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You wouldn't want it if you knew what it was

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Stiles has a plan. He has lists. He has a list of his lists, to make sure that he doesn’t forget anything. He keeps rewriting the lists because scribbling -- black and wild -- to cross things out feels so good in the moment, but then later he doesn’t like the way the crossed-out items look; their brambles mar the white and blue lines of his notepad like weeds blooming on a perfectly-mown field.

And, like, it’s a problem. It’s a problem because Stiles keeps rewriting the lists, craving the stark neatness of a fresh plan. (New plans are the best plans because they haven’t gone to hell yet.) He spends hours thinking about what he’s going to do, instead of doing it. He has every detail accounted for, but things aren’t getting done. And, he has so much energy in the middle of the night when all he can really do is not-sleep and sit and look at his lists, at the pictures of his new apartment in San Francisco, at his bank account and all the charges taken out for his utility deposits, his rental deposit, his new freaking cell phone because Reddit said his old CDMA phone wouldn’t work as well as a GSM one in that part of the Bay Area, and so on.

Then, of course, because he’s Stiles and he has Stilinski luck, by the time his dad is up and Stiles could conceivably start packing and doing things that make noise without being inconsiderate, well, his motivation is spent and he’s starting to get sleepy. He heard in a TED talk that list-making and over-planning stimulate the same parts of your brain as actually accomplishing things, which just makes it harder to be motivated to do things because your brain thinks they have already been done. Also, it’s now 5:30 am and the smell of brewing coffee reminds him of blue early mornings when he was young and his mom would see his dad off to his shift before waking Stiles gently to kiss his forehead and rub his back and then they’d both go back to sleep for a few more hours, and the fresh air from a cracked window was morning-cool but his bed was skin-warm and everything was so so fine, before he knew how bad it could get-

Stiles falls asleep.

He dreams of tilted streets and live wires overhead, unsolved murders buried underground, a thousand broken bottles paving the sidewalk, shop and bar and café windows kristallnacht’d by photography flashes or maybe bricks and so on in a stream of hope and violence, the twin souls of civil unrest, that somehow has coalesced in his dreaming mind to mean: San Francisco, far from home and (god) maybe that’s a good thing.

He wakes sweaty and too warm and he knows he won’t pack, again, today.

---

In this way, time passes until it’s scant days before his U-haul reservation and Stiles still hasn’t packed everything. (Still hasn’t said goodbye to everyone.)

He has managed to pack the essentials, though, and the self-care blog he follows on Tumblr says that it’s okay to congratulate himself on the little things, so he goes out to get a burger to reward himself. Stiles steps out of the house into the stifling summer heat, a whoosh of air-conditioning following him like a ghost (although, not really, because ghosts are fucking scary, thanks), and Derek is in his driveway.

The older man is standing horror-movie-still, all silent and foreboding, and Stiles thinks, not now, fuck, I-

“Did you walk here? Or… scamper? I guess?” Stiles speaks, just to keep from thinking. He makes it all sound like a question, tilting his voice higher, to keep Derek from thinking, as well.

“You haven’t left the house in three days,” Derek says, because that’s a totally normal thing to say. “What are you doing?”

Stiles is still on his front step, and he suddenly realizes his front door is still open. He doesn’t move to close it, though. He learned that one the hard way, that access and egress are essential to his run-run-run-away survival strategy. “Look, why don’t you just sleep outside my window, if you’re so interested. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Derek says nothing but does raise an eyebrow, humor finally blossoming across his face, so Stiles closes the front door. It’s maybe going to be okay.

Stiles picks up the thread of the conversation, used to having to hold up more than just his end when it comes to the once-Alpha. “I was just gonna hit the burger bar. Wanna go walkies?” he asks, miming a jingling leash with his hands. Derek flips him off.

He still comes with, though. Sucker.

---

Lydia and Erica show up when Stiles is halfway through his 2/3rd lb burger and Derek is halfway through his two, 1/3rd lb burgers. They’ve been arguing for 15 minutes -- between bites -- about which of their orders makes more sense.

“Why waste time with double the bun, double the toppings, when what you really want is more meaty goodness?” Stiles says, for the third time. He keeps using different words to make the same point, which is a debate strategy that he’s perfected over years of being Scott’s best friend.

Derek, whose countenance is visibly not-impressed, hilariously does the same thing. “Like I already said, you get double the hot pickles this way. Your argument is invalid.”

“Pickles cost like a cent to make. You’re paying for two burgers just for that? You could just bring extra pickles with you, order the double burger, and add them,” he rebutts.

“But then they wouldn’t be hot, Stiles-”

Lydia coughs delicately before sliding into the booth beside Stiles. “Are you two gonna be done soon, or should I order a milkshake?”

Erica just smirks as she steals the discarded red onion from Derek’s plate. He gives his protégé a severe look, for that, but she just breathes onion breath at him, blowing over his face in a sultry, pursed-lip stream. Stiles fights back a smile.

“Ugh, how can you eat raw onion?” Lydia asks the other girl after beaming at a nearby server to get his attention. It’s not even the server for their section, but the kid bounds over. Like everyone else, he’s powerless in the face of Lydia in a sundress.

“It’s spicy, but not as spicy as me,” Erica explains proudly on the heels of Lydia ordering a banana shake.

“I beg your pardon?” Derek asks, challenging Erica in that way he has, second-nature and nearly disinterested in the outcome.

“Then beg,” Erica returns, voice pitched firm and unyielding, though Stiles can see the joke in her eyes. Derek snorts into his soda, unbothered.

They’ve come so far, Stiles thinks, stirring his own Sprite absently with a straw. (We have.)

By the time everyone is finished eating -- Erica having cracked and ordered fries ‘for the table’ -- Stiles has worked up the courage to tell them all that his official moving date is three days away.

Lydia immediately starts planning his going away party. Erica texts Isaac and Boyd about helping load so Scott and Stiles can do the unloading in San Fran with fresh muscles. Derek doesn’t say a word, just makes Erica scoot out of the booth so he can go up to the counter and pay. The only reason Stiles doesn’t argue over the bill is because he feels the absence of the twinge in his butt cheek that he gets from sitting on his wallet all the time, which means he forgot it.

The unspoken kindness of the gesture sours in his mouth, though.

(Tastes like pickles.)

---

On the day itself, it’s a family affair. (A pack affair.)

Chris Argent is there because Derek’s uncle is there, in a nod to mutually assured destruction. Lydia and Allison form a power couple strong enough to order Peter around, and he snarks but ends up taping up about fifteen boxes, so Stiles counts it as a win.

He’ll totally sage smudge the fuck out of all fifteen of those boxes later, probably after pouring mountain ash and salt in rings all the way around them, but he appreciates the effort.

