The first time it happens, Derek doesn’t think much of it. Stiles is messy and he’s clumsy and he’s apparently not very good at keeping track of his own dirty laundry.
The pack had met at the Hale house the night before, post showdown with a boginka, a nature spirit in the form of a woman that had been… naked (“Boginky.” “Stiles!”). She’d been luring men into the lake at the preserve by playing music and dancing for them. Unfortunately, when the pack showed up, she’d attacked. It had been a pretty rough fight, but she was only one spirit. They’d out-matched her terribly and the fight didn’t last more than an hour before they were headed to the house to clean up.
Stiles must have left his ugly t-shirt at the house on accident. He wears so many layers of clothing he probably didn’t even notice, Derek thinks to himself, amused. It’s his “I Support Single Moms” shirt and when Derek holds it up and lets the wrinkles fall out he can see the odd smelling boginka blood creasing over the white pattern. He smirks to himself and throws it in the wash, wondering if Stiles will even realize it’s gone.
By the time it happens a second time, Stiles still hasn’t asked him about the single moms shirt. Derek doesn’t bring it up, he thinks it’d be really hard to explain that he’d washed it, folded it, and then placed it carefully in one of his empty dresser drawers. He doesn’t really know why he did it, safe keeping maybe, but his impulsiveness has put him in a bit of an awkward position. He feels a little guilty about not giving it back, but by now he almost can’t. It’d be weird to suddenly tell Stiles he has it when the boy had forgotten it so long ago. And he’s not sure he wants to give it back. He’s found himself hovering near his dresser, the smell of Stiles drifting up from the nearly empty drawer, as he makes excuses to himself in an effort to stay there longer, more times than he’s willing to admit.
This time though, Derek finds Stiles’s lacrosse jersey hanging thoughtlessly over the bathroom door handle. He must have left it the day before.
Derek had sensed something out by the lake and called for backup, Stiles and a few of the others had had to rush from the school’s locker room just before a lacrosse game to meet up with the rest of the pack. The boginka apparently had not been outnumbered, because there were more (“Boginky!” Stiles had cried. “For the last time Stiles, it’s not funny anymore!” “No, Boginky!”). They’d been ambushed by three of the siren-like spirits before they’d all made it out. Although, they’d faired worse than last time. Erica had nearly lost an arm and Stiles had been left soaking wet with a gash across the right side of his chest that Derek had not been happy about. He’d herded all of the teenagers into the house before rounding on the boy.
“Stiles,” He’d said, his face a complicated mix of angry and terrified (however that worked), “You’re sitting the next one out.” He was being irrational and overstepping the boundaries of the thin friendship they had, and he knew it, but goddamn had he been scared out there. Whether he was fully acknowledging that was subject to rightful doubt. His emotions led him to impulsive anger, a safe override. The younger man had scrunched his eyebrows up on his forehead and snorted indignantly.
“Just because I’m human and I don’t get your lame fuzzball powers doesn’t mean I’m at any disadvantage,” He threw his head back angrily when Derek leveled him with a flat look, “Well, it does, but it doesn’t matter because I can handle myself.” Derek glared hard at him and pointed out the obvious and uncomfortable looking open wound. Stiles had gotten even more short with him.
“I’m not useless,” He’d said, his eyes gleaming with his frustration, “I’m not. And you are not better than me just because you were raised by fucking wolves. I’m human Derek, I bleed, but I’m allowed to choose what’s worth bleeding for, just like you.” Derek just glared harder, tense and upset. He just didn’t want to see Stiles get hurt anymore. He was just as valuable a pack member as the rest of the group. Stiles had stomped out of the house in just his bloody undershirt and wet shorts after that, heated from the discussion without giving Derek a chance to explain.
Now, Derek clutches his jersey in his fist, the red fabric smelling like Stiles sweat, fear and adrenaline, and his blood, metallic and clinging to the back of Derek’s throat. He just barely holds back a whine.
Stiles avoids him after that. Derek goes about two weeks in a restlessly unhappy mood without seeing him before Scott arrives for training with a brand new bat and Stiles grumbling in the passenger seat about “stupid werewolves and their stupid, idiot puppy eyes.”
