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Kintsugi

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Kintsugi

 

 

Derek is only too aware of what he looks like.

 And he is young, only too young, when he discovers what it entails.  

 

It starts when mirrors stop showing back the chubby body of his childhood but replace him with an alien adolescent, drawn in harsh angles and muscles. Times rubs out day after day all sweetness from Derek's face and leaves in its place severe eyebrows and rough features. When he laughs with his family, the sound is now hoarser, deeper.

He has to wield a blade against his cheeks every morning. Once, he cuts himself, high on his cheekbone and his uncle Peter huffs. Derek learns that his wounds are no longer serious matters to others.

Students give him a wide berth in the halls. When he walks home at night, women cross the street and send him nervous looks.

 

He brings a new pen to class, with bright pink feathers and a bobbly head, and his friends laugh until they cry at Laura’s gift. There is a new circus in town, with a trained bear and ponies, and the man handling the flyers snorts when Derek stretches his hand to grab one. The lacrosse coach comes in person to recruit him. Derek explains politely that his Wednesdays and Fridays are for the book club. The coach dismisses it with a laugh.

Derek throws away the pen. He doesn’t go to the circus. He spends his Wednesday and Friday on the lacrosse field.

He doesn’t laugh that often anymore.

 

One morning, his dad comes to hug him but suddenly stops, smelling like embarrassment. From there on, Derek’s mornings only start with a rough clasp on the shoulder.

One afternoon, Derek is wrestling with Cora in the dirt and throwing her in the air. She squeals in delight and Derek beams at her little face high in the sky, before catching her and swinging her around to make her laugh some more. When they get back inside the house, their mom isn’t smiling. She looks anxious and she winces when Derek gruffly ruffles Cora’s hairs.

One Christmas, his aunt hesitates just too long before letting Derek carry his new baby cousin.

One summer, his grandmother only invites Laura and Cora to help her in the garden. When Derek tries to follow anyway, leather gloves in hands, she shoos him in the direction of the garage. For weeks, his grandfather teaches him everything about engines and cars. Derek can hear his sisters laugh outside.

 

At sixteen, Derek still wants to hug his dad, play with Cora, coo at his baby cousins and help his grandma keep the birds away from the cherry trees. He still misses Laura’s gifts.

But somehow, he’s now too big, too strong to enjoy that anymore.

They all decided for him that he is a man now.

 

And Derek wants so badly to belong again. He starts to pay more attention to the looks, the comments, and uses them as blueprints. He notes which edges are no longer acceptable and chips them off himself, one by one.

The touching and the playful shoving. The hot chocolate at night and the bright backpack. The trembling lips when he breaks his bones and the jumps on Laura’s back.

He pours himself into the perfect mold of contained gestures, quiet voice and dry jokes. Harmless but solid.

 

Then, Kate.

 

His metamorphosis fossilizes in lies and flames and blood.

He walks out of it sharp as a blade, unyielding, all softness burned to ashes.

 

 

So.

Derek knows what he looks like. He worked his whole adult life at forging it.

And he is well aware of what it inspires in others.

 

He sees it when a clerk looks at him with barely hidden hunger, chin on her hand behind the register, while Derek helps another employee to lift a fallen shelf. He sees it in men and women in badly lit clubs, their hands roaming all over his arms and their bodies throwing him violently against walls.

He saw it in Kate’s manic grins when he used to carry her using only one arm, saw it in Braeden’s appreciative smirks when she bit him and he didn’t even grunt, in Jennifer’s victorious smiles every time he left bruises on her skin.

It even floats in his pack’s behavior. In the way Erica licks her lips when Derek throws Scott to the other side of the clearing during training. In the lack of surprise in Allison’s eyes, the first time she walked into his half-broken loft. The surprise in Lydia’s when she discovered Derek had throw pillows. The stoic nods of Boyd in the mornings, and the frightful way Isaac still steps back when Derek moves too sharply. How they always order fancy milkshakes but only bring him back a simple, vanilla one.

The script for Derek's life was written too long ago, his role cast on his angles and muscle and fangs.

The rails are easy, comfortable to follow after all this time. Derek wears black, he trains his body and he doesn’t talk. It’s almost an ingrained reflex now to excuse, rationalize any softness entering his life.

 

He was freezing, so he bought the warm gloves.

There was a stain on the couch, so he bought the pillows to hide it.

It was not expensive, so he brought the painting back.

He thought Erica would like it, so he bought the funny shower curtain.

Isaac is soothed by lavender, so he changed the soap for the new fancy type.

 

He doesn’t think about it anymore.

 

--

 

Since the very first day, Stiles has been a permanent shockwave to Derek’s senses.

He moves with the skittishness of prey but stares back with the gaze of a predator, bites with words sharper than fangs but is wrapped in a skin begging to be bruised. He shatters so easily and yet never breaks.

He’s a study in paradoxes, surrounded by an alluring smell, like sugar and drugs and lust, like an irresistible itch to scratch. Addictive.

