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The layer of leaves covering the uneven forest floor crunches under his feet as he follows the rough path Scott carved through the woods. So much for stealth training and inhabiting an environment without leaving a mark, Stiles thinks. At this rate he'll be able to track Scott half-blind in the dark and so will everyone else.

The beam from his flashlight bobs along the ground as he walks. It's mostly unnecessary given the moon above him, shining through the thin, empty branches. He's fucking freezing, it's getting late, and he still has an essay to write and dinner to fix so his father will eat something besides a Hot Pocket for dinner. He keeps to the painfully obvious trail, hoping that it will taper off and provide some proof Scott's at least trying, but he knows it won't.

He finds Scott fifteen minutes later, lounging on a fallen tree and typing on his phone like it's not freezing and foggy and the whole endeavor wasn't a huge waste of time.

"Dude," Stiles says. "If you're not even going to try, why are we here?"

Scott looks up, goofy smile fading away. "Oh, hey."

"Oh, hey, he says," Stiles mutters. "You basically left me a thirty-five minute invitation back there, you know. I thought this whole thing was to be better than Jackson? How is Jackson being better than you at stealth not making you want to improve?"

Scott frowns into the woods. "It couldn't have been that bad, it took you a long time to get here."

"Yes," Stiles says. "Because I walked the walk of the completely dejected. I think we've found a wolf-skill you will never possess."

"Hey," Scott says. "I'm not that bad."

"You're pretty bad," Stiles argues.

"Am not!"

"No, you really are," Derek says.

Later Stiles will comfort himself that he only jumped a few feet and didn't scream at all. When he starts breathing again he kicks a rock in Derek's direction out of relief that it's only him and not another hungry supernatural being come to snack on him or his best friend; even if he isn't feeling charitable toward Scott at the moment. "Once a creepy stalker, always a creepy stalker."

Derek stares at him for a long moment, much like he's been doing for the last few weeks. Since Stiles watched him murder a crazy killer werewolf, become an Alpha, start creating a pack of his very own, and decorating an apartment in town. The style of which reminds Stiles of bachelor-terrible but less smelly, and he still doesn't feel comfortable there without Scott with him.

Since that night, Derek's behavior has gone from furious dislike and begrudging acceptance to something else Stiles hasn't been able to define, but it feels an awful lot like rejection. Stiles has been keeping his distance just in case that's the answer; he gets enough rejection elsewhere. He doesn't know how to deal with Derek anymore, Derek the Alpha, Derek of the dismissive attitude, the thousand yard stare; with a look in his eyes like if Stiles makes a wrong move, he might become a snack or worse, something Scott might be ordered to cut loose. He tries not to shiver underneath Derek's gaze.

"You shouldn't be wandering around the woods," Derek says to Scott. "Not alone."

"Hello, I'm right here," Stiles says.

Derek doesn't even glance at him. "I should be with you if you do this at night."

"Still here," Stiles says, "still a warm body, with a taser!" Neither Derek or Scott look at him.

"I only wanted to practice," Scott counters weakly and doesn't bother to defend Stiles at all. "Jackson keeps rubbing it in my face. He's worse than with lacrosse. I miss him being a jerk about lacrosse."

"Go home," Derek says. "Don't do this again."

Scott grumbles, but gets up and heads to the east, which is the exact opposite way of Stiles's Jeep.

"Hey, dude," Stiles says, "wrong way."

Scott looks sheepish. "Oh. Allison is picking me up. She finally got permission to go to the library." He waves his phone.

Stiles should have banned the phone.

Scott looks uncertain. "I can tell her nevermind..."

Stiles shrugs it off. "No, no, it's fine. Quality time with the girlfriend that's technically banned from seeing you. I approve, have a great time."

Scott grins, so easily pleased, and takes off, probably before Stiles can change his mind. He watches Scott disappear into the fog and says to himself, "bet I wouldn't be able to track him this time."

When he turns around, he jumps again, because Derek is still there. "Dude, whoa. I thought you had left."

Derek glares at him, which Stiles never thought he would miss. "I'm walking you back to your car."

"Fantastic," Stiles says, resenting his heartbeat, his nerves. He hasn't been alone with Derek in weeks, hasn't been so aware of what he is and what that means. "I mean, don't put yourself out. Like I said, I have a taser, and this flashlight, and I can just follow the really great trail Scott left for me back there, it goes right to my car—"

"Shut up and come on," Derek says, and doesn't move until Stiles does, back the way he had come, with Derek a looming presence behind him.

The walk back is silent, but uncomfortable silence because Stiles doesn't want to risk talking and inevitably pissing Derek off. Before everything Stiles wouldn't have hesitated to fill the silence with chatter, to cover his nerves or his worry or his fear with words. For now, he keeps his thoughts to himself, his hands in his armpits to stave off the cold, and definitely does not think about how Derek's behavior toward him is an awful lot like Peter's, cold, possibly calculating, albeit with fewer threats of biting and dismemberment and death.

"You're afraid of me," Derek says, suddenly at his side. He raises an eyebrow when Stiles jumps and says, "and annoyed."

"Well, when you make freaking people out your calling card," Stiles snaps. "And no, that's ridiculous, of course I'm not afraid of you, we're walking along here, in the dark, at night, alone, and I'm totally comfortable."

Derek snorted. "How does lying usually work out for you?"

Dammit, he hates werewolves and their superior senses. Stiles says, "well, maybe I'm a little chilly —"

"Freezing," Derek replies.

"—and if we're going to start examining our interactions, what's with you and the sudden refusal to, like, banter, or verbally and physically abuse me? What, are Alphas above that or something? Not to mention the unspoken undertone that I'm not good enough to spend time in the woods with Scott, or, good enough in general, I guess, to run with werewolves even though I continually save Scott's ass and also yours, sometimes—"

Derek tugs him to a stop with a hand on his bicep, abruptly, and Stiles swallows hard. In their stillness, Derek is suddenly closer than he's been in weeks. Stiles finds it hard to breath without feeling like he's giving up secrets to Derek that he doesn't even know he has.

"You're a moron," Derek says. "No one but you thinks you're not good enough. Scott's still learning, and if anything went wrong you'd be on your own with no one to help you." He pulls off his leather jacket and wraps it around Stiles's shoulders and is already walking away by the time Stiles thinks of a reply, and the reply sucks, anyway. "Hey," he manages, before Derek fades into the fog. "Don't storm off!"

He jogs to catch up with Derek, and takes a place at his side, carefully. He tucks his hands into the pockets already warmed for him, and this time, the silence doesn't feel uncomfortable at all.


"Do you think I'm useful?" he asks Jackson at lunch a few days later, after worrying over Derek's words for too long.

Jackson stares at him, fork halfway to his mouth, and says nothing.

"I would ask Scott, but he's occupied." Stiles knows it's better for everyone to let Scott and Allison hang out at the end of the table — playing footsie and sharing food — than to try to get them to actually engage on important issues regarding Stiles and his self-esteem.

Jackson still doesn't reply.

"Now that you three have your little wolfy trio and Allison is apparently a ninja with a bow and arrow, I'm simply evaluating my worth to the overall group," Stiles says quickly. "Feel free to be honest."

Jackson opens his mouth.

"But not too honest!" Stiles adds.

Jackson rolls his eyes and goes back to his lunch.

Stiles really isn't sure he likes that the change has made Jackson more silent and brooding and therefore, more like Derek. He pokes at his rubbery mac and cheese.

"Oh," Jackson says, suddenly grinning widely. "I see." He gestures to the chair besides Stiles, which has his stuff in it, plus the jacket loaned to him by Derek and not yet returned. "That explains why you're asking."

Stiles stares at the stuff in confusion, but focuses on Jackson. "You have an answer?"

Jackson shook his head. "Figure it out on your own."

"I have no clue why being different has to make you all so recalcitrant," Stiles says bitterly, although it's awesome that he's finally found a use for that SAT vocabulary term. Werewolves are impossible and also frustrating, just like standardized tests. He stabs his macaroni again as Jackson laughs at him across the table.


Stiles has spent many, many hours researching wolves and pack dynamics, which he finds almost universally useless and not applicable to his situation, and werewolves and pack dynamics, which are vague enough to be just as useless. The Internet is a wonderful tool and amazingly powerful, but all the answers he gleans suggest to him that human pack members are more common when they're in a long term relationship with a pack member.

Which inevitably leads him to think about what it might be like to be in a long term relationship with Derek, besides aggravating and possibly damaging to his person. There would have to be good aspects somewhere. Which, huh.


It's not the first time he's had the thought — he's not dead, after all. He's noticed how Derek looks in an idle way but never given it much thought because most of the time he's been worrying about being mauled (by Derek) or running for his life (sometimes from Derek) or too busy being worried about people he cared about to notice that Derek is stupidly attractive.

Of course, now that he's paying attention to how stupidly attractive Derek is, all his thoughts — and his libido — hone in on the fact and refuse to leave it alone. He tags along to the biweekly pack meeting, which Scott grumpily calls "the day Derek yells at us about the full moon or our behavior during the full moon".

Derek lectures Scott and Jackson, which Stiles is sure is great — Derek can go on like the best of them when he wants to make a point — but not really for him. He spends the meeting watching the twitch of fabric against Derek's biceps, the way he licks his bottom lip during pauses, and the way he glares at Stiles after he's finished talking. Stiles only blinks at him, because he hadn't said a word the whole meeting.

Allison takes off with Scott as soon as possible to visit the hospital and Lydia as per her alibi for being out of the house. Stiles shoots Scott a look to stay alert for changes, and Scott nods. Stiles keeps hoping Lydia will wake up soon, that whatever is going on with her will be explained, that she'll be okay. Jackson follows shortly after, and for the first time, Stiles stays.

Derek gives him the look after Jackson leaves, the unreadable expression Stiles can't parse. "I'm surprised you didn't run away like you usually do."

"I do not run away!" Stiles says. "Everything's about people being terrified of you, isn't it? Should I roll over on my back and beg you not to bite me? Would that help the fantasy?"

Derek laughs and Stiles can only gape at the sound. "You don't even know," he says. "No idea."

"Know what?"

Derek gestures to the back of his incredibly ugly plaid couch. "You kept my jacket."

Stiles looks at the jacket lying there and suddenly everything is one hundred times more awkward. "No, I—good thing I wore it. You can have it back."

"What will you wear home?" Derek asks. "It's cold."

"Why do I always feel like you're also adding on 'and you're pathetically human and weak' to the end of that in your head?"

Derek smiles. It's another shock, because he's smiled before, but not like this. Stiles has always known that somewhere, Derek had it in him to be soft, to be gentle. He never thought he would actually see it happen, especially in a Stiles-related context. "Maybe I am," Derek says, "or maybe you're projecting, as usual."

Stiles frowns when Derek grabs his jacket and hands it to him.

"Or maybe," Derek says, "I don't want you to be cold. Keep the jacket, Stiles."

"Derek Hale, concerned about my well-being?" Stiles asks.

"Stranger things have happened," Derek says.

"Not this strange," Stiles says, but he wears the jacket home, anyway, and tries to suppress his nerdy, pathetic joy at Derek's satisfied look when he slides it on over his shirt. Even if it is only because Stiles is doing what he's told.

Whatever. It is cold, after all.


Stiles wakes to his phone rattling across his desk. It's too early for his alarm and definitely too early for anyone to be calling him. He covers his head with his pillow until it stops, but it only starts again seconds later, clattering and vibrating into his desk lamp with a high pitched jangle.

"Fuck, Scott, if you're calling me because you fell asleep with your phone again..." Stiles untangles himself from his blankets and grabs the phone, which stops ringing as soon as he touches it. Three missed calls, and seventeen texts.

Seventeen, all from Scott, one after the other.

They start off garbled, a mash of words Stiles can't parse, still too tired to process. He finally reaches one that makes sense, and yet doesn't make sense at all.

From: Scott
To: Stiles

plz wake up been kidnapped by elven council. need hlp!

The rest of them have different details about his kidnapping and elves, but nothing substantial. It's past midnight, and this is a pretty shitty joke. Scott's phone rings and rings with no answer, so Stiles hangs up and texts him back.

From: Stiles
To: Scott

Is this revenge because I wouldn't go wandering around in the dark with you last night?

From: Scott
To: Stiles

omg thank u ur awkae u hav to get derek

From: Stiles
To: Scott

You want me to risk my neck for a joke. Really?

Stiles rubs his eyes and flicks on the desk lamp, boots up his computer while he waits for Scott to respond. There's no way he's going to call Derek for some stupid revenge prank before checking the GPS on Scott's phone.

From: Scott
To: Stiles

their tlking about killing me

From: Scott
To: Stiles

srsly no joke im rapped in tree i was rnning on north trail by the old bridge

Stiles frowns as he logs into the account on Scott's phone and checks. "Holy shit," he says, as he watches the map load with the GPS dot. It's miles into the woods, way farther than the running trail, way farther than Stiles has been even during the day.

He fumbles for his phone and scrolls through all Scott's messages, reading each one before he thumbs back and sends a new one.

From: Stiles
To: Scott

Please tell me you're serious and didn't get lost before I call Derek to tell him you got kidnapped by elves because you were in the woods alone.

From: Scott
To: Stiles

i didnt get lost this is real!!!!!

Stiles is already loading up his research and files as he dials Derek's number, but he knows that there's nothing about elves. He never thought he would need a file for elves. "Pick up," he says, and hangs up on the voicemail and tries again. Derek answers on the third ring.

