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The Joy You Find Here

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So, yeah, that happened. Stiles gets home after all of it, falls in bed, and presses her face into her pillow. For a moment, she wants to just scream. Actually, no, forget that. She's had a scream building in her throat for hours (feels more like days, but whatever), since the first moment she'd scrambled onto the lacrosse field and seen Peter with Lydia. It started clawing its way up her throat, determined to get out, but looking into Peter's eyes (into the Alpha's eyes) had frozen it in her throat. She wouldn't scream in front of him. She'd shout, rage, panic, but she would not scream. She's spent months being snapped at and glared at by Derek fucking Hale. She is not prey and, god, it's a good thing no one's writing this down somewhere. Her abuse of italics would probably land her in some kind of grammar-induced war crimes court.

The thought helps. Stops the scream. Lets her shudder it out and scramble beneath the covers. She doesn't care if every wolf in every state can smell the fear radiating off her, she is not going to let it out. She is fine.

She's not the one lying in a hospital bed. She doesn't have the right to feel this way. Not when she left Lydia on that field, covered in blood, alone with no one to help her.

Stiles doesn't scream, but maybe she kind of sobs a little. She's allowed that much, right?

*

Sometimes, she wakes up and she can hear Peter's voice. A quiet, seductive whisper that turns her stomach and makes her shiver at the same time. "What a wolf you'd make," he says, sounding so real, so close she can feel his breath against her skin, even if he's nothing more than an echo now. "Resourceful, smart, you've been such a help to Derek." His chuckle makes her retch. "It's quite a wonder he can't see it, but then again, he always was so terrible with women."

His fingers walk along her arm, turning the softest flesh toward him, and she yanks back. So violent that she almost falls out of bed.

She's not alone, but she won't turn her head. Won't look at him. She knows it's Derek standing there. Her Dad isn't nearly that good at lurking and he'll never touch Derek in the guilt-ridden brooding department.

"You're in the wrong room, jackass," she mutters, rolling over and away from him.

"Stiles—"

"Get out." She puts the pillow over her head. "Now."

He goes, but not before he stops by her bed. She can feel his damn eyes staring at her and, god, how is this her life?

Biting her lip so hard she tastes blood, Stiles shuts her eyes and waits.

He lets the window thud shut when he goes. It's probably supposed to be an apology.

The really fucked up part is that, as apologies go, it really sort of is.

*

She visits Lydia. Curled up in her ugliest, rattiest sweats (and, god, you have no idea how hideous those are) Stiles grabs her notebook, her good pen, and stakes position across the hall from the room. It's as far as she can go.

Every time she tries to get go in, she just can't open the door. The nurses must think she's completely nuts because of the way she freezes. She strides up to the door, grabs the handle, and just stops. She can't turn it, can't even think to try, and nothing she says or thinks changes it.

"You can go in, honey," one nurse says. She's older than Scott's mom and, Stiles thinks, she might be the grandmother of a classmate. Round-cheeked, with calloused, firm hands, the little woman lays a hand on Stiles' back and rubs just once. It's kind of embarrassing the way that Stiles sobs a little and leans into the contact, but not half as much as the subtle alarm that comes into the nurse's eyes. "Or not," she says, steering Stiles away from the door. "You just sit right over here in your chair and you let it out."

Stiles isn't sure, but maybe, she thinks the nurse knows what happened somehow. That's stupid, because she's okay with it now, but maybe nurses have trauma-dar or something. She should ask Scott's mom sometime when she isn't freaking out about pretty much everything.

Well, not everything. Just everything Lydia. Oh, and apparently Derek is like a master werewolf now or whatever the hell it's supposed to be. So, you know, that's not worrying like at all. Especially the part where he's still stalking the hell out of her. Though, yeah, at least he does it from somewhere other than her bedroom.

At least she thinks so. Which, again, is not worrying at. all.

"I'm okay," she says, scrubbing her face with a worn sleeve. "It's just hard to see her like that."

