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This Monster Loves You

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Stuart is the one who starts it, when they’re fifteen.

“Stiles?” he says quietly into the darkness of their room. “Do you ever feel evil?”

The sheets rustle as Stiles turns over to look at him, stares at his brother in the other bed. Stuart is rolled over towards the window, the tag of his t-shirt sticking out and resting against the back of his neck. He’s shock still.

“What do you mean?” Stiles says.

“For wanting things? For thoughts in your head?” Stuart’s head twists a fraction of an inch, his left eye gleaming in the moonlight. He’s still, waiting for an answer.

Stiles shifts under the covers, frowning. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

They’re both silent a long while, each feigning sleep and waiting for the other to speak. Then Stuart stands, tip-toes barefoot across the carpet and looms over Stiles’ bed. Stiles blinks up at him, the shadowy image of his own face above.

Hesitantly, Stuart touches a cold hand to Stiles’ cheek, testing the waters. Apparently finding what he was looking for, he goes in further, covers Stiles’ mouth with his own. It’s gentle, a chaste kiss. It’s their first; not just with each other, but with anyone.

Stuart pulls back after a few seconds, and their lips disconnect with a soft but audible smack. He stands in the shadows for a moment longer, then returns to his bed.

Stiles rolls over on his back and stares at the ceiling, wide awake in more ways than one. It’s several hours in the silence before he finally drifts off to sleep.

*****

Stiles looks at Lydia sometimes. It’s not creepily prurient so much as distantly worshipful; at least that’s what he tells himself. He’s not trying to sneak a peek at anything or indulge in some masturbatory fantasy. It’s a kind of puppy love, an adoration of an ideal and a longing for someone unattainable.

Stuart knows. Everyone does. He’ll catch Stiles looking, and he’ll get this knowing smirk on his face that, in spite of their identical features, Stiles can’t replicate no matter how hard he tries.

“You should ask her out,” Stuart actually says once, in the locker room after practice. He waggles his eyebrows teasingly, nudges Stiles in the shoulder. “You should.”

Scott shakes his head. “You’re wasting your time, dude. I’ve tried, but he’s happy to admire from afar.”

Stiles looks between them, jaw hanging open. “Uh, you know she’s dating Jackson, right? Don’t think he’d appreciate that.”

Stuart shrugs. “Maybe she’d like to trade up for a better model. One that doesn’t look like he fell off the side of an Abercrombie and Fitch bag and got hit hard by the asshole stick.”

“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you, Stilinski?” Jackson says loudly, startling them both. “The asshole stick, I mean.” He glances over his shoulder. “No offense, Danny.”

Danny doesn’t even look up from tying his shoe. “Did you say something?” he says mildly.

Stuart leans against his locker, faking a yawn. He fixes Jackson with a bored, contemptuous stare. “Just for the record, saying something homophobic and following it up with ‘no offense’ doesn’t actually make it not offensive. In case your dinosaur brain can’t figure that out by itself.”

Jackson snorts, rolls his eyes. “Great. The PC police.” He makes a huge show of changing his shirt, always the exhibitionist regardless of the audience. “And that’s not what I was getting at, anyway.” He casts a meaningful glance between Stuart and Stiles, his mouth twisting in a nasty smirk. A few of the guys nearby look uneasy, stopping to watch the exchange. Even Danny pauses, eyes flickering over.

Stuart’s expression goes blank for the briefest of seconds, then transitions smoothly into exaggerated flirtatiousness. “You know,” he says, sliding up next to Stiles, “actually, don’t ask out Lydia. I want you all for myself.” He purses his lips and presses several noisy kisses against Stiles’ cheek.

The guys burst out laughing, tension dissipated. Jackson’s face pinches up and he looks away, disgusted. Scott just shakes his head amusedly.

Stuart grins and claps Stiles on the shoulder. “See you outside,” he says, then slings his backpack over his shoulder and leaves.

Stiles finishes dressing, determinedly ignoring the embarrassed flush creeping up his chest and neck.

*****

There are rumors, of course.

The boys have always been unusually close, even for twins. One is rarely seen without the other at his side. Their codependency is something of legend amongst their classmates.

Stiles shrugs most of it off; the occasional whispers, the giggles hidden behind cupped hands, the probing eyes. It’s all dumb high school gossip. They don’t actually know.

But the truth in it makes him nervous, paranoid. He wonders what would happen if someone actually did uncover the truth. What would happen if they were caught. It’s a massive, paralyzing fear that worms its way into his heart and lives there, surfacing every now and then and threatening to strangle him.

Stuart is infuriatingly unconcerned.

“So?” he says, when Stiles comes to him with his worries. “It’s not their business. Fuck ‘em.”

Stiles sighs frustratedly. “Everyone already thinks we’re losers. I’m just saying we need to be careful. You get that, right?”