"This better be so good," Derek rasps. "What is it, Stiles?"

"Scott's been kidnapped by elves," he says, nervous and flustered and terrified, of Derek's temper and the fact his best friend is miles and miles away and alone.

Derek hangs up.

Stiles calls him back once, then twice, then a third time while browsing futility through his files. He has nothing even similar to elves. When Derek picks up again, he sounds awake and pissed. "This is not funny," he says.

"In hindsight that was a bad way to open the conversation," Stiles says. "But I've checked the GPS for his phone, he's twenty miles away from where he should be in the freaking woods, and he says someone took him while he was running."

"In the dark, alone," Derek says. "Like I told him not to."

"We can be mad at him later," Stiles says. "Focus."

"He thinks it's elves," Derek says. "And you apparently believe him."

"Look, he says the elves that are talking about killing him have him trapped in a tree. I say who cares what they are, let's go rescue him from possible murderers and yell at him later for all the ways in which this is messed up."

Derek is quiet for a moment. "What do you know?"

"According to his admittedly incoherent texts, he was on the northern running trail, by that old bridge that's falling down. They came out of nowhere, grabbed him, said he was trespassing, dragged him off, and locked him in a tree."

Stiles hears Derek move, the slam of a door. "I'll get Jackson and we'll meet you by that bridge," he says. "Tell Scott we're coming and to not do anything stupid."

"You know," Stiles says. "You know who is it. Oh god, it is elves, isn't it?"

"No, it's not elves," Derek says. "I don't know who it is, but think about it. Trespassing means territory."

"What does that mean in human-speak?"

Derek's voice is grim. "It means they may know he's a werewolf."

"Well, that sounds bad."

"Bad enough, territory disputes can get ugly when we're involved." Derek's car starts. "We'll meet you. Don't you do anything stupid either, Stiles. Wait for us."

"Right," he says, already grabbing his clothes and shoes as Derek hangs up. He checks his phone to find more texts, each more panicked than the last. The last one makes his chest ache.

From: Scott
To: Stiles

1 saw me use my phone!!

From: Scott
To: Stiles


Stiles reaches over to print the map with the last coordinate of Scott's phone with a shaking hand. He throws on his clothes and as soon as the paper is out, he grabs it, his keys, and heads for the window.


So much for life giving him a fucking break, Stiles thinks, as he lays in the aftermath of the werewolf-faerie showdown in the middle of the woods.

Faeries. He has some stuff on faeries back home and he tries to remember, but everything is a little fuzzy and far away and doesn't matter, anyway because it's definitely all wrong. The faeries in his files are kind woodland creatures that don't stab people with long, wicked knives with serrated edges. His head presses against a rock, a sharp distraction from the burning pain in his side. The faerie that caught him with the knife is a lump in the dark, lying dead on the ground. The werewolf hunters are arguing with Derek, guns raised and blocking him from Stiles, over whether a werewolf killing a faerie gave them the right to get all trigger happy at his — at them — at Derek.

Stiles doesn't care much about their debate beyond whether Derek survives because he's too busy caring about the fact that he's bleeding and probably going to die. His life was so much easier before his introduction to the supernatural. It's supposed to be a terrible, life-ruining television show, not his life.

"Ow," he says when Derek shoves past the hunters — who are still arguing — and picks him up easily. "Ow, ow, my pride, seriously." It is better than the cold, hard, wet ground, though. He grimaces as he feels a trickle of blood run down from the no-doubt gaping hole in his side, sparking up an itch, tickling his skin.

"Shut up, Stiles," Derek mutters.

"Scott," he says, but he lets his head rest against Derek's arm.

"Scott's fine. He's with Jackson. Stop wiggling."

"Oh god, I'm in so much trouble," Stiles says. "Dad's going to be pissed. You're going to do something horrible, like stare at me in a disappointed manner for at least three weeks."

"You disobeyed me," Derek says as he walks away from the carnage. Every step hurts. "I said to wait for us."

"You were late."

Derek says, "The hunters slowed us down, but you still should have waited."

"Whatever, I'm a badass. I almost saved the day."

"You're an idiot, but yes, fine, you did. No almost."

"Awesome," Stiles says softly. "Not useless." Derek's grip on him tightens.

"Hey, we're not done here," one of the hunters says. Allison's dad is notably absent. Stiles feels a little sad about this. He's almost normal and level-headed if Stiles ignores the crazy eyes. He definitely would not have left Stiles bleeding on the ground to argue.

"Even if you missed the kidnapping, you saw them attack my pack," Derek says. He's so warm and Stiles is so cold, and Derek's jacket is in his Jeep, and his Jeep is — oh, right. On fire, from the flaming arrows that landed in it when he had tried to steal Scott back from the faeries and make a quick getaway. Dammit. Derek's going to be double-pissed now.

"That kid?" Someone snorts. "He's not a wolf, are you saying you're playing superhero for humans now, Hale? Tell me another one."

Stiles feels more than hears the growl, and after that, sleep is much easier than listening, anyway.


Stiles is in so much shit.

"I still don't understand why grounding is a thing for something like this," he says to his dad on the way out of the hospital. "Really? I was doing a community service."

"You were fighting with a cult in the middle of the woods at three in the morning and got stabbed with bonus infection," his dad replies. "I'm the sheriff and the police handle those things, not overeager teenagers and their friends. Now shut up and don't try to guilt me until you're out of the wheelchair and in the car. You're ruining all my defenses."

"They started it," Stiles mutters.

The car ride home is silent, worry roiling off his dad like a thick fog. Stiles stares out the window as they drive, wishing he had his phone to mess with, but no. That's in his father's possession, too. He hasn't had any visitors except for the first day, and then it had only been Scott, Jackson and Allison.

(Allison had cuffed him gently on the head and pressed a kiss to his forehead. "I appreciate it," she had said quietly after Scott left the room to get Stiles something not made of jello, "but next time don't try to be the lone wolf. I don't want to make my hospital visits longer than they already are.")

No Derek at all. Stiles has been failing at not languishing in angst over this, but whatever, he's apparently hung up on a surly werewolf. He's allowed.

Even Jackson had been nice to him even after being upstaged, which was throwing Stiles off. After that, it had been easier being grounded and bored than having to face disappointment when the people coming to see him weren't the person he wanted to see. Stiles still doesn't remember anything until waking up attached to machines. He doesn't remember anything but the low growl, rumbling through him, warning and angry, but not at him.

Home is great. His own shower is great, privacy is great, although when he comes to his room after his shower, the lack of computer on his desk is not great. "I see what you're doing!" Stiles shouts down the hall. "You're punishing me for my mortality by ripping away things that keep me tethered and occupied!"

"Do your homework instead!" his father yells back.

Which, he has a point. What with the wound, the blood loss, the infection and the hospital, Stiles is pretty behind on everything. Which is why he turns around with the determination to get dressed and tackle it, and instead jumps hard back against his door when Derek is standing inside his open window, looking pissed.

He grips his towel a little harder. "Hey, it's...a little cold out there," he says, panicking, because him wearing a towel with Derek in the room is a recipe for disaster. "And I'm...wet...having just gotten out of the shower..."

Derek reaches behind himself and shuts the window.

They stare at each other, both so quiet that Stiles can hear his father in the kitchen, banging around and making dinner. Stiles may be grounded, but he's definitely getting his favorite foods tonight. If he survives to eat them.

"So," he says, because never let it be said he knows how to break an uncomfortable silence without being awkward. "I'm...wearing a towel."

"You look better," is all Derek provides.

"You think I look better in a towel?" Stiles asks, incredulous.

"I think you look better now than bleeding out in the woods," Derek says. "The towel has nothing to do with it."

"Oh. Thanks." Stiles licks his lips. "You didn't—come to see me. Not now, because obviously here you are. But before."

Derek raises a brow. "You wanted me to?"

Stiles holds his towel even harder. "No! Of course not, um—thanks for taking me to the hospital and all. That was nice of you. Did you need something? Because if my Dad finds you here I'm even bigger toast than usual, as I am grounded hard in a very indefinite manner."

"You really can't tell a decent lie," Derek says. "I don't even have to listen, you broadcast it everywhere."

"Oh." Stiles watches Derek watch him, watches his gaze flit down to the stitches on his right side, tries not to think how he really, really does not compare to the way Derek looks at all. "Well, fine, maybe I did want you to come visit at least once. Check and see how I was. Say hi. We could've played fetch Stiles something to eat that doesn't taste like cherries or cardboard."

"You're not useless," Derek says suddenly. "I don't know where you got that idea, but it's wrong. You don't have to do idiotic heroics to prove it."

"I didn't—"

"Can't lie to me." Derek looks pissed and smug at the same time. Stiles doesn't even know how that's possible.

"Well, so maybe I did do it a little because of that, but fuck off, Scott is my best friend. Of course I'm going to go after him when he gets kidnapped by faeries."

"And we're your pack," Derek says. "So you trust us and we work together."

"Am I?" Stiles asks, and tenses when Derek looks furious, which is both terrifying and super hot. Fuck, Stiles has not had enough time to come to grips with any of these feelings. Goddamn faeries, they're his least favorite right now. And speaking of least favorites, he doesn't think Derek is very fond of him, either, given the look on his face. It's way more reminiscent of pre-Alpha Derek than the Derek who gives Stiles his jacket and walks him to his car and cares about whether he's cold or carries him, bleeding, out of forests. Right now Stiles doesn't know how to deal with either of them. He's out of his element — leaning toward definitely harboring secret gay feelings — and Derek is shoving him into his door, hands hot on Stiles's shoulders, while Stiles is still not wearing any clothes at all except a very thin towel.

"I'm only going to say this once, so listen up," Derek says, crowding close. "Do not do something so stupid ever again or I'll kill you myself."

Ah, okay, there he was. "Fine," Stiles says. "Got it, message received. The talentless human will sit on the sidelines and do grunt work and never put himself in any danger whatsoever while the big bad werewolves and their super-archer run off and do their thing." Which was a lie, because he is who he is. Derek probably knows it's a lie, but anything to get him back through the window so Stiles can find clothes. Or orgasms, because being manhandled is apparently a thing now. Great.

Stiles isn't good at reading people who aren't Scott or his dad, but for a moment he actually thinks Derek looks hurt; like Stiles has gone and stomped all over his feelings, like Stiles was able to find them in order to stomp them. The expression is gone just as quickly. The familiar cool, accessing look replaces it. Derek lets him go and steps back.

Stiles rescues his drooping towel. "Well, this has been revealing."

"You're father is coming up the stairs," Derek says, and then, full of hypocrisy, "Take care of yourself." Then he's gone, through the window and away, and Stiles is left alone in his towel with the feeling of Derek's hands on his skin.


It's not like he's avoiding anyone. He's still, technically, grounded, but after a week his dad had relented and given his phone and computer back. The loss of his car still stings, but that had in fact been his own fault, and going back to school catching a ride with the lovebirds isn't too bad. He goes to school, sees people, and goes home, and he likes it that way. Being technically grounded is great. No meetings, no hanging out in places and with people where Derek might appear, no awkward silences, and lots of time to consider what the fuck is wrong with him that out of the many gay crises he could have chosen, it had to be Derek Hale.

Because it's definitely a gay crisis. Or a gay event. He's done freaking out about it. He'd gone through it the night after Derek shoved him into a wall and threatened to kill him for almost getting killed. It had been like rediscovering his dick all over again. But it's not a gay party. Stiles doesn't feel right calling it a party. Party suggests guests, and this whole thing is, and will always be, a party of one, and that's no kind of party at all.

Depressed on a Friday night. Perfect.

He wanders downstairs after finishing his homework, procrastination defeated, and finds his dad watching reruns of I Love Lucy. He plops down on the couch.

His dad eyes him. "Just think," he says. "If you hadn't run off into the woods into the middle of the night with Scott..."

"No, no," Stiles replies. "I like it here. I am content. There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

His dad mutes the television. "Okay, out with it."

He raises his hands, because muting the television, that's code for Serious Stilinski Discussion, and his father rarely uses it. "No, really!"

"You've been extra mopey," his dad argues. "I know your mopes. I am your father and I am aware of the level, scale and length of most of the mopes you go through. This one has reached its height, and I am the perfect glass ceiling."

"I'm fine."

"It started after the murders at the Hale place."

Fuck, has he been that transparent? Apparently so. "Still maintain that I'm peachy."

"And I watched you hide behind the Nilla wafer display at the store the other night when you saw that group of boys by the meat counter."

"That was just..."

"And you won't let go me down Poplar street when we go out even though it's the quickest way to get anywhere in town."

"Yeah, fine, but..."

"Derek Hale was in that group and Derek Hale lives on Poplar Street," his dad finishes flatly. "Did he hurt you? I told him at the hospital I wanted him to stay away from you. I don't trust him, Stiles, and I want you to be honest with me if he's done something—"

"I like him!" Stiles says, and then promptly hates himself but forgets it because: what? "Wait, you told him to stay away?"

His dad looks, at least, a little guilty. A smidgen. It's not enough to provide any comfort to Stiles. "He's been a murder suspect multiple times, Stiles, and what do you mean you like him—"

"So I was lying there thinking he didn't care when actually he totally would have come to see me if you hadn't what, warned him off?"

"Do I need to warn him off more?" The thunderous look on his dad's face takes all the wind out of Stiles's sails, because he's only trying to protect Stiles, only trying to be a good father. "Answer the question—what do you mean you like him?"

