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flint & tinder

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Scott was going on about Allison again. Stiles narrowed his eyes at his best friend, wondering if he didn’t move and just stared unblinkingly, Scott might take a hint and shut up. He was dense, though – way denser than a detective should be, and he just kept talking about how cute Allison looks with her pregnant belly and how he rubs her swollen feet every night and how—

“Augh!” Stiles exclaimed, flinging his arms into the air and nearly knocking over his soda. “Dude, you can talk to me about dead bodies all day, but if you start telling me about how good her vag looks, I’m going to curse you twelve ways til Sunday.”

Scott looked offended. “I wouldn’t talk about that!” he protested. “That’s private.” He sounded mortally wounded, like Stiles hadn’t constantly walked in on him and Allison sexing it up back in college. He’d seen enough of both their private bits for a lifetime. He bit his cheek, resisting the urge to remind Scott of how he’d told Stiles, in great detail, about the first time he’d had sex with Allison, despite Stiles reminding him every five seconds that he wasn’t all that interested in vaginas, thanks, especially not ones his best friend had had his dick in.

“You know,” Stiles said, stabbing at his spaghetti with a fork, “it still amazes me that Chris offered you a position here when you spend so much time talking about your sexcapades with his daughter.”

“Lydia told me the final choice wasn’t his,” Scott replied cheerily. “There’s a review board or something, I don’t know.” He looked smug. “He doesn’t like you that much either.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got talent,” Stiles replied haughtily, giving up on his rubbery pasta and stealing a fry from Scott’s plate. “You’re sadly lacking in that department, my friend.”

If they hadn’t been at work, the next five minutes probably would have delved into a wrestling match. As it was, Scott elbowed Stiles viciously in the side and trotted off back to work, leaving Stiles to polish off the rest of his fries in peace.

When Stiles went back to his station after lunch, he found Erica sitting in his chair, swinging idly back and forth.

“Derek’s looking for you,” she offered in greeting and Stiles sighed.

“Course he is,” he said, hip-checking the chair so Erica went rolling away, grinning madly at him. “Why aren’t you out chasing baddies with your partner?”

Erica put her boots up on his desk, sticking out her tongue when he wrinkled his nose. “He got jinxed by an ifrit yesterday. He’s at the hospital.”

“What was the jinx?” Stiles asked curiously.

“He—” Erica startled gigging helplessly. “He can’t stop dancing.”

Stiles choked back a snort of laughter, imaging big, silent Boyd glowering as his feet propelled him around the room. “Okay,” he said, taking a deep breath, trying not to laugh. “Okay. One: did you get the ifrit? And two: please tell me you got a video of him.”

“I used one of your traps,” Erica replied, digging around in her pocket. “Worked like a charm. It’s down in the vault now. And please, what do you take me for?” She pulled out her phone and showed him the video.

It was even funnier than he’d imagined; Boyd had a sour look on his face, his arms crossed over his chest as his feet moved around madly underneath him, tapping out a rapid rhythm. Stiles was in stitches by the time the video was over, leaning over his desk for support. Erica was crying from laughing so hard.

“Oh my god,” Stiles groaned, clutching at his aching stomach. “Please tell me you’re putting that in the holiday party slideshow.”

“Boyd’s going to kill me,” she replied, wiping her eyes.

Stiles was still chuckling ten minutes later when he went to find Derek, a sheaf of papers clutched under his arm. He forced himself to stop and take a deep breath outside the office Scott and Derek shared, knowing that Derek’s sense of humor – well, it didn’t seem to exist, really, and if Stiles showed up laughing, he’d be sure to get the Hale Glare™.

He received it anyway when he knocked on the doorframe and poked his head into the room. Scott wasn’t inside, but Detective Derek Hale was, sitting at his desk. Stiles didn’t think the detective liked him. In fact, in the six months Stiles had been working in the unit, he’d seen no reason to believe that Derek liked anyone. Derek ate his lunch by himself, didn’t talk to anyone unless it was about a case, and the only time Stiles had seen him smile was when Scott had tripped while carrying a birthday cake for Chris Argent – and it hadn’t been much of a smile, really, just a less severe scowl.

He was one of those types of people who was so determined to be an asshole that Stiles was determined to devote his life to either: one, becoming his best friend or two, goading him into a mental breakdown, which could result in three, Stiles being mauled to death, or four, some extremely angry sex. Stiles was all down for the angry sex scenario because Derek was, objectively speaking, probably the hottest guy he’d ever seen – certainly the hottest guy he’d ever spoken to, except for that time he’d literally run into Jake Gyllenhaal in Greenwich Village. He liked to sit behind Derek in meetings just so he could stare the long line of his shoulders and imagine himself biting into the sharp wings of his shoulder blades. Even the fact that he was a werewolf didn’t bother Stiles – Scott was a werewolf, after all, and Stiles had been best friends with him since elementary school.

Stiles was pretty sure his plan perplexed Derek, though it was hard to tell because the only facial expression he ever made was an angry grimace. He didn’t look at Stiles most of the time, and when Stiles did catch Derek looking at him, he really looked, not taking his eyes off him until Stiles looked away first. He’d heard that if you keep eye contact with someone for more than six seconds, it meant that they either wanted to kill you or fuck you, and he figured that fit into his plan. It was a work in progress, anyway.

“Hey,” Stiles said, ignoring Derek’s baleful look. “You wanted me?” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and got a full blast of the Hale Glare™ as a reward.

“You got anything on those runes?” Derek looked like he was gritting his teeth.

Stiles smiled sweetly. “Maybe. You gonna reward me if I do well?”

Derek just looked at him, his mouth a grim line. Stiles sighed and stepped into the room, offering the detective the stack of papers from under his arm. “I’m pretty sure this one was an accident. These are Sumerian spells of protection, but look.” He pointed at one of the photographs. “See this symbol? It should be for ‘defend’ but there’s an extra line here and that makes it ‘destroy.’ So he either fucked it up by mistake or he chose the worst way to kill himself.”

Derek stared down at the photographs of an apartment, symbols scrawled all over the floor and walls. A big pile of glistening body matter lay spread over them, all that remained of their errant spell caster. Derek looked faintly disappointed, like he’d been hoping for some big sinister conspiracy.

“That’s it?” he asked.

Stiles shrugged. “Unless you can figure out what he was trying to protect himself from.”

“There was nothing,” Derek replied irritably. “Neighbors all said he was paranoid.” He gathered up the photographs, smacking them against the desk to make them even, and handed them back to Stiles. “Thanks,” he added reluctantly.

Stiles took pity on him and decided to give him a break. He paused in the doorway before leaving, though, and said, "It's Friday."

Derek, who had turned his attention to his computer, didn't say anything. He looked at Stiles briefly before returning his eyes to the monitor. Stiles sighed. He'd tried twice before, but maybe the third time was the charm.

"Some of us are going out for drinks after work," Stiles said. "You should come."

"No," Derek said bluntly. His eyes flickered to Stiles again and he said, even more grudgingly than the last time, "Thanks."

Stiles shrugged. "Your loss." Derek didn't reply. Stiles gave up and left.

When he went back to his desk, Erica was still there, flipping through one of his textbooks. Stiles pulled a chair over from an empty station and plunked down next to her.

"Derek's your alpha, right?" he asked her. "Do you guys ever hang out or anything?"

Erica snorted. "Yeah right. We hosted a barbecue last summer and he came for about ten minutes. He stood there looking like he wanted to die and left without telling anyone."

Stiles pursed his lips. "Isn't the pack supposed to be close? Do you guys even talk?"

"Not really," Erica shrugged. "I think he kind of likes Boyd, and Isaac’s his roommate, but I dunno. He just doesn't like people."

"So I guess I should give up on trying to get him to come to the bars with us," Stiles sighed.

"Yeah, that's a battle you'll never win," Erica said sympathetically.

They both jumped when a voice behind them snapped, "Reyes!" Stiles turned to see Chris Argent, Scott's father-in-law and the commander of their unit, standing behind him, arms crossed over his chest. "Your partner's been un-jinxed. I need you to go pick him up and head out to Williamsburg. We've got reports of a new cult raising corpses out there.”

Erica got to her feet with a sigh, adjusting her holster. "Stupid hipsters. Always digging up what's better left buried."

Chris watched her go, then turned to Stiles with a grim look on his face. "Stilinski," he said. "When do you finish your Masters?"

"Uh," Stiles said. "I've got my defense in three weeks."

"Good. As you know, Deaton's transferring to the FBI. We're going to need a witch, and I was thinking—”

"I get to go into the field?" Stiles interrupted excitedly. "Are you serious?!"

Chris looked like he was already beginning to regret his decision, but he nodded. "Yes. Once you've got your certification from the state, we can start you on cases."

"Do I get a raise?" Stiles asked eagerly.

Chris scowled. "There's a six month probationary period and then, yes, you get a raise."

"Awesome!" Stiles crowed. Chris's frown deepened. "Uh, thanks, sir."

"Don't make me regret this," Chris replied irritably and turned on his heel. Stiles turned back to his desk, grinning from ear to ear. He fired off an ecstatic text to his dad and Scott and shuffled through the papers on his desk, humming with excitement.

This had been a long time coming. He'd been sixteen when, while on a camping trip in the Catskills, Scott was bitten by a rogue. And though he’d been happy to support Scott through the new changes in his life, Stiles had been jealous of him for a long time after that, envious of his new speed and strength and the way his personality became magnetic. He thought it was wickedly unfair that Scott, who was already graced with good looks, got all that power on top of it while Stiles, who was awkward and clumsy, got to remain on Team Human with all the other losers. He'd never been really good at anything, just average - average looks, average grades, average lacrosse skills.

Then, when he was seventeen, Stiles got a job working at one of the branches of the public library. He spent a lot of quiet afternoons putting books back on shelves and flipping through old books. That was how he found a very slim volume on magic, tucked away behind some old volumes on supernatural creatures. You had to be eighteen to check out books of spells, but this one had been forgotten, mis-shelved before it could make it back to the locked spell room. Stiles tucked it back where he'd found it and came in on his next afternoon off to meticulously copy down a few pages.

He'd never studied magic in school. Students took aptitude tests in elementary school and again before entering high school, but he'd failed both times and never been allowed into the spell courses. His mom had sighed - she was pretty powerful in her own right, and she seemed a little sad that Stiles had no talent for magic. His dad had ruffled his hair and said, "I guess he takes after me after all." Average again.

Still, his mom would talk about the time he was five and she swore she'd come into his room to see him making his Matchbox cars zoom around the floor on their own. Stiles clung on to this assertion, and when he found the book of magic, he decided to try again. His concentration had improved as he grew older, and his doctor had recently weaned him off his Adderall. Stiles thought that maybe his trouble concentrating had been the issue before, and now he felt focused enough to try again.

Find your spark, the book advised. Stiles, laying on his stomach on the floor with a single rune scratched into the wood before him and closed his eyes.

Imagine going your whole life working hard and never getting anywhere particularly special. Imagine throwing yourself into everything you do and being okay at it. Imagine your mom smiling softly, disappointment in her eyes when she reads your test scores. Imagine your mom laying in a hospital bed, dying slowly while you sit at her side thinking If only I could heal you.

Stiles found his spark.

The apple-sized ball of fire he was supposed to produce flamed into existence and kept growing. Stiles felt the heat on his face and yelped, his eyes flying open to see a pillar of flame dancing in the middle of his room, scorching the ceiling. “Holy shit!” he cried and the flames disappeared in a flash, though they left a small circle of blackened paint on the ceiling that his father never noticed.

Things changed for Stiles after that. He kept working on spells from the books and got them right on the first try every time. When he was brave enough to show his dad what he’d learned, his father marched him into the principal’s office and demanded that he be let into the magic courses. Stiles flew through the books, advancing faster than his teachers could teach. He finished the AP Magic Theory coursework halfway through his junior year and began taking courses at NYU instead. For the first time in a year, Stiles wasn’t jealous of Scott. He had his own talent now, his own skills to be proud of. His confidence made him walk tall and suddenly there were people interested in him in a way people never had before. He wasn’t a virgin when he graduated high school, which was something he’d never thought possible.

Stiles left the city and went to Cornell, which people jokingly referred to as “the Hogwarts of America.” Scott went to nearby Ithaca, and they got an apartment together after their freshman year. Stiles dithered for a while, switching his major several times before deciding he wanted to work for the NYPD like his father and he graduated with a double major in paranormal forensics and supernatural pharmacology. After graduating, he and Scott joined the police academy together; apparently Scott’s brush with the rogue alpha in the Catskills had made him want to wrangle supernatural creatures as a career. Stiles began taking night courses at NYU at the same time, working toward his Masters in Runes and Rituals. It was killer; Stiles was kind of surprised he hadn’t flunked out of both schools, but it would be worth it. Once he had his Masters, he could take the state test and become a certified witch, which would expand his career choices significantly.

Soon after graduating from the academy, Stiles served as Scott’s best man in his wedding to Allison, and a couple days after Scott got back from his honeymoon, Stiles was transferred the precinct he’d been assigned to the Supernatural Crimes and Investigations Unit. It was the first time in a long time that he didn’t see Scott every day, which was weird, and Stiles wasn’t working the field; he was stuck in the lab, processing requests, analyzing potions, translating runes. It was boring work, but it kept him busy. He liked his coworkers, too, which was important – Erica and Boyd, the amazing werewolf detective husband-wife team, and Lydia, who ran the lab with an iron fist and an extremely cutting sense of humor. There was Isaac, who managed the bestiary down in the basement, and Deaton, who’d cheerfully taken Stiles under his wing to teach him all he knew about being a witch. Even Chris wasn’t that bad – just intimidating sometimes – and of course there was Derek, Stiles’ project. Things got even better when Scott finally managed to persuade Chris to let him join the unit and now, with the news that he was being promoted, Stiles couldn’t be happier.

Stiles got extremely drunk that night. He went with the wolves to a werewolf bar somewhere on the Upper West Side and threw back every drink Scott placed in front of him while the rest of the wolves got increasingly rowdy around him. Erica shouted into his ear about the zombies she and Boyd had fought in East River Park. Stiles asked if the zombies had been impressed by Boyd’s dancing skills, which earned him a dark look from Boyd that nearly rivaled the Hale Glare™. He ended up making out with some muscular werewolf from Clinton Hill and they made their way back to Stiles’ apartment. It had been a good day - though, Stiles thought through a drunken haze, it would be a whole lot better if it was Derek fucking him. Oh well. He was a long-term goal anyway.

-

When Stiles awoke the next morning, he wished he hadn’t, because his head felt like someone had clamped it into a vise. He rolled onto his side and moaned pitifully. He felt like he was on fire; something next to him was emitting heat like a furnace.

“You drank a lot last night,” the furnace remarked, sounding impressed. “Do you want me to get you some Tylenol or something?”

“What a kind offer,” Stiles groaned into his pillow. “Can’t, though. The chemicals fuck with my magic.” He’d figured that out back in college after a long night of heavy drinking followed by a practical exam the next day. Non-herbal pharmaceuticals seemed to disconnect his body from his magic entirely – which explained his whole magic-less childhood on Adderall.

“Oh,” said the furnace. “Some water, then?”

Stiles rolled over to look at him, even though the movement made his head pound. Definitely not as attractive as Stiles had thought he was last night – a little too beefy for his tastes, but at least he looked kind. Stiles gave him a tired smile. “Actually, could you lean over and grab me the shoebox that’s under your side of the bed?”

The young man obliged and Stiles took off the cover, revealing a selection of small glass bottles filled with various colored liquids. Stiles lifted one out, flicked his finger against the rune on the side to activate it, and downed the clear liquid inside in one gulp. The young man watched him curiously.

“Are you an herbalist?” he asked.

“Nah,” Stiles replied, setting the empty bottle on his nightstand and putting the cover back on the shoebox. “I work for the NYPD. One of my degrees is in glorified potion-making, though.”

“So you made all that?” the young man asked, nodding at the shoebox.

“Mmhmm,” Stiles agreed, some of the tension already clearing from his head. “I used to do it on the side at school, making mixes for people – stuff for mental clarity, good health, and so on.”

“Do you still do it?”

“Sometimes.” Stiles tilted his head. “Why? Do you need something?”

“Not me,” the werewolf replied. “But my boss might be interested.”

“Well, I don’t have a lot of spare time right now, but I might be able to do some work,” Stiles said. He sat up in bed, his headache almost entirely gone. “Uh, this is super embarrassing, but—”

“I don’t remember your name either,” the young man admitted, smiling wryly.

“Oh, thank fuck,” Stiles sighed. “Stiles.”

“Ethan.”

They shook hands and laughed at the weird formality of introducing themselves while sitting naked in bed together. Stiles shoved the shoebox back under his bed and watched Ethan shimmy out of bed and pull his clothes back on. When he was dressed, he turned to look at Stiles and said, “Can I get your number?”

“Oh,” Stiles said. “Look, I’m not really a relationships kind of dude, and—”

“No, no,” Ethan laughed. “For my boss. I think he’ll have some business for you.”

“Oh!” Stiles said again. “Yeah, sure.”

They exchanged numbers and Stiles listened to Ethan let himself out of the apartment, shutting the door gently behind him. Stiles flopped back onto his bed with a sigh. One-night stands always left him feeling a little empty, but what he’d said to Ethan was true; he wasn’t a relationship sort of guy. Maybe it was some weird remnant of the ADHD he’d had when he was younger, but he couldn’t focus. (Or maybe, like Allison had giggled, it was because he was basically married to Scott. “As long as you don’t mind him being polyamorist,” Stiles had grinned back.) Maybe once his life settled down things would change, but he couldn’t imagine living with one person, waking up with them day after day, doing normal, domestic things like grocery shopping and choosing curtains. It sounded nice, sure, but he couldn’t do it. Even with Derek – he just wanted to know what it felt like to have sex with him. He was, Stiles thought, decidedly selfish.

With another long sigh, Stiles pulled himself out of bed and got dressed. He’d promised Isaac he’d go in and help him and Deaton neutralize some of the more dangerous creatures in the bestiary. That and schoolwork kept him busy all weekend, and he spent the following week working late nights at work. There was some sort of creature breaking into houses around the city, stealing relics from antiquity from rich people, and the unit was trying to track it down. It left behind some weird type of oil that Stiles was trying to analyze, but every time he put it in one of the lab’s equipment, it shorted out every circuit in the building. He was left to analyze it by sight, working under a microscope, and it took him all week.

The building was quiet when he finally finished collating his data. He entered the information into the DNA database and left it running while he wandered out of the lab to get some coffee. It was near eleven and everyone else had left hours ago – Scott to a dreaded family dinner at the Argent’s, Boyd and Erica for a weekend trip to Boston. Even Deaton had plans, a trip to Kansas for some sort of clandestine FBI training.

He was crossing the office, cup of hot coffee in his hands, when he noticed a light on in Scott and Derek’s office. He knew Scott had left, so that left Derek behind. Stiles grinned and took a detour, never passing up an opportunity to work on his plan.

Derek sat at his desk, surrounded by piles of old books. Soft strains of bluegrass rolled from his computer speakers and Stiles’ grin widened; he never would have pegged Derek for a folksy type of guy – alternative rock, maybe. He looked tired, though, his face less severe than usual, and Stiles realized he hadn’t noticed him standing in the doorway, which was even more unusual. You weren’t supposed to be able to sneak up on a werewolf.

“Why aren’t you out celebrating your Friday?” Stiles asked. Derek’s shoulders jumped, his eyes flashing red as he lifted them to glare at Stiles. Ah, there was that patented look.

“I’m working,” Derek said bluntly. Then, sounding suspicious, he added, “Why are you here?”

“Running DNA analysis on the oil from those relic robberies,” Stiles replied. He lifted his cup of coffee. “I just made a fresh pot. You want me to grab you a cup?”

Derek shook his head. He was doing that intense, unblinking stare he did sometimes, which made Stiles’ heart bang nervously. “It makes my hands shake,” he said, which was the first time Stiles had heard him offer up anything even remotely personal about himself.

“All right,” Stiles said agreeably. He nodded at the books piled on Derek’s desk. “What are you working on?”

Derek looked down at his desk, tapping an irritable finger against the volume currently open in front of him. “Someone’s been turning people to stone,” he replied.

“And you’re trying to figure out what it is?” Stiles asked. Derek nodded. “Can I take a look?”

Derek shrugged. It wasn’t an invitation, exactly, but he hadn’t said no. Stiles stepped into the office, setting down his mug so he could lean over the desk, looking at the book in front of Derek. He tried not to think about how this was maybe the closest he’d ever been to Derek, and he could hear the sound of his breathing, quiet and steady, even over the sound of the music. Stiles tilted his head, looking at the page.

“There are a bunch of things that can turn people to stone,” he said thoughtfully. He could feel Derek watching him and tried to act casual. “Any clues from the scene?”

“Smelled like snake,” Derek said, his voice low.

“Okay,” Stiles said. “That narrows it down. Gorgons have snakes for hair, and the basilisk is basically a giant snake. Oh, but the cockatrice has a snake’s tail, doesn’t it?”

Stiles looked over at him for confirmation and found Derek staring at him, his lips parted. Stiles didn’t know what made him do it. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe he had a death wish, but he lunged forward and smashed his mouth against Derek’s. Derek made a startled noise against his mouth and Stiles jerked back like he’d been burned. Before he could get far, though, Derek’s fingers curled in the front of his shirt and dragged him back. Derek’s lips were soft, his touch rough, and the weird clash made Stiles hot all over, his heart beating like a drum.

“Whoa,” he said, when they parted to breathe. “I was not expecting that outcome.”

“I’ve smelled your want for weeks,” Derek said, his breathing uneven and rough.

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d let me do anything,” Stiles agreed, grinning. “Can we continue?”

Derek nodded, his eyes dark, and Stiles moved around the corner of the desk to straddle him in the chair. Derek’s big hands came up to brace him, one against the curve of his spine, one digging into his ass, and they kissed again, open-mouthed and filthy. Derek groaned when Stiles fisted his hand in his hair and pulled his head back, biting bruises into his throat that faded before they really appeared. This was even better than he’d hoped, he thought, as Derek’s hand moved under his shirt, hot against his skin. Derek felt real and solid under him, his thighs firm under Stiles’, and he could feel the beginnings of Derek’s erection pulsing in his pants.

Stiles grinned and slipped a hand between them, an old pro at unbuttoning pants with one hand. He pushed his way into Derek’s underwear, curling his fingers around Derek’s dick, feeling Derek heave underneath him, breath hissing from him. Stiles moaned when Derek’s fingers tightened their grasp on his ass, bringing their hips together in a way that made them both pause.

“I don’t,” Derek began, his jaw working furiously. “I wasn’t – I don’t have anything,” he managed, and the frustration on his face made him look more human than Stiles had ever seen him.

“That’s cool,” Stiles replied. He unbuttoned his own pants, pushing his underwear down as far as he could. He offered a hand to Derek, who dragged his tongue across Stiles’ palm, keeping his eyes on Stiles’. There was a look in his eyes that made Stiles shudder, and he shuddered again when he curled his hand around their dicks. He braced his other hand against Derek’s shoulder and began jerking them off slowly.

“Fuck,” Derek growled, leaning forward and attaching his mouth to Stiles’ collarbone. Stiles sighed, hand quickening, hips moving unconsciously in small, aborted thrusts. Derek felt so fucking good in his hand, hot and thick. Stiles tilted his head back when he came, toes curling in his shoes, panting harshly. Derek moaned against his skin when he followed a few second later and for a few long moments they sat quietly, letting the aftershocks run through them as Derek mouthed aimlessly at Stiles’ neck.

When Stiles straightened and moved to wipe his hand on his shirt, Derek grabbed him by the wrist and licked the cum from his palm, tongue curling around each finger. Stiles watched him, Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat as he swallowed.

“Holy shit,” he muttered as Derek released his wrist. “That was fucking awesome.”

Derek leaned back in his chair with a nod, his breathing back to slow and even. Stiles climbed off him, tucking himself back into his pants while Derek watched him, not making an effort to put himself back together.

“Well, my results are probably in by now, so I’m going to head back to the lab,” Stiles said cheerfully. “Thanks for that, though.”

He picked up his cup of coffee, which was lukewarm, and as he turned to leave, Derek said, “Stiles.”

Stiles turned. He was pretty sure that was the first time Derek had ever called him by his first name. He hadn’t been sure Derek even knew what his name was. “Yeah?”

“This,” Derek said, then paused, looking uncertain.

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Stiles told him. “I’m not going to tell anyone.”

Derek shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah. Okay.”

Stiles gave him a reassuring smile and headed back to the lab feeling triumphant. He felt even better when he found that his results were in – their culprit was a Cyclops, apparently – which meant that he could finally go home. He printed out the results, blasted out a report, though when he went up to hand it off to Derek, he found the office dark and Derek gone. Stiles left the report on Derek’s desk with a shrug and headed home.

He was so used to leaving quickly after hook-ups that it didn’t occur to him that maybe Derek had wanted to talk.

Chapter Text

Contrary to what people said, Derek Hale didn’t hate everyone. He hated most people, and trusted no one, and had no patience for stupidity, but there were some people he liked. He liked Laura – on the days she wasn’t being completely insufferable, anyway – and he appreciated Boyd for his silence and thoughtfulness. He liked Deaton, who thought carefully before speaking, and he and Chris would never be friends, but he respected the man. Isaac was the closest he’d have to a little brother ever again, and he was quiet and intelligent. Most people in the office had redeeming qualities, even Erica, who drove him up a wall sometimes.

Derek had what Laura liked to call “chronic bitch face;” his natural, relaxed expression was a vague, unwelcoming frown. Even when he’d been a kid, people were always telling him to lighten up and stop being so serious and smile, Derek! which was not helpful. There was nothing worse than being in a good mood and being asked why are you so grumpy today? to make your mood actually plummet. Derek had given up on trying to correct people; he let it become part of his personality instead, let people assume he was an asshole or in a terrible mood all the time. It worked for him. People didn’t try to make small talk in the elevator or the break room, which was good because he was terrible at it. After a while, most people didn’t try to talk to him at all, unless it had something to do with a case, which suited Derek fine. He liked his privacy.

Laura wasn’t impressed by his self-imposed solitude. She liked to remind him, in no uncertain terms, that he was going to end up unhappy and alone. He liked to remind her that he already was unhappy and alone, and he didn’t see anything happening in his immediate future that would change that.

