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we're catching bullets in our teeth (it's hard to do but they're so sweet)

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When Derek jimmies open the door and finds Colonel Hernandez sprawled out on the bed, gunshot to the chest and blood blooming around him like wings, he stands in the doorway for a second, listens to the cheery music from the street below, and thinks, Well, fuck.

He leaves because someone did his job for him, and when he hears the screams of the maid finding Hernandez’s body, he walks a little faster. As she wails for the police, he straightens his cuffs and doesn’t pause as hotel security runs past him.

 

In hotel across the street, Derek does his best to look inconspicuous as the police enter the lobby, but he’s pretty sure that his scowl and three-day beard are drawing suspicious looks, regardless the cut of his clothes. At least, they are, until some lithe and lanky man-child presses himself against Derek’s side and asks, “Did you check us in, babe?"

Then they just think he’s some jackass American tourist, which is exactly what he wants, so he wraps an arm around the stranger’s waist and presses a kiss to his temple, “Yeah, we’ve even got an ocean view.”

Twenty minutes later, exchanging names and slow smiles, Derek learns that Stiles kisses like he only has one chance and has relentless hips that nudge at Derek’s until he hoists him up and presses him against the door, teeth nipping at Stiles’s neck, and he’s drinking in the hitched moans that Stiles can’t bite back. Derek can’t even be mad that someone got to his mark first, not when he has this as a consolation prize.

Later, when he presses Stiles into the bed and slowly works him open, drawing gasps and pleas and pointedly ignoring them until Stiles is writhing and begging, his nails raking down Derek’s back, Derek wonders if this can last, or if Venezuela is like Vegas and he’ll leave with only the memory of Stiles’s searing heat and the sweetness of his mouth.

Turns out, Stiles doesn’t mind beard burn and sullen silence, choosing to tease Derek for his inability to relax rather than taking it personally. And when it turns out they’re both from NYC, well, Derek doesn’t really worry that he’s an assassin until it’s four months later and he has Stiles tied to his bed and his phone rings with the tone specifically for those kind of jobs.

 

//

 

When Stiles first sees him, standing in stark relief against the cool marble of the hotel lobby, he thinks holy fuck and has to remind himself not to stare. When he hears the police calling for tourists traveling alone, he sees the tension in the man’s shoulders and can’t help himself from slotting himself against this stranger’s side, ingratiating himself when he can literally feel the restraint it must be taking not to shove him away. When the man finally slides an arm around Stiles’s lower back, he hopes the guy can’t feel the knife under his shirt. And that he assumes the gun in his pocket holder is just Stiles’s wallet.

On second thought, this was a terrible plan.

Or maybe not, because Derek’s lips twitch into a small grin as they listen to the police stomp up and down the hallway, and Stiles can’t help but swallow tightly and wonder what that stubble might feel like on the inside of his thighs.

Spoiler: it feels fucking awesome and Stiles just want to ride this until the wheels fall off, or until his plane leaves in three days.

 

They make plans to meet up back in New York, and as Stiles watches Derek walk off, shoulders broad and back straight, he wonders if they can make this work. If he’ll find the stones to make the first move, because Stiles is pretty sure if this is left up to Derek, they’ll never see each other again.

Stiles checks the persistent beeping that he’s been ignoring all weekend and sees the phone calls he’s missed from Scott. Apparently, he’s got some catching up to do.

 

(He doesn’t see Derek turn around to catch one last glimpse of Stiles, even if it’s just of him walking away.)

 

When Stiles gets into the office, Scott takes one look at him and says wryly, “I thought we sent you to go kill a dude, not get laid.”

“If our years of friendship have taught you anything, Scott, it should be that I am a master at multitasking.”

“Really? I always thought you were the master of master—”

“Ugh,” Stiles throws a pen at Scott, “Shut up.”

 

//

 

“There’s a hickey on your neck,” is the first thing Derek hears when he walks into the office.

Erica is looking at him curiously, and before she can reach out to poke it, Derek slaps a hand over his neck. He can see Isaac peering around the corner, but Boyd looks stoic as usual, leaning against the wall with a mug in his hand.

When Isaac calls out for Peter to come see, Derek scowls; no wonder Boyd is his favorite. Boyd never pulls this kind of shit.

Derek changes his mind when Boyd lets out a slow whistle.

“Fired. You’re all fired.”

 

It’s dark out and the office is quiet, Erica and Boyd having dragged Isaac out an hour ago, when Peter comes and lingers in the doorway to Derek’s office. When Derek looks up, he asks, “Was the sex before or after you missed your mark? Because here I was thinking you’d learned your lesson with Kate.” He raises an eyebrow and saunters off before Derek can respond, but his comment lingers in the air, burns in Derek’s gut.

 

(Kate had been wild and loud, her grin always a little dangerous at the edges. When Derek was with her, he felt like he did on a job: he felt alive, like every sense was ramped up to eleven and he could bench press the world if she’d just press against him and nip at his lips one more time.

When it turned out that she was another hitter, worse, that she was an Argent, it all made sense: the familiar calluses on her palms; the way she never told him anything really personal, always distracting him with the warmth of her hands sliding up his arms or into his pants. The way she had slipped into the Pack’s office and slaughtered everyone.

Laura said she didn’t blame him, and Peter never said anything, but Derek carried enough guilt for all three of them.)

 

It’s not that Derek doesn’t want to call; it’s just that he’s bad with words and Peter’s comment feels an awful lot like the judgment that never came.

In the end, it doesn’t matter because he pocket dials Stiles and spends a few seconds worrying that he’s finally lost his mind when he hears a small voice shouting his name.

They agree to meet in Central Park by the Wafel and Dinges Truck; the one that Stiles swears is always by Delacorte Theater.

Derek is sure it is; only he’s also pretty sure he’s lost. He’s standing in front of Bethesda Fountain, according to the plaque, when he gets a hesitant phone call from Stiles asking where he is. For two technologically savvy and presumably competent people, Derek and Stiles spend the next hour unable to find each other, each telling the other to stay put and trying to navigate the park at the same time. In any case, Derek finds Belvedere’s Castle, which definitely proves he’s lost.

By the time they find each other, Derek is sweaty and irritated and thinking of that movie Laura made him watch once, the one with the small blonde child and the bizarre trolls, and Stiles looks like he’s ready to punch the next child that cries in his vicinity.

Derek buys him a waffle with speculoos and nutella, and when Stiles gets powdered sugar all over his red shirt, Derek thinks he shows incredible restraint by not laughing. Even more when he doesn’t lick the smudge of sugar off Stiles’s lower lip, no matter how badly he wants to.

 

(Stiles says he’s a Web Developer; that he writes code and does something with SQL and he’s pretty sure that Derek has no idea what any of this means, which is in fact the goal. He tells Derek about his apartment in SoHo, about the next-door neighbor that he’s pretty sure has the whooping cough and uses the blender at terrible hours, about how he only learned how to use the broiler on his oven after three years of wondering what that drawer was for.

Derek says he’s an Internal Auditor, watches as Stiles vaguely nods in understanding, and goes on to talk about Sarbanes-Oxley, calling on his dim memory of the Suits premiere to make it believable. He informs Stiles that he should consider himself lucky to have issues only with his coughing neighbor, when Derek lives in the East Village and has the pot twins that play loud dubstep on Wednesday nights and the weird hipster couple that talks very seriously about the merits of Marxists readings of contemporary literature.

It’s a good day.)

 

//

 

Stiles knows he’s in trouble when he goes into the office on Monday with a hazy grin on his face that he’s been told looks ridiculous. He thinks of all the times he made fun of Scott for zoning out mid-conversation when him and Allison first got together, and mourns for the moral high ground he’s just lost.