They don’t talk about it. The argument hangs in the air around them and the whole pack can feel it for the entirety of the training session. Derek doesn’t let Stiles sit out though. He grumbles and has Allison show him basic sparring techniques. The wolves all pair up to fight while Derek watches to correct any mistakes. It’s hard though, for him to focus his wandering gaze and fickle attention. He’s so aware of Stiles’s presence that it hurts. He’s greedy with it, and giddy too, after not seeing him. He almost wants to get in Stiles’s face and rile him up like he used to, to use the excuse of sparring to get his hands on him. He doesn’t, he’s come such a long way since those days. And he knows Stiles is still hot under the collar, hell, Derek’s still a little angry himself. But, somehow, it’s still harder than it should be for him to tear his gaze away from where Stiles’s dumb “Stud Muffin” t-shirt stretches out over the vast expanse of his shoulders, and even harder from where it rides up in the back, exposing the generous curve of his ass in his sweatpants. By the time the sun starts to bury itself in the tree line Derek is flustered, frustrated, and more than a little confused. Overall he’s just angry about it all, and it probably shows on his face.
So he jumps in, he spars with Boyd mostly, because he knows the kid can take a hit and because he’s the least likely to say anything about Derek’s grumpy alpha behavior after they’re done training. And Boyd is somehow the only beta that’s really not afraid to hit back.
Afterward, when they’re all worn out and the moon glows bright in the sky, they retreat noisily into the house in search of food and places to rest their legs. All of them, except for Derek, complaining about the exercise. Stiles is particularly noisy, because of course he is.
“Ew!” He flails when Erica slaps him on the back, “My shirt is sticking to me.” The betas laugh, although none of them are faring much better. Stiles is still panting, his chest rising and falling under the thin, wet fabric, and the way that his sweat makes it cling to him leaves Derek wordless, not that he’s usually very talkative, but he can usually think at least. He can feel his traitorous heart tripping up in his chest and he hopes the betas will mark it off as some kind of post workout adrenaline.
Derek leaves them in the hallway. Before he can even really process what he’s doing he’s in his bedroom, grabbing one of his own clean shirts and bolting back to the hall where he can still hear Stiles’s chattering.
“Here.” He says, and shoves the shirt into the boys chest.
Stiles doesn’t speak for a moment, surprise melting his features until his mouth falls open, slack-jawed and wide eyed. Derek is so busy listening to the flutter of Stiles’s heart speeding up that he misses the silence that has fallen over the rest of the room as well.
He goes to hide in the back yard after that, the moon and the air uncluttering his thoughts and washing the awkward tension of the day off of him. He sheds his shirt and takes off running. The woods give him peace, and his emotions make a little more sense to him when he’s clear-headed.
When he gets back the house is empty, but Stiles’s t-shirt, covered in salt lines from the ridiculous amount of sweat, is laying half under the living room couch. A small smile quirks the edges Derek’s lips up before he can stop it, because this means Stiles must have worn Derek’s old henley home.
Derek washes it with the jersey, which Stiles had never asked to have back. He pulls them out of the dryer, still warm, folds them in quiet reverence and puts them in the drawer with the other shirt. He goes to bed after and tries desperately not to think about the way it mixes their scents so nicely to have Stiles’s things in his dresser. He tries not to think about the way Stiles would look in his henley, the shoulders of the garment stretched and filled but the arms hanging a little loosely. Or the way he would smell, like he’d rolled around on Derek’s bed, like- like he and Stiles were together.
A week later Derek comes home to Stiles and Erica baking in his kitchen. Apparently their disagreement had been completely forgotten, their shallow frustration simmering out with the summer.
“Halloween is almost upon us Derek!” Stiles shouts to him when Derek flashes his ‘Confused Brows’ (Stiles had taken to categorizing all the positions Derek’s ridiculous eyebrows could take a long time ago, way before Scott and Isaac had started doing it for shits and giggles, thank you very much).
“It’s only the end of September?” He says. Or asks. The point is it’s still too early for Stiles and Erica to take over his kitchen to throw flour at each other and call it “baking.” Stiles ignores him in favor of rolling up the sleeves to his flannel.
“We’re making cupcakes this time!” Erica whisper shouts to him. Her curls bounce a little in her excitement and Derek is reminded of the way puppies ears flop ridiculously when they run. He leaves them to it after that, only reappearing in the kitchen once, when he smells the batter start to burn in the oven.
He spends the afternoon reading in the light of the house library’s big windows, his senses rendered almost useless when faced with the distraction of a good book.
By dusk, Derek is forced to put the book down with the fading light. He finds Stiles’s flannel discarded over the back of one of the kitchen chairs, the arms white with flour, the collar bent and uneven. Stiles and Erica are nowhere to be seen, and he can’t hear them in the rest of the house either. Not far, on the island, there is a single cupcake, sloppily decorated in orange and black, left with a note. It boasts a doodle of a wolf with impressively angry eyebrows. Derek takes a bite and hopes to swallow his smile down with the taste of sugar.
He washes the flannel. And when it ends up in the drawer with the other shirts (and the note, tucked underneath them all at the very bottom) he figures nobody really needs to know.