"I like him, you know. Don't they have liking over there in your reality? Oh god, can we stop talking about this? This is the most mortifying conversation in the history of mortifying conversations. Unmute the TV, I'm sending myself to my room."

He tries to escape, but his dad calling his name softly stops him. Stiles turns around reluctantly. His dad doesn't seem angry anymore. Maybe Stiles is losing his touch with everyone, because Stiles can't even begin to guess what he's feeling.

"He's...a lot older than you," his dad murmurs, leaning back against the cushions of the couch. "I have a gun and probable cause."

Stiles flushes everywhere. "Oh geez, dad, nothing is going to—it's me, not him. The most I am hoping for is a friendship, maybe, or possibly just a ceasefire to hostilities—" He waves his arms when his dad looks pissed again. "Not that there have been any hostilities that have been something I can't handle."

His dad sighs. "You can always talk to me. About anything."

Stiles wonders about that sometimes, wonders what his dad would do if he knew the truth. He thinks Derek being older than him would be the least of their troubles at that point. "Yes, dad. I know. Now I'm going upstairs to recover from the emotional expulsion and absolute humiliation that just occurred." He flees to his room, and even though he listens, he doesn't hear the volume return to the television for a very long time.


Stiles is not a chicken. He's faced down angry jocks, disappointed authority figures, insane Alpha werewolves, and most recently, kidnapping, murderous faeries. He'll probably have to deal with vampires next, although he refuses to ask if they're real and how much more horrible they are in real life than in the Twilight movies. Three weeks after being stabbed with a pointy knife, one week after his Jeep is repaired and returned to him — his dad frowning over the keys when he hands them to Stiles along with a jacket that actually survived — he makes the decision and drives to Derek's apartment.

Then he promptly drives away.

"Fuck," he says. Not speaking to the object of all your extremely dirty, obscene dreams and the source of most of your angst for weeks makes it hard to reopen negotiations. Because he's weak, he texts Scott about whether Derek is angry at him, and drives around town, waiting for an answer.

From: Scott
To: Stiles

not talking about feelings w/ u go tlk 2 derek

From: Stiles
To: Scott

Remember when I supported you during your breakup? Does being bros mean nothing?

From: Scott
To: Stiles

i dnt hve the awsrs u want.

From: Scott
To: Stiles

also ur both depressed and its getting old. tlk to him!

Stiles reads the message with a sense of hope and puts on his turn signal. He can do this thing. His bravery lasts until he's knocking on Derek's door, jacket over his arm, and then it runs away as fast as it can, leaving Stiles alone and abandoned when Derek opens his door and stares at him for several long, grueling seconds.

"Since you haven't slammed the door in my face, I assume I'm welcome."

Derek snorts. "You've always been welcome." He pulls the door back and leaves it open, walking into the apartment. Stiles walks in and shuts it, which doesn't escape his notice. Alone with Derek in his apartment. Worst greatest plan ever, he thinks, bitterly.

"You're nervous," Derek says. "Why?"

Stiles fumbles with the jacket. "This is yours."

Derek frowns at the offer. "What about it?"

"It was in my Jeep, you know, when I became a giant bulls-eye. But it made it. Tough jacket."

"I gave it to you," Derek says. "You don't have to give it back."

"That was—a loan." Stiles thinks back. "That was totally a loan."

"Well, hand it over if you don't want it." Derek makes a move toward him and Stiles hugs the jacket to him and steps back.

"No, no, that's fine. I'll keep it."

Derek cocks his head and stares. It makes Stiles feel lightheaded to see it because he's missed Derek's face. How does that even work? He feels strange to holding Derek's attention for this long.

"There was a misunderstanding," Stiles says. "My dad, he told you to stay away, but he shouldn't have. I definitely wanted you to visit. You know. Because I was grateful for the carrying and the not letting me die."

Derek frowns. "I know you did. I never thought you told him to play telephone; I didn't want to cause problems between you at the time." He steps closer. "You've been pretty confused the last few months."

"Well, you can't really blame me." Stiles does not back away. He's totally not hoping for manhandling again. "It's been a confusing time for everyone."

"No, it's just you," Derek says. "It's all over you and has been since the night I became Alpha. Considering you've never known any others, it's understandable."

"Have you been sniffing me?"

"No," Derek says. "I've been breathing normally and you've been leaking your feelings everywhere. You're lucky Jackson and Scott aren't practiced enough to pick up on all of it, or you'd really be embarrassed."

"Oh," Stiles says, because, yes, feelings. Confusion and fear and the terror of rejection he'll never admit to having, and holy fuck, arousal. So yes, he gets why Derek is grinning at him with probably a dozen taunts at the ready. Stiles is going to go find a nice quiet place to die of mortification.

"I have to go find a quiet place to die of mortification," he says. He eyes the door.

"I don't think I'll ever understand you," Derek says in response, which doesn't make sense.

"Many people have expressed that same sentiment. You're not alone."

"You think I'm going to laugh at you," Derek says.

"Aren't you? I would, this is excellent mocking material that I have apparently been handing to you on a platter."

"I would have done it already." Derek steps forward; Stiles steps back and lands on the couch. "You're so convinced that no matter what you do, you'll never be good enough, or extraordinary. That you'll never be worth fighting for. That you're always someone's joke. Sound familiar?"

"Um," Stiles says, as Derek reaches down and yanks him up by the arms.

"You're wrong," Derek says. "If everyone that cares for you believes that you're special just by being yourself, why don't you?"

"This is maybe the longest and nicest speech you've ever made to me," Stiles marvels instead of answering. "Am I dreaming? Or dying? Is this some kind of last rite before you eat me?"

"You're part of my pack." Derek shakes him. "You don't have to fight for it. Don't forget that."

They stand there, pressed close, Derek's hands on his biceps. It's nice and comfortable and he's a part of this pack. This pack, led by this grumpy werewolf who seems to actually like him now, isn't going to mock him for having a crush, who wants him around even if he does have inconvenient feelings and the habit of spewing words everywhere at the worst moments.

He's the Alpha, but he's so different than the other one, who made Stiles feel like a failure, like he was a tool to be discarded, like he had cheated himself out of being better. But here and now, Stiles doesn't feel like a snack, like he's in danger, like he's less than nothing, or like he's made the wrong choice.

"I feel safe," he says, which doesn't even come close to expressing what he's feeling and doesn't make sense without the context from his head.

Derek simply nods like he heard it all. "That's a start," he says.

Stiles is tempted to lean forward and go for it. It's only a kiss and the worst that could happen would be that Derek would say, "hey, no thanks" and that would be that. But there's something here he doesn't want to ruin, so he reins in his hormones; stamps them down, hard.

He looks up and smiles. "So I really get to keep the jacket?"

Derek just rolls his eyes.


Instead of getting to relax and take it easy and maybe find out how hard he has to project the idea of kissing at Derek to make it happen, the uneasy truce with the hunters since the faerie incident is broken by three dead hikers as someone's dinner in the woods. Stiles shows up at Derek's apartment one afternoon to find three burly guys hovering outside on the landing and Chris Argent looking stormy in the doorway after he climbs up the stairs.

Derek's clenches his jaw when he meets Stiles's eyes. Stiles expects a command to leave, to go home and get out of the way, but instead all Derek says is, "Get inside now."

"This doesn't have to be difficult," Argent says, as Stiles slips past him and underneath Derek's arm, braced against the door frame. "We just need to confirm where your pack was last night."

"That's not how I work," Derek says.

"You can call them."

"You can look them up yourself," Derek says. "I'm not summoning them for you."

"You know what that looks like, Derek," one of the hunters says. "It looks like protection. You have something to hide? Your newest pup go on a bender?"

"I don't run my pack—"

"Like an Alpha?" Argent says idly. "I've noticed that. Interesting."

Derek says nothing, but Stiles is close enough to feel him tense and has been at the center of that glare enough times to know it means nothing good for anyone. "I can text him and have him meet you at your house," Stiles offers, phone already out and typing the text. "Scott is with Allison, so that should make everything even easier, two wolves with one visit."

Stiles can't say he likes Argent much, but he's better than some of the hunters passing through recently. Maybe he thinks Scott is a monster and not worthy of his daughter, but as long as Scott isn't chewing on humans he's chill. He doesn't look so chill now.

"Text sent," Stiles says, hoping Jackson actually listens for once. "Best we can do."

"Adopted a stray," Argent says. "How cute."

This time, Derek does growl, low and pissed, but Argent only smirks and leaves without any further commentary. Stiles swallows his nerves and pulls Derek away from the door so he can shut it, locking it firmly behind them like that will keep the hunters from coming back.

"That sucked," Stiles says. "I heard about the hikers at school. wasn't us, right? It couldn't have been."

Derek shook his head. "I went up there. The smell is all wrong and doesn't make sense."

"Another pack?"

"It's not just wolves, so no."

Stiles says, full of frustration, "Then what? What can you give me that's useful so I can start looking for answers?"

Derek blinks at him and finally, finally, relaxes. "This is not our battle."

"Hello, three people are dead and the local Animal Control wants someone to blame. Guess who's convenient?"

"They have to have solid proof it was one of us and they won't find that, because it wasn't us."

"But you have an idea of who it could have been."

Derek — and there's no other word for it — hesitates. "It's hard to pin down. It reeked up there. I wouldn't know where to start."

Stiles heads for the door. "Then it's time to go back to my place, which has a very useful Internet connection, and for you to share your knowledge so we can clear our name. Another murder accusation and my father will make asking you to stay away from me will look nice."

He's rushing and not really trying, but luckily, it makes Derek laugh, anyway.


Stiles mutters when someone shakes him, and shrugs the hand off, only to get tugged upright and awake the next second.


He yawns and looks up at Derek's angry face, complete with flashing eyes, which is a sure sign Stiles is doing something to piss him off. "Oh. You and Jackson done bouncing around the forest?"

"Have you been here since this afternoon?"

Stiles blinks in the glare of his desk lamp. "Well, yes, because I can't be helpful and go sniff the woods. Gotta rely on technology and human trickery."


"What? It was a small, innocent nap. I wasn't even out that long."

"You haven't answered any texts in over two hours. You've been sleeping on top of your keyboard for who knows how long. You're done."

"Creeper. Stop peeping through my window," Stiles says, when what he really means is the exact opposite, which is super messed up. "I need a little more time. Do you know how hard it is to do research based on something you saw and smelled and I was never near? I don't know how you know how to recognize the smell of a hyena or a panther, anyway."

"They're called zoos, and what you need to do is sleep." Derek hauls him up and to the bed. In another circumstance, this would be extremely hot, but Stiles is so tired that he barely registers Derek shoving him onto the mattress and yanking at his shoes. However, he does notice when Derek unbuttons his pants, and comes as awake as he's ever been.

"Whoa, whoa." He grabs Derek's hands, which earns him a glare and a mental kick because, fuck, why deny himself the realization of a fantasy? Stiles knows he is many things, but dumb is not one of them. "I...never mind. Carry on, I am going to lie here quietly."

Derek laughs, and god, Stiles is addicted to that. So much so that he doesn't even care that it's at his expense. Plus, it's worth it to feel his jeans slide over his hips and legs and right off, even if Derek doesn't touch him. When Derek throws the covers over him, he dares to open his eyes.

"There's a promising article I'm reading," Stiles mutters, watching Derek turn off his computer and the lights. "I'm going to figure it out."

"You don't have to worry about it until after you've slept."

"It's important research," Stiles argues. He thinks about the reports Jackson and Scott have given him, since Derek won't let him go near the woods. "Very important."

"Not important enough to not sleep."

"Do vampires exist?" Stiles asks idly. "Because I've been thinking about it for awhile and I'm pretty sure I've imagined every scary possibility based on my research and I'm convinced that whatever I've imagined is not even close to the real deal."

"Sleep," Derek says. "Or else I will knock you out."

"Yeah, those threats don't phase me anymore. I am on to you, Mr. Feelings."

Derek hovers over him, scowling and pissed even in the almost-dark. It's true, Stiles has been awake for almost thirty-six hours, the Internet is being an asshole and not giving him what he needs, there are five strangers in town who don't look like murderers but somehow are, and the hunters are circling Jackson constantly. Stiles doesn't have any answers, but he wants them. He wants them to dump at Derek's feet to make him stop looking so stressed, so hunted.

"Fine, fine," Stiles says, and rolls over. "Sleeping, close the window on your way out."

"Call me when you wake up." It's the nicest order yet. Stiles is exhausted and falling asleep, but he doesn't miss the hand on the back of his neck nor the gentle squeeze, before Derek slips out quietly.


"Why did it have to be shapeshifters?" Stiles says again. Allison grabs his hand and hauls him off the soaked ground where Derek had shoved them and ordered them to stay. In the distance, through the wind and pouring rain, he can hear the snarls and growls of angry animals. It's impossible to tell werewolves from whatever grab bag animal the group of shifters have chosen. "I would have been okay with vampires, probably. I can't believe this."

"Don't jinx us," Allison says. She shoves her hair out her face. "Knowing our luck, those things can turn into vampires."

"Probably not. I think it's a predator thing, and there's limited amount they can copy," Stiles says. "But who knows. The research on this one: not so great." He picks wet leaves off his face. "There's gotta be a better solution than being shoved into disgusting ditches or tricked into staying behind while the dogs go chasing squirrels. Scary, murderous, form-changing squirrels, but still."

"Don't let Jackson hear you call him a dog." Allison hides a smile behind her hand. "What are we going to do?" A flash of lightning sparks across the sky, and thunder cracks overhead, making Stiles rattle.

