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Smoke is Just the Air Remembering Fire

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Derek has cried three times in his adult life: when his sister died, when the alpha pack used him to kill Boyd, and when Stiles Stilinski broke his heart.

After the sheriff’s funeral, after Stiles shatters him, he picks up the pieces and cobbles himself into something whole but hollow, and gathers the few possessions that matter: his dad’s leather jacket; the centuries-old Hale Bestiary from the vault under the high school; Laura’s moon phase necklace and his mother’s wedding ring, both family heirlooms; the pewter wolf figurine with red crystal eyes that Stiles gave him right before they kissed for the first time.

In the middle of the night, Derek silently slips into the Camaro that still smells like Stiles, like them, and even though he’s putting Beacon Hills and its many despairs behind him for good, he keeps the windows rolled up so he can, for just a few more desperate moments, hold on to the last piece of him he’ll ever have.

~*~

Derek wanders. He immerses himself in experiences and cultures that captivate his intense intellect and expansive curiosity, that distract from the ache in his chest and that keep unbidden memories at bay.

It works. Sort of.

He spends a few months in Brazil with Cora and her girlfriend, perfecting his Portuguese before heading to Lisbon for a few weeks, and then drifts to Amsterdam, Belgium, Austria, Prague, Slovenia; he spends two sun-soaked months on Santorini, and then five weeks in Morocco.

Werewolf connections are global and stretch back for centuries, and the Hale name is well-known; he often finds himself welcomed into warm homes that smell like wolves and secret bars redolent with magic; he’s served delicious meals and treated like family, and always sent on his way with more food and the name of an alpha or emissary at or on the way to his next destination.

He walks the Siq to Petra in Jordan, and tries not to think about how Stiles would be freaking out if he knew Derek was where they filmed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

He’s in Thailand for the Loy Krathong festival, and when he lights the candles in his orchids-and-incense filled basket and sets it afloat in the overflowing river with all of the other krathongs carrying wishes and whisking away bad luck, he wonders which one Stiles was to him.

He swims naked in bioluminescent water in the Maldives, and nearly weeps at the thought of how beautiful Stiles would look with his skin scattered with the tiny blue lights, and the only reason he doesn’t is because he pulls himself from the water, shifts, and spends the next two days running around the island as a wolf.   

He spends a lunar eclipse in Australia, and as his power drains in tandem with the moon’s disappearance, he wonders if this is what it feels like to be human, knows things would have happened differently if he were, and wishes the moon would stay away for good.

The moon returns, and so does Derek’s power, but he’s never felt weaker.

~*~

He reads voraciously, and becomes adept at more than a dozen languages. He writes too, at first just journaling to document his traveling, but then starts to develop some longer, more cohesive pieces about his experiences and the people he’s met that he posts anonymously to a blog, in multiple languages. He gains a decent following thanks to some popular bloggers and websites linking him, and it’s enough to leverage some freelance writing gigs that he publishes under a pseudonym. It gives him a much-needed sense of purpose.

Eventually, after five years wandering the globe, he returns to the States, having found something like peace, the pain dulled enough, the hollowness not filled, but no longer echoing so painfully. But he knows that the fire Stiles sparked inside of him has been forever extinguished. 

His fire his gone. He is smoke.

He picks the Camaro up from storage in San Francisco, changes the oil and gets fresh gas, and drives up Highway 101 to his dad’s hometown on the Oregon coast. The beach house is large craftsman on a ragged cliff that overlooks the mighty Pacific, passed down through three generations of his dad’s family and willed to him, Laura, and Cora. He removes the sheets from the heirloom furniture and turns one of the upstairs bedrooms into a writing room, hauling the antique desk from his great-grandfather’s den up to sit under the large window overlooking the ocean.

He devotes himself to writing and publishes a well-received and decently-selling book of essays based on his blog; he tries his hand at fiction, and gets enough short stories published to leverage a small advance for a novel.

At Cora’s repeated insistence that he not become a complete hermit, he gets a job bartending a few nights a week at a dive bar on 101 that’s a favorite of the town locals. The owner is a witch and she pays him in cash and has diluted wolfsbane on-hand, which Derek serves to the occasional werewolf who finds their way in and indulges in himself from time to time.

People hit on him often, even though his beard is usually out of control and he’s more laconic than ever. He always politely but firmly turns them down, completely uninterested. Even in when traveling, he never so much as kissed another person, although he almost, in Marseilles, went home with a lean-bodied boy with brown eyes, but thought better of it when he found himself unable to stop wishing he had moles and sly smile.

Some nights, when the moon rises and calls to his blood, he strips on the deck and shifts into his full wolf. He runs on the beach for miles, letting his mind go blissfully blank, feeling only the sand under his paws and smelling only the salt air and the rush of the ocean breeze against his dense coat.

On the nights when he can sleep, he dreams about mischievous eyes and a smart mouth, the taste of bitten lips; he dreams about strong, capable hands that save his life and tear him apart all at once; he dreams of a voice so comforting he never wants to wake up. 