Except, maybe, Stiles Stilinski.

Stiles bewildered him. He’d been in the unit for six months, and in that time, Derek had never seen him get angry or upset. Frustrated, yes, but he always ended the day with a smile. He was almost impossibly cheerful – and loud; Derek could hear him talking across the office. He cackled when he laughed, and the sound went right down Derek’s spine in the best and worst way possible. He was strange and clearly didn’t think before speaking, and he should have annoyed Derek to the core, but…he didn’t. And for some strange reason, no matter how rude Derek was to him, or how steadfastedly he ignored him, Stiles was interested in him. Derek could smell the lust on him, felt his amber eyes focus on him any time they were in the same room. He couldn’t understand what Stiles saw in him that was so intriguing.

And yet, Derek couldn’t stop himself from watching Stiles sometimes, refusing to look away when Stiles caught him, enjoying the faint blush that spread on Stiles’ cheeks. His throat got tight when Stiles rolled up his sleeves and Derek could see his lean forearms, heavily tattooed with runes and diagrams. Sometimes he left his top button open and Derek could see more runes there, tattooed across his collarbone. He wondered how much of the young man was covered – stomach, back, legs? He wanted to know – he wanted to get his mouth on that inked skin. He imagined how soft it was, flecked with moles like Stiles’ face.

Stiles kept asking him out. Not on dates – Derek didn’t think they were dates, anyway – but he’d come by in the evening a couple of times to ask Derek if he wanted to go to a bar with some of their coworkers. Derek didn’t want to go. He hated the smell of alcohol and drunk people, and he hated not being able to hear himself think. He didn’t like not being able to see everyone’s faces, not knowing who was an enemy (they all were. They were all enemies.). The close walls and crowds of people made him claustrophobic, almost panicky. He did want to spend time with Stiles, but not at a crowded bar.

Laura rolled her eyes and told him to just ask Stiles out, but it wasn’t that easy for Derek. He hadn’t dated anyone since Kate, hadn’t slept with a guy since college. He told himself that if Stiles asked him again, he’d just say yes, but when the time came and Stiles asked him for a third time, Derek said “No,” without even thinking about it. Laura groaned when he told her and said, “Do you want me to ask him?” Derek glared at her.

When they came into work the following Monday, Derek heard Erica teasing Stiles about the werewolf he’d left the bar with on Friday night, and it felt like someone had grabbed his guts and twisted them. That could have been him. He should have known. It wasn’t like he’d let Stiles know that he was interested in him. When he texted Laura, she was completely unsympathetic.

u snooze u lose bby bro

Fuck you, Derek texted back, scowling heavily. He sat in his office and thought about asking Stiles on a date. It made him feel queasy and Scott, who shared the space with him, gave him a very suspicious look. When Chris called to tell him that something was turning people to stone in Queens, it was a relief to get out of the office. He and Scott spent the next several days chasing something fast through parks and warehouses and he didn’t think about Stiles at all until late Friday evening when he sat in his office trying to figure out what the hell he’d been chasing and Stiles' voice jerked him out of his thoughts.

Derek stared at him as he stood in the doorway. He couldn’t help it. Stiles looked good, confident in ways that Derek never felt. He looked so casual, leaning against the doorframe with a cup of coffee in his hands. Derek tried not to imagine what it’d be like to wake up in his apartment with Stiles in the doorway, just like that, except maybe bare-chested. Or naked. Derek swallowed. His staring was making Stiles nervous; he could hear his heart banging in his narrow chest.

“I just made a fresh pot,” Stiles said, raising his cup of coffee. “Want me to grab you a cup?”

Be nice, Laura’s voice said in his head, and Derek swallowed again. “It makes my hands shake,” he said quietly, still staring at the young man in the doorway. Don’t fuck up.

Somehow Stiles ended up inside his office, leaning over the books on his desk. Derek stared at the way his perfect cupids-bow lips moved as he spoke, the way his long lashes brushed his cheeks every time he blinked. This close, he could smell Stiles – faintly herbal, like mint and eucalyptus, and crisp like clean fall air, laced with traces of tension and arousal. Stiles asked if there were any clues from the crime scene and Derek offered up that it had smelled like snake, hardly realizing what he was saying.

He told himself, very firmly, that he was going to behave. The wolf in his head snarled unhappily, aching for the touch of another. It had been five years since Kate and he hadn’t even kissed someone. Derek was usually pretty good at listening to himself – impeccable control came with the territory – so when Stiles bent forward and kissed him, he should not have fisted his hand in the front of Stiles’ shirt and dragged him back for more.

“Whoa,” Stiles breathed when they pulled apart. “I was not expecting that outcome.”

Derek watched his chest rise and fall rapidly. Now would be a great time to say something like I want you. It didn’t come out right – he sounded callous and demanding when he said, “I’ve smelled your want for weeks.”

Stiles grinned. Apparently callous and demanding worked for him because he replied, “Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d let me do anything. Can we continue?”

Stiles moved fast, his movements quick and assured, nearly too swift for Derek to keep up with. They went from making out to Stiles’ hand around their dicks, pulling him to a much faster climax than he wanted. He couldn’t have slowed Stiles if he wanted to, though. Everything about him was intoxicating; his skin was just as soft as he’d suspected, warm and pulsing with life under his mouth. His scent was heady this close, enfolding Derek in its embrace, making his head spin. He groaned openmouthed against Stiles’ neck when he came, body seizing, mind blurring into a pleasant white haze. He caught Stiles by the wrist when he tried to clean his hand off on his shirt, licking his hand clean with long, broad strokes of his tongue. Stiles’ heart slammed in his chest, his eyes blown dark with raw lust.

“Holy shit,” Stiles murmured, looking at his hand. He licked his lips. “That was fucking awesome.”

Derek sat back in his chair with a quiet noise, thoughts sluggish, as though they were traveling through molasses to reach him. He was always useless for a few minutes after coming. Kate used to laugh at him as he lay in bed, blinking slowly. “You better hope there’s never a fire,” she’d teased one night. “You’d be no help at all.” Which turned out horribly ironic in the end, and definitely not in a “haha, isn’t that ironic” sort of way.

Stiles was nearly out the door by the time Derek realized it. “Stiles,” he said. He needed to tell him that this had been a mistake. He didn’t do hook-ups.

Stiles turned to look at him, eyebrows rising. “Yeah?”

“This,” Derek said slowly, stupidly. He searched for the right words, but Stiles beat him to speaking.

“Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m not going to tell anyone.”

Derek stared at him. That wasn’t what – whatever. He’d explain later, when he wasn’t feeling so dumb. “Yeah. Okay.”

Derek listened to Stiles’ footsteps cross the office and fade away as he headed back to the lab. He scrubbed his hands over his face. God, he was fucking stupid sometimes. This was entirely the wrong way to approach a relationship. He didn’t do hook-ups because he was far too possessive – just look at the way he’d reacted at the beginning of the week when he’d heard that Stiles had gone home with someone else. They hadn’t even touched then. And Stiles still didn’t know what he was thinking. Fuck.

Derek shut down his computer and gathered his things, his long legs quickly carrying him out of the building before he could run into Stiles again. God. It was a good thing he’d been unprepared, because he definitely would have fucked Stiles if he could have; nothing, in that moment, would have given him greater pleasure. Now he felt kind of sick thinking about it, and he texted Laura before heading down into the subway.

need your advice asap

He had a response when he reemerged a couple blocks from home.

fuck off im tryin 2 sleep. lunch 2mrrw?

Derek sighed. fine.

-

Derek met his sister late the next morning at her favorite brunch place in the depths of the Bowery. He hadn’t slept all that well, and he’d jerked off in the shower that morning to the memory of Stiles' fingers on his dick, which had left him feeling guilty. Laura didn’t make him feel any better, which he should have expected; her favorite activity was making her young brother feel like shit.

Laura’s head came up when he came into the restaurant, a wide grin spreading across her impish face. “You smell like sex,” she said immediately, before Derek even sat down. “Who’d you fuck?”

Derek accepted a menu from their blushing waitress, shooting Laura a dark glare. She spread her hands wide, grinning wickedly. “C’mon, Der. What do you expect from me?”

“To be somewhat civil in public?” Derek snapped back. He loved his sister to pieces, but sometimes he really hated her.

“Fine.” Laura folded her hands in her lap, quirking an eyebrow at him. “You wanted advice? What’s up?”

“I,” Derek tried. He breathed out impatiently, frustrated with himself. “I hooked up with someone at work.”

“From work?” Laura corrected, her eyebrow rising higher.

“From work,” Derek agreed. Then, after a second’s hesitation: “At work.”

“Ohhh,” Laura said triumphantly. “Derek. You have a five-year dry spell and then you fuck one of your coworkers at work? I’m proud of you! Who was it? Was it that kid you have a crush on? Oh my god, please tell me it was!”

“Laura!” Derek banged his hand against the table. “Will you keep your fucking voice down?”

“Pot, kettle, black,” she replied, taking a dainty sip of her coffee. “Chill out, Der. I’m happy for you.”

“I’m not,” he snapped. Derek paused, taking a deep breath before telling Laura what had happened, pausing in the middle so the mortified waitress could take his order. Laura listened to him quietly, her mouth a sympathetic line.

“Look,” she said gently, when he’d finished. “I know you get attached, but maybe that was good for you.”

“How,” Derek said miserably.

Laura shrugged. “I don’t know. Like, maybe you just do more of that. Think less. Stop worrying. You deserve to be happy, Der.”

“I don’t want meaningless relationships,” Derek replied, rubbing his hand across his face.

“So? Your other option, then, is to tell him how you feel!” Laura looked exasperated. “I’ve been telling you to do that all along and see where it’s gotten you?”

“I know,” Derek sighed. “But how am I supposed to just break out with something like that? I’ve never even had a real conversation with him.”

“So do that,” Laura said, jabbing a finger at him. “Maybe this is just a chemical thing and when you actually talk to him, you might figure out that you don’t like him. Does he eat in the break room? Go sit and have lunch with him!”

Derek groaned into his hands, but Laura’s advice was solid. He gave her a rueful look. “I don’t understand how I ended up as alpha, not you.”

Laura sniffed. “These things happen for a reason. How’s the rest of the pack doing, by the way?”

“Good?” Derek cautioned, and Laura rolled her eyes.

“When was the last time you talked to one of them about something that wasn’t work related?”

Derek looked up at the ceiling. “Uh.”

“Der!” Laura smacked him on the arm, her eyes flashing gold. “You need to get your ass into gear, seriously. You turned them. You need to guide them. Getting them jobs in your department was a good step – it’s good to have them close – but that’s not what being alpha is about. We’re supposed to be a family.”

“We’re not a family,” Derek snarled, digging clawed fingertips into the table.

Laura rolled her eyes. “Cut the theatrics. I know we’re not a family, and that’s the problem, you big goon. I know you’ve got this whole one-man wolf pack mentality thing going on, but it’s not healthy for you, and it’s not helpful for the rest of us. If the pack is strong, so are you. When you’re unhappy like this, they can feel it. I can feel it.”

Derek closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm down. “Sorry,” he muttered. “God, you’re so much better at this than I am, Lo. I wish there was a way to give the alpha powers to you.”

“There probably is, but Mom would kill both of us if I let you get out this that easily,” Laura replied. She grinned sharply. "You start asking Deaton if it's possible and she'll come crawling out of her grave and rip our throats out, I swear."

"I wouldn't doubt it," Derek muttered, as their waitress reappeared, setting their plates in front of them and almost sprinting back into the kitchen.

"I think we traumatized her," Laura said, watching her retreat. Derek grunted and they ate mostly in silence. After they'd paid for their food and Derek tipped their horrified waitress generously, they stood out in the street and Laura hugged him tightly.

"Okay, baby bro," she said softly. "Here's your homework for the week: do something with the pack and have lunch with Stiles. Can you do that? I'll know if you don't - Erica and I have lunch every Thursday."

Derek sighed. "I'll try."

She patted him on the cheek. "Have a good weekend."

-

Twenty years ago, Derek wouldn't have had a job in one of the most respected supernatural law enforcement units in the country. Twenty years ago, the Supernatural Crimes and Investigations Unit didn't even exist. There'd been precious few laws regulating the activities of supernatural creatures back then, and the laws had been enforced by a network of humans called hunters. When Laura said that Derek's one-man wolf pack mentality wasn't healthy, it was the truth, but twenty years ago, it would have been deadly. Wolves were social creatures; they depended on each other to stay safe and healthy. Without a pack, a lone wolf lost touch with its humanity. The hunters called it "going rogue," and they made their living off hunting down rogue wolves. When Derek was a kid, his parents hadn't threatened him with the boogeyman if he misbehaved; no, they told him they'd leave him in the woods for the hunters to find. He'd been a well-behaved child.

Times had changed and laws had banned hunters from performing their duties, but hell, even five years ago Derek hadn't thought it possible to work for the NYPD. People were still wary of the creatures living among them, even if magic had been mainstream since the 1970s. If it hadn't been for Chris Argent, Derek didn't think they would have even let him into the police academy. Of course, if it hadn't been for the Argents at all, his life probably would have turned out very different. Thinking of all the would haves and could haves was a dangerous road, though, and Derek focused on Laura's advice instead.

Monday rolled around and Derek went to work feeling uneasy. He wasn't sure how he should act around Stiles. He felt worse when he got into his office and it still smelled like sex. He sat at his desk and watched out of the corner of his eye when Scott came in. The younger man’s nostrils flared, a look of horror coming over his face, and he spun on his heel, retreating without a word. Derek snorted quietly and listened to him cross the office and stop by Stiles' desk.

"Dude!" Scott hissed. "Why does my office smell like you and Derek?"

"C'mon," Stiles sighed. "Using your super sniffer isn't fair. Can't I have one secret?"

"It reeks in there!" Scott snapped. "Please tell me you didn't have sex on my desk!"

"We didn't have sex," Stiles replied haughtily. "I jerked us off."

"Aw, gross!" Scott groaned. "I didn't ask for details!"

"Hale." Derek turned his attention away from Scott and Stiles' conversation, looking up to see Chris Argent standing in the doorway. "Have you made any progress with the creature in Queens?"

"We've narrowed it down," Derek replied, pulling one of the old books toward him. He didn't mention that it had been Stiles who had given him the list. If he listened carefully, he could hear Stiles cackling out in the office. "Looks like it might be either a gorgon, cockatrice, or basilisk. Based on the footprints we found at the scene, I'd eliminate the basilisk, since they don't actually have feet. Best guess I'd say is a cockatrice."

"Good," Argent nodded. "I want you and Scott to figure out how to kill it and get out there and get it done. Deaton's working on a cure for the people it's turned to stone, but I don't want any more victims."

Derek nodded and Chris disappeared. Scott came back into the office a few minutes later, casting Derek a dark look. Derek ignored it and instead filled him in on what he'd learned.

They soon figured out that a mirror would be the best way to eliminate the cockatrice, as it would turn to stone if it saw its own reflection, and Deaton bewitched a pair of riot shields so their Kevlar fronts became mirrors. Derek didn't have to interact with Stiles at all, which was a relief.

He and Scott spent the next few days tracking the beast down. Scott smelled like he wanted to say something about Stiles but refrained, which Derek was grateful for.

They found the cockatrice roosting in an abandoned warehouse near the bay. It was a lot bigger than Derek had thought it was going to be; all the books seemed to agree it was a small creature, waist-high at most. The thing hanging off a beam in front of them, breathing poison in their direction, was at least ten feet long, covered in sharp-edged evergreen scales, with a great beaked head like a rooster’s.

Since they couldn't chance making eye contact, Derek and Scott had to keep their shields over their eyes, relying on their enhanced senses of hearing to locate the monster. They’d almost got it penned into a corner when Scott tripped over a rotting wooden beam and dropped his shield. His horrified yelp cutt off abruptly when he accidentally made eye contact with the beast, freezing up and turning into stone. Derek groaned; typical Scott. At least Deaton had figured out how to turn people back.

Derek got the monster backed into a corner eventually, though it was a lot harder without Scott. He was tired, and so was the cockatrice, and it swiped at him, catching him across the arm in a moment of weakness. Derek roared, pain flaring across his bicep. The cockatrice squawked, panicked by the sound, and he must have caught its reflection in the mirror somehow, because he heard its heart stop beating abruptly, silence falling over the warehouse.

Derek lowered his shield cautiously and found the cockatrice a solid granite statue, frozen in a position of flight, balanced precariously on one foot. Even as he watched it overbalanced and slammed against the floor, crumbling to pieces. Derek sighed, some of the tension going out of his shoulders, and went to call Deaton out to come fix Scott.

-

Later, he sat in his office, typing up an incident report. Scott had been returned to flesh and taken the afternoon off. Derek's arm hurt; Deaton suspected the cockatrice was poisonous and given Derek an antidote, but the wound was slow to heal even so. He felt uncomfortably warm all over, his vision hazy, but he was determined to finish the report. Chris had told him he could take the next day off, and he was looking forward to sleeping in.

For the second time in less than a week, Stiles' voice broke his concentration.

"Exciting day, huh?"

Derek looked up quickly. Stiles stood in the doorway, the sleeves of his navy cardigan rolled up to reveal his tattooed forearms, a pair of thick-rimmed glasses resting on his nose. Derek had never seen him in glasses before and he stared; he didn’t even know he had a thing for guys in glasses, but apparently he did, because the sight of Stiles wearing them was doing strange things to his insides.

“Uh,” he said, realizing he hadn’t replied. “Yeah.” Talk to him, Laura’s irritated voice snapped in his head. Have a conversation. “Uh. Scott went home.”

“I know,” Stiles said, his face breaking into a wide grin. “Deaton took a sent me a picture of him as a statue. He looked like he was going to cry.”

Derek snorted. Scott had looked like he’d been violated. He kept sniffing during the car ride back to Manhattan.

“Did you get hurt?” Stiles nodded toward Derek’s arm, which Deaton had bandaged. Derek’s work shirt had gotten blood on it, so he’d changed into an NYPD t-shirt, the short sleeves revealing the wound.

“Yeah,” Derek replied, looking down at it. “Deaton took a look at it.”

Stiles clicked his tongue, sounding exasperated. “He’s a lore guy, not a medicine guy,” he said. “My concentration’s in healing and protective shit. Can I take a peek?”

Derek hesitated before nodding, and Stiles stepped into the office, sitting on the edge of Derek’s desk. He gestured at Derek to scoot his chair forward and Derek obeyed, his skin tingling when Stiles’ fingers brushed against him, unwrapping the bandage from his arm.

“So you,” Derek began nervously, “you, uh – Chris said you’re finishing your Masters soon?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said. “I’ve got my defense next week.” He brushed his fingers against the edge of the claw marks on Derek’s arm and tsked. “Hm. Deaton give you something for this?”

“He thought it might be poisoned, so he gave me an antidote,” Derek replied.

Stiles made a tsking noise again and twisted, digging through the piles of books on Derek’s desk until he found a pen and paper. Derek watched him scribbling down runes and hesitantly said, “Protective shit – is that the official name for it?”

Stiles laughed, and Derek used the protective cover of the noise to inhale deeply. He wanted to be covered in Stiles’ scent.

“Oh yeah,” Stiles replied, turning back to him with the sheet of paper in his hands. “School’s real casual like that. Hold still,” he added, laying the paper on top of the wound on Derek’s arm. Derek froze, watching him. He felt the buzz of magic before it appeared, vibrating in the air like a distant train. Stiles muttered something that made Derek’s ears ache and pulled the paper back abruptly. Derek watched something dark spread over it, smelling strongly of sulfur, and Stiles dropped it in the trash can, grinning.

“What was that?” Derek asked, narrowing his eyes at the blackened sheet.

“Just had to extract the poison,” Stiles replied cheerfully. “Your arm should start healing now.”

Derek looked down at his arm, then up at Stiles. “You’re powerful.”

Stiles flushed, looking pleased. “Thanks.” He hesitated for a moment, then bent his head, leaning forward to press his mouth to Derek’s. Derek pulled his head back sharply and Stiles sat up, his cheeks flushing darker. Before he could say anything, though, Derek said, “There are still people here.”

Stiles smiled, looking faintly relieved, and made a wordless gesture. The door swung shut quietly. “Anything else?”

“No,” Derek said faintly. “Not at all.”

Stiles smiled again and leaned back down. Derek stretched forward to meet him, his hands sliding around Stiles’ narrow waist. His pulse pounded in his head, still a little fuzzy from the cockatrice’s venom, and he knew that he should push Stiles away and just tell him everything he’d been thinking, but he didn’t want to. Maybe Laura had been right and he should stop thinking so much and just enjoy himself.

Fuck it, Derek decided, his hands going for Stiles’ belt. He could be spontaneous.

“Whoa,” Stiles said softly, hands curling in the back of Derek’s shirt as Derek pulled Stiles’ pants and underwear down to his knees. His thighs were tattooed, and Derek dragged his tongue up the length of them, reveling in Stiles’ clean taste.

“Should I stop?” Derek rumbled, biting lightly at the tender skin of Stiles’ inner thigh.

“You better not,” Stiles threatened weakly, eyes blinking rapidly behind his glasses.

“Keep your voice down, then,” Derek replied, and fisted the base of Stiles’ semi-erect dick, swiping his tongue over the head.

“Shit!” Stiles squeaked, one hand flying to cover his mouth, the other fisting in Derek’s hair. Derek grinned and sucked Stiles in, pulling his mouth up and down his length slowly, relishing how strong Stiles’ scent was, how he burned with desire – desire for Derek. Stiles wanted him.

Derek wished he could just shove Stiles down onto the desk and fuck him like they both so desperately wanted, but there were still people around, and he didn’t want to be quiet. Or fired, which – Derek lifted his head abruptly.

“What?” Stiles asked, sounding like he’d been drugged. “You okay?”

“Chris is coming!” Derek hissed, his fingers digging into Stiles’ hips.

“Fuck!” Stiles muttered, jumping off the desk and scrambling for his pants. “What should I do?”

“Get under the desk!” Derek hissed, just as there came a knock on the door. “Yeah?” he called, as Stiles dove into the space between his legs. Derek pulled the chair close to the desk so Chris wouldn’t be able to see the bulge in his pants.

The door opened and Chris Argent stuck his head in. “You’re still here?”

“Just – just finishing this report,” Derek said. He tried to inconspicuously slap at Stiles, who was trying to unzip his pants. Chris gave him an odd look and he went still, cheeks flushing faintly. Stiles made a very quiet triumphant noise and freed his dick from his underwear, his breath ghosting on Derek’s skin. Derek gritted his teeth.

“You seen Scott?” Chris asked, looking like it pained him to ask about the well-being of his son-in-law.

“He went home early,” Derek managed, as Stiles wrapped his lips around Derek’s dick and began to suck like his life depended on it. He didn’t dare look down; the sight of Stiles’ hollowed cheeks might be more than he could take.

Chris frowned at him. “You look sick,” he said. “Go to the hospital if that cut gives you trouble.”

“I-I think I’m going to be all right,” Derek said, breathing out forcefully. Under the desk, Stiles made a satisfied noise. Derek squeezed his thighs together, trying to convey shut up, and Stiles punched him in the shin, lips tightening around him. Derek swallowed a groan.

“Okay,” Chris said, giving him another troubled look. “Get that report finished and get out of here.”

“Sure,” Derek replied weakly. Chris retreated, shutting the door behind him. Derek smacked Stiles on the shoulder. “You asshole!”

Stiles lifted his head to look at him, his lips red and swollen. “Don’t lie,” he said. “You love it.”

“I—” Derek shut his mouth as Stiles licked up his length, tongue curling around the head. “Fuck!”

Stiles hummed his amusement, taking him in so deep Derek felt himself hit the back of Stiles’ throat. The younger man’s mouth was tight and warm, and pulled at Derek in a way he’d never felt before. He thought of fucking Stiles, of making him scream, and his hips jerked as Stiles sucked right there with just enough pressure, and he—

“Fuck,” Derek groaned again. “Stiles, I—”

Stiles took him in deeper – Jesus, was that possible? Derek moaned, spilling down his throat in heavy pulses. Stiles stayed still – fuck, he didn’t move at all – until Derek slumped in his chair, breathing harshly. Then he lifted his head, lips pulling away from Derek with an obscene noise, and he smiled, wiping spit and cum from his chin. And fuck, if Derek hadn’t already been infatuated with him, that soft smile would have done it. God, he was so fucked.

Stiles sat on the floor, his head resting against Derek’s thigh, and jerked himself off. Derek watched him silently, rubbing his thumb along Stiles’ cheekbone as the younger man’s eyes closed, his rosy lips parting. He brushed his thumb across Stiles’ bottom lip and listened to his breath hitch as he came. Derek handed him a napkin, which Stiles accepted with a smile of thanks. As he wiped off his hand, the young man remarked, “I think that’s the closest I’ve ever heard Argent come to sounding worried about someone.”

“He feels guilty,” Derek replied, rolling backward so that Stiles could get out from under the desk.

“Why would he feel guilty?” Stiles asked, getting to his feet and hitching his pants back up. Derek shrugged, looking away evasively. “Well,” Stiles said, after a long moment, “I’m heading home. Do I need to be sneaky, or has everyone else left?”

Derek turned his attention to the office, listening for any tell-tale heartbeats. “They’re all gone,” he said.

“Awesome,” Stiles said, heading for the door.

“Hey,” Derek said, as Stiles put his hand on the handle. “Thanks. For my arm. And – you know.”

“My pleasure,” Stiles grinned, pulling the door open. “On both accounts.”

“Come back some time,” Derek said, the words spilling out of him before he could take them back. “I’ll finish what I started.”

Stiles’ grin grew, if anything, wider. “I’ll be taking you up on that,” he promised, and disappeared from sight.

Derek sat back in his chair with a sigh, then realized he was sitting in his office with the door open and his dick still out, and hurried to get himself back into some semblance of control. He hammered out the rest of his report and headed home, trying not to think too hard about what he’d just done. What Stiles had just done to him. Laura was going to be so pissed at him.