“Duh. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be careful. I’m saying no one really believes the talk now, and no one’s gonna believe it when it’s ‘real.’ You’re panicking over nothing. You worry too much.”

Stiles tips his head back and closes his eyes, willing himself to be patient. “And you worry too little.”

Stuart slinks his arm around Stiles’ side and up his back, hand on neck. “Hey.” He slips his tongue into Stiles’ mouth, makes him melt into the touch. Murmuring in between kisses, “Nothing’s gonna ruin this. I won’t let it.”

They stagger back against the wall and sink to the ground together, and things unfold easily from there.

“Scott mentioned laser tag this morning,” Stuart says after, panting, his face buried in the crook of Stiles’ neck. “You wanna?”

Stiles threads his fingers through his brother’s hair. “Sure,” he says, feeling a strange mix of euphoria and unease.

He mostly keeps his concerns to himself after that.

*****

Scott doesn’t ask for the longest time.

There have been moments when Stiles was sure it was going to come up; a funny look in Scott’s eye, a question on the tip of his tongue. But it goes unacknowledged for nearly a year. Right up until the twins’ sixteenth birthday.

It’s just the three of them together at Scott’s house, crashed on the couch in the dark watching late night comedy on cable. Scott’s mom has the late shift, so they’re alone for evening.

In the harsh glow of the TV, Stiles stretches out under the blanket they’ve brought down from Scott’s room and glances over to where Stuart is asleep, head resting against Stiles’ shoulder. He’s snoring softly, mouth parted and eyelids fluttering. Stiles smiles.

“You guys really love each other.”

Stiles looks away, turns to where Scott is sitting on his opposite side and watching him closely. “Yeah?”

Scott is still for a moment, expression unreadable. Then he sighs and looks down at his lap. The audience on the television laughs loudly. Scott presses mute. “I haven’t said anything,” he starts cautiously, “and I’m not going to. I’m not sure I want to know. But you’re my best friend. And I like Stu, even if he’s a jackass sometimes.”

“He’s our jackass,” Stiles says, not really feeling the smile he’s forcing.

Scott chews on his lower lip. “I just want to make sure you know what you’re doing. You know? Things that might be ok when we’re young and dumb aren’t necessarily going to fly when we grow up. If that makes sense.”

Stiles says nothing. His face feels warm, palms sweaty.

Scott shakes his head. “Never mind,” he says eventually. He offers a small smile. “Happy birthday, buddy.”

“Thanks,” Stiles says quietly.

Stuart grumbles sleepily and starts to drool.

*****

Rain starts spitting, then pouring, and thunder resounds in the distance as the wind howls through the trees. The boys run across the yard and up the steps of the back porch and enter the house through the kitchen.

“Time to do laundry anyways,” Stiles says, stripping off his wet jersey and struggling to undo his jeans.

Stuart watches him with hooded eyes. “Put a pin in that,” he says and backs Stiles up against the washing machine. “Dad’s out.”

Stiles swallows thickly. “Yeah.”

Stuart smirks and grabs a fistful of Stiles’ hair, jerks his head back. His mouth is hot and wet against Stiles neck, tongue and teeth working at the skin. Stiles groans, knees buckling.

“Bed,” Stuart says, and they go up together.

Naked now, Stiles lays on his side as Stuart applies the lube, hands clenching in the sheets as those long fingers slide in and out. “It still hurts,” he says, eyes screwed shut. “Not as bad now, but still painful.”

The pressure is relieved momentarily, and then Stuart is inside him, bare and hard. “Fuck. So tight, always. Fucking made for me, you are.”

Stiles shudders. “No condom?” he says, gasping as Stuart begins to move.

Stuart kisses his shoulder. “I want to come inside you. I want to feel that, want to feel you feeling that.” His hands curl around Stiles’ biceps, grip tight. “You can take it.”

He’s never quick with this. It’s never a rush to the finish line. He takes his time, pushes himself and Stiles right up to the brink, then slows and lets things settle before building up again. The release, when it does arrive, feels as much like dying as it does like pleasure.

Stiles presses his face into the pillow and cries, overwhelmed. Stuart’s hands come to a rest against his skin, one over his heart, the other over his belly.

“Hush. You’re ok. You’re alright.”

Stiles chokes back a sob. His throat feels tight, eyes threatening to spill over with wetness. “What the fuck is wrong with us? What’s wrong with us?”

“Nothing,” Stuart says, and it’s harsh, pointed. “Nothing.” He grabs Stiles by the chin and turns his head so they’re facing each other, eyes locked together. “It’s everyone else who’s wrong.”

*****

Their father never suspects, but every morning Stiles wakes sore, or with a new hickey, the guilt roiling in his stomach seems to grow stronger and more potent.

If Stuart feels any similar remorse, he shows no signs of it.

