Derek is used to change. Sometimes he’ll hear a passerby muttering about how much they hate change, how unhappy they are by a slight alteration in their otherwise completely normal life. In New York it had infuriated him. Often, he’d been tempted to follow them, to snatch their cellphones away and remind them that they have lives. They’re not living by the very thread bare bones of an existence, they haven’t scraped what remains of their soul up from the floor and dragged it across the country to try and rebuild. Laura always pointed out you never knew what went on in other people’s lives. Considering his return to Beacon Hills—as he’d spent his entire youth discovering—Laura had always been right.
Scott McCall was a pain in Derek’s ass from Day One. In hindsight, Derek’s ironically relieved Peter chose someone so stubborn willed, so principled and determined. Trying to bond with the kid, or at least, trying to keep him alive long enough to forge some sort of shade of the pack he had before, was utterly impossible. Scott was everything Derek had failed to be in an alpha. He hadn’t meant to let it go to his head. It was a fucking shit situation, and he’d been trying to make the best of it, scrambling from day to day, trying to keep his head above water.
He still doesn’t know why Stiles tried so hard to keep him alive in that pool. In his very darkest hours, on the road away from Beacon Hills, he’d wondered if it would have been better if Stiles hadn’t bothered. Not, that he’d tell Stiles this. He’d be furious, bitch at Derek for taking up his precious time, and exhausting him.
Derek can’t help but grin thinking of the angry tirade he’d get from Stiles if he were even to suggest Stiles shouldn’t have bothered. He’d probably accidentally tell Derek something nice, too, and then get cross at Derek for that as well. They don’t do nice, Stiles and Derek. They do sharp barbs, and occasionally keep each other alive. But, only because they have to, obviously. Not because some part of Derek would probably miss the kid if he was gone.
His phone buzzes where it’s sitting on the motel dresser; and Cora’s faster than he, snatching it up and reading the message before he’s even off the bed.
“Stiles? At three thirty in the morning?” She scrunches up her face, “Couldn’t you save your sexting until I’m at least asleep?”
“It’s not sexting,” Derek huffs, knocking the bottom of her hand so his phone flies up in the air, and catching it triumphantly. Cora rolls her eyes at the smug look on his face. “Stiles doesn’t sleep very well.”
“Something you two have in common,” Cora tilts her head to one side, “How quaint.”
“Shut up,” he manages, half focused on reading Stiles’ text. It’s short, mostly perfunctory small talk they’ve been passing to and fro whilst he and Cora have been on the road. At the end, however, he pauses, re-reads the last two sentences.
Human #1: i would totally b goin 2 bed as well, just cant bring myself to close my eyes i guess. i miss SLEEP.
Derek frowns, moves round his own bed slowly, kicking off his shoes.
try counting sheep
Human #1: V funny fucker
His phone vibrates again in his hand before he can reply.
Human #1: hey if u eva count sheep do u get tempted to eat them?
Good night, Stiles.
He locks his phone, tosses it on the night stand, and pretends he’s not half smiling as he shuts his eyes. There are no sheep, but for once his dreams are oddly muted.
There’s no reply from Stiles the next day. It’s hot in New Mexico, and Cora buys sun cream she slathers on his face, teasing him about being too pale for his own good. They bicker good naturedly, and if Derek occasionally checks his phone, she doesn’t do more than raise a pointed eyebrow. He arches both his own back at her in a silent shut the hell up.
The weekend rolls them into September, Cora starts muttering about school. Derek bites his tongue on the suggestion they go home to Beacon Hills, so that she can go to Beacon High. He doesn’t want her to be in twenty miles of the place. Instead, she starts up a course online, mostly for army family kids, and loses herself in math and physics—she always liked the subjects Derek hated. He ruffles her hair and calls her a nerd; she flips him off and locks him out of their motel room.
Stiles doesn’t text.
“So, I’ve been looking at apartments,” Cora starts as soon as Derek steps into the motel room, beer and chips under his arm. She arches an eyebrow at his “grocery” shopping. “That doesn’t look like a nutritional dinner, Derek.”
Derek rolls his eyes, waves a brown paper bag filled with slightly healthier groceries at her, “You do know where the supermarket is, you know.”
“Yes, but why bother when I have such a caring brother,” she smirks, grabs the chips from him and throws herself back on the bed. “Apartments,” she says again.
Derek wrinkles up his nose, “Here?”
“We can’t live in a motel forever, Derek, no matter how fond you’ve become of pretending you’re a nomad.”
“I don’t—” Derek sighs, “It’s not safe to settle down.”
Cora snorts, “Not safe from what; anyone that knows how to track a credit card that leads right to us, motel or not?”
“In general,” Derek snaps, “You know better than anyone what life on the run is like.”
“Yes, exactly! And, now we’ve put Beacon Hills behind us, we can… start afresh? I don’t know,” Cora picks at her bedspread, “Don’t you want a home?”
Derek swallows, glances at his phone for any new messages to avoid answering. He doesn’t even know how to have a home anymore.
Beside him, Cora sighs, “You want to go back.”
“No,” Derek says immediately, rubs a hand across his face, “Maybe. We left a lot unfinished, and Scott—”
“Scott’s an alpha,” Cora says in a surprisingly gentle voice, “He can handle anything going on.”
“I couldn’t,” Derek admits, “I wasn’t ready.”
“Not everyone’s born to be King,” Cora teases in an obvious attempt to lift the mood.
Derek steals the bag of chips back off her, swings his legs onto the bed, “Shut up.”
“I’m just saying,” Cora continues, half an hour later as they’re both watching an ancient episode of Friends. Derek’s pretty sure life as a twenty six year old is not as simple as sitting around a coffee shop, and complaining about one’s relationships. But, it’s banal, background noise to his thoughts.
“We could try?”
“Cora,” Derek pinches the bridge of his nose, “I—”
“I get it,” she says softly, “But, think about it.”
Derek does think about it. He’s in the middle of brushing his teeth, marveling over how easy it is to do something so domestic when his life’s just fallen to pieces all over again, when his phone rings. He doesn’t bother pretending he’s not rushing across the room to pick it up. Cora kinks an eyebrow at him as he grabs it, rubs her chin and points at his own. Derek scrubs at drying toothpaste as he slides his thumb across the screen.
The connection is shit, and for a second all he can hear is white noise. He strains his ears, and then Scott’s voice comes through, panicked but clear.
“Yes,” he says impatiently, “What’s going on?”
“It’s—everything, man. We need your help. I think— Stiles is…”
Scott clears his throat, “Stiles is missing.”
Derek straightens up, looks around as if expecting Stiles to leap out of the shadows and yell surprise.
“You waited all day to call me?”
“I thought—” Scott huffs, clearly irritated, “I don’t know, okay? I thought maybe he’d gone to find you.”
“Find me? I’m not lost.”
“Yeah? Well, he thought you were on some lone mission to heal yourself, and relive the sixties, so I thought maybe he was craving that, too. Or, you. I don’t know,” Scott adds in a strained voice. “I don’t know where he’s gone, or what the hell took him because there’s no sign of—Derek—”
“Okay,” Derek grabs his bag, starts shoving his clothes into it and then abandons half of them. He doesn’t need them. He needs to be—
“I’m coming back,” he says shortly.
Scott exhales like he was hoping Derek would say that, but didn’t know how to ask. Derek rolls his eyes, wondering if they’re ever going to get the past the awkwardness that stands between them. Technically, Scott could ask and Derek would have to. Maybe. He’s not entirely sure how it works if he hasn’t openly pledged himself as a member of Scott’s pack. But, he knows he’d do anything for the kid. Derek’s always been stupidly loyal. It’s one of the things he recognized about himself in Stiles.
Stupid, reckless, captivating Stiles, that’s gone and gotten himself in a whirlwind of trouble. Derek has to go, he does. It’s part of the unspoken thing between them.
I’ve got your back, I’m going to bitch about it, and I’ll probably yell at you more than I’m nice to you, but I’ve got your back. I’ll come for you.
I won’t give up on you.
“I’ll be there by morning,” he tells Scott, “Track his scent as much as possible.”
“I already tried that,” Scott sighs, “But, some stuff’s been going down here, man. Haven’t you and Stiles been talking?”
“Not about—” Derek makes a frustrated sound, because any messages passed between himself and Stiles have pointedly avoided any talk of the shit storm that erupted because of the nemeton. He should have taken Stiles’ jokes about not sleeping more seriously. He should have known.
Cora swings her legs off the bed, eyeing him as he hangs up with Scott.
“Stiles is missing?”
“Yes,” he says shortly, panic rolling around in his stomach when he thinks of Stiles already dead; Stiles being taken by someone that’ll give him back in pieces; used to torture Scott with the fact they took one of the most important people in his life right from under his nose. God, Derek wishes there were less people like Kate out there.
“I’m coming with you,” Cora insists, throwing on her jacket. “You want any of this?”
Derek glances around the room, clothes strewn around, toothbrushes, discarded food packages—Cora had a point about them needing an actual place, perhaps—“No.”
“Let’s go then,” she grabs the car keys, expression shrewd as she looks at Derek, “Can you focus enough to drive, right now?”
“I’ll be fine,” Derek huffs, shouldering on his jacket and slamming the door shut behind them.
Scott’s on the lawn out front when they pull into the McCall’s drive, hair sticking up at all angles and clothes crumpled.
“You stop at all? You got here in like five hours,” he says incredulously.
“Derek broke about ninety different speed limits,” Cora hops out of the passenger side, and Derek scowls at her.
“Stiles’d be teasing the crap out of you for acting like you care,” Scott says, smiling weakly.
Derek huffs indignantly, but can’t bring himself to argue. He rolls back his shoulders, glances over Scott’s head to where Allison and Isaac are lingering by the porch.
“So, what do we know?”
“Stiles has disappeared,” Scott looks at him with earnest concern. “And, I can’t track his movements. I can’t—can’t get a read on him. It’s like someone’s done something to mask it; I know he was there, but… I don’t know if I’m just not ready, or I haven’t practiced, enough,” he makes a frustrated noise, “I don’t know.”
Derek nods, glances at Allison, “Has—”
“It wasn’t my father,” she cuts in, “Before you ask.”
“I was going to ask if there were any other hunters in the area you might have been in contact with,” Derek says through gritted teeth.
“No, we would know if it was hunters.”
“Really?” He quirks an eyebrow at her, “Because you were all so up to speed with what Kate was up to when she was burning my family alive.”
Cora whines in distress behind him, steps in closer to Derek as Allison strides down the porch.
“I know it wasn’t hunters because there’s no signs of a struggle, no scent of a weapon—Scott knows how to scent that—there’s no indication it was human.”
Derek clenches his jaw, “Are you saying it—”
“She’s not saying anything,” Scott hurries to interrupt, “Just that we don’t know anything.”
“Except that it wasn’t hunters,” Cora says flatly.
Isaac snickers, and then coughs into his hand when Allison glares at him.
“We need a plan,” she says briskly, crossing her arms over her chest and looking at Scott. “We need to tell his father.”
“The Sheriff doesn’t know?” Derek looks between them both incredulously, “You have to tell his father, now.”
“Scott, if Stiles is in trouble, he’d want to know.”
“How do you know that?” Scott snaps, “You’ve not been here for weeks, and before that it’s not like you made a tremendous effort to befriend the local law enforcement.”
“Well, I did suggest coffee after the Sheriff arrested me for a murder you accused me of. But, he said he didn’t want to be associated with fuck ups.”
Scott’s face falls, and he winces, looks away abashed. “You’re not—I’m—you’re not a fuck up.”
Derek scoffs, “Thank you for the pep talk.”
“Enough,” Allison cuts between them. “You can measure up later.” Cora snorts, and Allison meets her eye with a tiny smile. If Derek weren’t so distracted he’d dread their future friendship and the safety of the world. He is, however, distracted by the safety of one individual, a very important one to their world and he rolls back his shoulders, focuses.
“Scott, you go and talk to Stiles’ dad, and then follow Derek’s scent, if he’s found anything, stay with him. Derek—”
Derek arches an eyebrow, daring her to try and tell him what to do, but Allison doesn’t even flinch.
“Get over yourself,” she says quietly, “If you want to find Stiles, we need to work together.”
Cora elbows him in the side, and he relents, sighs, “Fine.” He glances back at Scott, “I’ll head for the loft, see if Peter knows anything.”
“He’s not been around,” Isaac says quietly, his first input to the conversation.
“Not at all? When we left—”
“Yeah, he never came back from wherever it was he went to hide before the Darach went all,” Isaac waves a hand in the air, “Power nuts on the moon.”
Derek feels his stomach drop at the mention of the Darach, or Jennifer, and of what she did, what she took from him—and then a grim thought occurs to him.
“You mean to say my uncle, the man that’s more than capable of committing murder, and wants nothing but power, hasn’t been seen since the night Jennifer died?”
“We didn’t even—” Scott makes a noise of frustration, “We didn’t even check she was dead, Derek.”
“I was a little preoccupied dealing with a werewolf that put a pole through my chest. That you let walk away, by the way!”
“I didn’t see you arguing!”
“I’d just been beaten to a bloody pulp.”
“Stop it,” Allison hisses, “We’ve all made mistakes,” she darts a look towards Derek, wets her lips nervously, “Me, you, Scott, but we need to shelve it all if we’re going to work as a pack, here. Are we?” She glances between them expectantly, “Can you at least try?”
“Yes,” Scott says shortly, “I can.”
Derek rolls his eyes, and then nods himself, “We can try.”
Cora snorts, “D’you guys want some gold stars, or something?”
Both Scott and Derek scowl at her. Derek sighs, pinches the bridge of his nose, “If no one has heard from Peter, and no one thought to let me know he’d vanished—”
“He’s your uncle,” Scott huffs, “I’m not his keeper.”
“You said you wanted to protect this town, Scott; Peter is this town’s most acute threat, especially if he’s gone under. Who the hell knows what he’s been planning.”
Derek’s stomach lurches with guilt, he should never have left, never have taken his eyes off Peter for a second.
“Why would he—” Scott stares at the ground in thought for a moment, and then starts shaking his head slowly, “No, he wouldn’t.”
“He would,” Cora and Derek say at once.
“He’d kill Stiles?”
“No,” Derek says darkly, “He’d use him. If he wants power, and he knows your weakness is the ones you care about,” he gestures at Allison and Isaac, “Your mom, is she safe?”
