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There and Back Again

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It’s not something Stiles has thought of in well over a year by the time it actually happens.  Had stopped wanting it long before that.  Around the time he lost his naïveté, gained a fuck-all mentality and moved on from childish belief systems that included platitudes such as ‘everything happens for a reason.’

It doesn’t and fuck the guy who came up with that horseshit in the first place.

He’s squashing back into his creaking couch, shoving a spoonful of sugary, off-brand cereal into his mouth and barely chewing before he swallows.  His milk’s on the edge of souring and he’s trying to get as little taste out of the meal as possible.  Some bald dude on an infomercial he’s seen roughly a thousand times is trying to sell him the same hair in a can, plasticine smile making it all the slightest bit sinister, when something clambers into his door.  It can’t be called a knock no matter how stretchy you make that definition.

The hair on the back of his neck prickles and Stiles slaps the bowl down on his coffee table, enough momentum to it that it slides and the milk sloshes.  He reaches behind his couch’s back for the shotgun his dad had insisted he own after the whole hag thing.  Gone so far as to buy the thing for him and get every supernatural shell Chris Argent knew of.  They’d played a game of musical shotgun until Stiles had given up and stopped bringing it back.  It’s saved Stiles’ life twice in the four years since then.

“Third time’s a charm,” he says under his breath, digging down into his couch cushions for a few shells.  The markings say he grabbed ones meant for ghouls but he’s still pretty sure they’ll pack a punch.  He loads it and cocks it easily, wanting whatever the fuck is battling with his door to know exactly what’s coming to it.

He rips it open and the thing – the guy – slumps down near to his shoes as he can get.  There’s mountain ash between them and it’s doing the job of keeping grubby paws away from Stiles’ pant leg.  The guy’s shaking, trembling so much that he looks like he’s in squiggle vision or some shit and there’s dried blood on his face and neck and torso and he’s trying to get his hands under him to stand but he can’t make his body cooperate.  Even so beaten up, Stiles knew him from the second the door opened and he’s tempted to close it again.

He pulls in a deep, sharp cut of air and carefully balances the shotgun against the wall, slowly dragging his heel through the line of ash.  “Derek?”  The word feels ripped out of him, comes out with a break in it that pisses Stiles off.

Derek’s body is convulsing, thinner than it was when Stiles last saw him and his teeth are grinding together and Stiles says, “Jesus fuck, Derek,” as he gets his hands under the guy’s armpits and drags him inside.  He’s too unsteady to help much, unruly in Stiles’ grip, but they get to the couch without breaking any of the shit they knock into.  Stiles doesn’t really care about any of it besides, he’s only been living here for five months and it’s a shithole.  Which is kind of the point of it.  Cheap and with Stiles unlikely to form an attachment to it for when he has to pick up and leave after it’s broken into or burned down or leveled.

He drops Derek unceremoniously onto scratchy cushions soon as he’s within range and drags a hand up over his buzzed hair, staring. Fuck.

He’s got no fucking clue what’s wrong with Derek but it looks like poison, poison that came along with a hell of a fight but Derek seems to’ve healed from the physical stuff.  The internal stuff though… Stiles lifts a foot, nudges at Derek’s jean-clad thigh with the toe of his sneaker.  “Hey asshole, you know what you were given?”

Derek’s curled up over his abdomen, forearms protecting it and head and knees trying to meet it like he’s in a hell of a lot of agony.

Stiles grabs him by his hair, sans gentility, yanks Derek’s head back so pinched, streaming eyes are staring into his own.  Derek looks hazy, unfocused.  “Can’t fix you if I don’t know what’s wrong.  Either help yourself out here or die on the world’s most uncomfortable couch.  Up to you, big guy.”  Stiles unhurriedly clicks his tongue.  “But, I gotta tell you, my plans for tomorrow didn’t include dumping a body and I’d like to keep it that way.  Real hassle, that shit.”

Derek’s teeth screech into each other, front teeth hitting bottoms as he tries to form words through the trembling.  “I-I don’t.”  The syllables come out harsh and with no small amount of effort behind them.  “S’red, dry.”

“What, like a powder?”

Derek whines but manages to nod his head.

New shit then.  Chris had texted him a picture of it only that month, told him to stock up.  “Well didn’t you come to the right place,” Stiles mutters under his breath, hating how bitter he sounds.  It’s only been six fucking years since he’s seen the guy though.  Left without a word to anyone and when Stiles had finally broken down enough to call, it was only to find the number’d been disconnected.  He’s over it though.  Hasn’t thought about Derek in ages, stopped caring if he was alive or dead years ago and now he’s got the balls to show up here with his foot half in the grave?  Stiles has no fucking idea how Derek justified that shit to himself.

He looks back at the shaking mess on his couch.  In all the ways Stiles had imagined seeing him again, back when he’d still had enough hope in him to think of stupid shit like that, it was never this.  Never half-dead, scrawny and pathetic.  This—This is nothing short of underwhelming.  Might as well have taken all their history away from them because that’s what this is.  This is Derek showing up and saying he needs Stiles to hack off a limb.

The difference now is that Stiles could hack off three limbs without batting an eye and then send Derek on his way.  He wants him off his couch, out of his life and back wherever the fuck he’d been.

