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It’s not Dad’s fault. And Stiles doesn’t mean that in an “I burnt his dinner” sort of way. It really hadn’t been his fault.

Stiles had never been the easiest of kids to parent, but in the weeks after Mom died, Stiles had turned a nightmare. The memories of what he’d been like back then still make him flinch, sometimes grab his head and pull it down and hum to himself until the flood of memories stops. Stiles had been angry and scared and only eight years old, so it had all manifested into things like fights at school, deliberately breaking things around the house, refusing to do his homework, and temper tantrums that would put any toddler to shame. And worse.

Dad had been grieving for Mom, trying to sort through all the paperwork that came with Mom’s meager life insurance policy, applying for social security, arguing with the insurance company about the medication they’d used to make her comfortable in her last few weeks, and already back to work. Add in a terror of a son who just wouldn’t shut up, and it’s understandable that he would drink a bit to cope with it all.

He and Derek have been dating for six months when Derek says, “How do you feel about a gag, next time?”

He asks this as he and Stiles are laid out on Derek’s bed, Stiles on his back, Derek curled around him, one hand gently carding through his hair. Stiles’ wrists are still stinging a little from the cuffs they’d used not twenty minutes ago. It’s a good sting. Stiles focuses on it, when Derek’s mumbled question reaches his ears, because otherwise his heartbeat will give him away, and he wants a chance to think about this before werewolf senses make the decision for him.

(After The Night, it had taken him months to start ignoring Scott’s good-natured, “Shut up, Stiles.” It took him years to stop flinching at the phrase, and even now, there’s a frisson of fear that shoots down his spine when someone finally snaps at him. He’s worked hard to get it down to that tiny frisson of fear.

It’s occurred to Stiles before, that the lifestyle he leads will probably lead to him one day being gagged by hunters. It’s only luck that he hasn’t been gagged yet. And if he’s ever in that situation, he can’t afford to freak out.

Maybe he won’t even freak out. Maybe this is just him being melodramatic. Maybe it’s been long enough that he’ll love being gagged, just like it’s been long enough that he can enjoy the taste of Jell-o again after months of eating it with Mom in the hospital.

And even if he does freak out—what better place to do it, than with Derek?)

“Yeah,” Stiles tells Derek. “Sure, let’s try it.”

Derek rumbles happily and nuzzles into his neck, holding him closer.

Two days later, the package is sitting out on Derek’s kitchen table. It’s a black ball gag with black leather and buckles on either side. Stiles picks it up and is surprised by how heavy it is. The buckles are made of a heavy metal, and the leather is thick and butter-soft. The ball will go into his mouth, between his teeth, and the straps will go around the back of his head, holding it in place.

Later, Stiles takes an apple and opens his mouth wide before biting down, sinking his teeth into the flesh. He keeps it there, held in his teeth. He closes his eyes and breathes.

It’s not like a strip of duct tape.

He’ll be fine.

He’ll be fine.

“Do you want me to tie you up?” Derek asks, over dinner. “Tie you up and gag you? Or do you want to try just the gag first?”

Stiles loves being tied up. He loves the complete and total surrender to Derek, and the look of awe that always comes over his face when he’s pushing into Stiles and staring down at him, tied and helpless and willing just for him. He loves even more the way the cuffs make him feel safe, and treasured, like Derek ties him up because he wants to keep him there forever.

Hunters tie him up all the time. Stiles still loves it when it’s with Derek.

“We can do both,” Stiles says, and shovels more pasta into his mouth.

Derek nods, and there’s no missing the gleam in his eye. He’d been hoping Stiles would say both.

Stiles made the right choice.

*

The day after The Night, Stiles did not get into any fights at school. He came home, did his homework quietly in his room, and ate all of his dinner, even the peas. He brushed his teeth without being told and went to bed without a single protest.

Dad didn’t mention The Night and neither did Stiles. Days went by. Stiles was a model son. Slowly but surely, Dad started drinking less.

At the time, Stiles thought Dad just figured that he’d finally found a punishment for Stiles that was effective, and had decided that as long as Stiles kept up his good behavior there was no need to repeat it. A few years later, he realized that that wasn’t the case—it was just that Dad simply had no memory of what he’d done that night.

But even if the punishment had been given out while drunk, it had still been effective. Stiles doesn’t want to think about what he would have driven his father to, if his father hadn’t done what he’d done.

*

By the time Derek is laying him down on the bed, Stiles’ heart is pounding hard and there’s nothing he can do to hide it.

Derek frowns at him. “Stiles?”

