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*

As it turns out, college isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, Stiles parties, and yes, there are like a dozen people who actually want to sleep with him now, but everything is much harder than expected, especially when he turns twenty-two and enters his senior year. He has sixteen units to deal with, plus his senior seminar, which is at an ungodly 8am, and he’s exhausted all of the time.

Going home is a luxury, but it’s well worth it when he knows he can pile his dirty laundry into the back of his Jeep and it’ll get washed in a washer that doesn’t eat through quarters like some kind of deranged Iron Giant. He also knows he’ll get to sleep in a bed that’s wider than two inches and wash in a shower that actually knows what water pressure is.

He also knows that his dad is awesome and will have dinner on the table when he pulls into the driveway.

On this particular occasion, when he makes his way into the house, he can smell what he’s pretty sure is lasagna and garlic bread, but when he walks into the kitchen, the table is already full of people eating. He pauses, frowns, and then drops his bags, grabbing everyone’s attention.

“I’m glad I’m easily replaceable,” he jokes and Scott is the first one up and out of his chair.

“Stiles!” he says, pulling Stiles into a hug. “I thought you weren’t getting in until later.”

“I was too quick for you to hide the evidence,” he accuses, narrowing his eyes.

“Yeah, but we saved you some,” Scott replies, gesturing to a plate covered in foil on the counter.

Stiles glances around at the others, all in various stages of eating and looking somewhat guilty. Kira’s in the seat next to Scott’s empty one, Malia is beside her, with Lydia at the head of the table. His dad looks the guiltiest and beside him—surprisingly—is Derek, who doesn’t look at all bothered. Even as Stiles watches, he takes a pointed mouthful and chews shamelessly.

“Don’t worry,” Stiles drawls. “I’m not a starving student or anything.”

His dad gets up, like he’s going to grab Stiles’ plate and heat it up for him, but Stiles waves him back down.

“I’m kidding, Dad. I know it’s hard not having me around, so you need to make up for it with more pseudo-children. I need to go put my bags upstairs and shower anyway.”

He pats Scott on the back solidly, and then grabs his bags and leaves.

Upstairs, he drops everything in a pile, knowing that’s exactly where it will stay the entire weekend, and he wonders if he can spare five minutes to flop face first onto his bed and not move. But then he thinks about how good the lasagna had smelled and finds the motivation to grab clean clothes and head into the bathroom.

*

He’s toweling water from his hair, not looking where he’s going as he steps into his room a few minutes later, when he startles and knocks into his desk as he hits something soft and unmoving.

“Jesus,” he yelps, dropping his towel and finding Derek standing by the doorway, staring down at his phone. “You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing in here?”

“I was waiting for the bathroom,” Derek grunts, slipping his phone back into his pocket as Stiles grabs his dirty clothes and dumps them into his hamper.

“What are you even doing back?” Stiles asks, carding his fingers through his hair so that it doesn’t look too awful when it dries. “I thought you’d left for good.”

Derek shrugs and says, “I bought a house.”

Stiles blinks and glances around.

“Am I in a parallel universe?” he asks. “You disappear for a year and then come back and buy a house?”

Derek shrugs again. “I grew up here. I want to stay.”

It’s enough to make Stiles feel guilty. The poor guy just wants to be near his family.

“When did you move? Did you get rid of the loft?”

“I’m moving tomorrow,” Derek admits and it takes Stiles by surprise.

“Really? Are you doing it by yourself?”

“Liam and Mason are helping,” he says, which, okay, apparently they’re friends now.

“How long have you been back?” Stiles asks incredulously.

“Three weeks,” he says and that makes a lot of sense. Stiles hasn’t been back in a while.

“Did you need more help?” Stiles asks and Derek stares at him for a moment.

“You don’t need to if you don’t want to,” Derek replies and Stiles gives him a look.

“If I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t offer. Do you want the help or not? Offer rescinding in three, two—”

Yes, Stiles,” Derek grunts. “Help would be good.”

“Great!” Stiles says. “I’ll be there at noon.”

“We’re starting at eight,” Derek tells him and Stiles balks.

“Well, that isn’t happening, so you guys can start without me. You can pack and I’ll unpack.”

“It’s a three floor townhouse,” Derek adds, clearly just to annoy Stiles, but he takes it in stride.

“Great, I need a workout.”

Derek snorts and Stiles’ stomach rumbles loudly.

“Yeah, okay, I’m going to go eat. Enjoy your pee.”

He grabs a hoodie and slips it on as he goes, and when he gets to the stairs, he hears the bathroom door click shut. He might be stuck helping Derek out on his only weekend off, but he figures it can’t all be that bad. Maybe Derek will feed him after. The least he could do is buy them pizza. He’ll be sure to drop heavy hints.

Downstairs, everyone has finished dinner, but there’s a full plate in Derek’s vacated spot, so Stiles figures that’s his. He sits down and starts eating like a starved man, which is about normal for him.

“What are you doing back?” he asks Scott, because he’s pretty sure he should be at school, but Scott shrugs.

“It was a quiet weekend,” Scott explains. “Thought I’d come back to visit. Plus, I wanted to plan something for my mom’s birthday. That’s why I got the pack together.”

“And you’re here because—?”

“We’ve been using Derek’s loft recently, but he’s moving, and your dad said you were coming back anyway.”

“Plus, free lasagna,” Stiles points out and Scott laughs.

“Yeah, I don’t think your dad planned on feeding the entire pack.”

“There were meant to be leftovers,” his dad complains, which Stiles feels. Lasagna leftovers are his favorite.

“You guys are the worst,” he grunts, continuing to eat.

Derek returns around the time Stiles finishes his first piece of garlic bread, and instead of grumbling about no longer have a chair to sit in, he leans against the counter by the fridge and folds his arms as he watches over them.

“How was the drive?” his dad asks and Stiles shrugs.

“Less traffic than normal, so it wasn’t too bad. Still a long way to go though. I’m pretty beat.”

“You look it,” his dad says, not unkind, and brushes a hand along the back of his neck.

Stiles wants to be embarrassed of the show of affection in front of the entire pack, but he’s been away from home so long that he really doesn’t care. He’s missed his dad more than he can say. He was expecting it to be easier to leave home and spend every waking moment either studying or partying, but he’s usually thinking about home whenever he has down time. It had been strange the day his dad had helped him move into the dorms and then left him there. It’s always been him and his dad, but now there’s too much space between them.

Lydia, ever the saint, picks up a quiet conversation with Kira, dragging Scott into it, and leaving Stiles to talk to his dad.

“I was thinking we could hang out this weekend,” he says. “Are you working Sunday?”

His dad shakes his head and smiles, “Took the two days off since I knew you were coming. Deputy Cervantes switched her shift with me.”

Now Stiles feels downright guilty about helping Derek.

“I offered to help Derek move tomorrow,” Stiles admits, “but Sunday I’m all yours.”

“You don’t have to help,” Derek interrupts, clearly having listened in, but Stiles’ dad shakes his head.

“No, he can still help,” his dad says. “I need to run errands anyway. It’ll be good to get him out of the house.”

Stiles frowns. “Hey, I only just got here,” he argues and his dad smiles.

“But it’s like you never even left.” Stiles goes to complain, but his dad ruffles his hair and says, “Finish your dinner.”

Stiles frowns at him for a long moment, but then gets lured away by the smell of more garlic bread. It’s not a bad way to be welcomed home, he figures, glancing around at the pack. He does just want to go upstairs and collapse for the rest of the night, but another hour or so of socializing won’t hurt, not when he hasn’t seem them in so long.

So he keeps on eating and lets the conversation gently surround him.

*

As he’d promised, noon on Saturday finds Stiles outside Derek’s old loft with a thermos of coffee and a third of a bagel left to eat. There are two boxes stacked by the open door and a TV that Stiles didn’t even know Derek had. Mason walks out with a rolled up rug over his shoulder, barely missing Stiles’ head with it.

“Whoa there. Hey, Stiles,” Mason says, swinging it to the side to avoid him, which is followed by a sharp laugh from Liam, who’s clinging to the other end.

“Hi, Stiles,” Liam parrots, offering him a wave as they pass, thankfully collision-free, and Stiles returns it, barely keeping from dropping his bagel. He stuffs it into his mouth instead and makes his way inside.

“Y’done?” Stiles asks, his mouth full, and Derek turns around from where he’s cleaning out the fridge, one eyebrow raised.

“No thanks to you.”

Stiles holds his hands up, placating, as he swallows his food.

“I did warn you.”

Derek doesn’t even dignify it with a response and goes back to sniff-testing his way through the condiments before dropping them into a trash bag.

“Where are you even moving to?” Stiles asks, moving closer to lean his hip against the nearest counter.

Derek clears his throat and says, “Glennwood Drive.”

Stiles lets out a low whistle as he raises both eyebrows. “That’s one hell of an upgrade. I think they even have insulation over there.”

Derek doesn’t dignify it with a response and instead shoves the trash bag at him as he shuts the fridge door.

Stiles watches Derek lean over and shift the fridge to one side, enough that he can unplug it, and then move it back into place. It’s an impressive show of strength, with just enough nonchalance for Stiles to believe he’s not even trying to show off.

“Are you keeping this place?” Stiles asks, gesturing around the loft with the hand holding his coffee. Derek shakes his head and Stiles is thankful. It’s about time Derek moved on from everything.

“Someone’s already bought it.”

Stiles pulls a face and says, “Good luck to them.”

There’s a bang outside as Liam and Mason return, but they just pick up the last of the boxes, grab the trash bag from Stiles, and head back out again.

“Do you need a moment?” Stiles asks, serious for once, but Derek rolls his eyes as though it’s a joke.

“Funny,” he says, definitely not meaning it as he gives Stiles a shove towards the door. “Get out.”

Stiles doesn’t need to be told twice; he follows Liam and Mason’s exit and holds the elevator door while Derek locks up. It feels like it should be a moment—a monumental point where everyone feels freer, but Derek just lets the elevator door shut behind him, not even throwing one last look over his shoulder as he thumps the button for the ground floor. It’s anticlimactic and Stiles appreciates that their lives aren’t just about drama now.

Stiles sips his coffee and listens to the rumble of the elevator, with nothing feeling any different at all.

*

By five o’clock, Stiles is done—mentally, physically, all of it.

He’s moved god knows how many boxes and unwrapped newspaper from god knows how many of Derek’s belongings. He even has to wash the ink off his fingers in the kitchen—after unwrapping the goddamn dish soap because someone decided to roll it in even more newspaper.

“I totally should have been here at eight,” Stiles complains, because Liam and Mason had left hours before. “That would have been so much easier.”

Derek grunts and says, “I did warn you,” throwing Stiles’ words back at him.

“Did you get a sense of humor while you were gone?”

He’s interrupted by the sound of Derek’s doorbell and Derek steps around him, leveling him with a unamused stare. Stiles thinks it’s hilarious. He has no idea who’s at the door and can’t see from where he is in the living room, but Derek’s only gone for a few minutes and when he returns, he’s holding two large pizza boxes.

“Oh my god,” Stiles says. “I take everything back.”

Derek sets them on the boxes that are currently filling in for a coffee table and Stiles takes a well deserved seat on the couch.

“Pepperoni and sausage,” Derek says, flipping open the lid of one box before the other. “And ham and pineapple.”

Ham and pineapple might possibly be Stiles’ favorite thing in the world.

“Oh my god,” he repeats. “How did you know?”

“You’ve been consistently asking for it at every pack meeting since high school,” Derek points out, but it’s such a small detail for Derek to remember, even after leaving Beacon Hills as though he was never planning on coming back.

“Thanks,” Stiles says with a soft look, before adding, “what about beer?”

Derek sighs, glances at Stiles, and then heads into the kitchen.

“Scott gave me this,” he says and Stiles can hear him popping the caps off of two bottles. “He said a pack in the Bay Area brews it themselves.”

When he comes back, he passes Stiles a sweating bottle and Stiles stares at it.

Wolfsbrew,” he reads aloud and he’s pretty sure it’s a picture of aconite on the label. “Is there wolfsbane in this?”

“Just enough to get a werewolf drunk after a few bottles.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows and asks, “Is this safe for humans?”

“Lydia tried it and said one bottle was enough. But she said you guys know all about drinking wolfsbane.”

Stiles really doesn’t want to remember that. But maybe with the beer he can have a better experience.

“Did she hallucinate?” Stiles asks and Derek pauses to think about it.

“I don’t think so. She didn’t mention it.”

Maybe he’s safe, but just in case, he says, “Well, the last time I drank something spiked with wolfsbane, I had hallucinations, so sorry if I say something weird later.”

Derek nods and holds out his bottle for Stiles to tap with his own.

“To new beginnings,” Stiles says because it seems fitting, and they both drink.

*

Stiles really needs to get the number for the pizza place Derek ordered from, because the pizza is to die for. He finishes off most of the ham and pineapple one himself and Derek makes a sizeable dent in the other.

The beer buzzes under his skin, but it’s not enough for him to label it as being tipsy. It's nothing like his last experience with wolfsbane.

Eventually, they give up on eating and slump into opposite corners of the couch, working their way through their beers.

Stiles picks at the label on the bottle and says, “What made you want to move? I mean, I know we joked, but the loft was alright.”

Derek shrugs loosely. “Figured it was time for a change.”

“Sure,” Stiles agrees. “No time like the present. What are you now? Thirty-nine?”

Derek narrows his eyes, clearly knowing that Stiles is joking.

Twenty-nine,” he corrects and Stiles grins.

“Probably time to start settling down, right?”

Derek shrugs again, but looks at Stiles with an expression as though that might just be what he wants. Stiles isn’t even going to try to touch that one. But he’d probably want to do that too if he knew someone who would stay with him for longer than one night. To be honest, back in high school, he’d pictured his future as settling down with Malia, maybe having a couple of kids with her eyes and his nose, with a house near the preserve for them to enjoy.

She’d probably be up for trying it in a few year’s time if Stiles suggested something, but he’d broken things off with her after their senior year, wanting to give her freedom. She’d taken it in stride, called him a few choice names, and hadn’t made eye contact for a few dozen pack meetings, but they’ve grown now. Stiles isn’t dumb enough to believe she should thank him, but they’ve both had more—not necessarily better—experiences for it, so he’s pretty sure they’re on mutual ground.

It’s a dangerous path to wander down though, and Derek seems to understand his glazed expression.

“You’ll find someone,” Derek tells him. “You’re young.”

“You don’t have to pretend to care,” Stiles tells him. “It’s my senior year and all I’ve heard from others is how hard it is to meet people after graduation. How do adults make friends? I either live alone forever or I settle for something I already have.”

Derek stares at him, void of all expression.

“Online dating exists,” he points out.

“So I can spend my life going on awful dates until I find one barely passable person?” Stiles asks and Derek’s expression is anything but pity.

“That’s what the rest of us do.”

Stiles blows out a long breath, but doesn’t reply.

“Who would you settle for?” Derek continues instead of leaving him in peace, which is completely unfair, and Stiles shrugs.

“Don’t know,” Stiles says. “Someone that could put up with me?”

“Could be hard to find,” Derek deadpans and Stiles points an accusing finger at him.

“You don’t get to be funny right now.”

Derek gently nudges Stiles’ hand away and then takes a swig from his beer. He seems to be contemplating saying something, which really doesn’t bode well.

Eventually, he turns his head and meets Stiles’ gaze, looking serious.

“You know you don’t have to settle, right?”

Stiles can’t help but laugh because what would Derek know about settling? He could get anyone on the planet, whereas Stiles probably gets to pick from a pool of about ten people.

“Easy for you to say. When was the last time you settled for anything?”

Derek stares at him, looking serious as he says, “I settled for you helping today.”

It shocks a snort out of Stiles and he shakes his head. “I worked a miracle on this place. You’re lucky to have me here.”

“I moved the furniture,” Derek points out, as though the heavy lifting is the hard part.

“Yeah, and who individually unwrapped each of your glasses in the kitchen?”

“You broke one,” Derek points out, which had been the low point of Stiles’ afternoon, but he waves it off.

“That’s why you have five others, but that’s not the point. The point is—” he begins and pauses because he lost the point a few minutes ago, but it must be somewhere close by.

“The point is people would be lucky to be with you?” Derek assists and Stiles blinks.

“Yes,” he says. “Exactly that.”

“So I should be with you?” Derek asks and Stiles double takes.

“What?” he asks incredulously. “That’s some heavy mental gymnastics. How did you get that idea?”

“Because I’m something you already have, which is what you said you would have to settle for. Then you wouldn’t have to go on pointless dates.”

Stiles stares at Derek aghast, watching him drain the last of his beer and set the empty bottle beside their pizza boxes.

“I couldn’t settle for you,” Stiles says eventually and Derek raises both eyebrows.

“Not good enough?”

No,” Stiles says emphatically. “I couldn’t settle for you because you’re out of my league. God, I don’t know why we’re even talking about this. Is it the beer?”

Derek glances over at his bottle and frowns. “Maybe?” he says.

Stiles grunts and sets his beer down because he should stop while he’s ahead.

“I should go home,” Stiles tells him and Derek shakes his head.

“If you’re not sober, you’re not driving.”

“Then I’ll walk.”

“Stiles,” Derek warns, “don’t be stubborn. Just stay here for the night.”

“You going to invite me upstairs?” Stiles jokes because he just can’t help himself and doesn’t know when to stop. It’ll probably get him killed one day.

Derek pauses, watching him carefully before asking, “Is it really that big of a deal to you?”

“What?”

“Sleeping with someone? Not being single?”

“I just don’t see it happening,” Stiles admits. “But it doesn’t matter. We’re not having this conversation. I need water.”

He gets up without waiting for Derek to offer to get some for him. It’s probably better for Derek to just stay where he is and try not to interfere. It at least gives Stiles a few minutes to cool off as he turns on the faucet and waits for the water to get colder. He drinks one glass right in front of the sink, already needing to flush out whatever wolfsbane is in his system that’s making his tongue loose—though he thinks that’s a permanent issue with his tongue. He can never seem to hold it.

He refills the cup after and breathes out steadily, bracing himself to return to the living room. He’ll force Derek to go upstairs and leave him in peace for the rest of the night.

Except hands grip at his hips and he almost drops his water instead.

“Wha—?” he startles, attempting to turn around, but there’s a body pressing along his own and a mouth that grazes his neck. “Derek?”

And apparently it really is Derek, because he grunts in response.

“Derek,” Stiles tries again. “What are you doing?”

“Proving a point,” Derek tells him, lips dragging along the skin at the collar of his shirt. “That you can be with anyone.”

“This isn't proving a point, Derek. We should talk about this.”

“What's there to talk about? You want this.”

“Don't you dare,” Stiles snaps. “Just because you can smell whatever on my body, doesn't give you blanket permission.”

Derek draws back and asks, “You don't want this?”

And the annoying thing is that Stiles really does want it. He wants it so much and he's so weak against Derek when he's being so tempting.

“That's not what I said,” Stiles forces himself to say. “We can't.”

“Why not?” Derek asks and Stiles goes silent.

There are a million reasons he could give—that he doesn't want to ruin whatever vaguely friendship-like truce they've got going for them now, or that he doesn't want to screw the pack up if things go wrong, or that he doesn't think he's strong enough to survive a whirlwind romance with someone like Derek.

But instead, he says, “I don't know.”

And after a tentative moment, Derek noses at his throat.

“Tell me if you want me to stop and I will,” Derek says and it should be easy.

Stop is such a simple word. It would take hardly any effort at all to get it out. But it lodges in his throat instead and Stiles can't say anything at all.

He sets the glass down by the sink and drops his hands to cover Derek's own. But not to push them away. He presses them harder into his hips, part of him wishing they'd leave bruises for him to remember the moment by.

“Stiles?” Derek asks and Stiles doesn't reply, just tilts his head to the side, offering up his neck for Derek's mouth.

He feels it the moment Derek realizes he's saying yes, because he tightens his grip on Stiles and buries his nose against Stiles’ shoulder.

“You can still say no,” Derek tells him, giving him an out for whenever he needs it, but Stiles shakes his head.

And Derek doesn’t press the issue further, seems to trust Stiles to make his own decisions, and he gets his mouth back on Stiles’ skin, dragging his teeth and making Stiles’ knees weak. Stiles leans his weight into Derek, who accepts it without complaint, and curls one arm back to cup the back of Derek’s head.

Stiles feels as though he’s slipped into an alternate reality when Derek turns him around unexpectedly and stares at him with clear hunger. But he really doesn’t want to think about it. He’ll have plenty of time to panic later.

Instead, he presses forward and meets Derek in a kiss that he never thought he’d get to experience. Derek’s stubble is just as rough as he’d always imagined it would be against his skin and he can’t get enough. Derek is insistent when he kisses, which part of Stiles thinks he should have expected, but his hands curl around Stiles’ waist and it’s chaste until one slips down to grab his ass. And, okay, Stiles figures Derek’s really onboard with the proceedings.

Stiles is so confused about how they even got to where they are. There had been no signs from Derek that he’d even thought about it.

But it doesn’t stop Stiles from grinding forwards against Derek’s thigh and enjoying the feeling. Derek’s grip tightens on his ass and he encourages Stiles to do it again, and it’s pretty much one of Stiles’ wet dreams brought to life. He wants to hook his knee around Derek’s hip and grind against him properly, but he’s still unsteady and needs both legs to keep himself upright.

Derek’s hand is so insistent on his ass, his fingers rubbing against the seam down the back of his pants as though he’d be playing with Stiles’ hole if he wasn’t wearing them. It’s distracting in the best of ways, but Stiles wasn’t planning on anything being inside him; he’s definitely not prepared enough for that.

He reaches back for Derek’s wrist and it takes hardly any effort to redirect him towards his cock. Derek pushes a noise into his mouth that sounds interested and Stiles rolls his hips into his palm. He’s hard, because there’s no way he couldn’t be with Derek rocking his own erection against him.

Derek,” he groans because he’s almost certain Derek is only a few minutes away from just unfastening his pants right then and there and jerking him off in the kitchen. “Should we move this elsewhere?”

When Derek finally stops alternating between pressing kisses to Stiles’ mouth and throat, he pulls back, lips looking plump and wet and oh-so inviting. The words seem to take a moment to register, but then Derek’s dragging himself away, nodding all the while, as he takes Stiles’ hand and tugs him towards the doorway.

“Haven’t got sheets on the bed,” Derek tells him when they’re halfway up the stairs, which Stiles already knows because he was the one that carried a box marked with sheets upstairs earlier.

But as it turns out when they stumble their way into Derek’s bedroom, the mattress isn’t even on the box spring; it’s propped against the wall opposite.

“Maybe the kitchen was the best place,” Stiles says quietly, earning a grunt from Derek as he moves away, much to Stiles’ disappointment. Derek had had his hands tucked under the hem of Stiles’ shirt and the warmth quickly fades.

Stiles watches as Derek easily scoops up the mattress and gets it situated before ripping into a nearby box and dragging out a comforter, which he throws haphazardly over the top of everything.

“Who said romance was dead?” Stiles jokes, even as Derek pulls him back in for another long kiss, hands finding their way back to his ass.

Derek nips at his mouth, tugging with his teeth just enough to make Stiles groan and Stiles still can’t wrap his mind around the fact that it’s Derek who’s kissing him and leading him towards the bed.

“Shirt,” Stiles grunts, which is apparently enough to get the point across because Derek immediately pulls off his own, followed closely by Stiles’.

If Derek’s fixations are anything to go by, he’s a throat and ass guy, because he latches onto Stiles’ collarbone and shoves one hand down the back of Stiles’ pants, his middle finger pressing firmly at Stiles’ warm, dry hole, just as Stiles had imagined he would. Stiles makes a strangled noise against the side of Derek’s head and starts tugging at Derek’s pants, trying to unfasten them.

“I am all for that,” Stiles says as he drags down Derek’s zipper, “but I didn’t exactly, uh, prepare.”

Derek makes a rough noise and rubs Stiles’ hole again, making Stiles curse himself for not being prepared every second of every day, just in case someone happens to want to touch his butt. But Derek kisses his neck, sucks just enough that Stiles suspects there’ll be a mark later, and then pulls away to meet Stiles’ gaze.

“There are other options,” Derek murmurs and, damn, Stiles wants to know every option available to them.

“Yeah?” he asks, leaning against Derek as he presses forward into an impatient kiss. “What were you thinking?”

Without speaking, Derek guides Stiles to the bed and Stiles lets himself be spread out on his back in the middle, while Derek hums quietly as though enjoying the view. Derek removes his own pants and boxer-briefs, giving Stiles an eyeful of what he’s packing—which is a fucking lot, and Stiles really wants to get his hands on him.

He’s still silent when he drags Stiles’ pants down his legs and his gaze is heavy when he pulls Stiles’ underwear off. He gazes openly between Stiles’ legs, dragging a large, warm palm down his thigh and making his cock twitch. Stiles lets out a quiet, desperate noise and Derek immediately meets his eyes, looking ready to give Stiles exactly what he needs.

Stiles doesn’t think he can be any more turned on when Derek moves to cage him in with his body above Stiles’ own, settling on top of him with just enough weight to keep Stiles from shifting. Except then Derek moves and it turns out that he can be.

He drops his hips, which lines their cocks up, and he gently rolls down against Stiles in long, steady movements. Stiles’ brain fizzles and stops working somewhere around the third or fourth thrust and he ends up wrapping both his arms and legs around Derek, holding him close.

“This is going to be over so quickly,” Stiles warns. “It’s been a while.”

“When?” Derek asks, sounding possessive in a way that tingles down down his spine.

“Last year,” Stiles gets out around a gasp. “Someone took me home after a party. Wasn’t as good as this though.”

That seems to be exactly what Derek wants to hear because he grunts as though he’s won some standoff with the nameless Sophomore Stiles hooked up with, and then speeds up his hips and gets Stiles arching against him for release. It’s unfair how close Stiles is already.

He tightens his legs around Derek’s waist and tries to silently urge him on, his hands clutching harder as he screws his eyes shut, the sensations of Derek against him starting to become overwhelming.

“Fuck that feels good,” he gets out. “Just like that.”

Derek’s doing something with his hips that’s driving Stiles crazy and he loves every second of it. He doesn’t know how to warn Derek that he’s about to come all over him, though maybe Derek can smell something on him, because he cups one hand around the head of Stiles’ cock and catches Stiles’ come as he lets go with a sharp intake of air.

Stiles’ brain goes offline for a long moment, only registering the weight of Derek against him as he continues moving, and the feeling of Derek pressing kisses along his neck. He pants quietly, hands stroking along Derek’s sides as he slowly comes back to himself.

“That was—” Stiles starts, but gets distracted as he notices a quiet, wet noise that sounds suspiciously like when Stiles jerks off using lotion.

He glances down between their bodies to find Derek jerking himself off, his cock slicked with something that Stiles is almost entirely sure is come—more specifically, Stiles’ come.

Stiles’ own cock gives a valiant throb, trying to get hard again, and he feels leftover come drip from the tip as he muffles a groan against Derek’s shoulder.

“Jesus, Derek,” he curses, darting another look between them. “You totally have a thing for that, huh?”

Derek doesn’t answer him, but he does let out a soft moan as he tenses and comes straight across Stiles’ stomach, leaving a wet mess on his skin. It’s hot, but cools almost instantly and makes him itch. But instead of wiping it away, Stiles tilts his head and presses his mouth to Derek’s, kissing him softly. Derek doesn’t hesitate before returning it, settling down against Stiles, even as he rolls slightly to the side, clearly trying not to pin Stiles down with his entire weight. It’s comforting and perhaps a little too warm to be comfortable, but Stiles will take it because he’s got Derek right there and they’re sharing gentle kisses that are sending him to sleep almost faster than being post-orgasm.

“Can I still stay over?” Stiles asks because the thought of getting up and dressed sounds like the most unappealing thing in the world.

“Sure,” Derek sighs out, like he also thinks it’s too much effort.

“Awesome. Thanks,” Stiles gets out, rolling over to mash his face into Derek’s bicep where his arm is thrown out to one side.

It’s surprisingly comfortable even though he’s sticky and he’ll wake up and probably regret a lot more than just not washing. For the moment, he enjoys what he has and breathes in the scent of Derek’s sweat and familiar deodorant.

“We need to talk about this more,” Stiles eventually gets out before either of them has time to fall asleep. “But let’s do it over breakfast—or maybe lunch, because I’m not a cooperative morning person.”

“Sure,” Derek agrees, rolling so that he can sling his other arm around Stiles’ waist.

Stiles knows one of them should get up to turn the light off, or even just tug a sheet over them before the cold has time to settle between them, but instead, he shuts his eyes and lets himself drop off to sleep as though it’s the easiest thing in the world.

*

Stiles wakes, face pressed into the back cushion of Derek’s couch in a shirt and his briefs.

For a long moment, he floats in the blissful in-between state of sleep, brain foggy and slow enough that he doesn’t realize anything is wrong until he hears absolutely nothing at all. He blinks, then again, before grunting and slowly dragging himself into a sitting position.

There’s a gentle humming from the refrigerator in the kitchen across the way, but where he expects to hear Derek walking around, maybe making breakfast so they can talk about everything that happened, there’s nothing but quietness. He doesn’t even know how he made it downstairs from Derek’s room, though he’s had a strange habit of sleepwalking since the Nogitsune in high school, which he tries to never think about these days.

He’s probably only dressed because he tends to get cold when he sleeps. It’s not his most pressing issue though, because he needs to find Derek as he already promised the day to his dad and he should get home within the hour.

He shoves himself up, half expecting to feel the tug of dried come on his skin, but Derek must’ve cleaned him up while he was out of it because there’s nothing at all. He even sneaks a peek, just to be sure, before tugging on his pants which have been folded over the back of the couch.

He checks his phone for messages—there’s only one from Scott letting him know that he’s heading back to school early. Stiles quickly shoots him a reply before heading into the kitchen for some water. There's no glass by the sink where he remembers leaving one the night before, but as he’s gulping down his water from a new glass he pulls from the cupboard, he notices a note pinned to the fridge.

dealing with loft. will be back in the afternoon. help yourself to food.

Stiles snorts to himself because he’s pretty sure there isn’t any food in the house except cold pizza leftovers, but he figures he can buy something on the way back home for himself and his dad anyway. He’s not going to be able to wait for Derek to get back, so he grabs the pen that Derek obviously used to write his note and scribbles on the back of the paper.

will stop by tomorrow to say goodbye before I leave.

He even adds a winking face at the end, as if Derek won’t totally get the point anyway. He expects a full send-off before he goes back to school and maybe he’ll buy a new box of condoms especially for the occasion.

He pins the note back to the fridge with a magnet and washes his glass out, leaving it beside the sink to dry.

He’s in a surprisingly good mood as he grabs his keys from Derek’s temporary cardboard box coffee table, and maybe it's naive of him, but at this point in his life, he'll take anything that'll help keep him happy.

He locks Derek's place up as he leaves and tries to keep from straight up whistling.

*

Stiles does end up stopping for breakfast—as well as condoms and lube from the nearest CVS—before spending the day hanging out with his dad, helping clear leaves from the backyard and then crashing in front of the TV with a mountain of rolled tacos in the evening.

He thinks seriously about sneaking out when he heads upstairs for bed, imagining all the things he could be doing with Derek, but instead his rational mind gets the better of him and he ends up flopping onto his bed with his linguistics textbook, needing to catch up on readings before Monday.

He falls asleep between one page and the next and doesn’t dream at all.

*

He packs his car in the morning, wanting to get on the road early, mostly before traffic has time to ruin his day and also so that he won’t have to rush his goodbye with Derek. His dad hugs him for a long while, pressing a kiss to the side of Stiles’ head before letting him go and ruffling his hair.

“Drive safe and text me when you’re back.”

Stiles nods his agreement and throws one last wave over his shoulder as he climbs into the Jeep.

“See you soon,” he calls out the window and his dad waits on the porch as he pulls out of the driveway and heads down the street with a honk as he goes.

Derek’s new place isn’t too far out of the way and there’s still a space behind Derek’s Toyota for him to park. He grabs the CVS bag from where he’d hidden it in the dash and hops out, hoping Derek’s actually in.

He knocks and waits patiently, wondering if it’ll be too rude to just shove the bag at Derek and climb him like a tree. He’s grinning at the thought when the door slowly opens, revealing a sleep-rumpled Derek.

“Too early?” Stiles asks, earning a grunt in response, though Derek does hold the door open for him to step inside.

“Coffee?” Derek asks, leading the way to the kitchen where the coffee machine is already hissing to life.

Stiles shakes his head and sets the bag on the counter, nudging it in Derek’s direction.

“Bought you a present,” he says with a waggle of his eyebrows, unable to keep from grinning as Derek frowns and moves towards it, clearly begrudging as though expecting any surprise from Stiles to be either dangerous or ridiculous. Derek obviously has some learning to do when they’re a couple—if that’s even what Derek wants.

As it is, Derek peers inside the bag and his eyebrows climb towards his hairline as he stares at Stiles as though he’s grown a second head.

“What?” Derek questions, pulling his hand quickly away.

“I can spare an hour or two before I have to get on the road,” Stiles tells him. “I figured we could continue what we started the other night.”

It’s easy to round the counter and move into Derek’s space, settling a hand on Derek’s waist and leaning in closer. He knows they haven’t spoken about what it is that they are, but he figures no news is good news and maybe Derek wants something more.

Except as he cups Derek’s jaw and moves in to kiss him, Derek presses a hand to his chest and holds him in place, not letting him move any closer. Stiles blinks and worries if maybe he’s done too much, too soon.

“Sorry,” he apologizes. “I just thought—”

“What do you mean continue what we started?” Derek asks, brows pulled down into a serious frown; Stiles swallows thickly.

“I mean, I totally understand if you don’t want to do it again, but I thought you enjoyed it,” Stiles tells him, worry spreading through his stomach.

“Enjoyed what?” Derek asks and it’s Stiles’ turn to stare at him as though he’s grown a second head.

“The part where we rubbed off on each other?” Stiles questions. “Kind of hard to forget.”

Derek is silent for a long minute, eyes darting around Stiles’ face as though trying to judge if he’s joking or not.

“You believe that,” Derek says, a statement, not a question, and Stiles doesn’t bother nodding. “Stiles, you said you were going to get water and then passed out in the kitchen. You broke another glass and when I came to see what happened, you were face down on the floor.”

It feels like the ground disappears from beneath Stiles’ feet.

“Why wasn't I wearing pants?”

“Because when I carried you to the living room and put you on the couch, you woke up long enough to complain about being too hot and tried to take them off. I just helped you.”

“What?” he asks quietly, his whole body beginning to tense.

“You fell asleep, Stiles. Nothing happened. I don’t—”

Stiles’ face begins to heat up, his heart starting to beat two to the dozen as the panic wells up inside him. There’s no way Derek’s lying, it would be a ridiculous thing to lie about anyway. He’s quiet and surprisingly looks vaguely apologetic when he stares at Stiles.

“Jesus,” Stiles murmurs, running a hand over his face, even as it shakes uncontrollably. “This is—”

His plan is to immediately flee, but a heavy hand lands on Stiles’ shoulder, pinning him in place.

“Stiles, it was the wolfsbane,” Derek tells him. “It’s not your fault.”

It doesn’t matter if it was his fault or not; it’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to him and he needs to get out. This is the kind of shit that’s going to keep him up at three in the morning when his brain decides to run through all the humiliating things that have ever happened in his life.

“I’m gonna just—” Stiles says, gesturing loosely behind himself and he’s thankful that Derek’s hand falls away without argument, which means he can turn and head for the front door, leaving the plastic bag for Derek to deal with—he can throw it all away, Stiles doesn’t care.

Derek doesn’t follow and he doesn’t try to call him back, which makes it easier for Stiles to slip out of the house, shutting the door quietly behind him. He jogs to where he parked the Jeep and starts the engine as soon as he’s in the driver’s seat, not even bothering to put his seatbelt on before he peels out of the parking lot and heads for Main Street.

At the first red light, he finally drags his seatbelt into place and drops his head down to the steering wheel, shame still coursing through his body. He feels like puking, or maybe just like throwing himself off the side of the tallest building downtown. It doesn’t matter though, because there’s a quick honk behind and when he glances up the traffic signal is already green and he’s able to head further out of town.

“How could you be so stupid?” he asks himself as he merges onto the freeway a few minutes later. As if Derek could ever want him.

Derek had made it perfectly clear how he felt about Stiles with his reaction; Stiles can head back to school, find someone with dark hair and a smattering of stubble and fuck his frustration away. He doesn’t need to involve Derek and he doesn’t need to remember what happened.

He hopes that it’s traumatic enough that his brain will block the memory completely, but Stiles figures he won’t have to see Derek again for another few months and maybe by then the majority of the shame will have faded. He doubts it, but there’s always wishful thinking to keep him company.

He grips the steering wheel tighter, ignores the ache in his chest, and drives just a little too fast, needing to be anywhere but there.

*

The shame fades as much as it can with a three week reprieve from Beacon Hills, but Scott’s mom’s birthday rolls around and there’s no way he can miss it—she’s too much of a second mom to him for him to not show up. Plus, Scott texts him constant reminders starting a week prior to it, which means Stiles packs up his car on a Friday afternoon after his classes kick out and he makes the trek back home.

The house isn’t full of people like last time, in fact, there’s no one there at all, not even his dad, and he has to let himself in. There’s a note on the kitchen table, though, reminding him to be at the local diner for six thirty to surprise Melissa. He really only has time to drop his bags upstairs, shower, shave, and rummage through his dresser for clean clothes, before he has to climb back into the Jeep and head down the road.

The place is already packed with familiar faces and there are balloons tied to the backs of the chairs declaring over the hill. He snorts, knowing Melissa will find it funny, and then takes a seat between Malia and Liam, sprawling out comfortably, happy to be back with the pack.

“Thought you weren’t going to make it,” Mason says with a snort and Stiles waves a hand at him.

“It’s called being fashionably late.”

“Don’t think that counts if you’re getting ready for a surprise party,” Malia points out and Stiles shrugs.

“Hey, as long as I showed up before Melissa, right?”

“Speaking of,” Stiles’ dad says from two seats down, nodding his head towards the parking lot.

Stiles spots Melissa’s car pulling into a space and he glances at Scott who doesn’t seem to be paying attention.

“Are we meant to hide or something?” Stiles asks.

“Don’t think we can all fit under the table,” Malia deadpans before Stiles gets distracted by Scott calling across the restaurant.

“Hurry up, dude!” he hisses, head turned towards the corner where the bathrooms are and where Derek is currently coming out from, wiping his damp hands on his jeans. “She just got here.”

Derek doesn’t seem to rush, but it really only takes him a few long steps to get back to the table, taking a seat diagonally from Stiles’ own. Stiles drops his gaze, already feeling his face heat as he remembers their last conversation, but thankfully he doesn’t get time to linger on that line of thought.

The bell above the door rings softly as Melissa walks in and her face lights up when she spots everyone.

“Are you kidding?” she asks incredulously, a smile spreading across her face before she points accusingly at Scott. “You said it was just going to be you and me!”

Scott laughs and stands, moving towards her and pressing a kiss to her cheek, even as she bats at him playfully.

“I didn’t mention the fact that everyone would be here?” he asks and Melissa ruffles his hair.

“I’m just surprised that you were able to keep a secret,” she retorts and Scott laughs again and leads her to the head of the table before sitting beside her. “But it might have been nicer if I wasn’t in my scrubs.”

She’s obviously just come from work, but Scott shoots her a smile and says, “You look great.”

She gives him a gentle shove, but then turns and addresses everyone.

“I suppose having you all together in one place makes it easier to tell you all that you’re now looking at the head of the nursing department for Beacon Hills Hospital.”

Scott immediately pulls her into a hug and there’s a loud chorus of congratulations from everyone around the table, and Melissa is positively radiant.

“Kevin finally wised up?” Stiles’ dad asks and Melissa shrugs.

“I’m trying not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but he was the one that suggested it.”

“Even though he’s the biggest asshole ever?” Scott asks, earning a soft thump from his mom.

“Watch your mouth,” she say, but adds, “Guess he had a change of heart.”

From what Stiles has heard before, Kevin in the resident asshole of Beacon Hills Hospital and has denied Melissa promotions and raises multiple times before. To say he’s had a change of heart now is an understatement.

“He’s not going to go back on his word, is he?” Scott asks and Melissa shakes her head.

“All the paperwork is done for it,” she says. “It’s already official.”

Scott grins at her and then claps his hands together.

“Guess that means we can celebrate twice as hard,” he says, gesturing for their server to stop by.

Apparently, what Scott means by that, is that they’ll all eat way too much, fill up on jugs of sweet tea, and round everything off with a huge selection of pies for dessert. To be honest, it’s perfect, though Stiles finds himself loosening his belt as he walks out, patting his full stomach when Melissa catches him.

“Thanks for coming down for this,” she tells him and Stiles can’t help but pull her into a hug, kissing the side of her head.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he says, giving her an extra squeeze. “Happy birthday, and congratulations again.”

She kisses his cheek as he pulls back, offers him a warm smile, and then gravitates back towards the rest of the pack where they’re gathered by Scott’s car. Stiles has already said goodnight to everyone and is ready to drive home, roll into bed, and enjoy a weekend with his dad. He offers one last wave to Kira who watches him turn towards his Jeep, and startles when he finds Derek already leaning on his door.

“Scott gave me a ride earlier,” he tells Stiles, leaving it at that.

“Oh,” he says, knowing it’s only fair to offer. “Yeah, I can swing by your place on the way back.”

When Derek moves out of the way, he unlocks his door and hops inside, leaning over to pop open the passenger door for Derek before starting the engine. For once, he’s thankful for the amount of noise the Jeep makes, appreciating how it fills the awkward silence.

He feels Derek’s gaze on him more than once, but it’s really only a five minute drive to Derek’s new place, which means Stiles pulls up behind Derek’s Toyota before he knows it. He expects Derek to thank him or offer a wave and hop out, but instead he sits there and Stiles holds out for as long as he can, until he’s forced to glance over and see what’s up.

Derek is already staring at him, his expression unreadable.

“What?” Stiles asks, trying not to sound accusatory.

“Come inside,” Derek tells him and Stiles’ eyebrows raise of their own accord.

“What? Why?”

“We should talk,” Derek says. “Before this gets worse.”

“There’s nothing to get worse,” Stiles replies. “Everything is fine.”

“You wouldn’t even make eye contact at dinner,” Derek points out. “You still won’t.”

“I was hungry,” Stiles lies. “I was too busy staring at my food.”

“Bullshit,” Derek snaps, taking Stiles by surprise. “Turn the engine off and get your ass inside.”

He takes his seatbelt off and gets out of the Jeep before Stiles can even reply, slamming the door behind him and heading for his house. Stiles, for a long moment, can’t do anything but stare after him, his heart thundering in his chest. He’s never been much good at heart-to-hearts and he’s already apologized to Derek for the mistake—what more does Derek want?

With a heavy sigh, Stiles puts the Jeep into park and turns off the engine, hopping out and following Derek toward the front door. He spares one last glance up at the night sky, whispering a quiet prayer not to fuck everything up, and then steps through into the front hallway. He doesn’t know how long he’s going to stay, but he kicks his shoes off by the door and lets Derek lead them into the living room where he now has furniture, including an impressively nice glass coffee table and a flat screen TV on the back wall.

“Like what you’ve done with the place,” Stiles tells him awkwardly, standing and fiddling with the hem of his shirt while Derek takes a seat in the armchair.

Derek ignores him, points at the three-person loveseat, and orders, “Sit.”

Stiles does.

He folds his hands into his lap to keep from fidgeting and stares across at the the opposite wall to avoid Derek’s gaze.

“You want a drink?” Derek asks and Stiles can’t help but snort.

“Don’t think that’s a good idea,” he says. “Look what happened last time.”

He ends with a self-deprecating laugh and makes the mistake of meeting Derek’s gaze. He’s staring at Stiles with something that could be considered concern and it just doesn’t sit right.

“What happened?” he asks and Stiles exaggerates his shrug, which Derek doesn’t seem to appreciate because he frowns at him. “I’m serious.”

“Dude, you gave me wolfsbane, I hallucinated; what more do you want to know? It’s not worth bringing up.”

“It made you uncomfortable,” Derek points out and Stiles splutters out a laugh.

“Of course it did! I tried to freaking kiss you and you had no idea what was going on. I was waiting to find out I’d been Punk’d.”

“You brought me a bag of lube and condoms.”

“Please don’t remind me.”

“Stiles, what did you hallucinate?”

Stiles throws his hands into the air and loudly says, “What the fuck? What do you want to know, Derek? Did you want a play-by-play description of how we decided to sleep together? How we talked about how alone we both were? Or do you want to talk about how you got me off and then came all over me?”

In any other situation, Stiles would be amused by the flush that spreads across Derek’s face, but instead it just seems to make things worse, because of course Derek is ashamed of the thought of them together. How could he not be? The Derek in his hallucination is definitely not the one sitting across from him.

The silence that falls between them is the worst kind of awkwardness Stiles has ever experienced. He drops his head into his hands and tries to pretend he’s anywhere but there.

“Can I go now?” he asks and the leather beneath Derek creaks as Derek shifts.

“We still haven’t talked about it,” he points out and Stiles shoots him an incredulous look.

“I just told you everything there is to know about it!” Stiles snaps. “Or did you also want to know about how I thought it wasn’t going to be a one time deal? How I went to CVS and bought supplies because I figured we’d use them when I came to say goodbye, hoping you’d fuck me before I left to go back to school?”

Stiles,” Derek snaps, making it sound as though he’s actually saying that’s not fair and you know it.

Stiles does, for a fact, know it. He just thinks he might be above caring because Derek made his bed so he can lie in it now.

“I literally don’t see the point of talking about this, Derek, unless you want to utterly humiliate me. In which case, congratulations, because you’ve succeeded.”

“Stiles,” Derek says gently. “That wasn’t what I wanted. I was hoping we could sit down like adults and talk it through because it’s not good for the pack when we’re tense.”

“Then just let me ignore it, Derek,” Stiles tells him. “Let me go back to school and pretend none of this happened and eventually I’ll be able to look you in the eyes again.”

Derek lets out a long breath, which doesn’t bode well.

“Are you uncomfortable because you imagined us together?” Derek asks, and now it should be Stiles’ turn to complain that he’s not being fair at all.

“If I was uncomfortable with that, why the fuck would I go buy condoms and lube?” Stiles spits and Derek’s mouth thins.

“You’re uncomfortable because you want it.”

Stiles rubs at his forehead, knowing he’s going to get a tension headache before they’re done, but he really can’t fight Derek anymore. He just wants to go home.

“Yes,” he admits. “I like the idea of sex with you on a regular basis.”

“Casual sex,” Derek confirms and Stiles shrugs.

“Sure.”

“Yes or no,” Derek tells him and Stiles sighs.

“Yes,” he says quietly. “Casual sex with you on a regular basis.”

He’s already too far into the hole he’s dug for himself. He really can’t bring himself to admit that he would also accept an actual relationship with Derek. He’s pretty sure Derek would never want that anyway, so he thinks it’s best for everyone involved that he pretends he’s not as gone as he really is.

Derek stares at him for a long moment and Stiles has to look away, feeling too raw.

“There’s nothing stopping us,” Derek tells him and it’s probably the last thing Stiles expects him to say.

“What?” he replies.

“If we wanted that,” Derek explains, “we could do it.”

“That’s not how this works,” Stiles argues. “I don’t—”

“You still want it?” Derek asks and Stiles feels a little slack-jawed.

“Well, yeah, but—”

“Then what’s to stop us?”

Stiles stares at him and says, “You don’t want this.”

“How about you let me decide what I do or don’t want,” Derek tells him, which shuts Stiles up.

“You want this?” Stiles asks incredulously and Derek just meets his gaze, unflinching. “Like, not as a joke?”

“Not a joke,” Derek explains.

“But you never said anything,” Stiles argues and Derek frowns slightly.

“Neither did you.”

It’s actually a fair point, but Stiles doesn’t admit it, instead, he asks, “You find me attractive?”

Derek’s gaze runs down the length of Stiles’ body and there’s a tingle of something heavy, low in his stomach. The corner of Derek’s mouth twitches like maybe he knows and before Stiles can put up a fight—not that he thinks himself capable of doing so, not now—Derek pushes himself out of the armchair and takes two steps closer to where Stiles is.

He watches Stiles with an unreadable expression and orders, “Get up.”

Stiles is too stunned to actually obey, just stares at Derek feeling poleaxed. There’s white noise in his head as his brain tries to catch up and it can’t figure out if doing what Derek asks will lead to great or downright terrible things.

“What?” he gets out, knowing his eyes must be comically wide, but there’s nothing he can do about it.

“Stiles,” Derek says, a hint of impatience to his tone, “come here.”

Stiles needs to know what Derek wants from him, his curiosity aching to be sated, so he levers himself up, staring across at Derek, feeling uncertain. He startles slightly when Derek’s hand curls over his hip and tugs him a step closer. It’s warm and insistent, and he’s not sure how to deal with Derek staring at him the way he is, as though he actually wants Stiles.

