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With the Bodies in the Gutter

Chapter Text

Derek pulled the guy’s body back against him on the floor of the disgusting bathroom. A boy, he wasn’t any older than a kid, maybe eighteen, maybe. His head fell back against Derek’s shoulder. His eyelashes fluttered against his cheeks, but his eyes stayed closed. His mouth hung open. If Derek’s heart wasn’t beating so hard it was painful, it would’ve been funny.

He buried his hand in his hoodie on the boy’s chest and pulled him back, burying his face against his burred dark hair.

There was a small window above the sink. It let enough light in to shine on the chipped walls. The dirt on the tiles they sat on was thick, mixing with the undertones of piss soaked around the pedestal of the toilet. It still couldn’t drown out that smell, dark roast Colombian, fresh ground, and smooth with sugar.

Then the stale sweat beneath his arms. The blood Derek tracked on him.

He started to move in Derek’s arm. Derek pulled him closer.

“What the fu…” the boy said, starting to try and get up. “Wha…”

His breathing started to come out ragged. His smaller back heaving against Derek’s chest. The taste of panic clung at the back of Derek’s throat. It was like a knife right into his own lungs.

“Shh, baby, no,” Derek said against his hair.

The boy jerked harder, his heart racing. Derek held him back with one hand on his chest and caught his face with the other, wiping at the Vicks he had put on his upper lip with his thumb. The boy twisted his head, bucking back against him.

“Get off of me,” he tried to yell with his voice cracking.

Derek rubbed harder then covered the kid’s mouth and nose. His own heart was pounding along with his. The fear pumping off his skin.

“Breathe. Breathe, please,” he said, squeezing his eyes shut and holding him down.

The boy fought against his arms. He thought he was going to make himself pass out before he gasped against Derek’s palm. Then he went completely still, just breathing against Derek’s hand. Derek put his face against his neck and panted against him.

“I won’t hurt you. I would never hurt you,” he said.

He couldn’t help his hand going under his hoodie and feeling the kid’s warm stomach. The boy’s breath caught, but Derek didn’t do anything else, he just rubbed his stomach with his thumb. He was so strong. They had put enough tranquilizer in him for a man Derek’s size, but he had fought against it. It must’ve taken all he had though, because his body was slack against Derek’s again.  

He could hear the sirens finally. He felt warmth stab at his eyes.

“They’re going to take you home,” he said against the boy’s ear, even knowing he was unconscious again. He clenched his teeth and kissed the boy’s cheek, near the small dark mole by his mouth.  

The sirens were coming closer. They would be in the parking lot of the gas station soon.

He pulled the kid up and into his arms before opening the door of the bathroom on the side of the building. Headlights blinded him, but the red and blue flashing lights were turned off as the car rolled to a stop. A man got out of the police car and Derek held the kid closer. They had sent an alpha.

The sheriff came into the fall of headlights and Derek watched his face crumple.

“Stiles,” he said, coming closer and water beading in his eyes. “He’s breathing, right? Tell me he's breathing.”

“He’s drugged. He’s fine, though. They only had him-.”

“Seventeen hours,” the sheriff said, coming closer and looking down at the kid. Tears were coming down his face.

“Do you know him?”

“He’s my son.”

He released his breath and felt like crying. He wouldn’t just have to leave him with strangers. The sheriff held out his arms, but Derek held him closer.

“I can put him in the back.”

The sheriff went to the back door and opened it. Derek leaned inside, smelling the old worn leather of the Crown Vic’s seats. He laid the kid down.

“What did you say his name was?” he asked, without pulling back.

“Stiles.”

Derek nodded, still bent over him. He could almost tell himself he was just sleeping with his mouth hanging open. He pulled his hoodie closer around him with so much extra fabric. He pushed up his chin softly then brushed over his lips.

He cupped his face and tried to talk himself out of it, but he couldn’t. He pressed his lips against Stiles’s soft pink mouth.

His lips were sweet, like stark black coffee mixed with sugar. Twenty-three years. That’s how long he had been without it and he didn’t know how he survived. He looked down at his face and light brown eyes were so heavily hooded they were almost closed, but they stayed on his.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered.

Stiles eyes fluttered then closed again. Derek let himself smell along his neck, then he pulled away, feeling like he was ripping his heart in two as he closed the door behind him.

 “You’ll never know how grateful I am for this,” the sheriff said. “I know the risk this puts you in.”

Derek shook his head, rubbing the itching from his eyes with the heel of his hand. “Just take care of him, please.”  

“I will.”

The sheriff touched his arm. He looked at Derek like he knew, straight sympathy. The dam he built around himself began to crack, like it was never allowed to do. Derek pulled away and hurried passed the broken gas pumps, over the weed covered lot until he got into the trees.

He tried to breathe, looking up at the dark limbs against the sky. His entire body hurt. His head began to swim as the headlights of the police car pulled away, the sirens ripping through the dark and the tires screeching on damp pavement.

He was safe now. His mate was safe and he could breathe. That didn’t stop him from falling to his knees when the trees started spinning as the sound tore farther away. He dug his fingers into the leaves and felt his lungs shake.

 

Chapter Text

1 year 7 months

Stiles closed his locker door, pulling his backpack over his shoulder. He looked back at the pale blue door. 119. It had a rusted scuff by one of the hinges. It was weird closing it for the last time. It was fucking awesome.

“Are we going to Lydia’s party tonight?” Scott asked, the locker beside his clanging as he leaned against it.

“You might want to take a shower first, buddy,” Stiles said.

Scott rolled his eyes and propelled himself off to follow Stiles down the hall. “Really, are you coming with me?”

“Uh, yeah? We’re graduating, man.”

“Awesome,” Scott said, smiling huge. “Come pick me up at eight.”

“Alright. See you later,” Stiles said, walking out to the parking lot.

He turned around and walked backwards. It was the last time he would walk out of that building as a student, the last time he would walk out of class. He flipped it off before laughing and jogging to his Jeep.

 

The party was loud, but Stiles liked that. He grabbed a Solo cup and filled it with spiked punch. It was almost sickeningly sweet, like Capri Sun with another bag of sugar added but it had enough Rum and Everclear under it to kind of numb it. Really it just tasted like throwing up later was going to be awful.

The kids he went to school with since elementary school danced around the pool. It was kind of strange to think about it like that, but he did. He leaned against one of the pillars Lydia’s parents had probably paid way too much for and watched them. Jackson, who had acne and braces in middle school. Isaac, who licked a glue stick in art class in sixth grade and had an allergic reaction. He danced with Amber, who died her hair sophomore year and it all fell out. They smiled at each other and it was kind of sweet. They weren’t mates, but still. No one really had found their mates.

Scott and Allison being the exception and Stiles didn’t see them anywhere. They disappeared almost as soon as they saw each other. Whatever, it was sweet, sickening, but cute.

They were the only ones here who had found mates, that anyone knew of. And people kind of made a big deal about finding that stuff out, so he assumed they were the only ones. But then again, no one would know he had either. No one except for Scott and his dad. When he woke up in the hospital his dad told him his story, you got away and called me to come get you. Stiles, he wasn’t there.

Stiles pulled his brain away from that. That waking up and the first thing out of his mouth asking where he was. They didn’t have a name. They didn’t have anything. His dad had put it together that the guy was undercover. The people who called him to go get Stiles at the rundown gas station ten miles outside of town sure hadn’t given him anything to go on.

Stiles took a deeper drink and went out into the crowd. He found a girl who was in his Biology class and started to dance with her. They talked about what they made on their final test and laughed. Before long, he wasn’t thinking about it anymore. If there was anything he was really good at, it was that, not thinking about the things that hurt.

The people around him kept shifting and he kept getting different dance partners. That wasn’t bad, he liked it. He liked to talk to different people. What colleges they applied to. Which ones accepted them. What they wanted to study, it was all pointless small talk about their wholes lives that they would all forget about each other before night was over, but it was fun.

I’m studying English… Psychology…. Criminal Science… Man, I don’t fucking know.

Stiles high fived the guy who said that, someone from the lacrosse team. Then he wondered out of the group and into the house, back towards the kitchen. The house was full of people too. People who was getting tipsy and flat out drunk.

“Stiles!”

Stiles looked up at Lydia, waving him over to the lounger she sat on by herself. He made his way over and sat beside her. It was weird how it almost felt normal now to sit by her. Freshman year, hell, even until late Junior year he would have had a mini panic attack that she had talked to him. Her red hair fell around her shoulders in pretty little rings. He bet they were soft, but he didn’t itch to touch them anymore.

“Are you having fun?” She asked.

“Yeah, good party, good booze,” he said, taking another drink.

“Right? I love this stuff,” she said, taking his cup and taking a little drink. “It’s so good.”

He laughed at her slurring around her S’s. “I guess you think so.”

“So I heard a rumor,” she said, leaning closer.

He could see down her shirt, the soft white skin of her cleavage. His mouth used to water just seeing it. It stirred him up a little still, he wasn’t dead, but it was like a little ripple.

“Yeah? Tell me.”

“I heard,” She said, leaning closer. “That you had a crush on me. All through high school.”

She smiled, her red lips spreading around her white teeth. He laughed and felt himself blushing, even the edges of his ears getting warm with a few cups of punch floating on his blood stream and making it run more easily.

“Is it true?” she asked.

“What if it was?” he asked, laughing to try and kill his embarrassment. And it was kind of funny because her pretty eyes were glassy and she was obviously having fun. He had had a crush, whatever, they weren’t classmates anymore. It was funny now.

“Then I think it would be really sad if you didn’t at least get a kiss,” she said, getting quieter and closer. She looked at him a second longer, then her mouth was on his.

Stiles closed his eyes at the soft pressure of her mouth on his. Everything was black and he felt lips on his. Soft sweet pressure and a kind of open mouth.

You are so beautiful.

He stayed against her and felt himself floating. Lips on his, so soft.

Then Lydia’s tongue touched him and he jerked, like he was shocked. The world and room swam back into focus. People were all around them. It didn’t smell like his dad’s patrol car. Ground Red Hots. He didn’t know if that’s what it had been. It had been over a year and a half. He couldn’t remember.

He stood up and started to walk away.

“Stiles,” Lydia said, catching his wrist. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah I’m good,” he said, smiling. “I just need more to drink.”

“Okay. I’ll be right here.”

He nodded and maneuvered through the people. He dropped his cup on the end table and went toward the door. Then another hand was on his shoulder. Scott stood beside him with a little smile on his lips.

“Dude, Lydia wants to have sex with you tonight.”

“No,” Stiles said, trying to pull away and get to the front door.

“Why not? Stiles, she’s been your dream girl for-.”

Stiles shook his head, frowning and yanking his arm away. “You know why.”

Scott got that pity look on his face, like a puppy that was kicked or something. How he could be an alpha and still give looks like that he didn’t know, but whatever.

“Stiles, he hasn’t even come around,” Scott said.

“So? He saved my life Scott.”

“It’s been two years.”

“It has not,” Stiles said, going toward the door, pulling his keys from his pocket. “I’m going home.”

“Stiles, come on, stay,” Scott called behind him.

Stiles ignored him, like he never did, and hurried to his Jeep, feeling completely sober and like his hangover was already setting in. Like he was going to splatter his bare interior with vomit as heat flash after heat flash rolled through him. The smell of Lydia felt like it was hung up at the back of his throat, faint sweet beta. Cloyingly sweet.

He drove home and went in the back door. The clock above the microwave said it was only nine.

“Stiles?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” he said, going into the living room where his dad had papers and folders spread over the coffee table. Maybe for the first time in his life, he didn’t even care what he was going over.

“I wasn’t expecting you back until tomorrow,” his dad said. “Is everything okay?”

He shrugged but then had a case of word vomit on the cushion between them.

“I kissed Lydia.”

His dad did a weird half frown half smile before he just smiled. “Did you just have to rush home and tell me?”

Stiles shook his head then dropped his head into his hands, leaning forward. The sweet punch sloshed against his throat threatening to come up. He hadn’t drank that much though and it wasn’t the sweetness of that that made him want to purge his guts. Then his dad’s hand was heavy on his shoulder.

“Stiles,” he said sadly.

“What was I thinking?” he asked. “She just did it and didn’t stop her. Now I feel like I’m going to puke.”

“You don’t have to feel guilty,” his dad said softly. “You don’t owe anything to anyone. You’re only eighteen.”

Stiles shook his head before leaning back again, like he couldn’t sit still. The punch sloshed more as he leaned back to look at the ceiling. It had that popcorn texture that made shadows in the low light. He used to lay on his bed with Scott and they would make out shapes in them. Now all he saw were dots.

“It’s been almost two years,” his dad said softly.

“I know how long it’s been. Why do people keep telling me that? I know, okay.”

“I’m just saying. He does dangerous work,” he said gently.  “If he was okay, I’m sorry, Stiles, but if he was okay, I think you would have heard from him by now.”

“Dad, I know,” Stiles said louder than he meant to.

His dad didn’t even flinch, his eyes just turned softer and his lips thinned and twisted down. Stiles rubbed his hands up and down his thighs. The sweat clung clammily to the denim.

 “My dad’s a cop… I get it,” he said, trying to smile, but his throat itched, but his dad smiled back and rubbed his shoulder. “I just, I don’t want to give up yet.”

“I’m not saying you should. I just, God I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Stiles laughed, but it felt like his eyes were about to spill. He rubbed his hands on his jeans again, for the friction. The warmth was turning to itching numbness.

“I don’t really think there’s a way around it.”

His dad didn’t even try to dad smile. He just rubbed Stile’s back.

“I’m sorry. This isn’t fair for you,” he said.

Stiles shrugged, with a little self-conscious laugh forcing its way out as he stood up. He rubbed his eyes and sniffed.

“I mean, he saved my life right? How many people get to say that?”

Now his dad did force a smile and somehow that just made it all worse.

“I’m going to go to bed.”

“I’ll see you in the morning,” his dad said. “Get some sleep.”

Stiles smiled again and jogged up the stairs. The smile stayed on his face like rigor mortis until he was in his bedroom and closing the door behind him. He went straight to his bed and dug beneath the blankets until he found the soft black cotton of a cheap Wal-Mart hoodie.  

It didn’t smell like anything anymore, just like his room and his clothes. It smelled like him from how often he wore it and held it. It didn’t stop him from pushing his nose into it at different places, smelling all over like a dog.

It didn’t help. It was all gone. He pulled off his t-shirt and pushed out of his jeans until he was in his boxer briefs. Then he pulled on the hoodie and zipped it up. The sleeves still came down farther on his arms, almost covering his hands. He crawled into his bed and burrowed into the blankets. He clenched the cuff of the sleeve to his palm. They got clammy and sweaty, but he pushed his face against the fabric and just breathed as he closed his eyes.

You are so beautiful.

Tears slid out. He tried to keep it together. Then he was crying hard into his palm, just trying to stay quiet so his dad didn’t feel like he had to come in. His whole body rocked with them and all he wanted was him. The guy whose name he didn’t even know, but was rooted so deep in his chest it felt like it would rip it completely apart to take it out.

He couldn’t be eighteen and his mate be dead. That wasn’t okay. It wasn’t right. He couldn’t lose him when he didn’t know him. When he couldn’t remember what it felt like to kiss him or what his voice had sounded like. When he could just remember the words he said, because his dad had told him. Otherwise, he would’ve thought it was a dream. 

It was like pulling a rug back over a black hole. Everything was fine. If he didn't. If he just lived surface, friends, laughing, making people laugh. That's what he did. But now that rug was pulled gone for the night and it was just swirling in his head. All consuming. 

Then it all came rushing back why Stiles hated to drink as everything he kept down and pressed tightly to his chest came flooding out of his tear ducts until they were raw.

Chapter Text

3 years 10 months – September 5, 2012

Stiles walked down the hall to his advisor’s office, readjusting the textbook for his Criminal Law course under his arm. The door was open, but a girl was inside, talking to his advisor across the desk. He let his head roll back staring at the ceiling. He had had an appointment. That was kind of the point of making one, so he didn’t have to wait.

His class started in fifteen minutes and he had a quiz that he wanted to look through the chapter again before.

“How many hours do I need for financial aid and stuff?” the girl asked.

“12. You need 12, Jesus Christ,” Stiles said under his breath.

“12,” his advisor said, “But I have an appointment, so I’ll help you after him. If you could step outside.”

Stiles smiled at the girl, who walked out pushing her hair behind her ear. Freshman. He wondered if he had that deer in the headlights look at the start of his first semester.

“Stiles, come in,” his advisor called.

Stiles went in and tugged the strap of his backpack higher. “Hey, you wanted to see me?”

“Yes, the Evidence course you signed up for in the second eight weeks was canceled. I made a list of a few classes you can take instead,” she said, handing a paper to him.

Stiles scanned down them. Shakespearian Tragedies, Intro to Philosophy, Intro to Photography, and Drawing I.

“So I have to take a blow off class?”

“They aren’t blow offs. All of them will count towards your Humanities minor.”

Stiles blew out a huff of air between his lips, looking down the list. He didn’t like Shakespeare. The only thing he read was in freshman year of high school with his alcoholic English I teacher slurring through Romeo and Juliet. Not to mention he was up to his eyes in reading already for his Criminal Justice major. So that counted out Philosophy too. Photography, no. He already wore a scarf sometimes, he didn’t need anyone thinking he was anymore hipster than they already did.

“Uh, Drawing, I guess,” he said, handing back the paper. “It doesn’t clash with anything else I’m taking?” 

“No, so that’s the one you want?”

“Yeah. Doesn’t sound like I’ll have much more reading to do,” he said.

“True,” she said. “Okay, well here’s the CRN. Enroll this evening. The first class is tomorrow afternoon.”

“Thanks,” he said, taking the pink sticky note she had written on.

He walked out, looking down at the note. This was fucking perfect. He worked his ass off to get half of his basic courses out of the way in high school, only to have to take filler classes because he had already taken all his Comps, his histories, and math classes. It was bullshit and he wished someone had filled him in on that before he gave up his social life for concurrent enrollment just to save a few bucks. Shit, he already had $10k in student loans, a few more just seemed like a drop in the bucket that he was going to end up drowning in.

But, whatever.

It wasn't not like Drawing could be that bad. He liked drawing in high school. He was even decent at it. He stuffed the note into his pocket and went up the next flight of stairs to his class.

 

“You are kidding me.” Stiles said, looking at Scott beside him, a week into their Drawing I course. “Circles? We’re drawing circles.”

“Spheres,” Scott said.

“Oh excuse me." 

Scott smiled, dragging a stick of charcoal over his sketchpad. Stiles frowned, looking at his own white page. They were allowed to use graphite or charcoal, so why Scott was getting his fingers all dirty he didn’t know.

“So how was Conner’s class?” Scott asked.

“He was being a dick, as usual,” Stiles said, “He already assigned three chapters and we have a test Friday. Oh and that’s just for Criminal Law. Corrections is going to fucking kill me. He assigned a ten page essay due at the end of the month.”

“I’m glad I dropped it.”

“It’s only the second week and I already want to.”

 “Maybe you should.”

“I hate that guy,” Stiles said, because he knew he wouldn’t drop it and Scott knew it too.

Stiles grabbed one of the pencils from the pack he got at the campus book store with his required art book. He didn’t understand why he needed a book either, but just add that to the list.

He started drawing the edge of his circle and it came out so dark and flaky. He frowned down at the lead that was crumbling from the tip. The art instructor would choose right then to stand beside his easel.

“Using a 4B?”

Stiles glanced up at him. The guy was maybe in his early thirties, but he had a killer smile that had half the class swooning.

“What?” Stiles asked.

“Are you using a 4B?” the instructor, Chris Haze, asked. Everyone called him Haze, though, probably because he didn’t have his doctorate, so Dr. Haze didn’t work, but Mr. Haze sounded too much like high school.

“I don’t know,” Stiles said. “I just got the ones they had at the book store.”

Haze rolled the pencil in Stiles’s fingers until he could see the gold, lettering. He pointed at the top. “4B. That’s why it’s so dark. Use a 2H for the outline then build up shades. It’ll make it smoother.”

“Sweet, thanks." 

“Yep,” Haze said, walking away.

When he moved away the subtle scent of alpha brushed Stiles’s nose. He rubbed the bottom without thinking and sniffed to clear it.

“He’s not wearing a ring,” Scott said quietly. 

Stiles shrugged away and erased the mark he made. “Good for him. Your sphere is looking like an egg.”

“Whatever, it’s,” Scott said, then frowned. “Dammit.”

He listened to Scott scrubbing his eraser over his page and he dug out the 2H pencil from his own pack before glancing up. Haze was at the other end of the aisle with a group of girls that chattered about him constantly before he came in the room and after he left. He looked at him in his baggy cable-knit sweater that was pushed up on his thin arms talking to a red-head with a blaring voice like a foghorn.

Stiles turned back to his page, pressing his pencil to the paper and starting to draw.

 

Stiles walked into Drawing I at 4:15, five minutes before class started and dropped his bag to the stained concrete floor. It was a ten minute walk from his Criminal Justice classes and it was unbelievably hot outside for the end of September in Northern California. He pulled his flannel off and tossed it over the back of his chair.

He took his sketchbook from his backpack and laid it on the table. They were doing still-lifes. A small cow skull sat on a milk crate in front of a white backdrop with a flower beside it. His actually didn’t look bad so far. The nose was a little more globby than it should be, but he had seen a few other peoples' and he wasn’t one to gloat, but it was better than that. It was a lot better than Scott’s, but that was like comparing to a toddler.

He took out his pencils and started to add in his shading as more people came in and they all settled down.

Haze came in with his How we doin, that made all the chicks and omegas’ panties wet. It was one of the only phrases where Stiles could hear his Bostonian accent come through.

He didn’t even realize Scott hadn’t shown up until Haze took the seat he normally sat in with ten minutes left of class.

“It’s coming along,” Haze said.

Stiles sat back in his chair and looked at it. It looked pretty good to him. Actually really good. It was a lot better than anything he had ever drawn in Art in high school.

“Yeah I think I’m almost done,” he said.

“It’s getting there,” Haze said, then he laid his own sketchbook on the table next to Stiles’s. He took a pencil from behind his ear and opened to a page littered with light sketches. “Do you see the shadows under the eye socket?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, leaning forward to see the feather light marks Haze was making.

“You see how they curve, like this?” he asked and then his pencil spit out this line that curved perfectly, building tones darker and it didn’t even look like he was pushing any harder.

Stiles laughed slightly. “Man, that’s crazy.”

“Hm?” Haze asked, still drawing lightly.

“That looks awesome already.”

Haze smiled, somehow all professionalism and comfortable at the same time. Then it fell and he pulled Stiles’s closer to him. “May I?” he asked, picking up the eraser.

“Yeah, go for it.”

Haze erased around the eye socket of Stiles’s cow skull, then he picked up his pencil again and went under it lightly again. It stood out like a sore thumb and Stiles’s cockiness was popped like a balloon.

“Those lines aren’t lines,” Haze said. “They’re shadows. Everything up there is made with shadows. You will never need a hard line when you’re drawing.”

“What about with cars?”

“Nope. They’re always softer than you think they are,” Haze said. “Does that make sense?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Help at all?”

“Yeah, actually,” Stiles said, “Thanks.”

“Good.”

Haze stood up and walked through, making comments on other peoples’ drawings. Stiles stared down at his own and the perfect shadow under the one visible socket that somehow made everything else around it look like a caveman with a rock had done it.

Weirdly it didn’t feel bad. Daunting maybe, but not bad.

He tore out the page and took out his 2H again to work on the outline. He put in one earbud of his headphones and bent over the table. It was weird, but Haze was completely right. Nothing up there could be made with a hard solid line like he had used. Even the edge of the nose was made up of a highlight against the darker shadow the whole thing made on the white backdrop. The slopes of the skull were all subtle shadows.

“Good job, Stilinski.”

“Thanks,” Stiles said, taking out his earbud.

When he looked up, everyone else was gone. Haze looked around and laughed slightly.

“Yeah, class ended about 45 minutes ago. I was just coming back by to lock up, but if you want to keep going, you can just look the doorknob on your way out, unplug the lamp up there,” Haze said.

Stiles shook himself. He had completely spaced out. That wasn’t something he was used to. Sometimes when he was reading he would, but he couldn’t remember the last time he had let himself do that.

“Uh, no. I’m good. We’re working on these again tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah.”

Stiles closed his sketchpad and put away his stuff. “Sorry. I completely spaced,” he said, shouldering his bag.

“That’s alright. I’m usually in my office until late anyway. I wouldn’t have even bothered you if I didn’t have to leave early,” he said.

“Well thanks, the advice helped.”

“Yeah I could tell. You take feedback really well.”

Stiles smiled slightly. The guy had brown eyes that were weirdly green in the center, like moss or something. The only smells in this room were dust and mold, like all of the building, and extremely faint warm alpha smell. It was a good smell, like when someone walked by wearing a good cologne, but that was it. It didn’t do anything for him.

“I’ll see you Thursday,” Haze said.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, laughing at himself and feeling himself get a little warm when he realized he was staring. “See ya.”

Then he bolted out of the room before he could make himself look like any more of an idiot in front of someone who controlled his grade.

 

4 years – October 23, 2012

Stiles pulled out midterm from Corrections and pushed his fingers back through his hair. A 65% stared back at him in red ink. He took a picture of it and sent it to Scott as people settled into their seats in Drawing. Scott had dropped three weeks in, but it turned out he didn’t really care. He saw him enough in their dorm and when he was drawing, he kind of liked to be left alone.

His phone vibrated in his hand.

Scott: ouch. U going to pass?

Who knows? Fun surprises!

Scott: Lol that’s the spirit, buddy.

Get booze. Ur getting drunk with me tonight.

Scott: can’t. I’m going on a date with Alli.

He silenced his phone and put it in the pocket of his bag before pulling out his stuff. They were working on a still-life of a plant now with two balloons tied to the pot. Each day they sank a little lower. By tomorrow they were almost going to be touching the wilting green leaves.

He put in his headphones and turned them up as he worked. At first, he had thought the different shades of pencils were stupid. Now, he wasn’t sure it was possible to do a drawing without them. They made everything so smooth, not that his drawings were that smooth, but he could trace his improvement against the things he had done just in the last few weeks.

About halfway through class, there was a touch on his shoulder and Haze sat where Scott used to sit. 

“The shading on the balloons is fantastic,” Haze said, after Stiles pulled out his earbud. “With the string, try this,” he said and he took one of Stiles’s pencils that were scattered around and started shading around them in that effortless way he did. “Make sense?”

“Yeah, thanks,” he said. “What about the dark shading here? Is there a way I can make it a little smoother?”

“Maybe,” Haze said, and he doctored it, like it was nothing. Still when he finished, and Stiles thought it was awesome, his thin lips turned down. “A little better, but it won’t look perfect. It’s hard to save this paper when you go too dark too fast.”

“Yeah, I saw that,” Stiles said.

“It’s still good though. A big improvement even over your last drawing,” Haze said, standing up. “Keep working on it.”

“You got it, sir,” Stiles said.

He started working again, not hiding the small smile he let himself have. The shading on his balloons was good. That felt better than the 92% he made on his Criminal Justice midterm.

 

Stiles walked into his and Scott’s dorm after seven. He had stayed after class was over to finish his drawing before locking up like he usually did. He pulled his shoulder bag off as soon as he got in the door, wincing at the tenderness in his neck from the weight of his books. He dropped it on the couch and heard Scott and Allison in his bedroom, then the door opening and them coming out.

“Hey,” Allison said.

“Hey,” he said, going to the mini fridge and taking out a Coke. “I thought you guys had a date?”

“Yeah we’re going to eat in a second,” Scott said. “Do you want me to bring you anything back?”

“Nah, I’ll fend for myself,” he said.

“What are you doing tonight?” Allison asked.

“Homework. I have an essay to work on,” he said, grabbing and apple from the top of the fridge and biting into it. 

“You could always put it off and come with us,” Allison said, with a big smile. “Lizzy would love to meet you.”

“And still no,” he said around a mouthful of apple skin.

“Okay, what about Mike?”

“No,” he said still chewing.

“Come on, he’s a beta and has a swimmer’s body.”

“He is pretty hot,” Scott said.

“Sounds like you guys found a boyfriend.”

“Stiles,” Allison said with the whine Stiles only ever heard when she was around him and Scott, like she was comfortable enough around them to show her omega side that Stiles kept on lockdown. “You live like a monk and you’re so cute.”

“Turn that sappy voice on your boy toy. ‘cause it’s in one ear and out the other here,” he said.

“Just tell me, do you like guys or girls? Alpha, beta, omega?” she asked, like she asked every few months when she worked up to ask him out on another double date that he always said no to.

“My hand. My hand works just fine.”

“Ew,” she said.

Scott laughed. Stiles wondered if she could hear the discomfort in it. He didn’t think so. “Come on, let him be a loser if he wants.”

“Thank you,” Stiles said, picking up his bag again and going towards his room. “Have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Then we’d just be sitting in our rooms, being emo and self-loving,” she said.

“Don’t knock it ‘til you try it,” he said, going down the hall and closing the door behind him.

 

Of course Scott brought Allison back to the dorm. Why the fuck he did that when Allison only shared a house with two other girls off campus, he didn’t know. It could go on a list of things he didn’t fucking know. He tried to keep reading for his classes the next day, but Allison was loud and when he did hear Scott it sent a shock of revulsion down his spine, even after two years of having to listen to them through too thin of walls.

He jammed his headphones into his ears and turned on his music. He pulled out his drawing supplies and started drawing a tree, something Haze told them to practice doing, because the free flowing movement was hard to capture. He let his music pound into his head until he couldn’t hear anything but the building of his headache.

That was normal. No one liked to hear their best friend fucking his girl. That was awkward. That was awkward and that’s why he held his pencil so hard his fingers hurt and listened to his music so loud he had a migraine so bad he couldn’t get out of bed for class the next day.

 

4 years 1 month – November 1, 2012

Two weeks later, Stiles sat in Drawing working on his final project for the class. If it came out well, he would give it to his dad for Christmas, if it turned to shit, he would throw it away and act like it never happened. Around him, some people were drawing the still-life in front of them and others were drawing from pictures. At five minutes before class let out, Haze sat beside him.

“She’s beautiful,” he said.

“Thanks,” Stiles said, already feeling himself getting hot, but he didn’t have any reason to be embarrassed. It just made him nervous, because it was personal. That was all, but still.

“Your mom?”

“Yeah. I want to give it to my dad for Christmas if it comes out okay.”

“Let me see." 

Stiles scooted his light outline over. It was weird how he had enough confidence to know his stuff was decent, but that wasn’t why he had no problem handing it over. It was good enough not to embarrass him, but he had no doubt that he would hand it to Haze and he would have a suggestion to make it better. He would point out something easy or so subtle he wouldn’t have thought about it on his own and it would make all the different. Like placing a highlight just a hair over on a pot and bringing the whole picture together. Paying attention to the fall of light and making sure it was exactly uniform on everything. It was awesome and no matter how badly he messed up, he could always start over and try again.

“Her left eye may need to come a little closer to her nose,” Haze said, making a tiny mark. “And her nose may need to be a little bit shorter. Other than that, I think you’ve got a great start. If you have any questions on it, just hit me up.”

“Okay thanks, a lot.”

“No problem,” Haze said, going to help the red-head that never shut up.

Stiles plugged his headphones back in and turned up his music.

 

4 years 3 months – January 12, 2013

Stiles stood outside of the art building with a cigarette. It was dark and the building was at the edge of campus, so he wasn’t too worried about the police coming by and telling him to stop. When he raised his hand back to his lips, he could smell the turpentine on his fingers, he inhaled that as heavily as the smoke, going down his throat to curl in his lungs.

He jumped slightly, turning away from the door when it came open.

“I won’t rat you out, Stilinski if you hand over your lighter.”

“Instructor asking for a lighter in a smoke free zone, tsk tsk,” he said, digging in the hoodie’s pocket for the lighter.

“If you can even find it in all that slack,” Haze said.

“Hold your horses,” Stiles said, around the cigarette clenched between his lips as he dug. “There we go.”

Haze took it and lit his own cigarette before handing it back. Stiles put it in his jeans pocket instead.

“How’s the painting coming?” he asked.

“Eh,” Stiles said.

“That good, huh?”

Stiles laughed slightly, leaning his shoulders back against the brick and inhaling again. Haze stood a few feet from him, looking down the alley they were in.

“I had a question for you,” he said.

“Ask away,” Haze said.

“I want to change my major to Art, stupidest idea you’ve ever heard?”

“Not at all,” Haze said. “It doesn’t take a genius to see how much you like it. You’ve got a lot of natural talent and you’ve got drive.”

“Really?”

Haze nodded, inhaling and squinting against the smoke in the yellow-red tinge of the security light on the side of the building.

“That’s good, because I already enrolled in only art classes this semester,” he laughed slightly, but the confession hanging in the cold air.

“What’s your major now?” Haze asked.

“Criminal Justice.”

