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You’re an Understatement (you’re getting worse)

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Stiles was kind of a pushover when it came to his friends. Particularly the ones he’d known for most of his life, like Erica Reyes. They’d gone to elementary and middle school together, back when Erica had been human and had epilepsy. During their first year of high school, Erica had been given The Bite to cure her, and then she’d been switched to the supernaturals only high school. In his sophomore year, his best friend Scott had wound up taking The Bite and transferred as well. During his junior year, his friend Lydia had come into her banshee powers and transferred. And, honestly, they weren’t the only ones from his grade who left - Beacon County had two full-sized werewolf packs - and a third, smaller, newly formed pack as well - and a functioning Nemeton that drew any number of other supernatural beings to the area - but they were the ones who left the biggest holes in Stiles’ life.

When Stiles had reconnected with Erica during college - they had both wound up at UC Berkeley, because Stiles wanted to stay close to his dad and Erica needed to stay close to her pack - it hadn’t taken long for them to become all but inseparable. They didn’t have a lot of classes together, because Stiles was majoring in political science (with a minor in rhetoric) for his bachelors, with the intention of getting into Berkeley Law for a degree in Criminal Justice. And Erica...well, she was doing a double major in film and art practice. Which, of course, had led to Stiles’ current predicament.

“Please?” Erica was all but begging, pouting her red-slicked lips at him as she clutched his hands in hers across the little cafe table. “You’re exactly what I need for this, Stiles, seriously. And if I can get an A on this final, my professor will write me a letter of recommendation for the internship I want and like...she’s kind of friendly with some of the higher-ups over at NNT, you know? It would help so much.”

And the thing was, Stiles knew how much Erica wanted to work for Neckz’n’Throats. They were the industry best, as far as werewolf-oriented adult magazines went. The literal equivalent of Playboy for non-supernaturals, NNT was the best of the best as far as models, photographers, and even article-writers went. She’d told Stiles on more than one occasion that she’d wanted this since the first time she’d picked up a copy of NNT and seen some of the artful, glamorous, and - if Stiles was being honest - downright scorchingly hot photo spreads therein. She’d chosen her majors accordingly, and had spent the last three years carefully building a portfolio of work with the sole intention of impressing the folks at NNT.

Stiles didn’t think she’d ever recover if she didn’t get it; he knew she’d never settle for a lesser publication. Certainly not one liked Marked, which was borderline-sleaze at the best of times and downright illegal at the worst. Or Hunting Grounds which had something of a controversial reputation because for all that it featured supernaturals it usually featured them being treated like animals, or pets, or property and the nicest thing anyone could call it was fetishization, and the worst was hateful and bigoted and supremacist. And that was coming from Stiles, who was not only human but who was also friends with Allison Argent, whose family - albeit estranged from her - owned the damned magazine in the first place.

There were others, of course, that were on par - or nearly so - with NNT, but Stiles knew Erica wouldn’t even consider them. Not Alpha Studios, which typically featured alpha werewolves with humans, though they’d occasionally done an alpha-on-alpha spread. Not CAPTIVE, which was some of NNT’s biggest competition, because the two magazines typically showcased the same sort of models and the same types of articles. Not Fangs, which was similar to NNT except that they only showcased same-sex couples, while NNT ran the full spectrum of sexuality and then some. Stiles had a feeling the only two other magazines Erica would ever even think of working for were Bitez and Mated. Both of which were subdivisions of NNT.

Bitez, of course, was NNT’s baby sibling; it was softcore and sweet and catered to the teenage set. All of the models were - at bare minimum - partly clothed; covered at least everywhere a bathing suit covered. And sometimes the models were fully dressed. Articles tended towards relationship advice, zodiac signs, college and career choices, the season’s current fashions...it was all very nice. And, while not what Erica wanted to do with her life, Stiles knew that if she thought it would get her foot in the door with NNT’s execs, she’d take a position at Bitez.

Mated could probably be considered NNT’s older sibling despite being newer, as it went in the other direction. Bitez catered to the younger, more innocent set. NNT catered to those looking to get their rocks off - it sold sex, pure and simple; it sold a fantasy. And it was damned good at it. Mated, on the other hand, sold love. Every set of models was an actual mated pair; the magazine insisted on it. It showcased intimacy rather than sex, though there were certainly plenty of photospreads featuring nudity and explicit content. There were also ones featuring mated pairs who were expecting; domestic scenes like cooking or foot-rubs; quietly intimate moments like tying their partner’s tie or fastening jewelry for them. Stiles wasn’t sure he saw the appeal, but he’d seen his friends who were shifters stare at the images like they were something obscene and awe-inspiring all at once, so he imagined there was something to it, anyway. It just wasn’t designed to appeal to Stiles; to humans.

Not in the same way, anyway.

And of course, if it was something that was owned by NNT, Erica would say yes...and Stiles could see her working for Mated and being fairly content. But nothing would ever compare to working for NNT itself. To shooting for the magazine she’d been drooling over since before she was legally allowed to see it. Stiles knew that because she had told him. About a thousand times, she had told him. For three years he’d been listening to her tell him as much, and he was honestly kind of worried about what would happen if she didn’t get hired by the magazine.

So of course he was going to say yes. Of course he was going to model for her, if she thought it would help. If it was what she needed, to make her dream come true. Stiles was a pushover for his friends, and Erica knew it. She knew he wouldn’t say no. Stiles imagined she’d been counting on it. So he said yes, with minimal fuss and no real objections. Or questions.

If he’d been paying attention to Erica after saying yes - rather than focusing on where his messenger bag had gotten hung up on his chair - he would have noticed the too-sharp nature of her smile and the beta-gold flash of her eyes and then, well...then he’d have maybe been a little more cautious. Asked a question or two, in regards to the photoshoot she wanted him to do. But he was distracted, and Erica composed herself before he looked at her again, and that was that.

~*~*~*~

Derek was probably the biggest marshmallow in the world, for all that he tried to put up a tough front. Evidence of his gooey center was the way he spent a significant amount of time visiting his betas while they were away at college; at Berkeley. Laura laughed at him over it; told him he needed to give them a little more breathing room; a little more space to grow up. Derek tended to ignore her, because she wasn’t an alpha yet. Not that Derek had expected to be one, either. Not that anyone - except, apparently, his mother - had ever expected Derek to be one. It had always been Laura who was touted as the next alpha; the one who would take Talia’s place when the time came. And Talia was adamant about that, as well. Laura would rule the current Hale pack. That was her destiny; her future; her purpose.

But Derek...Derek was something else. Derek was a True Alpha. And when he’d accidentally come into the power, right after graduating from college with a degree in history, Talia had generously given him some of the younger, non-Hale-related betas she’d made. She’d admitted that she’d seen it coming, which was why she’d offered the bite to several of the teenagers in town who seemed to need it, for health or safety or whatever. She’d told them from the start - though Derek hadn’t known - that they would be his one day, rather than Laura’s, when he eventually came into his power. Boyd was his second, because Boyd was calm and stoic and level-headed; the most in-control of all of his betas. Isaac was probably Derek’s favorite, if only because Isaac was sweet and loving and skittish from a history of abuse and Derek wanted desperately to ensure no one ever hurt the younger man again.

Erica...well. Erica was the one who most reminded Derek of his sisters. She was brash, and over-confident, and aggressive. But only to hide the vulnerable parts of herself; only to protect herself. And while Boyd was arguably Derek’s best friend, and Isaac was definitely his favorite beta - though he would never say as much out loud - he had an admittedly soft spot for Erica. Cora had made noises about joining Derek’s pack, when he’d first become an alpha, but she’d still been in high school at the time - a junior - and Derek hadn’t thought she was old enough to make the choice. And she still made noises about it sometimes, but whenever she did, Laura got a hurt look on her face and Derek felt like it wasn’t fair to make her choose between her older siblings, and eventually the whole thing got pushed aside again. So Erica was Derek’s consolation; his comfort, when he missed his sisters and the pack bond he’d shared with them for so long.