"Well, what we always do. Ride in during the eleventh hour and save some werewolf ass." Stiles strips out of his heavy, soaking wet hoodie and leaves it in a pile on the ground. He's probably going to catch pneumonia at this rate. The evildoers can never wait for a nice, clear night, or maybe summer. No, never. They always have to have ambushes during the winter, rain or post rain and ruin his day.

"Exactly what I was thinking," Allison says, laughing.

Unfortunately, it's not so easy to save the day when the shapeshifters fade to smoke and arrows pass through them, only to reform into something bigger and scarier. Allison is spry, nimble through the trees, and Stiles could be, but falling flat on his face in the mud is what he's good at, so that's pretty much what he does almost immediately.

He rolls over to an extremely angry panther which then shifts to a wolf in front of his face, exhaling hotly with reeking breath over him. There's no fucking way that's happening, he thinks. He grabs a rock laying nearby and slams it into the wolf's open, dripping mouth. Before he can haul himself up and make a break for it Scott is rolling in front of him, wolfed out. He charges through the wispy smoke and is knocked aside by the paw of a bear.

"I'd kill for a vacuum right now," Stiles mutters. "Or a ghost trap."

He scrambles up the hill, through the dark and over wet leaves. He's thankful that the rain has stopped and hoping that will help. It's five against three, growls and yelps echoing in the night. He sickly hopes Derek is okay. Stiles doesn't like these odds at all. He ducks around a tree when a hand reaches out and grabs him. He shouts and then finds himself pressed against Allison.

"They're vulnerable when they newly formed," she says quickly. "One ran away from me when he shifted to the wolf form and I had my knife. We can hurt them. There's a moment, between new and already there. But I don't know for how long."

"It can't be long, a few seconds. The others would have taken them out already." He grimaces. "You know what that means."

"Bait," she says. "They want to be wolves when they kill us. They're framing us."

"This is the worst," Stiles complains. "The worst."

"I have the arrows, you have the tasty snacks," Allison says, and pats his cheek. "Go piss off a shapeshifter for me."

"If I die a virgin, I'm haunting you," he warns.

"Don't worry." She graces him with a hard look; he's really glad she's on their side. "I won't miss."


After that, it's a little anti-climatic; all over except fake running away, being tripped up and snared a few times by angry predators, a totally mild wolf bite, and then the heavy weight of very dead people with arrows through their hearts. Once three are gone, Jackson, Scott and Derek make quick work of the last two. All that's left is a pile of dead bodies full of arrows and gashes.

"This is really noticeable," Scott says. "What do we do? Bury them?"

"Don't bother," Derek says, limping up to them. He says, "They'll be gone within an hour."

Allison stares down. "What...they're going to disappear?"

"Yes," Stiles says, watching Jackson circle around, yanking out arrows from the bodies. "That's how shifters work, it says so in everything I read."

Allison doesn't say anything, but Stiles can see she's upset about it. Stiles doesn't have much sympathy.

Jackson bends down to grab one last arrow. "That was quick thinking," he says to Stiles and Allison. "I'm not sure we would have made it much longer."

"Just contributing to the overall health of the pack," Stiles says. "Allison deserves the credit. I mostly fell down a lot and looked appetizing."

"Thanks, anyway." Jackson rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. Derek only looks grumpy and doesn't offer any thanks at all.

They all trek out of the woods, squelching but mostly silent, except for Scott, who demands a play by play from Allison of how she took down the bad guys. When Stiles gets back to his Jeep, he has two missed calls, both from his father, and one voice mail saying he better be home by ten or else. He really didn't want to have to face another 'or else' so soon.

When he looks up, Derek is standing beside him, looking wrecked and also pissed. But only one of those things is new.

"Hey," Stiles says. "I have about three minutes to get home, which means I'm still going to be twenty minutes late. There probably won't be any supernatural battles in the wood for awhile."

"Bait," Derek says. "Bait." He glares at Stiles's arm. "You're bleeding."

Shit. "Absolutely, bait. It was not the greatest plan, but it worked out fine. I'll heal, too, it'll only take a little longer. It doesn't have to be a thing." There's something in Derek's tone that Stiles doesn't like much. He wonders why Derek can never tell him great job and always makes him feel inept for getting a little scrapped up.

"It was unnecessary risk," Derek says.

"It was totally necessary, we were losing. But okay, next time I'll definitely check with you on plans for saving your ass." Total lie, again. Stiles feels like he spends all his time lying to Derek, who knows when he's lying, so what's the point? All Stiles wants suddenly is an actual thanks, maybe a quick hug, which would be warm, if a little soggy. "Listen, if you want to yell at me, we could probably hold off until you've done your wolf healing sparkle magic and I've taken a shower and am no longer wearing wet jeans that weigh three hundred pounds."

Stiles expects the request to go ignored, or the request to be granted but with extreme prejudice and possibly one good shove into the side of his Jeep for lip, even though it's been a long time since Derek touched him in any way that wasn't friendly. What he doesn't expect is for Derek to crowd him against his Jeep, curl his hands around Stiles's neck and kiss him.

Stiles is not an expert on kissing, at all. Not even close. What is kissing, anyway? He doesn't even know except for how now he does. When Derek seals their mouths together and presses Stiles back against his Jeep hard, big hands curling around the curve of Stiles's head, he realizes very fast that Derek Hale is kissing him, holy fuck, and that it is a very good kiss. Great. Amazing. This is not his bias toward Derek and kiss virginity talking, nope.

Derek tastes like blood and the wet-sharp flavor of rainwater. He kisses Stiles like this is the first and only time he'll get to: greedy and demanding and forceful; like he thinks Stiles is going to say no. Stiles arches against him, invites him in, opens his mouth and groans. For all his active imagination he hasn't come close to the real heat of Derek, the hard, scorching line of his body that is perfect and everything Stiles wants. Derek slips an arm down to hold him close, presses a hot palm against the cold damp fabric at the small of Stiles's back. It's every positive adjective in the world all at once, heady and addictive. Derek curling their tongues together, the grip of his hands, the firm thigh pressing his apart, makes Stiles whimper and grind into it, unashamed. Stiles never imagined ever getting to have this, even for a moment, and he wraps an arm around Derek's neck and chases his mouth when Derek pulls back abruptly, eyes glowing red.

"No, no, stopping is a terrible idea," Stiles says thickly, burying his fingers in Derek's wet hair.

"Stiles," Derek says, and Stiles has never heard Derek sound like this. His voice is full of longing and loneliness and things Stiles doesn't know enough about yet to unpack. He can't believe Derek is even showing that those feelings exist. "We can't."

"Hello, we can. We just did," Stiles argues. "It was amazing. It's still amazing. Come back."

"You're—I'm not—" Derek does kiss him again, close-mouthed and lingering and nuzzles at his cheek.

"No objections," Stiles says, bravely risking a kiss of own to the corner of Derek's mouth. "There may even be negative objections. That's a thing."

For a moment, a perfect moment, Derek tightens his grip and holds on. Then he pulls away, and Stiles can't keep him there, can't hang on, can't do anything but watch him back off and close off and look like he never wanted to kiss Stiles at all. And yep, there are the doubts, because maybe he didn't. Maybe it was the heat of the moment, a thank-you gone too far. Because bros do that, right? Thank you kisses with tongue?

Amazing first kiss, Stiles thinks, shitty bad luck ending. His life.

"Go home, we'll talk about this later," Derek says. He walks away like Stiles wasn't his ride to this investigation-turned-battle, leaving Stiles aroused and wet and frustrated.

"I'm supposed to be the emo one that stomps off," Stiles complains to the empty clearing where Derek used to be. "That's so cheating."


Stiles expects that talking about it is going to consist of Derek pretending it never happened, being weird around him, and possibly avoidance and shunning. One day he'll learn not to expect the usual of Derek Hale. He's reading through his chemistry book two days later when his dad knocks on his bedroom door.

"You have a guest," his dad says calmly, but his eyes tell a different story. "I know Derek Hale hasn't been a teenager for awhile," he said pointedly, "so maybe you could remind him what grounded means."

Stiles drops the book on his face. "He's here? At the door?"

"No, he came through the kitchen window," his dad replies. "Yes, at the door." He watches Stiles scramble up. "You have ten minutes and then I want him gone."

Now is probably not the best time to freak out that Derek has learned not to crawl through windows, or to wonder what he might have told Stiles's dad he wanted to talk about that made him cave when he's successfully turned Scott away twice. The front door is closed when Stiles gets downstairs.

"You didn't invite him in?" Stiles asks. "It's cold outside!" His dad looks like he may change his mind altogether, so Stiles quickly grabs the jacket hanging on the hook and throws it on. "Ten minutes, got it, not a second over." His dad eyes him like he already knows he's going to have to do an extremely awkward reminder.

Derek is standing on the porch looking off into the trees when Stiles steps out. His back is to Stiles, shoulders tense. Stiles remembers the solid weigh of him, determined and wanting. Now it's all tangled up in the easy way he left, the lack of explanation, and all the bad things Stiles has been imagining: that he wasn't good enough, that it had been a mistake caused by adrenaline and relief at being alive and that he wasn't good enough. Stiles has imagined it all and the more he does the more he doubts that the reason he wants to be true is true at all.

"My window not good enough for you anymore?" Stiles asks.

"Being alone with you is not a good idea right now," Derek says, turning. He looks exhausted. Stiles wants to hug him and maybe feed him a little and make him sleep, which is warring with the desire to invite him through the window and into his bed for as many messy sex acts as possible.

"Stop that," Derek warns, and shit, yeah. Derek knows when he does that stuff. "Stiles, you're young, you're only—"

"Hey!" Stiles says. Things are clearing up a bit now. "If that's really what you came here to tell me, if talking about it is you lecturing me about my age, then—" He throws up his hands. "Why did you even kiss me to begin with? We've been doing fine, with me thinking this is one-sided and that I'll eventually get over it. Then you have to go and ruin it with your stupidly perfect mouth and kissing skills."

"One-sided." Derek snorts.

"Yes, I get it. You don't have to rub it in," Stiles says. "But if you're playing ball now, this doesn't have to be complicated. It's simple."

"This isn't simple," Derek says. "I've been where you are, where it looks like it's everything you want. But it's too much, too soon."

"We don't have to go shopping for condoms tomorrow or anything," Stiles says, and is rewarded with Derek Hale legitimately flushing in the yellow glare of the porch light.

"Stiles, this is a bad idea."

"I am great at bad ideas." The look Derek levels at him is a clear challenge to that claim, but Stiles pushes forward. "The age thing is an issue, but it doesn't have to be a big deal. We can make it not a big deal."

Derek shakes his head. "I didn't come here to bargain with you. This is not a debate."

"Derek—" Stiles steps forward, unsure of what he's going to do, but tired of the distance, where there hadn't been distance for so long.

"No." Derek backs away and the move, maybe the only time Derek has moved that direction in a Stiles-related context, shocks Stiles so much he stops. "I made a mistake. It happened, but it won't happen again. If that's not good enough, this is my pack and I'm drawing the line. Your emotions are all over the place, and if you can't control them yet, that's fine. But I can control how I react to them."

For the first time, Stiles has nothing to say. He's been hoping for an answer and here it is. One-sided, as expected; a mistake, as predicted. "Am I out of the pack?" he asks finally.

"Don't be a moron," Derek says. "Of course not, unless you want to be."

They stand there for a moment, Stiles looking anywhere but at Derek, because worse right now than the dismissive tone would be having to see any sort of pity.

"Your father was just at the door," Derek says softly. "Your time is up. You should go in."

"Yeah," Stiles says, because there's nothing left to say. "I—I'll see you later."

Inside, his dad has moved back to the living room and the television is playing an old movie Stiles doesn't recognize. He pauses by the couch after hanging up his jacket, which he wishes now he had given back to Derek, while at the same time glad he didn't. "Thanks," he says. "For letting me talk to him."

His dad looks up, but doesn't mute the sound. "I'm sorry," he says carefully, and yeah, of course he listened, that was probably Derek's whole game; double humiliation. "Want to get pizza for dinner?"

Stiles gives in and sits on the couch beside him, close, and steals the remote. "Only if I get pineapple on my half."

"Heathen," his dad mutters, and doesn't complain when Stiles turns the channel to TLC, "but done."


"What's up with you?" Scott asks him after practice as soon as he's out of the showers, dripping all over him.

"Hey, hey," Stiles complains and moves away, tugging on his shirt quickly. "Dry off before you get touchy-feely, please."

"You do realize that you tackled Jackson during practice, right?" Scott asks. "I mean, sure, the only reason you took him down was before he didn't think you could take him down, and it was super cool to watch, but really...something's up."

"Are we out of conversational topics?" Stiles asks. "You heard him, he was an asshole. He called me too slow and then got in my way, the end."

"If you played like that all the time, you'd make first line."

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Welcome to the conversation, Jackson. Let's all gather round and have show and tell, the Stiles-wilted-pride-and-ego version."

"We're worried, dude," Scott says. "You're way more spacey than normal and you've been flying off the handle tons. Are you sick? Did that wolf bite get infected or something?"

"No, I'm not sick. I'm fine! I'm great."

"He had a fight with Derek, but he won't admit it, I bet," Jackson says. "Derek's been a complete asshole, too."

"Get out of our heads with your creepy werewolf powers," Stiles complains. The last thing he wants to think about is an Alpha-Beta bond, or Derek maybe laughing over the whole thing with Jackson, or the fact that Jackson gets to have a relationship with Derek, period.

