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Want is a Dangerous Thing

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It was bad enough that Derek was so terrible at meeting people that he had to buy himself a mate, but it was even worse that his mother called a pack meeting about it. His mom called a pack meeting about her twenty-seven-year-old son’s inability to find himself a date. Laura was never, ever going to let him live this down. During the meeting, which was just as painfully awkward as he’d expected, Laura had to put her hands over her mouth to keep from giggling. Derek didn’t laugh; he couldn’t find the humor in the situation. It hurt that he couldn’t find a mate and he couldn’t bear to hear everyone in the pack talk about it like it was something he could just go out and do.

“Have you tried dating sites?” Erica asked, grinning with glee. Derek’s cheeks went red. He had; they hadn’t worked. He couldn’t even get a good picture up because of the stupid eye lens-flare thing.

“We could always try further afield,” his mom said thoughtfully. “There are some packs down near the border your grandfather knew.”

Derek shifted uncomfortably. He didn’t like the idea of some southern werewolf being ripped from their territory to come up to Beacon Hills. He knew he wouldn’t like it if it was him.

“There’s the auction next weekend,” Peter said, from his place behind Derek’s mother’s chair, her second in command.

“That’s true,” his mom said pensively. “It’s just a week. You don’t need anything permanent.”

Buying someone was pretty permanent, Derek wanted to point out, but he kept his mouth shut. It wasn’t like he didn’t want a mate; he did, desperately. Like every other biological need of the wolf, the yearning for someone to share his time and space with was almost overwhelming. Laura could laugh, but she had Tim, and Erica had Boyd, and Peter had his wife, and Isaac had a whole parade of girls and guys. Even his youngest sister, only seventeen, had someone to get through heat week with. No one in town would even look at him after what he’d done, and all the neighboring packs had heard about it, and really, how much further could you go before you gave up?

Laura caught him as he tried to leave after the meeting ended, slamming into his side affectionately. “Der,” she said, smiling earnestly up at him, barely five foot five and a hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet. Derek had seen her hurl men twice her size through walls. “You’ll find someone eventually. Mom’s just worried about you.”

Derek glanced across the room to where their mother chatted with Erica and Boyd. Something Erica said made her throw back her head with laughter. “I know,” he said quietly.

“And you nearly ripped the door off the containment cell last year,” Laura reminded him, grinning out of one side of her mouth. “You get more difficult every year.”

“I know,” Derek said again. It was the pack’s favorite moment to bring up. His sister’s smile faded.

“I didn’t mean that,” she said hurriedly. “I just – we all want you to be happy.”

“I know,” he said for the third time, and forced himself to smile. Laura smiled back tentatively and hooked her arm around his shoulders for a quick hug.

The meeting had been a week ago and no one had mentioned it since, which lulled Derek into the false hope that maybe the whole affair had been forgotten. He was fine with being locked up again this year, even if he had nearly broken the door down last time. It’d worked for the past ten years; it would work again.

That hope was shattered early Saturday morning when someone pounded on his apartment door. Derek groaned and tried to ignore it, but the noise continued, pulling him out of bed. He yanked the door open to reveal Boyd, who smiled faintly.

“You do know that I like to sleep in,” Derek said pointedly.

“Auction’s this morning,” Boyd replied, and Derek tensed. “Your mom says you’ve got to go.”

Derek turned away from the door without a word, leaving Boyd to let himself in. He settled himself down at the tiny dining table, turning his dark eyes to the window so Derek could get dressed.

“I don’t want to,” Derek said flatly, pulling on a fresh shirt.

“Yeah,” Boyd said. “I know.”

Derek turned to look at the dark-skinned man. Boyd was probably the closest thing he had to a best friend. They were alike in many ways; men of few words and brooding silences and deep thoughts. But where Derek had gone insecure over the past years, the bite had made Boyd confident, and he brimmed with a dark, calm energy. Derek thought that if Laura didn’t become alpha after his mom, Boyd would. Derek didn’t have any delusions that it might be him. “You think this is the best solution?”

“No,” Boyd replied. “But I think you need to spend some time with another living, breathing person.”

Derek scowled. He’d gotten a studio apartment for exactly that reason; no room for a roommate when your bedroom was also your kitchen and living room and it only took fifteen steps to go from your bed to your door.

“How long’s it been?” Boyd asked, though they both knew the answer. Five years since Derek had touched another person in an even remotely sexual way, in his final year of college, still trying to recover from the horror of Kate. What he'd thought was a random hook-up, the last in a long line of faceless men and women, that wasn’t so random – the guy had been a distant cousin of the Argents, and the whole night had ended in the worst way possible, with Derek bleeding out on his bed from a wolfsbane bullet wound.

“Come on,” Boyd said, getting to his feet. “I’ll drive.”

When they got outside, they found Peter leaning against Boyd’s SUV, arms folded over his chest. “Your mother,” Derek’s uncle said, at the way Derek’s eyebrows rose, “seems to think that Boyd might let you get through this without picking anyone.”

Derek sighed. “So she sent you too.”

“Gotta face the music, Derek,” Peter said, pulling open the back door and sliding in. “Anyway,” he added, “it’s only for a week. If you don’t like whoever you end up with you can always sell them.”

Derek clenched his teeth, disgusted by Peter’s callousness. People weren’t like clothes; you couldn’t just return them if they didn’t fit. He climbed into the passenger’s seat while Boyd walked around the front of the car. Derek didn’t say anything on the way to the auction house a few towns over, his insides twisting with misery and shame. He couldn’t make himself talk to the woman at the front desk, leaving Peter to sigh and give her all the correct contact information, and he couldn’t make himself look at all the miserable excuses for humanity standing on the stage.

Boyd nudged him in the side. “Try,” he rumbled.

“This is disgusting,” Derek said bitterly, lifting his eyes just enough to see the people ranged before them. Every human in Beacon Hills technically belonged to the Hale family, loyal to the pack in return for their protection. These people were rejects and runaways, transients who’d abandoned their packs and hid out in the woods until they got caught. The most terrible were the teenagers, thrown out by their families or, worse, sold so the rest of their family members could afford to eat. It made Derek sick.

Fifty or so years ago, when the first werewolves began making their way into American politics (Europe having been overrun decades earlier), this would have been unthinkable. Selling people into slavery? Lincoln hadn’t made speeches about that sort of thing for nothing. As the werewolf population grew, however, outnumbering humans by the mid 1980s, people – humans – began to realize that they needed protection. There needed to be rules and regulations and safety measures, so laws were passed giving weres power and humans security by forming massive packs built of entire towns, even counties. There were always those that fell through the cracks, though, and so a booming slave trade was born to deal with the runaways and rebels. It wasn’t legal, exactly, but with the wolves in power there was no one to complain to.

The auction started around that time and Derek couldn’t listen, consumed with embarrassment and unhappiness. The people were sold off one by one, sometimes quickly, bids rising high and fast, while others went slowly, going for pitifully small amounts of money, but they all went eventually.

“You better pay attention,” Peter said, to Derek’s right. “They’ll all be gone soon.”

Derek shrugged glumly, lifting his eyes to the stage. There were only three people left – a pretty red-haired girl, a stocky young man, and another young man, painfully skinny and hunched into himself. The girl’s price quickly rose into the high ten-thousands and when she stepped off the stage she looked pleased, not at all concerned that she’d just been sold into slavery.

“Derek,” Peter warned.

The stocky boy didn’t go as fast as the girl but soon he too was walking off the stage, looking slightly dazed. Only the skinny boy was left and Derek stared at his face, which was dirty and scraped down one side, his dark hair disheveled. He stood stiffly, eyes on the floor, hands clenched at his side. Derek could almost taste his misery, stronger than his own. The auctioneer threw out an opening bid and when the room remained silent, he saw the kid’s cheeks flush red, his humiliation tangible. He couldn’t even imagine how that felt.

“Jesus Christ,” Peter sighed, as the auctioneer threw out another number, lower this time. He reached down and grabbed Derek’s wrist, forcing his hand into the air.

That was how Derek found himself the owner of a twenty-two-year-old human boy, purchased at auction for three hundred dollars. Three hundred dollars for a human life. It didn’t seem right. That was less than a nice television. Half a fridge. A down payment on a used car.

“Cheaper than a hooker,” Peter pointed out, and Derek glared at him. “What? That was Isaac’s idea. You should be glad no one listens to him.” He pulled out his wallet and counted out three hundred dollars, which he shoved into Derek’s hand. “Alpha’s paying. Go on - go get him.”

Derek made a sickened face. Knowing that his mom was paying for this made it even worse. Boyd gave him an encouraging look, which Derek returned sourly before turning to go collect his new human. He joined the line up by the stage, listening to the weres in front of him pay. When he reached the man at the pay station, the man said, “Keep your eye on this one, sir. He’s tried to escape twice already, and we only had him in the house for a week.”

Derek nodded absently and someone pushed the kid forward. He didn’t know what to do with himself; what was he supposed to say? "Oh hey, I own you now." No. He settled on not saying anything at all and eyed the kid instead. He was a mess; his clothes were creased and torn and covered in grime, and he smelled like sweat and dried blood. Derek’s nose wrinkled. Not that he had wanted this at all, but of course he got the weird, gross one. Laura was going to laugh her ass off.

The auctioneer cleared his throat and Derek jerked his head at the kid. “Come on,” he said roughly and the boy stepped forward without a word, his eyes on the ground. Derek went back over to Peter and Boyd. “What now?” he asked irritably.

“We can go,” Boyd assured him, and they left the auction house. Outside, Derek kept an eye on the boy in case he tried to escape, like the man inside had said, but the kid didn’t seem to have any interest in anything other than his shoes.

Peter took the front seat next to Boyd, leaving Derek to cast him a dirty look and slide into the back seat with the kid. The ride back to Derek's apartment passed in silence. Peter smelled like he wanted to say something snarky, but refrained. Derek watched the kid, who kept his head down, face turned toward the window. He kept his hands folded in his lap and his knuckles were scabbed and red, dirt under his fingernails like he'd been fighting. Derek frowned. If he breathed in deeply enough, he could smell other people on the boy, faint and sour beneath all the other scents on him. He smelled like sex, and Derek's frown deepened. Where the hell had this boy come from?

Boyd dropped them off in front of the apartment and they stood outside the front door of the building for a long moment.

"Well," Derek said awkwardly, "this is where I live." He winced. No wonder he couldn't get a date. Captain Obvious over here. "Let's go."

They rode the elevator up to the fourth floor and Derek unlocked the apartment door, waving the boy through.

"Do you have a name?" he asked and winced again. Jesus Christ, what was wrong with him? The kid was a human, not a piece of meat. Of course he had a name. “I’m Derek, by the way.”

The kid stood in the middle of the room, holding himself stiffly. Derek could hear the boy's heart thumping rapidly in his chest and he found himself wanting to soothe it.

"Well?" Derek pressed. "Can you even talk?"

This earned him eye contact and he tried not to shudder at the flat look in the boy's amber eyes. He'd met vampires who looked more alive. "Stiles," the boy muttered.

"Stiles?" Derek repeated. That didn't sound like a real name but the boy's heart hadn't stuttered when he'd said it, so he wasn't lying. Maybe a nickname or something. The boy nodded, his eyes falling back to the floor. Derek took a step forward and heard the boy's - Stiles', Derek told himself - heart rate increase, but Derek moved around him and over to his dresser. He dug through the drawers, wondering if he had any clothes that would even fit the kid - Stiles - and eventually turned around with an old pair of sweat pants and the smallest shirt he could find.

"Here," he said, shoving them at Stiles. "Take a shower and put these on. I'll wash your old clothes for you."

