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Boys Like You

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Everyone is staring at him. Derek can feel it.

Waiting rooms for this kind of place should be illegal. It should just be in and out, or entirely online. This is beyond embarrassing, and Derek understands now why Cora hates buying tampons. Sure, it's a natural process and she shouldn't be embarrassed about it -- which is what Derek had argued -- but it's intimate. It's private. And now some stranger knows something about you that you wouldn't even share with your family.

Or in Derek's case, what feels like half the freaking town of Beacon Hills.

He's about to get up and throw the stupid magazine he's hiding behind -- Alpha Dreams -- straight in the trash with his pride. But then the cute front desk guy emerges from the back room with the girl who was ahead of him in line, and Derek loses his nerve.

He's double annoyed that he's attracted to the front desk guy. It's like his version of buying tampons from a model. Well, maybe a department store model -- he's not Abercrombie, but he's just Derek's type. Except he's got this hipster vibe, which usually irritates Derek, but somehow he's rocking it. His hair's a wafty mess, he's drowning in his overlarge sweater, and those skinny jeans are hugging his toned legs just right. It's the big brown eyes and laughing mouth that really do it for Derek, though. Something about them screams submission, and Derek's right up against that wall right now.

Derek doesn't stare because he actually does still have some pride left. Instead he looks at the ridiculous magazine full of submissively posed women rolling on cars and motorcycles and other stupid shit. Any other time of the month he would snort at the images, but it's not any other time of the month.

"Hale?" Cute guy calls, and Derek carefully folds the magazine back up and sets it on the chair next to him.

The guy is cuter up close, with tiny moles everywhere and dark, dark eyelashes. Derek folds his hands in front of him and stares at them as the guy focuses on his computer.

This is all Cora's fault, and Laura for backing her up. Cora swears by this clinic. Whenever she's not dating anyone, she's here like clockwork every month, and she's been bugging Derek to come for years now. But Derek doesn't like sterile environments, and he secretly wonders if they tape their clients or some shit like that.

Not that the bars are much safer for him anymore. Not since his last rut hookup. Crazy girl stole his wallet and rang up thousands on his credit card before he even woke up from his rut haze. Nothing like that to cure him of the idea of random hookups during his rut.

Still, he'd never be comfortable with turning this primal instinct into some kind of... medical procedure.

"First name?" The guy looks up from his computer.

"Derek."

"I'm Stiles." The guy smiles, a quick little quirk of his mouth. His eyes kind of dance. Derek doesn't look at him because he doesn't trust his own interpretation of anything right now.

"Birth date?"

Derek gives it, keeping his gaze down this time. His hands are very interesting. He picks up one of the little clinic pamphlets so he has a better excuse not to look at the guy.

"Orientation?"

"Alpha."

"Ah, I was right. You've got that look. It's the leather jacket." Derek looks up again to see that teasing smile as the guy clicks on his computer. That's kind of flirtatious, right? Derek's not imagining everything because his brain's sinking into a rut fog like a ship downed at sea.

Stiles takes his address, contact info, health insurance, and emergency contacts before he leads him into the backroom like he did for that other girl. She came out smiling, like whatever they talked about in there had put her at ease, so Derek only tenses a little as he follows him back.

They settle into a small room with a table and a camera. Derek tenses more when he sees the camera, but he sits down on one side of the table without comment. Stiles sits in front of him with a packet and a tablet.

"Alright, so we're going to go over some basic info. I love questions, so just hit me up anytime. Don't feel shy or uncomfortable or anything like that, we can talk about penises or knots or slick, whatever. I talk about this all day long, so you can't surprise me, I promise you." Stiles winks at him and Derek feels himself flush. Usually he's not a prude, but this kid is trying to birds and bees him and he feels suddenly young. Stiles is at least five years under him, but he's got the confidence of a practiced sex ed master.

"So you're right on the edge of your rut, right?" Stiles asks him pointedly. Derek swallows before nodding sharply. He's probably giving off about a million signals, so he's not surprised the kid has him pegged right away. "Next time, try to sort out cycling with a day's head's up at least. A week is better if you need to pick a new partner. Sometimes people find a good partner here and then they just partner up each time, or they get comfortable enough with each other that they stop using the clinic rooms. We had a wedding last year for a couple who found each other through our matching process, actually, it was super cute. The back of the building has this little fountain and they -- anyway, sometimes I get sidetracked. You can stop me if I do that."

Stiles smiles apologetically and rubs at his neck, and Derek's mouth fills with saliva at the way he tilts his chin down just like that. Fuck, this kid is all his buttons. He's got this helix piercing that is just really doing it for Derek, and Derek has no idea why, or if he would even notice it outside of his rut haze.

"Sooo, we'll get you sorted in time for your rut. Pinky promise. I'll personally expedite the process. We have some people who have great response time, so I'll be sure to point them out when we look at pictures and pick out scents." Stiles is smiling again. Derek nods like Stiles expects him to.

"Well first off, how did you hear about us?"

"My sister." Derek feels like two word sentences are safe. He can't proposition Stiles with two words, he's pretty sure.

Stiles waits a beat like he's expecting Derek to elaborate. When he doesn't, Stiles just slides into the next part of his talk.

"Okay, cool. You do look kind of familiar, and I see everyone who comes through, so that would explain that. What we do here is unique. We're not a hospital, we're a reproductive clinic. We specialize in everything from orientation-specific counseling to birth control to what you're here for, cycling. Everything stays confidential, including who your rut partners are. We help you pick the right partner, each step of the way, and we have about a 90% success rate in matching folks. That 10% of the time where cycle meetings don't work out, for whatever reason, we can help make the rut as comfortable as possible for you."

Derek is genuinely impressed. People changed when they cycled. Derek became much pushier, much more irritated with everything. Too aggressive, his sisters liked to complain. Other people reacted differently, and usually reactions fell along orientation lines. Matching two hormonal strangers for sex for the night seems like an impossible task to him.

Ruts are horribly uncomfortable without a partner, though, which is why Derek is here and not watching porn alone at home. 

"This first time I'll be guiding you, but after today you'll be able to do most of this through our app." Stiles waves the tablet at him. He moves his hands a lot when he talks, even when it's totally unnecessary. "Everything but the scents, you have to come in to the clinic to sample a new scent. But a lot of folks skip the scenting part and just pick their partners with the info on the app."

"So you pick a partner, then on the day of your rut you just check in. You're set up with a room for the night. I'll show you those in just a minute. We'll do a supervised intro to your heat partner, and you will both give a final yes or no. Then we leave you to your business. But there's always someone on call in the heat wing, so if things don't work out during the night, you can call us at any time, there's an intercom in the room. Just because you initially agreed to something doesn't mean you can't always back out, just so you know. There's no repercussions if you get in the room and things just don't work out. People can be too sensitive to their partner's smells, or they might be unexpectedly moody, or maybe they're just not sexually compatible. In that case, we'll split you into separate rooms and give you soothers to make you more comfortable."

"Okay." Derek likes the sound of Stiles's voice, kind of fast-tempo and frenetic.

"Cool." Stiles smiles at him again, pausing like he's giving Derek a chance to talk. "So, obviously people like this because it's a controlled meet -- they're able to match with people who are also cycling, and they can schedule it ahead of time. We pride ourselves on being safe and clean, and we meet the highest standards possible for reproductive clinics. This clinic was actually given an award recently for our high standards." Stiles seems personally proud of that, so Derek nods in response. "We want our clients to feel comfortable here when they're at their most vulnerable." 

Derek nods again.

"Any questions or concerns?" Stiles asks, tilting and leaning onto his chin. Derek notices a watercolor bee tattoo along the outer side of his hand, creeping toward his pinky, and what looks like geometric octopus tendrils creeping out of the other sleeve.

"Nope."

Stiles blinks at him, then bustles on like before. He's pretty good at not letting Derek sit in awkward silence, which Derek appreciates a lot.

"In that case, let's start building your profile! So you can give as little or as much information as you want, but I highly recommend filling out all the fields, even if you feel a little weird about it, because it increases your chances of matching well with someone else."

"Okay." Derek realizes that this is the part where he actually has to tell Stiles things that will require more than one or two words. He wills his rut instincts to simmer down while Stiles fiddles with the tablet and pulls up a blank profile page.

"If you've ever used another dating app, it's a lot like that. We modeled this after Tinder, actually. But we have certain rules. I've got to take a face and body picture for you, and you can choose to either keep your clothes on or take them off for that."

"Clothes on," Derek says before Stiles even stops talking. Stiles grins at him, a brilliant, dazzling flash, before he carries right on.

"Well, the pictures are standardized, that's all. No selfies or filters or pictures of your dog. You want to get those out of the way right now?" 

Derek doesn't smile when Stiles points the camera at him, and he didn't smile for his driver's license photo either. But then Stiles wiggles his eyebrows at him, and Derek hates it but he also kind of likes it and the flash goes off right as he's fighting down his answering smile

"Okay, here's the body shot. No posing or anything, I wish, but my boss would kill me. Just stand exactly like that."

Stiles beckons him over when he gets the shots. Derek barely glances at them before he nods his assent. Stiles shakes his head in response, laughing a little.

"Usually that part takes a while. People have me take a million pictures before I get one they like. You are so easy, man."

Stiles loads the photos onto his profile. Then he pulls out a small glass bottle and waves a cotton swab at Derek. 

"I'm gonna grab a scent sample. Can you lean closer for me? Just behind the ear."

Derek shivers when Stiles swipes the cotton swab along his neck and he feels the barest hint of Stiles's fingertips. Stiles bottles it up and stows it somewhere under the table, and then they're at the part Derek's dreading.

"Alright, preferences?"

"Omega," Derek says slowly.

Stiles licks his lower lip and Derek's eyes get caught on the motion.

"Gender?"

"What do you mean?"

"Omega women? Omega men? Omega nonbinary?"

"You have omega men here?" Derek just blurts it out before he can think about it. Stiles's reaction confuses him at first. His fist comes up in front of his mouth suddenly, like he's about to cough. But no sound comes out. Then his shoulders shake and Derek realizes he's stifling a laugh.

"Sorry." Stiles coughs for real just to clear his throat. His eyes are dancing again, like they were in the lobby. "Yeah, we have omega men. They exist."

Derek has to process that. He's super into omega male porn, but he's also super aware that real people are not like porn. And he's never met, let alone had sex with, an omega male before, so he's not sure that all the things that turn him on in porn would also turn him on in person. Also, he's pretty sure that omega men are stereotyped more than any other orientation gender combination, so everything he's heard about them is probably a myth.

Still.

"Anything." Derek nods a little too enthusiastically. "Yeah, anything is good."

"Okay." Stiles licks his lips again, adjusting the tablet in his hands. He carefully selects "omega" and then ticks off all the gender options that pop up after it. "Any other orientations?"

"Betas are okay, but no alphas." Derek is sure about that. He'd hooked up with an alpha girl in high school, and it was just off. He's also pretty sure that Stiles is a beta, so there's no way he's going to openly exclude them, even if he does secretly prefer omegas.

"Know what you want, huh?" Stiles grins again and Derek kind of wants to kiss him. He looks down quickly before his rut brain can decide that's a good idea. "Alright. Knotting okay, or no?"

"No knotting," Derek says, and this he hates talking about. He's afraid Stiles is going to ask him why he's such a prude, but Stiles moves on immediately.

"So this is the part that I always encourage people to fill out even if it seems too personal. Yeah, other people will see your profile, and you will see theirs. You may or may not match up. But I want our clients to have good sex while they're here, and that's much more likely if you can match up your sexual preferences, not just your orientation. Orientation doesn't always match sex style, you know. So. Anything you like to do during sex?"

Derek stares at him. Stiles seems perfectly content to just wait for him to swallow down his embarrassment. All he can think about right now is what he would like to do to Stiles.

"I can make some suggestions, if you like," Stiles eventually prods him.

"Uh, sure."

"No knotting, but do you get alpha aggression?"

Derek is ashamed of it, but he nods his head.

"Some people are really into that, you know," Stiles says encouragingly, typing this in with one hand. "And now your potential partner will have the chance to pick you for that, too. That's a good thing. Scratching or biting your thing?"

"Biting. Just biting."

Stiles writes this down.

"Um, we don't allow restraints, but I know that's a big one for alphas too. Do you like pinning or mounting your partner?"

Derek almost swallows his tongue at the blase way those lips just said "mounting". Stiles blinks his owl eyes at him until Derek nods his assent to both.

"K, make sure you get explicit consent for the pinning."

"Of course." Derek is offended Stiles would even say that to him, but Stiles just shrugs so easily that Derek briefly envies him his laid-back attitude.

"Well now it's in your file, so you can start that conversation easily with your rut partner and it won't be a surprise." Stiles rubs his neck again, and when Derek's eyes drop to his neck he doesn't miss the coy smile that twists Stiles's lips in response. Realizing how obvious he's being, Derek tears his eyes away and looks at the tablet instead.

"Almost done. You know if you're regular with your ruts? 30 day cycle, or maybe 31?"

"25."

"Really." Stiles's eyebrows go up, and Derek can tell he's doing frequency math. Yeah, Derek gets ruts more often than most people. It didn't used to suck because he's not ugly and he's good at picking up one-night stands in a rut bar, but now it kind of does because there's no way he's doing that again and he's not sure how this clinic thing is going to work out either.

"I can tell you're right on the cusp of one. Is it going to hit tonight or tomorrow, do you know?" Stiles leans forward a little over the table, but Derek is sure his rut brain imagined it.

"Tonight."

Stiles's eyebrows go up again.

"Let's get to picking potential partners, then."

Derek kind of hates it when Stiles clicks the cute little matchstick button and profile pictures immediately pop up like some kind of criminal line-up. He forces himself to look at them, but this isn't how it's supposed to go. He's instinct-based when he gets like this. He needs to see, to feel, to taste someone to tell if they're his rut partner for the night. Also, his rut brain has already seen Stiles and it doesn't want anything else.

"Anyone stand out?"

Derek shakes his head, sighing.

"Well, the list is a bit small because these are people who are still unmatched and cycling tonight. Most people choose partners a few days in advance. We can go to our pinch-hitters. These are people who aren't cycling but are willing to come in for people who are."

"Okay."

This list is longer and a bit more appealing. These are people who obviously like sex, and once he picks a picture and reads a profile his rut brain starts to consider someone other than Stiles for half a second. Especially when the girl mentions she's a yoga instructor.

"If she still sounds good after reading her profile, just press this button here and she'll get a notification that she's matched with someone. Usually we only reveal matches to people once they've both selected each other, but pinch-hitters get your profile right away so they can let us know in a timely way."

"You think I'll match with someone by tonight?" Derek asks gloomily as he tries to force himself to be attracted to one of the other faces on the tablet.

"Oh yeah." Stiles nods deep and confident. Derek arches an eyebrow in question. "Definitely you will."

Derek preens at the compliment, sitting a little straighter as he browses through profiles with Stiles watching him. He picks a total of three people, two omegas and a beta. Then he passes the tablet back over to Stiles.

"You want to try their scents?"

Derek just shrugs. He doubts the little glass bottles keep scents well, and everyone's scent changes when they cycle anyway.

Stiles fiddles under the table in a drawer before he pulls up three glass bottles, numbered. Derek takes them one by one and inhales deeply before he corks them again. 

One girl smells distinctly like heatscent, which he loves, but otherwise they all smell... fine.

"Any standouts?"

Derek just shrugs again.

Stiles chews his bottom lip for a moment before he puts the bottles away again. He seems fidgety, like he wants to say something, but instead he stands up and motions for Derek to follow him.

They turn deeper into the clinic rather than returning to the lobby. After another hallway that looks like a typical clinic, they go down a long hall with identical white doors.

"We can unlock any door, for the safety of the residents of course, but unless there's an emergency we don't bother you until you ask us too. We respect your privacy."

Stiles opens a locked door with a key and shows him around inside. There's a mattress covered in plastic, new sheets folded neatly at the foot of it. Extra blankets and sleeping clothes. Bottles of lube, of course, and cooling gel. Some omegas get physically hot when they get their heat. Derek had spent the night feeding a girl ice cubes once.

"In this drawer are some toys, if you like using toys. This is a special drawer that sanitizes them between sessions, just make sure you put whatever away in its correct spot. And here's the intercom button if you need anything. Panic buttons are on wristbands you're required to wear, so you can activate those if there's an emergency. The intercom is for less-emergent problems, like if you need snacks or water. Someone's always on duty during the night."

Stiles leads him back down the hallway, and Derek tries to think of something interesting to say as they approach the lobby and he never gets to talk to him again.

Stiles fiddles with the door to the lobby, turning to him before he opens it.

"Any questions or anything? I feel like we didn't talk much. Or, you didn't talk much, which is fine, I just want to make sure you feel totally comfortable before I let you go."

"When will I know?"

"If your matches don't get back to us soon, I will personally call them up and ask them to check their app before I leave tonight. Then I'll give you a call and let you know the plan. If you match up, you should be here by 7. If you don't match up, you can come in at 8. You can settle payment in the morning, and our pricing is in this pamphlet."

"Okay." Derek takes the stack of papers Stiles gives him. He doesn't want to leave. He wants to touch Stiles's bee tattoo and lick his helix piercing. "Thanks for explaining this all to me."

"Yeah, I--" Stiles fidgets again, leaning back against the door. It's a somewhat submissive posture, and his alpha brain immediately calls it that, but Derek shoves those feelings away as hard as he can. "It was my pleasure, man. It was great to meet you. I hope you have an amazing night."

Derek doesn't answer. He doesn't think he will, but that's impolite, and Stiles clearly loves his job so Derek isn't about to insult it with his pessimism.

After a silent moment, Stiles pulls the door open and shows him to the lobby.

Chapter Text

Erica teases him when he gets back to work, parking her ass on his desk and questioning him ruthlessly about his clinic experience. He regrets telling her why he was taking a long lunch, but usually he can withstand her teasing easily. Today it's grating.

"Why don't you try it yourself and see how it is?" Derek bites at her when he gets too tired of it.

"Someone is very alpha-y today." Erica clicks her tongue and shakes her head. "You gonna rut all over this office before the day's over?"

"Leave," Derek demands through clenched teeth. "Or I might."

Erica clicks her tongue again and eyes him mischievously as she sashays out. Twenty minutes after she leaves, Cora knocks on his door and Derek knows she's been sent.

"What," he asks flatly. "Did I hurt Erica's feelings?"

"Of course not. But she told me how you're -- I brought you a coffee. Thought it might help."

"I'm fine," Derek snaps. And then he growls at her. Cora's eyes go wide and Derek freezes in his chair.

"Whoah."

"I don't know where that came from," Derek says quickly, clamping down on his irrational irritation.

"You're..." Cora quirks her eyebrow. "You should take off early. Your alpha agression is not under control. You dont want to get that reputation at work."

"I--" Derek searches the past few hours to explain what would have triggered him like this. "Oh shit. I met this guy at the clinic today."

"Really!" Cora beams as she sets the coffee down on his desk. "So you had a good time there? Was he another patient?"

"No, it was the front desk guy."

"Stiles?" Cora blinks at him. "Stiles sent you into a rut?"

"Apparently," Derek growls and Cora blinks at him some more.

"I... didn't think he was your type."

"Apparently," Derek says again, this time in less of a growl. He rubs his face and wills himself to chill the fuck out. "A lot my type. Exactly."

"He's so... hipster."

"I know." Derek groans and looks at his sister helplessly. "I want to lick his tattoos."

"Gross." Cora's smiling though, and Derek wants to growl at her again. He doesn't. "That's adorable, though, that you're into twinky guys in skinny jeans."

"He's not twinky. He's --" Derek thinks of how to describe Stiles, with his flurry of speech and his fidgeting. And those eyes. "Perfect."

"Weird." Cora points at him. "This is not you. This is the rut talking. Remember when you wanted to propose to Paige in tenth grade? This is like that."

"Yeah, but I loved Paige. I only talked to Stiles for twenty minutes today. I probably said a total of fifty words to him."

"Aw." Cora picks up the coffee and deposits it directly in his hands. "Drink this. Finish your work. Go work off some steam until you can get your butt to the clinic tonight."

Derek does as Cora instructs. He finishes his building plans, files them in the team folder, and leaves two hours early to work out at the gym. He runs five miles on the treadmill before he admits to himself that he wants to hit every other alpha in the vicinity. He joins a pickup game of basketball and fouls within ten minutes. He leaves the pickup game and sits in the hot tub, trying to relax. But there's a buzzing under his skin and a pulsing, throbbing energy in his core that wants to fight and fuck. 

It's stronger than usual, and he knows it's because he already found his rut partner. His body feels denied, like Stiles had turned him down rather than never been a real option in the first place. He needs to work off that rejection before he gets in a room with someone else for the night.

He pep-talks himself quietly in the hot tub. His dad had taught him about pep-talks before he died. He was an alpha too, and their mom made them take alpha classes together so they wouldn't murder each other when Derek got older. They learned about healthy ways of relieving alpha aggression, like sports and exercise. Derek's tried those, so now he tries the pep-talk, dad's personal method of talking himself out of alpha aggression.

Stiles liked you just fine. He didn't turn you down. He smiled at you and he laughed, and yeah, it was the best thing you've ever heard, but he was just being nice. He's a nice person. He was just working. He wasn't flirting with you, and it would have been worse to hit on him while he was working. This isn't a failure, it's a success. Good job.

Derek growls at himself at that. Good job indeed.

Derek showers and dresses in the locker room. When he checks his phone, he curses out loud to see two missed calls from an unknown number. He breathes deeply to settle himself before he calls back. It's almost five, so Stiles might have left already.

"Hello, you've reached Harvest Moon Clinic."

"Stiles?" Derek asks, his throat a bit croaky with excitement.

"Derek?" Stiles sounds genuinely happy to talk to him. Derek feels himself vibrate with pleasure at the thought. "I was just about to try calling you again before I left. Good timing, man."

"Thanks for calling me back."

"Yeah, so. I have some. Well. Here's the thing. All the pinch-hitters you selected matched with you, of course, but they have other obligations tonight."

Derek's heart sinks and he feels himself slide against the locker. He takes a deep breath before he responds.

"Okay. So I'm alone tonight."

"Well." Stiles sounds flustered, which is a little weird because Stiles was confident about everything today. He was more confident about Derek's sexual preferences than Derek was. "About that. I'm sending you... one more profile to check out. Check your app, there's a message with a link. Let me know what you think." 

"Do you want me to call you back?"

"No, go ahead and stay on the line. I'll wait."

Derek downloaded the app as soon as he left the clinic, so he pulls it up on his phone now. He's already logged in with his assigned credentials, and he sees a message box with a red "1" down on the right side. When he pulls up the message, Stiles's face smiles at him from an icon next to the link. He clicks the link and balks at the profile that pops up.

"This is... you?" Derek says. The name at the top is actually not "Stiles", but if he squints he sees the "Stiles" embedded in the last name. But the profile picture is Stiles, with his dark eyelashes and his moles, looking adorable even in the flat, fluorescent light of the clinic.

"That's my legal name, yeah," Stiles says with a laugh. Now Derek understands the hint of nerves in his voice. "Don't say it. I hate when people try to say it."

"Yes," Derek doesn't even think about it. "Yes, definitely. But." Then he does think about it. "Are you just doing this because you promised me you'd find me someone?"

"Oh. No. No, I'm not that nice, Derek, I promise." Stiles's voice gets a little lower. "I could tell you were uncomfortable today, but I thought we had... a vibe. Maybe I was misreading it?"

"No, you weren't. I was probably obvious. I'm really off today."

"I get it, right on the edge of your rut." Stiles pauses. "So you're matching with me?"

"Yes. Absolutely." Derek tamps down his excitement. His whole body is thrumming again, but now it's with joy and a fierce desire to find Stiles and -- well. Shit. That would have to wait. "You actually sent me into my rut early. I'm going a little crazy right now."

"Whaaaaat?" Stiles laughs on the other end, and Derek flushes with pleasure at the sound of it. He loves Stiles's sounds, all of them that he's heard so far. He can't wait to hear the rest tonight. "I'm going to take that as a compliment. I'm even stronger than the moon rising."

"So this isn't--" Derek stops a moment to figure out how to phrase this. "Against the rules or anything?"

"No." Stiles is quick to answer. "No, I usually don't offer outside the app like this, if that's what you mean. But I use the clinic too, I'm a client here. I already have a profile, people can match with me. I just don't pinch-hit, and I'm not on my heat, so I didn't show up when --"

"Wait."

Stiles goes quiet at Derek's commanding tone. But Derek can't help it -- he's shocked. And ecstatic.

"Your heat?" Derek whispers it in the busy locker room. A lot of guys just got off work and are getting dressed for their workout. "You're an omega?"

"Shit," Stiles breathes. "You should probably look at my profile before you say yes to this."

"I don't care what's on your profile," Derek says immediately, and then regrets it. "I mean, I care what you... like. But as long as what you like is me, my answer is yes."

Stiles laughs, surprised, and says, "Yeah, you don't talk much, but I like you. You're very polite for a rutting alpha."

"Not according to my sisters." Derek leans against the locker, luxuriating in the sound of Stiles's voice telling him he likes him. Best pep-talk ever. His alpha instincts are a warm buzz of contentment now. "Do I have to wait until seven to come see you?"

