Actions

Work Header

with metal on our tongues (we'll be dressed in rags)

Chapter Text

 

The thing about espionage is, it’s not as glorious as one would think. It’s not so much about action-filled car chases, explosions and gunfights out of which the agents emerge with their suits not the slightest bit rumpled either, like Hollywood and the Bond movies suggest. In the real world, being a spy means moving in the shadows, being inconspicuous. When you have to fire a gun, you’ll usually have to consider the job failed.

Unfortunately, agent Hale seems to have missed that memo.  

“Are you physically incapable of returning anything in one piece?” Stiles asks tartly. “Not even yourself, just for once?”

Derek looks disconcertingly unperturbed. In fact, he looks rather smug. Asshole. “Why, Stiles, I didn’t know you cared.”

“I don’t,” Stiles says haughtily, “except for the fact that your tendency to leap before you think reflects very badly on the MI6. It’s not a Secret Service if every government, mercenary and terrorist cell on earth knows what we’re after.”

“I was perfectly stealthy.”

“You were as subtle as a frenzied elephant rushing through the streets of Istanbul, 007” Stiles says. “You got my gun eaten by an iguana, almost blew up the Bosporus Bridge and were about two seconds away from being sliced into canapé-sized pieces.”

“I wasn’t, though,” Derek shrugs and idly picks at the bandages covering his torso. They got him good, and even though he heals exceptionally fast for a human, the deep gashes that run from his left shoulder down to his right hip will take a while to heal.  Stiles wants to slap his hand away and tell him to fucking stop, but he’s got better control of his emotions than that. “I think you’re more annoyed that I chucked the earpiece than concerned about the rest,” Hale continues, and he’s definitely grinning now.

Stiles shoots him an icy glare. “M wants to see you,” he says curtly.

Hale – 007, Stiles reminds himself, no one should go around calling the operatives by their true names, that’s like asking for them to be assassinated – sighs and gets up. “I really don’t understand why you don’t just call him your father, Stiles.”

“Code names are there for a reason, 007,” Stiles says. “And it’s Q. You’d do well to remember that.” And yes, maybe he’s a bit of a hypocrite considering he’s on a first name basis with every operative of the MI6, but at least he’s careful the names don’t make it past the headquarters’ walls whereas Derek likes to refuse to use his codename even when he’s in the field.

“Why, because I won’t see a single green light when I drive home if I don’t?” Derek asks. “Again?”

Stiles cracks his fingers and turns towards his computer, not dignifying Derek with another look. “Your actions don’t only affect you, Hale. They may compromise other agents’ identities or even endanger the lives of thousands of innocent citizens. Do try to think about that the next time you recklessly throw yourself into harm’s way.”

“Son.” M’s handshake is firm and warm as always, and he looks more relieved than put out. That’s the thing about the head of the MI6, the thing that makes him both the best and possibly the most vulnerable of all the people who’ve led the Secret Service before: he cares about his operatives. Too much, maybe. Not few have accused him of being too lenient with them.

For Derek, it’s the reason he stays. He signed up for the double-oh slot because he had nowhere else to go, and he’d tried his damnest not to get close to people. In his line of work, you can’t get too attached. But Stilinski had always treated him as part of his family, kind of, and if Derek’s being honest, he’s more loyal to M than he is to his country. “M.”

“Have a seat.” M gestures, and moves to sit behind his desk while Derek lets himself slump down into the comfortable leather seat opposite him. “I hear you managed to make my son cross with you yet again. That’s quite a feat.”

Derek shrugs. “He’s unnaturally sentimental about his little toys, if you ask me.”

“Well, they do cost a lot of money, so I think it’s safe to say we’d all appreciate it if you put a little more effort into returning them in a functional state.”

“Is this the part where I get the obligatory slap on my wrist and we go on like usual afterwards?” It is part of the routine by now. Derek thinks that if they weren’t at work and Stiles wasn’t so freakishly obsessed with making his father eat rabbit food, they’d go for a beer and a burger to discuss the latest baseball game after.

“I‘ve given you this speech so many times that by now you should know it by heart. It won’t help repeating it if you don’t take it to heart, though, so I’m going to pass.” M reaches for one of the files laying on top of the desk, the thickest of them. “I’d be grateful if I didn’t have to explain quite so much mayhem to my superiors, but God knows you lot never give me anything but grey hair and elevated risk of coronary. But no, you’re not here for your debriefing. You’re here because I want you to take a look at this.” He drops the folder in front of Derek.

“A new mission?” Derek asks, somewhat perplexed. He’s only touched down this morning, and he’s still injured. It’s not that he’d mind a new task – anything that keeps him occupied is good – but it’s rather unexpected. Not exactly standard procedure. He picks it up and thumbs through it. Most of the information seems eclectic, nothing he can make any sense of.

“Possibly. We’ve received some alarming news from some of our undercover agents all over the world, mostly the ones in terrorist cells. It’s like their leaders are all going berserk, planning for massive attacks, some of them, it seems, directed against us.”

“I assume the concerted insanity is not coincidental?”

“There are no coincidences, son. At least three of our informants have told me that they have more than valid reasons to suspect there’s someone else behind all this. Someone connecting all these criminals, and ordering them around.” He presses his lips into a tight line. “Mostly it seems they just finally have the opportunity to do every evil thing they ever planned. Someone is not only providing them with weapons and money. The murders they’ve already managed to commit....whoever is pulling the strings has very good connections to get them so close to powerful and well-protected people. They know what they’re doing.”

Derek looks up from the report he’s been skimming. “Do we know who it is yet?”

Stilinski shakes his head. He looks tired, Derek notes, his shoulders a little more slumped than usual, the shadows under his eyes a little darker. “That’s why I want you to have a look at it while you’re off active duty. We’ve caught some of the small fish, but they won’t talk, and if they do, they don’t know anything useful. Whoever their leader is, they’re good at staying in the shadows.”

Derek blinks. “I don’t-“ He frowns. “This is not my area of expertise.” He does his fair share of research, but he’s not in the intelligence branch; he’s mostly the one sent to eliminate a threat.

“You do plenty of this when you’re out in the field,” M counters. “You’re good at it.”

“If you want someone to play connect the dots, you should set Stiles on it. It’s not his job either, but he’s the best when it comes to finding patterns.” He pauses. “Don’t tell him I said that.”

M snorts, not bothering to try and hide his amusement. It’s no secret he’s always quietly laughed at Derek and Stiles’ animosity.  “He’s already on it, but he’s being kept busy with the task of reconstructing everything you break. I’m being told it’s rather tedious.” 

Derek looks at the file, sighs heavily, and gets up. It’s better than spending a week idly lounging on the couch until his wounds are scabbed over enough that he can start working out again, and it’s his job, so he’ll do as he’s asked. Mostly.

When Derek sees the gangly kid in worn-out jeans and a faded Star Wars t-shirt, his first thought is ‘who had the colossally stupid idea to bring interns down here?’. He’s talking to M in a low voice, hand shoved into his pocket, and Derek is irritated for the sole reason that he’s on a tight schedule and supposed to meet the new quartermaster before he flies to Moscow. Then the boy turns around and stares at him with his mouth rounded to a perfect ‘o’ for a second before he catches himself and throws Derek a bright grin.

Derek grits his teeth – it’s not the first time someone’s had this reaction to his looks, not by far, but that doesn’t change that it’s still mostly unwelcome – and walks up to them, greeting M and pointedly ignoring the kid.

“Ah, 007, there you are.” Stilinski pats him on the shoulder. “Just in time to meet the new quartermaster.”

Derek expects someone to join them, but nothing happens. It takes him a moment to catch on. He turns to stare at the boy – young man – whatever – who gives a small wave. “Hi.”

 “You gotta be kidding,” Derek says flatly.  

He can see the exact moment the kid goes from giddy to full-on defence mood. “Problem?”

“You’re practically still in diapers,” Derek says. “Have you even graduated high school yet?”

“Funny that you should say that,” the new quartermaster says. “Considering you joined MI6 without a degree and aren’t exactly a veteran. How young or old I look is hardly relevant. What matters is what I can do, and I can assure you, unlike you I wasn’t hired for my handsome face and set of muscles.”

Derek’s eyebrows shoot up. “This set of muscles is what keeps your face safe.”

“Occasionally,” Q concedes. “It’s hard to pull a trigger from your laptop.” He holds out his hand. “007.”

Derek takes it, grudgingly. “Q.”

“I can see you two will get along splendidly,” M says, amused. “Don’t piss him off too much,” he tells Derek. “He’s prone to abusing his powers to get back at you. You only realise how much our world is controlled by computers when every single one of them is working against you.”

“I’d never,” Q says innocently and holds out a sleek black case to Derek.

Derek accepts it and opens it curiously.

“Walther PPK, 9 mm. It’s coded to your palm print, so only you can use it. You also get a standard issue radio transmitter with which we can track your location.”

“That’s all?”

“I’ll be damned if I give you anything explosive,” Q says disdainfully. “Put your muscles to good use. Apply your brain, too, if it doesn’t strain you too much.”

Derek resists the urge to punch him and leaves. He has somewhere to be.

Derek tries to hack into Q’s files as soon as he’s touched down and settled into his room. The laptop throws what he’d call the technological equivalent of a hissy fit; he half expects it to turn around in a huff. It doesn’t – small miracles – but it does deny him access every time, the screen turning pitch black and Chicken Dance blasting out of the speaker even though he knows he turned them on mute. After the third try, “NO WAY IN HALE, 007” flashes on the screen.

Derek grits his teeth and contemplates the keyboard. “Your puns suck,” he types, and wonders who thought it would be a good idea to hire someone who’s not only green behind his ears but also has the humour of a spiteful kindergarten kid.

“So do your hacking skills,” is he prompt answer, which, rude. He’s certainly no Danny, there’s no shame in admitting that, he isn’t even on the level of the new quartermaster, but he’s picked up on a lot of tricks over time, and he was never incompetent to begin with.

Derek braces himself for a long-distance fight when the music stops abruptly.

“Go to sleep, 007,” the writing on the screen says.

Derek scowls, cracks his knuckles, and shuts down the computer.

It’s not that the new quartermaster is the youngest employee of MI6 – hardly any of the field agents are older than their mid-thirties or early forties, because if you survive that long you’ll usually find that your body starts to work against you and there’s no way you want to do this for the rest of your life – but he is by far the youngest to ever hold such a high position. And it’s not that Derek doubts M’s decisions, but this is a lot of responsibility for someone that inexperienced. Qs are usually people who’ve worked for the MI6 for decades. They know their job, they know the agents, they know how this stuff works.

Surprisingly, the rest of Q branch as well as the other double-ohs accept the young man without much protest. A lot of this, he figures, has to do with 003’s opinion. Scott’s word – for whatever reason – carries some weight with the agents, and he very obviously couldn’t be happier with the new Q. In fact, when Derek comes back from Russia, he walks into the wide room to find 003 with his long limbs wrapped around Q pretzel-style. He puts a lot of commitment into this hug.

“Dude,” Q says and wriggles in his grasp a bit, “you know I love you, but I also love the oxygen in my lungs.”

Derek blinks, and stares for a while. He’s pretty sure he’s only been gone for two weeks, and Scott McCall was only scheduled to return from his mission the night prior and can only just have met the new quartermaster, so there is no logical explanation for this behaviour.

