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Walking Into Darkness

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Derek hears Stiles before he sees him. There's anxious, wheezy breathing coming from the next aisle over in the grocery store, accompanied by a racing heart and the smell of unwashed sneakers and hair gel. He turns the corner and Stiles is standing frozen in the dairy aisle, knuckles clenched around the metal of his shopping basket.

"Stiles?" he asks, carefully moving into Stiles' line of sight. "You okay?"

Stiles shakes his head and keeps drawing in those rapid, painful-sounding breaths.

The thing is, this is the first time Derek's seen Stiles since he got released from the hospital. Stiles had collapsed after the nogitsune was forced out; Derek had been there when it happened, had seen the way Stiles went limp without the demon to prop him up. An ambulance had come and taken him away and Scott's face as he'd climbed into the back to sit next to Stiles' stretcher had been the most terrified that Derek had ever seen him.

Later he'd visited Stiles with Scott, read over his mile-long chart and winced at how goddamn skeletal Stiles looked. He'd slept for two straight days after he was admitted, and they'd kept him for nearly a week after that, running myriad tests and monitoring his weight and eating habits. His MRIs had come back normal, but he’d been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and he couldn’t be left alone at night in the hospital without screaming himself awake.

Stiles still looks too thin and pale under the grocery store lights. People are starting to give them funny looks and Derek doesn't know what set Stiles off, but he figures leaving the store is probably a good idea.

"Okay," Derek says, moving forward. He gently pries Stiles' fingers off his basket and sets it on the floor. "Just keep breathing and walk with me." He has to support most of Stiles' weight as they head for the exit, Stiles stumbling along with him, fingers clutching at Derek's jacket.

Outside, he props Stiles up against a brick wall and pats at his pockets until he finds Stiles' phone. Then he calls John, who picks up on the second ring. Derek hurriedly explains what's happened and holds the phone up to Stiles' ear so they can talk.

He tries not to listen as John talks Stiles down from his panic attack, but whatever he's saying, it works: within minutes Stiles has calmed down enough to take the phone from Derek and his breathing starts to even out. By the time he hangs up the phone, murmuring love you too to his dad, he seems mostly back to normal, just sweaty and tired, sagged against the wall behind him.

Derek sits back on his heels in front of Stiles, not sure what to say. In the end, Stiles breaks the silence.

"Sorry you had to deal with that," he says. "I guess I really am fucked up if I can't even buy groceries by myself, huh?"

"This is your first time out alone?" Derek says, and Stiles nods. He looks young and a little lost, arms wrapped around his knees and scuffed sneakers sticking out in front of him. Derek thinks about the groceries Stiles had abandoned inside and stands up.

"You'll just have to try again," he says briskly, extending a hand down to Stiles to help him up. "I'll come with you."

Stiles stares at his hand like it might be a snake. "Why?" he asks.

Derek shrugs. "I owe your dad a favor."

It's the right answer; Stiles nods and lets Derek pull him to his feet.


Stiles makes it through round two of grocery shopping without another panic attack. He hesitates at the doors when they first walk in, glancing over at Derek. Derek doesn't say anything, just looks back at him, and there's a weird moment where they're just staring into each other's eyes--and then Stiles looks away and keeps walking.

It doesn't take Derek long to figure out that Stiles, who maintains a steady line of tension the entire time they're in the store, is incredibly uncomfortable with strangers invading his personal space. Derek can hear his heart start to pound when someone brushes up against him and after that he does his best to put himself between Stiles and other shoppers.

They're about halfway through the list on Stiles' phone when he spaces out in front of the cereals. Just comes to a halt, staring blankly at the shelves. Derek has to repeat his name three times before Stiles blinks and shudders and comes back to himself.

"You okay?" Derek asks.

"Yeah," Stiles says. "Sorry." His fingers hover nervously over the shelves before adding a box of Honey Bunches of Oats to his cart.