*****

Finstock lets the team pick their own room assignments for the overnight game. “Do what you want, don’t get into trouble,” he intones, bored.

Stiles and Stuart pair up with Scott and Isaac in the second floor room. They all take the elevator up together and sling their bags on the floor by the TV, change out of their dirty clothes.

“Dibs on first shower,” Isaac says and darts past Scott to duck in through the bathroom door.

“I’ll order us a pizza,” Scott says. He sits to use the bedside phone.

Stiles pulls Stuart aside and whispers so only the two of them can hear. “I should sleep in the bed with Scott. You with Isaac.”

Stuart’s expression darkens briefly, then clears. He smiles and punches Stiles’ arm lightly. “Sure thing.”

The pizza comes thirty minutes later, just as Scott’s finishing with his shower. Stuart takes his place and Stiles joins Scott and Isaac on the bed by the window to chow down and watch a movie.

Stuart steps out from the bathroom, wrapped in a towel riding dangerously low on his waistline. “You’d better have saved some for me, gluttons.”

He walks over and grabs a slice, reaching over Stiles’ shoulder to get to the box. He smells like soap and shampoo and boy, still damp from the steam in the bathroom. Stiles coughs and stands.

“My turn,” he says, then grabs his towel and change of clothes and gets out of there.

*****

“Stu, what is this?”

Stuart twists his neck around to look up at him, his head rested in Stiles lap. His eyes are wide and lashes long, shirt pushed up so that a sliver of skin is showing above his jeans. He looks beautiful like this, and that should be weird to think, even narcissistic, but then Stiles has never really thought of Stuart as being the same as him. His other half, maybe, but a half entirely separate and fully human on his own terms.

“What is what?”

Stiles sighs. “You know.”

Stuart yawns and sits up. He swings his leg around so that he’s straddling Stiles’ lap, pushes him down on his back. “Why do you have to over-think everything? Why is it so important to give it a name?”

Stiles’ throat tightens, heart flip-flopping as Stuart snakes a hand under the hem of his shirt and pulls it easily over his head. He shivers as he lies back down bare-chested in the grass. “Because unlike some people I could name, I actually think about the future. And consequences.”

“Uh huh.” Stuart pins Stiles wrists above his head. His expression turns somber. “Am I not a part of your future?” he says, monotone. “Is that what you’re saying?”

Stiles blinks. “What? No! Of course not.”

Stuart smiles slyly. “Then shut up.”

His tongue swipes a long, wet path up Stiles’ abs, nuzzling his face against the boy’s chest. “I’m gonna blow you now.”

Stiles’ eyes flutter. “Yeah, ok. No complaints here.”

*****

Derek Hale is their father’s deputy. He’s twenty-something years old, scowls a lot, and comes over every Monday morning for coffee and doughnuts.

Stiles maybe has a bit of a crush on him.

“My dad’s in the shower,” he says when he answers the door. “You can come in, though. Read the paper, or something?”

Derek grunts and nods, steps past him into the house and goes to the kitchen. Stiles follows like a lovesick puppy.

Stuart’s sitting at the table already, hair still damp from his shower, shoveling spoonfuls of cereal into his mouth like a starving man. He snaps his fingers to get Stiles’ attention. “Hey, can you get a ride from Scott? I’ve got to get there early to finish the group project.”

Stiles shrugs and sits. “Sure, I guess.”

“Great.” Stuart hops up and runs out, ruffling Stiles’ hair as he passes. “Peace, bitches!”

The door slams.

Derek leans back in his chair, opens up the newspaper. Stiles beams. “Taking my advice?” he says. Derek glares over the top of the business section, then ducks out of sight.

*****

“Her name is Allison, and we’re going to get married and have babies and buy a dog,” Scott says, grinning so wide Stiles is half-certain he’s grown a third row of teeth.

Stuart rolls his eyes. “You’re going to have to ask her out first,” he says.

On the other side of the room, Jackson snorts, his lip curling in a sneer. “Good luck with that, McCall. Be sure to flash your inhaler at her. Chicks dig that shit.”

Stuart whips around to face him. “Shut up, Jackson. Lydia told me you peed on her in the shower once.”

“What?” Jackson startles, eyes going wide. “That’s not true.” He looks around the room, cheeks flushing scarlet. “That did not happen, you guys.”

Stuart turns back to the table. “Anyway. Are you going to ask her or just subject us to your pining?”

Scott scratches his head nervously. “I dunno. Yeah, I think so.”

Stiles smiles. “Good for you, man. It’ll be fine. She likes you, I can tell.”

“Thanks.” Scott’s expression turns thoughtful. “You know I overheard that Erica’s into you. Erica Reyes?” He shrugs innocently. “She’s cute. Just saying.”

