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The Spaces Between the Words

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Stiles rests his chin on the heels of his palms, whistling through the little hole in the lid of his pen. He knows how much it annoys Jackson, so he makes sure to do it every shift, and now it’s become habit whether Jackson is there or not.

He stares through the foggy window at the road outside, currently obscured by a curtain of heavy rain. He sighs. He likes the rain, but it usually means business is slow, and Stiles doesn’t really do slow. He’s wiped down every table and chair, re-filled the sugar, salt and pepper stashed behind every menu, and whipped up a new soup recipe in the hope that there may at some stage be an actual real-life customer.

He starts to absently doodle sketches onto napkins – the sort of silly cartoons he and Scott would have exchanged back in high school, during boring classes. He shoves aside the pang of longing that washes over him in favour of setting a reminder on his phone to facetime with Scott later. He isn’t really inclined to wallow in his homesickness, preferring where possible to figure out some sort of plan of action to make himself feel better. He’s been in London for over a year now, so he’s getting pretty good at figuring out how to distract himself. He pens out a cartoon of Scott as Wolverine, bangs falling thickly over his forehead as he wields a guitar in the air. He adds the caption ‘I don’t like metal guitar but I LOVE to shred!’ and smirks to himself a little, tucking it into the apron that’s wrapped round his waist, so he can send it to Scott tomorrow.

He thanks all the gods daily for the quick convenience of skype and facetime, but he loves sending little tokens by snail-mail too, things he finds that he thinks Scott and his dad will appreciate. There’s nothing quite like getting a parcel from home; holding the physical representation of someone’s love and care in his hands. It’s like the Californian sunshine has somehow seeped into the packaging and has waited until it can unfurl through his skin, spreading warmth through his veins.

He jumps a little when the bell rings to signify someone’s arrival, barely stopping his elbows from sliding out from under him to slam his chin into the counter top. He straightens up awkwardly and adjusts his apron and then his glasses.

‘Hey, man,’ Stiles catches a glimpse of the new arrival out of the corner of his eye, and gets a definite impression of tall and ruggedly handsome. He’s a little older than Stiles would usually go for, but he has pretty eyes and great bone structure, and if nothing else he's given Stiles a purpose in life for the next hour or so. His shift is suddenly looking up. ‘Come on in!’ He claps his hands together heartily. ‘We welcome all those who seek shelter from the storm!’

The man just stands, dripping gently onto the reclaimed wooden floorboards, and looks at him. Stiles wonders if he’s been stunned into silence by the force of the rain which has left him sodden from head to toe.

Stiles is undeterred by his silence. ‘You really got caught in the downpour, huh? Can I get you something to warm your cockles?’

The man narrows his pretty, blue, unimpressed eyes. ‘What?’

Stiles watches him with interest as he shucks his soaking jacket, impressed at how put-together the guy still appears to be. He himself does not pull off ‘wet cat’ nearly as well, even though under Stiles’ curious inspection the guy seems to be rapidly segueing into ‘grumpy cat’. Oops.

‘Figure of speech,’ Stiles explains, suddenly realising how it might have sounded. The guy just keeps staring so Stiles keeps pouring out words to try to fill up the silence. ‘It’s not a come-on. I’m not, like, hitting on you. It’s actually to do with your heart. You know, the ventricles? Sometimes people call them cochleae cordis.’

The man frowns. ‘You’re offering me something to warm my heart?’

American. Interesting.

‘Um,’ Stiles feels heat creep up the back of his neck because the guy really is quite a bit older than Stiles would usually go for, and something about his expression is hard, almost calculating, even though he’s clearly hot as hell. ‘Well I meant it in a sort of ‘can I get you a delicious beverage to bring you warmth and contentment on this nasty-ass day’ way. Usually people know the expression. I take it you, uh, didn’t?’

‘No.’ Grumpy-guy frowns a little, then rubs a hand over his stubbled chin. It makes a faint rasping noise that leaves Stiles a little weak at the knees. The biceps that strain the cotton of his sleeves don’t help, either. ‘I’ll take a tea, though. And…’ He steps closer and leans his hands on the edge of the wooden counter top. Stiles swallows audibly as the guy flicks his eyes over him, obvious and appraising.

The guy nods once, apparently satisfied with what he sees. ‘I’ll take a moment of your time, if I may? I have a proposition for you.’

Stiles pushes his glass back up onto the bridge of his nose. ‘What sort of proposition?’ His heart thumps madly in his chest, although it’s not quite the usual sweet-sharp anticipation of being asked on a date. If Stiles is completely honest, the feeling is shot through with something a little uncomfortable. Something that feels like fear.

‘My name is Peter, and I was wondering…’ Peter gestures to the pot of hot soup, behind Stiles, ‘…if you do home deliveries?’

*

A few hours later, Stiles stands nervously outside a hotel room door, the anxious shuffling of his feet muffled by the plush carpet that lines the hallway. Everything about the place says luxury and discretion and hush, and Stiles-in-soggy-chucks does not say any of those things. He scrunches his nose up as his socks squelch against the inside of his shoes. At least he's technically off-shift now, and can go right home to a hot shower after this.

His rap on the door is so incongruously loud that he can’t help but wince and cast a few looks around him, just in case some burly security guy materialises out of one of the walls, picks him up bodily and escorts him away. Stiles gives himself a half-second to explore that further because it’s not, like, the worst fantasy he’s ever had. Maybe there’d be handcuffs. He barely gets himself in check enough to spin around in time when he hears the click of the door latch.

He figures he might be a little pink cheeked (and maybe a tiny bit glazed over, if he’s completely honest), and a lot gawky and out of place, but that still doesn’t really account for the depth of the disdain in the gaze levelled at him from the one eye visible in the inch-wide crack that appears between the door and the frame.

He stops himself from rearing back a step because really, fuck this judgy eye (not, like, literally, obviously, because ew). Instead he opts for his friendliest wave. ‘Uh, hey,’ he says, ‘I’m Stiles.’

‘You’re a what.’ The response comes in a male voice that’s just as judgy as the eye to which it presumably belongs.

‘I’m a Stiles,’ says Stiles, then, ‘No wait, I’m not a Stiles, I’m the Stiles. Not in like, a celebrity way, not, like, The Edge or whatever, just, I am Stiles. Stiles is me. See?’ He does vague jazz hands in the vicinity of his face, and the movement makes his messenger bag bump against his hip which reminds him, oh right - ‘And because it’s your typical London summer it is of course, soup weather. So… voila. Soup.’ He finishes, lamely, gesturing to his messenger bag.

‘Soup?’ says the voice. It sounds appalled.

Stiles takes exception to that, because his soup is fucking excellent, fuck you very much judgy disembodied voice. ‘Look, dude,’ he says, taking a frustrated step towards the door. ‘Peter sent me, he paid me in advance, I’m right here with your goddamn soup, do you want it, or not?’

Some part of that seems to be the magic password, because, after a heart-beat’s worth of hesitation, the door swings inwards, revealing a slightly dishevelled but entirely gorgeous man who is in fact in possession of two (rather lovely greeny-bluey-grayish) eyes, although now both of them are levelling that pissed-off, scowly glare at Stiles.

Stiles finds he’s willing to overlook that though, by focusing his own attention elsewhere – like on the guy’s inky-soft hair, or on the thick tendons of his neck, or on the wide musculature of his shoulders beneath his expensively distressed tee, or the powerful thighs that are giving the seams of some designer jeans a hard time.

There’s a loud, pointed cough, which makes Stiles wrench his gaze back upwards. ‘Hi,’ he says again, lamely.