“That’s quite a change. Why are you in that?” Haze asked, staring at the sidewalk, like he was zoned out, but he did that a lot, like he didn’t like to keep eye contact.

It was weird, but Stiles liked it, it meant he could look at the brick above his head and not feel subconscious about it if he fidgeted, which he did a lot. And he caught shit for it constantly in his Crim classes. Mr. Stiliniski, stand still. Stop fidgeting. Hands by yours sides. On the podium. 15 points off on his presentations.

“My dad’s a sheriff, I guess it just made sense.”

“Did you want to go to law school?”

“No.”

“Did you want to be a cop?”

“Fuck no.”

Haze laughed with the corners of his eyes crinkling without looking up. “Then maybe you’re in the wrong major. Don’t get me wrong, you aren’t going to get rich with an art degree.”

“Without going to law school I’m not going to make much with a Criminal Justice degree either.”

“True.”

Stiles finished his cigarette and snubbed it out before picking it up and tossing it in the trash can beside them.

“See you in class, I guess,” Stiles said.

“I think you should do what’s going to make you happy,” Haze said, making eye contact with him. “I don’t know you well, but I know that this makes you happy. Life’s too short to turn away from those things. You have to hold on to them when you get them.”

“Are you glad you got your degree in it?”

Haze nodded. “It might be different if I had a mate and kids, but I don’t and this makes me happy. If you want the cookie cutter, white picket fence life, do something else. Go get in the business or IT program.”

Stiles laughed. He was proud when it didn’t come out bitter, not as bitter as it could. “I’m not getting that life.”

“You can’t know that.”

“Not going to happen, but thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.”

Haze smiled without showing his teeth. “Anytime.” 

Stiles nodded a little awkwardly again before going back into the building and back to his painting of a tree on a blue background. His throat felt a little itchy, his eyes too. This damn building probably had black mold or something. He ignored it and plugged his earbuds in until he couldn’t feel the dampness anymore.

 

4 years 1 month – January 18, 2013

“Dad, I’m going to change my major, I think,” Stiles said, when he went home for the long weekend before Martin Luther King Day.

His dad glanced up at him catty corner from him at the kitchen table. He chewed his steak more slowly then swallowed. “Yeah? To what?”

“I know you might be mad, but I’m sure about this,” Stiles said.

“Okay,” his dad said hesitantly.  

“I want to change it to Art.”

“As a minor?”

Stiles drummed his fingers on the table. “No. My major.”

His dad was quiet, sitting at the end of the table. Stiles kept glancing up at him as his smell became bitterer. It made him want to go upstairs and curl up in his bed. No, because he was really pathetic, it made him want to go upstairs and curl up in his hoodie that smelled like nothing anymore. His fingers went up to the necklace his dad gave him at Christmas and twisted the silver chain. He did it so often his fingertips were sore.

“What would you do? Would you teach?”

“I don’t know, maybe. I would have to get an MFA to teach college, which is all I would really want to do.”

“Why do you want it?” his dad asked, with a deep confused line between his eyes.

“I want to paint.”

“So paint. You don’t have to get a degree in it to do it.”

“I want a degree in it." 

“Stiles, that’s crazy. I’m sorry, but no. This isn’t a good idea.”

“It’s not a bad idea either. The average salary for someone with a Criminal Science degree is $45k. That isn’t that much.”

“Yeah, but at least you could get a job.”

“A job I would hate?”

“That’s part of being an adult. You do what you don’t like to pay the bills. You do hobbies on the side.”

“Why should I have to do it on the side?” Stiles asked. “People do this for a living.”

“How many of them do you think don’t make it, Stiles?” his asked. “You won’t have anyone else to help you. God knows you aren’t making an effort on that front.”

“And you are?” 

It came out loud enough to surprise him. It obviously surprised his dad too, because they just stared at each other. He stood up and went toward his room muttering sorry before going up the stairs and into his room, shutting the door.  

He grabbed his bag and tossed it on the bed, unzipping it and taking out the hoodie. He took it out and stripped off his shirt, pulling it on. The fleece interior was balled up, but soft on his skin. He curled into the smallest ball he could, tucking his nose down into the opening and pulled the hood up. It was pathetic and he had locked the door just for that reason.

If he was going to be a weak pathetic omega, then no one was going to see him. He squeezed his eyes shut with his chest hurting that his dad was mad at him. Mad at himself for throwing that in his dad’s face and just mad and upset.

And what the fuck ever, life sucked.

 

“You know I don’t like that,” his dad said.

“Pick your battles,” Stiles said, inhaling from the cigarette on the back steps as the sun began to set.

The cold wind cut across the backyard, swaying the chains on the swing set he and Scott used to play on when being an adult was a big joke and dream at the same time. Full of possibility, because they would have their own cars and they could eat what they wanted and do what they wanted.

They had been so fucking stupid.

His dad sat on the step beside him. “At least give me one.”

Stiles took the pack from the hoodie pocket and handed it over. If his dad realized he was wearing it, he didn’t say anything. He might not have recognized it with the few flecks of paint on it, but that was wishful thinking and Stiles knew it. His dad knew he was pathetic. Whatever. It could just join the club of things that fucking sucked.

He held the lighter for his dad and watched the end catch. He coughed a few times then it evened out. Stiles had forgotten he ever smoked.

“I shouldn’t have brought him into that, I’m sorry,” his dad said.

“Yeah well I brought Mom into it, so I think I’m the bigger jerk.”

“I just don’t understand. You were doing well in your major. What happened?”

“I don’t know. I took Drawing and everything clicked. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“I don’t know, Stiles,” he said, closing his eyes and leaning his head into his hand. He rubbed his fingers into his temples.

“When I’m painting, that’s the first time I’ve been happy since Mom died,” he said, and shook his head, hunching over farther into the hoodie.

He heard his dad sigh beside him. “You can still do it. You should. That drawing you did of your mom is beautiful, but you just don’t have to do it for your career.”

Stiles shook his head with his eyes burning against the cold. He tapped his foot, jiggling his knee. “It’s just,” he tilted his head back to keep his eyes from spilling. “Before I got taken and everything, things weren’t great, you know? They weren’t bad, but they weren’t great. It was like everything was colored in with pastels or something. It was all really dull, but that was cool.

“And then, I was in that nasty piss-soaked bathroom with him and for a few seconds I could see every color, even in the dark.

“And then I woke up and it’s like it all went black and white,” Stiles said with his eyes prickling more. “But when I’m drawing or painting, I get those colors back. I can put in every color I want. Maybe it’s stupid, I know it probably is, but I just really don’t want to give up something I have control over when I had everything else taken away and I didn’t have a choice.”

He heard his dad exhale and his shoulder’s stoop. He knew he had won and it didn’t feel like winning.

“Do you what you think you need to, Stiles,” he said, then his heavy hand was between Stiles’s shoulders. “You know I’ll support you.”

Stiles nodded, inhaling and still stumped forward. The worn black cotton was too cold for this weather. The only warmth coming from his dad’s hand and the smoke in his lungs. He breathed out and felt like he was deflating.

 

 

4 years 4 months – March 19, 2013

The day after his birthday, Stiles opened his dorm room door to his dad. Stiles smiled and hugged him tightly. His dad’s warm smelled buried into the fabric of his coat, licorice and leather, which made no sense, because he had never seen his dad eat licorice. His dad hugged him back hard before pulling away, all the apology either of them needed for Stiles leaving when they were both still tense.

“I brought you something for your birthday,” his dad said, holding up two bags.

“You didn’t have to.”

His dad shrugged. Stiles walked with him back to his room and his dad put the bags on the bed. Stiles started pulling out boxes. It was a kick to his chest. They were supplies. 

“How did you afford this?” he asked, looking at the things covering his bed.

His dad’s shoulders rolled through the thick green fabric of his coat. “Don’t worry about it.”

Stiles went to his bed and looked through the paints, oils and acrylics, new brushes, cleaners, and palettes. There was hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff here. The paints weren’t the ones he got when he splurged. They were the ones Haze used for his professional work, the ones he recommended Stiles use for his capstone next spring.

His eyes tingled and he rubbed at the back of his neck. “Seriously, Dad. Thanks. This mean, it really means a lot.”

His shrugged and gave him a weak smile. “You deserve this.”

When he left, Stiles sat on the edge of his bed and picked up the small white envelope in the largest box of paints. He opened it and slid out the small card.

Happy Birthday, Stiles.

His secretary must have written it. It was too slanted to be his dad’s writing. He tucked it back into the envelope and tossed it onto the table. His dad had never been the gushy type. This said more than anything he could’ve out loud. Stiles looked at the things on his bed and his heart lifted. It wouldn’t be easy to do this, but he had support and that’s all he really needed.

Chapter Text

5 years 2 months – January 17, 2014

Life was decent, painting, drawing, all congealing to make him happy. Art crowd people who just assumed he was A-sexual and left him alone. Haze mentoring him whenever he asked. He would go up to Haze’s late office hours and they would talk. Like a brother or an instructor that he looked up to ridiculously, even dragging Scott to a show that was exhibiting his work in the city after Haze mentioned it.

Then, on a calm peaceful January day, his nice little world imploded.

“I’m proposing to Allison,” Scott said.

“Seriously? Dude, I’m so happy for you,” Stiles said, smiling so wide his lips cracked.

 

Finding weed to go with his whiskey with his friends in the art department was ridiculously easy. He took it to his dorm room and propped open the window with the book from Corrections that the bookstore hadn’t taken back. $250 down the drain.

Whatever, he lit the sloppily rolled joint and inhaled hard. He coughed until he was spitting into the trashcan beside his desk. He soothed his sore throat with warm Coke. After a few deep mouthfuls, he replaced what he drank with whiskey and swirled it around in the can.

After a while, he was singing along with Lane Staley, the hoodie wrapped tight around his bare torso.

 

Isaac was a figure model that liked to leave his robe open on his stretching breaks between poses. He liked to sit beside Stiles and talk to him. He was a beta and he smelled like strawberries gone overly ripe. He was funny and cute. He did nothing for Stiles’s dick.

“Do you want to go get a drink sometime?” he asked.

“Yeah, that’d be great,” Stiles said, with the thick taste of whiskey hanging on his tongue.

 

A bar on a Tuesday and people buying them drinks. Isaac dragging his beta hand down between his shoulders and pushing his fingers into the band of his jeans. They ordered more drinks and smoked in the alley. Stiles laughed until he was dizzy, looking up at the sky bleeding with city lights and couldn’t see stars.

He laughed until his throat and chest hurt and he didn’t feel a thing.

 

“Have you been drinking?” the thick guy asked, peeling back the wrapper on a thick needle.

“Nope,” Stiles said.

Isaac giggled into his hand beside him. He fucking giggled. Then Stiles was giggling. The piercer smiled at them in a way that he wouldn’t be comfortable with if he was sober, but he wasn’t and everything was foggy, he couldn’t remember the last time he was, so it was a moot point.

“Stick out your tongue,” the guy said.

Stiles opened his mouth wide and stuck it out. The guy grabbed it then pushed cold pliers on either side.

“Count to three, baby,” the piercer said.

A weird little hum he had never felt in his life came out of his chest. The guy smiled at him.

“Sweet little noises you guys make,” he said,  then there was blinding pressure turned to pain rocking through his tongue. He tried to pull it back in, but he guy still had it then it was back in his mouth with a piece of metal clicking against his teeth and making him jerk.

It hurt. It hurt bad.

Isaac laughed and he realized he was talking out loud.

“Yeah it hurts, you just had a needle shoved through your tongue. It looks hot though.”

“Does it?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Good,” Stiles said and heard himself slur.

Kissing with it hurt.

That was the last thing he remembered before he woke up in his bed, face down and leaned over immediately to puke. When he finished, he passed out again with the smell of soured bile not even making a dent in his unconsciousness.

 

“Stiles, can I talk to you?” Haze asked.

Stiles leaned against the brick wall outside of the art building. It was passed eleven last time he checked. His head was swimming and his tongue still throbbed even a week and a half later. Everything was swimming. He couldn’t remember the last time it didn’t. Completely unattached from the world. It felt amazing to not be anchored. He brought the joint to his lips and inhaled.

“Go for it.”

Haze saw the joint and frowned. Like the hypocritical motherfucker didn’t smoke. Bullshit.

“How is your capstone coming?”

Stiles shrugged, closing his eyes and feeling his head sway. He was coming down. Just the weed was okay, but without balancing it and going deeper with the alcohol, it wasn’t nearly enough. Not even closer. That goddamn rug was peeling back over his black hole like a scab.

“It’s alright,” he said.

He must’ve slipped more than he realized, because then a hand was on his shoulder and he opened his eyes to Haze in front of him. His brown puppy dog eyes were sad. That healthy warm alpha smelled. Comfort, love.

“If I asked, would you take me home with you?” Stiles asked.

Haze blurred as he blinked and he felt the water film.

“I think I do need to take you home,” Haze said, rubbing his shoulder, the hoodie laid over his bare skin.

Stiles nodded.

Haze pulled him forward and put his arm around him when he swayed. Stiles tilted his head on his shoulder and drifted. The air was cold on his bare chest. Haze zipped it up farther. He didn’t even have it in him to get mad when they were going to the dorm. Then they were at Stiles’s door and he had his arms around Haze’s neck.

“I’d be good at it,” he said, pushing his face against his neck. “I'd be good at it. I’d make you happy.”

Haze’s thin hands were pulling him off gently and pushing him to Scott.

“Go lay down. Sleep it off,” he said softly.

“Whatever.”

Haze wasn’t taking him home. Why the fuck would he? 

He didn’t care, not when Haze passed him off to Scott and Scott put him to bed. He grabbed his best friend’s warm wrist and pulled him.

“You should fuck me.”

“What?” Scott asked. “No, Stiles.”

“Come on. I’d be so fucking tight,” he said leaning up next to Scott’s ear. “Fuck me. I want to feel it.”

His head pulsed and Scott pushed him back down.

“Scott, I need to feel it.”

Then he was drifting hard and blackness was coming up to grab him. He felt Scott’s lips on his forehead. Then he heard his bedroom door close and heard Scott walking away.

 What-the-fuck-ever, he didn’t care.

 

Sweet beta smell, so fucking nasty sweet. Hours after his bitch meltdown in front of Haze and Scott, days, he didn’t know. He didn’t care. He took another drink of the Mad Dog beside the bed with a full body shudder. Then jerked back. Isaac lifted his head from between his legs.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Not there.”

“You don’t like being eaten out?”

How would he know what he liked? He didn’t. But not there, not that. It felt like his fucking skin was going to crawl right off his body and go curl up in his hoodie on the floor.

Then his mouth was on Stiles’s balls, rolling them in his mouth. His dick had gone soft. Stiles put his arm over his eyes and started to jack himself off, flopping in his own hand for a few seconds.

Fuck, his chest hurt like a tetanus shot had been put right through the bottom. His opening tingled with spit and he wanted to go scrub himself clean. He couldn’t get hard.

“Too drunk,” Isaac laughed.

His breath smelled like whiskey.

Stiles’s eyes were closed, green, gold, brown. He didn’t move when Isaac shook him. The bed moved then he heard the front door close.  

He went into the bathroom and stood in the shower. He rubbed down his face, making water stream down his cheeks and neck. He soaped his hand and washed himself off, tugging on his soft dick and making sure he got all the spit from his sac. Then he reached back and fingered behind them. Like it would feel different. Like his slit would seam itself shut, because someone else touched him.  

He leaned forward and rested his head against his forearm and closed his eyes breathing in the steam. He rubbed back into the slit. A small jolt went down his back at his own touch. Wetness that was slicker than the shower came out against his finger. He rubbed between his lips. It slid through the wetness, then he pushed his finger in.

His muscles were tight around his knuckle then two of them as he worked in and out, spreading his feet a little wider.

He clenched his fist against the tile and worked himself harder until he was biting his lower lip hard as his lower muscles flexed around his fingers and more slickness as he got it all over his own hand.

He took his fingers out and rinsed them beneath the water. The weird cramping pressure passed over his face.

And that’s why he never fingered himself. He would’ve remembered if he wasn’t an idiot. His mate should be pushed to his back in the stall, stretching him around his fingers then his dick. He shouldn’t have his skin crawl at getting his slit licked. It should make him come apart.

“Whatever,” he said under his breath. “Whatever, whatever, whatever.”

 

His skin was still damp from the shower, when Stiles hit the push bar on the classroom door and flipped on the light. He had to use the door Haze left open for students. At the back, almost hidden. The halls were dark. It smelled worse when no one was there.

The large canvas for his capstone sat against the far wall. He grabbed it and put it on the floor. Then he grabbed his paints and started squeezing them onto the palettes. He yanked up the sleeves of the hoodie in the cold room and grabbed his largest brush with frayed ends.

On his hands and knees, he started throwing down paint. In the morning when he didn’t feel stripped raw and beaten, he was going to hate to call his dad for the money to replace this canvas, to start new, because you didn’t drain your feelings like this on expensive material.  

But he didn’t care. His eyes burned against the cold that was numbing his cheeks. His nose ran and was freezing to the touch. It was the cold. That’s what he kept telling himself until he saw water from his chin drop onto the paint. He smeared it in and kept going.

Five and a half fucking years.

Five and a half.

No one.

Fucking bullshit.

Music screamed in his ears so loudly it hurt. It gave him an A-bomb of a headache, but he didn’t care. If he could’ve turned it up louder, he would’ve.

It wasn’t fucking fair.

Fuck!”

He heard it over the scream of his music. It built with it. It felt like it would split his head in two.

“It’s not fucking fair,” he screamed down at the canvas.

The music was so loud if it wasn’t for his throat aching, he wouldn’t have known he was screaming. Then his phone beeped and died and he could hear his own breathing, booming against his ears along with his pounding head. He picked up the canvas and propped it on an easel and sank to the ground in front of it, pulling his knees to his chest.

A fresh gush of tears came from his ducts. It was all greens, brown, and gray, like he could dump the colors he remembered out into a bucket and swirled it around a black oval at the side like a fucked up pupil. Like the fucked up eye and color. Like everything about this that was so incredibly fucked.

“Fuck you,” he said against his own fist as he clutched the black sleeve speckled with paint. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,” he said again and again, pulling his knees closer, his breathing humid and rough through the fabric.

Chapter Text

5 years 3 months – February 2, 2014

Stiles sat in his figure drawing classroom after everyone had left. They had moved on to a female model. Her stool was empty with the light box still humming quietly on the floor. He drew the stool she had sat on beneath her finished body. He was bent over the table with his head propped on his hand with only the scratching of his blunt tip trillion as he shaded a wooden leg.

“Stiles.”

Haze stood in the doorway with a hand in the pocket of his khakis, the bottoms frayed from dragging beneath the soles of his hiking boots.

“Can you come with me for a second?”

“Sure,” Stiles said.

He tried to shove down the urge to vomit as he stuffed his things into his bag then put it over his shoulder. Haze unplugged the light box from the extension cord and Stiles followed him out of the room. His head still pounded faintly from drinking last night. His eyelids felt like sandpaper when he blinked, but it wasn’t the same as few weeks ago.

“What are you working on?”

“Just a drawing for Crane’s class.”

Haze nodded then he was pushing open the door to studio 1 where Stiles and two other seniors were working on their capstone projects. They would all be presenting at the art gallery downtown as their final project. So far Stiles felt like he was drowning, but he wasn’t stupid enough to think a large part of that wasn’t from how much he was drinking.

One half of the room was lit up with the rungs of lights above on exposed beams. Haze walked in and stood in front of Stiles’s large canvas.

“When did you do this?” Haze asked.

“A week or so ago,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’m not putting it in.”

“I think you should." 

Stiles put his hands in his hoodie pockets and felt his eyes burning. He needed to get his hands on some water. Then Haze came back over and sat down on the concrete. Stiles shifted his weight from the balls of his feet and glanced around before sitting beside him.

“If you want to make those brighter tones of green through the center pop, you can layer in some black around the edges. I think it would bring it together, tighten it up, but it’s already… damn. It shocked me when I saw it.”

“Thanks,” Stiles said, feeling his tongue ring hit his teeth.

Then he reached into his bag and took out the small bottle of Jack Daniels he bought before class from selling a few of his smaller paintings for $10 a pop. All he saw when he looked at the canvas was the blackness of the pupil at the edge and it felt like it had sucked him down, not in the panicky way of a few days ago. He was already at the bottom.

 “So what’s going on?”

Stiles shrugged, pulling his knee to his chest and picking at a glob of paint on his jeans. “I’m sorry about the other night. I lost my mind.”

“Don’t even worry about it.”

“If it makes you feel any better I tried to get into my best friend’s pants right after, so I clearly just have all my shit together,” he said, forcing a laugh.

Haze laughed too and it sounded as genuine as Stiles’s. It broke the tension, though.

“How did that go for you?”

“De-nied,” Stiles said. “So now I avoid him like the plague, which is impressive, because our dorm is the size of a shoebox.”

“Tough break.”

"Coming off a week long binge, I don’t know how else I expected it to end.”

“Can I ask about it?” Haze asked beside him. “Feel free to tell me to go fuck myself.”

Stiles shook his head, ready to say nothing, then he had a case of word vomit. “I had a mate, have, had. I don’t even know,” he said, taking another drink.

Haze just nodded, staring at the floor like what came out of his mouth made sense.

“I don’t know if you were even around, but like five years ago there was some kid kidnapped by the sex trade about forty five minutes from here.”

“Sheriff’s kid, right? Yeah. I was doing my MA at a college near there.”

“Yeah, well that was me. I was with my best friend at a lacrosse game at another school. We were just messing around after the game and stuff. Scott went off with this girl he had a thing for and I don’t even know, I don’t even remember anything but the impact when I was walking around the field after the game and everyone was gone.”  

“Holy shit,” Haze said quietly.

“Yeah,” Stiles said. “I woke up on this couch in an apartment and there were these guys walking around and another omega was laying there with his feet by my chest, knocked out cold. They were talking about us. Then they left and turned off the light. I heard another come in then one of them covered my eyes from behind and rubbed like Vicks or something on my upper lip and all I could smell was menthol. Then he was shoving a pill down my throat and held his hand over my mouth until I swallowed.

“When I woke up again I was in a bathroom with this guy holding me from behind and he was just babbling. Of course, I freaked out, because this dude had his arms around me. Then he started rubbing that stuff off my lip and…” Stiles shrugged, taking another drink.

Haze gestured for it and Stiles handed it over. Haze took a long drink and handed it back.

“Anyway, long story short, dude was my mate. He was working undercover and he got me out before they even had me a day, before anything bad happened. And then he disappeared.”

“No shit,” Haze said. Amazement was all over his voice, but it didn’t sound like disbelief like Stiles expected. “You haven’t seen him at all since?”

“I don’t even know what he looks like.”

“That’s awful.”

“You’re telling me,” Stiles said, then he cleared his throat again. “And the other week my friend got engaged and that’s how I reacted, like an asshole and I’m just great.”

"No. That feeling hardly gets better. It’s second to all of your friends and family trying to set you up with people. It only gets worse the older you get, when people start having kids and your family keeps meeting more and more amazingly desperate people.”

Stiles laughed and for the first time in a long time, it actually felt real.

“My mom is a year away from throwing me at anything with a pulse,” Haze said. “Last Christmas she set me up with another alpha. She is as conservative WASP as you can get.”

Stiles laughed again and passed Haze the bottle again. “Not your type?”

“Cool guy, we got drunk and talked about the Red Sox.”

Stiles laughed again at the way he said it and maybe just because laughing after so long of not was addicting.

“Have you ever gone looking?”

“Nah,” Haze said. “I don’t have a gland.”

“Really?”

“Yep. It just isn’t there.”

Stiles looked at him, propping himself back on his hands and stretching his feet out in front of him. He didn’t know that he had ever met someone who didn’t have a gland. It happened, but it was rare. Then again, it wasn’t as if you could tell just by looking at them, it wasn’t something you could ask. Still, he had spent the last five years jealous of them.

“Does that make you sad?” he asked, because he had no filter and alcohol just made it worse. Ask Scott. And his dad. And now Haze. He only had a heartbeat to regret it when Haze shook his head.

“I mean, when I was younger, yeah, it sucked. My friends were falling all over themselves with their mates and being sappy, but getting older, I’m glad. When I fall for someone, if I do, it’s going to be because I want to. It isn’t going to be because a gland in my heart has a leaky valve for them.”

“I never thought of it that way." 

Haze shrugged. “It’s something to think about.”  

They sat there and Stiles stared at his painting. It really was pretty good. If it wasn’t his he would’ve thought it was really good, but he could almost see the screaming in it.

“Have you ever considered having yours taken out?”

“Yeah. Scott want me too.”

“What do you want?”

Stiles shook his head, looking at the colors swirled on the canvas in front of him. He thought of not drinking so much, of being happy, of having that choice to be happy. A little pulse, like a bruise, clenched in his chest. He wondered if that would stop if he took it out.

“I don’t know.”

 

5 years 6 months – May 15, 2014

Stiles stood with Scott in front of the east wall of the art studio three blocks from the college. His capstone lined it with canvases of varying sizes.

“They look awesome,” Scott said.

“Thanks,” he said.

Allison walked down the wall with Lydia. Around them parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, they all milled through the four different graduates’ exhibitions. He looked around when he heard his dad’s laugh with the noise of the others. He wasn’t standing far away with Haze. They were looking at one of Stiles’s at the far end with cups in their hands.

“Do you want to come eat with us?” Scott asked.

“Dad wants to take me out,” Stiles said.

“You could come meet us later. We’re going to Ned’s.”

“Yeah." 

He wouldn’t, though. He took a drink so he wouldn’t have to see Scott get his feelings hurt. It just wasn’t the same as it used to be. Scott had brushed off the drunk come-on, but something had changed and Stiles knew it was on him. He wished he cared more than he did.

 

A handful of hours later, Stiles sat with his dad at the bar that Scott hadn’t gone to. Haze had come with them when John and Stiles both asked him. Stiles clicked his tongue ring against the backing of his still tender lip ring as they talked about baseball.

“So I’m going to need someone to work with me at that gallery,” Haze said, talking about the gallery they had just come from. The one that Haze was in the process of buying. “The job is yours if you want it.”

“What job? Janitor?” Stiles laughed slightly, watching his dad’s back as he went to the bar to buy another round.

“More like managing it.”

Stiles laughed again. “No. I wouldn’t know how.”

“You took the classes for it.”

“Yeah, but that’s a class. I took a physics class, but that doesn’t mean I know how to do anything with it.”

“I managed in Boston. I can help you if you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed.”

“No, man-.”

“You won’t get a better opportunity than I’m offering you right now,” Haze said. “You’ll manage the gallery since I’m going to keep teaching. You’ll go and look at other galleries, find new artists, we can share a studio space on the second floor. Then even if you don’t like it, you’ll have that experience on your resume.”

Stiles looked down at his fingers leaving places in the thin condensation of the glass in front of him. He took a drink of the beer that was the first alcohol he had had in a month. His tongue tingled against it. He had planned on applying for office jobs or really any job he could get. Finally, he smiled, really understanding what he was being offered.

“Yes, fuck yes. Thank you.”

“That’s more like it,” Haze said, smiling and patting his back.

Stiles smiled into his beer.

When his dad came back, they told him and he slapped Stiles’s between his shoulder blades and shook Haze’s hand. When they went to leave, Haze stood apart from them, smoking at the corner of the building, waiting to walk with Stiles’s back to campus. His dad stood in front of him beside his Toyota.

“You could just stay in my dorm. Scott isn’t coming back tonight,” Stiles said.

“As tempting as that is, I think I’ll go back to my own big bed,” his dad said, then he glanced passed Stiles. “So,” he said quietly. “he’s interesting.”

Stiles shook his head with his hands in his pockets. “It isn’t like that.”

“Does he have a mate?”

 “Glandless,” then he shook his head again with a small laugh. “It still isn’t like that.”  

“Well, whatever,” his dad said, then hugged him.

Stiles hugged him back. Then his dad’s arms tightened around him a little more.

“I’m so proud of you,” his dad said against his hair.

It didn’t matter that his dad had told him three times that night, when they were looking at his paintings and he gushed as much as his dad ever did, when he told him about his 3.8GPA, this was stronger than the rest with the smell of his dad’s rich scent, the feel of his thick jacket between them that was so familiar and missed.

“Thanks.”

“I love you. You two be safe. Text me when you’re back in your room.”

“Yes, Dad,” he said. “You too.”

His dad kissed his head then pulled away. Stiles walked back to Haze, who stood in the light smoking a cigarette. They both waved as the sheriff pulled away. Stiles waited until he was out of eyesight before pulling out a cigarette. Haze lit it for him, cupping his hand around the end to block the breeze.

Stiles glanced up at him as he was focused on what he was doing. His face was thin and his hair brown. He looked like he went out in the sun as much as Stiles, which wasn’t much. He was dressed in a gray and blue argyle sweater that somehow brought out the darkness of his eyes. His hands fascinated Stiles, they always had, from the first time he had ever seen him draw. It only grew stronger when he had seen him paint.

Like always, there was something there. There had always been something there, but he didn’t know if it was attraction. He didn’t know if he turned him on.

Haze looked up at him and smiled slightly. A boyish smile. If a thirty something year old man could be adorable, maybe he was that. Stiles smiled back.

“What to do another round?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah, I’m graduating and I have a job offer, I’m celebrating,” Stiles said.

Haze laughed. “Come on, you can buy your boss a drink.”

 

 

 

5 years 7 months - June 23, 2014

Stiles walked into the police Beacon Hills police station and said hi to Janet behind the front desk before he went passed and into the back. Two tweakers sat on the bench, waiting to be booked. He thought he recognized them, but if so their crank sores were worse. 

“Stiles, hey, man.”

Stiles looked up at Jordan Parrish and smiled before taking his hand and patting him on the back. “What’s up?”

“Not a lot. Your dad’s on the phone. He said he’ll be out in a second.”

“Alright, I’ll just go wait for him.”

“Actually come outside with me. I’ve got something in my truck you might want to see.”

Stiles laughed slightly. “That sounds sketchy for a deputy.”

Jordan just grinned and walked back through the room to the back hallway. Stiles followed him, saying hi to the people he knew. The thin carpet was just a familiar to his feet as the wood floors of his dad’s house. The smell was just as comforting too, closed up and old, but home. When they walked down the narrow hallway, that smell was mixed with the faint scent of rain water, Jordan’s omega smell.

They stepped out into the parking lot and Stiles followed Jordan to his old brown GMC. The windows were rolled down and the engine still ticked quietly as it cooled. Jordan opened the passenger side door and picked something up. Stiles smiled when he saw the gray-blue puppy, squirming against his chest.

“Aw, how old is she?” Stiles asked, taking the puppy when Jordan held it out.

“He. He’s eight weeks,” Jordan said, reaching back into the truck and pulling out a white puppy, cuddling it as it licked his clean-shaven face.

“What are they?” Stiles asked, looking down at the puppy in his arms. It had brown spots above its eyes and a white muzzle and feet.

“Pit Bulls. I know, he’s colored weird. His mom is a tri-color." 

“He’s awesome looking,” Stiles said, then he laughed as the puppy licked his chin, hitting his lip ring. “And he’s so sweet. Yes, you are, pretty boy.”

“I figured I’d find you out here.”

Stiles looked back to his dad. “Hey.”

“Really, Stiles? Another one? You’re going to look like a tackle box when you finish,” John said, brushing his thumb over the ring in his eyebrow.

Stiles shrugged, but used his free arm to hug his dad when he did, the dog squirming between them. “I’ll stop getting them when they stop letting me pay with paintings.”

His dad snorted, but kissed his temple before pulling back. “Cute pups, aren’t they?”

“Yeah, he’s adorable. Are you selling them?” he asked, looking at Jordan.

Jordan smiled, his straight handsome smile. “Why, are you interested?”

“Maybe. I’ve been thinking about going to the shelter or something.”

Jordan glanced at John. “Don’t worry about it. Your dad took care of it.”

“Yeah?”

John shrugged with a little smile. “I thought he could keep you company at your new place, if you wanted him.”

Stiles looked down at the puppy and smiled, scratching behind his ears. His fur was soft and his skin loose around the bottom of his neck. He already had a blocky head, but he was adorable. When Stiles looked at him, the puppy just licked his face and wiggled harder in his arms.

“Thanks, Dad. He’s perfect.”

The blue-eyed puppy pushed into his hand while he petted him, completely trusting him not to drop him. It was stupid and simple, but Stiles’s felt some part of his heart melt to feel it. He kissed his stocky head and the puppy nipped his lip with its razor sharp teeth. Stiles laughed and the puppy wagged its tail.

 

That night, Stiles pulled burgers from a take-out bag. Their grease leaked through the wrapping as he put one in front of his dad and took out the fries. He passed Jordan another. He had gone with Stiles while the sheriff finished his shift, and they went to the nearest pet store a town over for Stiles to buy the things he needed for his puppy. They had picked up food there too, so it was only a given that he stay and eat with them.

