Wrong Until You Make It Right

Chapter 3

Stiles had never been very good at subtle avoidance, and he knew it was probably obvious that he’d been avoiding Derek.

After rolling around on the swing and working himself up into what he could only think of as a tizzy (for some damn reason), he’d gotten up and headed up to the house, where he set up a rousing game of solitaire and played until he felt a little more grounded. It gave him something to do with his hands and mind, got him out of his head for a little while, which was something that was harder to do when he was reading or writing or doing anything that directly involved words. Making up terrible math problems (long division and multiplication when he was younger, algebra later, but fuck calculus) and solving them was another thing he’d done in the past too.

Feeling marginally more calm, he’d put the pack of cards away before grabbing a book and hiding in the front yard until the sun set, when he wandered - sneakily - back up to the house, glancing around carefully inside for signs of Derek. He saw him sprawled on the couch, but his eyes were closed with his book resting on his chest. Stiles had made his way inside and up to the attic room without waking Derek up.

The next morning he waited to sleep until he heard Derek stir downstairs, and snuck out to the swing again with the cards when he woke up in the evening and saw Derek out in the front yard. His thoughts were still all over the place, and more often than not he found himself alternately catastrophizing or fantasizing about what he should do about his Derek-feelings, as well as getting caught up in the tornado that was the re-emergence of real, actual emotions.

The worst was when the two were combined, because he went from the happy bubble of happy-ever-after to the black hole of total rejection over and over again, and he felt each scenario like it was happening. He’d almost forgotten how intense happiness, that anxious excitement when it felt like something he wanted was something he could actually have, could be. It was exhilarating and, yet again, scary as fuck, and as good as it was, it was also terrible in some ways.

He heard Derek coming down the stairs, and waited until he heard him rooting around in the storage closet before popping up and sneaking over to the stairs and up into the house. He had to be light-footed to avoid Derek hearing him, and immediately felt like the worlds biggest coward.

He knew that the avoidance game wasn’t a good one to play. He needed to just confront Derek, and what would happen would happen, but Stiles had always been a fan of ignoring problems, especially scary ones, and despite all the therapy and knowledge to the contrary, he still had trouble not falling into that habit. It didn’t help that he hadn’t dealt with anxiety from fear in at least a year, and so it just felt that much more difficult.

He carefully shut the door behind himself, and listened closely to see if Derek was coming back up. He’d bet that Derek was headed out to the beach, but he wanted to be sure. He didn’t exactly know what he’d do if Derek came back into the house, but his mind was conjuring up different ways out. Maybe he’d hide in one of the downstairs bedrooms.

But sure enough, Derek was headed out to the beach with a chair in hand, the sky a watercolor as the sun set slowly over the ocean. Stiles wanted to go out to him, sit and watch this beautiful thing with him, but he just… couldn’t. He felt something heavy drop in his chest, and remembered that this feeling was longing. A deep, clenching pull inside his heart to just go to him.

It only got worse when Derek set up a second beach chair.

He had to do something about this. He was going to end up hurting their relationship, hurting Derek, if he kept avoiding him. It was obvious in that one act, a stupid fucking chair, that Derek cared, that he was worried, that he wanted Stiles’ company, actually missed him, and was waiting for Stiles and making room for him for whenever he wanted to come back.

In the midst of his own angst, he’d forgotten just how lonely Derek really was.

‘Come on, Stilinski. Just go out there. Just sit with him, you don’t even have to talk, just fucking sit in the chair and watch the goddamn sunset.’

Stiles nodded to himself, shoved all of his shit under a mental rock, and stepped out onto the porch, down the stairs, and to the beach, one foot in front of the other. But there came a point where he couldn’t make himself move, where he stopped in his tracks and all of the doubt and worry over what might change with Derek surfaced, and he was paralyzed. He swallowed heavily, thinking to himself, ‘Walk, come on, just walk over there, he’s waiting for you.’

He couldn’t tell if it was helping, or making it worse.

But then he saw Derek lean forward and bury his face in his hands, and Stiles felt a wave of sadness hit him like a wall, and knew he couldn’t just leave it like this.

He took one step, and didn’t let himself stop.

He settled carefully in the chair next to Derek, who hadn’t moved. He wasn’t sure if Derek had noticed him, and he didn’t know whether or not he should say anything. His heart was hammering in his throat already, and the thought of having Derek’s attention on him made him want to freak out - until he remembered that this was Derek. This was Derek, who had never expected anything from him, who gave him space and companionship without ever demanding anything back, just taking what was given and giving in return.

Stiles took a breath, and leaned over and nudged Derek with his shoulder.

“Hey,” he said quietly, but kept his eyes on the ocean. Derek ran one hand down his face, rubbing at his mouth for a moment before leaning back.

“Hi,” he returned. Stiles waited for him to continue, and started to feel awkward as they just sat there, nothing between them but the crash of the waves and the constant brushing sound of the beach breeze. But Stiles had no idea what to say, and when he glanced over, Derek was just staring out at the ocean.

“I’m okay,” Stiles blurted, but Derek was still quiet. Stiles was trying to think of something to add, which would probably lead to some sort of humiliating verbal diarrhea, but Derek saved him from that fate.

“Did I… Do something?” he asked, and Stiles blinked, and then something clicked for him: Derek had probably been blaming himself for Stiles’ freak out. Hell, he’d probably immediately blamed himself, because Derek and guilt complex went together like milk and cookies, and Stiles avoiding him after Derek had done his best to comfort him was probably like tearing into Derek’s vulnerability and infecting it with angst.

“No! No, you didn’t… I swear, it wasn’t you. I just - I don’t - Something happened,” Stiles finished lamely, his voice starting to tremble toward the end.

“I didn’t mean to do it, whatever I did,” Derek said. His voice sounded hollow, and Stiles fucking hated it.

“You didn’t do anything, Derek, I swear to god, I’m… I’m just going through some - some stuff,” Stiles rambled, but when he looked at Derek, his jaw was tense and his eyes were hurt, and Stiles knew that he absolutely didn’t believe him. “You were just yourself, there wasn’t anything -”

Derek barked a laugh, but it was completely empty. “I’m sorry that I’m so fucking offensive,” he said, and started to get up. Stiles grabbed his arm, gripping tightly, feeling desperate and anxious and hurt.

“That came out wrong! Listen, I just - I got… triggered, into feeling stuff again. And it’s a lot, and I’m really bad at this, but believe me when I say that you didn’t do anything, you just - you’re perfect, there’s nothing wrong with you or how you treat me, you’re amazing, actually, and that’s why-” Stiles’ breath caught, but Derek sat back into the chair, frowning. Stiles relaxed his grip on Derek’s arm, which Derek was already pulling away. Stiles started to take his hand back, but Derek caught it, holding loosely for a long, agonizing moment. He looked up, met Stiles’ eyes.

“I’m… bad at this.”

Stiles blinked, felt his heart stutter. With the hand-holding and the “this” and the everything, what was Derek trying to tell him? Did he… Did Derek… Was it? What?

“Please tell me that by ‘this,’ you mean what I think you mean, because I’m bad at this too. Like, really bad, surprised-I-ever-got-laid bad, fumbled-through-awkward-dates bad, unrequited-love-for-years bad. Oh my god, please tell me to shut up, or throw sand at me or something, I’m dying here dude.”

Derek just gave him a little smile, and laced their fingers together.

“God help us, then.”

Stiles squeezed his hand, and his head felt like it was about to float off his body.

“No joke. I’m - uh, I need some clarification though, because like I said, really bad at this! Can’t interpret signals, need it in writing, like, in triplicate, sign here, initial there -”


“Yes! Yes, listening, I’m all ears.”

“If we could leave here, I’d ask you on a date right now.”

Stiles swallowed, and then, like he just couldn’t fucking help himself, said, “You mean like a coffee-date date or like a dinner-and-a-movie date or walk-through-the-park-picnic-lunch date or -”

“Oh my god.”

“ - like a hey-come-up-to-my-place-after-meeting-at-a-bar or…?”

Derek squeezed Stiles’ hand, bringing their hands up to his mouth so he could press his lips to the back of Stiles’ in a not-quite kiss, mumbling, “There are times when I honestly can’t tell if you’re serious, or if you just think you’re funny and want to hear yourself talk.”

Stiles smiled, wide, just this terrible face-splitting number that was all teeth and flared nostrils and squished eyes and shit, he probably looked ridiculous.

“Nervous rambling, dude. I physically cannot stop myself.”

“I figured. Now shut up and watch the sunset.”

“It’s practically night.”

“Okay, then just shut up.”

“So romantic.”

“Always,” he said, and pressed a real kiss to the back of Stiles’ hand.

Stiles was a puddle on the sand, a thousand things running through his head, but above everything else, he was… happy.

They sat for a while in silence, the ocean a calming white noise as Stiles let an excited warmth wash over him. It was… It was a lot. It was so much that he felt like he might fly apart, but Derek’s hand was warm and dry in his own, something keeping him pulled together and tied to earth. That simple human touch, that comfort, was something that Stiles hadn’t allowed himself in a long time, at first upset because he felt pitied, and later because he thought he was too despicable to deserve something so good.

Stiles gently squeezed Derek’s hand, looking out at the dark horizon where the sun had long-since set. His eyes traveled upward through the sky, tracing constellations he’d known by heart since he was little.

“Mom loved the stars,” he said, a small smile making an appearance through a dull ache, one that had never quite gone away. “She taught me constellations when I was little, and whenever there was a meteor shower, she’d take me and Dad out to this lake, where there was no light pollution, and we’d spread out and watch the sky until there wasn’t a single one falling anymore. Sometimes we’d be out til, like, four in the morning. We’d all feel like hell the next day, especially if it was a school night, but it was so, so worth it.”

Derek shifted their hands so that he could gently stroke his thumb back and forth across Stiles’ palm.

“It’s good you have those memories. They’re… something special.”

Stiles hummed his agreement, and then pulled Derek up with him. He turned Derek toward the ocean and stood behind him, then gripped one of Derek’s shoulders while putting his arm over the other, pointing out toward the sky.

“Start simple. Big Dipper,” Stiles traced the pattern, then shifted, “Little Dipper, or Ursa Minor. And if you spread out from the Big Dipper, you get Ursa Major, the bear.”

Derek nodded, and Stiles felt a strange mix of sadness and contentment flood through him. He faltered for a moment, swallowing and taking a deep breath, letting his body relax as he did. He let himself feel the warmth at his front, Derek’s body not quite touching, but near enough to remind Stiles of where he was, and, most importantly, that he was okay.

It was only for a second, and before Derek could say anything about the pause, Stiles continued.

“Leo,” he said, voice steady, “One of the easiest to see, and then Cancer, right at the lion’s mouth. Move a little, and you’ve got Hydra, the longest constellation. You can only see those three in the spring.”

Stiles’ breath hitched when Derek reached up his hand to weave their fingers together over his shoulder.

