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Derek gets the first text message two months after he leaves Beacon Hills.

He stares at it for a long time without actually opening it up, trying to figure out why Stiles would be texting him at all. In fact, how the hell did Stiles even get his number? He had never given it to any of the pack (his old pack, he reminds himself firmly), and Scott’s friends had never asked for it. It’s only when Cora starts looking at him strangely, picking up the confusion in his scent, that he flips his phone screen up and reads.

Hey, sourwolf,it says, and Derek has to blink a few times to try and register what’s happening. He hasn’t had contact with anyone since they left, and out of all the people he expected to find him and reach out, it hadn’t been Stiles. He throws the phone back down on the table and doesn’t reply. The less ties to his past, the better—particularly to the part of his past that can get under his skin. Stiles, with his erratic behavior and constant chattering, has always done that.

The second time his phone pings, it’s during an especially harsh fight with Cora. Derek doesn’t lose his temper with family, not often—but when she throws herself in the way of him and a hunter that has a full load of wolfsbane bullets, he loses it just a bit. After both of them going hoarse from shouting about responsibilities and protection and how Derek can’t lose her and she can’t lose him, she storms out and Derek falls down onto the couch in exhaustion. It’s only then that he notices the message waiting, unopened, on his phone. It’s from Stiles.

What do you know about Sasquatches?

Derek is annoyed and frustrated and, if he’s willing to admit it, tired. He is so very tired.

Fuck off, Stiles, he replies, and hasn’t even set the phone down again when it’s vibrating in his hand. He looks at the caller ID in disbelief, dropping the phone onto the floor like a dead rat. He watches it buzz around and then fall still. When it does, he breathes a sigh of relief, which turns into an indignant huff as another text pops up.

“Damn it,” he mutters, and hovers for a few seconds before he picks his phone back up again.

Fine, don’t answer. But I’ll let your werewolf ass know that I had to break into my Dad’s office for your number, which wasn’t easy. And there’s currently some weird large creature walking around killing the trees near your old house, and I thought it might be a Sasquatch and that you might know how to kill it. Given all your moody, vague information that you drop just after we need it, you seem to know a lot about this stuff. I figured you might actually want to help, but I guess you’re still a douche no matter how many miles away you are.

The idea of a creature on his land, his territory, makes the wolf in him raise its hackles just slightly. He sends Stiles a quick explanation of the various Sasquatch habits he is aware of and then sets his phone down on silent. He stands up, stretches, and goes to the couch to curl up and sleep. He doesn’t want to think about Beacon Hills or Scott or any part of his past right now. It’s not as if he dislikes Scott or Stiles (hell, he’ll take them over the Argents or Deucalion any day), but that doesn’t mean he wants to keep in contact. He’s learned by now that the things he touches inevitably break.

The next morning, there’s a text waiting for him.

We caught it last night. Derek huffs in satisfaction.

Good, he writes, and doesn’t expect a reply. He goes to heat up the leftover takeout that’s been sitting in the fridge for a few days and leaves his phone on the table. Hopefully the issue will be over and gone, and he can return to the silence that he is used to.

He’s wrong.

When he sits back down at the table, another message is lighting up is screen.

How’s Cora? Derek rolls his eyes. In the few days before they had left, Stiles had spent lots of time over at the house. He always said he was there for Cora, and Derek had decided to stay out of it and let Stiles pine. After all, whenever he was at the Hale house Stiles always smelled a bit off, as if something was peaking his interest. Now, with Stiles inquiring about his sister, he thinks it’s clear as day.

Fine, he replies, and hopes that will be the end of it. He doesn’t like people asking about him, or his family. When Stiles doesn’t respond, he sighs in relief and goes on about his day.

The texts start coming more often, maybe every other day or so, and Derek doesn’t know when he starts to reply (actually, probably after Stiles texts him in a panic about how there’s some weird fire salamander near the Hale house and Derek realizes he should probably be paying attention), but soon it’s a constant back-and-forth between them. Stiles is full of questions, about everything—Derek wishes he could be surprised when Stiles asks him about mermaid mating patterns—but at some point it stops being bothersome. It makes Derek think, more so than he has done in months, and pouring through his computer files on the subjects provides him with a welcome distraction to the aching in his chest. Stiles doesn’t lose his snark or sarcasm, even when condensed down to letters on a phone screen, and Derek is always horrified when he catches a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Stiles, he thinks, must be much easier to handle electronically than in person.

Sometimes Stiles sneaks in information about the others. Caught a vampire today—Allison shot it and then Isaac clawed it down. Seems like those two have a thing going on and Tried to sniff out a baby troll today, but Scott got halfway there before he lost the scent. He’s adjusting to being an alpha pretty well, besides that. Derek doesn’t know if Stiles is keeping him updated on purpose, or if it just part of his talkative, over-sharing nature. Yet he can’t help clinging to the information like a lifeboat. He thought that he wanted nothing to do with his past, but the wolf inside won’t let him forget that Beacon Hills is his home. It is where he was born, where his parents decided to live, where he started a (admittedly terrible) pack. He may have left Beacon Hills, but it still lives inside him-- for better or for worse.

In all honesty, as the fights with Cora increase and they fail time and time again to settle down anywhere else, he increasingly questions his decision to leave.

The texts come at all different times, but Derek starts to notice that after a month of so they are largely at one or two in the morning California time. Derek barely sleeps –he doesn’t like the memories that come back to him when he does—and so he usually replies quickly, and he can’t help but wonder why Stiles is up. Sure, it’s summer—but he knows that school starts in a week or so (some of the stupid details he can’t get out of his head) and his dad is the sheriff. Surely there are lights out restrictions.

One day he asks. Stiles is pushing for details about werewolf pack bonding, which brings up memories of Derek’s family that he really doesn’t want to remember, and Derek tries to change the subject. What are you doing up, anyways? he asks, and waits.

Stiles never replies.

As the days wear on, Derek doesn’t know why he keeps checking the phone, why he feels the vague tendrils of concern sneaking into the back of his neck at the idea that maybe Stiles is hurt. Beacon Hills isn’t exactly the safest place. He is positive that he shouldn’t care and it pisses him off, because he doesn’t know when he started to invest so heavily in the puny, sassy human. Stiles has become part of his routine, somehow, and he misses it. It’s been four months since he left Beacon Hills, which makes it two that he has been texting Stiles, and now it’s as if he’s being left in the dark.

The contact stops until, a week later, Stiles texts him again. Tell me about bardo.

Derek fists his hands, suddenly angry. He doesn’t know why he’s frustrated at Stiles. But his emotions are rocky and he’s feeling ungrounded. For some reason, he blames the teen.

Tell me where you’ve been, he replies, and Stiles doesn’t answer for a few minutes. When he does, the words have the air of being chosen quite carefully.

School has started. I’ve been busier. I didn’t know that I was required to report back; never heard you mention that kind of a deal. Considering the fact that you are so far away, I didn’t think you would want obvious updates on daily life here in BH.

Derek doesn’t have a reply for that, but something in the words make his throat burn. It’s as if he’s swallowed chemicals, and he runs a hand through his hair and stares at the small font on the screen. He reads the words over and over again, trying to find a lie in them. It’s as if he is being rejected somehow, disobeyed. As if he is something that wasn’t needed; a spare part.

You are, his mind whispers, and he tries to push it away. He thinks about Boyd and Erica and his chest aches again. He re-reads the text one more time, his mind begging for distraction from the guilt.

Derek has never considered Stiles his pack; he would have been a fool to, given the human’s close ties with Scott and general lack of trust for Derek. But, in the weeks before he had left, Derek had felt like some of that had started to change. Stiles had started to smell just a little different—less cautious, maybe. He had never smelled of fear, at least not after their initial argument in the Jeep when Stiles had nearly been forced to cut off his arm, and it had given Derek a grudging respect for him. Derek had started to think that, just maybe, they weren’t as strong of enemies. The same had happened with Scott; Derek couldn’t help but admire his undying loyalty to his friends. But Stiles, in particular, had gotten Derek’s hopes up about maybe being able to return home—not welcomed, but at least not viewed with hostility. The texts, the updates on the others: they had made Derek think that Stiles was aligning with him, just a little bit. But now—now he feels like he has hoped too much.

His phone pings again, and he nearly jumps. There’s another text.

I’m sorry. The words take Derek by surprise. They soak into him, slowly, and he breathes out through his nose as he reads the rest. All of us have been having some trouble. Scott can’t control his shift. Allison (I’m sorry for mentioning her again, but… well) has been seeing a person who is dead. I’ve been getting nightmares, so I’m tired. I should have texted you back. I’m just a bit overwhelmed.

He's angry with his life that he understands Stiles' position completely, as soon as he reads the words on his small phone screen. He's angry that he knows what Stiles is feeling: the exhaustion, the feeling of having to keep track of multiple pieces on a game board at once, the worry. And he's angry that Stiles is having to feel this, that Stiles has somehow become even halfway as burdened as Derek. Derek wants to reply that it’s not Stiles’ fault, that if he hadn’t fallen for Jennifer then maybe he could have stopped it all before it happened, before the human had to be part of the trio that did some weird sacrificial ceremony to save their parents. It’s not his fault that Derek was desperate and lonely and confused, that he didn’t know how to be an alpha because he was always meant to be a beta anyways. He wants to say that it’s not Stiles’ fault that he has constant paranoia about those whom he knows dying in some freak way, disappearing without any last chance to say goodbye. 

He doesn’t say any of that. Instead, he writes, Bardo is a stage between life and death. Somewhere in the between. A Japanese myth, I think. My mom used to say that’s where the vengeful ghosts stayed.

Stiles gives him a thanks and they stop texting. Derek is suddenly very, very tired. He steps upstairs and curls close to Cora, ignoring her small huff of annoyance because he can smell the fondness on her. As he closes his eyes he realizes that, before just now, he hasn’t talked to anyone about his mother in years.


A few more weeks pass. Things return to normal—or, as normal as it can be when he’s talking to Stiles. Between the questions of various supernatural entities (which Stiles tells him is for a bestiary he is working on), Stiles blabbers to him. It’s all normal things: about Coach Finstock (was he still a shitty grader when you had him?) and high school (it should be illegal to make teens get up at 7am), and how he has started to see Lydia as more of a friend than a crush (I think she would eat me alive if we were more, and not in the good sexy way,I really do). He starts understanding Stiles’ humor, the witty sarcasm that he failed to appreciate before. His jokes, snarky replies, and seemingly no-filter ramblings stop being aggravating. He finds something bubbling up in his chest when he sees the teen’s name on his phone screen.

It scares him, a little.

One morning, as he’s pouring some milk into his cereal, he gets struck with a sudden urge. He’s taken the photo and sent it before he can really process what’s happening, still half-asleep and exhausted from a chase the day before. In fact, it’s only when Stiles replies that he realizes what he’s done.

“Shit,” he growls, running a hand through his hair; but he opens the message anyways.

Raisin bran? Seriously? He rolls his eyes as a photo comes in: a bowl of fruit loops in a bright yellow bowl, milk dangerously close to the rim.

You disgust me, he replies, but he feels far from it.

Two-way relationship, buddy comes the response, and Derek huffs. The text bothers him, slightly, and he can’t put his finger on why.