Melissa and his dad flip more burgers and hot dogs on the grill, enough to feed all the usual suspects plus Cora and Malia, who have pulled themselves away from each other long enough to help pick up some of the new furniture Stiles is buying from Craigslist before leaving. He figures a couch is a couch and there’s no way he should start acting Bay Area bougie when he’s still Beacon Hills broke.

The two girls are working at getting his brand-new-to-him-at-least sofa into the box truck from Cora’s beat-up Pacifica, which she and Malia had used to pick it up while Stiles stayed at the house and finished the rest of his packing. It had physically pained him to hand a hundred bucks in cash to someone who still sometimes tries to trade hunted rabbits for things, but Malia would fuck up any Craigslist weirdos who tried to give Cora a hard time, so he guesses it’s worth the risk. Not that Cora can’t shit-kick with the best of them, too; it’s just that Malia would have a lot less angst about it.

“Nice to see you two get out of bed for once,” Derek needles, though his eyes look happy and pleased for both his sister and his cousin. It had been rough for a few years after Cora found out just how closely she and her crush were related, but fuck it. Cora really likes Game of Thrones and if incest is good enough for them, it’s good enough for her, she’d told Stiles. It’s not like she and Malia were going to be putting birth-defected heirs on the throne. Malia had just pointed out that coyotes don’t actually give a fuck, and that had been that.

“I don’t, uh, see, uh, you, helping?” Malia huffs in response to Derek’s teasing. Stiles had found a sofa with a solid wood frame, heavy as fuck, so it wouldn’t fall apart in the next year. He’d pored over the ads to find one. (Is this ‘nesting’?)

“I’m helping. Well. I helped,” Derek argues, “...I bought Cora the Pacifica.”

Stiles hands Derek a glass of pink lemonade just to shut him up, sipping his own drink in the heat fast enough to risk brain-freeze. Scott tilts his head in that puzzled-puppy way he has, and asks, “Yo, Derek, don’t you want regular lemonade instead of pink?”

“Why? It tastes pretty much the same.”

Scott glances at Kira and untilts his head, as if he’s just been given new information that makes the world make sense again. “No reason.”

Kira quietly low-fives Stiles behind Derek’s back. For accidentally arranging for Scott to be educated on why pink lemonade shouldn’t be a threat to his masculinity, or something else, he’s not entirely sure.

---

Once Isaac and Boyd finally get everything loaded -- so what if they’re only being held up by Stiles not having finished packing yet, shut up, Erica -- Stiles and his dad and Scott all pile into the cramped cab of the U-Haul. Scott sits in the middle because he says he likes the vibration of the truck and that he’ll probably fall asleep.

He does. He drools on the shoulder of Stiles’s shirt.

Stiles grins at his dad over Scott’s dark head, and they make it about ten miles from the house before it happens. It starts with an itching that turns into a burning and then every second of treeless road that the box truck eats up past the edge of the preserve, where it turns into developed land again, fucking kills.

“Stop, stop, we have to go back,” Stiles gasps as he scrabbles at the door of the cab, fully ready to jump down out of a moving truck that’s going forty miles an hour, except for the fact that Scott’s hand is tight on his elbow and Scott’s drool is on his shoulder and he can smell it and he hates the scent, that it’s on him, it feels wrong. Also, he shouldn’t be here.

He says as much, voice just this side of a hissing growl as he jerks his elbow away, and Scott’s eyes go impossibly wider. “Dude.”

His dad brakes hard and he hears boxes shifting, maybe one falling over in the sudden stop and probably scattering small furnishings if it’s one of the untaped ones, and it riles him. (The new den must be perfect. No broken sticks.)

Stiles gets the door open and he stumbles away from the road until his knees finally hit dirt that’s less highway dust and more loamy, more fertile. There’s a fog rolling in, which is so fucking wrong, because it’s early afternoon on the hottest day of the year so far and Stiles watches it float and pool around his wrists as he crawls back toward the treeline. By the time the thick, thorny vines loosen from around where they’d banded around his heart and lungs and Stiles can breathe again, he realizes his back is against the post of a sign, which -- when he looks up -- he can’t read from this side. He hears Scott coming up behind him, his dad’s heavier footfalls echoing a beat behind.

Stiles asks, resigned, “What’s the sign for?”

Scott reads it dutifully. “You are now entering Beacon Hills Preserve, land generously donated by -- and maintained with funds from -- the Hale Family Foundation.”

His dad swears a blue streak into the fog.

Chapter Text

Derek meets Scott halfway between the edge of the preserve and Beacon Hills. They nearly speed past each other before they both screech to a halt, although the Camaro stops a lot more smoothly than the Jeep. Derek steps out and leaves his door open to walk towards Scott. (I dare anyone to come through here and hit my car right now, he thinks.)

Scott trips out of the blue monstrosity and Derek catches the keys and tosses his own at Scott in one motion. He doesn’t stop walking. (Please hold on.)

He can feel Scott looking at the Camaro with trepidation, over his shoulder. “You could, I mean- I could. I could just take the Jeep back to town and you keep your car?”

“If this is what I think it is, Stiles needs familiar things; I’m taking the Jeep,” he calls back, stepping up into the driver seat.

“What do you think it is?” Scott shouts after him.

He starts Roscoe without answering. (Yes, he knows its name.)

The Jeep purrs to life when Derek turns the key, despite both Derek and the vehicle itself knowing that it’s held together with spit and hope. In fact, Derek had been sure that it wouldn’t survive being towed to San Francisco behind the box truck, but now he’s glad that whatever’s going on with Stiles hadn’t necessitated somebody letting McCall drive a 12-foot-truck.

Derek resists the urge to slam the nearly forty-year-old door closed next to him (I double dog dare someone to hit this car), and instead gently closes it so they can get this show on the road.

It’s maybe going to be okay.

---

He doesn’t love this. There have been very few moments in Derek’s life more uncomfortable than riding the rest of the way to San Francisco with Stiles in his lap. The younger man had snapped at the sheriff’s hand when he’d tried to pull his son into the middle seat. The sheriff had simply kept driving after that, flipping the radio on. Derek guesses it’s to cover the awkward silence.

They go on like that for about five songs and one ad break before the sheriff turns the radio back off and asks quietly, “Is it the nogitsune again?”

“No,” Derek replies. He’s already checked the skin around Stiles’s eyes, which was unbruised, and though the wolf recognizes the glow of a fox spirit in the younger man’s blown pupils, it’s no nogitsune. It’s just a normal fox, brought forth to assert itself over Stiles’s human self by virtue of him leaving the vale of the Nemeton and the protection of the Hale ancestral pack lands.