Stiles looks up at him, doing his best to look guileless, keeping his eyes well away from the gag that’s resting on the nightstand.

“We don’t have to do this,” Derek says slowly.

“I want to,” Stiles says, sure that his heartbeat is fast enough that Derek won’t notice it’s a lie.

It’s not a lie, anyway. He does want to do this. He needs to do this.

“Your heart’s pounding,” Derek informs him, like Stiles wasn’t aware.

Stiles shrugs. “Yeah, well, we’re trying something new. I’m sure it was going crazy right before we had sex for the first time, too, wasn’t it? Didn’t mean I didn’t want to have sex. Right?”

“You’re sure?” Derek asks.

Yes,” Stiles says impatiently.

Derek rolls his eyes and grabs the cuffs. “All right, all right.”

Stiles wriggles impatiently, like he could just wriggle out of his whole skin and leave his nerves behind. He feels electrified and vaguely nauseous. His heart is pounding hard and fast, there’s no question, but he tells himself it’s like going up the first hill on a rollercoaster. It’s scary on the way up but once you go over, the rest of the ride is worth it.

Derek’s fingers are warm and rough. Stiles has no idea how werewolves even get calluses, what with the super-healing and all, but Derek’s fingers have been toughened by something over the years. He shivers as Derek gently encircles his wrist and pulls his arm up to where the cuff is waiting. The leather is cool on Stiles’ skin, and the crushed velvet lining is ultra-soft. He likes rubbing his cheek against it, whenever he wants to tantalize Derek into tying him up.

The cuff is buckled into place, tight and secure, and despite himself Stiles feels himself relax a little. Cuffs mean safety. They mean Derek’s going to take care of him.

Stiles closes his eyes and carefully regulates his breathing, focusing on the touch of Derek’s callused fingers against the delicate skin stretched across his inner wrist. The other cuff is secured and hooked to the headboard easily. Stiles can visualize it in his head. They’ve used these cuffs so often that the leather is indented on Stiles’ notch, and always slides nicely into place.

Safe. He’s safe. He’s with Derek, and he’s always safe with Derek.

When both of his wrists are securely tied, Derek sits back.

Stiles opens his eyes.

“You remember the non-verbal safeword?” Derek asks him. Derek is very, very big on safewords. He’d rejected the first three suggestions Stiles had had, on the grounds of “too many syllables”, “that sounds like a sneeze”, and “you are not saying that during sex, Stiles, I don’t care if it’s a safeword”.

“Yeah,” Stiles says, nodding. “I kick you in the side. Like a horse. Only it doesn’t mean giddyap.”

Derek nods in affirmation, and leans over to retrieve the gag.

Stile breathes. In. Out. In. Out.

It’s just like a rollercoaster.

“Open up,” Derek says gently, holding the ball gag up.

Stiles opens his mouth obediently, and bites down on the rubber ball when Derek places it between his teeth. It’s not horribly big—smaller than the girth of Derek’s cock, certainly—so that’s good. His jaw won’t get sore.

He breathes through his mouth around the rubber ball, just to prove to himself that he can.

He can breathe. This is safe. He’s always safe when he’s with Derek.

Derek buckles the strap behind his head. It feels like a vice, getting tighter and tighter, until Derek finally slides the leather down and through, and it relaxes marginally. It’s still tight. Too tight to get out of.

Stiles breathes through his mouth. He’s safe.

“Okay?” Derek asks, pulling back. He looks mildly concerned.

Stiles nods.

Derek smiles, relaxing a little. He reaches out to run a finger over Stiles’ stretched mouth. “You look hot like this, Stiles. Your lips—fuck, they look good stretched out like that. It’s obscene.”

He breathes a little easier. He doesn’t know if it’s the words Derek says or just the look of pleasure his face, but either way he breathes easier.

Derek grins, and tweaks Stiles’ left nipple.

Stiles jerks, pleasure skittering down his abdomen and straight into his cock.

Derek laughs and does it again.

It feels normal. Easy. This is how they normally have sex—with laughter, and love. Stiles can totally do this.

He stares at the ceiling and breathes as Derek moves down his body, hands caressing every inch of available skin. Derek loves him. His joy right now is stemming from the trust Stiles is showing him, from the opportunity Stiles is giving him to feel total and complete control, and of course, for the chance to protect and comfort and cherish that will come afterwards. Derek loves mother-henning him and then cuddling him stupid.

Stiles is okay when Derek circles the base of his cock with one hand. It feels good. It’s Derek.

He’s okay when Derek slowly strokes upward. His cock is fully hard, even.

