* * *
He could hear someone yelling, but his ears were swimming. No, that was his vision. His head was heavy and his mouth dry and everything hurt all over, only made worse when he tried to open his eyes again and a light blinded him.
“G'way,” he mumbled, trying to push someone's hands off of himself, but unable to find the strength.
“Stiles, buddy, you've got to wake up.”
Scott? He knew that voice. His head was pounding. Did he fall off Scott's roof again? Oh man, if he did and hit his head, his mom was going to be so mad at him. She always said he was going to crack his head open someday, tearing around like he did. His chest hurt thinking about his mom. Probably because he was scared of getting in trouble.
“Don't wanna be grounded,” he slurred, trying to find Scott's hand. He'd know what to do.
“Grounded? What is he—” Oh no, his dad was there. He was really in for it if they called him from the station. The Sheriff was going to fire his dad, and his mom was going to be mad at him. “Hey, hey, easy now, kid. It's okay. It's going to be okay, you hear me?”
Stiles tried to nod, dislodging the tears that had welled up in his eyes, spilling them down the sides of his face to pool hot and itchy in his ears. “Sorry, Dad, I'm sorry.”
His dad was gently running his hand over Stiles' forehead, brushing his hair back. That was nice. Maybe his dad wasn't angry after all. “Not mad at me?” he said, his voice sounding weird. He felt like he knew why, but it wasn't making sense.
“No, kiddo, I'm not mad at you. You didn't do anything wrong.”
His dad was blocking the light overhead, so Stiles tried to open his eyes once more. Oh, wow, his dad looked terrible, like he hadn't slept in years; he looked so old. “You look awful,” he said, trying to make it an apology.
His dad laughed at that, so maybe it was okay. “Well, you've looked better, too.”
“I want to go home,” he said, clearing his throat. It sounded rough and strange. Deep. Like his dad sounded. Maybe he swallowed dirt or some gravel when he fell...
“Can't do that yet, Stiles.” His dad turned away and motioned for someone, then turned back, a gentle smile on his face, his eyes all crinkled at the edges. Stiles tried to reach up and touch them; he loved that. His dad caught his hands though and stepped to the side as a doctor came into focus.
“Mr. Stilinski,” the lady said.
Stiles snorted. “That's my dad.” To his right he heard Scott laughing in a weird way, like he was sad or something. Stiles tried to turn his head to look at his friend, but it made his head hurt all the more.
“I see. Stiles,” she said, “you've had a pretty bad accident. Do you remember what happened?”
He screwed up his face trying to remember, but everything was fuzzy. People were in suits and nice dresses, like a party. There was screaming. Hurt. Pain so bad he whimpered from the memory of it, which just made his head ache, and that was like an ice pick right through his skull, like in that horror movie he and Scott watched that one time before Mrs. McCall got rid of HBO.
“Easy, it's okay if you can't remember,” the doctor said. She opened his eyelids and flashed a light around. That meant something, Stiles knew that, but he couldn't think of what.
“Did I fall off the roof?” he asked, his voice tiny and worried. He really didn't want to make his mom upset. His chest ached again, so he rubbed at it, noticing there were wires and things stuck into chest and his hand. And he had a lot of hair on his arm, just like his dad. What the...
“Doctor?” His dad. He sounded really scared. “Why does he think he's so yo—”
“It's okay, Dad. I'm...” He didn't remember finishing the sentence.
He had strong, muscled, perfectly hairy arms. Stiles couldn't help but look at them anytime they were together. Stiles thought about how the guy had literally punched through a stone wall to rescue his sister and Boyd, thought about the strength involved in something like that, the love he had for his family and pack to put himself in danger like that, but Stiles also thought about how he'd carefully held Erica in his arms, gentle and sweet.
Stiles wondered often what it would be like to be held in those arms. How good it would feel. Safe.
The next time he opened his eyes, the overhead lights were dimmed, and he could tell people were sitting in the room. He tried to sit up, but it still made his head ache and something deep inside his chest pull painfully. “Scott? Dad?” he called out, trying to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth so he could swallow the weird bubble in his throat making his voice all wrong, all deep like his dad's. “Mom?”
Someone made a shocked sort of noise, and he saw his dad at his side, worry and sadness etched in his face. “Stiles, buddy... Mom's not here.”
Stiles nodded, eyes shut tight because he was crying and he didn't know why, not really. It was like that giant black dog that got out of its yard, the one who liked to nap on the Stilinski porch in the sunshine, was sitting on his chest making it so Stiles couldn't breathe. Something was wrong, something beyond the ache in his body, but his mind wouldn't work right, and it scared him.
“What's wrong with him?” Scott whispered.
“The doctor said it might take him a while to catch up to the present,” his dad said, still holding Stiles' hand. “It was... bad. The damage. Stiles? Do you know where you are?”
“No,” he said, feeling scared and small and really wishing he could just go home. It hit him suddenly that his mom wasn't here, not anymore. She'd been sick. He made a pained sort of noise and clutched his dad's hand harder, tears freely running down his face now; he could hear some machinery start beeping frantically near his side. “Mom's gone, isn't she, Dad? She is, I know it. I remember.”
“I'll go get the doctor,” a strange voice said. Stiles didn't know that voice, but something about it made him want to. That was the voice of someone who was safe, someone who could keep you safe. He saw a huge man—dark hair, beard, dressed up fancy—stride through the doorway and out, leaving Stiles feeling even more panicked somehow by his leaving. Everyone was leaving, his mom was gone, now that man...
“Yeah, kid,” his dad said, kissing his forehead like he used to when Stiles had nightmares. His dad wiped at Stiles' cheeks with the edge of the bed sheet and continued saying in a soft voice, “She is. Can you— Do you remember why?”
Stiles swallowed thickly, trying to pull in enough air but his lungs felt like bands were wrapped around them. He had to, though, had to see his dad's face, standing there grief-stricken; he remembered with sudden and awful clarity holding his dad's hand tight-tight-tight as the awful rattling sound of dirt hitting an object came over and over. “She died,” he whispered, unable to breathe, scared by the loud beeping in the room.
Some medical people came in and pushed Stiles' dad aside and started messing with stuff, but Stiles stopped caring, the noise of medical equipment drowned out by the awful memory of the sound of his mother being buried.
His sister was dying. Stiles knew that when his own dad—the last of Stiles' family—was in danger, Stiles would have done anything to save him. They had a weird mutual respect thing between them now, and Stiles knew that the guy would need to leave, needed to help Scott so they could end this.
He looked back at Stiles in gratitude. Stiles knew he was trusted. Stiles would help his sister so the guy could keep them all safe. The last thing the guy needed was to bury another member of his family. Stiles could spare him that grief, at least.
Stiles blinked his eyes, waking up and hurting all over, once more. The last time he could remember feeling this bad, he'd had a lineman from Greendale smirking down at him as a lacrosse game carried on without him. His dad was standing in the doorway talking to someone outside. Scott hopped out of his chair in the dark corner and came over to the bed, lightly placed his hand on Stiles' chest, just close enough to where it ached the most.
“Hey, there you are,” Scott said, smiling gently. “It's okay. It's going to be okay.”
Stiles turned to look at him, finally getting a good look at his friend, and shocked himself by laughing. “You have a mustache, Scott! What... what do you...” Scott was dressed up in a black suit, a nice one. His dad was, too, and both of their ties were undone. “Why are you all grown up?”
Scott and his father exchanged a look before Scott turned back to Stiles, grinning his sideways sort of smile and nudged Stiles' shoulder. “You are, too, you know.”
“Nuh uh,” Stiles said, closing his eyes and feeling tired. He couldn't remember ever feeling this tired. “Take it back.”
“Ha, ha,” Scott teased, squeezing Stiles' shoulder. “Are, too.”
