Derek didn’t know what he could call them.
He was much too scared to say that out loud. Them. He and Stiles. Bodies tangling in the night and separating in the morning. Derek would like to say he didn’t know who’d started it first, but that would be a lie.
He was the first one to show up in Stiles’s bedroom. Climbing through the window while the boy startled so hard in his desk chair, he’d nearly gone tumbling to the floor. Tousled hair, pale skin, and amber eyes were all Derek wanted to see that night.
At first, that’s all it had been.
A visit, a glance, a retreat. Then it was more. A feeling, a movement, a taste. Soon, Derek was lost in the way Stiles traced gentle fingers across his chest, whispered soft things in the night, and then curled up in his arms come morning.
They kept it quiet.
So Derek wasn’t sure what it could be called. He’d go to Stiles or Stiles would come to him. The boy would have a nightmare and Derek would spend the entire night holding him. Derek would wake up to flashes of Boyd’s tear-streaked face, or flames curling into the air, and Stiles would wrap around his shoulders and trace the tattoo on his back until Derek was lulled back into a trembling sleep.
Sometimes, he’d look at Stiles, surrounded by the rest of the pack, and be overwhelmed by the urge to kiss him. To trace his fingers across Stiles’s neck, to bite marks into the pale skin of his neck, to show the others that this boy— this wonder— was his.
Derek never did that. But sometimes he wished he could.
Sometimes though, when Stiles was wrapped up in his arms, Derek felt like he could be satisfied with this. If he had Stiles at night, Derek could go about the rest of his day with the boy ten feet away. He could look at Stiles, laughing with the rest of the pack, and just quietly want.
Other times, Derek would bury his face in the boy’s neck and tried to smother the crushing feeling of not right, not enough, not mine that overwhelmed him.
He didn’t know if Stiles felt the same. Derek didn’t think he had the right to ask.
Because sometimes, he hated himself for this.
Everyone around Derek got hurt. Everyone he dared touch, dared love, dared call his own, ended up facing the punishment for that. Derek used to think he was cursed. Until Stiles had pulled him into his arms at least, gentle fingers putting him back together as Derek broke.
Derek didn’t know what he could call them.
But he wished more than anything he could call Stiles ‘his’.
Derek came back to the real world, blinking a few times. Amber eyes watched him quietly, a small smile dancing across Stiles’s lips as he studied Derek’s in the night. Derek felt his face grow warm and instead of saying anything, he leaned forward and brushed a kiss across the boy’s lips.
Stiles laughed softly. “What was that for?”
“Okay, Sourwolf,” Stiles said, eyes sparkling. “You’re just being extra gooey in bed because I was that great, huh? Lemme guess, I fuc—”
“Okay,” Derek said, cutting him off. “Don’t get a big head.”
“That’s coming from you,” Stiles said with a snort. “Mr. Derek ‘I Preen for Days When I Make Stiles Scream My Name’ Hale.”
“That’s quite the title.”
“It’s your title.”
Stiles scrunched up his face for a second, before grinning. “Smugwolf. No! Sexwolf.”
“I don’t understand your brain sometimes.”
“But you love it.”
Derek went quiet. Because despite Stiles’s teasing tone, despite the glimmer in his eyes, Derek did. His heart ached for Stiles and those words to be said aloud with actual meaning. But instead, he just huffed and pulled Stiles into his chest so the boy’s face was pressed into his neck.
Stiles spluttered a few times before shifting around and going still. Derek focused on the dark wall across the room and just tried to breathe. Tried to listen to Stiles’s heartbeats, inhale his scent, and tell himself that this was enough.
Stiles with him here, now, was enough.
Mostly, he was terrified he’d say it, he’d spill his guts out, and Stiles would draw away. Because what even was this? Derek didn’t know what to call them. Comfort when the days turned dark. Stiles seeking him out when he smelled like want and arousal. Derek coming in through his window when he wanted was something— touch— anything.
It was enough. Stiles was enough.
Derek hated himself for wanting more.
There were times he could get out of his own head. Beacon Hills was always attracting a new threat; like flies to honey. When Derek wasn’t seeking Stiles out, they were working side by side to deal with the new Monster of the Week. Derek could throw himself into that. Forget about nearly everything else.