 

With Scott cackling in the background, Stiles calls Derek, goes through the awkward hellos and the how was your day?, before he invites Derek over for a questionable movie marathon. Stiles has big plans to make him sit through The Room, even if he actually has to sit on Derek to make that happen.

True to form, Derek complains solidly throughout each one of Tommy Wiseau’s, “Oh hi, Peter,” but Stiles likes the look of Derek in his space. Likes Derek sitting on his couch with the dying light from the wide windows falling across his face, likes Derek leaning on the counter in the kitchen while Stiles makes dinner, trying not to get distracted by the pull of Derek’s Henley against his chest. He fails, but with enough ketchup, even a burned grilled cheese sandwich is still tasty.

Later that night, Derek lifts Stiles up and presses him against the window, teasing Stiles with hints of teeth and warm pressure and steady rolls of his hips, and Stiles makes a cliché Titanic crack as his hand slips and slides across the sweat-steamed glass.

Lying sprawled on the couch, running a hand through Derek’s hair to give him the most ridiculous cowlick imaginable, all Stiles can think about is how to make Derek stay.

 

Stiles goes to work the next day and flaunts the hickey on his neck, can’t even be mad when Scott makes him buy lunch because he says Stiles’s sappy grin is torture.

As Stiles cleans his guns and plans the best way to kill his next target, he wonders how Derek stands the life of an accountant, can’t imagine living without the knowledge that he can do anything, that he’s constantly underestimated, tucked behind his grin.

When his kill goes awry and he shows up to an apartment full of blood and dead bodies, Stiles curses, because his day had been going so well. He hates when people double book.

 

(Derek is wiping his knives clean in the bathroom sink, humming a little and thinking about the little shimmy that Stiles does as he cooks, when he hears someone in the hallway. He briefly mourns putting the knives away wet, but when the door opens and there are no screams, just a low, “Goddammit,” he knows he has more to worry about than just poor weapon maintenance.

As he eases himself onto the fire escape, his muscles tensing, he spares a moment to feel sorry for Stiles, that he’ll never experience the adrenaline of running for your life, the power that comes from surprisingly people so completely.)

 

//

 

The first time Stiles comes to Derek’s apartment, Derek is prepared to turn and see a slight curl to his lip, a small look of unpleasant surprise, because his apartment isn’t fancy. It isn’t large or bright or clean like Stiles’s was; there are no lengthy windows to remind you that there is life outside these four walls. His apartment looks like he’s still a college student, eating ramen straight from the pan, standing over the sink because why sit down when the chairs are rickety and the table wobbles?

He tries to clean up a bit, moving magazines around, muttering, “I know it’s not much, compared to what you have, but it’s just me, and I hate packing, so…”

But when he turns, he sees the crinkling of Stiles’s eyes, the way his mouth falls open to a wide grin, because Stiles has seen something in this clutter that Derek had been afraid to hope for. He watches as Stiles walks around the room, touching the worn afghan on the secondhand couch, the one his mother made for him when he moved out; he holds up the obviously handmade clay bowl that Derek uses for his keys, the one that Laura made him, the one that he loves, lumps and uneven sides included.

When Stiles holds up his battered copy of Atlas Shrugged, Derek shrugs, says, “I use it as a doorstop a lot,” and Stiles barks a laugh before flopping on the couch and pulling the afghan over his shoulders, demanding that Derek make him dinner.

And when dinner turns out to be Indian takeout after he overcooks the pasta and burns the garlic bread, Derek can’t even worry about how this night is turning out to be kind of a disaster, because Stiles is still here and he looked at this shithole of an apartment and picked out all the bits that are Derek, all the bits that Derek tucked away for safekeeping, and that has to mean something, right?

 

Eventually, Erica makes one too many comments about Derek hitting up hookers, because no one in the office has seen actual evidence that Stiles exists, other than the hickeys and the languid expression on Derek’s face come Monday mornings.

So Derek calls Stiles up as he cooks dinner, poking dubiously at what was supposed to turn into some sort of béchamel sauce but right now just looks like milk, and says, “My coworkers don’t believe that you exist.”

“Well, I don’t. Didn’t I tell you? ‘I am Jack’s Medulla Oblongata.’”

“Not funny. Erica left a box of condoms on my desk the other day, with a note telling me to, and I quote, ‘wrap it before I tap it;’ and Isaac keeps offering to go with me to a clinic for an STD panel.”

“So come over next weekend, bring your friends, and I’ll barbeque. Or Scott will, because I’m apparently not allowed to use the grill after an incident that we don’t talk about.”

Against his better judgment and knowing the answer is going to be ridiculous, Derek finds himself asking why.

When Stiles launches into the story of how Scott lost his eyebrows and the steak ended up somehow rocketing off the roof and onto the street, he’s not even surprised.

He ends up burning the béchamel sauce, but he doesn’t mind so much with Stiles laughing in his ear.

 

Saying that the barbeque is a disaster is just barely not an understatement, the night is so painfully awkward. Scott takes one look at Derek and decides that he’s clearly bad news for his best friend. Erica meets Stiles, starts laughing, and has to be excused to go compose herself in the bathroom (during which Derek receives five texts from her, all along the lines of “OMG U FOUND URSELF A TWINK—GOOD ON U”). Peter shakes Stiles’s hand and, according to Stiles, creepily brushes a finger along the inside of his wrist. The only good thing is that Isaac and Scott form some sort of pact of solidarity and spend most of the afternoon poking at the grill, and Boyd brings good beer instead of the PBR he originally threatened to bring.

But everyone leaves comfortably fed, mostly drunk, and still in possession of their eyebrows, so when it’s just Derek and Stiles left on the roof, gathering up the empties and folding up the chairs, and Stiles asks, “That turned out well, right?” Derek can only smile and pull him into a kiss.

 

With blood on his face and a gun warm in his hand, Derek navigates the labyrinthine corridors of a securities company and he isn’t actually surprised when Erica says, soft and cautious in his ear, “It’s been six months.”

He pauses and realizes that yes, it’s been six months of warm Sundays and texts about hipsters and questionable date suggestions; six months of smiles and laughter and bizarre happiness, when usually by this point he’s already sabotaged the relationship.

Erica hums a little in his ear, after a long silence, and tells him to bear left. Derek is ridiculously grateful that she’s letting it go.

 

It’s not until Derek is telling Stiles about Laura that he realizes there may be no turning back from this.

He’s not telling Stiles about how he thinks Peter had Laura killed, but about how he thinks she would have liked Stiles, liked his humor and his anecdotes and the way he makes Derek smile a bit brighter and laugh a little longer.

When Stiles rolls over and drapes himself across Derek’s chest, not looking at him, just tucking his head into Derek’s neck, Derek swallows and keeps talking. He tells Stiles about their tradition of watching Hocus Pocus on Halloween and The Year without Santa Claus on Christmas, how they used to compete to find the most horrifying gifts, but nothing ever topped the year that Laura bought Derek a complete Lisa Frank school set and left it on his office desk. He tells Stiles that he misses her so fucking much, that it feels like he failed her somehow by not being able to save her, when she was just about the only family he had left.

He trails off after a while and is grateful when Stiles doesn’t say anything, just grips Derek’s hand a little tighter, pulls him a little closer.

When Stiles starts talking about his mom over breakfast later that week, Derek remembers the solid presence of Stiles at his side in the dark and doesn’t say anything, just leans into Stiles’s shoulder and listens to Stiles talk.

 

The barbeques become a regular thing until it gets too cold and then there are winter potlucks at Boyd’s, and it feels like Derek finally has that life that Laura was always telling him to get.

He doesn’t want to jinx it, but things feel pretty close to perfect when Stiles calls him to ask if he wants to come over for Ethiopian, or when Erica tells him that Stiles texted her to make sure that Derek actually ate lunch today.

(The budding friendship between them is something Derek doesn’t think about too closely, not when Stiles solemnly tells him that she is the catwoman to his batman and they have actual John Hughes movie marathons.)