The guy’s bold, aggressively expressive eyebrows are both raised. ‘Are you coming in, or what?’

‘Coming in?’ Stiles licks his lips unconsciously, but is entirely, painfully conscious of the guy’s eyes tracking the movement.

Oh. A tiny flicker of something lights up in Stiles’ chest.

‘You generally do this sort of thing in hotel hallways?’ One eyebrow moves ever so slightly and all of a sudden the guy looks half amused, half impatient. Stiles is muzzily aware of bare toes below the jeans, which is oddly sweet given how inexplicably scowly and mad the guy seems to be.

‘Um.’ Stiles blinks. He doesn’t generally do many of the cafe's home – or hotel – deliveries at all, because Jackson insists he’s the better equipped of the two socially, which, whatever, Jackson’s a dick and probably just wants to pocket the tips. So honestly, he’d expected to shove the soup container (biodegradable bamboo because London is hipster heaven) at the guy and make tracks, but it occurs to him now that maybe men in very plush hotel rooms in very plush hotels expect counter-to-counter service. ‘I don’t know. No?’

‘You don’t know?’

Stiles frowns a little. Is this guy even capable of communicating in something other than questions? ‘Look, I don’t know, dude,’ Stiles says, toeing at the carpet impatiently, grimacing all over again at the damp misery of his footwear. ‘You’re the one with the cockles that need warming, okay, it’s your call.’

The guy makes a noncommittal noise somewhere in the back of his very sexy, very bite-able throat, and steps backwards to allow Stiles in.

Evidently counter-to-counter service is required. Stiles holds back an eye roll because at least it gives him a little more time to ogle the perfection of the guy in front of him, and breathe in a few good lungfuls of the air here because whatever fucking delicious aftershave the guy is wearing has subtly permeated the whole room. It’s woodsy and masculine and makes Stiles embarrassingly weak at the knees.

He clears his throat and makes to pass the guy, heading towards what seems to be the opening to the rest of the suite. He reaches around for his messenger bag and is about to pull out the soup, when all of a sudden he feels strong, warm fingers wrapping around his wrist, yanking him backwards until he’s up against the wall behind the now-closed door, pinned under the weight of the sexiest guy he’s seen in all his twenty three years of life.

‘Woah, hey, okay, happening...’ he says, breathlessly, as the guy simultaneously buries his face in his neck and grabs Stiles by the thighs, hitching him up so he can wrap his legs around his waist.

It vaguely occurs to Stiles that he should probably be putting up some sort of token protest because he doesn’t even know the guy’s name, let alone his star sign or god forbid his number, but then, he never has been one to look a gift horse in the mouth (especially not when said gift horse’s mouth is so very pleasantly occupied sucking open mouthed kisses at the hinge of Stiles’ jaw and down his neck until a warm, wet tongue starts to trace over his collarbone).

He tries to remember whatever Very Good Thing he did that has earned him this much karmic excellence, but nothing comes to mind so he decides not to question his luck any further.

It finally dawns on him that he should probably do something other than clutch desperately at the smooth wall beneath his fingers. The guy certainly doesn’t seem like he’ll be dropping Stiles any time soon – quite the opposite, in fact, given the amount of power that seems to be coiled up in the guy’s solid frame - so Stiles removes his glasses, letting them dangle from the hand currently resting on Mr Handsome Hook-Up’s shoulder because he’s awkward as fuck and has no idea what else to do with them (aren’t glasses supposed to be sexy, not awkward? He obviously managed to miss that class in college, what the fuck).

He lifts his other hand to slide it up the back of the guy’s neck, through the black hair that’s as soft as it had looked, and spreads his fingers to cradle his head. The guy responds to the tug on his hair with a gratifyingly gruff groan – almost a growl, really - that shivers right through Stiles’ chest and settles somewhere at the base of his pelvis.

He bucks his hips unconsciously in response to the sweet-sharp ache, hissing gently when the guy rolls his own in reply, twisting his torso just right so they’re lined up against each other. The guy presses his hips in harder to hold Stiles in place while he rucks up his shirt, palming up Stiles’ stomach, growling again, deep and feral, when he gets his mouth on one of Stiles’ nipples. All Stiles can do is tip his head back against the wall and wish on all the stars that are currently shooting up his spine that this isn’t a dream – or if it is, that he won’t wake up before the really good part.

It seems the gods are smiling on him today because the guy is now working at the button on Stiles’ chinos with fingers that are long and strong enough to make Stiles’ mouth water when he imagines how they’d feel on him, in him, wrapped around him. The fingers pause right as they’re about to dip below the waistband of Stiles’ boxers.

‘Is this okay?’ The guy’s voice is soft, hesitant compared to the assertiveness of his actions.

Stiles swallows hard a few times, trying to find his voice, but it seems to have fled south along with most of his blood, so all he can do is nod. Enthusiastically. So enthusiastically he nearly ends up head-butting the guy in his stupidly cute, stupidly perfect nose, but he manages to miss him by a hair. The guy laughs then, and okay, Stiles is fucking in love because holy god this guy is gorgeous but he also has the cutest teeth and his eyes crinkle at the edges and his everything is rapidly giving Stiles a heart boner to rival his actual boner (which is saying something because Stiles doesn’t think he’s ever been this hard in his life before).

‘Good,’ the guy says in that soft, gruff voice, and somehow he’s managed to get his own pants undone while Stiles was blinded into incoherency by his smile, and wow is this guy good at multi-tasking. He catches Stiles’ gaze, eyes blown and needy, and holds it while he slides his fingers down the groove of Stiles hips and back into his underwear, circling his dick so tenderly it makes Stiles want to cry or sing or something. He frees Stiles from the confines of his underwear, and Stiles might be embarrassed by how hard and wet and needy he already is, only the guy doesn’t seem to be faring any better when he reaches for himself.

He presses their lengths against each other, all searing, throbbing skin and wet-wanting slide, and Stiles can hardly breathe at how hot it is. The guy must be like what he sees too, because he makes a noise of base satisfaction in his throat, and then takes them both in one of those strong, capable hands and strokes them right to the tip.

Stiles’ breath comes back, then, falling from his throat in a guttural gasp that doesn’t even sound like him, but it makes the guy’s pupils dilate even further in his pretty, foresty eyes, and he starts working them both over like he means it.

And Stiles is – Stiles is fucking helpless to it, so blissfully lost to the stroke of the guy’s hand and the heat of his hardness against him that he can’t remember how to speak or move, so he just gives himself over to how good it is.

And fuck, it’s so good, not enough and way too much and when the man murmurs, ‘You smell… god…,’ against his skin, voice and hips stuttering, the knowledge that Stiles has turned this beautiful man on that much that has Stiles spilling warm and wet over that powerful, talented hand.

The guy groans, letting Stiles’ release ease his strokes but not stopping.

Stiles whines a little from the over-stimulation, shocked into silence when the guy kisses him, the barest brush of mouths to kiss the sound right from his lips. The guy tastes like whiskey and want, and his lips curve at the corners when he murmurs, ‘You can take it, can’t you baby? For me?’

Stiles licks into his mouth and clutches at his shoulders in affirmation - truthfully, he can’t think of a single thing he wouldn’t do in the face of this devastating combination of animalistic lust and sweet affection – and lets himself feel a marrow-deep satisfaction at the bruising, clumsy kiss the guy presses to his mouth as he comes, just a few strokes later.

They slide bonelessly to the floor together, a sweaty, viscid tangle, chests heaving. Stiles can’t see the guy’s face since it’s pressed back into the curve of his shoulder, and he doesn’t know what to do with the silence that falls over them, so as soon as he can feel his hands again he braves fisting them into the fabric of the guy’s shirt to try and make sure he doesn’t disappear.