“Yeah,” Scott says faintly, “She’s been working with reconstructing the wing at the hospital—we put mountain ash around the perimeter.”
Cora huffs a laugh, “I hope no werewolves in the area needed to take a trip to the ER.”
“It was Stiles’ idea,” Scott gives them the ghost of a smile, “He said if anyone we cared about came back, looking for help, at least they’d have to call us, to get in. Be in touch,” he gives Derek a significant look, and Derek keeps his face as blank as possible. He was in touch; he thought it would have been enough.
It was a smart move, though, protecting the one place in Beacon Hills that needs it more than anywhere else.
“Okay,” he swallows, “So, assuming this is—this was Peter, do any of you have a problem with me killing him?” He glares at Allison in preparation for a fight about her Code, but she’s readjusting her crossbow strap and shrugs when she catches his eye.
“He manipulated my best friend, and left her for dead on a lacrosse field; he bit Scott; he murdered innocent people; he’s maybe taken Stiles. I don’t care if he dies. But,” she glances at Scott, and there’s a question in her eye. Scott gives her the briefest nod, and she looks back at Derek with a steely gaze, “But, nothing, I guess.”
“Fantastic,” Cora rolls her eyes, “We’re all in agreement on the death thing, shall we get on with it?”
Cora goes to scent the surrounding area, close to the school and the hospital just in case. Isaac’s gone with her, and Derek vaguely recalls, on that very bleak day that feels so long ago, Isaac asking after her. He wonders if Isaac knows just what he’d be getting into with his tough as nails sister. She’s not the smiling, bubbly eight year old he remembers, but then, he supposes, all of them have been broken and remade to fit the world they know now.
He wishes things were easier for her, that she could have been a normal teenager with problems like having a crush on a friend of her big brother’s, if Derek can still call Isaac a friend. He’s made a lot of mistakes.
Derek begins in Stiles’ bedroom, tries not to look at the haphazardly tossed aside clothes, or pick up on the lingering scent of distress. Instead, he tries to focus on the scraped carpet fibers where Stiles had recently snatched sneakers from the floor; the scent of bitterness in the air. There’s something else, something smug and triumphant that’s overpowering; it smells like Peter.
Derek follows the lingering scents grimly. His chest feels hollow with the truth; that it all comes to family, his family, Peter, the very bane of Derek’s shitty excuse for an existence. He should never have left town, never left these kids unguarded to the worst danger of them all.
He doesn’t stop once the trail fades a little, knowing by instinct more than anything where Peter will take Stiles. Across the land he once considered home. The land Derek had an accidental hand in destroying.
Scott’s close behind, tracking Derek, Lydia and Allison further back, and when he howls Cora and Isaac answer. It feels strangely like working with a pack again. Painfully like how it was when he was a kid, crashing through the forest and checking for his pack mates. Now, no one’s calling him home for dinner, or giggling in the distance. There’s only the cold snap of air in his face, tree branches whipping against his arms and chest as he runs.
The scent of Stiles begins to overwhelm him; panic, pain, confusion, anger.
He hopes to god Stiles is more angry than hurt as he follows it.
There’s a clearing in the trees, and he stops sharply when he notices a stone and wood cabin across the way. He can hear Stiles’ heartbeat, but no other sounds. Every so often, Stiles seems to yank on a chain, makes a muffled noise of frustration. Derek scans the cabin, but nothing seems out of the ordinary. It has to be a trap, but how.
Derek drops to a crouch, fangs slotting into place as Peter comes out of the trees like one of the ridiculous B-list movie villains Stiles and Scott quote endlessly. Derek’s never noticed how cartoonish his uncle’s behavior makes him seem, has never been anything but wary and almost afraid of him. Now, he’s pissed, and it seems ridiculous to have given him any leeway for fear of his capabilities.
“You made it,” he claps his hands lightly, “Well done. Though, it took you and Mr McCall a little longer than I anticipated,” he clucks his tongue, “Clearly, your dream of a new, shinier, better pack isn’t totally working out for you.”
Derek snarls, “Let Stiles go.”
“Why would I do that, Derek? When he’s not fully served his purpose, yet.”
“I don’t care about purposes, Peter. He’s a kid; not your pawn.”
“Incorrect,” Peter whispers silkily, “He is my pawn, my most important piece, my…” He flashes his eyes across at Derek, “Bait.”
Derek shifts from one foot to the other, considering the earth in front of him, where he’ll get his best leverage to attack. He’s not good at this part, he was never a violent kid, he doesn’t know how to fight, only that brash and sharp works when you’re desperate.
Stiles makes a noise from inside the cabin, and Derek’s resolve strengthens.
He cracks his neck to one side, roars across at Peter. Peter laughs, leans casually against a tree as if they’re taking an afternoon stroll and discussing the weather, not about to fight possibly to the death. “It was always going to end like this, Derek.”
Derek doesn’t want to listen to him anymore, the wolf inside of him clawing to fight, to destroy, to keep one tiny part of good in his life safe, unharmed. He runs at Peter, and Peter shifts, darts in front of the cabin just as Derek collides into him.
They go slamming into the door, a whole chunk of it flying across the room and Derek sees Stiles, clothes ragged and eyes shocked, before Peter slashes at his face. He flinches back, swipes at Peter’s neck.
Peter rears away, pushes at Derek’s chest and he hits the wall, the concrete shuddering behind him.
“This is not polite behavior, Derek,” Peter tuts, tilting his head to one side and moving casually to stand in front of Stiles. “Surely you don’t want to get anyone else you care about maimed, or…” He runs a finger along Stiles’ arm, claw peeking out and drawing blood, “Worse.”
“Get off me, you disgusting creep,” Stiles hisses. “You always knew how to make a fucking entrance,” he snaps at Derek and Derek startles.
“Well, excuse me for trying to save your damn life,” he growls in return.
Stiles rolls his eyes, “The tab on that one lies heavily in my favor, dumbass.”
“Such a touching reunion,” Peter turns to smirk at Derek, “I think, though, instead of waiting for any more loving words, I’ll be taking what’s mine.”
“I don’t have anything of yours,” Derek spits, “I’m not an alpha anymore.”
“No,” Peter says in a low voice, “But, Scott is. And, without you to protect him, seeing Stiles like this,” he shakes his head in faux sadness, “Scott would give it up in a heartbeat.”
“You fucking asshole,” Stiles groans, “Why didn’t you think this through?”
Derek realizes he’s talking to him, and opens his mouth to retort that they were all too busy being fucking worried about him to think about anything else, when Peter lunges at him again.
Derek stumbles over a loose floorboard, wraps his arms around Peter as they go down. They hit the floor, and he flips them, tries to get a grip on Peter’s neck.
“I’m a little busy, Stiles!”
“No, hit him with something!”
Derek punches Peter in the face.
Before Derek can yell that he’s trying as best he can, Peter seems to pick up on Stiles’ idea faster, and smashes a broken chair over Derek’s head.
Derek groans, his senses confused as he staggers to a stand, tries to stop Peter from backing him into a corner. They tussle again and Derek manages to get his claws into Peter’s side, making him howl in pain. Derek hopes he’s not imagining the howls of response coming from the distance. He digs his claws in, yanks out flesh and Peter hisses, slithers out of his grip. He leaps back at Derek immediately, shoves him hard against the wall again.
In the background Stiles yells something. Derek catches Peter’s jaw before he can bite into his neck, but he can’t do more than hold him off. Peter knees him in the stomach, and Derek falls, winded.
“You can’t do it,” Peter taunts, and Derek growls, tries to straighten up. “You haven’t got it in you to truly fight me, to kill me.”
Peter dances away from Derek’s next swipe, smirks in amusement, “You’ve got nothing left, Derek. I made sure to take it all when you weren’t even paying attention. Didn’t I always teach you to be observant, to keep tabs on your surroundings?”
Derek glances at the loose floorboard he tripped on earlier as he rolls back his shoulders.
Peter looks at him in surprise, and his teeth are bloodied when he smiles. Stiles pulls a disgusted face in the background, and Derek tries not to laugh hysterically.
“Conceding so early in the game, nephew?”
“No,” Derek steps carefully over the floorboard so as to make sure it doesn’t creak and give his plan away, “Just getting started, actually.”
“God, if all werewolves have trash talk like this I’m surprised any of you ever win a fight ever,” Stiles groans, “Do you just talk yourselves to death?”
“Quiet,” Peter snaps, slapping Stiles hard across the face.
Derek uses the distraction to catch Peter round the scruff of his neck, and toss him across the room. Peter howls as he hits the wall, dust falling as he shakes himself off, steps back towards Derek and catches his toes on the floorboard. As he stumbles, Derek throws all of his weight behind a punch that catches Peter under the chin, snapping his head back and he hits the floor, dazed and spluttering.
“I’m impressed,” he manages.
“Shut up,” Derek hisses, striding over and pinning Peter down with a foot to his neck. A chunk of ceiling lands on his shoulder and he flinches, Peter clawing at his calf and making him half stumble.
“The building’s not going to stay standing for long,” Peter grins up at him, eyes unfocused. “We can go together, as a family.”
“I have no plans to go anywhere,” Derek kneels over him, lets his claws come out across Peter’s neck.
“Fuck,” Stiles groans, and Derek jerks his head round to see the wall Stiles is tied to coming down around him. Derek hesitates as he hovers over Peter and Stiles scowls at him, face bleeding, but eyes angry. “Do it, Derek, stop looking at me and do it!”
“You won’t have time to do both,” Peter chokes out with a smirk, “Can you let him die to finish me?”
“No one else should die because of you,” Derek huffs, getting to his feet and racing across the room to stop yet another piece of stone landing on Stiles’ head.
“Gee, my hero,” Stiles gasps, looking at him with wide, horrified eyes that bely his casual tone.
Peter struggles to a stand as Derek unties Stiles’ shackles quickly, “This was fun, boys, and I’m sorry to say the game is over, but,” he smiles darkly at them, “Sometimes, improvisation is more to my taste, anyway.” He rams his fist into the support beam beside him and immediately half the roof falls in, blocking Derek and Stiles from him. “See you in the next life, Derek,” Peter calls, “It was nothing personal!”
“You’re an asshole!” Stiles yells after him, and then pushing Derek away from where a chunk of roof is falling. “Jesus, your awareness is terrible!”
“I’m a little distracted,” Derek snaps back.
Before Stiles can retort with something disdainful, the whole building shudders and then begins to collapse inwards. Derek throws his arms over Stiles, pushing them both to the floor and trying to cover him from most of the debris.
“Idiot!” Stiles yells over the noise, “You could have gotten out!”
“And let you get crushed to death? I wonder why I was against that?!”
Stiles scrunches up his face at him, and then winces, blood trickling down his cheek. “Shit, he got me good earlier.”
Derek feels around, pulls up Stiles’ shirt to see blood, “He bite you?”
“No, that offer came and went a long time ago,” Stiles licks his lips and almost cracks a smile, “Maybe I should have taken him up on it, and then I would have at least been able to put up a fight.”
“Don’t,” Derek shakes his head, speaks up over the roar of the falling building, “This isn’t your fault.”
“I was just—he was in my room, and he threatened my dad if I wouldn’t go,” Stiles looks up at him, eyes terrified, “Now, he’s out there, Derek—”
“Scott’ll get him; he was only just behind me.”
“I can’t—” Stiles heaves in a breath and looks around them, “Can you move any of this?”
Derek tries to brace himself on the floor, push upwards, but there’s too much weight, a whole slab of the wall has started leaning on top of them. It’s all he can do to keep it from crushing them completely.
“No,” he shakes his head, suddenly feeling stupid, remorseful, he’s completely fucked this up. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Stiles gives him a wry smile, “You came, you tried, all we ever do, right?”
Derek drops his head for a moment, breathes in the scent of Stiles; panic and pain, but underneath that, layers of familiar warmth.
“D’you know of all the scenarios I played out with you on top of me,” Stiles pants breathlessly, wincing as more concrete crumbles around them, “This wasn’t in the top ten.”
Derek chokes on a strangled laugh, frees up one of his hands to grab Stiles’, “Optimistic of you,” he manages.
Stiles gives him a shaky grin, “I am known for that.”
The slab of wall on Derek’s back is starting to get heavy, and he groans, feels his feet slip, blood drip in his eye.
“Derek,” Stiles licks his lips, glances at him and then away again. “I’m sorry,” he says finally, squeezing his eyes shut. “This isn’t how you should be goin’ out.”
“I’m not sorry,” Derek grits out, tightens his grasp on Stiles’ hand until Stiles opens his eyes. Derek forgets where they are for a moment, blown away by the intensity of Stiles’ gaze, by everything he’s not saying. He watches as his eyes well up, wishes he was better at being comforting, at saving the fucking day, at being… everything Stiles needs right this second, everything he should have been for Scott, and for Cora and Boyd, Erica, even himself. He’s fucking failed. He shakes his head, swallows hard, “I should have gotten here sooner.”
“Our timing’s never been our strong point,” Stiles croaks in a faux cheerful voice. “I’m just—” he falters, squeezes Derek’s hand, “Thanks for coming.”
Derek leans forward as much as he can, presses their foreheads together as the noise of the collapsing building increases. The wall digs into his shoulder blades; he can barely feel anything but where Stiles’ fingers are clenched around his.
“Fuck,” Stiles mutters, “I’m not ready. If you—look after my dad, okay?”
“Stiles, don’t. You’re not—”
“I am, dude, if one of us is gonna survive tons of concrete and torture, and your uncle, it’s gonna be you. You have to—Scott—”
Derek props up his elbow, trying to keep rubble from falling on Stiles’ face, looks down at him, “Why can’t you listen to me just this once?”
“Because, that would be an anomaly to our relationship! I can’t go out like that.”
“Stop it!” Derek can’t help the wounded sound he makes when the last of the support beams above them crashes down; furthering the weight he’s holding up.
“You could still—”
“Don’t,” he says sharply, “Don’t even suggest it.”
“Fine,” Stiles spits back, “We’ll die together, it’ll be dandy.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” Derek snaps, “I’ll get some peace and quiet for once.”
Stiles grins suddenly, blindingly. There’s blood on his teeth, and his eyes are dark and desperate as he looks up at Derek, but he’s never looked more stupidly, infuriatingly beautiful. Derek wishes they had time, wishes he’d given himself a chance, wishes—
There’s a crack like thunder, he thinks Stiles yells and tries to throw his arm over Derek’s head like that’ll help, and Derek finds himself almost smiling ruefully, clutching Stiles’ hand like the lifeline it’s always been.
