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Stiles gets that Derek is touch-starved. Is pretty much convinced that's why it was so easy for Ms Blake to seduce him given Derek's massive Trust Issues. He idly wonders how long it's been since someone touched Derek just because they could and then gets sad when he realises that it was probably Laura. It still doesn't quite explain why Derek went head-over-heels for her in a matter of days but, whatever, ten year-old Stiles fell in love with Lydia in less than the second it took her to flip her strawberry-blonde hair over her shoulder.

Stiles has been there, the touch-starved place, but it was mostly by his own choice. After his Mom died he didn't want anyone touching him – not even his Dad – because in his mind that would erase the last times his Mom touched him. One of his first panic attacks started because his Dad unthinkingly ran a hand over Stiles' hair. It was not a fun time and Scott was the only one who could break the barrier down in the end. Through sheer perseverance. That's why they'll always be bros even when Scott thinks it's a good idea to go off with a power-mad Alpha.

(Stiles isn't quite over it. He's getting there. It's just going to take time.)

Stiles sees Derek a lot after everything's tied up in a neat package of revenge-crazed druid and power-crazed werewolves. This is primarily because Cora's decided that she likes him (not likes him likes him, just likes him) – in that begrudging way that Hale siblings seem to do everything. Stiles thinks it might have to do with saving her life – he's developing a seriously great track record in the Saving Hales business – but it might also be because it means she gets to watch Derek and Stiles snark at each other when she drags him to the loft.

It means Stiles watches Derek's barrier slam back down in close-up. Watches him shy away from Cora's touch and cross the room to avoid Peter's. It sticks in the back of his mind. He worries at it vaguely and sometimes that means he gets caught staring thoughtfully at Derek and has to defend his intentions to Cora with half-truths that confuse her senses. No-one needs to know about his weird Derek feelings. He doesn't want to know about his weird Derek feelings.

They'd sort of worked around each other over summer. Stiles exorcising his guilt about being the last person to see Boyd and Erica and Derek exorcising his guilt at being a shitty Alpha. The point was that they'd sort of ended up exchanging information – even meeting for coffee in a succession of weird places around Beacon Hills and Hill Valley. It'd been sort of...nice, not hating the guy, and Derek opened up a bit. Probably because he was tired of the secrets he was carrying. Enough that Stiles finally solved the last piece of the Hale fire riddle: how did Kate Argent even get near enough to a house full of werewolves to set it on fire? He doesn't tell Derek that he's figured it out – it's probably the kind of story Derek doesn't want people to know.

So Derek's barriers are back in place and Stiles is in the weird place of knowing the guy better than his family does. He has weird feeling he's going to have to fix it.

“I haven't seen him in years,” Cora shrugs when Stiles finally asks if Derek's talking to her about the whole 'my-girlfriend-was-a-serial-killer' thing. “About the only thing that hasn't changed about him is how hard he falls for people. Seriously. Had they even known each other a week before they banged?”

Cora shudders as if that's the worst thing she can imagine and Stiles withholds the opinion that they were probably super hot together. They're sitting on the first escape outside Cora's room – because Derek is quietly a good brother who wants his sister to have privacy (and it was Isaac's room for the same reason) – Cora swinging her legs over the side and Stiles propped in the window.

“Maybe he believes in love at first sight?” Stiles asks, a smile pulling at his lips at the thought.

“Maybe he shouldn't,” Cora says, sharing the smile. “It's not working out well for him.”

Stiles laughs, resting his back against the window frame. He loves the dark sense of humour the Hales all share. Not that he's ever telling anyone that.

“Maybe he needs the slow burn romance,” Stiles says after a moment. “Less Nicholas Sparks and more – more -”

“You have no idea how to finish that do you?” Cora asks, raising a classic Hale eyebrow. Stiles shrugs.

“Pure romance isn't really my genre,” he says, waving a lazy hand.

“You probably think Han Solo and Princess Leia are the height of romance,” Cora says, laughing when Stiles doesn't deny it.

“Hey,” he says, watching her draw her legs up so she can look at him fully. “It's a legitimately good romance for a space fantasy.”

“I don't know,” Cora says thoughtfully. “Han is kinda pushy.”

“Absolutely not!” Stiles says, sitting straight up out of shook. “You are not ruining Han for me.”

Cora laughs at him and Stiles narrows his eyes at her, wondering why Hales seem to enjoy winding him up so much.

“Your face,” Cora says, still laughing. “Geeks and Star Wars.”

“No-one I know can appreciate an awesome movie series,” Stiles says with a sniff. He's on the verge of trapping Scott in his room with mountain ash in order to get him finally watching Star Wars.

“You might be surprised,” Cora says with a there-and-gone-again smirk. Stiles huffs out a breath and ignores her, he's tired of cryptic bullshit.

“So what are we going to do about him?” Stiles jerks his head in the vague direction of Derek. He's not actually in the loft right now, they wouldn't be talking about him like this if he was.

