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Writ in Hecate's ink on willing skin

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Back in the seventh grade, Stiles remembers that the entire class took these aptitude tests, little bubbles filled in with a sharp number two pencil that were supposed to light the way to their grownup selves. Stiles's results came back suggesting he'd be well suited to a career in computer science, law enforcement or, alarmingly, taxidermy. Nowhere in that report was there any hint that his true destiny lay as the lone voice of reason for a werewolf pack. There is only so much that standardized tests can predict.

"I'm just saying that now that we've dealt with Peter McPsychoPants, for the second time, maybe we should, I don't know, make sure nothing like this ever happens again." This is the most rational thing anyone has ever said to a bunch of werewolves, Stiles feels absolutely certain, but when he glances around at the gathered faces, he doesn't see a lot of love for his frankly brilliant idea.

Scott has this little pinch of concern between his eyebrows, although that's probably because he's thinking about Allison and fretting over the state of their relationship, as he does pretty much every waking moment. Possibly also while he's asleep. Odds are he didn't actually hear that Stiles was talking. Boyd, Isaac and Erica avoid eye contact and look as if they'd rather discuss differential equations or the melting polar ice caps. Stiles isn't sure if this is because what happened is still traumatic or if they're hanging back beta-style, waiting to see what Derek's alpha opinion will be.

Derek himself does his usual impression of a blank wall. "It isn't going to happen again."

"How do you know?" Stiles's voice rises in exasperation. "It's not like you saw it coming this time."

A snarl vibrates in the back of Derek's throat, and Stiles takes a cautious step back, but he doesn't stop talking. "As you're always so fond of pointing out, you're the alpha. When bad shit happens to you, it affects all of us. If someone wants to use your alpha mojo or your wolf force or," Stiles waves his hand, "whatever you want to call it for diabolical purposes? We need to be ready. Make sure that any and all challenges take place the old-fashioned way, with growling and fangs and disgusting, gory bloodshed." He holds up a hand. "Not that I want there to be bloodshed. I'm just saying nobody should be able to sneak in and swipe your alpha powers through some magical side door."

How reasonable is that? Seriously, that aptitude test had no idea.

Derek does not look impressed. More like murderous, actually. "The subject is closed." His jaw is so tightly clenched the words have to fight their way free.


Derek actually growls this time, and Stiles knows that sound from other encounters that didn't go quite as planned. That's Derek's I'm very close to tearing your throat out sound, and, oh God, his eyes are flashing red, and he crowds Stiles back against the wall, cornering him there, like a scene from Animal Planet where a helpless zebra gets culled from the rest of the herd. Stiles so does not want to be the zebra. Nothing good ever happens to the zebra.

A quick glance at the others confirms that help is not on the way. Erica absently twirls her hair around her finger, as if Stiles's imminent demise is boring her. Isaac looks vaguely amused. Boyd seems to be wondering if there's a better organized, more mature pack he can transfer to. Scott would no doubt care that his best friend since the second grade is about to become werewolf chow, but he's too busy texting Allison to actually notice.

Derek looms closer and lets out another growl, right next to Stiles's ear, making him jump. It's been a while since Stiles was truly afraid of Derek, even longer since he believed that Derek would inevitably be the death of him, but he's sweating beneath his clothes now, and even his ordinary human nose can pick up the sour stink of terror rolling off him.

Not that terror makes him any less pissed off, of course. What the fuck is Derek's problem anyway? It's not like he'll have to do any work. Stiles will take care of the research, as he always does. All Derek has to do is let Stiles help him. Seriously, what does Derek have to lose—

Stiles blinks, and it's a Copernicus kind of moment. His worldview will never be the same. Honestly, he can't believe he didn't see it before. It's so stupidly obvious. Derek wasn't raised to be the alpha, and he doesn't know what he's doing half the time—that much has always been clear—and he understands too well that his fuckups can get them all killed, but this, this is the part that's the revelation. Derek actually cares. And that makes him afraid. Derek Hale is scared shitless.

