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Thank Melissa McCall for earnest and soulful brown eyes and a sweet, hesitant smile. His wound had healed quickly, normal bullets tearing through his lungs but easily fixed with his werewolf abilities without the taint of silver or wolfsbane. The police had brought him back to Eichen House and it took every mournful look he could manage before Dr. Tate had finally agreed to release him again. She’d been reluctant to allow him back in Stiles’s company, convinced their relationship was a concern until Scott had swallowed his fear and finally spoke.

He didn’t hold anything back, pouring out years of abuse and manipulation, the way that Peter had forced him to kill and twisted his mind until he learned to like it. He spoke through the horror, trying to make sense of what had happened and his rage at why it had to be him. Why he was the one who had to suffer and why he couldn’t say no when Peter had taken him back. He told her everything about Stiles, holding nothing back about the way he felt or what it was like being together and how the man gave him hope enough to fight for his humanity.

It was finally enough to convince her as long as he agreed to the tracking anklet and close monitoring by the social workers who promised to drop by without warning. He would have agreed to anything as long as they’d let him go home again. Negotiations of the terms had taken weeks, Dr. Tate refusing to rush his evaluation after his “traumatic” experience and the death of his former owner. Scott did his best to play along, impatient and frustrated, asking for Stiles every day and never receiving an answer beyond that he’d been shot and survived.

Coming back to the apartment again was the best day ever. He didn’t care that it was pouring rain and he was soaked to the skin as he jangled keys in the door and let himself inside. Scott took a deep breath, savoring the scent of home as he dripped on the floor. Stiles was here, he had to be here. He could smell his scent recently in the air, but still tinged with pain and medication. How long ago was he released from the hospital? Did Eichen House manage to reach him to tell him Scott was coming?

“Stiles?” He called softly, not receiving an answer. Scott stripped out of squishy shoes and left watery footprints as he moved through the apartment towards the bedroom, smiling at the figure wrapped up in the sheets. Quietly, he pulled the wet clothing from cool, clammy skin and climbed into their bed beside him.

____

There were newspaper clippings somewhere, about the triumph of BHPD against corruption and the dark world of lycanthrope trade. Peter Hale was torn apart by the media. It seemed every other day, a new associate was unearthed, and it was only through the grace of Hale’s recording devices that Stiles’ recklessness had been rewarded. A search of his house had yielded terrifying truths. Hale hadn’t been lying about how many friends he had.

They’d won. They should have won. 

Except, when he’d first woken out of surgery, he’d been greeted by a right arm that trembled when he tried to grip anything, and the promise of more physical therapy. Stiles was spending too much time in a hospital for anyone’s liking, if the visit he’d received from his solemn sergeant had been anything to go by. The officer told him too much about injury leave, and not about what he’d finished. He hadn’t told him anything about Scott. No one had. How hard he pushed stopped mattering.

The house seemed grimmer, somehow. The blinds hadn’t been drawn in weeks. Dishes piled in the sink. The living room was less lived in than usual. The Sheriff had done his best - was still doing his best. He visited more than Stiles cared to acknowledge.

Therapy hit him hard. As the days passed, he’d stopped expecting to hear any sort of news. Stiles didn’t know why he kept trying. As time went by, he didn’t know why he tried much of anything.

He’d learned how to sleep by himself again, not by choice. It was still too easy for Stiles to turn into Scott’s grasp, scowling when he wasn’t met with the warmth he’d grown to love. His cast scratched against smooth skin. Too much pressure on his leg made him squirm, but Stiles didn’t try to pull away.

The moment he woke was plain as day. He’d tried his hardest to cling to sleep. What he felt was too sweet a dream to surrender. He didn’t believe Scott McCall when he opened his eyes. It took him too long to remember how to breathe.

"How long are you staying this time?" 

____

The question hit like a punch and Scott pulled back. His fingers stopped short of Stiles’s skin, hesitating before curling into his palms. He had been so focused on getting home again and jumping through whatever hoops Eichen House had asked from him, that he never stopped to think that maybe Stiles didn’t want him to come back.