Chapter Text

Derek slept until noon the next day, which wasn’t usual for him, though it felt good. When he woke up, the claw marks on his arm were gone. He went to the gym, and in the afternoon he got a text from Laura that said erica says u havnt talked 2 her and ur office smells like sex. u get a failing grade this week.

and what class am I failing? Derek texted back, sighing a little. He should have known.

its called ur life 101 >:[ stop being an idiot and AVOIDING EVERYTHIGN

Derek sighed again. Laura was being stupid, but he knew she had a point. He was the king of avoiding important issues, which always made things ten times worse when he actually got around to confronting them (or, more typically, when they confronted him). He told himself he’d take care of everything the next day.

Derek did his best. He found Erica around lunch time the next day and said, “Are you busy this weekend?”

She raised a perfect eyebrow at him. “Thanks, but I’ve already got a husband.”

Derek scowled at her. “I meant the both of you.”

“Maybe.” Erica eyed him suspiciously. “Why?”

“I thought we could do some training.”

Erica looked even more suspicious. “Laura put you up to this.”

“Yes,” Derek said grudgingly. “But it’s important.”

Erica stared at him for a long moment. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll talk to Boyd and see what he says.”

“Good,” Derek said, the tension in his shoulders easing a little.

That weekend, Derek spent time with his pack for the first time in a long time. He'd tried making an effort in the beginning, when he'd first turned them, but he hadn't been ready to be an alpha. He still didn't think he was, but Laura was right when she said being alone was hurting them. Derek didn't think any of them realized it, but even after just a few hours working together in the unit's gym, the wolves moved more fluidly, reacting more instinctively.

Derek had been twenty-two when he became the alpha, and he'd fucked it up in a spectacular manner. His family hadn't even been in the ground two weeks when the first full moon rose and the new power surged in him, and he hadn't known how to control it. Everyone had thought Laura would be receiving the power, so she'd been trained for it all her life, prepared mentally and physically to shoulder the heavy burden. If it had gone to her like everyone thought it would, she would have been perfectly fine. Not Derek, though.

He went crazy, unable to stop the shift. Laura ran with him as long as she could, but even a seasoned beta couldn't keep up with an alpha, new as he was. He found them alone and attacked - Boyd and Erica taking a late night walk in the park, and homeless runaway Isaac under an underpass somewhere in the bowels of the city. All teenagers, all bitten without consent - that was a major mistake.

He probably would have kept on attacking people if Laura hadn't called Chris. Derek didn't talk to her for two months after that, furious at the betrayal, but he had to admit it had been the right thing to do. Chris felt guilty about what Kate had done, guilty enough to get him under control, avoid the cops, and find a seasoned alpha upstate, who took Derek under her wing and taught him how to control the alpha powers. When he went back to the city six months later, Chris found him a spot at the police academy and, when he graduated, a place in the supernatural crimes unit.

Derek had tried to do the same for the kids he bit. They didn't trust him, obviously, though they'd all eventually accepted positions in the unit. He’d done the best with Isaac, who was a lot younger than the other two, only fifteen when he’d been turned. He’d gone into the foster system after Derek’s attack, but Laura, in her first big court win, got him into Derek’s custody. There were still a lot of legal grey areas concerning werewolves, but the judges understood the importance of pack, and Derek was Isaac’s alpha.

Isaac still lived with him. He ran the bestiary in the bowels of the SCIU building and was smarter than any of them, though he refused to go to college. Derek didn’t fight him on this, because Isaac was quiet and hurt from his old life, and it had taken him years to be comfortable around Derek and the pack. Derek could understand why he didn’t want to uproot himself and start all over again with a new group of people.

Erica and Boyd, though…The problem was Derek didn't know what to do with them. The pack before the fire had been family. Family was pack and pack was family. It had been easy; he'd been born into it, and so it couldn't have come more naturally. Being pack was as easy as being a live; it was just something you did without thinking. Now he was the unwilling leader of a pack that had been formed by mistake, and he didn't know how to handle them. Laura tried to help, and they all liked her better than him, which really did not help Derek form a strong bond with his betas. They had been werewolves for five years now and hung out as pack maybe a dozen times. He hadn't been invited to Erica and Boyd's wedding, which had honestly stung a little, but he understood. He was a terrible alpha.

But for all that Derek isolated himself, he didn't particularly actually want to be alone - not completely. It was more than a fear of going rogue; as much as he liked his solitude, he'd grown up in a house full of noise and laughter. There had always been siblings and cousins to roughhouse with, plenty of warm bodies to fall into a sleepy heap on the floor, a multitude of relatives to run with on the full moon. He missed that, and he knew Laura did too. If his pack could understand, he thought they'd want the same, and as he stood in the gym watching Boyd and Isaac spar, he realized that that was what he should have been trying to teach them from the beginning; not how to handle the shift, but how to be pack. With the pack strong, handling the shift would be easy.

"Stop!" Derek called, and the two men froze. "Do you guys…want pizza or something?"

His betas exchanged incredulous looks. Derek waited for their answer, feeling a little anxious. Suddenly, this seemed incredibly important to him, and he understood why Laura had been getting so frustrated.

"Only if we can get Hawaiian," Erica said finally, and Derek relaxed. They all went to his apartment and hung out, eating pizza. It was awkward, but Derek made sure Laura was there to ease the tension, and when they all left later that evening, he felt oddly whole. Laura hugged him tightly before she left, bumping her forehead against his like their mother used to. "Proud of you, Der," she murmured, kissing his cheek before disappearing into the night.

Then there was Stiles.

Derek wished he'd been there the day before to see Scott's expression when he came into the office to find it smelling like sex again, but the face he made when Stiles invited Derek to eat lunch with them was pretty good as it was.

Weirdly, his, uh, encounters with Stiles, instead of making things even weirder between them, seemed to have broken some sort of invisible barrier Derek hadn't been aware of. Or - maybe that wasn't right. Derek suspected that he had been the barrier, as rude and silent as he’d been. Stiles was just as talkative, but Derek found himself talking back - which was good, right? That was what Laura had told him to do. He still wasn't good at small talk - there were a lot of weird pauses and uncomfortable silences, but Stiles seemed happy to fill them.

The whole office seemed to know that he and Stiles had hooked up, which didn't surprise Derek, what with four other werewolves employed there beside himself. What did surprise him was how he didn't really care that they knew (though he hoped Chris would never find out that Stiles had been giving him head while they'd been talking). And weirdly, it seemed to make people a little more comfortable around him, like he finally seemed real or something. Derek didn't think he'd been that much of a robot.

He didn't see much of Stiles the following week, though. Derek was invited to lunch Monday and Tuesday, much to Scott's disgust. Derek found that, unlike Laura had hypothesized, he did continue to like Stiles after hearing him talk, even if he talked about The Dark Knight Rises for ten minutes straight on Tuesday (Derek watched the clock. It was ten minutes and thirty-seven seconds.), jabbing his fork into the air as he made his points.

Scott seemed determined to cockblock them, which irritated Derek to no end. Now that they'd started, he saw no reason not to continue, and apparently Stiles felt the same way, because he showed up in the doorway around five-thirty on Tuesday, only to find Scott still in the office, sitting at his desk with his arms folded across his chest. He looked disappointed, and Scott looked triumphant. Derek glared.

Stiles didn't come in to work on Wednesday or Thursday, and Derek heard Scott telling Isaac that he was busy getting ready for his Masters defense. The office felt very quiet without him.

Sometime around three on Friday, Derek was sitting at his desk when he heard Stiles' voice out in the office, shouting excitedly.

"I did it!" Derek heard him bellow. "I passed and got my witch certification!"

Scott tumbled out of their office to congratulate his best friend. Derek followed more slowly, leaning against the door frame to watch everyone gather around Stiles, laughing and congratulating. Stiles looked so happy he was almost glowing, and Derek smiled faintly to himself.

"Drinks," Stiles said cheerfully. "After work. Everybody?" He looked across the room at Derek as everyone else cheered. He raised his eyebrows. "You?"

Derek hesitated, then nodded. Stiles grinned, and Derek's heart pulled at the true happiness in his expression.

Going out was just as terrible as Derek had suspected it'd be - noisy, crowded, overwhelming - but he wasn't as miserable as he thought. He sat at a table with Boyd, watching Stiles dance with Erica amidst a crowd of their coworkers. He had a few drinks and relaxed enough that he didn't care when Scott showed up at the table, looking flushed and unhappy.

"He doesn't want a relationship," Scott said bluntly.

Derek didn't have to ask who "he" was. His eyes slid to the dance floor, where Stiles was now dancing with the head of lab operations, a pretty red-headed girl named Lydia. Boyd had left the table to join Erica, looking stiff and a little horrified, like he was thinking about the jinx he’d recently been under. "Okay," he said.

"He doesn't do relationships," Scott said insistently.

"Okay," Derek said again, taking a long sip of his drink.

Scott seemed to flounder. Did he expect Derek to be angry? "If you hurt him, I'll kill you," he scowled. Derek rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to say something cutting, but Allison came pushing through the crowd and put her hand on Scott's arm.

"Can you get me some water?" she asked, and Scott seemed to melt, disappearing into the crowd with a goofy smile on his face. Derek watched Allison lever herself into the chair Boyd had vacated to dance with Erica, raising a hand to steady her if need be.

Derek liked Allison. She was definitely Chris's daughter, sharp as a tack and fiercely intelligent. Where Chris was hard, though, Allison was soft, and though her smile was a mirror of Kate's, there was no hidden malice in it, only kindness and good humor. She was one of the few people who knew what had happened to his family, and as far as he knew, she'd never even told Scott, which he appreciated deeply.

"Sorry about Scott," she sighed. "He and Stiles are like brothers."

"I'd noticed," Derek replied dryly.

"He is right about Stiles though," Allison said, looking a little worried. "He doesn't date people. He tried once, in college, and it didn't go well. He just - he doesn't take things seriously. The only thing he does take seriously is his magic. I mean," Allison added hurriedly, "I don't know how serious you are, but don't let yourself get hurt, okay?"

"I won't," Derek said quietly. He looked at Stiles, who'd thrown his arms around Boyd, who looked distinctly uncomfortable. He was pretty sure it was too late, though. He'd missed his opportunity to tell Stiles how he felt, and now, knowing this - he was doomed.

Scott came back to the table with a bottle of water. He gave Derek a very suspicious look before Allison pushed him away, laughing, and he disappeared again.

"Should you even be out?" Derek asked Allison, trying to distract himself from the sinking feeling in his stomach. He nodded toward her swollen stomach, eight months along.

"Oh," she said cheerfully, patting her belly. "I'm not drinking, obviously. As long as I don't spend too much time on my feet, I'm good. It's important to be out," she added, "supporting people I care about. Stiles has been working hard for this."

"Yeah," Derek agreed. He cleared his throat. "What does Chris think?"

Allison laughed. "About the baby? He's torn between being happy he's getting a grandkid and worrying it's going to be a werewolf."

"Even if it is, he'll be happy," Derek said. "He's not like Kate."

"No," Allison agreed, her mouth twisting sympathetically.

Derek swallowed and got to his feet. "I'm going to get another drink," he told her. Allison nodded, smiling hesitantly, and he headed for the bar. He downed the Jack & Coke the bartender poured extra strong for him "because he didn't look like he was enjoying himself,” and ordered another.

By the time Stiles came stumbling out of the crowd and latched his arms around Derek's neck, it was some time after midnight and Derek was somewhere between extremely buzzed and too drunk to walk straight. Stiles looked to be in the same place, wearing a happy, vacant sort of grin and reeking of lust.

"Hey," Stiles breathed into his neck. "Everybody left."

Derek squinted at the dance floor, and this appeared to be true. He put his hands around Stiles' waist, because he seemed ready to fall over, and hissed sharply when Stiles ground their hips together.

"Hey," Stiles said again, his voice lower, almost purring. "You want to take this party back to my place?"

Derek lifted his eyes to the ceiling, remembering what Allison and Scott had told him earlier. He was already on the road to ruin, though. A little more fun along the way couldn’t make things any worse.

"Yeah, I fucking do," he decided out loud. Stiles laughed, pleased, and took him by the hand, pulling him out of the bar. They got a taxi back to Stiles' apartment and behaved themselves because the taxi driver was eyeing them suspiciously. As soon as they were in the elevator in Stiles' building, though, Derek pressed Stiles back against the wall, mouthing hungrily at his skin. Stiles moaned, high and greedy, reluctantly shoving Derek away when the elevator doors pinged open.

They stumbled down the hall and into Stiles’ apartment, where Derek was enfolded by the clean scent of Stiles. It sent his blood pulsing, body burning hot. He couldn’t stop for Stiles to discard his jacket; he picked the young man up around his waist, slinging him over his shoulder with a growl. Stiles made a startled noise, but Derek didn’t care; he could feel Stiles’ erection digging into his shoulder and it drove him crazy.

“Bedroom,” he rumbled, kicking off his shoes.

“T-through the kitchen,” Stiles wheezed. “Door on the left.”

Derek stalked through the small apartment, located the bedroom, and threw Stiles down on the bed, crawling after him. With the knowledge that this wasn’t going to go anywhere, wasn’t going to turn into a relationship, he let himself be rougher than usual, biting and snapping at the pale, tender skin of Stiles’ neck. Stiles groaned, fighting to rid himself of all his layers of clothing. Derek was happy to help him, not even feeling guilty when he heard something rip.

When Stiles was finally naked, Derek paused to take him in. His whole long, lean body was covered in tattoos; they started at his ankles, wrapping around his calves and thighs, spreading up his stomach to cover his chest, though there was an empty circle of skin directly over his heart. Derek sank his teeth into that spot, reveling in the groan he wrenched from Stiles’ lips. He felt Stiles’ hands pulling at him, tugging at his shirt, and Derek pulled back, swiftly undressing himself. Stiles moaned softly.

“God, how are you real?” he asked, reaching out to drag his fingernails down Derek’s toned stomach. Derek shuddered, his skin breaking out in goosebumps at the feeling, and pressed himself down on top of Stiles, rolling his hips against the younger man’s. Stiles groaned again and fisted his hand in Derek’s hair, pulling his head up so they could kiss, messy and rough, each fighting for control.

It was intoxicating. Stiles smelled like sweat and alcohol and sweet mint and lust, and it was making Derek crazy. He could feel the wolf in him fighting for control and he wanted Stiles so badly that he almost let it win.

“C’mon,” Stiles murmured, clutching at the sides of Derek’s face. “Let go. I don’t care if you shift.”

Derek snarled into the space where Stiles’ neck met his shoulder, his fangs sliding from his gums with a soft snick, thick hair growing along his jaw. Stiles ran his fingers through it, humming contentedly.

“Need you in me, Derek,” he said quietly. “Wanted it for so long.”

Derek snarled again, desperately, and pulled away. Stiles sat up on his elbows, looking a little concerned, before Derek put his hands on his hips and roughly flipped him onto his stomach. Stiles craned his head to look at him, looking a little disappointed.

“Like this?” he asked. “I was hoping – I wanted to see your face.”

“We can,” Derek replied, his voice thick through his fangs. “I – wanted to taste you.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, his cheeks flooding with color. “Go right ahead.”

Derek knelt over him, pressing his lips to the back of Stiles’ neck, licking the salt from his skin. He moved slowly down the young man’s body, biting and sucking bruises into his skin until his mouth met the soft curve of Stiles’ ass. Stiles wasn’t tattooed between his hips and calves, which was a strange relief to Derek, like the thought of anyone else seeing him in such an intimate way was unthinkable. He slid his mouth across Stiles’ white skin, tongue dragging wet lines between the moles that freckled his ass. Stiles’ breathing was soft, hitching whenever Derek hit a sensitive spot or dug his nails in.

Finally, finally, Derek moved his mouth lower, dipping his tongue between the swell of Stiles’ cheeks. They moaned in tandem, Stiles’ high and breathy and aching with need, Derek’s low and choked. Just the taste of Stiles was enough to make his dick pulse with want, thick beads of precome leaking against his leg, and he had to resist the urge to just shove into him. If this wasn’t going to happen again, though, he thought he had the right to be a little greedy and indulge himself.

Derek licked a thick line over Stiles’ entrance, spreading his ass cheeks wide to get in close, and god, the fucking taste of him. Stiles moved under him, little aborted twitches that suggested he was getting antsy, but Derek didn’t care. He took his time, swirling his tongue around the tight ring of muscle before pushing his way inside. Stiles jerked underneath him, sucking in a tight sob. Derek licked at him until his jaw ached and Stiles’ skin was bright pink from where his stubble had rubbed against him. When he finally lifted his head, Stiles moaned softly at the loss of contact, his thighs shaking with expectation. Derek could hear his heart hammering in his chest, quick as a rabbit’s.

“You got lube?” Derek asked, lifting his hand to trace a path around Stiles’ entrance, pushing gently at his pink skin.

Stiles nodded quickly, reaching over to his nightstand and locating a bottle of lube. Derek tried not to think about why it was nearly empty and slicked himself up instead. He worked a quick finger inside Stiles, stretching him open with control that was quickly fading. He could feel Stiles’ impatience as well, felt the way he pushed back against Derek’s fingers, moving his hips in a way that said I need you now. Derek could work with that, quickly moving to two, then three fingers, until Stiles made a disgruntled noise and said, “Fuck me already!”

Derek smacked his ass hard, relishing the gasp it elicited from Stiles, and flipped him again, listening to the air rush out of him as he landed on his back. He didn’t wait around, lining himself up and pushing into Stiles in one swift movement. Stiles cried out, his legs coming up to wrap around Derek’s waist as the alpha began to thrust into him. It wasn’t sex – there was nothing tender or delicate about it. He fucked Stiles hard, hips snapping into him, biting the tender skin beneath his collarbone. Stiles surged against him, hips rising to meet every thrust, his breath coming in short, ragged gasps, moaning low and greedy.

When Derek came, it built in him like a tidal wave, warmth pulling at the base of his spine, his head growing thick and heavy and far away until it suddenly slammed into him. He jerked out of Stiles with a broken noise and spilled his seed across the younger man’s stomach, gasping as he came.

“Oh, fuck,” Stiles groaned, back arching as he came untouched, shooting so hard that cum hit the bottom of his chin, splattering white across the dark spots of ink that decorated his torso. Derek slumped down next to him, breathing raggedly. He couldn’t complain when Stiles rolled against him; though the feeling of his cum-stained skin should have been gross, but their mixed scents, heavy and intoxicating, made Derek’s head spin. “That was fucking rad, dude.”

“Glad to hear it,” Derek muttered, closing his eyes. Stiles hummed and insinuated his way on top of Derek, kissing the side of his neck before relaxing, his entire body going limp. Invasive, Derek thought, his mind already going dark around the edges as sleep claimed him. Just like everything else Stiles did; he’d shoved his way into Derek’s life without preamble. Look where it had gotten him.

Oh well. Regrets were for the morning.

-

Derek awoke the next morning with a hangover the likes of which he hadn't experienced since college. Even opening his eyes made his head blaze with pain, but he forced himself to look around.

He didn't remember much of the night before, but this was clearly Stiles' bedroom. Everything smelled of him, soaked through with his soft herbal scent, and though the window was open, a cool breeze rolling in, he could smell sex in the air. Their sex.

Derek rubbed a hand over his face, biting back a groan. Stiles wasn't in bed next to him, but Derek could hear his heart beating somewhere nearby, calm and even.

He shouldn't have come over, and they definitely shouldn't have had sex, even if what Derek remembered of it had been some of the best he'd ever had. He remembered what Allison had said, his heart sinking. There was no way Stiles would ever be interested in him - not as anything more than a fuck buddy, and that wasn't what he wanted. Derek leaned over the edge of the bed, cursing softly at the way his head pulsed in protest of the movement, and found his discarded pants. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and texted Laura.

question. slept with stiles last night knowing he doesn't want a relationship, what do i do?

uhhhh not sleep with him?! Laura texted back immediately. r u fucking stupid?

apparently.

der u KNOW u need stability. ur not going 2 get that from him. ur going 2 get hurt

Derek sighed softly. And he'd thought he couldn't get any unhappier. He couldn't even get mad, knowing he'd brought this on himself.

Derek set his phone on the nightstand and forced himself to his feet, pulling on his pants though his head throbbed with every movement. He followed the sound of Stiles' heartbeat to a room across the hall and paused in the doorway.

A long workbench rested against one wall, covered in neat piles of paper, old books, vials of liquid, small cabinets with tiny drawers labeled with things like grade two vervain, what looked like some kind of distillery, and an old MacBook, which was playing the soft sounds of Bon Iver. The rest of the room was filled with plants, filling the room with the heady scent of herbs and lush greenery. It mixed with a smell of magic strong enough to burn Derek's nose, forcing him to breathe through his mouth.

Stiles, clad only in boxers, crouched on the floor in the middle of the room, working diligently on a large spell, which he was chalking directly onto the floorboards. Derek stared at his tattooed shoulders, at the way his vertebrae stood out on his back in sharp swells. He could see bruises he’d left on Stiles’ skin, purple and green between black swathes of ink. He swallowed, pushing back a wave of arousal.

"Hey, sleepyhead," Stiles said, not looking up from his work. "Drink that, okay?" He pointed a long finger toward the work bench, where a small bottle sat glowing soft green. Derek eyed it suspiciously.

"Why?"

"Wolfsbane antidote," Stiles replied, consulting a book at his feet before swiftly chalking a series of runes onto the floor. "It'll cure that hangover you're rocking."

Derek stepped over to the table, picking up the small bottle and eyeing it cautiously. Despite its soft glow, the glass was cool to the touch and he uncorked the bottle, sniffing curiously at the contents. It just smelled like herbs, like everything in the apartment. When he tilted his head back and swallowed the liquid inside, it felt cool on his throat. The feeling stretched through him, blessed relief spreading through his body.

Stiles spared him a glance. "Better?"

Derek blinked. His head hardly hurt. "Much." He looked at the little bottle in his hand. "You should market this."

"It's only good fresh," Stiles replied, turning back to the spell on the floor. "You have to drink it within six hours of it being made."

"You made this for me?" Derek asked, surprised.

Stiles snorted. "Being hung-over sucks, dude. It's pretty easy to make, anyway."

"Well…thanks," Derek said. He set the empty bottle down on the work bench. "What are you doing now?"

"Building something I'm allowed to, now that I'm certified," Stiles replied enigmatically. He got to his feet, brushing chalk dust off his knees, and reached for a bowl of oil sitting on the bench. Derek watched him bend over the middle of the diagram, which sat empty and blank. He drew a single rune there with the oil, and straightened, wiping his finger on his boxers.

"Hold this?" Stiles asked, handing the bowl to Derek. Derek took it silently, his eyes narrowing as he watched Stiles.

The young man stepped into the middle of the diagram and it lit up under his feet, a soft golden-white glow illuminating the lines of chalk. Derek took an unconscious step back, feeling the magic building in the air. It rattled his bones, making his hair stand on end. He could feel his body trying to shift protectively, and had to fight back the claws. The tattoos on Stiles' body were starting to glow as well, light spreading outward from his chest. "Is this safe?" Derek asked nervously.

"Shh," Stiles said, his voice echoing as if they were in a much larger room. He held his hand over the symbol drawn in oil and Derek's eyes widened as it peeled itself off the floor and began to spin lazily in the air about a foot off the floor, glowing a soft, pure white. Stiles made a delighted noise, the runes on his body and the floor extinguishing their light, leaving only the floating rune to glow and spin.

“What is it?” Derek asked suspiciously as Stiles stepped outside of the diagram.

“A familiar,” Stiles replied cheerfully, taking the bowl of oil out of his hands. “It’ll take a few days to develop.”

“A familiar?” Derek repeated, frowning. “You mean like a cat?”

“Could be a cat,” Stiles shrugged. “It’ll choose its own form. I just hope it’s not huge, because I don’t think my landlord would appreciate me keeping a grizzly bear around. It’s for power,” he added, seeing Derek’s confusion. “Sometimes my own power isn’t enough. The familiar can take the natural magic that’s already in the world and convert it to a form that I can use.”

“Oh,” Derek said. He looked at the symbol spinning lazily in the air, an odd shudder running up his spine. He gestured at Stiles’ workspace. “This is a lot neater than your desk at work.”

“Mise en place,” Stiles said, spreading his hands wide. “Everything in its place. I can’t work spells if there’s no system.”

“Did you make all this stuff?” Derek asked, gesturing at the vials and bottles of liquid collected on the bench.

Stiles grinned. “Yeah. Sometimes people pay me to make stuff for them. Like these,” he added, picking up two small vials of an amber-colored liquid. “Five hundred dollars each.”

“Five hundred?” Derek said, eyeing the bottles skeptically. “Is it the elixir of life?”

Stiles laughed, setting them back down on the bench. “Nothing like that, it just takes a while to make. This stuff’s kind of a mood booster. You know, like how the Hindus are always talking about chakra? It clears your head, gets your blood moving. The guy I sell it to says that mine’s the purest he’s ever found.” Stiles looked faintly pleased. “You only need a drop every week or so.”

“Impressive.”

“Thanks.” Stiles turned to look at him, grinning. “Hey, you want to go get breakfast somewhere?”

“Oh,” Derek said. He thought again about what Allison and Scott had said, and the pit in his stomach deepened. “No, thanks.”

“All right,” Stiles said, and the easy, unconcerned way he said it told Derek everything he needed to know. He was used to this – people leaving after hooking up. He didn’t care how Derek felt. Something like misery was welling in his chest, threatening to crush him.

Derek gathered his clothes, put on his shoes, and left. Stiles called out a goodbye after him, and it sounded like an afterthought. Derek went home.

Chapter Text

Stiles was pretty pleased with his life at the moment. He’d finished his degree, gotten his witch certification, been promoted, and finally reached his goal of having sex with Derek Hale. Which, by the way, had been about ten thousands times better than he’d ever dreamed, and after Derek left, Stiles jacked off to the memory of Derek rimming him, his mouth so fucking hot and wet. God, that one was definitely going in the spank bank, along with the memory of sucking Derek off in his office while Chris Argent stood in the doorway, completely unaware. Stiles’ spine tingled at the thought, a thrill rushing through him.

He felt kind of strange, though. The apartment felt too quiet, and a little empty. He tried not to admit to himself how pleasant it had been to wake up with Derek next to him. His face softened in slumber, and it was hard to equate him with the same man who'd spent ten minutes with his tongue shoved up Stiles' ass. He'd sat in bed for a while before getting up, lightly running his fingers over Derek's strong features; the long plane of his narrow nose, the sharp angle of his cheekbones, the soft swell of his lips. It wasn't often that he woke up feeling so content.