“Dee two,” Stiles said, chuckling under his breath and trying to keep his eyes open. Seeing Scott look so different than how he last remembered him—Scott hardly ever had to shave and now he had a full on mustache—was making his head hurt. His mind was all disjointed images and thoughts, none of them making sense. The nice park with all of their family and friends, music and dancing, and... “Hey. There were lots of flowers everywhere, right?”
“Do you remember flowers, Son?” his father asked, stepping aside as a nurse came in and started messing with him again.
Scott's mom had flowers. His dad still had a flower on his suit jacket. He pried his eyes back open and saw that Scott had a flower pinned to his coat, too. Thinking about flowers made him feel good, settled, not like thinking about dirt shoveled into a bottomless hole. “You were smiling a lot, Dad.”
His dad heaved a deep breath and smiled softly. “I sure was. You remember why? You remember today at all?”
He had to close his eyes again. The nurse kept trying to pull them open so she could flash a light on them, and Stiles did not like that.
“Son, let her do her thing,” his dad chastened.
“You need to let him rest, Sheriff. The doctor doesn't want him excited, so don't push too much,” the nurse said, finished fussing with him. She handed a big plastic cup with a bendy straw to his dad.
Oh, wow, icy cold water was the best thing ever. “Just flowers. Lots of them.” Stiles drank until his dad took it away. “Lydia! Lydia had flowers! I had a suit, too.” He looked down at himself, but he had one of those weird wrap around paper gowns on, wires and things coming out of the opening. “Did I have a suit?” He did, he was sure of it. “It was a ceremony, I think. Why was Lydia there? She hates me.”
A machine ticked and warmth pooled in his veins. It was so much better than the icy cold water; every time his heart beat the warmth moved further and further through his body, pushing back the ever-present ache in his body. Oh, pain meds were so, so nice. His headache was a distant thrum that belonged to someone else, there was a weird echo of hurt deep in his leg that faded, and his body was quite possibly levitating, and everything was amazing. Awesome. The doctor came in, pulling his dad out to the hallway and leaving him alone with Scott. Mustache-Scott, ha, he looked like a bandit.
“You look like a bandit,” he laughed, head lolling on his shoulder towards his friend.
“Yeah?” Scott said, sitting on the edge of the bed. “You look like shit. You look stoned.”
“Scott!” Stiles said, scandalized. His dad might hear them cussing. And talking about drugs?
And then that strange man with the beard and huge shoulders came back in and stood behind Scott, and Stiles could feel his heartbeat pick up speed. He wanted a hug. He wanted that guy to give him a hug. The guy looked like a fireman and policeman and lumberjack all in one, and those were the sort of people who kept you safe, who protected you. Well, lumberjacks didn't, but maybe if they wore nice suits and looked worried like that guy did, they would be added to the Safety First list of helpers.
“Hey. Huggy lumberjack guy,” Stiles said, trying to get his attention but his fingers wouldn't snap right, just sort of rub lightly against each other. “Scott has a mustache now.”
Lumberjack looked amused, his eyebrows raised and his mouth in a perfect O. It was funny to see pink lips surrounded by a beard. Ha.
“He says we're grown up,” Stiles continued, shaking his head like poor Scotty. Poor Scotty with his not-as-impressive-as-Lumberjack's face hair and probably not knowing that this other guy would be the best hugger on earth. Oh, that might hurt Scott's feelings.
“You saying you don't believe a man with a mustache?” the man said, looking like he was biting the inside of his cheek. This guy got it; he understood. It was hilarious, Scott with a mustache.
“Do you?” Stiles asked. Maybe he could try to grow one, too. Might take a few weeks.
“All right, all right,” Scott said. “Carly likes my mustache, okay?”
The guy and Stiles both looked at each other, and it made Stiles laugh, all of it. This nice guy smiling at him, Scott being weird, Scott having– “You have a girlfriend named Carly?”
Scott waggled his eyebrows. “Yeah, dude. She's awesome. You two are total buds.”
“We are?” he asked. Why didn't he know Scott had a girlfriend named Carly? That was huge. He reached out to grab at Scott, to figure out how Scott had a girlfriend, when he noticed his hands before they made contact. “Whoa, dude, I have man hands.”
He held them out, fingers spread and saw that instead of the long knobby guys he was so used to he now had some scars and callouses, hair on his knuckles like his dad had. Gross. His arms were pretty hairy, too, not so pale and fragile looking. He made a fist and flexed his forearm. Holy... “Scotty?”
“H-how old am I?”
Scott looked over at that other guy, who shrugged and looked down at his lap. “Twenty-five,” Scott answered.
“Oh, come on,” Stiles said, smiling and waving a hand. One of his giant man-hands. Scott was looking pretty serious. When Scott looked serious he was usually being serious, no fooling. “But... I can't remember being that grown up,” he said, his voice cracking a little at the end.
The quiet bearded guy handed over his cup of water, one hand resting on Stiles' bed close enough that Stiles could feel the heat of it soaking into his skin.
The guy just nodded, looking back and forth between the two.
“Are you sure?” Stiles asked Scott. The guy took Stiles' cup from him with a small smile; it made his chest ache, but not like it had earlier. This time it made his stomach flutter and flip, too. “I don't feel very grown up.”
“That's because you aren't very grown up,” the guy teased, but he grabbed Stiles' foot through the thin hospital blankets, gave it a squeeze and held on. It felt so nice, so warm and safe, and Stiles knew he would be a good hugger. He was just hugging Stiles' foot and it felt better than just about anything ever felt in his life, and he was pretty sure he was riding the morphine pony just then, and that alone was spectacular.
“Scott? Can I see you out here for a minute?” his dad called, pointing to the hallway with his eyebrows high. That was his dad's Serious Police Work face.
The guy was looking over at his dad and Scott, and his hand went lax on Stiles' foot. Stiles waggled it a bit to get his attention.
“Stop that,” the guy muttered, holding Stiles' foot tightly again, his thumb working along the outer arch. He wasn't looking at Stiles, though, giving Stiles the perfect opportunity to look his fill. The man had a lean face; Stiles could tell even though he had a nice, soft looking beard covering most of his jaw and cheeks. He had shiny black hair and pretty eyes, and yeah, Stiles figured out, like, the first week of freshman year in high school that he thought boys were sort of attractive in the want to have sex with them way. He remembered that much. But if he'd thought Danny Mahealani was hot, then this guy was nuclear.
He didn't know why he was checking this guy out when there was still his ten year plan for Lydia Martin, even though something about that felt unsettled, like the thought of being with Lydia didn't fit right in his head. But most things didn't seem to be fitting right in his head. Like why this guy was making Stiles' hands clammy and his heart bang around in his chest. If Stiles really was twenty-five—pfft—and no longer in high school, then he shouldn't still be so fluttery around someone he found hot, right? Maybe it was just because this guy was like, stupid good looking. It was almost insulting how attractive he was. So much so that Stiles was breathing shallowly, admiring the long line of the guy's neck.
The guy turned to look at him, his eyes all worried, and Stiles quickly looked up at the ceiling, whistling. The guy snorted, but didn't let go of his foot, not even when his dad and Scott came back in the room. They both looked really worried, too, but his dad blinked and forced a smile, trying to make himself look normal.
“What's going on, Dad?”
“Well, Son,” his dad sighed, rubbing his forehead with the side of his hand. “It looks like you had some real bad damage done inside your chest and noggin. You—” His dad huffed out a harsh exhalation. “You don't remember it at all?”
Stiles looked around the room at everyone's expectant faces. He swallowed and tried to think, but he couldn't... It was just a jumble of emotions, no pictures. Happiness, excitement, nervousness, and fear. Lots of that last one in particular. But nothing concrete was coming to him, not why they were all dressed up, why he was older than he'd thought, how he couldn't remember anything from after he turned— “Six-sixteen?”
“What's that?” his dad asked. The handsome guy let go of his foot, and Stiles felt cold all over at the loss.