 

And Derek has been tempted. For so, so long.

He dreams frequently of pinning Stiles to a bed somewhere and keeping him there for days. To kiss and lick and bite and fuck, until Stiles no longer feels like a shard of electricity and hunger shoved too deep under Derek’s skin.  

 

But he can’t.

Because Stiles is built for love.

It’s in every fiber of his being, encoded in his marrow. It spills out of him in smiles, laughs and touches. He’s a constant haemorrhage, badly staunched by sarcasm and humor.

 

There are pictures of a little boy with wild hair, a running mouth and laughing eyes all over the Stilinski’s house. Derek likes to look at them when Stiles isn’t paying attention and imagine him running and obsessing and adoring.

It’s almost heartbreaking how, somewhere down the road, Stiles' design has been distorted.

 

Derek doesn’t know if it was crushed by long years spent loving as hard as possible and still losing his mom piece by piece. If it was rubbed raw by loving his father with everything he still had to give, only to watch him drown in a bottle. If it wore out under a life of throwing himself at people, only to get discarded.

Some of these things, or all of them, somehow turned the little boy with the too bright smile into the adult who would let his bones grind to dust, his body burn to ashes and his blood run dry before letting anyone hurt his people.

Turned into the kid with eyes broken in two when he heard the word “mom”, the adolescent who stopped breathing to hear more easily the rhythm of his father’s heartbeat, the friend who followed Scott into terror without one look back. The adult too wary of strangers and too trusting with friends.

 

Stiles is a tragedy waiting to happen. A broken, twitchy, loud, beautiful disaster.

Derek would have worshipped him, years ago.

 

But Derek is too tired.

Tired of falling in love with whirlwinds only to end up shattered on the ground. Tired of pain, tired of hurting himself again and again. Tired of adrenaline and love razor-sharp and risks.

 

So he keeps himself safe and only watches Stiles from afar.

Stiles, sixteen and terrified and angry. Stiles, eighteen and beautiful and exhausted. Stiles, twenty and brilliant and laughing and too sharp.

 

For a long time, he convinces himself that it’s good enough.

 

---

 

The first time it happens it’s only something small, but it echoes through Derek’s life with the clarity of a gong.

 

They all had lunch in Lydia’s backyard, her parents absent once more, and ate an indecent amount of meat and greasy chips. Two hours later, after too many stupid games and cheap beers, the members of the pack are sprawled everywhere in the sunlight, a painting in lethargy and decadence.

Scott is in the pool, head down on the floating mat, legs and hands in the water. Allison and Kira are talking in the shadow of a tree, Isaac’s head resting between them, asleep. Boyd sits on the side of the pool, yawning and playing with Scott’s mat with the tip of his toes. Erica and Lydia are on deck chairs, clothes off and shamelessly tanning in their underwear. This is Lydia’s house. Erica’s bra see through.

Derek is repressing the hell out of the whole scene.

Danny is perched in a tree a few feet away, his feet batting the air, throwing cherries at Jackson. Jackson tries –and fails—to catch them with his mouth while still grilling meat on the barbecue because the man is more stomach than wolf at this point. Stiles is lying in the grass, legs and arms spread everywhere and nose already pinking under the autumn sun.

Derek is the only one actively doing something, valiantly trying to keep their mess in check. Armed with a garbage bag, he roams around the garden, picking up plastic cups and paper plates. He finds a lonely fork half buried in a bush and a can of beer bobbing in the pool.

Derek sighs.

 

He is rounding the corner of the house, eyes focused on an abandoned bone in the grass—he blames Jackson—when Stiles beckons him closer with a lazy wave of hand. Derek approaches, distracted but compliant.

When his attention actually focuses on Stiles, he’s holding up a poppy.

The flower is tiny, its stem bent and its petals already dropping a little in the heat. Derek blinks at it.

 

“For you,” explains Stiles simply, trying to shove the flower at Derek without getting up. “It’s pretty, so I thought of you.”

 

Derek must stare at it for too long because Stiles starts to frown and lets his hand fell. Derek grabs it in a sudden rush, feeling clumsy but unwilling to lose it now that it's been offered. He looks at the poppy, so frail in his hands.

When he turns toward Stiles to thank him awkwardly, Stiles is already curled in a ball in the grass, yawning, weird gift obviously forgotten.

 Derek sits down, not knowing what to do, and his knee nudges Stiles’ thigh. Stiles pats the ground next to him.

 

“Come on big guy. It’s nap time,” he grumbles, voice already drowsy.

 

Derek lies down silently and puts the poppy delicately on the back of his hand.

 

Pretty.

 

Derek spends the next hour listening to the whispers of conversations and the quiet heartbeats of his pack. His gaze doesn’t stray away from the flower, bewildered.

 

-

 

When Derek finally gets home, it’s late in the afternoon and, despite all his precautions, the poppy is now a mess of broken pieces of flower. They are petals everywhere, creased and slightly darkened at the edges, and the stem is definitely bent in two.