Stiles starts to ask him questions that make him uncomfortable, but for some reason he still answers most of them. He answers a few about Peter, about what school had been like when he was a kid, about his first heat when he was a teenager (after Stiles pushes and pushes for the information and says the bestiary won’t be complete without firsthand accounts). It’s oddly intimate, and he can’t figure out why Stiles is the one receiving this. He thinks maybe he should get a therapist, someone to talk to—he knows that there are some that specialize in werewolf issues, if you know where to look. He shouldn’t be explaining his past to someone like Stiles. But answering him, talking to him, is suddenly an addiction—and he can’t stop.

He doesn't want to stop. 


Why didn’t you ever have any furniture in your house? Stiles asks one day, and Derek stares at his phone for a good ten minutes before he decides to reply.

Never thought I would live long enough to use it. He doesn’t realize how true the statement is until he types it.

A few minutes later, Stiles replies. I’m glad you did. A second text, following right after: Live, I mean. It’s simple and short, and it shouldn’t mean as much as it does. But Derek has tightness in his throat as he reads it, and he has to go for a run afterwards.

That night is the first he dreams of Stiles. He’s back at the school, and there’s an intoxicating smell drifting from one of the rooms. It’s mint and honey, with faint traces of amber soaked in spring water. He follows it, trembling with anticipation, and an open door to his left invites him in. The inside of the classroom is simple, and there’s only one person in there.

“Stiles,” Derek says, but Stiles doesn’t look at him. He’s sitting at a desk, and staring at a closet unblinkingly. Derek tries to move towards him, his heart beating and something cold running down his spine. But he can’t make it very far into the room; after a few steps, something stops him. He can only watch, as if separated by a glass door, as Stiles stands up. Derek calls his name again, but it’s as if he is invisible. Stiles walks toward the door and a feeling a dread settles in Derek’s stomach.

“Stop!” Derek cries, but Stiles opens the closet and steps inside. There’s only darkness inside, swirling and sucking, and Derek feels it dragging him closer, like he's being pulled in by gravity. The invisible wall that was protecting him is gone. He scrambles for a desk, tries to latch his claws into it, but they won’t work. He can’t shift, no matter how hard he tries, and he’s only feet from the door when an idea occurs to him. He turns and, hooking the bottom edge with one foot, slams it closed.

He wakes up gasping and sweating, Cora’s concerned eyes staring at him through the dark. He only has a moment to dart to the bathroom before he retches into the toilet, hands clutching the edge so tightly that it cracks. He’s colder than he’s ever been before and Cora presses against him, whining quietly. The dream flashes through his head as the drops of sweat drip down his neck, and a deep, deep dread settles in his stomach.

A few minutes later, when the world stops spinning, he manages to look at her.

“I’m fine,” he croaks, and she looks at him in disbelief. He shakes his head. “Just a nightmare.”

“You’re cold,” she whispers, her hand on his arm, and Derek shrugs her off. A look of hurt crosses her face before she stands up, turning silently and walking back into the cramped hotel room, where they had been sharing the couch. Guilt washes through him and he knows she can smell it because he sees her flinch as she slides under the thin blanket. When Derek slides cautiously down next to her again, she accepts him without saying anything, and he breathes a sigh of relief.

He can’t help but text Stiles. Are you ok?

Stiles is up, and the reply is quick. Yeah. Why?

Derek doesn’t want to tell him the reason. He doesn’t reply, and he doesn’t sleep either.

The next morning, Stiles texts him again. I wanted to say that I’m sorry for everything that happened back in BH. I was thinking about it and we weren’t ever really fair to you. I think you tried to help but none of us really knew how to do anything. So I guess—I’m trying to say that I hope we are on the same side.

Derek doesn’t know how to reply, which is something that happens often with Stiles now. He doesn’t understand him. But he does understand the underlying emotion in Stiles’ text: the guilt, the feelings of uncertainty and conflict that have been plaguing Derek for years.

All he can do is reply, Me too.

He and Cora are starting to talk more about returning to Beacon Hills. She doesn’t want to, wants to stay in South America, and Derek can’t blame her. She’s always been the more independent one, and it doesn’t really make sense to go back. But Derek feels like something is pulling him there, his roots trying to reach out and settle back down in the soil he grew up in. South America feels strange and unfamiliar and he has a weird feeling that things in Beacon Hills aren’t going well. Stiles’ texts are getting shorter, the information on the others starting to slip away. His questions have slowed.

He nearly chokes on his milk when, at 6 in the morning, Stiles sends him a short text that makes his head spin. I’m bi, is all it says, and Derek doesn’t know why he is being informed of that.

The phone is almost back into his pocket, the text ignored, before he hesitates. Stiles hasn’t been himself and Derek would be lying if he said he wasn’t concerned. He takes the phone out of his pocket again and opens the message, staring at it. Should he call?

Cora smells his conflict and, coming up to stand behind him, lets out a snort. “Confession,” she drawls, and Derek growls at her and glows his eyes. She just laughs at him. He takes a deep breath.

Stiles picks up on the third ring. “Hello?” he says, and his voice sounds… different. Deeper, maybe. More mature. And tired, Derek thinks.

“Hey,” he manages, and he hears something rustling on the other end.

“Hi,” Stiles repeats, and Derek stays quiet. A few beats of silence pass, before Stiles snorts. “Did you seriously call me with nothing to say?”

Derek blushes to the root of his hair. “I…” he says, and wants to smack his head on the counter. “I’m not good over the phone.”

“Join the club,” Stiles says. “Try having my ADD and adding no visual cues to tell me if I am freaking someone out. It’s a fun combination.” He sounds slightly distracted, and Derek feels a wave of annoyance wash over him. After months of being nagged to talk, Derek apparently isn't enough to hold Stiles' attention.

“What are you doing?” he asks, and the rustling pauses.

“Math homework,” Stiles says, slowly, and Derek listens for a lie but can’t find one. He huffs.

“Well stop doing homework and... and talk to me.” It comes out more demanding and bossy than he intends, but he can’t help it, because he is terrified. Stiles can’t possibly understand how hard it was for Derek to do this, to call Stiles like it isn’t a big deal, like he hasn’t secretly been worrying that something has happened to the human.

Stiles laughs. It sounds weaker than normal. “Wow, sourwolf. Miss me much?”

Derek huffs again. “You wish.”

A dramatic sigh comes over the line. “And here I was, thinking we were getting close and friendly. I guess not.”

The words send Derek’s heart shooting up into his throat. “You’re an idiot,” he settles with, and hates how fondness slips into his voice. Cora can hear it in the room next door. Hell, he knows that Stiles can hear it over the phone.

“Psh. You love it,” Stiles retorts, and then seems to draw in a sharp breath, as if he’s just realized what he’s said. Derek hesitates. He wants to let Stiles know that he cares, that he really does like it, but he’s not good with saying how he feels.

“Don’t get cocky. It’s not good for you,” he murmurs, because he honestly doesn’t know what else to say and fuck, this is exactly why he avoids social interaction. “You already have a big enough ego.” There’s a steady drumming noise coming through the line, something he can’t quite place, and Derek is about to ask Stiles if he will turn down the freaking music on his computer before he realizes: it’s Stiles’ heartbeat. He’s hearing his heartbeat over the phone, hundreds of miles away. It’s beating fast but it sounds weak, as if it’s strained from overuse, and it makes Derek feel very, very cold.

“Well, since you asked me to talk,” Stiles drawls, and it’s only then that Derek can hear the nerves in his voice, “how about I tell you of my daring battle with my toaster this morning?” Derek snorts, and he lets Stiles’ voice wash over him as he listens to his heartbeat. Stiles talks and talks and talks, about nothing, and everything, and Derek wonders how he can manage to have so much, a life so full of things to talk about. He wonders if that’s why Stiles hasn’t been texting him, if he’s just busy.

If he couldn’t hear his heart, ricocheting between different rhythms in the way that points to anxiety and sleep deprivation, maybe he would believe it.

But he doesn’t.

“You’ve seemed odd, lately,” Derek says eventually. Stiles seems to be cooling down, his stories slowing and his voice getting a little bit tired; but at his words the teen’s heartbeat spikes up again.

“Have I?”

“I just haven’t heard from you, as much.” The words are slow and careful. Derek doesn’t want to spook him. There’s silence on the other end and Derek realizes that Stiles is, for once in his life, struggling with what to say. He’s deciding whether to lie or not. “Is there trouble? In Beacon Hills?”

“Your house is fine,” Stiles assures him, and Derek wants to slap himself on the forehead in frustration.

“That’s not what I meant,” he manages after a moment, hoping that Stiles can understand. Derek can’t get out the words that he’s worried. Thankfully, Stiles seems to understand.

“The nightmares haven’t gone away,” he admits, and Derek doesn’t like the way Stiles’ voice shakes. “Scott and Allison are back in the game, bada bing bada boom, but I’m not getting better.”

“Have you talked to Deaton?” Derek tries his best to keep the unease out of his voice. Stiles doesn’t respond. “Stiles. You basically drowned yourself in darkness as a sacrifice. You need to get any symptoms, any problems checked out. This isn’t—it’s not like a normal sickness.”

“But what if it is?” Stiles demands. “What if I’m just weak, and I should be getting over it by now?”

“You’re not weak,” Derek dismisses, angrily, and Stiles is quiet again. Derek deflates. He doesn’t want to be arguing, now when this is the first time he’s heard Stiles’ voice in months. He didn’t even know he missed it, not until he had it back. “Look,” he starts again, softer, “I just… You need to take care of yourself. Nightmares in the supernatural world point to all kinds of things.”

“And this is where you tell me they’re good things, like rainbows and gold and magical unicorn ice cream,” Stiles says, an attempted lightness, but Derek can’t smile. Not at this. He thinks of all the different myths about possession, most starting with demons or spirits and ending in bloodshed. The last thing Beacon Hills needs –that Stiles needs—is that.

“Just be careful. Can’t you do that for m—for Scott? For your dad?”

It’s the two people who he knows Stiles cares for, and it works.

“I’ll try,” says the voice over the line, and Derek relaxes just a fraction. “I’m… Er. Um. I’m sorry that I haven’t really been…. You know. In contact. Is this why you called? To check up on me?” There’s something in Stiles’ tone that Derek can’t place, something he hasn’t heard before. It makes him feel unsteady. He could lie. He should lie. The less attached he is to anyone, the better.

But he’s selfish. “Yes,” he says, and it’s the truth.

“Thanks,” Stiles says, after a moment, and Derek wants to tell him anytime, always. But he can’t commit to that, and he doesn’t know why his wolf wants him to so badly. He’s feeling increasingly confused about Stiles, and he thinks about him for a long time after they say their goodbyes and hang up.


The dreams increase in frequency and it’s torturous. Most nights, Derek watches Stiles climb into the abyss. Sometimes he gets pulled in close, too, but he can always shut the door. But Stiles always, always opens it; even when Derek screams and shouts and begs, the human steps through the threshold. The image, the smells, all of it bleeds into his waking mind in a way that makes his wolf howl that something is wrong, Derek. The smell of mint, honey, and wet amber never go away, now, not even when he’s awake, and he thinks he might be going insane. He’s never smelled that combination of scents before and he doesn’t know where it’s coming from.

One day, as he and Cora are dozing in the heat filtering in through the window after a long run, his phone starts ringing. Cora groans and Derek is alert with a start, the image of Stiles (screaming from the door in his dream) still fresh in his mind. He scrambles around and looks at the screen. He answers immediately.