The next time it happens it’s during a movie night.
Lydia had wrangled them all together on a rare weekend everyone had been free, for what ended up being a night of arguing over what to watch. And apparently where to sit.
Erica and Boyd claimed the loveseat, curled around each other, their limbs hanging off of the cushions all over. Allison and Isaac are sat beneath them on the floor, Derek’s biggest plastic bowl filled with popcorn and balanced, one leg each, between them. Kira and Scott are stuffed into Derek’s huge arm chair together, he’d kick them out but he’s pretty sure it would just make him feel like some kind of bad older brother. He takes the end seat on the couch instead, Lydia between him and Jackson, who has an arm wrapped around her even though it makes her scoff half-heartedly.
Stiles arrives last. When Derek hears the jeep pull up over the gravel outside his heart does a confusing flip. He feigns ignorance when Isaac gives him a concerned look from the floor and goes to the kitchen with the excuse of needing a glass of water. When he goes back through the hall into the living room, Stiles has taken his seat. He glares and makes a rumbly noise until Lydia rolls her eyes and tells Jackson to sit on the floor so she can “play with his hair,” because even if Jackson is by no means a complete idiot, he is crazy possessive and Lydia knows the only way around both of those facts is to play off of the way he’s also crazy whipped. Lydia pinches Stiles and he shoots daggers at her but moves down so Derek can have his original seat back.
They end up watching some new Disney movie Derek’s never heard of before, he thinks it was Stiles’s pick, if the way he’s bouncing in his seat to the soundtrack is any indication. He loses his energy about halfway through though, when he’s settled more fully into the couch and Derek catches him blinking heavily, the television’s hazy blue glow lighting his pale face and making his eyelashes look long and full above his honey eyes. They cast deep, gorgeous shadows over the landscape of his cheeks. Derek’s breath hitches and he already knows that he must be so unbelievably obvious, especially to his group of nosy werewolf friends. Hell, when he glances away from Stiles’s oblivious form he catches Lydia and Allison giving each other knowing looks in between the ones they shoot at him. He clears his throat and shifts awkwardly. It jostles Stiles a little, and he didn’t realize they were sitting so close, but now that he’s noticed he can’t focus on anything else. Stiles doesn’t say anything, he just scoots forward and shimmies his red hoodie off of his shoulders, the arms folding inside out as he tugs it off and flings it over the back of the couch behind him. He gives Derek a sheepish look and shrugs.
“S’warm,” He says sleepily, and Derek tries so hard not to be charmed by the endearing way he moves back in, his shoulders slumping into the couch. Stiles folds his hands lazily across his thighs as he makes himself more comfortable. At the site of them Derek has to hold his own hands back. Stiles must feel his shoulders tense up because he gives him a quizzical look and then shifts carefully away. Derek mourns the loss of his warmth along his side silently, as the movie blares it’s gaudily cheery music.
They only make it fifteen more minutes in before Stiles is out. Lydia smirks and carefully pushes him away, he snuffles and bodily turns from her, straight into Derek’s chest. The werewolf gives her a terrified look as Stiles leans on him, stretching his arms out over and around him, getting his feet up on the couch, pushing his face, sleep warm and breathing hotly, against Derek’s neck. For a moment he doesn’t dare move, he holds himself as stiffly and carefully as he can, especially as Stiles starts to mumble in his sleep, somehow already dreaming. Derek glances around the room, sure that his rapid heartbeat will be earning him stares, but everyone is looking pointedly at the television. He gets a glimpse of Kira’s smile though, as she peeks at him out of the corner of her eye. It calms him though, that they all seem to be okay with this, amused but fondly. And he’s thankful for the little privacy they give, or attempt to give. He allows himself to relax a little. Stiles must approve because he shuffles closer somehow, nearly in Derek’s lap, innocently unaware. He mumbles again, something about heat and scratchiness, which he accentuates by rubbing his cheek and nose along the bottom of Derek’s jaw. Instinct kicks in a little and he shivers before he loses his breath and goes boneless. His arms find their way to Stiles’s back.
Sleep, a hazy friend of contentment, takes over him soon after.
When he wakes up, it’s morning, the room is empty save for the clutter of dirtied dishes, the throw pillows, askew and rumpled, the red hoodie draped low over the back of the couch where Derek has buried his fists (and nose) into the fabric, and the leftover smell of Stiles’s anxiety, stale like it’s been hanging in the air for a while.
He can’t hear anyone else in the house. He doesn’t hold in the whine this time.