Derek lays all the pieces between the pages of the biggest book he can find.

 

He closes the book tightly and hides it in his nightstand.

 

---

 

The pack comes back from their black Friday shopping frenzy in the mall next town only to invade Derek’s loft in a landslide of laughs and voices.

 

Derek drags himself from his room when it seems obvious that they will not leave, rubbing his face to get rid of the last tendrils of sleep clinging to his brain. He opens his eyes only to discover that his living room has been turned in a battlefield of wrapping paper and boxes.

 

Kira is hopping on one leg, clinging to Boyd’s shoulder, trying to force a new running shoe on her foot. Boyd is wearing an awful Christmas sweater with a creepy reindeer doing something horrible to a teddy bear. Boyd looks absolutely ecstatic in his own, stoic way.

Jackson and Isaac are both wearing the same exact new scarf, and they look like two runaway models. Derek is vaguely surprised that they didn’t claw each other's eyes out and had learned to share. Scott is eating chocolates, handfeeding them to anyone coming close enough.

Erica is wearing a cape made of velvet, long enough to reach her knees. She looks stunning in it and will surely be once more the talk of the town. Derek has broken too many petty fights with old people in supermarkets over Erica’s sartorial choices to believe otherwise. Allison is sitting on the floor, doing something very precise to something very sharp. Lydia has Stiles spread on the couch, his hands in hers. She is efficiently painting each of his nail in a different color, obviously trying her new nail polishes on a live test subject.

 

Stiles sees Derek from the corner of his eyes and starts motioning frantically at him over the back of the couch, his scent heavy with excitement. Lydia hisses and brings his hands back in their place.

“Scott, give Derek his gift!” orders Stiles, waving at a bag with his foot. There is a hole in his sock, and a toe is peeking out of it.

Scott jumps toward the bags happily, extracting and throwing at Derek a box wrapped in shiny paper. Derek catches it, surprised. Everybody is more or less staring at him so he opens it cautiously, his fingers immediately sliding on soft wool. He unfolds and raises at eye level a big, corded sweater in deep green.

“There are thumb-holes!” Stiles is almost vibrating in his enthusiasm.

“You are the only one in the room fantasying that much about thumb-holes Stiles,” Jackson butts in absently, adjusting his new scarf in the reflection of the turned off TV.

“It’s adorable on him,” answers Stiles. Allison and Isaac nod loyally.

 

Derek is currently trying to put the sweater on and he swallows hard at the word “adorable”. He emerges with downcast eyes and his hair all over the place after rubbing against the wool. The sweater is soft, softer than any piece of clothing he has ever bought. It’s also too big, sagging on the sides of his shoulders and floating around his belly and hips. It’s long enough to reach the top of his thighs.

 

“Stilinski, you clearly have a distorted vision of Derek’s actual muscle mass,” immediately notes Jackson with a smirk.

“I wanted him to be comfortable!” Stiles defends himself, “Derek's clothes are always so tight. I am all in favor of it, but winter is made for comfortable things to snuggle in.”

Boyd, in his ugly sweater, approves in a whisper. Erica whispers back something highly disturbing about the tightness of Derek’s clothes that they all decide to ignore.

Derek pulls the sleeves up a little to slip his thumbs in the holes. Stiles beams at him.

 

Lydia looks up at Derek and sighs. “This is atrocious.”

Stiles tries to bat at her but she doesn’t release his hands, only raising an eyebrow at him.

Please. It’s Derek. He could wear a costume made of human skin and he would still look dashing. It’s his superpower.”

“Gross,” comments Scott plainly, a chocolate suspended centimeters from Allison’s mouth. She rolls her eyes and bites his finger

“Kind of true though,” adds Kira with a thoughtful look.

 

“You look very cute,” insists Stiles, ignoring Scott. He is all twisted on the couch, his hands still in Lydia’s and only half of his face visible. But his smile is shining in his eyes, and the effect with all the moles and the long eyelashes is kind of heartbreaking.

“Thank you,” Derek answers quietly, bunching his hands against the end of the sleeves.

 

--

 

“Coffee. Large. Black.”

“Absolutely not,” Stiles rolls his eyes and shoves Derek away from the cash register, in a move close to a side tackle. “He is going to take a large pumpkin spice with a lot of whipped cream. Seriously, don’t listen to his eyebrows, go heavy on the cream. Also, sprinkles everywhere.”

“Stiles,” growls Derek.

“No,” Stiles waves one finger in his face. Derek fights every instinct in his body yelling at him to bite it a little. “I’m putting my foot down. I don’t know where these self-sacrificing tendencies come from, but we have to work on it buddy. And we are going to start by not spending an obscene amount of money into a coffee you obviously hate.

After a second of thought he turns toward the cashier. “No offence.”

The man holds his hands in the air with an amused smirk.

“I always drink my coffee black,” contradicts Derek, throwing a furtive glance at the cashier. The man doesn’t look too judgmental, but he doesn’t look like he believes Derek either.