“No, yours is the soybean,” Stiles said, taking the burger he had put in front of his dad and replacing it with another.

“Stiles, really?” his dad asked. “I give you a dog and you give me soybeans.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I love you,” he said. “Jordan, yours had bacon, right?”

“Yeah,” Jordan said. “He’s right, sheriff. You know the doctor said lay off the fats.”

“See even your deputies know,” Stiles said.

“Because they’re nosey,” John said, looking at Jordan with the corner of his mouth turned down.

Stiles passed him the burger then took out his own and sat down. Behind him, he heard the little growling as his puppy, Pax, wrestled with the one Jordan was keeping, a white female.  They ate with Jordan asking Stiles about his job and talking about the funnier busts he’d made. By the time he left, they were in the living room and it was almost midnight. Stiles hadn’t even realized as they made their way through a case of Bud Light.

“Jordan, you have an early shift,” his dad said with three empty beers in front of him.

“I know, I know,” Jordan said, as he stood.

He walked towards John then stopped and gave a little wave. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Stiles, it was great to see you.”

“Yeah, you too,” Stiles said, shaking his hand. “Thanks for looking after dad for me.”

“No problem,” Jordan said, smiling his warm smile. “We kind of like our sheriff.”

Stiles smiled at him then Jordan picked up his puppy from where it slept by Pax and walked back through the house. Stiles heard the front door close as his dad was flicking through the TV guide on the satellite. Stiles’s smiled, not making eye contact.

“He has a crush on you." 

John snorted without looking away from the screen.

 “He’s twenty years younger than me, Stiles.”

“So?" 

His dad only shook his head, but with the few beers, it wasn’t the same exasperated look he gave when he was sober.

“You drive me crazy, kid.”

Stile made a kissing noise at him as he leaned forward to pick up Pax from the floor. He didn’t even open his eyes as Stiles cuddled him to his chest and watched the TV as his dad finally clicked on something mindless, like almost every night of high school.

 

 

The next afternoon, Stiles laid on the couch with his puppy on the cushion beside him, both of them worn out from playing on the floor. He shifted and heard the remote control fall between the cushions.

“Son of a bitch.”

He rolled over and snaked his hand in-between the cushions. He felt around and closed his hand around fabric. He rolled his eyes and pulled it out. His dad still left shirts on the couch apparently. He pulled out the crumpled and wrinkled shirt. He went to toss it over the back to wash later when he stopped. Deputy Parrish was stitched in black on the tan fabric above the pocket.

He frowned at it. It didn’t smell like Jordan anymore, it just smelled like couch. He glanced at the clock. It was only four. His dad wouldn’t be home for another hour. He looked at the shirt again, then got up and went up the stairs and into his dad’s room.

Yes. He was a nosey son. He couldn’t help himself in high school and he couldn’t help himself now. The comforter was gray and blue now. The last time he had been in here, it was brown. There weren’t any clothes on the floor or in the basket. Pennies and quarters laid on his dad’s dresser around his change jar where he emptied his pockets at night.

It didn’t look any different than he remembered.

He was about to give up when he opened the cracked closet door. It wasn’t wrong if the door was ajar. T-shirts and work shirts hung up together. He flipped through them. Stilinski, Stilinski, Stilinski, flick, flick, flick.

Then he froze.

Parrish, flick, Parrish, flick, Parrish.

 

Stiles was browning hamburger meat when he heard his dad in the hallway, hanging up his gun.

“Smells good,” he said, coming into the kitchen.

“It’s just Hamburger Helper. You aren’t hard to impress,” he said, forcing a laugh. 

“Still smells good,” John said, going to the cabinet and taking down a cup and filling it with ice.

“So you’re messing around with Jordan?” he asked, then almost choked, but he let it hang in the air. 

His dad froze with the fridge door open. Stiles watched the color flush out of his face then red blotching his cheeks and neck.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, grabbing the tea jug and filling his glass.

The irritation that had been bubbling frothed a little bit more. If it was his dad eating bacon when he wasn’t supposed to or processed cheese or something, he would dance around it a little more, he would drag it out, but not this.

“So you’d rather just lie to me than be honest?”

“Stiles." 

“No,” Stiles said, cutting him off. “You aren’t even messing around with him. He’s living here and you didn’t even tell me.”

“Oh so you’ve been digging around?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Stiles yelled, feeling his anger shaking under his skin.

“Why didn’t I tell my 22 year old son that I’m with a 27 year old?” 

“Or I’m just too pathetic to tell? Afraid I’m going to break because you’re fucking happy?” 

 “That isn’t it,” John said, forcing his voice to soften. It still trembled with anger. His lips clenched so tightly they were white.

“How long has he been living here?”

“A year and a half,” he said, like it was bitten out.

Stiles clenched his jaw and felt his eyes water. “Screw you.”

He walked out, smelling the beef starting to burn. Pax ran out from the hall to try and grab his shoelaces. Stiles picked him up and went up the stairs. He slammed his door behind him and put Pax on the floor, letting him nose around in the corners as he grabbed his clothes from his dresser and started shoving them into his bag.

He heard his dad on the stairs before his door opened.

“Stiles.”

“What?” he asked, shoving his t-shirts in.

“What are you doing? You aren’t leaving,” his dad said, coming in and trying to pull his bag away.

Stiles gripped it, but didn’t shove in anything else when he saw the panic and worry in his dad’s face.

“Don’t go. I’m sorry.”

“Whatever.”

John grabbed his shoulder and pulled so he could see him. “Stiles, please.”

“When would you have told me? If I didn’t find a fucking shirt in the couch, how long would you have waited?”

“I didn’t… This isn’t easy to talk about.”

“It isn’t easy to talk about or it isn’t easy to talk about with me?”

His dad looked at him, but Stiles saw his throat bob as he swallowed. He looked back to his packing with his windpipe tightening.

“If you were just sleeping with him, okay. That’s your business, but no, he’s living here and you would rather kick him out while I’m here than talk to me. I worry about you here by yourself. I worry about you not having anyone looking out for you, and then you don’t tell me? What? Am I that unstable?”

“There isn’t any excuse. I’m sorry. I was wrong. I know you would’ve been happy for me.”

“No, you didn’t think I would be. If you thought that you would’ve told me,” Stiles shook his head. “Just whatever. Fuck you, Dad,” he said quietly with the fight running out of him.

“Don’t leave. It’s getting late. Just stay, so I can try to explain.”

“Then go back downstairs. I don’t want to talk right now,” he said, keeping his eyes on his bag, but even with as pissed as he had been, he wouldn’t be able to walk out of the front door when his dad sounded that upset. Not without hating himself.

“Okay, I’ll be downstairs,” his dad said.

He lingered then he turned and went back to the door, closing it quietly behind him. Stiles sat down heavily on the end of his bed. His posters from his teenage years stared down at him. He leaned down and picked up Pax when he came from where he had hidden under the bed while their voices were raised. He nosed into Stiles’s neck and whimpered quietly. Stiles shushed him and felt his warmth through his shirt until the puppy went to sleep.

 

It was almost ten when Stiles came back down the stairs. He took Pax outside and stood on the back steps, letting him pee and poop, then tug at his jean leg while Stiles smoked. When he finished, he snubbed it out and picked up the dog, going back inside. His dad was in the living room, breaking down his service 9mm and cleaning it. He looked up and his blue eyes caught the lamp light as he gave a weak smile.

Stiles sat on the couch near his recliner. He petted Pax beside him to keep from having to look up.

“I’m sorry, Stiles.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Stiles asked, quieter and calmer than he had before.

His dad pushed away the fold-up table he used to eat his dinner on and put his head in his hands, rubbing his palms over his short gray hair.

“He’s almost your age.”

“You knew I wasn’t going to care.”

“I didn’t want to upset you.”

Stiles shook his head, clenching his jaw. “That’s dumb. Really dumb.”

“I know.”

“I would’ve been happy for you.”

“I know,” John said, like he had hurt himself. “I know, Stiles. I’m sorry.”

“What does he think? That I’m just a giant asshole who doesn’t want you with anyone?”

“No. He just wants to be around you.”

“Then you’ve been an idiot, because I want to be around the guy that loves you.”

John nodded and looked at Stiles. It was like a punch to his chest. His dad’s eyes looked fractured they were so wet. He had seen his dad cry so little. The last time was probably a few months after his mom died and he found him on their bed, crying like his heart was breaking and going to fall from his mouth.

“Just because I don’t have my mate doesn’t mean I can’t handle people being happy,” he said bitterly, but his throat hurt because his dad was crying and he was crying because he hadn’t trusted Stiles enough to tell him something so important. “I’m not a piece of crap.”

“Of course you’re not,” he said. Then he stood up and came over. He kneeled down in front of Stiles and hugged him. “I’m so sorry.”

Stiles hugged him, pressing his cheek against his dad’s shoulder. He stared at the mantle with his jaw tight. But his dad’s smell broke him. How upset he was broke him. He dug his fingers into his shirt and hugged him closer, closing his eyes.

“I love you.”

“I love you too,” Stiles said.

When John pulled away, he wiped his own face and cleared his throat before he went back to his chair. They listened to the news and his dad started to clean his gun. It was something to do and soon Stiles picked up Pax, just to have something to do with his hands. It was almost eleven when Stiles swallowed and talked again.

“Do you love him as much as you loved mom?”

John nodded, looking over at him. “It’s different, but still. Yes. I love him as much.”

“How?” Stiles asked with his voice almost cracking.

“Stiles, I will always love your mom, always.”

Stiles shook his head. “I know that. I mean, how do you not want to vomit when he touches you?”

John pushed his gun table to the side again. “I don’t understand.”

Stiles breathed out, rubbing his hands on his jeans to burn them with friction. “I mean, this might get graphic, but I don’t know, okay, I tried to sleep with someone else in January when I was drunk, and I couldn’t. It gave me heart burn and all I could think about is that someone else shouldn’t be touching me. That didn’t happen to you?”

His dad frowned, his eyes folded into the faint lines of his face. “You haven’t… You’re a virgin?”

Stiles shrugged, looking at the carpet between his feet. “I’ve tried kissing people. I’ve tried thinking about them and I just can’t.”

They were quiet for so long that Stiles started to feel even more uncomfortable until his dad cleared his throat softly.

“I loved Claudia before we ever even kissed. I didn’t have a choice. With that bond, there just wasn’t a choice. She was my mate and we were going to love each other, so we just did. Then with Jordan, he just wormed his way in like a little parasite. I was in love with him before he ever kissed me. Did you like the person you tried to sleep with?”

Stiles shook his head, feeling less red at the way his dad said that. Like he wasn’t embarrassed, but like knowing what Stiles was hurting was more important than being uncomfortable.

“He was okay. I don’t know,” Stiles said, rubbing his thighs again. “I just… I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about having my gland taken out. I think it’s messing me up, because I just can’t think about anyone else.”

“What about Haze?”

“No. And I even think he’s hot and I can’t think about him like that.”

“Do you want to?”

“I don’t even know,” Stiles said with his eyes watering. “I don’t know, because all I can think about is him.”

John’s face softened even more and Stiles’s knew he was hurting for him. He wiped his own nose and dug at his eyes trying to clear the burning.

“I don’t think the bond is final,” his dad said after a while. “I think it helps two people fall in love. I think it helps them stay in love, but like any relationship, it needs work. Those relationships can fail if people don’t work for them, just like any other relationship, so I think you can love someone if you want to, Stiles. But son, you have to be willing to let him go first.”

“I’m not holding on,” Stiles said, but his voice shook and he didn’t know if he believed himself.

It was quiet for another long stretch before his dad’s chair creaked as he leaned forward.

“I need you to be honest with yourself before you think of anything drastic,” his dad said. “Stiles, that surgery is so dangerous.”

“I know.”

“Is it that bad?”

A sob slipped from Stiles’s mouth and he bit back another. “It isn’t easy.”

His dad came across the room again and hugged him. Stiles didn’t let go for a very long time. His dad hugged him and it felt like it was completely holding him together.

 

5 years 10 months - August 7, 2014

“That man has been looking at your stuff,” Haze said, then gestured to the older guy across the gallery.

“So?”

“Go talk to him." 

“Why?”

“Just go.”

Stiles exhaled and went across the gallery to the wall that Haze had put out one of his newer paintings. There were perks to working there. It looked like a pile of shit next to the other stuff, but it looked better there than it did in the dim lighting of the studio.

The man looked at him when he came closer and smiled with his arms over his chest. Faint alpha smell came off of him with a slightly bitter undertone that somehow wasn’t bad.

“You’re the artist?”

“Yeah.”

“Peter Hale,” the man said, holding out his hand.

Stiles shook it. “Stiles Stilinski.”

“I know. The gallery owner’s been talking you up,” he said. “You were a student of his?”

“Yeah.”

“And he offered you a job after school? He must like you a lot,” Peter said.

“Yeah, I guess he does.”

Peter looked at him for a second with the corner of his mouth curling up. His eyes twitched down him, then he looked back to the painting.

“Are any other paintings in here yours?”

Stiles looked around and pointed to the one in the corner. “The green and gold in the corner. It was part of my senior capstone.”

Peter walked towards it. The charcoal suit he wore was cut perfectly over his shoulders, then tucking in at his waist. Stiles glanced back at Haze at the counter. He was on the phone, but he winked at Stiles.

“Ah, that’s beautiful,” Peter said, smiling with his blueish green eyes catching the overhead pot-lights.

“Thanks." 

“You’re talented.”

“Thank you,” he said, but he felt warmth spreading under his cheeks as he clenched his hand in his pocket.

“I’ll take both.”

“What?” Stiles asked, then shook his head. “Sorry, that flew out.”

Peter laughed and slipped his hand into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a business card and handed it to him.

“Give my secretary a call to arrange for the payment and pick-up,” he said.

“Uh,” he said, staring down at the card. Then shook his head. “Um, thanks.”

“Don’t thank me. They’re the perfect gift for my nephew,” he said, looking at the paintings and ran a hand over his stomach, like an unconscious effort to smooth his tailored suit. “He’ll love them.”

He started to say something self-depreciating, but he just cleared his throat.

“I hope he does.”

Peter smiled again, like he was looking through him. Like he was in on every secret Stiles never knew, and every question he never knew to ask. Stiles looked away and clenched the fabric of his pockets, tonguing at the backing of his lip ring. Then he was gone and Stiles felt like he could breathe again.

Chapter Text

5 years 11 months

Stiles looked at the front glass of the art gallery, the canvases and lights reflected back at him against the night. Occasionally, the pass of headlights or taillights would streak across, but mostly the milling of patrons was uninterrupted as he nursed a glass of wine beside Haze.

“More people than I expected,” Haze said.

“Mhm, have you sold anything?” Stiles asked.

“Two are on hold.”

“Awesome.”

The people varied from cocktail dresses to hipsters trying to look more refined and somehow less at the same time. It was their first big show and they were both breathing easier. For the last three months, Stiles recurring nightmares had been dressing in his suit, coming in, setting up the catering and waiting with no one showing up, not even Haze, until he had to shut off the lights at passed 3am.

“I’m going to go check with the caterer,” Haze said, slipping through the handful of people toward the small kitchen.

A woman with white curly hair motioned him over and Stiles went, with a wine-warmed smile. The sequence of her gold dress caught the overhead lights, like she was covered in stars.

“This is beautiful,” she said.

“The artist is from Savanah. She said it was her interpretation of the noise the frogs made in the field behind her house.”

“Oh wonderful. How much is it?”

“$1,300.”

“I’ll take it,” she said.

“Great,” Stiles said, smiling. “Let’s get you written up.”

Stiles went to the counter towards the back and wrote the receipt, glancing around the gallery as more people came in. They talked and wondered slowly down the walls, drinking and eating. He saw a sprinkling of college kids, but most were older. Most wondered out again without buying, but a few gave him long glances until he came over and they asked for a price.

Around nine, the gallery had hit a lull and only a handful of people were against the far wall. Stiles stepped outside for a smoke break for the first time in four hours.

A burble pulled up to the curb near them. A black crotch-rocket pulled into a spot. The rider wore blue jeans that went down legs that went on for days. He glanced away at passing traffic as he inhaled and tried not to stare. He gave up and looked back as the man pulled off black gloves that matched his leather jacket.

Then he reached up to take off his matte black helmet. Stiles started to give him a small smile, then he saw his face and his breath turned mangled.

He didn’t remember much of being taken, but he remembered him. The dark hair, his angled and severely handsome face. He remembered him standing with the bald alpha in the living room where he laid on the couch, floating in and out of consciousness.

“Holy shit, holy shit,” he said, stumbling backwards then turned and running on adrenaline alone.

All he could hear was the wind ripping passed his ears and the slap of his feet on the concrete. No one was on the street this late. Even cars were passing few and far between. Storefronts were dark and he mentally beat himself for running from the gallery. He should’ve went inside. He should’ve found Haze, called his dad. Anything, but running farther into the dark. Into a neighborhood that wouldn't call the cops if they heard a gunshot. 

When his lungs were filled with razors and a knife buried in his side, he ran into the closest ally he saw. He put his shoulders back against the brick and heaved in lungfuls of air. He could hear it wheezing. It sounded as painful as it was. He put his hands on his knees as bile ran up the back of his throat. He opened his mouth and gagged, then again, but nothing came out. He gripped his knees harder to keep them from shaking.

“Stiles.”

He looked up and jerked back. The smell of rotten food was so strong it was sweet. Flies buzzed around his ears. He pulled away, slapping at them and taking a step away from the dumpster, but not any closer to the guy standing at the end of the alley. He looked behind him. A chain-link fence. He could climb that, maybe. Probably not before the long-legged bastard in front of him.

“What do you want?” he asked. “How do you know my name?”

The guy came a step closer and held up his hand, like he was coming toward a scared dog. Stiles took two steps back to his one.

“My dad’s the sheriff.”

“I’m not going to hurt you,” the guy said.

The guy’s eyes were watering. It didn’t look like he was the tannest guy in the world, but he was so pale. He could see gray under his eyes. His eyes. They were mind-numbing. That wasn’t normal. This guy had been in the room. He had stood with the son of a bitch who had him.

Stiles’s world turned white.

The tension in his legs flushed out. It felt like his knees were going to unhinge.

“Oh my god. Oh fuck, oh fuck,” he started saying under his breath as his mind starting pulsing.

“Stiles,” he said softly. “Don’t run.”

“I’m not going to run,” he said, but he couldn’t go forward either. He could hardly keep himself up.

He came closer, slowly until he was right in front of him within breathing distance. He was dreaming. His dreams never smelled like rotten cabbage before. He had to be, because there was no way this was him. There was no way he was this hot.

He wasn’t hot, he was fucking… god he was perfect. Dark hair, a long straight nose, cheek bones that could cut concrete.

He was looking at Stiles, over his face and his hazel eyes were swimming. Stiles might have been a little blurry too. That would explain why he kept coming in and out of focus every time he blinked.

He reached up to touch slowly, like Stiles would actually pull away from him. Stiles slammed into him, wrapping his arms around him and burying his face in his neck. He smelled like cinnamon and sweat. Like someone had ground up Red Hots and somehow put them into his pores. It was perfect. It was so perfect.

His head was pushed in against Stiles’s neck. He felt his larger chest expand as he breathed in then felt his breath against his skin as he breathed out in a gush.

“What’s your name?” Stiles asked with his eyes squeezed shut and his cheek against his collar.

“Derek.”

Stiles gripped his jacket. It felt like the world was snapping together, like tectonic plates were actually fitting together seamlessly. He heard his mate’s heart beat faster. His own breath was hot in his mouth as he pulled him closer and he didn’t smell trash or stale flat air. It was all Derek.

He tried to hold back the hard bodied sobs, but he couldn’t as he buried his face in the leather of Derek’s jacket and breathed against his neck. Nothing mattered, nothing was there around them. Time didn’t matter. For a few seconds, it was them and that was it and he squeezed Derek to him as hard as he could.

 

Chapter Text

It was like falling into the half-period between sleeping and waking. Nothing felt real, and it felt like nothing had ever been clearer. They had stood there in the alley, then Stiles had pulled them to his flat. When his hands were shaking, Derek took his keys and unlocked the door. Pax barked like an idiot until getting close enough then he hit his back so quickly it thumped on the wood floors to show his white stomach. Derek had ran his hand up the dog’s chest and neck without stopping then he picked Stiles up and put him back on the bed.

When he laid on top of him, Stiles’s breathing clotted in his throat. They just laid there. He could feel his body moving as he breathed, but nothing else. They just stared.

“You’re so beautiful,” Derek said quietly.

“Can I…” Stiles started to ask when the silence stretched. Then he just touched the dark stubble on his cheek and leaned up to kiss him.

Derek moved his lips back against him. It felt like an electric jolt was wired straight up his spine and into his chest. Anything he might’ve picked up on from kissing Isaac flew out of his head. He opened his mouth wide and pushed his tongue in deeper. Derek moaned into his mouth and fluid ran out of him. Derek pushed his upper body into him and kissed him deeper, knowing he could smell it, Stiles’s skin heated.

When he reached up to touch him, he turned into a grabby virgin and couldn’t stop. 

“The jacket,” Stiles said, breathing hard.

Derek pulled it off and Stiles started pulling off his t-shirt before it was even off. He only heard the noise out of his mouth when he was getting his tongue pierced when he was drunk. It was his trill and it vibrated his throat, like a little bottle of bees. It sounded rusted, like he had never actually used it. If Derek noticed that it didn’t sound right, it didn’t stop him from grinding down with a guttural noise, like the one he heard coming out of Scott’s room too much when Allison was over. It yanked another little trill straight from him as he started unbuttoning his own shirt.

Derek covered his hands with one of his own when he reached the third down.

“No.”

“Do you want to take it off?” Stiles asked, dropping his hands so Derek could take off his clothes.

Derek shook his head and Stiles’s gut sank. “Not yet. I shouldn’t even be doing this, but I can’t help myself.”

“Just keep going,” Stiles said, leaning up to kiss him again.

Derek pushed him back and Stiles just let him. Inside his heart was pounding, but his body felt boneless. His mate was touching him. He was on top of him. Fuck. He was alive and just like that he was a second from having a full blown breakdown again.

“Please.”

Derek kissed him again then moved off of him. He pulled Stiles onto his side and they just laid there. His eyes were perfect, gold and brown, moving out to green. It felt out of body. The feeling of it being a dream was so firm.

“Where have you been?” Stiles asked.

“It’s a long story,” Derek whispered and touched his face, stroking with his thumb from beside his nose, under his eye, following the curve of his cheekbone. “Do I have to tell you now?”

Stiles’s eyes started to water and he shook his head. “I don’t think I could take it right now,” he laughed quietly. “Just don’t go.”

Derek just nodded and kept touching his face.

He didn’t know when he fell asleep, but when he woke up, Derek was gone. He sat up with panic racing hot up the back of his throat and his heart dropped. All of it had been so realistic. The sheets were wrinkled on the other side of the bed. Then the knob on the front door started to move.

The door came open and Derek came in with Pax. Stiles exhaled and fell back on the bed. Pax jumped onto the bed beside him and licked his face before laying down against him.

“He acted like he needed to go out,” Derek said.

Stiles shook his head with his arm over his eyes. “It’s cool. Just convinced myself you were a figment.”

When he looked up, Derek was frowning with his eyes zoned out on couch he bought at a thrift store and Haze helped him bring up the narrow staircase.

“I was kidding, kind of,” Stiles said.

Derek shook his head and looked up. “Can you go to breakfast with me?”

“Yeah.”

Then he stood up and looked down, laughing slightly with a blush so hard it felt like it would make him sick. He was still wearing the suit he wore for the opening. With the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, it showed the tattoos that ran down to his elbow on his left side.

He buttoned the vest and tossed it on the bed then unbuttoned his shirt, shrugging it off. He went to the dresser by the window and took out a worn gray Alice in Chains shirt that was nearly see-through. He glanced at Derek and saw him looking at his chest. He laughed weakly and rubbed his hand over the barbell through his nipple.

“They seemed like a good idea at the time,” Stiles said.

Derek nodded and turned around with a frown etched into his face.

Stiles kicked off his shoes and his pants then yanked on a pair of jeans with holes in the knees. The cracked mirror above the dresser showed how fucked up his hair was. He tried to flatten it then grabbed his gray beanie and pulled it on before sliding on his Vans.

“Ready,” Stiles said, grabbing the hoodie from the back of a chair and put it on before realizing what he’d done.

Derek slid his hand under the lip of the hood by his neck. The frown hadn’t left. He bit at his lip ring and looked down.

“Is this mine?”

“I’ve had it almost six years. I think it’s mine now,” he said.

“You look better in it,” Derek said with a voice that seemed deeper in the daylight through his grease-streaked windows.

Stiles could only look up at him for a few minutes, feeling himself start to slip into whatever weird place he’d fallen into last night. Then he made himself laugh again and stepped away, pulling the necklace his dad bought him years ago out and rolling the chain between his fingers.

“Let’s go before I gush or something.”

Derek opened the door and put his hand between Stiles’s shoulders when he walked passed him. It sent a shiver down his spine he hoped Derek didn’t feel. Fucking virgin getting off on just being touched.

The elevator whined around them, the broken two lit up above the door, then the one as the doors slid open. 

“I like your dog,” Derek said.

“Yeah, my dad got him for me. He’s sweet.”

Derek nodded again. Stiles frowned at the front windows of the building when they stepped off the elevator.

“What time is it?” he asked, looking at the walls for a clock.

“Six forty-five,” Derek said.

“I can’t remember the last time I was up this early. I mean, waking up this early.”

“Do you sleep in?”

Stiles shook his head, as they stepped out onto the sidewalk. He felt along his hoodie then took out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and fingered out his lighter.

“I’m nocturnal or something,” he said, around the filter and lit it, inhaling deeply.

He hadn’t even wanted one last night and that need came back like a tidal wave in the cold morning air. The fog over the city hadn’t gone away. Then it hardly ever did. He loved the gray though, watching the sun as a vague burning glow behind the cloudbank.

“Are you a morning person?” Stiles asked.

“I sleep when I can. Where do you want to go?”

“There’s a diner right up here.”

Derek nodded again then he stepped around Stiles to put him on the inside of the sidewalk, away from the street. He inhaled hard on his cigarette because his eyes tingled. His hand brushed the back of Derek’s and before he thought about it, he was holding it. Derek just laced their fingers together and brought his hand up to kiss the back.

Stiles laughed again. He knew he was doing it a lot, but he couldn’t help himself. It was that or start crying. 

They walked into the diner lit yellow in harsh halogen lights. Nicotine stains clung to the walls from decades ago when smoking in here was legal. The smell of it still lingered. Derek put his hand between his shoulders and gently pushed him towards the back. Derek sat in the blue vinyl booth across from him. Stiles took a few of the menus from behind the napkin holder and handed one over to Derek. The grease on them stuck to his fingers as he looked down at the menu he didn’t need. He tossed it on the center of the table and rubbed his face with his elbows anchored on the table.

“Are you okay?”

Stiles looked up at Derek.

“What the hell is going on?”

It was like his gorgeous face was twisted into a permeate frown. He had thick eyebrows. They were almost touching. He was so hot it was close to him not being able to handle it and that pissed him off, because he looked fine.

“Yesterday I was thinking getting my gland taken out and today I’m sitting across from you, who I spent the last four years at least, trying to convince myself you were dead. And now you’re here and you’re fine. So explain it to me.”

“What can I get you two to drink?” a waitress asked with an apron tied over her bleach-stained jeans.

Stiles took the cup beside the napkin dispense and put it up on the edge and heard her pouring. “And the blueberry pancakes and sausage, please.”

“Just coffee,” Derek said.

She wrote down their orders and walked off. Stiles rubbed his hands on his thighs before making himself look up. Derek was staring at him.

“I was working until a year ago.”

Stiles stared down at the tabletop.

“You might need to keep talking,” Stiles said, pulling his coffee cup towards him and stirring in a creamer and sugar.

“Stiles.”

Stiles glanced up and almost flinched at the look in Derek’s eyes. He looked upset. If he cried then Stiles’s was going to bust into a million tiny pieces that he didn’t even understand, because he could feel the pissed off right beneath the surface mixing in a slurry of other shit. Rejection. Happiness. Anger. Relief.

He started to worry the chain of the necklace again against his sore fingers.

“When I met you, I was in that operation for another year. When I got out, you had just turned seventeen. You were a Junior in high school. I was a twenty-five year old man with PTSD. I wasn’t going to drag that onto your front porch. So I went into another operation-.”

“Wait, you got out when I was seventeen?” Stiles asked.

Derek nodded with his mouth still turned down.

“And instead of calling me or I don’t know, coming to see me, you just let me think you were dead?”

“Stiles, I was twenty-five-.”

“I don’t care." 

He could hear his heart pounding in his ears, up his throat. He breathed in through his nose and rubbed his thighs harder beneath the table until his skin started to itch. His heart caught on the back of each beat like it was trying to lift itself out of his throat.

“I wasn't going to bring that to your door. Not a teenager,” Derek said.

“That was kind of my decision wasn’t it?” 

Derek opened his mouth then closed it again. Stiles stood up as his heart kept beating in that weird painfully fluttering way.

“I can’t do this, man. Not right now,” Stiles said. He pulled out his wallet and threw a ten on the table, going to the door.

The bells above the door jingled as he opened it and stepped out into the cold wet air. His hands were shaking as he dug for his cigarettes again. He didn’t stop. He chain smoked them through the lobby, then started smoking by the window in his living room with cold air coming through the thin crack. His free hand petted Pax where he laid by the milk-crate Stiles sat on.

The sun was trying to make a break through when someone knocked on the door hours later. He let his forehead thump against the metal door when he saw Haze through the keyhole. A wash of relief and rejection harsh enough to make his tongue bitter swept from his skull to his toes. He pulled open the door.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Haze said, coming in when Stiles stepped to the side. “I just wanted to come check on you. I didn’t see you last night.” 

“I’m sorry. I should’ve said something,” Stiles said.

Haze shrugged and petted Pax as the dog wiggled up to the door with his large pink tongue hanging out. “What happened?”

Stiles barked a laugh and went into the kitchen and took down the Jack Daniels from the cabinet, because if he smoked another cigarette he was going to puke. He poured it into a green plastic cup and downed with a splash of water from the tap that ticked.

“My mate came to the gallery last night,” Stiles said with his back still to him.

“No shit,” Haze said, like it was a question after a drug out moment.

Stiles turned back around and gave another rough laugh. “Yeah.”

 “Did you talk?”

“We went to breakfast and he started trying to explain, but… fuck. He was out of the job he was working when I was seventeen. He didn’t even try to contact me.”

“Did he say why?”

“He said he didn’t want me to have to deal with him or some shit. I don’t know,” Stiles said, “Fuck this, man, I’m so sick of worrying about this shit.”

“If you want to spill you’re not going to run me off,” Haze said.

Stiles shook his head and started to pour another drink before he set it back on the counter. “How did he do that?” he asked, knowing his voice was loud and couldn’t help himself, didn’t care to. “I’ve thought about him every day. He could’ve put me out of my misery and he didn’t. What the fuck? Why not?”

Haze leaned against the cabinet farthest from Stiles’s like he was settling in for a rant and Stiles gave it to him like sewage from his mouth he couldn’t stop.

“I cried myself to sleep every night when I was seventeen, I know, don’t judge me, I’m pathetic,” he said, taking a drink straight from the bottle and feeling his face burn and behind his ears. “And he thought it was his choice not to meet me, because he was twenty-five.”

“That sucks.”

“Fuck this. I’m not sitting around like this. What bars are open?”

“It’s almost four. So all of them.”

“Come with me?”

“Sure.”

He took his dog for a short walk then they went to the bar closest to Haze’s apartment that was only a handful of blocks from Stiles’s. It was older people, but it kept Haze from running into his students and that was just fine with Stiles. They drank and watched a hockey game Stiles didn’t give a shit about. The noise of the bar was nice, though and he liked the way Haze laughed. He liked the way it sounded with the noise of pool balls cracking together.

Before it was over, they went over to the green felt table and Haze racked the balls and broke them. Stiles made shot after shot, missing again and again. Haze laughed.

“You suck at this.”

“Suck my dick,” Stiles said.

Haze snorted and came up behind Stiles as he lined up his next shot. He pushed up against him and put his hand on his wrist, pulling it back.

“Alright, look at the ball. Line it up. Think about where it’s going,” Haze said, next to his ear, but not against it.

Nostalgia rushed through him with the buzz of alcohol already there. Haze showing him how to paint, telling him steps like that. All the confidence he did it with. The smell of his soap from being so close. His hips brushing Stiles’s ass. Then the crack of pool balls as Haze pushed his hand forward then he was off him. He watched the ball sink into the pocket and laughed.

“Get out of here. How did you do that?”

“I’m a wizard,” Haze said, winking at him before taking a drink of his beer.

When they walked out of the bar, Haze insisted to walk him home. It was after two in the morning and he was glad for it. The streets were quiet and their laughter was easy against the buildings. The light was burned out in Stiles’s hallway in front of his flat.