He had walked out on him when Stiles was in the hospital, held together with stitches and willpower. The love of his life had almost died in that wreck and Scott had promised to stay with him. They’d torn each other apart too many times before and he’d given his word only to leave while Stiles was asleep. Scott had gone back to kneel at Peter’s feet to save him, and it must have felt like betrayal. But Stiles had come for him, he’d fought to save him and almost died in the process. Scott had hurt him on Peter’s orders with little hesitation, could he ever be forgiven for something like that?

Scott kept his expression neutral, hiding the wave of terror that surged though his veins. His friend couldn’t read the jump in his pulse or the panicked flush beneath dark skin the same way as a lycanthrope, but he didn’t need the keen senses when he knew Scott so well. The wolf only hoped the man was too groggy to notice.

“I’m sorry.” It was a lame apology, there were a million things he wanted to say. I let you down. I never wanted you to see me with him or to know how I felt about him. I never wanted to hurt you. I didn’t mean to lie, please don’t shut me out. Please forgive me. Instead, Scott was silent and waiting, the light gone from his eyes.

No. He was done being Peter’s creature. There was more strength in him than this and he would never give up on something worth fighting for no matter how impossible the odds. The Hale had taken everything from him, he wouldn’t take the one thing he had left.

“I’ll stay as long as you let me.”

____

"No."

Stiles launched himself at Scott, scrambling through a tangle of blankets and uncooperative limbs. His heart was burning through his chest like it wanted to burst through it. He’d had dreams, just like this one, and in those dreams Scott always stayed. Anything else would have been a nightmare. 

"No no no," he whimpered, dragging himself on top of his best friend like he should have done all those weeks ago. If he had, maybe things would be different. If he’d just been more alert or stubborn, if he had been any number of things, maybe Scott would have stayed. 

There were nights Stiles regretted pulling that trigger, or wished he’d closed his eyes before he had. A dozen different people had suggested therapy, from his surgeon to his dad. Stiles didn’t want to tell them he wished he’d killed Hale slowly. He wanted to keep his job. He didn’t want to tell them he thought of Scott every night and prayed to a God he didn’t believe in and hoped with all the strength that he could manage that Scott would come back.

Scott felt the same, strong and powerful beneath him, but Stiles was falling apart. Everything hurt, and Scott was the only one who could make it better. 

"Please stay please stay-" he babbled, trying to pin Scott down. Stiles closed his eyes. It was harder to force back tears.

____

“Stop.” Scott settled back against the pillows, helping Stiles climb on top of him. He cupped the human’s face, pressing gentle kisses along the skin and rubbing his scruffy cheek against him. “I’m right here, Stiles, I’m not leaving you. Even if you wanted me to go, it’s not that easy anymore. I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry.”

All concern for himself was gone in an instant, replaced with worry for the man in his arms. He murmured soothing promises, wrapping his body around the human’s and holding him so close. His heart fought to match the frantic pulse in Stiles’s chest. Pain sparked at the ends of his fingertips like electricity and he couldn’t keep himself from letting it in, taking as much as he could from his love. There wasn’t thought behind it as black veins raced up his arms. With anyone else it was a choice, but with Stiles, his body acted without his permission to comfort and protect.  

Stiles wanted him to stay.

“I love you, do you hear me?” He whispered fiercely, tangling his hands into Stiles’s hair a touch too roughly. “I love your stupid face and the way you rush into things like an idiot even though you get yourself hurt and how you never give up on me even when you should. You’re my best friend and I need you and I missed you so much. They didn’t tell me if you were okay and I thought they would have said I was coming. I was always trying to come back to you.”

Scott was still cold and damp from the rain, and Stiles felt like a fire ready to consume him. “You’re mine and I’m not letting you go.” 

____

Maybe they had called. Stiles had stopped answering his phone the second week in. He’d stopped checking his laptop. Outlets for stress had become too difficult to attempt. Moving, at all, had become too taxing. He’d kept track of time using a wall clock, like a neanderthal, and he didn’t have the strength to deny it.

Stiles was a mess. Stiles was embarrassing. He should have been trying to get a hold of himself, or stop, or shut the fuck up even for a few minutes. A dam had broken, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He cried himself dry and didn’t have the decency to apologize for it, sobbing like a lost child, until he couldn’t make a sound. Scott was always there to catch him. Scott was the only thing holding him up now.