Somehow, when he wasn’t paying attention, Stiles slipped into his life and settled in, and Derek doesn’t want to lose that.

 

//

 

Derek asks Stiles to move in with him in the most awkward way possible. Stiles spends the first five minutes of the conversation convinced that Derek is about to break up with him, because he opens with, “We need to talk.”

When he figures out where Derek is heading, he decides the only way to save any further face-clawing awkwardness is to shut Derek up with his mouth. It works pretty well, even if they do end up falling off the bench.

 

House hunting is an experience that Stiles would rather forget. Derek is the kind of anal-retentive house hunter who has a notebook with color-coded specifics for each house, and Stiles only remembers the ones he likes. The ones with open floor plans and space to sprawl, the ones where he can picture Derek in the kitchen or the foyer or the bedroom. Mostly the bedroom.

The good news is that when they finally find a place, it’s in Clinton Hill, which means that Stiles can finally drag Derek to the Brooklyn Flea Market and Smorgasburg without the usual chatter of how if he wanted to look at other people’s crap, he’d walk down Canal and look at the cheap knock off purses.

(The first time Stiles asked and got that response, he just stared in horrified amusement, because a whole sentence of feelings about purses just came out of Derek’s mouth, and he doesn’t know what to do with this information.)

Stiles likes the high ceilings though, and the sleek lines, and he doesn’t think about the weaknesses of the windows, because this is their home, and for him, what more does he need?

(Derek opens his mouth to argue about the windows, but he sees the happiness on Stiles’s face as he stands in the sunlight and the joy when he looks at the kitchen and the balconies, and he knows that he could be happy here if Stiles is.)

 

Stiles is rappelling down a building when Scott asks what’s going on with him and Derek.

“Well, Scott, when two people like each other a whole lot—”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” Scott huffs. “How long are you going to keep up the charade that you don’t kill people for a living? Especially when, you know, now you actually live together. It’s not like you can leave a note, ‘Sorry honey, popping out to kill someone; back later.’”

Stiles is quiet until he reaches the ground, and then he bites out, “We can’t all be lucky enough to find someone as understanding as the boss’s daughter, Scott.”

There’s a swift intake of breathe before Scott says, “Fair point,” and lets the matter drop.

 

On his next mission, Stiles thinks about what Scott said, about how he can’t keep this a secret forever, as he clutches his side and limps down an alley. He thinks about the potshot the mark got in before the loud snap of his neck breaking. He thinks about the noises of other people he heard in the hallway and the heavy boots he heard walking around the corner. He thinks about explaining the bruises to Derek and wonders if Scott may be right, if this is going to end in tears and broken hearts.

 

//

 

Living together is an adjustment.

Derek forgets not to drink from the milk jug, forgets to buy orange juice with the pulp, forgets that there is another person in his space and wakes up growling from nightmares of fire and sticky sweet kisses.

But he makes up for it by fixing the leaky faucets; by trying to make pancakes that Stiles grins over and swallows down, even though they’re more biscuit than pancake; by draping himself over Stiles after his morning run, reveling in the shrieks of surprise that melt into sex on the couch; by waking Stiles up on Saturdays with slow kisses and a lazy hand job.

He never quite gets a hang of remembering to make noise, of remembering that he’s home and not on a mission. He’s scared Stiles more times than he can count by silently appearing behind him in the bathroom mirror.

He doesn’t do it on purpose, but it’s hard to forget Peter’s voice in his ear telling him, silent running, and constant vigilance. It’s hard to forget years of training to listen for outside noises, for what doesn’t belong, and he’s always half-aware of where his back-up weapons are, what he can use to defend himself.

(Stiles, on the other hand, clomps around and generally makes as much noise as he wants, because he’s home. He doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the spare guns he’s stashed around the house, or if security is tight enough. He listens for strange outside noises, but he doesn’t worry if the knife he hid under the bed is sharp enough to saw through bone, because with Derek he doesn’t need to worry. With Derek, he can just touch and feel and forget about the recoil of a gun or the heft of a knife.)

 

//

 

They live together and they pay homeowner’s dues and they go to meetings where they’re supposed to have feelings about where the neighbors park their car and they weather the sidelong glances of being the token gay couple in the neighborhood.

It takes a year and a half before the neighbors stop asking when the wedding is, if they want kids, if they voted Democrat in the last election.

In the meantime, Stiles beats his frustrations out on Scott and takes job after job, goes home with the burn of adrenaline still in his veins and tackles Derek in the foyer, provokes him until he pins Stiles down and makes him beg until his voice cracks.

 

Stiles starts looking at rings after two years of living together. He figures that if the sex is still good and he hasn’t killed Derek yet, they might be able to make it for the long haul.

When he proposes, he starts off with, “We need to talk,” and payback is sweet, because the look on Derek’s face is absolutely hilarious.

 

//

 

Things are good for a while; they have a house full of laughter and love and easy touches, and sometimes Derek will throw Stiles over his shoulder and carry him up to their bed, and sometimes Stiles will bundle Derek out the door and surprise him with field trips to the Natural History Museum so Derek can stare at the dinosaur skeletons.

They make it work, but then Stiles is late and Derek doesn’t call, and slowly a silence develops and it makes Stiles fidget and Derek sullen, but neither knows how to go back.

 

//

 

Derek doesn’t know when it started, when he began to catch Stiles pulling away, smiling a little less. He just knows that Stiles doesn’t laugh as often, doesn’t touch as frequently, and it feels like relief to use work as an excuse to come home later and later.

At some point, Isaac asks if everything is okay, but falls quiet when Derek just growls, “Get back to work.”

 

//

 

Scott is talking about Allison, about how he loves her and how she kisses and how she—

“I’m going to cut you off right there, buddy. I don’t need to know about Allison’s many talents, thank you though, truly.”

When Scott just grins widely and changes the subject, Stiles thinks about how that used to be him, talking about Derek’s muscles and the way he’d crowd him against a wall, and he wonders when was the last time they had sex that didn’t feel routine, like they were just playing a role.

 

When he suggests therapy, he doesn’t think Derek will agree. He hopes that Derek will give him a flat stare and turn back to the football game, will scoff and pretend that Stiles didn’t say anything.

Stiles hopes Derek says no, because he can deal with cold beds and colder hearts, he can deal with things falling apart quietly, but he doesn’t think he can sit by Derek as he says he’s done: done with their place in Brooklyn, with their bad movie nights, with Stiles.

So of course, just to be contrary, Derek says yes.

 

She says her name is Dr. Mitchell and that this is a safe space, a non-judging space. She asks why they’re here, why now, and Stiles can’t think of how to say it feels like he’s turning to stone, calcifying in the silence creeping through their house, so he complains that Derek doesn’t listen and shuts him out, because that too is true.

When Derek retorts that at least he doesn’t blurt out every thought that passes through his head, Stiles bites his lip and pointedly doesn’t say anything.

When she asks about their sex life, neither answers. After a long pause in which Stiles looks at his knuckles and Derek looks at Stiles, she asks what they hope to gain from this session, but Stiles is still thinking about the last question. How do you tell a perfect stranger that there’s no emotion in your sex, it’s just bodies moving against each other in the dark?

 

Stiles lies awake that night and thinks about the therapist asking how they met. He remembers the clenching of Derek’s jaw in the hotel lobby and the startled bark of laughter when Stiles flipped him on the bed and he thinks that the better question is when things fell apart. Was it when Stiles forgot their anniversary again? Or when Scott spent the third week in a row drunk on their couch? When did their teasing touches stop and the awkward silences begin?

In the end, he thinks, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that Derek hasn’t touched him with something like tenderness in weeks, and he spends his nights trying to find the courage to curve himself around Derek like he used to.

