“Hey. Hey. Derek. Derek, wake up.” Stiles shoves at the werewolf’s shoulder forcing him to open his eyes.
“Stiles? What’s the matter? You okay,” Derek asks voice rough and disturbed.
“Who was the guy?”
“W-What? Stiles, are you alright?”
“I’m fine. Who was the guy,” Stiles persists.
“Guy? What guy?”
Stiles rolls his eyes, frustrated by Derek’s half-sleep comprehension.” The guy you used to date. Who was it?”
Derek grapples with the alarm clock beside him on the nightstand. “It’s 2AM, Stiles. Are you joking? Are you really asking me about the guys I used to sleep with?”
“Guys?! It was more than one guy?! How many? When? Where?”
“I’m going back to bed,” Derek dismisses as he rolls over.
“Oh, no the hell you’re not, sourwolf,” Stiles says, yanking the covers off of Derek. “How many guys? When,” Stiles demands, arms folded across his chest, waiting for an answer as he scowls in the dark. A sliver of moonlight peeks between the curtains, lighting his pale face in a white glow.
“Stiles…” Derek shrugs. “Why do you care?”
Stiles unfolds his arms, looking exposed, caught off-guard by the question. “I don’t. I just… I just need to know.”
“Fine. Don’t tell me. But I thought we were done hiding stuff from each though,” Stiles pouts, returning to his bed in a huff. He cocoons himself in the nest of blankets with his back toward Derek.
The last single guest room in all the French Quarter was booked just minutes before Derek and Stiles made their fifth, and final, excursion to a hotel, hoping to find a room. However, it’s the French Quarter Festival this week, and the Jazz & Heritage Festival the following week. New Orleans is a busy, busy city.
Derek offered to pay double the room’s cost for the week, but the hotel’s concierge was already offered three times that before Derek even got in line and was suggested they be placed on a waiting list for a single bed room.
Stiles was antsy about not sharing a bed with Derek. Since they’ve been sleeping in the together Stiles has felt better and made it all the way through the night in peace. He wasn’t so sure what them being just 2ft. away from each other would mean now, and he didn’t like it.
Yet, apparently it means lying awake until two in the morning, shaking Derek out of his own slumber with questions about his past relationships.
“I’m not hiding anything from you. I’m just confused as to why you’re curious about it. Does it bother you that I had…sex, with other guys,” Derek asks cautiously.
Stiles bolts upright from his nest of scratchy quilts. “What? No, Derek. I don’t care that you’ve had sex with men. I mean, I do care, but not in any homophobic way. There’s nothing wrong with you being with another guy like that. There’s nothing wrong with anyone being with someone of the same sex.”
Derek nods, looking relieved.
“…I’m sorry, if I gave you that impression.”
“I don’t want to upset you.”
“I don’t want to upset you either, Derek.”
Derek climbs out of bed. He reaches behind the nightstand and yanks the cord for the lamp, phone, and clock from the socket. He lifts the whole thing to the front of the room, dropping it beside the closet by the door.
He comes back to the beds and stands on the farside of his own. Stiles gets out of his bed and does the same, realizing where this is going.
They push the beds together.
Stiles smiles wide as he hops onto it and Derek climbs in. They settle; Stiles right against Derek’s side, their shoulders touching. “Now, why didn’t we think of this earlier,” he asks.
“I don’t know. We might be idiots.”
Stiles laughs into the darkness. “Maybe.”
Derek pushes the back of his head deep into his pillow and closes his eyes. “Goodnight, Stiles.”
Stiles turns his pillow over to the ‘cool side’ and shuts his eyes as well. “Goodnight.”
He takes a deep breath, nearly a yawn, and lets the muffled jazz music outside slowly carry him off to—
Stiles’ eyes shoot open. “What?”
“Six. I’ve slept with seven guys,” Derek answers. “When I lived in New York…with Laura.”
“You… You weren’t dating any of them?”
“No. It was… It was just sex. I just needed to feel something, and I didn’t care who it was with. Just as along as I didn’t feel…like I wanted to die. Even if it was for only an hour.”
“…A-Are men just sex to you then? You wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with another guy?”