And still growling. Fuck. Because Stiles just pointed out to the entire pack that Derek is all but clueless when it comes to protecting them.

"Okay," Stiles says softly. "Sorry." He lowers his eyes and makes himself small and slack, trying to think, think, which is hard to do when he's scared shitless himself. How else do werewolves show they're submitting to the authority of the alpha? Stiles really should have paid more attention to that.

He must be doing something right, because the growling eases up. Derek stays crowded against him, though, nosing along his jaw, taking deep breaths, as if he's trying to find the truth of Stiles's surrender on his skin. An alarming heat settles low in Stiles's belly, and, nope, that's not fear. Not fear at all. This is just great. Stiles's body has become a confused battleground between adrenaline and hormones.

Derek takes one last, deep sniff and moves away, letting Stiles escape. The three wolflets have no reaction, as if Stiles nearly getting eviscerated right in front of them is just another day ending in "y." Possibly Isaac seems a little disappointed that there's no actual carnage.

Scott looks up from his phone at long last. "Hey, Stiles, can you give me a ride over to Allison's?"

Why does Stiles put up with all this werewolf bullshit again? He really can't remember.

Not that this keeps him from working on Project Protect The Alpha on the sly. Stop being such a doormat remains perennially at the top of his to-do list, and he won't be marking it off today. The Bestiary appears to have some insight on the subject of wolf-power protection, or at least Stiles thinks it does from the handful of words he's been able to decipher. Archaic Latin is a pain in the ass, and he spares a moment to feel bitter about the false expectations television has given him. Sam and Dean would have needed PhD's in Classics to survive the first episode.

"Stiles!" his father calls up the stairs.

"Yeah, Dad?" he calls back, brow furrowed as he tries to figure out what the hell this stuff means.

There's no answer, but a few seconds later a soft knock comes at his door.

"I'm kind of busy now, Dad."

"Too busy for help?"

Nearly toppling off his chair is not the way he would choose to greet Lydia, but this is just the way his life goes.

"Oh, um, hey." He scrambles to his feet, even though his relationship to gravity feels suddenly off kilter. So many of his fantasies have begun just this way—with Lydia appearing in his bedroom out of nowhere—that it's hard to believe she's actually here now.

"A little bird told me you could use some help translating. So." She shrugs.

"Yeah," he says in a rush. "Come in. Uh." He swipes books and papers onto the floor, clearing a spot for Lydia. On his bed. Oh God. "Um, I mean, unless you'd rather—downstairs—"

She gives him an oh please look and saunters past him to perch with great dignity on the edge of his bed. For a moment, all Stiles can do is stare. This particular scene has also occurred during his nightly alone time.

"Translating?" she says with an impatient note.

"Oh, yeah. Right. Right." He throws himself back onto his chair, grabs the printout and wheels over to her. "It's this passage here. I'm pretty sure it says something about writing something somewhere, blah, blah, blah. That's what I need help with, basically. The blah, blah, blah." He looks to her hopefully.

She takes the page and bends her head and then snaps her gaze back up at Stiles. "What happened isn't my fault. There is absolutely no guilt involved here. I did not stop by to help as some sort of pathetic attempt at restitution. This is simply my good deed for the week."

"Yeah. No. Lydia. No one thinks—"


He stares. Possibly his mouth drops open, even wider than it usually does when he's around Lydia. "What?"

"The somewhere part of the blah, blah, blah? That's what it says. To tie the knot tight between wolf and man, it must be writ in Hecate's ink on willing skin."

"Hecate," Stiles says, considering. "Moon goddess. Makes sense, I guess."

Lydia nods. "And this drawing? The thing that looks like a rope with knots?" She tilts the book toward Stiles. "You're supposed to write that all over the body. There's a recipe for the ink." She wrinkles her nose. "Ew, not hygienic. I can write it down for you."