 

(On the silent drive home, Derek clenches the steering wheel and thinks about how Stiles snuck up on him last week. Before, when things were good, there would be laughter or humming or maybe a dance-shuffle to announce Stiles’s presence long before he came upon Derek, but now there’s nothing. Now, Derek finds himself swallowing a mouthful of toothpaste when he looks up and sees Stiles walking into the room. Now, Derek finds himself straining to hear hints of Stiles in the house, and it leaves him cold.)

 

//

 

When Gerard Argent comes to town, ostensibly to see how the New York branch is doing under his son’s direction, Stiles is suspicious. Where Gerard leads, trouble follows—usually in the form of bullet holes and vague headlines in various newspapers. Stiles knows what the newspapers don’t say about the random, vicious deaths; he’s tracked the bloody swath that Gerard has carved across the country without breaking a sweat.

Chris stands behind his father and looks uncomfortable, looks like he knows something is brewing over the horizon, and that this office had better batten down the hatches. Stiles idly thinks about a saying his father had, when he was still the sheriff and they lived on the edges of a Preserve, the forest rising tall and daunting around the town. Something about being loaded for bear. Stiles has never thought of what he does as hunting, but he can see the calculation in Gerard’s eyes, the patience of a wary hunter, and knows that Gerard does, that he sees his marks as beasts to be taken down.

Stiles thinks of the last time Gerard was here, eight years ago when Chris had been quieter than usual, hiding in his office more than he used to, until Gerard came and set up camp for a while, just watching and sitting in on meetings, telling Stiles, “Good job, son,” like he was proud of him. Stiles called his dad so often that he threatened to block his number, reminding Stiles that he still had a town to sheriff, that not all of them could be lazy web developers and make their own hours.

Gerard had left in a swirl of what the newspapers attributed to gang wars, but the office knew better; they’d all been working overtime, stepping on other people’s kills in a way that Stiles knew was meant to send a message, he just wasn’t sure what kind. Or to whom.

He remembers the year before that, when Kate had swept into town and taken the office by storm, her eyes gleaming with bloodlust and something that made Stiles extra uncomfortable, made him watch his tongue and curb his jokes, because something bone deep was telling him that attracting Kate’s attention would be bad. He’d been a rookie, a fucking gopher, but even then, he knew unstable when he saw it.

Months later, when Kate turned up in an alley, throat slit and body left lying in a heap, with her customary shotgun by her side, Stiles wasn’t surprised. He was sad his boss’s sister had pissed off the wrong person, but in the time he’d known her, she’d always been a live wire, always pushing the limits and enjoying herself just a bit too much.

Gerard had made noises about avenging his daughter’s death, his voice taut with the same razor’s edge of violence that had always been in Kate’s, but nothing came of it. There was an uneasy stillness in the office as they all waited for the inevitable blow up, but Gerard left one night for San Francisco and never came back.

Now, watching Gerard observe the office from the doorway, his cold eyes sweeping over Stiles’s motivational posters and Scott’s messy desk, Stiles wonders if there hadn’t been some sort of long con going on, because Gerard looks like a man about to rip the throat out of the dog that keeps shitting on his lawn.

 

When his mission that night goes hilariously and horrifyingly wrong, he’s not actually surprised. Gerard Argent has always been a harbinger, nine years hasn’t changed that.

 

//

 

Derek loses his favorite gun to an explosion and he can’t figure out how a routine mission went so wrong, or why he didn’t know that there was another player involved. This isn’t the first time someone got to his mark first, but usually he finds them already dead. That’s the nature of this world, always a race to be first, and Derek gets that, but this is different; this feels deliberate.

He angrily buys a scone from the bakery down the street from the office, and he debates whether or not he should get Stiles a cookie for later, before petulantly deciding that no, why should he do anything nice for him?

By the time he gets to the office, everyone except Boyd is gone. With his scone in hand, and Boyd giving him a blank stare that encapsulates Boyd’s general I will do this if it’s actually worth it, which I know it’s not demeanor, Derek decides not to risk Boyd’s heavy sigh of judgment and the utter lack of surprise on Stiles’s face if he comes home late. So he goes home and sits through a delicious yet painfully silent dinner of eggplant parmigiano and mourns the lack of meat. He’s reasonably positive that Stiles is doing it on purpose.

He dries while Stiles washes, and he misses the banter they used to have, the way Derek would eventually swat Stiles with the dishrag and Stiles would splash him with the soapy water. It had been easy and simple and now he bites his tongue to stop from filling the silence.

 

That night, when Stiles rolls over and cups his hand against Derek’s cheek, moves against him like he used to, swallowing back familiar half-formed moans, things feel different, and Derek doesn’t think, he just responds. He rests a hand on the small of Stiles’s back and nudges a thigh between Stiles’s, urges him on with the steady rocking of his hips.

When Stiles sinks down onto Derek’s cock, bracing himself on Derek’s chest, the hazy look of determination and desperation on Stiles’s face makes Derek itch to pull him down and roll them over, to protect Stiles with the curve of his body, to tuck him back into the hollow spaces of Derek where he belongs.

But he doesn’t. Instead, he lets Stiles work himself slowly to the edge, nails digging in and leaving little half-moon reminders that apparently they still have this, even if words have failed. Derek rests his hands on the juts of Stiles’s hipbones, and when Stiles comes with a muted cry, Derek tries to pretend that it doesn’t feel like Stiles is saying goodbye.

 

When he wakes up, Stiles is gone.

 

By noon, it all makes sense.

Reviewing the footage, watching some stranger club his mark in the head with what looks like a fucking bat, and several things become apparent. First, this was definitely a hit, not just some unfortunate coincidence. The man is too graceful, too smooth, for this to be some outburst of anger.

Second, even though the man had been really good about ducking the cameras, there’s a glimpse of him in a red hoodie, hands tucked into the pockets, and Derek thinks, oh shit. The figure does this little shimmy, and Derek sees pale skin and a ratty, red hoodie, and thinks of Stiles dancing in the kitchen, Stiles pulling on a red hoodie to check the mail, Stiles rising above him last night like the vestiges of a former life. He thinks of Stiles beating a man’s head in with a fucking baseball bat and wonders how he missed it.

“Shut it down,” Derek says, voice hard and quiet, but from the way Isaac looks at him, he thinks he wasn’t quite successful in stamping out that tiny quiver of doubt that’s working its way through him.

 

(Stiles didn’t need to see the tapes to figure out it was Derek. He saw the little triskelion on the bottom of the gun handle and he knew. Derek left the sign everywhere, on post-its, on receipts, in the steam on the bathroom mirror, little breadcrumbs for Stiles to find later. He’s traced that spiral tattoo with his tongue, watched as Derek’s shoulder blades twitched with the urge to roll them over and take. He’d know that sign anywhere; for it to show up here couldn’t be coincidence.

He asks Scott to check, just to be sure, but the pained look on Scott’s face an hour letter tells him everything he already knew.)

 

Derek comes home, takes one look at the nervous, anticipatory look on Stiles’s face, and knows he’s right. When he body-checks Stiles against the wall, forearm pressed against the bobbing of his throat, he expects Stiles to respond, to fight back the way he does when Derek crowds him against the kitchen counter and nips at his throat: with an elbow to the stomach or a baring of teeth, something.

What he gets is Stiles flushing red, licking his lips like he’s got something to say, before head-butting Derek and sprinting out the door.

And somehow, between clutching his nose and making his way to the door, Derek trips over his slippers and stumbles out the open doorway, and he doesn’t mean to, isn’t sure how it happens, but there’s a hole in the windshield and Stiles looks like he’s been hit. For a second Derek panics, because what has he done, but when the shock on Stiles’s face turns to fury, Derek is relieved and relaxes and can’t even be angry that Stiles has essentially stolen his car.