Stiles took the clothes slowly, his eyes sliding up to Derek's face, then quickly pulling away. Derek pointed him toward the bathroom and he waited for the door to close and the shower to turn on before leaning against his dresser, heaving a sigh. This wasn't like anything he'd ever had to deal with before, and he wasn't enjoying it. He hadn’t thought he was going to have to baby his new…whatever he was. Ward? Slave? Derek’s mouth tasted bitter at the thought.

When his phone started buzzing in his pocket he pulled it out and sighed.

"Hey, Mom."

"Hey, hon," she said warmly. "You found someone?"

"Peter made me," Derek said resentfully.

"Don't sulk," his mother replied. "This will be good for you."

"No it won't!" Derek argued, glancing toward the bathroom, where the shower still ran. "The kid's broken, Mom. I can't do this."

"Give it a few days," his mother encouraged. "Maybe he'll warm up to you."

"Not going to happen."

"He'll give you something to work on, anyway."

"I don't need a project," Derek snapped. He heard the bathroom door open and when he looked up, his mouth went dry. "Jesus," he muttered. "Mom, I'll call you back."

Stiles stood in the bathroom doorway, naked except for a towel around his bony hips. Though he could use a few square meals, the kid wasn’t as skinny as Derek had thought; he was wiry and fit, his stomach toned. Freckles and moles dotted his creamy white skin and – Derek's eyes narrowed, sliding over the long white lines across his chest. Those were scars from claws and there were others – an uneven circle like a puncture wound just above his pelvis and a circle of white tooth marks on the inside of his thigh, more claw marks scoring both upper arms. There was a white brand below his left collarbone, the initials indicating the pack he'd first belonged to and his own serial number. RWA 41892. Derek didn't recognize the pack name, but there were hundreds of packs in the country and he had no idea where Stiles was from.

He noticed another brand just above Stiles' right elbow and his stomach dropped. Though he couldn't make out the shape of it, that spot was reserved for humans working in whore houses. No wonder Stiles had smelled like sex and other people. No wonder he didn't make eye contact. He was broken.

"What are you doing?" Derek asked, his voice low. "Put your clothes on."

Stiles lifted his head. Derek tried not to look at him, because even though he was still a few days from heat, he had needs, and with all the grime and smell washed from him, combined with the fact that Derek hadn’t so much as kissed someone in five years, Stiles was looking pretty enticing. His cheeks, though bruised and scabbed, like he'd been pushed into a wall, were full, and Derek tried not to imagine how good those red lips would look around his cock.

"Aren't you going to fuck me?" the kid asked dully.

Derek's heart gave an uncomfortable lurch because right now, Stiles looked utterly fuckable. He hated, absolutely hated the idea of fucking this kid he’d bought, who was covered in scars from other wolves, who had the brand of a prostitute on his arm. On the other hand, his wolf was howling in his head, begging for the chance to feel the touch of skin against skin again, to have someone to hold and fuck and love. That probably wasn’t possible with this kid’s broken soul, but two out of three wasn’t bad. He could try. Maybe he did need a project.

Derek realized that he hadn’t answered Stiles. "Maybe," he said, because who fucking knew? "But not right now. Not today, so put your clothes on."

Stiles nodded quietly and disappeared back into the bathroom. Derek crossed the room and pushed the window open. He felt hot, like the heat had hit him early, though he knew that wasn't true. This kid was going to be the death of him.

-

There was nothing comfortable about the rest of the afternoon. Derek lived alone because he didn't like people, and he had no idea how to make small talk (another reason why he couldn't find a partner, probably). The few questions he asked were met with shrugs or just silence. Eventually he just turned the tv on for the kid and sat at his drafting table, forcing himself to get lost in his work.

Derek didn’t have to work; the pack pulled in enough revenue from the town’s taxes that he could have easily gone without working a day in his life. But Derek couldn’t stand sitting around waiting for life to happen; he got bored. He’d gone to college in San Francisco instead and found a job at a local architecture firm. He brought home work on the weekends because even that was too much time to sit around wasting.

As the room grew dark he rose, pushing away from his desk with the intention of making dinner. Upon turning, he realized that Stiles had fallen asleep. Derek didn't have room for a couch so Stiles had settled on the edge of the bed and at some point in the afternoon he'd laid down on his stomach, his head tucked into his arms. Derek let him sleep; God knew the last time he’d been able to sleep peacefully, and the smell of misery clinging to him like a cloud dissipated a little in slumber. Derek made dinner before waking him and even just a gentle touch to his shoulder had Stiles awake instantly, his heart rate skyrocketing.

“Easy,” Derek told him. He gestured at the tiny table over by the window. “I made dinner. You hungry?”

Stiles nodded uneasily, his eyes flickering around the room like he couldn’t remember how he’d gotten there. Derek sighed internally. He wanted to say I’m not going to hurt you, but he didn’t for two reasons; one, he was pretty sure Stiles had been told that a lot in his life and clearly it hadn’t always been true and probably wouldn’t have believed it if he heard it, and two, he couldn’t say for certain that he wouldn’t, not with heat week approaching. He didn’t deal in absolutes anymore. Not since Kate. Instead he said, “Go eat. There’s only one chair. I’ll sit here.”

Going to bed that night was even worse. If there’d been a couch, Derek would have offered to sleep on it, but as there wasn’t he had to watch Stiles approach the bed unwillingly, unease radiating from him. Derek tried to pretend like he wasn’t interested, picking up his phone to check his messages. There was one from Laura that said hey baby bro, hows ur boy doing? :)

he's fucking terrified, Derek texted back. Next to him, Stiles was sinking under the sheets incrementally, like he thought maybe if he moved slowly enough Derek wouldn’t notice. i think he used to be a prostitute.

no shit, Laura responded almost immediately. be good to him der

i'm going to try.

Derek set his phone on his nightstand and slid out of bed. He felt Stiles tense, then relax as he headed into the bathroom to brush his teeth. When he came back out, the boy was laying on his side, facing away from Derek’s side. He stiffened again as Derek climbed into bed, heart pounding like a jackhammer. Derek wondered how long he’d worked in the brothel, how many people had hurt him. The possessive side of his wolf wanted to be angry, rip their throats out. No one deserved to be treated like that, to be subjected to that kind of life.

He picked up his phone again, knowing Stiles could hear him, probably so hyperaware at that moment that he could hear any movement in the apartment. Another text from Laura.

u worried about heat week?

yeah. There was no point in lying about it. Laura knew him too well.

u'll be fine. its better with someone else around.

Derek began tapping out a reply when his attention was distracted by Stiles; the boy’s breathing grew worse, his heart pounding at an intolerable rate. Derek listened to his ragged breathing, smelled the sweat gathering on his brow, and moved without thinking, twisting onto his side to rub a hand against Stiles’ back. He knew the signs of a panic attack; his younger sister had had them for years after their dad died. His touch sent Stiles shuddering, but he didn’t try to pull away. Derek kept his hand against his skin, rubbing his back in rough circles until the boy’s breathing steadied and slowed. It wasn’t trust; Derek could sense his confusion, but he kept the contact anyway, until Stiles’ heart slowed to a manageable pace.

“I want you to know,” Derek said quietly, taking his hand off Stiles’ back and sinking into his pillows, “this wasn’t my idea, but…” he hesitated, afraid of making promises he couldn’t keep. “I’ll try,” he said finally. “I’ll try to make your life better.”

Stiles didn’t reply. Derek hadn’t expected him to. He knew the boy had heard him and for now, that would have to be enough.

-

When Derek awoke late the next morning, he nearly fell out of the bed. He found himself teetering near the edge of the mattress while Stiles lay splayed in the middle, his face relaxed in deep slumber. He smelled comfortable and familiar, like warm afternoons in the summer, and after sleeping in Derek’s clothes and Derek’s bed, he smelled achingly like the two of them, his easy scent mixing with Derek’s heavier scent of spices and wood. Stiles looked content, whole, and Derek had to resist the wolf’s urge to press his body up against him. He carefully got out of bed instead and gathered up a load of laundry, grabbing Stiles’ dirty clothes from the bathroom. He was going to have to take the kid shopping today, get him all the necessities. They’d have to stop by the town hall as well and get him branded with the Hale name. Derek winced at the thought and stepped out of the room, closing the door without a noise.

Down in the laundry room, Derek was about to throw the clothes into the washer when two things occurred to him. One, he wondered, belatedly, if it had been a good idea to leave Stiles alone. He remembered what the man at the auction house had said about how he’d tried to escape twice. Derek shrugged. Well, he was already down here. Too late for that.

The other thought that occurred to him was to check the pockets of Stiles’ jeans. He was rewarded with two scraps of paper from a front pocket, one which was so worn it was blank, or perhaps had been blank from the beginning. The other piece said Deaton, and listed a phone number. Derek frowned at it, not recognizing the area code.

In the back pocket he found Stiles’ wallet and he paused for only a moment before opening it up. The black leather was worn paper thin and smelled very faintly of cologne. There was no money inside, not unexpectedly, but half the wallet’s space was taken up by a police badge, which was surprising. Rosalia Police Chief, it said, and the metal looked tarnished, some of the polish worn right off. In the card holder next to it was an old driver’s license for Washington state. Stiles’ picture was him much younger, a broad grin on his face. Stilinski, it read, but the first name had been scratched off and Stiles scribbled on top of the rough plastic. The address listed on the license, and the library card Derek pulled out next were both for Rosalia, Washington. There were other cards and slips of paper, reminders of a life that had been. Stiles was three punch holes away from a free bagel at Sunshine Café and Bakery, and he’d gone to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on July 12th, 2007, and he had a coupon promising him two medium pizzas for the price of one at Pandora Pizzeria (limit two toppings, no substitutions).

In the place where money might go, there were two pictures, their edges worn. One was of a woman, her dark hair and big brown eyes immediately telling Derek that she was a close relative of Stiles, probably his mother, maybe an older sister. She looked kind, and the photo was significantly more worn than the other, a photograph of Stiles as a kid, the same broad grin from his license photo on his face, only he was missing a front tooth in this one. Behind him stood a man in a police uniform, his hand on Stiles’ shoulder. His father? Derek shook his head and set the wallet down on top of the washing machine. He loaded up the machine and picked up the wallet and his laundry basket, heading back up to the apartment.

When Derek opened the door he thought that he had indeed been wrong to leave Stiles alone, because the bed was empty and the kid was nowhere in sight. The window was open and he thought for one stupid second that the kid might have jumped out the fourth floor window until he heard a frantic heartbeat drumming in the bathroom. The door was half open and he could hear Stiles rustling around, opening and closing drawers, his scent heavy with anxiety. Derek knocked on the doorframe and inside the bathroom, Stiles froze.

“You okay?” he asked, because Stiles looked on the verge of tears.

“My clothes,” Stiles said, his voice wavering.

“I’m washing them,” Derek replied. He offered Stiles the wallet. “Were you looking for this?”

The kid snatched it from his hand, clutching it close to his chest. His scent changed, relief pouring off him in waves.

“Sorry,” Derek said. “Didn’t mean to worry you.” Stiles nodded, closing his eyes and Derek turned, allowing him to collect himself. He made breakfast for the two of them and went downstairs to move their laundry to the dryer. He sat down in the laundry room rather than go back upstairs and sit in the uncomfortable silence of the apartment. As he pulled warm clothes from the machine forty minutes later it occurred to him yet again that maybe leaving the kid alone wasn’t the best idea. When he got back upstairs, however, he could tell Stiles hadn’t even gotten up from the table, his head turned to stare blankly out the window. Derek looked at the way his long fingers curled around his empty cup of coffee and swallowed, handing Stiles his t-shirt and jeans.