“I’ve got to take out my damn dog,” he said, hearing his voice slur.

“I’ll go with you.”

They went back down the elevator. He could feel Haze’s warmth from how close they stood on the way down. It seemed like he could still feel his lips when he stole a drag of his cigarette in the small park Stiles wouldn't go to by himself in the dark. Then they were back up and in the dark hallway. There was only the light from the street lamp outside burning orange through the industrial windows.

“Thanks for humoring me,” Stiles said, leaning back against his door to stay on his feet.

“Nah, my pleasure. Kicking your ass at pool, drinking. It was a good night,” Haze said.

Stiles laughed and felt himself warm. He hardly ever got embarrassed in front of Haze. He hoped he couldn’t see it and he hoped he would. He reached out and caught Haze’s belt loop closest to his zipper and tugged him forward.

Haze braced himself on the door beside his head to keep distance between them. He looked down Stiles’s face, down to his lips and back up to his eyes with a small smile.

“He’s going to be crazy about you,” he said.

Stiles rubbed the thin strip of denim and felt his stomach twist. “How do you know?” he asked quietly.

“Because you’re amazing,” Haze said with his small smile staying. Then his little smile fell. “You deserve to give him a chance though.”

Stiles looked down at his mouth and felt his heart beating quietly harder. His lips that were thin, but pink and soft looking. His stomach dropped and twisted. He wished he could love him, because he could see it in his eyes, he wouldn’t be rejected. They might not would work, but he wouldn’t be rejected by him. They respected each other. They loved the same things. Stiles already loved him, but it wasn’t the same and he knew that.

“If it doesn’t work out then, at least you tried,” Haze said even as he touched the ring of silver in Stiles’s lower lip with his thumb with his brown eyes glassy.

He heard the elevator coming up and Haze stepped back. Stiles made his fingers relax so they slid from his belt loop. The doors opened and faint light came out, but Stiles didn’t look away from Haze and Haze didn’t look away from him.

“Stiles.”

He turned his head so quickly it hurt his neck. Derek stood in front of the elevator. His heart flipped in his chest just at seeing him. He clenched his fist and wished it could be Haze. That he could’ve made him feel that way just by being near him. Derek looked at Haze and the look there wasn’t murderous it was something colder, something that made Stiles’s heart clench. Apparently Haze saw it too. He squeezed Stiles’s shoulder and Stiles wanted to hug him. He wanted to smell that smell on his skin and clothes that was more familiar than Red Hots. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Haze said.

“Yeah. Be safe,” Stiles said.

Haze got on the elevator and the doors slid shut leaving Stiles alone with Derek.

“What do you want?” Stiles asked.

“To talk to you,” Derek said.

“At two in the morning?”

“You said you were nocturnal.”

Stiles shook his head and unlocked his door, unclipping Pax’s leash and watching him run and jump on the bed. Stiles sat on the couch, flipping on the TV, trying anything to act like his heart was beating as hard as it was.

Derek sat at the other end and the beer and whiskey he drank threatened to all come up with the butterflies going insane in his gut. All he wanted was to throw him out.

No. All he wanted was to want to throw him out, but instead all he wanted was for Derek to lean over and push him against the couch and show him how much he wanted him. How much he was relieved to have him.

Stiles turned on the TV and flipped through the low cable package he had.

“When I got out I went right back in,” Derek said. “If I hurt you, I’m sorry, but I thought I was doing what I should.”

“I just don’t understand how you did it. I thought about you all the time. Shit, I think about you all the time.”

“I thought about you too. Constantly, Stiles,” he said. “I knew where you were. I knew you were safe and I was going to fuck that up.”

“That wasn’t your place.”

“You were seventeen. It wasn’t even legal.”

“People do that all the time,” Stiles said angrily. “It’s not like you were the first person to find your mate and them be underage.”

Derek shook his head in the harsh light of the TV. “I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry I didn’t lump all of that on you. You were in high school. You deserved more-.”

“You could have called me,” Stiles said angrily. “Fuck, it didn’t have to be all or nothing. A call, just so I could know you were alive. I had breakdowns thinking you were already dead. It wasn’t even then. I lost my shit in January and almost had to go for another semester. I almost broke some of my best relationships because I couldn’t handle thinking you were dead. But you know, you had to be dead, because what kind of mate could stay away for five fucking years?”

Someone pounded on the wall and Stiles frowned, realizing he was yelling at two in the morning with his neighbors and thin walls. The TV kept playing and Stiles’s heart kept doing that hard hurting flutter that caught weirdly. He shook his head.

“You need to go before I get the landlord called on me,” Stiles said.

When Derek didn’t get up, Stiles stood and went to the door.

“Come on. Go.”

Derek pushed off the couch that he made look small and shitty. He came closer and put his hand on the doorknob over Stiles’s hand then pushed him against the door. Derek leaned forward until he brushed Stiles’s face with his nose. The tension tried to run out of his body so Stiles played with the backing of his lip ring and closed his eyes.

“I thought about you every night,” he said, in front of his ear. “My perfect beautiful baby that I was just going to tarnish if I touched you,” he said, brushing his lips against the shell with a touch that might be his tongue that shot lightning down his spine. “It couldn’t stop me from thinking about it,” he said with the tips of his fingers brushing under Stiles’s t-shirt.

He pulled away and touched Stiles’s jaw before pulling open the door and closing it behind him before Stiles could even breathe.

Chapter Text

He met Derek on a Friday. The weekend passed in a blur of sleeping, alcohol, and painting. Sunday, he stayed in the studio with Haze where they worked on their different pieces. When he got bored with own, he would sit on the couch and watch Haze work, drinking a beer, and listening to the ‘90s alternative Haze lived through and Stiles loved. They had put together a sound system that rattled the thinly paned windows of the loft while Tool pumped through the speakers.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, he worked. He kept the gallery open, arranged to deliver the paintings that were bought on Friday. He stayed busy and that helped keep the pulsing black hole in his head quiet, until he was in bed at night, staring at the ceiling and feeling like it was going to come down and swallow him in splinters and concrete.

He gave up Wednesday night and took Pax with him to the gallery at 2am. The dog was a puss, but people didn’t know that looking at him. It made the dark streets feel a little safer. He worked in the studio until light bled in the huge window. In the daylight, it was hard to ignore the green and gold tinge of the paint stained on his hands and the canvas in front of him.

On Thursday, Stiles stood behind the gallery on his smoke break. This late, it was dead. The whole night had been a smoke break. The wind howled around the brick siding, biting through the beanie pulled halfway down his ears and froze the rings in his eyebrow, lip, and ears.

He heard footsteps at the head of the alley. He was getting ready to drop his cigarette and go back inside with fear curling around his spine. It didn’t matter how long he had been in the city, hearing this many people around all the time freaked him out sometimes. Then the back light found Derek’s face. Stiles exhaled out the tension and took another drag.

“Hey.”

Stiles looked away, trying to act like his heart wasn't trying to pump out of his chest.

“What are you stalking me now?” he asked.  

Derek just waited and Stiles dropped his eyes back to the ground. Shame he shouldn’t feel fumed his guts. Fuck that. He had a right to be mad. Nothing about his biology was going to keep him from being angry. Not even the way he could smell cinnamon beneath the smoke.

“Or were you just in the neighborhood, checking alleys at random?”

“I came to see if I could walk you home,” Derek said.

“I’m working.”

“The gallery’s closing.”

“In the studio,” he said.

“I can wait.”

“I don’t want you to wait,” Stiles said, flicking his cigarette onto the ground and crushing it before going to the back door.

The door started to close behind him as he walked in, then he heard it catch and Derek was holding it open.

 “Will you show me your studio?”

“I’m working. I don’t have time for you when I’m working. Sound familiar?”

If it was possible, the deep frown on Derek’s face went deeper. If it was just the frown, he could’ve just pushed him back out of the door. But no, his weird green eyes had to get upset. He sighed and walked farther inside, not arguing when Derek followed him.

The stairs were off the front door. They clanked beneath his feet as he jogged up them to the second floor. Derek came up more slowly, so Stiles left the door at the top open for him. Rails of lights to make it as dark or light as they wanted with different hues, perfect for working.

“That’s beautiful,” Derek said, looking across the room.

Stiles glanced at the large canvas with a black and gray tree that looked so real it seemed he could touch it from a distance. When he got closer the thick tar texture of it made it surreal and stunning.

“Yeah, it’s my boss’s. He’s brilliant.”

“Was he the man in the hallway with you?”

Stiles frowned, looking back at him. “Why would you think that?”

There was a look in Derek’s eyes. He didn’t know his favorite color, what he liked to eat, but he didn’t have to know him well to know that look of guilt, that was universal. Derek didn’t think anything, he knew it. That made something lurch in Stiles’s gut. An instinct, gut feeling that he was taught to follow by his dad.

“How much do you know about me?” Stiles asked.

Derek’s jaw clenched harder. “I checked on you.”

“You know what my boss looks like, where I work, fuck you probably knew where I lived. That’s a little more than checking up.”

Derek nodded slightly, looking at the floor. A knot at the back of his jaw flexed then Derek looked up at him and it almost made Stiles take a step back, even with the feet between them.

“I know that your mom died when you were eleven of a degenerative neurological disorder, one that you’ve been tested for and the results came back negative. You failed your driver’s test three times. I know you graduated from Beacon Hills High School on May 23, 2010 with a 4.0. You enrolled in college for Criminal Science. When you changed your major, it was the best news I’d had in, I don’t know, Stiles. I felt like I could breathe. I know you started working here when you graduated with your former teacher. I knew where you lived.”

The stone face he was beginning to think may be permanent was broken with sadness. It should freak him out, it did. No. He wished it did, but when Derek came closer, he didn’t move, even when he was only inches from him.

“I memorized every address you’ve had,” he said with his nose nearly touching Stiles’s. “Because that’s where you were.”

Stiles could smell faint mint on Derek’s breath mixing with the smell of turpentine and acrylics.

Derek slid his hand up the back of Stiles’s neck. “I know I hurt you and I’ll never stop being sorry, Stiles. Never. But those fragments about you are what I clung to. I lived for those little pieces of knowledge." 

 “You never even tried to talk to me,” Stiles said.  

It was weird how he didn’t realize how upset he was until he tried to talk. His voice cracked and he watched Derek’s face crumble.

“If I talked to you, I wasn’t going to leave you alone,” Derek said. “I’ll tell you why. But I’m asking you to let me tell you those things later, when I know you, when you know me.”

Stiles looked up at him and it wasn’t fair. The pull he felt wasn’t fair.

“You’ll tell me.”

“Yes,” Derek said. “If you’ll let me try to be with you.”

Stiles looked down, because that was easier than looking in his eyes. When he looked up, all he saw was how much Derek wanted this, him, and that too disorienting to believe.

“Yeah. Okay.”

He was still looking down, so he didn’t realize Derek was moving forward until their lips touched. He kissed him back, melting against the warm soft slide of his mouth. That was what kissing looked like it felt like in movies. The kind that made you want to move closer so there wasn’t an inch between them. Derek’s hands were on his neck and lower back, squeezing him closer.

Then Derek pulled away, brushing his fingers through Stiles’s hair. His fingertips brushed against his scalp, deeper than his dad used to when he was small. The same as his mom used to.

“I want to see your paintings,” Derek said.

That could be the lead in for a porn the way Derek said it with his voice husky. Stiles cleared his throat and pulled away with his face burning and a half half-on.

“Well this is it. All the stuff on this side,” Stiles said.

Derek walked along the wall where they were lined. He was so quiet and the brooding expression didn’t leave as he flicked through the canvases stacked backwards to the walls. Stiles stood where he was with his hands in his pockets.

“They’re beautiful.”

“Yeah? Is that your happy face?”

The light caught Derek's small smile, the whiteness of his teeth. Stiles wished his mind was photographic. If he could paint that, he would never wish for another thing in his life.

“I guess this is my happy face,” Derek said. “Now, will you let me walk you home or do you still need to work?”

Stiles took his brushes on the easel and tossed them into a jar of cleaner. “Nah, let’s go. I may or may not be running on four hours of sleep since Saturday.”

Derek’s frown returned, but he didn’t say anything. They went back down the stairs and Stiles locked the doors and turned off the lights before they left through the alley. The cold bit through the hoodie he put on on impulse now.

“What’s your favorite food?”

Stiles laughed slightly and looked at Derek when he asked that. He didn’t know that question could sound so serious or come out of such a serious looking face.

“What you didn’t find that out too?”

Derek’s mouth hardly curved up when he saw Stiles was joking. When it was clear he wasn’t going to talk again, Stiles shrugged.

“Macaroni and cheese. Homemade, not that Kraft crap. You?”

Derek stared down the street, like he had been asked a theorem in physics.

“I know I’m asking some tough questions,” Stiles said. “Don’t stroke out. I can’t carry your heavy ass.”

“Grilled Ribeye with mashed potatoes. Your favorite movie?”

“Uh, okay,” Stiles said, rolling his head back on his shoulders to look at the sky. “These just got harder. I guess, The Switch. It’s stupid and cheesy, but it makes me feel good.”

Derek’s hand brushed his then held it.

“You’re a romantic,” Derek said. 

“I wouldn’t say that.”

In the elevator of Stiles’s apartment his heart started to beat more quickly. He didn’t know if Derek was going to ask to come in. If they were going to stay together. Fuck, if he was going to lose it to him. At twenty-two. Jesus, he was a virgin in his twenties. It didn’t take a genius to see Derek wasn’t. Not with the way he kissed. Not with the way he looked. He pulled his hand away from Derek’s when it started to sweat and rubbed it on his jeans.

When the doors slid open, it felt like his heart was going to beat out of his throat. He didn’t even know this guy and he wouldn’t even hesitate to get under him. He might faint before they got to the bed.

At his door, he fumbled with his keys. Pax scratched at the door on the other side and he rolled his eyes as the silver of his keys glinted in the dark.

“I need to take my damn dog out.”

“I’ll take him.”

“No it’s fine. I will.”

He got the door open and Pax ran out, wiggling around both their legs. He stayed by Derek, though, licking his hands and jumping on his legs only to jump back down. Stiles grabbed his leash by the door and Derek took it from him.

“You haven’t slept, let me take him, please,” Derek asked.

Pax sat on the floor at Stiles’s feet with his white-tipped tail pattering the floor. Derek clipped on the leash then he was walking down the stairwell with Pax walking at his side, not pulling him like he did Stiles.

“Fucking dog,” Stiles said under his breath as he went inside and flipped on the light. “Goddamn it.”

One of his pillows was torn in two with fluff everywhere. He grabbed a Wal-Mart sack from beneath the sink and started shoving the bits inside. When he was finished, Derek still wasn’t back. He took off his hoodie, his suit jacket he wore to the gallery. 

Butterflies were dying and swarming in his gut. He didn’t know what Derek was going to want. Did he want him to be naked? Did he want to be naked? Was he going to want sex? Did Stiles want sex? Of course he did. Fuck. Every dream he had this week made his underwear stick to his skin.

Then Derek knocked lightly and pushed open the door, unclipping Pax’s leash.

“Did he drag your arm off?”

“No. He was good,” Derek said. “I’ll go home and let you sleep.”

“What?” 

Of all the options, that wasn’t one he’d thought about. There was a wash through him and he couldn’t tell if it was relief or disappointment. Something softened around Derek’s greenish gold eyes then he was in front of Stiles. He took off his leather jacket and held it out.

“I want you to take this,” Derek said.

Stiles started to shake his head, then his stomach dropped out. “No. You don’t have to do all of this. I’m not really the courting type.”

“Yes you are,” Derek said, then he kissed Stiles’s cheek softly right by his mouth. “Even if you aren’t, I’ve thought about this for years. Please, Stiles, if you want this.”

Stiles felt his pulse at the back of his tongue, at the base of his skull. He didn’t know if he had ever been this nervous. Even when he was under Derek the other night, his blood had been rushing down to his crotch, he hadn’t been able to think clearly like this.

“You already gave me a piece of clothing,” Stiles said.

Derek closed his eyes and shook his head like Stiles had physically hurt him. “No. I wore that working. That wasn’t mine. This is mine. I’ve had it since I was twenty and came back from the Marines.”

“You were in the Marines?”

Derek nodded and held up the jacket for Stiles to put on. “Please, if you’re going to wear something of mine, I want it to be this.”

Stiles looked at the soft satiny looking lining. The pliant leather of it he could smell from where he stood. He looked up at Derek and how he was trying to look impassive, but he was holding his breath. Stiles could tell. Stiles turned around, pushing his arm through the surprisingly heavy jacket then the other while Derek held it. The smell of leather and cinnamon filled his lungs and his ducts started burning again as he looked down at what was supposed to be the first step of a courtship.

“I’ve wanted to see that on you for so long,” Derek said.

Stiles turned around and looked up, feeling himself blushing. “Are we really doing this?”

Derek smiled with a small laugh that squeezed Stiles’s chest. “Nothing else about this has been traditional. This can be.”

“Yeah, like 1950’s traditional.”

Derek laughed again and kissed him. He didn’t think that was ever going to lose that knife edge down his spine between pleasure and pain. Not the feel of Derek’s tongue pushing into his mouth and brushing against his. It threw that chaste gesture out and strangled it. He just wanted to strip down and let Derek fuck him in only his jacket. Then Derek pulled away and Stiles fucking trilled like a skank. He felt less bad about it when he saw how dark Derek’s eyes were.

“Goodnight, Stiles.”

“You don’t have to go." 

“If we’re going to do this I do.”

“We don’t have to do this. I’ll just keep your jacket,” Stiles said, with a nervous laugh.

Derek kissed his cheek where he knew one of his many moles were, back over his cheek, the line of them that went beneath his ear. 

“When, if, you let me have you, it’s going to be when you know me. When I’ve worked hard enough and I deserve it,” he said quietly. Then he kissed each mole back to Stiles’s mouth until cupping his face and kissing him firmly. “Goodnight, baby.”

“You’re going to kill me if you keep calling me that,” Stiles said, making his breathing be even.

“I doubt it,” Derek said with another little smile then he kissed between his eyes. “Sleep well. I’ll walk you home again tomorrow if you want.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Okay,” Derek said, then he hugged Stiles before pulling away like he didn’t want to as much as Stiles.

Then he was gone, closing the door softly. Stiles just stood staring at the door before he laughed weakly and drug his hand down his face. He was not a romantic. He was not. He was a twenty-two year old man. The warm flutter in his gut had everything to do with the kissing and the brush of Derek’s hard-on. It didn’t have anything to do with the chivalric ideals and the heavy warmth of his jacket. Nothing at all.

Chapter Text

Derek opened the door in the alley and went down the short hallway to the gallery. At eleven at night, it was dark with the metal shades pulled. He checked the latches, the locks on the door. Then he went up the stairs at the back. When he reached the top, the door was open. It spilled out soft yellow light on the linoleum flooring. He stepped inside and watched Stiles painting. He wore a thin white-shirt that hung on his thin wiry body.

He was beautiful, and maybe he was deaf, because he still hadn’t turned around. Derek moved around the edge of the room, glancing at Stiles’s paintings against the wall. His colorful and ranged work on the floor and tilted against each other haphazardly, nothing like the care that he saw in how Stiles’s boss stacked his.

Christopher Haze, Bostonian native, received his Masters in Fine Arts from Berkley, attended Brown for his undergraduate. He was glandless and Derek hated him like it rose from the marrow of his bones.

He could hear the muffled music of Stiles’s music from the abrasively green headphones in his ears. The song was too loud and distorted, but he smiled at the little movements of Stiles’s hips as he sang along with the lyrics.

It felt intimate to watch Stiles when he thought he was alone. When it was only him and his painting. He could leave now and leave this moment completely uninterrupted. He almost loved the thought of that enough to do it, but he couldn’t.

“Stiles,” he said.

Stiles’s lips didn’t stop moving as he sang silently. Derek went closer until he could pull one of his earbuds out. Stiles jerked around with his eyes wide and his breath left in a whoosh that Derek felt against the bottom of his face.

“You scared the crap out of me,” Stiles said.

“I tried to get your attention, but you were busy.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Only a few minutes,” he said.

Honestly, he didn’t know. Time could be slippery to him. It never used to be.

Derek glanced passed him at the canvas, but Stiles stepped in front of him before he could see more than the shape of a face with a semi-detailed background.

“Don’t. It’s not finished,” Stiles said.

“I’m sorry.”

“Nah, don’t be. I just, you know,” Stiles said, shrugging.

“I get it. Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, pulling out a phone with a duct-taped backing and a shattered screen. The quiet roar of music went dead and he pulled the other earbud out, wrapping it around and pushing it into his pocket. “I just need to wash my hands.”

Derek watched Stiles go to the attached bathroom. He listened to the water running until Stiles came out drying his hands. Stiles went to chair in the corner and picked up his jacket. It was hard to swallow as Derek watched him pull it on and the subtle coloring crossing Stiles’s cheeks as he glanced at Derek. He wanted to run his hands over his chest in the worn leather and down his stomach. He wanted to take it off and rub his pierced nipples between his fingers.

“I’m supposed to wear it right?” Stiles asked.

“Yes,” Derek said, going closer to him and zipping the front then taking the scarf from the seat of the chair wrapping it around Stiles’s neck.

“This looks good on you,” Stiles said, touching the black military jacket he wore.

Derek didn’t know how he could look so innocent with the pink tinge under his pale skin with piercings on his sweet face. How he could blush so easily just at telling him that he looked good. The reason for it nudged at Derek’s mind and he shoved it away. If that was true after this long, that would be hard to cope with.

Instead of thinking, he leaned forward and kissed Stiles, feeling the soft bite of the metal loop through his lip. Stiles acted like it was a surprise every time, like a fraying extension cord catching bare skin. He was still bitter and rich with a touch of sweetness. Derek rubbed the top ball of the bar through Stiles’s tongue and felt his soft trill vibrating the metal. It felt wrong and it felt perfect to want to pin him to the couch and fuck him until that tiny trill was a sweet, loud, omega keen.

He pulled away and watched Stiles’s dilated pupils shrink.

“Let’s go.”  

“Alright,” Stiles said.

They went down the stairs and Derek watched Stiles move around the dark gallery, checking the locks and latches that Derek already had. They left through the back door and Stiles pulled a gray knit cap from the jacket pocket and pulled it on over his dark hair, covering the reddening edges of his ears.

“Are you hungry?” Derek asked.

“Yeah, actually. I’ve been working since noon.”

“Where do you want to go?”

Stiles pulled his shattered phone from his pocket again checked the time. “Not much is open, so I guess the diner.”

“As long as you don’t leave me there again, then the waitress is really going to think I’m pathetic,” Derek said.

Stiles laughed slightly, looking at his own feet with his hands tucked into the pockets. Derek wanted to hold one of them. He would if the wind wouldn’t make Stiles’s hand cold.

“I’ll probably stay,” Stiles said then he gave a small grin that nearly ripped out Derek’s heart.

He looked like the boy he picked up off the couch in one of the shitty apartments Deucalion’s ring had used, the upholstery that had held omegas undergoing the trauma they would be telling psychiatrist for the rest of their lives. That hadn’t happened to Stiles. He would have killed every one of them before it did. He still remembered that hot flash of feeling when he first saw him asleep there, the terrifying feeling of being so in love with someone he didn’t know, a kid, and nearly incapacitated by the fear he had already been hurt, then the need to get him as far from the threat as possible.

He was still so incredibly beautiful with the harsh halo of streetlights. His face that had still been rounded with the last pieces of childhood squishiness was thinner now. His hair was longer, the front worried by his narrow fingers. He didn’t look like a kid anymore. The way his lithe body moved now was sexy.

But in the darkest hours when his dick was in his hand and his breathing was getting erratic, he had to admit the sixteen year old in the back of a squad car had been painfully sexy too.

They went to the same booth, and he sat on the same side where he could see the door over Stiles’s shoulder. The waitress was different. She was in her late sixties. Her uniform smelled of smoke, from the break she left to take their order and the forty years of it before that were ground into her skin.

“Stiles, what can I get you, sweetheart?” she asked.

Stiles smiled again, only showing the upturn of his nose more. Derek couldn’t help the small smile watching him. The way his smile reached into his light brown eyes. He was so young. Derek didn’t hear a word that left his lips.

“The same,” he said when the waitress asked. “And coffee, please.”

“Yeah, me too,” Stiles said.

“It’ll be right out,” she said, after pouring two mugs of coffee.

Stiles laughed when she walked away with the color coming back to his cheeks. “Come on, stop staring.”

“Sorry,” he said, taking his coffee and mixing in sugar. It burned his tongue. It was nothing like the taste of Stiles’s mouth. “Are you working tomorrow?”

Stiles shook his head lining out an assortment of things he was pouring into his coffee. Derek smiled behind the rim of his cup as he watched. Two creamers, pouring in sugar from the grease slicked canister, then stirring with a little frown then adding more creamer until it was a light milky brown he seemed satisfied with.

“I’m going to my dad’s for the weekend. I probably should’ve left tonight, but,” Stiles shrugged.

“Just for a visit?”

“It’s his birthday Sunday.”

Derek nodded.

“So what’re you doing?”

“I might go to visit my uncle.”

“Yeah, where does he live?”

“On the east side.”

Stiles laughed then took another drink of his coffee. “Okay, I feel stupid right now. What’s your last name?”

“Hale.”

Stiles nodded, looking at him and waiting. “Okay, come on. Bio time. It’s only fair.”

Derek took another careful drink of his steaming coffee. It was only fair, but unlike Stiles’s quiet life, his wasn’t. It was safe enough if he kept to the highlights.

“I was born here. I went to high school here. Most of my family died in a fire when I was a senior. I joined the Marines right out of high school, following my uncle. I served for three years then I joined the FBI. I stayed with them until December of last year and now I’m waiting for something else to come along.”

Stiles’s cheek dimpled as he frowned. “Okay, overload, first. Holy shit you’re family, I’m sorry.”

Derek shrugged. “It’s in the past.”

“Okay, now, you got out in December? It’s September.”

Derek nodded at the unasked question handing between them, what took so long? “I was in rehab.”

Whatever Stiles had expected it clearly wasn’t that. His mouth popped open and Derek couldn’t help the small snort of laughter as he pulled down the collar of his shirt to show the puckered gunshot wound.

“Physical rehabilitation. I was shot three times.”

The golden brown of his eyes broke in a way that only showed how sweet he was.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine now.”  

Then the waitress came back and set down their food. He watched Stiles system for putting syrup on his pancakes, the way he worked around the edges and circled inward. He watched him take a bite and the way he had to lick syrup from his lips. He wanted to taste them, suck on his full lower lip then play with that tongue ring, feel it going up the underside of his cock.

He cleared his throat and looked down at his coffee taking a long drink that burned all the way down.

“So what happened?” Stiles asked. “When you got shot, I mean.”

Derek took a bite of the pancakes scattered with blueberries and almost winced at the sweetness. Pure sugar, on processed, on syrup, on blueberries. It was diabetes on a griddle.  

Derek shrugged, “I was working the same way I was when I met you. Someone found out who I was and I was shot.”

“Where are your other ones?” Stiles asked, looking over his torso like he could see through his clothes. His dick twitched, a dog wanting attention.

“Maybe you’ll see them,” he said, giving Stiles a little smile.

That blush going under the constellation of Stiles’s freckles was going to do more damage than any .45 ever could.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, then cleared his throat, staring at his plate. “I hope so.”

“No one should make biting a lip ring look that sweet,” Derek said.

Stiles laughed and drank his coffee for something to do with his hands. Even the tips of his exposed ears turned pink. Well good, if Stiles was going to kill him with his innocence, maybe Derek could pay him back in embarrassment. He would do it for the rest of his life if he could watched the color tracking down Stiles’s white neck with such a sweet contrast to the black leather of his jacket.

When they reached Stiles’s flat, Derek took Pax’s leash to take him down to walk while Stiles bitched at him about not needing him to do it. It ended up with both of them standing in the elevator with Stiles’s silence probably meant to be cold, but with his almost incessant fidgeting it lost its edge.

“I’m not a fucking damsel, Derek,” Stiles said, when Derek moved around him to walk on the outside of the deserted sidewalk, next to the quiet street with a thin sheen of rain that reflected the few street lights. He hated him living here. His instincts screamed again the darkness of the alleys, the trash caught in the chainlink of empty lots.

“What do you mean?” Derek asked as they crossed the street to the park where the faded red plastic slide of the jungle gym hung askew.

“I mean, I don’t need you to do all of this,” Stiles said, gesturing to the air like it encompassed everything. He didn’t know how he could love the irritated lift of his voice so much when it was aimed at him.

“I want to.”

Stiles nibbled at his lip ring from the inside, making it shift and catch the streetlights. “You don’t have to. The paying for dinner, walking me home, walking my damn dog. You don’t have to do that.”

“Have you ever had a boyfriend?”

Stiles looked at the ground and bone crushing guilt settled on Derek’s body. He hadn’t. It made his instincts lift and his mind feel like it had been passed through a meat press.

“No. Not really,” Stiles said. “I mean, I, you know. I’m not a complete spaz. I’ve done stuff, kind of.”

“Are you a virgin?”

He stood there and he prayed that his pierced and tattooed angel would give the answer everyone in the world would expect from his mouth. But he knew with that horrible gut deep heaviness that wouldn’t be the answer he would have.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, shrugging and looking away.

Derek put his arm around his shoulders and kissed Stiles’s temple, feeling the knit of his hat and the softness of his hair under his lips. Bitter and sweet while it felt like his insides were being ripped from his throat and the only thing stopping it was the twenty-two year old man beside him.

“Just let me do this,” Derek said quietly with his eyes closed.

Stiles turned and kissed him with the somehow tentative and aggressive press of his soft wet tongue. Derek kissed him back, cupping his cheek until he made himself pull away before tried to put Stiles over a spray-painted bench.

“Okay, I guess,” Stiles said close to him with a little bit of a smile lifting his mouth. “But don’t go overboard, seriously. I don’t want you to.”

“Okay.”

He said it and he already knew he was lying and that dark pulsing wound turned in his gut.

 

The next morning, Derek walked to Stiles’s flat, hoping he hadn’t left yet. Since he hadn’t left him until two in the morning and it was only nine, he thought his mate would still be warm in his bed. His chest hummed quietly at the thought of Stiles warm and safe in his bed with his mouth gapped open. When he left him last night, that mouth was kiss swollen and chaffed and it had taken all of his willpower not to stay when Stiles asked to again.

Pushing out of his mind, Derek knocked. Pax barked and he heard fumbling, then Stiles opened the door with his hair standing in clumps. Stiles ran his fingers back through it with that faint color rising in his cheeks. He was wearing sleep pants that sat so low he could almost see pubic hair.

“Hey.”

“Morning,” Derek said, reaching into his pocket and taking out the phone he just bought. “I wanted to give this to you before you left.”

Stiles stared at it with a little crease between his eyes. “What? Why?”

“I don’t want to have to worry about you cutting off your finger making a call,” Derek said.

“No, Derek, that’s too much. Over the top remember?”

“I haven’t given you a Christmas present in five years. Just take it please. I want to give it to you.”

Stiles frowned and took it. “Okay. Thanks.”

“And you might want to put it in this,” Derek said, taking out a black case that even Stiles couldn’t break.

Stiles laughed slightly. “Just so you know, I only dropped my old one down one flight of stairs.”

“Yeah, well drop that one if you want. They said it was clutz proof.”

“Ha ha you’re so funny.”

Stiles took them both then Derek put his hand on his bare shoulder and pulled him forward. He kissed Stiles and felt him trying to pull away after a closed mouth peck.

“I haven’t brushed my teeth,” Stiles said.

“I won’t get to see you for a few days,” Derek said, kissing him again, pushing in his tongue and forcing him mouth open.

It didn’t take much before Stiles was kissing him back in that naïve way he did. When Stiles was holding onto his shirt, Derek tugged down the edge of Stiles’s sleep pants and felt his breath catch into his mouth. He didn’t try to stop him, but Derek only squeezed the hard angles of his hip, circling the peak of it with his thumb beneath his soft warm skin.

He wanted to sink to his knees and take Stiles’s hard dick into his mouth, suck down to the root, and let his alpha roll reverberate up from his chest and bring Stiles’s off down his throat so he could taste him.

Stiles would let him, but he wouldn’t.

He pulled away and brushed his nose along Stiles’s.

“I put my phone number in there. Please text me when you get there and if you want to, when you get back,” Derek said.

“Yeah,” Stiles said. “I will.”

“Sunday night?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said.

Derek ran his hand up Stiles’s bare stomach, up to his chest and rolled one of his pierced nipples between his fingers, feeling the hard piece of metal in the reddish brown nub. Stiles trilled with a little jerk and broke the contact.

“Can’t just sneak that up on a guy,” Stiles said.

Derek smiled and kissed him again. “Be safe.”

“Okay, you too.”

Derek couldn’t help kissing him again and again, before he made himself go to the elevator. When the doors closed, the adjusted the lingering hard on with Stiles’s little noise replaying on a loop.

