Stiles allowed himself a minute to catch his breath as he reached the door to Derek’s loft; he wasn’t unfit, but he’d taken the stairs two at a time, too quickly. Being alone for long in the building where so much had happened wasn’t top on his priority list. The again, neither was visiting Derek – he wasn’t entirely sure why he had been the one nominated to come and find out whether Derek had found the Desert Wolf. But then, je always seemed to end up doing things he didn’t want to do in the name of the pack. Once his heart rate had returned to normal, he curled his hand up into a fist and banged twice on the door.
“What do you want, Stiles?” Derek’s voice filtered through the door, sounding just as irritated as every other time Stiles had visited the loft. It was almost reassuring to know that hadn’t changed while Derek had been away, especially when lots of other things had. After Coach leaving, the break-up with Malia, and Liam’s increasing presence at Scott’s house, it was good to know some things had stayed the same.
Stiles slid the door open without waiting for an invitation – it wasn’t as though Derek had never let himself into Stiles’ home uninvited, after all. From past experience, Stiles expected to be greeted with pointed silence and a glare, but he’d obviously interrupted Derek in the middle of listening to something. Honestly, Stiles wasn't aware Derek even knew what music was - let alone listened to it. The werewolf had certainly never indicated he understood any of the musical references Stiles had made, and Stiles had heard Derek complain about Isaac playing music on at least three separate occasions. But there he was, perpetually shirtless in tight black jeans; strains of something moody and warm drawing Stiles forward as it filled the shadowy loft.
Derek was standing in front of the large, arched windows that had proved to be an effective way into the loft for many of their enemies. As Stiles moved further into the space, Derek turned away from the view to face him instead, and Stiles stopped walking, leaving him standing at one side of the table and Derek at the other.
“You’re back,” Stiles said, pointlessly, fingers tapping on the edge of the table in time to the music.
Derek nodded, alert eyes tracking the movement of Stiles’ hand for a moment before he turned back to look out of the window. The muscles in his back were taut as he stood completely still in a way that Stiles had never managed to master. “I’ve been back a few days. I texted Scott.”
“That’s why I’m here – he had to work. Did you find the Desert Wolf?”
“Not a trace.”
Stiles winced; he wasn’t looking forward to relaying that information to Malia. “And Braeden?”
“She stayed away.”
Now Stiles understood why Derek had decided to face away from him; the werewolf’s tone was neutral, and without being able to see his expression Stiles had no clue how Derek felt about that course of events – not that Derek’s face often gave his emotions away. Unlike Stiles, Derek seemed to have perfected a mask of indifference. Clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth, Stiles tried to think of something comforting to say, or something witty to break through the tension in the room, but Derek got there first.
“You like the song?”
“Your fingers are tapping.”
“Oh, sorry.” Stiles pulled his hands away from the table and thrust them into his pockets. “I do that all the time, you know, it’s a nervous energy thing. Not that I’m nervous. I mean, I’m standing in a kinda creepy loft with a guy who could rip my head off but I don’t think you’d do that to me anymore. I do like the music, though. Who is it?”
Derek scoffed. “I wouldn’t rip your head off.”
“I thought so because-”
“It’d be too messy. Breaking your neck would be much cleaner.”
Stiles stared at the back of Derek’s head for a good few minutes before replying, but he didn’t find any clue to Derek’s state of mind there. “You’re – that’s a joke, right? You’re joking?”
“Yes, Stiles, I’m joking.”
“You really need to work on your joking tone. It sounds exactly like your serious tone.”
Derek shrugged, but didn’t reply. The lull in their conversation left only the music filling the silence. The track had switched to something a little more up-tempo, but still soft, reminding Stiles of the albums his mom used to play in the car over and over. With a start, Stiles realized that Derek had begun to sway, ever so slightly, in time with the beat. Someone swaying to music was no big thing, Stiles knew, but it felt oddly like he was being allowed to witness a part of Derek he hadn’t seen before – and maybe he was.
