Derek wasn't having a good day.
Technically speaking, Derek wasn't having a good life , but like the proverbial frog in a boiling pot, he'd mostly learned to adapt. Bad days were the water in which he swam – or flailed, rather; swimming implied a degree of comfort with his metaphorical pastime that he was yet to acquire – but even by his usual standards, today had been a ceaseless tsunami of suck.
It started with his housemate, Boyd, announcing over breakfast that he wanted to move in with his girlfriend when their current lease ran out. Which was totally cause for celebration, Boyd and Erica being awesome people who deserved each other and happiness and all the rest, but their lease expired next month, leaving Derek less than four weeks in which to make other arrangements. Either he could live alone and come one step closer to fulfilling Laura's prophecy that he end up a crazy catperson before he's thirty, or he could endure the random agony of finding new people to live with.
Derek didn't like new people. He was pretty sure he was allergic. But good single occupancies were hard to find, especially in his price range, and as much as he loved his family, he'd rather die a slow, painful death by unbearable roommate than move back in with any of them. God, his little sister would laugh her fucking ass off.
Not a great start to the day, then, but by no means the worst he'd ever had. Except then his car broke down on the drive to work, and he had to call a tow-truck to take it to the garage – and god only knew how he was meant to afford the repairs, if he had a new bond to be saving for. Adding insult to injury, he then spent fifteen sodden minutes trying and failing to hail a cab in the rain, which conveniently started bucketing down the second he no longer had a car to sit in, before finally catching the bus. Where he ended up getting gum stuck to his pants, a fact he didn't notice until one of his students pointed it out as he hurried to set up for class.
Up until then, Derek had taken comfort from the fact that at least he'd left home early enough to not have missed his lecture, but once you've had a room full of twentysomethings unashamedly pointing and laughing at your ass, it's increasingly difficult to look on the bright side of things.
After that, it was all downhill. He was so off-balance from the bubblegum thing – to say nothing of the fact that he was still wet through – that he dropped his notes an unprecedented four times in the course of an hour, again to laughter from his students. By the time he got back to his office to towel down, he was so agitated that he forgot to be careful of his contacts and ended up knocking one loose – and not only couldn't he find it again (and hello, more expensive replacement things!), but by the time he'd given up the search and changed into his glasses, he was running so late for lunch that the sandwiches were all sold out at his favourite café, forcing him to settle for a lacklustre mug of soup.
His next lecture was a marginal improvement, though by that point, Derek was struggling to see how it could've been worse. But the second he was out of class, Laura called, informing him – with her typical mix of bluntness and sympathy – that his now-famous ex-girlfriend had announced her intention to write a biography about her Troubled Years, which was basically code for The Time I Went Off The Medication My Boyfriend Never Knew I Was On And Tried To Murder Him And His Family. Which, Derek had to sit down for that one. Kate was... all these years later, he still didn't know how to feel about Kate. He'd loved her, and she'd lied to him from the outset about her diagnosis (bipolar with psychosis), and while part of him understood why she'd been afraid to tell him the truth, the consequences had been devastating: she'd gone steadily off the rails, abused him physically and emotionally, resisted his many attempts to find out what was wrong, and when he'd finally broken up with her, she'd responded by setting his house on fire, acting under the deluded belief that he and his family were fairytale monsters.
The fact that she came from a prominent family and had, after her rehabilitation, leveraged their influence to become a well-known spokeswoman for mental health advocacy, was a positive thing. Derek was glad Kate had pulled herself together and was helping others, even if her actions still woke him up at night, but the thought of having the most painful period of his life dissected and displayed for strangers left him in a cold sweat.
Calmly, he'd thanked Laura for the heads up, walked to the nearest bathroom, and vomited in the sink. (The soup hadn't tasted any better the second time around.)
After rinsing his mouth, he went back to his office to try and work, but was so distracted by the whole disaster that he accidentally forwarded a stupid chain mail to everyone in the faculty instead of deleting it. It was one mundane humiliation too many: Derek called it a day, remembering only as he got to the carkpark that his car was in the shop, forcing him to trudge all the way back to the bus stop, where – of course – he'd just missed the bus, necessitating a twenty minute wait for the next one.
And thus his current predicament: walking from the bus stop back to his soon-to-be-ex-apartment, he'd managed to get lost in his own damn neighbourhood. In all the time he'd been living there, he'd only had to take the bus a handful of times, and he was still so worked up about Boyd and Kate and the car that he'd managed to take a series of wrong turns, storming along on furious – if misguided – autopilot. By the time he finally realised that he didn't recognise his surroundings, it was too late: he was stuck in an unfamiliar street with no recollection of how he'd got there, and when he pulled out his phone to try and call Boyd, it gave a single, mournful chirp and died.
Derek stared at his traitor phone. It should have had enough battery to get him through a regular day, he'd checked that morning – except, of course, that he'd had to call AAA, and the tow-truck, and the garage, and then the chat with Laura...
'Great,' said Derek, numbly. 'Just great.'
It was too much. There was only so much shit that Derek could deal with in a given day, and he'd passed his limit hours ago. Angry, shaking and overwhelmed, he was on the brink of throwing his phone in the street when something soft brushed up against his left shin.
Breathing hard, Derek looked down. A small, mottled cat was rubbing itself on his legs, purring enthusiastically. For a moment, he just stared at it, but when it didn't go away – when it kept on twining between his ankles, vibrating with feline happiness – something in him snapped. He sat down hard, barely conscious of the fact that he'd colonised someone's doorstep, and skritched the cat behind her ears. The purring intensified, the cat leaning into his touch. Derek made a choked noise, hunching forwards, and as though it were an invitation, the cat leapt up onto his shoulder, rubbing her face enthusiastically against the edge of his glasses.
It was the only nice thing that had happened to him all day.
Derek burst into tears.
Stiles woke to the sound of someone crying, though it took him a moment to correctly identify the sound. He was a little groggy, his afternoon nap having stretched on for longer than he'd intended, and given that Scott was out of town, he couldn't think who was making the noise. Puzzled and a little concerned, he yawned, stretched and went to the bedroom window, which looked out onto the street – and blinked, startled, when he realised there was someone on his doorstep. The angle wasn't great, so all he could see was a bit of their knee and elbow, but judging by the sound, it was definitely a guy, and they were definitely crying.
Stiles stepped away from the window, pulling on an oversized shirt and sweats. He knew it wasn't Scott, because even if his best buddy and housemate had fled the pressure of staying with his girlfriend's family, he still would've let himself in. Most likely, it was Isaac, who'd shown up sad and weepy on more than one occasion, usually after being dumped, and no matter his predilection for stupid scarves, Stiles wasn't about to leave a bro in crisis. As he headed for the front door, it honestly never occurred to him that the crying man might be a random passerby, which either said a great deal about the nature of his friendships or his general faith in humanity. Or, quite possibly, both.
Stiles opened the door, and stared.
It wasn't Isaac.
It was, in fact, a stranger.
A handsome, crying stranger.
Who was cuddling his cat.
'Uh,' said Stiles, stupidly. 'Hi?'
The man leapt to his feet, cheeks visibly reddening despite the designer scruff. The guy looked mortified, his eyes wet and red-rimmed behind square, black glasses. Ordinarily, Stiles would've called them hipster frames, but the stranger was pulling them off like nobody's business. He was wearing a faded green Henley and dark jeans, a leather satchel slung across one shoulder, and he was clutching Stiles's cat to his chest – his muscular, well-defined chest, holy shit – like some sort of talisman.
'Hi,' said the guy, faintly. He gulped, clearly struggling to get himself under control, the blush spreading across his sharp, high cheeks. 'God, I'm so sorry. I just, I've had a really bad day –'
'Hey, man, it's OK,' said Stiles, who was starting to wonder if he was still dreaming. Jesus, the guy was fucking gorgeous – did people that gorgeous even exist in real life? 'I mean, are you OK? Do you, uh, do you need a hand or something? Well, I mean, you seem to have yours pretty full with Tabitha –' the cat mrr ed lazily, recognising her name, '– but is there anything I can do for you?' Please god, let there be something I can do for you.
The guy looked momentarily stunned. Then, as though he couldn't help himself, he croaked out: 'I'm lost. My phone died, I don't live far from here but I'm lost, I got off the stupid bus, and I just –' He stopped, biting his lip. 'I've had a really bad day,' he said again, quietly.
Possibly the guy was a serial killer. Possibly Stiles was about to be murdered in his own kitchen, or kidnapped, or sold a set of encyclopaedias or forcibly converted to Mormonism, or whatever other hideous fate befell those trusting enough to invite strange men into their houses. But the guy just looked wrecked, and his Henley was covered in cat fur where he'd been cuddling Tabitha, and Stiles just didn't have it in him to be sensible.
Gently, he said, 'You want to come in? I was about to make some coffee. You could borrow my phone, maybe have a cup?'
A look came over Hot Guy's face like he was about to start crying again. 'That would be really nice,' he said, hoarsely. 'Thank you.'
'Hey, no problem! I'm Stiles, by the way,' he added, holding out his hand.
'Derek,' said Hot Guy, settling Tabitha in the crook of one arm to free up a hand of his own. His palm was warm, his grip firm without being crushing, and Stiles felt a faint tingle go through him at the contact.
'Well then, Derek,' he said, mouth quirking up in a smile. 'Why don't you come on in?'
Derek followed the stranger – Stiles – into his house, still clutching the mottled cat. Logically, he knew this was a bad idea, that he had no reason to trust a guy he'd only just met, but his brain wasn't firing on all cylinders even before the door opened, and once he saw Stiles, he completely lost the ability to think, because Tabitha's owner was almost absurdly beautiful: tousled hair, plush lips, an upturned nose, high cheeks and the biggest, warmest, long-lashed eyes that Derek had ever seen. Throw in the colourful sleeve tattoos coiling up his forearms and the smatter of moles on his pale skin, and it was a miracle he'd even retained the power of speech.
Not, Derek thought bitterly, that it was going to do him any good. Even assuming Stiles was attracted to men – and that was a big if – Derek had shown up sobbing on his doorstep, randomly hugging his cat, and that's not the sort of first impression you can easily overrule. Derek was socially awkward at the best of times, but this was quite possibly his most embarrassing introduction to another person ever – and given that he was singing pop songs in an apron and underpants the first time he met Erica, that was saying something.
Tabitha squirmed in his arms, clawing her way up his chest and back onto his shoulder, where she dug in, rubbing her face on his head. Derek made a helpless noise as his glasses were knocked askew, prompting Stiles to turn, eyes widening at the sight.
'Jeez, Tab, respect for personal space much?' And then, to Derek, somewhat abashedly, 'Don't feel you have to humour her.'
'I don't mind,' Derek mumbled, as Tabitha licked his cheek.
Stiles smiled, the expression lighting up his face. 'Kitchen's through here,' he said, and lead Derek into an open-plan space that melded into the lounge room, a dining table strewn with books, papers and multiple laptops the only real barrier between the two areas.
'Uh, take a seat,' said Stiles, waving a hand at the table. The gesture was hypnotising: Stiles had broad, expressive hands with long, dexterous fingers, and if Derek hadn't been blushing already, just the thought of what those hands might be capable of would've done it. He moved to comply, watching as Stiles leaned in to sweep his chosen end of the table free of clutter.
'Sorry about the mess,' said Stiles, running a hand through his hair. 'My housemate's away for the week, and I tend to sprawl when he's gone.'
'God, don't apologise,' Derek said. 'I'm the guy who's crashing your afternoon.'
Stiles snorted. 'Honestly, you're not crashing anything. I fell asleep for way too long – hence the need for coffee.' He hefted the pot by way of demonstration. 'You want some?'