“Get dressed,” he said quietly. “We’re going out.” He hated the way the words came out of him, sounding curt and unfriendly, but he didn’t know what else to do. Stiles was obviously used to being ordered around because he rose without a word and disappeared into the bathroom. When he reemerged a few minutes later, Derek frowned at the tears in his shirt and the holes in the knees of his jeans. Stiles didn’t smell like them any more, just like dusty rays of sunshine and Derek’s laundry detergent. It wasn’t enough for the wolf, who wanted to shoved against the kid, rubbing their skin together until Stiles reeked of him.

Instead, Derek said uncertainly, “Look, you – Can I – You need to smell like me. When we go out. So people won’t bother you. Can I…touch you?” This was half true, but he wanted the contact more than anything.

Stiles shrugged, his eyes on the floor, and Derek sighed. He stepped forward carefully, listening to Stiles’ heart rate uptick, and touched a gentle hand to his cheek. Stiles shut his eyes, hands clenched at his sides. His skin was softer than Derek expected, rough where the scrapes on his cheek were scabbed over. Derek swiped his hand across Stiles’ face, down his throat, against the back of his neck. He paused there, nose flaring, fighting the urge to lean in and sink his teeth into the kid’s neck. He lifted his hand, though, dropping it to his side.

“Okay,” Derek said uncomfortably. “Let’s go.”

They left the apartment and drove into town in Derek’s Camaro. Stiles just shrugged when Derek explained what needed to happen and asked him if he’d rather go shopping first. Derek made the decision to head for the town hall, figuring it’d probably be best to get the branding over with.

At the town hall, the registrar smiled cheerfully and asked Stiles a lot of questions he didn’t answer. Derek watched Stiles get strapped into a chair, his skinny body arching when the registrar pressed the brand to the skin below his collar bone, a whimper escaping his lips. Derek’s lip curled at the smell of burning flesh, his stomach twisting at the expression on Stiles’ face, because he didn’t look angry or hurt – he looked fucking resigned, like he was used to being hurt, and that was worse than anything. As Derek drove to the Wal-Mart on the other side of town, he watched Stiles out of the corner of his eye. The boy kept raising his hand, touching at the bandage under his shirt that covered the freshly burned phrase HALE 17132. He could smell the pain on the boy, the way his palms had gone cold and sweaty and Derek added pain killers to the shopping list in his head.

Once in the store, Derek told Stiles to find himself some clothes and stood in the aisle. He listened to Stiles’ heartbeat as he moved among the racks, while Derek kept a wary eye on the shoppers around them. When Stiles came back to the cart, all he had in his hands was a pack of plain white t-shirts and a pair of jeans. Derek raised his eyebrows and remarked, “You need more than that.” Stiles hesitated and Derek continued, “I try not to do laundry more often than every two weeks. Okay?”

Stiles nodded tentatively and disappeared back among the racks. Derek waited, checking his phone. He had a new message from Laura.

mom says family dinner tonight, bring ur boy

Derek frowned. i'm not sure that’s the best idea, lo.

mom says too bad

Derek sighed and shoved his phone back into his pocket as Stiles returned. This time he had more jeans and t-shirts, socks, boxers, and a soft red hoodie.

“Better,” Derek nodded, and they continued on through the store. He made Stiles find new shoes, because his sneakers were caked with mud and torn at the toes. They found him a toothbrush and his own shampoos and body washes, and Derek bought more towels, because he only had one. They passed the entertainment section and Derek slowed, glancing over his shoulder at Stiles. The boy kept close behind him, a faintly worried expression on his face like he was frightened of the other shoppers. “You want to get something?” Derek asked him, jerking his head toward the movies.

Stiles looked at the rows of DVDs and a strange, undecipherable look passed over his face. “Can I?” he asked, very quietly.

Derek shrugged. “Go ahead and get what you want. My collection at home is probably lacking.”

Stiles spent a lot of time walking up and down the aisles, picking up DVDs and reading their backs. Derek watched him, wondering how long it had been since he’d gone to a movie theater. Had Harry Potter been the last thing he’d seen? That was nearly six years ago. Stiles spent much more time looking at movies than he had at clothes and came back twenty minutes later with The Avengers, Inception, Wall-E, and all of the new Batman trilogy. He placed them in the cart timidly, like he thought Derek might change his mind and tell him to put them back, but Derek said nothing.

They moved on to groceries next and Derek got a lot of premade stuff to keep in the freezer because heat week made him both ravenous and impatient, and he wanted to spend as little time as possible thinking about food preparation. Stiles had gone wooden again, staring down at his nasty shoes. Derek nudged him very carefully and said, “Do you want anything?”

Stiles shrugged a very small shrug and winced when the movement pulled at the burn on his chest.

“Go on,” Derek said, waving toward the rows of groceries. “Treat yourself.”

The boy paused, one hand lifting to touch his chest again, then he slipped off. Derek listened to his heartbeat wander the aisles. He could sense Stiles’ confusion, knew he was wondering why Derek was being so nice and when the other shoe would drop and things would go bad again. When he reappeared, he held a carton of blackberries in his hands almost reverentially. Derek raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment.

Back at the apartment, Derek cleared a shelf on his bookcase while Stiles sat on the bed pulling price tags off his new clothes. “Here,” Derek said roughly, gesturing at the shelf. “This is your space.”

Stiles looked up at him silently, their eyes meeting, and Derek went still at the deep unhappiness in the boy’s amber eyes. Derek felt acutely uncomfortable, stepping back as Stiles rose to his feet and came over to the shelf. He watched the boy set the DVDs there, then, after a moment’s hesitation, he pulled his wallet from his pocket and set it open so the police badge was displayed to the room.

Derek nodded toward it. “Who did that belong to?”

Stiles' long fingers rubbed against the brass and Derek knew why the polish had worn away. “My dad,” he replied quietly.

“Where is he?”

Stiles’ hand jerked back to his side and he turned away, the sharp scent of loss and misery spiking off him. “Dead,” he said.

Derek swallowed. He didn’t say I’m sorry, because he knew how much he hated hearing it when people asked him about his own father. He said, “Do you know what this week is?”

“Heat week,” Stiles said bitterly, keeping his back to Derek. “That’s why you bought me, isn’t it?”

“Unfortunately.”

“Why are you so upset?” Stiles asked, defiance pushing into his voice. “You’re not the one getting fucked.” He was trying to get a rise out of Derek and Derek bit at his tongue. It was the first time Stiles had sounded anything other than dead, a tiny fragment of the vibrant life Derek had seen in the smile on his driver’s license. He’d probably started out that way, full of snark and insolence, but weres didn’t take kindly to disrespect. If this was the way he acted, even just a fragment of it, then it was no wonder his body was covered in scars.

“This was not my idea,” Derek said evenly, pushing back the anger. “You think I’m proud of the fact that I can’t find someone to mate with of their own free will? You think I’m happy that I own you?” He couldn’t stop the way his words came out sour, his tone going flat and cold. “You think I want to fuck some scrawny kid against his will?”

Stiles’ scent had changed. Derek expected more defiance from him but he pulled away, pulse hammering. “I don’t know,” the boy said quietly, not meeting Derek’s eyes any more. “Everyone else that’s ever touched me has.”

Derek sighed, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “Just relax,” he muttered. “Put in a movie or take a nap or something. We’re going to my mom’s house for dinner later and I want to get some work done.”

Stiles nodded, still not looking at him, and pulled Batman Begins off the shelf. Derek turned to his desk and settled down to his drawing as Stiles figured out the DVD player and the movie began to play behind him. Derek tried to concentrate on his work but found himself distracted, tapping his foot against the floor. He could feel his heat far on the horizon, growing like a thunderstorm. It wouldn’t hit for hours yet but already his wolf was anxious, pacing around in the space inside his head. Derek shifted, glancing over his shoulder at Stiles, who sat with his back against the wall, a pillow behind him, eyes half-closed as he watched the movie. Derek could smell the burn on his chest, raw and hot.

The scent pushed him to his feet and into the bathroom, where he grabbed a damp towel and fresh bandages, then over to the side of the bed. Stiles’ eyes flickered to him then away, but his heartbeat remained steady – until Derek leaned over him and said, “Take off your shirt.” Stiles’ heartbeat doubled at that, worry thinning his lips, but Derek said, “Let me see the brand.”

Licking nervously at his lips, Stiles leaned forward and peeled off his shirt, then the bandage covering the burn. Derek frowned at it, bright red and oozing plasma. He sat down on the edge of the bed to gently press the towel against it and he could feel the wound, hot under his fingers.

“Does it hurt?” he asked quietly, carefully cleaning it. Stiles nodded, biting his lip. Derek resisted the urge to lean forward and press his mouth against the brand, but finished cleaning it and placed a new bandage over it instead. He hesitated there, hand brushing against the lines of the white cotton. “Can I sit with you?”

Stiles moved over without a word and Derek sat against the wall, but it wasn’t enough. His wolf wanted to be close, wanted to comfort Stiles, and Derek wanted that too, to feel Stiles’ soft skin against him. “Can I,” he said again, pulling at Stiles’ arm. “Please.” Stiles’ breath hitched in his throat, stiffening slightly, but he didn’t resist as Derek tugged him into the space between his legs, dragging him so his back rested against Derek’s chest. Derek slotted his hand under Stiles’ collarbone, pressing lightly against the bandage there, and pulled at his pain.

All the air rushed out of Stiles’ chest. “What are you doing?” he asked, his voice slow like molasses. Derek could feel him relaxing despite himself, his heart slowing.

“Taking the pain,” Derek said, watching black lines bleed up his arm before disappearing under the sleeve of his shirt. “Shh.” He felt Stiles settle back against him more firmly and his wolf howled with joy.

They both fell asleep near the end of the movie and Derek woke with his nose nuzzled against the side of Stiles’ neck, his phone buzzing on the nightstand. He slapped out a hand and picked it up, sighing when he saw Laura calling.

“What?”

“You’re late!” Laura sang. “Where are you? Dinner’s supposed to be starting.”

“Fell asleep,” Derek grumbled. Stiles stirred against him, his heartbeat picking up when he realized where he was. Derek didn’t want him to move. His arm was looped around Stiles’ stomach and he had to fight not to tighten it against him.

“Ooooh,” Laura cooed, and he could hear the devilish tone in her voice. “Want me to tell Mom you’re not coming?”

“No,” Derek sighed. “We’re on our way.” Stiles pushed away from him, off the bed and into the bathroom. Derek stared after him unhappily; he could feel the confusion swirling off the boy and his mistrust shouldn’t have hurt – they’d only known each other for a day, roughly – but it did. He didn’t want this to suck for Stiles. It was too soon for him to be okay with having sex with him – too soon for either of them – but he’d hoped he could make it better. A little less horrible, so maybe Stiles wouldn’t completely hate him after the week was over. But maybe that was an immature thing to hope.

When Stiles came out of the bathroom, a wary look on his face, Derek said, “You okay to go?” and Stiles nodded, his eyes on the floor. They pulled on their shoes – Stiles wore his new sneakers, smelling offensively strong of rubber – and Derek grabbed his leather jacket. Stiles tentatively slid on the new red hoodie and Derek wrinkled his nose at the smell of the chemical dye. Stiles still smelled like him – overwhelmingly so – but the hoodie and shoes masked some of that. Derek wanted to rub against him again, claim him back, but the way Stiles had moved after their nap left him uncertain. He didn’t want to push.

They drove to his mom’s house in silence and Derek paused on the doorstep, turning to look at Stiles. “If you get overwhelmed or anything,” he said, “just tell me, okay?”

Stiles nodded, tugging absently at the drawstrings of his hoodie. “Your mom’s the alpha?” he mumbled.

“Yeah,” Derek said, “but she’s not so…” He gestured wordlessly, not sure what he was trying to convey. Whatever it was, Stiles didn’t seem to understand, because he didn’t say anything. “Uh.”