Then there’s nothing.
When Derek comes around, Lydia Martin is sitting beside him. She’s eyeing him somewhat warily, and if Derek is dead, this isn’t the first thing he imagined he’d see in the afterlife.
“Peter is dead,” she says after a moment, passing him a plastic cup with some water in, “I—we killed him. Stiles is alive, though. You’ve been out nearly twelve hours, and you’re at Deaton’s. I’m sorry,” she finishes with, glancing at her hands before steeling herself and meeting his eye. “I know he was family.”
“Not how I’d define it,” he manages in a raw voice. He goes to touch his throat and catches sight of his hands—they’re still scraped over—the last, least significant healing his body needed to do. He can almost feel the ghost of Stiles’ fingers between his own still, and he flexes them agitatedly.
“Stiles—is he gonna make it?”
“Yes,” she says quietly, “Thanks to you, and Scott. He dug you both out after—after— Peter was trying to escape,” she braces herself as if the memory is one she won’t relish for a long time. “I stopped him. I had something with me. I don’t know how it all happened, I just… I knew what to use.”
“You cut him in half,” Derek says bluntly.
“Yes.” Her cool expression only lasts for a moment before she bites her lip, suddenly looking younger, and her own age for once. “I didn’t plan to, if that helps. I wanted revenge, to take back what he stole from me last year. But, I didn’t want to—for you—we’ve all lost so much,” she says finally. “I’m glad he’s gone, but I’m sorry you had to lose someone else.”
“You don’t need to apologize,” he says, mustering up all the insistence he has, “You owe me nothing.”
“I helped him; I brought you to him last year.”
Derek frowns, shakes his head slowly, “That wasn’t you. I’m sorry I ever—” he ducks his head, swallows, “I’m not holding anything against you, I won’t—this isn’t something on you, Lydia.”
Lydia narrows her eyes at him, and then nods, stands and brushes her skirt down. She looks very put together for someone that sliced a werewolf in half not a day ago. Derek’s impressed, and a little intimidated. He can see why Stiles admires her so.
“Where is Stiles?”
“At the hospital,” Lydia opens the door, and looks at him expectantly, “Your sister’s outside. Do you need a minute to get dressed?”
Derek stares at her, swings his legs off the bed, “I can’t go there.”
“Why ever not?”
“Stiles should be with pack—with his family.”
Lydia rolls her eyes, “Which he would most certainly count you a part of, seeing as he’s willingly put his neck on the line for you on more than one occasion. Do me a favor, Derek, hmm?”
Derek looks up at her flatly as she taps her fingers against the door.
“Depends on what it is.”
“Mmmm,” she tips her head to one side, turns away, “Don’t hurt him,” she says as she disappears down the corridor.
Derek doesn’t say anything, listens to her leave the clinic and feels for any leftover connection to Peter. It’s gone. Peter is truly gone. He can’t help but feel relieved.
There’s a sudden familiar scent in the air, and he glances up to see Cora hovering by the door. She smells concerned, deeply so, and Derek frowns, waves a hand to beckon her inside.
“Derek,” she moves towards the gurney and then stops, bites her lip.
“What is it, now? Am I dying? Is that what Lydia didn’t tell me?”
“No,” Cora rolls her eyes, forgetting herself for a moment, “So dramatic, big brother.”
Derek huffs, and then lifts his eyebrows, “What is it then?”
“Derek,” she says again, “I’m—I’m just so sorry I wasn’t there.”
“Oh,” Derek winces as he stands, shrugs at the same time, “It wasn’t something I’d have wanted you to see.”
“I wanted to help,” Cora strides across the room to help him into a shirt, “Is it a waste of my breath to suggest you don’t go gallivanting off to the hospital to see Stiles?”
“I’m not going to the hospital,” Derek snaps, “I’m going home.”
“We don’t have one!” Cora exclaims, yanks a faded old hoodie that smells faintly of Deaton over Derek’s head. “For god’s sake, Derek, you saved his life.”
Cora’s brows stitch together, and she sighs, “I don’t follow.”
Derek pushes his feet into bloodied up shoes, “I saved his life; because Peter was trying to kill him, all of us and that was my fault. I’m just—I’m bad news, Cora.”
“So, that’s it? You don’t even try to change the headline?”
“Yes,” he mutters mutinously, glaring at the floor instead of meeting her disapproving gaze.
“It’s better this way.”
“It’s never better to shut people out,” she says in a softer tone. “I missed out on so much, so many chances to have a pack, to be with you, Derek. You can’t waste your life in hiding.”
She shrugs, hip checks the door open, “I’m just calling it like I see it.”
Derek glowers at her for a moment, and she looks steadily back. He sighs in a put upon way, and Cora rolls her eyes, watching as he reaches for his tattered wallet and phone. The last time he spoke to Stiles before was by text, and judging by the cracks on his screen, he won’t be able to read them again.
“Fine,” Derek swallows, “Ten minutes.”
“I don’t care how long you spend with him; I just care about how much bitching I’ll hear from him if you don’t go.”
Cora elbows him sharply as he passes.
Stiles is asleep when he lets himself into the hospital room. Lydia accompanied them to the hospital entrance and waved away the mountain ash— rolled her eyes at the look of incredulity on his face, reminded him of her ability to do everything—and then declared she and Cora needed hot showers and manicures. Cora hadn’t argued, shoved Derek up the steps with a smirk, and trotted off with Lydia. He wonders how it is that the women in his life are still so strong, so vibrant after everything that’s happened. Whether or not there’s a trick to it, he’s glad they are. Relieved his sister doesn’t seem entirely too damaged by Peter’s last stand.
Stiles snorts in his sleep, brings Derek back to the present with a huff of laughter. Ever the graceful being. Derek takes a moment to survey the damage; a broken arm, what was clearly a dislocated shoulder, bruises practically covering his face and his right leg in a cast, hanging above the bed. Derek hisses sympathetically, and wishes—not for the first time—that werewolves had the ability to heal humans properly, not just take away pain. Stiles looks like he’s in enough of that, too, though. Derek sits beside the bed gingerly, in the chair that smells like the Sheriff and Scott. Tentatively, he touches Stiles’ wrist, curls his fingers around it briefly.
“I’m sorry,” he murmurs.
Stiles frowns in his sleep, tries to roll over and groans when he can’t move, eyes scrunching up before they open. Derek freezes, wonders if he should flee. Ms McCall saw him come in, however, and the window’s shut, he might just fit in the closet—
“Wow, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”
He flinches, looks back up to Stiles’ face, sees him almost smiling at Derek. It makes his insides roll with nerves and relief and guilt all at once. He feels terrible.
“Don’t give me that face, man,” Stiles croaks, “Gemme some water, instead?”
Derek harrumphs, glad one of them can think of something useful to do. “Since you asked so nicely.”
Stiles points at his leg, then at his arm, and wiggles his eyebrows at Derek before wincing, “I never realized how much I used my face until now.”
“I had no idea,” Derek mutters, twisting around to grab the water jug and a glass.
“Don’t get snarky on me,” Stiles takes the cup, waves it at him, “I’ve had enough sass from Lydia this morning, pretending she doesn’t care,” he smiles fondly, “It’s nice to know you guys care.”
“I don’t care—”
“Little too late to go with that one, dude,” Stiles says pointedly, eyeing him over the cup.
Derek flops back in his seat heavily, “I’m sorry.”
Stiles chokes dramatically on his water, grins when Derek flips him off tiredly. “Come on, this is kind of funny.”
“It’s not at all,” Derek snaps, “Look at you!”
“I can’t really move to see much of myself, asshole! God,” Stiles squints at him, “You get hit on the head and you’re even more cranky; how is that even possible?”
“Fine,” Derek sighs, moves as if to leave, and Stiles shoots his hand out, snags his fingers around his arm.
“No, dude, don’t.”
“I’m clearly not helping.”
“You can’t leave.”
“Look, you can’t go, okay?”
Derek blinks at him in confusion, and Stiles sighs, messes with the sleeve of Derek’s shirt for a moment before meeting his gaze.
“You keep leaving, and bad things keep happening. I almost died and—”
“Shut up!” Stiles rolls his eyes when he sees Derek glaring at him, “You keep coming back and helping, is what I’m trying to say, dude.” He licks his lips, clears his throat nervously, “I’m just—I didn’t know if you were real or not. When Peter came, and I let him, you know? I couldn’t risk him hurting my dad or Scott, and it felt like… all of my nightmares coming true. I didn’t believe it was real. I didn’t believe you were real. But, you are, you’re here, and I just—I feel safer when you’re actually present, okay?”
Derek feels strangely off kilter. He’s used to varying emotions, anger, guilt, desperation, panic, fright, but being needed? Someone asking nothing of him but his company is somewhat, unheard of.
“Okay,” he says slowly, resettling beside the bed.
Stiles nods once, satisfied, fingers still tapping a nervous rhythm against Derek’s wrist until he begins to drift back to sleep.
“Hey,” he clears his throat as Derek drags his gaze from where Stiles is touching him.
“Thanks,” Stiles murmurs.
Derek swallows, twitches his own fingers against Stiles’, “Yeah, sure, any time.”
Stiles laughs drily, “I fucking hope there aren’t many more times, dude. I mean, I’d rather just hang out and watch a movie with you, cut out the life or death scenarios altogether.”
“That’s… I like movies,” Derek says finally.
“Duh,” Stiles lets his fingers lie still, curled around Derek’s wrist. “I mean it, though. Thanks for coming back.”
“Sure,” Derek shrugs, “Who else is gonna let you yell at them all day?”
Stiles chuckles, shifts to smile right at him, “You’re an idiot.”
“And you’re a brat,” Derek retorts, “But, I’m still glad you’re alive.”
“Me too,” Stiles gives him a more sincere smile, eyes drifting shut. “Glad… you’re alive, too…”
Derek watches for a moment, listens to the soft beeps of the machinery, Stiles inhaling, exhaling. It’s strangely soothing. He drifts off with Stiles’ heartbeat an even rhythm in his ears, doesn’t leave until Cora clears her throat at the door and tells him she’s starving.
They eat take out on a bench and Cora asks where they’re going to live, now. Derek grimaces, suggests the car. Cora dumps plum sauce in his lap. It’s nice— despite Derek’s cuts and bruises, and Cora’s pinched expression as though she’s still afraid Derek will disappear again—like they’re almost back to their version of normal.
Scott finds him sitting on the same bench a few days later. Allison is standing at the entrance to the hospital, chewing on her lip as she looks over at them, and Derek gives her a curt nod. Scott rolls his eyes at her, but there’s a grin on his face as he sits down.
“How are you?”
Derek arches an eyebrow, “Aside from the fact we had to kill my insane uncle for the second time in as many years, okay. You?”
Scott shrugs, “I’m fine, seriously,” he adds at Derek’s small noise of derision. “Peter wasn’t my alpha.”
“He bit you, though, you had to have had some sort of connection.”
“Not the way I’m connected to the pack,” Scott scrunches up his face, thinking hard. “I guess because I didn’t want the bond, eventually it closed up?”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“How does it work then?” Scott huffs, glaring at him.
Derek looks at his hands, “I don’t know, now. I don’t have anyone to ask.”
“Deaton values the power of knowing what everyone else doesn’t,” Derek interrupts, “Take anything he says with a grain of salt, Scott.”
“Okay,” Scott looks at him steadily, “But, I trust him.”
“And… I trust you.”
Derek blinks in surprise, “I… you do?”
“Yeah,” Scott pats him on the shoulder carefully, “There aren’t a lot of people that would go tearing after an insane werewolf to protect my best friend.”
“It’s Stiles,” Derek shrugs, “What else was I supposed to do?”
“Leave us to handle it,” Scott points out mildly, “You’ve done it before.”
“You called, you knew I would come.”
“I’m just saying,” Scott cuts in, “I trusted you to have our backs this time, and you did.”
Derek nods, doesn’t know what else to say. For a moment they sit watching the leaves drift past. A siren starts wailing, someone in one of the rooms above them is watching a sitcom that fills Derek’s ears with loud, tinny laughter. Life is moving on around them, and he’s unsure where he fits in.
“I’m going upstairs,” Scott announces into the silence, “You coming?”
Derek hesitates, looks up as Scott stands and stretches out his hand to Derek. He looks hopeful, earnest and well-meaning in ways Derek has never managed to understand. He can’t bring himself to take any more of that good faith away, nods again.
“Thank god,” Scott laughs, “Stiles spent all of yesterday morning complaining I wouldn’t wait on him hand and foot like you did.”
Derek rolls his eyes, “That’s a blatant lie.”
“Yeah, but it still made me feel bad,” Scott grins, “Come on, Allison will let us in.”
And, isn’t Derek’s life full of strange ironies; a hunter that was once a dangerous enemy is providing Derek with access to a once irritating, disposable human that he’s suddenly itching to check on.
Change has never confused Derek before. It’s more unsettling than the usual disappointment and grief, anger and resignation he feels when there’s a change. This change is perhaps… a good one.
“You know what I really miss?”
Derek glances up from the book he’s been reading, eyes flying straight to where Stiles is gazing out of the window.
“Your ability to stay quiet for five minutes?”
Stiles snorts, “I never had that, dude.”
“Untrue,” Derek corrects him, “There was one evening we did research when you didn’t speak for two hours.”
“You timed it?”
He shrugs, closes his book as it’s clear Stiles does need to talk. It’s become obvious that he uses speech to express himself the same way Derek uses silence. Where people assume Derek is calm, composed, and Stiles impulsive and reckless, they’d be surprised to learn it’s a different story underneath. Derek is shocked to have realized he’s learnt these things about Stiles’ mannerisms on their strange journey together. It’s not even unwelcome when Stiles begins thinking aloud these days; he finds himself enjoying the lull of his voice.
That’s possibly just as worrying as the fact he’s beginning to go back to their cheap, shitty apartment smelling more like Stiles than anything else.
Originally, he was visiting every day because he knew Stiles would be lonely, bored, and he felt compelled to keep him occupied—even if he didn’t do much more than argue with Stiles about crossword answers, or watch endless episodes of Days Of Our Lives with him—it was out of guilt. He was the reason Stiles was cooped up in hospital, instead of enjoying his last semester at school. After a while, however, Derek found himself looking forward to the visits. He’s come each day for nearly two weeks, and it’s something he wakes up thinking about.