Stiles is quiet on the other end of the line, and a little thread of worry courses through Derek. This is delicate territory. This is why he doesn't like the  concept of the clinic -- cycles should just be instinct, two people sharing space and deciding they like the feel of it. All these rules and paperwork and sterile rooms make it confusing. Derek doesn't know if he's allowed to flirt like this.

"You're really feeling it," Stiles says it like he understands. "I mean, I'm already here. But we can't get a room until the night shift guy is here. I need to grab some dinner, but if you want to come a little early and just hang out with me until Isaac gets here for the night shift that's cool with me."

"Yes. I'll eat too. Meet you there around 6?"

"Yeah, that sounds good."

 


 

Stiles can talk. Derek loves it.

It means Derek can sit quietly and thirst over the tears in Stiles's skinny jeans where he can see his thigh, and think about biting the tendons in his long throat.

It's been a while since Derek has been with a man. The last one was a particularly submissive beta he found in a rut bar several years ago. He's trying to remember if he should treat Stiles any differently than the girls he usually goes for. Especially since Stiles is an omega -- he doesn't want to stereotype him as feminine and then offend him somehow.

Derek keeps trying to pinpoint what about Stiles is more omega than beta, but nothing screams at him right away. There's the way he knows how to tilt his chin just right, showing the tendons on one side. That's an omega tell, and one he didn't recognize the first few times Stiles did it. He realizes, belatedly, that Stiles had been obviously flirting with him while they were interviewing, but because he was flirting like an omega, and Derek read him as a beta, he'd thought he was imagining it.

Stiles is telling him all about how he started working at the clinic right out of college. He got his bachelor's in community health, and he worked as a peer educator at a school clinic through college.

"This place really saved me when I was a teenager and all my friends were popping knots. I mean, I knew I wasn't alpha material, but I didn't expect omega. No man expects omega. I'd never even seen an omega guy on TV back then. I was depressed for a little while, all those internalized biases about what men are supposed to be really tangling my head. I started getting counseling here, and I got comfortable with being a dude who gets heats."

"That sounds tough." Derek had followed a predictable path -- he was an alpha, and his dad was an alpha. But Laura had presented as an alpha, which surprised everyone. He remembered how it was hard for her to adjust, too. He didn't think it was on the same level as what it might be for an omega man, though.

"At first. But none of my friends were assholes about it, and I can pass as a beta if I want to." Stiles smirks at him. "Fooled you, right?"

"You shouldn't have." Derek eyes Stiles's throat where Stiles is rubbing it again. "You weren't trying to hide it, were you?"

"No," Stiles's smirk turns a little dirty. "I wasn't."

They're sitting in one of the clinic interview rooms, where matches meet up before they go back to the cycle rooms. It's a warm, comfortable room with nice chairs and little abstract paintings on the walls. Derek feels more content than he has in a while, sitting with just his knees touching Stiles's knees and listening to him talk and talk and talk.

He knows now that Stiles has a best friend named Scott (alpha), another best friend named Lydia (omega), and that he lives with his dad, Noah Stilinksi. He's also found one more tattoo, a tiny spider on the back of Stiles's neck, crawling along his hairline. One more tattoo Derek wants to bite. 

"You like animals?" Derek asks quietly as he dares to lean over and brush his hand over the watercolor bee tattoo creeping up Stiles's hand, a little swirl of cyan, black, and golden yellow. Stiles watches Derek's caress, too still.

"Yeah, love animals. Scott works in a veterinary office, and I'm always over there hanging with the animals. But I'm super into, like, Jung and symbolism. That's what all the tattoos are about."

God. So hipster. Derek loves it.

"Tell me about Jung and symbolism." Derek leans closer, wanting to touch Stiles again but lacking an excuse. Instead he tries to catch a whiff of Stiles's scent, which seems to be hiding under his oversized sweatshirt. Yet another baggy shirt -- Stiles had changed into an almost identical outfit, but with different colors and more rips in the skinny jeans. His hair is still damp from his recent shower, and it doesn't stick up in the feather-light way it had earlier. Derek wants to touch it, too.

"Oh god." Stiles rolls his eyes. "Mistake! You don't want to get me started. No, really, Scott says it's incessant. I gotta stop before I start. But... I'll just say a little, okay? Cause it's fascinating. Jung had this idea about the collective unconscious, that there were universal symbols of certain things. Like, you could grow up in Brazil, or in China, but seeing a child in your dream would still mean the same thing."

"Hm." Derek sits back. Sounds a bit colonial and reductionist, but he could hear Stiles's arguments.

"We're all instinctively afraid of snakes. Because a lot of snake bites are poisonous. And most people fear spiders, again because many are poisonous. These are instincts that built in us over thousands of years, because people who were afraid of these things tended to survive and pass on their genes. But when we dream about snakes and spiders, it's not about literal fear over their poisonous bites. They become symbols of other, more complex fears we have."

"What's the bee?"

"Bumblebees have a lot of different meaning, depending on the culture. Bees aren't a typical Jungian archetype." Stiles twists his wrist to show off his little bee tattoo. "But bees are a symbol of Self that I identify with. Always buzzing around with too much energy, cute and fuzzy until they sting you. And of course, they're symbols of fertility."

Right. Stiles works at a sex clinic. He would be the bumblebee of the animal world, Derek can see that. But Stiles's face pinches oddly in the next second, and Derek wonders if he's going to say something else about bees. Instead he pulls up his other sleeve so Derek can see the whole octopus tattoo, which is stunning in its geometric simplicity. This one has a watercolor feel to it too, sunset pink and buttery yellow.

"Another symbol of Self. Octopuses are cunning. They can figure out any situation, mentally or physically. They don't have any bones, so they can squeeze through tiny little holes you would never imagine they could get through."

"I'm learning a lot about you," Derek comments softly, wanting to touch Stiles's octopus too. But he can be patient. He can wait until they get into the cycle room to bite every part of Stiles.

"I'm learning next to nothing about you," Stiles sighs. "I'm talking too much again. Um. Tell me some stuff about you? Do you have any tattoos?"

"Just one, on my back." Derek holds his eye for a little longer than necessary. "I'll show you later."

Stiles kind of thrums at that, sitting a little straighter and letting a Cheshire smile slip onto his lips again.

"It's my family crest. My sisters and I all have one."

"Wow, you have a family crest." Stiles's smile turns nervous. "Are you one of those big-name werewolf families?"

Derek scoffs at that, rolling his eyes.

"Hardly big, just old and traditional. But both my parents died. As the younger generation, we're not even traditional anymore."

"Oh."

Don't say you're sorry, Derek thinks desperately. He hates when people apologize to him for his family's death. He knows their intentions are good, but it's a stupid cultural response.

"They taught you old werewolf traditions?" Stiles says instead, and Derek relaxes. "Like what?"

Derek scratches his stubble as he thinks.

"Just old religion and some archaic chants. Ancient werewolf language. And traditional social roles, that was fun. Glad we don't really practice that anymore, but they taught us about it."

Stiles stiffens a little, and Derek knows that his hipster lover who screams "feminist" from every omega pore is immediately wary of Derek's traditional family values.

"My parents were more into orientation roles than my sisters and I," Derek says slowly, trying to set Stiles's fears to rest. "My dad was an alpha, but my mom was an alpha too. And she leaned into it. So they had their progressive side. My sister's an alpha too, she gets ruts."

"That's a lot of alpha in one family."

"Thank god Cora got the beta gene," Derek agrees. "But Laura's super chill for an alpha. We never butt heads. Alpha women tend to get less alpha aggression, my mom was the same."

Stiles fiddles with his sweatshirt, chewing on the string briefly before he pulls it out of his mouth. Derek realizes he's staring at his mouth too much, but then he realizes he doesn't have to hide that anymore. Stiles's mouth is amazing, soft and plush looking. Derek hopes Stiles will let him use it.

"What time is it?" he asks, his voice gruff. Stiles's beautiful lips quirk up as he checks his phone.

"Isaac's probably here. I'll go check."

Derek takes the next few minutes to check his alpha aggression. It's buzzing under his skin, but it's positive now, not the toxic, roiling mess he felt earlier in the day after he left the clinic. He wants to move, he wants to push, but he doesn't want to hurt anyone anymore.

"Hey." Stiles pokes his head through the door. His big brown eyes are hooded with possibility, and Derek feels like he's being pulled out of his chair and over to him. Stiles's eyes widen a little as Derek leans into his space, breathing deeply. There it is. Now he can smell that omega spice, just a hint of it under Stiles's deodorant. Stiles leans back, so Derek does too, but he doesn't regret his actions. Stiles looks startled, not upset.

"Isaac's got a room for us." Stiles sounds a little breathless. "I guess it's redundant to ask if you're ready for it."

Derek grins at him, sharp and alpha, and Stiles's eyes widen again. He starts walking, his steps echoing lightly in the hallway. Derek doesn't let him get too far, hovering right by his shoulder.

"I haven't had many alpha partners before," Stiles says softly just before they get to the long hallway with white doors. The hallway is quiet, so Derek guesses they're one of the first to lock in for the night. He remembers reading in the pamphlet Stiles gave him that every room is soundproofed, though, so that might also be why it's so quiet.

"Really?" Derek looks him over, trying to assess why Stiles just said that.

"Yeah, your mannerisms are... unfamiliar. I usually pair off with betas."

"Why's that?"

Stiles shrugs, flashing him a smile that Derek doesn't believe at all. Something's gotten to him. Or maybe it's nerves because they're actually going into the cycling room now. Derek catches his hand as Stiles opens a door for them.

"You okay?" he asks softly. "Did I do something?"

"Nothing wrong." Stiles shrugs, his smile off again. "Just not used to being on the receiving end of an alpha, that's all."

Derek knows alpha stereotypes -- aggressive, of course. But alphas also have a well-earned reputation for being competitive jerks. Probably all the sports they play to burn off alpha aggression. At their worst, alphas could be controlling and abusive partners, obsessed with dominating others.

Derek doesn't want Stiles to feel that way about him at all.

"You said earlier that you could leave anytime, right?"

"Right," Stiles agrees, his fingers tangling with Derek's. There's something like fascination in his eyes.

"I just want to let you know that I won't be upset or angry, if it's -- if I'm too much. I know what I'm like when I'm rutting. Even right now, I want to push you around and bite you everywhere."

Stiles breathes in sharply, and Derek watches for any signs of concern or worry. But Stiles looks even more fascinated.

"I'll do what you're comfortable with. And if you want to leave for whatever reason, I won't try to stop you. You don't even have to give me a reason."

"Got it." Stiles grins, and it's easy again. Just like Derek wants it to be. "Thanks for telling me that. I appreciate it."

Chapter Text

Stiles closes the door carefully behind him, and Derek's immediately seized with a desire to take. It's so powerful that Derek pulls Stiles a little closer to him before he catches himself and lets go of Stiles's hand like it's hit. Stiles looks at him curiously, arching one eyebrow in question. Derek takes in his overlarge sweatshirt, those liquid brown eyes, the damp curl of his hair at the start of his long neck. It's a struggle he almost doesn't win against himself.

"I didn't read your profile," Derek admits with a dawning sense of chagrin. "I have no idea what you want in here."

Stiles's smile grows. He steps a little closer to Derek, running two hands lightly over Derek's pecs. Derek's breath comes out shaky and animalistic, but he manages to suppress a groan that feels more like a growl before he can scare off his new rut partner.

"I know what you like. Let's start there."

Derek's mesmerized by Stiles's hooded eyes now, the electric glide of his hands until his touch stops just on Derek's hips, a light tease. He can't move, because if he does he'll pick Stiles up and press him right where he wants him, throw them both down on the bed. Pin him down and start working his way down that pale flesh to mark it with his teeth until he's red everywhere, claimed.

Which Stiles told him earlier to get explicit consent for.

"You gonna start, or are you gonna kill me slowly with this teasing?"

"Tonight's about you, baby," Stiles says softly, dragging his lower lip between his teeth. It's so erotic Derek has to ball his hands into fists to keep from touching him. "I'm not going to tease you long. But I like seeing you hold back for me. It's a rush."

Derek exhales shakily again. It's not a rush for him, it's damn hard. More difficult than most other ruts, actually.

"I like biting," Stiles starts slowly, his thumbs working gentle circles into Derek's henley. "You want to pin me down, you can. Just let me up if I ask. I'm going to blow you now, just to take the edge off, but don't choke me."

"I wouldn't," Derek's words are as wobbly as his will. "I won't."

Stiles's smile widens and he leans up, almost tentative, to press a soft kiss against Derek's panting mouth. Derek groans it's so good. He can't help it. He's been thinking about Stiles's mouth since he left the clinic. Stiles tastes like fall apples and coke.

"What do you know about omega men?" Stiles asks next. Derek is distracted enough by the question that he's actually able to answer him. His answer's a bit too honest, actually, because all his blood's in his dick.

"Nothing. Just porn."

Stiles bites his lip, this time to suppress a laugh.

"K. Least you're honest."

"You haven't been with many alphas," Derek reminds himself and Stiles. "I get pushy. Really pushy. I don't want to shock you, like I did in the hallway before."

"I can see that." Stiles cruises him, drawing his gaze down Derek's body slowly. "I can see how much you want to grab me right now. If I don't like it, I won't be quiet. That's true of anything we do tonight."

Those words loosen the shackles on his wrists. Derek grabs, just like he's been dying to, his fists bunching in Stiles's giant sweatshirt. He's lifting him in the next second, then wrapping Stiles's legs securely around his waist. He gets a flash of Stiles's startled expression before he's tasting him, deeply and thoroughly, one hand firmly holding Stiles against him and one hand tight around the back of his head, tilting him so he gives Derek the access he wants.

It's Stiles who groans at that, wrapping his arms around Derek's shoulders and shimmying his hips against Derek's stomach. Derek can feel the contours of Stiles's slim body now, the smooth line of his waist and the sharp curves of his shoulder blades. He imagines what Stiles will look like without the overlarge shirt and he suddenly wants nothing more than to rip it off his body.

"Off, off," Derek tells him, tugging the hem up with too much force. Luckily Stiles doesn't protest, lifting it the rest of the way off him before Derek can actually rip it. Derek is hit with the smell of him, like it was hiding under all that clothing. It's so omega sweet he rocks back and clutches Stiles more tightly to him. Before he can think about it, he's wrenching Stiles's wrist all the way over his head and burying his nose in his armpit, where that scent is rich and full.

"Aah, god," Stiles grunts, but he bends and acquiesces, shouting when Derek licks the sensitive skin there, tasting him. Stiles's deodorant is bitter and tangy, and Derek surfaces from his rut fog abruptly to gag against Stiles's skin. "Yeah, well, that's what you get, you big knothead. Put me down and I'll get you some water."

Derek reluctantly lets Stiles slide down, clutching him possessively to his chest and inhaling that rich scent behind his ear before he's seized with another gagging cough. Only then can Stiles wriggle away from him, laughing as he fills a cup with water from a little sink in the corner. He directs Derek to sit on the edge of the bed before he hands it to him.

Derek drinks, then gags again because the deodorant's still coating his tongue. Stiles laughs, and Derek's insides hum at the sound of it. He snakes an arm around Stiles's waist to keep him close. He doesn't want Stiles more than a foot from him right now, even if he's currently incapacitated.

"Jeez. Yeah, I wear deodorant, like most omegas. Don't want you knotheads humping me every second of the day, you know?"

"Not a knothead," Derek mumbles, burrowing his nose into Stiles's chest. His skin smells soapy and clean and omega. Derek licks here too, then bites, gently. He doesn't want to scare him. Stiles still shudders at the nip. "I smelled it on you. I knew. Just can't resist you."

"God." Stiles threads a hand through his hair, and it feels amazing, like he's being petted and praised for his stupid behavior. "Drink some more water."

Derek does, swallowing down another cupful before that awful taste is gone from his mouth.

"You want me to blow you now, or you just want to hug me like this all night and rub off on my hip with your pants still on?"

Derek growls and flashes his red eyes. Stiles looks at Derek's blood-red eyes with fascination. 

"That's not an answer. You want me to stop calling you a knothead, you gotta show me you can use your words, big guy."

"Fine." Derek pushes until Stiles goes to his knees, one hand fisting his soft, damp hair to keep him there. "Why don't you take them off for me, then?"

"That's it," Stiles encourages him softly, his hands running along Derek's thighs and his eyes bright. He already looks wrecked, his lips plush and red from Derek's stubble rasping against him, his hair a wild mess again from Derek's grasping hands. "Use that English."

"Shut up," Derek grumbles, yanking again on Stiles's hair as he does. Stiles's eyes flare, too, a bright gold. Derek tingles all over at the sign of Stiles's wolf. He can feel the moon rising now, the rush of his blood as his rut deepens. It's both exhilarating and frightening. Even when not on his heat, Stiles would be able to feel the moon coming in to the sky, too. Every werewolf can.

He lifts his hips to let Stiles pull his pants down and off, then it's just Stiles's hot breath and his wondering expression as he parts Derek's knees and leans close.

"You're uncut."

"Traditional family," Derek reminds him through his fangs. Stiles glances back up at him, once, taking in his shifted face before he swallows him down.

Derek watches him work, keeping his fist secure in Stiles's hair and tugging once in a while just to remind Stiles it's there, too. Stiles bobs and sucks and licks him so well that Derek actually howls, his thighs taught and his balls drawing up against his body. Then Stiles releases him, and Derek shudders back into the slow tempo Stiles has set for them.

Derek lets his mind wander while Stiles bobs, thinking about marking up his shoulder until it's covered in red indents. Thinking about dragging claws, too light to scratch but hard enough to leave a red mark, down his thighs and trapping his balls between their pinpricks, both teasing and threatening. But you can't do something like that with someone you just met, so Derek files that idea away. Stiles doesn't trust him enough for that. They're strangers, he reminds himself.

"What's wrong?" Stiles pops off, resting his cheek against Derek's thigh and peering up at him through his eyelashes. It's such an omega look that Derek can't help staring and wondering. Stiles is a man, he knows that because Stiles told him, but now that the enormous sweater's off and Derek can see the lines of his slender frame, he can also see how feminine his face really is, his chin tapered and his eyelashes so long Derek's surprised they don't leave permanent marks on his creamy skin. It's amazing he ever thought he was a beta.

"Nothing," Derek lies. He runs a clawed hand along Stiles's jawline, tracing the lovely shape of it. He can't tell Stiles what he's thinking. He wishes he could, he wishes he could ask him what he thinks about being an omega man. Does he hate that he looks so feminine? Is that why he wears those huge shirts, so no one can see his slender body? Or would he be happy if Derek thought he looked beautiful?

"You like this?" Stiles asks, teasing one hand along Derek's groin. "Or you want to do something else?"

"I love it," Derek tells him earnestly. "Show me how well you use that mouth again."

Stiles flushes, his nose turning pink, and he slides his mouth down Derek's length again, watching him with hooded eyes as he slides back up and licks just the tip with a delicate swirl of his tongue. Derek doesn't close his eyes again, doesn't get lost in imagining everything he wants to do to Stiles. He doesn't think about everything he doesn't know about Stiles, either. He focuses on watching Stiles do what Stiles wants to him instead.

It works, it's hot and exactly what Derek needs. Stiles is right, he's on the edge, and it isn't even another minute before he's spilling down Stiles's throat. He tugs his hair as he does, reveling in the sense of control it gives him, but he's careful not to choke Stiles. He can be a good alpha for him. He can listen. He's no knothead.

The rut fog parts a little with his orgasm, and Derek's able to take his first clear breaths since he met Stiles. He watches as Stiles gets himself a cup of water, finally appreciating all that bare skin he's revealed. Stiles has some body hair, but not as much as Derek, just a narrow treasure trail leading down his belly and a dark patch between his pecs. The omega men he'd seen in porn before had been hairless, but they'd also never flashed their eyes at an alpha or called them a knothead. Repeatedly.

"Is that a fucking butterfly?" Derek asks suddenly, a smile spreading over his face as he tries hard not to laugh.

Stiles grins back at him, twirling to show off the abstract watercolor tattoo that is, unmistakably, a little purple butterfly. Right above his ass, at the base of his spine. Stiles is definitely arching his back to show off more than his tattoo, too.

"Tramp stamp. You like?"

"Thank you for calling it a tramp stamp." Derek is still trying hard not to laugh. "I wasn't sure what else to call it."

"Scott dared me to. We may or may not have been drunk at the time. I've always secretly liked tramp stamps, anyway. My dad hates it."

"I don't know if I can look at that when I'm fucking you."

"Oh, no." Stiles quirks an eyebrow. "Maybe you shouldn't fuck me, then?"

"Oh god." Derek rolls onto his back and covers his face with his hands in horror. "I take it back. There is nothing that could ever stop me from wanting to fuck you." Derek peeks at him from under one hand, trying to judge if he's actually offended him or not. Stiles doesn't look offended, but he does look suprised again. This time Derek has no idea why. He didn't do anything alpha-like, unless no beta Stiles has ever slept with made fun of his butterfly tramp stamp.

"I'm sorry," Derek says, this time with more gravity.

"It's cool," Stiles blinks rapidly, a smile that's a little off jumping to his face. "You haven't shown me your back tattoo yet. If it's not a butterfly, it's not worth it, though."

Derek strips his shirt off eagerly, then rolls to show Stiles his back. Stiles sits next to him on the bed, tracing his fingers over the whorls of his family crest.

"It's beautiful." Stiles's fingertips are heaven. Derek closes his eyes and sinks into the bed, lost in the feeling. "Isn't this a symbol of revenge, though?"

Stiles, the symbolist.

"My family were mercenary lords, way back when. My sisters have one too. We got them after--" Shit. Not pillow talk material. Derek reorients, shifting onto his back and looking up at Stiles instead of letting his mind wander down that path. "I've wanted to bite your tattoos all day."

Stiles's eyebrows go up.

"Even the butterfly?"

"Now that I've seen it, yes, especially the butterfly. It has a great location."

"None of them are fresh," Stiles replies, his fingertips tracing Derek's nipples so lightly Derek almost can't feel it. "You can bite them if you want."

So Derek pulls Stiles down onto the bed in one smooth, forceful movement, leaving the omega breathless as he climbs up over him. The moon is singing in his veins again, and his moment of clarity is gone. He's going to mark this boy up before he lets him leave this room.

He starts at that smooth neck. Stiles has been touching it just to torment him, he's sure of it, and now he's going to make him pay for it.

Stiles gasps under him when he really bites him, feeling the skin strain under his teeth before he releases. He watches with growing pleasure as the skin immediately reddens, blood rushing under those pale moles. He nuzzles Stiles's jaw and licks his scent from his skin before placing his second bite closer to his clavicle.

Stiles squirms under him, fighting Derek with each sharp bite, but relaxing when Derek releases him. He never tells Derek to stop, so Derek doesn't, reveling in that moment of tension that thrums through Stiles's body as Derek almost breaks the skin around his octopus. 

"Shit." Stiles pants, his eyes glowing gold. "You weren't fucking kidding around with this biting shit."

Derek grows his fangs and runs them over Stiles's bee.

"Not really."

"Well." Stiles glares at him, his eyes glowing. Derek wonders if he's about to hit him. "Continue on."

Stiles curses him a few more times before Derek gets to his butterfly. He loves the butterfly tattoo now, his teeth bracketing Stiles's spine and his fangs threatening to drop as he salivates at the sight of Stiles's round ass and slim hips.

"So." Stiles clears his throat and looks over his shoulder, his eyes gold from the pain. "Um. Omega men."

Derek sits up, carefully pinning Stiles's legs down with one arm so Stiles can't do the same. Stiles can talk, but no way in hell is Derek letting him get up from that deliciously submissive position, sprawled naked with his legs just parted like that. He still has two more tattoos to mark before he's ready to mount Stiles properly, and he intends to drink in the sight of Stiles's naked back every second that he does.

"Hm," Derek prompts him. He wants to get back to watching Stiles's skin redden under his mouth.

"We. I mean. Not everything you see in porn is a lie."

Derek's not sure how to respond to that. There's a lot of things in porn that could or could not be true.

"You're going to have to be specific," Derek prompts him again, stroking the red marks on Stiles's butterfly with his free hand. It's so satisfying, all pretty and red like that, that he could howl. 

"I mean." Stiles rubs a hand through his messy hair, looking frustrated and lost. "Shit. I'm usually much better at this. All that biting scrambled me."

"Sorry." Derek grins, not sorry at all.

"I get wet." Stiles glares at him, more of that golden defiance. "Slick is a thing."

Derek's breath catches. He doesn't know why Stiles is glaring at him, all he wants to do is protect him and take care of him and never, ever let him leave. He crawls up over him and nuzzles into his hair, trapping his slender wrists under his hands as he does. He's gentle as he kisses his neck until Stiles is shuddering under him, squirming with tension and whimpering every time Derek touches him. Maybe he's just sore from the bites.

"Don't be a dick about this," Stiles grumbles into the bed eventually.

"Am I being a dick?" Derek is genuinely confused. He doesn't know why Stiles is suddenly angry, and every instinct in him is screaming to make it better any way he can. Maybe if he kisses him more, as gentle as he can, Stiles will forgive whatever he did.

"You're being really nice. I hate that. Just fuck me already."