“Is this okay?” Derek asks and Stiles finds himself automatically nodding.

“Yeah,” he gets out, because Derek can put his hands all over him any day. That’s really the reason why they’re in this mess to begin with.

Derek’s other hand—his palm warm and dry—comes up to cup the side of Stiles’ face and things go from zero to really fucking real in no time at all.

“How about this?” Derek asks and Stiles just wants to give him blanket permission for everything, because there’s very little he’d say no to anyway.

Stiles swallows and repeats, “Yeah.”

Derek’s thumb shifts, rubbing over his bottom lip and Stiles opens his mouth before it even registers.

“This?” Derek asks, his voice so low that Stiles feels himself sway towards him.

He nods gently, not pulling out of Derek’s hold and Derek steadily moves towards him, head tilting just enough for their mouths to meet in a chaste kiss. Stiles automatically shuts his eyes, letting out a soft noise of disbelief that he even has Derek there against him, and Derek’s grip on his face tightens. He knows it isn’t going to stay innocent for long, not when he feels Derek’s tongue dart out to taste where Stiles’ mouth is already open.

Stiles knows he’ll kick himself for approximately ever if he doesn’t do something about it, so he curls his arms around Derek’s neck and holds him close, chasing his tongue with his own. The sound of them kissing seems loud in the quiet of the room, but Stiles doesn’t even give the slightest of fucks. He’s got Derek licking into his mouth and he isn’t about to squander that opportunity.

Derek kisses him as though trying to prove that it’s a good idea, but Stiles is already so onboard. He doesn’t even care that Derek’s stubble is going to give him fierce burns on his face; he never wants it to stop. The hand Derek has on Stiles’ hip slides around to grip Stiles’ ass and he’s pretty sure his knees turn to jell-o, because he sways into Derek, letting out a noise of surprise and feeling Derek adjust his stance to support him.

When they break away for air, Stiles murmurs, “Gonna be so disappointed if I’m just hallucinating again.”

Derek kisses him again, his mouth wet but insistent, and Stiles returns it the best that he can before Derek pulls away again.

“Not hallucinating,” Derek promises. “Not this time.”

“Good,” Stiles tells him, darting back in for another quick kiss. “‘Cause I need to experience you fucking me at least once.”

Derek pauses to look over at him. “You want that?” he asks and Stiles nods.

“But I’m gonna be real because I’m still full from dinner so I probably won’t be much help.”

“We can go easy tonight,” Derek tells him. “We can save that for another day.”

Stiles perks up at that. “Fuck, really?”

“When will you be in town again?”

“I was thinking like in the morning, but, no you’re right. I need to get home after this. How about I just text you?”

Derek nods and pulls him back into a kiss, grinding forward into his body just enough for Stiles to feel that he’s hard. Stiles lets out a muffled noise and drags his hands down Derek’s back.

“Get on the couch,” he tells him when Derek finally gives his mouth back, shoving at Derek’s hips to get him to stumble back enough that Stiles can use him being off-balance to his advantage. He turns them quickly, gives Derek another push, and delights in the fact that Derek drops onto the couch with nothing more than a look that says he’s only doing it because he wants to, not because Stiles has the strength to get him to do anything.

Stiles doesn’t care because Derek’s legs splay open and Stiles immediately drops between Derek’s knees, saliva filling his mouth at the thought of sucking him off. He attacks Derek’s jeans with fervor, not that he really needs to because Derek lifts his hips to help, letting Stiles unfasten them and drag them down his thighs, over his knees, and to his ankles. Derek’s wearing well-worn gray boxer-briefs and Stiles can’t help feeling warmed by the thought that Derek clearly wasn’t planning on showing them off to anyone.

Stiles gently rubs him through them, loving the way Derek feels twitching against his palm, and watches Derek’s expression. He seems enraptured by Stiles and Stiles holds his gaze, even as he tucks his fingers into the waistband of Derek’s underwear, tugging threateningly. Derek gets his fingers into Stiles’ hair, carding them through it, and Stiles knows he shouldn’t read into it, but it feels tender.

“Want me to put my mouth on you?” Stiles asks, just to check in.

Yes, Stiles,” Derek grunts. “Thought that was the point of you being down there.”

Stiles laughs, loud and bright, and says, “Alright, impatient.”

He tugs the elastic of Derek’s underwear down and tucks it beneath Derek’s balls, plumping them up nicely and holding his dick up higher, practically level with Stiles’ mouth, putting him at an easy-licking height. As it turns out, Stiles’ hallucinations were a little more generous with Derek’s size, not that there’s anything to be disappointed about in actuality, but it’s just that it seems a lot less daunting that it’s about to go into his mouth.

Derek makes a soft, punched-out noise when Stiles first licks him, his tongue trailing from root to tip in a long, wet line. Derek’s hand comes up to the back of Stiles’ head—not forcing, just touching—and Stiles presses forwards and gets his lips around the head, already tasting precome. Stiles is no expert at blowjobs, but he knows how to get someone off.

However, he pauses just long enough to pull away and say, “Just don’t thrust, okay? I don’t want to puke on your dick.”

Derek pulls a face, staring at Stiles in concern. “What?”

“I’ve got a sensitive gag reflex. Let me do the moving.”

Derek doesn’t reply, but he gives a jerky nod in response and the grip on Stiles’ head loosens. Maybe the joke about puking wasn’t a good idea, Stiles thinks, but he really doesn’t care because he gets his mouth back on Derek, giving him something to focus on. Derek lets out a heavy breath, but doesn’t move an inch, just lets Stiles bob his head slowly, keeping it shallow and wet.

Derek, surprisingly, doesn’t taste all that bad. It’s mostly the taste of skin with a tang of precome whenever Stiles gets particularly enthusiastic. He likes the way Derek feels on his tongue, the heaviness of him and how he twitches every now and then. He gives Derek as good as he’s got, taking care not to gag too much. The first time he does, Derek visibly flinches and Stiles has to pull off to laugh.

“I’m not actually going to puke on you,” Stiles tells him. “It was just a warning. But let me know if you’re gonna come, yeah?”

Derek grunts and Stiles goes back to sucking at him, teasing at the head of his cock with his tongue and licking away the mess Derek makes. He still can’t wrap his brain around the fact that Derek is hard for him; Derek is leaking into Stiles mouth because of him. And at some point, Derek is going to come and it’s going to be because of Stiles.

Stiles reaches between his own legs, rubbing through his pants where he’s hard and he can’t believe how good it feels when Derek hasn’t even really touched him yet. He’d probably be done already if Derek was touching him; he wouldn’t stand a chance. Derek cards his fingers through Stiles’ hair, thumbs rubbing at the hinge of Stiles’ jaw, and Stiles really shouldn’t, but he can’t help but try to take Derek in deeper, wanting to make it good for him.

Derek makes quiet noises of pleasure, his breathing unsteady as he hits the back of Stiles’ throat. Stiles barely keeps himself from gagging, but he pulls back and works at the tip for a while instead while his stomach settles. With one hand, he gently rubs at Derek’s thigh, loving the prickle of hair against his palm. With his other, he gently plays with Derek’s balls, pressing his thumb to the space behind them and making a noise of surprise when Derek twitches violently in his mouth—more so than ever before.

Stiles pulls back, taking Derek in hand and stroking him, while Derek stares down at him looking as though he’s about to apologize.

“Like that, huh?” Stiles says with a smirk before Derek can open his mouth.

“Stiles,” Derek gets out. “I’m—”

Stiles blinks and stares down at Derek’s cock where it’s reddened and probably as hard as it’ll ever be.

“Really?” Stiles asks. “You’re going to come?”

Stiles,” Derek complains and Stiles gets the hint.

He continues jerking Derek off with his hand and wraps his lips around the tip of Derek’s cock, glancing up at Derek from beneath his lashes and enjoying the way Derek’s brow furrows and his eyes squint as he hunches and gently cups the back of Stiles’ head. He doesn’t push himself deeper, but he surrounds Stiles so perfectly, and Stiles just shuts his eyes and tries not to flinch as Derek comes into his mouth in shaky spurts.

It’s not a flavor Stiles enjoys, but swallowing it is the quickest way to deal with the mess and Stiles doesn’t even really need to think about it. He doesn’t give unprotected blowjobs all that often, but he knows for a fact—from an all too awkward pack meeting that involved werewolf sex ed—that he can’t catch anything from Derek. He doubts Derek would have let him continue if he’d been worried about spreading anything anyway.

But Stiles really doesn’t want to think about diseases while Derek’s cock is still in his mouth, so he laps at it gently as come finally stops dribbling out and he pulls off with a wet, obscene noise.

“That was fucking hot,” Stiles tells him, pressing a kiss to the skin at the top of Derek’s thigh and when he glances up again, Derek’s trying to catch his breath and his cheeks are flushed a charming shade of red.

Stiles wants to make a comment about it, but when he opens his mouth, he ends up letting out an undignified squawk as hands hook beneath his armpits and he’s hauled up into Derek’s lap with seemingly zero effort. With a wiggle, he gets his legs either side of Derek’s thighs, straddling him and staring down at him with wide, surprised eyes. Apparently, being manhandled is a thing he really likes. Maybe if he’s lucky, Derek will let him explore that sometime.

“That may have been even hotter,” Stiles admits and Derek pull him in for a kiss, not seeming to care that he might taste himself on Stiles’ tongue. In fact, the kiss seems distracted as both of Derek’s hands move to Stiles’ pants, unbuttoning and unzipping them, and getting them halfway down Stiles’ thighs with a fair bit of effort and one loud crack from the material as they’re forced down.

Stiles can’t even bring himself to complain, just hopes they aren’t ripped, but then one of Derek’s hands slips into his boxers and nothing else matters in the world because Derek’s palm is hot and tight around Stiles’ cock.

“Oh, shit,” Stiles wheezes, hunching forward and clinging to Derek’s shoulders and he turns his head and mouths at Derek’s throat, just because it’s the nearest thing.

Derek makes a rumbling, happy noise deep in his chest that vibrates through Stiles’ own and, funnily enough, peaks his nipples as though wired straight to them. Stiles likes the way his body responds to Derek, though really, it’s going to be over before it even starts.

“Not gonna last,” Stiles tells him in between heavy breaths, not that it stops Derek in the slightest. If anything, his grip turns firmer and he speeds up. “Fuck, Derek.”

He doesn’t know if he’s keyed up because of Derek, or just because he hasn’t been with anyone in such a long time, but he feels his balls draw up and he bites down on the skin beneath his mouth as Derek thumbs at the tip of his cock and gets him there, right to the edge. He balances for a long, precarious moment, before Derek turns his head and presses his lips to Stiles ear.

“Let me feel you come,” he orders and Stiles doesn’t stand a chance.

He bucks into Derek’s hand, clings the best that he can, and comes as though it’s been punched straight out of him.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he repeats, but Derek keeps stroking him until Stiles is almost sure he’s going to either pass out or come again.

He does neither of those things and instead just collapses against Derek’s chest as Derek finally lets go of his cock.

He’s still panting when Derek asks, “Are you okay?”

“Peachy,” Stiles mumbles into his shoulder, finally gathering the strength to sit back and stare down at Derek. “Top tier orgasm.”

Derek looks as though he wants to roll his eyes, but instead, he pulls his hand free from Stiles’ boxers and stares down at his wet, come-covered fingers. The last thing Stiles expects from Derek is for him to bring it up to his mouth and lick it clean with broad swipes of his tongue.

“Holy shit,” Stiles says, chest still heaving slightly. “You’re way kinkier than the version of you in my hallucination.”

Derek doesn’t say anything, but he seems pleased with himself, sucking at his fingers until he seems satisfied. Unable to stop himself, Stiles sways forward for a kiss, wanting to know what he tastes like on Derek’s tongue, and maybe that’s how Derek had felt after Stiles had sucked him off. He doesn’t know; doesn’t really care, either, because Derek kisses him breathless and pulls back just as Stiles’ lungs begin to burn.

There’s a brief moment where Stiles wonders what it would be like if they were dating and he could drag Derek upstairs for a cuddle and a nap. But instead, he groans loudly in complaint as he finally shuffles his way off of Derek’s lap and onto his own unsteady feet. He’s still damp and sticky when he tugs his clothes back into place, pulling his pants up and fastening them again.

It’s not really his place to take anything more. What they have is casual, that’s it. So, he finds himself holding out a hand and helping Derek to his feet, but that’s it. He doesn’t move into Derek’s space for any more kisses, doesn’t help tuck his cock away, he doesn’t even touch him. He just steps back and wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand, making sure he hasn’t got come everywhere.

“I should get back,” he says. “Before my dad starts wondering where I am.”

He’s old enough now that his dad won’t care if he’s late home, or if he stays out all night, so long as he’s there in the morning, unharmed. But Derek doesn’t need to know that. Even if he does already know, he doesn’t call Stiles out on it; he just nods and finishes buttoning his pants.

“Yeah,” he says. “Sure.”

Stiles’ knees feel as though they’ll buckle at any moment as he heads for the door and, when Derek follows, he wonders if Derek would catch him if he actually fell, or if he’d just snort at him in amusement. He doesn’t get to find out because he makes it to the front door in one piece and he turns as he pulls it open, glancing at Derek over his shoulder.

“I’ll text when I’m back in town, yeah?”

“Sure,” Derek tells him, which isn’t really a definitive answer, but Stiles will take it for the time being.

“Alright,” he says awkwardly. “See you around.”

He quickly makes his way down the pathway, heading for the curb where his car is parked, and he makes the mistake of looking back at Derek, who’s leaning in the doorway, appearing rumpled and far too enticing. Stiles’ stomach does a somersault that doesn’t bode well, and he glances away quickly, focusing on opening the Jeep instead.

The noise of the engine helps block out his thoughts and he doesn’t bother waving as he pulls away, but his eyes automatically drift to the rearview mirror, where he can see Derek lit up by the red of his brake lights. He can’t see Derek’s expression, but he can see the glint of his eyes as they follow the Jeep.

He makes his way towards the street and thinks that he might be making a big mistake, but it’s too late now. What’s done is done and nothing can change that.

*

Derek fucks him during the long weekend for Labor Day. It’s the first weekend Stiles gets to come back home and Derek puts him on his stomach in the middle of his bed and gets him dripping wet with lube. When he pushes inside, he goes so slowly that Stiles almost thinks about crying. In reality, he just curses at Derek until he gets the hint and shoves in the rest of the way.

When Derek starts fucking him hard and deep, Stiles’ eyes practically roll up into his head and he clings to the sheets because that’s the only thing he knows how to do in that moment. It’s as though Derek can sense exactly what Stiles wants—and maybe he can. Maybe he’s listening to Stiles’ heart and changing his thrusts to match. Maybe he’s judging the angle of his hips on the sweat that’s building on Stiles’ forehead and under his arms and between his shoulderblades.

Stiles doesn’t know, and he doesn’t care, so long as Derek doesn’t stop any time soon.

Derek doesn’t; he keeps going until Stiles is panting and arching the best that he can against him. He’s already on the verge of coming when Derek sneaks a hand between his body and the mattress, curling his fingers around Stiles’ cock and giving Stiles what he needs.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Stiles gasps out, body locking up as he comes.

Derek pushes him through it, never stopping, never slowing, until Stiles is sore and well-used, and Derek is digging his teeth into Stiles’ shoulder and shuddering against him a few minutes later. Derek almost immediately collapses on top of him, not minding in the slightest that he’s squishing the air out of Stiles. Though, to be fair, Stiles doesn’t mind much either. It’s a comforting warmth and he’s pleasantly sticky, though it won’t last long. If he doesn’t shower soon, he’ll hate himself later.

He lets out a muffled noise and Derek snuffles against his arm, and he can feel the strange sensation of Derek beginning to soften. He lets out a grossed-out sound as Derek slips out of him, mostly because he feels squishy and wet and open, and Derek rolls off of him, sliding off to the side and rubbing a hand down Stiles’ back.

His fingers nudge at Stiles’ loosened hole, slipping just inside, and it’s surprisingly comfortable.

“Hope you don’t expect me to get it up again right now,” Stiles tells him, voice muffled by the bed.

Derek lets out a quiet breath and pulls his hand away, slowly rolling over further and putting some space between them. Stiles exhaustedly lifts his head and watches Derek pull the condom off his cock and head towards the ensuite where he pads around doing who knows what.

Stiles drops his face back into the sheets, breathing in the scent of Derek and come, and suspects that he might fall asleep if he’s not careful. With a groan, he pushes himself up onto his elbows and tips onto his side, getting out of the wet spot in the middle of the bed. He doesn’t envy Derek at all since he’ll have to spend part of his day doing laundry now. It’s a lost cause though, which means he doesn’t feel too bad about grabbing the corner of the sheet and wiping himself down.

There’s not much he can do about the lube until he showers later, but it’s probably going to end up sticking his briefs to his skin in the meantime. He’s not looking forward to it.

The toilet flushes in the other room and Derek walks out, still naked, but he heads for his clothes and pulls on his underwear and glances at Stiles.

“Staying?” he asks, and Stiles gets the impression that it’s not an offer, more of a check to make sure Stiles actually is leaving.

He can’t help but bristle privately, but he hides it by shoving up off the bed and heading for his own clothes.

“No,” he says. “Gotta get home. Got an essay to write.”

He doesn’t; he already wrote it, but Derek nods and starts stripping the sheets off the bed, like he doesn’t want them on there any longer than need be. Stiles looks away and focuses on getting dressed, pulling everything on haphazardly just to get it done quicker. After, he grabs his phone, slips it into his pocket and turns towards Derek, who’s also pulled on a shirt and some sweatpants.

“I’ll be back in a couple of weeks for Liam’s birthday,” he blurts, just to fill the silence. “If you’re free?”

Derek nods, but seems distracted as he says, “Okay.”

“I don’t have to come over every time,” Stiles points out. “We can do whatever we want. That’s the point of this.”

Derek looks up and shakes his head.

“No,” he says immediately. “I want you here.”

Stiles expects him to say something more, but he just stops, as though that’s all there is to it.

“Okay,” Stiles replies. “I’ll text you.”

Derek nods again and this time seems less tense.

“This is meant to be fun,” Stiles reminds him. “For both of us.”

“It is,” Derek tells him. “For me.”

“Good,” Stiles says with a smile. “Cause it is for me too.”

From his pocket, he fishes out his car keys and then bounces on his heels once or twice.

“Right,” he says definitively. “I’m gonna—” he gestures to the hallway.

Derek slips into motion then and leads the way out of the bedroom and down the stairs, even holding the front door open for Stiles, who steps onto the front steps and then pauses and turns.

“You know you can text me first, right?” he asks. “If you want me over, just tell me.”

Stiles gets the impression that Derek doesn’t think he can, so he hopes that clears the air. Derek nods like he understands, but only time will tell. If Stiles is honest, he’s going to be watching his phone like a hawk from now on, just in case.

“See you around, Derek,” he says eventually.

“Bye, Stiles,” Derek says, the familiar borderline-sarcasm back in his voice.

Stiles smiles privately to himself and heads towards the Jeep, hoping that Derek actually listens for once. He keeps his gait steady, ignoring the ache in his lower body, and he doesn’t look back.

*

Liam’s birthday is mid-week, but the pack gathers together the following weekend, meeting at Liam’s house with presents and alcohol and cake. Liam’s parents are in-the-know about werewolves now—Liam had felt bad about keeping it a secret from them, but they’d taken it surprisingly well—which means they’re not at all surprised by their house being invaded by the entire pack.

Stiles can’t help but laugh at how green Liam looks when yet another six pack is set on the table.

“On his birthday, I gave him the beer Scott's been sending us,” Mason tells them. “Pretty sure he’s still hungover.”

Liam makes a vague unhappy sound.

“Just give me the cake,” he says, slumping into the nearest chair.

It’s surprisingly fun with everyone just sitting and relaxing, and Stiles ends up sprawling out on one of the smaller couches and watching, wondering if anyone would notice if he had a quick nap. The workload at school has been getting to him and most of his free time is now spent sleeping.

He must drift off eventually because one second he’s listening to a conversation about whether or not Yetis exist and the next, he’s being woken up with a plate of cake being set in his lap.

“Fuck, I missed it?” Stiles asks, scrubbing at his face.

“You looked too peaceful,” Kira says, handing him a fork.

“Apart from the drooling and the snoring,” Scott adds with a grin and Stiles snorts and rolls his eyes.

“What did you wish for?” Stiles asks, taking a bite that’s really just pure frosting.

“It doesn’t work like that,” Liam tells him. “Only I can know otherwise it won’t come true.”

They share a laugh and then the conversation shifts to Mason talking about the new guy at the gym who he’s pretty sure might be a wolf since he can deadlift almost three hundred pounds. Scott points out that it would be unlikely for an omega to slip into town unnoticed and Mason gets a look in his eyes as though the dude just made it onto his to-bang list.

Stiles’ phone buzzes in his pocket and he sets his plate aside to pull it out and open the text he just received. It’s from Derek. Who’s sitting three feet away, eating his own cake and refusing to meeting Stiles’ gaze.

Too tired to come over tonight?, it asks and Stiles quickly taps out a response.

You cool with me just lying there? You can do whatever you want to me.

Across from him, Derek checks his phone, his face expressionless as he reads then types a reply.

Yes, Derek’s text starts. I’m going to eat you out.

Stiles’ eyebrows hover somewhere around his hairline.

Please don’t give me a boner in a room of werewolves.

Derek finally looks over at him and it’s possibly even worse than the text. He’s way more likely to get a hard on from staring at Derek’s mouth and thinking about what it’ll be doing soon. Derek smiles briefly as though he already knows what he’s thinking and Stiles casually rubs the corner of his eye with his middle finger.

Derek outright grins then, baring his teeth, and Stiles shakes his head with a snort and busies himself with checking his Facebook feed. He feels a lot more awake now and he’s not entirely certain that’s a good thing.

His phone buzzes again in his palm and he’s doesn’t dare look up at Derek as he opens the new text.

Maybe I’ll fuck you when you’re wet and begging for it

Stiles turns his phone off and pointedly tucks it into his pocket. His face feels hot and he can only hope that the blush isn’t too bad. Instead, he focuses back on his cake, picking at it and trying to ignore the ache of want inside him. He can feel Derek’s gaze on him and he gives the barest, almost imperceptible nod of his head. He doesn’t know if Derek picks up on it, but it doesn’t matter because they can spend the entire night discussing it.

That is if he survives that long.

*

Stiles is proud that he doesn’t tap out early; he waits until someone else says they need to get home, and then he does the same. Except, instead of going home, he follows Derek, both of them driving just enough over the speed limit that they’d get into trouble if caught by any of the officers of Beacon Hills.

The best part is that Derek keeps his word.

He lets Stiles sprawl out across the bed and gets his tongue against his hole, eating him out as though it’s the only thing he’s been able to think about since he texted Stiles earlier. Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if it were because he knows he hasn’t thought of anything else himself.

He arches into Derek’s mouth, lets out frankly pathetic noises, and grapples at the sheets that he’s quickly becoming fairly well acquainted with over the weeks.

“How come,” he gasps out after Derek tongues him through a spectacular orgasm, “it’s always me getting fucked?”

Derek pauses where he’s nudging the tip of his cock inside of Stiles and Stiles glances over his shoulder when he feels Derek’s gaze on him.

“Are you flexible?” Derek asks and Stiles really can’t pass up the opportunity.

“Well, I can’t get my own dick in my mouth, but I like to think I’m pretty limber.”

Derek pushes in all the way at that and Stiles laughs through it, though it turns into moans when Derek starts thrusting.

“I meant with positions.”

“I go both ways,” Stiles tells him. “I’m an ass man in every sense.”

“Good to know,” Derek tells him, picking up speed, and Stiles knows he can’t get hard again so soon, but he damn well wishes he could.

“Why’s that?” Stiles asks. “You wanna get fucked?”

Derek slams into him, his hips setting a brutal pace, and Stiles knows he must be almost there.

Yes,” Derek hisses, and Stiles can’t tell if it’s just a general exclamation or if Derek is agreeing.

Stiles feels him shuddering against his back and he tightens around Derek, squeezing every last ounce of energy from him. When Derek flops over him and pants into his hair, he’s tired enough that he just doesn’t care.

“Yes,” Derek repeats, which clarifies everything. “Next time.”

Stiles groans and says, “I’m too fragile right now.”

He’s way too sore and exhausted to go for another round and he needs Derek to know.

“I’ll remind you later,” Derek tells him and Stiles lets out a wheeze and shuts his eyes to doze briefly.

“I’ll hold you to that,” he warns.

Derek pats him on the thigh and says, “Okay, Stiles.”

*

Stiles gets an itch on Sunday morning before he has to drive back to school. He says goodbye to his dad and heads over to Derek’s place, trying not to sweat too much as he has flashbacks to the first time when Derek had turned him down. But when he knocks, Derek doesn’t seem surprised to see him; he probably heard his heartbeat a long way off while he was parking the Jeep, or maybe even caught his scent through the door.

“Hey,” Stiles says, hating the way his mouth dries out at the sight of Derek in a loose shirt and sweats. It shouldn’t; Derek isn’t dressed to impressed, but apparently it’s the softer side of Derek that really gets Stiles going. “You busy?”

Instead of replying, Derek smiles crookedly and holds the door open wider, gesturing for Stiles to step inside.

“Heading back to school?” he asks as he shuts the door and turns towards him.

Stiles shuffles from one foot to the other and says, “Yeah, I just—”

“You don’t need an excuse to see me,” Derek points out.

“I didn’t know if you’d be busy.”

“Does it look like I’m busy?” Derek asks with a tilt of his head and Stiles finds himself grinning.

“No,” he replies. “Looks like you’re ready for a day in bed. I can help you with that.”

Derek doesn’t even argue as Stiles steps closer, sliding his palms over Derek’s shoulders, and reeling him in for a kiss, one that’s soft and lingering. Derek’s warm against him and it’s easy to melt into his touch as Derek gets his hands under Stiles’ shirt. Walking backward, Derek leads them to the stairs and Stiles breaks away long enough to climb them, not needing to end up with a concussion if he happens to trip.

“What do you want?” Derek asks, even as he tugs his shirt over his head and stares at Stiles expectantly.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said,” Stiles tells him honestly, waiting for Derek to fill in the blanks.

Derek raises his eyebrows and then reaches over to help Stiles out of his own shirt.

“Okay,” Derek agrees as Stiles gets a hand down the back of Derek’s sweats, running his fingers over where Derek’s hot and wet and—he pauses and stares at Derek in confusion. “I wasn’t expecting anyone today,” Derek tells him.

Stiles lets the tip of one finger slip into Derek as the realization hits and he lets a slow smirk spread across his face.

“You were fingering yourself,” Stiles says and Derek shrugs.

“I didn’t know you were going to stop by.”

Stiles stares at him, feeling as though he’s just found a national treasure.

“I need to reassess everything I know about you,” Stiles tells him. “You’re the kind of guy that spends his Sunday morning jerking it. Turns out we’re more alike than you ever imagined.”

“Shut up,” Derek murmurs, pulling Stiles back into a kiss. Stiles laughs against his mouth, but doesn’t stop playing with Derek’s ass, unable to keep his hands to himself. Derek’s wet and warm inside, and he spreads his legs just a little to give Stiles more room.

“When?” Stiles can’t help but ask in between messy kisses, pressing another finger into Derek.

Derek makes a disgruntled noise, but Stiles needs the details—for science.

“After I woke up,” Derek tells him. “Used the good lube you bought.”

“What?” Stiles asks and Derek gestures towards the nightstand where there’s a familiar CVS bag. “Is that what I bought?”

“Ran out of my own; didn’t want it to go to waste.”

“Did you come?” Stiles asks. “Or did you just—?”

Derek grunts and arches into Stiles’ touch.

“What do you think?” Derek asks and Stiles presses his grin to Derek’s mouth.

“You’re not going to be too sore?”

Stiles,” he complains and Stiles pushes a laugh between Derek’s lips.

“Alright, alright,” Stiles says, pulling his hands away to shove at Derek’s sweats and underwear, pushing it all down around Derek’s ankles, leaving him entirely bare.

Stiles slips out of his own jeans and toes off his shoes and socks, and steps closer to press his hard dick into the hollow of Derek’s hip.

“How do you want it?”

Derek moves out of his hold and gets closer to the bed, leaving over the side before glancing back at Stiles. It’s a clear invitation, and Stiles isn’t going to miss the opportunity.

“Did you save the condoms I bought too?” Stiles asks and Derek makes a thoughtful face.

“You don’t need to use them,” he reminds Stiles and Stiles shrugs.

“Yeah, but it’s messy without,” Stiles points out.

“What if that’s what I want?” Derek asks and Stiles pauses and stares at him.

“Really?”

“It’s a scent thing.”

Stiles’ brain zeroes in on the thought of Derek liking the smell of Stiles all over his body, but then he’s moving forward and checking Derek with gentle fingers to make sure he’s stretched enough.

“Do you need more?” Stiles asks, just to be sure, and Derek shakes his head.

There’s not much lube on his fingers, but he slicks the tip of his cock with it the best he can, knowing that once he’s inside there will be more than enough to keep things slippery. He goes slowly, though, despite the impatient wiggles from Derek, but eventually he gets there with his hips flush against Derek’s body, already on edge from how tight Derek is around him.

“So unfair,” Stiles gets out, wrapping an arm around Derek’s waist and curling his fingers around his dick, tugging at him firmly. “Not going to last.”

Proving just how unfair everything is, Derek squeezes around him, throwing an amused glance over his shoulder at the noise that escapes Stiles before he can stop it.

“Good?” Derek asks and Stiles wheezes.

“Tight.”

Derek lets out a huffed laugh and circles his hips insistently. Stiles gets the hint and begins moving, trying his best to give as good as he’s got.

“Tell me what’s good,” Stiles gets out, pressing his mouth to the back of Derek’s neck. “Tell me how I should make you come.”

Derek must have a thing for dirty talk, because he shudders beneath Stiles and then brings a hand up to cover the one Stiles has on his cock, tightening his grip and speeding up his strokes.

“Like this,” he orders, which Stiles can totally do.

Stiles feels like a virgin again as his hips rabbit against Derek’s own so quickly that he thinks it must be uncomfortable. If he can angle it just right, he figures he might be able to get Derek off with a half-hearted prostate massage. For what it’s worth, Derek doesn’t seem the least bit upset. He hangs his head down, face mashed into the bedspread as Stiles fills him again and again, letting out heavy breaths that make Stiles feel powerful.

“You going to come for me?” Stiles asks. “Or do you want to feel me come inside you first?”

Stiles isn’t at all ready for the way Derek clamps down around him, and he makes a sharp noise of surprise that’s practically drowned out by the sound of ripping. When he glances down, he finds Derek’s free hand—the one he had tangled in the sheets—has shifted, thick, uneven claws sprouting from the tips of his fingers.

The sheets never stood a chance; they’re torn up and peppered with holes, and then they’re covered in warm, sticky come as Derek lets go, making an inhuman growl in the back of his throat. Stiles hasn’t heard it before, not even when they were together before, but he knows it’s going to stay with him. It’ll probably be spank-bank material for years to come—pun completely intended.

“Jesus, Derek,” Stiles hisses, “Warn a guy.”

But it’s too late really, because the contractions of Derek’s ass wring the orgasm out of him and leave him panting and sprawled against Derek’s back.

“I promise I’ll move,” Stiles tells him, still shuddering, his knees threatening to give way. “Just let me have five minutes first.”

Derek grunts, but doesn’t shove Stiles off, just catches his breath beneath him, casually wiping come off his hand in the already-ruined sheets.

“I can’t believe I made you wolf out,” Stiles says. “I get bonus points for that, right?”

Derek does roll him off then, but he’s actually careful about it and lays Stiles out on the mattress, but stares down at him as though he can’t believe he ever agreed to casual sex with Stiles. Stiles still can’t believe it either, to be honest.

“Okay, no bonus points,” Stiles agrees. “But do you mind if I take a quick nap? I don’t want to fall asleep on the drive back to school.”

Derek exhales slowly, not a sigh, more of method of relaxing, and eventually nods and shifts to collapse into the space beside Stiles. Stiles knows he must be partially in the wet spot, but he doesn’t complain.

“Thirty minutes,” Derek tells him, and Stiles reaches over the side of the bed for his pants and pulls his phone out to set his alarm.

“Deal,” Stiles says, and shuts his eyes, because he’s going to savor every minute he gets. Nothing beats a great post-coitus nap, if he’s completely honest.

It’s still bright in the room with the shutters open, but he doesn’t care in the slightest. Derek readjusts against him and settles one warm palm against Stiles’ hip. It’s not a hug, but it’s a point of contact that Stiles isn’t used to. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that Stiles is tired and already on the verge of drifting off.

“Thanks,” Stiles mutters, and that’s all there is to it.

*

Stiles wakes to the buzzing of his phone and it takes him a moment to figure out where he is and why. When he blinks awake, Derek is still snoring quietly beside him, his mouth open in a way that means it’s going to be uncomfortably dry later.

“Derek,” Stiles whispers. “It’s been half an hour.”

Derek makes a sleepy sound, but doesn’t even open his eyes.

Stiles takes a moment to appreciate it, enjoying the softness of Derek’s face, and the lack of frown lines on his forehead. Derek really isn’t the same, uptight alpha he knew in high school. Now he’s just a beta that he knows has just signed up for woodworking classes at the high school at night. The craziness of Beacon Hills has settled and Derek’s settled along with it.

“I have to go,” Stiles tells him, pressing a hand to his shoulder and shaking him gently.

Derek turns towards him, smacking his lips and reaching out for Stiles, who barely avoids being tugged into the status of the small spoon.

“You need to go wash,” Stiles murmurs instead, noticing the state Derek’s in, “or you’ll hate yourself later.”

Derek just grunts.

“Fine,” Stiles continues. “Just don’t complain to me when you end up stuck to everything. I warned you.”

Derek drifts back into a deeper sleep and Stiles snorts and shakes his head. Without thinking, he leans in to press a kiss to the corner of Derek’s mouth before rolling over and getting out of bed. He’s a mess himself with come stuck to his thighs, but it only takes a few minutes to wash using a cloth he finds in Derek’s bathroom, and then he slowly dresses beside the bed.

“I’ll text you later,” he tells Derek, who doesn’t even stir and there’s a fondness in his chest that makes it feel tight and uncomfortable.

He leaves before it can get worse, making sure the front door locks behind him, and hops into his car. He sits there for a long moment, knowing that casual sex with Derek is better in theory than in practice. He wants more; he wants dates and late night texts and just-because phone calls, and he doesn’t think Derek can give him that. That’s not what was arranged.

He didn’t sign up for feelings, but it doesn’t seem like he gets a choice in the matter.

He switches the Jeep’s ignition on and doesn’t look back as he drives away.

*

Stiles has midterms near the end of October. It works out surprisingly well that his last one is Thursday morning, which means he has no more classes until the following Monday. He uses it as an excuse for a vacation and heads home for Halloween. Scott won’t be back because of a temporary volunteer job he has, but he knows a few of the others will be around.

Which is how Stiles ends up sprawled over Derek’s lap on the couch on Halloween night when the doorbell rings. He’s in the process of leaving a series of small, mouth-shaped marks on Derek’s neck, watching them slowly fade out of existence. Derek has one hand in the back pocket of Stiles’ pants, and the TV is playing some movie on SyFy that they’ve long since lost track of.

“Who’s that?” Stiles asks, not making an effort to move, though he does finally pull his mouth away so he can stare down at Derek.

Derek squeezes his ass as though the last thing he wants to do is deal with someone at his door.

“It’s not pack,” he says, frowning.

“Then we can ignore them, right?”

Derek slips his hand out of Stiles’ pocket, which is the opposite of what Stiles wants, and turns his face towards the door.

“It’s kids,” he says and Stiles raises an eyebrow at him.

“Kids?”

“Trick or treaters.”

“Damn it,” Stiles complains, dropping his head to Derek’s shoulder. “They actually come to your door now you’re not up four flights of stairs.”

He lets Derek shift him, flopping back against the arm of the couch as Derek gets up and quietly pads across the room into the kitchen.

“Answer the door,” he tells Stiles, who scoffs loudly.

“I’m not answering the door to kids with a semi, Derek. I’ll get put on some kind of list.”

Derek frowns at him when he comes back, carrying what looks to be a Costco-sized box of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup packs. Stiles sits up in interest.

“Have you been holding out on me? Don’t give them the good stuff.”

He gets up with the promise of candy, carefully adjusting himself to make sure no one gets traumatized, before following Derek to the front door, sneakily stealing a package out of the box and slipping it into his pocket.

Derek’s glaring at him as he pulls the door open and they’re met with a chorus of trick or treat from about six kids gathered around the front stoop.

Stiles blinks and looks away from Derek, turning to grin at the children, smile widening when he finds a girl in a tiny padded Captain America outfit, standing next to a boy in the exact same costume. They’re clearly related, and he’s sure there must have been arguments about who was wearing what, but they must have both won out in the end.

There’s a Princess Peach in the back and a boy in what looks like a homemade Wolverine costume, complete with aluminum foil claws. In the back, by the street, there’s a woman—clearly the chaperone for the kids—holding a baby in a small pumpkin outfit, and Stiles offers her a wave.

“That’s grossly adorable,” Stiles mutters for Derek’s ears only while Derek starts handing out Reese’s packages.

The kids seem ridiculously excited over them and hold out their bags expectantly, though they already seem fairly full.

“You guys already been around to the rest of the complex?” Stiles asks and a timid boy on the left shakes his head.

“Just to two others,” he says and Stiles raises an eyebrow.

“And you got all that candy from them?”

When he grins, the boy shows off his two missing front teeth.

“Yeah, but we wished for extra candy this year, so that’s why we’ve got lots.”

Stiles laughs gently.

“Is that so?” he asks before lowering his voice beyond their hearing. “If I wish for more head do you think I’ll get it?”

Derek shoots him a dark look, placing the last package of candy into a bag for one of the young girls before stepping back.

“Would you like one?” Derek asks the mom, but she shakes her head.

“They’ll get stomach aches eventually,” she tells them. “I’ll get the leftovers, which is one of the perks of parenthood.”

Stiles grins because that’s his idea of good parenting, and it’s precisely what his mom and dad used to do too when Stiles was younger.

“Alright, well, you guys have fun, and keep getting all that candy,” Stiles says with a wave.

“What do you say?” the mom asks them before they leave and there’s a sporadic burst of thank yous from the group, before they finally turn and head to the next house down.

“Cute,” Stiles says, watching them all excitedly run further down the street, bags of candy rustling loudly.

Derek shuts the door behind them and drops the box of Reese’s by the side table just inside the hallway, clearly expecting more visitors during the night.

“Since when have you liked kids?” Derek asks him, reaching into Stiles’ back pocket for the candy he’d hidden there.

Stiles makes a noise of protest, but doesn’t say anything when Derek ends up passing him the first peanut butter cup he takes out.

“They’re fine when you can hand them off to someone else at the end of the night,” Stiles tells him around his mouthful and Derek pulls a face and walks away. Stiles grabs another packet of Reese’s before following. “Plus, did you see that little pumpkin? I would totally buy one of those for my kid.”

Derek doesn’t respond, just settles back on the couch, leaving plenty of room for Stiles to flop beside him, which is precisely what Stiles does.

“I guess that puts a damper on my plans to feel you up,” Stiles says, licking chocolate off his fingers and Derek glances sideways at him with a long suffering expression that Stiles sees a lot. “Or we can watch bad movies and I’ll eat Reese’s until I feel like puking. Take your pick.”

Derek’s expression doesn’t change and Stiles shrugs, pulling a face.

“Fine, second option it is,” Stiles says, pulling out another peanut butter cup to eat. “Your loss.”

Derek kicks his feet up onto the coffee table and Stiles is pretty sure he’s going to crawl into Derek’s lap again in less than fifteen minutes, but he’ll at least finish his Reese’s first.

He pointedly ignores how domestic it feels to be dishing out candy to kids at Derek’s side when he’s really only there for a night of fucking. He doesn’t even dare imagine an alternate universe where one day, when he's much, much older, they adopt a baby together and stick it in ridiculous Halloween costumes. Instead, he focuses his attention on the TV and the warmth of Derek beside him, and pretends he feels sick because of the chocolate, not the looming guilt inside him.

*

On the way back home for Thanksgiving break, when he’s winding his way through the mountain pass, the last stretch of road before Beacon Hills, some asshole decides to start tailgating. It’s not ideal—Stiles isn’t a slow driver, but it’s been getting colder and he’s seen patches of ice already, so he’s flicked the Jeep into four-wheel drive and he’s taking it easy.

But apparently, mister impatient behind doesn’t appreciate being alive and wants to try to kill them both.

Stiles doesn’t give into the intimidation, though he wishes there was actually a shoulder to pull onto so he can let the guy pass. Instead, the guy sits on his tail, flashing his high beams and doing his best to blind Stiles as well as drive him off the road.

“What is your problem, you fucker?” Stiles complains flipping his rearview mirror up so it’s not so glaringly bright.

He doesn’t know why the guy doesn’t just overtake. If he’s tailgating so bad, he obviously doesn’t care about breaking the law so he shouldn’t have issues about crossing the double yellow line. But apparently he does, because he sticks close to Stiles around every curve.

There’s a sign for a passing lane in five hundred yards and Stiles breathes out a sigh of relief. He can get there, pull over, and never deal with the asshole again.

“Wish there was a cop,” Stiles mutters under his breath. “You deserve a ticket for being an asshole.”

After a few minutes, he rounds another corner and finds salvation in sight; the passing lane stretches out before him and he already begins to signal, just so his intentions are clear. Except as he begins to drift over, there’s the familiar whoop whooping of a siren, and when he looks in his wing mirror, he finds the tailgater also moving over, closely followed by a cop car.

“Seriously?” Stiles says. “Fucking instant karma, you asshole.”

He looks forward to telling his dad, knowing he’ll appreciate it. He laughs, loud and bright, turns his signal off, and carries on driving, feeling justified about everything. He’ll be back in Beacon Hills soon enough with a homecooked meal in his belly and he can't wait.

*

When Stiles finally gets home, he finds his dad half-lost amongst a mess of paperwork on the kitchen table.

“Hey, Dad. New case?” he asks, dropping his bags by the door and pulling a pitcher of lemonade from the fridge, pouring them both a glass each.

The sheriff lets out a weary sigh and shakes his head.

“If only,” he grunts as Stiles sets the drink down in front of him and pulls up a chair. His dad pauses and stares at him. “That’s not an invitation to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Stiles rolls his eyes and takes a gulp of his drink.

“That’s not what I’m doing,” he lies. “I haven’t seen you in weeks. I’m just trying to be a good son.”

“Well, go do that in another room,” the sheriff tells him, to which Stiles rolls his eyes again.

“Yeah, yeah. God forbid I try to be nice,” Stiles jokes before pausing and pointing to one of the pictures his dad has in front of him. It’s of a dark haired man with cold eyes and his lip curled up in some sort of snarl. “I would not like to meet that dude in a dark alley.”

“Which is why you should cool it with the sneaking out,” his dad tells him and Stiles freezes.

“What?” he asks and his dad looks at him as though offended he’s even pretending not to know.

“Well, you’re definitely not spending all your free time here.”

“I hang out with the pack,” Stiles argues and his dad levels him with a stare. “Fine. Whatever. But I’m not sneaking out. I’m twenty-two; I’m making life choices.”

His dad sighs heavily.

“Does your life choice want to come over for dinner one night so I can meet them?”

“Nope,” Stiles responds immediately, and his dad raises an eyebrow.

“You’re ashamed of them?”

“No,” Stiles says emphatically. “Like hell I am. He just—it’s casual.”

“He?” his dad asks and Stiles looks skyward.

“You literally say that every time I start dating a guy.”

“Well, sometimes I’m just glad that you’re not out there getting some unfortunate woman pregnant.”

“Dad!” Stiles complains, face turning hot with humiliation, but his dad just laughs as though he’s fulfilled the daily quota for his embarrassing-dad duties.

“I’m glad you’ve found someone,” his dad says eventually, reaching over to ruffle Stiles’ hair the way he used to when Stiles was a kid.

Stiles ducks out from under his hand—also like he used to when he was a kid—attempting to bat it away at the same time in mock annoyance.

“Yeah, sure,” Stiles says, to which his dad grins.

“And if this guy ever gets his act together, the invitation stands.”

“I’ll be sure to let him know if that happens.”

There’s a brief pause as though his dad is debating whether or not to say something, and Stiles knows he might regret it, but he asks, “What?”

His dad hesitates a little longer, but eventually says, “He’s treating you okay, right?”

Stiles doesn’t even know how to answer that at first. It’s not as though Derek treats him badly or knowingly hurts him per se. Stiles knows the mistake he’s made because they’re not dating, they’re just fuck buddies. It means Derek is only doing as expected of him and has no obligations to return Stiles’ feelings. Stiles just wants him to.

“Yeah,” Stiles replies eventually. “He’s fine.”

“But?” his dad asks, clearly hearing the unspoken way it lingers in the air.

“But, I think I’m in this a little deeper than he is.”

His dad shoots him a small, sad smile, as though it’s something he’s suspected all along.

“Have you talked to him?”

Stiles shakes his head and says, “Why rock the boat?”

His dad rests a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Because you deserve to be happy.”

“I am happy,” Stiles argues. “And if this is all he wants to give me, then I’ll take it.”

His answer doesn’t seem to please his dad, who frowns, clearly disappointed.

“Don’t expect him to change, Stiles,” his dad tells him gently. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Stiles lets his dad draw him into a hug, and rests his chin on his dad’s shoulder.

“I won’t,” he murmurs, even though he knows it’s already too late for that. “Do me a solid and catch that bad dude. Give us all one less thing to worry about.”

His dad draws out of the hug and gently cuffs Stiles around the head.

“What do you think I’m doing?” he asks. “Sitting on my thumbs?”

Stiles laughs and slaps his dad’s shoulder.

“I know, I know,” Stiles says lightly and his dad gives him a nudge towards the door.

“Trust me,” he says. “I wish it was that easy. I’ll do everything in my power to put these guys behind bars. Now, get out of here and let me work on doing just that.”

Stiles laughs again and does as he's told.

*

Thanksgiving itself, as usual, is chaotic. The Stilinskis and McCalls join forces each year to battle the dreaded foe that is holiday cooking. Though this year, Stiles’ dad has been putting in more hours at work, leaving Stiles to delegate.

It doesn’t go as well as expected, but the main thing is that in the early evening, Stiles pulls out a turkey from the oven and it’s vaguely edible. It’s a little dry, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the time Stiles’ dad burned one to a crisp after being distracted by helping Mr Leigh from next door rescue his cat from a tree.

However, his mashed potatoes are the best he’s ever made and Melissa brings her famous if-I-told-you-I’d-have-to-kill-you family recipe of green bean casserole. Scott makes the stuffing when he gets there, and with a dish of mixed vegetables and some freshly warmed bread rolls, Stiles feels they’re all set.

Gathered around the table with more food than the four of them can possibly eat, Stiles decides he doesn’t care about dry turkey. He’s surrounded by the people who mean the most to him. He thinks guiltily about Derek, wondering if he has any plans of his own. He never mentioned anything. Stiles wonders if he should take him a plate later.

“What are you thankful for, Stiles?” Melissa asks, interrupting his thoughts.

“Good food and a lack of supernatural entities trying to kill us all,” he answers, getting a fist bump from Scott in agreement and a roll of eyes from his dad. “What are you thankful for then, Pops?”

His dad swigs from his beer bottle before replying.

“I’m thankful for criminals that are stupid enough to make my job easier.”

Stiles snorts. “What are the bad folk up to these days, Sheriff?”

“That guy we spoke about yesterday? Him and his little buddies turned themselves in.”

Stiles blinks. “Turned themselves in? What were they done for?”

“Murder,” his dad says bluntly and Stiles’ stomach sinks.

“Who in their right mind would turn themselves in?” Stiles asks before pausing at his own words. No one in their right mind would. “Did they seem, uh, normal?”

“You think it’s something supernatural?” his dad asks and Stiles shrugs.

“Correlation doesn’t mean causation,” he says.

“Is there even any correlation?” his dad points out. “Though it would make sense. Good things never happen in Beacon Hills.”

Well, fuck, Stiles thinks. That’s a good point. He wracks his brain, trying to remember if anything relevant has happened over the past few weeks, but he hasn’t even been around.

“Did anything happen at the station? Did you do anything differently?”

The sheriff shakes his head and says, “Not that I know of.”

Stiles cards his fingers through his hair and runs through what they talked about the night before. It had mostly just been about his love life and Stiles joking about his dad catching bad guys—he pauses and stares at his dad.

“What did you say about catching them?” Stiles asks rhetorically. “I told you to catch them and you said you wished it was that easy.”

Across the table, Scott makes a noise of interest.

“You think something is granting wishes?” he asks and Stiles shrugs and rubs at his eyes, trying to think.

