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Derek doesn’t jump when Stiles’ fingers touch his back, but only because he’s trying so hard not to. Ideally, he’d prefer to be curled into a ball, to wrap his arms around his knees and dig his fingernails into his own flesh hard enough to bruise. He’d like to be able to lower his head and hide. It isn’t a matter of pride that he doesn’t, it’s a simple matter of practicality. If it’s a little uncomfortable to be standing in the middle of the woods, completely naked and utterly exposed in the presence of another person, well, it’s not like he’s never done that before. The fact that he’s never done it in front of Stiles is new, but it’ll be fine. Derek will be completely, totally fine.

Then Stiles’ fingers start their downward drag, slow, firm, and deliberate, tracing either side of Derek’s spine. Derek can’t help that he quivers under that touch, that his muscles tense of their own accord, that his breath shudders raggedly out of him instead of holding steady.

Stiles says, “Stop squirming,” but that only makes it worse. The words come along with another kind of touch, the warm, damp brush of Stiles’ exhalation washing across the back of Derek’s neck, the shell of his left ear.

Derek curls his hands into fists, lifts his chin up, and bites down on a whimper. He says, “Sorry,” without any real conviction.

Stiles’ sigh brushes his shoulder blade, this time. Stiles’ hands, both of them now, sweep out from Derek’s spine and over his ribs, skating around to his sternum, Stiles’ arms wrapped around him in a careful almost-embrace. The paint mixture is cold and pungent; it smells of wet earth, oil, and flowers. Derek knows the color of it, knows it will stain his skin red, because he watched Stiles prepare it earlier, watched his broad hands working at the pestle, grinding everything together into a thick, smooth paint.

He hopes it clings to Stiles’ fingers, too, that there will be some evidence left after this is over, a matching mark to prove that Stiles really did touch him just so, just there.

“Arms up,” Stiles orders, softly. He’s given up on chiding Derek for the small flinches or the tension in his muscles. He told Derek to relax at least half a dozen times before he even finished mixing the paint, but obviously no amount of telling is going to work.

Derek knows this, already; he’s been trying to tell himself to calm down, too, but it’s no use. He’s stubborn. He doesn’t listen, even to himself. He obeys Stiles’ command, though, holds his arms out from his sides and manages not to lean into Stiles’ hands when those long fingers wrap around each arm just above the elbow, streaking four neat parallel lines around each one. Stiles runs some more lines down the lengths of Derek’s arms, traces the paths of tendons down the backs of his outstretched hands, draws in dots and spirals on his open palms like the pads of a wolf’s paw.

Derek doesn’t look down, keeps his eyes fixed instead on the far tree line, staring at nothing in particular. He knows each design, though, even without looking; he recognizes each brush of Stiles’ fingers, can visualize it just from feeling it, each wet touch its own kind of memorable.

Stiles’ hands are confident and unhesitating, his movements spare and professional. There was a time he wouldn’t have stopped making incredibly tasteless jokes throughout this entire procedure, but he’s older, quieter, and a little more settled now, after his first few years of college. (He’s a bit taller than Derek now, too, and his frame’s filled out. Derek tries not to think about it too much, for his own sanity.) His touch doesn’t linger anywhere, doesn’t offer an extra caress or falter when moving to more intimate territory. He paints sweeping arcs down the lines of Derek’s shoulder blades like claw marks, stops to dip his hands into the paint again, and then he steps in closer, reaches around to the front and presses his palms in a V at the crease of Derek’s hips and thighs, fingers smearing a point like an arrow just above Derek’s groin. Stiles drags his hands back, flat and broad, leaving thick red stripes over the crests of Derek’s hips and then down the curve of his ass, too, Stiles’ palms lifting and fingers separating to leave finger-spaced lines again, down the backs of Derek’s thighs to his knees.

The shudder is easy enough to hold back, but Derek can’t really do much about the stirring of his cock between his thighs, the way it jolts awake when Stiles steps around to the front, where Derek can see him.