“I'm— I asked Scott how old I was, and he said twenty-five.” He looked up at his dad to see if his dad laughed, but he just nodded. He nodded. “Okay.” Stiles closed his eyes and forced himself to take a few deep breaths. It was starting to be hard to do, like he was trying to breathe through a straw. “So we're not still in high school?”
“Uh, that would be a no, thank God,” Scott said.
“Scott,” his dad said, a warning in his voice. “Stiles? Son, the doctor said you might have some memory loss. I think she thought it would be centered on how you got hurt, though,” he said quietly, “not the last decade. I don't know what to do with that.”
Scott said, “The same; we won't push things that might shock him, right?”
His dad nodded. “Then I'll leave it up to you, kiddo. Do you want to know why you're here? What happened?”
Stiles let out a shaky breath, draping his arm over his eyes and nodding.
“Well, we were—”
Scott interrupted and evidently meant this for Stiles' dad, given the fierce whisper, “He might not be ready to hear that because of earlier? Not remembering his... you know.” To Stiles he said, “At an event.”
Stiles moved his arm and looked at them both, catching a look they shared between themselves. “Oh. That's why we're dressed all nice? Or were?”
They all nodded.
“...was it a wedding? I feel like it was a wedding,” Stiles said, trying to think past the black hole in his memory.
His dad shared a look with Scott and continued. “At this wedding—” Stiles tried to pump his fist in victory but his limbs weighed a million pounds so he just thought about a fist pump for getting it right. “—which was outside, some drunk driver plowed into the party with their car, and you pushed Lydia out of the way, but you got hit.”
Stiles looked at his dad with his jaw open. “I did? I'm a hero?”
The handsome guy laughed softly to himself, and wow, that made whatever they were feeding him through his IV feel like a placebo, that sound made him feel so warm and happy.
“Total superhero move, bro,” Scott said, smiling.
Stiles lay back against the pillows, smiling. He struggled to sit back up as a terrifying thought occurred to him. “Lydia?”
“She's fine,” his dad said patting his arm. “Her fiance took her home when you passed out the second time. We weren't sure when you—”
Scott cleared his throat and made a stern face at his dad.
Why the— Oh. Oh. He gave his dad a wry grin. “So Lydia... she and I weren't getting married today, huh?”
“No, Son, you weren't marrying her,” his dad said, smiling.
The suits, the flowers, that feeling of happiness... He could remember that. But he remembered Lydia in a green dress—right, green. Definitely not marrying her. But was that what she was wearing when he saved her? Or earlier? He had no idea. “Was she wearing green?”
Scott and his dad looked at each other again. That was getting old. “No.”
“Oh. Then I remembered something else, I guess.” For some reason, he was more far more upset about remembering something unimportant instead of hearing that his ten year plan for Lydia was clearly a wash. Lydia having a fiance didn't even give him a twinge. That was so weird. Weird that it wasn't weird.
“Well, you saved her, regardless,” Scott said, squeezing his hand and sitting down in the only free chair.
“Hell of a way to end a wedding,” the handsome man said, letting his hand migrate to Stiles' ankle, holding his foot still. Even with the hospital bedding between them, it felt scorchingly hot and undeniably pleasant. Pieces were starting to come together, but there were still too many holes, too many unknowns.
“So what did the doctor say?” the man asked Stiles' father. Was talking to his father like they had a good relationship. Like it wasn't weird for him to be touching Stiles, hell, to be there in his hospital room when they usually only let family or loved ones visit in the ICU. His head was starting to ache again as he tried to put the pieces together.
“We need to keep Stiles calm,” he answered, brushing Stiles' hair back once more. “They're pretty sure the swelling on his brain will go down without more surgery, but there was something called a myocardial contusion we have to worry about. It was pretty bad, kid. Scared the hell out of me.” He smiled down at Stiles, but Stiles could see the worry etched in his face still.
Stiles tried to push his chin down as far as it would go so he could see his chest. He knew the thing his dad was talking about meant his heart, but that was about it. There was a thin tube going right into his chest, taped down and running down to the floor into a weird medical box thing. He tried to pick up the tubing, saying, “What the—” but the handsome man took his hand away, saying “Stop that,” and held it in both of his. Stiles had man-hands, but this guy had man-hands, broad and strong and warm. Stiles sank back against the pillows, feeling settled and okay for now, happy to see how big the guy's hands were wrapped around his. They must be good friends. It felt like they were.
“Stiles?” his dad asked, trying to get his attention. “We need to keep you nice and calm, keep that blood pressure down, okay?” His dad grinned suddenly, bright and open. “Oh, how the tables have turned. I can't wait for you to see what you're allowed to eat.”
The handsome guy laughed and Stiles couldn't help but look at him. He didn't want to look away. The man gave him a small smile, then looked down like he was embarrassed to be looking at Stiles. When Stiles could gather a clear thought about what this guy was doing to him, he would happily explain that he could look at Stiles all he wanted, and forever. That would totally work for Stiles, forever. Wow.
A machine ticked again, delivering his pain meds, shooting that blessed warmth into his veins that made him feel like he was sinking down into the bed. He gave the man's hand a squeeze, smiling when he squeezed back. Yeah, they were totally good friends, he and this guy. Mm, that was so nice, nice to be friends with someone so awesome and sweet. Just a big ol' sweetie.
“—so just go with whatever he says. We need to keep him calm for a few days until we know the damn thing isn't going to burst in his chest.”
His dad and Scott were talking, Scott was looking over at the man every now and then, but Stiles didn't care. He closed his eyes, enjoying the warmth inside, the way he felt cared for, how much he loved being touched by... By...
“Hey, what's your name, anyway?” he asked, tugging lightly on their joined hands. “Can't keep calling you handsome lumberjack.”
Scott made a choked off noise, but who cared, he had a mustache. The guy cleared his throat and asked Stiles quietly, “You don't remember me? My name?”
“Dude,” Scott said, sounding strangely offended.
This was bad. This wasn't nice, not knowing who maybe his other best friend was?
“I want to,” Stiles said, a little breathlessly. He tried to rub his chest with his free hand, his heart starting to ache again, but his dad pinned his arm down, and it was too much of an effort to fight it. “You're so nice. I like you holding my hand. I like you.”
He rolled his head on the pillow and looked at the guy, trying to make the pieces fit together, even though it felt like pushing two wrong magnets at each other. Everyone was in suits. Flowers. A wedding, his dad said it was a wedding today. Stiles was a grown man. He couldn't remember the most recent years, but he remembered everyone else. Just not this person, and Scott was unhappy with him because of it. This person who must know him because he was holding Stiles' hand and being kind and considerate, he was allowed in the room where Stiles knew they didn't let anyone but family or loved ones inside, and he wouldn't let go of Stiles' hand, and he was in a suit with a flower on the coat.
A wedding happened today, one where he wasn't marrying Lydia. His dad had said he wasn't marrying her. His eyes bugged in his head when it hit him: because he was marrying someone else. Holy shit, he figured it out because he was awesome and did superhero things at his own wedding, and the guy probably carried him in his strong arms all the way here and hadn't left his side because they were in love. The guy wouldn't let go of Stiles' hand, clearly they were together and happy. Just thinking of that made his whole body feel like it was smiling, not just his mouth, and he tugged on their joined hands again, because he figured it out even with his head practically caved in and all the drugs in the world swimming in his veins.
It was his wedding today, and he was marrying the most handsome, most awesome guy in the world, probably, and... Stiles didn't remember him.
He didn't remember. Just as fast as his smile came, it disappeared, leaving him with that sour-stomach sensation like he'd missed a step. He felt positively sick at heart and terribly upset for some reason, like today he'd lost the best thing in his life. “I'm so sorry,” he whispered to the man, his heart pounding in agonizing thumps in spite of the pain meds. “I'm so sorry I don't remember your name, you must hate me.”