Stiles wasn't fooling himself; Derek wasn't boyfriend material (and neither was he). Derek was bad-tempered and kind of an asshole, though he had opened up somewhat after their first encounter in his office. Stiles had been shocked to discover the werewolf had a sense of humor, though it was dry as a bone and mostly at Scott's expense (which was fine with him because most of Stiles’ jokes were at Scott’s expense too). Still, Stiles refused to admit to himself that the reason the apartment felt so strange was because he wanted company and, more specifically, Derek's company. Derek had turned down his offer of breakfast, though, and that said enough about their relationship (oh god, could you even call it that?). He wasn't interested in hanging out.

Stiles hoped the spell currently building in his shop would complete itself soon. He did get lonely sometimes, and it would be nice to have someone else in the apartment, even if that someone was a being formed from magic in the shape of an animal. He thought about how awesome it would be to have a panther or something, and imagined walking down the street with a huge black cat at his side. Stiles snorted. A panther seemed unlikely; the spell was supposed to reflect him, and he didn't see himself with a lot of panther-like qualities. Derek, though...Stiles shook his head. Scott said that whatever his familiar became, it was going to be smart and fast, but super annoying. Stiles had punched him in the arm for that, which had only resulted in his own hand aching.

On Monday morning, Stiles went in to check on his spell before heading to work and found a small brown owl sitting in the middle of the circle. It looked up at him with dark brown eyes and hooted softly.

“Really?” Stiles sighed aloud. “An owl?” He knelt, breaking the edge of the spell by dragging a finger though the line of chalk. “C’mere, dude,” he said, holding his hand out. “Let me see you.”

The owl gave him a considering look before hopping forward, settling lightly onto his hand and curling its talons around his index finger. The bird was light – probably lighter than a real owl would be. He could feel the buzz of the magic that composed it, but it felt real; he could feel its talons gripping his finger, the slight prick of its claws against his skin. He brushed a finger against the creamy white feathers on its chest and they were soft to the touch.

“Huh,” he said. “This is cool; I’ll admit it, even if we’ve somehow managed to stick with a witchy stereotype. You want to go to work?”

The owl shook itself, feathers ruffled, and Stiles grinned. “Yeah, me neither, but I need the paycheck.”

He felt a little subconscious on the subway, sitting there with an owl on his shoulder but then, he’d seen a lot of strange things on the subway. Most New Yorkers were oblivious to the weird shit around them; he didn’t think any of them even noticed his familiar, though he saw a little girl walking with her mother point to him and exclaim.

When he got into work, he found a note on his desk from Chris, which said You’re moving to Deaton’s old office. Come see me once you’ve settled in.

“Awesome,” Stiles murmured. He thought about bewitching all his possessions and dancing them down the hall to his new office ala The Sword in the Stone, but that seemed like an abuse of power, and the certification board was stupidly strict about stuff like that. Thinking of the old Disney movie did give him an idea of what to name his new familiar, though, and he smiled as he carried armfuls of books and papers to his new space.

After he’d finished moving, he found Chris sitting in his office, looking displeased as he read through a thick file. “Stilinski,” the commander said, without looking up. He pushed a pile of papers in Stiles’ direction. “Fill these out and get them back to me by the end of the day.”

“All right,” Stiles said agreeably, picking up the stack. “What are they for?”

“New clearance levels,” Chris grumbled. “You—” He lifted his head and caught sight of the owl sitting on Stiles’ shoulder. “What is that?”

“My new familiar,” Stiles said, poking a long finger into the owl’s stomach feathers. It clacked its beak at him irritably.

“Can you do that?” Chris frowned.

“Most people don’t bother with them,” Stiles replied. “Since I’m the only witch in the unit, though, he’ll be good for backup in tight spots.”

“Planning ahead,” Chris said approvingly. “Good. Get those papers done. We’re having a briefing at two.”

Stiles spent the morning arranging his new office, then ate lunch with Derek and Scott. He’d worried, a little, that Derek might avoid him after their hook-up, but he seemed all right, though Stiles noticed that he wouldn’t quite make eye contact. He frowned when he spotted Stiles’ new familiar.

“What is that?” he asked, sounding a lot like Chris.

“My familiar,” Stiles told him cheerfully. “Archimedes.”

Derek looked at him blankly. “Sword in the Stone?” Stiles hazarded. Derek shrugged and Stiles sighed. “God, you’re hopeless.”

Derek’s lips went thin and he turned his head to stare across the break room. Stiles looked over at Scott, who rolled his eyes and mouthed Drama queen. Stiles snorted into his salad.

The next couple of weeks slid by. Things were quiet in the office, few supernatural incidents to report, which was typical for the tail end of spring. Stiles was disappointed; it’d been nearly three weeks and he hadn’t gone out into the field yet. The only incident of note was a new werewolf pack trying to move into Murray Hill, which had the pack in Bayside up in arms. Stiles didn’t get sent out for that; there were enough werewolves in the unit to deal with that sort of thing, and it wasn’t really his area of expertise.

It meant Derek was out of the office a lot, which was okay, because Stiles got the weird feeling that Derek was avoiding him. They ate lunch together almost every day, but when Stiles had gone to his office a few times near the end of the day, hoping for another office rendezvous, Derek was always gone. He asked Scott if something was wrong, but Scott shrugged and said Derek didn’t really talk to him unless he needed to. Stiles asked Scott if he smelled like something was wrong, and Scott scowled and said Derek always smelled the same – like unhappiness. That worried Stiles, but he didn’t know how to bring it up. Derek was someone he’d had sex with, but he didn’t think he could call him a friend. He didn’t even have Derek’s cell phone number.

A month after Stiles got his certification, Chris called everyone into the briefing room, a serious expression on his face. When everyone had settled, he folded his arms across his chest and said, “Has anyone here heard of Crucifix?”

“Is that a club somewhere?” Scott hazarded.

Chris shot his son-in-law an unloving look. “No. Anyone else?” No one offered up any suggestions and Chris switched on the projector. An image appeared on the wall of a teenage girl at what looked like a house party. She floated in the air, her feet about two feet off the ground. There was a pleasant, almost vacant look on her face, her eyes unfocused and far away. The sight sent a strange shudder up Stiles’ spine; it looked unreal, almost staged.

“We’re getting reports of a new party drug that’s getting popular with kids,” Chris said stiffly. He flipped through more pictures; boys and girls floating in the air with the same dull looks of pleasure on their faces. “It causes a literal feeling of weightlessness and euphoria.”

“Why’s it called ‘Crucifix’?” Erica called out.

Chris nodded curtly. “Good question.” A new image appeared on the wall. Another teenage girl floated in the air, her arms held stiffly out to her sides like Jesus on the cross. A point of light shone from each palm. “This position occurs just before the drug wears off, and can last up to fifteen minutes. The whole experience lasts up to an hour, but the user has control over their body for most of that time.”

“What about the stigmata?” Stiles asked, pointing at the circles of light shining on the girl’s hands.

“It appears in the last couple minutes of the high,” Chris replied. “Too large a dose sometimes leaves scarring on the palms.” He flipped to a new picture; a close-up of someone’s palms with circular burns marring their skin.

“Why is this our case?” Derek asked. “Shouldn’t Narcotics be handling this?”

“Narcotics’ expertise lies within synthetic drugs,” Chris told them, frowning vaguely. “They’ve been studying it, but this new drug appears to be entirely magical in nature.”

“And why are we concerned?” Lydia put in, flipping her red hair over her shoulder. “Have there been any deaths?”

“Several.” The image on the wall changed to yet another teenager suspended in midair, grey-faced and stiff, blood running from his nose and the corners of his eyes. “It appears to slow the heart rate. Too much of the drug and the heart stops completely, rupturing blood vessels in the head and neck as the body fights for air.” Chris rapped his fingers against the wall. “We’ve had five people, all teens, die in two months, and there have been dozens of hospitalizations. So far, usage doesn’t seem to have spread beyond the city, so we’re hoping there’s only a couple people manufacturing it and we’ll be able to shut down their operations entirely.”

He shut off the projector and turned to face the room. “Here’s the plan. All evidence will be transferred from Narcotics tomorrow morning. Martin, your team is going to have to reanalyze all chemical evidence. Stilinski, with your expertise in potions, you’ll be helping in the lab. Hale, McCall, Boyd and Boyd – the four of you will be outside tracing the dealers. I want the makers found, understand?”

Everyone in the room chorused, “Yes, sir!”

Their commander raised a dismissive hand. “Take the afternoon off and get your minds rested. Expect a lot of overtime this week. Hale, Stilinski, McCall – a word.”

Stiles, Scott, and Derek remained where they were while everyone else filed out of the room. Once it was just the four of them, Chris said, “We’re getting reports of a nest of wraiths over in the Bronx that are causing trouble. I want you two to take Stilinski out there and eradicate them.”

Stiles felt a grin grow on his face. “I can finally go outside?” he asked excitedly.

Chris sighed, looking impatient. “Don’t get overzealous. This will be a good introduction to working in the field. Once this drug investigation gets underway, there’s not going to be any time for handholding.”

“I don’t need anyone to hold my hand,” Stiles said, offended. Then he winked at Scott. “Unless you want to, baby.”

Derek rolled his eyes. Chris said, sounding pained, “Just go. Derek, try to keep these two idiots from hurting themselves.”

“I’ll do my best,” Derek replied. He sounded aggrieved, like it was some sort of trial to be paired up with Stiles and Scott.

“Hey,” Stiles said, elbowing him in the ribs as they left the meeting room. “This will be fun.”

“Work is not fun,” Derek snapped. “Do you need to look up anything, or can we go get this over with?”

“Let me grab my stuff, sheesh,” Stiles said, raising his hands in a whoa there, buddy sort of manner. He went to his office to grab some chalk. Spirit traps were pretty easy – they were one of the first spells he’d taught himself after joining the unit. He hadn’t done one in the moment, as it were, since he hadn’t been out in the field yet, but he had them memorized.

They drove out to the Bronx, where the wraiths had set up shop inside an ancient warehouse in Hunts Point. They approached the building quietly, Derek glaring daggers at Stiles when he tried to whisper to Scott, and slipped in through an unlocked side entrance. Inside, the warehouse was mostly bare and open, though a balcony ran around the entire floor. They all eyed it suspiciously, but Stiles wasn’t too worried; wraiths were notorious for hating the sun, and the ancient ceiling of the warehouse was riddled with holes, dappling the floor with spots of mid-afternoon sunlight. Even if the wraiths did emerge from their hiding spots, they didn’t become corporeal until after sundown, which meant that the worst they could do was give them cold chills.

He took his time drawing a huge trap on the floor while Scott and Derek stood to either side, watchful eyes on the building around them. Stiles was confident in his abilities, but it wouldn’t do to fuck up his first field assignment. Finally, he sat back on his heels, giving the spell a long look before nodding.

“Okay,” he said softly, and the quiet noise of his voice sent something scuttling across the ceiling. Derek scowled at him, but he ignored it. “Three…two…one!” Stiles clapped his hands together and the trap burst into light. Something like a small shockwave ran through the building, the air suddenly filled with the terrified screeching of wraiths. Stiles scurried to stand back with Scott and Derek, and together they watched the dark, transparent shapes of the wraiths come rocketing from all the dark corners of the building to be sucked into the chalk drawing on the floor, disappearing in the narrow point of a whirling vortex.

When a couple minutes had passed and no more wraiths seemed left, Stiles clapped his hands again and the light of the trap faded. “Eh? Eh?” he said triumphantly. “How was that for assignment numero uno?”

“You did fine,” Derek said grudgingly. “It—” He paused, looking up at the ceiling as something above them creaked ominously. Scott and Stiles followed his gaze, blinking through a cloud of dust suddenly raining down on their shoulders. The ceiling was starting to buckle.

“Uh,” Stiles began nervously, and it suddenly became apparent to him how good a team Derek and Scott made because they moved without speaking, each grabbing Stiles by an arm and lifting him, sprinting across the warehouse floor with their unnatural werewolf speed. Stiles kept his eyes on the ceiling, and it was cracking and parts of it were falling down, and— “Faster!” he yelled, and they were almost out, but then the ceiling came down with a tremendous crash and scream of twisting metal. Stiles watched the sky fall on top of them, squeezing his eyes shut just before impact.

-

When Stiles resurfaced from the darkness, he opened his eyes to hazy orange-black night and his legs burning with pain. He moaned, then started coughing, his lungs heavy with dust.

“Stiles.” Derek’s voice came from somewhere near his waist and Stiles realized that he could feel a heavy weight on the lower half of his body – Derek? Bits of antique warehouse ceiling? Whatever it was, his legs hurt immensely from the pressure.

“Derek?” he said quietly, biting back a whimper of pain. He could feel sweat on his forehead, his skin prickling. He felt Derek’s hand touch his stomach, and the warmth of his skin was reassuring. “Where’s Scott?”

“Couple feet away,” Derek replied, his voice ragged. “Hurt, but alive.”

Stiles lifted his head, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. It looked as though the warehouse hadn’t completely collapsed, just parts of the ceiling. The dark sky overhead was the hazy orange of New York City at night, never truly black. He thought to himself that it was lucky the building had waited to crumble until after he’d trapped the wraiths, because it would have been super unpleasant to have his insides ripped out and eaten. Not that having what felt like two broken legs was much better, of course, but he probably wouldn’t die from it. Probably.

He could see Derek’s dim form, half on top of him, with a pile of rebar on top of him. “How you doing?” Stiles asked gently, lifting a hand and touching the top of Derek’s head.

“Been better,” Derek replied, sounding like he was gritting his teeth. “Broken ribs, I think. Can’t heal with this weight on me.”

Stiles sighed heavily, his mind whirling. He did the first thing that he could think of, which was to whistle a small globe of light into existence. It flared into being over his head and he could see Derek then, his cheek resting on Stiles’ hip. Derek’s face was pale and sweaty, his breathing heavy. There was blood on his lips and teeth, red and fresh. A thick iron beam lay across his back and Stiles’ leg, far too big to move.

“Derek,” Stiles said worriedly, “are you bleeding? Internally?”

“Dunno,” Derek replied, and Stiles felt the way his body tensed as he fought off a cough. “Not used to it. Sustained pain. Like this.”

“Now you know how we humans feel,” Stiles said sympathetically, rubbing a thumb along Derek’s prominent cheekbone. He twisted his head, trying to find Scott, but couldn’t see him amongst the debris. He did spot his phone, but the screen had shattered. He could see what looked like important internal parts of it, smashed to pieces. “Fuck. Have you been awake since this happened?”

“In and out,” Derek answered. He curled his fingers around Stiles’ wrist. “You’re hurt.”

“My legs,” Stiles said. “Hey, no!” Derek was trying to pull at his pain; he could see the black lines spreading up Derek’s arm from where he was in contact with Stiles. “Save your energy for yourself! You’re not going to die trying to help me.”

“Hurts,” Derek muttered, closing his eyes.

“Okay, just—” Stiles shut his eyes, trying to figure out what to do. “Ah! Where the fuck did – Archimedes?”

He heard a soft hoot from somewhere above and Archimedes came fluttering down out of the darkness to land on Derek’s shoulder. Derek grunted, though Stiles was pretty sure he was just being a brat, since Archimedes weighed next to nothing.

“Okay, buddy,” Stiles said to his familiar. “Gotta send you on a mission, all right? You have to go back to the office and get someone, understand? Bring them here. We need help.”

“Whoo,” Archimedes said softly, and launched himself into the air.

“You think that’s going to work?” Derek asked.

“People know who he is,” Stiles replied. “You’ve still got your phone on you, don’t you?”

“In my pocket,” Derek said. “Can’t reach it.”

“Well, I think my phone’s had it, but if yours isn’t in too bad of shape, they can track the GPS chip in it. Or Scott’s.” Stiles’ voice wobbled. “Is he—is Scott?”

“I don’t know,” Derek said tiredly. “I can smell blood, but he’s alive.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, knowing that was as good as he’d get. Derek started coughing, wet and painful. Stiles could see the blood bubbling between his lips and he scratched his fingers through Derek’s hair, rubbed his fingers against his temple, trying to ease his discomfort. He shut his eyes, the globe of light fading as his energy did, and they laid in the dark for what seemed like hours. Stiles listened to Derek breath wetly. He saw Derek’s eyes flare red every once in a while and shivered in painful sympathy.

“Derek?” he said after a while. “Have you been avoiding me?”

Derek didn’t respond and worry rose in Stiles. He dug his fingers into the werewolf’s shoulder. “Derek?”

“Not now,” Derek rasped. “Please.”

“Okay,” Stiles said quietly.

Sometime, maybe minutes, maybe hours later, Archimedes came swooping back in, hooting softly. Stiles heard sirens in the distance, quickly growing louder. “Did you do it, bro?” he asked the owl, who settled onto the beam across Derek’s back. “I knew I could count on you.”

It sounded like there were sirens all around them now, surrounding the warehouse. He could hear people shouting their names and he yelled as loud as he could, “In here!”

The searchers found them eventually, climbing over piles of debris to reach them. Chris Argent appeared from behind a flashlight’s bright beam, looking haggard.

“Jesus,” he swore. “This was supposed to be easy, Stilinski.”

“Sorry, sir,” Stiles replied weakly. “I never half-ass assignments.”

“I said take out the nest, not take out the building,” Chris growled, gesturing at a couple of police officers to help him with the beam across Derek’s back. It took six of them to lift it enough for another couple of rescue workers to slide Stiles and Derek out from under it. Stiles whimpered as they lifted him onto a stretcher, and whimpered again when he finally spotted Scott, who’d been gutted and pinned to the floor by a piece of iron scaffolding.

“Is he—”

“He’ll be fine,” Chris said, as the EMTs began to carry Stiles away. “Don’t tell Allison. She doesn’t need any stress at this point in her pregnancy.”

“Aye aye,” Stiles said weakly.

Chris rolled his eyes. “Someone get this kid to the hospital.”

-

Stiles spent a lot longer in the hospital than he would have liked. In addition to an absolutely shattered left femur and splintered right fibula, he had a cracked pelvis and had to undergo surgery to get pins put in. He wasn’t at all pleased when the doctor told him it’d be a couple of months before he’d be on his feet again. Chris came in to visit the morning after his surgery and they got into a loud shouting match about whether he’d be able to work in the lab or not. When he left, Stiles angrily scratched a series of runes into his casts which would, with any luck, greatly accelerate the healing process. There was no way he’d spend the next three months sitting around in his apartment doing nothing.

His dad came to visit the morning after his arrival, looking tired. “Heard the call on the radio,” he said, smacking Stiles on the back of the head. “Couldn’t call?”

“Ow!” Stiles complained. “My phone broke!”

“I know,” his dad replied, tossing a plastic bag on the bed. “Argent told me.”

“You didn’t need to buy me a new phone,” Stiles said, trying to sound grumpy and failing as he pulled an iPhone out of the bag. “Thanks, Dad.”

Scott came to visit as well, looking irritatingly whole and healthy.

“Way to start work in the field with a bang,” he said cheerfully, handing Stiles a bag of donut holes. “Internal affairs say that your spell must have weakened the structural integrity of the building. Nothing you could have done.”

“Awesome,” Stiles grumbled, fishing a glazed donut out of the bag. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” Scott replied lightly. “Chris wouldn’t let me tell Allison what happened, though. I had to say that we’d gone to Rikers for an interview.”

“What about Derek?” Stiles asked cautiously.

Scott shrugged. “I haven’t seen him. I think Chris gave him some time off.”

Stiles sighed. “What about the case?”

“Everyone’s just sorting through the evidence right now,” Scott told him. “There’s not much happening yet.”

“Oh,” said Stiles, and they sat in silence for a while, munching on donut holes.

"Hey, why didn't you do something at the warehouse?" Scott asked suddenly. "Couldn't you have cast a spell to lift that beam off you? Or heal you or something?"

Stiles sighed. "I was touching iron," he replied. "People have been using it for centuries to block out magic. I could barely make a light, let alone lift that beam off me and Derek."

"Oh," Scott said. "Hey, um, I didn't want to pry, but you and him…"

"We hooked up like a month ago," Stiles sighed again. "That night we all went out?"

"Oh," Scott said again, and his cheeks went red. "I might have told him you weren't interested in a relationship."

"Well, clearly he's not either," Stiles replied. "Since he went home with me. I just...it's kind of weird now. Like, he seemed cool with it, but now it seems like maybe he's not?"

Scott frowned at him. "Are you cool with it?"

"Yeah," Stiles said automatically. Scott narrowed his eyes at him. "No? Now I'm not sure, dude. When the warehouse collapsed, I was really worried about him."

"That doesn't mean you like him - in a romantic way, I mean," Scott said. "You were worried about me too, right? And you're not in love with me."

"Yeah, okay," Stiles replied hesitantly, but he wasn't sure. He had a lot of time to think about it because even with the runes scratched into his cast and a power boost from Archimedes, it took two weeks before he could walk again. He spent the time sitting around at home. His dad slept on the couch for the first few nights, before Stiles was able to convince him to go home. Scott brought him food and reports from work - Lydia's lab was having a problem analyzing the new drug and they couldn't even figure out how it was administered - but that only filled part of the time.

He spent a lot of time in bed watching movies while Archimedes sat on the top of his dresser with his eyes closed. Stiles thought he went into a kind of energy-saving mode when Stiles didn't need him, because it didn't seem like sleep.

When he wasn't reading reports or zoning out during a movie, Stiles thought. He worried about Derek. Scott said he'd come back to work after a few days, but he seemed pale and unsettled. Stiles bullied Scott into giving him Derek's phone number, but once he had it, he didn't use it, unsure of how to start a conversation. Derek probably didn't want to talk with him, but Stiles needed to clear the air.

It occurred to him one evening, as old M*A*S*H* episodes played in the background, that maybe the reason Derek was avoiding him was because he was interested in him and Scott had told him that Stiles wasn't interested in a relationship. Stiles laughed out loud, suddenly nervous. That couldn't be the case; if Derek had known that, he wouldn't have come home with him…though he had been drunk. But he hadn't been drunk when he kissed Stiles that first time in the office, he was pretty sure. Maybe it had been close to the full moon? What was it his dad used to say? Once is an incident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a pattern? Fuck.

Stiles rubbed a hand over his face. It might make sense. From what Scott had told him, werewolves weren't big on one-night stands. His hook-up with that werewolf Ethan had been the first time he'd had sex with one, actually. They were pretty devoted to finding love and, once found, they stuck with it. If he remembered his statistics correctly, divorce rates among wolves were the lowest in the country.

Stiles sank uneasily into his pillows, the laugh track on the television mocking him. If Derek did like him, what did that mean for him? He didn't want a relationship. Or did he? He'd been harping that for so long he wasn't sure what the truth was. And despite Scott's assertion that just because Stiles had been worried about Derek didn't mean he cared about him, something had definitely changed in him after the incident at the warehouse. Maybe it had been the sight of Derek so hurt, weak in a way he rarely was. He thought about how he'd kept his hands in contact with the alpha, trying to comfort him. That wasn't something work friends did, was it?

Stiles chewed at his lips until they bled.

Chapter Text

The incident at the warehouse rattled Derek in more ways than one. After he and Stiles had had sex, he'd tried to stay away from him, but he found it impossible. Stiles' magnetic personality kept drawing him in, and Derek ate lunch with him and Scott almost every day, though he was sure to leave the office before five to avoid any more at-work hook-ups. He could tell that his behavior puzzled Stiles, but the young man didn't try to bring that night up, which simultaneously relieved and hurt Derek. He tried to tell himself that Stiles didn't owe him anything; he'd gone into the night knowing what Stiles wanted - or didn't want - and so it was entirely his own fault that he felt as shitty as he did. They weren't friends; Stiles didn't owe him any concern. Unsurprisingly, the thought didn't make him feel any better.

He had the pack over for dinner because he felt like he owed them some interaction, but it wasn't all that enjoyable. He tried his best, but his unhappiness shone through and Laura, with a rare show of sensitivity, led everyone out before they'd really finished eating. She came back inside long enough to grab her purse and curl her arms around his neck before leaving him to wallow in self-pity.

The new assignment briefing heartened him slightly; a new case would be a good distraction. He was happy until Chris called he and Stiles and Scott aside to assign them the task of clearing out a wraith nest. Derek was faintly insulted; it was a menial sort of job, and he had seniority over Erica and Boyd. They should have been assigned to it, not him. He focused on this irritation, not admitting to himself that the real reason he was pissed was because he'd have to spend the afternoon with Stiles. He could hear himself snapping at Stiles, but his bad temper didn't seem to bother the young man in the slightest.

He tried not to watch Stiles crawl around on the dirty warehouse floor, drawing chalk lines through the dirt. It reminded Derek of watching him write out the spell on the floor of his apartment and the way his back and shoulders and been covered in bruises Derek had put there. There'd been one visible on the back of his neck for a while, peeking above the collars of his shirts, and Derek had found his eyes catching on it across the room. When it finally faded away, he felt empty.

The weakness Derek felt made him furious. He hated how his thoughts were consumed by one man instead of his pack and his job, like they were supposed to be. Stiles was idiotic and distracting, and even knowing that he had no interest in a relationship couldn't force Derek to stop thinking about him and he didn't know why.

He was distracted when Stiles got to his feet and said, "Okay," and cast him a glare that would have curdled milk. Stiles looked utterly unimpressed.

Derek felt the percussive force of the spell vibrate the concrete under his feet, but the initial sounds of the ceiling beginning its slow collapse were probably hidden under the shrieking of the trapped wraiths.

"Eh? Eh?" Stiles asked excitedly, ending the spell with a clap of his hands. "How was that for assignment numero uno?"

"You did fine," Derek grudgingly admitted. "It—” But he stopped when the ceiling freaked threateningly.

After that, time passed frighteningly slow and fast at the same time. He had ample time, as they ran, to count the moles that dotted Stiles' cheeks. He heard himself breathe, deep inhales and exhales. He saw their exit grow near.

It felt like years, but it was only seconds before he heard the screech of rending metal above them. He saw Stiles close his eyes. He heard the whistle as the iron beams and corrugated tin cut through the air. His body said protect Stiles and there was no time to analyze why. He dug his foot into the ground and twisted, throwing his weight on top of Stiles and sending them both crashing to the ground. Something heavy slammed down on top of him, and pain flared across his ribs, pushing him into dark unconsciousness.

