It happens at first totally by accident.
He went over to Derek’s to discuss some lore he found during his research only when he got there, there was no answer to his texts, nor to his incessant doorbell ringing. He jiggles his keys in his pocket and flips his phone around in his other hand. The Camaro is here sooooo…
He hears a yip and stills.
It doesn’t sound like a ‘danger’ yip and it’s definitely not a howl.
He hears it again and twirls around on the porch. He doesn’t have werewolf hearing or anything but he can follow his ears as much as the next human.
He makes it a few steps off the porch and into the woods when he sees movement out of the corner of his eye and heads toward it.
It’s a wolf.
He freezes. He didn’t know there was anything freaky-deaky going on. It’s been a quiet few weeks and he’s been building his own set of research material, going to pack meetings and trolling the internet.
The wolf is hunched down, its head and part of the top of its body half buried in some kind of hole or burrow. It pulls itself out a bit and digs with its front paws and then stuffs itself back in the burrow.
There it is again. The yip.
And suddenly Stiles gets it. It’s hunting something and it can’t get it out. Its wolf-butt wiggles in the air, high up on its haunches as it tries to push farther into the burrow. It pulls out again, digs a bit more, yips, whines a little, and then dives back in.
Stiles shifts on his feet and freezes as it causes something underfoot to snap.
The wolf pops out of the burrow and turns immediately toward Stiles, poised and alert. Its light eyes are laser focused on Stiles and he feels his heart thud a bit.
The wolf does a weird sort of hop-skip and then barrels toward Stiles and he has a split second to think again, Oh shit, before he’s knocked off his feet by it hitting his chest with its big front paws.
He falls back hard and he thinks this is it. It’s totally Animal Planet time, before he realizes he’s not experiencing the bone-snapping, skin tearing bite he was expecting.
He’s getting licked.
Licked like he’s been covered in chicken stock and is a personal salt lick. Oh, yuck. He windmills his hands out, trying to push at the wolf and keeps getting fistfuls of soft, dense fur, his hands meeting up with immovable weight and dense mass.
“Okay, okay, I got it, I’m a milk bone, you’re friendly. Jeez, hey! Nose! Nose! In inappropriate places! Bad touch! Bad touch!” he squeals as the wolf starts pushing its nose into his armpits, his waist, his groin.
The wolf takes his squeal as playing and it hops back a bit on its paws, wiggling its butt again and then finally, finally sits down on its haunches, panting happily and staring at Stiles.
“Holy crap!” Stiles exclaims. “Derek?”
The wolf darts forward just as Stiles sits up and pushes a paw into his chest with a thump, nosing and sniffing at Stiles neck and licking him again.
“Gross. Slobber much?”
He knew that Derek must have a full wolf form, after finding Laura’s body that time, sleek and black and so very dead buried in the ground. But Derek’s never said anything and Stiles just kind of forgot about it.
He kind of thought Derek would be… less frolic-y.
But then again, as he said before, things have been going well lately. The pack is more cohesive than ever, no one’s trying to kill them (right now) and things have just been easy. So he guess if anyone deserves some kind of break or vacation…
The wolf, Derek, freezes again, head turning and Stiles sees the rabbit he must have been chasing poke its head out of its burrow and then make a break for it.
Derek disappears like a shot’s gone off into the woods in hot pursuit.
Stiles stands up, brushes himself off and grimaces. He’s gonna have to shower to get all this wolf spit off him. Yuck.
Unsurprisingly, they don’t talk about it.
He went to open his mouth to make a Lassie joke once and it’s like Derek has some weird ass psychic bullshit about when Stiles is about to mouth off because all he did was turn and look at Stiles with one eyebrow raised.
No Lassie jokes. Check.
The second time it happens, Stiles is prepared.
He didn’t even know he’d kind of been waiting for it until he showed up at Derek’s house again and saw wolf Derek bounding toward him happily. Stiles laughs as Derek runs over and then rises up on his haunches to place his paws on Stiles’ shoulders.
He so happy as a wolf that it takes Stiles by surprise and makes him laugh but feel a little sad at the same time. Derek sits back and looks up at Stiles with his wolfish grin. Stiles feels nervous as he reaches into the back seat of his jeep and takes out a bright neon green tennis ball and waggles it in front of Derek.
“Um, or not, whatever,” he mutters out as wolf-Derek only stares at the ball and then back at Stiles. He feels his face flush hot and red. “‘s stupid idea, anyway. Forget it.”
He’s just about to pitch the ball back into the jeep when Derek takes off running and then stops at the edge of the woods and gives Stiles an expectant look.
Stiles laughs and throws the ball as far and hard as he can, watching Derek leap into a blur of motion after it.
He totally needs to bring his lacrosse stick next time.
The third time he thinks he’s dreaming or hallucinating at first.