“I don't know,” Cora actually looks serious for a moment, playing with the hem of her oversized ex-Derek shirt. “I was only just getting to know him again and now he's completely shut down on me.”

“I figure that's why -” Stiles stops himself and goes back to the beginning of the thought. “Did he tell you much about what happened when he came back here?”

“He told me you all hated him,” Cora says, lifting one shoulder. “Figured he was being dramatic.”

“We pretty much did for a whole,” Stiles says, curling briefly inwards on himself. “But he didn't really give us many reasons not to. He's kinda a dick.”

“So are you,” Cora says, stretching a foot out and poking it into Stiles' thigh. There's nothing accusatory about her tone and Stiles should probably still feel insulted but he doesn't because it's true. Stiles is a dick. It's probably why he and Derek get along.

“I think that's why he did some of the shit he did,” Stiles says. “We didn't exactly make things easy for him. He didn't make them easy for us, either.”

“Okay, jeez, you were all as bad as each other,” Cora rolls her eyes. “You don't hate him anymore, that's all that matters.”

And he doesn't, it's true. Scott as well, if his meltdown over Derek's apparent death is anything to judge by. He thinks they might have grown as people or something. It's awful.

“So how are you going to fix him?” Cora asks. Stiles sighs and rubs a hand over his face.

“Why me?” Stiles asks, almost rhetorical.

“If not you, who else?” Cora asks, smirking.

“You suck,” Stiles points a finger at her and she laughs and Stiles really likes having a naturally responsive Hale around.

Well. One that isn't Peter.

Later Stiles goes downstairs to get drinks for both of them and Derek's fussing about in the kitchen. He raises an eyebrow at Stiles and Stiles lifts his head, he has every right to be in Derek's kitchen – he was invited. Derek shrugs and shifts slightly to one side – probably heard Stiles talking about getting drinks.

He hasn't quite moved over enough for Stiles to get into the cupboards easily and Stiles ends up briefly pressing a hand to Derek's shoulder to stop himself from overbalancing. Derek doesn't freeze, like he does with Cora, or shy away, like he does with Peter, and Stiles doesn't quite stop the thoughtful noise he makes at that.

Derek keeps chopping vegetables and Stiles eases back down, two tall glasses held between his fingers. Stiles has a memory of gripping Derek's shoulder after Boyd and he does it again, trailing his fingers down the side of Derek's arm because he can. Derek says nothing and neither does Stiles and when he gets back upstairs he can feel a plan developing.

He gets an easy start to the plan when Cora wants to watch a movie the next weekend and Stiles has just gotten his hands on Thor. Scott and Isaac have a thing and Allison and Mr Argent are at some kind of weapon show but Lydia is free so they pile into the loft. Cora made Derek get a TV, which is a discussion Stiles would've loved to see, and Stiles donates the DVD player from his room that he never uses.

Lydia takes the armchair that Derek normally uses and Stiles sprawls in the middle of the couch instead of folding into the corner the way he normally does. Cora slings her legs over the side of the couch and rests her head against Stiles' thigh with a kind of ease about his space that Stiles envies. It would be kind of easy to fall for her, Stiles can tell, but she's so much like Derek sometimes that it would be super weird.

Derek hovers in the kitchen like Stiles hasn't caught him in the local comic bookstore on more than one occasion. He makes a decision as the studio logos are going up and settles cautiously beside Stiles on the couch. Stiles wordlessly offers the massive bowl of popcorn on his lap to Derek, letting his leg fall against Derek's and resisting a smile when Derek doesn't pull away.

Stiles spends most of the movie being aware of Derek's heat beside him. Derek relaxes by increments, more of his body pressing against Stiles', until the last act of the movie – where he becomes so invested he leans forward as if he can get closer to the action. Stiles exchanges a grin with Cora and lets himself get invested too, even though he's already seen the film.

Derek's breath catches during the post-credits scene and Stiles can't resist nudging him with an elbow. Derek shoots him a look with a grin fighting against his usual expression and it shocks Stiles into returning it. Derek smiling is suddenly something Stiles needs to see a lot more often.

“Geeks,” Cora says, rolling her eyes at them both as she sits up and stretches. Derek doesn't protest, which is interesting, and Lydia is looking at all three of them calculatingly.

Stiles leaves a pile of random DVDs behind for Derek and Cora to argue over and drives Lydia home. She's quiet for a lot of the ride and it makes Stiles nervous.

“What are you trying to do?” Lydia asks finally.

“Fix Derek,” Stiles says, not bothering to dissemble – Lydia's been lied to enough. “You know, before someone or something else tries to use him.”

“Hmph,” Lydia goes quiet again and Stiles steals a glance at her. She nad Derek have settled into a vaguely uneasy truce – Derek apologised for being a dick about Peter and Lydia promised to give him warning when she decides to finish Peter off for good.

(Stiles will be right beside her, holding her purse for her.)

