He’s tired (bone-weary, to the point where he just might collapse if one more thing goes wrong tonight), so, so tired of everything, but he needs answers. He thought he had them, but apparently he’s destined to always be wrong. “You told me Scott was the one I could really trust.”
Betrayal isn’t a new emotion for him. Much like anger, it has been a constant companion for the last six years of his life.
More than anything, he wishes he could send it packing. It isn’t something he needs to survive, it doesn’t serve to keep him human. All it does is send razor sharp knives into the place where he thinks his heart is supposed to be, if he even still has one after everything he’s done, everything he’s been through.
Unfortunately (that isn’t a strong enough word - he needs something that might, just maybe, be able to encompass how soul-crushing and desolating it really is, but he’s always been one to keep things simple), the people in his life have all conspired to make that desire impossible to achieve, proving his inability to trust (that isn’t true at all - he trusts too much and then they all let him down, every last one, whether they mean to or not) might actually be a good thing, something to hold onto when everything else feels like it’s being ripped away. The worst part is how he’s always so surprised when they prove him right, how it’s every bit as painful each time it happens.
“Did I?” How can he be so calm? If there is one thing he has decided about this man in particular, it is that he is far, far too calm in the face of everything that they are dealing with. Derek may not be the most emotive of individuals, but Dr. Deaton truly does have the most astonishing capacity to simply roll with the punches. It is simultaneously the most maddening and most admirable quality he’s ever encountered, and Derek has seen almost every side humanity and wolfkind have to offer, so that’s definitely saying something.
“Yeah, you did.”
What does that little smile hovering at the corners of Deaton’s lips even mean? How can anything about this night possibly be amusing? “You assumed that I was talking about Scott. But Scott’s name wasn’t the only one I mentioned, was it?”
Though he hasn’t used it overmuch in the brief time since he became alpha, finding each member of his pack is as effortless -as instinctual - as taking his next breath of air. An alpha is defined by his pack, needs them, not only for strength but in order to stay sane. Leaning against the wall outside of Dr. Deaton’s office, he closes his eyes and seeks out the five young people who have come under his care, trying not to recoil at the continued presence of his connection to Scott. No matter how much he wishes otherwise, he cannot simply cut Scott out of his life and the lives of the other pack members. The kid has managed to worm his way under Derek’s skin, and there’s no clean and easy way to change that.
Even so, his wayward (idiotic, self-centered, oblivious) beta isn’t his main concern right now.
He follows the link to the most vulnerable (not weak, never weak, with that maddening defiance, that stubborn determination, that drive to do anything and everything to keep the people he cares about safe from harm) member of his pack all the way to the hospital, feeling a frission of apprehension before he realizes that, other than a few scrapes and blossoming bruises, he’s fine. It’s his emotional state that leaves a lot to be desired. Stiles always exhibits a low-level hum of either anxiety or overexcitability, but right now, he feels like a bundle of hypersensitive nerves preparing to explode rather spectacularly, and Derek has no frame of reference for what will happen if he actually does, but if he were a betting man, he’d put money on it not being pretty.
Body moving before he even realizes he’s made the decision to do it, he flies through the streets, grateful for the lateness of the hour that keeps cars off the road and the vast majority of people safely stowed away in their beds, headless of the disaster building in what once was a sleepy, provincial town. He’s still exhausted, but the sense of purpose that comes from Stiles’ need is more than enough to help him push through and find his second - or third, or fourth, or really, he has no idea because somewhere along the way, he lost track - wind.
It’s possible that memorizing the layout of the hospital after killing Peter could be considered paranoid, but clearly his paranoia is paying off in spades tonight, allowing him to reach Stiles in record time and avoid most of the staff. The heavily absorbed behaviors of the various nurses and orderlies he passes should probably concern him more, given exactly how easy they make it for someone with an arrest record to enter the building, but then he’s kneeling in front of Stiles and putting his hands on shaking thighs, causing wide, panicked brown eyes to fly up from where they had been staring at his lap to stare back at him.
“Breathe, Stiles.” He’s not sure if it’s the shock of seeing Derek crouched in front of him, or the miniscule amount of power he uses - there’s a very real chance that his eyes turn red for a fraction of a second, but he refuses to worry about what might or might not show up on the security cameras. Whatever the reason, his order gets a jerky nod and an inhale followed by a stream of frantic chatter that for once, he just allows to flow over him, listening to it with half an ear while the other monitors the gradual lowering of the pulse he can see fluttering in the pale neck, taut with tension.
“... and now they both know, and Dad has a concussion, and it’s all my fault and how is it that nothing ever seems to go right for us -”
“How is anything that happened tonight your fault?”
Stiles falls silent for the first time in several minutes, swallowing, and this time when he opens his mouth, his voice is quiet, and it’s lost that frantic edge, but Derek’s pretty sure he likes the defeated tone that takes its place even less. “Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t know, since you weren’t there. Scott and I told Dad about Matt being Jackson’s master as soon as they disappeared from Lydia’s, and we convinced him to take us to the station to check the evidence. We checked the security footage from the night that couple was murdered and then we called Mrs. McCall and asked her to come to the station, but then Matt showed up and - well, you know the rest. Anyway, what do you need? Is something wrong with the others? I was going to stay here tonight, but if there’s something we need to do, I can come back later.” Stiles casts a conflicted look at the room Derek determined his dad was in and then turns his attention back, shoving his own desires aside, and it’s this, this is the reason Derek should have known it was Stiles from the start. Where Scott always has to follow his own plans before anyone else’s, Stiles is loyal to a fault and willing to do whatever it takes to get things done, whether he agrees with the necessary methods or not. Sure, he gripes and groans and generally makes his objections known, but he never actually hesitates when it really counts.