"You don't like this?" Derek asks, rubbing his stubble against Stiles's shoulders in a way that makes Stiles twitch and groan.

"I--" Stiles glares at him again. "I like it. You're just. You're so." 

"I'm so what?"

"Ugh." Stiles burrows into the bed. His next words are so soft Derek almost misses them. "You don't mean any of this."

"What do you mean?" Derek sits back immediately and tries to flip him. Stiles fights him, and he actually means it this time, so Derek stops. He carefully removes himself from Stiles's body and sits next to him. "Stiles. What did you mean by that?"

"Nothing." Stiles won't look at him.

Derek waits.

With a sigh, Stiles rolls onto his side. His dick is limp, his expression one of resigned frustration.

"I think. I think you're getting too into this because of your rut."

Derek frowns. Yeah, he's deep in a rut fog. But he doesn't know what Stiles means by that.

"Am I... too much?" Derek asks, his heart dropping. He knows he promised Stiles he would let him leave, no questions asked. But shit, is that going to be hard if that's actually what Stiles wants. "You don't like... my alpha side after all?"

"You're great." Stiles bites his lower lip, rubbing his eyes with one hand. "Too great. It's not too much. It's perfect."

"You're perfect," Derek tells him, unthinking.

"No." Stiles looks at him hard. "I'm not. You don't know me, so stop that."

"Stop what?"

"Stop looking at me like you want to mate me!" Stiles bursts out, his eyes bright. "Just fuck me already."

Derek feels a little punched by that. No, not a little.

He feels like Stiles just ripped his heart out through his chest.

"Oh, man." Stiles sits up, moving toward him. Derek looks away, misery and shame filling up every bit of him. He can't even bring himself to dodge out of Stiles's arms when they go around him. And he really should. Stiles doesn't want him. Stiles has rejected him. He's not good enough for him. He's failed every silent test Stiles gave him. All that's left now is pity. "I know it's your rut. I get it. You don't mean it. It's just no one's -- no one looks at me like that. It's hard to keep it separate in my head, you know? Betas don't get all crazy like you, they just get horny."

Derek is weak when he's miserable, so he nuzzles into Stiles's chest. Hands comb through his hair again, soothing, petting. Derek takes a shaky breath. It feels too good, ebbing away his shame.

"I'm sorry. I'm not mad, okay?" Stiles kisses his forehead and Derek clutches at him, willing himself not to show just how much that hurt. He's obviously failing, but he can try. "I know I sound mad. That's just how I sound when I'm embarrassed."

Derek doesn't know how to apologize for loving Stiles so quickly, so he closes his eyes and lets Stiles hug him. Stiles settles down on his lap and nuzzles him back, adjusting him so Derek's arms are loose around his waist and Stiles is pressing gentle, sweet kisses against his lips.

It takes a while, but eventually Derek no longer feels like dying and he can kiss Stiles like he means it. Stiles kisses him a little deeper, a little dirtier, and Derek can get hard for him again if Stiles wants him to. He leans into him, pulling him tighter, diving deeper into his delicious mouth. He just tastes of apples now. Apples with omega spice. It's everywhere. He breathes it in, eyes drifting closed, and tastes Stiles some more.

"You are so fogged out," Stiles sighs against his lips. "Will you even remember this tomorrow?"

Derek kisses him, still not sure what to say. He made it worse when he said something earlier, and Stiles seems to have forgiven him, so he will take his forgiveness and whatever else Stiles will give him tonight.

Stiles slides onto him on the next lift of his lips, and Derek gasps at the warm, wet heat of it. He breaks their kiss as he revels in the tight clench of Stiles's body. He's so wet, he slides in without any resistance at all. Derek didn't do anything, no lube, no spit, and Stiles feels like this?

He kisses him desperately as he starts to fuck up into him. Stiles groans, muffled by Derek's hungry lips, and relaxes into Derek's tight grip. He couldn't let go of Stiles now if he wanted to. He thrusts into that sweet body, carefully cradling Stiles to his chest and devouring every soft moan from Stiles's beautiful lips.

It gets hot and sweaty quickly, but Derek refuses to let Stiles lean away. Stiles goes more and more boneless in his arms, mewling with every rock of their hips and leaning so fully into Derek that it almost mends the rip in his heart that Stiles created mere minutes ago.

When Stiles starts to spread his legs more, pushing back wantonly into Derek's thrusts, Derek knows he's close. Stiles starts to tremble, his body tightening instead of loose-limbed. Derek feels the thrumming tension in every muscle.

He also feels the tingle of a knot starting, but he holds it back. He doesn't knot strangers. It doesn't matter that he can't think of Stiles as a stranger, Stiles thinks of himself as a stranger. So Derek doesn't.

He brings Stiles off with just the friction of their bodies and the slow, rhythmic thrust of his hips. He listens happily as Stiles moans into his shoulder, shuddering everywhere and going soft inside.

Derek comes from it.

It goes a bit hazy after that. He thinks Stiles kisses him, soft and trembling, but it's not blood in his veins, only silver moonlight, and he doesn't want anything but Stiles forever. He thinks he tells him that, and he thinks Stiles goes stiff. Derek remembers that he still has Stiles crushed against him, is still penetrating his body. So he sets Stiles carefully down on the bed and curls up into his side, licking his skin so he can fall asleep to the taste of omega and apples.

Chapter Text

Stiles is fully clothed when he wakes Derek up.

Derek takes in the sight of him, his hair ruffled and his sweatshirt hanging a little to the right so Derek can see just a peek of his neck. It's strange seeing Stiles outside of his rut. He hates that Stiles is clothed, but he doesn't really have a reason to undress him anymore. Maybe if he pretended he was still rutting...

But Stiles can see he's clear-eyed and fully awake. He's nibbling on the end of a pen, a journal spread in front of him as he sprawls next to Derek on the bed. He even has socks on. Derek groans out loud when he sees the socks because he knows Stiles is all business now.

"You asked me to wake you at seven, grumpy wolf," Stiles tells him cheekily, nodding at the clock. Derek left his wallet and phone at home, memories of fighting with credit card companies fresh in his mind.

"We don't have time for..." Derek mumbles, scooting a little closer to him and burying his nose in the neck hole of Stiles's sweatshirt. The smell of him is stronger than yesterday. Derek doesn't think he took a shower, and it makes him purr a little.

"How come you didn't tell me you get heat bonds?" Stiles asks him softly. He's not responding to Derek's coaxing, so Derek flops back on the bed.

"I don't. I'm an alpha, remember?" Derek points at the red bite at his hairline, framing his spider tattoo, as a reminder. He loves that everyone will know Stiles rolled around with an alpha last night. He pretends that they will know it was him.

"You're an animal is what you are," Stiles says pointedly, pulling his sweatshirt to the side to show him another red mark. Derek purrs again. "This is worse than hickeys. By far. This is like you peeing all over me. I swear to god. I'm gonna be in scarfs and turtlenecks for a freaking week."

Derek smiles proudly, and Stiles rolls his eyes. Derek thinks it looks fond.

"Whatever. Yeah, you can, and you definitely did get a heat bond last night. I'm an omega, I get them. I can recognize it."

"Really?" Derek asks, slow. He doesn't believe it.

"You're still a little gaga over me, I can tell." Stiles purses his lips. "They last a few days, so, um. This is gonna suck. Sorry buddy."

"What do you mean?"

"In the future, you should take heat medicine before you rut with someone. It usually prevents heat bonds. But now yours is set, so you're going to be mooning over me for days."

It's not a heat bond. But Derek doesn't tell Stiles that. And it'll be a lot longer than a few days.

"Come get coffee with me tomorrow. It sucks less if we stay in contact. As long as we don't do this again, it'll go away in a few days. I've formed a few heat bonds, even after taking meds, so I know how you feel. You can come by after work, around five?"

"Yeah," Derek jumps at that, cuddling closer. "That sounds amazing."

"I bet it does," Stiles says dryly. He writes something else in his journal before he closes it. "I've gotta go home before work. We cool?"

"I'll see you tomorrow?" Derek doesn't want to let him go. Not for a second. But he does when Stiles rolls off the bed, straightening into a long stretch that has Derek almost whimpering with desire.

"Yeah." Stiles looks at him for a long moment, and Derek can't tell what he's thinking at all. "See you tomorrow. Don't be late to work, k?"

 


 

Work is fine. Erica didn't tell anyone about his little aggressive episode the day before, or if she did nobody bothers him about it. Derek bends his head over his desk and locks his office door and thinks about Stiles.

He thinks a lot about what Stiles said to him. Stiles didn't seem to think Derek would remember what they did together, what he said, what he felt. Derek remembers... almost all of it. The part at the end is a bit fuzzy, but he never blacks out when he gets his rut. He's vulnerable to suggestion, yeah, and when he's orgasmed a few times he's out for the night, but he's not some blackout knothead. He wouldn't trust himself to spend his rut with another person if he wasn't in control of himself. He's a little disappointed that Stiles thinks so low of him, honestly.

Cora and Laura look at him funny at dinner that night, though, and Derek doesn't know why. They don't ask him direct questions, and Derek eats his dinner quietly, anticipating and planning his coffee date with Stiles the next day. Right now Stiles just thinks Derek is infatuated with him because of some fluke in biology. Derek intends to milk that for all it's worth, until Stiles can no longer blame it on biology.

He thinks it's kind of genius.

The next day he waits outside the clinic in his black leather jacket and his nice boots. He gets there right after work at 4:30, so he just sits on his car and watches the door for Stiles to come out. A mousy omega skirts past him and practically runs into the clinic, and Derek wonders what that was all about until Stiles emerges from the door. He shoves his hands in his pockets and comes down the steps, avoiding Derek's eyes until they're standing close. He's wearing a giant turtleneck sweater that's covered in tiny purple giraffes, and brown skinny jeans. He's also got on a purple beanie, which is adorable and Derek wants to tuck it down over Stiles's ears. His nose is pink, Derek notices, and he wonders if Stiles is going to yell at him again because he looks embarrassed.

"Dude, you freaked out one of our clients. She said some guy was lurking outside, looking like he was up to no good. I thought it was one of those creepy protesters until she described you to me."

Derek looks down at himself. Maybe he's wearing a lot of black today, but it goes with everything, especially his beautiful Camaro. He's definitely flexing for Stiles, but he can't help it. 

"I'm, um, almost done. Try not to do that glaring thing with your face while you're waiting, k?" Stiles scuffs his shoe on the ground once before he turns and heads back inside.

Derek isn't glaring, this is just his face. So he gets in his car and waits there instead.

Stiles skips down the steps fifteen minutes later, a puffy jacket over his shoulders. He gets in the passenger side.

"Of course this is your car." Stiles wiggles his butt on the seat. "Leather everything, huh?"

Derek's eyes get caught on the bite mark high on Stiles's neck. The turtleneck doesn't cover it, like Derek had hoped. Stiles notices what he's staring at and rolls his eyes.

"Oh, jeez."

"I want to take you to dinner instead of coffee," Derek tells him right away.

Stiles blinks at him. Then his nose slowly turns pink.

"Not a good idea. And put this thing in a proper parking spot, the coffee shop's just down the street."

Grumbling, Derek pulls into a parking spot and joins Stiles on the sidewalk. He walks close to him, but not as close as yesterday. He knows Stiles is trying to set boundaries with him, and he can respect them. But he intends to draw new ones as soon as Stiles will let him.

Stiles gets a hot chai, and Derek gets mint tea. They wait for their drinks in an edgy silence, Stiles scuffing his toe on the ground again. Derek has noticed a lot of nervous ticks -- chewing on his sweatshirt strings, touching his neck, now this shoe scuffing. He thinks Stiles may be trying not to touch his neck again so he won't give Derek the wrong idea.

"What about giraffes?"

Stiles eyes him, confused.

"What about them?"

Derek nods at his turtleneck.

"Are they symbolic of something?"

Stiles laughs.

"Oh. I just like them."

"What animal don't you like?"

Stiles thinks, tugging on his beanie with both hands. It covers his ears fully now, which Derek likes better.

"Sheep."

Derek smiles. That fits the whole hipster vibe a little too well, so before he can make the wrong assumptions Derek asks, "Why?"

"Scott told me that some of them are so stupid, if you just scare them they can die. Whole herds of them. Just... spooked to death. Apparently the farmers complain about it a lot. Dumb animals are my least favorite. I also dislike chickens for the same reason."

They pick up their drinks and find a little table off in a corner. Derek is pleased that this is shaping up to be more of a date than Stiles intended -- the lighting in the coffee shop is low and romantic, and there's even a lit candle at their table. Plus, barely anyone's in there since they're an hour out from closing time. It's them, a middle-aged man reading a book, and what looks like a frantic college student studying for a test, with all her books spread out on a big table. 

Derek smiles at Stiles through the steam of their collective drinks, and he's pleased when Stiles goes pink again.

"What were you writing in your journal this morning?" Derek had been thinking about it a lot. Maybe Stiles was writing something about him. Maybe he would even tell him about it.

"That's private, dude." No such luck. Stiles sips his chai, avoiding Derek's gaze and looking around the coffee shop instead. "You've got some serious moon eyes over there. I don't expect you looked up heat bonds since we last talked?" 

Derek hadn't, because he didn't have a heat bond. But he wasn't about to tell Stiles that just yet. That was part D of his plan to make him fall in love with him, and he was only on part A.

"Tell me what it was like when you had one?"

"I've had several," Stiles arches an eyebrow at him. "I know exactly what you're thinking right now. You're thinking of all the ways you can make this into a date, right?'

Derek doesn't say anything, which is probably more incriminating than outright denying it.

"Yeah, you're transparent, man. Just chill out a little."

Derek puts his hands up in surrender, smiling guilelessly at Stiles. Stiles frowns at him, his eyes flaring gold for just a second.

"I'm here because you asked me here. Remember?"

"Well, I try to be a nice person. I've had heat bonds with some real dickheads before. It's painful when they cut you off cold turkey." Stiles's eyes are a bit hard. "But I'm telling you right now -- I'm going to shut you down if you try anything, k? So let's keep hands to ourselves." Stiles looks under the table, moving his feet away from Derek's. "Feet too. Stop trying to play hooky with me, would you?"

Derek frowns.

"It's a little table."

"Uh-huh."

"Alright." Derek sighs. He can let Stiles win this battle. "It's not a date. Loud and clear. So tell me more about heat bonds."

"Well, you know I've been with betas, but I've also been with omegas. Omegas are the nicest about this stuff, cause most omega's have had at least one heat bond. I slept with this omega girl and it was... really intense. She and I talked on the phone for a few days after. I couldn't stop thinking about her. Kept thinking about coming to find her, wherever she was, and making these big gestures. I spent one day just making plans for all this romantic stuff I would do for her. Even started putting away money for our honeymoon. But all those feelings went away on the third day." Stiles takes another sip of his chai. "They always go away with time."

"Okay," Derek says, but he thinks, nope. Nice try.  

"Betas, like alphas, rarely get them. So they don't really understand it. All that locker room talk about 'clingy omegas' is 'cause they just don't get it. This beta dude called me a stalker when I tried to talk to him about it. All I did was message him on the app the next day, I didn't even try to see him. It crushed me. I couldn't come into work for two whole days because the rejection stung so bad. That one lasted a whole week, and it was longer and more painful because he was such a dick about it. Heat bonds make everything more intense, including rejection. And that fucker still comes in to the clinic. That part of the job sucks."

"Why don't you cycle somewhere else? Sounds like a lot of potential for problems."

"Cause I love that clinic. My counselor since I was sixteen works there. Besides, cycling lists are shared between clinics in the county, so I can always match with someone from Harvest Moon even if I cycle somewhere else." 

"You ever keep a cycle partner more than once?"

Stiles gives him a look, and Derek tries to appear as innocent as possible.

"...Yes. It's a small town. The options are pretty limited, I'm sure you know."

"Yeah, me too. I had a rut partner who wasn't my girlfriend for a few years, actually." Derek carefully plants the idea in Stiles's head. Stiles's big eyes are too cautious, though, and Derek isn't great at subtle. 

"Well. I have a heat partner right now, actually."

"Really." Derek keeps his face straight. "Who?"

"No way, dude." Stiles crosses his arms. "I see you. I've been you. Maybe I'll tell you next week."

"Next week." Derek grins. He resists reaching across the table to tangle Stiles's long fingers between his. Any hint of longevity to his relationship with Stiles was a win in his book. "You think this could last as long as a week?"

"If I'm nice to you, but not too nice, it should go away quick. Four days tops." Stiles shakes his head and crosses his arms in front of his chest. It squishes the giraffe patterns into funny little squiggles. "But."

"But?"

"I don't know." Stiles's nose turns pink. Derek is starting to really enjoy that reaction on him. "Maybe we can be friends when it's gone."

"We can be friends right now," Derek jumps on the opportunity. "I can control myself. I promise."

"Maybe you can." Stiles looks stern. "But my dad always says: don't tempt an honest man. So you can have my number when you stop mooning at me."

"Deal." Derek fixes his face. "How about now?"

Stiles laughs, uncrossing his arms.

"Nice." Stiles side-eyes him. "Check in with me again tomorrow. It could be gone." 

Oh, it would be "gone". Derek would guarantee that. Then it was on to step B of his plan: wooing.

 


 

Derek looks up heat bonds when he goes home and finds that Mr. Bachelors-In-Community-Health is right, alphas can get heat bonds. It's uncommon, but possible. He reads the Wikipedia article on it and gets worms in his stomach because he was 99% sure that he didn't have a heat bond, and now he's only about... 75% sure.

What he feels is real. It's the way that Stiles laughs and goes off on tangents sometimes and can't sit still for even a second. It's those rare moments where Stiles's eyes dance. It's not some made-up excuse that doctors diagnose people who actually like their rut partners with.

Angry, Derek shuts his laptop and lies down on his bed, taking out his phone instead. He opens the clinic app and pulls up Stiles's profile. He'd been so excited when Stiles sent it to him that he never even looked past the picture. In his defense, it's a very nice picture, and he takes a moment to memorize the moles on Stiles's face. Then he moves down to check out Stiles's actual preferences.

Mieczysław Stilinski

Age: 22

Orientation

  • Omega

Gender

  • Male

Orientation Preferences

  • Omega (no gender preference)
  • Beta (no gender preference)

Sexual Preferences

  • Vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • Pain play
  • Impact play
  • Sensation play
  • Orgasm control

Derek feels uneasy when he lets the phone drop to his chest. Yeah, he's going to have to Google half those sexual preferences, but what stands out to him most is that Stiles didn't pick alpha as a preference. That means that alphas wouldn't even show up as possible matches for him -- Derek knows this because alphas don't show up in his potential matches, either. So if Stiles hadn't done Derek's intake and personally sent him his profile, they never would have had a shot at matching through the app. And if Stiles didn't go to rut bars, then Derek would never have picked him up on his own. It's a little frightening how Derek could have never met him.

He remembers Stiles's strange smiles whenever Derek did something really alpha-y. He wonders for the first time if Stiles has some problem with alphas. He knows Stiles's best friend is an alpha, and his dad, so he can at least be around them -- but to avoid them altogether for his heats? Most omegas were the opposite. Knotting was a big deal for omegas in heat. Derek had had more than a few arguments with omegas in heat who tried to get him to knot. Besides, it was just common knowledge that omegas preferred alphas, and alphas preferred omegas. Betas usually ended up with other betas. That was the world they lived in, that was how they were designed. Other orientation match-ups were possible, but they were far less common.

He does age math and realizes that Cora probably went to school with Stiles. He rolls off his bed and wanders into the living room to find his sister thumbing through Instagram, her feet up on the couch and her long hair sprawled over her shoulders.

"What's that face?" she asks him without looking up from her phone.

"Do you remember Stiles from high school?"

Cora peers over her phone at him, looking suspicious.

"Kind of. We weren't in the same circles, though."

"What circles was he in?"

Cora sighs and closes her eyes like she's composing herself. When her eyes open again, it's a cool stare.

"You're still being weird, but your rut's over. It's freaking Laura and I out. Should we be freaked out, Derek?"

Derek leans against the couch and kisses Cora on the forehead.

"I'm fine, I promise. Will you just answer the question?"

Cora frowns at him, rubbing one of her many rings. Then she looks up at the ceiling like she's thinking hard.

"He was friends with Scott, I think? Scott was a big lacrosse star. Stiles played lacrosse for a little while, too, but I don't remember seeing him play in any games. He was on the bench."

Derek nods encouragingly, gesturing at her to give him more.

"Um." Cora squints at the far wall. "I don't remember anyone dating him? I never heard about it, if he dated. Is that what you're going for with this question? His exes? What's his type?"

"Anything, really. I just don't know him that well. But I'm trying to."

"Then just ask him," Cora points out, one eyebrow cocked. "He can tell you what he wants you to know. It's a little weird to ask me about it."

"I think he might have something against alphas. He's stonewalling me right now."

Cora rubs her feet together, a look of dawning realization crossing her expression.

"Oh. Right. Alphas."

Derek sits up straighter.

"What?"

"It was a thing." Cora snaps her fingers and squeezes her eyes tight. "Ah! Dang it. There was a thing. With Stiles. And alphas. The lacrosse players, his teammates. They had to be disciplined, or something. I remember hearing his name."

Derek's insides turn to ice. That sounds ominous, and his mind can conjure all kinds of reasons why a bunch of alpha sports players would need to be disciplined because of their treatment of an omega teen.

"How did you hear about it? Was it in the school newspaper?" If it was, maybe Derek can look it up online and read about it.

"No, it wasn't that big. It was just a rumor. But some of my friends were lacrosse players, so I doubt it was just gossip."

"Fuck." Derek feels suddenly wide awake. He hates that Stiles won't talk to him until he thinks his heat bond is over. He'll just have to do an excellent job of convincing him tomorrow that it's passed.

Chapter Text

Derek talks his sisters into going for a hike with him the next morning. He does it mostly to keep himself distracted, but also because they both keep looking at him in this concerned way during breakfast and Derek needs everybody to stop treating him like he's being abnormal. He's perfectly fine. He just loves someone who doesn't love him back.

Yet.

He and Laura get a little competitive near the top of the mountain, running the last mile up a steep slope and leaving Cora behind. She curses them both when she catches up, but they're panting on the ground in exhaustion, so she leaves them to their self-inflicted pain and goes to take about a million pictures of the view. Derek knows it will take her another thirty minutes to properly edit the photos and write her Instagram post up with all the right hashtags, so he rolls closer to Laura and butts his head against her shoulder.

"Hey. Little brother." Laura tousles his hair a little. "Totally. Got the jump. On you. At. The last minute. There."

"Laura. You. You date, yeah?"

Laura snickers, but it's mixed up in gasping for breath.

"I date. Omega girls. Yeah."

"Great." Derek thinks about how to phrase this. "Do any of them. Have problems. With alphas?"

"Oh yeah. We're idiots." Laura chuckles again, and it sounds a little less like a wheeze. "Case and point. Who runs up that shit?"

"How do you get past that?"

Laura looks at him, flashes her red eyes.

"Don't be an idiot."

Sage advice, Derek thinks, if really obvious. Then Laura's rolling over onto him in some sort of underhanded tackle and Derek has to defend himself. Cora comes over to break up their roughhousing a few minutes later, physically separating them by sitting between them and making them look at every one of her millions of pictures of the same view. Derek pretends like it's annoying, but it's actually soothing to do something so predictable with the two of them.

"Cora." Laura takes her phone from her eventually. "Go stand on the cliff and I'll get a picture of the view with your pretty face in it. Then you can post that. Okay?"

Cora looks annoyed by Laura's patient tone, but like Derek, he knows she secretly loves it.

 


 

He doesn't have Stiles's number, but he does have the message Stiles sent him on the app. Instead of showing up at his work again and scaring away the clients, Derek replies to the message Stiles sent to him through the app. He officially matches with Stiles, too, so Stiles can request heats with him through the app if he wants.

Derek: All better. Friends now?

Derek waits for a reply. It's a Saturday, so the clinic's closed. Derek has no idea what Stiles might be doing. He shoots hoops with the basketball hoop set up in their driveway while he waits, thinking about places he could take Stiles for a date, even if he had to be covert about it at first.

When the sweet ping of a message comes through on his phone, Derek practically dives for it.

Stiles: Show the receipts. How do I know you're all better?

Derek: I have no interest in learning your heat partner's name. 

Stiles replies, after a long moment, with his phone number. Derek switches to calling immediately. The clinic app isn't designed for instant messaging-- new messages only show up when he refreshes the page.

When Stiles answers his voice soothes something in Derek that had been irritated since he last left him.

"You sure you're all better? My friends text, they don't call."

"I'm six years older than you. My generation calls."

"If you say so. What's up, man?"

"It's the weekend." Derek's more nervous than he counted on. He's pushing a boundary already, but it's one Stiles hasn't explicitly laid yet so he thinks he's safe. "You doing anything interesting tomorrow?"

"Hm." Stiles is quiet on the other end. "Why?"

"Friends hang out sometimes."

"Hm." A faint static comes from the other end. "I get the sense that you're still lying to me, but you should be fine by tomorrow. So, sure. What did you have in mind?"

"Just lunch at my house. What do you think?" Derek has planned this thoroughly. He's an excellent cook, and if he doesn't take Stiles out to eat then Stiles can't call it a date. But Derek still gets to show off for Stiles and feed him.