“Yes, and you hate it,” insists Stiles heavily. “You wrinkle your nose in distaste every time. Don’t get me wrong, somehow on you it works and looks absolutely charming, but it’s stupid.”

 Derek decides to keep silent, unwilling to process Stiles’ sentence enough to answer it. But he does throw his credit card at the cashier faster than Stiles. Stiles shakes his head and pats his arm.

“Yeah, yeah, you are a big provider. Well done you.”

They take their drinks, leaving behind an overtly laughing cashier. The other barista, a petite blonde with a big smile and an impressive cleavage, sends an intrigued glance in her colleague's direction.

 

When they leave the shop with their coffees, there is a phone number on Stiles’ cup.

 

He doesn’t give it more than a brief glance, too busy ranting about the upcoming Star Wars movie. When he throws the empty cup in the bin, he doesn’t bother writing the number down.

Derek hides a smile in his coffee.

 

He has to admit that the sprinkles are quite amazing.

 

--

 

Derek walks head first into a wall.

He didn’t know these things happened to people outside of movies. Or Stiles.

 

“What are you wearing?” he yelps, carefully staying plastered against the wall. His heartbeat is all over the place and his nose hurts. Scott’s smirk is almost a physical presence pressing against Derek’s shoulder blades.

“Well, it’s the middle of the night. You know, what with the sky not being blue and shit? So like a normal human being, I’m in my pajamas because I was hoping to sleep. I know, I know, silly me,” mutters Stiles, his voice grumpy.

 

Derek turns prudently and has to shove back a groan of pain. He’s almost certain that the whole thing is a bad hallucination.

“Those are not pajamas,” he protests weakly.

Stiles throws a dark look at him, his hair a complete disaster and his cheek creased by the pillow. “I’m sorry. I forgot that I ordered a visit from the fashion police,” he snaps, turning his computer on with more force than necessary.

“Stiles,” Derek insists again because this is important, “you are wearing a woman's nightshirt.”   

 

The nightshirt is made of white, soft cotton. The sleeves are long, one of them rolled up to Stiles’ elbow and the other almost covering the tip of his fingers. The bottom is cut short, with slits high on both sides and little blue bows at the top. There is way too much leg on display for Derek’s sanity.

There is a clutter of moles high on Stiles’ right thigh that looks like the perfect configuration for Derek’s mouth. The knowledge will now haunt him forever. He will go to his grave with this exact constellation branded into his brain.

 

“Ok, first of all, if you really want to play the “let’s attribute a gender to random objects” game at four in the morning, this is my nightshirt. So it’s a man's nightshirt. Second, it’s really comfy and the girls from the club gave it to me for my birthday,” mumbles Stiles around the pen between his teeth, hands juggling several books.

“Also, it makes your ass looks really good,” pipes up Scott, because Scott is basically the worst beta ever.

“That too,” acquiesces Stiles, pointing at Scott with an elbow. He wriggles his hips playfully in demonstration.

 

Derek wants to cry at the unfairness of the world.

 

--

 

Random pictures start appearing in Derek’s flat.

 

Lydia laughing. Erica on Boyd’s back, smearing lipstick all over his cheek. Derek with a book in his hands, barefoot and curled in his armchair, wrapped in the big green sweater. Scott and Isaac trying to mimic Dirty Dancing’s final scene. Allison and Kira frowning, focused on a fierce thumbs battle. The pack around a monopoly set, Jackson handling the bank with a frightening glint of pleasure in his eyes. Melissa, Scott, Isaac and Derek, all drinking tea around an old table. All of them posing on the beach in the winter, the sky grey and their cheeks red.

 

Derek never catches anyone putting them up on the furniture but they all smell like Stiles, happiness and excitement, and come in handmade frames covered in sequins and rhinestones. It’s awfully tacky. Derek’s flat is drowning in the scent of glue for days.

After two weeks of this, he prints his favorite pictures of Stiles, shamefully hidden deep in his phone. The one where he is perched on Derek’s countertop, leaning forward with his elbows on his thighs and his head on his fist. He is looking on the left, face soft and beautiful in the light.

Derek takes the time to create a frame worthy of the picture, using Stiles’ favorite pasta and some horrific shiny paint in a bright pink. The whole thing is monstrous and so heavy that the frame tends to fall back if someone even talks too loud.

 

When Stiles comes into the loft and sees it for the first time, his smile is so beautiful that Derek has to look away.

 

--

 

Stiles cooks like countries go to war.

It always starts with beautifully crafted plans and good intentions and ends up running in every direction, with awful noises, broken things and often human casualties.

The results of all this carnage alternate between barely adequate and stunning, depending on the day. Every new attempt is an exercise in faith.

 

They are all used to it. They usually keep an ear on the kitchen at all time, wary of too much or too little noise. Derek is now able to predict the level of damages by the way Stiles is humming under his breath.

But while Stiles with vegetables and flour can somehow end up in the creation of a small bomb, there is one culinary exercise in which he excels: hot chocolate.