But he does, and in the early morning hours, unable or unwilling to go back to sleep, he lets himself fall into the memories the dreams bring: hungry, feverish orgasms in the Camaro because they’re too eager to go to the loft; Stiles cleaning the already-healing slashes across his chest left by a strzyga, yelling at him the whole time about his self-sacrificing recklessness; the first time they have sex, the way Stiles clung to his neck as Derek entered him, shaking; lazy weekends on the couch strewn across each other while they watch Netflix, Stiles rambling about anything and everything and Derek loving every word of it; the first time he said I love you and Stiles’ answering smile; the anguish in his swollen, red-rimmed eyes after John’s funeral when he told Derek that he was leaving Beacon Hills and cutting out of his life for good the supernatural world that killed his father, even Scott. Even Derek.

On those nights, when the memories get to be too much, he gets out of bed and writes. It helps, a little.

It’s an uneventful, solitary life, and that’s how Derek likes it, resistant at first even to the one-eyed stray cat that lingers around the house until he relents and feeds him some of the fresh crab he brought home for dinner. He names the cat Xander and smiles while he pets him, knowing Laura would appreciate it, because she loved black cats and Buffy.

And then, a cold Wednesday night in December when the wind is howling and the rain pouring, six months after his novel is published and eight years after he left Beacon Hills, he’s reading a book behind the nearly-empty bar when the door swings open and he’s hit with a scent so devastatingly familiar it makes his stomach flip and his heart race, makes his knees go weak and his palms sweat, makes his wolf paw at his skin, in excitement or terror, he’s not sure. 

Stiles looks at once the same and almost unrecognizable. He was barely twenty the last time he saw him, so of course he looks different, but it’s still disorienting, trying reconcile the man standing at the door staring at him with the boy who haunts his dreams. His hair is longer than he’s ever seen it, almost shaggy, and under the patchy scruff on his cheeks, Derek can see that his cheekbones and jaw are sharper than he remembers, the last vestiges of youth all gone. Derek can tell that he’s still lean under the plain black tee he’s wearing, but he’s wiry now, his shoulders broader and arms more sculpted; he looks like someone who can protect himself, who doesn’t need a werewolf boyfriend or best friend to look after him.

He realizes that he boy he knew and loved a lifetime ago was just the outline of the man he was to become, this man who’s now walking toward him, coming to a stop across the bar directly in front where he’s standing. Closer, Derek can see that there are dark circles under his eyes and that there’s a tiredness to him, and his scent that he once knew as intimately as his own is now peppered with cigarette smoke and sour anxiety.  

“Hey,” Stiles says quietly, and despite his unfamiliarity, his voice sounds exactly like he remembers.

He hasn’t moved since the door opened; he’s not sure if he’s blinked, or even breathed. He can’t bring himself to speak, too stunned, too scared.

“Come on, Derek,” Stiles says, possibly a little desperate. “Say something?”

He has everything and nothing to say to him, so he says the only thing that matters.

“I love you,” he whispers.

The words hang there between them for a moment before Stiles smiles, beautifully, brilliantly.

Derek is fire again.

Chapter Text

“I love you too, Sourwolf,” Stiles says.

The words do something to Derek, make him warm in a way he forgot he could. He knows the confessions might not mean a damn thing, given all the years between them, but they’re something.

Something like hope.

Derek isn’t quite sure where to go from here here, so he just stands behind the bar in silence, the tension growing ever-more-palpable by the second.

“So,” Stiles says finally, sitting down on a barstool with a familiar mischievous glint in his tired eyes. “Who does a guy have to blow to get a drink around here?”

Yeah, it’s definitely Stiles. It’s incredible, how his smirk is exactly the same as he remembers, how the overwhelming flutter of affection that has always drawn Derek to him blossoms in his heart again, just like it used to.

“What’ll you have?” Derek asks, unable to hide his smile.

“Maker’s, neat.”

Derek nods and turns to the bottles behind him, grateful for something else to focus on other than Stiles’ mouth.

Maker’s Mark was the sheriff’s drink, but Derek tries not to think about that. He gives Stiles a generous pour and sets the glass on the bar in front of him.

Stiles wraps his fingers around the glass, but he doesn't drink yet. “Have one with me? It’s bad luck to toast alone.”

Derek thinks he might need about ten drinks to calm his nerves, so he readily agrees. He pours a shot for himself and drops in a large dollop of Elena’s wolfsbane.

Stiles raises his glass and tips it toward him, and Derek does the same. The silent toast is loud with meaning, and he throws his bourbon back with a single gulp.

Stile drinks his more slowly, watching Derek carefully.

“How’d you find me?” Derek asks, feeling bold for meeting his unnerving gaze.

Stiles reaches into his back pocket and flips open a leather case, revealing a badge and ID. “I’m FBI, I can find anyone.”

His grin is just as cocky as Derek remembers too, but he still raises an eyebrow, unconvinced.

“All right, fine,” Stiles sighs. “I messaged Cora on Facebook.”

Derek snorts a laugh.

“I am an FBI agent though,” Stiles says. “A damn good one.”

“I have no doubt.”

Stiles puts back the rest of his drink, and then looks over his shoulder at the sparsely occupied tables, then leans in a bit towards him. “Do you think we could maybe go somewhere and talk?”

Derek is caught further off-guard by his sudden sincerity, and the thought of being alone with him makes his heart pound even more, and he’s so very grateful that Stiles can’t hear it.

He nods and tells him to wait a sec, and heads to the back room to find Elena. The witch’s eyebrows shoot straight up to her silver-streaked black hair when Derek tells her he needs to leave to talk to a friend, and she’s so interested she follows him out to see who’s finally caught his attention.