-

The next few hours passed slowly. He faded in and out of unconsciousness and every time he opened his eyes, the sky grew darker, until it was the blurry red-black of the city night fall. Derek missed the clear starry nights of the Poconos, where the family vacation house had been. He could remember laying with Laura out in the fields beyond the light of the campfire, staring up at the bright constellations. The memory hurt.

When Derek was awake, he listened to the sound of Stiles’ and Scott’s heartbeats and tried not think about how his chest screamed in agony. He could feel the bones shifting inside him, trying to heal but continually cracking under the weight of the beam across his back. It got easier when Stiles woke some time after dark and though it hurt to talk, it was a good distraction.

…except it left him feeling even more confused. He could feel the care in Stiles’ hands, in the way they touched his skin, rubbing at his temples like he could take Derek’s pain. It hurt him, mentally, because he wanted that from Stiles forever; the soft touch and the care. For all that Stiles was, loud and obnoxious, he wasn’t selfish. He lay there in pain with Derek’s weight on top of him and he worried for Derek, not himself. Stiles stopped him when Derek tried to heal him, jerking his wrist out of his grasp and telling Derek that he wasn’t going to die trying to help him.

Derek passed out when Chris and his legion of police officers finally arrived and they pulled him and Stiles out from under the beam. When he woke up, he was in a hospital room, and his whole body ached. It looked like early morning, the light in the room grey and washed out, and Laura sat in a chair next to his bed, her chin in her hands.

“Lo,” he said, and talking hurt.

“Hey baby bro,” she said softly, reaching over and curling her hand over his. “I felt you get hurt. That scared me.”

“Why am I here?” he asked. He felt exhausted, both physically and mentally. He still felt like there was a weight across his back.

“You’re healing slow,” Laura said, her hand tightening on his.

“Why?” Derek asked, blinking tiredly. “Has Scott healed? Is Stiles—”

“They’re both fine,” Laura told him. “Scott left hours ago.”

“So why haven’t I healed?” Derek asked, his heartbeat kicking up. “What’s wrong with me? I’m the alpha, I should be fine—”

“I don’t know,” she said, and the worry in her voice made Derek worry. Laura wasn’t a worrier. She was a positive vibes, everything-will-work-out-in-the-end sort of person. That was why she’d been the one in training for alpha, not him. He was too emotional, too easily caught up in everything around him. He was so fucking weak.

“Hey, hey,” Laura murmured, like she could hear his thoughts. She kicked off her shoes and climbed onto the bed with him, curling up against his side. Derek folded an arm around her shoulders, glad for her warmth. She pressed a gentle hand to his chest, pulling at his pain, and he relaxed against her, quickly falling back into slumber.

-

The next time Derek woke, the room was bright with sunlight and Laura stood by the window, a cup of coffee in her hands. Derek lay quietly for a moment, assessing his body. His ribs still ached, but he could breathe easier now. Laura, seeing he was awake, came to sit beside his bed again.

“Chris Argent came in,” she told him. “He said take a few days off and get some rest.”

Derek looked at her, then down at his hands. “Why am I healing so slowly?”

“I don’t know, Der,” Laura said softly. “You’re just going to have to take it easy. The doctor says you’ve healed enough that you can leave when you want. I can help you get home, okay?”

Derek nodded, his mouth a thin, tense line. He sat up slowly, his joints protesting, and Laura helped him get dressed. She’d gotten clothes from his apartment, or maybe Isaac had brought them and he sighed softly. They took a taxi to Derek’s apartment and Laura talked about upcoming court cases and bored him out of his mind. It was what he needed, though, because Laura kept him alert – she dug her nails into his arm if she thought he wasn’t paying attention, and that was what he needed; to keep his mind off Stiles for just a while.

Laura got him into the apartment and into bed, then kissed him on the cheek and said, “Isaac says let him know if you need anything. I’ll love you and leave you.”

Derek tried to make himself comfortable among his pillows and slept for the next two days. Sleep was his coping mechanism for difficult times. He’d slept for a week after the fire, though some of that had been injury-related. He didn’t dream. He never dreamed, which was a small mercy. He could only imagine the nightmares he might have.

-

Derek went back to work the day after he woke up. He was still sore, though his ribs seemed to have finally healed. It still pissed him off to see Scott sitting at his desk looking whole and cheerful. They quickly settled into a new routine over the next couple of days, chasing witnesses and conducting interviews. Derek didn’t think about Stiles at all until one night, when Scott got up to leave and said, “I have to take Allison to the doctor.”

Derek looked up at him and didn’t say anything.

“I’m supposed to bring Stiles food,” Scott said, the hint heavy in his voice.

Derek scowled at him. “And?”

“I can’t do it if I have to take Allison to the doctor,” Scott said, raising his eyebrows. “Somebody needs to bring him food.”

“So ask Erica,” Derek replied curtly. That was the last thing he needed; to go to Stiles’ apartment and see him all vulnerable and injured.

Scott heaved an irritated sigh. “Dude, I don’t know why, but he’s worried about you. Will you please just bring him some food and let him see you’re okay?”

Derek gritted his teeth. “Fine.”

That was how Derek found himself in Stiles' apartment building, holding an armful of Indian takeout while he rode the elevator to the seventh floor. He walked down the hall and paused before the door to apartment 721, steeling himself before knocking.

"It's open!" He heard Stiles holler from somewhere inside and Derek paused again before turning the knob and stepping through. Stiles' apartment was surprisingly clean, not a lot of knickknacks cluttering its surfaces. It all looked vaguely familiar, but he hadn’t really been focusing the last time he’d come through. He found Stiles lounging in his bedroom and stopped in the doorway to observe him.

Stiles looked thin and pale, a long half-healed scrape down the side of his face where he'd hit the floor. He smelled tired and a little grumpy, but he didn't smell of sickness. He had papers that looked like lab reports spread out over the bed and he was talking rapidly, having clearly assumed that Derek was Scott.

" - says she still can't figure out how it's being taken. The coroner said there were no needle marks on any of the bodies, and nothing in the stomach contents, so it's not being taken orally." Stiles glared at the papers. "Maybe it's topical? Potions don't usually woke like that, but maybe it's some kind of salve? Or eye drops?"

"Maybe it's on the palms," Derek said, thinking of the burns on the teenagers' hands.

"Could be," Stiles said thoughtfully, pulling a pen from behind his ear and scribbling down a note. "Might explain the light on the palms. Could be a reaction to the skin." He tapped his pen against his lips, then froze, his scent changing. He slowly turned his head to look at Derek, his eyes twinkling. "You're not Scott."

"No."

"Where is he?"

"He said he had to take Allison to the doctor."

"Oh." Stiles gathered the papers spread out over his sheets, a smile quirking the corners of his mouth. "You got played. Allison's appointments are on Thursdays, not Tuesdays." He turned his bright smile on Derek. "Thanks for coming, though."

"You're welcome," Derek said quietly. He hefted the bag of food and asked, "Are you hungry?"

"Yes," Stiles breathed. He patted the bed next to him, saying, "Come, join me."

Derek did, hesitantly sitting down on the edge of the bed. He handed the bag of food to Stiles and watched him dig through it, humming in satisfaction.

"I love Indian food," he proclaimed, pulling a carton out of the bag. "You’re a god among men for bringing this. Want some?”

Derek shook his head. “No. Thanks.” I should go, is what he should have said next, but he didn’t want to leave. He felt better seeing Stiles, whole and healing. It felt like some of the weight came off his shoulders. He knew he should leave before something happened (again), but being in Stiles’ space was weirdly comforting. Derek slowly realized Stiles was staring at him and said defensively, “What?”

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked him, fingers curling and uncurling around a pint of chicken tikka saag. Derek resisted the urge to put his hands over Stiles’ and still his unceasing movement.

“I’m fine.”

Stiles tilted his head slightly, a skeptical look on his face that seemed to say Are you? “You look tired,” he said.

“So do you,” Derek shot back. I should go. “You’re okay?”

“No thanks to your fat ass crushing me,” Stiles sniffed. “I’ve got this healing accelerated. Dad’s taking me to the hospital in a couple of days and I think I’ll be able to get the cast off.”

“That soon?”

“I do have a degree, you know,” Stiles said haughtily. “Healing and protective shit, remember?”

Derek fought back a smile and said, “Eat your food.”

Stiles gave him a mock scowl and dug in cheerfully. Derek forced himself to relax against the headboard and silently accepted the naan Stiles offered him, then a bowl of curry. Just like eating lunch together, Derek told himself. Ignore the fact that it’s on Stiles’ bed. It didn’t help that he kept remembering what they’d done the last time he’d been on that bed.

When Stiles looked like he was satisfied, Derek gathered the dishes and the leftovers and took them in to Stiles’ tidy kitchen. Stiles yelled at him from the bedroom, telling him where to find the trash and Tupperware and dish soap. When Derek finished and turned around, he nearly had a heart attack; Stiles’ familiar had followed him into the kitchen and sat on top of the refrigerator, watching him silently. Derek scowled at the owl and went back to Stiles’ room, stopping in the doorway.

“Well,” he said. I should go. But he didn’t. Stiles, who had pulled the pile of lab reports back onto his lap, raised his eyes to look at Derek. He kept the contact for five, ten seconds before Derek had to look away. He smelled Stiles’ scent change, herbs and curry lacing through with nervousness.

“Derek,” Stiles said. “The other night, when we—”

“It was a mistake,” Derek said, flatter than he meant to, and not at all what he meant to say. Stiles’ mouth snapped shut, a ruddy red flush rising on his cheeks. Derek opened his mouth to explain, to take it back, to say anything, but before he could, someone knocked on the door.

“Can you get that?” Stiles asked quietly, looking down at his hands. Derek should have stood his ground, shaken Stiles by the shoulders and told him what he felt, but instead he retreated like he always did, and turned to answer the door without a word.

Derek tensed as he approached the door, because there was a werewolf on the other side. He didn’t shift, not fully, but didn’t fight the claws and fangs as they slid from his skin. If the wolf on the other side of the door meant Stiles any harm, Derek would gut him in a second.

He opened the door to a young man in his early twenties, brown-haired, with a nose kind of like a pug’s, squashed and slightly upturned. Derek glared at him, waiting for him to speak. The young man raised his eyebrows.

“Hi,” he said. “Is, uh, Stiles here?”

“Who is it?” Stiles bellowed from the bedroom.

“It’s Ethan!” the young man called, brushing past Derek like he wasn’t there. Derek ground his teeth together and turned to follow him. “I tried calling—”

“Oh yeah,” Stiles sighed. “I smashed my phone.”

“What happened to you?” the young man, Ethan, asked, pausing in the doorway with a look of surprise on his face.

“Long story,” Stiles replied. His eyes flickered to Derek and away again. “Weren’t you leaving, Derek?”

That stung. Ethan’s eyes fixed on Derek, and there was both pity and amusement in them. Derek exhaled and forced himself to say, “Good night.”

Stiles just looked at him, his face blank. Derek could smell the unhappiness coming from him and it tasted bitter in his mouth. He turned on his heel and headed for the front door. Behind him, Stiles said, “Your stuff’s over in my workroom, if you want to go grab it.”’

“I’m going to have to put in another order,” Ethan said, and that was all Derek heard before he pulled the door shut behind him. He thought, very briefly, about standing outside the apartment building until Ethan came out, of demanding to know who he was and what he meant to Stiles. His eyes flashed red at him in the mirrors that lined the elevator. He wanted to fight something, and ripping Ethan’s smug little face off sounded pretty good to him.

He didn’t, though, because what if he stood outside and Ethan never came out? What if the next time he saw Stiles, he reeked of the other wolf and sex and satisfaction? Derek didn’t think Stiles could have sex in his condition, but he had a pair of hands and a very talented mouth. He decided he didn’t want to know, and went home.

-

Stiles came back to work three days after Derek had gone to the apartment, walking stiffly on his own two feet. Derek gritted his teeth because Stiles wouldn't look at him and he knew he needed to explain himself. Finding the time was difficult, though; Stiles had a constant stream of visitors and well-wishers to his office and it hurt to hear his voice floating up the hall, cheerful and loud.

Derek finally found a moment in the early afternoon when everyone else had gone to lunch. He stepped through the open door without knocking, before his lost his nerve. Stiles sat at his desk, a old book open in front of him. He glanced up when Derek entered, then looked back down at his book, his lips going thin.

"Stiles," Derek said firmly. "I didn't mean what I said the other night."

Stiles pursed his lips, then sighed. "You don't have to try and take it back, dude. I get it. It—”

"Stop," Derek said loudly, and Stiles looked up at him with a frown. "Look. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy myself, because I did. But I can't do it again. It's not - I can't do them. Hookups. It's not enough for me." He stared desperately at Stiles, hoping he'd understand.

Stiles looked at him for a long time, then down at his desk, rubbing a hand over his mouth. "Okay," he said eventually. "Fine. Blank slate."

Derek nodded stiffly and forced his mouth to work. "I care about you," he offered, which wasn't quite the same as saying I like you, but it was closer than anything he'd said yet.

"Yeah, I know," Stiles said, shutting the book on his desk with a heavy thump. "You wouldn't be in here if you didn't." He got to his feet. "Have you eaten lunch yet?"

"No," Derek said hesitantly. "You want to?"

Stiles nodded, and as they walked down the hall to the break room, he said, "Scott wants to go out celebrating tomorrow night."

"Celebrating what?" Derek asked.

Stiles shrugged, grinning crookedly. "Because we survived my first field assignment? Because it's Friday? Because he had a sub for lunch? Scott doesn't need a reason to party, dude."

"And neither do you?"

Stiles' grin grew fiercer. "I've got two healed legs. I wanna dance."

-

The Friday night that followed went much like the last, though Derek didn't drink, mindful of what happened the last time. He sat at a table with Allison and Boyd, watching Stiles drink and dance himself silly. He tried to pull Derek onto the dance floor, which Derek refused adamantly, and he was only saved when Isaac came out of the crowd, laughing, and pulled Stiles away.

Derek let himself relax a little, which was a mistake, because when Stiles came out of the crowd again some time later and threw his arms around his neck, he nearly gave in. Derek caught himself just before he pressed his mouth to Stiles' and gently pushed him away instead.

"Remember what I told you?" Derek said to him.

Stiles let out a huff of air that smelled of alcohol and said, "Fine. I'm going to get another drink. You want something?"

"Water?" Derek hazarded. Stiles disappeared with a nod and Allison leaned over.

"Is everything going okay?"

"Peachy," Derek said, his eyes watching Stiles wend his way through the crowded bar. He lost sight of him near the front and sat back, looking over at Allison. "I told him we can't hook up any more."

"It's probably for the best," Allison offered, smiling sympathetically. "You really like him, don't you?"

"Yeah," Derek said grimly. He waited for Stiles to come back, but it was taking a while. He narrowed his eyes in the direction of the bar and froze. Stiles was there, leaning against the bar with his hand fisted in another man's shirt as they kissed. Derek stared, his jaw clenched. It felt like someone was stabbing him in the heart, over and over. Allison tilted her head, looking worried.

"Are you okay?" she asked, twisting in her chair to follow his gaze. "What are you...oh."

Derek got to his feet, shoving his chair back. His body wanted to shift and he pushed against it.

"Derek," Allison said hurriedly, "don't do anything-"

Derek ignored her and pushed through the crowd. He wasn't heading for the bar, but rather the exit. The cool air outside hit him like a punch in the face and he sagged against the brick wall of the bar for a moment, his head reeling.

It shouldn't hurt so much, he thought, heading off down the street. It did, though. It hurt like hell. His head felt tight, heavy. Derek decided to walk home, even though his apartment was forty blocks north, hoping it might clear his head.

It didn't. He just grew more hurt and angry and miserable with every block. He knew, rationally, that he had no claim over Stiles, but that wasn't what the wolf inside him was howling. Derek crawled onto his bed without taking off his clothes or even getting under the sheets. He fell asleep breathing tightly, his heart in a vise.

-

The next time Derek woke, Laura lay in bed next to him, her petite frame tucked up against his. Isaac slept on his other side, his back to Derek, smelling of people and alcohol. It make Derek queasy, pain stabbing at his heart at the memory of the bar. He dug his elbow into Isaac's back until the beta rolled over to look at him.

"Go take a shower," Derek commanded sleepily. Isaac nodded and rolled off the bed. Derek flipped back over, curled his arms around Laura, and went back to sleep.

-

Boyd and Erica were there the next time he stirred. Isaac - now smelling of soap and clean clothes - had moved to Laura's other side, and Erica was sandwiched between Derek's back and Boyd. They were cramped in Derek's bed, but they smelled right. They smelled like pack. That and the heat of their bodies comforted him, easing some of the ache in his heart. He slept lighter, and woke when the sun rose outside, though he didn't move for a long time, listening to the sound of his pack breathing around him.

His heart ached and his body felt weak. He didn’t want to go to work on Monday and see Stiles’ face. He knew how his face looked when he was coming undone, how his lips parted when he moaned, and he didn’t want to look at that face every day and know he’d never see that side of Stiles again. He thought Stiles had understood. Derek couldn’t help the tiny noise of unhappiness that escaped from his lips.

Next to him, Laura woke, splaying an arm across his chest and tucking her head under his chin and he closed his eyes, breathing in her scent, salty and fresh like ocean air.

"I called Georgie," she said, very quietly. "We're going to drive up today."

"The full moon's tonight," he mumbled.

"I know," Laura said. "Everyone's going to come with us. We haven't run as a pack in a long time, Der. It'll be good for all of us."

“Something’s wrong with me,” Derek said, and it was something he never would have said to the rest of the pack, but they were asleep and only Laura was listening.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Laura said firmly. “You’re a good person, Der. You’re kind and strong and he’s an immature asshole who thinks he can skate through life without loving anyone. That’s cowardice, Der. That’s what that is. He doesn’t think he can handle a relationship and he’s too scared to try and see if he’s right.”

“You’re not making me feel any better,” Derek mumbled.

Laura took his face in her hands. “You’re better than this,” she said. “What do we say to assholes who want to break our hearts?”

Derek stared at her, bewildered. “What?”

“Not today,” she said, slapping him lightly on the cheek. “Game of Thrones. Get some culture sometime, you zombie.” And with that, she rolled onto her other side, putting a foot against Isaac’s back and shoving him out of the bed. He hit the floor with a yelp. “C’mon, little boy. Let’s make our alpha some breakfast.”

Derek tried to settle back into bed, but something was off. When he’d said, “Something’s wrong with me,” to Laura, he hadn’t been talking about his personality. Something was wrong with him, his body. His head was enveloped with such a thick haze that he could barely think, and he could hear his heart beating much slower than it should. His suspicions were confirmed when he tried to get out of bed a while later and his body sagged under his own weight. He would have hit the floor if Boyd hadn’t moved fast and caught him by the arm.

Laura appeared in the bedroom doorway at the sound of him, a frown furrowing her brow. “What’s going on?” she asked sharply.

“Told you,” Derek said through gritted teeth. He could feel sweat breaking out on his skin. “Something is wrong with me.” Boyd helped him sit on the edge of the bed. He could barely lift his hands.

Laura stepped into the bedroom and said, “Go eat,” to Boyd and Erica. When they were gone, she knelt next to Derek and said, “What’s going on? What are you feeling?”

“Weak,” Derek snapped. He was embarrassed; he was supposed to be the alpha, for fuck’s sake. He stared at his hands, trying not to panic.

“Okay,” Laura said, folding her hands over his. “Stop worrying, okay? Georgie will know what to do. We’ll eat quick and get on the road ASAP. Are you hungry?”

Derek shook his head and Laura continued, “All right. Just lay back in bed and we’ll get you once everything’s settled out here. Okay?”

Derek fought the urge to lash out at her, had to push against his very bones to fight the shift. He managed to nod and slump back into bed. He fell asleep there, and when Laura shook him awake some time later, he could barely focus on her.

“Come on, fatty,” she said cheerfully, hauling him upright. Even in his weakened state, he could tell she was trying to hide her worry behind the bravado. Boyd was waiting to support his other side, and the pack descended to street level, where they bundled Derek into the back of Boyd and Erica’s SUV. Isaac and Laura flanked him, while Boyd and Erica sat up front. Derek was asleep before the car even began to move.

-

Georgia Hammond was a massive, taciturn woman built along the same huge lines as a lumberjack. She was the alpha that Chris had sent Derek to when the alpha powers overtook him, the leader of a small pack of about ten werewolves. She ran a small farm in upstate New York, nestled between two peaks in the Adirondack range, and nothing shocked her.

When Laura and Isaac hauled a semi-unconscious Derek from the back of the car, all Georgia did was cross her arms over her chest and said, “Put him up on the porch.”

After Laura and Isaac laid him on the wooden porch swing, Georgia tucked her straw-colored hair behind her ears and said to Laura, “Your parents ever talk to you about mates?”

Laura breathed in sharply. “Not really. I kind of thought that was an old wives tale.”

“For betas it’s not so important,” Georgia told her, settling onto the front steps of her small house. The rest of the pack sat themselves down on the garden furniture, watching her avidly. “Alphas are different. Who they pick as a mate will affect the entire pack, and so the body will point them in the right direction. Your brother,” she said, stabbing a finger in Derek’s direction, “is heartbroken. He found his mate and he was rejected. The body reflects the state of his heart – his entire wellbeing. It’s a rare occurrence – when both mates are wolves, they can scent it on each other and almost never reject each other. If one mate is human, it can be much more difficult because the human cannot sense the connection, or understand its importance.”

Laura bit her lip, rage swelling in her. “Will he get over it?”

“Eventually,” Georgia said. “It won’t be easy, but being able to run tonight on the full moon will help. This affliction to his physical being will pass in a day or two.”

Laura sighed, and Georgia cast her a rare sympathetic smile. “Come on inside, all of you,” she said. “Leave your alpha to rest; we have food and drinks. You shouldn’t run on an empty stomach.”

Laura paused before going inside, casting a worried glance down the porch at her brother. Derek lay asleep on the swing, his face pale and shining with sweat. She bit at her lip again. She was going to kill Stiles Stilinski.

Chapter Text

It was kind of amazing how quickly things could go from great to awful, if by amazing you meant fucking terrible. Things had been going so well for Stiles, and it took less than a week for everything to turn upside down.

Things started to degrade with Derek's visit to his apartment. He'd been so psyched at first, pleased that Derek came to see him, and the part where they hung out and eaten food and joked around had been fucking awesome. But when Derek said the sex had been a mistake, it was like he'd been slapped. He guessed he should had given things a little more thought before sleeping with a coworker, but Derek had seemed into it. He'd never felt so rejected by someone before.

The thought ruined his last few days of convalescing at home. There were no new reports from work, nothing on tv that he hadn't seen a million times before, and that left him with plenty of time to lay around and think about what Derek had said.

He got the cast off and returned to work the next day, feeling resentful and ill-at-ease. He just wanted to focus on his work, but a steady stream of visitors who wanted to welcome him back kept him distracted. He had finally, finally gotten some time to himself when Derek came in without knocking and apologized. That threw him off. He didn't think that Derek was the type of person to apologize to anyone. He looked desperately unhappy, anyway, and Stiles gave him a considering look.

"Hookups," Derek was saying. "It's not enough for me."

Oh. Oh. That was bad. He knew what Derek was implying, even if he didn't say it, and that was bad news. He wasn’t sure he could give Derek what he wanted, though he wished he could. Stiles rubbed a hand over his mouth, avoiding Derek's intense stare.

"Okay," he said eventually. "Fine. Blank slate."

"I care about you," Derek said hesitantly.

Stiles knew that. He'd just gotten a crystal clear picture of how Derek felt about him, and it made him incredibly uncomfortable. He didn't know how to respond, and eventually made up some answer, then distracted Derek with an offer of lunch before the conversation could get any more awkward.

On Saturday he woke up sometime in the late afternoon with a pounding headache and no memory of the night before. He could vaguely remember going out to dinner then heading off to the bar, but things got hazy after that. At least he hadn't woken up in bed with anyone. Especially Derek.

He spent the entire weekend thinking about Derek and his confession. He liked Derek - he was sure of that now - but the thought of them dating made his stomach burn with nervousness. He'd tried dating once, in college, and it had been a certified disaster. There was nothing like an abusive boyfriend to scare you off dating forever. Fucking Jackson was part of the reason why he'd focused his Masters on healing and defensive spells. Fuck, his palms were getting sweaty just thinking about it.

Stiles decided he should talk to Derek about it, though - about them. He didn't want to give him any false hope, but maybe they could work something out.

Come Monday, though, the office was mostly empty. Derek didn't come in, nor did any members of his pack, which Stiles thought was a little strange. Chris and Scott weren't there either, which was even stranger, though this was explained when he received a text from Scott halfway through the morning.

ALLISON IN LABOR IM FREAKING OUT MAN

Stiles sighed and spent the rest of the day texting his best friend, trying to keep him calm. He was just leaving the office for the day when Scott texted him again.

IM A DAD DUDE OH MY GOD ITS A GIRL!!!!!!

The text was shortly followed by a whole slew of pictures of a red-faced, screaming baby. Stiles didn't hold any real affection for babies, but dutifully texted back, she's beautiful dude. is she a wolf?

i dunno, Scott replied. i havent seen any signs yet. are u still at work? ask derek how ill know

i already left, but he wasn't there today anyway, Stiles texted back. He got on the subway, and when he remerged in Two Bridges, he had a new message from Scott.

nvrmind, she just growled at the nurse. allisons mom looks like she wants to pass out lol

Stiles snorted and slipped his phone back into his pocket, heading for home.

-

Chris Argent was back in the office the next day, looking grimly pleased, like he was fighting an internal battle over whether or not he was happy he had a werewolf grandchild. He accepted everyone’s congratulations with a silent nod.

Derek and his pack were back as well and while the pack looked fine, Derek looked terrible. He seemed exhausted, his face pale and thin, his stubble grown longer than he usually let it go. Stiles saw him talking to Chris, and the commander looked almost concerned.

“Hey,” he said to Erica, who was passing by, “is Derek okay?”

She cast him a dark look and didn’t answer, which was strange. Boyd wouldn’t talk to him either, though that was less unusual, but Isaac, when he came up from the bestiary, wouldn’t even meet his eyes. Stiles stayed in his office for most of the day, an uneasy feeling settling into his gut. He caught Derek in the break room in the late afternoon and approached cautiously. He didn’t need a wolf’s keen senses to see how the line of Derek’s shoulders tensed as he came into the room.