 

They don’t know where it comes from. Some think that he has a secret old family recipe. Others that he laces it with illegal substances. Isaac believes that Stiles is a wizard.

Stiles keeps shrugging and explaining that he uses the first recipe he found online.

After three years, it has become a tradition.

 

Cora never leaves for her new pack without a big bottle of it. Isaac gets up at night to lick the pan if they don’t wash it. Jackson has been surprised crawling inside the Stilinski’s house after a particularly bloody fight to beg for some. They use it as their own currency, gamble their own portion from movie night to win the most intense bet.

Derek never bet his own.

Every time it’s the same thing. He’s always served first, apparently the only Alpha privilege Stiles deems worthy of consideration, in a huge mug with a smiling moon and dozens of stars. There is always a lot of whipped cream, the quantity almost reaching obscene levels after long days of fighting a creature of the week.

 

Stiles always finishes it with a flourish and a happy smile, covering it in colored sprinkles.

 

--

 

Once again, foreign wolves are crossing their borders. For the first time, they are not hostile.

Two days ago, Derek received a call from their tired but polite Alpha, asking for safe passage through Beacon Hills for three of her pack.

 

A family of wolves was murdered in the south a week ago, one child escaping by pure luck. The kid had been placed in the system before the hunters could finish the job.

The Alpha’s brother and his partner left for the orphanage the same day to bring the child back into the pack. They had not predicted the level of obsession from the hunters, who started hunting them down as soon as the kid was outside of the group home. 

Derek evidently accepted, and even proposed the pack’s help in handling the hunters and keeping the three fugitives safe for a while.

Chris Argent, only too keen to help intercepting hunters using children as target, has started a crisis team with Allison and the Sheriff. By the texts Stiles keeps reading out loud while laughing, the Sheriff is becoming more and more alarmed by the number of traps the Argents have set and by their frankly lax relation with homicide laws.

 

The whole pack is in Derek’s loft, as always, waiting for the three strangers to join them. There is nothing they can do for the next hours so they are all enjoying the temporary peace.

Lydia is in front of the TV, looking severe and vaguely disappointed in them, brandishing frightening note card in flashy colors. She has decided to stuff some werewolf etiquette into their heads whether they want it or not before the arrival of the alien pack’s members. Her knowledge is far too accurate for a human, and Derek’s wonders if Lydia has been secretly chatting with Malia.

He is too busy melting into the couch to really worry about it.

 

Stiles is staring at Lydia, obviously fascinated. His eyes are almost shining in excitement and he asks the weirdest questions, his brain clearly firing in every direction. His hands are on Derek’s hand, playing with it unconsciously. His fingers are roaming all over Derek’s palms, massaging his wrist, turning it over and over, following blindly the pathway of his veins and tendons.

Derek doesn’t really know how they got to this point. Can’t remember to the moment they started to get into each other personal space so often and so easily that touches between them stopped registering as an abnormality.

Stiles likes to use Derek as a giant anti-stress ball some days, always playing with part of his clothes or touching him in some innocent way when he becomes too anxious. It’s so usual now that Derek has surprised himself leaning automatically toward Stiles when his heartbeat accelerates in a certain way, as conditioned as Pavlov’s dogs.

It’s hard to fight against it. Unknowingly, Stiles’ presents behaviors so close to werewolf mentality that Derek just can’t shake it off, something in him purring in delight about scent marking and pack bond.

 

Stiles pushes on one of Derek’s finger pads, slowly, curiously, like one would push on a cat’s paw. Derek obligingly lets one of his claw slide out of his finger and Stiles’ head lowers down, smiling in delight. He’s looking back at Lydia the next instant but he also starts petting the side of Derek’s claw with his knuckles.

Derek closes his eyes and buries his head in the red throw pillow to nap.

 

--

 

The kid is a little thing, with eyes flickering yellow in distress and fangs falling down uncontrollably. He doesn’t talk, doesn’t cry, doesn’t try to hide.

He smells like all the things that should never exist around a child. Terror and loneliness and grief.

 

He’s four, called Alex and he falls instantly in love with Stiles.

Derek can’t blame him.

 

The day of their arrival in the loft passes in a flurry of emergencies. The Alpha’s brother has been shot with wolfsbane a few miles away from Beacon Hills, and they only barely save him. He’s left weak, with black veins crawling all over his back. His mate, a wolf with curly ginger hair and a serious expression, spends his day on the phone, calm in appearance but fear pouring out of him.

Alex is staying in the Stilinski house, deemed the safest place in Beacon Hills. Derek is staying with them while the others patrol the territory, his protective instincts made completely crazy by the combined scent of Stiles and a child in distress.

 

Inside the house, times crawls. Derek runs in circle, checking over and over the locks and windows only to rush back to Stiles and Alex in a panic. The phone calls are few and only confirm that the hunters apparently didn’t dare cross into Beacon Hills yet.