He doesn’t see Stiles for a week and the days drag out unhurriedly. Derek can’t even remember anything about that night worthy of any real avoidance. So there had been the cuddling, but if they’d seen each other by now they would’ve shared an awkward glance of recognition and probably forgotten about it already. He’s beside himself with confusion and hurt. Is it that big of a deal to Stiles that they’d been so close, his he that uneasy with the idea?
A week and a half in, Derek actually resorts to tugging the hoodie on his own shoulders before he goes to bed. He’s pretty sure he stretches the sleeves out. If Stiles ever talks to him again he’s going to be so pissed, but damn, he actually thinks it helps him sleep.
He should’ve known better, though.
The next morning, he takes the hoodie off, folds it, and puts it in the drawer. He even, albeit a little quickly, showers before he goes downstairs. When his feet reach the kitchen tiles, Isaac gives him one look before he scrunches his nose and his face twists into pity.
“Wow, you should-” He stutters in the wake of Derek’s carefully schooled expression, it’s so telling, really, “You should talk to him.” Derek just buries his head in the fridge and pretends like he can’t find something until Isaac goes away.
After that he doesn’t sleep in the clothes again, he actually starts to actively ignore their existence. He doesn’t let himself open the drawer, or spend unhealthy amounts of time standing by the dresser. He puts more time into helping the betas train, he goes running and reads and tries to ignore the fact that Stiles isn’t around even if his dumb clothes are.
It goes on like that for another two weeks before even Scott starts to look sorry for him.
And then he just can’t take it anymore. He’s confused and he’s sick of everyone looking at him like someone kicked his puppy, or like he is a kicked puppy. He takes all the shirts out of his drawer, stuffs them in his old duffle bag and heads to Stiles’s house.
When he gets there, the window is unlocked. He climbs in.
Stiles does a double take from his desk chair before he flails and nearly falls out of it.
“Jesus Christ, Derek!” He shouts, clutching at his chest. Derek glares hard at him and throws the duffle by his feet. Stiles looks at him quizzically before he picks it up and pulls open the zipper.
“What’re these?” He asks dumbly, as he pulls them out of the bag in one big messy handful.
“Yours.” Derek says, his voice carefully calm from where he’s standing by the window in his leather jacket, arms crossed and looking like the poster child for emotional issues. Stiles purses his lips.
“I know that dumbass, why do you have these?” Derek shoots him and incredulous look and huffs.
“You kept leaving them at my house, back when you used to show up.” He tries not to let any hurt show in his voice, but Stiles has been able to see through his angry front for a long time. He studies Derek carefully, before he takes the hoodie out and slips it on. Derek’s nostrils flare, his own scent is still on the fabric from when he slept in it. He shuts his eyes hard and hopes fruitlessly that he hasn’t been caught.
“Why have you been avoiding me?” He asks Stiles flatly. He can feel his eyebrows knit together on his forehead, can feel the emotion bleeding out onto his face. Stiles takes pity, standing so they’re eye to eye and this close Derek catches their scents mixing even stronger. His heart lurches in his stupid chest and he is silently thankful, selfishly and not for the first time, that Stiles is not a werewolf, he’s much too intuitive without the enhanced senses.
“Well, why have you been keeping my shirts?” And Derek breaks, grunts as he reaches out in clumsily eagerness, Stiles meeting him halfway. They kiss desperately, Derek fisting one hand into Stiles shirt, pulling him closer, and curling the other around his neck, holding him steady and firm. Stiles tugs him back until he falls into the chair, Derek falling on top of him, and then they go tumbling backward onto the floor.
Stiles laughs so hard Derek has to kiss him again.
Later, when they’ve righted the desk chair, and Derek’s leather jacket is draped over the back of it, after they’ve finally settled against each other in Stiles bed, clothes on, but still somehow unable to catch their breath unless it’s filtered through each others lungs, Stiles makes a surprised noise of recognition, one that says he’s putting all the pieces together.
“This is why you told me I wasn’t allowed to fight that one time!” Derek grunts in agreement, thoroughly distracted.
“I was angry. I didn’t want you to get hurt again.” Stiles laughs, throws his head back and Derek is so tempted to latch onto his neck, and then he realizes he can. He does. Stiles moans a little in approval.
“Yeah, that’s good,” He says breathlessly, and Derek hums. “You’re secretly a big softy, you know. Oh! Is this what the henley was about after that?” Derek hums against his throat again, and at this point he’s pretty much just agreeing to anything Stiles says because he can’t be bothered to put too much of his focus on anything but the way he can feel Stiles’s pulse under his tongue. He digs his fingers into Stiles’s hips until the boy lets himself be pulled into Derek’s lap. He climbs in closely, fingers burying in Derek’s hair and pulling his face up to look him in the eye.