Instead of revealing any of these embarrassing thoughts to Stiles, he clears his throat, returns to the topic at hand. “You gave me a book written in Greek; I had nothing better to do than look at my watch.”
Stiles eyes him for a moment in bewilderment, and then his face clears, eyes brightening. Derek feels something lighten in his chest just watching the transformation.
“Oh my god, you couldn’t just ask for a book in English?!”
Derek scowls, “No, not at the time.”
“Because you were already being a bossy know it all and I didn’t want to look—”
“You didn’t wanna look stupid, oh, Derek,” Stiles shakes his head, smiling almost fondly at Derek. “You were actually the dumbest alpha ever.”
Derek tries not to let that ruffle his feathers, but Stiles must see his shoulders tense, and his smile dims. “Dude, I didn’t mean it like that. Alphas are allowed to not know stuff, and ask for help from members of their pack.”
Derek’s eyebrows shoot up, “You were in my pack?”
“Wow, try not to sound any more horrified,” Stiles glares at him, “I’m in Scott’s pack, you’re in Scott’s pack, we’re all—I don’t know…” he swallows, sighs heavily, “I figured we were all in the same pack by now. Haven’t we saved one another enough?”
“That’s not how a pack works,” Derek says carefully, heart racing double time at the idea that Stiles considers them… that Derek might maybe be allowed the comfort of a pack, again.
“It seems to me, pack is like the people you rely on most,” Stiles gestures between them with his good hand, “I think we’re pack, man. But, that’s just me,” he quirks a hesitant smile at Derek. “Do you have a better offer than the true alpha and his broken, argumentative best friend.”
Derek rolls his eyes, “You’re not broken, Stiles.”
Stiles pointedly looks at the cast on his leg, and then at the one on his wrist, “Hate to be contrary—”
“No, you don’t.”
Stiles barks out a surprised laugh, “Dude! A joke? So early in the day, too.”
Derek bares his teeth at him, and Stiles widens his eyes in mock fright.
“You were saying,” Derek prompts after a moment of them looking at one another and nothing else.
“Oh, yeah,” Stiles sighs loudly, “I miss pizza.”
“Order some then.”
“To my hospital room? Dude, this is already costing my dad a fortune,” Stiles pulls a face, “I’m kissing college goodbye for sure.”
Derek winces, “Stiles, there are ways—”
“Forget about it,” Stiles cuts in, “I was just having a moment of self-pity, dude, don’t worry, the party’s all yours again, now.”
“Asshole,” Derek huffs.
“Takes one to know one,” Stiles replies blithely. “Is there any jello left?”
There’s a rap on the door, and then the Sheriff lets himself in. He looks weary, smells like coffee, exhaustion and Stiles. Derek stands and offers his chair to him immediately.
“Thanks, son,” the Sheriff nods, sits down heavily and pats Stiles’ bed, “How you doin’ this morning, kid?”
“Derek made a joke,” Stiles tells him, and Derek raises his eyes heavenward.
“Uh huh, that not usual? He’s always cracking wise when you’re asleep,” the Sheriff muses.
Both Derek and Stiles scowl at him, most probably for different reasons, and he chuckles to himself.
Derek lets them talk for a moment as he surveys the hospital room in search of left over jello. Stiles is notorious for having eyes bigger than his stomach, and he’s always leaving half-finished pots around.
He’s thinking hard as he looks, pondering over what Stiles had said about college, about how much this stay will be costing the Stilinskis. It won’t be long before Stiles has to go home, and he’ll need help, so much help. Derek’s seen the Sheriff looking at paperwork with a deep frown whilst Stiles has been asleep. He wouldn’t dream of offering money, knows the Sheriff would never take it anyway—even if Derek feels as if this is on him, on his family. He needs to approach the situation differently, give what he can. He doesn’t know what else he has to offer, though.
Once Stiles has dozed off, teasingly promising them both he won’t go anywhere, Derek follows the Sheriff outside, clears his throat.
“What is it, kid?”
Derek startles, “I—”
“You’ve looked penchant all morning, and I’m not saying you’re normally a vibrant contributor to the conversation, but you do tend to have at least one retort when Stiles is ribbing you.”
“You need help,” Derek says bluntly, and then amends his statement when the Sheriff’s eyebrows shoot up. “I mean, with Stiles, you’re going to need help.”
“Well, sure,” the Sheriff scratches the back of his neck, “We can figure it out, mind, we always do.”
“I want to… help.”
“Now, look here, kid—”
“I wouldn’t be doing it because of that,” he says quickly, “But, it would… I can do that,” he glances up at the Sheriff earnestly. “It won’t bother me if Stiles gets tetchy, and I’m strong enough to help him around. Scott’s got school, and I know Stiles won’t let him stay behind every day. Those physiotherapists cost a fortune, and I don’t need paying, or—”
“Derek,” the Sheriff holds up a hand, “Slow down.” He pinches the bridge of his nose, gives Derek a considering look, “You want to deal with my son when he’s incapable of looking after himself, and loathing every minute of it?”
Derek pulls a face, “Not entirely, but, I can.”
“Ah huh. Stiles won’t like it.”
“He’ll get used to it,” Derek rolls his eyes, “It’s me, or an expensive carer, and I know he’ll see the logic of a—a friend helping.”
The Sheriff hums, points at him, “You’re telling him. But, let me be there, I wanna see the look on his face.”
Derek huffs a laugh, nods, “Sure, okay.”
Stiles doesn’t like it. But, he gives in as soon as Derek points out he’s free help. He still complains about Derek being around far too much for his liking, and Derek generously doesn’t call him on the lie.
Despite his protests that he didn’t need any help, Stiles throws an arm over Derek’s shoulders on the second stair up to his room, and groans loudly.
“Okay, you win, I concede, please help me up the stairs.”
Derek smirks, “Did you actually say you win and please in the same sentence?”
“Oh, shut up. Can’t you just let me enjoy being home for one second?”
“Enjoy,” Derek echoes, “What does that mean?”
Stiles snickers, presses his weight into Derek as they move up the stairs, “Scott will never believe me when I tell him you crack jokes, dude. You really need to make one in front of him.”
“Nope,” Derek pushes open Stiles’ door, helps him hop over to the bed, “Too much effort to be funny in front of two people at once.”
Stiles rolls his eyes, “Jesus, you are chirpy when your life’s not in danger. How did I never know this?”
“Hm,” Derek taps his chin, “Perhaps because my life is constantly in danger when I’m around you?”
Stiles flips him off, squirms around on the bed, “So, what now?” He peeks up at Derek from under his lashes, and Derek looks determinedly away, shrugs.
“What do you normally do on a Tuesday afternoon with no school?”
“Ah,” Stiles smirks, “Nothing you’d deem appropriate for the healing process.”
Derek snorts, looks around Stiles’ somewhat dusty room, shudders at the faint left over scent Peter left behind.
“Maybe we should clean up.”
“We?” Stiles shakes his head, flops back onto his pillows, “No way, man, doc said no exertion for two weeks. I don’t plan on moving.”
“You’ll get fat,” Derek swats a stray sweater at his non-cast leg, “You need to do some stretches every day.”
“And, you uh,” Stiles wets his lips, cheeks flushing a little, “You have to help with that?”
“Some days,” Derek pauses from picking up several comics, tosses them on the desk. “Scott can trade off with me, I guess.”
“Trade off?” Stiles huffs indignantly, “Gee, talk about me like I’m a prize pig or something.”
“Don’t be foolish,” Derek dismisses, “I never said you were a prize.”
The Sheriff sweeps into the room before Stiles can argue any further, places Stiles’ new meds on the bedside table and sits carefully beside him.
“Alright, kid, I’ve gotta get to work.”
“Sure, dad, don’t worry about me,” Stiles jerks a thumb at Derek, “I’ve got all the company I need in old smiley face over there.”
Derek balls up a blank piece of paper and throws it at his head. Stiles tries to catch it, ends up swatting his cast in his face and grunting.
“Easy, son,” the Sheriff chuckles, “And, you,” he points at Derek, “Don’t be encouraging him to get into more trouble.”
“Sorry,” Derek ducks his head, ignores Stiles gawping in the background.
“Alright, I’ll see you boys later,” the Sheriff stands, “There’s pizza money downstairs,” he winks at Derek, “Little birdy told me you were missing it.”
“Oh, dad you’re the best,” Stiles breathes out, “You’re okay, I guess,” he adds to Derek.
The Sheriff harrumphs at them, and leaves the room. Stiles makes gimme gestures at Derek’s phone.
“What, you want this?” Derek crosses to stand in front of him, hovers it in front of his face, “This? You gonna reach a little—” Stiles punches him in the thigh, dangerously close to his dick, and he groans, drops the phone.
“Serves you right,” Stiles mutters, scrolling through his contacts. “Hey, you never changed my name on here? Aw, dude,” he grins up at Derek, “I’m still your number one human.”
“I don’t know how to edit them,” Derek argues hotly, trying to snatch his phone back.
Stiles presses something that brings up the camera, grins at the screen until there’s a click. He keeps Derek at bay with one limp hand to his chest—Derek can’t even be bothered to try and fight the injured person currently holding his phone hostage—and messes around until Derek can see the picture is now set as his screen saver.
“Very funny,” he says drily.
“’S’what I’m here for,” Stiles scratches underneath his arm cast, “That, and pithy one liners right before we nearly die.”
“I believe I had the last one, actually.”
Stiles goes still, watches him cross to sit in the chair nearest the bed.
“You… remember all of it?”
Derek nods shortly, “You don’t?”
“Nah,” Stiles scrubs a hand through his hair, squints at him, “Bits and pieces? I remember yelling at you a lot, and uh, you being on top of me, right before—you know—it happened.”
“We were arguing about whether or not I should leave you to die alone,” Derek grits out; irritated at just the memory of Stiles implying he should go.
Stiles winces, “Oh. Shit.”
“Yeah,” Derek glares at him.
“Heh, for what it’s worth,” Stiles glances up a little nervously, “I’m grateful you stayed.”
Derek feels his face soften, and ducks his head, “How about that pizza?”
“Dude, I knew there was a reason I was willing to keep you around,” Stiles snaps his fingers, “Get to it, Mister.” When Derek snaps his teeth at Stiles’ fingers, he barks out a laugh, and Derek is surprised at how rare a sound it is to him. He resolves to make sure he gives Stiles cause to do it more often.
Stiles throws a cracker at Derek’s head, draws his attention back from where he was staring into space.
“Dude! That’s like the third time you’ve yawned in as many minutes.”
“I was up late,” Derek rubs his eyes, “Cora kept complaining about the couple three down having sex.”
“Was it at least good sounding sex?”
Derek rolls his eyes, “I don’t know, I was trying to sleep.”
“So, you can block that stuff out, but she can’t?”
“No, she just chooses to bitch about it, instead of putting a pillow over her head.”
“Why don’t you just get a new place?”
Derek shifts in his chair, tries not to look guilty, “That’s not a priority right now.”
Stiles arches an eyebrow, “Wow, so, you know how werewolves have a bullshit barometer because you have special ‘magic’ powers?”
“They’re not ‘magic’ powers—”
“I have a special power dedicated entirely to knowing when Derek Hale is avoiding answering a question truthfully.” Stiles glances at his nails, smirking slightly, “I’ve been finely tuning it since the day we met.”
“I didn’t even speak to you the day we met.”
“We made eye contact, it was enough.”
Derek feels his eyebrows shoot up in surprise, narrows his eyes as the tips of Stiles’ ears start turning pink.
“What?” Stiles doesn’t look up from where he’s trying to get a fork underneath his arm cast, “I noticed you glaring in my direction, is all.”
“Okay,” Derek says slowly. “That’s severely unhygienic, Stiles.”
Stiles groans and tosses the fork to the side, “Then what do you suggest? It’s driving me nuts. You gonna use a damn claw?”
Derek flicks his claws out, gives him a questioning look.
“What—really?” Stiles nods eagerly, “You don’t mind?”
“I can try,” Derek shrugs, “One of my cousins once—he—broke his ankle playing catch with us.”
Stiles blinks up at him, “He was… human?”
“Yeah,” Derek clears his throat, moves to the bed and takes Stiles’ arm gently. “Yeah, but he always tried to keep up with us, regardless.”
“So, you had other aunts and uncles, not just Peter?”
Derek nods, focuses on scratching his claw systematically along Stiles’ wrist.
“He was married?”
“No,” Derek snorts, “No, my father had a sister, Lorna.”
“You guys really liked keeping names in the family, huh?” Derek pinches his skin on purpose and Stiles hisses, “Dude, I’m just kidding! Let’s be real, I don’t have a foot to stand on when it comes to names.”
“You don’t have a foot to stand on, period,” Derek says with a smirk.
Stiles huffs out a laugh just as Derek hears Scott comes up the drive.
He sits back, not entirely sure what to do with himself, and Stiles’ face falls, “What? You okay? Do you mind talking about them?”
“It’s not that,” he promises, “That was… it was nice to remember,” he crooks him a soft smile, turns to face the door just as Scott comes bounding in. Derek’s aware Stiles’ gaze takes a second too long to snap from him to his friend, but, he brushes it aside, greets Scott amiably.
“Hey,” Scott beams, bounces over to the bed to give Stiles an awkward, one armed hug. “You missed a big math test today, dude.”
Scott pulls a sheepish face, “But, I have it here for you.”
“Aw, no, Scotty, why?! You’re bringing me math tests? I’m convalescing!”
Derek tugs the sheets from Scott’s hands, looks over the quiz and shakes his head, “These are so much easier than they were in my day.”
Both Scott and Stiles twist to look at him, Scott awestruck, and Stiles stupidly proud.
“Did you just make an old timer joke?”
“It was a one-time thing,” Derek dismisses, “But,” he points at Stiles, “Don’t say I never do anything for you.”
“Are you kidding? Makin’ jokes about being old, clawing my itchy skin? Dude, you are fast becoming an awesome person in my book.”
“Clawing your itchy skin?” Scott repeats incredulously.
“I wasn’t awesome before?” Derek asks mildly at the same time.
Stiles blinks at them both, “Uh.”
“Never mind,” Derek stands, touches Stiles’ wrist briefly and then claps Scott on the shoulder, “I’m going to make dinner.”
“Cool,” Stiles waves him away, but Scott looks between them in surprise.
“You’re… you cook?”
Derek arches an eyebrow at him, “You don’t?”