 

 

The next evening, Stiles sat on the kitchen table with Jordan and his dad with a bucket of fried chicken with all the sides in the center of the table. He had even gone with his dad to pick it up. Only ‘cause it’s your birthday, old man. He laughed when Jordan said almost the same thing when they got back home and Jordan was unbuckling his gun after his twelve hour shift.

As they were letting the food settle, Stiles pulled out his new phone and couldn’t help his small smile. Derek had even switched over his phone number. He had no idea how he did that. It was kind of creepy. Most things about him were slightly creepy, but even thinking about him his stomach did summersaults. His dark looks, the way he looked at Stiles when his lips were wet with his spit, and he kind of licked them like he was trying to taste Stiles more.

“Cool phone,” Jordan said.

“Thanks,” Stiles said.

“I had a notification that you went off my plan,” his dad said. “You know I didn’t care to have you on mine.”

“Yeah I know.”

“If anything you should’ve gotten your own car insurance policy,” his dad said, grabbing another piece of chicken.

“Baby steps, Dad,” Stiles said.

He looked down at the texts he had sent Derek earlier to let him know he’d gotten there. Derek’s reply had come almost weirdly fast. Now he sent another and played with the backing of his lip ring the entire time.

Can I have a pic of your for your profile on my phone?

What an awesome cover for perving. He almost rolled his eyes at himself. His phone vibrated and a little flutter flapped in his chest like it was hardwired to his chest.

Derek: What kind of pic do you want?

His dick was already getting hard. He was officially a high schooler. He was twenty-two, he shouldn’t be acting like this at just texting. If he was fair, it wasn’t like he had practice. Maybe if someone had come around before he wouldn’t have to act like this and embarrass himself constantly, getting hard in his sleep pants while they kissed that morning, pretty much begging Derek to fuck him any time he went to leave. He was pathetic.

Whatever you want to send.

At least he could manage coy. Flirty, maybe. Whatever.

He was almost convinced he wasn’t going to get a text back when it vibrated on his leg. He picked it up and downloaded the image.

His dad snorted across the table. “You look like you’re going to swallow your tongue.”

Stiles locked his phone’s screen and left it on his thigh. It didn’t matter, the brief image of Derek shirtless was seared into his eyelids. He had a tattoo on his ribs. His mouth was watering. He wanted to drag his tongue up it.

 

When Jordan went to bed, he kissed John. It really wasn’t that strange to see them kiss. It didn’t make him want to puke like Allison and Scott almost always had. Maybe it was that they kept their tongues to themselves so it wasn’t like watching an episode of National Geographic with mating apes.

After, Stiles sat on the couch with his feet on the coffee table, watching TV with his dad. If Scott was there and they were fighting over which video game to play, it could have felt like any Saturday in high school.

“So,” his dad said. “Are you going to tell me who you’re talking to?”

“What’re you talking about?” Stiles asked, taking a drink of his beer. His face was already getting hot. This wasn't going to work.

“Most people don’t grin at their phones all night for no reason. Or buy new phones for that matter when they don’t even like to talk to people.”

“My old one was cutting my fingers.”

“Haze?”

“No,” Stiles said, playing with the label on his bottle.

He wasn’t in the wrong to not tell his dad. He hadn’t told him about Jordan, but even then he had realized why. It had stung, just a little bit when he first saw his dad and Jordan openly together, even when they touched like monks. He had gotten used to it though.

He bit the backing of his lip ring harder and almost shivered when he thought of the look Derek had given him last night when he did the same thing.

He cleared his throat and adjusted on the couch slightly. “I met my mate. He came to the gallery last week and… so yeah, he’s who I’ve been texting. He bought me the phone.”

“Stiles,” his dad said.

Stiles glanced at him, feeling like an inferno was trying to claw out of his face. He tried to wait maturely for his dad to formulate a response. He could see his dad’s mind racing. His heart was doing the same thing, just waiting and starting to sweat.

“I, I’m sorry,” his dad said. “I’m so happy for you. It's just a shock.”

Stiles nodded, looking down at the couch. “Tell me about it.”

“What’s his name?”

“Derek Hale.”

It was the first time he had said it out loud and it made his heart pulse and his fingers itch to text Derek again. To go back home and call him over.

“Is he still with the FBI?”

Stiles shook his head. “No. And he seems really nice. I mean, obviously we’ve got some things to work through. The whole being away for six years without a word from him is at the top of the list.”

“Did he give a reason?”

“Kind of. He said he’ll tell me more when we know each other better. That seems like a cop-out, but still, I mean, just because we’re mates doesn’t mean he has to spill everything to me, right?” Stiles asked, looking at his dad. “That doesn’t make me stupid, right? Am I supposed to demand to know everything right away?”

“Would you demand to know everything about a stranger?”

“Well no, but I don’t love a stranger or whatever this weird feeling is.”

“Still, you both deserve your privacy. As long as he does tell you, because you deserve to know.”

“You don’t seem too worried about this, cop dad.”

“Uh no. I am worried. My son’s mate is an ex-FED, but do I think he’s going to hurt you? No. Do I think he had a decent reason for being away from you? Probably. You didn’t see how hard it was for him to put you in my car. This hard ass looking man a handful of seconds away from bawling over a scrawny sixteen year old,” his dad said, giving him a small smile.

He had heard that story from his dad before, many times, when he couldn’t keep from crying at sixteen, seventeen, the last time when he was nineteen with his head in his dad’s lap and him telling him everything he remembered. It was different now, though, now that he had a face, a name, to put with the story he told.

“He said he finished that operation when I was seventeen. Am I stupid for giving him a chance?” Stiles asked quietly, afraid to hear the answer.

“I think if a man had showed up here fresh from an undercover operation and wanted to see my seventeen year old son, mate or not, I wouldn’t have been happy. At all.”

“Dad,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes at the protective tinge.

“You were a boy, Stiles. If anything I respect him more for not showing up then. Now the five years since then,” the sheriff said with a small shoulder roll. “I don’t know. I hope he had a good reason for that. And I hope you keep yourself safe until he gives you those reasons. You don’t owe him anything.”

Stiles felt the heat crawling up into his cheeks again. “I know.”

“I want to meet him. You should have brought him.”

“Yeah, I might have,” lie. “But he’s kind of doing the whole courting thing.”

It felt like his cheeks were going to burst into flames. His dad laughed.

“I like him more already.”

“Yeah you would,” Stiles said under his breath.

His dad laughed. “Oh my poor sexual frustrated son.”

“In the name of all that’s holy, please, never say that again.”

His dad laughed again, the deep laugh that he only used when he found something really funny and he had had a few drinks. Stiles couldn’t help his little laugh back even with the low simmering mortification.

“So…” Stiles said, when his dad had stopped laughing. “This whole courting thing, what exactly is going to happen?”

Now it was his dad’s turn to go a light shade of pink in the lamp light. He could get over it though, because Stiles needed to know and reading on the internet could only do so much. They varied in different countries, in different states.

“He already gave you the hoodie, so,” his dad began.

“No. He gave me his leather jacket. He said the hoodie didn’t count." 

“Okay, well then, he also gave you the phone, which might be the second part. I don’t know. The second part is something they like. I cooked your mom a broccoli and cheese recipe that her mom made for holidays. She said it was her favorite.”

“You cooked broccoli?”

“Oh yeah,” his dad said. “Five attempts later I had something edible.”

“Is that why Mom always did the cooking?”

“Yes,” his dad said with another little laugh. “Then I gave her a blanket. The red, silver, and black one in the hall closet. Then,” he gave a little cough. “Uh, underwear.”

“You don’t have to keep going,” Stiles said, feeling the edge of his ears warm.

“No it’s fine. I don’t want you to go into this without knowing what’s going on. I was supposed to explain all of this to you when you were eighteen anyway, but I didn’t for obvious reasons.”

“So everyone had to sit through this horrific conversation?” Stiles asked.

“Everyone in my generation. I got it from Grandpa Stilinski, so count your blessings and hush,” his dad said, taking another deep drink from his beer. Stiles did the same thing. “And that you’re legal drinking age.”

Stiles laughed and the little bit of awkward started to lessen.

“Anyway, after the underwear, if the omega or beta or whatever has been receptive, then, uh, things happen that I’ll leave up to your imagination. Not sex, though.”

“Check.”

“If the alpha does their job well, then the omega accepts a ring from them,” his dad said. “From there it can go fast or slow. A lot depends on age. It took your mom and me two years from then to complete everything, because we were in high school.”

“Hold on, no. I don’t believe that you and Mom didn’t have sex until you were out of high school,” Stiles said.

“Okay, maybe not,” his dad said. “But if you do it right, you’re supposed to. Anyway, the alpha is supposed to give his partner stability, safety. Every step leading up, the clothes, to keep you warm and to smell like them, the gifts, to show how much they love you and want to please you. A lot goes off of those. I knew what food you’re mom liked, so I made it. Derek knew you needed a new phone, so he bought you one. The blanket is kind of universal, he’ll want you to be warm and to know you’re staying warm from something he gave you even before he can be in your bed. The underwear,” his dad shrugged. “You’re pretty much giving him permission to think about you, you know, sexually.”

“Ew, Dad,” Stiles said, wincing.

“Don’t be a prude,” his dad said, but he took another long drink of his beer. “Then the stuff that follows that, proves there’s, uh, compatibility in that department. The ring, it’s just a promise that he’s going to work hard to give you a home, a place to raise your kids, ideally, a place where he can take care of you.”

“I don’t need to be taken care of,” he said.

“This stuff was put in place a long time ago,” his dad said slightly exasperated. “And don’t even. You might not need it, but the thought of him wanting to give that to you makes you mushy and you know it.”

“Whatever.”

“Stiles, there’s a deputy upstairs that served six years in the military. He doesn’t need anyone to take care of him that doesn’t mean I don’t get to do it anyway. And it doesn’t mean that he didn’t get a little misty eyed when I gave him his ring. It also doesn’t make him any less independent or strong to want that. Just like it doesn’t make me any weaker to love it when he takes care of me. That’s just people, son. We like to feel loved and needed.”

“You courted Jordan? That’s kind of sweet.”

“What can I say? I’m just old fashioned,” his dad said, with a little smirk. “Last part, though, after he’s done with all of his gestures, you’re supposed to give him something he’ll have forever before you consummate everything.”

“Something he’ll have forever? How am I supposed to pick anything like that?”

“Well I’m glad you’re so uncertain about giving it up to him, Stiles. Keep him guessing.”

Stiles snorted. “Yeah, okay.”

His dad laughed then shrugged again. “I don’t know. You’re mom gave me my watch.”

“What about Jordan?”

“He gave me his service pistol from when he served in Iraq.”

“That’s kind of sweet in an abrasively dude way." 

His dad smiled small in a way that softened around his eyes. He hadn’t seen that look on his dad’s face since his mom died until the first time he came back around after everything came out in the open. It didn’t make him feel hollow now on the back of happiness.

“He’s a keeper,” John said.

“D’aww my dad’s mushy.”

John snorted and leaned back in his recliner pulling up the foot. “I’m not the one who’s been making googly eyes at a phone all night.”

Stiles stuck out his tongue, but checked his phone to see if there was another message. There was, just Derek telling him what TV show he was watching. Mundane stupid things that filled his screen like that, like Derek didn’t want to stop talking to him as much as he didn’t want to stop either.

“I just want you to be careful,” John said after Stiles replied what they were watching.

“Yeah I will be,” Stiles said with his happy little bubble sagging slightly at the reminder.

He did need to be careful. He knew that, but it was easy to forget when Derek was close, holding him, and smelling that hot smell on his skin. But it was easy to see with the way Derek looked at things, like he was constantly watching for something that may or may not happen.

“I’m happy for you.”

Stiles gave a small smile. “Yeah. Thanks.”

They sat and watched TV until Stiles was woken up by his dad’s hand on his shoulder telling him to go to bed. They went up the stairs together. When his dad opened his bedroom door, Stiles heard Jordan’s sleep clogged voice saying something and his dad’s quiet answer before the door closed. He wanted that. He wanted it so badly.

When he laid down, he saw a text from Derek from an hour ago.

Derek: Goodnight. Sleep well, baby.

Stiles laid and looked at it, wishing Derek was saying it beside him and having a little voice nagging in his head that he was gullible. The thought just bruised his heart, but it didn’t stop the funny way it beat when he thought of it.

Chapter Text

His loft was too old to be silent. The exposed pipes ticked quietly in the cold. They echoed from the concrete walls and back to where Derek sat at a table set in front of the wall of multi-pane windows. The jagged angles of the skyline were gray in the constantly watery air.

It was seven-thirty five. The time came like second nature. The day was different. They became so fluid between each other. He sat there without moving and the sky only became a fraction brighter. The pipes stopped ticking.

The grating of his loft door opening shattered the silence. The clipped footsteps followed it closing.

“Good morning, nephew,” Peter said. Derek leaned back in his chair as Peter threw a white paper sack on the table beside him. “I come baring food and coffee.”

“Thanks,” Derek said, pulling the bag to him.

Empty paper wrappings racked the silence as he pulled out a ham and cheese croissant. Peter put a coffee near him and went to the window, holding a cup of his own.

“Why didn’t I keep this view for myself?” Peter asked, looking out at Seattle rising around and spreading below them.

Peter’s eyes narrowed down at the streets and Derek snorted quietly. His uncle’s God complex had single-handedly made him a non-believer. If anyone with that amount of pride hadn’t been struck down, then there was no one or nothing keeping tabs on them.

“I take it from your brooding that your pocket-sized hipster isn’t fucked out and sleeping in your room?” Peter asked.

Derek’s mouth twisted down. “He’s taller than you.”

“Is he? It’s amazing what clothes can do. You should work on his wardrobe,” Peter said, leaning against the glass and still watching below. Derek remembered him crouched above an ant hill at twelve with a magnifying glass and the smell of burning soil.

“His clothes are fine.”

Peter smiled without looking up. “Can you breathe? With your head that far up his ass.”

Derek snorted and bit into his croissant. He had retorts, but he wasn’t as good with them as Peter. He didn’t know if he had ever met someone who was. Talking shit and witty comments were as necessary to Peter as oxygen. Keeping that defense was important. Otherwise everyone might know he was an empty man in a tailored suit and a broken mate bond.

Everyone bought it so easily it made Derek sick. They hadn’t been there when Derek’s aunt left the long-term hospital ward while Peter was still catatonic with half of his chest and torso burned.

“So, when is he moving in here? When will I have to choke on your domestic bliss?” Peter asked.

“I have a timeline.”

It was quiet for a few moments as Derek looked out of the windows. Then Peter laughed. It echoed from the bare walls and floors.

“You’re courting him? Derek, that’s just foreplay. You’ve had six years of foreplay.”

“Working five years undercover and nearly a year in recovery, great foreplay,” he said flatly.

“No one likes a complainer,” Peter said with the curve of his lip still visible.

Derek drank his coffee. It wasn’t from his normal coffeehouse, but it was from one of his preferred ones. Peter knew that. The brand of Colombian coffee Derek loved tingled on his tongue with the right amount of sugar.

“He’s a virgin,” Derek said, looking up from the table to watch his uncle’s face.

Peter laughed. “You say it like it’s an STD.”

He could laugh, but Derek had seen the spark of something in Peter’s eyes that was human. It wasn’t perverted. It wasn’t patronizing. Maybe it was sympathy or maybe comprehension, either way it was more than he offered to the rest of the world.

“It’s a burden, but if you want, I can break him in for you,” Peter said.

“Get out.”

Peter left, laughing to himself while Derek continued to drink his coffee. On a thirty-six hour stretch of no sleep, it only made him crash harder. When he laid down, he wasn’t going to be able to sleep. So he walked around his apartment, checking the small closet where the hot water tank was kept, each empty spare room and closet, and bathroom, pulling the shower curtains and looking beneath the sinks. His footsteps came back from the walls, hardly muffled by the long rug in the hallway and the one in the living room.

Finally, he went into the smallest bedroom where the walls were close to the king-sized bed. His 1911 laid on the bedside table. He pulled back the slide and made sure it was loaded. Then he removed the clip, unloaded it and ejected the round from the chamber. He reloaded the hollow tip rounds into the clip and slapped it into place before chambering a round again and laying it back on the table. He fought with himself to do it again, maybe to clean it, before he stripped off his shirt and pushed out of his jeans.

With his phone in his hand, he laid down on his back and stared at the ceiling. Peter had the loft decorated for him before he came home from the center. The blackout shades worked too well. They were slatted now to throw light on the floor. Shadows still lingered in the corners, but it wasn’t as bad as sleeping at night. He didn’t know how long he laid there, but his phone vibrated in his hand when his eyes were still open, burning like sand would never be completely gone from them.

It was a text message from Stiles.

Stiles: Hey, I’ll be home around 7. Would you want to go do something?

Yes. What were you thinking?

His skin felt warm at how quickly Stiles replied.

Stiles: There’s this restaurant I want to go to.

He smiled faintly at Stiles being so vague.

Ok. Can I pick you up at 7:15?

Stiles wrote back and said he could. His eyelids felt heavy with his phone in his hand and Stiles’s words on the screen. He glanced up at the walls and the large green and gold canvas covered the walls. He let his eyes shut and slept nearly four peaceful hours.  

 

At 7:10 when Derek pulled his Ducati next to the curb in front of Stiles’s apartment, Stiles was sitting on the stoop. He stood up, snubbing out the last of his cigarette and flicking the butt into a large concrete vase.

“Hi,” Stiles said.

“Hey,” Derek said, “Are you ready?”

“Yeah. Are we taking this?” Stiles asked, looking at the bike.

“I thought we could. If you wanted to." 

“Hell yeah.”

Stiles was wearing Derek’s leather jacket, lace-up boots, and worn jeans. Half of his mind still cussed him for thinking that putting Stiles on the bike was okay. 

“Come on, I’m not that breakable,” Stiles said. “Give me that helmet and we’re good to go.”

Derek undid the helmet he bought for Stiles off the back. Stiles pulled it on and Derek looped the chin strap through the D-ring fastenings, pulling it tight. Stiles slid up the visor. The padding squished his cheeks slightly around his smile.

“Does it fit?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said a notch too loudly.

Derek laughed quietly and pulled on his own helmet, righting the bike between his legs. He reached back and flipped out the passenger pegs. 

Stiles’s weight settled behind him with his knees hardly touching Derek’s hips.

“Hold on,” he said.

“Only if you promise to go fast,” Stiles said, putting his head near Derek’s shoulder. Their helmets clacked. “Sorry, not used to my head being huge.”

Derek pulled Stiles’s hands from his ribs to around his stomach. “Where are we going?”

“Cap Hill. I’ll point you in the right direction. I suck with addresses,” Stiles said.

Derek nodded then started the bike again. It rumbled to life between his legs and he felt Stiles jump. He took it easy for the first few blocks, aware of every clench and brush of Stiles’s hands against his stomach. He felt the tension along his arms around his body. The more Stiles relaxed, the farther he leaned from Derek. His groin still brushed his back on bumps, but his chest didn’t touch him. Derek didn’t have to look back to know he was looking at everything without being surrounded by metal, the flashing of colors, and people.

Capitol Hill was still alive even at eight on a Sunday. It wasn’t a place Derek liked. There were too many people, too much movement, too many lights. He felt apprehension spool in his stomach as Stiles slid off the bike and took off his helmet. It had flattened his dark hair, but he was grinning.

“That was awesome.”

Derek smiled as he took off his own helmet and put down the kickstand. “You liked it?”

“I loved it.”

“We have to carry our helmets.”

“I can deal with that,” Stiles said.

They stepped onto the sidewalk. Derek held the chin straps of his helmet more tightly, letting it dangle from his fingers and brush his legs. He focused on the friction of it against his jeans as people passed them. When Stiles slipped between two different groups, Derek took two quick steps and took his hand, lacing their fingers together. Stiles looked back and smiled with his palm pulsing warmth into Derek’s.

“It’s right up here. It’s quiet,” Stiles said.

“Okay.”

Music poured from bars and microbreweries.  A group of people on a pedal-pub passed on the street laughing. The sound of the women behind them talking about where to eat for dinner swelled with frat boy laughter and name calling. A car honked and a door slammed. Across the street, a man yelled at another as they came from a bar. Derek wanted to pull his hand from Stiles and reach for the 9mm concealed in the band of his jeans. The men started to laugh, one took the other in a headlock their faces were red.

Then Stiles was pulling him to the right, onto a quieter street. They only went a few store fronts down, then Stiles stepped into a restaurant with a red sign that had faded to pink. Bells jingled above the door. He watched Stiles smile, like it was the most normal reaction to the faint smell of fish.

“Their tacos are going to make you jizz yourself,” Stiles said, keeping his hand and pulling him toward a counter with a chalkboard menu that stretched above. “Do you like fish?” 

“Yeah,” Derek said.

“Shrimp?”

Derek nodded.

“Cilantro?”

“Yes.”

“I knew we were going to get along,” Stiles said, looking toward the woman behind the counter. “I’ll take five fish soft tacos, loaded. And five shrimp, same thing. Throw in some chips too.”

Derek was reaching for his wallet when Stiles handed the cashier money. The woman gave him a receipt with a number. It wasn’t needed. There were only three other people in the shoebox-sized seating area. Stiles pulled him toward the bar along the front window and sat down. Derek glanced toward the door. He couldn’t see it. He made himself sit down and looked passed Stiles occasionally toward the short entryway while Stiles talked. Each time the bell jingled it was like a jolt through his spine.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked.

Derek nodded.

Stiles glanced toward the door where Derek had just been looking. “Are you looking for someone?”

“No.”

The door jingled and Derek’s eyes jerked back like they were on a string. There was confusion in Stiles’s eyes then he could almost see something clicking in his head.

“You like seeing the door. Do you want to move?”

“No. We don’t have to.”

“Come on,” Stiles said, going to the edge of the room, the one closest to the counter so Derek could see the front door. Stiles sat across the two person table from him with a little smile. “Better?”

Derek felt some pressure releasing from his insides. “I’m sorry.”

“Nah, my dad does the same thing. Weirdos,” Stiles said, but he smiled at Derek.

“How was his birthday?” Derek asked, taking the first thing he could think of.

Stiles smiled. “I knew you weren’t hearing a word I said over there.”

Derek  chest tried to feel tight, but there wasn’t any anger in Stiles’s face. “I'm sorry.”

Stiles shrugged. “It was good. We ate fried chicken and hung out. I cooked breakfast and stuff this morning with Jordan for him before he went to work.”

“Jordan?”

“Dad’s fiancé. He’s a deputy at the station.”

“Do you like him?”

“Yeah. He takes care of Dad, stays on his ass and doesn’t let him eat all the crap Dad eats when he’s on his own.”

“Has your dad always worked there?”

“No, he actually worked up here for a long time. Then he married my mom and they moved to Beacon Hills and got domestic,” Stiles said.

The way Stiles’s eyes lit when he talked about his parents was full of admiration and deeper, there was longing. Derek’s instincts puffed with excitement. Something else settled like an anchor was attached to his heart and it had been dropped so quickly it was ripping through his insides.

Derek would give him everything he had to offer for the rest of his life. Still it would only be a third of what normal people could. Stiles talked across from him, tearing a napkin into tiny pieces. He listened to the story of how Stiles’s parents met. How long they were together. Then their food was ready.

“What about your mom and dad?” Stiles asked. “I mean, if you don’t mind talking about them. Otherwise, you know, talk about whatever you want.”

“They met in Japan.”

“That’s cool. You don’t look Japanese.”

Derek laughed slightly as he doctored one of the fish tacos with a cup of salsa. “They were stationed there with the Navy. They got married when they came back to the states and had my oldest sister six months later.”

“Shotgun wedding.”

Derek smiled. “My uncle calls Laura the favorite mistake.”

Stiles laughed, “That’s just cold-blooded.”

“That’s my uncle.”

“When do I get to meet him?”

“Whenever you want,” Derek said, then he cut himself off by biting into his food and an involuntary grunt ripping out of his throat.

“Told you they’re good.”

They hardly talked as they ate. Derek kept his mouth full. He cussed himself for picking up another, again and again. Stiles groaned when he finished and sprawled in his chair, clutching his stomach. He didn’t do the same thing, even with the restaurant empty and quiet. 

“Why did I eat that much? Why did you let me?” Stiles asked.

“You brought me here.”

“Okay, fine, just gotta let it settle,” Stiles said.

So they sat and they talked about things, the video games Stiles liked and the ones Derek used to like. Sports and the lacrosse Stiles used to play. It was only the third he had been to in the year he had been out. It was the first time he didn’t feel the urge to leave as soon as possible. When they finally left, the street was quiet and the sign was turned from open to closed behind them.

The lanes of the bridge were empty at ten o’clock. Derek thought of it, debating then he took Stiles’s hands and brought them around tighter. When he felt Stiles’s chest to this back, he cracked the throttler. Stiles moved closer, winding a hand into his jacket. Derek downshifted and romped it.

The cold wind off the bay cut against his hands and neck. Stiles was warm and solid against his back. Derek let out a slow breath and could almost believe they were truly alone. It was enough that when they reached the end of the bridge, he turned and followed the quieter street closest to the water. Stiles only hugged him closer.

He avoided stoplights and found the streets he could go fastest on. The exhaust note came back from the buildings on one side. When they finally came to a stoplight, Stiles put his chin on his shoulder.

“I could do this all night, but my dog is going to destroy my apartment.”

Derek took his hand and squeezed it softly, waiting for the light to turn green. It was nearly midnight when he pulled up to the curb outside of Stiles’s apartment building. Stiles slid off, then he did. He undid Stiles’s helmet and let him take it off.

“I think I like your bike. It makes you about 25% sexier.”

Derek snorted. “Go get your dog. I’ll walk him with you.”

Stiles went up the steps then stopped. “Should I keep this here? Or give it back?” he asked, holding out his helmet.

“Keep it here.”

Stiles nodded then jogged inside. Derek waited, listening to his bike cool and standing close enough to feel the heat off the exhaust through his jeans. Unlike the hipster infested neighborhood they had just come from, this street was almost silent this late. It wasn’t a good kind of quiet. He didn’t just dislike Stiles living here, he loathed it. Windows were covered with bars. The ‘90s Saturn in front of his bike had a busted back window that was covered in clear plastic.

Stiles opened the door again with Pax. When he saw Derek, the dog started to pull on the leash with his tongue lolled out. He would hug John Stilinski for Pax, the dog that looked like he would take someone’s leg off. Unfortunately, he probably wouldn’t. If Stiles would be living here very long, he would try to convince him to get one of the protection trained shepherds Derek worked around in the FBI. From the short time he had been near him, he thought trying to talk him into a conceal carry weapon would be fruitless.

Derek petted the dog and walked with Stiles towards the park that probably had needles and cat shit in the sandbox. He watched the way Stiles looked down the streets, the glances he gave to shadows. Some would call it paranoid, Derek through it was smart. Especially for a man who had been raised in a town as quiet and calm as Beacon Hills, that was leaving out the fact that he was abducted, even if only was a short time. That kind of underbelly had already been showed to him and it had left a permanent scar as much as Stiles tried to put on a smile and put forth every bit of bravado he had in the dark.

“Do you like living here?”

“It’s okay. I’m putting back money from my paintings, so probably next year I’ll be out of here.”

Derek nodded.

“Where do you live?” Stiles asked.

Derek glanced around. Through a divide in the apartments he could see Colombia Tower and the Space Needle, he pointed at it and felt Stiles lean into his space as he tried to see where he was pointing.

“On the other side of the tallest building.”

Stiles whistled. “Nice. Good neighborhood?”

“Yeah, my uncle owns property over there. He gave me the lease to my flat when I came out of rehabilitation.” 

“That’s awesome. I’d like to see it sometime.”

“Whenever you want.”

“Next week, maybe? If you aren’t busy.”

Derek watched Pax ran off leash in the empty park. “I’m never busy. I can make you dinner.”

“And you cook? Dreams do come true.”

“I didn’t say I did it well.”

Stiles put his arm around his lower back and leaned into his side. Derek jumped slightly, but then he put his arm around his shoulder and kissed his hair. They hadn’t touched since Friday night. He was aware of it every hour that passed, but he hadn’t realized how tightly it had wound him until he could breathe out the tension.

Then Stiles moved and jolted the pistol tucked into his jeans. He pulled back confused then comprehension slid onto his face. He would always be a sheriff’s son. Derek didn’t know if he was grateful or disappointed.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize it was there,” Stiles said.

“You’re fine,” Derek said and kissed Stiles hair again to try to get rid of the awkwardness.

Stiles called Pax and they walked back to the apartment. Derek walked him up to his door and kissed him. He pulled away after he had only tasted his tongue a few times. Even with that warmth was already in Stiles’s cheeks.

“Goodnight.”

“Night,” Stiles said with his hand still on Derek’s chest. “I had fun.”

“Me too.”

“So… when can I come over?”

“As soon as you want, whenever you want,” Derek said, kissing him again. “Just let me know.”

Stiles nodded when they pulled away after trying to chase Derek’s mouth. “Okay. Soon. Like tomorrow. No. I have to finish a commission. Tuesday? It’ll probably be late.”

“That’s fine.”

“Really late. Would you care?”

Derek shook his head. “I don’t sleep much.”

“Okay.”

They kissed again, deeper then shorter, open mouth then going to pecks before it dissolved back into making out again with Derek pushing him against the door. Stiles was sliding his hands under his shirt when Derek finally made himself pull away before he asked Stiles to go inside.

“Goodnight,” he said with his forehead against Stiles’s.

“Yeah,” Stiles said with his arms still around his neck.

“Go inside.”

“You worry too much.”

“Maybe." 

Stiles turned around and Derek dragged a hand down his back, for just a second hating that Stiles was wearing his jacket because he couldn’t feel his body. When the door was closed, Derek went to the elevator and his body thrummed quietly with warmth that might get him through the night.

 

On Tuesday, Stiles parked his Jeep in a driveway with a glass front garage. Then Derek was there and pulling open his door. Stiles smiled as he slid out and Pax scrambled over the console to lick at Stiles’s chin.

“Hey,” Stiles said.

“Hey,” Derek said, squeezing the dog before kissing Stiles. “Come up.”

Stiles got out and Pax followed him. He was so good when Derek was around, as long as he could walk right at his ankle and stare up at him the whole time. The dog had it bad. Maybe worse than Stiles.

Inside the front door, there was a lift. They stepped inside and Derek hit the 3rd floor button. The elevator groaned and lifted. It wasn’t the same Stiles’s did in his building, like it was a few days away from the cables snapping and shooting him up to the ceiling and being a blood spot on the ceiling. There just wasn’t a lot of insulation. He could see the brick of the shaft passing.

“What’s the 2nd floor?” Stiles asked.

“An empty level.”

When the doors slid open, Stiles watched Derek step into a hallway with one door and a keypad. He keyed in a code and flipped down the cover before the light went green and he stepped inside, holding the door open for Stiles. 

“Holy shit," Stiles said as he walked in. 

Derek glanced at him as he closed the door. “Is that good?”

“Yeah, amazing." 

He kept Pax’s leash wound around his hand as he walked from the front door to the windows that took up the other side of the wide room. A kitchen was open to his right with stainless steel appliances and stone counters. Dark colors and exposed beams and pipes. It was spotless. Pax tried to move away, but Stiles tugged him closer, wincing at the noise of his toenails on the distressed wood floors. Intentionally distressed, unlike the swollen uneven boards in his own bathroom. 

Derek bent down and unclipped Pax’s leash. The dog trotted after him to the kitchen where two metal bowls were filled with food and water. Pax ate in mouthfuls that slopped onto the floor.

“Sorry. I’ll clean up after him,” Stiles said.

“He’s fine,” Derek said, patting the dog’s blue back. Pax wagged his tail without raising his head. “Are you hungry?”

“Yeah. What are you making? It smells awesome.”

“Take a seat at the table. I’ll be right there,” Derek said.

Stiles wound through the open room, peaking around a large support beam and seeing a living room area with a long couch and a flat screen hanging on the concrete wall. In front of the huge window was a long table made of what looked like reclaimed wood. He took a chair where he could watch the kitchen with his back to the windows. Plates were already set on the table with silverware.

“What do you want to drink?” Derek called.

“Coke?”

He heard the grinding of an ice maker then Derek came out with a basket of bread and two glasses. He set them on the table then went back to the kitchen. A few moments later, he came back and set a pan on a pot holder.

Stiles smiled so hard it felt like it would break his face. “You made macaroni.”

Derek smiled. It was a real smile. It went deep into the small creases around his eyes. “Hopefully it doesn’t taste like crap.”

“There’s no way. Not with the way it smells. You don’t say prayer or anything do you?”

Derek shook his head. “Dig in.”

They scooped out food and Stiles groaned when he bit into the thick creamy noodles with the crusty top he had always loved the most. Derek laughed quietly across from him as he chewed his own mouthful.

“Good?”

