Stiles doesn’t remember much. Nothing but the screaming from the harpies that were catching up to them. He remembers his lungs burning and the sudden swoop in the air, before claws dig into his shoulder.
Now, though, as he blinks his blurry vision clear, he realises that he’s no longer chased by harpies. He’s not even in the woods. This is Derek’s loft. Blinking again, he slowly becomes aware of the throbbing pain behind his left eye, and the burning ache in his right arm. A wave of nausea washes over him, and just as he thinks he’s going to puke all over himself, because his body is too weak to move, someone pushes him up in a sitting position and puts a bucket into his lap. It feels like he’s emptying his stomach for hours, and he closes his eyes, because the smell is vile enough. He clutches the bucket for a long while after he’s finished, worried that it’s going to come back again if he lets go, until it gets removed from his grip.
He blinks, drinks as a glass is pressed to his lips, and sags back against the bed again, slipping into sleep once more.
"Sleep," Derek says, like that’s even necessary. "You’re safe."
The next time he wakes, it’s dark in the loft and there’s that yellowish light from street lamps outside the window. Once again, it takes a moment for the pain to hit. His head is still pulsing and his arm and shoulder feel like they’re burning.
Groaning, he tries to sit up, hoping that a change in position might help. Instead, it feels like his head is exploding and he falls back against the pillows again, whimpering. A second later, the mattress dips under someone else’s weight. He assumes that it’s Derek, because it’s his loft after all. When a hand grasps his, he knows for certain that his suspicions were right, because he’d know that hand from anywhere, despite the fact that he hasn’t really been touched by it a whole lot. He cracks his eyes open when the pain slowly subsides, and watches in fascination how Derek takes his pain, dark veins stretching up his arms.
He wants to ask what happened to him, but all he gets out is a weak: “What?”
Werewolf hearing is a good thing, though, because Derek can hear him just perfectly. “Do you remember the harpies?” he asks softly.
Stiles makes an affirmative sound.
“Their claws are poisonous and when they caught you, it got into your system. Don’t worry, you’re okay, and Deaton says you’ll be fine. It just has to get out of your body.”
“‘s my dad?” he manages, still not fully able to grasp why he’s in Derek’s loft of all places.
“He’s at home. Everyone’s okay, except for you. But you will be soon.” It’s as if Derek has read his mind, though, because the next thing he says is: “I dragged you here from the woods, and Deaton said not to move you.”
Derek lets go of his hand, and Stiles’ body and brain feel dull and muted somehow, as sleep starts to pull him under again. He grabs for Derek’s hand again until he finds his fore- and long finger, and squeezes his hold around them. A moment later he’s out again.
After a couple of weeks Stiles is able to stay awake for longer than fifteen minutes at a time. It still feels as though he’s been trampled by a hoard of elephants, but he’s able to get on the couch with Derek’s help and he alternates between watching TV shows and dozing off against throw pillows that he didn’t even know Derek owned.
“Eat this,” Derek says, sitting down on the coffee table and holds a bowl of soup in his hands. He pauses in the middle of an episode of The Walking Dead and when Stiles tries to reach around him to hit the spacebar, Derek swats his hand away. “Eat.”
“Fine,” Stiles mutters, but the soup turns out to be the best thing he’s had in ages. Maybe that’s because all he’s been able to get down previously is Deaton’s fluid and nutrition replacements. “Where did you buy this? It’s like heaven in a bowl. Are you sure I didn’t die?” he hums around the spoon.
“I made it. And yes, I’m sure you didn’t die.”
Stiles stares for a moment. Because Derek cooking? Not something he thought was a thing that happened. In real life.
“Are you in pain?” Derek asks him then.
Stiles pauses his eating to check. His arm is still throbbing, but not as violent as it used to. “It’s not that bad.”
Derek says nothing, but watches him carefully as he eats. Maybe to make sure that he finishes the bowl properly? Maybe because he suspects that Stiles is going to start the episode again and forget about eating if he leaves.
“So, my dad?” Stiles prompts as he gives the bowl back.
“What about him?”
“Can I call him?”
Derek blinks. “Of course. I’ll get your phone.”
Stiles watches him pull out a box from underneath the bed, and placing it on top of the covers. Derek carefully lifts out something that looks like a bloodied shirt and trousers, and he briefly remembers wearing them the day they got attacked in the woods. It looks like they’ve been cleaned, but that the white fabric of the shirt was too ruined to get its proper colour back. It takes him a moment to realise that Derek has put all his things in that box to make sure they won’t get lost. That’s also when he looks down on himself and finds that the t-shirt and the sweatpants he’s wearing are bigger than what he’d normally wear.
