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Like so many other things, it happened before Stiles really had a chance to think about it.

Part of being a good friend to Scott was listening to his various complaints about life as a werewolf, his romantic endeavors—and, of course, Derek Hale. Stiles used to eagerly participate in the latter, but now that they knew Derek, it sort of seemed like he was on their side and maybe Scott should chill about him.

Today’s complaints were about Derek’s inability to be a nice, normal human instead of getting carried away with a lust for blood and power, but even half-listening, Stiles could tell the complaints were really about how Derek apparently let Boyd have the last Coke last night at their bi-weekly werewolf meeting.

“Yeah? I thought he had pretty good control,” Stiles said, an understatement to what he really thinks, which is that Derek was nothing but a fortress of control forged in fire so nothing ever gets through. “I mean, he helped you figure it out.”

“I guess,” Scott hedged, “He’s not shifting or anything. It’s more that he gets edgy around the full moon, you know? And everybody takes his lead, so.” Scott jerked his shoulders in a shudder. “It sucks.”

Stiles nodded. That edginess was one of the things that made him feel connected to Derek, whether he liked it or not. When they’d first met, Derek had seemed a little over the top with his misery, but now Stiles had seen a couple dozen unspeakable situations, he thought Derek’s level of pessimism and caution were on target.

 “It’s not like there’s anything wrong with him, technically,” Scott admitted. “It’s just part of the whole werewolf deal—I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have Allison to help me through it. I’d lose it.”

“What does she do? Do I want to know?”

Scott was delighted by Stiles’ interest. “Well, she says things to me.” He thought for a moment. “The right things. Telling me what I want to hear, basically—like that everything’s cool, you know?”

“She tells you everything’s cool?”  

Scott’s eyes glazed over a bit, his mouth twitching into a shy smile. Gross. “The point is someone’s being nice to you, you know? So she says how cute I am, and how she likes my smile and how I’m fine and everything is going to be all right because she’s right there.”

Stiles mulled it over and melted a little bit. “Okay, that’s pretty sweet.”

“Yeah. She describes where our bodies are touching, and how relaxing it feels.” Scott shrugged. “It’s not about what she says; it’s really just that she’s talking.”

“So it’s like, the attention.”

“Yeah.” Scott nodded, looking a little drugged from just thinking about it. “And how calm and quiet she is. And how pretty.”

“Why don’t you guys just make sure everybody has someone to treat them nice like that? Isn’t that what packs are for?”

Scott scoffed. “Like Derek’s gonna let somebody pet his hair and tell him he’s a sweet werewolf. Anyway, it’s something you have to deal with on your own, Derek said.”

Stiles twisted his mouth to the side and considered why Derek would tell that particular lie.

It occurred to Stiles on a fairly regular basis that life must be hard for Derek, but it never seemed like there was anything he could do about it.

But, he realized with rising excitement, he could do this, even though he technically lacked a few of the qualities Scott held in such high regard. He wasn’t pretty, so that was a point against him, and no one had ever called him calm, but Scott was describing guided focus and relaxation exercises, which Stiles had been pretending to do for years under the direction of various counselors, therapists, and irritated teachers.

He could do this. His spark was cool, definitely something to explore, but this, what he was considering, was something practical that he already knew how to do. For the final project in his performing arts elective, Stiles had created an ASMR YouTube channel. His username was Miles of Stiles, and while it turned out he didn’t have the attention span to watch a bunch of randos whispering into their microphones, there was a therapeutic effect to actually making the videos himself.

He’d earned his A and moved on, but the channel was still up. People even occasionally viewed or liked his videos, not that they were very good. He just had his cheap set of microphones and a basic camera with a busted tripod. They’d been good enough for the project so they were probably good enough to make something for werewolves looking for an anchor.

He could do this.

 

 

Scott’s reaction was disappointing. When Stiles pushed him down at the computer and forced the headphones over his ears, he expected more than a raised eyebrow and an, “It’s weird, man, but kinda good?”

“Just watch,” Stiles said, keeping Scott in the seat with a hand on his shoulder. After only another minute, Scott pulled off the headphones, face scrunched in apology. “Look, it’s just a little weird to stare into your eyes while you’re whispering my ear like that.”

Stiles scoffed but lifted his hand and stepped back. After all the work he put into the videos, it would be nice if Scott’s reaction was more encouraging, but maybe he had a point. Maybe Stiles wouldn’t be particularly eager to stare into Scott’s eyes for thirty minutes, either. “Yeah,” he conceded. “It’s possible we know each other too well.”

“But yeah, good for strangers.” Scott twisted away from the computer and used his puppy-eyes to his full advantage. “I bet there are werewolves out there who’d really like all your petting and stuff.”

Stiles flopped onto his bed and stared at the pile of equipment stashed in the corner. “Sure,” he said, just to agree with Scott. This might have been a waste of time. ASMR was niche enough without adding werewolves to the equation. That element made it a niche of niche, guaranteed to waste his time and contribute to his lifelong complex about being invisible.

And yet, when he went to stow the equipment the next day, he thought about the evenings he spent in front of the camera and how in those moments, he didn’t feel invisible or even alone. In fact, the process had quieted his mind and his body, a peaceful pre-dawn feeling that hung over him for hours after he clicked the “submit” button. 

It felt good. There weren’t enough things in Stiles’ life that felt good, lately, so maybe it didn’t really matter if Scott enjoyed them. Someone did. Not a ton of someones—just a hundred or so subscribers who rarely commented but gave him steady views.

Stiles put his tripod back where it was. 

 

 

“Hey.” Stiles looked into the camera, dropping his voice to a near-whisper. He tapped his fingertips on his knees where he sat cross-legged. It wasn’t loud, but a wolf’s ears would be able to pick up the soft rhythmic pattern. “I know it’s only been a few days, but I guess you’re just lucky, because I’m gonna start uploading more often. I’ll also take requests,” he decided on impulse. “But for today, I’m going to show you some things I found in the woods today. I know how you are about the woods.” He picked up a plum-sized rock and rolled it in his palm before tapping a finger on the uneven surface. “Time for show and tell,” he said, and smiled into the camera.

 

 

The videos were good because they occupied both Stiles’ mind and his hands. He’d never bought into the “idle hands” saying, but even so, it was fucked up that on the day his backyard was destroyed he was completely minding his own business and staying out of trouble just like everyone was always telling him to do.

He was reading, of all things—Stiles couldn’t think of a more minding-your-own-business activity than reading—on his back porch when a guy in a navy blue polo shirt, khakis, and dark aviators wandered up to him and flashed a shy smile.

“Hey.”

Stiles used his finger to mark the page and regarded the guy the way he regarded every stranger ever since he discovered how many of them have pointy teeth and claws. “Yeah?”

Before he could respond, he was interrupted by Derek Hale himself jogging into the yard. He was flanked by Isaac and was already half-shifted, eyes flashing red.

“What the fuck?” Stiles started to say before he glanced over at the polo-shirt guy again, and oh, of course he was snarling through an animal’s teeth. Of course a random werewolf just wandered into Stiles’ backyard. Of course.

“Get inside!” Derek yelled, but Stiles hung back. Watching the wolves fight had become one of Stiles’ favorite pastimes, in a morbid, something-is-wrong-in-my-head kind of way. Derek didn’t always fight smart, but he fought dirty, with plenty of reckless anger and bulging muscles for all the crouching and springing, which was Stiles’ favorite.

Derek was growling in his usual way as he barreled into the intruder and—oh, fuck—tossed him through the porch rails. The guy got away for a second and slipped underneath the porch, at which point Derek punched two massive holes in it, missing him every time and allowing him to make a run for Stiles, who froze at the expression on the guy’s face.

The wolf wasn’t just coming at a random human target; he was coming for Stiles, practically glowing with greedy intent—and to be honest, it reminded Stiles of the way Kate Argent had looked at basically everyone. Self-preservation sufficiently triggered, Stiles ducked behind his dad’s fancy new grill.

Despite how hard it had been for Stiles and his dad to wrangle the grill into the backyard, the wolf was able to smash through it in one lunge. Stiles watched, mouth hanging open, as the propane tank flew into the porch and exploded on impact. He was so dead; his dad was a busy man but there was no way he wouldn’t notice the scorched crater in his porch and—oh, fuck—Stiles raced inside, scrabbling to grab the fire extinguisher from the kitchen just as he registered the awful sound of Derek landing on the wolf with a roar.  

When he got back outside, Isaac was laughing and the porch was burning, along with part of the house just beneath a kitchen window. Stiles extinguished the flames, making a mess of everything in the process, and when he finished, sooty and sweating, Derek had the wolf pinned and offering his throat in submission.

The porch was wrecked, the yard covered in debris, and fuck, Stiles was so screwed.

Derek snarled at the guy, who cowered in his human form, and told him to get the hell out of his territory. He didn’t have to repeat himself; the intruder limped off obediently while Stiles stared at the damage. “Dude, what the hell! What am I going to tell my dad? Who was that guy?”

“He’s an Omega.” Isaac drifted toward Derek and flanked him as though Stiles was on the opposing team. As if. “We’ve been tracking him since he got to town.”

“Why?”

Derek glowered at him, but Stiles just glowered back until Derek huffed in frustration. “Because he crossed onto my territory and went straight for the pack human’s house. He was here for you, Stiles.”

Stiles immediately forgot about the porch. “Wait, he knows I’m with your pack? How?”

Derek frowned some more and jerked his head suddenly. “Isaac, go after the Omega and make sure he leaves.”

Isaac took off without even saying bye and Derek started acting even weirder than usual—running his fingers through his hair and tugging down his torn and bloodied shirt. Stiles watched him for a few seconds and tried to figure out where this weird modesty was coming from before he noticed his dad standing just inside the back door, his back rigid, and regarding them through the smoke-smudged glass.

“This isn’t happening,” Stiles blurted.

In response, Derek shot him a look that eviscerated any sense of confidence he’d ever had—but oh, his dad’s expression was so pained, so angry that Stiles needed to deny seeing it.

“It’s real.” Derek’s stance was tense, the way he held himself before a fight.

“That’s my dad, so don’t go all-” Stiles made a claw of his hand and swiped at the air.

“I’m not going to do anything to your dad.”