It would have receded if he’d gone home, if he’d stayed in Beacon Hills. (Stupid kid.)

But Stiles had pleaded with his father and with Derek. He’d looked up at them and then dug his nails into the back of the sign he’d been leaning against to drag himself to his feet. Derek had watched the other man’s forearm ripple with strength, drawing the entire weight of Stiles’s body up by the fingernails, and he’d known. Stiles has always been strong, and this was his body finally catching up, he’d thought.

Derek already knew they’d lost, had known before that even, when the strange fog had flowed -- too quick -- away from his own feet after he’d hopped out of the Jeep, as if making a path for him and him alone.

And then, at the liminal edge of that ancient law that separated his inherited authority from that of the state of California, Stiles had made his voice do that thing that made him sound like the little girl from Lilo + Stitch.

“Please? I already paid the deposits and everything. I planned everything. I worked so hard. I made a list.”

“You’ll be feral, Stiles. Your apartment is 100 miles away,” he’d reasoned, ignoring the way the sheriff’s eyes had flicked toward him, speculatively.

“We already packed, though,” Stiles had ground out, audibly forcing his voice back from a whine. “And classes don’t start for a month, surely you can fix me by then.”

We didn’t pack anything; that’s your stuff in that truck, not mine.”

Stiles had waved his hand. “You don’t really like furniture anyway.” As soon as he stepped back toward the truck, passing the sign for the preserve, he’d stumbled and his body language had gone a little looser, a little pained. He’d only been able to walk back to the truck in a straight line after Derek had caught him by the back of the neck.

So, yeah, Derek doesn’t love this situation. (He doesn’t hate it, either.)

“No, it’s not the nogitsune,” Derek re-states.

The sheriff grips at the steering wheel, checks his mirrors, merges onto a larger road. “Good, that’s good. Okay,” he says, blowing out a breath.

Stiles snuffles into Derek’s neck, as if words are beyond him just now.

And that’s how Derek moves to the Tenderloin.

---

Later, after everything is unloaded, though not unpacked, he gives Stiles and his dad a moment to say goodbye. He calls Deaton.

“Are you sure you didn’t ask the Nemeton for anything? Didn’t ask it to make Stiles stay?” the former Emissary asks.

“I’m sure. Why would I do that?” he huffs. A beat and then, “How would I do that?”

Deaton sighs, “Well, I doubt you could have done it accidentally. It involves going out to the stump and leaving it an offering, usually some kind of food or valuable domestic substance. Traditionally, that means animal-fat soap or candle tallow or even something like a medicinal tincture, colorful dyes, anything natural and food or household-related, really, to tie someone to your pack lands.”

Derek frowns. “Exactly, I didn’t do anything like that when I went out there the other day. I mean, I had just seen Stiles, so why would I mind if he left? He’d definitely come back to see his dad for Christmas, right?”

Deaton pauses and Derek flexes his toes. “Were you worried about him moving?”

(I don’t know.) (Yes, I do.) “No.”

Derek really doesn’t like how he can see the trajectory of this conversation. It feels like when he hears the twang of a bowstring and feels the pain before it starts, or the charge he’s often felt, in the split second before Lydia screams. He tries to defend himself before the veterinarian can speak again. “I didn’t say anything to the damned tree, either.”

Deaton must be feeling particularly kind, because all he says is, “Well, that’s that, then. I’ll, uh, look into alternative causes of supernatural land-based ferocity that can be ameliorated by the presence of a member of the corresponding pack bloodline. If there are any.”

“You do that,” he bites out.

“Goodbye, Derek. And good luck!” Deaton says sunnily.

(Ass.)

---

Stiles seems fine, unpacking the living room of the little one bedroom. He’s arranging the pillows on his new couch, muttering about what else is needed for “the den”, and Derek figures his presence in the apartment is enough to anchor the twenty-year-old for now.

“I ordered Indian and I’m gonna go pick it up, okay?” he asks. Stiles blinks at him. His brown eyes are unusually limpid; they’re normally much darker.

Derek tries not to fidget. “It’s just that the delivery fee is like four dollars and I know how you hate stuff like that.”

Stiles continues to watch him. Derek rubs at the back of his neck.

“Sorry, I probably should have asked what you wanted. I just figured you were doing your own thing and that I’d go ahead take care of it. Tikka masala, right?”

Stiles nods, slow.

Derek leaves.

When he gets back, he comes in and Stiles looks unglued. The younger man meets Derek at the door and he has to set the bag containing their dinner on the doormat because Stiles has him wrapped up in his arms pressing his face into Derek’s neck, then rubbing his forehead down and across the bridge of Derek’s sternum, along the other side of his collarbone, and up. He scrapes his cheek along the ball of Derek’s shoulder and Derek feels the little bumps of his beauty marks through the thin cotton.

Oh, yeah. And Stiles is shirtless.

Derek extricates himself from the highly uncharacteristic hug. From his new vantage point, he can see that Stiles has flung his shirt off haphazardly; it clings to the top of a box across the room, caught by one of the corners. Also, there’s a red mark that’s been scrubbed clean on Stiles’s shoulder.

“Stiles? Wanna clue me in?” he requests, tapping near the edge of the raw spot, just once.

“Smelledlikescott,” Stiles slurs. “Missedyou.”

Derek ends up helping the jittery, barely verbal Stiles with his dinner, trying not to poke the poor kid in the mouth with the tines of the fork. He even tears off little bits of naan and feeds them to him, and ends up dodging Stiles’s seeking mouth with his hand, when Stiles tries to follow it.

He calls Deaton again. “Tell me we can fix this.”

“One question, did you and Mr. Stilinski eat together before you went to the Nemeton? Did you take a, forgive me, what they call a ‘doggy bag’ home with you, set it on the stump when you stopped by, maybe? Did you get any kind of food oil or crumbs on the wood?”

Derek peeks around the corner of the hallway to where Stiles is settled into the couch and wrapped up in Derek’s leather jacket, looking miserable and glassy-eyed. “I didn’t do this. I ate all of my burger at the restaurant.”

But then he thinks about it again, about how he and Stiles had been fighting little rivulets of grease that had kept trying to creep down their wrists, and then the girls had shown up. Lydia had marveled at the sheer height and fat content of the double-decker Stiles had been eating; Derek remembers because Erica had made a crack about how, if you don’t end up with a sore jaw and greased up fingers, then what’s the point? Lydia had wrinkled her nose, and Derek had tried not to encourage anyone, but Stiles had been delighted.

Deaton, ever insightful to the point of clairvoyance, sighs at his silence. “Burgers. From the Trolley Stop? Did you, perhaps, pay for lunch? Or do anything that could fulfill a clause about ‘providing sustenance for one’s mate’?”

