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You're a Mess, But You're a Catch to Me

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"No,” Derek says. He feels like a broken record. Or maybe he’s just broken. The jury’s still out on that one—has been for almost 10 years.

Laura braces herself like she’s settling in for a fight, hands anchoring to her hips. The subtle shift of her position causes the afternoon sunlight shafting in through the window to glint off the deputy badge pinned to her chest, and it’s like nature itself is taking sides. The thought grates, but feeling ganged up on is pretty much par for the course for him.

“Derek.” Laura says his name like their mother used to, before everything went to hell, all angry inflections and lost patience. Just enough worry around the sharp edges of the “k” that he feels a flush of shame, despite himself. “Look, it’s not like this is going to be permanent. Just… please. Try. We owe the sheriff that much. I... think it’ll be good for you, too.”

“And I think the sheriff has got to have other emergency alpha guardians listed for his son that are a lot better suited for this than I am. I don’t even know the kid, Laur.”

Laura purses her lips and pitches her voice into a furious whisper. “Stiles is not a kid, and I hope I’m around to see it when you make the mistake of calling him one. As for the sheriff, he does have other alpha guardians listed in case of emergency, but none of them are feasible right now. I’d do it if I could. Hell, half the people in the department would volunteer, but the station is barely managing to stay above water as it is, with the sheriff out. We need everyone focused on work.” And there’s their mother again, in the way her eyes flash with frustrated passion. “Derek. Please.”

Derek has to look away from her; he can’t bear to look at his sister and only see a ghost, so he focuses on the omega sitting on the couch instead.

Stiles, apparently.

Stiles seems to sense the look, or maybe it’s just a coincidence, because he stops gnawing on his thumbnail and meets Derek’s gaze with a surprisingly steady one of his own.

It’s unnerving how intense Stiles’ stare is, like he’s looking right into his heart. Derek feels something stir inside of him, woken up by that gaze, something primal and instinctual. It makes his gums itch, and calls to mind images of sleek black fur rubbing against all his exposed inner corners, pressing against his skin from the inside, more like a cat seeking affection than a wolf.

“This is a bad idea,” he says, still holding Stiles’ gaze. But then again, Laura’s ideas are always bad ideas.

Laura smirks like she hears the thought, and pats Derek sympathetically on the shoulder. “Why don’t you at least pretend to be a somewhat functional person and show Stiles around? As for me, I need to get to work.” Laura winces and side-eyes Stiles sympathetically.

Stiles rolls his eyes at her and stands up from the couch, his arms curled around his stomach. “I’ll be,” Stiles’ eyes meet Derek’s again, “fine, Laura.”

She nods decisively and takes a step toward the door, then hesitates. She turns back on her heels and walks over to Stiles, adjusting the collar of his plaid shirt in the single most motherly gesture Derek has ever seen from her. “I’ll check on you next week, but call me if you need anything before then,” she says around a hug. And then she’s gone, and Stiles and Derek are left standing there with awkwardness and silence as their only companions.

“So basically don’t touch anything,” Stiles summarizes a few minutes later, once Derek is done showing him around and they’ve made it back to where the kitchen meets the living room. The “grand tour”-- Stiles’ words-- had mostly consisted of Derek walking through his apartment, Stiles following behind him like some sort of lost puppy, as Derek opened doors and said some variation of ‘this is mine, if you touch it I’ll rip your throat out.’

Derek feels neither guilty for his gruffness, nor particularly inadequate at the fact that this only takes about a minute flat.

“Exactly,” he agrees, his shoulders sagging in relief that he and Stiles seem to be on the same page.

The illusion lasts all of half a second, shattered by Stiles’ distracted “Huh, what did you say?” Stiles turns back toward him, frowning when Derek says nothing, although he finally catches on with an “Ohh,” when Derek glares meaningfully at the hand that had been inching toward one of the dials of the-- very expensive-- espresso machine. “Right. No touching. Throat ripping. Got it.” Stiles snatches his hand back, grinning self deprecatingly at Derek, but without even a trace of actual remorse. It’s a bad sign.

“Don’t. Touch. Anything,” Derek repeats. “My apartment, my rules. If you need to live here for a while, that’s fine, but I’m not going to tolerate some little punk omega kid…”

“Ok man, look,” Stiles snaps, the grin slipping off his face. He’s angry and defensive now, and right up in Derek’s space, one of his fingers poking into Derek’s chest and hot like a brand through the fabric of his Henley. The spicy rich scent of him is everywhere, thick and overwhelmingly too good, and very far from kid like.

This close, Derek is momentarily sidetracked by how bright Stiles’ eyes are, the way they flash with defiant anger. He’s even more sidetracked by the flicker of want that curls low in his belly in response, and he has to curl his nails into his palms to keep from doing anything stupid.

“First of all, I’m eighteen. I’m not a fucking kid. And this isn’t exactly great for me either. Stupid bullshit laws, like, just because I’m an omega I need some knothead macho alpha to keep me in line. I didn’t ask for my dad to get fucking shot, and I didn’t ask for my life to be so messed up and pathetic that I don’t have anyone else to call. So just...”

The shame that replaces Derek’s desire is both intimately familiar, but also not, and Derek finds himself saying “I’m sorry,” cutting off Stiles’ tirade before he can pick up any more momentum. He isn’t used to apologizing, not for anything and not to anyone, so he’s surprised by how easily the words roll off his tongue.

Stiles blinks rapidly, just as startled. The fire goes out of him, banking behind his eyes. “This is all’s a lot. I’m, um. You know...” Stiles rubs the back of his neck and his shoe scuffs at the kitchen tile. “Sorry too. I guess.”

And then Stiles smiles tentatively up at him through his lashes, that same too intense look that’s so atypical from any omega Derek has ever encountered before. He’s beautiful.

Derek also has no idea what to do with him. He has the distinct impression that he’s probably fucked, though. In more ways than one.

It’s a bad idea. That much becomes painfully, obviously clear pretty much immediately.

Derek likes his space. He likes his solitude and the way that he organizes his things, everything exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

If he doesn’t exactly like his life, he’s used to it.

Stiles is… other. A literal and figurative mess. He might be an omega, but whatever gene normally gets attributed to omegas and their supposed need to be happy little homemakers, or whatever the fuck-- Derek’s pretty sure it skipped Stiles.

It’s ironic; funny even. Or it would be, if it weren’t Derek’s life.

What’s not particularly funny is the fact that Stiles apparently likes to cook and bake and… well. Derek’s fairly certain the espresso machine has never seen so much use. Actually, he’s not sure he’s ever even used it himself. But that’s mostly because he’s just as happy with his $5 coffee from the shop down the road every morning. The only reason he’d bought the damn thing in the first place was because he’d seen Laura eyeing it. Only, she never stayed over long enough to use it.

All the cooking is probably the only thing about Stiles that even remotely resembles an omega stereotype, though. Also, Derek’s kitchen has never simultaneously smelled so good, and been such a mess.