He doesn’t know how far back it would go, but Melissa getting a promotion from an asshole boss could be something. Or the kids wishing for extra candy on Halloween. Or the asshole tailgater who got an immediate taste of justice after Stiles complained. He lets out a grunt of annoyance because the last thing he wants to deal with is something supernatural. It’s been so quiet and normal lately and it’s been a nice reprieve.

"Like a genie?" his dad interrupts, but Stiles shakes his head.

"A genie concentrates on one person; this seems to be bouncing from person to person."

Scott swigs at his beer and looks concerned. "Should we get the pack together soon?"

Stiles rubs the side of his nose uncomfortably and nods. “There are too many things for them to all be coincidences. Something’s doing this and we should probably figure out what.”

“Is it bad?” Melissa asks, picking through her remaining vegetables.

“Right now?” Stiles questions, but just answers himself by shrugging loosely. “Who knows.”

“If it’s forcing criminals to turn themselves in, I’m all for it,” his dad says. “Makes my job easier.”

“It’s nice to have good things in this town for once,” Melissa points out and as much Stiles agrees, he knows it can’t end well.

“Yeah, but how long will it stay good?” Scott counters as if reading Stiles’ mind.

“I can check the Bestiary later,” Stiles tells them. “I’ll see if anything seems to fit the description.”

Scott chews his turkey thoughtfully and nods. “It might not be obvious.”

“It might not even be in there yet,” Stiles’ dad adds, which is a horrible thought.

“Why would you say that?” Stiles complains, pulling a face.

“It’s a worse case scenario,” his dad says with a shrug. “It doesn’t hurt to have a plan for every possible outcome.”

Stiles sighs, nudging his food around his plate, suddenly losing his appetite and Scott seems to notice immediately.

“We can talk about this later,” Scott says, clearly attempting to move the conversation in a better direction. “We can get the pack together and brainstorm. We don’t know what it is, so let’s not jump to any conclusions yet. Let’s just enjoy the rest of Thanksgiving.”

The table falls quiet until it’s just the sound of knives and forks clinking against the plates and Stiles doesn’t want to, but he mentally runs through what it might be. It may not even be a creature; it could be some sort of spell. There could be a druid back in town, or it could be something wayward from an untrained witch. There are too many possibilities and it’ll take a while for them to even narrow down their ideas before they start looking into it.

They’ve got one hell of a job on their hands and he hopes Scott has more confidence than he does, because he doesn’t see the puzzle being solved any time soon.

He nudges his fork at his mashed potatoes and distractedly listens to Melissa as she begins talking about a house she’s been eyeing up as a downsize from her current place. Under the table, a foot taps against his own and he glances across at Scott, who smiles encouragingly at him. It’s comforting to know Scott isn’t too worried, that he trusts the pack to figure out what’s behind the luck and that they’ll be able to stop it.

So he grins back, and goes back to his food, hoping that Scott is right.

*

After the McCalls head home and Stiles’ dad disappears upstairs for an early night before the Black Friday shift he always insists on taking, Stiles loads up a few paper plates with food and heads to his Jeep. He’s piled one plate high with turkey—white and dark meat because he doesn’t know which Derek prefers—along with a generous portion of vegetables, potatoes, and a couple of bread rolls. On another plate, he’s put two slices of pie—one pumpkin and the other apple.

Derek answers the door looking rumpled, wearing sweats and a shirt that’s two sizes too big. It makes him look soft and vulnerable, and makes Stiles want to lead him to the couch so that they can nap together.

Instead, he holds the food up as an offering and steps inside the apartment when Derek moves aside and gestures him in with a tilt of his head.

“I didn’t know if you got to go out for Thanksgiving dinner, so I brought some to you instead.”

Derek takes it without argument and heads towards the kitchen, Stiles following quietly behind. There’s an empty pizza box stacked on top of the trash can and Stiles is instantly glad he came because no one deserves to survive solely on Thanksgiving pizza.

Derek grabs a fork from the drawer by the sink and pulls the foil off the biggest plate. He cocks his hip against the counter and starts eating right then and there, taking huge mouthfuls as though he hasn’t eaten for a week.

“That’s quite the appetite you’ve got there,” Stiles says, smiling when Derek grunts and carries on eating like he doesn’t give a damn.

It’s silent apart from the noise of Derek eating and Stiles hops up onto the countertop, despite knowing Derek will complain—he’s already shooting a glare Stiles’ way. He lets his hands drop between his knees and enjoys the peace and quiet while he watches Derek.

“Did you talk to anyone today?” he asks, meaning Cora, but Derek shakes his head. “What did you do then?”

Derek shrugs lopsidedly and says, “Slept.”

“But not all day,” Stiles reasons, but Derek offers another loose shrug. “All day?”

“Was tired,” Derek explains, which Stiles finds surprising.

He suspects it’s because he’s already suspicious of everything that he asks, “Have you wished for anything lately? Like more sleep?”

Derek stops eating and stares at him before emphatically saying, “No.”

Stiles is trying not to worry because there are a million reasons why Derek would sleep all day and not all of them are bad—only eighty-five percent or so.

“Should I?” Derek asks.

No,” Stiles replies quickly and gets a raised eyebrow in response.

“Is there something going on?”

“No,” Stiles says automatically. “Well, maybe. We’re not sure yet. It’s just speculation.”

Derek nods. “Let me know if you need help researching. I know you have school.”

Stiles blinks because it’s surprisingly considerate; not that he doesn’t think Derek is capable of being considerate—it’s just not something they really do.

“Thanks,” Stiles says quietly. “I will.”

“What did you do all day?” Derek counters around a mouthful of turkey breast after Stiles falls silent. “Eat?”

Stiles bristles.

“I made the food you’re eating,” he says, hoping to catch Derek out.

“Is that why it tastes like shit?”

Stiles hops off the countertop and takes a step towards Derek, with one arm outstretched.

“I can throw that away for you if you want,” he threatens, but Derek pulls the plate closer to his chest protectively and Stiles stops and smirks. “That’s what I thought.”

He drops his hand and lets Derek continue eating.

“It’s dry,” Stiles admits, “but it was my first attempt, so cut me some slack.”

Derek finishes chewing, seeming to have trouble swallowing, but he puts on a brave face.

“It’s not bad,” he admits to Stiles, who feels a spark of warmth flutter to life in his chest.

“That’s a real compliment coming from you,” he says and Derek smiles sarcastically at him. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen a wolf turn away food though, no matter how bad. I’ve even seen you in the Taco Bell drive through before, so don’t front.”

“Just accept the compliment,” Derek grunts

Stiles grins and watches him spoon the last of the mashed potatoes into his mouth. It’s only taken Derek a few minutes to clear his food and Stiles narrows his eyes. “Are you sure you didn’t wish for hibernation? Eating, sleeping, the personality of a grizzly bear?”

Stiles,” Derek warns, which doesn’t disprove Stiles’ theory at all, but then he throws his plate away and stares at Stiles expectantly. “No pie?”

Stiles scoffs and says, “Greedy. It’s on the other plate actually,” with a gesture to the lump of foil on the counter by the coffeepot.

Derek makes an agreeable noise and reaches for it, pulling the cover off to reveal the plate’s contents. Derek makes another noise, but this one is deeper and settles low in Stiles’ stomach. It’s very similar to the noises Derek makes in bed.

Derek can probably smell Stiles’ immediate interest, but instead he says, “Want some?”

Stiles pats his stomach for the universal sign of being too full to eat anything else.

“I already had some of the apple one. We’ve got leftovers back at the house anyway.”

Derek shrugs and grabs his fork back up, shovelling a large portion of pumpkin pie into his mouth and chewing slowly as though savoring the taste as his eyes slowly widen in surprise.

“Did you try this one?” Derek asks and Stiles shakes his head.

Apparently that’s not the right response because Derek scoops up a forkful and holds it out expectantly. Stiles stares at it for a long moment before glancing up at Derek.

“You want to feed me pie?” Stiles asks and Derek stares at him impatiently.

“I’ve fed you a lot worse,” Derek says bluntly and Stiles feels his face heat because he’s three thousand percent sure Derek is talking about all the times he’s put his dick in Stiles’ mouth.

Instead of replying, Stiles frowns and leans forwards to take the mouthful out of spite, chewing and wondering how he’s reached the point in his life where he has Derek Hale spoon feeding him pumpkin pie in a kitchen on Thanksgiving. And maybe in another life he could have it and it could mean something too.

The pie suddenly doesn’t taste quite as good, but he swallows and nods his appreciation for it anyway.

“Good?” Derek confirms.

“Not bad for store bought.”

Derek snorts and carries on eating.

“You staying?” Derek asks and Stiles shakes his head.

On the drive over, he’d thought briefly about asking for a BJ, but now he just needs to get back and start researching, just in case.

“I should get back.”

There’s a look on Derek’s face that Stiles would like to class as disappointment, but he’s not willing to get his hopes up that high.

“Thanks for the food,” Derek tells him.

“Yeah, alright, you bear. Don’t sleep too long over winter.”

“Will I not see you until the holiday break?” Derek asks, sounding faintly surprised.

“It depends how long the research takes,” Stiles points out. “It might be a weekend deal.”

“I have internet,” Derek points out. “You can always do it here.”

“Yeah, but at home I won’t have the distraction of sex,” Stiles jokes.

“We don’t always have to have sex,” Derek tells him as though it’s obvious and for a moment, Stiles’ heart soars. “We’re still part of the same pack.”

—and his heart crashes and burns spectacularly. Of course it’s not because Derek wants him romantically; it’s just because they’re pack and that’s what pack does.

“Sure,” Stiles agrees with a brave face, though he isn’t certain he’ll take Derek up on the offer. “I’ll let you know.”

Derek nods and then sets aside his plate with the half-eaten pies on it. Stiles thinks it’s because he’s going to show Stiles to the door, but instead he curls a hand around Stiles’ waist and pulls him closer, his head tilting as he leans in and aligns their mouths. The kiss happens before Stiles can even register it, but it deepens and tastes of everything Thanksgiving, and Stiles finds himself pushing away before it can get too heavy.

“What was that?” Stiles asks, eyebrows somewhere near his hairline, but Derek doesn’t seem affected by it.

“Just in case I don’t see you.”

Stiles wants to touch his mouth; he wants to remember the way his lips buzz, but instead he takes a step back and mentally shakes his head to clear it. They’ve shared hundreds of kisses before, but they’ve always been the prelude to sex; it’s not something they do.

“Right,” he says, voice sounding tight to his own ears. “I’ll text you.”

Derek nods and then heads out of the kitchen, leaving Stiles to follow after him belatedly. Stiles expects it to be awkward at the door and wonders how he’ll stammer through a goodbye, but Derek seems to have no problem.

“Bye, Stiles,” he says and Stiles almost trips headfirst down the front steps, his legs refusing to cooperate.

“See you,” Stiles gets out, aiming for casual as he waves over his shoulder, though it ends in him almost walking into the side of his own car as he forgets to look where he’s going.

He hears Derek snort, but then the door shuts, and Stiles is free to lurch into his car and press his forehead to the steering wheel. He has a thousand expletives he’d like to yell, but he’s still too close to Derek’s house; he’d probably hear. So instead, he gets the keys in the ignition and starts the Jeep up, revving the engine gently to cover the whine he lets out that’s a culmination of stress and sadness and utter defeat.

Derek’s on a warpath to destroy his feelings and he doesn’t even seem to realize.

Stiles exhales raggedly, flicks the gear into drive, and tries to put as much space between him and Derek’s apartment as he can.

*

On Black Friday, instead of browsing for deals like a normal human being, Stiles spends five straight hours searching the Bestiary and Google for any lore related to wishes. It’s really just a trial in patience because he doesn’t think unicorns exist, but there’s a hell of a lot of information about them. Though most of the sites are shockingly undersourced to even be considered valuable. There are also a ridiculous amount of horses-with-horns manips in the image search.

Other than unicorns, he finds references to angels, faeries, witches, and trolls, all of which are terrible options for what they’re dealing with. The bestiary includes information about all of them, which doesn’t help him narrow things down.

At the six hour mark, Stiles snaps his laptop shuts, rakes his fingers through his hair, and sighs heavily. He’s not getting anywhere, but his brain is now packed full of information about anything and everything.

When he checks his phone, he has two messages that he’d missed while caught up in research. One is from Scott asking if he’s found anything—to which Stiles replies with a series of unhappy emoticons to wordlessly say that no, he hasn’t—and one from Kira asking if he’d like to join them for dinner on Saturday. He lets Kira know that he’ll be there, asks if she wants him to bring anything, and then pulls up a new message to Derek.

Bored? he texts and it takes a few minutes for a reply to come through.

No but you are.

It’s true.

Was thinking about your mouth, he sends quickly before he can change his mind.

Are you using me to procrastinate? Derek asks and Stiles laughs.

Yes but they’re not mutually exclusive.

Come over, Derek replies and Stiles really doesn’t need to be told twice.

He’s up out of his chair in no time, grabbing his wallet and keys, and as a last minute decision, his laptop, which he slips into his messenger bag. He hopes that maybe after he’s come and his head is clear, he’ll have more room to think. At least, that’s the reasoning he goes with as he heads downstairs, locking the front door on the way out.

*

“What have you found?” Derek asks, wiping come off his thighs with the edge of the sheet.

Stiles is still flopped bonelessly among the pillows where Derek had rolled him after giving him the best head of his life, and he’s not even sure which way is up.

“What?” he asks, tongue feeling loose and clumsy in his mouth.

“Your research. Did you find anything?”

Stiles hums quietly and shuts his eyes because Derek is apparently trying to harsh his post coital buzz.

“No,” he says. “Which is why I don’t want to think about it.”

“If you don’t, then who will?”

It’s a good point because he already told Scott he’d look into it.

“You,” Stiles grunts, just to shut him up, but it doesn’t seem to work.

“Fine,” Derek tells him. “Where’s your laptop?”

Stiles opens one eye, which is really all he needs to glare at Derek, but Derek just raises his eyebrows expectantly at him.

“Bag,” he grumbles, rolling slightly when the bed dips under Derek’s weight as he gets up.

He can hear Derek rustling around by the door where most of their clothes ended up.

After a moment, the mattress moves again as Derek climbs back into bed. The sheets rustle as he gets himself situated and then Stiles lifts his head to see Derek opening the laptop and waking it from its sleep. Without even seeming to check that Stiles is looking, he points the laptop towards him.

“Password,” he orders, and Stiles dutifully reaches out and enters it while Derek politely glances elsewhere.

It loads the desktop and the document Stiles had been working on is still up.

“Wishes?” Derek asks and Stiles grunts in confirmation. “What kind of wishes?”

Stiles figures he isn’t going to get to sleep any time soon and so rolls over onto his back and sits up, fluffing the pillows behind his shoulders to keep him upright and comfortable.

“Don’t know the pattern or how it picks which wishes to fulfill,” Stiles tells him. He points to the screen where he has a bullet point list. “These are all the ones I could think of that could be part of it.”

“Is it just for the pack?”

Stiles shrugs and says, “Inconclusive.”

“Could get messy,” Derek points out and Stiles sighs.

“I’m hoping it’s just us. I don’t want to think about what could happen if it’s everyone.”

Derek quietly reads through the rest of Stiles’ research before glancing over again.

“What about the wishes?”

“What about them?” Stiles asks.

“Does the size of the wish matter?”

“I think it’s how you use it,” Stiles jokes, which Derek doesn’t seem to appreciate as much as he does himself. “I don’t know.”

“Wish for something,” Derek tells him and Stiles frowns.

“Don’t encourage it,” Stiles argues and Derek shrugs.

“How else are we meant to find out what it is?”

Stiles sighs and points out, “It might not be instant. We may only find out about it after something has happened.”

“Just try it,” Derek insists and Stiles wracks his brain for something fairly innocuous.

“I wish I had a pizza,” Stiles says aloud before glancing around the room, waiting for something to happen.

There’s nothing but silence and Stiles looks expectantly at Derek. Nothing happens at all.

“Maybe it needs time,” Derek suggests. “Like you said.”

“But how long?” Stiles asks. “What if it’s not a big enough wish?”

Derek frowns thoughtfully, which is the same time that the doorbell rings downstairs. Wide-eyed, Stiles glances over at Derek.

“Holy shit,” he murmurs and Derek continues frowning and drags himself out of bed.

Knowing he can’t miss it, Stiles follows his lead, pulling on his clothes haphazardly, still tugging on his shirt as he stumbles his way downstairs behind Derek. Derek glances at him briefly before reaching to pull the door open and Stiles cards his fingers through his hair one last time.

Standing on the doorstep is none other than—Scott?

To be fair, he looks just as surprised to see them both as they are to see him. He glances briefly between them, clearly seeing and smelling things he perhaps might not want to see and smell. Stiles frowns, steps forward, and glances out at the complex over Scott’s shoulder.

“Expecting someone?” Scott asks, following Stiles’ gaze.

“No,” Stiles says automatically and Scott shoots him a questioning look.

“Right, well I only came to get the keys from Derek.”

“What?” Stiles asks and Derek glances over at him.

“Scott asked to borrow my car the other day.”

“Yeah,” Scott confirms. “Kira wants to move a few things out of her parent’s place and since I have the bike…”

Derek turns away and heads into the living room, clearly going to find his keys, and Scott throws a series of complicated facial expressions at him. If Stiles ever wanted to know what why-are-you-here-alone-and-why-do-you-smell-like-sex looked like when spoken solely via eyebrow wriggles, he now does. Stiles offers him a slow shrug and thinks he should probably text him or call later.

There’s a jingle of keys behind and Stiles moves out of the way so that Derek can pass them over to Scott.

“I’ll put some gas in it,” Scott promises and Derek makes a noncommittal noise like he doesn’t mind either way. “Should be back tomorrow morning.”

Derek nods and Scott offers them both a wave before turning and heading towards Derek’s car. Stiles slowly pushes the door shut and turns towards Derek.

“Well, I guess he knows now.”

Derek grunts, which isn’t really an answer, but before they can continue talking about it, there’s another knock on the door.

“Did you forget something?” Stiles asks as he tugs open the door, but it’s not Scott there at all, just a teenage boy with acne and a confused expression on his face. “You’re not Scott.”

“I’m here to deliver your pizza,” the guy says, holding up the box of said pizza.

Stiles looks over at Derek with dread.

“We didn’t order a pizza,” Derek tells him and the guy checks the label on the box.

“This is 14 Glennwood Drive, apartment 5?” the kid asks and Derek nods because that’s the right address. “Someone bought you a pizza then, dude. Enjoy.”

He shoves the pizza box towards Stiles, who grabs it out of reflex, and then the pizza guy is turning away and heading back to where his car is idling by the curb.

“Shit,” Stiles says as he lets the door swing shut. “Guess that answers that question—small wishes aren’t an issue.”

“What about large ones?” Derek asks when Stiles turns towards him, and god, Stiles really doesn’t want to think about it.

“I don’t think we should push that luck,” Stiles says. “God, what if it applies to every wish.”

“I thought it did,” Derek replies and Stiles shakes his head.

“What if it’s also nonverbal wishes.” Derek blinks as though it never even crossed his mind. “But I don’t think it is, because otherwise there’d be more chaos.”

“What do we do?” Derek asks and Stiles shrugs.

“We try to figure out what’s doing this.”

“How do we do that?”

Stiles frowns at Derek and asks, “Why do you think I have the answer to everything?”

“You’re the one that even realized something was wrong,” Derek points out.

Stiles rakes his fingers through his hair and sighs heavily.

“When’s the last time we patrolled the border of the Beacon Hills territory?” he asks despondently and Derek shoulders drop as though he already knows where it’s going and what Stiles is going to suggest next.

“Too long ago,” he sighs and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, I think it’s time for a walk.”

“Want me to call Scott?” Derek asks and Stiles shakes his head.

“I’ll let him know later. We can deal with this ourselves for now. Let him have a quiet day with Kira.”

“I’ll grab my coat,” Derek sighs and Stiles understands that feeling all too well.

*

The ride to the preserve in Stiles’ Jeep is quiet; Derek isn’t exactly chatty. To fill the silence, Stiles drums his fingers against the steering wheel and clears his throat enough times that he probably sounds like he has a cold coming on. He’s thankful that it’s a short trip, though, and it’s a relief when he pulls into the dirt parking lot and parks.

He climbs out a few seconds after Derek does, grabbing his coat from the backseat and thanking his past self for putting it there when he steps into the cold afternoon air. It makes sense, he supposes, since winter is just around the corner.

“Jesus,” he complains, though Derek doesn’t seem to have any issues. He has his leather jacket zipped up to his chin with his hands in his pockets.

Stiles kind of wishes he’d thought to put gloves in his car too. He makes do by rubbing his palms together and blowing hot air between them, though he suspects they’ll soon warm up once they’re trekking through the forest.

“Okay,” he starts as they make their way onto the pathway that will lead them along the border of the preserve. “We should probably expect just about anything. Though I guess we’re not even sure if it’s hostile, right? Fuck, I don’t know—expect the unexpected.”

Derek nods, but doesn’t answer, and Stiles falls into step behind him, the path too narrow for them to walk side-by-side. It takes twenty minutes of silence for Stiles to crack and he clears his throat—yet again.

“Do you think this is happening to other people?” he asks and Derek doesn’t break stride when he shrugs.

“Don’t know.”

“I mean, that could get messy if people start realizing their wishes are coming true. What about kids? They wish for weird shit. We’re going to end up with dragons roaming around Beacon Hills or something.”

“Maybe it can only grant wishes for things that already exist—pizza, promotions, those kinds of things.”

“Derek,” Stiles grunts. “We’re surrounded by werewolves, we’ve been visited by a thousand and something year old dark trickster, and giant poisonous lizard creatures are real. I really don’t want to find out what else exists when some kid wishes for it.”

Derek makes a noise like he might have a good point and Stiles would feel justified, but it’s a terrible point and he doesn’t want it to be true at all.

“How do we find out?” Derek asks and it’s Stiles’ turn to shrug.

“Not sure,” he says. “I could tell my dad and see if he notices anything.”

“It’s sloppy,” Derek tells him. “Too many things are going to fall through the cracks.”

“Yeah, but there’s not much I can do. It’s not my job to keep track of what goes on in Beacon Hills every moment of every day—”

Stiles pauses and Derek actually glances over his shoulder, as though to make sure he’s still there.

“What?” Derek asks and Stiles grins.

“It’s not my job, but it is someone else’s.” He pulls his phone out of his pocket and loads up an app, speeding up his pace so that he can thrust his arm out for Derek to see.

“The news,” Derek says and Stiles nods even though Derek can’t see.

“Yup. My guess is that this will be our best bet. We should be able to keep track of things if the media does their job right.”

“Good idea,” Derek tells him and Stiles actually feels his face flush at the compliment.

“Thanks,” Stiles mutters, slipping his phone back into his pocket. “I’ll look through it tonight when there’s better signal.”

Derek grunts and they fall back into silence, though it’s not really silent—the leaves underfoot rustle loudly and there are birds all around them making various noises, ranging from quiet peeps to flat out screeches. But it’s surprisingly relaxing, which means Stiles’ defense is down when Derek comes to an abrupt halt and Stiles slams into his back with a loud oof.

“Why’d you stop?” Stiles complains, rubbing at his eyebrow where it had connected with the back of Derek’s head.

“Quiet,” Derek orders and Stiles has enough self-preservation to know when to actually do as he’s told. He shuts up and peers around Derek to see what he’s spotted—except there’s nothing there.

“What is it?” he murmurs, turning his head so that only Derek will be able to hear. Derek flinches as though the feeling of Stiles’ warm breath on his ear is unwelcomed and Stiles pulls back to give him space.

“Something doesn’t feel right,” Derek tells him, even though he immediately takes a step forward, ignoring his own senses.

Stiles grabs his forearm and holds him still.

“Then don’t go towards the bad feeling, moron.”

Derek shakes his head as though clearing it, glanced down at Stiles hand on him, and doesn’t attempt to go anywhere else.

“Feels like it’s luring something in.”

“And when you say it…?” Stiles questions and Derek reaches over, gripping his chin and turning his head to the left slightly.

In the far distance, tucked among the trees a good hundred yards or so away, is a small glowing orb. It’s hard to spot; it looks almost like the sun glinting off something wet, but it bobs up and down very slightly in an unnatural way.

“We’re not getting any closer to it,” Stiles tells him and Derek frowns at him.

“How are we meant to figure out what it is?”

Stiles pulls his phone out and snaps a few pictures of it, looking at Derek and daring him to argue.

“I’ll Google it later. Maybe it’s related to everything, or maybe it’s not, but we’ll figure it out later when we’re less likely to be killed out here while following glowing creatures into the woods.”

Derek grunts like he’s not pleased, but he’ll do it just because he can’t be bothered to argue. Stiles takes it as a victory.

“So now, we turn around, drive home, and research until we no longer can, without dying immediately out here.”

He gives Derek’s arm a tug and he’s waiting for Derek to put up a fight, but he doesn’t; he takes a step in the other direction. Stiles wonders just how bad the bad feeling is that Derek has, because he suspects it has to be fucking terrifying to get Derek to just walk away. Unless Stiles is just extra convincing today, but that's never been the case before.

He’s not going to argue, though. He keeps tugging until they’re five feet away, then ten feet, and then twenty feet, and he doesn’t have an excuse to touch Derek anymore and lets go, leading the way back to the parking lot.

“Ever seen anything like that?” Stiles asks when they finally get back to the Jeep and slip inside.

Stiles glances over as he starts the engine and Derek shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “Look in the bestiary.”

That was going to be Stiles’ first step, but he nods as though he hadn’t thought of it.

“I need a to-do list,” Stiles jokes as he jams the Jeep into reverse to back out of the space they’re in. “So much for Thanksgiving break.”

“I told you I’d help,” Derek says, which is true. “Leave your laptop and you can collect it tomorrow.”

“It’s password protected,” Stiles points out.

“Then tell me your password,” Derek tells him as though it’s that simple. “Or just stay the night. Watch TV and I’ll research.”

Stiles’ stomach flops happily at the thought; he couldn’t think of anything better than spending the night with Derek, quietly researching together before falling into bed and sleeping through the night undisturbed. He doesn’t want to seem too eager, so he pauses like he’s thinking and then eventually nods.

“Yeah, okay; if you’re sure.”

“I wouldn’t offer if I wasn’t, Stiles.”

“Point taken,” Stiles replies, not wanting to argue it any further.

“We can eat cold pizza,” Derek points out and Stiles sighs.

“Don’t remind me,” he says. “You can deal with this now. I’m officially on vacation.”

Derek snorts beside him, but doesn’t say anything, and for once, the silence is welcoming.

*

Stiles ends up sprawled on the couch beside Derek, the box of pizza between them. Apparently, they’re the best people to eat pizza together because Stiles picks off all the onion, which Derek puts on his own slices, and Derek leaves all his crusts, which Stiles eats without the slightest bit of shame.

Stiles finds some reruns of Mythbusters to watch and once he’s logged in on his laptop for Derek, he zones out like he’s been wanting to do all week. He gets a quarter of the way through the second episode before Derek sighs and draws Stiles’ attention.

“It’s not just us,” he tells Stiles, shifting the pizza box and turning the laptop so that Stiles can see the screen. Stiles moves closer, arm on the back of the couch as he leans over.

“What am I looking at?” he asks and Derek huffs quietly. “Is this a spreadsheet?”

Derek points with one finger and says, “These are all the people who have won a million dollars from scratch cards from the ampm on second street.”

“Twelve people?” Stiles asks incredulously, leaning further in. “Are you serious?”

“It’s from the last three weeks.”

“Fuck,” Stiles curses, rubbing at his face. “This has been going on way too long already. What about the glow?”

Derek pulls up a Wikipedia page he already has open to an article on Will-o’-the-wisp and Stiles raises an eyebrow.

“I’m impressed,” he tells Derek, who glances at him darkly. “I’m being serious!”

“I know,” Derek bites back. “Which means you’re being condescending.”

Stiles laughs, unable to help himself, and says, “Since when have you let that get to you?”

“Shut up,” Derek grouches and Stiles leans against him, nudging their shoulders together and staying there when Derek doesn’t complain or shove him away.

“So, what is this?” Stiles asks, tilting his head towards the screen.

“Glows in forests, lures people in, and leads victims to their deaths.”

Stiles blinks, frowns, and leans forward to read the screen.

“That’s nothing to do with what’s going on,” he points out. “Please don’t tell me we’ve got something else to deal with at the same time.”

“They’re usually paired with witches,” Derek points out and Stiles sags against him.

“What does it say about us that having a witch in town is actually a relief?”

Derek heaves out a sigh and closes the laptop lid, sliding the computer onto the coffee table, and settling back on the couch, still not nudging Stiles away from him.

“Do we kill her?” he asks and Stiles stares at him incredulously.

“This is why you’re not in charge of making plans. No, we don’t kill her—we need to find her, see what she wants, and tell her to stop.”

“And if she doesn’t?” Derek asks.

“Then we kill her,” Stiles jokes before adding, “I’m kidding. We give her an ultimatum and if she still doesn’t stop, we run her out of town. Actually, you guys can run her out of town, because some of us have to go back to school.”

Derek grunts and says, “Do we have to find her too?”

“Yeah,” Stiles replies, waving a dismissive hand. “But it’ll be easy. You’ve searched for worse. Just look near the wisp because she’s probably drawing power from it.”

“Ominous,” Derek grumbles and Stiles snorts.

“You’ve dealt with worse,” Stiles tells him around a yawn as a new episode of Mythbusters starts.

He rubs his eyes, exhaustion finally catching up with him, and when he glances at his phone, he finds it’s almost eleven, which isn’t that late considering he’s on vacation, but it is late considering he’s not-so-secretly an old man on the inside.

“I should get home since we're done with the research,” he tells Derek. “Dad’s probably wondering where I am anyway.”

He’s sitting there trying to gather up the motivation needed to actually get up when Derek speaks.

“You don’t have to,” he says quietly, like he’s hoping that maybe Stiles won’t hear.

Stiles glances over and says, “Huh?”

“You can still stay,” Derek explains awkwardly. “For the night.”

Stiles pauses and stares at him unblinking. “Really?” he asks trying not to sound too surprised and probably failing. “I’m happy to crash here on the couch.”

Stiles,” Derek says as though he’s being unreasonable and Stiles gets it.

“Okay,” he replies. “All right.”

And apparently that’s all there is to it. They sit through the rest of the Mythbusters episode and then Derek quietly locks up the apartment and turns out all the lights as he heads for the stairs. Stiles hesitates just long enough for Derek to glance back at him, and he finds himself hurrying after him, trying his best to stay casual, despite his heart thundering at a million miles an hour. It seems the one thing more intimidating than sleeping with Derek is sleeping with Derek in the literal sense, not the messy, sexy kind.

He feels like he’s underestimated Derek completely when he pulls out a spare toothbrush—still in the packaging and tucked at the back of Derek’s medicine cabinet—and hands it over. And it’s all completely surreal when he stands beside Derek at the sink, silently brushing his teeth and trying not to make awkward eye contact in the mirror. He spits first, rinses, leaves his toothbrush on the side of the sink, and then heads back into the bedroom before anything worse can happen.

He’s stripping down and panicking about what side of the bed to crawl onto when Derek comes back wearing only a thin shirt and a pair of boxer-briefs. He spares a glance at Stiles, who feels strangely self-conscious given how many nights he’s spent making Derek come with his hands and his mouth and his ass. But Derek doesn’t comment on how he’s meticulously folding his pants and not just dumping them on the floor as usual. Instead, he turns off the overhead light and slips under the covers on the left side of the bed, taking the dilemma away from Stiles completely.

Stiles tugs his socks off and then his shirt in a last minute decision, knowing from past experience with others about how hot he usually gets when sharing a bed. He muscles his way under the sheets in the space Derek has left for him and shifts around to find the most comfortable spot. After a moment, Derek grunts, curls an arm over his side and tugs him closer.

“Stop moving,” he orders and Stiles huffs loudly as though insulted by the request.

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Stiles argues and Derek’s fingers dig into his ribs, just enough to make him squirm.

Stiles,” he grunts and Stiles waits for him to say something more, but nothing comes and he turns his head, staring over at where he knows Derek’s face must be, though he can only see darkness.

There’s the sudden sensation of something looming closer, then the heat of Derek’s body, and surprisingly the softness of Derek’s mouth against his own.

“Go to sleep,” Derek says before it even registers that Derek has given him a goodnight kiss.

He blinks in surprise and finds himself settling down without another word of complaint.

Derek huffs a warm breath against the back of his neck, the cool tip of his nose barely grazing Stiles’ skin, and then he falls silent. Stiles takes a page from his book and shuts his eyes, willing sleep to come and take him, if only to spare him from having a complete meltdown at the softness of Derek’s hold and how he could easily get used to kissing Derek goodnight if given half a chance.

He doesn’t know how long it takes, but when he finally falls headfirst into sleep, he doesn’t even notice.

*

He wakes feeling surprisingly comfortable, especially for how he’s being half squished into the bed by Derek sprawled out over his back. Derek’s still breathing evenly, but he snuffles quietly when Stiles shifts enough to stretch out his left leg. The arm around his waist tightens slightly and Derek tucks his face into Stiles’ shoulder as though the last thing he wants to do is wake up.

“W’time is it?” Derek slurs, voice rough.

“Dunno,” Stiles replies, not even bothering to open his eyes.

Derek grunts and strokes his palm along Stiles’ side, spreading even more warmth where it touches. Stiles is more than happy to lie there and doze, slipping in and out of sleep lazily. Stiles blinks awake again when the mattress dips and he lets out a noise of complaint when Derek tugs him backwards. He doesn’t know what Derek’s trying to do until he slides his hand around to Stiles’ stomach, pressing it low on his abdomen with clear intentions.

Stiles is definitely on board with that idea. He feels Derek’s morning wood resting against his lower back and he presses into it, just enough to make sure Derek knows how okay he is with everything. Derek’s mouth immediately latches onto his throat, leaving sucking kisses along it, probably leaving a series of messy marks behind, too.

Derek’s palm is dry when he slips his hand down the front of Stiles’ briefs, but Stiles doesn’t mind in the slightest when warm fingers curl around his cock and begin to stroke him to hardness.

“S’early,” Stiles breathes out, not knowing if he’s even capable of coming so early in the morning.

“Mmm,” Derek hums straight into his ear and that definitely does something for Stiles.

It’s surprisingly lazy, though. Derek’s hand stays at the same steady pace and Stiles is happy to lie there feeling boneless, slumped onto his side. He still gets hard quickly, though that might just be because it’s Derek. Just knowing it’s him with his hand on Stiles’ dick, tucked up close to his body and getting off on it too.

Stiles lets out a low moan when Derek’s movements start to get smoother with the slickness from Stiles’ cock. He’s going to be a mess after, but he really doesn’t care. Without a thought, Stiles slides his leg back, hooking it over Derek’s knee, opening himself up to Derek’s touch. Derek immediately takes advantage by shoving Stiles’ underwear down, tucking the waistband under Stiles’ balls and going back to jerking him off.

Yeah,” Stiles pleads and Derek, thankfully, speeds his hand up. “C’mon.”

He reaches back to grip Derek’s hip, trying to urge him to take care of himself too, which doesn’t take much effort from him. Stiles wriggles against him until Derek finally slips his own underwear down, giving Stiles free reign to get Derek’s cock against his ass, and letting Derek rut against him mindlessly.

The movements between them are easy; they’ve been doing this for so long now, for so many weeks, that it seems almost natural. Derek knows how to get Stiles off and Stiles could make Derek come with his hands tied behind his back. They’re intimately familiar with each other, which means Stiles isn’t entirely surprised when Derek gets his thumb under the sensitive head of Stiles’ dick. They both know it’s the quickest way to make Stiles come.

Stiles clutches at the edge of the bed with his free hand, sweating with the effort as they move under the covers. The room is filled with the sound of Stiles panting and the sound of Derek’s hand quickly moving on him. It’s filthy and Stiles loves it. He thinks he loves a lot of things, actually. It’s a terrifying thought and he shuts his eyes and tucks his face into the pillows, moaning when Derek takes advantage of the line of Stiles’ neck by sucking another mark onto it.

It throbs in time to the pattering of his heartbeat and Stiles really isn’t going to last long. The feeling of Derek’s warm breath against his skin doesn’t help, especially not when Derek uses his teeth, scraping them over the sensitive parts of his throat.

“Will you come for me?” Derek asks, in the same morning-roughened voice as before.

It does awful things to Stiles, who nods like it’s going out of fashion.

“Yeah,” he grunts. “Gonna do it.”

Stiles doesn’t think he’s that close until Derek squeezes at the head of his cock and he gets the sneaking suspicion that Derek knows him better than he knows himself. Stiles digs his blunt fingernails into Derek’s thigh and holds his breath as the pleasure crests and hits him like a suckerpunch.

Derek strokes him through it until he’s half mad with the feeling. His cock is wet, covered in come, and it’s going to get sticky real quick, but he can’t muster the strength to care—not right then when he’s still riding the high and wondering how close Derek is himself.

He thinks about turning onto his back and offering his mouth to Derek, but it seems Derek has other ideas, because he moves his hand from Stiles’ dick to the ridge of his hip and rolls him gently onto his stomach. He clearly doesn’t care about his sheets getting dirty, but then again, neither does Stiles—though mainly because they’re not his and he won’t have to wash them after.

Stiles is more than happy to sprawl out for Derek to use as he pleases, but he makes a noise of complaint when Derek drags the sheets down, exposing him to the cold air of the room. It’s made worse by the sweat that’s quickly cooling across his body, but Derek ignores his complaints and shifts closer, pulling Stiles’ underwear off him completely before straddling the backs of his thighs.

If Stiles had the energy, he’d turn his head to look, but instead, he keeps his eyes shut and focuses on catching his breath while he listens to the noise of Derek quickly jerking himself off over him with one hand. Derek’s other hand clutches one of Stiles’ ass cheeks and holds him open for Derek to look at.

It’s not long after that that something warm and wet splatters across Stiles’ lower back and over his hole and it’s gross and he’s going to be sticky after, but Derek leans down and tucks his nose against Stiles’ shoulder, breathing heavily as though trying to savor the scent of them together.

It’s made even worse when Derek drags his hand through it all, nudging at Stiles’ entrance with one wet index finger. Stiles grunts and it disappears before it can press inside, but trails down the back of his thigh, spreading the mess everywhere.

Ugh,” Stiles complains, even as Derek presses a kiss just below his ear and climbs off him, rolling into the open space.

They share a few minutes of companionable silence and when Stiles finally finds the strength to lift his head and look over, he finds Derek already watching him.

“Need to use your shower,” Stiles grunts and Derek makes an abortive movement towards him as though about to press his nose back to Stiles’ skin.

Derek nods and tips his head towards the bathroom.

“Clean towels are in there.”

Stiles groans at the thought of moving, but knows he has to go before everything dries completely and he ends up stuck to the bed. Derek looks vaguely amused as he watches him and Stiles mutters under his breath about having to clean up after others, knowing Derek will hear.

His knees feel weak when he stumbles his way towards the bathroom and he shuts the door behind him, not bothering to lock it. He doubletakes when he catches sight of himself in the mirror out the corner of his eye and finds there’s a slew of bruises all along his skin.

“Jesus, Derek,” he murmurs, fingertips tracing over the marks.

He’s not sure if having them on him as reminders of being with Derek is the worst or the best thing. He’ll find out when he’s back at school with nothing but his traitorous thoughts to keep him company. He sighs and leans over to turn the shower on, taking the time to pee while the water heats up.

He scrubs down quickly and efficiently, using Derek’s shower gel, wondering casually if Derek will notice the difference in scents. As an afterthought, he washes his hair, knowing it’ll save him from having to do it later, and he takes the time to enjoy a few extra minutes under the comforting spray of hot water.

When he switches the water off, there’s no sound from the other room, and he drips all over the floor as he digs through Derek’s cupboard for a towel, knowing Derek can clear it up later. He dries himself off and wraps the towel around his waist to head back into the bedroom where his clothes are, but Derek’s not even in there anymore. He dresses quickly, drops the damp towel into Derek’s laundry basket, and then heads downstairs.

He’s not at all prepared for the sight of Derek in the kitchen cooking eggs and bacon and—

“Are those pancakes?” Stiles asks and Derek turns around, a spatula in one hand.

“You like them,” he explains as though there’s all there is to it, and Stiles really can’t deal with it.

It was bad enough waking up being spooned by Derek and sharing an early morning orgasm with him, but now Derek is cooking him breakfast. There’s no way he can sit down and eat with him and pretend that there’s nothing between them. Stiles wants it all, but he wants it knowing that Derek wants it too. He wants it knowing that it isn’t casual because he has the sinking feeling that he could happily wake up to this every morning for the rest of his life. And that’s a terrifying thing.

“I have to go,” Stiles blurts before he can stop himself. “I can’t stay.”

For one endless moment, Derek’s expression is brutally open and he stares at Stiles as though he never even fathomed that Stiles leaving could be an option.

“What?” he asks and as much as Stiles would like to give in, he knows he can’t, not if he wants to stay sane.

“I need to leave,” he repeats and Derek blinks at him.

“You don’t want breakfast?”

“It’s the last day I have to spend with my dad,” he explains, thankful for the excuse. “He’s probably making something right now.”

If Derek can hear the lie, he doesn’t say anything, just moves the pan off the stovetop and turns the heat off.

“Okay,” he says quietly. “Sure.”

He doesn’t sound so sure, but Stiles turns away and heads towards the front door.

“Thanks for letting me crash here,” he says as Derek leaves the kitchen and starts following him before veering off into the living room.

He thinks about making a run for it while Derek’s distracted, but then Derek steps back out into the hallway holding Stiles’ laptop.

“Shit,” Stiles curses. “Thanks—I almost forgot.”

Derek nods and steps closer to hand it over, leaning in as he does so, like he’s going to kiss him. Stiles takes the laptop from him, clutches it to his chest, and ducks sideways to avoid Derek’s mouth.

“Text me when you find the witch,” Stiles tells him in a rush, tugging the door open without looking and backing out onto the front stoop. “See you around.”

He doesn’t dare look back over his shoulder to see Derek’s reaction. He doesn’t have the strength for it. He doesn’t even know if he has his keys until he checks his pockets, but then he’s quickly unlocking the Jeep and hopping inside, jamming the laptop into the passenger’s seat and starting the engine.

He doesn’t know what’s going to happen between them, but he’s just thankful that soon enough he’ll be hundreds of miles away where he can ignore everything about it. He just hopes that Derek doesn’t text him in the meantime because he’s weak and defenseless and there’s only so much he can do to distract himself from the pain of knowing he’ll never have Derek in his life for anything more than just a casual fling.

*

His dad is standing at the counter making coffee when Stiles walks in, sits at the kitchen table, and slumps over to rest his forehead on the cool wood below.

“Oh, kiddo,” his dad says gently, abandoning his mug to move closer.

He rubs his hand across the tense line of Stiles’ shoulders, though it falters slightly, and Stiles is sure he’s seen the marks on his neck.

“Did he hurt you?” he asks quietly and Stiles sighs, but doesn’t lift his head.

“Physically? No.”

“Mentally?”

It takes Stiles longer to answer this time.

“Knowingly? No. I should have known better, Dad. You said I’d get hurt and—” Stiles sighs again, louder this time. “Why do you always have to be right?”

His dad leans down to press a kiss to the side of his head and then he draws away.

“I don’t always want to be, Stiles. It’s just that sometimes it’s easier to see the obvious when you’re looking in from the outside.”

“I think I need to end it,” Stiles admits aloud for the first time. “Before it gets worse.”

“Do what you think is right,” his dad advises. “But in the meantime, how about I make pancakes?”

That just hurts even more.

“Waffles,” Stiles suggests without an explanation, and his dad pats his back gently.

“Yeah, okay,” he agrees quietly. “Waffles.”

*

Stiles doesn’t hear from Derek for the rest of the weekend. He drives back to school with a heavy heart and a mind full of chaos, and spends the next week and a half obsessively checking his phone. His curiosity gets the better of him by the end of the week and he ends up calling Scott.

“Hey, buddy, hey, pal,” he starts and Scott knows him far too well because he’s immediately on the defensive.

“What’s wrong?” he asks and Stiles sighs.

“It’s not like that,” Stiles says and there’s a significant pause that hints that Scott doesn’t believe him. “Fine. You know that thing about the wishes in Beacon Hills?”

“Yeah,” Scott replies. “Did you figure out what it is?”

“Pretty sure it’s a witch, but I left Derek in charge to go find her and get her to stop.”

“What happened?” Scott asks and Stiles sighs again.

“That’s why I’m calling.”

“Do we need to go back and clear things up?”

“No,” Stiles says quickly. “I mean, I don’t think so. I just—I wanted to know if you’d heard from Derek to see if he’d done it or not.”

There’s a long silence before Scott says, “Stiles?”

“Look, don’t read into it yet, okay?”

“Did he hurt you?” Scott asks and Stiles throws one hand into the air, despite him not being able to see it.

“Why does everyone always jump to that conclusion? I just don’t want—dude, can you just call him and see? I’ll tell you about it soon; it’s just—it’s too recent.” It still hurts too much, he doesn’t say, but Scott seems to understand.

“You’re okay?” he confirms and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll call you back in a few minutes, yeah?”

“Sure,” Stiles agrees and the line cuts out.

He spends a few minutes washing the pans from dinner and leaves them beside the sink to dry when his phone buzzes.

“What’d he say?” he asks and isn’t at all prepared for the voice that doesn’t belong to Scott.

“She had a cabin just beyond the border of Beacon Hills,” Derek tells him and Stiles’ heart rockets.

“What?”

“Apparently, she’s been there for years, granting wishes for people at random and using the power to sustain her work.”

Stiles clears his throat and hopes his voice doesn’t waver when he asks, “Malignant?”

“Surprisingly, no.”

“What about the wisp? That sounded ominous.”

“Just a way to transfer the power from one boundary to the next without intruding,” Derek explains. “She said it would never have lured anyone to their death, just got them lost for a while. She said she’d tone it down. She’s been learning new magic and didn’t realize how much power it had been using.”

Stiles blinks. “That’s surprisingly anticlimactic. Are you sure about it?”

“She wasn’t lying,” Derek says and Stiles doesn’t want to get into an argument about how easy it would be for her to mask her heartbeat.

“Sure,” Stiles replies and an awkward silence stretched out between them. “Thanks for sorting it out.”

Derek grunts and the silence returns.

“When are you next visiting?” Derek asks, just when Stiles is thinking about making an excuse to go, and it takes Stiles by surprise.

“Um, probably for winter break,” he replies honestly. “Last final is the eighteenth.”

There’s a pause like Derek is thinking before he says, “You should stop by. We need to talk about things.”

Stiles swallows thickly. “About the witch?”

“About us,” Derek corrects and fuck, that’s the last thing Stiles wants to hear.

But on the other hand, maybe it’ll make it easier to break things off if Derek already wants that as well. He sighs heavily.

“Yeah,” he says softly. “I guess we should.”

“You don’t need to text; just come over when you’re free.”

“Sure,” Stiles agrees. “Look, I have to go now, but I’ll see you next week.”

It’s a lie—all Stiles is going to do is flop onto his bed and regret everything ever.

“Yeah,” Derek says, like he already knows. “Bye, Stiles.”

“Bye, Derek.”

He ends the call, tosses his phone onto the kitchen table, and drops his head into his hands. His life is such a mess and he knew it was coming all along—and yet. And yet it still hurts like nothing else.

“Fuck, fuck fuck,” he curses, raking his fingers through his hair and tugging at it at the same time. “So fucking stupid.”

He’s ready to go into a full black hole of self-loathing when his phone buzzes again, startling him with the loudness of it against the plastic tabletop. This time, he makes sure to check who’s calling. It’s Scott.

“I’m sorry,” Scott says as soon as Stiles answers. “I told him not to call, but he’s almost as stubborn as you.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, slumping into the nearest chair. “I figured you wouldn’t make him call.”

“Sorry,” Scott apologizes again and Stiles scoffs.

“Not your fault. I should have just sucked it up and called him to begin with.” He blows out a long breath and stares up at the ceiling. “We’re going to talk over the winter break.”

“Shit,” Scott says. “Sounds rough.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees. “But I think it’s for the best. He wants casual and I—I don’t know what I want.”

“I’ll be back home at the same time,” Scott tells him. “If you need to take your mind off it, we can go out.”

“Thanks, man,” Stiles says. “I’ll probably take you up on that.”

“Yeah,” Scott replies quietly, before shifting the conversation, clearly trying to distract him. “So how about that witch?”

Stiles is more than happy to launch into the entire convoluted explanation, if only because then he doesn’t have to think about his impending heartbreak.

*

In a twist of fate that surprises precisely no one, Stiles puts off going to see Derek once he’s back home for the break. He mopes around the house for the whole first weekend and tries to do the same for the whole of Monday, but gets rudely interrupted by a phone call from his dad.