003 backs away hastily, looking scolded. “Sorry, buddy.”

Q laughs and punches him in the shoulder. “Missed you too, Scott. But stop it with the puppy eyes, you’re giving me cavities.”

Lydia, who is their specialist for anything explosive or chemical, sweeps past them and scoffs. “You two are ridiculous.”

“There’s nothing wrong with expressing our deep, abiding love.”

“Should I tell Allison you’re breaking off the engagement?” Lydia asks, eyebrows raised, at the same time that Danny, one of the world’s best hackers, pipes up, “Does that mean you’ll finally stop hitting on me?”

“No,” 003 and Q say in unison. “Sorry, I’m not a female Hawkeye, so I don’t fit Scott’s type,” Q continues and leers at Lydia. “And by the way, Danny, my questions are for empirical statistics only. You know I have a thing for redheads.”

“They went to college together, apparently,” Boyd explains from behind Derek, like he’d had question marks written all over his forehead. “Lydia, Danny and Q. I’m told they would’ve hired him right after getting his bachelor’s degree as well, like they did with Lydia and Danny, but he wanted to do some graduate studies.”

Derek gives him the side-eye, because that sounds too damn much like approval. Which, coming from Boyd, is rare.

Boyd shrugs. “He’s good.”

“Aww,” Q croons but doesn’t look up from where he’s scribbling something down in what must be an indecipherable mess. “I know why you’re my favourite, 005.”

“Hey!” Scott exclaims, betrayed.

“I said you were good, not that I liked you,” Boyd deadpans, utterly unimpressed.

“Hey!” This time, Scott turns towards Boyd with indignation, and Derek wonders when Q branch became a life time movie.

“Fair enough,” Q shrugs and moves to pat 003’s shoulder absentmindedly. “Don’t take it personal, bro. I’m referring to a purely professional level. Boyd gives me the least trouble because he actually stays calm and applies his brain instead of randomly starting to kill people. It’s why Allison is only coming in a close-second. She’s the kindest person I’ve met until she decides it’s murdering time!!! And Erica and Isaac sit on an emotional rollercoaster that gives me whiplash, Jackson’s a conceited ass if I may say so, and you, buddy, are awesome, and I love you, but you seriously need to learn how to make your plans less short-sighted lest you give me a heart attack before I reach thirty.”

Derek doesn’t want to know where his place in this ranking would be, but he thinks he could take an educated guess.

Scott, meanwhile, looks thoroughly chastised. That’s new, and Derek hates to admit it, but it does spark his interest. Not many people, perhaps with the exception of Allison, have the ability to tell Scott what he’s supposed to do in a way that makes it have an effect on him. McCall doesn’t respond too well to orders, much like Derek. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they butt heads with each other more often than not.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice the lack of mention of my name,” Lydia says. 

“You’re not a double-oh agent,” Q points out. “But if you want to know, then I assure you I’m man enough to openly admit that you are the most terrifying woman I’ve ever met, and that includes Allison’s mother.”

Derek turns to Boyd again. “Just when and how did we progress to a stage at which we are suddenly all on first name basis?”

Boyd heaves a sigh. “Blame them.”

“Scott?” Derek asks, curtly but curiously.

“It’s a kindergarten romance,” Lydia explains. “Idiots gravitate towards each other.”

Derek snorts.

Q looks up from under his eyelashes. “Agent Hale. How was Russia?”

“Cold.”

“You didn’t return your equipment, did you?”

Derek raises one eyebrow. “I didn’t really have any equipment to begin with,” he points out.

“You managed fine without it. Don’t even try convincing me you don’t prefer the more old-fashioned ways.”

Derek has nothing to say to that that wouldn’t be a lie. Apparently, Q did his homework.

When he drives home in the middle of the night, his car being the only one on the road, every single street light is red, but when he finally gets annoyed and runs one, he’s pulled over by a patrol car immediately.

Derek has to admit, grudgingly, that he is a little impressed.

Stiles had been warned when he joined MI6: about the initial apprehension everyone would exhibits towards the New Guy, about inhumane working hours, about the agents. Especially about 007. There’s a joke going around in Q branch about hellspawn agents who work under this alias, and it involves a lot of references from the movie Seven to Florence and The Machine’s Seven Devils, and all of it is freakishly accurate. Double-oh agents have a reputation, but none of them more so than Derek Hale and the infamous operative who wore the number before him.  

It hadn’t helped that they’d had a spectacularly bad start.

All things considered, it’s a small miracle they only snark at each other and don’t tear the entire building down when they fight. Which happens a lot. Because, well, Stiles is willing to admit that Hale is rather efficient – there isn’t a single mission he hasn’t completed successfully – but he isn’t just an asshole about it, but his blatant disregard for Q branch’s work and how often their technology has saved his life also drives Stiles up the wall. Also, Derek’s tendency to ignore the instructions Stiles gives him make him want to wring his neck. He’s been told, in no uncertain terms, that Derek feels the same way about him.

They don’t kill each other. They are professionals, after all. Professional sociopaths, but professionals nonetheless.

“No, don’t open that one,” Stiles says urgently, and, lo and behold, Derek actually hesitates before pushing down the door handle.

“Why?” he demands.

Stiles moves the camera and zooms in on the delicate composition behind the door. Ah, how he loves today’s villains’ Big Brother trip. “That room’s a death-trap if I’ve ever seen one. You’ll need to find another route. Hold on, I’m trying to find the quickest detour route.”

This is the quickest route,” Derek grits out. “I don’t have the time for this.”

“What part of booby-trapped escapes your understanding?”

“Can’t you deactivate it?”

“It’s a booby trap, not something connected to their network. Nothing to hack into. Now stop complaining and move back about fifty feet, there’s a door on your left – oh.” Stiles curses under his breath when he spots the movement on one of the other cameras. “Make it quick, you’re getting visitors.”

“How many?” Derek asks and draws his gun, reaching for his earpiece with his other hand.

“Three. No, don’t do-“ There’s a distinct rustle when Hale takes it out and stuffs it into his pocket “-anything stupid. God fucking dammit!” Stiles rages on, letting out a string of colourful swearwords that’s reserved for 007’s fits of epic asininity. He’s tapping away, fingers flying over the keyboard as he tries to find out whether there are any speakers so he can either shout at Derek at full volume or, well, stir up some chaos to make the enemies go down another corridor, when Derek locates the camera, smiles sardonically and shoots at it. The screen in front of Stiles blackens out.

Stiles stares for a minute, open-mouthed. The radio’s still on, and while the sound  is a little muffled he can still hear quick, loud footsteps and gunfire, and people shouting and groaning in pain, and then a loud bang, followed by the deafening sound of explosives going off. The screen monitoring the booby-trapped room flickers and dies as well. Stiles listens to and sees all of that, and stands there, feeling helpless and angry, and when he thinks about it, he really, really wants to throw up.

Everyone in Q branch has stopped their work and is staring at him and the screens in front of him with varying expressions of shock and resignation.

There’s some more noise, and then Hale’s voice rings through the room, calm and clear. “Do I need cannon fodder for the next room as well or am I good to go?”

Stiles breathes. “If you come back,” he promises, “I’ll fucking kill you myself.”

“You’re welcome to try.” Derek sounds infuriatingly unimpressed. “Now do I go through that door or not?”

Sometimes, when Derek is injured, he doesn’t report back immediately but takes a day off to lick his wounds. Hospital wards are not his favourite place to be. The smell of urine and citrus-scented cleaning agent violently wrenches up memories of being sixteen and scared and guilty again, shaking with cold and misery, pacing up and down and crying while waiting for hours while his mother, uncle and younger sister are in surgery. It makes him remember the burnt-out shell of Peter lying on the clean white sheets, eyes open but unresponsive.

It makes him remember how much he hates himself.

So when he’s not severely injured, he’ll usually just patch himself up. It works just fine; he has more than the basic first aid knowledge, and a lot of experience to draw from. Then, he doesn’t know why, he goes to M’s place. It’s a tradition they don’t talk about. Usually, Stilinski isn’t home when Derek breaks into his house, and Derek’ll be gone before he returns, but M will see the crumpled quilt on the couch and know Derek’s alive but not ready to come back just yet. It’s a good arrangement.

This time, when Derek comes through the back door, the light in the kitchen is burning bright and the Spice Girls are demanding to know ‘what you want what you really really want’. Someone with a figure decidedly too slim to be M is dancing through the kitchen.

Derek frowns and takes a step forward. A floorboard creaks under his foot and a second later, the person has whirled around and Derek has a gun trained on his face.

“Seriously?” a familiar voice asks, sounding annoyed.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Derek demands.

“You know, I could ask you precisely the same question,” Q says, and lowers the gun, “but he told me you do that once in a while.” He’s only dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt that’s too short for his long body. The sliver of skin peaking out is snow-white and stands out against the darkness surrounding them until Q takes a step back and hits the switch. “I’m installing an alarm system tomorrow.”

Derek forces his mind back on track. “That’s not an answer.”

“No, but this is: none of your fucking business.” Q cocks his head. “You’re bleeding through your shirt.”

Derek glances at his arm. Indeed, the fabric of his Henley is growing darker by the second. He sighs and goes to rummage through the cabinet under the sink where he knows M keeps his first aid kit. Once he’s found what he was looking for, he sits down on a chair and pulls his shirt over his head.

“Dude,” Q says disdainfully, “is that dental floss?”

“It’s provisional.”

“It’s unsanitary and ineffective is what it is.” Q wrinkles his nose. “Your sewing job leaves something to be desired.” He slaps Derek’s hand away and pokes at the wound. “You should go to Melissa.”

Derek squares his jaw.

“...or not. I see you’re not as big an adherer to the ‘my body is my temple’ movement as one would think.” His fingers flutter over Derek’s skin, leaving a trail of warmth and comfort. Without hesitation, Q cuts the floss and removes the strings, then proceeds to clean out the cut. Before Derek knows it, a needle breaks through his skin, and two minutes later, his wound looks much better than any of the ones he’d ever stitched up himself. Q’s hands are completely steady, and he bites his lower lip in concentration.

Derek wonders when he learned to not freak out the least bit by someone breaking and entering and then bleeding all over their floor.

“You know how to use a gun.”

“Obviously,” Q says coolly, the duh almost tangible. “I work for the Secret Service.”

“Not only since Q branch,” Derek adds. The way he’d handled the firearm was the grip of someone who’d held guns growing up. “But you have no experience in the field.”

Q looks at him, and for once he seems to be much older than he is. “When you’ve listened to a man dying,” he says quietly, “and stayed there talking to him until he choked on his own blood then you can come and talk to me about experience in the field.”

“I kill people for a living.”

“You hardly stay to watch your friends die.”

There’s a long moment of silence. Stiles is finishing packing up the first aid kit when the front door slams open. Both of them flinch.

“Hey, Stiles,” Stilinski calls out. “Is there a particular reason the automatic doors to every fast food restaurant within a hundred foot radius of my position are locked?”

“Just looking out for your health, Dad,” Q says before he abruptly freezes, staring at Derek wide-eyed.

A lot of things click into place. Like why the quartermaster is here looking like he belongs. Why M hired Scott when he had no training whatsoever and looks out for him even more than for the other double-oh agents. Why he called Q ‘son’ from the very first day with too much affection and warmth, too much implicitness for it to not be habitual.