Which wasn’t to say he couldn’t still feel them; he could. He could feel all of his family, and his mother insisted he likely always would, because breaking a blood-formed pack bond was nearly impossible. But that didn’t mean they were properly pack, because Derek was an alpha with his own betas and his own little slice of Hale Territory that Talia had carved for him out of her land.

So when Erica asked Derek for a favor, she usually got a yes.

“I know you’re busy.” She said, her head resting on Derek’s thigh as she stretched across two-thirds of the sofa he was tucked into the corner of, watching an episode of some weird reality tv show Erica liked. “And it’s a huge imposition, I’m sure. It’s just...you’re an alpha, and you’re gorgeous, and you’d be so perfect for what I’ve got in mind for my final. And you know how badly I want this, Der-bear.”

And yeah, okay; maybe that was why she always got a yes from him. Because his sisters were the only ones who ever called him Der-bear anymore. Not even his mom still used the childhood nickname. But Erica had heard it said and latched onto it and it warmed something inside Derek whenever she called him that.

“I don’t really understand why you want to work for a porn magazine-” Derek rumbled, only for Erica to cut him off by sitting up and glaring at him. “What?”

“It’s not a porn mag, Derek. It’s the porn mag!” Erica’s cheeks flushed as she spoke, eyes glittering brightly. “They aren’t just up to industry standards. They set the industry standards. They are...they’re amazing, okay? Everything about their work is above reproach. They pay amazing, they never mistreat their models, everything is so tasteful and artistic and just...there’s so much vision to what they do. And I want to be part of that. More than that, I need to be part of it. This is what I’ve wanted to do for years and I’m so close. I just need a little help with this one last thing, to make it happen.”

“You know I’ll help you.” Derek soothed her, because her eyes were flickering between their natural blue and a glowing gold and her claws were playing peek-a-boo on her fingertips. “When have I ever told you no? I may not understand why you want this, but I know it means a lot to you. So of course I’ll help. Whatever you need.”

Erica squealed happily, throwing herself forward until she was nearly sitting on Derek’s lap, the top of her head tucked under his chin. He rubbed it back and forth across her hair, scent marking her even as she thanked him. “I just knew you’d help me, Der. I knew you wouldn’t let me down. It’s going to be awesome, I promise. Can I count on you for next Saturday? Like, are you free?”

Derek huffed in mock-annoyance, but he was smiling where Erica couldn't see. “I suppose I can free up my schedule for Saturday. What time, and where do you want to meet?”

Erica hummed thoughtfully, though Derek suspected it was largely for show. He had no doubt that Erica knew exactly where she wanted to shoot for her final. Her reticence was explained when she finally spoke. “I was hoping maybe we could shoot here. If you don’t mind.”

Here, of course, was Derek’s loft apartment. Talia had offered to let him continue living in the Hale house, at least until his betas had all finished up at Berkeley, but Derek had refused. Beacon Hills was home, and he was in the process of building his own pack house in the part of the Preserve his mother had given him, but he no longer felt comfortable in the house he’d grown up in. Welcome, of course, but not comfortable. Talia said it was because he was an alpha in another alpha’s den. Derek imagined she was probably right, since she had far more experience than he did. Regardless of the why of it, Derek had been unable to stay in the Hale house, and the house he was building wasn’t ready yet. So, in the meantime, he had the loft.

Derek usually made the hour drive to Berkeley on the weekends, but Erica and Isaac and Boyd had shown up at his loft on Friday afternoon, citing the need for a few days away from campus. And now Erica was staring at him with pleading eyes, begging him silently to let her impose on him again the following Saturday.

There was never actually any question of what Derek’s answer would be.

“You know you’re welcome any time.” Derek told her, pressing a kiss to her golden-blonde curls. “Come over whenever you like on Saturday and we’ll do the shoot.”

Erica squealed again, throwing her arms around his shoulders in a hug. And when her face was buried in his throat where he couldn't see it, she grinned smugly. Her final project was going to be perfect.

~*~*~*~

Derek heard a rumbling, rattling engine pull into the parking lot of his building. Which was odd, because none of the vehicles that belonged in the parking lot sounded like that, and neither did any of the regular visitors’ cars. It wasn’t often he heard a vehicle pulling in that he couldn't place, in fact. Beacon Hills wasn’t a very large town, after all, and he was fairly familiar with nearly everyone.

Everyone was fairly familiar with nearly everyone, actually.

His phone went off and Derek swiped across the screen to read the text message from Erica.

Blondie: just got in; come help unload. needed lights, reflectors, etc

Derek rolled his eyes, but obligingly got up and headed downstairs. Erica was standing next to a beat-up, powder blue jeep that Derek thought seemed vaguely familiar. Like maybe he’d seen it around town, or perhaps around campus when visiting Erica. And then, from the back of the jeep - arms full of what seemed to be collapsed umbrellas - stumbled a lean, lanky young man. Derek blinked in surprise because that...that was Stiles Stilinski, son of Beacon Hills’ Sheriff. And Derek had seen the kid around, of course, but that had been when he was, well...actually a kid. It was clear that he wasn’t anymore. Or no more so than Erica was, anyway.

He wondered when the hell the Sheriff’s son had grown up. And when the hell he’d become so damned attractive, as well.

“Uh, hey...” Stiles said, tripping a little over his own feet as he stopped next to Erica. “Derek, right? Derek Hale, son of Talia Hale, current Alpha of the Hale pack. And you’re an alpha, too, of the newest werewolf pack in Beacon County. And, of course, Erica’s alpha. She talks about you.”

“Jesus, Batman, don’t strain anything.” Erica snarked, rolling her eye, but a smile was tugging at her lips. “And for fuck’s sake, don’t break any of my equipment. Just carry those carefully while Derek and I get the rest of the stuff, okay? Third floor, and I imagine Derek left the door to the loft open so just...head on in and put the stuff down, yeah? And don’t touch anything. If you break Derek’s shit, he might eat you.”

Derek watched Stiles’ face suffuse with color, then the younger man hurried towards the building, mumbling under his breath just quietly enough that Derek couldn't quite catch what he was saying. Derek watched him go, amused, before helping Erica by grabbing her softboxes and lights. She grabbed a large trunk - full of what, Derek didn’t have a clue - and her camera bag, then closed the jeep.

As he followed her towards the building, Derek said softly. “You didn’t tell me you were bringing anyone with you today. I was only expecting you.”

“I asked Stiles to help me.” Erica said, rolling one shoulder in a shrug-like gesture. “And besides, his jeep can tote my equipment way easier than my car. He drives me to a lot of my shoot locations.”

“I didn’t know you were that close to him.” Derek murmured, though the longer he thought about it, the more he realized Erica had actually mentioned Stiles with some regularity. “Is he...I mean, the two of you, are you...”

Erica huffed out a laugh, shooting Derek an amused smirk over her shoulder as they started up the last flight of stairs. “No, Der-bear. Stiles and I are just friends. I may have had a teeny-tiny crush on him, back in middle school, before I got the bite, but I’m over it. And Stiles never thought of me that way.”

Derek followed Erica into the loft, where Stiles was carefully lining up the umbrellas he’d been carrying. He was leaning them against the back of Derek’s couch in a neat row, and Derek imagined they were in some sort of order though he didn’t know what sort. Honestly, for all that Erica talked about her passion all the time, Derek didn’t know very much about photography. He set the softboxes and lights down, grateful Erica hadn’t brought her full arsenal of lights. He imagined that was because the loft had so much natural light, and it was a fairly sunny day. Not to mention the fact that Derek had a lot of lamps, as well as various light fixtures.

“Stop fussing with my stuff before you fuck it up or break something.” Erica batted Stiles’ hands away from the umbrellas, making Derek frown. How the hell was Stiles supposed to help Erica if she wouldn’t let him touch her equipment? “Just...go change, would you? I’ve got to sort out stuff down here.”

Erica gestured to the spiral staircase that led upstairs, where the bathroom was. “Up there, second door. Don’t do anything with your hair, I’ll get to it in a minute.”

Stiles nodded jerkily and stumbled off, clutching the strap of a bag that was slung around his body. Derek hadn’t noticed it before, distracted as he’d been by the unexpected tagalong and the mass of reflectors Stiles had been carrying at the time. Derek watched him go, an uneasy feeling gathering in the pit of his stomach. After a few minutes of wrestling with the growing concern, he finally spoke.