Machines started making awful noise again, beeping getting louder and faster, just like Stiles' heart, pounding in his chest so much he thought his rib cage would burst. The man leaned forward quickly, his eyebrows knit together in worry, and he was so nice, why couldn't Stiles remember his na—
“Derek,” the man—Derek—said quickly. “It's Derek, and it's okay that you don't remember.”
“No, it isn't,” Stiles said, feeling his eyes welling up with tears. “You're so good to me, I just know it, and I'm already doing the worst part of our vows and getting the better. Oh, and sickness, god!”
“What is he talking about?” Scott asked.
“Our vows, Scott,” Stiles said, not caring that he was getting so emotional. People got emotional at weddings! “For better or worse? Sickness and in health? 'Til death— Oh my god, I almost died today!” He looked over at Derek, sure that the panic-stricken look on their faces matched.
A team of medical people came in, pushed everyone away until Stiles—who wouldn't let go of Derek's hand—said loudly, “My husband is allowed to stay here, I need him. Dad—” Stiles curled up in pain until someone pushed his shoulders back down.
Scott started to say something, but Derek cut him off. “It's fine. Scott, it's fine.”
Stiles closed his eyes, feeling relief that Derek wasn't mad at him, wasn't ready to annul the whole thing before they even got to the good stuff. A nurse readjusted the tube under his hospital gown, told the room off for letting him get worked up, but she didn't get it, she didn't understand how betrayed Derek must be feeling.
“You're not mad?” Stiles asked, searching Derek's face for any hint of a lie.
Derek shook his head and took a deep breath. “Just really worried about you, okay?”
Stiles nodded and closed his eyes. He was feeling incredibly tired again, everything greying out along the edges.
Everyone had gone home, but Stiles managed to stick around under the guise of helping Derek clean up. He knew Derek appreciated it; he'd said as much every times Stiles did it.
All night they'd sat near one another—no longer antagonistic towards each other like they'd been years before but actual friends now—their legs bumping into each other, pressed against the other's without worry that it was strange. Several times Derek had leaned in to whisper a joke, getting as close as possible and speaking quietly so the others couldn't hear, and every time it sent a flush of heat through Stiles' body, making the hair on his arms stand on end.
It just... Derek made him feel special. Singled out. They had in-jokes. They hung out now, did stuff with only the two of them, and it was good. Great, really, how close they'd gotten over the years. In fact, Stiles was pretty sure that Derek would be cool with Stiles asking him to make their hang outs actual dates. Well, mostly sure. Okay, he was terrified to ask because things were so good, but he just wanted more.
He wanted to stay all night, not leave after cleaning up. Wanted to wake up next to him and make coffee together, sleepy and smiling at each other, do little things to make Derek smile, and god, he wanted to kiss Derek so badly he ached from how much he wanted it. Wanted to do so much more than kiss. He thought Derek might want that, too.
They both'd had terrible luck in the romance department, though. Not that Stiles had dated a serial killer, but still. And he was scared, scared of ruining one of the best relationships of his life.
Clapping a hand on Stiles' back, Derek asked, “You good?” before pulling his shirt off as he headed towards his bed.
Stiles mouth was dry. He couldn't move, transfixed by the play of muscles in Derek's back, how his tattoo shifted and moved, how his skin practically glowed with health. Derek turned halfway and crooked an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, forcing a yawn. “I'm good. Uh, 'night, Derek.”
Derek face planted onto his bed and waved an arm out to the side so Stiles could see. “'Night.”
It wasn't like Stiles wouldn't have other chances to ask, he told himself as he climbed into his Jeep to drive back to his apartment. This just wasn't the right time. He could wait until it was, though. Derek was totally worth it.
He must have nodded off for a bit, because when he opened his eyes again, Derek's jacket was gone and his sleeves were rolled up. Derek had amazing forearms; they flexed as he typed away on his phone. He was talking to Stiles' dad, who had changed into a sweater and jeans.
“—they said to keep him calm, right? To go along with whatever he remembers or thinks he remembers so he doesn't have an actual heart attack, one he couldn't recover from. I get how serious it is, John.”
“Yeah, but this is above and beyond anything—”
“He's awake,” Derek said to his father, turning around. “Hey,” he asked softly, his face all worry. “How you feeling?”
“Like I got hit by a truck,” Stiles said, feeling floaty and groggy but happy by the concern in Derek's face. It was nice to have someone in his life who cared, someone besides his dad, of course. Mm, someone like Derek, and how did he get so lucky?
“Head's up,” a voice said, making both men move away from the door. A gurney was pushed in, and by a familiar face. Mrs. McCall, but she wasn't in her scrubs.
“You didn't have to,” his dad said, grinning at her.
“You know, if I was in the hospital, I know I'd want my...special someone sleeping next to me,” and whoa, she was totally flirting with his dad! There was a part of him that didn't want to think of Mrs. McCall sleeping with anyone—moms were sacred—but he did like that she was maybe, kind of into his dad? Scott and he had wanted to get them together since seventh grade, honestly.
And holy shit, his dad was grinning at her like he knew what she was doing and it was officially uncomfortable. He cleared his throat, and his dad slowly turned away from Melissa. Oh, Stiles was definitely going to tell Scott about that.
“Now, you're sure about this?” his dad asked, but he was asking Derek.
Derek looked at all of the medical equipment, then at Stiles, and something softened in his gaze—it sent Stiles' heart fluttering again—and it sucked that he was hooked up to a heart monitor, because everyone could hear it speed up.
“Oh, boy,” his dad said, rolling his eyes.
Stiles shouldn't be blushing. It was Derek. They were married. Maybe it took a while for newlyweds to stop blushing. Oh, god.
“Yeah, it's fine,” Derek said, fussing the with the blanket over Stiles' legs and not looking at anyone.
“Good enough for me!” Melissa said in a matter of fact tone and rolled the gurney right next to Stiles' bed, stepping on levers and pulling things so the arm rails disappeared, then pushed them together, locking the wheels below. “I pulled some strings, so don't ruin this for me, okay? I'm working the sympathy angle,” she said to John, and Stiles totally caught how her hand lingered on his dad's arm.
“You going to be okay, Stiles?” she asked, laying the backs of her fingers to his forehead in a familiar gesture.
Stiles reached over and caught Derek's hand in his and gave it a squeeze. God, he was lucky, so, so lucky. “Yeah. Got everything I need here.”
His father looked at the two of them, then, with eyebrows sky high, asked, “Derek? Are you sure?”
Derek nodded at him. “Yeah. You two should go... get some rest. You had a big day, too.”
Melissa McCall waggled her eyebrows, looked at his dad and waggled her eyebrows, and said, “Sure did. Give me a ride home, Sheriff?” She giggled. What on earth...
Oh, God. His dad was smiling at Melissa with a look that made Stiles feel like he was interrupting something very private. Did they... Well, it wasn't unusual for people to hook up at weddings, romance in the air and all, but whoa.
“Son? Do you need anything?”
“Nah,” Stiles said, trying to sneak a significant look to him without Melissa seeing. Fortunately, Melissa seemed to be very interested in smoothing the front of his dad's sweater. Really going for it. “I'm good. Derek's here.”
“Yeah.” He took a step back from Melissa, who seemed to realize that she was pawing at John Stilinski in his son's hospital room after he'd been brutally injured on his wedding day, and shook herself a little, biting her bottom lip and putting her hands behind her back like she'd been caught reaching into the cookie jar.
“I'll just...” His dad pointed his thumb over his shoulder.
Melissa left first, and Stiles hissed, “Dad!” When he poked his head back in, Stiles grinned and said, “She's totally into you!”
Derek turned away, but Stiles could see his shoulders shaking. His dad stared back at him dumbfounded, then grinned, saying, “Yeah, I think you're right, kid.”