“Well,” Stiles said, taking a step backwards, “I should probably be going.”
Derek turned away from the window again to look at Stiles. Stiles held his gaze for a long moment before dropping his eyes, feeling unusually awkward under Derek’s scrutiny. He was used to Derek – and everyone else – looking at him as though he was strange by now, so he wasn’t entirely sure why he could feel his cheeks heating up.
“Okay,” Derek finally said, “I’ll walk you out.”
Stiles looked between Derek and the door and then back again, pursing his lips. The way out was kind of obvious, and Stiles had let himself in, but he figured maybe it was a weird territory thing and let Derek lead the way.
“Jenn Bostic,” said Derek, keeping the conversation going even once Stiles was standing out in the corridor.
Leaning against the doorway, Derek gestured back into the loft and then hooked his thumb through the loop of his jeans. “The album – she’s very good. Cora took me to see her play last year.”
“So you like music?” Stiles was learning more personal information about the werewolf than he had the entire time they’d known each other. He looked Derek up and down, assessing him in light of the new information, until he remembered that Derek was half-naked and it was probably a bit rude.
“Doesn’t everyone?” Derek smirked, looking more relaxed than Stiles could remember seeing him.
“But you’re not everyone.” Stiles pointed out. “You’re Derek Hale, not a normal person.”
“Yeah.” Derek straightened up, met Stiles’ eyes for a moment and then swung the door shut in his face.
Stiles stared at the back of the door for a moment, and then shrugged, turning to head back down the stairs. It wasn’t the first time Derek had ended a conversation so abruptly, after all, and it probably wouldn’t be the last.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Stiles shouted out across to where Scott was standing at the other end of the warehouse they’d broken into. They’d agreed to go opposite ways around the perimeter to check for anything unusual, looking for any signs of the omega they thought they were tracking. “In fact, I’m pretty sure I said it out loud. This is a bad idea, Scott, I said.”
“What happened?” Scott called back.
Stiles couldn’t tear his eyes away from the sight in front of him, frozen for a moment in horror as he looked at the four bodies – definitely human, even though they were partially eaten – hanging from meat hooks. As someone who had been around more bodies than he’d ever wanted, the rancid smell of rotting flesh was all too familiar but it still made him gag. “I take it you’re not seeing what I’m seeing?”
“What are you seeing?”
“There’s a-” Stiles jumped as a large hand covered his mouth and an arm wrapped around him from behind. Reacting on instinct alone, he reared his head back and heard the crack of his assailant’s nose, but the person didn’t let go.
“Stop struggling,” Derek hissed.
Stiles relaxed instantly at the sound of his voice – Derek probably wouldn’t kill him – and the hand covering his mouth loosened.
“Are going to be quiet?” Derek’s voice was a low and serious mumble, his breath tickling Stiles’ ear he was standing so close, but he moved his hand as soon as Stiles nodded.
“What’s the matter?” Stiles whispered.
There was another crack as Derek presumably put his nose back in place and then he replied. “You’re in a warehouse with dead bodies put there by unknowns that could come back at any time and you’re shouting across it like you’re at a lacrosse game. It’s not smart.”
As he caught sight of a fifth body on the ground, much more decayed than the rest, Stiles had to admit that Derek was right. “Wait – what are you doing here?”
“I called him,” said Scott, stepping out of the shadows. “Before we got here, after you said you thought it was a bad idea.” He shrugged. “I thought some back-up might help.”
“Any idea what’s doing this?” asked Derek. “Or did you both just come wandering in here blind.”
Stiles flinched, and then twisted so he could see the scowl on Derek’s face. “Uh, the second option? We thought there might be an omega using this place as a den so Scott wanted to reach out but-”
“But you really didn’t know what was using this place.”
“Well, yeah. We weren’t expecting to find dead people.” Stiles started to move, wanting to get a closer look at the fifth victim and look for any clues. When he realized he was being held in place, he looked down at Derek’s toned arm. “Dude, you’re still, um, my waist.”