Stilinski steps through the doorway and takes in the scene in front of them, eyebrows shooting up to his hairline. “Hello, Derek.”

“I didn’t know you had a son,” Derek says calmly.

Family and relatives aren’t something you talk about at MI6, mostly because hardly anyone has any family left, and if there’s still someone you want to protect, you keep your mouth shut about them, because every scrap of information can become a liability. The only family relation he knows about is the one of 003 and his mother, who works in the hospital ward. It had been impossible to keep that a secret after Scott once dragged himself there half-dead and Melissa almost had a break down. Of course they would’ve found out one way or the other anyway. No one can completely scrap their relatives from their records in a digitalised world.

But when Derek had done some digging on M, the only thing he’d found out about was his wife. She’d been a victim of a terrorist attack almost ten years back. Poisonous gas, he recalls, that slowly but surely turned her lungs into bloody pulps. It had taken her almost a year to die, and Stilinski, a small county’s sheriff back in the day, had moved heaven and earth to find the ones responsible. He’d succeeded, too. His persistence and instincts had paid off eventually, after he’d been accepted into the special unit tracking the terrorists down, and when they were all behind bars, he’d been offered the newly opened up position of head of the MI6. One of the reasons everyone respects him so much is because he didn’t go blindly after his wife’s murderers, didn’t try and exact revenge, always kept a clear head.

M’s records show all this and more, but a kid has never been mentioned, not even once. According to them, Stiles – what kind of name is that even - doesn’t exist. Derek remembers that he hadn’t managed to dig up any files on the quartermaster either when he’d checked for them. And he had checked. Very thoroughly.

Q – Stiles - narrows his eyes. “I’m a well-kept mystery,” he replies. 

“Evidently, as I’ve never seen or heard of you before. Who would’ve thought the MI6 is practically a family business?”

“If you think I’m only here because my Dad’s in charge, let me nip that thought right in the bud. I’m quartermaster because I’m good at what I do.”

He is. He’s not ‘I could win a Fields Medal and a Nobel Prize without any real effort’ smart the way Lydia is, and he doesn’t see through algorithms and computer codes as quickly as Danny does, but he’s good. He’s brilliant at planning, and he looks at everything like it’s a jigsaw puzzle just waiting to be solved. He sees patterns and opportunities and never once loses track of the rushed and hectic efficient mess that is Q branch. For all that he flails and gesticulates a lot when he’s talking to someone, he’s astonishingly calm and concentrated when he needs to be.

When he focuses, Derek thinks, Stiles is as deadly as the weapons he invents.

He refuses to admit he is impressed.

Derek becomes acutely aware of how close Stiles is standing to him, of his body buzzing with heat and restless energy, how he’s flexing his fingers and cracking his knuckles like he needs to tap away on a keyboard. His gaze follows the trail up Stiles’ surprisingly muscular arms and the pale skin of his neck, along his strong jaw line and the determined curve of his lips before it settles on the defiant look he’s giving Derek, like he’s challenging him to contradict and step out of line. Derek suspects he has a thousand scenarios running through his hyperactive brain right now and has thought of equally as many comebacks to whatever arguments Derek might drag up.

He stays silent, but there’s a quiet yet persistent thought poking at his mind. Oh.

He stomps on that thought before it can grow roots.

“I should go,” he says and rises swiftly to his feet. “I may have overstayed my welcome.” He can’t help it when he sways slightly. Stiles’ arm shoots out to steady him.

“You’re staying,” M says sternly. “It’s about time you realised your body is not a machine, 007. You need rest, and food and water. No one will profit from you being run over by a bus because you can’t think clearly enough to know where you’re going.”

Derek sighs and resigns himself to his fate, but he does glare at Stiles’ hand a little. He withdraws it immediately. His skin is left oddly cold.

“I’ll be in my room,” Stiles announces, voice hard, and brushes past Derek.

Derek does end up sleeping on the couch. When he wakes up in the morning, both Stilinskis are already gone, but M has left a note on the coffee table, along with something else. Derek can’t help but smile when he sees it and thinks there’s a reason he likes the older man so much. He slips the gift into his pocket, wonders just how many greasy meals he will be denied when Stiles finds out. The kid does seem to have a rather vindictive streak.  

 “And then-“

“Stiles,” Derek grits out. “Please stop talking.”

“Sorry,” Stiles says cheerfully, not feeling the slightest bit remorseful. He does enjoy making 007 cringe. It’s quite hard; Derek is the master of poker faces. It’s incredibly satisfying to see that something he said made him squirm uncomfortably, proof that he isn’t nearly as good at ignoring Stiles as he prides himself. “You looked rather bored.”

“You’re not lightening my mood by detailing the history of the male circumcision,” Derek says almost without moving his lips. “I’m on a job.”

As if Stiles wasn’t aware of that. He is, very much so. “I just thought I’d cheer you up, considering how much you hate these parties.”

“You could cheer me up by telling me where the mark is.”

Stiles searches the small monitors. The security of the hotel foyer the party is held in is shite. There aren’t nearly enough cameras to cover all the blind spots, and the pictures are more than a little fuzzy. “I’m still looking for her,” he says.

“Look harder.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “So what do you think of the recent debate in Germany-“

“I think,” Derek interrupts him coolly, “that one of evolution’s greatest defects is the failure to give humans the ability to close their ears.”

Touché.

“I got her. Three o’clock, behind the pillars.” He hesitates. “Derek, you know what-“

“Yes.”

As per usual, he hears a distinct clicking sound, and then nothing more. The red dot on his screen that signalled Derek’s position blips out. Stiles sighs. He isn’t even surprised anymore.

“Again?” Lydia asks, peering over his shoulder as he begins to type. A second later, Derek’s position is indicated again. Lydia raises one perfectly sculptured eyebrow. “How many trackers did you hide on him?”

“Seven,” Stiles says easily. Derek’s an elusive bastard, but Stiles is nothing if not creative. He can deal with 007 going MIA for a couple of days after a mission, but he likes keeping track of him in case he gets into trouble, which seems to happen a lot. “I took advantage of the last time he was in the hospital wing.”

“How many does he know about?”

“Two.”

“You do realise that’s not strictly legal, don’t you?”

“Not even remotely.” Stiles shrugs. “We’re the MI6, Lydia. Ninety-five per cent of the things we do aren’t, strictly speaking, legal.”

“He’s gonna be pissed when he finds out.”

“He’s Derek, he’s always pissed at me.”

“I wonder why that is,” Lydia remarks dryly and goes back to work as Stiles watches the red dot make its way down one of the corridors and coming into the picture of another security camera. The smile on Derek’s face is big and very, very fake and his shoulders are set in a rigid line as they enter the mark’s bedroom. Of course.

He swallows down the uneasy feeling in his gut, turns away, and is suddenly embarrassingly grateful for the lack of radio transmission.  

Derek steels himself for the inevitable looks of pity when he walks into Q branch two days later and chucks the USB memory stick at Stiles. There aren’t any secrets the agents can keep from their superiors, and if M knows, Stiles knows. It’s all there, in his files, because he could keep his past and his actions from his sister but not from the Secret Service.

But Stiles surprises him, like he always does. His gaze is steady and calm, and maybe filled with a little quiet resignation, but they both know there is no room for delicate matters in this field. You do what you have to in order to get the job done. You lay your life on the line every day. If you’re not willing to sacrifice it, or only something smaller, like your sanity, then it’s the wrong fucking job for you.

He appreciates that Stiles doesn’t ask.

And he knows he has absolutely no reason to linger (he could just wait for Q to decrypt the files on the USB drive and have M calling him to retrieve the information), but he leans against the mess that is Stiles’ desk and definitely doesn’t think that it’s about as unclean as he feels right now. He’s not that pathetic that he’d make up metaphors that would make the worst writer cringe.

It’s gotten better, anyway. Sleeping with someone for information isn’t something one has to do very often, but it does happen occasionally. When he’d started training, M had tiptoed around the subject for a while, not blunt enough to bring it up.

‘Look, son, everyone here’s got traumata, you might consider...’ and Derek had shut him down, flat out refusing to go to therapy. He’d expected it to come up eventually. And because Derek prefers the totally healthy way of dealing with his repressed guilt and shame, he’d gone and invented his own therapy:

Inurement. Desensitisation. 

He’d gone and picked up every willing girl and taken her home until he was able to fuck someone without throwing up afterwards.

For the first six months, he’d thrown up a lot. And called Laura, rather frantically, just to make sure she was unharmed. He’d fucked girl after girl, no one more than once.

Then, slowly but surely, he’d managed to sever the automatic mental connection he made that sex leads to his family members dying. He still hates it with a passion, every second of it, but if he’s learnt one thing during his time working for the MI6 it’s to make his body work for him and in his favour in every way possible, and his body and face both open a lot of doors.

He has nothing if not a steely control over his body and his emotions by now, and he refuses to acknowledge that he still falls to pieces a little every time he does it, tells himself it’s just sex, no emotions attached, no danger of getting hurt any more than always in his line of work.

Lingering on the thought for too long still makes his feel slightly sick, though, so he forces his attention away and watches Stiles instead. The quartermaster is deeply immersed in his work, typing quicker than Derek’s eyes can follow. It’s fascinating when he gets like that, all focused and sharp, hard edges that negate his usual fidgety limbs.

“You know,” Stiles says, “if you’re going to hang around, the least you can do is give me a hand.”

Derek purses his lips, considering, and nods. “What do you want me to do?”

Stiles turns, giving Derek a long, pleasantly surprised and assessing look, and points to the spare laptop sitting on his desk. “Danny’s out today,” he says, as if Derek can’t see that for himself, “you got nothing on him – no hard feelings – but you could try to get to some of the least encrypted files and see if you can make any sense of them.”

Derek sits down next to him and stares at the computer screen.

They work like that, silently, shoulder to shoulder, until the night falls and their eyes begin to droop. The silence is strangely comfortable, and Stiles’ warm presence beside him is just as calming as when his voice rings steadily in Derek’s head as he guides him carefully through the dangerous mazes of terrorist cells and social events.

So, that becomes a thing. A regular thing. Derek Hale aka 007, special agent extraordinaire, starts hanging out at Q branch more than just strictly necessary. It doesn’t happen that often, but often enough to establish a clear pattern. Stiles isn’t stupid, he knows how to read Derek by now; the guy pretends to be a robot, but he’s not, and he’ll come around whenever he’s secretly emotionally distressed. It’s a coping mechanism to deal with whatever fucked up stuff he’s seen on the mission he’s been on, just like sleeping on his Dad’s couch is: a way to clear his head a little, calm himself down, centre himself.

It’s...nice.

Which is kind of worrying. But they do make a good team, they’ve proved this before, whenever they actually stop to listen to whatever the other has to say. They mostly just work in quiet, and Stiles finds that Derek’s steady breathing and his minuscule movements make his thoughts less fuzzy and help him concentrate even when the Adderall begins to wear off. And even when they’re fighting (which they also do a lot, because there’s nothing Stiles enjoys more than getting a rise out of Derek, and Derek enjoys nothing more than snarking back) it’s...mostly amicable.