“Whether it’s a girl or guy, I think my past has pretty much cemented that relationships are something I should avoid at all cost. I’m not good at them.”
Stiles turns over, facing him. “But that’s not you, Derek. That’s them. That’s the people that target you.”
“Which is me, Stiles. They see something weak. Easy. That’s me, not them.”
He’s quiet for a long while, staring up at the ceiling, unmoving, breathing slowly. Stiles stares at him, not waiting for him to speak, but just watching, looking at the stunning man beside him in bed, so wrecked with guilt.
“I don’t see clearly when I fall for someone,” Derek says finally. “I fall hard and quick. I let that weak part of me say yes to everything, and ignore everything my wolf is howling at. When I was in New York, sleeping around, it felt good. It felt good…not to give a shit about anyone.”
Stiles wants to tell him. He wants to tell him the thousand of reasons he’s wrong and just how happy he could make Derek. How he’d be a good choice. That they’d take care of each other, love each other, and be there for each other.
He loves Derek so much it rattles his teeth, makes his chest swell and hands tremble with how much he’s in love with him. He wants to tell him that. He wants Derek to know that falling fast and hard is something they both do. That they both given into their emotions entirely too much. And it might not be a bad thing.
He wants Derek to know that Kate was not his fault. The murder of the entire Hale family/pack was not the result of Derek loving the wrong girl, but rather the wrong girl not loving him. He wants Derek to know he’d break whatever curse he thinks he’s plagued himself with, simply by being open to what another person can offer, to their goodness, if they have it, and it’s just his bad luck the women he’s chosen to love don’t have any.
“You can’t…detach yourself from anyone, Derek. You’ll be alone if you do that.”
“Exactly. It’s better that I am.”
“You know what happens to lone wolves, Derek,” Stiles says seriously, not wanting to even fathom what could happen to Derek on his own.
“Lone wolves are wolves without a pack. Not a mate.”
“Well, at least you already have one of those. If you decide to come back. Do you like that? You like how I snuck in the whole ‘come-back-to-Beacon-Hills’ thing?”
Derek laughs. A good laugh that shows off the smile Stiles is so proud to have earned.
“Yeah. A little on the nose, but it was nice,” Derek tells him.
“What? That was subtle. So very subtle, my friend.”
“Stiles, you’re about as subtle as a bulldozer.”
“I’ll have you know, Derek Hale, that I can be as restrained as they come.”
“I’ve know you for three years, Stiles. ‘Restrained’ is not how I’d describe you.”
“…How would you describe me then,” Stiles asks under his long lashes.
Derek looks at him. His green/gold eyes darting back and forth as he stares deeply into Stiles’ amber-colored ones, thinking. Seeing… “Good. Loyal. Smart. Incredibly smart.”
“Funny. Caring. Resolute. Honest.”
“Well, that one might be a stretch.”
“I said ‘honest’, and I meant it. You are, Stiles. And you’re strong, in more ways than one. And…”
Stiles knows a moment when it’s presented to him. He knows he may never get another one, too. He leans in, moving his lips toward Derek’s—
Derek backs away at the last second. Rolling off the bed.
“I’m going for a run.”
“W-What? Now? It’s two in the morning and there’s a parade still going on outside our hotel.”
“I need to stretch my legs and breathe a bit,” Derek says, hurrying on a pair of shorts and running shoes.
“You need to get away from me you mean.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to.” Stiles’ voice shakes, eyes swell with tears.
“I’m not walking out on you. I just need to think for a minute.”
“Then stay and do that here. With me. Talk to me, dammit!”
“I can’t! I can’t talk to you! Not now! Not like this!”
Stiles barely squeaks a syllable out of his mouth before Derek’s disappeared out the door.
From the moment they crossed the city line and stepped foot into New Orleans, Stiles has felt a warm buzzing all over his body. It’s light, ethereal, like feathers ticking his skin. And there’s this…energy that feels like a warm, glowing light, humming in his chest. He feels connected. To everything and everyone.
Derek said it was the city itself.
There’s a long, long history of magic within New Orleans. The metropolis is built on it; engrained in every Creole cottage, antebellum mansion, plantation, stone tomb, cast iron balcony, and wave of the Mississippi Delta.