When Derek hands him his phone, fully charged and everything, Stiles accepts it a bit hesitantly and asks: “Do you want me to tell him to bring me some clothes?”
Derek looks confused for a second, but then his gaze flickers to the shirt Stiles is wearing and his eyes widen slightly in realisation. “If you want to. If you feel uncomfortable in the ones you’re wearing.”
They’re not at all uncomfortable. On the contrary, they’re the most comfy clothes Stiles has worn in a while. “I don’t,” he says quickly. “I just don’t want you to have to do more laundry than you’d normally do.”
“I’m pretty sure that the only solution to that would be if you decided to be naked.”
Stiles is too tired to come up with some snarky reply. Instead, he calls his dad, trying not to think about Derek Hale suggesting that he should be naked. Sarcastically, but still.
The phone call with his dad is short. He’s at work and dead busy, but whenever Stiles tries to inform him of what happened, it seems as though his dad already knows. After a moment, his dad sighs on the other end and says:
“Son, Derek has been calling me every day since he got you out of that forest and he’s been letting me visit you whenever I want, even if you haven’t been awake. You’re in good hands. Don’t stress. I’ll come by tomorrow.”
Stiles sits stunned for a moment after his dad hangs up on him. Derek is shuffling around in his kitchen, because Stiles can hear the cabinets open and close, and a pot being filled with water. It’s obvious that Derek’s either avoiding him or trying to give him some space, and he doesn’t come back until Stiles has hit the spacebar with his foot to start the episode of The Walking Dead again.
“You should drink this,” Derek says, appearing suddenly with a mug in his hand. “It’s to help your body get rid of the poison quicker.”
It’s vile. Stiles almost throws up with the first gulp, but after that, things get better. Derek waits to make sure that he drinks everything and then lets him be. Stiles falls asleep on the couch sometime after that, but when he wakes again, he’s in Derek’s bed, wrapped in the duvet.
Stiles spends the following couple of weeks on Derek’s couch, watching as many TV shows as he can muster. Netflix is truly a saviour during difficult times.
Derek is somehow always in the background, and whenever Stiles is thirsty there’s something to drink waiting for him. And when he’s hungry, there’s a plate of food on the coffee table. It isn’t until he wants to take a shower that things get a little awkward. Not because Derek insists on bathing him, or anything, but rather because Stiles can’t stand for long moments without getting dizzy and he doesn’t want to repeat that incident where he fainted on the floor while Derek was away grocery shopping. Derek had been livid by the time Stiles woke up again.
Sure, he’s figured that Derek must’ve given him sponge baths or something while he was completely out, because it wasn’t like he woke up from his weeks of semi-unconsciousness smelling like death. And his clothes were always fresh, even before he was able to change them himself.
Now, though, he’s starting to get smelly and his hair a little too greasy for him to be comfortable with.
“So,” he says quietly, but Derek looks up from where he’s sitting at his desk, reading a book. “I kinda feel like I should take shower.”
Derek’s eyebrows rise a notch.
“But…” Stiles clears his throat awkwardly. “Like, I don’t want to repeat the fainting thing.”
They rise a little further.
“I mean, I understand if you’re uncomfortable with that. I can call Scott, I’m sure he’d be willing to help.” Truth be told, they’d both be traumatised, but Scott would do it anyway.
“I’ve cleaned your entire body from blood numerous times the first weeks you were here. I think I can handle it.”
Stiles isn’t completely sure that he will, though.
Derek follows him to the bathroom, staying close as though he wants to be able to catch Stiles if he falls over or something. Which isn’t really ridiculous, since it’s happened before. Ugh. This situation would be so much easier to handle if he’d be able to say that Derek was being ridiculous.
Undressing is severely awkward, but Stiles tries to tell himself that this isn’t anything Derek hasn’t seen before and he sits down on the toilet lid to make sure that he doesn’t fall over when he’s trying to step out of his pants. Derek waits patiently, looking in another direction as if that’s going to make Stiles feel like he’s got some privacy.
The problem is, however, that Stiles starts feeling a little dizzy when he’s finally in the shower cubicle under the water spray, and finally starting to feel somewhat clean again. For a while, he hopes that it’ll pass, but a moment later, his vision is starting to get a bit blurry.
“Derek.” He knocks on the glass of the cubicle. “Starting to feel a bit dizzy here.”
A second later, Derek’s in there with him, fully clothed and pretty much soaking wet in a second. When Derek’s arm locks around his middle, holding him close against his own body, it’s somehow grounding. Stiles allows himself to sag a little, because he knows Derek can take it.
“Do you want to finish showering? Washing your hair?” Derek asks quietly and for a moment, Stiles thinks he’s mistaken, but when he nods, Derek reaches for the shampoo bottle with his free hand and squeezes some directly on top of Stiles’ head.
