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The Way We Began (or, What We're Supposed to Be)

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Stiles likes waking up and knowing exactly where he is. 

Before, there were times when he’d wake in the midst of a panic attack—sweat soaked sheets, the taste of blood, heart pounding in his chest—and it would take him minute after agonizing minute to calm down, to come back to himself enough to realize that he was in his own bed. To know that he was safe and warm, that there was nothing sinister lurking just out of his field of vision. 

Or, he’d come to from the depths of a nightmare, murky shadows clinging to the corners of his mind, polluting his sensibilities, making him gasp for breath as he struggled to sift through what was real and what wasn’t.

Now, the warm weight of the body beside him makes him feel grounded in an ocean of white sheets. It’s an anchor holding him to the flat of the earth. Now, there’s no flash of uncertainty, no space in between the sleeping and the waking as his mind works to sort dream from reality. Instead, he rolls over, feels the press of sleep-soft skin against his own, listens to the steady inhalation, exhalation of Derek’s breathing.

Stiles smells like Derek now, too. He smells like his skin—all earth and spice and the faintest hints of sweat and leather (a reminder of the jacket that’s perpetually flung over the back of Stiles’s desk chair). The scent is palpable, and he’s not even the werewolf in this relationship. It clings to his hair, his clothes; it covers every inch of him and fills his nose, his mouth, his lungs. 

He wonders what it must be like for Derek, who for so long shunned any physical contact because it was overwhelming. Stiles knows he must feel saturated; after all, sometimes even he feels like he’s drowning.

Stiles asked him once what he smells like. They were lying in the ruin of Derek’s bed, sweat still cooling on their skin. Stiles was satiated and languid, tongue loose from sleep and sex.

Derek turned his head—dark hair sticking out in all directions against his pillow—and with a soft bark of laughter said, “Now?”

Stiles laughed too, scrunching up his nose because, yes, they were both in need of a shower. “No, not now, precisely, but in general. My nose doesn’t work quite the way yours does, you know.”

Derek closed his eyes again. “You smell like teenage boy.”

“No,” Stiles said again, propping himself up on one elbow to look down at the man beside him. “I’m serious.”

And when Derek looked at him—golden sun reflected in the honeyed specks in his irises—Stiles knew it was all Derek could do not to roll his eyes, but he took a deep breath and pressed his mouth to the curve of Stiles’s shoulder. “You smell like grass and coffee, chocolate and sex. And now,” he paused, lips curving ever so slightly, “you smell like me.”

***

Though Stiles sleeps better now (warm body pressed along the length of his), sometimes he still dreams. 

He sees a white and unfamiliar ceiling; the stench of antiseptic fills his nostrils, cloying and sharp. He feels infected—sterile room, scratchy blanket, one small chair. But he knows it isn’t real. Instead, he can focus on the rise and fall of Derek’s chest, the pounding of his heart, and not the beep beep beep of the machine at his bedside.

“What’s wrong with him?” his father asks. And his face—still handsome—is lined and shadowed.

“We don’t know yet.” Melissa—always calm, always optimistic—hides her worry well. She places one slender hand on his dad’s shoulder. “We don’t know, but we’re working on it. Soon, John, soon.”

Stiles has taken to ignoring these exchanges.

***

Derek has started leaving a toothbrush in Stiles’s bathroom. He notices it one afternoon, innocuously sharing the cup with his. Stiles’s toothbrush is green. Derek’s is blue. Stiles is surprised at the warmth that uncoils in his stomach at the sight, but it seems the most natural thing to stand side-by-side with Derek Hale at his sink.

“You know, you could just borrow mine,” he says one night. Then he almost chokes on the toothpaste in his mouth at the look of abject horror on Derek’s face. 

Derek spits, cups his hands beneath the faucet, swishes, spits again. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Yeah, well… No, not really.” Stiles wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

Derek rinses his toothbrush, returns it to the cup. “You do realize that the human mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria.”

“Right, and a wolf’s mouth is a paradigm of cleanliness.”

“Well, actually, it’s been proven that—”

But Stiles waves him off. “No, no, I’m still not buying that Fido’s mouth is cleaner than mine. Besides,” he continues, turning the water off, “you kiss me.”

***

There was a time when Stiles spent hours imagining Derek with beautiful women. Sometimes they were short and curvy, other times tall and model-thin. There were women with dark bobbed hair, gobs of black eyeliner, and striking red lipstick. There were women with white-blond curls falling over pale shoulders, beta-blue eyes, and clothes that would make Lydia Martin envious. And then there were the girl-next-door types—brown hair pulled back into ponytails, freckled skin, and sundresses with softly sweeping necklines.

Perhaps he was a bit obsessed, but that was okay, right? After all, Derek was a werewolf, he was more than a bit unhinged, and he was most likely a murderer. It was in Stiles’s best interest to keep tabs on him. And, if Stiles spent some (okay, a lot) of his time picturing him naked, well, no one needed to know about it.

Stiles isn’t sure, exactly, how they ended up together—which is really weird, when he thinks about it, because he remembers so many details about their relationship. He keeps memories stored away in the corners of his mind: some folded like paper swans, some worn smooth from use, others still brilliant and white, shining like bone. 

But he doesn’t remember how it happened. 

Somewhere in between Derek smashing his face into his steering wheel, demanding that Stiles cut off his arm, and appearing in his room at all hours—while running from Stiles’s dad and the rest of Beacon Hills’ finest, no less—they just…were.

And they don’t make any sense. Stiles knows this. 

Derek is twenty-three, a werewolf, and devastatingly gorgeous. Stiles is sixteen and neither of these things. Still, at night in Stiles’s room beneath the cover of darkness, nothing seems to matter, save for Derek’s hands on his hips, his mouth at his throat, and his breath on his skin.

***

“We have to do something!” Scott’s voice is low, angry.

“There’s nothing we can do.” Derek runs a hand through his hair; it’s an uncharacteristically agitated gesture.

“We can’t just let him die. You have to heal him.”

“You know it doesn’t work that way.”

Scott collapses into the chair beside the bed. “I don’t understand. What’s wrong with him?”

Derek frowns, brow furrowed. “The Bite doesn’t always take, and when it doesn’t, it’s deadly.”

“But he’s not dead. And neither is Lydia.”

“I know. I can’t remember a time when that’s happened.”

“It’s Peter. There was something wrong with him.”

Derek manages not to roll his eyes. “Obviously.”

“He bit him. Maybe he can heal him.”

“He’s dead, Scott.”

“I know that, but his body… Maybe there’s venom or something.”

This time, Derek does roll his eyes. “We’re not snakes.” But his voice isn’t stinging, condescending, or even annoyed. He just sounds tired and sad. “It’s not as simple as concocting an antidote.”

“Then what do we do?”

“We wait.”

Stiles thinks these dreams are getting to be a little much for him.

***

Stiles is at his desk, reading his chemistry text book when Scott appears at his door. 

“Hey man,” he says, “your dad let me in. Thought you might want to play some—” he stops mid-sentence, nose in the air. Then he actually turns his head side-to-side, sniffing. “What the... Are you? Is Derek? Fucking hell…” Scott speaks like pulling teeth. 

“What’s going on, dude?” Stiles asks slowly. 

“Are you and Derek…?” Scott shakes his head, looks horridly confused. “You’re not…”

“I’m not what?” Stiles asks, hoping Scott can’t hear how fast his heart is beating.

Scott shakes his head. “Nothing. Well, I mean, it just smells like Derek in here. Like really smells like Derek.”

“Derek’s been in here,” Stiles says quickly. “You know that. A few times actually. Doing things. Things like hiding from the cops because, oh, I dunno, you accused him of mass murder.” 

Scott shakes his head. “That’s not what I mean. And that was a while ago.” He sniffs the air again. “This is...recent. And it’s not just Derek… It’s you and Derek, you and Derek together.”

“I have no idea what you mean.” Stiles’s cheeks are pink, but Scott is too busy looking around his room—as though expecting Derek to materialize in a corner or appear under the bed—to notice. 

“It’s just, Derek’s been acting weird lately—weirder than normal, I mean—and you’ve been…busy.” He looks at Stiles as though to suggest that he knows exactly what he’s been busy doing.

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about. Come on,” he tries, “let’s play Mario Cart.”

Scott nods and sits down on his bed, only to jump right up again. “Oh my God! You’re fucking him…or, he’s fucking you…or, Oh my God!

“What?” Stiles tries to look appropriately outraged. “No. No, we’re not fucking…”

Scott glares; he’s clearly holding his breath.

“Well, not really,” Stiles amends. He wants to deny it, wants to tell Scott he’s crazy, but Scott will know he’s lying. Fucking werewolves and their fucking super senses.

“Not really?” Scott’s gone rather pale, but he hasn’t bolted yet, and Stiles has to give him credit for that. “Stiles, your bed…it reeks of Derek. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Why don’t you stop smelling my bed!” Stiles says too loudly, but talk about a complete violation of privacy. “I mean, seriously Scott, don’t werewolves have any fucking boundaries.” He waves his hands to demonstrate complete lack of said boundaries. “You can smell us…together apparently...” he shakes his head. “Did you even stop to consider how creepy that is? It’s super creepy,” Stiles adds after a moment, in case Scott doesn’t realize exactly how creepy the whole werewolf smell test is.

Scott has the decently to look appropriately ashamed. “I’m sorry. It’s just, I mean, Derek?”

“Yeah, Derek,” Stiles says after a moment because he really doesn’t know what else to do and isn’t that the reason they’re having this conversation to begin with? He sits down heavily on his bed—his bed that apparently stinks of him and Derek. “I, er, we’re kind of together?” He thinks, maybe, it sounds better like a question.

“Together?”

“Yeah, I mean,” Stiles picks at the edge of his comforter, “I guess so.” 

“I don’t understand.”

Stiles glances up at Scott, half expecting him to be on the verge of a hissy fit, but he doesn't seem horrified or angry or even disappointed. He just looks concerned and more than a little shocked. Stiles looks down again; he'd really rather not be having this conversation, but Scott's his best friend, and Derek's...well, Derek’s important. 

“Derek…” Scott speaks as though puzzling out an equation. “But it's Derek,” he says slowly, as if that is reason enough why the entire idea is impossible. And maybe it is. 

Stiles runs a hand through his hair. “I know.”

“You hate Derek,” Scott tries then. 

“I did.” Stiles agrees. “Or, at least, I thought I did for a while, I guess.” He chews on his thumbnail and does not look at Scott. “But now, not so much. Pretty cool how that happens, huh? So, Mario Cart?” he adds hopefully, but Scott's apparently not satisfied. 

He frowns. “But what happened, Stiles? How did it happen?” 

Stiles flops back on his bed to stare at the ceiling. “I dunno exactly.” Because it is a bit unexpected. He’ll give Scott that. “You were always off with Allison—not that I mind you spending time with Allison, of course—and Derek kept showing up in my room. Sometimes he was running from someone. My dad mostly, and talk about the irony there! Or the Argents,” Stiles says in a rush before taking a steadying breath. “But other times I think he was just bored. Or lonely because, you know, lone wolf, no family and all that.” 

Scott is quiet for a few minutes. Then he says, “He's a dude.”

Stiles can’t help but laugh at that. “Yeah, I noticed.” 

“And you're cool with that?”

“Apparently.” 

Stiles thinks he can actually see Scott's brain working to process the information before he nods. “Okay.”

“So Mario Cart?” Stiles tries once more. 

“Yeah,” Scott eyes Stiles's bed warily. “I'll just take the chair.”

Stiles throws a pillow at him. 

***

The first time Derek sucks him off Stiles comes almost instantly. 

They’re in Stiles’s room. His father is working yet another double shift and won’t be home until morning. Derek is on the bed, reclining against the headboard, reading; Stiles is trying to finish an essay, but he’s having trouble concentrating and it has nothing to do with his ADHD. Broad shoulders, stubbled jaw, long fingers, pale eyes…

The man is like a fucking painting. 

“Stiles,” Derek’s voice slips along his spine, startles him out of his thoughts. “I can hear you from here.”

“You can what? Oh, right,” Stiles glares. “Of course you can, but you should stop listening because, you know, creepy! Not to mention rude.”

Derek sets his book down, folds strong arms across his chest. “I can’t help it Stiles. Your heart is racing. I can practically taste it.”

Stiles puts his highlighter down. “Well that’s even more creepy than your supersonic werewolf hearing. And, frankly, it’s a bit too vampiric for my liking.”

“Smell and taste are connected. You know that.”

“Nope.” Stiles shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter. Not any less creepy.”

“What are you thinking about?”

“You mean besides vampire-werewolves?”

“Yes.”

“Er, nothing. Nothing at all.” Stiles does not look at Derek’s face, his hands. Instead, he picks up his highlighter again. “Just Pride and Prejudice of course.” 

“You weren’t.” Derek’s smile is like a key; something twists inside Stiles’s chest. “Unless, perhaps, Mr. Darcy does it for you.”

Stiles can’t help the laugh that slips from his lips. “Right, rich, handsome, and a complete dick. What’s not to like? In fact,” he leans back, rocking his chair onto two legs, “kind of reminds me of someone I know.”

Derek growls—and Stiles knows there’s a joke in there somewhere—but he doesn’t have time to think about it because Derek is standing up and crossing the room. 