He grabs up his pack of smokes on his way over to his medical stores, kicking dirty laundry out of his way.  The cabinet’s the only thing that’s locked in his entire place and he lifts the key from around his neck.  The pack crinkles in his hand, lets out a tired puff of air as he squeezes it and the last two cigarettes roll from one side to the other.  He fishes one out, lets it hang between his lips as he rattles around in the cabinet.  It’s short work to grind up the necessary herbs in a mortar, takes him less than a minute his wrist is so familiar with the motion, and he lights up his cigarette with the same flame he uses to spark it up.  He jams the ceramic into Derek’s chest, settles on his coffee table across from him – wood groaning under him, says, “Inhale, slow as you can, deep as you can.  Should be good enough to hobble out of here by morning.”

Stiles ignores the way Derek’s watching him, the curious, frowning glint in his eyes because fuck him, seriously.  Stiles barely looks at him in fact, digs his phone out of his pocket instead.  He drags in a deep lungful of smoke while keeping his cigarette in his lips, lets it out through his parted mouth and nose once he’s punched the first number on his speed dial.  He rubs at his forehead, waiting for the call to pick up.

“Hey,” Scott says in his ear, tired-sounding and low.

“Hey, killer.”  Scott huffs out a breath that’s half-exasperated, half-indulgent.  “Fucker showed back up.”  Stiles flicks his cigarette, ashes on the table next to his thigh, keeps his gaze on the orange glow at the end.

“Fucker?  Duke?” Scott guesses, still sounding like his voice is dragging.  Which is when Stiles thinks to look back at the clock on his DVD player.  It’s a quarter to four in the morning.  Scott’s gonna give him so much shit.  He should’ve at least faked a sleep-scratchy voice.

“Nah.  Think dumber, younger and more fucked up.”  Derek tries to snarl but it gets caught in his chest, turns into more of a rumble and then a cough.  Stiles ignores that too.

There’s a significant pause on Scott’s end, like he’s letting the suspense build.  “What’s Derek doing there, Stiles?” he says, weirdly, forebodingly calm.  It’s still a trip when Scott acts the Alpha he is, even if it’s not such a rare thing these days.  Stiles is always going to think of him as the guy who couldn’t even howl into a PA system.

He shrugs.  “Fuck if I know.”  He takes a drag.  “Had that fucking millefolium shit in his system,” he says on an exhale, glances up at Derek when the ceramic bowl clanks down against his floorboards.  He’s finally stopped shaking, hand slack over the edge of Stiles’ couch and bowl settling where it was dropped to an eerie still against the floor.  He’s out cold, breathing heavily, evenly, and Stiles scratches at his eyebrow with his thumbnail as he watches the pain drain out of Derek’s expression.

“Is that the one that melts your skin off?” Scott asks, dragging Stiles’ attention back from Derek’s worn face.  “Remember that shit, could see that Rodenbach guy’s teeth through the muscle in his cheek?”

“Nothing that gnarly,” Stiles tells him.  “Just some convulsing and shit.”

“He staying?”  Scott sounds carefully neutral.  He’s the only one who knows about the stupid thoughts, the Derek-returning fantasies, the jerking off over him that happened.  Scott had never judged it and Stiles had told him more than once that he should’ve fallen in love with him instead.  Usually when he was drunk and trying to convince Scott to touch his dick, which he sometimes succeeded at.  They were so fucked up, the two of them, too close to be friends and too broken to be anything else.

“Fucking hope not,” Stiles says and he knows there’s not one goddamn stutter in his heartbeat.  “S’pect I’ll wake up tomorrow to an empty house and blood on my cushions.  If I get a note, it’ll be a fucking miracle.”

“You have to sleep to wake up to anything,” Scott points out, pouncing on that like he was only waiting for an opening.  Probably was.  Like a dog with a fucking bone, this guy.

Stiles bites at his lip angrily.  He was hoping Derek being in the picture again would be enough to distract Scott from the replay of this conversation.  Never goes anywhere productive anyway.  He rubs at the dent in his lip with the side of his forefinger as soon as he stops digging his teeth into it.  “I was asleep.”

“Bullshit you were.  What infomercial were you watching, huh?  Wondermop, hair in a can, ShamWow?”

“Fuck off.”

“You need to sleep.  What is it tonight, the harpy thing?”

Stiles scoffs, drops his cigarette when it burns his skin.  He’d forgotten about it, stands up and snatches a half-drunk bottle of beer off a side table and takes a swig.  It’s warm, tastes like chemicals and he takes a bigger drink the second time.  “Maybe it’s the fact that we have so many fucking traumatic experiences to pick from that you’re not even sure which to ask about?”

“Point.”  There’s the sound of shifting movement, rattling and rustling, on Scott’s end.  “I’m coming over.”

Stiles sighs, tries to put him off, fingers loosely hanging on to the neck of his bottle.  “I don’t need a fucking babysitter.”

“Good thing no one’s offering to babysit you then.”  Scott huffs.  “I’m up now, Kira’s out fucking cold so I can either pace here and run the risk of waking her or pace there, right?”

“Yeah.  Yeah, okay.  Bring a case of Heineken with you if you’re gonna roll out the welcome mat for yourself.”  Stiles pauses, rubs a hand over the five o’clock shadow on his cheeks and stares back at Derek’s sleeping face.  It’s soft, relaxed, possibly more attractive than Stiles remembers, which is so his fucking life.  “Hey,” he drops a hand to rub at the front of his jeans, where his dick is slightly plump and insistent about it too, “condoms too, if you’re up for it tonight.”