Mess of course, being the scene that he walks in on the next afternoon. That, and Stiles doing a strange little shimmy that’s probably supposed to be dancing, but lacks the grace to be called anything but uncoordinated flailing. And yet…

There’s something about the way that Stiles’ hips are moving that’s weirdly hypnotic and unaccountably sensual. It reminds Derek of that stupid saying, the one that’s on the magnet that Laura’s had stuck to her fridge for basically forever. “Dance like nobody’s watching.” Or something. There’s more to the quote than that, but the point-- to be honest, Derek’s not sure what the point is, anymore. All he knows is that he is watching Stiles dance, and it’s making him feel things that he’s never quite felt before, not even with…

Derek curls his claws into his palms, feels blood well up. “What the hell is going on here?”

Stiles whirls around. His eyes are comically wide and his mouth is hanging open in a way that’s probably-- definitely-- obscene. He’s inexplicably wearing an apron that says “Kiss the cook” that Derek can’t for the life of him figure out where Stiles could have gotten it from, especially considering the fact that he hasn’t left the apartment since Laura practically dumped him on Derek’s couch. The two suitcases he’d brought with him aren’t that large, and Derek’s having trouble reconciling the amount of clothes strewn around the apartment as it is.

“Heeey, Derek. Didn’t realize you were back from your run yet.”

“Well, I am.”

“Riiight. I see that,” Stiles says. His arms curl around his stomach again in what Derek is coming to realize is a pretty standard gesture for him. He brightens a second later though, and reaches behind him. And then he’s brandishing something in Derek’s face that smells like cinnamon and raisins and holiday mornings. “Muffin? I’m kind of famous for these. Pretty sure even you can’t say no to the awesomeness of my award-winning muffins.” Stiles waves a muffin that’s approximately the size of Derek’s head under his nose, then mimes taking a bite and moaning around it.

It’s obscene. Too much.

“I’m pretty sure I can, actually,” Derek says, jerking his gaze away from Stiles’ mouth to glare down at the offending breakfast item. Despite his words, it’s still a force of will to not grab the thing and stuff it into his mouth whole. “Here’s an idea though. How about you clean my damn kitchen and stay out of my way like you’re supposed to?”

Stiles deflates likes Derek’s stuck a pin in him.

Derek definitely doesn’t feel like an ass. He doesn’t have time; he's too busy fleeing the kitchen like his life and sanity depend on it. The smell of cinnamon and rejection haunts him the rest of the day.

Stiles does clean the kitchen. Sort of. He picks up at least, and does most of the dishes, and puts the clean dishes away in the wrong places so Derek has to redo it. It’s a pain in the ass, but also slightly therapeutic as he gets at least some part of his life back into a semblance of order.

And then Stiles messes it up again when he cooks a strange spicy soup for dinner with a name that Derek can’t pronounce, even after Stiles tries to coach him through it. Twice.

Frustrated with it all, Derek eyes the mess in the kitchen, then storms off bowl in hand. He refuses to admit that the soup is maybe the single best thing he’s ever put into his mouth.

They eat their dinner sitting side by side on Derek’s couch. It’s not particularly by design. Neither he nor Laura are good at practical things. Like interior design, for one, or care much at all actually, beyond making sure they have the essentials. It’s just that somehow, when he moved into this apartment, essentials had included a single small couch and no dining room table.

It had also included a TV at Laura’s insistence, even though he himself never watched it. This was probably due to the fact that Laura was a little too obsessed with the show Criminal Minds-- Derek had listened to way more monologues on “why Derek Morgan is the epitome of alpha masculinity” than he ever wanted to. Which was weird because the character shared his name, but he was mostly called by his last name, so it was ok. Apparently. Also wow, he really needed to stop letting Laura influence his furniture and appliance buying decisions, he realized.

“I mean, it is a little bit weird I guess. But Morgan is hot so I can totally forgive her,” Stiles says thoughtfully when this gets explained to him. He’s obviously pleased with the conversation on some level that Derek doesn’t entirely understand.

Stiles shrugs and gives Derek a ‘what can you do’ look, and then goes back to flipping mindlessly through channels on the TV-- He’d pretty much laid claim to the remote about five minutes into his residency here, and the bond between boy and remote had only grown stronger when he realized that Derek didn’t particularly care.

“So you have any preference on what we watch, dude?” Stiles asks when he’s gone through all of the channels again.

Derek suspects that Stiles has finally started to pick up on the fact that he is getting annoyed at the incessant channel flipping. Although, to be fair, Laura has never been shy about telling him that he doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body. “I don’t care, Stiles. Just pick something.”

Stiles huffs, and mutters something that sounds like “too many choices” and “snarly alphas”, but finally settles on a channel. It’s a cooking show of some sort, because of course it is. Stiles seems riveted though, barely paying attention to his food as he shovels it into his mouth in a way that Derek can’t decide is disgusting or kind of impressive.

Derek rolls his eyes, but settles down to watch as well. The couch isn’t very big, so they’re close enough together that Derek can pick up traces of Stiles’ scent through the thick spicy smells wafting up from the soup. He can also identify the ones that maybe Stiles uses often. It’s the first time they’ve eaten together-- Derek had chosen to retreat to the sanctuary of his room the day before while he acclimated to the scents and sounds of another person in his space-- so this is… It’s different. Eating with someone. It’s domestic. Intimate somehow.

When Stiles is finally done, he sets his empty bowl on the coffee table, and Derek gets his attention again when he makes a point of lifting it up and setting a coaster under it. Stiles rolls his eyes and slouches back into the couch, propping his feet up on the coffee table next to his empty bowl.

Derek bites his lip to keep from saying anything about it. He’s starting to realize that baby steps might be the way to go with Stiles, and if this is going to work he’s going to have to chose his battles.

He has to say something about the annoying commentator on the TV show though. The guy has obnoxiously spiky blond hair, and talks in a way that makes Stiles’ repetition of the word “dude” seem practically erudite.

“People actually like this guy?”

“Yeah. He’s got personality, you know? I mean, he’s not like the best or anything, but he ‘s cool. He’s got a couple of different shows too.”

Incredulous, Derek raises his eyebrow. “If by personality, you mean the personality of a surfer who got hit over the head with his own surfboard, then sure.”

“That’s just careerist, Derek,” Stiles says, his eyes still trained on the TV. He’s leaning to the side, toward Derek a little, like he can’t quite help it.

“Pretty sure that word doesn’t mean what you think it does,” Derek says, his own lips twitching into a smile despite himself.

“Eh,” Stiles waves him off and settles deeper into the couch, his body languid. He looks more relaxed than Derek’s seen him so far. He just hadn’t realized how stiff Stiles had been until he had something to compare it to.

Derek huffs and savors another bite of his soup.

Half an hour later, he decides that he prefers Ina Garten-- the soft, soothing way that she speaks reminds him so strongly of his mother that for the first five minutes of her show, he has to actively fight to swallow around the lump in his throat. But then it’s like receiving a good massage, painful at first as the therapist works at a knot, but as it’s soothed away, he’s made better than he was before. Watching her feels easy and therapeutic and calming.

Derek’s pretty sure Stiles likes watching her too, despite his arguments to the contrary; he’s just being stubborn about it for the sake of driving Derek crazy.