“Nothing’s wrong with the others.” It’s true. Even though Lydia dragged him away from Isaac, Boyd, and Erica hours ago, they’re all as close to fine as they can be on the night of a full moon. He’s fairly certain that it’s mostly due to Isaac, and he has never been more thankful for his decision to offer him the bite. Boyd may be the calm, cool intellect in the pack, but similar to Stiles, Isaac knows how to get things done, and he’s eager to improve his understanding of this life.
Stiles shakes his head slightly, genuinely confused. “Then is there something else that’s wrong?”
“There is, but we’ll talk about it later.” He just brought Stiles out of a panic attack. He has no desire to start another one by announcing that his uncle is back, or that Scott has apparently been working for the hunters all along.
“O-kaaaay. Then I’m at a loss. What brings you here at -” Stiles flicks his eyes over to the clock hanging on the wall at the end of the hallway, “4:26 in the morning?”
“As the alpha, I’m supposed to look after every member of my pack.”
“Makes sense.” Squinting, Stiles shakes his head again. “Actually wait, no it doesn’t, and I’m way too tired to try and figure anything else out right now, so. You want to maybe clear that up a little bit?”
“You were having a panic attack.”
“So?” He’s clearly still not putting the pieces together with his usual acuity.
Taking pity on him, Derek sighs and explains, “I’m here for you.”
Stiles stares at him with his brow furrowed, and it’s almost as though he’s been speaking in a foreign language. If this is what happens when Stiles is confused, Derek should try it more often - except, that tendency to run his mouth has become oddly comforting somewhere over the last few months, and it would be a shame for him to suddenly lose such an integral part of who he is. “Since when am I a part of your pack?”
The easiest answer would probably be when Scott did, but it wouldn’t be the right one. There are so many moments that come to mind, because it wasn’t any one thing. It was slow, and sometimes it was awkward, and it was almost always irritating to an unbelievable degree. Derek has gradually come to accept that Stiles will never stop provoking a series of convoluted emotions in him with every word that comes out of his mouth and every scheme and plot he pulls off.
In the end, Derek settles on something that may not fit perfectly, but will still do the job (and if it seems like that is becoming a sort of theme in his life - well - there isn’t a whole lot that can be done about it; he lives in a world held together by duct tape and determination). “Since you kept coming back.” He isn’t sure if he should attribute it to fate or to Stiles himself, but for some reason, the two of them keep being thrown together, and somewhere along the way, that tendency manifested itself as Stiles becoming a crucial member of his pack.
A laugh bursts out of Stiles then, startling them both, though of course, Stiles recovers first. “Yeah, I’m told it’s a habit of mine. Mrs. McCall says I’m incorrigible. I’ve decided to take it as a compliment.” His nose wrinkles before he continues. “Mostly because it’s the only word she’s ever used to describe me, and I’d rather not believe she only likes me out of some sort of motherly obligation. I mean - I am Scott’s only friend.”
Derek can’t entirely stop the tightening of his lips and the skin around his eyes, and while Stiles is many things (absolutely including incorrigible - thank you, Mrs. McCall), unobservant is not among them. Watching the calculating look in his eyes (because in spite of what Stiles seems to think, even at his most exhausted, the kid really can’t stop picking things apart - it’s just taking him a little longer than usual), Derek braces himself for the imminent inquisition.
He isn’t disappointed. “All right, what is going on? Aside from you fulfilling your alpha duties - which, thank you, by the way, for letting me know I was part of your pack pack, except for the part where you didn’t, and that was information I could have used way before now. Seriously, dude, you need to communicate. Leaders have to learn at some point that they can’t keep all the pertinent information to themselves, and I know you’re still figuring all of this out, but come on - is it that hard to explain things every once in a while?”
Raising an eyebrow, Derek gives Stiles a few seconds and then asks, “Are you done?”
Letting out a heavy stream of air, Stiles weighs his options. “Well, that depends on whether or not you’re still in a sharing mood.”
If it weren’t for the fact that he knows unquestioningly that Stiles in no way intends to challenge his authority, and that the two of them are miles away from the rest of the pack, Derek would feel the need to growl or snap or do something to punish him for his impertinence. As it is, he can’t completely shut out the amusement he experiences in the face of the kid’s flippant tenacity. Stiles really has to be the best and worst thing that has happened to him since coming back to Beacon Hills. There’s something significant about that fact that teases at the back of his mind, but he ignores it in favor of the more immediate problem.
He still doesn’t want to put Stiles in any more distress, especially while his father is in the hospital, and there is no doubt in his mind that he will take both pieces of news badly. Mind made up, Derek tells him calmly, “Then you might as well keep talking.” The look of stunned indignation his declaration receives deserves to be captured on film, but he contents himself with the knowledge that he will more likely than not be privy to plenty of similar expressions in the future.
When Stiles finally recovers, he purses his lips and then says, “Okay, then. Just so you know, you asked for it, buddy,” and then proceeds to deliver a deluge of rambling arguments for all the reasons Derek should be more free with information. Derek lets him, content to give Stiles the outlet and distraction he so obviously needs. At some point, he settles himself in the chair beside Stiles, though he keeps the hand closest to him on the kid’s thigh, because just like the words that leave his lips in a torrent, that point of contact serves to soothe the nerves which have become ragged in the seemingly endless storm of horrific events which have plagued them for the last few months, and his ability to set a member of his pack at ease also helps to settle Derek, which is definitely a pleasant side effect.
And if Stiles eventually winds up falling asleep mid-sentence, his mouth still managing to form words every once in awhile, and leaning against Derek’s shoulder? Well. It’s not like anyone else ever needs to know that that’s pretty relaxing, too.