Stiles can hear the car door creaking open on Scott’s end.  It stops abruptly when the last sentence catches up to him.  “Should I be reading into you wanting to fuck me on the same night Derek shows back up?”  He sounds like he’s caught somewhere between concerned and smug.

“Fuck you, you should not,” Stiles snarls back at him, tossing his phone down in an armchair and staring too intently at the infomercials on his flickering TV screen as they loop past.  He bites his nails, smokes the last cigarette from his pack and pointedly does not look at Derek.  He goes from half-hard to full chub anyway, just from listening to his steady breathing.

Scott’s less than quiet coming in, still sluggish with sleep and hazy despite the worry that’s in every line of his face, but Derek’s fucking snoring now and doesn’t so much as twitch at all the ruckus he inadvertently makes.  Stiles barely lets him set down the case of beer he’d made him bring before he’s licking his palm and shoving it down the front of Scott’s jeans, jerking him, feeling him come awake under his grip.  He doesn’t bother to unbutton them, drags Scott by his dick back to his room and rips into a condom package with his teeth, reaching into his drawer for lube at the same time while Scott yanks out of his clothing.  He gets Scott’s leg up over his shoulder, fucks into him harder than he might’ve otherwise to drown out the relentless sound Stiles’ unwelcome house guest is making.  After he’s made Scott come twice, Stiles watches him sleep and hates him a little bit for how easy he makes it look.

He pads back out to his living room, angrily crunching his empty pack of smokes.  He’s got another couple somewhere but fuck if he’s going to look for them.  He sniffs a pair of boxers near his window and pulls them on when he decides they’re not too rancid, snatches up the case of beer Scott agreeably brought and sits on his porch steps.  He drinks until the sun starts to peek out over the tree line, pale rays glittering at him and world chittering as it comes alive for another day.  He’s still leaning against a beam, untidy line of cans next to him, when he hears the unmistakable sound of werewolves snarling from inside.

By the time he’s caught up to it, bare feet pounding on hardwood, Derek and Scott’s dust-up seems mostly handled.  Derek’s claws are still out but he’s backing away from Scott, who’s red-eying the shit out of him on his way into the bathroom.

Stiles passes Derek with a perked eyebrow, swearing he catches a flash of red from him too, before Derek stalks into the kitchen.  He doesn’t look half-dead anymore.  Now he just looks pale and tired and somehow still attractive as fuck.  Stiles ignores that.  He jabs a thumb over his shoulder at Derek’s back, shooting Scott a questioning look.  “What the fuck was that about?”

Scott’s rolling his shoulders like he’s trying to get comfortable in human skin again.  “Tried to get all territorial, warn me off you.  Got all shitty about—” he gestures between them, touching his chest and then Stiles’ – probably just to make sure the scent transfers.  Which is kind of ambitiously dick of Scott.  Stiles approves.  He shrugs, “and I guess he’s an Alpha again.”  He smirks.  “Seems to suit him just as well as the last time round.”

Stiles smirks back, snorts, and knocks Scott amiably in the shoulder on his way into the shower.  He’s barely turned back around before he’s walking into Derek, who’s staring at him with a strangely intense look.  Stiles had somehow forgotten the indefinable quality of his eyes.  He’d forgotten a lot of things it seemed, the way Derek smelled or held himself like he was at war with the world.  Mainly he’d forgotten the way Derek looked at him.  And he shouldn’t be.  Looking at Stiles, that was.  He didn’t get to look at Stiles, and he sure as fuck didn’t get to look at Stiles the way he was anymore.

Derek’s gaze flickers behind Stiles’ head before coming back to focus on him.  “He still smells like the fox,” he snarls out, jaw tight.  He’s acting like he’s barely got his wolf at bay and Scott’s right about him still being shit at Alpha-dom.  It’s weirdly heart-warming.

Stiles rolls his eyes, padding into his bedroom to find the jeans he was wearing yesterday.  He drags them up over his ass, smoothing his boxers down against his legs, turning around to look at Derek who’s followed him to the open doorway.  “Kira?” he guesses, digging his hands into his pockets but he hasn’t got so much as a loosie on him.  He yanks open his bedside drawer and there’s a half-full pack towards the back of it.  He slips a cigarette between his lips and lights it, saying, “Yeah, they’ve been together for, like, eight years or some shit.”

Derek perks an eyebrow at him, seems to be choosing his words carefully.  “Weren’t you two, uh, together last night?”  It’s a question that isn’t.  Derek can smell what the fuck they were last night and even if Stiles didn’t know that, the way his nose wrinkles over it gives him away.  He just wants to know what the deal with them is and Stiles is tempted not to tell him, to let him come up with his own tawdry answer for it.

Eventually he shrugs, admits, “We fuck sometimes.”  He can see the judgment on Derek’s face and, fuck him, he doesn’t get to judge any of Stiles’ life.  He has no idea what a fucking shit-show this town has become, what it takes to survive it.  Stiles has done a lot of things he never thought he’d do to stay sane.  He growls out, “Stress relief with someone I trust.”