Stiles and Alex spend most of the morning lying down on the floor, drawing. Stiles’ drawings are full of wolves in capes doing amazing things. Alex’s are mainly blobs of colors and vague shapes, his clawed hands not helping him much in the handling of crayons. But he smiles sometimes, when he shows off his creations to Stiles.

 

Derek is cooking some mac and cheese when Alex offers him one of his drawing with a shy little smile, wavering and hopeful. Derek accepts it in silent wonder and, after hesitating on the correct response, finally kisses the kid’s hair briefly. He clings to Derek’s leg for a moment, obviously soothed by the scent of an Alpha, and Derek carries him delicately toward the table.

Stiles watches them through his lashes but, fortunately, doesn’t comment.

 

They are just finishing their lunch, ice cream still melting in their bowls, when they receive the first call reporting something interesting. A real trail, an abandoned car just outside of their territory. Scott can smell wolfsbane all over the upholstery.

Alex, clearly not in control of his powers, whimpers in distress when he overhears them and Derek winces.

After an exchange of looks and raises eyebrows, Stiles makes a command decision and picks up the kid to bring him into his bedroom. Derek spends several minutes making sure that information is circulating between the different groups. The hunters seem to be more numerous than they expected, and the situation is threatening to topple into something dangerous soon.

He calls the other Alpha and explains everything. They discuss her brother’s health for a moment. He is recovering in Deaton’s with Isaac and Jackson for protection.

 

When Derek finally climbs up the stairs, he finds Stiles and Alex on the bed. Stiles is reading a comic book out loud, pointing at the pictures, having apparently decided that the kid needed stories of bad guys being beaten.

Derek leans against the doorway to watch and listen. Stiles’ voice is excited, doing all the voices and miming the particularly intense passages. The kid is rolled in a ball in the covers, a little werewolf burrito, only a small face and precious giggles popping out of it. 

When Stiles smiles at him over Alex’s head, proud and fierce, Derek doesn’t even try to hide the fondness in his answering smile.

 

 

Everything comes to a head only an hour later, with the child finally asleep in Stiles’ room. The Argent and the police team catches several hunters, the men battling in the forest with gun and crazy smiles. Chris Argent apparently breaks their leader’s kneecaps in a deplorable accident.

Because things can never be that simple, one of the hunters is apparently more intelligent than the others and escaped the trap by listening to the hacked police frequency. He also hears some talk about the Sheriff’s house, and immediately decided to rush toward them, spitting mad.

When he enters, sending the door flying and bouncing against the wall, Derek defensively jumps in front of the stairs leading to the upstairs room. He growls at him, fangs and claws out, snarling at the gun pointed on his chest.

The scene stays frozen like that for long seconds, none of them moving.

 

Then Stiles appears from the kitchen, a stool in his hands, and swings hard at the man's head. The side of the stool catches the hunter in the temple and he crumples on the ground, his weapon clinking sinisterly beside him.

Stiles sends an appreciative but surprised look at the stool before shrugging.

 

When Alex runs down the stairs, alerted by the noise, eyes yellow and small fangs out, Stiles catches him and lets him climb all over him like a monkey. He immediately forces the kid’s face into his neck, hiding him from the whole scene. His other hand waves frantically in the body’s direction, mouthing something in silence.

He disappears in the kitchen. Derek blinks at the unconscious hunter. He finally decides to call the sheriff.

 

Ten minutes later, the hunter is tied down and dumped into the bathroom, the door blocked from the outside. The gun is hidden over a high shelf. Derek looks around, but nothing seems out of place for sensitive eyes.

Pleased, he joins Stiles and Alex in the kitchen. Three gigantic mugs are placed on the table, smelling like chocolate and whipped cream.

Alex is putting sprinkles on all of them, concentration crumpling his little face. Derek breathes.

 

--

 

Somehow, even after years of observing Stiles, it never occurred to Derek that even the most destructive tornadoes could only exist with calm at their center.  

That there is safety inside their gravity pull.

Peace and clear skies at their core.

 

---

 

Stiles is light on his thighs, happy and crackling with mirth, his broad shoulders invading Derek’s field of vision.

 

He’s warm, pliant and covered in glitter. It’s everywhere, on his wrists, his hair, his shirt and on the bridge of his nose. The party is still going strong somewhere in the loft, the rest of the pack laughing and singing. They could be on the other side of the planet for all Derek cares at the moment. Because Stiles’ hands are cradling his face, softy, and they are big enough to make something hot and hungry uncoil inside Derek.

Stiles’ fingers run over Derek’s face, lazy and warm, smearing glitter all over his skin. Derek can feel it in his beard and on his cheek, before Stiles streaks some on his cheekbone in a long strip of gold glitter. The pads of his fingers stop just under Derek’s eyes. Stiles looks at him and beams.

 

“So beautiful,” he whispers, not a bleep in his heartbeat and pleasure rumbling in his voice.

 

Derek stares at him helplessly, throat tight. He grabs his hips to keep him close, eyes riveted. Stiles is beautiful, in the way so few things are, like thunder and fire. Raw and bare, no artifice, promising destruction to some and protection and domesticity to others. Derek wants to explain how unbearably stunning he is to him, but the words refuse to pass his clenched throat.

