Chapter 1: Run
It’s been five years. Five years and several thousand miles, moving on from place to place without ever looking back. Five years of constant reminders of what he left behind. Five years of fake names, fake IDs and learning how to blend in; learning how to keep quiet and keep to himself. Learning to be all the things that he never used to be. There was a reason why he left, and he knows that. It’s just that sometimes he can’t remember what it was – between all the backstories that he’s come up with and the constant stream of new faces in his life, it seems to have got lost. Some days he thinks it was because he wasn’t happy. Some days he thinks it was because he was too happy – because he knows that happiness like that never lasts. Other days, he thinks it was to protect people – if he was gone, who would use his loved ones as a target? Or maybe… maybe it was to protect himself? Whatever. There was a reason why he left. There’s a reason why he doesn’t go back.
Sometimes, in the dark of the night – in the deep, inky blackness just before the stilly light of dawn creeps across the sky – sometimes he thinks maybe he doesn’t go back because there’s no place for him there anymore. After all, when he first left (the morning after graduation, with all his things already on their way back home and nothing left but a bag full of clothes, money and a couple of books) they’d come after him. He hadn’t been as good at this then. There had been ‘Missing’ posters with his face on them; even a news bulletin. There had been people actively looking for him, and some not-quite-people looking too. He’d spent weeks holed up in hotels, wearing hideous cologne to cover up his scent and obsessively cleaning his room before he moved on to anywhere new.
It was easier once he’d got a couple of states away. By the time he’d got himself to Wyoming, he started to feel like he could breathe a little easier. He stopped looking over his shoulder constantly. People even stopped asking him if he was ok every time a black Camaro went past – mainly because he stopped jumping. Then he started to work on blending in. First on the order of business was learning when to talk and when to keep his mouth shut. That had probably been the hardest thing to do – after all, he was breaking the habit of a lifetime. Hard as it was though, it wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d expected it to be. He realised one day that maybe it was because he didn’t have much to say to complete strangers.
Anyway, after that, everything else came a little easier. He managed to fabricate an accent that came from nowhere in particular, but that could be from anywhere at all if he wanted it to. He grew his hair out, gelling it up into spikes at the front. He started to wear clothes that actually fitted. He worked out. In fact, it wasn’t until he caught himself weighing up whether he should buy a leather jacket that he realised exactly what he’d been doing; who he’d been subconsciously emulating. The irony of it startled a laugh out of him; a laugh that caught in his chest and came out more like a sob.
He didn’t buy the leather jacket.
A couple of hundred miles later though, he stops off in a little town to get some fuel and grab something to eat. He’s shoving curly fries into his mouth as he walks along the main street, looking idly in shop windows when he sees it. In the display of a place that calls itself ‘Jewels of the Earth’, nestled against black velvet, it glints slyly at him. It says, ‘Buy me.’ It says, ‘No one will know.’ It says, ‘You know you want to.’ And he nods his head, agreeing.
He steps into the shop and asks about it. The lady behind the counter goes to get it for him, chattering about how it’s a celtic design, called a –
‘A triskele’, he says. ‘Or triskelion. It means three-legged.’ He sends her a small smile as an apology for interrupting. ‘I had a friend who had it as a tattoo’, he says by way of explanation.
She smiles brightly at him. ‘That’s nice’, she says. She doesn’t mean it, it’s clear, but it's also obvious that she doesn’t want offend him. He wonders if maybe she’s so enthusiastic about it because it hasn’t sold yet, and she doesn’t want to miss a chance to get rid of it. He supposes it’s not a popular design.
He weighs it in his hand, feeling the pleasant heaviness of it. It’s bigger than a dollar – maybe half as big again – probably about four centimetres across at its widest points. It shines nicely, but it’s dull enough that his finger prints don’t leave too much of a mark on its smooth surface.
‘What’s it made of?’ he asks.
The shop owner proudly says that it’s pure silver, and he has to bite back a laugh at that, because once again, the irony is too much to ignore. Regardless though, he knows he’s going to buy it. Even when the shop owner tells him that it costs seventy-five dollars (and maybe that’s why it hasn’t sold), he doesn’t put it down. Instead, he hands over the right notes and stops her as she tries to wrap it up for him. When he realises he has nothing to hang it from, she gives him a black leather string for free – ‘As a thank-you for your custom.’
He nods his gratitude and heads out of the shop, wondering what he’s just done. In fact, he almost turns around to go and give it back to the woman, but he doesn’t in the end. Instead, he loops it over the mirror of his car and tries not get distracted by the way it catches the light as he drives. He slings it around his neck that night, when he gets out of the car to check into the motel he’s stopped at. He tells himself it’s so it doesn’t get stolen – after all, that would be a real waste of seventy-five dollars.