Stuart steeples his fingers and rests his chin on top. He smiles sweetly. “Yeah, she’s a fox. You should go for it, bro.”

Stiles looks at him sharply, suspicious. “Maybe I will,” he says, challenging. If anything, Stuart’s smile widens.

“You don’t have to,” Scott says, looking between them uneasily.

Stiles opens his textbook and looks down at the top of the page. “I know,” he says and leaves them to talk about Scott’s epic romance alone.

*****

“How’s your coffee?” Stiles says, leaning on the table and playing with his hoodie’s zipper.

“Mmph,” Derek says, not looking up from the paper.

Stiles pokes him in the arm. “How is it, I said?”

Derek sighs, looking for all the world like no one has ever suffered more than he is right now. “It’s fine,” he says. Stiles smiles.

“Good. How’s cop stuff?”

Derek looks up and stares at him. “Cop stuff?”

Stiles nods. “Yeah. Like, bang bang!” He makes finger guns.

Derek’s face pinches, like he can’t decide whether to sneeze or simply combust from exasperation. “I haven’t had to draw my firearm yet,” he says gruffly.

Stiles sighs and slouches in his chair. “Yeah, I figured. My dad doesn’t have to use his very often. Hardly ever, even.” He scoots the chair closer to Derek’s. “Do they make you do all the shitty paperwork? Were there hazing rituals? Are you bottom bitch?”

“What.” The way Derek says it isn’t a question so much as irritated word vomit. He scoots his chair away from Stiles’. “I don’t think that means what you think it means.”

Stiles shrugs. “Probably not.”

The hall toilet flushes, and the Sheriff emerges shortly thereafter, drying his hands on the front of his pants. “Good morning, Deputy Hale. Time to head out.” He gives Stiles a quick, one-armed hug. “Have a good day at school. You and your brother behave.”

“What are you implying?” Stiles says, feigning offense. He grins at Derek. “Bye,” he says and waves.

Derek grunts and nods, following the Sheriff out.

Stuart comes running down the stairs with his toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. “Morn’,” he garbles.

Stiles gazes out the window and watches the patrol car pull out of the driveway.

*****

In the back of the Jeep, they rock together, pants undone and cocks untucked. Stuart takes both of them in his hand and jacks slowly, sucking a bruise into Stiles’ collarbone.

“You want that meathead, don’t you?” he says, lips vibrating against Stiles’ skin. “Dad’s deputy?”

Stiles gasps as the hand tightens around him. He puts his hand up Stuart’s shirt, rubs soothing circles against his chest. “I want you,” he says, thinking offhandedly how long it’s been since he’s truly accepted that admission.

Stuart snarls and knocks his forehead against his brother’s. “It’s alright, you know,” he says, dangerously soft, just a murmur. “I don’t mind. I kinda get it. He’s got a certain brooding charm.”

“What? I don’t . . .” Stiles leans away. He stares. “Stuart, I don’t. God, I don’t understand you. I can’t tell if you’re possessive or dying to get rid of me. What is it you want? Do you really not have a problem with me . . . wanting. Other people?”

Stuart looks at him weirdly. “Of course you’re allowed to want other people,” he says bemusedly, like it’s obvious. He pulls Stiles back in and ramps up the pace. They both come in quick succession, Stiles first.

Stiles falls over and slumps in the backseat, bops his head gently against the window. “Jeez,” he says.

Stuart looks down at him with a satisfied gleam in his eye. He touches his hand to Stiles’ stomach and swipes a glob of come out of his treasure trail. “You’re just not allowed to not want me,” he says and licks his sticky fingers.

*****

Stiles swings the door wide, already grinning. "Deputy," he says, practically purring the word.

Derek looks at him warily. "Stiles," he says and shoulders past.

"New coffee brand today." Stiles trails behind, close at his heels. "Get excited now, dude. It's gonna blow your mind."

"I'm sure it will," Derek says.

Stiles pours them both a cup, pushes Derek's across the table. He raises his own to his lips and takes a long, slow sip. He groans appreciatively. "So good."

Derek blinks, then quickly picks up the paper and puts in front of his face.

*****

Derek looks.

It takes a while for Stiles to notice. He’s so caught up in trying to impress, blinded by his own hero-worship, he can’t see the signs until they’re right in front of his face.

It’s usually when they’re alone; those Mondays when Stuart is slogging through his morning routine upstairs and the Sheriff is still in the shower. Stiles puts on the coffee and Derek drinks it while he reads the paper. They sit together and Stiles talks, and Derek lets him. It’s all very domestic.

Derek puts up a good front, and Stiles doesn’t doubt that at least 90% of his grumpiness is fairly genuine. But the thing is, Derek looks. He actually listens to whatever crap Stiles rambles on about, whether it’s comic books or stupid Mr. Harris or lacrosse or Scott’s dumb love life. He stares at the paper and listens, and then he looks, and his eyes are on Stiles.