“No, I mean, yes, I just… Can’t picture you cooking.”
“If you try hard enough, you can picture him doing anything,” Stiles grins, and then his cheeks flame red, expression suddenly embarrassed. “That came out wrong.”
Derek rolls his eyes, “Half of what you say comes out wrong, moron.”
“So nice to have you around,” Stiles yells after him. “I can feel the love.”
“You do smell kinda like a lot of affection, right now, dude,” Scott tells him.
“Scott, shut up!”
“You know, I think I’m gonna keep this chair in here full time,” Stiles calls from where he’s sitting in the shower.
Derek’s googling recipes where he can sneak in tofu without the Sheriff or Stiles noticing, hums his approval.
“Like, why isn’t this the way every shower works? Wouldn’t you rather sit in the shower? How much energy have I been wasting in here standing?!” There’s a pause, and then Stiles’ heartbeat picks up. “Derek?”
Derek jerks his head up from his phone in time to see Stiles yank back the curtain, eyes wide in a panic.
“Yeah? You okay?”
“Yeah,” Stiles blinks water out of his eyes, looks abashed, “I just… you hadn’t said anything in a while, and I can’t hear much in here as it is.”
“I hadn’t gone anywhere.”
“I know, god, don’t make a big deal about it,” Stiles huffs, glaring before pulling the curtain back in front of him.
Derek smirks, reaches for a towel and tosses it over the curtain pole for Stiles to grab. “You were the one missing me after ten seconds.”
“Asshole, don’t mock the cripple!”
“You’re not a cripple; you’re just a drama queen.”
Stiles tugs on the shower curtain again, glares as soon as their eyes meet. His hair is fluffed up from where he’s rubbed at it with the towel, and the towel itself is loose around his hips. He wasn’t exactly fat before, but he’s definitely lost muscle weight since the incident. Derek prods at his hipbone.
“You’re getting skinny again, too.”
“Thank you for your analysis report,” Stiles snaps, “I can’t exactly help the thinness, though, so,” he waves an arm in the air, “Can I do my teeth in peace?”
“I was just saying.”
“Don’t! Go back to the not talking you’re so damn good at.”
Derek glowers at him in the mirror, and Stiles writes YOU SUCK in the steamed up glass. He begins hobbling back to his room, and Derek pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration when he bats Derek’s hands away.
“You could let me help—”
“You made sure I didn’t fall in the shower, mission accomplished for the day! Besides, if I spend too much time with you, I might start looking like obvious bait for the next god damn villain of the week!” Stiles slams his bedroom door in Derek’s face.
Derek scowls at it, tries and fails to come up with a decent retort.
He marches downstairs, casts his eyes around the living room, grabs a spare cushion, takes it outside, tosses it in the air and bashes it as hard as he can. It thuds against the wall at the back of the yard, lands in the dirt.
He attempts the calming breaths Cora teasingly suggested, and after a moment regrets his loss in patience. Carefully, he picks his way through the shrubbery to retrieve the cushion, makes his way back inside.
The Sheriff’s sitting at the kitchen table; glasses perched in the end of his nose, coffee steaming beside him.
“There’s still some hot water going,” he says casually.
Derek picks up a mug, pours himself a strong, black coffee, and sits down at the table.
After a heavy silence, the Sheriff clears his throat and when Derek looks up, he finds an inquisitive gaze waiting him out.
“It’s fine,” Derek says stiltedly. “It’s to be expected that he’s—he’s being—”
“A little awkward?”
Derek chuffs out a laugh, “That’s one way to put it.”
“Son,” the Sheriff sits back in his chair, considers him for a moment, “Have you talked to anyone about all of this?”
“All of—I’m fine,” Derek insists quickly, “I don’t need to talk to anyone.”
“Your family alone, Derek, that was a huge, terrible thing to have happened to you. Cora coming home—”
“Cora being home is great, I would never—”
“It’s still an adjustment, kid. Not to mention the woman you trusted turned out to be a very dangerous, vindictive ah—Darach? Right?” Derek nods shortly. “Ah huh, and she tried to hurt all of us, but she only really successfully hurt you, Derek. You’ve lost people this year, too.” He picks up some files from the table, and Derek winces when he spots a picture of Boyd smiling at the camera for a school photograph.
“I can’t,” he manages in a small voice, “I don’t deserve to talk about that—them.”
“Everyone with good in them deserves a chance to heal, son,” the Sheriff picks up his mug, waves it at him, “And, you got a lot of good in you from what I can see.”
“But, they were so young,” Derek clenches his jaw, looks down at the table top. “I made a mistake too big to fix.”
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen overnight,” the Sheriff says gently, “But, it might help to try.”
Derek rolls back his shoulders, juts his head in a small nod to let him know he’s heard, but can’t bring himself to form words. He can’t find the right ones. The Sheriff goes back to filling in his papers, lets Derek sit with his thoughts in the quiet of the kitchen. It’s almost peaceful.
Then, there’s a shout from upstairs. Both of them are on their feet in an instant, racing through the hall to the source of the noise. Derek’s heart is in his throat as Stiles’ panic invades his senses; his shouting getting louder, the sheets rustling as if he’s struggling, a thud as something hits the floor.
They burst into Stiles’ bedroom, and Derek sees that he’s asleep, strides over to the bed with the Sheriff close behind, putting away his gun as soon as he sees the room is clear.
“Stiles,” Derek murmurs, catching hold of his shoulders and shaking him quickly. “Stiles!”
Stiles waves his free arm in the air frantically, knocks Derek in the face as he comes to, blinking rapidly.
“Yeah, yeah, we’re here.”
“I’m here, son,” the Sheriff rushes to his other side, catches his hand, “You’re safe.”
“I couldn’t move,” Stiles pants out, eyes watering as he digs his nails into Derek’s arm. “Everyone was dying and I couldn’t stop it.”
“It wasn’t real,” Derek promises, “We’re still here.”
“You were dead,” Stiles looks straight at him, “Peter, he—”
“Peter is gone. He’s dead. He’s never going to hurt anyone, or take anyone ever again.”
Stiles leans back against the pillows, gives them both a weak smile. “I know, I know, I just—” he scrunches his eyes shut. “It was so fucking real.”
“Language,” the Sheriff chides gently, pushing Stiles’ hair back. “You’re gonna offend Derek’s poor, sensitive ears with that foul talk.”
Stiles almost laughs at that, rolls his eyes, “Sorry.”
The Sheriff’s pager beeps, and he stands, clucks his tongue as he checks it. “Break in down town.” He glances down at them, and Stiles waves the hand not still clinging to Derek’s arm.
“Go, it’s cool, dad,” he twists to look at Derek, “You can stay for like, a while, right?”
“Of course,” Derek agrees, “Cora’s with Allison and Lydia tonight, studying.”
“Studying,” Stiles snorts, “Sure.”
He’s still pale, hand clammy and sweaty, and Derek gets up to find him a sweater as the Sheriff bids him a goodnight.
When he returns to the bed, Stiles’ heartbeat is steady, but his eyes are wary as he watches Derek.
“What I said before—”
“Forget it,” Derek cuts in, wordlessly waves the sweater at him until Stiles obligingly lifts an arm.
“No,” Stiles muffles through the fabric, “It was shitty of me.”
“Not particularly out of the ordinary,” Derek sighs, tugs the sweater over Stiles’ cast arm and then flops down next the bed. “Besides, you had a point.”
“A decidedly uncool one considering how much you’ve been helping me, man,” Stiles wets his lips, “I’m sorry.”
Derek blinks in surprise, and then nods, pats the bed awkwardly, “Me too.”
“For everything, I suppose, for getting you mixed up in this, for Jennifer with your dad and—”
“Derek,” Stiles interrupts, rolling his eyes, “You seem to laboring under a false delusion, dude. Scott and I… Okay, our lives weren’t sunshine and roses before you butted your way into them, scowling and growling.”
“Scowling and growling.”
“You did a lot of both,” Stiles pats his hand, “Accept it. Seriously, though, we didn’t have it easy before, and without you? If it had just been us versus Peter? We’d have been dead a million times over. Look at what happened the second you left town!”
“Yes, which again—”
“Was your fault, yadiyadayada, maybe you should get over your issue with blaming yourself for every little thing that happens to everyone else, man; it’s very self-centered of you.”
Derek feels his mouth fall open, offended, and then he sees Stiles’ lips twitch.
“Oh, screw you.”
“I have said before that—” Stiles flushes very suddenly, and begins to pick at his bed covers. “So,” he says briskly, “Are you sticking around?”
“I said I would,” Derek points out.
“Yeah, but you might have been saying that for my dad’s benefit!”
“Stiles,” Derek stands, whips a pillow up and hits him gently with it, “Stop fishing for implications I give a shit about you; you know it’s true, already and it’s terribly egotistical.”
“Oh, shut up!” Stiles begins to scoot over, gestures to the bed, “You wanna, uh, watch a movie?”
Derek hesitates, “Don’t you want to see if you can get some more sleep?”
“What, and you’re just gonna sit in the corner and watch me sleep?”
“No,” Derek says hotly, “I would have gone downstairs, eventually.”
“You have such weird creeper tendencies, dude,” Stiles tries to grab for his laptop, fails several times and makes whining noises until Derek rolls his eyes and hands it over. “Thank you, creeper.”
“I am not a creeper,” Derek huffs, kicking off his sneakers and sitting on the edge of the bed gingerly.
“Sure, whatever you say,” Stiles shifts around, leans his shoulder into Derek’s and scrolls through movies. “You wanna pick?”
Derek shrugs, “I don’t know what any of them are.”
“Well, what are you in the mood for?”
“I don’t mi—”
“Don’t say you don’t mind, that’s literally the worst, ever.”
“But, I don’t—”
“Derek!” Stiles twists to look at him impatiently, and their noses almost bash with how close they are. Stiles exhales sharply, eyes flicking down to Derek’s mouth before quickly looking back up at him. “Choose, jackass.”
“Fine,” Derek keeps eye contact, avoids dropping his gaze, “Something with minimal violence.”
“You sure you don’t wanna watch a bunch of stuff get blown up? It’s pretty therapeutic.”
Derek shakes his head, “No, we’ve had enough of that for a while.”
“Okay,” Stiles clicks on something, nudges him gently, “Just say if Channing Tatum’s face is too scary for you.”
Derek snorts, settles in next to Stiles to watch a terrible movie about inadequate cops going back to high school. He pointedly ignores Stiles’ jibe about Derek getting a job similar to theirs; seeing as he spends so much time in school, too.
Stiles falls asleep before the credits, head lolling onto Derek’s shoulder, his arm cast brushing Derek’s wrist. Derek grabs a marker from the bedside table, doodles on the cast until the movie ends.
Stiles calls to yell at him in the morning, when he finds the heart with Channing Tatum’s name in the middle. Derek smirks down the phone, listens to him rant as he’s driving to the grocery store, picking up milk and eggs, paying, and letting himself into the Stilinski household. Stiles doesn’t even seem out of breath when Derek appears with a bagel, and throws it at him.
“Would you say you’d be comfortable living next to a sewer?”
Derek lifts his head from the book he’d stolen from Stiles’ shelves, drawn away from the bizarre life of Garp, and into reality.
Stiles tugs a pen out of his mouth, points at his laptop screen, “There’s a decent, two bedroom apartment this side of town, but it’s right by a plantation.” He taps his nose with the pen, points at Derek, “Would that be a real issue?”
“Yes,” Derek says flatly, “For anyone.”
“Plenty of the reviews say you can’t even notice!”
“Fine, then for me, yes.”
“Veto, then,” Stiles draws a line through something, begins typing again.
“What are you doing?” Derek gets up, comes over to the bed as Stiles shrugs, cranes his neck to look up at him.
“You’re dragging your feet about finding a place, and I’m super bored when you, dad and Scott are busy having normal, four limbed lives.”
“So, you’re apartment hunting for me, online.”
“Yep,” Stiles pops the p loudly, smirks at him. “I know better than anyone what you’d look for. And, I’ve been on the phone to your sister—she’s coming over later, and you guys can pick some places to go see.”
“How do you—” Derek looks down at a notepad in Stiles’ lap, balks at the list. “I do not need space to practice my backflips.”
“They were getting a little rusty, man; you need to keep up on these things.”
Derek cuffs him round the head, sits down next to him as he snatches up the list and the pen. “I do not need two bathrooms—”
“Cora, dude, your sister will want her own bathroom, trust me.”
“Fine, but a spare room?”
“What happens if Isaac stays over, or if I’m too tired to walk home? I’ll still be healing from a broken leg!”
“Why would you be over in the first place?” Derek sniffs, “Who says I’m inviting you?”
“I say,” Stiles elbows him, grabs the pen back and begins writing again.
“Hey, Stiles! I don’t need a pool.”
“We’ve had some good times in a pool together, don’t be too hasty to dismiss them.”
“They cost hundreds of dollars,” Derek tries to steal the pen back to cross out the new check box, and Stiles holds it out away from the bed.
“Na uh,” he grins at Derek, wiggles his eyebrows, “Say the magic word.”
“Give it to me.”
“You know, those are magic words, but I’m not sure the pen would be particularly comfortable.”
Derek leans over him, ignoring the innuendo, and scowls when Stiles blocks him with his whole body.
“Stiles! This isn’t good for you.”
“I had physio with a very grumpy werewolf that made me do all sorts of uncomfortable stretches this morning, man; I am feeling limber.”
Derek knows what Stiles is trying to do, will not be wound up by a few stupid, distracting words. Just as he wasn’t diverted from his task this morning, with Stiles stretching and flexing in front of him, he will not be diverted now. He launches forward, rests his weight either side of Stiles—practically straddling him—and Stiles yelps, flails backwards and drops the pen. Derek catches it, gives him a shit eating grin from where he’s poised astride of him, and then takes stock of where he is.
“Yeah,” Stiles mutters, eyes darting along Derek’s shoulders, to the pen, Derek’s mouth, his neck, and then back up to his face.
“I win,” Derek says stupidly.
Stiles snickers, “Congrats,” he shifts, and Derek feels his thighs flex beneath him, flinches at the sensation. “Sooo, do you just enjoy lying on top of me?”
Derek jerks back, tries to get his breathing under control, curses himself for forgetting that Stiles is young, injured, and in need of someone caring for him right now, not someone ready for the mess that is Derek, and his huge tangle of issues.