“Stiles?” he demands, untangling himself from the blanket and slipping into the hallway of the house they are crashing at (some old family friend of a friend, humans who don’t really know what they are). All he can hear is gasping on the other end of the phone, and he suddenly feels cold. “Stiles? What’s wrong?”

“D-Derek?” Stiles’ voice sounds broken, confused, and Derek frowns. He realizes he’s pacing.

“Yeah. Stiles, are you ok?”

“I—I don’t know—not really? I just had this dream—God, I didn’t even know I was calling you, I’m sorry—”

“It’s ok,” Derek says instantly, and he means it. "Stiles, try to breathe, ok?"

A stuttering noise of distress is all he gets in response, and he clutches the phone in his hand, wishing desperately that it was Stiles he was holding instead. It is only after he has the thought that he realizes how strange that particular urge is.  When he is quiet, he can hear Stiles’ heartbeat on the other end of the line again. The idea of Stiles’ blood pumping through his veins, giving color to his skin and life to his mind, makes the cold in him disappear. Instead, he feels heated. It’s confusing and uncomfortable but a dull longing sweeps through him. Astounded, he attempts to push it away.

He swallows, and waits for Stiles' breathing to even out. When it does, he breaks the silence. “What did you dream about?”

“Just nightmares,” Stiles mumbles, and Derek knows that he wouldn’t have heard it if he wasn’t a werewolf.

“What about?”

“Blood. Death. The usual, you know?” There is a slightly hysterical laugh on the other end, heartbeat picking up speed again. “People I know doing things that I don’t understand. And me, doing—” He can practically see Stiles’ shaky shrug as the words break off. “It doesn’t matter. What—what time is it there?”

“I don’t know,” Derek says, and when he glances at his watch he realizes that it’s about 2am in California. He hesitates. He wants to tell Stiles that he’s been seeing him in his dreams, but it feels weird, even for them. “Are you sure you’re ok?” he manages instead, and Stiles lets out a shaky breath.

“Yeah.” Derek can hear the lie in it. He ignores it.

“Is there anyone there?”

“Just me. My dad’s gone on night shift. There’s been—it hasn’t been quiet, recently. We just discovered a were-coyote: that was fun.” Derek knows that Stiles is trying to change the subject, distract him with a new supernatural creature. He won’t let him.

“Can you call Scott, have him come over?”

Stiles sucks in a breath. “He’s busy.”

“Will you be able to fall asleep again?” Derek asks, ignoring the blatant lack of honesty, and Stiles is quiet on the other end. Derek feels worry zip through him again. “Stiles?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles whispers, and Derek doesn’t know what to do. Waves of protectiveness are flooding through him and in the back of his mind he’s cursing himself because he knows, he knows he’s getting attached and he shouldn’t. It’s dangerous. But he can’t stop it. Stiles is starting to feel like pack and he can’t ignore his pain. So when Stiles speaks again, Derek listens. “Do you—maybe—I think I just need someone to be with me, you know?” He can hear the unsteady nervousness in Stiles’ voice, but he waits. “God, I feel stupid but… Can you—would you… I don’t know, talk? To me? Just for a little, until—until I calm down?”

Derek has to make an effort to close his open mouth. He’s never been asked to talk before; just talk, with no real purpose or topic or strategy. He isn’t exactly a social butterfly, and he knows it isn’t a secret. When he doesn’t reply right away, Stiles continues. He sounds like he is about to cry. “I just—this isn’t something I can tell the others, you know? They’re all dealing with their own shit, and my dad is new to this whole ‘werewolf’ thing, and—I just—I trust you.”

The last words hit Derek like a bullet, and he has to lean against the wall to steady himself. He can’t stop himself from asking the word ricocheting through his mind. “Why?”

Stiles pauses, and then lets out a rush of words. “I don’t know,” he admits. “I just know that—that when I talk to you things start to feel clearer and this crushing feeling in my chest isn’t as bad. Which I know is ridiculous, because you are in God-knows-where, probably a bazillion miles away wrestling crocodiles or something—”

“I haven’t wrestled any crocodiles,” Derek protests, and adds, “Not recently, at least.” There is silence on the other end and Derek blushes, lowering his head.

“Did Derek Hale just crack a joke?” Stiles asks, and even though he sounds like death woken up Derek can hear a trace of warmth in the words. He growls lowly, trying to ignore the back of his mind that hopes he made Stiles smile. Stiles is quiet, and Derek steels himself.

“Did I ever tell you about when Cora attacked the beehive?” he asks, and he can hear Stiles shifting around a little. He can tell he’s sliding down under the covers, a soft thump indicating his head falling onto the pillows of his bed. Derek realizes that he’s been there, in Stiles’ room, on that bed—longing goes through him again and he grits his teeth, not understanding where these feelings are coming from.

“You haven’t,” Stiles replies. So Derek starts talking. He talks and talks, long enough for Cora to poke her head into the hallway with a weird look on her face and for the sun to shift a few spaces in the sky. Derek loses track of what he says, because it doesn’t really seem to matter. Stiles is getting quieter and quieter. When he can only hear the calm sound of his breathing on the other end, Derek hangs up. Cora gives him a look when he comes back into the room and he ignores her, grabbing a book and curling into the corner to read it.

Derek falls asleep and he dreams about Stiles again, but this time it’s different. They’re in Stiles’ room and the doors are closed, locked, and Stiles is underneath him. Derek peppers kisses up his neck and bites, slides his hands up under Stiles’ shirt to feel the warm skin there. Stiles is moaning against him, grinding their bodies together, and Derek can barely control his wolf. He wants to push into Stiles and never leave, his instinct screaming claim claim claim as he rids Stiles of his clothes and marks him all over. He wants to knot him, let everyone know whose he is, and Stiles isn’t protesting.

Derek wakes up with his cock straining against his briefs and rolls over instantly, suddenly glad that Cora decided to go out with the humans tonight. Stumbling to the bathroom, he yanks off his sweatpants and underwear, unable to stop a moan escaping him as his hand closes around his dick. It’s been a long time since he jerked himself off—hell, he hasn’t had sex since Kate, hasn’t felt the need or wanted it. He remembers reading an article that talked about the effect of trauma on reducing sex drive. Sex wasn’t something he could think about, not after what happened. But it’s suddenly all back.

He braces himself with one hand against the counter and closes his eyes tight. It’s filthy and wrong but he thinks of Stiles, of the way he moaned, and it makes him see red. He’s already dripping and all he can think is oh my god as he pumps himself with firm, fast strokes. He gasps into it, needing release, the tightness coiling inside him and making him want to collapse. An image of Stiles kneeling in front of him, his mouth full of Derek’s cock, swallowing him down, is what pushes him over. He comes, harder than he has for years, waves of pleasure making him shudder and bite his lip so hard that it bleeds. When it’s over, he stares at the come on his hand in some mild form of shock. It takes him a few minutes to start cleaning up, his hands shaking so badly that he nearly drops the bleach.

He tries not to think too much about it.

Turns out that life has other plans for him. Peter shows up out of the blue and Derek snarls at him to leave, refuses to let him near Cora, but Peter sticks around. Things just get worse from there. Stiles rarely texts him anymore and when he does, it scares him. I’m losing track of time, one reads. Help, says another, and when Derek tries to call him Stiles doesn’t pick up. He’s panicking and he knows Peter and Cora can smell it, but he doesn’t know what to do or how to stop it. Something is very, very wrong—his wolf knows it, has known it for over a month, and it’s howling at him to go and investigate.

Hunters catch them one night when the moon is empty, and Derek can’t win no matter how hard he fights. He screams at Cora to run and she obeys, for once in her life, and Derek is grateful. Peter is howling and snarling and Derek is confused, not knowing who these people are or what they want. They get taken in and the torture is agony, the electricity a constant, shooting pain that makes him feel like he has short-circuited. He thinks about how he hasn’t gotten to say goodbye to anyone: his sister, his pack, Stiles. Stiles. Something is wrong with Stiles and if he dies here, he'll never know what. That thought, among few others, sticks with him.

Time passes and he can’t keep track of it, and the memories blur together, but suddenly he’s being freed and there isn’t time for questions and answers. They just have to run, and Derek doesn’t stop running until his legs give out.

Someone –Peter, he thinks—drags him into a cave and they spend a few days there, recouping. Derek is frazzled because his phone won’t get service and all he can think about is if Cora needs to call him. In the back of his mind, where he's tried to shove his feelings away, his wolf is asking if Stiles needs him too.

He leaves the cave one night and heads down to an abandoned house about fifteen miles away. When his phone pings his heart is suddenly in his throat and his fingers shake as he opens the message. An unknown number has informed him: You’ve been entered to win a free Dog Spa Service, more details to come, and Derek feels relief wash through him as he realizes it’s Cora letting him know that she's ok. It’s a reference to a game that they used to play when they were pups and it eases Derek’s muscles just a little.

But then his heart stops as another message appears. It’s from Stiles. Before he can read it, another one pops up, then another. There are seven messages in total before the pings stop, and he can’t go through them fast enough.

Something is wrong with me, Derek. I need your help. What do you know about doors in dreams?

Are you ok?

Deaton won’t tell me what’s going on. He keeps dropping mysterious hints but there’s no actual conclusion. Scott can’t find anything, but I think I’ve been attacking people. The bardo thing—I think it’s caught me, more than the others.

I don’t remember writing that last text. I don’t remember where I was yesterday.

I told myself I would stop talking to you, because you haven’t been replying and I thought it’s because I was annoying you. At least let me know if you’re ok. Please be alive.

Scott doesn’t believe that I might be causing all the trouble in BH.

Help. Please come back.

He’s back in Beacon Hills by morning.

He doesn’t care about Peter and doesn’t bother to tell him where he is going. All he knows is that his home needs him again, that Stiles needs him—and he can’t let himself think about that last part, about Stiles, because it’s confusing and complicated. His dreams have picked up again, of Stiles and him, together: on the couch, in the shower, against the wall. Everywhere. It hurts too much to let himself think of the possibility. He doesn’t want to be vulnerable. Derek is broken and he can’t break anyone else. He’s fallen for Stiles through his words alone, and he hates himself for letting it happen.

The next few days are all rushing around, working with Scott as things go to hell, searching for Stiles who always manages to be just out of reach. Derek is pissed that they threw a party in his loft and he isn’t prepared for the sudden attacks by hooded figures, but he uses the anger and adrenaline to power him through. Using anger is what he is good at, something he knows how to do. They fight at the fox’s (Kira? he thinks, trying to remember her name in the moment) house and then someone tells him that Stiles is at the hospital. His wolf panics and it’s all Derek can do to control his claws, reign in the overwhelming sense of needing to protect. Scott must pick up on the scent because he shoots him a confused look and tells him that Stiles will be ok, that it’s nothing lethal. Derek is foolish enough to think he is safe, at least for a moment. He can see Stiles later, after he figures out what the hell is going on.

It turns out that Stiles is what’s going on, and things start fitting together in Derek’s mind. The dreams, the door he sees Stiles enter, the loss of memory. Stiles’ body, his mind, are no longer just his. Something is sharing it, controlling him. It’s a horrifying realization, one that leaves him feeling empty and angry, so damn angry at himself and Scott and everyone in Beacon Hills for not noticing sooner.