Elena watches with interest as Derek grabs his jacket and nods for Stiles to follow him out. He thinks they’ll make it to the door unaccosted, but she steps forward suddenly to block Stiles’ path, her lavender eyes studying him intently.

“She’s reading your aura,” Derek explains, hoping Stiles isn’t freaked out. “She’s a witch, it’s a thing she does,” he adds with a half-shrug, not quite sure how Stiles will respond, given his past aversion to the supernatural. Derek stands on guard, ready to intervene.

Stiles looks a little rattled, but stands there dutifully while Elena looks him over. “Hmm,” she says. “Some interesting color combinations...deep red, but dark blue and some yellow too…”

“So, uh, what does that mean?” he asks, eyes darting over to Derek, who shrugs.

Elena takes Stiles’ hand and squeezes it, looking back and forth between the two of them. “Take care of each other,” she says by way of explanation.

Stiles nods and Derek leads them out to the parking lot. Neither of them comment on Elena’s reading or her advice, and Derek can feel the anxiety and tension from before creeping back, making his hackles rise.

“You still driving this thing?” Stiles asks when they get to the Camaro.

“Of course,” Derek says sharply, irritated that Stiles would think he’d abandon Laura’s most prized possession.

“Right,” Stiles mutters, shamefaced. “This is me,” he says, pointing to a large black SUV with government plates.

“Follow me to my place,” Derek says, immediately feeling guilty for snapping at him.

It’s only a ten-minute drive, but Derek is grateful for the brief reprieve from Stiles’ scent, from his eyes, from that goddamned mouth of his. It’s not enough time to settle his thoughts or his pounding heart, but he at least is able to get a grip on himself and recover a bit from the shock of seeing him after all these years.

And telling him that he still loved him. As he guides the Camaro around the curved road, the halogen headlights of Stiles’ SUV reflecting in his rearview mirror and making his eyes flare red, he finds that he doesn’t regret the confession.

Maybe he’s lost it a little, wandering the globe and living as a recluse all these years; maybe he’s just pathetic and lovelorn; or maybe he’s finally accepted that his love for Stiles is a part of him; has accepted that loving Stiles is like breathing, and that and after all this time he’s realized that there’s no shame in trying to stay alive.

~*~

It’s utterly exhilarating and disorienting to have Stiles in his home. His scent, musky but still somehow sweet, immediately fills the place, and Derek knows it will linger long after he’s gone, and gods help him, he’s grateful for it.

He pours them each a glass of Scotch, his with wolfsbane, while Stiles attempts to befriend the cat, who’s sitting on the kitchen island, coolly assessing him with his one eye. “That’s Xander.”

“That’s a great name. Also, I can’t believe you have a cat.”

“He adopted me.” Derek shrugs, handing Stiles a glass.

They drift to the living room, Xander following close on Derek’s heels. Derek sits on the couch, but Stiles wanders over to the wall that’s covered from floor to ceiling with framed photographs from his travels.

“You’ve been everywhere,” he says, voice a little awed, which fills Derek with pride, but also a pang of regret that Stiles didn’t see the world with him.

“Not everywhere,” Derek replies, sipping his Scotch. “Where have you been?

 

“D.C., mostly. South America and the Middle East for a bit.”

He’s being deliberately vague, and it makes Derek think that Stiles might have been running away from them and their relationship all this time too, in his own way.

“Living in D.C. now?”

“I was, until about a week ago. I was just transferred to the San Francisco field office to start my own task force.”

Derek is impressed, but not surprised at Stiles’ apprent success. He wonders what his speciality is...cybercrime? Drugs? Counterterrorism? He could imagine Stiles being excellent at any of them.

“Yeah,” Stiles goes on, “but I’m not here to talk about that.”

Derek raises an eyebrow in his direction, even more unnerved.

 

Stiles walks over to sit next to him on the couch, leaving some distance between them, but Derek is still hyperaware of his proximity.

“I’m here is because I want to apologize to you.”

Derek stiffens. Stiles was always direct, sometimes painfully so, but this level of straightforward sincerity is unusual for him.

Was unusual, Derek silently admonishes himself. How easily he’s slipped back into feeling like he knows Stiles, how quickly he feels like Stiles is his again.

“Apologize?” Derek asks.

“For how I left Beacon Hills.” Stiles anxiously rubs at the back of his neck, another familiar gesture. “For how I left you.” He adds quietly, “for leaving you in the first place.”

Derek goes utterly still, strangely terrified. Terrified that this maybe isn’t what he thinks it is, terrified that it might actually be what he’s too scared to hope it is, terrified that Stiles will stop talking, terrified it’s all a dream.

“I was really messed up after my dad died, you know? Just fucking pissed at the world, especially the supernatural world.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t save him.” Derek’s voice trembles a little when he speaks, just like it did when he said the same thing all those years ago.

“It wasn’t your fault, Derek. We all thought vampires were extinct until it was too late.”

He knows Stiles is right. He’s thought about the sheriff’s death from every possible angle and knows there’s nothing any of them could have done. The vampires had already killed John and two others before any of them had even realized they were in Beacon Hills. That fact doesn’t change Derek’s guilt, or the fact that, in his grief and anger, Stiles left him because he couldn’t stand the supernatural.

