst of pain, he finds himself thinking if it's not me, it's them.

That night, his fingers tap against the scrapes on his face and he stays up, wide awake and uneasy.

Stiles hasn't seen himself, his black-eyed self, in a while. Sometimes he'll find himself staring at the mirror, into his borrowed - inherited - golden brown eyes, and for a moment, he'll believe that they're his, that they've always been his.

He doesn't know if that's what he wants. As the days, weeks, months pass, he thinks about cutting ties, with Allison, with Derek and his pack, and it becomes harder to stomach the thought of leaving them behind. He knows he shouldn't but with every passing day, he holds onto all of them tighter.

-

At least one good thing has come out of this alternative lifestyle, he thinks brightly as he stares down the barrel of a gun. He doesn't even need to keep up with his doses of Adderall nowadays.

"Alright, let's not get ahead of ourselves," Stiles says steadily, holding a hand out as he edges in front of the werewolves, taking inventory of their injuries, ignoring their whimpers and pleas to get out of the way. "We don't need to start killing people." Lydia stares at him like he's insane but she remains remarkably steady and stands her ground even with a gun pointed at her.

"Back off, kid," Paul, the head hunter of this particular group, name supplied courtesy of Chris Argent and a few strongly-worded threats, sneers, his shotgun still pointed at him. "If you knew better, you'd cut your losses and leave these monsters. If you don't want to leave, I'll gladly kill you along with them."

"Stiles," he hears Scott groan from the corner of the room, "run, man, just-"

"Shut the fuck up, Scott," Stiles interrupts, "I will kill you myself if you finish that terrible cliched line."

It's amazing the amount of shit they find themselves in. He and Lydia have quite possibly picked the worst place to settle down. Beacon Hills is like a literal beacon for trouble. These particular hunters have managed to capture all the werewolves, all of them chained up, wounded in various degrees and, judging by the faint black veins he can see running up their necks, doped up on some weird strain of wolfsbane, and they even got Allison, her hair mussed up and make-up smeared, probably from the fight she undoubtedly put up. They're organized, he'll give them that. Not like the typical rednecks that stroll into town thinking they're hot shit.

Stiles sucks in a shaky breath, trying to stall. Stall what, he thinks, their imminent deaths? "You know you've got a hunter, right?" He says, jerking his chin at Allison, who is glaring at the hunter closest to her like she's ready to start fighting with her teeth. "She's actually in charge of the Argents, so you're gonna be in some pretty deep shit if you even like, nick her dimples."

Paul shoots Allison a disgusted look. "Well, in my book, the moment she decided to defend these things, she gave up her title." If looks could kill, Allison would have reduced Paul to a bloody smear on the ground.

Derek stirs on the other side of the room, his half-lidded eyes flashing red. He scans the room, seeing his entire pack bound and beaten, sees Stiles, and lets out an enraged roar, rattling the chains around his wrists and ankles. One of the hunters points his gun at him, cocking it. Derek growls, glowers at the hunter over the barrel of his gun like it's a challenge. Sometimes Stiles really wishes he was attracted to people with some self-preservation.

"You really don't want to do that," Stiles warns, his hand twitching toward the gun. Patrick edges back with the gun still aimed at Derek's temple. Stiles can feel his anxiety building as his stomach drops, cold sweat breaking out on his skin as the silence stretches. The locket in his clenched fist digs into his palm, the metal warm against his sweaty skin. He swears his chest is aching from how hard his heart is beating. This time, he has nothing to bargain with, nothing he can give these hunters that will keep them from killing them all. He glances at Lydia, her eyes wide with fear as she watches the gun press hard against Derek's temple. Derek stubbornly pushes back against the barrel, refusing to bare his neck.

"They're humans, just kids, let them go," Derek mutters, his breathing labored. Stiles watches the black veins on Derek's neck pulse and he feels his hands shake.

Patrick, a fitting name for an insane bloodthirsty sociopath of a hunter, ignores him, doesn't even bother to look at him and just grins, his attention still focused on Stiles. "Oh yeah? What are you gonna do about it?" His finger moves to settle on the trigger.

"Stiles, don't -," Derek whispers just as Stiles jerks forward, his voice already resigned and his eyes falling closed, and that shit is not going to fly with him -

"Alright, fuck this," Stiles hisses. He's a bit rusty because he doesn't really practice his demon powers at all really, but it comes easily enough, his eyes running jet black for the first time in years. Before Patrick can pull the trigger, Stiles flicks his wrist and throws him up against the wall, grappling fruitlessly at his closing throat.

He quickly takes out the hunter in front of Lydia before throwing the locket to her.

"Open it!" He shouts, his hand thrown out in front of him as he holds the hunters in place. She fumbles to catch it out of the air and, with barely a moment of hesitation, flicks the clasp open.

Stiles barely manages to turn away, squeezing his eyes shut just before the room floods with white light. He's relieved to find that he hasn't been vaporized by it - he never really understood how their powers worked, so he's been flying blind -, and as everyone else attempt to regain their bearings, Lydia already has her sword in her hand, dispatching the hunters quickly and efficiently. Stiles always liked that about the angel. He's kinda thankful she never got a hang of the whole forgiveness and repentance thing. Just straight to the righteous fury.