You are a terrible person, his mind whispers to him. Dreaming of his body under yours, and not noticing that his mind is being eaten alive. 

As with all things, Derek pushes the thoughts away. 

He doesn’t know what the thing hurting Stiles is yet, but he’s damn well going to find out. Maybe he didn't notice in time (and he will carry that guilt, those seven missed text messages, with him the rest of his life, he has no doubt) but he's here now, and he can help He spends a whole night with Lydia, looking up various myths and attempting to break into Stiles’ computer to get his bestiary. It’s a nice adjustment, to be on the side trying to save people. He can never repent for the things he has done—horrible things—but he can try to change his future.

Something has changed with Scott as well: he’s trusting Derek and Derek starts to feel pack vibes every time he’s in the teen’s presence. When Scott tells him that something is going on and asks for his help, Derek doesn’t think twice about heading to the hospital. He gets a whiff of the scent that has been plaguing him for months when he walks in, follows it until he ends up in the room Stiles was being kept in. The realization hits him like a punch in the gut. He has been smelling Stiles, all this time, ever since that first dream. It’s Stiles that has been calling his wolf back, and it makes Derek want to scream and rake his claws over his own skin, because Stiles is too good for him and Derek will never, not in his wildest dreams, deserve him.

Stiles disappears, comes back because of Scott’s parents, and they all take a moment to try and sort things out. Derek wants to see Stiles, not only because his wolf is whining for it but also so he can figure out what the hell is going on. Deaton won’t say anything and Scott is clearly as much –if not more—in the dark as Derek, so he has no choice. He waits on the roof for hours until he can hear Stiles inside, talking to his father, his heartbeat rapid and anxious. The sound of steps coming up the stairs and the creak of the bedroom door has Derek quivering with edginess. He twitches when the Sheriff steps outside into the back yard, and soon the sound of quiet sobs fill his ears. Derek refuses to look at Stiles’ father break. He slips down near the window and looks into the room.

Stiles is there, sitting on his bed with his head in his hands. Derek has to blink a few times to process him. It’s been months and Stiles has filled out nicely, lean muscle defining his arms and his shoulders broader than before. His hair has grown out a little, and he’s grown in height as well. He’s nearly as tall as I am, now, Derek thinks, and looks closer. Stiles is pale, and he’s shaking, and Derek can’t stand being stealthy anymore.

He raps on the window and Stiles literally falls off the bed with a yelp; Derek would laugh if the situation wasn’t so completely awful. Stiles stands up and, with shaking fingers, unlocks the latch. Honestly, Derek is astounded that they leave Stiles alone at all anymore with just a lock to protect him; there's plenty of monsters eager to sneak through bedroom windows that bite much harder than Derek does, and Stiles himself might be one of those.

But Derek doesn't think about that.

Won't think about that.

He slips in smoothly, effortlessly, and Stiles just stares at him. Derek stands there, breathing in. It smells like mint and honey again, the small traces of amber still there, but something else is in the air. It’s acrid and it burns his throat, and he can’t figure out what in the room is giving it off.

“You—you’re back,” Stiles says, and Derek raises his eyebrows at him. He's surprised that Stiles didn't know Derek was back in Beacon Hills, that he's been helping look for him. That surprise lasts only as long as it takes for Derek to remember the messages of I'm losing track of time and Help. He feels sick all over again.

"Yeah," he manages, and wishes he could reach out and tug the human to him. 

Stiles runs a hand through his hair. “I—why are you here? You left for a reason.”

“Someone asked me to come back,” Derek replies, his hands in his pockets, and it feels oddly like a confession. Stiles takes a step forward and the desk lamp casts his features into sharp definition. Suddenly Stiles is hugging him, tightly, and Derek feels how clammy and cold he is the moment their skin touches. He doesn’t know what to do as Stiles shivers into him, but his instincts do. He hugs Stiles’ back, using barely any strength at all, and breathes in his scent. Derek smells something that he hasn’t in a long time on Stiles: fear.

“You—you shouldn’t be here,” Stiles croaks, and Derek’s mouth falls open. Stiles takes a step back and pushes him quickly, a small shove against his chest, and obviously Derek doesn’t move a centimeter. “It’s not safe. Go! Leave!” Stiles says, his voice raising in volume, and tries to shove him again. Derek’s not having it, not at all. He grabs Stiles’ wrists and forcibly lowers them into the space between their bodies. Stiles is looking down, not meeting his eyes now. It’s as if the motion sucked all of the fight out of him. With Stiles closer, the acrid smell is more potent. That, above everything else, makes Derek worried.

“I came back here to investigate what’s happening,” Derek tells him, and Stiles still doesn’t look up. “I got your texts. Do you—do you remember sending those?”

Stiles nods quickly, and his voice is forcibly controlled when he replies. “I did but—I didn’t get what was going on, then. You have to leave, Derek. Don’t tell anyone you’ve been here, they’ll involve you and—I… None of this is safe. I’m not safe—”

“Then I—we’ll protect you,” Derek growls. He still hasn’t let go of Stiles’ wrists. But the words make Stiles look up and there is something in his eyes, a rawness.

“That’s not what I meant! Nothing is threatening me, Derek—”

“The Oni—” Derek starts to protest, and Stiles lets out a slightly shrill laugh.

“They’re not what I’m worried about. I’m the one who’s dangerous. I think—they’re probably small fry compared to whatever the hell is happening with—with me.” The smell of fear spikes again and Derek doesn’t know what to do. He’s trying to process what Stiles is saying but his brain isn’t working. Lucky for him, Stiles clearly isn’t expecting him to talk. “I’m checking myself into Echo House, Derek. Me being here isn’t doing anyone any good.”

Derek feels anger pool in the pit of his stomach. “No. No way,” he snaps, and Stiles stares at him with incredulity.

“Really, Derek? Really?!” he hisses, and Derek glares right back. “You can’t just leave and then—and then show up and demand that I listen to your orders. Those Oni things are hunting everyone around me, and I don’t know why or how, but I know that I’m somehow influencing it. I’m better off in there, where I can’t hurt anyone and where you guys won’t die trying to fight for me.”

“You can’t just sacrifice yourself like that,” Derek grits out, trying to get past the hurt of Stiles not listening to him, but Stiles shakes his head. Derek tightens his grip in retaliation. “A pack is stronger together. If you leave, we can’t protect you. I’ve heard bad things about Echo House, Stiles.”

“And you think I haven’t?” Stiles demands, and they’re in each other’s faces now. Stiles’ smell is filling his nose and Derek can’t seem to move. The thought crosses his mind that he could just kiss Stiles. It wouldn’t take any effort, just a slight tip of the head and a step in the right direction. But Derek can’t do that, doesn’t know why he wants to do that—and now he’s caught himself smack in the middle of a lie, because he does know why. Stiles is smart and caring and falling apart, and Derek can't let that happen. Stiles is the first person since Derek's family burned alive that seems to actually give a fuck about Derek, and Derek wants him. Wants to help him.

Stiles’ scent turns from angry and scared to something else, and Derek feels little shivers go down his body. Stiles takes a step back and sits on the bed. Derek wonders whether it’s from pure exhaustion, or if Stiles is feeling like exploding out of his skin, too. “Please, Derek. Don’t fight with me on this. I’m—I’m fucking terrified, ok?” He tries to soften it with a laugh, but it comes out shaky and unnatural.

“I can’t talk you out of it,” Derek says after a moment, and it comes out as a statement, not a question. He wants it to be a question, so badly. Stiles bites his lip and swallows. The sound is too loud.

“No, you can’t,” he admits, and Derek lets out a low growl. Stiles manages the impossible and actually rolls his eyes. “That doesn’t work on me, wolf boy. Remember?”

It feels so close to before that it’s disconcerting. Derek realizes that he’s started to think about time as before Stiles and after Stiles, and this feels too much like before. He feels useless, like an outsider, and Stiles hadn’t been treating him like that recently. Stiles has been trusting him, and Derek is too far in to lie and say that he doesn’t value that immensely. He doesn’t want Stiles closing up to him, hiding his feelings. Granted, he’s not exactly the best role model for that—but if Stiles is going to go into Echo House, he needs to enter knowing that someone besides Scott and his friends have his back. He needs an army to fight for him, and Derek doesn't mind volunteering as a knight.

“Then what can I do?” he manages to ask, and it’s the most emotionally exposed he’s felt for a long time. Stiles is looking at him with wide eyes and Derek takes a step forward, slowly, afraid he’ll spook him. But Stiles doesn’t move, and Derek gets closer, until finally he sits down next to him on the bed. They don’t touch, but it feels intimate. Derek tries to be steady when he says, “I came back because of your texts, Stiles. So tell me what I can do to help, because I am not sitting this one out.”

Derek has never seen Stiles’ face twist into such a broken frame before. It looks like he is about to cry and Derek is filled with dread because, holy shit, emotions. Not his strong suit. The teen covers his face with his hands, a muttered, “Fuck,” passing through his tightly stitched fingers. Derek doesn’t know what to do in the slightest. He waits.

When Stiles looks up a few minutes later, his breathing back in control, he seems more confident. “Protect them,” is all he asks, and Derek wants to scoop him up and hide him from the world. Of all the people needing protection, it’s Stiles. But he just nods.

“I will,” he promises, and hopes against hope that he can keep it.

Turns out that things are even more complicated and twisted than they thought. Derek saves Chris Argent and then tries to kill him, and he can’t imagine how Stiles is managing to stay sane if he always feels as out of control as Derek does when the flies possess him. There is so much blood and fighting that it all starts to blur together, and Derek’s nose is increasingly filled with the acrid scent of what he now knows is the Nogitsune, hosting itself greedily inside Stiles’ body. But soon one scent becomes two, and all Derek can do as he claws against the Oni with Ethan and Aiden is hope that it means Stiles is ok, that he’s free, that maybe the Nogitsune has found a different host and that Stiles is finally himself again.

For a few days he can’t really control himself. After he rests assured that somehow the Nogitsune is dead, Stiles is safe, and his immediate job is done, he runs into the woods and wolfs out. It’s all just too much: not really understanding what Stiles went through, knowing he could have stopped this all from happening if he had just paid attention to his dreams, knowing that because of him Allison and Aiden are gone forever. No one has to tell him that Allison is dead—the smell of her blood is too heavy, too strong for him to question her fate. Everything feels so very wrong.

He finds himself questioning whether he was every really talking to Stiles or the Nogitsune. Was it Stiles who asked him to come back? Was it Stiles who trusted him, asked Derek to protect the people he loved? Or was it all a trick, some sick plan that was designed to weaken him with his emotions? And why is the bond showing up now, after everything that the world has put Derek through—after all Derek has put Stiles through? Was his attraction just lurking in the background of his mind, waiting to jump as soon as he found some distance from the nightmares of Beacon Hills? Is Stiles his mate?

It’s enough to make him stay with his wolf for three days. But soon the scent of mint and honey fills his nose again, and it calls him home. When he returns back to humanity, the first thing he does is climb up the steps to the Hale house and shower. The dirt is so caked onto him that the water runs brown for a good five minutes, but he doesn’t mind. It gives him time to think, time to sort out his emotions.