It’s working, but Derek maybe doesn’t mind as much as he should. If anything, it only adds to the moment, to the sensation of family. It hits him suddenly and profoundly, bringing forth long buried memories of arguing with Laura and Cora, the constant and well loved background noise of their mom puttering around in the kitchen as they did.

He doesn’t know what it means that he gets those same feelings sitting here with Stiles, but he knows he’s always been a little selfish, so maybe it’s no surprise that he just sits back and enjoys it now. He’ll probably have to pay for it later, but he’s determined to enjoy this moment. And the unexpected companionship that caused it.

They settle into a rhythm after that. Stiles continues to cook, but he’s gotten better at cleaning up after himself. He actually puts things in the correct places too, for the most part, when he doesn’t get sidetracked by his ADHD.

Derek’s not sure what it says about himself that he’s less bothered and more amused when he finds clean plates, fresh from the dishwasher, stacked in the refrigerator for instance, instead of in the cupboard where they belong.

“Oh my god!” The blush on Stiles’ cheeks is splotchy and distracting when Derek raises an eyebrow and pulls out the stack of plates. He holds them out, one eyebrows raised. “I was. Um… Ok I have no idea. But Scott called and I hardly ever get to talk to him since he left for med school, and I got distracted and… yeah.” Stiles isn’t looking at him and there’s a tangy aroma floating off of him that’s strangely sour, not the herb rich and spicy scent that’s slowly been seeping into every corner of Derek’s life lately.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says. “This is why I’m pretty sure it’s like, some sort of cosmic joke that I’m an omega. I’m shit at all this stuff.” Stiles waves his hands around himself, encompassing the plates that Derek’s still holding, and then the clothes that they can both see in the living room, thrown across the back of the couch-- Derek’s been trying to get him to pick those up since he moved in over a week ago.

“Stiles. It’s fine.”

“So like, I get it if… what?”

Derek sighs. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I think it’s… “ He knows his face is twisted into an expression that’s probably closer to pained than anything else.

“Oh my god.” Stiles’ face lights up like a fucking Christmas tree. It’s alarming, and just as beautiful in its own unique Stiles way as everything else he does. “I’ve totally grown on you, haven’t I?”

“Like a fungus,” Derek mutters, dejected, but not denying it.

“Dude,” Stiles says meaningfully. He wraps his arms Derek’s shoulders, practically plastering himself all over him. Derek doesn’t have a chance to brace himself for the feeling of Stiles nuzzling into his neck; the sensation of the sharp ridge of Stiles’ upturned nose brushing along the underside of his jaw is close enough to scenting, that even if that wasn’t Stiles’ intention, it makes all of Derek’s instincts writhe in pleasure and satisfaction.

“Come on dude, don’t leave me hanging,” Stiles murmurs hotly into his skin, the words lighting up and down Derek’s spine like they’re made of electricity. Or maybe magic would be the better word, because Derek is helpless but to do as Stiles asks, and before he can consciously even think about it, his arms are coming up to wrap around Stiles’ waist in return, completing the circuit between them.

They stand like that for what feel like an eternity, just enjoying the simple contact. For Derek, it feels like coming home. For all that he’s the alpha, the one that is supposed to be strong and fierce-- the protector-- it’s in the arms of an omega that he finally feels safe.

Stiles’ arms around him bring him back to the warmth and stability of his mother’s arms. To the security of family and pack, and what it could be like to be loved—if only he would allow it.

With that thought Derek carefully extricates himself from the embrace. He doesn’t let himself notice-- much-- how soft and wide and utterly content Stiles’ eyes are, like he’s somehow gotten as drunk off of the contact as Derek feels.

“It’s fine, Stiles,” Derek repeats himself, his words soft and more gruff than he intends. “I like you here.” And then, before Stiles can say anything else, Derek turns his back and walks away.

Laura visits.

Derek finally sort of understands why she likes Stiles so much, too. She’s always something of a whirlwind, coming into his life and stirring everything up, inexplicably making messes without even touching anything. Derek’s always amazed at how much damage she manages to accomplish in the span of a few minutes, how much noise and commotion she can bring with her.

Derek will probably never tell her that he loves her for it, a little-- about as much as he hates her for it.

“It’s good to see you, honey,” she tells Stiles, leaning forward to brush their cheeks together in greeting. “Derek,” she says. Her hands stay on Stiles’ shoulders as she repeats the scenting gesture with him, and Derek half imagines that some of Stiles’ scent is getting transferred to him as well. And then he promptly feels guilty for the thought. Scenting in that way is intimate and indicative of friendship and trust. Stiles hasn’t offered that to him, and Derek feels ashamed that he would steal, even unconsciously, something like that without Stiles offering it up to him freely.

“How are things going?” Laura asks, stepping away from both of them to take a not-so-surreptitious look around the apartment. She turns around and raises an amused eyebrow at Derek once she finally manages to get a good idea of the state of things.

It’s Stiles who answers though, ignorant of the silent exchange going on between Derek and Laura. “Really well. I mean, I think. Derek’s been really nice to me. He’s kind of prickly on the outside, but he’s really just a big teddy bear at heart.”

Derek can’t decide if he wants to die more from Stiles’ words, or the complicated series of expressions that pass over Laura’s face at Stiles’ words: surprise, amusement, knowing-- god, that one is the worst-- and then something that looks a whole lot like she’s fighting back a fit of hysterical laughter.

“Well then, it seems I’m not needed here after all,” Laura says, adjusting the utility belt of her uniform.

Stiles waves a dismissive hand at her. “It’s like you don’t even know me, Laura. I’m pretty sure I could make an abominable snowman fall in love with me,” and then, apparently realizing what he just said, he adds, “Not that Derek-- I mean, that’s about as likely as an actual abominable snowman falling in love with me. Considering they’re creatures of myth and fantasy, I’d say that’s not too likely.”

Laura rolls her eyes. “The problem is that I do know you, Stiles,” Laura says, amused. She leans forward to peck him on the cheek. If she’d done that to Derek, he’d think it was condescending, but Stiles eats it up, pressing his cheek against her lips to deepen the contact like he’s touch starved. Laura rolls her eyes, and delivers in style, pressing half dozen more kisses in quick succession to Stiles' cheek in a way that has him squirming with laughter.

It has Derek squirming too, only he can’t quite decide if what he feels is jealousy, or pleasure at seeing Stiles smiling and getting along with his sister in such an easy and familiar way.

“Geddoff,” Stiles breathes, shoving her away a second later. She lets him push her, going easily as if she weren’t an alpha, and couldn’t hold her ground against Stiles until the sky fell.

“Fine, fine,” Laura agrees, and once they’ve both settled a little, Laura’s face grows more serious. Derek realizes her ploy, now. She’d been softening Stiles up for the more difficult part of the conversation. “So I drove over with Melissa to the hospital in Redding to see your dad yesterday, by the way. "

“Yeah.” Stiles deflates. “He told me when I talked to him on the phone last night. I miss him. I wish they would transfer him back to Beacon Hills now that he’s recovering.”

Laura shrugs sympathetically, her eyes going soft. “They’re taking good care of him over there. Better than they’d have been able to here. Melissa made sure of it.”