They’d been in the woods hunting a leprechaun and seriously, a fucking leprechaun.
He’s never eating Lucky Charms again. Leprechauns are fucking scary. Small, fast, green.
Jesus he’s gonna have nightmares about pots of gold and rainbows now for sure.
His whole body hurts. Leprechauns are mean motherfuckers. They kick. And bite.
And he’d had that moment after getting bit where he was like, oh, fuck, I’m gonna turn into one now aren’t I? Small, green, ugly. This is it, the way Stiles Stilinski goes down. Leprechaun.
But then Team Werewolf had showed up and he’d been rescued. Like a damsel in distress.
Too bad it was after he’d been kicked around like a soccer ball.
He took four Advil and a shower and then crawled into bed, sloppy bandages on his bite mark.
He probably needs a rabies or a tetanus shot tomorrow. Awesome.
He wakes up hot and sweaty, still feeling sore and a little sick.
And there’s Derek, as a wolf, on his bed, watching him.
He’s curled in a ball, his chin down, eyes open and reflective even in the half-dark.
“Creepy, dude. Not cool. I’m not playing Bella to your Edward. Just… no.”
Derek whines a little bit and scooches forward, his belly low, until he’s pressed up against Stiles’ leg, face nosing at Stiles’ hip. He makes another soft whining sound, way at the back of his throat.
Stiles drops his hand heavily on Derek’s head and pets him clumsily.
“‘s good doggy,” he mumbles, feeling the soft fur under his fingers. He cards through the fur and then scratches lightly behind Derek’s pointy ears. Derek tips his head, giving Stiles’ better access.
When he wakes up in the morning, he thinks it was a dream until he sees all the fur left over on his bed.
He’s not sure how he feels about that.
The definitely don’t talk about it.
The thing is, Stiles’ brain doesn’t have an off switch. It’s always thinking about something. When he can focus on school work, he gets good grades. He knows he’s pretty smart. When he’s not focusing, sometimes it’s like a big kaleidoscope. All shiny bits of color and shapes twisting and turning and then suddenly it makes a picture but then whoops! It’s gone again.
Even when he’s not actively thinking about something, he can feel his brain working. Like gears in a watch turning-turning-turning and sometimes he can just be sitting there and BAM! He knows how they get the caramilk in the caramilk bar. Like his brain’s been working on that problem in the background for years and suddenly he gets it.
So he’s not really surprised when he’s lying in bed, watching Doom for the billionth time and all of sudden he kinda gets his weird ass “let’s go play catch in the woods and have some bed time snuggles” with Derek.
It’s like… Derek doesn’t have to be Derek when he’s the wolf. Or maybe he’s more Derek, like the real Derek.
He’s both less and more himself at the same time. And that kind of blows Stiles mind but he thinks he gets it. When Derek’s… Derek, people expect a certain behavior, a certain attitude a certain way of (not) speaking.
But as the wolf, it’s like there are no expectations. And he doesn’t have to not speak, because he can’t speak. No one expects a wolf to talk.
Or be anything but a wolf.
He furs out, therefore he is.
Stiles still isn’t sure what it means that Derek wolfs out with him. Nobody else has mentioned any quality fur time. And Stiles doesn’t want to bring it up because he kind of likes how it’s… secret and feels like it’s just between them.
Stiles spends the rest of the night lying awake thinking about that and when he dreams, he dreams he’s running through the woods with Derek running as wolf beside him, tongue lolling around happily.
So if he suddenly has a box full of dog toys in his jeep, it’s no one’s business but his own. And if he knows that if he shows up at Derek’s house one or two (or five) times a week, he’s guaranteed some puppy time, that’s his business too. He never knows if Derek will be wolfed out when he gets there until he pulls up and sees white, grey and black bounding toward him and he gets this really tight, happy feeling in his chest and will reach into the back seat to get his box of stuff and then pull out a rope tug or a ball for playing and they run off into the woods. He tries to keep up and always fails against the bounding speed that Derek has. He also can’t pick his way around the uneven forest ground like Derek can and he falls more than a few times, ending up covered in mud. Derek always trots over and tilts his head at him a bit, sometimes sniffing him over or making a whuff sound when Stiles has fallen until Stiles says he’s okay.
He wonders how long it’s been since Derek could play.
One day, they stop by a small creek and Derek noisily laps up some water while Stiles sits down against a tree, knees up, elbows on them, resting while he watches Derek drink. He’s about to get up when Derek wanders back over to him but then Derek plops down next to him, leaning against his side - a heavy, warm pressure. They sit there quietly, listening to the sounds of the forest, the water trickling by, the birds, the wind.
At one point, Derek lies down, paws ahead of him and Stiles drops his hand on Derek’s head, in between his ears, and he scratches at the fur there.