Then Derek presses his lips to Stiles’ cock, slow and gentle, and the tingle of pleasure that shoots down Stiles’ spine is so fierce that he reflexively opens his mouth to cry out—

And he can’t, and suddenly he’s eight and there’s Dad and there’s duct tape and he can’t breathe.

Pineapple.

Panic swamps him, dizzyingly hard. He’s hyperventilating, choking, he can’t move his hands, he needs the gag off and the restraints off, why can’t he say his safeword? Pineapple, pineapple, pineapple. He’s saying it. Why won’t it stop? Why can’t he breathe? Where’s Derek?

The vice around his head tightens, and he screams.

Then it’s gone. The gag is gone.

“Pineapple,” Stiles sobs, gasping for air, tears running down his face. “Pineapple, pineapple, Derek, pineapple, please, Derek, I can’t, I—”

He tugs fruitlessly on the restraints, mindlessly, knowing that it’s making it harder for Derek but not caring because he needs out right the hell now. He doesn’t even know how long it takes Derek to detach them, whimpering and pleading and hyperventilating, but the moment both of his wrists are unhooked he’s scrambling up into Derek’s arms, sobbing too hard to care that the cuffs are still attached to his wrists.

“Stiles,” Derek breathes, holding him tightly.

Stiles folds himself up as small as he can, not small enough, and sobs.

Derek pulls him in closer, murmuring soothingly, pressing kisses to the top of his head, and Stiles knows that he’s freaking him out but he can’t seem to stop shaking. He can’t stop crying. He feels unreasonably terrified, and he can’t stop hearing his father’s voice in his head. He’s breathing through his mouth but he keeps wiping at his lips with his hands because he can’t seem to convince himself that there’s no duct tape stuck there.

Eventually he calms down enough that he can stop crying, but his whole body is still trembling, and he doesn’t want to move a millimeter more away from Derek’s embrace than he has to.

“S-sorry,” Stiles eventually mumbles, through chattering teeth.

Derek kisses the top of his head and runs a hand up and down his back. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

Stiles sniffles, and shivers harder.

He doesn’t protest when Derek picks him up and carries him into the bathroom, somehow managing to crouch down and turn on the water without letting go of him once. He feels like a child when Derek sits them down in the bathtub together, holding Stiles close as he gently unbuckles each cuff from his wrists, but Stiles doesn’t push away.

The water rises around them, hot.

He still can’t stop shaking.

 *

Derek keeps the water warm by filling the tub most of the way and then pulling the plug halfway and keeping a steady stream of hot water coming from the spigot. His water bill’s going to be ridiculous, Stiles thinks absently, when he finally feels brave enough to pull his face out of Derek’s neck and breathe his own air.

“Stiles?” Derek asks, and for the first time, Stiles sees the fear in his eyes.

“I’m okay,” Stiles says, trying to stop the last of the shivers. “I’m okay.”

“What can I do?” Derek asks desperately.

“I want to put clothes on,” Stiles says eventually, in a small voice.

An hour later, they’re snuggled up on the couch under blankets, Stiles lying on Derek’s chest. He’s feeling much better, except every so often his father’s voice will snake through his head again and he’ll flinch.

“Stiles,” Derek says helplessly, after Stiles accidentally lets out a whimper.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Stiles breathes, rapid-fire, shutting his eyes.

“Was it something I did?” Derek asks.

Stiles shakes his head.

“Is there something I can do?”

“No,” Stiles says, ducking his head further. “No, it—it’s just me, it was stupid, I shouldn’t have…”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Stiles,” Derek says immediately, stroking his hair. “Don’t say that. Don’t even think it.”

Guilt twists in the pit of Stiles’ stomach, low and terrible.

“I—I wasn’t honest,” Stiles says, in the quietest voice he’s ever used. He knows it doesn’t matter, because Derek’s a werewolf and he’ll hear it anyway like he can hear the beating of Stiles’ heart and the whoosh of air in his lungs. But he can’t make himself say it louder. He’s not that brave. “I lied.”

Derek’s hand stills in his hair. “Lied about what?”

“I was gagged once before. It was—I didn’t like it. So. I thought. I knew I might get triggered. But I didn’t tell you.”

“You didn’t want to be gagged,” Derek says flatly.

Stiles flinches.

“You didn’t want it, but you said yes anyway.”

“Yes,” Stiles whispers.

Derek pushes himself up and back, forcing them both upright and apart. Stiles grabs at the blankets and clutches them, wrapping them close. He stares at Derek’s chin, heart pounding.

Why?” Derek asks, after a long silence. “Did I… Did I pressure you?”