"Will your family be there?" Stiles asks hesitantly.

"Probably. You already know Cora, though, my sister. She goes to the clinic. Remember?"

"Cora Hale. I like your sister." Stiles makes a strangled sound, and Derek holds his breath. "Yeah, all right."

"Great. I'll text you details, then."

"Thought you didn't text," Stiles grumbles before he hangs up. Derek beams at the phone. Despite Stiles's reluctance, he said yes. That counts for something. If Stiles really didn't want to see him, Derek has no doubt he would have shut him down like he'd already done many times now.

 


 

Something about Stiles in his home is really, really doing it for Derek. 

Stiles is wearing a scarf, even though it's not that cold out. He doesn't take it off when he comes inside, either. 

He's trying to act like a friend, though, so he doesn't comment on Stiles's scarf. He also doesn't look at him for too long, so he won't "moon", as Stiles calls it. He just sits Stiles down at the table and puts food in front of him. Before he can tell him no, Derek pours everyone a glass of wine. He gets wine for Cora and Laura too so it's not suspicious.

Stiles drinks the wine, and Derek suppresses a purr of delight. He wants Stiles relaxed and happy and full in his home, and he might actually get it. It's one of the few alpha qualities that Derek likes about himself -- the desire to provide, in every sense of the word. It's a big reason he learned how to cook, so he could make Laura and Cora feel provided for after their parents died. It's also a big reason why alphas, despite all their dickhead instincts, are often considered desirable mates. Derek wants to remind Stiles that he isn't a negative stereotype, that there are positives to being with an alpha sometimes.

Derek gets stuck in the kitchen, but Stiles seems to be getting along well with his sisters. They're already arguing over which Hemsworth brother is the best one. 

He finishes icing his tiny cake and sets it in the middle of the table to be admired. Stiles doesn't disappoint. 

"That looks so good I could put my face in it right now," he moans, actually moans, and electricity goes through Derek from his toes to his head. 

"Easy," Cora comments. "Don't go too crazy over the food or he'll puff up all day."

"Too late." Derek sits down next to Stiles and starts in on his own plate. "I'm puffed."

"Is this sauce homemade?" Stiles moans again and Derek has to exert serious levels of self-control to keep his eyes on his food. 

Derek mostly let's Laura charm Stiles into telling them more about him. She's much better at talking than Derek is, although Cora's the one with all the social clout. He wonders if Laura can tell Stiles is an omega, because she leans a little too close and her attention is a little too focused on him. Laura is serious about omegas, won't pair off with even a beta for her ruts. Derek thinks she's developed a sixth sense for divining omega orientation within the first thirty seconds of meeting someone.

Of course, letting Laura do the talking also means letting Laura embarrass Derek with stupid stories about him. 

"You were the basketball captain in high school?" Stiles gawks. Derek sees a familiar admiration in Stiles's eyes and he tingles everywhere with pride. This is going exactly according to plan.

"Yeah, and they pantsed him on the court during his final game," Laura howls.

Stiles actually looks alarmed.

"That's shitty."

"It was just a joke. My teammates were a bunch of knotheads. They were prone to idiocy, but it was mostly harmless."

Stiles sets his fork down, his expression suddenly subdued. Cora shoots Derek a little shake of the head and Derek realizes why too late.

"Stiles, where the heck did you get that beautiful tattoo? I've been dying to get a watercolor tattoo, but you need a talented artist to pull it off."

Cora successfully distracts Stiles while Derek cuts slices of the cake and broods over what the hell Stiles's teammates could have done to him and whether he can find out names and addresses to pick some overdue fights over it.

When they finish, Stiles looks flushed and happy again and Derek has to fight with himself to keep his expression neutral and his hands to himself. 

"Oh, shit. I have to go." 

Derek stands up too quickly, but he grabs Stiles's dirty dishes to make it look like he has a reason for it.

"So soon? I was thinking we could watch a movie. Or, if you like basketball, we have a hoop in the driveway."

Stiles doesn't even look suspicious when Derek says this, he just waves his hand ambiguously. Success. Derek is a freaking genius. He's got Stiles's guard down with just one home-cooked meal and a coordinated sister ambush.

"I'm teaching a class, so I can't blow it off. Otherwise I might be tempted to fall asleep on your couch. I ate way too much."

"A class." Derek jumps on it. "What's it about?"

Stiles strokes a hand down his stomach. Derek preens. 

"Just a salsa class at the senior center. Assuming I can still move."

Dancing. Fuck, Derek can catch a break. He's athletic and coordinated and he can do this. The alpha in him wants another chance to show off for Stiles.

"Could I qualify as a senior?"

Stiles barks a laugh, but Derek isn't kidding and he doesn't laugh. Stiles's nose goes red when he realizes this. Derek is getting so good at doing that to him. 

"Um. While I doubt the elderly women at the senior center would object to having a young, hot alpha in class with them... there's a more age-appropriate one you can come to at the Y on Broadway. On Tuesdays. "

Hot. Stiles called him hot. Derek wants to pick him up and kiss him.

"Great. I've always wanted to learn to dance." Derek thinks this is a good cover for his over-eager response.

Cora clears her throat and Derek remembers that his sisters exist. He picks up their dirty dishes too and doesn't look when Stiles gets up to leave. He even settles for just a wave when Stiles hovers near the door, looking a bit nervous and unsure of how to excuse himself. 

Part B of his plan, so far, is going perfect. And if Laura teases him mercilessly about his very obvious crush for the next two weeks, which she definitely will, then so be it.

Further proof of his success comes when Stiles initiates a text for the first time the next day. By Stiles's timeline, Stiles thinks Derek's definitely over him now. All his romantic planning is supposed to have magically gone up in smoke during the night when the heat bond dissipated. Or something. Derek's not sure how actual heat bonds work because he doesn't have one.

Stiles: The ladies almost killed me when I told them you wanted to come and I stopped you. We have exactly one other man in the class, and he's a gentle 80

Derek feels like a teenager with a crush when he texts Stiles back. He can't remember the last time he felt like that. He hasn't been a teenager in a long time.

Derek: Does that mean I'm invited?

Stiles: I genuinely think they might tear you apart. They're a thirsty bunch

Derek: Well I'm coming tomorrow. I can't picture you as a salsa teacher, I need to verify it

Stiles: What does a salsa teacher for the elderly look like in your head?

Derek: You ever seen Dirty Dancing?

Stiles: Fuck, you are old

Derek laughs. He wishes, painfully, that he could just call Stiles.

Derek: I'm trying to text you like a young person would. Feel free to put me out of my misery and call me

To Derek's surprise, Stiles does. Derek spins off from his desk and closes the door to his office before he answers the phone.

"Hey." Stiles sounds uncomfortable. But he called.

"This isn't so scary, is it?" Derek tells him, encouraging. "And now I can hear all that sarcasm you're fond of using. I hate trying to figure sarcasm out over text."

"It's not because it's scary. It's just convenient to text, you know."

"Mmmhm."

"So how are you feeling?" Stiles asks him. "Is it really gone now?"

"Completely gone," Derek tells him. It's not a lie if it was never there in the first place. "I feel fine."

"Good." Stiles hesitates. "Are you really still coming to my class tomorrow?"

"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"

"Because you don't want to?" Stiles says, tense. "That's totally fine if you don't. I will understand if you don't want to be friends, too. I get how heat bonds work. You don't have to be, like, polite because you said you wanted to and now you don't."

"Stiles..." Derek isn't even sure how to respond to this. Stiles is telling him it's fine, but he sounds anything but. Derek is glad Stiles called him rather than texted all this shit so he could hear how he actually feels. But Derek needs to dole out his honesty in little pieces, obviously, or Stiles might break him like he did the night of his rut. His plan to woo Stiles also includes protecting his own fragile heart in the process. "As long as you still want to try to be friends, I do too. I meant it when I said it, and I mean it now."

Stiles is quiet on the other end. Derek waits.

"The thing is. I saw you more than I saw Scott this week. And now you still want to hang out tomorrow."

"Stiles, I don't waste my own time. I only see people I want to see."

"It's just weird is all."

Derek shrugs even though Stiles can't see him. This line of questioning is bizarre and a bit dangerous. Stiles is no idiot, and Derek is balancing on the line between truth and lie.

"Would you rather I not come?"

"No. I didn't say that." Stiles sounds a little petulant. "I'm just trying to figure out your angle. If you want to be cycle partners, you can just ask. Now that you're in your right mind, I mean. You don't need to... do all this. I don't need to be convinced or something."

So now Stiles thinks Derek just wants to get back in his pants once or twice a month. It's actually irritating. How could Stiles so resolutely refuse to believe that Derek actually likes him? What did he do to make him think that?

"I don't have an 'angle'. I want to see you because I enjoy being around you, and you said we could be friends. And did I ever say anything about being cycle partners?" Derek doesn't really know why Stiles needs this spelled out, but he's going to make sure he understands it.

"You want to be... really good friends. Who see each other almost every day."

"That might be nice." Derek tries to sound nonchalant. If he comes on too strong, Stiles might back out for good. He's clearly skittish about Derek expressing his feelings for him. "If you're feeling that. If not, then we'll just see each other whenever. And I'll try to text you, even though I don't even text my sisters." Derek doesn't hide his exasperation at that. He really does hate texting.

"You must be the most annoying brother ever."

"I'm a good cook, so they put up with it."

Stiles is quiet again, but he doesn't hang up so Derek doesn't either.

"All right, dude. I'll see you in class. Don't expect any kind of favoritism from me just because you've seen me naked."

With that little mental reminder of what Stiles looks like naked, Derek hangs up with a grunt rather than say something he'll really regret.

Chapter Text

It could have gone better.

Derek is athletic and coordinated, yes, but some of the people at Stiles's class have been going there for years. And they no longer need Stiles to show them the steps, they just know them. Derek's learning curve is good, but not that good.

Even though his showing off is subpar, watching Stiles is everything he wanted. Stiles is sort of clumsy-coordinated, which looks cute when he salsas because he just flails at the right time. It's a controlled flail, and he's clearly gotten very good at it. Derek gets a kick out of watching him, in his tight track pants, swaying his hips to the rhythm and enthusiastically encouraging his students. He seems to know most of them by name, and they seem to have no problem snapping back when he says something witty or sarcastic or just very Stiles. One of them even loudly points out the almost-faded bite on Stiles's neck, which makes Derek flush with pride.

For most of the class they dance without partners, but at the end they pair up for a few songs and Derek gets mobbed by half the female students in the class, and some of the men, too. Derek doesn't see it coming because he's barely above average when it comes to knowing the steps, but he loves that Stiles doesn't look happy about it. That makes him feel a little better about failing to properly display his athleticism. 

He lingers after the class, dodging a flirty beta boy trying to give him his number so he can walk Stiles back to his car.

"You're good. Really good," Derek tells him. "How did you learn how to dance?"

Stiles glances at him, and Derek can tell he's still a little sour about his students flirting so openly with him. Derek takes that as a very, very good sign.

"I hope I'm good, I'm the teacher. Still, it's a community class that's practically free, so I'll take the compliment. Um, my dad insisted I do something after I quit lacrosse, so I joined a dance club at school. Scott was worried about my sense of balance, and he convinced me dance would help. I'm notoriously clumsy. God knows lacrosse wasn't a good fit for me."

Derek bites his tongue. They're at Stiles's car and Derek wants to give this topic the attention it deserves. It's risky, but also the perfect opportunity, and Derek doesn't want to miss it.

"Why don't you tell me more about it over drinks?"

Stiles cocks an eyebrow at him, shifting his gym bag a little and looking down at his feet. It sounds suspiciously like a date, and Derek can see the wheels turning in Stiles's head. But then he just looks up and shrugs.

"Alright. Cool if I invite Scott?"

Derek can hide his disappointment. They're friends, after all.

"Yeah, of course."

"No rut bars."

"Duh." Derek can't help taking in Stiles's tight pants one more time. "I don't want to have to fight some other alpha over you."

Stiles laughs at that, shaking his head.

"Doubt that would be a problem. Unless it's Scott, he can get testy over me from time to time. You alphas are idiots."

"Yes, we are," Derek agrees heartily. Alpha aggression is the stupidest trait evolution has come up with, but it plagues him every day.

Stiles looks at him in what Derek thinks is a fond way. Then he pushes him in the direction of his car and names one of the bars downtown that Derek's been to a few times. It's a mixed orientation bar, and one of the more laid-back places to go for a drink. Not many people went there to get picked up.

Derek thinks it's a good choice. There's some game on a TV in the corner, a huddle of alphas drinking in a ring around it. People are playing pool and chatting loudly throughout the dark, cavernous space.

He offers to order for Stiles, who finds them a table in the corner opposite the TV. It looks relatively quiet back there, and Derek is looking forward to sitting in the shadowy little corner with Stiles. But while he's waiting at the bar for the bartender's attention, he sees some good-looking guy come up to Stiles. Just as Derek's about to abandon the bar, he sees Stiles get up and pound his fist against the other dude's fist in an unmistakably friendly way.

So that's Scott, then. Derek relaxes. Stiles had told him that he and Scott were friends since way back. The way Stiles talked about Scott didn't pique Derek's competitive side, so Derek has tentatively marked him as "not a rival" in his alpha brain.

Derek orders a third beer for Scott, as a peace offering from one alpha to another. If Scott is typical, he will be protective of Stiles, whether Stiles wants it or not, and Derek will have to get on Scott's good side to have any sort of chance with Stiles.

Stiles is immersed in conversation with Scott when Derek brings the beers over, chatting in such an animated way that Derek feels an immediate ping of jealousy. Stiles is so reserved with him, Derek can always tell he's holding something back. But he lets loose with Scott, laughing with his whole body. He'd been like that during class, too, confident and uninhibited. Free.

Derek sits next to Stiles, in part so he can feel Stiles next to him, but also so he won't get distracted looking at Stiles when what he really needs to be doing is talking to Scott.

"Hey, this is for you." Derek slides the guy a beer with what he hopes is a friendly smile. Scott smiles back before his eyebrows go up in surprise.

"You're... Derek."

"Yeah."

"You're..." Scott looks at Stiles with an inscrutable expression. "Stiles, you didn't say Derek was an alpha."

"Do I have to tell you all my friends' orientations?" Stiles looks petulant. And embarrassed. Derek doesn't get it. "You big knothead."

"You're surrounded by them now," Derek tells him. Stiles looks between them, growing visibly annoyed.

"What, do you two need to wrestle or something before you can be cool with each other?"

"I'm good if you're good, man." Scott shrugs, smirking at Derek. It's a small challenge. Derek smirks back.

"Why would we wrestle when it's so much easier to just drink beer and talk shit about you, Stiles?"

Scott grins for real.

"Oh, you want to hear stories?"

"You seem like the guy with all the dirt." Derek looks at Stiles pointedly. "This is only fair after Laura told you the streaking story."

"Dude, you were a kid. Everyone streaks." Stiles points a finger at Scott. "Don't you dare tell him the one I know you're thinking of right now."

"But it's so funny."

"Scott, I will kill you dead."

"Now I have to hear it," Derek insists, elbowing Stiles playfully when he physically tries to put his hand over Scott's mouth. Scott dodges Stiles easily and Derek thinks, with a chuckle, that dancing didn't really help Stiles with his clumsiness off the dance floor.

"No, I won't torture him," Scott relents. "Pick your flavor. I think his funniest moments are the ones where his scheming goes awry. Can I tell the Finstock one?"

Stiles glares. His nose is pink. Derek loves when it does that. He wants to kiss it, or maybe just rub his face against Stiles's face. It's a confusing feeling.

"So, our coach in high school, his name was Finstock."

"Yeah, I remember him. He coached basketball, briefly."

"Oh my god." Scott's eyes go wide. "You're Derek Hale. Basketball captain, right?"

Derek nods.

Then, oddly, Scott looks at Stiles with sort of a sick expression, like he ate something bad. Stiles looks down at his lap. It's quiet for a tense moment before Scott smiles, visibly forced, and returns his attention to Derek.

"You were a legend, dude. We didn't even get to school until two years after you left, but I knew your name. Weren't you the first sophomore-level captain?"

Derek shrugs. Stiles is still looking at his lap, and Derek doesn't know why but he thinks he should move this conversation along as quickly as possible.

"So -- Finstock," he prods.

"Right. Finstock. We had a love-hate, mostly hate, relationship with him. He was a funny dude, but a little much, you know? Well, Stiles got this dog at the end of sophomore year, right after Finstock ran us ragged preparing for state semifinals. We were not fans of his at the time. Stiles thought it would be hilarious to name his new dog 'Finstock' so we could, you know, get after Finstock for peeing in the house. Order him around for a change, you know? Which was actually amazing and totally cathartic, for a little while."

"Yeah, until my dad brought Finstock to a game," Stiles contributes to the conversation, looking up from his lap and fiddling with his beer.

"Turns out Finstock is a big fan of dogs and went right up to Finstock after the game." Scott grins sheepishly. "Stiles's dad didn't even think twice about telling him the dog's name. Dude went totally red he was so mad."

"I was doing laps for weeks," Stiles says glumly. Scott roars with laughter. Derek mostly just appreciates that they've moved on from the awkwardness, the two sinking into their memories and forgetting the present.

"Oh my god. His face. I will never forget it. He was, like, eggplant purple, almost."

"That guy had anger management problems."

"I always kind of liked him," Derek muses. Of course, Derek had gotten away with a lot as captain.

Stiles stares at his beer, and Scott looks at him again, an odd sort of sadness passing over his expression.

"So," Scott looks like he's considering his words. "I heard how you two met. Heat bond, huh? That's tough."

This is kind of private, and also totally not true, but Scott is Stiles's best friend so Derek will just deal with it.

"All better now," Derek tells him with as straight a face as he can manage. "We're cool again, I think."

"Yeah, totally cool," Stiles agrees, taking a long swig of his beer.

"I've never gotten one, but Stiles goes a little crazy when he gets them. He would not stop talking about how much he wanted to marry this one girl. I've totally forgotten her name now."

"Malia," Stiles sighs. "She was great. Smokin'."

Derek vehemently hates this topic, so he searches for something else.

"Are you mated, Scott?"

"Just dating. Kira. We met through Stiles, actually. He had me going to the clinic for a while, and Kira and I cycled together a couple times."

Interesting.

"Love match, hm?" Derek smiles, secretly enjoying the irony. "That's lucky."

"Apparently it happens all the time." Scott shrugs. Interesting. Derek looks at Stiles for confirmation. 

"Remember I told you about the wedding at the clinic? I think we're better than dating apps."

"Well, I haven't found anyone else I'm interested in on the clinic app," Derek says carefully. Stiles shifts next to him, and Scott's eyebrows go up in a very obvious way. Derek's surprised Stiles doesn't see it, but all of Stiles's attention is focused on Derek right now. "I might just sit my next rut out."

Scott slowly smiles, like he understands what Derek is doing. Derek hopes he'll play along, hopes he's bought enough good will from him already.

Scott delivers.

"Dude, look at you. You can't rut alone. It's a disservice to the omega population."

"He's right, you know. That's crazy talk." Stiles leans his chin against his palm. He's still a bit pink in the nose, but he doesn't look embarrassed. Derek wonders if he's getting a little drunk. He's at the end of his beer now, but it's only his first one. "I can help you pick someone else, if you want. I'm great at matching people. I have a sixth sense about this stuff."

"No." Derek shakes his head. "I'm just not feeling it after the whole..." Derek doesn't really want to play this card. It feels dishonest. But Stiles is offering to match him up with other people, and Derek's not about to let him do that. "Heat bond thing. I'll probably still come in, but just for soothers this time."

Stiles arches a skeptical eyebrow. Scott looks like he's trying not to laugh and give him away.

"You do you, man. Just saying. You could match with anyone."

"Well, I don't want to match with just anyone," Derek says carefully. His eyes meet Scott's, and Scott quickly drains the rest of his beer.

"Well, I need another round. Stiles, I see you're there too. Derek?"

"I've gotta drive, so just water."

Scott gets up to get them another round. Stiles is staring at Derek, so Derek calmly turns to face him.

"Are you seriously going to go through your next rut alone? You know how much that sucks."

"Yeah." Derek shrugs. "Just not that interested in anyone else."

Stiles bites his lower lip. He seems to do that when he has a bad idea that he's going to act on.

"You matched with me, though. On the app."

Derek nods, slowly. Stiles chews his lip. His cheeks are a little pink, too. What a lightweight. 

"You know your odds of getting another heat bond with someone you've already heat bonded with are, like, three times as high."

Yes. Yes yes yes. Yes, it's working.

"And if I take heat medicine?" Derek asks nonchalantly. He will not freak out. He will not jump on that implication with as much enthusiasm as he feels.

"That will probably work," Stiles says, slow and thoughtful. "Yeah, we could try that."

"Hm." Derek smiles at him, careful not to overdo it. "Sounds like a plan."

"Jeez." Stiles looks at him, his eyebrow raised. "You seriously can't find anyone else you like more?"

'What can I say?" Derek drinks his beer to hide his excitement. "I have very specific taste."

Chapter Text

Derek refocuses on work for the rest of the week. The timeline on their new building project is unrealistic, and Erica is in his office every other hour asking for his progress on the lighting plans. It doesn't leave much time or energy for him to daydream about Stiles and his smell and his butterfly tattoo, but he fits it in at the end of the day when he texts Stiles about some stupid thing or another. Stiles loves texting, so Derek resigns himself to it. He'll take what he can get.

He switches his gym membership to the Y so he can go to Stiles's classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays regularly. Derek thinks that Stiles notices, but he doesn't say anything about it and Derek doesn't say anything about it and Derek continues to pretend to just really like Stiles as his new friend.

Scott never misses things, though. And Derek thinks this is fine, at first, when they're all hanging out together and Scott doesn't get in the way when Derek is hitting on Stiles, so subtly that he's still pretty sure Stiles doesn't think he's hitting on him. But Scott's eyes tell Derek that he knows exactly what he's doing. And sometimes he even seems to help him, so Derek thinks Scott is in his corner and his plans with Stiles are maybe, possibly coming together. Slower than Derek expected or wanted, but still.

Then one night at the bar, Scott pulls him to the side after they've dumped lightweight Stiles in the back of Scott's car. His smile is friendly but his eyes are hard and Derek doesn't expect the words that come out of his mouth. He probably should have, Scott is an alpha after all, even if he seems pretty laid back about it like Laura.

"So this isn't just some big joke to you, right?"

They'd been joking around about sports teams not a minute earlier. But when Stiles started trying to salsa on the table, Derek and Scott collectively pulled him down and deposited him in Scott's car, locking him inside. Derek thinks Scott's talking about that.

"He is funny like this." Derek doesn't get it, smiling at his love in the backseat. Stiles is trying to figure out how to unlock the car door through his drunken haze.

"He's not a joke," Scott tells him, soft and dangerous. "You seem cool. So we're cool right now. But if you fuck him over, I will fuck you over."

The threat goes through him like ice. Scott holds his eyes for another dangerous moment before he gets in the car and takes off.

This, along with the craziness of work, prompts Derek to take a step back and reconfigure. There's something not quite right with it all, but he doesn't know what it is, and no one seems about to tell him about it. He doesn't yet have the courage to ask Stiles out loud if he has a problem with alphas, and if he does, what exactly that problem is.

So instead of taking Stiles up on his next offer to come to Scott's house for a movie, he goes out with Erica and Boyd the next Friday after work. Derek's back aches from sitting at a chair for longer than any human being should, but instead of going home he's sitting some more with them and brooding over Stiles and Scott and how confusing everything's become. He thinks Stiles wants him, but he doesn't take the bait when Derek dangles it in front of him. Stiles offered to be his rut partner, but then they never talked about it again and nothing seemed to change between them. Now he's even doubting if that's a good idea, especially if Stiles is expecting Derek to just act like they normally do the other 29 days out of the month. Also, there's the issue of Stiles's heat and how he hasn't mentioned it to Derek at all. With each passing day, Derek is more and more sure he's not going to. Which just makes him think that Stiles is pity cycling with him on his rut, since he has a mysterious heat partner who's not worth dumping for Derek.

It's a flaw in his plan. He goes back and forth about cycling with Stiles outside of a real relationship, but when the opportunity presented itself Derek had to go for it. Even if it's only for his ruts, and even if Stiles cycles with someone else, touching Stiles again is too much to resist.

"Get out of your head, man. We're done for the day. I cannot do calculus for one more friggin' second." Erica knocks into Derek's shoulder and Boyd raises his glass to that sentiment before downing the rest of his beer in one impressive chug.

"You're out of it lately," Boyd tells him, moving on to his third beer of the night. Unlike Stiles, Boyd can handle himself extremely well. And they all deserve the drink tonight. "Everything ok at home? Laura and Cora doing good?"

"It's not that." Derek shakes his head. "You ever think that cycling is a terrible evolution?"

"Hot sex once a month." Erica looks at him like he's crazy. "You dislike that? I know you're not alone on rut night."

"I just don't think we're meant to cycle with strangers, is all," Derek points out, brooding. "There's this thing. Called a heat bond. I'm pretty sure it's just a medical label for actually liking your cycle partner, but everyone treats it like some kind of STI you shouldn't catch. There's even medicine to prevent it from happening. What's wrong with having feelings?"