By the time he’s finished, smelling more like himself than the woods, he’s come to a few conclusions. The first is that he has to visit the Argent family and make a truce. Hunters all over will hear about Allison’s death, and he needs to be able to protect his land with diplomacy. The second is that he really, really needs a therapist—hell, every member of Scott’s pack does, and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t find a few for them. The third, and what oddly feels like the most important, is that he needs to check up on Stiles. Derek isn’t good with feelings, but the odd flipping of his stomach every time he thinks of Stiles gives him a damn good clue. Whatever happens after they talk isn’t really his priority—it’s the uncertainty, the pure lack of understanding that has been drowning him ever since he started replying to Stiles’ texts, that is killing him now.

He changes and grabs his keys because hell, now is as good a time as any. It’s hard to casually walk into the room of someone who just banished the demon inside of them without being awkward, so it’s not like he can pick a good time to drop by. As he steps down the stairs he stops abruptly as a familiar scent drifts towards him. The amber, covered in spring water; the honey; the mint. He takes the next few landings in a leap and is at the door in a second. When he yanks it open, Stiles is standing there.

There is an uncomfortable moment where Derek just stares at him and Stiles shuffles back and forth, hands shoved into the pockets of his ratty jeans. He’s pale and too thin but he doesn’t have the harsh scent of the demon anymore.

“How did you know I was here?” Derek asks, and wants to slap himself in the forehead because he’s never been skilled at social norms. He’s not surprised when Stiles seems to shrink slightly.

“I just—I had Scott keeping an eye on the house,” Stiles admits, and Derek can’t sort out all the emotions that he’s smelling on the human. They stand there awkwardly for another moment. “I was worried,” Stiles blurts characteristically, and warmth seeps through Derek’s chest and trickles down to his toes. “I thought—I mean, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to see me, after all that—”

“What…” Derek asks, not understanding, “what made you think I wouldn’t?”

Stiles gapes at him. “You—you fucking disappeared, Derek. For three days. I just—I thought that after all that had happened…” He trails off, seeming unable to finish. “We figured you had left town.” Derek is struggling to keep his face neutral as he has an internal fit about the idea of leaving Stiles behind. Impossible.

“It was…” Derek sucks in some air. “It was too much, for a little while. But. I’m back.”

Silence again. Derek wants to invite Stiles inside. The teen seems to be increasingly nervous, his scent spiking with the bitter undertones that Derek can associate with near hysteria.

“Do you—” he begins, but Stiles interrupts him.

“I have to tell you something.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. His heart flutters a little bit, but he keeps his face impassive. “Ok. Come on in.” Stiles glances behind him but doesn’t budge. He’s playing with the edge of his hoodie again, twisting it down to the threads, and Derek wants to grab his hands and still him. He steps onto the porch, shutting the door behind him. “Or here. We can talk here.”

Stiles sucks in a breath, his eyes flitting over Derek’s face. “I slept with Malia Tate.”

Jealousy hits Derek and he thinks it’s damn amazing he doesn’t stumble from it, physically collapse on the porch. His wolf snarls internally and something must happen to his eyes, because the bitter smell in Stiles’ scent spikes again. But he keeps talking.

“I guess—it wasn’t me, not really. The Nogitsune was controlling me when—when it happened. I was there, I knew it was happening, but I couldn’t—I couldn’t control my own body.” He draws in another shaky breath, and Derek finally starts to understand. The wolf inside him turns from jealous to angry, angry that any demon would dare misuse Stiles’ body and mind like that. It is the ultimate lack of control.

“I’m sorry,” Derek murmurs, but he’s too afraid to reach out to comfort Stiles. The teen’s shoulders are shaking, just slightly.

“Don’t be,” Stiles says quickly, but his hands are clenched. He suddenly seems frustrated. “That’s not—that’s not why I told you.” When he doesn’t continue, Derek clears his throat and shifts on his feet a bit.

“Then why did you?”

Stiles looks at him, and he’s clearly broken. Derek doesn’t need werewolf senses to see that Stiles is utterly, completely lost. He can recognize trauma from a mile away, and it’s in Stiles now. “No one knows what was me or—or it, anymore. And everyone’s afraid to ask. But you—when you visited the night before Echo House, you said... You said that you came back because of my texts.” He makes a motion to Derek’s pocket, where his simple phone is tucked away. “And I needed—somehow it seemed important that you know it was me, when I was texting you. I knew you would… or I guess, I thought you would be wondering. Who it was. And when—Up until the end, Derek, it was me. The Nogitsune didn’t want you back, I don’t think.”

Derek struggles with whether to feel relieved or concerned. “Why didn’t it want me back?”

Stiles looks even more uncomfortable. “I think—maybe it knew the people I cared about would keep me fighting. And I— you were the biggest threat it could have imagined.” He whispers it, won’t look at Derek. Derek draws in a breath through his nose and actually does take a step forward this time. To his surprise, Stiles takes a step backwards. “Wait,” he says, and Derek freezes. Stiles smells conflicted. “Wait—don’t—not until you’ve heard the whole story.”

“And what’s that?” Derek demands, because he’s feeling very antsy and he doesn’t like not knowing what Stiles is feeling, exactly. Stiles used to be such an open book, but now—now he’s closed off. After being trapped in his own mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that he has his issues. But this is Stiles. When Stiles doesn’t reply right away, Derek has to resist growling. “Stiles, talk to me. I’m here, but you need to be, too.”

“I really like you,” Stiles says, the words coming out too fast, and Derek’s mouth snaps shut. His eyes feel like orbs in his head as Stiles continues. “Kind of have ever since—um, the pool, remember? Not that you aren’t an infuriating bastard who has made shitty life choices. But—I just—something keeps drawing me to you. And I—I know you probably don’t care, or whatever, but being possessed has made me realize that there’s no point in not saying how I feel, like, right now.” Derek can’t do anything but stare at him, like his brain has short-circuited. Stiles is blabbering. “I was selfish. I asked you to come back because you ground me. I don’t know how or why, but you do. I didn’t think that reaching out would really do anything, and I don’t—I don’t even know why I asked you to help. But you were there for me. I took it all for granted, and the Nogitsune used you against me. He kept saying how he was going to kill you—kill everyone. He was plotting out the plans in his head—”

Stiles puts his hand over his mouth, as if he has to physically stop himself from speaking anymore, and takes another step back. “I’m sorry,” he gasps out. “I—I don’t need to be telling you all this. I came—I just came because I thought you deserved to know. Before you decide if you’re staying, or if you even want to see me again—and just… just in case…” Just in case I ever get possessed again, you’ll know. Derek fills in the words in his head, and a fierce wave of protectiveness overwhelms him. Stiles is steadily backing up, his face twitching as he tries to control it.

Derek doesn’t know why he feels the need to argue back. He doesn’t understand the confession, doesn’t get how Stiles can like him. He’s Derek Hale. He’s twisted and broken and there’s no way Stiles can actually feel this way. “You don’t know me—”

“Don’t you dare tell me that!” Stiles snaps, his eyes hardening. “You may not think I do, but you’re wrong. I’ve seen you Derek, I’ve read you, and I don’t care how cold you try to be towards the world. I know that you can feel just as intensely as we all do, but you’re terrified it’s going to backfire. You think that everything you touch gets hurt, but you’re wrong. You’re a protector. I know that you would give up anything for your family and the people you care about. I know that you saved Chris Argent and probably my dad, and I know that you helped find me even though the Oni nearly killed you in the process. You’re a snarky bastard who doesn’t know how to explain exactly how he feels and I can work with that, because I get it.”

“You don’t know what you would be getting into, Stiles,” Derek says, and the words come out colder than he means to. Stiles gapes at him. He gets angry again in moments.

“Don’t push me away by saying that I don’t understand you or know you, because I do,” the teen hisses. “You’re smarter than hell and confused half the time but you still try and do what you think is needed. There are demons in your past, I get that. But I have them too, Derek. So don’t think that you are a special little snowflake. All of us are fucked up. My best friend is probably scarred for life, my father was attacked by freaking Japanese mythological protector spirits. Hell, Allison is dead. So if you don't like me back, then fine, I can respect that. I didn't come here expecting you to have any interest whatsoever. But don't you dare tell me how I feel and use that false conclusion as a way to push me away. Get the balls to say that you don't want me, instead of transferring the blame to my 'lack of understanding'.”

Derek can’t find anything to say. He’s both shocked and touched, humbled and horrified. Because Stiles has him pinned with the truth. “I’m going to go, now,” Stiles whispers when he doesn’t reply, looking defeated, and Derek is still standing there, motionless, when Stiles gets into his car and speeds away.

Go after him, the wolf screams, but he can’t. He tells himself that he has to think this through, has to know what he’s getting into. Stiles is a human and he’s vulnerable and being with him is dangerous. Not to mention that he wasn’t expecting a confession. It takes maybe ten minutes for his body to start working again, for the numbness to ebb off. He’s waiting for his emotions to catch up. And when they do, he realizes that there was never even anything to think about.

He starts running.

He makes it to the Stilinski house in record time, and doesn’t even bother knocking on the door. As he clambers up to Stiles’ window, he has absolutely no plan how he is going to handle any of this. It is, he thinks as he practically breaks the window open, very much his style. When he does, the sight that greets him is unexpected. Stiles is sitting on the bed, tear tracks running down his face as he stares, open-mouthed, at the werewolf. Derek realizes that this is the first time he has seen Stiles cry, ever. It’s in that moment that every single feeling clicks. Derek gets it. He would be a fool not to.

Derek crosses the room in two strides and hovers right next to Stiles. They stare at each other in the light from the desk. There are loose threads of red string on the floor. The bed is eerily well-made, as if it hasn’t been slept in for weeks. Maybe because it hasn’t.

“What are you doing here?” The words hit Derek at his core and he almost whines like a lost pup, catches himself halfway. Stiles is getting hysteric again. “God, don’t tell me you came here to pity me. I don’t need—”

“I’m not good with emotions,” Derek interrupts, and Stiles sucks in a sharp, shaky breath. Derek can feel his hands clenching but he can’t stop it. “What you said back there… I’m sorry for not replying. I was scared.” The honey smell gets stronger, and Derek slides to his knees so he and Stiles are at eye level. “I came back for you, Stiles.” Stiles is staring at him with big eyes and Derek can’t stand it. He reaches out without even realizing it, instinct leading him, and suddenly Stiles’ hands are in his. Some type of half-sob comes bubbles out of the teen and Derek squeezes his hands.

“I don’t understand,” Stiles whispers, and his heartbeat stutters. Derek makes an upset noise in his throat.

“I came back for you. For you, Stiles.” Derek doesn’t know how else to say it, because the words I love you and I think you might be my mate, please be my mate are a bit too much right now. He gets a touch more into Stiles’ space. “Do you understand that?”

“Is this real?” Stiles’ voice breaks, and he forcibly bites his lip. He’s blinking rapidly, his eyes searching Derek’s face and the room and everywhere in between. “This is a dream—”

“This is real,” Derek hisses, and wishes he could show Stiles somehow. “This is real, this is more real than it’s ever been, Stiles, and I need you to answer me.”

“I—what’s the question?”

Derek cups half of Stiles’ face with his hand. He could howl with pleasure when Stiles leans into it, just the smallest bit. The smells of mint and honey and amber, of Stiles, nearly make his head spin. He breathes it in greedily.

“Should I leave?”