It stays on his neck though, a constant reminder of everything he left behind him. Some nights it makes him want to cry, wretched homesickness raging through him until he feels like he’s falling apart. Other nights he lies awake stroking the smooth spirals with the pad of his thumb. And on very rare occasions, some girl will comment on it as they get undressed, running her hand across it and down his chest in a move that’s supposed to be sexy. He never talks about it, just takes it off and puts it somewhere safe until the girl is gone. Then he’ll shower and settle it round his neck, feeling it grow warm against his skin.
Sometimes, he used to wonder whether they’d know that he bought it – whether he’d know. He used to wonder if it would draw them back on to his trail; if it would bring him back up on their radar. But it never does. And he thinks maybe they’ve forgotten him.
After all, despite all the initial furore and those couple of near misses where he’d ended up scrambling out of town in a cloud of dust and praying that he’d got away clean, it didn’t take too long for them to give up. He’s not sure why. Perhaps they thought he had died. Perhaps they realised he doesn’t want to be found. Or, as he thinks sometimes, when the night is dark and he’s all alone, perhaps they stopped wanting to find him. Either way, it’s been three and a half years since he’s worried about anyone being on his trail.
It should make him happy. It doesn’t.
He carries on running though, partly because he feels he has to, partly because it’s habit now. He’s so used to moving from place to place that it feels strange to stay anywhere too long. Besides, he always said he’d see all fifty states and now seems as good a time as any. It’s not like he has anything else to do.
It’s one of the small joys of his life, the travelling. He gets a real kick out of getting into whatever heap of junk he’s driving that month and just going. The freedom of the open road and doing whatever he wants… it’s a rush. It’s addictive, and before he turned twenty five he’d already covered thirty states from top to toe. One of his personal favourites was Hawaii, even though it was by far the most difficult to get to. Still, regardless of the trouble getting through airport security caused him, he still holds the memories of his time there closely. He’d felt peaceful there; far enough from everywhere to feel truly safe.
He also loved the East Coast. He spent the best part of two years there, getting lost in the crowds and learning all kinds of interesting things about the first settlers. He even toyed with the idea of attending Harvard at one point, but decided against it in the end – it would keep him in one place for too long and make him far too easy to find. Still, he’d left Boston with sadness.
Leaving Massachusetts had been a wrench as well. He’d been happy there. But he’d already stayed longer than he should (all it takes it one person to recognise you, his brain had whispered, day in, day out) and learned all he could learn. If there had been any more lore to discover, he’d have found it by then. So he’d packed up with a sigh and driven off into the night, headed south.
Since then he’s wandered all over, even coming as far back across the west as Nevada and Arizona. He hadn’t stayed there long – not that there was much to see in either state – and had made his way to New Mexico soon. There was a sense of relief once he pushed past the border, as if crossing a line could somehow put him that much further away from everything he’d less behind. Ridiculous it might be, but it was there regardless. California just felt that much further away.
After New Mexico, he’d toyed with just driving through Texas to go back to Louisiana, and from there, heading back down to Florida. He’d met some very interesting people in both states – some very knowledgeable people, who provided him with a lot of information he hadn’t had previously. Texas itched at him though – it was the one state he hadn’t ‘done’. Sure, he’d driven through it a few times, cutting across corners to get somewhere else. He’d never stayed though; never worked through it the way he had everywhere else.
‘All fifty states’, he had muttered to himself. ‘Just think – you could have all fifty under your belt before your birthday.’ And he’d caved, because the idea of having covered the entire US from top to toe by the age of twenty-eight… well, it was pretty awesome.
That’s why he’s in Dallas a couple of days before his birthday, heading to work. Dallas was his last stop to cover – his journeys never go in any logical order – and he’s been here for three weeks now. He works as a bartender four nights a week, and everyone thinks his name is Sam Winchester. So far only two people have asked him whether he’s for real, which is almost disappointing – obviously, there aren’t enough Supernatural fans in the world. He refuses to believe this has anything to do with the fact that the show ended a nearly decade ago.
Anyway, he’s enjoying Dallas, and he’s enjoying this job. The guy who owns the place is in his fifties and wears a cowboy hat seemingly all day, every day. He and his wife seem to know everyone who comes into the bar, and they chat to all their patrons like old friends. It’s nice, having a corner of small-town America in the middle of a big city. It’s a big part of the reason he enjoys being here. Everyone has been super kind and welcoming, and it feels like the perfect place to finish up his trip, even though he knows he’s not going to stay here for long. Not really. Still, he’s not leaving just yet, he tells himself. Not til after Christmas anyway.
He doesn’t bother to acknowledge that Christmas is less than a week away, or that he’ll be spending it alone again.
Instead, he walks to work, hands in his coat pockets and head tucked into his scarf. The temperature has been sitting around freezing for days, and people are talking about the likelihood of freezing rain in the next few days. He hopes it’ll happen – he’s always wanted to see what it’s like, destructive as it is. The peculiarities of nature have fascinated him for a long time.