Derek takes a careful step into Stiles’ room.  “You don’t love him?” he asks, hope behind the words while he holds himself tightly.  Stiles only knows it’s there because he spent so much of his time when he was a teenager learning to read him.  What a fucking waste.  There’s a mistake he won’t be making again.

“Course I do,” Stiles fires back easily.

Derek’s eyes scrunch, annoyed.  Good.  “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah,” Stiles tells him with a cheeky grin that’s more forced than genuine; he’s too pissed at Derek to be funny with him, “but I don’t think I owe you shit.”  He claps Derek on the shoulder as he passes him, says condescendingly, “Make up whatever answer you want there, big guy.”  He swigs from the last can he was drinking from on the porch, swishes it around in his mouth like it’s as good as Listerine and spits it out in his kitchen sink.  He tugs up the bottom of his t-shirt and wipes at his mouth with it, turning around to gauge Derek with his eyes.  Sure enough, he’d followed Stiles’ every move.  “Why are you still here anyway?”

Derek juts out his chin defiantly, raises both brows.  “You want me to leave?”  His arms are crossed tightly over his chest, already raring for a fight that hasn’t come.  He’s getting retaliatory about the way Stiles is acting.  Fucking good then, maybe he’ll get pissed enough that he leaves.  Because if there’s one thing Derek doesn’t know how to do, it’s stick the fuck around.

Stiles chuckles under his breath, says with a huff, “You know what, Derek, whatever the fuck you want, okay, just like always.”  He waves his hand back and forth.  “Come and go as you please, all right?  I’m going to keep living my life like I was before you decided to crash back into it.  Gonna keep doing that after you stumble out of it too,” he adds, brows perked high and challenging.

“I never told you not to,” Derek says grumpily, not addressing the rest.  Stiles breezes past him without so much as a glance, grabbing a flannel shirt from over the arm of his sofa and sniffing it.  Derek watches him with narrowed eyes as he pulls it on, asks carefully, “Where are you going?”

“Over to my dad’s.”  Stiles shakes one of the shells he dug out of the cushions last night.  “I owe him some refills.”

Derek seems to consider that for half a second before he asks unassumingly, “Can I come with?”

Stiles’ eyes flick over to him, wondering what the game is now before deciding he doesn’t care.  Let Derek play house if he wants, he’ll get bored of it soon enough.  He shrugs.  “Can you be ready in two minutes?”

Derek tags along after him despite the way dried blood is literally flaking off his forearms.  He’d only had enough time to wash his face before Stiles was slamming the door behind him and basically daring him to catch up.  Stiles might have said something about it if there weren’t chunks ripped out of his car seats and there wasn’t duct tape holding his steering wheel together.  It’d practically been a free pick-up though, a gift from a group of hunters that blew into town.  It runs well enough, better than his Jeep had towards the end at least.

Derek doesn’t seem particularly surprised when Stiles pulls into his old driveway, in fact his expression only goes slightly wistful and Stiles is viscerally reminded of how much he really doesn’t want to be around him.  He’s left the past there, beat it fucking back so it couldn’t catch up to him and somehow it’s ended up in his front seat despite all that effort.  He practically jumps out of the car as soon as it’s parked, breezes through his dad’s front door without waiting for Derek and hollers up for him.

His dad surprises him coming in from the den, clutching his thigh just above his knee as he limps up to him.  Nasty Omega son of a bitch had taken a chunk out of him years ago and he’d nearly died from the blood loss alone.  Stiles had cut the thing’s fucking head off with a machete.  He huffs, gives Stiles the once over he always does and comments, “Charming.”

Stiles bares all his teeth at him in a wide grin before veering towards the kitchen for a beer.  His dad keeps it stocked just in case he ever drops by.  He hears a knock and, without waiting for an answer, the door opens.  Stiles winces, imagining his dad’s reaction to seeing Derek again.  They’d been friendly before Derek left, watched Giants games together and holed themselves up in the study looking for patterns in old cases and had fucking brunch together.  Stiles kind of hopes his dad yells, Derek deserves some disappointed yelling.

He doesn’t yell though.  In fact his dad’s voice is carrying a complete lack of interest or surprise in Derek’s reappearance, except apparently for how crappy it is.  “You need a shower, son,” he says gruffly, “Why don’t you, uh—” and he must make some motion towards the stairs rather than completing the thought.

Stiles grinds his teeth, staring into the fridge for a beer that’s right in front of his face.  His hand’s still wrapped around the handle and it makes an ominous cracking noise under his grip.  He snatches up the bottle and slams the door closed as the stairs creak with Derek’s weight, his dad’s shuffling gait making its way over to him.  Because even though Derek was a runner, a coward, a complete waste of everyone’s time and care, he apparently gets off scot-free when it comes to anyone reprimanding him.  It only makes Stiles want to be nastier to him in response.

When Stiles finally turns around, it’s to find his dad with his brow perked and watching him with a sympathetic curve to his mouth.  Like he knows exactly what this is doing to Stiles.  Stiles sighs, rubbing a hand over his buzzed hair.  He probably fucking does, sheriff and all.

“What’s he doing here?” he asks carefully, eyes flicking up even though they both know who he’s talking about without the indicator.

Stiles shrugs, twists off the top and takes a deep draught of his beer.  Some clings to his lower lip and he wipes it away with his wrist.  “Ask him, because I don’t have any fucking clue.”