“I know,” Derek nodded, his hold tightening just a fraction before his lips twitched and he let Stiles go. “Okay, this could still be an omega or a pack, but from the looks of the bodies I’d say it’s more likely we’re dealing with a wendigo. Either way-”
“It’s killing people.” Covering his mouth and nose as best as he could with his arm, Stiles crouched down next to the corpse. He looked over it – her – as quickly as he could before standing back up.
“Anything?” Scott asked.
“No, only that she was on one of those meat hooks too at some point, I think, and that doesn’t tell us anything new.” He sighed, running a hand through his messy hair. “We’re going to have to call my dad, aren’t we?”
Derek shook his head. “Not yet. Horrible as it sounds, there are still parts of these people left, which means their killer is likely to return. If we call the sheriff in now, that means sirens and police tape and this thing will just find somewhere new.”
“Derek’s right,” said Scott. “We need to call the pack.”
While Stiles loved his jeep, he wasn’t good at keeping it tidy, and he cringed a little as Lydia gingerly moved more than one empty take-out container into the back of the vehicle. She raised a pointed eyebrow at him, but didn’t comment on the mess – a testament to their now solid friendship, Stiles was sure. He grinned back across at her before focusing his attention on the warehouse door they were supposed to be watching. The pack was spread out around the building in pairs, staking out the place until the wendigo – or whatever had killed those people – returned.
“I’m glad I didn’t find these ones,” Lydia said. “Who knows, maybe it’s a sign I’ve fulfilled my body-finding quota for the year.”
Stiles ran a finger across the window, tracing an invisible zigzag pattern. “That statement is just tempting fate.”
“Well, it’s a good job I’m not superstitious. Especially when we live in Beacon Hills.”
Stiles groaned dramatically. “Why do we live in Beacon Hills again?”
Lydia watched him for a long moment, eyes boring into him, and then she smiled softly. “Because trouble would probably follow us anywhere. And because it’s home.”
“Yeah.” Stiles glanced up at the photo of his dad he had taped to the underside of the vanity mirror. “I guess it is. You know, he’s going to be pissed if this wendigo kills us all and we didn’t call him.”
“Don’t be silly; we’re a pack – a strong one, now. We’ll be fine.”
“I know that.”
“Do you mind if I put some music on?” Lydia asked.
“Go ahead.” Stiles watched as her elegant fingers played with the radio dial until she found a station she approved of. A light and poppy melody filled the car; it wasn’t what he would have chosen, but it was easy to listen to and lightened the tense mood a stake-out always brought with it. “Hey, did you know Derek likes music?”
“No. Does it matter?”
“It’s just weird, isn’t it? Derek liking something, having an interest.”
“It’s not that strange. He is a person – people like things, they have hobbies.”
“Yeah, but – oh.”
Lydia pursed her lips, reaching across the car to lightly shove him. “What kind of an oh?”
“An oh, that’s why Derek slammed the door in my face kind.”
She sighed. “What did you do now?”
“I maybe, might have implied he wasn’t a person when I asked him if he liked music.”
“When were you two talking about music?”
Even though they weren’t moving, Stiles gripped the steering wheel with both of his hands, flexing his fingers. “When I went to his loft after he got back. He was playing an album and we were, you know, talking. I think he was trying to be nice.”
Lydia reached out and grabbed his wrist, fingers squeezing. “And what did you say?”
“But you’re not everyone, and then, you’re Derek Hale, not a normal person. In my defense, I didn’t plan for it to sound so mean.”
Lydia cleared her throat. “Okay, I can’t believe I’m actually about to say this because it’s Derek, and usually it’s him doing the things I don’t agree with, but you need to apologize.”
Stiles gestured vaguely with his right hand. “But Derek and I insult each other all of the time. It’s like our thing.” Frowning, Stiles wondered just how long Derek and he had had a sort of thing.