“Uh,” he said intelligently. “Derek. Are you—”

Derek turned around, a cup of coffee in his hands, and his eyes looked straight past Stiles. As he moved to walk past, Stiles reached out, wrapping a hesitant hand around his arm and Derek jerked his limb away, his pace not slowing. Stiles stared at his retreating back and swallowed hard. What the fuck was going on?

-

The week got worse.

The pack only spoke to Stiles when it was absolutely necessary, and Derek didn’t say a single word to him. Derek stopped eating in the break room or if he did, it was with his pack. With Scott on paternity leave, Stiles had to eat alone or with Lydia, and even though she was awesome, she was domineering in a way that kind of terrified him. It felt a lot like high school after Scott had been bitten and gotten all popular and ripped, leaving Stiles in his shadow. He didn’t like it, but he didn’t know what to do; if he tried confronting Derek or any of his pack, they looked right through him, like he didn’t exist, and that really hurt. What had he done? He’d thought he and Derek were cool again!

Early in the next week, he had to go to court to give expert testimony on the Cyclops break-ins he’d figured out so many weeks ago. The creature in question had been caught a month earlier and finally received his day in court. He dressed in a good suit and went to the courthouse early, where he received a briefing from an assistant from the district attorney’s office on the questions he could expect to hear, and then joined the crowd entering the court room.

He couldn’t help but watch the prosecutor for the city, a woman probably in her early thirties, with long, dark hair, and a frowning sort of look to her face. She looked familiar, but he had trouble placing her until she turned to talk to the lawyer for the defendant and he recognized the long plane of her nose - Derek’s sister, Laura Hale. She’d been his date to the holiday party and he’d been in agony all night, thinking she was Derek’s wife or girlfriend until Scott jabbed an elbow into his ribs and explained otherwise.

When he was called to the stand, Laura gave him a look that could have wilted flowers and he shifted uneasily as she began to ask him questions. Her tone was flat, professional, but he could see the anger in her eyes and once again he found himself bewildered, unsure of what he’d done to warrant such a reaction.

It was an utter relief when both sides were done grilling him and he was allowed to return to his seat. He slumped there until the judge called a recess and tried to slip away before anyone noticed, but Laura came pushing through the crowd and curled a hand around his elbow.

“Can I help you?” Stiles asked nervously as she towed him into an alcove next to a tall marble column.

“Consider yourself lucky that we’re in public, or I’d gut you right now,” Laura snarled, jabbing a finger into his chest as her eyes flashed gold. “You stay away from Derek. If you go near him again, I swear I will rip your dick off and shove it down your throat!”

Stiles stared at her, his mouth falling open. “But I didn’t—”

“Shut up!” Laura snapped. “I don’t want hear any fucking excuses. Stay away from my brother or else. Got it?”

“I-I—”

Laura shook him so hard stars danced in his vision. “Got it?”

“F-fine!”

She let him go with a growl and strode off into the crowd, straightening her suit jacket as she went. Stiles stared after her, wide-eyed and heart thumping. Just what the fuck was going on?

Rattled but growing angry, Stiles collected himself and walked the couple of blocks back to the unit’s headquarters. He checked in with Chris, then strode into Derek’s office before he could talk himself out it.

“What did I do?” he demanded. “Why won’t anyone talk to me?”

Derek lifted his eyes from his computer, making eye contact with Stiles for the first time in a week. Stiles did not like the expression he saw.

“You can’t,” he said, his throat tightening, “you can’t say that you care about me and then treat me like this.”

Derek’s lips parted in a silent snarl and Stiles took an unconscious step back. “I told you how I felt,” Derek hissed, his eyes flooding red. “And you threw it in my face. Get out of my office.”

Stiles swallowed nervously. “No. I didn’t – I don’t understand. Will you please talk to me?”

Derek exhaled deeply and turned back to his computer.

“No, come on,” Stiles pleaded. “That’s not fair, Derek!”

“Not fair?” Derek was out of his chair so fast it tipped over. Suddenly he was up in Stiles’ personal space, backing him against the wall. “Not fair is you inviting me out and then making out with some stranger in front of me!”

Stiles swallowed again. So that had been his Friday night. Fuck. “You said you didn’t want to hook up any more,” he said, his voice small.

“No I didn’t,” Derek said furiously. “I said I can’t, not when I’m emotionally invested in some asshole who can’t even keep it in his pants long enough for me to leave first. Jesus.”

“Hey,” Stiles said, his cheeks flushing. “I’m not like that.”

“You aren’t?” Derek snapped back. “Then what are you like? Are you the kind of person who sucks people off under their desk? How many people here have you fucked, Stiles?”

Stiles stared at him, his mouth falling open. Someone coughed to their left, and Derek and Stiles both turned their heads to see Chris Argent in the doorway.

“For the moment, I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear any of that,” he said. “We’ve got a situation uptown. Another body and what might be a lab. I want you both on scene. Is that going to be a problem?”

“No,” Derek said flatly, stepping away from the wall. Stiles shook his head and slipped past Chris, almost sprinting to his office. He had to shut the door and lean against it, gasping for breath. It hurt. Oh fuck, it hurt. He’d known from the beginning that Derek was an asshole, but he’d never been the target of his anger. Stiles blinked rapidly, trying to force back the tears stinging at the corners of his eyes. Fuck him. Fuck him with a cactus. He couldn’t believe that he’d actually been considering attempting a relationship with him.

When his harsh breathing finally evened out and his heart stopped hammering against his ribs like a battering ram, Stiles straightened and grabbed his tool kit. When he emerged from his office, only Chris was left, standing in the middle of the floor with his arms crossed over his chest.

“You’re riding with me,” he said. “Come on.”

It was a tense ride uptown, but Chris didn’t try to talk to him, which Stiles was silently grateful for. The last thing he needed was a dad lecture.

They arrived at a run-down apartment building in Harlem and found their lab on the third floor in a cramped one-bedroom apartment. The body of a young woman floated in the middle of the room, her skin an ashy brown. The coroner’s crew had to strap her body to a stretched to keep it tethered as they cleared her from the room. Stiles hung back by the door, watching his coworkers process the scene with the fluidity of long practice.

The room smelled like rotten plants and harsh chemicals, and the small dining room table appeared to be the center of operations. It looked like there had been a struggle – there were bottles smashed and books ripped apart, various types of liquid pooling and dripping down the table legs. He watched the lab techs photograph the scene and then begin to collect evidence, shoveling things into bags, swiping cotton swabs through puddles of oil, photographing smashed glass. He could hear Derek out in the hall, talking to someone who was probably the landlord, and hearing his voice sent his heart pounding.

Stiles moved away from the door, unable to listen to the alpha, and walked carefully around the room. Chris, who was standing over by the table, motioned him over.

“What do you think of this?” Chris asked, pointing down at a small piece of paper with a thick line of runes scrawled across it. Stiles bent down to look at it, squinting.

“Looks like some kind of activation spell,” he said. “I don’t recognize all the runes, though.”

“Hm,” Chris said thoughtfully.

“Doesn’t make much sense, though,” Stiles said. “If you were making drugs, you’d want them as easy to use as possible, right? Unless it’s done at the end of the making process, but most spells won’t last all that long.”

“If this stuff’s moving fast enough, it might not matter,” Chris replied. He handed Stiles a small plastic bag. Inside was a tiny amber bottle with a dropper capping it off. “This is the only whole sample we’ve found so far.”

Stiles took it from him carefully. So far in the investigation, they’d yet to get an actual sample of the drug; their only examples at this point came from traces they’d found in the blood work of the victims, but they were badly degraded. With this, Stiles could start analyzing the contents and figure out how the drug was made. With any luck, he could trace the ingredients to their suppliers and from there, they might be able to find the makers.

He tilted the bottle carefully and noticed a small rune etched in the bottom of the glass. It glowed faintly with a sickly grey light.

“Oh!” he said, surprised, and Chris leaned in expectantly. Stiles showed him the rune. “See that? It’s the last rune in the activation spell. It’s keeping the spell alive – keeping the potion fresh.”

“So what does that mean?”

“Well…” Stiles thought for a second. “It means that they can make greater quantities and not have to worry about them going bad.”

“So they can start mass producing,” Chris said flatly.

“Unfortunately, yeah.”

Chris sighed. “All right. I want you to get back to the lab and start analyzing those contents. Get one of the officers outside to take you back.”

Stiles nodded. He had to pass Derek to get outside and he hunched his shoulders as he slipped past, wishing he was invisible. Derek, who was still talking to the landlord, didn’t seem to notice him at all. Stiles started to wonder if maybe that was for the best.

-

The next few days passed in a flurry of activity. Stiles spent a lot of late nights in the lab hunched over a microscope and he didn’t see Derek once, which was fine with him. He slept soundly in his bed at night with Archimedes watching over him, and he refused to think about anything other than the case before him (and Scott and Allison’s new baby girl, Abigail, because hardly half an hour passed without Scott texting him a new picture of her. They all looked exactly the same to him, but he didn’t tell Scott that, and he definitely did not tell Scott that she looked kind of like a lizard person.). He definitely did not think about how much his heart ached.

He was hunched over his desk, scribbling notes onto a pad of paper when his phone rang. Stiles paused, his back twinging, and picked up.

“Stilinski.”

“We have a problem,” Chris told him. “Come to my office.”

Derek was leaving as Stiles arrived, his face grim. He didn’t look at Stiles and Stiles gritted his teeth, stepping into the office.

“Close the door,” Chris said. He looked tired. Stiles obeyed, shutting the door and sitting down in the chair across from Chris. He fidgeted nervously.

“Is this about the fight Derek and I—”

“We have a bigger problem than that.” The man pushed a plastic bag across his desk toward Stiles. “Do you recognize this?”

Stiles leaned forward and picked up the bag. His heart stopped when he saw the small glass vial inside, runes etched up the glass. He knew his handwriting. He knew these runes.

“We have your fingerprints on this bottle, which was retrieved from the crime scene,” Chris told him, his voice flat and disappointed. “Do you know how it got there?”

“No,” Stiles whispered, his throat gone dry. “I-I make potions for people sometimes. One of them—”

“Do you know who might have had it?”

“I have a list,” Stiles said. “At home.” He had a pretty good idea, though. He’d picked up traces of marjoram, chamomile, and pansies in the drug, all of which he used in the oil he made for Ethan every week. He should have fucking guessed it; why else would Ethan had needed such quantities so often?

Chris gave him a long look. “Go home,” he said. “Get the list. Come back here immediately. Don’t make me send a cop with you.”

“No sir,” Stiles said, his lungs tightening. “I’ll be quick.”

Stiles took the subway home, and by the time he got to his apartment, he felt sick. He paced around the living room, running a hand through his hair. He’d helped Ethan manufacture a drug that had killed people. People had died while he was busy trying to get Derek to fuck him. Fuck.

Stiles scrubbed his hands over his face, barely keeping a panic attack at bay. What the hell was he supposed to do? He knew the answer – he needed to tell Chris the truth, but would he really believe that Stiles knew nothing about the ring? Like it was a normal thing to make an extra several thousand dollars a month and not question what your client was doing with your product? Fuck.

He sat down on the couch and tried not to puke. Scott would know what to do. Or Allison would, beautiful level-headed Allison. He pulled out his phone and tried Scott’s number, but it rang and rang until it went to voicemail. Stiles sat gaping for a moment before he said, “Hey. Uh. I’m fucked, dude. I need some advice. Call me.” Stiles licked his lips and grimaced. He was probably giving his stupid baby a bath.

Stiles thought about calling Derek for about two seconds, then nixed the thought. If Derek wasn’t talking to him, he definitely wasn’t going to answer his phone. Besides, Chris had probably already told him, and now, besides thinking Stiles was an asshole, probably thought he was a criminal too. Derek had seen Ethan in Stiles’ apartment. Fuck fuck fuck.

He knew he should head back to the office. Every minute he stayed away made him look guiltier and guiltier, but he was scared. He didn’t want to go to jail. Get up, Stiles told himself several times. You’re making it worse on yourself. But he just sank further into the couch, while Archimedes perched on the back of it and stared at him disapprovingly.

Stiles shot upright when someone knocked on the door. Had Chris sent a cop after him? A glance at the clock told him that he’d left the unit a little more than an hour ago, and he definitely should have been headed back by now. The knock came again, louder.

Stiles got to his feet slowly. He approached the door cautiously and listened carefully, but there was silence out in the hall. Man, sometimes he really wished he had werewolf hearing. Stiles licked his lips and let power build in one of his hands, ready to sink through someone’s chest if they tried to attack him. Taking a deep breath, Stiles opened the door.

Ethan was standing outside, a small smile on his face. Stiles yelped at the sight of him, swinging his hand up in reflex, but Ethan was quicker; his fingers snapped around Stiles’ wrist, stopping him short. “Relax, Stiles,” he smiled. “We’re just here to talk.”

“We?” Stiles repeated. His horrified gaze slid past Ethan to two people standing in the hall; one was what looked like a carbon copy of Ethan, while the other was a middle-aged man with a mild face. “Fuck, who—” His attention was distracted by Ethan, who brought his free hand forward and snapped what looked like half a silver handcuff around his wrist. Stiles stared at it, open-mouthed. Silver was just as hard to work with as iron was, if not harder, because it worked negatively against magic, absorbing it like a sponge. He could already feel it pulling at him.

"Just want to talk, huh?" Stiles said weakly.

"Just playing it safe," Ethan smiled, but there was red glimmering in his eyes and oh fuck, fuck; he hadn't realized the dude was an alpha. Shit. Looking extremely satisfied with himself, Ethan stepped forward, pushing Stiles back into the apartment. Stiles tried to push back, but it was like fighting a glacier. Stiles punched him in the chest, which only resulted in his hand aching; Ethan didn’t even seem to notice. Ethan’s twin followed them inside with a smile, and the mild-faced man came after slowly, his eyes flickering over Stiles in an acutely unnerving way. His eyes moved from Stiles to his living room, and he smiled faintly when he noticed Archimedes perched on the back of the couch.

"What a beautiful bird," he said. Stiles was proud of Archimedes, who hooted disdainfully and turned his back to the room.

“How did you know I was home?” Stiles asked Ethan, his voice shaking.

“We’ve been watching you for a while,” Ethan said cheerfully, flopping down on the couch. Archimedes gave him a disgusted look and fluttered over to perch on Stiles' shoulder. The bird's slight weight and the cold, clean buzz of his magic steadied Stiles a little. “What are you doing home so early in the day, Stiles? Is something wrong?”

The mockery in his voice made Stiles’ stomach churn. “You used me,” he hissed.

“You offered a service, and we utilized it,” Ethan said, raising his eyebrows. “That’s fair, I think.”

Stiles swallowed. “So why are you here? And who the fuck are these people?”

"My brother, Aiden," Ethan said, nodding toward his clone, who sat down on the couch next to him, a wide grin on his face. "And Deucalion."

Stiles froze, all the blood draining from his face. He knew that name, Deucalion; he doubted there wasn't a person in the city who didn't. Deucalion was one of the most powerful alphas in the city, and in the late 90s he'd been tied to a string of werewolf murders, all of the victims of which had been alphas. One of them had been murdered in his father's precinct, and Stiles could remember the long hours he'd pulled trying to solve the case, day after day. After a sensational trial during which Deucalion was acquitted of all charges, he disappeared, though whispers of his shady dealings in the underworld of New York City had crept through the unit.

"So this is what you do now?" Stiles asked, his voice shaking. "Manufacture drugs?"

Deucalion stood over by his bookshelf, flipping through an old volume on Egyptian spells. "It's much more lucrative than murder," he replied serenely.

"I'm not going to help you manufacture a drug that's killing people," Stiles spat.

Deucalion shut the book and gave Stiles a quiet look, one eyebrow raised. "That's not really an option," he said, sliding the volume back onto the shelf. "I assume your unit found your oil at our old lab, and that means you're a suspect, which means that your life in the force is over. And now that we’ve met, there’s no way I’m letting you leave here without getting what I want. Our chemist got cold feet and had to be removed from the equation," Deucalion added casually. "You'd be an excellent replacement, and I treat my partners well, Mr. Stilinski. Decline and…there will be consequences.”

Deucalion gave his nails a bored look as they lengthened into lethal-looking claws. Stiles swallowed; it was cliché, but it got the man’s point across very clearly. The alpha looked at him steadily. “Well? What’s it going to be?”

Stiles swallowed again. He understood the choices before him; work for Deucalion or die. He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t want to hurt people, either, and if he continued to make the oil, more people would die. Would it be that bad, though? He thought about how much it hurt, having Derek ignore him. He could never go back to work, disappear into the depths of the city. But no. He’d taken an oath. He was a sworn officer of the law. His job was to protect people, not hurt them. Next to his ear, Archimedes let out a soft whooo, like he approved.

“No,” Stiles said, his voice surprisingly steady.

Deucalion stared at him evenly. “Pity,” he said, and suddenly the twins had boxed Stiles in, each wrapping a rough hand around his arm. Archimedes hooted in panic and took off, disappearing into the kitchen. Stiles twisted with a shout, jerking his body about, trying to break free, but the twins didn’t budge an inch, identical smiles on their faces. One of them fisted a hand in his hair, forcing him to tilt his head back.

“No,” Stiles said again, though it was an entirely different sort of no this time. “Please, I—”

Deucalion pulled a small amber bottle from his pocket and held it up to the light, tilting it from side to side so the pale liquid inside sloshed around. “Perhaps your clever little mind has already put it together,” he said wistfully, ignoring Stiles’ protests, “but we didn’t really break onto the market until Ethan found you. Your oil really is the best we’ve found so far, and it’s too bad we’re going to lose our supplier, but we have enough for at least six months of production, so you haven’t left us with nothing.” He smiled faintly, almost sadly. “What a pity.”

Stiles tried to break away as Deucalion uncapped the bottle, filling the tiny stopper with liquid, but the twins’ grip held firm, forcing him in place. He tried to shut his eyes, but the twin that wasn’t holding his head back pulled his eyelids apart. Deucalion leaned over him, still smiling faintly. Stiles shuddered when the drops hit his eye, five in a row, and he was irrationally annoyed that they’d been wrong about the palm theory. The drops felt cold as ice, burning in his eye, and the twin who’d been holding him released his eyelids, letting him blink rapidly. He could feel the cloying effects of the drug hitting him already, blurring his vision and fogging his head.

“You think that’s enough?” one of the twins asked Deucalion.

“Plenty,” the alpha replied dismissively. “Take the band off his arm. I want to get going." 

The twins released Stiles and he slumped, listening to the sound of his own breathing. One of the twins knelt in front of him and unlocked the silver band around his wrist, saying apologetically, “Sorry we couldn’t keep the secret any longer, Stiles, but these things always come out one way or another.”

Stiles barely heard what he said, his head in a heavy fog. He patted at his pockets, thinking that maybe he should call someone. Call someone. Call someone. Why? Stiles giggled as an owl came swooping through the air toward him. Who’d let an owl into the room?

The last thing he heard, before his feet lifted from the floor and everything faded in a pleasant gray haze, was Deucalion’s voice saying once again, “It really is a pity.”

Chapter Text

Seven o’clock. Derek sat in Chris’s office, watching the man run his hands over his face.

“He’s not coming back,” Chris said abruptly, dropping his hands to the desk. He tapped at the surface irritably. “I should have sent someone with him, but I didn’t think he was going to run.”

“He wouldn’t have run,” Derek said, folding his arms across his chest.

“He left three hours ago,” Chris snapped. “I have to put an APB out, Derek. He could be halfway to the border by now.”

“He could be scared,” Derek argued. “Let me go to his apartment.”

Chris raised a skeptical eyebrow at him. “I heard you yelling at him. You think you’re the one he’s going to want to see?”

“So send Scott over,” Derek shot back. “You want to test his loyalty to the department? You know he’d help Stiles in a second.”

Chris heaved a deep sigh. “Fine. But you need to call me the instant you find him.”

“You really think he’s involved in this?” Derek asked, getting to his feet.

“He’s got a degree in herbal pharmacology,” Chris said. “He’s got the knowledge. I certainly hope it’s not true, but we have to consider every possibility.”

Derek nodded shortly and headed for the garage, where he borrowed one of the unit’s big black SUVs.

If Derek had to pinpoint the exact moment when his life started slipping out of control, it was the moment he’d started taking an interest in Stiles – all the long moments spent in meetings watching him, dreaming about what his skin tasted like. Things had gone downhill from there at an alarming rate and now Stiles’ possible involvement in the drug ring was like the icing on a cake made of shit.

The weekend of the full moon had been rough. He didn’t remember any of Saturday, only coming back into himself as night fell and the moon rose above Georgia’s farm. It had been good to run, to hunt with his pack and Georgia’s. They were all better for it; he felt closer to his pack than he ever had, and it made the problem with Stiles a little easier to bear knowing that his wolves had his back. It gave him a sick sense of pleasure seeing them ignoring Stiles just as heartily as he was, immature though Laura assured him he was being. He didn’t care. Stiles’ rejection had hurt; it felt like part of his heart had been ripped out, and even Georgia’s talk of mates and chemical reactions and pheromones couldn’t make him feel better.

As good as it had felt to yell at Stiles the following week, though, Derek felt bad about it. He knew, rationally, there was nothing he could do to make Stiles want him; accusing him of fucking everyone in the office wasn’t going to help with that, and he’d regretted the words the moment they’d left his mouth. The discovery of the drug lab had been a relief, because all the new evidence meant that he could immerse himself in the case and not think about Stiles at all.

This newest development was unsettling. Derek knew Stiles probably was capable of making the drug, but he couldn’t see Stiles as a drug lord, and the fact that he hadn’t been heard from in a few hours was worrying. Derek knew that Chris was worried about him, even if he’d never admit it, and Derek, even though his head remained wrapped up in anger and hurt, worried about him too.

Once in Stiles’ building, Derek slowed, scenting the air. He could smell the fresh scent of other werewolves, and while it was feasible that there were other wolves living in the building, he needed to be cautious. Derek took the stairs instead of the elevator and slipped onto Stiles’ floor. The scent of werewolves was stronger here, confirming his suspicions that they’d come to see Stiles, and he crept up on the apartment, listening intently. A strange scent reached him, sour and metallic, a strange mix of Stiles and magic and terror and something else. For a moment, he didn’t think anyone was inside; he couldn’t hear anyone’s heart beating. Then he heard it; a single beat. Just one strained thump, and then, nearly five seconds later, again.

Derek couldn’t stand in the hall any longer, because if that was Stiles, something was wrong. The knob turned under his hand, unlocked, and he shoved it open only to freeze, hissing, “Jesus.”

Stiles hung suspended in midair, arms spread, head back, blood running from his nose and mouth in a thick, dark stream. Archimedes sat on his shoulder and he spun his head to look at Derek in the doorway, hooting miserably. Derek could see light shining from Stiles’ palms, but it was faint and flickering, not strong like the beams he’d seen in photographs.

“Stiles?” Derek asked tentatively, stepping into the apartment. The smell was ten times stronger than it had been in the hall, making him gag, but he forced himself closer, putting a hand on Stiles’ arm. His skin was cool, but the runes and symbols flared into light under Derek’s touch. Derek jerked his hand back, not sure what he’d just done, but there was no other reaction from Stiles. Derek ran a hand through his hair, heart and mind racing. He had to do something, and fast – Stiles’ heartbeat had slowed even in the time it took Derek to come in from the hall. He couldn’t wait for an ambulance.

Derek put his hands on Stiles’ arms, ignoring the way the tattoos lit up under his touch, and pulled Stiles’ body down the hall and into his small bathroom. It was the strangest thing he’d ever felt; Stiles went wherever he moved with no resistance, like a balloon. He turned on the shower and stepped in, pulling Stiles under the water.

“Come on,” he muttered, smacking Stiles on the face, trying to get something out of him. “Come on!”

Stiles’ heart was barely beating now, pulsing maybe once every twenty seconds. Derek swallowed, only one solution coming to mind. He didn’t know to how use magic, but there was one spell that every cadet was taught in the police academy and warned only to use it in a life or death situation because there was a danger that it could kill the caster, even a werewolf. Derek took a deep breath and ripped Stiles’ shirt open, revealing the blank circle of skin over his heart, left empty for this very spell. He stepped out of the stream of water and used a claw to cut a deep line in his own forearm. With the blood that came welling out, he drew a single rune over Stiles’ heart.

The rune sat on Stiles’ pale skin for the space of a heartbeat – Derek’s heartbeat – before sinking into the skin, disappearing completely. Derek had a split second to be worried before he felt a burning pain in his heart and he dropped to his knees, gasping for breath, ripping at his shirt. The rune appeared on his chest, burning black on his skin. He could feel it pulling energy from him, sapping his very life-force and shoving it into Stiles, whose heart rate began to pick up. He suddenly dropped from the air, landing in the tub beside Derek with a thud. Derek’s limbs felt as though they were filled with lead, but he managed to pull Stiles into an upright position just in time for him to vomit up a mixture of blood and bile and a thick black liquid that smelled like sulfur.

Stiles coughed and gasped, his eyes fluttering open. They fixed on Derek and the bewilderment and pain in them was too much for him to take. He pulled Stiles to him, weak fingers barely able to close around Stiles’ sodden clothes, and the relief that rushed through him when Stiles wrapped his arms around his neck was immeasurable. Derek folded his arms around Stiles’ torso, holding him as tight as he could manage. Stiles shook against him, his whole body shuddering, and after a moment he began to cry.

After a long time under the cooling water of the shower, Derek thought he could probably stand again and managed to get to his feet, pulling Stiles up with him. Stiles was like a newborn calf, his legs bowing under him as he tried to stand. Derek’s arms tightened around him, though it was a challenge keeping both of them upright with him so weak. “Stiles,” he said softly, “I need to get you to the hospital.”

“No hospital,” Stiles muttered against his neck, his voice hoarse. “The – the chemicals fuck me up.”

Derek sighed. “What, then?”

He felt Stiles’ fingers flex against his neck. “Can you get me to my workshop?”