“I like that you know this,” he said, and Stiles felt his heart beat hard in his chest, affection washing over him. God, this was going to be the death of him. Death by overwhelming good feelings.

He wondered if it would be okay to pull Derek back against his body, wrap his arms around his waist.

“If I knew as much about useful stuff as I know random trivia, I’d be a goddamn genius,” he said instead.

“This kind of stuff isn’t useless though. Like I said, they’re memories. Important,” Derek said, and some intense emotion started welling up inside him, because Derek was right; they were important, and Stiles should never forget that. “Plus, you can never get lost at sea.”

Stiles huffed, rested his forehead against the back of Derek’s neck, and swallowed down the lump that had started to form. “Yep, there’s always that,” he raised his head and pulled Derek around. “C’mon, let’s go up.”

Derek must have sensed Stiles’ mood, because he just nodded and let himself be tugged toward the house until he fell into step beside Stiles.

Getting total control back would take a long time, but Stiles was pretty sure he could handle it, especially (cheesily enough) with Derek’s hand in his.

Stiles forced mancala on Derek when he’d pulled out the board and saw Derek put on the facial expression embodying the word “violence.” Derek grimble-grumbled as Stiles set it up.

“I hate this game.”

“I can tell.”

“You really don’t get it. I hate this game.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “And why exactly do you hate it so much?” Derek was silent, but glared laser beams at the board Stiles had set up. Stiles sighed, and was about to just say fuck it, when Derek finally replied.

“I’m bad at it.”

Stiles sputtered out a laugh. “You hate this game because you’re bad at it? Are you serious right now?”

Derek rolled his eyes, but there was something off about him. “I have some not-so-pleasant memories of it.”

“Like what? Because let me tell you, I’ve been frustrated by losing games before, and it’s time to put on your big-boy pants, seriously.”

Derek stayed quiet, and when Stiles looked a little more closely, he noticed how Derek had locked his jaw, his nostrils flared. There was something way bigger than just annoyance running through Derek’s head.

“You’re not telling me the whole story, are you?”

“Can we just not play the fucking game!” Derek snapped, and Stiles reeled back, surprised. Derek hadn’t snapped at him since those first big fights they’d had, and Stiles was hurt and confused, and, in turn, starting to get pissed. Anger, though familiar, never ended well for Stiles.

“Fine! Jesus christ Derek, you don’t have to be a dick about it. Use your goddamn words for once,” Stiles said, haphazardly throwing the pieces back into their little velvet bag and slamming the board shut. He went to the game closet and shoved it back on the shelf, then gripped the door frame, shutting his eyes and breathing.

When he turned around, Derek was nowhere to be seen, and then Stiles heard him running down the back stairs. Stiles slid to the floor and ran his hands through his hair, muttering “Fuck,” under his breath.

God, how could he have fucked this up already?

Something about the game had triggered Derek into freaking out, and Stiles had just lashed back at him because he couldn’t control his temper when he was hurt. He felt like an asshole, but was still aching from the shock of reaching his hand out only for Derek to show his teeth at him. He was pissed at himself and at Derek, upset, and hurt, and it was all rising up inside him rapidly, threatening to drown him. His face was flushing and his eyes were burning, and he knew it’d all spin out of control unless he gripped himself right then.

He pulled his knees up to his chest, and systematically started the tension-release technique, focusing on his breathing and trying to slow the roll of his thoughts. He was okay, it was just a little fight. Not even something big enough to be a fight, really. It was just surprising, but he could handle it. There wasn’t anything to worry about, shit like this happened all the time. Not the end of the world, just breathe, just breathe, tense, hold, exhale. Inhale and tense, hold, exhale. Repeat.

Stiles blinked himself back to the present, body feeling loose and brain feeling less like a warzone, and tried to decide what to do. He wasn’t sure if leaving Derek alone right then was the best idea, but if Derek pushed him away, Stiles wouldn’t know what to do with that. Should he wait for Derek to come to him in his own time?

No. No, Stiles should go find him.

He stood up slowly, and made his way down the back stairs. He wasn’t sure where Derek might have gone, but he couldn’t see him on the beach. Then his eyes caught on a dark patch just above the back of the bed-swing.

Derek was sitting with his head tilted back and eyes shut, but his body was completely tense. Stiles tentatively sat down next to him, letting the dip of the cushion announce his presence rather than breaking the silence. It was quiet for a long time, so Stiles curled up on his side and waited, practicing relaxing again so that his head wouldn’t launch itself into the sun.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Derek said, finality in his voice. Stiles rolled onto his back, eyes still closed.

“You don’t have to. I wouldn’t make you tell me - ”

“You just fucking yelled at me to ‘use my goddamn words for once.’”

Stiles squeezed his eyes shut, frustration bubbling up. “I’m sorry, okay? I know it’s… it’s already hard to talk about shit, and I didn’t mean it to come out like that. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, but I don’t deserve to have my hand bitten off for asking about it once. All you had to do was tell me it was a sore spot for you, dude; that’s what I meant by ‘use your words.’ And contrary to popular belief, I do actually listen when it counts.”

Stiles heard Derek shift. “I’m… I didn’t mean to yell like that.”

Stiles nudged Derek’s thigh with his foot. “I know. Just like I didn’t mean to snap back at you. Shit happens; we’re both pretty new to this feelings crap.”

Derek pulled one of Stiles’ feet down into his lap, a hand resting on top of it with his thumb digging into the arch of Stiles’ foot. God, it felt good.

“It’s weird,” Derek started, but seemed to catch on whatever it was he wanted to say. Stiles wiggled his toes and stuffed his other foot under Derek’s thigh and felt him deflate, the tension draining out. “I want to tell you, but I don’t want to even think about it, much less talk about it.”

“Welcome to therapy,” Stiles said, and Derek snorted. “But as much as I want to know, or help, it’s up to you. And you can tell me whenever you want, even if it’s never. I just don’t want to trip over a landmine like I just did, so you’ve gotta tell me what to avoid.”

Derek moved his hand from Stiles’ foot to grasp his hand and pull, and Stiles took the hint and sat up, meeting Derek’s eyes.

“I don’t know everything that… sets it off, but. And it’s so fucking stupid. It’s such a stupid fucking list and I-”

“Hey,” Stiles interrupted, stopping Derek before he could get going. “Things that upset you aren’t stupid, especially things that make you really lose it. I mean, if it makes you feel better, I had to have a parent-teacher meeting after I left class and didn’t come back because my teacher was wearing the same perfume Mom always wore. I was mad because that was herscent, you know? It seems silly, but there it is.”

“Okay,” Derek breathed. “Okay. Mancala. Not being able to breathe. The song “Your Love” by The Outfield. Bach’s Cello Suites. Having - Um. Having my fingers… sucked. I - There might be more, but those are the worst.”

“Okay. Noted. Well, at least we probably won’t have to worry about the songs, and I’ll leave the game and the other stuff alone, too,” Stiles paused, let that sink in while Derek completely relaxed. “There’s something else that I think we should talk about. And it’s nothing bad, promise.”

“What is it?”

“Well, it’s been a pretty long time since I’ve done the relationship thing, and I’m not trying to be mean here, but I don’t think you’ve had the best run in that department, either. So instead of bumbling in the dark and potentially stomping all over each other’s buttons, I think we should figure out what we’re okay with,” Stiles stopped there, trying not to feel awkward, and failing miserably.

“With regard to…?” Derek asked, and he sounded like he genuinely had no idea where Stiles was going.

“The pace of the - y’know. The relationship. Pace. Touching. Stuff,” Stiles winced. “God, this is ridiculous, I’m fucking 24 and I can’t talk about intimacy without sounding like an idiot.”

Derek laughed a little, and Stiles scoffed playfully at him, before Derek’s face went more serious.

“I like touching, feeling close,” he stopped. “Why is this so hard?”

“Because we’re both emotionally 12?” Stiles offered. He shook his head and smiled, swallowing his nerves down against what he was about to say, but still feeling himself flush. “Okay, how about this: right now, you look really fucking cute with that frowny-smile thing you do, and I want to kiss you. So, for the sake of alleviating my mortification at having admitted that, can I?”

Derek, the giant cheese ball, brought one hand up to cup the side of Stiles’ face, and Stiles, equally cheesy, leaned into the touch. Derek pressed forward and touched their lips together, and Stiles swore his heart just completely stopped.

Soft, warm, and dry, and Stiles returned the gentle pressure before capturing Derek’s lower lip between his own. Stiles thought maybe that would be it, when Derek pulled away, but it turned out that he was just seeking a better angle so he could lean back in, brushing their lips before gently coaxing Stiles’ mouth open and letting his tongue slip carefully inside. Stiles inhaled sharply, and fell into it, his tongue gently meeting Derek’s and then retreating, lips cushioning the edge of the kiss. Derek nipped at Stiles’ lower lip before sliding back inside, and Stiles felt light-headed and floaty, like his whole being was centered in that kiss. His fucking soul felt like it was vibrating.

When it felt like too much, Stiles pulled back, resting their foreheads together.

“God,” he murmured, and Derek snorted.

“Just Derek is fine.”

Stiles blinked stupidly for a second before it clicked, and when it did he pinched Derek’s side. Derek gave a way, waaaay over-exaggerated pout, and Stiles raised his head to mock-glare at him.

“That’s what you get when you make Dad Jokes. You get pinched. You deserve worse, but all you’ll get is a pinch.”

“Okay, then next time you say a stupid pun, I get to do something to you -”

“Sounds promising.”

“- that you won’t like.”

“And what exactly will this thing I won’t like be?”

“You’ll find out.”

“You don’t even have a plan, do you?”

Derek put his finger over Stiles’ mouth. “Shhhhhh.”

Stiles almost slipped his tongue out to lick the finger, but caught himself at the last moment, instead settling on a glare and pushing Derek’s hand away.

“Don’t you shush me!”

“Then if I ask nicely will you shut up?”

“Not a chance,” Stiles said, smiling. Derek rolled his eyes, but Stiles could see the smile underneath, and then the mischievous look that followed.

“I know one way to shut you up.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows and his arms in the universal “bring it on” gesture.

“Hit me with your best shot, Mr. McGrump.”

Derek smirked and yanked Stiles to him, kissing him thoroughly with zero protest from Stiles.

Despite the awesome distraction, Stiles knew that they were going to have to finish the boundaries conversation eventually. Derek had been through some really fucked up shit when it came to his love life (and that was where Stiles was guessing most of that jumble of off-limit subjects came from), and Stiles really, really didn’t want anything to blow up in his face when he and Derek were trying to have sexy time, or even just sitting around talking. But Stiles wasn’t sure how to break into that conversation, especially considering the epic amounts of actual physical strain went into the last one, even though it had ended well.

Good times.