'Please,' said Derek, and as Stiles turned away to fix it, he took off his glasses and surreptitiously wiped his eyes. He still felt on edge, but despite the fact that social encounters with new people usually made him stressed, there was something about Stiles – or Tabitha, maybe, or the two in combination – that was helping him calm down.
'Would you like milk and sugar?' Stiles called, his head in the fridge.
'Both, please,' said Derek. 'Two spoons.'
'No problemo,' said Stiles. 'Coming right up!'
Tabitha picked that moment to leap from Derek's shoulder onto his lap, where she started kneading his thigh. He patted her, relaxing further as her purring intensified, and when Stiles presented him with a fat blue mug, Derek managed to muster up a smile.
'Thanks,' he said, taking a sip. The coffee was just sweet enough, and exactly what he needed. 'For all of this. I don't – I don't usually make a habit of breaking down on unfamiliar doorsteps.'
'Happens to the best of us,' Stiles said easily, pulling up a chair of his own. He cupped his mug in his hands, resting it on the tabletop, then said, somewhat cautiously, 'So, not to pry or anything, but... do you want to talk about it? Because, no offence, dude, but you kinda look like you need to talk about it, whatever it is, and despite my tendency to ramble, I'm actually a pretty good listener. Plus, you know.' He smiled again, the expression unfairly disarming. 'There are some things you can only tell a stranger. But if you just want to sit for a bit, that's fine, too.'
'Yes,' said Derek, reflexively. Then: 'I mean – no, not yes to sitting. Yes to talking. I guess. Sorry.' He buried his face in his coffee, wondering what the hell had come over him. Ordinarily, Derek was terrible at volunteering personal information, even and especially when prompted to do so, but he had coffee and a cat and a pressing need to vent, and besides which, he'd already embarrassed himself so thoroughly, he couldn't imagine how telling the truth would make things worse than they already were. Still, he hesitated. 'You're sure you want to hear this?'
'Wouldn't have asked if I didn't,' said Stiles, and because he hadn't been under any onus to ask Derek in for coffee in the first place, Derek was minded to believe him.
'OK,' he said, taking a deep breath. 'OK.'
And then it all poured out of him: Boyd's announcement; the car, the rain and the bubblegum; the awkward lecture; the lost contact lens; the news about Kate – Stiles's eyes went wide at that, though he didn't interrupt – and all the rest of it, culminating in Derek's trip home, his dying phone and his evidently non-existent sense of direction.
'And then your cat found me,' Derek said, one hand resting on Tabitha's head as the other gripped his mug, 'and I just – I don't know. I had a moment. Sorry.' And he ducked his head, taking a long swallow of coffee to cover his embarrassment.
'Dude,' said Stiles, with every appearance of sincerity. 'That is – wow. That is the day from hell. Honestly, in your shoes, I would've ragequit everything about five hours ago and gone to hide under a rock.'
The unexpected comment startled a laugh from Derek. 'I don't think you'd fit,' he said.
Stiles grinned. 'Depends on the size of the rock.'
'True,' said Derek, just as a rumble of thunder shook the house. Tabitha tensed, her ears flickering backwards, and as though the heavens had opened, rain began to bucket down, the drops cacophonous against the roof.
'Just as well you came inside when you did,' Stiles remarked, leaning back in his chair. 'Otherwise, you'd be stuck outside right now.'
'I think that might have broken me,' Derek admits. 'I was about ready to smash my phone when Tabitha showed up.'
'She's a real sweetheart,' Stiles said, visibly warming. 'Can you believe I found her at a kill shelter? Some asshole family just dumped her there – said they were moving town, couldn't be bothered taking her with them. Didn't even try to find her a new home first.'
Derek felt a flash of anger. 'People like that should be shot,' he said, rubbing a thumb under Tabitha's chin. 'Treating animals like toys, then throwing them away when it's not convenient. It's despicable.'
'Amen to that,' said Stiles. 'My housemate, Scott, is a veterinarian, and some of the horror stories he tells me – god, I just want to punch those people right in the face, you know? But then, if that was an option, I'd have to get in line. Scott is like, the most easygoing guy on the face of the planet, but hurt an animal or pick on someone defenceless, and he will absolutely fuck you up.'
'He sounds like my kind of guy,' said Derek, approvingly.
Something flashed across Stiles's face, there and gone like the lightning outside the kitchen window. 'So, uh – speaking of housemates. Did you need to call yours and let him know where you are?'
'Shit!' said Derek, embarrassed all over again. 'Sorry, I'm taking up your whole afternoon – I'll call him and get out of your hair –'
'Hey, whoah!' said Stiles, holding up a hand. 'Dude, seriously, that wasn't me trying to drop a hint. I just meant he might be missing you, is all – no way I'm gonna kick you out into the howling tempest without a ride. Here.' He fished around in a nearby stack of papers and pulled out a smartphone, keying in the passcode before passing it over to Derek. 'You're at 93 Watson, if he asks.'
'Thanks,' said Derek, somewhere between stunned and pathetically grateful. 'You, uh. Is it OK if I make two calls? I was going to ask Boyd to drop me by the garage when I got home, but with the storm –'
'Knock yourself out, dude.' Stiles drained the last of his coffee, swiping Derek's empty mug as he stood. 'Hey, you want something to eat? You want a cookie?'
Helpless in the face of Stiles's generosity, Derek could only nod.
As Derek started to make his calls, Stiles buried his head in the kitchen cupboard, quietly trying to not freak out and only half succeeding. OK, Stilinski. Be cool. You can do this. You've been cool before, right? Remember that time you made Danny laugh with you, not at you? Remember Lydia's party?
(Lydia had approved the outfit he'd picked himself, then deigned to introduce him to one of her hottest friends as a viable romantic prospect. Stiles hadn't screwed it up, and they'd gone on two whole dates before parting amicably. A treasured memory.)
Stiles took a deep breath, reaching for the tin of really good cookies, the expensive ones from the market that were, by mutual agreementwith Scott, an Emergencies Only food. Technically, that meant they were reserved for times of great personal crisis, but Stiles was pretty sure the unexpected arrival on his doorstep of literally the hottest man he'd ever seen, sweet Jesus – a man who loved cats, was an English lecturer, drove a Camaro and had an ass that was demonstrably sculpted by god – met the crisis criteria. And that was before you factored in that Derek, last name as yet unknown, had clearly had the suckiest day in the history of ever, and was therefore in obvious need of a shoulder to lean on, or possibly a waist, or a thigh, or something directly between those two points –
Stiles was going to hell.
Behind him, Derek made a pained noise in response to his mechanic. 'A week? You can't be done any – no, I understand, I was just hoping – yeah.' A heavy silence, broken after a moment by Derek saying, 'Yeah, of course. I'll pay it. Thanks, Nate.'
He hung up, and Stiles turned to face him again, the good cookies arranged on one of their nicer plates. It was a small enough show of domestic competence, but given the shoddy state of the house and the fact that, whereas Derek was dressed like an actual adult, Stiles was wearing an ancient shirt with a one-up mushroom on it, he felt moved to make the effort.
Padding silently across the floor, Stiles resumed his seat as Derek dialled his housemate – Boyd, that was his name – and set the cookie plate down between them.
The relief in Derek's voice when Boyd picked up was audible. 'Boyd, hi, it's me. Listen, I've had the day from hell – the Camaro broke down on my way in and Nate won't have it fixed until next Friday at the earliest, don't even ask about work, and then I got lost on my way home –'
Boyd's laughter was loud enough that even Stiles could hear it, the sound rich with a mixture of sympathy and schadenfreude. His speaking voice was softer, though, and his subsequent reply didn't carry.
'Shut up,' Derek muttered, in response to whatever it was. 'I am not.'
Another inaudible comment from Boyd. Derek put a hand over his eyes. 'You're a terrible person. Anyway, I'm at –' he lifted the hand, glancing at Stiles for confirmation, '– 93 Watson, which is –' a pause, '– of course you know where that is. You're a human GPS. Anyway, do you think you could give me a lift? I'd walk, but with the rain –' He tapered off, a flicker of disappointment in his face at whatever Boyd was saying. 'Oh. No, I get it. You guys should celebrate. Don't worry, I'll get a cab. Say hi to Erica for me.'
Derek looked ready to hang up at that, but Boyd said something else to keep him on the line.
'I'm fine,' Derek said, cagily. 'Dry. Indoors. With a friend.' His gaze flicked momentarily to Stiles, who revelled in his maturity by not doing a fist-pump.
Boyd laughed again, but whatever he said next apparently wasn't funny. Derek flinched, his whole demeanour changing in an instant. 'Shut up, Boyd!' he snapped. 'You're not my only – god, just fuck off and get laid.' And then he hung up, his cheeks even redder than they'd been when Stiles had first let him in.
Awkward silence filled the room, broken only by the heavy drumming of rain. Stiles was about to speak when Derek hung his head, sighed, and pushed the phone back across the table.
'Sorry about that,' he said, sounding utterly miserable. 'I shouldn't have been rude to him.'
Stiles licked his lips, common sense kicking in for long enough to remind him that actually, Derek was a total stranger, and possibly that fact ought to be a source of some concern, or at least mild wariness. Noted, he thought, and then proceeded to ignore it completely.
Stiles nudged the plate forwards. 'Have a cookie, dude.'
Derek looked at the cookies like he thought they might be a trap.
'They're macadamia,' Stiles said, helpfully. 'With honeycomb and white chocolate.'
Derek took a cookie.
Stiles watched him take a bite with disproportionate investment in the outcome. If Derek didn't like the Emergency Cookies, that was a serious strike against him, because come on, those things were fucking delicious. Then Derek groaned, a sound of genuine pleasure that had Stiles adopting a poker face, trying very hard not to imagine how he might go about coaxing similar noises from his guest, albeit in a different context.
Stiles was going to the special hell.
Derek ate the cookie with almost pornographic delight, eyes shut as he popped the final fragment into his mouth. 'Oh, my god,' he said, when he was done. 'I think I just had a religious experience.'
'That's a common reaction,' said Stiles, who was pretty sure he'd just had one himself. 'That's why we save them for emergencies. And by the sounds of it, your day pretty much qualifies.'
Derek looked away, a muscle working in his jaw. One hand rested on the tabletop; the other was splayed over Tabitha, who'd seemingly fallen asleep. He opened his mouth, closed it, then said, in a smaller voice than he'd yet used, 'I'm not very good with people. It's a – it's a sort of running joke, with people who know me. That I don't really have any friends.' He gave a heartbreaking shrug, like it was only to be expected, and Stiles had to fight the urge to leap up and give him a hug. 'It's fine, normally. But Boyd –' Derek looked up, pinned Stiles with a stare that was neither blue nor green nor grey, but some impossible mixture of all three. 'Boyd would never have said it if I'd told him about Kate. And I would've. Told him, I mean. If he'd been here. But I didn't want to get into it over the phone. So.'
Hesitantly, Stiles said, 'Your ex is really writing a book about you?'
Derek tensed, then sighed. 'Have you ever heard of Kate Argent?'
'The mental health advocate?' Stiles asked, confused. 'The one who –' He broke off at the look on Derek's face, his chest tightening in belated sympathy. 'Oh, god. You're Derek Hale? That was you? You're the one she almost –?'
'I'm the one she almost.' Derek's smile didn't reach his eyes. 'You can Google me if you want. The press took plenty of photos.'
'Dude,' said Stiles, and only just stopped himself from reaching out and taking Derek's hand. 'That's just – she didn't even ask you first?'
'Why would she?' Derek said, bleakly. 'It's not like we're exactly close these days.'
