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"Mister Stilinski."

Deaton didn't look up from his sketchbook, and the line of his back was still as relaxed is it ever was, no sign of tension in his shoulders. Still, Stiles hesitated just inside the doorway, feeling a bit like an unwelcome guest in the same tattoo parlor where he'd been an apprentice for nearly a year. There wasn't any overt sign that he wasn't welcome — well, no more overt than the neatly closed and latched case his tattoo kit had obviously been packed into, sitting out on the front counter instead of in its usual place in Stiles' work area in the back. Just stepping over the threshold and into the shop sent a little shiver up Stiles' spine, like he was walking onto a bed of hot coals, anticipation of pain almost as bad as the pain itself.

"Deaton," Stiles responded. He tried to force some of the tension from his own back; it didn't work. "I guess you already know, then. There goes my dramatic confession."

Deaton hummed a noise that wasn't a yes or a no. "You'll find there isn't much that escapes my notice, around here," he said. "Sit down, Mister Stilinski."

Stiles did as he was ordered, pulling up the stool that had been left out of place — for his benefit, obviously — on the customer side of the front counter. The message that Stiles was no longer allowed into the parlor's employee areas was implicit. Deaton capped his pen, set it down carefully on top of his sketchbook and slid them both aside, fixing his eyes on Stiles' and just looking, as even and calm as he always was. He didn't even have to say anything; the line of his mouth was eloquent enough.

"I'm sorry," Stiles said. He didn't want to look at Deaton, didn't feel like he could possibly meet the man's eyes, but he did it anyway. He owed Deaton that much. "I didn't want to disappoint you."

Deaton shrugged, enigmatically. Everything he did, he did enigmatically; it sometimes occurred to Stiles that he didn't really know the guy at all. "I'm disappointed to lose you," Deaton said. "But I'm not disappointed in you, Stiles. You made a choice and you followed through with it. For better or worse. I think you knew what you were sacrificing. Everything you were sacrificing."

Stiles dragged a hand over his face and propped his elbows up on the counter. "Yeah, I knew." He looked at the pink scar tissue on his forearm and resisted the urge to run his thumb along the strange seam of it. "I don't get how you can just exist in the middle of all this and not choose sides."

"I suppose I did choose a side, in the end," Deaton said. "I chose not to have a side. But I very nearly walked the same road that you're walking now. It's certainly the one less traveled by. Some might say you took the path that dead-ends in gunshot wounds and mauling, but it was still your choice to make."

"You think it's going to get me killed," Stiles said, trying not to sound morose.

"I think a great many people have died for love, while others have overcome tremendous obstacles to live for it. Your story's not written, but you and I have reached the chapter where we part ways, for now."

Stiles sighed, and wrapped his hand around the bareness of his own arm, where his fox tattoo used to lie. "You practice this at home, don't you? The crypticness. No way you're this good without a dedicated exercise regimen."

Deaton leveled him with a do-not-bullshit-me look, but he still said. "Two hours every night in front of the mirror. Now, I've spoken to Niranjana, at The Elder Tree. She's in need of a helper in the store, and she's also willing to aid you in developing your talents in the new direction you've chosen."

"The Elder Tree?" Stiles scrunched up his face, unsure if Deaton was joking. "You mean the New Age magic shop on Center Street? Holy shit, the magic shop is run by an actual witch?"

"Practitioner," Deaton corrected, mildly. "You'll find her style a good match for your natural aptitude. She's already aware of your pack affiliation."

"Whoa, slow down, pack affiliation?" Stiles repeated, with a scoff. "Laura doesn't even like me, I'm not sure I have a 'pack affiliation.'"

Deaton's mouth turned up at the corner, but it was more smirk than smile. "Laura Hale is a very young Alpha, and needs all the help she can get, whether she's prepared to admit it or not. And if you're going to be running with wolves, you're going to need some help yourself."