As it is, he’s almost at the bar when he looks up and sees the full moon. It hangs in the sky, perfectly round and milky-white, casting silver light over everything. He wonders how he failed to notice it. Then he wonders what it looks like from California; wonders what it looks like though the eyes of a wolf. For a brief moment, he puts his palm over the silver pendant hanging around his neck, closing his eyes and wishing them all well, wherever they are. He thinks, just for a second, that he hears a wolf howl. Then he blinks away the wetness in his eyes and heads inside.
It’s a busy night, the place filled with people celebrating the holiday spirit and looking forward to finishing work. Karaoke starts up at some point, and he hides a smile at how every song is about cowboys, or Texas, or riding across the plains. They’re fiercely proud of their heritage, these people. It’s not like that where he comes from. Or, at least, it wasn’t the last time he was there. Maybe it is now.
His hands are kept full over the course of the evening, but for some reason, his thoughts keep slipping back to the place he calls home. It’s annoying to say the least, and it makes him clumsy. He gets a couple of orders wrong, and snaps at a guy who wasn’t behaving that badly. It’s not like him; not like the man he is now.
Jerry pulls him aside at one point. ‘Everything ok son?’ he asks. There’s genuine concern in his eyes and for a minute he looks so like a certain Sheriff from Beacon Hills, California, that it physically hurts.
‘Yeah, I’m fine’, he says after a moment. ‘Just thinking about home.’
Jerry nods like that makes sense. ‘You know, you can always take some time off if you want. We’re closed from the 24th to the 27th anyway – you could head back home if you wanted. Go and see your family. Come back on the 29th or something – I know Mike has been wanting some extra shifts.’
This sudden show of kindness from a man he barely knows brings tears prickling at the back of his eyes. He nods. ‘I might just take you up on that’, he replies.
Jerry grins. ‘Good. Now you get out there and quit moping – you know half the girls out there only come in hoping to catch a smile from you. I need you on form!’
He grins back, doing as he’s told. And although he knows he’s not really going to go home, the idea of just taking off driving for a few days is nice. It’s been a while since he’s just driven along, no idea where he’s going. If he packs enough food for a few days, he doesn’t even have to notice when his birthday and Christmas come and go again.
It’s after midnight by the time they start to close up, the jukebox in the corner still playing as they wipe down tables and pick up chairs. It’s all old country tunes, but he’s used to that by now – likes them, even. And he thinks a good thing none of the people back home can see him now, because he’d never hear the end of singing along to country music.
Soon, a song comes on that he doesn’t know. The introduction is sad-sounding, and when the singer starts singing, the words are too. Well, not sad so much as longing, and he listens as the singer tells his lover to ‘Catch a ride, or catch a cab… but don’t you walk to me.’ And then he sings,
‘Baby, run – cut a path across the blue skies! Straight in a straight line, you can't get here fast enough. Find a truck and fire it up: lean on the gas and off the clutch, leave Dallas in the dust. I need you in a rush, so baby run.’
And it’s too much. It’s much too much. It takes everything he has to finish closing up without breaking down. When he leaves, he has to run home so he can fall inside his apartment door and sink to floor, gasping for breath as the tears come. It’s all he can do to hold on and ride it out. Then, when he’s finally done, he gets up on wobbly legs and stumbles to bed.
He sleeps for a few hours, and when he wakes up the sky isn’t yet light. He makes a cup of coffee and stares out of the window as the dawn creeps in, frowning out at the city. He holds the triskelion pendant in his hand, running his thumb over it as the city begins to wake up for another day. He thinks and thinks and thinks, turning over all the days and miles between him and what he’s been running from all the years. He thinks about all the reasons he has to stay away, but somehow none of them seem to make any sense anymore. If they ever did at all.
It’s lunchtime by the time he’s made a decision. He makes a sandwich, chewing it mindlessly, his thoughts elsewhere. Then he starts to clear up the kitchen – not that there’s much for him to clear. After that, he moves through the rest of the apartment, the words of the song running through his head until he has to take a break to download it from iTunes before it drives him totally crazy.
The song has already clocked up thirty plays by the time he’s done with the apartment. After another fifteen, he’s got everything into his truck, and all that’s left to do is leave the rest of the month’s rent on the counter, along with the keys and a note of apology.
Then there’s nothing but him and the road, ‘Run’ playing on repeat as he drives off, taking the shortcut he Googled earlier and leaving Dallas behind him in the dust, just like he was told to. The road stretches out in front of him and he can feel his heart soaring the closer he gets, happiness bubbling up inside as he passes through the Texas/New Mexico border. When he nears the border between New Mexico and Arizona, he feels like he’s getting lighter with every passing mile.
He plans to stop in Arizona and snatch a few hours’ sleep there, but he winds up pulling over in New Mexico, scant miles from the border, because he thinks he might fall asleep at the wheel if he doesn’t. He wakes up ten hours later and has to force himself to have something to eat and drink before he starts driving again, even though the need to go home is fierce and painful. He crosses the border with delight, singing along to ‘Run’ with all his might.