Stiles huffs, “I can believe it. Melissa is a force.” Despite the words, and his amused tone, Derek hates the whiff of sadness that comes off of him. “It’s just that this is the longest I’ve ever been away from him. It’s even harder with Scott all the way across the country in med school. Derek’s been…” Stiles pauses to smile at Derek, softly, and the sadness around him dissipates a little. “He’s been really wonderful. It’s just been a weird few weeks.”

Laura pats Stiles on the shoulder. “The doctors were talking like they were going to let him come home soon, Stiles. He’ll be back for you to mother hen before you know it.”

“I don’t--” Stiles winces, clearly self aware enough not to argue, “Ok. Yeah. Thanks. And thank you for everything else too, Laura. You and Derek both.”

Laura rolls her eyes and punches Stiles lightly in the shoulder. “Your dad’s done a lot for me. I don’t mind. I don’t think Derek does either.” She casts Derek a quick, wicked, look when she says this, and Derek is just grateful that Stiles doesn’t seem to see it. “But in the meantime… do I smell your famous snickerdoodles?”

“Is everything Stiles makes famous?” Derek mumbles under his breath, for lack of anything better to say. No one answers him.

“I already packed some up for you to take to the station.”

“So like, I think it’s really stupid that you spend $5 on a coffee at that snotty shop down the road. Every. Day. Derek.” Stiles says, plopping a steaming mug down in front of where Derek is leaning against the kitchen counter the next morning, muzzily rubbing at his eyes as he tries to wake up enough to head out on his morning run.

Derek blinks down at the coffee mug. And then blinks again, because where in the world had Stiles found that? It says “Classy, Sassy and a Bit Smart Assy” in bold black letters across the side. “Um.”

Stiles is biting his lip to fight a smile. “I totally laughed my ass off when I found it,” he admits. “Whoever got it for you knows you well. I’m guessing Laura, amiright? Although classy could probably be debatable.”

“I have no idea,” Derek says, feeling a little bowled over. Six AM is too early for this.

“Well, my point still stands. I think you should curb your spending habits.”

“I can afford to buy a coffee in the morning if I want to,” Derek says defensively.

“Yes I know, Derek.” Stiles says, patting him gently on the shoulder.

Derek melts into the touch for a second before he catches himself.

“And you can also afford to buy a freakin' expensive espresso machine. You should take advantage of it-- dude, I looked that brand up and are you crazy? Actually, I know you are, so you don’t have to answer that. Anyway, lucky you, I worked as a barista a couple of summers ago. It was only for like a week, before they fired me, but I still learned how to make a decent latte...” Stiles trails off, looking bashful.

He’s got this look about him, his shoulders are raised and his palms are upturned, that reads ‘what? Don’t judge me’ so strongly that Derek’s not actually sure if Stiles says the words, or he just hears them in his head.

“So you might as well, you know, use it. Or let me use it, I guess.” Stiles pauses as a thought occurs to him. “Um. Thanks, by the way, for not ripping my throat out.”

Derek, still feeling completely steamrolled, just waves his hand dismissively. He’s awake enough now, or at least his nose is awake enough, to have picked up on the scent of coffee to the point of actively and systematically dismissing everything else.

His ego isn’t quite on board enough that he’s willing to break the sudden and intense stubborn streak that rears it’s head though, and it’s a force of will to ignore the steaming mug. He likes his coffee from the shop down the street, dammit.

He’s also not sure he’s willing to surrender one more part of his life to Stiles and his messes and his otherness.

So when Stiles nudges the coffee mug a couple of inches closer to him, Derek snarls at him. He’s still barely awake, so it’s not hard to muster the necessary irritability. Unfortunately, it’s that same fact that makes the coffee so damn appealing, Stiles be damned.

Maybe now is not the time to start building walls.

“I promise you’ll like it,” Stiles cajoles, clearly not put off by Derek’s snarling. Then again, it’s not like it’s been very effective so far anyway.

Stiles pushes the coffee mug another inch toward him with the tip of his index finger, and Derek follows the motion with his squinted eyes. He’s helpless to do anything else, honestly. It’s close enough that a curling wisp of steam finds its way into his nose with each inhale, the rich scent of the coffee assaulting his senses in the best-worst way.

“Come on Derek.” Stiles’ voice is pitched low and husky. He’s moved closer, and the intimate pitch of his voice makes Derek shiver and finally give in. He grudgingly curls a hand around the warm ceramic of the mug, and when he finally takes a sip his eyes flutter shut. He moans a little despite himself; the taste is even better than the smell. Dark but sweet, with the perfect undertones of bitterness and vanilla richness. It’s so much better than anything he’s ever bought.

He rolls the flavor of the first sip around in his mouth, not even bothered by the fact that it burns his tongue. He feels the skin heal in the matter of a second, and then he takes another, more careful sip.

Stiles clears his throat. “Good?”

Derek’s eyes flutter open to the sight of Stiles looking a little like a deer caught in the headlights. His Adam’s apple bobs as he tries to swallow, and that alluring pink is splotching at his cheeks again.

“How did you know?” Derek asks. “How did you know I liked...?” Derek licks a bit of foam off his top lip and raises his vanilla latte in question.

He never ordered it that way from the coffee shop down the street. He was too embarrassed, honestly. What did it say about him to show up in his running outfit and order a vanilla latte? Or a mocha cappuccino? The few times he’d brought his cups back with him with coffee still in it, the coffee was always plain black.

Stiles shrugs and the color starts to seep from his cheeks. He leans forward on his own elbows next to Derek, close enough that their arms are touching companionably. He side eyes Derek. “Don’t think I didn’t notice how many of my cookies you ate yesterday. I know for a fact that a lot less of them made it to the sheriff’s station than should have, and I’m pretty sure your sister couldn’t have eaten that many in the five minutes it took her to drive them there. You’ve got a total sweet tooth dude, don’t deny it.”

It’s Derek’s turn to blush, but he doesn’t. Deny it, that is.

“It’s totally cool though. Just between you and me, deputy Parrish could stand to watch his figure anyway. You, on the other hand?" Stiles bumps their shoulders.

Fighting a pleased smile, Derek takes another careful sip of his coffee and hums noncommittally over the rim of the coffee mug.

Things change after that, and more than just Derek’s routine.

Something changes between Derek and Stiles. Something subtle. It’s a brush of shoulders as they pass each other in the hall on their way to their own rooms each night, or a meeting of eyes across the kitchen. It’s the way their fingers brush together each morning when Stiles hands over Derek’s coffee.

But mostly it’s a scent.

Derek’s grown used to having Stiles’ spicy scent floating around his apartment, mingling enticingly with his own, but this is different. More. And it’s starting to make Derek crazy, building, day by day, hour by hour, under his skin like an itch that he can’t quite scratch.

He tries to though, and it takes a particular brand of craziness--or denial probably-- for Derek to simultaneously attempt to convince himself that the scent slowly starting to invade his apartment isn’t arousal. Especially while he’s got his own hand wrapped firmly around his dick.

“Fuck,” Derek moans. He arches his hips off his bed, his toes curling into the sheets as his hand works furiously. He’s approaching the point of too much, all his senses lit up and humming. Approaching, and yet… Derek throws his head back, practically sobbing his frustration. He’s done this so much lately that he’s almost desensitized to it, can’t quite find that last bit of stimulation to push him over the edge.