‘Holy fuck,’ he says, into the salty-savoury skin of the guy’s neck, trying to calm the frantic hammering of his heart. ‘Who are you?’

There’s a huff of hot breath into his clavicle, though whether it’s in amusement or frustration Stiles can’t tell. The guy buries his face impossibly further into Stiles’ shoulder, so Stiles can only barely hear him when he says, ‘Derek.’

Stiles flattens his hands, pulling Derek in for something approximating a hug, and says, ‘Hi, Derek,’ because he’s a massive dork like that, but it’s not like shaking hands is exactly appropriate for the moment either, so.

Derek takes a deep breath and sits up so Stiles can finally see him, the sweat dampening his hairline, the pink of his cheeks and neck, and the teeth marks Stiles had bitten into his lip. He looks freshly sexed, rumpled, and fucking glorious.

Derek ducks his head under Stiles’ unabashed stare and says uncertainly, ‘Do you… usually shower? Or…?’

‘Um.’ Stiles blinks, nonplussed, because what sort of question is that? ‘After wall sex with hot strangers in random hotels?’

Derek’s face falls for a second before he hauls it back into stoicism, which, weird but maybe he’s just not into Stiles’ particular brand of sarcasm. It’s not like they’d had much of a chance to find out before Derek had jumped his bones. ‘Yeah. After that,’ Derek says curtly.

And then Derek’s jumping to his feet, way too gracefully for a guy of his size, really, Stiles thinks, unable to stop one of his hands twitching in an aborted attempt to reach out for him. Derek doesn’t see though, since he’s disappeared through a door off to one side, and there’s the sound of running water as he presumably washes away all evidence that he and Stiles ever engaged in hand to glans combat.

‘Shower’s in here if you do want it,’ Derek calls, and something about his voice is different – harder, more closed off. ‘And, uh, you said Peter paid you already?’

‘Alrighty,’ Stiles mutters under his breath. ‘Guess that’s it, then.’

He gets to his feet, shakily, straightening up his clothes and doing his chinos up. He feels vulnerable enough without being all on display. He didn’t expect a marriage proposal or anything, but he doesn’t see why Derek couldn’t be at least a little friendly even now Stiles has his pants back on.

Derek reappears, freshly scrubbed and sort of glowery, and brisk in a way that makes it clear the sex is something Not To Be Discussed.

Stiles polishes his glasses with the hem of his tee, until he realises he’s probably just making them dirtier, slipping them onto his nose with a small grimace. He makes a grab for the messenger bag that had slipped to the floor sometime in the early stages of Derek debauching him against a wall without warning.

‘What are you doing?’ And wow, Derek’s almost snarling now, which is making Stiles simultaneously (and somewhat confusingly) a little scared, fairly pissed off, and a lot turned on.

‘Your, uh, soup,’ he mutters, fumbling uselessly with the clasp of the bag which has evidently been invented by the same guy that came up with the Rubik’s cube.

Derek snorts. ‘You bring soup to all your customers?’

Stiles frowns at the derision in his tone as he finally figures out the clasp and sets to rummaging through random papers, loose change, half-packs of gum and a few unidentifiable cables until his fingers find the receipt from Peter. ‘Sure. Unless they want sandwiches, or, like, scones.’

He glances up to find Derek looking at him like he’s certifiable, which is a little rich given that Derek is clearly a sociopath or a nymphomaniac, or some combo of the two (a nym-ociopath? Is that a thing? It should be a thing because that is totally what Derek is).

He bristles a little at the shame he feels prickling at his cheeks, because Derek was just as complicit in their random hook up as he was - arguably more so - so he doesn’t see why the judgy eyes are back, and he’ll be damned if he’s letting Derek glower him out of the room like he’s the nym-ociopath here.

He shoulders past Derek into the large hotel room, which is tidier than Stiles’ would have been but oddly dark owing to all the drapes being shut tight, despite there being several more hours of August evening light left. He shivers a little at the chill of the air-conditioning – jesus, what is this guy doing, trying to make this into a cave? – and shoves the container of soup onto the low table between two armchairs.

He turns to Derek, raising his nose as high in the air as he can, and asks haughtily, ‘Clearly I’m not about to bought dinner or anything, but could I at least have some water?’

‘Oh.’ He can’t be sure in the low light, but Derek seems to blush before he says, ‘Sure. Yeah.’ He crosses the room in long strides (not that Stiles is watching his legs or his ass as he does so, obviously), and grabs a bottle of water from the top of a small dresser.

He tosses it over, and Stiles only fumbles the catch a little (he attributes the bungle wholly to the uselessness of Finstock both as a coach and as a man), which he chooses to ignore in favour of not spilling water all over himself. He manages to twist off the cap and down about half of it like a normal human being which he’s fucking proud of himself for, especially considering that Derek watches him intently the entire time.

He can’t control the blush that creeps up his neck, though, pressing the cool bottle to his over-heated cheeks to try and subdue the technicolor event currently happening all over his skin.

Derek’s eyes are still trained on him but he doesn’t say anything, which is hella awkward, so Stiles looks around for some sort of distraction.

He should leave, he knows, but he’s fucking stubborn and sort of an asshole and he wants to piss Derek off as much as Derek’s pissed him off because fair’s fair, after all.

His eyes alight on an open suitcase that’s been set reverently on a dresser, lid propped open to display about thirty carefully packed books. ‘Holy shit,’ Stiles says, ‘Did you bring all these with you?’

Derek makes a noncommittal sort of noise that Stiles decides means, ‘Why yes, yes I did, please feel free to take a closer look my good fellow,’ so he does, leaning in close and running his fingers reverently over the spines. All the books are well worn and well loved, spines creased and cracked – books at their most beautiful, in Stiles’ opinion. But still. ‘This must have cost you a ton in baggage charges – have you never heard of a kindle?’

In his peripheral vision, Derek shrugs. ‘I like paper. I like how it smells.’

Which Stiles gets, sure, but it also sparks up some synapse or other in his brain, and he turns to look at Derek in a new, appraising light.

Derek, who is super into scent. Derek, who is muscular and powerful and so very strong. Derek whose eyes and voice slip into something feral now and then, when he’s on the edge of his self control. Something clicks. ‘You’re a werewolf.’

Derek raises one thick eyebrow. ‘Peter didn’t tell you?’

‘No,’ Stiles replies, with a shake of his head. ‘It’s not like I asked for your medical records or whatever.’

The second eyebrow rises up to join the first, leaving Derek looking baffled in a way that is not cute at all. ‘You probably should’ve, don’t you think?’

Stiles gives Derek some judgy eyes of his own because paranoid much? He sighs, now resigned to the fact that Derek makes no fucking sense at all. He turns his attention back to the books because they’re constant and lovely and not chronically paranoid nym-ociopaths.

‘Oh my god…’ Stiles pulls out a battered copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, running his hands reverently over the curling edges of the cover. ‘This has been my favorite for, like, ever.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Oh, yeah. My mom was an immigrant, so I guess it resonated with her.’ Stiles runs his fingers over the spines of the other books. ‘Oh, man. The Virgin Suicides, The Son…’

‘You like to read?’

Stiles plucks The Son from the row and holds it aloft as he says, in his best Texan drawl, ‘The difference between a brave man and a coward is very simple. It’s a problem of love. A coward loves only himself … The brave man loves other men first and himself last.’

Something like a smile catches at the corners of Derek’s mouth, a whisper of the laugh that struck Stiles so dumb not so long ago, only this smile is wistful and a little sad.

‘What?’ Stiles asks quietly, because yeah, he should leave, but it turns out he really wants to know the cause of that expression.