“You should ask her out!”
His dad looked at him, still smiling softly, and lightly tapped the side of his fist on the doorway. “You think? And, uh, you wouldn't mind?”
“Mind?” Stiles scoffed. “Scott and I have only wanted this to happen since junior high, Dad.”
His dad walked back in, kissed Stiles on the forehead and said against his temple, “Love you, son. I'll check in with you in the morning, okay?”
“Sure, but don't leave her waiting! You don't want her to think you're not into her, too.”
“No, wouldn't want that,” his dad said, smiling at Derek and saying, “Call if you need me.”
Stiles yawned. He felt sleepy, which was infinitely better than the whole-body exhaustion he'd felt earlier. The drugs they were giving him intravenously weren't helping him stay awake, either. That was probably the point, though. He noticed Derek standing awkwardly in the middle of the room. “Sorry about tonight,” he said.
“Stiles. It's okay,” Derek replied, stifling a yawn of his own. Stiles patted the empty space on the gurney, settling in against his own pillow. Derek took a deep breath, then toed off his shoes, sitting gingerly on the edge before swinging his legs up. He laid back in the very center, his hands clasped together in resting on his stomach.
“Is, um...” Stiles' fingers twitched where they were just inches from Derek's arm. “I'm sorry I ruined it.”
Derek turned his head slightly, then went back to staring at the ceiling. Shit. “You didn't ruin anything.”
“Well, I'm sure you didn't plan on spending our wedding night in a hospital,” Stiles laughed, but it sounded hollow to his ears. Now that everyone was gone, he felt strange. He didn't really know Derek, he realized, just knew that he felt safe and happy near him, that something in him craved Derek's attention.
“Can't say that I did imagine ending up here tonight, so you're right on that point.”
Stiles could see the corner of Derek's mouth tilted up slightly, a hint of a smile. At least he wasn't angry. Stiles wanted to bridge the gap he could feel between them, though. Even just a few inches away, Derek felt too far, too distant. He moved his hands so his fingertip drew along the barest edge of Derek's elbow. “What did you imagine, then?”
Derek made a choked off noise and jerked away slightly.
“Oh, god, sorry. Are you ticklish? I can't, well, I can't remember.”
“Oh. Yeah. Yes, very,” Derek said, smiling apologetically, but sweetly.
Stiles wanted to memorize all of Derek's smiles. He couldn't really remember anything before today with regards to his relationship with Derek, just vague feelings that were pretty terrific, snaps of memory of Derek's hands, his arms, his broad shoulders, how that made Stiles feel, but he knew that he was falling for the way Derek could be so quiet and still, how that made Stiles feel calm and settled. How something inside him just felt better by his being near. He hadn't been able to remember his mom dying at first, but he'd known just from looking at Derek that Derek was his safe place, his anchor. He'd have to make it up to Derek, ruining this big day like he'd done.
Stiles cleared his throat and shifted a bit on his pillow so he could see Derek better. “It's pretty great, you know.”
Derek raised his eyebrows in question.
“I get to fall in love with you all over again,” Stiles said, feeling shy and unsure, those feelings magnified when Derek closed his eyes like something about that was upsetting. He didn't like this feeling of unease creeping in. “Derek? I'm sorry that me not remembering us is hurting you. I don't want to hurt you.”
“It's okay, Stiles.” Derek turned to his side, propping his head on his arm and sighing. “I'm not upset with you, okay? Promise. It's just... You gave us a pretty big scare today.”
Right. Derek was just unhappy about Stiles being in the hospital. This in mind, he swallowed heavily and reached across the divide between their beds and took Derek's hand in his, lacing their fingers together. “I'm okay. I'll be okay.”
“You should get some sleep,” Derek said, looking concerned and worried and something else Stiles couldn't figure out, but didn't linger too much on it because Derek didn't pull his hand away. Derek tucked Stiles' hand up against his chest, in fact.
Smiling at that, Stiles finally felt like he could let his eyes close. “Hey. Tell me how we met. Maybe I'll remember stuff.”
Derek muttered something under his breath, then said, “Well, you were trespassing on my land, you and Scott.”
Stiles laughed at that, nuzzling his face deeper into his pillow and letting the sound of Derek's voice wash over him, talking about years and years ago, just past the point Stiles really remembered.
“And I helped your dad with a bunch of cases while you were away at college, so he just hired me full time after that,” Derek said.
“Is that why we started dating?” Stiles asked.
“You were always at the station with my dad, I have a thing for a good looking guy in uniform, especially when the guy looks like you—I imagine—and was that when we started dating?”
“Not... quite,” Derek said. Stiles waited patiently, his thumb sweeping back and forth across Derek's. “You, um, sort of threw yourself at me at... one of our group things.”
Stiles snorted, but there was nothing humorous in it. “God, of course that's how it happened. Wore you down, huh?” He cracked an eye open and saw Derek's profile in the darkened room. “It figures that you didn't come after me. I don't know why I thought that. From what I can remember, I never had anyone coming after me.” He probably shouldn't be talking about other people he'd dated on his wedding night, but something about it made his heart ache with a sharp pang of loneliness and resignation.
“I'm here now, aren't I?” Derek said after a moment.
A grin spread across Stiles' face at that, and he brought their joined hands to his mouth for a little kiss. “Yeah. Yeah you are. Thank you.”
They were both quiet for a minute, the hospital mostly quiet all around them in the late hour save the random beeps from the equipment hooked up to Stiles' body.
Before he could fall asleep, Stiles asked, “Can I ask you something? It's just...” He licked his bottom lip and looked at Derek lying there in the dark. He was so handsome, so solid and there, and Stiles could see why he'd be with Derek, why he would pick someone like Derek to be with, but he just needed to know. “Why... why me?”
“What do you mean?”
Stiles made his voice even quieter. It felt illicit in a way to be talking this late at night in a hospital. “I mean, why would you of all people pick someone like me?”
Derek shifted a little closer, tucked Stiles' hand up near his chest again and yawned after closing his eyes.
“Oh, god, I'm sorry,” Stiles said. “You're tired.”
Derek cracked an eye open. “So are you. Let's both get some sleep. And stop saying sorry. You don't have to apologize to me, okay?”
Stiles watched Derek's face relax as he drifted off; he still felt strangely unsettled, he couldn't figure out what the missing thing was that was starting to push at his consciousness, so he gave up for the time being and fell asleep, smiling at the way Derek had his hands completely around Stiles', still keeping him safe.
He raced up the steps to the church, the suit bag carrying his tuxedo draped over his arm, and was almost instantly bowled over by someone opening the door and stepping out.
Derek darted a hand out and caught him, pulling him back upright. “Easy!”
Stiles laughed weakly, patting Derek's hand where it was still gripping Stiles' shirt. Derek was already in his tux and was putting every Hollywood leading man to shame, that's what it was. “You are illegal. You shouldn't look—” He snapped his mouth shut, blushing. “I don't think I've ever seen you dressed up.”
Derek took his hand away and smoothed his shirt front, checking himself out. “Yeah? It's okay?”
Was he for real? “Yeah, you'll do,” Stiles said, elbowing Derek's side.
Derek clapped Stiles on the shoulders, pushing him towards the door. “Come on, let's see how you clean up.”
“Derek, there's something I want to tell you. Talk about with you.” Stiles took a deep breath as Derek came in behind him.
“Yeah? Shoot,” Derek said, leaning against the wall all casual and relaxed and looking like everything Stiles could ever imagine wanting.
“There you are!” Lydia shouted. “I have been looking—”
“Huh? Whazzat?” Stiles jerked awake as something cold was squeezed onto his chest.
“Just a moment and I'll be all done, Mr. Stilinski,” a nurse murmured. Stiles decided she was evil.