He grabs for his notebook, and somehow this makes him think about the time in eighth grade when he found an old test paper that Lydia had dropped—she'd gotten 105% on it naturally—and he'd kept it far longer than he liked to admit, tucked away in his desk drawer like the best kind of secret. Her hair falls across her face like a curtain as she carefully writes out the list, and Stiles believes, in the same way he believes that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, that he'll never know a more beautiful girl. He's thought this since the third grade, and yet something's different now. With him, not her. He's happy that she's here, but he doesn't feel desperate. Huh. That's weird.

She hands back the notebook and stands. "If that's it, I guess I'll be going. Let me know when you need the next freaky ritual translated."

"Lydia," he calls out, and she turns around in the doorway. "No one thinks what happened was your fault. You shouldn't think so either. If anything, we're to blame for not telling you sooner about—you know, everything."

Her expression cycles through every stage of grief; acceptance is a pale smile. "Good luck with your spell."

It takes about three seconds after the front door closes for Stiles's dad to appear, his eyebrow raised.

Stiles hates to burst his bubble but, "Yeah. No. It's not like that. We're—friends," he decides on at last.

He thinks maybe that could even true.

Understanding how the ritual works strikes one to-do item off the list. Finding all the ingredients—that's a whole other challenge. Probably Derek would be useful for this if he weren't too busy being a stubborn wolf. That just leaves one person with the right expertise.

Dr. Deaton doesn't look even mildly surprised when Stiles shows up at the animal clinic after hours. "Mr. Stilinski. What can I do for you?"

"It's, uh, about what happened with the whole, you know, Peter Hale suddenly-not-dead thing? I mean, obviously we don't want anything like that to happen again, and who knows if Derek might still be vulnerable, and I was thinking, well—" He pushes the sheet of notebook paper at Dr. Deaton with Lydia's neatly transcribed list.

Dr. Deaton raises an eyebrow. "A protection spell. Very powerful one."

Stiles nods. "I'm not having much luck finding some of the ingredients."

"No, you wouldn't. Derek isn't working with you on this?" he asks with polite curiosity, although Stiles has the sneaking suspicion he already knows the answer to his own question.

"Derek doesn't always know what's good for him, but I will wear him down eventually. Do you think you can help me?"

Dr. Deaton fixes a steady, speculative look on Stiles that just goes on and on, so long it starts to remind Stiles of the talks his dad has with him that aren't actually talks at all, but his dad patiently waiting for Stiles to start babbling a confession.

"I should be able to locate the things you need," Dr. Deaton says at last, much to Stiles's relief. "Come back tomorrow after close."

For more than a week, Stiles has seen nothing of Derek. This is clearly Derek's choice, since the usual confluence of supernatural threats and dead hikers found in the woods would have thrown them together by now. The last thing Stiles expects when he gets home is to close his bedroom door, dump his backpack onto the floor and find Derek lurking in the corner like a piece of furniture that can't quite figure out its purpose.

"Hey," Stiles says, swiping his hand over his hair in a nervous gesture.

Derek doesn't move, doesn't speak. His expression is as immobile as stone, etched with strong lines of not happy. The glance he directs over at the printout of the Bestiary on Stiles's desk all but twists Stiles's arm for an explanation.

"Okay, yeah, about that. So I know I didn't go about this the right way. I shouldn't have said anything in front of the others, and I'm sorry. Really sorry, not just humoring you sorry. But I was worried, and I only wanted to help. Don't say no just because you're pissed at me."

Derek's body language continues to scream, I am an obstinate block of wood, but the accusatory vibe ratchets down a little.

"I shouldn't have lost control," he says stiffly, and Stiles's eyes nearly pop out of his head when he realizes what this is, an apology from Derek, who looks even more constipated when he adds, "I wouldn't hurt you."

Stiles shakes his head. "Yeah. No. I know. Anyway, you were provoked. I'm not a werewolf. I don't always get where the lines are."

"It wouldn't be any different if you were a werewolf." There's something weird happening at the corner of Derek's mouth—oh God, is that a smile? Stiles has to stare at it.

This causes Derek to glower, and suddenly Stiles's universe is right side up again.