At the moment, they were laid up on the couch, reading, Derek resting against one arm of the couch and Stiles on the other. Every so often, Derek would nudge his toes across Stiles’ foot. Stiles would never admit it, but this was the kind of thing he’d always hoped for in a relationship, this kind of unhindered and casual affection. Derek wasn’t afraid to touch him; in fact, he actually kinda seemed to crave it, touching Stiles’ head when he walked by or putting his hand over Stiles’ when they sat together, like he just couldn’t help himself.

Stiles felt like he was back in swooning-middle-school mode every single time. He wondered if, in the unknown possible frickin’ eternity they’d be stuck in this house, the feeling - that tingle up his spine with the warmth following, something that made him feel so alive after being dead inside for so long - would ever go away. It was weird, if he was honest, and felt unfamiliar after all that time… Sometimes it felt like it might even be too much, and he’d have to sneakily breathe himself back down from being overwhelmed. He didn’t want Derek to know that happened, ever, because he’d probably take it the wrong way and assume he was bad for Stiles’ health when it was exactly 100% the opposite.

Overall, things were good. But Stiles just couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that around the corner there was some kind of disaster pending, and he was 99.9998% sure that it could be avoided if he just got up the nuts to talk to Derek about their… relationship. It was making him anxious, under the surface, and he knew it was building up into something that might end up being destructo-bot.

God, feelings. Why was it so fucking hard to just talk out what they wanted out of this, what they wanted from each other? It really shouldn’t be awkward; like, they knew each other pretty well, right? Then shouldn’t it just be easy?

‘Relationships are never easy.’

Stiles flopped his book down on his chest and blew a raspberry, a grey cloud settling over his mood. Derek nudged him with his foot, and when Stiles rolled onto his side, Derek dropped his own book down.


Stiles glanced over at Derek, who was looking at him questioningly, maybe a little exasperated.

“You always get so pissy when you get distracted from whatever you’re reading,” Stiles grumbled.

“You always seem to get distracting at the good parts.”

“I’m not a damn mind-reader, dude. I don’t know when you’re at a good part.”

“Then maybe just never interrupt me?” Derek asked, and Stiles could feel the raised eyebrows. Stiles grunted in reply, but didn’t offer anything more. He was itching, now, wanting to bring up the stupid boundary conversation, but a little worried that it wouldn’t actually be a good idea right then, considering the grumpy mood that had just overtaken him. “Stiles. What?”

Stiles sighed and rolled back onto his back, staring at the ceiling. He should probably look at Derek, but that wasn’t something he felt like he could do.

“We still need to talk about comfort zones, or… whatever. Boundaries.”

Derek was quiet for a moment.

“Did I do something?” he asked, and Stiles closed his eyes and sat up, looking Derek in the eye.

“No. You didn’t, I’m just-” Stiles stuttered, stopped, exhaled through his nose.

“Scared?” Derek said. Stiles nodded, and Derek set his book on the floor, sitting up and putting a hand on Stiles’ knee. “Well, we’re on the same page here.”

“I don’t want things to get shitty. But I just feel like we’re gonna tear each other up one day,” Stiles put his hand on top of Derek’s. “We’re both kind of assholes with relatively short tempers, and we know a lot about each other. I could tear you down and not even want to, and you could do the same to me.”

Derek turned his hand palm up under Stiles’, and wrapped his fingers around Stiles’ wrist. Stiles returned the gesture, his fingers encircling Derek’s wrist.

“My first reaction is to say, ‘well maybe we’re not good for this if we’re both so fucking afraid.’ But that’s not what I want, or what you want,” Derek said, and Stiles focused his gaze on their hands. “We’re not bombs,” Derek started. “We could be. But we’re not. At least, that’s what I have to tell myself. You know more about me than pretty much anyone… Even Laura. You really could break me down. And it’s hard, trying to trust you. But as much as I can, I do.”

“Same,” Stiles said quietly, squeezing Derek’s wrist in return. “It still scares the fuck out of me.”


There was silence for a while, not awkward, and Stiles tried to come up with a way to phrase what he wanted to say next.

“What’s too much for you?” Stiles asked, then sighed in frustration. “I don’t even know if I know what I meant by that.”

“Do you mean sex?” Derek asked, and Stiles, embarrassingly enough, blushed.

“I guess? I just… I’m so fucking afraid I’m going to fuck this up. I’m coming out of a place where I literally believed I was too much of a burden for anybody to have to give a shit about, and if I’m not off the mark, you are too. And I’m pretty good at making people not love me.”

Derek snorted. “I wrote the book on making people leave.”

Stiles smiled a little. “Yeah? And I edited and published it.”

“So where does that leave us?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles said. “We’re both, like, mega vulnerable and scared. I want to say that we just can’t take shit personally, but… I’ve always been the kind of person that shit sticks with, even if I know it was said just because somebody was pissed or upset. I was working on that before I died, and to be real, I don’t even know the right way to go about letting crap like that go. We were still working on my goliath guilt complex when I croaked.”

Derek was quiet, just gently stroking his fingers along the inside of Stiles’ forearm.

“It’s kind of dangerous how alike we are about some things,” Derek said, smiling a little.

“Well, shit,” Stiles said, and then let out an exaggerated groan. “What the hell?”

“Hey,” Derek paused, long enough that Stiles looked up at him, right in his eyes. “I get that it’s kind of ironic coming from me, but if we worry about this now, as much as we are, we won’t enjoy anything.”

“I know,” Stiles said. “And I don’t want it to drive me nuts, which is why I was bringing up the... thing.”

Derek raised his eyebrows. “You mean boundaries? Sex?”

It was so fucking unfair how cool Derek was about this, when Stiles was sitting there feeling like a goddamn tomato.

“Yes, okay. Yes. That.”

Derek started brushing his thumb gently across Stiles’ forearm.

“I want to,” he started, and Stiles sighed.

“There’s a big ass ‘but’ right there, isn’t there.”

When Stiles looked up, Derek was blushing. Thank god.

“Yeah. I’m - sex is…” Derek stopped, sighed through his nose, started again. “One night stands, people I’d never see again, that was fine. But it’s been a long time since I cared about someone and I don’t. I...”

“You don’t want to treat me like a one-night stand, huh?” Stiles said, pieces falling into place.

Derek nodded. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I don’t know how to do this.”

“But you’ve been good with kissing so far, right? So it’s just when below-the-belt gets involved?”


“Then I guess… baby steps, dude. That’s all I even know. I mean, I’ve got experience, don’t get me wrong - no virgins here! - but, like, with me this fricken fragile? With someone else in the same boat? I’ve never played that game before.”

Derek abruptly sat back into the arm of the couch, dragging Stiles along with him. Stiles, of course, ended up with his face in Derek’s armpit and almost knee’d Derek in the balls.


Stiles pulled himself together and glared up at Derek. “Well maybe if you’d warn a guy-”

“It wouldn’t have made a difference.”

Stiles huffed, crawling back so that he could settle between Derek’s legs and smush his face into Derek’s chest, grumbling. Derek’s fingers wandered into Stiles’ hair, scratching his scalp gently.

“‘m not a dog,” he mumbled, settling in.


They lay together for a while, quiet, but Stiles’ mind was still working. A wild insecurity appeared.

“Just to be clear though…”

Derek sighed. “On what?”

“You are attracted to me, right? This isn’t just some ploy to put off doing the deed with me because you’re scared of moles or pale skinny butts or-”

Derek’s fingers left his hair, only for his hand to come up and cuff him on the back of the head.


“What? Some people think moles are weird or want nice butts to lay on and I just-” Derek actually smacked the back of his head this time, and Stiles gave a startled yelp. “Ow, dude!”

“That’s what you get when you’re stupid,” Derek said, voice pitched mockingly. “You deserve worse, but that’s what you’ll get.”

“I’m throwing a flag on the play there, because you’re not allowed to throw my own words back at me.”

“Oh my god. Two minutes. It was quiet for two minutes.”

“Psh, you love listening to me talk. I have a voice smooth as velvet, entertaining inflections and gestures. It’s a free show.”

“Can I give my tickets to someone else?”

“Sorry, brotato, you’re trapped in this audience for the foreseeable future.”

Derek hummed, his fingers starting back up in Stiles’ hair.

It seemed that conversation was done, and in any case, Stiles was feeling kind of drained, and he was oddly comfortable snuggled into Derek’s granite chest. He shoved his insecurities into a box and concentrated on his breathing for a while, until he was sort of zoned and drifting. Then he heard Derek, quiet.

“It’s not so bad.”

Stiles smiled a little, feeling the ever-growing little flame of contentment light up the dark just a smidgen more.

Stiles was sitting on the beach in the sand in just his boxers, staring at the full moon. It was still early enough in the spring that it was kind of chilly, but the cold felt good on his skin.

He liked the beach at night, looking out in the distance to where the stars ended and the ocean began. It was really cool, made him feel small, his sense of self becoming tiny and insignificant compared to the size of the ocean and the infinite size of the universe. It was kinda weird when he thought about it, about science, about the atoms that made up everything.

It was a good distraction from the fucked up way he’d felt all day. It’d started in the afternoon, out of nowhere, shortly before Derek conked out. Stiles had a sneaking suspicion that Derek was feeling shitty, too, but just wasn’t telling Stiles, which kind of pissed Stiles off before he realized that he didn’t really want to talk about his shit right then either.

Still, that was gonna have to stop. Keeping some stuff to themselves was one thing, but once they started hidingtoo much stuff from each other… That was how people started building up resentment, issues, and trust was inevitably broken somehow. Fights between them would be dangerous, and even though Stiles was trying not to think about it, it was still in the back of his head - waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That aside, Stiles had started feeling shitty, for pretty much no reason. Maybe he’d gotten a little vibe from Derek’s mood, or something, but the blackness had crept up on him out of nowhere.

And it was fucking terrifying, infuriating, because there he was, busting his ass to savor and protect these good little things, stuff within himself, stuff with Derek, but this shit was just coming back. And Stiles was having a little pity party at the moment, because it just wasn’t fucking fair.

It wasn’t the curtain over his emotions, this time. It seemed like the full-on nothingness had vacated, leaving behind shadows of feelings, with the biggest shadows currently clouding over him. His little puny candle couldn’t really handle it.

And that lovely little demon fuck, anxiety, was clawing in his head.

And it was Derek. It was how scared he was of loving someone. It was the bullshit fact that he’d left behind Scott and Lydia, Erica and Boyd, even fucking Jackson was probably a little affected. It was how fucked up it was that he had been trying so hard, and then just fucking died. Down some stairs, and kaput. Jesus christ.

And then that full circled back to Derek, who was the good that came out of that. Something good that Stiles didn’t want to break further than Derek had already been broken, not to mention not breaking himself, too, in the process. This was supposed to be a thing that was of the mending variety, not the tearing, but fuck if Stiles felt like his hands might be made of scissors or something.

Suddenly the movie Edward Scissorhands was making a lot more metaphorical sense. Once he got past the Johnny Depp-ness, anyway.