“No!” Stiles cries. “God, were you even listening back at the loft, Derek? I’ve liked you for years—

Derek’s heart is beating too fast and he feels hot all over. He struggles to find words to reply. “If I stay, I’m staying, Stiles.” He doesn’t need to explain that this is how wolves work, how once they give it their all then they don’t back out. Something stronger than gravity is pulling him in towards Stiles, and it scares the shit out of him because he knows exactly what it means.

“If you want me, then I’m yours,” Stiles whispers, and Derek moves a centimeter closer. He can’t look away from Stiles’ mouth.

“Are you sure?”

He doesn’t expect the laugh that comes out of the human’s body. “Is that even a question?” Stiles gasps, and Derek doesn’t need more of an answer. He leans forward and there might as well be fireworks because his lips are on Stiles’ and finally, finally he can claim him. He slides onto the bed, grasping Stiles’ waist firmly, pulling him close. Stiles is inexperienced and things are wet and messy, but Derek still groans into the way that Stiles clings to him, kisses him like he’s the only thing that matters. There is nothing that could feel better right now.

“You almost died,” the teen breathes, and Derek tightens the grip he has on Stiles’ waist. You were possessed, he wants to reply, and I nearly lost my fucking mind because I thought I couldn’t have you. But he can’t. All he can do is try to get closer, closer. He wants to drown himself in Stiles and never leave. The teen’s hands are cupping his face, running along his jawline and stubble with some kind of reverent desperation, disbelieving sobs swallowed by Derek’s tongue.

“More,” he’s suddenly begging, and all of Derek’s blood runs to his dick at the word. He growls, lowly, but forces himself to stay in control. The mantra of claim, claim, claim is rushing through his head again and he fights it back, opting instead to deepen the kisses. Stiles fists his hands in Derek’s hair, opens his mouth so Derek can suck on his tongue, and Derek accepts it eagerly. As Stiles retaliates by licking into his mouth, Derek’s world shrinks. His normally sharp werewolf senses are suddenly zeroed in on Stiles, who’s sitting on his lap now, and he can’t even hear the crickets that he knows are chirping outside.

“Stiles,” Derek groans, feeling the teen’s hips start to jerk against his body, but he can’t bring himself to stop it. The friction feels so good against his straining cock, and it takes inhuman effort to grunt out the words. “Wait—Stiles—we need to talk about this.”

Stiles pulls back. “What the hell is there to talk about?” His hair is messy and his eyes are big, pupils blown wide. Derek can’t look away from his lips, red and slightly swollen. The animal part of him feels victorious. I did that, he thinks, and forces himself to focus. He doesn’t want this to escalate, doesn’t want to have this be some hormone-fueled event. It’s as if the teen can read his mind, because Stiles’ nails dig into his skin and anger flares up in his scent. “I’m not in fucking shock,” he says, and the words somehow come out begging. “Don’t—don’t you dare offer me this and then—then just—just tell me what I’m feeling or—”

Derek kisses him, grips his face firmly. “I’m not,” he whispers, and Stiles leans into him. “I just—it’s your body, Stiles, and I... I can’t bear the thought of taking advantage of it. Of you.” He doesn’t need to explain why, doesn’t need to talk about Kate or about Malia. Stiles knows. “I want you to be sure, I want you to be ready—”

“Derek, please,” Stiles says, and this time it is begging. “I’m consenting, ok? If I could write ‘I consent, my body is ready for you to ravish’ across my head with a permanent neon marker so it would be nice and clear for you, I would.”

Derek still feels uneasy, just the slightest bit. “You’re underage,” he tries, and Stiles looks like Derek just slapped him.

“If you’re implying I don’t know what I want—”

“That’s not—I want it, too, Stiles. I do, but it’s illegal—”

“Oh shut up.” Stiles is kissing him again. “Breaking and entering is illegal. Pretty sure killing someone is illegal. Along with possession of an unregistered weapon, aka claws,” he pants, and Derek kisses him to make him be quiet. Stiles hitches his hips closer and closes his eyes, loosening up under Derek’s grip. He sounds dizzy when he whispers, “Of all the illegal things to do, this isn’t your worst.” He pauses, kisses him again. “Please.”

He has a point, and Derek must have shitty willpower because he doesn’t put up much of a fight. How can he? Stiles is here, and consenting, and he’s making it damn clear that he needs Derek right now. Derek would be lying if he said he wasn’t feeling pretty needy, himself. He grips him firmly, but he’s painstakingly careful with his strength. Stiles is human, and he’s not going to let himself forget it. They start kissing again, Derek making sure to reign in his wolf.

Stiles seems to have other plans. He’s purposefully nipping at his lips, whining into Derek’s mouth, like he knows what the noise is doing to Derek’s instincts, and it sends the wolf side of Derek into a frenzy. “Stop,” Derek begs, pulling him even closer. He can barely talk, he’s so busy trying to get as many open-mouthed, intense kisses in as he can. “Stop, stop whining, I’m here. Stop, I can’t—it hurts.” It’s true. With each whine and whimper, he feels like pins are being stabbed through him.

Stiles runs his hands through Derek’s hair in apology, and Derek forgives him instantly. His fingers find Stiles’ bare skin and it makes the teen moan instead. It’s a much better noise, and Derek’s hips jerk automatically at it. He knows that it’s traditional mate behavior: the intense level of connection, the dire need to comfort the other one when they’re in pain, the heightened physical arousal. He’s read explanations of it before, but the words are nothing compared how he’s actually feeling. Stiles is rutting against him, moaning quietly, and Derek is doing his best to set up a rhythm. When Stiles’ muscles clench and he stills, a silent moan on his lips, Derek resists the urge to bite his neck and mark him. The smell of come fills his nose and he wants to open up Stiles’ pants and lick it off his skin.

Stiles pants a few times. “That was embarrassingly quick,” he says, face flushing, but Derek shakes his head and kisses him.

“This won’t be the last time,” he assures him, and the smile that crosses Stiles’ face makes him want to beam right back. Seeing Stiles smile is something he’s missed, desperately. “You’re a teenage guy. I don’t think we’ll have to wait long.”

Stiles is laughing weakly. “I’m having sex with Derek Hale,” he giggles, and Derek nods against his skin, tries not to grin at the boyish disbelief in his tone. Stiles lowers his head, sucks at Derek’s neck, and Derek gives into it. It’s vulnerable to have a mouth so close to his veins, and they are both aware of that fact. If Stiles wasn’t human, he could bite him, maybe kill him. But Stiles doesn’t do anything but lick and suck, and Derek is washed in waves of pleasure.

His head snaps to the door when he hears a noise at the bottom of the stairs, and he half-shifts before he can think about it. Stiles is suddenly very still against him, and Derek can see his eyes staring cautiously at the claws that have emerged from his fingers. The urge to protect is extreme, and Derek has to take deep breaths to try and think logically. Emotions and adrenaline are pumping through him and it’s making him unstable.

“Someone’s downstairs,” he growls, trying to sniff it out. Stiles’ scent is filling his nose, and he can’t smell anything else right now.

But Stiles, at least, doesn’t seem afraid. “It’s just my dad,” he murmurs, and Derek relaxes a fraction. A new worry enters his mind as the first step on the landing creaks.

“He—I’ll have to go, he can’t see me,” he says, but Stiles clings to him. Derek looks at him in disbelief, already shifting back to human again as he mentally prepares himself to go. If he stays wolf, he’ll never be able to bear it.

“No,” Stiles argues, and won’t give Derek time to protest. “I can’t keep you a secret from him, Derek. I—I’m done with keeping things from him. You’re here and I don’t give a damn if he finds out. I’m not ashamed of you, of this.”

Derek wants to ask what this is, because it makes him feel hopeful and possessive all at once. “Did we forget the part where this is illegal?” Derek demands instead, and Stiles grips him just a little tighter. The Sheriff is on the third stair now, with seven more to go. Derek could pull Stiles off him, could push him away and leave. He’s stronger than Stiles, and they both know it. But he won’t, he won’t take Stiles’ control away like that.

“You helped save my life,” Stiles hisses. “There was a fucking demon in my body and you think he’ll be concerned about us dating? My dad isn’t going to do anything that sends me off balance, and making you go away would.”

Eighth step.

In a flurry of movement, Derek is straightening the covers and their clothes. “Lay down,” he growls, and the honey scent on Stiles’ skin intensifies again. He lets Stiles shift around as they both lay on their sides, Derek’s face pointed towards the door. Stiles ends up pressing his body tightly against Derek’s, burying his face in Derek’s chest. He hisses when the human brushes against his aching dick. “Try to stay still.”

Derek can feel his breathy laugh ghosting against his collarbone and it strains his erection painfully. “You know who you’re talking to, right?” Stiles asks, and Derek rolls his eyes. As Derek lays an arm firmly over the human’s side, pulling him just a bit closer, he can hear Stiles’ rapid heartbeat increase another increment. The closeness, it’s nice—and he wasn’t expecting it to be, not when he’s usually so protective of his personal bubble. But if Derek’s being honest, he’s not much of a fan of this plan. He’s lying in bed with the Sheriff’s underage son—fully clothed, true, but with a hard-on that will be noticeable in an instant if either one of them shift. His muscles are bulging from the tension in his body and he feels wound up, slightly trapped. He’s not scared of werewolves or vampires or Oni, but he’s terrified of Sheriff Stilinski. A squeeze to his shoulder makes him glance down.

"It's ok," Stiles soothes, and it shouldn't help but hell, it does. Stiles places a kiss, gentle, against his collarbone; reassurance, a sign that he's there with him for this. That Derek isn't alone. Not right now. Not anymore. The panic in Derek's stomach ebbs a little.

The door opens, slowly, and Derek forces himself to breathe. He raises his head, his arm still shielding some of Stiles’ body, and locks eyes with the Sheriff. The older man is standing there, taking in the sight with his hands halfway raised, as if preparing for a fight on instinct. He clearly wasn’t expecting to see Derek there, and Derek can smell the slight traces of perplexity on him. Tiredness exudes from every pore in the man’s body: his eyes are rimmed with darkness, his hair hanging limply on his head. He looks, if possible, just as exhausted as Stiles.

“Derek,” the Sheriff says, slowly, and Derek gives him a nod. He realizes that the Sheriff thinks that Stiles is asleep; he can’t tell, after all, with the teen’s face buried in Derek’s clothes. Derek doesn’t want to correct him or even speak. Instead, he just watches as the Sheriff does a once-over of his son, concerned eyes making sure that his chest is moving up and down and that he seems safe. After a moment, he runs his hands over his face and lets out a breath of air.

“Are you staying for a while?” he asks, and Derek doesn’t know what he should say. It wasn’t a question he was expecting. What the hell are you doing here or get out seemed much more likely. He decides to go with the truth.

“For as long as he wants me to,” he replies, and Stiles’ pulse skips. The Sheriff just nods, then glances out the window. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands. Like father, like son.

“I was—I was going to get us some food. The fridge is kind of… empty. I haven’t been home much, obviously. I talked to a doctor, Stiles needs—he’s lost a lot of weight.” Suffocating guilt overwhelms Stiles’ scent, and Derek moves him a bit closer, a hand slowly coming up to cup the back of his neck. “I thought I would get him some of his favorites,” the Sheriff continues, and Derek nods. They’re quiet for a moment. “Can I—can I get you anything, while I’m out? For staying with him?”