"I'm making progress," he says, taking the opportunity while they're still on something like good terms. "Should be ready to go by tomorrow night."

Derek looks at Stiles so long and hard it's as if he's trying to take an x-ray of Stiles's bones. Is that something werewolves can do? Stiles wonders.

"Why?" Derek asks at last.

Okay, that's confusing. "Why what?"

For a moment, Derek's answer looks like it may be: Why am I surrounded by idiots?

"Why are you doing this?" he asks, with barely contained impatience.

"And you say I don't listen? I told you this already."

"Right. For the good of the pack." Derek tightens his jaw, and his eyes flash, not wolfy and red, but something—was that hurt? "Because Scott's in the pack, and you want to keep him safe."

"Well, yeah." There's absolutely no reason why Stiles should get the guilty, twisty sensation in the pit of his stomach that comes whenever he's telling a lie, because he's not, because, yeah, this is for Scott. Sort of. In a roundabout way.

Derek's mouth tightens, and he turns on his heel.

"Wait. So you'll do it?" Stiles asks hopefully.

Derek climbs back out the window without another word, which isn't exactly the best sign ever.

"Think about it!" Stiles calls after him anyway.

By the time Stiles manages to escape from school the next day—after lacrosse practice and having narrowly avoided another stint in detention with Mr. Harris for the high crime of having a sense of humor about covalent bonds—it's already past five, so he heads on over to the animal clinic. In the back, he finds the potion-making underway. The beaker and Bunsen burner remind him way too much of his last disastrous chem lab, and he rubs at his arm where the hair is still a bit singed.

Dr. Deaton adds a pinch of—something, and the goop in the beaker starts to bubble, thick and black. Stiles wrinkles his nose. Lydia was right. Definitely not hygienic.

"It just needs a few more minutes to cook," Dr. Deaton says, watching the goop's progress with a careful eye.

The stink builds to a noxious peak, and Stiles is starting to taste the tater tots from lunch in the back of his throat when suddenly the stink disappears and the goop turns so pristinely clear Stiles could mistake it for water. Dr. Deaton kills the flame, decants the potion into a bottle, stoppers it tightly and hands it to Stiles.

"It can be applied with a paint brush," Dr. Deaton says, "but it's best if the pattern is drawn on with a finger. The potion works much like the mountain ash. Belief is the catalyst, and touch can amplify its power."

"Um." Stiles pinches the little bottle between his thumb and forefinger, regarding it dubiously. "You'd probably be the best person to—I could go get Derek and bring him back here." He pushes the bottle at Dr. Deaton.

Dr. Deaton shakes his head. "A protection ritual may sound innocuous, Stiles, but this particular spell works by tying the wolf to the man so that the wolf's power can't be used against his will. That's an act of magical bondage. It requires trust."

"So you're saying—"

Dr. Deaton returns the potion bottle firmly to Stiles's hand. "Derek needs to choose who helps him with the ritual."

Stiles blows out a breath. That means even more to negotiate with the most stubborn werewolf on the planet. Great.

"Stiles," Dr. Deaton calls after him. "I have to ask. Why is this so important to you?"

Why does everyone keep asking him that?

"Just looking out for Scott. It's kind of what I do. If the pack's not safe, he's not safe."

Dr. Deaton raises an eyebrow. "Are you sure that's the only reason?"

"What else would there be?"

Stiles ignores the guilty twisty protest going on in his stomach.

Derek's car is parked at his house, so Stiles knocks and loiters on the porch, on the offhand chance that Derek is in the mood to let him in. Now that Gerard has disappeared to who knows where, and Jackson has his kanima side under control, and Peter is seemingly gone for good, Derek has moved back home, which is a definite improvement over the abandoned subway car, although Stiles thinks it would be nice if someday Derek lived in a place that wasn't a ruined shell with all its best days behind it.

"What do you want?"

The familiar, grumpy voice catches him by surprise, and it's a good thing he thought to tuck away the bottle in his jacket pocket. Otherwise it would be in pieces at his feet.