"Good to see you again, seraph," Stiles grins, the black bleeding out of his eyes, turning back to the usual honey-brown just as Lydia takes out the last hunter.

"It's Lydia, now," she says with a smile, as she flips her hair back. Beyond the sword in her hand, nothing has changed about her, to be honest. "I have to say," she continues as she snaps her fingers, all the chains in the room coming loose, "becoming human actually wasn't another one of your terrible ideas, wouldn't you agree?"

Her gaze goes from him to Derek. Stiles' grin slides right off his face.

-

He drives home immediately, letting Lydia deal with the situation instead. Better an angel than a demon. With her healing powers and grace of God and everything.

Immediately flopping on his bed, adrenaline burning out quick, he flicks through possible outcomes. He doesn't think of the best case scenario because it's downright outrageous (everyone accepts him with open arms and showers him with affection and awe over his life-saving demon powers, hah the irony, and for saving their asses). Worst case scenario, someone (probably Derek) will decide that he needs to be put down. Scott might fight Derek until better judgement, which Stiles has been drilling into him for as long as he's known him, so he kinda dug his own grave there, takes over and causes him to side with Derek. Other cases vary from vague animosity to grudging acceptance. His preferred outcome (nothing changes) is definitely out of the question.

The verdict has apparently been already made, Stiles thinks as he hears a series of knocks on his window not even fifteen minutes later. So, not Derek. Rolling off his bed, he peers warily at his window. It's Scott, who has leaves stuck in his hair and looks surprisingly winded, which is quite touching because that means he over-exerted even his werewolf powers just to get here, and that's usually reserved for Allison-related matters. Stiles can clearly see, as Scott has pressed his face against the window, Scott's sad and pleading eyes. There is no poorly concealed regret, which means that killing him is probably not in his future plans. Stiles unlocks the window and steps back so Scott can come in.

"So," Scott says awkwardly, shifting from one foot to another, "a demon."

"Wow, so we're going straight to that," Stiles says with a shaky laugh, running his hand against his head. Scott just stares at him, all business. Stiles coughs, sitting down and setting his hands on his knees, and nods. "Yep," his lips let out a pop at the end of the word, "yeah, I'm uh, a demon."

"You didn't...possess him, right?"

"Did Lydia not," he waves his hand, "explain all of this, to you guys?"

"I left before she was done." He doesn't look even mildly sheepish. "I wanted to hear it from you."

Stiles sighs. "Stillborn," he finally answers quietly. Scott looks a little stricken. "He was never here."

Scott nods absently, which is understandable. Kinda hard to deal with the idea that your best friend is actually a demon. "Does...your dad...?"

Stiles feels that ever familiar twinge of guilt. He's kept a lot of secrets from his father, secrets that he'll tell him when the time is right, but this one is a secret that he will never tell. It's one thing to find out that monsters exist. It's an entirely different beast to learn that your son is one of the worst of them all. He shakes his head, to which Scott nods again.

"You didn't," Scott stops, seems to think about his words before continuing, "you're not evil? Like, all the good things you've done, wasn't just a part of some bigger evil plan, right?" He sounds so hopeful, looking at Stiles with those puppy dog eyes, that it actually makes Stiles want to hug him.

"Scott," Stiles stands and puts a hand on Scott's shoulder, feels a little relieved that he doesn't flinch away, "I've spent countless weekends with post-Allison-breakup you, feeding you and letting you wipe your snot all over my favorite shirts. World domination is not even worth it."

Stiles was a good liar before all this, but this body, Stiles had quickly learned, is terribly unsuited for lying and it's impossible anyway for him to will his heart to slow down. There is a moment of silence before Scott gathers Stiles up in his arms to hug him, snuffling at him. "You're still my best friend, okay?" he says, his long hair ticking Stiles' ear. Stiles finds himself smiling and hugging back, feeling warm in more ways than one.

He huffs out a laugh. "You too, buddy."

-

They get used to Lydia easier, which is understandable since she's an angel, all lovely and rosy-cheeked and awe-inspiring in her intensity, and Stiles isn't really surprised or offended by all the reluctance directed toward him because he wouldn't trust a demon either. He's never considered himself particularly demonic-looking with all his awkward lankiness and his face's natural propensity for exaggeration, but he supposes the whole black eyes and throwing people up against walls and force-choking them thing would freak anyone out.

"Don't worry, Stiles," Allison says comfortingly, noticing Stiles gazing forlornly at the others during lunch, who have distanced themselves. "They'll come around."

Surprisingly, Allison is weirdly accepting of the idea of Stiles being a demon, probably because Scott still trusts him. He suspects that it's also partially because she's significantly improved her judgement and perceptions, seeing as how her aunt turned out to be a psychopath and how she nearly turned into one herself. And she's kind of a progressive hunter. After all, she is still kissing and touching Scott and his werewolf self and hangs out with the others without looking murderous.