“Me too, you know, I felt the same way about you. It’s why I didn’t come around after I fell asleep on you that one time. I was afraid you’d realize and it’d freak you out. I was afraid to face you if you knew and didn’t feel the same.” Derek snorts.
“All the betas knew how I felt about you,” He barrells on through Stiles’s disbelief. “They could all hear my heartbeat around you. God, even when I’d hear the fucking jeep it’d go nuts. I even- I even took it out on them at training because I was so frustrated.” He pulls Stiles in closer, kisses him again because he can. “That night, during the movie when you fell asleep,” He breathes against Stiles cheek as the human runs his hands up under Derek’s shirt, “That was all Lydia’s fault.” He lets out a shaky, breathy laugh, Stiles’s hands raking up and down his back.
“Yeah?” Stiles asks, and he doesn’t sound much better, his voice is thick and more hoarse than usual, “Maybe we should send her a gift or something.” Derek laughs again, but it tapers off into a moan when Stiles licks the base of his neck.
“You- you did that, that night,” He breathes out, tracing his hands over Stiles’s torso, and pushing his shirt up to his armpits. “Do you even know how that felt? You were asleep and you put your face in my neck and- God,” He breaks off when Stiles starts to leave little open mouth kisses along his throat that end in bites.
“Take- take your clothes off.” Derek says. He pushes Stiles shirt up the rest of the way, and they break apart briefly to get it over his head.
“You too,” Stiles urges, kissing more fiercely before tugging at Derek’s shirt.
“Yeah,” Derek says, and starts to work on the button of Stiles fly with one hand. The other is busy trying to touch every inch of the younger man’s chest. Stiles rocks his hips down against him once and he feels like time shudders to a stop. His hand leaves Stiles’s fly in favor of grabbing his hip and pushing for him to do it again.
“Stiles,” He gasps, “Again, do it again.” Derek bucks up this time and their hips meet where they’re both hard, still in their jeans, and the friction is so good he could sob. Instead, he attacks Stiles fly with new ardor.
“Off, off,” Stiles arches up and shimmies, trying to get them over his hips desperately. Derek pulls at them until their halfway down Stiles’s thighs and stops.
“Stiles?” He asks breathlessly, still panting as he begins to laugh.
“Oh my god,” Stiles groans, looking down at where his boxers are covered with Batman’s face, “I forgot I was wearing these.” But, he’s laughing, and Derek laughs too, grabs Stiles’s hips, buries his face in his neck and laughs.
“I can’t fuck you with Bruce Wayne looking at me like that.” Stiles scoffs but grabs onto the back of Derek’s neck with both hands, looking at him dead-on.
“Who said anything about you fucking me?” He says.
The next morning Stiles wakes up groggy. When he reaches out next to him Derek is gone but the bed is still pleasantly warm. He rolls into the warm spot Derek left and looks up to see his dad in the doorway, still in his uniform.
“Goodmornin’ kid,” He says, a goofy smile melting across his face. Stiles meets it with a goofy smile of his own.
“Hey dad,” He sits up sleepily and stretches his arms above his head. His dad raises his eyebrows.
“That’s, uh,” He gestures to Stiles’s neck, “Pretty big bruise you got there son, how’d that happen?” Stiles’s eyes shoot to Derek’s jacket on the back of his desk chair before he can stop them, his dad tracks the movement and smirks. The sheriff’s hands settle on his hips, two fingers resting on his gun.
“Have him stay for breakfast next time,” He says as he disappears down the hall.
A few months later, after Stiles brings his t-shirts back to Derek’s and puts them in their designated drawer, smirking and adding in some sweats, a pair of underwear and a disgustingly fuzzy pair of socks that Derek will sometimes wear when he thinks Stiles won't find out about it. After Stiles makes him stay for breakfast with the Sheriff and Derek makes it out with only one threatening head nod toward the gun cupboard. After Stiles buys a second toothbrush and leaves it in Derek’s ensuite. After Derek catches him wearing the worn out henley he’d given him before. After Stiles raids Derek’s closet in search of more of his clothing to steal. After they tell the rest of the pack who just laugh fondly and tease them until they’re bored and find something else to tease each other about. It’s after all of that when Isaac flops down on the couch at the Hale house and digs into the cushions, searching for the remote, muttering senseless curses about Erica, who always hides it from him. He gropes blindly between the seats and pulls his eyebrows together in confusion when his fingers skirt across something soft. He yanks the fabric out of the couch and holds it up to the light, only to throw it down, screaming in embarrassment and disgust when he realizes the garment is Stiles’s pair of Batman boxers.