The nurse nods, smiles, and looks like she's not believing a word of it. That's okay. Dad's still pissed at her about the Lydia thing, so he's totally buying it, and Scott hasn't even noticed yet (and that's okay, really, because he is so bad at worrying that it's just better this way), same goes for Allison, and hell, most of her teachers barely know her name. So, even if one nurse worries, she figures she's still going to come out on top.

*

Okay, maybe more like the middle, but she's allowed to be a little hypocritical about her all. It's relief that no one seems to notice (it is), but it's frustrating too. She's okay, but she got kidnapped by a crazy, nurse-killing, friend-chomping werewolf and no one notices anything?

"Stiles 1, Beacon Hills, zip."

Kicking off her shoes, Stiles rolls onto her stomach and fumbles around for her notebook.

"Wouldn't say that."

She overbalances and would fall, except a hand grabs her jeans and tugs her back. Going by the voice, it's a familiar hand.

"Aren't you supposed to be out chewing on the local delinquent population?" Notebook tucked safely beneath her, Stiles shifts to look over her shoulder at Derek. He's standing at her side, looking down at her, and it's totally not fair how hot the guy is. Jackass. "And Harris deciding to make my educational life hell does not qualify me for membership in that particular group."

The bed dips and, holy god, she rolls onto her back and scrambles away when Derek perches on the edge. He stops, looking at her, and she glares at him. "What the hell are you doing? Because, yeah, so not interested in the whole 'join me or die' thing you guys keep rocking."

It's out before she realizes it, but she still claps a hand over her mouth anyway. She knows her eyes must be wide and if her heart sounds as loud to him as it does to her...shit. Shit. SHIT.

"I did not say that," she says, up and off the bed. "You didn't hear that."

Except she saw his eyes flash for a split second. Saw the way they went red before he got it under control.

Interest or anger. She's not sure which one it is, but she's not interested either.

"He--"

She closes her eyes and nods. "Threatened. Offered. Whatever you want to call it. Mostly I was too busy going blind with terror to worry the finer points of communication."

Picking her notebook off the bed, she makes tracks for her computer. It's not much distance, but staring at the screen is a welcome escape. Especially when she can feel herself starting to shake.

Derek shifts on the bed. "Stiles..."

"M'fine," she mutters, typing furiously. Chem notes. She's already typed them up once, but what Derek doesn't know, right? "Look, whatever it is you want, just hurry up, okay? My grades get any worse and I can forget a shot at a scholarship."

Which is actually true. Most days, she doesn't care though, so she's almost curious to find out how that reads to Derek.

"Stiles."

Oh, Alpha voice.

She makes herself grin. "You know, you sound like my dad when you do that. Well, a little grouchier, maybe, but still like my Dad." She yelps when she turns and he's crouched right by her chair. "Oh god, can we not do this? I am not some refugee from a Lifetime special and while you are totally ripped enough to be one of those heroes, I am not doing this."

Derek surprises her by grinning. "God, you must've been hell on him."

"Well," she shrugs, "My shocking lack of anything approaching a survival instinct did make its presence known. As did the never-ending melodrama that is Scott and Allison's relationship." Pausing, she makes a face. "No, melodrama's not the right word. They're too sickeningly functional for that."

She shrugs. "Either way, he was not a happy puppy when he left."

The memory of Peter's fingers, lazily walking their way over her bare arm, comes back and makes her shudder. Revulsion leaves a bitter taste in her mouth and she looks away.

"To be fair, I wasn't turning cartwheels either."

She jumps when Derek's fingertips brush the skin of her neck. She guesses the touch is meant to be comforting, but he yanks it back when she moves.

"I'm sorry," he says, and it's so strange to hear that coming from him. Even stranger to see him looking at her like he is. Like he's worried about her or something.

Weird.

"Yeah, well, it wasn't your fault you got kidnapped." If she ignores the part where he stole Scott's phone just in case that is. "But if it makes you feel better--apology accepted."

He stands up. "It doesn't, but we're going to work on that."

Stiles blinks, but before she can argue, she's alone.

"How about that too, huh?" she asks the empty air. "Can we work on that too? God, werewolves are annoying."