Stiles was used to being lonely, to being alone.
When he was a kid, he'd always gone to his mother when he needed comfort. But she'd died when he was 10, leaving him without that guiding hand. Sure, he still had his dad and he loved him more than he could ever express, but his dad had lost someone too. His dad was more withdrawn after his mom died, drank more, worked longer hours. Stiles knew that's how he was coping and tried his best to make things less stressful for his dad.
It wasn't easy for an ADHD kid with an overactive imagination and a tendency to put way more responsibility on his shoulders than he should, but he did his best. Things were mostly good and Stiles knew most of his dad's worry at his antics was laced with fondness instead of any real anger. And that ok.
He had Scott, too, his best friend since they were kids. They told each other everything (or mostly everything) and did everything together, especially since they were both too socially awkward and Stiles too over exuberant to have very many other friends to do things with. Scott wasn't the best of friends all the time, a little too unobservant sometimes, a little to self concerned at others. And that was ok too.
But it wasn't enough, not really.
Things changed a lot once Scott became a werewolf. In some ways the changes were good, but in some ways they really weren't, even ignoring all the near death experiences which were obviously bad. Scott made first line in lacrosse, but Stiles was still on the bench. Allison came along and Scott was totally swept away with her, leaving Stiles forever the odd man out. Lydia and Jackson were changing somehow, maybe into werewolves, maybe into something else.
Peter said he'd lied about not wanting the bite and Stiles knew there was some part of him that was desperate for it. But only because he was afraid of being left behind.
He'd said no in the end because he had responsibilities, because he was afraid of becoming like Peter, because if there was one thing he'd learned while being so alone it was that changing himself to fit in wasn't going to make him any happier.
So he went along with everyone else with a smile and a plan to get out of trouble, with boundless enthusiasm and fierce loyalty, with all the information google could give him and a stubborn streak a mile long. Because what else could he do?
But all his attempts to stay positive and happy with his life were overshadowed by grief on the anniversary of his mother's death. It had been five years since she'd passed away from cancer and her loss hadn't gotten any easier to bear.
His dad took the day off every year, but they never spent it together, except for an early morning visit to her grave. They each dealt with her loss differently and frankly their coping mechanisms didn't mix very well. The sheriff tended to drink himself into a stupor as he went through photo albums. Stiles just wanted to be alone to cry and avoid the responsibilities that dragged at him so much day to day.
He should have known he wouldn't be lucky enough be able to do that. Of course with all the supernatural craziness going on, someone or something would show up to make his day just a little, or maybe a lot, worse.
When Stiles returned from the cemetery with his dad he headed straight for his room like he did every year. He knew his father would stay downstairs for the rest of the day and make his way through the liquor cabinet. It was the only day Stiles would let him drink that much.
Closing the door of his room, Stiles jumped when he turned and saw Derek sitting on his bed. This was new, Derek usually lurked by the closet and refused to sit down.
“So uh, why are you here? Social call?” Stiles asked, taking a tentative step forward. Stiles was of the opinion that you could never be careful around Derek Hale, he could pounce and slam you against a wall at any moment.
Derek merely raised an eyebrow and Stiles felt like he had been whacked in the head. Derek freaking Hale, alpha of the Beacon Hills pack, was sitting on his bed, of course it wasn't a social call, there was probably some terrible problem that needed fixing. Not that he had been secretly hoping Derek was just there to see him or anything like that. Right.
“Oh my god, is it Scott? Is it Lydia? Is there some terrible creature that I've never heard of but will start googling in about ten seconds coming and terrorizing the town? Please tell me that at least everyone's alive!” he gasped out, taking several steps forward in his worry.
He started toward his desk, if he was going to google the shit out of whatever was attacking he'd obviously need his computer, but he was stopped by a hand grabbing his wrist in a vice like grip. Stiles squawked, flailing out with his other arm as he turned, but stopped at the look on Derek's face. It seemed to be the usual look of annoyance. Stiles could have sworn for a second that he saw some fondness there as well, but he banished the thought almost immediately. Derek barely even put up with him on a good day.