'Still, though,' Stiles persisted. 'It's a shitty thing to do. Even if she thinks sharing that stuff is going to help people, make a difference – which I'm charitably assuming is the logic, here, and not that she's just after some cheap media sensationalism, although feel free to correct me on that point – you still deserve to have been consulted.'
'I guess,' said Derek. 'But if she'd called me about it... I think I'd have needed a warning for the warning, you know? And maybe another warning on top of that. Hearing it from my sister was bad enough. If Kate had rung, I'd probably still be holed up in my office. Which is more than a bit pathetic.' And he stared at the table again.
Stiles bit his lip. 'Derek?'
'Look, maybe I'm out of line with this or whatever, but... can I hug you? I totally get if that's a boundary too far, absolutely no judgement – I mean, who wants some unwashed skinny guy hanging on their neck, right? – but believe me, from the bottom of my heart: you're not pathetic. You've just had a really shitty day, and I know I'm a poor substitute for an actual friend or family member, but on the off-chance that it might help –' And he held out his arms, wrists wiggling in what he hoped was a suitably disarming, harmless-not-creepy way, and smiled his most charming smile. Estimated purity of motive: 80% and holding.
Derek's eyes widened behind his frames, and for an awful moment, Stiles thought he'd gone too far. Then Derek gestured at Tabitha, still fast asleep on his lap, and said, in an awkwardly helpless voice, 'I don't want to wake her up.'
Struggling to hide the fact that he thought that was fucking adorable, Stiles tried for a lazy grin, stretched up out of his chair, and said, 'Hey, no worries. The mountain can come to Mohammed.'
When Derek didn't protest, Stiles walked carefully up beside him, bending down to wrap his arms around the other man's chest and shoulders. His chin brushed against Derek's hair, but Stiles didn't pull away, and Derek – maybe consciously, maybe not – leaned back and into the contact, his head pressing against Stiles's shirt. Heart hammering, Stiles gave him a gentle squeeze, hanging on for slightly longer than he would've done, if Derek hadn't seemed to be enjoying it; long enough, certainly, to confirm that Derek was every bit as muscular as he looked.
Estimated purity of motive: 50% and dropping.
Suppressing a sigh, Stiles stepped away, the fingers of one hand trailing across Derek's shoulder. It wasn't quite intentional, and he flushed to realise he'd done it, returning to his chair like maybe it could protect him from himself. He looked at Derek, whose expression was somewhere between flustered and stunned, and fumbled desperately for something to say.
'So, uh. Did that help?'
Derek blinked. The tips of his ears were pink, and in the seconds before he answered, Stiles caught himself holding his breath.
Then Derek smiled – a slow, bright thing, like the sun coming out, and oh, god, that was it, Stiles was done. 'Yeah,' he said. 'I'm thinking maybe it did.'
An answering grin bloomed on Stiles's face. 'You want another cookie?'
'Sure,' said Derek.
Their fingers brushed over the plate.
Derek didn't know what had come over him. His skin was tingling where Stiles had held him, and as he ate his cookie – which was, in fairness, the best thing he'd eaten all week – he kept on sneaking glances at the other man. Stiles was generous, funny, compassionate and self-deprecating; he seemed utterly unaware of the effect he was having on Derek, who couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so comfortable with someone he'd just met. Logically, he knew, he should pick up the phone and call a cab: given the weather and the fact that it was Friday afternoon, he'd doubtless have to wait for one, and the sooner he made the booking, the shorter that wait would be. And yet he didn't ask for the phone, and Stiles didn't bring it up. They ate their cookies together, Tabitha curled on Derek's lap, and as the rain continued to pour, the wind picking up in an angry rush, Derek found himself asking, 'So, what is it you do for a living?'
Stiles looked pleasantly surprised by the question. 'Actually, I'm a writer,' he said, cheeks pinking slightly. 'Or, well – almost a writer, anyway. I mean, I've had some short stories published, and I do reviews and stuff, but my manuscript's still out on submission and I don't know if anyone besides my agent is going to think it's publishable, but the rest of the time, I just tend bar, work odd jobs. Uh.' He paused, seeming to weigh his words, then said, 'I was a briefly a cop, sort of. Never really made it past rookie status, but my dad's the sheriff of Beacon Hills – that's where I grew up – and I had this idea about following in his footsteps, you know? As a kid, I was always bugging him to show me case files, asking questions, wanting to help solve murders, so I figured it might be a viable career path. But as it turns out, I'm awful at paperwork, I have no natural deference, blood makes me squeamish, and as much as I love solving mysteries, I enjoy writing them more.'
Derek laughed. 'I can sympathise with that. So, crime fiction? That's your genre?'
'Sort of,' said Stiles. 'I mean, there are mystery elements, but mainly I'm into fantasy, sci fi, that kind of stuff. Because, you know, dork,' he added, gesturing at his Mario mushroom shirt.
Something warm sparked in Derek's stomach. 'You're speaking to someone who teaches a course on classic SF and writes academic papers about young adult novels. Believe me, of the two of us, I'm way more dorky than you.'
Stiles gaped at him. 'Are you serious right now?' The gape became a grin. 'Dude. That is awesome! Can I read them? Read your papers, I mean – are they online? Can I Google them, or do I have to access a journal, or what?'
'If you're really interested,' Derek said, 'I can email them to you. But, ah –' goddamit, he was blushing again, '– only if you'll send me your stories, too. If you're comfortable with it, I mean, I'd love – I'd really like to read them.'
'Deal,' said Stiles, and held out his hand. They shook on it, and as they pulled apart, Derek couldn't help grazing his thumb over Stiles's knuckles. Stiles inhaled sharply, gaze snapping to Derek's and staying there. Derek's heart was pounding: he hadn't been on a date or gotten laid in forever, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd properly flirted with someone, but god, Stiles was doing something to him. Tension crackled between them, and for a dizzying moment, Derek thought Stiles might just get up and kiss him – and though it didn't happen, he realised he was 100% on board with the prospect.
Which wasn't like him at all. Derek was never impulsive in his choice of partner, not any more. Ever since Kate and Jennifer, he'd been paranoid of making another mistake, overthinking every potential move so much that he seldom made one at all. He'd only wanted to keep himself safe, but all it had done was whittle his romantic life down to nothing, and after the awful day he'd had – and with Stiles across from him, lean and kind and beautiful – it felt like a long-ignored switch had been flipped inside him.
'You know,' said Derek, voice shaking only slightly, 'if it's all right with you, I might wait a bit to call a cab. The weather's so bad, they'll be slammed until after peak hour, and I'm –' he exhaled, the words coming softly, '– I'm not in any hurry.'
'Neither am I,' said Stiles, lips twitching. He stretched, the collar of his too-big shirt skewing sideways to reveal a pale expanse of collarbone. 'Your housemate's with his girlfriend for the night?'
'Celebrating their future cohabitation,' Derek said, dryly, earning a laugh from Stiles.
'Mine too, more or less. I mean, he's met Kira's parents before, but she made this big deal about Scott coming to stay with them this week while some of her other relatives were in town, and Scott's tried to be subtle about what it means, but Scott is about as subtle as a brick to the face, and I'm getting the vibe that either she's about to ask him to move in with her, or he's going to do it himself. So.' Stiles shrugged, smiling. 'I guess we're in the same boat.'
'Sympathies,' said Derek.
'Thanks, man. It's like, I love Scott like a brother, I want him to be happy, but we've always been together, you know? Don't know what I'm gonna do without him.'
'Get more cats?' Derek suggested.
Stiles barked out a laugh, his head tipped back to reveal the long line of his throat. 'Oh, totally! I could turn this place into a cat palace. Although –' he said, and stopped, a semi-stricken look washing over his face.
After a moment of silence, Derek prompted him. 'Although what?'
Stiles shook his head. 'Nothing. It's nothing. I just mean, would it really be fair to Tabitha? I'm not sure she'd like the competition.'
'True,' said Derek, content to let the matter go, and smiled despite himself, skritching Tabitha's ears. She flexed her muscles, rolling into a tighter ball, and started to purr in her sleep. 'She's pretty special.'
'Have dinner with me,' Stiles blurted suddenly. Derek's head snapped up, and for a moment, they just stared at each other. Stiles's honey eyes were wide, a bright blush spreading across his cheeks, his gorgeous mouth hanging open. 'Uh. That was less of a non-sequitur in my head. I mean,' Stiles went on, gulping visibly, 'seeing as you're here and I was going to cook something anyway and with the weather and the cabs and all, I just – do you like stir fry?'
'I love stir fry,' said Derek, somewhat faintly. 'And I – thank you. I would, ah. Dinner would be wonderful.'
'Okay,' said Stiles. He grinned, running a shaky hand through his hair. 'Okay, then. Stir fry it is – I mean, not right now, obviously, we just had cookies, but in, say, an hour or so?'
'That sounds nice,' said Derek, trying very hard not to panic. Jesus, this was so insane – he barely knew Stiles at all, but part of him wanted desperately to change that, and why the hell shouldn't he stay for dinner? But now they had an hour to wait, and Derek was a social deadweight at the best of times; he was frankly astonished he'd managed to last this long without pitching them into an awkward, conversation-killing silence. There's plenty of things you could do besides talk, he thought, and instantly regretted it: he was having a hard enough time dealing with Stiles's attractiveness as it was, never mind dwelling on the fact that they were two consenting adults alone in an otherwise unoccupied house.
Stiles seemed to have drawn a similar conclusion; he stood up hastily, leg banging into the table, and said, the words coming out in a rush, 'You want to play video games?'
'Yes,' said Derek, who had just enough presence of mind to pick up Tabitha before lurching to his feet. The cat made a sleepy, displeased sound, and as Stiles lead the way into the lounge, Derek carefully deposited her on a soft-looking armchair, where she settled with a contemptuous flick of her tail.
'Grab a seat,' said Stiles, waving a hand at the lounge. He knelt in front of a flatscreen TV, rummaging through a plastic box of console paraphernalia. 'So, I know it's old, but Mario Kart: Double Dash is still the best Mario Kart, and we're playing it.' He turned, passing Derek a purple GameCube controller. 'You in?'
Derek snorted. This was safe, familiar territory; this, he could actually do. 'Are you kidding? I could play this game blindfolded. You're going down.'
'Well, one of us is,' drawled Stiles, thumping down beside him on the couch. 'Start on the Mushroom Cup and play through? Loser does the dishes?'
'Done,' said Derek, and settled in to play.
Video games were a constant in Stiles's life: an unwavering source of solace and distraction. He'd played the tracks on Double Dash so many times that navigating their shortcuts was practically muscle memory, but true to his boast, Derek was a worthy adversary. Every course ended with one of them in first place, the other usually right behind, and yet they both kept up a constant stream of conversation and trash talk, during which Stiles learned that not only did Derek have four sisters – two older, two younger – but that all of them, according to him, could kick his ass at something.
'Cora's the gamer,' Derek said, blue-sparking his car around the Mario Circuit. He was playing as Peach and Daisy, which delighted Stiles on a level he could barely articulate: the princesses were awesome, and so many guys flinched from playing them because Gender Roles, but Derek had picked them straight up, no questions asked. 'Whenever I go home, we always end up competing, and she always beats me. We run together, too, and I'm better at sprints, but she kills me over long distance.'
'What about the others?' Stiles asked, wincing as he missed the shortcut on the final lap.