Other times, Derek would go into town. Find a corner in the small coffee shop, the nearly empty bar, or the quiet library. Even though the whispers always seemed to follow. The ‘That’s Derek Hale’, ‘that’s the one from the fire’, ‘that’s the one they almost convicted for murder’.
‘His own sister.’
Derek didn’t go out as often after that.
The first time Stiles pinned him down to the mattress, licking a stripe up his stomach, Derek had nearly tossed the boy out of bed. When Stiles had pulled him close one night and whispered the soft word ‘sweetheart’ Derek had stayed wide awake until the sun peeked over the horizon. Fast forward to the next night and Stiles had held him tight as Derek cried.
Derek had kept Stiles out of a fight once, working the plan around him, and the boy hadn’t talked to him for two weeks. Derek was pretty sure they were the longest of his life.
Stiles’s touch was like phantoms that followed him into waking hours and out of them.
It was this whole fake relationship, secret relationship, no relationship, that messed with Derek’s head. He felt like he was drowning. Or suffocating. Or maybe he was just addicted. If he let go of the source though, Derek didn’t think he would survive.
He didn’t think he could survive losing Stiles.
Which might have been why Derek started pushing him away. Because it hurt, it hurt so fucking bad, but Derek could know he was safe. Everyone around Derek got hurt. Everyone that got close to him, got underneath his skin, snaked their way into his heart, ended up punished for it.
Derek refused to lose Stiles.
But he still lost against himself sometimes.
There was a figure standing in the doorway of the loft that night. Derek knew the rest of the betas were out and honestly, he didn’t expect them back until at least the next morning. So when Stiles stood there, amber eyes pleading, a faint stutter to his heartbeats, Derek didn’t even have the strength to turn away.
“Sexwolf,” was whispered against his skin as Stiles laughed. Derek picked him up, long legs wrapping around his waist, and carried the boy toward the bedroom.
Sharp teeth skated down his neck and Stiles sucked a mark there, always so frustrated when he couldn’t leave a lasting mark. There was one time he’d completely forgotten they were both naked, dropping out of the scene midway as he glared at Derek’s neck like he was trying to silently will dark red claiming bites there of his own.
Derek had loved him even more for that.
“You,” Stiles said, as Derek dropped him down onto the mattress. “You’re pulling away from me again, Sourwolf.”
Derek looked at him for a long moment. Then he forced a chuckle and stripped off his shirt. Stiles’s eyes dilated and Derek could always tell when all of his thoughts turned to abs.
“What do you want, Stiles?”
A crooked smile tugged at the boy’s lips. He leaned up, wrapping a hand around the back of Derek’s neck and pulled him in close.
Derek always thought it would get easier. But he still closed his eyes, swallowing words, and stripped off Stiles’s shirt too. The boy let loose a litany of soft curses as Derek moved to his jeans, pulling down the zipper and stripping those of too.
By the time Derek had come twice, Stiles three times, and the boy was panting underneath him with Derek’s face buried in his neck, he felt nothing except a little woozy. There was a fog in his mind, a daze behind his eyes, and as Stiles combed careful fingers through his hair, Derek let himself go for the first time.
“I love you.”
Stiles froze. The touches paused and it took Derek a moment for his own words to catch up with him. Then he felt horror, nausea, and terror crash over him. In a second, Derek was shoving himself up and stumbling out of bed, feeling like someone had grabbed him by the neck and ripped out his throat.
Stiles sat up in bed, the sheets pooling around him. And his eyes were wide. His scent loud. Derek thought he could be sick.
A sob threatened to tear from his chest.
“Don’t,” Derek said, moving a step back. “I’m sorry, Stiles, I’m sorry. I didn’t mea— I’m sorry. I won’t say it again.”
The boy’s eyes cracked.
Slowly, he pushed himself out of bed and Derek froze as Stiles stepped closer. The boy reached out, then stopped, and one brow slowly raising. “Derek, can I touch you?”
Derek barely breathed for a second. Then he nodded and Stiles splayed a hand across his chest. It moved over his shoulders as Stiles stepped closer, cupping the back of his neck. Stiles brought their foreheads together, breaths warm against Derek’s skin.