Derek kisses like he’s starving, and Stiles gasps a desperate breath, feels as if he’s surfacing from under water. There are fingers against his belt buckle. “Oh fuck, fuck…”

“Is this okay?” Derek pulls his mouth away. His eyes flash red, send sparks skittering across Stiles’s skin.

“Yeah,” he gasps, “God yeah. It’s more than okay. Really more than okay.”

Derek slides down to the ground, rubs a cheek against his thigh. Then Stiles’s pants are undone, and Derek leans forward to exhale a warm gust of air on his skin. Stiles bites his lip and cannot look at the man’s head between his legs. Then Derek’s tongue—warm and wet and tantalizingly slow—slips down the length of his dick, then up and down again.

Stiles’s fingers are in Derek’s hair, twisting and tugging, and then he’s coming helplessly between soft lips and hard tongue, screaming himself hoarse. 

Derek pulls back on his haunches, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, and Stiles thinks, perhaps, that’s the hottest thing he’s ever seen.

*** 

“As far as we can tell, his body is fighting an infection.” Melissa’s voice is calm, clinical. 

“From the bite on his arm?” His dad sounds exhausted; Stiles wonders if he’s been sleeping in the chair by the bed, or, if he’s been sleeping at all.

“Most likely.” Melissa’s fingers are cool as they smooth over his forearm to the bandages there. “But it’s peculiar. He was already unconscious when they found him and, judging from blood loss and the condition of the wound, the injury had only just occurred. It was treated immediately. There shouldn’t have been time for infection to set in.”

“But it did.” 

Melissa nods. “And he has not responded to the antibiotics as well as we hoped.” She picks up the chart at the end of the bed. “Have you determined what bit him?”

His dad shakes his head. “No. Best we can tell, it was some kind of dog. Maybe a wolf. But it’s not consistent with the recent animal attacks.” He rubs a hand across his face. “The intent of those attacks was clearly to maul, to kill. This was different.”

“There was just the one bite. And there is no indication that Stiles fought off the attack.” Melissa puts the chart down again, moves to stand next to his father. “He was unconscious. Had whatever it was that did this to him wanted to kill him, I think it could have.”

His dad doesn’t respond for several moments, and Stiles wants to hug him, to reach out and tell him it will be all right, but he can’t move, can’t even lift a hand. “Why isn’t he responding to the medicine?”

“We don’t know. It’s as though he’s had an allergic reaction—not to the antibiotics—to the bite itself, but that doesn’t make sense. There was no trace of venom, no allergen.” 

His dad laughs, but it’s a hollow sound. “Of course not. Last I checked, wolves aren’t venomous.” 

“I know.”

*** 

“If your mouth is so clean, why is the Bite potentially deadly?”

Derek lifts his arm from where it rests across his face. He’s lying on the floor in Stiles’s room. Sunlight slits though the window, glints into his eyes. “It’s a genetic mutation,” he says, “and sometimes the body rejects it.”

Stiles peers over the edge of his bed; Derek is looking up at him. “Like a cancer.” Stiles says.

“Hmm?”

Stiles sits up, swings his legs over the edge of the bed. “Cancer is usually caused by a DNA change, but mutations in our cells happen all the time. The cell either detects the change and repairs itself or the cell will get the signal to die. But,” Stiles leans over to rest his elbows on his knees, “if the cell doesn’t die, and the mutation can’t be repaired, then the person gets cancer…” he stops, mouth a grim line, “and that will kill them.”

Derek frowns, but his eyes are soft. “Your mother?”

“Yeah.” Stiles can’t help the hitch in his voice. After all these years, it still hurts. “There was nothing they could do.”

“It’s an appropriate analogy,” Derek says, sitting up to lean against the side of Stiles’s bed. “Your body either accepts the mutation after the Bite and you are turned, or it doesn’t and you die.” Stiles puts a hand on his shoulder, and Derek turns his head, presses a kiss to his knuckle. 

***

“God Derek, you’re gorgeous.” 

“And you’re drunk.”

“Maybe. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.” 

“Perhaps,” Derek admits, and Stiles smiles, flopping back on his bed. 

Danny threw a party that night, and there’d been beer and shots and this amazing game with ping-pong balls and cups and more beer. A lot more beer. “I’ve always thought so, you know.” Stiles turns to look at Derek, his head swimming pleasantly. “Even when I hated you.” 

“And I thought you were a clumsy kid with ridiculous oversized clothing and a big mouth.”

Stiles laughs. “Yeah, but you like my mouth.”

Derek flushes but doesn’t disagree. 

Stiles knows it’s dangerous. They both do. His dad is the sheriff, and Stiles is only sixteen. This bothers Derek perhaps more than anything. Stiles can talk all he wants about age of consent—and God knows he has—but it doesn't matter. Derek still feels incredibly guilty. Stiles knows this, and he hates it because the man has surely had enough self-loathing to last a lifetime. Not to mention that what they are doing is technically illegal, and Derek is still considered a “person of interest” by the Beacon Hills’ Sheriff Department. 

But Derek is also a werewolf and supernatural badness seems drawn to them like flies to honey, so Stiles tries not to worry much about the details—those pesky legalities of their relationship. He’d rather just take what he can get and be happy for a little while. 

***

“Are you thinking about asking for the Bite?”

“What? No. I mean, of course not. I wouldn't.” Stiles chews on his lip, forces himself not to look away. “Unless you wanted me to...”

“No, I don't want that for you.” Derek's voice is quiet, final. 

Stiles nods, but he feels as though he's been sliced in two. The words curl in the air like rejection. “Okay.” 

Derek must see something in Stiles's expression because his face softens. He brushes a finger again his cheekbone. “Why would you want to do that to yourself? You're fine just how you are.”

“I know,” he sighs, hating how miserable he sounds, “but sometimes it would be nice to not be so average, so…human.”

“You’re not average, Stiles. And I like that you’re human.”

Stiles can hear the conviction in his voice, and it’s comforting, but a little part of Stiles still wishes Derek wantedto turn him.

***

Sometimes Derek tells him stories. Stiles can talk and talk until he's blue in the face—at times it seems like the only thing he does is talk. But when Derek talks, Stiles finds that he loves to listen. 

Derek tells him about his family, about his mother who wore red lipstick, smelled of lavender, and made breakfast tacos on Sunday mornings—fresh flour tacos, roasted potatoes, chopped jalapeños...

He tells Stiles about his cousins, his siblings—his youngest brother had sandy blond hair, eyes the color of mint, and would have turned eight two weeks after the fire.

Derek never talks about Laura. 

And Stiles listens to his words like poetry, each story a softly spoken sonnet. He knows they are meant just for him. 

“You asked me once, if I’d ever been in love,” Derek murmurs against Stiles’s neck, while Stiles takes sharp, quick breaths to stop himself from crying out. “The first time was a girl named Paige. We were sophomores.” There’s something in Derek’s tone that Stiles can’t decipher, but it’s gone before he can make sense of it. “After Paige,” Derek continues, “there was Kate, and I thought I loved her.” 

He bites Stiles's earlobe, just enough to sting (and sometimes Stiles fantasizes that he would bite him for real—he'd bare his neck, let Derek's fangs sink in).

“Kate,” Stiles repeats, ignoring the jealously that curls in his belly. After all, he knew Derek wasn't a virgin, and this was years ago. “How old were you?”

“Sixteen. She was twenty-three.” 

Stiles pulls back, faces Derek. “Just like us.” He grins, but Derek's face is sad. 

“She seduced me. Made me think she cared. Let me fuck her.” Derek closes his eyes, turns away. “Then she murdered my family.”

Stiles’s blood runs cold. 

“Kate... Oh my God. Kate Argent. Allison's aunt. The woman Peter killed.” 

“Yes. He killed her.” Derek’s voice is cool, completely devoid of emotion. 

“She did it,” Stiles manages. “She set the fire.” His mouth is dry; he feels numb.

“Yes.”

This admission is devastating and frightening. It leaves Stiles unmoored, adrift. He is feverish, seasick, knocked completely off balance—aboard an ill-made boat. And, in this instant, he wants to tell Derek he loves him. But he does not. 

Instead, he kisses him.

***

They have sex for the first time on a Wednesday. 

They’re in Derek’s house in his old bedroom. He’s only just begun reconstruction; there are still holes in the walls, places where the moonlight seeps though, and the sheetrock gives way to the sky. But Derek’s bed is clean and warm, and his skin is hot against Stiles’s. 

Stiles shivers, but it has nothing to do with the temperature of the night air.

He arches his back and bites his lip. It’s painful in a way that blooms with pleasure too, and Stiles is so overcome by the sensations that he must close his eyes and press his forehead to Derek’s shoulder so as not to be overwhelmed.

“Are you all right?” Derek asks, concern bleeding into his voice as his hips still.

“I, yeah…” Stiles breathes, for once at a loss for words. He shifts a bit beneath Derek, digs his nails into his back. Derek touches a spot inside that makes his vision go white, and Stiles cries out, “Oh fuck, fuck, do that again.” And Derek does, thrusting over and over again until Stiles is coming slick and warm between them.

***

Peter Hale’s eyes are a vivid red—the color of blood, of murder, and also fire. He shifts, features transforming grotesquely. The wolf steps toward him, nightmarish and huge, fur matted with filth, breath rancid and stale. In the back of his mind, Stiles hears Lydia screaming (screaming), but he reaches an arm out, lets Peter have him.

“Stiles—”

Long fingers trail down his throat, trace the neck of his t-shirt, tugging the fabric back. Stiles can’t catch his breath; his pulse flutters madly, and he can feel the man/wolf inhale, nose sliding along his jaw. 

“Lovely.” Peter’s voice is monstrous, inhuman, intoxicating. Then Stiles feels pain (hot and quick). Claws are razor-sharp as they sink into his skin—blood, sickly and warm, runs down his arm.


“Stiles, open your eyes.”

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf…

“Stiles, son, come on. Wake up.”

Stiles opens his eyes. 

He’s not dead, but his head must be splitting open—a crack clean down the middle. He closes his eyes again against the pain. Fucking hell…

“You’re all right, son.” He hears his dad’s voice, strangely soft, far off. “You’re in the hospital, but you’re going to be okay.”

Stiles opens his eyes again and immediately wishes he hadn’t. He winces and slams them shut. “What happened?”

“You were attacked. An animal.” Stiles feels his dad’s hand, cool and rough against his forehead. “But you’re safe now.”

“An animal…” Stiles takes a deep breath, tries to focus, but everything is murky. He feels as though he’s under several feet of water, and his head—Jesus fuck, his head…

“Yes. We’re not sure what it was, exactly. But you were bitten and suffered an acute reaction as a result. You’ve been unconscious for three weeks.”

What the… Three weeks?

Stiles jerks his head up. The pain is blinding. His vision swims, but he can see his father by his side. His face is shadowed, lined with worry. A doctor, clipboard in hand, stands at the foot of the bed. “Derek,” Stiles manages to gasp. His voice sounds like it hasn’t used it in years. “Where’s Derek?”

***

Forty-eight hours and at least as many tests later, Stiles is released from the hospital. 

His father helps him inside and upstairs to his room; then he hovers in the doorway while Stiles gets his laptop off his desk and settles on his bed. “I'm glad you’re home, kid,” he finally says, and Stiles pretends not to notice the way his voice catches. 

“Yeah, me too, dad. Me too.” His smile is genuine. 

“Can I get you anything? Some water or...”

“No, no,” he cuts his dad off. “I'm just gonna check my email. Get caught up on a few things, you know?”

“Yeah, of course. I imagine you feel a bit disconnected.” His dad runs a hand through his hair and does not take his eyes off Stiles. “I'm just going to be downstairs. I've got some work to do, but I don't have to go into the station. Let me know if you need anything.” 

“I'm fine dad, really.” Stiles still feels like shit, but he doesn't want to make his dad worry any more than he already is. 

His dad nods the turns away. The door shuts behind him with a soft click. 

Stiles groans when he pulls up his gmail account—126 unread emails. It’s expected, of course; he’s been out of commission for over three weeks, but still... 

He leans back against his headboard, laptop propped on a pillow, and starts clicking though his messages. Most are well wishes from friends and classmates—apparently, all it takes is a coma to increase one’s popularity. A few are from teachers, detailing assignments he’s missed and providing lecture notes. Stiles doesn't open those attachments; he can’t handle make-up work right now. 

There are no emails from Derek. 

Stiles isn't really surprised. Derek's use of technology leaves a little to be desired. He used to tease him about it constantly. (Do you even own a computer? Geez, you'd think you were raised by wolves or something.)

Still, Stiles thought he would have at least called by now. He checks his phone again, but there’s nothing. 

Derek did not come see him in the hospital once he was awake. 

Stiles understands—there were tests and doctors and his dad was at his side pretty much the entire time—but he can’t pretend it doesn’t bother him just a little bit. 

He knows Derek visited him while he was unconscious, though. According to the visitor’s log, which Stiles sweet-talked Melissa into letting him see, Derek came to the hospital six times over the three-week period he was in a coma.

He checks his phone one more time. Still no new messages. Stiles sighs before typing out a quick text and hitting send.

I’m home. Finally.

