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Climb Inside His Skin

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Derek--Derek "my predominant expressions are long-suffering and longer-suffering" Hale--has a classical literature collection.

  Until recently, Stiles has happily operated under the assumption that he's not an easy man to surprise - temporarily bamboozle or mildly alarm, sure - but not surprise. Spending a good three-quarters of one's high school career sprinting away from certain death will do that to a person. Stiles has managed to skirt, outwit, destroy, or otherwise run screaming from at least a dozen different supernatural shitstorms since graduating Beacon Hills High School three years ago, but nothing - nothing - could have prepared him for this.

  Stiles turns up at Derek's apartment after making the long trip from college without stopping. His dad's house is empty and the silence unsettles him; the Sheriff's been called up to Sacramento and will be gone for around a week, and Stiles has long since adjusted to the habit of staying elsewhere whenever he knows the house will be empty. He likes noise - nothing raucous, just the little sounds here and there that remind Stiles that life is still continuing around him - an aftereffect of being kidnapped by a pack of particularly bloodthirsty werewolves, who'd kept him in a soundproof room for far too long. He knows Melissa would welcome him to crash in Scott's room for as long as he needs, but there are only so many offers of sandwiches and tea that he'll be able to turn down before going mad. Thankfully, Derek once made the mistake of opening his loft up to Stiles should he ever need a place to stay. The quiet offer had come right after graduation, accompanied by a reassuring clap on the shoulder, and Stiles has taken advantage of Derek's guest room at least a dozen times in the three years he's been a college student. To date, Derek has never complained; he'll just twitch an eyebrow and pull out an extra coffee mug in the mornings.

  He does the courteous thing and texts ahead of himself, which means the door is open when he finally gets in pushes over the threshold with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. All knowledge of the English, Polish, Russian, and Spanish languages flee at the sight before him. Where Stiles remembers there being a gaping hole in the wall, there are floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. There's even a sliding ladder.

  Derek looks up from where he's perched on a stool at the counter island bent over his laptop, his response to Stiles' silence an owlish blink. Stiles drops his bag and ambles over to the books, unable to help himself as he runs his fingertips along the spines. Every book he can see - from Catcher in the Rye to Pride and Prejudice - has been read and cared for, pored over. He pulls out a book at random - a well loved copy of Don Quixote - and traces his fingers over weathered pages, pivoting after a moment to stare at Derek, so far beyond speechless that he can't utter anything more advanced than a choked gurgle. Derek slides from his stool, a little smirk playing about his lips as he strides over, plucking the book from Stiles' hands and replacing it with an air of fond reverence.

  Derek rests a hand on Stiles' shoulder, quirking an eyebrow. "I thought you said you were coming over with the sole intention of sleeping a minimum of twelve consecutive hours," he says, beginning to herd Stiles towards the spiral staircase. Stiles goes, because his entire worldview has been turned on its head and if he hadn't needed sleep before, he definitely needs it now. Who knows? Maybe he'll wake up in his dorm room and this has all been a strange dream. Derek hefts Stiles' duffel and guides Stiles to the guest room and Stiles is suddenly struck by the urge to hug Derek, because the guest bed is freshly made and the space heater's cranking out warmth, which means Derek's nonchalance at Stiles' entry has all been an act.

  Stiles pitches himself forward as soon as he's close enough to the bed, landing face first in a pillow that smells of Derek's washing detergent. He lets out a tired groan and wraps his arms under the pillow, vowing never to move again. He hears Derek release a snort of laughter somewhere behind him shortly followed by warm hands curling around his ankles and tugging his shoes off.

  There's an ease between them that had never been there during high school. Since starting college, Stiles has taken to sending Derek emails detailing how his day or week had been, or talking about his latest essay or bitching about a professor, and demanding responses. Granted, up until spring break, said responses had only been a sentence or two if Stiles was lucky, but the emails had worked as a method of getting Derek to communicate on a sporadic to semi-regular basis. Around spring break, Derek had sent him an email off his own back - in it he talked about how he'd gone to New York and sorted through all of his and Laura's old belongings, putting their old apartment up for sale. Stiles had sat in utter awe for an hour at the fact Derek had sent him two thousand words telling him about how his own week had been, for the first time in the three years they'd been emailing. Derek had followed the email up, three hours later, with a new one demanding a reply "or else". Stiles had responded as he normally would if the email had come from Scott, deciding to leave the teasing until Derek was comfortable with long winded emails, which only took a couple of weeks, at which point Stiles ribbed Derek about being able to communicate in full sentences and paragraphs until Derek threatened to rip Stiles' arm off and beat him senseless with it.