He wants to know the cause of all of Derek’s expressions, even the tenebrous ones.

Derek shakes his head. ‘I always think it’s interesting, that’s all. The things people take from that novel.’

Stiles tilts his head curiously. ‘What do you take from it?’

‘That is the story of the human race. Soil to sand, fertile to barren, fruit to thorns. It’s all we know how to do.’ There’s a moment where Derek forgets to school his face, and Stiles gets a glimpse of something unutterably sad behind his eyes. All of a sudden, Stiles realizes how very lonely Derek is, because nobody who is thoroughly loved could look so bereft of hope.

‘Well,’ Stiles says, darting his tongue out to moisten his dry lips. ‘You need to work on your accent, buddy, not gonna lie. And the whole effect could be improved with a cowboy hat. Then again, there’s very little that’s not improved with a cowboy hat.’

Derek ducks his head to hide a real smile, and takes a tentative step closer. Stiles lets him. He mumbles something Stiles doesn’t quite catch.

‘Huh?’

Derek steps closer still, hands jammed in his pockets, but he looks Stiles right in the eye when he says, ‘Stay.’

‘I-what?’

Derek’s eyes flick down to his mouth. ‘Would you stay? The night? With me.’

The flicker of warmth that ignited in Stiles' chest out in the hotel hallway flares hotter, brighter. He hasn’t imagined this moment of understanding between them, the way the books have built a bridge of common ground. Derek fucking likes him. He allows himself a small, satisfied smile (okay so maybe it’s a massive shit-eating grin, but whatever, details). ‘Oh. Okay. Yeah.’

Derek looks pleased. Or at least, he looks as pleased as his eyebrows allow. ‘Is… Would five hundred be enough? It’s all the cash I have.’

Huh. Awesome, now Stiles is back to not knowing what the fuck is going on. He blinks rapidly. ‘Five hundred… what?’

And then it hits him.

‘Oh my god!’ He smacks at Derek’s chest, in outrage. ‘You think I’m a hooker!’

Derek blinks. ‘Um… Are you not?’

’Dude!’ Stiles says, spinning between horror and amusement. ‘What the fuck?’

Derek’s jaw is set but his ears are pink, even in the shadows. ‘I don’t know,’ he grits out. ‘You said Peter sent you.’

‘He did! I work in a café, he paid me to bring you food!’ Stiles’ nose wrinkles as he processes Derek’s words. ‘Does Peter regularly fix you up with pre-paid sexy times? Isn’t he your uncle? Because that is nasty on a whole bunch of different levels, dude.’

‘Of course not!’ Derek snaps, biting his lip in embarrassment. ‘We argued earlier this afternoon and he… threatened. So when you knocked on my door I just… assumed he was making good on his twink-o-gram threat.’

‘Twink-o-gram!?’ Stiles has no idea whether to be majorly offended or supremely flattered. ‘But, like… Why did you think I kept offering you soup?’

Derek’s hands are jammed firmly into his pockets now, and he can’t meet Stiles’ eyes. He looks for all the world like he’d rather be anywhere else at all right now. ‘I don’t know. I’ve never done this before.' He trails off, glaring at the floor. ‘I haven’t been with anyone since my ex. I heard that some… Uh…’

‘Hookers?’ Stiles supplies helpfully.

‘Yes,’ Derek grits out. ‘Hookers. I heard that some have their own special things or whatever. To cater to specific needs. Sexy shoes, handcuffs, that sort of thing.’

Stiles stares at him. ‘And you… thought my special sexy thing was soup?!’

Derek’s lips twitch. ‘Shut up.’

Stiles can’t control the laugh that bubbles up from his stomach and takes over his whole body. It’s a good few minutes before he gets himself under control again, breath coming evenly enough to speak. ‘Dude.’ Stiles says again, because what the hell else is a guy supposed to say?

‘Shut up.’

All of a sudden something cold and slimy drops into Stiles’ stomach. ‘Oh my god,’ he says, voice hoarse from the laugh (and seriously, this guy – Derek – is gonna think he’s bipolar or something and wait, is that better or worse than being a twink-o-gram with a soup kink? Stiles doesn’t know.) ‘I thought you…’ he waves his hands around near his crotch because it’s not like he has any dignity left anyway, ‘With me… Because you liked me. Or at least… were attracted to me… Fuck.’ Now it’s occurred to him to be embarrassed, he’s fucking mortified. He sits heavily on the coffee table.

‘Stiles…’ Derek crosses the room to crouch in front of him. ‘I did.' He rubs a hand over the back of his neck, briefly ducking his head. 'I am.’

‘Really?’ Stiles arches a brow at him in disbelief. ‘’Cos it seems to me like you just… had an itch to scratch and you went ahead and scratched it on the nearest available… scratching pole.’ He winces a little at the metaphor but whatever, he’s standing by it.

That damned infuriating, attractive half smile is lifting the corner of Derek’s lips again. ‘No. Believe me when I say… I don’t do anything – or anyone – I don’t want to do.’

Stiles snorts. ‘You’re kind of an asshole, you know that?’ Weirdly, despite that, he’s managed to make Stiles feel better.

That enigmatic little smile is still there and Stiles sort of wants to kiss it.

‘Might have been mentioned once or twice,’ Derek says, and somehow his hands have found their way onto Stiles’ knees, just as warm and strong as Stiles remembers. ‘So you…’ he says, with a look of dawning comprehension, ‘Uh, you… with me… because you like me?’

Stiles hits him with an expression that he hopes effectively conveys ‘hopeless incredulity’. ‘Obviously. I let you literally sweep me off my feet and ravish me, and then agreed to stay the night. For free.’

‘You did.’ One corner of that beautiful mouth lifts a little higher, releasing a dimple from the chiselled perfection of Derek’s cheek. It’s ridiculous, and perfect, and perfectly ridiculous, and it strikes Stiles that a guy like this could have anybody.

‘Do you… still want me to?’ Stiles straightens his shoulders, hating the vulnerability in his voice. ‘Because if you do,’ he follows up, in as snotty a tone as he can manage, to cover up his moment of weakness, ‘there's no action guaranteed big guy, it's the pleasure of my company you'll be paying for and I’ll take my fee in burgers, thank you. Ixnay on the enanigansshay, capiche?’ He nods, satisfied with his status as a master linguist.

Derek for-real smiles then, and it renders Stiles just as lust-stupid as ever. He looks up at Stiles through thick, dark eye-lashes and it strikes Stiles that he has Derek on his knees right now, so this whole thing could have worked out worse. ‘I think that could be arranged,’ Derek says, beautifully shy, but there's heat in his gaze and then he licks his lips and oh.

Stiles is so fucking done for.

Chapter Text

The sight of Derek crouched down, looking up at him through a thick fan of dark lashes, is enough to make Stiles’ words temporarily desert him (which Jackson and Scott and yeah, okay, everyone who’s ever met him would claim is a never-before-achieved feat), so intense is the heat in Derek’s gaze. His hands, stretched over Stiles’ knees, are two counterpoints of equally perfect, simmering heat against the cool of the air-conditioned room.

Derek’s long, lean fingers splayed over the fabric of his chinos, possessively gripping the meat of his thighs, are among the most erotic things Stiles has ever seen (which is also really saying something because Stiles has watched a metric fuck-ton of porn, and heh, fuck-ton – Stiles really hopes that’s the technical term for a grouping of pornos, and resolves to write to someone important at the Oxford English Dictionary if it isn’t).