They visit the produce aisle, baked goods, dairy, and frozen food before Stiles looks down at his list and realizes he's reached the bottom of it. He makes a beeline for the self-checkout, Derek following along behind him, and starts scanning his things. His hands are trembling badly enough that his signature on the electronic receipt is a jerky scrawl.

Outside in the sunshine, Stiles looks like he hasn't been sleeping well, the bags under his eyes dark and pronounced.

"Um," Stiles begins. "Can you--I promised my dad he didn't need to leave work to pick me up, but I'm technically not supposed to drive this soon after a panic attack. And Scott's still at school, so..."

Derek checks the time on his phone and yeah, it's only 11am.

"Why aren't you in school?" he asks.

"Yeah, uh, I'm not really up for the full-time school thing yet," Stiles says, scratching the back of his neck. "It's a work in progress. Can we not talk about this here?"

"Sure," Derek agrees. "Your car or mine?"

"Yours? My dad and I can come pick up the Jeep later."

They load Stiles' groceries in Derek's trunk and get in the car. Stiles is quiet, and when Derek looks over at him at a stoplight, he appears to be counting his fingers.

"How many are you expecting?" he asks, puzzled, and Stiles curls his fingers into fists and crosses his arms, shoving his hands into his armpits.

"Shut up, it makes me feel better," Stiles says.

He doesn't look like he feels better. He looks like--

"You look like shit," Derek says.

"Gee, thanks."

"Scott's worried about you."

Stiles makes a noise Derek can only describe as hurt. "Scott's been talking to you about me?"

"It's not what you're thinking," Derek says evenly. "He mentions you sometimes, but we're not gossiping about you, Stiles. You know he wouldn't do that."

"But he's worried," Stiles repeats.

"Of course he is. You were possessed by an evil spirit and almost died; I'd be concerned if he wasn't worried."

Stiles sighs. It's a small, defeated sound, and the way he's curled up looking out the window means Derek can't get a good read on him.


"I'm trying," Stiles says. "I am. I go to a therapist twice a week and I take a crapload of drugs that are supposed to help with the anxiety and the not-sleeping and shit and I still can't leave the house without freaking out." Stiles laughs then, a dry, unhappy sound, and shakes his head. "Why the fuck am I telling you this?" he says. "You don't give a shit."

"Right, I helped save your life because I don't give a shit," Derek says sarcastically. They're at Stiles' house now, and he pulls into the driveway and shuts off the engine. "And I will continue to not give a shit by helping you carry your groceries inside."


Stiles insists he doesn't need a 'babysitter,' as he calls it, so Derek leaves and drives back to the store. He hadn't gotten the chance to pick up the few things he'd come for before running into Stiles.

He's still feeling on edge when he gets back to the apartment, so after he puts his groceries away he goes into his living room area and sits cross-legged on the rug . Scott's the one who got him started with meditation, mentioning offhandedly that he and Stiles and Allison were giving it a try together as a way to control Stiles' anxiety. Now he practices it at least three times a week.

It's basically the best thing Derek's ever done for himself. He's learning to clear his mind, to focus his thoughts; his shift has never been so clean. And he can finally, finally complete a full shift to the wolf. He'd been starting to think he just--wasn't capable of it, wasn't good enough--because Laura made it seem like the simplest thing in the world and even Peter managed it, in his own fucked-up, monstrous way.

He likes the peaceful, empty feeling that meditation gives him. His favorite thing is to meditate until he feels just right, then shift into the wolf. There's not much to do in his apartment when he doesn't have opposable thumbs, but he doesn't mind. In the afternoon the sun floods in his windows at the perfect angle for sprawling on the floor for a long, lazy nap and letting the sun warm his fur.

He'll have to let Scott know soon. So far he’s been content to stay in his apartment, acclimating to his new shape, but lately he's been getting the urge to stretch his legs. To run.

And he owes it to Scott to let him know before he goes tearing all over the preserve as an oversized wolf.


It's Thursday evening when Derek finally convinces himself to go talk to Scott. It's not that he dislikes Scott--on the contrary, he’s relieved to have Scott as his alpha--it's just that he's so...earnest about everything. And well-meaning. It’s a lot to take in sometimes.