It’s not supposed to be like that, the relationship between the quartermaster and one of the operatives. It usually goes like this: invent the weapons, explain the weapons, give them the weapons, occasionally stick to their side (well, in their ear, rather) during the mission, done. The only other agents he knows as well as he has gotten to know Derek over the past few weeks are Scott and Allison, which is unavoidable because he’s known Scott his entire life, and in the latter case because Scott talks about Allison a lot, and sometimes, on the rare occasions when Scott and Stiles get the opportunity to hang out like they used to when they were still in their teens, she tags along. Working in Q branch it’s nigh impossible to not know everything substantial about the agents, but you usually don’t get to see the little things.

Like Derek’s quiet, private smile that’s reserved only for moments when he thinks no one is watching and he’s done something he’s a little proud of. His puzzled frown when there’s a problem he can’t figure out. The way the muscles in his shoulders flex when he moves to cuff Stiles over the head. The way he looks when he’s tired and defeated, or how he takes his coffee with exactly two tablespoons of whole-skimmed milk, or that he hates white cabbage but will gulp down savoy cabbage like whoa.

He shouldn’t know how Derek looks when he sleeps, the only times he ever seems at least a little more peaceful  and guileless, that he never sleeps with anything but a thin linen sheet he wraps himself into, because he needs a cocoon around his body but is also always running hot and will always wake up whenever he’s wrapped in a thicker blanket.  That he looks ridiculously hot in a three-piece suit, but illegally so when he’s wearing nothing but sweatpants and an old, dirty wife-beater, looking unthinkably vulnerable with his feet bare and rings under his eyes.

It still puzzles Stiles, how the same person can aggravate him like no other (save Jackson, maybe) and also make him want to spontaneously combust with his endearing and utterly accidental fluffiness. He doesn’t really question it when he wakes up one morning and realises that Derek has become a constant in his life that leaves a warm feeling in his gut whenever he thinks of him, and not in the way thinking of Scott makes him feel. He doesn’t feel ashamed, because anyone who’s seen Derek (seriously, his face) and has gotten to know him well enough to see that he doesn’t have quite as atrocious a personality as one would think upon meeting him for the first time, would find it hard not to swoon over the guy.

But it is a problem. Office romances are never easy, and even more so when one of them could die any second. And he’s a realistic person, he knows Derek probably won’t live to become a senior agent. He’s been ridiculously lucky so far, but he’s way too reckless, and one day, possibly soon, he will throw himself in front of a gun and for once not get up again.

Falling for Derek is a colossally bad idea just for these reasons. It’s a horrendous idea even if he doesn’t take the shitload of issues he carries around into account. Derek is broken, beautifully so, maybe, but also fatally so. Stiles wouldn’t mind so much (he’s broken, too, and he can appreciate someone who understands), but the combination of all of these things is probably too much.

So it’s a good thing that Derek working with him instead of making his life harder leaves him with more free time than he’s had on his hands since graduation. It’s strange, at first, going out without anyone accompanying him, but he meets Brad, who’s nice and a little simple-hearted, who believes him when he says he works in IT without asking any questions and doesn’t complain when Stiles cancels their dates because of ‘emergencies’ or doesn’t call for two days because shit is going down in Kenya. It’s easy-going and comfortable and a no-brainer. It won’t hold forever, it’s more causal than serious, but it’s better than nothing.

The sex is pretty awesome, too. He even manages to not think about Derek when Brad trails soft kisses down his chest, breathes hot air against his ear.

Derek is just in the process of making himself comfortable in the Stilinskis’ living room when he hears the key turn in the lock. Stiles stumbles trough the front door, looking giddy and happy; his hair is dishevelled, his skin flushed, and even if it wasn’t for the giant hickey peeking out from under his collar Derek would know to identify this as his I just got laid vibe. The shirt he’s wearing isn’t his own either; and no, it’s not creepy that Derek knows this, it’s just very obvious, because Stiles likes to rock the ridiculous T-shirt combined with plaid look, and if the twenty minute rant Derek was subjected to only a few weeks ago is any indication he would never willingly buy a Simpsons shirt.

A wave of unfamiliar, sharp aftershave hits him, and Derek feels his muscles tense, an unexpected stormy rage twisting in his gut. For a second, Derek is too much taken by surprise to fight it welling up, but then he violently shoves the sensation away. So Stiles has a life outside of the MI6. A well-adjusted life, it seems, with a relationship that’s steady enough for him to be comfortable with wearing another man’s clothes and showering at his place. Good for him.

Derek has absolutely zero reason to care, for all that Stiles and he have grown to be...something. A pair of people who don’t hate each other as much anymore? A good team? Tentative friends? If he can’t even define what they are to each other, how can he possibly find an explanation for the slow burn that feels too much like jealousy itching under his skin?

No, not jealousy, he tells himself. Worry, maybe. Yes, definitely more worry. Unfounded, probably – knowing Stiles, he’d run a very thorough back-up check on anyone who asked him out – but it’s perfectly reasonable to feel a little protective over someone you’ve grown almost fond of. He likes to know M is safe, too, after all, this is certainly no different.

Okay, maybe it’s a little different, but Derek refuses to examine it.

Across the room, Stiles stills when he notices Derek’s presence, visibly sobering up. “Oh my God,” he sighs, sounding more resigned than astonished, “seriously?” He throws the keys on the table with more force than strictly necessary. The cold clattering sound reverberates in Derek’s ears.

“Shut your eyebrows,” Stiles grumbles, walking past him.

Derek does a double-take. “What?”

“Your eyebrows are judging me,” Stiles explains. “I refuse to be judged by eyebrows. Make them stop.”

“You’re drunk,” Derek states flatly.

“No shit, Sherlock. And you’re breaking and entering. Again.” Stiles enters the kitchen and noisily opens up one of the cupboards. “How do you keep getting in here? Through the windows? Can’t you use the door like a normal person?”

“Who says I don’t?”

“I installed a security system that would make the CIA jealous. Covered the windows, too, obviously, but especially the front and back door. Believe me, if you tried coming through either of them, I’d know.”

“I have a key.”

“Uh, no, you don’t.”

Derek wordlessly holds up a small silver key. Stiles squints at it from the distance, and flails.

“There is so much wrong with that, I don’t even-“

“Your Dad gave it to me when you first mentioned your intentions to turn this flat into Fort Knox,” Derek says, a little smugly, and slips the key back into his pocket.

Stiles takes a moment to stomach that. “Well,” he says finally, “at least you’re not bleeding all over the floor this time. I guess that’s an improvement.” He sticks his head in the fridge, pulls out a random bottle and pours himself a glass of soda before kicking the door shut again and grabbing a straw from the counter. He turns around and leans casually against the doorframe, watching Derek with dark eyes as his lips close around the plastic.

Derek’s eyes immediately flicker down to watch Stiles chew on the straw, and in a knee-jerk reaction he thinks that Stiles’ mouth was made for this but Jesus, if that’s what he does to his boyfriend’s di-

No, Derek tells himself firmly and jerks back. No. No.

“I’ll go,” he mumbles, and bolts.

“Hey, Derek, wait what-“

He can’t breathe until he’s safe in the confines of his own single-room apartment. He doesn’t turn on the light, just slams the door shut and leans heavily against it, sliding down to the ground, and wonders how the hell he could’ve been so fully unprepared for the twist of abject horror and desire. When did Stiles start creeping up on him, digging under his skin and making his nest there? How did Derek not notice in time to stop him?

He tries to stop his muscles from shaking, to will the feelings away, but his body won’t obey him.

That night, he touches himself with intent for the first time since Kate and comes with Stiles’ name on his lips. Afterwards, he lies awake and stares at the ceiling, waiting for the fear and self-loathing to hit him in full force, but nothing happens. There is nothing there but the constant thrum of guilt that by now he’s so familiar with that he hardly notices it anymore. He continues staring at the ceiling and the dark wet spot just above his headboard that gets bigger every time his neighbour does his laundry; a slice of normality in his far-from-normal life that he wishes he could avoid just as much as every other part of his life that has any semblance of normalcy.

The thing is, Derek knows he is screwed to hell. He knows he has issues. He has a fucking Mount Everest of issues, and this was about the last piece of being normal that he thought would ever come back into his life. Having sex, after Kate, had been an absolute nightmare at first, and although he’s learned to cope, he hasn’t felt any lust ever since. He hadn’t been able to touch himself for what had felt like an eternity, and even now jacking off in the shower in the morning is nothing but a mechanical routine that doesn’t really bring him any pleasure. It’s merely a bodily function he needs to satisfy, nothing more.

Attraction is something he is not familiar with anymore.

Derek knows himself well enough to realise that it’s not Stiles’ looks he’s drawn to, despite a part of Stiles’ body triggering his epiphany, despite him being able to acknowledge on an objective level that Stiles is a very attractive individual with his bright eyes and long, lean limbs and a mouth that only endorses the oral fixation Stiles has very obviously developed. But beauty loses its meaning in his career; the rich and powerful (and evil) surround themselves with the young and beautiful. It’s like a law of physics states that these two groups of people must always gravitate towards each other. Derek has been presented a lot of pretty faces; he, in particular, had stopped caring about that the moment he’d been tricked by one, but even for someone who isn’t quite as damaged as he is, the looks of a person begin to slip out of focus when you get used to hanging around model-type personas.

Also, on top of the whole ‘I can hardly stand it when someone touches me and I really don’t want to touch you in a sexual way either’ thing that’s been going on since he was sixteen, he’s never been physically attracted to a guy. There were a string of girls, before, and he does have some experience with sexual encounters with males, courtesy of his job, really, but this is new. What surprises him most about the entire situation is how little he is surprised about Stiles’ sex. It seems a little weird, even to him, but it’s kind of drowned out by the huge revelation that apparently he hasn’t completely turned into an unemotional, self-deprecating hulk.

It figures that if he ever managed to let himself feel again, he would be attracted to someone like Stiles, who doesn’t put up with any of his bullshit, who refuses to back down and brings out both the best and worst sides of Derek.

He wonders, idly, when it all started. Maybe the foundation for this was laid as early as the first time he met him. There is something inherently intriguing about Stiles that has always drawn in him, like a moth to a flame. It was definitely there, he remembers clearly now, by the time Stiles first patched him up, with steady hands and a cold threat in his eyes daring Derek to tell anyone about his true identity.

Back then, Derek had thought Stiles knew everything there was to know about him but he didn’t know anything about the new quartermaster. Stiles had been a mystery then, and he still is, evading him every time he tries to grasp him, but he thinks that maybe the core of who he is had been laid bare all this time: his fierce loyalty, his sharp intelligence, his protectiveness and defiance and braveness, his disposition to do whatever was needed to finish the job, his refusal to pity Derek. He has even come to appreciate Stiles’ stupid sense of humour and that the man is a walking contradiction, hyperactive but at times strangely calm, all light-hearted laughter one second and cold, calculated professionalism the next, obvious displays of affection balancing out a less visible darker side.

Demisexual, his brain provides, because it’s clearly in an informative mood, and Derek thinks – in a Stiles-worthy train of thought – that he really needs an off switch for it.

‘Fuck’, he thinks.

Derek closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and punches his pillow.

He goes back to ignoring the problem as thoroughly as he can. It turns out to be not as easy as he hoped, and he’s mostly pining from a distance, but it works. It works because Derek is very good at punishing himself and being a masochistic martyr, and denying himself Stiles means both. Stiles is forbidden. He is forbidden because Derek would ruin him.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because Stiles doesn’t want him. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t even like Derek most days, still. And even if he did, Derek is too damaged to give him what he wants. He’s beyond fixing, and a functioning relationship is something beyond his capabilities.