 

//

 

Stiles drives aimlessly for a while, flipping through radio stations to drown out the whistle of air through the bullet hole, wondering what Derek’s doing, if he’s missing his car right about now, if he’s taking the subway somewhere away from home and cursing Stiles and the inevitable, accidental touching that’s bound to happen.

He wonders what it means that Derek took a shot at the Camaro, the car that he loves and fought for; wonders if Derek hates Stiles so much that the car has been written off as collateral damage. He puts it out of his mind in favor of muttering, “You don’t know you’re beautiful,” along with One Direction, hating himself all the while.

Eventually he gets to Scott’s place, and then he wonders where the fuck he’s going to park. In the end he decides that one sketchy alley is as good as the next, and it’ll serve Derek right if he gets a call in the morning that his car’s been found picked apart by the vultures of the East Village.

 

Scott takes on look at Stiles’s face and sighs. “You’re lucky Pommes Frites is around the corner,” he says, before pushing past Stiles and walking down the hall, leaving him standing in the doorway to Scott’s apartment a little bewildered.

“I’ll just let myself in then?” Stiles calls out, and takes the silence as agreement.

 

With the remains of French fries and pineapple mayonnaise and seven bottles of wine spread out on the table between them, Stiles tells Scott the whole sordid tale, brief though it may be.

Scott does his duty as a best friend and looks properly appalled at the mention of gunfire in a civilian area, properly sympathetic at Stiles’s realization that he can’t go back to his apartment, and mostly disgusted when Stiles mourns all the great, athletic sex he’ll never again have with Derek.

Around midnight Scott heaves Stiles on the couch, leaves him lying there with one leg hanging off the side and gravity threatening to take the other. Stiles narrates his feelings about this sudden, but inevitable betrayal, until Scott returns with water and aspirin, and then he promises to write odes about Scott’s devotion to their friendship, coming up with ridiculous rhymes until Scott puts a pillow over his face and walks off.

“Fine, whatever—this couch smells like Doritos and perfume, and it’s WEIRD,” Stiles calls out.

Without Scott to distract him, Stiles’s mind goes right back the apartment, back to the stunned look on Derek’s face when Stiles hit him, back to sound of the bullet cracking the window. Stiles thinks that even if he had the shot, he wouldn’t take it. He couldn’t take it. And just like that, all the anger he’s been clinging to, been wrapping around himself like armor, slips away. Stiles sighs, and without the anger to keep him going, he closes his eyes and thinks about all the ways to disappear.

 

//

 

Derek drinks the bottle of tequila from the back of the liquor cabinet and lies on his back in the kitchen. He thinks about Stiles licking his lips and Stiles shifting nervously and Stiles darting for the door like Derek was going to tackle him.

There’s an infinite loop of memories in his head—Stiles brushing his teeth, Stiles trying to barbeque, Stiles looking up at him through his lashes before he opens his mouth—and Derek wonders if he’ll have to pick apart the last six years of his life to find out the truth.

He falls asleep wondering what’s going to happen next.

 

Unfortunately, the next step is Erica, followed by Isaac and Boyd, bringing in a team at 6 A.M., laughing loudly through Derek’s hangover, and sending her minions clomping through their townhouse. They go through the place, room by room, item by item. He catches Boyd skeptically ripping apart the stuffed wolf that Stiles had won for him at a carnival—which he’d promptly named Sourwolf and handed it over to Derek, his namesake, to hold while he ran off for funnel cake—and swallows against the instinct to put an end to this, to kick his team out of his house so he can mourn in peace.

(What Erica doesn’t tell him is that Stiles called her last night, drunk, and even if all she understood was, Catwoman, I didn’t know, I swear I didn’t know, it was enough for her to do a little digging and find out for herself.

She’s worked with Derek long enough to know that in times like this, it’s best to just steamroll over him and let him catch up. It worked in Aspen with the chair lift and the trophy wife, and it works now.)

 

Derek lets Erica go through his house, follows her from room to room with his sunglasses on, sipping at the bitter coffee she brought him. He lets her uncover Stiles’s weapons stash, the knife set hidden in the living room, the safe full of money and fake passports in the study. He watches as she picks apart his life and brings to light secrets he didn’t know were being kept.

When they get to the master bedroom, Erica pauses, and the indecision on her face makes Derek growl and roughly shove past her.

They find one wicked-looking serrated knife and a bloodstained baseball bat, before Erica sucks in a breath and freezes. When he glances over, she’s holding a picture that had been buried in the bottom of one of Stiles’s drawers. It’s one of them, taken at one of the barbeques, and Derek is smiling, soft and open, and Stiles is laughing at someone, probably Scott, but he’s leaning back toward Derek, and they look happy.

Erica doesn’t say anything as he leaves the room.

 

//

 

It’s not that Stiles doesn’t love Scott, because Scott has been his best friend since they were little, and somehow that turned into “friends who kill together stay together,” but Stiles might actually lose his mind if he has to stay on Scott’s couch for one more night. Not the least because Scott is unable to go for an hour without talking about Allison and then texting/calling her, depending on which he did in the previous hour. It’s nauseating, and to someone who just found out his husband is a rival assassin, a little rude.

Sitting in his boxers and eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a long way from the sleepy weekend mornings he shared with Derek, and when Stiles pokes sadly at his bowl, Scott looks up and says, “Soggy already?”

“That’s not—I mean, yes, it is, but that’s not exactly my main concern.”

“Well, Allison thinks you should kick his ass. Or, find out what he knows, but mostly kick his ass. She offered to help.”

Stiles drops his spoon, splattering milk all over the table. Scott rears back, but Stiles doesn’t even flinch. “Scott, my buddy, my bro: tell me you didn’t tell Allison.”

“Of course I did—was I not supposed to?” Scott pours more cereal and generally looks confused.

Stiles cannot think of how to politely express all the ways in which that is the opposite of good, so he settles on just laying his face on the table and giving up for the day.

 

Stiles should have known better than to question Allison; after her eager offer to help Stiles put the beat down on Derek, she waxes enthusiastic about the Romeo and Juliet twist his relationship has taken, overriding all of Stiles’s legitimate concerns that that story ended in death. She makes no mention of telling her dad that an agent has been sleeping with the enemy and she doesn’t once say she’s sorry, which actually, Stiles appreciates much more than Scott’s puppy dog eyes and endless bowls of cereal.

Of course, Allison also provides more actual help than Scott. She browbeats Stiles into a shower and clean clothes and then outlines her plan to use the GPS on Derek’s phone to trace his steps and then break into his office, as opposed to Scott’s enthusiastic suggestion to sign Derek up for spam email and the Republican phone tree.

When Stiles says, “You are definitely too good for Scott,” Allison laughs, Scott pouts, and Stiles feels like maybe he’ll get through this in one piece.

 

That feeling drastically changes when he’s taunting Derek from the relative safety of an air vent and he can hear the suppressed smile in Derek’s voice, because now all Stiles wants to do is crowd Derek against a wall and make him smile for all kinds of other reasons.

When the vents start to smoke, Stiles hauls ass to the main office and watches as Derek smiles ruefully before he jumps out the window and ziplines to the building across the street.

“CHICKEN SHIT,” Stiles yells across the distance.

He can barely make out Derek’s smirk before he shouts in return, “PUSSY.”

Well, that’s just rude.

 

//

 

Derek tracks Stiles down to his favorite diner, the one with the curly fries and the seasonal milkshakes, and when he slides into the booth, Stiles doesn’t even look surprised, just resigned. Derek orders a coffee when the waitress returns, but other than that they sit in silence.

When Derek can’t take it anymore, he says, “What did you think would happen when I found out?”

Stiles frowns, “I never thought about it. I just—I just wanted to be with you.” With that, he excuses himself, and when the kitchen staff comes running out, shouting about a man with a gun, Derek calmly exits with the rest of the customers, until someone taps him on the shoulder and says, “Excuse me? Sir? You’re ticking.”