“The witch isn’t gone,” his dad opens with, which isn’t entirely surprising since he’d explained everything to his dad over dinner a few nights prior. “Wishes are still being granted.”

“There will still be a few here and there,” Stiles explains, “but it’ll be less consistent.”

“Tell that to the kid who just killed his father.”

Stiles really doesn’t know how that’s in any way, shape or form, related.

“What? What’s that got to do with wishes?”

“I just interviewed a crying nine year old boy who said he’d killed his dad because he wished for it.”

“What?” Stiles says again and his dad sighs.

“They were having an argument, Stiles. The kid was angry and said he—y’know, rhymes with fished—his dad was dead. Five minutes later, the dad is stone cold with no apparent cause of death.”

“Heart attack?” Stiles asks, trying to stay confident.

“He’s being sent for an autopsy, but it’s too recent to not be connected, Stiles.”

Stiles rubs his face and groans in frustration.

“Goddammit,” he complains. “I knew it was too easy.”

“Yeah,” his dad agrees. “Maybe time to pay her another visit.”

“I’ll call Scott,” Stiles tells him.

“Just be careful,” his dad insists.

“Yeah, I will be,” Stiles says. “I’ll call you later.”

“Be safe,” his dad insists again as he ends the call and Stiles sighs and immediately calls Scott.

“Meet me at the preserve,” he says as soon as Scott answers. “I’ll explain on the way.”

*

Apparently Scott is erring on the side of caution, because when Stiles pulls into the parking lot, Malia and Liam are already waiting there, and Derek and Scott are just climbing out of their respective cars. Stiles glances briefly at Derek, who’s staring pointedly into the trees, and then heads over to Scott.

“Your dad got a bad feeling from it?” Scott asks and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, he definitely thought they were connected.”

“But the witch said she’d stop?” Scott asks Derek, who shrugs.

“She said she’d tone it down.”

“Did she say when?” Stiles asks and Derek shakes his head, still not looking at him.

“Let’s pay her a visit and ask,” Malia says and Scott nods.

“Let’s be careful,” Scott adds, but leads the way into the trees.

Stiles catches up to him quickly, walking slightly behind on the narrow path.

“Dude,” Stiles says. “This freaking sucks.”

Scott snorts and shoots a glance at him over his shoulder. “So much for a quiet winter break, right?”

“What you doing for Christmas?” Stiles asks and Scott shrugs.

“My aunt and uncle are coming to town tomorrow,” Scott tells him. “We’re going to spend Christmas day with Kira’s family. Her parents have like ten people staying with them right now.”

Stiles laughs. “Well that’ll be new. When was the last time it wasn’t just you and your mom?”

“No idea,” Scott says with a chuckle. “What about you? Do anything for the start of Hanukkah?”

“Bought a box of donuts,” Stiles tells him and Scott shoots him a soft smile.

“Like old times?” he asks, meaning when they were kids and Stiles’ dad would bring a half dozen donuts home and they’d light their menorah together.

“Yeah, except there was no one there to tell me not to eat them all at once,” Stiles says with a grin and he’s pretty sure he hears a snort from someone else in the group behind them.

“Is Charlie coming to visit?” Scott asks and Stiles shakes his head. Charlie is his grandfather on his dad’s side.

“No, he’s been sick lately. Think Dad is going to try to fly out and see him sometime next year.”

“That’ll be good for them both,” Scott says and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, they—”

“—we should be quiet,” Derek interrupts. “She’s nearby.”

“Later,” Scott promises and Stiles nods.

It falls silent around them, the only noise being their footsteps through the undergrowth as they branch off deeper into the trees. Up ahead, there’s a small log cabin, a thin stream of smoke coming from the chimney. It looks quaint, like the perfect getaway home, and Stiles wants to give her the benefit of the doubt because no one living in such a nice place should be angry enough to kill people.

A faint buzz passes over Stiles’ skin like he’s just stepped into a warded area, and he suddenly feels vulnerable and on-guard, glancing over his shoulder to find the others have tensed up too.

“Malia, Liam,” Scott says quietly. “Stay outside and watch our backs.”

Stiles isn’t sure which is worse; staying outside or going inside where the witch is. But he follows Scott forward, feeling the strength of Derek behind him. Scott knocks on the door and part of Stiles hopes that she won’t answer. Unfortunately, he can hear someone wandering around inside and after a few awkward beats of silence, the door swings open, revealing a tiny woman who’s probably close to seventy.

“Hello again,” she says sweetly, breaking into a smile that she directs over Stiles’ shoulder towards Derek. “What can I do for you boys?”

“I’m Scott McCall,” Scott says, taking the lead and recognition breaks across the woman’s face.

“Alpha McCall,” she says and Scott nods. “A pleasure to meet you finally. I’m Maggie Greenwich. Please, come in.”

Scott steps inside without hesitation when she hold the door open for them, but Stiles spares a glance back at Derek, who tips his head slightly in response, urging Stiles on. The house is warm and inviting inside and Maggie shuts the door behind them and waves them towards a cluster of chairs near the fireplace.

“Have a seat,” she offers. “Would you all like some lemonade?”

“No, thank you,” Scott says, speaking for all of them and taking a chair, leaving spaces for Stiles and Derek next to him.

Maggie sits down with them and folds her hands in her lap, looking surprisingly innocent.

“What can I do for you?” she asks again and Scott leans forward, clearing his throat.

“Derek came to talk to you recently about your magic,” he starts and Maggie nods.

“Yes,” she confirms. “And I’ve made sure to keep my magic within the ranges that we discussed.”

“We’ve had reports of more wishes being granted, Maggie,” Scott explains gently. “It’s left a young kid without a father when he wished for his death during an argument.”

“Shit,” she says bluntly, bringing a hand to her mouth, and Stiles laughs before he can stop himself. It’s completely inappropriate and he gets an elbow in his side from Derek for his troubles.

“That was you?” Scott asks. “Can you bring him back?”

Maggie sighs and says, “I would have to grant larger wishes to create the power for it.”

“What’s larger than a wish to kill someone?” Stiles asks incredulously. “Pretty sure that’s near the top of big wishes.”

Maggie nods sagely. “I’m afraid you’re right. But perhaps I can grant a wish to each of you here. That may be enough.”

Scott looks torn and glances at Stiles, clearly looking for advice.

“What would the wishes have to be?” Stiles asks and Maggie stares at him calmly.

“I would have to sense them from within you,” she explains.

“So they may not be conscious wishes?” he confirms and she nods.

Stiles sighs and slumps back in his seat.

“Is it worth the risk?” he asks Scott. “Who knows what we’re all secretly wishing for. What if it’s even worst than this guy dying.”

“Didn’t you say all the kid had was his dad?” Scott asks, which makes Stiles feel downright awful. “If we can bring him back, we should. That kid’s going to end up in the foster system otherwise, and we all know how good that is.”

“You better hope we’re not fucked up on the inside,” Stiles mutters, knowing all too well what it’s like to feel pure evil inside. “You can go first.”

Derek nods his consent to the idea, but Scott’s the first one to move towards where Maggie pushes herself up to stand. Her hands are steady when she reaches out towards Scott, her eyes falling shut as she concentrates.

“A wholesome man,” she murmurs under her breath and Stiles snorts, but there’s a glow under Maggie’s palm that emanates through his chest as he rocks backwards on his heels and then blows out a breath.

“Whoa,” he mumbles and Maggie pats him gently, opens her eyes, and steps back.

“Is that it?” Stiles asks and Maggie smiles crookedly.

“That’s it, dear.”

“It’s okay, Stiles,” Scott encourages. “Feels like, uh, happiness.”

Stiles exhales slowly and glances once more at Derek.

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says. “Let’s get it over with.”

He takes Scott’s place in front of Maggie, who smells faintly like anise, and watches tensely as she brings her hand up to his chest, just as she’d done for Scott. She smiles encouragingly at him before she shuts her eyes and something seems to tingle down his spine like a drop of cold water trailing along his skin. It latches onto something somewhere just under his ribs and tugs, feeling almost as though that one specific point of his body is drawn to Maggie’s magic.

It bubbles within in chest in a strange sort of warmth and Maggie says, “Such sadness you’ve felt.”

He suddenly can’t think of anything other than his mom. The way she’d always smelled like hyacinth and the way her hair curled naturally and the way she’d brush her palm over Stiles’ head whenever she passed him and the way she’d smile whenever Stiles’ dad made a joke. He thinks about the pain of losing her and he reaches out, clutching at Maggie’s cardigan, eyes prickling as a wave of immense sadness hits him.

Someone grips his arm and pulls him sideways, tugging him out of Maggie’s reach and Stiles pulls in a gasping breath as the magic leaves him when the contact breaks between them. When he blinks through the wetness of his eyes, he finds Derek beside him, his hand still on Stiles from where he’d led him away from Maggie.

“Are you okay?” he asks and Stiles isn’t sure, but he nods because nothing in Maggie’s magic felt sinister. It had just pulled something far too close to the surface, something raw and painful that he normally keeps buried.

“I’m fine,” he eventually gets out, wiping his face with his hands and letting Derek guide him into the nearest chair.

Derek’s hand cups his face gently, thumb rubbing under one of Stiles’ eyes to remove the lingering wetness, and Stiles accepts it, needing the comfort.

“What did you do to him?” Scott asks Maggie and when Stiles glances up, she looks at him in sympathy.

“I didn’t know it would be like that for him,” she admits. “But it will grant him something good, something he will appreciate.”

Stiles nods again and swallows. “I’m fine, guys. Let’s just get this over with so we can go.”

Derek lets his hand fall away and moves to stand in front of Maggie, looking fairly resigned for anything she might throw his way. Maggie is hesitant this time, bringing her palm up to Derek’s chest and focusing within herself, letting the glow begin under her hand.

“For your family,” she murmurs quietly and Stiles stares in concern at Derek, but he doesn’t look sad. In fact, his expression doesn’t change in the slightest and then Maggie moves away like it was nothing, though she does look fairly pale. “I think that will do.”

“You don’t need the others in the pack?” Scott asks and Maggie shakes her head.

“Just give me a little time,” she tells them. “A few hours or so.”

“God,” Stiles murmurs. “The guy is being sent for an autopsy today. You better be quick.”

Maggie nods, her eyes widening slightly.

“You’d best be on your way then,” she says, color coming back to her cheeks, giving a flustered, slightly panicked look about her. “You should know about your own wishes by the end of the week.”

Derek leads the way to the door, holding it open for Stiles and Scott to slip through before he does too. Scott turns when he gets a few steps outside and looks at Maggie with an open expression.

“Please be more careful with your magic, Maggie. I don’t want to ask you to move your Wisp, but we can’t have this happen again. I have contacts if you need help with it.”

“I’m sorry, Alpha,” she says. “I’ll fix this.”

Scott nods, far too forgiving for his own good, and tilts his head towards the trees, silently giving Malia and Liam the all-clear. Liam begins walking away, but Malia hangs back, only moving when she’s even with Stiles.

“You okay?” she asks and Stiles hates that he has an ugly crying face that leaves his skin blotchy, because it’s clear that she’s noticed it.

“I’m fine,” he tells her, rubbing his hand between her shoulders gently. “Just a bit intense.”

“She was like eighty,” Malia complains. “Even you could have taken her.”

Stiles gives her a shove with the hand he already has on her, and she snorts and nudges him back with her shoulder, sending him stumbling sideways when she definitely underestimates her own strength. A large, warm hand catches his waist, stopping him from toppling over completely.

“Thanks,” he murmurs quietly and the hand lets him go.

“You’re welcome,” Derek replies before slipping around them to catch up with Scott.

Stiles watches them talk quietly between one another for a few minutes before they join the main path that will lead them back to the parking lot. It shouldn’t be too long before Stiles is back home and he can put some sweats on and ignore everything else for the rest of the week.

However, just when he catches sight of the familiar blue paint of his Jeep through the trees, his phone vibrates in his pocket. He pulls it out, expecting his dad, but it’s a text from Derek, and his stomach sinks automatically as he wonders how long he can put off reading it. He really doesn’t think he can though, so he opens it up before anyone else can see.

Follow me home, it says and it’s the last thing Stiles wants to see, but he has no true excuses to ignore it.

K, he sends back before locking his phone and putting it away.

Up ahead, Derek checks his own phone, but doesn’t given any outward indication that he’s read it.

“Let’s plan for dinner somewhere at the end of the week,” Scott says once they’re all in the parking lot. “Maybe Derek’s place?”

Derek nods like he even has a choice and Scott smiles.

“Cool,” Scott continues. “I’ll text you all tomorrow. Stiles, you want to grab dinner later?”

Stiles nods, latching onto anything that will get him away from Derek’s place sooner.

“Yeah, I gotta do some stuff first, but I’ll text you.” Scott gives him a pointed look and Stiles can’t bring himself to meet his gaze; instead, he plays with his keys and gestures to the Jeep. “I have to go.”

There’s a chorus of goodbyes from Liam and Malia, and then Stiles is back in the safety of his Jeep. He flicks it into drive and carefully pulls out, heading to Derek’s place with what feels like lead in his stomach.

*

To make matters worse, he gets to the apartment before Derek and ends up sitting on the front stoop for a few cold minutes before Derek appears, house keys in hand.

“Sorry,” he apologizes. “Scott wanted to talk.”

Stiles’ traitorous heart skips a beat, but he tries to cover it with a casual, “Oh yeah?”

“For the dinner,” Derek explains and Stiles barely holds back the urge to sigh in relief.

“Yeah,” he says as Derek holds the door for him and lets him slip inside before shutting it behind them. “Sounds fun.”

Derek leaves his keys on the table in the hallway and hangs his leather jacket up on a hook by the door. Stiles keeps his own coat on in the hopes that he won't be there long.

“What’s up?” he asks, aiming for casual as Derek leads them into the kitchen.

“Are you alright?” Derek asks without the least bit of hesitation.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I mean, I’m on vacation, so things are looking up for me.”

“Stiles,” Derek complains, face serious. “You know what I mean.”

He means what happened back at Maggie’s cabin.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Stiles says. “It’s none of your business.”

“If you need to talk,” Derek begins and Stiles interrupts.

“Okay, but I don’t, so can I go now?” Stiles argues, folding his arms. Derek looks surprisingly defeated. “That’s all you wanted to discuss, right?”

“I wanted to check on you,” Derek answers gently and Stiles shrugs.

“Like I said: I’m fine.”

Derek steps forward, edging into Stiles’ personal space, and Stiles really can’t predict what he’s about to do. He doesn’t expect the hand that comes up to cup the side of Stiles’ face, and he hates the way he finds himself leaning into the touch automatically. Derek doesn’t say anything, but he leans in, kissing Stiles as though he has any right to, as though it’s enough to comfort Stiles.

It really only makes it worse, but Stiles has a record of making bad life choices and he’s missed having the warmth of Derek over him, under him, wherever, during the past few weeks. Despite knowing it’s a bad idea, he curls his fingers into Derek’s shirt and holds him close, opening his mouth against Derek’s and accepting what he has to give. And give Derek does.

His other hand slips under Stiles’ coat, curling around his waist and Stiles lets Derek pull him closer. He shouldn’t, but he does, and Derek licks into his mouth and drives Stiles just a little bit crazy.

“Upstairs,” Stiles grunts, stepping off the cliff’s edge without looking and hoping that Derek will catch him.

Derek hooks his hand around Stiles’ hip and tugs, drawing Stiles towards the stairs without an argument. Stiles goes willingly, tucking his fingertips into Derek’s back pockets when Derek leads the way upstairs. In the bedroom, Stiles kicks off his shoes and shrugs out of his coat before Derek even has a chance to sit on the end of the bed and unlace his boots.

Stiles slides into his lap without a word and Derek supports him with both hands under his thighs, holding him close as Stiles leans over him to trail kisses along Derek’s jaw. He grinds down against Derek, who makes a soft noise in response, and he feels Derek shift and there’s the clatter of shoes across the other side of the room. Stiles lets out a sound of surprise when Derek tips backwards, sprawling out under Stiles and tugging their hips back together, but goes with it and lets Derek put him where he wants.

“Want me to ride you?” Stiles asks, breathing warmly against Derek’s cheek, but Derek shakes his head.

“Fuck me,” he murmurs quietly, and, yeah, Stiles can do that.

He pulls his own shirt up over his head and then does the same for Derek’s, throwing them both onto the floor without care.

“How do you want it?” Stiles asks, unbuttoning his pants, and Derek’s hands are immediately there, tugging as though they want nothing else but Stiles’ cock.

“Don’t care,” Derek grunts. “Just do it.”

Stiles lets himself think for a moment before he lifts himself up and off the bed to stand beside Derek, who looks like he’s ready to complain about Stiles leaving. Stiles shoves his pants and underwear down, drawing Derek’s gaze with them, and then he works on Derek’s own. When he gets them off of Derek, he finds Derek’s hard and thick against his own thigh already, showing Stiles exactly what he wants, but what Stiles wants more is—

“On your stomach,” he orders and Derek spares him a glance before rolling over, getting his knees underneath himself, and lifting his ass into the air.

From experience, Stiles knows where the lube is, and he grabs it from the top drawer of the nightstand, and kneels on the end of the mattress between Derek’s legs. As he wets his fingers, Derek glances back at him, and Stiles takes his time slicking all around Derek’s hole with a light touch that has Derek nudging back into it.

He isn’t in the mood to tease though, and he doesn’t think Derek is either. He pushes two fingers into him at once, knowing he can take it, and Derek lets out a quiet moan and helps work himself onto them easily. Stiles will never tire of the view of his fingers disappearing inside of Derek, whether it’s his mouth or his ass, and Derek tightens around them in a move that’s definitely conscious.

“Like that?” Stiles asks, angling his fingers to give Derek’s prostate something to think about, and the muscles in Derek’s back flex beautifully. Derek nods and Stiles gives him another finger, just because he can. It’s probably a quicker stretch than he’d normally give Derek, but Derek doesn’t seem uncomfortable, in fact he shoves back into the touch and lets Stiles get knuckle-deep inside him.

Stiles,” Derek insists, throwing a glance over his shoulder at him. “Enough.”

Stiles wants to argue for just a little more prep, just to make sure it doesn’t hurt later, but Derek sounds so sure about it. Stiles tugs at his rim with gentle fingers and then lets them slip free.

“Condom?” Stiles asks, wondering if Derek will want to bother with cleaning up after, but Derek shakes his head.

“No, just do it, Stiles.”

Stiles doesn’t need to be told twice. He slicks his cock up with more lube and shuffles closer, pressing the tip against Derek’s hole. Derek leans back into the pressure and slowly, Stiles begins to slip inside. The tightness of Derek around him takes his breath away every time they do this, and it’s no different now. He clutches at Derek’s hips and he’s not sure he’s he’s pressing forward into Derek, or if Derek is pressing back onto him.

Either way, it has the same result, which is Stiles ending up balls-deep in Derek, struggling for breath as he pauses and tries not to come too soon. He tries to go slow since Derek wasn’t stretched as well as normal, but Derek makes it hard by reaching back and pulling Stiles into him with sharp, rough movements. When Stiles begins to thrust, making them deep and long, Derek huffs out a frustrated noise.

“Harder,” he orders. “Don’t want you to hold back.”

Stiles picks up speed, hating that he loves the sound of their bodies moving together. It’s easy to lose himself in the feelings and noises, and Derek grunts his assent as Stiles begins slamming into him, letting go with abandon and giving as good as he’s got.

“Like that?” he asks, sneaking a hand around Derek’s waist to get to his cock and stroking in time to his thrusts. It’s a little unsteady at first, but Derek makes a sound like he’s been punched in the gut, which Stiles is almost certain is a good sign.

Stiles,” Derek answers. “More.”

Stiles doesn’t know if he can give any more. He already feels wrung out from the witch in the woods, and there’s no doubt in his mind that he’s going to come soon and it’s going to be messy. So instead of going harder or faster, he just adjusts his hips and arches further over Derek. Derek jerks against him with the first new thrust, but then he moves with it and complements Stiles’ rhythm.

“Close,” Derek grits out, and Stiles really doesn’t need to be told. Derek’s leaking precome like it’s going out of fashion, and he’s always been easy to get off whenever Stiles fucks him. They’ve never talked about it, but it must be a personal thing.

Stiles speeds up his hand and tightens his grip, and he feels Derek start to clench around him unconsciously.

“C’mon, Derek,” Stiles says, pressing his mouth between Derek’s shoulders and breathing wetly against his skin.

Derek doesn’t seem to stand a chance. He muffles a yell with his own forearm as he shoves his face down into the bed and shakes beneath Stiles. He comes all over Stiles’ knuckles and the sheets, and it’s wet and gross, and it triggers Stiles’ own orgasm as he slams into Derek a handful more times before shoving in as far as he can and letting the waves of pleasure crash over him.

“Derek,” he moans. “Derek.”

As far as sex goes, it’s probably one of their better times, and he clutches at Derek until his heart stops trying to hammer its way out of his chest and he finally finds the strength to pull back. Derek looks reddened and sore, but he doesn’t even make a noise of complaint when Stiles slips out. Stiles stops himself from playing with the come that escapes alongside his cock, just in case, though.

Derek collapses forwards and sprawls out across the bed, immediately beginning to doze. Stiles watches for a long moment, staring at the way Derek’s body moves as he breathes evenly, before he shifts away.

“Staying?” Derek asks while Stiles is trying to best to clean up with a handful of tissues from the box on Derek’s nightstand, and Stiles shakes his head, belatedly realizing that Derek can’t see.

“No,” he says. “I gotta go.”

“Dinner with Scott?” he clarifies and this time he’s watching when Stiles nods his head.

“Yeah, he’s probably already sent a million messages. I should get back to him before he thinks I’ve died.”

Derek turns his face away then, settling into the bed further, and if Stiles were delusional, he’d think it was from disappointment. He’s certain it’s not though, which is why he needs to leave and never come back. He really doesn’t want to talk about it, so he gathers up his clothes and starts dressing again.

He thinks Derek’s asleep by the time he’s presentable, which is why he heads to the doorway without saying goodbye.

“You can always talk to me,” Derek says unexpectedly and Stiles freezes halfway through a step.

“What?”

“I don’t like it when you’re upset, so if you need to talk about it, come see me.”

It’s an entirely foreign concept for Stiles. The last thing he’s ever felt like he could do with Derek is talk. But he humors him, just to make his life easier.

“Sure,” he says. “Maybe.”

Derek nods, stares at him for a minute more, before rolling onto his stomach.

“Have fun with Scott,” he says, voice muffled by the pillows.

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I will.”

He knows an out when he sees one, and he flees before Derek can call him back. He’s digging himself a deeper hole, but he has nobody to blame but himself.

*

Scott stares at him with judgmental eyes as Stiles slides into the booth he’s in at the diner they agreed to meet at.

“I thought that was over,” he says and Stiles adjusts his place setting, just to avoid meeting his gaze.

“It’s been a rough day,” Stiles answers and Scott exhales softly.

“Stiles.”

“Yeah, I know, okay?” Stiles snaps quietly to avoid the questioning stares of other patrons. “I’ll break it off next time I see him, alright? I just wanted to not think.”

“What happened in the woods?” Scott asks and Stiles hunches over.

“She made me think about my mom,” Stiles explains, rubbing a hand over his face. “About losing her again.”

Scott’s expression changes to sympathy.

“Dude, I’m sorry,” he says and Stiles shakes his head.

“None of us knew that would happen. Do you think it has something to do with the wishes we’re getting?”

Scott shrugs and says, “Maybe.”

“What did you think about?”

“My mom,” Scott tells him. “About her being happy.”

Stiles smiles encouragingly. “That’s good, right?”

“I hope so.” Scott huffs out a breath and asks, “We didn’t have a choice, right?”

“This is what we do, isn’t it?” Stiles says with a hint of bitterness. “We save Beacon Hills and make sacrifices so no one else has to.”

Scott nods and then slumps back into his seat.

“I thought we were done with that,” Scott says and Stiles laughs.

“No rest for the wicked,” he retorts. “But it’s too late for regrets now. Might as well drown our sorrows in carbs and saturated fats.”

“Yeah,” Scott says. “I was thinking about getting a bacon burger, too.”

Stiles grins and nods. “The only right choice to make.”

Scott snorts and nudges his foot under the table, and Stiles knows he’s dodged another bullet for now. He just doesn’t know how long it’ll last.

*

On Friday, Stiles’ phone buzzes insistently while he’s midway through an episode of Arrested Development. He thinks about ignoring it, solely because in order to answer, he’ll have to lean over the side of his bed to grab it. But he’s learned over the years to never ignore a call, not when it could be an emergency. They haven’t had one in a few years now, but the lowkey panic is there nonetheless.

He grunts, shifts to one side, and snatches up his phone, answering with just a flick of his thumb when he sees it’s Scott.

“What’s up?” he asks, pausing Netflix and setting his laptop aside so that he can sit up.

“I think I got my wish already.”

Stiles perks up, alert, as he asks, “Is it bad?”

“No,” Scott says, “that’s the thing. My mom’s been thinking about downsizing the house, but saving’s hard when she already has the mortgage to pay off.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees. “And California is fucking expensive.”

Scott snorts quietly.

“Yeah, so she didn’t think it would happen for a few years, but she got a call today from a lawyer who specializes in inheritances.”

“Inheritances?” Stiles questions and Scott hums in agreement.

“Yeah, apparently some long lost cousin passed away and left my mom a house.”

“How’s that your wish?” Stiles asks. “Sounds like it’s just a coincidence.”

“The house is the one she’s been looking at for the past six months, the one off Maple Street.”

“Oh,” Stiles says for a lack of anything else.

“Yeah,” Scott agrees again. “Not a coincidence.”

“That’s fucking awesome,” Stiles tells him once his brain has caught up and Scott laughs.

“She’s stoked; I’ve never seen her so happy. It’s paid off in full, too.”

“When’s she moving?” Stiles asks and Scott laughs again.

“Dude, she’s packing already. You have no idea.”

“That’s awesome, man. I’m really glad it’s worked out for her.”

“Yeah, me too,” Scott answers. “Have you seen any sign of your wish yet?”

“Don’t think so,” Stiles says honestly. “Heard anything from Derek about his?”

“No,” Scott replies, “but speaking of—you still up for dinner at his place on Sunday? Should be painless with the rest of the pack there.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I’m not going to turn down free food.”

Scott snorts. “Didn’t think you would. We’re meeting up around five; does that work for you?”

“I’ll be there,” Stiles agrees. “And until then, Netflix is calling my name.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Scott jokes. “I’ll let you get back to your true love.”

Stiles laughs, even as Scott hangs up and he tosses his phone aside, unable to stop wondering what his own wish might be. He’s not sure if Scott’s just lucked out or what, but he dreads the thought of his own wish being unbearable. But for now, he doesn’t think about it. He pulls his laptop back into place and resumes the video.

He can worry about it later.

*

What he doesn’t expect, is a call early Saturday morning to the landline downstairs. He’s sitting at the breakfast table with a stack of pancakes in front of himself when it rings, and his dad, who has the day off and is enjoying his own plate of pancakes beside him, gets up to answer.

“Stilinski residence,” he says as he picks up and Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just another telemarketer calling as that’s all that seems to come through these days. But his dad squints and says, “Yes, speaking,” to whomever is on the other end of the line.

Stiles can hear a muffled, tinny voice answer his dad, but it’s all indiscernible, so he settles for watching his dad’s expression instead. He’s frowning, which isn’t anything unusual, but then one eyebrow quirks and he spares a quick glance at Stiles before putting his back to him.

“What credentials can you give me to prove this?”

That gets Stiles’ attention. He leans to one side, trying to get his dad to notice him, but his dad either doesn’t, or doesn’t want to.

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” his dad continues. “How about you send it to my lawyer.”

The voice continues for a few minutes longer before Stiles’ dad nods and he says, “You too, Mr Finchley. Goodbye.”

He hangs up the phone, but doesn’t immediately turn back towards Stiles, which puts Stiles on edge.

“Everything okay?” he asks cautiously and his dad rubs his face and heaves out a heavy sigh.

Eventually, he turns around and heads back to the table, sitting opposite Stiles once more.

“Who was it?” Stiles asks and his dad’s hands shake suspiciously when he reaches for his mug of coffee to take a sip. “Dad?”

His dad sets his cup down gently and says, “Someone’s paid off our debts.”

Stiles blinks and says, “What? What do you mean?”

“The debts from your mother’s hospital bills have been paid off in full by an anonymous donator,” his dad explains. “And so have yours.”

They’re the debts that have been hanging over their family for almost a decade now, the ones that have been forcing his dad to take double shifts and overtime whenever he can.

“Are you serious?” Stiles asks and his dad shakes his head.

“I don’t know. They’re going to contact my lawyer, so I guess we’ll see.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to even think before it dawns on him.

“Holy shit,” he curses and his dad’s head snaps up, his gaze trained on Stiles.

“What is it?” he asks and Stiles takes a steadying breath.

“You know the kid? The one who accidentally killed his dad for a few hours?”

Stiles’ dad narrows his eyes and says, “What about him?”

“We spoke to the witch that did it, but in order to reverse it, she had to grant other wishes, and we agreed to it.”

“You wished for this?”

“No, I mean, not consciously. She said the wishes had to manifest themselves. We couldn’t just pick what we wanted. Scott got his yesterday. His mom has inherited a house—her dream house.”

“This is real?” his dad confirms and Stiles shrugs.

“I guess we’ll see what the lawyer says, but, yeah, I think it might be.”

Stiles didn’t know his dad could move so fast, but he’s up and out of his seat in the blink of an eye. He steps around to the other side of the table and dips low to gather Stiles into a hug, despite it being an awkward angle. Stiles doesn’t need time to think about it though; he shifts and curls his arms around his dad in return, burying his face into his shoulder.

“You have no idea what this means,” his dad says, voice sounding weak.

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles tells him. “But you deserve it.”

The hug tightens and his dad’s breathing is suspiciously uneven.

“I love you, kiddo,” he exhales and Stiles shuts his eyes and clings even more.

“Love you, too, Dad.”

*

He tells Scott later that afternoon, and when he sees him in person on Sunday at the dinner, he pulls Stiles into a bone-crushing hug, which Stiles returns enthusiastically. He’s less enthusiastic about being stuck with Derek for the evening, but Derek is surprisingly quiet and keeps to himself most of the night anyway.

In fact, he seems to look paler each time Stiles glances over at him, not that it’s any of his business. Malia’s the one to finally bring it up anyway, when she pulls a face at Derek and leans over to press the back of her hand against Derek’s forehead.

“You feeling okay?” she asks. “You look like shit.”

Malia never changes, he supposes.

“Fine,” Derek grunts. “I’m fine.”

It’s a blatant lie and Stiles doesn’t need to be a wolf to tell. Scott gives Derek a poignant look that he ignores, and then clears his throat.

“Anything you want to talk about in private?” Scott asks and Derek shakes his head.

“It’ll go away,” he says, finally looking Scott in the eyes. “If it doesn’t, you’ll be the first to know.”

“You can always see my mom at the hospital, okay?”

Derek nods, moves his gaze back down to his plate, and takes another mouthful of food. The conversation shifts and that’s apparently all they’re going to say on the matter. Stiles doesn’t care, at least that’s what he tells himself, but he finds himself glancing over at Derek throughout the rest of the dinner. He doesn’t seem to eat much, just moves stuff around on his plate, before letting Liam take it when he’s clearing up.

No one seems to hang around long; they have another drink each, but it’s not even eight when people start heading out. Stiles lingers, under the pretense of wanting to wash up all the glasses, and when he hears the door close behind Scott and Kira—the last to leave—he sets everything in the rack beside the sink to dry and walks through into the living room, wiping his soapy hands on his pants as he goes.

“You gonna talk about it?” Stiles asks, finding Derek on the couch, one hand braced on his stomach as though trying to soothe it.

He seems startled by the fact that Stiles is still there, which doesn’t bode well. Derek knows where everyone is at all times. That’s just the way he is. He shakes his head at Stiles.

“Go home.”

“You look as bad as when you got shot,” Stiles says bluntly. “When you asked me to cut your arm off. Anything you want me to cut off today?”

Derek grunts, unamused, and Stiles folds his arms stubbornly.

“Go home,” Derek grits out again and Stiles shakes his head.

“No, just tell me what’s wrong.”

“I don’t know!” Derek snaps. “Everything hurts and I don’t know why. Is that enough for you?”

Stiles does feel slightly guilty for baiting him, but it’s better than not knowing.

“I just want to help,” Stiles admits and Derek still looks grumpy, but he doesn’t argue against it. “C’mon, there are a thousand other places more comfortable than your couch, so I’m sure that isn’t helping.”

He offers Derek a hand, though Derek ignores it and pushes himself up to his feet instead, swaying worryingly after. Stiles sets a steadying hand on his upper arm and gestures to the stairs.

“You gonna make it?” he asks, only half joking, but Derek glowers at him and makes his way up without help.

Derek blows out a heavy breath when he finally sprawls out on his bed, and he shuts his eyes as though it’s too much. Stiles can’t help but press a hand to his forehead and he’s definitely burning up. Without even thinking much about it, he reaches for the hem of Derek’s shirt and tugs it up.

“Let’s get these off,” he says, and it’s slightly worrying that Derek doesn’t fight, just moves enough for Stiles to strip him out of his shirt and pants.

Stiles takes his socks off as an afterthought and heads into the bathroom to find and wet a face cloth. He also collects the pot of Tylenol from the medicine cabinet, the one Stiles knows is there solely because he sees it everytime he borrows Derek’s toothpaste. He flicks on the lamp beside Derek’s bed and turns off the overhead light, just to keep the light levels low, and then sits on the edge of the mattress.

“Take these,” he says, and waits for Derek to open one eye before showing him the four white pills in his palm.

“Doesn’t work for wolves,” Derek tells him and Stiles frowns.

“Yeah, so you’re told, but have you ever tried it? No. So take them and just see if it helps.”

Derek doesn’t argue, just swallows them dry and then lies back down again. Stiles rewards him by folding the cool face cloth over his forehead and eyes, and Derek actually lets out a hum of relief.

“Just take it easy for a bit, okay? I’m going to get you some water.”

He’s only downstairs for a few minutes, grabbing a glass and filling it with ice and water before heading back up, but by the time he returns, Derek is still and silent, and for a terrible minute, Stiles thinks he’s dead. But then his chest rises and falls with a new breath and Stiles exhales roughly.

“Asshole,” he mutters under his breath as he sets the glass on the nightstand.

He’s not really, Stiles thinks. It’s mostly that Stiles cares too much—is in too deep—and Derek does things to him without realizing. But the terrifying thing is that he knows he can’t leave Derek, not now. With another heavy sigh, Stiles finds himself tugging off his jeans and settling into the free space beside Derek, propping his head up on one hand to watch him sleep for a few long minutes.

“Someone’s gotta make sure you don’t die,” he mutters and Derek stirs, though not enough to wake.

Stiles stays quiet after that and lets Derek rest, watching him until his own eyes grow heavy and droop. It’s the only thing he can do then, and it’s far too easy to fall asleep beside Derek like he’s allowed to. But he’ll have plenty of time to hate himself when he’s awake, so for now, he’ll take what he can get.

*

Stiles wakes to the sound of someone retching noisily in the bathroom. Derek’s no longer beside him, which probably means he’s the one puking in the other room. Stiles doesn’t do puke. Not even for Scott, which they both found out when they were younger and Scott got food poisoning.

So instead of checking on him, Stiles stays in bed, listening as Derek heaves until there’s clearly nothing left in his stomach to get out. The toilet flushes and the faucet turns on, followed by the faint sound of Derek brushing his teeth. Stiles sits up when Derek shuffles back into the bedroom and the bedside lamp is still on to show how pale and sickly Derek looks.

“How you feeling?” Stiles asks and Derek blinks at him as though only just realizing he’s there again.

He shakes his head as though any other answer would be too much hard work, and he carefully crawls back onto the bed, this time slipping under the sheets. It takes a moment for Stiles to realize that the slight vibration in the bed is coming from Derek shivering and he reaches out to feel his forehead again.

He’s still burning hot, which probably isn’t a good sign, and he’s shaking enough that his teeth begin to chatter. Stiles knows for a fact that Derek keeps the spare sheets and blankets in his closet, so he heaves himself out of bed and crosses the room to search around for the fleece throw he’s thought about stealing once or twice before because it’s soft and amazing. He ends up spreading it over Derek and hoping it helps, though the shivering doesn’t seem to lessen.

Stiles knows what he can do to help, but it doesn’t make it easier. He stares at Derek for a long minute, taking in his sickly pallor and how uncomfortable he looks as he tries to fall back to sleep. He knows he can’t leave Derek to suffer though, and he finds himself huffing out an exasperated breath as he crawls beneath the sheets beside Derek.

“Can’t believe you got the werewolf flu,” Stiles mutters to him, not knowing if he’s conscious enough to hear or even care enough to hear if he is.

But Derek grunts as though even his subconscious knows enough to complain, and Stiles carefully tucks himself against Derek’s side, being careful not to curl an arm around him in case he nudges anything that hurts. It’s fucking hot and Stiles can feel the sweat gathering under his arms and behind his knees, but he suffers through because Derek’s shivering begins to gentle.

When Derek’s breathing finally evens out into sleep, Stiles rests his hand on his hip and wishes for once in his life that he were a werewolf, just so he could suck the pain straight out of Derek. Instead, he just rubs his palm in soothing circles until he’s able to fall asleep again himself.

*

Derek wakes twice more in the night: once around two in the morning, and another time right before sunrise—which Stiles knows because light is beginning to seep in through the cracks of Derek’s shutters.

The first time, Derek wakes him by attempting to kick every sheet off the bed, his body burning up even more than before. Stiles very nearly calls Scott for help when he has to press a Ziploc bag of ice to Derek’s brow. Derek is nonverbal throughout the entire episode, but he’s conscious enough to not choke on the three Tylenol pills Stiles carefully feeds him between gulps of water.

Around two-thirty, the flush on Derek’s cheeks lessens and he seems to fall back into a fitful sleep. Stiles collapses next to him in exhaustion and relief and hopes it doesn’t happen again. But around six-thirty, Derek bolts out of bed to throw up in the bathroom again. While he’s cleaning, Stiles takes the time to throw the covers back onto the bed, ready for when Derek crawls back under them, shivering once more.

He warms up quicker this time, and he rolls onto his side and tucks his face against Stiles’ shoulder before falling asleep. Stiles rubs a hand up and down his back for a long while, hoping that this is the last bout of sickness, waiting for sleep to take him too. He drifts off sometime around seven-fifteen to the feeling of Derek’s breath against his skin.

*

Stiles wakes of his own accord the next time and he glances over at the clock to see that it’s almost eleven in the morning and Derek’s still dozing beside him. There’s no flush on his cheeks and he’s not shivering, which is a relief, and Stiles reaches out to touch his forehead, just to be sure.

He’s warm, but it’s clearly only from being under a handful of blankets with Stiles; it’s not feverish, thankfully. As he pulls his hand back, Derek stirs, blinking without seeing for a long moment before his gaze finally settles on Stiles.

“How you feeling?” Stiles asks and Derek glances around.

“You were here all night?”

“Someone had to make sure your brain didn’t boil.”

“Thanks,” Derek grunts. “Didn’t need to.”

Stiles huffs and says, “Well, clearly I did since you weren’t exactly conscious to take care of yourself.”

“Thanks,” Derek repeats quietly.

“How do you feel now?”

“Sore,” Derek tells him and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, welcome to my world,” he says, doubting that Derek’s ever felt the ache of a flu before. “Guess werewolves can get sick after all, huh?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Derek agrees, still looking slightly out of it and Stiles takes pity on him.

“Go back to sleep, dude. You had a rough night.”

He doesn’t point out that he had a rough night too, but instead slips to the side, out of bed, and fumbles around for his pants. Derek already looks half asleep by the time Stiles is dressed again, his face soft and relaxed, but the dark circles under his eyes are apparent.

Stiles supposes he should take his leave as it doesn’t seem like Derek is about to slip back into the fever.

“I’m going to call you this afternoon,” Stiles tells him. “If you don’t answer, I’m going to assume you’re dead and I’ll drive back over here and babysit you some more. Fair?”

Derek grunts in what could pass for agreement, and as an afterthought, Stiles grabs the empty glass on Derek’s nightstand and fills it back up with water from the bathroom sink. He leaves it within easy reach and stares at Derek for a long moment, watching him slip away into sleep. He has to stop himself from stretching his hand out to touch him, and instead forces himself to head for the door.

“Text if you need anything,” he says so the silent room, but Derek doesn’t answer.

He makes sure the front door locks behind him, but doesn’t look back.

*

Stiles doesn’t hear from the rest of the pack over Christmas, though he does receive a picture from Scott of the ridiculous stack of presents in Kira’s house, the pile big enough to hide the bottom part of their Christmas tree. Stiles takes advantage of the quiet by catching up on TV shows he’s missed during the quarter and by eating mass amounts of food with his dad.

Lydia texts him the following week to tell him to free his calendar—not that he has anything planned anyway—because she’s hosting a New Year’s Eve party. She does it every year, so he’s not exactly surprised, but it means he has to go to the store to buy alcohol to say thank you.

He’s standing in the white wine aisle, trying to decide if anyone will be able to taste the difference between a five dollar bottle of wine and a ten dollar one, when a voice startles him.

“Lydia prefers riesling,” it says just to his left and Stiles startles and turns to find Derek there, a shopping basket tucked into the crook of his elbow.

“What?” he asks, brain only just catching up, and Derek gestures to a section beside them.

“Pick a riesling for Lydia.”

“Oh, yeah, thanks,” Stiles stutters out, grabbing the nearest and cheapest, and curling it protectively against his chest. Derek nods and Stiles finally lets himself take a good look at him. “No more flu?”

“No,” Derek tells him. “Just a few aches.”

“Sounds about right,” Stiles says. “You coming to Lydia’s party?”

Derek nods and tips his head to the bottle of wine already in his basket. “We had the same idea.”

Stiles smiles tightly, already wanting to escape.

“Look, I gotta go,” Stiles lies. “I’ll see you at the party.”

Derek nods as though agreeing, but follows it up with, “Cora’s flying in tomorrow. She’ll be there too.”

“Awesome,” Stiles says for a lack of anything better, trying his best to sound enthusiastic. “That’ll be good for you.”

Derek nods and offers a small smile, one Stiles hardly ever sees, and it’s clear how much the visit means to him.

“I’ll see you around, Stiles,” he says and Stiles shoots him a parting wave before he turns away and heads towards the checkout area, putting Derek far behind him.

*

What he doesn’t expect when he heads into Lydia’s house for the party, mingling his way to the kitchen for a drink, is to be immediately cornered by Cora, who flares her nose at him and drags her gaze down his body suspiciously.

“What are you doing with my brother?” she asks, taking Stiles completely by surprise.

There’s more than just the pack at the party, which means they blend well enough into the noise of the conversations around them to not be noticed.

“What?” he replies and she gives him a slight shove, clearly ready to fight.

“Why the fuck do you reek like my brother?” she snaps and oh shit, Stiles thinks.

Apparently, his expression gives him away, because she flashes her eyes at him and pins him to the wall with an arm across his collarbone.

“Why the fuck does his house reek like you?” she continues and Stiles knows he’s not getting out of it.

“It’s just casual, okay?” he forces out. “And it’s mutual, so you can tone down the protective sister attitude. If you’re so worried about it, ask him yourself.”

“I did,” Cora growls, “but he wouldn’t tell me anything.”

God damnit, he thinks, knowing he’s given them both away.

“Well, like I said, it’s mutual, so if you have beef, take it up with him.”

Cora huffs as though she doesn’t like it one bit, but she lets her arm drop as she takes a step away from him.

“Derek doesn’t do casual,” she tells him. “If you hurt him, I’ll hurt you; understand?”

Stiles nods, ready to argue that Derek does and is currently doing casual, but before he can speak, Lydia finds them.

“Is that for me?” she asks, eyes on the bottle in Stiles’ grip, and Stiles nods, knowing she must have overheard things and came to save him. He’s more than a little grateful.

“For hosting,” Stiles says, drawing her into a hug and feeling the way Cora shoulders past them as she leaves.

“What was that about?” Lydia asks, shooting him a poignant look, but Stiles just shrugs.

“Family issues. You know what they’re like.”

“Are you okay?” she asks and Stiles smiles.

“I will be after a few drinks,” he jokes and she rolls her eyes playfully.

“Come on,” she orders, tugging him by the arm. “All the alcohol is in the kitchen.”

Stiles goes willingly, ready to let loose and ready to forget that Cora would make the worst Agony Aunt in the world.

*

Stiles isn’t at all sober by the time the New Year rolls in. He’s lost count of the amount of drinks he’s had and he knew driving over was a bad idea because there’s no way he’ll be able to get home now. He spots Scott and Kira sharing a kiss and Liam and Hayden are nearby sharing their own.

Lydia kisses his cheek, followed closely by Mason, and all in all, it’s not a bad haul.

Stiles switches to water then, knowing when to call it a night, but the buzz stays with him even as people start heading out a few hours later.

“Are you going to stay?” Lydia asks when it’s just the pack and few other people in the kitchen together. “Or do you want me to call you an Uber?”

Stiles scoffs. “Do you know how expensive that’ll be this time of year? I’ll just crash.”

“I can drive you home,” Derek tells him quietly. “Cora and I came in the same car. She can drive herself home and I’ll walk from your place.”

“That’s like a forty minute walk,” Stiles argues. “No way.”

“I’ll run,” Derek tells him. “It’ll be less than five.”

If Stiles were sober, he’d put up more of a fight, but to be honest, home sounds good and he’s ready to pass out as soon as his head touches his pillows.

So he nods and says, “Yeah, sure.”

He feels Cora glaring daggers at him, but he ignores her and starts making the rounds to say goodbye to everyone.

When he’s done, Derek’s waiting by the door with Stiles’ coat in one hand and, well, that’s saved Stiles from inevitably forgetting it. He takes it with a quiet thanks and slips it on as he follows Derek out. It’s cold, but not enough for a frost in the morning, and he tucks his hands into his pockets to keep them warm.

Stiles practically pours himself into the passenger seat, only remembering to put his seatbelt on when Derek stares pointedly at him while he starts the engine.

“The gear sticks,” Stiles grunts, though Derek doesn’t seem to have a problem as he shifts out of park and into drive, pulling away from Lydia’s house with a practiced ease.

It’s awkward in the silence, but Stiles doesn’t have anything to say, least of all to Derek. Derek doesn’t try to start up a conversation anyway. Not that Stiles wants him to. It’s just, he’s had a lot to drink, and he likes the thought of Derek wanting to talk to him, wanting to know his life outside of their weird friends-with-benefits relationship.

But instead, Stiles bites his tongue and lolls his head to one side, watching the lights buzz past outside of the passenger window.

He must fall asleep, because the next moment, he’s blinking and finding that they’re parked in Stiles’ driveway, the engine of the Jeep already off. When he sits up and glances over, Derek’s watching him with an unreadable expression.

“Sorry,” Stiles says, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand out of habit. “Did I miss anything?”

Derek snorts and shakes his head.

“No, Stiles,” he says. “Go to bed.”

That Stiles can do. He grunts and reaches for the door handle.

“Thanks for the ride,” he tells Derek. “Sorry you gotta walk now.”

Stiles slips out of the Jeep and heads around to the other side where Derek’s already out and locking the door by the time he gets around.

“Here,” Derek says, holding the keys out for him, and Stiles takes them without argument.

“Night, Derek,” he gets out, turning to head into the house, but as he moves, a hand grips his forearm and tugs him back.

Stiles wants to ask what he’s doing, when Derek’s mouth finds his own, taking him by surprise. It’s a gentle kiss, one that wouldn’t ever lead to anything more, like a genuine goodbye kiss that makes Stiles feel like shit.

“Derek,” he murmurs quietly, trying to make it sound like a complaint as he breaks away from him. “We can’t.”

“Is your dad home?” Derek asks, pressing another kiss to Stiles’ slackened mouth, which is downright unfair.

I can’t,” Stiles explains, and Derek stops then and finally seems to get the point.

“Right. Sure,” Derek replies, taking a step back and thankfully putting some space between them.

“I’m drunk,” Stiles says and Derek nods.

“I should go,” Derek tells him and Stiles blows out a heavy breath that appears as white mist in front of his face.

“Thanks for the ride,” he says, only realizing once it’s out that he’s already said that.

It doesn’t seem to matter though because Derek’s already turning away, not even checking over his shoulder as he heads for the sidewalk. Stiles stays frozen in place for a long moment, watching Derek silently head into the night, wondering when everything got so complicated. One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s that he’s too drunk to deal with anything.

He heads inside because that’s all he can do, and he makes sure to lock the door behind him.

*

The good thing about classes is that they don’t give Stiles enough time to think about anything else. He somehow manages to avoid Derek for the remaining few days of his vacation, but then he’s back at school and things seem less chaotic. At least with classes, he has a schedule for when shit will go down.