Stiles turns towards him more, his eyes - damn his eyes - imploring.

“I never blamed you, Derek, never.” Stiles swallows and bites his lip. “Fuck, I tried to. After I left, not being with you...I thought the pain was going to kill me. So I tried to make it your fault, tried to find a way to hate you, to make it easier...but I never could. I could hate everything and everyone, but not you.”

Derek holds his gaze, his chest tightening at the shine of unshed tears in Stiles’ eyes. His own emotions are churning wildly, confusingly, and he’s not sure what to say.

“I’ve thought about you everyday since I left,” Stiles says, barely more than a whisper. “What we had, what we could have had.”

Derek’s own eyes grow hot and blurry. “So have I.”

They sit in silence for awhile, stealing furtive glances, their confessions and the years filling the space between them, trying to figure out where to go from here.

Eventually, Stiles stands and picks up both of their empty glasses. “Another drink?”

Derek nods, and Stiles goes to the kitchen to retrieve the bottle and the wolfsbane. When he returns, Derek has settled himself somewhat. “So,” he says, his voice sounding remarkably steady. “What’s your task force for?”

Stiles fills both of their glasses, but lets Derek add his own wolfsbane. “Officially, it’s a highly classified Homeland Security task force. In actuality, it’s investigation and containment of supernatural threats.”

That surprises Derek almost as much as Stiles showing up out of the blue. “I thought you left all that behind.”

“I did. I tried to, at least. And it worked for a long time.” Stiles sets his glass on the coffee table. “Until I couldn’t anymore.”

Holding Derek’s gaze, he turns toward him and lifts the hem of his t-shirt, revealing a spread of gnarled, freshly-healed scars - five of them - in an arc across his torso that runs from his belly button around his hip to his back.

It was obviously a brutal wound, and a protective, urgent anger flames in Derek’s chest. “Werewolf?” he growls.

“Easy there, big guy,” Stiles smiles as he drops his shirt. “Put the alpha eyes away, the wolf that got me is dead.”

Derek didn’t even realize his eyes were glowing red. “What happened?”

“We were busting a sex trafficking ring. Turned out the traffickers were werewolves. They killed two agents and nearly got me.” He takes a long sip of his Scotch. “Fortunately, my boss was there and saw the attack, so he didn’t think I was out of my mind when I told him about werewolves. As it turns out, the FBI has been investigating supernatural activity since its inception.”

Derek nods, trying to process this new information, the sight of those ragged scars on Stiles’ tender, fragile human skin still filling him with ire and the bone-deep need to protect him. He’s been aware of the federal government’s interest in supernatural phenomena for a long time now, but the thought of Stiles getting involved in all of that will take some getting used to.

Stiles shifts awkwardly on the couch, glancing at the clock, which reads just past midnight. “It’s getting late, I should probably get going. Gotta go find a motel.”

“You can stay here.” The words come out of Derek’s mouth seemingly of their own volition, his heart jumping, his wolf whining at the thought of Stiles leaving his home so soon.

Stiles’ eyes go wide and his mouth drops open in silent surprise.

“I have a lot of guest bedrooms,” Derek explains, swallowing hard, his cheeks going hot again. “I mean, they’re probably more comfortable than the Sandcastle Inn at least.”

Head cocking slightly, like he’s trying to puzzle something out - another expression that takes Derek right back to those days in Beacon Hills - Stiles watches him for a moment before nodding. “Okay, cool. Thank you.”

Derek takes the empty glasses and the bottle to the kitchen before leading Stiles up the stairs, trying desperately not to let himself become overwhelmed by his scent, not to push him against the wall and bury his face in his neck, breathe him in long and deep until all of the years and pain between them is gone.

He shows him the bathroom, points out the clean towels in the linen closet, and then leads him to the bedroom that’s at the opposite end of the hallway from his own, the one Laura always took when they visited this place as kids.

“Good night,” Derek says quietly, leaving him at the threshold.

~*~

Derek doesn’t go to his room. He strides purposefully down the stairs and out the back door. He leaves his clothes in a pile on the deck and runs down the beach access stairs, shifting as he goes.

By the time he reaches the sand, he’s a wolf, running.

When he’s exhausted himself, his limbs aching and heart racing, his nose thick with the salt-scent of the ocean instead of Stiles’ sweet musk, he returns to his darkened house.

Once back on the deck, urged on by instinct, he doesn’t shift back. He pushes the door open with his snout and goes inside, leaving a trail of wet, sandy pawprints on the hardwood floor. He climbs the stairs and turns not towards his own room, but to the one Stiles is sleeping in, lured there by the reassuring sound of his steady breathing and warm scent.

For a long time, he simply watches him, takes in the peaceful repose of his face, the elegant lines and curves that were once as familiar to him as his own, awed and overwhelmed.

Silently, so as not to wake him, he jumps onto the bed and curls up at his feet, and for the first time in eight years, Derek feels at home.

Chapter Text

Derek wakes in his human form, naked; his face is pressed into Stiles’ bare thigh, and he’s got one leg curled around his calf. In his sleepiness, he forgets himself and the years of distance between them, and he nuzzles closer, breathing in the soothing, sweet warmth of him.