“I know you're never going to be friends,” Stiles says, as they roll up to a stop sign. “But -”

“Does Scott know what you're doing?” Lydia asks, raising her eyebrows at him.

“He doesn't not know,” Stiles says, which is true. Scott knows Stiles has been hanging around Cora and Derek. He just doesn't know about Operation: Save Derek From Himself.

“He's busy,” Stiles adds, hoping he doesn't sound as bitter as he feels. “He's got the whole Alpha thing to deal with. And Isaac -”

“And trying to put Derek back together gives you something to do until the next thing comes along,” Lydia interrupts. Stiles steals another look at her because it doesn't sound mean and that can't be right.

“I get it,” Lydia continues, flipping her hair over a shoulder. “Doing something. Keeping busy.”

They pull up outside Lydia's empty and darkened house and Stiles gets it too. A house to yourself; Mom barely there and Dad only showing up when he feels like it, boyfriend gone to another country and you still considered the town crazy person.

“We can hang out, if you want,” Stiles says as Lydia opens the door. She pauses and looks at him, narrowing her eyes thoughtfully.

“Yes,” she says with a firm nod. “We can.”

Stiles has a feeling he's just passed the final test in securing Lydia's friendship. He smiles at her and she rolls her eyes and hops out of the Jeep, shutting the door the right kind of hard behind her. Winning Lydia's friendship was part of his ten year plan but now he's happy to stick where he is rather than gambling with it they way he'd always planned to. Man. He really is growing up.

Just before Stiles falls asleep he receives two texts: Thanks. and When does Captain America come out? and Stiles laughs himself to sleep.

It goes on like that – Stiles touching Derek in small ways and feeling oddly proud when Derek starts reaching out himself. Derek stops shying away from Cora, though he still tenses when she touches him without warning.

Things are quiet, an unexpected chance to breathe in, and Scott finally has enough time to hang out with Stiles. It's not that Stiles is – the thing is just – Stiles was there first and Scott was his best friend and now he's struggling a little because he feels like Scott is going in a direction Stiles actually can't follow him. He knows it's all in his head; that it's a hangover from Scott agreeing to work with Deucalion over trying to do more with Stiles, that some of it is Scott caring so damn much about everyone no matter what they do. It doesn't help knowing that, though, because Stiles is jealous and possessive and Scott is supposed to be his best friend.

It's water under the bridge (mostly, but there's a part of Stiles whispering he's left you out twice now, what does that mean for you?) when Scott shows up with apology pizza (as laid out by their code – pizza with the offended party's favourites even if that includes something the offender hates) and a pile of Pokemon movies. It's not about the movies, though some of them are pretty awesome, but what they represent – Scott standing up to the bully who tried to steal Stiles' favourite card, despite the (undiagnosed at that time) asthma tearing at his lungs.

They take the downstairs over, Stiles' Dad conceding the TV when he sees the collection of VHS and DVDs. They fall together on the couch and watch through the first two movies in companionable silence.

“Sorry.” Scott says when Stiles gets up to put the third movie in. Stiles pauses and looks over his shoulder at him.

“It's forgiven,” Stiles waves a hand through the air. Mostly, adds that voice.

“Still, dude, I'm sorry,” Scott says when Stiles drops back down beside him again. Stiles looks at him, at one of the most serious expressions he's ever seen on Scott's face, and sighs.

He hauls Scott in and feels Scott's fingers twist into the fabric of his shirt as they hug. Scott is an amazing hugger and Stiles has always enjoyed hugs but this one probably knocks the rest of their hugs right out of the park.

“Missed you, buddy,” Stiles says, muffled against Scott's neck. “Let's not do that again.”

“You've got to start helping with this Alpha stuff, dude,” Scott says, pulling back. His eyes are glowing red and he shakes his head to clear it. “Every time I smell Derek the eyes go and I get this urge to shift.

Scott twitches his nose and his eyes flash again. Stiles tries not to smile.

“Is this your not so subtle way of telling me I smell like Hale?” Stiles asks, corner of his mouth twitching. Scott rolls his eyes with his whole body.

“Yes, that's my way of saying it smells like you've been rolling around in Derek and Cora's clothes,” Scott says, hands twitching in that way that tells Stiles he wants to cuff him on the shoulder but won't. Stiles laughs.

“Well, okay,” he says, sobering. “The Alphas could all hang out with each other, right? So maybe there's a trick to it. I mean, you aren't even in a pack with Derek.”

“I could ask Deaton,” Scott says and Stiles doesn't bother to cover his snort.

“I know he's been actually helpful this time but do you really think he's not going to go straight back to cryptic advice?”

“I don't know, but he was the first one who talked about the True Alpha stuff. He might have some ideas.”

“I could talk to Derek,” Stiles says, lifting a shoulder. Scott gives him a look. “What?”

“When did it start being you who suggests going to Derek?” Scott asks with half a smile pulling one side of his face up.