“He had this squirrely look like he forgot his wallet again. Lydia offered to get Erica’s. It seemed like the friendly thing to do,” he confirms, heart sinking.

“Well, congratulations to you, Derek. You successfully brokered a deal with the Nemeton to try and keep the object of your affections tied to your home turf by offering it greasy burger drippings from your hands, while thinking about him leaving, after having done the stereotypical wolf courting ritual of procuring meat for him to devour. Fantastic.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Derek breathes, horrified. He goes into the kitchen to get himself a nice, calming glass of water.

“I wish I were,” the older man admits, voice gone full-on-Emissary. “Unfortunately, I’m not. You’ll need to prepare to move into Sheriff Stilinski’s residence with Stiles, as his inner ferocity -- whatever animal form that takes, though it's likely a fox, given his history -- will start acting up without regular contact. This is especially likely if he gets too far from either his childhood home -- where his bloodline’s spiritual energy is concentrated -- or the preserve boundary -- where your concentration resides.”

Derek sips at his water, heart rate rabbiting. His gaze fixes on the little notebook moving checklist on the counter, open to a page filled with the neatest, most perfectionistic handwriting he has ever seen anywhere near Stiles. From here, he can make out painstakingly-drawn little doodles of the San Francisco skyline in the margins. “That’s not an option. We’re a hundred miles away and we’re staying.”

“You can’t,” Deaton says immediately, and his tone makes Derek’s arm hairs stand on end.

“Why not?”

“In order for two pack members whose courtship has been initiated to live safely away from their pack lands, they’ll have to make certain not to consummate their relationship physically. This is an ancient supernatural rite with a practical purpose -- to ensure that rogue mates don’t sire lone wolves while away from pack lands. It’s all about keeping the strength close to home. If you do have intercourse, you’ll both be stripped of your powers by the terms of the Nemeton.”

“And this is a problem how? I didn’t even mean to start courting Stiles; I’m certainly not going to mate him, are you insane?” Derek snarls. The glass doesn’t break in his hand, though, so that’s good.

Deaton answers in a criminally even voice. “It’s a problem because as he gets more and more feral from spending time away from Beacon Hills, he’s not going to be able to leave you alone. It’s going to be all he thinks about. And in any pair where the courtship goes on unconsummated for more than a year and a day -- Nemeton or no Nemeton -- you run the risk of the non-dominant partner dying of what’s colloquially known as ‘a broken heart’. It’s terribly sexist, and I don’t mean to assume… but surely between the two of you, Stiles would be termed the non-dominant partner?”

Derek was trying not to think about it. “So, let me get this straight. The three choices are to move back to Beacon Hills and wreck his dreams; he’ll probably lose his scholarship if he tries to defer. Or I could screw him under dubious circumstances and lose my birthright for my trouble. Or watch him waste away, ye-olden-spurned-princess-style?”

“You got it. You have some time, maybe until the new year, until the risk gets too high.”

“Gee, thanks Deaton.”

“Learn to wash your hands after eating. Especially before touching ancient magical sites.”

Derek hangs up on him.

Chapter Text

This destiny bond thing with Derek is better than Adderall.

He feels clear and focused like he does when he takes too much of the aforementioned pharmaceutical, but Stiles hasn’t taken any in the week since moving. And, okay, yeah maybe he feels a bit hyper-focused, a bit fixated on Derek and on sensation in general, but-

Whatever. Stiles crosses out ‘transfer Rx to new pharmacy’ on his to-do list, even though he hasn’t done it. (It feels vaguely naughty.)

The drag of his pen along the page cuts through the words like a sword, and the sound is delicious. His new senses pick out the little crackles of the fine-tipped point slicing the paper full of tasks. The countertop is cool under his cheek as Stiles watches the ink feather ever so slightly and bloom across just that extra micrometer of page. You don’t get that with a ballpoint.

This is why Stiles loves gel rollerballs. He didn’t know that this was why until now, but it is.

Derek has been gone for three hours and forty-three minutes.

---

Nevermind what he said before, Stiles hates this.

He hates that he’s so fucking mad at Derek right now, but that he still wants to lick the sweat out of the older man’s suprasternal notch. He hates that he’d been so happy to see his roommate -- “Oh my god, they were roommates,” as Erica had said on the phone, with Boyd cracking up in the background -- and then Derek had shown Stiles his new student ID. Mieczysław Stilinski, it reads proudly, along with the University of San Francisco logo, and his ID number, 923816.

It also has Derek’s perfect fucking teeth in his perfect white smile, beaming up at him.

“What did you-”

“Stiles, you know this makes sense, you know you can’t go to class-”

“Who says I can’t-”

“Uh, I don’t know, logic? You’ll bite your TA, you’ll hiss and growl if they call on you-”

“You don’t know that-”

I do, because your eyes are already going all foxy right now and we’re in the fucking apartment and it’s just me-”

“Fuck you, Derek. When you said we’d figure out a way, I thought you meant you’d sign up to audit my classes and sit next to me and be my anchor or something.”

Derek visibly deflates at that and Stiles feels a wild and sudden, hormonal urge to protect him and possibly have children with him. It’s fucked up on every level because he’s still furious. But then Derek speaks, “I couldn’t get into USF even as a non-degree student to audit, Stiles. You had an almost perfect SAT score, and even with taking a couple of years off to save up for the cost-of-living here, you have a steady school and work history up to this point. It’s a lot different for the guy who barely made it out of high school, whose name comes up in connection with house fires and murders and so on, and who’s closer to thirty than twenty.”

“Oh,” is what ghosts out of Stiles, at that.

“Yeah.”

“So how did you get a photo ID without, you know, another photo ID to match? Must have taken some pretty serious flirting at the registrar’s office.” (Déjà jealous, Stilinski?)

“Oh, that was easy. I got a job at Smoothie Hut.”

Stiles gapes at him. “U w0t, m8?” he says, transverbalizing from his mental Discord server -- the private one that stays between him and God -- to speak actual English at Derek, albeit disbelievingly.

Derek comes to sit beside him in the nest Stiles has made of their new couch. He speaks very slowly. Or maybe Stiles is just transfixed at how handsome he is. Either/or. Maybe both. “It’s only part-time. Smoothie Hut. They make smoothies. Do you like mango stuff?”

“But, why? How ?” Stiles asks. “And yes?”

“Well, the Smoothie Hut is like a block from here, so it’s close enough I can get to you if you need me, you know, to emergency-anchor you? And it’s only part-time. This way I can still go to class for you in the morning and come home for lunch to re-anchor you and then give you some privacy while I work my shift. Plus, we need the money in the long-term, if you can’t work.”