“Maybe a little bit orgasmic.”

He snorted and Stiles couldn’t help the groan as he took a bite of the bread. It was homemade. It was probably from a bakery, but either way it was warm and the butter melted on it. He was going to have a heart attack just from his meal, but that was perfectly fine. He didn’t know if there was a better way to go out.

“How was work?” Derek asked. 

“Good. I got that painting done. I’m sending it out tomorrow,” Stiles said.

“Are you glad with how it came out?”

“Mhm. I mean, it’s what they wanted. They’re happy with it.”

“You’re not?”

“It was as good as I could get it, which is all I could ask for. It’s a learning curve,” he said. “So what did you do?”

“I went to one of my appointments and came back here to have lunch with my uncle before I went to the grocery store.”

“Appointments?” Stiles asked. 

“For my knee. I get steroid injections in it every few weeks.”

“Is that were one of the bullets went?”

Derek nodded. “The steroids help with mobility.”

“Yeah, my dad gets them in his shoulder, because he’s too stubborn to get it replaced. Can you get yours replaced?”

“They want to cut out all of the shrapnel first.”

“They haven’t done that yet?” Stiles asked, pausing in lifting his fork. “Isn’t that weird? You said it happened almost a year ago.”

“They’re waiting to see if the pieces work themselves out. It’s better for the joint if it does.”

Stiles nodded, but he already knew he would be researching tonight. If he knew anything about his dad’s doctor appointments, it was good to be informed. Yeah, doctors might hate him, but when he brought up different tests that his dad might need they did them and when they ended up having to change a prescription because of the results he was just fine with them being pissed.

After dinner, Derek pulled the metal shades on the wall of windows and flipped them closed.

“Do you want a tour?”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” Stiles said.

Derek took his hand and pulled him through the large room with the living room against the windows and a library looking area on the other side. Stiles didn’t get close enough to read the titles, but he would. He would be making himself comfortable in that chair by the lamp if this ended up being a normal thing. Derek led him down the hallway, opening doors and showing him three spare bedrooms. They were all large and he kept expecting one to have more than a bed stripped bare. At the end of the hall, Derek opened another door.

“My room,” he said.

It wasn’t a room. It was a closet. The walls nearly touched the mattress. Derek had to be crawling into bed from the foot of it. There wasn’t an under the bed space, no closet, nothing, but a bed, a beside table, and a lamp attached above the head. And two of his own canvases on either side.

“God,” Stiles said, stepping hardly inside and looking at the paintings. “These are mine.”

“My uncle bought them.”

Stiles just stared and felt his eyes prickling. “Good-looking guy? Kind of a smart ass?”

“That's him.”

“Yeah, I remember,” Stiles said, looking at the canvases. Before finally turning around and squeezing the side of Derek’s neck before he walked around him. “Do you want to watch TV or something?”

Derek nodded and closed his door.

When they came back to the living room, Pax was curled on an arm chair in the living room passed out. Stiles started to grab his color but Derek took his hand.

“He’s fine.”

“He’s going to get hair everywhere.”

Derek shrugged and flipped on the TV before giving Stiles the remote. Stiles started to argue that it was Derek’s house and he should pick before he realized Derek probably didn’t give two shits what they watched. He would be surprised if he watched much TV at all. He put it on a movie and Stiles wished he could say they didn’t turn into teenagers, but they did. Derek’s hand was holding his on the leather of the couch, then his hand was on Derek’s thigh, then he was kissing Derek, and then they were laying down and Derek was so perfectly heavy.

It was weird, but he felt better knowing it wasn’t going to go to sex. Instead of the first times they kissed when he was worried about what it was going to be like to lose it, he just let himself go and tasted Derek’s mouth, felt his stubble against his lips, on his hands, then slid his hands under his shirt and felt his warm skin. He pushed up into Derek’s hard-on when he felt it and got a groan into his own mouth that made him kiss deeper.

Finally, Derek pulled away, breathing heavily. “You need to go home before it gets too late. Or you can stay here. I can make one of the beds.”

“I could sleep with you,” Stiles said with his forehead against Derek’s and his eyes closed. He felt Derek tense above him, but he didn’t let him go. “Just sleep.”

Derek checked his watch and frowned. “It’s four o’clock.”

“I’m fine to drive if you don’t want me to stay.”

“I don’t ever want you to leave,” he said quietly.

“Does that mean I can stay?”

Derek nodded then kissed him again. “I’ll do the dishes then we can go lay down.”

“I’ll help.”

“No-.”

“Don’t be a dick. Let me help." 

Derek frowned, but they cleared the table together. Derek gave Pax a spoonful of macaroni in his bowl before putting it in a Tupperware container.

“Do you have a dog?” Stiles asked, looking at the bowls that were obviously heavy and nice, nicer than the cereal bowls he fed and watered Pax in at home.

Derek shook his head. “I thought he could use them.”

Stiles helped Derek load the dishwasher and wipe down the counters. Finally, they went down the hallway and Stiles felt the butterflies beating more quickly in his gut. Derek stopped in one of the spare rooms and took clothes from a dresser, giving Stiles a shirt and sleep pants.

“Just use the bathroom,” Derek said, gesturing to the one that was attached to the bedroom.

Stiles changed and came back out to an empty room. He went down the hall to Derek’s room and found him turning down the military straight sheets. He crawled into the bed and Derek got in beside him pulling up the heavy comforter. Stiles laughed quietly in the dark and touched Derek’s hand between them.

“Feels like a sleepover.”

Derek smiled. “Did you have people at your sleepovers you wanted to jump?”

“Nah, I mean, besides the fact that my stomach is going crazy and I want you to fuck me through the mattress.”

Derek groaned, but it ended with an exasperated little laugh. “You can’t say that to me.”

His heart melted. Derek was joking and even when it was perverted, it was so sweet to see. Stiles smiled, but he didn’t tease anymore. For all the talk, he was nervous and he got more nervous the more he got to know Derek.

“Thanks for cooking for me.”

“I loved doing it,” Derek said.

He meant it. Stiles could hear it on his voice, the warmth and sincerity. He tucked his free hand beneath the pillow that smelled like Derek’s skin. It was dark enough that he didn’t really see Derek’s fingers until he felt them on his cheek.

“Can you roll over so I can hold you?”

“I think I can manage that,” Stiles said.

The sheets rustled then Derek’s warm chest was against him through two layers of cotton. His arm settled over Stiles. His lower body wasn’t against him, but he wanted it to be, not really because he wanted to feel his junk, but he wanted to just be cuddled right. He was about to move back when Derek curled his legs into the curve of Stiles’s and put his lips against the back of his neck. Stiles held his hand against his chest and laid listening to Derek breathing with his eyes open.

When the door creaked open, Derek jerked.

“It’s just Pax,” Stiles said, not letting go of his hand.

The dog jumped on the bed and laid at the foot. Stiles felt the tension in Derek’s body against his while the minutes passed until it slowly went out of him. When Derek pulled him back slightly tighter, Stiles breathed out and finally closed his eyes. He felt Derek’s breathing deepen and even behind him before he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Derek walked into the small shop with a glass front. The gold flake font on the store front was nearly too cursive to read. His stomach rang hollow at the deep smell of oak and honey he remembered from coming here with Peter when he picked up some token or another, when they still had more family than just each other and a sister and niece they never saw.

“Can I help you?”

Derek looked behind the counter at the smiling woman with short curly blonde hair. “I have an order for Hale.”

“Oh good. I really think you’ll love it,” she said, turning back to a door and going through it.

He could hear her moving things then she came back with a blanket filling her arms. She laid it on the counter and Derek ran his fingers up a folded edge. It was green mixed with tones of gray.

“May I?” the woman asked, picking it back up.

Derek nodded and she unfolded it shaking it out over the wide counter. It looked like a canvas of watercolor with the stitching almost invisible. He ran his hand over it and felt the starched heaviness of it.

“Is it what you wanted?” the woman asked her upbeat tone dipping under hesitation.

“Yes. It’s more than I expected. Thank you.”

The woman smiled and gave a small laugh as she deflated. “You’re very welcome. I hope your love likes it.”

“Me too.”

When he paid, she wondered into the back when he went towards the front door. There was a display near the door on a small glass table. The fabrics were so delicate they looked like they would rip under his hands, varying in shades from white to black, each one traditionally meaning something different. They were in cuts for men and women. He brushed his thumb over the sheer fabric of a white pair of briefs with an opaque front.

A lump lodged tightly in his throat. White, because that’s the color Stiles would need.                 

He cleared his throat and walked out, wiping his hand on the rough fabric of his jeans.

 

 

They spent nights together, eating at the few restaurant that were open in the middle of the night when everything was quiet. Stiles seemed to know without Derek saying a word to go to quiet places. Derek was grateful beyond words for it. He tried to sleep during the day and walked his flat when he couldn’t. When Stiles gave him a key to his apartment, he would go get Pax and walk him during the evening when Stiles was working. They would go to the closest dog park and play fetch until Pax could only lay at his feet and pant. Derek would sit on a bench far from others and pet Pax’s wide head while the dog caught his breath.

Then they would walk the three miles to the trails along the bay. In the growing cold weather, they were mostly alone with only the occasional jogger. Pax could hear them before Derek and started to wag his tail. It made him less tense to have the warning of Pax’s tail tapping his leg. Even when they were around people, walking a dog like Pax had its advantages. When they passed kids, many of their parents steered them away before they could pet the Pit Bull with the wagging tail. At the same time that it pissed Derek off, it relieved him. He would still reach down and scratch Pax behind his ear like the dog’s feelings may be hurt.

At ten, he would take Pax and they would go to the gallery and walk home with Stiles, sometimes stopping to drop Pax off then going to the diner, and sometimes cooking dinners in Stiles’s small kitchen. Derek liked that most, having something to focus on while Stiles talked around him and he could just listen and relax while he cut meat and vegetables.

Then Derek would go home to his loft and walk every quiet echoing inch of it three times before laying down. When he couldn’t sleep, he would walk it again and turn on the TV for noise, then turn it off because he couldn’t hear anything aside from it.

When enough hours had passed and he could justify it to himself, he left his flat and began the cycle again. 

They went like that for three week while the blanket stayed on Derek’s bed. He slept under it, like he was supposed to. Every night his scent wore into it more and it became more soiled by him.

 

At the end of the third week, Derek sat on Stiles’s worn couch with a bowl of Hamburger Helper at passed 3am. They were watching Iron Man 2 on the small flat screen only a few feet from them on a second-hand stand. After, Stiles was threatening to start on Captain America. Derek didn’t really care, because when they weren’t eating, they laid on the couch and Stiles laid his head on his chest.

“Would you be angry if I went to talk to your dad?” Derek asked.

Stiles looked away from the TV to him with a noodle hanging from his mouth that he sucked up and wiped his mouth. “Why?”

“It’s part of the process.”

“The courting? My dad doesn’t care.”

“It would make me feel better to meet him. Would you be angry if I did?” Derek asked again.

“No. That just keeps me from having to sit through the awkward first time parents thing,” Stiles said, “Watch the movie. You’re missing it.”

Derek didn’t stop feeling sick until Stiles took their bowls to the sink and laid down against him.

 

The front desk of Beacon Hill’s police station was empty when Derek walked in at nearly eleven at night. The smell of the paneled walls and dust from the old carpeting surrounded him. Like every small town station he had ever been in. He walked around the desk and into the back. The desks in the bullpen were empty.

At the back, the sheriff’s office door was open and a gray-haired man was bent over the desk writing. Derek knocked lightly and Stiles’s father looked up, the lamp light glinting off his gold wire glasses.

“Sheriff Stilinski,” he said, stepping inside and holding his hand across the desk. “I’m Derek Hale. Stiles’s mate.”

The sheriff stood up and took his hand in a firm dry grasp. “John Stilinski. It’s good to meet you.”

“You too,” he said. Then glanced at the paperwork on John’s desk. “If this is a bad time, I can meet you later.”

“No. You’re fine. I should’ve gone home hours ago. I’m just a bit of a work-a-holic,” John said, sitting back down. “Take a seat.”

Derek sat and looked across the huge desk at Stiles’s father. He had more gray in his hair than when Derek last saw him in the harsh spill of the squad car headlights. He was a handsome man, but Derek couldn’t see any of Stiles in his face.

“I should’ve come and met you sooner. I’m sorry.”

“No. You’re fine. I talk to Stiles. He sounds happy, so I’m happy.”

Derek nodded, unsure what to say. Sitting across from John Stilinski was intimidating in a way he wasn’t familiar with. He wanted to leave a good impression, but fighting with his own quiet nature was difficult at the best of times, like when he was with Stiles, and nearly impossible at times like this.

“I’m glad,” he said, then swallowed. “He makes me happy too.”

John’s smile was a father’s smile, warm and kind. “Good. He’s been through a lot. He deserves this.”

“He does.”

It didn’t feel like enough. His voice felt hollow from his mouth. He didn’t know how to make John understand that the last three weeks had been the most comfortable he could remember. That Stiles had gone from an idealized boy that he loved in his mind to a man whose laugh and chattering words were a spigot on his worry and let it drain from him. That he could sleep four hours at a time if Stiles was against his chest. There wasn’t a way to formulate that from his mind to mouth in a way that wouldn’t sound weak in comparison to reality. 

Derek cleared his throat and made his hands stay still on his legs. “I don’t expect an answer from you now, but I want you to know that my intentions are to marry him. I’ve only given him a few tokens, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing anything else without speaking to you.”

He expected John’s eyes to become more guarded when he remained quiet, but they didn’t. They somehow kept their warmth even as they became more serious. 

“Thank you, I respect that,” John said, “But, I’ve told Stiles this, and I’ll tell you, I’m grateful you stayed away from him while he was in high school. He needed that time to be a teenager. A boy at that age couldn’t cope with the issues you could’ve brought to his feet. He shouldn’t have had to, so thank you for letting my son be a kid. But,” John said, leaning forward on the desk. “That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve answers. Real answers for why you were gone. I don’t want to know them. They’re none of my business, but I’ve heard enough from Stiles to know you treat him carefully. My son deserves that,” John said, “But he doesn’t deserve to be coddled. He deserves to have honesty, so that’s my condition. Before you go much further, I want him to know what he is buying into.”

Derek clenched the side of his jeans with one hand then smoothed it down before nodding. “I understand.”

He didn’t know how much Stiles had told John. He didn’t want to know. Maybe he was just perceptive. It didn’t take a genius to look at Derek’s background check and piece together that he may not be the most put together man in the world.

“If it helps, I don’t think you could tell Stiles something that's going to run him off,” John said. “I’m not lying when I say I’ve never heard him sound this happy.”

“Thank you.”

“You can’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever though,” John said.

“Yes, sir.”

A phone rang in the other room and someone answered it. In a town this size, it was probably one of the only other police officers working the graveyard shift.

“Stiles is coming down next weekend. You’re more than welcome to come with him. I’d like the chance to get to know you,” John said.

“I’ll talk to Stiles,” Derek said, then he stood and held his hand out to John again. “Thank you for talking with me.”

“Thanks for how you’re going about this. Stiles snarks at the tradition, but he likes it under all his sarcasm.”

Derek gave his first small smile. “Half of the fun is hearing him complain.”

John smiled. “I’m sure. Drive safe.”

Derek left, feeling lighter for a few steps. Then it felt like the weight of the world that had been dangling above him crashed and splintered into his body. He had to talk to Stiles, and it made him want to vomit.

 

The Friday after Derek spoke to John, he took Stiles to the taco shop he liked.

“Why aren’t you eating?” Stiles asked.

“I don’t feel good,” Derek said.

Stiles frowned, wiping his hands after he had already finished his fourth. “We didn’t have to come if you didn’t feel good.”

“I wanted to,” he lied.

Even the smell of fish on the air was hard to breathe. On the way to Stiles’s apartment, Derek was quiet and Stiles talked for a while until going silent. The quiet felt wrong. It ratcheted the tension along his spine. He couldn’t force his jaw to move to try and lessen it.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked with the noise of the tires on the road between them.

Derek nodded.

He felt Stiles’s tension start to rise with his and it was grating. It made him feel like shit. Then Stiles took his hand on the center console of his FJ. Derek squeezed.

At the apartment, Stiles went up to get Pax to go out for the night, Derek opened the back of his SUV and took out a bag before jogging up the stairs. He waited on the bed for Stiles to come back, unmoving. When the door came open again, he could only raise his eyes. Stiles normally happy face was replaced by pure anxiety that radiated from his eyes.

“Are you sure things are okay?” Stiles asked, undoing Pax’s leash.

“Come here,” Derek said. His voice was quieter than he meant it to be, but Stiles came toward him until he stood between Derek’s legs, lacing his fingers through Derek’s.

“What’s wrong?” Stiles asked.

Derek reached over with his free hand and took out the blanket. “I want you to have this,” he said, swallowing it hard and saying it traditionally like he was supposed to. “I want it to keep you warm until I can.”

Stiles laughed quietly. His nervous sweet sounding laugh. “I thought that was only for if you weren’t hogging my bed half the time.”

Derek smiled small. “Then it’s for half the time I’m not here.”

Stiles picked it up then frowned slightly and spread it out over his bed. He ran his hands over it then stood back and stared. Derek started to pull at the seam of his jeans.

“You did not make me water up over a freaking blanket,” Stiles said, forcing another laugh as he wiped at his eyes. “It’s really perfect.”

“I hoped you’d like it.”

Then Stiles stood in front of him again with one knee on the bed by Derek’s hip. He leaned down and kissed Derek. Derek wound his arms around him and let Stiles push him back to straddle his hips. The longer they kissed, the longer he didn’t have to speak, so he kissed Stiles until his lips felt swollen, feeling his weight and savoring it for possibly the last time he would have it. He shouldn’t have even given him the blanket with what he would tell him, but he was selfish and when Stiles kicked him out at least he would have that from him.

He rolled Stiles under him and felt him lose his breath against his mouth as he took one of his wrists and held it to the bed. He was kissing Stiles harder than normal and Stiles was pushing up against him, pulling him closer and starting to make his noises Derek loved.

“Derek,” Stiles said, threading his fingers through the back of his hair with his pupils blown.

His face was flushed under his small moles that Derek was beginning to memorize. His lips were reddened and wet. He was asking for more, so Derek kissed him again, then pulled away. Stiles grabbed his wrist.

“No, don’t,” Stiles said. “I don’t want you to stop.”

Derek sat on the edge of the bed and put his head into his hands. He inhaled deeply through his nose and out through his mouth, in through his nose, slower through his mouth, three times until it didn’t feel like his heart was going to pound from his chest. Now Stiles’s hands were on his shoulders as he sat behind him.

“Derek?” he asked with concern laced through his voice as his fingers worked into his back.

“I have to tell you something before I do anything else to you."

Stiles’s hands slowed for a beat, then began again. “Okay. That sounds serious.”

Derek cleared his throat roughly. Then Pax was between his legs, looking up at him. Derek reached down and started to pet the soft skin on the side of his face, trying to center on the short stiff fur. He had talked about this with a bureau assigned therapist, but that therapist wasn’t Stiles. He hadn’t cared what she thought of him. He finally forced it out like it was ripping out his molars.

“I raped someone while I was working. I had to do a lot of questionable consent things, but this wasn't questionable consent.”

He looked at Pax’s blue eyes as the pause began to drag.

“I’m going to need you to keep talking,” Stiles said calmly behind him with his hands still on his shoulders, but not moving.

Derek began to move his hand again on Pax. “I had done something to make the local boss, Deucalion, suspect I wasn’t who I said I was. They had brought in three new omegas, two women, and a boy.

“I was a disgusting person when I worked. I had to be. If I wasn’t, no one bought it and I couldn’t do my job.

“It was normal to pass around omegas when they first came in. I avoided it as often as I could and when I had to do anything, I tried to keep it to oral. But this time I couldn’t. I tried to go for the women, they were two prostitutes and older. But Deucalion was eyeing me. He tried to pass it off as something good, like a reward. He gave me the kid.”  

Stiles was silent behind him. He couldn’t even hear him breathing, but he couldn’t stop talking. Sweat started to prickle his upper lip.

“He was fifteen. He was obviously a virgin and he was drugged, so he was relaxed, but as it kept going, he started to wake up and get stiff even while he was saying a name over and over again under his breath.” Derek said “I could see that I was hurting him, but he kept saying, I love you. He thought I was his mate and he didn’t understand why I was being so rough. I couldn’t be careful with him. Not with other people around.”

It was quiet and suppressed panic began to beat in his throat.

“You didn’t have a choice, right?” Stiles asked.

“There’s always a choice,” Derek said.

“Wouldn’t they have killed you if they found out?”

“I wouldn’t have cared if they did, but I couldn’t handle everything I had done being for nothing. I couldn’t deal with the thought of not having enough to find Deucalion’s boss to put them both in prison for life and I made the choice to take something from that kid that wasn’t mine to take, that will hurt him until the day he dies.”

“Did he get to go home?”

Derek nodded.

The bed moved, then Stiles pushed Pax until he was kneeling between Derek’s knees.

“You saved a lot of people. The people he was keeping and the ones he would’ve taken.”

Stiles kissed his chest then his cheek. Derek swallowed hard and closed his eyes.

“If you were a bad person, this wouldn’t bother you. It wouldn’t eat you from the inside like I can see it doing. You wouldn’t hurt someone you didn’t have to,” Stiles said near his ear. “You wouldn’t ever hurt me.”

“No, I never would,” Derek repeated at Stiles’s volume.

But he would kill for him. He would molest a fifteen year old as a trade-off to getting Stiles to safety. And he would die before he told Stiles that was the reason Deucalion questioned him. The sloppy story he fabricated after he came back from returning Stiles to John, the story of a quick sell of the scrawny sixteen year old they had had less than twenty-four hours who was stolen from a lacrosse game. Everyone bought it, but Deucalion.

He held Stiles’s hand on his chest and rubbed his thumb up the middle of his palm.

“You don’t owe me anything, Stiles. If this is too much I understand.”

Stiles shook his head. Derek watched him look at his lips and focusing on his cheek as he spoke. “I don’t care what you had to do before. Maybe that makes me a shitty person, but I don’t think so. I think it would make me shitty if I judged you on something I couldn’t imagine having to face,” Derek watched his throat and how hard he swallowed. “I love you,” he said, finally looking Derek in the eyes.

Derek’s eyes watered slightly. He rubbed into his closed eyelids before they could spill. “Fuck, Stiles.”

“I know it’s soon,” Stiles said with his voice still quiet. 

Derek looked at him and felt a wash of self-loathing and gratitude that was almost overwhelmingly.

“I don't deserve you. Nowhere near.”

“BS,” Stiles said, putting his arm over him hugging him with his head on Derek’s shoulder.

“I love you too,” Derek said when the quiet had stretched again and Stiles was settling heavier against him. “I don't deserve to, but I do.”

When they turned off the lights, Stiles curled against his side. Derek didn’t sleep, but Stiles crashed within minutes. He held him with one arm and petted Pax on his other side as the night wore away and daylight started to creep up the walls.

Chapter Text

Stiles walked down the hallway to his apartment with his headphones pumping in his ears. He flipped through his mail, making quiet beats beneath his breath. When he got to his door, he jiggled his keys into the narrow bolted top lock then bit the envelopes in his mouth to pull the door forward and get the bottom knob undone.

He pushed it open and closed it behind him as Pax slammed into his legs. Stiles reached down, still moving his head slightly with the music to scratch behind the dog’s ear as he sorted through the mail and Pax mouthed at his hand.

Bills, bills, more bills.

He tossed the envelopes on the couch and turned back to Pax, taking his paws and dancing him backwards. His tail beat the air as Stiles laughed and Pax kept mouthing at his hands, but didn’t pull away. He liked their impromptu dance parties, even if he was too much of a big puss to act like it.

“Fine, be a loser,” Stiles said, dropping Pax’s paws who automatically jumped on him again. “Yeah, yeah. We’ll go in a second,” he said, hardly hearing his own voice above the scream of Maynard James Kenan.

Then he stilled. A clothing box sat on his bed on top of the rumpled blanket Derek gave him two weeks ago. He pulled out his headphones and let them hang from the collar of his shirt. The small voices echoed through the apartment as he touched the flimsy white lid.

He slid if off and tossed it to the side before moving the paper. Fresh cinnamon and leather seeped from the fabric, not quite like Derek. It was like they had been washed in the smells. Then it faded as the box was left exposed to the air of his bedroom.

Just because courting was old fashioned didn’t mean it was dead. Stiles had seen the displays in Dillards and Macy’s in the men’s section. Glass topped tables with thin lace, sheer colors, and satiny shine that caught the department store lights.

These weren’t those. Stiles reached out his fingertips like the box would explode and felt the softness of one of the pairs that couldn’t be from a department store. They were too soft. Too white. The paint flecks on his fingers were long dried, but he was scared to touch them. Heat was crawling into his face as his dick fattened in his jeans.

They were cut like his boxer briefs, but shorter. They would hardly cover the curves of his ass.

A card laid on top with Derek’s tight words.

Stiles,

I’ll never ask about them and if you never want to, I’ll still love you as much as I do now. Only when you feel safe, if you feel safe with me.

Yours,

Derek

Stiles’s throat tightened as he looked down at the words as tight and small as any outlet Derek ever gave. Still, it beat his heart painfully as he pressed the card to his lips before setting it on the bedside table.

Derek touched him like glass. The way he looked at him, like the other night when he woke up on the couch and Derek was dragging his fingers over the moles on his chest, like he was mapping each and every one. Those looks, they made him feel wanted from his head to his toes. The way he felt safe, like he never really had since that night junior year when his life was turned upside down and inside out.

What Derek told him the other night didn’t change any of that. It was disgusting and terrible, but the look on Derek’s face when he told him, like he couldn’t stand himself. Not in the whiny teenager, low self-esteem, but in the way that he honestly, to his core, hated himself, Stiles’s heart didn’t hurt for the kid. It was wrung dry for Derek.

But knowing why Derek kept stopping him when he pushed for sex helped. It helped him not feel like a freak from the multiple times he had touched Derek over the last month, cupping his hard dick through his jeans and almost automatically, Derek had pulled away. Because without knowing that was a fucking crippling blow to the ego.

Stiles grabbed the first pair and ran into the bathroom, stripping out of his clothes and getting in the shower.  

 

Derek walked outside to his driveway at nearly one in the morning. He waited for Stiles, listening to the quietness of the street around him and breathing out in vapors in the blue light of his garage. The quiet was disrupted by the loud rasping exhaust of Stiles’s Jeep. When it pulled into the driveway, the brakes squeaked as Stiles came to a stop and killed the engine.

Derek was nearly hit with the door as Stiles got out.

“Sorry,” Stiles said, then he was against Derek’s chest, kissing him with his arms around his neck.

Derek kissed him back with quiet acid creeping up the back of his throat and his pulse sending his blood flow to his dick. When Stiles had called him an hour ago, his voice was stilted and quick. Nervous. Excited.

Derek drank three shots of Jim Beam when he hung up the phone. He had poured another before he came down to meet Stiles. Now, he could push back the bile and push Stiles against the side of the Jeep. The cold metal bit into his palms as he kissed him like he obsessed about and rarely let himself. He kissed him and let the amount that he wanted him bleed into his mouth.

When Stiles trilled quietly, he pulled away, but still touched him. He held him like his grounding rod.

“You didn’t bring Pax?”

“No. I asked Haze to walk him in the morning,” Stiles said.

Derek took his hand and pulled. If he kissed Stiles again the possessiveness warping his thoughts wouldn’t let him let go. They stepped into the warmth of the first level and Derek pulled Stiles into the lift. When the doors were closed, he stared at the artful rust of them then Stiles’s hand slid from his and he heard the thump of him leaning against the side of the elevator.

“Derek.”

Derek swallowed his pounding heart and looked over as he heard the drag of a zipper beneath the noise of the machinery around them. Stiles’s lips were pink and wet. There was color in his face from the cold, from Derek. His eyes hooded and burning with excitement, nervousness, lust.

Derek dragged his eyes down his body to where Stiles was pulling open one side of his zipper to show the fabric beneath that he already knew would be there. The white fabric against the paleness of his stomach where his shirt had ridden up, against the darkness of his jeans. Derek hardly had to fight with himself before he kissed Stiles deeply with a hand fisted in his hair.

Then he went to his knees, bolts of pain going up his right, up his thigh, and into his crotch from the pieces of bullet still embedded there. Derek ignored it and pulled Stiles’s jeans farther apart and mouthed his hard dick through the thin fabric he bought a week ago and almost hadn’t sent. While he leaked globs of pre-cum into his underwear, another part of him screamed that he shouldn’t have sent them, shouldn't have even bought them.

The smell of Stiles through the panties fought with that. The tang of slick, the musk of his pubic hair and cock. Stiles’s fingers were in his hair, from scalp to tips as he nearly vibrated above him with that noise that Derek’s instincts could get drunk on as answering gravel built in his chest. The noise from Stiles was becoming needy. He could lick and mouth him through his underwear for hours, but he didn’t want him to cum in the lift.

He stood and took Stiles’s hand again, pulling him into the loft and down to his bedroom. Stiles slammed into him when they reached the room. Stiles pulled off his own t-shirt then brought their bodies closer, but Derek gripped his hips and held him at arm’s length as he sat on the edge of the bed with Stiles just passed his spread knees.

Derek let his eyes track over every inch of Stiles in the bright overhead light. Beautiful lean body, torso free of tattoos. His right upper arm had a stone angel and other smaller pieces leading up to his shoulder and around to his inner arms, a palate, a bullet, a badge he couldn’t bring himself to ask if it was meant for him or Stiles’s father.

“Take off your jeans,” Derek said.

He watched the color spread over Stiles’s cheeks like he knew it would, but Stiles started to push off the denim and underwear. Derek caught his hand.

“Just your jeans.”

Stiles kicked off his shoes and socks and then his jeans. Derek slid his fingers into the leg cuff of the white lace, seeing his own fingertips beneath. Then he looked up at Stiles.

“Are you sure?”

“Completely.”

Derek felt his throat constrict as he swallowed and held Stiles’s brown eyes.  

“I need you,” Stiles said then he took Derek’s hand and put it on his hard dick before sliding it back between his thighs.

Derek’s eyes closed as he felt the wetness soaking through the soft thin fabric. Stiles slid his finger along the edge and pulled the bottom to the side and Derek’s finger slid between the soft slightly puffy lips.

“God, Stiles,” he said.

Stiles put his knee beside his thigh and kissed him deeply, rubbing his fingers over his scalp as the kiss dragged out, deep and slow. Stiles pulled away, then he was back and Derek shuddered as his cock throbbed at the taste of slick on Stiles’s tongue, passing onto his.

Then Stiles was off of him, laying back on the bed.

“Your turn, strip for me,” Stiles said with his dimple hollowing his cheek.

Derek stood up and let his eyes rake over Stiles lean body before he pulled his shirt over his head. Moving too quickly jarred the scar tissue in his shoulder, but he ignored it as he dropped his shirt and undid his jeans, pushing down his underwear with them. He watched Stiles taking him in. The way his eyes darkened then his narrow fingers slid into the band of his underwear and slid them down his long legs and tossed them off the bed.

“Can I blow you?” Stiles asked.

“Not tonight.”

Stiles crawled toward him. Watching him on his hands and knees, Derek’s mouth tingled with spit pooling beneath his tongue. Then his long fingers were curling around Derek’s hard dick, twisting slowly, pumping his hand with the foreskin pulling back and forward.

“We don’t have to go with the tradition,” Stiles said against his mouth.

Derek shuddered and dug his fingers into Stiles pale arms as his resolve slipped.

“I want to do this right,” Derek said, nearly begging. “Please, let me.”

Stiles frowned, but then took Derek’s hand and pulled him onto the bed. Stretches of his naked skin were nearly hypnotizing to watch, then he was sitting on Derek’s lap. Derek looked at his face and bit his jaw softly, rubbing his hand up his back as his warm body settled on him. He couldn’t count the nights he had wanted this, needed to feel Stiles against him. His mind had done nothing to compare. Then Stiles’s cool fingers were on his shoulder.

Derek looked down at his thin fingers grazing the nerve deadened indention in his skin. Derek looked up and Stiles was looking into his eyes. They were dark and hungry with something else, something deeper. Derek slid his hand up his back again and Stiles’s eyes fluttered closed as the muscles of his stomach contracted beneath the freckled skin.

“You’re so beautiful,” Derek said with his voice raw, kissing down his neck.

Stiles’s body contracted again and he moved, just an inch. Derek felt the wetness of his thighs then the drip of slick onto his own. Then Stiles was crushing their mouths together, rocking his hips forward. A roll tore from Derek’s throat when Stiles’s wet slit slid over his cock. Stiles moaned more high pitched than Derek had heard before as he ground against him again, clawing at his shoulders and neck.

He was so wet. It was already pooling on the loose skin of Derek’s balls. His cock would slide into Stiles’s body like it was made to be there. He dug his fingers into Stiles’s shoulder as he ground against him. Stiles pushed closer, clutching his ribs and pushing down with his breathing like he had already been fucked.

