This new timeframe isn’t going to work, and they all know it. They’re not prepared for this; don’t know how to put all the pieces into place when they just don’t physically have the time to do so.
Derek can feel the pressure mounting whenever they’re all in the room together; he can feel it building behind his eyes, pressing against his spine, holding his shoulders down. He knows he should just tell everyone to go.
Quit while we’re ahead, Laura had said.
Derek might not have anything left to lose, but these people are people he cares about, in some strange way, and he knows they all have too much to lose.
Stiles is the first to say it. It’s so late that it’s early, and Derek can’t remember the last time he slept, the last time he left the room, the last time he saw real, honest to God daylight.
“We’re not leaving you,” Stiles blurts into the oppressive silence, looking at Derek askance like he can hear his thoughts.
Derek raises his eyebrows. “You might not have any choice,” he says grimly.
Stiles snorts out a laugh, and it’s harsh and hysterical. “You think we’re all squeaky clean, Derek?” he asks, sarcastically amused. “You think none of us have gotten our hands dirty before? You think we’re all innocent to all of this? That we haven’t tangoed with shit like this ever since we got into the business?”
Derek hesitates, unsure which, if any, of those questions he’s supposed to answer.
Stiles plows on. “We all get it, you know. You’re not the only one that’s in trouble, here. We all knew what we were taking on. You don’t think some of us do our research before we take a job? You don’t think people talk?”
“Stiles,” Derek grits out, and he knows it sounds tired rather than threatening.
“You think of me as a kid,” Stiles continues, ignoring him. “You act like I think this is all just a game, and Derek,” Stiles is smiling at him now, sardonic and almost pityingly. “I’ve been doing this as long as you have. I know the risks, and so do the others.”
“Stiles,” he tries again.
Stiles continues to ignore him. “You’re stuck with us, whether you like it or not. We’re not just gonna let you go down alone. I’m not going to let that happen.”
Derek has to swallow down the barbs burning the tip of his tongue, because he’d only prove Stiles right. He does think of him as a kid, and the truth is that Stiles is only three years younger than him. The truth is that Derek has read Stiles’s file, and he knows that the first time he hacked into a government database he was only thirteen years old. Stiles has been playing this game longer than Derek, and unlike Derek, the person he’s always been reliant on isn’t dead.
“Laura would have liked you,” he says finally, quietly, shocking himself as much as Stiles as the words leave his mouth.
They stare at each other for a long moment, both too surprised to do anything else, and then Stiles grins. “Come on,” he says as he stands, “We’re going to get something to eat.”
Derek doesn’t argue.
Isaac has a black eye and Erica looks pissed when they show up. Derek knows it’s because she’s been scared, and he knows also that she’s dangerous like a cornered animal right now.
Isaac’s grinning, though, and fist bumping Stiles, who he apparently knows, and Derek watches the way that Erica visibly relaxes into the welcoming atmosphere.
“You don’t have to stick around,” Derek tells her quietly as she crosses over to him, and she just laughs at him like he’s really fucking precious.
“We’ve got your back,” Isaac says from across the room, despite the fact that he couldn’t possibly have heard what Derek just said, and Erica looks up at him and smiles, soft and sincere. Derek feels so much like he’s intruding that he has to walk away.
Surprisingly, Lydia isn’t the first one to leave. They’ve been stretching themselves past breaking point for a while, now, and Scott is the first one to go. It’s difficult to tell when they crossed the line between normal arguing and something else, but Derek watches in the same muted horror as everyone else when Scott storms out.
Allison follows after him with what Derek thinks is a vaguely apologetic smile.
“Derek –“ Isaac begins, and Derek cuts him off with what can only be described as a growl. He knows everyone is looking at him like he’s a bombing just waiting to explode, but he can’t bring himself to care. If they don’t make this work, he’s a dead man, and quite possibly, so are they.
It only takes an hour for him to alienate the rest of the group. Derek knows he’s being unreasonable, that he’s angry and grumpy and snapping and biting at everyone’s heels. It frustrates him more when they continue to tiptoe around him, and he knows logically that the night is a loss. Nobody can get any work done with his attitude.
Lydia’s the next to leave, which leaves Boyd, Isaac, Erica and Stiles. Derek doesn’t know what Stiles says to the other three, but whatever it is, it’s enough to persuade them to leave. He’s too angry to look into it too closely, and instead settles for glaring at the marker board in front of him. He hasn’t gotten anywhere with it, unsurprisingly.
He expects Stiles to leave as well, so he’s surprised when he turns around to find the younger boy just standing there looking at him.
“Come on, sourpuss,” Stiles says finally. “We’re going to get some air.”
Through his anger, Derek is vaguely aware of the fact that he’s looking at Stiles like he’s an alien.
“C’mon,” Stiles says again, firmer now, and crosses over to Derek to pin him with an expectant look.
Derek’s eyebrows furrow, and he considers telling Stiles to go fuck himself. Instead, he says, “Why?”
It’s Stiles’s turn to look at him like he’s an alien. “Because, you socially inept wall of muscle,” he enunciates slowly, “That’s what friends are for.”
Derek knows that his expression reads: we’re friends? And that Stiles ignores it.
“Let’s go,” he says, briskly. “Chop chop. People to do, places to see.”
Because Derek is clearly losing his grip on his sanity, he actually ends up leaving the warehouse with Stiles.