"Who says I'm worried," Stiles mutters moodily, halfheartedly eating his curly fries. He's tried the whole aloof thing, considered maybe picking up and leaving for another town, but he can't leave his dad and he really doesn't want to leave his friends because just thinking about it now makes him alarmingly depressed. So that's kinda nipped at the bud.

Derek has been treating it like nothing happened, which means he doesn't bring up the subject of Stiles' demon status, but he acts different, which makes Stiles feel uneasy. A large step backwards has definitely been taken regarding the whole trust thing, unfortunately. Derek doesn't outright ignore him at least, but now he watches him from afar, always neutral, always guarded. Derek still drops in to ask about any supernatural stuff in a sort of begrudging way but beyond that, they talk mostly only out of necessity, in clipped tones, resorting to curt nods or, if what they need to say is any longer than a sentence, texts. Stiles learns the hard way that Derek will not reply to any of his attempts at conversation.

And yeah, Stiles isn't going to lie to himself, it hurts because at least before there was annoyance and exasperation occasionally of the sort-of fond variety, at least they had finally reached a point in their almost friendship where they could stand close enough to brush shoulders, but Stiles understands, he does.

Doesn't make him feel any better though.

With the passing of a few weeks, a few more life-threatening situations, and a heated testimony from Lydia regarding their centuries-long friendship and comprehensive lessons about the origins of demons, reminding them that Stiles was an angel who only became a demon because he was tired of being punished for having even a semblance of emotion, the pack eventually does come around, with simple peace offerings like curly fries at lunch and a not-so-forced laugh at one of his jokes. Stiles forgives them easily because let's face it, you can't not forgive someone who takes a bullet for you, drags you out of danger, even though they know you're a demon.

-

"Derek-"

"Stay. Down." Derek's hand pushes down on his chest, pinning him on the ground. Stiles tries not to think about how the only times he gets to touch Derek is when they're trying not to die. It's not very good motivation for self-preservation. He could probably mojo Derek away but right now their relationship is already rocky at best. Throwing him into a tree probably wouldn't help things.

Hunters again. But werewolves aren't their main target (that doesn't mean they aren't packing wolfsbane and silver with all their ammunition though). Word got out that there's a demon in Beacon Hills (Scott and his foolish penchant for mercy) and now they're gunning for him. So here they are, hiding under a small rocky outcropping in the forest, trying to stick as close to the ground and the shadows as possible. They can hear the hunters getting closer.

"Derek, it's fine, salt rounds aren't going to do shit-"

"I'm not going to let you run out there just so you can get exorcised."

Stiles stares at Derek, well, tries to look past his heaving chest, and finds himself unable to stifle his bark of laughter. Derek jerks his head down at him, glaring. Stiles just grins. "These are rookies, they think I'm possessing someone, they're not going to have the right incantation down to a pat," he says. It's cute how worried Derek gets in the face of danger, that is, when he's not throwing himself in front of said danger. It's not very cute then. "You know I'm not some weak human okay, you don't need to pro-"

"Human, werewolf, demon, it doesn't matter," Derek grits out, his hand tightening around the front of his hoodie, "I'm still your Alpha and it's my job to keep you safe."

Stiles feels his breath catch in his throat. Before he can even speak, Derek is shoving him down and jumping out just as Erica and Isaac take out the two of the hunters.

-

The thing is.

The thing is.

The thought, the smallest possibility of being in love has haunted him for months.

He understands lust, the consequences of desire. Love had never been easy, never been something he was good at. Love, from what he understood, was complex, a mix of a bunch of emotions, never quite the same for everyone. There was love that was all well and good, like the love between his mom and dad, even though it left his father missing half of himself. And then there was love that was destructive, the kind that people had twisted into something else entirely, something that did more harm than good. Loving the idea of someone never sat well with him and neither did loving chaos, so he knew what love wasn't. But.

He had thought that after that one night, that one night when they both gave up and gave in, that maybe it would be over, because maybe all Stiles wanted was to have Derek, just once, that just having his hands on him was the endgame. But it was fleeting and a long time ago and it was supposed to mean nothing and yet he still dreams of waking up to see the sun rise over the curve of Derek's shoulder.

He doesn't know how to name what he feels for Derek. He considers asking Scott, sitting him down and trying to have a serious conversation about his feelings about Allison without him trailing off to daydream about her, but to tell the truth, he's afraid that maybe what he feels is all wrong , or, even worse, that he finds that he doesn't want to be wrong.

So he doesn't. Instead, he collects these quiet looks and small actions, collects moments where Derek will let a little bit of himself out. Sometimes, wedged into casual conversations, Derek will mention his family, the things they used to do for holidays, the trips his mother used to take him on, the pranks Laura used to pull on him, even Peter back when he wasn't broken. In return, Stiles talks about his mother, how her absence was the first thing that made him feel human, how he managed to inhabit this body. That last one he regrets, just a little, because Derek fell silent when Stiles explained it to him. He didn't speak to him for three days after that.