“Erica...”

“You promised.” Erica snapped, whirling on him with a manic look on her face. “You promised you’d help me, Derek, remember? Whatever I needed. Those were your exact words. You don’t get to back out now, when I don’t have time to find a replacement model.”

“You never said I’d be modeling with someone.” Derek growled, eyes flashing red because he didn’t like being backed into a corner; not by anyone.

The sound of stumbling footsteps on metal stairs drew both Erica and Derek’s attention to Stiles, who had slid down three or four steps and was now leaning over the railing, gaping at them. “Wait, what? Erica, is he saying what I think he’s saying? You want us to model together? Because look, I don’t want to tell you how to do your thing, but like...have you seen me? I do not belong in the same photograph as...that.”

He said the last word with a flailing sort of hand-motion in Derek’s direction, seeming to indicate Derek’s...well, his everything. Erica rolled her eyes. “Stop insulting yourself and get down here so I can fix your hair real quick and then get my stuff set up while Derek changes.” She shot Derek a cold look. “You promised. So you’re going to go put on the black jeans you wore on my birthday and the green henley I like best and your leather coat, and then you’re going to do exactly what I tell you to do while I take lots and lots of pictures. Because my entire fucking future career is riding on this and I will never forgive you if you fuck it up for me.”

Derek glowered, and growled, and flashed his eyes again, because he still didn’t liked being backed into a corner like this. But he stomped over to the stairs and headed up, because Erica was right. He had promised.

~*~*~*~

“He’s not going to kill me, right?” Stiles whispered as he sat as still as he could, perched on a stool set up against the breakfast bar that was between the kitchen and the general...you know, space...of the loft.

He was trying not to fidget too much because Erica had done something to his hair with a little water and a tiny puff of hair mousse and her fingers and he was really terrified of fucking it up. He was wearing an outfit provided by Erica, and he honestly wasn’t sure where she’d gotten it from. Of course, she was friends with a bunch of theater and art people, so who could say. Also, Stiles got the impression she had access to a nearly unlimited amount of money, which meant it was entirely possible she’d just bought the outfit. As it stood, Stiles found himself in soft corduroy pants in a khaki-ish color, and argyle socks in tan and red and grey with white toes and heels, and a white button-up dress shirt with a red cable-knit sweater over it. If the loft hadn’t been air conditioned, Stiles would have been sweating like crazy.

Erica rolled her eyes as she adjusted one of the gold-lined reflector umbrellas she’d just finished placing. “No, Stiles, he’s not going to kill you. He’s not even going to kill me. He’s just going to be grumpy and scowly, which is perfectly fine for these photos so I don’t really care about the bad attitude, honestly. His gorgeous resting bitch face is part of why I wanted him for this.” She shot Stiles a sunny grin over her shoulder. “It contrasts beautifully with your doe-eyed Bambi look.”

Stiles hummed thoughtfully, because he hadn’t really thought about what Erica was going for her but he was starting to get a good idea. And, honestly, it was a little worrying. “So, when you say this is important for your future career, I’m getting the feeling you don’t just mean because of that letter of recommendation. You plan on making this a part of your portfolio, don’t you?”

“No.” Erica corrected, plugging in a light and then shooting Stiles a grin that was just a bit too fangy. “I plan on making it the centerpiece for my portfolio. It’s going to prove that I can give NNT exactly what they want from a photographer.”

“I knew I was going to regret saying yes to you.” Stiles mumbled, squeezing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and his first two fingers. “Erica, I cannot even begin to list all of the ways in which this is a bad idea.” ‘Not the least of which,’ Stiles thought to himself, ‘Is the fact that Derek Hale is incredibly hot and also a werewolf and able to smell it if I get a fucking boner.’

Erica hummed noncommittally. “And yet, you’re going to do it anyway.” She fussed with a softbox and another light, this time over by the bed that was placed in front of a large bank of windows. In fact, the entire wall was windows, and Stiles had to wonder at the sheer lack of privacy that allowed for. “You’re going to do it because you love me and you want me to be happy. And because you promised, just like Derek did. So quit bitching, Stilinski, and just do what I say.”

A snort from the staircase had Stiles turning, watching as Derek came down the spiral staircase. He looked...well, he looked gorgeous. Like an actual model. He also looked both soft and dangerous at the same time, which wasn’t something Stiles had realized was possible. Feeling the first stirrings of arousal low in his belly, Stiles silently cursed his libido. And Erica, for putting him in this position. And Derek, for being stupidly attractive and also sort of exactly Stiles’ type. Which Erica knew, so he threw in a few extra curses towards her, because she undoubtedly knew what sort of havoc Derek was wreaking on him just by existing.

“Okay we’re going to start with a few shots of just Stiles.” Erica said, finally picking up her camera. It was her digital one, which didn’t surprise Stiles because he knew she was using these photos for her Digital Photography final. “I’ll let you know when to come in, Derek. For now, stay out of sight and out of my light. If you cast a shadow where I don’t want one, I might just murder you.”

Stiles flinched when Erica’s camera made the artificial shutter sound and she huffed. “Relax, Stiles. Back fully to the breakfast bar, feet hooked under the rung on your stool. Elbows behind you, head tipped back, eyes on me.”

Stiles obeyed and, okay, so it wasn’t the first time Erica had taken photos of him. Some of her art-major friends had used him as a model too, because despite his constant fidgeting, when he got into the zone, he could actually be unnaturally still. He’d had a few people ask if he was a supernatural creature because of it. Sometimes he messed with them and said he was, picking a new and obscure creature each time. Most of the time he just laughed, because no one as graceless as he was could possibly be something magic. Which wasn’t the point. The point was, Stiles was actually sort of good at this part; knew what Erica wanted from him.

He dropped his shoulders as he let his head fall back, baring the long line of his throat. Erica’s camera clicked away and Stiles tracked her movements through half-lidded eyes, moving when and where she told him to. He didn’t spare a glance for Derek until the moment Erica ordered him into the scene.

“Step up between Stiles’ legs, Der. Hands on the breakfast bar on either side of him. Don’t touch him yet, just sort of box him in with your body.” Derek obeyed as Erica’s camera fired away and Stiles wondered how many blurry, or out-of-focus, or simply not quite right images Erica would discard. Wondered how many of these would be usable; would be what she had pictured in her head when she asked them to model for her.

“Good, good...” Erica murmured. “Hold like that for me, guys; I need to adjust the lighting and I don’t have an assistant, so.”

Stiles blinked up at Derek, a nervous smile curving his lips. “So...hi. I didn’t really get to say it before, but uh...nice to meet you, I guess?”

Derek frowned at him, eyebrows - impressive eyebrows, Stiles mentally corrected himself - pulled down low over eyes that were an impossible mix of colors. “Are you really going to try to make small talk right now?”

“Well, I figure it’s as good a place as any to start.” Stiles muttered, because Derek’s surly attitude was rubbing him the wrong way. “Since we’re about to get way friendly with each other, if you catch my drift. Erica’s got a certain style, at least in my experience. We’ll be lucky to keep our dicks out of this whole thing.”

“My dick isn’t participating in this at all.” Derek growled, eyes flashing red. And man, Stiles wished that sent a normal-person fear response through him rather than a shiver of desire. Derek’s nostrils flared and he lost the furious look in favor of a confused one. “Are you...seriously?”

Stiles laughed, a little nervously and a little bit manically because fuck it, if he was going to be embarrassed he might as well go all out. “Yeah, I’m friends with a lot of supernatural creatures, dude. Your whole glowy-eyes, fangs, and claws routine doesn’t exactly send me running for the hills.”

Erica snorted as she picked her camera back up. “More like for the lube and some privacy, right, Stiles?” Stiles stuck his tongue out at her and she snapped a picture just because she could. Then she tipped her head and added. “Der, do me a favor and pick Stiles up. Set his ass on the edge of the breakfast bar, then strip the sweater off of him. Just the sweater, mind you.”