But it's getting close to the full moon and while Derek's not compelled to shift on the full, he enjoys it.

So here he is on Scott's doorstep, about to knock on the door, when Melissa pulls it open. He blinks at her, confused, and she makes a small startled sound before quickly regaining her composure.

"I was just heading out," she explains. "Go right ahead, the boys are upstairs in Scott's room."

Derek hesitates, thrown off balance by the news that Stiles is here too, but nods and heads inside. It doesn't really matter if Stiles is here; he'd find out soon enough anyway.

He's moving quietly out of habit and when he reaches Scott's bedroom door he looks in to see Scott and Stiles...cuddling? Scott is sitting up against the headboard of his bed and Stiles is tucked under his arm, pressed up against his side. They're both wearing pajamas and it sounds like they're watching a movie on Scott's laptop, but all of Derek's attention is caught up by the way Stiles is using Scott as a pillow. They look so comfortable with each other's bodies: one of Stiles' ankles is hooked over Scott's, and Scott's hand is curled around Stiles' hip.

Scott definitely hasn't heard him coming, and while normally Derek enjoys scaring the shit out of people, this feels wrong. Like he'd be interrupting something private.

Careful not to make a sound, he backs away from the door and retreats down the stairs. He opens and closes the door loudly and calls out Scott's name questioningly. By the time he reaches Scott's door for a second time, he and Stiles have shifted apart.

"Derek? What's up?" Scott asks, meeting Derek at the door.

"I have to tell you something," Derek says, and promptly runs to a halt, because he hadn't actually thought about how to share the news.

"Spit it out, dude," Stiles says from his position on the bed. "Did you kill someone?"

"What the hell, Stiles? No, I didn't kill someone. Jesus." Scott's still in the doorway; Derek has to look over his shoulder to see Stiles. "You going to let me in?"

"What? Oh, sorry." Scott moves aside, goes back to the bed and sits down next to Stiles, near enough that their legs are a hair's breadth from touching. They glance at each other and then at Derek, perfectly in sync.

Derek sighs and sits awkwardly on the edge of Scott's bed. "I figured out the full shift," he says. "That's all. I thought I should let you know."

"The what?" Scott says, while Stiles sits up, leaning forward excitedly.

"Like Laura," Stiles says in a hushed tone, jabbing Scott in the ribs. "Remember?"

"But you're not an alpha anymore."

Derek shrugs. "It's more about control than power."

Scott looks kind of awed, whereas Stiles looks about ready to vibrate out of his skin. Everything they've been through, and he still hasn't lost his insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Derek's still not prepared for what Stiles says next.

"Show us."


"Show us your shift."

Derek tries out his best you've got to be kidding me look on Stiles. Stiles ignores it.

"C'mon, dude. Seeing is believing. How are we supposed to know you aren't making this shit up?"

Derek's always been a bit of a pushover. "Fine," he says, and yanks off his shirt and throws it on the ground. He's tempted to keep going, to strip off right here and watch them squirm--but he doesn't.

"Wait here," he says, and stalks off to the bathroom to finish getting undressed. He folds his clothes and sets them aside, concentrates for a moment, and shifts, dropping down to all fours. Shaking out his fur, he noses his way out of the bathroom and pads on silent paws back to Scott's room.

"Holy shit," Stiles breathes when Derek stalks through the doorway. Derek spares a moment to be concerned, flashing back to Stiles freaking out in the grocery store, but then Stiles continues on. "Dude, you're huge! This is so cool!"

"Do you, can come sit on the bed if you want," Scott offers, so Derek jumps up on to the foot of the bed.

"Will you bite my hand off if I say I really wanna pet you?" Stiles asks, cautiously extending a hand towards Derek. Derek thinks it over and surprisingly, the idea doesn't repulse him. He's learned to be wary of people who want to touch him, but Stiles feels safe. He's not sure he'd want Scott to pet him--but he can handle Stiles.