It’s not as embarrassing as it should be. Stiles looks, and then tries to pretend that he wasn’t, and then looks again.

“Sorry,” Derek says. He definitely doesn’t feel sorry this time. He feels warm and over-sensitized everywhere the paint is streaked on him, everywhere Stiles has already been. He wants Stiles’ hands back, watches with his mouth open and his heart beating too hard as Stiles dips those fingers into the bowl again. They come out dripping bright red, like blood. Derek’s almost panting.

“It’s okay,” Stiles says. He swallows and looks down, and he’s blushing, rising pink across his cheekbones. “We talked about this before, it’s— I’m cool with it. Just a little different from the locker room, I guess.”

“If you don’t want to—”

“It’s fine.” Stiles interrupts almost too fast, and then flushes even brighter, steps up and starts painting again, begins with his thumbs at the corners of Derek’s jaw, drags them down either side of the windpipe, pressing hard enough to feel the thrumming of Derek’s blood beneath the skin.

Derek keeps his silence as Stiles paints the wings of his collarbones and the ridges of his shoulders, smears more arcing claw marks down his pectorals, over his stomach, to meet the wide stripe at his waist.

Stiles kneels when he moves on to Derek’s legs, and it’s also the first time he falters. He drops into a crouch first, reaching for the bowl and its paint, but when he turns without getting up, he seems to realize where he is — at Derek’s feet, his breath rushing over Derek’s twitching cock, his hands reaching almost of their own accord for Derek’s thighs. He pauses, his hands dripping a little, red pigment staining the meadow grass. Then he looks up, meets Derek’s eyes, and he must see something in Derek’s face because he shifts deliberately out of a crouch and onto his knees, and his hands settle at Derek’s hips, leaving clear palm prints there before he swipes his hand down to stripe Derek’s thighs and paint thick bands around his knees.

Derek’s breath shudders out of him, like he’s been running, and he would give anything to bury his hands in Stiles’ hair, to curl his fingers around the back of Stiles’ neck, to pull and hold and take. He doesn’t, though; he curls his fists a little tighter and doesn’t move. He can’t stop himself from looking, even if he should, even if it would be best. He looks down at the long curve of Stiles’ bare back and wants to paint it himself, to press a wet palm between Stiles’ shoulders, leave a crimson stain there to bind them together and give them a place to begin. He wants a common point of color that isn’t a shared spilling of blood.

Stiles hunches lower, carefully sketching dashed lines on Derek’s feet, a primitive rendering of where the bones sit beneath the skin, each capped with a delicate barb. Then he sits back, his weight pressing on his heels, surveying his work.

“You don’t have to,” Derek says.

Stiles shrugs and says, “I know. Are you going to be okay standing up for this? If you’d rather— I mean, you could get on your knees or something. If it’d be easier. The paint won’t smudge.”

It would be easier, and Derek isn’t proud. Not about this, anyway. He gingerly lowers himself into the grass, kneeling opposite Stiles, and shifts until he’s something close to comfortable, his legs spaced wide enough to accommodate the heated weight of his balls and the thick length of his cock.

The design calls for four chevrons, pointing toward the tip of Derek’s cock, mirrored both top and bottom. He’s never seen it painted before — has only ever seen his own mother painted this way at all, when she was Alpha — but he imagines it’s easiest to do with four fingers, could be finished in four easy strokes.

Stiles swipes his hands against the grass to wipe most of the excess pigment off, and then dips a single finger into the bowl.

He applies the first line with painstaking precision, starting from the bottom, his other hand carefully wrapping around Derek’s cock just under the head so he can lift it far enough to see what he’s doing. Derek grunts like he’s been punched, his whole body jerks, and the hands he digs into the earth underneath him are sharply clawed.

Stiles looks up like he’s making sure he isn’t causing Derek any pain, but his mouth is open and his pupils are blown wide and black, and Derek can taste the breaths that are gusting from Stiles’ lungs. There’s a mint flavor still lingering in Stiles’ mouth from the gum he was chewing before, and Derek wants to chase it, wants to press his tongue past Stiles’ teeth and nip the taste from those lips.