"So?" Scott asks. "They argue all the time."

"More so than usual. Come you, you know what I mean, McCall."

"What's up with you two?" Scott demands. "It's been weird for months."

Stiles bends over to tie his shoes. "There's nothing weird. Derek and I are not fighting, and everything is normal. I've been busy with school and I'm sick of freaking out my dad."

"Whatever," Jackson says. "I don't care what happened, but it'd be great if you could stop avoiding him. It makes Derek an utter douchebag to everyone else."

"He's been at our throats more than usual," Scott says quietly after Jackson leaves. "Why haven't you been coming with us? You're not grounded anymore."

This is the last conversation Stiles wants to have with anyone. Especially Scott, who is learning more and more everyday and will soon be able to tell when he's lying. He never appreciated lying so much before he lost the ability to do so with the people he lies to the most.

"Remember when Allison dumped you," Stiles asks, ignoring Scott's grumble, because whatever, he was dumped, it was a fact, "and we got drunk in the woods?"

"You got drunk," Scott reminds him. "One right of passage I get to miss out on."

"I told you something," Stiles says. "I said being broken up is better than being alone."

"Yeah, and you said it didn't make sense, which it didn't. It still doesn't make sense, because being broken up means you're alone."

"No. Broken up means you had the chance," Stiles says. "The chance to succeed or fail."

Scott says, "Are we talking about Lydia? Because she's going to wake up."

"No, we're—we're talking in general terms." Not general enough, apparently. Scott stares at him, bewildered. "The end of a relationship means there was a relationship, and sure, that's depressing, but it's worse to never get to have one and have to imagine how it could have gone, bad and good and in-between." He shakes his head. "But what do I know? I've never been in one, so I'm probably making things up."

"You're being strange," Scott says as he pulls on his clothes. "What are you even talking about?"

Stiles buries his face in his hands and wishes — not the first time — that there was more cultural acceptance for guys talking about feelings so they could practice. This is horrible.

"Derek kissed me," Stiles says, going for broke and watches Scott's face go through at least seven emotions before finally settling on absolute comical horror, pants halfway on and wearing only one sock.

"He what?" Scott hisses.

"Don't look like that, I kissed him back!" Stiles says, and then lowers his voice when one of the guys from first line shoots a startled look in their direction from his bench. "After the thing with the shapeshifters."

Now Scott looks horrified and pissed. "You what? That was a week ago! Oh god. Is all this weirdness because you're dating secretly?" He stands and paces. "How could you not tell me?"

"Are you really this bad at following clues even after I laid them out in a straight line?" Stiles asks. "Oh wait, yes, of course you are. We're not dating secretly, we're not dating at all. It was a mistake."

Scott stops and glares at him. "The part where he kissed you or the part where you kissed him back? I know he's the Alpha, but he can't—force himself on—"

Well, fuck. "No," Stiles says. "The first one. Absolutely the first one, I was totally on board, dude. He's the one who said it was a no-go."

Scott is mollified, but only for a moment. "But it's—if he kissed you can he turn you down? What the hell is that about?"

"Being a kid," Stiles says. It sucks, but he can see where's Derek's coming from. "He's twenty-three, Scott. And I'm, you know, not even close."

Scott sits down heavily on the bench across from Stiles. "Allison is older than me."

"That's negligible, she's in our class," Stiles says. "Can't even be compared."

"What are you going to do?" Scott asks. He bites his lip. "I like having you with us. It's not the same when you're gone."

"It was a little humiliating having the super hot guy I like say, thanks but no thanks, you might as well be in diapers," Stiles says. "But it's my thing, being shot down by super hot people. I'm almost used to it. I just wanted space to lick my wounds, recover some pride."

"If he hurts you, you should tell me," Scott says.

"He's your Alpha. What are you going to do, wrestle with him and inevitably lose?" Scott shoots him a dirty look. "No, seriously, I mean it. I'm not causing problems in the pack. That's part of the reason I took some time."

"Fine." Scott reaches out for his shoes. "Maybe I shouldn't leave you alone with him anymore."

"It's not going to be an issue," Stiles says. "He made himself clear that it was a one-time thing caused by, like, me letting my emotions get all over his wolf senses and wouldn't happen again."

Scott snorts. "You actually believe that, don't you?"

"There wasn't that much room for other interpretations."

"And he can lie to you, not the other way around," Scott points out. "Maybe you should stop thinking of all the ways that you suck and deserve him turning you down. You might believe whatever he fed you, but I know Derek. He doesn't do anything without meaning to, not ever."

"People get caught up," Stiles argues, unconvinced.

"Yeah, people do," Scott tugs his hoodie over his head. "But Derek's not people. If he kissed you, he knew what he was doing and it was because he wanted to. If he told you no afterward it was probably because he really wants to do it again and is trying to be responsible." He fiddles with the string of his hoodie. "Derek doesn't actually enjoy making people's lives harder. I think."

"Right," Stiles says, considering it. It's not that far-fetched if he takes the part where he's not awesome out of the equation. "So, I need a plan to prove that he's into me."

"What kind of plan?" Scott asks carefully.

"A plan of seduction," Stiles says.

"Um." Scott makes a face. "I already regret this entire pep talk."


Stiles has no clue how to seduce anyone, girl or guy or werewolf. Scott looks at him, betrayed, when he asks for advice and covers his ears with his hands. He's on his own for this one, out of his element, with no idea of where to start. He considers swallowing his pride and going over because it had worked out okay the last time. He can't gather up enough courage to actually manage it on his own, though.

"You're coming to dinner tonight or else," Jackson says, looping his arm around Stiles's shoulder as they leave for the parking lot after school on Friday. "There's no one to answer McCall's idiotic questions or to be comedic relief. Your presence is required."

"Ha ha, because I'm a joke," Stiles says.

"No, asshole, you're good at being funny," Jackson says, shoving Stiles away as they approach his car. "Be there or I'll come get you myself."

So the where to start problem is solved, since being in the same room with the person you want to seduce is a requirement. It doesn't make it easier to actually go. He staves off a mild anxiety attack at the bottom of the stairs and stays there until Allison's car pulls up with her and Scott so they can walk up together.

"Glad you're back," Allison says, bumping his shoulder as Scott bounds up the stairs. "I knew you couldn't stay away forever."

"I heard people were getting a little grumpy at the lack of me. Understandable."

Allison laughs. "You're kidding, but it's true. You know he worries about you all when you're not around."

"Well, he wanted the job and he knows where my window is when he feels the need to creep on me."

"You two have such a weird relationship," she says, approaching the door where Scott is knocking.

"You have no idea. Ask him about the time he slammed my face into my steering wheel," Stiles says, right as Derek opens the door and the silence sets in. Scott and Allison conveniently decide to run out of words.

"Well, this is awkward," Stiles says.

"When is it anything else with you?" Derek steps back to let them in. "You still deserved that."

"Says you," Stiles says, as he strips off his jacket. He watches Derek as he does it, watches how Derek pauses when he sees that it's his jacket. Stiles wishes he could do sexy when removing clothes, but unfortunately that never works out. He always ends up stuck and flailing.

Dinner is takeout: steaming cartons of fried rice and saucy vegetables and beef with greasy eggrolls. They pile around on the couch and cheap foldout camping chairs. Scott, even if he refuses to actively help with Stile's plan of seduction, still manages to get Jackson to stay to one side of the couch instead of sprawling out next to Derek like he usually does so Stiles can plop down between them. It's the perfect location to insert himself into Derek's personal space as well as close enough that he can steal pieces of broccoli from Derek's plate and trade him the water chestnuts.

"There's more food in the kitchen," Derek says flatly to him after Scott and Jackson's argument about something lacrosse related heats up and leaves everyone else alone with their plates.

"Yes, but yours is right here," Stiles says, grabbing another vegetable with his chopsticks. "You hate broccoli and love water chestnuts, don't start." He licks his lips to chase teriyaki sauce. Derek doesn't look away from Stiles and his completely innocent gaze, but his eyes narrow. "Be honest, they remind you of the bones of your enemies. Crunch, crunch."

"You're disgusting," Derek says. "I'm sorry you came back."

"I think that's a dirty lie," Stiles counters. "A little bird told me you missed me tons, and that there was pining, and that you cried over a secret picture of me in your wallet."

"It's getting a little ragged," Derek says. Fuck, Stiles thinks, giddy, he's playing along. "Since I've been using it with my dart set. But if you're not going to leave I can just use your face for my tensions."

"Excellent," Stiles says, "always available for violent outbursts."

Derek rolls his eyes and goes back to his food. Stiles turns away to see that Scott and Allison have started on dish duty. Watching through the breakaway between the living room and tiny kitchen, he can see Allison spraying Scott with water. Next to him, Jackson stares.

"What?" Stiles asks, nervous about the attention as Jackson looks back and forth between him and Derek.

"Nothing," Jackson says slowly. "I'm taking your fortune cookie."

"No, that's fine, go right ahead," Stiles says, and watches Jackson grab it and head toward the kitchen. "Being a werewolf has made him so much weirder and harder to understand, but he's as entitled as always. Some things don't change."

"Here," Derek says, handing Stiles his cookie. The plastic crinkles when Derek presses it into his hand. "Wouldn't want you to miss out on stale cookies."

Stiles opens it and breaks it in half, handing one part to Derek but keeping the fortune-half. "Be patient! The Great Wall wasn't built in one day," Stiles reads. "That's a lot of patience they're asking me to have."

"Hopeless cause," Derek says.

"I resent that. I can be patient if I want to be," Stiles replies. He must be pretty far gone, because he doesn't even get angry when Derek laughs in his face.


Stiles gets sidetracked from seduction plans by a combination of schoolwork, his father's newly discovered propensity to hover in light of a wave of petty crime and Scott's determination to hog as much of Stiles's time as he can to make Derek jealous. It's the stupidest plan and exactly why Stiles is the plan guy because Scott would be the last person Derek would need to be jealous of. Finally, when things are settling down and Stiles is convinced he can get back to business and drop by, the flu strikes with a vengeance.

"Whoa," Stiles says to Derek, who looks shitty. That's saying something, because Stiles has seen him mostly dead a few times now. "You don't look great, dude." Stiles isn't sure if he's ever seen Derek in a shirt that wrinkled before.

"What do you want?"

Stiles frowns. "You totally have the flu that's going around."

Derek blinks at him, and the lack of snappy, rude comeback to that blatant statement of the obvious has Stiles pushing his way inside.

"Get out," Derek says. "Why are you even here?"

"Came over to get the library books I left here and what is that smell?" Stiles demands. He's not sure what it is, but something has clearly has died in the apartment. "You know what, no, don't tell me. Just go sit on the couch or something." There's a little shock when Derek does so, sort of, even if there's less sitting and more collapsing.

Derek's bedroom smells sour and sweaty, sheets mussed and tangled around the foot of the bed. He digs around a bit to find fresh ones. Ten minutes later, the bed is changed. He kicks the pile of old sheets and pillowcases down the narrow hall to the closet where the washing machine is and then goes to check on Derek.

He's sleeping, neck at a horrible angle, and he barely moves when Stiles shakes him. "Up, up," he says. "Beds are for sleeping."

"You put me here," Derek murmurs. "Make up your mind."

"Do you need help?"

Derek gives him a halfhearted glare and then hauls himself up. Stiles follows and stops him before he falls face down on the bed. "Here," he says, shoving the clean clothes he had liberated from the dresser into Derek's hands. "Change, then lie down."

"What are you doing?" Derek asks. "Why are you still here?"

Sure, Stiles doesn't mind the mild antagonism between them, the give and take they've been indulging in, but not when Derek looks so fucking miserable. "I'm not fighting with you," he says softly. "You're sick. I changed your sheets and you'll feel better in clean clothes." Derek stares at him, and Stiles shrugs. "Or stay in the gross ones, whatever. I'll be right back."

He fumes a little in his head while he starts a load of laundry, and discovers the location of the smell is the trash which hasn't been taken out. He does that, making sure to grab the spare key off the breakfast bar in case Derek gets any ideas. When he comes back, he digs around Derek's kitchen for anything at all that's healthy. He finds a can of chicken noodle soup in the back of the pantry and a pot that seems to be clean.

His phone rings while he's waiting for the soup to boil, and he winces when he sees his dad's number.

"School's been out for two hours, where are you?"

"At Derek's."

There's silence for a moment, and Stiles can feel the inner debate his dad is having with himself. "You okay?"

"Came over to pick up some books I left and he's pretty sick," Stiles says. "That flu, I guess. The one you forced me into the extremely painful shot for."

"Haven't gotten sick yet, have you?" his dad asks. "Doesn't seem like Derek has someone to force him into extremely painful shots."

Stiles doesn't even know if a vaccine would work on a werewolf. "Yeah, well, I'm making him some soup and staying to make sure he drinks it so he doesn't die of dehydration."

"Call me if you go anywhere else," he dad says, surprising him.

"Right," Stiles says slowly. "Thanks."

He cleans up the kitchen a little and then hangs out playing Fruit Ninja on his phone until the soup is done and cool enough that Stiles can carry a mug into the bedroom. Derek is on his stomach, face mashed into his pillow, covers kicked back to the bottom edge of the bed. He's in the new pajamas and dirty clothes are in a pile by the wall. Stiles very carefully thinks about the fact he handed Derek sweats and a t-shirt but no underwear and tries to keep his thoughts pure as snow.