Derek suddenly flops over, onto his side and Stiles screws up his face, perplexed, until Derek raises on of his paws and looks at Stiles expectantly.
“Dude, have a little respect,” Stiles jokes but then Derek bats him with one of his giant paws and Stiles can’t say no to him.
He places his hand on Derek’s super soft belly and rubs the fur, combing through it with his long fingers, petting him. Derek’s belly is warm and taut, all stretched out and preening under the attention.
“I guess what happens in the forest stays in the forest, hey?” Stiles says with a smile.
After a few solid minutes of belly-rub time, Derek flips himself back up and starts trotting back toward the house. Stiles laughs and pushes himself to his feet, and jogs after him.
Sometimes he shows up and Derek’s human and they still don’t talk about it but he once saw Derek’s eyes drift over to the box of toys in his jeep and he thinks he might have almost maybe seen a secret Derek smile.
But as noted, Stiles is smart, so he pretends it didn’t happen and they discuss pack business or whatever’s going on in Beacon Hills that week.
It’s three in the morning and they just finished dealing with a small coven of rogue witches who were very anti-werewolf and Stiles is pretty much hanging out at Derek’s place feeling like there’s something he needs to do but he isn’t sure what.
Derek’s got wolfbane burns down both of his arms and on his hands from trying to free the rest of the pack when they were trapped and whatever mojo the witches had worked meant that they aren’t healing as fast as they normally should. They looked angry and red - sore welts that are oozing a little bit through the bandages. The entire pack has some kind of bandages on them from the burns - no one’s healing as fast as they should and they used about a bucket of neosporin and a mile of gauze wrapping everyone up.
The witches had also put some kind of hex on the pack and no one can shift until the next full moon, not even Derek as the alpha. One of the witches had finally babbled as they busted up the coven and she swore it was going to wear off but it just needed to run through one lunar cycle first.
Scott and Allison have left. Boyd, Isaac and Erica are huddled up together in one of the spare rooms, all piled near one another like a bunch of puppies - knocked out on some painkillers and probably some booze knowing them. Derek’s just sitting in the middle of the couch looking like death warmed over, not really looking at Stiles but not putting off a ‘fuck off’ vibe either.
The kind of itchy-nervous-anxious feeling that Stiles sometimes gets when he forgets his adderall is thick in his stomach and he fiddles with his phone as he stands in the foyer of the house, knowing he can’t find an articulate reason to stay but kind of feeling like he needs to.
He gets one of those flashes then - one of those brain flashes and he’s not quite sure if it’s sensible thing to do but it definitely feels like the right thing to do. He slowly, carefully makes his way over to the couch, knowing that Derek can see him out of the corner of his eye, that Derek can hear him, even if he makes no moves like he does.
Stiles sits down, on the couch, leaving some space between himself and Derek but not much. Derek doesn’t move, doesn’t even turn his head toward Stiles, even as Stiles slowly raises his arm and rests his hand against the back of Derek’s neck, where the hair - thick soft and short - gives way to soft skin.
Derek goes even more still as Stiles rests his hand there, shoulders tightening and Stiles has to just push through his brief but sharp flash of anxiety as he starts to pet Derek’s hair, running his fingers through Derek’s hair, just like he does when they’re out in the forest.
He moves his hand up through Derek’s hair, over the base of his scalp and up to the top of his head, carding through his hair and it’s so quiet that even without werewolf senses, Stiles can hear them both breathing, can hear his own heart beating in his ears. Nothing seems to be happening, good or bad and he can feel the embarrassment start to creep in. This was a stupid idea, one of his dumbest ones yet and if he’s lucky, Derek won’t clip him on the back of the head when he kicks him out of the house.
He’s just about to give up when suddenly, Derek makes a low, quiet whine in the back of his throat, sad and mournful and Stiles has heard that kind of sound many times at the animal clinic where Scott works when the dogs are hurt and sore and wanting the pain to go away.
Derek kind of leans over slowly, carefully, like he’s afraid Stiles will move away or say something and Stiles deserves all kinds of awards for not moving at all, keeping his body easy and relaxed as Derek folds himself over and kind of curls up on his lap and the sofa, his upper body resting across Stiles’ lap, arms around Stiles legs, his feet getting tucked up on the end.
Stiles doesn’t say anything, sliding his hand down Derek’s nape, over his shoulder and down his side and flank, petting him soothingly like he would one of the animals at the clinic. He keeps his strokes rhythmic and even, never stopping, never changing in speed and he slowly starts to feel Derek’s body loosen and relax, his breathing getting slow and deep, until he falls asleep on Stiles’ lap.
Stiles keeps petting Derek as he sleeps, until his own eyes get drowsy and he lets his head fall back on the couch. He’ll wake up with the mother of all neck kinks.
It’s totally worth it.