He sets his laptop aside and lies down, closing his eyes. He’s exhausted, but his mind is skipping like a stone on a pond. It takes a while, but eventually he falls asleep.

When Stiles wakes again, the sun is setting. Rosy pinks and oranges spill through his shutters, leave puddles of warmth on the floor. He checks his phone; it’s nearly half past seven, and he has one new text message. It’s from Derek, and it’s disappointingly brief. 

I know. Scott told me.

All right, then. 

Stiles tries to ignore the brief stab in his gut (sadness laced with something else entirely). He knows that Derek is a man of relatively few words and, surely, he’s busy. Stiles realizes that he has no idea what’s going on with the pack—with the Argents, with whatever it was that bit him. Perhaps Derek’s out hunting down some new monster. Or maybe they’re dealing with another rogue Omega. Still, he can’t help the coldness that seeps through his chest. He’s been in the hospital for three weeks—in a coma no less. He doesn’t think it’s too much to expect a little concern from his boyfriend. 

Stiles flops back on his bed and tells himself not to think about the status of his relationship. 

Still, his mind slips back to Derek even when he doesn’t want it to. He remembers quiet conversations—brief moments of peace amidst the chaos of their daily lives. He remembers contact, clean and simple. Derek’s touch—hot against his skin—which could make him forget everything for just a little while. And he remembers sex. The thrust of hips, the press of fingers, the slick slide of Derek’s tongue along his throat.

Scott didn’t, couldn’t understand why they’d ever be together, but Stiles wonders if he—if everyone—should have seen it coming, should have known somehow. After all, he thinks he always felt it in his joints and on his skin, sensed it lurking in the corners of his thoughts. 

He should have seen it in Derek’s eyes that night in Deaton’s office (his palm on Derek’s chest, fingers brushing Derek’s arm). He should have seen in it the glances as they worked late at night in his room on strategies and plans. He remembers catching Derek’s eye (again and then again) until he realized it was never just coincidence. 

When Stiles brushes his teeth that night, he notices that Derek’s toothbrush is not there.

***

Stiles stays inside the following day. He’s supposed to get some exercise, but his body is tired from lack of use and he’s in a crappy mood. He eats breakfast with his dad, then works his way through two days worth of missed school work. 

When Scott calls, he doesn’t answer. Stiles knows he’s worried about him, but he doesn’t feel like talking. He doesn’t feel like talking to anyone except Derek, and Derek hasn’t bothered to call or even send him another text since he’s been home. Stiles hates how upset Derek’s disregard makes him, but he can’t help it. And he can’t help but wonder if maybe Derek decided he wasn’t worth it, that their relationship was too much trouble after all, while Stiles was sick and in the hospital.

That evening, his dad comes to his room. Stiles rolls over when he opens the door. He still doesn’t feel right, and he wants nothing more than to curl up under his comforter and sleep for days. But Derek still hasn’t called, and he can’t pretend to be okay with that.

“I’ve got to head to the station, son,” his dad says. “Are you still feeling all right?”

“Yeah,” Stiles lies. “I’m just gonna read for a bit and get some sleep.”

“Okay.” His dad hesitates. “You’re sure? Because I can call Deputy Anderson. You’ve only been home twenty-four hours. I can wait and go in tomorrow instead. That might be better…”

“No, dad, it’s okay. Go in. They need you.” Stiles already feels guilty for the amount of time off his dad took while he was in the hospital. He doesn’t need him to miss more work to babysit him.

His dad nods. “All right. Just call if you need anything.”

Stiles gives what he hopes is a reassuring smile as his dad closes his door. He lies back on his bed and listens for the cruiser to pull out of the driveway. He makes it five minutes before he grabs his phone and types a text to Derek.

My dad’s working the late shift tonight. Are you coming over?

Stiles stares at the screen for a while before hitting send. Then he closes his eyes and tries not to hold his breath while he waits for a response. It doesn’t take long.

Why? Are you all right?

Words can wound. Stiles knows this. And that simple text slices to the quick. He types a response, but he can’t ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach. 

Yes. He’ll be gone all night.

You’ll be fine, Stiles. Peter is dead. You’re safe.

Stiles frowns. His head is throbbing, but it’s nothing compared to the ache in his chest. Derek’s words are like pale roots, digging down deeper and deeper into his skin, twisting like briars (sharp like thorns that never fail to make him bleed). And he doesn’t understand what happened between them to make everything fall apart.

***

Scott appears at his door the following afternoon. Stiles is on his bed, attempting to sift through notes from all the classes he missed. 

“Your dad let me in,” he says hesitantly as if worried Stiles might send him away. “How are you feeling?”

“I've felt better.” Stiles pushes his chemistry textbook aside. “Actually, I can say I've pretty much never felt worse. But I'm not in a coma anymore, so there is that.” 

“Yeah,” Scott agrees. “True.” 

“So, uh, what's new?” 

“Not much.” Scott sits down on the end of his bed. “Lydia's back at school.” 

“That's good.” 

“Yeah. But I don't think she's doing all that well.” 

Stiles sits up straighter. “What do you mean?”

“Well, she disappeared from the hospital the night she woke up. And then when she turned up again, she didn't know what had happened to her.” 

“Yes...” Stiles nods. This is nothing new; of course he knows what happened. 

“You heard about that? Oh, okay. She's been acting pretty strange ever since. She says she's okay, but I'm not so sure.”

“Why?” Stiles forces himself to take a calming breath. He might not be in love with Lydia anymore, but he can't handle anything else happening to her. 

“I dunno.” Scott bounces a knee up and down. “But I think she's seeing things—hallucinating or something. And then, this day in class, it's like she went into a trance or something. Wrote some crazy stuff on the board.”

Stiles bites back the flash of panic rising sharply in his veins. “Does Derek know?”

“Derek?” Scott sounds confused. “No, I don't think so. Why? He kind of has his hands full and all.” His expression darkens and Stiles doesn't miss the hostility in Scott's voice. He knows there's no love lost between Derek and Scott, but it still bothers Stiles that his best friend and his boyfriend can't suck it up and get along—for his sake at the very least. 

“His hands full? With what?” Stiles has been home for three days now and he still hasn't heard from Derek—if you don't count the handful of really lame texts, of course. And Stiles doesn't. 

“His new Betas, for one,” Scott says, as if he hasn’t just delivered the most earth shattering piece of information Stiles has ever heard. 

What the...

“His new Betas…” Stiles sputters. “What?” Already Stiles feels anger stabbing, fiery and sharp. It licks hot paths along his rib cage, and he doesn't even know what the hell Scott's talking about. After all, Derek doesn't have Betas. He refused to bite him, for fuck's sake. 

“Yeah,” Scott says, “Derek's been busy building himself a little pack. He's turned Isaac Lahey, Erica Reyes, and Vernon Boyd.” It's clear from his tone exactly what Scott thinks of that.

“He what—?” Stiles can’t manage a full sentence. This explains Derek's sudden disappearing act, but it still doesn't make any sense. It’s all Stiles can do not to grab his phone and call Derek right then. 

“I know, man, I know,” Scott says. “I mean, I get that he's worried. We are all. And he wants to get stronger, you know, an Alpha without a pack is pretty vulnerable. But I'm not sure this is the way to go about it.”

“Why are you worried?” Stiles asks. “Is it because of the thing that bit me?” 

“Uh...no. There’s something else attacking people.” Scott frowns. “But Peter bit you Stiles. Remember? You asked for it.”

“I...what?” Stiles opens his mouth then closes it again. “I asked Peter to bite me?”

(‘I can be very persuasive Stiles. Don't make me persuade you.’)

“Yeah... Your body rejected it, obviously, but that's why you were in the hospital.” Scott chews on his lip. “I thought you knew.”

“I...” Stiles traces a finger along the scar on his arm. “No, I guess not.”

(‘So you're not going to kill me?’
‘Don't you understand yet? I'm not the bad guy here.’
)

“Well, Peter bit both you and Lydia that night. And neither of you turned.” 

Stiles’s head is spinning. “But I thought you either died or became a werewolf.”

Scott shrugs. “Apparently not.” 

Stiles shakes his head. This is all too much to process. That he would willingly accept the Bite from Peter Hale? 

(I'm going to give you something... Do you want the Bite?)

Had Derek refused? They'd talked about it. For the most part, Stiles was happy with his humanity, and he knew that Derek was happy with him. Why would he go off and do something like that? It doesn't make sense, and he really, really needs to talk to Derek now. 

Stiles jumps up and begins pace back and forth across the room. His mind is reeling and he can't stand still. “What the hell was I thinking?”

Scott looks at Stiles like he's wondering the exact same thing. 

“I mean, Derek and I talked about it. Well, we talked about him biting me...not Peter, of course. But—”

“Wait, you what?” Scott cuts him off, surprise coloring his features.

“Er, we talked about it...” Stiles says, unsure as to why that would come as much of a surprise to Scott. “Why wouldn't we? We've been together for nearly six months, and my boyfriend is an Alpha werewolf. Of course it's come up a few times...”

Scott's look of surprise quickly bleeds into confusion. “What are you talking about?”

Stiles frowns. “Um, Derek Hale? Attractive, grumpy werewolf, spends way too much time with high schoolers, Derek Hale?” He laughs. “But I guess I can't complain too much about that last part because, you know, boyfriend.” 

Scott opens his mouth then closes it again. Finally he says, “Derek's not your boyfriend, Stiles.” His voice is laced with concern and he’s looking at Stiles like he’s crazy. Which he’s not, obviously.

“Yeah he is…”

Scott’s still staring at him like he’s speaking another language. He knows Scott isn’t thrilled about Stiles and Derek’s relationship, but this is ridiculous. “No Stiles. You’re not dating anyone.”

“Look, I know you never really understood the whole me and Derek thing, but you don’t have to be a jerk about it.”

“But Stiles, there is no you and Derek thing.” He speaks slowly, carefully as though scared Stiles might fall apart.

Something twinges at the back of Stiles’s mind, but he shakes his head, pushes the thoughts away. (Memories, white hot and brilliant, flutter behind his eyelids while he sleeps.) “But you know about us,” Stiles tries, hating the slightly frantic edge to his voice. “You know...”

“I don’t, Stiles. I don’t.” Scott looks to the door. “Are you feeling okay? Maybe I should get your dad.”

Stiles sits down again. His head is throbbing and he knows something isn’t right, but he can’t put his finger on it. “I…no.” He looks at Scott, feels something like ice crack deep inside his chest at the look of pity on his face. “I’m not with Derek?”

Scott frowns. His face is sad. “No. At least, I don’t think so.”

***

Stiles can’t sleep. His head is pounding, and he knows he needs rest, but his mind is racing so he focuses on piecing together what happened the night he was attacked. He remembers the dance, he remembers Peter biting Lydia, and he remembers helping Peter find Derek. He also remembers the aftermath: Peter finally taking down Kate Argent in the Hale house, Peter’s death—by fire no less. (If he weren’t dead, Stiles thinks he might appreciate the twisted irony.) He remembers the hospital and Lydia; he remembers how she disappeared before turning up again naked and confused. And he remembers Derek. Derek in his room at night. Derek rebuilding the deck at his old house. Derek patrolling the boundary lines in the Preserve. Derek planting wolfsbane in the backyard because his mother always kept a garden there… 

Stiles remembers all of these things, but the timing is off. He was in a coma for three weeks, yet he has six months worth of memories. There are thoughts in clips and fragments, some murky and dim, others focused and mirror sharp. He closes his eyes, but his mind is awash with images. There are cloud spat blues and waxy grays—the sky over the Preserve on a crisp November morning. There are bone-china whites and rosy creams—the curve of Derek’s shoulder, his cheek against a pillow. And then there are the reds, shining and deadly. The flash of a sunset, the twist of Derek’s lips, and his eyes (yes, now his eyes), from Beta blue to Alpha red, and still as lovely as Stiles has ever seen.

(Memories, like water, slide through his veins to pool in his stomach, cold and pale.) 

***

“So it's true, huh?” 

Derek looks up as Stiles approaches. He's sitting on the steps of the Hale house, a book in his hands. 

“There is absolutely nothing between us,” Stiles continues. “Never has been.” It's all he can do to keep his voice even, devoid of emotion. 

“I...” Derek frowns, clearly unsure of what to say. Finally he settles on, “No. There isn't. We're just...”

“Nothing,” Stiles says, voice harsher than he intends, but he feels physically ill. “We're nothing. Not even friends.” 

“We're friends,” Derek tries. But at Stiles's scowl he adds “maybe.”

Stiles is actually nauseated. He sits down beside Derek, stares out into the trees. It's getting dark. The moon is just a sliver in the sky; pale shadows stretch out across the dirt drive. He knew this would be hard, awkward as fuck, but he didn't expect it to feel quite like a breakup. Still, his chest aches, like someone's taken a paring knife to him—hollowed him out, sliced tendon clean from bone. He looks down at his feet, resisting the urge to bury his face in his hands. He doesn't belong here; that much is obvious. 

He should go home. 

“What's the last thing you remember?” Derek asks, startling Stiles from his thoughts, and his tone is soft, kinder than Stiles expects. 

Stiles frowns. Everything has bled together, blurring the line between what's real and what he imagined. 