"Still here," Derek mutters when Stiles sets the mug down on the rickety stand beside the bed.

"Still unappreciative." He hovers, unsure. "I don't suppose over the counter crap will make you feel any better?"

"Just time," Derek croaks. He sits up for a moment and drinks. He sits the mug, almost empty, noodles clinging to the sides of the cup, back on the table. "Thanks," he says.

"There's more in the kitchen," Stiles says. "You should be drinking water, too."

"Later," Derek says. "I'll be fine, you can go home."

Stiles is uncertain, but after a short debate he decides he doesn't care what Derek thinks of his motivations. He toes off his shoes and climbs across the bed, sliding into the tiny empty space beside Derek.

"Stiles," Derek says into his mattress. "What are you doing?"

Stiles curls up on his side, close enough to feel how hot Derek is. "My mom used to stay with me when I was sick," he says, sliding a hand into Derek's hair, scratching gently at his scalp with his fingertips. "I always hated being alone."

Derek doesn't reply, but he breathes out heavily, and doesn't shrug Stiles off, so it's easy to keep petting him, carefully, like he might spook and change his mind. "Want me to sing you a lullaby? Moon River? Bad Moon Rising?" he asks, and Derek makes a noise like he's dying.

"Don't you dare," he says sleepily and sniffs noisily, which is pretty gross but Stiles finds he doesn't care much. "Don't stop doing that."

It's easy to lie still and run his fingers through Derek's hair, along the hot, dry skin of his neck. Somewhere between the petting and the shared warmth he loses track of time and also maybe consciousness. He wakes up and the window is bright with the street lamp. Derek is a sweaty mess all along his front, his arm draped over Stiles's waist, their legs tangled and Derek's face buried in Stiles's neck. Stiles's phone buzzes against his hip. He's hot and sticky and stupidly tired and he doesn't want to move at all.

He wriggles a bit to get at his phone, and winces when it shows five missed calls from his dad, two from Scott, and the time.

"Fuck," he says.

Derek shifts and breathes hotly against Stiles's neck, but doesn't wake up. It's pretty disgusting with the sweat, but he's normal hot and not dying of a fever hot, which Stiles counts as a win. He really wants to stay, maybe go back to sleep, but he's going to be in so much trouble. He's surprised his father isn't already outside with a rifle and handcuffs.

"Derek," he says. "Wake up."


The sound rumbles through him and Stiles grins, reaches out and runs his hand through Derek's hair again. "Petting is your weakness, huh? I'm telling everyone that the super scary Derek Hale likes to be petted."

"Don't," Derek says groggily. He goes all tense, waking up and realizing where he is and what he's doing and who he's doing it with. "What's going on?"

"I fell asleep," Stiles says. "You were supposed to sleep, not me, and now it's way past my curfew so you should probably unsuperstrength me from your bed. And take a shower, because your fever broke."

In the dark, Derek's eyes flash when he pulls away, but he doesn't go very far. "You didn't have to stay."

"Glad I did, though," Stiles says. "I have healing powers on werewolves."

Derek sighs and pushes away and yeah, they're super gross. He flips on the lamp on his beside table. "I can explain to your dad."

"Whoa, whoa, that is a terrible idea," Stiles says. "I will handle the extremely protective father, you will handle showering and drinking water and not dying. Deal?"

Derek's lips quirk into a smile, and yeah, he still looks like death, gray and exhausted, but at least more coherent death. "Deal."

"Right, time for me to go home and face the music." Stiles sighs and climbs out of the bed to grab his shoes, and stops when Derek grabs his wrist. Stiles feels it like a brand, his heart beating faster. He knows Derek hears it, feels it.

"Thanks," Dereks says, squeezes once, and lets go.

"Anytime," Stiles says, and then gets the hell out before he's tempted to climb back in and beg to be allowed to stay.


"I can't do it," Stiles tells Scott, flopping on his bed. "It's hopeless."

"Did you ever even have a plan?" Scott asks, twirling around in his chair. "Because from my perspective it looks like you went back to the same way things were between you two before."

"I maybe had a plan and it involved looking, I don't know, enticing, and being super smart and impressive, but now it feels like having a plan is too sneaky."

"You could try talking to him," Scott suggests.

"That went so well last time when he told me it wasn't up for a debate," Stiles says.

"Because you regularly take no for answer?" Scott rolls his eyes. "Talk about rolling over."

"I resent that!" Stiles says.

"If he pulls the age thing on you again, just say your dad totally believed you about the mini-sleepover even though that's practically code for crazy amounts of exhausting sex."

It's a good point, Stiles admits. His dad had been understanding, even if he said that next time he would break down the door to Derek's apartment.

"If your own dad is not flipping out," Scott continues, "Derek will at least have to talk about it. If you really want him, go get him."

Stiles leans up on his elbows. "That is the wisest advice you've ever given me."


"Okay, so who helped you with it?" Stiles asks. "Allison or Jackson, so I can know whose eyes to avoid?"

Scott winces. "Allison? Jackson shoved me into a locker."

"Great," Stiles says. "Just wonderful."

The problem is, their advice isn't bad and it's all true. Stiles has never met an unequivocal no he couldn't challenge until it was a maybe, and once it was a maybe it was only a matter of time before he turned it into a yes, disastrous consequences be damned.

It's hard to think about doing those things now that he and Derek are talking and working together again, now that Derek no longer turns into a ball of tension every time Stiles leans on him or presses too close, now that Derek will touch him without hesitating. Derek watches him, still, with the look of someone waiting to stomp on any invitations of sexual congress with a minor. Stiles doesn't trust that there isn't some limit to how hard he can push and still stay in the pack. He likes being a part of the pack. He doesn't want to lose it because he can't get over the fact that maybe Derek doesn't want him, that he's reacting to Stiles and nothing more.

In short, Stiles has no clue what to do. He replays their kiss over and over in his head and drives himself crazy imagining it happening again. Every visit he has with Derek is an exercise in frustration, because he knows that Derek knows about his feelings, but he's doing a great job of ignoring them, like they're nothing.

It's on a chilly evening, as Stiles steps out of his Jeep after hours of running through the woods playing tag and watching Derek laugh and smile and waft attractiveness, thinking that he's definitely going to do this once and for all, definitely, tomorrow, it's going to happen, that the fucking faeries come back.


Turns out, deep enough in the woods there's a secret Lord of the Rings set, complete with a treehouse city that sparkles in the moonlight and inhabited by some really pissed off faeries that have clearly been plotting against them for awhile.

"This was a stupid idea," Stiles says from the stump in the middle of a lavish room in a freaking treehouse. He had definitely rescued Scott from the hollow of a tree last time, but he hadn't exactly spent time extrapolating what that could mean. He has no idea how high he is, or hell, where he is, exactly, in the forest, but he's freezing. He always freezing during these things. His jacket was ripped away from him, along with his shoes, before the bucket ride up. He's going to make the best of it by making these people — if faeries are people — really, really regret it.

"Shut up." It's all his evil faerie guard will say, and all he's been told since he stepped on his porch and found three faeries waiting for him, the air sparkling with magic and paralyzing him with weird hand-wavy spells.

This was not what he signed up for at all. He is not supposed to be the one kidnapped. This is totally Scott's job.

"You've really screwed up," Stiles says. "Remember last time? I totally took Scott back after you kidnapped him for trespassing or whatever moronic reason you gave, and there was just me. Totally human and non-magical with fantastic research skills and a honed ability to run for my life. The people coming from me are much worse and plus, they have fangs."

"Good," his guard says. "It will make it easier to kill them all at once."

"Oh, you do know words!" Stiles ignores the crawling panic in his throat. "That's great, maybe you can finally answer my question about why me."

The guard turns and looks at him. Stiles has watched plenty of monster movies and fantasy schlock but he's never going to get used to these guys their freaky cat eyes, especially when they use them to stare at him. "If you don't shut up, I will hang you upside down from this tree."

"That's the best you got?" Stiles asks. "Needs some work. I've been threatened much better than that. You didn't even talk about chopping off my head, or chewing on my neck. I give it a three. Maybe a three and a half."

"So be it," his guard says, and summons — summons, he's in a paranormal romance novel now — rope from the wall.

"Oh shit," Stiles says.


Of course, this is how Derek finds him, bound and dangling upside down from a branch an hour later, barely conscious and shivering. He opens his eyes at the familiar, low growl of super pissed off werewolf.

Derek's bleeding from more wounds than Stiles can count. His clothes are ripped and he's filthy and he's the best thing Stiles has ever seen. If he was loose right now, he would initiate hugs and Derek would just have to like it.

"There are serious health risks tied to inversion therapy," Stiles says, hoarse. "I don't suppose you want to climb up and gnaw through this rope?"

Derek examines him without replying, and then one of the fucking faeries that took Stiles walks up behind Derek and looks up with him. It's barely any consolation that he also looks like someone fucked him up, too. Stiles hopes they bleed green given the amount of color on his clothes.

"He has a mouth," the faerie says.

"Yes, he does," Derek agrees. "I never thought to try rope."

"Oh, wow, that's great, you made a friend!" Stiles glares down. "That's super."

Derek watches him for a moment and takes a deep breath. "He's not hurt."

"He was not, but for his pride," the faerie says. "My healers are helping your archer as we speak. The peace will hold."

"I can't help you with the police or the hunters, if they decide they want to make you their business," Derek says. "I control my pack and that's it."

"That is acceptable to us," the faerie says. "I will have someone retrieve him."

"Uh, someone's going to catch me, right?" He's not so sure about the not being hurt business considering he's pretty numb and feels nauseous, but slamming into the ground would probably not be great.

"They'll pull you up, dumbass," Derek says, as the evil kidnapping faerie walks off.

"Did I really miss the entire battle?"

"Yep." Derek stares up at him.

Stiles takes a deep breath and focuses on not throwing up as he's pulled up and away, because he's pretty sure Derek wouldn't forgive him for that. "Just great."

"Try not to piss anyone off until they bring you to me," Derek says.

"Yes, I'll be on my best behavior."

"See you soon," Derek says, and Stiles doesn't know if he's projecting and wanting to hear it, but he thinks there's worry there, underneath the gruff Alpha exterior. He shoves down panic as he drifts upward, away from Derek and safety, and hopes like hell they don't accidentally drop him out of spite.


"Faeries," he mutters, limping into his house and kicking off his still untied shoes. "A war over territory misunderstandings. Never get involved in a land war in supernaturalville." He sits down carefully on the couch and lets Derek take his coat. "I had plans, and they involved pizza and watching movies until two in the morning and enjoying dad being out of the house and not nagging me to sleep at some logical hour."

"There hasn't been a wolf pack here in almost a decade," Derek says. "They thought they were settling on uncontested land."

"And then faerie politics! You kill one of them for kidnapping one of us, they hire shapeshifting assassins!" Stiles says. "I still can't believe you resolved it by threatening to start a forest fire."

"We never intended to start it. We only wanted you back."

"They were going to kill you," Stiles says. "Over land." He buries his hands in his armpits. Derek's car heater hadn't done much. "Sorry, sorry, I know we've been over this. I'm just annoyed and freezing."

"I'll make you something to eat," Derek says, like this is his house. "Go take a shower."

"Okay. Right." It's easiest to do as he's told; to wander off to his bedroom and grab pajamas, to shut the bathroom door and go about things like everything's normal. It smells like home and safety and he breathes it in while he showers. It's fine until he's out and tugging on his sweatpants. He sits heavily on the toilet and stares at the floor and his discarded towel.

This is his life; crazy people with power, hunters with big guns, werewolf friends, magical beings that want to kill him or use him as leverage, spending a night hanging from a tree. He can still feel the ropes around him. He swallows and squeezes his fists tight.

He has no idea how long he sits there. Derek doesn't knock when he comes in. "Hey," Stiles says hollowly. "I could have been naked."

Derek squats down in front of him. "You're okay," he says seriously, his hand on Stiles's bare shoulder.

"Of course I am, why wouldn't I be?"

Derek rolls his eyes. "Your heart rate is through the roof."

"So it was a little stressful. I'll be fine."

"You can't brush off shock, genius." Derek's voice is soft but sharp. "You're not shaking because you're cold."

Derek is there and he's warm and he looks concerned, so Stiles goes for it. It's hug time, whether Derek wants it to be or not. He commits to it, going for broke, and buries his face in Derek's neck, holding on tight to his shoulders. "Shove me away and suffer the consequences," he mutters. Derek smells like a fight; like blood and smoke but also still like himself.


"Serious consequences." He relaxes when Derek finally hugs him back. "One thing you haven't told me," Stiles says into his skin, "is why they took me. Why not anyone else? Or was it the whole take-the-weakest-member thing again? Story of my life."

Derek tenses, but doesn't let go. He squeezes Stiles's neck. "You have to know the answer to that already."

"I do not," Stiles says. "They wouldn't spill, so if you will, I'd sure like to know. Was it because of last time with Scott? Because I only took him back. You were the one who wolfed out." He pulls back when Derek doesn't reply, only runs a hand over Stiles's back. "You're totally not going to answer me, are you? It's going to be like everything else, where you're all stoically silent and close-mouthed and I'm left with question marks, everywhere—

"You're kidding me," Derek says, frowning, "you really don't know. Are you being willfully dense?"

"You suck at comforting people," he complains. "Or maybe me. It's probably just me because that's how my luck works."