Stiles nods fervently at that because frankly, the rent on this place is criminal, but also wait, what? “I mean, I appreciate the thought and all, but ‘long-term'? ‘Privacy’?” He even does the air quotes.

And now Derek is back to slow-talking him. “Ye-es, Stiles. I thought you might want to stay here given I found a list of lists in your bag when I went to find your paperwork for the university. It had a doodle of the Golden Gate bridge on it.”

He even does the sassy little eyebrow raise that makes Stiles want to choke him.

Instead, he simply informs Derek, “I have so many questions.” And then, at Derek’s nod, “First of all, did you bring me a smoothie or not?”

---

It turns out, it’s surprisingly easy to get a job in San Francisco without showing your birth certificate or any ID if you’re a) handsome, and b) speak really impressive English for a guy named ‘Miguel Stilinchez’. If you then, c) draw the girl’s name with little flowers around it when labelling your first training smoothie and d) give it to your new coworker that makes the employee ID badges, she will obligingly put the ‘Polish version’ of your name on your badge, to help you avoid immigration troubles so you can stick around and ‘be friends’.

“You evil genius,” Stiles breathes, when Derek explains it. The older man doesn’t exactly preen, because it’s Derek, but he does look pleased with himself. Stiles picks up the trail from there, guessing, “So then you took my enrollment papers and your work ID and that was enough to get you a student ID with my name on it?”

“Yep. I really got into character and told them I forgot my wallet. But I had the employee badge on a lanyard around my neck, so the girl took pity on me. Honestly, I think she felt sorry for me having your first name anyway,” Derek grins.

“You did not,” Sterek guts out, giddy and challenging and overall in-awe. He feels wild with disbelief, like he’s been chased and just escaped the jaws of a predator. (Maybe they can stay-)

“I so did,” Derek returns, mimicking the tone of Stiles’s voice and leaning closer as he pulls a lanyard and attached badge from underneath his shirt. Stiles fixates on the silky uncoiling of the nylon against Derek’s collarbone as it happens. It unearths something possessive in him.

He takes the badge -- it’s nothing more than a laminated card, really -- in his hand. And, yes, there’s Derek’s face looking back at him above Stiles’s own name, typed, and then ‘Miguel’ in smaller handwritten letters underneath. Photo-Derek looks… happy. Proud. Stiles looks up and sees the mirror of that in front of him, so close. Real-Derek looks happy and proud, too, and he’s watching Stiles for a reaction.

Stiles, lanyard still in hand, gives him one.

He pulls Derek forward, using the nylon around Derek’s neck as a leash, and kisses him all sloppy and mango-y and desperate. Derek makes a noise into his mouth that makes Stiles thrill and sets up a rumbling sort of noise in his chest and a rushing in his ears and Stiles is compelled to push Derek backward against the arm of the couch -- their couch -- with his newfound strength. And from there, really, it’s not such a big leap to clamber onto Derek’s lap and continue licking into his mouth until the rumble in his chest manifests outwardly as a growling, “Mine.”

“Stiles, you-”

“You with my name, you using my name out there in the world to take care of us, so we can den here and eat, so good, good mate-” Stiles grounds out even as he noses at Derek’s neck and shoulder, wanting him to smell like Stiles and not fruit.

And it’s so perfect, feeling Derek’s warm body under him, and Stiles can’t quite keep himself from grinding down into the other man’s lap. Derek groans low and goes to throw his head back, but Stiles sees it first and uses his new supernatural speed to slip his hand in between Derek’s skull and the hard, wooden armrest. Something protective and possessive blossoms in Stiles, but then there’s a grasping through the short hairs at the back of his head and a grip along his sweaty nape and Stiles is being pulled away and it chases away the fog enough for him to actually look at his mate’s face and-

It’s scared, and he hears Derek’s thundering pulse-

Stiles snatches his hands away so fast that he leaves claw marks in Derek’s shirt-

“I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t mean to scare you-”

Derek breathes harshly, quick to assure him, “It’s okay-”

“It’s not,” Stiles spits, scrabbling back so quickly that he dumps himself on his ass on the floor. He watches as Derek sits up and touches the back of his head; his hand comes away with blood on it. “Oh, fuck. Derek, no wonder you sounded so scared-”

“That’s not why. Stiles, it’s okay. I’m a werewolf; do you seriously think I’ve never been scratched during a makeout before?”

Stiles fights the possessive rage that overtakes him at that thought by clinging to his human side with everything he’s got. It’s actually a lot like when he’s had to force himself to focus and stay on task in the past, like bodily ripping himself away from whatever intrusive thought had pinged him. He forces himself to step back from what he’s been privately calling his symbiote because duh, and he doesn’t get all the way back to zen-millennial-Eddie-Brock calm, but maybe that’s okay. He focuses on the cold, hard facts.

“Have you kissed a lot of other wolves? Or foxes?” Stiles blurts. Oops. That’s not what he meant to zero in on. What he does notice, though, is how Derek’s lines go taut where he’s sitting on the couch in front of Stiles. He leans forward, forearms to knees and drops his head with a sigh. His shoulders are all murder-y.

But, no, it’s not murder-y, Stiles thinks. It’s not violence directed outward, but inward.

“Derek, your shoulders are all suicide-y and it’s making my symbiote wanna cuddle you back to life, so if you don’t want me to touch you, that’s valid, but also maybe stop looking like you hate yourself?”

Derek lifts his head. “I don’t wanna hear another pop culture reference out of you for the rest of this conversation.”

“You’re not my DAD!”

“Stiles.”

“Fine,” he huffs. “So you do know what Vine is.”

“Listen, I get what you’re going for, but. You can’t meme your way out of going feral, or cover this awkward moment with humor, or whatever you’re trying to do, so just. Stop. Let the fox out, Stiles. It’ll be okay,” Derek says gently. (Too gently.)

Stiles is immediately suspicious. He leans forward on his knees, bracing himself with his hands on Derek’s legs for lack of a better place to keep from falling over. “Are you doing that thing you do where you’re talking about me but you’re really talking about yourself? Because that’s not cool, Derek. Not cool.”

Derek leans back and snorts, frustrated. “I’m not. This is just, it’s a… dammit, Stiles. It’s a Kate thing, okay? Let’s just leave it.”

Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. There’s a beat and then Stiles, horrified, “Of course, I didn’t think. With me straddling you, it probably reminded you of-”

“What? No. In this situation, I’m the Kate, you’re the Derek,” he explains, eyebrows climbing.

I’m the Derek?” Stiles repeats, highly amused.