“I remember the high school. Scott said you were responsible for the murders, but of course you weren't. We knew that, but we thought you were dead.” 

Stiles looks at Derek expecting to see anger, criticism, hatred in his eyes, but he sees none of that. He just sees concern, and that alone causes something to shift inside his chest, behind his ribs. “We thought you were dead…and fuck but that hurts to say.”

Derek reaches out, places a tentative hand on his back. Stiles can’t help but lean into the touch. Derek’s palm is a warm weight between his shoulder blades, and it feels natural. It feels right. “I remember the hospital and Peter. I remember the dance and what happened afterward, but my timeline’s messed up,” he admits after a moment. “I was in a coma for three weeks, but it feels like I lived six months. 

Derek nods. “Have you spoken to your doctor?”

“I…” Stiles hates the shame, the embarrassment that creeps through his limbs at the thought. “No. Not exactly. But amnesia is completely normal. To be expected, really.”

“But you do remember things,” Derek says. 

“Yeah. I remember. But apparently half of it’s wrong.”

Derek nods but doesn’t say anything else. 

“Nothing’s missing,” Stiles says after a moment. “I mean, I don’t feel like I’ve lost any memories.”

“It’s as though you’ve lived them.”

“Yeah…” Stiles holds up a hand. He stares down at his palm, flexing his fingers. He thinks it would be appropriate if they simply flickered and faded away. “And everything feels real. Nothing feels like a life I hallucinated while in a coma.”

***

Stiles stays in bed the next day. He knows his dad is worried about him, but he’s simply not ready to return to school, not yet. 

He finally drags himself out of bed around two. His dad has gone into the station, and he likes the quiet emptiness of the house. He makes himself a sandwich, checks his email (nothing from Derek, of course), then takes a walk around the block. While he walks, he tries to catalogue, compartmentalize his memories, trying to distinguish what’s real, what’s not, and what he wishes were. It’s ridiculous, of course. His life is fine; he’s happy, he has friends, and he’s not dead. But he can’t help but wish that things were…different. 

Even if the memories are...fake. If they are nothing more than an illusion created by his mind as his body worked to heal itself. They are filled with warmth and happiness. He was happy. And it was pretty awesome, being with Derek, even though every rational bone in his body is screaming that that’s probably absurd. 

Still, he spends the day wandering about the house, sorting the memories associated with each room, each place Derek has been. He examines the furniture, the photographs, the books on the shelves. Because everything is different now. Different than the way his mind thinks it should be, and he wonders at how effortlessly he accepted everything he dreamed up while in a coma. Everything had simply slotted into place with an ease he rarely experienced before.

(Memories, strewn like petals, litter the blank spaces of his mind.)

***

Stiles returns to school the following Monday. As he makes his way to his first class, he is quite certain that everyone is staring at him. 

They probably are. 

He grabs a seat next to Scott and tries to focus on the lecture, but it’s difficult. He actually completed a fair amount of make-up work, but he’s still behind. That’s not really the reason he can’t pay attention, though. Nope. The real reason he can’t focus is that he’s pretty busy watching Isaac Lahey, Erica Reyes, and Vernon Boyd. 

He’s still a bit in denial that Derek has Betas, and that he chose to turn Isaac, Erica, and Boyd of all people. Stiles isn’t jealous (of course he isn’t), but he’s definitely a little irritated. Rationally, he knows that he doesn’t have any claim to Derek, but it still hurts, thinking about him forming a pack that doesn’t include him. 

It doesn’t help matters that Erica is watching him too. When class is over, she leers at him, white teeth gleaming. “So, Stilinski, I heard you and Derek had some sort of secret relationship. So secret, in fact, that Derek didn’t even know about it.” She laughs and her smile is cruel and predatory.

“Shut up, Erica,” Scott says. She turns with a flip of her hair and walks away, heels clicking on the floor. Boyd follows her without a word; Isaac gives Stiles an almost sympathetic look before trailing after.

Scott puts a hand on his shoulder. “Come on. We’ll be late for Chem.”

***

Exactly two weeks after Stiles is released from the hospital, he finds himself treading water for dear life with 180 pounds of paralyzed werewolf in his arms.

Stiles knows, even if he hated him—which apparently he does?—he wouldn’t let Derek drown, but he’s overcome with a terror that has nothing to do with the monster prowling around the pool deck. He’s terrified that, should Derek die, he’d be losing an essential part of himself. And that’s ridiculous, right? He knows that Derek means nothing to him; they hardly even know each other.

Still, it’s difficult to reconcile the conflicting thoughts and feelings in his head.

And holding Derek—his arm around his waist, Derek’s cheek against his shoulder—sparks memories he knows he shouldn’t have. Still, they fall into place, crystal clear, razor sharp. Derek sneaking through his window in the middle of the night; his toes warm against Stiles’s calves as he slips into bed. The Camaro parked outside the school after lacrosse practice. Scott, Danny whistling as Stiles makes his way over. Lying on their backs in the damp grass behind the Hale house, Derek’s fingers curled around his.

Scott appears just in time, but the creature runs away upon seeing its reflection in the broken mirror.

“It’s a Kanima,” Derek manages once they’re out of the pool. The paralysis is wearing off, and Derek can stand on his own again. 

“What’s a Kanima?” Stiles asks. His entire body aches, and he can’t catch his breath. He’s quite certain that treading water for hours on end is not on his approved list of post-illness activities. 

“A shape-shifter. Like a werewolf, but something went wrong.”

“An abomination,” Stiles suggests, and Derek nods. Something in his expression, in the way he looks at Stiles unsettles him, and he ducks his head to avoid the weight of Derek’s gaze.

“Kanima…” Scott repeats the word. “I’ll ask Allison if she knows anything about it.”

“Okay.” Stiles feels awkward and out of place, and yet again he wishes that no one knew about his coma-induced visions because he’s convinced that both Scott and Derek are judging him. 

“I have to pick my mom up from the hospital,” Scott says when the silence has stretched uncomfortably. “Can you get home?” He looks at Stiles because, right, his Jeep is part of a murder investigation and all. 

“I’ll give you a ride,” Derek says, though he doesn’t exactly look thrilled about it.

Scott nods and bounds away into the dark. 

Stiles looks at Derek; he’s still staring at him. “I, er, I can…” Stiles shakes his head. “No, actually I can’t walk. That pool experience pretty much met my physical activity quota for the next month.”

“It’s okay,” Derek says, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Come on.”

The Camaro is familiar, but Stiles knows it shouldn’t be. He’s ridden in here dozens of times, yet he hasn’t; not really. They drive in silence for a while. As they near the diner, though, Derek asks, “Hungry?”

Stiles wants to say no because, awkward. But he can’t. “God, yes,” he says instead. “I’m starving.” Derek pulls into the parking lot. 

The diner isn’t crowded. They grab a booth near the back; the red vinyl seat squeaks as Stiles slides in. A waitress appears at their table. Her blond hair is piled on top of her head, and Stiles sees the hint of a tattoo peaking out from under the sleeve of her blouse. Inky black lines form petals on a rose. Her eyes linger far too long on Derek as she takes their drink orders. 

Derek asks for coffee, black. Stiles orders a Coke. He can’t hide his snort as she walks away.

“What?” Derek asks, eyes narrowing suspiciously. 

Stiles shakes his head. “Nothing.”

Derek grunts and picks up his menu. Stiles has the thing practically memorized; he and Scott eat here a lot. When the waitress returns with their drinks, she leans too close, offering Derek a nice glimpse of cleavage, as she points out several specialties. 

Derek nods politely before selecting a burger with bacon and blue cheese (gross!). The waitress barely spares Stiles a glance as he orders a cheeseburger with extra pickles (no onions). 

“Is it always like that?” he asks Derek once the waitress reluctantly walks away. 

“Like what?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Girls falling all over themselves around you.”

“Oh.” Stiles thinks he sees Derek’s ears pink slightly. “Not really.” He looks down. “Or, at least, I usually just ignore it.” 

Derek is clearly uncomfortable, and typically Stiles would push further, press the advantage, but it doesn’t feel right. Something twists in Stiles’s stomach. He feels intensely possessive, which is absurd. Derek isn't his; he never was. He forces himself to take a sip of Coke and not think about the pretty girl who would gladly take Derek to bed.

After a moment, Derek says, “I wanted to say thank you.” He picks up his coffee cup then adds, “for earlier,” as if Stiles might not know what he's talking about. “I know it must be confusing for you, and that's probably why you—” 

But Stiles holds up a hand then, cutting him off. “No, absolutely not. I kept you alive because that's what I do.” He points to himself. “Good guy here, always doing good things.” He frowns. “I would have saved you regardless, you have to know that. I certainly didn't tread water for two hours out of some sense of misguided affection.” Stiles chews on his fingernail and does not look at Derek, but his chest feels tight. “You don’t really think that, do you?” he asks after a moment, looking up again. “That I only saved you because of what I dreamed while I was unconscious?”

Derek hesitates, but when he says “No,” Stiles believes him. 

“Good,” Stiles traces a line of condensation down his glass. “Good. Because I do care about you, you know.” The words slip out before he can stop them, but it doesn’t matter. It’s true. And it has nothing to do with the alternate reality his brain envisioned while he was in the hospital. 

Derek doesn’t scoff or laugh or offer any of a thousand scathing comments Stiles expects in response. Instead, he just looks at Stiles for a long moment as if weighing the sincerity of Stiles’s statement. Then nods once. “Okay.” 

Their food arrives and Stiles picks at his burger. He’s hungry, but his stomach is in knots. He hates feeling this way around Derek.

“You’re uncomfortable,” Derek says over the rim of his coffee mug. 

“I…yeah.” It’d be foolish to deny it. 

“Because of what you saw about us.”

Stiles stares down into his food, but he can’t help the flush that spreads across his cheeks. “I don’t understand,” he manages. “Some of the things I saw were true. But others…” he trails off, tearing a fry in two. “I guess you never know how twisted your mind can be until you wind up in a coma for three weeks.” He laughs, but it’s without humor.

“Twisted?” Derek asks, frowning. “What do you mean?” 

“Oh you know, the whole you and me together as boyfriends thing.” Stiles’s voice is harsher than he intends, but he really doesn’t want to talk about this now. 

“Why is that twisted?”

At first Stiles thinks Derek is mocking him, but his face isn’t scornful or even condescending. It’s only curious. 

Stiles sighs, shoulders slumping. “I don’t know.”

“It’s not,” Derek says, voice firm. “It’s not twisted.”

Something warm uncoils in Stiles’s stomach at the words, and he smiles, before taking a bite of cheeseburger.  “It’s odd,” Stiles says after a moment, “sometimes I forget that what I saw isn’t real.”

“That’s to be expected, I think,” Derek says, voice measured.

“And sometimes I miss it,” Stiles says before he can stop himself. It feels good, to say that out loud, but still he’s terrified of how Derek will react. Derek says nothing, though, and Stiles panics. “I don’t understand it,” he continues quickly. “I mean, I know my mind is simply playing tricks on me. That our...’relationship’…” he makes air quotes as he says the word, “was only a product of the coma—a way for my mind to remain occupied and healthy while my body healed itself, but that doesn't change the way I felt…feel,” he amends. He looks at Derek, but Derek’s expression gives nothing away. Stiles wishes that Derek would say something, anything. Reassure him that he understands. Stiles knows Derek won’t say that the feelings are mutual. They’re not, of course. But his silence is unsettling. “I’m sorry,” he says, when Derek still hasn’t said anything. “That was a mistake. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“No,” Derek finally says, reaching out as if to touch Stiles’s hand. He catches himself, though, and pulls back, sliding his thumb along the handle of his coffee cup instead. Stiles’s eyes follow the movement, but he still cannot read his expression.

“The mind is an incredibly powerful thing,” Derek begins. “Your feelings, your emotions were manipulated to such an extent that I guess it’s difficult to remain objective. I’m sure it’s natural to feel the way you do.”

Stiles nods, fingers picking at his napkin. “Yeah.”

Derek takes a bite of burger. He’s got mustard on the corner of his mouth. Stiles is struck with the urge to wipe it away. He looks down at his own plate.

“You know,” Stiles says after a few minutes, “I think I’m okay with that.”

***

After that Stiles dreams of drowning. Or he'll wake up panicked, gasping for breath because he thinks his legs are paralyzed, and he finds himself reaching for the back of his neck just to be sure. 

He also dreams of Derek (strong hands, dark hair, eyes that can pin him to the wall).

And though he'd never admit it, he thinks those dreams are actually worse because those dreams are a constant reminder of what he can't have, a constant reminder of how fucked up his brain must be to have invented a world where he was in love with Derek Hale. 

***

“Why did you accept Peter’s offer?” Derek sounds legitimately confused and there’s an underlying strain of hurt that Stiles doesn’t understand. When he looks at him, Stiles sees accusation in his eyes. “It was Peter for Christ’s sake,” Derek practically yells.

“Because I fucking wanted to, okay?” He looks back at his computer, pretending to read. It’s late. He has a paper due, and he really doesn’t want to deal with this right now. Besides, he really can’t stand that everyone is always blaming him for things nowadays. 

He can’t have Derek. He understands that. But he knows what it’s like to sleep side by side, the heat of his skin, the rhythm of his breath. He remembers the brush of his lips and weight of his body.