“Just checking,” Stiles said quickly. It was always fascinating when Derek got offended, since it seemed you could accuse Derek of nearly anything and it would be true. Stiles was still figuring Derek out, so when he drew a line, Stiles paid attention. Derek didn’t kill pack-adjacent-humans’ dads, good to know.

It turned out dad hadn’t disappeared; he came around the side of the house a moment later, nearing the backyard with a stride Stiles usually only saw when he was on duty.

The scorch marks suddenly looked darker, the wreckage more widespread.

“Stiles. Mr. Hale. Do either of you want to tell me what the hell happened to my house?”

Stiles’ heart lurched with the sick, frantic jump it always gave when he disappointed his dad. “What does it look like?” he asked, sounding maniacal to even himself. “Vandals!”

“Vandals.” His dad didn’t exactly look like he was down for nonsense, but instead of saying so, he gave Derek a hard look. “Is that right?”

Derek’s stance was practically awkward, and wow, Stiles really didn’t like these two parts of his life mixing together. Surely Derek was cool with lying to parents. It seemed like practically a prerequisite for a werewolf—lots of lying, subterfuge, and dangerous encounters with the law.

Finally, Derek nodded and said, “Yes, sir.”

“Derek had to fight them off.” He gestured at Derek. “I mean, look at him!” As soon as it was out of his mouth, he wanted to shove it back in; the last thing he needed was for his dad to scrutinize Derek’s tattered clothes and blood-smeared body, considering Derek didn’t have a scratch on him. Not anymore, at least. Stiles tried to ignore the blood on Derek’s actual mouth.

Dad nodded slowly. “You all right?”

Derek nodded and Stiles could practically see the rage folding in on itself, over and over, within the confines of Derek’s broad chest.

“And does any of that blood belong to my son?”

“No, sir,” Derek said, just as Stiles said “Dad!”

“You can’t blame me for asking. I mean, these are some vandals that demolish porches and throw backyard firebombs.”

“Yeah, it’s probably best you find out now. That wasn’t a firebomb so much as it was your grill.” Stiles lifted his palms and tried to convey the utmost contrition, even though this was definitely not his fault and not even technically Derek’s fault, for once.

Stiles purposely avoided his dad’s face, but that didn’t keep him from hearing the punched-out breath or the following sigh of resignation. He looked over at Derek instead, and fuck if he wasn’t looking back, staring as though trying to send some telepathic message. Probably something like I’m going to rip your throat out with my teeth, like that still had any cache, but still.

“Go inside and wait, boys,” the Sheriff said. “I’ll be in shortly.”

 

 

Stiles couldn’t decide if he was being punished or not. When dad came inside, he sent Stiles upstairs and spent two hours talking to Derek before Stiles heard the front door close, lock, and then dad’s heavy steps on the stairs.

Dad came just to the doorway and leaned there as though he didn’t plan to stay long. “Derek doesn’t seem too big on the vandalism story, but he stuck to it, so I figure he’s keeping you out of trouble somehow.”

“I, uh-“ Stiles shook his head and then nodded. “Yeah.”

Dad rolled his eyes. “Son, I’ve caught you with Derek Hale enough times now that I think it’s all right if you want to admit you’re friends. And I don’t mind you having people over while I’m at work, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to believe some roaming vandal caused all that damage.”

Stiles opened his mouth to protest, but his dad held up his hand. “And since I’m obviously not going to find out what happened, it seems fair that you and Derek fix what you broke. The next few months are going to be very busy for you, son. Every day, the minute school ends I want you back here working on this mess. Derek, too.”

“Derek doesn’t have school.”

“You know what I mean.”

“What about Lacrosse?”

“You can do it next year.”

Stiles wanted to refute his dad’s convictions about his friendship with Derek, but there wasn’t really another way to explain Derek’s sudden constant presence everywhere. And Lacrosse had lost its appeal lately, so he didn’t even mind much.

When he was alone again, Stiles got in bed and fell asleep trying to imagine Derek taking orders from the Sheriff about backyard reparations and maybe even being forced to answer questions about the deep, meaningful friendship he’d formed with his son.

 

 

“What did you talk to my dad about?” It felt weird asking, but it felt equally weird that there would be something private between Derek and his dad. Having secrets with Derek was kind of Stiles’ thing.

Derek’s face was buried in the instructions for putting the new grill together, but he froze for long enough that Stiles knew he heard the question.

“He thinks I’ve been protecting you or something,” he said without looking up.

“Hah,” Stiles said automatically, then after a beat, “Yeah, okay.”

Derek didn’t respond, which allowed the words to settle between them and made it the best interaction they’d ever had.

 

 

They couldn’t do all the work themselves.

The contractor’s name was Josh, his partner’s name was Ace, and they always seemed to be laughing at Stiles and Derek. It didn’t even make sense; Derek was basically perfect at every task and was also way hotter than either one of them. And Stiles, well—he was a quick study and possessed his own charms.

For the first few days, Derek thought Stiles was being too fussy—that’s what he’d said: you’re being too fussy, Stiles, like a grandma—but on the second week, when they were in line at MoJoe’s fetching coffee for those assholes who wouldn’t even bother to say ‘thank you’, Derek shoved his hands into his pockets and said, “I hate those guys.”

“I know!” It was a novelty, unaccountably thrilling, when Derek said something normal. Stiles hit his hand against the counter in excitement. “And what kind of name is ‘Ace’? Ace is not the name of a man I trust. Ace is a man you find after making inquiries at sketchy places about finding sketchy people to do sketchy deeds. Ace is a man who takes cash only and says things like ‘no questions asked.’”

Derek grunted, which was practically agreement, just as Stiles remembered the sketchy Omega, whose name he hadn’t even learned.

“Hey, Derek?”

Derek took the coffees from the cashier and stuffed a couple bills in the tip container. “Yeah.”

“Who was that Omega? Why did he come after me?”

Derek shook his head. “I don’t know. It was unusual behavior for an Omega.”

“But did he say anything about maiming or murdering your humans?”

“Not exactly.”

“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?”

Derek ignored him and stood on the curb for a minute before he handed Stiles his coffee, removed his own iced tea from the drink carrier, and dumped the other two into the gutter. Stiles felt a physical thrill of pettiness down his spine. Fuck off, Ace and Josh.

“Want to go swimming?”

“Do I want to go swimming? You’d think considering our last swimming date I’d say no, but you would be wrong because I’m pretty sure this town has been moving closer to the sun for the past week and I really like the idea of those assholes being deprived of their coffee.”

Derek always seemed to take a while to decide whether he was going to be pissed off or not. Today, he just rolled his eyes and said, “C’mon.” Stiles followed, buoyed by a giddy sense of freedom.

Derek drove them onto the preserve and they walked the rest of the way, tearing at times through the overgrown path.

Stiles made mindless conversation as they made their way to the water hole, which stood huge and shimmering within a thicket of trees and on one side, a dropoff. That was where they stood, each having shed his clothes—Stiles refused to acknowledge the weirdness of it—and looked down at the water.

“I do not know about this, man.” Stiles glanced at Derek and reminded himself that the nudity would be normal once they were in the water. “My mom was an artist, you know, and she told me about this painter who jumped into water that was too shallow and was paralyzed for the rest of her life.”

Derek gave him a disbelieving look, and Stiles threw up his hands. “She had to paint with the brush in her mouth! And they say it’s a miracle and everything, but you have to admit it would really suck to live like that.”

“The water’s deep enough. Cold, too.”

It looked cold. Stiles worked up a sweat during the walk, and he could already imagine how it would feel to cleanse the prickling heat from his skin and splash around in the dark, beckoning water. He wanted it, badly. Instead, he stood next to Derek and contemplated spinal injuries.

“I used to come here with my cousin, Eric. He was human and never once had to hold any type of utensil in his mouth.”

“Fine, you go first,” Stiles said. He was unable to think of anything beyond did you seriously just tell me about your dead human cousin? He also couldn’t stop thinking, as he watched him dive, Derek, you asshole, because he wasn’t being an asshole at all, and Stiles didn’t know what to do with that.

Later, in the water, he remembered that Derek hadn’t answered his question. He and Derek were resting at a flat ledge where they stretched their arms over the edge of a rock and hung there, bodies submerged, heads and shoulders above the waterline. Derek’s eyes were closed, so Stiles let himself take one long, appreciative at the spread of his sculpted arms and shoulders before he brought it up.

“What did the Omega say, then?”

“Don’t worry about it. Omegas can be pretty unstable. There’s a certain point where they’re out of their minds and it’s not worth trying to make sense of what they say. You’ll end up driving yourself crazy.”

Stiles swallowed past the queasy feeling in his throat. “Yeah, okay,” he said, and ducked under the water, reaching for the bottom with his feet and never finding it. When he surfaced gasping, blinking water from his eyelashes, Derek was watching him.

“Thirty-two seconds, not bad.”

“Can werewolves hold their breath longer than humans?”

“Probably. We can do everything better.”

“Nah, you’re just more dramatic about everything.” The banter was easy and Stiles recovered his emotional footing for about three seconds until he saw Derek’s sudden frown and followed his gaze to the shore. There stood an auburn-haired woman about Stiles’ dad’s age with her hand raised in a wave.

“Stiles!” she called.

Derek didn’t take his eyes off her. “You know her?”

“No,” He wasn’t sure what was happening, but it seemed like a good idea to remain very still as Derek slid closer and draped his arm over Stiles’ shoulders. His skin was warm and smooth, his arm heavy, which split Stiles’ attention in a dozen directions: the stranger; Derek’s possessive reaction; the rush of heat to Stiles’ face.

“Stiles, please.” She waved again and stepped closer, which made Derek rumble with a growl that raised the hair on Stiles’ arms. He glanced at Derek in time to see his eyes change to red.

“Get lost or you won’t leave here alive.”

“But I just need-“

Now.” Derek surged out of the water as he roared, but settled back to hold Stiles and watch her retreat. The woman made a sobbing sound and flashed gold eyes as she bolted on all fours into the woods.

“Holy shit, she was a werewolf.” Stiles could feel the damp fur of Derek’s armpit against his shoulder, which was making him feel a little crazy and confused and also why was a stranger here looking for him and getting threats from Derek, who always seemed to know more than Stiles about what was going on?

“She tracked us here.” Derek didn’t let go.

“How do you know that?”

“Nobody knows about this place.”