After that, he stops once to relieve himself and grab a bite to eat. That’s it, because that’s all the time he can stand to waste. He has to hold back tears when he makes it into California, because tears mean time and time is the last thing he has to spare. The weight off his shoulders is intense though, and he wonders how he never even noticed that it was there in the first place.
The last hours of the day are slipping by when he finally makes it home. He does stop then, giving himself a short break to let out all the emotions fighting inside him, allowing himself a few tears. The relief at seeing that all the houses he recognises are unchanged is like a fist in the gut, although it’s nothing compared to driving past his childhood home and seeing his father’s car parked outside. The windows are dark, but just the thought of the Sheriff asleep inside is enough. And much as he wants to stay, he knows there’s one more stop he has to make first.
The woods are dark, but the roads are better than they used to be, and he wonders who maintains them. He stops wondering when he pulls up outside a house that he last knew as a ruin, but is now pristine and new under his headlights. He thinks, just for a second, that maybe this was a mistake – if the house is rebuilt, maybe who he’s looking for isn’t here. But he crushes that thought because it’s stupid, and he gets out of the car.
It’s strangely quiet without the strains of George Strait in his ears, and he shivers briefly against the damp cold – so different from the sharp, dry frosts of Dallas. He sticks his hands in his pockets and jogs up the porch steps to the front door. He takes a moment to think about what he’s going to say before he decides it doesn’t really matter. Then he presses the doorbell.
It takes a minute or two for the sound of a key in the lock to appear. Then the door opens and he’s confronted by a face he hasn’t seen in nearly five and a half years.
Derek looks good. His face is a little more worn, with more lines on it than there used to be. There are a few streaks of grey in his hair too, but he looks good. Better, (almost) at thirty-four than he looked at twenty-eight.
He also looks like he’s just seen a ghost.
His mouth opens and closes wordlessly for a minute or two. A voice calls from upstairs, ‘Derek, who is it?’ It’s Erica, and she sounds like she’s barely awake.
‘Tell them to fuck off and come back in the morning’, another voice says. That’s Isaac.
Derek says nothing and continues to stare, like he can’t believe his eyes.
Then, finally, he speaks, his voice hoarse and barely there, like if he says anything too loudly everything will disappear in front of his eyes.
He says, ‘Stiles?’
Stiles says, ‘Hi there, Sourwolf.’ And he can’t help how his voice cracks on the last syllable.
Then there are warm hands on his face and warm lips against his and he’s crying again, but it feels ok this time. It feels great, actually, because he’s finally, finally home.
Chapter 2: Prodigal, Part I
The first part of Stiles' return, and the consequences.
More angst I'm afraid. But also more happy. It balances out. Sort of.
There are a lot of tears. Just fyi.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They kiss until Stiles can barely breathe, furious and desperate like it’s their last chance, not their first. When they finally pull apart, Stiles sees that Derek is crying too and it catches him low in the abdomen, like a hook in his guts. He realises for the first time that if leaving was bad for him, it can only have been worse for everyone that he left behind. The joy that was radiating through his veins grows a little cold.
‘I’m sorry’, he says through his tears. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ And he presses kisses to Derek’s face, along his cheekbones and his forehead, on his closed eyes and against his lips. ‘I’m sorry.’
Derek opens his eyes, the pain in them sharp and blatantly obvious now that the initial euphoria and disbelief have faded. He looks tired and so old that Stiles can’t help reaching for him and wrapping his arms around Derek , burying his face in Derek’s shoulder. It takes a moment or two, but then Derek’s arms come up around him, fingers digging into his back so hard that it hurts.
‘We thought you were dead’, Derek says huskily. ‘We searched for you for two years, all across Nevada and Arizona. We even went up to Oregon and Washington, but there was no trace of you after the first year. You just… you just disappeared, like you’d never even been there in the first place. It felt like I was going insane.’ He breathes into Stiles’ neck raggedly. ‘I wanted to carry on looking – we all did – but there was no trail to follow and no scent. Even the Argents couldn’t find you.’ His chest hitches and Stiles can feel fresh tears falling against his skin. ‘We thought you had died – do you get that?’
‘I had to leave’, Stiles whispers, though he sounds totally lacking conviction even to his own ears. ‘I had to go.’
Derek snorts scornfully. ‘Sure you did, Stiles’, he says. ‘I’m sure there were long lists of reasons why you had to take off without saying goodbye and then disappear into thin air.’ He pulls away from Stiles, his tears drying on his cheeks, the irises of his eyes tinged with red. ‘I’m sure it all made perfect sense.’
Stiles looks at him miserably. ‘It did’, he says. ‘It did then.’