He reached for his sketchbook again, turning the leaf over to expose a fresh, blank page. He didn't pull the book to himself, though; he pushed it across the counter instead, in front of Stiles, and placed the black art pen deliberately on top. Stiles reached for it automatically, uncapped the pen and then stared down at the page, hesitating, uncertain.

Deaton stood and said, "I'll go and get set up." His broad hand came down on Stiles' shoulder and squeezed, once, then he stood and disappeared into one of the private rooms in the back.

Stiles stared down at the unforgiving expanse of white, and then he remade it with his first careful line.


The first thing Stiles heard when he stepped out of the Jeep was the sound of raised, snarling voices, plainly audible even to human ears. He hit the ground running, left the driver's door hanging open behind him, sprinted the short distance to the front porch, and vaulted right over the steps. He was on the porch when he heard a splintering snap like bones breaking, and he was halfway through the door when he heard a voice — Derek's voice — make the kind of sound that only a wounded animal could make.

He was expecting to find blood, when he burst into the kitchen, but there was only Derek and Laura, whole and unhurt, huddled together on the floor amid the clawed and broken remains of a dining room chair. Derek had his arms wrapped around Laura's middle like he expected to be dragged away from her at any moment, and he was crying, huge heaving sobs that seemed to be wrung by force from every tensed muscle in his body. Laura was crouched over him, not quite able to sink all the way to the floor with the grip that Derek had on her, but she was clutching his skull with white-knuckled hands and the whole shaped of her was arced over him, as if to shield him from the world.

Stiles stopped in the kitchen doorway, his fingers curled tight around the door frame, holding himself back where he wanted to rush in, uncertain whether he was welcome or needed. Derek didn't even seem to have noticed he was there, which was unusual for a guy who could normally hear his heartbeat from twenty paces, but obviously he had more important things on his mind.

Laura said, "God, you're so— I thought you didn't want to talk about it, I was trying not to push you. I had no idea you were trying to carry this all on your own, Derek, I swear. You're never going to be alone, not ever, do you hear me?" She sounded nearly as destroyed as Derek did, her voice deep and rough, her face streaked with tears she wasn't bothering to try to hold back.

Derek didn't seem to be able to reply, even if he'd had something to say. He made a desolate noise against Laura's stomach and his hands scrambled at her back, searching for a way to hold her tighter.

Stiles took a half-step back, ready to turn and leave again, to give them time. Laura looked up, though, pinned him with her eyes, and her expression was so openly anguished and bewildered that Stiles froze in his tracks, waiting for some kind of direction. She gave it at once, her hands sliding down to Derek's shoulders, her head tilting minutely in a gesture that Stiles took as an invitation.

He wasn't careful, and he didn't touch like Derek was fragile; he pressed himself against Derek's back like he could keep Derek together that way, wrapped both his arms tight around Derek's ribs and held fast, squeezed as hard as he was able.

Derek shifted one of his own hands to Stiles' thigh, which gave Laura enough wiggle room to drop to the floor with them, one arm curled around the back of Derek's neck, the other one sliding around Stiles' nape as if she could pull him in tighter. It wasn't actually possible, because there was no air between his body and Derek's to begin with, but it felt good to be anchored that way, to be held to both of them, his face pressed to the flat of Derek's shoulder blade and Laura's chin hooked over the same shoulder, her mouth pressed against the crown of Stiles' head, her breaths ruffling his hair.

They probably made a bizarre tableau, but there was no one around to see them anyway, and Stiles was more than willing to humiliate himself daily if it would help Derek draw in deep breaths the way he was doing now, if it would help to stop the pained sounds he'd been making. Stiles was willing to give anything at all to erase the careful distance that Derek always kept, even from him.

They stayed that way for awhile, wrapped around each other, Derek and Laura crying on each other, Stiles sweeping his hands in slow, gentle strokes up and down Derek's stomach.

"I wish Dad was here," Laura finally said, her mouth against Derek's cheek. "He always knew the right thing to say, the right thing to do. Remember the time that dog bit you and—"

"If you love me, you won't tell that story in front of my boyfriend," Derek interrupted. His voice was raw and wet but he still sounded better, somehow.