Decision made, he stretches out his neck and sniffs Stiles' hand. His sense of smell as a wolf is amazing and he always gets this urge to just smell all the things. Stiles' hand mostly smells salty.

"Do I pass the test?" Stiles asks, and makes a face when Derek licks his hand in response. “I’m gonna take that as a yes,” Stiles says, wiping his hand off on his shirt before burying it in Derek’s fur. The small, careful pets along Derek’s side feel good, so Derek shoves his way between Scott and Stiles' legs and lays down. Stiles takes the hint and lengthens his strokes down Derek's spine.

This is the most relaxed Derek's been in a long time, and what's more, the petting seems to be having the same effect on Stiles. He can literally hear Stiles' heart rate slowing down. Derek should maybe be embarrassed that he's basically acting as a fucking therapy dog when he only meant to show them the shift and go home, but...Scott's bed is comfortable, okay. And he'd forgotten how good it feels to have someone touch him without intent, without motive. Fifteen more minutes, then he'll leave.


Derek wakes up to Stiles snoring in his ear. Scott's not in the room, but Derek can hear his heartbeat coming from downstairs. Stiles has an arm slung over him and he's pleasantly warm against Derek's side. Derek's not sure how long he's been asleep, but he urgently needs to pee. He slowly squirms out from under Stiles' arm, pleased when he frees himself without waking Stiles up.

After shifting back in the bathroom, peeing, and getting dressed, he heads downstairs to talk to Scott. He finds him in the kitchen.

"Hey," Scott says. "Is he still asleep?"

Derek nods and Scott immediately looks relieved. "I would've woken you up, but I didn't want to disturb him. He doesn't really sleep much these days-- I've never seen him fall asleep like he did with you. He was out like a light."

"I thought he had pills to help him sleep," Derek says, frowning.

"He does, but he doesn't like to take them. He doesn't like how they make him feel." Scott sighs and opens the fridge, starts rummaging around. "You want something to eat? We've got some leftover pizza."

Derek accepts, and they're about halfway through their pizza when he hears Stiles wake up. He looks over at Scott, who's noticed too, and they both stop eating and just listen for a moment, making sure that Stiles is okay. All Derek hears are ordinary waking-up noises: the shuffling of blankets, Stiles yawning, a steady heartbeat. He goes back to finishing his slice.

Stiles comes down a few minutes later, brightening at the sight of pizza and nabbing a slice off Scott's plate.

"Good nap?" Scott asks.

"Yeah, actually," Stiles says in between bites of pizza. "I slept like a rock. And, uh, I think I might have fallen asleep on you?" he says to Derek. "But it's not my fault your wolfy fur is so soft and pettable."

Derek raises an eyebrow. "'Pettable?'" he repeats. "Is that even a word?"

"Hell yes, and you're it," Stiles says. "You should be a wolf more often, I think I like you better that way."

Derek ignores this last remark and shoves the rest of his pizza crust into his mouth.

"How's your mom?" he asks Scott. "Her leg healing all right?" After the oni were killed, she’d been left with a poison-free but still significant wound.

"Oh yeah, she's doing great! She has a limp now but she’s doing therapy. Anyway, she says it makes her look tough."

Derek asks a few more questions, trying to be polite--small talk is not his forte, but he can fake it decently, and he's willing to put in the effort for Scott. He gets distracted midway through one of Scott's answers when he notices that Stiles has been suspiciously quiet next to them, holding himself unnaturally still with his hands clasped together in his lap.

Derek knows guilt when he sees it. And he's seen it on Stiles before, back when he was still in the hospital. He'd been there the day that Scott tried to convince Stiles to let Lydia visit him. Scott had told him that Lydia didn't blame him for what happened, that she wanted to see him, that it would be okay--and Stiles had gotten visibly more agitated with every reassurance until he could hardly breathe and the machines he was hooked up to started beeping angrily and Melissa McCall came running in. Derek had slipped out of the room when Stiles started crying helplessly, his face hidden in Melissa's shoulder while she rubbed his back, Scott hovering anxiously behind her.