There’s a sudden knock on the door, and Derek brings his free hand up to his mouth, biting into his fist to stifle a sound that’s half moan, half sob. He hates himself a little for the fact that the hand around his dick doesn’t slow it’s frantic stroking. If anything, he only picks up the pace.

Stiles knocks again. “Derek? I’m heading to bed.” Stiles sounds tired. He’s looked it too, the last day or so. And it’s an odd sensation that overtakes Derek in that moment. Something like affection, even as the sound of Stiles’ voice provides the last little bit of stimulation Derek needs to push him over the edge.

He bites deeper into his fist and his eyes clamp shut. His entire body spasms, his hips stuttering. His hand freezes on a final downstroke, and Derek rips his hand out of his mouth, fists a handful of the sheets instead. He hisses, practically growls through his descended fangs as his hand cups around his suddenly inflated knot.

Come shoots onto his still flexing stomach muscles, slicking the spaces between his abs.

Derek licks his dry lips. Takes a deep breath and presses his head into his pillow as his heart rate settles back into something resembling normal. “Fuck,” he breathes again-- again, for what feels like the dozenth night in a row-- resigned.

Stiles looks terrible. He’s pale, and sweating, his eyes dark and sunken in his face. His hands tremble a little when he hands over Derek’s coffee, and Derek is worried enough that, instead of taking the mug, he reaches out the extra distance needed to grabs Stiles’ wrist instead.

“Stiles.” Derek hopes the command in his voice comes across, and it must.

Their eyes meet. Stiles licks his lips, and then his shoulders slump and he looks away. “I’m um...I think, maybe, I might possibly be… goingintoheat,” Stiles says, the last bit rushing past his bitten lips in a jumble.

There’s dead silence for a moment after that. Stiles’ words cause Derek’s entire world to narrow, his vision tunneling to the slick of sweat running down Stiles’ forehead, peripherally to the bob of Stiles’ Adam’s apple. Derek’s skin burns where his hand is curled around Stiles’ wrist, the flesh there hot-- too hot.

Derek’s nose burns, and he can practically taste the pheromones that are suddenly making a whole lot of sense now, his brain finally deciphering what his dick had been picking up on all week. God, he’d been such an idiot. How had he not guessed?

“I--” Derek clears his throat and he drops Stiles’ wrist like it’s burned him-- hell, it’s not that far from the truth-- and he backs up a couple of steps just so he can catch his damn breath. This is bad. “I should--”

“Wait, Derek.” Stiles says, stepping forward, closing a little of the distance that Derek just attempted to put between them. Stiles swallows. “Wait.” He licks his lips, and another bead of sweat rolls down his face. “I can’t-- I need.”

“I can’t help you. I don’t know how to help you Stiles. I should go.” Derek turns on his heel and starts to walk out of the kitchen, only to get pulled up short by a hand on his shoulder.

“Derek, please.”

Derek takes a deep breath. He’s holding himself so stiff that he’s beginning to ache with it. Ache like his dick is starting to between his thighs. “Stiles,” Derek breathes.

“I’m not asking you to-- to fuck me Derek,” Stiles says, bordering on the hysterical. “Jesus.” Stiles’ hand clenches a little around Derek’s arm, then releases, although he might as well have been an alpha using all of his strength to jerk Derek around to face him. The effect is the same.

“It doesn’t have to be sexual,” Stiles continues quickly, although he’s no longer willing to meet Derek’s eyes. That intriguing color is back in his cheeks, splotching all the way down his neck and vanishing below the overly stretched collar of his t-shirt. It makes him look more healthy and alive than he has in days. “It just helps to have… someone touching me. Physical contact with an alpha makes it go by faster. My dad-- he’s helped me before. My friend Scott too.”

Derek swallows thickly. This is such a bad idea. Every bone-- God, he swallows back a hysterical laugh-- in his body is telling him that this is a disaster waiting to happen.

“And if I don’t? Look, Stiles. I should take you to the heat clinic. They can--”

Stiles flinches like Derek’s just slapped him. His arms wrap around his stomach in a gesture that Derek hasn’t seen from him in weeks. He half turns away. “Yeah. I guess.”

He looks so dejected that it makes Derek’s heart clench. “What would I--” Derek licks his lips. He closes his eyes and takes a centering breath. “If I-- What would I need to do?”

“Derek, you don’t need to do anything. This wasn’t part of the deal when you agreed to let me stay with you.”

“No, it’s fine. It’ll be fine,” Derek says, although he’s fairly sure he’s mostly trying to reassure himself. He’s decided though, and it’ll be worth it if he never has to see that look on Stiles’ face ever again. “So?”

“A uh, bed would be a good place to start,” Stiles says, not meeting his eyes. He’s blushing again. “Yours, actually. It’ll smell more like alpha.”

Derek nods. He can’t bring himself to say anything; he’s afraid something stupid will come out of his mouth, or worse, something incriminating, so he just nods and turns on his heels. He walks to his room, although the sound of Stiles’ socked feet keep pace behind him. He doesn’t stop until he’s standing right next to his bed, the tips of his fingers barely brushing across the soft fabric of his comforter. He turns to face where Stiles is fidgeting in the doorway, his hands curled in the hem of his t-shirt.

“Not too late to change your mind? Or I can just… I mean, it sucks to go through this alone, but it’s not like I haven’t before. It just lasts longer…”

“Stiles.” Derek forces himself to calmly sit down on the side of the bed. He holds one of his hands out, palm up. “Come here.”

“Right.” Stiles laughs, the sound of it dry and bitter, but then their eyes meet from across the room, and the sharp twist of Stiles’ mouth turns into something more genuine. His laugh does as well, and Derek finds himself chuckling too.

Stiles moves cautiously toward Derek. His laughter fades with every step he takes, but he keeps smiling and his eyes continue to stay crinkled at the corners. He takes Derek’s hand, lets himself be pulled down to sit on the bed as well. “Ok so, just um…” Stiles swallows and holds Derek’s gaze as he scoots back on the bed, their fingers staying linked until the last possible second, when Stiles slowly starts to recline. “Hold me?” Stiles asks, and when Derek nods, Stiles carefully turns onto his side, facing away from Derek.

Derek swallows and lies down behind Stiles, keeping a solid few inches between their bodies, even when he drapes one arms loosely around Stiles’ shoulders. “This ok?”

“Yes. No. I don’t--” Stiles then proceeds to destroy Derek’s attempt at creating distance between them with a well placed and deliberate shimmy of his hips. Derek fights back a hiss as Stiles’ ass presses against his erection, but if he feels it he doesn’t pull away or say anything about it.

Stiles’ entire body is burning up in Derek’s arms, so it’s disconcerting how hard he’s shivering. “Shhh,” Derek murmurs, pressing the words into Stiles’ clothed shoulder. He soothes his hands along Stiles’ sides and stomach, and he’s pleased when it seems to work a little. “Is it always like this?”

Stiles doesn’t answer at first, and Derek’s not sure if he will at all, so he’s surprised when Stiles finally says, softly, “No. I mean, sometimes I guess? But I think because I’m around an alpha that my body recognizes as, uh, compatible? It’s making it worse.”