The rest of life is far too unpredictable.

He powers through January on sheer determination alone. He writes a ridiculous amount of essays for his classes and adds a few extra pages to his senior project. It keeps him distracted long enough to get him to the President’s Day long weekend, when he inevitably panics as he heads home to see his dad.

His dad, of course, draws him into a spine-popping hug before helping to bring in his laundry bag, which Stiles may or may not have brought back solely because he's been too lazy to do it himself.

“Is the rest of the pack back?”

Stiles shrugs and drops his backpack by the stairs. “I think Lydia and Malia will be around. Scott and Kira are visiting friends in the Bay Area.”

“We could grill for everyone,” his dad suggests, which doesn’t sound like Stiles’ idea of fun, but if he has to confront Derek again, he’d rather do it in a crowd than by themselves.

“Yeah, sure,” Stiles agrees. “I’ll text them.”

Malia is the first to reply to the message Stiles sends out to their group chat, though only to see if Stiles’ dad is going to make his infamous jalapeño poppers. Once Stiles confirms that he will, she agrees to show up, which makes Stiles snort in amusement. Lydia, Mason, and Derek also reply that they’ll be there and Stiles gets to sweat his way through the days leading up to it.

“Do you think that’s enough?” his dad asks, standing beside a stack of food on the kitchen counter.

“Yeah, Dad,” Stiles says incredulously. “It’s only two wolves. Pretty sure Scott and I ate less than that growing up.”

His dad makes a noise that sounds like agreement and then begins unpacking everything while Stiles starts on a salad.

Malia and Mason arrive almost at the same time and Lydia pulls up just as Stiles is about to shut the front door. Stiles has just gotten drinks for everyone when the doorbell rings and Stiles’ stomach sinks. He heads for the door like a doomed man, and when he opens it, his whole body aches at how unfairly good Derek looks.

He’s let his stubble grow out a little longer, making it look soft and touchable, and there’s a healthy flush to his cheeks, almost like he walked the whole way to the Stilinski house, except that can’t be true because his car is parked behind Lydia’s.

“Hey,” Stiles manages, his voice slightly pitched. “Glad you could come.”

Derek nods, but doesn’t even attempt to lean in for a kiss, and Stiles knows that should be a good thing, that’s what he wanted, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

“Everyone else is out the back,” Stiles says. “You want a drink? We have beer.”

“Water’s fine,” Derek tells him, following him to the back door, which he disappears through while Stiles slips into the kitchen to grab him a glass of water.

When he comes out, Derek’s found a seat at the patio table between Lydia and Mason and Stiles sets the glass down in front of him before flopping into the chair beside his dad.

“It’s been quiet around here?” Stiles asks and Mason sighs.

“For once,” he says. “After you guys talked to the witch again, things settled down.”

“Except for the omega,” Malia says and Stiles blinks.

“What omega?”

“Came to town about two weeks ago,” she explains. “Guess she cleared it with Scott though, ‘cause she’s been on the downlow since.”

“Her family used to pass through,” Derek says, drawing everyone’s attention. “They passed away last year and she’s the last of their line. Our moms went to college together.”

“Shit,” Malia says, which is about right.

“Is she staying with you?” Mason asks with a frown, but Derek shakes his head.

“She’s got a place downtown and her own business.”

“She could have come today,” Stiles adds and Derek meets his gaze.

“Didn’t think it was appropriate.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to say to that, but thankfully his dad jumps in.

“Well, tell her she’s invited to the next one if she’s up for it. We'd be happy to meet her.”

Derek nods and Stiles’ dad, once satisfied by Derek’s response, gets up to poke at things on the grill.

“Go grab the plates, Stiles,” he says and Stiles heaves himself up with a sigh.

“I’ll help,” Mason adds, following Stiles inside.

Stiles hands him the salad and a fistful of utensils to take out while he grabs the plates and a basket of bread. Everyone seems more than happy to begin tucking into the food once Stiles’ dad sets the plate of meat in the middle of the table, though Stiles notices that Derek mostly nudges his chicken breast around his plate.

He doesn’t react to Stiles’ raised eyebrows though, so Stiles figures it’s not anything to worry about. Stiles himself cleans up two burgers and Lydia’s leftover chicken, and he’s pretty pleased with himself.

“We’ve got pie for dessert,” Stiles’ dad adds, which is followed by a chorus of please god no more food groans, and a happy noise from Malia like she might just eat the whole thing herself if they’re not careful.

Everyone ends up having a slice, except for Derek, who instead slowly makes his way through two scoops of vanilla ice cream. After, he pulls something from the pocket of his coat and pops it into his mouth. For a second, Stiles thinks it’s a mint, but then the scent of something spicier wafts across the table. It’s not cinnamon, but smells similar.

His dad seems to notice too and he glances over at Derek with a soft expression.

“Ginger?” he asks and, after a second where Derek looks as though he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t, Derek nods. “My wife got through a pack of ginger chews almost daily when she was pregnant with Stiles. It helped with the nausea.”

Derek nods, but doesn’t seem to know how to answer. Stiles watches him, slightly concerned that maybe Derek’s sickness is back, but Derek looks content to eat his candy and enjoy the cooler breeze as the sun begins to set. Maybe he just has a newfound love for ginger. Who is Stiles to judge when he has his own weird ass obsessions?

“There's a tea, too,” Lydia adds. “It helps with stress.”

“Not as strong,” Derek tells her and she purses her lips thoughtfully for a moment.

“Then make your own. Fresh ginger will be a lot stronger. I can see if i have a recipe at home.”

Derek nods, and that seems to be the end of that because Mason changes the conversation to explain the project he's working on for one of his classes and Stiles lets the sound of their voices fade into background noise.

Later, when Malia has already left—with the leftover pie cradled in her hands—and Lydia is pulling her coat on in the front hallway, Stiles finds Derek in the kitchen, stacking plates in the dishwasher.

“You don't need to do that,” Stiles tells him. “I'll do it later.”

“Easy enough,” Derek says with a shrug, sorting knives and forks into their own compartments, which is way more effort than Stiles would put into it if he were doing it himself.

It falls silent between them and Stiles finds himself grasping at straws for something to talk about. Which is his first mistake.

“Look, it's not my business, but have you still been feeling sick?”

Derek glances up while he shuts the door to the dishwasher and moves to wash his hands.

“You’re right,” he says, and Stiles’ stomach swoops unpleasantly at the thought of Derek being sick again after the last time. But then Derek clarifies, “It's none of your business.”

It would be a lie if he said it didn't hurt. The response stings and Stiles almost flinches backwards. He covers the movement by leaning against the counter and aiming for nonchalance. He's not sure how well he succeeds, but Derek mirrors his pose by leaning against the sink and folding his arms.

He exhales slowly and meets Stiles’ gaze.

“The doctor said it could be anxiety.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows in surprise, but Derek doesn't react.

“You actually went to see a doctor?” Stiles can't help but ask and Derek nods.

“It was Melissa who suggested the ginger. Medication doesn't exactly work for us.”

“Horse tranquilizers?” Stiles suggests and Derek shoots him an unamused look.

“The ginger helps,” Derek says blandly and Stiles quietly clears his throat.

“Whatever works for you, right?”

“Hey,” a voice says from the doorway, and Stiles turns to find Lydia standing there. “I’m heading out.”

Stiles spares Derek one last glance and turns away to walk Lydia to the front door. They step out into the cool night and Stiles pulls the door closed behind them.

“Everything all right?” she asks quietly and Stiles snorts awkwardly.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?” She levels him with a significant look that Stiles tries his best to shrug off. “Things are fine.”

“He’s been quiet since the beginning of the year,” Lydia tells him.

“Maybe he’s missing Cora,” Stiles suggests, and Lydia shoots him another look as though he’s being dense. “Is he healthy?” Stiles can’t help but ask and Lydia tilts her head.

“Why?”

“With the ginger,” he says and Lydia blinks.

“He could just like ginger, Stiles.”

“Yeah, he said it was for his anxiety, but he got sick. The last time we had a pack dinner, he was really ill after. I didn’t think werewolves could catch anything, but he definitely did.”

“Has he said anything to you?”

“No,” Stiles says, throwing a glance towards the house, hoping that Derek hasn’t been able to pick up on anything they’ve been saying. “He said he saw Melissa, but this doesn’t seem right.”

“Welcome to Beacon Hills,” Lydia says sarcastically.

“I just think we should tell everyone to keep an eye on him.”

“He isn’t going to like that.”

“What he doesn’t know won’t kill him,” Stiles says and Lydia quirks her eyebrow at him.

“Since when have you been able to keep a secret?”

There’s a sound behind the door and Stiles falls quiet as it swings open, waiting for Derek to rip him a new one for talking about him. But it’s Mason standing on the other side and Stiles heaves out a loud breath in relief.

“What?” Mason asks and Stiles shoos him with his hands.

“C’mon,” Lydia says. “I’ll give you a ride home.”

Lydia gives Stiles a pointed look, gesturing into the house with her eyes, which is clearly code for him to talk to Derek again, but Stiles really doesn’t want to. He drops Lydia’s gaze and shifts closer to the door.

“I’ll talk to you guys later,” he lies and he can feel Lydia’s judgment practically smacking him upside the head.

But she doesn’t say anything, just leads Mason towards the car and they hop in before pulling away from the curb and heading down the street. Stiles takes a steadying breath and takes a step backwards, ready to shut the door, but instead he bumps into something solid and warm and smells suspiciously like Derek’s deodorant.

“Hey, sorry,” he apologizes as he steps aside to let Derek through, but Derek shrugs it off.

“It’s fine,” he says, and tugs his keys from his pocket. “When are you coming back again?”

The question catches Stiles off guard.

“Oh, uh,” he stammers. “I don’t know. Maybe spring break? Why? You got plans?”

“No,” Derek says, “I just—are you—are we done?”

Stiles throws a glance over his shoulder; he’s pretty sure his dad is still out the back cleaning the grill, but just to be safe, he nudges Derek outside and pulls the door closed behind him once again.

“This isn’t a great time,” Stiles tells him and Derek frowns at him.

“When is?” he snaps. “You’re gone for months. You won’t text me.”

Stiles blinks, and then blinks again. He didn’t even know that was an issue.

“I can text,” Stiles gets out and Derek exhales roughly and shakes his head like he’s missed the point.

“Don’t bother,” he says and Stiles feels as though he’s been swept up by a tornado and spat back out again with no idea which direction is up.

He starts to walk away and Stiles catches his arm and says, “Wait.”

He knows this could be a turning point for them. He can’t just let Derek go.

“What?” Derek asks, gently, but firmly tugging his arm out of Stiles’ grip.

“Did you—” he starts, ready to say did you want more? or did you miss me every day that I wasn’t here? or did you want to sneak upstairs with me and fuck until we can’t anymore?. But he can’t. He can’t get the words out and instead he says, “Did you find out if your wish came true?”

It’s a honest question. He knows about Scott’s since his mom is now living exactly where she wants to, and he knows his own because the collection letters have stopped coming in the mail. But he doesn’t know Derek’s. He doesn’t even know what it could have been.

Derek stares at him for a long moment, his expression unreadable.

“No,” he says with finality. “Nothing happened.”

Then he turns away, as though that’s all there is to the conversation, and Stiles panics.

“Wait,” Stiles repeats. “What do you mean nothing happened? You were promised a wish.”

“Guess not,” Derek replies evenly. “See you in the spring.”

And just like that, Derek’s climbing into his car and shutting the door on him.

It hurts, more that he expected it would, but there’s nothing he can do as Derek starts the engine and carefully pulls onto the street. Stiles stares at the fading lights until he’s out of sight and then he turns back towards the house feeling as though he’s fucked everything up. He thought it was bad before, but it’s nothing compared to now.

“What was that about?” his dad asks, startling him as he shuts the door, but he can barely meet his gaze.

“Nothing,” he says. “Nothing important.”

“Didn’t look that way to me.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Stiles snaps, which is unfair on his dad. He takes a calming breath and adds, “Sorry.”

The look on his dad’s face says that more than a few things are falling into place for him.

“Derek’s the one you’re seeing,” he says, not a question, and Stiles nods after a drawn out pause.

“Was,” he says. “Derek’s the one I was seeing. But not anymore.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?” his dad asks and Stiles thinks for a moment before nodding.

“Yeah,” he says honestly. “I’m sure.”

“If you change your mind, you know where I’ll be.”

Stiles shoots him a small smile, appreciating his dad’s support.

“Yeah, Dad,” he says. “Thanks.”

His dad reaches out and ruffles his hair gently.

“Go get some rest,” he says and Stiles doesn’t need to be told twice.

*

Stiles thinks the closure should make his life easier, but it doesn’t. Instead of worrying about how he’s in far too deep, he pines for what he knows he can no longer have.

Midterms arrive before he’s ready, though, giving him plenty to think about, but he passes them all—though one is only by a few points—and then classes settle back into a normal routine. As spring break begins to loom, he thinks seriously about saying at school and spending a week alone in his roommate-free apartment. It sounds better than the alternative of heading home and maybe having to see Derek.

He knows he never should have started anything. It’s only become a headache for everyone involved.

He calls Scott the night before spring break officially starts, four beers in him to give him strength.

“Stiles?” Scott answers. “You okay?”

Stiles drops his head again the arm of the couch he’s sprawled out on and lets out a heavy breath, trying to figure out a good answer.

“No,” he answers, figuring honesty is his best bet.

“What happened? Is it school stuff?”

“No,” Stiles repeats and there’s a significant pause on the other end of the line.

“Is it Derek stuff?”

Stiles sighs, which is clearly enough for Scott to infer from because he makes a sympathetic noise.

“It’s for the best,” Scott rationalizes, and Stiles knows that, but it just doesn’t make it any easier.

“Yeah,” he says. “But it’s going to make things awkward.”

“Only if you let it,” Scott tells him. “You don’t feel awkward around Malia anymore.”

“Yeah, but look how long it took to get to that point.”

“So what?” Scott asks. “You got there eventually.”

It’s really not what Stiles wants to hear. He wants an immediate fix, no matter how improbable that might be.

“You wanna move to the East Coast with me?” Stiles asks, only half joking.

“Come back for spring break,” Scott tells him. “I won’t make you do any pack stuff.”

“You’re the best,” Stiles says and Scott makes a noise of agreement, to which Stiles scoffs. “Whatever.”

“How about we go downtown?” Scott suggests. “Get some food and see a movie.”

“Are you asking me out on a date?” Stiles asks and Scott laughs.

“Yeah, dude. I’ll make you feel loved.”

Stiles knows Scott is joking, but he does feel loved. He always does with Scott.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “That sounds good. I’ll text you when I’m home.”

“Drive safe,” Scott tells him. “And don’t think too much.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says again, but he’s not sure he can promise that, because even as he hangs up and drops his phone onto his stomach, he’s already thinking again about the possibilities.

He sighs, heaves himself up, and heads to the kitchen to grab another beer. He’s going to need it.

*

Stiles’ week off goes surprisingly smoothly. He catches up on sleep, watches more Netflix than he probably should, and—as promised—he hangs out with Scott downtown. It’s calm and not at all what he expected, which puts him in a better mood. He begins to think that maybe he’s moved on. Except he realizes with a cold, harsh reality that he hasn’t.

He only stops at the store to get Oreos. He’s been craving them and wants some while he starts his X-Files rewatch. It’s not much to ask for. But when he walks in and passes the produce section, there’s a familiar dark head in front of a display of apples, and it’s really not fair how quickly his stomach sinks and his palms turn clammy.

Any ideas he’s had that he’s moved on shatter in an instant.

Derek looks good, he can’t deny it. His broad shoulders shift as he reaches for the perfect apple, and Stiles is glad that he has his back to Stiles so that he can stare like an idiot without being caught.

For one terrifying moment, his brain suggests going to say hi, but he knows it would be a bad idea, especially without anyone to mediate. He should just slip away before Derek turns around and spots him. It would be for the best.

As he turns to leave, though, a woman edges closer to Derek, pressing her hand between his shoulders and leaning in to murmur something to him.

Derek turns his face towards her, a gentle smile on his lips, and Stiles knows he should be happy for them. Just because he can’t move on, doesn’t mean Derek should have to do the same. He’s obviously found someone and that’s fine.

The woman looks about Derek’s age, her braided hair pulled up atop her head, and objectively, she’s beautiful. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t be with Derek.

Derek passes her the bag of apples he’s collected and they turn and head towards their cart. Stiles can’t help but notice the extra weight Derek has seemed to put on—not that it’s any of his business. He’s allowed to settle down and become soft now that the real threats have finally left Beacon Hills.

Stiles just can’t help but think that it’s meant to be with him. He was meant to be the one to settle down with Derek, and he was the one who was meant to see Derek turn soft with age. But that’s not really true, Stiles realizes with a sinking feeling. Derek never promised him anything other than a casual hookup. Stiles was the one who wanted more. He has no right to feel so possessive.

He swallows thickly and turns away, needing to put distance between himself and Derek. He needs to get a grip on reality.

He leaves without looking back and doesn’t realize until he’s home that he still doesn’t have his Oreos.

*

On the last night of his spring break, Scott, Kira, and Lydia stop by for dinner while his dad is pulling a late shift at work. It’s quiet, but fun nonetheless.

Lydia spends part of the night trying to explain the difference between what Stiles thinks she does at work, and what she actually does. Stiles still doesn’t really get the distinction by the time she’s done, but he’s also had almost an entire bottle of wine for himself, so maybe he’s not entirely to blame.

After Kira and Scott say goodnight with an endless amount of hugs, Lydia helps him clear the table and take everything into the kitchen, where Stiles fills the sink and begins washing up. Lydia pulls herself up onto the countertop and passes him dirty dishes to clean.

“I spoke to Derek,” she says, apropos to nothing and Stiles accidentally drops the plate he was washing back into the sudsy water.

“What?”

“I spoke to Derek about how he was feeling. He’s doing better now.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, heart attempting to return to its normal rate. “Yeah I saw him the other day. Well, I mean, we didn’t chat or anything, but he looks good. He’s put on weight, so I guess he hasn’t been puking his guts out.”

He laughs, but Lydia watches him carefully.

“He hasn’t said anything to you?” she asks, which catches Stiles’ attention.

“What?” he asks. “No, why would he?”

Lydia shakes her head and says, “You’ll have to ask him yourself.”

Which means Stiles will never find out, because he’s never going to ask Derek anything.

“He’s seeing someone though, right?” Stiles asks. “He was with a woman at the store.”

“Nadine?” Lydia asks and Stiles shrugs.

“Didn’t stop to get names.”

Lydia purses her lips and passes over a wine glass.

“What happened between you two?” she asks. “Were you dating?”

No,” Stiles snaps with more force than need be, which she picks up on, if her change in expression is anything to go by.

“You wanted to date him,” she guesses and Stiles turns his face away, pretending to focus on the soapy glass in his hands instead.

“We fooled around,” he says eventually, accepting another glass from Lydia. “I wanted more and he didn’t.”

“He said that?” Lydia asks, frowning, and Stiles shrugs.

“Those were the terms when we started it. I knew what to expect, but I was hoping it would change.”

“The heart wants what it wants,” Lydia says unhelpfully, but it’s true, and Stiles nods. “Have you told him?”

“What?” Stiles asks, staring at her aghast. “Why would I do that? We’ve moved on.”

“Yes,” Lydia says, clipped and laced heavily with sarcasm, “you’ve moved on completely.”

“I’m dealing with it,” Stiles snaps. “Some time apart will be good for us.”

“You should talk to him,” Lydia says, pulling herself to the edge of the countertop and dropping back down to the floor. “You might learn a few things.”

“What the hell could I learn?” Stiles argues. “That’s the worst idea I’ve heard.”

“Just try it, Stiles. Maybe you’ll be surprised by what you find out.”

Stiles wants to grunt, doubt it, but he likes to think he’s above that.

“I’ll think about it,” he says instead and Lydia nods and pulls him in for a hug, not even seeming to mind his wet hands on her back.

“I’ll show myself out,” she tells him. “Call me when you’re back in town.”

Stiles nods and watches her go, sagging against the kitchen counter when he hears the front door click shut behind her. His defenses are low and he feels shaky. He doesn’t know what Lydia meant by everything, but he’s really not prepared to deal with anything else. So, instead of following anything even remotely similar to Lydia’s advice, he turns back to the sink and puts his hands back into the water.

Doing the dishes is so much simpler.

*

Stiles deals with it by going back to school and ignoring everything other than his classes. It works surprisingly well and he bumps two of his grades up to As in the process. By the time finals roll around, he feels as ready as he’ll ever be to graduate.

The pack group text fills with plans the closer it gets to the end of May. Because Stiles is the one with a backyard, he’s designated as the party host, but it’s promised that all food and alcohol will be provided in exchange. Stiles is totally okay with that.

His dad plans his trip for graduation in advance, double and triple checking that his shifts are covered, which he admits to doing when he calls to check in with Stiles the week before. It fills Stiles with warmth, though, and he’s not sure he’ll make it through graduation day without getting emotional.

When the day finally arrives, Stiles is just ready to get out of there. He knows he’s passed his classes, without even seeing his grades online, and his car is packed up with everything from his apartment, ready to be taken back to Beacon Hills. His dad sits in the crowd, beaming the whole time, and he stands up and cheers embarrassingly the moment Stiles crosses the stage.

Once Stiles is free from the crush of the crowd, he finds his dad and pulls him into a hug that almost knocks the cap from his head.

“Your mom would be so proud,” his dad says and Stiles tucks his face against his shoulder and tries not to cry.

He’s not entirely successful.

*

Coming home and knowing he won’t have anymore classes ever is a strange sensation. It’s daunting and slightly terrifying, but also a relief.

Like the good old days, Stiles sleeps in until noon, and is rudely woken by someone else flopping onto his bed beside him.

“Dude, party’s in an hour,” Scott tells him, throwing his arm around Stiles’ waist and tucking in close to him.

Stiles grunts, rolls over, and tries his best to shove Scott off the mattress. Scott laughs the entire time, even when he tips backwards and lands on his back on the floor, his legs still tucked over the edge of the bed. Stiles stares down at him and hides his grin behind the sheets.

When Stiles finally gets up and dressed, Scott’s back down in the kitchen, putting drinks into the fridge.

Stiles pulls him into a hug and pats his back.

“Guess we did it, huh?” Stiles says and Scott squeezes him one more time before pulling back and holding his fist out for Stiles to bump. Stiles does it with a grin.

“What now?” Scott asks.

“Man,” Stiles complains, “at least let me enjoy one weekend without worrying about that shit.”

Scott laughs and pushes a cold beer into his hand.

“Yeah,” Scott agrees. “Today is just for celebrating.”

Stiles twists the top off the bottle and jumps straight in.

*

He’s not sober by the time they start grilling food. In fact, he’s downright drunk and sprawled out on a lawn chair beside Kira who is trying to talk Scott out of attempting his own keg stand with the garden hose. Stiles is laughing hard enough that he’ll probably have to go pee soon, but he’s comfortable and happy, and almost certain that he’ll have a hot dog in his hand within fifteen minutes. All in all, it’s perfect.

It almost stays that way until Mason glances over at Stiles and says, “Is Derek coming later?”

Firstly, Stiles doesn’t know why Mason asks him as though he’s meant to be Derek’s keeper, but secondly, where the fuck is Derek? It’s a good freaking point.

He glances around the garden, not seeing any sign of him, and decides to kill two birds with one stone by going to check inside the house and going to pee at the same time. There’s no sign of him inside either, though, and Stiles drunkenly stumbles upstairs to make a bad life choice.

where are you? he texts Derek. you’d like this party. lots of meat.

He leaves his phone on his bed while he uses the bathroom and when he finds there’s still no reply by the time he gets back, he dials Derek’s number.

It cuts straight to voicemail and Stiles is inexplicably offended.

“Yo,” he says as it beeps to signal the start of his message. “Where are you at? We’re all over here having a great time and you’re not around. I don’t know if you thought you weren’t invited or whatever, or if you thought it would be awkward, but you’re still allowed to come to these things. Shit will be awkward, but we’re still pack, right? You’re always invited, y’know. I miss you. I mean, I miss the easiness between us, and I do miss your mouth. God, I miss everything and fucking shit this was a bad idea to call.”

He hangs up immediately and drops face-first onto his bed, groaning in utter humiliation. Derek is going to listen to that message and Stiles has just ruined everything all over again.

“Fucking fucking fuck,” Stiles says emphatically, wanting nothing more than to be swallowed whole by his bed.

Unfortunately, it keeps him right where he is, and he stays there for an indeterminate amount of time before he finds the strength to roll himself upright. He grabs his phone and leaves his room, vowing not to touch another drop of alcohol for the rest of the night. He fails this immediately, however, when Scott presses a shot glass into his hand when he passes through the kitchen.

He manages two before he pleads out of it and heads back to his chair, where he flops bonelessly. He thinks he probably dozes for a moment because he loses track of time, and when he unthinkingly checks his phone to see, there’s a message waiting for him.

For a second, he thinks he might lose everything in his stomach, the anxiety within him threatening to make him puke. But he knows ignoring it will only make it worse. He figures it’s like a bandaid and best to just rip off in one go.

He opens the text.

I’m not in the country, it says and Stiles blinks.

??? Where are you? he sends back, his stomach flipping when it notifies him almost immediately that Derek is typing a response.

South America. Staying with Cora.

wtf? since when?

It takes a little longer this time for Derek to reply, but eventually it comes through.

Second week of May.

Derek has been with Cora in South America for almost a month and Stiles had no idea. He glances over to where Lydia is sitting across from him, tapping away at her own phone.

“Derek’s been with Cora for the last month?” he blurts out and she double takes, belatedly realizing that Stiles is talking to her before she sets her phone down.

“You didn’t talk to him,” she says, not a question.

“I didn’t know he was going to leave the country,” he argues. “I figured we’d talk over the summer.”

It’s a lie, but telling the truth won't help the situation.

“You need to talk to him, Stiles,” she says, sounding strangely serious. “He wasn’t in a good place when he left.”

Stiles frowns and says, “Did he break up with his girlfriend?”

Lydia shoots him an incredulous look and says, “Nadine was never his girlfriend, Stiles. She’s the omega that came to town; the werewolf Derek knew while growing up.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, eyebrows raising. “Then why did he leave?”

Talk to him,” Lydia grits out. “This isn’t my story to tell.”

“There’s a story? How serious is this?”

Stiles!” Lydia says, exasperated, and Stiles thins his lips and nods.

“Fine,” he says. “I’ll talk to him when I’m sober.”

“Tomorrow,” Lydia says, leaving no room for argument.

“Fine,” he repeats. “Tomorrow.”

He doubts Lydia will let him forget, but he’ll try to push his luck the best he can. For the time being, he slips his phone back into his pocket and pretends life doesn’t exist beyond the boundaries of the party. It’s probably the safest course of action until he’s a little more sober.

*

Stiles is the master of procrastination. He once sorted his drawer of clothes by colors, solely to avoid working on an essay in high school. He’s been doing it for as long as he can remember, which means he’s great at it.

It also means that he ignores Lydia’s orders for the entire day, until he’s just about to head to bed and his phone buzzes with a text from her.

Did you talk to Derek? it asks, and Stiles can’t believe how guilty it makes him feel. It’s entirely unfair.

So, attempting to be an adult about the issue, Stiles says goodnight to his dad and heads up to his room, where he sits on the edge of his bed and calls Derek. He changes positions three times while the phone rings, going from sitting, to standing, to sitting at his desk, before finally just pacing in the space between his door and his bed.

Finally, after what feels like the millionth ring, Derek picks up.

There’s a soft grunt and the sound of shifting, like sheets against a bed, and then Derek clears his throat and says, “Stiles?”

His voice is rough and he’s either sick or he’s been sleeping and Stiles freezes.

“Oh fuck,” he says. “The time zone.”

Derek’s sigh echos down the line.

“What do you want, Stiles?”

“I, uh—”

It’s actually a good point. What was the point of calling Derek?

Stiles,” Derek grits out, and, okay, he sounds pissed now.

“Lydia said I should call.”

“Did she say you should call me in the middle of the night?”

Correction: really pissed.

“No,” Stiles sighs. “I forgot about the time difference. I’ll call another time.”

But Stiles knows if he hangs up now, he won’t call again.

Derek sighs again, and then it sounds like he adjusts whatever position he’s in, before settling with a grunt.

“No,” Derek says. “I’m awake now. What is it?”

Stiles pauses, feeling as though he probably should have thought up a better reason before calling.

“I, uh, just wanted to see how you’re doing,” Stiles tells him. “You said you’re down with Cora.”

Derek doesn’t sound impressed when he replies with a clipped, “Yep.”

Stiles clears his throat, staring at the ceiling and wincing.

“Look,” Stiles says, “you don’t need to be there just because I’m back in town again.”

There’s a distinct pause from Derek before he says, “Not everything is about you, Stiles.”

“No, I know that,” Stiles argues, “but just in case it crossed your mind. You don’t need to stay there. I won’t make things awkward. Well, I’ll try not to make things awkward.”

“Stiles, I’m here because I want to be,” Derek snaps defensively. “I’m spending time with Cora.”

“You’ve been there a long time,” Stiles tries and Derek makes an angry noise.

“She’s my sister,” Derek says. “I don’t see her often.”

“You saw her at Christmas.”

Derek goes silent and Stiles knows he probably shouldn’t have pushed so far.

“She’s my sister,” Derek repeats coldly.

“I know that,” Stiles says. “I just—some of us here miss you.”

Stiles,” Derek growls, warning Stiles not to go down that road. But Stiles has never been good at self-preservation.

I miss you,” Stiles admits softly

Derek blows out a loud breath.

Stiles,” Derek groans as though pinching the bridge of his nose. “You were the one that ended things.”

“I wasn’t the only one to blame,” Stiles argues. “Look, I’m not saying we—I just miss you. That’s it.”

“What am I meant to do with that, Stiles?” Derek asks, and he doesn’t sound angry anymore, just tired. “You think I’ll just come back to Beacon Hills? Things will go back to normal? You have no idea, Stiles. No idea.”

“Then tell me!” Stiles fights. “Lydia said you went to South America for a reason, and don’t give me the sister bullshit. That might have been part of it, but not all.”

“Stiles,” Derek says, sounding defeated. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It obviously does if you won’t come back.”

“I’ll come back,” Derek says, but Stiles knows there’s more to it than that.

“Yeah?” he replies. “When?”

“When I’m ready,” Derek says, dodging the issue.

“When’s that going to be? A month? A year?”

Derek falls silent before carefully saying, “My visa expires in two months.”

Stiles lets out a noise of annoyance.

“Yeah, whatever,” Stiles retorts. “I hope it’s worth it.”

“Stiles—” he hears Derek begin, but Stiles ends the call, needing to stop before he’s in too deep.

He already is, to be honest, but he can’t deal with the thought that Derek doesn’t want to be in Beacon Hills again, and as much as Derek fought it, it’s probably because Stiles is around. He’s not stupid. He can put two and two together.

He tosses his phone onto his bed and flops down beside it, staring up at his ceiling.

He never should have started anything, he thinks. Things would be so much simpler if he’d never given in. He covers his face with trembling hands and sighs heavily.

*

Stiles doesn’t hear from Derek after that, not that he’s really surprised. He doesn’t try to poke that hornet’s nest either.

Lydia looks expectant when he sees her next, but he sighs, wondering if he can be bothered to explain. He shakes his head and she purses her lips as though about to drag the information out of him anyway. Stiles really doesn’t feel like fighting, though, so instead he blurts it all out.

“He wouldn’t tell me anything,” Stiles says. “He didn’t want to talk, so I’m not going to push.”

Lydia mutters something about stubborn assholes and Stiles shrugs.

“It’s not that important,” Stiles says. “It’s not the end of the world.”

“He’ll come back,” Lydia says and Stiles really doesn’t feel hopeful about it, so he shrugs again and figures that’s the end of it.

*

As with all things in Beacon Hills, it’s not the end of it. Stiles is just glad that this time it isn’t wishes being granted. It is, however, a witch. It’s not the same as the first one, which Stiles supposes is a step in the right direction, but this one though is young and angry and apparently blames some guy named Henry Tong for murdering someone in her coven.

Stiles doesn’t know if it’s true, but the Henry Tong she finds and takes hostage doesn’t even seem to know witches exist because he stares at the witch—Anna—as though she’s crazy. Stiles thinks she might very well be.

Even worse, is that she takes Henry hostage in the middle of the preserve, near enough to the edge of the ravine that it makes Stiles nervous. Scott is trying to talk her down, trying to explain the basics of due process, but she’s yelling, holding a ball of raw energy against Henry’s throat, and it’s way past Stiles’ bedtime, and he’s kind of over it.

“Hey!” he yells over the sound of her screeching about the places where Henry probably hid the body, and she pauses, chest heaving. “What was your friend’s name?”

“What?” she asks, seeming taken aback, but still tense.

“The friend this guy supposedly killed, what was her name?”

She blinks and says, “Kara.”

“Lutz?” Henry says, which isn’t the best timing, because it sets Anna off again.

Yes, Lutz,” she yells. “You’d know since you killed her.”

“Kara left,” Henry tells her, sounding panicked. “She mentioned wanting to leave. She said she didn’t like her family.”

“Her family is dead,” Anna says. “The coven is all she has!”

Henry glances at Scott, eyes wide and guileless. “Look, I dated Kara for a few months, but she wasn’t happy. She kept talking about how overbearing her family was and how she wanted to get away. When we decided not to date long term, she mentioned going north. I haven’t heard from her in two weeks.”

“He’s not lying,” Scott says gently, obviously listening to Henry’s heartbeat, but Anna’s face crumples.

“What do you mean her family was overbearing?” Anna asks. “The only family she had was us.”

Seeing the realization hit is awkward as hell and Stiles rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably.

“Oh boy,” he mutters under his breath.

Anna finally lets go of Henry, who slumps to the ground and crawls his way closer to Scott, as though knowing he’ll protect him. For a long moment, Anna stares at them without seeing, and then she lowers her hand, releasing the ball of energy from her palm. It’s done thoughtlessly which would be fine if Stiles wasn’t in the direct line of it and it didn’t hit him square in the chest.

As it is, it does, and he takes one staggering step backwards and then another.

It’s a fluke that he trips; it’s just a tree root that tucks behind his heel and tips him backwards, and Lydia, who’s standing beside him, tries her best to catch his hand. But she misses and Stiles falls. And when he expects to hit the ground, he doesn’t. He falls and keeps falling and he sees the opposite side of the ravine and realizes he’s tumbling down the other.

His shoulder hits first with a sound that makes him wish he couldn’t hear a thing, and then the rest of his body follows. He supposes he’s lucky because that’s the last thing he remembers. And then there’s nothing.

*

Unfortunately, the nothingness doesn’t last forever.

There’s a flash of the stars above and he really wishes they’d stop moving so much, and then there’s a flash of the inside of a truck and Stiles is almost sure the man standing over him is Patrick who’s an EMT that works alongside his dad's officers, but then he fades out and there’s a flash of bright lights and a smell he really doesn’t like. It reminds him of his mom.

He remembers puking, he remembers not being able to breathe, he remembers the expression on his dad’s face, and then there’s nothing again.

This time it stays for a long time, and Stiles knows that time is relative, but it feels like a century, and then he’s blinking, feeling tired and ready to sleep again. Nothing really registers for a while, but there’s someone sitting next to his hospital bed and they’re not paying attention enough to notice he’s awake.

But the person next to him looks a lot like Derek, and that’s when Stiles knows he’s been given good drugs because that’s not who it is—it’s not the right shape for Derek—and so he lets whatever he's on tug him back under to sleep again.

When he wakes the next time, Scott is sitting beside him, playing on his phone, three cans of Pepsi sitting on the table beside him, along with the wrappers of two Milky Ways. He notices Stiles almost immediately and he sits up, putting his phone in his pocket as he reaches for Stiles’ hand.

“Hey,” he says softly. “How are you feeling?”

Stiles blinks, his brain feeling foggy, and Scott squeezes his fingers.

“It’s okay,” he continues. “They said it might take you a while to get your bearings. Go back to sleep and I’ll get your dad.”

That only makes Stiles want to wake up more; he wants to see his dad, just to make sure he hasn’t died and missed the memo, and this is all some weird death-dream. But the lure of sleep tugs at him and he flexes his hand beneath Scott’s and between one breath and the next, he’s out.

*

It’s the sound of voices that pulls him out of it the next time, and he blinks, and beyond all miracles, he stays awake long enough to grunt. Nothing hurts, but he feels wrong, and he finds Scott still beside him, but he’s wearing different clothes like maybe it’s another day, and Stiles’ dad is standing beside him looking haunted and hollow-eyed.

Stiles smacks his lips and rolls his head to the side to make it easier to look at them both.

They stop talking at the sound and Stiles doesn’t know if he smiles, but he tries his best. It’s probably more of a grimace because his dad steps forward and immediately leans down to hug him.

“Don’t you dare scare me like that again,” he threatens, but instead of sounding intimidating, he sounds miserable, as though he’s spent the past few days not sleeping and worrying for every second of every hour.

Stiles tries his best to curl his arms around his dad, but the tug of his IV lines stops him, so he just touches what he can reach.

“Wha—” he gets out before he realizes that he’s going to have to work on words later because he’s still drugged to the teeth.

His dad shifts back enough to card his fingers through Stiles’ hair and he stares at him as though it’s the last thing he wants to talk about and relive.

“You fell,” he says, despite the look. “You fell partway into the ravine in the preserve.”

Stiles remembers that much.

“Anna?” he asks and Scott peers over Stiles’ dad’s shoulder.

“She’s fine, and Henry’s safe and back home. Apparently Kara really did just leave town and Anna agreed to get some counseling with Ms. Morrell. She also said she won’t blame you if you decide to press charges against her.”

Stiles blinks and shakes his head because he doesn’t know why he’d press charges, let alone what they’d press charges for. Magic wouldn’t exactly be a valid reason in a court of law.

“What about me?” he asks, throwing a glance down his body to make his meaning clear.

“You bumped yourself pretty good,” his dad chimes in. “Dislocated shoulder, concussion, broken ribs, collapsed lung on the right side.”

Stiles takes a moment to gather himself before carefully saying, “Glad it was the right side and not the wrong side.”

He’s proud that he gets it out, and even more so of the look of disbelief on his dad’s face.

“Which button do I push to make him sleep again?” his dad asks Scott, who laughs, and Stiles feels his eyes crinkling, his mouth crookedly smiling like he’s ten shots deep.

Despite the obvious joke, Stiles really does feel tired though, and he blinks slowly, the energy sucked right out of him.

“That’s what you get for being a smartass,” his dad grunts, but his hand is gentle against Stiles’ forehead, brushing his hair back. “Get some more rest.”

Stiles has a feeling he’s already had more than enough rest to last a lifetime, but instead of fighting, he gives in and lets himself fall back to sleep.

*

When he wakes, he wishes he was back to feeling foggy and drugged, because now he’s just hurting and uncomfortable, and he suspects they’ve taken the good meds away. He grunts unhappily and blinks across at Malia, who’s staring at him already.

“Hey,” he grunts, mouth feeling uncomfortably dry, but he deals with it.

“Hey,” she says back. “You look rough.”

Stiles snorts gently, which makes him cough, and everything hurts even more then, so he plans not to do that again any time soon.

“Where is everyone?” he gets out and Malia tucks one leg under herself where she’s sitting.

“Your dad’s getting coffee downstairs and everyone else is working.”

Stiles nods and blinks at her. “Thanks for being here.”

She tips her head in response and pats his hand awkwardly.

“How long have I been out?”

“Three days?” she says with uncertainty. “Three and a half?”

It’s not as long as he expects; it had felt like a lifetime.

“When can I go home?”

Malia shrugs and says, “Don’t know. Ask the doc.”

Stiles nods again and settles further into his pillows.

“Wake me when it’s time to go,” he says and shuts his eyes, enjoying the snort of amusement Malia lets out.

*

It’s another two days before they release him, and he’s given a sling for his arm to keep from dislocating his shoulder again, and enough painkillers that he won’t care if he does. It hurts to breathe, he suspects mainly because of the ribs, so he spends the first few days and nights on the couch in the living room.

When he finally gets enough strength to make it upstairs to his own bed, he almost cries from happiness. He sleeps like the dead that night and in the morning, he feels a million times better for it.

That is until his phone buzzes against the top of his nightstand.

He expects it to be Scott, or maybe Lydia checking in on him, but instead it’s Derek and he blinks and then blinks again, just to be sure he isn’t imagining it.

We need to talk, it says and that’s exactly the opposite of what Stiles wants, so he locks his phone and sets it back down again.

He can’t be blamed. He’s freshly released from hospital and has a handful of pain meds inside of him. He can’t be expected to make rational decisions.

Which is probably why he lasts a grand total of forty-six minutes before he opens the text again and types out a response.

Want me to call you? he sends in return and keeps his phone in his hand, watching, waiting for the animation to show that Derek’s typing his own reply.

I’m at the house, Stiles gets back a few minutes later, which doesn’t answer the question.

So you want me to call?

The response from Derek comes quicker this time.

My house in Beacon Hills.

Stiles blinks and wonders if he’s maybe taken too many pills. He rereads the text and then decides to just call Derek anyway.

“Are you back?” Stiles asks as soon as Derek answers. “I thought you were going to be there for two more months.”

There’s a significant pause before Derek responds.

“I’m back,” he confirms, and Stiles really doesn’t know what to do with that. “We should talk.”

“I think we’ve talked enough,” Stiles says and Derek makes a rough noise.

“Not about us,” Derek replies and Stiles frowns.

“What else is there to talk about?”

“Come over so we can talk about it.”

Stiles realizes that Derek might not know about what happened.

“I can’t,” Stiles says. “I’m not allowed to drive for a few weeks. I dislocated my shoulder.”

He doesn’t bother going into detail about his other injuries because he’s not sure Derek actually cares.

“Oh,” Derek says quietly, but doesn’t continue.

“You can come to me,” Stiles explains. “I’ll be home the whole time.”

“No,” Derek says. “I can’t.”

Stiles pauses and frowns again.

“You can’t?” he asks.

“That’s what we need to talk about.”

To say Stiles’ interest is piqued is an understatement.

“Are you hurt?” Stiles asks and Derek sighs quietly.

“No,” he says. “Call me in two weeks and we’ll talk about it.”

Stiles doesn’t really expect Derek to just hang up on him abruptly, but that’s exactly what he does, and Stiles stares at his phone, wondering what the fuck is going on.

He doesn’t even know how long Derek has been back—he freezes and pulls up his texts.

Did you know Derek is back? he sends Lydia, but it takes a few minutes for her to reply.

Yes, is all he gets and he thinks back to his drugged haze when he thought Derek was in his hospital room.

Did he visit at the hospital?

Yes, he gets again, which is just annoying.

Why didn’t you tell me?

Talk to Derek, she sends and Stiles doesn’t bother texting again.

If that’s how it’s going to be, he won’t give her the satisfaction of knowing that she’s getting to him and breaking down his defenses. He puts his phone aside and makes the adult decision to take a nap. It’s better than anything else life can throw at him.

*

He really only takes his meds for three or four days before he gets fed up of living in a fog. He switches to ibuprofen instead and it’s a great life choice. The sling, however, he has to keep on for two weeks, which is a pain in the ass. It is, however, a good excuse to not see Derek. Stiles’ avoidance tactics are second to none.

He mostly just hopes Derek has forgotten.

The Fourth of July looms at the end of his first week under what is essentially house arrest, but the thought of it doesn’t cheer him up at all. If anything, it makes him feel worse. He won’t be able to drink, he won’t be able to join in on their annual baseball game, and it’s going to hurt just being there and standing around. If he does go, he’ll have to find a seat somewhere and fester in his own sadness.

Scott calls him a few days before, mostly checking in, but dropping heavy hints about the get-together. But Stiles really isn’t feeling it.

“Next time,” he tells Scott. “I’m still pretty sore.”

“We could do it at your place,” Scott tries as a compromise, but that’s not what Stiles wants.

“Nah, you guys go have fun. I’ll be here napping if you need anything.”

“Do you want us to bring you food?” Scott asks and Stiles is really tempted, but that would mean having to interact with someone and he’s tired just thinking about it.

“Thanks, but I’m alright. Dad has the day off, so he’ll probably pick something up from town.”

“Well, call if you change your mind,” Scott tells him and Stiles smiles.

“Yeah, I will,” he says. “Have fun.”

He hangs up and it feels like a weight has been lifted, which is precisely when his phone buzzes in his palm with an incoming text.

Can you drive yet? Derek asks, out of the blue.

No, Stiles sends back, and he thinks about only sending that, until he realizes how rude it probably sounds. He adds, Not until Tuesday.

Are you going to Scott’s 4th of July party?

Stiles is even more glad to have turned it down now to delay the inevitable of seeing Derek.

No, he replies. Not feeling it.

Will you still come over? Derek asks and Stiles really doesn’t think he can say no. It’s been a long time coming.

Yeah, he agrees with hesitation that doesn’t translate in the text. It’s probably for the best. Let me see how I feel next week.

I’ll make lunch, Derek replies and Stiles doesn’t think he needs to respond to that, so he carefully locks his phone and pretends his heart isn’t thudding wildly in his chest.

He has no idea what to expect and he’s not sure if it would be worse if he did anyway.

*

His palms are clammy the day he drives over to Derek’s house. He’s been a ridiculous amount of times before, but it feels different this time, like he’s going to leave a different person. They haven't spoken in far too long and he can't help but feel as though he's going to say all the wrong things and make Derek regret wanting to talk.

He parks in the space he used to use all the time before things got weird, and he shuts off the Jeep, listening to the tick of the engine cooling.

Derek has been gone for so long; he doesn’t know what the reunion will be like. Maybe Derek is tan now from the South American sun, or maybe he’s put on more weight and he’ll look soft and touchable. That might be the worst case scenario, in all honesty. What if Derek opens the door and he’s tan and soft and maybe lightly stubbled, enough so that Stiles will want to kiss him just to feel the burn of it on his own face.

What if everything he’s worked towards—keeping them separate--is all for nothing when Derek is still unfairly handsome and Stiles wants to go back to the good old days of sex, and sex, and more sex.

But Stiles already knows what a bad idea that is. As much as he’d tried to fool himself into thinking it was before, it wasn’t the no strings attached type of relationship he’d been aiming for. And he knows he can’t fall for Derek again if there’s no way he’ll ever be able to reciprocate.

Stiles knocks his head into the steering wheel a couple of times, which really only makes him immediately regret it when a headache begins to ache behind his eyes, reminding him of his recently concussed brain.

“Fuck it,” he murmurs to himself, and he hefts open his door and gets out.

He locks the Jeep two times on the way to the front door, mostly because he gets halfway up the path and can’t remember if he already has. He’s jumpy and on edge, and he just wants to go home.

Maybe what Derek has to say won’t be anything too important and he’ll be home before the hour is up. It’s probably wishful thinking, but he pauses at the front door, drags in a steadying breath, and knocks solidly.

There’s nothing. He can’t hear anything inside, but Derek has to have heard him. Unless Derek isn’t a werewolf anymore for some crazy reason and he has shitty human hearing again. And maybe that’s what Derek called him over to tell him about. Maybe it really will only be a brief chat. Stiles can ask him about his feelings, offer a helping hand if he needs it, and then he’ll go.

He knocks again, just in case, and after another extended pause where Stiles almost thinks about leaving, he hears the lock turn and the door is pulled open.

Derek’s face is almost exactly as before; perhaps a little fuller, but he still has stubble and his eyes are still cool and searching as they land on Stiles. There are deep circles under his eyes as though he hasn’t slept well for the past century, but other than that, Stiles can’t really tell because the door is blocking his view.

Derek gestures for Stiles to come in and Stiles really doesn’t need to be told. He slips past, letting Derek shut the door as he heads into the apartment, hanging around in the living room, staring at a new collection of photos on Derek’s wall. They’re of Cora and Derek, the kind of ridiculous pictures that only siblings can take, and Stiles snorts quietly in amusement.

He hears Derek coming closer, but his footsteps sound different, heavier almost, and Stiles turns to look—and immediately freezes.

He laughs before he can help it, the noise bubbling out, uncomfortably loud in the quiet.

“When are you due?” Stiles jokes, because Derek has gained a lot more weight since that last time he saw him, and he knows it’s a shitty thing to say, but it kind of just slips out.

“Who told you?” Derek asks, his forehead creasing.

“What?” Stiles says with another laugh, not expecting Derek to go along with it.

“What?” Derek asks in return and Stiles stares at him, suddenly feeling anxious.

“I was just joking, y’know. ‘Cause you’ve gained a little weight. It was shitty of me to say that.”

“It’s not a joke,” Derek tells him carefully, one hand resting low on his stomach. “We need to talk.”

Stiles laughs again, but it sounds panicked even to his own ears.

“This is a really bad joke,” Stiles says, glancing around the room. “Do you have cameras set up? Did Scott plan this?”