Whenever Stiles catches him, whenever their eyes meet, Derek’s gaze drops away. A muscle will tense in his jaw and he won’t lift his head from the paper until the Sheriff comes in. Stiles has seen that expression enough in his short life to know what it means: guilt.

It shouldn’t make him feel good, but it does. Derek feeling guilty means there’s something for him to feel guilty about. Which means potential.

Stuart notices, too. “You’ve almost got him,” he says approvingly. “A little more time and pressure, and he’ll be eating out of your hand.”

Stiles’ nose crinkles. “I don’t want to know what you mean by that,” he says. Stuart snorts.

“Sure. Just try not to get him fired. Or arrested, actually. Yeah, he’d totally get arrested.”

*****

Everything changes one night in February when the Sheriff is on night shift and Stuart is bedridden with fever. Stiles and Derek are alone downstairs, with the rain battering against the windows and the street lanterns glowing in through the glass like alien beams from the sky.

“We’re watching Bonanza,” Stiles says disbelievingly. “Are you seventy?” He waves his hand vaguely at Derek. “Is all this just plastic surgery.”

Derek glares, but there’s no heat behind it. If anything, it seems fond. “Shut up and watch.”

Stiles squirms. He picks at his fingernails, sitting cross-legged on his side of the couch. “You know, I’m a little too old for a babysitter. Frankly, this is kind of emasculating.”

“Uh huh. Your brother’s sick, and your dad wanted someone here to check on him.”

“I could check on him.”

“He wanted an adult to check on him.”

“I think you just want to hang out. You could always ask, buddy.”

Derek pinches the bridge of his nose. He laughs, and it’s a happy, tired sound. “God, you’re an annoying little shit, you know that?”

Stiles grins. “You said a swear. I’m telling my dad.”

“Your dad would agree with me.”

“Yeah, probably.”

Derek grins, and Stiles heart wrenches in his chest and he thinks, Shit, I’ve got it bad.

Something must show on his face because Derek’s smile fades quickly, his brow creasing with lines of worry. There’s a flash of something in his eyes; fear, maybe. He looks back at the TV. “I can go, leave you to watch over Stuart,” he says, and the gruff demeanor is back in full force.

Stiles swallows. “I don’t want you to go.”

Derek shakes his head tightly. “Stiles . . .” he says warningly. Stiles sits up straighter, barely resisting the urge to scoot closer.

“No, listen. I know, ok? Whatever you’re thinking, just chill for a second. Just sit here with me and don’t go and, you know, talk to me.”

“Stiles,” Derek says again. “We can’t. I can’t.”

Stiles does scoot closer now, ignores the way Derek goes rigid, afraid. “I like you,” he says quietly, nervously. “And I think maybe you like me. So why can’t we just . . .”

Derek lets out a short, harsh laugh, directed more at himself than at Stiles’ words. He rubs his hands over his face, his shoulders still tense. “You know why. I’ve been listening to you talk for weeks now, I know you’re not a stupid kid.” He drops his hands and looks at Stiles directly. “But you are a kid. You’re sixteen.”

“Seventeen soon,” Stiles interrupts. Derek shakes his head again, more forcefully.

“I’ve come to terms with the . . . things I want. What I’ve been feeling. But no matter how tempting it might seem now, there’s no scenario in which this ends well.”

He’s being so gentle about it, so understanding, and it’s that more than anything else that brings tears to Stiles’ eyes. He blinks them away quickly, refusing to allow himself to look more childish than he already feels in this moment. “So it’s just my age, then?” he says, voice strained. “It’s not because I’m a guy? Or because of my dad?”

Derek sighs. “There are a lot of reasons this is complicated, Stiles. But if we ignored those reasons and just did this, we would end up regretting for the rest of our lives. I promise you, you would regret it. You might . . . want me. Now. But you would eventually resent me for taking advantage. And it would be that. It wouldn’t be right of me.” He closes his eyes, turns away. “I’m sorry, but we can’t.”

The sounds of the rain and the hum of the television fill the void of speech between them. Neither of them move, Derek still as a statue, Stiles shaking slightly.

Then: “What if we waited?”

Derek looks up, eyes wide with surprise. “What,” he says, in that weird way of his that makes it seem like it’s not really a question.

Stiles scrubs at his eyes, looking purposefully at Derek’s knees instead of his face. “What if we waited until I’m eighteen?”

Derek stares at him for a long time, and Stiles holds his breath, waiting. “I don’t-”

Stiles cuts him off, “No, listen. I don’t mean you have to wait for me. You’re you, and I’m sure you’ll get plenty of other offers. I just mean, if I leave you alone until I’m eighteen, and if we’re both single then, maybe we could . . . ?”

Derek looks pained. “Stiles, I’m not saying you have to leave me alone.”