"I’m tired," he rasped, curling into Scott’s chest. His limbs felt too heavy. There was a haziness that he knew he could blame on Scott, and hands that were too supportive for their own good. He pulled one of them away, tangling their fingers together, and it made the black veins disappear, at least for a moment. "I don’t want you to get hurt… You’re mine. I thought-"

There had always been that chance that murdering Hale would have destroyed Scott. He’d claimed too much and controlled even more. A year ago, Stiles would have believed that freeing Scott was a fair trade to losing him, but he couldn’t believe that now. He didn’t know how to live without his best friend, and he didn’t want to learn.

He laughed, and it was too shrill. “D’nt matter. Your face’stupid. Took you long enough to get here… Got ss’not on your shirt….”

____

Scott closed his arms around the man lying against his chest and shut the rest of the world out. He stroked soothing hands through Stiles’s hair like his mother used to do to him all those years ago, murmuring promises and quiet reassurances as he let his friend cry until he was silent. He squeezed his hand around Stiles’s, kissing the flushed skin of his forehead.

“Look at me, Stiles. Look at me.” Scott said quietly, smiling despite the pain he shared. “We’re okay.” We. He couldn’t even think in individual terms anymore. If they both weren’t okay, then neither of them were, too caught up in each other’s lives to pull apart which happy memory or sharp edge of suffering belonged to whom. It was they and them and us, always. “I am yours. I’ve been yours since we were kids and nothing will ever change that. He tried, but he couldn’t take something I already gave away. I’m yours and you’re mine, and I will always find you again.”

The wolf kept one hand laced tight with Stiles, the other wiping away the drying tears on splotchy skin before settling possessively low on the human’s back. Everything hurt, but he embraced the ache. It was something more real and much more important than anything else he’d felt for weeks. “Don’t care about my shirt, we can take it off anyways.”  Stiles’s face was a mess but Scott kissed him anyways just to show he could. “Go to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up, I promise

____

Part of Stiles still tensed, jerking in place at the promise, and he was ashamed for it. He had wondered for too long about changing the past, like staying awake for a few minutes more would have fixed anything. He knew it couldn’t, but logic was only comfort in the cold light of day. It had been dark for a long time now.

He kissed Scott again. Stiles stopped hurting. He’d lost the sharp spikes of pain, and he knew who he had to thank - or blame. Scott always took so much. They wouldn’t be here if he didn’t, but maybe Stiles wouldn’t love him so much either. “Stop hurting yourself,” he pleaded. “I can’t take it.”

He hoped it was enough to make Scott stay, for real this time, just like Scott said he would. Scott could lie through his teeth, and Stiles would never see it coming. That scared him, but he couldn’t not trust his best friend. That would be like trying to stop breathing.

Stiles traced the strong line of Scott’s jaw, fingertips brushing over smooth skin. He thought about where Hale had put his hands. I will always find you. “If you do that again… If you put yourself in danger like that - I’m out. I quit. I can’t…”

Stiles averted his gaze, considered pulling away, but only for a moment. He knew he wouldn’t get far. “Please.”

____

“I can’t.” The pain danced along his skin, sinking into bone deep aches and settling into his joints. It was a reminder, a piece of Stiles that he could hold inside. It didn’t matter that it was a piece that bit so deeply, he could take the keenest edges of the suffering so his love wouldn’t have to. “It hurts me when you hurt. I can’t stop it, Stiles.”

Scott tried so hard not to promise things he couldn’t keep. He always felt better admitting defeat than trying to be untrue. He’d gotten good at twisting the truth over the years, a gift given to him by Peter who never said an honest word in his life, but he hated every lie. Stiles deserved nothing but absolute truth, the secrets and ugliness he kept inside exposed for the human to see because Scott trusted him with even the worst parts of himself. He’d seen the monster inside and still wanted Scott to stay.

The world was dangerous and so much had been stacked against them. Even with Peter Hale dead, there were others out there waiting. The life of a lycanthrope, especially one living so publicly, was easily cut short by hunters or poachers. Stiles chased danger with a badge, purposely seeking the worst parts of humanity and fragile enough that it could break him someday. If it ever came down to it, Scott would do the same thing again. The sacrifice was nothing if it meant he could keep the most important thing in his world safe and promising anything else would be a lie.