Stiles looked up at the moon, where it was shining down on the ocean, and stood up, walking toward the water and stepping into it and out into the deep, until he was on his toes, hopping to balance between the gentle waves. Before long, he turned onto his back, floating along with his eyes toward the sky. The water was cold, but it seemed to sap the worry out of him. His foul mood was easing away, and he felt like maybe he had his head on right again.

He didn’t know how long he was out there, but the sky had definitely changed since he’d gotten in. He was probably pretty close to the border of being zapped back into the house, but he ended up swimming back for the shore. Once he was out, dry, and clothed, he made his way back up to the house, wondering if Derek might be awake yet, kind of hoping he was so that maybe he could wheedle out what Derek’s mood was about earlier.

When he walked in the house, it was to Derek sitting up, but curled into a tight ball on the couch, head buried in his knees.

Stiles was instantly in front of him, kneeling, trying to get Derek to look at him.

“Derek? Derek, what’s wrong?” he asked, trying to shove down the anxiety he’d just spent so long in the fucking ocean to get rid of.

Derek didn’t look up, but Stiles saw him squeeze in tighter on himself. At a loss, and getting freaked out, Stiles put his hands on top of Derek’s.

“Derek, come on, look at me, okay?” Stiles asked, but Derek just shook his head. “What’s wrong?” Another head shake. Stiles squeezed his hands and dropped his gaze to Derek’s bare feet, thinking about how to handle this. “I’m gonna ask you yes or no questions, okay?”

Derek nodded his head.

“Did you just start feeling bad?”


“Did something happen?”


Well, shit. How the fuck was he supposed to get what happened out with yes or no questions? Stiles bit his lip, thinking.

“Did you see something upsetting?”

A pause.


“Was it something that you did?”


Fuck, fuck, and there it was, it had to have been something Stiles did, always Stiles, always fucking over the people he loves, jesus christ…

“Was it..” God, voice shaking and breaking. “Was it something I did?”


Stiles felt panicked tears starting behind his eyes, and he couldn’t breathe. Had to breathe, just, breathe, can’t get enough air, what the fuck did he do, what was happening, there wasn’t… It was everything he didn’t want, he’d broken something, done something, it was all the shit, it was all the shit he tried to tell himself was no big deal, stuff he shouldn’t worry about, don’t think about broken things or vulnerability or pain or disappointment or the future or anything because you can’t you’ll go nuts it’s not it’s all happening it’s all here now everything he was afraid of-

“Derek, Derek, please, just... Yes or no, dude, you’re fucking killing me, I can’t,” Stiles stutters on a breath, “Please, please, say something, I can’t fucking breathe.”

Derek suddenly released his grip on his legs, running his hands up Stiles’ arms and gripping tight, but not raising his head for another long moment.

His eyes were bright and broken, red but waterless when he looked at Stiles, and then he unraveled, legs coming to the floor as he yanked Stiles up toward him, crushing him in his arms, and as the air was pushed out of him in that embrace, Stiles finally felt like he could gulp in breath again. He buried his face in Derek’s neck, tears squeezing out of his eyes as his brain started slowing down, coming back online.

They sat there, breathing together, Stiles in a completely uncomfortable position halfway between Derek’s lap and the floor with Derek squeezing the life out of his ribs, but seriously giving no shits about it, because he’d been so fucking close, so close to losing it.

“I thought I was alone again,” Derek whispered, and then stronger, “I haven’t been afraid to be alone in a long time, and now I’m fucking terrified of it.”

Stiles pulled his head up enough to speak. “You’re not alone; I’m here. I’m not going anywhere,” he gave a watery chuckle, relief overwhelming him. “In it for the long haul, man. Eternity, even.”

“I couldn’t find you,” Derek choked out. “I looked everywhere and you were just… gone.”

“I was in the stupid ocean, I’m so sorry, I was feeling fucked up after you went to bed and it was the only thing I could think to do-”

“It’s fine, it’s okay, I just - I’m… I’m fucking scared of how scared I was,” Derek’s voice was back to a whisper, and Stiles had never heard him sound so vulnerable and small. There was always a hard edge to Derek when he was opening up, but this was some kind of raw thing that it seemed like Derek had zero control over.

Stiles pulled back, and Derek let him go enough that Stiles could climb up onto Derek, straddle his lap. He put their foreheads together, whispering back, “I’m here, it’s okay.”

Derek nudged forward, pressing his lips to Stiles’, who opened for him, and the kiss turned desperate, deeply sliding into each other, like Derek was looking for some kind of affirmation, and Stiles did his damnedest to give it to him. Their tongues glided across each other, lips catching, biting, gentle pressure, alternately needy and sensuous. It went on and on, Stiles surging up into Derek, pushing him back against the couch, hands caressing Derek’s arms, his neck, cupping his face, and telling him with his body that he wasn’t going anywhere since Derek didn’t seem to understand the words. Derek’s hands smoothed up and down Stiles’ back, gripped his hips hard, and then ran gentle fingers up Stiles’ sides, like he wanted to pull Stiles into himself but knew he was fragile as glass. Stiles was completely lost in it, his thoughts slowing but his heart thundering.

The time between kisses became long and longer, until they slowed into gentle brushes as they just breathed each other in. Stiles was a big useless pile of emotions with a boner, and all he could do was bury his face in Derek’s neck again, run his fingers through Derek’s hair as Derek held him close.

They were quiet for a long time, Stiles coming back to himself and guessing Derek was doing the same. When he leaned back, he brought his hands up to cup Derek’s face before raising his eyes to Derek’s. He gave a small, tired smile.

“Well, that was an event.”

Derek rolled his eyes, but it seemed strained, like he was trying to cling to some sort of normalcy rather than actually feeling it. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a beat and then opening them again. “It felt like everything was falling apart.”

“I would have felt the same,” Stiles said. “Trust me when I say you’re not alone in this.”

“I don’t like feeling like I need somebody.”

“Nobody does, dude. And in the real world, if we were, y’know, alive, we probably wouldn’t be the needy mess we are here.” Derek snorted at that, “But I have to admit that right now I’d probably go nuts without you, but just for a while, because after that it would be my fucking mission to find you again. And yeah, all of that - that’s pretty fucking scary.”

“I can’t think about it.”

Stiles sighed, brushed his thumb against Derek’s cheekbone.

“I think we need to make a promise, here.”

Derek looked at him curiously. “What promise?”

“If we ever get separated,” Stiles started, determinedly pushing past the fear that gripped him at the thought, “No matter what, we can’t give up on ourselves. We keep going.”

Derek pulled Stiles close, and rested his forehead against Stiles’ shoulder.

“I don’t know if that’s a promise I can keep.”

Stiles guided Derek’s head back up, forcing him to meet his gaze.

“Promise me.”

Derek searched Stiles’ eyes, and must have found the determination that Stiles was feeling, because he nodded, and breathed, “I promise.”

Stiles smiled. “And I promise you back,” he said, and leaned forward for a soft kiss.

When they broke away, Derek pushed him off gently and manhandled him into the position he wanted, which was apparently Stiles shoved up against the back of the couch. Stiles laughed the whole time, knowing exactly what Derek was after.

“Cuddle time with big spoon Stiles, huh?”

Derek huffed as he plopped down next to Stiles, rolling to his side and pulling Stiles’ arm over him, lacing their fingers together with their hands resting next to Derek’s chest - his heart.

“Yes, it’s big spoon Stiles time. Now if you would -”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s always ‘shut up, Stiles,’” Stiles said playfully, planting a kiss on the back of Derek’s neck.

“No. Talk to me.”

Stiles smiled, squeezed Derek’s hand.

“That, I can do.”

Stiles was still feeling kind of fucked-up from the mood state he’d been in before Derek’s meltdown, and then dealing with the additional stress from the fallout of that hadn’t exactly helped. The whole thing had knocked them off kilter, and they weren’t so much trying to ignore it as they were… trying not to pay attention to it.

Totally different things.

Stiles kept feeling like they were on the brink of an argument, despite the relatively happy note they’d left off on, what with the cuddling and the Stiles being allowed to talk extensively. But Derek had been tense since then, for some damn reason, and not especially responsive when Stiles poked at him or tried to lighten his mood.

Which, by the way, was hard enough when he wasn’t exactly feeling that great either, thanks very much.

So Stiles was kind of shying away from the whole thing, and he didn’t like how things were going. It was too quiet, and he could feel himself sinking a little, insecurity rearing its ugly head as he wondered what he did. Even knowing that it was probably just Derek hitting a rough spot in his own head didn’t help the feeling that he’d done something wrong go away.

He really wanted to confront Derek about it, but at the same time, he didn’t want to deal with it. And he was getting a little resentful of the fact that 90% of the time it was him confronting Derek about whatever was wrong. Would it kill Derek to be the one to come to him for once? Seriously.

So essentially Stiles was brooding on the couch, not even totally sure where Derek was. And the longer Stiles sat there staring at the blank TV, the more pissed and sad he got (emotions that were super strong, currently, which he could really fucking do without).

It wasn’t fair that he’d only just gotten back his capacity to feel things again, only to be left in the dust with the same shitty feelings he’d had as his only feelings for so many months. It was so stupid, and so infuriating, just. Fuck.

And as much as he wanted Derek to come to him, he didn’t know how much longer he could do this.

Stiles sighed, whacking his head against the back of the couch a few times. What the hell was the matter with him? This was ridiculous, he shouldn’t let whatever had Derek’s tight boxer-briefs in a twist get him this upset. Whatever Derek’s problem was, it was Derek’s problem until he let Stiles in, and Stiles was sick of having to bang on the door to get an answer. Christ.

He got up and went over to the bookcase, looking for some kind of distraction. He wasn’t sure if he could focus enough to read, really, but what the fuck else was there to do? Solitaire?

Well, actually, that wasn’t a bad idea. It’d be grounding and distracting, since he’d have to actively think about it, whereas he could get distracted reading if he wasn’t super-duper into it.

So that’s what he would do. He set up a game on the coffee table, and played. He was playing when Derek came in and sat on the couch behind him. Stiles thought about ignoring him, just to be a dick, but he knew that wouldn’t exactly help Derek get over himself enough to tell Stiles what the fuck was wrong. So he tilted his head back and to the side, and looked up at Derek, who flicked his eyes down at Stiles briefly before sitting back and looking at the ceiling. Stiles huffed and glared down at his solitaire game, even as he felt fingers stroke gently over the back of his head.

“I know I haven’t been good the last few days,” Derek started, and Stiles struggled with himself to remain silent and let Derek say whatever it was he wanted. “Thinking you were gone really screwed me up. I don’t know how to feel like that for someone, and I’m afraid.”

Stiles sighed. “Dude, we already established that we’re both scared, here. What’s really wrong?”