Since the night in the pool, Derek has taken to appearing at Stiles’s window on the nights his father works late. Stiles doesn’t ask how he always seems to know the Sheriff’s schedule, and he tries not to think too hard about what the visits might mean. Stiles likes the friendship they’re building. But sometimes, not having something more just seems like a waste. And he hates, hates the way his stomach tightens—the flash of excitement that he always feels—when Derek slips through his window. So he ignores the feeling in his gut and reminds himself that he mostly hates Derek (in this reality at least).

“But it was Peter…” Derek says, as if that explains everything. He sits down heavily on the end of Stiles’s bed, and he looks so freaking miserable with his slumped shoulders and downcast eyes that something clenches in Stiles’s chest, but he forces the feeling away because, no, Derek doesn’t get to be offended by Stiles’s personal choice.

“Yes, it was Peter,” Stiles says. “He offered.”

Derek frowns, his expression spectacularly moody. In the lamp-lit room, his pale eyes are dark. Finally he says, “You should have asked me.”

“Why?” Stiles laughs, a hollow sound. “It wouldn’t have mattered. First,” he holds up a finger in demonstration, “you weren’t an Alpha then. And second,” he holds up another finger, “even if you were—which you weren’t—you wouldn’t have agreed.”

Derek doesn’t answer; instead, he leans forward, and when he raises his head again, his face is shadowed. He looks older than his twenty-three years, and for some reason, this saddens Stiles. “I still don’t understand why you did it.”

“What do you want me to say, Derek?” Stiles stands up and leans against his desk, arms folded across his chest. “I was bored on a Friday night? All the cool kids were doing it? I was tired of being Robin to Scott’s Batman?” Stiles knows he’s being flippant, but he doesn’t care. He honestly doesn’t know why he did it, and he’s tired of all the questions and demands for explanation. 

“Stiles…”

“I don’t know why I did it. Maybe Peter mesmerized with his creepy Alpha mojo?”

“Alpha mojo...?” Derek shakes his head then decides to ignore the comment. “Stiles, is that really what you want? To be a werewolf?”

“Actually, what I want is for you to leave me alone so I can finish this paper and get to bed.” His voice is harsh, but he’s just so tired. 

Derek looks at Stiles for a long moment, mouth a grim line, before standing. But instead of slipping out the window, he crosses the room to Stiles in two long strides. Stiles can feel the warmth from his body, can smell the almond scent of his soap, and he ignores the fact that his first impulse it to reach out and touch. Derek must sense it, though, because he smiles, but there’s something in his eyes that’s sad, unsettling. Stiles feels like his entire body has been lit with flame, and there’s a strange tension in the air—like the air before a thunderstorm, heavy with electricity. 

“You were always attracted to me,” Derek says. “Even before. You never would have admitted it, but I could always tell.”

Oh. Okay then.

“Right.” Stiles looks down, flushed and embarrassed. “Well, thanks for that. And to think, sometimes I forget that you have absolutely no sense of personal boundaries.”

Derek reaches out then and takes Stiles’s wrist in his hand. His fingers are warm as he pushes the sleeve of Stiles’s flannel shirt up. He traces the pink raised scar left from Peter’s bite. His touch is soft and gentle, and it sends a not unpleasant shiver down Stiles’s spine; it skitters across his skin, electric and bright.

“I would have said yes,” Derek says, “if you’d asked me. Except,” Derek continues, “I would have bitten you here…” he slides his fingers down Stiles’s neck, thumb circling his clavicle. 

Stiles’s heart is pounding in his chest; Derek can surely hear it, but Derek does not pull his hand away. 

“Oh God...”

Stiles is hard. And he knows Derek knows how aroused he is, knows it from the flickering of his eyes, the gaze that lasts much longer than it should before he climbs out the window and disappears into the darkness. 

Stiles gets very little sleep that night. He lies in bed and thinks about Derek's fingers on his throat, the touch a hot brand against his skin. 

Stiles knows that Derek has three freckles on his left hipbone. He knows that the flush that stains his cheeks spreads down his throat, his chest when he’s aroused. And he knows how Derek sounds when he comes. But he also knows that he doesn’t really know these things.

He’s never seen Derek naked. He’s never tasted his skin. But he wants to desperately. 

It's easy for Stiles to picture Derek on top of him as he jerks off. He remembers the solid weight of his body and the way his hips slot perfectly against his. He comes imagining the slick slide of Derek's tongue in his mouth, the press of his hands to his skin. 

***

He’s against the wall again. 

Stiles would roll his eyes if his cheek weren’t pressed against the locker so hard that his entire face is smushed. “Jesus Derek, what the fuck?”

Derek presses his forearm harder against his shoulder blades. “Tell me who the Kanima is.”

“Ow! Stop that!” Stiles pushes back against Derek, but of course, he doesn’t budge. Could he be any more melodramatic? “I told you, I don’t know.”

“You saw something. You had to.”

“I didn’t.” Stiles manages to turn his head enough to glare. “Now let me go.”

Derek steps backward, and Stiles jerks around. “What the fuck?” he says again.

“You said in your…vision that there was no Kanima.” Derek tries to look menacing, but he’s not very convincing. Stiles rubs at his shoulder; he’s going to be sore tomorrow. 
“Yes…” he says slowly, “there was no Kanima.”

Scott chooses that moment to careen around the corner, fangs out, growling. 

“Thanks, buddy,” Stiles says, “but you’re a bit late now.” 

Derek growls in response, but Stiles holds up a hand. “Stop! I’ve had enough wolfy testosterone for one day.” They both back down, but neither retracts his claws. Stiles sighs. 

“What’s going on?” Scott asks. He hasn’t taken his eyes off Derek.

“He thinks I know something about the Kanima.”

Scott looks at him. “Do you?”

Stiles wants to bang his head against the locker. “No, of course not.”

“So what’s he talking about?”

“He saw something,” Derek says then. “He had to.”

“No…” Stiles tries again. “I didn’t. I was in a coma.” 

“But you had visions,” Scott adds unhelpfully. 

Stiles groans. He’s clearly the only one here capable of any intelligent thought. “What I saw—it was a fucking hallucination. Not visions, not predictions, not anything that can help us.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Derek says. “You said there was no Kanima. That means we had to have killed it.”

“Or, it means there was no Kanima because I was fucking dreaming!” 

Neither Scott nor Derek looks convinced. 

“Oh my God!” Sometimes Stiles feels like he’s talking to very slow first graders. “I also imagined that we were romantically involved,” he says, waving a hand between himself and Derek. Scott cringes and Stiles is pretty sure Derek’s cheeks flush slightly. “You can't have it both ways. Either I saw the future, or I didn't.” 

Derek frowns and rubs a hand across the back of his neck. It's a self-conscious gesture and Stiles hates that he knows all his mannerisms now like the back of his hand. 

“Look, I want to help. I do.” He fidgets, rolls his shoulders back. Yep. Still sore. He looks at Derek. “But I don't know what to tell you, big guy.” 

Derek sits down heavily on the bench. Scott is still hovering close by. Stiles appreciates his concern. “It's Lydia,” Derek says after a moment. “It has to be.” 

“No.” Stiles sits down beside him. “It doesn't. And it’s not me either,” he adds, “before either of you get any ideas.” 

“Wait,” Scott says, eyeing Stiles suspiciously. “You don’t turn into anything else, do you?”

Stiles has just about had enough. “Yes Scott. I'm an abominable snowman. But my change is seasonal.”

Scott looks at him blankly for a moment. Stiles thinks he sees the corners of Derek's mouth twist—a hint of a smile. 

“Okay,” Scott says after a moment, and it’s comical how Stiles can practically see him thinking. “So it's not you, and it's not Lydia...What about Jackson?”

“Jackson?” Stiles asks, confused. “Did Peter bite him too?”

“Nope,” Scott says, “Derek did.”

Stiles glares at Derek because this is the type of useful information he really should know. “And he didn't turn.” 

“No,” Derek says, speaking finally, “he didn't.” 

“Well that makes sense, doesn't it?” Stiles exclaims. “Jackson's a total douche. Of course he'd become something like the Kanima.” 

“So it would appear,” Derek agrees. 

***

“I have no idea what happened,” Stiles says, a bit too loudly. “And I'm not sure why you think I can explain it. Or,” he adds, “why I even need to.” His voice is surly even to his own ears, but he doesn't care. He feels like he's on trial or something, and he doesn't like it. It's awkward enough with everyone knowing that he imagined (fantasized?) an alternate life—an alternate life where he was with Derek Hale no less!—while he was unconscious. But now, sitting here across from Scott and Derek, with Isaac, Boyd and Erica looking on, he feels vulnerable and exposed, and he wants nothing more than to go home and play Call of Duty until he passes out.

Instead, he has to face the second fucking Inquisition because Derek is obsessed with uncovering information and thinks his hallucinations had to mean something. 

Peter appears completely uninterested, so at least there’s that.

“Just tell us what you saw, Stiles,” Derek says. And it's clearly trying the last of his patience to stay calm. 

“I didn’t see anything,” Stiles says. “I was in a coma, remember?”

“What you saw while you were in your coma.”

“Oh, right,” Stiles rolls his eyes. “I assume you mean what I saw other than the parts where you were fucking me.” His cheeks burn at the words, but he refuses to back down. Peter laughs at that and both Derek and Stiles glares at him. 

“What?” he asks innocently. “You have to admit, it is a bit funny.” 

Derek closes his eyes, pinches the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. Stiles has to give him credit for not yelling. “Please Stiles.”

“What about Lydia?” Stiles asks. “Why isn’t she here playing twenty questions?”

“Lydia doesn’t remember anything,” Derek says. 

“No, but Peter bit both of us and, last I checked, she’s the one with the creepy telepathic link to the psycho!” He looks accusingly at Peter, but the man only shrugs. Stiles throws both hands in the air because how do they not understand? “She’s the one who brought him back. Not me.” Part of him feels a bit guilty for throwing Lydia under the bus like this, but in times like these it’s every man for himself as far as Stiles is concerned. 

Derek sighs, and Stiles is impressed that he hasn’t broken anything yet. “Maybe. But we still don’t know exactly what happened, and you both experienced a series of hallucinations—Lydia once she was awake, and yours while you were still unconscious.

“But it’s perfectly normal for the mind to remain active while you’re in a coma!” Stiles would know; he’s researched it. “It’s part of the healing process and it doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“Perhaps not,” Derek says, standing. Stiles can practically feel the frustration rolling off him, but that’s not his problem. It’s Derek’s fault they’re all here right now, anyway. “But typically,” Derek bites out, “coma patients are not in comas become they’re victims of werewolf bites. And,” he continues folding his arms across his chest, “typically people who receive the Bite are either turned or they die. There is no in between.”

“Just tell us what you remember,” Scott pleads, looking at him anxiously. “Peter’s alive again, and that’s not cool. We just need to figure out what happened.”

“I'm still right here you know,” Peter says. He doesn't look up from his book. “I might be a bit weak, considering my recent...experiences, but I can hear you just fine.” 

Scott ignores him. And he’s right, of course. It’s not cool that Peter’s back. In fact, it’s beyond fucked up, not to mention how weird it is that Derek’s apparently okay with it. After all, Peter killed Derek's sister and then Derek killed him. Talk about a messed up family dynamic. 

It doesn’t seem like they’re going to give it a rest though until Stiles has told them what he remembers, so he takes a deep breath and decides to get it over with. He starts with the night of the dance. The night Peter bit him and Lydia—he ended up in a coma that night, but his memories continue well beyond that point. He goes over them carefully, detail by detail. He works to keep his expression calm, though he knows the wolves can hear the rise and fall of his heart rate. He skips over the parts with him and Derek, though. Everyone already knows about that; he sees no reason to embarrass himself further.

When he finishes, everyone is quiet for a few minutes. Stiles watches Derek out of the corner of his eye. Watches the way his brow furrows as he frowns, watches the subtle downturn of his mouth. He looks exhausted. His usual golden skin is pale. Dark circles purple his eyes, and his cheeks are shadowed with several days of stubble. 

Stiles wonders if Derek’s sleeping; he certainly isn’t.

“So let me get this straight,” Isaac says, breaking the silence. “Stilinski somehow saw from his coma what happened to Allison’s aunt and Peter. He saw Lydia and all that was going on with her before she somehow resurrected Peter. And he did nothing?”

“Hey!” both Peter and Stiles say at once. 

Stiles glares. “It’s not like I had a fucking blueprint. I was unconscious and dreaming. How was I supposed to know some of it would come true?”

“It is strange,” Derek admits. “Why did he see some things and not others?”

Everyone looks at Peter, but he merely raises an eyebrow. “How would I know?”

“But there must be some precedent,” Derek insists.

“Not that I’m aware of. It is bizarre, though,” Peter says, laying his book aside, “that both he and the girl would be immune to the Bite.”

“Lydia was hallucinating before he came back to life,” Scott offers, glaring at Peter. “Her visions had something to do with it.”

“Yes,” Derek agrees. “And it would make sense that Stiles’s meant something too.”

“I’ll admit,” Peter says, “that I felt a…connection with the girl. Stiles, on the other hand…” he shrugs. “I haven’t a clue what happened with him.”