"I will pay you actual cash money to tell me that story," Stiles countered, and pressed a kiss to the back of Derek's neck. Derek shuddered out a sigh, almost against his will.

Laura said, "It was a Pomeranian." Her voice was mournful, like she was epically, intensely sad that Stiles hadn't been there to share in the hilarity at Derek's expense. It kind of made Stiles sad, too, to think about all the days he'd passed without having Derek around. He didn't want there to be any more like that.

Derek had apparently had enough togetherness when it came to his sister, though, because he slapped a hand over her mouth to keep her from saying any more, and then he slowly removed his other hand from her back, letting her ease away.

"I'm going to spend the night at Stiles'," he said, but there was a rise in his voice at the end like it was very nearly a question.

"Okay, thanks for letting me know," Laura said, a little too formal and stilted, like she was trying on a new personality that didn't quite fit yet. "I need you here tomorrow, though, after work. We need to work on a training plan for Erica and Boyd."

"No problem," Derek said. He got to his feet mostly on his own, but once he was up he swayed a little, like he'd spent all of his energy reserves on whatever it was that Stiles had just walked in on.

That was alright, because Stiles was there to prop him up. He pressed in against Derek's side and wrapped an arm around his waist, which was a natural enough gesture since he was already feeling possessive as hell. He wanted to take Derek home and make stupidly tender sweet love to him while the greatest soft rock hits of the '80s played in the background.

Because he truly had no shame, he told Derek as much while they were walking out to the Jeep.

Derek laughed against his throat, paused long enough to press Stiles up against the Jeep and kissed him, slow and lingering. Derek's face was still tacky with tears, and Stiles did his best to wipe them away with his thumbs, cradling Derek's unfairly attractive jawline in his hands.

"You weren't even alive in the eighties," Derek said, against Stiles' mouth.

"REO Speedwagon is timeless," Stiles countered. "Derek, I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me."

"I'm pretty sure that's Foreigner."

"Don't ruin the moment," Stiles said, and nipped at Derek's lip in rebuke before giving him a gentle push, trying to get him to walk around and climb into the car.

"But I can't fight this feeling anymore," Derek said, straight-faced and dry. "I've forgotten what I started fighting for."

"I've forgotten what I started dating you for," Stiles grumbled, but Derek only snorted as he opened the passenger-side door and ducked into his usual, rightful place, where Stiles could pretend it was an accident that his hand brushed Derek's thigh every time he reached for the gear shift.

"How did things go with Deaton?" Derek asked, quietly, once they were rolling down the graveled drive back toward the state highway. He obviously didn't feel like talking much, was prompting Stiles to carry the weight of the conversation, but that was okay; Stiles was pretty good at filling silences.

"Well, I kind of got fired," he said, and then pushed on over Derek's outraged sound with the rest. "But he'd already lined up another gig for me, so I was only unemployed for like five minutes. How often does that happen? When I got fired from my first summer job it was implied that if I ever came back they'd be filing a restraining order, which is really unfair because what happened to that hot dog suit was obviously an accident. Anyway, my new boss is great; I went over to meet her when I was done at Deaton's. She's got this whole other style of magic, it's pretty crazy, I can't wait to learn it. Oh, and she said she could help me with pack lore sort of stuff. She said she used to date a werewolf, back in the sixties. I got the feeling that was the least of the shit she did in the sixties."

Derek was turned toward the window, but there was a smile curling the corner of his lips, so Stiles called it a win. "Did you start working there today already? You were gone a long time."

"No, I mean yeah, I was gone a long time, but I was at Deaton's for most of that. He was helping me out with something."

"Your new tattoo," Derek supplied, and reached out his hand to skate his fingers over the place where the new ink was, same as where the old ink had been. The bandage crinkled under his fingers.

"You can smell that?"

