Actions

Work Header

The Start of Our Forever

Work Text:

It takes them less than an hour into their road trip before they have what Stiles figures is going to be an extremely awkward conversation. Fortunately for him, Lydia doesn’t do awkward. 

“You know I love you, right?”

He side-eyes her, but her hands are firmly on the steering wheel in the ten and two positions, her eyes fixed on the road ahead of them. “Yes?”

“You’re my best friend, and I would never want to hurt you.” 

“I know.” He inhales deeply because he also knows what’s coming next. “It’s okay, Lyds. We’ll be okay.”

She cuts her eyes to him, gaze sharpening, but he doesn’t miss the way she exhales steadily, like she’d been frightened of the outcome of this conversation. “You don’t hate me?”

“I could never.” He doesn’t want to tell her that he’s relieved, which is crazy, and something sixteen-year-old him would have been staring at him bug-eyed over. “There are some people who shouldn’t try to live the Friends to Lovers trope. We’re two of them.”

She lets out a short, sharp laugh, but she’s smiling, and they both relax. The road trip starts to feel like something he might actually enjoy, now that the weight hanging over his head has vanished like smoke.

-----

They’re on day two, driving through the heart of Denver, Colorado, when Lydia discovers a little antique shop she insists they stop at. Stiles learned years ago that when Lydia wants to do something she does it, so he shrugs and says ‘why not’ and slides out of the passenger seat of her sleek silver ‘congrats grad’ Lexus, courtesy of her father, and follows her in.

He drifts aimlessly while Lydia examines the “treasures” boasted by the shop, not even a little impressed with the collection. It looks shabby, dusty, and cheap; he highly doubts more than a handful of the items are true antiques. The guy at the counter gives him a once-over as he meanders over toward the area filled with paintings, but is distracted when Lydia approaches him with a set of crystal stemware.

Stiles half-expects to be chastised when he starts shuffling through the paintings stacked against one wall, but then he figures it’s probably expected. Nobody will buy the painting in the back if they can’t see it, right?

Then he sees the painting in the back.

The rest of the paintings slip through his fingers and tumble to the ground; the clatter catches both Lydia’s and the guy’s attention. “Hey, careful with those!” the guy calls out, but Stiles is far beyond caring. The painting in front of him has an ethereal quality, perhaps due to the use of black and white, like it’s a photograph captured in paint. The castle setting gives off a sense of chill, but the two figures embracing warms him to the core. It doesn’t matter that he can’t see their faces, wrapped up in each other as they are.

No, it’s the triskelion emblazoned on the pelt that takes center stage of the painting, and his attention.

“How much?” he asks, swallowing hard. He doesn’t have much money, but he doesn’t care. He has to have this painting. 

The guy abandons Lydia at the counter and makes his way over, brow furrowing consideringly as he studies the painting. “I don’t know who the artist is, but it came from the castle. That alone raises the price.”

Lydia’s interest has been piqued by the declaration and she joins them. “Castle?”  

Luce, according to his nametag, nods. “Richthofen Castle. It’s just a couple blocks from here, so I’m assuming you guys are tourists and not locals.”

The scathing look on Lydia’s face would delight Stiles if he had eyes for anything but the triskelion, set under a full moon shining high through the castle window. “We’re from California,” she informs Luce, her tone airy and dismissive. “Though I’d heard of Richthofen Castle. It’s also known as the Red Baron’s Castle, and was an insane asylum for several years at the turn of the 20th century.” 

“That’s right,” Luce acknowledges, impressed. “It’s been abandoned for years, but someone bought it a few months ago. They sold and donated a number of the furnishings left by the previous inhabitants. Something from the castle brings a better price simply because of the history.”

Lydia studies the painting, then Stiles’ face. He hasn’t said a word during the exchange, too caught up in the what-ifs behind the painting’s origins. He knows Derek’s family has been in Beacon Hills for decades, but what if one of their ancestors started out here in Denver? Is it possible he’s holding onto a piece of Hale history?

“I’ll give you one hundred dollars for it,” Lydia offers crisply, and Luce rubs at his ear in discomfort.

“I’m pretty sure my boss wouldn’t like it if I sold this for anything less than five hundred,” he explains, and the look she gives him is comically disdainful. 

“This is more than likely a cheap quality painting done by an unknown artist dabbling in fingerpaints,” she sniffs. “Two hundred, that’s my final offer. You’ll never get that much from anyone else, so I suggest you take it.”

Luce stares at her again, this time in awe, and Stiles feels a little bit of sympathy. He forgets sometimes what it’s like to be intimidated by Lydia Martin. Then again, he’s reminded fairly often. 

Sighing, Luce nods. “I’ll take it.”

Lydia beams. “Wonderful. Now why don’t we return to discussing the wine glasses?” She leads him back to the counter and Stiles clutches at what ultimately will only serve as a painful reminder of Derek’s absence from his life. It still feels like a victory.

-----

He takes the painting in with them when they stop for the night, propping it against the wall and glancing at it periodically. Conversation between he and Lydia falls off as she scrolls through her phone and he studies the painting. They don’t exchange more than a dozen words until it’s time to start getting ready for bed.

Stiles is climbing into bed, instinctively facing toward the wall, when Lydia lets out a soft, amused sigh. “You realize it would never have worked out between us, even if we’d tried to give it a real shot?” she asks, and Stiles hunches in on himself. Yeah, he does, and he doesn’t want to admit to the reason why. 

“I know,” he concedes, voice muffled into the pillow. “A year ago I would swear I’m insane for taking the out. Am I insane?”

“No,” she says fondly. “You’re not insane. You’re just in love with someone else.”

Fuck. “It doesn’t matter,” he says morosely, not even attempting to pretend he doesn't know who she's talking about. “He left. He’s been gone for a whole damn year and I only hear from him like once a month. Even if he goes back to Beacon Hills, I won’t be there.”

Lydia shifts in the bed next to him, and when he flops onto his back he can see she’s rolled onto her side to face him. “Have you ever considered this is exactly what the both of you needed?”

He tips his head on the pillow to face her, lifting one eyebrow doubtfully.

“Think about it, Stiles. The last eight years of Derek’s life have been pretty much the worst thing anyone should have to go through. You were underage until about two months ago. Do you really believe trying to pursue a relationship would have been healthy for either of you?”

“...No?” 

“Gold star for you.” She shifts again, and Stiles is grateful he won’t be sharing a bed with her for more than a couple more nights. Lydia tosses and turns more than he ever has, and he knows his nights wouldn’t be any more restful than his days if she were a regular occupant of his bed. “He needs time to heal. You need time to grow. You’ll find each other again one day.”

“Such sage wisdom,” he teases. “Are your banshee powers giving you a premonition?”

She huffs and rolls her eyes. He can’t see her do it because she’s on her back again, but he knows her well enough by now. “Smartass.” He lets out a low chuckle; she’s not wrong. “I don’t need a premonition. I saw the way he looked at you, like it hurt to hold himself back. And also like there was nothing in this world he wanted more.”

Stiles is glad she’s not a werewolf, and that banshees don’t number enhanced sense of smell amongst their abilities. He likes being able to hide his pleased flush and what he knows would probably smell like happiness, at least from someone. “The feeling is mutual.”

“I know, sweetie.” She reaches over and pats his hand. “Why don’t you call him tomorrow? It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from him. Did you ever even tell him about the Ghost Riders?”

“It’s only been a week, Lyds,” he mumbles, and by her silence he knows she can tell that’s a ‘no’. “It’s a lot to drop on someone, y’know?”

She sighs and rolls over, and he slings an arm around her shoulders so she can lay her cheek against his chest. “He should know, Stiles. Even if it’s a lot, he cares about you. You should let him know what’s happening in your life-the big things, and the little things too.” 

“If I agree, will you stop talking about this and let me go to sleep?”

“Yes, Stiles.” He can just tell she’s rolling her eyes again, and then she’s rolling away from him and flopping onto her side, facing the opposite wall. “Good night.”

“Night, Lyds,” he whispers, and it’s only a few minutes before her steady, even breathing tells him she’s asleep. He twists again, facing the wall and the painting, and his eyes are drawn to the two figures embracing. Their faces aren’t visible, but he can imagine that the one wearing the triskele pelt is Derek, and he’s the other one. He wonders if the artist is a Hale ancestor, or just someone painting one.

He wonders if maybe someone will paint him and Derek together like that. Someday.

-----

“This is Derek. Leave a message.” 

“Hey, Der, it’s me. Uh, Stiles. It’s been a few months. I don’t know whether to be insulted you didn’t check in after not hearing from me, or feel like shit because you probably just assumed I wasn’t interested in keeping up with you anymore. In my defense, all the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of the fact that I live in fucking Beacon Hills, man. Lived, anyway. That should be explanation enough. If not, look up the assholes that are the Ghost Riders, and feel bad for me for spending the last three months in a supernatural train station. With your uncle. Shit, this is a lot to be unloading on you in a voicemail. Uh. Call me?”

Lydia walks up as he hits the end call button on his phone. “He didn’t answer?

“No. Knowing my luck, he hasn’t turned his phone on since I was taken by the Riders.” 

She pats his shoulder. “He’ll call.”

He doesn’t.

----- 

Not until Stiles is settled into his dorm at GWU, anyway. Lydia’s only been gone for two hours when his phone starts belting out CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”, which always makes him snicker, no matter what the situation. “Yo, Der.”

“Three months in a supernatural train station? With Peter ?” is the response he gets, and Stiles isn’t sure why he ever thought Derek might be able to do the whole pleasantries thing. Clearly, that ship has sailed.

“Hello to you too,” he snarks, and he can practically hear Derek rolling his eyes on the other end. What is it with him and loving people who roll their eyes at him all the time? “I’m assuming you looked up the Ghost Riders?” 

Derek scoffs. “I didn’t have to. Peter used to like telling us horror stories about the Riders, and how if Cora and I didn’t stop badgering him, he’d call upon them to take us away and everyone would forget all about us.”

Stiles can’t hold back a snort. That sounds exactly like Peter. “Can we just take a minute to appreciate the irony that Peter was the one taken instead?” 

A soft chuckle makes its way through the phone, and Stiles will take the warm, fuzzy feeling that spirals through him to his grave. “I’ll be sure to call and remind him of that.”

Silence falls, and Stiles shifts awkwardly, wondering if he should chirp out a, “Thanks for calling and making sure I’m still alive, see you next time we have a pack reunion” or forge ahead and try to have an actual conversation. Derek beats him to it.

“I’m sorry I didn’t check in when I didn’t hear from you.” 

“Hey, man, it’s not exactly like we’re besties,” Stiles replies, hoping his voice sounds like the verbal equivalent of a shrug. “We don’t do the, ‘I haven’t heard from you this week, are you dead?’ thing.”

Derek huffs in acknowledgement. “Maybe we should, though. Considering what we’ve lived through.”

“Yeah, but I’m in D.C. now,” Stiles responds breezily, flopping down on his bed and settling in for what he hopes will be a lengthy conversation. Or at least lengthy by Derek’s standards, which, let’s be real, is only about five minutes. “My encounters with evil hell beasts will be limited to the politicians I meet.”

“At least you won’t have to worry about killing them,” Derek remarks. “Not that you won’t want to, but it’s less a matter of life and death.” There's a pause, as if Derek is waiting for Stiles to make a snappy quip or random non-sequitur. When Stiles doesn't immediately jump to fill the empty space with words, Derek continues in a soft voice. “Tell me about the Riders.”

And Stiles does. He can only give the basics of what had happened in Beacon Hills while he was gone, from the things he'd pieced together from the rest of the pack, but he tells Derek about the train station, collaborating with Peter, trying to make it back home. The utter terror that he might spend the rest of his life apart from his friends and family; even worse, that no one but him would know what had been lost. That he'd been lost.

So he keeps talking. It’s been a long time since he did this kind of word-vomit, but Derek never sighs, interrupts, cuts him off, nothing. He just listens. And Stiles can’t remember the last time anyone made him feel this important. He doesn’t know if anyone ever has.

-----

He doesn’t tell Derek about the painting. It’s not intentional, it’s not a decision he makes to deliberately withhold the information. He just… doesn’t mention it, and then it sort of feels weird to drop it on him. “Hey, I know we’ve talked a couple times in the last few weeks, but I forgot to mention that I bought this painting-well, okay, Lydia bought this painting-that has the Hale crest in it. No, you can’t have it back. It’s mine.”

When he realizes how possessive he is of it, he thinks there are two likely reasons. The first is that he can’t have Derek, so he’ll take the painting because it’s all he can have. The second is that as long as he has the painting, there’s a tie between he and Derek that can’t be broken. It’s something that can always be used to breach this distance, to bring them back together.