***

After the rave, after they fail yet again to capture the Kanima, Stiles finds Derek at his old house. He's sitting on the front porch, elbows resting on his knees, staring off into the forest. He doesn't say anything, doesn't look at Stiles as he sits down, but Stiles is content to sit beside him in silence for a while. 

Stiles notices a pile of fresh lumber off to the side of the deck, and he is pleased to see that Derek is starting some repairs. Stiles knows how much the house means to him, but he also knows how difficult the rebuilding process will be. 

In his dreams, he helped Derek finish the porch, and he remembers the backbreaking yet satisfying work of it. The hours spent tearing up the old, rotted wood before sanding down the new planks and laying them side by side by side. 

Nothing is the same now. But every once in a while, Stiles catches hints that maybe, someday, a few things could be. 

The night is crisp and clear. The moon is bright and full. 

“Where are your Betas?” Stiles finally asks when the quiet has stretched and stretched. 

“At the train station,” Derek responds, voice low, “hopefully not killing each other.” 

“Are you worried?”

Derek shakes his head. “Not really. Isaac's there. He found his anchor. His control is good.” 

Stiles nods then asks. “Are you all right?” 

Derek frowns, eyes narrowing. “Why wouldn't I be?”

“Because Allison's mom is dead. And even though she deserved it, I'm pretty sure you're wallowing in guilt and self-loathing right now.” 

“It's still my fault.” 

“No,” Stiles says, “actually it's her fault because she chose to kill herself rather than become a werewolf. Pretty cowardly and selfish if you ask me.” 

“It doesn't matter,” Derek says, and Stiles nearly laughs because regardless of what reality he's in, Derek is the most stubborn wolf he knows. “I bit her.” 

“Yeah, you did,” Stiles says slowly because, really? “You bit her because she was going to kill Scott. She's a murderer. You did the right thing.” 

Derek looks at him, eyes dark. “Scott told you?” 

“Yep. Told me all about it. Psycho bitch,” he adds because it's true. 

“How is Scott?” Derek asks, concern clear in his voice. 

“He's okay. It's gonna take some time with Allison, but he'll be all right.” 

“She didn't deserve to lose her mother,” Derek says softly. 

“No,” Stiles agrees. “But it still wasn't your fault.” 

They sit there quietly for a long time after that. Stiles watches the shadows play across the grass, stares into the dark depths of the trees. 

“Allison will never forgive me,” Derek says then. “I killed her mother and I did nothing to stop her aunt’s death.” 

“Her mother killed herself,” Stiles corrects, “and Kate deserved to die.” His voice is rough; he can't mask his hatred. “I know what she did to you, to your family.”

“What do you mean?” Derek asks carefully, voice cold. 

“Kate.”

Derek's eyes flash red but he keeps his face completely blank. “What are you talking about?”

Stiles sighs. Derek is a very private person. He knows this. And Stiles has no right to know what he knows. Although he can't help it, of course, it still feels like an extreme violation of Derek's privacy. But now, now he needs Derek to know that he understands. “You told me,” he says quietly. “In my dream. You told me that you were together. That you thought you loved her. But she tricked you. She was only with you to gain your trust and then she...” Stiles's voice cracks and he can't bring himself to say it. He takes a deep breath. “She deserved it.” 

Derek doesn't say anything, but he reaches out then, takes Stiles's hand in his. His skin is warm as he curls his fingers around Stiles's. Stiles tenses briefly but relaxes again before tightening his fingers against Derek's. 

Derek doesn't let go. 

“I think I know why you're immune,” Derek says after a long while. He's not looking at Stiles. He's staring at the moon, but his hand is still entwined with Stiles's. 

“Why?”

“Because you've got magic.” He turns to Stiles then, and Stiles knows he's serious. “What you did last night,” Derek continues, “with the mountain ash, that proves it.”

“Magic, huh?”

“Yeah,” Derek nods. 

“Cool.” After everything, Stiles can't even pretend to be surprised. He's not sure anything will ever surprise him again. “Cool.”

“It could prove useful,” Derek says. “If you develop it. Deaton can help.”

“Okay.” Stiles bounces his knee up and down. He's vibrating with energy, with excitement. “So if my...magic explains why I didn't die, what about the visions?” 

“I don't know,” Derek says. He frowns, dark eyebrows knitting together. “I don't know.”

“Sometimes I wake up and forget we're not together.” 

Derek doesn’t move. His jaw is set, hand still clutching Stiles’s. But his face is expressionless, unreadable, controlled. “Sometimes I think about what it could be like if we were.”

*** 

Stiles is sitting on the front porch of the Hale house when Derek, supported by Isaac and Boyd, limps up the drive. 

“Oh, good, Stilinski,” Isaac says when he sees him. “You can watch him for a bit.” They let go of Derek and he staggers a few steps before collapsing beside Stiles onto the porch step. 

“What happened?” Stiles asks. Derek is pale, his breathing shallow, and Stiles’s stomach churns at the sight of the arrow sticking out of his thigh. 

“Hunters,” Boyd says. “We were tracking the Kanima. Came across a band of hunters instead. Luckily,” he continues, “there were no wolfsbane bullets this time, but the arrows were laced with it.”

Of course they were.

“What am I supposed to do with him?” Stiles asks, wincing as Derek begins pulling the arrow from his thigh. “Oh God! Dude, stop that. It's disgusting.”

Derek's glare is thunderous. 

“Just watch him.” Isaac grimaces as Derek continues prodding the wound with his fingers. “Once he gets the arrow out the poison shouldn't be that bad.”

“Well that's reassuring,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. 

“We won't be long,” Boyd offers. 

“And what if they come back?”

“They didn't follow us,” Derek says, voice strained. He sniffs at the air. “But they're still on the Preserve.” He turns to Isaac and Boyd. “Go north, then cut back down the ridge to the east.” They nod then bound off into the darkness. 

Stiles sighs. “Let's get inside.” Derek ignores Stiles's extended hand as he climbs to his feet then walks unsteadily past him through the door. 

In the kitchen, Derek collapses into a chair breathing heavily. His skin is too pale, and Stiles can see the faint sheen of sweat on his forehead, his temples. 

“Cabinet to the left of the sink, he grunts. There's hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, some gauze.”

Stiles obeys, resisting the urge to say something about Derek ordering him around. He can complain later, once Derek isn't bleeding profusely. He sets the bottles on the table, watching as Derek rips at his jeans, exposing the wound. The denim is muddied and soaked through with blood. 

Stiles breathes slowly through his mouth, thankful he skipped dinner. You'd think, after all this time, he'd be used to the sight of blood, but it still makes him want to vomit. 

Derek's hand shakes as he pours peroxide over his thigh; some sloshes over his wrist, down his arm. 

Then he's yanking at the arrow's shaft, tugging it roughly from the gash in his leg. 

“Jesus! No.” Stiles goes to stop him, but Derek’s already ripped the arrowhead out. 

“I have to get the arrow out before I can heal,” Derek says through gritted teeth. 

“I know but there's a way to—” but even as Stiles speaks, the skin is knitting back together. 

“I'll be fine.” Derek soaks the gauze with alcohol before dabbing at the now healing wound, wiping blood from his thigh. He slumps back in his chair then, breath labored, face ashen. 

Stiles carefully wraps the arrowhead in some gauze before tucking it away inside his bag. “What about the wolfsbane?”

“There wasn’t enough on the arrowhead to make to my heart. Now that it’s removed, I’ll be fine,” he repeats, “in an hour, two at the most.” Derek’s eyes drift shut. 

“Can you move? Do you want to sit on the couch?” Stiles suggests after a moment when it looks like Derek is about to fall asleep at the kitchen table. 

“Hmm?” Derek's eyes open again. “Oh, yeah. Okay.”

They make it into the den, and Stiles turns on the single lamp while Derek sinks into the sofa. He sits down at the opposite end, looking about the room. Stiles can see the full extent of the fire and water damage. The wallpaper was probably pretty once—muted sweeps of pink and gold. Now, though, everything is the color of soot and ash. The destruction was so extensive that there are gaping holes in the plaster, exposing the support beams behind. 

The wood floors are charred and blackened in some places, rotted through in others, yet the windows have been replaced. They are clean of dirt and grime and framed in fresh wood. The old curtains have been disposed of, and the sofa, though second-hand, is clean and comfortable. Stiles is pleased that Derek has finally committed to repairing the house; in his memories the Hale house was livable again, and though he never admitted as much, it was a source of pride for Derek. 

“What are you doing here?” Derek asks, startling Stiles from his thoughts. 

“Er, babysitting you,” he says. He thought that part was obvious. “Until your Betas get back.”

“No. Why were you at the house? Before we got here.” Derek doesn't say anything about the babysitting comment; Stiles thinks it's most likely a testament to the poison still ravaging his system. 

“I, um, was looking for you?” Perhaps phrasing it as a question makes him seem a little less lame, but Stiles doubts it.

“Why?” Derek's eyes are closed. He's half asleep but still manages to inject a considerable amount of disdain into the question. 

The perpetual ache in Stiles's chest intensifies a little. And what's he supposed to say? That he worries about Derek constantly? That he still can't shake the feeling that Derek means more to him...that they mean more to each other than they really do? That despite every rational thought in his brain he feels like he's supposed to be here?

“I...”

“You shouldn't be out alone.” Derek cuts him off, saving him from trying to explain. “Not with the Kanima still out there.”

“I...I know.” And he does. It's irresponsible, and after everything that's happened, it's not fair to his dad to act recklessly. “But I needed to see you.” Stiles holds his breath waiting for Derek to mock him, but instead he just smiles—a lazy smile that Stiles attributes entirely to the wolfsbane, but that’s okay.

“Tell me something you remember,” Derek says then. His voice is low and softly slurred, a residual effect of the poison. “Something you saw.” 

Stiles leans back against the sofa cushion. “I saw Lydia here, but the house was like it was before the fire. It was beautiful.” He sighs. “She was with Peter. Though,” Stiles pauses, turning to look at Derek, “he was younger.”

“No.” Derek bumps his shoulder gently against Stiles’s. The gesture is unsettling in its familiarity, its intimacy. “Tell me something you remember about...us.” The words, on the surface, are innocuous, but something about Derek's tone is subtly suggestive. The implication slides down Stiles's spine to curl like warmth in his stomach. 

“I...” Stiles swallows thickly. He should go home. Isaac and Boyd will be back soon, and the poison has nearly leached out of Derek's system anyhow. But instead he opens his mouth, finds that the words spill easily from his lips. “On clear nights, we would lie out on your back porch and look at the stars. You know all the constellations. You would point them out to me, tell me the stories behind their names.”

Derek grunts in agreement but does not open his eyes. “I know a lot about stars.”

“I...know.” Stiles knows a lot of things about Derek that he shouldn't know. “One night you sucked me off out there.” He takes a deep breath a bit surprised at his nerve. “I still get hard thinking about how I came in your hair.”

Stiles bites his lip, watches for any sign that Derek is angry, that he’s repulsed by what Stiles has told him. But Derek only exhales shakily and says, “I think I’ll think about that tonight.” 

The words burn hot against Stiles’s skin. He barely represses a shudder. “I think I will too.”

(Memories, silver streaked, slip before Stiles’s eyes. A flash of skin, a twist of lips, his fingers twined in dark, dark hair.) 

***

“Do you remember our first time?”

Stiles frowns; he hadn’t expected that question. They're in Stiles's room. It's late; his father is asleep down the hall. Derek had appeared at his window an hour or so earlier while Stiles was finishing his homework. Now, Stiles is lying on his stomach on his bed, looking down over the edge. Derek is on his back on the floor. 

“Yes,” he answers carefully, “but I know now it was only a dream.”

“Of course.” Derek is staring at the ceiling, but Stiles thinks he sees his cheeks pink. “But it still felt real, didn’t it?”

“I guess so…” Stiles is distinctly uncomfortable. He’s not sure what Derek’s getting at or how he’s supposed to respond.

But then Derek says, “Maybe you could tell me about it sometime,” and his voice is rough.

“I…yeah, okay.”

***

“I still don't understand why I saw the things I did.”

Derek hefts a bag of soil over his shoulder. They’re in the backyard of the Hale house replanting the garden. It was Stiles’s idea, and he was more than a bit surprised when Derek agreed, but it’s been a nice distraction from the Kanima. “I'm not sure we'll ever understand,” Derek says. “Not really. There's no precedent for what happened—to either you or Lydia.”

“We both saw things from Peter's perspective.” Stiles sits back on his knees, wiping dirt from his hands. 

Derek sighs. “The Bite is a very intimate thing. It establishes a link between Beta and Alpha. It's how we can sense each other, feel what we're feeling.” He dumps the bag on the ground and wipes his brow with the back of his hand. It’s hot and humid; Stiles can feel the sweat rolling down his spine to pool in the small of his back.

“And Peter was my Alpha,” Stiles says slowly. “I saw what he saw.” Suddenly the pieces fall together with startling clarity. “Until...until you killed him.” Derek tenses slightly, but let’s Stiles finish. “That's why I saw what happened to Kate. I saw Peter's death. But I didn't know anything about the Kanima because Peter was dead and he didn’t know. Then you became my Alpha.” He wants to kiss Derek, but he doesn't think he'd get away with it, so instead he repeats, “You became my Alpha.”