New Orleans is literally the most magically place on Earth, home to all kinds: humans, werewolves, vampires, witches, voodoo doctors and priestesses, fae, demons, ghosts, and a hundred other different supernatural creatures. It’s a place of solidarity amongst those who wouldn’t normally find any between one another.
There’s even a hunting clan that lives in the parish, in the Garden District, that has managed to call the mythical beings they live amongst friends.
New Orleans is ran by them, along with a centuries old vampire, a powerful witch, and an Alpha werewolf. Derek’s had to visit them all with Stiles, “stating his business and intentions,” along with where he’s from. He gave them the short version of the mess that is Beacon Hills, and a slightly vague account of why he was on the road with the teenage son of the sheriff of their town.
“It was…difficult, being there, for as long as we were. We just needed to get out for a while. We needed to be free of it,” he had said to the city’s Alpha.
“I understand. Stay. Get well. You’re welcomed here,” the other werewolf told them both in his thick, Creole accent. He was a tall, attractive black man, with a friendly smile and flirtatious eyes that winked at Stiles as he patted him on the shoulder while he and his two betas left the bar.
Stiles blushed, then turned even redder at the narrow stare Derek gave him.
Afterward, they did everything on Stiles’ list over the next 3 days: The National WWII Museum, Jackson Square (which forced them both to reflect sadly on the former-Kanima who now resides in London), St. Louis Cathedral, Audubon Park, Lafayette Cemetery, Magazine Street, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the French Market, Voodoo Authentica (which they left promptly when a ghost accosted Derek), and Tulane University, that allowed them to sit in the back of James Carville’s Intro to Poli-Sci class.
They ate like kings, too, seeing Derek had his own list, of renowned restaurants within the city he’s always wanted to go to, including: The Camellia Grill, Acme Oyster House, Commander’s Palace, Café du Monde, and K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.
Stiles was stuffed to the gills with Po’Boy sandwiches, shrimp and grits, bananas foster, and gumbo. He was full, well-rested, and happy.
As was Derek.
The happiest they’d been in…years.
Stiles didn’t want to leave, and neither did Derek. There was pain and sadness and loss outside their Crescent City bubble; the very last things they wanted to return to after finding the joy they had lost some time ago.
Joy that vanished with a near-kiss.
“Stiles. Stiles. Stiles, stop. Stiles talk to me!”
“Oh, like you talked to me last night when you ran out of our room so fast I got whiplash?” Derek’s got nothing; called out and burned. “What I thought. I need a cab please,” he smiles at the concierge.
“No, he doesn’t,” Derek butts in.
Stiles puts his key card down on the front desk. “The hell I don’t,” he scoffs.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Actually, I am. I going to the UPT and getting my pale ass on the next Amtrak headed west. I don’t need this. I don’t need to stick around for this with you.”
“Excuse us,” Derek smiles at the front desk attendant. He grips hard to Stiles’ arm, dragging him outside as he protests loudly.
“Ow! Get you goddamn wolfy claws off me, Derek Hale! Stop! Let go! Lemme go, asshole!”
Derek pulls Stiles into an alleyway. It’s a loading dock for the hotel. Custodians smoke in a tucked away corner while hotel maids wander two and fro with arms full of dirty laundry bags, flower arrangements, or dry cleaning.
Derek pushes Stiles against the brick wall of the building.
“Derek. Let me—”
Derek presses his lips against Stiles’, cutting him off.
Stiles fights against it, trying to remain stubborn and resolute in his anger, but it’s hard to keep up such opposition when you’re being kissed. Particularly by the man you’re in love with.
Stiles gives a little, making his body less resistant, less rigid. Derek seizes the opportunity to loosen his grip on Stiles’ arms, moving them slowly, around his back in an embrace. Stiles hands lay flat against Derek’s chest.
Derek tilts his head to the side, opening his mouth a bit. Stiles follows his lead and Derek gives his lips a tentative lick.
Derek’s beard is smooth against Stiles’ soft lips.
Stiles opens his mouth a little wider. Derek’s left hand comes up to Stiles’ face as he slides his tongue inside Stiles’ mouth. Stiles accepts it with a lewd moan when Derek’s hand finds his hair, carding through chestnut brown locks.