He’s not ready for that yet. He has a life to live, goals to accomplish. There’s something in there about proving himself, probably, but it’s more that he doesn’t want to give up everything about himself to track Derek down. Joining the FBI is what he wants right now, and he needs to do that for himself, on his own.

Derek can wait.

-----

College is, actually, not nearly as hard as he expected. Stiles supposes that pre-gaming at Beacon Hills High got him used to handling an insane workload; the fact that he managed to maintain straight A’s while dealing with a very full supernatural plate, research until two am five nights a week, and three months in the Ghost Riders’ waiting room, is nothing short of a miracle. He likens it to boot camp, although he cheerfully shoves away the thought that real boot camp is probably going to kick his ass. 

He makes friends in school. His favorite is Yoli, who’s sharp as fuck and reminds Stiles of Lydia, if Lydia spoke rapid-fire Spanish and told him to shut the fuck up every other sentence. She’s Stiles’ preferred study buddy, and not just because she’s the first person he’s ever been able to talk with about being bi. He kind of wishes he had a thing for her because she’s that awesome, but she has both a girlfriend and a boyfriend anyway, and he has a feeling they’d eviscerate him if he expressed interest in making their threesome a foursome.

Geneva, Monroe, and Cooper round out their little group. They challenge him, they support him, sometimes they fuck him when they’re bored or a little stoned. He loves them.

They’re not Derek.

He finds himself itching to press that little button on his phone more and more often, and he worries that Derek is getting tired of his random-ass calls at two in the morning. Of course, for Derek it’s only midnight, and he’s always been a bit of a night owl anyway. Stiles still wonders when Derek is going to stop answering. 

“Yo, Der.”

“Stiles, you are too old to be using ‘yo.’ Or ‘yo’ is too old for you to be using it. Either way, stop with the white frat boy routine.”

Stiles laughs like it’s the most hilarious thing he’s ever heard. He’s had half a bottle of Jack; sue him, classes really fucking sucked this week. “I’m not rich enough or have the right lineage for the elite frats on campus, and I’m not douchebaggy enough for the true white-boy frats. I also don’t have the right kind of muscles for shirtless prancing and showing off. So alas, I must bear the shame of drinking my alcohol without some blonde dude in a snapback pounding on my back and slurring, ‘Bruh, no homo, but you’re sucking down that beer like it’s my dick’ while he wishes I would.”

Derek is silent for so long that Stiles has to check the phone to make sure the call didn’t drop. “There is so much about that sentence that’s disturbing.”

“Right?” Stiles snorts, then dissolves into uncontrollable giggles.

“Just how drunk are you?” Derek asks, his tone a combination of fond, exasperated, and concerned, and Stiles feels a flush of warmth spread through him. He blames the alcohol. 

“Only what is exactly appropriate for a Friday night after a shittastic week of classes,” Stiles replies, trying not to let his grouchiness resurface. Yoli and her girlfriend had broken up with their boyfriend and she’d been too upset to study, so he’d done it on his own and ended up getting a D on a really important test. Part of him feels bad for being pissed off, but relationships are a dime a dozen in college and they’d all only been together for a couple months anyway. Yoli and Brooke will find a new guy, or a new girl, but that D isn’t going anywhere. On top of that, his TA in his Intro to Criminal Justice class had mocked him in front of the entire class. It was shades of Finstock all over again, but this guy didn’t even have Finstock’s brand of hilariously batshit crazy going for him.  

Derek sighs, and Stiles can hear shuffling and sheets rustling in the background. “This is where I should say that you are underage and drinking is inappropriate, but I also remember what it’s like to be in college. Not that I drank at all, or did anything but study and hate everyone.”

Stiles is torn between demanding stories of college-era Derek, and demanding to know if Derek is in bed. And if he’s naked. Fortunately--or maybe unfortunately--Monroe comes stumbling into his room and Stiles can do neither. “Stilinski! Please tell me you don’t have whiskey dick, I’m horny as fuck.”

He wants to tell Monroe to get his ass out of there, he’s on the phone with Derek, but Monroe is drunk enough that he would only tease Stiles about his “adorable crush”. Which Derek would undoubtedly hear. And, well, Monroe isn’t the only one who’s horny.

“I gotta go, Der,” Stiles says, somewhat reluctantly, but he laughs when Monroe brightens and starts stripping his jeans off and tying his braids back. “It was good to talk to you, even if just for a minute.”

There’s a brief moment of hesitation in which Stiles thinks Derek isn’t going to answer, but then, softly, “Good night, Stiles. Take care of yourself.”

The line does disconnect this time, and Stiles feels a brief flash of loss. Then Monroe collapses in his bed and he finds himself laughing. “Are you sure it’s my dick we should be worried about?” he teases. Monroe pouts, and Stiles pushes Derek out of his mind for now. There will be plenty of time later to miss him.

-----

By the time Stiles is a sophomore, the conversations with Derek are more regular, and more frequent. They talk at least once every other week, but usually they have a weekly call. Stiles never would have imagined Derek would be able to talk so much for the entire rest of his life, but he’s also come to know a very different side of him than the one he’d shown back in his Beacon Hills days. Derek’s softer now, more thoughtful, more genuine. Stiles hates that Derek left, but he doesn’t fault Derek for his decision. Clearly he needed to get away; Beacon Hills was destroying him from the inside out.

“I am going to throttle Yoli,” Stiles whines at Derek one Tuesday night in November, flopping back onto his bed. He can still hear her and Brooke, even though their room is on the other side of the apartment. “How did I not remember how loud she is during sex before I agreed to share an apartment with her and Brooke?” 

Derek chuckles. “Somehow I can’t imagine you really being that upset about hearing someone have sex.”

“Well, not normally,” Stiles admits, shifting uncomfortably. Listening to Brooke moaning while Yoli is crying out, combined with talking to Derek, is creating a situation. “But I’m trying to finish a paper that’s due tomorrow morning at nine, and while I’m normally pretty good at tuning them out, it’s really difficult writing about the trademarks of serial killers when someone in the background is demanding to have their pussy eaten.”

There’s a choking, coughing noise on the other end, and Stiles wonders if maybe he’s gone a little too far. It’s not like he’s never talked about sex with Derek, but it’s never really been graphic. They kind of dance around that line without ever crossing it; Stiles has wondered on more than one occasion what would happen if he tripped right over. “From what you’ve told me, it won’t last long. Maybe you’ll be able to finish up once they have.”

Grumbling, Stiles nudges his foot at the stack of books on the end of his bed. He still has a shit-ton of reading to do, but he keeps getting distracted from his research, hence the reason he decided to call Derek. Derek is the one thing he can never be distracted from. “Once I get in the zone I should be fine, but damn it, sometimes I wish this apartment was soundproof.”

Derek hums in agreement, and Stiles still sometimes forgets he’s talking to a werewolf. This is probably the story of Derek’s life--the non-traumatizing version, anyway. “Can you go to the library?”

“I could, but it’s really fucking cold out, and I don’t want to,” he says, and he knows his voice is petulant. He can almost hear Derek smirking on the other end of the phone. “It’s warm in here, and I’m wearing my comfiest, rattiest clothes. The amount of effort it would require to get dressed and go outside and walk to the library is so not worth it. I can wait a half hour for them to orgasm their brains out and fall asleep.”

“If you already know what you’re going to do, why did you call me?” Derek’s tone is amused, and Stiles makes a face since Derek can’t see him. 

“Because I wanted to bitch about it, okay? I’m entitled to bitch.”

“Go work on your paper, Stiles.” It’s a soft command, fond, and Stiles tries to shove down the warmth that overtakes him every time Derek’s voice goes like that. It doesn’t mean anything. Derek is simply softer in general now; he’s not all harsh lines and sharp edges, brittle and ready to shatter.

Stiles hates that Derek left Beacon Hills, but couldn’t be more grateful that he did.  

Sighing in resignation, Stiles uses one foot to pull at the book on the top of the stack, sliding it up the bed with his heel until he can reach down and grab it with the tips of his fingers. “Fine. I’ll read all about Bundy and Gacy and Dahmer, get myself into the minds of murderers. No more sexy thoughts for me.”

“More?” The word is a mere rumble, but it’s deep, and Stiles shivers. 

“There is moaning and crying out and a headboard smacking the wall, violently. Of course my brain went to sexy thoughts,” Stiles defends himself. His cock stirs a little more, perking up at the idea that he’s discussing sexy thoughts with Derek. “But Yoli’s my roommate and one of my best friends and it’s creepy and weird and pervy, so I’d like to stop thinking the sexy thoughts.”

“So you called me.” Derek’s teasing him now. 

Stiles palms at himself to maybe stop the twitching, but of course it just makes the situation worse. “I’m hanging up now.” Derek laughs. “I’ll call you… sometime. Next week is going to be busy, I have three other papers and a group project due.”

“Take care of yourself,” Derek replies, and it’s the same thing he always says, but it’s huskier this time, and Stiles has to bite back a comment about how much he’s going to be taking care of himself.

“You too,” he tosses back, and hangs up before he can think about how strangled the short phrase sounds.

The noises from Yoli and Brooke’s room are starting to escalate, which means that it’ll be over soon enough. He’s fully hard by now, though, which he attributes more to the conversation with Derek than what’s going on with his roommates. Chewing on his lip, he makes the decision to pull up his favorite porn video on his phone and grab the tube of lube out of his nightstand.

Sliding his hand into his sweats, Stiles loosely grips his cock, stroking leisurely as the video gets going. It starts with an attempt at a storyline, as many of them do, moves into some kissing and over-the-pants crotch-rubbing, and then devolves quickly into the two guys getting naked and getting their hands all over each other. There’s hand jobs, blow jobs, rimming, and then one guy is folded nearly in half as the other leans over him and thrusts into his ass with wild abandon, his partner’s legs thrown over his shoulders. The guy getting plowed has dark hair and a thick beard; the guy doing the plowing is slender, with a mess of dark brown hair. Stiles doesn’t ever let himself think about why it’s his favorite. 

Stiles’ hand speeds up on his cock, mouth falling open as he pants and groans through it, and when he comes in hot spurts, it’s Derek’s name that tumbles off his tongue.

----- 

A few days later, a package arrives. It contains a small bag of earplugs and a set of noise-canceling headphones, the really expensive kind that actually work.

I know you have a lot of work to get done this week, the note reads. Wanted to make sure you weren’t distracted too much.

Stiles’ heart thumps painfully. 

----- 

When he comes up for air, he decides to reciprocate. Sort of. Derek’s gift was thoughtful and Stiles is kind of an asshole, but hey, a care package is a care package, right?

Derek sends him a selfie wearing the t-shirt and an Unamused Expression. Stiles can’t fight the twitch of his lips at the sight of Derek wearing a black shirt covered with a screenprint of an ethereal purple fantasy-scape, complete with a full moon overhead and three wolves with their heads tipped back, howling at it.  

S: Looks good on you, bruh.
D: Is this where you say ‘no homo’?
S: NGL, right now I’d say yes homo. That shirt is hot.

He’d say ‘yes homo’ to Derek any day, obviously, but Derek doesn’t have to know that. 

D: You’ve got to be kidding me, Stiles. No one could make this shirt that attractive.
S: You underestimate yourself, boo.

There’s another selfie, this one with Derek doing the Scowling Eyebrows pose, but the corners of his lips are slightly quirked up, and Stiles’ heart does the thumping thing again.  

S: Admit it, I’m growing on you.
D: Like a fungus.
S: Liar.
D: How’d your group project go?
S: Oh my GOD, Derek, why do professors still make us do group projects in this day and age? Are they really such sick, sadistic bastards that torturing us so cruelly is what gets them through the day?

He settles in to complain about the Group Project From Hell, and pretends like he’s not going to make the selfie his phone’s wallpaper.

-----

When finals roll around, he’s so stressed and overwhelmed that he doesn’t talk to Derek for nearly two weeks. They exchange a few texts, mostly Derek checking in on him to make sure he’s eating right, and drinking actual water instead of only beer. Stiles replies that he’s too broke to only be drinking beer, so his body can thank its continued health on his poor budget. Derek replies that he’s pretty sure existing on ramen alone is not exactly the picture of health. Stiles acknowledges the truth of it, then sends him a string of emojis that include fluttering wings, the blinking green dollar sign, and a shrug. 

