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“So what, exactly, does this ritual do again?” Derek asks, arching a brow as he watches Stiles pull various things out of his backpack. It’s not that he’s suspicious as much as it’s that he’s cautious.

Stiles has spent the last four years learning magic, though, and he’s really adept at handling the energy of the Earth, or whatever nonsensical thing his mentor calls it. Derek trusts him with his life, did even before they found out the spark Deaton had cryptically mentioned was actually something important that could have potentially saved lives had Stiles had the opportunity to train earlier. But any type of ritual tends to give Derek an uneasy feeling.

“It’s about rebirth. Cleansing. It should help make us Zen and like peaceful and shit,” Stiles explains as he lights one of the herbs he’s holding and shakes it around the stream they’re standing beside. “I thought it might be a good ritual to try after the last few weeks. With the missing kid at work and the troll in supernatural business, it’s been pretty stressful, so we could use some peaceful Zen.”

Should is the word that I keep focusing on,” Derek says dryly. “Did you happen to find any confirmation that this even works?”

“No, I thought I’d just do some random ritual and put us both at risk,” Stiles deadpans, and Derek doesn’t even need to see his face to know he’s rolling his eyes. “I said should because some accounts reported that the ritual had varying effects on them, none of which were awful.”

“What kind of effects?” Derek walks over and grimaces at the smell the burning herb makes. He supposes it’s supposed to be calming, but it reeks. “Full disclosure, Stiles.”

Stiles groans. “Fine. Some people got really happy and said it felt like they were high. A few others said it made them horny, but those were people who performed the spell with their significant others. Since we are not involved, that isn’t one of the things we’re at risk to experience. We might feel like we’re high, but we should experience the calm peaceful thing since that seems most common.”

“Involved how?” Derek asks warily because he isn’t about to participate in some ritual that could risk exposing his feelings for Stiles. He’s managed to keep them hidden for three years now. While he knows it’s likely they’re reciprocated, he’s still scared.

“How do you think?” Stiles gives him an annoyed look. “Dating, married, or at least fucking. Not platonic friends or platonic work partners. Your virtue is safe. I won’t be climbing like you a tree because of this ritual.” He mutters something under his breath, too low for Derek to hear, which is slightly frustrating.

The scent of arousal is heavy in the air, but Derek’s used to ignoring it. Stiles is always aroused, after all, which is something he’d hoped would change as he got older. No chance. It’s always there, sweet and intoxicating, with an underlying aroma of Stiles that makes it very difficult to resist burying his face against his neck and rutting some days. Sharing a patrol car with Stiles is a daily test of patience and control.

When Stiles finishes with the burning herb, he picks up one of the jars by his bag. “You need to take off your shirt and rub this in a circular pattern on your chest. Clockwise.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just some plan to get me shirtless?” Derek asks, teasing slightly as he catches the jar Stiles tosses him. Red splotches appear on Stiles’ face as he stares at him, mouth hanging open the way it often does when he’s been caught by surprise. Derek arches a brow and smirks before he pulls his shirt over his head, possibly flexing a little more than necessary because he likes the way Stiles’ heart races just a bit faster and the heady scent of arousal that fills the air.

“You like running around without your shirt, jerk,” Stiles mutters finally, looking away and removing his own shirt. Derek takes a moment to stare because Stiles doesn’t often remove his shirt, and he’s going to take advantage of the opportunity while he has it. There are moles on Stiles’ back, and his jeans are hanging low on his hips, the waistband of his underwear visible as he leans down to pick up another jar.

“Why don’t you show me the proper way to make the circle?” Derek suggests, voice low and huskier than he expects. He clears his throat and schools his expression into casual disinterest because he didn’t actually intend to say that out loud. Since he blurted it out like a silly schoolboy with a crush, he has to give Stiles no reason at all to look too closely.

“What?” Stiles turns around to face him, his nipples hard in the cool evening air. There are muscles there that Derek’s never noticed, and he can’t stop himself from staring at Stiles’ arms. They look strong enough to hold him down or to hug him close after sex.

“Nothing,” Derek says, shaking his head. How fucking ridiculous can he get? He drags his fingers through his hair and scowls, which makes Stiles’ narrow his eyes and stare.

When Stiles’ eyes suddenly widen, Derek knows that doesn’t bode well for him. The shy smile that follows does things to him he’s better off not examining at the moment. “You want me, don’t you?” Stiles whispers, almost like speaking louder will suddenly make his words untrue.

“We should get on with this ritual before we miss twilight,” he mutters, avoiding the question completely. Of course, that actually does answer the question, and Stiles knows it. The scent of happylustjoy is so thick in the air that Derek has to close his eyes and take several deep breaths because it’s starting to affect him.

“Let me,” Stiles murmurs, taking the jar from Derek’s hand. Derek opens his eyes, not surprised to find Stiles standing right there. The first feel of fingertips on his chest makes him bite the inside of his cheek. The stuff in the jar is cool and sticky, smelling a little like cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s making him think of Thanksgiving, for some reason, and it glides across his chest as Stiles spreads it over his skin.

“My turn,” Derek says, taking the jar from Stiles and dipping his fingers into it. He grits his teeth as he gently spreads the ointment stuff on Stiles’ chest, dragging his fingers back and forth over his nipples. He wants to be thorough, after all. He can feel warmth high on his cheekbones and figures the tops of his ears are likely flushed red by now.

“Derek?” Stiles says his name like a question, like a prayer, like a declaration. Derek curls his fingers into his palm, reaching up to stroke his knuckles along the curve of Stiles’ jaw. When Stiles’ tongue darts out to nervously swipe along his bottom lip, Derek groans. He leans forward before he can think about the reasons why he shouldn’t.

The first press of his lips against Stiles’ is a surprise to both of them. It’s just a soft touch, barely a whisper as they slide together, but Derek doesn’t step away or make an excuse or blame the atmosphere of the ritual. Instead, he presses his lips more firmly against Stiles’ mouth, moving them slightly. When Stiles doesn’t react, he feels foolish and stupid, about to pull away. He barely raises his head before Stiles is moving, long fingers gripping Derek’s hair as Stiles kisses him back.

It’s gentle, almost like they’re both too scared to press harder for fear it’s another dream. Just lips moving, fingers in his hair, and he moves his hand to Stiles’ neck, rubbing his thumb over Stiles’ jaw as they kiss. He’s not sure who parts their lips first or whose tongue flicks out to lick, but one of them does, and then they both are licking. The kiss deepens, tongues stroking, licking into each other’s mouths, pressing even closer together. Eventually, they separate, flushed and panting, staring at each other.

“I didn’t start the ritual yet,” Stiles whispers. “This isn’t magic.”

Derek’s lips quirk slightly as he touches Stiles’ face. “You’re wrong. It is magic.” When he sees that Stiles doesn’t understand, he huffs a laugh. “I was attempting to be romantic. Magic and fate? That type of thing.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, slowly smiling. “We might need to work on the romance thing. I thought you were suggesting I’d caused this or something.”

“Maybe we do,” Derek agrees quietly. “I’ve never really had the chance to do it before, but I’d like to learn. The only way you caused this is by being you. Not coercion or anything like that.”

“Now, see, that was romantic,” Stiles tells him, grinning outright and smelling like arousallusthappyhappyjoy. “We should finish the ritual, I guess?”

“I don’t know if it’s that necessary now,” Derek tells him honestly. “I’m feeling reborn after that kiss.”

“Okay. You might not need that much work on romance, after all,” Stiles murmurs, leaning up to kiss him again. Derek holds him close, returning the kiss and feeling happier than he has in a long time.