"I have the—you know, the thing. Have you decided?"

Derek studies him from the other side of the screen and then turns and walks away. It's not exactly an invitation, but it's not get off my property either. Stiles follows, inside and up the stairs, trailing along the hall until he finds Derek in a room that's better furnished and less hopelessly scorched than the rest. There's a mattress on the floor and a chair, a mini fridge and chest of drawers, far more civilized accommodations than Stiles had imagined.

"Give it to me," Derek says, with his usual charming economy of words.

"Actually, it's a little more complicated than that."

Derek listens to the explanation with an unreadable expression that could mean he's down with the plan or that he's contemplating where to bury Stiles's body. After Stiles finishes, Derek just stands there, head tilted, considering. When he strips his shirt up over his head, hey, apparently he's made his decision.

"Um, I wasn't actually going to do the—" Stiles gets distracted by Derek's abs. In his defense, they are very distracting.

Derek unbuttons and unzips his jeans, and he pushes them down his legs.

"No, no, it doesn't have to be—" Stiles's voice breaks when Derek's underwear follows his jeans onto the floor. Holy shit, that's Derek's cock. "Dr. Deaton said it's supposed to be someone you—"

But who does Derek have? Who does he trust?

"This was your idea. If you don't want to help me with it—" Derek reaches for his clothes.

"No, no, I mean, yes! Let's do this thing. Maybe you want to—" Stiles waves his hand at the mattress before the Derek's naked and that's his bed dots connect in his brain.

Heat prickles up his cheeks and across the back of his neck, and it only gets worse when Derek strides matter-of-factly across the floor and lays himself down on his stomach, shifting until he's comfortable, giving Stiles a throat-parching view of the muscled arch of his back, casually parted thighs, the beautifully inhuman strength in his arms. Stiles takes a moment to mull over the irony that the lone virgin of the group is in charge of this job, the person most likely to get derailed by all that skin, but when he thinks about anyone else doing this, it just makes him curl his hand into a possessive fist around the potion bottle and take a determined step toward the bed.

There's an awkward moment as he gets settled, and he has to fight off a shrill voice of awareness the whole time: Oh my God, this is Derek's bed. "Um, I could get a brush or something, but Dr. Deaton said it would work better if it's—" He holds up his finger, not that Derek can see him doing this.

"Whatever." Derek gives a minute shrug.

This up close and personal, Stiles can see the chain reaction that one small gesture sets off, muscles rippling over Derek's shoulders and along his upper arms. Stiles wets his lips, but his mouth is still so dry. This is going to be the longest ritual in the entire history of hocus-pocus, he feels certain.

Derek's fingers seem like a good, innocuous starting place until Stiles actually does it and then it's uncomfortably like holding hands. Derek has a broad palm, but his wrist is surprisingly fine-boned. An old callous on the pad of his thumb makes Stiles wonder how he got it, if Derek has been wielding a hammer on secret home renovations or if maybe he used to play baseball back in happier times.
Stiles's notion of information gathering is to hit up Google or, in a pinch, take off to the library, but touching is also a way of gaining knowledge, he realizes. Right now, this feels a lot like stealing.

Once it's applied, the ink actually looks like ink, a deep night blue on Derek's skin. Before Stiles can worry about smearing and possibly messing up the spell, the ink lightens, dries, turning moonlit silver. Stiles makes progress up the inside of Derek's arm, drawing the pattern of knots and rope into the vulnerable underbelly of elbow, and he really can't tell if it's working. Dr. Deaton said he had to believe, and Stiles does. He believes—that he'll never touch anyone as beautiful as Derek ever again. Focus! Because this spell has to work. Stiles really needs it to work.

It's kind of a surprise when Stiles realizes that he's breathing hard. The situation going on in his pants—well, he's been aware of that since it started. Being sixteen just makes everything stupidly complicated. Stiles sweeps his finger over a shoulder blade, down Derek's side, taking a detour into the elegant curve at the small of his back. Derek's muscles quiver in the wake of Stiles's touch, and then something else is moving, twisting and coiling.