“Language,” his dad reprimands by rote, rolling his eyes and leaning against the table to match Stiles where he’s leaning against the kitchen counter.

Stiles chuckles.  “You have got to let that go.”

“Parenting with you,” he smiles a bit winningly, “never seems to end.”  He lets a breath move through him, like he’s preparing for something, dropping his shoulders and easing his chest as he inhales.  “Looks like he’s been through some serious hell these past years.”

Stiles snorts because he could’ve fucking predicted it.  His dad all but telling him to go easy on Derek, like that fucker deserves it at all.   “Haven’t we all,” Stiles says slickly.

“Stiles,” he sighs, rubs at his leg with an absent hand, “you get that it took guts just to cross that county line, right?  That he had to really want something here to brave it again because, you, Stiles, are not the most forgiving man and he knows it.”

Stiles scoffs, drags his tongue across his lower lip and bites down on it.  “What’s your point?  I should forgive him because he’s had it hard, too?  Because he came back and that’s all it takes?  Screw that.”  Stiles is breathing hard and he takes a second to calm himself before he hisses, “You know what was hard?  Sticking around was hard and he couldn’t do it.  He gets no sympathy from me, okay.  None.”

His dad sighs, not seeming particularly surprised by the vicious reaction and he looks out the kitchen window as he asks, as though trying to show how little he would judge it, “He living with you?”

Stiles feels a chill trip up his back and wraps his arms tight around himself.  Someone walking over his grave then, like his mom used to say.   “I guess,” he admits, only not really because living with Derek was never going to be this.  “Told him he could come and go whenever he wanted, guess I’ll get him a fu—a doggy door and leave him to it.  I don’t think it’ll last out the week,” Stiles tells him honestly because seems like the only person who’s going to get their hopes up about Derek being back is his dad somehow.  Best to crush them now then.

“You’re pretty laid-back about this whole thing,” his dad notes.

Stiles feels boneless and exhausted suddenly.  Out of nowhere, his dad looks old, face craggy and tired and Stiles feels old.  He feels like he should have his shit better figured out than a craphole of an apartment and panting after a guy who’s already fucked him over once; he’s old and still making a young man’s mistakes.  “Can only hold on to a torch so long before the thing burns out,” he says, voice stretched.  “I don’t give a—I don’t care anymore.  Things got too hopeless here to have hope about something that improbable.”  He shrugs.  “Couldn’t hold on to it even if I’d wanted to.”

“Yet,” his dad hits the word hard, trying to make a point with it clearly, “he came back.”  His dad is still an optimist, and Stiles had thought those had gone extinct.

“Yeah, good for him,” he says back, unimpressed.  “He’ll take one look around at what Beacon Hills has become and go running back to wherever he came from, tail between his legs.”

His dad says evenly, gravely, “I don’t think he’s running this time.”

Stiles huffs out a laugh, drinks his beer and points at his dad with the bottleneck.  “Seem to remember that you didn’t think he would run the last time either.”  He couldn’t count the number of times his dad had said, 'he’ll be back,' that first month.

His dad gives a conceding bob of his head and thinks he’s sneaky about the way his gaze lingers on the dark skin under Stiles’ eyes.  “You sleeping these days?”  He says it like he’s just making conversation, like that’s fooling anyone.  He’s like Scott in that way, always trying to find an opening in the conversation for it.  When that fails, they go for the jugular regardless of how obvious a move it is.

“I’m fine,” Stiles tells him.

“Not what I asked.”

Stiles lets out a heavy breath, cradling his beer bottle in his hands and absentmindedly picking at the label with a thumbnail.  “Not straight through but, yeah, some.”  Barely.  Ever.  Never restful and always interrupted by some nightmare in his head.  But it’s the truth, if you squint.  And he’s not going to put any more than that on his dad or his Alpha.

There’s been a rocky sort of silence between them for a few minutes, the body of it smashing up against them as it ebbs and flows between them, his dad knowing he’s being lied to and Stiles knowing he’s not going to stop lying to him, when his dad pushes back his chair.  Stiles glances up at him curiously and he says, “Think I’ve got some clothes that might fit the kid.”

Stiles had momentarily forgotten Derek was even there and he nods as soon as he’s figured out what his dad’s talking about.  He makes it over to the bottom of the stairwell after a few minutes, stops his dad halfway up them and says, “I might actually have something of his up there if he wants to try to sniff it out?”  Stiles honestly doesn’t remember but it sure as hell seemed like Derek was in and out of there all the while during Stiles’ senior year of high school, treating Stiles’ room like his own.  It had been… nice, at the time.  In retrospect, it seemed like a complete invasion of Stiles’ privacy and personal space.  Maybe that was only because there’d been no payoff to it though.  “Or my more recent stuff might fit him,” he adds with a shrug.

His dad grunts to show he’s been heard and goes back to his trek up the stairs with careful, heavy steps.  He refuses to move from the house he’d lived in with Stiles’ mom (Stiles is secretly relieved about that) and claims the stairs are a good work-out for him.  Stiles has found him asleep on the couch rather than making the arduous journey upstairs to his room too many times to count.  He puts a blanket over him and zips his lips when they eat cold cereal together in the morning.  It’s something they don’t talk about and it’s one of the few things that Stiles feels okay keeping silent about.