But Scott would do anything, anything to keep him. “I promise. I’ll stay safe and I’ll stay here. I don’t want to be anywhere else but with you, please don’t send me away.”

____

"You told me to kill you." Stiles accused, and that felt like he’d said too much. He was angrier than he thought he’d have the strength to be. A surge of emotion swelled up his throat. It took him too long to swallow it down. His grip tightened. The pain had long abated. Stiles wondered what type of fool he was for imagining it sharpening, for making this worse somehow.

"And I would have."

He could barely stand to look at Scott, but he didn’t dare look away. Too much was riding on this. Stiles didn’t understand how much. It seemed so easy to lose his best friend. His job had been straightforward. He’d practically been given carte blanche. The department was ready to leave him to hang in every way but death, yet if that bomb had been working, if there had been any chance for him to use it.

He’d still killed for Scott on command. He’d never felt shame for obeying. “If that had been real - I’d have. I wouldn’t care. I would’ve.”

His fingers clenched, tighter still, and it shouldn’t have been possible. They threatened to break skin. He sounded like a broken record, but Scott needed to know. Scott already knew ever way to break him, and when it had been too quiet in his head, he’d wondered if Scott had chosen to do just that. “Don’t - don’t ever fucking make me-!”

I love you, he meant. I could never stop loving you.

Stiles dragged in a breath and deflated as quickly as he’d started. “It’s long passed the point where I could send you away… Hurts me when you’re hurt, too.”

There was blood on his fingers when he pulled away, but he kissed Scott like he thought he would break.

____

“I’m sorry…” The wolf made a soft noise, but accepted the pain. He deserved worse, he should be punished and if letting Stiles work out his rage would help in any way, he’d welcome more than this. Tears streaked down his face, but he didn’t seem to notice that he was crying. Everything was focused on Stiles, cupping the human’s face and tracing down his cheek with rough thumbs. “I don’t want to die. I have something actually worth living for and I love this life you’ve given me. I won’t let anything like that happen again.”

Was it possible to fix this or had it finally been too much? He never thought they’d have boundaries and limits, let alone ultimatums. Scott had tried to stop this from happening back before he  thought finding his humanity was possible and the world conspired to tear them apart, but he’d never considered that either one of them could just reach the point where they could walk away. It crystalized in his chest, cold and heavy, hurting worse than anything Peter had ever tried to take from him.

“I love you.” Scott gasped as fingers dug themselves bloody into his body. “Hurt me if you want to, just tell me how to fix this. Please…please, Stiles, please. I just want to fix this. I want to be with you, it’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’ll do whatever you want, just forgive me…and if you can’t, then I’ll spend my whole life trying make you trust me again.”

He kissed the human with utter despair, like he could try to force the broken pieces back together. “I’m never going to leave you, I promise. Never again, there’s nothing that could take me away. I won’t let it happen. I’m going to take care of you, you don’t have to worry anymore. I won’t let anything hurt us again. Tell me what you want and I’ll do it, Stiles. I’ll do anything.”

____

Scott said everything Stiles needed to hear, and he kissed Stiles like the world would fall apart if they didn’t. Stiles had nothing left to give. Scott had owned him, heart and soul for years before Stiles even knew he was alive. He’d always believed, though. Every dead body and every grave they dug up that wasn’t him only cemented that truth, and it was the only world Stiles was willing to live in.

Scott asked him what he needed, and there was a vicious thrill of victory that surged through his spine. He got to keep him. He got to keep Scott. Nothing else mattered so much.

"Don’t get hurt," he pleaded, taking Scott’s hand in his own. His fingers moved clumsily, and he could only hold one. It was enough. He wasn’t shocked to find blood on Scott’s palm. He kissed it off, then slowly licked the lines of Scott’s palm as skin mended. He had fallen in love with a boy who loved others so much, he forgot to love himself. That boy was still somewhere. Stiles was going to take care of him. "Let me take care of you when you’re hurt… I’m allowed t’worry about you. It’s one of the perks of all this."