Derek nodded, then looked back out the window again. "Smells like your blood." He didn't have to actually say how unhappy he was to be familiar with the aroma.

Stiles bit his lip and didn't say anything while he made the last turn onto his own street. When the Jeep was parked he finally said, "You and Laura worked things out?"

Derek shrugged, said, "I don't want to talk about it right now," and started to get out of the car. Then he paused, looked back at Stiles and added, "Later?"

Stiles nodded his agreement, climbed out himself and then pulled his tattoo case from the back, too. Derek bumped shoulders with him as they walked toward the building's entrance, and when Stiles impulsively twined their fingers together, Derek didn't pull away.

Everything in Stiles' loft was just as he'd left it, although it had been days since he'd been home and the landscape of his life had shifted considerably in the time between. It was nice to have this one thing that was the same, even if it was something as insignificant as the rumpled sheets of his unmade bed, the dirty dishes in the sink, and the paint-streaked mess of a canvas left unfinished.

"Can I see it?" Derek asked, when Stiles lifted his case onto the little dining table and a flash of white bandage showed under the pushed-up sleeve of his shirt.

Stiles nodded, stripped the shirt off entirely to get it out of his way — he never seemed to stay clothed for long when he was here with Derek, anyway. He pulled the bandage off, too, and the flesh beneath was still humming with the memory of pain and the infusion of magic.

Derek's breath rushed out of him all at once, like he'd been punched, even as his fingers skated feather-light over the fresh lines. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times, but he didn't say anything.

"It's a red wolf," Stiles said, a little uneasy in the silence, wondering if he'd taken this whole thing a step too far, if he'd already committed some kind of breach of pack etiquette. Or maybe it was a relationship thing. There was a lot of fertile ground in every aspect of their lives for Stiles to make a massive, horrible mistake. "It didn't feel right to do another fox, because it wouldn't be the same. So I thought maybe a wolf, for the pack. I mean, I want to be a part of the pack. If it's okay for me to be a part of it. And even if it's not, that's alright, as long as I get to be a part of us."

He waited, while Derek traced the shape of it, the way it curled around his arm just like the last one had. It was colored in the same rusty orange, too, and a darker brown tint, because it turned out red wolves weren't really very red. Its eyes were mostly closed, lazy-looking, but Stiles could feel the distant glimmer of its being, growing stronger.

"Derek, say something," Stiles finally prompted, feeling stupid and desperate, feeling horribly in love just looking at the way Derek's eyelashes brushed against his cheeks.

"I want you to do mine," Derek finally said, and stripped his own shirt off, sitting down at the table, laying his arm out palm-up along the tabletop.

The magic-marker wolf was still there, faintly, not yet entirely worn away from Derek's skin, its outline in pieces like a broken relic, but still recognizable as the twin for the one looped around Stiles' arm. It was hard to believe Stiles had only drawn it there a few days ago.

He leaned in to kiss Derek's mouth, and he meant it to be a short, reassuring gesture before he turned to his tools, but instead it went on and on, Derek's free hand spread against Stiles' ribs while the other one stayed pinned to the table like a promise. When Stiles finally drew back, there wasn't really anything left to say. He flipped open the catches on his equipment case, and hoped that giving Derek all the other things he might ask for over the course of the years would be this easy.


Stiles was halfway through the color work when Derek started touching him.

Stiles didn't warn him away after the first stroke of fingers across the slope of his shoulders, so Derek seemed to take it as free license to touch more. His hand curled around the back of Stiles' neck, ruffled the hair there, circled the knob of bone at the top of the spine.

"You should be careful," Stiles told him, mildly, and didn't look up. "I could fuck this up, and then you'd have to tell people that your tattoo looks awful because you were sexually harassing your artist at the time."

Derek didn't sound concerned when he said, "Then I'd point out who my tattoo artist was and they'd completely understand." He leaned in close enough to nibble on the tip of Stiles' ear, then drew back again, muttering apologies, when he realized he'd blocked out the light from the overhead fixture.