How many mornings had he awoken like this, limbs tangled, his hands searching for more of him? How many times had he arched against him in the early morning light, kissing him awake and then moving his lips down his sleep-heavy body, mouth tender as he took his cock into his mouth to slowly bring him off?

And how many times in the intervening years has he awoken alone, his own aching cock, his heart, his wolf, searching an empty bed for his long-lost mate?

And what will happen, what will become of him and his fractured heart and soul, if this is the last time he wakes next to him?

He’s pulled from his revery when feels Stiles’ leg shift, alerting him that he’s awake now too. Derek feels his cheeks start to warm with embarrassment, and he's grateful Stiles can't smell his arousal.

“I'm sorry,” he says, pulling away from him, making sure the blankets preserve his modesty. “I was shifted, and came in here, I shouldn't have - ”

“Derek, it’s okay,” Stiles says, his voice thick with sleep. “I woke up earlier and saw wolf-you sleeping. It was a surprise, but a good one.” His smile is gentle, tender.

He feels foolish for his weakness and his need to be close to him, even after all this time. “I'm sorry,” he repeats.

“Don’t be, I’m glad you did. It’s been awhile since I’ve spooned with a wolf.”

Stiles smiles almost sheepishly, and the warmth that flutters in Derek’s heart in response melts away his embarrassment. “Breakfast?”

~*~

Breakfast at Derek’s favorite diner turns into a meandering walk through the downtown historic district, where they wander through the shops and narrow side streets that are nearly empty in the winter off-season. They spend hours in the used bookstore owned by Xena, Elena’s wife, who’s also a witch. She leads them to the surprisingly large secret back room filled with supernatural texts and artifacts, where they browse for hours, both eventually spending a small fortune. They get a late lunch and take advantage of the rare December sunshine and sit on the patio overlooking the ocean, poring over their purchases and falling into easy conversation.

The initial shock and awkwardness of their reunion has all but disappeared, replaced with a comfort and ease that feels both familiar and entirely new. The years apart have created a distance between them they’re still navigating, but Derek realizes with each passing moment that they're still them , still two stubborn, broken-but-refuse-to-break men who seem, against all odds, meant to be together.

That first day tumbles easily into another, and then another, and suddenly it’s been a week of walks on the beach, telling each other stories of their lives since Beacon Hills, reading side-by-side on the couch until the early morning hours, good-natured arguments about movies and books and baseball, home-cooked meals, stolen glances and hopeful looks, casual brushes of hands but nothing more.

At the end of each day, they say goodnight in the hallway and head to their separate bedrooms, neither one of them brave enough, it seems, to cross this last bit of distance between them.

Derek doesn't dare shift and run again, for fear that he might end up in his bed again.

On the seventh day, Stiles says that he has to leave tomorrow to go back to San Francisco. Derek knows this is coming, knows they can’t go on like this forever, even though the thought of Stiles disappearing again makes his heart ache. But he says nothing, just nods in acknowledgement, too terrified to even ask if they’ll remain in contact after he goes.

Derek has to work in the evening, so Stiles comes with him to hang out at the bar while he pours drinks. It’s a fairly busy night, so Derek only gets to talk to him in bits and pieces, but it’s still wonderful, delightful even, to have him there, to smell his anchoring scent among the crowd and heavy odor of booze and fried food, to glance over while mixing a cocktail or ringing up a tab to see that Stiles is watching him, mouth curved in a smile of admiration.

When the bar closes, they drive home in the Camaro under the almost-full moon that tracks their winding curves along the ocean, music spilling softly from the speakers, a heightened sense of silent, but palpable, expectation rising.

They follow what has so easily become their usual routine; Stiles gets a glass of water from the kitchen, Derek feeds the cat and checks to make sure the doors are locked. He follows Stiles up the stairs, and tonight, quite possibly the last time he’ll see him, he doesn’t avert his eyes from his back or the gentle swell of his ass, but he lets himself look, lets himself want.

But once in the hallway outside Stiles’ room, trepidation fills him again. His heart is heavy with the fear that Stiles doesn’t want him - which is ridiculous, because Derek can smell his lust, but just like their sudden confessions of love when they first saw each other again, that might not mean a damn thing. As desperately as he wants to reach for him, pull him close and breathe him in, the chest-clenching fear that Stiles will spurn his advances paralyzes him; or, even worse, that he’ll accept and it will be just sex to him, that tomorrow he’ll leave and never come back, shattering Derek once again.

“Good night,” Derek says softly, turning towards his own room and away from his Stiles’ eyes, hoping he doesn’t hear the tremor in his voice.

~*~

Once behind the safety of his bedroom door, Derek’s fear drowns in a flood of frustration. His body is rife with desire, his skin too hot, too tight. He strips off his clothes, but once naked he finds that he doesn’t want to shift. He doesn’t want to run as a wolf tonight, doesn’t want to forget.

He stalks to the window and throws it open, even though it’s the end of December and nearly freezing outside; the steady susurrus of the waves and the cold, salt-scented air settles him, but only for a moment.

Everything in him is yearning for Stiles, but the jagged edges of his broken heart that he’s spent years piecing back together still ache; he wants so badly to give in, wants to let go of the tenuous grasp on his control he’s somehow been able to maintain these past days.

He turns away from the window to let the cool air drift over his back; his eyes alight on the the red-eyed pewter wolf figurine on the nightstand, and he’s flooded with a memory.