Erica and Boyd look at each other. Derek realizes he probably wouldn't be saying any of this if he wasn't stressed out of his mind and more than a little confused by Stiles's behavior. But he is.

"You are really strange for an alpha," Erica comments lightly. "If it weren't for your obvious alpha aggression and competitive streak, I'd wonder."

"Did you cycle with the wrong person?" Boyd asks in his perceptive way.

"No. The right one," Derek admits. "I just hate this culture around it, like you're supposed to be once and done. Even cycle partners have to... you know... not get 'too attached'."

"Derek Hale, I know for a fact that you can do a once-and-done." Erica cocks an eyebrow at him. And then Derek remembers that, years ago, they had slept together on his rut. Shit. At twenty eight, he'd had too many ruts, and his partners started to blur together.

Boyd smirks. He and Erica are together now, but Boyd knows better than to be jealous of Derek. Or at least, his beta brain isn't irrational with jealousy like an alpha.

"I get it." Boyd leans against the table. "Our boy's in love."

Erica gapes at Derek. Derek glares at Boyd. That's private, and Boyd should take his overly observant ass home if he's going to go around pointing these things out in front of his nosy girlfriend.

"Are you in love, Derek?" Erica smiles, but it's faint with disbelief. "What does that even look like for you?"

"It looks like that." Boyd nods at him. "It looks like frustration. Relax, man. You can get... intense. Just let it sit a little."

It's true. But that doesn't mean Derek wants to hear it.

"I'm in for the night," Derek grumbles, pulling out his phone for the fiftieth time that night to check for a text from Stiles. It hasn't buzzed, so there's nothing, and Derek knows that. He just wishes, so deep it hurts, that Stiles would talk to him one more time before he falls asleep and has to get up and feel like this all over again in the morning.

But they're just friends. So Derek can't ask for, or expect, support from Stiles that's above and beyond friendship.

"Come on." Boyd waves at him. "Don't be like that. Sit back down."

Derek growls at them both, throws down some bills, and hauls his bad temper out of the bar. He's exhausted and he shouldn't inflict himself on anyone. He should never have even said yes to going out with them when he's like this.

He gets home and strips down, sliding into bed and quickly calculating his rut on his calendar. It's only been two weeks, so he still has some time before his next rut to decide if he really wants to cycle with Stiles. He can't even contemplate sleeping with someone else right now, so his other option is going it alone.

He wonders if Stiles has already gotten his heat. Derek hasn't smelled heat scent on him, but he'd gone a few days without seeing him more than once, so it was certainly possible he missed it.

He's just turned the light off and sunk into his pillows when his phone goes off. He struggles into a sitting position with a sigh, wondering if it's Erica and Boyd calling to check on him after his little fit. Then he sees Stiles's name on his phone and he's wide awake.

He answers it, and is immediately confused by the static on the other end, like rummaging clothes. He resigns himself to a pocket dial when Stiles's voice comes through.

"Helloooooo? Derek? You there?"

Derek smiles, some of the stress of the day sloughing off him instantly.

"Yeah, I'm here. Are you still with Scott?" 

"Scott tried to give me a little talking to." Stiles giggles, which Derek thinks is weird. "Thinks I'm repeating old mistakes or something. Reminded me of some stuff. Thought I'd just ask you about it instead."

"Are you drunk?" Derek realizes. He's seen Stiles drunk now, so he knows what it looks like. Or, more accurately, sounds like.

"You're not talking about me behind my back, right?" Stiles asks him. He sounds a little far away, like Stiles isn't keeping hold of the phone correctly. "Not telling all your knothead friends about your little knotchaser? How I gave it up for you right away? You didn't even have to ask, I just bent right over, huh."

Derek gapes, knocked speechless.

"No," he says slowly. "No, I would never call you that, and no, I don't have knothead friends."

"Sure, you wouldn't," Stiles laughs, and it sounds wrong. This feels very... wrong. "I forgot -- you're a nice alpha. Who cooks for his sisters and -- and -- wants to dance with old ladies. Like that's not all some big act. I know your type."

"I don't think you really know what you're saying right now," Derek tells him carefully. He doesn't know how else to respond to that. "Is Scott still there?" If he is, maybe Derek can convince him to lock Stiles away until he's slept this off. And ask him how the hell he got these ideas into Stiles's head.

"No, he's not here. Dropped me at home." There's static on the other end again, then a little grunt. Stiles runs into things a lot, especially when he's drunk. "Want to come over and bite me some more?"

The blood drains out of Derek's face. Finally, to hear Stiles say those words. And it's all wrong.  

"Then you'll have more shit to tell your friends about me. I'm already your omega whore, can't take back the past. So why not just embrace it, right?"

Derek can't believe Stiles is saying these things. And he can't deal with it, not now, not after the day he's had. So he hangs up, his hands shaking on the phone as he tries to understand what the hell just happened. 

 


 

Derek lies in bed on Saturday morning until morning turns to afternoon. Everything is awful. Stiles had texted him a couple times during the night, more drunk nonsense, none of it good. Derek plays Candycrush on his phone and doesn't move until Cora comes in and jumps on the bed in her gym clothes, sweaty and unconcerned with his comfort.

"We need your help fixing the sink. Laura tried and made it worse."

Derek doesn't respond, sinking under the covers and focusing on his phone. If he plays enough Candycrush maybe he can stop wondering what the hell Stiles was talking about, what Scott said to him to make Stiles say it, and stop thinking about the fact that Stiles hasn't called him this morning to explain. The worst possible option is that Stiles won't remember talking to him, and then Derek will have to ask him about it and everything will fall to pieces and he'll never understand why Stiles thinks these terrible thoughts about him.

His plans have failed. 

"Derek."

Derek doesn't answer, doesn't move. Cora peels back the covers and peers over the giant wrinkles in the comforter to get a better look at him.

"Oh no." Then Cora calls over her shoulder, "Laura! Get in here."

Laura appears in his doorway, looking harried and a little wet.

"Derek, the sink is exploding--"

"Forget about that for a second," Cora interrupts her. "Derek, tell us what happened."

Derek closes his eyes and pretends they aren't there. He'll mop up the lake in the kitchen later, when he can move again. Cora lies down next to him and touches his hair gently. He feels Laura sit down on the bed by his feet.

"It's that omega boy, isn't it," Laura's the one who speaks next. Cora's hand stops in his hair.

"Omega?"

"I thought so. Unless I'm wrong, Derek?"

"No." Derek shakes his head. "You're right. Not that it matters."

"Oh, honey," Laura's tone makes Derek open his eyes. Her eyes are full of pity. "It matters."

"Why?" Derek croaks. "Why does it matter? Why does he hate me? I can't figure it out. I don't know what I did."

Laura scoots a little closer to him on the bed, rubbing his knees through the comforter. It feels better, to be surrounded by his sisters like this, and Derek feels a wet coolness trail down his cheek.

"I met an omega boy once. He was in a rut bar with his omega girlfriends for a bachelorette party and I was hitting on about three of them at the time. He looked super nervous, and I didn't know why until I started to actually talk to him. He was afraid to even sit next to me."

Derek blinks at her, not understanding.

"Omega men get the most shit from alphas, Derek," Laura spells it out for him. "Especially alpha men. Way more than beta guys. This guy flinched when an alpha man just looked his way. I finally asked him about it straight. He said last time he was in a rut bar, he got pushed around."

"I told him I wasn't like those alphas, and he just laughed. Said we're all the same. Told me some other stories about being harassed by alphas before his omega girlfriends whisked him off to their next bachelorette location."

That sounds eerily familiar. Derek remembers Stiles saying I know your type.

"Why?" Derek asks helplessly. "Why, though?"

"Because omega men don't fit neatly into a category, and most alphas feel threatened by that. We're hierarchical, our brains are always trying to figure out  who's at the top and who's on the bottom and who we need to fight to get back on the top. Omega men, for most alphas, get sorted to the bottom of that hierarchy, and knotheads like to bully people on the bottom of their pyramids. Alpha girls get some of the same shit, because we don't really fit in a category either, but nothing like what this guy told me about. Stiles seems to pass as beta most of the time, but I'm sure he's had similar experiences."

"But I didn't do that," Derek insists. "I don't do that."

"You do, you just do it better. You don't put many people on the bottom of your pyramid, and when you do it's for a damn good reason. Not some superficial bullshit like being a little different."

"I didn't do it to Stiles," Derek tells them. "I didn't treat him... bad."

"It doesn't matter," Laura says, surprising him. "It's a thing, Derek. And Stiles knows to be careful of it. If he's smart, and he seems smart, he won't trust you until you show him he can."

Derek frowns at them, feeling conflicted and angry and also like an idiot for not figuring this out before. There were enough signs that Stiles didn't trust him, and he knew Stiles didn't like alphas, he just didn't piece it together. But he should have. Laura gets bullied by alpha men, but she just bullies them right back so it's never been something he felt like she couldn't handle.

The thought of someone bullying Stiles enrages him. And after what Stiles said to him last night, he knows for sure that it's happened.

Chapter Text

Derek lies in bed all day Saturday, and he tries to do the same thing Sunday. He hadn't realized the full extent of it, but Stiles had become pivotal to his motivation for getting up every morning. He loved thinking about new ways he could try to get to know Stiles, places they could go together, things they could do together. What he could say to him, how he could show him that he liked him without scaring him off. Now all that feels far away, lost, and Derek doesn't remember what he used to get up in the morning for anymore. He's sure he will remember what else he enjoys to do, eventually, but until then he has Candycrush. And brooding over all the ways he could have made Stiles think those things about him.

He gets to level 139 on Candycrush before Cora arrives at his doorway, takes in his unshaven face and the circles around his eyes, and takes his phone away from him. Derek groans, willing to admit that he should shower and eat and go to the gym, and braces himself to get out of bed. He doesn't pay close enough attention to what Cora's doing with his phone until it's too late.

"Stiles? Hey. Yeah, this is Cora, Derek's sister."

Derek lurches, spinning to see Cora with the phone to her ear. He swipes for it, but Cora gives him her death glare, and the next words out of her mouth make Derek freeze.

"I want to know what you did to him yesterday to make him cry. I haven't seen my brother cry in years. He thinks you hate him, and apparently that's a big deal."

Derek's total and utter mortification continues to paralyze him. He's not sure if breaking the phone from his sister's iron grip will make things better or worse. He's pretty sure there's no worse.

"Yeah, he was. He's a lot more sensitive than he looks. So if you're really his friend you'll figure it out and apologize to him, and if you're not, then Laura and I are banning you from the house. I won't watch Derek be miserable like this, not over someone who doesn't value him anyway."

Derek thinks maybe his sister has gone insane. He wonders how he missed the signs. He makes another swipe for the phone, but Cora's just as agile as he is and she dodges him again.

"Oh, you want to talk to him?" Cora raises an eyebrow at Derek in question. Derek shakes his head, too mortified, so Cora says, "I think you probably need some time to think about what you did before you apologize, don't you?"

Cora hangs up the phone and tosses it back to him, throwing her long hair over her shoulder. Derek wonders if it's still a felony to murder your sister if you have a very good reason.

"If that boy doesn't value you, you shouldn't value him. Okay?"

"Out." Derek growls at her. "Get out."

"Take a shower." Cora points her finger at him angrily. "We're making lunch. You better show up for it."

She gets out, so Derek sinks back onto his bed, his hands shaking with adrenaline. He can't remember feeling this embarrassed since he was a teenager. There's a tiny piece of him that feels hopeful, though. Stiles hasn't tried to contact him again, and Derek doesn't know why. Now, maybe, he will, even if it's only prompted by threats of his sister's wrath.

He immediately feels pathetic for even thinking that. Cora's right, Stiles just talking to him doesn't mean anything if the things he's saying are terrible. Derek needs to draw the line somewhere, and if Stiles thinks it's okay for them to interact like that, Derek needs to walk away. Maybe the reality is that they just won't work, and never will.

Derek showers, his hands still shaking, and carefully shaves in the mirror. Laura brings him a sandwich in his room, with a look that says she knows Derek will murder Cora if he has to eat lunch with her right now. Derek appreciates her, but he doesn't say anything because he can't say a single word right now. 

When he hears the doorbell, he quickly throws his shirt on, his heart pounding so loud it might as well be echoing in the room. Cora's already answered it when he gets there, though, and she gives Derek a cool look before she backs away from the door and Derek sees Stiles. Stiles with flowers.

Derek feels a rush of emotions he doesn't expect -- anger, embarrassment, hope, fear, and sadness. He freezes up, holding on to the door with one hand to make sure he keeps his feet under him.

"Hey." Stiles's cheeks are red, his hair looks like a mess. He holds out the flowers, and Derek takes them with one hand. "So. Um. I understand if you say no, but can I come in?"

Derek looks back over his shoulder, where Cora is leaning against the kitchen counter and watching them. Derek glares at her, his heart still pounding loudly in his ears, and steps outside with Stiles instead.

"My sister called you." Might as well acknowledge the awfulness right off the bat. 

"Yeah." Stiles avoids his eyes, looks at the flowers instead. "I know flowers are a shitty apology. But. Um. I can't really remember? What I said, or, or what I did? But I believe that I did something because I looked at our text message log and... yeah. And then I saw the call log, so I know we talked Friday night. And I remember --" Stiles goes red everywhere, his words rushing out, "Scott talked to me about some heavy stuff, and then I got really drunk on accident, and I'm pretty sure I mixed you up with someone else." 

Derek's relief intensifies. He had been hoping and praying that Stiles didn't remember and that's why he didn't call him. The alternative, that Stiles remembered and just didn't care, was much worse.

"No." Derek shakes his head. "You didn't mix me up with anyone else. You knew you were talking to me."

"I'm pretty sure I did."

"No." The words are burned into his brain. "You said I was just pretending to be a nice alpha. That it was all some kind of act, cooking for my sisters and wanting to dance with old ladies. It was very... specific. You knew you were talking to me."

"Oh." Stiles shoves his hands in his pockets. He stares at the ground, worrying his bottom lip in his teeth.

Derek sighs, looks down at the flowers in his hands. Maybe he can do this after all.

"You could come in, if my sisters weren't home. But Cora's..." Derek feels the wave of embarrassment coming before it settles on him. "Let's just take a walk."

Stiles walks next to him silently. Derek sniffs the flowers, wondering why Stiles brought them. It's the first time anyone's given him flowers. He might hate flowers after this, because it doesn't mean much without Stiles's words to make the actual repairs. But at least Stiles is here.

"So, we need to talk about some things if we're going to keep seeing each other as friends." Derek's had too much time to think about what he would say to Stiles. It's part of the reason why he didn't leave his bed -- he knows what he needs to do, what he needs to say, but it's quite possibly going to make things worse. And Derek's not sure how well he can handle worse.

Stiles glances at him, but he doesn't respond right away. It's quiet on the street by Derek's house, most of his neighbors are either at church or inside their house. Derek steers them down the street, toward the park by the elementary school where they can sit on a bench and expect a reasonable amount of privacy from his sisters. Stiles speaks only after they've passed two blocks in silence.

"Derek, there are things I only talk about with my counselor and Scott. I dont even tell my dad."

Derek sighs again. He'd expected as much.

"Okay. But if these things affect me, and they affect the two of us, don't you think we should talk about it? I mean, do you want that to stop? Because I can't be held responsible for every alpha that's ever wronged you. And I think that's what's going on here. Unless I've done something to you to make you think I'm treating you like trash. But I can't think of it."

Stiles hugs himself, his expression going strange and unhappy. He's quiet, just the sound of their feet and the barking of a few dogs as they walk. Derek steers them across the block, then across the park. The grass is wet under their feet, but they both sit on the bench, even if it could be wet too. It is. 

Stiles doesn't seem to care, though, he's still just as quiet. Just as unhappy.

"I realize that you don't trust me," Derek tells his softly. "That's crystal clear. But, did I do something wrong to make you feel that way? I just need to know that."

"No, you didn't." Stiles looks at him, his eyes big and watery. It breaks Derek's heart a little bit more. "Yet."

Derek still isn't convinced that this is futile. He has another card he can pull. He just really, really doesn't want to.

"Okay, if I haven't done anything to you, yet, then can we try something?"

Stiles eyes him, clearly unsure where this is going.

"I'll tell you something that I also don't want you to know. Something private about me. And in return, you'll tell me why you hate alphas. And if you think you could ever look past that with me. I know you do it for Scott, so I feel like it's possible."

Stiles takes a big breath, unknits his arms from across his chest. He'd been holding himself tight, like he might fall apart, and now he looks more steady, sitting up straight with his hands on his knees.

"Yeah. Okay." It looks like it takes a lot for him to say that. Derek doesn't question it, he just takes his own deep breath before he starts talking.

"I never had a heat bond with you."

Stiles's eyebrows jump and his mouth opens, but Derek doesn't let him talk.

"Yeah, I know. I know what I said to you, I know how I acted toward you that first night together. But I'm just... that intense, Stiles. I get obsessive about things easily, and those obsessions don't just disappear. They grow with time. This is who I am. It freaks people out, and it clearly freaked you out, but I'm already in love with you and I don't know how to slow that down. I wish I did. Then maybe you would trust me when I say it."

Derek holds the flowers in his hands tightly, and he's suddenly glad he has them. Stiles went to a store and picked them out and thought of him. Even if today they go to shit, he will still get to look at them for a few days and remember that Stiles felt bad and he thought about him. Maybe that will help him get through it.

Stiles looks overwhelmed, running a hand through his messy hair, then rubbing his neck in that omega way that first attracted Derek to him. Derek watches it now, feeling oddly calm, like all of his anxieties are out in the open rather than caged up inside his body.

"Okay." Stiles looks at him finally, his nose pink. Derek remembers how much he loves that. "Thank you. I think."

"You don't have to -- that's not why I said it. I've been trying to hide it from you. The same way you've been trying to hide how you feel about alphas. I know you don't like them."

"No -- that's not it." Stiles rocks forward onto his knees and grabs at his hair. Derek wants to touch him, just a hand on his shoulder. He looks like he's in pain. "I don't dislike alphas, Derek. They just don't like me."

Derek doesn't see the distinction Stiles is trying to make. But he doesn't say that.

"Look, boys like you don't just... happen... to boys like me." Stiles takes his face out of his hands and Derek can see his expression clearly -- misery. "You're handsome and sweet and everything I've ever wanted. And that's not possible."

Derek feels something loosen in his chest. He feels himself open up more, lean more into Stiles. He needed to hear Stiles say he didn't hate him, even more than he realized.

"Sometimes it is. And I'm far from perfect, Stiles."

"No, I just. I promise, it's not that I don't like alphas. I like alphas too much. And they do not like me." Stiles clutches at his hair again. "It's made me into this mess, for years. Alphas are my preference. I don't even like betas or omegas. But any alpha who realizes what I am, they just. They're not like you, or Scott, or my dad. They pick fights with me and push me around or say things that -- it just messes me up. Because I still want them. I can't stop it. I don't want anything else. I try to -- I've tried to date other omegas or betas. But it doesn't work out, because it's not what I want."

Derek didn't expect this. He doesn't really know how to respond to it, but Stiles looks so distressed that Derek thinks he won't mind a hand on his back. When he touches him, Stiles shivers and meets his eyes.

"And then you come along. And you seem nice for once, nice enough to just sleep with me one time and not treat me like dirt. And you don't treat me like dirt, and you keep -- you keep not treating me like dirt. I don't understand it, it doesn't make sense. And now you're saying you love me, but that's impossible."

"Scott is the same way," Derek points out softly, trying to make sense of Stiles's brain. "Why can't you believe I mean it too?"

"I've known Scott much longer than I've been an omega and he's been an alpha. It's different."

"I'm just another person, Stiles," Derek tells him, leaning closer. Stile's long eyelashes sweep down and back up, wet. "Let's stop being alpha and omega for just a minute."

"I can't." Stiles pulls away from him in a wince that runs through his whole body. "It's who I am, and it's who you are."

"Look, the alphas who treat you like that don't treat you that way because they're alphas. It's because they're jerks. I'm not a jerk."

Stiles sighs, leans against his knuckles like he's exhausted.

"I believe you. But I've believed other alphas too, and they were just tricking me."

"They called you a knotchaser." Derek doesn't like saying the word, it feels dirty in his mouth. Stiles reacts to the sound of him saying it.

"I wish that's all they did." Stiles shakes his head. "I. Back in high school, I presented as omega for the first time when I was still on the lacrosse team. Scott wasn't captain yet, and I was with the other captain at the time. Our first heats are like that, they aren't tied to the moon -- they can happen anytime. I hated this guy -- this alpha jerk, who was so handsome and athletic and aggressive and, god, I was an idiot. When my heat hit, I realized I'd always been secretly attracted to him. And I was all over him. He slept with me, even though he didn't like me either."

Derek feels his insides tighten. He hates this story. He doesn't want to hear the next part.

"He said things after that made me feel like -- like I would never be enough, for any alpha. My counselor says it was formative for me, to hear that when I was just presenting. To hear that after my first experience with someone. I don't know if that's true, but I hear those words in my head sometimes when I think about you." Stiles goes pink again. "You're a lot like him. A lot nicer, I think, but just as attractive to me in all those other ways. Anyway, he didn't tell just me what he thought about me. The team started to treat me like this -- this gross thing. They wouldn't pass me the ball during practice or during games, they called me names when coach wasn't listening. They stole my clothes from my locker. It got to be too much, so I quit the team. Scott picked a fight with the captain over it, broke his nose. A bunch of alphas got in the middle of it, and the coach had to discipline them all. So of course, that just pushed them to do more. Soon everyone in school knew I was an omega. And alphas I didn't know were pushing me in the hallway, and messing with my locker. One of them asked me out just so they could show me up for a date. I couldn't get away from it."

Derek has never felt so helpless. He wishes he could go back in time and fix it all, but Stiles has been carrying this around with him for years.

"It got better after high school. I finally had a chance to get comfortable with myself. In college, people just don't bother bullying you anymore. I joined the dance squad, because it was full of omega girls and beta gay guys who never made fun of me. I made friends again. I got a job that I love. It's gotten better. But I never slept with another alpha, no matter how much I wanted to, until I met you."

Stiles clasps his hands into tight fists. His mouth presses into a thin line and Derek thinks that's the end. He hopes it is, anyway.

Derek tries to hug him, but Stiles is too tense for that, so Derek settles on nuzzling into his neck and breathing him in. When Stiles starts to relax a little bit, Derek kisses his jaw, light at first. Stiles makes a sound, kind of helpless, so Derek tries to kiss him on the mouth. Stiles doesn't respond, so Derek nuzzles him again and starts to talk to him.

"I can't do anything about what happened to you, but I wish I could. I wish I could so much."

Stiles breathes out slowly, then leans a little closer to Derek. Derek kisses his neck, and Stiles makes that sound again.

"I just want you to see me."

Stiles nods, quiet. There's something desperate between them that Derek feels is almost palpable.

"Can we just try?" Derek asks. "Can you just talk to me when you feel like this, instead of blackout drinking with Scott?"

Stiles flushes, putting his hands over his face. Derek leans against him, slinging one arm over his shoulder to keep him close.

"I don't remember what I said to you. But I know what I think sometimes, and it's ugly."

"It was ugly." Derek sighs, pressing another kiss to Stiles's jaw. "But I think we can get through all that ugliness."

Stiles shudders again, then he turns and presses into Derek's arms for real. It feels amazing, like Stiles isn't holding part of himself back. Like he's just holding Derek, and Derek's just holding him too.

"I think I can. I think so too." Stiles rests his head against Derek's shoulder. He smells just like Derek remembered, omega sweet. He drinks it in, feeling lighter than he has in a long time. 

Chapter Text

Stiles takes the flowers from Derek's hand before he leaves.

"This is a white tulip. It's symbolic of forgiveness, but also purity and a new beginning. This is a purple hyacinth, which means a sorrowful apology. And these little yellow guys are daffodils, also forgiveness, but they represent the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Obviously they're out of season, but that's modern agriculture for you."

"Do you know the symbolism behind everything?"

"No." Stiles smiles at him, and it's small because of the lingering sadness of their conversation. "I looked it up on my phone when I bought them."

Derek leans in and kisses him, taking his time with it. He strokes the line of Stiles's jaw, the tickle of his fine hair against his fingers so, so good. Just what Derek has been craving for so long. He's just about to reel Stiles into him, press their bodies together, when he hears a throat clearing.

Derek sighs against Stiles's lips as he pulls away.

"We're fine now," Derek tells his sister. "Stop meddling."

"I'm glad it worked out, but Stiles, I meant what I said." Cora makes the sign for "I'm watching you" before she leaves them at the door.

"I really need to go to my class." Stiles shifts on his feet, looking up at Derek with a nervous dart of his eyes. "But I'll call you. Tonight. Very sober."

"That would be nice." It would be more than nice, but Derek's easing Stiles into this whole "I'm in love with you" experiment they're conducting. He's still not sure what they are, but he knows now that they're more than friends, and Stiles is kissing him back. He'll wait until Stiles stops looking like a startled rabbit every time he touches him before he labels it anything.

Derek kisses him one more time before he lets him leave down the walkway, watching him in his overlarge chocolate sweater and navy skinny jeans. There's something so sweet about how Stiles moves, like any second he could trip over his own feet.