Stiles has the same anxious look on his face now. Derek doubts that Melissa actually blames him for anything, and some part of Stiles must know that, since he accepted her affection and care in the hospital. She obviously cares about Stiles, loves him, even.

"Stiles," he says sharply, and Stiles starts, looking up quickly. "You get enough pizza?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

"You sure?" Scott asks. Now he's looking at Stiles too, a faint frown creasing his forehead. "There's more in the fridge."

"Maybe later," Stiles says, shrugging.


To Derek's surprise, it's less than a week later when his phone beeps with a text from Stiles.

[Stiles] Can you do me a favor?

depends on what the favor is, Derek sends back.

[Stiles] I'm getting a tattoo and I need someone to come with me

why not Scott?

[Stiles] I want it to be a surprise

Derek's still thinking this over when Stiles sends another text.

[Stiles] please?

fine. but I'm driving. when's your appointment?

[Stiles] Saturday @ 2pm

[Stiles] thanks

Stiles is jittery when Derek picks him up on Saturday, bouncing his knee and drumming his fingers on his thigh.

"You sure this is a good idea?" Derek asks.

Stiles nods. "Yes. Absolutely."

"You look a little tense."

"Yeah, well, I'm not real fond of needles."

"Are you shitting me?" Derek says. He pulls over to the side of the road and puts the car in park, turning in his seat to face Stiles. "You're afraid of needles and you want to get a tattoo? How do you not see what a bad idea this is?"

"I need to do this," Stiles says stubbornly. "It's important, I promise."

"Then explain. Or I'm taking you back home."

Stiles scrunches up his nose. "Ugh, fine. You know Scott's arm tattoo that you helped him with? That's what I want. Around my wrist. Because we're--he's my brother. And dude, I researched the shit out of this. I know exactly what I’m getting into and I am prepared. Okay?"

"Okay," Derek agrees after a long moment spent searching Stiles' face. "But if you start freaking out while we're there, we're leaving."

The tattooist's shop is nearly empty when Derek and Stiles walk in.

"Hey, Angie," Stiles says to the woman behind the counter. She's tall, with long curly ringlets, and she gives Stiles a smile and says, "You ready?"

"Yeah," Stiles says. "Um, Angie, this is Derek. Derek, Angie."

"Always nice to meet a friend of Stiles'," Angie says. "You want me to pull him up a chair next to my station, Stiles?"

Stiles nods, looking relieved, and Angie reaches under the counter and comes up with a sleeve of peanut butter crackers that she tosses to him.

"Eat these, I'm not going to have you passing out on me."

She hands him a mini bottle of water too, and Stiles munches on the crackers and sips his water while Angie sets things up. When he's done, Angie sits him down and carefully shaves his wrist and wipes it down with an antiseptic wipe.

"If it hurts too much, let me know and we can take a break. Wrists can be a little painful."

"Okay," Stiles says, warily eyeing the needle she's holding. She laughs softly at his expression.

"Maybe you shouldn't watch," she suggests, and Stiles turns his head away, which leaves him looking at Derek. He tenses up at the first jab of the needle and his face loses some color. His free hand is dangling right by Derek's side and Derek laces their hands together without thinking, entwining his fingers with Stiles' and leeching his pain. His long sleeves will cover up most of the black in his veins, but he makes sure to tilt the back of his hand away from Angie, just in case she glances over.

Stiles' eyes go wide when he realizes what Derek's doing. "Thanks," he says quietly, clutching on tightly to Derek's hand.

Stiles has big hands with long, strong fingers. He used to remind Derek of a puppy, all skinny body and big paws, but at some point in the last year he grew into his hands. His shoulders are as broad as Derek's, and his face has lost that rounded, baby fat look and changed into something more angular and defined.

Derek holds his hand for the entire duration of the tattoo. It doesn't take long and not a single other person enters the shop while they're there. At one point he glances towards the door and sees the open sign staring back at him. Angie must have flipped it when she was setting up as a favor to Stiles, Derek realizes. They must be good friends.