So he goes on like nothing’s changed, and pretends he doesn’t feel a vicious glee when, one night, he spots Stiles on the street loudly arguing with another man before angrily stalking off.

A lot of things go to shit when he and Scott are sent to Beirut. The mission should be easy: protect the American ambassador, exterminate anyone who attacks him.

Unfortunately, by the time they arrive, the ambassador and his family are dead, their house burned to the ground. Hours later, Scott is snatched from their shared hotel room while Derek is out trying to find any piece of evidence that might lead them to the killer and the organisation behind him.

M sends Allison for back-up. By the time they find Scott, held at gunpoint but otherwise mostly fine, Stiles is ready to rip Derek a new one, and the big fish have already left.  Also, Derek gets a nice stab wound for his troubles, and the leftover henchmen die before they can get any valuable information out of them. It sucks big time.

The worst thing about it is probably that he finds himself staring at the blackened ruins of a family home and can’t help but think that this particular modus operandi of arson is eerily familiar.

 “How’s your boyfriend?”

There’s good days, and there’s bad days. And then there’s days when Stiles still only wants to rip Derek’s head off, like now, when Stiles is pretty sure Derek is already well aware that he and Brad broke up and definitely perfectly aware that Stiles is not in the mood to exchange a single word with him.  Unfortunately, he can’t resort to physical violence, so he settles for flipping Derek the bird.

“Are you still angry with me?”

Stiles just shoots Derek a look that he hopes conveys exactly how unimpressed he is by 007’s skills and just how badly he wants to punch the agent in the face. Either it doesn’t work very well or Derek has simply grown too accustomed to being at the receiving end of death glares (which is funny, if you think about it, because one would suspect Derek’s always the one glowering at people).

Ignoring Stiles completely, Hale snatches the mug sitting on his desk from under the quartermaster’s nose and takes a deep gulp, only to pull a face in disgust and makes a gagging noise. Stiles allows himself a moment of silent triumph.

“That’s what you get for stealing my coffee.”

“That’s not coffee,” Derek says. “It’s an atrocity. Just how much sugar did you dump in there?”

“It’s my coffee,” Stiles points out. “If you’re only going to complain because it isn’t to your liking I have an easy solution for you: make your own damn coffee.”

Derek puts the mug down and eyes it as if it has personally offended him. “I am seriously concerned about the effect this will have on you. You’re a buzzy bee on your good days. With this much sugar in your system it’s a wonder you haven’t thrashed Q branch yet.”

“Quite the contrary. It helps me focus. You might consider not protesting to something that will aid me doing everything in my power to keep you lot alive.”

“Funny,” Derek deadpans, “I could’ve sworn you threatened to kill me. Again.”

“I’d love to,” Stiles assures him, “but it would be a shameful waste of the time and energy I’ve already spent on you.”

He’s staring at the formula in front of him and wonders how the hell the poisonous lipstick that can take out a giant in a second flat is supposed to be harmless for the one first applying it. Burying oneself in their work is a universal sign, he thinks, that reads ‘this conversation is over, please feel free to leave any second now’, but then, 007 never liked to do how he’s told.

He sighs. He’s angry at Derek, he’s furious, even, but everything was a lot simpler when he could tell himself the hated the guy. But this, the easy banter, the riling each other up, it’s comfortable and automatic and soothes his ire. Which sucks, because he wants to stay angry but he can’t, not when he can’t keep himself from falling straight back to the familiar ping-pong exchange of insults that are not really to be taken seriously and falling a little more in love with Derek every time Derek breaks out his trademark desert-dry humour.

“You could admit I was right.”

Stiles tenses. “You weren’t.”

“The mission was successful,” Derek argues. “That would indicate that I was.”

“The mission was fulfilled,” Stiles amends. “You acted recklessly and mindlessly endangered Scott’s life.”

“If I’d taken the long route, he might have died.”

“The only reason they didn’t shoot him on the spot when you blew your cover was because the revolver jammed,” Stiles snaps. “Saying it worked out in the end is not a good enough excuse for risking that your partner ends up with a bullet between his eyes.” He turns around. He’s trembling with anger, and he’s clenching and unclenching his fingers to fight back the urge to destroy something. It doesn’t even help that Derek, for the first time, looks something akin to contrite. “I don’t care that it worked,” he repeats. “I don’t.”

Derek is quiet for a long time after that. “You shouldn’t get too attached,” he advises finally.

For a split second, Stiles panics, and thinks, wildly, ‘oh God, how did he find out’, before he realises that no, that’s just Derek’s usual masochism and his completely screwed up way of looking out for someone (or maybe himself). Stiles wants to laugh in his face. Emotional detachment is the very first lesson you learn when you join the MI6, but that was never in the cards for him, not for a second, and Derek might be better at the whole indifference thing, but if he thinks he can fool anyone into believing he doesn’t care when they lose an agent then he’s clearly delusional.

“People like us, like me and Scott....we usually don’t make it to retirement.”

“I’m aware of that, thank you.”

“You’ll have to learn that there are more important things than the lives of the operatives,” Derek goes on, quietly but adamantly. “If you want to play this game, you’ll have to learn to sacrifice your pawns for the greater good,”

Stiles looks at him blankly. “Is that what you did, 007?”

Derek draws in a sharp breath and looks like Stiles gutted him. The mixture of guilt and terror on his face tells him everything he needs to know. Stiles feels a little bad. Well, a lot, actually. Using Derek’s sister against him is a low blow, but he won’t apologise. There’s a sense of sick satisfaction in hurting Derek, taking revenge on him for letting Scott get hurt. For pushing Stiles away, whether he’s doing that with intent or not.

“Yes,” Derek rasps, surprising Stiles. He’d expected a punch, or Derek turning on his heel and stalking out of his office, at least. Stiles and Derek aren’t like that. They talk but they don’t...talk. They focus on the job and keep their non-professional and non-banter-involving interactions to a minimum, except for the rare occasions when Derek walks into his and his Dad’s flat and feels the need to comment on the orderliness of Stiles’ room or their meagre tea collection. But no personal things, not ever.  “I put my job before my sister, and she died, and I might as well have killed her myself.”

Now Stiles just really feels like an asshole. “You saved a lot of people that day,” he replies, although he knows it doesn’t mean anything. He doesn’t need to know Derek to understand that there isn’t a day on which he doesn’t regret the decision he made, regardless of how many innocent lives he’d saved. He knows he’d let them all burn if he’d known that, while he was extracting the information needed to prevent another terrorist attack, Laura had died screaming. And that’s also why Stiles knows Derek is just bullshitting his way through this, how he knows that Derek made that ad hoc decision in Beirut to save Scott’s life, even if it was a stupid ass decision.

There’s the logical, reasonable side of his job, and then there’s the one where his heart comes in. No matter what your supervisors tell you, you can’t detach yourself from all of it. Stiles knows that better than anyone; all his life, he’s seen his father struggle with regulations and legal boundaries when he was still a Sheriff, and then with the weight of trying to save both all his operatives and the world.

“I’d rather rewrite the game,” Stiles says.

“It doesn’t work like that,” Derek replies, always the pragmatic.

“Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”

Usually Stiles can appreciate his realism-bordering-on-pessimism, but maybe Scott has been rubbing off on him. Or maybe his persistent crush on Derek has left him with the ludicrous belief that he can, somehow, save Derek from himself.

Which is why he doesn’t tell Derek, when, only a week later, the agent returns wounded and his Dad assigns him the case of the terrorist cells acting up, that he has already figured out the pattern. Doesn’t tell him that when Derek and Scott were in Beirut and Scott was captured, it was really just a trap for Derek. Doesn’t tell him that he knows who’s behind it all.

He tells his father, but by then Derek has already figured it out himself, and of course the whole thing comes back to blow up in his face.

 “How long have you known?” Derek asks, slamming the folder down in front of him, voice full of cold rage.

Stiles doesn’t flinch, doesn’t look away. He should have known this was coming the moment a blurry but clear enough picture of a pretty blonde with a sadistic smile popped up on his computer screen. It’s a face that’s been all over their records for a while now, for all that Kate Argent has managed to elude them, and everyone in this department knows what she looks, but her image is not seared into any brain more deeply than into Derek’s. “A while.”

“Does M know?”

“Yes.”

“You’re a shitty liar.” Derek laughs bitterly. “I can’t believe the nerve of you. How many people have died because you wanted to spare my feelings?”

“Fuck you, 007,” Stiles says heatedly. “This isn’t about your feelings, this is about your complete lack of self-preservation instincts and your tendency to lose your head. You talk big about emotional detachment, but frankly, you suck at it.”

“It’s not for you to decide who goes on what mission.”

“No, but I am allowed to give my opinion, and I’m sorry I refuse to let you continue down your merry path of misery and self-destruction.”

“You’ll be sorrier if Scott is sent there and Kate tears him to pieces. You’d never be able to forgive yourself.”

Stiles swallows. “No,” he admits, “I wouldn’t. But then I don’t think I could forgive myself if I stood aside and watched you go to your almost certain death either.”

Derek goes rigid and stares at him in shock, all colour drained from his face. “I-“ he begins, and takes a step forwards.

Stiles takes a step back. “Don’t,” he says sharply.

Derek shuts his mouth with an audible click of his teeth, expression closing off. “I never asked you to save me. You can’t.”

“I thought someone had to try. My mistake, really.”

“I told you not to care too much.”

Stiles lets out a humourless laugh. “Yes. Yes you did. Shame I didn’t listen to you.” 

Derek overhears the argument - well, no, actually it’s a full-blown fight, the first time between father and son he’s ever witnessed –mostly by accident. He knows he shouldn’t eavesdrop, but he knows it’s about him and he can’t just walk past.

“-out of your mind to assign Derek-“

“Son,” M’s voice cuts in, steady and deep as always, “I know my agents. If Derek says he’s ready, then I trust him to be ready.”

Bull,” Stiles replies heatedly. “This is personal for him. It’s not just a mission, it’s revenge. He’s not going there because she is the leader of the biggest and most influential ring of firearm smugglers, he’s going there because she killed his family. He won’t think straight, be even more unprofessional than usual. And Kate will do everything in her power to destroy him. And in the unlikely case that he isn’t turned to minced meat and he succeeds in exterminating her, Allison will shoot him in the head for killing her aunt.”

“No, she won’t.”

“You’re completely missing the point I was trying to make.”

“Are you afraid Derek will die?”

“No,” Stiles says, voice raspy and a little bit broken. “I’m afraid he’ll want to.”

The silence that follows is deafening. Derek is too aware of his own sharp intake of breath, his quickened heartbeat, the dryness of his mouth.

‘Oh’, he thinks, and doesn’t know whether he should be relieved or bitter that his groundbreaking revelation about Stiles comes this late.

“Derek is fine,” M says finally. “Despite the childhood trauma he’s gone through, he’s grown up to be a remarkably emotionally stable young man.”

Stiles laughs sharply. “Emotionally stable, my ass,” he scoffs. “He throws on his game face of haughtiness and holier-than-thou to hide how fucked up he really is and buries himself in work to avoid thinking about his issues. He passes his psychological evaluations by lying his ass off while silently sweeping his issues under the rug until one day, the pile’ll be too big to not trip over it and faceplant into hell.”

“Now that doesn’t sound familiar at all.”