'Laura's the eldest,' Derek said, 'and she can beat the rest of us with one hand behind her back – literally beat, she's a black belt in karate, and she trains all the time, because she's a cop. Elsa is the next oldest, she's a film critic –'
Stiles burst out laughing. 'Oh my god shut up, she is not –'
'She is!' Derek insisted. 'Honestly, so many people hate Frozen, but it's the best thing about my life these days – Elsa's a pain in the ass, she remembers literally everything I've ever done, always dredging up embarrassing childhood stories about me at every family gathering, but now all I have to do to shut her up is sing Let It Go, and she does. It's beautiful.' He crossed the finish line in first place, beaming, and Stiles didn't begrudge him either victory. 'And doubly satisfying with her, too, because she gave me shit about being like Prince Derek from The Swan Princess for years – whenever she thought I liked someone at school, she'd ask if their name was Odette.'
'Oh, man,' said Stiles, chuckling as he clicked them through to the next course. 'Karma's a bitch, huh?'
'It has its moments,' said Derek.
They started a new race, the revving engines drowned out by a booming clap of thunder. The wind had been loud and wild for a while, the rain steadily intensifying, and as they began their first lap of the Daisy Cruiser, the sound changed to include the rattle of hailstones.
'Jesus, listen to it out there,' said Stiles. 'That is some serious weather.'
'I'm almost glad my car broke down,' said Derek, viciously taking out Stiles's kart (Toad and Yoshi) with a well-aimed red shell. 'If it hadn't – hah! – I would've had to drive home through all this, then park on the street. I bet the traffic's a nightmare.'
'Goddamit!' said Stiles. 'I will have my revenge!' And then, once his kart had righted itself, 'So, that's three sisters. What about the fourth?'
'What? Oh!' Derek stuck his tongue out in concentration, the expression so adorably distracting that Stiles drove into a wall.
Don't look at his face, Stilinski, he chided himself. It's like the Ark of the Covenant. Which was a goddamn understatement: Derek was underwear-model hot, and the fact that he was sitting on Stiles's shitty couch playing Mario Kart after being asked to stay for not-a-date-but-kind-of-dinner in literally the most awkward possible manner – and by Stiles, who was maybe a six to Derek's ten – was almost unbelievable. And yet it had happened, and Stiles, who'd always had a problem with falling hard and fast, was rapidly in danger of breaking all his previous records and then some. Just relax. It's not like he's an insanely hot guy who shares your interests and said yes to dinner, right?
Oblivious to this inner monologue, Derek said, 'That's Malia – she's older than Cora, but younger than me. And she's fearless, Stiles. Completely fearless. She does extreme sports for a living – skydiving, snowboarding, rock climbing, cliff diving. Anything that's going, she'll try it. She's got a web series about it, a whole bunch of sponsors. You know those wingsuits people fly in?'
'You mean those crazy things, make you look like a sugar glider?'
'Yeah. She does that.'
Stiles whistled. 'Holy shit!'
Derek grimaced. 'Tell me about it. Every time I watch her videos –' another booming thunderclap; the hail intensified, '– I worry she's going to end up in hospital. Because that's happened a few times, and it never gets easier – she says her traffic always spikes when she gets hurt on camera, so she always keeps rolling, and she always posts it. Never warns us first, though. And she hates being fussed over, so it's sometimes the first we know about whatever accident she's had.'
'Your sisters are nuts, dude. I mean, awesome, clearly? But also nuts.'
With feeling, Derek said, 'Tell me about it. Do you have any siblings?'
'Not technically,' said Stiles. 'I mean, there's Scott – he's always been like a brother, and my dad stared dating his mom a couple of years ago, but they're not married to each other, so we're kind of a family, but not quite, you know? I mean, Scott's parents divorced when he was little, he still sees his dad, but my dad's been around longer.' He hesitated, then said, 'My mom died when I was eight. Frontotemporal dementia, which is – well. It sucked. Sucks, even.' He shrugged, the old flare of pain like a bruise in his chest.
Derek paused the game. Surprised, Stiles blinked and looked at him, waiting for the inevitable I'm sorry, as though the person saying it was somehow obscurely responsible.
But Derek didn't apologise. Instead, he sucked in a quiet breath and said, softly, 'Eight is young. That must have been really hard.'
'Yeah,' croaked Stiles, too shocked to lie despite the sudden change in mood. 'I – yeah. I mean, I was... shit.' He laughed nervously, playing with the hem of his shirt. 'I was with her, you know? When it happened. I had panic attacks after that, for years. I still get them, sometimes.' He hunched his shoulders, inwardly berating himself for bringing things down, and waited for the awkwardness to blossom.
'Me, too,' Derek said, softly.
Stiles stared, hardly breathing. 'You get panic attacks?'
Derek's mouth quirked, the expression oddly self-mocking. 'My romantic history has had some unpleasant consequences.'
He went quiet, gaze dropping down, then flitting back up again when Stiles didn't speak. Derek's eyes widened a little at that, like silence wasn't a courtesy he'd expected. Seeming to realise that Stiles was willing to listen, he said, 'My high school girlfriend, Paige, got mugged leaving one of our dates. I was still nearby, I heard her scream. She didn't want to give him her grandmother's bracelet. I ran back, but he'd stabbed her, and I called an ambulance, but it didn't – she just – it wasn't fast enough.' He broke off, pained, clearly collecting himself. 'Then there was Kate, who you know about. I think part of the reason I stayed with her as long as I did was to try and make up for Paige, like if I could fix whatever was wrong with Kate, then I could say I'd saved at least one of them. Only I didn't, and my family nearly died, and after that – after my house burned down,' he said, his voice both sad and wry, as though he were trying to see the ironic humour in the situation but couldn't quite get there, 'I dated Jennifer, who was my therapist through it all, and that – that is not an experience I recommend.'
'Oh, dude,' said Stiles, genuinely appalled for the guy, and before he could stop himself, he reached out and put a hand on Derek's knee. 'That's, I mean – that is some awful shit to have dealt with, but you've got to know that none of it was your fault, right?'
Derek snorted. 'Except for the part where I made consistently poor life choices? Yeah. Totally not my fault.'
'Uh, yeah,' said Stiles, slowly. 'It really, really wasn't. Paige getting mugged? Not your fault. Kate lying to you, going off her medication? Not your fault. Your therapist breaking her professional code of conduct, sleeping with a clearly vulnerable patient? Not your fault. I mean, you might have chosen to be with her, but she was the one with a duty of care, OK? She failed you. And if you're still beating yourself up about it, then man, I gotta tell you – just on that basis alone, it sounds like she was a pretty terrible shrink.'
Derek blinked, stunned – and then, impossibly, he began to laugh. His whole body shook; he put down the controller, arms wrapped around his stomach to try and keep it in, but he just kept laughing louder and louder, eyes scrunched up in a way that made Stiles want to kiss their corners.
'A pretty terrible shrink,' Derek choked out, cackling. 'Oh my god. Oh my god, she was. A pretty, terrible shrink.'
Stiles started laughing, too. 'You're such a dork. It wasn't even that funny!'
But somehow, it was, and the more they laughed, the harder it was to stop. Stiles's ribs were aching, and every time he caught Derek's eye, it set the both of them off again.
'Okay, okay,' Stiles pleaded, 'seriously, we have to stop, I'm in actual pain –'
'You started it!' Derek gasped. 'You –'
Vivid lightning lit the windows, followed by a thunderclap so loud, it was like having hands slapped over his ears. Tabitha hissed, the lights flickered violently, and before Stiles could so much as shout in alarm, the electricity went out.
'Holy fuck!' he yelped, leaping up from the couch. The gamescreen was dead, and in the sudden dark, the rattling hail and roaring wind were rendered ominous. He glanced at Derek, who stood in turn, and without a word, the two of them picked their way over to the back window. It was black outside, the daylight all but gone, and from what little Stiles could see, the power was out at more houses than his own.
'Jesus,' Derek breathed. 'That's – wow.'
'Lights!' Stiles said, hurrying for the kitchen. 'Shit, there's a torch on top of the fridge, and I know we have plenty of candles –'
It took them fifteen minutes, Derek holding the torch while Stiles did the rest, but the end result was worth it. The last time Scott had wanted to impress Kira with a big romantic gesture, he'd bought an absurd number of tea candles and rinsed out a bunch of old jam jars to put them in, all of which had been helpfully stored under the kitchen sink for future use. Apart from being pretty, they had the added advantage of being Tabitha-proof, and with Derek's help, Stiles soon had them set up all over the house. The majority went in the kitchen and lounge, but he took some through to the bathroom, too, and – just in case, he wasn't getting any ideas, or at least not any new ones, don't think about Derek naked oh god, special hell, stop – put two on either side of his bed.
When he came back out to the kitchen, Derek was sitting at the table, staring around the place in the soft, yellow light.
'It's pretty,' he said, smiling slightly, and something in Stiles twisted and turned over.
'You know,' he said, heart in mouth, 'I can probably still make dinner. I mean, the stove runs on gas, and with the power off, I really should try and use up the food.'
'Can I help?' Derek asked. 'With the preparation or anything?'
'Sure,' Stiles said, breath hitching a little as Derek rolled up the sleeves of his Henley, displaying strong forearms. 'Yeah. Helping. Prep.' No innuendos. Bad brain!
And then, because he was a masochist, he grabbed his iPad from under a stack of papers, thumbed into iTunes, and put on his Rainy Day playlist.
As the gentle sounds of Deep Forest's Sweet Lullaby filled the kitchen, he brushed past Derek and pulled open the fridge. The light was off, but there was enough light from the tea candles to help him find what he wanted.
'Here,' he said, his arms full of chicken and vegetables. 'Can you just – oh. Oh.'
He'd stepped back straight into Derek, who'd apparently been standing right behind him, and with the fridge door swinging shut, Stiles ended up turning around almost within the circle of the other man's arms – or one arm, anyway; one hung loose by his side, while the other was raised, gripping the top of the freezer.
'Sorry,' said Derek, a beat too late. He moved back, giving Stiles access to the kitchen bench, and then proceeded to hover again, their bare arms brushing as Stiles got set up. 'So, how do you want me?'
Everywhere. Every way, Stiles thought, suppressing a manic urge to start laughing again.
Instead, he took a deep, calming breath and handed Derek a bellpepper.
'Chopping,' he said, firmly.
It was going to be a long night.
The stir fry didn't take long to prepare, but in the cramped space of the kitchen – which had previously seemed, if not spacious, then at least average – Derek was aware of every second. He could scarcely move without brushing up against Stiles, and as rusty as his flirting was, he knew in his bones that he wasn't imagining the connection between them. He was hypnotised by the bright, warm ink of Stiles's tattoos, the easy way he moved, the sound of his laughter. Before, on the couch, he hadn't meant for the conversation to get so heavy, but when Stiles had brought up his mother, Derek hadn't wanted to shrug off the importance of the confession; had wanted, however clumsily, to offer up something of himself, too.
The fact that this had lead to a complete overshare was typical of Derek's particular brand of all-or-nothing social awkwardness. He hated talking about Kate and Jennifer, he never talked about Paige, and by every reasonable measurement, bringing up all three at once should have killed the conversation, which quite possibly made the fact that he'd done so an act of unconscious self-sabotage. But not only hadn't Stiles baulked, he'd offered Derek comfort, absolution – and then, absurdly, he'd managed to make him laugh. It had been, not just cathartic, but cleansing, and wholly unprecedented: not even his sisters had managed to make him laugh about Jennifer, and god knew, it wasn't for lack of trying.
Maybe it was just the passage of time, the distance between their breakup and now finally great enough to have lessened the sting. Or maybe, Derek thought, sneaking a sideways glance at Stiles, who was stirring hokkien noodles into the wok, maybe it's just him.
Stiles caught him looking and smiled. 'You OK there, big guy?'
'Yeah,' said Derek, unable to keep an answering grin from his face. He couldn't remember the last time he'd smiled so much; his cheeks were actually hurting. 'Never better.'