Two days later, he has another care package. This one has a selection of comics, decent ones too, new editions that he’s been wanting to get but doesn’t have the money for. There’s a six-pack of Fiji water bottles, the big ones, and a selection of snacks. There are Oreos, Fig Newtons, Chips Ahoy, and packages of the good-quality beef jerky. In a small envelope is a note and a gift card to an expensive steakhouse, and Stiles stares at it, blinking dumbly.

I know you don’t have time to go out for a decent dinner right now, but when finals are over, take Yoli and Brooke so all three of you can eat something with protein and actual nutrients. Sorry I didn’t send any produce, but I didn’t think it would survive shipping. Promise me you’ll get a salad for your side and we’ll call it good.

Stiles’ heart stutters and it’s a good thing he knows this is standard by now. He doesn’t have the insurance to treat a heart condition.

-----

After spring finals are done, he hops in a car with Geneva and Cooper and they head to Colorado to have a short vacation at Geneva’s parents’ mountain cabin. Yoli, Brooke, and Monroe will follow in a couple days, and a couple days after that, Lydia will drive through and pick him up on her way back to Beacon Hills. He hasn’t seen his dad in a year and he’s anxious to get home.

He’s also anxious because for the first time in three years, he’s going to see Derek.

Not long after Stiles started college, he found out that Derek had settled in Denver. In fact, he lives less than ten minutes away from the castle where Stiles’ painting came from. He wonders sometimes if he stole it away from Derek, if he would have stumbled upon it himself if Stiles hadn’t bought it first. He wonders if Derek moved to Denver because he knew his own family history began there.

The conversation had started off casual. 

S: I’ll be coming through Denver after school is out. Be there for a few days.
D: Oh?
S: Yeah. Geneva’s parents have a cabin in Golden, which apparently is really close to Denver.
D: It’s about a half hour away.
S: The six of us are going to have a mini-vacation, just for us, and then all go do our own thing for the rest of the summer. Lydia’s going to be driving out from Boston and when she comes through town, I’ll hitch a ride with her back to Beacon Hills.
D: Sounds like you’re going to have a fun summer.
S: That’s all you have to say?
D: What would you want me to say?
S: IDK, I thought, maybe…
D: I’d like to see you when you’re here.
D: If you have the time.
S: Jesus, yes.
S: I mean, it just makes sense.
D: Maybe at the end of your vacation with your friends, before Lydia arrives?
S: I can make that work.
D: Good.
S: Good?
D: Yeah.
S: Well, then, yeah. Good.

There are few texts about it after that, mostly just coordinating days and a meet-up spot where Derek can come pick him up in Golden so Stiles doesn’t have to arrange a ride into the city. Beyond that, they come to an unspoken agreement not to talk about it. It feels… strange. It’s like it means more than a visit and they both know it, but neither wants to acknowledge it.

The drive to Golden is an adventure. They sing One Direction songs unironically at the top of their lungs, they take random detours, they eat a lot of junk (not that that part is anything unusual), they play stupid road games. They talk animatedly, their energy returning after several weeks of being stuck in their books or their computers or their own heads, the weight of finals and another school year sliding off their backs like water off a duck.

Cooper offers to blow him in the backseat and Geneva wiggles her eyebrows in the rearview mirror, vocally encouraging it, but Stiles, for the first time, isn’t interested. He’d never held back on his sexual activities because of Derek’s presence in his life; despite their continued communication, Stiles wouldn’t delude himself into thinking it meant anything. There were times when he thought Derek might be interested, but where would they go with it? Derek was in Colorado and Stiles in D.C., and he would be for several more years. There didn’t seem to be any indication that Derek would want to leave Denver--he was happy there, settled, with a job he enjoyed and a home he loved. Stiles had heard it in his voice when they talked about the changes in Derek’s life, and Stiles would never ask him to abandon it. He didn’t even know if Derek’s affection for him was rooted in shared experiences, friendship, or a physical interest. 

So no, he hadn’t allowed himself to become celibate out of some misguided loyalty to a man who would likely never be anything but a long-distance friend. He dated, and when he wasn’t dating he blew off steam with his friends. But now, only a few hours away from Derek, it feels wrong. When he turns Cooper down, he receives a knowing wink in response.

“It’s about the hot guy you’re meeting up with in Denver, right?” 

Geneva whistles. “Fuck, Coop, I’d turn you down for him if I got the chance myself. That beard is a thing of beauty. My thighs would be so chafed from riding it that I wouldn’t be able to walk, but you’d never hear me complaining.”

“Yes, Coop, it’s about Derek. And Jesus, Geneva, he’s my friend. Control yourself.”

She shrugs, eyes sparkling. “You’ve never had any complaints about me not controlling myself around your friends before, babe. If I recall correctly, you’ve enjoyed yourself on more than one occasion while watching.”

“Maybe so, but we all knew what we were getting into when it started. Derek is not the kind of guy who enjoys being sexually objectified.” Which is why, on the rare occasion he jerks off while thinking of him, he feels slightly guilty. “If he knew about this conversation, he’d be extremely uncomfortable.”

Geneva gives him an apologetic smile in the rearview and the subject is dropped.  

He doesn’t stop thinking about it, though, and he realizes for the first time that he’s never been in this friendship for unselfish reasons. Even though he is legitimately Derek’s friend, he started that way because of how he feels about the man, and he doesn’t like the way it feels to know that. 

After Geneva and Cooper have gone to bed that night, he calls Lydia.

“Having second thoughts about meeting Derek?” she quips when she answers. They don’t call each other often, especially not the way he and Derek do, so an unplanned call when they’re going to see each other in a week is an obvious red flag that something’s wrong. As usual, she’s scarily perceptive. 

“Not second thoughts about that,” he hedges, and she sighs.

“Spit it out, Stiles. I still have one more final left, unlike you slackers at GWU.”

He runs a hand through his hair, trying to find the right words. “You know how we started out as me having a thing for you, then we became genuine friends, then we tried the relationship thing and it failed spectacularly before we hit our week anniversary?”

“You and Derek are not the same as you and me,” she says immediately, and Stiles is not surprised at all that she got it before he could say it. “Your relationship with him did not start out as an obsession based on looks or hero worship. You grew into it. Your feelings for him came after you knew him.”

Wincing, he huffs out a harsh laugh. “Well, thanks for going right for the vital organs first.” 

“You’re feeling guilty for going there under the pretense of friendship when you really want to just climb him like a tree, correct?” She doesn’t give him a chance to answer before pressing forward. “Ask yourself this. If you knew Derek would never be interested in you romantically or sexually, and wanted nothing from you but friendship, would you still want to go? Would you still want to see him?”

“Of course,” Stiles blurts out, confused. How can she think that would matter? 

She makes a noise of triumph. “You are not a bad friend because you love him. You’re a good friend. The feelings are just a bonus.”

“I love you, Lyds.”

“I know,” she says impatiently, and he wants to make the requisite Star Wars joke, but it doesn’t really fit the situation. Plus, Lydia will be even more annoyed if he does. “Is that all you needed? Is your existential crisis over now? I have a final to study for.”

“I’m good,” he confirms. “Thanks, Lydia. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Wither away in despair,” she counters in a breezy tone. “I’ll see you on Monday.” The line goes dead.

Monday. As in six and a half days from now. He’ll have two days with Geneva and Cooper, two days with Yoli, Brooke, and Monroe added, and then two days with Derek. Just Derek. Whose house he’s staying at.

Lydia said he’s a good friend. He has a feeling that’s about to be tested.

-----

Derek is sitting at a table in front of Bob’s Atomic Burgers, the little restaurant they’d agreed to meet at, when Geneva drops Stiles off. She lets out a low whistle when Derek stands and flashes a welcoming smile at him, and Stiles winces because he knows Derek heard that. The slight flush in his cheeks tells Stiles that he’s right.

As she pulls away, Stiles stands--hovers, more accurately--at the edge of the outdoor seating area. He’s desperate to throw himself in Derek’s arms and hold him as tight as he can, and he’s equally afraid that Derek will be able to sense, or smell, that desperation.

Derek takes the indecision out of his hands when he crosses the blacktop and wraps his arms around Stiles, and Stiles closes his eyes and takes a deep breath of leather and fresh air and Derek , and presses in against him. Stiles has grown since Derek left, and they were already almost the same height, so when Stiles ducks his head in, their cheeks are pressed together. He can feel the sandpapery scrape of stubble against his skin and relishes the sensation. Derek takes a deep, quiet breath of his own, and his arms tighten just a little bit, and he doesn’t say a word.

“God, I missed you.” The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them, which is the story of his life, and his heart hammers as he waits for Derek’s reaction.

Derek turns his head in a little, the side of his lips brushing against Stiles’ jaw, and he smiles. “I missed you too, Stiles.”

-----

After dinner at Bob’s, Derek drives them back to his house. He’s traded in the soccer mom SUV for a Jeep Wrangler, which he informs Stiles is better for mountain driving and off-roading, but the gas mileage is shit. Stiles pats his arm and tells him he’s glad Derek finally got himself a vehicle that isn’t an embarrassment, and Derek glares at him but it doesn’t have his old edge, so Stiles just grins and snuggles back into the seat.

“What are your plans for the rest of the summer?” Derek asks after they’ve settled onto the couch. It’s dark blue, plush, and very squishy, and Stiles thinks it may be the most comfortable thing he’s ever sat on.  

Shrugging, Stiles digs his sock-covered toes into the side of one of the cushions, only an inch or two away from Derek’s thigh. “I’ll probably work at the station with my dad, save up some money doing the filing. They always need a little extra help, and it’s better than working in a restaurant of any kind.”

“Do you think you’ll spend time with any of the pack?” The question is asked lightly, but there’s an undercurrent both of them are aware of. It’s a loaded question and has been for nearly two years. 

Stiles pushes his toes further into the cushion and won’t meet Derek’s eyes. “Maybe.”

The real answer is most likely no, and Derek knows it. Stiles had complained often during his freshman year that Scott was always too busy to talk, and when they did, he mostly only wanted to talk about his new girlfriend, Courtney. Their conversations became shorter as Stiles lost interest in trying to fight for Scott’s attention, and less frequent as Stiles stopped making the effort. By the middle of sophomore year, Stiles hadn’t talked to Scott in over a month and wouldn’t talk about him when Derek asked.

There’s still Lydia, of course, and Liam and Mason. Stiles knows they’ll be around for a few months, until it’s time to head to college, but he doubts he’ll see them. No one else is left. Malia had followed Scott to U.C. Davis but immediately decided academic life wasn’t for her; Stiles hasn’t heard from her in almost a year and a half. Kira is, to his knowledge, still with the Skinwalkers.

Stiles doesn’t even consider himself Pack anymore, if he’s honest. He hasn’t been for a long time. Not too long ago he would have been sad about it, but he has Derek, and Lydia, and his friends at GWU. He’s doing pretty well for himself.

While he’s lost in thought, he feels Derek’s hand land on his foot, those long, strong fingers wrapping tightly over the top of it, thumb pressed solidly into Stiles’ arch. His heartbeat trips over itself and then steadies; he knows Derek can hear it, and he’s not sure if he should be embarrassed or not.  

When he dares to glance up, Derek is watching him with a slight smile on his face. “It’s good to see you again, Stiles. If there’s anyone from that godforsaken hellscape I regretted leaving, it’s you.”

Stiles can feel the blush crawling up his throat, over his skin until his cheeks are warm. “You needed to get out of that godforsaken hellscape,” he mutters back after clearing his throat. “I was never mad at you for leaving.”

“No, you wouldn’t be.”

They sit in silence for a long time. Derek’s hand never leaves Stiles’ foot.

-----

Life, surprisingly, goes back to normal after his visit with Derek. He spends a few months in Beacon Hills, filing at the station as predicted during the day, drinking and dancing at Jungle some nights, staying up until two am with Lydia on others. They drink several bottles of red one night, and Lydia pets his hair, listening to him talk about the two days he’d spent with Derek. The two amazing, glorious days that had him walking through the clouds, despite the fact that neither had ever made an overt gesture toward anything other than friendship.

They’d spent an incredible amount of time talking. Even though they’d progressed so much through the last couple years, Stiles couldn’t believe how open and relaxed Derek was now. He’d admitted to seeking out a therapist Morrell recommended, and while it was still a work in progress, he was a lot less tortured. He’d even made an offhand comment about being ready to welcome happiness into his life, when it was ready to find him.

The look he’d given Stiles, something searching and soft, content, made Stiles swallow hard. He’d flashed back to the conversation with Lydia when she told him that he and Derek would find each other again one day, and while he knew that today wasn’t that day, he also didn’t think it was all that far off.

He left knowing he was more in love with Derek than he’d ever been. 

