Derek’s used to this sound. Blood rushing from the vein, the simple push of blood through the heart, and the sounds that result. It’s normal, steady, just like the rise and fall of the chest under his hand. There’s a stark difference between his hand and the chest, one that makes him feeling like he’s doing something wrong again - like he’s crossing that line that someone else crossed against him.
Without claws, just a normal human hand, it looks big and dark in contrast and he hates the idea of ever seeing his claws against that skin. It’s a thought that makes him shudder violently and pull towards himself. Or he would, if he could, but his other arm is trapped under the warm body and the thought of pulling away doesn’t cross his mind, so his hand stays and he feels the thud, thud, thud of the working heart.
He’s not really sure how much time passes. Seconds, minutes, hours, but suddenly the thud, thud, thud is more thudthudthud. And he’s at a loss of what to do.
The increased pace is making his wolf agitated, disliking the helpless feeling that starts to settle in his bones, because the pace is still increasing.
“Stiles,” Derek tries softly, voice just this side of hoarse from disuse, but he tries again, “Stiles.”
There’s no response and Derek feels even more helpless, like being submerged in water with no way of breaking the surface. He curls his arm tighter around Stiles’s back and pulls him to sit up, cradling him to a chest in the way that never fails to make Stiles bristle when he’s conscious.
Derek’s chest hurts.
He can recall the one other time he’s felt like this and the first time it felt like the world was breaking apart. This time, it feels like he’s breaking apart.
His phone is glaring at him from the side table, just out of his reach unless he wants to jostle Stiles, but then the thudthudthud starts to slow into thud, thud, thud again and Stiles is jerking awake in his arms with a gasp, his forehead covered in a sheen of sweat.
“Stiles,” he mutters gruffly and presses his face into the short hair at the top of Stiles’s head.
Thin, long fingers dig into his sides, followed by Stiles’s face pressing into his chest.
His breathing is still off kilter, his heart rate still a little jerky, but Derek feels himself losing the tension that had been building in his shoulders and he curls himself around Stiles, trying to protect him from something Derek’s not sure he actually can.
It makes his wolf rage.
The silence seems to stretch for days, only broken by the sharp intakes of breath Stiles takes, refilling his lungs and emptying them in unsteady pulls and pushes. Eventually, Stiles’s grip on his side loosens and he goes slack in Derek’s arms, his cheek pressed to Derek’s chest.
“A panic attack,” Stiles starts soft and his voice cracks, Derek opens his mouth to say it’s okay, they don’t have to cross this bridge yet, “I want to tell you.”
Derek’s mouth closes with an audible click, because Stiles seems to always know what’s going on in his head.
They shift around without even talking about it and Derek ends slumped down on the bed with Stiles sprawled over his chest. He thinks it’s better they’re not looking face to face, he’s not sure he can handle that yet.
“After my mom died, I started having the panic attacks, nightmares, you name it,” Derek’s never heard Stiles sound so serious, so quiet. It’s fragility in a way that Derek would never associate with Stiles. “They eased up after a while, but sometimes, every once in a while, they sneak up on me again. The doctors say that once you have one, your chances are increased for it to happen again, but there’s nothing you can really do for them except anti-anxiety medicine.”
Derek nods, making a humming sound in the back of his throat because he isn’t sure what else to say. Comforting has always been more of Stiles’s strong suit than his. Bringing one hand up, he settles it on the back of Stiles’s head, scratching his blunt nails lightly at Stiles’s scalp.
It’s quiet again and Stiles’s heart rate is almost completely even, like he’s just on the edge of sleep. Derek moves his hand to rest over Stiles’s back, feeling it rise and fall with every breath.
“I want to tell you about her,” Stiles mumbles and Derek can feel his breath warm and just a little damp against his skin.
Humming softly again, Derek presses his hand on Stiles’s back a little, confirmation that he heard, “That sounds nice,” he murmurs softly, because he still feels so out of his depths, “Get some sleep, Stiles,” he adds, shifting to get a grasp on the sheet and pull it up over them.
Stiles hums noncommittally and stretches his body out, pressing his face into Derek’s skin to muffle a yawn before he settles once more, “Yeah, okay, sleep,” he concedes, going slack against Derek’s side.
Derek counts to one hundred and fifty-two before he’s certain that Stiles is asleep again.
He doesn’t sleep at all.