Stiles closes his eyes and opens them again, but it's still happening. The rope pattern is slowly coming to life, transforming from dried ink into a glowing silver-blue nexus of energy, sliding and swirling over Derek's body, encompassing him, sinking into him, as if Stiles is marking more than just his skin.

"Derek," Stiles says with a rough intake of breath, his hand protective against Derek's back.

There's a muffled noise made into the pillow, and maybe that's to urge Stiles on or possibly to protest that Stiles is treating Derek like a distressed puppy who needs reassuring. Either way, Stiles figures he should draw faster before this whole magic thing really starts to freak him out.

He works his way up from Derek's toes and can't help being disappointed that Derek isn't ticklish. Stiles would have loved to find one itty-bitty human vulnerability, something he could hold on to whenever Derek gets all growly in his face. Once he reaches Derek's thighs, though, Derek starts trembling, and then all out shaking, and he lets out a strangled noise that sounds really kind of—pained.

Stiles snaps back like he's been scalded. "Fuck. Am I hurting you? Dr. Deaton didn't say anything about—I don't think it's supposed to hurt."

"Just do it." Stiles can hear Derek gritting his teeth, even with his puny human ears, and, man, does he get sick of the stoic routine.

"Okay. Just tell me if—"



The shaking doesn't stop, and Derek is obviously trying to clamp down on the noises, but occasionally one escapes. Stiles's stomach does a vertical leap and then plummets like a stone as memories cycle back from the bone saw incident. He hadn't known Derek at all then, and his hesitation had centered mostly on the gore involved, but things are different now, and Stiles doesn't—he can't

He pulls his hands away. "This is supposed to keep you safe, not—I don't want to hurt you, Derek."

"If you stop," Derek mutters thickly.

"You'll tear my throat out?" It's a little disturbing that gallows humor has become Stiles's comfort place, but this is just his life these days.


It's brusque and quiet, but if Stiles is ever struck by lightning, he's sure he'll feel it less than this. Who would have thought Derek even knew the word?

"Okay. Okay."

Dr. Deaton said everywhere, and it's not Stiles's fault that he—his finger slides over the curve of Derek's perfectly shaped ass. But, God, it is his fault that his dick throbs and his whole body, every part of him, is lit up like Christmas, while Derek shivers and groans like he's dying beneath Stiles's hands. Stiles isn't—he isn't made right. He can't be. He's as not made right as a completely human person can be. In penance, he closes his eyes while he finishes the last of it, not that this makes much of a difference when he can still feel everything.

"Come on," he croaks, hand on Derek's shoulder, guiding him over onto his back.

Then Stiles needs a moment to stare.

If he isn't made right, Derek isn't either, because he's—wow, really turned on—and, oh my God, he's hard because Stiles was touching him.

"Wow." He can't help saying that out loud. His gaze has gone uncontrollably tennis-match on him, snapping back and forth between Derek's cock and his face.

Derek watches him, eyes heavy lidded and dark, waiting for—Stiles dips his finger into the potion and starts up the front of Derek's arm. Now Stiles is shaking too, and his breathing isn't too steady either. Derek can probably feel that, hot, erratic puffs of Stiles's air on his skin. Derek shivers as Stiles works his finger into the hollow of his collarbone. His eyes flash electric silver, the same color as the magical bands of light dancing across his skin.

"You could have told me," Stiles says softly. "I thought I was hurting you."

Derek doesn't answer, but the pinch between his eyebrows clearly says: How could you not know?

Stiles doesn't bother reminding Derek that he's not a werewolf and so doesn't have werewolf senses, because that never does any good. He feels the muscles work as he draws his way up Derek's throat, warm breath as he traces the pattern over Derek's cheeks, across his forehead, down his nose. When Stiles drags his finger over Derek's mouth, Derek bites, a flash of sharp, white teeth that makes Stiles shudder all over.