When the tat's finished, Angie cleans and bandages Stiles' wrist, relaying aftercare instructions that Derek only half listens to.

"All done!" she says cheerfully. "You did great, Stiles. Sit up and I'll get you some more water and our aftercare cheatsheet."

Stiles sits up, only wobbling a little, and grins at Derek.

"I didn't faint!" he says happily. "And it looks awesome."

Derek rolls his eyes; Stiles is undeterred in his happiness. He accepts another mini bottle of water from Angie and takes a couple of quick gulps before swinging his legs over and standing up. Well, trying to stand up, because as soon as his feet touch the ground his knees buckle and Derek jumps up, knocking his chair over in his hurry to haul Stiles back upright before his face makes an unfortunate acquaintance with the floor.

"Oops," Stiles says, dangling in Derek's grasp. "Nice reflexes, dude."

More water and ten minutes later and Stiles leaves the shop on his own two feet (Derek may or may not have threatened to carry him to the car, if necessary).

Later that night, Derek receives a text that says simply I owe you one.


Fate seems intent on pushing them together. Derek's prowling around the edges of town in his wolf form a few weeks later when he catches Stiles' scent on the breeze. It's past two in the morning and this part of town is dead at this hour, not a soul in sight. Ideal for an wolf who doesn't want to be seen, not ideal for a teenage boy recovering from trauma. What the hell does Stiles think he's doing?

When Derek catches up to him, it's clear Stiles has no idea what he's doing. He's barefoot, clad in pajama pants and a thin t-shirt, shuffling along the sidewalk. In other words, he's totally fucking asleep.

Derek's first instinct is to shift back--except then he'd be completely naked, and he really doesn't want to be arrested as a sex offender if someone happens to look out their window. But he's got to wake Stiles up somehow, so he gets in front of him and plants himself solidly in Stiles’ path. Stiles runs right into him and the collision jars him awake. He chokes on a sob, looking wildly around, and flinches back when his gaze lands on Derek.

"...Derek?" he asks after a moment. Derek yips impatiently at him. "What's happening? How did I get here?"

Derek huffs in exasperation--he obviously can't answer any of Stiles' questions right now--and pushes up against Stiles' legs, trying to turn him around.

"Home, boy," Stiles mumbles, yielding to Derek's nudges.

It's over a mile's walk back to Stiles' house. They move slowly; Stiles is shivering in the cold and breathing unsteadily and Derek pads patiently beside him, brushing up against Stiles' legs whenever Stiles seems especially agitated.

His original plan was just to escort Stiles back to his house, but when they finally reach Stiles' street he notices with dismay that the Jeep is the only car in the driveway. Still, he hesitates at the front door, unsure if Stiles wants Derek to follow him in or if he'll be okay by himself.

"Derek," Stiles says, voice breaking when he notices Derek's hesitation. "Don't--don't leave. Please don't leave."

So Derek comes inside, sits at Stiles' feet while he locks up the house, and follows him up the stairs to his room. Stiles crawls into bed and scoots over to the far side, making space; Derek jumps up and worms his way under the covers next to him.

"My dad got called in on an emergency," Stiles whispers, like he's telling Derek a secret. "I told him I'd be okay on my own." He scrubs at his face with his sleeve. "But I don't sleep so well by myself anymore and I was freaking out because the house was empty and I couldn't stop thinking so I took two sleeping pills and then...and then you found me."

Stiles sounds so fucking lost that Derek gives in to instinct and licks his face, eliciting a wet-sounding laugh. He goes for Stiles' chin next, and when Stiles puts his hands up to protect himself he starts licking his fingers. He even licks over Stiles' tattoo where it's peeking out of his shirtsleeve. Stiles is red-faced and out of breath by the time Derek's done washing him, but he looks happier, more relaxed. His hands have made their way into Derek's fur at some point, holding on, and Derek shoves his head under Stiles' arm and burrows in, settling down for the night. Stiles shifts and fidgets against him, movements gradually slowing until his heartbeat evens out into sleep.