Stiles took a deep breath and chanced a glance at Derek, who was so close now that their faces were almost touching, and if it weren’t for the cold water he would be embarrassingly hard right now. “Uh, your betas,” he said weakly.

Derek stared into the woods and after a few seconds, moved away from Stiles to tread water. “They don’t know about it.”

The woman seemed like a bad omen. They didn’t talk much for the rest of the afternoon. Eventually, they gathered up their things and trekked back to the car. Derek started the engine, but just sat there and fingered the keys where they hung from the ignition.

“Changing your mind about letting me drive?”

Derek ignored his question. “You need to be careful.”

A laugh bubbled up from Stiles’ throat. He lived in a town overrun with literal monsters. Of course he needed to be careful.

“I’m serious. It’s not just that woman. The guy in your backyard was there to take you, not kill you. He said you belonged to him.”

Stiles blinked. “Are you serious? Why? I can’t tell if that’s better or worse.”

“Better. If he took you we would find you,” Derek said, and peeled out onto the main road.

 

 

“You’re a good wolf,” Stiles whispered into the microphone that night, softly, softly, as he smiled into the camera.

He felt good. Derek was annoyed by his good spirits, that much had been obvious while they mulched the landscaping that evening, but Derek had a secret swimming spot he shared with Stiles and not with his betas. Only with Stiles, along with a cousin he voluntarily told Stiles about. That revelation was surging through Stiles’ veins like a drug, because he knew what it meant to lose someone and then to risk sharing even a sliver of that memory with another person.

“A very good wolf,” he continued. “And today we’re going to count together, all right? Very slowly, we’ll count down from two hundred, and it’s going to keep you very, very focused.” He tapped his tongue lightly at the roof of his mouth a few times, soft white noise, and began to count.

 

 

Around the full moon, Stiles got to see Derek’s restlessness and frustration first-hand. He sniped back a few times, but mostly wanted to sit Derek down, show him the videos, and see if they helped. Or—nope, scratch that. If Stiles were being honest, he would admit he wanted to soothe Derek in real life. Unfortunately, he couldn’t just lean over in the aisle of Home Depot and stroke Derek’s sideburns or whisper rhythmic affirmations in his ear, so he did it to the microphone instead.

It was another hot afternoon and Stiles had been digging out back with Derek all day. Derek was the one who’d insisted they improve the landscaping during the repairs, as though he hadn’t done more than enough already. The porch was like new, the grill replaced, and now it seemed Derek was determined to create a home-and-garden fantasy for the Stilinski home.

But it wasn’t bad. Maybe they could go on a reality show on HGTV where they fixed up yards destroyed by wayward werewolves. And Stiles was having fun hating Josh and Ace with Derek; working outside felt good; Stiles was sleeping well. Even his channel was going well—he had a few dozen devoted followers, and though they were discreet and would never say so, he could tell that some were werewolves by the comments they left.

Stiles didn’t want it to end.

He shaded his eyes with his hand so he could see what Derek was dragging across the yard toward him. It turned out to be a sprinkler he used first to spray Stiles and then to hold above himself like a summer rainstorm, wetting his hair and face while Stiles blinked the droplets from his own eyelashes and stared.

Derek was playing with him, which was kind of startling, but even more startling was Stiles’ reaction to the play, a burst of euphoria that made it impossible to look away. He wanted to run toward Derek and wrestle the way he would have with Scott, but that seemed very dangerous.

The thing about Derek was that when he wasn’t nearby, Stiles would forget how inhumanly gorgeous he was, and then upon seeing him would be struck by the force of it. Derek would climb out of his car in the morning and Stiles’ heart would thump in appreciation of Derek’s good looks and easy posture, all while his body flooded with endorphins and insisted that simply getting an eyeful of Derek was all he needed to feel good.

The same thing was happening now. “I was thinking earlier,” Stiles said breathlessly, eyes wide at the transparent cling of Derek’s undershirt. Today, Derek wasn’t the edgy one. “We should see about planting some pumpkins by the back fence.”

 

 

He carried the feeling through bedtime, at which point he was so restless with a weird, undefined energy that he decided to make a video. Getting his equipment set up, hanging his little backdrop made of bedsheets, had enough of a calming effect that he was more at ease when he began the video, another full-moon soothing-attention video, since that was his subscribers’ most common request.  

He reached his thumb toward the camera’s lens, stroking as though touching the viewer.

“Just because you’re a werewolf doesn’t mean you have to look so grumpy all the time. Come on, let yourself relax.” He repeated the word a few times, not quite whispering, softening the click of the x, softening everything he can.

Each stroke of his thumb synced up with his words. Relax. Relax.

“There you go,” he murmured, as though his imaginary stressed-out wolf was already unfurling his frown and maybe purring a little. Why not? “That’s more like it. But I think you can let go a little more.”

This time, Stiles traced his thumbs just over where the viewer’s eyebrows would be. “Relax,” he whispered, repeated the motion, repeated the words. He rambled for twenty more minutes, until he was beginning to nod off, and then whispered a good night.

When he went to upload the video, he impulsively titled it “Werewolf ASMR ** human boyfriend role-play.” He wasn’t even sure why; he hadn’t said anything overtly romantic, but there was an intimacy to this video that felt new.

It felt like something special.

Apparently his subscribers agreed, because the next day the comments were crazy in both volume and enthusiasm.

bluetoad: MORE HUMAN BOYFRIEND

badguy21: BEST VID YOU’VE DONE

tyreiron_soul: okay this is it I never need another video but if you have to make another make it like this one

soulxxsearcher: PLEASE do more of this PLEASE

 

Nearly twenty people had commented, which wasn’t many by most standards, but Stiles’ channel was niche, okay? He was literally a werewolf-whisperer, and proud of it. His mojo was strong.

Even Derek seemed to notice. He probably noticed how little Stiles was complaining about the heat or endless projects, but complaining was for unhappy people, and Stiles’ life was going great. It was going so great that a few days later, when Derek finished replanting a broken pot of petunias, Stiles plucked one and stuck it behind Derek’s ear. He was fully prepared to defend a man’s right to wear a pretty flower, but Derek left it there as he hosed off the loose potting soil from the back patio, oddly devoid of a reaction.

Stiles was pretty sure that meant he liked it.

That evening, they sat out in the yard and listened to the night sounds together.

“I think we’re finally finished back here,” Derek said.

“Yeah, I guess we ran out of yard. Looks good, though. Dad even stopped hassling me about the ‘vandals.’”

“I do good work,” Derek said, smiling in a way Stiles hadn’t known he could. He nudged Stiles with his shoulder. “We do good work.”

“Yeah?” Stiles’ toes curled in his shoes—he couldn’t help it.

“Well. Your lies leave a lot to be desired.”

“Most people would see that as a virtue. St. Stiles, patron saint of reckless werewolves. Anyway, I was thinking about all our good work, like you said, and it would definitely be a bad idea to end a successful run like this. Gotta keep that shit going, you know?” Stiles’ nerves were making him stupid. “We could do your house next. If you want.”

He could feel Derek tense up, so he kept going. “Not that your house isn’t, uh, I mean, we don’t have to do anything you don’t want, but I’m just saying I shoot one hell of a nail-gun now, and it’d be a shame to let those skills go to waste.”

Derek’s silence felt heavy but not dangerous. Stiles struggled to stifle the swell of words that wanted to pour out of him—a losing battle; the best he could usually do was delay it a few seconds—but luckily, before he could start up and say something that put Derek off forever, Derek made a sound of assent.

“The betas would want to help.”

“Yeah,” Stiles breathed. “Of course. That’d be good, Derek. Really good.”

“Anything to keep my patron saint happy.”

“Ha, so you admit you’re a reckless werewolf.”

“There’s really no other kind.”  

“Finally, something we agree on,” Stiles said as he smiled and looked up, away from Derek, at the night sky.

 

 

“You’ve been a very, very, very good wolf.” For each ‘v,’ he let his teeth feather over the curve of his lower lip in the softest f sound possible. His breath gusted over the microphone. “And sometimes I think people don’t tell you that enough, but you’re good—good, good, good, so good,” he whispered into the microphone.

“Let me show you how good you are.” He smiled and did a few more seconds of close-breathing on the mic before he gathered his nerve and pressed a few soft kisses near the microphone, and then another directly on the edge of the lens. The kisses were wet, gentle sounds that Stiles continued for a moment longer before he said, “Hm, you need to shave,” in a fond way, as though stubble was a long-running joke between he and his werewolf boyfriend. “But not right now, because you’re supposed to be trying to relax, relax, relax. . .”

 

 

Stiles wasn’t stupid. He was aware that his sudden and surprisingly tender feelings were an effect of Derek’s surprisingly tender treatment of him lately, but that seemed okay—a perfectly safe way to fantasize. All fantasies didn’t have to be sexual. Stiles was every bit as gratified by the warmth that sank deep down in his bones when he lifted his fingers to touch the microphone as he’d ever been by jerkoff fantasies. This was the good stuff, and he wanted to keep getting it for as long as possible.

It was a lot easier to be with Derek now that Stiles had discovered that he was only about half as moody as he seemed most of the time—the issue was really his face. Stiles first observed it at the swimming hole, the second time they’d gone, when Derek was stretched out sunning himself with a deeply serious expression. Then Stiles noticed the loose sprawl of his body and realized that Derek’s face was as naturally dramatic as his personality. Somehow, this was Derek’s ‘relaxed’ face. Stiles had smirked over a few imagined remarks he might make about it, at which Derek said “Stop” without even opening his eyes and Stiles, because wanted to keep seeing that relaxed face, obeyed.

 

It had only been two weeks since the woman at the swimming hole when Stiles was taking out the trash and was nudged by a tingling instinct that something was off. It was nearly midnight and yet another stranger was approaching as though Stiles was exactly who he’d been looking for.

“Uh, hey, man,” he said, glancing around for a way out and finding pretty much nothing but the empty street.

The guy was about thirty, broad in the shoulders, and had thick, curly blonde hair that hung down over part of his forehead. Despite his unremarkable band t-shirt and normal-looking jeans that bagged a little at the knees, Stiles figured there was zero chance he wasn’t here to threaten Stiles’ bodily integrity.