“And Derek doesn’t share what he likes to do with us any of the time. He’s becoming more and more a part of this pack, Stiles, and he should-”
“I get it. He should be able to share his interests with us and not be subjected to my big mouth saying thoughtless things.”
“Good – I’ll go and switch with him.”
“What? No.” Stiles reached out and took hold of Lydia’s arm. “There’s an evil wendigo likely to show up here at any moment. I’m sure Derek can wait until later.”
“Stiles, I’m perfectly capable of making my way to just over there where Derek and Liam are hiding.”
“But-” he broke off, nodding towards the warehouse. The wendigo was standing in front of it, looking straight at the two of them. “I don’t think we need to have this debate any more. Should we-”
“Let’s just wait in the car,” Lydia said, taking her hand off the door.
Outside, Derek and Liam were already grappling with the wendigo and when Stiles turned his head he saw Scott and Malia running on their way to do the same. “Yeah.” Stiles nodded, sliding down in his seat. “I think the others have got this one covered.”
It had taken Stiles and Scott a while to drive the unconscious wendigo way, way out of town and convince him to try and find a more ethical food source. They’d also reassured him that Chris Argent and his network of hunters would be keeping tabs, and striking if there were any more deaths. By the time Stiles had dropped Scott back off at his house, it was dark outside and the roads were starting to empty. The smart thing to do would have been to head home and catch some sleep, but Stiles hadn’t been able to get his earlier conversation with Lydia out of his head, or the look on Derek’s face right before he’d shut his door on Stiles – which is why he was once again standing outside Derek’s door. This time, though, he was going to wait to be allowed in.
The door slid back and then Derek, shirtless again, was there. He was leaning against the door frame again, but his position seemed anything but casual, designed to keep Stiles on one side of the door and himself on the other. The scratches he’d gotten in the fight against the wendigo looked to be almost fully healed, just the faintest traces of them left covering his chest. Derek didn’t speak, just arched an eyebrow expectantly.
“Bonnie Raitt,” said Stiles.
“A musician – if you haven’t already, you should check out her stuff. My mom used to listen to her all the time so I grew up listening to it, too, and that album you had on the other day reminded me of her so you should, you know, give her a try.”
“Is there a point to that?”
Stiles exhaled loudly, hand coming up to touch the back of his head as he tried to formulate an answer; it wasn’t easy when Derek was staring at him. “You told me things about you the other day, shared things, and then I told you you weren’t normal. So I’m telling you things, because I’m sorry. You’re all mysterious and handsome and brooding and you don’t talk about yourself much but that doesn’t mean you’re, like, an empty shell. I shouldn’t have acted like you are. So, I’m sorry.”
“Okay. Your apology is accepted,” said Derek, and then he closed the door in Stiles’ face again.
“Well that was rude.”
Stiles kicked the sheets he was sleeping under further down towards the bottom of his bed and flipped around onto his back to stare at the ceiling. It was the same as always, slate blue and boring to look at after just a few seconds. Sighing, he glanced sideways at the clock. Three in the morning. Another hour gone by, and he had to be up getting ready for school in four hours. He closed his eyes, and then opened them again when the room suddenly got cold.
Derek was standing next to the now open window, actually fully clothed. He was wearing a green sweater that Stiles hadn’t seen before, and the leather jacket that he often seemed to wear like armor in awkward social situations. Stiles hoped that whatever dangerous thing Derek was about to ask him to do could wait until tomorrow.
Sitting up, Stiles suddenly became aware of his own lack of clothing and folded his arms across his chest. “Why don’t you come in, Derek? I have no problem with werewolves breaking into my room in the early morning at all.”
“Should I shut the window?” Derek asked, even as he pushed it shut and twisted the latch around. He’d never shown that amount of consideration before.
“Is there a problem? The wendigo returned? A new alpha pack ramped up on magical weeds and causing havoc in town?”