  Stiles is brought back to the present by the duvet shifting under him; he turns his head to squint at Derek, who's rolling his eyes and looking impossibly fond as he folds the duvet over Stiles, obscuring his vision. Stiles drops off to sleep almost immediately.

*

Despite his determination for twelve hours of solid unconsciousness, Stiles wakes up a few times to find a glass of water on the bedside; he finishes it each time before dropping off again. He finally rolls out of bed at ten in the evening and staggers downstairs. Derek's sitting on the sofa, laptop on his knees, the TV switched on but turned down low. There are two pizza boxes on the coffee table and Stiles sinks down next to Derek, reaching for one of the boxes. They're still hot.

  "I'm going to marry you," Stiles says, pulling the BBQ chicken pizza into his lap. Derek snorts, but otherwise doesn't respond. "Come on, dude. I know you waited for me before eating - put the laptop down and eat pizza with me, otherwise I'm going back upstairs and taking both boxes with me. Turn the TV up."

  Derek tilts his head, glancing at Stiles, evidently trying to work out if he's being serious or not. He sighs and rolls his eyes. "And here I was thinking this was my apartment," he says, closing the lid of his laptop and stretching forward to put it on the table, grabbing the other box and remote. "Go get me a beer from the fridge and I'll turn the TV up."

  Stiles scowls but gets up, leaving his pizza box open on the couch and shooting Derek a warning look. He crosses to the open plan kitchen area and grabs two beers, popping the tops off before returning, sinking down and handing a bottle to Derek before hauling his pizza back into his lap and setting about demolishing it.

  "How'd the Mets do?"

  "Recap says 3-2 Mets-Rockies," Derek says.

  "Dodgers?"

  "6-4 against the Phillies."

  "Dad'll be happy. Good day all around."

  Derek grunts in agreement. "Cubs 7-2 Brewers."

  "Get out. You're a Cubs fan?"

  Derek looks at him, rolls his eyes, then looks back at the TV, turning the volume up so Stiles can listen to the recap of the day's games.

  Stiles smacks Derek's shoulder with the back of his hand. "No, dude, seriously. Classic literature and now this? I didn't even know you liked baseball. How did I not know you liked baseball, man? I've known you almost, like, six years by this point? Since when did you like the Cubs? Baseball?"

  "They were Laura's team," Derek says. "I only really started watching it because she used to have it on all the time in our apartment. She used to drag me to Citi Field, so the Mets became my team. Used to drive her crazy."

  Derek's got this nostalgic little smile on his lips, gazing down at his pizza. Stiles is happy for companionable silence to fall between them, dividing his attention between the TV and food.

  "Lift that a second," Derek says suddenly, gesturing at the box in Stiles' lap. Nonplussed, Stiles complies, protesting just a fraction of a second too late as Derek swings his legs up, calves resting across Stiles' thighs. Derek shoots him a smug grin and takes a swig of his beer, continuing to eat. Stiles grumbles but balances his pizza on Derek's legs, grabbing another slice.

  "Hey," Stiles says, figuring he may as well find out as much as he can while Derek's feeling generous with information. "If she loved the Cubs, why New York?"

  "New York has a faster pace of living than Chicago," Derek says with a shrug that isn't quite flippant. "She wanted something that had nothing in common with life here, and I didn't get an opinion because I was the kid brother. We were only in New York for two years. We stayed in a lot of cities between leaving here and trying to settle there."

  Stiles lets silence reign again, despite the fact he wants, desperately, to know all about what Derek and Laura had gotten up to for those six years they'd been absent from Beacon Hills. They finish their pizzas and Derek clears away the boxes, grabbing another couple of beers before plonking back down and settling his legs back across Stiles' lap, head pillowed by the arm of the sofa.

  "So," Stiles says, feeling lethargic from sleeping all day and then wolfing down an entire pizza. "You're a closet literature nerd and never, in the last three years of listening to me bitching about every single novel I've ever had to study for class, have you mentioned it."

  Derek turns his head to look at Stiles, a smirk tugging at the corners of his lips. "You never asked," he says. "My mom's favourite book was To Kill A Mockingbird. She used to read it to us when we were kids. Dad was always bringing books home for her, and she'd read all of them; she loved all of them, but she'd always go back to To Kill A Mockingbird. Used to call me Jem because I'd sulk if she called me Scout."

  Stiles rests his head against the back of the couch, keeping his eyes on Derek. "You're totally Boo," he says after a few moments, a grin spreading across his face. "Dude, you're Boo Radley. The emotionally damaged recluse who appears just in time to save the day, shrouded in mystery. Derek, you're Boo Radley. Oh man, I can't believe I didn't think of that. We were doing Mockingbird last year for one of my classes."