“Figure it's easier if we just co-ordinate our life-saving efforts in advance, Stiles says with a shrug. “I hate showing up late – so ...” It's not exactly a lie so Scott doesn't make anything of it.

They talk through the other movies; catching up on how Isaac's settling in with Scott and how Mrs McCall is dealing with the aftermath of Ms Blake kidnapping her (which is by being awesome), Stiles' accidental friendship with Cora and how Lydia's dealing with the whole banshee thing. There's another crushing hug at the end of the night and a promise to do some mindless shooting things in the next few days.

Stiles tidies the room and lets his Dad pull him into a one-armed hug and hair-tousle. His Dad knows how important Scott is to Stiles and vice-versa and had been watching him with worried eyes since the sundered they Alpha pack.

“Proud of you, kid,” his Dad says, pulling back and squeezing Stiles' shoulder.

“I wasn't that pi – angry at him, it was easy,” Stiles says, which is a partial lie. His Dad's hand stays on his shoulder.

“I mean it,” his Dad says, looking at him hard. “I'm proud of you. What you've done, what you've been through – I'm proud of you. I don't say that enough.”

Stiles wraps his Dad in a hug and totally doesn't shed a few tears. He feels something ease inside him, something that's been tight since Scott was bitten, and he shakes a little. They pull apart and clap each other on the shoulder brusquely, ducking their heads to hide their watering eyes, and Stiles jogs up the stairs. Two emotionally devastating moments are enough for one day and Stiles' laptop is calling to him.

So of course Derek is sitting on his bed. His hair isn't as high as usual and he's wearing a sweater that looks sinfully soft, his leather jacket still nowhere to be seen. Maybe it doesn't fit him since he put on the Alpha muscle. Stiles' mouth goes momentarily dry just looking at him. He shakes himself and rolls his eyes at Derek.

“You know you can come through the front door now,” Stiles points out before raising his voice: “Dad, Derek's here!”

“Leave your door open,” his Dad shouts back and Stiles feels himself flush.

“Da-aad,” Stiles turns away from the twitch at the corner of Derek's mouth, it looks suspiciously like a smile.

“I know what you young people of today are like!” his Dad replies, good humour in his tone. He probably wouldn't feel so amused if he knew about Stiles' weird Derek feelings.

Stiles leaves the door open a handwidth just in case his Dad's not joking and turns back to Derek. He still looks rumpled and soft. It's the worst (best!) thing Stiles has ever seen.

“So what's up, big guy?” Stiles asks, tucking his hands into his pockets so he doesn't reach out to touch Derek's hair. “Time to get the band back together?”

Stiles has been expecting someone to call him in the middle of the night panicking about pixies or trolls or dragons or something for weeks now – he's surprised it's taken this long.

“Your room smells like Cora,” Derek says, his nose wrinkling a little.

“Are you surprised?” Stiles asks, rocking back on his heels. “She at least has the good manners to use the door.”

“It's weird,” Derek says, shrugging. “It normally just smells of you, your Dad and Scott.”

“Well, get used to it,” Stiles says, throwing his arms out and turning on the spot. “2012 is totally going to be the year people are all up on Stiles.” Derek stares at him with a lifted eyebrow. “Not your sister. Obviously.”

Derek stands and runs his eyes over Stiles, indicating Stiles should turn again with a hand gesture, and Stiles feels hot all over under his gaze. Derek nods when Stiles faces him again and Stiles barely resists a high pitched what?! Derek reaches a hand out and pushes up the front of Stiles' hair. Stiles tries not to hold his breath.

“You should probably get a lock on your door,” Derek says, something bright and amused in his eyes. “And fix the window latches. When that happens.”

Stiles will freak out about that 'when' later. Instead he shoves Derek back towards his bed and drops into his desk chair. He splays his legs because he can and spins back and forth. Derek doesn't look up with his murder face, the way he would've ten months ago, but arranges himself very precisely on the side of the bed. Stiles is not distracted by the stretch of Derek's jeans over his thighs the same way he's never been distracted by a hint of Lydia's perfume.

“Seriously, dude,” Stiles says, kicking out a foot to nudge Derek's leg. “What's up?”

“Cora said you have an X-Box,” Derek says and it's enough of a non sequitur that Stiles stares wordlessly at him for a moment.

“Yes,” Stiles says slowly. “But what does that -”

He's cut off by Derek low balling a game case at him, aiming for his chest and mostly getting his lap. Stiles clutches at the case and tries not to think about how close it came to his balls. It's a new copy of an old game, Stiles recognises the bright LEGO logo on the box, and not at all what Stiles expected.

“Really?” Stiles asks, keeping the incredulity out of his tone even as he drags the X-Box out from under his desk.

“I asked the clerk for something fun,” Derek says, taking a controller when Stiles passes it to him.

“Everything about this is blowing my mind,” Stiles says, unhooking his desktop monitor/TV and connecting the X-Box up.

“Then you're easily blown,” Derek says, smirking when Stiles glares over his shoulder.