“I think so,” Derek said. “Hold on.” He reached around Stiles and shut off the water, then managed to get them over the edge of the tub. They left a trail of water behind them, and he could barely go faster than a shuffling crawl, but he got Stiles to his workbench eventually. As Stiles leaned over it, Derek’s arm looped around his waist to keep him upright, Derek pulled his phone from his pocket. Despite its time spent in the shower, it seemed to be functioning and he texted Chris; stiles at appt, drugged by unknown party, healing now. He didn’t know if that middle part was true, but Stiles didn’t seem like the type to try and kill himself, and his reaction to being revived didn’t make it seem like dying had been something he wanted to do.

Derek watched Stiles mix up a cocktail of herbs and oils, his fingers deft and certain though his movements were slow. He muttered something and Derek felt a weak pulse of magic. Stiles lifted the mixture and swallowed half of it, then held the bowl out to Derek.

“You too,” he said quietly, and Derek accepted without argument. The taste of herbs was bitter on his tongue and he made a face, but swallowed dutifully. Stiles laughed faintly and asked, “Can you get me to my room?”

It was an easier journey than the trip from the bathroom had been, though Stiles made him detour to the hallway closet so he could grab some towels. Derek sat Stiles down on the edge of his bed and helped him peel off his sodden clothes. Stiles’ eyelids were beginning to settle, the line of his shoulders a tired slump. Derek was starting to feel exhausted too, though whether than came from adrenaline leaving him or the herbal concoction he’d drank, he didn’t know. He didn’t know what to do with himself now that Stiles seemed to have taken a step back from the brink of death. Should he leave?

“You should stay,” Stiles said softly, toweling himself dry. “The herbs are going to make you sleepy. You shouldn’t try to make it home right now.”

Derek nodded and turned his back to remove his wet clothes, listening to Stiles’ heart. It was still slow, but steady and reassuringly even. His scent had changed, the sour smell of the drug and terror fading. He smelled calm. Derek glanced over his shoulder and found him asleep sitting up, the towel clutched loosely in his hand. Derek sighed softly and quietly dug through his dresser. He found a shirt and a pair of sweatpants to borrow, and gently tossed another set onto Stiles’ lap. Stiles jerked awake, blinking up at him in surprise.

“I’m going to call Chris,” Derek told him gently. “Do you want me to make you something to eat?”

Stiles shook his head, blinking wearily, and Derek slipped out of the room. Out in the kitchen he leaned against the counter and breathed in deeply. His hands were shaking, the stress of the evening overwhelming him. He tugged at the collar of his borrowed t-shirt, looking down at his chest. The rune still sat there, though it had faded from black to a dull brown. He wondered if it would be there forever, and how many years had been cut from his life for saving Stiles. He couldn’t help but feel like this was his fault, like he should have been paying closer attention. Like if he hadn’t been so immature and treating Stiles so badly, he could have noticed the danger creeping in. His throat ached with guilt.

Derek ran a hand over his face and breathed out shakily. That had been close - too close. If Stiles had died, he didn’t know what he would have done. Even after everything that had happened, and all that Georgia had said, he still wanted Stiles. His need pulled at him like a fish caught on a hook and it was so fucking hard to resist that pull.

Derek shook his head slightly and called Chris.

“What’s going on?” Chris asked immediately, picking up before the first ring had even finished. “Is he all right? Are you taking him to a hospital?”

“I think he’s going to be fine,” Derek replied quietly, keeping his voice low. “I had to use the revival spell they taught us at the academy, but after that he was alert enough to make some sort of potion. I think he just needs to rest.”

“What about you?” Chris asked sharply. “Jesus, Derek, you should have called—”

“There was no time,” Derek replied shortly. “He was going to die, Chris. I had to use the spell.”

“Jesus,” Chris said again. “What are you going to do now? Has he said anything about it? Did he do it to himself or…”

“No. I’m going to stay here with him,” Derek said. “I’ll bring him in tomorrow and we can talk then. I smelled other werewolves when I came in, Chris. He didn’t do this.”

“Okay,” the commander said. “Get some rest.”

Derek set his phone down on the counter and shut his eyes for a long moment, gathering himself before heading back to Stiles’ bedroom. The young man had climbed under the sheets but he was still awake, laying on his back with Archimedes on his stomach, his long fingers stroking the bird’s chest. He turned his eyes to Derek hovering in the doorway.

“Am I in trouble?” Stiles asked quietly.

“Are you a drug manufacturer?” Derek returned, and Stiles shook his head. “Then I don’t think so.”

“Okay.”

“I’m going to sleep on your couch,” Derek told him, but he didn’t move. Stiles continued to watch him, his fingers brushing absently over Archimedes’ feathers. Derek couldn’t read his expression, but he knew he needed to say something so he did, his throat tight. “I’m really sorry,” he said. “For what I said at work. That wasn’t fair. It’s none of my business and I know – I know you’re not interested in a relationship. I should have made it clear from the start how I felt. I’m sorry.”

Stiles looked down at his bed, his mouth tightening. “I’m sorry too,” he said quietly. “I…I don’t remember what happened at the bar, but I didn’t mean to hurt you. I know I started this by kissing you first, but I should have thought before I – “ He swallowed, suddenly smelling of nervousness. “I like you, dude. I don’t want to be with other people.”

It was like he’d reached inside Derek and squeezed his heart. He needed to be sensible, though, and pressed back against the wave of emotion rising inside him. “Look,” Derek said gently, “as much as I want to hear that, I don’t think now is the right time. We both need rest, okay?”

Stiles nodded, one side of his mouth rising in a tired smile. “Okay,” he said, “but you don’t have to sleep on the couch, you know.”

Derek hesitated, then returned his smile and stepped into the room. He climbed into the bed and it was strange how he’d been there before, but this was the first time it felt like it meant anything and how now, of all times, he felt nervous about being there. He turned on his side, eyes settling on the owl on Stiles' chest.

"May I?" he asked, raising a cautious hand toward the bird. Stiles nodded, blinking sleepily, and Derek brushed his fingers against the owl's feathered head. He could feel the cold buzz of magic that composed the familiar, but the soft feel of its feathers at the same time, an unsettling sensation. He heard Stiles suck in a deep breath and looked at him curiously.

"I can feel you touching him," Stiles explained softly. "I don't - I don't think you're supposed to."

Derek pulled his hand back. "Sorry."

Stiles shook his head. "No, it's okay, just...weird. Did you ever read the His Dark Materials books when you were younger?"

Derek shook his head and Stiles explained, "Everyone in the books had these creatures called daemons that were like an extension of their soul, and other people touching them was a total no-no. It's...kind of like that but not at all."

"Can he die?" Derek asked. Archimedes gave him a disgruntled look and fluttered over to perch on the top of Stiles' dresser.

"I don't think so," Stiles replied, yawning widely. "If I undid the binding that built him, he'd just disperse into the air." He flipped into his side, facing Derek. "I need to thank you, though, for coming. I would have died."

"I wouldn't have let that happen," Derek said quietly. He laid his hand out flat on the bed between them, palm facing the ceiling, and his heart soared when Stiles took the invitation, putting out his hand and lacing their fingers together.

“That’s twice now,” Stiles said, his voice growing heavy with sleep. “I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Derek murmured. Stiles smiled faintly, letting his eyes fall closed, and Derek heard the moment he fell asleep, when his breathing went flat and even. He listened to the soft sound of Stiles breathing, and the reassuringly steady beat of his heart. He fell asleep like that, matching his breathing to Stiles’, their fingers still curled together.

-

When Derek woke it was still early, the light in the room soft and golden. They’d shifted in the night; now Stiles was pressed up against him, his back to Derek’s chest. Derek curled an arm around his stomach, breathing in the soft herbal scent of him, and let himself relax. It had been a long, long time since he’d woken up in bed with someone and it felt good; the comforting warmth of another body, the smell of security and contentedness.

Kate had never been one for cuddling, which confused the wolf inside Derek, who ached for constant contact and a familiar touch. Even when they’d lived together, Kate kept her distance; she’d get pissed if she woke up to find Derek wrapped around her, if he tried putting his arms around her in the kitchen, or if he tried to go in for a kiss before leaving for the day. There was no affection, no warmth – it took him a long time to realize how unhealthy it’d been, though that was long after the fire, when it didn’t matter any more. That was back in a time when he thought that passionate sex equaled love, and the day his house burned he found out just how wrong that assumption was.

But Stiles was nothing like Kate. He was kind and soft where she’d been aggressive and angry, and he wasn’t selfish like she’d been. Derek thought about what he’d said last night, and what Georgia had said about mates, and tried not to let himself hope too deeply that everything would work out. Because as much as he wanted it to, they’d already hurt each other, and he didn’t know what Stiles was really thinking.

Stiles stirred eventually, sighing as he woke. Derek felt him shift against him, confused for a moment before relaxing, one of his hands encircling Derek’s wrist, thumb brushing over his pulse point. He didn’t say anything and Derek let the silence ride out until Stiles sighed again, a little wistfully, and shimmied away from him, slipping out of bed. Derek lay still, listening to Stiles pad out of the room and down to the bathroom. He rolled over carefully and felt around for his phone before realizing he’d left it sitting on the kitchen counter. Whatever.

Stiles came back into the room a few minutes later, smelling like toothpaste. Derek sat up slowly, watching Stiles dig through his dresser and dress for the day. It was heartening to see him moving so well after yesterday’s disaster – yesterday evening, he’d need Derek’s help getting his shirt off, and now he was buttoning up a shirt with no problem, fingers deft as ever. Stiles looked over at Derek, smiling faintly when he found himself being watched.

“Do you want to borrow some clothes?” he asked. “A shirt might be a stretch, but you can probably fit in my pants.” Stiles grinned suggestively.

Derek snorted. “My clothes should be dry,” he replied. “Thanks though.”

Stiles winked cheekily and headed out for the kitchen. Derek got dressed slowly – his clothes were still a bit damp, to his disgust – and listened to Stiles bang around, getting a pot of coffee started. When he finally made his way to the kitchen, he found Stiles leaning against the counter, looking a little worried.

“Hey,” he said to Derek. “What I said last night—”

“Oh,” Derek said, his heart sinking. “I – Don’t worry about it.”

“No, no,” Stiles replied fiercely. “I’m not taking it back. I just – I want to make sure that we talk about it.”

“Oh,” Derek said again, straightening as relief surged through him. “We can. We will, I promise. I think, though, that we should focus on what happened yesterday. I could smell other werewolves in here. Did you know them?”

Stiles’ expression turned anxious. “Well, I – one of them was that guy who came in when you were over the other night.”

Derek frowned at him. “Ethan, right?”

Stiles nodded. “And his twin. And…Deucalion.”

Derek’s mouth dropped open at the name, a bewildering mix of fear, worry, and anger flooding his veins. He stepped forward swiftly, taking Stiles’ face in his hands, running his fingers over the young man’s skin. “Are you kidding?” he asked in a rush. “Are you okay? Did he bite you?”

“Derek,” Stiles said firmly, swatting his hands away, “I’m fine. He didn’t – it was just the drug, and you saved me, remember?”

“Fuck,” Derek said, curling his hands around Stiles’ biceps. “We need to go to work. Chris needs to know about this.”

“Can’t we wait for my coffee?” Stiles asked mournfully, as Derek began hauling him toward the door. Derek ignored him.

Outside, the car he’d borrowed had two parking tickets stuck under the windshield wiper – fucking smartass traffic cops – but no boot, so he was able to drive away. The ride back to the unit passed in silence, Derek thinking hard.

He hadn’t heard the name Deucalion in a long time, not since the city had been up in arms about his acquittal ten years back. He could remember his father remarking, at the time, how it’d been a smart move for the beleaguered alpha to go underground; no one doubted that he’d committed the murders but as one of the jurors later said, the prosecutors had been unable to prove his guilt without a shadow of a doubt, as was required by law. Laura had been so outraged by the verdict that she’d changed her major from English to Pre-Law, vowing that such a mistake would never be made again.

He didn’t remember much of the trial or the days before it – he’d been seventeen, distracted by high school life – but he remembered his mother’s unease, the way she’d paced around the house, checking the windows obsessively. It had never occurred to him to worry that she might be another of Deucalion’s victims, another alpha slain for more power, but the danger had been there even if he couldn’t see it. All that worry over another alpha and then, to be killed five years later by a human – that was some cosmic irony.

Derek parked the car in the garage and was about to get out of the car when Stiles caught him by the arm. He looked worried.

“I wanted to ask you,” Stiles said. “How did you bring me back?”

“That one spell they teach at the police academy,” Derek said, drawing the rune in the air with his finger.

Stiles sucked in a nervous breath, his fingers tightening around Derek’s wrist. “But you – that took some of your life.”

“And you would have lost all of yours if I hadn’t done it,” Derek replied. “I’m not worried about it.”

Stiles swallowed. “I owe you so much for this.”

Derek leaned forward, putting his hand over Stiles’. “I told you,” he said softly. “You don’t owe me anything.”

Stiles met his eyes for a long moment, then pulled his hand free. “I don’t care,” he replied, popping the door open and clambering out. “I’m going to make it up to you. I’ll bake you a cake every week. I’ll give you free reign to pick on Scott. Whatever you want, dude.”

Derek shook his head, locking the car behind them and heading for the elevator. There was only one thing he wanted from Stiles, and he wasn’t going to use a favor to get it. It’d come naturally or not at all.

-

“You should have called me immediately,” Chris Argent said, looking livid. Derek and Stiles sat in front of him, doing their best to look innocent. “Deucalion could be states away by now. And you shouldn’t have stayed in Stilinski’s apartment – that’s a crime scene!”

“Stiles wasn’t in any condition to tell me what happened last night,” Derek said defensively, “and the healing spell wiped me out. I couldn’t have gotten us out of there.”

Chris leaned on his desk, looking sour and unimpressed. "And explain to me why you were targeted, again?" he asked, directing the question at Stiles, who flushed.

"Well…I met Ethan a couple of months ago and he said his boss might want some potions from me. I never met or talked to Deucalion, though - all of our communication was through Ethan. I made them this oil that's kind of difficult to procure – it’s not something that apothecaries sell, just because it’s so hard to make. And that - I'm so stupid. I should have realized, but I didn't until Deucalion said it yesterday. They didn't get the drug right until they had the oil coming from me. He said it was the purest he's ever seen, and I thought that was a compliment," Stiles added bitterly. "That was when it really hit the market and we had that briefing soon after. And after I went home yesterday, they showed up – Ethan said they’d been watching me. And they…”

Stiles trailed away, his mouth going tight. Derek caught his eye and gave him an encouraging look while Chris sighed. “Okay, okay. We need to figure out where Deucalion is."

“Look,” Stiles said hesitantly, “I think I can track Deucalion.”

Chris looked up sharply. “How?”

“He touched something in my apartment – a book. I think I can use it as a connection, to pinpoint his location,” Stiles explained.

Chris nodded. “Okay. We’ll have a briefing, go over everything we know, then send a team to Stilinski’s apartment for evidence gathering. Once we have a location, we can develop a plan of attack.”

“Attack?” Derek said mildly, raising an eyebrow. “Are you going to arrest him or kill him?”

“We’ll get a warrant,” Chris shrugged, “but if he puts up a fight, well…” His sharp blue eyes landed on Stiles. “He tried to kill one of ours.”

Derek grinned wickedly.

-

Two hours later, the team gathered around the doorway of Stiles’ office to watch him cast his divining spell. He’d pushed all the furniture in the room against the walls, leaving a large section of tiled floor open to work on. The book Deucalion had touched sat in the middle, safely enclosed in a plastic bag. Stiles worked outward from it, drawing circle after expanding circle around it, filling each round with unfamiliar symbols. Archimedes circled overhead, causing the light in the room to flicker every time he passed.

Finally Stiles sat back on his heels, checking an old book for reference one last time, but it seemed like everything was satisfactory, because he shut the book and held his hands out over the diagram, palms facing the floor.

Derek could feel the magic gathering in the air, a rising tension that brought goosebumps pilling on his skin. He wasn’t the only one to feel it; Erica looked around uneasily, her hand slipping into Boyd’s. Isaac, who’d come up from the bestiary to help out, took a couple cautious steps back, looking nervous. Derek tried to keep his emotions even, knowing it’d affect the pack badly if he let his apprehension show.

Just when it started to hurt his head, tension coiling around his temples like a steel band, a beam of white light shot out of the book laying on the floor, bursting right through the ceiling but leaving nary a mark behind. Stiles tilted his head like he could still see it and Derek saw, with an troubled twist of his stomach, that Stiles’ eyes were white and flat like he’d been blinded. He was glad when the pressure in the air finally broke and Stiles blinked. When he opened his eyes again, they were the normal honey color.

“Anything?” Chris said hopefully.

Stiles nodded thoughtfully. “He’s in an old house in the Bronx. I’ll draw up a map.”

Chris smiled grimly, clapping his hands together as he turned to face his unit. “All right, people. Time to plan our attack.”

Chapter Text

To say that the past twenty-four hours had been a whirlwind of emotion and activity was an understatement, and Stiles was tired. As he sat with Derek and Chris, back in Chris’s office for another meeting, he blinked tiredly and thought wistfully of his bed. He was pretty sure that, if allowed, he could sleep for the next five years and wake up still tired. Nearly dying would do that to you, he supposed.

What a strange thought. A month ago he’d been annoyed that he hadn’t been in the field yet, and now he’d nearly died. Twice, actually, if you included the close call in the warehouse, and Derek had been there both times to save him. Stiles glanced over at Derek, sprawled in the chair next to him. His presence filled the room and it was weird, because over the past weeks, Stiles had begun to be able to sense it. Like, he’d be in the break room and didn’t have to turn to know that Derek had come in. He was just there, a heavy, warm feeling in the back of his mind, weirdly comforting. Derek looked over at him briefly and there was no expression on his face, but Stiles could read the serenity in his pale eyes. It felt like a bond.

He’d started on this whole thing with Derek as a game. Too late he’d realized how stupid and hurtful that had been, because for all that Derek was silent and unfriendly to most, he was a person, not a prize. Stiles was used to fucking and running before the first punch could hit, but Derek wasn’t like that. He was a slow build; he’d worked his way inside of Stiles’ head and now he was stuck there, consuming his thoughts. There was so much more to him than a brooding face and bad temper. He felt things deeply, thought more carefully than anyone Stiles had ever known, and certainly more carefully than Stiles did himself. He was hurt somewhere deep inside, making him miserable to the core. Stiles knew the pain – he’d felt it for a long time after his mom died, and after the whole shit show with Jackson.

Stiles wanted to be with Derek, and part of him was terrified at the idea of committing, while another part of him was terrified he’d fucked everything up after that night at the bar. Derek was still mad at him – the anger was there, despite the calm in his eyes, in the way he held himself a little tensely, a little too stiffly. He’d been there, though, last night, given Stiles years of his life to bring him back from the edge of death. He’d done it without pause, and he hadn’t gone anywhere afterward. It had been the best feeling in the world, waking up that morning with Derek’s arm around him. He’d never felt so safe.

“—inski.”

“Huh?” Stiles lifted his head, flushing faintly when he realized Chris was trying to talk to him. Next to him, Derek snorted quietly. Chris raised a sarcastic eyebrow.

“You with us?”

“Yes, sir.” Stiles wrenched his thoughts away from Derek, not without a little difficulty, and focused on what Chris was saying.

"The woman we found at the lab has been identified as a were named Kali," Chris told them. "Judging by the traces of materials on her, we’re thinking she was the chemist making the drugs. Erica and Boyd managed to track down her brother. He’s human, but according to him, she was an alpha."

Derek looked up, frowning. "Did she have a pack?"

Chris shook his head. "As far as we know, no. And as for the twins Stilinski met, we can't find any mention of them in any werewolf databases."

"Ethan's an alpha too," Stiles added, frowning. "I don't know about his twin."

Chris looked to Derek inquiringly. "Is that possible - can twins share the alpha powers?"

Derek shrugged. "I've never heard of it happening before, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Why would Deucalion surround himself with other alphas, though? He was killing them off ten years ago."

Chris folded his arms across his chest, leaning back in his chair. "Stilinski, have you read any lore on this?"

Stiles shook his head. "Not really my strong suit. I could give Deaton a call."

"Do that," Chris commanded. "Hale and I will work on our attack strategy. Check back in when you've talked to Deaton."

Stiles nodded and got to his feet, leaving the office. Derek watched him go and Stiles spared him a tight nod, but forced any thought of him from his mind, focusing instead on the task at hand. He went back to his office, where the furniture still sat all pushed against the walls, and leaned over his desk to call Deaton.

"Mr. Stilinski," the investigator said warmly upon picking up. "What can I do for you?"

"Hey there," Stiles sighed, and explained everything that had been going on. Deaton remained silent for a few long moments after Stiles finished speaking, but Stiles could hear a sound like pages turning.

When Deaton spoke, he sounded tense. "What it sounds like," he said carefully, "is an alpha pack."

"That sounds bad," Stiles replied warily. "Is that bad?"

"It's certainly not good," Deaton told him. "You understand, right, that having a pack makes the individual more powerful? Now imagine the power that would arise from a pack where everyone is an alpha."

"So he's like, the alpha of all alphas," Stiles said sadly. "Bummer."

"You'll have to be extremely careful," Deaton warned.

"Yeah," Stiles sighed. "Thanks for the help."

After he'd hung up, Stiles sat down on the edge of his desk, thinking. He'd never seen Derek fight, but he wouldn't be able to take three alphas by himself, especially not if one was the super alpha or whatever. Even if Erica and Boyd and Isaac came along, that might not be enough. Maybe Chris had some tricks up his sleeves, but Stiles could help. His concentration might have been in defense and healing, but he knew some offensive spells too, and he had other tools, which...

Stiles leaned over and slid open the bottom drawer of his desk. He removed a pile of papers, revealing a small box, which he pulled out and set on his lap. Inside, a sharp silver knife sat gleaming on dark velvet, a gift he'd received from his dad upon graduating from the police academy. Stiles looked over at Archimedes, perched on the back of his desk hair.

"You ready to trick this baby out?"

-

Three hours later found the unit crossing into the Bronx in the back of a SWAT van while Chris went over their final plans. Stiles shifted uncomfortably, overheating in his Kevlar vest. "We'll split into two groups. Hale, you take Boyd and Boyd and five SWAT members and enter the house from the back. I'll have Stilinski and Lahey and another five, and we'll come in from the front. We will try to take the suspects alive, but you are authorized to use deadly force if they attempt to attack. Questions?"

Everyone shook their heads. Chris sighed. "All right. Helmets on."

"Wait," Stiles said, feeling around in his pocket for a bit of chalk. "Can I do something?"

"Make it quick," Chris snapped, as a voice on the radio clipped to his shoulder announced, "ETA five minutes."

Stiles crouched in front of each of the wolves in turn, drawing symbols for protection on their foreheads and backs of their gloved hands. Derek curled his fingers around Stiles' elbow, and Stiles eyed him questioningly as he chalked the symbol onto his forehead. He'd been trying not to focus on Derek, trying not to notice how hot he was all kitted up in his gear.

"What about you?" Derek rumbled.

"Dude, I've got so many protective charms hidden in this vest that if you pushed me into the Hudson I'd sink right to the bottom." Stiles grinned at the alpha, who did not smile in return.

"Be careful," Derek said, his voice low.

"I will," Stiles promised, his throat tightening.

"ETA thirty seconds," the radio on Chris' shoulder informed them. Stiles sat back down, pulling on his helmet and swallowing to keep his heart from escaping via his throat. Chris handed him a rifle stocked with wolfsbane bullets, which Stiles handled distastefully. He knew how to use a gun – was a pretty fucking good shot, actually – but he didn’t like them, and he intended to drop this one as soon as Chris had his back turned.

“Stilinski,” Chris said, as the van slowed. “If you’re planning on using any spells today, try not to take down the house while we’re still inside.”

Stiles grinned and said, “I can’t make any promises.”

Chris snorted and then everything went very quiet as the van rolled to a stop. Derek threw the doors open and everyone streamed out. Stiles took a deep breath and followed, clutching his rifle to his chest.

The three-story house was a condemned multi-unit building. They’d pulled the blueprints and planned their entrance carefully. Surprise was important, because once they arrived, the supernatural hearing abilities of the werewolves inside wouldn’t allow for stealth. They needed to be caught off guard.

The groups streamed across the street and Derek’s team split from Chris’, running down the driveway to the back of the building. Stiles followed Chris and Isaac through the front door and up the first flight of stairs, leaving Derek’s team to clear the first floor. They burst through door after door, clearing the two apartments on the second floor. Derek’s voice came to Stiles through the radio in his helmet.

“First floor clear.”

“Second floor clear,” Chris replied. “Any sign of them?”

“Negative,” Derek answered. “Heading for the basement.”

“We’ve got the third floor,” Chris said grimly.

They were halfway up the next flight of stairs when something exploded several floors below them. A werewolf roared, the noise shaking the building, and Stiles’ heart lurched. Derek?

Chris whipped around, fury on his face. He jabbed a finger at the SWAT members that were with than and snapped, “Clear this floor. Lahey, Stilinski – basement, now.”

Isaac was already gone, loping down the stairs in long strides. Stiles followed as fast as he could, discarding the rifle with a grimace. Back down to the first floor, then through a caved-in metal door. The air was hazy and smelled sharply of – Stiles paused – wolfsbane. He could hear snarling down below, the heavy sound of bodies being thrown around and he wished, for once, that he had the hearing of a were, so he could find his friends and know they were okay.

He stumbled down the concrete steps and found a few tactical officers slumped at the bottom, throats slashed. Stiles swallowed heavily and stepped over their bodies, keeping his back to the wall. The basement was partitioned oddly, sectioned off into small rooms, but he could see a door at the far end of the hallway that opened into a larger room and there were shapes moving around in the haze. Erica came hurtling through the door, her face bloody and helmetless, but she flung herself back inside without hesitation, snarling furiously.

Stiles took a deep breath and twisted his head to look at Archimedes, who sat patiently on his shoulder. “You ready, buddy?”

Archimedes hooted softly, rubbing his cool beak against Stiles’ cheek. Stiles smiled faintly and took another deep breath before plunging into the room. Archimedes launched himself off his shoulder, disappearing in the smoke.