Stiles tried to be patient as Derek worked in himself to spit out whatever it was he wanted to say, but he wasn’t feeling especially generous at the moment, and started to stand up so he could stomp angrily away. But Derek grabbed his shoulder, making Stiles pause.

“What if it doesn’t work?” Derek’s voice was quiet.

“What if what doesn’t work?” Stiles held his breath, afraid of what was going to come out of Derek’s mouth. With his mood the way it was, all he could expect was the worst.

“This,” Derek said. “Us. Being together.”

Stiles shrugged Derek’s hand off his shoulder and stood up, looking Derek in the eye. “So, what, you just want to give up? Stop being around each other because being together is hard and the thought of losing me makes you feel crazy? Because that’s fucking cowardly, and if you solve your problems like that then I don’t-”

Derek cut him off, jumping up and clamping a hand over Stiles’ mouth, which immediately made Stiles spitting mad, until Derek said, “You need to stop before you say something you regret.”

Stiles took a deep breath through his nose, nodded, and Derek released him. Stiles rubbed his hands back and forth through his hair, frustrated.

“Talk to me, then.”

“I was trying to, but I’m not good at stuff like this,” Derek said, and Stiles suddenly felt stupid for blowing up at him, because he knew this about Derek, but he was still a little too upset to admit it. “I just don’t want this to fail and us be stuck together forever anyway.”

Stiles sighed and collapsed on the couch. “Just the other day you told me that worrying about stuff like that was useless.”

“I know. But apparently it’s easier said than done,” Derek said, sitting down next to Stiles.

“No shit. Of course it’s not fucking easy. Nothing worth anything is fucking easy.”

“I don’t know how to handle this.”

Stiles took pity on Derek, because he sounded so grudgingly lost and upset, and put his hand on top of Derek’s.

“Well, for one, talk to me instead of brooding for days on end. It doesn’t just affect you when you do that.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek said, turning his hand to grip at Stiles’. “I know that wasn’t fair. I just didn’t know what to do.”

“Well. Just don’t do that. For both our sanity and the sanity of this relationship.”

“Okay,” Derek said, squeezing Stiles’ hand briefly.

Stiles took a long inhale followed by a slow exhale, trying to work out what he wanted to say, but coming up short. He tried anyway.

“Derek, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’d rather spend a little while happy with you than miserable and apart. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” Derek agreed, almost immediately, which surprised Stiles a little. “It’s still scary.”

Stiles laughed a little, not all of it humorously. “We’ve established that, remember? With neon signs and sky writing.”

“I want to keep this,” Derek said. “And let the fear go.”

“Me too,” Stiles said, and looked over at Derek, who was watching him intently.

“Together?” He raised his eyebrows.

“Together,” Stiles agreed.

Things were still less than perfect after that (duh), but the cuddling was still A+, top-notch, yes, please. At the moment, Stiles was laid up against the arm of the couch with a couple of pillows, and Derek had his face smushed against Stiles’ tummy with his hands resting on Stiles’ hips and the rest of his body fit between Stiles’ legs.

Derek’s thumbs were stroking his hipbones absently as he… drifted (meditated? Whatever he was doing that wasn’t sleeping), and it tickled a little, but Stiles resisted the urge to squirm because he was just too damn comfortable.

He was reading, sort of, kind of half paying attention to the words while he paid more attention to the way that Derek felt pressed up against him, warm and solid, kinda on the heavy side but not really squishing. Stiles felt so ridiculously safe and comforted, and he was shamelessly basking in it.

Good stuff.

Derek shifted forward on his elbows, and Stiles smiled a little, warm and content, unsurprised when Derek pushed the book down to get Stiles’ full attention.

“Hey, I was reading that!” Stiles tried to feign irritated, but knew he missed by a mile.

“You really weren’t.”

“And how would you know?”

“Because you haven’t turned the page in ten minutes.”

Stiles huffed, but felt himself smile all the same. “Maybe it was a complicated part that I had to pay attention to.”

Derek raised an eyebrow. “You’re reading fairy tales. Not complicated.”

“Fine, busted. I was actually secretly fantasizing about your abs and how I really, really wish you were ticklish so I could torture you a little sometimes.”

Stiles was immediately regretting those words with the evil look that Derek trained on him.

“Thinking is as bad as doing, you know,” Derek said, smirking.

“Oh my god, that is not true at all. No truth. None. Whatsoever!” Stiles said, trying to squeeze out from under Derek to escape his fate. But Derek grabbed his wrists, pinned them by his head. “Please, Derek, we can work this out, c’mon, be the bigger person and forgive this wretch for his vile thought processes!”

“You know me, do you really think I’ll let you go just like that?”

“Yes!” Stiles squeaked as Derek transferred both of his wrists to one hand, starting to squirm as Derek rested his other hand lightly near Stiles’ side. “Forgive me father, for I have sinned!”

Derek lifted his hand, let his fingers graze the area while Stiles tried to half-heartedly (but really-kinda-wanted-to) wiggle out of Derek’s hold. Derek just leaned forward until his lips were almost touching Stiles’, and Stiles held his breath.

“Gotcha,” Derek said quietly, and then buried his free hand in Stiles’ hair as he went after Stiles’ mouth with a deliberate and perfectly executed attack, holy god.

Stiles didn’t know whether to laugh in relief/joy at Derek’s playful side coming out, roll his hips up and grind his half-hard cock into Derek a little, or smack Derek for teasing him. In the end he settled on a smile with a soft moan and a flick at Derek’s ear, who just laughed into their kiss. Derek pulled back a little to kiss along Stiles’ neck to the junction of his shoulder, moving down until he could re-smush his face against Stiles’ chest much like he had been before he so rudely interrupted Stiles’ very important reading.

Stiles started running his fingers through Derek’s hair, scratching a little at his scalp every so often, wondering if Derek had ever been able to let go like he just had after everything when he was alive… Or if he’d ever been silly like that ever. He had been so damn angry, and Stiles had a hard time reconciling the Derek that he’d met weeks ago with the one who’d just teased him mercilessly.

“I like it when you get playful like that,” Stiles said absently. Derek hummed his agreement, but was quiet. He went still, though, when Stiles asked, “Did you ever do stuff like that before you died?”

It took so long for Derek to answer that Stiles felt like he might have misstepped with that question and triggered something unpleasant for Derek.

Derek’s voice was tight when he finally answered, “I used to tease people a lot before the fire. Close friends and family, though sometimes I did it to the unpopular kids in school… That was actually how I got my first real girlfriend. She was one of those kids,” Derek said, but trailed off for a moment, and Stiles wondered about the story there. “I only had Laura after that, and she tried to get that old side of me out, but it rarely worked. It was getting better though.”

“Well, I’m glad I get to see it. I like it a lot,” Stiles said. “Consider me wooed.”

Derek lifted his head to give Stiles a look. “‘Wooed?’”

“Not that you’ve been so great about the whole courting thing, but I’m wooed anyway.”


“Yes.” Stiles nodded, deadpan. “You’re really shitty at courting, but I’ve decided I like you anyway. A little. Kind of. Sometimes.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”

“You like it.”

“Lord knows why,” Derek mumbled, resting the side of his face against Stiles again.

“Because I’m simply irresistible!” Stiles sang, the song popping into his head.

Derek groaned, putting one finger against Stiles’ lips while his other hand picked up Stiles’ book and shoved it in his face.

“Shhh. Read now.”

Stiles laughed a little. “Want me to read out loud?”

To Stiles’ eternal surprise, Derek nodded.

“Read ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ I like that one, it reminds me of my little sister.”

Stiles let that reference to Derek’s family lie, deciding to just read. He propped open the book of fractured fairy tales on Derek’s back, and read it to him in stupid voices, content and pleased to make him laugh. He felt some of the anxiety and tension he’d been carrying around since their fight drain away.

They’d be okay. They really would.

Stiles had been feeling pretty good… Better than he had in a long time. The darkness was still at the edge of his thoughts, and he definitely wasn’t Mr. Sunshine, but he felt happy. Content. Pleasant. At peace. Not like shit.

It was pretty fucking great, actually.

Which was why he was trying not to let Derek’s withdrawn mood bother him. Much.

He hadn’t gotten Derek to smile all day.

“I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky! I think about it every night and day, spread my wings and fly away!” Stiles sang, kind of purposefully obnoxious, making shadow puppets on the sand of birds as the sun rose behind them.

Derek didn’t say anything, which wasn’t that unusual, but when Stiles looked over at him, his face was blank instead of exasperated. His jaw was tense, too. So Stiles dropped the silly, and walked over to Derek, hugging him from behind. Derek’s hand absently patted his arm, but he didn’t lean into Stiles like he normally would, so Stiles let him go.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, and Derek seemed to kind of shake awake at that.

“Nothing,” Derek said, but when he saw the stink eye Stiles was sending his way, he amended, “I’ll tell you in... soon. There’s something I want to say.”

“O… kay? Well, you know I’m here.”

Derek nodded, and Stiles didn’t try to touch him again as they watched the sun come up.

“I’m gonna go out front,” Derek said, and Stiles shrugged.

“I’ll head up soon. I’m gonna put my feet in the water.”

He didn’t get a response.

He was trying not to wonder too much about what it was Derek wanted to say, because he knew it wouldn’t be long until he got to hear it first-hand, but it just bothered the hell out of him when Derek went into his shell for any reason. It made Stiles want to crack it with a hammer and demand that Derek come out, but he knew that was pretty much the opposite of what Derek needed. Seriously.

So he had to be patient, which he could be, sometimes. When it counted. And it definitely counted right then.

He’d just have to wait for Derek to come to him.

Stiles stood in the water for a little while, alternately letting his feet get buried in sand from the tide and then pulling them out to step to a new spot and watch the last one be erased. Weird how transient that was, and weirder how such a stupid thing could remind him that life was transient, and the after-life he was currently in might also be.

Even if he was pretty sure he was gonna be stuck there for the long-haul, sometimes Derek’s fears about one of them leaving crept up in Stiles’ own head, and he just got this sinking dread feeling that he’d have to shake himself out of.

He refused to let this decent mood get spoiled, so he went up to the house and grabbed the cards, deciding to play solitaire down on the bed-swing while he waited for Derek to get it together or find himself or whatever he was doing.

He’d played several rounds, got bored, and was idly shuffling the cards when he saw Derek walking up out of the corner of his eye.

“Hey,” Stiles greeted, setting the cards off to the side. Derek gave him a half-smile, then came around to sit next to him. Stiles got the feeling they were about to have a Serious Conversation, and so set himself up to sit next to Derek, instead of facing him.

“There’s something I want to tell you,” Derek started, but then seemed to get caught on something. So Stiles reached out a hand and gently stroked the back of Derek’s.

“You can tell me,” Stiles said quietly.

“I know. It’s hard.”

“I know it is.”

Derek glanced at Stiles, then took a deep breath. He let it out slowly, and then started, “I want to tell you about… Kate.”