Stiles’ fingers curl around the soft fabric of Derek’s Henley at his chest. Rough chest hair brushes against his skin at the open neck of the shirt, making Stiles want nothing more than to take it off the werewolf and run his hands up and down his body.
Derek deepens the kiss, pushing further into Stiles’ wet mouth, massaging his tongue with his own. Stiles clings desperately to him, pulling so hard he falls into the brick wall again.
Derek growls, nipping at Stiles’ bottom lip with sharp fangs. He slides his leg between Stiles’, and kisses softly down his mole-spotted neck, sucking lightly at his pulsepoint.
Stiles moans, white-knuckling his grip on Derek, as he grinds down on the werewolf’s thigh.
Derek runs his tongue along the human’s jawline, kissing him under his chin.
“Goddamn you, Derek…”
“Stay. Please. I need you.”
Stiles licks his lips, trying to remember how to breathe. “That doesn’t sound like an apology.”
“I’m sorry.” Derek pulls away, leaving Stiles feeling cold without him close, in spite of the hot sun beating down on them. “I just… I want you, Stiles, but I am not good for you. I’m not good enough for you.”
“I’m not exactly the picture of stability right now either, Derek.”
“Exactly. So shouldn’t we be better for each other, before we do…this,” he asks, motioning between them with his hand.
“That’s a bullshit excuse. We make each other better, just by being near one another, and you know it. Tell me the truth, Derek.”
“That is the truth.”
“Not all of it. Why’d you run away from me last night? Where’d you go until this morning? Why’d you kiss me just now?”
Derek’s jaw tightens as he averts his eyes away from the boy in front of him.
“I am so out of here.” Stiles pushes Derek out of his way—
“You are everything, Stiles. Everything.”
Stiles stops in his tracks. He turns back toward Derek.
“I just walked, all night, then sat by the river until the sun came up, thinking of what to say to you.”
“The truth is all I ever want, Derek.”
Derek nods. “I know.”
“Then tell me what ‘everything’ means.”
Derek folds his arms over his chest, facing down Stiles like he’s an enemy he’s forced to share space with. Like he’s Peter.
Defense. It’s Derek’s go-to stance when he doesn’t want to appear exposed, even though he is. “…There’s a lot I can take, and I have, but…losing you, or ruining our friendship, not being what you need… That I couldn’t take, Stiles. I’m broken, and I can’t let you drive yourself crazy trying to put me back together somehow.”
Stiles closes the gap between them, curling his fingers into the hem of Derek’s shirt. He looks up under long, dark lashes. “…I’m already crazy. Fox demon, remember? The only time I feel sane is when I’m with you.”
“That’s the only time I’m happy,” Derek whispers.
“Then stop pushing me away. Trying to get me to run from you in order to save me isn’t going to do either of us any good.”
Derek looks scared. Vulnerable. His eyes turn to watery pools as his chiseled jaw trembles. “What if…What if I screw up the last good thing I have?”
“You’re such an idiot. Have you not noticed I’ve been running toward you since we met? I’m not going anywhere, Derek. No matter what happens. You can’t force me not to be in love with you.”
Stiles laces their fingers.
Stiles knows trust is big with Derek. Bigger than love. Trust is love.
He’s trusted so many and were hurt by nearly all of them. He’s trusted his instincts and been wrong. He’s trusted his heart and been wrong. Derek has too little trust left, and the small, tiny bit he’s saved up, to give to someone else, is tucked away deep. Hope’s kept it there in a dark corner with Stiles’ name on it, but fear’s also allowed it to be left blank at times, too. In case the day he ever thought to give it all completely to Stiles and he didn’t want it.
But he does. And he’s asking for it now.
He’s telling Derek Hale he can give him his heart, and he’ll never, ever, break it. He’s asking the werewolf to believe in one more person, one more time.
“…I do trust you.”
Stiles smiles bright, eyes shining, cheeks pink with bashfulness. “Good. That should make being together a whole lot easier then.”
Stiles leans forward, and this time Derek stays put, right in the moment, because he knows it’s not often you get a second one.