Derek growled at her, but a few seconds later Stiles found himself sitting on the breakfast bar. Derek’s hands were rucking the red sweater up, and he lifted his arms to help how he could. A crashing sound as Derek moved in closer proved to be the stool Stiles had been sitting on, which Derek had kicked out of his way - and onto the ground - as he tugged the sweater over Stiles’ head. In the background, Stiles could hear Erica’s camera going off, again and again and again. He struggled to get back into the correct headspace; the one that let him filter out everything but Erica’s voice. It was harder with Derek in his space.

“Stiles, hands behind you on the countertop, so you’re sort of tipped backwards...yeah, like that...” More shutter sounds, then Erica’s voice again. “Derek, one hand on the small of his back...Stiles, one arm around Derek’s neck and...no, no, the one further from me-” Stiles hastily switched which arm was supporting his weight and which was hooked around Derek’s shoulder, and Erica made a pleased sound. “Good, good. Arch, Stiles...yes, like that, now can you drop your head back and...no, a little more to your right, just...perfect, Stiles.”

“Having fun yet?” Stiles murmured, barely moving his mouth because he knew if his face did anything weird Erica was going to murder him, but he’d never modeled with someone before and he felt like the silence between them was going to consume his brain if he didn’t do something about it.

Derek huffed out a breath, the sound somewhere between amused and annoyed, and Stiles watched from under his eyelashes as Derek rolled those gorgeous eyes of his. “Not exactly how I planned to spend my Saturday.” The werewolf admitted, and they were so close that Stiles could practically feel the way his voice rumbled up, low but somehow not as deep as Stiles had initially expected it to be. “But Erica is...persuasive.”

“She is.” Stiles agreed, letting his body roll down onto the countertop beneath him at Erica’s instruction, spread out a bit like he was going to be breakfast; a feast of sorts for the apex predator looming above him.

“Jacket off, Der-bear.” Erica sing-songed as she circled around them, taking shots from different angles as the leather jacket wound up crumpled on the floor behind Derek. At least, that’s where Stiles imagined it was; he couldn't exactly see where it had dropped from his sprawled place on the breakfast bar. “Good, now let’s take care of a few of those pesky buttons on Stiles’ shirt, hmmm?”

Stiles hadn’t buttoned the top two buttons anyway because Erica had wanted his throat on full display, so he was sort of expecting Derek to go for the next few down. Instead, Derek’s fingers were suddenly undoing the bottom few buttons, leaving him with only two or three - he wasn’t sure how many, exactly - in the middle of his sternum, holding the shirt together. Erica hummed agreeably and directed Stiles to stretch his arms over his head. Stiles obliged, going so far as to curl his fingers around the far edge of the countertop, grabbing tightly. With the sound of the camera loud in his ears, Stiles slid one thigh up Derek’s hip, letting his leg cling there as he canted his lower body up just a bit and bowed his back into an arch that would have been impossible if Allison hadn’t dragged Stiles to hot yoga with her twice a week for the last eight months.

“Holy shit.” Erica murmured, and the shutter-sound came faster for a few heartbeats; for as long as Stiles could keep his body up off the countertop.

Just as he was collapsing back down, one of Derek’s hands slipped under him, once again at the small of his back, and pushed up. Stiles gasped, eyes flying wide open as his body arched even higher. It brought his groin into direct contact with Derek’s and he might have been embarrassed about his erection - which wasn’t confined very well in the corduroy slacks - except that he could feel Derek’s as well. And he supposed it was to be expected. After all, everything Erica was having Stiles do was custom-made to appeal to wolves and Stiles had been told on more than one occasion that he was alpha-bait - though he didn’t understand it himself and kind of thought they were all crazy because he was mostly just long and gangly and awkward - so it was perfectly reasonable. It still made Stiles’ mouth go dry and he really hoped his face hadn’t gone all slack and lust-filled because he’d used a mirror a few times and he knew how stupid his sex-faces were.

He was much better at making pretend sex-faces than real ones.

But Erica wasn’t yelling at him, so he figured he must not be doing anything too horrible. Focusing on that - and on what Erica was saying now - Stiles finally let his body relax back onto the breakfast bar, Derek’s hand slipping away at the last second to prevent it from being pinned underneath him. And then Derek’s nose was brushing the thin trail of hair just below Stiles’ navel, and the alpha was inhaling - deeply - and letting out a rumbling growl as he looked up the length of Stiles’ torso with crimson eyes. Above his head, Stiles heard the camera go off and imagined that picture was going to be glorious. In fact, he made a mental note to ask Erica for a copy. To beg her for one, if need be. Because it needed to be in his eternal spank-bank.

“Okay, you guys can take a couple of minutes to breathe, get some space, drink a little water.” Erica chirped happily, setting her camera down and moving to fuss with lights and umbrellas and softboxes again. “I’m going to set up for the next round of shots.”

Derek was off of Stiles in the span of a heartbeat. For a long moment, Stiles simply stayed spread out across the countertop, blinking up at the ceiling and trying to figure out when this had become his life. Or, more to the point, how this had become his life.

“Are you going to stay there all day?” Derek asked, and the snark in his tone was totally uncalled for, in Stiles’ opinion. And he was something of an expert on all things sarcasm, sass, and snark, thank you very much.

“Maybe just until Erica tells me where she wants me next.” Stiles replied, though he rolled himself to sitting and then slid down off the counter. After righting the stool Derek had knocked over, he perched on it and raised an eyebrow at Derek. “So. How often does Erica bully you into letting her take your picture?”

Derek’s eyebrows did something complicated before he replied. “This is the first time, actually. I mean, she takes pictures of the whole pack all the time, but I’ve never modeled for her before.”

Stiles’ eyebrows flew up into his hairline. “Huh. That...is admittedly very surprising.” He let his eyes track over Derek’s body in the skin-tight jeans and soft, clingy henley. “I’d have thought she’d use you as often as possible, honestly. You’re kind of perfect, you know?”

And then Derek’s cheeks - and his ears - were turning pink, then red, and Stiles wanted to just coo because Derek Hale, alpha werewolf, was blushing. And it was seriously the cutest fucking thing Stiles had ever seen. Determined to cover up the way he was trying not to melt into a puddle of goo at Derek’s feet, he started babbling. “Erica and her art-major friends have me model for them sometimes. Never with someone, but yeah. After three years, I’m pretty used to it, you know? It’s probably the only time I’m not a complete spaz. Something about modeling just sort of centers my brain, so all I’m focused on is taking direction.”

“Pretty sure they call that sub-space, Batman!” Erica called from across the loft where she was fucking around by an expanse of brick wall. “If you got laid more, you’d probably experience it outside of modeling.”

“Shut the fuck up, Catwoman, or I’m leaving and taking my alpha-bait neck with me.” Stiles barked back at her, though it was all fondness and teasing with no real bite to it. He grinned at Derek, who was still blushing, and added sweetly. “Forgive her, she wasn’t properly socialized as a child and all the time she spends with Douchey McScarf-Face hasn’t helped.”

“Do...do you mean Isaac?” Derek asked, and dear lord save Stiles because he sounded so adorably confused. “I honestly don’t understand at least half of what comes out of your mouth.”

Stiles laughed, shrugging. “Nobody does, really. It’s okay. My dad says that’s why I talk so much. People only understand a fraction of it so the more I say, the more they understand.” When Derek just stared at him, Stiles’ smile softened a little and he explained gently. “Even with my medication, my brain runs too fast. It jumps all over the place, and I have a lot of trouble explaining how I go from A to F in a few seconds of thought, so it seems like the conversation I’m having - or trying to have - is all over the place, but it’s just the way my brain works. Most people can’t keep up, but I’m used to that. If it gets to be too much, just tell me to shut up. Everyone else does and it won’t offend me.”

Derek hummed thoughtfully, head tipped to one side, then admitted. “I don’t think I want you to. It’s kind of fascinating, really.”

Before Stiles could even start to figure out how to reply to that, Erica was calling them over. “Break time’s over, boys. Get your gorgeous asses over here and into position.”