Derek stares at him, a look of realization on his face, like maybe the joke isn’t playing out as well as he thought it would. It serves him right.

“This isn’t a joke,” Derek says again, softer this time, and Stiles pauses, eyes dropping to Derek’s belly.

“What?” he asks. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I’m due in October,” Derek says, and the joke really isn’t funny anymore.

“Are you hearing what’s coming out of your mouth right now? You’re literally suggesting that you, a biological man, are pregnant.”

Derek doesn’t even crack a smile and Stiles gets the sudden feeling that he needs to sit down. He stumbles back a step and hits the edge of Derek’s couch. He drops down onto it, jostling his bad arm in the process, but the pain doesn’t even register. He rubs his hands over his face, keeping his eyes fixed on Derek, as though it’s all he can remember to do.

“What the fuck happened?” Stiles asks, though he’s not sure he wants an answer. “Jesus Christ. Fucking Beacon Hills. It was Beacon Hills, right? Or did this happen with Cora? How did it happen? What the fuck?”

He trails off to a whisper and he’s not sure he’s breathing properly because he doesn’t seem to be getting any air. The room feels too close, and he scrubs at his hair, dropping his head to his knees, despite his protesting ribs.

“It happened just before Christmas,” Derek tells him and oh god. That’s even worse.

“When we were together?” he asks and he’s hit with the sudden memory of Derek getting sick. “Holy shit. You got morning sickness.”

Stiles drags in a gasping breath, clutching at his own legs. Derek thankfully doesn't try to comfort him. He's not sure he could stand anyone touching him right then.

Derek shakes his head. “Not until later, after you’d left for school again.”

“What was that then? Why were you so sick if it wasn't morning sickness?” Stiles asks because he should have known something was wrong. Werewolves don't just get sick.

“We think that’s when I—when I got the ability to have this,” he says, gesturing loosely at his stomach. “When I was growing extra organs.”

Jesus Christ, Stiles thinks. Derek has a womb. And a baby.

He draws in another unsteady breath, an avalanche of questions building up behind his teeth.

“Was it immaculate conception?” Stiles asks. “How did this happen?”

Derek carefully pads closer to the couch and lowers himself onto the cushion beside Stiles. He’s moving as though used to the additional weight and Stiles really isn’t prepared for that. Derek has known for months. He’s had to go through this himself; everything Stiles has been asking, he probably asked himself already.

“The wish,” Derek says gently and Stiles blinks and raises his head to stare at him.

“The wish?” he repeats. “The one from the witch in the preserve?”

Derek nods and Stiles stares at him wide eyed.

“What the fuck?” Stiles asks. “Why? Why you? Why this wish?”

Derek shifts his gaze to the wall behind Stiles as though it’s not something he wants to think about. Something perhaps he's thought about too much already.

“I wanted a family,” Derek admits, and way too much suddenly makes sense for Stiles.

“You wanted a baby?”

“No,” Derek insists firmly. “A family.”

Stiles drops his head into his hands for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts. All Derek wanted was a family. Yet, obviously, Stiles wasn’t even good enough to start a relationship with—the thought of which makes Stiles pause.

“We were together,” Stiles says, staring over at Derek, waiting until Derek meets his gaze. “We were still fucking when you got this wish.”

A cold chill runs down Stiles’ spine and Derek swallows.

“Is that my kid?” Stiles asks, voice hollow, and Derek stands again, beginning to pace.

“I don’t know,” Derek says honestly and Stiles doesn’t feel placated in the slightest. He feels lightheaded like he'll either pass out or puke. He's not sure which would be better.

“Was there anyone else?” Stiles asks and Derek cards his fingers through his hair and shakes his head.

“Of course not,” he says, as though Stiles is being ridiculous. “We were dating.”

Dating?” Stiles asks trying to keep his voice from pitching and failing. “When were we dating? We were friends with benefits. You could have seen someone else. It wasn’t exclusive.”

“Did you see other people?” Derek retorts and Stiles snorts cynically.

“Derek, we hooked up because I couldn’t get anyone else.”

Derek pauses, staring at Stiles as though he's never seen him before in his life.

“That's what I was to you?” he asks and Stiles stares at him in confusion.

“You knew what we were, Derek. It wasn't going to leave this house. I don’t know why this is suddenly surprising!”

Derek scratches at his stubble, clearly irritated, and lets out a loud breath.

“It doesn’t matter,” Derek tells him, which only further annoys Stiles.

Clearly it does,” he hisses, throwing an arm out to gesture loosely at Derek. “You’re, what, nine months pregnant? And it’s almost definitely my kid. That fucking matters!”

“Seven,” Derek says, catching Stiles by surprise. “I’m seven months pregnant.”

Jesus,” Stiles hisses, dropping his head back into his hands at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. Derek is going to have a goddamn baby because of magic. He feels like he’s slipped into some alternate reality where his life is the punchline.

He doesn’t say a thing, just tries to steady his breathing, and after a moment, Derek moves closer, sitting back down beside him.

Carefully, Derek says, “I didn’t think you’d get caught up in this. I didn’t know what the wish would be, but I thought it would leave you out of it. You don’t have to be a part of her life when she’s born. I can tell her it was magic.”

Derek seriously doesn’t pull any of his punches. Stiles feels like he’s been suckerpunched in the gut. It’s way too much to drop on someone, especially someone who’s already pretty broken physically. He blows out a long breath, rubs his face, and sits up.

“Her?” he asks tentatively and Derek glances over at him briefly before his gaze drops to his own stomach, his hand following the same path not long after.

Stiles watches Derek rub his palm over his bump as though it’s something he’s done a thousand times before.

“I have a midwife,” Derek tells him. “I’ve had scans to make sure things are normal.”

Stiles snorts. “Yeah, real normal.”

Derek pulls a face as though Stiles is probably right. “It’s a girl and she’s healthy.”

Stiles stares at Derek’s stomach, trying to imagine what’s beneath his skin, what’s growing and could be part Derek, part Stiles.

“A daughter,” Stiles says and Derek nods, a strange, almost fond smile on his face.

It hits him like a ton of bricks that Derek is going to be so wrapped around the kid’s little finger that it’s not even funny. It’s going to be a little girl who could have Derek’s strong nose, or maybe his cool green eyes, or maybe Derek’s werewolf genes.

“Is she a werewolf?” Stiles asks and Derek glances over looking faintly surprised that Stiles would ask.

“I don’t know,” he says honestly. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

“How long after she’s born will you know?”

Derek huffs out a noise of amusement. “We’ll know. She’ll come out with peaked ears and a heavy brow.”

Stiles really can’t imagine a baby werewolf, but he nods, and then sighs quietly.

“This is a lot to take in,” he says. “How did you—how are you okay with this?”

Derek shrugs, still rubbing his stomach, the action idle and without thought.

“It took a while,” Derek admits. “It took a long while to even figure out what was wrong.”

“You decided to keep her,” Stiles points out and Derek stares at him with an honest, open expression.

“I wished for this, Stiles.”

It’s way too much. Stiles has been doing okay, but he can’t stand the thought of Derek being so lonely that he wished for his own kid, even if it meant breaking the laws of nature to have it himself. Stiles cards his fingers through his hair, feeling as though if he does it much more, his hair will start to fall out.

“I, uh, need to go,” Stiles says. “I need to think about things.”

He stands abruptly, holding out a hand to keep Derek from pushing his way up. It looks like way too much effort for Derek to stand anyway.

“Thanks for telling me,” he says awkwardly, trying to keep from sounding bitter at being kept in the dark for months on end. “I’ll see you around.”

Stiles heads for the front door, not daring to look back. He can’t hear Derek shuffling his way around, though, and he makes a break for it, shutting the door behind him and leaning against it for a long moment. He stops himself from saying anything aloud, lest Derek hear through the walls, but he stares up at the sky with its fluffy clouds and radiant sun, and feels it’s not appropriate weather at all. It should be raining and storming and utterly miserable like he is.

He sighs and knows he needs to get out of there before Derek comes to drag him back inside.

He jogs down to his Jeep and clambers in, starting the engine immediately. He tugs his seatbelt on and shifts into gear. He needs to be anywhere but there.

*

Stiles drives aimlessly, nowhere specific in mind, but just knowing he has to get away. Away from Derek, away from Beacon Hills, away from life as he knows it. He zones out just past the town’s border and when he blinks and comes back to himself, he finds he’s over an hour away, parked at the edge of Lake Flint where the sun is gently glinting off the water.

He stares out, his mind racing, but he doesn’t even know what to panic about first.

Unfastening his seatbelt with shaking hands, he shoulders the door open and stumbles out into the fresh air. It feels wrong. It feels as though it should be suffocating him. It seems unfair that everything else can be so normal when his life has been tipped onto its side.

He moves closer to the water’s edge and sits heavily on the shore, listening to the gentle lapping of the water shifting. It’s familiar to him and it cuts through his anxieties, even as he lets out an unsteady breath and grips at his hair with both hands.

They used to visit the lake when he was younger. It would be him, his dad, and his mom and nothing but the open wilderness for a weekend at a time. They’d fish, or hike the surrounding hills, or his mom and dad would talk quietly while he made sandcastles out of the wet dirt of the shore. Stiles learned to swim in this lake and he used to visit more often, just after his mom passed away.

He stares at the water and wonders what she’d say if she were still alive. He suspects she would pull him close, murmur into his hair, and things would probably seem better after. But she’s not there to comfort him anymore and he doesn’t know what to do.

Why now? he can’t help but think. Why would Derek come back now? Especially after Stiles already tried to get him to come back. He’d seemed reluctant on the phone and Stiles belatedly wonders if Derek planned to have the kid there with Cora. Maybe he had a visa to stay longer. Maybe he already had plans.

But that doesn’t explain why he would break those plans just to come back and tell Stiles the truth. He could have stayed and Stiles would never have suspected a thing.

He pulls his phone out before he thinks about it too much, and carefully dials his dad’s number.

“Everything okay?” his dad answers and Stiles shuts his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose.

“I don’t know,” he says truthfully and his dad’s tone changes immediately.

“Are you hurt?” he asks. “Is the rest of the pack with you?”

He doesn’t say I’m fine because he’s really not. Instead he says, “I’m safe. I just wanted to ask you something.”

“Where are you?” his dad asks, probably wondering why Stiles doesn’t just come home and ask him in person.

“Lake Flint.”

That really seems to worry his dad, who says, “Are you sure you’re okay? Do you need me to come pick you up?”

“No, Dad,” Stiles complains softly. “I just needed to get away for a little while.”

“But you’re safe?” his dad confirms. “And the others?”

“We’re all okay. It’s just me here.”

“What did you want to ask?”

“Have you—did you hear anything about Derek while I was at school?” Stiles says, not knowing a better way to ask.

“Derek?” his dad asks, sounding confused. “Are you back together?”

“No, no, Dad—that’s not what this is about. Did you hear anything?”

There’s a quiet noise like his dad is shifting the phone from one ear to the other.

“I heard rumors that he left,” his dad says gently. “I don’t know where.”

“He’s—he came back,” Stiles tells him. “He was with Cora.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Yeah, I—are you sure you didn’t hear anything else?”

“Like what?” his dad asks, starting to sound suspicious.

“Like why he left?”

There’s a long pause before his dad talks again.

“What aren’t you telling me, Stiles? I think you should come home.”

Stiles crouches down at the edge of the lake, tucking his face against his knees, and breathing as the overwhelming feeling of life crashes into him.

“Stiles,” his dad says softly, so softly that it makes Stiles want to cry.

He swallows around the feeling and draws in a shuddering breath.

“I need some time to think,” Stiles tells him, voice quiet. “I’ll be back tonight.”

“Stiles,” his dad argues for just a moment before he seems to think better of it. There’s a long pause before he says, “Okay. Drive safe.”

“I will,” Stiles promises before he hangs up, pressing the edge of his phone to his forehead and shutting his eyes.

He’s not ready for anything, let alone telling his dad. He doesn’t know how he’ll even being to explain things.

He raises his head and stares out at the water again. It should bring him peace, but instead it just emphasizes how fucked up things really are. He just wants to go back in time and stop everything from happening. It’s too much for one person to handle and he doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to deal with it.

*

It takes longer to get back, at least it feels that way, though it might be because Stiles doesn’t zone out for the majority of it. Instead, he carefully thinks about his options.

On one hand, he could be an asshole and tell Derek to go back to his sister. It would save him a headache, but he suspects it would also make him the world’s worst person ever.

On the other hand, he could tell Derek to stay and they could casually avoid each other until one of them inevitably moves away.

On the final hand, he could tell Derek to stay, but he could help out with the kid. He could buy some furniture or clothes, could help out around the house and babysit, and try to be a somewhat passably okay second dad.

God, the thought alone sends a panic through his body and he wonders if he’ll have to pull over until it passes. He’s not at all ready to be a dad. But when he thinks about it, he suspects that maybe Derek isn’t either. Just because he accidentally wished for a baby, doesn’t mean he’s ready for it. He’s just had longer to come to terms with things.

Stiles, incredibly, feels even worse by the time he gets home, and he sits in his Jeep in the driveway for a long while, watching the flickering of the TV through the living room window where his dad must be sitting. When he finally drags himself out and up to the house, the front door opens before he can reach it.

His dad looks somber and he doesn’t say anything, just lets Stiles inside and closes the door behind them. He gestures Stiles through to the kitchen and there are already two bottles of beer sitting on the table, still dripping with condensation. Stiles sits heavily, but doesn’t reach for his drink—if he starts now, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to stop.

He folds his hands on the cool wood and drops his gaze. His dad sits across from him without a word.

He doesn’t even know where to start, so he starts at the beginning.

“You know how you didn’t believe me about werewolves,” he says, knowing that if he looks, his dad will be wearing a guilty expression. “This is going to be like that. So just trust me.”

“Stiles,” his dad says gently as though not wanting to upset him. “You’re scaring me, son.”

Stiles looks up then, meeting his dad’s cool, watery gaze.

“That makes two of us,” Stiles tells him.

“Is this about Derek? Has he done something?”

Stiles bites the bullet and explains, “You know the wishes? The one that cleared our debt? Derek got a wish like that and he subconsciously wished for a family.”

“Did he find another of his relatives?” his dad asks. “Did someone else survive the fire?”

“No,” Stiles says. “It’s a new member of the family.”

“Is Cora pregnant?”

Stiles laughs and covers his face with his hands as he says, “No, that would be too easy for Beacon Hills.”

“I don’t understand,” his dad murmurs and Stiles laughs again, feeling tears welling up behind his eyelids.

He rubs his eyes and says, “Derek’s seven months pregnant.”

There’s a long pause, long enough that Stiles begins to worry and he lowers his hands, ignoring the few tears that spill over, the shock of admitting the truth aloud hitting him. His dad looks poleaxed.

“Are you—” his dad begins and Stiles suspects he’s about to say joking, but seems to think better of it at Stiles’ reaction. Instead, he asks, “When?”

“When we were hooking up,” Stiles says bluntly, letting his dad fill in the blanks.

If he thought his dad looked shocked, it’s nothing compared to now.

“Stiles?” he asks and Stiles shrugs, aiming for blasé, but probably hitting something closer to broken. “Kiddo.”

His dad is up and around the table before Stiles can blink, and then he’s being gathered up into a hug and Stiles doesn’t stand a chance. The tears fall freely then and he cries for the situation and the look on his dad’s face, and he cries for himself and the fact that Derek was never given a choice. But his dad rubs his back and murmurs quietly into his ear that they’ll figure things out, that he’s not alone in this, that they’ll come up with a plan.

“Is he trying to force you into being a dad?” his dad asks, his voice gentle, but firm as though he might pay Derek a not-so-friendly visit depending on Stiles’ answer.

“No, Dad,” Stiles says, drawing out of their hug to wipe his nose with his sleeve. “He said I don’t even need to be a part of the kid’s life.”

“How do you feel about that?” his dad questions carefully and Stiles rubs at his sore, tired eyes.

“I don’t know,” he says honestly. “I think I would have to be an asshole to make Derek deal with this alone.”

“He wished for this,” his dad points out. “You didn’t.”

“He wished for a family, not a baby. But that’s still my kid, Dad. Planned or not.” Taking a deep breath and staring at the ceiling, Stiles says, “I still have feelings for him.”

His dad lets out a resigned noise and says, “I thought so.” After a long pause, he adds, “Kid, you don’t owe him anything.”

“I know that, but I need to try.”

“What if he doesn’t have feelings for you in return, Stiles?” his dad asks. “What if he plans to settle down with someone else?”

“I know he doesn’t want me,” Stiles says, the painful words sticking in his throat. “This is about the baby.”

“Is a baby enough to keep you two together?”

Stiles isn’t sure, but his dad looks at him with an expression on his face that says enough.

“You were planned, Stiles,” his dad says. “Your mom and I had schedules for everything while she was pregnant with you. But then you decided to show up three weeks early and everything went to hell. We thought we were ready, but we really weren’t. Kids aren’t predictable, Stiles, and they don’t care about your plans or schedules.”

“Well I don’t have any of those,” Stiles attempts to joke, though it only makes him feel worse.

“Which will make it even harder for you. Have you talked to Derek about helping?”

Stiles does feel guilty about that.

“No,” he says, “I sort of bailed on him.”

His dad rests an understanding hand on his shoulder and says, “It’s a lot to process.”

“I can’t see him right now,” Stiles says. “I need some time.”

“You can’t avoid him forever,” his dad points out and Stiles huffs.

“Of course I know that. I just—let me have a day. I’ll go see him after.”

It sounds like the worst idea he’s ever had, but his dad nods and pats his shoulder.

“I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s worried right now.”

Stiles rubs his face and says, “Please don’t remind me.”

His dad rubs his back gently for a moment before he hefts himself to his feet and stares down at Stiles.

“Have you eaten yet?”

Stiles shrugs loosely. “Not really hungry.”

“Not even for pancakes?”

Stiles glances over, throat feeling tight again because pancakes have always been his dad’s go-to food for helping to cheer Stiles up, whether it was when Lucille Hamond broke up with him in 4th grade, or after his mom passed away, or when he couldn’t decide which college to choose. He slumps heavily against the table and drops his head into his folded arms.

“Yeah, okay,” he agrees quietly, and his dad cups the back of his head for a second, before he heads to the pantry.

Everything else can wait, Stiles decides.

*

With the day he’s given himself to come to terms with everything, he sprawls out in bed for the majority of it. He turns his phone off—mostly because he’s quietly seething that everyone else seemed to know about things before him. It’s clearly what Lydia had been hinting heavily at for the past few months.

His dad lets him sulk and doesn’t even comment when Stiles orders a family-sized combo from KFC and eats most of it by himself.

“Gonna go see Derek tomorrow,” Stiles says around a mouthful of mashed potato as his dad helps himself to another chicken leg.

“You’ve thought about what you’ll tell him?” his dad asks and Stiles shrugs.

“Not really. Figured I’d just wing it like everything else in my life.”

His dad nods and that’s all he really seems to have to say about that. Which suits Stiles just fine. Maybe it's better that way.

*

Stiles doesn’t really sleep that night. He tosses and turns and spends two hours just after midnight playing games on his phone. It means he looks like shit when he drags himself up at nine in the morning to get dressed and head out before he can think too much about it.

He makes a quick stop at the local CVS and then drives to Derek’s house with a knot in his stomach.

It takes Derek almost as long to answer the door as before and his expression is neutral—but the kind of neutral that gives away how hard he’s straining to actually keep it that way.

“You came back,” Derek says bluntly, and Stiles pushes down the part of him that hurts at the thought of Derek thinking Stiles would never return.

“Brought you something,” Stiles says instead of addressing the elephant, holding out the plastic CVS bag, and Derek stares at it for a while before reacting.

He eventually takes the proffered bag and then holds the door open for Stiles to step inside, which he does.

“Is it condoms and lube again?” Derek asks as he shuts the door and begins heading into the living room, and Stiles freezes, his whole body turning cold.

Derek takes a few more steps before realizing Stiles is no longer following and turns to look over his shoulder.

“That was a joke,” he says and some warmth returns to Stiles, but he feels awkward.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “Not a very good one.”

Derek grunts as though his complaint has been noted, but then continues walking further into the house. Just watching Derek lower himself onto the couch exhausts Stiles, but he takes the seat next to him while Derek opens the bag and finally peers inside.

“The pharmacist recommended these,” Stiles tells him. “You’ll need to clear then with your, uh, obstetrician or whatever it is you have.”

Derek sets the bottles of prenatal vitamins in a row on the coffee table and nods.

“I’ll call Nadine later.”

Stiles pauses and then says, “The omega is your obstetrician?”

“Can’t use a normal one,” Derek points out, which makes a lot of sense.

“Is Melissa helping too?” Stiles asks and Derek nods. “What’s going to happen with the, uh, birth? Do you have to push it out?”

The thought makes Stiles queasy.

“No,” Derek tells him blandly. “We’ve planned a c-section.”

“Here?”

“No,” Derek says. “At the hospital.”

“Oh,” Stiles says gently. “When?”

“October twelfth,” Derek admits, which is daunting.

It falls quiet between them after that and Stiles glances around, not wanting to hold Derek’s gaze for too long.

“You came over just to give me these?” Derek asks, clearly knowing Stiles is hung up about something else, which is unfair. Stiles really hates werewolves sometimes.

“No,” Stiles says quietly after a loud sigh. “Look, I can’t give you anything, Derek. I’m a broke graduate, looking—and failing—to find a job. I have nothing.”

“I said you don’t need to be a part of this if you don’t want to,” Derek replies so smoothly that Stiles is sure it’s been rehearsed to a point where he might almost believe it.

“Yeah, but if I wanted to be, I can’t give you anything,” Stiles repeats with emphasis and Derek pauses.

“Y—you want to?” Derek asks quietly and Stiles has to blink away from the hopeful expression on his face.

Stiles rubs a hand over his face.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” he admits. “There’s no way that isn’t my kid, Derek. I can’t let you do things yourself. I—”

“You feel obligated,” Derek interrupts, his face closed off again.

No,” Stiles stresses. “When the fuck have I ever felt obligated about anything?”

Apparently it’s a good enough argument because Derek thins his mouth but doesn’t argue further.

“I don’t know what I can do to help,” Stiles continues, “but I used to babysit for Deputy Coleman before she retired, so I know the basics. I can take her when you need time to yourself. Or we can do alternating days? I don’t know. You’re the one that’s growing her, so you can decide how much you want from me.”

Derek stares at him for a long moment and Stiles feels like he should say something more.

“We could treat it like we’re a divorced couple,” Stiles tries to joke. “Shared custody?”

Derek blinks and shakes his head.

“The sheriff isn’t going to like a baby in the house,” Derek points out. “She can stay here. You can visit as much as you want. Or as little.”

“I want you to call me,” Stiles tells him, which makes Derek raise an eyebrow at him. “Instead of doing everything yourself, which I know you’re going to try to do. Just call me.”

“Sure,” Derek agrees, which Stiles knows is a lie. He doesn’t try to argue though.

It falls quiet between them again and Stiles awkwardly clears his throat.

“How have you been feeling?” he asks and Derek rubs a hand over his stomach and shrugs.

“Like shit,” he says honestly, startling a laugh out of Stiles. “Was about to take a nap before you got here.”

“Oh,” Stiles replies, feeling guilty. “I’ll go so you can rest.”

The fact that Derek doesn’t fight him says a lot. Stiles isn’t at all surprised. He suspects growing a baby is one of the most tiring things someone can do, especially if their body isn't built for it.

He watches Derek heave himself up to his feet and follows him back towards the front door.

“Did you need me to grab you anything from town? Any weird cravings you need help with?”

“No, Stiles,” Derek says, voice monotone.

“Well, if you think of anything, just call,” Stiles tells him again and Derek nods.

Stiles makes it all the way to the Jeep before he realizes that things actually went better than expected. When he looks back at Derek’s house, Derek is still standing in the doorway, stomach hidden in shadows, but Stiles knows it’s there. He knows it’ll get worse the closer they get to Derek’s due date, but for now, he can’t help but think that they’re doing the best with what they’ve got.

*

Stiles takes Derek casserole leftovers three days later. Though when he says leftovers, he means he doubles the recipe and gives Derek the majority of it all. Derek takes it willingly and Stiles heads home again without waiting for Derek to awkwardly invite him inside.

Four days after that, he takes Derek a pan of brownies. Derek eyes them up on the doorstep like he might just go inside, grab a fork, and have at it. Stiles figures he made the right choice.

Derek doesn’t hold back after that. Stiles gets a text at eight on a Tuesday night that just says, cherry garcia ice cream. Stiles thinks it’s hilarious until he’s in the local grocery store eyeing up the ice creams and wondering which size Derek wants. He ends up grabbing the largest one he can find.

Derek is scarily thankful for it, looking partly shameful though the hunger in his eyes seems to win out.

“Enjoy,” he tells Derek, trying not to laugh too much. He’s sure Derek is delicate about it.

It hits a high point—though for Derek it’s probably a low point—when Derek texts him, pine-sol.

Stiles dutifully picks some up, but he’s more tentative when he hands it over.

“Please don’t tell me you plan on drinking that,” Stiles says as Derek takes the bag from him.

Derek shoots him a look like he’s wondering what the fuck is wrong with Stiles.

“No, Stiles. I’m going to clean my floors.”

“Ran out of cleaner?” Stiles asks and Derek shakes his head.

“No, I wanted the lemon scent.”

Stiles laughs quietly and says, “My mom used to tell me about the cravings for dirt she got when she was pregnant with me. She’d constantly dig up the vegetable patch in the back garden just to smell it. I’m pretty sure she ate some, but she never admitted to it.”

It’s a heavy thing to confess while standing at Derek’s front door, but Derek softens and says, “You want to come in?”

He should really head home to have dinner with his dad, but he suspects he’ll be forgiven once his dad finds out.

“Yeah, sure,” he says and follows Derek into the kitchen where it seems as though everything from his cupboards is now out on the countertops. “Uh, everything okay?” Stiles can’t help but asks.

Derek belatedly seems to realize that it’s probably not normal.

“Cleaning,” he grunts and Stiles raises his eyebrows.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “Next-level cleaning.”

“I couldn’t reach the top shelves.”

Stiles pauses just long enough to pick up on the fact that it’s a hint. “Yeah, sure. I can get those for you.”

Which is how Stiles ends up balanced on his knees on the countertop at seven at night, scrubbing the upper cupboards for a third time because Derek just isn’t sure if they’re as clean as they can be. Stiles understands that it’s a nesting thing—a hardcore nesting thing—but it doesn’t stop him from complaining.

“Okay, dude,” Stiles grunts, wiping at his brow and hating the feeling of sweat under his arms. “This is clean. I’m not doing it again.”

Derek looks like he might argue, but his eyes linger on the pruning of Stiles’ fingertips and he nods, tight-lipped.

“Do you want to eat?”

Stiles was mostly planning on grabbing takeout on the way home, but he throws the sponge he’s been scrubbing with into the sink and washes his hands.

“You offering?”

“I was going to make mac and cheese,” Derek admits before quietly adding, “Mostly cheese.”

Stiles snorts, but nods. “Yeah, I’m not fussy.”

But it turns out that Derek wasn’t kidding because he sets down a bowl in front of Stiles that is mostly melted cheese with a few pieces of macaroni. Stiles stirs it with his fork and figures he can still get takeout later. He eats it to be polite, not even commenting—though he definitely side-eyes it—when Derek adds Sriracha mayo to his own bowl. He wants to ask if it’ll kick Derek into labor early, but he just bites his tongue and continues eating.

When Derek goes to push himself up, Stiles holds out a hand.

“I got it,” he says, grabbing Derek’s empty bowl and taking it to the sink.

He washes the dishes, the countertop, and the area around the stove, and when he turns back to Derek, there’s a strange expression on his face—probably wondering why Stiles is being proactive for once in his life.

“My need to clean isn’t as bad as yours, okay? I’m just doing it because I know you’ll go insane otherwise.”

“Thanks,” Derek says sarcastically, expression shifting back to normal.

Stiles laughs and wipes his hands on his pants before he sits back down at the kitchen table. He stares at Derek for a long minute, wondering when it became an everyday thing for him to sit across from a heavily pregnant Derek, trying his best to play happy family. Derek stares back, seeming to feel the shifting that Stiles notices too.

“Why did you come back?” Stiles asks, mouth running off without him and Derek’s face sharpens.

He doesn’t reply for a moment, his eyes glancing across Stiles’ face.

“You had a right to know,” Derek tells him quietly and Stiles bristles.

“But you still waited months to admit it? You’re almost ready to pop, Derek. That doesn’t sound like you thought it was my right to know. It sounds like a last resort.”

Derek cards his fingers through his hair before folding his arms.

“It was Cora’s idea,” Derek admits. “And I was running out of time for when I could fly.”

“Guess it’s hard to be a pregnant guy in public,” Stiles says and Derek shrugs.

“People just assume I’m overweight. It’s easier than you probably expect.”

“Does the rest of the pack know?” Stiles asks and Derek does actually look guilty.

“Lydia was the one who realized what was going on,” he admits. “I told Scott not long after. I haven't seen anyone else. I don’t think they know I’m back yet.”

“They knew you’d gone,” Stiles presses and Derek looks even guiltier.

“I told them that Cora asked me to move in with her.”

“They didn’t question that?” Stiles asks and Derek shakes his head.

“They said it would be good for us.”

“Do you plan on telling them now?”

“I think I’ll ask Scott to fill them in,” Derek admits. “It’ll be easier.”

Stiles thinks about pressing the issue because he knows the pack would want to hear it from Derek instead, but he doesn’t. It’s Derek’s decision.

“Maybe they’ll throw you a baby shower,” Stiles jokes blandly and Derek freezes.

“No,” he says. “No baby shower.”

“Okay, sure,” Stiles placates. “No baby shower.”

Derek makes a soft noise and Stiles thinks it’s him continuing to complain, but then he presses a hand to the side of his belly and winces.

“Is that a contraction?” Stiles asks, immediately slipping into panic mode, which draws an incredulous look from Derek.

“No,” he grunts. “I’ve still got months to go. She’s just moving around.”

Stiles’ eyes grow wide and he glances down at Derek’s stomach, half expecting to see something. But Derek’s in a hoodie and even though it’s stretched tight over his bump, there’s nothing. For a second he thinks about asking to feel, but he knows that would be inappropriate. He has no right to touch Derek and he shouldn’t get involved until after she’s born. They don’t get the experiences of a happy couple expecting their first child. They’re just two people tossed together into an unfortunate situation.

It’s probably just best if he leaves, he thinks, and so he stands, making a show of stretching and yawning.

“It’s getting late,” Stiles tells him. “I should head home. I’ll show myself out. Thanks for dinner.”

He feels like he’s caught up in his own whirlwind and Derek doesn’t seem much better, his expression slack. Maybe it’s just the baby moving more and he’s nauseated. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t plan on sticking around long enough to find out.

“Text me if you need anything else.”

He leaves with the scent of Pine-Sol on his skin and on his clothes, and he knows he’ll need to shower to get rid of it. It’s just another thing he’ll do to keep the distance between himself and Derek, and he knows he’s playing a dangerous game.

*

Stiles takes a trip into town at the weekend to scour the local used bookshop for parenting books. He doesn’t set out with that as his plan, though. More like his dad asks him to mail something and the bookstore is right next door to the post office and so he heads inside on a whim.

There’s a small cluster of books near the back under the label Parenting and Stiles awkwardly checks that no one is looking before perusing the titles. He’s just tugging one out that looks fairly promising when a voice startles him from behind.

“Can I help you find anything today?” the associate asks and Stiles flails, almost dropping the book in his hands.

“I’m fine!” he blurts out, stumbling back a step and ominously knocking into the bookshelf. He belatedly adds, “Thanks.”

“How far along is your partner?” she continues, not seeming to mind Stiles’ panic.

Stiles hesitates, knowing he can’t tell the truth.

“It’s for a friend,” he gets out. “They’re seven months along right now.”

“Not much longer,” the worker says cheerfully. “Well, if you’d like some recommendations, this one and this one are my personal favorites.”

She passes him two, unassuming books and he stares down at them, knowing he’s not at all ready.

“How did you know?” he asks quietly and she falters for a second.

“Know what?”

“That you were ready for kids?”

She laughs, but it’s not at him.

“No one is ever ready for kids, dear. They might think they are, but it’s a whole other ballgame when they’re born. Books are a good start, so you’ve come to the right place. You’ll be just fine.”

“My friend,” Stiles corrects and the employee nods.

“Your friend will be just fine. Did you want me to ring you up, or would you like a few more minutes to browse?”

Stiles really doesn’t think he needs more time. He’ll probably only work himself into a panic. Even more of a panic that is.

“I’m ready,” he says and she smiles at him.

“Right this way.”

*

Stiles devours the books and goes back for more a few days later. The employee he met before is talking to another customer while he’s at the checkout, but she winks at him and shoots him an encouraging smile.

He doesn’t know how much is actually the same for what could possibly be a werewolf baby, but he figures the basics will be. He jots notes into the margins and highlights almost everything, but when he’s finished reading the second set of books, he slips them all into his Jeep and takes them to Derek.

“Just some light reading,” he jokes when Derek answers the door, and he heaves them into the house, leaving them stacked on the kitchen counter. “I made notes of all the best bits.”

Derek casually flips one open to a random spot and glances across the pages. He’s worryingly quiet, but when he glances over at Stiles, his face is soft and open.

“Thank you,” he says, sounding so sincere that Stiles has to find something to do with his hands—which means he shoves them into the pocket of his hoodie.

“You’re welcome.”

“I hadn’t thought of books,” Derek admits. “I’ve been using Google.”

Stiles has a sudden image of Derek hunched over his laptop typing in all the ridiculous questions he’s ever had and angrily scrolling through the troll answers he finds on Yahoo. He laughs before he can help it, but Derek’s face is still soft, like he doesn’t mind at all.

“You’re welcome,” Stiles repeats and Derek reaches out and nudges him with his elbow, smiling as he does it, and it almost feels as though things will be just fine for them. “I just came over to drop these off, but I’ll stop by again soon, okay?”

Derek nods, draggings his fingers distractedly across the spines of the books and Stiles decides to leave him to it.

“I ordered some furniture,” Derek says before he can take enough steps to leave the kitchen. “Can you help me with it?”

Stiles pauses and asks, “You mean putting it together?”

“And moving it upstairs,” Derek adds.

“Oh,” Stiles says, belatedly realizing that Derek probably has a nursery planned out and everything. “Sure. When will it get here?”

“Next weekend,” Derek replies and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, okay, and I’ll do it for free if you feed me.”

“That’s not free,” Derek points out and Stiles waves a hand at him.

“Close enough. Just text me when you’re ready.”

Derek nods and takes a step towards Stiles and for a second, Stiles unthinkingly tilts his head up, like every other time he’s accepted a kiss from Derek. Derek immediately freezes and Stiles panics.

“I gotta go,” he blurts out as he turns and quickly heads for the front door.

He doesn’t turn back to see Derek’s expression, but he suspects it’s probably disgust or pity. Either one would make him feel like shit—even more than he already does.

He shuts the door behind him and has never been more grateful to be outside where the air is cool and makes him feel as though he can actually breathe.

*

The thought of his mistake keeps him up at night and he tosses and turns with it seared into his mind.

But Derek still texts him later in the week, as promised, and he knows he can’t break their plans.

He picks up milkshakes and fries on the way over and Derek takes the grease-stained bag from him without even saying hello.

Stiles shuts the front door himself and follows Derek inside, finding him on the couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table. Stiles is actually surprised that Derek passes over one of the containers of fries, because he figured it was a lost cause once Derek got ahold of them, but he trades it for the strawberry milkshake he knows Derek has a soft spot for.

Derek makes a noise of contentment and Stiles flops beside him.

He thinks briefly about apologizing to Derek for the night earlier in the week, but when he glances over, he notices the dark circles under Derek’s eyes.

“Are you alright?” he asks. “You look like shit.”

The bluntness draws a sarcastic glance from Derek, and then he sighs and then feeds himself a handful of fries.

“She’s got hiccups.”

“What?” Stiles asks around the straw of his milkshake.

“The baby has hiccups.”

“That’s a thing that can happen?” Stiles asks incredulously, staring at Derek’s stomach.

“I called Melissa yesterday. She said it's normal.”

Stiles’ eyebrows raise even further. “How long has this been going on for?”

“Last night after dinner.”

“Did you get any sleep?”

Derek shrugs loosely and then holds out his hand.

“What?” he asks and Derek gestures for Stiles to hold his own hand out.

Derek grips his wrist with warm, dry fingers and Stiles panics the second Derek begins dragging his hand towards the curve of his stomach, but Stiles doesn’t try to tug free, not when he feels the strange firmness of Derek’s belly. For a second, he doesn’t feel anything at all, just the movement of Derek’s breaths, but then there’s a jolt and then another, and yet another, and they’ve got enough rhythm for Stiles know that’s the hiccups Derek was talking about.

“Oh my god,” he says, eyes wide. “Can I—?”

He doesn’t actually wait for an answer, which in hindsight is a terrible thing to do, but he brings his other hand up to Derek’s belly and carefully cups it, feeling more hiccups and what could possibly be the baby shifting in general.

“That’s really fucking weird,” Stiles tells him and Derek snorts.

“You should see her kick.”

Stiles raises his gaze to meet Derek’s own as he says, “Can you actually see it? Or is it just something you feel?”

“I’ve seen the heel of her foot,” Derek tells him. “She kicks when I nudge her back into place.”

“That’s crazy,” Stiles murmurs quietly, feeling the hiccups for a moment longer before reluctantly dragging his hands away. “That must feel weird from the inside.”

Derek shrugs and says, “Mostly annoying now.”

Stiles laughs and reaches for his own french fries.

“Maybe the milkshake will calm her.”

“Maybe,” Derek repeats, but he keeps his hand on his belly and rubs idly as he eats.

“Do you get annoyed with people touching your stomach?” Stiles asks after a moment of thought. “I’ve read a lot about people not giving a shit about personal space.”

Derek shrugs and says, “It helps only having a few people know. It hasn’t been a problem. Why?”

Stiles makes a questioning noise and says, “I just thought it weirded you out. That’s the first time I’ve felt it.”

Derek blinks and says, “I just thought you didn’t want to touch.”

“Oh,” Stiles says softly. “I didn’t really think about it.”

Derek takes another sip of milkshake and says, “You can. If you want.”

“Can what?” Stiles asks and Derek briefly glances down at his stomach.

“You can touch it. Whenever.”

Stiles swallows and says, “Oh. Right. Thanks.”

Stiles knows he won’t, but he nods all the same before they lapse into an awkward silence, filled with the sound of them eating and finishing their shakes.

“What did you get?” Stiles asks eventually when Derek is clearing up their trash and throwing it away in the kitchen.

“I’ll show you,” Derek says and leads Stiles to the foot of the stairs where there’s a stack of boxes. “They need to go in the other bedroom upstairs.”

“Uh,” Stiles says, because he’s not sure how far he’ll be able to carry them himself, but when he goes to adjust them, they end up being lighter than they seem.

“Show me where you want them,” Stiles says, grabbing the first one and letting Derek slowly lead the way.

It looks like hard work for Derek to make it up, so once he’s dropped off one box, he tells Derek to stay where he is while he grabs the others.

He’s dripping sweat by the time he’s done, though, and he knows he’s going to be feeling it the next day because his ribs are already hurting again.

“This’ll be the nursery?” Stiles asks, looking around, and Derek nods gently. “You’re not going to add gaudy wallpaper? Paint it bright pink to assert gender dominance?”

Derek stares at the walls, seeming deep in thought.

“I was thinking about painting it, but the fumes…” he trails off and Stiles can’t help but feel bad.

Derek hadn’t even planned on coming back, but now he’s here and he doesn’t even have the nursery he wants. Which, coincidentally, is something Stiles can help with.

“What color?” Stiles asks and Derek frowns and glances over at him.

“What?”

“What color did you want to paint this? I can do that for you. Even if it's hot pink.”

“Stiles,” Derek starts, but Stiles shakes his head.

“No, c’mon, this is one of the only ways I can help. I bet you even picked out the one you wanted.”

Derek pulls a face as though he doesn’t like being predictable, but eventually he nods.

“Wait here,” he says, and then he disappears, appearing to head in the direction of his bedroom.

Stiles hears him shuffle things around and then after a minute or two, Derek returns with a small rectangle of paint samples that he must have picked up from the local Home Depot. There’s a pastel shade of yellow circled in the middle and Derek taps it.

“That one,” he says, and Stiles nods.

“I’ll go buy it now before we unbox anything. Don’t want to drip paint everywhere.”

It’s not how he planned to spend his day, but Derek gives him cash—using Stiles’ own words to cite that he’s a poor graduate and needs it, which is painfully true—and so Stiles goes and buys a tin of paint, a paint roller, and a paintbrush for the smaller areas.

When he gets back, it seems Derek has been just as busy, as he’s laid out a sheet on the ground and has taped around the skirting board and power outlets with meticulous detail.

“Go read up on how to put the furniture together,” Stiles tells him, waving him out with his hands. “We’ll assemble it tomorrow.”

*

Painting isn’t as awful as Stiles thought it would be. He keeps the windows open for ventilation and puts music on from his phone, and all in all, it could be a lot worse.

After the first coat, Derek comes in with a glass of water and a stack of PB&J sandwiches for Stiles.

“Could get used to this,” Stiles jokes as he sits on the nearest cardboard box to eat.

“Looks good,” Derek says and Stiles nods.

“I’ll put another coat on and then it can dry overnight.”

Derek nods and opens his mouth as though he’s going to say something more, but then he pauses and seems to zone out. Stiles waits for a moment, watching cautiously before he sets his sandwich down, licking jam from his thumb.

“Are you okay?” he asks and Derek snaps out of it, blinking and glancing over at Stiles with a hand pressed to his belly.

“Her hiccups stopped.”

He looks almost ready to cry.

“About time!” Stiles tells him before tilting his head in the direction of Derek’s room. “Go nap before it starts again. You need the rest.”

“What if you—” Derek begins and Stiles shakes his head.

“No, I don’t need anything and I won’t need anything. Go and sleep.”

Derek pauses but eventually nods, looking ready to collapse.

“Thanks,” he tells Stiles quietly, and Stiles smiles.

“Anytime.”

Derek leaves without a backward glance and Stiles returns to his sandwich, hating the fact that Derek knows exactly how he likes his PB&Js. But with Derek sleeping in the other room, it’ll give Stiles one less thing to worry about. And he could use all the reprieves he can get.

*

Stiles finishes the rest of the painting after a few more hours with no interruptions from Derek, who’s apparently still sleeping if the lack of noise is anything to go by. Stiles’ arms feel like lead and he knows his shoulders are going to ache like hell later. But he surveys his accomplishment and figures he’s done a pretty decent job. It might actually start looking like a nursery after they’ve assembled all the furniture.

He washes the paint roller and brush in the kitchen sink, careful to wipe away the mess after, and then he pads quietly back upstairs to tell Derek he’s heading home. But it’s silent, even after Stiles quietly calls Derek’s name. Derek’s bedroom door is cracked open slightly, though, which means he feels slightly less guilty about peering inside.

The first thing Stiles notices is the ridiculous amount of pillows on Derek’s bed. He’s practically outlined by them, but there’s one tucked under the bump of his belly and it makes him look slightly more comfortable. He’s still sleeping soundly, his mouth slightly open, and he looks too peaceful to wake up. Stiles is surprised he hasn’t already woken. He’s pretty sure people shouldn’t be able to sneak into the rooms of werewolves without them knowing.

But as he stands there, he’s hit with nostalgia of their time together. Back when it was normal for Stiles to spend the night and it wasn’t complicated for them to fuck like it was going out of style. He remembers how it felt to have Derek crowded over him or under him or kneeling between his legs.

They can’t have that now, not when Derek is pregnant with their child.

Stiles rubs his face and sighs.

“Night, Derek,” he says to the silent room and turns to leave.

He’ll lock up on his way out and text Derek in the morning when they've both had more rest.

*

“You’ve been spending a lot of time out,” his dad casually comments when he gets back home and Stiles grunts, attempting to sound nonplussed.

“Been helping Derek with things,” he says. “There’s a lot to get ready for.”

His dad cocks an eyebrow at him, but doesn’t comment on it. Instead, he just says, “It’s good that you’re together again.”

“We’re not together,” Stiles complains. “Just spending time together.”

His dad pulls a face as though he knows something Stiles doesn’t, which isn’t true at all.

“I’m going to go shower,” Stiles says, just to get away, and his dad nods, staying suspiciously quiet.

It’s as Stiles is heading out of the room that his dad says, “You have paint in your hair.”

Stiles frowns, tries to cover it up with one hand, and jogs up the stairs to avoid the inevitable conversation.

*

After he’s showered and dressed in old sweats and a t-shirt, he flops onto his bed and pulls out his phone flicking through it aimlessly.

He’s halfway through a Reddit thread about someone’s failed DIY project when his phone begins to buzz. At first he thinks it’s just a string of texts coming in, but then Scott’s face fills the screen and he realizes it’s a call. For a long second, he thinks about swiping it away, but he figures it might be time to finally talk to him.

“Hello?” he answers, accepting the call before he can regret it.

“Stiles,” Scott replies, sounding relieved. “You actually answered.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says shortly. “Don’t make me regret it.”

He can practically hear Scott’s guilt across the line.

“You know about Derek,” he infers quietly and Stiles makes a unattractive noise.

“I know,” he confirms.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Scott complains. “It wasn’t my secret to tell.”

“As if I would have believed you,” Stiles says, his tone self-deprecating.

“Yeah,” Scott agrees. “A baby, huh?”

“A baby,” Stiles repeats. “I, uh, I offered to help him.”

He hears the positive shift in Scott’s voice as he says, “Good! That’s great—for both of you.”

“We’ll see,” Stiles tells him.

“You’ve seen him?”

“Yeah, he told me everything a few weeks ago,” Stiles confirms, but he doesn’t mention what else they’ve been doing since then.

“Does it seem like he’s ready to tell the rest of the pack?” Scott asks, which takes Stiles by surprise.

“What?” he replies.

“I’ve been suggesting that he tell everyone else about the baby. I think it’ll be good to have the support of the pack.”

“I don’t know,” Stiles answers honestly. “He didn't want to when he first got back, but he might have warmed up to the idea now.”

“Maybe he’ll listen to you more,” Scott says and Stiles scoffs.

“Why would he do that? He tolerates me.”

Scott is suspiciously quiet and Stiles narrows his eyes.

“What?” he continues. “Why did you go silent?”

“He doesn’t just tolerate you, Stiles,” Scott says as though it should be obvious. “He came back for you.”

“How do you know that?” Stiles asks and Scott goes quiet again.

“That was just a guess,” Scott tells him and Stiles knows it’s a lie.

Scott,” he presses and Scott cracks like an egg.

“He sent me a text,” he admits. “He wanted to know if he should come back.”

“And what did you say?”

“I told him it was up to him to decide. But I also mentioned your accident.”

Stiles heart seems to miss a beat at the thought of Derek coming back because Stiles was hurt.

“And here he is,” Stiles says.

“Yeah,” Scott agrees. “He is.”

“Did you say anything else?”

“Look,” Scott says. “You need to have this conversation with him, not me.”

Scott,” Stiles tries, but he can already hear how closed-off Scott is becoming.

“I gotta go,” Scott lies obviously.

“You’re the one that called me,” Stiles points out, but not even that helps.

“I’ll talk to you soon. Say hi to Derek for me.”

“How about you text him,” Stiles says before hanging up as he hears Scott sigh.

He tosses his phone onto his nightstand and flops against his pillows.

For a long minute, he stares at his ceiling, thinking too hard about too many things. But he knows it’s not going to get him anywhere. So instead of lingering on it, he reaches over the side of his bed for his laptop, knowing Netflix will having something to distract him with. And that’s exactly what he needs.

*

He gets a text from Derek early in the morning, before he even wakes, and it’s an hour later—after finishing breakfast and showering—that he gets around to replying saying he’ll be over soon.

When he finally arrives, Derek’s cleared away the protective coverings and the room almost looks complete—apart from it being completely bare. Derek’s in soft sweats and a shirt that looks uncomfortably tight but doesn’t seem to bother him, and he seems happy, happier than Stiles has seen him in a long time. He has a hand tucked against his stomach, rubbing idly, as he glances around the room as though mapping things out in his head.

“Got it all picked out?” Stiles asks and Derek turns, a faint smile on his face.

“Some of it,” he admits. “I’m open to suggestions.”

“Let’s put everything together first,” Stiles suggests and Derek nods as though the ability to disagree has left his system.

That’s actually the easy part. Derek gets put in charge of the instructions and Stiles tries to follow along without wanting to completely murder him, but it’s a near thing. The worst part is when Stiles moves the furniture where Derek wants it and then Derek inevitably changes his mind and Stiles has to shift it again.

When they break for lunch, Stiles is sweating and gross, but Derek makes them grilled cheese sandwiches with extra, extra cheese, and Stiles stuffs it down like a starved man.