Stiles blushed, not missing the implication, and turned back to the stir fry, shaking the wok with an expert flick of his wrist. 'You, ah. You wanna take a seat? It's just about ready.'
'Sure,' said Derek, and as he moved away, back to the kitchen table, he imagined how easy it would be to slide a palm around Stiles's waist and drop a kiss on his neck. He felt like he'd wandered into a private utopia, and while part of him was still quietly worrying about how and when it could all go wrong, for once in his adult life, he was sick of self-denial, sick of fighting what he wanted. Maybe whatever magic bubble the storm had trapped them in would pop after dinner, or after – after – just after – and he'd never see Stiles again. But that wouldn't change how special it felt now, or the fact that Derek had finally managed to laugh about his past.
He was already a better person for knowing Stiles, and the simple truth of that fact was dizzying.
'You know,' he said, as Stiles served up, 'you never told me your last name.'
Stiles made a face, sliding a fork across to Derek. 'It's Stiliski. Stiles is just a nickname, really, but everyone uses it – my actual first name is, uh. Polish. Very Polish.'
Derek laughed. 'Does that mean you're not going to tell it to me?'
'Eventually, maybe,' said Stiles. 'I like to save a little mystique for at least the fifth date.'
'Fifth date, huh?' said Derek, struggling to keep his tone light. 'Is this a first date, then?'
Stiles froze with his fork halfway to his mouth. Slowly, he dragged his gaze up to Derek, scanning his face, and whatever he saw there must have been reassuring. His lips twitched, eyes softening, and he said, 'I was kinda hoping, yeah.'
Derek knew he was grinning his goofiest grin, the one Cora said made him look like a lop-eared puppy, and for once, he didn't care. 'Me, too.'
And before Stiles could respond, he picked up his fork and took a bite of the stir fry.
It was delicious, the vegetables just crisp enough, the chicken flavoured with sesame and soy. There was nothing feigned in Derek's groan of pleasure, though judging by the fact that Stiles dropped his fork, it might have had some unanticipated side-effects.
'This is delicious,' said Derek, not quite apologetic.
'Hey, I can't take all the credit,' said Stiles, after a beat. 'You helped.'
'Still,' Stiles echoed, smiling.
They ate in a companionable almost-silence, the music just a little louder than the background storm, though from time to time, a particularly savage burst of hail or rain or wind would drown out even the thrumming of Derek's pulse. Just as they were finishing, Tabitha woke up and started twining around Stiles's ankles, mewing plaintively for her own dinner. They shared a laugh at her expense, and while Stiles took care of the cat, Derek carried their plates to the sink. He was about to start washing the dishes when a hand fell on his shoulder.
'Hey,' Stiles murmured, standing close. 'You don't have to do that.'
Derek stilled, heart pounding, hands on the edge of the bench. 'A deal's a deal. I was losing at Mario Kart when the power went out.'
'Only by one game, though, and you were miles ahead when we paused. Also, I suck at Daisy Cruiser. I call it a tie.' Stiles stepped in closer, gently pressing his chest to Derek's back. The hand on his shoulder slid down, ghosting over his ribs, until the palm flattened out across his stomach, fingers stroking lightly. His lips brushed the shell of Derek's ear, shooting pure electricity straight to Derek's core. 'Is this OK?' Stiles whispered, his other hand curving gently around Derek's hip. 'Tell me this is OK.'
For an answer, Derek turned, his own hands slipping under Stiles's shirt, stroking up the smooth, sweet skin of his back. 'Yes,' he said, hoarsely, and kissed him.
At first, it was just a press of lips. He could feel Derek shaking, the gentle warmth of his hands like a brand on his back, and as Stiles lifted a hand to cup his jaw, Derek made a noise that was half whimper, half exhale. Lips parting, he oh-so-tentatively deepened the kiss, his stubble a perfect rasp against Stiles's chin, and for a moment, they just breathed each other, teetering on the edge of some unseen precipice.
And then Derek growled, the sound a rough, choked admission of pure need, and kissed Stiles like he was drowning; like maybe both of them were. His big hands splayed over Stiles's skin, pulling their bodies together, and Stiles kissed back with a passion he'd never felt before. Goddamit, he'd meant to go slow, and somehow, impossibly, he knew that Derek had, too: they'd been circling this moment for hours, trying to take all the right steps, but the second they finally touched, it all flew out the window. Derek walked him backwards, kissing him hard up against the fridge, and Stiles responded by sliding his free hand under the hem of Derek's Henley, the other cupping his neck. Derek moaned, sucking a bruising kiss into Stiles's throat, until Stiles gasped and tipped his head back, guiding Derek's mouth higher with gentle tugs of his hair.
Stiles enjoyed kissing, and had, as a consequence, kissed his fair share of people. Most had just been casual partners, but even with the one's he'd loved, it had never felt like this, like he was flying apart at the seams, his whole world shifting to accommodate a new axis.
He shut his eyes, hands roaming up the hard, toned ridges of Derek's muscles. Jesus, the guy was built, and Stiles was secure enough in his sexuality to admit that being manhandled was definitely one of his kinks – a fact that Derek had seemingly intuited as, seconds later, he ran his hands down the backs of Stiles's thighs, gripped, and lifted. Stiles groaned, wrapping his legs around Derek's waist as the other man pinned him in place. Their mouths met again, a hot tangle of tongues and nipping teeth, and suddenly Stiles was being carried – actually carried, like something out of his fantasies – down the darkened hall to his room.
'Which door?' Derek panted against his lips.
Stiles shifted his weight, arching up against Derek's body, both hands carding through his hair. 'First right,' he murmured, tilting his head to kiss along Derek's cheek. 'It should be open.'
It was, and Derek just walked them through, one foot snaking back to kick the door shut – a sensible precaution against Tabitha's curiosity – before laying Stiles down on the mattress. Derek knelt between his legs, feet hanging off the edge of the bed as he pulled off his shoes and socks. Almost shyly, he removed his glasses, leaning over to set them on the table by the door, and when he turned back and peeled off his shirt, too, the breath caught in Stiles's throat. Feeling all that muscle was one thing, but actually seeing it, every ridge both softened and accentuated by the candlelight, was quite another, and as hot as Derek was in his hipster frames, the shape of his face without them was breathtaking.
'God, you're gorgeous,' he rasped, feeling wholly inadequate as Derek reached for the hem of Stiles's tee. And then, because his brain to mouth filter sucked at the best of times, 'Please don't be too disappointed, I have other qualities –'
'Disappointed?' Derek blinked, then briefly vanished from sight as he pulled the shirt over Stiles's head. 'Why would I –?' He reappeared again, and the look on his face was one of utter reverence. Slowly, he reached out a hand and traced the outline of the winged fox tattoo covering Stiles's left side. 'Beautiful,' he breathed.
Stiles bit back on his nervous laughter. 'Yeah, it's a pretty sweet tattoo.'
'It is,' Derek agreed, 'but that's not what I was talking about.' He leaned in, forearms braced on either side of Stiles's head, and kissed below his ear. 'You're beautiful, Stiles, and as much as I like your ink –' he started kissing downwards, mouthing a path to his collarbone, '– you'd still be driving me crazy without it.'
Stiles shut his eyes, minutely overwhelmed, and when he opened them again, Derek was looking up at him with perfect sincerity.
'You really mean that,' Stiles said, wonderingly. 'You're, I mean – you, have you seen you? – and I'm just –'
'You're beautiful,' Derek said again; simply, like the admission cost him nothing. Like it was the easiest thing in the world. A slight furrow formed between his brows. 'Stiles, we met this afternoon, and now we're in bed together. Do you honestly think this would be happening if I didn't find you wildly attractive?'
Stiles had the good grace to blush. 'No, but I just, you know.' He looked away, his oldest insecurities flowering like weeds. 'I figured you might just be overlooking the whole, y'know, this –' he waved a hand to indicate himself, '– on account of my charming personality.'
Derek stroked his untattooed side, thumb moving tenderly across the jut of his ribs. 'Listen to me,' he said, not breaking eye contact. 'Do you know how long it's been since I – since anyone made me feel the way you do? Yes, you're charming –' he kissed Stiles's temple, '– and funny, and kind –' his cheek, '– and clearly a man of many talents.' He nipped the edge of his jaw. 'But,' Derek added, stroking his fingers through Stiles's hair, 'you're also – and I mean this from the bottom of my heart – you're also extremely hot.' And before Stiles could protest, he kissed him again, open-mouthed and hungry, rolling his hips so that Stiles was left in absolutely no doubt as to how aroused he was.
Stiles might have been insecure, but he wasn't stupid. 'OK,' he gasped, grinning as they broke apart, their clothed erections rubbing together, 'I can work with that.' He ran a hand over Derek's cheek, inhaling as the other man leaned into his touch. 'God, I don't want to rush this, but I do, you know?'
Derek smiled against him. 'We've got all night and no electricity,' he said, twisting his head to kiss the inside of Stiles's wrist. 'Who says we can't do both?'
Stiles moaned, back arching as they rutted against each other. 'What, you mean fast, then slow?'
'Or slow, then fast. Then maybe slow again.' Derek sought out Stiles's hands and pinned them over his head, their fingers twined together. 'Like I said,' he murmured, pausing to nip at Stiles's ear, 'it's been a long time.'
Stiles wrapped his legs around Derek's waist, rocking up against him. 'I don't know what I did to deserve this,' he managed, 'but it must have been very good.'
'It was,' said Derek, and kissed him again, sweet and fierce, sucking on Stiles's bottom lip in a way that had him quivering. And then, at Stiles's look of confusion, he said: 'You let me in. I showed up on your doorstep, and you had every reason in the world to send me away, but you didn't, Stiles. You let me in, and I –' he took a shuddering breath, their foreheads pressed together, '– I want to let you in, too.'
Something hot and complicated surged through Stiles, like he'd swallowed a firework. 'Derek,' he gasped, unable to manage anything else, and then they were kissing again, languid and desperate all at once. Stiles flexed his hands against Derek's hold, whimpering in pleasure at the restraint, writhing up against him as Derek pressed down, and god, if they kept it up much longer, he was liable to come in his pants.
'Why are we still wearing clothes?' he asked, kissing up Derek's neck. 'I want to feel you, I want – god, I really want to blow you, can I do that?'
Derek made a choked noise. 'Please,' he said, and somehow rolled them over without letting go of Stiles's hands, so that suddenly, Derek was the one being pinned. His eyes were wide in the candlelight, and just the sight of him laid out, perfect chest heaving, was enough to make Stiles's mouth water. Gently, he released Derek's hands, knelt up and slid backwards, hands shaking only slightly as he undid Derek's pants. Derek lifted his hips, and rather than leave the fabric bunched, Stiles moved backwards off the bed and removed them completely, then stood, gulping, to take care of his own. He couldn't look away from Derek's cock: it was thick and uncut, the head already wet with precome, and as soon as his sweats were gone, he climbed back between the other man's legs, arms wrapping under his thighs, and took him in his mouth.
Derek tipped his head back and moaned, bowing off the bed. Stiles swirled his tongue, eagerly working the shaft; he'd always loved giving head, and when Derek reached down and twined his fingers in Stiles's hair, he leaned into the touch, encouraging the control.
'Christ,' Derek gasped, 'your fucking mouth, Stiles, god –'
Stiles pulled off, licking a stripe up the underside, and grinned wickedly up at him. 'Blasphemy will get you everywhere,' he said, and swallowed him down to the root. Derek made a garbled noise and tugged his hair, his other arm bent up and back to grip the top of the headboard. Stiles was achingly hard, but didn't touch himself, his long fingers pinning Derek's hips to the mattress as he hollowed his cheeks and sucked.