“You're not funny,” Stiles says, turning the X-Box on and dropping the disc in the tray.

“I'm hilarious,” Derek says, deadpan, and sometimes Stiles thinks the guy is the best straight man since Leslie Nielsen.

“Laugh it up, fuzzball,” Stiles retorts, dropping onto the bed next to Derek with his own controller. Derek smiles at him, a quick flash of teeth and curved lips, and Stiles feels winded.

Co-op LEGO Star Wars involves a lot more shouting than Stiles expected but as long as he's got Derek comfortably pressed against his side he doesn't care. The game is fun, of course it is, and Derek huffs out short laughs at the cutscenes and suddenly Cora's 'you'd be surprised' of weeks ago makes sense. Derek's into Star Wars. This may be the greatest revelation of all time.

Stiles knew that (logically) Derek couldn't have sprung to life as a punishingly hot ball of werewolf angst but knowing that and actually being able to see it is two different things. Stiles is starting to put together the puzzle that makes up Derek Hale and it's nowhere near as black and white as he'd thought.

They play the first four levels of A New Hope and Derek's Han Solo impression is unfortunately awesome. Stiles feels his cheeks heat when Derek calls him 'princess' and Derek, mercifully, doesn't call him out on it. The gaming is ended when Stiles' Dad knocks on the door and reminds Stiles he promised to clean the house tomorrow. Stiles ignores the way his Dad pulls the door shut behind him.

“So this was fun,” Stiles says, shuffling his feet nervously as the X-Box spins down behind him.

“Yeah,” Derek says, one corner of his mouth turning up.

“We should do it again,” Stiles says, waving a hand at the X-Box.

“Yeah,” Derek ducks his head, almost shy, and Stiles can maybe see a hint of the shape of Derek before the blue eyes.

“Derek – do you -” Stiles stops when Derek looks up at him, at the relaxed set to his face. “Are you still lonely?”

It's not the question Stiles had meant to ask, his mouth skipping ahead of him to say something he hadn't even know he was thinking. Derek freezes almost imperceptibly and Stiles curses himself for ruining a good thing. A half dozen responses flicker over his face before he relaxes suddenly, his shoulders dropping.

“Not as lonely as I was,” Derek says and Stiles feels his heart start beating again.

Derek smiles, small and brief and bright, and Stiles surprises himself again – by pulling Derek up toward him and hugging him tightly. Derek tenses again and Stiles runs a soothing hand between his shoulder blades, enjoying the feel of Derek's soft sweater under his hand. Derek melts into the hug, his face buried against Stiles' shoulder, and puts his arms tightly around Stiles. Stiles clings back and this is way too desperate to be a friendly hug but Stiles isn't reading anything into it – the plan is for Derek's benefit, not his.

Stiles doesn't know how long they stay like that, Derek curled around him almost like he thinks Stiles is going to disappear, but he doesn't care. He's needed this more than he realised.

Derek finally pulls back, his hands briefly fitting over Stiles' hips in a way that makes his skin tingle. Stiles squeezes Derek's biceps and steps back, already missing the warmth of him

“You should go out the front door,” Stiles says when Derek takes a step toward the open window. “Now that you're all legit and approved.”

Derek huffs out another one of his almost laughs and lets Stiles lead him downstairs. Derek actually lingers on the porch, hands in his pockets, and Stiles kinda can't stop smiling at how much he looks like an awkward teenager. Stiles leans in the doorway with folded arms and enjoys the way Derek scowls half-heartedly at the smile.

“Thanks,” Derek says finally, toeing at the wooden decking.

“Any time, dude,” Stiles says, trying to stop his smile from turning into something manic.

“I'll text you,” Derek says, meeting Stiles' eyes. “So the room doesn't smell like jizz next time.”

His smile cuts sharp across his face and he's gone into the darkness before Stiles can stutter through a reply.

“You're a real comedian,” Stiles calls out, knowing Derek will be able to hear him.

He has a message when he gets back upstairs. I'm here all week.

Stiles may be creating a monster. Funnily enough, he doesn't mind. He falls asleep with the memory of soft fabric over hard muscle playing under his fingertips.

Stiles is looking forwad to a rare night in the house by himself – his Dad's on night shift for the first time since Jennifer kidnapped him and Stiles has faked plans with each of his friends to his other friends so nobody drops in and surprises him. He never thought he'd yearn for the days when he and Scott were unpopular nobodies – but enough of his jerk off sessions have been interrupted by surprise visitors that he's now looking back nostalgically. Especially after that time Cora came through the window and startled him into coming. Something she hasn't let him forget.

Hales are the worst.

He jerks off when he gets home, not thinking about the last time he saw Derek shirtless, then fucks around on the internet before it's time to cook something for dinner. He's carefully not examining the uptick in the frequency of Derek's appearances in his fantasies. It feels wrong, objectifying Derek when that's the sort of thing that's screwed up his life so many times.