“Kate?” Stiles asked, though he had a feeling he knew exactly who Kate was.

“She was the one. She set the fire.”

Stiles was quiet, and Derek didn’t offer anything else. Stiles ended up breaking the silence.

“What happened?”

“I guess I should start… With Paige. But I don’t really want to talk about her right now. I guess, just… Paige was my first real girlfriend. First love. I watched her die.”

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said, and he really, really was. He couldn’t believe that there was this, this along with losing his entire family. Stiles had only really fallen in love twice, once with a girl in college, Susannah, who ended up breaking up with him when she went for a masters program across the country, because she couldn’t see the rest of her life with him. It had really sucked, to put it gently and succinctly.

The second time, of course, was with Derek.

“Yeah,” Derek said. “After Paige, I was kind of lost. I still had friends, was still popular, but I lost something. Then Kate came, and she made me forget.”

“She seduced you?”

Stiles looked over at Derek, saw him nod and swallow thickly. “She was beautiful, older, smart, confident. And I was feeling low, and this amazing woman was someone I could love again. And I thought I was in love. But it was sex and emotional abuse. She was insane.

“The reason I can’t play Mancala is because we used to play. For sex. Loser would do something the winner wanted. And some of the stuff she wanted made me feel... disgusting.” Derek paused again, and Stiles made an encouraging noise. “But she told me that I didn’t love her if I wouldn’t do it, would ask me why her feelings didn’t matter to me. So I did it.”

Stiles felt cold, and then suddenly angry at this sick person all over again for not only killing Derek’s whole family, but sexually abusing him when he was already vulnerable.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Stiles asked, quiet, and feeling guilty for really not wanting to hear about it, at least not yet. All of this was already making him feel a swarm of intense emotions, and he wasn’t sure he could handle hearing the gorey details surrounding the abuse of this person that he loved so fucking much.

“Not now. Maybe not ever,” Derek said, with a shake of his head. “But that was always what she’d say: ‘If you love me you’ll do this,’ or ‘if you want me to love you you won’t do that.’ It was always about what she wanted, how she felt, and I thought it was okay because our relationship was ‘special’ and ‘intense.’ She would tell me she was sacrificing everything to be with me. That she was willing to go to prison. And I was supposed to show my appreciation by doing whatever she wanted.”

Stiles grabbed Derek’s hand, wrapped it up tightly in his own. Derek squeezed back, and didn’t stop squeezing. Derek’s voice was completely dead when he continued, and Stiles thought that was probably so he wouldn’t just completely break down while he told the story.

“She wanted to see the house. She asked if we had a basement, wondered about our security system because she wanted to make sure I would always be safe. So I told her about how she didn’t have to worry because we lived so far out, and how strong the doors and windows were. She apparently took notes in her head.”

“God,” Stiles said, when Derek paused. “So she used that stuff against you?”

Derek nodded. “Over the next few weeks she caulked the windows. It was a fluke that I was spending the night with a friend the night she sealed the vents, pumped carbon monoxide into the house, and broke the gas line so it’d leak. Then she set the house on fire. Everyone…”

Derek seemed to break here, covering his eyes with the hand not in Stiles’. His grip on Stiles’ hand increased, and Stiles resisted the wince at the feeling of it being slightly crushed.

“Derek, I’m so, so sorry. She was insane… I know you know that, but people that evil, there just isn’t really anything you can do.”

Derek wiped his hand down his face, and his eyes looked red, even though he wasn’t crying.

“The house exploded. No one got out. There was a trial, and she was convicted. They’d gotten her fingerprints from the scene and then when they caught another arsonist, he ratted on her to get some time off his sentence. She claimed insanity, and has been in an institution since.”

“I wish they’d just fucking kill her,” Stiles said. He was under no illusions that he was a nice person who could easily forgive or forget. Another topic for therapy. “I hate that they bought her insanity schtick.”

“She is insane. She thought my family was a pack of werewolves,” Derek said, and Stiles suddenly felt angry for him, because it was so fucking unfair, because Stiles knew that Derek knew that this woman wasn’t crazy, she was evil. “But I know that she was really twisted, ‘insane’ or not. She’s evil.”

Well, it was good that Derek at least knew what a sick person she was.

“She really is,” Stiles agreed quietly. They sat in silence, not awkward, but both of them thinking. Stiles broke it with, “Thank you for telling me.” He lifted Derek’s hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it.

“Yeah. I… wanted you to know.”

Stiles smiled a little. “I’m glad,” he said, and then climbed over Derek, pushing him down onto the cushion and sliding in behind him. It was still cool enough at mid-morning to cuddle up, and even though temperature wasn’t that big of a deal, Stiles sometimes like to pretend that it was so he could feel a little bit alive.

Derek sighed as Stiles looped his arms around his waist, but it sounded content, so Stiles smiled and did all the things he knew comforted Derek; he nuzzled into Derek’s neck and planted kisses on the back of it while gently rubbing circles over his ridiculous abs.

It wasn’t exactly appropriate, but as he lay there with Derek’s warm, beautiful body pressed up against him, Stiles couldn’t help but imagine his fingers going lower, thumbing open the button on Derek’s jeans, and pushing under his boxer-briefs to find where Derek might be half-hard, waiting…

Stiles purposefully moved his hand up to cover Derek’s heart, and moved his hips back slightly so that Derek wouldn’t feel his badly-timed interest.

Let it not be said that Stiles wasn’t a gentleman, no matter how badly he wanted to get laid.

Thankfully, Derek didn’t seem to notice anything, and Stiles searched his mind for a conversation topic, until he noticed that Derek had gone very still, and Stiles knew he was asleep, which they were actually a little overdue for, considering it’d been at least 18 hours since the last time. Stiles settled in, pressed one more kiss to the back of Derek’s neck, and let himself slip off as well.

“Holy shit, you guys actually have Candy Land?”

Derek shrugged. “Families have kids, so we have kid games.”

“We’ve gotta play this,” Stiles said, and the box thunked down on the dining room table.

“I’m not playing Candy Land,” Derek said, starting to pick the box back up.

Stiles slapped his hand on top of the box, slightly squishing it.

“Surely you’ve learned by now that once I’ve decided something, we do it, because you can’t resist this face.” Stiles cranked up the puppy eyes to 11.

“Surely you’ve realized that it’s actually because you get so fucking annoying that I do it to shut you up.”

“Same difference.”

Stiles watched as Derek tried not to crack a smile, and the hesitation told him he’d won this battle seconds before Derek parked it in the chair next to him.

“Don’t complain,” Derek said.

“Why would I complain?”

“You’ll see,” he said, and Stiles frowned at his know-it-all smirk. Dick.

“Suck it up, fun-buster, and let’s do this thing.”

Derek raised his eyebrows. “Fun-buster?”

“Shut up, I’m not on my A-game today,” Stiles said, all but sticking his tongue out.

He set up the game, shuffled the cards, and drew one. “Fun-busters go second.”

Five minutes in, Stiles realized why Derek had told him not to complain. He sighed dramatically and slumped down in the chair. “This isn’t as fun as I remember.”

“Nostalgia finally wear off?”

Stiles glared over at Derek’s smug eyebrows, and pushed himself upright.

“And I feel like the rules are different, somehow. But I also haven’t played since I was like 5, so.”

“They came out with a new version in 2004,” Derek said, and Stiles almost opened his mouth to ask how the fuck Derek knew that, when Derek started again. “We actually have the original at home, the one we grew up with. It was in Laura’s car, from where she’d been babysitting. Neither of us wanted to leave it here though.”

Stiles looked down, fiddled with his thumbs. He thought about all the shit still sitting at his old house, untouched except for a maid that came by bi-weekly to dust and vacuum. “Yeah, I’d want to hang onto that too.”

It was quiet again, one of those times when they just were, existing together in a bubble where sad things were dealt with.

“I didn’t know what to do with my Dad’s stuff,” Stiles blurted, avoiding Derek’s eyes. “After he died, and Mom was gone… I didn’t have anybody. I didn’t know how to cope with going through all the stuff, picking what to get rid of and what to keep,” Stiles paused, but forged on, because this was something he’d never talked about. The last time anyone brought it up was when Scott told Stiles he at least needed someone to go and keep the place from getting dusty. That was when he’d hired the maid. “I’ve only been in my house a couple of times since everything, and that was mostly to deal with all the shit with the funeral. Dad had a lot of friends, people he’d helped, so it was kind of a mad house. Scott and Lydia handled a lot of it. I was kind of, y’know. Gone. Checked-out.”

“It’s kind of funny how it doesn’t work either way; I have almost nothing that holds memories, but you have too much, and neither of us are happy about it.”

Stiles looked up, tried to smile, but knew that it was probably coming across as more sad than anything. “I guess that’s the way losing people goes. You don’t wanna forget, but it hurts too much to remember.”

Derek hummed in agreement, and Stiles slowly started to put the game away. The bright colors and thoughts of childhood were just bumming them out at this point. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly after putting the game in the closet. He paused, tracing the letters with his eyes, thinking about his Mom, and letting himself wish, for a second, that he could go back and sit on the floor with this game on the coffee table and relearn lessons about winning and losing.

His breath hitched when he felt hands on his hips, but relaxed immediately and leaned into Derek’s warmth.

“Amazing how a kid’s game can turn things on their head,” he said, and Derek huffed a laugh.

“We’re already feeling messed up.”

“Yeah,” Stiles sighed. He turned in Derek’s arms to put his forehead against his shoulder. “All I can hear in my head is what I told you before, about ruminating and remembering, and right now I don’t even know which one I’m doing.”

Derek’s hands stroked gently up and down Stiles’ back. “You also told me that it’s okay to be sad.”

Stiles smiled a little, still hiding his face. He didn’t wanna face anything yet. “I guess I did, didn’t I? Thanks, Dr. Hirt.”

Derek didn’t say anything, but backed away, grabbing Stiles’ hand. He tugged gently, and Stiles went automatically, with a vague thought that he’d follow Derek anywhere. Which, apparently, was out onto the back deck.

When Stiles looked up, it was to an insane sunset. Oranges, pinks, purples, practically the whole fucking rainbow was splattered and shaded across the thin clouds and clear parts of the sky. The sun was almost below the horizon, so when he looked up, he could see the night sky fading in. Twilight.

“This should be one of Laura’s pictures,” Stiles said, quiet like he felt the moment should be.

“She’s got one like this up on the website. It was luck that she even had her camera on her, but it was even better than this. Almost perfect.”

“This seems pretty damn near perfect to me.” Stiles gently squeezed Derek’s hand. “I wish the sun would set like this more often. Cheers me up, you know?”

“If it did, you wouldn’t appreciate it as much,” Derek said, and Stiles hummed in agreement.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

Stiles tugged Derek along, and they sat down on one of the outdoor loveseats to watch. The evening was still relatively cool, even though it was getting toward the middle of spring. Or was, when Stiles died - who knew how long it’d been since then.