That was when Laura swung the door open, a wide grin on her face. “Thought I heard you grumbling out here,” she said cheerfully. “Come on – the food’s getting cold.” She stepped back so they could come in. Derek caught her sniffing at Stiles as he slipped past her and glared. She just grinned. “Aren’t you going to introduce us, Der?”

“Fine,” he sighed heavily. “Stiles, this is my sister, Laura. Laura, Stiles.”

“Hey, sweetheart,” Laura said, smiling widely.

Stiles gave her a worried look and stared at his shoes. “Hi,” he said, very quietly.

Derek’s mother came into the hallway, a faint frown on her face, which turned to a smile when she saw Derek and Stiles. “Get out of here,” she said, shooing Laura away.

“Sorry we’re late,” Derek told her.

“Oh, you’re not,” she smiled. “Laura’s just being dramatic. Well,” she added, turning to Stiles. “Aren’t you handsome?” To both Derek and Stiles’ chagrin, she gathered Stiles in a tight hug. The possessive part of Derek couldn’t help the growl that came from deep in his chest when he heard Stiles’ heartbeat tick up again. His mother swung her head to look at him, eyes flashing red, and Derek took an unconscious step back. His mother pulled away from Stiles, whose cheeks were bright red, and patted him on the arm. “Just call me Talia,” she said.

She turned to Derek then, giving him a hug of his own. “He smells like you,” she murmured, voice so low Stiles wouldn’t be able to hear. “You are late.” All the insinuation was there in her voice, and Derek flushed.

“Mom,” he choked, because even though wolves were pretty casual about sex, this was his mother talking.

She grinned wickedly, looking a lot like Laura, and shooed them into the big dining room, where the rest of the family sat; Peter and his wife Maggie, Laura and Tim, Derek’s younger sister Corrine and her boyfriend, and his younger brother Max who, at ten, was the baby of the family. Isaac and Boyd and Erica were there, unofficial family. Isaac had come to them as a child, a born were abandoned on the highway. Boyd had been left with them when he was in high school and his father had come to Talia, begging her to turn his son, who was dying of cancer. And Erica had been turned just a few months after Boyd, suffering from epilepsy so severe it was destroying her life. Derek’s mother loved having a large family – it wasn’t just about the power that came from a larger pack – and she was a sucker for the injured and ruined. That was probably why Kate had been able to slime her way into Talia’s heart just as easily as she had into Derek’s.

Derek had never met another alpha like his mom. In the twenty-seven years he’d known her, he’d seen her wolf out maybe three times, her control impeccable. She didn’t use her alpha powers to control them; the pack’s devotion to her was so complete it wasn’t necessary. Talia ruled the pack with kindness and intelligence, not instinct and brute force. That was why Derek hadn’t tried to fight her when she insisted he go to the auction; it was so ingrained in him that she knew what she was doing that he couldn’t argue. She was always right – not in a “moms know best” or “the wife is always right” sort of way; she just was.

The Beacon Hills pack was unusual in its ratio of weres to humans; in most places, except maybe the major cities, the weres had taken over, outnumbering humans as much as five to one. In Beacon Hills, however, the numbers were heavily skewed the other direction, several hundred humans to each wolf, and there’d never been any problems. The humans trusted Talia as much as the pack did, and that meant they trusted the pack as well, even if there were only ten of them.

Talia sat at the head of the table and Derek sat down in the empty spot next to Isaac. Stiles settled down next to him and Derek could sense the anxiety building in him, intimidated by the wolves at the table. Derek wanted to touch him, reassure him, but he couldn’t be certain the kid wouldn’t pull away and he couldn’t stomach that kind of rejection, not with the whole family watching. Boyd gazed at him from across the table and when Derek met his eyes, Boyd gave him a rare encouraging smile. Derek grinned back at him, his heart surging with affection for his family.

Family dinners were always enjoyable affairs, loud and messy and full of laughter. Derek kept a watchful eye on the Stiles, worried he might become overwhelmed by the noise but, oddly enough, the kid seemed to relax as dinner went on. Derek realized it had probably been a long time since he’d been surrounded by such happiness. It was probably good for him. Derek turned his head and caught Talia watching Stiles as well, a small smile on her face.

Going to bed that night was easier than it had been the night before. Stiles was more relaxed, his heart rate only skipping once before returning to normal when Derek rubbed a hand against his side, sliding up his chest to check on his brand before sliding back down to rest against his stomach.

“I like your family,” Stiles said into the darkness, and Derek realized it was the first time he’d spoken without being prompted by a question.

“I’m glad,” Derek replied, and he was; family was important, and if Stiles was going to be with him for any length of time it was important that everyone got along well. Derek began to let himself hope, and that was probably why it hurt so much when things went to shit a few hours later.

-

When Derek woke up, the room was still dark and he felt as though he was on fire, blood boiling beneath his skin. He groaned, head in a fog, and kicked off the sheets, the movement sending his hard-on chafing against his underwear. He could smell cum in the air; he’d already ejaculated at least twice and he was so hard it hurt, the wolf in his head howling for release.

Someone shifted in the bed next to him and Derek didn’t know if he was dreaming or not, but his pulse was pounding and the wolf bayed Mate, mate, mate! Derek flipped over without a thought, pinning Stiles down to the mattress and grinding his erection against his ass. The friction was delicious, almost painful, and Derek rutted against him harder, his panting loud in his own ears. It didn’t take long for him to come, groaning, back arching.

It was only a few seconds later, as the heat seeped from his bones and his head cleared, that he realized he was on top of Stiles. The boy lay completely still and silent under him, the back of his shirt wet with Derek’s cum. Derek could smell him, reeking of fear and humiliation and unhappiness.

“Shit,” Derek breathed, rolling off him. “Shit, Stiles, I’m sorry.” He wanted to touch Stiles, but that was probably the worst thing he could do. Stiles didn’t say a word, just laid there stiffly with his head turned away from Derek, stinking of misery. Derek moaned unhappily and rolled out of bed. He went to the bathroom to clean himself up and when he came out Stiles had shifted onto his side, curled into a fetal position. He stiffened when Derek climbed back onto the bed, but he only grabbed his pillow, mumbling, “I’ll sleep in the bathroom,” and locked himself in.

Derek crammed himself into the bathtub and it was a long time before he fell asleep again. He could hear Stiles’ heart beating in bed and his wolf whined, wanting to be out there with him. Derek cursed softly. He hadn’t thought about this, not really – what would happen when the heat hit him. It had been so stupid of him to think that either of them would be comfortable with each other after only a day. Thinking of the way Stiles had just laid there while Derek humped him left a bitter taste in his mouth. He’d just laid there and taken it, like he’d given up, too beaten to even fight.

Fuck.

-

Derek woke sometime later in the day with a stiff neck and sore everywhere he’d been in contact with the bath tub. Another wave of heat was on the horizon, his dick half hard already, but he could hold it back for a time. He lay in the tub, listening to Stiles’ heartbeat out in the room, not slow enough to be sleeping, but not moving around, either.

Derek rubbed a hand over his eyes and pulled himself out the bathtub, body aching in protest. Stiles’ heart skipped when he opened the bathroom door and Derek very carefully didn’t look at him. He turned to the kitchen instead, turning on the oven so he could put in a frozen pizza. He listened to Stiles behind him, to his quiet breathing as he sat on the edge of the bed, muscles tense, fingers rubbing against his dad’s police badge. Derek sighed and turned, leaning against the kitchen counter.

“Stiles,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

Stiles shrugged. “Whatever,” he mumbled. “People have done worse.”

“Don’t excuse me because there have been bigger assholes,” Derek barked, and the kid flinched. “That doesn’t make what I did right.”

Stiles didn’t say anything and Derek moved, dropping down next to him on the bed. Stiles had changed his shirt, but he still smelled like Derek’s spunk and the wolf whined. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, tone softening. “I just – I’ve never spent heat week with anyone before. Usually I’m locked up at the house. I didn’t know how – how strong it would be with someone else around. I’m sorry.”

Stiles was silent for a long moment, his fingers moving over the surface of his dad’s badge. “I know you don’t want to hurt me,” he said finally, his fingers catching on the edge of the metal. Derek thought he heard a soft click. “I can tell. But you’re right. Your intentions don’t make what you did okay.” He pulled at the metal and it lifted off its back, revealing a small compartment underneath, which was filled with powder. Derek leaned forward, frowning.

“What’s that?” he asked, just as the smell of wolfsbane hit him. He tried to jerk backward but Stiles’ arm was already moving, flinging the powder out with a flick of his wrist. Derek inhaled accidentally, receiving a coating of wolfsbane powder in his mouth for his troubles. It burned like fire, flaming in his throat and lungs. He roared in pain, falling back against the bed, body jerking as it tried to fight the poison in his lungs. Stiles didn’t stop to apologize; Derek heard the sound of the front door slamming open but it was beyond what he could care about. His whole body felt like it was on fire – and the flames weren’t coming from his heat. It swelled in him, burning from his feet to his fingertips, until the pain reached a crescendo and everything went mercifully black.

-

The room was near dark when Derek opened his eyes, his body burning. The heat still clung to him - not the poison, but the blazing need to mate back in his bones. He surged up from the bed and staggered to the door, his body still weak. He was going to kill Stiles – or fuck him, or maybe both. The heat brought him close to the edge of wildness, enhancing every emotion and sense and he breathed in deeply. The smell of Stiles was fainter in the hallway, but strong enough to track.

Stiles’ scent took him out of the apartment building and into the woods beyond town. Derek moved automatically, loping through the trees, his breath coming in deep snarls. The wolf was in control now, and it was furious. It was easy catching up with Stiles; the fastest human runner couldn’t outrun a were, even with a several-hour head start.

Before he reached Stiles, however, the scent changed; it had been fearful in the apartment, calmed as it meandered through the woods, and now it had suddenly gone fearful again, stinking of panic. Derek slowed, growing cautious. He could hear laughter in the forest, and the smell of other wolves that didn’t belong to his pack

He was probably ten miles outside of town, out on the edge of the Preserve, which bordered the Jones pack’s territory. He hadn’t crossed the boundary – Derek would have stopped, no matter how mad he was, because crossing into another pack’s territory unannounced, especially during heat weak, would be incredibly stupid – but there were wolves nearby, and Stiles was with them.

Derek slunk through the trees, silent as the grave, until he found them; two wolves and Stiles. One stood watching the woods, but Derek could tell by the dull, unexciting beating of his heart that he’d not noticed Derek lurking in the shadows. And the other – the other had Stiles up against a tree, one hand against his throat, the other shoved down his pants, and Derek’s vision went white.

He roared so loudly that the trees around them trembled, scattering leaves and both weres whipped around, eyes flashing blue. Omegas, then, younger than him, slow to heal without a pack, and pulsing with lust. He cannonballed right into the one that was on top of Stiles, smashing him to the ground while Stiles fell the opposite direction with a startled yelp. He sunk his claws into the wolf’s chest, pushing his hands into the omega’s ribs and pulling them apart like a wishbone on Thanksgiving. The omega howled with pain but Derek didn’t hear it. All he could hear was the rush of his pulse in his ears, the pounding of his heart so violent it shook his bones with every beat. He ripped and pulled until the omega stopped moving and Derek threw his body to the ground with a wet noise.

Behind him, Stiles made a frightened noise and Derek whipped around to see the other omega pulling him to his feet, slavering with lust, his mouth too close to Stiles’ throat. Derek roared again, bulling his way between the two. He could feel Stiles pulling at his back, twisting his hands in his shirt to keep himself upright, and he put a hand behind him, touching Stiles, assuring him.

“Get out of here,” Derek rumbled, low in his throat, voice far from human. “Unless you want to end up like him.” He jerked his head toward the mess he’d left of the other omega and the were in front of him looked as well, fear spiking off him.