He doesn’t do that. But he doesn’t even try to stop himself from staring, from panting and whimpering and moaning and shaking as Stiles swipes that one long finger against his cock, over and over. It’s all he can do not to press into it, not to ruin the lines Stiles is so carefully applying. By the time the last one’s in place, Derek is beyond ready to come.

Stiles takes his hands away slowly, almost regretfully, and meets Derek’s eyes again. Stiles looks desperate, ruined, and they haven’t even done anything. Derek is almost afraid to think how he must look. Feral, no doubt. Dangerous.

If he does, Stiles doesn’t seem to notice. He just sways back, putting a little distance between them, and says, “Okay, so… now you just wash it off? Seems kind of pointless.”

Derek nods, but he doesn’t get up. He’s not sure he can get up yet. “The excess paint will come off, but the color will stain. It’ll stay for awhile.”

Stiles looks down at his own hands, frowning. Derek looks, too, but with less consternation and more hunger. Stiles hasn’t been particularly careful with the pigment, and his hands are well-marked with it nearly to the wrist, with a few streaks and splatters making it up to his forearms. It makes him look like something wild, like he’s been wrist-deep in a fresh kill.

Derek recognizes that that probably shouldn’t turn him on the way it does, but he doesn’t feel bad about it, either. He is what he is.

“Well, at least I was smart enough to take my shirt off first,” Stiles says, plucking morosely at his jeans. There are a few drips on the denim, already dried like drops of blood.

“You should do it naked, next time,” Derek suggests. “It’s traditional.”

Stiles stares at him, wide-eyed like he’s just been propositioned — which to be fair, he kind of has, but he’s also just extensively handled Derek’s dick, so he probably shouldn’t look so surprised about it.

“Go take your bath, Cujo,” Stiles says. He staggers to his own feet, looking a little unsteady, and goes to the edge of the lake, dipping his hands into the water and trying to scrub them clean.

Derek gets up himself, walks to the water’s edge and keeps walking, until he’s deep enough to lower himself all the way into the water. The paint comes off easily, coloring the water around him like he’s bathing away the remains of his own kill, and something about it is bone-deep satisfying, crouching there in the water, running his hands over himself and watching Stiles, who is standing at the water’s edge and watching him right back.

The water’s cold, but it does nothing calm his body, and when he walks back out of the lake, he’s still hungry, he still wants. Stiles just watches him, eyes trailing over Derek’s body, expression implying that he’s extremely satisfied with his handiwork. Derek is, too; the ritual is only symbolic, a tradition that Derek had thought old-fashioned, once. It may be, but he still feels better for having done it, feels stronger and less alone. Whether it’s the ritual itself or simply Stiles’ agreement to help him do it… well, it doesn’t particularly matter, in the end.

“You’re still naked,” Stiles says, and Derek’s obviously been standing still for too long, staring. “We might be pushing our luck here with the middle-of-the-day indecent exposure. This is a nature preserve, buddy, not a nudist colony.”

Derek doesn’t care, wants to push his luck a little further. He steps closer, presses himself right into Stiles’ space and says, “If you want me to stop—”

Stiles says, “Stop what, you’re not even doing anything,” and then he grabs Derek’s face with those red-stained hands and pulls him in across the last distance, brings their mouths together like it’s a fight and he’s determined to win it.

They stand that way for what feels like a long time, with Derek’s hands clamped around Stiles’ hips to keep him there, and Stiles’ hands roaming all over the skin he’s already marked, as if to claim that territory again, this time for himself. Their kisses are slow, deep, and drugging; when Stiles finally pulls back, Derek feels drunk with it, swaying a little on his feet, and Stiles has to hold him up, a little.

“I don’t have anything,” Stiles says. “I didn’t think to bring condoms to this strange werewolf holiday although I see now that it’s sexier and less awkward than I was expecting.”