Derek sits up, looking serious. “Stiles, I did this to you. It’s just like what she did to me. You’re younger than me by a lot, and I made you artificially dependent on me. Sure, it was an accident with the Nemeton, but I still did it. And now you’re isolated away from your friends and family to the point that I’m the only person you can be around, and you’re confusing that for desire. It’s not your fault. It’s mine. You’re not even into guys.”

Stiles tries his best to take all that in, to listen to Derek especially well, because god knows how much positive self-talk it took for Derek to be able to blame Kate and not himself, but that last startles a barking laugh out of him. “Are you serious?”

Derek gives him a Look, the one that usually means Stiles is being obnoxious.

He backtracks. “No, Derek, sorry, that’s not what I meant. I just. Okay, so like everything you just said about Allison’s psycho aunt is right, okay, good on you, big guy. Proud of you. But, you know what? No, just hold on. Gimme my phone-”

Stiles spots his cell and snags it from between the couch cushions, leaning up and into the V of Derek’s legs in order to do so. He rubs his palm over the older man’s left quad in what he hopes is a comforting manner. He dials Deaton, but gets the man’s voicemail.

“Yo Doc, Derek told me that if we have sex, the stump-from-hell’s gonna get angry and strip our powers. Does that include blowjobs? Text me back. This is Stiles, by the way. Stilinski.”

Derek makes a choking noise, but Stiles is already dialing Scott, who, over the years, has finally learned never to ignore a call from Stiles, just in case he’s being chased by crazed faeries. Or a swamp monster. Or, memorably, a mind-controlled Lydia.

Scott picks up on the second ring. “Bro? You okay? Is Derek there?”

“Yeah, dude, we’re cool. I just need to talk about that thing we swore never to talk about.”

There’s a pause. Scott doesn’t say anything and Stiles suddenly remembers that they planned for this. The deal had been, if Stiles were to ever attempt to bring up The Thing They Swore Never To Talk About in front of Derek, then they had a plan. Scott was supposed to play dumb. Which, if Stiles is being honest, is sort of like saying 'Department of Redundancy Department'.

“It’s okay, Scotty; I’m invoking the ‘You Lucky Dawg’ clause. I’m putting you on speaker.”

He can also feel Derek’s stress and annoyance pouring off him from this close, so Stiles rubs over his quad again while Scott sputters down the line. “What, really, Derek is into you? Like, did he say that? Out loud?”

“Yeah thanks, pal. Not in so many words, but I really appreciate the confidence,” Stiles deadpans over Derek’s sound of panic. He feels the older man try and get up, so he looks away from the little picture of Scott on his phone -- the one Stiles had taken in Petco with Scott next to a bag of dog food marked ‘Young Adult’ -- to try and calm Derek down. “Hold on, Scott. Derek, look. If this is freaking you out you can, of course, get up. I’m not gonna hold you down, but I would really like it if you stayed here with me.”

Derek remains tense for a moment and then settles back. Stiles takes his hand off of Derek’s left leg and then holds it out for Derek to grasp, letting Scott voice his disbelief with a low, “Whoooaaa,” in the background. Derek helps him lever up, eyes wide, and Stiles settles back up on the couch, rubbing at his sore knees with his off-hand. Scott’s voice crackles between them, “So I can tell him now?”

“Go ahead, man,” Stiles confirms.

“Okay, so, Derek. Me and Stiles and Allison made this pact two years ago, that I would stop telling them about what me and Kira were doing, and Allison would stop telling us about banging Isaac and Lydia, and that Stiles was gonna stop wondering aloud how many times you could, you know, uh... come? in a row? with werewolf biology? And he especially was supposed to stop asking me -- personally -- and Allison -- via torturing Isaac -- to give him some data for his hypothesis so he could, and I quote, ‘science the hell out of Derek’ one day.”

Derek makes what turns out to be a very gratifying sound, in Stiles’s opinion, but then Derek shakes his head in denial, and rallies with, “Stiles isn’t even gay or I’d be able to tell. He doesn’t smell gay.”

And Stiles has to jerk his head back, mouth twisting, at that one. Scott, having been trained exceptionally well by Kira, promptly goes, “dUDE, tHaT’s bIsEXuaL ErAsuRe,” or at least that’s how it sounds to Stiles.

Stiles, however, has a follow-up question. “How exactly does one, ahem, smell gay?”

Derek waves a hand, looking like he’s building up to another point. “You know.”

“I really don’t, big guy-”

But Derek cuts him off. “Look, Stiles, this is sweet and all, but I’m not comfortable with this. Even you, sitting here and trying to explain to me why I shouldn’t feel bad... I did the same thing with Kate. All she had to do was imply I wasn’t mature enough to understand, and then I did everything in my power to make her happy, to act mature, including things I wasn’t comfortable with or ready for. And my family died because of that. That was her play, and I ate it up. So seeing you trying to prove yourself to me now… trying to make me feel better about what I did, when that’s not your responsibility...”

Derek shakes his head, morose, and Stiles tries to speak but Derek holds up his hand.

“I understand you have agency in this, I do. I’m sorry I dismissed your sexuality. But, I can’t. I can’t do this. Especially with all the rules and clauses of the Nemeton and you being not yourself, it all just means… this isn’t a conversation I can have. I’ll be in the shower.”

Stiles watches him go, caught up in the heavy silence that follows. A shuffling noise and the sounds of frantic whispering burst over the phone line, still on speaker, before Kira’s soft voice comes through.

“Stiles?”

“Forget about it, K. Talk to you guys later,” Stiles answers woodenly, and hangs up. His canines are down and he thinks, fuck it.

Stiles goes into the partially unpacked bedroom and makes a huge nest out of his bed, burrowing under heavy layers of blankets until he can barely breathe. He wishes he had a good overturned tree or some nice, dead leaves.

This destiny bond thing with Derek is the worst.

Chapter Text

His mother always told him that you should begin things the way you mean to continue them. Derek thinks about that a lot.

Instead of taking that very good advice, they fall into a routine designed to minimize the risk of riling each other up. Stiles spends almost all of his time holed up in the one bedroom, seemingly depressed. Derek sleeps on the couch that Stiles meticulously picked out, along with the pillows and blankets he had arranged for Derek. Stiles had also bought one of those TV stands with a little fake electric fireplace in the middle, so now Derek stares into its glow all night long without turning the heating element on; he doesn’t sleep particularly well.

In a way, Stiles isolating himself like this makes him the ideal roommate. Derek cleans the bathroom and the kitchen because he’s had longer to get used to having heightened senses, and the scent of cleaner doesn’t make him want to pass out. Stiles keeps the rest of the house up and does dishes and laundry, while Derek generally picks up groceries.