Stiles, the night of his high school graduation, knocking on the loft door at midnight, smelling of happiness and cheap beer, heart rabbiting, smiling nervously with one hand rubbing at the back of his neck, the other clutching the small metal wolf. I saw this at that crystal shop in Lodi and it made me think of you. He raised the figurine in front of Derek’s face and danced it toward him. See? It’s you. RAWR I’m the alpha now, he growled, his grin setting Derek’s heart aflutter as fast as Stiles’.

Thank you , he said, taking the statue and running a finger over the molded fur. I love it .

Well that’s good, cuz I love you, Sourwolf . Derek barely had time to look up in wide-eyed surprise before Stiles had launched himself across the space between them, throwing himself into their first kiss with the same dangerous, reckless abandon Derek was always getting angry at him for.

And then it seemed as if they never stopped kissing for the next two years, never stopping touching, never stopped telling each other how much they loved each other, until, of course, they did, and Stiles was gone and Derek was devastated.  

Fuck it , Derek thinks, coming back to the present and striding towards the bedroom door, not bothering to put on clothes. This may very well be the last time he sees Stiles, the last chance he’ll get to indulge in his lust for him, in his love for him, the only real love he’s ever known.

He’s healed his broken heart before; he can do it again, if he must, if that’s what it will take to kiss him again.

He pulls the door open with a hard yank, prepared to stalk down the hall to Stiles’ room, but is stopped short at the threshold.

It’s a testament to how deeply in his thoughts he had been that he didn’t hear or smell Stiles outside his door. He’s shirtless, a pair of dark flannel pajama pants slung low on his hips, and he’s got one hand mid air, as if he were about to knock.

Stiles opens his mouth to say something, but this time, Derek’s the reckless one: he steps forward and captures him in a hungry, feverish kiss, one hand clasping Stiles’ neck, the other seizing him by the waist.

A small grunt of surprise against his mouth, and then Stiles is kissing him back with just as much fervor, just as much hunger, his arms wrapping around Derek’s back. He steps forward to get closer, deepening the kiss, and Stiles stumbles back, losing his footing a bit, but Derek holds him tight and lifts him up, and without missing a beat, Stiles hooks his legs around his waist.

One short stride and Derek has him pressed against the wall, his hips notched against Stiles’ once again like they were made to fit there, their bare chests pressed together, hot skin against hot skin, fire against fire.

~*~

Stretched out over Stiles on his king-sized bed, face buried in his neck, biting gently at the corded tendons, kissing his mole-dotted skin, drowning in his lust-soaked scent: in all of the years he spent searching the world for peace, Derek finds it once again in Stiles’ embrace.

He’s not sure how long it’s been since he carried Stiles to his bed, how long they’ve been entwined like this; long enough that Stiles’ mouth and neck is vibrant red with beard burn, long enough that Derek’s cock throbs almost painfully with each movement against the hard bulge in Stiles’ sleep pants.

Derek pulls back to look at him, studying his eyes.

“Do you want this?” He whispers. It’s a simple question, but a loaded one. Do you want me? Do you want us?

Stiles lifts his hands to Derek’s face and strokes his beard. His kiss-swollen lips curve up, and for a moment Derek thinks he’s going to make a joke.

But that was the old Stiles, the boy who laughed with his entire lanky body and couldn’t control his limbs or his mouth, the boy to whom sarcasm came as naturally as breathing. The boy who had known the deepest grief but not yet the kind of anger and pain that burns you from the inside out.

Stiles is different now, more settled in his body and more sure of himself, still fiercely witty, but more serious.

“I want this,” he says, voice husky and true. “I want you.” He curls his hands up into Derek’s hair, holding tight.

It’s all Derek needs to hear. He kisses him, slow and deep this time, trying to tell him with his body just how much he loves him. He drags his lips down his neck again, moving lower now, peppering his sculpted shoulders and collarbones with licks and kisses; he moves further still down his lithely muscled torso, eagerly learning the new-yet-familiar terrain of his body, Stiles’ long-fingered, strong hands in his hair, on his back, on his arms.

Mouth at his hips, he looks up to see that Stiles is staring down at him, smiling softly and breathing quickly, and Derek's heart surges with affection. He lowers his lips to the still-fresh scars that mar his skin, the new skin still raised and pink, and kisses each one, each press of his lips a promise.  I love you , I’ll protect you, forever.

“C’mere,” Stiles says, tugging on his hair. Derek kisses up his stomach and chest, pausing to rub his beard against the small patch of hair between his pecs. When he meets his lips again, Stiles pulls him into a deep kiss and wraps a leg around Derek’s hip; with a strength and agility he never had before, he flips them so Derek is on his back and he’s straddling him, grinning triumphantly at Derek’s grunt of pleased surprise.  

Now it’s Stiles’ turn to refamiliarize himself, and he pores over Derek’s body, which is much the same as it was all those years ago but for a handful of gray hair here and there; nevertheless, Stiles explores him like he’s rediscovering something loved and lost, with the same awed reverence he’s always had for his body, and Derek melts under his touch, each stroke of his hands a lick of flame.

Stiles kisses his way down his chest and settles between his thighs, nuzzles his balls and sucks them gently before turning his attention to his arched cock. Stiles licks his lips and wraps a hand around the base, squeezing lightly.