“It’ll be okay, sweetie,” Lydia promises him, raking her long nails through his hair, scratching soothingly at his scalp. “You’ve dealt with your complicated feelings for him for years. A few more when they’re decidedly less complicated will be a breeze.”

He knows she’s right, but he’s still daydreaming about deferring his junior year in favor of running back to Colorado and begging Derek to let him stay.

-----

Junior year is lost to a haze of projects and events and internships and classes that are kicking his ass ten times harder than sophomore year’s did. He still makes time to talk to Derek, still continues their tradition of sending care packages based on random comments the other has made, but he’s too busy and distracted to miss him as much as he was afraid he would. When he lets himself think about it he’s grateful, but he also misses missing him.

He doesn’t even make it halfway home from his last final before he’s calling Derek. “Never let me do this to myself again.”

“What? Go to school?” Derek asks without missing a beat. 

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Never let me double-major and take over the full-time credit load so I can graduate on time.”

“If you intend to resume life as an undergrad at any time in the future, I’ll only let you go for one degree at a time,” Derek replies solemnly, and Stiles pulls the phone away and makes a face at it.

“I hate you, you know that right? You and your dry sense of humor.”

He can hear a faint huff of laughter. “We can’t all be sarcastic smartasses like you.”

“Which is a good thing, otherwise we’d never be able to be together. We’d want to kill each other instead.” The line goes quiet and his words catch up with him. “I mean, not together , but, like, in the same room.”

“I know what you meant, Stiles.” He’s silent again for a moment and then clears his throat. “So are you and Geneva and the rest of your friends coming back out to the cabin this year?”

“No, damn it. Dad needs me back home immediately because one of his deputies is about to go into labor any minute, and he’s going to be spread really thin at work. I’m getting upgraded from filing to manning the front desk for the whole summer.”

Stiles doesn’t know whether he’s disappointed to have to miss out on seeing Derek this year, or relieved that he doesn’t have to confront this thing between them in person. Last summer was one thing, but this year, when he has a new awareness of Derek’s feelings for him, it would be too hard to ignore. He knows it’s not the right time for them, not with him still having a whole year of school left, and the FBI Academy for another five months after that.

Derek makes a sound of disappointment, and Stiles freezes, not knowing if he should address the very obvious reaction or pretend it didn’t happen. “I’m going to miss seeing you this summer,” he admits, voice husky, and apparently pretending it didn’t happen is not a thing he’s going to do. 

“Same,” he murmurs, clearing his throat a little. “But next summer I’ll have a week between graduation and when the Academy starts. Assuming I get in.”

“You will,” Derek tells him firmly. “Even if you didn’t have Rafael on your side, the Bureau would be idiots to not accept you.”

“You’re biased,” he teases, trying to keep the affection and warmth out of his tone.

He can hear the smile through the phone. “Maybe a little.”

Stiles is heading into his apartment complex by then and he groans. “Okay, I have to get going. I leave for the airport in an hour and I may have put off packing.”

Derek makes another sound of disappointment and Stiles can’t keep the butterflies from rampaging through his stomach. “I’ll let you go then. Text me when you land?”

“Will do.” He pauses, then gathers his courage and says in a rush, “I really wish I was flying to Denver instead of Beacon Hills.” 

The line is quiet, and then, “I wish you were, too. If your dad didn’t need you so much, I’d pay for your flight out here and ask you to stay the whole summer.”

Stiles is speechless, for the first time in a long time. This is the closest they’ve come to being honest with each other about how they feel. “Damn it, Derek. I can tell my dad to hire someone new.”

Derek snorts. “Go help your dad, Stiles. We’ll see each other again.”

“Not soon enough,” he gripes, then sighs. “Alright, time to pack. Talk to you later.”

“Take care of yourself,” Derek murmurs, then hangs up.

“Fuck,” Stiles breathes. The next year and a half can’t go fast enough.

-----

Senior year is harder than junior year was. On top of everything else, he has an independent study project and an internship with the FBI. He’s pretty sure Rafael guaranteed he’d be selected for that one, but it’s still the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to him. It won’t guarantee him a place in the Academy once he’s graduated, but it’ll definitely give him a foot in the door.

When he tells Derek, he’s met with a matter-of-fact, “I never expected anything less.” The vote of confidence feels amazing, but the less-than-enthusiastic response, while classically Derek, also feels somewhat like a letdown.

Three days later a regular letter-sized envelope is delivered, and Stiles is puzzled when he sees Derek’s return address. They always send packages with random items; this can’t hold anything of any significance.

He’s wrong, of course.

Congratulations, Stiles. I’m sorry I can’t be there with you to celebrate in person, but take your friends out for dinner on me. Make sure you order the most expensive bottle of champagne they offer--you deserve it.

You also can’t show up to the FBI looking like you haven’t changed clothes since freshman year. Go to Altman Brothers and ask for Maurice, he’ll get you situated with a few new suits, dress shirts, ties, shoes, everything you’ll need.

Take care of yourself.

-Derek

Inside the envelope with the letter is a business card for Maurice Engleman, sleek silver lettering on a shiny black background, all printed on heavy cardstock. Stiles doesn’t even want to know how much a single suit from there is going to cost, let alone a few, and then adding in the dress shirts and ties and everything else. He knows Derek is well-off, but this is going to put a huge dent in his savings account.

Along with the business card is a gift card to a fancy Italian restaurant Stiles has longingly looked at on more than one occasion, but has always been too afraid to go inside. He doesn’t have the clothes or the money, but now, with Derek’s suits and a five hundred dollar gift card, he has both.

He’s not ashamed to admit he cries.

-----

The ten-week internship with the FBI is quickly followed by the application process for the Academy, and he’s insanely stressed out for the next two months. He can’t even relax after the first semester is over and the holiday break is upon them. 

His acceptance letter is quickly followed by another package from Derek--more suits, another dinner, and a beautiful platinum watch with small diamonds where the numbers should be. It’s far too expensive and when Stiles calls him in protest, Derek replies, “I don’t have anyone else to spend my money on. You’ve worked hard and earned every bit of this, so let me help you.”

“What are you going to buy me for graduation?” Stiles grumbles half-heartedly. “A new freaking car?”

“If you’d like,” comes the answer, and Stiles can only shake his head. They’re far past the point where a normal friendship would go, and yet neither of them is willing to stop pretending this isn’t something else entirely. “Would you like matching Jeeps?” he teases. 

Stiles groans. “No! I don’t want you to buy me a car!” Inspiration hits him. “I just want you. There. At my graduation. Will you come see me graduate, Derek?”

The reply is swift. “Of course. If you want me there, I’ll be there.”

“I do,” he says quietly. “I want you there.”

“Tell me where and when.”

-----

Stiles is more nervous about seeing Derek again than he is about graduating. It’s been two years since that summer when there was so much promise lingering between them, unspoken but conveyed through light touches and soft smiles. He’s certain that this visit is going to change something between them yet again.

Derek had a work event on Friday night, so he couldn’t get a flight out of Denver until first thing the morning of the graduation. Stiles pretends he’s not anxious that something will happen and Derek won’t be able to make it, but he feels the buzz of his phone in his suit pocket and when he pulls it out, Derek has texted him. I’m on my way. I promise I won’t miss it.

The ceremony is long and boring, and Stiles is ready to crawl out of his skin by the time all the speeches are done and everyone’s walked across the stage and gotten their empty leather booklets for their diplomas to go in. Once the last row has returned to their seats, their class is “dismissed” for the final time and they do the requisite throwing of their mortar boards. Stiles is hardly aware of grabbing his once it comes back down, he’s so anxious to see Derek again.

He spots his dad, Lydia, and her mother first, and is reminded again that he’s very grateful he and Lydia ended naturally and amicably before their parents got married. It would be slightly traumatizing to be dating his step-sister, but he’s perfectly happy with his step-sister being one of his best friends. “Congratulations, Stiles!” Lydia cries as she throws her arms around him, standing on her tiptoes even in her heels. “We’re all so proud of you.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be my line,” John chuckles as he steps in for his turn at giving Stiles a hug. Stiles can see the sheen in his eyes and has to swallow back the lump forming in his throat. “We really are proud of you, son. You’ve accomplished so much. Your mother would be proud, too.”

His own eyes water, and when he pulls back he shares a look with his dad. There’s no question they’re both thinking about Claudia, and Stiles blinks rapidly to prevent the tears from cascading over his lower lashes. “Thanks, Dad. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Bull,” John retorts. “You would have done it without anyone. That’s just who you are.”

He chokes out a laugh and wipes the sleeve of his gown across his eyes. It’s rough and coarse, and it’s when he’s in the process of yanking it off that he hears his name spoken reverently. 

“Stiles.”

Whipping around, his eyes land on Derek and drink him in greedily. He’s dressed in a deep charcoal suit with a pale blue dress shirt, his beard carefully sculpted and hair gelled to perfection, and Stiles feels like he can’t breathe. Derek’s eyes are skimming him, soft and loving, and before he knows he’s taken a step, he’s in Derek’s arms.

“You’re here.”

“Of course I am. I promised you I would be.” He can feel Derek’s head tip, then lips pressed against his temple, and while it’s not the same as kissing him on the mouth, it’s still a declaration. Stiles clutches at Derek a little harder and breathes him in.

They stand like that, lost in each other, until a pointed throat-clearing from Lydia has them breaking apart sheepishly. “Derek. It’s good to see you,” Lydia says crisply. Derek smiles and surprises everyone when he wraps her into a warm hug, which she awkwardly returns.

“It’s good to see you too, Lydia,” he replies, and she pats him on the shoulder and steps back immediately. Stiles glances at his dad, who’s watching Derek with a sharp look in his eyes. His gaze flickers from Derek to Stiles and back, and Stiles is afraid that things just got a lot more complicated than he anticipated.

Then his dad extends a hand to Derek. “Hale.”

Derek shoots Stiles a hesitant look before accepting John’s hand and shaking it firmly. “Sheriff. Haven’t seen you in awhile.”

John smirks. “Something tells me I’ll be seeing you a lot more often.” Stiles colors slightly, but before he can say anything, his father continues. “I’m assuming you’ll be going to dinner with us, right? You didn’t fly all the way out here for a hug.”

Derek smiles shyly, dipping his chin to his chest as he does. “I’d like that, sir.”

-----

Stiles knows he participates in the dinner conversation, but he doesn’t remember any of it. All he remembers is trading looks with Derek, not even trying to calm his racing heart every time he saw the affection in Derek’s eyes. He remembers the brushing of their hands or thighs under the table. And he remembers begging any deity listening to speed the dinner along to its conclusion.

Apparently there was at least one deity listening, because dinner ended and he said his goodbyes to his dad, Lydia, and Natalie, promising to meet them for brunch the next day. The three of them will be driving back to Boston that afternoon, where Stiles will join them the following weekend for Lydia’s graduation. Derek’s trip is a short one and he has to be at the airport early the next morning, and his family all knows he wants to spend the evening with him.

And now he’s standing in front of his apartment door with Derek behind him, waiting patiently as Stiles fumbles with the keys. He can feel Derek’s breath on his neck, but he’s not crowding Stiles, not pressing him up against the door. Which Stiles is rather grateful for, since he’s pretty sure he’d never be able to concentrate long enough to unlock it otherwise.

Yoli and Brooke have cleared out for the evening; he’d had to pay for a hotel room, but it’s worth it. It isn’t that he doesn’t want Derek to meet his friends, but he doesn’t want to share him with anyone else tonight. Not to mention that he wants privacy, just in case. 

Dropping his keys on the stand in the entryway, he gestures around. “Here you go, home sweet home.” It’s a nice apartment, nothing lavish, but not bad for student-style housing. It’s modern and clean and the landlord keeps repairs done and appliances in working order, so he’s been happy with it the past three years. It’s certainly better than his dorm was freshman year. 

Derek looks around, actually paying attention to things instead of rushing them along to Stiles’ room, and it’s nice. Stiles feels a little bit of pride and a lot of affection when he sees that Derek is truly interested in examining where Stiles has spent the last three years. “It’s a nice place,” he acknowledges. “I’m glad you weren’t living someplace shitty.”

“Like a burned-down house or an abandoned train car?” he shoots back before he can think, and he winces while cursing his own runaway tongue. 

Derek isn’t bothered by his slip, though. “Exactly,” he agrees. “You deserve better than that.”

“You did, too,” Stiles argues, and Derek nods. 

“I did. I just wasn’t able to believe that, not then.”

“And now?” 

Derek’s eyes go soft, warm, fond. “Now I believe I deserve things that are good for me.”