This isn't what he wants and he knows it. But the one thing he has drilled over and over into his memory is -

Scott shouting, eyes bright and golden. The front door swinging as Derek storms out. The wood of the porch creaks under Stiles' shoes as he steps out, sees Derek standing on the edge of the forest, his shoulders tense. Stiles walks slowly toward him, matching his strides with every breath Derek releases, the white transparent wisps floating away like smoke.

"I fell in love with Kate Argent."

Stiles stops mid-step, staring at Derek's back from barely three feet away.

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, his fists clenching.

"Allison isn't going to betray Scott."

"You don't know that." Derek's voice is cold.

The words how do you know I won't betray you? catching in his throat. Derek disappearing into the forest as the others call his name.

So, he doesn't dwell on it. He's always been a fan of ignoring things until they go away.

-

Stiles is about 80% sure he's going to die. His mind races, he paces with jerky movements, kicking up leaves, and he has to consciously remind himself to breathe.

"Hold on, maybe I can call my dad -"

Stiles slams his hand down on the hood of his Jeep, Allison flinches, just a little, only to retract it to run it roughly through his hair. "We don't have time!" He shouts, his hands curling into fists.

"Calm down," Derek says from where he's leaning against his own car.

"Oh, you're one to talk," Stiles shoots back, his frustration building. Derek's brows furrow.

"Stiles," Lydia has her authoritative voice out, "you know you can't just rush into this-"

"I'm not, okay?" Stiles hisses, a little crazed. "If just any old hunter came into town and captured our friends and said 'hey, werewolves for your demon', we would just mojo our way in and laugh and giggle while we kick their ass. But these guys? Fucking Winchester-certified. They've got the sigils to keep you out, the ash to keep the big bad Alpha out," to which Derek glares, "and enough influence behind them to keep every hunter in town not firmly on our side out. I'm not being rash, this is about numbers. They've got all of Derek's pack, Scott and Jackson. And all they want is me."

"We have to try!" Allison argues, her voice wobbly. "I know we all have a lot riding on this, but we're not just going to give you up."

"You don't have a choice," Stiles says coldly. "I've already called them, set up a meeting. If I don't show up, they start killing them."

He hears Allison inhale sharply. "Stiles-," Lydia begins again, but he stops her right there, shaking his head.

"This is the only choice we've got," he says firmly, leaving no room for argument. He turns away, setting his palms on the hood of the Jeep. "If I'm lucky, they might've missed something in whatever they're planning on using to trap me." Which would only be helpful if they didn't plan on immediately killing him, he reminds himself.

They've got too much to lose. If Stiles doesn't give himself up, his friends, his best friend, and, at best, an acquaintance will die because of him. Allison will lose her boyfriend, will never forgive herself for not being able to save him. Lydia will lose Jackson, who made her feel in ways she never knew she could. Derek will lose his pack, his family. He'll be all alone again. Stiles isn't just repaying debts anymore; he's become a liability. He's going to lose everything either way. Might as well let them have something left at least.

He feels a hand on his shoulder. "We'll set up a perimeter," Lydia says solemnly. "To make sure they get out safe and just in case you...," she squeezes his shoulder.

"Yeah," is all he says. That's about all the comfort he's going to get from the angel. The telltale flutter signals her departure. He glances over his shoulder. She took Allison with her.

Derek is still here though.

Stiles straightens. The sun is setting over the treeline, the sky bleeding red and orange. "Coming with?"

Derek wordlessly pushes himself off his car and moves past Stiles. The Jeep creaks as he slides into the passenger seat.

-

"Ten heartbeats. All elevated but five are significantly higher," Derek says as they stop at the designated spot, an old airport hangar. Stiles yanks the parking brake. "I'm guessing they have them wired."

Stiles hops off the Jeep as Derek steps down from his side. He rubs his hands together as he lets out a breath. "Alright, terms of the agreement says that I just have to pass the first two doors to signal that I'm in and then they'll break the line to let them out. When you get them, let out a nice loud howl so I know that they're through." Derek shoots him an exasperated look, Stiles smirks. "While I would tell you that would be the window of opportunity for you to go in and take out the hunters with me, the odds are definitely not in our favor."

Derek remains silent. Stiles doesn't feel too bad; the considerable lack of snark coming from Derek regarding Stiles' decision is comforting enough. Derek has a pack to look out for and he knows, understands, that this is the best course of action. Not preferred, Stiles allows himself to assume, but the best.

"So I guess this is it, huh?" Stiles murmurs lightly, giving his car a final pat on its hood. "I have to say, didn't think I'd ever willingly risk my life this time around."

He sees a flash of pain on Derek's face.

"This isn't your fault," he says because if there's anything Derek's good at, it's blaming things on himself. "Demons aren't really meant to be part of werewolf packs."

Derek looks away. "It's no excuse."

They stand in tense silence, leaning against the bumper, the hood still warm against their backs. Stiles glances down at his phone as it beeps, his thumb swiping across the screen to check the message. "It's show time," he announces. He lets out another breath, smooths out his shirt and shoots Derek a smile. It feels a little crooked, so he looks down at his shoes. "If I don't make it back -"

"I don't do last wishes," Derek says harshly.