“So could you let me go?” Stiles asked, trying and failing to tug his arm from Derek's grip. “I kind of need to go over there if I'm gonna do any research on whatever we're facing now.”
Derek just shook his head, still staring at him.
“Ok... You know, I'm gonna need a little more explanation than you shaking your head. I know, I know, you've got the whole tall, dark, and silent brood-y thing going on, but you not talking makes it a little hard to do well, anything,” Stiles said, shoulders slumping. He just wanted Derek to tell him what was going on so he could fix it and go back to his annual cry alone. It really was a very important part of his routine.
Derek remained silent and Stiles sighed in frustration.
He hated it when Derek got this way and refused to uphold his end of the conversation. It wasn't like Stiles couldn't keep a conversation going by himself, he did it all the time, but today he wasn't in the mood. He sat on the bed next to Derek, his head cradled in his free hand. “Dude, just... not today, please? Whatever you have to say, just say it and go,” he tried, his voice tired and worn even to himself.
He stayed silent after his plea this time, hoping it would encourage Derek to talk and go. A few minutes passed in silence and Stiles was biting his lip from saying something, anything, to break it. He rather thought he might go crazy if Derek didn't say or do something soon.
Finally, Derek let go of his arm. Stiles had almost forgotten about it by that time, much more concerned by the fact that Derek wasn't freaking talking, but he was glad to have use of his arm all the same. He didn't think he'd do very well with just one arm.
Stiles waited a few more moments to see if Derek was finally going to say something, but the older man still didn't seem inclined to speak. He sighed again, rubbing at his forehead to try to stave off an impending stress headache. “So are you gonna just keep sitting here all day or...?” he trailed off. “Because I had plans, you know.” Well the plans were to sob alone in his bed, but he didn't think Derek really needed to know that.
Derek shifted a little on the bed in a way that with anyone else he would have said was discomfort. He wasn't sure Derek was capable of that feeling though. Causing discomfort in other people? Sure! In himself? Not so much.
“Do you want company?”
Stiles was shocked into silence himself when Derek finally spoke. That was... not anything like what he'd been expecting to hear from the alpha werewolf. Information on the next attack on the pack or a threat of having his throat ripped out, sure, but not an offer of company. “Uh,” he said rather eloquently, staring with his mouth hanging open.
Derek smiled, just the barest upturn of the corner of his mouth, but Stiles was still floored by the look. He didn't think he'd ever seen Derek smile before. He suddenly wished he'd known Derek before the fire, he was sure he'd smiled then with his family all around.
“I just thought you might like some company, with today being what it is.”
Stiles knew he was still staring and his mouth was still wide open, but he couldn't seem to care. His first instinct was to say “no,” and he somehow knew Derek would leave if he did, but something was stopping him. Derek, who was just as stoic and broody as he'd said earlier, had come to offer him comfort on the anniversary of his mom's death.
He knew this was big, bigger than he could even realize right now because he also knew there were some pretty important things he didn't know about Derek's family, and he didn't want to ruin it with his usual lack of impulse control. He had to be careful because Derek could be pretty skittish about feelings things, and this was coming awfully close to that already. It didn't take more than a moment of consideration before he knew his answer.
“Yeah, I think I'd like that,” he said, a smile growing on his face when he saw Derek relax just a bit.
It took a little bit of maneuvering and a lot of awkwardness, but they eventually ended curled up on top of the blankets near the head of Stiles' bed. Derek was wrapped securely around his back, one arm hanging over his stomach, and it didn't take long for Stiles to realize this was the most comfortable he'd felt in a long time, especially on the anniversary of his mom's death.
They dozed in silence for about half an hour. Stiles' mind was buzzing with thoughts, about his mom and Derek and how bizarre it was to be cuddling with Derek right then, but he was much too comfortable there on the bed to break the silence. He wasn't sure how long this would last and he didn't want his motor mouth to be the thing to prematurely run Derek off.
“If you want to say something, just say it,” Derek suddenly said, voice muffled where his mouth was pressed into Stiles' shoulder.