“How come there haven’t been that many renters? With a place like this, I’m surprised it’s not booked year-round.”

Derek was quiet, long enough that Stiles looked over at him. He kinda regretted bringing up the renters when he saw the look on Derek’s face.

Funny how an innocent question could sometimes derail a nice situation.

“Sorry,” Derek said, shaking himself out of his brood just as Stiles was about to say something. “It was something Laura and I argued over a lot. This was a family house, somewhere we spent summers and Christmas break. We did rent it out, before the fire, but usually just to friends or people we knew.

“Laura wanted to distance herself from it. I wanted to preserve it. She knew I didn’t like the idea of strangers here, so we compromised. I still didn’t like it, but I had to give her something. I guess it was our different ways of coping,” Derek paused, raising his other hand to rub his neck. “I couldn’t shut that down. But I think that now that I’m dead she feels like she has to rent it out less. It keeps getting longer between renters.”

“Erasing or preserving memories,” Stiles said, thinking back, yet again, on his extensive therapy. “It’s not good to erase, but obsessive preserving isn’t great either.” He thought about his Dad’s house, all the things in it. “Compromising was probably good for both of you.”

Derek didn’t say anything, and it was really starting to get dark. Stiles thought about Fantasia, the part where the goddess brought on night as her cloak. The devil part of the movie scared the shit out of him as a kid, and he laughed a little at the memory. He still didn’t like horror, probably scarred for life from a kid’s movie. In any case, that was something he didn’t know about Derek, and his curiosity was sparked.

“What kind of movies do you like?” Stiles asked.

Derek shrugged. “I read more than I watched movies or TV. I didn’t grow up with cable.”

Somehow Stiles wasn’t surprised.

“So what did you read?”

“A lot of stuff,” Derek said, and Stiles could smell the avoidance from 1,000 miles away.

“C’mon dude, what was your favorite geeeeeenre?” Stiles said with an eyebrow waggle, trying to get a smile out of Derek.


Stiles knew Derek was actively pushing down some negative emotions, and Stiles would do anything to keep that going, to give Derek some room to breathe, maybe even room to be happy despite the conversation they just had.

“Not telling you,” Derek said, standing up and pulling Stiles along with him.

“Don’t be a douchenozzle!” Stiles whined as obnoxiously as possible. “Was it something embarrassing? Did you read cheesy YA novels?” Derek dropped Stiles’ hand and walked backward, smirking.

God, Stiles loved it when he was playful. It was the cutest damn thing in the whole world.

Derek mimed zipped lips.

“Are you serious right now?” Stiles stalked forward, crossing his arms over his chest petulantly. “You suck.”

Derek sat on the arm of the couch and raised his eyebrows at Stiles. “Maybe.”

Stiles blinked. “What?”

“Maybe I do suck. With the right incentive.”

Stiles was suddenly dizzy as all his blood rushed to his face or his dick. His mouth watered, and he swallowed hard.

Okay, it was time to turn on the famous Stilinski Charm.

“And what might that incentive be?” Stiles said, shooting for sly and seductive with a cheeky smirk, but ending up more squeaky and nervous with an obnoxious grin.

“Tell me something,” Derek said, and for fuck’s sake, how could he be so flirty and seductive while Stiles was bumbling and stupid?

Well, at least maybe he was coming across as Cute Idiot. Which was his own personal sub-brand of Stilinski Charm.

Stiles walked right up into Derek’s space, putting his hands on the arms of the couch on either side of Derek’s hips. He looked down at Derek’s mouth, then back up to his eyes, gazing at him through his lashes. “I’ll tell you anything you want.”

Derek leaned forward and pecked Stiles gently on the mouth, and pulled back barely a centimeter. Stiles’ breath caught.

“I want to know,” Derek said, moving to kiss and nuzzle Stiles’ neck, “Your most embarrassing childhood memory.”

Stiles took a deep breath, trying to get his raging boner to chill out… And then processed what Derek had said.

He reached up and smacked Derek upside the head, and Derek just laughed. Like a full-on, real, huge laugh, and despite his severe sexual frustration Stiles couldn’t help but smile before pasting a sad excuse for a frown on his face.

This, this was what Derek deserved, this was how it should be for him. In that moment, he seemed carefree, though Stiles knew that there was still a lot of pain just below the surface. But moments like this were what would end up saving both of them from their own hell holes.

“You’re such a jerk, you know that? Leading me on like that, ugh. People on the International Space Station can see my boner right now.” Derek just smirked at Stiles, but his eyes were definitely still laughing. “Ha-ha, okay, yuck it up, oh, that Stiles, what a dorkwad.”

Derek stood up and spun Stiles, plopping him on the arm of the couch and suddenly kissing the hell out of him.

Stiles melted as Derek nipped at his bottom lip, kissing it gently before turning his attention to Stiles’ tongue, sucking it into his mouth for barely a second before he set out to methodically destroy Stiles with his mouth. He kissed across Stiles’ jaw to his left ear, somewhere he’d gone only once or twice because he knew how sensitive Stiles was there, and he wasn’t cruel enough to always want to get Stiles so riled up when there wasn’t gonna be any follow through.

Somehow Stiles had a feeling that tonight, there would be follow through, and he grinned as he gasped and shuddered.

Stiles finally realized that his hands were doing exactly nothing, so he released his death-grip on the couch to reach out and slide his hands up Derek’s back under his shirt, and then gently scratch his nails down his back.

Two could play at this game.

Derek shivered against him, and Stiles pressed his hips forward, and yes, there was Derek’s massive erection pressed up against his stupidly tight pants.

Derek moved down from his ear to his neck, sucking light bruises, nipping his skin and then soothing his bites with his tongue, and Stiles was gone, gone gone gone.

He pushed Derek back gently, hands still under his shirt, which he pulled up until Derek got the gist of things and took the damn thing off himself. Stiles immediately yanked his own off, but ended up struggling with one elbow until Derek came to the rescue.

“Eager,” he said, kissing across Stiles’ collarbone now that the shirt was gone, and Stiles put his hands in Derek’s hair, pulling the way he knew got Derek a little crazy. When Derek moaned low in his throat, Stiles smirked, and got a sharp bite on his shoulder for his trouble. “Quit being smug. Not sexy.”

“Whatever,” Stiles said, his breath hitching as Derek rolled one of his nipples between his fingers, “I’m always se-sexy.”

Derek hummed and put his mouth to work on Stiles’ other nipple.

God, Stiles was so fucking hard, he felt like he would blow his load in 0.2 seconds if Derek ever got around to getting his hands on Stiles’ cock. So he pulled Derek’s head back up to kiss him, hoping to get a minute to cool off.

Derek attacked his mouth, and this was the definition of a passionate kiss, right here, okay, and Stiles’ plan was backfiring so hard, but he was essentially helpless against Derek’s lips and tongue. Jesus Mary and Joseph.

Finally Stiles pulled away, breathing hard, and got a good look at Derek, who at least seemed to be as completely destroyed as Stiles. His hair was sticking up wildly from Stiles’ fingers, his lips were bright red and swollen, his cheeks flushed and pupils so dilated that his magical-anime-girl eyes were practically gone.

Beautiful. That was the only thing Stiles knew in that moment.

Derek was beautiful.

And then he smiled a little, and Stiles was lost forever, and despite the possible coming-in-pants-like-a-teenager, he went after Derek’s mouth again, his hips rolling forward against Derek’s of their own accord, stilling only when he felt Derek slip his hands beneath his pajama pants.

And then Derek was kissing down his body with intent, glancing up at Stiles, who had to hold his breath and do long division in his head. He looked up at the ceiling as he felt Derek slide his pj’s down, but couldn’t help but look back down when he felt Derek grip the base of his dick.

Oh, god.

Derek watched him as he gently took the head of Stiles’ cock in his mouth, tightly squeezing him around the base to halt the orgasm that had been ready to go the second his lips touched down.

Stiles groaned and put his hands in Derek’s hair, not pushing or pulling, but gripping so that he didn’t float away into the sky, and Derek’s tongue swirled over the head of his cock before he suddenly sank all the way down, almost taking Stiles’ whole cock in his mouth. Stiles cried out, unable to be quiet, and then just, fuck it, no one could hear them anyway, and at this point he didn’t really give a shit if Derek thought he sounded ridiculous, so little hitches and “Ah-ah’s” and “Oh god’s” and “Derek, fuck’s” came pouring out of his mouth.

It really wasn’t long before his orgasm was impossible to hold off anymore, and when Derek gave a long, pulling suck, Stiles lost it, coming hard, trying desperately not to yank Derek’s hair out of his head as he shook and shook and shook in the aftermath. He slid down to the floor, unable to hold himself up, and locked eyes with Derek, who had taken his own cock out at some point and was stroking himself off staring intently at Stiles.

“Derek, Derek, let me-” Stiles said, and made to go after Derek’s cock, but before he could even get a hand there, Derek was coming all over Stiles’ stomach with a long moan.

Derek leaned forward to kiss Stiles, and Stiles batted Derek’s hand away so he could milk Derek’s dick in the aftermath of his orgasm, until he stopped him with a muttered, “Sensitive.”

Derek slumped into Stiles’ shoulder, and their position really was ridiculous, with Stiles’ pajama pants still around his ankles, his knees bent and spread as much as possible to let Derek, who was kneeling in front of him with his head against Stiles’ shoulder, rest between them. It was only when Stiles’ left leg started to twinge that he gently pushed Derek’s shoulders up, giving him a kiss before he stood up and pulled up his pants. He offered a hand to Derek, who was still a little wobbly (yes, good), and helped him get his jeans off, leaving his boxers on.

“Next time I’m sucking your brain out through your dick,” Stiles declared, throwing himself down against the back of the couch and offering the space in front of him up to Derek.

Derek rolled his eyes as he climbed in front of Stiles and lay down, Stiles throwing his arm over him and squeezing him briefly. “Romantic.”

“If you’re so romantic, where were my rose petals and scented candles, huh?” Stiles teased.

Derek snorted.

“You’re not exactly a blushing virgin.”


“And you still enjoyed it.”

“Another point.”

“And I don’t exactly have rose petals and scented candles on hand.”

Stiles smirked. “So you’re saying that you would have rose petal-scented-candle’d me up if you had access?”


“Awww, I didn’t know you were such a romantic!”

“Says the guy who watches shitty rom-coms religiously," Derek said, snarky.

“Shhhh,” Stiles shushed, gently twisting one of Derek’s nipples. Derek let out a put upon sigh and smacked his hand in retaliation.

“So much for the afterglow.”

Stiles grinned as he pressed a kiss to the back of Derek’s neck.

“You wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Derek hummed, and Stiles gave his neck a playful lick. Derek sighed yet again.

“You’re right. Unfortunately.”

“Aren’t I always?”

Derek reached back and clapped a hand against Stiles’ mouth to shut him up, they settled into quiet even after Derek released him to kiss Stiles’ palm and lace their fingers together.