  "I remember," Derek says. "You did think of that. You said Scott was both Scout and Jem, Atticus reminded you of your dad, you couldn't figure out if you were Scout or Dill - I think you decided on Dill and decided Scott was definitely more like Scout. You said that all made me Boo."

  Stiles gapes.

  Derek shifts, looking away from Stiles with a shrug. "I pay attention."

  "You're like a walking, talking SparkNotes for the shit I've rambled about in emails. Dude, that was over a year ago. I barely even remember what angle I chose to focus on in the essay I did for it."

  Derek shrugs again, his shoulders beginning to look a little uncomfortable around the edges, so Stiles steers the conversation back to safer waters, talking about Scott and Lydia coming home over the summer, listening to Derek tell him how Erica's doing at college and whether Boyd's going to inherit his father's garage. Derek gradually relaxes again, and at some point, Stiles ends up lying at the other end of the couch, his legs tangled with Derek's. The day's surprises aren't quite over, either, it seems, because when Stiles glances over at Derek in the middle of one of the bizarre not-even-B-list late night movies that's ended up showing, Derek's fast asleep, the perfect picture of contented relaxation. Stiles doesn't bother moving, not quite ready to disrupt this whatever-it-is he has with Derek.

*

After that, it's just easy for Stiles to leave his stuff at Derek's; he visits his dad when he gets home, spending a few afternoons sacked out in his father's living room. Derek doesn't seem to mind Stiles coming and going as he pleases - indeed, he points out where the spare key is kept so Stiles doesn't have to keep picking the lock when Derek's out. Over the course of a couple of weeks, the pack reconvenes. Stiles spends a day eating bad diner food and playing video games with Scott for old times sake; he takes Lydia to lunch and lets her take him shopping; he drags everyone to the loft for an evening and makes each person bring a dish. They have dinner and Stiles notices Derek's contentment edging towards happiness, but he doesn't mention it; he meets Derek's eyes across the table and Derek inclines his head before turning his attention back to Allison, who's talking about her training for the Olympics.

  Scott, Isaac, Boyd and Stiles wind up doing the washing up that evening. It ends in a water fight and Derek perplexing everyone by simply chuckling and shaking his head. Awed, they finish the dishes and work to restore the kitchen to how it's supposed to look. By the time they troop over to the living area, Derek's put towels on all of the unoccupied chairs and is watching them all with a smug expression. Stiles laughs and drops down beside Derek.

  "Hey, Boo," he says, making sure to lean up against Derek as much as he can. Derek snorts and shoves him away, pulling the towel from under Stiles to wrap around him. Stiles snickers and goes back to leaning against Derek's side. If he happens to fall asleep, hair still damp, with his head on Derek's shoulder, nobody says anything.

*

The calm doesn't last. It's a week later that Stiles finds out why Derek's been attached to his laptop ever since he arrived: there's a kelpie living under the bridge of the river that runs near the Sheriff's station.

  "I've been here three weeks! You could have at least mentioned it! Just a quick 'hey, Stiles, the entrails of all of those missing persons are washing up and I think there's a chance it could be because there's a flesh eating, shapeshifting water demon reenacting the Three Goats Gruff,' would have sufficed!"

  Derek scowls. "I'm telling you now," he says.

  "Only because my dad asked me to take a look at the file!"

  They're standing at either side of the counter island, a manilla folder and Derek's laptop open between them. Derek's arms are crossed and he looks like the noncommunicative asshole Stiles remembers from high school.

  "I had to be sure," Derek says. "There are... certain treaties in place; I couldn't just go after it without evidence."

  "Then we'd have got evidence! How many people have died because you weren't sure, Derek? I thought we were supposed to be past this - you're supposed to trust me!"

  It's a low blow and Stiles knows it the second Derek's entire expression closes like shutters being pulled. "If I didn't trust you, you wouldn't be here," he snarls, baring his teeth as he advances around the island. Stiles backs up a few steps, but the counter hits his lower back and he has nowhere else to go. "If I didn't trust you, you wouldn't know where my spare key is kept; if I didn't trust you, I'd never sleep while you were here. I don't think it's me who's not trusting, here."

  Stiles swallows, leaning back as Derek gets up close, caging Stiles' hips with his hands on the counter either side. His breath catches even as Derek lets his cloak of anger fall away, looking more curious than murderous.

  "Do you trust me, Stiles?"

  Stiles tears his eyes away from Derek's mouth, far closer than he's used to, to meet Derek's eyes. "I trust you," he says, ignoring how faint his voice is because Derek is definitely watching his lips now. "With my life, Derek, you have to know that. But I know you, and I know you'll run off and try to fix things on your own. You can't do that. I won't let you do that."