Tragically, before Stiles can even wink salaciously, let alone say ‘While you’re down there…’ all seductive-like (because he’s got moves okay, even if he’s not a professional twink-with-a-kink), Derek murmurs, ‘Burgers’, squeezes his knees lightly and then is up and on his feet, super spry and bouncy for a guy of his massively-ripped-and-hulking build, and if his apparent bounciness is something else Stiles files away in his personal spank-bank well, that’s for him to know.

But shit, Stiles had forgotten that lust is unavoidably obvious where werewolves are concerned. Scott had always, always known when Stiles had been having happy-Stiles-time, never mentioning it but instead grimacing and shoving him into the shower by his face. It had meant that Stiles spent a whole lot of his teenage-years showering while Scott gingerly moved bedding and towels around in his room, searching for a seat Stiles hadn’t recently been happy all over. Derek certainly isn’t giving off Scott’s patented vibe of resigned revulsion, instead shooting him this obnoxious, knowing, sexy-as-fuck half smile over his shoulder. Bastard.

Stiles refuses to acknowledge the traitorous scent of arousal that is likely emanating from his crotchal area, instead haughtily tilting his head at the phone in Derek’s hand. ‘Brioche bun, if you would… and curly fries,’ he says smoothly, like the bad-ass, super-chill ice queen he is.

Derek’s face screws up at the mention of curly fries – and okay, there’s that resigned revulsion more commonly seen on Scott – but when Derek wears it it’s somehow fucking adorable. He places Stiles’ order with an air of immense suffering, but then he orders his own with three extra-rare patties and no fries, which has Stiles snorting a laugh.

‘Dude, if I didn’t know you were a werewolf before…’ he says, amused, when Derek hangs up.

‘Don’t call me dude,’ Derek says absently, replacing the handset in the cradle. Then, with more interest, ‘How did you know?’

Werewolves, while not exactly rare among the general population, are not exactly commonplace either. Werewolf culture has been incorporated into school syllabi for years now, but there’s still a sense of otherness between them and many humans, a lingering fear or fascination – or even fetishization – that leads to the expectation that all werewolves will be easily identified by their furry faces and blood-lust.

Scott has always found it half annoying as fuck, and half useful, since no-one really expects him to just look like a regular fratty dude, so he’s managed to have a mostly normal college experience living on peanut butter and pop tarts, trying and failing to get girls, and majoring in procrasturbation.

Stiles shrugs, sliding to his own knees on the thick carpet to get a better look at the books, then wincing a little at the feel of his sodden chucks against his thighs. ‘My best buddy’s a werewolf. He’s basically been my brother since we were little kids. Gotten to know some of your more distinguishable quirks.’

‘Ah.’ Derek lowers himself easily into one of the two low, leather armchairs, watching as Stiles runs his hands all over his books. ‘And… it’s not a problem for you?’

‘Hmm? Is what not a problem?’ Stiles looks up from where he had been obsessively touching the indented font on what seems to be an early edition of Alice in Wonderland.

‘That I’m not human,’ Derek says. His tone is carefully neutral but there’s tension bunching his shoulders, and a tightness to his jaw that makes his words come off as a challenge despite the blankness he maintains across the rest of his face.

And Stiles… well, Stiles laughs, partly because of the absurdity of the question, and partly because laughing is sort of reflexive for him in moments of awkwardness or emotional potency.

Derek eyes him, all wariness and suspicion, and Stiles gets the sudden feeling that a whole lot is riding on what he says right now. He knows his time with Derek, in this luxe, anonymous hotel room is temporary, isn’t under the illusion he’s about to change Derek’s life forever or anything, but he’s fundamentally a kind person and he wants to soften the edges of whatever is roughing Derek up inside. And more than that, he’s honest, which he’s told is always the best policy, so.

‘If you’re asking whether I have a problem,’ he says, sitting back on his haunches to face Derek as openly as possible, ‘with you having enhanced strength, speed and endurance…’ He flashes Derek his most suggestive grin, letting his eyes linger at Derek’s thighs, his neck, his lips. ‘No, I really don’t.’

Derek’s head, which had tilted slightly while Stiles was talking, like he was listening intently for something, snaps back up, and Stiles catches a glimpse of white teeth when Derek runs his tongue over his lower lip. The heat is back in his gaze. Stiles bites down on a triumphant little smile, pleased that he’s passed whatever test Derek was setting him.
He feels his pulse rocket in his throat when Derek leans forwards in the chair, large hands sliding over the denim that encases his thick thighs, and murmurs, ‘C’mere.’

Stiles move his gaze from Derek’s thighs with some reluctance, and it seems that it’s obvious enough to persuade the very corners of Derek’s mouth into a smirk. Stiles swallows.

Part of him (the penis-y part, mostly) wants to go over to him, but the other part (the asshole) doesn’t want to give in so easily when Derek has barely begun to start making up for the twink-o-kink thing. Thankfully a rapid knock on the door, heralding the arrival of said deep-fried-and-delicious reparations, allows Stiles to shake his head with an impossibly cool air of insouciant nonchalance even though the heartbeat pulsing in his throat must be giving away the fact he actually has zero chill. ‘Burgers,’ he says firmly, like he hadn’t been three seconds from scrambling over on his knees, tongue hanging out, to beg to be allowed to worship Derek’s quads.

Derek’s eyes flash with something that seems part irritation, part amusement, but he eases himself from the chair, leaving a glorious indentation in the leather the exact shape of his ass. Stiles sort of wants to stroke it and feel the warmth Derek has left in the leather, but he doesn’t because he’s not a total weirdo and anyway Derek is right there with the food and if Stiles manages to convince him of his total-non-weirdo-ness there still might be half a chance Derek will let him stroke his actual ass. Derek tips the room service attendant which gives Stiles the chance to openly gawk at said ass, and proclaim it to be, officially, a masterpiece.

The moment Stiles discovers that Derek has managed, in addition to the gigantic, epic, beautiful burgers, to procure both beers and milkshakes, is the moment Derek attains official ‘god’ status in Stiles’ eyes, and okay so maybe the whole acting-normal-in-front-of-the-smokin-hot-Adonis thing is not going as well as Stiles had hopes, because he’s so busy gawking at Derek’s mouth wrapped around the neck of a beer bottle that he trips over the coffee table on his way back from washing up in the bathroom. Derek merely pretends he hasn’t heard it, and Stiles is getting closer to full-on forgiveness by the second.

‘Oh fuck yes…’ Stiles breathes ecstatically as he seats himself back on the floor and takes an enormous bite of meaty, cheesy, carby heaven.

Derek, sprawled back in the armchair, all lean, languid muscle, watches him eat with brazen, interested eyes. ‘Good?’

‘Uh huh,’ Stiles mumbles, nodding his head violently.

There’s a long pause during which Stiles eats three quarters of his burger (what? Wall sex makes him hungry), and then Derek rasps a hand over his stubbly chin and says, ‘You’re pretty far from home, sounds like.’

‘I’m here studying my masters,’ Stiles explains, dipping a curly fry into the fancy-ass little ramekin of ketchup. ‘I like it – love it, actually - but I miss California.’

The ghost of an expression flickers across Derek’s beautiful face. He clears his throat. ‘What are you studying?

‘Risk, Disaster and Resilience.’

Derek narrows his eyes. ‘That’s not a thing.’

‘Yes, it is,’ Stiles says, pouting like woah because rude.

‘No it isn’t.’

‘Yes it is, or I wouldn’t be studying it, now would I,’ Stiles fires back, a pulse of irritation flashing through him. He loves his course, adores university, and he won’t have some rando nym-ociopath with angry-bird eyebrows shit on it, even if he does have thighs strong enough to smash… well, Stiles.