His jaw was just starting to hurt when Derek's breathing grew even more ragged; his hips bucked, fighting Stiles's hands, the grip on his hair tightening. 'Stiles, I'm close, I'm –' he broke off moaning as Stiles took him deeper, and suddenly he was coming in long, warm spurts. Stiles swallowed, not stopping until the hand fell from his hair. He sat up, cock twitching in raw appreciation of the sight Derek made – chest heaving, sweat-sheened, eyes blown wide – and smiled, lying down beside him, one leg over Derek's thigh. He kissed the corner of his mouth, and was taken by pleasant surprise when Derek turned his head and kissed him fully, deeply, as though chasing the taste of himself.
Their bodies turned into each other, warm and needing, and as Derek wrapped a hand around his cock, Stiles broke the kiss, shuddering into his touch.
'What do you want?' Derek whispered. His voice was wrecked, his stubble a pleasant rasp against Stiles's throat. He ran his thumb over the slit, spreading precome along Stiles's length. 'How do you want me?'
The question took Stiles by surprise. 'Whatever you want to do,' he said, dazedly, pressing himself against Derek's body. 'Like you said, we've got all night –'
'Will you fuck me?'
The question was so quiet, Stiles almost thought he'd imagined it. But Derek's eyes were fixed on his, a look on his face that was naked and hopeful all at once, and just a little bit tense, like he was braced to be told no. And then it hit him, and Stiles let out a breath he hadn't been conscious of holding. He'd always been versatile, as happy to top as to bottom, but most guys took one look at him and assumed he was only one thing. It was part of why he'd stopped having casual sex: he was sick of being pigeon-holed, sick of feeling empty afterwards, sick of the whole stupid business.
But if Derek's request – and the look on his face as he made it – was anything to go by, then he was in a similar boat. God, and how many people had made the reverse assumption about him, as muscular as he was? Had anyone ever given him what he wanted, what he needed?
'Yeah,' said Stiles, smiling wide at the look of breathless pleasure on Derek's face. 'I can do that.'
Derek cupped the back of Stiles's head and kissed him, trying to anchor himself. He didn't know what was more incredible: that he'd actually asked Stiles to top, or that he'd said yes, and now that he had, Derek was in danger of shaking out of his skin. He was, he realised, both eager and frightened, and wholly unable to deal with the contradiction, let alone vocalise it. As a bolt of lightning lit up the bedroom window, followed shortly after by a rolling boom of thunder, Derek buried his face in Stiles's shoulder, pulling the other man against him.
'I,' he whispered, then stopped, stumbling into silence. He shut his eyes, paralysed by his own need, and only opened them again when Stiles leaned back and ghosted his fingertips over Derek's eyelids.
'Hey, it's OK,' Stiles murmured. He smiled, small and soft, and kissed the curve of Derek's cheek. 'I've got you, big guy. Whatever you want.'
What Derek wanted to say was this: I've only ever topped with men, but Kate used to fuck me with a strap-on, and I loved it right up until she went off her meds and started calling me a bitch, her bitch, degraded me for wanting it, hit me for complaining, said I should take what she gave me, and ever since I've been too scared to ask for it from anyone, in case it triggers me or they do what she did, and oh, god, I want this so badly, but please be careful, please don't hurt me, please let this be something I can have again.
But it was too much truth, too heavy and too soon; the words died in his throat, jaw working soundlessly to swallow them, and Stiles just waited quietly, patiently, warm flesh breathing against his side, his left palm splayed over Derek's shoulder.
What Derek actually, finally choked out was this:
'I've never – with a guy, I haven't – I mean, I have, but not like –'
Stiles bumped the tips of their noses together, a small, playful intimacy that took Derek's breath away. 'It's OK,' he said again. 'You want me to stop, I'll stop. We can go slow. Whatever you need.' And then, more softly, 'I want this to be good for you.'
Derek nodded, too overwhelmed to answer. Stiles considered him a moment, his gorgeous eyes almost gold in the candlelight. 'Derek?'
'Do you want this?'
The word came out small and scratchy. 'Yes.'
'But you're worried.'
'That you won't enjoy it?'
Derek shook his head, swallowing against his anxiety. 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't – I shouldn't have asked, it's too much, I just –'
'Hey, no, no,' Stiles said, bringing his palm across to cup Derek's cheek. 'It's not too much, OK? You're allowed to ask for what you want.' He stroked his thumb over the bone, and Derek leaned into the touch, craving the comfort. 'I just, I know how it can be sometimes, when you're feeling a lot, but you can't talk, even though it might be important. And I want... I want to make sure that you can tap out, if you need to, no matter what. So. Pinch me.'
Derek blinked, confused. 'Pinch you?'
'If you want to stop, but you can't talk,' Stiles said. 'Pinch me, and I'll know. OK?'
This time, the lump in Derek's throat had nothing to do with fear. Even without knowing the full truth, Stiles had still understood that he might struggle to speak, and had given him an out. The relief that washed through him brought with it a new wave of lust, reminding him of exactly how and why he wanted Stiles in the first place, and even though he'd only just come, he felt his cock twitch in anticipation.
No longer hesitant, Derek pulled Stiles in for another kiss, guiding the other man on top of him. Stiles followed his lead, kissing him deeply, unhurried, as though he were perfectly content to do just that. His clever hands touched Derek everywhere: stroking up his flanks, grazing the sensitive skin on the inside of his arms, trailing across palms, carding through his hair. The intimacy of it was as arousing as it was reassuring, and Derek found himself reciprocating with renewed urgency, his own hands drifting down Stiles's back to palm the perfect globes of his ass. He was hard again, his spit-slicked cock pressing against Stiles's erection, and as Stiles dropped his head and kissed along his collarbone, Derek choked out, 'Please.'
'OK,' Stiles said. He knelt up, thumbs flicking cheekily at Derek's nipples – he gasped at the sensation, which made Stiles smile – and leaned across to the bedside table, pulling a bottle of lube and a condom packet out of the drawer. Breath hitching, Derek lay back on a pillow as Stiles propped another one under his hips, his legs splayed wide. It left him feeling vulnerable, but as Stiles stroked his thigh, dropping a kiss on the edge of his knee, Derek relaxed, anticipation quickening his pulse.
As Stiles slipped a slick finger into him, he shut his eyes and groaned. He'd been transfixed by Stiles's hands all afternoon, and feeling them open him up was damn near revelatory. He writhed and shuddered, back arching every time Stiles so much as grazed his prostate, his own hands clenching futilely at the blankets before he gave in and reached back to grip the headboard.
'God, look at you,' Stiles murmured huskily. 'So good for me, so beautiful – Jesus, Derek, you're perfect.'
The praise had him gasping, eyes snapping open, lips parted as he stared at Stiles, who was staring at him, two fingers crooking expertly inside him, one tattooed arm curled around the underside of his thigh. Neither of them looked away, their breathing loud against the rain, and though Derek was shaking, it wasn't from nerves. He lost himself in the moment, feet planted to push back against Stiles's fingers, palms smarting as he gripped the headboard, arms aching pleasantly at the angle. By the time Stiles added a third digit, he was moaning shamelessly, cock hard and aching against his stomach.
'Please,' he begged, and Stiles didn't hesitate, opening the condom packet with his teeth and rolling it on one-handed, cock slicked and pushing into Derek the instant he pulled out his fingers. He was slow but steady, seating himself in a single thrust, his big hands braced under Derek's thighs. Derek's hold on the headboard tightened, head tipped back as he inhaled, adjusting to the fullness. Except for moving his thumbs in gentle circles, Stiles stayed still, giving him space, and when Derek finally looked at him, he was biting his bottom lip, his pupils huge.
Move, Derek wanted to say, but as before, he couldn't speak. Instead, he nodded, shifting to wrap his legs around Stiles's waist. Smiling, Stiles slid his hands to Derek's hips, leaning into him, over him, one arm braced on the mattress, the other raised to grip the headboard in between Derek's hands. Derek arched his back, locking his ankles, and groaned at the sensation, scraping his stubble against Stiles's throat. Stiles inhaled raggedly at that, and finally, finally, started to fuck him, sweet, hard thrusts that soon had both of them sweating. They lipped at each other, not quite kissing, breathing together, gasping as they moved. Derek fell out of time; he lifted one hand, fingers curling possessively around the nape of Stiles's neck, pulling him down until their foreheads touched. Stiles huffed out a noise that was half pleasure, half laughter, and slid his hand along the headboard to cover Derek's, their fingers lacing over the wood.
Something in the gesture flayed Derek open. He started rocking his hips, encouraging Stiles to go harder, faster, greedily meeting his thrusts. They were both panting, groaning, so far beyond words that Derek could barely remember what language was, let alone how to speak it. He'd trusted Stiles with the rawest part of himself, and Stiles had brought him nothing but pleasure, warm sparks coiling through him in the cresting onrush of an orgasm he hadn't thought was attainable. His pants turned to cries, desperate and inarticulate; Stiles made a noise that was almost a sob and thrust hard into him, over and over, until suddenly Derek was coming untouched, muscles spasming as Stiles fucked him through it, shuddering with his own release.
They collapsed against each other, trembling with exertion and something else, Stiles's head on Derek's neck. Shaking, Derek let go of the headboard, and when he pulled his hand away, Stiles's came too, their fingers still somehow, impossibly, linked together. Stiles slipped out of him with a sharp exhale, but otherwise didn't move, sprawled bonelessly across his chest, heart rabbiting in a rhythm that seemed to match that of Derek's own pulse, as though the one was an echo of the other. Cradling the back of Stiles's head, his fingers buried in sweat-damp hair, Derek shut his eyes, the corner of one suspiciously wet, and squeezed their joined hands.
He didn't know how long they stayed that way, only that it was minutes at least, until their heartrates calmed. Then, as though at some unseen signal, Stiles lifted his head and smiled at him, and Derek smiled back, and drew him in for a kiss that was all the sweeter for being simple.
'I'm keeping you,' Stiles said, the barest tremor in his voice. 'God, can I keep you?'
'Please,' Derek whispered, and wrapped his arms around him.
'We should get cleaned up,' said Stiles, a thousand years or possibly just a minute later.
'Mm,' said Derek.
'This would involve getting up.'
Stiles shut his eyes, burrowing against the warmth of Derek's chest, and honestly contemplated falling asleep, even with the condom still on and their stomachs tacky with come. He didn't want to move; didn't want anything but the feel of Derek's lips brushing his temple, the warm strength of his hands. Idly, he traced his fingertips over Derek's back, feeling the curve of his muscles.
'I have a tattoo there,' said Derek, softly. 'A triskele.'
Stiles considered this information. 'That's a spiral, right? A triple spiral?'
'Yeah. It's a family symbol.'
'Can I see it?'
'Sure,' said Derek, but as before, the both of them stayed where they were.
Stiles made a sound that was pathetically close to Tabitha's I'm-asleep-but-keep-petting-me noise. 'I'm serious, Derek. We need to clean up. And I want to see your triskele.'
He could feel Derek smiling. 'You move first, then.'
'I can't move. You wore me out.' Stiles kissed his chest. 'Get up.'
'You get up.'
'Oh my god, what are we – teenagers on a post-date phonecall? You hang up first.'
'Hang up or get up?'
'Shut up,' Stiles grumbled, and tilted his face for a kiss. Derek cradled his jaw and drew him in, and Siles's heart sparked like a livewire. He melted into the kiss, running a hand through Derek's hair, his whole body aching at the rightness of it, and when they finally broke apart, he felt like he'd fallen off the edge of a map and into a brand new place.