He hears his dad rummaging around overhead in Stiles’ room and Stiles listens carefully to make sure his feet plant because they may not talk about it but Stiles still fucking worries.  He must find something worthwhile because he’s knocking on the bathroom door a few seconds later.  It’s too far down the hallway for Stiles to be able to see into it from his angle on it but he hears his dad say, some degree of surprise finally coloring his words, “Interesting tattoo there, son.”   There’s something to his voice, disapproval maybe?

Stiles calls up to him with a jeering laugh, “What, the spiral thing?  Inspired, right?”  He remembers when he’d liked it, when it had felt like a never-ending continuum but the spirals all branched off on their own, took different paths, only a past connected them.  Not a future.

“New one,” his dad calls back and then lowers his voice so much that Stiles has to strain to hear him say, “Not his real name though.”  His tone is too tight and Stiles can’t figure out what that means.  He doesn’t think he’s ever heard his dad’s voice sound like that though; carefully contained like he’s holding back an emotion too big for it to hold.  It doesn’t seem like a happy one either.

Derek’s own tone is terse, unapologetic.  “Worked well enough for what I needed it for.”

Stiles has time to snatch up his beer off the counter and take two swigs of it before his dad speaks again.  “You taking off again?” he asks, more of a dare than a question.

“No, sir,” is Derek’s immediate answer.

“Good man,” his dad says back heartily, approvingly.  Fucking liars, the both of them, Stiles thinks with a mean laugh.

Stiles has been waiting for Derek to throw up his hands, stalk out his door, get the fuck off his couch for four days straight by the time Derek finds him on his porch at two in the morning and asks with his mouth pursed tight and his eyes frowning, “When do you sleep?”

Derek’s eyes are fixed on him and it makes Stiles’ skin feel too small.  He’s never liked the way Derek looks at him, never liked the way it made him want to spread his legs or lick his lips or breathe in a pitter-patter pattern that inevitably makes him think about fucking.  He turns his head away from where Derek’s staring at him, looks out into the sparse woods while taking a drag of his cigarette and laughs under his breath, smoke exhaling with it.  “What the fuck business is that of yours?”  He drops both his hands back around the neck of his beer bottle.  He might care more about the sad looks Scott and Kira and his dad shoot at the constant smoking and drinking if he wasn’t absolutely certain that he was going to die young.  And it wasn’t going to have anything to do with either of his favorite vices.

Derek smiles disingenuously, only does it so he can show teeth.  “We’re roomies now, right?”  His eyes flick down to where Stiles’ fingers are parted around his cigarette, up to his chest when he takes a drag.  The air still does that thing, gets all charged and tense between them like the universe is waiting for them to do something, make a move already.

Well, fuck the fucking universe.  Sideways.  Stiles chuckles, lifts his beer and says, “Cheers.”  Fucking roommates.  Yeah, that’s what they are.

At some indefinable moment, Stiles’ room had become less of his room and more of Derek’s.  It stops being all that odd though, finding him starfished out across threadbare sheets on Stiles’ less than stellar mattress, sleeping sloppily and snoring loudly.  Someone should get some use out of the bed though and it’s not going to be Stiles.  He barely even glances at him now when he comes in to pull on pants in the morning or stumbles out of the shower to find a pair of boxers under his dresser.  Sometimes Derek’s awake, sometimes Derek stares when water’s dripping off Stiles’ skin, clinging to his shorn hair and his towel’s loosely knotted below his hip bone.  He sits up and plants his feet, spreads his thighs to hide the way his hard-on tents the sheets and barely blinks.

Stiles tells himself he doesn’t care about any of that.  That it doesn’t make his own dick swell in response.  He also pretends not to notice when Derek comes back after a day out with a bag full of new clothes, with groceries, with a pack of Stiles’ brand of smokes and a case of the beer he can rarely ever afford but loves best.

He’s trying not to fall into a pattern with Derek because it’s not like he can rely on him to be there when he comes back but Derek’s making that really fucking hard to remember.  Because he’s started recording shit on Stiles’ TiVo, throwing his laundry in with Stiles’ loads, fucking cooking for him.  Nothing fancy, pasta and eggs and easy shit, but Stiles tends to only eat cereal, served with milk or without and that’s as involved as it gets.

Stiles reaches into the fridge for a beer Derek bought him and Derek reaches under his arm to grab something from the next shelf.  Stiles pulls away from how close they are, shuts the door a little harder than necessary and leans against the counter as he drinks.  Derek smirks at him, presses up against him to get into the drawer next to his hip and pull out a spatula.  Stiles had no idea he even owned a spatula and this is starting to look like a choreographed dance, a real fucking domestic one and that is so not okay.  He hunches up his shoulders, looks for a vulnerable place on Derek he can jab into.  Since that’s what it feels like Derek is doing to him.

He can’t think of anything and gropes around for something that isn’t dragging Derek back up against him and dry humping the shit out of him until he comes in his jeans.  “So, what’s this new tatt?”  The words come out slightly strangled and Stiles is just so fucking pleased with himself that he came up with a safe topic of conversation that it takes him a minute to realize how damn shifty Derek looks over it.  Of course he’s not going to share information though, he’s all private pain and pushing people away.  Stiles had no idea why he’d ever expected otherwise but at least he sure as shit doesn’t want to touch Derek now.   “You know, I don’t know why I expected anything less.  Of course you’re not gonna tell me, harder to stay totally isolated and miserable if you actually reach out to someone.”