“Fuck. Do everything to me,” Stiles panted against his ear. “Derek, please.”

Ice shot down Derek’s spine, but he shoved Stiles back on the bed, landing on top of him to cover the cold sweat on his own face. He kissed Stiles, tongue fucking him hard enough to make his trills begin again. Stiles rocked and canted his hips against him, trying to catch the head of his dick. Animal instinct and need showing him what to do. Derek kissed down his body, moving his half-hard cock away from the hole so wet he would sink in and fit their bodies like they were supposed to. He wanted to give in, sink balls deep, and give Stiles every drop of what he had. Push their bodies flush and watch Stiles catch his breath at the feeling.

The bar through Stiles’s nipple caught in the overhead light and Derek latched his lips around the metallic shine against the red-brown nub. Stiles arched his back with a sharp cry.

“I didn’t know it felt like that,” Stiles said, clenching his hands in his hair and rocking against Derek’s stomach for friction.

Derek lubed the metal bar with his spit like he wanted to do since he had first seen them. He tongued the ring through Stiles’s nipple and listened to his first omega keen from his mate’s mouth. It was rough, like someone who hadn’t used their vocal cords in a while. It was rusted and more guttural than he expected. His dick started to harden again against the mattress.

He worked Stiles’s other nipple then went down his stomach, kissing a straight line down to his dick that drooled pre-cum on his chin when he bumped it. Stiles withered like a man electrocuted when Derek dragged the flat of his tongue up the underside.

“Talk to me. I need your voice,” Derek said, between licking up the underside of Stiles’s cock and tasted his first mouthful of willing omega he’d had in over six years. It jarred through his spine, twisting his needs and sickness.

“Don’t stop,” Stiles panted under his breath with his fingers still passing through his hair. “Derek, please, lower. Need you to lick me.”

Derek closed his eyes and moved lower, pushing his tongue into Stiles’s soaked body. Another keen came back from the walls and Derek’s dick leaked on the comforter as he sealed his mouth to the almost-not-there lips of Stiles’s opening, sucking and licking at the nerve filled opening.

He dragged his tongue from just above Stiles’s asshole to the tip of his cock, his lower face coated in his fluids. The flavor made pops on his taste buds, rocking back to the root of his tongue. Bitter, salty. He shoved Stiles’s thighs wider as the taste of slick overrode his brain. He licked deeply into his opening, lapping like a dog for any drop, fresh and the places that had begun to dry on his thighs, sucking it off and leaving marks.

The whole time, Stiles begged. He begged and kept his fingers fisted in Derek’s hair. The sound of his voice was everywhere.

It was Stiles and that knowledge consumed him for a few precious moments. This was his mate who loved him, who he loved more than anything in the world. It was his mate who wanted this from him so badly, needed this from him.

He wasn’t a fucked up piece of shit for doing this.

He slid his finger into Stiles wet slit next to tongue and Stiles’s voice ripped into a higher pitch as every muscle in his body went rigid and Derek felt him contracting against his finger and more slick flooded out. Derek pulled out his finger to bury his face and suck every drop.

Then Stiles started to twitch, laughing.

“No, no, no,” he laughed.

The cold sweat slammed him like a truck. Derek pulled off and panted against the comforter as the flavor pushed against the back of his throat.

No, no, no.

He closed his eyes and breathed, in through his nose, out through his mouth. His mouth was covered in tacking slick. The smell of it was pulsing. He stood up and left the room, hearing Stiles say his name as he went across the hall to the bathroom. He closed the door, turned on the faucet, and dropped to his knees in front of the toilet.

He braced his arm on the seat and dropped his forehead against it, hearing nothing but the water running and his own heartbeat. He closed his eyes and breathed the smell of Clorox and bleach. Slick. Drying in his stubble. He gagged quietly and felt it roll up from his stomach to his shoulders. Then again until he vomited the bread he ate earlier. The sound of it spattering the water was the loudest noise as Derek flushed the toilet and went to the sink.

He scrubbed into his stubble, using his blunt fingernails to get down to the skin with water so hot it stopped stinging and started to go numb as his reddened skin turned purple in places. Then he brushed his teeth with the same water. It burned his enamel, making the roots of his teeth ache. When he finished, he cooled the water and wetted a rag, wringing it out before going back into the bedroom.

Stiles laid on the bed, spread out and still breathing hard with his eyes closed. Derek crawled onto the end of the bed then laid beside him. He rubbed the warm rag over Stiles’s trail beneath his belly button to clear the small spurts of fluid. Stiles’s eyes opened and he stroked Derek’s cheek tiredly.

“Are you alright?” Stiles asked.

Derek nodded. “I wanted to get a rag,” he said, then he slid the cloth down and Stiles spread his legs to his hand with a quiet noise.

“That feels good.”

“Good,” Derek said quietly as his heart started to slow again. He ran his fingers over the softest skin of Stiles’s body with only a wet rag between them. Stiles only made soft noises with his eyes closed until Derek tossed the rag away.

“Did you get off?” Stiles asked.

“Yes,” Derek lied, using his t-shirt to dry Stiles.

Stiles frowned, but his face was so relaxed and tired it lost its effect. “Dammit. I didn’t see.”

“You were preoccupied,” Derek said, smiling.

It was easy to smile when Stiles was so relaxed, relaxed from what he had done. The pulsing guilt would come back, but for now, he had purged it. Looking into Stiles’s eyes, there were no others. This wasn’t wrong.

His perfect sweet love that turned him inside out with need and made him want for the first time in half a decade. Who made him feel like a man even when it fought with so much shit, but he was the first person to make a dent in the darkness that had its own mind inside of him. He was a beacon that flowed from near to far on the tide of his thoughts, now that light was close. It was so close he could feel its warmth was he looked at Stiles laying out his body bare beside him and slipping towards sleep.

Derek kissed the mole near his mouth then Stiles turned in against him with his tired eyes open again.

“I loved that,” he said, touching Derek’s face. “I love you, a lot.”

Derek kissed his palm. “Me too.”

And he had. He had loved those minutes when he could slip and be a man, feeling his mate drip slick onto his dick, tongue fucking him with his own cock so hard it felt like it would explode. Slowly, he blocked out the others. He pushed down the moments of bitterness on his tongue, the sickness. He kissed Stiles slowly and fabricated memories of the minutes he had lost himself with Stiles and had given him what they both needed. 

Chapter Text

Derek came half-awake to a warm hand splayed on the center of his chest.

“It’s me,” Stiles mouthed against his neck.  

Derek breathed out and pushed his fingers into Stiles’s sleep wrecked hair without opening his eyes as sleep began to drag him down again. The first time Stiles had touched him while he was sleeping, he nearly hit him. Now Stiles had found a way to work him in his sleep that Derek wouldn’t have thought possible. There was the constant feel of Stiles’s hand on his half-awake body, the drag of his lips in constant contact with his skin.

He ran his fingers through his hair and groaned softly. This is what his better thoughts felt like, Stiles’s completely bare against him, his fingers on him, his lips. The grogginess of his thoughts was torn as he jerked up into warmth with a gargled noise from his own throat.

He looked down at Stiles with the only light coming from the kitchen down the hall through the open door of his bedroom. Stiles’s eyes were closed and his hands were braced on Derek’s hips keeping him in place as his lips stretched around his swollen dick.

“Stiles.”  

Stiles slid one of his hands up the middle of his stomach then down his right side, over the crow on his side, until gripping his hip again.

He was too tired to argue. He didn’t want to. Shadows hollowed Stiles’s cheeks as he sucked upward.

Then the fog of relaxation and sleep started to fade and other feelings took its place. He kept one hand on the back of Stiles’s neck, not applying any pressure. He laid his other hand flat on the sheets then clenched and unclenched to keep from moving upward.

“Am I doing it right?”

Derek nodded. “Feels great.”  

“Do I…,” Stiles said. “You’re going soft.”

Derek opened his eyes and looked down at his cock half-hard against his trail.

“Can’t expect perfection on the first time, right?” Stiles asked, laughing slightly.  

Derek leaned up enough to take Stiles’s hand and pulled him up to lay on top of him. Then he pulled the blanket over them both of contain their warmth.  

“It’s not you,” Derek said after kissing him slowly. “You’re perfect.”

Stiles’s was half-hard against his hip, so he took him in his hand with himself. He could hardly see Stiles’s eyes close as his breath puffed against his face. He leaned up to kiss him and hold his head to him by the back of Stiles’s dark hair. The feeling of Stiles starting to lose it against him, bucking, and making louder noises, the feel of his slick dripping down onto Derek’s fist, lubing them as he jerked them.

Stiles came before him. He didn’t expect to get off, but he was tipping over the edge before any images clouded, then they all slammed him like a train when he was too far gone to stop himself and every image made him want to vomit. Then Stiles was kissing him and brushing his face with his fingertips.

“I love you,” Stiles said.  

Derek touched him with his non-slick hand, panting from what he could pass off as exertion. Cold sweat dried on his face as he looked up at Stiles. He leaned over and turned on the lamp to see his face. Deep brown eyes looked down into his and he watched the shift in them.

“This really fucks with you, doesn’t it?” Stiles asked.

Derek kissed his thumb against his lower lip.

Stiles kissed just below his eye, then down his cheek.

“Do you want me?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, Stiles.”

“Then I can wait as long as you want,” Stiles said. “You might just have to remind me occasionally that I don’t gross you out.”

Derek closed his eyes and swallowed hard as he squeezed Stiles to him with an arm around the back of his neck. His other hand he fisted into the back of his hair and felt every inch of Stiles’s front against him. It couldn’t be that easy. Stiles was just a little older than a teenager, this had to be kicking him in the balls to feel like he wasn’t sexy enough to keep his mate hard. He shouldn’t have to deal with this.

But right then, he couldn’t. He could just focus on his weight for as long as he had it until Stiles got sick of his shit and realized even a mate wasn’t worth this.

 

On the way to Stiles apartment, they went to the diner and had their usual. Stiles took the earlier fear and just threw it out. They walked down the quiet street with Derek’s arm around his shoulders only an inch or so below his own.

“Get a tattoo with me,” Stiles said.

“What kind of tattoo?” Derek asked.

“My name, right above your dick. So everyone knows your mine,” Stiles said, smiling around the filter of his cigarette.

Derek laughed as he took it from Stiles and sucked down the warmth like he hadn’t in years. “How many people do you think I show my dick to?”

Stiles shrugged. “I don’t know, it’s your dick.”

“Mm, so where would you get mine on you?”

“Right on my ass.”

 “No. I love your ass how it is,” Derek said, kissing his hair.

“Good, because you’re stuck with it.”  

They were still talking about the placement of Stiles’s imaginary tattoo when the elevator halted in Stiles’s apartment building. Derek stepped into the hall behind him as Stiles was turning back to him.

“Alright, my neck then. You can’t keep your hands off it.”

Stiles’s apartment door was ajar. Derek grabbed Stiles’s shirt in his hand and pulled him back behind him as his words drowned out like a siphon.

“Stay back,” he said, reaching beneath his jacket and pulling his Glock.

“What?” Stiles asked, then he looked where Derek was looking and started to go forward. Derek pushed him back against the wall firmly.

“Stay right here. Don’t make me worry about you.”

Then he went forward with his pistol held toward the ground. He nudged open the door and stepped in, looking around. Stiles's vinyl records were scattered across the floor. A few had slid from their cases and were shattered. His TV was gone, his laptop wasn’t where it normally was, his game system, his movies.

Derek walked forward more slowly, hearing glass break beneath his feet from kitchen plates that had been thrown down. He looked behind the couch and his heart lurched. Pax laid on the tan carpet with blood on his side. Derek hardly looked at him as he cleared the bathroom and the far side of the bed. Then he grabbed a towel and went back to the dog. Broken ceramic crunched beneath his knees as he watched the dog’s side and waited, holding his own breath. It moved, rising slowly and hardly there.

Derek wrapped him in the towel and lifted him. Pax whimpered and moved his legs feebly as Derek adjusted him to carry him as comfortable as possible. He went to the door and steeled himself for Stiles.

“Oh fuck, no, no,” Stiles started to say under his breath, coming toward them.

“Get the elevator.”

“Is he dead?”

“He’s breathing. Get the elevator.”

Stiles went to the elevator, slapping the button. His eyes were watering.

“No. Stay together.”

Stiles rolled his lips between his teeth and nodded. Then the elevator slid open. Derek walked in and Stiles stood beside Pax’s head. His hand was shaking as he reached up to pet the dog’s blue face. Pax licked him with his tail tapping weakly against Derek’s arm.

“Hey, buddy, you’re alright. You’re going to be okay,” Stiles said, holding the dog’s face. “Yeah, you’re going to be just fine.”

His voice broke and Derek clenched his jaw and closed his eyes for a moment.

“Call the police station. Ask them what vet they take their dogs to,” Derek said.

Stiles pulled out his phone and talked quickly then he hung up and made another call to the veterinarian as they went out to Stiles’s Jeep.

“I don’t know,” he said into the phone. “Derek, how many times was he shot?”

“I only saw one on his side. He’s wheezing. It sounds like it went through his lung.”

Stiles repeated that into his phone while lifting the front seat. He climbed into the back and Derek laid the dog beside him with his head by his thigh. Pax whimpered quietly. Stiles’s lip trembled, but when he spoke into the phone his voice was even.

As Derek started the Jeep, Stiles hung up the phone and told him where the office was. He pulled out his own phone as he drove and called the police station. He told them Stiles’s address and where they would be in they needed their reports.

As they drove, Stiles talked to Pax in the backseat. His voice stayed light, but wavered occasionally. The ride wasn’t over soon enough. The sound of Stiles’s voice rising and breaking so quietly was kicking him like physical blows all over his body. When they pulled up, Derek helped Stiles lift the dog out, that didn’t make a noise. Stiles held the door open to the animal hospital. A woman in scrubs came from behind the front desk as soon as she saw them.

“Was this the dog that was shot?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Derek said.

“This way.”

They followed her back through a hall of tan colors. Farther in dogs barked. Pax was becoming heavier in his arms. Stiles kept petting one of his cropped ears. When they reached a room, Derek laid him on the metal table and carefully pulled away the towel. Stiles didn’t leave his head, petting down his face and neck.

“I’ll get the doctor,” the woman said.

“I don’t think he’s breathing,” Stiles said weakly when she was gone.

Derek stood closer to him and put his arm around him to squeeze his side. The dog wasn’t breathing. He hadn’t been at least since Derek picked him up out of the Jeep.

“Derek,” Stiles said with his voice breaking.

Derek stood behind him with one arm wrapped around his stomach and his lips to his hair and his other hand on one of Pax’s front legs. He wanted to say everything would be okay, but that would be a lie and he couldn’t force himself to do it. When the doctor came in and put a stethoscope to Pax’s chest, they already knew he was dead, but Stiles still made a pained noise and dug his fingers into the fur of Pax’s neck.

 

“They can cremate him,” Derek said to Stiles in the quiet of the examination room when he had stopped crying.

“No,” Stiles said with his voice rough. “I’ll take him back to Dad’s and bury him in the backyard.”

Derek picked up Pax’s body from the table where it was beginning to go stiff and Stiles followed him from the room and out into the street. Derek laid him in the back and got behind the wheel, pulling into traffic. Stiles’s was looking out of the passenger window with his eyes glazed when a dip formed between his eyes.

“Where are we going?”

“Your dad’s.”

“We don’t have to right now. I can go by myself.”

Derek took his hand on the low console and held it as the growing cold beat into the bare metal of the Jeep and the heater struggled to keep it at bay.

 

They switched off driving somewhere in Oregon, close to the California line. It was getting dark and thick stale coffee filled Derek’s paper cup as he stirred in sugar to make it bearable. The hours dragged when it was too dark to see the landscape.

When they pulled into to the driveway of Stiles’s childhood home, Stiles killed the motor beside a squad car. The front door came open and the sheriff thumped down the steps. Derek watched Stiles go towards his dad. He had kept a strong face for the last nine hours, but he hugged his father hard when John wrapped him up.

“I’m so sorry, Stiles,” John said.

Derek heard Stiles’s ragged breathing against John’s shoulder and watched his back hitch. He stood to the side for a handful of minutes while John comforted Stiles quietly and the cold began to bite through his jacket.

“Come in, guys. Get out of the cold,” John said, putting his arm around Stiles’s shoulder and pulling him towards the house.

“No, I want to go ahead and bury him,” Stiles said.

“It’s late,” John said.

“Dad-.”

“It’s cold enough to keep him back there until morning,” Derek said quietly.

Stiles’s looked over his shoulder at him with his face yellow and washed out in the light. Then he nodded and let his dad pull him into the house with Derek following behind. When Stiles went to the bathroom, Derek was standing in a warm kitchen with John. A circle worn table dominated the center. He imagined Stiles eating there as a kid. Then John’s heavy hand was on his shoulder, squeezing.

“Thank you for coming with him.”

“I wouldn’t have let him come by himself.”

They heard the bathroom door come open and John finished pouring their drinks, Coke with a heathy dose of rum each. Derek sat at the table with them and listened to John ask all the questions he expected of a cop.

Did they catch them?

“No.”

Do anyone see anything?

“No.”

Did you have renter's insurance?

“No.”

I’m sorry, Stiles.

After the second time, Stiles found Derek’s hand beneath the table and held it tightly as his eyes started to bead again with moisture.

 

When Stiles woke up, light was hardly coming in his bedroom windows. The posters from his childhood were still there, colored blue in the light. He almost thought he was a high schooler again until he rolled over and felt the warmth of Derek’s body.

Something he never thought he would see when he slept here every night. He looked at Derek’s profile as he slept, his dark hair, the downturn of his lips. Resting bitch face. Stiles loved it. Derek looked like such an asshole, but he got the flashes of warmth when Derek smiled and he got glimpses of the Derek that was just as real as the harsh one.

He wanted to lean forward and kiss his cheek, but he didn’t. Instead the cold hard knot from yesterday settled in his chest as he climbed out of bed and pulled on his clothes. He took a hoodie from the back of his closet and walked as quietly as he could down the still dark stairs, stepping over the one that creaked, with a sheriff and a retired FED sleeping just feet away.

He closed the front door in the still dark. The sun was starting to color the sky at the other end of town though. He opened the back door of his Jeep and looked down at the lump of Pax in the cargo area. The towel had fallen down from his face that still had a little bit of the puppy shape. His skin had shrunk in the cold to his hard face. His skin and fur felt brittle as Stiles petted his cheek.

“I’m so sorry, buddy,” he said quietly, watching his air leave in a cloud as his eyes burned.

Before he could start to cry again, he hefted Pax up and carried him into the backyard. He laid him down beneath the Oak where his dad helped him bury his Border Collie that died of cancer when he was nine.

After he got a shovel from the shed, he started to dig into the green-brown grass, hearing the thin roots rip as he took away the top layer and got to the rich dirt below. The wood handle dug into his palms and the webbing of his thumbs, but he ignored it as warmth built in his limbs. He took off his hoodie within the first few minutes and put it to the side as he kept going.

“Can I help?”

Stiles looked up at Jordan and nodded.

“Yeah, thanks.”

Jordan started to dig at the other end. He didn’t try to talk, he just dug while it was still dim and blue. When the hole was deep enough, Stiles didn’t stop and Jordan didn’t say anything, he just kept shoveling dirt with him until it was deeper and wider than it needed to be then he handed Stiles Pax while Stiles stood in the hole. He laid him down and petted the dog’s cold face before pulling the sheet over him completely. Jordan took his hand and helped him out before they started shoveling dirt back in.

“Hold on,” Jordan said, going back to the side of the house.

He came back with a concrete paving stone. He pulled a sharpie from his unbuttoned deputy shirt that was now covered in dirt along with the white t-shirt beneath. He wrote on the face of the concrete. Then he took the shovel and dug a small hole by the head of the grave. He got on his knees and put the block in the ground and pushed in dirt around it until only the top was visible against the fresh dirt.

Pax Stilinski

Stiles’s eyes started to water so he dropped his head forward. Jordan put his arm around him, squeezing him against his side. When he could pull himself together, he wiped his face.

“Thanks for helping.”

“No problem,” Jordan said, rubbing his arm.

The backdoor opened and Jordan’s white Pit Bull ran out, slamming into Stiles’s legs and licking his fingers. Stiles couldn’t bite back the tears at the same way they wiggled and moved, like there was too much excitement contained in their bodies. He wondered if Pax had gone up to the people who broke into his house that way. If he had just wanted to be petted or if he had tried to be the big bad ass so many stupid people thought he was.

Then he was against a broad chest with arms wrapped around him in the cold he was starting to feel again. The smell of cinnamon and leather surrounded him and somehow made it better even when it still hurt.

“I know he’s just a dog,” Stiles said, cut off by another clench of his throat.

Derek squeezed him closer. “Shut up, Stiles,” he said gently.

Stiles melted against him and didn’t try to justify how badly his chest hurt as he cried and Derek rocked him.

Chapter Text

When they went inside, Stiles sat on the couch and Tug laid on the cushion beside him, her white head on his thigh. It was early, there was shit on TV, but he watched it anyway. He heard Jordan and Derek in the kitchen as a shit cartoon played, one he hadn’t seen in years. Then Jordan came out and patted his shoulder.

“Night.”

“Yeah, sleep well,” Stiles said.

After his footsteps faded from the stairs, Stiles heard the gurgling of the pipes as the shower came on. The popping and sound of coffee came out of the kitchen after as Derek moved around. Stiles had zoned out when Derek’s shadow fell over him from the back of the couch.

“Would your dad care if I cooked breakfast?” Derek asked, as he passed Stiles a cup of coffee.

“Have at it,” Stiles said, taking it from him. The liquid already the light milky color he took. “Thanks.”

Derek went back in and Stiles listened to pots clanging quietly, long pauses between everything. Finally, he went in and sat at the table, watching Derek move around, checking multiple cabinets for one thing instead of asking. The sizzling of bacon started then the whirling of the sucker above the stove. Derek didn’t ask how he liked his eggs, but when he put a plate in front of him, they were fried, over medium, the way he ate them.

“Smells good,” John said, coming into the room wearing Mets sleep pants and a loose white shirt that clung to his belly.

“How do you take your eggs?” Derek asked.

John told him then he went to make his coffee. He squeezed the back of Stiles’s neck as he passed behind him to the fridge.

“How’d you sleep, Stiles?”

“Alright." 

They ate together then his dad went and got dressed for work. Stiles was on the front steps, smoking and watching the street come as alive as it was going to this early on Saturday. The door closed behind him and his dad’s warm hand gripped his upper arm.

“I’m going to try and get out by noon,” John said.

“Take your time. We’re just going to chill,” Stiles said.

He hugged his dad one-armed, holding the cigarette to his side, and expected it to be short, but his dad squeezed him then kissed the side of his face.

“You alright, Pop?” he asked against his shoulder.

“I’m fine,” John said, then patted his back. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”

“I wasn’t even home.”

“I know. Still,” John said then started to walk away. “Have a good day.”

“Love you, be safe.”

“You too.”

Stiles finished smoking and lifted his hand to his dad as he backed down the driveway. The Crown Vic purred quietly down the street and it almost felt like he could be walking out to his Jeep to go to school. Instead, he snubbed out his cigarette and went back inside, rubbing warmth back into his arms.

Derek sat on the couch, looking down at his phone. Stiles stood behind the back for a moment, looking up the stairs before Derek touched his hip.

“Stiles?”

“Do you want to play Medal of Honor or something?”

“Sure.”

Stiles went to his bedroom and took the PS2 from the cabinet by his desk. One of the remotes rattled, but he only had two, so he took them both downstairs with a stack of games and the console. He hooked it up and flipped the input on the TV over.

“Wired controllers,” Stiles said, patting the carpet beside him.

Derek sat beside him as Medal of Honor loaded. The graphics were shit, but it was mindless and kind of fun. After a few games, Stiles spread the other games out in front of them. Derek picked up Mortal Kombat and smiled a little.  

“I forgot about this.”

“Put it in,” Stiles said.

Stiles played Scorpion, like he used to in middle school against Scott. Derek played Raiden. When Derek kicked his ass five times in a row, Stiles pushed his shoulder.

“You hustled me,” he said.

Derek smiled. “I used to play with Uncle Peter. He always won, I didn’t know you would suck.”

Stiles groan-laughed and pushed into Derek. Derek wound his hand into the back of Stiles’s shirt and pulled him closer as Stiles leaned up to nip his lower lip. Then it wasn’t nipping and they weren’t laughing, Derek was on his back and Stiles was slotted against his hips. The fiction of Derek’s jeans passed through the cotton of Stiles’s sleep pants. It was rough and almost enough. Derek bucked up and like always, it went right to his chest. It made his head spin those moments when Derek showed him how bad he wanted all of this too.

Then a tongue dragged up the side of Stiles’s face, sniffing and snorting into his ear. Stiles pushed at the dog without lifting off Derek.

“Pax, go on.”

Then he froze. Tug wagged her tail beside them, her tongue hanging out and her eyes bright. Derek squeezed his hip and rubbed his arm. Stiles braced himself on his elbows above Derek for a few moments, before he leaned down and kissed him again.

“I’m going to go take a shower.”

“Okay,” Derek said.

Stiles pushed up and went up the stairs. He still had stale clothes from high school in his dresser, so he grabbed some he wouldn’t hate to wear. No one really used the bathroom that had been his, so it still smelled like his. It even still had the shampoo and soap he used to use. He scrubbed the dirt from beneath his nails and arms. His throat tightened as he watched the soil pieces swirling down the drain.

He closed his eyes and the thoughts were the same. What had Pax done when the people, person, came into his apartment? Did he try to bite them? Did they just shoot him because he was there? Did he think it was Stiles coming home at first? The lump in his throat grew. He should’ve just taken him with him to Derek’s, but he’d been excited about what was going to happen and he knew he and Derek would probably sleep in after. He didn’t want to have to worry about getting up to walk him.

Hot tears broke from his eyes and he hardly felt them against the steam and water.

 

When he got out, he went into the kitchen and found Derek washing the dishes from breakfast. Birds were chirping in the oak in the front yard. Stiles leaned against the counter and watched Derek rinse the last plate and put it in the dish drainer.

“Can we go drive around or something?” Stiles asked.

“Yeah.”

“We don’t have to if you just want to chill, or if you want to head back,” Stiles said.

“I thought we were going to stay the night again,” Derek said.

“If you didn’t care.”

Derek shook his head. “I’d like to get to know your dad and Jordan.”

“Let’s go then, I can show you all that is Beacon Hills,” Stiles said, grabbing his keys from the counter.

They drove around and Stiles showed him the places he spent the most time at in high school. The McCalls house, the high school, an arcade place that used to rent movies. They went in and the woman behind the desk counter took a double take of him before smiling. They played Pac Man beside each other, then fooseball, and ended taking turns at the one skee ball setup. Even on a Saturday, they were some of the only ones there. It could’ve been that it was hardly noon, but it smelled stale and the few kids that came in were quiet. He liked it though. Derek only tensed a few times. He didn’t look on edge and guarded like he did the few times they went to the congested parts of the city. He was calm and he smiled more. When they walked down the sidewalk to his Jeep, he held Stiles hand and didn’t look like he was waiting to throw himself in front of a bullet for him. Stiles didn’t feel like he had to be on the edge of running. The sun was hot on his neck with the cold wind and he couldn’t remember the last time he felt it like that.

They went out to dinner at the Chinese place Stiles and his dad loved. Stiles laughed a lot and it surprised him, but Jordan was funny, and so was his dad. The rare times that Derek made a joke with them, Stiles heart felt like it would burst a seam. He pushed Pax out of his head for the night and they watched movies later. When he laid in bed with Derek that night, he looked at his band posters from high school and listened to his heart beating under his ear.

“I had a good time,” Stiles said.

“Me too,” Derek said tiredly. “Your dad’s great.”

“He likes you.”

“I’m glad.”

“Love you.”  

“Love you too,” Derek said, running his fingers through the back of his hair until they stilled and Stiles listened to his lungs expanding as he slept.

 

They didn’t leave until the next afternoon. Stiles watched his dad and Jordan hug Derek before they got into the Jeep. They didn’t get to Derek’s apartment until nearly nine. He probably shouldn’t be, but Stiles’s was exhausted. He laid in Derek’s bed and stared at the ceiling with Derek’s warmth beside him.

“I don’t want to go home. Tell me I’m being a pussy.”

“I don’t want you to go back.”

Stiles swallowed down the tightness that came and went in his throat. He could push it away if he was up doing things, but in bed, it was always harder to keep his thoughts from piling up. The guilt sat on his chest like an anvil.

“I never liked being there,” Stiles said with his lip shaking until he bit it and tasted copper. “I’d hear shit out in the hall and I wouldn’t sleep. Then Dad got me Pax and I’d pull him up on the bed with me. Someone twisted the doorknob once, he barked and they went away. They probably just had the wrong apartment or whatever, but,” then he was crying again and Derek was pulling him against his chest.

“Why didn’t I just bring him with me?” he asked.

“Don’t do that,” Derek said. “You were only leaving him for the night.”

“He had to be scared though when they started coming in. You know he was freaking out.”

“Don’t do that,” Derek said with his breath warm against his hair.

Stiles cried against Derek’s shoulder with Derek running his hand up and down his spine. When he was only sniffling, Derek kissed his hairline.

“I want you to move in, if you want to,” Derek said.

“It’s soon.”

“I don’t care. I don’t sleep when you’re not here.”

It was quiet with no noise of the city penetrating the walls that nearly touched his bed. His hole in the world that he dragged Stiles into. Finally, Stiles nodded against his arm then scooted closer until his forehead was against his collar bone.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me,” Derek said, squeezing him closer and feeling like he could draw oxygen easier knowing Stiles wouldn’t be going back there.

Chapter Text

Derek stared at the brightly colored cardboard boxes lining the shelves, and they stared back. A woman pushed her basket behind him and smiled. Derek frowned deeper and concentrated harder on the brand names; wings, no wings, long, extra-long.

“That is adorable.”

Derek glanced up at Peter coming toward him from the head of the aisle, spinning his phone between his fingers.

“Have you been standing here since you called me?” Peter asked.

“Before.”

Peter laughed. “You’re pitiful.” Then he turned to the shelves. “What did he say?”

“I forgot.”

“Then call him.”

Derek frowned deeper and pulled out his phone. It rang a few times before Stiles answered. He sounded tired.  

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“You didn’t. I’m just laying around.”

“Tell me what kind of thing you needed again,” Derek said.

“Pads, Derek, Jesus. They aren’t a bomb.”

“Tell me exactly what he says,” Peter said beside him.

“Can you just tell me again?” Derek asked.

He heard Stiles exhale, but he said too many qualifiers. Derek let them roll into his ears and out of his mouth as Peter started to scan the shelves.

“Are you talking to yourself?” Stiles asked.

“No. Uncle Peter.”

“Really? This gets to be his first impression of me? Nice.”

“It isn’t like he cares,” Derek said.

“Whatever. Just get unscented. If I have to smell congealing blood with spring meadow, I’ll fucking barf,” Stiles said.

“Okay.”

They said goodbye and hung up as Peter put a box into Derek’s handbasket.

“Are you sure those are right?” Derek asked.

“You’re more than welcome to check. It isn’t rocket science.”  

Derek only looked close enough to see they were unscented then he started to walk toward the registers. Peter touched his arm before he’d taken more than a step.

“Is that all he asked for?”

“He wanted Midol, but I couldn’t find any. I have Advil.”

Peter took his elbow and lead him into the pharmacy section. A line of old women waited at the counter in orthopedic shoes. Derek watched one of them walk with their cane up to the desk and talk in their sugary sweet grandmother voice roughened with years of cigarette smoke.

“Look,” Peter said, leaning down. “When he sends you again, they’re right here,” he said, taking a pack of Midol and throwing it in the basket.

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with Advil.”

“Does your body scrape its insides out into your underwear?” Peter asked, taking Derek’s elbow and leading him toward the Home section.

Derek wrinkled his lip.

“I didn’t think so, so shut up and get what he wants with a smile on your face. Do you have a heating pad?” Peter asked before he shook his head. “Of course you don’t.”

Peter tossed a heating pad in the basket then dragged him towards the grocery section. He prodded Derek into picking chocolate that Stiles’s liked. He had him pick out frozen pie when Derek said Stiles didn’t like ice cream. When Peter was finished, Derek’s basket was filled with sugar loaded and processed crap. When Derek started to argue, Peter took his phone out of his hand, took a picture of the basket, and sent it to Stiles with a message of, am I missing anything?

Stiles wrote back almost immediately.

My fucking god I love u.

“I won’t say I told you so, but I did,” Peter said.

Derek grunted something as he dumped his basket on the checkout conveyor. Peter flicked a bar of chocolate down from the display then took it from the cashier as she rang it out.

“How is he after the dog scenario?” Peter asked.

Derek shrugged. “He’s still upset, but better.”