Derek hasn't taken his eyes off Stiles for a moment, and, God, Stiles's jeans have become a torture device, and he really needs—

"Sorry," he mumbles as he pops the button and unzips, exhaling, shaky with relief.

"Take them off." Derek's voice rumbles in his chest.

Stiles hesitates, because there are things to consider beyond the comfort of his cock. How will this affect the ritual? Also, could getting naked with Derek qualify as an abuse of power given that Stiles is busily drawing magical ropes all over him? Not to mention the whole issue of Derek looking like Derek, and Stiles, well—

Derek's insistent glowering puts an end to Stiles's internal debate. He ditches his jeans and, after another moment's pause, his underwear and T-shirt too. He has a flash of oh God, I'm naked with Derek panic, but then he takes a deep breath and lets it out. It's just—like—leveling the playing field, right? Now they're in this nakedness thing together.

Spell. Right. Stiles gets back on that, drawing his finger across Derek's chest, ink turning to light beneath his touch. Derek's breath catches and he arcs up sharply when Stiles brushes his nipple. Maybe it's not really right, but Stiles backtracks, rubs Derek's nipple with his thumb, and suddenly the room is filled with these noises, desperate and greedy, and Stiles isn't even sure who's making them.

"Derek," Stiles says, a little helplessly.

He has to give himself a stern talking-to when he starts trying to trace the lines of Derek's stomach muscles instead of drawing the pattern. When he's worked his way down to Derek's—Stiles takes a detour, because, hey, Derek has nice ankles. Also, maybe Stiles will have a better chance of focusing on the actual purpose of what he's doing.

It makes all the sense in Stiles's head, but then he starts actually touching Derek's shins, and it becomes clear that everywhere on Derek is an erogenous zone for Stiles. Maybe he isn't alone in this because Derek starts to shake again, even harder when Stiles swirls his fingers across Derek's thighs and up over his hips, and then, then— "It's supposed to be everywhere but—if you don't want—"

Derek grabs Stiles's hand, and the ink does smear in Derek's pre-cum, and Stiles tries to keep his mind on what he's doing, protect Derek, protect the pack, but Derek's cock is hot and slick and responsive beneath his fingers. Also, it's Derek's cock. And, yeah, his balls too, because everywhere, and with the last swipe of ink, Stiles feels this subterranean pulse, like a circuit has been closed, an electric buzz that travels all the way up to his elbows.

The rope encompasses Derek entirely now, a coiling, living energy, and the moonbeam-colored light flares for a moment, glowing so brightly that Stiles has to shield his eyes, and then it fades into Derek's skin, not disappearing, but becoming part of him in a way that Stiles realizes is far more than physical.

A noise spills out of Derek—if this were anyone else, Stiles would call it a whimper—and Stiles starts to ask if he's okay, if it hurts. But Derek's hand is still on Stiles's, and he tightens his grip, urging Stiles's fingers closer, tighter. Derek's hips tilt up and up, and his mouth falls open, softly, eyes squeezing shut, and—Stiles has just had sex. He's got Derek's come all over his fingers. That counts, right?

Stiles can't decide if it's okay to wipe his hand on the sheets or if that's rude, and, wow, awkward. "Um." He clears his throat. "So that worked, don't you think?" His voice goes nervously soprano on him.

Derek watches him, long and steady, a pinch between his eyes that gradually eases into the unfurrowed brow of decisiveness. He curls a hand around the back of Stiles's neck and tugs and, yes please, Stiles has Derek's mouth on his own, and, hello, that's Derek's tongue.

It's not his first kiss; that happened at summer camp three years ago, with the girl who was his canoe-mate, a swapping of spit and curiosity. This kiss is, yeah, a lot different than that, grabbier and more demanding and with the delicate edge of teeth.