Stiles turns on his heel to leave, feeling vindicated and vicious, when Derek grabs him by the wrist and tugs him back, hard.  It’s not a gentle grip, it’s a controlling one, and he drags Stiles back into him with one hand and yanks up his t-shirt with the other.  Stiles’ eyes are drawn right to it, black ink on pale skin, curving around Derek’s ribcage and a good size image on his side.  Only it’s not an image, it’s letters in a nice-looking script.  Letters that spell out— 

Stiles sputters.  Face red and rage swelling up in him so that he can barely speak.  “What the—Why would you—Why the fuck is that on you?”  He gestures violently with his hand at it but he can’t bring himself to touch the word.  Doesn’t want to be anywhere near it because what the fuck?  Seriously, what the actual fuck.

Derek lets go of Stiles’ wrist and drags his shirt back down and Stiles can breathe a little easier as soon as it disappears from view.  His voice is strung tight but doesn’t seem deceptive.  “‘S a ritual.”  He shrugs.  “Needed an anchor and this was as close as I could get without actually—” his gaze flickers back over to Stiles, flits across his face with something like yearning and Stiles angrily looks away.  Fuck that.  “They inked it into my skin while I was under, every letter helping to pull me back.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to do with his hands, sets his beer down with a hard clank and crosses and uncrosses his arms.  “So, what, you think I’ll just drop to my knees and suck your dick right here because, even though you took off, you fucking etched that shit into your skin?”  He’s at a loss with this and he hates that.  What the fuck was the point of any of this and why is Derek here now and Stiles just wants to scream or cry or run, he’s not sure which yet, but as soon as he figures it out, whatever one he lands on is fair game.

Derek catches his restless gaze, seems to want to impress how serious he is as he shakes his head.  “I’m not trying to use this to score points with you, I wasn’t going to show you.”  He raises his brows.  “You’re the one who insisted.”

Stiles rubs his knuckles against his forehead, scrunching his eyes.  “I didn’t think you—”

“You thought wrong,” Derek cuts him off, voice steady and hard.

Stiles isn’t sure he believes that but he also wouldn’t begin to know how to argue it aside from what he’s been saying right along: that Derek left.  For a long time that was all the argument he needed.  He didn’t care about the why or if he was coming back, it was enough that he just fucking took off like a coward.  Stiles clenches his fists, his jaw, asks tightly, “What was this ritual for then?”

“Confronting old demons,” Derek says, and then does something he never would’ve done before.  He offers up information freely, adds, “Something the South American packs do, Cora and I decided it was worth a shot.”

So he was with Cora then.  Stiles could’ve guessed it but he wouldn’t let himself think about where because he was too busy being angry about the fact of it.  He’s still tense when he asks, “Did it work?”

Derek’s eyes seem to glitter and he says with something of a smirk, “Don’t know yet.”

Stiles watches him for a long time before deciding that, the tattoo, the knowledge of where Derek was, the implication that he was working on his issues, none of it changed anything.  Derek wasn’t someone who stuck around and Stiles’ life now is epically harder to stick to.  He doesn’t need to get involved with someone who already has a serious handicap when it comes to that.

Stiles places his finished beer bottle in the basin of the sink and reaches for another, striding away to sit out on the porch once he has it.  He doesn’t join Derek for dinner because this isn’t lasting.  It can’t and it’s fine and it never had a chance, really.  Stiles went and got all hard and impossible to love while Derek did the opposite and it’s better he finds that out now and moves on.  Derek deserves someone less broken, and talk about a fucking role reversal for the ages, Stiles thinks with a snort.

He’s letting Derek go all over again, and it possibly sucks more than the first time around.  But it’s the right thing to do except—except—except he’s got Stiles’ fucking name tattooed on his skin, wrapped around him like some unfinished comfort and he’s not fucking allowed that.  He doesn’t have Stiles, he never did, and for him to think that he gets to just—to—“Fuck,” Stiles breathes out harshly, picking himself up off the steps and storming back inside.

The sound of Derek’s snoring guides him and Stiles yanks the pillow out from under his head and smacks him in the chest with it.  Derek comes to with a snarl, lip raised over a sharp fang.  He’s shirtless, Stiles’ name stark against his side, and Stiles spits out, “What the fuck is this supposed to mean, huh?”  He clambers onto the bed, wishing he had something to grab onto that he could twist under his fingers.  He straddles Derek’s hips and digs his nails into his biceps, gripping as tightly as he can, baring his teeth in his face and grinding out, “What the fuck is this, like fucking Toy Story and I own you now because my name’s on you?”

Derek breaks out of his grip, using his forearms to knock Stiles’ hands loose.  He catches Stiles by either side of his head, palms cupping his cheeks, fingers under his earlobes and holds Stiles’ angry gaze with his calm one.  “If that’s what you want.”  His words are slow, deliberate, trying to impress how much he means them.  “I’m not running again.  Not leaving unless you make me.”  He lets out a slight huff.  “Maybe not even then, you’re more angry than sense right now anyway.”

