Derek had mostly given up on hating himself for this thing with Stiles. When it started he kept drawing lines and then stepping (stumbling backward, his senses all taken up with Stiles in his arms) over them. He'd accept that he was attracted but wouldn't say. He would admit it to Stiles but not act on it. He would kiss Stiles but not follow up. He would let it be a thing but not tell him it was love--tell him it was love but not a forever thing--tell him it was a forever thing but keep his hands out of Stiles's pants until he was legal--orgasms but no fucking--let Stiles fuck him but not fuck Stiles--oh, the hell with it.
So Derek didn't draw lines anymore (except for the one about "you decide when and how to tell your dad", which he had managed to hold firm on, mainly because Stiles was with him on ignoring that problem and hoping it would go away with Stiles's next birthday). Derek didn't beat himself up much anymore over what he was doing with Stiles, but that didn't mean he didn't know he was entirely the wrong boyfriend for a barely seventeen-year-old high school junior.
Derek consoled himself by trying to make sure that Stiles did normal, age-appropriate things. They were mostly things Derek hadn't done because of the fire; his own last two years of high school were a blur of guilt and misery and repeated moves. Things ought to be better for Stiles than they'd been for him; Stiles was human and normal and Derek wanted him to have those regular-kid experiences. He made Stiles go to lacrosse team parties and dances even though he hated the sweaty intoxicated smell of other people lingering on Stiles's skin afterward. He listened, reminding himself that this mattered to Stiles, while Stiles talked about quizzes and homework and lunchroom politics and lacrosse games.
And when, after an hour sitting on Derek's couch on yet another stolen night at Derek's apartment, Stiles said, "Hey, let's play truth or dare," Derek swallowed the anticipation of pain and humiliation and said, "Okay."
Stiles looked startled by Derek's easy agreement, and Derek said, "Don't tell me you don't have your first dare picked out."
Stiles, challenged, pulled it together immediately. "Obviously, but it was my idea, so you get to go first. Truth."
Derek frowned, casting about for something to ask.
He grinned when it came to him. "What is your name? Your actual full legal name."
"No," Stiles said immediately. "Uh-uh, you can find out when you sign the marriage license, dude. I'll take a dare."
Derek's brain almost didn't lock up at that blithe reference to their future marriage license, but in the utter failure of imagination that followed--the things he and Laura had dared each other to do as kids flashed briefly through his mind, and nearly all of them were potentially fatal to Stiles--he said, "Do a handstand."
"A--huh," Stiles said. Derek watched bafflement change to calculation as he looked around the room, and then Stiles scrambled up onto the back of the couch and started leaning backward, arms outstretched. Derek knelt up to watch as Stiles squirmed toward the ground; he managed to put his hands down with his knees still hooked over the back, and then started doing some flailing and kicking that was mesmerizing to watch and might have tipped the couch over if Derek hadn't been anchoring it, but didn't get Stiles's legs into the air together or his weight off the couch.
Stiles went still for a moment, panting. His shirt had fallen down over his face, and he was bare from his armpits to the top of his jeans and starting to sweat. Derek considered whether he could just claim a sex forfeit and derail the rest of the game without ever having to take a turn. Then Stiles let out a determined noise, arched his hips up and kicked, and Derek's hand shot out to catch his near ankle before he fell back down or pitched over.
Derek stood up and grabbed for Stiles's independently-flailing left leg, steadying him without taking any of his weight. Stiles's hips still rested against the back of the couch.
"Walk back," Derek directed, not sure if this was an extra dare or if one of them was cheating. He was as determined as Stiles to see Stiles succeed at this, now that he'd almost cracked his skull trying.
"Kay," Stiles panted from under his shirt. He took a couple of jerky, bone-jarring lurches forward, swinging his weight onto one hand and then the other and advancing inches each time. But it was enough to remove him from the couch's steadying support; only Derek's hands on his ankles were balancing him now.
"Butt in, legs together, point your toes," Derek instructed. He couldn't resist a glance at Stiles's bare feet, at the strange inverted exposure of his ankles and shins where the legs of his jeans sagged down. Stiles obeyed, and at the second when Derek felt his alignment fall into place, he let go.
Stiles lasted about a second and a half holding himself up and in a straight line. Derek caught him by the hips as he crumpled, hauling him back onto the couch so it wouldn't tip under them.
Stiles came up red-faced and watery-eyed and laughing. "That was awesome, I wanna do that again," he gasped before he was pressing a sloppy kiss to Derek's mouth.