And then he curses the day he met Stiles and shoves his favorite leather jacket into a dumpster, urges everyone back and fights the temptation to growl in public, because now Stiles is just being petty.

 

Derek holds onto his anger until the next morning, when he gets a text from an unknown number that reads: Central Park, noon? No need to be more specific, Derek knows exactly whom it’s from and where he’s talking about.

Where else would they end this than that random bench in that random stretch of park that Derek can find by heart now; the spot where they met for their actual first date; where Stiles tackled him to the ground after Derek asked him to move in; where Stiles asked Derek to marry him.

There’s a tacit agreement that a public place will probably limit the amount of violence they’ll be willing to inflict, but sitting on that park bench, thighs not touching, but close enough to feel the heat, Derek thinks he probably should have thought this out more.

Stiles looks tired, worn. The dark circles under his eyes make Derek think of the time they went to Comic Con and Stiles refused to sleep, claiming that the sheer amount of nerd power in the city was keeping him awake and that sleep was for those who didn’t have swag to get autographed. Only this time there’s no smile in Stiles’s eyes, no half-formed grin tugging at his lips. This time, there’s only the steady in and out of Stiles’s breath, the way he tries to hide his shaking hands by burying them in his pockets.

Stiles breaks the silence first, this time. “You can have the house,” he says softly. “I’ll stay with Scott for a bit.”

And Derek says nothing, because he has no idea what to say.

“I didn’t know, you know, not until that night, if you were wondering. Not until I found your gun—,” and here Stiles stutters to a halt, biting his lip and staring at his shoes.

Derek wishes that he were angry again. He wishes that he could summon up the blinding rage he had felt when he realized that Stiles had been the one swooping in and stealing all of Derek’s kills. He wishes that he could still believe that Stiles had known for years and had been playing Derek for a fool the whole time.

But he thinks back to their first anniversary, when Stiles didn’t make a fuss, but brought Derek waffles in bed and they’d drowsed away the morning and most of the afternoon, and then Stiles had pinned Derek’s hands above his head and rode him so slowly until they both were shaking.

He remembers the soft look on Stiles’s face when Derek first told him about Laura, and the way Stiles told him about his mother one morning in the clean light, his shoulders tense but his voice clear.

He thinks of all these things and his heart thuds and clenches at the thought of Stiles not being in his life, but when he opens his mouth to say something—to say anything to make Stiles stay—nothing comes out.

Stiles clearly takes Derek’s silence as agreement, and though he pauses as he gets up, half turned toward Derek, he just shakes his head and walks off, hunched over like he’s been sucker punched.

As Derek sits there, wallowing in the cold vacuum of space next to him, all he can think about is how Stiles didn’t make eye contact with him, not once.

 

The next time they see each other, Stiles has clearly found his anger, if the knife pressed up against Derek’s balls is any indication. “Seriously,” Stiles questions, “You went through my drawers, you stole my guns, you ripped up Sourwolf; what the fuck is your problem?”

They’re back in the house and Derek can’t figure out if he should be bucking Stiles off or trying to calm him down, but with a knife to his junk, he only has so many options, so he goes with the path of most destruction.

 

Shooting at Stiles feels like a betrayal at the highest level, but Derek is pretty sure the only way to end this is to see it through, so he tightens his silencer and takes aim, but if he pulls to the left because Stiles ducks to the right, well, only he knows.

With this in mind, when Stiles calls out mockingly, “You still alive, baby?” Derek grits his teeth and shoots almost in the direction of Stiles’s voice. He knows there’s no winning with these kinds of stakes, but he has to do something, can’t pretend like he doesn’t care either way.

Derek can’t back down, but it doesn’t mean he wants to win.

When Stiles tackles him from around the corner and guns are forgotten in favor of bare fists and strategically aimed knees, he’s almost relieved. At least this way he can ignore the voice of training telling him to how to end this in the most efficient way, and can focus on the burn of Stiles’s knuckles across his cheek and the clean hurt of watching Stiles fuel his anger with Derek’s body.

He gets Stiles against a wall, thigh pressed up, up, and he watches Stiles grit his teeth, feels him swallow down a moan, and Derek mocks a smile, because whatever problems they had, whatever words they bit back, they always had this. When words failed, they had the push and pull of their bodies, the quick, half-moon bite of nails, the sharp press of teeth.

The resulting head-butt is worth the momentary feeling of Stiles warm against him, and then Derek doesn’t have time to think about how things used to be, because Stiles has a surprisingly wicked left hook and Derek goes flying.

In the end, Derek just can’t be fucked to lunge for the gun that he sees is strapped to the bottom of the couch, choosing instead to hold his hands up when Stiles levels his gun at Derek’s face.

From the wide eyes and hitched breath, it’s clear to Derek that of all the possible endings, Stiles had expected this one the least.

Derek takes a step toward Stiles, questions, “Can’t do it?” and Stiles takes a step back. Shakes his head and shakes his gun and growls, “Don’t. Come on.”

And when Derek moves closer into Stiles’s space, hands up in offering, because he knows that if Stiles hasn’t taken the shot by now he never will, Stiles’s voices breaks, “Come on.”

It’s easy like breathing to knock the gun out of Stiles’s hands and curl a hand around the back of his neck. Feels like starting over when Derek tugs Stiles closer and carefully leans into him, like if he listens hard enough he’ll hear the Spanish music and the faint booms of thunder from that first weekend in the pounding of Stiles’ heart.

They fall back to the wall and Derek holds Stiles steady, tugs at his shirt, popping buttons until he reaches skin, and when Stiles moans, he keeps going, biting at the curve of his shoulder, the pale arch of his neck.

When Stiles struggles to get free and falls to his knees, tugging at Derek’s pants, Derek groans and braces himself against the wall with one hand, winding the other in Stiles’s hair, pulling lightly and watching as Stiles opens his mouth and takes Derek deeper and faster.

“Christ, your fucking mouth—,” Derek bites out, before Stiles pulls off and grins, “Just like Venezuela, right?”

Derek smiles fondly and says, “Shut up.” He runs a thumb across Stiles’s swollen bottom lip, groans when Stiles nips at the ball of his thumb.

It’s not long until he’s got Stiles bent over a kitchen counter, two fingers stretching him open and rubbing across his prostate until Stiles is biting back moans and rolling his hips in time with Derek’s fingers.

“Ugh—you ass, come on, come on—you fucking owe me,” Stiles grits out.

Derek leans forward to bite at Stiles’s shoulder, “I owe you?”

“You shot at me!” His argument would be more effective if Stiles weren’t pausing in the middle to try and get at his cock, whining when Derek grabs his wrist and pins it to the counter.

“Well, you were stealing my car...”

“Yes, and you fucking deserved it—,”

Derek punctuates his, “Did I?” with a third finger and laughs when Stiles whimpers.

Stiles throws his weight back, and while Derek would usually let Stiles manhandle him to whatever position he wanted, right now Derek wants to see Stiles spread out and strung out; wants to see him give in and let Derek make up for the past two years of growing tensions and secrets.

He hooks a leg around Stiles’s, rolls them over, surges up, and kisses him, silencing his protests. When he pushes into the tight clutch of Stiles’s body, he swallows Stiles’s hum of pleasure and rocks unhurriedly against him, keeping the pace maddeningly slow until Stiles opens his eyes and begs.

As Stiles licks his lips and says, “fuck, yes, right there—,” Derek is pretty sure this is the best of all possible outcomes.

 

(Stiles later disagrees on one point: “Christ, you didn’t even get your pants off? What even—,”

Derek just smiles, and when he catches sight of the destroyed kitchen behind them, he starts to laugh, saying in between hiccups of laughter, “I can’t believe you threw a teapot at me.”