~*~*~*~

Derek watched as Erica unbuttoned the final buttons on Stiles’ shirt, curling his fingers into his palms as he resisted the urge to snarl at her for putting her hands all over the other man. Which was a stupid reaction to have to someone Derek had only seen in passing a handful of times before today. Derek had always struggled a bit to control his baser instincts, though; the animal parts of himself. His mother said it made him a better alpha; said it was part of what had made him a True Alpha. Derek mostly just found it frustrating. Besides, he could tell that Erica and Stiles weren’t attracted to each other, despite the way they seemed unabashed about complimenting the other’s hotness factor, whatever the fuck that was. Listening to their easy, teasing banter as Erica posed Stiles how she wanted him - fussing with his hair and his shirt and then the lighting around him - helped center Derek. Helped him get control of himself.

“Your turn, Der.” Erica nudged him in close, urging him to box Stiles in against the wall, which he did without hesitation. It was exactly what he wanted to be doing, after all, if not precisely all he wanted to be doing. “Good, good. Rest your cheek on top of Stiles’ head, Der, and look at the camera...yes, okay, now give me a snarl. Eyes, a bit of fang...”

Derek did as she asked, letting his face shift just a little. He could feel his nails lengthening into claws, and dropped the one closer to Erica and her camera down, splaying it out against Stiles’ side, mostly on his shirt because Derek didn’t think touching skin was a good idea. He had no doubt Erica would demand it eventually, but he felt on-edge as it was. About the only saving grace, as far as Derek’s sanity was concerned, was that Stiles smelled perfect. His scent was sweet and spicy and slick around the edges; like arousal and amusement and happiness. It was clear he was okay with this; with Derek being very much all over him. And Derek had never wanted anything quite as much as he apparently wanted Stiles, so that was good. That was very good.

Assuming he got through this without freaking out or disgusting Stiles, maybe he could even get a phone number...or a date. Derek imagined Erica would approve. She might even help make it happen, if he asked her in the right way.

“Okay, wolfy-bits away for a sec.” Erica directed, utterly focused and unaware of Derek’s wandering thoughts. “I want Stiles’ hands on you now, pushing your shirt up. Not quite off yet, but getting there.”

Derek couldn't help the rumbling sound, nearly sub-vocal, that he made when Stiles’ hands slid under the hem of his shirt and nudged it upwards. “Holy fucking abs.” Stiles whispered, mouth dropping open as he stared down between them at the aforementioned body part. As Stiles’ palms settled on Derek’s hips, thumbs teasing over the v of Derek’s hips, his tongue darted out to slick his full lips. “How are you real, oh my god.”

Derek laughed softly, one hand coming up to curl around the back of Stiles’ neck. He tugged a little, and Stiles shifted forward, away from the wall, until his forehead was resting against Derek’s chest. His hands were still shifting over Derek’s lower torso - his waist, his hips, the small of his back...long, slim fingers just barely brushing over the muscles shifting under Derek’s skin - and he was watching intently as he did so. Derek pressed his lips to the crown of Stiles’ head, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath in, savoring Stiles’ scent. It had gone sharper, full of cinnamon and an extra bit of that liquid-slick note that came from want and need and must have. Derek thought he could happily breathe it in for the rest of his life.

“Okay, shirt off now.”

Erica spoke, and Stiles drew back so fast it almost gave Derek whiplash. Greedy, eager hands were shoving the fabric up Derek’s torso instantly, and he raised his hands to help. As the soft green cotton cleared Derek’s fingertips and spilled to the floor, Stiles’ hands were already running over Derek’s arms and shoulders and pecs.

“Seriously, you are like...wow. This should be illegal. You probably are illegal in some places.”

Derek couldn't resist preening at that, just a little. He tightened some of his muscles, making them ripple and flex under his skin, and Stiles moaned as his fingers traced over them. “I’m so fucking lucky...” Stiles murmured, leaning forward and biting at one of Derek’s biceps. Erica’s camera was clicking away, and she wasn’t directing Stiles to do anything different, so Derek figured she was okay with the unprompted enthusiasm for Derek’s form.

“Glad you approve.” Derek couldn't help teasing, just a bit. When Stiles looked up at him, eyes a bit dazed and unfocused and his lips spit-slicked from their encounter with Derek’s arm, he just...couldn’t resist.

He backed Stiles up against the wall, cupping the back of Stiles’ head with one hand both to cushion it and to control where Stiles’ face was tipped. Then Derek leaned down and captured that plush, slick mouth with his own, licking past both lips and teeth as soon as Stiles gasped and allowed him entrance. Stiles’ hands went around Derek’s waist, then slid up his back to clutch at his shoulders so tightly there were little pinpricks of pain as his nails bit into Derek’s skin. And Derek just...didn’t care. Couldn't focus on anything but the way Stiles’ mouth tasted, rich and sweet and perfect. Like everything about him had been custom-made to appeal to Derek; to both the human and wolf parts of him.

“Derek, I don’t care if you maul his mouth while you do it, but I really need you to pick him up right now. Hands under his butt and up.” Erica hummed agreeably as Derek obeyed, more than happy to grab the back of Stiles’ thighs and lift.

“Good, now can you...” Erica growled in annoyance as Stiles’ legs wound around his waist, something Derek wasn’t upset about in the least. “No, no. Stiles, unwind. Now!”

Derek pulled back from the still-feverish kiss as Stiles obeyed, flashing his eyes at Erica to showcase his displeasure even as his wolf preened at the way Stiles was panting heavily as he dropped his forehead down to Derek’s shoulder.

“Don’t you snarl at me, mister!” Erica snapped, gesturing with her camera. “I need you turned around, and his long ass legs would get in the way. Brace your shoulders on the wall, Der, not his. Show off the fact that you are supporting his weight, not the wall. And Stiles, do me a favor and - once Derek is in place - shimmy the rest of the way out of that shirt.”

Derek grumbled a little more, but obediently turned around. He let his shoulders settle against the rough brick, the wall taking a little of his weight but mostly just bracing himself. He got his hands placed more comfortably on Stiles, high on his thighs, right below the curve of his ass. Stiles’ weight was nothing to Derek; an easy enough burden to bear when it settled the younger man so snugly against his own body. Erica’s camera was clicking away again as Derek took some initiative. Just as Stiles let the shirt drop from his shoulders - his arms both stretched behind himself so the shirt could slide down and off, right to the floor - Derek shifted his head forward and licked a stripe up the center of Stiles’ chest, from the bottom of his sternum to the hollow of his throat. Stiles wobbled a little in Derek’s grip as he gasped and finished flailing out of his shirt, and Derek couldn't help laughing as he steadied the human so they didn’t both wind up on the floor.

“Jesus fucking Christ on a cracker, warn a guy.” Stiles admonished him even as he carded those long fingers through Derek’s hair, grabbing lightly and tugging to get Derek to tip his face up. “Fuck, you’re a menace...”

Before Derek could ask what he meant by that, Stiles had leaned down and pressed their mouths together. As they kissed, Stiles shifted his face upwards, just a bit; the result was his bottom lip dragging against Derek’s top one and the tip of Stiles’ nose sort of brushing up the length of Derek’s. It was...oddly sweet. Endearing. It sort of softened the moment; made everything feel slow and thick and syrupy. Derek let him pull back; let Stiles rest his forehead against his own. Stared into tawny eyes that rivaled a beta werewolf’s shifted ones for color, golden and gorgeous and nearly impossible to believe, from mere inches away. Savored the way their combined breath hung between their open mouths, hot and damp and close; so close.

“Bed now.” Erica said, but her voice was low, as though she were hesitant to intrude on the intimacy of the moment. Then she cleared her throat and said a bit firmer. “I have to move some more of the lights, so feel free to stop and get some water, take some cleansing breaths, whatever you gotta do to remind yourselves that there is a camera present. And as hot as you two actually fucking would be, that’s really not what I’m going for, here. Also, I don’t think your first time together needs a voyeuristic element.”

Derek let Stiles slide down his body, and Stiles didn’t waste a moment before rolling his eyes at Erica. “Like you weren’t hoping this would happen. You were banking on us having chemistry, don’t even pretend like you weren’t. I know you, Catwoman.”