Derek wakes to soft cursing. Stiles is fast asleep next to him and the Sheriff is standing in the doorway.

"Derek?" he says quietly, like he can't quite believe his eyes, and sighs in relief when Derek dips his head. "Jesus, Stiles told me you could do this, but I had no idea...when he wakes up, tell him I expect you both downstairs for breakfast, you hear?"

He walks away, and Derek can hear him muttering under his breath about 'goddamn enormous wolves’.

Stiles wakes up about twenty minutes later, and he wakes up fast, sitting bolt upright in bed, heart pounding. Derek grumbles at him and drapes himself over Stiles' legs, his non-verbal way of saying chill the fuck out.

"Derek," Stiles says, sinking his fingers into Derek's fur. "You're still here."

Well, duh, Derek thinks, giving Stiles his best exasperated look.

"Don't you roll your eyes at me, Derek Hale," Stiles chides. "God, you weigh a ton like this. Stop squishing me and I'll find you some clothes."

Clothes. Clothes are a good idea. But first, Derek wants a belly rub. He deserves a belly-rub, goddammit. He rolls over belly-up and eyes Stiles from upside down until Stiles gives in, says, "Just so you know, you look completely ridiculous," and obligingly starts petting the soft fur of Derek's stomach.

He does get dressed eventually. Stiles picks him out a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and disappears into the bathroom with his own pile of clothes. Derek gets dressed grudgingly; he much prefers wearing fur to clothes. At least the sweatpants are comfortable. He should go to Target, get some of his own. The blood never really came out of his last pair.

Stiles actually knocks on the door and waits for Derek to answer instead of barging in.

"You ready to go downstairs and get interrogated by my dad?"

"As long as he gives me some of that bacon he just took out of the fridge."

Stiles' mouth drops open. "Bacon?" he says indignantly. "That had better be turkey bacon!" he yells down the stairs.

"Lord have mercy," Stiles' dad mutters, loud enough for Derek's sensitive ears to pick up, and Derek laughs.

"What's so funny?" Stiles demands. Derek just smirks at him and Stiles huffs and heads down the stairs, grumbling all the way.

The bacon is delicious and definitely worth getting thoroughly questioned by John. Stiles goes fidgety and tense when he explains that Derek found him sleepwalking and brought him home.

"I think my other meds are interfering with the sleeping pills," Stiles says, looking down at his plate. "The doctor said that might happen."

"Don't worry about it, kiddo. We'll find another way to help you sleep." John sounds optimistic, but his expression betrays him. Stiles doesn't see, busy poking the remains of his scrambled eggs around his plate. "So this wolf thing. Stiles said it's a fairly recent development?"

Derek nods.

"Well, I'm happy for you, but try not to go anywhere too populated, all right? You'll set off mass hysteria if anyone catches a glimpse of you skulking around town."

"I don't plan on it," Derek says. "I was only in the neighborhood last night because I smelled Stiles and tracked him down."

John raises an eyebrow. "You smelled him? When's the last time you took a shower?" he ribs Stiles.

"Dad," Stiles groans.

"Thanks for bringing him home and keeping him safe," John says to Derek, serious now. "I appreciate it."

Derek shrugs awkwardly. He's not used to being praised, doesn't quite know what to do with it.

Across the table, Stiles looks mortified. "You know what, I'm gonna go shower," he says abruptly, and bolts up the stairs. The water turns on a minute later.

"You're good with him," John says. "He's been having a rough time lately, but he seems more like himself with you around."

Derek feels oddly warm, and he glances away from John. It’s...nice, hearing that he might be helping Stiles. He much prefers sarcastic, noisy Stiles over the Stiles he found wandering the streets last night. "Why isn't he back in school yet?" Derek asks. He’s been wondering about it since Stiles brushed him off at the grocery store.