Derek inclines his head in defeat, though his angry-bird eyebrows say otherwise. He takes a bite of his own burger concoction, and the sight of his thick eyelashes fluttering down in momentary bliss goes a long way toward making Stiles’ anger fizzle away. It’s not like he and Derek will be seeing each other again after seeing – hopefully – a whole lot of each other tonight. What does it matter what Derek thinks about anything other than his thoughts on dalliances with slightly squelchy soup-delivery boys.

Stiles chatters, because that’s how he rolls, telling Derek way more than he probably ever wanted to know about his course, his tutors, how many nights per week he ends up eating ramen noodles from a pot, and how in his last exam he realised only at the end that he’d written ‘lol’ at the end of every paragraph and had had to frantically go back and cross them all out.

‘Pretty sure I missed a couple. Still got an A, though, so, in your face, archaic academic anti-colloquialism!’ Stiles almost does his victory dance, but realises from the bemused expression on Derek’s face that he’s not doing the best job of being not-a-weirdo and downgrades it to a super discrete fist pump.

‘So what are you doing here in the Big Smoke, huh, big guy?’ Stiles wipes his hands on his chinos and leans back heavily on his hands, fingers sinking into the dark, plush carpeting. ‘’Cos that ain’t a local accent I’m hearing.’

One of Derek’s lovely lips quirks. ‘No. I’m from California too, originally. Just here for business.’

‘Yeah? Fancy.’ Stiles cocks his head at the rest of the hotel suite, all monochrome furniture, snowy linens and spotless mirrors, which probably costs more per night than Stiles makes in a month.

Derek shrugs but seems reluctant to elaborate further, concentrating instead on his food.

When it becomes clear he’s not getting an answer, Stiles rolls his eyes and leans back over his plate.

‘So it seems like you have pretty low expectations, hooker-wise,’ he says, mopping up some of the delicious burgery juices from the plate with a little piece of brioche bun.

Derek stares at him blankly. ‘I assure you, I had no expectations whatsoever, hooker-wise,’ he says flatly.

‘No but seriously, I’m hardly dressed for the occasion.’ Stiles glances down at his worn jeans and comfortably baggy slogan tee. ‘If I were going to be a gigolo I would definitely have put a little more effort into the threads.’

‘What would you have worn?’ Derek asks, much too casually to be actually casual which gives Stiles great hope that Derek is just as horny a motherfucker as Stiles is. Interest re-piqued, Stiles leans forward. He can feel heat creeping up his neck slowly in response to Derek’s eyes on him, knows soon it will be staining his cheeks. He pretends to look over himself appraisingly, enjoying the fuck out of the anticipation that has started to sparkle down every nerve.

‘Tighter jeans, probably,’ he says, running his hands down his thighs. ‘And like, a whole bunch of mesh. Show off the goods, y’know?’

‘Mesh.’ Derek’s keeping up the super-cas act but Stiles notes the muscles working in his throat.

He hides a grin and licks his lips. ‘Sure sure. I have excellent nipples, as it happens.’

It’s highly gratifying when Derek chokes slightly on a mouthful of were-burger.

Stiles aims for totally deadpan when he says, ‘For real, my dude. If in doubt, get the love buttons out, ya know what I’m saying?’

‘I…’ Derek blinks over at him. ‘…have literally no idea what you’re saying most of the time.’

‘Ah.’ Stiles nods sagely. ‘Well, that’s because I speak the language of youth. If you want me speak slower or louder for ya at any point just holler and I- oof.’ Stiles topples over as he takes a face full of throw pillow, affecting a look of faux indignation as he pops back up. ‘Jeez, Derek! It’s not nice to assault people just because they happen to be in possession of both their youth and a rad set of chichitas, okay? I- Hey!’ He narrows his eyes as he takes in the laugh that’s failing to be suppressed into the corners of Derek’s mouth, and straightens up enough to put his hands huffily on his hips. ‘Are you doubting the seductive powers of my lovely lady lumps? Because they worked just fine on you, big guy.’

‘I wouldn’t dare doubt anything about you,’ Derek replies, in his dry, direct way, leaning forward a little to emphasise his words, which takes the wind right out of Stiles’ loudly flapping sails.

‘Well,’ he shoots back, because he can’t let Derek get the last word. ‘Good.’

The pause that follows is awkward, but in a let’s-both-try-and-fail-to-hide-our-dorky-smiles kind of a way rather than a let’s-both-try-and-fail-to-hide-how-fervently-we’re-wishing-for-death kind of a way. Stiles sneaks not-so-subtle looks over at Derek while he finishes his food, admiring the line of his shoulders and arms, and envying the lush stubble that Derek can probably grow in a matter of hours.

‘Are you working tomorrow?’ The question is sudden, and muffled around a mouthful of burger, like Derek hadn’t quite meant to blurt it out right then.

Stiles doesn’t bother to entirely swallow his fries either before he replies, with a knowing wink, ‘In my real job, or as my souper seductive professional sexpot alter-ego?’

Derek’s eyes flick down to the dribble of ketchup that’s trickling down Stiles’ chin, and says, drily, ‘The former.’

‘Ah. Then, yeah, working tomorrow.’ Stiles stops eating long enough to lick his fingertips, and swipe the ketchup from his chin before licking that up too, then he grins at Derek’s intent gaze. ‘Not ‘til noon, though. Don’t have to be in bed too early, or anything.’

‘Hmm,’ Derek grabs his final burger and studies it for a second before looking back up at Stiles. ‘Pity.’

Which maybe, maybe makes Stiles choke just a little. Derek is direct in a way that he’s just not used to. In fact, what Stiles is used to is engaging in a lengthy pursuit during which he persuades the object of his affections of his worthiness as a suitor using his quick wit, compelling charisma, and stellar dance moves. It’s an irresistible combo that has potential partners throwing themselves into his arms on average 6 to 8 months after Stiles puts the moves on (this average has been brought down considerably since his accent and thick-framed hipster glasses have won him two or three one night stands while he’s been in London. The thought of what the average would be without them is truly frightening).

So, yeah, the come-to-bed eyes Derek is making at him are kind of new, and yeah, maybe Stiles falters mid-ginormous-mouthful of fries, but he recovers himself quickly, narrowing his eyes. ‘You,’ he says, pointing a finger square at Derek’s chest, ‘are just trying to get me flustered so you can steal my curly fries. I’m onto you, mister, j’accuse! And lemme tell you, it’s not gonna work. So you just work on all your eight pounds of figure-friendly grilled protein, I’ll be over here with my sat-fat soused, perfectly salted miracle-fries. Thank you.’ He takes a bow. Just a small one, because he doesn’t want to leave his fries unguarded, not even for a second, so he keeps a wary eye on Derek who, to his credit, doesn’t seem the least bit interested in Stiles’ fries. ‘Growing up with a hungry werewolf for a best buddy gives a guy these sorts of trust issues,’ he says by way of explanation.

‘I take it they’re good,’ Derek says drily, but his eyes are alight with amusement under his stern brows.

‘Mmhmm. I mean I can’t officially rank them yet, I gotta enter the stats into the spreadsheet and run the algorithm, so.’

Derek’s hand falters where it reaches for his beer. ‘I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.’

Stiles beams at him, hoping there’s no salad caught in his teeth. ‘About the algorithm, yes. The spreadsheet is real, though. Got bar charts and everything. Fucking beautiful.’

Derek blinks rapidly, several times. ‘You have a spreadsheet for fries.’