He rattles around the kitchen, singing along to the playlist Allison made him when she found out they liked a few of the same bands, and nearly craps his pants when he turns around and Derek is sitting at the kitchen table. Stiles yelps and clutches his chest, heart pounding and breathing fast.

“Oh my God,” Stiles says when his brain starts working again. He throws the dishtowel over his shoulder at Derek's face and hates him a little for catching it easily. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I let myself in,” Derek says, frowning and putting the towel on the table. “Your front door was unlocked.”

“Shit,” Stiles never forgets to lock up. He takes a step toward the hall and Derek raises a hand to stop him.

“I locked up behind me,” Derek says. “Shouldn't the Sheriff's son be more careful?”

“I had other things on my mind,” Stiles says, feeling a sudden rush of heat to his face.

“I can smell that,” Derek says, wrinkling his nose up.

“Oh, fuck off,” Stiles says, crossing his arms. “Like you don't jerk off as soon as Cora's out of the loft.”

A moment of guilt flickers across Derek's expression and Stiles drops his arms to laugh at him

“I bet she makes fun of you too,” Stiles says, trying to contain his smile. “Glad I'm not the only one.”

“She's worse than Laura,” Derek says. Stiles can't help the way his eyebrows lift, Derek never talks about the family he's lost. Derek looks just as surprised as Stiles feels, his eyes wide about the edges.

“So,” Stiles begins, turning back to his dinner. “What brings you here?”

Derek shrugs and pushes to his feet, bending to look in the oven. He's armoured up in his leather jacket – one that fits him, and Stiles will always miss the one with the too long sleeves – which means something's going on. Stiles doesn't push, a miracle from him, because sometimes Derek responds best to silence.

“Well,” Stiles hops onto the counter and kicks his legs off the cupboard. “If you're going to disrupt my plans to have no plans you might as well stay for dinner.”

“I could eat,” Derek says, moving to stand in front of Stiles. He's cracking around the edges, this close, and Stiles feels something in him start to ache.

Stiles watches Derek's eyes for a moment, the way they linger on the flames on the stove top before flicking around the room, and he knows, suddenly, what today is. Cora had clung to him and Isaac a little more than usual at school – and they'd disappeared afterwards before he could ask what was going on. Derek's hands are tight fists at his sides, tension drawing his shoulders up, and he looks like he'd snap in a strong wind.

“Cm'ere,” Stiles says, making a decision. He spreads his legs, only blushing slightly as he does it, and opens his arms. He waits long enough for it to be embarrassing and is about to lower his arms when Derek makes a soft noise and steps into the cradle of his hips. They've hugged a few times since that first time, companionable brohugs that were nothing like as intense as the first. It doesn't seem to come easily to Derek.

Stiles has never done this kind of hug and it feels weird to close his legs and press his knees against Derek's sides. Derek's hands rest on Stiles' hips and go no further as he tilts his forehead down to lean against Stiles' chest. Stiles closes his arms around Derek; holding him tightly with one arm across the small of his back, the other around his shoulders. Derek is trembling slightly, his chest expanding as he occasionally draws in a deep breath, and Stiles tries to make soothing noises. Derek's fingers tighten on Stiles' hips and he curls himself further into Stiles' body. Stiles hesitates briefly before moving a hand to the base of Derek's neck, tangling his fingers into Derek's hair.

They stay that way for a long time. Stiles tucks Derek's head under his chin eventually and gazes over it to watch his food in the oven. Derek's trembling subsides at last and with a deep, wet sniff he straightens, not leaving Stiles' space. Stiles reaches behind him for some paper towel then bypasses offering it to wipe under Derek's eyes and down his cheeks himself. He does it on autopilot, memories of doing this for his Dad in the months after his Mom's death, and Derek stares at him with wide eyes that crack him open. Stiles pauses, holding his breath, and waits for Derek to do something.

Derek's eyes are searching and the colours are so vivid that Stiles can't look away. Derek's eyes flick over Stiles' face, lingering on his mouth for a moment, and Stiles holds his breath. Derek takes a hand from Stiles' waist and raises it to Stiles' hand, so still against Derek's cheek. He covers Stiles' fingers with his own and turns his head to press his cheek into Stiles' palm, his eyes fluttering closed. Stiles lets out a shaky breath and finishes drying Derek's cheeks with his free hand.

Derek steps back and Stiles slides down off the counter, leaning into Derek's hand when he almost stumbles on suddenly weak legs. Stiles tosses the paper towel in the trash and checks on dinner, desperately aware of Derek's every move behind him. When he turns around Derek has shed his jacket – dressed once again in a soft sweater, this one in blue - and looks more like his normal self. He's resettled at the table, hands clasped together on the surface.

“Should be ready in five,” Stiles says, leaning his hands on the back of the chair opposite Derek. “What do you want to do after?”

“We could watching something,” Derek says. Stiles feels the surprise and hopes it doesn't show on his face.