“It’s really you,” the guy said, and sure enough, his eyes flashed—oh, fuck—red. The adrenaline rush was heady, but Stiles remained still and increased his grip on the trash can lid. Until that moment, he’d held onto the possibility that Scott might stop by and miraculously save him, but Stiles didn’t want to see Scott go up against an Alpha, especially since Stiles noticed a few figures in the background—the rest of the Alpha’s pack.

“I can’t believe you’re standing here right in front of me,” the Alpha said, and just like that he was behind Stiles, inhaling deeply at the hair behind Stiles’ ear and raising goosebumps he shook off with a spasm of fear. “And now I know what you smell like.”

“Uh, yeah, I’ve heard that one before.” Stiles gripped the trash can lid harder, not that it mattered anymore. “Can I help you, or did you just come here to sniff me?”

The Alpha ripped the lid from his grip and sent it flying three houses down, where it landed in the Changs’ bushes. Stiles’ dad would definitely hear about this from the Changs, which was actually good. Stiles had every intention of blaming everything that was about to happen on his invented roaming vandals and this was really going to bolster his story.

Between his house and the Changs’, a sketchy looking van was parked haphazardly at the curb. One of the doors was hanging open, and from inside he could hear a fight about the radio.

A hand clamped over Stiles’ upper arm and turned him to face the Alpha, who was handsome in a beefy, Nordic kind of way but unkempt in an ‘off my meds’ kind of way. “Don’t worry, I’m not just here to sniff you. I’m Daniel. I came here to meet you, Stiles. I came here to do everything with you.”

Stiles wriggled in his tight grasp. “Okay, could you make that sound more ominous? I don’t want to offend you, what with your Alpha-muscles and how you’ve apparently come all this way, but I think there’s been a mistake, because I’m not—I mean, I’m not technically even allowed to be out of my room right now, so ‘everything’ is probably out of the question.” Sheer panic gave him the strength to wrench away, but Daniel easily caught him.

Nothing is out of the question,” he growled, clasping Stiles by the back of the neck. “You’re about to get that werewolf boyfriend you’ve been begging for, Miles of Stiles.”  

“What?” The bottom dropped out of Stiles’ stomach.

“Oh, whoa, wait,” Stiles said. “This is actually a huge misunderstanding and okay, it’s potentially a little embarrassing for you since you’ve gone out of your way to romance me or whatever this is, but overall I think you’re going to laugh when I tell you,” he began as the hand on his neck began to tighten. “It’s, it’s funny because –“ His vision was getting dark at the edges. “Y’know, I have curfew,” he mumbled, and let himself sink into the darkness.

 

 

For three days, Stiles had been in a large cabin he instinctively knew wasn’t in Beacon Hills. Possibly not even in California.

He was confined to the bedroom, which wasn’t too bad, but his list of grievances was growing, starting with the disappearance of his clothes, which left him in only a pair of unfamiliar pajama bottoms and feeling like a weirdly sexualized kept boy, and ending with the Alpha’s increasingly erratic behavior.

Daniel would occasionally take a break from saying creepy things to Stiles and leave the room for an hour or so. Stiles preferred to spend those times in the bathroom, which was small and felt safe. The alternative to the bathroom was to the bed and whether he was in the bathroom or the bed, or just staring out the bedroom window—which he tried to break the first day only to discover it was built for werewolf-level paranoia—he spent all his time waiting and worrying that something would go wrong.

A lot could go wrong. There was the danger of being killed, but also the possibility of being turned by a strange Alpha, which somehow seemed worse. Then there were darker things that Stiles really didn’t like to think about, things related to how Daniel kept feeling him up and there wasn’t anything Stiles could do about it.

The whole time, he could hear Daniel’s betas out in the rest of the house, cooking and laughing and watching movies. So much for someone talking him out of this. They knew exactly what their Alpha was doing.

“I just want you to be nice to me.” Daniel appeared in the bathroom doorway and tucked his thumbs in his jean pockets. “I thought you liked werewolves. That it was your thing? Where else would you learn how to be so perfect for me?”

At that, Stiles had to laugh. He couldn’t help but laugh, because nobody on this planet would ever call him perfect. He was the farthest thing from perfect; the proof was in how he had singlehandedly ruined both his own and his dad’s lives. It was a headline for the Darwin Awards: Teen asks for werewolf boyfriend, predictably dies. Holy shit—this was the expected probable outcome when you did what Stiles did. Almost anyone you asked would say that yes, if you offer intimacy to werewolves on a regular basis, you’re going to get mauled.

Stiles climbed to his feet and followed Daniel back to the bedroom.

 

“Do your sweet talk.” It was the fourth day, and Daniel was impatient when he pinned Stiles to the bed and nosed at his collarbone. “Like on the videos.”

“What? Oh, no. No way.” Stiles squirmed against his weight. Of all his regrets in life, this ranked at the top. He’d been an idiot to think he had something to offer, and Scott had been honest about his lack of interest up front. But there had been something about making the videos that gratified Stiles, made himself feel good.

He wished Daniel would just kill him already so he could stop obsessing over his own role in the situation.

“Tell me,” Daniel said. He licked at Stiles’ neck and made him shudder with nerves, revulsion, a million creeping sensations that he never wanted to feel again. “Tell me I’m good.”

“No,” he said, his throat thick and strange as he prepared for the worst. Derek would be furious that Stiles had got himself into this kind of trouble. Daniel was right, he’d practically begged for it—well, not to be used as a plaything and then eaten by a werewolf per se—but Stiles sent out a signal flare and Daniel had answered.

Then again, maybe nobody would figure it out and Stiles could die with some kind of dignity.

Either way, he’d never see his dad or any of his friends again. That, more than anything, was what Stiles couldn’t stop thinking about. All the time he’d spent with Derek lately—the way during breaks they’d sit in the shade and drink ice water from enormous plastic tumblers, how Derek would show him the right way to breach the ground with a shovel, the way Stiles could make Derek almost-laugh with his mocking observations about Ace and Josh. He was about to be violated by a strange werewolf, and all he could think about was Derek, who would be so disappointed.

“Say it,” Daniel prodded. Stiles could feel claws in his upper arm, the impression of five needled threats. “What, you can say it for the camera, but not in real life?”

“That’s not how it works.” Stiles wanted it to sound like a rebuke, but instead the words were more of a gasp. He thought, crazily, that he might piss himself—just one more humiliation—as Daniel’s other hand gripped Stiles’ thigh and yanked it wide, clawed thumb just brushing the edge of his balls. “Don’t,” he managed to say. It was obvious where things were going.

Daniel lifted his face from where he was nuzzling Stiles’ neck. They regarded one another from just inches apart, and Stiles could feel Daniel’s heavy contemplation. His face was high with color, already excited, eyes glowing red, not that it hadn’t been obvious with the way he had Stiles pinned—as his eyes traveled over Stiles’ face, mouth, back to his eyes. “Tell me I’m good,” he repeated with a growl in the back of his throat. Stiles could feel where the claws finally sank into his skin, warm and wet and making a mess of the sheets.

“I can’t! I can’t do any of that shit—do you know how calm I have to be to make those videos? How could you expect me to be remotely calm right now? And I don’t see how I’ll ever be calm again, so don’t expect any updates soon.” Maybe he wasn’t going to piss himself; maybe he was just going to be sick or suffocate or die from revulsion at the way Daniel was grinding down on him.

Daniel growled again, frustrated by Stiles’ lack of cooperation. He didn’t seem to know what he was doing when he shoved against Stiles and raked his claws down from his arm to grip his hip. The sweatpants shredded easily at the hip and clung to his open wounds.

Stiles struggled against the wolf, was halfway shifted and one hundred percent out of his mind. The dude wasn’t in control and Stiles could feel that the struggling was only urging him on, but at this point, Stiles wasn’t exactly in control, either. Daniel was rough enough that it felt Stiles was just one moment away from a broken bone, and his panic was spiking.

The night before, he’d dragged Stiles to the shower and pinned him to the wet tiles, a bump rising on Stiles’ head as Daniel held him there just so he could look at Stiles and watch him cough out the water that streamed onto his face. He probably thought Stiles was submitting, when in reality Stiles' eyes were averted to keep from seeing what Daniel might do.

It was getting closer to the full moon. It was bound to escalate, and this was apparently the day.

When Daniel flipped him onto his belly, Stiles finally understood what it meant to go a little feral. He clawed his way across the bed, full of fear and violence and the enormous reserve of anger he tried so hard to keep hidden, but this was bullshit and Stiles wasn’t going to let there be any confusion over his feelings about what was going to happen. Stiles screamed in agony when Daniel caught him with his claws again—this time they didn’t pierce so much as tear through him.

He was still screaming when the door exploded into the room and clattered onto the floor.  

It was Scott and Derek, Stiles registered, though he didn’t see them so much as hear their combined roaring: animal, enraged, and powerful enough to rattle the windows. For once, the two wolves seemed to agree on something; they set upon Daniel as though they’d spent years working in tandem. When he fled, they gave chase with a synchronized determination that scared Stiles as much as it brought him comfort. The sound of fighting drifted outdoors, terrifying yelps and snarls and echoes of the occasional inhuman shout. Stiles crawled out of bed and stood on unsteady legs.

He should be trying to help, but Stiles couldn’t seem to make himself move. He was shaking, barely able to hold up the intact side of his sweatpants. Breathing was a struggle, which was related to the dizzying spin in his crown. A concussion from the shower, maybe.

He stumbled into the bathroom and sat on the toilet lid, where he lost a little time. The next thing he knew, he was blinking down at all the blood he’d tracked onto the tile.

Scott and Derek, maybe the others—hadn’t he heard Erica’s terrifying laughter at one point?—banged noisily into the bedroom, and Stiles closed his eyes at the way Scott sounded when he said, “What happened in here?”

Stiles couldn’t imagine what the bed looked like, but if it looked anything like the bathroom, then they probably thought he was dead.

“Stiles is in the bathroom,” Derek said. So, okay, they knew he was alive. That didn’t mean he was going to open the door.

They called his name in unison, but he couldn’t make himself move.

“He’s conscious,” he heard Derek say quietly. There was a period of curt, intense whispers, and then Scott said,

“Stiles? Hey, bro, are you okay? We need to see you. Can you open up?”

Stiles got up and slipped in his own bloody footprints. He caught himself, fought a bout of nausea, and finally answered Scott after too long a wait. “I need clothes.”