“No disrespect,” he muttered, eyes flashing blue once more before he disappeared into the darkness. Derek stood still for a long moment, listening to him crash away through the underbrush before whirling around to face Stiles. He ran his hands over his face, nuzzled against his neck, made low, worried noises in the back of his throat. Stiles tucked his face against Derek’s chest, shaking all over.

“Come on,” Derek whispered. “Can you walk?”

Stiles nodded, hitching at his torn jeans, but he staggered when he tried to take a step and Derek closed in, easily scooping him up into his arms. “Sorry,” Stiles mumbled.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Derek replied, striding fast through the forest.

“I tried to poison you,” Stiles said quietly. “I’m sorry.” And he was; his heart didn’t skip when he spoke the words.

“You did poison me,” Derek said. “Guess you should have saved it for those guys, huh?”

“Yeah,” Stiles agreed, and dissolved into a panic attack. Derek paused, then lowered him to the ground, leaning him up against a tree so he could breathe. He let the kid get through it, crouching over him, watching the trees around them. It was a long time before Stiles was breathing properly again, his eyes wet with tears, but he refused to let Derek carry him any further, even if it meant it took them twice as long to get back to his apartment.

“Go take a shower,” Derek said, gently pushing Stiles in the direction of the bathroom. “I’ll make some food.”

The oven was still on, pulsing heat into the room, and Derek slid in a frozen pizza. He found that he was shaking too, but it was more from adrenaline than anything else, and he was glad, because it seemed like fighting was a good way to dispel the heat. A different sort of release, perhaps. He was glad for it if it meant that the wolf wouldn’t be interested in Stiles for a while, because being attacked again would be the last thing the guy needed.

When Stiles came out of the shower, Derek caught him by the chin. “Okay?” he asked quietly.

Stiles met his eyes seriously for a long moment. “Yeah.” Then he wrinkled his nose. “You smell like blood.”

He was right; Derek’s forearms were covered in gore, and the front of his jeans and t-shirt were nearly black with blood. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “My turn for a shower. Pizza’s in the oven,” he added over his shoulder. “Take it out if the timer goes off, okay?”

Stiles nodded and Derek thought he saw the ghost of a smile on his lips. It felt like a victory.

-

Derek only emerged from the shower once the water stopped running pink around his feet. He felt good, clear-headed, and he felt even better when he came out of the bathroom to find Stiles sitting on the end of the bed, eating a greasy slice of meat-lover’s pizza. He’d stuck in Inception and was watching with rapt attention. Derek relaxed further, wandering over to the counter and grabbing himself a slice. He’d been a little worried that he’d come out of the bathroom to find Stiles gone again.

He plunked himself down next to Stiles, who spared him a remarkably friendly look before fixing his eyes back on the television. Derek tried to eat his pizza but he could still smell the omegas on Stiles despite his shower, sour and rotten like unwashed bodies.

“Hey,” Derek said, and Stiles titled his head like he was listening, though he didn’t take his eyes off the screen. “Can I touch you?” Stiles did turn his head then, dark pupils expanding, and Derek hastened to clarify, “So you smell like me again?”

“Is that a wolf thing?” Stiles asked, turning his head back to the movie.

It’s a comfort thing, Derek wanted to say, but he just said, “Yeah,” and Stiles shrugged.

“Go ahead.”

The verbal confirmation was encouraging, even though it had been accompanied by a shrug. Derek set down his pizza and leaned forward, rubbing his fingers against Stiles’ cheek, pulling them across his forehead and down the curve of his nose. He moved slowly, half because he didn’t want to distract Stiles from the movie, and half because he wanted to savor this touch. The heat had gone for now, but it still simmered deep in his bones, and the feeling of skin against skin calmed him.

Derek leaned in closer, carefully breathing in the smell of Stiles’ skin, old books and warm bread. He rubbed his cheek against the side of his neck and felt Stiles shiver. He breathed in softly, catching a waft of arousal before Stiles pushed him away gently. Firmly, but gently.

“Okay,” Stiles said, a little breathless. “I can’t take much more today.” There was no skip in his heart this time, either, and Derek sat back with a nod.

They settled into bed later and it was nearly comfortable. Stiles still moved warily, but he smelled like – well, he smell like Derek, but he also smelled, just a little, of trust. Derek was nervous about sleeping; he didn’t want to wake up to find himself molesting Stiles again, so he said, “If you wake up and I’m trying to do something to you, kick me in the balls, all right?”

Stiles made a noise into his pillow that could have been a snort. “That’s going to stop your crazy werewolf hormones?”

“Maybe,” Derek said. “Maybe it’ll wake me up enough to stop myself.”

Stiles was quiet for a while before saying, “Thanks for stopping those guys.”

Derek couldn’t see Stiles' face – he lay on his side with his back to Derek – but he edged closer. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, but his voice wobbled and his heart skipped a beat. Lie. “Nothing I haven’t experienced before.” No skip; not a lie. Derek’s mouth went thin. He could smell Stiles crying though he didn’t make a sound, the smell of salt tears different than that of sweat. He wished he could wrap his arms around Stiles, kiss his tears away, but he didn’t dare. He bent his head instead, pressing his forehead between Stiles' shoulder blades, hoping it was enough, but not too much. Stiles hiccupped but didn’t move and they fell asleep that way, connected.

-

“Where did you get the wolfsbane?” Derek asked the next morning as they lazed in bed. He laid on his stomach, arms tucked under his pillow. Stiles lay on his back beside him, eyes half open in the morning light. Derek watched his face, drinking in the way his long lashes brushed against his pale cheeks when he blinked, the way he licked at his chapped lips.

“Dad put it in there,” Stiles replied, rubbing at his nose. “Wasn’t sure if it’d even work because it was so old.”

“Believe me,” Derek said dryly. “It did.”

Stiles’ eyes flickered over to him. “Sorry.”

“I know.”

"Where were you going to go?" Derek asked.

Stiles shrugged, looking unhappy. "Home, I guess," he replied. "I keep forgetting I don't have one, though."

"Rosalia? I snooped through your wallet," Derek added, at Stiles' frown. "You don't call that home?"

"I would if I could," Stiles replied quietly, the unhappiness rolling off him in thick waves. Derek curled a hand over his bicep and Stiles made no move to pull away. "My dad died when I was seventeen and I became a ward of the pack. After I turned eighteen, though, the alpha started making noise about mating me with his daughter, I don't know why - because my dad had been a cop, maybe, and people trusted him. But neither of us wanted it and she helped me get to Seattle." Stiles paused, staring up at the ceiling, lost in thought.

It was the most Derek had heard him say, and he didn't want him to stop. "And?" he prompted gently.

"And," Stiles echoed quietly. "I lived on the street up there for a while, a year or two, maybe, then headed down to Portland before I got caught." Derek raised an eyebrow and Stiles explained, "You're supposed to register yourself when you enter a city. They were lax about it in Seattle, but the police in Portland are assholes and threw me over to the pack council - there's not just one pack in the city; there's like five, and they make decisions together. You can pay 'em off sometimes, but I didn’t have any money, so they handed me over to…a brothel." Stiles' voice went very quiet.

Derek twisted Stiles' arm gently so he could run his fingers over the brand above the crook of his elbow. It was in the shape of a bell. "This?" he asked softly.

Stiles nodded desperately. "Six months," he croaked. "It was a fucking nightmare."

"But you got away."

"Mmhmm," Stiles said, his eyes swimming with tears. "Thought I could go to Mexico, maybe, but the hunters from the auction house got me."

And now I have you, Derek thought unhappily. Maybe he could help Stiles after the week was over; those packs at the border his grandfather had known could help him cross. The thought made his wolf whine in protest. He wanted Stiles to stay.

"How'd your dad die?"

"Territory dispute," Stiles said. "Just trying to keep the peace and someone got a piece of him instead." He tried to laugh, but it came out as a sob. Derek rubbed his cheek against Stiles’ arm, thinking about his own father. It'd been ten years and it still hurt to think about. At least he had the pack - Stiles didn't have anyone. Well, he could change that.

Derek squeezed Stiles’ arm before leaning over in the opposite direction, grabbing his phone to text Laura.

is mom still making breakfast?

yeah, Laura texted back immediately. she wants 2 know about the omega in the woods tho

"Damn," Derek grumbled.

Everything ok?" Stiles asked uneasily.

"Yeah," Derek replied absently, texting Laura back. "My mom found that were from last night."

is she mad?

Talia always made huge breakfasts during heat week and Derek was feeling pretty ravenous. Beside him, though, Stiles still exuded an uncomfortable air and Derek lifted his head to look at him.

"You okay?"

Stiles chewed at his lip before asking, "Was that the first person you've ever killed?"

Derek thought about it, setting his phone down on the pillow. "No," he said finally. "There have been some disputes over the eastern edge of our territory and we've gotten violent." He felt guilty as he said this, thinking about Stiles' dad dying a territory dispute. "Never hurt a human, though."

"Oh."

Derek frowned, but Laura texted him back and he looked at his phone instead of replying.

mom says get ur butt over here and u can explain while u eat, u got 15 mins b4 she stops making pancakes

"Come on," Derek said, pushing himself up and out of bed. "Get dressed."

"Why?" Stiles asked warily.

"We're going to my mom's house for breakfast," Derek replied, pulling on a clean pair of jeans. “You don’t want to miss her pancakes.”

“Oh,” Stiles said again, but he sounded…kind of excited? Derek glanced over at him, but he couldn’t see his face as he pulled on a fresh t-shirt. His heartbeat was steady, though, which was reassuring. “Is it okay to leave? With the whole heat thing?”

“Yeah,” Derek said, though he wasn’t actually sure. He’d never had a heat week like this, with bouts of clarity between the periods of heat. Usually he spent the week locked up in the basement in a daze, jacking off or fighting to get out. Was this what being with a mate during heat week was like for everyone? He might have tried harder to find someone earlier, if he’d known.

The Hale house was warm and bright in the morning sun, full of the scent of pancakes and bacon and eggs and toast and all other breakfast menu items befitting a pack of sex-crazed werewolves. As Derek stepped into the house, he could hear Erica and Isaac and whoever Isaac had ended up with sitting in the living room, laughing at something on tv. Talia came out of the kitchen beaming, Derek’s brother Max trailing behind her.

“Where were you yesterday? I made waffles!”

“Oh,” Derek said, thinking of the wolfsbane. He looked over at Stiles, who had the grace to look embarrassed. “Busy.”

“Wonderful,” his mother smiled, clearly thinking they’d been doing something else. “Max, hon, you take Stiles into the dining room. I want to talk to your brother in the kitchen.”

“All right,” Derek said, nodding at Stiles, who nodded back and followed Max down the hall. Derek trailed his mother into the kitchen, which was large and airy. She picked up a bowl of pancake batter and began pouring pools of batter onto the griddle.

“So,” she said conversationally. “Tell me about the dead omega in the woods and why he smells like you.”

Derek shifted. “Stiles tried to run yesterday,” he admitted. “I was tracking him and he got caught – there were two of them, actually, but I let one go.”

Talia set the bowl down on the counter and turned to look at him, her brow furrowed. “And you killed the omega why?”

“Because he was trespassing,” Derek said. She raised an eyebrow and he added on in a mumble, “Because he touched Stiles.”

“Okay,” Talia said, turning back to the stove. She understood the wolf even better than he did. “And how’s it going with him?”

Derek gave the back of her head a dark look. He knew she could smell that they hadn’t had sex yet. “He tried and succeeded in poisoning me yesterday.”

His mother tilted her head toward the dining room and Derek turned to listen. He could hear Boyd talking and, faintly, Stiles’ heartbeat, reassuringly steady. “Do you like him?” she asked, head still tilted to the side.

“Jesus Christ, Mom,” Derek replied, shrugging uncomfortably. “I’ve known him for four days.”