Derek makes a pleased, rumbly sound and rubs his fingers through Stiles's hair and kisses him more deeply. Stiles presses closer, and, God, how awesome is this? It wasn't that long ago that Stiles was sure Derek hated him, and then he seemed to become a useful annoyance, and now—all it took for them to bond was just a little magic—


"Hey, Derek. No. No." Stiles pushes at Derek's chest and wriggles and tries to untangle himself from Derek's grip. "You don't want—it's the spell. There were, I'm guessing, some technical issues. I was supposed to believe, but I lusted. And I got my sex vibe all over your glowy silver rope and—"

Derek scowls up at him. "Don't be stupid." He hooks an arm around Stiles's waist, flips him, pins him and kisses him some more. Kisses him a lot.

"It's not like you were interested before!" Stiles manages, breathlessly, when Derek moves on to his neck, and he shivers at the chastising scrape of teeth over his skin. "Were you?" he asks, bewildered. "Was all that slamming me into walls some of kind of werewolf wooing? Dude, that's messed up." And then just because he's himself, and he has to make doubly, okay, triply sure, "So why now?"

He feels Derek's breath against his throat, and he doesn't expect an answer, not really, so he goes very still when he hears Derek's voice muffled against his shoulder, "You touched me to keep me safe."

Stiles clutches at Derek's shoulder—because, oh God, Derek's life. Derek presses a kiss to Stiles's nipple and in a line down to his belly button, which makes Stiles squirm, and when Derek licks over the bones of Stiles's hip, Stiles starts to breathe faster, harder, and by the time Derek finally gets around to sucking his cock, Stiles isn't sure he remembers how to breathe at all.

He refuses to be embarrassed that it takes all of three pulls of Derek's mouth to make him come.

Afterward, there's a pleased hum in Stiles's head, and he feels floaty and just incredibly—good. He lies on his back, grinning stupidly up at the water-ruined ceiling. Derek is a warm presence all along his side, and Stiles can reach out and touch him at any moment, as often as he wants. This makes his grin grow bigger and stupider.

"Also, it's a bad idea," Derek says out of the nowhere, as if he's continuing a conversation that Stiles wasn't actually part of.

Stiles turns to look at him, so pleasantly heavy-limbed that moving just this little bit takes actual effort.

"Why I didn't before," Derek says.

The lines around his mouth are tight, and the habitual furrow has returned between his brows, and no. Just no.

"Well, clearly you were wrong," Stiles says lightly. "Because that was awesome."

Derek goes tense, and Stiles can practically hear the litany of reasons why they should never do this again parading through his head. Only human and sixteen and can't afford any weakness, all to a thudding refrain of danger, danger, danger. Stiles can't imagine what a crushing weight it must be to believe in such one-sided responsibility. One day, he'll figure out a way to convince Derek that a two-way street of protectiveness makes everyone stronger.

Right now, though, he takes the levity tack. "I hate to break this to you, but I'm not always the damsel in this relationship."

Derek scowls, so hard his nostrils actually flare, and when Stiles laughs at this, Derek looks like Stiles is the most infuriating person he has ever known. Much, much better than that hopeless lone-wolf expression Stiles hates so much.

Stiles props himself up on his elbow. "I don't know if saying this will offend your werewolf sensibilities in some way that I'm not aware of. But the thing is—we've done a pretty good job so far of having each other's back. Why can't we just keep doing that?"

"It's different now."

Stiles raises an eyebrow. "Because we're having sex?" He refuses to concede that it might be just a one-time thing. "Okay, hands up. Who here has watched too many after-school specials?"

"Stiles," Derek says in exasperation.

This seems like the perfect opportunity to kiss him, so Stiles does. "It's going to be awesome. You'll see."

Derek touches Stiles's cheek and kisses back, as if he really wants to be convinced of this promised awesomeness, as if he'd give anything to believe in crazy concepts like "peace" and "happiness," and now that Stiles knows what to look for, he can see that Derek is still scared shitless, but that's okay. Because he's got Stiles's I believe covering him like a magic safety net, and Derek may be stubborn but Stiles is persistent, and Stiles's stomach was totally right to call him a liar. This was always about protecting Derek.

It's all good, Stiles thinks as he kisses Derek. I can totally work with this.