“Here,” he tosses the pen back to Stiles hurriedly, rolls off the bed. “I’m gonna go—”
“Use the bathroom?” Stiles asks, blinking innocently up at him.
Derek huffs, leaves the room before he does something stupid like roll back on top of him and soak in his warmth, kiss his stupid, pretty, argumentative mouth until it’s red and wet and Derek’s name is falling from it constantly. He shakes himself in the corridor. This was not in his plans.
After a walk around the block, Derek returns to Cora and Allison sitting on the bed with Stiles. Cora’s drawing over some of Derek’s doodles, and he can’t totally explain why, but it makes his hackles rise a little. Allison’s nodding at something Stiles is showing her, glances up just a little warily when she sees Derek.
Derek nods jerkily, shirks his jacket, “Hey.”
“Do you guys need a ref?” Stiles looks between them, “Is this gonna go south?”
Allison shakes her head, eyes still on Derek, “We’re okay, if you’re okay?”
Derek swallows, looks to Cora whose expression is cautiously hopeful—he knew those two would like each other—and to Stiles who gives him an encouraging nod.
“I guess,” he cracks his neck and Stiles rolls his eyes, mutters something about posturing. Derek scowls, finds a random cracker and tosses it in his face.
“Always with the throwing stuff at me,” Stiles bats it away, “Anyone would think you had a fixation with my face!”
Derek opens his mouth to retort, but is beaten to it by Cora snorting pointedly. She and Stiles share a look, where no words are exchanged, but there’s definitely a conversation taking place. Derek is irritated at himself for being just a little bit jealous.
“For what it’s worth,” Allison stands, draws his attention away from being petty and insecure about his sister and Stiles. “I would like it if we could be… allies.”
Derek arches an eyebrow in surprise, “Allies.”
“People that gain mutual benefits from associating,” Stiles interrupts with a steely voice. “Like, keeping everyone within their pack happy, because they know how to play nice.”
Derek scrunches his nose up at him, turns back to Allison, “I can do that.”
“Me too,” she gives him a timid smile, bites her lip, “I’m not sure what my dad’ll say, but—”
Stiles makes a derisive noise, and Allison swings round to punch him on the shoulder gently.
“He’s not as bad as he was,” she promises, glances at Derek firmly, “He’s trying.”
Derek can’t hear a lie in her voice, can tell his sister and Stiles both want this, want him to be comfortable in Allison’s presence, and so he nods again. He moves to sit close to the window, away from Allison, but still in the room, and Stiles winks at him, punches the air in a mock cheer.
“Good for you, bud, embracing change.”
“Shut up,” Derek mutters, stealing the notebook to stare determinedly at the list of places Stiles has.
“Well,” Cora says bracingly, “That was tragic.”
Allison rolls her eyes, picks her things up off the bed and nods to Stiles and Derek, “See you soon?”
“Hell yeah, you’ll see me jogging every day—” Stiles cracks up at his own joke, and they all give him disdainful looks. It does manage to ease the tension, though, and Allison bobs her head, leaves the room.
Stiles looks from Cora to Derek, blows out a breath, “Well, can I be the first to say I’m proud of you for not wolfing out.”
“I can control myself, you know,” Derek huffs indignantly.
“I know,” Stiles reaches out to pat his arm, gives him a fond look, “I’m just giving you a little love after such a trying moment.”
“God, get a room,” Cora snarks, kicks her feet up on Stiles’ bed and flips open a magazine.
“I have one,” Stiles points out, “You’re in it.”
“I’d like one of my own,” Cora muses casually, “If my brother would at least agree to go see a place.”
“Fine,” Derek snaps, aware of Stiles still idly patting his arm like it’s nothing, and needing for it to stop before he gets too used to it. “Let’s go look at a place.”
Stiles pulls up straight, “Aw, can I come?”
Derek rolls his eyes, “I thought you’d already invited yourself.”
“Well, it’s always nice to be asked, jackass.”
“We should make sure to get a place with bedrooms on opposite sides of the apartment,” Cora says sweetly as she stands, “Just knowing what kind of foreplay your own brother is into is difficult enough; I don’t want to have to listen to it all the time, too.”
Derek’s mouth falls open as Stiles begins spluttering indignantly.
Stiles is lazing around on the couch watching a decade old episode of The Simpsons when Derek gets home from his run. He pauses from pulling out the earbuds Stiles had lent him, insisting Derek couldn’t run in silence—“Silence is boring, Derek! Running is already terrible enough! Take these!” Fine, anything to shut you up—and looks at him.
He kicks his sneakers off, pads into the living room, wondering when he began considering the Stilinski’s house as somewhere safe, somewhere he thought of as a home. He supposes it could be linked back to when Stiles had reluctantly harbored him during the police hunt. Or, perhaps more recently with the way the Sheriff has so easily sat with Derek at the kitchen table until late into the evening, or he’s spent so much time knocking around Stiles’ room, learning about him, teasing him, helping him recuperate.
Either way, Derek breathes easily here. It is a place he considers home, these are people he trusts.
“Hey buttface,” Stiles peeks over the couch at him. “Whatcha doin’?”
“Thinking about how much of a loser you are,” Derek replies smoothly, throwing the earbuds at him.
Stiles yelps, tangles himself in them briefly, and then tosses them to the side. “Ass!”
“You have a good run?”
Derek shrugs, collapses next to him on the couch and picks Stiles’ cast leg up, rests it in his lap.
“Not too far. Your toes look disgusting. When was the last time you washed them.”
“Bite me,” Stiles wiggles said toes in Derek’s direction, “It’s not like it’s easy to get down there at the moment. It’s the least of my worries, anyway; jerking off is a distant memory, okay.”
Derek swallows hard, flicks his big toe, and looks determinedly at the television.
“When’s your dad home?”
“’Bout an hour,” Stiles cracks a yawn, “You wanna take a nap for a bit, make dinner in about half an hour?”
“I should shower,” Derek points out.
“Yeah, you do smell pretty ripe.”
“How you can notice over your own stench is beyond me.”
“Ha,” Stiles clutches his chest, and then wiggles down the couch, props his other leg up in Derek’s lap. “Just stay, for a bit.”
“Derek!” Stiles’ indignant expression dims, and he bites his lip, looks away. “I want to sleep and it always feels… safer when you’re here. Can you just, sit down?”
Derek nods understandingly, “Yeah, okay, I get that.” He gets it more than he’s going to ever let on, if he’s honest. Being with Stiles is soothing in a way he can’t even explain.
He stops trying to think about it as Stiles shifts around getting comfortable, allows himself to drift off to the background noise of the tv. Stiles a comforting weight beside him.
They’re both woken when the Sheriff and Cora come in together, Cora saying something that makes the Sheriff laugh sharply.
“Evening boys,” the Sheriff smirks down at them. “Comfy?”
“I was,” Stiles mutters darkly, trying to bury his face in the couch cushions once again.
Derek rubs his face, notices that in sleep he’s leant into Stiles and tries to sit up quickly.
“No,” Stiles tightens the fingers he has in Derek’s shirt, “You smell, but you’re warm.”
Cora chuckles from above them, “Such sweet pillow talk.”
Stiles flips her off, and the Sheriff clears his throat.
“Are any of you planning on making dinner, or should I get the bacon out?”
“No!” Stiles grimaces, begins trying to get up, and Derek leaps from the couch, helps him stand. Cora hands him his crutches and Stiles nods his thanks. “I cannot wait to get rid of these things.”
“A week left, right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles hops towards the kitchen, and Derek watches him go, really wanting to go back to sleep with him close by.
When he looks to the side, Cora’s giving him a thoughtful look, and he scrunches up his nose at her.
Nobody said he was mature about handling his feelings.
“Three!” Stiles drops back down to the floor, waves a hand at Derek. “’S’nough for today, right?”
“Three half assed sit ups,” Derek arches an eyebrow, “Really?”
“Leave me alone,” Stiles whines, “I’m only one man!”
“I think you’re doing great,” Scott says encouragingly, patting Stiles’ knee as he heads for the kitchen.
“Thank you,” Stiles points after his friend, “See, Derek? Some people know how to be supportive.”
Derek rolls his eyes, stands from where he’s been knelt at Stiles’ feet and swats at him with the exercise mat.
“Some people just want to help you get fit again, and not end up a flabby weak mess when your casts come off. Do you want to be able to walk in the next six months?”
“I still don’t see what sit ups have to do with my ability to put weight on my leg.”
“It’s all about core strength, dumbass.”
“I know, you read all that to me from your stupid nerd book.”
“It’s not a nerd book; it’s a book about recovery and—”
“It’s a nerd book! I’m surprised you don’t read it wearing glasses.”
“Don’t need ‘em,” Derek taps his eyes smugly, “Werewolf.”
Derek bares his teeth, and Stiles laughs. Scott clears his throat from behind them, tosses Derek two water bottles when they both turn to blink at him.
“You got somethin’ you wanna share, Scotty?”
“Just nice you two are such good friends, now,” Scott muses, leans against the door frame and smirks.
Stiles rolls his eyes, throws his bottle back at his best friend. Derek leaves them to it, pads into the kitchen where the Sheriff’s doing paperwork.
“How’s it going in there?”
“No, Scott! You can’t tickle the injured person!”
“You poured water in my shoes, Stiles!”
Derek grimaces, sits down at the table as the Sheriff chuckles to himself.
“It went pretty well for about five seconds,” Derek tells him drily.
“Those boys never could concentrate on anything for long, not unless it was something they found particularly significant. When they set their mind on something they really care about, they do tend to not let it go too easily.”
The Sheriff looks up at him, and Derek tries not to notice the intense expression in his eye.
“Yeah, they’re pretty steadfast,” he manages, “With lacrosse and… Scott’s been taking werewolf training seriously, at last.”
“Mhm,” the Sheriff takes a sip of his tea, pushes his glasses up his nose, “Not everyone would have waited him out the way you did. He’s told me about the difficulties you had in the early days. And Stiles! He must have made things hard.”
“He kept me on my toes,” Derek agrees.
There’s another loaded hum, and Derek picks at the table top.
“He was trying to help,” he says finally, “Like I am now.”
“Well, it’s good you’ve all muddled through,” the Sheriff says lightly, and sweeps his papers up. The meaningful tone of the conversation vanishes and he smiles at Derek fondly. “I’m thinkin’ you’re pretty good for him, and he for you. Boys!” He strides out into the living room, begins berating them for using the couch cushions as weapons.
Derek sits back in his chair and wonders whether or not the Sheriff knows more than he’s letting on about why Derek has remained so insistently in Stiles’ life.
Wonders if he should buy a bullet proof vest.
A sharp cry wakes Derek from his sleep, and he jerks to, looks around. Stiles is trying to edge out of bed, hands flailing as pain radiates from him.
“What the hell are you doing?” Derek leaps up, cross the room to him.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Stiles sighs, leans on Derek without argument, and Derek can feel the weariness leaking off him.
“You should try.”
“Oh my god, really? Because I hadn’t thought of trying.”
Derek rolls his eyes, presses him back onto the bed gently, “You’re putting too much pressure on yourself. You’re gonna fuck your leg up for life if you keep trying to walk on it before you’re ready.”
“Well, I’m sorry that sitting in the dark, twiddling my thumbs while you snore in the corner isn’t quite my ideal Friday night,” Stiles drawls, “But, I wanted something from my shelf.”
“Tell me what it is, and I’ll get it for you.”
“No! I’m sick of people getting me things and Scott’s earnest promises I’ll be better soon and you being nice to me! I’m sick of it all.”
“You’re sick of me being nice,” Derek repeats flatly, “You want me to go back to shoving you into things and getting in your face?”
Stiles’ scent goes just a little spicy, and Derek can feel his pulse quicken underneath his thumb.
“Not necessarily,” Stiles says finally, “Just, dude, aren’t you sick of me?”
“I didn’t have many friends before,” Derek manages awkwardly, “I don’t… mind the company.”
“But, you didn’t like me before.”
“I never said that.”
“Pretty sure there was a mutual hate thing going on.”
“You hated me?” Derek tries to keep his tone mild, but he’s honestly just a little… hurt.
Which is stupid; of course Stiles hated him. Derek was a dick to him. Derek was a dick to everyone.
“We’ve been over this,” Stiles sighs, glances at him warily, “I didn’t hate you, I just didn’t know you. I didn’t trust you.”
“Okay,” Derek swallows, “But, you do now?”
“You really think I’d be cool with the babysitting and you practically living in my room if I didn’t?”
“It’s not babysitting, dumbass, you are definitely not a baby. Unless you’re whining about being bored, but then you sound at least five.”
“Heh, maybe I’ll just revert back to being a kid, be five forever.”
Derek can’t help but let out a pained noise, “Please don’t.”
Stiles looks at him sharply, and there’s a silence as Derek gazes back calmly.
“Okay,” Stiles nods, “Yeah, yeah I won’t… do that.” He leans back against the pillows, waves a hand at Derek, “Can you lie down? You’re making me feel like a total invalid perched on the bed like that.”
It’s a thin excuse, but Derek doesn’t care, swings his legs up on the bed and shifts until their shoulders are brushing.
Hesitantly, Stiles presses the pinky finger of his cast hand against Derek’s, and Derek catches it with his own, links them together. Stiles lets out a breath and Derek does the same, didn’t realize he was holding it in the first place.
“Derek Hale is in my bed,” Stiles says to the ceiling. “My life is so bizarre.”
“It could be more so,” Derek muses, “I could be on top of you again.”
Stiles barks out a laugh, twists his head to look at him across the pillows, “Don’t give me ideas, man, I’m half made of plaster, right now.”
Derek turns his face to the side, squeezes his fingers, “Could be worse.”
“Who the hell knew,” Stiles laughs, “You’ve got an optimistic side.”
“Shut up,” Derek huffs, “It’s not that big of a deal.”
“It is,” Stiles insists. “I like that you have hope, man, it makes me feel better about… you know…” Stiles waves his free hand around, “The world.”
“I make you feel better about the world.”
“Mhm,” Stiles hunches up a shoulder, “If you can still care about stuff, and have hope, then, I don’t know,” he drops his voice, gives Derek a soft smile, “We’ve all got a chance.”
“Wow, that sounded almost complimentary.”
“It was, dumbass,” Stiles knocks their shoulders together. “I dunno,” he scratches at his cast and Derek catches his hand, twines it with his own and rests them on his chest.
“Keep still,” he chides.