  "If I wanted to, you wouldn't be able to stop me."

  Stiles halfway to conceding to the point, but his mind goes blank because he can feel Derek's breath on his face. It smells of coffee and mint and he's helpless to do anything other than follow it, curling his fingers around the back of Derek's neck. Derek responds immediately, kissing him back and letting his hands travel from the counter either side of Stiles to close around him, one hand splaying across the middle of Stiles' back, the other gripping Stiles' hip and guiding him closer.

  The kiss itself feels like an argument, desperate and filled with urgency. Derek tastes like toothpaste and slightly stale espresso and it's strange when mixed with the apple juice Stiles has just had, but not unpleasant. Derek presses him against the counter and Stiles presses back. Derek allows himself to be pushed until his own back collides with the island. It feels like the argument's been won when Derek flicks his tongue along Stiles' lips, but Stiles has no idea who the victor is.

  Stiles swears softly when it becomes a necessity to pull back and breathe. He keeps Derek close, hands around the back of Derek's neck and curled over his bicep.

  "Promise me you're not going to run off and try to play the hero alone," Stiles says, resting his forehead against Derek's. Derek opens his eyes after a few moments, smirks.

  "Only if you do," he says. Stiles laughs.

  "I won't go alone," Stiles says, inexplicably giddy. Derek's smirk has faded to something a little more gentle, lips still curled up at the edges and a certain softness in his eyes.

  "I won't, either," Derek says, and Stiles kisses him, because apparently that's a thing they're doing now. Derek kisses back, toying with the back of Stiles' shirt, tugging up the hem and running his hands over the warm skin he finds underneath. Stiles suppresses a shiver and lets Derek go just enough to tug the t-shirt over his head, tossing it behind him and latching back on, biting at Derek's jaw and tugging at his Henley, deciding it's only fair to level the playing field.

  Derek shoves him away and pulls the shirt off before yanking him back, catching Stiles' mouth with his before he can start wandering.

  "We should call the others," Derek mumbles against Stiles' mouth. "Have a meeting. Work out what to do about the kelpie."

  "We should," Stiles agrees, grasping for Derek's belt buckle and using it to tug him towards the bed, secretly thrilled that Derek doesn't make any move to protest or slip away. Derek then allows himself to be pushed down onto the bed, Stiles sinking down between his knees and loosening the belt in a way that Stiles is sure is smoother than any other action he's ever attempted in his life. Derek certainly doesn't seem to be complaining.

  Stiles is tracing the button of Derek's jeans when he pauses and looks up. "Can I?"

  Derek's gazing at him with lidded eyes, lips parted. He nods, but immediately seems to contradict himself when he curls his fingers under Stiles' chin and pulls him up onto the bed, drawing him into a kiss that leaves them both breathless.

  "We should take care of the kelpie first," Derek murmurs, eyelids fluttering when Stiles decides to wriggle into place and slot his thigh between Derek's. "Stiles."

  "One good idea at a time," Stiles says, grinning against Derek's mouth. "This one came first."

  Derek laughs - a proper, full-out bark of laughter - and rolls them over, grabbing Stiles' wandering hands and pinning them to the bed either side of his head as he lifts himself onto all fours. Stiles narrows his eyes and Derek pecks his lips. "We start now, we won't stop until sometime tomorrow, I can guarantee. You're the one who went crazy at me because people are dying."

  "You're literally cockblocking me with my own argument right now," Stiles says, letting his head drop back against the bed. "You're an asshole, I don't know why I like you."

  Derek leans in and gives him a slow kiss, pushing his knee gently but firmly between Stiles'. Stiles whines and arches up. "That's why," Derek breathes, and suddenly, he's halfway across the loft and picking up his phone from the island. Stiles yelps and leaps to his feet. Derek's already on the phone by the time Stiles orientates himself. He stalks over and plasters himself against Derek's back. Derek presses back against him, but doesn't even pause in his speech. Stiles glares at the back of his head and ducks his head forward, biting Derek's ear lobe. Derek's knuckles go white around the edge of the counter and Stiles allows himself an internal victory dance before leaning back in and latching on to the sensitive skin just under the hinge of Derek's jaw, biting and sucking at it.

  The effect it has is a memory Stiles will treasure forever. Derek's knees buckle, and it's probably only the iron grip he has on the counter working frantically with his werewolf reflexes that keeps him standing, and there's this little choked noise that comes out of him; he loses track of what he was saying and almost drops the phone. Stiles skitters backwards.