“Your heart is beating crazy fast, dude.”
“Derek,” Stiles said, sounding broken. “Please stop apologizing to me.”
Derek felt like he could fall apart. He closed his eyes and nodded, and Stiles drew back a little, searching his face. He never removed his hand, though.
“Can I ask what happened?”
Derek looked at him, shocked. Stiles wet his lips before speaking again.
“I— I didn’t mean to.”
For a moment, Stiles didn’t answer. Then he nodded, throat bobbing as he swallowed. “You said you loved me. You didn’t mean it?”
“No, I didn’t mean to .”
Something the boy’s scent changed. It went soft, vanished altogether, and then came back in an overwhelming wave. Derek thought there was the smallest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of Stiles’s lips but he didn’t know why.
“I won’t say it again.”
“I love you too.”
Derek didn’t think that was right. He hadn’t heard right. Or maybe something else was wrong. He’d fallen asleep, he was having a nightmare. Stiles had never come over in the first place. This was all a dream.
Derek didn’t realize Stiles was leading him down to the floor until he realized his chest was too tight. The boy guided his head into his chest, whispering calm, soothing things, and wrapped careful arms around Derek’s shoulders, tracing fingers over the outline of his tattoo.
“Hey,” he said softly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, big guy.”
Derek turned his face up, nose tracing along Stiles’s collarbone. The boy made a surprised noise before chuckling and a going lax.
“Yeah, big guy, I’m here. You alright?”
Derek just inhaled, eyes closed. Stiles’s entire body vibrated as he chuckled again.
“Okay, Softiewolf, you’re okay. Big whiff now, yeah? Smell that? That’s this human. This Stiles. Your human, alright? Your Stiles. You’re okay, Derek.”
Derek didn’t say a word. They sat like that for a long moment, the silence overwhelming.
Stiles covered him like a shield, pale neck tilted a little in submission. One hand stayed on Derek’s back, fingers outlining his tattoo. The other petted down the back of his neck. Derek stayed stock-still through it all.
“You said you didn’t mean to.”
Derek didn’t answer. Stiles swallowed.
Derek pulled back and Stiles studied his face.
“I meant what I said, big guy. I just… I didn’t want to scare you away. And I know there are some things that are better off not said, but…”
“What is this?”
Stiles blinked. His scent turned nervous. “What is it to you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh man,” Stiles said, laughing. “So it’s not just me. Listen, Sourwolf, I don’t know if you’re scared of my dad, or the betas, or whatever, but I’m totally fine with keeping it under the wraps until you’re good to go—”
Derek stared. Stiles trailed off.
“I’m not scared.”
That was a lie. Derek was completely and totally terrified. But not of what the pack would think, or how the Sheriff might threaten to shoot him. Derek was terrified that the moment he said it out loud, the world would use that as a reason to take Stiles from him. To tear him away just like all of the others.
“Derek,” Stiles said softly, pulling him out of his thoughts. “Derek, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do,” Stiles said, eyes flashing in the night. “Derek, I swear to god, I will never leave you. I’m Stiles Stilinski, remember? I’m stuck to you like glue now. And I’m never letting go.”
Derek’s chest tightened again. Stiles’s face softened.
“Derek, I love you.”
Derek moved forward and kissed him. Stiles tasted like cinnamon and apple spice and the boy smiled around his lips, hand tangling through his hair. Derek closed his eyes and just let himself want, curled against the boy like Stiles had all the control here.
Because maybe he did. Derek could be taken apart by a simple touch if it came from Stiles.
“I love you,” Derek said, the word whispered around Stiles’s lips. The boy’s scent flooded with happiness and he laughed against Derek’s lips, pulling him closer and kissing him hard.
“I’m yours, big guy.”
Stiles guided his head down to his neck, fingers softened in his hair. “And I want everyone to know it.”
Derek didn’t think the terror would end tonight. He’d always be afraid of losing Stiles. But there was something about wanting him, about wanting more, and Derek knew he would go to the ends of the earth for Stiles. Feelings of right, of enough, of his.
“I love you.”
Stiles held him closer. And he didn’t need to say a word because Derek knew it was okay. Stiles here. Stiles was his.
And Stiles was always enough.