“I’m pretty sure you deserved that too,” and then when Derek doesn’t settle down, he snaps, “Oh my God, Derek, focus,” before giving up and wrestling the pants off Derek himself.

“And people say I’m the ridiculous one,” Stiles mutters, before rolling Derek over and licking a long stripe up his dick.

Neither of them say much after that.)

 

“Do you remember our vacation in Aspen?” Stiles asks, lying on his back in a patch of early morning light.

Derek hums thoughtfully, “No, I don’t remember you swearing you knew how to ski and then spending the entire trip in front of the fireplace drinking hot chocolate and reading.”

Stiles laughs. “Shut up. As I recall, someone had a great time on the slopes and instigated all the fireside sex. But what I meant was, you left early, you said for work, but now….”

“Oh, yeah,” Derek smiles, “Jean-Luc Gaspard,” and he outright grins when Stiles rolls over to punch him on the thigh.

 

“My right arm aches when it’s going to rain,” Derek says into the silence.

Stiles holds up his left hand and wiggle some fingers, “I can’t feel anything in these three fingers.”

“I only have one kidney.”

Stiles stares, “I think you win.”

 

//

 

The kitchen is a mess and Derek watches from relative safety as Stiles curses and picks his way across the floor to the fridge, laughs when he scowls at the dents in the door, smiles when Stiles grins triumphantly and holds up one unscathed container of juice.

They toast their primitive vow renewals, and when Stiles looks up at him through his lashes, mouth curving around the broken rim of a glass, Derek can’t help but pull him close, press him against the counter until Stiles sets his glass aside and winds his arms around Derek’s neck and closes the gap between their lips.

 

There’s light coming in through the windows by the time Derek pays attention, and he can’t bring himself to move, can’t make himself roll Stiles to side so he can remove the shard of whatever he’s lying on, can’t interrupt Stiles’s sleepy and contented chatter. And he’s happy and the novelty of it after a year of constant aching is nice enough that he’s caught off guard when the window in the foyer shatters and a smoke bomb skitters across the floor.

The resulting scramble is ridiculous, because Stiles goes left and Derek goes right, and neither of them is wearing much of anything. When Derek signals for Stiles to come the fuck over to him and to hurry the fuck up, Stiles shakes his head and makes incomprehensible hand signals, and Derek can only sigh and pull Stiles closer and shove him toward the basement stairs.

 

//

 

Stiles isn’t sure why Derek thinks he’s in charge, and he’d tell him that the breadth of one’s shoulders doesn’t determine who’s boss, but let’s be real, when Derek crowds him against the workbench and hands him the smaller gun, Stiles swallows and takes it, even if he makes a mental note to grab his bat from the corner. It won’t hold up in a shoot out, but close quarters? Stiles can do some serious damage.

 

They’re driving out of the city in a car stolen from their neighbors, when Derek bites out, “So, my last name? Not Smith.”

Stiles pauses in shooting at the black cars that keep following them, “Now? You want to do this now?”

Derek grits his teeth, “My name is Derek Hale.”

“Wait, you’re a Hale?” Stiles cries out. “I cannot even—“

Derek scoffs, “Like Stilinski is your real last name.”

Seeing the growing frown on Stiles’s face, Derek pauses, “Seriously? You used your real last name?”

“It’s not like I’m a freaking Hale! Or an Argent! I don’t have an assassination legacy attached to my last name.”

Derek hears Stiles mutter, “My whole life is freaking lie; married to a hitter, married to a Hale; freaking ridiculous—,” and can’t stop his smile, because it’s painfully Stiles and he’s missed him, until Stiles says, “In the interest of full disclosure—when I say Scott’s girlfriend Allison? I mean Allison Argent.”

Then Derek just stares, because of course Stiles works for the Argents, the family that Peter melodramatically swears is their sworn enemy, which, he does have a point, but still.

 

//

 

They stalk Scott down to a diner, where he’s smothered his pancakes in peanut butter and Derek makes a face, because Derek has definitive ideas when it comes to breakfast foods, namely that they should involve only bacon and copious amounts of syrup.

When Scott sees his face, he says, “Step off my breakfast choices, Derek,” and Stiles swallows a laugh, but has to say, “Sorry, dude, that’s kind of gross.”

Stiles lets Scott finish chewing before he asks, “So. How much are we worth?”

And then Scott ruins everything by saying that Gerard is after them and that he’s heard the name Hale being thrown around, and Stiles turns to see Derek nodding like he’s not even surprised, and Stiles frowns, “You couldn’t have said something before we got caught up in a crappy version of Family Feud?”

Stiles ignores Derek’s glower and turns back to Scott. “Anything else you want to tell me?”

Scott looks contemplative, “Well, I think Gerard let Greenburg go through your desk.”

Stiles stares at Scott for a long moment, before stealing all the bacon off his plate. At Scott’s disgruntled huff, Stiles says, “You let Greenburg touch my stuff; you don’t deserve bacon.”

 

//

 

They leave Scott behind at the diner and then they’re just driving, because where can they go? Home has been ripped apart by both factions, and all they have is the shitty yellow Hummer they boosted at the diner. Neither of them is willing to talk first, and dead silence is out of the question, so the radio keeps playing “Don’t Cha Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?” and Stiles keeps hoping the song is going to change soon.

Stiles doesn’t make the connection between Gerard and Derek and him and this shit-show of guns and violence, until Derek clenches his jaw and says, staring out the window, “I’m pretty sure Peter killed Kate,” and then all Stiles can think, is that this is definitely not the song he would have chosen for the soundtrack of this moment.

 

At 2 AM, Stiles makes the executive decision that they both need some sleep and parks down the street from a questionable motel. Derek’s general demeanor cuts off the clerk’s comment before he does more than open his mouth, and for once Stiles is grateful for that particular habit of Derek’s. He doesn’t want to think about the tentative headway they’ve made, or how Derek looked dazed and confused, lying on the hallway surrounded by broken flatware.

The room is shit but the water is hot, and when they’re both clean and pretending like the last two weeks never happened, like they’re not lying on scratchy sheets in the wrong part of town, Stiles swallows his desire to talk and flops over to wrap an arm around Derek’s waist, the way he used to.

 

//

 

He waits until Stiles is sleeping before he slips away, waits until Stiles is breathing easy and just starting to drool. He wonders if he should just leave or if it would be better to let Stiles know his growing suspicions, but Derek can’t bring himself ruin the tentative peace that they’ve created.

He leaves a note and tells himself it’s not pathetic.

 

Hotwiring a car at 4 AM feels like falling back on old habits, when he wasn’t so slick and things still fazed him. By the time he pulls into the parking garage by the office, the city is waking up and for a second, he forgets that he’s on the run, because it feels like another early morning where’s he left Stiles warm and sleepy in bed.

The office is quiet and creepy and he’s debating whether or not he should hack into Peter’s computer, when everything goes dark.

 

Derek opens his eyes to dim light and his hands strung up above his head, and he recognizes the tile and the flickering light, but he doesn’t get it until he hears cocking of a gun behind him, until Peter steps into the shaky circle of light and smiles, “Derek.”

It feels like waking up to the news that his family is dead, that Kate wasn’t who he thought she was, that Laura is gone. It doesn’t matter that he suspected Peter or that he didn’t suspect Kate, all that matters is that Derek left Stiles curled against the wall, burrowed into the blankets, crept out like a thief and left a paltry note reading, Gone to find answers. Back before noon, and now he won’t be.

He wants to believe that Stiles will think the worst of him and curse his name and burn him from his memory, but Derek also isn’t an idiot. He knows that Stiles will burn this town to the ground to find out what happened, and for a moment, he’s sad that he won’t get to see it.