Stiles’ heart thumps and Derek flicks a glance at his chest, grinning. “My room is this way,” he blurts out; Derek’s eyes heat, his expression hungry, and he moves to follow Stiles.

This time Derek is pressing against him, hips tilted toward Stiles’ ass, lips brushing his neck, when Stiles gets his door open. Derek holds him steady as they half-stumble into the room, but before Stiles can turn in his arms, Derek’s freezing.

“Der?” His voice is hesitant, careful.

“Where did you get that?” Derek croaks out, and Stiles is confused until he remembers. The painting. 

Flicking a glance at the painting above his bed, Stiles tells him the story of finding it in the antique store, of learning the history behind it, what little there was. “I’m sorry I never told you about it. I just felt like it was supposed to be mine. I don’t even know if it means anything, but I couldn’t leave it there.”

Derek moves away from him, getting closer to the painting so he can inspect it. “You said this came from Richthofen Castle. My great-great-great grandfather was driven from Denver a century ago, which is when the Hales settled in Beacon Hills. It’s one of the reasons I moved there.”

Stiles steps in behind him, one hand landing on Derek’s shoulder and squeezing gently. “He was driven away?”

“He was sent to Richthofen when it was still an insane asylum, because he made the mistake of telling someone he was a werewolf. While there, he took a lover. A man. The orderlies discovered it and both men were cast out of the asylum, out of Denver.” He reaches up to touch the painting reverently. “This is him. There were black and white photographs of him in my mother’s collection, wearing this pelt. They were all destroyed in the fire, along with his journal.”

“The painting is yours,” Stiles says quietly. “You can take it home with you when you leave tomorrow, if you want.”

He’s unprepared for when Derek turns to him, his eyes dark and needy. Derek’s strong hands come up to cradle his face, thumbs stroking the line of his jaw, and before Stiles can take a breath, Derek’s mouth is on his.

Stiles moans into the kiss as Derek’s lips are crushed against him; his hands clutch at Derek’s shoulders. The kiss is fierce, and Derek licks into his mouth when his lips part and he welcomes him in.

They do nothing but kiss for several minutes, until Stiles grows dizzy from the lack of oxygen. Their mouths break apart only briefly to inhale just what’s necessary before fusing their mouths together again, and when it’s no longer enough, Stiles jerks back to gasp for air. Derek drops his forehead against Stiles’, his arms slip around his waist and hold him tight as Stiles pants, struggling to take in enough oxygen to make the black spots in his vision disappear. 

“I’ve been wanting to do that for years,” Derek confesses lowly. “I had to keep convincing myself not to fly out here for your breaks, or even in the middle of the school year.”

“Why?” Stiles whines, finally having gotten his breath back. “I would have welcomed it.”

One of Derek’s thumbs begins stroking against his lower back and Stiles arches into the touch. “I know you would have. But we would never have been able to do a casual, long-distance relationship, and with you being out here for years to finish school… I wasn’t willing to start something we couldn’t finish.”

Stiles chooses not to point out that when he completes the FBI Academy, he’ll be given a field assignment that might take him even further away from Derek. That’s a conversation to be had another time. “You’re starting something right now,” he says instead, and Derek grins, the expression predatory. “Please tell me you’re going to finish it.” 

“Not by myself,” he purrs. “You’re going to help.”

“Yes,” Stiles breathes. “Yes, absolutely, I’m game to help. All the helping. I’m very helpful.”

“Stiles.” Stiles blinks, looking into Derek’s eyes instead of at his lips, which are smirking, “I can think of a better use for your mouth than talking.”

They take their time undressing each other, tugging gently on ties, slowly unbuttoning their suit jackets, sliding crisp dress shirts off the other’s shoulders. Stiles goes for the belt and zipper of Derek’s slacks, but his hands get pushed away so Derek can get at Stiles’ zipper instead. He lets out an unholy groan when Derek’s hand pushes into his waistband, delving past his boxer briefs, and wraps around his cock.

“Fuck,” he hisses breathlessly, arching into Derek’s tight grip. “Jesus, I’ve fantasized about this so many times.”

“Yeah?” Derek asks, his eyes darting up to meet Stiles’ briefly before refocusing on what his hand is doing. “What did you fantasize?”

Stiles shudders when Derek’s thumb swipes over the head of his cock, slicking the precome from the slit to his shaft. “Everything, Der. Fucking everything. I want to taste you, want to suck every drop of come from your dick. I want you to make me come in my pants like I’m a teenager again. I want you inside me, filling me until I can’t breathe anymore. I want you spread out underneath me, panting and moaning while I fuck you, your legs over my shoulders while I jerk you off. I want you in all the ways I can have you.”

Derek’s eyes practically roll into the back of his head and his strokes are a little rougher. Stiles doesn’t mind. “You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?” he rasps out, and Stiles grins wickedly as he reaches down to rub Derek’s erection through his half-open fly.

“No, I want you very much alive.” He tugs on Derek’s hand, pulling it out of his underwear so he can get Derek’s pants undone and do the same thing to him. His cock is already hard and leaking, and Stiles isn’t surprised to feel the smooth slide of foreskin. He’d always imagined Derek was uncut, since it made no sense to circumcise a werewolf. It would just grow right back, probably.

He pushes Derek’s slacks down over his hips and ass, his cock springing free from his own boxer briefs, and Stiles wants to taste him so badly. Dropping to his knees, he takes Derek’s clothes with him and pushes them all the way down to his ankles. Leaning in, he kisses the head of Derek’s dick, then trails the tip of his tongue through the slit and over the smooth head.  

Derek inhales sharply and then lets out a shuddery breath. “Fuck, Stiles,” he grits out, both hands sliding through Stiles’ hair, fingers tangling in the strands. “Fuck.”

“That’s it,” Stiles encourages. “I want to hear all those pretty noises you’re going to make.” He wraps his hand around Derek’s cock, sliding the foreskin back to expose the head more fully, and takes it into his mouth. Derek lets out a long, low groan, and Stiles’ dick twitches in his underwear. He wants to rub himself, but he also wants to last, so he focuses on Derek’s pleasure. His cheeks hollow as he sucks Derek down, jacking the few inches he can’t get into his mouth without choking. Blow jobs are something he enjoys giving, but he’s never mastered deep-throating.

“Jesus, Stiles, stop,” Derek chokes out, tightening his fingers in Stiles’ hair to get him to pull off. Stiles does, and pouts. “As much as I want to come in your mouth, I didn’t want to do it two minutes in.”

Stiles shrugs, his grin impish, his mouth wet and swollen. “If I can make you come quick the first time, it just means you’ll last longer the second.”

Since they’ve already stopped, Stiles moves them onto the bed instead of literally right beside it. He takes the time to strip Derek’s slacks the rest of the way off, then pushes him gently onto the bed so he can quickly discard his own pants. When he’s fully naked, he climbs on and then straddles Derek, his knees bracketing Derek’s hips. Leaning down, he presses his mouth to Derek’s lips again, tongue slipping between them when Derek parts them on a moan. His hips rock forward and his dick slides along the groove between Derek’s hipbone and cock, the wet tip catching on Derek’s skin and then pushing across it. 

It’s in the process of reaching for his nightstand to grab the lube and condoms that he remembers. “Shit!”

Derek’s eyes, which are half-lidded as he watches Stiles fuck lazily against his hipbone, fly open. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t have any condoms.” His voice is mournful, and he looks sadly at the drawer which holds an almost-empty tube of lube and nothing else. “I stopped buying them when…”

“When what?” Derek prompts.

Stiles drops his chin. “When I stopped having sex,” he mumbles. 

Derek lifts his chin, peers into his eyes. “When was that?”

“Right before that summer.” Derek’s eyes flash blue and Stiles startles in surprise. He hasn’t seen Derek’s wolf eyes in so long he’d almost forgotten what they look like. “I stopped being okay with accepting substitutes for the man I really wanted.” 

Derek lets out a rush of breath. “We don’t need condoms.” When Stiles squints down at him in confusion, he elaborates. “Unless you really want them, for the mess or because you think it’s gross without them… We don’t need them. I can’t carry or transmit diseases. Even if you had one, you couldn’t give it to me.”

Stiles has never had sex bareback, but there’s no question he’s comfortable doing so with Derek. The guaranteed werewolf clean bill of health is a bonus, but Derek is the only man he would want that with regardless. “I don’t want them,” he confirms, and Derek’s eyes flash blue again.

Taking the lube and popping the tube open, Derek slicks his fingers up and rubs them together to warm it. Stiles’ gaze follows them for a moment until they’re reaching behind him, and he gasps sharply when he feels two wet fingers pressing against his hole. It’s been a long time, which Derek now knows, so he pushes in gentle and slow.

Stiles scoots up Derek’s body to make it easier for him to reach down, and he trembles as his dick slides alongside Derek’s, dragging it between his thighs and then between his cheeks, feeling the head bump his hole as Derek's fingers continue to push in and then slide back out, tugging at his rim, scissoring inside him. Stiles is panting, arching back into Derek’s thrusts, a third finger now joining the first two, and he rocks down against Derek’s chest to get friction on his cock as his rim is stretched and opened wide.

“Derek, fuck, I’m ready,” he groans. Derek obediently slides his fingers free and wipes the excess lube on the bedsheet, and Stiles moves back just slightly, until Derek’s cock is lined up with his hole.

Derek’s thighs are trembling beneath him and Stiles appreciates his control as he sinks down slowly, the press of Derek’s cock inside him making him moan out loud. He’s never felt so full, so complete, and his dick twitches when Derek bottoms out, groin pressed flush against Stiles’ ass. He has to wait for a moment, has to breathe while he gets used to the sensation.   

“Stiles,” Derek rasps, hands finding Stiles’ hips and holding him tightly. “You need to stay still for a minute.”

“I am,” Stiles points out. 

“No, I mean, you need to not move until I tell you to, otherwise this is going to be over before either of us wants it to be,” he grits out, face twisted up in a mixture of agony and pleasure, eyes shut tight.

Stiles has gotten accustomed to the feeling of having Derek inside him by this point and he wants to move, wants to thrust down and ride him hard. He also wants to just watch Derek’s beautiful, fascinating face. “Open your eyes for me, Der,” he coaxes, and when Derek does, they’re glowing the brightest blue Stiles has ever seen. “You’re so beautiful,” he whispers, shifting his hips experimentally.

A low groan slides out from between Derek’s lips and Stiles wonders if he can come just from listening to the gorgeous noises he makes. “I’m not going to last,” he warns, voice pained, and Stiles grins.

“I don’t care. We have all night.” That said, he lifts himself up slowly and then sinks back down, relishing the sensation of Derek pushing inside him, filling him over and over again. His fingers bite into Stiles’ hips, then his thighs, holding on for dear life as Stiles rides him, thrusting down harder and faster as he builds up a rhythm. Stiles’ fingernails scrape over Derek’s nipples as he tries to steady himself, working his hips rapidly, his lips parting and his eyes squeezing shut through every moan punched out of him by Derek driving up into him.

His dick is so hard it’s almost painful, but before he can reach down to jack himself, Derek has his hand wrapped around him. “I want to taste you,” Derek says roughly, his palm stroking firmly over Stiles’ length, skimming over the sensitive head as he twists his wrist to the left and then back down, and Stiles is almost embarrassed by the whimpers he can hear coming from his own throat. Derek’s grip tightens, his fist closing more firmly over Stiles’s cock with every stroke, and there’s no warning, no tell-tale tendrils of pleasure slithering up his spine before Stiles jerks, coming in long, shooting bursts.

Derek works him through it until his dick is completely oversensitive, only pulling his hand away when Stiles makes a noise of discomfort. He watches with hooded eyes as Derek lifts his hand to his mouth, licking Stiles’ come from his fingers. If he wasn’t so thoroughly drained, he’s pretty sure the sight of Derek’s tongue running over his own palm, collecting Stiles’ come and swallowing it down, would have him hard again in no time.  

Experimentally, he dips his fingers in the mess on Derek’s chest, swiping through the puddles and lifting his fingertips to Derek’s lips. He can feel his spent cock struggling to come back to life when Derek’s eyes latch onto his, watching him hungrily as he takes Stiles’ fingers into his mouth. The warmth of his tongue lapping against Stiles’ fingers, cleaning the mess from them and then curling around to suck every last trace of his taste down, has Stiles moaning again and shifting back on the cock that is still firmly buried in his ass.

Stiles begins moving again, grinding back down on Derek’s dick, crying out when Derek meets him with an upward thrust of his own. Derek immediately stills, reining in his less-than-gentle motions with a look of apologetic concern in his eyes. “You can fuck me as rough as you want,” Stiles pants, driving down sharply to emphasize the point.