'Come with me,' he said, fingers stroking lightly down Derek's cheek. 'C'mon, up,' and this time, finally, they both moved, Stiles knotting the condom and throwing it in the bin as Derek swung his legs over the bed. They were both sticky and naked, but as Stiles linked their fingers together, pulling Derek towards the door, he couldn't find it in himself to care.
The power was still off, the tea lights flickering prettily against the gloom. Tabitha was curled up on one of the kitchen chairs, oblivious to humans and storm alike. Grabbing an extra candle in passing, Stiles headed into the bathroom, Derek close behind.
Wordlessly, he turned on the shower, relieved to see the hot water still worked. As he held his hand under the warming spray, Derek pressed up against him, both arms wrapping around his stomach, kissing the skin behind his ear. Stiles leaned into the touch, helpless to do otherwise. He was in serious danger of saying something wholly inappropriate, like please stay for the whole weekend and possibly forever, and restrained himself only by stepping into the shower, pulling Derek with him.
Gently, reverently, they soaped each other down, necking and nuzzling, noses bumping, silent except for murmured requests to turn or pass the soap and occasional huffs of laughter. When Derek turned around, Stiles traced the line of his triskele with a fingertip, then kissed the centre of it, resting his head on the nape of Derek's neck. He felt unravelled, incapable of speech – and for Stiles, who famously never shut up, that was saying something. His entire body thrummed with stay stay stay, as though it was at all rational to worry that Derek was about to walk out into the night, but as clichéd, as melodramatic, as trite and twee and every other embarrassing word as it sounded, sex had never been like this before; he had no yardstick or explanation for why it suddenly felt like a piece of his heart had irrevocably lodged in someone else's body, or what to do about expressing that fact beyond a point-blank refusal to stop touching him.
'Stiles,' Derek murmured. He turned, his hands on Stiles's hips, and kissed him up against the wall, firm except where they were both shaking, Stiles's arms looped around his neck, until the water ran cold.
They dried each other off, then padded back to the bedroom, never once drifting out of contact, as though they were both starved for touch. Swapping out the dirty pillow for a clean one, they slid under the blankets, Stiles's head resting on Derek's chest as naturally as if they'd been doing it for years.
'Stiles?' Derek asked, softly.
'Did you mean it?'
'Do you really want to keep me?'
There was a hesitancy, a shyness to the question that lodged under Stiles's ribs. 'I really do,' he said. And then, because it couldn't go unsaid, 'Derek, this is... I don't want this to be casual.'
'Me, neither,' said Derek, and snugged him closer, curling them under the blankets until Stiles was the little spoon, their legs tangled warmly together.
Stiles shut his eyes, smiling in the dark. 'So you know, Scott's probably going to give you the third degree. He's pretty protective, and the last time I was actually dating – which, for the record, was a while ago – I had a disconcerting tendency to pick assholes.'
Derek chuckled against his neck. 'Boyd might raise an eyebrow, and Erica will tease us both outrageously, but they're harmless. It's my sisters you'll have to watch out for. I swear, they have a sixth sense about my love life. Apparently,' he said, sounding chagrined, 'I have what Laura calls a just-got-laid voice.'
'Should I fear for my safety?'
'I wouldn't go that far,' said Derek, dryly, 'but if you're approached by any cheerfully terrifying brunettes in the next few weeks, try to project an air of mostly harmlesness.'
'Mostly harmlessness?' Stiles asked. 'Is that a genuine recommendation, or are you just trying to seduce me with Douglas Adams references?'
Stiles laughed. 'I can work with that.'
They fell momentarily silent, listening to the rain and hail, until the bedroom door gave a familiar creak. Derek tensed, but Stiles just squeezed his hand and said, 'Tabitha.'
'Oh,' said Derek, just as the cat pounced up beside them, yawning pointedly as she furled herself into a ball.
'She usually sleeps in here,' said Stiles, somewhat apologetically. 'Do you mind?'
Derek kissed his shoulder. 'Stiles, if your cat hadn't rescued me, not only would I have ended up stranded outdoors in an epic hailstorm, but I wouldn't have met you. If she wants, she can sleep on my head.'
'She just might take you up on that,' Stiles warned. 'Tab's a pillow-thief.'
'Out of curiosity, did you name her that because of her coat, or after Tabitha Twitchit?'
'A little of both,' said Stiles. 'Also, I know you're an English professor, but you still win extra special bonus points for getting the Beatrix Potter connection. My – my mom used to read me those books when I was little. I was such an awkward kid, I was always scraped or bruised or dirty, but she never got mad about it. She just –' he blushed, unable to stop the admission even as it embarrassed him, '– she called me Tom Kitten.'
Derek laughed, not unkindly. 'It suits you,' he said – and then, in a similar tone to Stiles, as though wanting to exchange tit for tat, 'My sisters call me sourwolf.'
Stiles snorted. 'Why? You're neither of those things.'
'True,' said Derek, squeezing him in a way that said he was relieved Stiles thought so, 'but I had to start shaving early, and made the mistake of trying to grow a very bad, very patchy beard in my teens. I didn't react well to being teased about it, and so, of course, the nickname stuck.'
'Your sisters are evil,' Stiles said. 'I think like them already.'
They talked for hours, effortless and easy. Stiles told Derek about growing up as the Sheriff's kid in Beacon Hills, while Derek told Stiles about his very extended, very rambunctious family. They discussed favourite books and authors, of which they had many in common, and argued favourite films, their tastes just divergent enough that they ended up planning a movie marathon to cover the classics that one or other of them hadn't seen. At some point, Stiles rolled over, and they started kissing again, aroused but sated, taking the time to map each other with hands and mouths. Tabitha slept through it all, and when they finally passed out in turn, they were still curled together, Derek's head resting on Stiles's heart.
When Derek woke the next day, the storm had finally blown itself out. Pale sunlight filtered in through the bedroom window, turning the glass the colour of watered gold; Tabitha, as foretold, was curled on the pillow beside his head, and Stiles was sitting, naked, on the edge of the mattress, a steaming mug in either hand.
'Hey there,' he said, smiling. 'You started to wake up, so I made hot chocolate.'
Derek managed a sleepy laugh. 'You're a prince among men.'
'And don't you forget it.'
Slowly, careful not to dislodge Tabitha, Derek sat up and accepted the hot chocolate, which was just sweet enough. He sipped it, letting the ceramic warm his hands. 'Is the power back on?'
'Well, the milk didn't get a chance to go off, so it must've come back on overnight,' said Stiles, moving to sit beside him, shoulder to shoulder. 'Also, I put your phone on the spare charger. You, uh, seem to have a lot of texts and missed calls from Boyd and your sisters.'
Derek winced, remembering how he'd snapped at his housemate the night before. 'Your mobile must have come up as unlisted on Boyd's phone, or they would've called you, too.'
'I was getting that impression,' said Stiles. 'Small mercies, right?'
Derek looked at him. Stiles's hair was sleep-mussed, the tips gilded by the morning light, his neck and collarbones red with a mix of beard burn and hickies. 'Yeah,' he said, softly. 'Small mercies.' And when Stiles turned to look at him in turn, Derek set two fingertips against his chin and drew him in for a kiss.
Stiles made a pleased noise and kissed back, bumping their foreheads affectionately. 'I could get used to this,' he said, rubbing his foot against Derek's under the blanket.
'I hope you do,' said Derek, and set his mug down on the bedside table. Stiles did likewise, and after gently encouraging Tabitha to relocate – she flicked her ears at them both, but took the hint, leaping down and padding out into the hall – he swung his leg over Derek's thigh and straddled his waist, leaning in to kiss him properly. He tasted of hot chocolate, his body all warm lines and bright ink under Derek's hands, and assuming there'd been any sort of innocence in the contact to begin with, it soon evaporated, Stiles rocking against him with increasing urgency.
Derek set his hands on Stiles's hips, thumbs splayed across the taut skin of his stomach, and kissed the column of his throat. 'Are you trying to seduce me, Mr Stilinski?'
'That depends,' Stiles murmured, grinning shamelessly. 'Is it working?'
He rolled his hips downwards as he spoke, eliciting a groan. They were both hard, all lingering sleepiness gone. 'Very much so,' said Derek.
'In that case,' said Stiles, lipping the shell of his ear, 'would you object to me riding you?'
Pure arousal shot through him at the prospect. 'If you insist,' he said, the effort at cool belied by the shake in his voice. 'Do you want me to –?'
Stiles cut him off with a kiss. 'I may have come prepared,' he admitted, and sure enough, when Derek moved to touch him, he found Stiles already slick and open.
'Fuck,' he groaned, and grabbed Stiles's ass, hauling him closer, the tip of his cock sliding wetly against his perineum, beading precome against the skin. Stiles cupped his face and kissed him, deep and hungry, and something in Derek broke. As Stiles arched up to give him access, Derek reached between them, guiding himself into position, moaning as the other man slid down onto him, searingly hot and tight. Stiles started to move, never breaking the kiss – long, slow undulations that had the muscles in Derek's thighs trembling, heels digging in for purchase as he moved to meet each stroke.
And then he jerked his head back, wide-eyed, staring at Stiles as he realised what they'd done.
'What?' Stiles said, confused – and then he stopped, mouth hanging open, as the epiphany hit. 'Oh, fuck, we didn't – shit, Derek, I didn't think –'
They'd been so caught up in each other, they'd gone bareback without even noticing.
'Me, neither,' Derek said, heart pounding. Hardly daring to breathe, he said, 'I – I'm clean, I haven't – Jesus, I've never –'
'Me, too,' Stiles gulped. 'Clean, I mean, it's been – I don't – this isn't –'
'We can stop,' said Derek, carefully, 'if you want to.'
The conditional hung between them, four little words that spoke volumes. 'Do you want to stop?' Stiles asked, his hands on Derek's shoulders.
'No,' Derek breathed, and realised it was true. 'I – fuck, Stiles. I trust you, I want you –'
'I trust you, too –'
'God, this is so fucking stupid –'
'Don't care,' Stiles gasped, and started to move again, faster than before, his long thumbs stroking Derek's clavicle, fingers gripping for leverage. Derek moaned and pressed their foreheads together, alive with how reckless this was, with how much he wanted it anyway, this naked contact he'd never had with anyone else. He gripped Stiles's hips and thrust up into him, savouring the heat of it, then reached between them to stroke his cock, slicking the shaft with precome.
'Fuck,' Stiles panted, 'yeah, fuck –'
'So fucking gorgeous,' Derek gasped, flicking his wrist. He was right on the edge, and somehow knew that Stiles was, too, the mix of sensation and intimacy sparking frenetically between them. 'Come on, come for me, want to feel it –'
'Derek,' Stiles choked out, and came, hot stripes landing on Derek's abs. He groaned at the clench and pulse of Stiles's orgasm, his own following within moments.
Stiles kissed him through it, grinding down – and then he laughed, his head tipped back as Derek rested his own on Stiles's shoulder, and said, 'Holy shit, you just came in me. Like, in me, in me.' His fingers slid up, teasing the nape of Derek's neck. 'I can't believe we just did that.'
'Me, neither,' Derek mumbled, the words half-lost against Stiles's skin.
'Glad we did, though.'
Derek kissed his jaw. 'Me, too.'
The subsequent cleanup involved a great deal of teasing, a shower that was every bit as distracting as the one last night, and a brief argument about whether Derek could borrow some of Stiles's clothes rather than trying to climb back into his wrinkled ones. The latter dispute was resolved in a tie: Derek could – and did – fit comfortably into a pair of Stiles's sweats, but none of his shirts were big enough, which lead to him going without. Not that he minded; the house was warm, and either due to laziness or solidarity, Stiles had opted to go shirtless, too, which soon proved extremely distracting.