Derek has to blink back shock. The Sheriff is offering him a truce, maybe even an alliance. Out of all the reactions Derek expected when the man came in, this was the only one he hadn’t expected. “Just your permission to stay, sir,” he says, and the hint of a smile actually tugs at the Sheriff’s mouth.

“Call me John, Derek. You might as well start now. You’ll be staying for breakfast?” It’s phrased as a question, but Derek knows that it isn’t. The Sheriff is aware of exactly what’s going on, and Derek is in no position to refuse. To his surprise, he doesn’t want to anyways.

“If you don’t mind.”

“Just come through the front door next time, alright?” John says, trying to sound stern, but Derek can smell something softer on him. John trusts him, he realizes—and that’s nearly as significant as having Stiles’ trust. He just nods, and the Sheriff hovers for a moment before he decides to leave. The door shuts behind him and the room gets a bit darker again, the light from the hallway no longer spilling in. He hears the jingle of John’s keys and the front door closes. The car revs up.

Stiles shifts in his arms, twisting over onto his back so he can look up and Derek. “I told you,” he says, and Derek glares at him. He can’t hold it for long, though. Stiles is pulling him in again and kissing him, and Derek closes his eyes and tells himself that it’s ok to enjoy it. Stiles is in his arms, and Derek might be holding himself on a pedestal but he thinks there’s nowhere safer the human can be right now.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Derek asks between kisses, but Stiles shakes his head. Truthfully, Derek is relieved. Emotions aren’t his thing, and now isn’t the time to practice. There is plenty of time, later, to talk about his dad and his weight and the demons that still plague him. So Derek lets it go, leans into Stiles’ body, gets lost.

Stiles should feel new against his mouth, but it’s like his body already knows exactly what it’s doing. He knows every curve of Stiles’ lips, every outline of his jaw, and he wants to know the rest of him, too. Derek hovers over him, one leg between Stiles’ outstretched ones and his hands on either side of his head. They kiss lazily, slowly, Derek opening his mouth and letting Stiles taste his tongue. He can’t help but grin when Stiles starts lightly pressing against his leg. When he pulls back Stiles is blinking at him, seeming slightly dazed, and Derek runs a hand through the teen’s hair. “You ok?”

“I’d be better if you took your shirt off,” Stiles smirks, and Derek rolls his eyes. He dips his head down and starts nipping at the pale skin on the teen’s neck, liking the way Stiles starts looking for friction against his leg again. He’s sucking a hickie onto Stiles’ collarbone when fingers scramble at his back.

“No, seriously, I need this off,” Stiles pants, and Derek obeys him. He doesn’t mind giving Stiles what he wants; in fact, resisting his wishes feels like it would be impossible. He straightens up and, in one fluid movement, pulls his shirt over his head. He tosses it to the other side of the room with a flick of his wrist, not bothering to aim. “Holy—holy shit,” Stiles says, gaping at him, and Derek tries not to blush. “Can I—can I touch?”

Fondness flows through Derek. “I’m all yours,” he says, and Stiles reaches out to touch him. His fingers are shaking, but as soon as his hands find Derek’s abs and the werewolf shudders from pleasure, he becomes more confident. He sits up and starts peppering kisses along Derek’s tan skin, his mouth raising goosebumps wherever it moves. Derek wants his shirt off, too, to see Stiles’ skin and get his scent all over it; but he doesn’t want to push. He lets Stiles control the pace, lets him run his hands all over Derek’s back and arms and neck.

“What do you want?” Stiles asks him after a moment, and Derek gazes at him with a blank expression. “I just—you need to enjoy it, too.” Stiles looks nervous suddenly and he can’t help but find it adorable. He keeps forgetting that Stiles has never done anything like this before—at least, not when he was in control of his body. The thought makes Derek boil with rage, and he suddenly has to get his scent all over the human. Derek leans in and kisses him.

“I am enjoying it,” he assures him, but lets his hands travel to the hem of Stiles’ shirt. “Although, I wouldn’t mind if we get more clothing out of the way.” Stiles blushes furiously, yet there’s no protest when Derek starts to slide the fabric up, up, until it’s over the teen’s head and thrown into the messy pile of clothes that is steadily growing in the corner. Stiles’ skin, when he touches it, is soft underneath his fingers. There are moles speckling the pale expansion of his chest and Derek wants to trace them with his tongue, mark his way up Stiles’ body until he can bite at Stiles’ nipples.

“Not much, I know,” Stiles says, and Derek comes out of his fantasy with a few blinks. Stiles is uncomfortable, he can smell it, and Derek doesn’t understand why. Stiles is gorgeous, everything Derek wants, and he doesn’t get how the teen can’t know that already.

“I want to claim you.” The words come out without Derek meaning them to, and it’s almost comical to see Stiles’ eyes grow into orbs. He doesn’t seem to realize that Derek is waiting, waiting for permission with bated breath because oh my god, the werewolf can feel the heat coming off of his skin and can practically taste him on his tongue.

“I—yeah, ok,” Stiles stutters, and Derek pushes him back into the covers again. He leans down and starts sucking at a mole right underneath Stiles’ ribs, savoring the way that Stiles arches up against him and squirms. His smell fills Derek’s nose and suddenly doing this isn’t enough, not at all, because Stiles is literally intoxicating and Derek wants to be drunk on him. He lets his body press down against Stiles’ and rolls, the message and intent clear, and the noise that Stiles makes is nearly enough to make him come.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” Stiles is chanting, and Derek growls lowly as he ruts their bodies together. Stiles’ hands dig into his back and he groans, liking the way the faint tendrils of pain shoot through him. “Ok—I—do whatever the hell you want, ok? I consent. Pants off, I need them off,” Stiles begs, and Derek is more than happy to oblige. They both work on unbuttoning and unzipping their jeans, but Derek is faster. His are off long before Stiles’, who is shaking slightly, so Derek grabs his pants and pulls down, throwing them across the room with his own.

“Oh my god, you’re uncut,” Stiles moans as he rakes his eyes over Derek’s cock. “That’s so hot, that’s—” The words get cut off as Derek spreads his legs wide, leaning down and licking the dried come that’s still against Stiles’ skin from their earlier antics. Stiles makes a nnnh sound in his throat and Derek takes that as a good sign. He wants to groan at the way Stiles tastes, and he licks into his skin with abandon as Stiles moans and writhes against him.

“This shouldn’t be hot, why am I turned on?” he gasps, and Derek looks up at him with half-lidded eyes. Experimentally, he moves his mouth south and takes Stiles’ balls into it. Stiles bucks against him with a yelp of surprise, and Derek rolls with it. Werewolf reflexes are good for this, if nothing else. “Ok, you need to fuck me now,” Stiles groans, pressing himself further into Derek’s mouth with unsteady jerks.

“For someone who just said I can do whatever I want, you sure are bossy,” Derek complains, and Stiles just laughs. They both know that Derek can’t refuse the offer; after all, his cock is red and erect, just waiting for entrance. “Do you have lube?”

Stiles scrambles for his pillows, pulls out lube and tosses it to Derek, who catches it easily with a raised eyebrow. It’s only half-full, and it makes Derek’s gut twist pleasantly to think that Stiles has done this before. He likes the image of Stiles touching himself. Stiles is leaning back against the covers again, on his elbows, and Derek moves predatorily over onto him.

“You touch yourself a lot?” he murmurs, and Stiles wriggles under his hands as they reach to gently pull his butt cheeks apart, revealing his hole.

“I used to,” Stiles stutters, watching in entrancement as Derek slicks a few fingers with lube. “Not much anymore, what with everything.” Derek places his thumb at Stiles’ hole so the teen has something to press up against while the werewolf mentally prepares himself. Stiles takes him off guard though. “I thought of you, a lot,” he gasps, eyes closed from the gentle pressure, and a wave of self-satisfaction goes through Derek. Longing takes over and he slides a finger into Stiles smoothly, feeling him clench around it in surprise. Stiles gasps weakly, and Derek is so busy staring at his finger sliding in and out of Stiles (mine, mine, mine, his wolf chants happily) that he nearly forgets they were talking.

He leans over Stiles, kissing him as he crooks his finger just a little. “What would you think about, with me?” Stiles moans into his mouth and pushes against his finger, the cue to add another. Derek does so easily, pleased at how well Stiles is taking him.

“Sucking you off,” Stiles whines, his muscles spasming. The sound of his fingers opening up Stiles is obscene, and it makes him tingle down to his toes. “R-riding you. Ah- Derek—another, I need another.” Derek obliges him, watching the way Stiles’ face contorts in pleasure. The faint scent of pain drifts from him and it makes Derek freeze momentarily before Stiles pushes impatiently down on his fingers, making his own rhythm (pain is normal, the wolf reminds him). Derek growls, not having that—if Stiles is going to be fucked, it’s Derek who will be doing it—and starts meeting Stiles’ jerky movements with his own.

“I’ve fantasized about you, too,” he says, breathy, and Stiles makes a happy noise in the back of his throat. “I—the one that makes me come quickest is us on the wall—” Stiles moans loudly at that, his fingers scrambling to pull Derek closer, and they kiss again. Stiles’ tongue, his goddamn tongue—Derek can’t stop sucking on it. He likes how loud Stiles is, and it makes him want to groan and whine in response.

“I’m ready,” the teen moans, and Derek stretches him just a little bit more to be sure. Stiles glares at him through his writhing. “Do werewolves—condoms?” he manages to squeak out, and Derek can’t help but grin.

“Can’t carry diseases,” he murmurs, and withdraws his fingers. Stiles whines and Derek wants to, as well, when he sees how open Stiles’ hole is for him. A hunger claws up into him, and he hastily lubes himself up. His cock is aching with need. Stiles looks dizzy, an arm thrown over his face and his chest moving rapidly up and down. Derek grabs his ankles to ground him. “You ok?”

Stiles nods, and laughs weakly, as if he’s surprised with himself. “I—just—this is happening. This is really happening. Derek Hale is about to fuck me.”

“And I’m about to fuck Stiles Stilinski,” Derek says back, just so he can see Stiles’ blush. The teen doesn’t disappoint his expectations. Derek grins at him wickedly, and Stiles covers his face with his hands. He gasps and fists them in the sheets when Derek spreads his legs, settling between them. “It might hurt a little,” Derek warns him, and Stiles nods. “Let me know if you need me to stop.”

“Go slow,” Stiles says, nerves creeping into his voice, and Derek kisses him tenderly. It’s mainly to relax him, distract him from the way that Derek is positioning himself against Stiles’ hole, and it works for a little bit. Stiles lets Derek push him back against the sheets as they share open-mouthed kisses.

Derek pulls his face back and straightens slightly, then presses the head of his cock against Stiles’ opening. The teen gasps and his cock gives a jerk and Derek slowly eases himself in, murmuring soothing nonsense as Stiles arches slightly. When he’s about halfway in, Stiles whines, and Derek knows it means he needs a moment.

“You’re doing so good,” he praises, and reaches forward to wipe a tear from the corner of Stiles’ eye. He lets Stiles just breathe, get used to the burn as he runs his hands over the pale skin of his chest. He wants to press in, but Stiles’ comfort is so much more important. He nearly laughs when, seemingly unable to talk, Stiles gives him a thumbs-up to go on. He slides a bit more in, eases his way slowly and watches Stiles’ jaw get slack. As their hips eventually meet and Derek feels the tightness squeezing the entire length of his cock, a new urge kicks in.