“Are you sure?” Derek asks, and when Stiles nods, he pushes at Stiles’ thighs to get him to move. Stiles does, confused, until Derek gestures for him to get on his hands and knees. “Hold on to the headboard,” he commands, and Stiles shivers in anticipation.

As soon as Stiles is in position, Derek slides back into him with a forceful thrust. He immediately sets up a punishing pace, gripping Stiles’ hips with bruising fingers and leaning forward to press hot kisses across his back and between his shoulder blades. Stiles can feel the pressure of blunt teeth against his skin; then, the sharp edge of fangs. Twisting, he sees that Derek is half-wolfed out, bright blue eyes staring down at him helplessly as his fangs protrude past his lips and his eyebrows melt away, fur sprouting on his cheeks.

Stiles had no idea that wolfed-out sex would do it for him, but fuck, this is the hottest thing he could have imagined. His fingers grip harder onto the headboard as he thrusts back, moaning in abandon as Derek drives into him. “Stiles,” he gasps out, name slurred around his fangs. “Fuck, I can’t, I’m going to-!” With a bitten-off roar, Derek comes hard, back arching as he spills himself into Stiles.

Stiles is breathing so hard he has to keep holding onto the headboard so he doesn’t pass out. He waits for Derek to pull out, but instead of doing so, Derek drops his head back down to scatter light kisses across his back again, this time with less urgency. Stiles can feel Derek’s forehead press into his spine, but there’s no ridge to it, so he assumes Derek has shifted back.

Finally, after several moments of soft breathing and more gentle kisses, Derek eases out of him. Stiles can feel the come dripping from him and is surprised at how much he enjoys the sensation. “Hold still,” Derek instructs, and he feels the bed shift. When Derek gets back, he has a warm, wet cloth that he wipes over Stiles’ ass, cleaning up the come that’s running over his balls and down his thighs.

When Derek is done cleaning him, he settles down onto the bed and Stiles flops down beside him, snuggling into his side. “I’m sorry for that,” Derek says quietly, and Stiles frowns. 

“What could you possibly have to be sorry about?"

Derek’s voice is pained and uncomfortable when he answers. “Wolfing out. Losing control.”

Stiles shifts until he’s sprawled over Derek’s chest, scowling down at him. “Don’t you ever apologize for being who you are. You’re a werewolf. It’s in your nature. The fact that you can lose control with me is an incredible compliment. It says you trust me, and you trust that I trust you not to hurt me.”

Derek’s ears pink and he tries to duck his head, but Stiles grabs his chin and won’t let him. “I do. Trust you.”

“I know,” Stiles murmurs, sinking back down onto him and laying his head on Derek’s chest. “Thank you.”

Fingers lift to stroke through his hair, smoothing the wild strands back down, across his forehead and behind his ear. Stiles listens to Derek’s heartbeat slow in his chest, settling into a comfortable, steady rhythm, and he thinks, I love him. He is my heart, and my home.

-----

Stiles stretches the next morning as he comes awake, feeling the delicious ache of exertion and overworked muscles spreading through every inch of him. They were up until nearly four am, doing nearly everything they’d always wanted to do to each other. They’d acted out some of Stiles’ fantasies, and some of Derek’s too. They’d touched each other to their heart’s content, tasted every inch they could get their lips and tongues on, had stroked and sighed and slid against each other until they were both exhausted and fully spent. It was only then that they’d allowed themselves to slip into sleep.

When his eyes open, Stiles squints against the harsh morning light. It’s far too late, and he knows without looking that Derek is gone; he was supposed to be at the airport by nine, and it’s obviously long past that. He hates the mournful thud in his chest, the sense of loss and longing at waking up alone, but he knows that Derek had to go. Missing him now is still more excruciating than it was before.

Swinging his legs over the bed, Stiles registers two things. The painting is gone, and there’s a note left on his nightstand. He’s surprised he isn’t more upset about the loss of the painting, but it had always represented his connection to Derek, so maybe it isn’t that surprising. He doesn’t need a painting to keep them tied together anymore.

He grabs the note and unfolds it. It consists of two sentences. I’m sorry I didn’t wake you before I left. I just couldn’t stand to say goodbye.

A spark of realization shoots through him and he snatches at his phone, hoping that Derek hasn’t gotten on the plane yet.

“Good morning,” Derek greets him, his voice a low, intimate rumble. “You have great timing. They’re going to begin boarding in a minute.” 

“Is that why you always end our phone calls with ‘take care of yourself’?” he blurts out, bypassing any normal greetings. “Instead of saying goodbye?”

There’s a brief pause before Derek answers. “Yes.” He inhales unsteadily before continuing. “The last time we said goodbye was hell, Stiles. I never wanted to do that again. I never want to say goodbye to you.” 

There’s an ache in his chest and he can feel tears welling. He wants to say the words, is desperate to, but he won’t tell Derek he loves him over the phone. Not the first time. He wants it to be face-to-face, wants to see Derek’s eyes when he hears them.

The moment holds steadily, comfortably, until Stiles can hear the boarding call in the background. “I don’t want to hold you up from getting on the plane. We’ll talk when you get home, okay?”

“Of course,” Derek replies, and Stiles feels a rush of love for him.

“Have a safe flight,” he murmurs. “I’ll talk to you soon." 

He can hear the smile in Derek’s voice when he says, “Take care of yourself, Stiles.”

-----

The next five months pass by in a blur, and Stiles is almost sad about it. He loves the Academy, loves the firearms training and operations simulations, loves feeling like he’s finally where he belongs. He’s good at this--no, scratch that, he’s damn good at this. His peers respect him, his instructors look to him to lead. There’s a comfort that settles under his skin, a knowledge that this was what he was meant to do. 

He’s finally happy with the direction his life is going. He’s just afraid that he’s about to come to the place where his road diverges and he’ll have to choose. Does he follow his dream? Does he stick with the thing that’s given him a sense of belonging and rightness , like nothing in his life ever has?

Or does he follow the road that takes him back to Derek?

They haven’t really talked about it, the possibility of Stiles getting a field assignment on the other side of the country. They talk around it, in vague generalities about what Stiles will do when he graduates from the Academy. The only time it gets directly mentioned is when Stiles confesses that he doesn’t want Derek to be at his graduation.

“You don’t?” Derek’s tone is unreadable, and Stiles is cautious.

“It’s not that I don’t , exactly,” he hedges. “But it’s going to be chaotic. And I’m going to get my assignment, and…” He trails off, not knowing how to explain that he can’t deal with processing whatever his assignment is at the same time that Derek is there in front of him. If it’s a horrible assignment, he’ll be stuck trying to reassure Derek at the same time he’s trying to cope with his own disappointment and fear.

“If you don’t want me there, I won’t be there,” Derek replies stiffly. “It’s your day, and I don’t want to do anything to bring you down.”

It’s what Stiles was most afraid of when he was psyching himself up to have this conversation. Derek is hurt; he pretends he isn’t, but it's clear that he is and Stiles feels awful. “You could never bring me down,” Stiles protests, even though in the back of his mind that’s exactly what the problem is. “But it’s going to be really emotional and I don’t know if I can handle that on top of seeing you-”

“It’s okay, Stiles,” Derek interrupts, and it’s obviously not okay. “I have to get back to work. I’ll talk to you later.” He hangs up without waiting for a goodbye, and Stiles’ stomach churns sickeningly as he stares at the phone. He didn’t want to make Derek feel bad, but there was no good outcome to this conversation and he knew it going in. His choices were to tell Derek not to come, or let him come and face the consequences.

More than anything, he doesn’t want to get his assignment and have to look Derek in the face and tell him that it’s over. But he couldn’t tell Derek that part.

He’s pretty sure Derek knows it anyway.

Graduation comes faster than he’s prepared for, and he’s happy to see his dad, Lydia, and Natalie out amongst the rest of the friends and family. His smile falters and feels stiff when he sees the empty chair next to his father. It isn’t being saved, obviously, but it’s a stark reminder that there should be someone else there to support him. It’s also a reminder that he’s only talked to Derek a handful of times in the past month. None of them were especially happy conversations.

He keeps his face stoic when he’s sworn in by the Deputy Director of the FBI, and again when he’s presented with the Director’s Leadership Award, nodding sharply at the Deputy Director as he accepts the honor. Lydia and his father are cheering their hearts out in the audience and he risks flashing a grin in their direction, but he doesn’t feel it. He doesn’t feel anything but a hollowness, an empty hole in his chest. 

When the ceremony itself is over, Stiles takes a deep breath and heads with the other graduates to pick up their weapons, ammunition, and field assignments. The line moves slowly and he tries to fight down the nausea accompanying the realization that he’s approaching a defining moment in his relationship, when the other half of it is more than 1600 miles away.

“Congratulations, Agent Stilinski.” Stiles looks up to see the Associate Deputy Director standing beside the agents who are assigning firearms and boxes of ammo. “We’re very pleased with your performance these past few months, and we look forward to seeing your career growth with the Bureau.”

“Thank you, sir,” Stiles replies respectfully. “I’m honored to be a part of the Bureau, and that my classmates and instructors felt that I was deserving of the Leadership Award. I’ll do everything in my power to prove myself worthy of it.” 

The ADD claps him on the back and chuckles. “You already have, Agent Stilinski, or you wouldn’t have gotten it.” Stepping back, he nods at the agent who’s trying to get Stiles to sign for his weapon. “I’ll let them take care of you from here. Congratulations again, Agent.”

Stiles nods his acknowledgement before he numbly accepts the Glock the agent hands to him, along with ankle and shoulder holsters, two boxes of ammunition, and the envelope that contains his entire future. He straps on both holsters and slides his gun into the shoulder holster in order to free his hands to open the envelope. Before he can do so, Rafael approaches him. 

“Congratulations, Agent Stilinski,” he says with a warm smile, and Stiles blinks in shock at the realization that Scott’s dad is now his colleague. “How does it feel to know you’re one step closer to living your dream?”

“It’s slightly terrifying,” he responds truthfully, and Rafael barks out a laugh as he claps Stiles on the back--apparently it’s a thing they do in the Bureau--and nods at the envelope in his hands. “Ready to find out your assignment?”

Stiles stares down at the envelope, his stomach churning. “Not really.”

“I don’t have a whole lot of influence, but I did use what I have to try to get you a good assignment. You being top of your class and getting the Leadership Award definitely put you at the front of the line for the best one anyway.” Rafael winks at him. “How do you feel about Honolulu?”

He can feel the blood draining from his face and his hands start to shake. Rafael watches him with concern. “No offense, McCall, but I’d prefer to stay land-locked.”

Rafael shrugs as he slips his sunglasses on. “Guess you won’t know until you open the envelope. Good luck, Stiles. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

Stiles watches him walk away, taking in another deep breath in preparation for whatever he’s about to find out. With shaking hands he slits the envelope open, closes his eyes for a brief moment, and slides the cream-colored letter out. His eyes widen when he sees the words typed in swirling black ink.

He didn’t get Honolulu.

-----

He’s calm when he knocks on the door, since he knows Derek will know who it is before he even answers. The whole werewolf thing really sucks sometimes because it means there’s no such thing as a surprise, but maybe the fact that he’s there at all will be surprise enough.

Stiles doesn’t know what to expect. Will Derek even answer the door? If he does, will he be angry, or still hurt--or worse, sad? He regrets not asking Derek to the graduation, but he stands by his reasoning. It would have been unfair to Derek to have to be there and witness the moment Stiles realized they had no future.

When the door finally opens, Stiles is relieved to see a pleased smile on Derek's face. He resolutely ignores that it’s contradicted by the hesitance in his eyes, knowing Derek has a legitimate reason to look that way. “Stiles.” 

“I missed my painting,” he says casually, glancing around for it.

“It's in my room,” Derek tells him when he notices Stiles’ wandering gaze, and Stiles wants to make an innuendo, but they're not there right now.

Derek eyes him, unwavering, as Stiles stands awkwardly in the doorway. Derek’s nostrils flare a little and he tenses imperceptibly as his eyes narrow a fraction. Stiles doesn't know what Derek smells, or senses; maybe it's the nerves coming off of him in waves. FBI training has taught him a lot about controlling himself externally, but it can't change who he is on the inside-and right now, he's anxious as fuck.

Derek finally gestures for Stiles to come inside, and when he steps in he feels lighter than he had on the whole flight to Colorado. “How did graduation go?” Derek asks, and Stiles winces because of course he would go right for the jugular.