'There,' said Stiles, straightening. He'd just put on a load of washing, Derek's clothes included, and was standing with his hands in the small of his back, his feathered fox tattoo displayed to full effect. 'All set.'
'Thank you,' said Derek, and all at once, he realised he didn't mean for just the clothes. He stepped into Stiles's space, breath catching at the lithe, athletic beauty of him, and said again, more softly, 'Thank you.'
Stiles smiled, gaze flickering between Derek's eyes and lips. 'Don't mention it,' he murmured, and drew him in for a kiss.
Derek reciprocated eagerly, guiding Stiles back against the kitchen bench. He was about to hoist him up onto it when his phone rang, a sharp burst of music that made Stiles laugh.
'The Star Wars theme is your ringtone? Oh, man.' He curled his arms around Derek's neck, pressing up against him. 'I picked good.'
Derek kissed him again, only pulling away because, of course, the stupid phone was still ringing. Walking over to the table, he grabbed it from the charger, holding it up to show Stiles the caller ID.
'Laura,' he said, grimly. 'Be prepared for yelling.'
'Noted,' said Stiles, and pulled up a chair as Derek answered the call.
'Hello?' he said, hating how it came out a question.
'Don't you hello me, Derek Sylvester Hale!' Laura yelled – loud enough for Stiles to catch his middle name, if the way he suddenly burst out laughing was anything to go by. 'What the fuck is wrong with you, snapping at Boyd like that and then hanging up? And in the middle of a fucking storm? You never came home last night! We've been worried sick! You stupid, stubborn, irresponsible –'
'I met someone,' said Derek.
'You met someone,' said Laura, flatly. Derek looked at Stiles, who was grinning broadly, and found himself grinning back. 'What do you mean, you met someone?'
'I mean,' said Derek, heart buzzing as he spoke, 'I met someone. We're dating. He's special.' And then, as a blushing Stiles made grabby hands at the phone, 'You want to say hello?'
'You – I – what?'
The sound of Laura, flustered and on the back foot for the first time in forever, was music to his ears. 'I'm putting you on speaker,' Derek said, and promptly did so, setting the phone on the table.
'Derek, if this is some kind of joke –'
'It's not a joke,' said Derek, barely suppressing his laughter. 'Stiles, say hi to Laura.'
'Hi, Laura!' said Stiles, waving at the phone in an adorably pointless gesture. 'I'm Stiles. My cat rescued your brother from a hailstorm and we kinda hit it off.'
'Her name's Tabitha,' Derek said, helpfully. 'She's a calico.'
'And a pillow-thief,' Stiles added.
'And that, too.'
'She slept on Derek's head, but in all fairness, he did give her permission.'
'Oh my god,' said Laura, faintly. 'Oh my actual god.'
Derek was going to treasure the memory of this conversation for years to come. He wanted to wear it always like a decadent cashmere sweater and then watch the re-enactment every Christmas.
'By the way,' said Stiles, coming to put an arm around Derek's waist, 'do you guys seriously have a sister called Elsa who writes film reviews? Because I gotta say, that's pretty much the best thing I've heard all year.'
Derek kissed his temple. 'Are you calling me a liar?'
'Shut up, sourwolf, I'm asking Laura.'
'Wait, what?' His sister's voice cracked over the speaker. 'What did you just call him?'
'Something he's going to regret,' Derek said, rolling his eyes – but strangely, he found he didn't mind the moniker so much, coming from Stiles. It felt affectionate, not mocking, and the sudden fondness he felt must have showed in his tone, because Stiles just laughed and said, 'Come on, you know you love it.'
'You told him about sourwolf?' Laura yelled, sounding somewhere between outraged and elated. 'Derek, I swear to god, if you're messing with me, I will end you. End both of you!' she added, prompting another burst of laughter from Stiles.
'Man, you weren't kidding about your sisters.'
'I really wasn't,' said Derek. 'And on that note, and as much as I've enjoyed being yelled at, Laura, I have better ways to spend my morning. We'll talk later, OK?'
And he hung up over her protests.
'That sounded cathartic,' said Stiles, as Derek dropped the phone and started kissing up his throat. Every brush of lips shivered him; he slid his palms over Derek's ribs, revelling in the expanse of muscle. 'Was that cathartic?'
'Very,' said Derek, mock-seriously. 'Now, where were we?'
'Here,' breathed Stiles, and tugged him up against the kitchen bench, kissing him thoroughly.
What followed was the laziest, sexiest Saturday he'd ever had. They couldn't seem to stop touching each other, never straying far from the contact they both apparently craved. Eventually, Stiles made pancakes while Derek did the washing up, and once they'd eaten, the newly dirtied plates left to soak, Derek tidied up the jam jars and tea candles while Stiles turned the living room into a blanket fort. It was something he'd only ever done with Scott and, very occasionally, Isaac, and though it was a form of comfort, it also made him feel strangely vulnerable, as though he was once more nine years old and missing his mom. He was, he realised, worried that Derek would tease him for it, but when he returned from the bedroom, the last of the candles in hand, his face lit up with delight.
'Movie marathon?' he asked. 'Or are we finishing Mario Kart?'
'Both,' said Stiles, smiling, and moved aside to make room for him.
(In the end, Derek won at Mario Kart by a single race, but as he promptly celebrated his victory by blowing Stiles right there on the cushions, he was prepared to call it a win-win scenario.)
Hours later, when they were halfway through Summer Wars – it was Derek's choice of film, and Stiles was loving every minute of it – they were interrupted again. This time, it was Stiles's phone that rang, and even before he paused the film, he already knew who was calling.
'That'll be Scott,' he said, getting up to grab his mobile. They were still in the blanket fort, with Tabitha now curled on Derek's lap, and rather than answer in the kitchen, Stiles took the phone back to the cushions, sitting as he answered.
'Scott, buddy! How are the Yukimuras?'
'Stiles, I'm engaged!' Scott yelled, which was 100% not the answer Stiles had been expecting. 'Kira just proposed, and I said yes – we're getting married, dude!'
'Oh my fucking god!' yelped Stiles, grinning at Derek, whose smile said he'd clearly overheard. 'Scotty, that's awesome! Congratulations!'
'You're gonna be my best man, right?'
'Dude, are you kidding me? Do you even have to ask?'
Scott sounded dizzy with joy, and even without seeing him, Stiles could picture his happy face exactly. He'd already been having one of the best days of his life, but Scott and Kira making it official – that pushed the whole thing into Top Five territory.
As Scott gave him the details, Stiles reached out with his spare hand and twined his fingers together with Derek's, unable to keep from smiling at him. If Scott had called with the news at the same time yesterday, as thrilled as Stiles would've been for him, he also would've felt lonely, worried that he was never going to find someone; that he'd be left behind. But now –
Derek squeezed his hand, and god, it was early, it was so fucking early to be thinking anything like what was Stiles was thinking, but he knew what it felt like to meet someone and know in your blood that you wouldn't give them up without a fight, to want them in your life no matter what, and Stiles wasn't perfect; he'd made his fair share of mistakes and bad decisions, romantically and otherwise, but he hadn't been wrong about Scott or Lydia and what they'd always mean to him, and he didn't think he was wrong about Derek, either.
'So, have you guys set a date?' he asked, when Scott finally drew breath.
'We're thinking summer,' said Scott, still breathless with enthusiasm, 'but we'll probably move in together before then – oh!' Stiles almost laughed; he could practically hear the bitten lip, the puppydog eyes and spinning gears. 'Shit, Stiles, I didn't mean to spring that on you – I don't want to leave you high and dry, but Kira –'
'Dude, relax,' said Stiles, cutting off Scott's self-recrimination. 'I love Kira, and you guys are getting married – of course you should get your own place! I, uh – actually, I just – can I put you on speaker?'
'Sure!' said Scott. 'But why – oh my god, please don't tell me you've been gaming this whole time, because that is deeply uncool.'
'Hey! I'm wounded by that assumption,' said Stiles, mock-chagrined, 'deeply wounded. You wound me, Scott.' He pressed the speaker button, carefully setting the phone on his knee, and realised he was blushing. 'I, uh. Actually, I've met someone, and I kinda – I wanted you guys to say hi. So. Derek, Scott. Scott, Derek.'
'Oh!' said Scott, his voice lighting up. 'Hi, Derek!'
'Hello,' said Derek, eyes crinkling behind his hipster frames. 'Congratulations on the engagement.'
'Thanks, man! So, what – you guys are dating or something?'
'Yeah,' said Stiles, smiling. He squeezed Derek's hand again. 'We are. Just wanted to let you know, I guess. I mean, not to try and steal your thunder or anything, but this is kind of, uh. Kind of a big deal for me.'
'Stiles, that's awesome! The four of us are totally going out for celebratory pizza when we get back, okay?'
There was a burst of background noise from Scott's end of the line, followed by laughter. 'Okay, man, I'll call you again later, but someone just opened champagne, so I gotta go, OK? Love you, bro!'
'Love you, too,' said Stiles, and ended the call.
'He sounds happy,' said Derek.
'Yeah, he does. He really does. And Kira's the best, they absolutely deserve each other, you know? Oh man.' He shut his eyes, letting the enormity of it wash over him. 'Scotty's getting married! Jesus, this is so huge. His mom is gonna flip.'
'So,' said Derek, running a thumb over Stiles's knuckles, gaze fixed carefully on Tabitha, 'I guess that means you're loosing a housemate, too.'
'I guess I am,' said Stiles, his pulse ticking up a notch. 'Probably sooner rather than later. Kira's an organised person.'
Derek nodded, but didn't look up. Stiles took a deep breath, steadied himself, and spoke.
'Finding housemates is such a pain in the ass. You never know who you might end up with. Never know if – if it's going to work out long term, if you're going to get on each other's nerves. But you still have to try, you know?'
'Yeah,' said Derek, darting a glance at Stiles. 'I really do.'
'And I mean,' said Stiles, emboldened, 'if you have to take a risk no matter what, you might as well go big or home. Like, hypothetically –' Derek lifted his head; their eyes met, and Stiles's heart leapt into his throat, '– hypothetically, say you've just met this incredible, ridiculously hot guy – he's smart and kind and funny and sexy as hell, and he's about to go on the housing market, too, right? But you've only just met, and it's way too soon to ask him to move in with you, because who even does that? So, hypothetically –'
'Hypothetically,' Derek echoed, lips twitching.
'– what if you agreed to revisit the question after a week or two? I mean, you'd both have to wait it out anyway, but that way, you could get to know each other a little better, try to do things right. Because you really, really don't want to screw this up, but all things considered, it's starting to feel like kismet, although that might just mean you have boundary issues –'
'Stiles,' said Derek, cutting him off. He drew a deep breath, that slow, gorgeous smile spreading over his face. 'Hypothetically, that sounds perfect.' More softly, he added, 'Whatever this is between us, you're not the only one feeling it. I'm right here with you.'
'Yeah,' said Stiles, as happy as he'd ever been. 'You are.'
And, as it turned out, he always would be.
Thank you everyone for reading this! My last Sterek fic was hella angsty, so it was fun to just do something fluffy and smutty with these two. Also, I really did listen to my Rainy Day playlist while writing the bulk of this fic, and for anyone who's interested, the tracklist is as follows:
Sweet Lullaby - Deep Forest
Bloodflood - alt-J
Nitesky (feat. John LaMonica) - Robot Koch
World Looking In - Morcheeba
Angels - The xx
Across the Universe - Fiona Apple
Knocking on Heavens Door - RAIGN
A Flock of Cheshire Cats - rockettothesky
King - Lauren Aquilina