He tried to nuzzle closer into Scott’s side. He caught Scott’s tears on his lips, kissing them away. It was like every moment they could hold one another, they had the chance to heal. There was no way they could do this alone. 

"I forgive you." The words felt strange on his tongue. Stiles didn’t think he’d ever had to say them. He thought Scott needed to hear them. He would say them forever if he had to. "I need you to trust me… Trust me before anyone else. Together, we’re… We’re pretty damn badass, Scott."

His voice hitched, but when he smiled, he didn’t have to force it. “S’all I want. Just want you. Just want you to be happy - with me. I just don’t want you to ever let go because I won’t. I swear to God I won’t.”

___

Slowly, so slowly, Scott let himself relax against Stiles. His bones ached and the stolen pain battered against his nerves, but the human’s hands were gentle now and he shivered. “I trust you, Stiles, I promise I do.” He was forgiven. Stiles said the words and Scott would always believe him without hesitation. The wolf gave a soft huffing laugh, tangling his legs around the other man and feeling the fear drain away. “We’re so badass.”

He shouldn’t have ever doubted, it was so stupid to think that they’d ever be able to pull away from each other now. Dr. Tate could call it co-dependency all she wanted, for Scott it felt like safety and home. He hadn’t had anything that he could truly consider his for so long that to own and be owned was a gift. Peter had shaped him for this, but in Stiles’s hands it wasn’t a curse anymore. There’d be no one else on earth he could trust with the fragile parts of himself still healing from a decade of abuse and neglect while his sharpest violent edges would be there to defend his human from anything the world decided to throw against them.

“I’m happy…” Scott traced his fingers lightly around the shell of Stiles’s ear. “I’m not going anywhere, you couldn’t get rid of me. I’m dragging you down with me and I don’t feel badly at all. Maybe we could…I dunno. I want the world to know I’m yours.” Everything made sense like this, wrapped together and whispering promises that sounded like threats. Whatever wounds Peter had caused between them would heal, Scott would make sure of it. There was still something of the boy with gentle hands in him and he would rebuild. There would be no better way to destroy the hold Peter had on him than to be happy without him. He pressed his lips to Stiles’s mouth, gentle and fleeting, just to remind himself what his friend tasted like without the stress and anger on his skin. “I’m home for good.”

____

Stiles could still believe him. In the end, maybe that was all that mattered. They’d always fight for one another. Stiles couldn’t imagine a world where they didn’t. As long as he could believe that, they’d make this work. They’d already thrown so much back at a world that tried to destroy them. It left them battered and bruised, but in the end, they were right back where they started, in each others’ arms and insufferable.

Just - just a little more so.

"Do you mean like, marriage or are you gonna get a tattoo of my face?" Stiles snickered, stifling something that sounded too much like a sob. It had no place here now. He melted into Scott’s arms, and maybe he spared a moment, to entertain regrets. If Scott ever left him, Stiles would just stop. He’d stop everything. It was terrifying to think about that. It was already too late to turn back.

He traced the lines of Scott’s frame, soothing as well as he could. He wanted to remove the pain Scott had stolen, replace it with with something they could both appreciate. He wanted to sleep and know exactly where Scott would be when he woke. 

"Welcome home." Stiles said. It sounded right

____

Scott felt his heart soar as Stiles relaxed, pliant in his arms. The man had held them together through sheer force of will, his stubborn drive spurring him on when every other sane person would have given up years ago. Stiles was always the one who carried him, who led him, who held him together as the only solid and constant thing in his entire life. It was nice to be the one who could carry him for a change.

“I could get a tattoo of your face on my ass if that’s what you’d like?” He teased, lazily kissing every patch of bare skin he could reach. “Seems like that would be fitting.” Scott wasn’t sure how to answer the question seriously, too nervous for a genuine answer. “I don’t know, dude, maybe? Kinda like the worst time to bring up something romantic. I just want to make sure everyone knows what this is and that I’m in it forever. Forget it, okay?” He huffed, biting down on Stiles’s shoulder to distract the human from his embarrassing rambles.

“Just go to sleep, Stiles.” He muttered, tightening his arms and closing his eyes to avoid the awkwardness. He missed being home.