“Not as well as it could have,” he admits, tugging his lower lip between his teeth. Derek's eyes are drawn to it automatically, but when his eyes lift again to meet Stiles’ they're impassive. “I missed you being there. It didn't mean as much without you.”

“I wish I could have been there,” Derek replies matter-of-factly, “but that was your decision to make.”

Stiles sinks down onto the couch, running his hand over the plush fabric while he stares at his lap. “I couldn't face you,” he mumbles. “I couldn't look you in the eye and tell you that there was no hope for us, that I was getting assigned to Baltimore or Chicago or fucking Honolulu. I couldn't take what was supposed to be the most exciting day of my life and turn it into the one that we'd look back on with regrets.”

“I know, Stiles.” Derek sits down beside him, hands resting on his thighs, fingers clenching into the denim encasing them. “I'm not stupid. I knew what it could mean for us. I wouldn't have asked you to put yourself through that.”

“But you were unhappy when I told you not to come,” Stiles protests, perplexed, as he lifts his gaze to meet Derek's.

Sighing, Derek leans back into the couch. “I hated that you saw it the same way. You were already expecting it to separate us. You clearly weren't planning on asking me to go with you, wherever you were assigned.”

Stiles blinks, stunned. “You love it here,” he points out unsteadily. “You love your home and your job. I never considered that you'd be willing to leave.”

“You're wrong, Stiles,” Derek murmurs. “I like my home and my job. I love you.”

It's like the air has been sucked out of the room; Stiles can hardly breathe. He's suspected for a long time that Derek loves him, but he would never have guessed that he loved him enough to uproot his life and follow Stiles.

“You’d give up your whole life to go where I go?”

Derek shifts until his shoulder and hip are pressed into the squishy back of the couch, one leg drawn up underneath him so that he can face Stiles. Stiles mimics the movement and ends up brushing one knee against Derek’s. “I don’t consider it giving up my whole life. My life goes where I go. I can always find a new home, a new job, but I can’t find a new you. I’ve spent the last six years missing you. I don’t want to spend another day doing so.” 

Stiles chokes out a watery laugh. “You’re trying to kill me with this new ‘emotionally available and insanely sweet’ routine, aren’t you?”

Derek laughs a little, and the way his face relaxes makes something twist happily in Stiles’ stomach. “Like you said before, I want you very much alive,” he murmurs, and that brings back memories, which Stiles’ dick remembers very well. Derek glances down, lifting one dark, wicked eyebrow. “You’re just like Pavlov’s dog, aren’t you?” he asks in amusement, and Stiles flushes. 

“Shut up.” Derek grins widely at the face Stiles makes, and he can feel himself relaxing a little, because maybe he didn’t fuck it all up. Maybe they can actually be okay. “So it doesn’t matter where my assignment is? You’d go if it was Birmingham, or Omaha, or Anchorage?”

“It doesn’t matter, Stiles. I promise,” Derek replies firmly. One hand snakes out to wrap around Stiles, their fingers lacing together, and Derek holds them tight. “I don’t care where we are, as long as we’re together.”

“So I’m assuming you’d be okay with Denver, then,” Stiles continues nonchalantly.

Derek stills for a moment, then levels him with a Glare that is reminiscent of being thrown against walls and slammed into steering wheels. “You put me through this entire emotional wringer when you already knew you’re moving here?” he growls, eyes flashing, and Stiles almost feels guilty. Almost.

“I just wanted to make sure,” he says with a shrug, eyes wide and unconvincingly innocent. “It’s not like this is a permanent field assignment. I’ll get moved around eventually, as I work my way up the chain of command. I didn’t exactly want to get something started and then get transferred, and have you tell me you have no intention of moving.”

“You’re still an asshole,” Derek grumbles, and Stiles melts into him, grinning.

“You love me anyway.” He waits for Derek to loop an arm around his shoulders and nuzzles against him, nosing at his cheek. “I love you, too, you know. This wouldn’t have been such hell on me if I didn’t.”

Derek turns his face, his lips grazing Stiles’ cheek, his nose brushing against the soft hairs at Stiles’ temple. He doesn’t say anything for a moment, simply breathes Stiles in, and Stiles can feel Derek’s eyelashes swipe down the side of his cheek as he lets his eyes drift shut. “Is it too soon to ask you to move in?” he murmurs. 

Stiles does an admirable job of not flailing in surprise. “Maybe a little.” It is, but he’s not opposed to being silly and romantic and foolish. It’s not like this hasn’t also been a long time coming.

“You don’t get partial custody of the painting, you know. You’ll have to come here to see it,” Derek adds, going for a conversational tone, but there’s a mix of hope and teasing underneath it.

Shifting a tiny bit, Stiles presses a kiss to the corner of Derek’s mouth and grins. “You make a convincing argument. I may have to consider it.”

“I’m assuming you haven’t gotten an apartment or anything?” 

Stiles shakes his head. “Nope. I got off the plane and came straight here. My stuff is being shipped and will be delivered to my temporary hotel room tomorrow.”

Derek pulls back, giving him a smoldering, heavy-lidded gaze. “Then maybe I can convince you to at least try out the accommodations here. My bed is significantly more comfortable, not to mention cleaner, than a generic hotel room mattress.” 

Stiles pretends to consider it, then swings himself into Derek’s lap. “I don’t know, I feel like that might be giving you the wrong idea. I’m not easy, mister.”

He means it as a joke, but at the soft look Derek gives him, he realizes how else it could be taken. “Nothing about this was easy, Stiles. Except falling in love with you. That’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Oh my God , Derek, how are you so fucking perfect ?” Stiles groans, rocking his hips forward, feeling Derek responding underneath him. “I think this moment is getting way too disgustingly saccharine. We need to dirty it up a little.”

Derek’s hands find his hips and bring them in tighter against him. “I could be convinced.” 

Stiles rocks forward again, delighting in the feel of Derek hardening, and leans down to slot his mouth against Derek’s. His arms loop around Derek’s neck, and Derek responds by sliding his arms around Stiles’ waist and tugging him even closer. The kiss is unhurried, lazy and exploratory, and Stiles grips his knees tighter around Derek’s thighs.

When he shifts back, he gives Derek his most adoring smile. “How convinced are you now?”

“I’m wavering,” Derek teases, sliding his hands back to palm Stiles’ ass, lifting and settling him more firmly in his lap, their erections grinding against each other through their jeans. “What else do you have for me?”

Stiles snickers. “You really don’t want me to answer that question. I’ll be perverted and dirty.”

Derek leans in, nipping at his lower lip. “Maybe I like perverted and dirty.”

“You really don’t,” Stiles laughs, “but I know you’ll make an exception for me.”

“You’re always the exception.” Stiles beams down at his boyfriend--he’s pretty sure they’re at the b word, finally, considering Derek’s already asked him to move in--and shifts to the side. Derek makes a moue of disappointment.  

“Chill out, Der. I’m just trying to get my pants off.”

Giving him an amused smirk, Derek moves to do the same. “I thought we were going to move this to the bedroom. Or would you rather have sex on the couch?”

Stiles considers. “One day, like tomorrow, I will definitely want to have sex on this couch. But right now, with what I want to do to you, your bed would definitely be comfier.”

“With what you want to do to me, hmm?”

“Remember when you came to see me for graduation, and I told you all the things I wanted?” Stiles reminds him, and Derek nods slowly. “We got to a lot of them, but I still haven’t fucked you while you’re spread out underneath me.”

“Let’s fix that,” Derek rasps out, throat working hard, and Stiles grins. He was pretty sure Derek would be into it, but it’s good to know for certain that he is.  

He follows Derek’s lead, even though he remembers perfectly well where the bedroom is; he wants the opportunity to look at the view. Derek’s smirk as he looks back over his shoulders tells him he’s being obvious, but he doesn’t care. “What? Your ass is glorious. I could write sonnets about it.”

“Why don’t you just fuck it and we’ll call it good?” Derek counters dryly, and Stiles stumbles a little, wide-eyed and aching.

The Academy may have given him confidence, grace, and a new sharply honed, lethal precision that’s a little scary sometimes, but there will always be a little bit of that awkward sixteen-year-old boy inside him. 

They’re barely in the door when Stiles starts stripping, eager to get things started and having lost any sense of modesty or shyness around Derek a long time ago. Derek’s eyes linger on his skin as it appears, his gaze intense and avaricious, and Stiles can’t help but preen a little. He knows the Academy has whittled away the last of his softness, leaving him with muscles he would have killed for in high school. He’s not on Derek’s level and likely never will be, but he’s a far cry from the twiggy twink he was only a few years ago.

“You’re beautiful,” Derek tells him, voice hoarse, and Stiles can see the way his throat works as he swallows.

He quickly finishes pulling off his pants--and really, that will never stop being awkward, no matter how graceful he is now--and closes the space between himself and Derek. Cupping Derek’s face in his hands, Stiles leans in and brushes his mouth lightly over Derek’s before pressing their foreheads together. They hold the pose for the space of several breaths, Derek’s arms sliding around his waist, the warmth of his skin searing through Stiles, branding him. “I love you, so fucking much,” Stiles finally murmurs, and Derek’s breath hitches.

Before Stiles knows what he’s going to do, Derek is releasing him and sliding to his knees, nosing at Stiles’ half-hard dick through his boxer briefs. He holds his breath as Derek drags his nose through the crease of his groin, inhaling deeply as his eyes drift shut. Stiles grabs at Derek’s shoulders, holding himself steady when Derek’s mouth wraps over his cotton-covered cock and sucks lightly, mouthing at the head and licking at the tiny wet spot that is rapidly becoming a large one.

“Der.” Derek looks up at him, mouth sort-of full of Stiles’ cock, and his knees wobble. Just a little. “Let’s move this to the bed before I fall over and end up in an episode of ‘Sex Sent Me to the ER’.”

Derek lets out an amused huff as he backs off and rises to his feet, taking Stiles’ hand and pushing him backward to the bed. Before Stiles can do the cliched thing and hit the bed with the back of his knees, therefore falling backward and dragging Derek down with him, Derek’s eyes glint and he grabs Stiles by the backs of his thighs, lifting and laying him down gently. Stiles is not a lightweight anymore, but he feels like a feather when Derek lifts him effortlessly and follows him down, body hovering over his, their chests brushing and making him feel warm and cherished.

When Derek’s knee inserts itself between his thighs and presses tightly against his balls, Stiles twines his arms around Derek’s neck and pulls him down for a kiss. Despite their nearly six-month separation and their newly-declared intent, they allow themselves to take their time with it. Stiles can feel Derek smiling against his lips, alternating with exploratory swipes of his tongue into the warmth of Stiles’ mouth. Stiles tips his head a little, licks into Derek’s mouth in return, and tightens his hold briefly before breaking away.

“It would probably be highly unsexy for me to say I want my dick in you now, right?” he comments, and Derek snorts, rolling his eyes.

“There are definitely more romantic ways you could have put it,” he agrees, before letting his voice drop into a lower register. “But I won’t argue with the sentiment.”

He rolls them both until Stiles is on top and straddling him. Stiles rocks against his hips, exhaling harshly at the feel of Derek’s insistent erection pressing against his. He remembers all too well what it feels like inside him, and while he can’t wait to ride it until he’s coming like a fire hose, tonight he’s determined to see what Derek’s face looks like when Stiles is bottomed out inside him.

“Is there anything that’s off-limits?” he asks breathlessly as he lifts himself off, tugging at the zipper Derek hadn’t quite managed to get to earlier. “Anything you’re uncomfortable with, or flat-out wouldn’t want me to do?” 

“As long as you don’t try to mark your territory, we’re good,” Derek responds wryly. “But I think that would be more of a werewolf kink anyway.”

Stiles snorts, then pauses. “Is it one of yours?”

“No, Stiles.” Derek rolls his eyes as he pushes at the waistband of his jeans, where Stiles’ hands have fallen still in the wake of his concern that he might one day get peed on. “Watersports are not my thing. Nearly anything else is fair game.” 

Brightening, Stiles pushes Derek’s hands out of the way and resumes pulling down his jeans, revealing the not-insignificant bulge in his underwear, and Stiles is extremely tempted to top another day because damn does he want to ride that again. A flick of his gaze to Derek’s half-lidded eyes and parted lips has him re-thinking, and a new idea forms, and yes, that is worth the delay in getting to impale himself on Derek once more.

“Lift your legs,” he prompts, tugging his underwear and jeans down past Derek’s ankles as he complies. Derek’s hands grip behind his knees and he holds his legs up, splayed open, but it’s the utter trust on his face that is nearly Stiles’ undoing. “God, you look so gorgeous like this,” he breathes, his palms finding the backs of Derek’s hairy thighs and stroking reverently. His cock is still half-hard, laying across his hip, but it stirs more as Stiles continues to run his fingers through the soft, dark hair liberally covering his skin.  