  "I'm gonna go shower," he says, unbuttoning his jeans and heading for the bathroom, stepping out of his pants as he walks. By the time he reaches the bathroom door, he's in just his boxers. He glances over his shoulder to see Derek back on the phone, but watching him with unmasked want. Stiles grins, drops his boxers and closes the door. He locks it just to be an ass and then starts up the shower.

  To his disappointment, Derek doesn't even try to get into the bathroom. He's sitting at the island looking completely unruffled when Stiles emerges in just a towel. Stiles pads over when Derek looks up.

  "Are we...? What are we doing?" Derek asks, curving a hand around Stiles' hip as soon as he's close enough.

  "Well I wanted to be doing you, but you vetoed that," Stiles says, moving closer until there's barely an inch between their mouths. "I want you. I want to be with you if you'll let me. I've been waiting for you to show even the tiniest sign you were interested in me since I was seventeen and you were wearing those stupid jeans."

  "My jeans aren't stupid," Derek says, frowning.

  "That's what you're taking from that," Stiles says; Derek catches his wrist before he can move away.

  "Sorry," he says. "I can't say I've wanted you since you were seventeen. You were irritating and I was in no mindset to be looking for a relationship--"

  "--Didn't you bone my English teacher around that time?"

  Derek glares at him. "I did, and it was the first step on a long road," he says.

  "Very long road. Didn't she try to kill us all?"

  "You know I was seeing someone - a therapist, I mean. It's helped a lot, particularly this past year, getting all our stuff sent over from New York. I think I'm ready to move forward. I just need you to tell me you're serious."

  Stiles gives him a wry little smirk. "I can call up at least three people who can back me up when I say that I'm really bad at casual, no-strings relationships. I'm a serial monogamist," he says. "I'm serious, Derek. If you'll have me, you can have all of me. We'll still fight, and I'm still gonna drive you fucking crazy, and I'll probably still want to punch you sometimes, but I want this. I want you."

  Derek reels him in and kisses him hard, keeping it chaste. "I'd like to try," he says. "I'd like to have you. You can have me, what's left of me."

  "There's plenty left of you, Heathcliff," Stiles says, steering the conversation away from getting too deep and feeling-filled by shooting Derek a playful leer. Derek shoves his shoulder, laughing.

  "Get dressed. Pack'll be here any minute."

  "We're having sex when we get home," Stiles says, stalking towards the staircase. "Just so you know. Don't make any other plans or I swear to God, I will deball you and give them to Erica as earrings."

*

By the time the others have arrived and assembled themselves in the living area, Stiles has gotten himself dressed, having commandeered one of Derek's v-necks to go under his button-up. He considers the armchair - the only free seat because Derek's taking up the entire loveseat by himself - before walking straight past it and situating himself in Derek's lap. Conversation dies abruptly, everyone waiting to see in what spectacular fashion Stiles will be ejected, and the silence only stretches when Derek drapes his arm across Stiles' thighs.

  "What were we saying?" Stiles asks. Nobody answers; the only thing that happens is Boyd, Isaac and Erica all root around in their pockets, each handing a bill to Scott, who looks smug. "No, wait, what just happened there?"

  "I got your back, buddy," Scott says, shrugging, and that's the only explanation anyone offers. "Anyway, we figured we'd just head down to the river and ask it to move. If things go south, we beat it up a little."

  "Sounds disastrous," Stiles says cheerfully. "Let's do it."

  Derek rolls his eyes and squeezes Stiles' leg. "Kelpies aren't to be taken lightly. They're technically fae - they can bewitch humans into following them. The second you touch the water, there's not much that can save you--"

  "I'm not sitting at home waiting to see if any of you don't come back," Stiles says sharply.

  "I didn't say you should," Derek says before Stiles can argue further. "I want you to stay as far away from the kelpie itself as possible, though. Not because I think you're weak, but because you're valuable. We can't risk it."

  Stiles frowns.

  Derek rolls his eyes. "I won't risk it - risk you. Happy?"

  Stiles grins. Isaac makes a gagging noise. Stiles' grin widens and he leans down to plant a kiss on Derek's mouth, eliciting simultaneous noises of protest from Scott and Isaac. Derek snorts and shoves at Stiles' shoulder, sitting up and tipping Stiles onto the sofa when he stands to begin getting ready.

*

Eventually, they pile into cars and head in the general direction of the Sheriff's station. Stiles has called his father to ask him to make sure nobody tries to head down to the river for a while and the Sheriff responds with an affirmative.