"It's fine," Stiles muttered, because it was. He paused long enough to press a kiss of his own against Derek's exposed wrist. "I swear I didn't give you the aphrodisiac juice this time — not that it wasn't completely enjoyable last time. Deaton helped me perfect the formula, it shouldn't be making you horny."

"No, that's all you, always was," Derek said, and when Stiles looked at him he knew the smile he saw was wider than the one actually on Derek's face.

Everything was a little different than it appeared, when Stiles was working. He didn't actually have to worry about Derek blocking the light because he could see just fine without it, could flawlessly ink in perfect darkness if he had to. The lines he'd already etched glowed a deep, satisfied red beneath Derek's skin; the places where he had yet to finish his strokes were unfurling in rusty orange as he moved toward them, the lines trying to entice him to complete them.

Derek looked different, too; when he turned his head, Stiles could see the shadowed shape of a wolf's skull there, could see the magical potential in him, the shapes inside his shapes, the smiles he held back, the electric blue of his eyes. He could also see the restlessness in his own tattoo, wanting to reach out to the other on Derek's skin, but it wouldn't be moving until it was healed. It felt caged, wanted to snap its long mouth shut on nothing just to express its irritation, and couldn't even do that.

Everything that wasn't magic was dull and muted, the colors leeched right out of it, while everything that was even a little bit magic — which in his apartment was quite a few things, even aside from Derek — was lit up like Las Vegas. It was all very distracting, which was why Stiles tended to focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of all others, when he was working on an enhanced tattoo. He finished filling in the wolf's haunches, working carefully around the details, then wiped the site again, pulled back to load on more ink. Derek took the opportunity to get a good look at the work in progress.

"That looks—" Derek started, frowning down at the ink-and-blood-smeared line art on his arm. "How the hell do you know what I look like?"

"Because I stare at your face a lot?" Stiles answered, pretending he didn't know what Derek meant. The growl he got in response was both satisfying and sexy. "It's an unfairly handsome face, I don't feel like you should be able to blame me."

"How do you know what I look like as a wolf?" Derek specified, sounding more incredulous than mad.

"Oh, that." Stiles gestured toward his own eyes, which he obviously couldn't see but knew were a solid, wet black. "I can see things, like this. Under your skin."

"What does that mean?" Derek asked.

Stiles bent over to start filling in the color — a silvery gray, just the same as Derek's wolf-coat — and Derek didn't make any move to stop him, so he went ahead and set the machine against the skin, working the color in with tight circles. "I can see all sorts of things, when I'm under. I can see your other faces and the expressions you usually hold back. There's kind of a sickly spider-web of color right down here" — he tapped with one finger, lower down on Derek's forearm — "where I think somebody shot you with wolfsbane, once. It's still healing, slowly, it's not quite all gone yet. I keep an eye on it."

"That is—"

"Kind of weird and vaguely unsettling?" Stiles supplied, when Derek seemed to be at a loss for words. "I freaked right the fuck out the first time I managed to get into the headspace for it. Deaton had to talk me down like I was on a bad acid trip. So embarrassing."

"I was going to say 'amazing,' but that works too," Derek said, and stopped himself even as he was reaching out to start touching Stiles again, like he couldn't help himself. Stiles ducked his head smoothly beneath Derek's outstretched hand in invitation, and Derek responded beautifully by scratching his fingers against Stiles' scalp. "So I guess it's not distracting if I touch you, then?"

"Only as much as a hard-on in my jeans is ever distracting, but don't worry, I became an expert at dealing with that when I was still in middle school," Stiles said. When he glanced up again, Derek's pupils had dilated a little wider, the wolf inside pricking up the ghost of its ears.

Their positioning at the table was a little more awkward than it had been the last time, when Derek had been splayed out with Stiles' face practically in his groin. Derek didn't seem deterred in the slightest, though, his hand curling over Stiles' shoulder, skimming down his side, tracing the spaces between his ribs and then making the same study of the muscles and veins of his forearm.