"Panic attacks," John says grimly. "He goes in a couple times a week for the classes he shares with Scott, but until we find a way to manage his anxiety he's better off staying home. He's been through enough; I don't want him pushing himself before he's ready." He sighs and stands up from the table, carrying his and Stiles' dishes into the kitchen.

When Stiles comes back downstairs, he's wearing jeans and a soft-looking, dark green t-shirt, his hair damp and spiky. He comes out on the porch when Derek leaves, shutting the door behind them, presumably so his dad can't listen in to whatever he has to say.

"Um," Stiles says, looking down at his feet. "I wanted to say thanks. For everything. I probably would have gone off the deep end if you hadn't stayed with me last night."

"Next time you feel like that, call me before you take sleeping pills and start wandering around town," Derek says wryly. "Seriously, Stiles. Even if it's the middle of the night."

"I--okay," Stiles says. "I will."


Stiles shuts off the Jeep’s engine and takes a deep breath. Another long day at school looms ahead of them and Derek can tell that Stiles is dreading it. He stretches his head over the center console and sympathetically pushes his cold nose into Stiles’ neck. (It's not much of a stretch, to be honest--the Jeep is hardly roomy, and he takes up practically the entire back seat as a wolf.)

“I know,” Stiles says, hand automatically coming up to pet at the coarse fur on the side of Derek's face. “One day at a time, right? Let’s see how many teachers you can scare the shit out of today."

He hops out of the Jeep and opens the back door for Derek, who jumps down and stands patiently while Stiles carefully ties a bandana around his neck that reads “THERAPY DOG” in bold letters. Derek doesn’t particularly like the bandana, but it was either that or a harness. Thank fuck the school doesn’t require him to wear a leash.

Derek’s been coming to school with Stiles for a couple weeks now. It was his idea--Stiles needs an anchor, and Derek can be that for him. He’s finally found something he’s good at, and while he doesn’t really understand why Stiles feels safe around him, it doesn’t matter. It’s enough that he does.

There’s a familiar roar from down the street and Scott pulls his motorcycle up next to the Jeep.

“Hey Stiles,” he says, taking off his helmet. “Derek.”

They hang out by the front steps until class starts. They’re given a pretty wide berth by the rest of the student population; no one's really gotten used to Derek yet, and it doesn’t help that Derek glares pointedly whenever anyone gets too close to Stiles.

Stiles has English first period, while Scott has Physics. When the bell rings, Scott packs up his things before leaning in and briefly rubbing Stiles’ back just between his shoulder blades. Stiles rarely asks for it outright, but Derek can tell physical contact helps with his anxiety, and both he and Scott have picked up the habit of being close to Stiles.

(Derek spends most of his nights in Stiles' bed these days. Technically he's living in the guest room; John invited him to stay with them temporarily after his apartment building failed to pass a routine inspection and was condemned by the city. And some nights Derek does sleep in his own room. But Stiles sleeps better when he's not alone and it just seems more efficient to start out the night with him instead of waiting for Stiles to have a nightmare and heading across the hall on clumsy, sleep-addled paws. He always shifts before he goes to Stiles, although lately he’s found himself thinking about how it would feel to share Stiles’ bed as a human, skin-to-skin.)

“See you later,” Scott says, with a final pat to Stiles' shoulder, and heads inside. He and Stiles share around half their classes, and they have the same lunch period. Derek's not exactly sure what John discussed with the principal prior to Stiles' return to school, but he does know that every single teacher is required to let Stiles and Scott sit together.

Derek usually sits next to Stiles' chair, or sprawls on the floor if he gets bored. Even when he has his head down and his eyes closed, he's keeping track of Stiles. His nose and ears tell him when Stiles is upset or anxious, heartbeat quickening and scent changing. Sometimes Stiles nervously rubs at the tattoo around his wrist. These are Derek's cues to rest his head on Stiles' thigh, to crowd up against him as best he can and let him know that he's not alone. With his help, Stiles can usually ground himself and avert an anxiety attack.

There's still seven minutes until the late bell rings. The sun is warm on Derek's back and he stretches lazily. He's content to wait until Stiles is ready.