“It's okay, Stiles.” Derek. Derek was still there. Well, he wasn't lying next to Stiles, but that was probably because a nurse had come in to do... whatever it was they were doing. Which evidently was pushing a joystick-thing onto the gel on his chest, smear it around, and look at a TV screen on a cart.
“I'm looking at your heart,” she said softly. It was still dark outside, and the lights in his room were still dim.
“It's four in the morning,” Derek whispered. “Now be still so she can check you out.”
“So bossy,” he said, smiling over at Derek. “Already acting like a ball and chain, and it hasn't even been twenty-four hours.”
Derek looked down at his feet, nodding.
“The swelling's gone down significantly,” the nurse said, getting Stiles' attention. “We might not need to keep you past tomorrow afternoon, if you stay quiet like you've been.” She gave Derek a significant look. “Nothing to get his heart rate up, you hear me?”
The tips of Derek's ears were pink, and his eyes were huge when he looked at Stiles, then back at the nurse. “Of course! I mean—” His voice dropped to a shocked whisper. “We're in a hospital!”
“You'd be surprised,” she said drily, wiping off Stiles' chest and noting something on a chart. Stiles touched at his chest where he was still a little tacky with the gel and encountered a hard plastic vial taped down. “You leave that alone,” she said. “If you're good, I'll be back in a few hours to take that out.”
She wheeled her cart out, the door swinging shut silently on its pneumatic hinge, leaving Derek and him alone in the faint light of his room, no sound but the steady tick every few seconds from one of the machines hooked to his IV.
“You should go back to sleep. You need to heal,” Derek said.
Stiles looked over at the other bed, and then up at Derek, who was texting someone. Probably his dad or Scott. Stiles reached over to touch where Derek had been sleeping earlier. The bed was cold. He bit his lip and said, “Derek?”
“I'm just telling your dad what's going on, okay? You get some sleep,” he said, looking up and flashing him a smile before turning back to his phone.
He rubbed at the center of his chest, just next to that plastic thing and careful not to touch it. It hurt, trying to breathe deeply, the way his heart was beating faster than normal, the way the bed felt cool against the back of his free hand where Derek clearly hadn't slept while Stiles had.
“Did you get something to eat?” he asked, his voice beginning to slur as his pain meds kicked in again, flowing warm through his body and starting to pull him under.
“I'm fine. Not hungry,” Derek said, still texting.
“No, I mean, before.” It was getting harder to stay awake; he wanted to sleep. Maybe that would make the chest pains go away for good; for some reason, the pain meds weren't helping that. He saw Derek look at the heart monitor and take a deep breath. For some reason, Stiles thought of Derek standing next to an empty table, the kind caterers used, his hand in his hair with a shocked look on his face. Weird.
He felt the bed shift slightly and cracked an eye open. Derek was there next to him, hand tucked under a pillow so Derek could rest his head on his bent arm. “Just didn't want to hurt you.”
Stiles smiled, reaching out and ineffectually pawing at Derek's chest, tucking his fingertips under Derek's ribs. “Aww. You wouldn't.”
Derek didn't say anything.
Stiles yawned again, his jaw almost cracking with the force of it, and said, “I trust you.”
He could feel Derek draw a deep breath before he whispered, “I trust you, too.” And then Stiles fell back asleep.
He hurt. It started deep in his chest and thrummed with every heart beat, like each pulse was fracturing his insides until soon it would all just collapse and he'd be nothing. A part of him knew it wouldn't happen, though, that it would just continue to ache, to throb and hurt, and he felt stupid. So, so stupid for trying, for finally taking a chance and—
The worst thing was that he knew he'd ruined everything. He ruined one of the best friendships of his life because of his stupid fixations on things he couldn't have, on people who didn't want him, and speak of the devil, there was Lydia in all her gorgeousness, standing like a Titian goddess in a pale pink, off-the-shoulder dress talking to someone Stiles didn't know.
He looked away, not wanting to see another failure in his mostly non-existent love-life, and that's when he saw the car. It was a mid-sized SUV, going too fast around a curve, plowed into the parking lot, and kept coming. It kept fucking coming, across the grass, across the lawn and people were starting to shriek and scream and Lydia didn't know it was headed right for her.
Stiles took off running, screaming her name. Finally she looked over at him, and fuck if she wasn't irritated that she'd been interrupted, but Stiles managed to get his arms around her waist and shove, the momentum driving her forward and out of the way; Stiles wasn't so lucky. He stumbled and fell to one knee, turned slightly towards the car just as the bumper struck him in the center of the chest, and if he thought that what happened earlier had hurt, that was nothing, nothing compared to this. As he felt his insides shatter, all the air punched out of him, his ears began to ring, and he could see the guy behind the steering wheel as he slowly begin to realize what he'd done.
Stiles blacked out.
“Good morning, Mr. Stilinski,” a disgustingly cheerful voice called out.
Stiles winced at the bright light coming through his window and overhead, and covered his face with his arm, moaning. That made the tape on his chest tug on his skin (and on a few hairs), making him hiss.
“Go away,” a voice rumbled next to him. Stiles opened his eyes and saw Derek stretched out on his stomach, a pillow over his head.
“Now you better get up and get out of that bed before I roll you into the morgue,” the nurse said to Derek.
Blinking to clear the sleep from his eyes, Stiles looked over to see Derek's nose and chin peeking out from where he'd buried it. He felt nothing but pure relief at the sight of him. He did. Stupid, because of course he was there with Stiles. If anything had happened to Derek, nothing on earth would keep Stiles away from Derek's side. He didn't know where a weird sense of unhappiness was coming from, trying to push away his relief. He had vague recollections of dreaming something miserable and awful, but dismissed it for the time being as drug-induced hallucinations.
Another nurse came in, started recording stats, and Derek began snoring. Stiles smiled at him fondly for a moment, then his smile began to slip away. He felt like there was something important he had to ask Derek, he just couldn't remember what.
The second nurse dropped a metal bedpan onto a stainless steel rolling cart right next to where Derek was sleeping. He jerked awake and his eyes flashed blue. What the—
“Oh, I'm sorry,” the nurse said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Did I wake you?”
Derek mumbled something under his breath and got to his feet, pulling his clothes back to rights. The first nurse was doing that weird gel and wand thing. Stiles could hear Derek in the bathroom.
“You are just the best patient I've had all morning,” she chirped. “Almost good as new. Looks like you got some good sleep last night.” She leaned close and said quietly, “I know I wouldn't be able to sleep a wink if he'd been next to me,” she said, nodding towards the door and giggling.
Stiles laughed weakly.
“We'll get you some breakfast, and the doctor will be in to see you soon, okay?”
He nodded and looked up at the ceiling, rubbing at his chest. The plastic thing was gone and his skin was tender under the gauze bandage, but never let it be said that Stiles didn't pick at things, even when they hurt. Maybe especially then.
Derek came out of the bathroom drying his hands. “Hey. How are you feeling today?”
“Fine,” Stiles said, his breath coming shallowly. He looked at where Derek was still wiping his hands on a towel before throwing it back into the bathroom. Something was off. Missing. “Where's, um, where's your wedding ring?”
Derek went completely still. After a moment where Stiles was sure his heart stopped beating, Derek shifted, moving to the chair in the corner. “We'll have to get new ones,” Derek said with a shrug and a half smile. “They... had to cut yours off.”
That made sense, that was the thing. It made sense that they would cut the ring off Stiles' finger, trauma victim and all. But.
“Why don't you have one?” he asked, and Derek didn't say a thing.
There was just no air in the room. Fuck. Stiles pushed at the center of his chest where it was starting to throb again. “Derek.”
Derek sighed, looking resigned, and Stiles knew. He knew it was a lie.
“How's my boy?” his dad said, coming in with a huge smile and an even larger fruit basket with a mylar balloon tied to it. Melissa was behind him, a little too close for someone just interested in his dad. She had a diamond on her left hand's ring finger.
She had a ring.