God, how is Derek supposed to respond to that? So he doesn’t, just continues to run his hands soothingly over Stiles' sides. He keeps shivering, even whimpers a little every once in awhile. He also smells… If Derek had hoped that the appearance of Stiles in pain might diminish his own arousal, he’d been wrong. Omegas go into heat for a reason, and it’s a biological imperative that they are clearly not following through on.

“I’m not actually helping, am I?” Derek asks a while later. It’s probably been close to two hours and Stiles has just calmed down after one of his more restless phases. They seem to come and go, and Derek honestly isn’t sure which one of them is going to break first.

“It’s never been like this before,” Stiles admits, his voice tight and strained. “I’m sorry. It’s too late for a clinic, but if you… I get it if you want to go, is what I’m saying.”

Derek sighs and tightens his arms around him a little more. “No.” He’s honestly not sure if he even could leave. As much as his own body is on fire, burning in sympathy with Stiles’, his instincts are fully engaged as well. He’s not sure if the wolf that’s pacing around just beneath his skin would actually let him leave Stiles while he’s like this, vulnerable and heat drunk and so, so beautiful.

Stiles stiffens a little at his answer, and then relaxes all at once. “Maybe… talk to me? Probably won’t help, but it might…” Stiles groans a little as a spasm rocks through him. When he continues speaking, he sounds breathless. “Might make the time go by a little faster.”

“What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything, dude. Just distract me.”

Derek closes his eyes, tries to think. “I’m really bad at this.”

Stiles snorts. “No shit,” and then settles down like a kid snuggling under the covers in preparation for a particularly good story.

“This will shock you, I know. But I basically skipped health class in high school. It’s why I don’t really know how to help you.”

Stiles twitches, his head tilting to rest against Derek’s chest. Derek thinks it so he can hear better “I dated this girl back in high school, Paige. I thought…” Derek trails off. “She was a beta. I thought she was going to be it, you know?”

“And she’s why you skipped health class?” Stiles asks.

“Why learn about sex in theory when you can experience it in person,” Derek snarks back. It’s a little awkward joking about sex at the moment, but he’s glad that he did when Stiles gives a full bodied laugh.

“Dude. Fair point.”

“I also figured there was no point in learning about any other dynamics, because I knew everything relevant about alphas that there was to know, and betas are easy,” Derek is quiet for a moment. “And I was so sure that she was going to be...”

“It?” Stiles suggests for him.

Derek hums.

“So what happened to her?” Stiles asks softly.

“She died.”

Stiles makes a little hurt noise.

“Not before I pretty much made an ass out of myself though. I was kind of a…jerk back then.”

“Derek, you’re a jerk now.”

Derek huffs a little. He tightens his arms around Stiles briefly before releasing the pressure. “Fair. But more like, a jock, I guess. I got by on the minimum work possible. Treated other people like shit. I thought the world revolved around me, you know? She was always so smart though, and she wouldn’t let me get away with anything-- she made me want to be better. You remind me of her.”

Stiles stills in his arms, and then his hand finds Derek’s and he twines their fingers together, squeezes. “Thanks, I think.”

“It’s a good thing,” Derek reassures, whispering the words into Stiles’ shoulder. “When Paige got hit by that car? I thought I was never going to love anyone ever again. I went a little crazy, and then I met Kate. She was older. She… made me feel like the adult I thought I was. I thought losing someone made me a grown up, made me old enough to be what she needed. I was wrong and it ended badly. I haven’t…”

Derek licks his lips and takes a breath. He can’t figure out why he’s saying all of this. How Stiles’ simple request for Derek to talk to him has led them here. Maybe it’s because no one has ever asked him to talk before, not really asked and meant it. He’s not sure Stiles did either, and yet, Derek is absolutely certain that Stiles cares. That he wants to know this. For all the tension between them right now, for all that Derek’s instincts are screaming at him to turn Stiles onto his hands and knees and just take, this moment, more than anything, is about trust. Stiles is trusting him with his body. The least Derek can do is offer the same level of trust in return.

“I haven’t really trusted anyone since Kate. I haven’t let anyone into my life."

“And here I come, not giving you a whole lot of choice in the matter,” Stiles jokes, or tries to. The words sound flat and not like much of a joke at all.

“Yes. But I don’t mind.” The words come out sounding like an admission, as much to himself as to Stiles. They’re strangely freeing.

“Thank you for telling me that.”

Derek shrugs, a little too quickly, and he knows that Stiles can feel the motion from the way they’re pressed so close together. He clears his throat. “I’m sorry. That’s probably not what you wanted me to--”

“No. I’m glad you talked to me. I don’t have anything that can really match that, but I like knowing more about you and I’m glad that you trust me.”

Neither of them speaks for a few minutes after that, and Derek thinks Stiles actually falls asleep. His breathing has finally evened out a little, and he’s not shivering as badly, at least.

The quiet doesn’t last for long, but it never gets really bad again. Sometimes they talk a little more, although nothing as serious as Derek’s talk of Paige and Kate.

Their fingers stay twined in a loose hold for the rest of the night.

When the morning sun finally starts to slowly peek through the bedroom window they’re both exhausted, but they’ve somehow passed the night with a minimum of awkwardness and discomfort. Derek’s not sure when Stiles finally fell asleep-- real sleep-- either, but his chest is rising and falling easily, so he must have at some point in the last hour. His skin is tacky with stale sweat, and he’s no longer burning up and shivering.

Derek stares fondly at Stiles and carefully extricates himself from the bed. Stiles frowns a little, his hands absently searching around him before finding a pillow and hugging it happily to his chest. Derek chuckles and kneels on the bed only long enough to tuck the blankets around Stiles' body like he remembers his mother doing for him once upon a time. For all that the gesture is reminiscent of Derek’s childhood, there is absolutely nothing childlike about Stiles himself. Morning sunlight highlights the sharp angles of Stiles’ jaw, the enticing upturn of his nose. Now that he’s not curled in on himself with heat cramps, Stiles’ limbs have spread out in a loose starfish pose, emphasizing the lankiness of him. His lips are bitten red and parted just enough that it’s all Derek can do not to lean forward and kiss them, and even with his heat over, he smells amazing. He smells like Stiles and Derek, and home, and something a whole lot more dangerous. Dangerous because all Derek wants to do is lie back in bed with him and never leave. Because he thinks he could actually be safe, with Stiles. He thinks maybe his heart could be, too.

Derek spends only a moment longer digging his workout clothes out of his dresser, and then he slips quietly from the room. Stiles needs to sleep and Derek-- Derek is exhausted too, but he’s also got all this pent up energy burning in his veins, and if he can’t fuck it out of his system, he’s determined to run it out. He’s sure Stiles will never even notice that he’s gone.

It takes a few hours of pushing himself, but Derek finally starts to feel better. Starts to feel like he’s worked some of the fire out of his system. He feels good in a way he hasn’t in years.

He’s eager to return home, eager to see Stiles and get one of his famous lattes, and then maybe they can just spend the afternoon resting, content to spend the day in each other’s company. Derek even thinks he could be okay with watching Guy Fieri. For a while. If Stiles were so inclined.