“We could,” Stiles nods, tapping his fingers against the chair back. Derek shrugs like he didn't suggest it himself and Stiles rolls his eyes and shakes his head at him.

“Do you want to stay,” Stiles says half-way through dinner. “Um. Stay the night?”

Derek stares at him with one raised eyebrow and Stiles bites his bottom lip into his mouth. Derek stares at his mouth for a moment and Stiles feels heat creeping up his spine. Derek's eyes flick up to Stiles' again and Stiles feels winded by the look in them. He's not really prepared for Derek to look at him like that – like Stiles is important and Derek wants him.

“You shouldn't be alone tonight,” Stiles adds in a small, hoarse voice.

Derek's quiet for a long moment, staring at his food, before he quietly says, “I know.”

They finish the rest of their dinner in silence and Stiles leaves Derek with the Stilinski DVD collection while he changes into a shirt that isn't still slightly damp with Derek's tears. He comes back down to the title menu of The Princess Bride and swallows against a sudden lump in his throat – it was his Mom's favourite film for sick days.

Stiles can quote it from memory.

Derek looks awkward, like he thinks Stiles is going to judge his choice, so Stiles swallows down his own sadness and throws himself onto the couch. He watches Derek looking between the couch and his Dad's chair with indecision written on his face. Stiles draws a breath and slings one leg up along the couch, spreading the other wide, trying not to be embarrassed at the underlying invitation he's giving. Derek looks at him sideways and Stiles can almost feel him thinking it over.

Then Derek huffs out a breath and smiles at himself, a small and terrifyingly perfect thing, before walking over and settling himself between Stiles' legs, his back to Stiles' chest. Stiles knows, intellectually, that he and Derek are pretty much the same height but Derek's always seemed so huge that Stiles forgets. They fit together almost perfectly, Stiles able to hook his chin over Derek's shoulder if he wanted to – and he wants to, because his weird feelings for Derek aren't so weird if Derek maybe feels the same way about him.

It takes a moment for them to find a prime movie watching position, settling eventually with one of Stiles' legs up to cage Derek in and one of Stiles' arms snug around Derek's waist to hold him in place. Stiles props his head up on one hand, his elbow digging into the arm of the couch, and Derek lays his head back to rest on Stiles' shoulder. It's comfortable in a way Stiles wasn't really expecting and when Derek threads their fingers together part way through the film Stiles squeezes his hand and turns his head to smile into Derek's hair.

They stay together after the movie finishes and Stiles takes a moment to be amazed at the way their breathing has synced up. Without the movie to distract him he notices how good Derek smells – woodsy and spicy and real – and he's pretty sure he could stay this way forever. Even with the numb ass.

“It was my Mom's favourite movie,” Derek says, speaking the words to some point on the ceiling. “She called Dad 'Buttercup' because she said she saved him from marrying the wrong woman. We never found out what she meant because she always promised she'd tell us when we were old enough. Then they -”

Derek's voice grinds to a halt and Stiles brings his other arm around to curl about Derek's shoulders, holding him together. The hand not entwined with Stiles' comes up to slide along Stiles' arm, settling over his wrist with Derek's fingers pressed against his pulse like he can't hear Stiles' heartbeat.

“Bet you're kinda mad at her about that,” Stiles says, knowing it's true when Derek goes still in his arms. “Before my Mom got sick she used to talk about all the things she was going to tell me when I was older – stories about her and Dad, stories about her family – and all the things she thought we could do together, places we'd go and see. She made so many promises and all – all I could think, when she died and I was alone in that hospital room, was how many promises she'd broken and I was so mad. First panic attack I had was because I couldn't stop being angry at her. I knew that was wrong.”

Derek wriggles and twists, moving until he can prop himself up with a hand on the arm of the couch behind Stiles. His eyes are shocky and raw and Stiles can't stand that look all of a sudden, closing his eyes and tilting his head down.

“I never really told anyone that before,” Stiles admits, letting out a long breath. “I told the therapist Dad sent me to when the attacks got really bad. She said it was normal to be angry like that – that we can't help it, that it was healthy. I still feel bad about it, though.”

“I'm mad at Laura for leaving me,” Derek says and Stiles' eyes snap open. Derek looks pained but resolute. “She promised she was going to come back. She left me alone.”

“Shit,”Stiles says, bringing a hand up to grip Derek's bicep. “This is the first time you've been alone since -”

“Cora – I – we're not really ready to be family again,” Derek ducks his head. “We've changed too much, we need to learn each other again.”

“And you don't want to spend any more time with Peter than you have to,” Stiles says with a smirk. Derek smirks back, his eyes crinkling slightly around the edges.

“I'm happy to be a substitute,” Stiles says, shrugging. The hand Derek had left resting by Stiles' side comes up to grip his shoulder.

“You're not a substitute,” Derek says, his earnest face a world away from anything Stiles has seen on him. It makes him look incredibly young.

“I – thanks,” Stiles swallows against a sudden lump in his throat and smiles.