“Are you going to do anything?” Derek croaks, and Stiles grins at his impatience. “Or are you just going to keep staring at my ass while I’m in this really awkward position?”

“You’re starting to sound like me,” he chuckles, but he slides down the bed, his eyes bright and focused in on his goal. When he uses his thumbs to pull Derek’s cheeks apart, he nearly groans at the sight of the pink, puckered skin around Derek’s hole clenching and unfurling. “God, I have dreamt about this for so long,” he whispers, and Derek’s thighs start to shake as Stiles moves closer, his tongue flicking out and tracing around that still-clenching rim.

Derek’s groans are a thing of beauty. “Jesus, Stiles,” he pants out, pulling his thighs further apart when Stiles pushes in, withdraws, tongues around the edge, licks a wet swath right over top, and then presses in again. “Fuck, keep doing that, oh God, right there,” he gasps, ending on a little whine, and Stiles moans into his skin at the way the sound makes his cock twitch.

The taste of Derek on his tongue is heady; he’s rich, musky, the flavor dark and intoxicating. Stiles goes deeper, drowning in the thickness of it, the way it clouds his other senses, and he wonders if it’s this incredible for him, what it will be like for Derek when he reciprocates. The thought has him coming to full hardness and he ruts against the bed as he fucks his tongue into Derek’s ass.

Derek’s harsh, panting breaths increase as he releases one leg and slowly lowers it to the bed, and Stiles looks up to see that Derek’s cock is hard as well. It’s filled out, lengthened and thickened to its impressive, fully erect state, and Derek’s newly freed hand finds it, wraps around it, and strokes firmly. His lips are still parted, his eyes closed, a rosy pink flush spreading across his chest as he tugs on his cock, and Stiles wants to taste him, wants to lick at that wet head, shiny with pre-come.

Abandoning Derek’s ass, he licks his way up until his lips are closing around one of Derek’s balls, sucking lightly before gently rolling it around in his mouth. One hand comes up to fondle the other one, fingertip stroking across the thin skin as they draw up tight underneath Derek’s dick, and Derek lowers his other leg, shifting so that they’re spread wide enough for Stiles to fit comfortably in between. Stiles hardly notices, he’s so intent on what he’s doing.

When he’s played with Derek’s balls for a few minutes, he moves on and up. Derek jerks himself roughly several more times, moans tripping over themselves to slide off his tongue, and then he lets his hand fall away. Stiles watches as he crosses his arms behind his head, allowing Stiles full freedom to do whatever he wants.

The first thing Stiles wants to do is lick off every drop of pre-come that’s trickled down Derek’s shaft, and he does so with enthusiasm. Derek’s hips buck up and he swears as Stiles sucks him down. “Fuck, Stiles, that goddamn mouth ,” he whimpers, dropping one arm so he can drag his fingers through Stiles’ hair; Stiles shivers at the feel of Derek’s fingertips against his scalp, furrowing tracks through his hair. “Jesus, you’re going to make me come.”

Stiles smiles around the length fucking into his mouth, his head bobbing as he takes as many inches as he can without choking. Derek’s hand moves from Stiles’ hair back down to his own cock and he squeezes around the few inches Stiles can’t manage, and his harsh breathing escalates as they work in tandem, Stiles’ tongue sliding over his head while he strokes roughly. “Stiles, shit, I’m going to come,” he grits out, and Stiles is prepared.

When Derek’s hips jerk, come floods over Stiles’ tongue and he swallows eagerly, relishing the sharp, bitter-salt taste. He tries to get it all, but there’s too much and several drops escape the corner of his mouth, running down his chin. Before he can stretch his tongue to lick it up, Derek swipes at it with his thumb and then presses his thumb into Stiles’ mouth, feeding it to him, and Stiles’ dick aches .

But he knows Derek is too sensitive to take him right now, and he’s so keyed up he won’t last if he doesn’t give himself a breather, so he rolls onto his side and presses his face to Derek’s hip. They’re silent for a moment while they both catch their breath, and Stiles likes the way it feels to have Derek’s hip rising and falling beneath his cheek. It’s somehow more intimate than what they’ve just done.

“Come here,” Derek murmurs, reaching down and tugging Stiles up his body. Stiles complies, smiling into the kiss Derek plants on him, opening up eagerly when Derek deepens it, and he wonders if it’s weird for Derek to taste himself on Stiles’ tongue. “I love you.”

“You’ve mentioned that a couple times already,” Stiles counters with a cocky wink, and Derek makes a face at him. 

“I wanted to make sure you never forget it, but I don’t know, maybe I should back off if you’re going to get that kind of ego.”

Stiles gives him his most charming, winsome grin. “I’m teasing, Der. I’m just glad you like saying it so much, because now I don’t have to feel weird about saying it too often myself.” 

It’s the right thing to say, based on the pleased smile that lights his face, accompanied by crinkling at the corners of his eyes. “Never feel weird about that.” He slides his lips along Stiles’ jaw as he reaches down to grasp his cock, stroking leisurely. “But now I think it’s your turn.”

“Or maybe you mean it’s your turn again ,” Stiles scoffs. “Are you that eager to have me inside you?”

“Yes.” The answer is so matter-of-fact that it takes Stiles by surprise and he barks out a laugh. Derek’s eyes glint with mischief. “You’ve been talking a big game, but I don’t see you doing anything about it.”

“Oh yeah?” Stiles challenges, and Derek simply raises one eyebrow, smirking. “Where’s your lube?”

Derek reaches into his nightstand and slaps it into Stiles’ hand, crossing his arms over his chest and somehow managing to not make the pose look ridiculous even though he’s laid out on the bed. Stiles takes the briefest of moments to lube his fingers up before spreading Derek’s cheeks and drizzling it directly on his hole. Derek jumps, scowling at him.

“That’s cold.” 

“Don’t worry, baby,” Stiles purrs with a wicked grin. “I’ll warm you up.”

Groaning, Derek lays back again and Stiles slides his fingers through the lube dripping between his cheeks. He doesn’t flinch this time, but instead inhales unsteadily when Stiles gently eases the tip of his finger inside and circles the rim, opening him up slow and easy. “Fuck, Stiles.”

“Have you ever done this?” Stiles asks, striving for casual but not quite making it.  

“Not in a really long time,” Derek admits. “Not since New York.”

It gives Stiles pause, to know that Derek has done this before. He’d never considered, not even when he realized that Derek cared about him, that Derek might have had romantic or sexual relationships with other men. “Will you tell me about it?”  

“Not right now ,” Derek grits out, “but yes.”

“It’s not because I think any differently of you, or because I’m jealous,” he says suddenly. “I just want to know you. I want to know all the things you haven’t already told me, all your experiences, the good and the bad.”

Derek’s eyes soften. “You will. I want you to know me, too.” He lifts his hips, pushing Stiles’ finger deeper into him. “Now will you please fuck me?”

Stiles laughs, the sound bright and rich, and slips a second finger inside him, twisting and scissoring them to open him up wider. “Impatient, are we?” he teases.  

“I want you inside me. I think I’ve made that pretty clear by now.” He bucks his hips up again and Stiles’ fingers sink in to the second knuckle. “I don’t need any more prep, I can handle it.”

Stiles pulls his fingers out and moves in between Derek’s legs, lines his cock up, and pushes. Derek’s head falls back on the pillow as Stiles keeps pushing, inch by inch, into his deliciously tight ass, stopping only when his groin is flush with Derek’s round cheeks. He’s not quite balls deep, but he’s okay with that.  

“God, Stiles,” Derek moans underneath him, squirming and clenching down on his cock. “Fuck, you feel so good.”

His fingers clench into the firm flesh of Derek’s ass, fingertips biting white bruises into the skin. “This is not going to last long,” he warns through gritted teeth, and Derek looks up at him with a soft smile.

“It’s okay. We have the rest of our lives.” 

The reference to their first time has Stiles smiling widely, pulling out and driving forward with a little more force. Derek’s eyes slip shut and Stiles repeats the motions a few more times, his grip on Derek’s hips tightening as he holds on through every thrust. Derek’s dick, which had been gradually growing harder, is fully erect now and leaking precome onto his stomach. “You look so fucking beautiful like this,” he gasps, leaning down as he fucks into Derek, his tongue finding one of Derek’s nipples and laving it until it pebbles up. “Spread out beneath me, taking my cock so well. You look like you were made to be fucked open on my cock, with precome dripping all over you.”

He’s hardly even aware of the stream of words coming out of his mouth, so lost in the tight, wet heat surrounding him, but the dirty talk has an immediate effect on Derek. His eyes burn bright blue, fangs lengthening and extending past his lips, and his claws have popped and are puncturing holes in his sheets. “Stiles, Jesus,” he rasps, slurring the ‘s’s around his fangs. “I can’t hold onto my control when I’m with you.”

“That’s not a bad thing,” Stiles counters huskily. “I know you’ll never hurt me, so just let go.” He reaches down to wrap his fingers around Derek’s erection, jerking it in time with every punching thrust of his hips, and he watches in fascination as the eyebrows disappear and the fur comes in. Derek’s legs are shaking, his glowing blue eyes spearing into Stiles’ whiskey-gold ones as he strips Derek’s cock with tight, efficient strokes.

He can feel the tremors start and he lets go of Derek, sliding his legs over his shoulders, and leans over him until he’s practically folded in half. Stiles picks up the pace then, slamming into Derek with stuttering, inelegant thrusts as he starts to fall apart. Bitten-off moans are wrenched from Derek’s throat every time Stiles pistons into him, until Stiles arches backward and cries out, spurting hot and messy into Derek’s ass. He trembles and strokes shallowly into Derek through every subsequent tremor until he can’t come any more and his dick is too soft to keep pushing inside.

Derek’s jerking himself rapidly, fucking up into his fist as he chases his own orgasm, and Stiles’ fingers slide down over it as well. They stroke him until his body jerks and his cock pulses out waves of come, leaving drips and stripes and puddles on his chest. Stiles brings his hand up and wipes it against his own chest, working the come Derek had spilled over him into his skin. Derek inhales deeply, blue eyes flashing, and Stiles is pleased to know that his instincts were correct. Stiles is marked by the scent of him now, and he knows it makes his wolf want to howl.

He settles in between Derek’s thighs and leans forward, trailing his tongue through the mess painted over his skin. He takes his time licking it up, savoring the taste of Derek on his tongue again, gently cleaning any traces of it from his softened cock. When Derek is clean, Stiles props himself up on his elbows and grins down at the highly satisfied and satiated wolf.

“Was it worth the wait?”

“You’re worth waiting a lifetime for,” Derek mumbles sleepily, tugging at Stiles once more. This time he climbs up the bed, dropping into the space at Derek’s side and curling into him as Derek’s arm wraps around his shoulders.

“You’ve gotten so sappy.” He pokes affectionately at Derek’s ribs, then does it again when they fucking ripple. Of course they do. He’s a romance novel cover come to life.

Derek grumbles, and Stiles remembers that he’s most definitely not a happy wolf when he’s sleepy and that sleep is being interrupted. “Maybe you’ve just softened all my rough edges.” 

Stiles considers the statement and finds that he likes taking credit for domesticating Derek, whether it’s true or not. “I’ll accept that answer.” He snuggles in a little tighter, stroking his fingertips over the hair-roughened skin of Derek’s chest, and studies the painting that brought Derek back into his life where it hangs across from the bed. “Der?” He makes a noise, which Stiles takes as permission to continue. “I want someone to paint us.”

Derek cracks one eye open, looking at Stiles skeptically until he sees where Stiles’ attention has been drawn. “I’ll have someone here to paint our portrait once you’ve moved in.”

“Rude.”

“What?”

“Using the painting to get what you want.”

Derek closes his eyes again, already fading. “I want the painting to be of us in our home. I want it to be the start of our forever.”

Fuck. How can he argue with that?

Stiles watches as Derek’s breathing evens out, his chest rising and falling steadily in sleep, and continues to stroke his fingers over it. Derek’s arm tightens imperceptibly as Stiles brushes a brief kiss over his clavicle, and when he settles in again, he decides that Derek is right. They’ve been together in all but a physical sense for years, they love each other and have since Stiles was a teenager. They’re not ever going to be any more ready than they are right now.

As he drifts in the semi-consciousness between sleep and awake, he smiles at the thought that this is going to be his home. But not for at least a month; Derek is going to have to earn this.

After all, he’s a newly sworn agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He’s no pushover.