Over the pounding in his head and the aching in his heart, Derek hears Peter talking about betrayal and the Argents and how in the end Laura hadn’t understood, but maybe Derek would be different, for all that he’s in bed with an Argent-sympathizer. It’s funny, but Derek never pictured his uncle as the monologuing type. Derek wonders how he can talk about betrayal like he hadn’t stood over Laura as she bled to death in an alley and left her for the beat cops to find.

 

(Peter doesn’t tell Derek how Laura found him that night, after he slaughtered Kate, how she walked in on him with blood up to his elbows, calmly washing his hands in the office bathroom. He doesn’t tell Derek about the hitch in her breath and the way she’d fiercely said, “Good,” like Peter had finally measured up in her eyes.

He doesn’t tell Derek about the biting disappointment he felt when he found Laura having coffee with Chris, how he waited and waited to see if she had some plan, and when it turned out she was negotiating for peace, for a cease fire, well, he kind of lost it.

He doesn’t tell Derek any of these things, because what good would it do?)

 

//

 

Stiles wakes slowly and quietly, wrapping the blankets around himself and frowning when he doesn’t hear the usual grumble from Derek. He casts out a hand and feels the coldness next to him, hears the crumple of paper on the pillow, and he knows Derek is off doing something stupid.

Because he has spent six years stockpiling facts about Derek in the back of his head, this cold wake up isn’t all that unexpected. He knows that Derek does stupid shit when left unattended, just like he knows that Derek loves late night infomercials and that for some reason he honestly enjoys Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice Tea.

Therefore, when Stiles realizes the note says, back before noon and it’s going on 1 P.M., he isn’t even surprised.

 

Derek’s GPS putting him in the office isn’t a shock. When he gets there, seeing Peter’s car down the street isn’t one either. What is a bit startling is Derek hanging from the ceiling as Peter pokes him with a knife, but at least Stiles gets to savor the look of surprise on Peter’s face when he shoots him in the chest.

 

//

 

The crack of a gun brings Derek back to the present and when he opens his eyes to Peter at his feet and Stiles in the doorway with a look of vicious determination on his face, Derek doesn’t know what to feel.

He thinks about Peter standing behind him at Laura’s funeral, his hand solid on Derek’s shoulder, a pillar of warmth and strength at his back.

He thinks about that first anniversary of the fire after Laura’s death, the way Peter had brought a bottle of whiskey and they sat on the roof and smoked and drank. The way they talked themselves hoarse about Laura and her bark of a laugh and her obsession with The Golden Girls; Aunt Gwen and her inability to bake; his parents and their love of bowling; his baby cousins and his older brother and—

When Stiles asks if he’s okay, he doesn’t know what to say, so he says nothing at all.

 

//

 

This rescue went much better in his head, Stiles thinks. Head!Derek wasn’t quite so taciturn. Or so growly. It’s not that he expects Derek to brush off torture, but he was hoping for more than a blank stare when Stiles asks if he’s all right.

At least Derek is still awake, because Stiles has half-carried him before, when they’ve stumbled home from a barbeque more drunk than not, and while Derek moves like a ninja-wolf, he lumbers like a fucking bear when he’s not all there.

Stiles never knows what to do with silence, never knows if he should let it be, let it steep until the discomfort sinks into his bones or if he should brush at Derek’s defenses, look for the cracks and ease his way in.

“Spit it out,” Derek says.

Stiles looks over, but Derek is pointedly staring out the window. He flexes his hands on the steering wheel, “What?”

“Whatever you want to say, just say it.”

Stiles wants to say, Sorry your entire family is dead, wants to blurt out, Sorry I killed your uncle, wants to pull into an alley and wrap himself around Derek like he can blot out the last 24 hours.

But he doesn’t say the first and he isn’t sorry about the latter, so he goes with what he knows, which is that his body still fits around Derek’s and Derek only trusts what he can feel.

 

//

 

Derek isn’t sure when his life got so complicated. If it came with Kate and her cherry chapstick and her penchant for fire and slaughtering his family, or if Peter ushered in this era when he killed Laura. But all he knows is that he’s been orphaned again and his ribs hurt and the warm presence of Stiles in the driver’s seat isn’t quite enough to drive away the memory of Peter explaining why he killed Laura, why he brought their family more pain.

He turns the heat up and hopes Stiles doesn’t catch the faint tremor in his hand.

 

The hotel feels strange and quiet and he goes to take a shower just to escape Stiles’s look of concern and half-started sentences. With the water pounding over his head, Derek thinks of the quiet cadence of Peter’s voice as he circled ever closer around Derek; he thinks of Stiles’s steady hands after he pulled the trigger, the way he kept his eyes on Peter’s splayed body, even as he asked Derek if he was okay.

He wonders if other people love like this, with a willingness to kill to keep what’s yours safe.

 

//

 

Stiles has a plan. He knows it’s not a very good one, relying on chance and making their own luck, but it at least is more direct than Derek’s suggestion of extensive surveillance of Gerard before they make a move.

The thing is, Stiles would like to go home sometime without worrying that the mailman is going to launch a flash bomb through their windows, would like to spend a lazy Sunday in bed with Derek without trying to remember if he sharpened his knives this week, so he talks over Derek’s protests and talks around the dangers, because he just wants to go home.

(Derek is pretty sure that this is a terrible plan. Gerard is a loose cannon and Stiles is impulsive and Derek doesn’t trust his own objectivity right now, so surveillance may be boring but it’s at least marginally safer.

He lets Stiles argue both sides of the conversation, nods when it seems expected, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t plan how to work around it. After all, Stiles killed Derek’s demons; it’s only fair that Derek returns the favor.)

 

//

 

When everything goes to shit later? Derek pointedly doesn’t say, “I told you so.”

“You know, Stiles, I had such high hopes for you,” Gerard says, voice ringing off the cold tiles of the dimly lit IKEA. “You showed such promise. And then you came back from Venezuela with a Hale on your arm and I thought I’d have to kill you too.”

They’re in a freaking department store and Derek is so sick of this shit. Gerard is hunting them down like dogs, wearing them down with wave after wave of bullets and advancing men, and he sounds like a man who thinks he’s won.

In the brief silence, Derek nudges Stiles and whispers, “I’ll fly,” because hiding in a mock kitchen with hideous countertops is not the way that Derek intends to go out. When Stiles slowly nods, says, “I’ll be bait,” Derek wishes he had time to do more than pull Stiles in for a hard kiss, wishes he had time to say, sorry, or maybe something sappy, like, you had me at hello, just to make him smile a bit.

It’s anticlimactic in the end.

Gerard is an old man and for all his big plans, he thinks like an old man. Thinks like someone who’s won in the past and doesn’t plan for otherwise. Thinks like a man who always strides once more into the breach alone and never considers what it would mean to have someone at your back.

It’s clear that when he rounds a corner and finds Stiles there, waiting, he doesn’t suspect, doesn’t pause and wonder at Stiles’s easy stance or dangling hands, and Derek pulls the trigger between one breath and the next, the dull thump of Gerard’s body soothing something that had been burning in Derek for a long, long time.

 

//

 

Later, when the dust has settled and Chris Argent has reluctantly shaken Derek’s hand and agreed to a cease-fire, Stiles will lean against Derek and sigh, say they’ll probably have to go house hunting again, say how he hopes that this won’t drive them apart, and Derek will laugh and laugh and kiss Stiles so he doesn’t confess to ridiculous things, like to doing anything Stiles wants.

But until then, Derek will content himself with kissing Stiles in the bathroom section of a destroyed IKEA, before shouldering Stiles’s weight and hobbling the two of them out to the parking lot where Erica and Scott are waiting with a first aid kit and a car that isn’t canary yellow.

 

(They go back to Dr. Mitchell for one last visit, because she keeps leaving earnest messages on the machine.

When she asks comments on their closeness and asks about their sex life, Stiles isn’t surprised when Derek clamps a hand over his mouth before he can even say anything.

He settles on giving her two thumbs up and laughing as Derek groans.)