Knot, knot, knot.

Derek groans as the pressure inside him builds, the urge to fuck Stiles harshly into the bedding making his head spin slightly. He’s never knotted anyone before and he can’t imagine explaining that to Stiles, explaining how he wants to let the base of his dick swell into the teen’s hole so they’ll be bound together after they come. It’s a weird werewolf thing, something he doesn’t want to share with Stiles and scare him away.

“You can move now,” Stiles whispers, and Derek realizes that he’s been settling into the feeling of Derek’s cock in him while Derek was thinking. Derek gives an experimental thrust of his hips and they both groan. “Oh my god,” Stiles moans, the words drawn out, and Derek starts moving them in a slow, steady rhythm. He’s torn between closing his eyes or watching Stiles squirm underneath him, and he compromises by alternating.

“You’re so big,” Stiles groans, and Derek shifts his hips so he can fuck Stiles with a bit more precision. The whine that escapes the teen’s mouth is so sweet that it aches, and Derek is torn between begging Stiles to stop or making him do it again. Stiles’ hands come up and claw at his back. “I know you can go faster than this, sourwolf,” he whispers into Derek’s ear, and Derek growls lowly. Stiles lets go and leans back into the covers as Derek starts thrusting harder, faster, his hands on the back of Stiles’ knees so he isn’t jerked back against the headboard. Stiles is whispering something that sounds very much like, “Yes, yes, yes,” and Derek closes his eyes and lets himself drown in the sound of wet skin on skin, of Stiles’ pants and his own hoarse grunts.

“Holy shit, Derek,” Stiles gasps, and Derek opens his eyes. As soon as he does, he freezes. He’s slightly wolfed out, he realizes; the hands on Stiles’ knees are clawed, and he vaguely wonders if his ears are pointed. Panic hits him, but before he can act on it, Stiles reaches out and grabs his hands. As their fingers lace together, Derek’s throat gets tight. Stiles is looking at him without any fear, his pupils blown wide with arousal. “It’s ok,” he whispers, still slightly fucking himself against Derek’s cock, and Derek has to close his eyes once more.

“Stiles,” he groans, quietly, and Stiles squeezes their hands tight. He moves again, just a little, slower; and Stiles whines. He needs Stiles to understand that he’s still safe, that Derek would never hurt him, even when wolfed out. But Stiles also needs to know what he’s doing to Derek, needs to know that he’s never lost control like this during sex. His scent is inebriating and heady, mixed with Derek’s own like he belongs to him.

“Do you want to knot me?”

The question takes Derek so off-guard that he opens his eyes again, his mouth falling open as he stops thrusting once more. Stiles is looking at him with an open face, hit heart fast from the exertion but not from panic. “How do you know about that?” Derek rasps, and Stiles manages to roll his eyes.

“Scott is a teenage werewolf and my best friend, plus I’ve spent the last few months writing a bestiary. How do you think I know it?” he says, and Derek shakes his head. Stiles arches slightly against him and the pressure on Derek’s cock intensifies from the movement. Sweat is pooling on his collarbone and he’s painfully aware of just how close he is to coming. “So, do you?”

Derek won’t –can’t—look at him. “It’s painful for the mate,” he replies, and Stiles is quiet for a moment.

“Derek?” he asks, and Derek glances down. He can’t help but appreciate how flushed Stiles is, how wide his hole is stretched so he can take all of Derek’s length. “I really want you to knot me.”

Derek’s mouth goes dry, and he stares at him. “What?”

“I want you to knot me,” the teen repeats, and if Derek wasn’t a werewolf he would have sworn he heard him wrong again. But Stiles keeps going. “I want you to pump me until I can’t hold it in anymore. I want your dick to be in me when I come, and when you come. I want to feel you swell inside me, claim me as yours—”

Derek starts thrusting, and Stiles lets out an appreciative moan and starts blabbering some nonsense praises. Hearing Stiles talk about this will be the death of him. If he wants to last at all, he can’t let him keep talking. Stiles keens happily and meets the thrusts with enthusiasm and energy that there’s no way any human should have. Derek feels like he is both completely dreaming and yet acutely aware, stuck in some strange world where he can feel himself plunging into Stiles without actually believing it’s happening.

“Touch me, touch me,” Stiles begs, and Derek was never one to resist. He manages to withdraw his claws and starts stroking the eager, red cock that’s been pressing against his abs this entire time. “Ooh,” Stiles moans, and it almost sounds like a prayer. Derek can feel himself getting close again, and it’s almost a relief when Stiles tenses against him.

“Gonna come,” he groans, and Derek increases his speed. The feeling of Stiles coming all over his hand, the warm liquid covering his fingers and stomach as he strokes him through the aftershocks, makes Derek’s rhythm falter slightly. But before he knows it, Stiles is murmuring to him again.

“Claim me,” he says, and Derek groans, because those words leaving Stiles’ red mouth is hotter than anything he could have imagined. “Come on, knot me Derek. Let everyone know whose I am. I don’t want to be able to sit tomorrow, I want to be able to remember what you felt like inside me—”

Derek is panting and gasping now, his thrusts erratic as he seeks his release. But he can’t get far enough in, and his wolf is telling him that the position is all wrong, that his knot won’t stay in if they’re like this. It’s complete bullshit and guesswork but Derek gives in to it, dragging Stiles up so the teen is riding him. He groans in ecstasy when his cock sinks just a little more into Stiles’ body, but a tendril of guilt sweeps through him as he thinks about how sensitive Stiles must be after coming.

Stiles doesn’t seem to mind. “God, I would love to fuck myself into your mouth,” he gasps, and Derek thrusts harder. “Just have you lick and suck on me, take me deep—” he pauses with a keen as Derek grabs his hips, holding him still now as he fucks up into his hole, “come down your throat, taste me on your lips—and—and then suck you until—”

Derek doesn’t get to hear the rest because he’s coming, waves of hot pleasure overwhelming him as he sees white. He comes and comes and comes, jerking up with harsh gasps as Stiles runs his hands over his bare, tan chest. When he stops he feels dazed but happy, as if someone inserted liquid endorphins into his bloodstream. He has half a mind to pull out, to save Stiles the pain of being knotted, but Stiles’ knees tighten around where they’re resting on either side of his torso.

“I want to feel it,” he croaks.

“It’s going to hurt,” Derek warns again, but Stiles shushes him and leans over just a bit, seeking his mouth. Derek uses his abs to lift him up in a smooth motion, loving the taste of Stiles on his tongue and his scent –their scent—in his nose. Stiles smells like sex, too, and Derek rumbles his approval. Stiles pulls back, looks at him curiously. Derek can’t help but blush. “You smell like me, now,” he mutters, and Stiles gets this dopey look on his face like a happy puppy.

“I am yours,” he replies, simply, and then twitches in startled awareness. Both of them glance down and Stiles groans quietly. Pain spikes in his scent and Derek whines, watching in distress as he starts to swell. At the same time, it’s an incredibly satisfying experience for his wolf. Every single instinct he has is telling him this is right, that he needs to knot his mate.

“Sorry,” Derek gasps, leaning back into the bed as the pleasure becomes too much, and Stiles just runs his warm hands over the werewolf’s skin soothingly. They both moan quietly when Derek twitches involuntarily, his wolf trying to get the knot in deeper.

“It’s ok,” Stiles soothes in reply, but Derek doesn’t like the smell of pain that’s drifting off him. As if he knows what Derek is thinking, Stiles continues, “It hurts now but—but it’ll feel good once—once it stretches. I can tell.” He sounds so confident that Derek can’t argue with him, can’t do anything but close his eyes and resist the urge to buck into Stiles more. Soon Stiles seems to overcome the pain, instead settling into a sleepy contentment on Derek’s lap. It’s a while before Derek can talk.

“Where,” Derek tries, and has to wet his lips, “where do you… feel it?”

He opens his eyes to watch as Stiles’ face lights up in surprise, a slight flush coloring his skin, but Derek can’t even muster the strength to be embarrassed. It seems like an important question, an essential one. He has to know how far in he is.

“Here,” Stiles whispers, and moves Derek’s hand up. Derek groans, staring at the spot with fiery eyes.

“That deep?” he pants, and Stiles nods. Derek groans. “Oh god, that’s so… perfect.” He can’t really control the words that are coming out of him, but in a way he’s thankful. If he wasn’t feeling half-high, he would never be brave enough to say it.

Stiles goes bright red. “Are these the werewolf sex hormones kicking in?” he tries to joke, but Derek moves his hand so he can intertwine it with Stiles.

“You know I mean it,” he says, looking at him, and Stiles just seems stunned. Derek squeezes his hand. “I came back for you. I’ve—I’ve never done that before.” He takes a deep breath. “I’ve never knotted anyone before, either.” Stiles gapes at him, as if he can’t believe it. Derek doesn’t understand why. He’s never wanted to knot anyone in the past, so why would he have?

“After this, we’re cuddling,” Stiles declares, eventually, and Derek can only nod. He accepts the answer for what it is: acceptance. Fondness.

When the knot finally reduces and Derek pulls out slowly, lovingly, from Stiles, they do end up cuddling. Derek presses his face into Stiles’ hair as he spoons him, closing his eyes at the pure contentment that sits in his belly. He hasn’t felt this way since the fire; in fact, he’d forgotten what it felt like. Thinking of his family brings a stray thought into his head.

“I always thought it was Cora you wanted,” he says, rumbling in his chest, and Stiles makes a questioning noise in his throat. “You were always at the house before we left, and you asked about her one of the first times we talked.” He remembers telling Stiles to fuck off, and internally he winces. It hadn’t been the best moment.

“Just an excuse to keep talking to you,” Stiles murmurs, and Derek can hear the truth in his heartbeat. “Don’t get me wrong—I like her as a friend. But the only reason I hung around was you, really. I think Cora knew, all along, but just didn’t say anything.” It’s a startlingly satisfying answer, and it makes Derek feel a bit smug.

Derek mouths gently at the back of Stiles’ neck and the human laughs lightly, letting Derek mark him. Derek thinks about how tomorrow they’re going to get up and go downstairs, how the Sheriff will be waiting for them. He’ll have to eat pancakes and be interrogated and the entire time Stiles will be making silly comments to try and catch him off guard. Then they’ll kiss and hold hands and probably have sex again, once John leaves for work, and Stiles will joke about werewolves and Derek will have to wrestle him out of bed and to the shower. He thinks Stiles will wear his shirt, maybe. He hopes so. It sounds cheesy and stereotypical and not like him at all, not like his life, because it’s perfect. It’s so, so perfect. He’s starting to drift off to sleep, nearly purring with satisfaction, when Stiles speaks.

“I’ve never wanted someone to come back for me before,” he says, and his voice is soft. Derek shifts slightly as Stiles turns around so they’re facing each other, sharing the same pillow. Derek strokes his hip lazily, still riding his post-orgasmic high and his fantasy of how tomorrow will go. Stiles swallows, his eyes searching Derek’s face, and he wriggles just a little closer. “I’m glad you did, though. Come back for me.” Derek can hear his heartbeat, steady and strong now, and lets it anchor him. The words are for him, placed against his skin like he’s a journal to store secrets, and Derek presses their foreheads together.

“Yeah?” he asks, and Stiles kisses him gently.

“Yeah,” he replies, and Derek kisses back.