“Hello there, big guy,” he says, grinning. “How I’ve missed you.”

Derek’s laughter bubbles easily from his chest. “Are you really talking to my dick?”

“Shh, we’re having a moment here.”

This time, Derek’s answering laugh turns into a loud gasp when Stiles licks a long, wet stripe up the underside of his cock; he teases his foreskin, sucking just hard enough to make Derek cry out again, a desperate mewl; he slides the tip of his tongue into the slit, moaning with satisfaction when Derek’s cock starts to drip precome.

He starts to suck him in earnest then, his mouth hot and wet, tongue skilled and eager, and Derek can’t help but rock his hips up, craving more. Stiles’ throat opens for him, takes him deep, all the way to the root, and his hands - goddamn his hands - slip under him to clutch his ass, spurring him to fuck his mouth, which Derek does, greedy and grateful.

It doesn’t take long before he’s curling his fingers in Stiles’ hair, heat pooling low in his belly, cock throbbing, his entire body going rigid and tense, on the edge of much-needed release. “Stiles,” he gasps. “I’m gonna - ” He tries to warn him, tries to pull out of his mouth, but Stiles refuses, sucks him even harder and looks up at him from under his pretty lashes, eyes shining.

Derek comes down his throat in heavy spurts, hips thrusting up hard, crying out as bursts of blistering pleasure roll through him and leave him panting. Stiles sucks him through it all, moaning around his cock, making him shake and spill even more.

Still shuddering with the aftershocks, Derek sits up to pull him into a messy kiss, delighting in the taste of his come on his tongue, his wolf practically purring with happiness and adoration, utterly overcome with love.

~*~

Dark tendrils of hair just long enough to slightly curl at the nape of his neck; muscled shoulders that give way to a slight-but-sturdy waist; a small, taut ass that curves perfectly to fit between Derek’s hips; creamy white skin dusted with a constellation of moles that, so many years ago, had mapped Derek’s sky.   

He drinks in the magnificent sight of Stiles on all fours, his knees spread so Derek, on his knees, can fit between them. He drowns in the musky sweetness of Stiles’ scent as he slowly, lovingly, fingers him open with lube-slick fingers, taking his time, languidly stretching his sweetly-puckered rim and sliding his fingers into him with tender, focused purpose.

There’s a light sheen of sweat across Stiles’ back, despite the cold breeze from the still-open window that flutters the curtains, making waves out of the blue moonlight that slants across the bed and their intertwined bodies. Stiles is breathing heavily, the most delicious of sounds pouring from his mouth as Derek works his prostate, bringing him to the edge and backing off, over and over, Stiles’ cock heavy and dripping onto the sheets.

Stiles, voice thick and needy, begins to beg for more, for Derek to finally fuck him. Never able to withstand his demands for very long, Derek obliges with a smile, kissing his shoulder when he leans over to grab the bottle of lube; he slicks his dick with and mounts him slowly, the first touch of his cockhead against Stiles’ hungry rim sparking a fire-hot rush of pleasure that runs through them both, the sensation blossoming hotter as he pushes slowly into his wet, tender heat, Stiles’ body accepting him easily, eagerly.

When he’s rooted deep, Derek grips him by the waist and sets steady, firm pace. Stiles rolls his hips in time with his thrusts, and a litany of misshapen curses and moans begin to fall from his mouth, composing a familiar harmony with the sound of skin-on-skin and Derek’s own gasps of pleasure. Through the fiery haze of lust, this pleases Derek deeply: Stiles had never been a quiet fuck, and it makes him uncannily happy to find this to still to be true.

Mouth craving his skin, Derek arches over his back to kiss his shoulders, the nape of his neck. He lets his full weight fall, and Stiles slides from his hands and knees on to his stomach, and Derek follows, lays out full atop him, hips still rocking, each stroke of his cock a rush of hot sensation, building ever closer to release. He finds Stiles’ hands, which are fisted in the sheets, and entwines their fingers, stretches their arms out, pins him further to bed as if he’s scared Stiles will run away, which, of course, he is. Blunt human teeth seize on the muscled juncture between shoulder and neck, hard enough to mark but not break skin, his wolf’s claiming bite.

They’re pressed together at every possible point, Derek buried deep, the fires of pleasure licking at them, two bodies into one, sundered halves finally made whole once more, moving against each other in perfect tandem, like moon and the sea who always come back to each other, no matter how far they roam.

His name is a hungry, yearning sound from Stiles’ mouth, shaped by the tender hitching of his breath. “Derek, oh my God, Derek ,” he moans into the sheets, and it’s too much, too overwhelming, too perfect, too everything . Stiles comes with a moan half-buried in the bed, shuddering and bucking under Derek’s weight, body flexing and tightening around Derek’s still-stroking cock, and the sweep of and roil of pleasure that runs through him shakes him to his very bones, and Derek comes with him, shaking as he empties himself inside of him.

And now Derek can’t stop saying his name, the shape of it solid and real in his mouth, in his heart, as solid and real as the heartbreakingly beautiful man beneath him. “Stiles.”

His name keeps spills from his lips, unbidden, like a prayer from a man on the brink of death, or salvation. “Stiles,” he breathes again, into his sweat-sheened skin, into his hair, into his heart.

Stiles, Stiles, Stiles .