‘Dude,’ Stiles pops the last of the fries into his mouth and sits back to rest against the other chair, both hands splayed over his belly. He sighs happily. If he could purr, he fucking would. ‘If I had a patronus, it would be curly fries.’ He eyes the frosted glass of the milkshake with great sadness. ‘I know, beautiful,’ he says, ‘I want to drink you, really I do. But if I do there’s a ninety-eight per cent chance I would explode, and while it would be a worthy and glorious way to die, I don’t want to stick this guy right here with that sort of clean-up bill.’

‘Thanks,’ Derek says wryly. ‘You’re all heart.’

‘I know, right? You’re so lucky.’

Derek sits back in his chair, his empty plate stacked back on the tray ready to be placed outside the door later. ‘Hmm,’ is all he says, but it’s thoughtful rather than dismissive, low and sexy, and it makes the pull of arousal tug harder in Stiles’ belly.

‘So, if you’re a grad student,’ Derek says slowly, letting his eyes drag slowly all over Stiles’ body, heat spreading over Stiles’ skin in their wake, ‘you would be how old, exactly?’

‘Twenty-three,’ Stiles says.

Derek winces, just a little, but Stiles catches it, and nuh uh, that just won’t do.

‘I’m old enough.’ Stiles sits up on his knees, resting his elbows on the coffee table, which has the dual benefit of allowing blood to regain circulation in his feet, and of sticking his ass out at an extremely attractive angle, if he does say so himself.

Derek shakes his head a little his mouth is soft in a way that shows he knows he’s being played for a lusty fool but he’s not all that sad about it, so Stiles decides to be brave.

‘How about you, big guy? Wait, don’t tell me…’ He shuffles over, into the V of Derek’s knees, under the pretext of more accurately ascertaining Derek’s age. ‘Hmm,’ he hums, touching a fingertip to the very corner of Derek’s eye, heart hammering in his chest. Derek seems to have turned to stone, holding himself so still he can’t possibly be breathing. He’s not moving back, or pushing Stiles away, though. Emboldened, Stiles lets all his fingertips trail down over Derek’s cheekbone. The skin is smooth and firm under his touch, but Derek’s short, neat beard is just beginning to show a few touches of silver, which make Stiles’ stomach swoop unexpectedly and okay, that is a whole new thing he never knew he had.

‘Uh,’ he says, attempting to bluff it out. ‘Going by the salt and pepper here I’m gonna guess… forty three?’

Derek’s eyes goes wide and then narrow. ‘Cheeky fuck,’ he says, all mock outrage, which delights Stiles wholly. Derek’s fingers dig into the ticklish spots along Stiles’ ribs, which, how fucking annoying that he’s already figured that out, but he’s too busy squawking with laughter to be too irritated.

‘No no no!’ Stiles wheezes, grabbing for Derek’s hands and holding them at the wrists, keeping them still. They immediately go lax, despite the immense strength of their owner, and woah isn’t that kind of a rush, possessing that sort of power. He looks up to find Derek smiling gently, awkwardly like he doesn’t do it all that often, but he thinks he sees sadness soft in the corners of his eyes. ‘Hey,’ Stiles murmurs, rising up onto his knees, pressing himself closer into Derek, letting his thumbs rub circles into the thin skin of Derek’s inner wrists. ‘It’s not like it matters.’

Derek huffs something that might be a chuckle, his breath ghosting over Stiles’ cheek. The heat of it makes a shudder run down the length of Stiles’ body. ‘Jesus,’ Derek says, concerned, ‘you’re freezing.’

‘Of course I am,’ Stiles says through a shivery laugh. ‘It’s your own personal ice palace in here. I assume you come up here to let your hair down and brood in a sequinned cape after singing catchy but misguided songs about letting stuff go.’

‘Frozen fan, huh?’

‘Oh, dude, you too? That bit at the end with her last breath crystallising in the air? Hits me right in the feels, every time.’ Stiles shakes his head ruefully, then notices a whole lot of judgement coming at him from Derek’s eyebrows. He scoffs. ‘You’re judging me pretty hard there for a guy who got the reference in less than seven seconds.’

Derek arches an eyebrow so perfectly sardonically that Stiles barely restrains himself from kissing it. ‘I have nieces,’ Derek murmurs, ‘what’s your excuse?’

‘Hey, I do not need an excuse to love any and all cartoons, animated movies, and trash TV. It’s an essential part of your emotional development.’ Stiles lifts his chin so he can look down his nose at Derek the best he can, and also so Derek can’t see the smile he’s only just suppressing.

Derek’s other eyebrow travels way up to join its sassy brother. ‘How many Frozen songs do you know by heart?’

Stiles sniffs haughtily. ‘…All of them. And if you’re gonna have an attitude about it then I’m not gonna sing them for you.’

He’s not expecting Derek to pull his hands inward, bringing Stiles with him, so they’re just a couple of scant inches from each other’s faces.

Derek just stares at him like he’s landed from a different planet. ‘You’re so weird,’ Derek breathes out eventually. It’s not accusatory, not cruel. If anything it’s tender - awed, even. And Stiles… has no idea what to do with that. So he styles it out with lame jokes, as is his way.

‘Ah, damn it,’ he quips weakly. ‘You weren’t supposed to notice.’ He licks his lips, noticing how Derek’s eyes track the movement of his tongue.

‘I really want to kiss you right now,’ Derek says, because apparently every hour is honesty hour with this guy.

Stiles recovers from the little shock flawlessly, if he does say so himself, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. ‘Then why don’t you?’

‘You said no shenanigans,’ Derek points out.

‘Well you don’t want to listen to me,’ Stiles argues plaintively. ‘I’m an idiot who doesn’t get kissed enough.’

Derek laughs. It’s not a body-wracking, earth-shaking thing, just a low, contented chuckle, but it makes something warm and satisfied unfurl in Stiles’ chest. When Derek leans in to brush his lips over the shell of one of Stiles’ ears, hands moving to slide around Stiles’ back, he’s sure his heart will beat right out of his ribcage. Derek inhales deeply, then pulls back a fraction, eyes shuttering. ‘Are you… with someone?’

‘Huh?’ Stiles blinks, confused by Derek’s U-turn.

‘You smell like… someone else. Another guy. I smelled it before, after we, uh-' His eyes flick over toward the entryway where they’d been slumped together in all-too-brief post-coital bliss. ‘And I thought it was because you were- I mean I thought-'

‘You thought I’d been double dicking it,’ Stiles guesses, eyes narrowed. ‘At the very least.’ Derek has the grace to look a little chastened.

Stiles sighs. He supposes catching a whiff of some other dude’s scent on him makes Derek’s odd disappearing act make some kind of sense, though he’s pretty sure Derek doesn’t have the right to jealousy in any way, even if he is predisposed to wolfy possessiveness by nature.

‘I, uh. I like you. Want you. But I can’t be part of cheating.’

‘Okay well firstly that is absolutely my own business, dude,’ Stiles says, folding his arms over his chest huffily. ‘And secondly I would never do that, though thanks for the super flattering assumption. I live with a guy, my roommate Jackson, but trust me when I say it could not be more platonic. And if you don’t believe me or whatever I suggest you refer to point one. Any problems with that and I’ll be happy to see my ass out.’

‘I believe you,’ Derek says, relief making the words rush out just a little too quickly.

‘I-‘ Stiles halts, mouth open ready to do further battle. ‘Well. Okay, then.’

‘It’s not a reflection on you.’ Derek slides a hand up to cradle Stiles’ jaw. ‘It’s… to do with me.’

Ah. The ex, maybe, Stiles thinks. He can’t exactly ask, since he just did that whole snotty bit about his own personal business, but he gets it, and while Derek hasn’t apologised his tone was at least apologetic. Stiles’ frame, drawn tense with irritation, softens, melts back down into Derek’s arms. ‘Gotcha. I guess it’s nice that the intent behind your question was all noble and shit.’