When Stiles paused in his inking, looked up and said, "Alright?" he wasn't expecting Derek to need a break, he was just giving him an opening. Derek took it, hooking his feet around the legs of Stiles' chair and hauling him in closer, until their seats were nearly touching and their legs were splayed out to the sides, tangled up in each other.

"I wish I could suck you, like this," Derek said, even while he was fumbling the fly of Stiles' jeans open, one-handed.

"Later, you can put your mouth anywhere you want," Stiles promised. He bit at Derek's lip, to show his enthusiasm for the general idea. When he turned back to his work his hands were steady as stone, even though Derek already had a fist around his cock. They were close enough now for Derek to suck marks into the skin of Stiles' throat, and Derek's hips shifted helplessly in time to his own strokes against Stiles' cock, although Stiles' grip on his arm kept that immobile enough to work on.

"You're so fucking beautiful," Derek panted, against Stiles' bare collarbone. "You're so fucking hot like this, your eyes. Can you see other things, when you're like this? Can you see what you do to me?"

"I don't need magic for that," Stiles said, trying — and completely failing — not to sound smug. He only had the tail left to color, and he turned Derek's arm over, ink smearing on the medical drape he'd put down on the table. He wished he hadn't made the tail quite so intricate now, because he'd rather be done sooner than later, and he was entertaining ridiculous thoughts about sinking down onto Derek's cock and trying to keep tattooing through it all.

He was pretty sure even his hands couldn't stay steady with that kind of distraction. Not to mention the logistics just weren't happening. At all.

He let his hips roll into Derek's strokes, but that was the most he could manage in the way of participation. Derek didn't seem to mind, kept up a steadily whispered stream of filth while his hand worked over Stiles' dick, slow and torturous in counterpoint to the quick tight circles the tattoo machine was drawing against his own skin.

"Almost done," Stiles gasped, as Derek's thumb swiped over the head of his dick and then dragged downward again.

"Take your time," Derek murmured. "The second you're done I'm going to fuck you over this table."

"No you're not, because that would be extremely unsanitary and I'm already going to have to beg Deaton to let me use his autoclave." He swiped at Derek's already-healed skin one last time, thoroughly cleaning away the excess ink and the little droplets of blood, checking that he'd gotten even coverage with the mag. Then he turned the machine off, put it carefully down on the table, and yanked Derek up with him as he fumbled his way out of the tangle of dining room chairs and to his feet.

His fly was hanging open and he got ink on his skin as he pulled his latex gloves off with less finesse than usual, but he didn't particularly care because Derek was already up and shimmying out of his jeans. Stiles shook out his shoulders, blinked, and the world was in color again, the magic in it invisible.

"Slow down," Derek said, even as he was tumbling Stiles into bed.

"You're the one who was in a hurry," Stiles pointed out. Derek was completely naked, although Stiles hadn't quite managed it, still had his jeans tangled around his calves. Stiles twisted his legs, trying to get free, but Derek wasn't helping, his own leg landing heavy across the fabric, keeping Stiles pinned down. "Help me get these off," Stiles said, because he wasn't above begging.

Derek hummed agreeably, squirmed down the bed a little further and reached for Stiles' jeans, but he wound up getting side-tracked instead, burying his nose in the crease of Stiles' thigh, breath washing out wet and hot against the skin there. He licked, too, just the barest hint of pressure against the skin, then bolder, wet tongue tracing the line of the join.

He said, "I guess I'm not in a hurry anymore," and closed his teeth gently, delicately, over the skin at the crest of Stiles' hip.

"Derek," Stiles gasped, and it was a plea for more, faster, that was obviously what it was.