Chapter Text

Just like he always did before, Stiles falls into a sex coma minutes after Derek cleans them both off with a damp washcloth. On his stomach, half sprawled across Derek’s chest, he’s a comforting, familiar weight pinning him to the bed. Derek doesn’t dare sleep, lest he miss a moment of looking at his beauty, doesn’t dare lose a second of marveling at how his lashes ever-so-delicately rest against his skin, or the perfect curves of his slightly-parted lips and the steady rise and fall of his breath.

Part of him is terrified that if he sleeps, he’ll wake to find his bed empty, to find Stiles gone, even though he knows Stiles wouldn’t leave like that. But so many years of missing him, of living without him, of bearing that echoing emptiness in his heart, makes Derek fearful. So he stays awake and basks in his beauty, in the spicy warmth of his scent, of their scent.

Around dawn, Stiles stirs, hands seeking Derek’s body, mouth pressed against his shoulder. “Hey Sourwolf,” he mumbles, and starts presses long, meandering kisses against his skin. Derek smiles and reaches for him, wraps his arms around his back and pulls him closer. Stiles sighs with contentment and rolls his hips so his thickening cock slides against Derek’s hip, and he feels himself rousing in response, his entire body heating up.

Stiles nuzzles into his neck, nibbling softly, but insistently, on his beard. Derek turns onto his side and slips his leg over Stiles’ hip, bringing their cocks together, a shudder of pleasure rolling through both of them. Derek kisses him, slow and sweet, lingering and long, moaning into his mouth when Stiles wraps his long fingers around both of them.

They fall effortlessly into a languid, teasing rhythm, nothing between them but the warm breath they share and the unyielding, overwhelming love, an eternal fuel to their passion. When Derek eventually comes, it’s a quivering, simmering eruption of heat that radiates through him, shaking him to the bone, makes him grab onto Stiles for dear life.

“I got you, big guy,” Stiles reassures him, holding him tighter, stroking him through the aftershocks, his voice thick and raw, and then Stiles curls inward and then arches his back, body spasming as he grunts and spills hot and thick all over Derek’s stomach.

This time, Derek falls asleep, head pillowed on Stiles’ chest, resting easy.

~*~

Derek wakes to an empty bed. There’s no panic though, no searching or ache of loss, because the sheets are still warm and rich with Stiles’ scent; he can smell coffee from the kitchen, and hear the sound of Stiles rummaging around the cupboards. He pulls on a pair of sweats as he walks downstairs, listening to Stiles talk to the cat.

“Xander, my Man-der,” Stiles is saying. “Do you think you’d like to be a city cat? Maybe you can join the task force, be our official mascot.”

The cat responds with an unimpressed and demanding mewl, which Stiles seems to understand perfectly; he hears him grab a packet of gourmet cat food from the fridge and fill his bowl.

“Are you planning on stealing my cat?” Derek asks, rounding the corner into the kitchen.  

Stiles yelps in surprise and turns to him. “I will never understand how someone so big can be so damn stealthy, wolfiness or not.”

“And I will never understand how someone so small can be so loud.”

“I’m wiry, Der, wiry andlean .”

“Yes, you are,” he agrees, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him close, pressing a kiss against his temple. “You’re perfect.”

He pulls back to kiss him properly on the mouth, but stops when he realizes what Stiles is wearing. He’s got on the flannel sleep pants he was wearing last night and a sweater - a faded maroon sweater with thumbholes in the sleeves, worn so much it’s nearly threadbare in some spots.

Derek’s favorite sweater from years ago, the one that Stiles claimed as his own just a few weeks after they began dating. The one that disappeared when he did, that Derek assumed was lost or thrown away, disregarded. He raises a hand to the neckline, where it’s curling a bit, twirls his finger around a loose thread.

“You still have this?” He asks quietly.

“Of course,” Stiles answers, cheeks pinking slightly. “I, uh...I sleep in it a lot.”

Derek gets back to kissing him, the happiness blooming in his heart nearly making him dizzy. When he finally stops, he doesn’t pull away, but just rests his forehead against Stiles’, eyes closed, trying to steady his rapid pulse. “I love you,” he whispers.

Stiles runs his hands up Derek’s bare back, soothing and gentle, curves a hand against the back of his head. “I love you.”  

“I don’t want you to leave.”

“Come with me.”

Derek pulls back a bit, shocked. “Come with you? To San Francisco?”

“Uh, shit. I meant to ask this better.” Stiles steps away and pours them each a mug of coffee and hands Derek his before continuing, takes a steadying breath. “I was thinking that maybe you’d want to come to San Francisco with me. I know you have a life here, but I know you like the city too, and you can write there, and even be a consultant on my task force, if you want, and my apartment allows pets so Xander can come too and -”

Derek interrupts him with a kiss, eager and excited and so full of love and relief and happiness, all of the things he’s lost these past years and has finally found again this past week amplified infinitely, because Stiles loves him still, and he knows, down to his bones, that he always will.

“Yes.” He says it against his mouth, against his cheek, against his neck, unable to stop kissing him, the fire and waves of love crashing over him, over them, yes, yes, yes .

~*~

Derek has cried four times in his adult life: when his sister died, when the alpha pack used him to kill Boyd, and when Stiles Stilinski broke his heart.

And then again, nearly a decade later, in pure joy and happiness, when Stiles put it back together again.