"I must be crazy," Derek says, glaring at him. For the second time, Derek kisses him. It's nothing like the first time at all. There's no rush, no frenzy. Derek cups his jaw in both hands and kisses him slowly, carefully. Like they have all the time in the world. They do have all the time in the world, because Stiles isn't letting him go this time or letting him run away. When he bites at Derek's bottom lip, he's rewarded with a sharp intake of breath before Derek pulls away.

"Oh my god," Stiles says, because he hadn't even been having sexy thoughts. "You liar. No, you don't get to glare at me. Scott was right, you lied to me. There are no diapers here at all."

"Do you ever make sense?" Derek asks, but he's smiling.

"No, no smiling! I am so pissed at you. You've wanted a piece of this and you were like, no, Stiles, you're too young, and no, Stiles, I'm only reacting to your feelings and have none of my own—"

"I never said that," Derek says pointedly. "What part of us not being alone together did you miss that day?"

"That was for my dad's benefit!" Stiles argues.

"I'd like to be able to get inside your head one day to figure out exactly how you work," Derek says. "You idiot. I wasn't trying to make things easier for anyone but myself. Coming through your window knowing how you would react to me? Think, Stiles."

"Oh." Stiles goes back over the conversation in his head. Okay, so yeah. Maybe. "So it's just about my age? You just kissed a child."

Derek frowns. "It's still a problem. Don't pretend it doesn't exist."

"A problem that we can deal with," Stiles says. "Right?" He closes his eyes. "Unless it's me in particular, which, understandable."

"I can't believe you." Derek runs a thumb over Stiles's cheek. "You have zero self-esteem."

"Um, hello, have you looked in a mirror lately?" Stiles attempts. "Because it's not like you couldn't have anyone you wanted."

"Complete idiot," Derek says, shaking his head. He buries his face in Stiles's neck and breathes in. Stiles gapes at the wall.

"You have been sniffing me. I can't believe this." He backtracks. "Forget that, you never answered the question, and you're not going to distract me with—okay," he says on a moan when Derek bites his neck, sharp and quick, runs the tip of his tongue over the sting of it. "Maybe you will distract me. It's fine, we can talk about it later."

Derek laughs, pulls away and drags Stiles up with him. "They watched us and assumed we were together—"

"Because that makes sense—"

"—and they took you because they thought I would do anything to get you back unharmed." He squeezes Stiles to him and presses their foreheads together. "They were right."

Stiles flushes, but says, "Not great sleuthing skills."

"You're at my place almost every day."

"Yes, because you have your own place. Of course I am. But Jackson is there just as much, so why did they assume me—"

"You really don't see how differently I treat you," Derek says, and Stiles files that detail away for later. "Amazing."

"Well, sorry. I was caught up in some angst regarding an epic unrequited love." He pauses. "Seriously? You're saying I got kidnapped as bait."

"They took you so they could threaten us off the land. They thought we were going to try to take it from them. It's important to them, and they thought you were important to me."

"And they were...right? Completely, 'Stiles I really, really think you're awesome' right?"

Derek looks like he hates this entire conversation. "Stop milking it."

Stiles grins. "You really can't blame me. They didn't have to be such jerks. They could have talked to us before kidnapping Scott in the first place and starting a supernatural creature war."

Derek runs a hand over Stiles's head, over his neck and down his back, palm to damp skin. "Wolves are are known to be territorial." He leans close to run his nose along Stiles's jaw. "I'm territorial."

Stiles shivers. Derek backs off and shoves the shirt lying on the counter into his hands. "Get dressed," he says. "You have to eat and I have to leave before your father gets home."

"But why?" Stiles tugs the shirt on, follows Derek out of the bathroom. "I harbored you as a criminal, I can harbor you as a sexy love slave, too!"

"Shut up, Stiles."


Stiles is expecting something else to go wrong: actual vampires, the apocalypse, broken limbs, his dad finding out any number of things and grounding him again, this time for life. But nothing does. It's all painfully normal, as much as his life can be normal, with school, too many tests, practice, pack meetings, Stiles's dwindling ability to lie to either Scott or Jackson.

Now that Stiles is paying attention, he can see the ways that Derek interacts with all of them, and how much closer he lets Stiles come than Scott. He's close to Jackson in a way Stiles doesn't bother thinking about too much, because, hey, werewolf bite politics. But it's Stiles he invades the personal space of and lets Stiles do so in return. Stiles pays attention to how often he feels Derek's eyes on him, the way he watches Stiles more than anyone else.

It makes Stiles feel awesome.

There are no more talks about age differences or Derek not wanting to hit it, but there's also regretfully little kissing and no moves towards more. Even when Stiles leaves his window unlocked, does sexy poses across Derek's couch, or bakes him cookies.

"I don't bake for just anyone," he complains one night when Scott and Jackson have taken off after eating most of the products of his labor. "I know how relationships work, and they involve way more than letting our friends eat all your cookies."

Derek shuts the dishwasher. He's barefoot in jeans and some ridiculous shirt made for someone that doesn't look like he could bench-press a car, and Stiles really, really wants to climb him like a tree. "Sure," Derek agrees, and leans against the counter, like he's not driving Stiles nuts by existing.

"You're really aggravating," Stiles mutters, and eats a cookie. It is, of course, delicious, because Stiles makes a mean cookie. Derek laughs, and Stiles will call that a win. He really, really loves making Derek laugh. He likes making Derek happy in general, and that's a new feeling, like pleasing his dad and a sincere thanks from Scott all rolled into one and topped off with a healthy serving of lust.

"But seriously," Stiles says. "Can you give me a ballpark figure of when we can progress? Next week? Next year? When I'm thirty?"

Derek walks by him, runs a thumb up the line of his neck and breathes in deep. Stiles wants to jump him because he knows what it means, but the thought of being that forward makes him freeze up and remember how easily Derek pushed him away before, so no go there. "I can do that."

"Oh, great, when?"

"Whenever you tell your father about us," he says. He presses a kiss to Stiles's jaw like he didn't just make Stiles's day and then ruin it completely at the same time, and then walks out of the kitchen.

"I hate you," Stiles calls after him, and he eats another cookie.

Although it's great motivation, Stiles remembers his dad's face when he thought Derek and Stiles were a possibility. There's a conversation he doesn't want to have because the first discussion of sex with his father when he was thirteen, complete with diagrams and pamphlets and what to do with a condom was scarring enough. But Derek not only seems disinterested in playing the part of the secret boyfriend, it makes him look hurt, like he's in pain.

Since that's the last thing Stiles wants and the least likely thing to get him laid, he ends up hovering around his dad a few nights later as he works at the table, waiting for a good opening.

His dad puts down his pen after Stiles's third pass through the kitchen. "What is it, Stiles?"

Perfect. He slides into a chair at the table.

"Hypothetically," Stiles begins.

His dad buries his face in his hands. "Oh, here we go."

"This isn't going to work if you give up before we even start!"

"Be upfront with me—what did you break?"

"Nothing?" Stiles says. "Totally different hypothetical. I haven't broken anything in weeks."

If possible his dad looks even more horrified. "Then what is it? Are you in trouble at school? Is your phone bill three hundred dollars again? Are you on drugs?"

"Derek says I need permission from you to date him," he says quickly, because out is better than in and definitely better than the illegal drug assumption, thanks a lot, Dad.

His father's expression remains blank, but Stiles doesn't miss the flash of panic in his eyes that's gone just as quickly. "Derek wants you to ask me for permission to go on a date."

"More like multiple dates. Dating, in general? Of a steady type."

"In which you will..."

"Well, we haven't discussed it. It hasn't been an option!"

"Hanging out at his apartment with no adult supervision?" his dad suggests. "Running off with him for hours at a time? Flaming the rumor mill when you walk down the street together and you're all over each other?"

"You make it sound sordid," Stiles says. "And yes, gossip, it makes complete sense to listen to it when I'm right here and can tell you that nothing has happened—"

"Right." The drag of the syllables makes the disbelief linger.

"I think I'm the expert on my own virginity and the possession of it. I would know if sex was on the table—"

"Is sex on the table?" His dad glares. "Has he been pressuring you? Is that what this is about?"

Stiles flushes. "Oh, god, no, it's me. He's more anal about this anyone."

"Oh god," his dad groans. "Stiles, language, please—"

Stiles forges on, because unfortunate word choices aside, it's important for his father to know the truth. "I'm pressuring him. Seriously, it's all me and like: wow, you're super hot, can we please stay on first base already and stop trying to get tagged out?"

His dad leans back in his chair and rubs his eyes. "Stiles, I could have lived without knowing that." He stares at the table. "The sad part of this is that I believe you. I thought he told you no. I heard him tell you no."

"This is me, please," Stiles says. "A no is just a starting point for additional maneuvering. Also, thanks for the confirmation of eavesdropping. God, can't a guy get some privacy?"

"Not when he's underage, alone with a man he's shamelessly admitted he likes on my porch." He dad looks murderous for a moment. "On a scale of one to impossible, how likely it is that me saying no will have any impact?"

Stiles blinks, because he doesn't expect a no. "Are you going to?"

"He's twenty-three," his dad reminds him. "He's been in a lot of trouble. At best he looks like a gang member and at worst, a serial killer." His dad hesitates. "I don't want him to hurt you."

Stiles could point out it's already too late for that, but instead says, "He would respect your decision."

"And you would resent me for at least a month."

"Maybe even two," Stiles says in terror that it will be a no, because it could be. Stiles has no doubts that Derek would shut him down completely out of respect for his dad's wishes. "We should gets points for asking."

"Fine," his dad says. "I won't even pretend to ban you from his apartment, but—" He shakes his head. "Use condoms. Don't make that face, I'm serious. Be safe. Your curfew is still nine o'clock on weekdays and eleven on weekends unless special arrangements have been made." Stiles tries to form words as he's both scarred and excited, but doesn't manage before his father continues, "And he could spend some time over here."

"That is...a really alarming thought," Stiles says.

"It's reality," his dad says.

"This went really well," Stiles says. "Except for the all the horrifying parts."

His father winces. "Yes, now go away before I start to do the math in my head again and change my mind."


"Derek and I are dating," Stiles says to the group at when they're all piled around the table at the local pizza place. "Just so everyone knows."

Everyone stops except Derek, who continues eating his pizza as if Stiles said nothing.

"Okay?" Scott says. "Congrats?"

"We're happy for you!" Allison says, and lifts her glass of water.

"It took you long enough to figure it out," Jackson adds. "Did the coat thing not tip you off?"

Stiles stares at Jackson and then across the table Derek, who only looks calmly back at him and then steals a breadstick off Stiles's plate. "That was forever ago. That was...are you serious?" Stiles plucks the breadstick away from Derek's mouth. "Seriously? When you gave me your jacket?"

"Classic marking," Scott says, even though he hadn't gotten it, either, the moron. "Classic Stiles."

"Can I have that back?" Derek asks, and under the table traps Stiles's ankles between his calves.

"Sure," Stiles says absently and hands it over, because he's busy rethinking his entire life.

"Great, so now Derek can stop eyefucking Stiles while he completely fails to catch on, and everything can be one hundred percent less awkward," Jackson says, and doesn't look at all alarmed when Derek glares at him. They communicate with their eyebrows for a second.

"Fine," Jackson says eventually. "Eyefuck all you want, but don't be surprised when I have to throw up everywhere."

"Here," Derek says later, when they're all on their way home. He presses something into Stiles's palm.

Stiles chokes when he looks down at the key. His heart feels like it might beat hard enough to come out of his chest. "Are you kidding?"

Derek tilts his chin up. Stiles suspects he really gets off on being a little taller. "Don't you always tell me my sense of humor is terrible?" He kisses Stiles before he can answer, keeps his mouth busy until a car drives past and someone honks.

"Uh," Stiles says intelligently when Derek pulls away. He curls his hand around the key. "I...thanks. Are you really sure you're okay with me having this?"

"Yes." Derek tugs on Stiles's jacket. "I'm tired of getting up and letting you in. Try not to be a nuisance."

Stiles grins at him. "You want me there all the time, admit it. You can't get enough."

"I bring these things on myself," Derek mutters. "Go home already." Despite saying so, he doesn't let Stiles actually get in his Jeep for another five minutes.


Stiles and Derek do, in fact, have a functional relationship. Although the looks he gets from Scott and his dad sometimes suggest that certain people think there's nothing happening but hardcore sex, which is false, totally false, and not without a little bitterness from Stiles. But there's joking about pressuring and actually pressuring. Stiles doesn't know what Derek's hang-up is beyond age and experience, but there's something that makes Derek go quiet and sad, something that makes him hide his face in Stiles's neck and breath too heavily when Stiles urges too far. So he's not going to push.

Instead, they hang out with the pack and every day for a few hours by themselves. They talk about Stiles and his research. He builds a knowledge base about the supernatural, collecting information about nearby packs in Oregon and Nevada. They talk about school, Stiles's fears about college, and Derek's life and friends in New York that he left behind, but still talks to. They talk about ridiculous television shows and things they've read. Derek mocks him endlessly for his taste in music, and Stiles forces the entire discography of several of his favorite bands onto Derek in retribution.

Derek slips into some of the spaces Scott left when he started dating Allison. He fits there perfectly with bonus making out, his hands firm and hot on Stiles's skin, steady and safe. If Stiles's heart goes a little crazy when Derek lets a low growl rumble out? Well, whatever, he's dating a werewolf.

Sometimes, when it's quiet and late and they're tired they talk about Derek's family and how much he misses them, about Stiles's mom and the ache that he gets when he really thinks about never seeing her again.