Stiles lets out a frustrated exhale, eyes watering, and he hates Derek for being here, hates him for promising to stay when he hasn’t proven he will, hates himself for wanting to believe him.  He leans in, drags their mouths together without finesse before he’s biting at Derek’s lip, dragging him into a kiss that is at least just as much punishment as it is pleasure.  Derek hisses when Stiles bites his tongue and grinds down into his lap but he lets him do it anyway and Stiles wants to hurt him so much.  Stiles’ hands drag up into his hair, wrap around his neck, forearms boxing in his head, while Derek’s bracket his back and Stiles starts to push him back, push him down when Derek stops him.  He holds himself up on his elbows, eyes hard.  “This isn’t you and Scott.  I want more than ‘fucking sometimes.’”  He squeezes his hands on Stiles’ hips.  “I want you.”

Stiles bites down hard on the inside of his cheek so his tears won’t slip free, they’re relief and release and an expression of misery that might finally be through with him and Derek doesn’t get to see them.  He doesn’t get that.  He doesn’t just get Stiles because he’s decided he wants him.  That’s not how this works and he needs to know it.  Stiles yanks him back by his hair and he grunts in pain.  “So fucking earn me,” he says back harshly.

Derek’s pupils dilate and it’s clear he thought this war was won and he’s actually fucking turned on that it isn’t.  Good to fucking know they’re both still monumentally messed up then, still stubborn and argumentative and combative.  Stiles fumbles with his jeans while Derek interrupts him long enough to get his shirt up over his head and throw it off the bed.  He’s leaning off Derek as much as he can so he can struggle out of his boxers and there’s got to be some fucking lube left in his bedside table.  He jams his hand into the drawer’s front in his haste to get to it, swears rancidly, and yanks it open so far that he pulls it off the track.  He rummages around and finds a bottle with barely anything left in it.  He squeezes out as much as he can, pushes Derek down on his front with the lube-free hand and half-assedly tugs at his rim with the two fingers of his other.

It’s not going to pretty or tender, the way Stiles had thought it might be once, he’s too different for that, wouldn’t know what to do with it if he got it and he’s glad Derek’s not fighting him on this.  He sinks his fingers deep and it’s enough to get his cock seriously throbbing with envy and he doesn’t bother to give any warning before he’s pressing back in with that.

Derek lets out a punchy, broken, “Fuck,” and then Stiles is yanking his hips up and back into his cock and fucking him hard.  But not hard enough apparently because once Derek gets back to his knees, he’s fucking back into Stiles with tenacity.

Stiles gives a breathless laugh, says, “Should’ve guessed you’d be a fucking power bottom.”  He’s fucked guys before that were nothing more than pliable dolls in bed and maybe he’d been half-afraid that Derek would be too soul-tired to be all that involved.

Derek turns his head halfway back, snarls around fucking fangs, “Been a long fucking time.”  The sideburns and bumpy forehead shouldn’t be sexy but Stiles can feel himself driving in harder anyway, muscles going tight.

“Feel like I’m fucking Angelus,” he pants in a mutter.

Derek lets out a rather breathless laugh, going more air than sound when Stiles hits his prostate again.  “Thought about it a lot too.  A lot.”  The words are so heavy spilling out of his mouth and Stiles’ vision is starting to blur around tears that he’ll never let fall.  “Came so many fucking times just getting your name inked into me, hadn’t let myself think of you in years and—fuck—I missed you so fucking much.”

“Fucking liar,” Stiles hisses, stabbing into him hard, wiping at his face with the back of his hand and telling himself it’s only sweat there.

“Believe what you want,” he mutters under his breath, tone clearly saying that he knows Stiles is going to anyway.  He doesn’t hold the grudge long, reaches back and grabs Stiles’ ass cheek, claws sinking in.  “Just don’t fucking stop.  Fuh—close.”  He looks fucking debauched, the way his back’s bent, forehead pressing into crossed hands, elbows pressed to the mattress while he uses every bit of leverage he has to fuck back into Stiles' thrusts.  Stiles isn’t sure he's ever seen anything as fucking hot as the way he’s rolling his hips.

He can’t help himself, drops his hands to Derek’s hips, stills and just watches as Derek wrings wave after wave of pleasure out of him while looking ridiculously damn sexy doing it.  At the very least he’s got the memory of this.  Forever.

Derek doesn’t do anything at his sudden lack of participation besides start chasing his own orgasm harder, slamming back into Stiles with shorter and shorter thrusts, just ramming his own prostate with Stiles’ dick with as much accuracy as he can manage.  Stiles’ own thighs are quivering under the onslaught and he actually has to stretch his hands out towards the wall just to stay upright.  His vision fuzzes around the edges, darkening for a half-second when he finally comes.

“Don’t pull out,” Derek gasps out quickly and Stiles lazily strokes into him a few more times, softening slowly, but Derek comes long before he would’ve slipped out on his own.

He pulls out as soon as Derek’s wound down from it and sinks down on the foot of the bed bonelessly, feeling dizzied and numb and so fucking good.  He doesn’t know how long it is before Derek makes his way over to him but it feels like an ocean of time.  He looks down into Stiles’ eyes and there’s nervousness in him when he asks, “Earn you, right?  How’d I do?”

Stiles’ mouth feels like cotton though and everything on him is too heavy to move and he’s drifting into some blackness.  No.  Not blackness.  He’s drifting into real, restful sleep and the realization makes him smile wider than he has in ages.  He’s too exhausted, too near sleep to do much, but he manages to wrap his pinky finger around Derek’s and say, “Stay.”

Derek does.