Derek’s face takes on an expression of disgust. He folds his arms across his chest. ‘And what, it carried on making sense for the rest of the five and a half years that you stayed away?’
Stiles shakes his head. ‘Of course not’, he says, unable to meet Derek’s eye. ‘But I didn’t realise it – I didn’t want to realise it.’ His shoulders drop under the sudden weight of self-loathing. ‘I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong’, he tells the porch under his feet.
Derek’s laugh is bitter. ‘Well it’s good of you to admit that you fucked up, but it’s a little late now don’t you think? Or did you just expect that you’d come back like the prodigal son and everything would be ok? Did you think everyone would just forget what you’ve done?’
Stiles shakes his head again, and forces himself to look at Derek as he says, ‘I don’t know what I expected. All I know is that on the night of the full moon, all I could think about was everyone here and how I had to see you all. So I packed up my apartment in Dallas and I’ve been driving since the 20th to get here.’ He takes a deep breath. ‘I had to see you. I had to come back. I had to come home, even if it’s not my home anymore.’
The silence hands heavily between them for long moments. Finally, Derek unfolds his arms with a sigh. ‘You should come inside. It’s cold out here and you always used to catch a chill ridiculously easily.’
Stiles smiles sadly. ‘That hasn’t changed.’ He follows Derek inside, grateful for the warmth of the house. ‘Thank you for inviting me in’, he says.
Derek snorts. ‘I didn’t fancy standing out in the cold either. It’s not just for you.’ He walks off round the stairs and Stiles follows slowly, waiting for his eyes to adjust in the dark. The house (or what he can see of it) is beautiful – clean and smartly decorated, but homely feeling too.
‘The house looks good’, he offers as they head into the kitchen, which is lit by the moonlight streaming through the French windows at the far end of the room.
Derek shrugs. ‘Erica organised most of the work.’
Stiles nods. ‘So she and Isaac are still here. Are you guys…’ His question trails off lamely, not sure what he’s trying to ask.
‘No’, Derek replies curtly. ‘We’re not involved. Not that it’s any of your business.’ Stiles gives him that one, because it’s really not his business. He’s still pleased with the answer.
‘So… what do you do these days?’ He asks the question mainly to fill the silence, an old habit that’s never really died. Derek clearly doesn’t appreciate the effort – some things haven’t changed that much.
‘Stiles, don’t bother. We’re not going to talk about my life. We’re going to talk about what the hell you’ve been doing for the last five years that meant you couldn’t come home.’ And Stiles absolutely doesn’t focus on the fact that Derek said ‘home’.
He frowns at the table, thinking. ‘I don’t know anymore’, he says finally. ‘I know I thought it was my only option when I left – I would have stayed if I thought there was any other way.’ He twiddles his thumbs absently. ‘I think I was scared. I think… I think I thought that it was only a matter of time before something came along that was too big and bad for us to handle. Maybe I thought it would keep you safe if I wasn’t there to paint a target on Beacon Hills. Maybe I thought it would keep my dad safe.’ He sighs and looks up to meet Derek’s gaze. ‘Honestly, I don’t even remember anymore.’
Derek rolls his eyes at that. ‘How convenient’, he says drily. Then he pauses, and for a moment his face is open; vulnerable. ‘It didn’t… it wasn’t… it wasn’t because of me, was it? I know what we had was a lot to handle so young.’
Stiles feels his eyes prickle with tears at that, because it’s so quintessentially Derek to think it’s his fault. He shakes his head, smiling sadly. ‘You were the best thing in my life’, he says, meaning every word. ‘Leaving you… it was the hardest part. For the first few months I had to force myself not to contact you, every single day.’ He almost reaches across the table to Derek, but thinks better of it, keeping his hands to himself. Instead he says, ‘I promise that it wasn’t why I left – I mean, not for the reasons you think.’
Derek frowns, his face hardening again. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘It means that I was scared that if I stayed, someone would hurt you, or someone would try to take you from me. It means I thought that if I stayed, something would happen and I’d lose you. I didn’t believe happiness like that could last’, Stiles says. His mouth tastes of ashes and fear.
‘So you left me behind to protect me? You left me behind because you thought something might go wrong?’ Derek gets up, pacing angrily, eyes glowing red. ‘Jesus Christ, Stiles, I thought you were the clever one!’
‘Look, I’m sorry’, Stiles says heatedly. ‘I am more sorry than you can possibly imagine, and I know that’s not enough but it’s all I can offer! I can’t go back and change things. I can’t fix what I did – I can’t turn back time and make it so that none of this happened! But I am sorry.’
‘You’re damn right sorry’s not enough!’ Derek roars. ‘Do you have any idea what you did to me? Do you know what it’s like for a wolf to lose its mate? And don’t tell me you know, because you don’t – you’re just a stupid human who thinks running away will fix things!’
Tears slip down Stiles’ cheeks unbidden. He brushes them away with an angry hand and stands up.