  "You're gonna need human blood to summon it," Stiles says as everyone assembles on the bank; Stiles is sitting on the hood of the Jeep. "I'm figuring it'll be able to scent the difference between human and werewolf." Derek turns to look at him, a crinkle forming between his eyebrows painting him as conflicted. Stiles laughs and slinks over to him, flipping out his pocket knife. With his free hand, Stiles draws Derek closer, wrapping one of Derek's around his waist. "You can keep hold of me if it makes you feel better."

  It evidently does, because Derek curls his other arm around and laces his hands together across Stiles' belly. Stiles smiles and leans back into the touch, tugging up his sleeve and slicing the back of his wrist. There was once a time he'd have complained and flinched away from doing this, but he's long since gotten used to it, whether it's to work a protective circle or, on one horrifyingly memorable occasion, to help Scott find him, so he doesn't so much as bat an eyelid as he overturns his hand and massages a thin ribbon of blood into the water. As soon as Derek deems him as having bled enough, he begins taking steps backwards, dragging Stiles with him.

  "Please go back to the Jeep," Derek murmurs against the nape of his neck. Stiles rolls his eyes, turning his head to peck Derek's cheek and remarking to himself at how easy it is to do so. Derek gradually releases him and Stiles saunters back over to the Jeep, hopping up onto the hood and pulling his baseball bat into his lap, just in case.

*

What they didn't count on, it seems, is the kelpie having minions. Everything Derek showed him and everything he could find on his own about kelpies showed them to be purely solitary beasts, but this one has tiny warriors with wings and a temper. Stiles smacks one away with the end of his bat, watching it go flying with an angry chitter. Stiles looks around at the others in time to see Erica rip one of the sprites in half. Stiles' eyes catch on Derek--or, he thinks it's Derek at first glance--who's standing in the river watching him. His mind is fogged; he can't push through it but there are alarm bells going off somewhere in the back of his brain. He's stumbling towards the water without so much as a thought in his head. It's not until the last second, when he hears Derek roaring, that he realises he's about to grab the kelpie's hand. It's all he can to do twist and yell, cursing himself for dropping his bat by the Jeep. The kelpie's hand wraps around his and the fog in Stiles' mind gets thicker.

  There's a lot of blood. That's the next thing Stiles is aware of. He's not on the Jeep anymore. In fact, he's fairly sure he's at least half in the river, sprawled across the muddy bank and soaked to the skin. He's barely able to finish that thought before he's gagging and rolling onto his side to cough up water. A warm hand is curled in his shirt and it's a few moments before he registers it as belonging to Derek. Mid-cough, he grabs for it, lacing their fingers together, relief spreading through him when the hand doesn't turn into human flypaper and try to drown him.

  After coughing up what must be at least half of the river - and Stiles is fairly sure those are minnows - he rolls onto his back, shivers verging on violent. Derek hauls him up into a sitting position against his chest, wrapping around him and pressing his face into the nape of Stiles' neck. A sudden, additional warmth is added and Stiles lifts his head to see Scott draping a blanket around Derek and, by extension, Stiles.

  "You should get him home," Scott says. "Mom says he should be fine because he wasn't under for very long, but if he keeps coughing up water you should take him to the hospital. He needs to be out of those clothes before they get too cold."

  Stiles feels Derek nodding against the back of his neck, but it's almost a full minute before Derek moves. Derek lifts him--and if Stiles' brain was working in anything other than slow motion, he's pretty sure he'd be protesting-- and carries him towards the Jeep, propping him up against it. Derek methodically strips Stiles out of his wet shirts and tugs his own over his head, pulling it down over Stiles'. Stiles watches, still feeling vaguely detached, as Derek kneels to tug Stiles' shoes, socks and jeans off before wrapping the blanket around his waist. Stiles looks up when Derek's name is called; it's Boyd, hanging out of the Camaro driver's side with something in his hand. Derek's jacket. Stiles has a second to ponder, amused, whether Derek keeps a spare leather jacket in his car just because he has a habit of getting them torn up, before Derek's catching it and tugging it around Stiles' shoulders, zipping it right up to the collar.

  Derek tugs him close and hugs him. Stiles allows himself to be bundled up, pressing his face into Derek's neck because his nose is cold and Derek's warm. Stiles' arms are crossed over his chest, trapped by the jacket, not having been given the opportunity to put his arms in the sleeves before Derek zipped it up.

  Derek lifts his head, prompting Stiles to do the same and let their foreheads rest together. Stiles grins, teeth chattering. "Hey, Boo."

  Derek snorts, something easing in his expression, and presses a kiss to his forehead before bundling him into the Jeep and walking around the driver's side.