Derek licks at Stiles’ throat, scrapes his teeth along the ridge of Stiles’ shoulder, and tries to remember how to make sense of speech. Stiles doesn’t make it any easier, when he wraps his hand around Derek’s cock and gives it a few long, experimental strokes, like the chevrons he painted there before are a form of operating instructions he can’t quite make sense of.

“Is this okay?” Stiles asks. He turns his face against Derek’s, although Derek has collapsed against him heavily enough that they can’t really kiss, and it’s only their cheeks rubbing together.

Stiles is probably asking whether a hand job is okay, but Derek’s pretty sure the answer to that should be obvious, so he only says, “Harder,” and pushes his hips against the pressure of Stiles’ hand, which obligingly tightens and picks up the pace.

His orgasm comes on quickly, even if he feels like he’s been waiting on it forever; it starts at the base of his spine, a tingling that feels like it runs along the lines that Stiles has drawn on his skin. He pushes his face into the curve of Stiles’ neck as he starts to come and hangs on for dear life, letting Stiles take the better part of his weight, even though he ends up dragging both of them down into the grass again, Stiles’ hand still working at him. He can’t find the will to think about anything but the pressure around his cock, the slow drag of air into his own lungs, the texture of Stiles’ bare skin beneath his hands. His toes curl against earth and grass and he tries to push in closer, tries to imprint himself against Stiles’ body, to leave a mark just the same way that Stiles did on him. He’s dizzy with the scent of Stiles’ skin, and he needs more, they need more, it’s never going to be enough.

“Okay, that was amazingly hot,” Stiles says. “Also kind of gross, but I need to wash these jeans anyway.” He wipes his hand on them, as if to drive the point home, but they’re not in too bad a state, at least; most of Derek’s come is soaking into the dirt instead of getting Stiles any filthier. “I hope you realize I’m going to be stealing some of your clothes as compensation.”

Derek makes a wordless noise that sounds like assent to his own ears, wraps his arms around Stiles’ broad shoulders and just hangs on for a minute, trying to get his brain back under his own control. Finally he says, “You like that?”

“What, the sex? It was awesome. You’re so fucking beautiful when you come, I can’t even tell you. Well, I mean, you’re beautiful all the time, but especially—”

“No, I mean the clothes,” Derek interrupts. “Is that… you like wearing somebody else’s clothes?”

He can feel Stiles’ smile curving against his own jaw, and then Stiles pulls back far enough to kiss his mouth, slow and soft. “Yeah, I really like that. But I’ll just warn you, in combination with my general reluctance to do laundry, it eventually drove my last boyfriend up the fucking wall. Do you like it?”

“Mmm,” Derek agrees. “Want you in my clothes. And out of them.” He reaches for Stiles’ jeans to return the favor, finds him half-hard beneath the zipper. “Can I…?”

“Ah, I’d rather not,” Stiles says, and gently takes Derek’s hand away. He reaches down his own waistband to adjust himself, and then he kisses Derek’s mouth again, to take the sting out of it. “I’d kind of like to do something more involved, when we get back to your house. I mean, if you want to.”

Derek wants to. Repeatedly. It takes a few minutes before he can get to his feet, though, and then it takes even longer for him to get dressed, because he may have supernaturally fast healing skills, but he’s never been quick to recover from an orgasm. Stiles laughs at him and tries to help him into his shoes while he’s still struggling with his shirt.

“You’re grinning,” Stiles tells him, once he’s managed to untangle himself from his own clothes. “I just thought you should know, in case you thought it might destroy your rep or something. People might not be as scared of you if you start grinning all the time. You have really cute front teeth, I know it’s difficult to maintain a bad-boy persona with that kind of—”

Derek stops him with a kiss, draws Stiles’ tongue in and then bites down on it a little, like a threat. Stiles laughs against his mouth, and Derek doesn’t stop grinning, the whole time he’s dragging Stiles home by his blood-red hand.