Derek tiptoes away. This part isn’t meant for him to ear, and despite what everyone suspects, he’s familiar with common decency.

He gets a text an hour later: nothing but a photograph of a road sign that marks the entrance to Beacon Hills.

He goes to M’s office. “I’m leaving,” he says.

Stilinski looks defeated, but not surprised, like he hadn’t expected anything else. “Pick up some stuff before you go, son. You’ll need it.” He pulls Derek into an awkward hug and pats him on the shoulder. “Good luck.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Derek refuses to acknowledge that his throat tightens.

Stiles shows him the cold shoulder when he heads to Q branch for his equipment. He’s almost unrecognisable: gone is Mister Punchline with his enthusiastic gesticulation and nervous energy. Stiles is uncharacteristically silent, his posture stiff and his expression closed-off. His explanations are minimalistic, as is the weaponry in general.

“Q,” Derek tries, because sometimes one can get on his good side by using his title, but Stiles’ look makes the words die in his throat, and he doesn’t speak again until it’s time for him to go and catch his plane. “What, no petition to return the gadgets in one piece and not die?”

“The breath would be wasted on you,” Stiles says, tight-lipped. Cold. Detached. The words hit deeper and sharper than anything he’s heard in a long time, and the subsequent guilt punches the breath out of him.

The quartermaster presses the small radio and earpiece into Derek’s hand. “When you die, at least have the decency to turn off transmission beforehand.”

Derek wants nothing more than to reach out and touch him, but he doesn’t. He’s never had less right to do that. Actually, he’s never had any right to do that.

“I have to do this.”

“You are so full of shit.”

“Stiles.”

Stiles doesn’t turn to look at him. His voice is very quiet when he speaks. “Goodbye, Derek.”

Derek leaves.

It’s not all that hard to find her. Derek’s not an idiot, he knows she’s watching him, so all he has to do, really, is return to where it all started and wait for her to find him. He’s only been in town for two days when there’s quick rap on the door. He opens it to a wave of blond hair and a familiar, slightly manic smile.

“Hey, sweetie,” Kate says, and blows a handful of purple powder in his face that knocks him right out.

When he comes to again and blinks his eyes open blearily, he doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. His head feels like it’s going to explode, blood is running in thin rivulets over his arms and torso, and he’s chained up in the remains of the Hale house basement.

“I don’t think you get any points for originality,” he tells Kate when he’s gathered enough saliva in his mouth to be able to remove his tongue from where it’s sticking to his palate.

“I don’t know,” she says, tapping her fingers against the chair rest. “I’d say we’ve come full circle. The last of the Hales has to die where the others did, for the sake of symmetry, don’t you think?”

“I think you’re insane, and also unprofessional for hunting me down to fulfil your personal, sick desire to kill. Shouldn’t you be more concerned with taking over the world?”

Kate gives a dismissive wave of her hand. “What’s life without a little fun? My father can hold his own for a couple of days.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re in this together,” Derek says. “You got at least half of your psychotic tendencies from him.” He shifts a little. His wrists burn where the shackles cut into his skin, but all in all they’re looser than he expected.

“Wanting power has nothing to do with psychopathy. Everyone wants power and me? There might not be a photo of me on the front page of the New York Times every other day, but I’m more powerful than the President of the United States, and the best part about it is that I get to do away with inconveniences without having to justify myself for any of it.” She laughs, but it sounds sort of hollow. “You wouldn’t believe how good it feels, the rush of power. Just one word from me and one of the most important political leaders drops to the ground dead, or there’s another suicide bomber blowing a market in Bagdad to pieces. It’s so easy to manipulate the world, nowadays. I could start World War III if I felt like it.”

“And yet you’re here wasting your time with me.”

“What can I say? I like playing with you. You’ve always been my favourite toy.”

“And you still like to listen to yourself talk,” Derek says dryly, but there’s something off with her, and it’s not that she’s off the hinges. He can’t put his finger on it, but it makes his alarm bells ring. She’s not just crazy; she’s boasting about her power, but she’s more pretending to be smug than actually proud of it. Most importantly, she’s sloppy. Derek waits until her attention isn’t fully focused on him and works on the shackles a bit more. They give, just a little. It’s a good thing he’s been bleeding all over his wrists. “If this is how you plan to torture me,” he says, “then I prefer whatever you did while I was unconscious.”

“Ah, that.” Kate smiles and steps closer, running a hand over his arms, following the trails of blood. “Sorry I had to get started without you, honey, but I wouldn’t have wanted to make disturbing us easier for them. Someone’s quite devoted to keeping tabs on you.”

Derek glances at his body quickly and counts seven small, round wounds where something has been dug out from under his skin. The pattern seems random but for two spots in his forearms. He knows exactly what she got out there. “Excessive,” he mutters under his breath. His quiet amusement is drowned out by the realisation that he is, for the first time, utterly on his own. He hadn’t known how much he’d secretly counted on Stiles to back him up either way.

Except when he glances at the table he sees that there aren’t only various torture devices scattered on it, but also everything Kate pulled from his pockets. Including his wallet, which contains the small explosive Stiles disguised as a penny and that can be activated only by Derek cat calling. It’s a ridiculous thing Stiles had shoved at him after one of their many arguments about more intricate supplies, and he knows Stiles had programmed it like that mostly to piss him off and knowing that Derek would feel far too dignified to ever use it, but it’s still there.

Full circle, he thinks. Death by fire, in the basement of his childhood home. Well, at least he’ll take her down with him.

“Well then,” Kate says, inching closer still and bending down to lick over his abs before turning around and sauntering over to the table, inspecting a small, jagged knife. Derek fights the violent urge to throw up. “Now that we’re all alone, I can think of a few things I would like to do to you.”

Derek can’t believe he’s actually doing it, but he wolf whistles and silently prays it’s loud and clear enough for the bomb to activate.

Q Branch is in turmoil.

“What do you mean he disappeared?” Stiles asks and shoves Danny out of the way.

“I mean I can’t get a signal from any of the trackers anymore.” Danny, it seems, is the only one who’s still zen, because nothing ever really upsets Danny. Danny is a sexy version of Buddha. “He was in the hotel, and then they blinked out one after another.”

Stiles gets a sudden, horrifying vision of Derek taking a letter opener to cut open his skin and dig out the small devices. “That fucker,” he murmurs, although rationally he knows Derek couldn’t possibly be aware of how many transmitters there are, nor does he have the supplies to detect them. Not to mention that not even he would manage to get them all out and stay conscious. “When was that?”

“About two hours ago.”

“Do we have any leads? Anything? CCTV, maybe?” M asks, sounding tense.

“I have two people checking the tapes, but we got nothing so far.”

“Have you tried tracking his mobile phone?” Stiles suggests. Sometimes the most obvious route is also the one that works best.

Danny gives him a blank look. “Do you have his password?”

“Try Laura,” Stiles says, logging into his own computer. For all that Derek should know better, he’s still a traditionalist when it comes to passwords. His sister’s name would be an obvious choice.

“Not working.”

Stiles stills.

“Nine letters,” Danny announces, frowning at his screen. “I’m running the programme now. First letter’s a G.”

“Oh you fucker,” Stiles breathes, and switches his keyboard to Polish and types away. “I’ll so get back at you for this.” He doesn’t even want to know where Derek got that information from, but apparently Stiles wasn’t thorough enough in his quest to burn every record of him before he legally changed his name, and Derek is a persistent bloodhound.

“We’re in,” Danny says, surprised. “Tracking location now...” He frowns. “That’s in the middle of nowhere.”

“No, that’s where his family lived.” Stiles feels sick. He knows that Derek sometimes flies down there to visit the graveyard, but he’s never, not once, set foot on his family’s land again.

“Get him out of there,” M decides. “Tell Scott-“

“You sent Scott after him?”

“Of course I did, do you think I’m stupid? I couldn’t have stopped Derek if I’d wanted to, and I needed to make sure that if he failed someone was there to pick up her trail while it’s still fresh. He can resent me for that all he wants, I wasn’t going to let him do this alone.”

Stiles picks up his phone and presses the second number programmed into his speed dial. “Scott?” he says when his friend picks up. “Where are you?”

“About ten minutes out of Beacon Hills.”

“I’m sending you directions. Go there now, she’s got Derek.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I need them,” Scott says, voice hard.

“Why not?” Stiles asks, glancing up. A police car rushes across the screen on CCTV, blue lights flashing.

A second later, he hears the sirens.

Stiles doesn’t stay to wait for the verification of what he already suspects. When Scott calls later to tell him that he’s standing in front of the still smoking and now entirely collapsed remains of the Hale house, he’s not surprised. He’s also not surprised that they found a body burnt beyond recognition in there.

He is surprised when the coroner tells him the victim was definitely a female, but he doesn’t allow himself to get his hopes up. Just because they haven’t found his body doesn’t mean he’s not dead.

His father and the other agents try to stay optimistic even when they can’t find a single sign of him ever having been in Beacon Hills in the first place.

Stiles works a lot. He tracks down the rest of the Argents with a fervour that has everyone in MI6 worried.

Derek doesn’t come back.

Five months later, Stiles opens the door to his flat and finds a familiar shadow leaning against the kitchen counter. He drops his grocery bags and hits the light switch, thinking his mind is playing tricks on him, but apparently, it’s not. Derek is standing there almost nonchalantly, looking not even remotely out of place, and maybe that’s what sets off Stiles’ fit of rage.

“Hello, Stiles,” Derek says quietly.

Stiles walks towards him and punches him square in the face.

To his credit, Derek doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t even looks surprised, just takes it. He does raise his fingers to his mouth and swipes away the blood trickling from his lips, though, staring at it with a mixture of fascination and acceptance. “I guess I deserved that.”

“No shit,” Stiles says. “Five months, Derek. Five months.”

“I know.”

“We all thought you were dead after all.” Stiles shakes his head and forces his muscles to stop shaking. It’s hard when it brings up all those memories he wishes he didn’t have, of the constant cycle of hope and panic that took his breath away and kept him awake for nights on end until he literally collapsed from exhaustion. Of course, he brought it on himself, but this is the icing on the cake, and his anger almost completely overshadows the knee-weakening relief. “We didn’t have your location, we didn’t – no, you know what, no, you don’t get to do this. You have no right.”

“I’m sorry.”

Stiles sucks in a sharp breath. He’s never heard Derek sound so small and vulnerable. “I don’t think sorry is going to cover it this time.” He takes a step back, desperate to get some distance between the two of them because he honestly doesn’t think he can bear being near Derek now, but a warm hand curls around his wrist and holds him back.

“I know, Stiles,” Derek rasps. “I know.”

“Where were you?”

“In a hospital,” Derek answers. “For quite a while.”

“Ah,” Stiles says. “And they didn’t have phones there, I’m sure, cause it’s not like we live in the fucking 21st century or anything.” He shakes his head. “One call, Derek. One ten seconds call. Just ‘Hey there, just so you know, I’m not dead, kay, thanks, bye.’”

Derek looks shifty. “And then there was some...stuff I had to take care of. Things I had to figure out.”

Well ain’t that appropriately vague and vacuous. “Like what?”

“Like working on my unresolved childhood trauma and shutting the door in its face once and for all in a healthier way than denial and repression?” Derek sort of asks.

“Or blowing people to bits?”

“Yeah.”