Stiles looked at his father's hand, and where he'd always seen a simple gold band, there was now a sandwich of some flat, silvery metal on either side of the gold. Because Melissa didn't want John to ever forget his love for Claudia, fuck, he remembered her saying that, her hands in his dad's as they stood facing each other.
Stiles could hear that horrible, shrill beeping in the distance but all he could do, all he was capable of doing right then was turning to look at Derek. He'd gotten married, right? Finally found someone that was just for him, someone who wanted him every bit as much? Had gotten married to the nicest, most caring guy, a guy Stiles had known—even without knowing him—that he could trust. Had trusted.
And his dream came back to him, bled into the here and now, and the look of sadness and resignation on Derek's face was almost as bad as the metal bumper on that fucking Porsche Cayenne.
He felt himself gasping, clutching at his chest as it all came rushing back. It wasn't his wedding, it was his dad's, he and Melissa finally tying the knot. And after drinking liquid courage, Stiles had finally decided to tell Derek how he felt, how he'd felt for years, now. Derek had been so handsome that day, especially so, and so kind and fun. He'd slung his arm around Stiles' shoulder and toasted him and Scott, had even danced with Stiles on a slow number, laughing and twirling him like they were a couple of idiots, and things had been so good between them.
For a long time, now, things had been so good. They helped each other. They had each other's backs. They were there for each other, in almost every sense of the word.
“I trusted you,” he whispered, swallowing around the hot lump in his throat, machinery making horrible noises in the background.
A nurse came in and pushed everyone towards the door as a second nurse came in, pushing a button to make his bed flat before rucking up his hospital gown. He'd never felt more exposed, more raw than he did in that moment, and it had nothing to do with that stupid hospital gown.
“Stiles,” Derek began, but his dad took Derek's arm and pulled him aside. Derek shook free and said, “Stiles, it was awful. We thought you were going to die. Several times over. We didn't mean to hurt—”
“No one ever does,” Stiles said, hot tears making his eyes itch, but thankfully they hadn't fallen. “Oh, god, and after what I'd said to you, what I'd...” He turned his head, embarrassed and heartsick. He couldn't bear the thought of Derek seeing him hurt again.
Someone put an oxygen mask over his face. He had a moment of panic that they were suffocating him, then the cold, forced air pushed against his nose and he was able to breathe. His dad and Melissa were being led out, Derek was arguing with someone, but Stiles didn't care.
He hadn't ruined his wedding night. He'd ruined his dad's. Derek wasn't his devoted partner. Derek had told him just yesterday that he didn't feel that way, seemed shocked by Stiles' confession, which somehow made it worse, that Derek had been oblivious to the volume, to the depth of feeling Stiles had for him.
The look Stiles thought was distaste when he poured out all of his affections on the only person he'd really cared about for almost a decade, the person who didn't even begin to share those feelings.
The medical staff fussed and poked and did whatever they were doing. Stiles lay in his misery, in his loneliness, in his mortification, and wished that he could have gone on pretending.
His dad came back a few hours later by himself. Stiles looked out the window.
“Son, you gotta understand—”
“Dad, it's okay,” Stiles said, turning to give his father a brief smile before turning back to the window. “I know you were just trying to keep me stable. Following the doctor's orders. I get it.”
He felt the bed shift as his dad sat next to him, gently placing his hand on Stiles' shoulder and giving it a squeeze in a familiar way. “I thought one of the the happiest days of my life was going to turn into one of the worst, Stiles. A parent shouldn't see...” His dad rubbed his hand roughly over his own face. “Do you get why we went along with it? With what you assumed?”
Stiles nodded, still not able to look his dad in the face. He just felt so stupid. They sat in silence for a moment or two. His dad's thumb rubbed gently over the round muscle of Stiles' shoulder.
“Not one of our best ideas,” his dad admitted.
Finally, Stiles said in a very quiet voice, “Did you know that I've been in love with him for years?”
His dad didn't say anything.
“I told him. I told him how I felt at your wedding reception. It was so romantic, you and Melissa and how Scott choked up giving his toast, and I was so... And everyone was so happy for you and Melissa...” His dad squeezed his shoulder again. “And, I guess I wanted that, too. I just wanted someone to look at me like she looks at you. Like you look at her. I hoped it would be Derek.”
“I don't know what to say to that but that I'm sorry, Stiles,” his dad said.
Stiles eventually turned to his dad and gave him a grim smile. “Yeah. He said that, too.” Stiles heaved a deep breath. “You should go. You just got married, and seriously, Scott and I have been wanting that to happen since—”
“Junior high,” his dad said. “Yeah, you told me that yesterday.”
Stiles huffed a soft laugh at that. “They want me to stay another night. I'm in good hands, Dad. You should go. I'll be fine, promise.”
“I don't like the thought of you being all by yourself right now,” his dad said, turning and pulling his leg up on the bed, looking Stiles over.
“It's fine, really.” He forced himself to relax and smile. “I think I want to be alone. I want to sleep,” he added, not wanting to freak his dad out.
“The doctor did say you should rest.”
“Go,” Stiles said, shoving his dad's side. “Shoo. Make an honest woman out of—okay I have serious regret in going down that road. That is my best friend's mother. Just... Go be with your wife. You should be with her.”
His dad's eyes looked like they were seeing something faraway and wonderful. It made Stiles happy for his dad, but that deep ache in his chest came back, too. His dad blinked and turned back to Stiles, looking like he wanted to say something, but eventually bit his tongue.
“I'll have Melissa talk to whoever's on call tonight. We'll just be a text away, okay?”
“Okay,” he agreed. With another kiss to the forehead, his dad stood but lingered in the doorway, still looking like he wanted to say something. Instead, he sighed, nodded and left.
Stiles turned back to the window, alone like he'd wanted, and realized he didn't want that at all.
He was partially woken up by the sound of wheels and moving parts, but closed his eyes. Every few hours someone came in to check on him, move him around, and he'd started sleeping through it, thankfully without dreams. The breath on the back of his neck and the hand at his waist was new, but he was so tired, he decided to go back to sleep and think about it later.
“You have to let go so I can check,” a voice said. It sounded like his night nurse.
“Fine.” Stiles knew that voice. He did, he—
Something cold was squeezed onto his chest, making him hiss in shock, He was pushed to his back and his night nurse was looming over him. “Deep breaths. You can go back to sleep if you want.”
He did want, but something was off. He could hear the rhythmic swish of the sonogram machine as they checked his heart again for signs of swelling, but under that noise, he could hear someone else breathing. His eyes were heavy, making it hard to keep them open. The nurse wiped off the goo—she used a warm towel this time—and silently rolled the equipment back out.
Stiles forced himself to look, no matter how tired he was. Derek was next to him, the extra gurney rolled up like the night before. Stiles made a broken sort of noise and turned away. “Don't want your pity,” he said.
“It's not,” Derek replied, moving up behind him and putting his arm around Stiles' waist.
“What is it then?” Stiles asked, holding his breath.
“Me not being a stubborn asshole,” Derek replied, lacing their fingers together. “Now go to sleep. We'll talk in the morning.”
“You bet... We're... I'm gonna tell you...”
It probably was just a hallucination, but it was a nice hallucination. Especially the part where he imagined Derek resting his forehead against the nape of Stiles' neck, his warm breath washing over Stiles' skin before he fell asleep again.
Stiles woke up alone. The door to his room was shut. The door to his bathroom was shut, too. And there was water running. He blinked, trying to get all of his senses back online when Derek stepped out, wiping the corners of his mouth. He had a toothbrush loaded with toothpaste in his other hand.
“Trust me when I say you'll feel better after using this,” Derek said, grabbing the remote that moved the bed so Stiles was now sitting up. Stiles watched Derek out of the corner of his eye as he scrubbed his teeth clean, wary as Derek held a glass of water out, then a bed pan under his chin.