“But what if I don’t bring this up? It’s just a little more than a year. I can wait.”

Derek pauses. “I can’t ask that of you,” he says eventually.

Stiles shrugs. “You don’t have to. It’s my choice.”

The cowboys on the TV start shooting at each other. The rain outside begins to slow. Derek laughs softly, his mouth turning up at the corners. “You’ll change your mind,” he says. Stiles lifts a eyebrow.

“Challenge accepted,” he says.

*****

“How’d it go?” Stuart asks later, sipping at the bowl of hot soup their dad brought up for him.

Stiles turns off his beside lamp and slides under the sheets. “How’d what go?”

Stuart slurps noisily from his spoon. “Don’t play coy. Your pseudo date with Officer McBroody.” He licks a spot on his wrist where some soup dribbled on his skin. “Did you find your satisfaction?”

Stiles chuckles. “Nope. He’s not into me.”

Stuart hesitates, looks suspicious. “Really?”

“Really.”

Silence.

“Ok then.”

Stiles yawns. “Good night.”

The other lamp clicks off a minute later.

“Yeah,” comes the muted reply. “Night.”

*****

Jackson shoulders Scott roughly as they pass on the field. “I heard you and Argent are a thing now,” he sneers. “I’d watch your back if I were you, McCall. A girl that hot spreading her legs for a guy like you is definitely playing an angle.”

Scott snarls and moves to go after him, but Stiles holds him back. “Not worth it,” he says.

“Lydia told me you get turned on by car accidents,” Stuart calls. “She caught you jerking off to a bus explosion on Youtube.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Jackson’s ears turn pink, face pinched in a scowl. “Wait. Are you the one who hacked my email? Stop sending me videos of car crashes!” He turns to Danny. “It’s not true, dude.”

“I really don’t care,” Danny says, walking away.

Stuart wraps an arm around Scott’s shoulder. “So you and Allison. That’s going well, huh?”

Scott grins goofily, nods. “She’s awesome. Her parents kinda freak me out, but they’ve been mostly cool about it.”

Stuart makes exaggerated kissing noises. “Young love. So sweet.”

Scott snorts and looks over at Stiles. “Saw you’ve been hanging out with Erica recently. Anything happening there I should know about?”

Stiles stares at his feet. “Nope. We’re just friends. I think she’s over her crush on me.”

“Aww. Too bad.”

Stiles shrugs. “Yeah.”

He feels the weight of Stuart’s gaze like a drill boring holes in the back of his head.

*****

“You’re in for a treat today,” the Sheriff says around a mouthful of bacon. He takes a long drink from his glass of milk. “Fair parking.”

“Seems a little beneath our pay grade,” Derek grumbles. The Sheriff shrugs.

“Beacon Hills is a small town,” he says cheerfully. “The assignments aren’t always tremendously exciting.”

“Be sure to smile at the nice people, Deputy,” Stiles says seriously, and Derek’s face contorts into that look that’s half annoyed, half fond. It’s quickly becoming Stiles’ favorite of his expressions.

“Morning, all,” Stuart says, yawning as he strides into the kitchen. He’s still in his pajamas; just a pair of red jogging shorts and no shirt. He scratches a spot low on his stomach, near his waistband. “Busy day for everyone?”

Stiles hears a restrained choking sound and turns to see Derek hiding behind his cup of coffee, face red and eyes carefully fixed on the table.

The Sheriff frowns slightly. “It’s forty-something degrees outside, son. Put some clothes on.”

Stuart huffs dismissively. “I like the cold.”

“We also have company,” Stiles says icily, glaring at his brother. Stuart meets his gaze levelly.

“Aww, Derek doesn’t mind, right?” He flashes Derek a grin that’s positively shark-like. “We’re all guys here.”

Derek just grunts and picks up the paper, holds it in front of his face.

Stuart pours himself some orange juice, drinks it, and heads back upstairs. Stiles stands slowly. “I’m going to finish getting ready for school,” he says. His father nods and Derek mutters something unintelligible.

“Have a good day, kiddo,” the Sheriff says.

Stiles tries not to run all the way to his room.

“What the hell?” he hisses as soon as the door is closed behind him. “What was that?”

Stuart smirks, pulling his shirt on and smoothing out the wrinkles in the front. “Not into you, my ass. He wants to tap that, like, yesterday,” he says, gesturing at Stiles’ body. “You should be thanking me.”

Stiles feels like his eyes might literally pop out of his skull. “Thank you? For what?”

Stuart’s smile widens, and he looks weirdly amused and angry at the same time. “What, like he’s not going to spend the rest of the day wondering how similar you and I really are? Wondering if your moles are in the same places as mine, if your muscles move the same way. Now that he’s gotten a sneak peek, he’s going to want to see the whole thing.”