“Of course I was.” Erica set the camera on the bed before grabbing a light and moving it where she wanted it, using a gold-lined umbrella to soften and warm the light in question. “That doesn’t mean I want you two full-on boning in front of me. Keep it in your pants until we’re done shooting, Stilinski. After that, you can do whatever the hell you want.”

“Better be prepared to call an uber back to campus.” Stiles told her, hips swinging in an exaggerated fashion that was somehow still enticing as fuck as he strode past her, towards Derek’s kitchen. “Or at least get ready to fuck off somewhere for a few hours, until I’m ready to go back.”

Derek followed Stiles, who he found pulling a bottle of water out of his fridge. “Do you have any idea how much an uber back to Berkeley would cost?”

“Too much.” Stiles answered in a way that said he spoke from experience. He twisted the cap off the water and chugged half of it, and fuck but Derek couldn't quite tear his gaze away from Stiles’ throat as the younger man swallowed over and over.

Lowering the bottle and twisting the cap back on, Stiles added. “But I get the feeling you’ll pay for it, if Erica asks you nicely.” A slow, wicked smile curved Stiles’ lips. “Besides, would you rather pay for Erica to uber back so I can stay here with you until sometime tomorrow...or stand in the parking lot watching me drive away with her, no doubt making an adorably sad puppy dog face?”

And okay, Stiles had a point. Derek growled softly and stepped closer, settling his hands on Stiles’ slim waist. “I definitely want you to stay for a while.”

Stiles’ cheeks turned pink and Derek was a little surprised. The notes of confusion and surprise and uncertainty in Stiles’ scent were throwing him off, too. “Did I say something wrong?” He asked softly, immediately stepping back out of Stiles’ space in an effort to seem less threatening.

“No!” Stiles shook his head quickly, a grin spreading across his face. “No, no. It’s just...I do this thing where I flirt with people who are way out of my league, because you gotta have hope, right?. And sometimes they flirt back but it never goes anywhere and they’re never actually serious, because I mean, I can pull but never anyone who looks like you, you know? But you’re serious, aren’t you? I mean, I think you are. And it’s just...kind of novel. But I like it.” Stiles added hastily, like he wanted to make sure Derek knew that right off the bat.

“I am absolutely on board with you meaning the flirting.” Stiles continued, and his cheeks were still pink but the surprise was fading from his scent, replaced by excitement and happiness. “And I’m also on board with the whole me-staying-for-a-while thing. I am on board with all of this.”

Erica stuck her head into the kitchen, looking amused and fond. “Before you go boning my alpha, Batman, maybe warn him about your whole fidelity thing, yeah? He’s got a right to know. Also, two minutes and then I want you back out here, ready to work.”

“Fidelity.” Derek said, and he couldn't help the way the word came out, a little flat around the edges.

Because that didn’t sound good. Sounded like maybe Stiles was the sort to fall into bed with people and have it mean nothing; have it be just a one night - or one weekend - sort of thing. And that was fine. Derek had had his own fair share of hook-ups. He had even been known to pull at a bar or a club on occasion, though Derek liked to think he’d gotten most of the drive for anonymous sex out of his system during college. And as much as he wanted Stiles - wanted his hands and mouth all over that pale, mole-dotted skin; wanted to wreck the younger man in the best possible way - he didn’t think he could settle for that. And if that was all Stiles wanted - just a quick hook-up and then to bail out - then Derek was going to have to turn him down.

Stiles was blushing darker now, and looking a little wary. “I, uh...I’m kind of a serial monogamist?” He admitted this like it was something shameful; something he’d probably been teased about. A lot. “My one night stands tend to turn into relationships of six months or more. I was solidly in love with one girl, from second grade until we were sixteen and she switched schools and I finally had to move on. So that was just Erica’s way of making sure I warn you that I’ve got attachment issues and if you fuck me, I’m probably going to get clingy. Text you a lot. Show up for random visits, completely unannounced. Sneak clothes into your dresser for when I spend the night, without ever asking, until one day you open a drawer and realize everything in it is mine. It’s a thing with me.”

“Oh.” And yeah, Derek was grinning; could practically feel himself dimpling from it. “That’s not a problem for me, actually.”

“No?” Stiles asked and yeah, that was hope practically shining out of the younger man’s pores. “So if I were to, say, call you every night. Or text you a thousand times a day. Or steal your key to make a copy so I could just, you know, let myself into your place and wait for you and maybe go through all your stuff...that wouldn’t, like, make you end things, or call me a stalker, or get a restraining order or whatever?”

“Have many restraining orders?” Derek asked dryly.

Stiles laughed even as he headed back out of the kitchen. Derek followed, because Erica wasn’t known for her patience. “Just the one, and that was not my fault. I was trying to keep my friend’s boy-toy from murdering people due to supernatural shenanigans. And it’s not in effect anymore anyway, though Jackson likes to threaten to renew it on a bi-monthly basis.”

Derek huffed in amusement. “Well, in the interest of honesty, I’m pretty possessive. And, according to my sisters, I tend to...lurk, I think is the word they use. Hang around obtrusively, according to my uncle. Either way, it’s apparently fairly creepy.”

Stiles laughed again, taking off his socks when Erica instructed him to before sitting on the edge of Derek’s bed. “I bet that bothers some people. But...I’m not most people.” He looked at Derek from under his eyelashes. “I think I could be okay with lurking, provided you were the one doing it.”

“You two are going to be disgustingly cute.” Erica muttered, and Derek wasn’t sure if Stiles had heard her or not until Stiles turned his head and stuck his tongue out at her again. “Yeah, yeah. Alright, Stilinski, make with the mushy shit on your own time. Right now, I want you flat on your back and luxuriating across my alpha’s bed. Try to entice him into joining you; that’s the look I’m going for. Be seductive.”

“Have you met me?” Stiles snarked, rolling his eyes. He obliged by scooting backwards until he was in the center of Derek’s bed, though, laying across it sideways.

As Stiles laid back, the amber bedsheets and black comforter framed him perfectly. The bed was made, but the blanket was turned down at the halfway point, leaving Stiles with unrelieved black fabric on one side and rich amber on the other. His fair skin was a stark contrast against the black comforter, while the warm amber sheets made his skin practically glow. Derek blinked at the enticing tableau as Stiles stretched his arms over his head and showed off every lean, well-defined inch of his upper body.

“Those aren’t my sheets.”

Erica laughed, her camera clicking away. “No shit. There’s a couple of decorative pillows on the bed that aren’t yours, either. Or rather, they weren’t yours. You paid for them, though, so I’m planning on leaving them here when we’re done.” She turned to smile at him for a second before going back to shooting. “Anyway, white sheets wouldn’t have been anywhere near as perfect with Stiles’ coloring. And black - glossy black, I mean, not matte like your comforter - is a bitch to shoot against. And red would detract from your pretty alpha eyes. So, here we are.”

Derek’s eyes went back to Stiles as the younger man ran his hands down his own sides, long fingers barely teasing across his pale skin. When he reached the waistband of the corduroy trousers, he undid the fly, eyes locked on Derek the whole time. Thumbs hooked under the tan fabric, tugging down just enough to bare pale hipbones and the trail of dark hair disappearing under something black and slinky-looking that Derek could only get the barest glimpse of. Derek flicked his eyes up to Stiles’ face to find those amber eyes locked on him, pupils blown wide as even white teeth bit into a plush lower lip.

Derek growled, the sound rumbling up from his chest before he could stop it, and Erica hummed agreeably. “Go on then, Der-bear. Jeans off first, then you can join him on the bed.”

Derek had already stepped up to the edge of the bed and, by the time Erica was done talking, Stiles was kneeling in front of him, fingers tugging at the fly of his jeans. The button opened readily under Stiles’ agile fingers, and the sound of the zipper’s teeth releasing seemed outrageously loud in the tense air between them. Stiles’ tongue slicked over his lips as he curled his fingers into the waistband of Derek’s jeans and tugged down. Derek let his claws come out before dragging them lightly through Stiles’ hair, the sharp points scraping oh-so-carefully over Stiles’ scalp. Stiles’ head fell back and he let out a breathy moan, eyelids dropping to half-mast as his lips parted around panting lungfuls of air. Stiles’ hands kept push-pulling at the denim clinging to Derek’s legs, though, and Derek had to admire his determination.