“That’s not an answer,” Talia responded. She flipped the pancakes carefully, each cooked perfectly golden brown on one side. “You worry about him, though. I saw the way you watched him at dinner. You want him to be happy. You killed the omega that tried to hurt him. What does he smell like?” She tacked the question on at the end swiftly, ruthlessly, leaving Derek blinking.

“What does that—” He cut himself off, heart giving a heavy, off-beat thump inside his ribcage. Derek remembered a conversation he’d had with her years earlier, long before Kate. You’ll know your mate when you meet them, she’d said. They’ll smell like home. He thought of Stiles’ scent, comforting and warm and encompassing. He thought of the first night of his heat, when he’d woken up to the wolf howling Mate, mate, mate! He’d thought it was just a heat thing. “No. No. He’s human.”

“So was your father,” Talia said patiently. She slid the pancakes off the griddle and onto a plate, then set about pouring out more batter.

“He was not.”

“He was.” Talia cast Derek a sad smile over her shoulder. He could smell the feeling of loss on her, and it made his own heart ache. “I turned him when he asked for the bite, before any of you were born, but your father was one hundred percent human when I met him.”

“But it’s only been four days.”

“Your wolf knows,” his mother replied sagely. She turned, shoving the plate of pancakes into his hands. “Go eat. Don’t make things weird.”

Derek made a face. “You’ve definitely jinxed me now.” But he carried the fresh plate of pancakes into the dining room, where Boyd and Stiles and Max sat grouped at the dining table. He sat down next to Stiles, setting the plate down on the table, but couldn’t make himself look at him. Mate. That was…that couldn’t be right. He felt Stiles’ gaze on him, smelled the worry starting to build on him. Mate. He couldn’t sit there with Stiles smelling like that and bumped his shoulder against him. Stiles relaxed a little.

“Where’s Laura?” Derek asked.

“Upstairs,” Boyd said neutrally, and Derek scowled. He could use his sister right now. He needed a prep talk after Talia’s logic.

“He ate five pancakes,” Max broke in, pointing at Stiles.

“Oh yeah?” Derek made himself look at Stiles, who shrugged, smiling faintly. Derek looked at his little brother, the only human in a family of werewolves. “How many did you eat this morning?”

“Four,” Max laughed, and hopped out of his chair, running out of the dining room. Derek could hear him in the kitchen, chattering animatedly to their mother.

Derek helped himself to breakfast and chatted idly with Boyd about the trip to Aruba he and Erica were taking the following month. Derek watched Stiles out of the corner of his eye as he quietly ate the entire plate of pancakes Derek had brought up from the kitchen which was, frankly, impressive.

"How many is that?" Derek asked.

"Lost count around ten," Stiles replied airily. "I've got a special part of my stomach reserved for pancakes."

"You're going to be sick."

Stiles just snickered and moved onto a mountain of scrambled eggs. Derek sat back in his chair, content to just sit in the sun. It was hot, but not unpleasantly so and Derek let his eyes drift half shut. Stiles had to give up eventually, sitting back in his seat with a contented sigh. That sigh sent a shiver up Derek's spine. He wanted to hear that noise with Stiles heaving underneath him, wondered what he'd sound like with Derek's mouth on his dick, what he - Someone laid a gentle hand on the back of his neck and Derek jumped. Suddenly the sun was far too hot.

"You need to head home," Talia said from behind him, her fingers tense against his skin. Derek nodded, head heavy. He didn't know where this sudden wave of heat had come from, hadn’t even sensed it coming, but he needed to be out of the house. He rose to his feet and Stiles followed suit, managing to say, "Thank you for the food," to Talia before Derek pulled him out the door.

"Are you okay?" Stiles asked as Derek fumbled with his keys.

"Fine," Derek said, breathing shallowly through his mouth so he wouldn't have to smell Stiles. Mate, the wolf reminded him, extremely unhelpfully, as he climbed into the car.

It was worse in the car, Stiles' and Derek's scent mixed in a few scant cubic yards of air. He tried to focus on the road, blinking fiercely to keep his mind clear, but it was near impossible. He was harder than he ever remembered being in his life and all he could think about was Stiles. Stiles, on his hands and knees. Stiles, on his back, begging for release. Stiles, kissing his forehead and whispering I love you. Stiles, for his part, was looking extremely uncomfortable in the passenger’s seat, biting at his red lips. Derek refused to look over at him, but it was getting harder and harder to keep his head clear. He was going to drive off the road if he didn’t do something, so he pulled to the shoulder.

“Get out of the car,” Derek told Stiles.

Stiles hesitated. “Do you, uh, want help?” he asked, sounding a little breathless. “I-I can—”

Yes! roared the wolf.

“No,” Derek said bluntly, hating himself. “Get out and wait.”

Stiles bit his lip again and clambered out of the car. Derek had the patience to wait until the door closed and Stiles turned his back to the car before he unzipped his pants and pulled out his dick with shaking fingers. This was, maybe, the worst moment of his life, sitting in his car in the middle of the day, jerking himself off while his mate stood outside. Or that’s what he would decide later, but the moment Derek touched himself, a white haze filled his mind and the only thing he could think about was coming as soon as possible.

It didn’t take long. Derek pulled at himself in long, rough tugs of his hand, not bothering to be gentle. He needed release, and he needed it about ten minutes ago. He turned his head, staring at the back of Stiles’ red hoodie, aching for his touch. His dick jerked in his hand, leaking precome over his fingers. Derek’s teeth dug into his lips, bordering on fangs. He refused to make a noise, breathing frantically through his nose instead, inhaling the scent of Stiles. He imagined them together, entwined in bed, not even fucking, just being, and came with a barely contained grunt, arching off the seat, the steering wheel digging into his thighs.

Derek slumped back against the seat, breathing hard through his nose. The heat backed off, but it didn’t leave him completely like it had that first night. It remained hovering on the horizon, threatening, unsatisfied. Well, at least he’d be able to get them home before it hit again.

He wiped his hand on his shirt with a shrug; he’d gotten cum on it anyway, and it wasn’t like Stiles didn’t know what he’d been doing in here. He took another minute to get his breathing back under control, tucking himself into his underwear. Back in control – for the moment – Derek leaned across the passenger’s seat and rapped on the window. Stiles jumped visibly and turned. Derek gestured at him to get back in and he did so, his cheeks a ruddy pink.

They didn’t speak on the remainder of the drive, which was fine with Derek, because he was already getting hard again, and just standing in the elevator with Stiles was bad enough. When they got into the apartment, he said, “Do you need to use the bathroom?” and when Stiles said, “Uh, no?” he said, “Good,” and locked himself in. He climbed into the shower, still clothed, and jerked off again, then turned the water as cold as it could go. It helped, a little, clearing his head, but it wasn’t enough. His wolf knew his mate was on the other side of the door, and it wanted. Derek wanted, too. He wanted Stiles so bad he was pretty sure his dick was going to fall off from too much jerking off. That seemed well within the realm of possibilities.

Derek stayed in the shower for what seemed like – and probably was – hours. It was a good thing the building couldn’t run out of cold water. He felt raw when he finally stepped out, his skin pebbling into goosebumps, but the heat had faded enough that he felt he could go a few hours without touching himself. He stripped off his shirt, his pants and underwear having escaped ages ago, and wrapped a towel around his waist before stepping out of the bathroom.

Stiles was sitting in bed watching another movie – The Dark Knight, Derek thought – a plate of pizza on his lap. He watched Derek warily but offered, “I made pizza.”

“You just ate a small child’s weight in pancakes,” Derek grumbled, heading for the food cooling on the stove top.

“That was ages ago,” Stiles replied. “You were in there for like four hours.”

“Good,” Derek replied. That was four hours less of heat he wasn’t molesting his mate in. Only two and a half more days to go.

He could feel Stiles behind him, wanting to say something, and turned to glare at him. “What?”

“I could help,” Stiles offered, his cheeks flushing red again.

“No,” Derek said flatly. He wasn’t going to let it happen. He’d already hurt Stiles once. It wasn’t going to happen again, and he didn’t need Stiles feeling obligated to help him. He wasn’t going to take what wasn’t willingly given. He’d spent the last ten heats of his life alone, and he’d done fine, if you didn’t include last year’s nearly taking the door down incident. He could do this.

Derek ate his fill of pizza and then collapsed into bed. “Don’t let me touch you,” he rumbled into the pillow before falling asleep.

The next two days crawled by like this; Derek spent half his time in the shower, jacking himself raw, and the other half forcefully asleep, ignoring Stiles as much as possible. Stiles didn’t offer to help him again, though in the rare moments when he came out to eat, or just before he fell into fitful sleep, Derek could feel Stiles' dark eyes on him. He was very careful; though the wolf was howling unceasingly for Stiles’ touch, Derek made sure he woke every hour, and the instant he became hard he dove for the bathroom.

Friday afternoon found him in a fevered state. He couldn’t even get himself off any more, his skin so hot that the cold water hissed when it hit his skin. He didn’t know what to do; his heat had never been like this before. Was he broken? Did he have this to look forward to for the rest of his life? Fuck. Derek stumbled back to bed, landing on the covers with a thump, burying his face in his pillow with a groan of frustration. Stiles shifted beside him.

“Let me help you,” he said, and put his hand on Derek’s arm. Derek sucked in air sharply, because not only was this the first time that Stiles had touched him, it was like his touch pulled the heat from his skin, one cool point on his body.

“Why?” Derek mumbled into his pillow. He was fucking tired, all his resolution out the window in the grip of his heat. It hurt.

“I want to,” Stiles said, and Derek felt him lean in closer. “Y-you smell like – it just feels right.”

“What do I smell like?” Derek asked, his mouth going dry.

“I—” Stiles leaned in even closer, his body brushing against Derek’s back, sending spark juddering down his spine. “I don’t know. Like how our house used to smell after Mom was baking. Comfortable, I guess.”

Derek shifted his head slightly so he could look at Stiles’ face. His heart ached at all the possibilities stretched out before him. In his head, the wolf whined very quietly. “I’ve already hurt you,” he said quietly.

Stiles tilted his head. “You mean the other night?” he asked. “You didn’t. I mean, I didn’t enjoy it, but I know you didn’t mean to. And that was – I mean, you’ve been really good to me. I tried to poison you too, remember?”

Derek swallowed. “I don’t want you to feel obligated, because I—”

Stiles made an irritated noise, cutting through him. “Will you just listen?” he insisted. “I’m not lying to you! I want to do this.”

He wasn’t lying; there was no skip in his heartbeat, even though it sounded like his heart was going to beat its way out of his chest. Derek rolled onto his side, looking up into Stiles’ amber eyes and thinking about what a change had been wrought in him since Saturday, when he’d shuddered away from the slightest touch, avoided eye contact, and barely spoke. Derek wondered if the life he saw in him now was the Stiles he’d been before his dad died and his entire life went to shit.

“Okay,” Derek said and couldn’t help smiling at the pleased look that spread across Stiles’ face. Inside his head, the wolf howled with joy. Mate. The heat seemed to steady a little bit, letting him focus. Even though he needed to get off and Stiles wanted this, he knew that Stiles was wrecked inside – a week with Derek couldn’t have changed that. He didn’t know what Stiles’ sex life had been like before the brothel, but he’d been used and abused and probably never been taken care of properly and Derek was determined to do it right.

Derek shifted forward carefully and lifted a hand to brush his fingers against Stiles’ cheek. He could smell the nervousness rolling off of him, tainted with undercurrents of bravado and arousal. He wasn’t going to fuck this up, especially not after his fuck-up the other night.

He leaned forward and planted a soft, chaste kiss on Stiles’ chapped lips and then, reassured by Stiles’ heavy though steady heartbeat, pressed in further, Derek’s hand sliding around to cup the back of his head. Stiles made a very quiet noise, his lips parting. Derek took that as an invitation, biting gently at Stiles’ bottom lip before sweeping his tongue into his mouth, setting an easy, leisurely pace.