Derek nods, eyes bright and devastating. 

“And I could see what you saw. I saw Peter's resurrection because he used you. And then...” Stiles takes a deep breath, fixes his eyes on Derek's lovely face, “and then I saw us together.” 

***

“It’s weird, in my dreams I couldn't remember how we got together.” Stiles laughs, a self-deprecating sound. “Looking back, I should have known something wasn’t right. After all, that's not the kind of detail you forget.” He picks at a thread on his sleeve and does not look at Derek. “At the same time though, it always just made sense that we were together.”

Derek doesn’t say anything for a long time. They’re in Stiles’s room on the floor, leaning up against the bed. Stiles pulls his knees up to his chest.

“I think,” Derek finally says, “that it makes sense to you because it makes sense to me.” Derek's voice is soft, hesitant; it hits Stiles square in the chest. He's feels like he could combust, crumble. “And the things you saw,” he continues, “once Peter was dead, were influenced by my thoughts.” 

“You thought about us?” Stiles is almost scared to ask, but Derek's words burn hot against his fingertips and he has to know. 

“I think so, yes.” Derek speaks like it hurts, but the admission washes over Stiles like sunlight.

Stiles closes his eyes. He does not lean against Derek. 

“I was lonely. That's why I turned Erica, Isaac, and Boyd.”

Stiles thinks he’s trembling. “But in my vision we weren't lonely.”

“No.” Derek places his hand on his, rubs his thumb across his knuckle.

“That’s why you didn't have Betas.” 

“That’s why I didn’t have Betas.” 

***

“Derek, what are we doing?”

“I…I don't know.” Derek leans his head back against the bed; his legs are stretched out in front of him. They’re in Stiles’s room again; Derek’s come over every night this week.

When Derek looks up again, his expression is unreadable. “Sometimes I think that you saw what you saw for a reason.”

Memories of a kiss pound in the corner of Stiles’s mind. 

Derek reaches out and brushes a fingertip against Stiles’s cheek. It's a gentle gesture, gently done. Then he takes his hand in his, and Stiles looks down at their fingers twined together. It isn’t much, and it might never be much, but it is something.

“I'm glad you’re here,” Stiles says, and Derek nods. Stiles thinks he might be happy if he could just touch the man forever.

***

They discover who’s controlling the Kamima despite Stiles’s complete lack of helpful visions. And Stiles’s dad actually believes him, which is a total bonus, but then Matt arrives at the station and things pretty much go to shit. 

When Derek appears, Stiles feels optimistic for about two seconds, but Derek's already paralyzed, and then Stiles is paralyzed too, and suddenly Stiles isn't sure if things could get much worse. 

All he manages to say as he falls on top of Derek is "Bitch," which, he'll admit isn't the most eloquent response, but it seems fitting because really?

Derek complains briefly about Stiles’s weight but his heart isn’t really in it, and Stiles can’t help but think that maybe there are worse places he could be, if one has to be held hostage and paralyzed, of course. He takes a chance then and smiles. “Oh come on, big guy. You know you like it.” Because, hell, they’ll most likely be dead soon. 

But then the Argents show up and Matt is the one that's killed, and Derek, amazingly, is not. 

Stiles kisses Derek for the first time that night. 

When he presses his lips to his, he is terrified that Derek will push him away, but Derek only tenses briefly (hands clenched, eyes wide) before his tongue slips like honey into Stiles's mouth. 

***

Later that night when Stiles is in bed alone, he texts Derek. 

We were in your bed in your old house. 

Stiles closes his eyes, tucks his arm under his chin. His phone buzzes a few minutes later. 

?

Stiles rolls over, props himself up on his elbows. Our first time. You asked me to tell you about it. Do you still want to know? 

Yes.

Stiles closes his eyes against the images, but they’re branded hot across his eyelids, seared across his vision, blindingly exquisite and achingly devastating. He stares at his phone for a long moment; the screen is bright in the darkness of his room. 

He takes a steadying breath. His fingers feel thick and clumsy as he types. You sucked me off. I came quickly, but then you fingered me open. Took your time before fucking me.

He presses send. Then adds: It hurt. But it was also the best thing I’ve ever felt. 

Stiles bites his lip, his heart pounding as he watches his phone, waiting. Stiles is worried that he’s gone too far, worried that Derek won’t respond, won’t say anything at all. But after a few minutes his phone buzzes. He nearly jumps at the sound. His hand shakes as he clicks on Derek’s message. Three words slide like warmth down his spine. 

Oh my God...

That night Stiles dreams of Derek's hands, his mouth on his skin. And for the first time he wakes up thinking it might not be too good to be true. 

***

He doesn’t talk to Derek for three days. Gerard controls the Kanima now, and he’s seriously more twisted than Matt, so all the wolves are pretty busy doing werewolf-type things. 

Stiles tells himself he doesn’t mind. After all, he knows that there are more important things in life than whatever it is that’s happening between him and Derek Hale. 

He should be researching. He knows Derek will kill the Kanima if he has the chance, and although Jackson is a complete and total asshole, Stiles knows he probably doesn’t deserve to die. But instead of sifting through his notes, of looking for a way to stop the monster and bring Jackson back, he lies on his back and replays memories in his head. 

***

Stiles's excitement over being awesome at lacrosse lasts about two minutes before he's snatched by some hunters. He almost laughs because, yeah, this is just the type of week he's having. 

He's thrown into a basement with Erica and Boyd. They don't look so good, which doesn't bode well for Stiles because they're werewolves and he is decidedly not. 

Gerard appears, and Stiles wants to roll his eyes because he's seriously working the whole super villain thing. 

“I heard a rumor about you, Stiles,” Gerard says. “It would seem that you have a rather...interesting relationship with Derek Hale.”

“Yeah, well, you’re a little late to the game. That story’s old news, but if you really knew anything at all, you’d know that I only imagined my relationship with Derek.” He shrugs. “Pretty embarrassing, I’ll admit, but I got over it.”

Gerard laughs. “On the contrary, I know all about your hospital stay. I know why you were in that coma to begin with, and,” he continues, dusting a speck of lint from his shoulder, “I know that you would like nothing more than for that…imaginary relationship to be real.”

Stiles glares; the comment doesn’t warrant a response.

“Tell me where Derek’s hiding, and I will let you go.”

“Sorry, no can do.” Stiles crosses his arms over his chest.

“Your loyalty,” Gerard says, “while admirable, is grossly misplaced. The werewolf is bloodthirsty and ruthless. It cares for no one and must be killed.”

“Says the man who’s currently torturing teenagers.” 

Gerard steps forward, but Stiles refuses to back down. He probably shouldn't taunt the man, but he’s so far past giving a fuck and he just can’t help himself. “What are you going to do?” he asks, “Torture me too? I’m human. Besides,” he smiles, “you’re like ninety years old. I could kick your ass up and down this room.” 

Gerard’s backhand makes Stiles’s vision go white, then he punches him, knocking Stiles to the floor.

“You can't protect him. I'll kill everyone. I will use the Kanima to get revenge on Derek for the death of my daughter.”

Stiles spits, the taste of blood a coppery tang on his tongue. “Well, to begin with, Derek didn't kill Kate. Peter did. And good luck with killing him.” Stiles forces a smile, though his entire face hurts. “He seems to have a knack for not dying. And second,” Stiles wipes a hand across his cheek; his fingers come away wet with sweat and blood, I'm not telling you anything.” 

***

Derek is in Stiles’s room when he gets home from seeing his dad at the hospital. 

“I was looking for you,” Derek says, and he looks so miserable, so distressed that Stiles wants to reach out and hug him. But his head is throbbing, his entire body is black and blue, and he’s pretty sure he’s still bleeding. So, he grabs the bottle of Tylenol from his bedside table and sits down gingerly on the end of his bed instead. 

Derek places a hand on Stiles’s arm, and Stiles gasps. The relief is nearly instantaneous. The pain dulls. It’s not gone, but muted, pushed to the corners of his mind, and he can think again.

“Thank you,” he says, brushing his hand against Derek’s.

Derek nods. “What happened?”

“Gerard grabbed me after the game. He beat the shit out of me.” Stiles allows a self-deprecating smile. “Asshole has a mean right hook. For a geriatric, that is.”

“I’ll kill him.” Derek’s look is murderous, and Stiles has to stop him from leaping out the window right then and there.

“No, wait!” Stiles can’t help the desperation that bleeds into his voice, but it doesn’t matter. Gerard is dangerous, and he can’t let Derek get hurt. “He has Erica and Boyd, and he was looking for you.”

The look on Derek’s face hurts Stiles more than Gerard’s fists did. “He hurt you because of me.” 

“No, Derek,” Stiles says, “he hurt me because he’s a crazy fuck. And we’ll stop him, but we need a plan.”

“But you were protecting me.”

“Of course I was.” Stiles doesn't reach out, doesn't touch him, though his fingers itch to do so.

***

Peter—of all people—figures it out. 

Lydia is the key.

They’re all at the warehouse when Derek bites Gerard, but as his body rejects it, he loses his hold on the Kanima, and Lydia…well, Stiles know now that she has always loved Jackson. Only Jackson.

You’d think such a revelation would hurt. 

For a long time Stiles’s entire life revolved around Lydia Martin. It was pointless, really, but Stiles still clung to some sort of vague hope, some idea of them. He held it tightly between his fingers, in the hollow of his chest where it beat like a second heart. 

Then, one day it simply slipped away. 

Now, in the aftermath, he doesn’t seek out Lydia at all. Instead, he finds Derek. 

He’s lying on his back in the garden behind his house. The grass is damp; cool wetness seeps through Stiles’s jeans as he sits down beside him. Peter is most likely lurking in the darkness somewhere because he’s creepy like that, but Stiles doesn’t care. He takes a deep breath and focuses on the words he came here to say.

“Stiles,” Derek says, and his voice sounds like a warning. 

“No, please.” Stiles presses his fingers into the ground, feels the dirt under his nails. “Just let me say something, okay?”

Derek’s eyes are shadowed, his expression blank, but he nods, lets Stiles continue.

“I don’t regret it, you know. The memories, the visions I had of you, of us. For a while, I thought I did. Everyone expected me to, at least—to regret it, to wish it hadn’t happened, that I didn’t dream of anything at all.” He crosses his legs, picks at the fraying hem of his jeans. “But I don’t. I don’t regret any of it.” 

“Stiles—”

He wants to tell Derek that he still thinks about it. That he falls asleep at night imagining himself in Derek’s bed naked and aroused. He closes his eyes and tries not to think about the warmth flooding his veins. “It’s not ideal, I know. I’m still in high school and you’re an Alpha and I’m, well, I’m nothing, but—”

“Stiles, stop.” Derek sits up, runs a hand through his hair. “I can’t.”

Stiles’s face is hot, even in the chill of the night air.

“We shouldn’t spend so much time together.” Derek’s shoulders are tense, his back a rigid line. “It’s inappropriate. I’m sorry if I…if I led you on.” The words fall like stones into Stiles’s stomach.

“No, I please…” he reaches a hand out, but Derek jerks back as if shocked. The weight of rejection settles heavily in Stiles’s chest; it feels like a knife to the gut.

This isn’t what’s supposed to happen. Derek’s supposed to take him upstairs to his room. He’s supposed to ask Stiles to tell him more of what he remembers. He’s supposed to touch Stiles again.

Instead, he stands and goes into his house alone.

Stiles sits in the garden for a long time. He’s cold and shivering when he finally forces himself to stand. His legs are stiff as he walks to his Jeep. 

Stiles takes a shower when he gets home. He's exhausted, but after the events at the warehouse and sitting out in Derek's backyard for over an hour he's gross. And the warm water helps clear his head and loosens the knots in his shoulders. 

He tells himself he’s not going to think about Derek, but still the images spill like water, like blood across the surface of his mind.

He tells himself it will be all right. After all, he didn't expect anything from Derek; he nearly has himself convinced that it's probably for the best by the time he gets out of the shower and brushes his teeth. 

Derek is on Stiles’s bed when he gets back to his room. 

Stiles definitely doesn't jump, but he might glare as he walks to his bureau. He refuses to be embarrassed about Derek seeing him with only a towel wrapped around his waist. After all, Derek no longer has the right to make Stiles feel self-conscious; Stiles has no reason to care what he thinks about him any more. 

He turns his back on Derek to get dressed for bed, discarding the towel on the floor and pulling on a pair of boxers and sleep pants. He turns back around and crosses his arms, hands gripping his elbows, mouth a thin line. “You know, dude, for someone who said we need to see a lot less of each other, you're doing a shit job of following through.” 

Derek's shoulders slump but he doesn't say anything. 

“What do you want?” Stiles asks curtly. He is tired—so tired—and he just wants to go to bed and forget about Derek. 

Derek holds out a scrap of paper with a symbol scribbled on it. 

Oh, right. Research. 

Of course Derek can break his own rules when he needs something from him. 
“Yeah, this really isn't a good time,” Stiles bites out, anger twisting in his stomach. “I know your social skills aren't always top notch, but I'd think even you would have the decency not to show up in my room looking for help after what you said to me earlier. Go find Peter or something. Have him figure out what your symbol means.”