“Jesus fuck, these ought to be illegal...” Stiles’ murmured as he got the black denim down far enough to reveal the white boxer-briefs Derek had on, chosen because they were tight enough to not bunch under the jeans he normally wore commando. But he’d known Erica would insist the jeans come off at some point so something had needed to go under them.

Derek huffed in amusement and waited for Stiles to get his jeans shoved down past his knees, so he could kick them the rest of the way off. Then he pushed one hand against the middle of Stiles’ chest, grinning a little ferally as the younger man fell back willingly. Derek put one knee on the bed, then both hands - one on either side of Stiles’ narrow waist. He leaned in and licked a line from the top of Stiles’ navel to the bottom of his sternum, listening to the sound of Erica’s camera clicking away as she circled the bed. He turned his head enough to meet her intense blue eyes, then curled the fingers of one hand around the waistband of Stiles’ trousers and raised an eyebrow at her.

“Go ahead.” She agreed, camera still poised for more pictures. “Slowly, Derek. I want those long legs of his being revealed across several images, not between one frame and the next.”

Derek rumbled at her, the sound very nearly subvocal. But he shifted back up to kneeling and slid his hand under one of Stiles’ knees. He tugged, settling Stiles’ calf against his hip, saying. “Cant your hips up for me.”

Stiles immediately tilted his pelvis, his butt lifting off the mattress. Derek tugged Stiles’ trousers down until they caught against his own body, halfway down Stiles’ toned thighs. He ran his fingers over the exposed skin, pale and sleek and as dotted with moles as the rest of Stiles’ body. His silky black bikini-briefs were exposed now, tight enough that they left very little to the imagination. Derek sort of wanted to bury his nose in the front of them and just breathe Stiles in, but he resisted.

Instead, he let Stiles’ leg drop to the bed again and shifted back to standing, hands skimming down those long, long legs and taking fabric with them. Stiles had his arms stretched over his head again, his body elongated to the point where Derek wondered how this young man wasn’t taller than him. Spread out as he was across Derek’s bed, he seems impossibly long, like he was made up of too much leg, and too much torso, and just...too much. Miles and miles of pale skin, and beauty marks, and sleek muscles rippling under it all every time he moved. He looked like prey, in the same way a deer looked like prey - graceful and lithe - and it made Derek’s mouth water; made his gums ache as he held back his fangs.

Once Derek cleared Stiles’ feet with the fabric, he tossed it over his shoulder. Then, deciding fuck it on the resistance front, Derek ducked his head down and nuzzled at Stiles’ exposed hipbone. Stiles’ gasp melted into a moan, his hands coming up to fist in Derek’s hair as he arched up. Derek let his short beard - barely more than stubble - scrape along the sensitive skin just above the waistband of Stiles’ underwear. Stiles cursed and squirmed under him, and Derek rewarded him by nipping at the trail of hair leading down from Stiles’ navel. When Stiles swore again, Erica’s voice broke into Derek’s lust-hazed brain.

“If you make him come before we’re finished, I’m going to be pissed.” Her tone was testy enough that Derek believed her and immediately straightened up, cheeks flushed with a mix of embarrassment and arousal.

“No, no, no...” Stiles keened, hands grabbing frantically for Derek. Whining a bit, he pleaded with Erica. “I can totally get hard again in like, five minutes, Erica, I swear. Just let him bring his beard back down here. Pretty please, Catwoman? Do you know how long it’s been since I got laid? I will be ready to go again in zero time flat, I fucking swear it. Just...ngghhh, his beard, ohmygod...”

“Jesus fucking christ, Batman, you’re going to make his head explode.” Erica laughed, shaking her head and rolling her eyes at Stiles. Derek had to admit, she wasn’t wrong. “Stop teasing my alpha with all your talk and let me get the shots I need so you can both get some relief and I can get the fuck out of here.”

Stiles pouted, arms dropping down to splay wide on either side of him, eyes wide and doe-like. Erica snapped a picture of the look and Stiles tipped his head back, baring one side of his throat while holding the adorably endearing face. Erica snapped two more in rapid succession, then wiggled her fingers at them. “Alright, that’s enough of that. Der-bear, go lounge against the pillows and give Stiles a come and get me look, complete with red eyes and a hint of fang. The Big Bad Wolf trying to entice Little Red to join him in bed, with no grandmas in sight, you feel me?”

Derek moved away from Stiles, sitting up with his back against a small mound of pillows. Four of them were his, covered in either black pillowcases he’d owned or else amber ones from the new sheet set. And a few were new decorative throw pillows that Erica had added, in bright jewel-toned patterns - red, and blue, and green, and purple with gold and silver and black accents. He let the shift creep up on him; just the edges of it. Claws tipped his fingers and his eyes glowed a burnished red. His fangs dropped down, but he didn’t let his mouth shift forward into the slight muzzle that accompanied his beta shift. He also kept his nasal bridge under control and retained his eyebrows. He was clearly not human, but someone who wasn’t aware of what he was would have a hard time narrowing it down to a single supernatural creature based on the few changes he was allowing.

This level of control was hard-won; years in the making. The sound of Erica’s camera did little to disturb it, but the needy little sound Stiles made in the back of his throat had it strained. Every baser instinct Derek had - every part of him that was wolf rather than human - was eager to pounce; to take; to claim. Derek wasn’t in danger of giving in, because the second he’d become an alpha, Talia had redoubled her lessons in control and made damned sure that Derek wasn’t going to slip up...but this was the hardest he’d had to work at it in a long time.

“Alright, Stiles.” Erica directed, tone about as serious as it ever got. “I want you to ease closer. Tentative; hesitant. I know you’ve got a hard-on for Derek, including all of the wolfy bits, but I don’t want to showcase that. Yet. I want you vulnerable. A little afraid, even. Like you aren’t sure if Der is going to sex you up or rip you to shreds but you want him enough to risk it.”

Derek watched in amazement as Stiles’ face shifted, from naked want to something reserved. There was desire there, no doubt, but it was couched in uncertainty; in wariness. Every line of his body screamed that he knew he ought to be running away, but he just...couldn't. Couldn't bear to move away from Derek, even though he knew he should. He edged a little closer instead, tawny eyes impossibly huge and his lips parted around shallow, panting breaths that spoke of fear and desire at the same time. His pulse tripped along at a faster rate and Derek marveled at the changes in Stiles; at the way not even Derek - with all of his enhanced senses - could tell that what Stiles was projecting was artifice.

Derek glanced at Erica, and she murmured something so softly it was impossible for Stiles to have heard; direction that was meant only for Derek’s ears. He nodded just enough to let her know he’d heard - and understood - before bringing his eyes back to Stiles. To the way the younger man was shifting closer, his tongue darting out to slick over that full lower lip and his fingers trembling just a bit as they skated over Derek’s leg, just above his knee. The touch was fleeting; barely there before it was gone. It was a tease, for both of them. It was Stiles initiating without actually initiating, and the camera captured it all.

Derek heard Erica murmur now at the same time her camera made the rapid-shutter sound that meant she was taking a series of rapid-fire shots meant to capture action and movement. He didn’t hesitate.

His mouth shifted into a snarl around all of his fangs, eyes bright and burning. Clawed fingers curled around Stiles’ upper arms and he shifted them both in an instant. Stiles wound up belly-down on the bed, limbs flailing and fingers scrabbling madly at the covers as he tried to crawl out from under Derek. But Derek was stronger, and his muscle lent him extra weight, and it was nothing for him to keep Stiles in place.

Derek’s knees bracketed Stiles’ thighs, his groin pressing down against Stiles’ pert ass as he dropped his lower body, his weight stilling those long legs. In the same breath, his hands skimmed down Stiles’ arms, strong fingers curling around slim wrists and pinning them against the mattress. Stiles bucked under him, a ragged little moan escaping on a shaking exhale, and Derek snarled in his ear, eyes flicking up to Erica and the camera’s lens.