Derek slowed down, backed the pressure off, took a deep breath and pressed a soft, barely-there kiss to the base of Stiles' dick. Stiles' hips pressed helplessly up into the pressure, but there was nothing to push against, no mouth closing around Stiles' cock. Derek moved up instead, tracing his tongue along the line of hair that led from groin to navel, then covering the same ground again with wet, sucking kisses. It felt like he spent an hour on each square inch of skin, and he dedicated an age to Stiles' navel, dipping his tongue inside, catching the edges with his teeth. Each probing thrust of Derek's tongue felt like it tugged at Stiles' insides, but he couldn't even move with Derek on top of his snared legs, pinning him to the mattress.

"This isn't fair," he said, panting, his hands framing Derek's head, fingers flexing against dark hair. "You're going to kill me. I'm actually going to die of frustration." His cock jerked as if in agreement, and Derek stroked one fond hand over it, just petting on his way to somewhere else.

Derek crawled up instead of going down, straddled Stiles' hips, his knees bracketing Stiles' ribs, body bent over in a sharp curve so he could reach Stiles' mouth. He took his time there, too, holding Stiles' jaw between his broad hands and kissing deep, hard, slow. His thumbs pressed Stiles' mouth open a little wider, his fingers digging in at the back of Stiles' neck, tipping his head just so, taking complete control and holding Stiles back where he might have tried to hurry things along.

"You're not allowed to die," Derek told him, when he deigned to allow Stiles to breathe again. Their foreheads were pressed together, they were breathing into each other's mouths, Derek's eyes were glowing blue, and it was way too much. Stiles felt struck dumb with it, just staring at Derek and breathing to get oxygen into his lungs. "You are pack. You're family. You're mine. We're in this together and don't you dare ever leave me alone."

"Okay," Stiles agreed, even though he knew life might make a liar out of him one day. His hands at least weren't pinned down, so he used them, held Derek's face between his palms, held him still too the same way he was holding Stiles. "Together," Stiles repeated, dumbly, and Derek made a desperate noise before he kissed Stiles again, long and deep and slow.

Derek made everything slow, after that. He actually helped Stiles pull his jeans off, finally, but then he settled onto the bed beside him, curling himself around Stiles' body, tangling their feet together, tangling their tongues together. He wrapped his hand around Stiles' cock again and worked it slowly, tight and torturous, slicking the way with nothing more than spit in his palm. It was horrible and amazing all at the same time; Stiles could do nothing but clutch at Derek's arm, whimpering, trying to get Derek to move faster. It didn't work, and every time Stiles tried to beg, Derek licked the words out of his mouth before he could speak them.

Derek's own cock was pressing in long, slow rolls against Stiles' hip, but when he reached for it Derek only peeled his hand away, unwilling to let him set the pace that way, either. The weight of it was delicious, though, and strangely erotic, since Stiles had never considered his flank to be an erogenous zone. Derek somehow managed to make anything sexy, like the time he'd licked Stiles' sweaty armpits and the time he'd brought Stiles off with his foot. There were things that Stiles had never counted as kinks before that he'd do eagerly now.

He'd thought they'd moved on to better things than just hand jobs by now, but he'd failed to account for exactly how fucking amazing a hand job could be, obviously. Derek's thumb swept over the head and then his hand stripped down again, suddenly fast and achingly tight, then slow and steady on the drag back up. The next downstroke was almost teasing, with a hint of thumbnail that made Stiles helplessly arch up his hips, gasping against Derek's mouth.

It seemed like an eternity before Derek finally moved in earnest, picking up the pace and tightening his hand a little further, letting Stiles really fuck up into his hand, and it didn't take much after that, before Stiles was coming all over the both of them, his hand still wrapped around Derek's arm and the fresh tattoo there. Derek rolled on top of him, cursing, and Stiles just stayed, warm and relaxed and sated, petting his hands across every inch of skin he could reach while Derek took his pleasure against the slick mess of Stiles' belly.

"Fuck," Derek panted against his ear, and he started to say it again, but it turned into a wordless groan when he came, pressing Stiles down hard into the sheets.