So he’s not prepared to return to the apartment to find Stiles packing.

At first his brain can’t process what he’s seeing, because it looks an awfully lot like Stiles is cleaning. Stiles has definitely made progress in that regard over the last few weeks, has learned to compromise enough that he doesn’t outright piss Derek off, at least. Still, more often than not, Derek is the one who breaks down first between the two of them once the apartment gets too messy.

It’s the suitcase that ultimately tips Derek off that this is something different.


Stiles whips around, startled. He looks better than he has all week. There’s color in his cheeks and he looks settled in his skin. His hands aren’t shaking where they’re holding a pile of haphazardly folded clothes. He’s grinning.

“Derek! Hey. Didn’t hear you come in.”

“What’s going on?”

“So I got a call from Melissa like an hour ago-- you’ve been gone for hours, by the way, everything alright? Anyway, she said my dad’s been released from the hospital in Redding and she’s heading over there to pick him up. I’m finally getting out of your hair. It’s probably a relief, amiright?”

“Right, definitely.” Derek agrees, feigning a smile that he’s certain doesn’t reach his eyes. “No more of your messes everywhere. And I can stop looking for my plates in the refrigerator, it’ll be nice.”

Stiles doesn’t flinch, exactly, but Derek can tell he’s struck his mark. He hates himself, and he hates even more that the lump in his throat keeps him from taking the words back.

It’s like the world is collapsing in around him. He knew, of course he knew that Stiles wasn’t going to stay forever. But he’d thought that he would have more time. More time to do what, he has no idea. But after last night, he’d hoped. God, he doesn’t even know. But last night had meant something; at least it had to him. He hasn’t opened up and trusted someone like that-- ever, really.

Obviously it hadn’t meant anything to Stiles, though. He was obviously just happy to be going home, if his eagerness to pack up his things was any indication. Happy to leave Derek.

“I’m going to-- shower. I need to--” Derek hooks a thumb over his shoulder. He can’t meet Stiles’ eyes.

He doesn’t look back, either, and when he wanders out of his room half an hour later, Stiles is gone.

It’s weird being alone in the apartment. Everything is too quiet and too clean.

Mostly, Derek doesn’t know what to do with himself. He feels like a wandering ghost with nothing to do, in the absence of Stiles’ messes to clean up.

He’s lonely in a way he must have been before, but he’d been so used to that loneliness that he hadn’t recognized it. Or he'd been too stubborn to admit it.

It’s that same stubbornness that keeps him from doing anything about the aching emptiness now, even if he can’t actively bring himself to deny what he’s feeling. The blinders have been drawn away from his eyes, and he can’t pretend that he doesn’t know how it feels to not be lonely, now that he’s had Stiles in his life. Stiles, with his laughter and his messes and the exotic smells of his cooking. Derek can’t pretend that he doesn’t know what it’s like to have the simple comfort of someone sitting on the couch next to him, just existing, with no expectation beyond wanting his company.

He survives though, because he’s always been really good at that, hasn’t he? So he starts buying his coffee from the shop down the road again, hating how bitter it tastes on his tongue with every sip.

He also stops cleaning up after himself, after a while.

It just takes too much effort. At least the clutter doesn’t make the apartment feel so sterile and cold.

“Oh my god, Derek.” Laura sighs, and pokes at a dirty glass with the tip of one of her fingernails. “You, my dear brother, are a mess.”

“No shit,” Derek mumbles, not bothering to get up from where he’s sprawled across his couch-- if he presses his nose into the cushions, he can sometimes catch a whiff of Stiles’ scent on the side where he used to sit. He’s also got the Food Network on, because he’s a masochist.

“Ok, enough. Up.” Laura is at Derek’s side, then, and she hauls him to his feet with a grunt of effort. Derek snarls at her, but she ignores him. “Shower, baby bro. You reek of manpain.”

“I don’t--”

Laura puts her hands on her hips, and juts her chin pointedly toward the hallway where the bathroom is, and it’s only because Derek has a long history of losing, when it comes to dealing with Laura while in one of these moods, that he gives in with relatively little fuss.

When Derek wanders out of the shower twenty minutes later, he has to pause in the hallway, his throat tight at the sound of dishes clanking together as they’re loaded into the dishwasher.

His heart pounds as he slowly inches toward the kitchen, and it’s only because he’s mostly expecting to be disappointed anyway, that he’s not that surprised to see Laura is doing his dishes for him. If he’s surprised at all, actually, it’s only because he’s not sure he’s ever actually seen her doing dishes, even at her own house. Laura is not one to stoop to doing housework very often.

Still, for one second a mad hope had bloomed in Derek’s chest that Stiles might be back. It’s a familiar pain that Derek feels in that moment, upon realizing that he’d been wrong. The kind of pain that he usually experiences around holidays, or birthdays that will never get celebrated again.

“Thanks,” Derek says, nodding at the clean sink, when Laura turns to look at him.

“Yeah, well. Don’t get used to it. It’s not like you to be such a slob, Der.”

Derek leans against the counter on his elbows, mostly because he’s surprisingly exhausted despite having done nothing that day. “What are you doing here, Laura?”

“What? A sister can’t visit her baby brother for no reason?”

“You don’t typically make a habit of it, no.”

“There’s no love in this family,” Laura huffs. “Fine, fine. I do have an agenda. There’s a dinner thing tonight and I need a plus one.”

Derek raises an eyebrow at her. “Aren’t you still dating that lawyer guy? What’s his name, Todd?”

“Toby. And yes. But he’s out of town on a business trip. So please Derek? Don’t leave me hanging. Besides, it’ll be good for you to get out of your apartment. You’ve been moping too much lately.”

“I do not mope,” Derek argues. God, he hates when she plays the ‘It’ll be good for you’ card, because he has a way of getting particularly screwed over when she does.

The last time she’d used it on him, Stiles had waltzed into his life.

“If you say so,” Laura says dismissively. “Come on. We should get going.” She eyes him thoughtfully, then reaches forward to spike his hair.

“Jesus, Laura. Not a kid,” Derek growls, ducking away from her.

She rolls her eyes and turns on her heals, leading him out the door. “Come on, then. We’re going to be late.”

Derek realizes his mistake immediately.

Laura hadn’t lied. It is a dinner thing. A potluck, to be exact. For the Beacon County Sheriff’s Department.

Derek has never spent much time around Laura’s coworkers. He’s met her partner, Jordan Parrish, before. And obviously he knows the sheriff. But that’s it.

Only, that’s not it.

Derek finally starts to clue in to Laura’s plan-- He spends a moment cursing his sister in increasingly creative ways like only a sibling can—and then, before he can talk himself out of it, he walks over to where Stiles is standing by himself at the edge of the crowd.

He looks good, standing around in jeans and a plaid shirt, arms crossed to ward off the chill fall air.

The potluck is being held in the parking lot of the sheriff’s station in order to hold the bonfire that is finally getting lit by a couple of deputies in civilian clothes. It’s cold though-- Stiles is shivering -- and it’ll be a while before the heat of the bonfire starts to fill up the space.

Derek has to fight off the very visceral memory of the last time he’d seen Stiles shivering like that.