  Stiles doesn't remember getting to the loft; he doesn't remember being stripped to his boxers and Derek running a warm shower, rinsing the river water off of him and thawing him out; he doesn't remember Derek coaxing him into a pair of sweatpants and a thermal shirt and he doesn't remember being tucked into Derek's bed. He has very vague recollections, but for the most part it's all a blur.

  Dawn light is beginning to filter through the window when Stiles regains full consciousness, the fogginess having left his mind. He sits up, squinting through the half-light. There are wrinkles in the sheets and a dent in the other pillow which tell Stiles that Derek slept next to him, but the sheets are cold. Stiles scoots to the edge of the bed and makes his way towards the coffee machine. He can't hear the shower running, so that's out, and he's not sure where else Derek could be other than out of the loft.

  He gets his answer around ten seconds later when he actually reaches the coffee maker to find a note scrawled on the back of an envelope:

  "Elizabeth," it reads, and Stiles hadn't known that sarcasm could be nearly so effective when written down, but it's right there in the slant of Derek's penmanship. "Gone for a run. Will bring breakfast in. Don't switch the heating off even if you feel too hot, Melissa says it could be a fever. Derek. (Don't make that face, I'm not signing things as Boo Radley)."

  Stiles gazes at the note for a few moments, about to dig out his phone and ask which Elizabeth Derek had been calling him, but his eyes snag on the battered copy of Pride and Prejudice on the counter and he finds himself gaping. He lunges for his phone, taking a second to be endlessly grateful he'd left it in the Jeep and not kept it in his pocket before his impromptu drowning lesson. He dials Derek.

  "Elizabeth Bennet?" Stiles squawks as soon as the dialing sound ends. Derek's response is a huff of laughter.

  "I thought it was fitting," Derek says, and Stiles can hear the crunch of leaves under Derek's feet as he slows to a walk.

  "This is just borne of your secret desire to be someone's Mr. Darcy," Stiles says, crossing the room and flopping back down onto Derek's bed, crawling up to nuzzle Derek's pillow. He flips onto his back with a grin. "I swear to God, if you start calling me Elizabeth, Lizzy, Eliza or any other variation thereof, I'm definitely telling everyone to call you Boo. Starting with Erica. I'll start cooing over you in public."

  "How about Odysseus?" Derek must hear Stiles' eyebrows lifting, because there's a grin in his voice when he starts talking. "Too smart, annoyingly brave, adaptable as anything..."

  Stiles smacks a hand over his eyes, trying to fight down a grin that's threatening to break his face. "Derek," he says after a few seconds. "You need to get back here right now. We had plans for after we got home after the kelpie, and unless you're a ninja at somnophilia, I don't think we've gotten to that yet."

  "We were kind of preoccupied by the whole drowning thing," Derek says, his tone similar to that of someone pointing out the weather. "I'm grabbing breakfast and I'll be back soon. Want anything in particular?"

  "You. Naked. Now, Derek."

  "What, here? I just walked into a bakery, Stiles, I'm not sure they'd appreciate that."

  Stiles grins at the ceiling. "Just get here yesterday, Hale."

  "Breakfast is an important part of your daily food intake," Derek says breezily. Breezily. Stiles narrows his eyes. Since when is there anything breezy about Derek Hale? Sties isn't given the opportunity to reply because Derek's hung up on him. Stiles gapes at his phone, sitting up abruptly. He contemplates getting himself off, but even the thought of being told to change the sheets - because Stiles is pretty sure by this point that Derek wants in his pants, but it doesn't mean he's magically not an asshole - is exhausting enough.

  No sooner is he flopping back and telling himself he'll just close his eyes for a moment than he's hearing the coffee maker gurgling from the direction of the kitchen. He pushes himself up onto his elbows before rolling off of the bed and wandering through to find Derek, who's emptying a paper bag of groceries. Derek glances up when Stiles appears and a small, warm smile slides across his face.

  "How are you feeling?" he asks, and Stiles can't think of a witty, frivolous reply because Derek looking at him the way he is isn't something Stiles can see himself getting used to quickly.

  "Better," Stiles says, sidling closer to take a seat at the island. Derek pulls a cinnamon bun out of another bag, putting it on a plate along with a butter knife and pushing it at Stiles. Stiles accepts it, grinning, but gives Derek a suspicious look.

  "What?"

  "You're giving me sugar drowned in more sugar for breakfast," Stiles says. "I'm usually lucky if I can find white bread rather than wholegrain in this place."

  Derek snorts, settling on the stool beside Stiles and bumping their shoulders together. "I'm not that bad," he says, picking apart his banana and bran muffin. He catches the look Stiles slants at him. "You've had three different types of take out this week, none of which were paid for or ordered by you. Three types of take out, Stiles. I'm not even sure the stuff from the Chinese place was actually chicken."