Stiles looks at Derek's hazel eyes illuminated in the dim street light, the way shadows fall across his features. It's so familiar, so achingly familiar, that he just thinks fuck it all because he's selfish, because if he's going to walk to his death tonight, he's going to let himself have this.

He grabs Derek by the lapel of his jacket and tugs him forward, his nose bumping against Derek's cheek. There is a beat, a moment when they're breathing the same air and their eyes, wide and bright and scared, meet, before Stiles closes his eyes and presses his lips against the corner of Derek's mouth. And just like before, Derek kisses back without hesitation, slotting their mouths together, angry and desperate, his hands clutching onto his sides like he wishes he could keep him there, and it feels like goodbye.

"One for the road," Stiles whispers softly after he pulls away, quickly bowing his head, his hand brushing against Derek's. He catches a glimpse of Derek's lips as they part, just as he turns and walks away.

-

A mournful howl pierces the quiet night, the sound unnerving even to the hunters as it shakes and echoes through the hanger.

Stiles feels nervous and giddy, feels like he's going to jump right out of his skin.

Come back alive.

He glances down at the devil's trap. Twitching his fingers, he smiles, much to the hunters' confusion.

They hadn't expected him to be a fallen angel.

-

They don't talk about it.

When he comes back, banged up and bloodied but in one piece, there are teary eyes and boneless hugs and hearty but careful claps on the back all around. This terrible fiasco ends up bringing them closer together because they knew that Stiles had been prepared to die for them, would have if the hunters had gone the extra mile to figure out who Stiles actually was.

Stiles catches Derek's eye over Scott's shoulder. Derek doesn't frown or glare, doesn't smile either, but Stiles swears he looks relieved. And that's the end of that, pretty much.

He's out of commission for a while, his father having essentially put him under house arrest in exchange for letting him stay home for his recovery instead of the hospital. There seems to be some sort of schedule he's not aware of because everyone takes turns visiting (everyone except Derek, he most definitely does not fume). They help him move around and make sure he doesn't brain himself on the corner of a table or something while apparently taking this opportunity to smooth over any issues in their relationship. Which is nice, he supposes, though he is a bit disappointed that Jackson is not the least bit unnerved by the fact that he had been picking on a demon since middle school. Then again, his girlfriend is an angel.

Unfortunately, all this time to himself and inability to do anything but rest makes his thoughts drift back to Derek.

"How did you know?" He blurts out to Erica when she comes to visit as she curls up in the spot beside him on the couch.

She cocks her head and blinks at him over a magazine. "Know what?"

"You and Boyd."

She tosses the magazine aside and settles back against the armrest, casting Stiles' a curious glance before turning thoughtful. "I want to be with him no matter what, y'know? I want him to be happy and safe and I feel safe and happy when I'm with him, like everything's going to be okay. Just, typical stuff I guess." She shrugs, crossing her legs and leaning forward. "Derek clammed up when I asked him if it was different for werewolves."

Stiles stares at her, briefly imagining Derek awkwardly sitting on the edge of Erica's bed, saying well, when a boy werewolf and a girl werewolf love each other very much -

"Yeah, I know, Derek giving love advice, pretty surreal," Erica laughs, waving a hand. "He said that for werewolves, it's just - they have aN instinct to protect. Sometimes if a werewolf doesn't have a lot control, that instinct can manifest into like really intense jealousy and stuff like that. I'll admit, when it gets close to the full moon, sometimes I want to bite off the head of anyone who even touches him."

Stiles lets out a nervous laugh and makes a mental note to avoid Boyd as much as humanly possible.

"Derek says it never goes away, the instinct," she continues. "He told me that I have to remember that I'm human too. That I have to allow Boyd to make his own choices, even if it makes my wolf unhappy." She purses her lips, turning away.

"What?" Stiles says. Erica looks conflicted.

"It's just," she pauses, playing with the hem of her jacket, "it felt like he was talking from experience, y'know?"

He can't help it. He thinks of Kate.

-

Stiles thinks that Derek is an idealist trying to be a cynic. Just like the way he is, under all that anger and violence, Derek is kind and caring and vulnerable. Stiles can see, for all his aloofness and callousness, Derek is constantly hurt by the distrust and blame directed at him. For all Derek says about love, Stiles knows that he wants it more than anyone could imagine.

"There was always something that felt wrong when I was with Kate," Derek says, his voice quiet and frail, his breathing slow and steady as he heals. Stiles freezes, his shaky fingers wrapped tight around the bandage he had been winding around his arm.

They're sitting across from each other in the train station, alone. The betas have gone to dispose of the bodies.He had gone overboard this time with the hunters. He feels a little bad for making Isaac and Boyd scrape human remains off the walls of the old warehouse the hunters had been waiting in.

Stiles glances at Derek's bloodstained shirt, ridden with holes, before turning back to the now mangled bullet hole in his forearm. He wonders idly how he's going to explain this to his father.