They walk down to Stiles’s battered blue jeep, and Derek lets Stiles drive, and Stiles talks and talks and talks and talks. Derek isn’t really sure that he’s even really saying anything, but his mouth doesn’t stop moving the entire time.
Occasionally, he glances over at Derek, and Derek manages a grunt of assent or dissent or whatever it is that Stiles is looking for from him, and Stiles is seemingly satisfied by it, because he launches into yet another topic of conversation.
Strangely, Derek actually finds the stream of chatter pretty comforting, and when it abruptly stops, he realises that he’s not only leaned back into the chair and closed his eyes, but that he might actually have been drifting into sleep.
Stiles is looking at him, concern etched into the corners of his mouth. “We’re here,” he says, so quietly that Derek just looks at him.
There’s a tense moment, and then they both exit the jeep, and Derek finally takes a look at where they are. They jeep is parked in front of a block of apartments, and Stiles is heading up one of the paths purposefully.
It’s too late to back out now, so Derek follows him, curiosity getting the better of him as he asks, “Is this place yours?”
Stiles glances back at him, and Derek can’t quite tell in the dark, but he thinks there’s an amused grin on his face as he replies, “Yeah, sure, why not?”
Derek takes that to mean that he shouldn’t ask, so he doesn’t.
Stiles does have a key, however, and he lets them into one of the flats at the top of a flight of stairs. The door opens into an open plan living room and kitchen area, with another doorway in the kitchen that Derek surmises probably leads into the bedroom.
“Are you allergic to anything?” Stiles asks, crossing through to the kitchen area and throwing his keys down carelessly on one of the counters.
Derek looks up to find Stiles pinning him with one of those all too familiar expectant looks, and he shrugs. “No.”
“Good,” Stiles says, and gives him a brief, supernova smile, before rolling up his sleeves and beginning to root around in the fridge and the cupboards.
Derek’s vaguely aware that Stiles has started talking again, but he habitually tunes it out. It’s not until Stiles is standing right in front of him, waving a hand in front of his face and saying, “Dude. Earth to Derek? Hello?” that he realises that he’d completely zoned out.
Maybe the lack of sleep is finally catching up with him, he thinks.
“Maybe the lack of sleep has finally caught up with you,” Stiles says, and Derek wonders if he said it aloud the first time. Judging by the worried look Stiles is giving him, though, he probably didn’t.
“I’m fine,” he manages, gruff, and uncomfortable with the current scrutiny he’s apparently under.
Stiles sighs, long suffering, and then leaves the room. He comes back a moment later, shoving a set of towels into Derek’s chest, so that he’s forced to take them if he doesn’t want them to fall to the floor.
“Take a shower,” Stiles is saying, “I know the water pressure in the warehouse is shit, and you look like you need the hot water.”
Derek doesn’t have it in him to argue with that, so he just silently clutches the towels to his chest and heads toward where he assumes the bathroom is. When he catches sight of his reflection in the mirror and realises just how much he looks like death warmed up, he thinks that Stiles’s spiel about hot water was surprisingly charitable.
When he finally exits the shower, he finds a clean set of clothes laid out on the side, and instead of arguing the point with Stiles, Derek slips into the soft material of the sweatpants, zipping the hoodie up over his torso a moment later.
The smell coming from the kitchen is mouth-watering, and Derek’s stomach gurgles shamelessly as he makes his way through.
He finds Stiles leaning against the counter with a glass of red wine in his hand that he’s sipping from as he idly stirs the pan in front of him.
He smiles when he sees Derek.
“Help yourself,” he says, gesturing to the bottle of wine, and although Derek doesn’t usually drink it, he still crosses over and pours himself a glass, clinking it automatically against Stiles’s when he holds it out in a silent toast.
“You can set the table, if you like,” Stiles offers, as though he’s already anticipated how useless Derek feels. He gestures at the table wear set out on the side, and Derek silently does as he’s asked.
It’s only once they’re sat down at the table and actually eating Stiles’s delicious concoction that Derek realises that Stiles hasn’t said a single word. Glancing over at him, he finds that Stiles isn’t eating, just sitting there looking at him, head tilted slightly to one side.
Derek finds himself grunting a defensive, “What?” before he can even think about it.
“Nothing,” Stiles shoots back all too quickly, eyes wide and innocent as he digs into his food.
They finish eating, and sit in unusually companionable silence until Derek asks, “Why did you take the job? I know you don’t need the money.”
Stiles tries to hide his smile by sipping on his wine. “I get bored easily,” he says, and while Derek can very well believe that, it doesn’t quite ring true.
He finds himself quirking an eyebrow and replying, “And?”
Stiles shrugs. “And Danny said you needed the help.”
Derek looks at him for a long moment, trying to work out whether or not he’s simply messing with him. While the distrustful side of him can’t believe for a second that Stiles would take on a dangerous job because some stranger ‘needed the help’, there’s another side of him that thinks that’s exactly what Stiles would do.
“I should get going,” Derek says eventually, because he’s pretty certain this isn’t a conversation he actually wants to get into. Besides, he feels heavy after the food, and his bones ache, and he just wants to lie down for a couple of hours.
“No,” Stiles says, surprising him into nearly sitting back down again. “I know you haven’t been sleeping in a proper bed,” he looks almost sheepish, “Stay here tonight.”
Derek thinks he’s actually completely lost his sanity when he finds himself agreeing.
In the morning, Derek wakes up to his phone ringing and Stiles sprawled across his chest.
He turns his phone off.