The second half of the day is less stressful, but Stiles is exhausted by the end of it, and he slumps into the rocking chair Derek made him set in the corner of the room and sighs heavily. He worries that if he shuts his eyes, he’ll never open them again, but he does close them for a moment, letting the silence wash over him while Derek putters around the room, making small adjustments and adding finishing touches, like draping a blanket over the side of the crib and adding a selection of ridiculously soft-looking stuffed animals on top of the dresser.

“You seem ready,” Stiles says quietly, and Derek pauses and glances over at him.

“Physically, not mentally.”

Stiles laughs at the joke and Derek smiles softly.

“Thank you,” Derek adds and Stiles cocks an eyebrow.

“For laughing at your joke?”

“No,” Derek says, sounding put out. “For helping put this together. You didn’t have to.”

“Yeah, but you wanted to. If I can give that to you, I will.”

“You’ve already done enough,” Derek tells him, which would sound like an accusation about Stiles knocking him up in the first place, but Derek’s voice is gentle like he actually means it.

“I’ve done the bare minimum,” Stiles tells him. “You deserve more.”

He pushes himself to his feet with a grunt, ready to tell Derek to call him if he needs anything else, but that he’s heading home to shower and eat and possibly sleep for a week. But Derek’s standing in his path, staring at him with expression that seems familiar to Stiles.

“What?” he asks. “Did I say something wrong?”

Derek shakes his head just enough for Stiles to notice and says, “Stay.”

“For dinner?” Stiles asks. “I mean, I was going to buy something completely unhealthy on the way home, but I guess I could eat here.”

“No,” Derek says. “Stay. For the night.”

Stiles blinks, and then blinks again when he realizes he probably isn’t dreaming.

“What?” he mumbles, feeling shell shocked.

Derek takes a handful of steps closer, to the point where he could probably reach out and touch Stiles. But he doesn’t.

“Stay with me.”

Stiles feels shaken, right down to the core, everything screaming at him to accept, but knowing it’s not the right choice.

“Derek,” he says as gently as he can. “I can’t.”

“If I’d asked the other night you would have,” Derek tells him, and Stiles knows he’s unfairly talking about when Stiles almost kissed him out of sheer reflex.

“I wouldn’t have,” Stiles says, trying to convince him. “This isn’t what you want; it’s just hormones.”

Derek’s face darkens and Stiles immediately realizes his mistake.

“Don’t tell me what I don’t want,” Derek snaps and Stiles does feel guilty about that.

“Yeah, okay,” he agrees. “That wasn’t fair. But we still can’t do this, Derek. Look what happened last time and things are a million times more complicated now.”

“We didn’t talk about it enough last time,” Derek argues and Stiles holds his palms up.

“What else is there to discuss?” Stiles asks. “I can’t do this again. We can’t do this with a baby in the mix.”

“Why not?” Derek argues with a frown. “What’s different with her?”

Everything is different with her, Derek. Are you kidding me? We can’t be casual. Casual and babies will never be a thing.”

“I didn’t say anything about it being casual,” Derek says bluntly and Stiles freezes.

Derek stares at him steadily while Stiles’ heart thunders in his chest.

“Do you have any idea what you’re suggesting, Derek?” Stiles asks quietly and Derek continues staring, as though bracing himself for something.

“You don’t want a relationship that isn’t casual,” Derek assumes aloud.

“Don’t tell me what I don’t want,” Stiles parrots back at him, glaring furiously. “You have no idea what I want.”

“Then tell me,” Derek yells at him, taking Stiles by surprise.

“How can I when it’s something I can’t have?” Stiles yells back. “And it was never my ultimatum to be casual before. It was yours.”

“When did I ever say that?” Derek asks and Stiles throws his hands up.

“Literally every day we were together. Maybe you didn’t put it into words, but you said it whenever I left the house and you wanted to act as though we weren’t fucking.”

“I didn’t think you wanted anyone knowing!” Derek says incredulously. “Our relationship was our business. No one else’s.”

“So that whole time you wanted a relationship?” Stiles scoffs, not believing it for a second, but Derek shrugs at him.

“I already told you; I thought we were dating. I was exclusive with you and you made me happy.”

“I made you happy?” Stiles drawls sarcastically, still incredulous and not trusting it to be the truth.

“I’m pregnant,” Derek yells. “I’m pregnant because I wished for a family because I thought I could see us settling down. I thought we could become a long term deal, and now part of that is happening whether I want it or not.”

Stiles blinks.

“But you do want it,” Stiles confirms and Derek falls quiet and then takes a step back, suddenly shutting Stiles down.

“Go home, Stiles,” he says, voice devoid of emotion. “You’re right. We can’t do this."

Stiles suddenly feels as though he’s missed a step and he’s falling with no place safe to land.

“Derek,” he implores, wishing he could take back the anger and the insults because it hasn’t got them anywhere.

“Show yourself out,” Derek tells him. Before sighing and adding, “I don’t know why I thought things would be different.”

The comment digs under Stiles’ skin and Stiles steps forward saying, “Derek,” with more force.

Derek turns away, shuffling himself towards the doorway, probably planning on locking himself in his room until Stiles eventually leaves.

Derek. Don’t walk away from me.”

Derek immediately turns back towards him with more speed than Stiles thinks he should have while so big, and his lips are pulled back in an animalistic snarl.

“What am I meant to do, Stiles? What would you do in my position? I’ve told you everything. What more do you want?”

“I want you to listen to me, Derek. And actually hear the words I’m saying.”

“Then say them and get out,” Derek argues, which Stiles thinks they both might regret.

So he nods and draws in a steadying breath.

“You weren’t the only one who wanted a relationship,” Stiles admits quietly before he can change his mind. “You weren’t the only one who thought of us having a future together.”

He lets that settle in for a long moment, a moment in which Derek’s expression shifts into disbelief.

“You never said anything,” Derek says eventually and Stiles shoots him an incredulous look.

“You weren’t exactly jumping to admit anything either, Derek,” Stiles points out and Derek starts to frown.

“I don’t believe you,” Derek says, which—well it’s not what Stiles expects and he laughs before he can stop himself.

“I didn’t know my feelings hinge on whether you believe me or not,” he says sarcastically. “But feel free to call my dad. I’m sure you can believe the sheriff instead.”

He figures he’s done if Derek isn’t even going to listen to him, so he pats his pockets to make sure he has his car keys and phone, and then moves towards the doorway.

“Stiles,” Derek says, but Stiles really isn’t in the mood for it.

“No, I mean, I’ve never done anything to earn your trust, so why would you believe me?”

He knows he’s being unreasonable, but he’s just laid himself bare for Derek, so it’s not exactly fair repayment to be told he’s lying. Maybe it’ll make it easier to move on—again. Not that he did the first time, but that's not the point.

Careful not to meet Derek’s gaze, Stiles edges around him, trying to slip out of the room so he can make a break for the stairs and he can escape and go home.

“Stiles,” Derek says again, but Stiles keeps his head down and does his best to ignore him.

But Derek hooks a hand into the hollow of his elbow and holds him tight, stopping him from leaving.

“Derek,” Stiles starts, “let me—”

But Stiles doesn’t get any further because Derek tugs at his arm, pulling him closer, and suddenly Stiles is being kissed, the way Derek used to kiss him, the act heartbreakingly familiar. Stiles knows he should push him away because they have a lot more to talk about, but Derek gently presses his free hand against Stiles’ jaw and instead, Stiles finds himself responding, kissing Derek in return.

The worst part about it, Stiles thinks, is that when Derek shifts closer, his belly presses against Stiles, and Stiles thinks it could be his new favorite feeling. He gets his hand behind Derek’s head kisses Derek gently, wanting so much, but not wanting to scare him off too quickly. But then Derek throws all caution to the wind himself by licking into Stiles’ mouth and deepening things as though he’s half-starved.

“Stiles,” Derek murmurs after a long moment of kissing, thumb rubbing beneath Stiles’ bottom lip.

The whole thing is intoxicating and Stiles gets his other hand on Derek’s waist, most of his palm resting on the curve of Derek’s stomach. He rubs it gently, waiting for Derek to nudge him away if he doesn’t like it, but Derek never does, and he almost startles backwards out of Derek’s hold when something shifts beneath his hand.

He breaks the kiss with a noise of surprise and Derek huffs in amusement and presses his hand over Stiles’ own.

“She moves more whenever my heart rate goes up,” he tells Stiles. “Usually when I’m working out.”

Stiles stares in wonder at the feeling before carefully shifting his other hand to Derek’s chest, Derek’s heartbeat thundering hard and fast beneath his palm. He might seem calm on the outside, but knowing how affected Derek is by everything makes Stiles feel a little better. It makes him feel less alone.

He shoots Derek a small smile, rubbing his stomach one last time before drawing away.

“This doesn’t fix anything,” Stiles tells him quietly and Derek nods in understanding.

“I know,” he says. “But maybe we can do things right this time.”

Hope flares dangerously inside Stiles and he nods, probably more enthusiastically than he should, but Derek smiles in return.

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees. “That sounds good.”

Derek is slow and unassuming when he leans in again, and Stiles automatically tilts his head to accept the next kiss from him. It’s a chaste kiss, the kind of kiss that Stiles never would have dared take from Derek in the past. When Derek pulls back, Stiles finds himself swaying into the touch, looking for more. But he knows it’s for the best that Derek puts space in between them.

Stiles blinks and clears his throat, taking a step back while Derek watches him, rubbing aimlessly at his own stomach.

“I should head home,” Stiles tells him and there’s a flash of uncertainty across Derek’s face, which makes Stiles want to explain himself. “I’m not running away. I just have some things to think about. But if you want, I can come back tomorrow?”

Derek immediately seems to soften, his defenses falling as though Stiles’ words are a soothing balm.

“I’d like that,” Derek tells him tentatively, in a way that Stiles isn’t used to, but fills him with more hope.

“I’ll text you?” Stiles suggests and Derek nods, and there’s a moment of hesitation where they both continue staring at each other—and Stiles feels like a lovesick fool, but doesn’t care in the slightest—before Derek steps back and breaks the moment.

“I can walk you to the door,” he says, which Stiles wants to argue about since it’s so much more effort for him now, but instead, he keeps quiet and lets Derek lead the way slowly downstairs.

Derek hesitates again before he pulls the front door open as though he has something to say, and Stiles stays silent to let him work through whatever issues he’s having. But instead of turning to Stiles to tell him something, he turns to Stiles, tucks a hand against his waist, and pulls him in for another kiss. Stiles could really get used to it.

He frames Derek’s face with his hands and kisses back, letting Derek deepen it when he sees fit, but then just as suddenly as it begins, Derek breaks it and carefully straightens his shirt again. Stiles can’t believe how many times they’ve kissed in the past, but somehow now it feels new and exciting.

He manages to press one last kiss to Derek’s lips before he opens the front door himself and says, “Okay, I need to go before I end up staying over after all.”

When he looks back, Derek’s wearing an expression as though he thinks that’s actually a good idea.

“You can,” he says and Stiles laughs and shakes his head.

“Goodnight, Derek,” he gets out, catching Derek’s gaze. “See you tomorrow.”

If he happens to let a little suggestion slip in at the same time, well, only he and Derek will ever know.

Derek waves mutely, and Stiles tries not to outright dance his way to the Jeep in celebration. For once in his life, he’s leaving Derek’s house and not feeling like complete shit. He grins to himself and keeps on walking.

*

Stiles makes breakfast in the morning, humming and tapping a spatula against the countertop as his scrambled eggs cook. He doesn’t startle when his dad walks in, but he does freeze as his dad studies him with an investigative gaze. Sometimes Stiles hates how good his dad is at his job.

“You’re happy today,” he accuses, and Stiles turns away to shove his eggs around in the frying pan.

“Yep,” he agrees. “Had a good night.”

“Should I ask?” his dad questions and Stiles shrugs, takes the pan off the heat, and turns off the stovetop.

“Derek and I talked,” Stiles tells him, turning around.

His dad’s expression softens and he leans back against the door jamb.

“It went well?” his dad assumes and Stiles shrugs loosely.

“At first? Not really,” he laughs quietly. “But we got through it. We’re going to try again.”

His dad raises his eyebrows, clearly thinking that their first attempt hadn’t been all that promising.

“I know,” Stiles says, holding up his hands. “We’re going to do it right this time.”

His dad smiles and nods, but says, “Just know that you have more to lose now.”

It’s true, and Stiles knows that, but it still makes his stomach swoop uncomfortably.

“Yeah,” he says. “I know. I guess being a parent means more responsibility, right?”

It hits him then, like a two-by-four around the side of the head. He’s going to be a dad. He’s going to have a daughter whom he’s going to help raise, and maybe she’ll laugh like him, or maybe she’ll huff like Derek, or maybe she’ll be something entirely new. He has no idea, and won’t know until she starts hitting the milestones he’s been reading about in all the books. He’s going to have to put that knowledge to use now and it’s the most terrifying thought he’s ever had.

“You’re going to be a grandpa,” Stiles blurts out, just so he’s not alone in his terror.

His dad pales and leans back with even more of his weight.

“Jesus, kid,” he says. “You don’t half-ass anything, do you?”

Stiles drags his hands down his face, groaning loudly in solidarity with his dad.

“Let’s just deal with things as they come,” Stiles tells him, dropping his hands and meeting his dad’s gaze again.

His dad nods gently and offers him a small smile. “You’ve always got me, you know. No matter what happens, I’ll be here to help.”

Stiles’ eyes threaten to prickle with tears, and he steps towards his dad before they can be spotted, gathering his dad up in a hug.

“Thanks, Dad,” he says gently, and his dad rubs his back.

“Anytime, you know that,” he dad murmurs gently.

There’s a moment of silence between them before the hug ends and then Stiles takes a step away and goes back to thinking about serving up his breakfast. But his dad pauses him with a hand on his elbow and when Stiles meets his eyes, he knows it’s not going to end well.

“So when is he coming over for dinner?” his dad asks and Stiles shakes his head, pointing a finger at him.

“No,” he warns. “That’s not happening until things are better between us.”

“When’s that going to be?” his dad asks with a hint of sarcasm.

“Don’t even try it,” Stiles tells him. “This conversation’s over.”

His dad doesn’t seem pleased about it, but he still reaches out and ruffles Stiles’ hair.

“Okay, kiddo,” he says. “At least tell me you made enough eggs for the both of us.”

Stiles blows out a heavy breath and rolls his eyes, because of course he did, but he’ll leave his dad to stew until he figures it out for himself.

All things considering, he thinks the admission could have gone a lot worse.

*

As promised, Stiles texts Derek later in the morning, and Derek lasts a grand total of four replies before he tells Stiles to come over. It’s closely followed by a request for another strawberry milkshake, and Stiles narrows his eyes at it.

But he still stops by In-N-Out on his way over and Derek opens the door looking the kind of hungry that Stiles isn't going to mess with. Which means it was a good thing that Stiles also picked up burgers and fries.

“Sometimes I feel used,” Stiles jokes when Derek takes the food from him, but he doesn’t care in the slightest after Derek pauses just long enough to lean down and press a kiss to Stiles’ startled and slackened mouth.

He’s walking away before Stiles can even think to return it, but it fills Stiles with warmth, and he can’t help but smile as he follows Derek into the living room.

They end up side by side on the couch, the bag of food between them, and episodes of Law & Order playing on the TV. It’s comfortable, even with the silence around them, and Stiles props his feet up on the coffee table, alongside Derek’s own. Their hands brush occasionally as they reach for french fries, but other than that, their contact is minimal. Not that Stiles is complaining. There’s no rush and there was never any promise of doing anything anyway.

So he eats his burger and fries, and drinks his shake, and lets Derek put on even more SVU episodes, because it’s not like he has anything better to do.

Derek eventually finishes his own food, one hand resting on his stomach, and Stiles can’t tell if it’s for his food baby or his actual baby. He’s not shifting around uncomfortably, though, which means the kid is probably quiet and focusing on growing, rather than kickboxing Derek’s insides.

Derek grunts apropos to nothing and Stiles glances over as Derek begins to push himself upright, using the arm of the couch to drag himself to his feet. Stiles opens his mouth to ask if Derek needs anything, but Derek begins shuffling in the direction of the bathroom and, well, that’s not something Stiles can help with.

In the meantime, Stiles takes their trash into the kitchen and throws it away before settling back on the couch just in time for Derek to waddle his way back in. This time when Derek lowers himself down beside Stiles, he leaves a lot less room. He thinks about shifting over to give Derek more space, before he realizes it must have been intentional as Derek sets his hand on Stiles’ knee.

It’s probably the most PG touch Stiles has ever received from Derek, but his body is high strung and he’s pretty sure he’ll pop a boner if he’s not careful. So he focuses on that, trying to remain casual and not read into things because a hand on the knee could mean anything. It could just be comforting to Derek. He has no idea and he’s not about to ask.

But halfway through the next murder scene on the TV, Derek’s palm slides higher up Stiles’ leg, and it’s so not appropriate to be fighting an erection with the amount of blood on the screen. He swallows thickly and chances a glance over at Derek—who’s already watching him, his mouth soft and eyes inquisitive. Stiles feels his face heat and the hand that Derek isn’t casually sliding down the inside of his thigh reaches up to cup Stiles’ face.

Stiles sees the kiss coming a mile away, and even with the awkward angle, it’s still one of the best he’s ever had. He can’t get enough of Derek’s mouth and the sharp, familiar feeling of his stubble. He gets his own hand up to the back of Derek’s neck, holding on to keep himself grounded. It shouldn’t be so easy to deepen the kiss, but it is and Derek makes a soft noise as though it’s precisely what he wants.

Derek’s hand turns and shifts higher, cupping Stiles’ cock through his pants and—fuck—Stiles wants it so badly, but—

Derek,” Stiles whines, because it’s entirely unfair. “We were meant to do things right this time.”

Derek’s hand is insistent, his thumb softly tracing the outline of Stiles’ cock as it begins to harden.

“You want to slow down?” Derek asks, moving his mouth to Stiles’ neck, which is even more unfair, and Stiles makes a noise of discontentment.

“Don’t you think we should?” Stiles argues and Derek nips gently at the skin below his ear.

No,” Derek replies impatiently. “Waited enough.”

Stiles has never been more relieved to be in agreement with someone, even though there’s still a voice in the back of his mind telling him not to rush things. But the thought of Derek wanting it, and for so long, makes Stiles’ stomach flip in excitement. He drops one hand to Derek’s shoulder, trying to act casual as he moves it lower to Derek's waist to clutch at him.

“What do you want?” Stiles asks him, mouth brushing Derek's cheek.

Derek makes a pained noise and pulls back, staring at Stiles with a conflicted expression.

“Don't ask me that,” he grits out, and Stiles honestly doesn't know what he's done wrong. “Already close.”

Stiles blinks. “Holy shit,” he says. “Are you serious?”

“I'm pregnant and no one has touched me since winter. What do you think?”

“Holy shit,” Stiles repeats, though mostly because he's hung up on the thought that he's been the only one to touch, to fuck and be fucked by Derek in the past seven months. “Should we go upstairs?”

Derek apparently doesn't need to be asked twice, because he grabs Stiles’ hand and pulls him to his feet.

“Okay, sure,” Stiles agrees, trying to keep Derek from rushing, but Derek is insistent as he pulls Stiles toward the stairs, glancing back every now and then, seeming to make sure Stiles is still onboard with the idea.

Stiles tries his best to reassure him with a hand on the small of his back, his fingers dipping down beneath the elasticated waistband of Derek’s pants. Derek nudges the bedroom door shut behind them and does his best to crowd Stiles against the inside of it, but his stomach touches Stiles before anything else, and he has to lean in further to actually kiss him.

It’s an unhurried kiss, like they’ve both realized that there’s no rush; they can take their time because neither of them is going anywhere.

Stiles is the first one to tug his shirt off and Derek gets his hands on the button of Stiles’ pants, tugging as though only just containing himself from tearing it straight off. Stiles helps him with the fly, just in case he attempts to pull it open with sheer force, and then Derek’s hand dips inside and cups his cock, and fuck, he’s missed the feeling of Derek on him, around him, and he can’t get enough.

He rolls his body into the touch and exhales against Derek’s mouth.

“C’mon,” Stiles says, cupping his hands around Derek’s stomach. “C’mon.”

Stiles knows he’s being impatient, but who could blame him? He’s finally got what he’s always wanted: a chance with Derek that’s not just about the sex. Though right now, it is all about the sex and how Stiles can get it faster, so he tugs Derek in the direction of the bed, which is still mostly covered in pillows and Stiles pauses, causing Derek to look up.

“What?” Derek asks and Stiles just gestures with his head. “Oh, it’s hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in.”

Stiles can’t even begin to imagine, but Derek starts tugging the pillows off the bed, making room for them. Stiles takes the time to kick off his pants and is halfway through wondering if he should take his underwear off too when Derek turns and glances down his body with a heavy gaze.

“Off,” Derek orders, which is entirely unfair when Derek is fully clothed himself, but Derek plays with the hem of his own shirt as though thinking about taking it off.

“Need help?” Stiles asks once he’s completely naked, moving towards Derek to close the gap between them.

Derek stares down at him, his expression turning anxious.

“What?” Stiles asks, pulling back to stare at him seriously. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t look the same,” Derek tells him and Stiles blinks.

“Of course you don’t,” Stiles points out before belatedly realizing that Derek’s self-conscious about it. “Oh. I don’t care. Seeing you bloodied and torn open is way worse.”

Derek frowns at him unamused and Stiles can’t help but laugh. He leans in to kiss Derek, once, then twice, and cups his face with his hands.

“I seriously don’t care,” he tells Derek. “I want you—whatever that entails.”

Derek stares at him for a beat longer before he nods and takes a step back. He’s slow when he takes his shirt off—it keeps getting caught on the lumps and bumps of his new body—but Stiles honestly doesn’t care what Derek looks like. He’s a different shape and has way more hair than Stiles remembers, but he’s still Derek, and Stiles wants it all.

He gets his hands back on Derek’s belly and kisses him with more tongue than entirely necessary, but Derek clutches at him and seems to bask in it.

“You want my mouth?” Stiles asks. “You can sit on the end of the bed and I’ll—”

Stiles gets cut off by Derek’s hand clamping over his lower face.

Stiles,” he hisses. “I wasn’t joking earlier.”

Stiles begins to wonder if he could get Derek off just by talking at him, but he decides it’ll be much more fun to actually get to touch him.

“Okay, okay,” he says in a rush, hands shoving at Derek’s pants until they slip over his hips and pool at Derek’s feet.

Derek isn’t wearing underwear underneath and that’s not fair at all. Stiles lets out a noise that Derek seems to understand because he smirks at him in response.

“You did that on purpose,” Stiles accuses and Derek shrugs.

“Maybe,” he says, but doesn’t continue once Stiles curls his fingers around Derek’s cock.

It’s exactly the same as he remembers and he’s still sensitive in all the places he used to be. When he stumbles back a step, eyes falling closed, Stiles steadies him with a solid grip, and nudges him towards the bed.

“Lie down,” he orders. “We don’t need a trip to the ER today.”

Derek does as he’s told, fluffing a couple of pillows and propping them up against the headboard as he slowly lowers himself onto the mattress and sprawls out. It’s an inviting picture Derek makes, and Stiles mostly wishes he could crawl into Derek’s lap and ride him. But his bump is too big and it’s just not feasible.

“Come here,” Derek tells him, patting the bed beside him, and Stiles crawls on, sliding up against him and tucking one knee over Derek’s thighs.

It’s an easy position to kiss in, and Stiles gets his hand back on Derek’s cock without the fear of him falling.

The only thing that’s different, Stiles realizes, is that Derek is wet. Not just a few drops of precome, but enough to slick his whole cock. It could be a hormone thing, but Derek doesn’t seem to notice, so maybe it’s been happening for longer than he can remember and it’s just new to Stiles.

Not that Stiles is complaining. It makes it easier to jerk Derek off, the slickness easing the way, and he can feel Derek’s foreskin shifting like it would if he were lubed up.

“You feel so good,” Stiles tells him, mouth against his jaw and Derek pants and shifts into his grip. “You going to come for me?”

The noise Derek lets out sounds pained, but he nods and grits out, “Faster, Stiles.”

Stiles can totally do that. He adjusts his pace and nudges his knee up higher, pressing against Derek’s balls where they’re drawing up tighter. Stiles can’t think of a better way to have Derek against him, writhing and ready to come, which is good, because that’s how it happens.

Stiles,” Derek hisses, his body locking up, and Stiles continues stroking him, his knuckles damp and palm soaking wet even before Derek’s come joins the mess.

And that’s exactly what it is—a mess—because Derek comes almost triple the amount he used to, which already seemed like a lot to Stiles. It gets everywhere, but Stiles doesn’t care because Derek’s face is flush and his chest is heaving, but he’s looking at Stiles as though he's the best thing to happen to him.

“I can’t—” Derek gets out, by which he means—if the way Derek’s struggling is anything to go by—that he can’t reach Stiles in his position. But it doesn’t matter.

“I’ve got it,” Stiles promises, and he sits up, straddling Derek’s thighs to stare down at him as he gets his hand on his own cock.

He takes longer than Derek, though he suspects Derek is a thousand times more sexually frustrated than he is right now, but the way Derek watches him helps him along. He can’t stop remembering the times they were together before. How Derek used to fuck into him, how he used to eat him out and make him come multiple times in a row. He wonders if maybe he can do that for Derek now.

And it’s as he’s thinking that that Derek stares at him and says, “Come on me. Please.”

Stiles has never been much good at telling Derek no, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be making any exceptions any time soon, because he tightens his grip on his cock and raises himself higher onto his knees.

Derek’s belly is still higher, but it’s enough that when he comes, it splatters across the tightness of Derek’s stomach and drips down like some awful Jackson Pollock imitation. He laughs without meaning to when he sucks in unsteady breaths and Derek stares at him in uncertainty.

“Sorry,” Stiles apologizes. “You’re a fucking mess.”

Derek reaches down blindly, flattening his palm into the worst of it and Stiles expects him to wince and want to get up to clean, but instead he smears his hand through it, halfway rubbing it into his skin.

“Smells like you,” is all Derek says, which Stiles supposes actually says and explains a lot, but Stiles is sure Derek isn’t going to appreciate the stickiness for long.

But for the meantime, Stiles presses his own hand to the top of Derek’s stomach—away from the mess—to comfort him before flopping back into the space beside him. Cuddling wasn’t exactly their jam back before feelings were involved, but now Derek tucks his arm around Stiles’ shoulders and keeps him close as he slumps further into his pillows.

“Nap time?” Stiles suggests, mostly for Derek because he’s pretty sure that’s how he spends the majority of his days, but also because he’s tired as hell and completely spent, and shutting his eyes for an hour or so sounds like the perfect remedy.

“I’ll set my alarm,” Derek tells him, reaching over and rustling with stuff on the nightstand that Stiles is too exhausted to glance over and see. But after a moment, he settles again and Stiles props his face on Derek’s shoulder and stares down at the looming bump of his stomach.

They’ll have to savor their alone time, he thinks, because once the baby is born, they won’t get much of it. He listens for a while as Derek’s breathing evens out into sleep and then carefully moves his hand to rest where Derek’s stomach first begins to slope upwards. It doesn’t reassure him that they’re heading in the right direction, but it also doesn’t dissuade him.

After a moment of rubbing circles with his thumb against the smoothness of Derek’s skin, Stiles feels himself being tugged into the gentle hands of sleep. He doesn’t fight it and he drifts off to the feeling of their daughter shifting slowly beneath his palm.

*

Stiles wakes to the feeling of a hot, wet mouth on his cock. Not that he’s complaining.

Derek’s lips and tongue are completely unfair, and they take him apart in a matter of minutes. Stiles grips at Derek’s hair and comes down his throat with a muted groan. In his defense, he did warn Derek before he came, but Derek never pulled off.

But Derek doesn’t complain; instead, he raises up onto his knees and jerks himself off, watching as Stiles watches him. He comes across Stiles’ thighs and groin in a way that should be gross, but Stiles thinks it’s only fair for when Stiles came all over him the first time. He lets Derek stretch out beside him after, though, and figures he can suggest a shower later.

For the time being, he dozes right where he is, allowing Derek to press gentle kisses to the skin he can reach. It’s a soft quiet moment that Stiles wouldn’t trade for the world.

*

When he wakes again, Derek’s beside him, tapping at his phone, and Stiles is suspiciously less sticky, like maybe Derek cleaned him up with a wash cloth while he was still sleeping. Stiles rolls onto his side and watches Derek play some kind of game involving fruit for a few minutes.

“You okay?” Stiles asks, voice gruff, and Derek glances over and offers him a smile in answer.

He looks the happiest Stiles has seen him in a long time. He’s also still as naked as Stiles is, seeming not to care, but he has the sheets draped over his waist with his stomach sticking free. Now that he’s not just trying to get Derek all over him, he takes the time to take in his appearance.

He has faint stretch marks on the underside of his belly, but Stiles also notices that there’s a tub of body butter on the nightstand, so he suspects that Derek’s been slathering it on to help. He can’t help but reach out and prod at Derek’s bellybutton, though, and Derek looks away from his phone long enough to stare pointedly at him.

“You’ve got an outie now,” Stiles jokes and Derek locks his phone and sets it on the mattress beside them before running his palm over his stomach.

“Happened about two months ago,” Derek tells him. “I called Nadine because I was worried.”

Stiles laughs quietly at the admission and lets his hand rest beside Derek’s own. His skin is warm and smooth and—there’s a jolt beneath his palm and he jerks back.

“Jesus,” he says. “How does that always scare the shit out of me?”

Derek snorts and rubs at the spot the baby kicked at.

“She’s awake,” he says and Stiles raises an eyebrow at him.

“No kidding,” he replies before nudging Derek’s hand aside so he can feel it again.

It’s mesmerizing feeling the shifting under Derek’s skin and Stiles tucks up close and traces his fingers along Derek’s stomach, following the movements.

“Do you think she can feel that?” he asks, poking hard enough for Derek’s skin to dip.

Derek takes Stiles’ hand and for a moment Stiles thinks he’s going to nudge it away, but instead, he uses Stiles’ fingers to prod sharply, twice in the same spot. Stiles doesn’t understand why until he feels two distinct kicks in return.

“What the fuck?” Stiles says incredulously, craning his neck around to stare at Derek.

Derek seems smug, as though surprising Stiles is his favorite thing.

“I read about it online,” Derek tells him. “I’ve been doing it since she started kicking. She’s smart.”

“Takes after her dad,” Stiles says before pausing and frowning. “I mean me, obviously. Is that going to be a thing? Do you want to be dad? I guess you get first dibs on it for actually growing her inside of you. You can decide what you want her to call you.”

Derek stares at him quietly for a second, to the point where Stiles almost thinks he’s said something wrong. But then Derek blinks and stares back down at his stomach, where his skin is visibly shifting with the baby’s movements.

“Papa,” Derek says softly. “That’s what I called—”

He falls silent and Stiles doesn’t press him for more information. It’s already enough. Stiles presses a kiss to the closest patch of skin he can reach and then glances up at Derek.

“Is that so I can still call you daddy without it being weird?”

The look Derek shoots Stiles—like he’s his worst life choice—gives Stiles life and he laughs loudly as Derek pushes at his face, forcing him to roll away while Derek drags himself up out of bed.

“What is wrong with you?” Derek asks without heat and Stiles laughs again, rolling into the middle of the bed and sprawling out to watch as Derek tugs on a clean pair of boxers and an oversized shirt that’s still tight around the middle. When he’s dressed, he turns to stare at Stiles for a moment and Stiles suddenly remembers his own dad and the suggestion he had.

“How would you feel about dinner?” Stiles asks. “With my dad.”

Derek pauses, his expression unreadable, but strained.

“It’s not a requirement,” Stiles quickly adds. “My dad just wants some time with both of us. I told him not to expect anything. I know this is still new, so we can wait if you want. It’s totally up to you.”

“Does he—?” Derek begins and Stiles quickly cuts in.

“He knows everything. Even the stuff before this, uh, happened,” he says, gesturing at Derek’s stomach. “We could have it here if it’s easier, unless you’re okay with coming over.”

Derek shrugs loosely. “It would be nice to get out,” he admits and Stiles nods and follows Derek’s lead getting out of bed finally and tugging on his briefs.

“Awesome, is there a day that works best for you?”

“Just plan something with your dad and text me,” Derek tells him, which is easy enough.

“Yeah, sure,” Stiles agrees with a smile before falling quiet.

Derek pauses, looking uncertain for a moment. “Are you leaving now?” he asks and Stiles blinks.

“I, uh, wasn’t planning on it, but if you want, I can.”

No,” Derek says quickly. “Come downstairs. I’ll make dinner.”

Stiles nods and Derek turns away, making his way out the door, leaving Stiles to tug on his shirt and follow him out. At least with his back to him, Derek can’t see Stiles’ soft smile, or the way he’s practically melting from happiness at them getting along so well already.

It’s so much better than anything Stiles could have expected.

*

The days pass in flurry of food and sex and naps, and Stiles finds out that he could really get used to the pregnancy schedule.

Near the end of August, on a random Wednesday, Derek says, “I have an appointment tomorrow morning with Nadine.”

Stiles eats another mouthful of cereal and nods. He knows Derek’s been going off for checkups every couple of weeks; it’s nothing new.

“I thought you could come with me.”

Stiles’ elbow slips off the table and he spills milk off his spoon.

“What?” he asks without swallowing, but chews and does just that when he realizes he should answer properly. “Yeah of course. That would be awesome. I mean, if you’re totally sure you want me there?”

“If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t ask,” Derek points out bluntly, which is fair enough.

“What time?” Stiles asks instead, though it doesn’t really matter. It’s not as though he has other things to do.

“Ten,” he says and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, I’ll be there. Well, I mean, I’ve been staying over a lot,” he points out. “We could just go together from here?”

Derek nods nonchalantly, but it’s way too practiced, like Derek’s trying to cover up how into the idea he actually is. Stiles hides his grin behind his cup of coffee and casually nudges his bare foot against Derek’s own under the table. And thankfully, that seems to settle it.

*

Nadine’s office is tucked away in the heart of downtown Beacon Hills, between a tattoo parlor and a hair salon.

It’s an upstairs suite with no receptionist, but Nadine comes out to greet them herself, and when she leads them into a back room, it’s sterile like a regular doctor’s office with state of the art equipment throughout. It’s not what Stiles expects at all. He was imagining something a lot less legitimate.

“Huh,” Stiles says, and Derek throws a glance at him as though he’s going to be smug later.

“You’re the other father?” Nadine asks knowingly and Stiles holds out his hand for her to shake—which she does.

“Stiles,” he says as an introduction, “and, yeah, we think so.”

“Nadine,” Nadine replies with a small smile. “It’s good to finally meet you.”

“Is this where the baby’s going to be born?” he asks, looking around, and Nadine shakes her head.

“We have contacts at the hospital,” she explains. “Derek will have his own room and a surgeon to perform the c-section.”

“That’s—surprisingly normal,” Stiles says and Nadine smiles indulgently.

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” she says and Stiles blinks.

“You get a lot of pregnant men around here?” Stiles asks and Nadine looks at him as though trying to figure out if he’s joking or not.

“We get a lot of pregnant werewolves passing through,” she tells him. “There aren’t many other surgeons in the country that are willing to help.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, feeling dumb. “That makes a lot of sense.”

Nadine turns towards Derek and Stiles figures that’s what they’re there for anyway, so he doesn’t feel too dismissed.

“How have you been feeling?” she asks, gesturing for Derek to stretch out on the examination table, which Derek does, with a heave of effort.

“Not bad,” Derek tells her. “She’s been more active.”

“Have you been exercising still?”

Stiles snorts when Derek nods, because he’s not sure their sex counts as exercise, but that’s the only thing Derek has been doing that could constitute as it. Nadine doesn’t question it.

“You know the drill,” she says instead, and Derek carefully pulls his shirt up over his stomach, leaving it bare.

Nadine tugs a rolling cart closer and slicks Derek’s belly up with an odorless gel. It takes a while for a picture to show up on the screen after Nadine presses the ultrasound wand to Derek’s skin, and Stiles finds himself holding his breath as he waits. But then there’s the rapid thump-thump of the baby’s heart and Stiles has to press a hand to the table Derek’s on to keep himself standing.

“Holy shit,” he says and Derek glances over, clearly amused.

She’s still so tiny, but she moves, even as he watches the screen, and he can’t believe how real everything has suddenly become.

“That’s her,” he says, not caring about how stupid he sounds. “She’s in there right now.”

He presses his hand to a patch of Derek’s stomach that isn’t covered in gel and Derek sets his own atop it. He stares at Derek with wide eyes and Derek offers him a small smile, like maybe he went through the same thing earlier on in the pregnancy.

“Can we get new printouts?” Derek asks and Nadine smiles.

“Of course,” she says. “One for each of you?”

Derek nods and Nadine taps away at the computer.

“I’ll be right back,” she tells them before stepping out of the room and Stiles blows out a long breath.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this,” he admits and Derek squeezes his hand comfortingly.

“Neither did I,” Derek tells him.

“It’ll be worse in a little over a month,” Stiles says with a sigh and Derek nods in agreement. “Do you feel ready?”

“No,” Derek says bluntly. “I don’t think any parent is.”

Fuck,” Stiles groans, dropping his head to the side of the exam table.

Which is precisely when Nadine returns holding the printouts. Stiles takes them both while Nadine wipes Derek’s stomach off and Derek pulls his shirt back down.

“Everything looks good,” Nadine tells him. “Just need you to stand up for me so I can get a few measurements.”

Apparently, it’s nothing new, because Derek does as Nadine orders and stands looking bored as she carefully measures his bump.

“She’s in a great position,” Nadine says, “and she’s growing well. We’re coming up to the last month, though, so I’d like to see you each week leading up to your due date. It’s standard for most pregnancies.”

Derek nods and Stiles wonders if he’ll be allowed to tag along to those appointments too.

“What day and time works best for you?” she asks and Derek looks over at Stiles, which he supposes answers that question.

“Whenever is good for you,” Stiles says unhelpfully and Derek nods.

“Friday,” Derek tells her. “Sometime in the morning.”

Which seems to settle it because she squeezes Derek’s shoulder and says, “You’re almost there.”

For just a second, Stiles feels regret for what he’s missed out on—not that he had a choice about it. He never even knew about anything. But he can’t help but wish he could have seen Derek’s progress and seen it through from start to finish like Nadine has. He’ll take what he can get now, though, and knowing that he’ll be with Derek for the rest of his appointments helps.

“Ready?” Stiles asks and Derek nods and lets Stiles lead the way out of the building and back towards the car.

Halfway back, Derek’s hand slips into Stiles’ own and it’s possibly the best day Stiles has had in a long while.

*

For the first night since god knows when, Stiles actually goes home. Mostly because he’s run out of clothes and needs to stop stealing Derek’s sweats, even though they are disgustingly soft and comfortable.

His dad’s flopped out on the couch watching TV when he walks in, and he raises his eyebrows at Stiles.

“Hello stranger,” he jokes and Stiles rolls his eyes and takes the space beside him.

“Whatever,” he complains,” you should be glad we’re getting along now.”

“I am glad,” his dad explains. “I just hope you two realize you aren’t going to have this much time once the baby arrives.”

“We know. That’s why we’re enjoying it now. Stop killing my buzz, Dad.”

His dad sighs to himself and Stiles thinks he should probably expect Stiles’ responses at this point.

“Anyway, do you want to see your granddaughter or not?”

He pulls the ultrasound picture from his pocket and drops it into his dad’s lap, leaving his dad to stare at it silently.

“It’s a girl?” his dad asks softly and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, neither you or Derek stand a chance. It’s going to be brutal.”

“You think you will?” his dad asks, sounding distracted and yet still incredulous, and Stiles scoffs.

“I’m not soft like you guys,” he lies and his dad makes a noise as though he’s not really paying attention which is fair enough. Stiles has dropped a pretty big bombshell on him.

“She’s healthy and growing well,” Stiles says, “And she should be here the second week of October.”

“That’s soon,” his dad tells him and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, kind of freaking out about it, but don’t tell anyone.”

His dad snorts quietly and glances over at him.

“I started freaking out the moment your mom told me she was pregnant with you.”

“Well, you knew a little longer than I did,” Stiles points out. “But Derek agreed to dinner by the way, and he wants to come here, so pick a day and I’ll let him know.”

“What do you think he’ll want?” he asks, finally passing the photo back. “Meatloaf? Pasta?”

“He’s getting fed,” Stiles points out. “He’s not going to complain. Make whatever you feel like.”

His dad nods and says, “Yeah, I can do that. How does Saturday sound?”

“I’ll let him know,” Stiles agrees with a nod.

That seems to settle things because his dad goes back to watching the TV, fingers idly picking at a thread on the couch cushion.

“She’s cute,” his dad says after a moment and Stiles laughs.

“She’s 2D and grainy,” Stiles tells him. “Wait until she’s born and then make a judgment. She might be an ugly baby.”

“Even if she is, you won’t think so,” his dad says and Stiles blows out a breath.

“Yeah, okay, we’ll see.”

It falls quiet between them and Stiles glances back down at the ultrasound. He thinks she’s pretty darn cute already too. She’s going to be the best, and unlike what he said before, he knows he doesn’t stand a chance either.

*

Dinner with his dad isn’t actually as bad as Stiles expects. Apart from when his dad insists that Stiles needs to go pick Derek up—even after Derek had insisted he was fine to drive himself. But Derek had blasted his way through the chicken parmesan Stiles’ dad made, made his way through seconds, and then had accepted the tub of leftovers to take home for later.

His dad doesn’t even ask anything embarrassing, which is a miracle. He asks about Derek’s new nursery and about Nadine, and it seems surprisingly easy to talk. The only slightly awkward moment is when his dad asks if they’ve thought of any names, and Stiles blinks at Derek like a dumbass because it hadn’t even crossed his mind.

But Derek says, “I’ve thought of a few,” which means they’re definitely going to have to talk about it soon.

And after dinner, Derek collects up his tupperware of leftovers and climbs into Stiles’ Jeep with one hand tucked against his stomach, and seems about as content as Stiles.

“That went better than I was expecting,” Stiles tells him and Derek snorts quietly.

“He’s a good guy.”

“Yeah, of course he is,” Stiles replies. “But he’s also a huge fucking embarrassment. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

Derek snorts again and reaches out to rest his hand on Stiles’ thigh. It’s more than a little distracting, but Stiles isn’t about to knock it away. It stays for the whole drive over to Derek’s place, though, and when he parks outside, Derek squeeze purposefully.

“Want to come inside?” Derek asks and Stiles really wasn’t planning on it. He was going to head back home and do some laundry, but the look on Derek’s face says he’d be stupid to turn him down.

And it’s true because fifteen minutes after he agrees to it, he finds himself face down on Derek’s bed with two of Derek’s fingers inside him. He wishes Derek wasn’t so big so he could actually fuck him, but fingers are the next best thing and he’ll take what he can get. He comes like it’s punched out of him anyway, and after he’s caught his breath again, he puts Derek on his back and blows him.

Stiles does text his dad to let him know not to expect him back, though he’s probably not surprised, and then he sets his phone on the nightstand and shifts closer to where Derek’s quietly reading one of the parenting books Stiles bought. Which reminds Stiles of the baby name discussion.

“What names did you think of?” he asks quietly and Derek grunts.

“What?”

“Earlier you said you’d thought of some names for the baby. What were they?”

Derek marks his page and closes the book.

“They were just a thought,” Derek says.

“Derek, you can name your kid whatever you want. I was just curious.”

Derek frowns and says, “You get a say in it too.”

Stiles blinks and says, “I do? Well how about you tell me what you thought of and I’ll just vote on those?”

Derek doesn’t seem convinced, but he nods and sets his book aside to grab his phone.

“Oh my god,” Stiles says, “you have an actual list. No, no, c’mon, don’t put your phone away. Tell me what you came up with. I’m not mocking you.”

Derek frowns at him, clearly knowing that Stiles is mocking him, but Stiles is only doing it in a gentle way, he swears. He presses a placating kiss to Derek’s shoulder to make up for it and Derek raises his phone again and swipes around to wherever his list is.

“Sophie,” Derek reads aloud. “Holly, or Zoe.”

“That’s it?” Stiles asks and Derek stares at him, unimpressed.

“Do you like them or not?”

Stiles gently rubs his hand over Derek’s stomach where he can feel the baby shifting aimlessly, as though them being active earlier upset her.

“Don’t you feel like you have to see her first? What if you decide to name her Sophie, but she totally comes out looking like a Zoe?”

Derek shrugs and says, “Then we change our decision to Zoe.”

“It’s that simple?” Stiles questions and Derek nods.

“That simple.”

Stiles takes a moment to think about the names, tracing idle patterns on Derek’s skin.

“I like Holly,” Stiles tells him after a minute or two. “But that doesn’t make it a final decision. Maybe we’ll think of more in the weeks we have left.”

Derek nods as though he agrees, but he has a soft smile on his face as though maybe his personal favorite was also Holly. Stiles can't believe what saps they've become already.

Stiles presses another kiss to his shoulder and then nudges Derek over onto his side so he can spoon him. He knows he’ll wake in the middle of the night overheating with Derek spooning him instead, but he doesn’t care. The baby—possibly Holly—kicks against his palm and Stiles tucks his nose against Derek’s shoulder.

“I’m glad you came over,” Stiles murmurs quietly and Derek shifts slightly to reach over and turn the side lamp off, before he settles again.

“I’m glad you came over too,” he says with a hint of innuendo to his voice and Stiles snorts.

“Yeah, I bet you are,” he mutters, but they both quieten and Stiles doesn’t even notice when he falls asleep.

*

Over dinner a few days later when Stiles is wearing one of Derek’s shirts and a pair of briefs and Derek is wearing nothing at all because he’s ridiculous, Derek nudges his food around his plate, suspiciously not hungry.

“What’s up?” Stiles asks casually because he made them lasagna with extra cheese, and Derek’s never turned it down before.

Derek’s quiet for another long moment before he sets his fork down and nudges away his plate.

“I told everyone,” he says and Stiles pauses.

“What?”

Derek meets his gaze and says, “I told everyone about the pregnancy. The rest of the pack.”

Stiles puts his own cutlery down and stares at him.

“When? I’ve been here all day.”

“I sent a text earlier.”

“You texted them about the most important thing in your life right now? You didn’t call and explain?”

“No?” Derek says questioningly and Stiles sighs quietly.

“What did they say?” he asks instead of tackling the mountain of an issue that is Derek’s inability to successfully communicate with people.

“I don’t know,” Derek says. “I haven’t checked my phone.”

“When did you send it?”

Derek shrugs and says, “Six hours ago?”

“Oh my god,” Stiles complains holding out his hand and wiggling his fingers. “Let me see your phone. You can’t just ignore the issue, Derek.”

Derek frowns as though that’s the last thing he wants to do.

Derek,” Stiles insists. “It’s not going to go away. Just look.”

Derek glares at him for a minute longer before finally pulling his phone out and turning it back on—because of course Derek went the full mile and turned it off to completely ignore everyone. It takes a little while to start up and for the messages to come through, but then Derek stoically begins scrolling through them.

Stiles can’t read anything from Derek’s expression, but he eventually sets the phone down at looks over at Stiles.

“And?” Stiles presses. “What did they say?”

Derek lets out a quiet breath.

“They were surprised.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Stiles says. “But they’re totally cool with it, right?”

When Derek nods, Stiles lets out a loud sigh of relief, though he knows he shouldn’t really be surprised. It’s not like the pack would abandon Derek, not even for accidentally getting himself knocked up beyond all reason and the laws of nature.

“See, I told you they would be fine with it,” Stiles tells him, but Derek does seem a little shellshocked, so maybe he should take it easy on him.

He reaches across the table and rests his hand on top of Derek’s own, and watches Derek slowly process the information. After a moment, Derek turns his hand palm-up to thread his fingers between Stiles’.

“Liam said we should have a pack dinner,” Derek tells him quietly. “To celebrate.”

“Sounds good,” Stiles says. “We could tell everyone to bring a dish and we wouldn’t have to do anything.”

Stiles is pretty sure Derek doesn’t actually hear what he says because he nods as though he agrees, instead of frowning in disapproval like he normally would.

“I’ll text Scott and set something up. Is there a time that works best for you?”

Derek shakes his head and says, “Anytime before my c-section, I guess.”

Stiles laughs and refrains from rolling his eyes. “Yeah, okay. We can manage that.”

Derek still looks uncertain when he glances at Stiles and Stiles squeezes his hand once before letting go.

“This is good, Derek. We’ll have the whole pack to help babysit. We won’t have to do a thing.”

Derek shoots him a look that makes Stiles laugh.

“No, but, for real. Think about how much better it’ll be to not have secrets between everyone. This is really good.”

Derek softens then and nods in agreement.

“Having the pack will help,” Derek says. “If she’s a wolf, her control will be better.”