  "Your italics are audible," Stiles comments, and then begins tearing into his cinnamon bun with his fingers, disregarding the knife entirely.

  He pauses in the act of taking his last bite with his hand halfway to his mouth because Derek's the kind of stock still that usually means danger is imminent. Stiles looks at him to find Derek's eyes fixed on his fingers, sticky with frosting. Curious, Stiles lifts the remainder to his mouth and pops it in. Derek's eyes flicker between Stiles' mouth and his fingers, something in his expression flickering as Stiles deliberately licks the frosting from his fingers, making sure not to miss any.

  Stiles is about to make a wisecrack to diffuse the tension - it's a good kind of tension, but still tension - when Derek's suddenly tugging him from his stool and dragging him towards his bed. Stiles goes, laughing. "Okay, you're a caveman. I haven't brushed my teeth this morning, just so you know. I should probably--"

  Derek shoves him down onto the bed when they reach it and pulls off his wife beater in a fluid movement that leaves Stiles unable to form any further words. He has a slightly hysterical moment where he wants to thrash around and smother himself with a pillow because Derek is stripping. For Stiles.

  Stiles lunges up and grabs for the waistband of Derek's shorts, yanking him down onto the bed even as Derek grabs his wrists in one hand and wriggles out of the rest of his clothing using his free one. Stiles squirms under him, wanting to touch, to taste, because holy shit this is actually happening.

 To Stiles.

  Derek releases Stiles' wrists and tugs the thermal shirt up and over Stiles' head before he can grab for Derek's skin. They kiss, a collision of desperation and pent-up want. Derek slides his mouth along Stiles' jaw and Stiles takes a moment to realise that Derek's entirely naked on top of him while he still has sweats on. Not that they're doing much to hide his interest.

  Derek rolls them, pulling Stiles on top of him, which leaves his hands free to shove at Stiles' waistband. Stiles leans in for a kiss and Derek pushes a hand through his hair.

  "Stiles," Derek pants, hooking his legs around Stiles' thighs and pulling him in once he's succeeded in pushing Stiles' sweats out of the way. "Stiles, Jesus, fuck."

  Stiles laughs, a little breathless and feeling like he could vibrate right out of his skin. He lets his elbows collapse, kissing Derek hard, shifting restlessly until he's plastered all up Derek's front as best he can, touching every inch of skin he can reach, struggling to shove one of his hands between their bodies. Derek rolls them once more, sitting up and grabbing for the bedside. Stiles laughs at Derek's scowl when he has to move away completely in order to root through the drawer to find what he's looking for.

  Stiles is a fan of sex in general, but he enjoys it most when he can laugh and not feel like he's breaking the mood or making things awkward, when things can get silly but that doesn't mean it's meaningless. There's a soft, triumphant noise that makes Stiles come back to the present just in time to feel Derek's languid smile pressed against his neck, his jaw, his mouth.

  "Top or bottom?" Derek murmurs against his lips, and Stiles nearly loses it right there. He'd been quite content to go with the flow, but Derek also not minding which way things are done is somehow hotter than Stiles ever imagined it would be.

  "Do you have a coin?" Stiles asks, having to stifle a giggle at how ridiculous he feels. Derek rolls his eyes, their faces inches apart, but his lips are curled upwards around the edges. Derek shoves the lube into his hand and sits back on his heels expectantly. Stiles follows him, chasing Derek to lie on his back with Stiles between his legs. Derek gives him another smile, lifting his arms to grip the headboard, giving Stiles total control.

  With that thought circulating Stiles' mind, everything after that feels like a blur of heat and sweat bordering on unbearable, Derek's entire body undulating under his hands and mouth; short, sharp breaths, breathed-out curse words, blissful grins and laughter stifled, barely, by one another's mouths.

*

  "They chased him and never could catch him," Stiles says to the ceiling; the details of the room around him are still a little hazy, but Derek's draped across his chest, face pressed into Stiles' neck. "Because they didn't know what he looked like, and when they finally saw him - he hadn't done any of those things. He was real nice."

  Derek lifts his head, managing to look both amused and huffy - coupled with his half wild hair and sleepy eyes, the overall effect is adorable. "That's not the quote."

  "It's close enough. I can't pull off a drawl, believe me."

  Derek snorts and turns his head, resting his cheek against Stiles' shoulder, drawing patterns with featherlight fingertips across Stiles' bare hip. Stiles makes an expectant noise and can all but sense Derek rolling his eyes, but he can also hear the smile in his voice when he speaks next: "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."