“Peter?” Derek looks confused. “No, Stiles, I already know what it means. It was painted on my door when I got home tonight.” 

Stiles doesn't understand. He takes the slip of paper from Derek and examines the hastily sketched symbol. At first glance, it resembles the triskele, but rather than spiraling gracefully, each branch is rigid and angular. Stiles thinks it looks a bit like a swastika. “On your door?”

“Yes,” Derek says. “It’s a warning.”

“Of what?” 

“There’s an Alpha pack in town.” 

“An Alpha pack?” Stiles frowns, forgetting his anger for a moment. “Like a whole pack of Alphas?”

“Yes.”

Well, fuck. “How does that even work?” 

Derek doesn't answer. Instead, he says, “Scott used me. Tonight. He didn't tell me what he was planning. He used me to bite Gerard.” 

“Yeah...” Stiles isn’t sure what he’s getting at. Scott probably should have told Derek what he was doing, but he didn't know either, and he can't bring himself to feel too sorry for Derek right now. “Sometimes we do shitty things to protect the ones we love.”

“I know.” Derek looks down. He can't quite mask the tremor in his hands, and it fills Stiles with an all too familiar sense of dread. “Tonight we defeated the Kanima,” Derek says. “We saved Jackson. We stopped Gerard, but it's not over. It's never over.” He looks up at Stiles again and his eyes are haunted. “What's coming, it's worse.” 

“So we'll deal with it. We always do.” 

“No, Stiles, we won't.” Derek stands and stares out the window. “I won't keep putting you in danger.” His voice is strained, pleading. “I can't let you get hurt again.” 

Suddenly everything makes sense. Sometimes we do shitty things to protect the ones we love.

“That's what this is all about,” Stiles says. “Tonight you sent me away, told me we can't be together because you saw some symbol on your door and now you're worried I'll get hurt?” His voice rises sharply but it doesn't matter; Derek doesn't get to make these decisions without him. “For someone who doesn’t want me to get hurt, you sure did a good job doing just that!” 

Derek looks stricken. 

“And, I'm sorry, but it doesn't work like that anyway.” He waves a hand in the air. “In case you forgot, my best friend’s also a werewolf. I can’t exactly avoid all things supernatural and scary.” 

“But I'm the Alpha,” Derek tries, voice desperate. “I'm the one they want.” 

“They can’t have you.”

“I won't be able to stop them. They’re too strong.” 

“That's why you have a pack,” Stiles says. “You have me and Isaac and Scott—and sometimes even Peter, on days when he's not being deliberately unhelpful.” 

“I...” Derek trails off, clearly at a loss for words, and Stiles doesn’t think he could look any more miserable.

“Stop.” Stiles takes a step toward Derek. “You can’t live like this, always worrying about what might happen, isolating yourself because someone could get hurt.”

Derek chews on his lip; it’s an uncharacteristically agitated gesture. “Earlier, when you came to my house…I think, maybe, we could be good together.”

The words aren’t much, but they sound like poetry to Stiles. 

Stiles kisses Derek. It's their second kiss, though Stiles has memories of many, many more. Derek does not tense. He just opens his mouth against Stiles's, soft and slow, and let’s his hand fall to the small of Stiles’s back. 

But Derek pulls away, and Stiles braces himself for rejection.

“It’s illegal. I could go to jail.”

“I’m pretty sure you could go to jail for a lot of things you do.”

Derek’s face falls, and Stiles’s cringes. Shit, not helping. “I didn’t mean it that way. I—” 

“I just need some time to think.” 

Stiles forces himself to nod, to not protest, and honestly, he expected as much; nothing is ever easy with Derek. Still it hurts—a vague sort of ache—and he really hopes Derek isn’t simply postponing the inevitable let down because Stiles really can’t handle any more disappointment, any more loss. 

“All right,” Stiles manages, and his voice doesn't break, doesn’t waver at all. “So you'll come back?”

“I'll come back.” And with that, Derek slips out the window, leaving Stiles alone for the second time that night. 

***

Three days pass. Stiles goes to school, avoids Scott's concerned looks, and tries not to think about Derek too much. 

He does not get eaten by any Alpha werewolves. 

On the fourth day, Derek is waiting for Stiles when he gets home from school. His shoulders are stiff and he has not taken off his jacket. Stiles prepares himself for the very worst. But then Derek Hale actually smiles, and strangely enough his face does not shatter.

When he looks at Stiles, something warm curls through Stiles’s stomach (bright light, white heat); it twines between Stiles’s fingers, coils round his spine, slides slowly across his skin.

“Derek—”

“I can’t promise that I’ll be any good at this. I am not…used to these things.” 

“I know.” Stiles drops his bag, nearly trips in his haste to cross the room. “That makes two of us.”

“I haven’t been in a relationship for—”

“Derek, I know,” Stiles says, reaching out, touching his hand; Stiles knows a great many things he shouldn’t know.

“It’s dangerous. Just by being with me, they will target you.” His voice is tight; the words sound like glass on his tongue, but Stiles interrupts, makes him stop. 

“It’s okay. We’ll be okay.”

“I…I think so.” Derek leans forward, presses his forehead to Stiles’s. “Is this how it happens? How we end up together?” 

Stiles nearly laughs; he wants to touch Derek forever. “Must be.”

This time, Derek kisses Stiles. The warm slide of his tongue sparks in Stiles’s veins. Derek frames his face with his hands, and they kiss for a long, breathless moment. Though it feels just like the kisses Stiles has stored away in his memories, it’s also entirely new, and he revels in the feel of Derek’s body against his, the shape of his lips, the touch of his fingers against his jaw.

“Fuck,” Stiles gasps against his mouth, “there is so much I want you to do to me. You have no idea.”

“I think I might,” Derek says, stepping back to take off his jacket. He drapes it over the back of Stiles’s desk chair where it belongs. Then Derek is pulling off his shirt and Stiles has to tell himself to close his mouth because people really shouldn't be allowed to be that gorgeous. He toes off his shoes to keep from staring. “So this is happening, right?”

“Right,” Derek says, crowding too close. And there are hands at Stiles's waist, sliding his shirt off too. 

“I, er, bed?” Sometimes it's hard to make his mouth form words. 

“Yes.”

Next to Derek, Stiles feels awkward and graceless, but Derek doesn’t seem to mind. He’s too busy pulling at Stiles's belt and tugging at the button of his jeans. Stiles pushes them down and kicks them off, then he's on his bed in his boxers watching as Derek Hale unclasps his belt and raises his hips to slide his jeans down his legs. 
“Oh my God.” Stiles flushes when he realizes that he said that out loud, but really, oh my God.

Derek leans over him, pushes him back against the pillows. 

The sheets are soft beneath Stiles's back, and Derek's body is warm and perfect on top of him. Stiles could learn to live against Derek's skin. 

His fingers clutch at Derek's shoulders, skim down the length of his spine to the waistband of his boxer briefs. Stiles knows he won't last, and when Derek shifts and Stiles can feel the line of his erection against his, he nearly blows his load right then. 

Derek reaches down between them then and presses his palm to the front of Stiles's boxers. Stiles barely has time to think, Fuck, his hand's on my dick before he's coming all over himself. “Jesus, that was— Well, that was embarrassing is what that was.” 

Derek laughs softly; his hand is still stroking Stiles through the damp fabric of his boxers. 

“God...” Stiles rolls over with a groan. “I can't believe I did that.” 

The sun is setting now, and Derek's face is shadowed in the dimming light of the room. “I liked it.” Derek leans into him, pressing their mouths together, and Stiles hums, pleased. Derek is rocking against him, the press of his dick making Stiles hard again, but the spunk drying in his shorts is neither sexy nor pleasant.

“Let me just…” he squirms out of his boxers, dropping them over the side of the bed.

“Fuck,” Derek breathes against his cheek, before pulling back slightly. Stiles can see the red glow of his eyes. Derek ducks his head, rests his forehead on Stiles’s chest; Stiles reaches up, runs his fingers through dark hair and listens to the steady inhalation, exhalation of Derek’s breathing, hot and slow against his skin. 

“You okay?” Stiles asks. 

“I…yeah. Derek kisses Stiles’s shoulder before sliding his nose up and down along his throat; when he turns his face, his stubbled cheek is rough against Stiles’s skin, and Stiles shivers as he nuzzles against him.

Stiles does not bare his neck. Not yet. But he does share a memory that, until this moment, he hadn't really understood. 

“In my dreams,” Stiles says softly, “I submitted to you.”

Derek's breath hitches slightly, and when he looks at Stiles, his eyes are dark and rimmed in red. “I would never ask you to do that.”

“I know.” Stiles’s fingers tighten in Derek’s hair. “And that's the thing. You didn't. I wanted to. It’s something I think I could want again.”

Derek growls low in response, the sound vibrating against Stiles’s skin. “Oh God.” He reaches down to rub himself through the cotton of his briefs, and Stiles nearly passes out because, fuck.

Stiles curves his back, pushing against Derek. His dick is damp with pre-come as it slips against Derek’s hip, leaving a trail of slick.

“You’ll fuck me, right,” he gasps, shifting on top of him. “I remember what it feels like, but not really, you know.” Stiles is babbling, but he can’t stop. “I want to know what it feels like for real.”

“Yeah,” Derek gasps, and he’s breathless.

Stiles leans to the side and reaches into the bedside drawer for the lube and condoms he’s stashed there. Derek watches, eyes wide, pupils blown, as he rolls over again, propping himself up on his elbows. Stiles forces himself to take a few deep breaths, trying to ground himself, to calm the racing of his heart. “Are you…is this okay?” he asks, suddenly insecure because Derek is staring and he still can’t believe this is actually happening.

“Yeah,” Derek says again, slipping his underwear off, then trailing warm hands over Stiles’s thighs, in between his legs. He squirts some lube on his fingers and traces a line down Stiles’s crease before slipping one, then two inside. Stiles gasps, way too close to coming again as he watches the movement of Derek’s hand, his wrist, as his fingers slide in and out.

Shit, he’s actually going to have sex.

He’s going to have sex with Derek Hale.

Derek gets a third finger in, and he flinches a bit, but then Derek’s other hand curls around his dick, and he’s throwing an arm out, gripping the sheets with his hand. “Dude, you better fuck me now because I’m not going to last much longer.”

Derek groans, pressing his face to Stiles’s neck. He pulls his fingers from Stiles’s ass, and rips open the condom, smoothing it down his dick before slicking more lube down his shaft. “You’re sure?” he asks, voice strained. 

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’m really, really sure.”

He positions himself between Stiles’s legs and starts to push in. The feeling is so intense, so overwhelming, that he has to bite the inside of his mouth to distract himself. They’ve barely begun; Derek’s only an inch inside and already he feels like he’s dying. Stiles has relived the memories of their first time over and over again, but this is so much better. 

He arches, fingers gripping Derek’s biceps, heels digging into his thighs. “Come on, do it,” he gasps, and Derek does, in long, deep thrusts, pulling out with gasping breath then sliding in again. The friction, the pressure, the movement send waves of relief, of pleasure, down his spine, over his skin.

Derek talks during sex, too, whispering things that could make Stiles blush (“yes, like that, oh God, yeah, so fucking hot, touch yourself now, oh—”)

And Stiles fists himself, thrusting his hips up as Derek fucks into him.

When Derek leans down to Stiles, teeth nipping sharply at his lip, he’s gone. He cries out, come shooting over his stomach to his chest. 

“God yes…fuck,” Derek bites out, and Stiles feels him tense, before he’s shaking too, pressing his forehead to Stiles’s chest.

Afterward, they lay side-by-side. Stiles listens to their breathing, feels the sweat cooling on his skin. Derek takes his hand in his, twines their fingers together. 

“So, are we like werewolf married now?” Stiles asks after a few minutes. “Am I your mate or something—is that even a thing?”

Derek laughs and turns to slide his nose along the curve of Stiles's arm. 

“That's cool and all, if we are.”

“Stiles—” Derek presses a kiss to Stiles's chest, trails a hand down his sternum. 

“…though I don't know how I'll ever explain it to my dad.” 

“Stiles—”

“Have you ever had a mate before? Or is it like a one time thing?”

“Stiles—” Derek covers his mouth over his; it's a pretty effective way to shut him up. “This isn't Twilight. I haven't imprinted on you or anything.”

“Oh my God!” Stiles sits up, nearly knocking his head with Derek’s. “You read Twilight? I can't wait to tell Scott, I—Ow!”

Derek nips at his shoulder. “Laura dragged me to see the movie, and no, we're not 'werewolf married.'” Derek holds up two fingers to make air quotes. “Whatever that means.” 

Stiles ignores the mocking lilt in his voice. “Oh come on, it's when a werewolf finds his perfect mate, and then they have sex, cementing their relationship, and—”

“Stiles,” Derek interrupts him, “let's start with boyfriends.”

“Boyfriends?”

“Yes,” Derek trails his fingers down his cheek, underneath Stiles's jaw. “Boyfriends.” 

“Okay.” Stiles rolls over, hooks one leg over Derek's. 

They're sweaty, and Stiles still has come drying on his stomach, but Derek doesn't seem to mind, so Stiles doesn't either. “I think I'd make a pretty good mate though, I mean—”

Derek kisses him again and, for once, Stiles decides he doesn't feel like talking anymore.