‘You’re right – I don’t know what it’s like’, he says quietly. ‘I don’t know and I can’t imagine how bad it must have been for you. And I am sorry, and I will keep telling you how sorry I am until you’re ready to listen. But I’m not just a stupid human – you of all people should know that – and I’m not running anymore.’ He turns away. ‘I think perhaps I should leave.’
‘Stiles.’ Derek doesn’t sound angry anymore, just tired. Stiles hates himself for not being able to resist, even after all this time. He turns back around.
‘You can’t leave. Nowhere’s open this late, this close to Christmas.’
Stiles shrugs. ‘I’ll sleep in my truck. It’s fine. I’ve spent worse nights in worse places.’
Derek shoots him a look. ‘Stiles. It’s freezing outside and your truck is a heap of shit. You’re staying here tonight.’ And Stiles would argue, but he knows well enough that Derek will manhandle him up the stairs and into a bed if he has to. He sighs.
‘Yeah, fine. Just let me grab some of the stuff from my truck.’
Derek shakes his head. ‘You don’t need to get anything. It’s safe here. Just come upstairs.’
Stiles tries very hard not to think about all the other times that Derek said that to him in the past, or all the interesting things that it lead to. He fails miserably, and keeps silent as he follows Derek up the stairs and along a corridor. Derek stops in front of a door, opening it and flicking on a light. Everything is in pale colours and shades of cream, giving the room a feeling that’s clean and bright. The double bed looks insanely comfy.
‘You can sleep here’, Derek says. ‘We’ll talk more in the morning.’ Then he turns and shuts the door behind him, with a parting shot of, ‘Happy Birthday, Stiles.’
And sure enough, the clock on the bedside table reads twelve thirty-four, which means he’s been twenty-eight for over half an hour. ‘Happy Birthday to me’, Stiles says bitterly, toeing off his shoes and peeling off his coat. Then he takes off his belt, tugs off his jeans and switches off the light, crawling into the big, wide bed with a groan. He tries to listen to the muffled voices coming from the floor above, but fails miserably because scant minutes after getting into bed, he’s fast asleep.
He wakes up to light and the smell of cinnamon hot chocolate. It takes him a moment or two to realise that he’s not alone, and another a minute to summon up the energy to sit up and open his eyes. He feels weary down to his bones.
‘Morning, Stiles. Happy Birthday!’ Then there’s a mug in his hands and he’s looking at Erica Reyes, who’s perched on the end of the bed, looking as immaculate as always. She’s smiling, but after a second the smile wobbles. Stiles barely manages to set the mug down before she’s tackled him, wrapping her arms round him with a sob.
‘You stupid idiot!’ she says through her tears. ‘I missed you so much!’
‘I missed you too’, Stiles says thickly, eyes blurring as he manoeuvres his arms around her waist. ‘I missed you so, so much.’ And they stay like that for a few long minutes, just holding each other. Stiles breathes in the scent of her hair and the warmth of her skin, remembering all the nights they used to stay up together and watch sci-fi films in his living room, and how Erica would always fall asleep on his shoulder. They used to best friends, once upon a time.
Finally, Erica pulls back, laughing as tries to sort out her mascara, which has run halfway down her face. Stiles watches with a smile, because she still looks stunning as ever. It’s wonderful to see her.
‘It’s good to see you’, he tells her. ‘Really good.’
She shoots him a watery smile. ‘Well I’d have preferred to see you sooner – maybe five years sooner – but it’s good to see you too Stiles.’ She leans down and picks another mug off the floor, taking a sip. ‘I mean, I’m mad at you, I am – really mad – but I figure that can wait until after breakfast or whatever.’
‘Good to know’, he says with a grin. He reaches for his own mug and takes in the marshmallows (clearly homemade) floating on top of cinnamon hot chocolate – just like his mother always made for him on the morning of his birthday each year. He almost says, ‘You remembered’, but stops himself, because of course Erica did. After all, he always sent a firework up on her birthday each year that he was gone. Some things just stay with you.
'Derek made the marshmallows’, she says innocently. ‘I didn’t even have to ask him.’
Stiles eats a marshmallow. It’s very good.
He swallows and sighs. ‘He’s really pissed with me, Rey’, he says, her nickname slipping off his tongue as easily as breathing. ‘Marshmallows or no, he’s not going to forgive me any time soon.’
‘But he is going to forgive you’, Erica says with absolutely certainty. ‘So it doesn’t matter how long it takes, because it’s going to be ok in the end.’ And she gives him a smile so genuine that he doesn’t even bother to argue.
‘So what have you been up to?’ he asks, changing the subject. ‘I mean, you’d just graduated from UCLA the last time we spoke.’ He winces inwardly, knowing what he really means is, ‘before I ran away’. Erica makes a face at him, but then a grin spreads across her face.