"Everything was too perfect," Derek continues. He doesn't look at Stiles and Stiles doesn't look at him. "It seemed like she understood me, like she always knew what to say. She always smelled perfect, felt perfect -"

"Stop," Stiles whispers, his voice catching in his throat. You're a fucking demon, he tells himself, but he finds himself sick to the stomach, thinking of Derek and Kate, Derek without all the guilt and bitterness, happy and enamored, and Kate and her cruelty. He hopes she's in Hell, having her skin peeled off slowly in strips and burnt to ashes right before her dead eyes.

Derek doesn't stop. "She would tell me that she loved me, that no one would understand us and that's why we had to keep it a secret," his voice is rough and Stiles can't take it, "she always told me 'it's for the best' and there was always something off about the way she said it but I was too in lo-"

"Why are you telling me this?" Stiles interrupts again, trying for annoyed but his voice cracks and he just sounds sad. He feels an intensifying thrum of pain, realizes that his fingernails are digging into the wound, his fingers staining and dirtying the bandage with his nervous movements. He tugs the bandage off with a rough jerk and tries to wind it around again but his hands are shaking too much. He doesn't want to hear about how much Derek loved her, how much he loved this human who could fake love so well and how it ended up leaving him hollow. He jumps when he feels Derek's hand wrap around his wrist, feels the other take his injured arm and immediately relaxes. It almost bothers him how much the gesture calms him.

"Maybe if you ever go back home, you could pay her a visit," he says, carefully dressing Stiles' wound.

Stiles manages a laugh, but it comes out more like a sob. He wants to tell Derek that he can never go back, that he's stuck here, not quite human and not quite demon, gaining none of the benefits of either. Derek, thankfully, still doesn't look up, his hands firm as he ties the bandage neatly.

"You don't half-ass it, huh," Stiles murmurs, slowly pulling away to flex his arm, "falling in love. One time and you end up the broody mess you are."

Derek's lips quirk up in a sort of rueful grin, but he doesn't say anything.

"At least you know better now," he says. Derek's head jerks up but Stiles still doesn't look at him, doesn't want to. "You never know what kind of demons people are hiding," he tries to joke but it falls flat. Grabbing his jacket, he moves to leave but Derek catches his wrist.

"Stiles-"

"Derek," the telltale burn behind his eyes urges him to run, "let me go -"

"You thought I was dead," Derek says, like an accusation, his hand still grasping onto Stiles' wrist like it's his last lifeline, "you thought I was dead and you killed all those hunters before you realized -"

Stiles feels his chest tighten and his breathing quicken and he squeezes his eyes shut because he knows what's coming and he stops pulling away, instead turns to fall back into his seat, his hands grasping Derek's forearms and his fingernails digging into his skin. "There was just so much blood," he gasps as the memory plays vividly in his mind, tears running down his cheeks as he struggles to gulp in breaths of air, the panic attack hitting full force, "you weren't moving and Erica couldn't feel - and -"

He had sped as fast as his Jeep could go, ignoring the ugly grinding of Erica's nails against the frame as she scrabbled for purchase with every sharp turn. He saw the hunters, saw Derek lying on the ground in a pool of blood, heard Erica whisper his name, her voice small and scared and vulnerable, felt anger rising from his chest, his eyes bleeding black as he stared at the frightened recognition in the hunters' eyes and then there was a shot, a burst of pain before the hunters were turned into bloody piles of flesh and splintered bits of bone and shredded clothes. He tried not to look at their faces, Erica's, Derek's when Stiles went to help him up, the inevitable looks of fear and horror that would directed at him. The looks on their faces when they remembered what he is. A demon trying to play human.

But now, he is all but collapsed against Derek, his head resting against his chest, listening to his heartbeat. He feels Derek's hand against the back of his neck, rubbing circles into his skin, feels Derek's breath skirt across his cheek as he whispers words, apologies maybe, in his ear. He hates it, being so close to Derek but not able to have him. He tells himself that he will never deserve to have him, but he's too selfish to let it all go.

He doesn't know how long he stays like that but the moment he catches his breath, he thinks maybe he can say it now, that he doesn't want to be here in this body if it means that Derek won't be here beside him, that this is the closest thing to love he's ever felt. But.

But he can't have this idea sitting in his head, this idea that maybe he could be the boy in the mirror.

"Don't make fun of me," he chokes out at the tail end of a laugh because he doesn't want Derek to go and think that this hurts him. It's pathetic, they must think it's pathetic, watching him try to laugh and cry along with them, trying to find a place for himself in their world. Sometimes he wishes that he could've kept his secret, just a little longer. Long enough to know Derek the way he does now, to learn how to go through the motions of falling in love and maybe he could have convinced himself that he could have this. But it doesn't matter, because Derek knows he's a demon and he had been broken by one and it was over the moment Derek saw his inky black eyes.

He manages to slip away from Derek's slackened grip. He doesn't look back. Derek doesn't follow.