“Gosh, Mr Hale,” Stiles breathes out teasingly, “Look at you holding both my hands, I do declare.”
Derek rolls his eyes, and Stiles grins, tries for a halfhearted thumb war until he drifts off against Derek’s arm.
When Derek wakes next, it’s to Stiles breathing against his neck, his good arm draped across Derek’s chest and holding him fast.
Stiles drags his cheek along Derek’s skin, eyes fluttering open and darting up to Derek’s.
“Hi,” he slurs, rubbing his face and yawning. “You ‘kay?”
Derek watches him for a moment, breathes in their mingled scents, and then exhales slowly.
“Yeah,” he nods, “I’m getting there.”
Stiles smiles sleepily, twists as much as he can to look at Derek and then snickers, “I never imagined you getting bed hair.”
Derek runs a hand through it, unbothered, and Stiles laughs more. It’s a nice sound. It’s always been a nice sound.
“Doesn’t matter much,” he says finally, “’S’only you seein’ it anyway. I don’t care what you think.”
“Ha, liar,” Stiles fluffs his own hand through Derek’s hair, and Derek scowls, tries to bat him away.
“Leave me be! ‘S’too early for this abuse.”
“’M’helpin’ you out!”
“Not now I know it pisses you off, dude, never.”
Derek catches his wrist and yanks so that Stiles falls off on top of him, still cackling. His laughter quietens as he looks down at Derek, his other hand resting over Derek’s heart, fingers rubbing nervous like circles on the cotton of his tee.
“I do care what you think,” Derek confesses suddenly.
Stiles sucks in a breath, “Yeah?”
“More than anyone else.”
“What?! More than—”
“I’m not going to make you a list,” Derek interrupts, squeezing Stiles’ fingers tightly. “But, yeah. When I left I… I remember thinking maybe it would have been better if you’d let me drown back in that pool.”
Stiles makes an indignant noise, and Derek smiles fondly. He shifts on the pillows until they’re even closer together, so that he can feel Stiles’ heartbeat thudding against his chest.
“But, then I thought… Stiles would be so pissed at me that he’d gone to all that effort, and I wasn’t glad about it.”
“I would have been super pissed.”
“I know,” Derek wets his lips, brushes their noses together. “You’re the only person that would have been pissed at me for dying. You went the extra mile for me, you always…” Derek exhales slowly, looks up at him, “You never give up on me.”
“Same,” Stiles whispers, breathing picking up and heart racing, “Derek—”
Derek leans even closer to him and their mouths are only inches apart. It wouldn’t take much to press them together. It would maybe be the easiest thing he’s done in months, years, and he wants to. He wants.
“Derek,” Stiles says again, leg twitching against his impatiently, and Derek laughs, lets go of Stiles’ hand to curl his arm around him, pull him even closer.
“For god’s sake—” Stiles huffs, pushing forward and closing the distance between them completely.
It’s still a surprise.
Stiles is kissing him, and Derek wasn’t expecting it. Even considering his feelings, acknowledging them in his head, knowing the way Stiles looks at him, and talks to him, protects him, knows him, he still didn’t imagine a scenario where it would happen, where he would get what he wanted.
“Derek,” Stiles says again, pulls back minutely, “Are you going to—”
Derek snaps back to the present, and cups Stiles’ face, smiles up at him and then presses forward, kisses him. The kiss is soft, careful and yet no less substantial for it. Derek feels it in his toes. Stiles is a delicious weight on top of him, earnest in the way he’s kissing Derek back, still a little clumsy with sleep. His cast hand is pressing against Derek’s cheek, the plaster scratching his skin in a way that’s strangely grounding. It’s a reminder of who he’s in bed with, what they’ve been through together, how much he’s so fucking ridiculously grateful and happy and filled with what should be a frightening amount of feelings for Stiles, but isn’t. It isn’t scary at all. This is good change.
Stiles throws his good leg over Derek’s, tugs until Derek rolls on top of him and grins.
“’S’more like it.”
Derek snorts, keeps his weight on his hands until Stiles digs sharp fingers into his ribs and makes him gasp, fall into him a little more.
“Dumbass,” Derek huffs, and Stiles smiles more brightly than anyone should do for being called an idiot and Derek is loath to do anything but kiss him again.
Stiles makes breathless noises against his mouth, content and pleased sounding, and Derek swallows them up. He never thought he’d have the chance to discover someone like this; in quiet and peace and with so much care. It makes him warm all over and he skims his hands down Stiles’ bare arms, clings to him tightly.
“I like this,” Stiles comments a few minutes later.
Derek hums his agreement, dragging their lips together lazily. He likes the shape of Stiles’ mouth, likes the way it feels against his own, likes everything about how gentle and sweet this is.
He didn’t think it would have been with Stiles, the person that gets under his skin most, agitates him, argues with him, can be downright obnoxious to him, and yet is touching Derek’s face with an expression of reverence on his own.
“Were you worried you wouldn’t?” he asks finally, pushing into Stiles’ touch.
“No,” Stiles says after a pause, and Derek leans up to look at him, eyebrows raised. “Not because of you!”
Derek wordlessly gives him a pointed look at the lie, and Stiles squirms.
“Ugh, don’t get all frowny and cross, kissing you is—god—just—it’s kissing! You! Derek Hale. You’re on top of me.”
“You can be on top if you’d prefer.”
Stiles smiles sharply, “Good to know you’re versatile.”
“Jesus,” Stiles makes a wounded sound, “Don’t get me thinking about that, right now. I mean…”
Derek feels his dick twitch where it’s been resting against Derek’s hip, and smirks.
“Something you’re into?”
“But, you weren’t expecting it to be me, or…?” He moves to get up, “Do you need me to leave? Are you uncomfortable?”
“No!” Stiles throws his arms around Derek’s neck, pulls him closer and buries his face in his shoulder. “It feels like a dream still,” he confesses quietly.
Derek twists to try and look at him, but Stiles keeps his face resolutely hidden.
“Stiles, look at me,” Derek tucks a finger under his chin, guides his face up. Stiles scrunches up his eyes and Derek shakes his head fondly. “You’re an idiot.”
Stiles’ eyes snap open, “Excuse me?”
“This is real,” Derek promises, rocks down against him and Stiles lets out a small breathless moan when Derek’s own hard dick presses against his thigh. “I’m real, you’re real. I can—” he tugs Stiles’ cast hand free from the covers, nods at his fingers. “You have five,” he kisses them all quickly. “’S’how you know. I am real. I’m here,” he leans over him, kisses him deeply. “We’re here.”
Stiles rests his thumb on Derek’s bottom lip for a moment, eyes lidded and breath coming rapidly.
“You’d make a good lawyer with an argument like that,” he says finally.
Derek laughs, “That one was just for you.”
“Oh my god,” Stiles says to the ceiling as Derek moves to kiss his neck. “You’re not real at all; Derek Hale doesn’t say shit like that.”
“Shit like what?”
“I dunno,” Stiles drags his fingers through Derek’s hair, tugs until Derek looks at him. “You’re a whole other person these days.”
Derek shrugs awkwardly, doesn’t know what to say. “I’m the same as I was before—when I was—”
Stiles nods, smiles at him sweetly, “’M glad you trust me enough to be like that again.”
There really isn’t anything he can say to that, and so Derek kisses him, instead. Pours what he can’t say, what Stiles already knows, all he has to give, into the kisses they share in the dark safety of Stiles’ room.
Scott’s hovering on the Stilinski’s front steps when Derek pulls in to the drive and he concentrates on getting out the groceries before looking his way.
“You live here now, or something?”
Derek hoists the bags higher up on his hips, scowls, “No, obviously not. I think the Sheriff’d have a few issues with where I’d be sleeping, let alone Cora.”
Scott nods, “So, it is a thing.”
“What’s a thing,” Derek plays dense, goes to step around him, and Scott moves into his path.
“Scott,” Derek sighs, “What do you want?”
“Stiles is in, and I didn’t want to make a scene.”
“I’m not trying to.”
“If you’re going to tell me I can’t see him, then we’re going to have a problem,” Derek bares his teeth, “Alpha or not, scene or not, I’m not going to stop.”
“I’m not going to do that,” Scott makes a noise of frustration, grabs one of the bags from him. “I want you to be happy, Derek.”
Derek arches an eyebrow in surprise, “Me.”
“Yes! And, Stiles. And… he seems really… you know,” Scott gives him a soft smile, “I think he’s happy with you.”
“Okay,” Derek swallows hard, skin suddenly feeling too tight for his body. “I—yeah.”
“Eloquent,” Scott teases, pushing open the door for him. “I mean it, though,” he pauses, gives Derek a serious look. “Don’t screw it up.”
Derek snorts, but then Stiles turns from where he’s standing in the kitchen, their eyes catching and he forgets to find the idea even remotely funny. He would never. Stiles smiles, and Derek ducks his head, heart swooping in his stomach.
“Huh,” Scott murmurs as he passes, “Okay, that’s cute.”
“Shut up,” Derek snaps back, moving towards Stiles without looking away.
“You bring me delicious stuff?” Stiles makes grabby hands at the bag, grins at him over the top of it.
“Of course,” Derek rolls his eyes, “I was under strict instructions, was I not?”
Scott makes a whipping noise behind them, and Stiles kicks at his knee, still holding Derek’s gaze.
“Not right,” Derek huffs.
Stiles squeezes his cheeks together, smirks when Derek glowers at him, “Such a cute wolf,” he coos.
“I’m going to kill you,” Derek tells him flatly.
“Yeah right,” Scott snorts from behind them.
Stiles whips around and grabs the bag of chips Scott’s busy opening, “Dude! Mine.”
“Aw, come on,” Scott makes big eyes at him, “I went jogging with Allison; I need to recuperate lost calories with salty goodness!”
“She workin’ you hard?”
Scott blushes right up to the tips of his ears, and Stiles groans, “Noooo, not like that, ass!”
“Hey,” Scott points between them, “If I have to see this, me talking about something as innocent as running with Allison should not be a problem.”
“He has a point,” Derek murmurs, tugging at Stiles’ shirt until Stiles is leaning back into him and Derek can breathe in his scent. He can’t seem to help himself; every chance he gets to scent Stiles, to have it surround him, he takes it. It’s also nice that Stiles always seems to like it, wraps himself around Derek like an octopus and even when he’s telling Derek off for rubbing his scruff against the back of his neck, he’s not stopping him.
“I thought it’d be weirder,” Scott squints at them both where they’re leaning against the counter, Stiles playing with Derek’s hands where they’re resting on his stomach. “But, it’s not as weird as I thought.”
“Gee, thanks,” Stiles snarks. “Glad we’re not super weird for you, man.”
Scott smirks, “I bet you said the same thing when this started, dude. I bet money you were surprised about it.”
“You know nothing!”
“It’s Derek. You and Derek. You guys hated each other, and now you’re macking and, you know—” Scott waves at them, “Touching.”
“Love and hate’s got a fine line between ‘em, bro, besides,” Stiles grins wickedly, “If it’s weird now, imagine how it’ll be when we start having sex.”
Scott’s face falls, and he snatches the chips back off the counter, throws them at Stiles.
“You started it!”
“You have to promise not to do it on the couch, Stiles, I sit there! I watch movies on it!”
“It’s my couch. If I wanna have sex on it I’m gonna—”
“Shall I just pretend I’m not here?” Derek interjects, trying not to think too hard about having sex with Stiles.
That’s—yeah—a good thing to think about. But, not in front of Scott.
“Could you?” Stiles turns in his arms, smirks, “Just for a minute? Go back to your creeper ways?”
Derek jabs his fingers into his ribs and Stiles squawks, darts away from him.
“I’m going to pick Cora up,” he glances at Scott and then ducks to press a quick kiss to Stiles’ shoulder as he passes. “See you later.”
Stiles’ face is a fetching pink when he looks back. Scott punches him in the side and awwws. Stiles lunges at him, and Derek leaves them wrestling over the chips.
“I think we should go look at the one down by the river again,” Cora flips back her hair as she circles the fifth apartment they’ve looked at in one afternoon.
Stiles groans, lolls his head onto Derek’s shoulder and looks up at him, “Can’t you do something?”
“You think I have any power over her?”
“You live to be bossy.”
Derek pokes him in the stomach and Stiles shouts, squirms away from him, “Seriously,” he throws an arm over Cora’s shoulders, “Can’t you just pick one? We need to wrap this up,” he glances at Derek over Cora’s head, “I have stuff to do.”
“By that you mean my brother,” Cora peels his arm away, “And, now I’m grossed out and will need even more time to decide.”
“Dude!” Stiles’ face is bright red, “My casts are coming off at five, get your head out of the gutter!”
Cora smirks, “As if yours doesn’t permanently live down there.”
“You ever miss South America?” Stiles glances at his fingernails, “Because I’m betting if I called in a few favors…”
“Like you wouldn’t miss me,” Cora sing songs, disappearing into the bigger bedroom again.
“I’m not sure I would!”
Derek smirks against Stiles’ shoulder, and it seems to remind him Derek’s there. He twists to smile at him, expression suddenly shy. It’s only been a day since they saw each other last, but Derek has missed him anyway. Missed him as he was sitting in the crappy motel room with Cora, berating him for texting Stiles when he could have just stayed over again, (he was fearful of the Sheriff thinking things that weren’t… things, yet); missed him when Scott did Stiles’ physio this morning and Derek had too much down time and not enough cheerful chatter to fill the silence; missed him, period.
“So,” Stiles waves his arms around, “You like this one?”
“I like this one a lot,” Derek says casually, eyes still on Stiles. His cheeks flush when he realizes Derek’s not talking about the apartment, free foot shuffling awkwardly.
“Yeah, me too.”
They smile stupidly at one another for a moment, and then Derek clears his throat, looks away.
“You excited to get your casts off?”
“Fucking yes,” Stiles cries, wiggles his fingers around, “Can’t wait to put these babies to good use.”
“I can’t imagine what you’re going to do first.”
“You know me too well,” Stiles says lightly, before he scratches the back of his neck. “Actually, I was thinking I’d cook for you and my dad, tonight? If you’re, you know, free?”
Derek feels something warm settle in his chest at the idea of being invited to a family dinner so easily, “That sounds good.”
“Awesome, because I’m not gonna lie… I need your help in the kitchen.”
Derek laughs, “I knew there was a catch.”