Derek stepped backward onto the floor, stumbling under Stiles's clinging, shaky-limbed weight. Derek steadied Stiles again when he put his feet to the floor, and Stiles stood for a moment with his arms outstretched, getting his balance back.
"Dude, I feel like my brain's in upside down, gimme a second," Stiles said, and then stumbled in the direction of the kitchen.
Derek followed with a smile on his face.
Stiles stuck his head into the refrigerator, rummaging through the assortment of drinks that Derek kept on hand for the various needs of the entire pack and its hangers-on. "So, you're up, dude. Truth or dare?"
Not truth reverberated through Derek's head so hard that his throat seemed to be closed up by the impact. He knew that probably meant he should do it, but he was more occupied with steadying his heartbeat and breathing, thanking God once again that Stiles was human and couldn't hear his reaction. He couldn't even see it this time, all his attention apparently focused on selecting a beverage.
Derek scowled at the floor, trying to make himself say it.
Don't be a coward, he said it, you can say it, you can always take a dare instead--but he wouldn't, not if he'd invited it on himself. Trying to make himself offer it was like trying to stick his hand into a roaring flame. Finally Derek raised his gaze to Stiles's back--still leaning into the refrigerator, and Derek wondered with some tiny portion of his brain what Stiles was doing in there; the drink selection wasn't that extensive.
Derek breathed in through his nose and said flatly, "Dare."
Stiles whirled, grinning, and brandished a bottle of Mountain Dew. "Chug it."
Derek's face screwed up in horror at the thought--it tasted of nothing but chemicals and dyes, and he would be able to feel the high fructose corn syrup coating the back of his throat for an hour--but it was a harmless thing, really, gross and stupidly juvenile but not really cruel.
Derek rolled his eyes and snatched the bottle from Stiles's hand before he could think about it too much, wrenching the cap off and tilting the bottle up. He nearly choked when the cold vile liquid hit the back of his throat, cloyingly sweet and entirely artificial and stingingly acidic all at once. He made himself swallow and gulped it frantically down in a steady stream, turning his stomach more with every ounce that hit it. He felt a little dizzied and profoundly nauseated by the time he lowered the bottle and looked at Stiles's horrified-delighted face.
"Oh my God, dude, I didn't think you would actually--are you going to puke?"
Derek shut his eyes and swallowed. His stomach kept feeling worse for a minute or so while the last of the drink worked its way down his throat; he was vaguely aware of Stiles moving around and talking anxiously, but the speed of werewolf digestion was already clearing the overdose of sugar from his stomach and pumping it into his blood. He felt himself fill with restless energy, his heart rate leaping until it matched Stiles's, but at least his stomach was settling down.
He opened his eyes at that thought, and found Stiles anxiously lining things up on the counter: a box of baking soda, a bottle of water, a kitchen towel, crackers. Derek grabbed the orange box and tipped out a palmful of baking soda, cramming it into his mouth as he stepped over to the sink to wet his other hand. He scrubbed the inside of his mouth with his fingers, scouring away the awful taste and the clinging residue of syrup, swishing and spitting, then swishing and swallowing, until only the faint bitterness remained.
Only then--maybe five minutes had passed altogether since the second Stiles made the dare--did he turn to look at Stiles, who was watching him with wide-eyed, sincere contrition.
"I seriously did not think you would do it, man, I was just going to tease you when you said no," Stiles said. "You won't even kiss me when I've been drinking it, oh my God, why did you do that."
Derek blinked, shrugged, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "You dared me."
Stiles's eyes narrowed and he said, "I don't think you quite--okay, never mind, you pulled it off, that is a completed dare! My turn. Truth."
Derek tilted his head consideringly, looking Stiles up and down, but honestly--other than the continuing mystery of his first name (he'd vandalized his driver's license and school ID enough to hide it, and Derek wasn't quite at the point of staging a break-in to find his birth certificate or school records) there wasn't much Derek couldn't get the truth of from Stiles any day of the week. It was supposed to be a game, anyway.
Stiles was waiting, patient, still a little apologetic, willing to make it up to him.
Derek finally opened his mouth, licked his lips, and said with slow deliberation, "What... is your quest?"
Stiles's eyes lit up and he let out a bark of laughter. "Shit, dude, as of right now it's to keep you from derailing me into a Monty Python quote-off or jumping you from the force of your sneaky nerd-hotness. You don't win that easy, come on, we're playing Truth or Dare."