It was chaos, the room cloudy with purple smoke and loud with the roaring of the werewolves. He could see lab equipment against the far wall, far more professional than the lab they’d found in Harlem. Closer and more important were the wolves – he could see the twins fighting Erica and Boyd and Isaac, and they seemed to be holding their own, but Deucalion had his arm around Derek’s neck, choking him out. Derek had lost his helmet and he couldn’t seem to control his shift, his features slipping back and forth from human to were without staying in either form longer than a second. He’d dug his claws into Deucalion’s arm, ripping at his flesh, but the alpha seemed unperturbed by the blood coursing from him. He hadn’t even shifted.

Deucalion’s nostril’s flared when Stiles came into the room and he lifted his head. “Mr. Stilinski,” he said, his mild voice rising above the clamor in the room. “You’re still with us. How surprising.”

Stiles gritted his teeth and snapped, “Let Derek go.” He ignored the desperate look Derek gave him, keeping his eyes focused on Deucalion’s face.

Deucalion smiled faintly, his nostrils flaring again. “I should have suspected,” he said, arm tightening around Derek’s throat. “The two of you reek of each other.”

“Let Derek go,” Stiles repeated, drawing power into his hand. He could hear his heart beat and it sounded deceptively calm.

“Stiles, don’t,” Derek rasped. He managed to get his feet under him and shoved his weight back against Deucalion, cracking his head into the alpha’s face. Deucalion shifted with a snarl, throwing Derek to the floor.

“This is not your fight anymore,” he growled, stamping a foot down on Derek’s spine. Stiles heard something crack and Derek howled in pain. Deucalion grinned and looked at Stiles, the red lights of madness flickering in his eyes. “Come save your mate, human.”

Stiles had already started moving when Derek screamed, running across the basement with power building in his hand. Derek’s yell had done something inside of him, twisting his insides with rage and misery, forcing adrenaline to pump through his veins. He was barely thinking when he threw himself at Deucalion, an orb of pure power glowing in his palm, strong enough to rend the flesh of anything it touched. But Deucalion laughed and caught him by the wrist, pulling him off his feet as the alpha shifted into his full were form, a grotesque monster meld of human and wolf.

“Is that everything you had?” the monster asked, in a voice that came from a throat not meant for speech. He laughed, a slurring of sound that made Stiles’ heart beat uncontrollably, speaking to some primal fear left from the days before humans knew how to make fire. His arm screamed in pain, suspended from Deucalion’s paw by the delicate tendons of his wrist, but he swung a foot out and kicked the were in the chest. He laughed again, sending Stiles’ skin pimpling with goosebumps. The alpha raised him higher and said, “Look at your mate. Your bones will break even easier than his.”

Stiles looked down, his heart hammering, and he could see Derek still lying on the floor, his claws digging at the concrete, his mouth open and panting. The fury rushed through Stiles again, sending his vision white and he twisted, slipping his fingers under his vest. “That wasn’t everything,” he snapped, and whipped his arm forward, plunging his silver knife into Deucalion’s chest.

The alpha looked down at it in faint surprise. “Silver,” he said dismissively.

“Washed in wolfsbane,” Stiles retorted, “and, uh, upgraded.” Somewhere in the air above them, Archimedes gave a harsh screech and the runes Stiles had scratched into the silver earlier that day flared into light. Deucalion howled in pain and flung Stiles away, clutching at the knife, trying to pull it from his chest but it stuck like a magnet to metal. Stiles hit the concrete with a gasp, all the air punched out of him. He lay there, slightly stunned, as Deucalion lurched about the room, roaring.

“Again,” Stiles said quietly, when he’d gotten some air back into his lungs. Archimedes cried again and there was an answering pulse of magic from the knife. Purple flames flared on Deucalion’s body and his body changed, withering back to his human form. His screams stopped eventually, his body landing on the concrete with a wet thump. Satisfied the alpha was no longer a threat, Stiles crawled over to Derek, who lay still on the floor, his brow covered in sweat.

“How you doing?” Stiles asked softly.

“Broke my back,” Derek replied tightly. “Working on it.”

“Are you going to be okay?” Stiles asked, running a hand through Derek’s hair.

Derek closed his eyes, sighing. “Eventually, though this smoke’s making it difficult. You’re okay?”

“I’m going to have some beautiful bruises,” Stiles said, looking up at the rest of the room. One of the twins was dead, his insides spread across the floor. The other had his hands cuffed behind his back, his chest scored with claw marks. The three betas, though they looked a little worse for wear, didn’t seem badly injured. He could hear Chris shouting somewhere.

“What’d you do to him?” Derek asked, his hand curling around Stiles’ thigh.

“Wolfsbane and silver,” Stiles told him. “And a little power boost from Archimedes.”

“Remind me never to piss you off,” Derek mumbled. Stiles grinned.

-

Hours had passed before Stiles could even think of going home. He had to sit and get checked over by an EMT, then he had to tell Chris what had happened, and then he spelled up a breeze to clear the air of the smoke. There were forms to fill out and papers to sign, and he had to neutralize some nasty concoctions that had been mixed up in the lab equipment. Stiles did all of this on automatic, his thoughts focused on Derek. The alpha hadn’t left yet; his back was still healing and he’d snarled at the EMTs that had tried to take him to the hospital. Stiles glanced over his shoulder from where he was decontaminating a decanter of some vile poison. He could see Derek stretched out on the floor, surrounded by his betas. They’d all been cleared to leave ages ago but stayed, lending strength to their alpha.

When Stiles finished, a deep weariness settling into his bones, he made his way over to the little huddle of werewolves. Derek was just getting to his knees, wincing as he rose.

“—get some rest,” he was saying to his betas. “You too,” Derek added, spotting Stiles.

“I have to find a hotel,” Stiles told him. “My apartment’s still a crime scene.”

Derek made an irritated noise and said, “You can stay with me.”

“You sure?”

Derek made another, louder noise, looking frustrated. “Yes.”

“All right,” Stiles said, smiling faintly. “I’m cool with that.”

The group headed up the stairs, into the cool early summer night. They got rides from cops – Erica and Boyd headed for one car and Isaac slunk after them, muttering something about privacy. Another cruiser brought Stiles and Derek to Derek’s apartment. They didn’t speak on the journey, both tired and distracted from the long night, but Stiles’ hand found Derek’s in the darkness of the backseat and Derek didn’t let go even when they climbed from the cruiser and rode the elevator up to his apartment.

They didn’t speak until they were inside and Derek turned on a low light in the living room. The place seemed a lot more lived in than Stiles had expected but then, Isaac lived here too. He hung back as Derek turned to a dark hallway and said, at Derek’s questioning look, “Should I sleep out here?”

“Wherever you feel comfortable,” Derek replied, but the way his fingers tightened around Stiles’ told him the answer Derek wanted to hear.

“With you, then,” Stiles said, grinning. One side of Derek’s mouth lifted into a smile and he gently towed Stiles down the hall and into a dark bedroom. They stripped down to their boxers and climbed into the bed. It smelled like Derek, like wheat and faint wood smoke. Stiles sighed softly when Derek curled an arm around him, pulling him back against his chest. He could feel Derek’s heartbeat, slow and steady, his breath warm against the back of Stiles’ neck. He felt safe. He felt like he was home.

-

When Stiles woke, the light in the room was bright and golden, the shadows long. Derek was no longer curled up around him but he was still there beside him; Stiles could feel his warmth and a faint tapping noise that sounded like he was doing something on his phone. Stiles shifted, rolling onto his other side, and found Derek sitting upright with his back against the headboard, his phone in his hands.

"What time is it?" Stiles asked, his voice rough with sleep.

Derek glanced at him and replied, "It's just past three."

That made sense, Stiles thought, burying his face in the pillow and breathing in the heady scent of Derek. It'd been nearly four when they'd left the battle-scarred house in the Bronx. He felt a lot better than he had before, though his back was sore from where he'd hit the ground.

"Are you all healed?" Stiles asked Derek, lifting his head again.

"Yeah," Derek said, setting his phone on the nightstand and turning his attention on Stiles. "How are you feeling?"

"A little stiff," Stiles admitted. Derek kept his eyes on him and Stiles shifted uneasily. "What?"

"You killed someone yesterday," Derek said quietly.

"Oh yeah," Stiles said, his eyes falling to the soft grey of the sheets. He suddenly realized he didn't know where Archimedes was.

"Are you okay?"

Stiles breathed in deeply, thinking about it. "Yeah," he said finally. "I mean, he tried to kill me, and he was going to kill you, and more people would have died if he kept making the drug. So I don't feel bad about it."

"You're strong," Derek told him softly.

Stiles shrugged. "Probably won't. But…you've killed people, right?" Derek nodded silently, his face passive. "Who was the first person you killed?"

Derek looked away then, his chest rising as he took a deep breath. "My ex," he said.

Stiles stared at him. "That's, uh," he began nervously, then stopped and tried again. "A werewolf?"

"Human," Derek told him, turning his head back to him, his pale eyes dark with unhappiness. "Chris Argent's sister."

"Oh," Stiles said blankly. "Um. Why? And, uh, I'm kind of thinking maybe I shouldn't be here?"

"You're not in any danger," Derek said, looking hurt. Stiles regretted the words instantly. "She - my family had this house in the Poconos, and every summer my extended family would gather there for a week or two. We'd eat and drink and run under the stars - everyone came; my parents and their siblings, my cousins, and grandparents. Kate and I had been dating for two years when I brought her to the house for the first time, and she - she - "

Stiles' stomach clenched, knowing something unpleasant was coming. He put his hand on Derek's thigh and said, "You don't have to tell me."

Derek heaved a frustrated sigh and said, "The Argents come from a long line of hunters. That whole system was dismantled a while ago, but not before her father was killed on a hunt. Chris, he was never that close with him and didn't take it that hard, but Kate...she hated weres. She hated weres and we dated for two fucking years and I never knew. She hated weres and I brought her to a place where there were more than twenty of us, all gathered neatly in one house. Easy target."

"Derek," Stiles said uncomfortably, but the alpha powered through, talking over him.

"She got up in the middle of the night and blocked all the doors. She spread wolfsbane everywhere, and then she lit the house on fire."

Stiles swallowed. "How'd you get out?" he asked quietly.

"She called me," Derek said flatly, looking down at his hands. "Wanted to laugh at me. The house was totally engulfed at that point. I couldn't open my bedroom door - I had to go out the window. The fall broke my leg, but I found her outside, laughing. The look on her face when I ripped her throat out…" Derek trailed away, an oddly blank expression on his face, like he couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth.

"Were there any other survivors?" Stiles asked cautiously.

"Not from the house," Derek said quietly. "I couldn't get in; the flames were too hot, the smoke too toxic. Laura's the only family I have left. She wasn't at the house; she'd stayed in New York to take the bar exam."

Stiles didn't know what to say, and Derek didn't say anything else. They sat in silence for a time, Stiles' hand still resting on Derek's thigh. After a while, Stiles quietly offered, "When I was in college, I dated this guy. Total jock, super hot, horrible temper. He liked to, uh, choke me until I passed out. He'd leave these bruises, never where anyone could see. And I-I thought I was lucky that a guy like him would be interested in someone like me."

Stiles changed a glance up at Derek and found him looking livid. "What happened to this guy," he asked flatly.

"I was scared to say anything," Stiles said quietly, "but Scott found out eventually. He put the fear of god in Jackson and I think he disappeared to live a quiet life in Guatemala or something." He swallowed miserably. "I know it's not as bad as your story, but - "

"Stiles," Derek interrupted gently, his fingers folding over Stiles'. "You can't quantify unhappiness. No one can say whose misery was greater."

"I know," Stiles said, his throat tightening. "I just - I know that you want more than a hook-up and I do too, I really do, but he - that fucked me up, Derek, and that sounds so stupid, because your ex killed your whole family, and all mine did was push me around sometimes."

"That's not nothing," Derek said sharply. "You're still hurt, and I'm not going to push you into anything you don't want."

"But I do want it," Stiles said miserably. "You're in my head, dude. I can feel you sometimes, know where you are without looking."

Next to him, Derek went very still and breathed, "You can?"

"Yeah." Stiles ran a hand through his hair. "I just - I'm scared."

"You have every right to be," Derek told him, his fingers tightening their grip on Stiles. They felt silent for some time, Stiles clutching Derek's hand like a lifeline.

"You know," Stiles said after a while, "I was wrong about you."

"On what account?"

"Multiple," Stiles admitted with a wry grin. "But I thought you'd make a terrible boyfriend, and I'm pretty sure I've never been more wrong in my life."

"I'm not so sure about that," Derek said uncertainly.

"I guess we'll just have to try it out and see," Stiles said, and it was both strange and a relief when his stomach didn't drop at the words. Derek went still again.

"You sure?" he asked, the raw hope in his voice tugging at Stiles' heart.

"I just have one question," Stiles said, propping himself up on his elbows. Something had been bothering him since the fight yesterday. "Deucalion kept calling you my mate. Is that for real? I thought that was just a myth or something."

"It's not," Derek said, licking his lips. "And you are."

Stiles stared at him for a while, his mind blank. Eventually he said, "You've known for a while." Derek nodded, watching him apprehensively. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"It's not...really something you can just bust out, is it?" Derek replied dryly.

Stiles tilted his head, considering this. "No," he agreed.

"And I didn't want to overwhelm you," Derek added quietly.

"Thoughtful," Stiles remarked. He wasn't overwhelmed, and maybe that should have been a little worrying. Being Derek's mate was so much more than just being his boyfriend, and yet, the thought didn't freak him out. It just felt right, and he wasn’t going to get himself worked up over it. He’d been feeling empty for a long time, and he thought he deserved a little fullness. "No wonder I've been able to sense your presence."

Derek gave him a concerned look. “You…you’re okay with this?”

Stiles took a deep breath and replied, “I’m still scared, but I trust you, dude.” He pulled his hand free from Derek’s and lifted it to trace the rune marked on Derek’s chest, which had faded to a soft white, like a scar. He could feel the raised edges of it under his fingers. “You gave me years of your life.”

Derek curled his fingers around Stiles’ wrist, keeping his hand still. “That doesn’t mean you’re indebted to me,” he said. “I don’t want you saying all this because you think you owe me.”

Stiles made an irritated noise and pulled himself out from under the covers and on top of Derek, straddling his thighs. He looked Derek directly in the eyes and said, “What it says to me is that you care, and that’s all I want.”

"You're sure," Derek pressed, settling his hands on Stiles' bony hips, thumbs pressing against the swell of his pelvis.

"I'm sure," Stiles assured him, settling his weight more heavily on top of him. He splayed his fingers over the rune on Derek's chest. "This will never go away."

"Good," Derek replied, dragging one of his hands over the knobs of Stiles' spine. They sat in companionable silence for a long time, trailing fingers over skin, tracing the jut of bone, learning each others' tiny imperfections. Derek rubbed his heavy hands up and down Stiles' thighs, thumbs pressing against the muscle, the occasional scrape of fingernails against his skin sending Stiles' spine tingling. Eventually he needed more contact and he leaned forward, pushing their chests together and pressing a soft kiss to Derek's mouth.

The way Derek moved, one hand pressed to the base of his spine, the other cupping the hinge of his jaw, his mouth gentle and warm, was unlike any other experience Stiles had ever had. The past eight or so years had been full of rushed moments, both parties moving selfishly, pushing for a fast release. This was nothing like that, slow and easy like they had all the time in the world. He liked taking the time to find the spots that made Derek breathe heavier when he pressed his lips to them – just above his Adam’s apple, and the spot where his jaw met his ear, and on the rune over his heart.

Derek was patient. Stiles had always thought he was impatient, but now he was pretty sure he’d mistaken Derek’s silent nature for bad-temperedness, because Stiles knew, he knew that the conversation they’d just had meant new, awesome things for both of them, and that had to have stirred Derek up, but the alpha moved slowly, almost languidly. When Stiles pulled back and got off the bed so he could pull down his underwear, Derek stretched like a cat and shimmied out of his own. He didn’t grab at Stiles like Jackson used to, didn’t pull him down and push him onto his stomach. He curled a hand around Stiles’ wrist to help steady him as he climbed back on top of Derek, and then he brought Stiles’ wrist to his mouth, kissing his pulse, scraping his teeth over the thin skin.

Stiles had never felt so full in his life. He’d felt hollow for a long time, existing off empty hook-ups, always on edge, waiting for a fist to come swinging out of the dark at him. Here, now, he felt like a real person again, with the care so evident in Derek’s gentle touch. They were both hard, Derek’s dick slipping against the line of Stiles’ ass as they shifted slowly against each other, but he didn’t feel any need to rush. This was important, not only to him, but to Derek. It meant things he wasn’t quite certain he understood yet, things he was afraid of – but he wanted them all the same, and he knew Derek would be there to support him.

Stiles sighed softly, cupping Derek’s face in one hand, his thumb pressing against Derek’s sharp cheekbone. Derek raised his pale eyes to meet Stiles’ and lifted a hand from his hip to tug open the nightstand drawer, pulling out a bottle of lube. They had a silent conversation then, where Derek lifted his eyebrows in silent inquiry and Stiles nodded yes, please. He leaned his head against Derek’s solid shoulder while the alpha spread him open, breathing warm against Derek’s golden skin.

He shifted back when he was ready, the change in angle driving Derek’s fingers out of him. They curled around his hips again, following Stiles as he lifted himself and slid back down, taking Derek’s length inside him with the slightest hah of breath. He curled his hand around the back of Derek’s neck, threading his fingers through the soft hair there and began to shift his hips, rolling them in an easy motion that had his breath whistling between his teeth. Derek shut his eyes, his fingers tightening on Stiles’ hips, but he didn’t thrust against him, letting Stiles control the show. There was nothing but the soft sound of their breathing, the slick of skin against skin, and it was – it was perfect. It was better than anything Stiles had or could experience in his life. He wished he could freeze time somehow, preserve that moment forever in a tiny bubble in the middle of the universe.

Stiles leaned his forehead against Derek’s and kissed the tip of his nose, startling a huff of laughter from between his lips. Derek opened his eyes and slipped a hand between them, curling his heavy fingers around Stiles’ cock. Stiles shuddered and titled his head back, the beginnings of his orgasm numbing his toes, gathering warmth in his hips. When it hit, it crashed into him like a tidal wave, rolling through his body in waves. He felt it down to the tips of his fingers, pulsing through his veins in an unrelenting deluge. Beneath him, Derek gave a low, stuttering moan, his fingers digging in hard enough to bruise. Stiles rode the crest of his orgasm, rolling on forever, warmth enveloping him like a cloak. He tilted his head back, gasping quietly, and it seemed to him like the golden light of the late afternoon had disappeared. Instead, pale blue moonlight shone down on him, bathing the room in a cool glow. He felt welcome, wanted, whole.

When it finally dissipated, Stiles let his whole body slump. “Dude,” he said faintly. “I think I just reached nirvana.” He looked at Derek and was startled by the expression on his face, open-mouthed and raw, his eyes wet. He looked like he’d just been punched in the stomach. Stiles slid a hesitant hand against the side of his face, carding his fingers through Derek’s hair. “A-are you okay?”

Derek blinked and a tear spilled over his lower lashes. Stiles swept his thumb across it before it could track down his chin. “Did you feel that too?” Stiles asked quietly, his other hand pressing against the rune over Derek’s heart. “Was that – us?”

Derek swallowed and nodded. “Our bond,” he murmured, running a hesitant hand up Stiles’ side.

Stiles could sense his growing unease and leaned forward again, slipping his arms around Derek’s neck. “I’m not going to back out of this,” he said softly. He pressed his lips to the hinge of Derek’s jaw and added, “Especially not if it feels that awesome every time we have sex.”

Derek laughed, warm and relieved. “No promises,” he said, turning his head and nuzzling his nose against the side of Stiles’ neck. They sat in silence for a long time, bathed in the warm light of the late sun. Eventually, Derek pressed his mouth to Stiles’ skin and murmured, “What would you say to a very late breakfast?”

Stiles grinned and sat back. “There are two things I’ll never say no to,” he said. “Sex and breakfast.”

Derek leaned forward, chasing his lips for a kiss, murmuring against him, “Good thing I’m fond of both.”

Chapter Text

TWO YEARS LATER

“When’s your dad coming?” Derek asked Stiles, who squinted thoughtfully across the lake.

“Tomorrow, I think,” he answered eventually. “He said he had some seminar he needed to talk his way out of.”

“You think he’ll like it?”

“I’ll disown him if he doesn’t,” Stiles snorted. “He’ll like anywhere he can go fishing, don’t worry.”

They both turned to look at the house. After months of wheedling from Laura, Derek had finally given in and bought a new summer home for the pack – not in the Poconos like the old house, though, but far up on a remote lake in northern Maine. This was their first week there - breaking it in, as Laura had so cheerfully said. The entire pack was there; Laura and her new boyfriend were walking along the shoreline, hand in hand, pointing at a loon far out on the water. Isaac and Boyd and Scott were rummaging around in the shed that had come with a property, digging a couple of canoes out from the piles of junk inside. Erica, her stomach large with child, sat on the porch with Allison, watching Abigail pull handfuls of grass out of the lawn.

Derek eyed his mate, drinking in the long, lean lines of him. He’d cut his hair short and close to his head after several years of wearing it longer, and with the tattoos it made him look worn and competent – even if the sunglasses he wore had hot pink frames.

Sometimes Derek wondered how he had lived before he knew Stiles. Maybe that was it - maybe he hadn't really been alive before. Laura liked to snort and call Stiles "our little miracle" because he could do the impossible and make Derek laugh. Whatever it was, Derek was grateful.

Things hadn't been easy, at first. The first few months they were together were hard; Stiles had moved so carefully, like he was afraid they were going to break. The first time they'd fought, Derek had gone to cross his arms over his chest and Stiles had flinched backward with his entire body, ready for a blow that never came, then burst into tears. Once in a while he had panic attacks brought on by stress, and they came often in that first month as the unit sorted through the aftermath of the alpha pack. Stiles had been a suspect for a time - though Chris was sure of his innocence, but Internal Affairs wasn't so certain. It had been tough on all of them, and Stiles had thought about leaving the unit altogether.

It got better, though. Stiles was cleared of any wrongdoing and they solved case after case. When his lease ended four months into their relationship, they didn't even need to talk about it; Derek showed up at his door with boxes and tape and they moved him in to Derek's apartment in less than a day.

"Derek!"

Derek lifted his head, snapping out of his reverie to find Allison waving at him. "Catch Abby!" she shouted, pointing at her toddler, who was wobbling down the lawn toward them. Stiles chuckled and scooped up the little girl, who giggled and snapped her teeth at him. Derek watched them, his heart aching a little. Sometimes Stiles felt like an extension of himself, like they were two parts of one being. They fit together like a puzzle, but for all their love and devotion, Stiles couldn't give him the one thing they both wanted more than anything - children. Even if they adopted, they'd never have werewolf children; packs were fiercely protective of their offspring, and even if both parents died, someone in the pack always took in the orphan.

Stiles caught Derek watching him cuddle Abigail and smiled a soft, sad smile. They had babysat for Scott and Allison often after the baby was born, but eventually Derek had asked Stiles to turn Scott down when he asked. It hurt too much, seeing Stiles love a child that wasn't theirs.

He watched Stiles walk up the lawn to return Abigail to Allison, and when he came back down, he slipped his hand into Derek's and they walked out to the end of the dock. They stood there in silence for a long time, listening to the sound of the water lap against the wood. Eventually Derek turned, slipping his hands around Stiles' waist. Stiles turned to face him, smiling faintly.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked.

"You," Derek replied. He grinned like a shark and tightened his grip on Stiles' hips, using his considerable strength to fling him into the lake. Stiles hit the water with a shriek and resurfaced with a stream of swears.

"Oh my fucking god!" Stiles bellowed, as Erica and Allison roared with laughter from the porch. "This water's fucking freezing! You'll be lucky if my dick doesn't disappear completely, asshat!"

Derek laid down on the warm wood of the dock and watched his mate splash around, trying to climb up onto the edge. He took pity on him eventually, pulling him out of the water and laughing when Stiles threw his cold body against him in revenge.

-

Later that night Derek sat in the bathroom, leaning against the side of the bathtub while Stiles soaked within. Stiles was the only person Derek knew who could take a bath in eighty degree weather and still complain that the water wasn't hot enough. Stiles had stopped grumbling, though, and the room was peaceful. The window was open, and Archimedes sat on the sill, head twisting about as he listened to the sounds of the forest. Derek had a book in his hands, House of Leaves, but he wasn't really paying much attention to it. He focused on the soft sound of Stiles' breathing and thought about the full moon, which was in two days. Stiles had run with the pack on their trips upstate since the second full moon following the beginning of their relationship, and his presence brought a cohesion to the pack that hadn't been there before. He couldn't keep up with them, so they played a game instead, where he headed into the forest before moonrise and the pack had to find him. It hadn't lasted long in the beginning - fifteen minutes tops - but on the last moon it had taken them two hours to find him, and afterward he and Derek fucked like the world was about to end.

Behind him, Stiles shifted, his heartbeat picking up slightly, like he knew what Derek was thinking about. He leaned forward, curling his damp arms around Derek's chest.

"Hey," Derek murmured, turning his head so he could push his nose against Stiles' cheek.

"Hey," Stiles echoed softly. His fingers trailed over Derek's heart, tracing the rune that still marred the skin there. "I've been thinking about something, and I want to run it past you."

"Okay," Derek said. "Shoot."

"You know the new lab tech?"

Derek wracked his brain for the new girl's name. "Cora?"

"Yeah," Stiles confirmed. "I was talking to her the other day, and she told me her sister is an omega...who works as a surrogate mother to wolves who can't conceive."

Derek's heartbeat began to pick up and he twisted so he could see Stiles' face. "We'll need a bigger apartment," he said hoarsely.

Stiles beamed, his smile bright as sunshine. "Isaac's been looking," he replied, his arms tightening around Derek's shoulders. Derek relaxed against him, happiness surging through him. He thought about the ring he'd pulled from the family safety deposit box a few weeks back, his great-grandfather’s wedding band - how it was hidden now in a small velvet box inside a pair of socks at the bottom of his suitcase. He'd wait for Stiles' father to arrive, get his permission, because Stiles would want that. He'd ask on the full moon, after the run when they were back at the cabin, exhausted and happy, and he knew what the answer would be.

"Love you," he murmured, and Stiles laughed, loud and bright, smacking a wet kiss on Derek's cheek.

"I know."