Stiles held Derek's gaze as he spit into the pan, didn't bother saying thank you when Derek handed him his sip cup. He remembered the last time Derek had done so, how it had made him feel to be taken care of, to be taken care of by him.
“Why are you here, Derek? The jig is up. You don't have to keep pretending, okay?”
Derek huffed a breath, sitting on the edge of the bed with one hand rubbing his jaw. Stiles would never know how soft or scratchy that beard really was.
“I'm not... Stiles, I just.” Derek looked up and shook his head. “I can't tell you what it felt like to see you get hit by that asshole.”
“You saw that?” Stiles asked. He was sure Derek had turned away, ready to get as far away from Stiles' bleeding-heart confession as possible.
Derek nodded, looking at his hands. “You blindsided me. I mean—” He smiled wryly. “—you were blindsided literally, but as for me, well, I had no idea you'd felt that way about me.”
“Wow, do we really have to do this again?” Stiles asked, trying to cover his face with the thin, scratchy blanket.
“Yeah, we do, because I didn't know, okay?” Derek said, pulling the blanket down and shifting so he was on the bed facing Stiles. “I didn't know a lot of things.”
Stiles could barely breathe. He didn't know what was happening.
“After Jennifer and— After I proved that I was a complete failure in giving my heart to someone, I shut that down. I just stopped thinking about that sort of thing, relationships.”
Derek played with the edge of the sheet, picking at his nail with the stiff hem. “I just didn't think I was allowed to have that, you know? I didn't deserve it.”
There were so many things Stiles wanted to say to that, but he held his tongue. He'd pretty much said it all at the reception.
“I just... stopped. Stopped letting myself want it, letting myself think about it. I've never been able to really trust anyone I've ever been with,” he said, looking up at that, and the frank expression on Derek's face made something twist and flutter in Stiles' belly.
“Do you understand what I'm saying?” Derek asked. “I've never been able to trust someone enough to think like that. To want that.” He went back to picking at his nail with the blanket edge. “I know we shouldn't have lied to you like we did, but I realized at that moment that I would do anything—anything—to keep you safe. I would have done anything for you right then. But seeing you so... so damaged and raw, and then thinking about the way you'd looked at me earlier... ”
Stiles forced himself to take a deep breath; he'd been taking no more than shallow sucks of air since Derek began talking.
“Stiles... ” Derek took his hand, a familiar aching tug pulling just behind Stiles' sternum at the safe feeling it gave him, well, that feeling combined with an almost overwhelming desperation that he couldn't help. “I never thought someone like you would feel like that about me. I hadn't considered it. That was what I was trying to say to you at the reception.”
“But...” Stiles heaved a breath, licking his lip and trying to process what was happening. “You said, Derek, you said that you didn't think of me like that.”
“I know. And I hadn't. Because I didn't think I had the right.”
Stiles looked down at their hands. He couldn't bear to look at Derek just then, terrified he's see pity or... something worse, he didn't even know. “Derek, I swear to god, I have literally had my heart crushed within the past forty-eight hours. Twice, if you count metaphorical crushing.” He took a deep, shaky breath. “Don't you dare make it a third.”
“I won't. I'm not.”
Stiles felt Derek cup his cheek, his thumb working over Stiles' cheekbone.
“Stiles, look at me.”
Stiles made himself open his eyes and look up. Derek was smiling softly, open and tender and nervous and seriously, his heart had taken enough over the past two days, and this was just about it. This was—
“I can't promise that I won't make mistakes,” Derek said, “but I'm willing to try if you still are.”
“What...what are you saying?”
Derek took a deep breath and leaned forward, pressing their mouths together. Stiles could hear his heart monitor beeping faster through the roaring of his ears. Derek whispered a pained-sounding, “Stiles,” against his mouth, tilting Stiles' head a little more, and that was it. Stiles was with the program, fully onboard, was a-ok with this situation.
He buried one hand in Derek's hair, moaning softly at how soft and silky it was, giving Derek the perfect opportunity to trace the edge of his tongue along Stiles' bottom lip and further in. Derek held his face in one hand, the other slipping around to hold his back, and he felt completely surrounded and protected, and Derek never stopped moving his mouth in these gentle little motions like he was afraid of hurting Stiles, and Stiles smiled when he realized how soft Derek's beard really was, and holy shit, he was kissing Derek Hale, and it was so fucking good. God, Derek was kissing him and making quiet noises at the back of his throat, and for Stiles.
“You just made a love confession,” Stiles breathed, giving Derek the chance to move to Stiles' neck, still gentle and soft but relentless in his affection. “Oh my god, you like me.”
“Yeah, I did. I do,” Derek said, trailing kisses along Stiles' jaw until he could kiss Stiles' lips softly once more before settling back. He kept his hands on Stiles' face, though.
“You wanted me to brush my teeth so you could kiss me,” Stiles said, narrowing his eyes.
Grinning, Derek said, “Busted.”
“You got here last night, though.”
Derek blushed. “True. I hoped you'd be the better man and forgive me. I was trying to be optimistic for once.”
“What, um,” Stiles cleared his throat and gripped the hem of Derek's shirt to keep from flinging his arms back around Derek's neck, pulling him in for more kisses. “What do you see happening? After I leave the hospital and am not all helpless, that is.”
“One,” Derek said, raking his fingertips through Stiles' hair before cupping the back of Stiles' neck. “You're not helpless. Two, I'd like us to spend time together.”
“Making out?” Stiles asked, waggling his eyebrows. It was an important question.
“Definitely,” Derek said, grinning. “But I know that I don't ever want to be afraid of losing you again. Not when you didn't know how I felt. I mean, hell, I didn't know how I felt.” He stroked his finger down Stiles face. “I don't want to lose you.”
“Yeah?” Stiles breathed.
Derek nodded. “So. You're going to need someone to look after you for a bit. I say we let your dad and Melissa go on their honeymoon, and I'll come stay with you, take care of you.” He looked up at Stiles, all nerves. “Do you trust me?”
Stiles nodded, holding Derek's face in his hands. The beautiful moment was only slightly ruined by all the wires and tubes coming out of Stiles' hand. “Yeah, dummy. Of course I trust you.”
Derek closed his eyes and covered Stiles' hand with his own.
Nurses came in and fussed with Stiles, shoving Derek out of the way, but this time, Stiles was able to make faces and feel his chest swell at the bitten off laughs Derek was suppressing. They rolled the spare gurney out but didn't put the arm rail back up on the remaining bed.
Derek picked Stiles up and shifted him closer to the rail still working, then slid in next to him, knees tucked behind Stiles' and head propped up on his hand. “Stiles?”
“Mm?” he replied, drawing over the prominent veins along the back of Derek's hand.
“This time I get to fall in love with you, and you'll remember.”
“You son of a bitch,” Stiles said, grabbing Derek's hand and pulling him closer. “You're that romantic and put yourself on the shelf for almost a decade?” He twisted to try and bring their lips back together; no way was he going to let something like that go without a kiss or twenty.
The nurses came back in after several minutes, making pointed comments about the “rash” on Stiles' face and how maybe he needed some ointment. Derek laughed as they shoved him outside in order for Stiles to get a sponge bath.
“This is not as sexy as I was led to believe,” Stiles said as a very large orderly wheeled in a basin and series of cloths. “Derek!” he called out before the door could shut. Derek popped his head back in. “You promise you're coming back?”
Derek smiled, slow and sweet and there went the damn beepers on the heart monitor again. “I do.”
If it weren't everything he'd imagined he'd already heard two days ago, he would have rolled his eyes. Instead he allowed the orderly to manhandle him back onto the bed, a blissful smile on his face as he thought about how great it was going to be when Derek did this for him once Stiles was discharged.
“In sickness and in health, and oh my god he's in such health...” Those were going to be good memories to make and keep. And this time, they'd be real.