Stiles turned his head slightly, mouth open slightly. He stared for a moment at the strip of dark hair he could see from his vantage point. “I, uh, I didn't want to disturb you or run you of or whatever. I know my talking is quite an acquired taste,” he said wryly, giving a small, self-deprecating smile.
Stiles shivered a bit as Derek snorted out a laugh, blowing a stream of air across his neck and cheek. There was a strange, warm feeling in the pit of his stomach at the sound that he tried vainly to suppress. Not the time to entertain whatever inappropriate feelings he might or might not have for sexy older werewolves.
“Doesn't seem to have ever stopped you before.”
“Yeah, well, I'm not usually cuddling in bed with the hottest guy in town either,” he said before he could stop himself. Almost immediately he clapped a hand over his mouth, his whole body tensing. A moment passed with neither of them saying anything and he slowly lowered his hand. “I mean... er, sorry?” he tried, squeezing his eyes tightly closed. Whatever Derek was going to do, he didn't want to have to see it.
Instead of yelling or running or any of the other things Stiles might have imagined he'd do in the situation, Derek merely let out a breath, arm tightening around Stiles' waist. “Calm down, Stiles,” he said, voice low.
Stiles took a deep breath, consciously relaxing his body as much as possible. He took a few more breaths and opened his eyes. “I'm calm now. I think.”
Neither of them spoke for several more minutes. Stiles was soon squirming, longing to break the silence but afraid of messing up again. He was still embarrassed about the last time, even if Derek hadn't really reacted to what he'd said.
“Stiles,” Derek said firmly, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“Sorry!” Stiles said immediately. He waited a moment, but it didn't seem like Derek was going to say anything else. Not like he usually said much, but still. “So...” he started, not sure if he should be saying anything, “are you gonna tell me why you're here? Or why you didn't freak out about what I said earlier? Not that I'm not grateful, the cuddling and stuff is really nice! And I'd really like it if you didn't kill me since I'm kind of attached to living and everything. Uh, I'm just gonna shut up now.”
Stiles could feel Derek smiling into his shoulder and just managed to hold back a shout of happiness and relief. If Derek was smiling, there probably wouldn't be any violence or threats and that was the way Stiles preferred to keep it.
It didn't take long for the silence to be broken this time, and Stiles was surprised he wasn't the one to do it this time.
“When I was living in New York with Laura,” Derek started, voice low and even, “I went to Central Park on the anniversary of the fire. The first year I didn't, I thought I'd rather be alone. But it just hurt more to be by myself and Laura was... to close I guess. I didn't know what else to do.”
Derek paused and Stiles held his breath, hoping he'd go on. He'd never heard Derek talk so much about his family or himself before and this seemed special. He didn't want it to end so soon.
“It was nice to sit out in the park and just be, to see that there was still life and happiness. I know I-” His voice cut out for a moment and Stiles could feel his breaths coming out hard and shallow. Slowly, trying not to break the fragile atmosphere of trust that had grown in the last few minutes, Stiles reached his hand up to clasp the one Derek had laying over his stomach. He gave it a squeeze, hoping to convey his silent support and sympathy. He knew he'd done alright when Derek took a deep breath and started speaking again.
“I don't do emotions well,” Derek continued, making Stiles want to snort in laughter. He held it in though, sure that that would definitely turn Derek away. “I didn't then when I sat in the park for hours just watching live go on for other people, and I don't know. But I thought... I thought you might need someone today. If I've overstepped or something, I'll go.”
Stiles stared at the wall for a long moment, concentrating on breathing. This was new and he wasn't altogether sure how to handle it. Scott had never come to him on the anniversary of mom's death, never asked if he needed comfort or support. That was fine, it was part of who Scott was to be oblivious to the hidden feelings of others, even Stiles. But this was different from anything Scott could have offered anyway. Scott didn't understand the way Derek did.
He let out a shaky breath, hand reflexively squeezing Derek's again. “Thank you,” he whispered, barely keeping the tears at bay. He smiled a little when he felt Derek nuzzle his shoulder in silent answer.
For the first time since his mom died, Stiles didn't feel lonely.