Derek huffs a laugh, the sound still a little rusty and raw. ‘That’s what I hope to have on my gravestone one day,’ he says drily. ‘Here lies Derek. He was all noble and shit.’

Stiles grins. ‘Poetry, my friend. Now, can we get back to the part about how you like me and want me and want to kiss me, yet?’

‘We can. I think we should get you warm, first.’ Derek pulls him closer. ‘Much though I like you on your knees.’

Stiles feels his cheeks go hot, but whatever protest he was about to make dies as Derek stands, lifting Stiles with him in one fluid, easy moment, before taking him by the wrist to tug him across the room.

And while Stiles feels the barest flash of guilt that he ought to object intellectually to the manhandling, he can’t help the fact that carnally he is one hundred per cent there for it – especially since last time he’d acquiesced he’d wound up having truly excellent sexy times with Derek who feels is a strong contender for Mr August in the Sexiest Motherfuckers On The Planet calendar.

So he genially allows Derek to guide him to the spacious, tiled bathroom, warmed already by the care Derek is showing for him. The sleek, glossy room is immaculately tidy, the shower lined with expensively packaged products Derek has clearly brought from home, which isn’t surprising since his sense of smell must be so highly refined. And in fairness, everything he’s brought smells amazing to Stiles, too (it’s possible he knows this because he had taken the opportunity to sniff around, quite literally, when he’d used the facilities earlier because he’s a nosy little shit, but in his defence, he was testing the theory that a person’s bathroom can tell you a lot about them because he is, at heart, a man of science).

Derek leans over to put the shower on, leaving Stiles adrift in the middle of the room. He catches a glimpse of himself in the pristine mirror that spans a whole wall, and isn’t exactly pleased to find he is flushed and splotchy and gazing at Derek in unabashed adoration. It's easy enough, out in the other room, to believe in his own hype as some wantonly sexy, seductive dude with iron self confidence, but wow does this mirror burst that bubble with a hell of a bang. He turns his face away, but the doubt is already worming its way into his mind. What the fuck does someone like Derek see in Stiles? Maybe it’s a convenience thing like he'd thought before – Derek has an itch to scratch and Stiles is right there. Maybe – and this is worse – this is a follow-up pity fuck. A lot of pieces slide queasily into place following that thought; Derek feeding him, Derek humouring him, Derek bathing him, like the under-fed, over-stimulated student he is. His stomach heaves up into his rib-cage, and suddenly he’s struggling to find air amid the humidity.

He jumps a little when a thumb catches his lower lip and gently tugs it from between his teeth. It stings, and he realises he’d been chewing on it anxiously as his worries spiralled up and out like the curls of steam now filling the room.

Derek keeps one hand on his jaw, and cups his nape with the other, massaging gently with the pads of his fingers. It’s an odd gesture – and odd sensation, to be grabbed by the scruff – that should make Stiles feel trapped, but in reality makes him feel… held. He feels held, and secure. Safe.

Derek looks at him, calm and steady, and gradually Stiles’ heart calms again in his chest.

‘You’re okay,’ Derek says through the silky steam, and under the purposeful focus of his attention, Stiles thinks maybe he is.

He’s quiet and pliant when Derek nudges him towards the shower, stripping off his shirt and toeing off his wet sneakers with only a second of hesitation.

Derek busies himself gathering towels, sending an approving glance Stiles’ way once he’s stripped and under the water. Pleasure floods over him along with the hot spray, warming his chilled hands and feet, filling him up inside.

He thinks he must groan or moan or something because Derek chuckles, low in his throat. ‘I’ll be in the other room,’ he murmurs, hand on the door.

‘What? No!’ Stiles protests, feet skidding on the slick tiles as he leans out of the stall and tries to reach out for Derek. He realises he’s entirely naked and Derek is entirely not, but the Evil Ego-Crushing Mirror of Doom is all fogged up, so he decides to coast on the crest of the wave of pleasure that the Derek/shower combo had created. Brazenly he asks, ‘You’re not coming in?’

‘I…’ Derek hesitates. He keeps his hand on the door, but can’t keep his eyes from the water droplets that skate over Stiles’ skin. ‘It seemed presumptuous…’

Stiles rolls his eyes dramatically and clucks his tongue. ‘Get in here you dork.’ He grabs a handful of Derek’s shirt and yanks. Derek, of course, does not skid around on the tile like a newborn fawn, and is coordinated enough to slip out of his tee shirt and throw is down somewhere before Stiles gets him under the water. There’s no hope for the jeans, though, which darken and cling as the water soaks them. Derek is just as gorgeous shirtless as Stiles had anticipated, and a whole lot more on top of that, and the wet jeans are an extremely non-terrible look too. He swallows heavily and looks up to find Derek smirking at him, the cocky asshole.

‘Warming up?’ Derek asks, all fucking smug and twinkly.

‘Getting there,’ Stiles fronts back. ‘Could be hotter.’ He steps closer, into the circle of Derek’s arms, which has the dual bonus of hiding some of his vulnerable nakedness from Derek and also pressing him up against all of Derek’s very hot front. Stiles tentatively loops his arms around Derek’s waist. ‘Sharing body heat,’ he explains breathlessly to Derek’s questioning eyebrow.

‘Ah,’ Derek nods. ‘Efficient.’

And it is, really, because Derek is fucking hot, on every level, and he’s staring at Stiles with his strange, intense expression again, caught somewhere between wistfulness and want, and maybe it’s this that makes Stiles be brave one last time. Maybe it's the half-bottle of fancy German beer Stiles downed with dinner, or maybe it’s the warmth of Derek’s hand back on the nape of his neck, or maybe it’s the steam thickening the air, making Derek’s hair curl at his temples. Maybe it’s everything. Maybe it doesn’t matter what it is that makes Stiles nudge up his nose against Derek’s, an eskimo kiss at first, ridiculously innocent considering they’ve already gotten off together and are now mostly naked together. But Stiles knows, can pinpoint exactly what it is that makes him bring his mouth to Derek’s – it’s the way Derek’s fingers grasp at the nape of his neck, the way he curls himself around Stiles protectively, the way the water droplets shiver on his eyelashes.

So Stiles kisses him, softly at first, like a question. Derek smirks into it – a ‘yes’ that Stiles already knows as so very Derek-like, a cockiness offset with an underlying sweetness that Stiles might be just a little bit addicted to. Stiles bites at the fullness of Derek’s lower lip in retribution, to bring him down a peg or two, but Derek just growls at him. It’s playful, though Stiles’ innate survival instincts can’t help but prickle, sending bursts of adrenaline around his system and over his skin which feels so good when he rubs up against Derek, pulls him closer, licks into his mouth.

Derek, bastard that he is, is a fucking excellent kisser. He’s assertive and thorough, tender and surprising, and Stiles loses himself to it, to making out languidly like he hasn’t done in so long, and maybe never quite like this. Derek is clearly experienced, knows exactly what he’s doing when he smooths his hands over Stiles’ back, squeezes at his ass, his hips, varying the place and pressure just enough to keep Stiles on the pleasurable side of antsy.

Neither of them push for the kiss to go further in that moment – the exploration of each other’s mouths and skin, the exchange of heated breath and touches, the moment itself is enough.

‘Derek,’ Stiles manages eventually, when he’s reached a point where his knees are threatening to give out simply because all the blood in his body has been redirected to his dick and now his limbs are like wet spaghetti. ‘Derek…’

‘Mmm?’ Derek’s hum is a delicious vibration against Stiles’ throat.

‘Take me to bed.’