“And if she’s not,” Stiles adds, “she’ll have plenty of aunts and uncles to spoil her.”

Derek snorts and seems to try to hide his smile. “She’s going to have that anyway.”

Stiles grins because it’s probably true.

“Yeah,” he agrees, watching Derek, who’s clearly lost in thought.

“C’mon,” he says eventually, tugging Derek back to the present. “That cheese isn’t going to eat itself.”

Stiles pointedly nudges Derek’s plate closer to him and Derek stares down at it before nodding and smiling gently, looking a lot less anxious than before.

When Derek picks up his fork and begins eating again, Stiles feels as though a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

*

Obviously, he calls Scott the following day when he’s back home, pretending that he hasn’t basically already moved in with Derek.

“You convinced him to tell everyone,” Scott says when he picks up, which isn’t exactly true.

“No, he did that himself. He just told me later.”

“It’s good,” Scott says, clearly grinning, which is infectious.

“Yeah, Stiles agrees. “You should find out what day works best for everyone. We could make burgers or something.”

“Don’t worry about food,” Scott tells him. “We’ll cover that. We could turn it into Derek’s baby shower.”

“No,” Stiles says quickly. “He told me before that he didn’t want one. Let’s just keep it normal.”

“Do you think he’d notice if I hid presents around the house?”

Stiles snorts. “Let’s not make him completely regret telling everyone.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Scott agrees. “I’ll text everyone later and let you know. It’ll probably be at the weekend.”

“That would work for us,” Stiles says and Scott falls quiet for a moment.

“Things are going well for you guys, huh?”

Stiles can’t help but grin.

“I went to Derek’s check-up and saw her the other day,” Stiles admits. “She’s totally real and she’s totally cute. I’ll show you the scan when you come around.”

“And I’ll see her in a month,” Scott points out and Stiles blows out a breath.

“God, I know, right. It’s totally crazy. I don’t think we’ve even bought diapers yet.”

“There’s still time for us to buy them for you guys instead,” Scott hints, which really does sound good, but he isn’t going to go against what Derek wants.

“Yeah, I know. You’ll be the first to hear if he changes his mind. But until then, he’s easily bribed with food, especially cheese. I don’t know how he doesn’t get heartburn every day.”

“Werewolf,” Scott points out, which is probably true.

“Maybe we should do cheeseburgers instead,” Stiles thinks aloud and Scott makes a noise of agreement.

“We’ll figure it out. Don’t even sweat it.”

The words are music to Stiles’ ears because one less thing to worry about sounds like his idea of a good time.

“Yeah,” he says. “Got it.”

*

Stiles is actually nervous before the pack comes around the following Sunday, which is totally ridiculous. But Derek seems to be in the same headspace, because he spends ten minutes fluffing and refluffing the throw pillows on the couch, and changes his shirt three times.

By the time the doorbell rings, Stiles is pretty sure he’s got wet stains under his arms, but Scott pulls him into a hug, crushing an armload of grocery bags between them and not seeming to care in the slightest. He’s followed by Kira, who gives Stiles her own brand of hug that’s much gentler, and then they both go to find Derek and it’s totally not a big deal.

Stiles is still feeling slightly shocked, standing in the front hallway when there’s a knock and he pulls the door open to find Mason and Liam.

“I didn't know if cheesecake counted as a cheese product, so I bought three different kinds,” Mason admits and Stiles can’t help but laugh.

“Better safe than sorry,” he agrees, knowing Scott must have told everyone about Derek’s cravings. Stiles lets them in and gestures for them to head through to the kitchen. “Go give it to him. Don’t be surprised if he cries.”

“Really?” Liam asks incredulously and Stiles levels him with a look.

“No, Liam,” he argues. “He’ll probably just hide it and eat it all when everyone’s gone.”

Liam looks faintly disappointed, but Mason grabs his arm and tugs him further into the house, which ends that discussion.

The next to arrive is Lydia, who’s carrying a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other.

She stares at him steadily before stepping forward and pulling him into a hug.

“I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “You know why I couldn’t tell you, right?”

Stiles squeezes her tightly and sighs quietly.

“Yeah, I get it. You did the right thing.”

“Good, I’m glad you think so,” she teases. “But I brought the wine in case you were still angry.”

He pulls out of the hug and takes the bottle from her with a snort.

“I’ll have it anyway. We’re just waiting on Malia,” Stiles tells her. “Everyone else is in the kitchen.”

She shoots him one last soft smile and then heads further into the house, leaving Stiles in the quiet to wait.

Malia arrives only a few minutes later, her expression tight.

“What the fuck?” she says after she quickly hugs Stiles in greeting, which he thinks is fair enough.

“Right!” he agrees. “Biggest plot twist of the year.”

“Where is he?” she asks, holding up a literal block of cheese. “I brought him a present. Scott said he’d like it.”

“That’s disgusting and he’s going to love it,” Stiles tells her. “Please don’t let him eat it all right now.”

“Isn’t that your job now?” she asks and Stiles regretfully follows her into the kitchen where everyone else is already mingling.

Scott’s unpacking his grocery bags, pulling out a lot of meat, like a disgusting amount. But Derek’s looking downright happy, puttering around the kitchen pulling out frying pans that Scott can use to grill everything up.

“Who wants drinks?” Stiles asks, but he’s quickly quietened by Lydia, who sits him down at the kitchen table with a large glass of wine, and then does his job for him.

Overall, it’s pretty great and Stiles has no complaints. Eventually, Derek gets shoved next to him at the table with a few pieces of cheese and some Ritz Crackers to snack on, and he doesn’t seem to want to complain either. He has the vague feeling that Derek regrets not telling the rest of the pack sooner, but there’s nothing anyone can do about that now, so Stiles squeezes his leg comfortingly, and works his way through his wine.

“We’re going to adopt a dog,” Kira tells them, which is actually the first bit of pack news that Stiles has heard in a long time.

He snorts and says, “You’re going to go home with like five of them.”

Scott grins as though that’s what he’s been hoping for all along.

“Please don’t give him ideas,” she says and Stiles gives Scott a not-so-subtle thumbs up to one side.

Kira bats it away in good humor and Stiles laughs.

“That’ll be great,” Derek says and Kira grins at him.

“We kind of already picked one out; you want to see?”

She lures Derek in with pictures on her phone and Stiles turns his attention to Scott who’s already starting to cook. He has a faraway expression and keeps glancing towards Derek. Stiles gets up to lean against the counter beside him.

“Everything okay?” he asks as casually as he can and Scott lets out a half-laugh and then shakes his head as though he’s been ridiculous.

“Yeah, everything’s fine. But I can hear the baby.”

“What?” Stiles asks, glancing over at Derek.

“I can hear the heartbeat and the sound of her moving around.”

“That’s really freaking weird,” Stiles tells him and Scott nods in agreement.

“He’s way bigger than I was expecting,” he admits and Stiles scoffs.

“He’s got a month left. He’s practically bursting at the seams. But, here, have a look.” He pulls out his wallet where he’s been keeping the ultrasound picture, and carefully passes it over.

“She looks just like you,” he jokes, which is completely unfair because she looks a little bit like a gremlin.

“Be glad you’re in charge of food, because otherwise I’d kick you out.”

Scott laughs and passes the picture back, but not before the others can crowd closer.

“Is that her?” Lydia asks with Malia peering over her shoulder.

Stiles nods and holds it up so they can see.

“Cute,” Lydia says at the same time that Malia asks, “Is she meant to look like that?”

Stiles laughs and puts the photo back in his wallet for safekeeping.

“You’ll meet her soon enough.”

“That’s crazy,” Scott says. “The time’s gone so quickly.”

Stiles supposes it’s kind of true, though he wasn’t there for most of it.

“Yeah,” he says, “but I think the first few months after she’s born are going to be the longest.”

“I can babysit,” Liam tells him. “I’ve got a lot of younger cousins. I can show you how to change a diaper.”

“I know how to change a diaper,” Stiles argues, but doesn’t point out that it’s because he’s looked up videos online because it's been so long since he last changed one for someone.

“Have you bought all her clothes yet?” Mason asks and Stiles shakes his head.

“I think Derek’s picked out a few things, but we still need a lot more. I think we’ll get some next week.”

“If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask,” Lydia tells him gently while the others start discussing the most ridiculous baby items to buy.

Stiles nods and says, “You’ll be the first person I text.”

“Where is she going to stay?” Mason asks, and Stiles knows he doesn’t mean anything by it, but he still bristles.

“We set up a nursery here. I’m not going to bring a baby into my dad’s house. Except, y’know, for babysitting purposes. We already talked it out.”

Except that’s not exactly true. They talked about it back when they were still skirting around issues, and Stiles doesn’t know how much has changed since then, but they should probably revisit the question.

When he glances up, Derek’s watching him quietly as though he already knows and Stiles has to change the conversation before he gets overwhelmed.

“But more importantly,” he says, “tell me about school.”

Liam and Mason both groan in annoyance, and Liam starts in on a rant about one of his professors being a huge dick. It’s a welcome reprieve.

*

Scott’s cheeseburgers are ridiculously good and Derek powers through three of them in the time it takes Stiles to get through one. Either Derek’s appetite is off the scale or it’s a testament to Scott’s grilling skills. It’s just lucky they made enough extras because Derek isn’t the only person to eat more than one. Stiles is used to werewolf appetites now, but it’s still impressive.

“Got plans for your birthday?” Stiles asks Malia, who shrugs nonchalantly.

“Not really. Might be out of town for work,” she says.

“Let us know if you’re here,” Kira tells her. “We’ll go out for drinks.”

“What if it’s the same day that Derek’s kid comes?” Liam points out, glancing between Derek and Stiles.

He catches Derek’s gaze, just to double check that it’s actually okay to admit, and Derek nods minutely.

“She’s coming on the 12th.”

“What if she wants to stay in there longer?” Liam reasons and Stiles frowns.

“Tough luck?” he says. “It’s not like she gets a choice.”

“What if she’s early?” Lydia asks and Stiles pauses and then turns towards Derek.

Derek shrugs, so at least they’re not the only ones who don’t know.

“You can ask at your next check-up,” Stiles points out and Derek nods.

“What’s your plan for when you come home with her?” Mason asks, and it’s a fair enough question, but Stiles still frowns.

“I don’t know,” Stiles says. “Rest? Try not to kill her. And us.”

“Who’s, uh, cutting you open?” Liam asks Derek, and Stiles wonders if he’ll actually answer. But he does.

“Nadine knows someone at the hospital,” he tells them quietly. “She’s been helping a lot.”

Scott’s eyebrows raise in surprise.

“The omega?” he asks, not rudely, just genuinely curious.

“She an obstetrician,” Derek tells him, which seems to surprise him further.

“Melissa is going to help too.”

“I didn’t think it would be so—legitimate,” Scott admits and Stiles gestures in agreement.

Right?” he says. “I was expecting shady, backdoor doctors.”

“There are other werewolves that have children and need c-sections,” Derek points out.

“Yeah, but we never hear about them,” Stiles points out and Derek stares blankly at him.

“So that means it never happens.”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles grumbles. “I see your point. But it’s still weird.”

Stiles had forgotten how fun it is to have the whole pack together, especially crowded around Derek’s kitchen table like some mismatched family. At least Stiles will be used to that before the baby is born.

They end up having dessert a little while later, and Stiles isn’t paying enough attention to confirm it, but he’s pretty sure Derek eats an entire cheesecake by himself. It’s gross and yet, so, so impressive.

It’s late by the time people start heading out, though Stiles thinks it’s mostly because Derek can’t seem to stop yawning, and he’s slumping further over the table as the night wears on. He looks downright exhausted. And Stiles is actually a little glad to give the final hug to Lydia and shut the door behind her.

He would be lost without the pack, but there’s only so much social time he can handle.

“Fuck,” he grunts, flopping back down into the chair beside Derek. “I’m tired.”

Derek grunts in agreement, but doesn’t lift his head from where he has it cushioned on his forearms.

“C’mon,” Stiles coaxes gently. “You’ll be more comfortable upstairs.”

He knows just how tired Derek is when he actually gets up and doesn’t even complain about the amount of dirty dishes stacked by the sink. Instead, he just makes his way slowly towards the stairs and Stiles watches to make sure he makes it to the top safely before he goes to lock up the house and turn off the lights.

By the time he gets upstairs, Derek’s brushed his teeth and is carefully undressing.

“I’m glad you told everyone,” Stiles tells him once they’re under the covers and the lights are out.

Their feet are tangled together and Stiles feels warm and tired and content.

“Me too,” Derek admits and his hand slides over to rest on Stiles’ chest.

It’s a comforting touch, and Stiles falls asleep to the feeling of Derek brushing a kiss to the side of his head.

*

Two weeks before Derek’s due date, Stiles finds him standing in the middle of the nursery looking lost. Stiles is midway through eating a Hot Pocket, trying not to spill it down his shirt.

“You alright?” he asks Derek around his mouthful and Derek turns to stare at him.

“We don’t have anything.”

“Uh,” Stiles says after swallowing. “Yeah, I thought you knew. I didn’t want to push.”

“We don’t have diapers,” Derek says. “We don’t have clothes.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, “but we can’t exactly walk into Babies R Us with you looking like that.”

Derek stares down at his stomach, which looks as though it’s about to rip straight through his shirt. He blinks and then glances back up at Stiles.

“Wait here,” he says as though Stiles is going to go anywhere else, and heads out of the room.

Stiles takes the time to stuff the rest of his lunch in his mouth and wash his hands in the small adjoining bathroom. When he comes out, wiping the wetness on his pants, Derek walks back in wearing an oversized hoodie that makes him look—for a lack of a better word—plump.

“Huh,” Stiles says. “That works.”

And it actually does. Apart from Derek’s telltale waddle and the way he keeps pressing his hands to the bump like it’s become a habit, he blends in pretty well at the store. Stiles pushes the cart, letting Derek pick things off the shelves to his heart’s content, trying not to comment too much because it’s not his money.

“What’s the difference?” Derek asks, holding up two packages of diapers and Stiles squints.

“Uh, pass?” he says. “Oh, wait, is it a size thing?”

Derek glances back down at them and then makes a noise of agreement.

“How do we know what size to buy and how many?” Stiles complains. “What if we buy a ton of newborn ones, but the kid ends up being more than ten pounds? Maybe we breed big babies, y’know?”

It’s probably the reason why Derek puts one of every size into the cart, and he does feel a little bad, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The clothing sizes are a little bit more forgiving, but Derek gets lured in by soft pastels and cute designs. Stiles pauses by a cheesy onesie that declares I ♥ Grandpa because he’s sure his dad would love it, but he only has ten dollars in his wallet and a withering bank account.

“You want it?” Derek asks, too observant for his own good.

“I mean, it’s not—” Stiles begins before Derek cuts him off.

“Yes or no, Stiles. The money isn’t an issue.”

Stiles still feels guilty despite Derek’s insistence and he hesitates, wanting to say yes, but not wanting to admit to it. Derek sighs at him and then grabs the onesie and puts it in the cart. Stiles’ stomach swoops in happiness and he stops Derek from walking away with a hand on his forearm. He tilts his face and Derek reads him like a book and meets him halfway for a kiss.

“Thank you,” Stiles tells him softly and Derek kisses him again briefly.

“If you see something you want, just put it in, Stiles.”

“It’s not that easy,” Stiles tells him and Derek sighs.

“We talked about this,” Derek says. “I don’t expect help with the expenses.”

“But it still sucks,” Stiles complains.

“Then set up a college fund for her once you get a job,” Derek suggests. “I’ll pay now and you can pay later.”

Stiles assesses him for a long moment and then lets out a quiet breath and nods.

“Yeah, okay,” he agrees, “but we’re not going crazy. We just need the basics, right?”

Derek shoots him a look as though he doesn’t agree, but isn’t going to say it aloud. Which is probably about right. Derek is going to spoil the shit out of the baby.

Which appears to be true when Derek loads up the cart with a high-end mobile for the crib that’s already in the nursery. He also throws in the most expensive car seat and a stroller that looks like it could offroad through the preserve—which is probably Derek’s intention. He’ll probably be out running with her in it as soon as he’s back on his feet.

Derek also adds in a walker that the baby won’t use for over a year, and he doesn’t meet Stiles’ eyes after, probably knowing that Stiles is judging him completely. Stiles spares him by not mentioning it and instead slips in a small, soft elephant and a ring of toys for the stroller. Small and practical. They’re a good match.

Stiles almost starts to sweat when they’re checking out. He shoots Derek a few nervous glances as the total keeps rising, but Derek just looks at him calmly.

“It’s fine,” he says and passes over his card to the cashier as though it’s not a big deal.

It’s takes some effort to even fit it in the back of Stiles’ Jeep and when they get back to Derek’s house, Stiles carefully unloads everything and sets it all in the nursery. Derek spends the evening taking the tags off the clothes and shoves everything into the washer, adding in some baby-safe detergent that Stiles had side-eyed.

“If she’s a werewolf, it won’t matter,” he points out and Derek glances up at him.

“If she’s not, it will.”

If she’s not, Stiles suspects Derek will either wrap her in bubble wrap to keep her protected, or cover everything in pillows.

When everything’s dry an hour or so later, and it’s folded and put away in the nursery, things finally feel complete. He stands beside Derek, staring at the stack of diapers and the new changing station loaded with baby powder and wipes and diaper rash creams and a handful of pacifiers and freaking hand sanitizer. It looks ready for a baby.

“This is crazy,” Stiles says quietly and Derek grunts. “Do you think we’ll be okay at this?”

“I think we’ll find out,” Derek replies, which is true and also terrifying.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Stiles says, and leans into Derek’s space.

Derek’s arm carefully loops around his waist and it’s quietly comforting and exactly what Stiles needs.

*

Stiles is at his dad’s house for once, enjoying a quiet evening of takeout and old Kung Fu movies on the TV when Derek texts.

Can you come over? it says and Stiles automatically imagines the worst.

“I gotta go,” he tells his dad, wiping his greasy hands off on the nearest napkin. “Derek needs me.”

“This isn’t going to work once the baby’s here,” his dad tells him after he grabs his shoes and sits on the couch to tie his laces.

“What?”

“You can’t keep going back and forth between houses once she’s here.”

“Why not?” Stiles asks with a frown, standing up to get his jacket, which is draped over the back of the armchair in the corner of the room.

“Do you know how exhausted you’re going to be?” Stiles stares at him and his dad adds, “It’s just something to think about.”

It’s a terrible thing to think about, and he can’t push it from his mind the entire drive over to Derek’s place.

“Everything okay?” he asks when Derek opens the door and Derek nods and lets him shut the door behind himself and follow him into the living room.

“I’m fine,” he says, not meeting Stiles’ gaze when he adds, “Didn’t want to be alone.”

Stiles doesn’t blame him. He wouldn’t want to be alone so close to popping either.

“I can just stay here until she’s born,” Stiles tells him and Derek glances over with an expression Stiles can’t quite read.

“You would?” Derek asks and Stiles laughs.

“I mean, I’ve been basically living here for the past couple of months.”

Derek goes quiet for a moment before saying, “You could.”

“Could what?”

“You could live here. It would be easier to take care of her together and you wouldn’t have as far to go.”

Logically, it makes sense, but it still shocks Stiles into silence.

“Really?” he asks softly. “Don’t you think that would be rushing things?”

Derek blinks at him and says, “We’re having a kid.”

Stiles blinks back, his face heating up because it’s really fucking true.

“That’s, uh, a fair point,” he replies.

“Is that a yes?” Derek asks and Stiles knows it’s a rash decision, but it also sounds so much easier.

“Yeah, I mean, if it doesn’t work out, I can just go home, right?”

Derek looks slightly disappointed, but he nods in agreement.

“Right,” he says and Stiles steps forward before he can move away.

He cups Derek’s jaw with one hand and leans in closer.

“That’s just a last resort, okay? I’m here and I’m yours until that happens, if that happens.”

He kisses Derek, keeping it soft and pressing against his front, and Derek curls his hands around Stiles hips. When he draws back, Derek pulls him closer, holding him and resting his chin on Stiles’ shoulder.

They breathe quietly together and Stiles can’t help but feel as though he’s made the right decision.

*

Three days before Derek’s due date, Derek doesn’t seem to stop pacing around the house. Stiles manages to put up with it for approximately three hours before it begins to grate on his nerves.

“What are you doing?” he eventually asks, cornering him in the kitchen on the pretense of grabbing a glass of milk.

“It hurts,” Derek says and Stiles frowns.

“What does?”

“The cramps.”

Stiles stares at him, unimpressed. “What cramps? Have you called Nadine?”

“No,” Derek grunts, which only pisses Stiles off more.

“Where’s your phone? I’ll call her myself.”

No,” Derek argues, hand protectively cupping his pocket where his phone obviously is.

Stiles glares at him, but knows there’s paperwork on the coffee table in the living room that will have her number on it.

“Fine,” he says, pretending to drop the issue. “Carry on pacing then.”

Derek turns away and leaves, a deep frown on his face, and Stiles hears his heavy footsteps on the stairs, signalling the all-clear. He heads into the living room, finds the number he needs, and carefully dials it.

It takes three rings for Nadine to answer.

“Hello?” she says, sounding hesitant.

“Hey Nadine, this is Stiles. I’ve been coming with Derek Hale to his appointments with you recently.”

He’s been five times now, so he’s hoping she remembers him.

“Oh, Stiles,” she says, the uncertainty in her voice disappearing. “Is everything okay?”

“Derek’s cramping; is that normal?”

“How much?”

“I don’t know, he won’t really talk to me. He’s been pacing around all day and he’s grumpy as hell.”

“That’s completely normal,” Nadine says gently, which calms Stiles a little. “Around the due date, the baby can grow restless. As there’s no way for Derek’s body to start the birthing process naturally, it could manifest in him as anxiety. Anger is a natural response to this. She’s just letting him know that’s she’s ready to come out.”

“Do we need to schedule the c-section sooner?” he asks, body flooding with panic again at the thought of it happening already.

“No,” Nadine says. “Unless he begins to feel her struggling, we should remain with the same date. Just keep an eye on him and give me a call if anything changes.”

*

On October twelfth, Derek’s due date, Stiles is goddamn ready for the baby to be born, if only for it to stop Derek from being so crabby all of the time. He’s been a downright pain in the ass, which he totally understands—Derek’s body is going through some pretty strange changes—but it’s still annoying as shit.

He drives to the hospital ten miles per hour under the speed limit because Derek won’t let him go any faster and starts asking if Stiles is trying to kill them in an accident if he does. Stiles’ nerves are frayed and he actually enjoys the five minutes peace and quiet he gets when he drops Derek off by the doors and goes to park the Jeep.

By the time he makes it inside, Derek’s already talking to Melissa and he’s filling in a few forms, because apparently werewolf surgery still requires insurance. Who knew?

“You ready for this?” Melissa asks Stiles privately and Stiles shrugs.

“Yes and no.”

She smiles softly, her eyes warm. “That’s exactly how I felt when I had Scott. I’m sure your dad did too. And you know you can call me for anything. You’re going to have a lot of questions and Google won’t be able to answer all of them.”

Stiles laughs and says, “Thanks, Melissa.”

“You two are going to do just fine,” she says, taking the completed paperwork back from Derek. “C’mon, let’s get you sorted.”

She leads them back, deeper into the hospital, to a wing that seems quieter than the others. The room she puts them in is just large enough not to feel cramped, and Derek heaves himself onto the bed.

“Nadine will be by in a few minutes. Dr. Xhang will be helping out today, but you’ll like her. She’s very good at what she does.”

Stiles nods and stands beside the bed, reflexively reaching for Derek’s hand. His palm is clammy and Stiles squeezes it comfortingly.

“I’ll let her know you’re here,” Melissa says, and then she’s gone and Stiles feels as though she’s taken all the oxygen with her.

“Fuck,” Stiles says. “I know this won’t help, but I feel like I’m going to hurl.”

Derek groans and rolls his head back into the pillows. Definitely didn’t help, then.

Stiles concentrates on breathing in the few minutes before Nadine and another woman—who must be Dr. Xhang—knock and enter, but then it only seems to get worse. Stiles has never been so nervous in his life, and he’s only a bystander. He has no idea what Derek must be going through.

“Hi, Derek,” Dr. Xhang says, reaching out to shake the hand that Stiles isn’t gripping tightly. She turns to Stiles and offers her hand again. “You must be Stiles.”

“Hi,” Stiles says weakly, just glad that he doesn’t immediately puke on her.

“This is a big day for you both, so I’m just going to walk you through the procedure and what you can expect. Did you fill out your waivers already?”

Derek nods and Dr. Xhang smiles warmly.

“This’ll be a little different from normal c-sections,” she tells them, which doesn’t help because Stiles doesn’t even know what a normal c-section is like. “I have to give you a small dose of wolfsbane to keep you from healing and fighting the anesthetic. We don’t want you to feel anything, but I promise it’s perfectly safe. It will wear off after a few hours without any side effects, and then you’ll heal and be back on your feet before you know it.”

“How is it perfectly safe?” Stiles can’t help but ask, because he didn’t know wolfsbane was going to be involved.

“I’ve had many werewolf patients,” Dr. Xhang explains patiently. “Not just for c-sections, but even things like benign tumor removals and cosmetic surgeries. I’ve never encountered any issues.”

“And the baby?” Derek asks, which is also a fair enough question.

“It’s only enough to affect you,” she answers. “The baby will be perfectly safe.”

“Even if she’s a werewolf too?”

“Even if that’s so,” Dr. Xhang says. “Did you have any more questions? I’m more than happy to answer them.”

Stiles looks at Derek, but Derek shakes his head and says, “No.”

“Great,” Dr. Xhang continues. “We’re scheduled in the OR in thirty minutes, so Nadine will prep you and I’ll see you in the theater. Don’t worry; you’re in capable hands here.”

She gently squeezes Derek’s ankle, but then she’s gone and they’re left alone with Nadine, who offers them a soft smile.

“Are you ready, Derek?”

Derek look at Stiles, which warms Stiles down to the toes, and then he nods.

“I think so,” he says.

“Well then, let’s get started.”

*

Not even Derek has enough skill to look attractive in a hospital gown, though Stiles is smart enough to know not to admit it aloud.

Nadine gets Derek settled on the bed, and fits him with an IV.

“You may start to feel a little strange,” she says as she administers a medication that must be the wolfsbane, and Stiles keeps ahold of his hand and carefully cards his fingers through Derek’s hair with the other one.

It seems to work in comforting him because after a few long minutes, Derek slumps further into the bed looking calmer. Which makes it even harder when Nadine then needs to reach Derek’s back to administer the actual anesthetic.

“This will numb you from here down,” Nadine tells him, pressing a hand to the space just below Derek’s ribs.

Derek nods and doesn’t even flinch when the needle goes in. Stiles starts to watch, but finds he can’t continue. It just looks downright painful. But it’s over before he knows it and then Derek gets to relax back into the bed again.

Next, she hands something to Derek for him to drink, which doesn’t look at all appetizing, but he swallows it down without complaint and then Nadine moves on to the catheter.

Stiles definitely doesn’t watch that part because it makes his dick hurt just thinking about it. But when it’s done, he knows Derek is completely ready for the surgery and Melissa returns to help wheel him down the hallway.

Derek gets taken into the OR first, while Stiles stays behind with Melissa and Nadine to scrub in. He can see Derek inside looking dazed, and all he wants is to be by his side.

“If you need to puke,” Melissa says, “there will be a bucket to the side. If you feel like you’re going to pass out. Let me know, okay? I know what you’re like with blood.”

It’s not a vote of confidence, but Stiles nods because he supposes that’s the least he can do for the person helping to deliver his child.

“Nice hat,” Stiles tells Derek when he’s finally by his side again in regards to the hair cap he’s been put in, and Derek blinks fuzzily at him. “I’ll remind you about it later when you’re back with us.”

He rests a hand on Derek’s arm and before he knows it, Dr. Xhang is at the other end of the table, beginning the surgery. Derek doesn’t even seem to notice, but Stiles definitely does, and he makes the mistake of looking over the curtain. He catches a glimpse of Derek’s insides and decides he’s made the worst decision of his life.

“Oh fuck,” he says to Derek. “I really shouldn’t have looked.”

“Doing okay, Stiles?” Nadine asks gently and Stiles nods.

“Shouldn’t you be asking Derek that?”

“He looks like he’s doing better than you,” she teases gently and Stiles can’t even argue because it’s true.

The worst part, he thinks, is the noise of them suctioning up blood and whatever other fluids are leaking from inside of Derek. But then he sees the instrument that's meant to keep Derek’s incision open and he thinks that might be the worst part. But then he sees the forceps that will pull their baby out, and he decides to just turn his back to the entire thing because otherwise he’s going to have nightmares.

“You’re going to feel a tug,” Dr. Xhang tells Derek, though he doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest.

There’s a wet noise that Stiles will remember for the rest of his life and then there’s even more movement from behind, and he can’t help but peeking.

There’s a baby in Nadine’s hands, looking tiny and vulnerable and covered in goop, and Stiles thinks that out of all the things, that might be the thing that makes him actually pass out.

He grips at Derek’s gown and can’t say a word.

Instead, he silently watches them clear his daughter’s airways and and then she draws in an unsteady breath and begins to scream and Stiles thinks, yeah, welcome to the world.

“Would you like to cut the umbilical cord?” Dr. Xhang asks, but Stiles has to shake his head because he’s in no state to help.

Her eyes crinkle like she’s offering him a knowing smile behind her face mask, and then he watches as she quickly and efficiently does it herself.

“Congratulations,” Melissa says, watching him fondly. “You’ve got a little girl.”

Stiles knows; he’s known for months now. But now she’s here and she’s his and she’s also Derek’s, and it’s really hard to breathe in the best of ways.

“We’re just going to take some measurements and get her cleaned up, and then she’ll be right back with you, okay?” Melissa explains and Stiles nods numbly.

He really doesn’t want to look away, but he needs Derek to know. He turns back to Derek and leans in closer.

“Derek,” he whispers. “We’ve got a baby girl and she’s really fucking adorable.”

Derek meets his gaze and through the haze, he smiles and nods as though he knows. Stiles leans down the rest of the way and buries his face against Derek’s chest, trying to steady his breathing while his eyes sting with unshed tears. He manages to keep them at bay, but only just.

“She’s doing really well,” Nadine says a few minutes later, and Stiles knows that's true because he can hear her screaming still, her own battle cry against the world.

“We’ll get you stitched back up now, Derek,” Dr. Xhang explains. “Then we’ll get you into the recovery room with your daughter.”

The repairs seem much less violent, but they do have to take out Derek’s temporary uterus, which makes a disgusting noise when they set it aside. But before he knows it, Dr. Xhang is making the last loop with the thread and she smiles over at Stiles.

“As good as new,” she says and steps aside to let Melissa bandage the wound and get Derek ready to leave the OR again.

When Stiles glances over at the clock above the door, he finds it’s been thirty minutes and it doesn’t make sense. Thirty minutes and his life has been completely turned upside down. The best thirty minutes of his life.

Beside him, Derek grunts.

“Is she okay?” he asks, already beginning to sound a little more lucid and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, she’s perfect,” Stiles tells him. “You hear those lungs?”

Derek nods and lets his head droop in the direction of the sound. Stiles strokes at Derek’s hair to help soothe him, and watches Nadine across the room measuring and weighing their baby.

“Are you too high to talk about names?” Stiles asks softly and Derek grunts again, which is fair enough.

“Thought we both liked Holly,” Derek sighs out, sounding exhausted and Stiles scratches gently at his scalp.

“We can talk about it again later,” he says. “Still need to fill out the birth certificate.”

He doesn’t know what Nadine is doing to help, but the crying is actually beginning to soften, and after a few more minutes, she moves back towards them, holding what looks like a tiny burrito, but is most likely their daughter. She looks at Stiles, but Stiles tilts his head towards Derek, silently encouraging her to give the baby to Derek first. He’s been waiting for this moment longer, after all.

“How are you feeling, Derek?” she asks. “Would you like to hold your daughter?”

When Stiles glances down at him, Derek is staring in awe at his kid, not seeming to be able to look away. Nadine smiles as though she understands exactly how Derek is feeling. Carefully, Nadine lowers the baby onto Derek’s chest and Derek tucks his arms around her, the action seeming instinctual.

Up close, their kid looks even more tiny and vulnerable, but she’s also ridiculously cute. She’s got a shock of dark hair like Derek and a tiny button nose that actually looks a lot like Stiles’ mom’s. But there’s no doubt that she’s Stiles’ kid with the same soft cupid’s bow as him.

He leans in, one hand on Derek’s shoulder as he traces her mouth with a gentle finger.

“That’s totally mine,” Stiles murmurs quietly and their baby isn’t really paying attention as she’s mostly napping, but she still mouths at his fingertip as though searching for a nipple. “Totally hungry like me, too.”

“We’ll get her a bottle once you’re back in recovery,” Nadine explains and Stiles moves on to tracing her ear instead.

“Is she a werewolf?” Stiles asks quietly and Derek shakes his head.

“Completely human,” Nadine tells him and Stiles knows that Derek is completely done for. He is going to be fiercely protective of her.

“She’s totally got your chin,” Stiles points out and Derek nods and tucks his nose against her head, breathing in steadily.

“Are you two ready to head into recovery?” Nadine asks gently. “She can stay with you the whole time, don’t worry.”

Stiles is pretty sure she’d need a crowbar to get her out of Derek’s arms anyway.

She starts to fuss as they’re wheeled out of the OR, but once they’re back in their own room and no longer moving, she settles again.

“Can I—?” Stiles begins because as much as he doesn’t want to separate her from Derek, he still really wants to hold his own kid.

Derek glances up at him and it seems to take him a moment to figure out what Stiles is asking for, but then he nods and moves to pass her over. She’s dead to the world, tiny mouth puckered in sleep, and she feels like nothing at all in Stiles’ arms.

“Can you believe this?” he asks Derek, whose eyes are beginning to look a little clearer as though the meds are wearing off.

“Holly,” Derek says and Stiles glances over.

“You sure?” he asks and Derek nods. He stares down at her, gently stroking a fingertip across her cheek. “She looks like a Holly. She looks like a Hale. Oh god, we can’t call her Holly Hale, Derek. That’s just cruel.”

Derek frowns and says, “I thought she’d be a Stilinski.”

“Holly Stilinski?” Stiles asks with a dry mouth.

“Holly Stilinski-Hale,” Derek corrects and Stiles doesn’t know what to do with that. “Unless you don’t want it.”

“No, I do want it,” Stiles says quickly. “She’s both of ours, right?”

Derek continues staring at Holly, his expression soft, and Stiles thinks he won’t ever stop.

“Hello, Holly,” Stiles says gently and she shifts in her sleep, but doesn’t wake. He glances up at Derek and says, “I really need to send a picture to my dad.”

Derek looks as though he’s not surprised, and he gestures at Stiles to pass Holly back. Stiles carefully sets her into the crook of his arm and pulls his phone out of his pocket. She stays still for the first few pictures, looking like a perfect sleeping baby, but then she stirs and Stiles gets a shot of her yawning and then one of her blinking awake.

She stares at him and Stiles wonders what she's thinking.

“Hi, Holly,” he repeats and she doesn’t seem too impressed, just blinks and then shuts her eyes again.

Stiles snorts quietly and glances up at Derek.

“You want me to send one to Cora?” he asks and Derek doesn’t even seem to think about it before he nods.

Say hello to Holly. 7lbs 3oz of the best baby ever he texts his dad and Cora, attaching the picture of Holly looking borderline awake. He’ll send it to the pack later to give his dad and Cora time to respond first.

Then he puts his phone away just in time to see Holly begin to stir again. She doesn’t look happy.

“Uh oh,” Stiles says, just before she breaks out into a whimpering cry, sounding the same as Stiles does when he drags his way into the kitchen, looking for food. “I think someone’s hungry.”

He gestures for Derek to try to keep Holly calm while he heads for the door, needing to find Melissa or Nadine for the promised bottle of formula. He gets slightly lost in the process, but when he finds Nadine, she’s already carrying a bottle and she looks pleased to see him.

“I was just bringing this around to you,” she tells him and Stiles smiles crookedly.

“She decided she needed faster room service,” he explains. “She started crying a little while ago.”

She’s thankfully able to lead Stiles back to Derek’s room, where Holly is still crying and sounding sadly pitiful.

“You okay?” Stiles asks because Derek does look a little frazzled, but Derek nods.

Nadine shows them the correct way to feed her, which is a little more frustrating than it looks in all the books Stiles has read, though mostly because it takes a while for Holly to finally latch onto the nipple. But Derek makes a happy noise when she finally starts drinking.

“Smartest baby around,” Stiles murmurs, leaning in close to watch her eat and Derek shoots him a glance. “Okay, I might be a little bias.”

“She’s strong,” Derek says, as though he didn’t expect that from a human baby and Stiles smiles.

“She’s got your appetite,” Stiles says. “Probably mine too. Worst traits she could have inherited from us.”

“It could be worse,” Derek says, “we might find out she’s inherited your sense of humor.”

Stiles stares at Derek, who doesn’t even crack a smile at the joke.

“Someone’s feeling better,” he says and Derek glances at Nadine.

“I can feel my legs again.”

Nadine nods and quickly checks Derek’s vitals.

“That’s good,” she tells him. “This is usually around the time that people start feeling better. I’ll check your incision once she’s finished eating. We can fill out her birth certificate in the meantime.”

Stiles helps her with the paperwork, double checking the information with Derek, just to be sure, but mostly to make Derek feel included in the process.

Nadine takes the papers out, probably to get them filed, and when she gets back, Holly has finished her bottle and is ready to be burped. Stiles is put in charge of that with Derek still in bed, and Stiles is kind of terrified. But Nadine shows him how to hold her and puts a cloth on his shoulder to keep her from barfing on him. Holly lets out a truly disgusting noise that startles a laugh out of Stiles and makes Derek smile.

“She’s yours,” Derek jokes and Stiles grins and soothingly rubs at Holly’s back.

She lets out a few more bubbly noises and then falls worryingly quiet. But when Stiles moves her back into the crook of his arm, he finds she’s just fallen asleep again with milk on her chin, which he wipes off with the soiled rag from his shoulder.

“That was easier than I thought,” Stiles says and Nadine shoots him a good-humored look.

“Just wait until the colic and the tantrums start.”

“Oh god,” Stiles mutters and Nadine offers a laugh in return.

“Let’s see how you’re doing, Derek,” she says and Derek nods.

She folds down the blankets and lifts his hospital gown to get to his bandage, which has a stain of old blood on it. Underneath, Derek’s skin has almost healed completely, but it’s not as quick as it would have been if Derek hadn’t been injected with wolfsbane.

“Impressive,” Stiles comments and Nadine nods.

“We’d like you to stay for the next twenty-four hours, just so we can keep an eye on you and make sure there aren’t any complications. We don’t expect anything to change, but it’ll give you a little while to get used to life with a baby.”

“That sounds great,” Stiles says, mostly thinking about how he can call Melissa in whenever they need a question answered.

Derek doesn’t seem as thrilled. Nadine pulls his gown back down and smooths the blankets over his lap.

“Don’t worry,” she says gently. “You’ll be home with your pack before you know it. She’ll be fine, Derek.”

Derek nods, but doesn’t seem completely convinced, so Stiles presses Holly back into his arms to calm him. It seems to work.

“I’ll leave you guys to settle again, but I’ll be back to check in throughout the day,” Nadine says. “Let me know if you need anything.”

Stiles nods, but Derek seems too caught up in watching Holly sleep.

“Thanks, Nadine,” he says before she leaves. “For everything.”

She smiles softly and nods, and then leaves them alone, the room suddenly seeming strangely silent around them.

“This is weird, right?” Stiles says. “They just expect us to be good at this stuff? I feel like there should have been a test or something.”

“We’ll be fine,” Derek says calmly, still staring down at Holly. “She’s been good.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees with a smile. “The best.”

What he didn’t expect, was how easy it would be to fall in love with her. He thought he’d have to learn her personality or care for her constantly for a few weeks, but that’s not true at all. He loves every part of her already and he’s sure he’d do anything to keep her safe and happy.

When he glances down at Derek holding her, he knows she’s not be the only one he loves and wants to keep safe and happy.

*

Stiles’ first attempt at a diaper change is embarrassing. Melissa only laughs a little—okay, a lot—but she also helps him get it right and he’s better at it the next time, and even better the time after that, and then Stiles really begins to wonder how much poop can come out of a seven pound baby. It’s never ending.

Derek talks to Cora just after lunch, and by then Derek has full feeling back in his body and his incision is completely gone. Stiles spends the time sitting in the armchair in the room, quietly talking to Holly after she’s finished feeding for a second time and she stares at him with an expression so close to suspicion, he takes a picture and sends it to his dad.

He texts a slew of pictures to the pack when Derek takes a nap in the afternoon. He gets a mix of emojis and all-caps texts in response. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't pleased that they unanimously decide they have the cutest kid. Not that anyone else has a kid, but that's not the point.

His dad stops by to see Holly in the evening. Stiles is certain he would have come by sooner, but Stiles had asked for a few hours alone with Holly and Derek, and he’d respected that. To be honest, he’s probably been sitting in his car in the hospital parking lot waiting.

He’s hit with a sudden swell of pride when his dad first sees Holly, and he passes her over and immediately snaps a picture. It’ll be one for his dad’s fridge.

“She’s pretty awesome, huh?” he says and his dad smiles indulgently.

“Yeah, Stiles,” he says. “She’s pretty darn cute.”

She’s sleeping, which is already Stiles’ favorite thing, because when she’s upset, she wails like a banshee and Stiles really isn’t a fan of it. But she smacks her lips quietly while his dad murmurs softly to her and she’s a perfect baby for almost twenty minutes before she poops again and wakes herself up.

“I think we underestimated the amount of diapers we’d need,” Stiles tells Derek once Holly is clean again, but she’s still fussy and doesn’t stop wriggling in her burrito of blankets until he passes her over to Derek again.

He doesn’t know if it’s a werewolf thing or just because she’s spent the past ten months growing inside of Derek. But there’s a definite bond, and Stiles is going to exploit the shit out of it to keep her happy.

“I can stop at the store for diapers and drop them by the house,” his dad offers, but Stiles is pretty sure they have enough to get them through the week.

“I think we’re okay,” Stiles says, “but I will definitely take you up on that offer later.”

His dad nods and Stiles finds himself being pulled into a hug.

“She’s a great kid, Stiles,” his dad murmurs. “Your mom would have loved to meet her and Derek.”

The words hit Stiles solidly in the chest and he stares over his dad’s shoulder at where Derek and Holly are tucked together.

“Yeah,” he agrees, meeting Derek’s gaze and holding it steadily. “She would have.”

*

The most terrifying part of everything is getting to go home the next day.

Derek gets cleared for release after Nadine carefully feels Derek’s abdomen for anything unusual, but things are apparently looking good, because she smiles at him and lets him pull his shirt back on.

“Everything feels normal,” she tells him. “I suspect you’ll cramp lightly for a few days while everything inside settles back into place, but call if anything seems strange or particularly painful.”

Derek nods and then, surprisingly, pulls Nadine into a hug.

“Thank you,” he tells her quietly, and Stiles is sure Derek could say a million things about the ways Nadine has helped and kept him sane over the months, but instead he just rubs her back and then pulls back.

Nadine smiles at him, her eyes soft.

“I’m glad things worked out for you, Derek.”

She squeezes Derek’s upper arm with one hand and then steps away.

“Take care,” she tells Stiles. “Feel free to call with any questions.”

Stiles nods and then picks up the carrier they’d brought with them to take Holly home in. She’s sleeping soundly in it and doesn’t seem at all fussed about the sudden movement. He stares down at her for a long moment and then glances over at Derek.

“You ready?” he asks and Derek actually offers a tiny smile and nods.

“Let’s get her home,” he suggests, and Stiles is totally onboard with that idea.

“Yeah,” he agrees with a mirroring grin. “Okay.”

*

There’s a vase of flowers on the doorstep when they get back home and Derek scoops them up as Stiles carries Holly in. The drive home had been nerve wracking and he’d constantly checked the rearview mirror to make sure Holly was still sleeping soundly. But she hadn’t stirred and Stiles had been the most vigilant driver ever.

“‘From the pack,’” Derek reads aloud from the card tucked into the flowers and Stiles glances over.

There’s even a sprig of holly at the front of the bouquet.

“That’s disgustingly cute,” Stiles says. “I’ll text Kira later, because that was definitely her idea.”

Derek makes a noise of agreement and sets the vase down on the kitchen counter. Stiles stands in the doorway, feeling lost with Holly’s carrier in one hand.

“Do we just put her in her crib?” Stiles asks. “Or do we keep her downstairs in this? What if she needs something? Do you think we’ll hear her?”

“Stiles, I’ll hear her,” Derek points out and Stiles feels like an idiot. He doesn’t think he can get away with blaming it on baby brain when it wasn't even him that had her.

“Right,” he says and Derek moves closer, briefly running his fingertips along Stiles’ jaw and distracting him enough that he lets go of the carrier without argument when Derek takes it in his own hand.

“Everything is fine, Stiles,” Derek tells him and it’s true, but Stiles has quietly slipped into panic mode and he thinks he’ll be stuck there for the next few years. He’s sure there’s no part of raising a child that isn’t stressful.

He follows Derek upstairs and watches him carefully unclip Holly from her carrier and set her down gently in the crib. She continues sleeping, even as her arms wave before settling back by her side and Stiles stares down at her.

“She’s so small,” Stiles says, tickling one of her tiny palms with his index finger. She fusses, which stops Stiles immediately, but then she settles and continues her quick baby breaths as she sleeps.

He almost startles when an arm loops around his waist, but it’s just Derek moving in and pulling him closer. He turns into him, resting his chin on Derek’s shoulder while Derek rubs soothingly at his back.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Derek says quietly. “When I found out about Holly, I never thought I’d have someone by my side for any of it.”

Stiles freezes and then pulls back to meet Derek’s gaze. He watches him for a long moment and then kisses him softly.

“I don’t think I could be anywhere else now,” Stiles tells him and Derek cups his face. “I’m glad I’m here too.”

Finding out about Holly seems so long ago now and he can’t believe how far they’ve come. But he doesn’t think he’d change a second it. He thinks he was always meant to end up in their mess of a situation, and he was always meant to stay with Derek through everything.

“Thank you for coming back,” Stiles quietly murmurs and Derek stares at him with an open expression.

They’ve made their mistakes, but now they’ve got Holly to lead them in the right direction, and she’s done a pretty good job of that already.

Derek leans in and kisses him sweetly, and with Holly sleeping quietly behind him, Stiles knows he’s exactly where he should be.

***

“You’re going to be late!” Derek calls from downstairs and Stiles heaves out a sigh and stares wide-eyed at Holly.

“We shouldn’t be late, should we?” he says. “Do you know where your coat is?”

Holly’s only got one shoe on, but she nods and darts out of Stiles’ reach, grabbing her jacket from her desk chair and holding it up for Stiles to see.

“Okay, put it on and your other shoe, and then we’ll go see Papa.”

Thanks to the beauty of velcro, Holly easily fastens her other shoe, tugs on her coat, and then holds out her arms, silently asking for Stiles to pick her up. He does exactly that, settling her on his hip as he grabs her tiny backpack from where it’s hooked over the corner post of her bed, and heads out into the hallway.

“Two minutes!” Derek yells and Stiles huffs, halfway down the stairs.

“We’re coming,” he calls back and Derek meets him at the bottom, holding up Stiles’ own coat, along with a paper bag of lunch.

“Ms. Perez won’t be happy if she’s late again,” Derek says and Stiles sighs.

“It’s preschool, Derek. It’ll be fine,” he explains before adding, “Kiss.”

Holly immediately puckers up at the command, anticipating a kiss from Derek, which he gives her, before staring begrudgingly at Stiles.

“Kiss,” Stiles repeats, and as annoyed as Derek looks, he doesn’t even hesitate before kissing Stiles.

“Are you going to be late tonight?” Derek asks and Stiles pulls a face.

“Steve wants to run through a new branding project, so I could be. I’ll text you later.”

Derek nods and pulls open the front door for them.

It’s cool outside and there was probably a frost earlier, but Holly tucks up closer to him and doesn’t even seem to notice.

“Love you, Papa,” he encourages and Holly perks up enough to glance back at where Derek’s standing in the doorway.

“Love you, Papa,” she parrots, and Derek waves them off, the wedding band on his finger glinting in the morning sun.

“See you tonight,” Derek tells them both and Stiles smiles.

They seem to have the same routine every morning, never quite quick enough to be on time, but Stiles enjoys every second of it, even Derek’s grouchiness.

“Don’t have too much fun without us,” Stiles calls back and Holly laughs and waves at Derek.

“I won’t,” he drawls, even as he waves back to Holly, pretending as though he isn’t the softest person in the world now.

Stiles huffs a laugh and watches Derek shut the door, and he thinks that he couldn’t ask for a better life.

He adjusts his grip on Holly and heads for the Jeep.

end