When he looked back down, Stiles had let his head fall forward, baring the back of his neck. Derek growled, loud and deep and resonant, and Stiles let out a breathless sort of whimper. His shoulders rolled back and dropped down, his chin tipping lower until it touched his chest, and all Derek could see was the way it elongated that stretch of pale, mole-dotted skin.

“Derek, claim.” Erica murmured, and Derek didn’t even spare a moment to wonder if Stiles had heard the direction, or understood it.

He opened his jaw wide, fangs fully descended and on exquisite display for Erica’s camera. Then, he tipped his head and closed them around the nape of Stiles’ neck, as though the younger man were a bitch in heat in need of being held in place. For the span of three heartbeats, as Erica’s camera clicked away, Stiles’ body went tense, muscles cording under Derek’s body; under his teeth. Then, between one second and the next, Stiles practically melted into the hold. His body went lax, warm and pliant where it was pinned between Derek and the mattress. And Derek growled again, digging his fangs in just a little harder.

Not breaking skin; he’d never do that without permission - not to turn, and certainly not to claim. Just tight enough to remind Stiles who was in charge; who was in control. Just enough to make sure Stiles stayed soft and meek and supplicant beneath him. Just enough to appease the wolf baying beneath Derek’s skin, prowling and hungry and aching to take.

Derek was still in that position, breathing hard around the mouthful of skin he had, when Erica cleared her throat from next to the bed. “Okay, so...I’m done. That was the last set of shots I needed. I’m just...going. I’ll pick up my stuff eventually, just try not to break any of it in the meantime. Have fun!”

He didn’t move as he heard Erica grab her coat and her purse - and likely the bag for her camera as well. He didn’t move when he heard the loft’s door open and shut. He didn’t move when the only sounds in his den were his heartbeat, and Stiles’, and both their breathing, and the softest little noises of pleasure that kept slipping out of Stiles’ mouth. Instead, he closed his eyes and did his best to calm down. Because the very idea of opening his mouth and releasing Stiles made him want to snarl and bite harder, and that wasn’t going to do at all. So Derek stayed as he was, and tried to remember how to breathe normally, and reached for the hard-won control he’d been so proud of just that morning.

Stiles, of course, ruined it all.

“Holy shit, please take me now.” Stiles panted, and then he pressed up with his neck, against Derek’s mouth. Against his teeth. Against his fangs.

Derek jerked backwards at last, startled and a little afraid of how strong the urge to bite was. “What the hell is wrong with you?” The words were lisped around fangs, half-snarled in his mounting fury. “Jesus fucking Christ, Stiles, you don’t do that!”

Stiles turned over onto his back, blinking up at Derek in obvious confusion. “Do what?” Those wide tawny eyes were guileless, that plush mouth parted in slight surprise, as though he honestly couldn't fathom what he’d done wrong just then.

As though shifting into the teeth of an apex predator was something he did regularly, and therefore was not a cause for concern or alarm.

“I could have bitten you.” Derek snapped at last, as he finally got some measure of control over his wolf and the shift melted away. “God, you have no idea how close I was to...do you have no sense of self-preservation?”

Stiles blinked slowly a few times, then asked. “Turn or claim?”

“What?”

“You said you almost bit me.” Stiles clarified, head tilting to one side in a way that was meant to be inquisitive rather than enticing but which was somehow both at once. Derek jerked his gaze away, grinding his teeth together even as his gums ached with the need to drop fang and finish what he’d almost started. “So, bite like turn or bite like claim, because there’s a big difference there.”

At that, Derek’s head snapped back around and he flashed red eyes at Stiles as he retorted sharply. “There’s very little difference when you consider I didn’t ask either way. Consent is key for either one and I can assure you that it was the furthest thing from my mind for several very dangerous seconds just now.”

Stiles lips curved up and the smile was somehow sweet and wicked at the same time. “Pretty sure me pushing up into your mouth was me giving consent. But, you know, to the whole claim thing Erica had just said. I’m not interested in being turned, so please keep that level of biting away from me, thanks.”

Derek’s mouth moved silently for several long moments, then Stiles’ smile softened and he shifted closer. “You wanted verbal consent, huh? That’s sweet. Also, it’s something I’m willing to give.”

“You have no idea what you’re asking for.” Derek whispered

Because he and Stiles didn’t even know each other. And it didn’t matter that his wolf was certain. That it had taken one look at Stiles - gotten one good whiff of his scent - and made a decision. It didn’t matter that every instinct Derek had was screaming mine. That was just a product of the situation; of the interactions they’d had so far because of Erica’s photoshoot. It didn’t mean anything, because Stiles was a human and barely out of adolescence and he couldn't possibly want what he was asking for. There was no way for Stiles to understand the magnitude of being claimed by an alpha werewolf. No way that Derek could put him in that position; taking something he had no right to even if it seemed to be freely offered, because Stiles didn’t understand what he was doing.

“My friends are werewolves, a kanima, a banshee, a kitsune, and a member of the Argent family.” Stiles said dryly, rolling his eyes. “You know, the ones who went around hunting your kind for hundreds of years, back before the Big Reveal in the early twentieth century. I’m pretty sure I know more about supernatural stuff than half of the supernatural creatures I’ve met.”

Before Derek could protest at all, Stiles continued. “I know what a claim means. I know what it means that you’re an alpha. And I know what it means that when you first smelled me, your eyes flashed red.”

“What?” Derek felt wrong-footed and confused all of a sudden. “No they didn’t!”

“They did, actually.” Stiles laughed, a wide grin curving his lips upwards. “And I’m not talking about today. It was a few months ago. You were visiting the campus and we bumped into each other - literally - as I was leaving the library. You were waiting outside for Erica. I didn’t know who you were, and I was running late for a meeting with a professor so I didn’t get to stop and talk about it. But as we collided, you breathed in and your eyes flashed red, and then I ran off.”

Stiles reached out, cupping Derek’s cheek, his smiling softening again. “I was planning on tracking you down, but the next time I saw Erica she mentioned that she’d smelled me on you and asked if we’d met. And I put two and two together and figured out who you were, so I took a little time to do some recon through your betas. Since, you know, I spend a bunch of time with several of them.”

And Derek remembered the day Stiles was talking about, though he hadn’t gotten a clear look at the person he’d bumped into. Had only gotten the impression of a slim body and the faintest hint of an intoxicating scent before the other person was muttering an apology and disappearing into a throng of students. They had been outside, surrounded by other people. Derek had barely even registered the scent and he hadn’t realized his eyes had flashed. But it helped explain why he’d reacted so strongly to Stiles right away. Why he’d felt the desire to get closer; to touch; to kiss; to claim. His wolf had chosen Stiles during those few seconds of contact months earlier, and then been denied the presence of the one it considered its mate; been denied the opportunity to court him. Honestly, it was probably only the lingering scent of Stiles on his betas when he visited them that had kept him from instinctively hunting the younger man down in his sleep.

“Look, if you want to take some time and adjust to this, I understand.” Stiles drew back a little, putting a small measure of space between them on the bed. Derek’s bed. Which now smelled like Stiles. “I just wanted to make it clear that when I said if we have sex, I’ll get clingy and move myself in when you aren’t looking, I meant it. Because I already know a lot about you and, so far, I like all of it. So I’m okay with the sex-thing and with the dating-thing and with the claim-thing. Whatever combination of those things you’re up for, I’m game.”

An instant later, Derek had Stiles flat on his back and was devouring his mouth. When they finally broke apart for air, Stiles’ eyes were dazed and his lips were swollen and he looked perfect. After dropping another light kiss to what was surely the most tempting mouth in all of existence, Derek said. “All of the above. I want whatever you’re willing to give me, Stiles. And, honestly, probably more besides.”

“Not possible.” Stiles laughed, leaning up to kiss Derek again. “Whatever you want, you can have it. Seriously. I’m yours for the taking.”

And that was an offer Derek had no intention of refusing.

~*~*~*~

When Erica gave her Maid of Honor speech at their wedding a year later, she dutifully praised herself for her part in getting them together. She also gifted them with a memory card containing every picture she’d taken during that fateful photoshoot, including several candid shots of them during their breaks that they hadn’t even noticed she was taking. It was, by far, their favorite present.

~ The End ~