He still brings Stiles mango and banana smoothies.

They don’t touch. Derek leaves the smoothies on the counter.

Stiles becomes more and more uncharacteristically non-hyperverbal, and it weirds Derek out. The younger man is also snappish and territorial; once, Derek brought Stiles a sandwich on a day he’d noticed Stiles hadn’t eaten. The bedroom door had been ajar, so Derek walked right in. Stiles had snatched the sandwich and paper plate from him and brought both straight to his mouth, ravenous and bright-eyed. He’d taken a little teeth-scalloped, semicircle chunk out of the paper plate. Derek had shuddered at the glassy look in his friend's eyes as Stiles swallowed.

Derek thinks about that a lot, too. He dreams about Stiles crunching into his mother’s china, mouth gone bloody with shards as his fingers leave charcoal-black smudges in the ash burned ‘round the other edge of the delicate, decorated rim.

He starts going to class for Stiles in late August, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he doesn’t enjoy all the little eighteen-year-olds constantly assuming he’s their TA. On the other hand, it’s the only thing that makes Stiles open up and seem human anymore. Derek streams the class to Stiles at home using a meeting app and discreetly-mounted webcam, both of which Lydia had painstakingly set up for him. She’d spent hours upon hours working with him in the weeks prior, in a private study room at the library, going over the plan. He’d sheepishly taken up two weeks of her summer vacation that way, with her staying in an Airbnb and meeting him every day to teach him things he’d forgotten from high school about basic math, argumentation, writing, classroom etiquette, study skills, and so on. She’d even set him up on Discord so Stiles could message him during class if he needed Derek to ask a professor a question for him.

He’d come home every day smelling like stress and Lydia and that ubiquitous ‘public place’ smell the library had, and Stiles had only made it three days into the process before he started scenting Derek on sight. It’s the only time Stiles comes anywhere near him, and it’s only for a few minutes, once or twice a day. Otherwise, they’ve been studying separately; Stiles for real and Derek so he can pass Stiles’s exams for him. It doesn’t feel like cheating, considering four out of the five classes Stiles (or, technically, Derek) is taking don’t even have exams, just papers, and Stiles writes those for himself. (Derek writes his own versions of the assignments, just to see if he can, but there’s no one to read or grade them.)

The fifth class is a math gen ed class that Stiles had already taken but hadn’t been allowed to transfer from community college, so. Fuck that, basically.

Still, Derek doesn’t realize how bad it is until they break their carefully-constructed routine in mid-October. Derek’s bone-tired from taking the math midterm, his hand cramping from writing out the equations long-form. He feels smart for once in his life because he (thinks, hopes, prays) he did well on the test, and he also had the foresight to get today off. He gets home and hears Stiles fussing around in the bedroom; Derek is certain he’s spent the morning worrying about the exam, so he orders pizza for them both.

The little tracker that he’s learning to trust tells him the pizza will be there in forty minutes, so he goes to get a quick shower. He’s fast, but when he comes out wrapped in a towel, he notices the bedroom door is open.

Oh, look, the front door is open, too.

Stiles has the pizza boy against the wall, forearm against the kid’s neck. “Stiles! Let him go!”

“A-a-are, are you, um, are you D-d-d-erek?” the frightened teenager forces out, eyes wide and desperate.

Stiles growls louder and bares his teeth with a hiss, jamming his forearm further into the poor dude’s trachea. Derek gets a veritable wave of possessive hormones off Stiles, and it nearly bowls him over. Stiles clearly does not like hearing this strange person say Derek's name.

Derek does the only thing he can think of. He calls, “Stiles! Look at me, I'm mostly naked; come with me into the bedroom.”

Stiles lets the delivery guy go and bounds past Derek with an alarming amount of speed to land with a little bounce in the center of the bed, which has eight to twelve blankets on it.

Derek promptly shuts the door and uses his towel to tie a figure-eight knot around the lever door handle and connect it to the nearby bathroom door, tight. He grabs his pants from the bathroom first, though, and makes highly awkward eye contact with the pizza boy as he shucks them on and then pulls out his wallet.

“First of all, I'm sorry. Here's a hundred bucks. My… I guess you’d call him my boyfriend just started new meds and they make him a little… aggressive. Did he hurt you?”

“Uh… Does emotional scarring count?” the guy asks meekly.

Derek squints. “How old are you?”

“Nineteen?”

Derek gives him another fifty dollars, cleaning out his wallet. “You're young; you'll get over it.” The guy attempts to beat a hasty retreat at that, but Derek stops him. “Don't tell anyone about this, got it?”

And honestly, he's not used to playing ‘good cop’ but Derek must be doing it well, because the kid actually has the guts to pipe up with, “Yeah, alright, but only if you get bae some therapy for that internalized homophobia. He growled at me and told me he was ‘trying to smell if I was gay’. Seriously, man, you two live in the Tenderloin, get some help.”

The sound of the front door closing is followed swiftly by the sound of wet fabric ripping. Derek flips the lock and steels himself. He presses his forehead to the door, above the peephole, and braces his hands.

Stiles slams into the wet wall of his back. Derek gets a neckful of growling, breathy demand. It makes the hairs on the back of Derek’s neck stand up, as a shiver coils down his biceps.

“You can’t do things like that, idiot. You know that,” he says, though he also knows Stiles probably isn’t really hearing a word Derek’s saying. “You know that…” Derek breathes again, quiet and resigned.

Stiles starts licking and sucking the water off Derek’s hair, burying his nose in Derek’s nape. He manages a grunted, “Wantyou.”

Derek’s honestly surprised that the younger man can still talk. “Too bad, Stiles; people in Hell want ice water.”

Stiles huffs against Derek’s neck again and smooths his hands down Derek’s arms to cover his hands. Derek’s trapped. “Allllwaysssdid. Wanted. Ssssixteeen,” Stiles shudders into his ear.

And, okay. People are always saying Derek is stupid, though not usually in so many words. ‘A wolf of few words’. ‘The strong but silent type’. And, Kate, once: ‘a big, dumb breeding thoroughbred’. But now? Right now? He feels it.

“Before the Nemeton? But. Why didn’t you say? Why were you going to move and…?” (Leave me behind.)

And it’s just too much to ponder. Too much to feel.

“Getssmart. Morrrre. Youneed. Sssmartmate,” Stiles insists, slurring and grumbling. “Betterrrr.”

“What?” Derek asks in disbelief, closing his eyes against what this is doing to him. Stiles noses along Derek’s shoulder and is huffing and hissing and then leans into Derek’s side and his face is coming up under Derek’s raised arm to lick at the water droplets clinging to his freshly-scrubbed armpit and it’s just a lot and Derek’s hips jerk backward and Stiles growl-hisses loud against his rotator cuff-

“Emmmisss’rrrry.”