Stiles startles, his wide eyes meeting Derek’s in surprise, and then his gaze flits down to the Jacket that Derek is offering him. “You don’t have to do that, Derek.”

Derek knows his voice sounds a little bitter when he says, quietly, “I know, but I want to,” and he hopes that Stiles understands that he’s talking about more than just the jacket. He’s talking about all the things that he wants to do with Stiles. Or more precisely, all the things that he surprised himself by wanting to do with him, over the last month, and that he won’t get a chance to do again.

Stiles’ lips quirk up into the faintest hint of a smile. “My hero,” he teases, pulling the dark blue canvas jacket around his shoulders. It’s not exactly Derek’s warmest jacket, but it seems to do the trick nonetheless.

Derek watches Stiles turn his face into the collar for a second and take a breath. The sight of it, the idea that Stiles is specifically looking for Derek’s scent-- breathing it in like someone who has been oxygen starved for far too long--stirs something low in Derek’s belly, and makes his chest ache with a loss that he knows he doesn’t have a right to feel.

“I’ve missed you,” Stiles says after a moment.

Derek hums in response, not trusting himself to say anything. He’s afraid of saying something that will run Stiles off. There’s a part of him that wants that, the part of him that’s still uncertain and even a little angry at how things were left between them. That would be the safe thing. There’s a much bigger part that’s just glad to be here in this moment with Stiles though, for as long as he’s allowed.

“How’s your dad?” Derek asks instead.

The sleeves of Derek’s jacket are too long for Stiles, falling past his fingers, and Stiles plays with the cuffs for a second before answering. “Fine. Really good actually. That’s what this--” Stiles waves his hand around them, indicating the potluck and the bonfire. The sheriff himself, where he’s surrounded by half a dozen deputies, everyone talking animatedly. “What this was all for. A welcome back to work shindig, or whatever. He’ll be on light duty for a while, but I guess it’s something, you know?”

Derek nods. “That’s good. I’m glad. I know this has been hard for you.”

Stiles is quiet for a minute after that. He turns a little away from Derek to watch the bonfire, which is finally starting to really pick up. The way the light flickers against his skin in the evening dusk makes Stiles look almost fae, painting him with shadows and angles that he doesn’t normally have in the bright light of day. It’s a surreal effect.

“It was hard, having my dad in the hospital,” Stiles finally admits, startling Derek from his whimsy. He turns, facing Derek directly again, and even face to face, the flickering firelight does nothing to diminish how lovely he looks.

Derek can’t help tracing the contours of his jaw, the long line of his throat. And fuck, but Derek would give anything to bury his face there, in the vulnerable place where Stiles is hot and vital, and just breathe him in.

Stiles shifts a little under Derek’s scrutiny, then laughs self deprecatingly under his breath. “Oh my god, you really aren’t making this easy. You look at me like--” Stiles look at Derek from beneath his lashes, then licks his lips. “It was hard, dealing with my dad getting shot and being in the hospital,” Stiles reiterates. “But walking away from you? From your apartment? That was harder. God Derek, it felt like ripping a part of myself out of my chest and leaving it behind. I haven’t felt whole for…”

“Weeks?” Derek suggests, because he gets it. He suddenly feels that same little blossom of hope open up in his chest that he’d felt when he’d walked in on Laura doing his dishes.

“Weeks,” Stiles agrees, taking a tentative step closer. “I’m not saying you’re like, my mate or anything. But I think there’s something between us Derek.”

“I miss your messes,” Derek says, abruptly.

Stiles blinks, startled, and then he laughs a little. “Dude, you are such a liar.”

“I miss your coffee,” he tries again. This gets a slightly more shy smile from Stiles.

“And I hate that my apartment doesn’t smell like…” Derek wants to say that he hates that it doesn’t smell like DerekandStiles, but that feels too revealing, so he says instead, “your baking, and all the weird Polish food that you cook.”

Stiles slaps a hand over his chest, “Be still my heart.” He’s obviously joking, but he’s biting his lip too, and his eyes are soft, like maybe he hears what Derek isn’t saying, too.

“I like that you aren’t a typical omega. I think you’re perfect.”

The smile falls off of Stiles face at that, replaced with something infinitely more serious. Derek has the sinking feeling that he’s said something wrong, and he can feel his shoulders tensing in preparation for the rejection that he’s sure is about to come.

“Derek Hale, you better kiss me right fucking now or so help me…” And before Derek has the chance to even think of doing just that, Stiles takes the initiative himself, throwing his arms around Derek’s shoulders. “Please?” Stiles asks, his lips a scant inch away from Derek’s own. He has to steal Derek’s own air to ask the question.

Derek thinks it’s the best idea he’s ever heard.

“No,” Derek says through his gritted teeth for like the dozenth time that morning. And ok, it’s not really the dozenth time he’s said it, probably only the second, if he’s being honest. But it’s really fucking hard to feel like a responsible adult with Stiles looking at him like he wants Derek to ravage him then and there. “My sister and your dad are right there, Stiles. I’m not going to--mmph.”

Stiles gives him an epic eye roll before he shuts Derek’s objections up. With his mouth. It’s mean, and total revenge for all the times Derek’s used that exact same ploy on Stiles himself.

“Fine,” Stiles breathes into Derek’s ear when he pulls away from the kiss. There’s a wicked glint in his eyes, and Derek is under absolutely no illusion that he’s won this. He’s proved right when Stiles’ hand works its way between their bodies, cupping Derek’s dick through his jeans.

The pressure is feather light, but it’s enough to drive them both a half step back so that Derek can half collapse against the counter, his head thumping against the kitchen cabinets.

“Everything ok in there, boys?” The sheriff calls. “Need any help?”

“Nope. We got it covered. Be there in a sec,” Stiles yells back, grinning wickedly and continuing to knead Derek through his jeans as he does; Stiles doesn’t stop until Derek is hard and panting, his eyes flashing with his desire to do more to Stiles than he knows they have the time or privacy for.

“Maybe you’ll think twice about turning down blowjobs in the future. I don’t care who’s in the apartment with us,” Stiles teases, stepping back. He winks saucily at Derek, and picks up the tray of scones. “Think you can manage to get the coffees?” And then Stiles is walking away, his hips swaying in a way that is definitely meant to be provocative.

“Fuck,” Derek curses, knocking his head against the cabinet again in an effort to clear it. He adjusts himself carefully and goes to pick up the second tray with the carafe of coffee and various mugs on it.

Derek follows Stiles scent and the sound of laughter into the living room where everyone is lounging around the coffee table, and he has to stop for a second when he gets close so he can just watch.

Stiles and Laura are talking animatedly on the couch, arguing about something or other. The sheriff is sitting in one of the armchairs that Derek had to buy to accommodate these little gatherings. He’s got a newspaper spread out on his lap, but Derek’s pretty sure he’s not actually reading it, if the distant look in his eyes and the slightly crooked smile on his face is anything to go by. He’s proved right when the sheriff’s eyes meet his own, both of them sharing a perfect understanding. This, this moment, the smells of Stiles’ baking in the air, the commotion of siblings bickering, the pull of mate in his heart: it’s what it’s all about.

This is family.