He pats Stiles’ shoulder roughly and walks past and out the door. Stiles stands frozen for at least five seconds before following.

*****

Derek is sitting on a stool at the front counter when Stiles drops by the station to visit his dad. “Your brother ate three entire popsicles in front of me the other day.”

Stiles isn’t sure whether to laugh or be horrified. “Umm. Hi?”

Derek’s eyes narrow. “Does he know?”

Stiles glances around to check for eavesdroppers, fiddles with his jacket sleeve. “Know what?”

Derek’s eyes narrow more. “Stiles.”

“Ok, yes. He does.”

Derek groans. He drops his forehead flat against the counter. “Jesus. I’m going to jail, aren’t I?”

“No,” Stiles says fiercely. “He just thinks it’s funny, that’s all. He’s not going to say anything. I’ll tell him to back off, I swear.”

“And he’ll listen to you?” Derek says doubtfully. Stiles nods.

“I’ll make sure of it. I don’t want you to get in trouble, dude.”

Derek’s expression softens. “Well. Thanks for that.”

Stiles smiles shyly. “You’re welcome.” He waves to the receptionist as he passes through the double doors and heads down the hall to his dad’s office. When he glances back, he sees Derek gazing after him.

*****

“Let’s change it up,” Stuart says. He scoots back on the bed and lies flat, spreads his legs. “You top me.”

Stiles blinks. They’ve never really discussed this kind of stuff before, never talked about their likes and preferences. It’s always been an on-the-fly type deal. “Are you sure?” he says. “You’ve never wanted to before.”

Stuart beckons impatiently. “Come on. I want to do this.”

It takes a minute or so of preparation, but then Stiles is in. He gasps. “Fuck, you’re tight.”

“So were you the first time,” Stuart says. He winces, shudders.

They’re still initially, taking time to adjust, both breathing heavily. Stuart taps Stiles shoulder, and Stiles starts to move.

“Son of a, fuck . . .”

Stuart’s leg wrap tighter around Stiles’ back. He throws an arm over his face, hiding his eyes. His mouth is a thin line.

Stiles pauses and looks down at him, concerned. “Are you ok? Am I hurting you?”

“Keep going,” Stuart says, and his voice is thick with some emotion Stiles can’t discern.

They only last a few short minutes before Stiles’ vision whites out. He bites his lip to stifle the moan threatening to tear its way out of his throat. Stuart comes then, shooting all over his chest.

Stiles pulls out slowly and collapses on top of him. “Damn it,” he says, meaning it in more ways than one.

Stuart is quiet, unmoving. “I love you,” he says eventually, and he sounds more afraid than Stiles can ever remember him being.

Stiles sits up to look him in the eye. “I love you, too,” he says.

Stuart just stares silently, his face illuminated by the light from the window, his eyes cold and dark.

*****

They celebrate their seventeenth birthday at home. Scott and his mom come over, and so does Derek. They open gifts and eat cake, all sit together and share stories. It’s their first party that feels more like it’s for adults than children.

“You were always the clumsy one,” Melissa says fondly, running her fingers through Stiles’ hair. “I’ve lost count of the number of times the three of you have shown up in the ER with those guilty little faces. And it was almost always you who got hurt the worst.”

“You can thank my evil doppelganger for that,” Stiles says, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder at Stuart. “He’s always had a knack for getting me to try dangerous stuff.”

Stuart offers a small smile, though he seems subdued.

“And what would you say was my role in our mischief?” Scott says, cutting himself another slice of cake. Stiles grins.

“You were the goody two-shoes. Still are.”

“Lies!” Scott says, indignant. Melissa chuckles.

“I’m sure he’s remembering wrong, sweetie,” she says. “You were probably the worst of the bunch.”

“Well, there was that time you tried to burn down a cardboard fort in the backyard,” the Sheriff remarks drily.

“No, that was Stuart’s idea, too,” Scott says.

“I’m the bad one,” Stuart agrees, waggling his eyebrows.

The adults laugh and continue reminiscing. Scott starts telling Stuart a story about Allison’s family, and Derek just sits in the corner chair with an amused smile and watches it all. His eyes meet Stiles’ across the room, and the smile turns intimate, softer. It’s private, just for the two of them.

When the party clears out, Stiles lingers at the door to say goodbye.

“Enjoy the cake?” he says, leaning against the doorframe.

Derek nods, hands shoved deep in his pockets. “It was good,” he allows. Stiles bites his lip.

“Good night,” he says, and turns to go back in.

Derek jerks forward, and Stiles stops. “You really do mean it,” the older man says in a low voice, looking uncommonly unsure of himself. “You want to wait.”

Stiles stares at his shoes. “I do,” he says in a whisper. “One more year.”