There was a moment of silence, then a rustling sound. “Okay.” Scott’s voice was closer, so Stiles cracked open the door, snatched the bundle of cloth from Scott’s hand, and shut it again.  

The first item was a familiar t-shirt, still warm from Scott’s body. Something terrible began to swell in Stiles’ chest. The second item was his own pair of Lacrosse shorts he pulled on right away, grateful to lose the shredded sweatpants.

“Can you come out yet?”

 “I can,” Stiles said, feeling first weirdly defiant. “But I don’t want to.” His voice cracked on the last two words. Standing awkwardly at the sink, leaking streams of crimson into the ceramic bowl, he tried to listen to what they were saying out there, but he kept drifting away and only jolting back to himself when Scott raised his voice.  

Derek had once, at Stiles’ urging, punctured Ace’s tire with a casual flick of his claws—playful and daring, almost like courtship. Stiles had swooned appropriately and promised to throw a brick through Chris Argent’s window at some point in life.

“It’s too much blood; I’m going in,” he heard Derek say, and then the door wrenched open and he saw Derek, too.

 

 

“We’re talking him to a hospital.” Stiles’ head lolled to the side as he tried to listen to what Derek was saying in the back seat. Scott was driving, Stiles was bleeding on the passenger seat, and Derek was apparently on the phone.

“Not right now. He’s in shock,” Derek said. A few moments passed before Stiles realized the observation was about him, was the reason he couldn’t stop shaking.

“I won’t, sir. I promise.” Derek was being serious, and only then did Stiles understand it was his dad at the other end of the call.

 

Stiles could walk to the car himself. Between the pain medication and the inherent drugging effects of relief, he was fine to walk. Scott found it hard to believe, apparently, and flitted anxiously around him, making sure his elbow didn’t touch the car door, that his feet had plenty of room.  

Dad drove and Scott kept Stiles company in the back during what Dad said would be a six-hour trip. Stiles tried not to think about how he’d traveled six hours from home unconscious and under Daniel’s care. A terrible thing was twisting in his chest and scraping at all sorts of tender places.  

“What’s wrong?” Scott still had the same expression as when they’d found Stiles: stricken, wounded. Scott took these things personally, which Stiles loved him for.

But it was too much effort to explain anything. Stiles looked out the window, watched the treeline pass in a blur, and shrugged. He wanted to be cool, but he had to know.

“Where’s Derek?”  

When Scott immediately became the kind of twitchy that meant a lie was coming, Stiles sighed.  

“Derek is just fine—don't you worry about him,” Dad said with a meaningful look at Stiles through the rear-view mirror.  

Yeah, of course Derek was fine. Stiles remembered his voice outside the bathroom, in the car on the way to the hospital. He wasn’t worried about Derek’s health.  

“Seriously, he’s right. Don’t worry about Derek. You’re supposed to rest, and that’s impossible with him hanging around being a dick.” Scott said the last part under his breath. It wasn’t very different from how they usually talked about Derek, but Scott didn’t know how Stiles had been spending nearly every day with Derek, about the secret swimming spot, about how Derek would leave and Stiles would go straight to his camera and. . .oh, God. Humiliation flooded his body and doubled him over on the seat. Humiliation poisoning—did people die from that? 

“Does he know what I did?”  

“What?” Scott cupped Stiles’ shoulder and rubbed it a little. “Dude, are you okay?” 

“Yeah, I just—just tell me, okay? Does Derek know what I did, why that Alpha took me? The videos?” 

“Uhhh.” Scott’s hand stopped moving. “I mean, he was working with us the whole time. We had to figure it out, and then we had to get Danny to figure out which one of your subscribers it was and to get the Alpha’s IP address. So, I mean, there was a lot of learning and. . .knowing. . .in general.”  

“So he knows,” Stiles said. “Scott, you’re killing me here. This is a fact-finding mission and I’ve been drugged into a coma—not that I am complaining—so work with me here, buddy. I need more information than that. Did he seem weird about anything?”

“But it’s Derek, he’s weird about everything.” Scott screwed up his face and Stiles melted a little at the familiar sight of Scott trying to work something out in his head. “Well,” Scott said slowly. “He was definitely being a dick like usual, but he seemed really worried a couple times. And it was totally weird to see him being so buddy-buddy with your dad. How did that even happen?”

Stiles sighed. What he wanted to know what whether Derek personally watched the videos and, if so, whether he was weirded out by them.

“Wait, there was something!” Scott gave him a brilliant, crooked smile. “There was this one time on the second day where Danny was talking about needing to take a break, go home for a while, and Derek just like, whipped his shirt off. It was weird because it was almost like he was hitting on Danny, leaning in his space all half-naked and stuff, but he didn’t smell attracted to Danny and seemed pissed off the whole time. “Yeah,” Scott added, nodding. “I guess he was pretty weird. Not that Danny minded.”

“So then Danny stayed,” Stiles said slowly. The meds were getting the best of him.

“He did. It was right after that Danny put together a list of potential bad guys.”

“Most of my subscribers are cool,” Stiles protested, but then he had to rest his eyes.

 

He woke in his bed, with Dad pulling off his shoes and dimming the lights. Scott must have carried him, but his dad probably shooed him off, which Stiles had to admit was okay because he had a lot of questions and Scott didn’t really get him these days—not enough to understand what he was asking.

“Did Derek say anything?” Stiles asked, still groggy. His dad paused where he was bent over to straighten the covers, gazing down at Stiles with a thoughtful expression.

“Just tell me, okay? I did something he might not like, Dad, and I just—I hate not being able to talk to him about it. . .and some other stuff.”

He hadn’t responded to Stiles’ texts.

The idea of not talking to Derek about what happened to him made him feel sick to his stomach, though it might be the meds. The entire time Daniel was keeping him, Stiles had imagined how much better he’d feel when he could talk about it with Derek, who was the best kind of listener if you didn’t mind long silences and the occasional dry remark.

“I wish you were as interested in taking it easy as you are in Derek Hale.”

Dad.” Stiles didn’t have to try hard to sound pitiful.

“You’ll talk to him about it soon enough.”

Stiles closed his eyes. “Not if he doesn’t want to see me.”

A silence followed during which Stiles could hear his dad’s indecision as he shifted from one foot to the other and finally said, “Based on his behavior when you were missing, I would be very surprised if Derek Hale didn’t want to see you. The reason he hasn’t been around is because he had some healing to do. Apparently werewolves heal right away unless they’re injured by-“

“-an Alpha.” Stiles jolted awake, trying to survive the buried-alive sensation of his heart being jump-started to a panic while the rest of his body was sedated. “The guy who took me was an Alpha.”

He hadn’t even thought about that. It wasn’t just that Stiles made a bunch of stupid videos—those videos got Derek hurt.

“That’s what they tell me.” Dad stood up and hooked his thumbs into the loops of his jeans. “And you better believe we’ll be having a talk about all of that soon. But you don’t need to worry about Derek. His group is taking good care of him.”

“They’re okay, too?”

“Just fine. Everyone healed right up, except somehow Allison Argent got her shoulder dislocated, which is quite a thing. Seems odd for a girl like that to jump into the fray of a werewolf-fight, but no one else even blinked, not even Chris Argent, so I’ll assume it’s one of the many things we’ll get to talk about when you’re feeling better.”

“For sure. So yeah, I’m really tired now.” Stiles did his best impression of a sleepy boy, at which Dad snorted, but wished him good night and left him in peace, closing the door behind him.

 

Derek answered with a “Hey,” after the third ring. Third ring wasn’t bad—was definitely better than five or six rings, or not picking up at all.

Not as good as the first ring.

The first thing Stiles could think to say was, “Are you okay?”

He did his best not to let the pause get into his head. It was Derek, after all. A man of few words.

“Fine.”

Stiles needed more than this curt, impersonal exchange, so he kept going. “Aren’t you going to ask if I’m okay? Do you even care?”

“You must be okay if you’re already this demanding.”

“Thanks. You’re really okay, though? Because nobody will tell me anything or even really talk to me, and it better not be because you lost all your limbs in a werewolf battle and are now holding a paintbrush with your mouth.”

Derek breathed into the phone, something like a sigh, and Stiles closed his eyes, aching for him to be there in person. They’d gotten close lately, but that might be gone now.

“I’m fine,” Derek said. “You should worry about yourself. I was at the house; I know you got hurt.”

The house, the Alpha.

The bedroom, the bathroom floor.

Stiles suddenly couldn’t speak.

“Stiles?”

He contemplated hanging up, because there it was: all the panic-drenched adrenaline welling up from wherever it stayed during the good times, ready to ruin his night.

“It’s not that I got hurt,” he said. “I mean, it is, because obviously I don’t enjoy bleeding or having my head smashed into the ground, but it’s also-” No, he couldn’t talk about that and still hold himself together, so he moved on to the next issue, a close second. “He kept trying to make me say stuff from the videos.”

“What did he want you to say?”

Stiles pulled himself into a sitting position and bent his forehead to his knees, breathing deeply.

“Stiles.”

“Sorry, I just.” Stiles felt a hitch in his own breath as it stuttered painfully, and he wasn’t at all surprised. It was the strain of holding back the hideous pressure that had been compressed in his chest since the hospital. “He wanted me to say he was good.” His voice gave out on the last word.

He hadn’t even been certain Derek saw the videos, but it was obvious from the quick, uneven intake of breath from Derek’s end of the call that he understood. He saw the videos. He knew Stiles made this happen and he knew how much time Stiles spent fantasizing about Derek.

“I know I fucked up.” Stiles rubbed at his eyes and tried not to cry. He wanted to roll onto his bed and curl up, but he could feel every wound on his body in intricate detail—every bruise, every scratch, and every tear stitched by a disapproving doctor.

His face was what bothered him most—a clear trail of blackish-purple fingerprints crawled over his jaw and ended with a puncture just under his mouth. People didn’t like to see it, and he didn’t want them to.

At least Derek was his usual monotone self. That was reassuring, because other than the comfort of having Derek on the line, Stiles didn’t feel right. It might be the meds, but mostly it was the way he couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. No one had even asked him about it, and Stiles processed things best by talking. People shouldn’t ever be left alone with their thoughts after a trauma. No wonder Derek could be so prickly.

“I’m coming over,” Derek said, and ended the call.