Stiles responded well to his touch, fighting back with tongue and teeth, one hand braced against Derek’s bicep. Derek tugged at his arms, rolling onto his back and pulling Stiles along with him so they lay chest to chest. He slid his hands up and down Stiles’ back as they made out, pulling up the back of his shirt so he could palm Stiles’ warm skin. Derek’s own body had cooled, though he still felt unbearably hot. The wolf in his head had gone quiet, waiting, knowing that it was going to get what it wanted. Being here, just kissing, left him feeling more lucid than he had since breakfast at his mom’s house two mornings ago.

Derek moved one hand to the side of Stiles’ neck, tilting his head so he could plant wet kisses to the bottom of his jaw, down the white column of his throat. He bit lightly at his skin, listening to the way Stiles breathed in sharply. The neck was a focal point for most wolves and Derek had a suspicion that if any of Stiles’…clients had ever bothered to give him any attention in bed rather than attend to their own desires, they’d have touched him here. Stiles’ scent didn’t change, however – if anything, his lust was overcoming the nervousness, which pleased Derek. He relaxed further, mouthing against Stiles’ collarbone, enjoying the tiny “Oh my god,” that slipped from Stiles’ mouth.

“Shirt off?” Derek suggested, pressing a kiss to the hollow of his throat.

“Yeah,” Stiles breathed, sitting up. “Yeah.” His cheeks were flushed that ruddy red again, the tips of his ears red too, but he seemed fine with pulling off his cotton t-shirt. Derek put out a hand, tracing the claw marks that crossed his torso. “My first customer,” Stiles told him, laughing anxiously, and Derek’s nose flared at the spike of unhappiness cutting through his arousal. “I didn’t want to give him a blow job.”

Derek snarled softly. If he found the were that had done it, he’d rip his throat out without a second’s hesitation. "Was he your first?"

Stiles stilled, the sour scent of misery seeping off him. "Yeah," he muttered. He swallowed. "Who - do you remember your first?"

Derek thought of Kate riding him in the back of her car, laughing harshly when he came too fast. "Yeah," he said quietly, wishing he hadn't brought it up. "It was nothing to be proud of." He looked up at Stiles, who sat twisting the fabric of his t-shirt between his fingers. "I'll treat you better than the bastard that did that to you."

Stiles smiled slightly. "You already have."

Derek lifted himself up on one elbow, leaning forward to kiss Stiles before pressing him back against the bed. Stiles shifted obligingly, one hand looping around the back of Derek's neck, the other spread flat against his side.

"I wish," Derek said, pressing his lips to Stiles' flushed skin, leaving a wet kiss with every word, "that I could have been there after your father died. I wish I could have saved you." He paused, listening to the soft noises Stiles made as Derek moved his mouth down his chest and stomach, teeth scraping against his skin. "I wish you'd never been hurt, never touched by anyone." Except me, he added in his head. Stiles sucked in a ragged breath and whether it was from Derek's words or the way his tongue slid across a nipple, Derek didn't know, but it sent a wave of heat crashing through him, sending his head spinning. "Tell me what you want," he said, his voice rough.

Stiles made a noise that was almost a sob and Derek stilled, wondering if he'd gone too far. He could smell arousal still but overwhelmingly mixed with anxiety and confusion; he couldn't tell what was going on in his head. "Stiles," Derek said softly.

"Sorry," Stiles gasped, his eyes shimmering with tears. "Sorry."

"What is it?" Derek moved to climb off of him, worried it was too much, that he'd said the wrong thing, but Stiles tightened the arm he had around Derek's neck.

"No," Stiles said. "I just - it's been so long since I thought someone actually cared about me. I - fuck," he said, and started sobbing.

Derek dropped back down, sliding his arms under Stiles and pulling him into a tight embrace. He ducked his head, pressing his cheek to Stiles' neck. He could feel Stiles' tears sliding against his temple but he didn't move, barely breathed as Stiles cried, clinging to his shoulders. His tears subsided slowly, leaving him hiccupping, and he lifted his arms from Derek to mop at his face.

"Oh my god," he muttered.

"It's okay," Derek told him quietly.

Stiles gave him a pained smile. "I know, I just - I haven't cried in a long time. For a long time I...I couldn't feel anything."

Derek kissed his neck, fingers rubbing against his spine. He knew that feeling too well. After Kate and everything that happened…well, he never thought he'd be happy again. The wolf whined in his head, distressed by his mate's unhappiness.

They laid in silence for a long time, Derek covering Stiles like a blanket, listening to him sniffle, his long fingers tensing and relaxing against Derek's back, over and over. Derek was still hard and he knew Stiles could feel him, aligned as they were, but he kept silent, patient. Eventually, Stiles said, "You're heavy."

Derek shifted onto his elbows, taking some of his weight off. "Better?"

Stiles nodded, looking up at him seriously. "Why are you being so nice to me? You don't owe me anything."

"Do I have to?" Derek replied, because saying You’re my mate was too much and anyway, he’d tried to be kind to Stiles before he knew they were mates anyway. "Can't I do good things because I want to?"

Stiles didn't respond, but a smile curled the corners of his lips - not as bright as the smile on his driver's license, but happy all the same. "Okay," he said. "Acceptable."

Derek smiled back and leaned forward to press his mouth to that smile. Stiles responded warmly, his fingers tightening against Derek’s skin. Derek tilted his head, rubbing his cheek against Stiles’ neck, inhaling his scent, letting it spiral through his head. He still smelled of melancholy, but as they moved, shifting against each other, happiness and arousal pushed through. That was enough for Derek, to know he could make Stiles happy.

“Hey,” he murmured against the paper-thin skin under Stiles’ collarbone where the brand sat, still healing. “Can I suck you off?”

Stiles took a shallow breath. “That – I’ve never—”

Derek lifted his head. “You’ve never had a blow job?”

Stiles flushed and muttered, “At the – people weren’t concerned with me getting off.”

Derek growled low in his throat and asked again. “Can I?”

“You – Yeah,” Stiles said, the flush spreading down his shoulders. Derek smiled in a predatory sort of way and kissed his way down Stiles’ stomach, hooking his fingers in the band of his sweatpants – Derek’s sweatpants, he noticed, with a flare of his nostrils – and pulled them down as he retreated down Stiles’ body. Derek curled his fingers around Stiles’ half hard length, jerking him to hardness as he tried to keep his head together. Stiles’ scent was overpowering down here, wrapping around Derek like a shroud. He pressed his nose to Stiles’ thigh, breathing heavily against his soft skin, cock jumping in his shorts. He was so hard, so ready to fuck Stiles senseless, but he wouldn’t. He’d move exactly as fast as Stiles needed him to.

Derek lifted his eyes to Stiles, who watched him with heavy-lidded eyes, mouth open. He kept the eye contact as he moved his mouth to Stiles’ dick, licking a sloppy line up his length before taking him in all the way, until the head of Stiles’ cock hit the back of his throat. He gave a full-body shudder at the way Stiles’ eyes went dark, a small, helpless noise slipping between his lips. It had been a long time since Derek had done this and he didn’t remember it being this good; Stiles tasted amazing in his mouth, salty with sweat and pulsing with heat. He could have stayed there forever, sliding his lips up and down, scraping his nails against Stiles’ balls, lapping up the precome leaking from him. Stiles’ breath came in tiny gasps, his fists tightening in the sheets as he watched Derek consume him. “Oh my god,” he muttered. “Oh my god, oh my god.”

Derek lifted his head with a wet popping noise, licking his lips. “You good?”

“Way past good,” Stiles said, his cheeks bright red. “Good was like a hundred miles back. Oh my god,” he added, hips shaking. Derek hooked his hands under Stiles’ knees, pushing his thighs back, and mouthed at Stiles’ balls, pulling them in one at a time and sucking. Stiles whimpered, his arousal so thick it was almost choking. Derek grinned and licked a thick path past his balls to the firm ring of muscles beyond. He lifted his head at Stiles’ shaky exhale.

“Is this okay?”

“Yes,” Stiles said faintly. “Yes, please.”

“Tell me to stop,” Derek told him seriously, “and I will.”

Stiles shook his head. “No,” he insisted. “Keep going. Keep going – fuck!” He tilted his head back, eyes screwing shut as Derek’s tongue moved against his entrance, circling the ring of muscle before pressing against it.

“Relax,” Derek murmured, rubbing his chin against Stiles’ inner thigh. “Come on, relax for me.”

Stiles let out a shuddery breath as Derek licked his way inside, his hand flying out to touch the top of his head, his touch uncertain. Derek lifted one of his hands from Stiles’ thigh and placed it over Stiles’, curling his fingers, showing him it was okay to hold on and he growled in approval when Stiles’ fingers tightened in his hair. He worked at Stiles until his jaw ached, fucking him with his tongue, his scent and taste driving the wolf in his mind mad with lust. He had to take one hand off Stiles’ leg to grind his hand against his crotch, so hard he could barely think. Stiles arched in his touch, gasping hollowly, so fucking beautiful. Derek tried not to get greedy but he had to slide a finger in along with his tongue, spreading Stiles, readying him. One finger became two, then three, and Derek lifted his head, watching Stiles’ hips rise to meet his hand. It was too much.

“Stiles,” he groaned, palming his cock.

“You can do it,” Stiles gasped, lifting his head. “I can – I need – Do you want me to flip over?”

The wolf wanted that very much, wanted Derek to mount his mate from behind like the beast he was, but Derek didn’t want that – he wanted to see Stiles’ face, wanted Stiles to be able to see his face. He wanted Stiles to know he was safe.

“No,” he said hoarsely, pulling off his gym shorts and getting on his knees. “You’re perfect just like that.” He reached past Stiles toward the nightstand, where his shaking fingers found the lube he'd bought when they'd gone shopping. 

Stiles flushed deeper, looking pleased. Derek smiled slightly and snapped open the lube, slicking himself up, then sliding a couple of wet fingers inside Stiles for good measure. He put his hands on Stiles’ waist, pulling him close, steadying him. “You’re sure,” he asked, one last time, lining himself up. He couldn’t stop himself from rubbing against Stiles’ entrance, not pushing in, just letting the precome leaking from him smear against the pink ring of muscle.

“I’m sure,” Stiles confirmed breathlessly. “Derek.”

Derek shuddered at his name and pressed in against him, mouth opening in a groan at how slick and hot Stiles felt. Stiles moaned underneath him, hands flying up to grip Derek’s shoulders. Derek moved slowly, not stopping until he’d bottomed out against Stiles’ thighs.

“Shit,” he breathed. “Holy shit.” Stiles – Stiles felt different than anyone he’d ever been in. He didn’t know what it was, but he felt right. Was this a mate thing? A heat thing? A mate in heat thing? He didn’t fucking care; he wanted to be moving, but he had to make sure Stiles was okay. Stiles had his eyes closed and Derek leaned forward, even that slight movement making him hiss. “Stiles,” he said. “Are you—”

“Are you going to move?” Stiles exclaimed, his eyes flying open. Derek paused and Stiles grinned. “You’re not stopping now.”

“No,” Derek agreed, one side of his mouth curling up. He sat back up, gripping at Stiles’ hips and slid almost all the way out before pushing back in slowly. He did this again and again, watching Stiles close his eyes, fingernails digging into Derek’s shoulders. Derek began to move faster, pumping his hips against Stiles’ in a steady rhythm, tilting his head back as the heat began to recede from his limbs, pooling below his stomach.

“Do you want me to touch you?” he asked Stiles, whose dick twitched at the question and he nodded without opening his eyes, panting. Derek slid a hand between them, curling his fingers around Stiles’ cock, pumping him steadily in time with his thrusts. They were both breathing fast now and Derek changed the angle, nearly bending Stiles in half, thrusting as deep and fast as he could.