Derek lies down against him again, this time chest to chest, and Stiles is getting the impression that born werewolves have a little more in common with actual wolves than he thought. Like the emotional comfort from touch thing. Horribly enough it explains why Derek fell so hard and quick for the first person who showed him a caring hand – despite the trust issues.

Derek's face ends up buried just under Stiles' chin, his nose dipping toward the hollow of Stiles' throat, and Stiles makes sure both his arms are curved around Derek's back, holding him close.

Stiles holds onto Derek, lets him take whatever comfort he needs, and they stay there for a long time. Long enough to fall asleep together and be woken up by Stiles' Dad coming in from his shift. He meets Stiles' eyes over the back of the couch, Derek is a sleeping dead weight in his arms, and shakes his head fondly. The forgiving look in his Dad's eyes tells Stiles that he knows what date it is too. He covers them with the blanket from the back of his chair and ruffles Stiles' hair before heading upstairs. It's the closest they're going to get to any kind of blessing while Stiles is underage and Stiles is okay with that.

Derek kisses him on a perfectly normal day and for no particular reason Stiles can figure out. It's nothing dramatic, just a brush of his lips against Stiles' when he gets up from the couch to change the DVD. They both freeze, Derek halfway between sitting and standing, and Stiles stares up at him with wide eyes. Derek huffs out a laugh, suddenly, and straightens with a smile.

“Guess I got tired of pretending this isn't what it is,” Derek answers the unasked question when he looks back down at Stiles. The smile forms lines at the corners of Derek's eyes, lines Stiles has begun to fantasise about tracing with his fingers, and Stiles finds himself returning it.

“What is it?” Stiles asks as Derek swaps Empire in for Hope. His eyes drift to Derek's ass where he's crouched in front of the TV.

“Why don't you tell me?” Derek asks, smirking over his shoulder when he catches Stiles looking.

“Something good,” Stiles says firmly, blushing as he meets Derek's eyes. Derek nods.

He returns to the couch and tangles their legs together – Stiles has learnt Derek won't stand for talking during movies, even ones he's seen before, and likes to be as undistracted as possible.

Apparently Stiles is very distracting.

They're halfway through the movie when Stiles has to speak, so he pauses the DVD and turns to Derek, shuffling along the couch until they're face to face. Derek has one eyebrow raised, the way he always does when he's waiting for something to be explained, and Stiles links their hands together.

“This wasn't supposed to be about me,” Stiles says, squeezing Derek's hands. “It was just supposed to be a way to get you back on track after – after everything. I'm talking about the touching, by the way.”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “I figured. Cora told me she was glad you fixed me.”

“Oh,” Stiles' voice goes embarrassingly high. “She wasn't supposed to tell you.”

“She told me that, too,” Derek says with a quick, sharp grin.

“I just wanted to make you safe, you know,” Stiles shrugs. “Save you from that happening again.”

“You're doing a pretty good job,” Derek says, tugging at Stiles' hands until Stiles is up on his knees and leaning over Derek.

“Yeah?” Stiles asks, resting his hands on Derek's shoulders when Derek releases them. Derek's hands find Stiles' waist and Stiles relaxes his weight into Derek's strength.

“Yeah,” Derek agrees, tilting his head up so their mouths are mere moments apart.

“I'll just keep doing what I'm doing then,” Stiles says, smoothing his thumbs over the edges of Derek's collarbone.

“Good,” Derek says firmly. Stiles leans down and kisses him, butterfly wings vibrating in his stomach, and feels his skin flush hot when Derek makes a broken off noise into the kiss.

They end up making out for a while, until Stiles' lips are kiss-bitten and Derek's are swollen and red. It's a good look on him, Stiles can't deny. Derek can only be distracted from Star Wars for so long, though, and soon enough they're back to their original trilogy marathon. Derek presses Stiles up against the kitchen counter when they replenish popcorn before Jedi and Stiles presses him up against the back of the couch after a toilet break. They kiss on the porch as well, after, and Stiles doesn't care if the neighbours see because he can feel Derek smiling into every second kiss.

He gets a message from Cora when he's getting ready for bed: ugh this is worse than if he'd been banging you he stinks of feelings and it's nauseating.

You asked me to fix him. :) Stiles sends back. Cora sends him a picture of Derek sitting back on his bed, smiling down at an old book, and Stiles instantly makes it his phone wallpaper.

thanks she sends five minutes later and Stiles sends back No problem. Seriously.

youre both as bad as each other Stiles laughs and drops his phone on the desk.

He dozes while wondering how he's going to prepare Scott's Alpha nose for dealing with just how much he and Derek are going to smell like each other. He figures it's Scott's just desserts for Stiles knowing way too much about Allison before he even knew her properly.

His phone buzzes with Goodnight Princess and Stiles replies with Goodnight Buttercup and, yeah, Cora's right. They are nauseating

Surprisingly enough, he doesn't care.