Stiles didn’t expect that level of honesty, and he doesn’t know how to reply to it. He’s perfectly well aware of how much Derek used to resolutely refuse to even consider therapy.  “We got the rest of them,” he informs Derek. “Gerard’s dead. Victoria and Chris might be facing clement sentences because they’ve been cooperating with the court.”

“I heard.”

“Allison’s not taking it so well.”

“I suppose finding out your family consists of a bunch of criminal maniacs does that to you.”

Stiles looks at down at where Derek’s large hands are still covering his wrists. “Why are you here, Derek?”

Derek frowns a little. “You know why I’m here.”

“Do I?” Stiles asks, because Goddammit, he wants to hear Derek say it for once.

Derek gently tugs him closer and rests his forehead against Stiles, just looking at him and almost breathing in the air coming out of Stiles’ lungs. He’s looking at Stiles like he’s asking for permission, and Stiles has never seen him look more open, or younger. He must find something in Stiles’ face that does grant him permission, because he leans forwards slowly and closes the distance between them. Their first kiss is chaste and hesitant but far from unsure, and Stiles is hit by the mind-boggling realisation that Derek wants this, wants him. 

It’s hard to hold back after that, and since he can’t really find a reason not to he presses up against Derek and runs his tongue over his lower lip until Derek opens his mouth and lets him in, raising his hands to cradle Stiles’ face in them. It’s ridiculous how perfectly they fit against each other, how right it feels.

He jumps a little when Derek’s hands leave his face and drop down to sneak under his T-shirt, though, and he forces himself to pull back. “Wait,” he says.

Derek frowns.

“You don’t have to,” Stiles says. “This isn’t –“

“-what you want?” Derek finishes. For a second, he looks crestfallen and rejected before he schools his features into a more expressionless mask, and no no no, this isn’t what Stiles meant or wanted at all.

“Yes. I mean, no, it totally is, but,” he takes a deep breath and tries to will away his hard-on, which is still as ineffective as when he was sixteen, “we should do it right, I think. We can take it slow.”

Derek looks like he’s torn between being offended and being amused. “Stiles, you don’t have to treat me with kid gloves. I’m not made of glass.”

“I’m aware of that.” Stiles pokes a little at his abs through his Henley, because he thinks he’s allowed to do that now. “I’m still not entirely convinced you’re not sculpted from marble. But what I mean is, like, do it the proper way. Go on dates.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. It’s still as sceptical as it used to be, but being eyebrow-judged by Derek is familiar.  It’s nice to know some things don’t change. “We’ve been on dates.”

“Eating take-out over work doesn’t count.”

“I’ve had breakfast in here, with you and your Dad,” Derek points out. “I think we officially passed the number of times you can do that without being in a serious relationship.”

“If you’re trying to convince me that we’ve been dating this entire time then it’s not working.”

“Lydia threatened to feed me my own balls if I hurt you months ago,” Derek admits. “So did Scott, but I wasn’t nearly as terrified.” He sweeps forward to kiss Stiles again. “You have also completely missed the part where I said I’d been working on my issues, and I think you have absolutely no idea just how long I’ve wanted this.”

Stiles swallows. “You have?” And then he groans, because Derek nudges a thigh between his legs and he can feel how hard Derek is. “Fuck,” he curses and lets his head fall on Derek’s shoulder. “I was going to be the bigger man here, be considerate and reasonable and talk you out of making a dumbass decision.”

“I didn’t know you liked cock-blocking yourself,” Derek says. “Martyrdom and masochism were always more my thing.”

“Ugh,” Stiles says, and he seriously can’t believe he’s trying to talk Derek out of having sex with him. “You suck.”

“I could,” Derek quips, which is the worst and cheesiest line ever, but Stiles has seen it work on lesser people. Which....is not a good thought to have. Derek must feel him tensing up, because he forces Stiles to look at him.

“Stiles,” he says calmly. “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think I was ready, because I am not willing to screw this up again. You’re the first person I’ve wanted since my family died, and there was never any doubt about it, not in my mind. I stayed away because I didn’t know if I could let go of the emotional package I’ve carried around for too long, and because I didn’t deserve you.”

“I don’t want this to be like-“

“It won’t,” Derek promises. “Stiles, I’ve laid my life in your hands innumerable times, what makes you think I don’t trust you?”

“Oh,” Stiles says, because this...this is kind of huge.

“Oh,” Derek agrees. “Now will we take this to the bedroom or not?”

Stiles is still too busy staring stupidly at him to move, really (which is saying something, because he’s never been too flabbergasted for his brain to not give way to his instincts whenever sex is in the realm of possibility), so Derek just pushes past and strolls towards Stiles’ bedroom. Stiles takes another minute or so to appreciate the view of Derek’s perfectly rounded ass in tight jeans before rushing after him, miraculously managing to not trip over his own feet. He doesn’t even know what it is about Derek that makes his coordination skills revert back to his middle-school self; Stiles might move around a lot but he’s become almost graceful over time, okay, he’s left the phase in which he looked like a spastic idiot long behind.

Maybe he’s trying to prove his awesomeness to himself or maybe he’s too eager but as soon as he catches up with Derek he pounces. There are clearly benefits to sleeping with expertly trained killers, because Derek isn’t in the least surprised, doesn’t topple or lose his balance for even the fraction of the second, just goes with the movement and catches Stiles when he wraps his long legs around Derek’s waist, grabbing Stiles’ thighs to hoist him higher before sliding his hands up a little to squeeze Stiles’ ass.

The noise that comes out of his mouth is one of the kind that one should probably be embarrassed about if he weren’t a) already too far gone to care and b) mesmerised by the pleased and proud grin that sneaks over Derek’s face. It’s one of the few genuine and bright smiles that Stiles has seen on it, and he thinks, idly, that it’s by far his favourite, and Stiles has to kiss it right off his mouth. It’s not anything like their first kiss; it’s open-mouthed and wet and dirty and this time he really cherishes the opportunity to bury his fingers in Derek’s hair and thoroughly enjoy it when Derek’s hands ruck up his shirt and then make their way all over Stiles’ heated skin.

“I may still kind of hate you,” Stiles admits when he pulls back for breath. “You’re wearing way too many clothes. This is unacceptable.” Somewhere along the way, and he doesn’t even know when, he has lost his plaid shirt and tee. It’s not impossible that Derek shredded it, which, if it is true, Stiles will throttle him. He liked that shirt.   

Derek snorts and lets Stiles drop to the ground.

“Oi!” Stiles complains, fighting to not land on his ass, but the angry rant he’d prepared dies in his throat when Derek pulls his Henley over his head in a swift, practiced movement, kicks off his shows and shimmies out of his jeans and his underwear in one go, and Stiles is presented with 100 per cent pure and unadulterated Derek and that’s...that’s really glorious. He ogles Derek unashamedly, because damn.

He’s seen Derek shirtless plenty of times. It’s like the agent is allergic to them; he loses a lot of shirts during fights on his missions and Stiles has made more than a few remarks about how the MI6 could probably afford nuclear weapons if they stopped paying for all of Derek’s shirts. But this time, he gets the whole deal and it’s only for him.

Stiles is close enough that he can see every single scar running over his body, thin silver lines and jagged circles, silent testaments of where skin was sliced open and bruised and pierced by bullets. He has no reason to know this, but he can pinpoint the old ones, could’ve drawn a map of them for a long time. Stiles is not surprised that there’s a large number of new scars and burn marks he’s never seen before, but hell if it doesn’t make the rage flare up hot and rekindled inside him, and he really wants to bring Kate Argent back to life just to kill her again in the most creative ways.

“You should close your mouth,” Derek says. “You’re not that attractive with drool dribbling down your chin.”

Stiles clicks his mouth shut and guiltily runs his hand over his mouth. It comes away dry. He glares at Derek, who just grins smugly. “I will have you know,” Stiles announces haughtily, “that I am insanely attractive whatever I do.”

“I would be a better judge of that if you actually followed suit and got naked. Preferably sometime soon. Otherwise,” he drops down on the bed and slides up until his head rests on the pillow and reaches down between his legs to give his cock a firm stroke, “I’ll just get started without you.”

The way his eyes flutter shut and he bites his lower lips when his thumb ghosts over the head of his cock is better than all the porn Stiles has ever seen combined. He’s pretty sure he could come just from watching Derek like this without even getting a hand on himself, but his trousers are tight and uncomfortable right now so he should really just get them off and joi-

“But I’d rather you come here and fuck me into the mattress.”

Stiles has never undone his belt and stepped out his trouser this fast. “Oh my God,” he says. “You will be the death of me. You will literally kill me, either by giving me a heart-attack with your headless decisions in the field or by giving me a heart-attack with your sexiness, you fucking tease.” He scrambles to follow Derek on the comforter and leans down to leave a trail of kisses down his scarred chest. “You are so not good for my health.”

“You are good for mine,” Derek says quietly, making Stiles still, his mouth only inches away from Derek’s navel, thrown by the sudden change of tone. Derek brings his hand down to run his fingers through Stiles’ hair and scrape his fingernails gently against the skin. “You are. You’re the most annoying, aggravating and ridiculous person I’ve ever met, you’re always challenging me, and you force me to pay more attention and be more careful and you push until I give in and you make me laugh and you make me want to be a better person.”

Stiles blinks. “Dude,” he says, because he’s pretty sure that’s as close to a love declaration as Derek will ever get,”you can’t just say things like that when I’m about to blow you.”  And...that feels like a completely inadequate answer. “I don’t want you to be a better person.” He glances up at Derek’s face, open and raw and honest. “I like that you’re an asshole, because then I can be an asshole without feeling bad about it. I kind of hate it when Scott gives me the betrayed puppy eyes, it’s like he’s the only one in our line of work who’s not a sociopath. Well, and maybe Danny. But the point is, you make me want to hit you over the head with a frying pan all the fucking time and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He purses his lips. “You could maybe try almost dying a little less often. Now may I carry on?”

“By all means,” Derek says, waving a hand.

“Don’t make it sound like it’s my fault for making you wait.”

“You launched the endless monologue.”

“You started the heartfelt confessions, so fuck you.”

“Yes, please.”

Stiles falters again, this time with his lips maybe two inches away from Derek’s dick. “You-” He clears his throat. “You’d want me to?”

Derek gives him his best duh look. “What did I say about you fucking me into the mattress?”

“I dunno, I just kind of assumed with, well,” he gestures to Derek’s everything, “the brick muscles and the sullen demeanour and the problems with authority and accepting orders,” – he doesn’t say with the trust issues and the history of statutory rape – “that you’d want to top and you were mostly joking.”

“I wasn’t.”

“Oh sweet Jesus.”

He’s in a dilemma, because he really really really wants to get a taste of Derek, but at the same time he just wants to kiss the guy senseless. In the end, he goes for the latter, not only because he isn’t sure he won’t cream his boxers the second he gets his mouth on Derek’s dick, but also because he’s not an idiot. Every single thing about this is awesome, but it’s not really about him, because he isn’t the one who doesn’t know how to have a healthy sex life or healthy relationships in general. So he slides up Derek’s body until he’s straddling him and slots their mouths together, pushes his tongue between Derek’s lips and pretends it doesn’t make his bones turn to goo when he Derek bucks his hips just so, the pressure between their groins both too little and too much to bear.