Derek arrived ten minutes later and climbed through the window as though he hadn’t been using the front door for the past few months. He looked good—solid and predictable and only slightly tousled. Stiles regarded him hungrily until he realized Derek was looking back and probably noticing that Stiles was a mess.

“I’m recovering, you know,” Stiles mumbled, cringing over the edge in his voice and his own needy misery. “Convalescence isn’t pretty. Plus, that road trip took a lot out of me. Thanks for coming all that way to save me, BT dubs. It was pretty far and I don’t reimburse for gas mileage, so.” It was happening, it was all unraveling. Stiles was unraveling.

Without taking his eyes off Stiles, Derek shrugged off his coat, lay it over Stiles’ desk, and sat next to him on the bed so their hips and shoulders were touching.

“Tell me what he did.”

The request felt different with Derek right up close—scarier, more intrusive. It made things seem real in a way they hadn’t before, a realization that rippled through him in sick waves. It was very possible, Stiles was forced to admit, he was about to actually cry because Derek had simply asked what happened to him.

Just as Stiles’ mouth was beginning to tremble and twist out of his control, Derek turned toward him, gathered him up, and tucked Stiles’ burning face into his warm, solid shoulder. It felt so good to be touched like this that his control slipped a little more just from the relief of it.

Derek wasn’t just letting Stiles hold onto him; he held on right back and took part in this mutual holding thing with enough desperate pressure to affirm that he didn’t want to stop, he wanted to be this close.

“Fuck, he scared me,” Stiles choked into Derek’s t-shirt, and in response Derek rubbed his cheek encouragingly against his head. He smelled good—like freshly-laundered clothes, but also like all the times Stiles had gotten close enough to recognize what Derek’s body and hair smell like, and Stiles couldn’t stop nuzzling back.

Derek squeezed him hard, radiating sadness and concern. He was surprisingly emotional, breathing hard through his nose just behind Stiles’ ear, barely controlled. Stiles could have cried with relief that someone was talking to him about what happened. Actually, no, the crying was right there—it had been the terrible thing in his chest all along—and it was loosening, rising, moving toward the inevitable.

He clutched at Derek’s back, t-shirt crumpled in his fingers and knuckles pressed to the shifting muscles beneath. “He almost drowned me,” he confessed. “The morning you showed up, I thought he was going to break my arm. And-“ Stiles’ voice broke. His eyes were already leaking but the rest of him was still plugging along and wanting to talk.  

Derek swept a steady hand down Stiles’ back, then repeated the motion, which encouraged Stiles to add a tremulous, “He was just really weird about me. It was almost too late when you got there. You have no idea how glad I am that you showed up, Derek.”

Derek froze and then went back to petting his back in long, gentle strokes, pulling the words out of Stiles.    

And there it was—his body caught up to his eyes and a series of awkward sobs tore away from the terrible thing and out of his throat as though Derek were pulling those out, too. Stiles was wetting Derek’s t-shirt and would have strained to move away if he hadn’t been held so tightly.

It was stupid to have a meltdown over the impending rather than real violence that had been inflicted on him. Still, Derek let him cry and talk about everything he was afraid of, and the whole time cupped the back of Stiles’ neck and held him close. Stiles’ cheek was pressed to Derek’s chest, so warm and solid that Stiles sank into it and let Derek hold him together while he drifted in a fog of pain, sadness, and exhaustion.

He hadn’t even known Derek could do this—hold someone like he cared about them, like they deserved his protection. It felt good, the way Derek’s limbs fit against his own, and how Stiles could feel the different textures of his beard, skin, and the body hair that dusted his forearms and even the backs of his fingers. Here, breathing together with Stiles, Derek seemed more real than he had before. In the videos, Stiles pretended he could do this for Derek, but it turned out Derek was the one doing it for him.

The hand at his nape moved higher and mmm, Derek was petting his head now. A deep, shuddering sigh rose up from Stiles’ chest, drawn involuntarily from the satisfaction of his misery finally easing. Derek was actually good at this. Time skipped, warm static in his head, and Stiles realized that not only had he dozed off, but that Derek was still holding him and, in his own way, soothing him.

After a time Stiles noticed the pattern of Derek’s attention—his thumb kept leaving and returning to Stiles hairline suspiciously damp, to press into Stiles’ hair, neck, behind his ears.

It occurred to him through the fog that the thumb kept disappearing because it was going into Derek’s mouth.

“Uh-“

Derek’s thumb stopped just behind Stiles’ left earlobe, making him shiver and cling a little tighter. He hadn’t been complaining, but Derek sounded defensive when he said, “You still smell like him.”

“Oh.” Stiles flushed all over. They wouldn’t let him shower yet—not with all the clusters of fresh stitches. “Don’t stop,” he mumbled. “I don’t—I hate that asshole.”

Derek’s thumb was dripping wet when it returned this time to smooth the hairline at his temple. “I killed him,” he said, and what was Stiles’ life that a murder confession could be so reassuring? Derek killed an alpha for him and was now making sure every trace of him was gone. Stiles tightened his arms around Derek’s waist and received a squeeze to the back of his neck in return. It felt like the most important thing they’d ever said to one another.

“I can help with the pain.” Derek pulled away. “But you have to show me where it is. Is that okay?”

Stiles disentangled himself, wiping his face with both hands. He was wearing one of his dad’s old white button-downs, soft and worn with age, easy to get on and off. Slowly, because his hands weren’t working properly, he opened the buttons and let Derek pull at the cuffs to slide it off with as little friction as possible.

Derek looked him over with a frown and nodded at his pillow. “It’ll work better if you lie down.”

It was a little too much exposure, lying there with Derek studying his body like that—it struck Stiles for the first time that he would have a shit-ton of scars down his left arm, side, and hip for the rest of his life.  

Derek stretched out next to him and propped himself up on his elbow so he could have a look at Stiles. “Your dad said you had a concussion.”

“Mild concussion.” Stiles rolled his eyes. “He’s just doing the worried papa-bear routine.”

“We were all worried.”

Stiles rolled his head to the side, just inches from Derek’s face. The dark shadow of his beard was reassuring; it was right there and Stiles wanted to touch it, so he did. Derek’s gaze snapped onto his own, those crazy-light eyes glinting in the dim room.

Derek let him touch. Stiles rested his fingertips more firmly on the prickly-soft side of his jaw and allowed himself just the barest amount of petting. In response, Derek dropped his forehead to Stiles’ chest to rub his beard over an uninjured expanse of skin.

“Isaac was the one who figured it out.” One hand crept down over Stiles’ shredded hip, which made him flinch. Then Derek tugged at his sweatpants on that side and Stiles nearly protested before he realized that the pain was lifting everywhere Derek touched with his bare skin, numbing out, disappearing entirely.

“He watches your channel,” Derek continued. “Did you know he was completely in control last month, even the night of the full moon? I had no idea what you were doing, Stiles. You were working with me all day and then coming up here and making those videos. . .”

Stiles swallowed hard and fidgeted on the bed, unsure where to put his hands. They wanted to rest on Derek’s broad back, so that’s where he put them, faking confidence that he’d be welcome. Derek didn’t protest; he just settled onto his side so he could pet Stiles’ pain away.

“Isaac shoved a pair of headphones over my ears when I watched that last one you made.” Derek wasn’t as relaxed as he’d been; his body was wound up with a new tension that felt a little like anger, but a little like something else. “Those kisses, Stiles,” he said roughly. “What were you thinking?”

Stiles didn’t know how to answer. He didn’t know how to do anything, not with the way Derek was grazing his knuckles just above Stiles’ waistband, back and forth, slow and deliberate.

“I, uh, I was—”  

“No one’s ever kissed me like that.”

Derek knew the kisses were for him. Stiles’ mouth dropped open, and not just because of the gentle circle Derek was drawing around his belly button. He should tell Derek nobody deserved kisses like that more than he did.

Then again, Derek may have figured that out, judging by the way he was nuzzling Stiles’ throat and raising zings of pleasure all over Stiles’ skin, leaving him shuddering hot and cold until he was grasping for something to hold on to. It was the opposite of what happened in that cabin with that shitty alpha. Pain and fear inverted, it seemed, was pleasure and wanting, and Stiles was brimming with both.

“How’s your pain now?” Derek murmured into his ear.

“Good, good,” Stiles whispered back, belatedly realizing what he was saying. But when he did, he nestled closer and added, “Really good, Derek,” which made Derek groan and begin a desperate trail of real, full-mouthed kisses down Stiles’ throat.

Stiles was too wrung out and pleasure-drunk to do more than bare his neck and clutch at Derek’s head, urging him on, stunned that Derek’s need matched his own. The whole while, Derek’s hand was spread wide and warm over Stiles’ belly, occasionally drifting up to his chest or down to his hipbone, which made Stiles shudder and twitch with anticipation. He’d been hard since Derek first said “kisses.” At this point, he could feel the wet patch he’d leaked all the way through his sweatpants, precariously near the waistband where Derek’s hand was resting.

“Settle down,” Derek said, scraping his bearded jaw over a nipple, which just made Stiles throb and swell and leak even more. “Be still—I only took away the pain; I can’t heal you.”

Stiles made a pained sound that meant a hundred things.

“Shh. I know. Do you want this?”

“Yeah,” Stiles breathed. “Go on.”

Derek lifted his face and nuzzled against the uninjured side of Stiles’ face. “Do you even know what I’m asking?”

Stiles knew that Derek had him spread out and was touching him in really sexy and confusingly gentle ways. He knew Derek was asking to keep doing that, and the answer should be obvious to someone with Derek’s senses.

Derek’s mouth was touching his mouth; they were breathing the same air and if Stiles parted his lips just enough to wet them—yep, there it was. The tip of his tongue actually touched the fleshy curve of Derek’s lower lip. Derek reacted with an exhalation of shock. He reciprocated in the form of a long, slow swipe of tongue that traced across Stiles’ mouth and then, for one shocking moment, pushed inside.

Stiles opened to him, panting, worried he might just go off in his sweatpants right now. They could kiss for real when the incision under his lip was healed, but for now, Stiles was positive he could happily live the rest of his life just licking at Derek’s mouth.

“You’re so quiet,” Derek said.

“Your hand is terrifyingly close to my dick.”

Stiles shuddered as Derek threw a leg over Stiles’ to pin his uninjured side to the bed, and muttered a few curses as Derek lavished kiss after kiss on his throat, shoulder, clavicle.