-

On good days, he's able to convince himself. He'll think of his panic attacks, the fear that seizes his heart when he hears officer in need of assistance in a voice layered with static on his police scanner, the heavy sadness that causes Scott to sling an arm around his shoulder when he thinks of his mother. In his spare time, he looks for ancient texts, even asks Allison to reach out to some contacts, looking for accounts of demons like him. He clings to the hope that nothing will come up, that maybe over time they had forgotten they were ever demons in the first place.

On his worst, he tells himself that wearing a human makes you feel things that mean nothing. It blows things out of proportion, like his sadness and his fear and his not-love, because demons weren't meant to feel these things, weren't meant to be controlled by human bodies. It's a little like taking Adderall. Binding him to this body keeps him here among humanity, but his condition will never go away.

-

 

"I am highly disappointed in you, Stiles."

Stiles doesn't even lift his head from his hand, his eyes still staring blankly at his unfinished English paper. He hears Lydia huff, followed by the creaking of his bedsprings. He lets out a sigh, slowly turning his chair to meet her expectant gaze.

"What do you want, seraph?" He gripes, his mood still sour from the whole thing at the train station with Derek. He's done pretty well dodging everyone at school, ignoring texts and calls, making sure to lock his window. His father had noticed his behavior, of course, and Stiles told him that he's not up for seeing anyone, which is true enough. He pulled Stiles into a brief hug, which he returned gratefully, and, without prompting, turned Scott and anyone else who came to his front door away.

But of course, Lydia is having none of that. She can poof in wherever she damn well pleases.

"That, right there, is your problem." Lydia has never been one for dramatic flair and exposition. Stiles raises his eyebrows, gestures at the air around them.

"Uh, I can't keep up your brilliant mind, Lydia."

She leans forward. "'Seraph'," she says slowly, clearing enunciating the word. "I swear, you're doing better, but you still keep calling me that."

Stiles gives her an odd look. "Because that's what you are. An angel. You've even got the whole," he flails a hand at her, "angel mojo and everything."

She gives him the most long suffering look he's ever seen and he's seen his fair share on Derek "my entire family is dead and I have to deal with a bunch of self-absorbed teenagers" Hale. "Did you forget what exactly," she emphasizes the word, like she's speaking to a small particularly dumb child, "we did, oh, roughly 17 years ago?"

He really doesn't want to deal with this right now. He rolls his eyes, intending to turn his attention back to his paper even if that means Lydia will beat him within an inch of his life. His chair stops violently mid-turn and he sees Lydia standing over him, her eyes bright and angry, her hand clutching the back of his chair so tight he thinks she's about to snap it in half. He has never seen her this furious.

"We fell, Stiles," she hisses, "both of us. And don't try to pull some smartass technical physics bullshit on me, of course you fell because you were up in the clouds. We gave up a part of ourselves to become what, Stiles?" Stiles stares at her, his lips stretched taut, and she shakes his chair. "Answer me!"

"Human," he whispers.

"Human," she repeats, her eyes drilling into his. "I may have my powers and you may have yours, but that does not mean that we are any less human than Scott, than Allison, than Jackson," her voice softens, "than Derek."

"I'm walking around in borrowed skin, Lydia," Stiles says, his voice strained.

"You throw yourself in front of loaded guns and monsters with your 'borrowed skin' when you could have walked away from all of this at any given moment, gone and lived a nice perfect extravagant life in a town where no one would know you. The subconscious firing of your nerve endings doesn't make that happen. The child that used to be in there is with God now, Stiles, and he sure as hell doesn't make any of that happen."

She draws back, her fingers brushing against his cheek softly. She doesn't look angry anymore, just sad. He doesn't remember the last time she looked sad either.

"You always had a heart, Stiles," she says, all certainty and conviction. "The only thing difference about this life is that you finally found people worth using it for."

-

"My mother used to tell me a story about the forest."

Stiles turns away from the bar they're staking out to look at Derek, who is staring out the window of the Jeep, presumably still scanning the alley for any suspicious activity. It's rare for Derek to be so forthcoming with his past, much less any idle conversation. "Don't tell me fairies are a thing."

Derek lets out a quiet snort. "With our luck, they'll probably be dropping by soon."

Stiles hums, turns back to the bar and leans back in his seat, his wrist resting on the steering wheel as he taps his fingers against it. "So what's the story?"

"It's a legend that's been passed down from generation to generation in my family. It says that there's a guardian in our land. Accounts of meeting it are so few and far between that it's considered a blessing if you find yourself in its presence," Derek explains. He tips his head back, his head still slanted toward the window. "My mother loved to go out on runs in the woods as a wolf. She said that one day, when I was only a few years old, while she was running, something felt different. Like the air was thrumming. It was raining that day but as she went deeper into the forest, the sky got clearer and brighter, like she was going to an entirely different place. She felt a pull and followed it, kept going until she reached a clearing."

His fingers stop tapping. Stiles remembers this day.

"She said that she was scared, at first," Derek continues absently, apparently not noticing Stiles tense up beside him. "She couldn't see the guardian, but she knew it was there. It was powerful, like ancient magic, the kind that created the Earth. But then she felt warm and safe, like all her fear was sapped out. She told us not to fear the woods because the guardian would protect us. Ever since I came back here, I would look around the land every once in a while, seeing if I could find it."