It's nice. It feels nice. Derek has a few more bruises on his heart since he met Stiles, but he thinks it's worth it.

 


 

They get into a rhythm. Derek calls him almost every night, or Stiles calls him, and most days they meet each other for coffee or dinner. Derek starts to cook for Stiles, and Stiles teaches him the symbolism behind literally everything. Derek finds it interesting mostly because Stiles finds it interesting and he talks really fast when he's into something. Stiles starts to sit on his lap when they watch movies after dinner. Cora hovers protectively, and Scott sometimes gives them a disapproving look, but it feels good anyway.

Derek doesn't test the waters too much because Stiles still looks at him with this dazed expression sometimes when he does something really alpha, like push him into a wall and pull his sweater neck over to the side so he can get to that omega scent, or when he just loops his arm over Stiles's shoulder while they're walking so all the other alphas will know Stiles is taken. He's his. Derek isn't sure about much in their budding relationship, but that feels comfortable in his head when he thinks it to himself. He doesn't say it out loud, not yet, but he thinks it often.

And he really needs Stiles when his work is driving him crazy. Just listening to Stiles yawn on the other end of the phone before he falls asleep is enough to put him at ease after an extra day at work, with Erica's anxieties and Boyd's quiet irritation. 

One night after they've said goodnight, Derek gets an alert on his phone. He checks it before he falls asleep so it won't bother him all night. He digs up the clinic app and opens it, confused, to find a heat request in his messages. From Stiles.

He calls him back right away.

"Hey." The way Stiles answers the phone, kind of hesitant, Derek knows he was hoping Derek would let this be for the night.

"Your heat is in three days?"

"I think so? Sometimes I'm kind of irregular. And it's been... an irregular month."

Derek listens to the sound of his voice, the nerves there.

"Thank you for asking me." Derek frowns, even though he's ridiculously happy. "But you don't have to text me through the app."

"I thought..." Stiles coughs. "Um. I thought it would be romantic. Since we met that way."

Derek's frown turns into a smile. Stiles is shy about being romantic with him, always hesitant, but Derek loves when he tries.

"It's romantic. But practically speaking, we're not going back to the clinic, right? We're staying at your house, or mine, I don't care. Just not the clinic."

"Mine." Stiles sighs. "I get needy and emotional, and if Cora says something touchy I'll bawl."

"Aw." Derek smiles at the thought of Stiles needy. Stiles is reserved with his touching, and Derek wants more of it. "She's warming up to you, but I see your point. You'll probably be most comfortable at home, anyway."

Omegas are nesters when they get their heat. They like familiarity and comfort, like gently used laundry and slightly warm temperatures. Also, Derek wants to see Stiles's house. He's only been over once, and it was just to pick Stiles up for dinner.

"You know my rut's the next day. Maybe I should just pack an overnight and plan to stay a few days at your house?" It's a bold suggestion, but Derek feels like they're there. Or almost there, if not there.

Stiles is quiet on the other end, and Derek imagines his nose turning pink at the suggestion. Stiles wants to sleep with him again, it's in every look and touch he graces Derek with, but it hasn't happened yet. Derek knows it's a big deal to him, but he doesn't totally understand why.

"I don't know."

Derek blinks, not expecting that response. He regroups, though. Stiles sets boundaries sometimes that Derek doesn't get, but he can still respect them.

"Okay," Stiles switches gears, and Derek breathes a little sigh of relief.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I'm just nervous about having you in my house, especially on my heat. I just get... really vulnerable and weird. It's already coming over me. Someone said something to me at work and I ate an entire chocolate bar."

"Who said what to you?" Derek growls, immediately protective.

"No, I don't think you understand. They told me my sweater didn't really match my shoes, Derek, and I swallowed down a chocolate bar." Stiles takes a moment to let that sink in. "That's what I'm like on my heat, dude. You sure you can handle it?"

"I won't say anything about your not matching clothing," Derek swears solemnly. Stiles snickers on the other end. 

"Alright. You've been warned."

When Stiles hangs up, Derek gets up out of bed and starts packing his overnight bag. He's too excited to sleep now.

 


 

When Stiles lets him in the front door, Derek takes a long moment to absorb the sight of his little apartment like the precious gift it is. An alpha in an omega's home is a dangerous thing. Alphas are territorial and protective, and it's a big show of trust for an omega to let a romantic partner into their scent space. Especially on their heat.

Derek knows this, but he thinks Stiles will freak out less about it if he doesn't point out how special it is. He can already see Stiles is freaking out, running his hand through his messy hair over and over again. His expression is teetering between nervous and panicky. He's wearing chunky glasses without any glass in them, too, and Derek wonders what special kind of insanity inspired that fashion choice. But Derek doesn't say anything about that, either, because he already promised Stiles he wouldn't talk about his fashion today.

Instead, he kisses him lightly and moves into his kitchen to start making them dinner. Stiles hovers close by his side, watching him unpack the grocery bags and search for his knives and cutting boards.

"Is this your bag?" Stiles asks him, picking up the overnight bag he dropped by the door.

"Yup." Derek barely looks up from the onion he's cutting. He's pretty sure if he just keeps pretending things are normal, Stiles will slow his freak out to a normal decibel.

When he hears the loud sniffle from the door, Derek realizes that isn't going to happen.

Derek takes the bag from out of his hands and carefully envelops Stiles in a hug. Stiles sniffles again into his shirt, clutching at his arms. Derek is a little bewildered, but he waits until Stiles is ready to talk about it.

"It's really stupid." Stiles rubs his face against Derek's collar bone, and Derek soothes him with a hand on his back. "I just didn't think I'd get this."

"It's not stupid," Derek tells him, nosing into his hair. He doesn't know what Stiles is talking about, but nothing about Stiles is stupid.

"I've had this daydream about spending my heat with an alpha who likes me since basically forever. But it's one of those secret fantasies that you try to keep secret from even yourself. And now it's happening."

Derek can't understand that, and for a sad moment he considers that Stiles has never really had the kind of sex he's wanted. Even their one night together was bittersweet. Derek's attracted to mostly omegas, but also some submissive betas, and he's had a lot of good ruts. And a lot of good heats with omegas. The idea that Stiles has never really gotten what he needs on his heat makes Derek determined to do this right for him.

Derek picks his bag up from the floor and prompts Stiles to lead him into his little bedroom. It's mostly just a big bed, but he can see how Stiles prepared for him. The sheets are nicely made, and everything smells clean. A little trio of red candles glitter with flame on Stiles's bedside table. The posters of Freud and Jung up on Stiles's wall are a bit much, but Derek can ignore them and focus on the care Stiles has put into preparing for him.

Stiles takes Derek's clothes out of Derek's bag and hangs them up in his closet. It seems inordinately important to Stiles that Derek let him unpack his bag, so Derek just watches him fondly as Stiles looks through his stuff and puts things away in the proper place, showing Derek where things go as he does.

"Here's your toothbrush spot." Stiles shows him, finally. He's running his hands over the sweatshirt Derek packed in his overnight bag. He already put the rest of Derek's clothes away, but he kept hold of this sweatshirt throughout his mini tour. Derek brought too many clothes for just a few days, but neither of them talk about that.

"What are you doing with that?" Derek has to ask, nodding at the way Stiles is fondling his sweatshirt.

"Um." Stiles looks down at his hands, like he's surprised. "I don't know. It feels good." When he looks back up it's a little helpless and big-eyed. "Can I wear it? It looks comfortable."

Derek's throat clicks when he swallows. He nods, and Stiles strips his own sweater off and pulls Derek's on over his t-shirt. Derek's mouth goes from dry to salivating as Stiles's cloud of omega scent blooms in the air, briefly, before it gets trapped under Derek's sweatshirt again. The heat scent is strong now, and Derek suddenly wants nothing more than to lick Stiles everywhere.

Then Stiles takes a big bundle of the sweater in his hands, brings it to his nose and inhales deeply, and Derek is gone.

He's kissing Stiles in the next second, urging him up on the bed. Stiles makes these cooing sounds between their kisses, like he definitely isn't going to fight Derek over this, and goes where Derek pushes him very obediently. Until Derek tries to take the sweatshirt off.

"No, I need it," Stiles argues passionately, like that makes any sense. But he resolutely refuses to take it off when Derek tugs on it, so Derek just tugs his pants down instead.

He swallows Stiles down quickly. It's been a while since he's done this, but right now there's nothing else he'd rather be doing than making Stiles feel good. And Stiles makes these luscious sounds, truly delectable, that Derek could listen to forever. He holds Stiles down on the bed with an arm over his abdomen, and Stiles goes still and submissive for him.

Derek slips a finger back behind his balls and finds a wet mess all over his cheeks. Fuck. Stiles comes as soon as he gets a finger inside, where it's soft and hot and so ready for him.

"Oh. God." Stiles pants, biting Derek's sweatshirt. "I've never come that fast in my life."

Derek swallows the last of his release, rubbing the back of his hand over his lips before he sits up and looks at Stiles. Stiles avoids his eyes, shy and restless, and Derek has to pin him to the bed to get him to sit still long enough to kiss him. He takes off Stiles's stupid not-glasses as subtly as he can when he leans back. Then he kisses Stiles again to distract him.

"I need to feed you now. It's an alpha thing," Derek tells him. It's true, but it's also something Stiles probably wants to hear right now. Omegas love getting pampered during their heats. Sure enough, his eyes go soft and impossibly warm as he nods, dazed. "Let's get back in the kitchen before this devolves again."

So Derek cooks, and Stiles acts odd and adorable by hovering too close to him and sometimes hugging him from behind and sniffing his shoulder. Derek is mostly quiet while he cooks, letting Stiles babble about a new Netflix show he's watching. Stiles is quite obviously still nervous, with more than his usual level of babble and hair messing, but Derek thinks it's down to an understandable level now.

He feels absolutely content as he sits Stiles down and physically hand-feeds him. Usually he just cooks for his heat partners, but he's determined to give Stiles his full alpha-ness. Judging by the glazed look on Stiles's face as he feeds him little bites of truffle mac-and-cheese and veggie stir fry, overdoing it is the correct path.

He can't fight his own smile as Stiles hums happily to himself, his eyes trailing over Derek in what looks both loving and horny as hell. Derek spoons out some ice cream for him, too, and Stiles gets up off his chair to sit in Derek's lap as Derek feeds him this next. He kisses Derek's neck in between bites of ice cream, his lips cold and wet and wonderful against Derek's skin.

"Alright, you're done," Derek tells him when Stiles works his way down to Derek's shoulder and starts biting him, much more gently than Derek would if he were in Stiles's place. Generally, omegas aren't nearly as big on biting as alphas. But Derek had memorized what Stiles did like -- he'd studied Stiles's clinic profile before he came over, googling what he didn't know and teaching himself some new things in the process. He's ready to put his studying to the test.

"This is amazing," Stiles mumbles, resting against Derek's shoulders and refusing to get up when Derek tries to stand. "Remind me why we haven't been doing this since the night we met?"

"Let's not talk about that," Derek says softly, picking Stiles up and setting him on his feet so he can put the food away before they get distracted. Stiles wobbles when Derek leaves him. Then he leans on the kitchen counter and watches Derek put things away with this dreamy expression, not helping at all when Derek can't find the storage containers.

When Derek is done, it's just the two of them, and the air is so expectant around them that it feels charged. It feels like the night of his rut, like how his blood was singing with moonlight and every little movement of Stiles's was exactly what he wanted and --

"Oh," Derek realizes out loud. He thought he'd been extra alpha for Stiles's benefit, and he had been trying to do that too, but --

"Yeah, I know." Stiles smiles, his nose pink. "I could tell when you jumped me on the bed. Your eyes were red, and you were making the same growling noises as you did last time."

"You triggered my rut again." Derek can't believe it. He can't remember the last time it had come a full day early, and with no lead-up feelings of aggression. It was just... Stiles. Something about Stiles that got deep in his core and turned up the dial on his natural rhythms. And Stiles on his heat was something else entirely. 

"Doesn't this just feel like..." Derek wets his lips. It's too much, and he knows it's too much, but sometimes Stiles likes it now when he's too much. "Doesnt this sort of feel like we're meant to be?"

Stiles grows progressively redder before he burrows into Derek's arms. His silence is comfortable, though. Maybe, is what Derek hears.

Chapter Text

Stiles is still shyer than Derek thinks he would be with a beta or another omega, but Derek's words have made him less tentative. He's sure when he touches Derek, when he leads him into the bedroom and turns his lights off, leaving just the candle light. Derek would prefer to see all of Stiles clearly, make sure he didn't miss a tattoo last time he counted them, but Stiles needs what he needs right now. And Derek will give him everything he wants this time.

What he wants is a lot of kissing. Which Derek can do, he likes kissing, and he especially likes Stiles's plush lips, quickly softened by Derek's stubble. But the rut haze is settling in his mind and a primal thrum has started inside him that can only be solved one way. It's a struggle to go slow with Stiles, to patiently take him apart with time rather than force. Heats make omegas vulnerable, although different from how ruts make alphas vulnerable, and Stiles needs the ramp up the same way Derek needs it to be hard and fast later.

Stiles seems determined to drive him crazy before they get to the hard and fast. He's squirming against Derek, rubbing his body against Derek in every way he wants him to, but they stay fully clothed. His hands stay on Derek's chest and arms and shoulders, and Derek doesn't push it because Stiles is squeezing his arms, testing his strength, and panting against his nipples as the moon rises and they both feel the surge of it in their blood.

He rolls off of Derek when Derek's so hard it physically hurts him. He lies there with his head on Derek's shoulder and his breath coming fast and uneven. Derek can feel that he's hard too, can smell that he's slick with want. But he waits, just stroking a finger down Stiles's tapered chin, then over his plush lips, slack with desire.

"You think we're meant to be together?" Stiles asks him softly. His lips are wet with both their saliva, smooth and glistening under Derek's fingertip.

"We synced up, Stiles." Couples synced up, but usually only after living together. It took a lot of contact between two people, or a deep attraction. Usually both. Family members synched up too, but usually that resulted in more bickering and strife.

"It wasn't hard to do," Stiles points out. "You were just a day off."

"I'm very regular," Derek tells him with a chuckle. "Don't try to argue this with me. Just let me believe what I want."

"Okay." Stiles nuzzles his shoulder. "I like that you think that."

"Oh, do you?" Derek rolls over to slot his legs together with Stiles's, rubbing Stiles's arm and smoothing over goosebumps until he can tangle their fingers together. "You want me to tell you more things I think?"

Stiles looks dazed again, like he's mystified.

"What kind of things?"

"I think about learning to cook Thai food because you love it. Taking you on my favorite hikes so we can watch the stars together. Reading some Jungian theory so I know what the hell you're talking about half the time."

"Will you help me with my taxes?" Stiles asks, grinning. Derek blinks at the odd question.

"Is that romantic to you?"

"Yes."

"Then yes."

"You said you were good at math is all." Stiles leans closer, laughing against Derek's lips before he kisses him again. There's not much space between them now, tangled together at so many points. Sizzling moonlight in Derek's veins is begging him to take take take. But he resists it, kisses Stiles slow and sweet like Stiles wants.

"I'm good at math. For example, I can tell you what subtracting both our clothes will equal."

Stiles groans, laughing against his shoulder and rolling half on top of Derek.

"Yeah, I can too. That doesn't mean I'm good at math."

"Maybe we should check our answers together," Derek suggests, grinning with a flash of his red eyes. Stiles stops breathing for a heartbeat, caught in Derek's alpha gaze. It's exhilarating to see how sensitive Stiles can be to his everyday alpha-ness. He feels powerful and exotic, but he also knows he has to be careful with that power. Stiles's trust is nascent and fragile, and Derek could easily break it.

"Alright, alpha." Stiles grins back, and his eyes go an omega gold that has Derek rolling over him, pinning him to the bed before he can think about it. Stiles's big eyes widen more at being trapped under Derek's body, his cock hard against Derek's stomach, his wrists bruising under Derek's grip. Stiles strains against him, his cheeks flushed so pretty Derek could bite them. He settles for biting his lower lip, growling against Stiles's throat before he bites at his shirt too, hating the offensive item.

"Um." Stiles's hesitance stops Derek in his tracks. He softens his grip on Stiles's wrists immediately, lifting up to see his expression and make sure he hasn't pushed too hard. Stiles's eyes are wide and unfocused, his mouth hanging open, lower lip redder after Derek's nip. "So. Condoms. Condoms are a thing, k?"

Derek blinks. Omegas are fertile on their heat, he knows that. But...

"You can...?" Derek asks hesitantly.

Stiles looks between his eyes again, absorbing how Derek asked that. Derek hopes he asked it right, hopes he sounded the way Stiles wants him to sound. It seems to go on too long.

"I didn't bring any," Derek admits. Condoms hadn't even occurred to him.

Stiles fiddles with his bedside table and pulls a box out, carefully selecting a little package from inside. Derek notes the brand is formulated for knotting, and his rut surges unexpectedly. He growls and pushes Stiles hard against the mattress, clearly surprising him. But Stiles's eyes light up with gold and Derek knows it's the opposite of a problem.

"You like alpha aggression," Derek guesses slowly. Some omegas hate it, and Derek is usually more careful about showing his with new partners. But Stiles didn't mind being pushed around during his last rut, and now Derek can see he isn't just okay with it. Stiles tilts his chin down in answer, submissive, and Derek's rut surges again.

He gets to work stripping Stiles down before he actually loses his mind, his hands nearly shaking with alpha aggression as he tries not to rip things, tries to unbutton buttons and pull zippers down in clean motions. His instincts are a mess. Do those condoms mean Stiles wants him to knot him? Did he plan for that when he bought those condoms? Or did he have them before he met Derek? He doesn't know the answers, and he'd rather live in the possibility of it than ask just yet.

When he finally gets Stiles naked, he tries to memorize the map of his body before he goes any farther. He didn't do this properly before, and then he'd spent weeks trying to recall the exact placement of Stiles's moles and tattoos and what parts of him flushed when he was aroused.

"Derek," Stiles complains, struggling against where Derek has him pinned again. "You're still wearing socks, for fuck's sake."

Derek loosens his grip to strip his own clothes off. Stiles surges to help him, and then they're sliding against each other skin-to-skin, Stiles sliding onto his lap. Derek holds Stiles firmly to his chest while he reaches between them to get the condom on.

Stiles is desperately wet, and Derek slides between his cheeks so easy it punches the air from him. He holds Stiles there for a minute, feeling the center of his universe move to Stiles.

"I'm not letting you come easily tonight," Derek tells him when he can, his fangs scraping his lower lip. Stiles is panting against his shoulder, both of them overwhelmed with the perfection of the moment. "You're going to have to earn it."

Stiles moans and bites at his shoulder, fangs out too.

"I didn't put everything I like in that public profile, you know."

Derek leans back, breathless with excitement. Stiles is sharing. The promise of secrets on the tip of Stiles's tongue makes Derek dizzy. Stiles doesn't share those, not with him.

"Tell me."

"I love that growling noise that you make when you're rutting," Stiles whispers to him, lifting up and then sliding back down. Derek closes his eyes at the wave of pleasure the friction brings him. "When you push me around it makes me so hard. I've never gotten alpha aggression during sex, and I've been craving it. I've been getting off thinking about it since the last time."

"You like pain," Derek hisses through his fangs, another guess. The image of Stiles masturbating to the memory of them is beyond what he can handle.

"Just." Stiles closes his eyes, a soft fluttering. "Just some. Not a lot. I was right on that edge when you bit me everywhere."

"I like you right on that edge," Derek groans against his creamy skin, nuzzling him. He fucks up into Stiles, just once, and Stiles gasps.

"Don't be careful with me," Stiles pleads. "Don't. Pin me. Mount me."

The snarl that comes from Derek's lips is inhuman. Usually he has control of himself, even on his rut, but he can feel how his eyes blaze red at Stiles's wanton request. Feel how he's been pulled tight, too tight, and with Stiles's permission he snaps.

He throws Stiles down on the bed, biting his shoulder until it's red and raw before he re-arranges Stiles, lifting his calves up to his shoulders and folding Stiles in half. Stiles is trapped beneath him, baring himself utterly as Derek starts a deep rhythm that has Stiles crying out on each thrust. Derek takes his throat in hand and forces Stiles's chin up into a blatantly submissive pose. Stiles just goes, his eyes flaming gold, his mouth spilling the sweetest moans for Derek to swallow up.

His rut fog takes over, his world only the sound and smell and touch of Stiles, the long slide into the heat of his body, the way his body just bends for him when he pushes. He's reminded of some of the omega porn he's seen, the way alphas would pose omegas like dolls while they fucked them. Derek's never been one to demand that kind of control over another body, but now Stiles is giving it and he's taking it. In between waves of alpha aggression Derek can't help but wonder if Stiles will always be like this, so pliant and willing, or if this is a temporary surrender to the alpha urges he's fantasized over for so long. Or maybe this is how it will be when their basest instincts are at the surface and overlapping, rut and heat, alpha and omega. 

Derek takes and takes, and Stiles gives, and it's moonlight and desire that's gone too long unanswered. But it's not like it's ever been for Derek. He can't put his finger on what it is about Stiles that's special, but he's more than anything Derek's ever had before. Derek wants him so much it hurts, even when he's buried all the way inside him, digging his fangs into the tender skin of his throat, his claws raking Stiles's tender backside.

Stiles is desperate against him too, and Derek hopes he feels even a fraction of what Derek feels for him.

He can already feel his climax coming, so he pulls out, his whole body shaking with exertion, and slides down to take Stiles into his mouth. Stiles keens when he does, arching up into Derek as he swallows him as deep as he can take him, coughing when Stiles hits the back of his throat. But he takes him all the way back in, greedily and gratefully, manipulating his balls until Stiles is shouting.

Derek pulls off and Stiles cries, despairing, as Derek holds his squirming hips still.

"Not yet." Derek's claws grow, pinpricks that quiet Stiles quickly. "Not until you're on my knot."

"Oh god." Stiles sits up, flushed. His eyes are completely glazed over, and Derek knows he's nothing but heat instinct right now. "You're going to give it to me?"

"Yeah, baby," Derek arches back up and seals the promise with a punishing kiss. "If you tell me you want it."

"I want it," Stiles moans, instant. "I was hoping -- I didn't want to assume. But I want it so bad, Derek. I've been thinking about it for so long. Please, right now. I-- I need it."

"If you need it..." Derek had plans. He was going to draw this out, fuck Stiles for hours and edge him until he was exhausted and strung out. Then he would knot him and stay inside him as Stiles passed out. But Derek is weak. And he can't refuse a request like that, not when Stiles sounds so genuine and earnest. So Derek pushes again, and Stiles goes, pliant. He's been fantasizing about Stiles's butterfly tattoo, and now he's going to have it. That plan, at least, he'll keep for himself.

He props Stiles against the wall, palms up, and kicks Stiles's legs apart, arching him with a hand to his lower back until Stiles is properly presenting. Stiles groans at Derek's manhandling, but he holds the pose. Derek rumbles his pleasure as Stiles takes three fingers easily. He needs to take four before Derek will knot him. He doesn't want any chance that Stiles will tear, not when this could very well be Stiles's first knot. 

His shoulders go tense when Derek fits the fourth finger inside, but he breathes through it and Derek rumbles again in encouragement. He watches his fingers slide in, the stretch of skin, and he has to hold back his shift so he won't grow claws and hurt him. Stiles is so wet for him, so hot and ready, that it's record time when he starts to take his fingers without difficulty.

"I'm on the edge, baby," Derek warns him. This is going to be over before he can do half of what he wanted. And judging by the sobbing moans Stiles has escalated to, Stiles will be right there with him when the time comes. "You ready for me?"

"God," Stiles gasps out, sounding shocked like he didn't expect this moment to actually come. Derek takes that as a yes and thrusts inside. Stiles is stretched enough, and Derek slides in so beautifully. Meant for me, Derek thinks, lost in a delirium.

The tingle of his knot had begun even before they started having sex. Derek's held himself back so long that the relief he feels when he lets go is almost as bright as the pleasure. Stiles is crying now, half in pain and half in pleasure, and Derek prays that he stretched him properly. Now that he's started to knot, it will be more painful for Stiles if he tries to pull out. So he gathers Stiles against his chest, holding up his limp body and licking the tears from Stiles's cheeks as his knot grows. 

He sinks with Stiles down to the bed when he's filled him completely, soothing him as Stiles moans. Omegas cry sometimes during sex when they're on their heats, it's not strange, but Derek does worry he's hurt him, or that he did something else wrong. He has a track record of upsetting Stiles during sex. 

He gently caresses Stiles's cock and curses when he finds a mess of come. He came without Derek knowing. Without being touched. Just from the feel of Derek's knot. Derek loves that.

"Like it, huh?" Derek asks, soft against Stiles's ear. 

 Stiles moans again, but Derek needs actual words. He nips the spider on Stiles's neck before trying again. 

"The pain too much?"

"No..." Stiles's voice is cracked and rough. "So good. Can't...move."

 "You don't have to. Just let me..."

Derek starts manipulating him again until he grows hard in his hand. When Stiles realizes his intention, he mouths at his jaw and laces Derek's free hand with his fingers. 

It takes a while, but Derek is patient. And this time when Stiles comes, Derek feels how he pulls on his knot, feels how he shakes with exertion and pleasure. 