Derek was athletic even in gentle necking, somehow. Stiles made this observation through a blitz attack of teeth and tongue that left him overstimulated and unprepared for the sudden pressure of Derek’s hand closing on his erection through his sweatpants.

Over the past few months, Stiles had watched Derek handle everything from a table saw to a weed whacker, always with irritating ease. He always looked like a professional, steady and methodical, and he was the same with Stiles’ dick, somehow managing to grip it in all the right places without even moving his sweatpants out of the way.

Stiles’ back arched, and Derek held him down at the hips. “You smell like you’re close. Feel close. Are you gonna come if I move my hand?”

Stiles was going to come because Derek asked that question. He’d been shying away from the tingling in his balls, trying to stay just on the edge, but now Derek was talking dirty and moving his hand over Stiles’ cock in short, easy jerks.

In a last desperate bid for pleasure, Stiles shoved his hand down to grope at the gorgeous flex of Derek’s forearm, and that was all it took—he came in hard, devastating pulses of pleasure, with his fingers curled around Derek’s arm and Derek’s mouth just over his, saying “Shh, shh,” to cover the urgent noises Stiles couldn’t stop making.

Stiles buried his hands in Derek’s hair while he was still twitching inside the waistband of his sweatpants. Derek’s hair was damp at the roots where Stiles’ fingers dug in and scratched at his scalp. It was cool that Derek was as worked up as Stiles—sweating, panting against his mouth, hard against his thigh.

“You have to be quiet,” Derek was saying, but his hand was still pressed to the front of Stiles’ sweatpants and one of his fingers had slipped underneath. “Do you want your dad to think you’re having a medical emergency?”

“I am having a medical emergency.” Stiles writhed some more, miserable with pleasure. It couldn’t possibly be normal to feel so good and raw and horny and satisfied all at the same time.

Eventually, he pulled back so he could see Derek’s face. “Hi,” he said, unnerved when Derek quirked the corner of his mouth at him.

“Hi.” Derek moved his hands to Stiles’ waist and settled in so they could lie together. Stiles was sleepy again, and it seemed fine to give in when Derek traced a line down his arm and said, “Go to sleep.”

He fell asleep nestled in Derek’s shoulder, nose buried in his neck and feeling like he understood werewolves for the first time.

When he woke, he was sweating, sticking to Derek’s skin where he’d drooled while sleeping. Stiles groaned and rolled away, taking things very slowly as he readied himself to go downstairs. Derek undoubtedly heard him, but chose sleep over conversation, which was good, because Stiles couldn’t put off talking to his dad.

After a quick stitch-check in the bathroom, Stiles headed downstairs and found Dad in the living room, television quietly delivering the news in the background. He was wearing a white t-shirt and sleep pants, eating spaghetti out of a microwavable container. When he saw Stiles, he smiled like he meant it.

“Have a seat,” he said, patting the cushion next to him and putting his spaghetti on the coffee table. “Good to see you up. Feeling all right?”

Stiles folded himself into the spot next to his dad and sighed. “I’m a brave werewolf-attack survivor, so it might be a few days. But yeah, I’ll be okay.”

“We did our best to find you.”

“You’re not apologizing, are you? There’s no way you could’ve known.”

“That’s exactly my point. Without Derek and Scott and Danny, we never would’ve found you. I wouldn’t have even known what to look for—wouldn’t have imagined, Stiles—and that is not okay with me. Do you understand?”

“Yeah. Yeah.”

Dad shook his head. “And Derek Hale. I never would’ve guessed you were in so deep with him.”

Stiles didn’t know how deep he was in with Derek, so he just said, “Psshh,” and made a waving gesture with his hand.

“Stiles, there’s an adult man your bed right now; do not try to psshh this away.”

“Oh, now he’s an adult man?  When we were working on the house it was always boys, don’t forget to put the sander in the shed and did you guys wash your hands?

Dad groaned, but there was a fond note to it.

Stiles gave him a hurt look. “Anyway, you should be nicer to me,” he said, and leaned against his dad in a half-embrace. “It’s like you forgot I was a victim of a werewolf attack.”

Dad took control of the hug by opening his arm and tucking Stiles underneath. “Hm, guess I must have forgotten.”

His phone chimed and he picked it up, expecting a message from Scott but instead finding a selfie of Erica, Isaac smirking in the background. Erica had added cartoon heart-eyes to both herself and Isaac, and the text read Get well soon to our favorite human boyfriend.

 

Derek started to worry Stiles about a week and a half later. The first night Stiles came home had been perfect, with all the touching and tenderness, but since then Derek had kept him at arm’s length. There was some touching, but it wasn’t the way Stiles had imagined it. Derek would kiss his neck and stroke his hair, but would allow only minimal reciprocation. He said he couldn’t risk opening any of Stiles’ wounds, but after a few more days Stiles felt stronger and as far as he was concerned, it was time.

“I can’t believe how good you’re being,” Stiles whispered to Derek from his new favorite place: in bed with Derek, stripped down to their underthings. Stiles punctuated the words with a flick of tongue against Derek’s ear and squirmed with happiness over the pained sound Derek made. They’d spent a good part of the last few days indulging in slow teasing touches, but Derek always stopped at a certain point—usually when Stiles tried to touch him at all.

Sometimes, he seemed close to giving in. Times like right now, with Stiles whispering into Derek’s ear and getting sloppy with his tongue when he dipped underneath to his throat. “So good, good, good,” he murmured in a way that he could tell was getting Derek all worked up. “That self-control is impressive, not touching me when I’m right here and so hard for you.”

“Shut up,” Derek said. His hands tightened on Stiles’ waist.

“I’m serious. It almost makes me think you could handle something simple—say, just the smallest amount of pressure right where you want it most.” He was already pressed indecently against Derek’s hip, but for effect ground against him and gasped into his ear, nuzzling at his stubble, biting at his jaw.

“The smallest amount,” Derek repeated, strained, and Stiles froze. It could have been a question or even mockery, but he had a weird suspicion it was actual permission.

“Are you serious?”

“Just a little,” Derek said, but Stiles’ hand was already closing over the front of his underwear.

“Don’t move,” Derek said in a low, pained rumble. Stiles spent ten long seconds doing nothing but resting his hand against the hard length of Derek’s dick.

He swore he could see Derek’s pulse thundering in his throat, could definitely hear the excited sound of his own breathing, and he was just on the verge of saying something desperate and ruining the moment when Derek released a long, shuddering breath and then said, “Tighten your hand for just a second. One second,” he warned, but Stiles barely heard him since he essentially, for one second, had Derek’s dick in his hand.

And Derek liked it—that much was obvious. His mouth was open, a rare vulnerability, and in the dark Stiles could see a sheen of sweat on his forehead and beneath his wide eyes.

“I want your hand on my balls,” Derek said. Stiles made a crazy sound in an attempt to not die from how hot it was for Derek to want that, but when he reached lower, Derek said “No—your bare hand,” and lifted the waistband of his boxer briefs so Stiles could slip his hand inside.

“Just hold them,” he said as Stiles brushed over the soft thatch of hair and cupped the tight, heavy package in his palm. The cradle of his legs was hot and humid; Stiles could have stayed there forever. Derek was close—Stiles didn’t know how he was holding back when his dick so clearly wanted to go off and probably would if Stiles so much as moved a finger.

“Wow, you’re. Derek, God,” he breathed. “Are you into edging? Is this what you do?”

“I’m into being careful and not hurting you.”

“But you like it. You get off on it.”

“Yeah,” Derek said, tipping his head back and breathing through his teeth. “I like it.” His hips twitched forward, the first sign he wasn’t as in control as he wanted to be. Stiles took the opportunity to get a good look at his dick, which was thick and dark pink at the tip where it lay against his belly.

“This makes so much sense. Derek Hale, glutton for punishment, so tortured you don’t think you even deserve to come.”

“Oh, I deserve it. I took an Alpha’s bite to the gut for you. I’m going to come, but when I do, it’s not going to be in my own hand.”

“Uhhh yeah, that’s- I’m good with that.” Stiles cradled Derek’s balls in the palm of his hand and, unable to stay still, dared the stroke of a thumb over the tight skin. “But what about my hand?”

“That’s enough.” Derek grabbed Stiles’ wrist, yanked his hand out of his boxer-briefs, and rolled away. “Fuck, Stiles, you smell even more like sex than I do.”

It sounded like praise, which did crazy things to Stiles’ insides. He watched Derek’s back heave as he faced away from Stiles, probably thinking frantic thoughts about whatever was a turnoff for werewolves—things like Wolfsbane and wearing shirts all the time.

For a moment, Stiles just lay there in limbo. He couldn’t stop looking at Derek’s bare back and wanting to run his hands all over it, but when Derek turned slightly, Stiles noticed the shape of his ears.

“Holy shit, did you shift?”

No,” Derek said, very obviously speaking through a mouth full of were-teeth. “A little,” he amended and quickly sat up to face away from Stiles.

The haze of arousal began to clear and Stiles’ mind started spinning at closer to its usual speed. “You’re not afraid of hurting me. You’re not even into edging, are you? Something’s wrong; that’s why you won’t kiss me or let me touch you.”

“Your mouth-“

“-is fine.” Stiles made a sucking noise with his bottom lip to emphasize the point. “I’m healing, Derek, and it wasn’t even on my mouth—just nearby, and it’s already healed! Mostly.”

Derek was silent for a while. Stiles kept a close eye on him, but his back remained tense even when he finally spoke.

“I wasn’t lying. I’m worried about you.”  

“Nope.”

Derek had shifted back to normal. “I am worried about hurting you, Stiles,” he said, and then sighed. “But not because of your injuries.”

“I knew it.” Stiles punched the air in victory. “Stiles Stilinski, sex detective, at your service.”

“This isn’t about sex, Stiles. This wasn’t a good idea.”

Stiles gathered the bedspread up over his lap. “What wasn’t a good idea? Me? This? Because it was mere moments ago that my hands were holding some very delicate belongings of yours and it was at your request.”

“I know.” Derek looked like he wanted to escape, but remained on the edge of the bed. “I’m not saying I don’t want you, but it’s not that simple. You’ve been marked by another Alpha. My wolf needs to do the same, maybe more, and it’s getting harder not to do it.”