Stiles' hand tightens on the wheel.

"Was it Lydia?" Derek asks.

Stiles, never in a hurry to return to Hell, often stayed on Earth for a while after Lydia would return home. He saw a wolf approaching, a little frightened but curious, her nose upturned as she sniffed the air. He knew about the pack of werewolves that lived in Beacon Hills. The Hales, he had reminded himself. He had heard stories of these creatures, about how they were monsters, adversaries of humanity.

But she was lovely, her brown coat shimmering in the sunlight. He watched with amusement as she pawed at Lydia's boulder and then immediately hopped back, staring at it suspiciously. Reaching out to her, he saw that she carried humanity with her too, as she thought with awe about how the guardian must be real, about what she was going to tell her children. Awkwardly, he patted her head, which she didn't feel of course, to try to ease her worry. She let out a snort, rounding the clearing several more times, like she was trying to locate him, before bounding away.

"No," Stiles says, his head turned away from Derek. He feels a lump in his throat. "It was me."

"Hm," Derek tilts his head, still looking out the window. Stiles glances at him, catches the corner of a smile. "Thought so."

-

Stiles is tired of this song and dance. After spending an hour running through every moment he's spent with Derek, he grabs his keys and bolts out the door, rushing to his car as the rain falls.

This was their goddamn problem the entire time, he thinks viciously as he drives. They never thought to ask.

He stops in front of the Hale house. Remodeling is almost done. It's not the same as before, not like the house pictured in old newspaper archives, but he supposes that's the point. They've all changed.

"I was never a good demon," is the first thing Stiles says when he's within twenty feet of Derek, who's just walking out onto the front porch, right into the rain without a jacket because he's a drama queen, probably having heard his car. Derek's expression is carefully guarded, as always nowadays, under his rain-flattened hair, understandably so with how their last meeting went.

"I had figured," Derek says with a fleck of humor. It gives Stiles the courage to step forward.

"Lydia told me that I have a heart," he says, still staring at the leaf covered ground.

He hears Derek scoff, sees his boots just barely in his peripherals. "Of course you have one." It doesn't sound like sarcasm. Stiles raises his head, blinking raindrops out of his eyes, and his traitor heart tightens. It actually physically pains him to see Derek look so open and hopeful, like he really does want this, all of this. It looks familiar and he realizes that he's seen it many times, clearest on the night in the train station, on the night they spent together.

"I really want to believe her," Stiles breathes.

"You have one," Derek repeats. He's so close, Stiles could literally just raise his hand and touch him.

"You're a demon," Derek says quietly. "That's what's been holding you back this entire time, right? You're a demon and you think you're like Kate." Stiles looks away but Derek pulls his gaze back, his hand warm against Stiles' wet clammy skin, his thumb pressing against his jaw. It reminds him of the marks Derek left on him, long gone now but still there as a phantom ache. "You're not. You are nothing like her. You are almost stupidly loyal to Scott, you miss your mother the way I miss my family, you love your father, you do," he stresses, squeezing Stiles' neck briefly, like he can hear him trying to protest, "you treat the betas better than most normal people do, an honest to god angel vouches for you, you've saved all of us countless times, -"

"I'm never going to do it right, the whole humanity thing and -," Stiles whispers, his hands coming up to push Derek away but he is having none of it.

"It doesn't matter," Derek says fiercely, "because you are defined by what you do and what you do is help us and take care of us and hurt because of us and stay despite all of it and I," he swallows, "I trust you."

It's all very The Notebook-esque - Stiles is almost positive Lydia has a hand in this - but Stiles can't find it in him to care. "I'm not going to love you the way you deserve," he admits, because that's what's been holding him back, that whatever he has is never going to be enough for Derek and Derek deserves more than what a demon can give him, and, because fuck his reputation, warm tears slide down his cheeks as his breath stutters. He clings to Derek anyway, his hand gripping onto his t-shirt.

"I just need you to be you," Derek says, like it's the easiest thing.

Stiles' voice catches in his throat and he finally looks up at Derek. "Is that enough?" He asks, almost disbelieving.

"You supernatural beings make love sound so complicated," Derek huffs. "That's all there is to it. You being you, me being me. Nothing more, nothing less."

It sounds so simple that Stiles actually has no words, can only stare up at Derek with what must be the goofiest-looking grin. And for once, Derek rolls his eyes and kisses him and he doesn't hold him like he's afraid he's going to leave. Stiles smiles against his lips, kisses him harder, his fingers tangling in Derek's hair. He hears what sounds like finally from the house. Probably Isaac.

Maybe he'll never understand how love works and maybe they won't ever be like Scott and Allison or his mom and dad or Erica and Boyd or even Lydia and Jackson because he's a demon and they're both kind of messes or maybe they will be even more than all of them. They're probably going to go through so much more shit and they still have half a ton of issues to work through but right now he knows that they're good, that no one is about to die, that they're okay and everything's okay, and he just wants to stay in this stupid cliche, kissing Derek in the rain.