Stiles passes out soon after, and Derek falls into a blissful oblivion.

 


 

 

Derek is alone when he wakes up, but he doesn't mind it.

He can hear Stiles in the bathroom, humming to himself and brushing his teeth. He sounds happy, and Derek's riding his own euphoria from waking up and realizing his dream wasn't actually just a dream but a reality. He knotted Stiles last night. Stiles let him see him on his heat, so vulnerable and submissive. They connected on a new level. Stiles trusted him more than he ever has.

Derek savors it, rolling in Stiles's sheets and smelling them them them. Now that his rut's over, he processes it with his human brain, the one that tells him they've crossed a line. Stiles is his boyfriend now, he's sure of it. There's no denying what's between them. There's no calling what happened between them anything other than that level of intimacy.

He's smelling a fistful of Stiles's sheets when he sees it, spread out on the bed next to him, half-covered in the comforter: the journal Stiles was writing in the first night they were together. It's open to a page, a pen left on top, and it's clear Stiles has written a new entry.

He doesn't know why he does it. It's beyond thought, it's just open and there and Derek can look at it so he does. He doesn't have any sort of intention beyond pure curiosity, like a cat drawn to an unidentified small animal. He wants to identify it, that's all. 

The first line is mostly gibberish, talking about a... giant rooster? And Scott and Malia, a name he recognizes but doesn't remember why, and something about mushrooms that change their size when they eat them. He doesn't understand it, not yet, but the next line is --

"What are you doing?"

"Hm?" Derek looks up, his buoyant heart sinking already at the suspicious tone of Stiles's voice. Stiles is standing in the doorway to the bathroom, his expression a mix of confusion and, worse, the first hints of betrayal.

"That's --" Stiles has to stop, take a breath. His cheeks are reddening and his eyes are pure thunder. "Why are you looking at that?"

"It's open," Derek starts. That's the entire reason. But it's clear that that reason makes Stiles more angry.

"I was writing in it. I write in it every morning." Stiles bites his bottom lip, takes a minute. His anger grows with his silence, and Derek can feel it. "I told you the first time you asked about it that it was private. Did you think that had somehow changed?"

"No. I didn't -- I mean, it was just open." Derek isn't good at this. Laura is the one who knows how to talk to people, how to charm people. She could explain this away in a second. But he's not Laura, so he tries to just minimize the damage. "It doesn't make sense, anyway. I don't understand it."

"Oh." Stiles's eyebrows go up. God, Derek really can't say anything right. Panic is driving his heart rate into machine gun levels. "So because you read it and don't understand it, that makes it okay that you read my private thoughts?

"What are you journalling about anyway?" Losing hope that he can contain the mess, Derek grows defensive instead. If it was so important that he not look at it, why didn't Stiles at least close it when he left? But as soon as he thinks that, he realizes with a gut-punch that it was because Stiles trusted Derek not to look at it. Which is exactly what Derek wanted Stiles to do.

"It's a dream journal. And it's private." Stiles bites his lower lip again, crossing his arms in front of his chest. His cheeks grow redder with unexpressed emotion. "Which you knew."

"If it's just dreams, then does it need to be private?" Derek tries. He's desperate. "It doesn't matter if I read it, then."

"What the fuck," Stiles spits it out, and Derek knows he's been holding back his anger until Derek said that. "Is this some kind of fucking alpha thing? Because I'm not an omega you can just own. I'm not your property now."

"No, of course not," Derek scoffs, angry at the accusation. "Not everything's about being alpha or omega, Stiles."

Stiles glares at him. His hands ball into fists and Derek can see how a new thought occurs to him.

"Are you--" Stiles's eyes start to shine. "Were you trying to find something private out about me? To use against me?"

"Stiles." Derek can't believe Stiles is saying this. Stiles has that too-alert look that Derek recognizes: he's expecting the worst from Derek. Derek hates that. Hates that he can guess now exactly how Stiles was teased, guess when he reminds Stiles of the terrible parts of his life.

"Out. Get out." 

"What?" Derek gapes at him.

"I want you out." Stiles throws a hand at the door. "Get dressed and go."

"Stiles, please --"

Stiles leaves before he can finish, snatching the journal up from the bed before he stomps out. Derek watches him leave the room with disbelief. Then, going numb, he gets up and pulls on his shirt and jeans.

Stiles is waiting by the open door to his apartment when Derek wanders out of the bedroom. Not sure what to say, Derek tries to touch him instead, thinking that might soften him like it had last night. Last night he'd felt so powerful, and now he feels absolutely powerless. Stiles shoves his hands away with a snarl, his eyes flaring gold.

Speechless, Derek goes.

Chapter Text

Derek goes home and calls in sick for work.

He feels possibly more devastated than the last time Stiles talked to him like this. They had felt so close and connected last night, so perfect, and Stiles had been--

Derek's heart hurts. It's a familiar feeling.

He watches old cowboy movies until Cora comes home, when he retreats into his room to hide from her. He's not going to talk to her about this, not this time. He already knows what she'll say. He doesn't need to hear the words come out of her mouth.

But when he hears Laura at the door, he sneaks into her room and waits for her on her bed. Her room is a mess, and Derek is busy judging her when she walks in and squeaks in surprise. 

"What the hell are you doing in here?" Laura says, too loudly. Derek winces and shushes her quietly with a finger to his lips. Laura frowns at him.

"Quietly," Derek whispers to her. Laura rolls her eyes and gets her phone out. She types into it for a minute before Derek feels his own phone vibrate in his pocket. 

Alpha2: Coffee shop down the street?

Derek nods, then shoos her out. He listens to her chat with Cora for a few minutes before she leaves. Then he leaves, avoiding Cora on his way out. 

Laura is waiting for him down the block, looking highly unimpressed.

"What is this secret rendezvous you're trying to accomplish? Cora's birthday is months off."

"No. She doesn't like Stiles, and I don't want her to--" do what she did last time, is what he's thinking. "We fought again."

"Oh." Laura's expression goes more neutral. She seems to look at him more carefully, worry creasing her forehead before she laces her arm through his and starts walking. "Then let's get some tea, little brother."

They sit down in the quiet little local shop, warm drinks in their hands. It doesn't warm Derek inside at all. 

"I thought you two were still in the honeymoon stage," Laura  starts for him. Now that Derek has to talk about it, he's finding it too painful.

"No," he answers shortly.

"Alright." Laura peers at him. "You look terrible."

Derek picks at the ceramic mug his tea is brewing in. 

"I don't know if it's going to work between us."

Laura absorbs that differently than he expected. Derek doesn't like saying the words, and he likes hearing them even less. But Laura just nods and says, "What happened, Sourwolf?"

Derek tells her, stumbling when he comes to his own mistakes because they embarrass him. He leaves out all their hot, synced-up sex because she's his sister.

"Yikes." Laura winces when he finishes, stretching her arms over the table and taking both his hands in hers. "Yikes. You're both bad at this."

"I don't--" Derek's voice catches. "I tried so hard, Laura. But I'm going to make mistakes, I'm not perfect. I don't think he's ever really going to trust me, and the minute I screw up he'll just point to it as proof I never meant any of it anyway."

Laura massages his hands in hers. Her dark hair falls around her shoulders, framing her pretty face, and Derek is so glad she's there with him. Laura always knows the right thing to say.

"That sounds really difficult." She sighs. "I don't know, baby brother."

"Do you think it's true?" Derek squeezes her hands. "Do you think it will never work for us?"

"You screwed up, but so did he. He shouldn't have thrown you out. That's what you do with one-night stands you don't like, not with... you two have been so inseparable lately. He should have at least tried to listen to you."

"It was like I just became... some mean, faceless alpha." Derek rubs his eyes, feeling tired in his very bones. "I don't know what else I can do to convince him otherwise. I don't think it's possible. I've done everything I can to show him he can trust me. He's just got this -- this-- prejudice against me. It's too much."

Laura looks sad, her hands resting on his side of the table, there for him if he wants to take them again.

"I've just never seen you get like this over someone. It's so... touching. I was starting to wonder if you'd ever..."

"Yeah," Derek says gruffly. "Maybe that's why I don't know what I'm doing."

"It's just. After Paige, you haven't shown any interest in anything besides one-night stands. I mean, you had a few friends with benefits, but nothing like this."

"I know that, Laura," Derek growls, his misery surging. "But."

"But." Laura sighs, looking at him hard. "You think it's more painful to be together than to walk away from that feeling?"

"Just tell me what to do. I don't know what to do."

"I can't do that." Laura looks alarmed. "I'm not taking responsibility for this decision. What if he's the love of your life?"

"Laura." Derek moans into his hands. "Please don't say that."

"I've known you your whole life and I've seen you get this intense over someone exactly one other time. Stiles is... he's got his problems, but I don't think he's a lost cause."

"So you think I should keep trying? Go apologize to him?" Derek pokes his head from between his hands, grasping at even the hint of a black-or-white answer.

"I'm on your side, a hundred percent." Laura reminds him. "But I also sympathize with Stiles. Which is I think why you want to talk to me and not Cora, because she doesn't get him at all. So I think... this is a really shitty moment for you, but you're not ready to walk away."

"I feel..." Derek doesn't want to describe how he feels to her because it's so low. He hasn't even fully processed how much emotional whiplash Stiles gave him, letting him in so completely and then tossing him out. "I just thought we were over it. I thought we were through it. And I let my guard down, and then it's like Stiles sucker-punched me."

"You trusted him, too." Laura nods and sips her tea. "But we fall for who we fall for, and sometimes a pretty face and a great ass includes a lot of issues with the whole package."

"Laura," Derek says, reproachfully. "That's not what I like about him."

"It's part of it, definitely," Laura laughs. "If you didn't have such heart eyes the first time you introduced us, I might have pounced on him myself. He's pretty cute."

Derek will agree with that.

"He's not just cute. He's funny, and strange, and--"

"Yeah, see there's the heart eyes again," Laura laughs. "You're totally not done with this boy. But he needs to show up at our door with more flowers, and soon. I may not be Cora, but I can't stand to see you sad either, you know."

"I don't think..." Derek shakes his head. "I think I have to do all the work, if I still want this. He's labeled me a 'bad alpha' again in his head." It's exhausting just thinking about it. After everything Derek had done to make sure Stiles felt safe and loved... and Stiles just reset them to zero because me hessed up once.

Laura arches one eyebrow, grunting softly. It's a strange reaction, so Derek raises his own eyebrow in question.

"I don't know." Laura shrugs. "I wouldn't knock all the work you've already done together. Maybe he just had a... relapse moment."

"I can't think about it." Derek sighs, rubbing his face again. "Not today. Maybe in a few days I'll work up the energy to try talking to him. But I need to go to the gym and refocus my head so I can go back to work tomorrow."

"That's the spirit." Laura pats him. "Sometimes you get so obsessive you forget to take a step back. But that can refresh things, sometimes. I think he's more gone on you than you realize."

Derek finishes his tea in silence, digesting Laura's words. Then they walk back to the house arm-in-arm and Derek goes to the gym, hopping in on a basketball game and then running laps until his body's as tired as him mind.

He sleeps deeply, dreaming of nothing.

 


 

 Derek goes on autopilot the next day, avoiding thinking about Stiles by throwing himself into his work and even eating lunch with his co-workers. Erica and Boyd look at him strange when he joins them in the break room, but they let him sit there quietly and not talk while they bicker about the new couch they're planning on buying.

Derek hits the gym right after work and successfully punishes his body into a non-thinking zone. He limps home, his only thoughts on what he's making for dinner. It's nice not to think about Stiles for once. He hadn't  realized how consumed he'd become with thoughts of Stiles.

But when he walks in the front door, he smells him almost at once. The lingering heat-scent is just strong enough to leave a trace in the air. Derek looks around and finds Stiles chatting on the couch with Cora. Cordially. He's suddenly overwhelmingly glad he left Cora out of their mess this time.

Stiles is already watching him by the time Derek spots him on the couch. He looks wary, unsure, and Derek feels even more tired at the sight of it. He realizes that his sisters have gotten pretty used to Stiles's presence in the house in the past few weeks, so it must have been nothing to let him in when he came.

"Hey," Stiles starts, sounding hesitant.

Derek rubs the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, suddenly self-conscious at how disgusting he must look after hours at the gym.

"Hey."

He turns and strips his sweaty shirt off while walking to his room. He has his own bathroom, so he locks himself inside and showers. His brain is still carefully blank, unable to process, so Derek soaps down and washes himself without any rush. As soon as he leaves the bathroom, he'll have to deal with Stiles and make decisions. And think about how much Stiles hurt him. Again.

Stiles is sitting on his bed when Derek gets out of the bathroom. Derek heard him there, listened to his too-quick heartbeat for a few moments, so he's got a towel wrapped around his waist. He doesn't try to dress himself, he just leans against the door frame and looks at Stiles. He's wearing black skinny jeans with too many holes, a black beanie, and a blue-and-green dinosaur sweater today.

"I. Um." Stiles starts, tugging on his beanie with nervous hands. "Will you come sit down here with me?"

Derek doesn't think that's a good idea, so he doesn't move.

"Alright. That's fine. I get that. I was a dick." Stiles tugs at his beanie some more before he seems to realize he's fidgeting and clasps his hands in his lap. "I overreacted. Scott says it's true, so I know it must be."

Derek sighs. Then he tries to muster something to say to him. Maybe a genuine apology for looking at his journal, which he knows he shouldn't have done. But it doesn't come to him. So Stiles starts talking again.

"I mean, I think so too. Not just Scott. I just... it was really too much for me, I think, being on my heat while you were rutting. It was too much, too fast, and I woke up feeling so happy but also... really scared? I felt like running out of my own damn apartment even before I woke up. If that makes sense. And I just lashed out when I saw you... I mean. You shouldn't have been reading my journal, but I made you leave. I shouldn't have done that." 

Derek crosses his arms in front of his naked chest, feeling more fragile than he would have wanted for this conversation.

"Okay." Derek says instead of saying something real. "Thank you for saying that."

Stiles looks at him, searching, and Derek isn't sure what he sees. He looks anxious, upset, and Derek feels like he has that effect on him too often.

"But?"

"But... I think. I think I love you too much. And you just don't feel the same way." Derek swallows hard, the words finally coming to him. They sting with truth. "And that's too much for me sometimes. I can't... you can't let me in then push me away like that and just say you're sorry."

Stiles looks stricken, which is some small comfort to Derek. He licks his lips in the heavy silence between them, then he looks down at his clasped hands, his head hanging.

"So... you're tired of this? You don't want to see me anymore?"

Derek is quiet too long, and when Stiles looks back up his eyes are shining, his expression crumpled with misery.

"I don't know," Derek answers honestly. "I need some time, that's all." It shouldn't be a problem for Stiles like it is for Derek. Derek aches for him every day, almost every second, but Stiles is clearly... Stiles wouldn't push him away so easily, so viciously, if he felt the same way.

 


 

The new bruise on his heart forms slowly over the next few days, accumulating into a ruptured wound when he's at the gym and some guy fouls him. Derek goes off, yelling at him until two other alphas pull him back and pin him to the wall. Derek huffs there, his claws out and his fangs dropped, until he can get control of his phase. Then he pushes away from the two guys -- they were both on the team with him in high school, but they look at him like they don't even know him. Derek gets that. He doesn't really recognize himself lately, anyway.

His alpha aggression is a toxic monster nestled inside him, so he crawls home and slinks into his bed and goes to sleep far earlier than he needs. Cora crawls into bed next to him and wakes him up. She talks to him about her day, trying to coax his problem out of his mouth, but Derek keeps his mouth shut about important things. Laura brings them both dinner in bed and successfully diverts Cora's attention from him. Derek throws her a small, grateful smile as she ushers Cora out of his room.

Derek sinks into a Candycrush haze until he drifts off to sleep.

He gets up feeling a little better, and he dresses with attention to matching his clothes and brushing his hair. He makes his sisters breakfast and he doesn't check his phone for a message from Stiles. He hasn't heard from him in the past few days, so he's actually respecting his wishes. He feels bittersweet about that fact, a little more bitter than sweet. He was hoping for... but it doesn't matter. He has to reset his expectations for Stiles. Again.

Laura looks at him funny during breakfast, long, lingering looks that make Derek quirk his eyebrows at her finally. She smiles and doesn't look at him again until she's getting ready to leave. Then she kisses his cheek and presses an envelope into his hands. It's subtle enough that Cora doesn't see.

Cora settles for a wave, looking somewhat mystified by their out-of-character embrace. But she doesn't comment on it before she leaves for work.

Derek sits down on the couch and opens the envelope before he puts his shoes on. It's unmarked except for his name, so Derek doesn't know what to expect, especially coming from Laura. He squints at the small piece of paper that comes out, torn on one edge like it was ripped out of something.

The handwriting isn't Laura's, so Derek is even more confused when he starts reading.

This dumb alpha's trying to get to know me. I know it's just his heat bond, it's so obvious from the way he looks at me. Nobody else looks at me like that. I know better, I know so much better, but he gets me so confused. Maybe he likes my personality, just like Scott. He could never want me the way I want him, not when he's in his right mind. I'll have to try to be friends with him, if that's even possible. He's so beautiful it hurts to look at him. And he has this quiet, grumpy way of talking that drives me a little crazy because I never know what he's thinking. Probably what every alpha's thinking about me. But he doesn't act like that, he's not... sometimes he does exactly the opposite of what I expect him to do. And I like that a lot. I don't know. I'd like to be his friend. He could never return how I feel, obviously, but maybe he's like Scott and he can see past what we are enough to be friends, at least. If he asks me again to hang out with him, I'm going to say yes.

Then, near the bottom of the page, is a drawing of a bear with some scribblings next to it. 

Bears are a symbol of primitive, brute force. Just like alphas. To the Greeks, Norse and Celts they were symbols of war. To the Koreans, Ainu, and Native Ameicans they were ancestral figures of power. Maybe not a symbol of war, but I can definitely picture him sleeping in a cave somewhere during the winter.

Derek holds the page in his hands, slowly processing. What's the point of this? He already knows these things. Maybe not the bear stuff, but that hardly matters. Stiles had told him as much when they sat in the park together.

Still.

Derek carefully folds the paper up and puts it in his wallet. Stiles is initiating contact with him, in a way that's not disruptive. He's not trying to talk to him or get a response from him, he's just... reaching out. And that feels good, soothing the mess of emotions in Derek's chest. He takes the paper out once more before he leaves the house for work, enjoying the faint scent of Stiles on it before he puts it back in his wallet.

Chapter Text

Derek goes back to life without Stiles. It's grayer, but it's stable.

He hasn't given up. He's just doing what everyone told him to do in the first place -- he's taking a step back. Letting it sit. He may not be able to control how deeply in love with Stiles he is, or how fast it happened, but he can air it out a little bit. He can give himself a break from his own tendency to obsess. Stiles isn't where he is yet, that much he has figured out. So he can pump his own breaks before he gets hurt too much.

The envelopes keep coming. He goes out every morning before breakfast and checks the mailbox. It's not every day, usually every few days, but they come steadily. He starts paying attention to the little dates scribbled in the top corner and it comes together for him what Stiles is doing.

10/5

He's obsessed with his bite marks. Every time I see him, the first thing he checks is that I'm still red from him. I can't even make fun of him for it because I love how much he wants everyone to know I'm taken. He's going to be so embarrassed when this heat bond fades, obsessing over an omega dude like this. I'm bracing myself for when he freaks out on me, tells me he never meant it and that he doesn't want to see me anymore. I'm about 50% hopeful that he'll still want to be friends, but the other 50% of me is convinced this could be worse than Jackson. I'm pretty sure the whole thing is a huge mistake. But I'm even more foolish than he is, and I can't say no to him when he moons over me like that.

Vampire bats: Widely a symbol of fear and superstition. They can also symbolize madness.

A few days later, the next one comes.

10/7

I met Derek's sisters today. Cora's just as grumpy as he is, but she's weirdly more social. Laura told me so many sweet stories about him that it was even harder to remember that he's this big scary alpha I should be careful around. He actually said he wanted to come to my senior center class, which knocked me off my feet. The heat bond should be gone now, so it seems like maybe he does want to be friends. Which is crazy. I'm still figuring out if that's possible when I want him so much like this. He's like this drug I know I shouldn't take, but I can't stop. He's everything I've been craving my whole life, and now that it's between my fingertips I can't shake the feeling it could slip away any second. Today I caught myself thinking he's treating me different, special. Like how he's grumpier with his sisters than he is with me. But he's also so sweet to them. Laura said he cooks for them all the time, and then I had this fantasy about living with him together in that cute house they're all packed into. But then I found out he was an athlete back in high school -- the captain of the basketball team -- and fuck, he reminds me so much of Jackson. Much nicer so far, but Jackson wrecked me. Is he going to wreck me too? I wish I didn't like him so much, then I could get out of this before it blows up on me.

Peacock: In the Hindu religion, the peacock is the escort of several Hindu deities -- the deity of wisdom, the deity of sexual desire, and the deity of war. In China, the peacock symbolizes rank and dignity. In nature, peacock males are glorious, elaborate creatures who attract boring, brown female mates. He's like that to me -- so dazzling it's almost unreal. But I'm just this boring brown bird.

 

Derek re-reads that one, then he re-reads it again. The doodle of the peacock is almost sad, a beautiful male peacock and this tiny little bird next to it. Derek flushes when he realizes how obvious his showing-off had been to Stiles at the time. He doesn't understand how Stiles could think of himself as boring when he's the most interesting person Derek's ever met.

It's hard not to call Stiles when he finds that one in his mailbox. But he doesn't have anything new to say to him, so he doesn't.

The next week he gets more mail.

10/9

Derek came to my salsa class today and I almost died of embarrassment. I screwed up so many times because he was so distracting. He's a perfect dancer, even though he doesn't know all the moves yet. But he moves like he means to move, which is the exact opposite of me. Derek has total control over his body. It reminded me of when we... but I shouldn't think about him that way. Half my class was pawing him by the end and I was so jealous I almost ran out. But Derek followed me to my car and we went to grab a drink. It made me feel special again, like he cares about me. This friend thing is hard, but he's worth it. I can get through this insane attraction I have for him, I just have to keep reminding myself that he will never look at me like that.

He's a little awkward when he talks, like he's not used to making sounds with his mouth, but sometimes he's wicked funny. Usually when he's being sarcastic. He sat next to me today and I felt just the heat of his thigh and... ugh. This is useless. What am I doing? I shouldn't even be writing this stuff down. I should be scrubbing it from my brain. Once it's gone, I can be friends with him, like he wants. I want that too. And I think it's working. But then he said he couldn't find anyone for his rut and, like an idiot, I volunteered. He's going to figure me out soon, figure out I'm still lusting after him. And more. And then it's lights out. And that's going to really fucking hurt.

Jaguar: In some Central and South American cultures, they represented royalty, sorcery, fertility, and power. Reverence of the jaguar was marked by fear of their predatory nature.

Derek starts a pile on his bedside table. He hopes for more, but he doesn't come to expect it until the next one arrives a few days later.

10/12

I feel like shit today. I threw up twice this morning, and my head is killing me. Scott tried to help me last night, but now it's just worse. He said everything I was already thinking, and then it was all suddenly true. Now he has me thinking this is another trick because Derek is still friends with some of those alpha jocks from highschool. He saw them playing basketball together at the gym. I'm so afraid Derek's going to turn out to be another Jackson. I'm already gone on him, and if he flips on me it's going to kill me. Jackson was handsome and athletic and popular and rich and... everything an alpha should be. Derek's a better person than Jackson ever was, he's the best person really, but he's still an alpha. And alphas don't like omegas like me, I have to remember that.

Whale: In Moby Dick, the whale is a symbol of destructive sexual repression. In nature, whales are the largest animals on Earth. Melville was totally right -- this feels huge and uncontrollable. But besides that book, whales are also an ancient symbol of regeneration.

This is the day after Stiles drunk called him, he checks his phone log to be sure. He hates how much anxiety and fear is woven in each of these entries. He wonders if the tone will change in the next few entries, after he and Stiles cleared the air. Looking back on it, Derek had been convinced it helped Stiles, but now he's not so sure.

10/13

Derek told me he loves me today.

Nothing makes sense, he's not following any of the right formulas for us. But I want to believe him so badly.

I called Teesha later, and she fit me in for an appointment. She was happy for me, but then I told her what I did. I could tell she was disappointed then. We talked about learning to love myself better. I asked her if I can do that while I'm learning to love another person. I've heard you have to love yourself before you can properly love someone else. But she told me that's not necessarily true. Loving someone else is easier than loving ourselves, and we all need the practice. She said sometimes when we get the support we need it's easier to heal, too. But I want to give Derek something other than the messiest parts of me. He's so good to me. I don't know what to do with it. I guess I just have to try to fix myself before I screw this up. I told Teesha I need to go back to seeing her once a week, at least while this is all so new and bizarre to me.

Dolphin: salvation, transformation, love. That's what I want. But I can't rely on Derek to be all these things for me, I've got to do it myself.

Cora has her cycle, and the next day she corners Derek after dinner. 

"Did you and Stiles break up?" she asks when they're clearing the dishes. Laura always skips dishes, the slacker.

"Why?" Derek asks tensely.

"He asked about you when I left the clinic today. I don't think he would have asked if you guys were dating. Or talking."