“Oh my god,” Stiles started mumbling again. “Oh, oh—“ He came with a jerk and muttered curse, Derek’s hand milking the cum out of him. Derek hissed at the way Stiles tightened around him, and he kept moving, desperate, the heat in his groin unbearable.

“Fuck,” he groaned, rutting against Stiles, folding himself across the young man, barely pulling out, just thrusting, thrusting, the skin of their stomachs making a slick sound as sweat and cum kept their bodies lubricated. Derek felt his dick swell and then he was coming inside Stiles and they moaned in tandem. Derek slowed his thrusts, still coming, swelling inside Stiles. Mate! the wolf roared and under him, Stiles paused.

“What the fuck,” he said.

Derek pushed himself up onto his elbows, panting, bewildered. He could feel the base of his dick bulging, hot and harder than the rest of him, and he was still coming.

“What the fuck,” Stiles said again, “is wrong with your dick?!”

“My knot,” Derek breathed, his eyes widening. He remembered an embarrassing conversation with his father when he was probably thirteen. He’d blocked most of it out due to sheer mortification but if he strained, he could remember his dad talking about the wolf’s knot which only happened when…

“Your knot?” Stiles hissed, his eyes narrowing. “But isn’t that for…”

“Mates,” Derek supplied quietly. He’d stopped coming but he couldn’t pull out of Stiles without hurting him, the knot holding him firmly in place.

“Mates,” Stiles repeated flatly. “Oh my god.”

“Stiles—”

“This has been the weirdest week of my life,” Stiles said, and it didn’t really sound like he was talking to Derek, just the room at large. “Brothel.” He held up one hand. “Mates.” He held up the other. “If I had another hand, that one would be ‘emotional rollercoaster.’”

“I’m sorry—”

Stiles looked at him, frowning, and Derek stopped talking. “Is this something that you get to choose?”

“No,” Derek said quietly, his throat aching. “There’s only one.”

Stiles looked at him for a while longer, then turned his eyes to the ceiling. “Okay. I can deal with that, as fate seems to have pulled us together.”

“You don’t have to—”

“I know,” Stiles said simply. “But look, I want to be happy too, and I can see that happening with you. It’s a good thing you’re handsome, though.”

Derek snorted, trying to hide the relief flooding through him. He didn’t know why Stiles was so accepting of it but he wasn’t going to pick at it. The wolf was happy and Stiles was happy, so Derek was happy, and there hadn’t been a lot of that in his life. He wasn’t sure what he’d done to deserve Stiles, but he wasn’t going to fuck it up. He lowered himself down, relaxing against Stiles, and another burst of relief ran through him when Stiles lifted his arms, pulling them tightly around his neck.

“So how long are we stuck like this?” Stiles murmured and Derek turned his head, breathing in against his neck. Stiles smelled like warm grass and clear air and trust and more than anything Derek could have ever hoped for.

“Dunno,” Derek replied. “’s the first time it’s happened.”

“Okay,” Stiles said agreeably. “You’re cutting off circulation to my legs, though.”

“Are you saying I’m fat?” Derek asked, but flipped them easily, which allowed Stiles to spread out on top of him. Derek didn’t mind his weight; it was comforting. Stiles sniggered, no malice in his tone, and they lapsed into silence.

Derek thought about how utterly strange it was that less than a week ago he’d been miserable and alone, forced to buy a companion for heat week and how he’d ended up with a broken young man full of hurt and mistrust. And now he lay in bed with that same young man, still broken – there was nothing Derek could do to fix that, not in a week – but happy in his company, connected in the most intimate way. It was mind boggling.

A while later, Stiles said sleepily, “I think my mom would have liked you.”

Derek dragged his knuckles up Stiles' spine slowly, bumping against each vertebrae. “Oh?”

“Yeah,” Stiles sighed, his breath warm on Derek’s cheek. “I wish she was here. …Well, not right here here, like in this moment here, but just…around.”

“What happened to her?”

“She died when I was ten,” Stiles said quietly. “Cancer.”

Derek butted his forehead against Stiles’ cheek. “And your dad?” he asked, trying to distract Stiles from the sadness seeping off him. “What would he have thought of me?”

“Probably would have threatened to shoot you,” Stiles mumbled. “I think he was disappointed that I never dated anyone in high school because he didn’t get to play the big bad cop dad.” He sighed again, stretching his arms out. “Can I ask you where your dad is? I – It didn’t seem like he was at the house.”

Derek shifted quietly, his fingers tightening. “He’s dead,” he said, very quietly. “I got him killed.”

Stiles lifted his head, giving Derek a worried look and it was Derek’s turn to sigh. “When I was in high school,” he said carefully, “I met a woman I thought I loved and I thought she loved me back.”

Stiles brow furrowed. “And?”

“She was a hunter.”

“Oh.”

Derek closed his eyes. The country’s population could basically be broken down into four types of people; werewolves, humans belonging to packs, humans like Stiles – runaways and slaves – and hunters. Hunters served as a sort of balancing force between werewolves and humans, moving from town to town as they pleased. They took care of werewolves gone rabid and corralled escaped humans. Most of them were impartial, following a strict code, only killing werewolves that had killed humans. Kate’s family, the Argents, came from a long line of hunters and most of them were decent but she…

“She was crazy,” Derek told Stiles quietly. “She hunted all weres, not just the violent ones. Our pack – we were an easy target, I guess, since our pack is so small, and she…she fooled me and wormed her way into my family.”

“Derek, you don’t—”

“I have to,” Derek said, gritting his teeth. “She lit our house on fire, Stiles. My dad died trying to get my little sister out. They both died, and it’s my fault.” He stared past Stiles, up at the ceiling. He could still hear his mom screaming. He could remember the lick of flames at his skin and Laura throwing him through a window to get him out.

“You couldn’t have known,” Stiles said softly.

“I should have,” Derek said bitterly. “The things she used to say. I should have paid attention. I could have stopped it.”

Stiles was quiet for a long time. “What happened to her?” he asked finally.

“We had a hunt,” Derek said bluntly. He hadn’t participated, too sick with guilt to even move, but he’d heard it far off in the Preserve, Kate screaming as the pack tore her apart.

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Sure,” Derek agreed, “but the rest of her family turned a blind eye. They didn’t agree with what she did, and moved away pretty soon after that.”

“Oh.” Stiles slid a hand through Derek’s hair. “You said the Argents, right? I think I know them.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. The family moved into town a few years after my mom died. Scott – my best friend – dated one of them in high school and her dad hated him, because he’s a were too. They’re probably married now,” Stiles added glumly and Derek could hear the ache in his voice, missing his hometown and his old life. Derek wondered if he could get in contact with the Rosalia alpha and negotiate a trip back. It would probably be good for Stiles.

“Hey,” Stiles said, breaking through Derek’s thoughts. “I just wanted to say – thanks.”

“For what?”

“For – for everything,” Stiles said, gesturing around. “I haven’t – no one’s treated me this well in a long time. And I can’t really say I understand the whole mates thing, but I’m okay with it. More than okay. I just…don’t want to be alone any more.”

Derek listened to the steady beat of his heart and something in his own heart lightened at the truth in Stiles’ words. “Neither do I,” he said quietly, turning his face against Stiles’ neck. Stiles made a soft, contented noise against him and they fell asleep like that, draped in each other’s warmth.

Later, when Derek woke up to darkness and Stiles’ weight still on top of him, he couldn’t help but smile. There was still a lot to talk about but he couldn’t help but feel that everything was going to be okay.

-

THREE MONTHS LATER

Derek moved out of the studio and into a one-bedroom apartment because Stiles hinted that it would be nice to have a living room and a kitchen that wasn’t in the bedroom and, like, “a real grown-up apartment, Derek.” Derek grumbled about it but didn’t really put up a fight, because Stiles had a lot of energy, and sometimes the studio seemed way too small to contain all of it.

Derek bought a computer, which he claimed was for work but was really for Stiles, so he could get on Facebook and track down his old friends in Rosalia, including his old best friend Scott. That was why the two of them stood on the front steps of the Hale house now, watching the driveway. Stiles was bouncing on the balls of his feet, a bundle of anxiety and nerves. Laura had waited with them for a while but eventually went back inside, proclaiming that all of Stiles’ bouncing was making her nauseous though, to be fair, most things did these days. Heat week’s biological imperative had been a success, in her and Tim’s case; she was pregnant, and the news brought a joy into the pack that hadn’t been present since before Derek’s dad died.

Derek looked over at Stiles, whose eyes were focused on the long driveway, and smiled slightly. The past three months hadn’t been easy, exactly – Stiles had a lot of issues he was working through. He had trouble sleeping and sometimes shut himself off completely. The only person he would talk to during these times was Talia, which made Derek a little jealous (if he was being honest) but then, she was the alpha and more of a mom than anything, and Derek knew Stiles needed that. It had taken time for Stiles to relax completely around him,; sometimes he still carried himself like he expected pain around every corner, but one day Derek had been treated with the broad, bright grin he’d seen on Stiles’ license, and it was making appearances with increasing frequency.

Derek tilted his head as he picked up the sound of a car coming down the road but he said nothing, letting Stiles catch it on his own. When he did notice it, Stiles breathed, “Oh my god, Der, what am I going to do?”

“Just be you,” Derek replied encouragingly, catching his hand and threading their fingers together. “He tolerated you before, he’ll put up with you now.”

“Asshole.” Stiles clicked his tongue and punched Derek on the arm, but he was grinning. Then he stiffened as an beat-up sedan rounded the turn in the drive and coughed its way toward them, pulling to a stop in front of the house. A stocky young man with olive skin scrambled out of the driver’s side, shouting unintelligibly. Next to Derek, Stiles burst into tears and dashed off the porch, throwing himself at the young man.

Derek had to fight back the jealousy that flared in him at the sight of his mate flinging himself at another were, but this was necessary. Instead, he crossed the lawn to help a heavily pregnant young woman pull herself out of the passenger’s side. This was Allison, Kate’s niece, and Derek tried not to flinch at the way she looked like Kate. There was kindness in her face, though, where Kate’s had been all bad temper. He very faintly remembered Allison as a young girl, an impish face and brown waves of hair. Strange that she would end up living hundreds of miles away, mated to his mate’s best friend.

“Hi,” she said to him as he caught her elbow, helping her lever herself out of the car. “Derek? I – My dad said to—”

“It’s in the past,” Derek said quickly, hearing the apology in her voice, the need to express regret for Kate’s actions. “Your family did nothing to us.” He changed the subject quickly, jerking his head toward Stiles and Scott, who were both crying and shouting at the top of their lungs. They looked like idiots, but at least they were happy. “He made you come all this way in your condition?”

“I insisted,” Allison smiled. “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything; Stiles was my friend, too. Which reminds me,” she added, turning back to the car and opening the door to the back seat. “We brought some stuff down for Stiles. Scott’s had it at his house for ages.”

Derek moved around her and lifted out a cardboard box. He could see photos, old books, sports trophies, papers, a jewelry box – all sorts of mementos.

“He lived with Scott after his dad died,” Allison explained. “He couldn’t take much from the house and he couldn’t carry it with him when he left town, so Scott’s mom kept it up it up in the attic. We all hoped he’d come back some day.” Her face softened, sorrow lining her features. “If – if we’d known where he’d ended up, we—”

“Don’t beat yourself up,” Derek said, patting her on the shoulder awkwardly. “He’s safe now.”

“Yeah,” Allison agreed, smiling slightly. “Scott says he always talks about you. I’m really happy you found each other.”

“Yeah,” Derek said, looking over at the two friends. They’d stopped shouting, at least. Stiles caught him looking and blew him a kiss, grinning as bright as a sunbeam. Derek rolled his eyes but couldn’t help smiling. “Me too.”