Clearly, he’s done this a couple of times before, because he works quickly, shampooing Stiles’ hair efficiently with one hand and the other is still secure around his midsection.
“So I guess I owe you my personal hygiene for these past few weeks.”
Derek’s hand freezes for a moment. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
“It’s fine,” Stiles sighs. “I trust you.”
“Thank you,” Derek says quietly.
They’re silent after that, for long moments, and Stiles is quite sure that Derek’s shampooing his hair a little more thoroughly than he has to. He doesn’t mind though, because tension he didn’t know he had, is bleeding from his neck and shoulders.
“I’m going to have to turn you around now.”
Stiles has been dozing a little, but the words force him awake again. He blinks against the spray of water and nods, because he’s basically just sagging in Derek’s hold anyway. Derek turns him with both hands and holds him flushed against his own body again. Stiles doesn’t have it in him to be embarrassed. Derek has seen everything there is to see to him before, anyway.
“Tip your head back,” Derek says softly and Stiles does, surprised by how Derek’s arm around his middle holds him closer, his hand moving up to catch the back of Stiles’ head as if he were a baby. For a moment, he doesn’t get why, but then he realises that he must’ve been completely lifeless the other times Derek’s had to do this. It feels like his heart has cracked into a million pieces. Derek was considerate enough to hold his head for him.
He screws his eyes shut, concentrating on the feeling of Derek’s gently rinsing his hair with his free hand, still supporting the back of his head with the other. Not a single sud of shampoo gets into his eyes, either.
Derek turns off the water and wraps a towel around him after that, sitting him down carefully on the toilet lid again. He’s soaked, clothes clinging to his body like he’s in a ridiculous Abercrombie & Fitch commercial. One of those purposely homoerotic ones.
“Will you be okay if I change?” he asks, crouching in front of Stiles who isn’t so sure if he’s dizzy because of the poison or because Derek’s nipples are visible through that shirt.
“Yeah, I’ll be okay.” He nods, leaning back against the cold porcelain and rests his head against the wall behind the toilet. It only takes a moment before Derek’s back, or maybe he’s drifted a little. A smile spreads across his lips as he watches the unruly mess of Derek’s toweled hair and he’s wearing the same t-shirt and sweatpants that Stiles wore a few days ago.
He grabs a new towel and dries Stiles hair a little roughly, but it feels nice. He wants to protest, claim that he can do it himself, but honestly he’s so energy drained that he’s contemplating taking a nap on the bathroom rug.
“Do you want me to help you with the clothes, too?” Derek asks quietly and his gaze has been on Stiles the entire time, like he’s monitoring his state, or something.
“I think I’ve put you through enough,” Stiles mumbles and reaches out for the sweats and the t-shirt Derek’s offering him. He goes slow, pausing for a while after getting his feet right in the leg openings and then drags the pants up his legs slowly, as far as they go, before he has to get up from where he’s sitting.
“Might need some help,” he admits quietly.
He expects it to be awkward, despite the fact that Derek was just in the shower with him, washing his hair for him. It’s not awkward at all, actually. Derek pulls him up by hooking his hands under Stiles’ arms and he’s able to pull his pants up all on his own. Thank god. He helps Stiles with the shirt, too, while he’s at it. And it’s a relief when he gets to lie down in bed a moment later.
“Hey,” he protests when Derek gets up after tucking him in, probably to make Stiles dinner, or that vile thing he has to drink, or something else. “Where’re you going?”
“You need to eat something.”
“No.” Stiles shakes his head promptly. “No, I’m still full.”
“Stiles,” Derek says warningly.
“I need you to be right here, actually,” Stiles blurts bravely. This thing, between them, has been something they’ve never talked about. They’ve never done anything. But everyone knows. They know, too. For years. Stiles isn’t blind for the way Derek looks at him, and he’s a hundred percent sure Derek knows how Stiles feels about him, too.
“Here?” Derek echoes.
“Just lie with me for a while.”
There’s a long pause, and for a moment, Stiles thinks that Derek won’t comply. But then the mattress dips, and Derek’s warm body curls around his own.
“I’ve been really worried,” Derek mumbles against his temple.
Stiles closes his eyes, fists his hand in Derek’s shirt. “Thanks. For saving me. Taking care of me.”
“You would’ve done the same for me.”
“Yes.” Because he would.
“I love you,” Derek whispers after a moment, when Stiles is in a state somewhere between consciousness and sleep.
“I know,” he replies, turning so that they’re facing each other. “I love you, too.”
Derek kisses him then, slow, deliberately. Like he knows that Stiles will still be here, even when he doesn’t need Derek to take care of him.