"We were never dating. Not really."

"Bullshit. Just because you don't call it dating doesn't mean it's not dating."

"Pretty sure you're wrong about that." Derek squints at her, rinsing his dish off and then taking hers to wash too. Cora crosses her arms and frowns at him.

"This is why you're sad lately," Cora surmises. "I don't know why you guys can't just work out your shit. Did he do something to you again?"

"It was mutual this time," Derek is careful to assure her. "And Laura thinks it's because we both suck. I'm inclined to agree."

"You wouldn't hurt him. You love him."

"I was stupid and I made a mistake. And then he was stupid. So we're taking a break to... get smarter."

Cora uncrosses her arms, but the frown stays.

"You were really happy for a while."

"Too happy," Derek agrees. "When I get my feet back on the ground, I'm going to try again with him."

"Is it because I meddled?" she asks suddenly, her eyes welling. 

"What? No."

"Then why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I didn't want you to meddle again." Derek laughs even though Cora looks genuinely upset. "As much as you shouldn't have done that, it was actually... helpful. We talked."

"You know you're my favorite person. Besides Laura. It's a two-way tie."

Derek blinks at her.

"Yeah, I know."

"I just want you to be happy. So get your shit together, okay?" She hugs him unexpectedly, and Derek has to take a moment before he can hug her back. "I can be nice to Stiles if that's what you need. I didnt mean to--"

"That would be nice. But it's still not your fault we're on a break."

"Ugh. A break. What does that even mean? We should rewatch Friends so you know this is a terrible idea."

"It's not a terrible idea. We may not be talking, but we're still... communicating."

"Derek." Cora looks up at him with exasperation. "Breaks are non-things. Are you broken up? Are you still together? What if he hooks up with someone else? This is Friends 101. We watched this multiple times."

"He's not." Derek feels remarkably calm and sure about that. Stiles wouldn't be sending him his journal pages if he was moving on. "He won't."

"What if he gets his heat? You going to ask him to suffer alone?" Cora arches a brow. 

Derek sighs.

"Yeah, I get your point. I'll figure out my shit."

"Did he figure his shit out?"

Derek shrugs.

"I don't know."

10/19

I think the last time I was this happy was when my mom was alive. I was so lonely before, and now I'm never lonely. We talk every day. We make out on his couch when his sisters aren't there, which feels like we're teenagers again. He cooks for me all the time. I need to figure out something to do for him to show him how much I care for him, too. Because he's quickly becoming everything to me. He seems to like when I talk about symbolism, but I honestly think he just likes that because I like it. I know he loves sports and cars and food. I know nothing about two of those three things. So I signed up for a cooking class to improve my skills with the third. I'm not going to tell him about it, I'm just going to surprise him with my new cooking skills in a few weeks. Maybe months if I need the extra practice. Wow. And now I'm thinking about months into the future. With an alpha. Who says he loves me. My gut reaction to that is still to talk myself out of it. And some mornings I wake up panicky, thinking it's not real and I just dreamed it all. But he's real, and he shows me all the time that he loves me. I don't understand it, but I'm so grateful

Duck: In Korea, wooden mandarin ducks are given to newly married couples. Mandarin ducks have one mate in their life, and when that mate dies they mourn them and refuse to mate again. It's a symbol of loyalty and love.

Derek likes this note the best. He keeps most of them in a stack on his bedside table, ordered by date, except the first one. That he carries in his wallet and smells once in a while, when he's alone. He replaces the first note Stiles gave him with this one. Stiles isn't afraid anymore in this one. Just hopeful. 

10/21

Derek made us a picnic, and it was the best picnic I've ever had. When I described it in adjectival detail to Scott he drooled and asked how my cooking classes were coming. I think he's warmed up to Derek. Neither of us can pretend like this is some long-con by the old alphas who used to torment me anymore. Derek loves me. It doesn't matter who he plays basketball with at the gym. He showed me that with warm brie and sauteed artichokes and this fancy beet salad. I don't even like beets, but this shit was gold. And we just sat together in the park like those couples you see everywhere, totally normal. He held my hand and I teased him about his new haircut and it was just... right. I'm in love with this foolish alpha.

Dove: Another bird that mates for life. Doves are known as symbols of fidelity and dedication because the male dove takes great pains to care for his mate and their egg. Many Western countries use dove symbolism in marriage ceremonies.

Aiden.

Aiden's a good guy. He was on Derek's team for two years, and he's the only one Derek still plays basketball with who's also young enough to have known this "Jackson" dickhead. Derek can't imagine him tormenting Stiles, not at all.

After his next pick-up basketball match, he changes next to Aiden in the locker room. Aiden throws him a friendly smile as Derek sits down on the bench next to him while he finishes changing.

"Good game."

"Yeah." Derek clears his throat, anger clogging his words for a minute. But he doesn't want to believe it, not yet. "Hey, I wanted to thank you for, you know, slamming me against a wall a few weeks ago when I phased out. I'm not usually like that."

"Yeah, I know. You're no knothead. That's why it was so... weird." Aiden just shrugs. "Bygones, man. I know what it can feel like sometimes. One time when I was rutting I punched my brother-in-law for no damn good reason. I'm just lucky he's another alpha who's built like a brick house. He forgave me the next day, but my brother was pissed at me for months."

"Your brother," Derek says slowly. "Your twin brother."

"Yeah, Ethan."

"Who looks exactly like you."

"Right."

"Did he play on the lacrosse team?"

Aiden squints at him, obviously confused by the question.

"Yeah?"

"With Jackson?" Derek doesn't know his last name. "And Scott McCall?"

"That was a while ago, dude. But yeah, that's where he met his mate, Danny. Danny was Jackson's best friend in highschool, but then Jackson moved away and they lost touch. Just ancient history now."

"You'd think." Derek sighs and gets up from the bench.

 

 10/23

I asked him. Finally. My heat's been on my mind for weeks now, and I finally got the courage to ask him last night. He said yes. I knew he would, but now... it's a lot of trust. I trust him, I do. But Teesha and I have been talking about cognitive dissonance lately, and I know being with Derek is one spaceship-sized cognitive dissonance. I built my understanding of the world one way for years, and Derek is a completely conflicting message. Most people who are confronted with a dissonant situation will flat-out deny the new information, even if it's indisputable. Teesha thinks I've been doing remarkably well adjusting to my new information (the miracle that is Derek), my drunken mystery call to Derek notwithstanding. But I'm worried about my heat. I'm a different person, and I don't think straight at all. I don't have the same layer of control over myself. I told Derek I get weird and vulnerable, and he seemed to like that. Of course, he never teases me about anything, not like I do to him. I think he would, if I wasn't so skittish, but he's still careful with me. And I have to be careful with him, too. It's just that sometimes I still wake up panicky, like it's all a dream. But I love him, so I think it will all be okay.

Elephant: Elephants are hella gay. I just learned this. How could I have gone 22 long years not knowing? Elephants are some of the most socially sophisticated animals on the planet, and they're super gay. They also symbolize sensitivity, stability, and determination. I'm going to need all these things for my heat.

Derek thinks about calling Stiles again that night. It's the end of the story, and his heart has taken its time to heal, unthawed by reading Stiles's most private thoughts about him. He doesn't know why Stiles is sending him these journal entries, and it's probably time that he talk to him about it. 

Chapter Text

His resolution to call Stiles disintegrates into an urgent need throughout the workday. Now that he's made the decision to reach out to Stiles again, he knows he can't just call. He has to see him. He's missed him more than he realized, a repressed ache that swells to unbearable levels when he finally acknowledges it.

He waits outside the clinic. It's a Wednesday, so Stiles doesn't have classes, and he hopes he'll be free. He thought about texting him, but he wants this to be in person so he can gauge Stiles's reaction better.

He's reminded of the first time he waited for Stiles outside his work, in his leather jacket and best shoes. He's not showing off today, in a warm coat and a long-sleeved Henley. The memory makes him smile, the way Stiles's nose turned red when Derek told him he wanted to take him to dinner instead of just coffee.

He misses that. Too much.

He's glad he decided to see Stiles in person when Stiles finally walks out the door, swinging his coat on as he does, and spots him. He freezes first, then a big smile spreads over his face that's absolutely priceless.

Derek isn't fully prepared for how Stiles runs down the stairs and jumps on him, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and burying his nose in Derek's neck. Derek gathers him closer, enjoying the smell of him too, the hint of omega just detectable over the masking smell of his deodorant. He's warm, his sweater a fuzzy orange monstrosity with frolicking cats today, and Derek feels a gear that's been off its track for the last few weeks pop back into place.

"I missed you," Stiles breathes into his neck, squeezing him tightly for a moment. Derek realizes he's lifted Stiles off the floor, so he puts him back down. Stiles is almost his same height, but Derek has bulk over him and he loves using it.

Stiles steps back, but just one step. He's still close enough that Derek can feel his body warmth. He didn't notice it from a distance, but Stiles's smile is edged with worry. Seeing his creamy skin dotted with moles after so long makes Derek's stomach clench with want.

"Do you have time right now?" Derek asks.

Stiles nods too quickly.

"Yes. Um. I just need to -- I was going to see Scott, but he will be very happy to reschedule with me. For this."

"I didn't mean to disrupt your day," Derek feels sheepish now, just showing up.

"No!" Stiles bursts out. "I'm so -- it's fine, really. Scott will totally get it."

"Okay." Derek takes in Stiles's frenetic energy, the way his hands are still lingering at the edges of Derek's coat, clinging to him. "I missed you too."

Relief washes through Stiles's expression, but it doesn't bleach out all the worry. Stiles smiles brighter at him and digs his phone out of his pocket.

"I'll just text him. Then we can go wherever you want."

"I was thinking just my house today." Derek doesn't want anything big or romantic. Just simple and comfortable, so they can both get what they need to off their chests.

"Won't your sisters be there?"

"I haven't shown you the roof yet." Derek smiles, and he realizes it's the first time he's smiled at Stiles in weeks. Stiles seems to perk up at the sight of it. "It can be private."

"Great," Stiles breathes, getting caught in Derek's eyes before he shakes himself and looks down at his phone to type out the text to Scott.

Derek drives them home. He feels truly comfortable for the first time in a long time, with Stiles's familiar presence next to him. Stiles doesn't talk much, but what he does say is too positive, too bright. Derek can feel how nervous he is. Derek wishes he were better with words, knew what to say to him to coax some of those nerves away.

Stiles goes to take off his coat when they get to his house, but Derek stops him with a hand to his shoulder. Then Stiles looks up at him with these big, brown eyes that nearly stop Derek's heart. He swallows down the sudden burst of desire and longing and takes Stiles's hand chastely. The house is quiet, so they're the first home. Stiles walks close to him as he leads them up the stairs to the second floor, past Cora's room to the latched door in the ceiling. It leads them out onto a ledge with three chairs bolted down. 

"You live next to a lake? How did I not realize this before?" Stiles takes in the sudden view of the tiny lake behind their house. There's tons of birds this time of year, geese and ducks... ducks. Derek smiles as he thinks about how Stiles used duck symbolism for them, wonders if Stiles is thinking the same thing.

"It's hard to see from the windows because of the thick trees. We come up here in the summer and drink. It's cold this time of year, so I can grab a blanket if you want. That's why I haven't shown you before."

Stiles is enraptured with the view of the lake, so it takes him a moment before he shakes his head no. Derek's gotten used to it over the years, but Stiles's reaction refreshes him, makes him notice the beauty of it again. Maybe it is kind of romantic.

Derek sits down in the chair he usually takes, farthest to the left. Stiles sits in the middle chair by him, and then it's just the cool fall air around them and the distant sound of geese. Stiles pulls his hands into his sleeves for warmth and Derek adores the gesture, something about it just very Stiles.

"Thank you for the letters." Derek takes them from his pocket and carefully unfolds them. "But these were private. And I shouldn't have tried to look in your journal in the first place. I never apologized, but I wanted you to know that you don't have to show me anything like this ever again. I didn't respect your privacy, and that was a huge mistake." Derek pauses, feeling an important part of him unclog. "I was making excuses for it. But now I think I was desperate to know how you were feeling. That was what motivated me, even without me realizing it. I won't do it again."

Stiles chews his lower lip, and Derek remembers how he did that the last time he was angry. But then Stiles shrugs, and the tension diffuses between them.

"I didn't give these to you because I thought you had a right to see them." Stiles looks at the pile of papers in Derek's hand. "I just wanted --" He stops, and Derek doesn't understand his expression. "You told me that you loved me a lot, and you thought I just didn't. I wanted you to know that I did. That's all."

Derek's throat closes again with feeling. He has to swallow before he can speak.

"You have to tell me how you feel. I can't guess, it drives me nuts. Write it down or say it, I don't care."

"You're right." Stiles looks at him steadily. "I was terrified of you seeing those. And then the more I thought about it, I realized I was afraid for all the wrong reasons. I should be telling you how I feel about you. So I sent them to you so I could tell my fear to fuck off."

Derek laughs, smoothing the papers between his hands. He carefully folds them back up and hands them to Stiles.

"What did you think?" Stiles takes them gingerly. He asks the question lightly, but Derek knows it's anything but.

"Can I come with you to these cooking lessons?" Derek asks, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. He thought a lot of things, but he starts with the easiest one. Stiles lets a shaky laugh go.

"I've missed a few since then. But yeah. It's just a class at the community college."

"I never learned from anyone, I just taught myself. It would be fun to learn together."

Stiles looks up then, his eyes shining with tears. Derek reaches out for him, touching his forearm. Stiles doesn't move, but he does take a deep breath that sounds just as shaky as his laugh.

"You think you're the only one with scars. But you're not," Derek tells him softly. "I never called you because I was struggling with my own shit."

"I thought -- I thought you were just done with me, to be honest."

Derek squeezes his arm. "We should have had this talk when you came to see me. It shouldn't have taken me so long."

"I wanted to apologize, too. But you were so distant, so angry that I got nervous and I didn't do it right," Stiles babbles, and Derek sees a tear fall off his cheek onto his lap. "I won't accuse you of trying to trick me anymore, I swear. The more I thought about you, about all you've done to try to get close to me, the worse I felt for saying that. I know you're nothing like those other alphas, I know that."

Derek is relieved to hear him say that. It was his biggest hangup, his biggest worry -- that nothing he did would be enough for Stiles to overcome his prejudice. But it wasn't the only thing.

"I don't do well with..." Derek thinks how to word this. "When you threw me out, it reminded me of another part of my life that was terrible. I thought I had dealt with it, too, but I think it's just a part of me now."

"What is?" Stiles asks softly, rapt with attention.

"I can't do that kind of isolation. Feeling... left behind." Derek tries to take his hand back, but Stiles grabs it and won't let it go. Derek squeezes him in return, grateful for the adamant contact. "When my parents died, they left behind this huge emotional and financial mess for Laura and I to sort through. And we were barely more than kids ourselves. When you kicked me out after we spent our cycle together, it was another huge emotional mess for me. And I had to sort through it alone."

"Oh." Stiles gets up from his chair and comes next to Derek. He nudges at his legs until Derek adjusts enough for Stiles to sit on his lap, wrapping his arms around his neck and kissing the side of his face. "If you prefer, next time we can just yell at each other when we're angry. That's what Scott and I do."

Derek chuckles, wrapping his arms around Stiles too. It heals him more than weeks alone did.

"If you need a break, I get it. But I need you to come back and talk to me before I get lost."

"I can do that." Stiles kisses his ear. It makes a sound that's too loud, and Derek shifts away. Stiles chases him and presses another wet kiss to the side of his face.

"Gross," Derek complains when he can feel the saliva drying on his skin.

"Well, that's what you get. Next time we fight, it's going to be over super quick, and then it's on to hot makeup sex."

Derek nuzzles his neck too. And then they're kissing, soft and slow and exploratory. Like they haven't done it before. Derek feels electricity in his toes. 

Stiles shifts in his lap, sliding his thigh over so he's straddling him. Derek loves this position, loves looking up into Stiles's soft expression as they start to grind against each other in little nudges that don't mean much but promise more.

"This is turning into public indecency." Derek doesn't want to stop, but he has neighbors with children and the tree cover isn't great.

"You've left me very indecent, pining after you all this time," Stiles reprimands him, but he slides off his lap. "We better go somewhere more decent so I can show you my new tattoo."

"Oh." A knot of excitement forms in his chest. "What's it about?"

"Its for you." Stiles looks down at their intertwined hands, tugging at him. "I want you to see."

That gets Derek up and off his chair, following Stiles back into the house. Stiles knows the way to his room. When they get to the first floor, though, Derek hears Laura and Cora in the kitchen, being loud. He thinks about how Cora will try and fail to be nice to Stiles, and how Laura will secretly pamper him to make up for it, and he feels warm and happy. But that's not for now, that's for later. 

He follows Stiles into his room quietly, and they tangle together before they make it to the bed.  Coats are quickly followed by other items of clothing as Stiles mauls him, stripping him more efficiently than Derek's been stripped before. Stiles has never been this assertive with him, and Derek needs a moment to adjust to their reversed roles. He pulls away when Stiles starts on his underwear, kissing him gently before he sits down on the bed.

Watching Stiles strip for him is both cute and sexy, graceless and sensual at the same time. He trips his shirt off and shrugs down his pants. Then Derek can't contain himself, he has to reel Stiles in and push him down on the bed so he can inspect him thoroughly.

"It's under my boxers," Stiles tells him, flushed and teasing him with that smile.

"Fuck." Derek mutters, tugging at the offending item. It slips down a little and Derek sees the end of a tail. He pulls it down until it's absolutely lewd but still mostly covers Stiles's dick, and he sees a dark panther stalking from his hip down the v-line of his abdomen. "Fuck," Derek repeats, his mouth filling with saliva and his eyes flaring red.

"Like it?" Stiles whispers, his teasing smile turning lascivious.

Derek flashes his red eyes and Stiles shudders. It's beautiful, more watercolors of dark, bruising purple and black. But...

"Wasn't this a fear symbol for you?" Derek wonders softly. There were a lot of symbols Stiles could have picked, but this was one of the earlier ones, back when Stiles didn't trust him.

"It's a symbol of power and sex." Stiles grins at him, breathless. "I was worshiping you before, feeling lowly and undeserving. But now you're mine, and all the things I was afraid of before are mine to own too."

Stiles doesn't say things like that. Stiles doesn't call Derek his, he doesn't look that pleased with himself, that confident about it. Derek is suddenly proud of him, and he leans down to kiss the new mark on his lover's body. It's not red, not tender, but Stiles groans because it's Derek's lips against his hip. He feels Stiles's cock twitch next to him, and he massages it thoughtlessly, turning his face to mouth at the quickly growing bulge barely contained under his boxers. 

"Easy," Derek tells him as he rests his cheek against the jaguar and looks up at him. "I'm not having sex with my sisters in the next room."

"That rule is going to become very problematic for me very quickly." Stiles cocks an eyebrow at him. "What if I pinky promise to be quiet?"

Derek snorts, nipping at the tattoo again before he sits up. Stiles is splayed out on his bed barely clothed, looking like a delicacy imported from heaven, but Derek has some hard rules. So he switches back to a topic he thinks will adequately distract Stiles.

 "How did you decide on the jaguar?"

"I thought about the dolphin, too. I like the message of the dolphin. But you're not really a dolphin. And I still have this image of you in your sexy black leather jacket, leaning against your sexy black car. You're just... so fucking hot. You were like a second sexual awakening for me, I swear." When Stiles curses it goes straight to Derek's toes. "The jaguar was the obvious choice." 

"Now that I've heard your reasoning, I like this tattoo even more."

Stiles grins at him, and Derek wants him like he wants air. He spoons up behind him and loops his arm around Stiles's waist to stop himself from swallowing him down instead.

"I like the duck symbolism for us." Derek closes his eyes and breathes the warm smell of his mate. Everything is right again in the world. "Maybe I'll get a duck tattoo."

"Really?" Stiles cracks up. "Its going to take a hell of an artist to make that one look not goofy."

"What do you think about something matching?" Derek ventures, feeling bold. 

"Baby, we didn't see each other for almost a month and now you're talking matching tattoos."

"And during that month you tattooed me on your hip," Derek rumbles with pleasure. "That tattoo's not even fresh. Don't even pretend with me anymore that this isn't what it is."

"Alright." Stiles shifts, sliding until he can look Derek in the eye. "Tell me what it is, Sourwolf."

"I want to hear you say it." Derek's been craving this -- Stiles being open and honest about his feelings. And now he's going to get it.

"We're mates, aren't we?" Stiles closes his eyes, smiling a little. Derek purrs in assent, clutching Stiles too close. "That's why you like that morbid duck symbol."

Derek presses the spaces between them until they're fully enmeshed. Stiles goes pliant and loose, groaning a bit when Derek nips at his neck. He murmurs something in Derek's shirt that Derek doesn't fully catch, but he catches enough. 

 It gets late quickly. Derek barely manages to keep Stiles contained, as he sneaks his hand down into Derek's pants more than once. He even catches himself thinking about rubbing off together, but Stiles is loud and he's loud and he will not survive the humiliation if either of his sisters hear them.

When the house quiets down, they go to the kitchen and eat sandwiches. Derek can't seem to stop touching Stiles, a hand on his hip or a foot against his calf when they sit down at the table. 

"I want to hear what you've been doing all this time." Derek tells him. Stiles is open, relaxed with him, and Derek is going to milk it. 

"I've been wanting to show you one of my hobbies, actually. Well, a subset of one of my hobbies."

Stiles pulls out his phone, and Derek eagerly leans over to see what's on the screen. Stiles pulls up a bookmark, a blog that looks like one of his watercolor tattoos, with its wispy pastel tones. 

"Somnium?" Derek asks, not getting the title. 

"It's a dream group. Other people like me, obsessed with symbols and Jungian psychology. We take turns posting a dream each week for the group to try to interpret."

"So you only post some of your dreams here?"

"Very few." Stiles looks a little stiff. "To know someone's dreams is to know them better than they know themselves. You should be careful revealing them."

Derek thinks of his own dreams, which are mostly nonsense or night terrors. If someone could wade through all that and come out with meaning, they would have to be quite skilled.

"You can use mine if you like," Derek offers. "I don't feel protective of them."

"No, I like hearing other people's interpretations of my psyche. It's terrifying, but sometimes you learn big things about yourself you wouldn't otherwise know." Stiles's eyes shine with excitement and Derek smiles. "We're all amateurs, though, so I take it with a grain of salt"

"Why don't you be professional?"

Stiles sways a little, looking away from him.

"I've always wanted to be. I just got comfortable at the clinic, and living here with Scott and my dad. I'd have to leave Beacon Hills to get my PhD. But I'd love to be a dream analyst, which I could do remotely."

Derek mulls that over. He definitely doesn't want Stiles to leave, but this is all Stiles ever talks about. His body is covered with proof of his obsession. And Derek gets obsession, he gets that a lot.

"Let's go together. It wouldn't be forever, right? Just a few years?"

Stiles's eyes grow wide, slowly, with disbelief. 

"...You'd do that?"

Derek nods, swiping his foot along Stiles's calf. Stiles sets the sandwich he'd been eating down and just stares dumbfounded at Derek. 

"When would applications be due?" 

Stiles's mouth opens and then shuts. His nose goes red.

"End of December for most of them."

"That's doable." Derek thinks to himself about his own job, the rest of the mortgage on the house. "If you want to go next year, I can make that work."

"Derek." Stiles's eyes well up with sudden emotion, and Derek is alarmed by how quickly Stiles's mood changed. "Shit. Look what you did."

"You're my mate, Stiles," Derek reminds him. "I'd do anything for you."

"Fuck." Stiles wipes at his eyes, a fierce determination coming over him. "You know that's true for me too, right?"

Derek rubs Stiles's calf with his toe.

"Let's figure out details later. Maybe this weekend we can look at applications, if you want."

"Yeah. Yeah, I--" Stiles swallows. "Yes." 

They retreat back to Derek's room, careful not to make noise. Derek will reintroduce Stiles to his sisters in the morning, but tonight he wants Stiles to himself.

They strip down again to just boxers and get under the covers, and Stiles tucks Derek under his chin and wraps his long arm over Derek's torso.

The world is right. And Derek sits in that contentedness for a long time before Stiles talks. 

"I've been thinking about all those times I thought you were stuck in a heat bond..."  Stiles's voice is soft and musical to Derek's ears. He's floating on a cloud of Stiles's warmth and smell,  cushioned by the knowledge that Stiles loves and wants him too. "I don't think it fully sunk in that you were clear-headed that whole time."

"Hm?"

"Did you know right away that we were supposed to be mates?"

Derek thinks back. It feels like a long time ago,but it was barely two months gone. 

"I thought you were perfect for me. And the more I got to know you, the more sure I felt about it."

"I kept saying yes to you when my instincts were telling me to say no." Stiles touches his hair tenderly. "You were so compelling that it alarmed me."

Derek purrs with happiness, a low rumble.

"When I told you I was an omega, when I told you I got slick and you... you kissed me everywhere and you told me I was perfect. It was the sweetest thing. I think I knew then."

Derek lifts his head and kisses Stiles. 

"I'm not perfect, though. You know that now."

"I didn't mean you were perfect." Derek grins, flashing his alpha eyes. "Just perfect for me."