The Derek wraps his arms around Stiles’ torso and uses his absolutely insane abdominal muscles to get them both into a sitting position, his kiss turning decidedly more aggressive and deep before he pulls away from Stiles’ lips in order to turn his attention to his neck, biting down on the tender skin just below his jawline. Stiles mewls a little while Derek sucks a huge hickey on his skin that he will in no way be able to cover up and hide from his Dad. Just like the stubble burn that he’ll surely get all over his body.

“I knew you were a biter,” Stiles murmurs and prods Derek until he inches away far enough that Stiles can do some exploring on his own.

He wouldn’t mind letting Derek maul his neck for the rest of the night (or possibly the rest of his life). That’s what he’d expected when he’d fantasised about him and 007 falling into bed together, that Derek would be forceful and dominant and would pin him against the nearest flat surface to thoroughly ravish him, and this particular fantasy had been spank bank material for as long as they’ve been working together. Angry sex is great, okay? Every possible variation of this scenario has been played over and over in his head, and then some.

He’d also assumed it would take some serious gentle coaxing and sweet talking Derek into bottoming. Derek giving himself up like this kind of blows his mind, and he’s almost childishly proud of himself for not shooting his load right then and there or just really jumping Derek. It’s a good thing that with age and maturity also comes the ability to hold his horses, and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t make this good for Derek and prove him that his trust wasn’t misplaced.

He bends down to press his lips against the bulging scar tissue under Derek’s left collarbone – a parting gift from a Hungarian professional killer – lets his tongue dart out to taste the salty-sweet sweat gathering on his skin and then proceeds to map out all the little blemishes and imperfection on Derek’s marred but perfect body, traces them with his tongue while letting his hands draw idle circles on Derek’s back, following the curves of the triskelion tattoo between his shoulder blades, leaving Derek trembling beneath him.

It’s not long before Derek shoves his hand into Stiles’ underwear and curls his hand around his dick, because Derek Can’t Have Nice Things and he’s not known to be the most patient person in the world. Stiles would complain, because he was nowhere near finished with exploring every inch of Derek’s body, but he allows that Derek has a point and they should probably move this along. He huffs out an impatient breath, more for show than anything, and slaps Derek’s hand away before pushing Derek back down onto the mattress and shuffling backwards to kneel between his legs.

“Make yourself useful and grab the lube and a condom, will you? Bottom drawer,” Stiles says and quickly gets rid of his boxers.

Derek snorts and reaches out to open the drawer without taking his eyes of Stiles, the fucker.

“Do you need to prove your ninja skills at every waking moment?” Stiles isn’t cross. He’s actually kind of jealous.

“Am I distracting you?”

“Yes,” Stiles admits. “But then you also do that with your stubble and your cheekbones and your jawline and your eyes. And your shoulders. Have I mentioned you shoulders are obnoxious?”

 “You’re one to talk,” Derek grunts. “I’ve had to deal with your fucking mouth.

“The things that come out of it or-“

Derek throws the lube at his head. “Yeah, that too, because they are mostly horrifying. But I was mostly referring to the things you put in it.” He sounds like Stiles’ mouth has personally offended him.

Stiles grins. “You say the sweetest things.”

He licks a wet strip from the base of Derek’s cock to the head, and whatever Derek was about to say dies in his throat and only claws its way past his vocal chords as a strangled gasp. Stiles feels extremely accomplished. It’s not every day one manages to render 007 speechless.

He takes Derek in his mouth, swirls his tongue over the head and peeks up through his eyelashes to gauge Derek’s reaction. He looks absolutely mesmerised, eyes wide and pupils blown, and he’s biting his lips to stop himself from making noises. He’s only moderately successful. Also, Stiles can feel Derek’s thighs shaking, which he is not surprised by. He gives awesome head, okay? His skills are unparalleled.

Stiles keeps going until he wrenches an actual moan from Derek and then pulls off with a wet popping sound. He works open the bottle of lube and pours a copious amount over his fingers, slicking them up as thoroughly as possible.

“Okay?” he asks, circling Derek’s hole.

Derek shudders, then glares at him. “I swear to God, Stiles, if you ask me that one more time-“

“Understood.”

He slowly pushes in the first finger, and he can practically feel the way Derek forces himself to relax. Part of him wants to ask if it is too much, if he should stop, because Derek’s really kind of painfully tight, but he thinks if he does he might actually end up with his throat ripped out. So he takes his cues from watching Derek’s face as he gently pumps his fingers in and out and goes to distract him with his mouth once more when he feels Derek tense a little. Stiles works a second finger in, cautiously scissoring them to spread Derek wider, and when he crooks them a little Derek draws in a sharp breath that is definitely not pained.

‘Bingo’, Stiles thinks, and pushes again, a little harder, and works a third finger in. Derek’s hips jerk, and he bucks up into the wet heat of Stiles’ mouth. It’s a good thing Stiles is blessed with having rather good reflexes; they usually only provoke him to startle with a flourish, but in situations like these they enable him to pull back quickly enough to not choke. He would’ve glared at any other guy, because no matter how hot the dude in front of him is, being suffocated by a dick is never a good way to go and as far as Stiles is concerned it’s common courtesy to not actually fuck anyone’s mouth unless they’re giving you their okay. With Derek, he’s willing to forgive the faux-pas, not only because Derek has so far shown rather remarkable self-restraint, but also because there is something primal and fundamentally hot about seeing him lose control in the best possible way.   

He pulls out his fingers and sits back to chuck his boxers, trying to remember where Derek put the condom. He’s kind of regretting not turning on the lights before, because the sun has nearly set and now the room is dimly lit at best, which considerably constricts his view of Derek’s body, but he broke his bedside lamp a couple of days ago and the nearest light switch is now a whole ten feet away from his current position, and nothing warrants leaving the bed, even if only for a few seconds. Also, it’s still light enough that he sees the hungry look in Derek’s eyes when he lets his gaze rake over Stiles’ body, and it’s enough to make Stiles shudder with need before the small foiled square hits him on the nose.

He glares. “Seriously?”

Derek raises a long-suffering eyebrow. “Not getting any younger here,” he points out. “And I don’t know when your father gets home - you two have impossible work schedules – but I’d rather he didn’t walk in on us mid-sex. He’s still my boss.”

“I hope you’re not going to complain about me sharing a flat with my dad,” Stiles says, fumbling with the packaging. It’s not easy to rip the foil when your hands are slippery with lube. “That would not only be hugely hypocritical considering the number of times you’ve chosen to come here instead of spending time in your own home, but I’d also feel compelled to point out that we could have gone to your apartment if it hadn’t been sold and all your stuff been put into storage because we thought you were dead. You really should’ve called.”

Derek sighs, plucks the condom out of his hand and rips it open. “I think I liked you better with my dick in your mouth.”

“Liar,” Stiles grins, rolls on the condom and gets some more lube on his hand to slick himself up.

Derek’s answering smile is easy and open, and Stiles leans down to kiss it right from the corner of his mouth while he lines himself up and starts pushing in slowly. Derek releases a soft groan that vibrates against his lips, and, probably just to spite Stiles who was just about to still and give him time to adjust, or to prove that he is a manly man who is way too accustomed to pain, hikes up his legs to wrap them around Stiles’ hips and draw him down, making it easier for Stiles to slide in all the way.

“Jesus fucking Christ on a stick,” Stiles groans when he bottoms out and lets his head fall onto Derek’s shoulder, the hot tightness of Derek driving him crazy. “You have no idea how – you feel amazing.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, voice rough like sandpaper. “Fuck, will you just get a move on?”

“Pushy,” Stiles grumbles and snaps his hips forward, enjoying the high-pitched whine that escapes Derek.

“Look who’s talking.” Derek bucks up impatiently and that’s about as much as Stiles’ restraint can endure. He’s not superman.

“Just you wait,” he says and starts to move in earnest, setting a rhythm of slow but deep thrusts, “you’ll see how pushy I am, because we’re going to have so much sex. In the shower, in the kitchen, and on the living room couch, damn, in your stupid sexy car once you get it back-“

“I’m not sure we can do that without spraining something,” Derek gasps as Stiles picks up the pace, strong fingertips clutching at his shoulders so hard Stiles is sure it’ll bruise, “but I could bend you over and fuck you over your office desk.”

“Fuck, Derek.”

He’s not going to hold out much longer, which is something he should probably be mortified by, because he’s not a blushing virgin anymore, but he swears Derek is out to break his dick, and he dares everyone to have someone with the body of a Greek God splayed out beneath them, moving against and with their thrusts in the most sinful way and not be affected by it. It’s only minutes of quiet moans and breathless cries, their bodies rocking against each other and sweat pooling between them that Stiles can feel his orgasm building, and judging from the look on his face Derek’s pretty far gone, too. He reaches down between them and starts jerking Derek with quick but steady strokes.

“Yeah, Stiles, come on,” Derek murmurs, urging him on, sounding absolutely wrecked. Another flick of his wrist and Derek grabs him by his hair and pulls him down into an almost brutal kiss, making Stiles swallow every sound and Derek seizes around him and comes in long spurts all over Stiles’ hand and both their chests, and that’s it. His own orgasm is punched out of him, the force of it surprising him, and Stiles thinks he’s probably mauling Derek’s lower lip right now but he doesn’t care, just rides it out and then all but collapses on top of Derek.

“I don’t think I can ever move again,” Stiles mumbles into Derek’s skin. His muscles have turned to hot liquid, and his body is still tingling. Also, Derek is comfortable. “I’m just gonna stay here forever.”

Derek huffs, and unceremoniously shoves him off. Stiles squeaks, limbs flailing everywhere, but at least Derek is nice enough to catch him before he slides off the bed, grabbing his arm and pulling him back against Derek’s chest, which, gross, now he has spunk all over his back. Derek is lucky Stiles is feeling very zen right now, or he’d get his ass kicked.

“Asshole.”

Derek throws an arm around his waist and nuzzles Stiles’ neck from behind.

“Oh my God, you’re a closet cuddler,” Stiles marvels. “I totally called that, by the way.”

“Stiles.”

“Shut up?”

“Yeah.”

Stiles means to tell him that his menacing voice fails when he’s sleepy and sated, but then Derek’s menacing shtick never worked on Stiles anyway. He is, however, willing to do as he’s told for once to bask in the afterglow. “Just one more question.”

“Hmm.”

“Did you mean the office desk sex thing?”

He can feel Derek’s lip purse on his skin, contemplating. “Only if you hack into the surveillance system and turn off the cameras.”

“I’m kind of insulted that you didn’t think that was a given.”

“I know you too well to not be suspicious of what you might do with these cameras.”

“Ouch,” Stiles says. “But deal. Good to know that’s something that’s on the table.”

Derek groans. “I don’t know why I like you.”

Stiles smiles and tangled their fingers together. “Because I keep you alive,” he says and, after a beat, adds, “And just for the record, I’m hilarious.”

“You really aren’t,” Derek says, but Stiles can hear the smile in his voice as he tightens his grip on Stiles waist and snuggles closer, pressing a soft kiss onto his shoulder.

Stiles wants to continue that conversation, they need to talk about so many things and Stiles still has to give him a serious beating, like, really, and he’ll also have to threaten Derek to never use his real name, ever, but not now. He’s warm and boneless and happy for the first time in almost half a year, so he doesn’t fight it when his flutter shut and lets Derek’s steady breathing lull him to sleep.

They’ll have time for everything else later.