“No.” Derek walked further into the room and sat down in the office chair, where he started to absentmindedly run his fingers along the things on Stiles’ desk.
“So what do you need?”
Derek’s face was inscrutable as he looked at Stiles. “You said I was brooding.”
“Huh?” Stiles rubbed a hand over his eyes. “I’m not entirely sure I’m awake enough for whatever this conversation is.”
“Before, when you came by the loft.”
He nodded. “I guess I did. You slammed the door in my face. Again.”
Derek tilted his head in acknowledgement. “I guess I did.”
“Okay.” Stiles climbed out of bed, reaching over to grab a discarded t-shirt off the floor. “What are you-”
“You also called me handsome.” Derek’s expressionless face suddenly broke into what could only be described as a satisfied grin, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
Stiles nodded, thinking that it was a look that completely confirmed Derek was, indeed, handsome – and then he froze, half-way through pulling his t-shirt on. “I – there’s no way I said that.”
“You did.” Derek stood up, taking a confident stride towards him, every bit the predator.
Now Stiles understood why Derek had locked the window. “Well, I mean, so what if I did? I’m allowed to objectively comment on a person’s appearance. I can do that without it meaning anything, because I know if it meant anything you’d probably punch me, so-” he broke off as Derek’s strong hands gripped his arms, realizing just how close Derek was to him.
“Stiles,” said Derek, note of amusement in his voice, “I was flirting.”
“You – what?!” Stiles clasped his hands together tightly, gazing at a point on the wall over Derek’s shoulder.
“At the loft, when we were talking about music, I was flirting. And the warehouse, when I literally hand my arms wrapped around you? Flirting. Damn, Stiles,” Derek shook his head, lips quirking, “you’re not usually this oblivious.”
“You’re not usually so-” Stiles turned his head ever so slightly and came face to face with Derek, “close.”
“Do you want me to move?” asked Derek. He shifted away a little and loosened his grip on Stiles’ arms.
“I – yes. Yes please.”
Derek immediately let go of him and took a step backwards, his brow furrowing.
Stiles shook his head, his heart pounding so loud he was probably giving Derek a headache. “Not what I meant. Here.”
Stiles grabbed hold of the soft material of Derek’s sweater and pulled him closer until Derek’s hands came to rest on his hips. He was unable to stop himself from smiling against Derek’s mouth when their lips finally met. Derek’s mouth was warm, his fingers digging into Stiles’ hips as he deepened their kiss. Derek’s hands stayed on Stiles’ waist even as they both pulled apart, breathing heavily.
“We should have done that months ago,” said Stiles, cupping the back of Derek’s head with one hand. “Like, wow.”
Derek shrugged, looking thoughtful. “But would there have been as much tension? And if there had been less tension, would it have been as good?”
“Clearly my raw sexual energy would have-” Stiles stopped talking when Derek leaned in and kissed him on the nose.
“This isn’t a one-time thing,” Derek stated. “Just to make the clear.”
“We’ve known each other a while now, right?” said Stiles.
“That means you’ve witnessed the disaster that is my love life. You’ve seen it all: the hopeless crush on Lydia, the weird thing with Danny, Malia… do you really think I’m going to let this only be a one-time thing?”
“We’re decided then?”
Stiles nodded, and poked Derek in the stomach, letting his hand rest there against the hard muscles. “So, you like music. Does that mean you’re going to make me a mixtape?”
Derek laughed, waggling his eyebrows. “Maybe if you get lucky I’ll show you my record collection.”
“Oh,” said Stiles, “I’m going to be getting very lucky. Multiple times.”
“You wish.” But Derek leaned in to nuzzle at Stiles neck, nose cold against his skin, and his words had little effect.
“I know,” Stiles corrected, just managing to get the words out before Derek’s mouth covered his again. And it didn’t matter that Stiles hadn’t known Derek had been flirting with him, or that it had taken an accidental slip of the tongue for Derek to realize Stiles felt the same way, because they were going to be fine – Stiles just knew.