When Derek rolled his weight away, Stiles followed, curling their bodies together, wiping up the mess between them with the corner of the sheet. He kissed Derek again, and again, and told him how ridiculous he was, how amazing, how strong, how sexy, how loved. Derek didn't answer, dazed with it all, his pupils still blown wide, but he touched Stiles enough to say it all back, and his hands circled carefully, reverently, around the perimeter of the red wolf on Stiles' arm, like he still couldn't quite believe that it was there. He was careful not to touch it, obviously aware that unlike his own, Stiles' skin hadn't healed yet, was still vulnerable to infection.

"Will it move?" he finally asked. "Like the last one?"

"Once it heals," Stiles said. "It's not really finished, until then. Its power is still growing."

"Power to do things like the fire?" Derek asked, and he was obviously trying not to sound dubious about that idea. He wasn't very successful.

"I won't do that again," Stiles said, gently. "That was... riskier than I'd anticipated."

"You're an asshole," Derek told him, and softened the blow by kissing his forehead. "So it's a particular spell, in the ink?"

"No, it's more like... you've heard about a witch's familiar, right?"

"Yeah. The whole black cat thing, right? I thought that was just a Halloween cliché."

"Sometimes it is," Stiles said. "Sometimes it's not. Some practitioners have a particular magical object that helps them in their work. Some have an animal. It's sort of an intense concentration of magical power, and it helps you focus your energies, like you can use a magnifying glass to focus light. I made mine a tattoo because that way it's always with me, it's a part of me. The fox was a huge help with all sorts of things."

"I miss it," Derek said, stroking his finger just beneath the new wolf's dangling front paw. "Is that weird?"

"No," Stiles said, because he missed it, too. "It was an aspect of me, but it had its own personality, too. I don't even know what this new one will be like, when it's finished becoming."

Derek hummed, lifted Stiles' arm and pressed a kiss to the soft inside of his elbow, just above the place where the wolf was sleeping. "Will mine do all that? You must've put something magical in it."

"It won't usually move on its own," Stiles said. "It's not a familiar. It'll help protect you, if you need it, and it'll respond to me."

He stroked the tattoo in question, just to illustrate, and willed it to wake up. It stirred, blinked its blue eyes open, and stretched, its front legs reaching out and its hind end propped up. It circled up to Derek's biceps and then back down, like it was examining its immediate surroundings, then settled again where it had been before, wrapped around Derek's forearm.

"Responds to you, huh?" Derek repeated, with a smile. He was still watching the wolf on his arm, even if it wasn't moving any longer. "Just like the rest of me, I guess."

Stiles grinned back, reaching out for Derek at the same time Derek reached for him. Where their arms met in the middle, their tattoos both shifted, Derek's stretching its snout forward like it wanted to take a sniff, Stiles' twitching an ear and barely managing that much. It shouldn't have been able to do even that.

But then, Stiles thought, that was the root of skin-magic, that flash of connection, of alchemy, a mark so deep it ran down to the bone.

Derek didn't seem to have even noticed; he was rolling onto his back, pulling Stiles to him, mouthing at the length of the owl's wings that spanned Stiles' collarbones, pressing his fingers into the ink on Stiles' hips. "I seem to remember, last time you tattooed me, you mentioned something about sealing it with sex-magic?"

Stiles smiled against his forehead, kissed Derek's eyebrow, the corner of his mouth, the tip of his ear. "Very important step," he agreed. "It's not really my area, though, so we might have to try a little bit of everything, just to make sure it takes."

Derek stretched out his arms, sprawling himself across the bed like something out of a romance novel, waiting to be taken. "I'm all yours," he said.

"Where to begin?" Stiles mused, eyes roaming over the familiar body beneath him. When he touched Derek's tattoos, one hand braced against black-inked stomach, the other tracing the new lines on Derek's arm, the ink met him with a spark of like recognizing like. But then, Derek's whole body, his whole being responded to Stiles that way, and that was its own kind of magic, too.

He put his hand over the center of Derek's chest, over his heart, and felt the surge of it as if it was trying to leap into his hand. He leaned down, touched his mouth to that untouched canvas, and began there.