Stiles had been kind of on top of the world, after that. Peace out, blackness, it couldn’t rain on his parade right now. And if it tried, he would just refuse to let it. Determination.

(Thought it was always in his peripherals. It might always be.)

He was also determined to get Derek’s cock in his mouth ASAP.

He had a feeling that Derek wanted his cock in Stiles’ mouth, too.

The thing was, Stiles didn’t want to push too much too fast. It’d taken them that long to even get to Sexy Time #1, and Stiles wasn’t sure what their boundary currently was, or how often Derek liked to have sex, or if Stiles’ crazy libido would turn Derek off. Stiles desperately didn’t want to be pushy, especially after finding out about Derek’s history with sexual abuse just a few days before.

So, even though Stiles was officially horny 24/7, he was waiting on Derek to make a move first.

Although maybe he should broach the subject verbally. Because adults did that. They talked about sex. Hell, he and Derek had talked about sex before.

And it had been embarrassing and excruciating, though undeniably necessary. Ugh.

Okay, so maybe he should just bring it up.

“It’s ‘would you rather’ time,” Stiles said, suddenly having an idea that probably wouldn’t end up with things being as subtle as he wanted them to be, but hey, it was a start.

Derek let out a long-suffering sigh. “I would tell you, again, how much I hate this game, but you already know and don’t listen anyway.”

Stiles smiled. “I’m so glad you’re learning.”

“I reserve the right to ignore you.”

“You would never!” Stiles said, mock-offended.

“I do it nearly every time you talk,” Derek said, deadpan, but Stiles knew him well enough to see the tiny quirk of the corner of his mouth that gave away the fact that he was teasing.

Stiles really liked that he knew this stuff about Derek.

“Well obviously that just means I need to talk more so that I really get my message through, since apparently you ignore 99% of what I say.”

“It’s not 99%,” Derek said, then looked thoughtful for a second. “It’s more like 91%.”

Stiles smacked him on the arm.


“You love it,” Derek said with a smirk, and Stiles made a face at him.

“I love you, not your assholishness,” Stiles said, leaning back in his chair.

Derek didn’t reply, and Stiles wondered if their banter was over, before what he’d just said replayed through his head and he froze.

Oh, god. The three little words. Of doom.

Shit, shit, shit, what would Derek think? Was it too soon? Too much pressure? Did Derek even ever tell people he loved them? What if Derek just liked him, but wasn’t so sure about love? How would Stiles handle that? Would he have a meltdown? Would he resent Derek? Would he mope? Would he accept it? What the fuck? Why couldn’t his brain stop asking fucking questions?

Holy fuck, this wasn’t happening.

Stiles was fighting his breathing picking up, though he could already feel his heart beating faster and his face flushing in the natural adrenaline rush that followed embarrassment, but if he wasn’t really, REALLY careful, he might send himself into a panic attack.

Over an “I love you.” Jesus.

Stiles had his eyes closed and was focusing on the smell of the salt air when Derek’s shadow fell across him. He still didn’t open his eyes, hoping that maybe if he couldn’t see anything, it meant the ground was swallowing him up and taking him to China to haunt some poor soul’s house.

He didn’t open his eyes until he felt Derek’s lips on his, gentle, but pushing for Stiles to open his mouth so he could deepen it. Stiles let out a little squeak, but kissed back, feeling his heart calm down some even though he still felt uncertain about the whole thing.

Derek pulled back a little, only to move forward and whisper in Stiles’ ear.

“Let’s go inside.”

“Inside?” Stiles squeaked again. Derek just smirked.

“I don’t want sand in uncomfortable places,” he said, taking one of Stiles’ hands and pulling him up.

“Oh, thank god.” Stiles scrambled out of his chair and stumbled into Derek, who caught him easily and started pulling him up to the house without pause.

They stopped just outside the door to the house, Derek turning to face Stiles and fixing him with an intense look.

“By the way,” he said, and Stiles’ eyes were wide, not quite knowing what to expect. Did Derek have some kind of crazy issue with his dick?

“What?” Stiles said, when Derek didn’t say anything else.

Derek smiled. “I love you too. Idiot.”

Stiles dragged him upstairs.

They’d tried to undress each other, but neither of them really had the patience for it, so they stripped themselves separately, resolutely ignoring the urgent need to kiss and touch until they were both bare-assed.

It wasn’t even awkward, standing there naked and appreciating each other for a second before moving simultaneously to crash together in a swirl of lips and teeth and hands and tongues. It took zero time for Stiles to reach down and find Derek’s cock, rock hard with a small bead of precome catching on the head.

Derek was uncut.

This was fucking awesome.

But Stiles was also a tease, so instead of going at Derek’s cock immediately like Derek obviously wanted him to, he instead pushed him to sit on the edge of the bed so Stiles could kneel between his knees and take him in hand.

He dipped his head and licked gently at the very tip of Derek’s cock before taking it into his mouth and swirling his tongue, getting it nice and wet. He started jacking Derek, moving his hand up toward his mouth so he could stroke just around the foreskin while he suckled. Derek’s thighs were shaking, and Stiles was feeling pretty goddamn triumphant. He pulled off, took a breath, and went down on Derek, relaxing his throat and taking him all-in.

The big guns were out.

Stiles pulled at Derek’s hips back and forth while he bobbed his head, until Derek got the idea and put one of his hands in Stiles’ hair, and started thrusting up into Stiles’ mouth, just a little, before getting a bit more confident that Stiles could take it. He still wasn’t rough, but he was most definitely fucking Stiles’ mouth, and Stiles groaned like the horny shameless cockslut he was. He couldn’t help reaching down to tug at his own cock, realizing that he wasn’t going to get through this without coming himself, just before his orgasm overtook him.

God, he loved sucking cock.

He shuddered through it, and only let up on Derek’s cock because he couldn’t catch his breath. He pulled off, met Derek’s eyes, and brought his other hand up to place his palm against the head of Derek’s cock, rubbing circles over the slick head while he continued to stroke along the length of it, and Derek must have been close all along, because he lost it, coming hard in Stiles hands. Stiles stroked him through his orgasm, and then, remembering Derek’s sensitivity, went down with his mouth to lick and suck gently at him until Derek was trembling and pushing his head away.

Derek flopped back onto the bed, and Stiles climbed up after him to straddle his waist and lay flat against Derek, chest to chest. He took the time to kiss along Derek’s neck, sucking here and there and letting them both catch their breath.

Stiles pulled himself up and looked down at Derek, who was wearing the exact same shit-eating grin that Stiles was. And Stiles absolutely couldn’t help himself, leaning down and giving Derek a filthy, messy kiss that Derek 100% returned.

“Leaves ya kinda speechless, don’t it?” Stiles said, sitting up on Derek’s lap and stroking his hands down Derek’s chest. Derek shot him a look.

“You did not just quote Cats Don’t Dance in the middle of our afterglow.”

Stiles hummed and tweaked one of Derek’s nipples, laughing a little when Derek half-heartedly swatted his hand away.

“How do you even know that movie anyway? You said you were a reader."

Derek idly stroked his hands up and down Stiles’ hips.

“We had movie nights. Maybe not cable, but definitely movie nights.”

Stiles smiled. “That’s nice.”

“Yeah,” Derek agreed, smiling back at Stiles before his expression turned mischievous and he unceremoniously flipped Stiles, who laughed and scooted further up the bed. “Ready? Because I’m not even close to done with you.”

“Bring it on.”

They didn’t leave the bed for a long time, going at it until they absolutely couldn’t anymore, and by that time it was way past dark.

There had been a lot of cuddling, a lot of cock and butt action (though not cock-in-butt action), and Stiles was sated and happy and didn’t want to go anywhere but this bed ever, ever, ever again.

Derek was on his belly with an arm flopped over Stiles, who was on his back. Stiles was tracing patterns on Derek’s arm, admiring the muscles that he’d thoroughly gotten to know over the last few hours. He could feel Derek watching him, too, and was kind of preening on the inside that Derek thought he was attractive enough to look at him like that, with a focus and intensity Stiles had never felt before. Derek looked the same during sex, all heavy eyes and emotion. It was like fucking romance itself or something equally odd, but it was definitely incredible. Stiles had never felt so - so adored, like he had with Derek.

There were some awkward, nervous-giggle worthy moments in there, but everything had been more than Stiles could have hoped for. They were definitely sexually compatible, which was a huge relationship bonus.

“You have a birthmark,” Stiles said, tracing the little blotch with his forefinger. “Here, on your shoulder. It looks like an asterisk.”

Derek hummed and Stiles chuckled, but they didn’t say anything else. They lapsed into quiet again.

Stiles was on cloud nine. He felt, for the first time, like things were falling into place for him again. Derek had helped him so much, helped him be happy, helped him start to like himself again. He’d inspired feelings in Stiles, guided him through handling the onslaught of emotion by being a stabilizing presence, or reminding Stiles of his therapy so that he could get through it.

But inevitably, something would have to go south. So that was probably why, the next time he woke up, he felt undeniably weird. Like something was really, really wrong.

He found Derek sitting out on the porch, leaning forward with his forearms braced against his thighs, looking lost in thought. He didn’t even seem to notice the door opening and closing. Stiles walked to the rail and leaned over it.

“Something’s weird,” he said, because he might as well not beat around the bush. “I feel like there’s something wrong, or something I’m missing. I haven’t felt this way since I died. It’s like…” Stiles paused, struggling to find the word. “...dread.”

“I feel it too,” Derek said, and Stiles turned to him, concerned, but trying to play it down a little.

“Think maybe it’s just sunspots?”

Derek gave him a look. “Sunspots?”

“Mom used to say that if you were having a weird day, you should blame it on the sunspots. Something about solar flares messing with perception, or something. I dunno.”

“I think this might be more than that.”

Stiles slumped a little. “I know. But what can we do?”

“Something’s going to change,” Derek said, standing up and coming over to Stiles, wrapping his arms around him and suddenly squeezing him tight. “What if something happens to you?”

Stiles brought his hands up to stroke up and down Derek’s back.

Stiles hesitated. He wanted to reassure Derek, but he also didn’t want to lie about the ominous feeling he had. “I don’t know for sure what’ll happen. And this really might be nothing, you know?”

“It isn’t nothing. I just know it isn’t.” Derek was whispering now, burying his face in Stiles’ neck.

“Hey, it’s okay. Remember what we said? I’ll always find you, and I know you’ll always find me. No matter what,” Stiles said, and for some reason he felt tears start to well in his eyes, the feeling of dread and some kind of crushing sadness starting to overtake him. “Derek, promise me. Promise me, right now, that you won’t give up. Ever.”

“I promise,” Derek said, and Stiles heard the determination there and felt just a little relieved. “I’ll always find you.”

They stood, holding tight to that promise and each other, and that was the last thing Stiles knew before he woke up.

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