'Well, it just so happened that…’ and she’s off, regaling him with over five years’ worth of stories. He listens avidly, drinking in everything that he’s missed. It’s not hard to pay attention – Erica’s got even funnier since he left – and by the time she’s done, he can’t help but feel immense pride for his friend.
‘It sounds like you and Lydia are set take over the world’, he says with a laugh. ‘Should I pledge my undying loyalty now?’
Erica’s eyes fill with sadness. ‘Just promise you won’t leave again’, she says quietly. ‘Promise you’re here to stay.’
The weight of guilt settles back on Stiles’ shoulders at that. He reaches across to squeeze Erica’s hand. ‘I can’t promise anything’, he says slowly. ‘Nothing like that anyway. But I can promise that I’ll stay for now. And if things work out… well, I’d like to stay.’ Then he pulls back and stretches, yawning widely. ‘I should get dressed!’
‘You should shower first’, Erica says bluntly. ‘You smell.'
He showers, not least because the best part of two days in his truck have not left him feeling fresh. Then he chats to Erica as he dresses. She tells him lots of town gossip, although she pointedly avoids the subject of the rest of the pack, the Argents, or his father. She assures him that he’s allowed to wear the clothes she got for him – Derek had looked out some of his old things specially.
‘I wanted to just sniff out your clothes from whatever’s in all those boxes in your truck, but Derek said that would be an invasion of your privacy and he got some of his stuff instead. And seeing as you’ve filled out like, loads, it actually fits you’, she says with a grin. Then she catches sight of the triskele pendant hanging against his chest and she looks at him sympathetically. ‘You missed him too.’
Stiles nods, even though it’s not a question. ‘Yeah, I missed him’, he says. ‘I missed him every damn day.’ He looks at her. ‘Don’t tell him about this. Please.’
Erica nods, understanding written all over her face. ‘I won’t. But I think maybe you should.’ Then she gets up and grabs his hand. ‘Come on! It’s time for breakfast!’
She proceeds to practically drag him downstairs, and if it weren’t for super-special wolfy reflexes, he’d have fallen over Isaac. As it is, he gets pulled into a bear hug for about ten minutes. When he’s finally released, Isaac ruffles his hair with a grin.
‘Quit it, you overgrown puppy’, he says. For a moment it feels like he never left, but then he catches sight of Derek’s impassive face in the kitchen and his heart sinks. Maybe you should have thought about this before you ran back here like a homesick child, his mind whispers. He feels the tension sinking back into his bones. Then Isaac slings a companionable arm around his shoulder and guides him into the kitchen.
‘We figured you’d probably be hungry – because the world would probably end if you weren’t – so we made you a proper birthday breakfast’, he says. ‘We even managed to get hold of some curly fries.’ Stiles’ stomach chooses that moment to grumble loudly, and the three of them giggle. Even Derek looks like he might be holding back a smile.
Stiles takes his seat eagerly, his heart tugging as he notices that they’ve given him his mug, which Lydia had brought back specially from a trip to England years ago. He takes in the huge mounds of food on the table, and he barely manages to say, ‘You guys are the best’, before he’s shovelling so much food on to his plate that it barely all fits on. And for the next little while, he pushes all his feelings aside, focussing on filling himself to the brim with as much food as possible.
When he’s finally done (and feeling like he might burst at the seams), he sits back and gets Isaac to talk about what he’s been up to over the past years. Stiles can feel Derek’s disapproval and discomfort, but the older man says nothing. Stiles takes this as permission to carry on, and listens eagerly to what Isaac has to say. Like Erica, the years seem to have been good to him, although he’s taken an entirely different path to her. Stiles tries to picture him as a teacher, and finds he likes the idea – even if the irony of Isaac teaching Chemistry is not lost on him. Still, Isaac has to be better than Professor Harris.
Eventually though, the conversation takes a turn for the meaningless and that’s when Derek sticks his oar in.
‘You should see your father’, he says, his voice entirely free of expression. Stiles frowns.
‘I know. And I was planning to, but it’s not like I could go last night.’
‘You can go now.’
Stiles sighs, realising that Derek’s decided to be difficult, and now won’t talk about things that really need to be talked about until Stiles has completed whatever little tick-list is inside Derek’s head. It seems like Sourwolf is still a Sourwolf at heart.
‘Yeah, I can. So I’ll grab my things and get my piece of shit truck off your drive, and then you can go back to whatever it is that you do these days – maybe landscape gardening?’ Without meaning to, he’s slipped back into the sarcasm of his younger days, before he and Derek were even together. Weirdly, it feels right. He’s not going to dwell on that thought.
Derek just snorts, which Stiles takes as his cue to leave. He gets up and goes to get his stuff from upstairs. Isaac and Erica are waiting for him in the hall when he comes back down. He gives them both a smile. ‘It was good to see you crazy kids again’, he says. ‘Try and stay out of trouble until the next time, yeah?’ Then he presses a kiss to Erica’s temple and claps Isaac on the shoulder before heading out the front door.