Derek swallows. “Ok,” he says with something akin to wonder, looking guardedly happy. He turns on his heel and leaves. “Night,” he calls over his shoulder.

Stiles steps inside and closes the door, leaning against it for a minute before heading upstairs.

*****

He wakes in the middle of the night, disturbed by a sudden tension in the room. He sees Stuart sitting up in bed, facing the window.

“Stu?”

His brother twitches, hands at his sides and set upon the mattress, fingers curled like spider legs planted on the flat surface. “You need to choose,” he says. “You can’t have us both.”

Stiles sits up slowly. “What are you talking about?”

Stuart cracks his neck, still not facing him. “Me or Hale. I want you to choose.”

“Oh.” Stiles tosses the covers off, stands up. He goes over and sits next to his twin. Stuart’s eyes gleam with unshed tears. “Stuart . . . you were the one who was pushing me to go after him.” Stuart snarls.

“To get him out of your system! To have some fun, try something new, then move on. Not to fall in love with him.”

Stiles stiffens. “I’m not . . . I don’t.”

Stuart whips around on him. “You don’t?” he says skeptically, and Stiles looks away.

“No. I mean . . . maybe, someday. But I’m not there yet. I’m really not.”

Stuart scoffs. “Yeah.” He glares at the wall. “Do you love me?” he says after a while.

Stiles closes his eyes. “Of course I do. That’s not what this is about.”

“Then what is it?”

Stiles buries his face in his hands. “Jesus, Stu,” he murmurs, exhausted. “We can’t do this. Not forever. You have to know that. Surely you know that?”

Stuart takes Stiles’ hand in his own. “We could keep it secret,” he whispers. “We have, for all this time. We don’t have to stop. We can be more careful.”

“It’s not about being careful.” Stiles rubs his thumb gently over Stuart’s. “Someday, I’m going to want someone that I can share with other people. With Dad. With Scott, and our friends. Someone I don’t have to hide.”

Stuart’s hand clenches painfully around his. “What, and that someone is Derek? You’ll still have to hide, just for different reasons.”

Stiles shakes his head. “We’re waiting. We won’t have to hide.”

“Waiting?” Stuart lets go of his hand and stands, looms over him angrily. “You think he’ll wait?” he sneers. “You saw how he looked at me that day, in the kitchen.” He runs his fingertips roughly across Stiles’ face, along his jawline. “He wants this. He wants to fuck you. You’re a child to him. When he was our age, you were nine. You think this is some deep, emotional bond? You fucking talk to each other over breakfast sometimes, and that’s it.”

Stiles stands, too. His jaw clenches. “I like him,” he says tensely. “He likes me. We want to wait because we know it can’t work right now. That was important to him. He wants to do this right. If all he wanted was to get in my pants, he could have had that easily.”

“So he wants you for a regular booty call instead of a one night stand. Big deal. You still know nothing about each other.”

“You can’t help who you’re attracted to,” Stiles says, deathly quiet. “I would have thought you of all people would understand that.”

Stuart’s expression darkens. “You’re a coward,” he says coldly. “You’re so damn concerned with what other people think of you, you’re too afraid to admit you want me because it’s difficult. Our entire lives, I’ve always had to stand up for you because you’re too fucking weak to do it yourself. Hale is just your easy way out.”

Stiles rubs his forehead. “It’s either too complicated for me to want him, or it’s too easy,” he says. “You can’t have it both ways, Stu. Make up your mind about how you want to manipulate me this time.”

Stuart jerks forward, arm twitching like he’s thinking about throwing a punch. Instead his hands come up to cup around the back of Stiles’ head, pulling him close and sealing their lips together.

“Mmph!” Stiles pushes him away. “No.” Stuart steps forward again and Stiles pushes him harder. “No!

Stuart stumbles back and hits the wall. They both freeze and listen, waiting and expecting to hear their father’s footsteps in the hall. Five seconds without a noise. Ten.

Stiles takes a deep, shuddering breath. “No,” he says again, firmly. Resigned.

Stuart’s shoulders sag, and it seems as though his whole body is crumpling as he slides to the floor. “Please don’t leave me,” he whispers, and then they’re both quietly crying and Stiles rushes over and wraps his brother in a bone-crushing embrace.

“I don’t know how to fix you,” he chokes out through his tears. “Show me how to make you ok again.”

Stuart buries his face against Stiles’ chest and lets out a broken sob, muffles the sound against his shirt.

They hold each other in the dark and stay together on the floor, desperately praying for sleep to take them.

*****

When Stiles wakes again, they’re still lying on the ground, side by side, entangled. Stuart’s eyes are already open, locked with his.

“It doesn’t matter,” Stuart says hoarsely. “What you do with other people. You’ll remember who you belong to. You’ll never forget.”

He fits his lips against Stiles’, and this time he’s met with no resistance. And his kiss tastes like sweet poison.