“Are you going to get him another?”

“I don’t know if he wants one.”

“Maybe for his birthday,” Peter said.

“Maybe,” Derek said.

“Is he settling in to your house?”

Derek nodded. A flare of warmth in his chest at the thought of waking up with Stiles every morning for the last week. Moving hadn’t taken long. Most of Stiles electronics had been stolen. The rest had been broken. His kitchen stuff had been dated and shitty, so they donated it and kept Derek’s. In all it had only taken a few boxes to pack up Stiles’s life in his apartment and move him into the flat.

“I need to replace his games,” Derek said as he handed the cashier money.

 “We can go now if you want. I have nothing better to do,” Peter said.

“Thanks,” Derek mumbled.

He wasn’t good at planning surprises. He didn’t have the patience for Christmas presents or birthday presents. When he wanted to buy something or buy something for someone, he wanted to do it when he wanted. He wanted to give it to them immediately. Life was too short for anything else. Everything could turn upside down in the blink of an eye.

So he walked in the nearest gaming store with Peter. It was fairly quiet in the early afternoon, but it still helped to have someone he knew beside him. It was leveling.

“Can I help you?” a pimple-faced boy behind the counter asked.

Derek frowned at the console displays behind the desk. He didn’t know which ones were newest. When he last played video games regularly PS2 had been the top console. That obviously wasn’t the case anymore.

“He needs to buy a console for his boyfriend, but he’s incompetent,” Peter said,

Derek listened some, but more people came in and out of the store. A bell dinged above each time. Someone called hello each time and it was disorienting. A few minutes in to it, he jumped when Peter touched his lower back.

It was a small grounding touch, just enough to unlock his fixation.

Slowly, he made himself focus on what the kid was saying, mostly to Peter, and soon he picked one. His brain felt melted by the time he walked in to the lift of his house. Peter came with him, carrying some of the bags.

“Did you tell him I’m coming?” Peter asked.

Derek shook his head.

Peter laughed.

When he walked in, it felt like the tension ran out of his soles. The house smelled different with Stiles in it. He didn’t know what the smell was, but it smelled more lived in. It smelled more like a home.

“Hey,” Stiles said.

Derek came to the back of the couch and reached over to touch his messed up hair where he was cocooned in his blanket. “How do you feel?”

“Like shit,” Stiles said with the blanket pulled over his lower face as he stared at the TV. Then a cabinet closed in the kitchen and Stiles jerked to look at him. “Who’s here?”

“Peter.”

“Goddamn it,” Stiles said, dragging his fingers through his hair and sitting up.

“I told him to warn you,” Peter lied from the kitchen.

“No, it’s cool. I just look like crap,” Stiles said.

“I’m the last person you need to explain to,” Peter said, coming over.  

Stiles sat up with his legs in front of him before he held out his hand. “We haven’t really officially met I guess.”

“No, but it’s wonderful to meet you again,” Peter said, taking his hand. “There’s food in the kitchen.”

“Thank god. I was dying,” Stiles said.

“Oh that’s beautiful,” Peter said, touching the edge of Stiles’s blanket after he kicked it off.  

“Yeah. Derek did good,” Stiles said.

“You did,” Peter said, glancing at him as he touched the soft fabric.

Derek grunted. He felt like a dog being praised. Stiles froze as he got off the couch. He looked at the bags by Derek’s feet, then back at his face.

“All of that better be Peter’s.”

“It isn’t,” Peter said, smoothing his hand over the blanket again then going back to the kitchen to unload sacks.

“Derek, I told you to stop doing shit like that. You’re going to go broke.”

Peter laughed as he wadded up plastic sacks. Derek felt his face heat.

“I wanted to,” Derek said.

Stiles frowned, but the pissed off expression on his face slacked before he only looked anxious as he shifted his weight from foot to foot.

“It’s not mine, though, right?”

“Yours. Ours, I guess. I bought two remotes,” Derek said, like it somehow made it better.  

Stiles breathed out through his nose and bent down to pull back the plastic before he shot up again.

“Derek, I didn’t even have that one. Mine was six years old.”

“You would’ve wanted to replace it sooner or later.”

Stiles breathed out, dragging his hand down his face as he stared at the bags. Derek frowned at his pale skin. He touched his cheek and tugged his shirt.

“I didn’t think I’d upset you,” he said.

“I don’t want you to think you have to get me things like this,” Stiles said.

“I don’t think I have to. I wanted to,” Derek said. He smelled like the bed since he was wearing the same clothes he slept in. “I can take it back. I just want to help you replace some of the things you lost.”

Stiles pulled back enough to look at Derek and touched his cheek. He liked to dig his nails into his stubble. He didn’t understand how he could hate to be touched everyone else, but love to be touched by Stiles any time, day or night.

“I know. I’m an asshole. Thank you, really. I just don’t want you to go broke buying me shit.”

“I won’t. You don’t need to worry about it.”

“Derek-.”

“My family’s wealthy,” Derek said, lowering his voice so that only Stiles could hear. “I am, even without my disability check I’m set.”

Stiles started to speak then stopped, looking around them. “I figured, I just-. I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”

“I don’t. I just want to.”

“Okay, that’s fine, I guess,” Stiles said, looking down at the bag. “Thank you.”

Derek kissed him softly.

“Stiles, are you hungry?” Peter called from the kitchen.

“I could eat,” Stiles said, giving Derek another look before he went into the kitchen and sat at the bar where Peter was unpacking groceries. “So how did you get on grocery duty?”

“Your boytoy can’t read pad boxes.”

“Then thanks,” Stiles said.

“Of course,” Peter said. “Pepperoni or sausage?”

“Pepperoni,” Stiles said with his arms crossed on the island. Derek sat beside him as Peter keyed in the pre-heat time on the stove.

“We bought a game Uncle Peter would like to play, do you mind?” Derek asked.

“No, of course not. I’d like to hang out.”

“Good,” Peter said. “It’s been too long since I’ve kicked someone’s ass on a video game.”

“Too bad that streak isn’t going to be broken,” Stiles said.

“Oh so feisty. I like it,” Peter said, smiling. He glanced at Derek and winked, real amusement in his eyes before he took down glasses like it was his house and not Derek’s and he had to be the most gracious host in the world.

 

 

 

That night, Stiles laid in the bathtub with warm water bumping gently against his inner thighs as he rubbed his own stomach. He opened his eyes when the bathroom door came open and Derek came in, closing out the cool air behind him.

“Are you okay?”

“The cramps just fucking hurt,” Stiles said, pushing on his lower stomach.

“Is there anything I can do?”

Stiles shook his head as the warm water washed over the back of his neck and down his shoulders.

He heard Derek’s knees pop then felt his hand on the back of his neck, rubbing down between his shoulders.

“You don’t have to be in here.”

“It’s fine,” Derek said.

He kissed the side of his head then reached under the water to rub his stomach. Stiles squeezed his eyes closed. It hurt for a second. Then it helped. He tried to relax his abs and let Derek’s warm fingers work his muscles.

“Does that help?” Derek asked.

Stiles nodded then leaned his shoulder against his chest. The cold side of the tub pressed into his ribs. It just made him ache. Everything ached. The low constant discomfort was exhausting. But Derek’s body heat helped, just him being close made him feel better, his muscles relaxed.

Then he felt his lower body unclench.

Blood seeped from between his legs and he jerked, closing his legs and leaning up.

“Can you go? I’ll be out in a little bit,” he said, hunching forward. Derek’s hand was still on his stomach, kneading.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asked.

“Nothing, it’s just gross,” he said, squeezing his thighs together as the tendrils of red tried to creep farther into the tub.

“It’s okay,” Derek said quietly, kissing his temple again. He didn’t stop rubbing his stomach before he pulled him back gently.

Stiles swallowed hard as he leaned against his arm. He glanced in his eyes and Derek leaned down to kiss him. Stiles kissed him back and didn’t stop until the low boiling mortification eased some.

“That really helps,” he said when Derek pulled away.

“What does?” Derek asked.

“You rubbing. It feels good.”

“Good.”

Stiles leaned against his shoulder and closed his eyes. The warm smell of his skin made him feel light. It actually almost felt like he could sleep. He pressed closer to Derek and Derek tightened his arm around him.

“Is it just your stomach that hurts?”

“And my thighs.”

Stiles barely said the words before Derek’s hand moved lower. He jerked as his palm brushed his dick before he was rubbing into the meat of his thigh.

“Easy,” Stiles said, squeezing his eyes closed again as the tight muscles protested.

“Sorry,” Derek mumbled as he rubbed more gently. “Where does it hurt?”

“The inside.”

His breath caught when Derek touched his inner thigh and farther up. Then his fingers were right on the soreness.

The water rippled slightly as Derek worked his fingers, moving up and down. It didn’t matter that he was uncomfortable, Derek being that close to his junk was stirring shit up. He closed his eyes and tired to ignore it as his dick hardened against his stomach.

Derek was rubbing into his left thigh when he started to make circles on Stiles’s skin near the crease.

“Would getting off help?” he asked.

Stiles opened his eyes and looked at Derek, who touched his hair, pushing it back from his forehead with his wet hand.

“You’re just trying to grope me,” Stiles said.

“I’m not the one who’s hard,” Derek said, squeezing his cock just hard enough to make Stiles’s breath catch. He glanced at the water and Stiles felt more blood seep out. “I can just keep rubbing if you want.”

Stiles felt his face getting hot again, which was stupid. They had done everything short of sex. They slept together, saw each other naked, and Derek was rubbing him down while he was naked and bleeding, but it still felt weird to tell him it helped when he jerked off. Finally, he just nodded.

Derek traced his finger down between his legs and over the thin lips of his hole.

“Which way’s better?”

“That,” Stiles said, then made himself clear his throat. “Finger me, if the blood doesn’t gross you out.”

Derek traced his finger up his slit. Stiles didn’t look at him when he felt how wet he was. He didn’t know if it was blood or slick, but it didn’t really matter. He was soaked with a lot more than water. Derek kissed over his cheek as he slid his finger down then pressed inside.

Stiles closed his eyes and grabbed his arm as his muscles tensed. More blood moved out of him.

“Perfect, baby,” Derek said against his jaw before he angled his fingers up and hook into the small hollow spot in Stiles’s insides. Stiles jerked and clenched down with a quiet moan. “Is one enough?”

Stiles shook his head and spread his legs wider.

His opening stretched as Derek pushed a second finger into him. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut and tilted his head back against the edge of the tub as Derek slowly drug his fingers in and out, stopping to message his g-spot every second or third time.

Stiles came on his fingers three times with Derek kissing the side of his neck or sucking his right nipple, sliding the barbell with his tongue. When his legs felt like jelly, he pushed Derek’s wrist away.

“That’s all you can take?”

Stiles laughed slightly, cum-drunk and tired. “Three times? Yeah. I’m going to take a shower then go to bed.”

“Okay,” Derek said, leaning forward to kiss him fully before rinsing his hands. “Do you want me to drain the water?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, sitting up.

Derek pulled the drain plug then dried his hands on Stiles’s towel. “I’m going to heat up some soup. Do you want some?”

“Sure,” Stiles said, pushing himself to his feet. He tried not to pay attention to the red strings swirling towards the drain. “I’ll be in there in a minute.”

Derek closed the door and Stiles turned on the showerhead. He washed the blood from his skin and washed his hair before getting out. The mirror was completely steamed over, the floors warmed under his feet.

He went into the attached bedroom after he dried off. They had moved Derek’s things into here when he moved in. The other room was too small and this way they could keep their clothes in the same room they slept in. The bed still sat on the floor, but each day for the last week or so that he came home, something was added, like the lamps on the bedside tables, bedside tables for that matter, the headboard. It was slowly starting to look like a bedroom. His paintings still flanked the bed on either side.

Heh pulled on a pair of sleep pants and one of Derek’s worn t-shirts that stank of him before going down the hall and into the living room and kitchen area. Derek had a small pot on the stove. It smelled like garlic and cream.

“We can eat in bed if you wanted.”

“No we can eat in here, watch TV,” Stiles said.

“Get comfortable,” Derek said, taking down two bowls.

Stiles settled onto the couch with his blanket. It was easier than the thought it would be to get used to living with Derek. It was nice listening to him in the kitchen as he picked something to watch on TV. It felt domestic. Calm. It felt right.

“Here,” Derek said, handing Stiles one of the bowls of potato soup.

He had made it earlier when Stiles asked for the ingredients so he could make it himself. He didn’t like to admit it, but it was better than the soup his mom had ever made him. Derek had added things like heavy cream and fresh parsley. When his mom had only ever used butter and milk. She had never used a recipe, but Derek had pulled one up on his phone as he cooked, going through each step like it was a precise operation. Stiles couldn’t argue with the results.

“Thank you.”

“Mhm,” Derek said. Then he picked up the bottle of Midol and held them to Stiles’s lips. Stiles opened his mouth and took them with water Derek gave him.

“You’re going to spoil the shit out of me. I’ll be worthless.”

“That’s okay.”

Stiles smiled slightly and kissed him. They watched something stupid while they ate. Then Stiles scooted over and put rested his head against Derek’s shoulder. Derek kissed his forehead.

“Do things like what we just did in the bathroom fuck with you?” he asked.

Derek shook his head. “I like taking care of you.”

“But it doesn’t stress you?”

“No.”

“Promise?”

“I promise,” Derek said, looking down at him where he was leaning on him. “Taking care of you doesn’t make my brain go there. When I’m getting something out of it, then it’s a little harder.”

Stiles nodded and Derek squeezed him.

“I love you.”

“I love you too,” Stiles said. “Thanks for today. You did too much, but still.”

Derek kissed his forehead before tilting his head against his. A few times he felt Derek laugh at what they were watching, just small laughs. Then he stopped and Stiles didn’t notice until he started to move and Derek made one of his sleep noises.

“Hey, let’s go to bed,” Stiles said quietly.

Derek opened his green eyes and touched his face. “’Kay.”

“Come on,” Stiles said, standing up and pulling Derek’s hand.

Derek stood and grabbed Stiles’s blanket before following him down the hall. He looked like a little boy with his hair ruffled and his eyes sleepy, carrying the blanket. It made Stiles’s chest feel tight.

Five months ago, he never would’ve imagined that this would be his life. And now he was with Derek, seeing him in a way that he doubt very many people had. When they got into bed, Derek wrapped around him like a squid, rubbing his stubbled cheek against Stiles’s clean shaven one. Stiles squeezed his hand against his chest.

“Night.”

“’Night,” Derek mumbled before he started to snore softly.

Chapter Text

Some nights he slept well with Stiles in bed beside him. Some night he didn't. If Stiles was moving a lot in his sleep, then it was a toss up.

When someone knocked on the door at just passed seven in the morning, Derek frowned. He picked up his pistol on the end table and held it to his side. Peter was coming over, but he had said it would be an hour. He looked through the peephole then exhaled, shoulders dropping, before he unbolted the door and pulled it open.

“Come in,” he said.

“Good morning to you too,” Chris said, stepping past him, then looking down at the gun in his hand. “I tried to call, but you changed your number.”

“I told you.”

“That would’ve been nice,” Chris said, looking up at the exposed beams high above them. “Beautiful place.”

“Thanks,” Derek said, sliding the door closed and flipping the lock again before going back to the couch. Chris followed behind him slowly as he looked around the flat.

“Since I haven’t heard from you, I guess you’ve been doing well,” Chris said.

Derek nodded. “Do you want coffee?”

“I’m fine,” Chris said, sitting in a chair across from him. “Are you settling in here okay?”

Derek nodded again. When Chris frowned, Derek looked down at his fingers.

“It’s better than the rehab center, but it’s harder too.”

“The adjustment period is always a motherfucker.”

He knew it was for Chris, even when he looked so at ease. Some of it was honest, he was sure. But a lot of it was synthetic and the synthetic is what had landed him in rehab time and again. Then with the life they had lived, he guessed that wasn't the worst that could happen to someone. A mild heroin addiction was getting off light for some.

“Where are you living now?” Derek asked.

“I went to visit my family in Nevada. That wore thin quickly. I came out here a few weeks ago. I think I might like it.”

“It’s busy, all the time. Even at night.”

“That doesn’t bother me,” Chris said.

“You lucky son of a bitch.”

Chris laughed. "It's easier to score if the fancy strikes me." He laughed when he looked at Derek. "It doesn't happen as often anymore. Recreational."

"I think that's what you've always said.

"I've almost always been right.”

Derek snorted, but didn't say anything. He picked a short gray hair off his sleep pants. He needed to get the couches cleaned, probably the carpets to before the same thing happened to Stiles.

“Did you find the kid?”

Derek felt the smile turning up the edge of his lip before he could stop it. He had no choice but to nod. He wouldn’t have lied to Chris anyway. Chris smiled large enough to show his even teeth. They looked whiter against his gray beard. It was almost all gray. It was weird to think of how dark it had been when Derek began working for him.

“And the shit-eating grin says it’s going well,” Chris said.

“He’s down the hall.”

“Are you married?”

Derek shook his head. “He moved in a week ago.”

“That’s great.”

For anyone else, he might have downplayed it, but Chris was the one Derek called when he first saw Stiles and he was scared shitless that something would happen to him. He was the one who contacted John, who made the arrangements to get Stiles to safety, and try to protect Derek’s cover as much as possible. That was the last case that he had been Derek's boss, but they had stayed friends. One of the very few friends Derek could admit to having.

Down the hall, he heard the bedroom door open. He started to catch Stiles before he came in without knowing Chris was there, but he was too late. Stiles made a low rusted noise as he came into the living room like his vocal cords still weren't quite used to trilling. He hoped it was always that way. It made his heart hurt in the best possible way.

Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck at the end of the hall and started to mouth him before he jerked, saw Chris and turned red.

"Shit I didn't realize anyone was here," Stiles said. He tugged at the hem of Derek's shirt as he stepped back.

“No I’m sorry. I didn’t give Derek any warning,” Chris said, standing up. There was a small pause then Chris held out his hand. “Chris, Derek’s old boss.”

“Stiles,” he said.

Derek smiled slightly at the slight red crawling over Stiles’s cheeks.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Chris said. “Sorry to bust in on your morning. Derek,” he said, looking back to him. “I’ll see you later.”

“No, you don’t have to go. I’ll just throw on pants,” Stiles said.

“You’re fine,” Chris said. "I just wanted to check in on Derek."

Then the buzzer on the front door rang through the apartment and the door started to grate open. Peter. He was the only one who had a key. Of course he was early the one time that Derek wished he wouldn't be.

"Good morning," Peter called. "Stiles, bright-eyed and busy-tailed."

"Everyone is just going to see me half-naked today. Awesome," Stiles said, before he went back down the hallway.

“He's so charming, Derek,” Peter said. Then he stopped paying any attention to Derek or Stiles when he walked into the living room and saw Chris. Derek was ready to hit him for the flat out fuck-me look he was giving until he looked at Chris and saw the same frankness. “And who’s this?”

“Chris Argent,” Chris said, before Derek could, holding out his hand.

Derek’s skin crawled at Peter’s smile. He had almost forgotten what a slut he could be. “Peter Hale. Derek’s uncle.”

Chris smiled. “He’s mentioned you.”

“All of it was wonderful I’m sure.”

Derek cleared his throat when they still hadn’t let go of each other’s hands. “Go make someone else sick.”

“I was going to get coffee,” Chris said.

“What a coincidence,” Peter said, sitting his coffee cup on Derek’s end table. “I just ran out.”

Chris smiled and Derek rolled his eyes. Neither of them noticed.

“Just lock the door,” Derek said, as he went down the hall to where Stiles was still in the bedroom.

He could hear Chris and Peter’s voices for a few moments before they were drowned under the closing of the large door. In a few minutes, he would go back and make sure it was locked.

When he stepped into the bedroom, he found Stiles pulling on a pair of loose black pants. It was still early for him. It was still early for anyone who wasn’t working really, but the people Derek knew kept odd hours. Stiles glanced at him before crawling back into bed, pulling the blankets over his shoulders.

“I guess they left?”

Derek nodded.

“What’s wrong?” Stiles asked, as Derek laid down beside him.
“Nothing.”

“Your face says otherwise.”

Derek didn’t realize he was making a face until Stiles touched the line between his eyebrows with the pad of his thumb.

“It isn’t anything. I just never planned on them meeting.”

“Intentional?”

“Mhm.”

“Why?”

“Peter is a whore and so is Chris. Peter likes coke, I guess with him I can say that he liked coke. I don’t think he’s touched it in years. Chris likes heroin though.”

“Peter does drugs?”

“Just weed now, but after his wife left, yeah.”

“Wow,” Stiles said, scooting closer and laying his cheek on his chest. Derek put his arm around him. “Did you do drugs?”

“I’ve done everything, but I was never addicted.”

“Good,” Stiles said. “Does Peter know about Chris?”

“Yeah. I think it just increased the appeal. I made the mistake of showing him a picture of him once.”

“That wasn’t really smart.”

“No not really,” Derek agreed. “What time do you work?”

“I go in at four. I want to stay at the gallery to paint after. I probably won’t leave until early in the morning.”

“You can set up a studio in one of the extra rooms.”

“I don’t want to fuck up the hardwood.”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s your house too.”

“Yeah I know,” Stiles said.

But even when he said it, it didn’t sound honest. Over the last week Stiles had been careful to not even leave a glass out of place. Derek had been in Stiles’s apartment more often than his own over the last six months and it was never as neat as his own. Because he didn’t live in his apartment. He just used it for the basic functions of survival until he could go to Stiles’s.

“I’d like you to set up a studio here.”

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it. We’ve already fucked up the studio above the gallery. I don’t really see a reason to spread that around.”

Derek frowned at the TV that Stiles must have turned on when he came in earlier. It was on some mindless show. Since Pax he almost always fell asleep with the TV on. He said it kept his mind from racing. Derek didn’t really care. He normally didn’t sleep until hours after Stiles had gone to sleep anyway.

It didn’t take long before Stiles was snoring lightly against his chest. Derek considered going back to sleep with him, but it wasn’t worth actively trying. If he did then he did. If not then maybe he would sleep when Stiles was at work.

When Stiles alarm rang hours later, he was still watching the same series that Stiles had put it on. He couldn’t say what had gone on, but it faded to background as Stiles stirred and grunted against him, hitting snooze and sleeping for another thirty minutes.

***

As Stiles shut down the gallery, he checked the locks twice before jogging up the stairs to the art studio. He flipped on the right side rung of overhead lights. The flickered and hummed a noisy rhythm, nothing like the lights in Derek’s loft.

His loft too now, he guessed since he kicked in money. Or he would be kicking in money for whatever it was that Derek spend money on. He refused to let him pay a rent since Derek didn’t even pay to live there. So far he’d stocked the pantry once and bought them bagels the one time he woke up before Derek.

He guessed there was going to be some imbalance to his life with Derek having a shit ton of money and him having like one-hundred dollars in his savings account. It still didn’t feel right. He put his earbuds in and turn on his regular playlist or at least the one he liked when he was messing with a darker palette.

Before he went to his own side, he went to Hazes’s side and looked at the canvas on his easel. It was in the heavier dark oil he’d used on the tree painting a few months ago. This one was fruit though and some darker reds and golds were mixed with the black so far.

A tiny clench in his chest unfurled.

Derek wanted him to work at the loft. He got it. It made sense. The loft was huge. There was one huge area behind the kitchen that had good natural light. He could set up a massive studio, but that was part of the problem. It was too big. The floor was too nice.

He wouldn’t have another artist to bounce ideas off of, to stay inspired. Yeah he could still work at the gallery, but those were all finished. They were intimidating more than inspirational. It was cool to see Haze still have fuck ups. To trash things that Stiles thought were great because he hated something particular about them. It made the end result sweeter. It made Stiles not feel like so much of a trainwreck.

As he started working, he turned up the music loudly enough that he couldn’t hear his own thoughts. He’d come up here a few times in the last two weeks, until now it had been like scraping gum from the tread of a moving tire. Tonight it at least seemed to have stopped moving. It was still hard, but it came a little easier.

By the time his phone chirped, he had managed almost a full new layer. He looked it over in the too bright lights for a few minutes before pulling out his phone and seeing the text message that Derek was waiting downstairs, not to hurry. For a second he considered staying a while longer, but he knew he was done. He dropped his brushes in acetone and cleaned up his space a little bit before heading downstairs.

Derek’s FJ was idling in the alleyway behind the gallery as he stepped out the back door. He climbed into the warm cab and leaned over the console to kiss Derek. Derek kissed him back before putting the SUV into gear.

“Are you hungry?”

“Starving,” Stiles said.

“Burgers?”

“Mind reader,” Stiles said.

He expected Derek to turn toward the diner near his old apartment, but he didn’t. He got on the highway and crossed a narrow part of the city on the freeway. The lanes were nearly empty with the streetlights glowing in variations of pale orange, blue, and green on the concrete before Derek took an exit near his, their, loft.

The streets were cleaner and there were no bars on the windows in this area of the city. The cars were all Mercedes or BMWs in the driveways of small cottage like houses with ivy climbing stucco and brick siding. It was nice. It was beautiful, but when he drove the Jeep down the street the squeal of one of its brakes sounded like a scream.

He was almost surprised when they turned down another side street went a few blocks, and pulled into a the small side parking lot of a diner. It was an old building, but old in the kind of way that people around there would find it eclectic and not dirty.

A bell above the door rang as he and Derek walked in, a bell rang and a woman with all her teeth, at least the front ones, smiled at them from behind the counter.

“Have a seat anywhere,” she said.

Stiles followed Derek to a booth along the wall of glass facing the street. He picked at paint stuck in the cuticles of his fingernails as they waited for the waitress to bring menus.

“Have you been here?” Derek asked.

“No. It’s nice though.”

“It’s open late,” Derek said like it was a correction.

The tiles on the floor were shiny and stark against each other, black and white. The leather on the barstools was probably fake, but it wasn’t cracked and he bet if he touched them they wouldn’t be sticky. It was nice, but it felt weird. Then again, the diner in Beacon Hills was always clean too. It was weird how just a year of living some place else made this not normal.

“They do have good onion rings,” Derek said. “Not as good as the other place, but the burgers are less greasy.”

“Cool. Macs gives me heartburn sometimes.”

“Are you eighty?”

“No, smartass,” Stiles said, sticking his tongue out at Derek when he looked up. Derek smiled slightly. There were dark spots beneath his eyes like he probably hadn’t slept.

When the woman brought them their menus she didn’t greet them by name, but when Stiles saw some of familiar things on the menu mixed with some new stuff he let it slide. Maybe they would become regulars. It was like three blocks from the loft.

Derek drummed his fingers on the tabletop without looking up from his menu. This other hand was buried in his hair. Stiles wanted to fix it, but Derek was just in a weird mood. He’d probably get better when they got back to their own place. He normally did.

“What did you do today?” Stiles asked.

“I slept for a few hours then cleaned.”

“It was already clean, weirdo.”

“I just did some laundry.”

“That’s cool, kinda boring, but cool,” Stiles said.

When Derek looked up at him, Stiles smiled and reached over to fix his hair. It looked better. Still fluffy, but not like a little kid coming to preschool with a cowlick.

“I was thinking about getting another dog,” Derek said.

Right then the waitress popped up, like a comedian with the worst timing in the world as Stiles felt a little bit like he might throw up the blue cheese burger he ordered. His fingertips felt cold as he handed her the menu. Derek asked for two chocolate shakes. Stiles gave him a smile that felt like it was being pulled by strings.

“I don’t mean to push,” Derek said, twirling his straw wrapper around his finger, smoothing it out, and twisting it again. “But he gave me a reason to get out of the house when you were gone. I had to take him for a walk and he was good to run with. We wouldn’t have to get a puppy. I was thinking the shelter might be best.”

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” Stiles said. “I just-, I don’t want it to be my dog. If you get a dog then get it for you.”

Derek stared at the sugar canister like it had said something particularly fucked up. The straw wrapper was so tight around his finger the tip was turning purple. Stiles reached over and rubbed his hand over Derek’s, tugging the paper free.

“Hey, it’s fine,” he said, staring at him until Derek looked back. “Get a dog. You’re right. It’s good for you. Just get a dog that likes to run, because I’m pretty sure you almost killed Pax like six times with your runs.”

“We took a lot of breaks.”

“I know,” Stiles said, giving Derek another little smile. Even mentioning the pit bull left a hollow feeling in his chest. He missed him like a son of a bitch. The idea of a puppy was nice, but just out of reach for a while. “You should go look at the shelter tomorrow.”

“Would you want to come?”

Stiles shook his head. He could feel heat prickling his eyes. He was such a pussy. It was just a dog and he still hated it.

“No. I’ll let you.”

“Okay. If you don’t like it I can take it back,” Derek said.

Stiles scoffed, forcing a smile and the tears in his eyes to recede. “Yeah right. And like I wouldn’t like it? It’ll be fine.”

“Okay.”

“Did you talk to Peter today?” Stiles asked, trying to change the topic.

“He texted me once.”

“Anything from Chris?”

“No.”

“Your boss and uncle were doing it all day,” Stiles said.

“Thanks for that,” Derek said.

“Welcome,” Stiles said, then he smiled as the same waitress brought them their milkshakes.

Not that there needed to be two waitresses. The place was dead. There were two cops sitting against the far wall. They had black uniforms. They looked more serious than the beige ones his dad and his deputies wore. They looked unapproachable. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, pulling up his dad’s information. It was late, but if he wasn’t on night shift then he would have it on quiet anyway with the house phone on loud.

Hope you’re having a good day/night, pops.

He put his phone on the table and watched it from the corner of his eye as he stirred the thick creamy goo in the old fashioned frosted glass. The diner in Beacon Hills did that. His chest hurt just a little more. He missed his dad. He missed his dog. He kind of missed his shitty ass apartment, but then he really didn’t miss it at all. He hated it and he hated that if he had stayed he never would’ve slept there easily again.

“What’s wrong?”

Stiles looked up at Derek, his stare like he had been boring a hole into him for a few minutes.

“I’m just out of it. I didn’t sleep great I don’t think,” Stiles said.

“You seemed to sleep pretty well. You drooled on my shirt.”

“You obviously didn’t care.”

“Not enough to make you move.”

“Okay then,” Stiles said, still stirring his milkshake. It was such a gross color. He would never use that shade of brown in a painting, but somehow it looked like the best thing he’d seen all day. “I don’t know. I’m homesick I guess. I miss Dad, which is stupid. I went to college for how long without being near him, but it still sucks.”

“It’s been a stressful few weeks.”

“I know, but still. I’m old enough that I should be fine to handle these things on my own without wanting to run to daddy, but I’m not. It’s frustrating.”

“People want their parents when they’re stressed. At least if they have good ones.”

Somehow the pit in Stiles’s chest got larger. It throbbed as he looked across the table at Derek who didn’t have either of his parents. He had Peter and they seemed to get along well, but no mom, no dad.

“I’m not meaning to bitch. I know he’s only a few hours away. I shouldn’t let it get to me. It just does sometimes.”

“I know.”

He was saved from his own pity party when the waitress set down their food. He would give it this, it looked better than the food at Macs. The fry was crispy and golden instead of more than slightly brown this late at night.

They ate in silence for a while except the few mumbles of how good it was. Stiles was halfway done with his fries when his phone screen lit up with his dad’s name and a new message. It was almost five AM.

Morning, kiddo. Back at you. Call me this afternoon when you wake up.

Stiles wiped his hands on his jeans before typing out a response.

Sure. Be safe. Love you.

Love you too, buddy.

And then he felt like he was going to cry again. It was post period week hormones. He knew that. He should always know that, but it always seemed so novel and it always knocked him on his ass. He just wanted to hug his dad.

Then he felt Derek’s hand on his.

“We can go down there if you want.”

“I have to work tonight.”

“You could call in.”

“I already took last week off,” Stiles said.

Derek frowned, the line between his eyes etching into his skin. He could look so fucking serious when he wanted to. It had probably worked really well for him during the whole FBI career thing.

“You could take more time off.”

“I know I could, but I don’t want to. Not really. It’s my job. I don’t want to be a liability.”

“You aren’t a liability.”

“I would be if I can’t show up for work.”

Derek’s mouth twisted more before he just squeezed Stiles hand in his warm rough grip. “If you want anything to change, just tell me. We can make whatever you want work.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Then think about it. If you miss your dad, we aren’t tied here.”

Stiles watched Derek eating for a few moments. He peppered his ketchup until it was nearly black. He waited for him to pick up the salt to add that too and it was like clockwork. The fact that he knew that about him made the pit lessen, barely, but it was something.

“That’s really sweet.”

“I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t mean it,” Derek said, glancing up before he went back to eating.

“I know,” Stiles said.

He finished eating feeling a fucked up mixture of everything, tension, and maybe hopefulness, worry, and maybe a little happiness, but it was just too fucked up to tell. In the morning, afternoon he guessed, things would be clearer after a few hours of sleep and maybe a body that wasn’t so wracked with hormones. Still as he ate, his mind whirled and he couldn’t say everything in the mess was bad.