There was delight in Stiles's heartbeat, but no stutter of a lie.
Derek smiled slightly and said, "True enough. Your turn."
Again he tried to make himself say it--could any truth Stiles might ask for be worse than the lingering sick feeling in his stomach, the jittery feeling in every muscle that increased with every sugar-distributing beat of his heart?
Of course it could. "Dare."
Stiles nodded decisively. "Come here."
Derek followed Stiles back to the couch, and Stiles gestured for him to sit. Derek obeyed and Stiles leaned down over him and said, "I dare you to close your eyes and hold totally still for five minutes."
Derek stared at Stiles for several seconds, trying to read his intentions and failing. He smelled and sounded excited in the way that generally meant he was planning something, but that was no help.
Stiles raised his eyebrows.
Derek nodded. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and let it out, settling himself into a position he could hold easily. He'd certainly spent enough time in the woods learning to be still, to fade into his surroundings and not give himself away. But that had been without a pound of fake sugar whizzing through his veins and--even more distracting--Stiles hovering over him.
It would probably be the Mountain Dew all over again, Derek thought. Stiles wouldn't do anything really cruel, as such--just try to tempt Derek into moving. Derek swallowed hard and tried not to be aroused in anticipation of whatever Stiles was going to try as Stiles stepped around behind him.
Derek controlled his breathing, trying not to let his wires get crossed, to feel anticipation as a threat. It was Stiles, just Stiles, and it would be fun, even if it meant losing, having his control broken or nearly so.
Stiles leaned down over him, pressing his face into the side of Derek's throat, and looped both arms around Derek's shoulders.
"You're not allowed to talk," Stiles muttered ticklishly against Derek's skin. "That would be moving."
And then Stiles fell silent, and stayed still himself.
Derek fought the unfamiliar urge to fidget, over-caffeinated and over-sugared. He fought the unfamiliar urge to argue and ask questions because this was stupid, this was too easy, this was Stiles being way too nice, not even trying to make Derek fail at the dare except by not making any sense.
"Shh," Stiles murmured, and took his arms from around Derek, pulling up a little and settling his hands on Derek's shoulders, kneading at the muscles there. "Relax. Hold still. That's all you have to do, just hold still."
It should be easy, he was good at holding still, except that Stiles was turning everything upside down. Derek breathed in and out and made an effort to relax his shoulders under the prodding of Stiles's fingers, only halfway successful.
He flexed his fingers and toes in tiny, hidden movements, trying to use up the coiling energy winding tighter and tighter in every limb.
Stiles said softly, close to Derek's ear, "Five--four--three--two--one."
Derek let out an incoherent noise that reverberated in his chest like a roar, though he was pretty sure he kept it down to a volume that wouldn't disturb the neighbors. He reached up and back, grabbing Stiles and flipping him down onto the couch. Stiles was laughing, flailing randomly, and Derek had no difficulty pressing him down into the cushions, countering his uncoordinated movements with enough force to satisfy the thwarted energy of his own body.
When they were both still, and Stiles had mostly stopped laughing, Derek pushed himself up over him and said, "Your turn. Truth or dare?"
"Truth," Stiles said promptly, breathless but unhesitating, a hectic flush on his cheeks, his whole body radiating an enticing heat.
"What," Derek said, keeping straight-faced with an effort, "is your favorite color?"
Stiles laughed all over again, like it was a whole new joke. He put one hand up, bracketing Derek's eye with two fingers. "Red, duh."
Derek flashed his eyes in answer, and Stiles gave back a lazy smile. "Now you. Truth or dare?"
Derek took a breath, steeling himself to be brave, and realized that he didn't need to be. Stiles, cheerfully half-crushed under him, smelled of delight and eagerness and laughter, nothing dark, nothing mean, nothing hidden. This didn't have to be scary. This wasn't going to hurt.
"Truth," Derek said.
Stiles's mouth dropped open, but he didn't make a sound for a few seconds, and then he pushed up to kiss Derek. When he dropped back he said--before Derek could feel like an idiot because Stiles had noticed how stupidly shy he'd been and how difficult that had been to say--Stiles said, "How much do you love me right now?"
Derek frowned, thinking about as much as always, but Stiles said, "That's my question. That's what I want you to tell me. Truthfully. And specifically. With visual aids if necessary."
Derek's lips curved up into a slow, predatory smile, and Stiles's widened in answer.
"That," Derek said, "is going to take a while."
He stood up and slung Stiles over his shoulder and carried him, laughing all the way, to bed.