Stiles watches back for long seconds before bending, supple and sure, and kissing him. It’s chaste and simple but he grips Derek’s chin to move him as he wants. Derek wants to growl but his mouth only whines helplessly and Stiles smiles against him. He slides one of his hands in Derek’s hair and pulls, just a little, just enough to ground him but not enough to hurt.

When they separate, Stiles doesn’t go far. He can’t. Derek hasn’t let go of his hips.

Stiles keeps caressing his face with light fingertips, slow and curious. On impulse he bends again, puts his teeth against Derek’s jaw and mouths at it playfully. Derek shivers.

 

“You are so important,” Derek finally whispers, words escaping him like broken glass. Stiles freezes for an instant before pawing at him to kiss him again, his whole body rolling closer.

 

They end up tangled, twisted together with all their angles fitting perfectly. Derek curves over Stiles, his arms embracing him and his hands relaxed on the small of his back. His mouth rests against his skin.

Stiles laughs, something enchanted and a little disbelieving, and the sound is so lovely that Derek kisses his temple and tightens his grip.

 

--

 

Derek slowly learns that passion doesn’t have to be something with claws, something to fight for breath, to panic over.

Intensity doesn’t have to hurt.

 

Loving Stiles is deep and soft and encompassing. It’s the most terrifying experience of Derek’s life and the least painful thing he's ever known.

It’s greed for Stiles’ smiles, hunger for the sound of his voice, lust for the arches of his body, pride in the sharpness of his mind, Sunday mornings’ laziness in bed.

It’s all the sins but defanged, all the ugliness carved out, turned to beauty under the sheer weight of feelings. Charcoal turned into diamond.

 

Derek learns to ask. For softness, for time, for slower.

Derek learns that he doesn’t always have to ask. That a look can be enough to have Stiles there, tender and pliant against him.

Derek learns to give. Gentleness and words and apparent weaknesses. Stiles is never afraid of Derek’s hands or strength. Stiles never punishes clumsiness or awkwardness. Stiles never laughs at Derek.

 

Derek learns that fights can happen without fear. Because Stiles fights like someone who had to discover too young what losing someone means and how petty details are never worth losing precious time over. And Derek fights like someone who knows the price of casting away, the price of never, ever getting back.

So when they fight, fear is never a weapon in play. They yell, they pace, they growl. But they are not afraid.

Stiles is not leaving. Derek is not leaving.

 

--

 

The panties are a deep red, like old wine or an ancient emperor's cape, and they shine slightly against the white wrapping paper. Sitting on the sofa in his old jeans and Stiles’ hoodie, Derek suddenly feels like all the oxygen in the room just disappeared.

 

“I saw them in the shop and found them beautiful, made me think of you. They seemed comfortable,” comments Stiles in passing, computer in one hand and a gigantic but empty mug of coffee in the other. He kisses Derek’s temple on his way to the coffee maker.

 

As always with Stiles it’s easy, no pressure behind it. It’s almost innocent in his intention, intimacy rolling in the softness of his voice.

The fabric flows between Derek’s fingers, cold and liquid. Satin. The low pull inside Derek is everything but innocent.

 

When Derek first wears them, the satin now warm and soft against his skin, there is nothing innocent left in Stiles gaze either. It’s all pupils and hunger, raw and heated on the curve of Derek’s hips.

His teeth catch on the satin, and Derek’s breaths break.

 

This time, when Stiles calls him beautiful, it’s in a growl, rough and heavy like molten lava.

 

--

 

Derek has always dreamed of the fire.

 

In the most common one, he was alone inside the house when the fire started. All his family was outside in the garden, laughing and talking, while the house started to fill with smoke. His mom kissed Peter on the cheek while the wood started to bend and crack in the heat. Derek was clawing at the door, howling, and his dad was hugging Laura under his arm, turning their backs on him. The flames entered the room, slowly, almost alive in their intent, and Derek was against the window whining. They never looked at him.

He didn’t know if they did it on purpose to punish him or if they really couldn’t hear him. But when the fire started to bite at his clothes, he was always alone.

In New York, Laura used to wake him up, worried by the rhythm of his heartbeat and his thrashing. Derek never told her what happened in his dreams, because she used to cry so easily at the time. He let her comfort him, and never corrected her when she assumed that she was waking him up from nightmares. He never found the courage to tell her that this was a fantasy.

Because in this version, he was the only one to burn.

 

Sleeping close to Stiles doesn’t cure him, because that’s not how life works. But Derek is older now, and Stiles’ breathing is a peaceful thing to fall asleep to, so the dreams are less and less frequent.

When he dreams of burning in the fire now, it's Stiles that wakes him up, tousled and sleepy and soft, his face creased by the pillow and worry. Derek buries himself in him, his head in Stile's neck, drowning in his scent to forget the smell of smoke.

Dying in a fire is not something soothing to Derek anymore. He doesn’t want to be dead anymore.