"I worry about my dad," Stiles says one night, head on Derek's shoulder as they lie spread across Stiles's bed. Derek's hand traces circles behind his ear and it's making him sleepy. "He gets depressed and sometimes I don't feel like I help at all."

"You do," Derek says, "but sometimes, people are going to be sad. Nothing you can do."

"Yeah, learned that one pretty well already," Stiles says. He closes his eyes. "But it always feels like I could do more. Be less of a problem so he doesn't have to stress about me all the time."

"Pretty sure that's a parent thing," Derek says. "You do all right."

"Wow, such high praise."

"Sometimes you deserve it." Derek rakes his nails down Stiles's neck.

Stiles turns his face into Derek's shirt, which smells more like Stiles than Derek at this point. "Why me?"

"Why you what?"

"You hated me," Stiles says. He's warm and comfortable and he's not scared to ask anymore. "I didn't miss that."

"Why me?" Derek asks. "Besides the reason you normally give, which is to tell me to look in the mirror."

Stiles thinks about it. "You took care of Scott when you didn't have to. You gave us a pack. I've done the reading, you didn't have to take us in at all, especially me, or Allison, considering her family hates you and would probably explode if they knew she hangs out with us as much as she does. I get that it was kind of on purpose and your ultimate plan to become the Alpha, but you could have chosen different people and cut us loose. It didn't necessarily have to be us." Stiles grins. "You know what that means."

"Don't say it," Derek warns.

"You're a nice guy."

"I regret everything," Derek mutters. "Get off, I'm leaving."

"Shut up, you're staying forever."

Derek doesn't reply to this, but he rubs his cheek over the top of Stiles's head, takes a deep breath. "You were annoying, but you took care of me," he murmurs. "Several times. You're good at taking care of people."

"Yeah, because you threatened me."

"It had nothing to do with you being a good person. Not at all."

"Shut up, you'll ruin my reputation as a badass," Stiles says. "I've been working really hard at it."

"Mmm," Derek says. It's a dumb idea to sleep, because one day they're so going to get busted and Stiles is going to wake up to a furious dad and loaded firearms. Stiles burrows in anyway and Derek doesn't try to stop him.


Stiles is dashing out of the house on Saturday when his dad stops him on the stairs. He's wearing his Worried Father Intervention face, and Stiles is going to totally miss lunch with Derek.

"Do we have to talk right now?" Stiles asks.

"Yes," his dad says, and they end up at the diner. Derek texts him back while they're waiting on their food, telling him to come by after, always ready to be understanding of Stiles's dad.

"Am I busted for something?" Stiles asks.


"Are you going to tell me what for?" Stiles fiddles with a sugar packet.

His dad holds out his hand. "Let me see your keys."

Stiles frowns, and fishes them out of his pocket. It's not until he's set them in his dad's outstretched palm that he realizes and reaches to take them back.

"Oh no." His dad finds Derek's key immediately. "Imagine my surprise when I'm out this week and I see Derek and Jackson on one side of town, and then fifteen minutes later, I see you, wandering up to his apartment."

"I told you I was going there," Stiles points out. "I always tell you when I'm going over there."

"And I assume he's there to let you in and you're doing things I definitely don't want to know about."

Stiles rubs his face. "Still a virgin. Still hate talking about it." He says, "Most guys spend time claiming they're not and no one believes them. I have the opposite problem."

"He gave you a key to his home." His dad sips at his coffee and even makes that look judgmental.

"Yeah, so? You gave us permission! The key is a new development since that permission!"

"For dating, not cohabitation."

"Excuse me," Stiles says, and pauses when the server drops off their food. "There is no cohabitation happening. I make curfew every night." He pokes at his french fries. "Am I in trouble over this? I don't see how a key is that big of a deal."

"You could have told me it was this serious," his dad says. "A key means you're not a guest in his home, not visiting, Stiles. You're smart enough to know that. People who have just started dating don't hand out keys."

Stiles stares at his plate. He thinks about Derek and the rest of the pack and the key. "We were friends first, you know. He trusts me and I trust him. It doesn't mean I'm planning to revolt against the oppression of your household and move out. You're reading a lot into it."

"I'm betting Scott doesn't have one. Or that other boy, Jackson."

"Okay, yes, Derek thinks I'm the most special," Stiles says, and feels stupid. The truth hits him low in his stomach when he thinks of all the ways Derek has been letting him in, asking in his own weird way for Stiles to be a fixture in his life. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. We'll start a post-it note system where I let you know about every relationship milestone so we can avoid the awkward conversations."

They eat in silence for a moment. It had just been a key to Stiles. A way to get in quickly, a quiet place to research after he talked Derek into joining the 21st century with the internet, an invitation to come over whenever, access to Derek whenever he wanted. Now he thinks about trust and other terrifying emotions and feels like he's been so caught up in himself that he's missed what was right in front of him.

"I bet your mom would have handled this a lot better than I am," his dad says. "We met when she was sixteen." He clears his throat. "She probably would have liked him. She saw the good in everyone."

Stiles pauses and thinks about Derek who, under the grumpy exterior, is a good guy. Holds doors open for old ladies, carries in the groceries for the single mom that lives next to him, donates to the animal shelter, and is always careful with Stiles. "I think so, too," he says softly. "You'll like him, I bet."

His dad raises a brow, clearly dubious. "Maybe if I had met him outside of a holding cell..."

"I'll invite him to dinner tomorrow," Stiles says quickly, derailing that train of conversation as fast as possible.

"Sure," his dad says. His eyes shine as he slides Stiles's keyring across the table and picks up his fork.


After lunch, he drives over to Derek's, and when he pulls the keys from the ignition, pauses to run a finger over the sharp teeth of the key Derek gave him. Stiles thinks before heading up, that he doesn't want to be a stupid kid and miss things like this again. He really, really wants to deserve this.

"Hey," he says to the seemingly empty apartment, dropping his bag on the floor by the couch, heart racing. "Where are you?"

He's taking off his shoes when Derek pounces and shoves him into the front door. "Whoa, hi," he says, laughing as Derek breathes him in, nips at his neck. "Sorry I missed lunch, dad wanted some quality time to worry in my general direction."

Derek kisses him and they stay there for a few minutes, until Stiles's skin burns from the scrape of Derek's beard shadow. "You're happy to see me," he says, when Derek is nuzzling underneath his ear. He's so happy it hurts. He wraps his arms around Derek and squeezes.

"Yes," Derek says back, then tilts his head. "What's wrong?"

"You gave me a key," Stiles says. "You gave me a key."

Derek narrows his eyes. "You're figuring this out now?"

"Yes," Stiles says. "Well, not the key part, I knew about the key. I didn't realize about your apparent—"

"No," Derek says, covering his mouth. Derek puts on an expression that Stiles used to think was annoyance, but now knows is nerves, because he has a goddamn key. This is awesome.

He doesn't get a chance to crow about it. Derek kisses him again, grabs his jaw and presses their mouths together. He urges Stiles closer with hands and hips and they kiss until everything is slick and wet. Stiles thinks he could come in his pants from just this, and the thought is both gross and super hot. Derek rocks into him and Stiles whimpers. Fuck, it feels amazing. He grabs and holds on when Derek pulls back.

"No, no," he says. "Don't stop."

"We sort of have to," Derek says wryly. "Unless you want to have sex against the door."

His voice sends a thrill down Stiles's spine, sharp and electric. "Oh," he says as Derek kisses his neck, bites at his collarbone. "Really? Right now?"

Derek pulls back and cups his jaw, gentle. "If you want."

"Holy shit, yes," Stiles says, flushing hot all over. He grips Derek's wrists hard. "Let's do this thing."

Derek laughs, and tugs him toward the bedroom. The blinds are open to let in the afternoon light, making the unlit room glow. When Derek pushes him down, the sheets are sun-warm under him and and he's blanketed by Derek's hot, heavy weight.

He expects Derek to kiss him, fast and frantic, to grab and take. Instead it's slow, wet and warm, deep kisses that leave him breathless and trembling, hands flexing over muscle, clenching in the fabric of Derek's shirt. It's overwhelming with the reality of Derek's hands on his skin. This is really going to happen.

"God," Stiles says when Derek slides down, pushes Stiles's shirt up to kiss his stomach. He inches the shirt up with his nose, kissing as he goes. Derek laughs when he bites a nipple and Stiles squeaks and arches up so hard he almost falls off the bed.

"This is going to be so embarrassingly fast," Stiles says as Derek tugs off both their shirts. He reaches out to touch, grinning when Derek jerks when Stiles flicks his nipples in retribution.

"That's okay," Derek says. "We have all day." He sits back and stares. There's a halo of sun around his face, fingers of light on his skin, and Stiles is so fucking lucky.

"You're really hot," he says.

Derek grins. "You're not bad, I guess." He looks at Stiles so softly that Stiles doesn't even care he's being a douchebag during this extremely important life event. Stiles still knees him in the side even if all it does is make him laugh.

Derek does everything aggravatingly slow, popping the button on his jeans, sliding them down his legs inch by inch to bite at his thighs until Stiles feels like he's going to come out of his skin with want. "Oh, you fucking tease," Stiles says, when Derek nuzzles at his hip, moves with him when Stiles arches up and trembles.

"Mmm," Derek says. "You're so nervous."

Stiles shudders when Derek runs a thumb up his dick through his briefs. "Yeah, hello, still a virgin," Stiles says.

"Not for long."

"Wow, what a line," Stiles says, but he matches Derek's grin and yanks him down to kiss again, warm, smooth skin everywhere and his to touch.

Stiles knows the cold, hard side of Derek, his anger and violence, but now he also knows the man who likes to cuddle, who removes their clothes carefully, who touches Stiles like he's something precious and not a few minutes of friction away from coming all over himself. Stiles groans and arches into the hand Derek curls around him. "Fuck," he says, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Hey, no, look at me," Derek says. Stiles does, and see himself spread across the bed with Derek's hands on him, the whole of Derek above him. "Look at me," he says again, stroking him once and then letting go to link their fingers, pressing Stiles's wrists into the pillow.

"I'm not—" Stiles sucks in air as Derek lines up their hips and rocks into him, and it's like light fracturing into a million pieces behind his eyelids when Derek moves, grip firm but not hard, and kisses him lightly.

"Look at me," he says again, and Stiles does, stares into the cool gray, crinkled at the edges with a smile that's interrupted by a groan. They rock together, and it's nothing like Stiles thought it would be. The easy roll of their hips, the slickness between them, the way Derek's eyes flutter when Stiles arches into him are all things he couldn't dream up before.

There's nothing explosive here, but there is something deeper that makes him shake as they watch each other. There's the steady press of hips, shared breath and kisses. When Stiles comes, messy and hot between them, it's just as good watching Derek fall apart after him, eyes flashing before burying his face in Stiles's neck to breath, pinning him down.

"Holy shit, that was amazing," Stiles says into Derek's hair, warm and soft against his cheek. "Let's do that again."

Derek laughs.

Much later when they've cleaned up, Stiles is dozing with Derek's face tucked into his neck when Derek says, seemingly out of nowhere, "my parents loved each other."

Stiles falters a little, rubbing Derek's back. "Yeah?"

"The pack was important, but they were a unit," he continues, "they worked together, they were friends, they were—" He swallows, takes a breath. "They trusted each other. It was a partnership."

Stiles runs his fingers into Derek's hair. "Wish I could have met them," he says. Derek hums a bit. "To switch topics from parents to surprise sex, can I say again that this was awesome."

"For the tenth time, I got it."

"But no, it really was, this needs to happen every day, like, multiple times."

"Not all of us are teenagers anymore," Derek grumbles. "Stop pressuring me."

"Never," Stiles says, grinning.

"Fine, we go back to handholding only tomorrow," Derek says.

"Don't even joke," Stiles says, and shivers when Derek runs a hand over his bare hip. "Why today? You should have told me, I would've worn sexier underwear or something."

Derek looks up at him, reaches up to run a finger down his nose, sappy and sweet like he is when it's only them. He rests the pad on Stiles's bottom lip, tugs a little and grins when Stiles licks him. "I wanted to distract you from talking." He kisses Stiles again. Stiles groans, because his jaw aches a little, but he lets Derek press slow, languorous kisses into his mouth and holds on. "You feel so much and you wanted to talk about it." He huffs and rubs his jaw over Stiles's neck. "Should have known you'd get your way."

"What's with you and smelling how I feel all the time?" Stiles asks. "Also, there's nothing wrong with feelings. Dudes are allowed to have feelings."

Derek shrugs. "They're always there. It's habit to check on you." He lies back down, throws a leg over Stiles's hip and asks, "What happened today to make you so happy?"

Stiles remembers his dad's eyes, wet and honest, his fingers tight around Derek's key. "I had a good lunch with my dad," he says. "By the way, you have to come to dinner tomorrow night."

"Okay," Derek says.

Stiles listens to Derek breathe, heavy and hot against Stiles's side. He holds on to Stiles, presses close, like Stiles might move too far away. Stiles wants this even more now than before he had it and not just for the clearly amazing sex. He wants to keep fitting Derek into his life and his life into Derek's, easy like lazy, sweat-soaked afternoons, naps in the sunshine, like the slide of a key in a familiar lock, the turn of the bolt and the warm welcome of a door that will always open under his hands.

"You're leaking your feelings all over me again," Derek says, sleepy and low.

"Good, you deserve it," Stiles says, and feels Derek smile as he falls asleep.