“More, as in what he did to me? Cutting me up?” Stiles was having trouble imagining that, but he’d seen Derek in his Alpha form, seen what he could do.

“No. Maybe. I don’t know.” Derek’s head was in his hands. When Stiles surveyed the bend of his neck, the slump of his shoulders, he was compelled to drape himself over Derek’s back and fold his arms around his neck. As if by reflex, Derek gripped the circle of Stiles’ arms with both hands and pressed him there.

“It’s okay.” Stiles breathed lightly into Derek’s ear. “You’re okay, we’re okay.” Surrounding Derek this way, he could feel every small reaction—the tension in his frame that loosened when Stiles held him tighter. “You know, you should have just told me what you were worried about. Have some faith in old Stiles once in a while, because I happen to be a wealth of information on werewolf topics, including this sort of thing.”

The tension returned to Derek’s body, so Stiles rubbed his cheek on Derek’s neck and shoulder. “There are other ways of marking me, you know,” he whispered, pausing to drop a soft kiss just behind Derek’s ear. “Everything doesn’t always have to be blood.”

Geez, werewolves. They were secretive and had bizarre habits and were terrible about asking for help, but Derek seemed to trust him. When Stiles went exploring over Derek’s bare chest with slow, curious hands, Derek released his arms and silently accepted every touch, including the slow, wet kisses Stiles trailed down the side of his neck. Derek smelled so good, just the hint of a woodsy shampoo and nothing else but warm skin, sweat and pheromones.

He couldn’t believe he got to touch Derek like this, without having to pretend it was an accident or that he didn’t love the way their bodies were straining together for more contact.

He dropped his hand to Derek’s fly and tapped lightly. “Let me do this, okay? This will be enough, I promise.”

Derek popped his own button, thank god. Stiles didn’t exactly have any moves yet, so he was grateful when Derek also unzipped his fly, took out his erection, and guided Stiles’ hand to it.

Grateful and crazily turned on.

Stiles pressed himself to Derek’s back, thighs bracketing Derek’s, and started jerking Derek like it was his own dick and he had only seconds to come. He wanted to take it easy, to be the version of himself in those gentle videos, but this was Derek writhing and wild in his arms, and Stiles just wanted him. He wanted his hands all over Derek, anywhere Derek would let him go.

For a few seconds, Stiles wondered if he was even doing it right, but that fell away as soon as Stiles started working Derek’s cock at a steady pace. “Yes, yes, like that,” Derek growled and panted, pushing back against Stiles, claws buried in the edge of the mattress.

Stiles tucked his cheek against Derek’s back, hooked his legs over Derek’s thighs, and held onto his waist with one hand so he could grind himself against Derek as he jerked him. It must have been the right move—Derek’s dick started to leak, which gave Stiles’ hand a nice slippery glide and made Derek swear and say, “Stiles” with a hint of teeth.

This was probably the safest way to have sex with a werewolf who wasn’t entirely in control, but when Derek leapt up, shoved his jeans off, and turned toward him, half-shifted, Stiles lay back on the bed and opened his arms. No one had ever accused him of good judgment.

Derek was on him immediately, bracketing Stiles with his body, tugging Stiles’ legs around his waist again and urging him to move with the rhythm he’d set—hard, fast, and just what Stiles had been wanting. Stiles got a hand between them to get the best friction for them both, and then they were off, writhing against each other with a single-minded goal, Derek breathing hard at his neck—so good, not biting, yet not making much of a secret how badly he wanted to. “I want to fuck you,” he said, with a particularly powerful thrust. “I need to fuck you, oh god, Stiles—” Derek sat up suddenly and begged, “Touch me,” which Stiles didn’t understand until he saw that he was hard and dripping clear fluid that trickled down his dick and over the incredible and unexpected swell of flesh at the base of his dick.

Even in his shock, Stiles reached for it. He was pretty sure he knew what Derek needed. With one hand, he massaged the knot—holy shit, holy shit, Scott had not said anything about this—and with the other stroked the shaft.

Harder,” Derek said, and when Stiles squeezed the knot with his whole hand, let out a roar that turned into an animal whimper that Stiles understood was a sound of pleasure when he felt the entire organ pulse and spill all over his hand, belly, and crotch. The knot was redder than Derek’s dick, and fit comfortably in Stiles’ hand, which made it easy to manipulate.  

“Keep going,” Derek said, breathless, dropping down onto his elbows and making another hot, agonized sound when Stiles massaged the tight skin of the knot and experimented with varying pressure. When he made a gentle twisting motion, another flood of warmth dripped onto Stiles’ belly.

Stiles struggled through the storm of sensations: Derek throbbing in his hand, the beard scraping at his neck—and beginning to eclipse everything else, his orgasm, gathered up tight, filling every space inside him and ready for just the slightest stimulation to burst.

Desperate, he lifted his hips to get some friction on his cock. When Derek heard his sound of frustration, he dug his knees into the mattress and ground down so they were belly to belly, his knot nestled in the crease of Stiles’ thigh and Stiles’ cock sliding messily against the tight press of Derek’s abs.

Stiles grasped at Derek’s knot a few more times, and then he had to let go. His limbs flailed as he let the flex of Derek’s belly coax him over the edge and came in long pulses of pleasure that set Derek off. Distantly, he noted Derek’s jerking hips and the veritable swamp between them, but his most sensitive places were being rubbed so sweetly that he didn’t care.

Derek made low, pleased sounds as he bit and mouthed at Stiles’ jaw—gently, with blunt teeth and a lot of tongue. Every nerve in Stiles’ body was still tingling under Derek’s weight and when he clutched Derek tighter, they both shuddered and shook with the last of it.

For a few minutes, they lay together and just breathed, though Derek wasn’t hiding the fact that he was inhaling deeply, scenting Stiles, nosing in his hair and everywhere else he could reach.

Stiles stroked Derek’s back. “Look at me, still in one piece. Get it all out of your system?”  

“Mm.” Derek rolled them so Stiles was on top and tightened his arms around Stiles’ back, at which Stiles felt another warm trickle of fluid between them.

“Uh, how long is that going to happen? Not that I’m complaining,” he added, dazed by the way Derek looked—face red and blotchy, hair in disarray. Stiles made Derek look like that.

Derek let out a long breath and opened his eyes. “I don’t know. The knot’s really sensitive.” He was still coming down; otherwise he wouldn’t be looking at Stiles like that—hungry, open, still a little needy.

“I guess so,” Stiles snorted. “How long does it stay that sensitive?”

“I don’t know. I think it happened because of marking you, and the threat of the other Alpha.”

Stiles had already compiled a mental list of at least eight questions about the knot, but he was warm and post-coital in Derek’s arms, and his chances of remaining that way were better if he kept his mouth shut. He pressed a kiss to Derek’s jaw and said, “It’s hot, I like it,” which drew a pleased sound out of Derek.

It felt daring to let his mouth drift closer to Derek’s. He’d been shot down so many times by now that he wasn’t sure Derek didn’t hate kissing Stiles specifically or the act in general, but when Stiles reached the corner of Derek’s mouth, Derek said, “Yes, Stiles—” and pulled him down, opening for Stiles so easily that there was no question how much he wanted this part of it.

Kissing. Stiles always wanted to be good for Derek when they finally did this. It was easier than he expected because as it turned out, they were good for each other. The way Derek held the back of his head and stroked his tongue against Stiles’, there was no question about whether he liked it.

In fact, Stiles never really knew Derek could like anything this much, but the way he lay desperate kisses on Stiles’ mouth—top lip, then bottom, then slanted to take it all at once—gave away everything Derek tried so hard to keep hidden. Stiles got it. Derek had lost a lot, but he was here right now, saying Stiles’ name and covering his mouth in soft, needy kisses. Stiles could feel the effort it took Derek to suppress whatever it was he wanted to say or do, so he gave a little moan of encouragement and immediately heard Derek do the same.

The knowledge that Derek wanted him just as much did something to him; Stiles pressed into Derek with everything he had. It was the scariest thing he’d ever done and Derek must have understood, because he clutched Stiles right back and said, “Yes, yes,” like it was the only word he knew.

He didn’t ever want to get off Derek or stop kissing him, but after a few more minutes of kissing, Derek rolled them onto their sides and slid his leg between Stiles’ without letting go.

“We shut down your channel,” he said against Stiles’ chin. A slow, thorough kiss followed—Stiles remained still and let it happen, savored how it felt to be kissed by Derek. “It’s too dangerous to send out a call to unstable werewolves. What you did was unbelievably stupid,” he said, but his words were undermined by literally everything else about this situation. Stiles smiled widely.

“Or was it unbelievably brilliant? You said the videos worked on Isaac, and no offense but you acted like a few kisses to the camera lens restructured your entire world view, so you should just admit that I’m good with werewolves and if they gave out badges for that type of thing, I’d be the most decorated wolf-scout out there.”

“What kind of badge do I get for saving your ass?” Before Stiles could respond, Derek squeezed Stiles’ ass first on one side, then the other—slow, deliberate, with intent. Holy shit, Derek liked his ass, had maybe been thinking about it for a while.

“Anything you want,” Stiles said, throwing one leg over Derek’s hip and effectively opening himself for further exploration. “As long as you admit I’m good at werewolf stuff. Not many guys can take a big dick-knot in stride. And. . .you’re getting hard again.”

“What do you expect when you say the phrase ‘take a big dick-knot?” Derek looked sheepish, but that didn’t stop him from tucking a few fingers into the space between Stiles’ buttocks without breaking Stiles’ gaze. “Anyway, you’re not good at most werewolves. You’re too trusting and don’t pay attention to your surroundings.”

Stiles’ face burned hot with a combination of anger and humiliation. It was probably stupid to sleep with someone he felt he had to prove himself to, but he wanted to, desperately.

“Hey.” Derek’s hand disappeared from Stiles’ ass and came up to cup his face. “But you’re good for my pack. Good for me.”

Stiles let Derek kiss him, knowing he was doing it as a distraction—god forbid he talk about his feelings—and not caring. The kiss was deep and went on for some time. When they parted, Stiles was panting for breath but picked up where they left off. “You’re good for me, too,” he said, tracing the line of Derek’s eyebrows. “So good, Derek.”

Derek closed his eyes and let out a hard breath through his nose.

“Tell me again,” he said, and Stiles put his mouth against Derek’s ear and did just that.