“No,” Stiles says miserably, wrenching his gaze down to his lap. “No, you were fine. It was just—I had to know what would happen. If I would freak out.” His voice is barely audible, now. “B-because of hunters. In case they ever gagged me.”

Derek is silent.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says quietly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”

“You used me,” Derek cuts in.

Stiles flinches and shuts his mouth.

“You used me, our relationship, our sex life, so that you could work on some aversion therapy,” Derek continues, anger building in his voice. “What the hell were you thinking? Do you have any idea how scared I was when you freaked out? Do you know how it feels, right now, to know that you were willing to put me through that for the sake of training?

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Stiles says, throat constricting, chest tightening. “I didn’t mean it. I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t think it would be that bad, I didn’t know, I thought it would just be—”

“What? Uncomfortable? You thought you’d only be mildly terrified of me while we had sex?” Derek demands.

Stiles winces. “I thought—I’d get over it. I should have been fine.”

“You don’t have to be fine!” Derek’s eyes are bleeding red, his hands clenched into fists. “Stiles, you’re allowed to let trauma affect you. Jesus. I can’t believe I’m the one saying this to you.”

“It’s not trauma!” Stiles protests.

“You just got triggered,” Derek retorts. “I think it qualifies as trauma.”

“It wasn’t, okay, it’s not even a fear I should have. It’s stupid. It’s not even rational. It was years ago, it was a freaking decade ago, it was just a stupid accident, it wasn’t trauma.”

“An accident,” Derek says flatly.

Oh shit.

“Explain to me,” Derek says, slow and deadly, “how you gag an eight-year-old on accident.”

“Look, it doesn’t matter,” Stiles says quickly.

Derek’s eyes are completely crimson. “It matters to me.”

“Well, it shouldn’t,” Stiles says. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you knew the whole story—”

“So tell me the whole story,” Derek says dangerously.  

Stiles shakes his head, clamping his mouth shut.

Stiles.

“I deserved it,” he whispers. “You don’t understand. I was awful after Mom died. I was the kind of kid that people give up for adoption because they can’t handle them.”

“Stiles,” Derek says slowly, “did you fa—”

“You don’t know,” Stiles hisses, eyes snapping up to look at Derek for the first time. “You have no idea how bad it was, okay, so don’t tell me what was and wasn’t excusable. He tried lectures, and grounding, and—fuck, he tried everything. I was out of control. I was killing him.”

Derek stares.

“He didn’t—it was just a strip of duct tape,” Stiles says desperately. “He wouldn’t even have done it if he weren’t drunk, okay, he doesn’t even remember it. Shit, this is all coming out wrong.”

Derek’s teeth are slowly lengthening.

Stiles takes in a deep breath. “Okay. Okay, here’s what happened: I was a child from hell, after my mom died. Dad was drinking a lot. They were almost ready to expel me from school, and we were in debt, and just—everything was really bad. So one night Dad was a little drunk and I was being awful and I wouldn’t shut up, so he duct taped my mouth shut. I got it off after a few minutes. He didn’t, like, tie me up or hit me or anything. But the next day, I was on my best behavior. And the day after that, and the day after that. And then Dad stopped drinking, because I wasn’t awful anymore.”

Derek is still staring at him, eyes red, halfway to his Beta form.

Stiles blows out a breath and looks down at his hands. “Dad doesn’t remember it, and yeah, he wouldn’t have done it if he were sober, but that night is what taught me my lesson. It saved us. It was necessary. You have to believe me, Derek.”

Derek stares back at him for a long, long time. His face is inscrutable. Stiles is about ready to cry when Derek finally exhales long and slow and gradually melts back into his human face. “Okay,” he says.

Stiles clutches at the blanket, staring.

“But we are never using that gag again,” Derek says lowly. “If you want to do some aversion therapy with Scott, or Lydia, or whoever, I don’t care. Do it with them. But I don’t ever want to see you wearing that gag again. Is that understood?”

Stiles nods.

“And if you ever, ever lie to me again about your consent, then we’re not going to have sex anymore,” Derek continues, frustrated now. “Because I can’t—I can’t do that to you. For fuck’s sake, Stiles, you know my history.”

“I know,” Stiles says, cringing. “I know, and I’m so sorry. I swear to God it won’t happen again. That was—that was awful.”

Derek sighs. “You’re such an idiot.”

“But,” Stiles says meekly, “still…”

“Still my idiot, yes,” Derek says, and he tugs Stiles back into his arms. “You’ll always be my idiot.”

Stiles exhales and closes his eyes, snuggling in.