The word bounces around in Derek’s brain and he can never catch up to it. It echoes and echoes like the sounds of a playing pack, the sounds of the past, in the forest. Stiles had wanted this, had wanted to bring his sixty credits worth of Beacon Hills Community College education all the way to San Francisco, for him.

Derek steadfastly ignores the way Stiles is rutting up against his back, making little desperate susurrating noises, to tear his trapped left hand away from the smaller man’s supernatural grip. Stiles is setting up a rough sort of rhythm of grinding his crotch against Derek’s ass, and frankly, he is surprised that he’s not yet been trying to stop Stiles, but. His vision has tunneled down to just one overarching need -- to understand.

He reaches back and interrupts the frotting of the younger man’s hips, pushing him back and turning around even as he pulls his now-depleted wallet back from his pocket. Derek finds the student ID inside and tries very hard not to let the pounding of his pulse distract him from taking it in. There’s his picture and Stiles’s ridiculous name, like he already knew. And then, in smaller print, easily ignored but god so important... it reads: Junior, Major(s): Biology with Ecology Concentration, Minor(s): Cultural Anthropology, Peace & Justice Studies.

(Fuck.)

Stiles, wild and pheromone-drunk, must get the dump of pure emotion off Derek full-force at this range. Stiles swats the card and wallet out of his hand with a flicking smack of his own clawed hand; they land somewhere near the couch. Instead, he places himself in Derek’s empty palms until Derek has armfuls of the younger man, all pale skin and fragile bone rising up to snuffle into his neck with a little whine.

It jars a sense memory forward, and Derek thinks of the drive moving here, of Stiles clinging to him that very first day. He thinks of the fact that the sheriff hadn’t argued, that Scott had called him, and not Deaton, as soon as it became clear that something was wrong with Stiles. He thinks of earlier in the day, at the barbecue-cum-moving party, when Stiles had managed heartfelt good-byes with everyone but him, and how it had stung a little. He thinks of how Stiles had dutifully plied Derek with pink lemonade to drink down, and found him in the crowd to give him burger after burger like little offerings, and piles of hot pickles on the side like a mess of apologies.

Derek’s not a crier, but even he lets one or two tears fall at this influx of insight, or maybe at the way Stiles has yanked down his own sweatpants and is chafing himself roughly and mindlessly against the denim of Derek’s jeans. Derek does the only thing he can think of and tells Stiles, voice low and sweet, “It’s okay, it’s okay; I got you.”

Stiles whimpers, at either the sentiment or the painful friction, Derek’s not sure.

Derek thinks back to a few months ago, to just before their fight. He thinks of Stiles slipping his hand under Derek’s skull, protective, and so he figures the thing to do is to sneak his own hand down to where Stiles is desperately trying to get off.

He lets Stiles rub up against the back of his hand to shield him from the rough denim, lets himself feel the smooth, warm skin of Stiles’s cock against his knuckles. Stiles makes a choked-off noise that Derek breathes in as he uses his off-hand to draw the younger man closer. “I got you, sunshine. You’re okay. Let the fox out.”

Derek presses himself back into the wood of the door as Stiles growls his loudest yet and then pants wetly at his neck, totally feral now. He’s far enough gone that he’s actually drooling down Derek’s chest -- Derek can feel it -- as he continues rubbing himself off against Derek’s hand.

It’s so so easy to murmur, “Good mate, so good. Perfect. Scenting me.”

And the answering whine from Stiles is bitten-off and broken and hot, so Derek stops petting through Stiles’s shock of dark hair with his free hand and, instead, reaches up to his own chest to smear through the mess of saliva there, rubbing it into his own skin.

Stiles stumbles back a half-step as if electrified and meets Derek’s gaze as he lets go of Derek’s hips. It’s as if he no longer needs to hold him because he knows Derek is held by his fox-bright eyes alone. Stiles lifts his hand.

Derek snags the offered palm and licks it, feels the absurdity of the moment roll over and submit inside his brain until the action stretches lazy and canine and he’s able to take his time laving at Stiles’s life and love lines. Derek’s suddenly unabashed. Why wouldn’the lick his mate?

Derek gives Stiles back his hand, and watches as the younger man hazily wraps it around himself and starts pumping his cock in front of Derek. Derek settles more fully against the door, unclear as to whether he’s keeping Stiles penned in or the world shut out. (Both, maybe.)

What matters though, and what he -- if he’s being honest -- realized the moment he saw Stiles about to rip the pizza guy’s throat out for saying Derek’s name, is that he really doesn’t care about consequences, as long as Stiles is okay in the end.

He’d rather feel awful for letting Stiles jerk off against his abs, than have Stiles shoulder the guilt of killing someone after months of bottling his fox spirit up. And because Derek is his own worst enemy -- is the worst person he knows, himself -- he’ll happily stick next to Stiles to keep the demons at bay. Let them come. It’s been four years, and whenever bad shit is coming, whenever Lydia screams, Derek gets in the beat-up blue Jeep. It’s what he does. He’d do anything to protect Stiles; it just makes sense.

If the things that go bump in the night want Stiles they’re going to have to go through him first.

Derek makes sure to say as much, because he’s not sure Stiles knows, and he wants him to know. Derek takes him by the jaw, thumb surely making a fingerprint through the skin of Stiles’s cheek, straight into his gums like an ancient fern leaving its fossil in mud -- for eternity.

“Come on, Stiles. Come on, you can do it. I’m here and I’m yours. Mark me up. Good boy. Good fox. Good,” he whispers in a litany of praise.

Stiles tilts forward even as sweat drips from his hair, switches his grip on his cock to his left hand breathlessly, and steadies himself with his right on Derek’s right shoulder, right on the spot that has always belonged to him since that time, years ago, when Derek’s hackles had risen -- how dare you touch me? -- and yet. Stiles had dared. Over and over. Tactile little fuck.

Derek covers the younger man’s hand on his shoulder with his own, and runs the other up under Stiles’s shirt to feel his back, feels moles and beauty marks under his fingers. “Come on, Stiles. Let it out, please. I want you to.”

Stiles snarls and presses himself into Derek as he jerks himself a few more times and then comes between them, onto Derek’s bare stomach and in long, branding lines of wetness. Derek pets at the small of his back, helps him through it as he comes down. When Stiles finally pulls back to look at him, Derek smooths damp hair back away from Stiles’s limp, sated expression and makes the executive decision that they’re gonna eat the cooling pizza in the bedroom.

Sustenance and other needs secured, for now, they settle into their den.