Not when Stiles is so lovely and his and there is so, so much he has to do with him, entire days of them to fill with everything.

 

He wants to explain that since he’s known Stiles, these dreams have turned to nightmares.

He’s afraid that Stiles will misunderstand.

 

Still, he explains. Because that’s what he does now, being brave by being soft, and Stiles listens to his clumsy words and pets his hair. He doesn’t take it in the wrong way.

He kisses him, sad and awed and tight.

 

--

 

When Derek prepares coffee in the morning, Stiles always falls onto him in a disorganized hug. There are arms everywhere and they cling to Derek’s neck, not caring about the boiling cup of coffee dangerously tipping toward the ground. Derek always hugs back.

When Derek trains with Erica, he sends her high in the air to make her laugh. She giggles, delighted. Stiles claps on the side, laughing, and tries to do the same with Jackson. 

When they respond to Scott’s call for help and end up in the clinic with several newborn kitten meowing for food, Stiles doesn’t even hesitate. He grabs one of the tiny warm bodies and stuffs it in Derek’s hands with a bottle of milk and a kiss on the cheek. The kitten is small, defenceless and infinitely fragile, and Derek coos at him a little when he finishes the whole bottle like a champ.

When Derek decides to tame the jungle growing behind the old Hale house back into some semblance of a garden for the pack barbecues, Stiles almost falls over himself in excitement. He starts searching through several websites and, after a week of sleepless anticipation, they get a delivery of hundreds of seeds. There are giant pumpkins for Halloween, sunflowers, wild flowers for the bees, cherry trees, corn, poppies and cocoa beans. Half of them will never grow in this latitude.

Derek still plants all of them carefully, for the simple pleasure of Stiles sitting in the dirt, carefully writing plants’ names on little signs and putting them in the ground with a proud smile. They end up play fighting and kissing in the dirt, throwing clods of earth and seeds everywhere.

The next summer, the garden is a wild chaos of flowers and vegetables and saplings. It’s almost impossible to navigate and Derek refuses to tear any of it off the ground.

 

When Derek buys a fluffy pen one day on impulse, yellow and glittery, his head hangs low and his neck warms in humiliation when he confronts the register.

When he shows off his new purchase, wary and feeling ridiculous, Stiles croons and makes grabby hands at the pen. After that, it’s almost a competition between the both of them, as who will bring home the most outrageous pen to surprise the other.

When they sign the contract for the restoration of the old Hale house, they use a bright pink pen with feathers and a bobbly head. It’s handmade, based on Derek’s description, and it makes the burly contractor look at Derek with bewildered eyes.

Derek smiles at him serenely.

 

--

 

Stiles and Erica are dancing -a butchered version of ballroom dancing- in the middle of the new living room of the pack house. The weather is horrible outside and the light from the windows is a sick grey yellow, syrupy and spilling all over the new furniture. The music is oozing from the radio, something slow and depressing with wailing lyrics.

Stiles and Erica are dancing, all flying arms and swirling steps, way too fast for the sad tempo of the song. Erica is leading, her hair flying dramatically, Stiles cradled expertly in her hands. He follows, soft and pliant and still clumsy, laughing every time they spin just a little too fast. His Slytherin socks slip on the wooden floor and he tries to transform every misstep into some kind of weird flourish.

Curled on the couch, Derek watches them. It’s the worst dance he has ever seen and one of the most beautiful.

 

Erica finally dips Stiles, low and outrageous, and Stiles bends with one foot high in the air and one hand dramatically thrown over his forehead.

Erica gets him up and dumps him directly in Derek’s lap in one fluid move, using her strength to move Stiles smoothly, without any hesitation. Stiles lands still laughing, immediately draping himself over Derek with the confidence of a man certain of his welcome. Erica takes Stiles’ hand and kisses his knuckles while bowing.

Jackson, naively standing behind the couch with a bowl of popcorn, gets kidnapped next by Erica when a new song starts. He yelps in surprise, popcorn flying everywhere. Somewhere, Lydia groans while Jackson tries to bat Erica’s hands away, without any success. He ends up swaying grumpily, Erica forcing him to twirl with a gleeful smile.

 

Derek looks back at Stiles, safe and trusting against him, watching Erica and Jackson with eyes crinkled by amusement. There are deep circles under his eyes after several long weeks of papers and exams, wood dust in his hair from an afternoon tinkering around the new house and he’s wearing one of Derek’s shirts, old and frayed and too wide around his smaller waist.

Derek catches his chin between the tip of his fingers and turns him delicately, without exercising any strength, afraid of damaging his laughter. Stiles follows happily, looking at him curiously, head tilted.

Derek caresses the hair on his neck, soft under his fingers and remembers.

Remembers being young and believing that being a man meant enduring and repressing. Remembers thinking that strength meant being silent and unyielding. Remembers learning that love was supposed to bleed and burn.

“You are terribly lovely,” he simply says around a smile.

 

Stiles kisses his palm.