“But, I’ll do as much of the work as I can!” Stiles taps Derek’s fingers nervously, and without thinking too much about it, Derek grabs them quickly. Stiles looks down at their tangled hands, bites his lip, “Hey, so, are we… I mean… I was thinking…”
“Dangerous,” Derek teases.
“Ha, funny guy, here,” Stiles glowers at him, looks nervously around. “Yeah, I mean… I was just…”
“Stiles, while we’re young.”
“God, fine! I was gonna ask if we were dating now, but I don’t think I want to date you after all!” Stiles goes to yank his hand away and Derek grins, tightens his grip and pulls him in.
“Stiles,” he murmurs, leaning in close to brush their noses, “Do you want to go on a date with me?”
“I don’t know why I even like you,” Stiles huffs, “Let alone date you.”
“So,” Derek drags his nose against Stiles’ cheek, enjoys the way his breath catches, “Is that a no?”
“It’s a shut up, I hate your face—” Stiles begins, and Derek cuts him off, kisses him long and slow. “I really—” Stiles tries again, but Derek pushes him up against the pillar in the middle of the room, keeps kissing him.
“So, dinner?” Stiles pulls away, voice low and breathless.
“Yeah,” Derek agrees roughly.
“Like, actual dating.”
Derek laughs, “You wanna go steady?”
“Fucking hell, shut up! I mean,” Stiles pulls a face, cheeks flushed and delicious looking. Derek aches in the best ways just gazing at him. “How long for?” Stiles cranes his neck to lean back against the pillar, meets Derek’s gaze dead on. “I know you’re thinking of setting up shop, but if you leave again, or, I get used to you and then you’re all… gone again…”
“I’ll stay for as long as you’ll have me,” Derek says honestly, and then regrets maybe quite how honest it was.
Stiles, however, smiles so warmly, so softly, that he can’t bring himself to take it back.
“’S’cool cos I want you to stick around for a long time,” Stiles murmurs, fingers threading through Derek’s hair as he leans into him.
“Yeah, I kinda like you, you know.”
Derek cups Stiles’ face, kisses him once more before stepping back as Cora returns to the room.
“Okay, let’s go with this one.”
Stiles is still staring at Derek, open mouthed and a little breathless. He doesn’t say anything for slightly too long.
Derek smirks, turns to his sister, “Yeah?”
“Mhm,” Cora gives him a smug look, “At least those pillars will be put to good use.”
Her comment seems to snap Stiles back into the moment and he coughs, straightens up, “Fantastic,” he claps his hands, “Who’s putting down the rent?”
The Sheriff eyes Stiles flittering around awkwardly in the kitchen, and then looks to Derek.
“He makin’ all this effort for you?”
“Pssht,” Stiles cuffs him gently over the head, slams down hot bread rolls on the table. “I go to this sort of effort all the time.”
“Ah huh, when does this fancy dining normally take place, when I’m asleep?”
“See how much salt I let you have on your risotto, now,” Stiles huffs, flicking the spoon he’s holding at his father’s head.
“Aw, son, don’t be like that,” the Sheriff takes a sip of beer, winks at Derek, “I’m one hundred per cent in favor of you cooking every day.”
Stiles pulls a face at Derek when he catches him grinning at their bickering. “Don’t you side with him!”
Derek holds up his hands quickly, “I would never.”
“Mhm,” Stiles narrows his eyes, puts down plates and hot bread. “Help me get the dish out, please?” He wiggles his newly freed hand, “Still a little stiff.” Then he snickers at his own comment, and both Derek and the Sheriff roll their eyes. Derek gets up regardless, comes to stand just behind Stiles and breathes in his familiar scent, the warmth of the kitchen, the Sheriff’s aftershave, everything that’s become so very settling for him.
“Hey,” Stiles is looking at him, and Derek realizes he’s zoned out a little. “You good?”
“Yeah,” Derek clears his throat, cautiously rests a hand on Stiles’ hip as he moves around him, and relaxes when Stiles leans into it. “Where do you want this?”
“Son, use an oven mitt, please,” John waves his beer at Derek’s bare hand as he holds out the risotto dish. “It hurts my eyes just watching that.”
“He’s showin’ off,” Stiles sniffs, waves to the table, “There please.”
Derek pretends to drop the dish on Stiles’ feet, and Stiles yelps, scowls at him.
“He started it!”
“Ah huh,” John turns back to his phone, “Sure he did.”
“Suck up,” Stiles mouths as he sits down. Derek smirks back at him.
“Alright,” the Sheriff clears his throat, “We need to have a little chat about you two bein’ all over each other and makin’ me dinner like you got something to tell me?”
Derek freezes halfway into his chair, and Stiles drops the glass he was about to take a sip of water from.
“Eloquent as ever, son,” John turns to Derek, lifts an eyebrow, “Your turn.”
“I…” Derek looks at the tablecloth, back at the Sheriff, and then at Stiles. Stiles gives him a shy, encouraging smile, and Derek nods, turns to the Sheriff. “I care about Stiles, very much.”
“Well, I think aliens on Mars could see that, kid,” the Sheriff drawls, and Derek feels his face heat up. Beneath the table, Stiles kicks his foot into Derek’s shin, winds it around Derek’s ankle.
“It’s not… I’m not…” he coughs, wishes he was better with words, “I don’t want to hurt him, or cause you any grief, or trouble. I’m not looking to… create problems. But, I do want to be in Stiles’ life, in your life, too, sir, for as long as… I mean… If you’ll let me, if Stiles will—”
“Stiles will,” Stiles cuts in, looks at his dad seriously. “Stiles needs him in his life, okay? Stiles is attached. You know it takes a lot, and Stiles is serious, dad, he wants—”
“If only to get you to stop talking about yourself in the third person,” the Sheriff holds up a hand, “I’m going to put you out of your misery. I’m not looking to come between this,” he gives Derek a weary smile; “You’ve been nothing but good to my son, and to me. I know you mean well, and I know you aren’t looking to cause havoc. But, you have to remember, you did. You are a lot older than him, and—”
“He’s still mentally a teenager, though, totally emotionally challenged!” Stiles tries to argue, and Derek scowls at him as the Sheriff groans.
“Not helping, Stiles,” he holds up his hand again when Stiles opens his mouth, “Enough! I’m not saying no, I’m not even saying you’re not old enough to make your own decisions, just that…” he glances between them, “You’ve both been through a lot. You need to remember that. You need to respect wishes for space, and for time, and for the fact Stiles still lives under my roof.”
The fight seems to go out of Stiles as his face flushes and he drops it onto the table. “Oh my god, you’re giving us the sex talk?!”
“I’m not foolish enough to know it won’t happen—”
“Stiles is seventeen,” Derek cuts in, trying not to die of mortification, “I wouldn’t—”
“You might not,” the Sheriff powers on, “But, he’s keen to—”
“Dad!” Stiles pushes his chair back, tries to stand and winces as his leg gives out. “No more sex talk!”
“I’m trying to cover all my bases at once,” John huffs, “Lord knows, you won’t let me have this talk again.”
“We should have this talk never,” Stiles whines.
“You’re still my son, and I love you. I almost lost you, twice, Stiles.”
Stiles stops looking quite so indignant, slowly sits back down and Derek places a hand on his knee, rubs soothing circles across it. Stiles leans closer to him, shoots him a grateful look.
“Okay,” he says quietly, “I get it, dad.”
“Do you?” The Sheriff eyeballs them both. “You’re both important, and you’re still healing. I just want to make sure you’re going to be careful, with each other, and not—” he raises his voice when Stiles seems like he’s going to make a comment, “—in the bedroom, Stiles. With each other’s hearts. There’s nothing more important than that.”
Derek feels a little speechless. Outside of Stiles, and Cora, perhaps, no one has ever taken the time to remind him that he’s particularly important, that he’s worthy of care. It makes him feel deeply warm and touched inside.
Stiles, however, bashes his head on the table, “Oh my god, are we in a Lifetime movie?”
“Shut it, kid, and hand me the potatoes before I change my mind and make you spend your first night without casts in your room alone.”
Derek chokes on air and Stiles jerks his head back up, grinning.
“Well, dad, I’m actually not as adverse to that as you—”
As if realizing his mistake the Sheriff points his fork at him, “Pack it in, Scott and your other friends are coming over in a bit, right?”
“Then you still need to finish your dinner, wash the dishes, and no doubt make some eyes at Derek before Scott is far less lenient than I and complains about it.”
“I do not—I—we don’t do that,” Stiles ends his spluttering with a gulp of water.
“Uh huh,” the Sheriff smirks when he catches Derek giving Stiles a fond exasperated look. “Sure you don’t.”
Derek resists the urge to scrunch his nose at him, ends up grinning regardless and Stiles presses his knee against Derek’s under the table.
“Wow, so, this is it?” Stiles spreads his hands around Derek and Cora’s new, sparsely filled apartment. “We need to get you some stuff, man.”
Derek shrugs, eyeing the way Stiles keeps passing his bedroom door, wondering if he can get away with casually guiding him in there without being too obvious.
On the fourth pass, Stiles pauses, cocks his head to one side as he looks at Derek, “You weren’t listening to any of that, were you?”
Derek smirks, “Most of what you say is white noise to me.”
“Liar,” Stiles tugs his lower lip between his teeth, hovering at the bedroom door again, “So, you know we’re a little uneven on a few things.”
“Oh?” Derek walks towards him slowly, feels his pulse quicken as Stiles leans against the door frame, hips pushed out gently, calling Derek to him.
“Mhm, you’ve seen my room, been in my shower, my bed—” Derek stops just in front of him and Stiles arches an eyebrow, “I haven’t seen yours.”
“That’s a good point,” Derek murmurs, pressing himself into Stiles’ space, relishing the way Stiles’ scent overwhelms him, welcomes him. “You lookin’ for an invitation?”
“That’d be the first polite thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“Ha ha,” Derek huffs, even as he’s leaning in to catch Stiles’ lips with his own.
Stiles hums, slides his hands up Derek’s arms and settles them in his hair. They move together, swaying backwards until Stiles stops up against the bed.
Derek twists and drops to sit on it, tugging Stiles into his lap as they kiss.
“Nice room,” Stiles breathes out.
Derek laughs, “Thanks, ‘s’got an en suite and everything. Someone talked me into it.”
“Wow, that must be a pretty wise person with good taste,” Stiles sits up, smirks at him, “You should keep them.”
Derek drags his thumb along Stiles’ lower lip, trails it down to rest on the pulse point in his neck, “I intend to,” he says finally.
Stiles smiles shyly, rocks forward into him, “So, do you wanna…”
“I dunno,” Stiles plays with the collar of his sweater, “I don’t know how this part goes, you know, after the kissing. In theory, obviously, I have a vague idea—”
“Vague,” Derek teases.
“Fuck off, alright, I’m sort of new to all this!”
Derek laughs, leans back against the bed and draws Stiles with him. Stiles is pouting, refusing to meet his eye, and Derek grins, kisses his chin, his jaw, bites at his neck until Stiles groans and looks at him again.
“Don’t think that’s gonna work forever, mister; there will be times I am pissed at you and you cannot win me over with sexy ass neck kissing.”
“Sexy ass neck kissing? You sweet talker.”
“Shut up!” Stiles pinches his side, and Derek curses, pushing Stiles away and then following hurriedly. Stiles shifts on his side, runs a hand down Derek’s face, and Derek shuts his eyes, basks in the moment. “I mean it,” Stiles continues quietly, “And, when I am mad, you have to remember that underneath it all I’m on your side. Even when I’m really pissed and I don’t wanna talk about it.”
Derek smirks slightly, “You won’t want to talk about something?”
“I’m leaving—” Stiles huffs, but Derek throws an arm over his waist, traps him on the bed.
“Fair enough,” he murmurs, slips his hand under Stiles’ shirt and drags it up his back. “Me too.”
“Oh, believe me, I’m not expecting you to ever talk about it,” Stiles scoffs.
Derek narrows his eyes at him, and Stiles wiggles his eyebrows back.
“You’re a man of few words, Derek Hale, it’s a good job I know how to read your eyebrows and have such a finely tuned werewolf bullshit radar, or you’d be lost without me.”
“I would,” Derek confirms.
Stiles blinks in surprise, eyes crinkling up as he grins, “And, you’d have no human number one.”
Derek shrugs, “Allison can be number one.”
“Dude,” Stiles shoves at his chest, “Don’t even front, you need me—”
“I love you,” Derek interrupts, and the words rush out of him like he’s been trying to hold them in for too long. It’s like he’s been holding his breath under water, and he can finally inhale again, someone’s dragged him to the surface, someone’s holding him up, keeping him alive, helping him fight to live, to want to live. And, that someone is Stiles. He needed to say it before he stopped himself again, it feels right, in Derek’s new room, his new apartment, a home he’ll build with his sister and his pack, in his bed— that will no doubt be treated like Stiles’ bed, too—it’ll be theirs.
Stiles’ eyes go wide with awe, and he leans closer to Derek, cups his face, “Me too. I love you. Even when I wanna punch you in the face.”
Derek feels himself smile widely, “I’m glad you haven’t done that in a while.”
“’S’always the next time you try and die on me,” Stiles muses.
Derek shakes his head, presses his nose into the crook of Stiles’ neck and breathes him in, “I don’t want to go anywhere.”
“Good,” Stiles yawns, winds his arms around Derek’s shoulders, “I know we were gonna do stuff, but I think we should nap, first. Get our energy up.”
“Sure,” Derek sits up slightly, yanks at the sheet until it’s over their legs, “Logical.”
“I am wise and all knowing,” Stiles mumbles sleepily.
"I am! You said so yourself."
"I don't recall ever saying anything so nice."
"Maybe it was in a dream I had," Stiles hunches up a shoulder, noses forward until he's pressed tight against Derek's chest, "I do prefer real you, though. If I had to choose."
"Good to know," Derek smiles to himself, feels warm inside.
"M'dad text, by the way."
"Yeah, says he wants you to come for dinner. One night away and he's already missin' you, god, you won him over with all that lookin' after me you did."
"My plan all along."
"Knew it," Stiles yawns again, kisses Derek's collarbone and then his heartbeat slows as he falls to sleep.
Derek wraps his arms more tightly around him, looks his fill at Stiles; his face beautiful and still endlessly expressive as he twitches in sleep. He listens to Cora let herself in and yell hello, a car start up outside, the drip of a tap he’ll fix later. It feels good to know there will be a later, to know he'll wake up with Stiles still beside him, and that whatever happens, he won't be alone to face change any more.