‘Bye Sourwolf’, he shouts, and he thinks he hears a growl. It makes him grin.
Half an hour later, he’s pulled up on the curb across from his childhood home. His dad’s car is still there, so he’s definitely in. Stiles knows he should be running towards the front door at a million miles an hour, but it takes him a good ten minutes before he can even work up the courage to get out of the truck. He’s still muttering words of encouragement to himself as he gets up to the door, and he almost chickens out at the last minute. But then he draws himself up, takes a deep breath and rings the bell.
And then he waits.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
I promise new (old) faces next time though!
Chapter 3: Prodigal, Part II
In which there are reunions, and none of them are quite what Stiles expects.
More tears. More feels. A dash of humour.
When the door opens, he’s not greeted by the person that he expects.
‘Mrs McCall?’ he blurts, despite the fact he’s been calling her Melissa since he turned eighteen.
‘Stiles?’ She stares at him in shock. ‘Oh my god, Stiles!’ And for the fourth time in less than twelve hours, he’s pulled into a fierce embrace. He returns it warmly – regardless of his confusion, Melissa McCall was like a surrogate mother to him for most of his life and he loves her dearly.
She pulls back after a few minutes, eyes bright with tears. ‘Oh my god!’ she says again, sniffling. ‘Stiles!’ Then she turns and calls over her shoulder, ‘John! John, get down here right now!’ And she ushers Stiles inside, waiting with him until there’s a familiar tread on the stairs. At that point, she disappears off, and then there’s a figure standing in the hall who Stiles thinks he might know better than he knows himself.
Sheriff John Stilinski looks different to the last time they saw each other. The lines on his face have deepened, and his jaw looks harder than it ever used to – like he’s constantly clenching it. His hair is almost completely grey, and his face looks gaunter; the bones of his cheeks sharper. In short, he looks old. But that doesn’t stop Stiles’ heart from squeezing painfully in his chest, or the sudden, violent rush of love he feels.
For a long minute, John just stands there. Then, slowly, like he’s in a dream, the Sheriff walks towards him. He lifts a hand towards Stiles and it shakes as he reaches to touch Stiles’ cheek. His fingertips feel like they always did, calloused and rough but gentle as they stroke against Stiles’ face. He still looks like he can’t believe what he’s seeing.
‘Son?’ he says, his voice filled with longing. Stiles nods.
‘It’s me. It’s Stiles’, he says, his voice shaky and on the verge of tears.
His father nods, but doesn’t move.
‘D-Dad?’ he stutters. ‘Dad, please…’
John’s face runs with tears, and he makes a sound like he’s choking. Then he’s reaching forward and crushing Stiles in a hug so tight that he can hardly breathe. It’s ok though, because he’s hugging his father back just as tightly, sobbing into his shoulder like he hasn’t done since his mother died. And they stand there for what feels like forever, holding on to each other like two drowning men in the ocean.
Eventually, they pull apart. Stiles knows he must look like a wreck, but he doesn’t care. He gazes into his father’s eyes and feels laughter welling up in him – laughter that bubbles out of his mouth that a jack-in-the-box, wild and bright and uncontrollable. It’s the same kind of euphoria that he felt when Derek kissed him; the same sheer joy that floods his system and makes his face split into a grin so wide that it almost hurts. A grin that he sees mirrored on his father’s face.
‘You have no idea how good it is to see you’, he says when he catches his breath.
John raises his eyebrows. ‘I think I might have an idea’, he says drily. ‘Although I think when it comes to who had the more dramatic five years, I win. Y’know, seeing as I thought you were probably dead.’
Stiles winces at that, once again reminded of just how much damage he did when he left. He runs his hand through his hair awkwardly, a leftover habit from when he still had a buzz-cut.
‘Yeah, sorry about that’, he says. ‘I mean, like, really, really sorry about that.’ He scuffs his shoes against the floor. ‘I just -’
His dad holds up a hand. ‘Stiles. Stop.’ He grins. ‘Kid, it sure is good to have you back. Not that it wouldn’t have been nice to hear from you at some point, but what matters is that you’re here and you’re ok.’ He frowns suddenly. ‘You are ok, right?’
Stiles nods enthusiastically. ‘Yeah, I’m ok. Actually, I’m great – now that I’m here anyway.’
John nods. ‘Well you certainly look great. Still, it’d be nice to have a chat about all of this – I’d like a bit of explanation as to what made you take off like that, if you don’t mind. That is, if you’re sticking around?’
Stiles hears the underlying question behind that and it makes his heart squeeze. He smiles, trying to looking reassuring. ‘I’m going to be here for the next couple of weeks for sure, maybe longer. I’d like it to be longer.’
John nods again, like he’s turning this information over in his mind. ‘Well it sure would be good to have you around for a while.’ Then he tugs Stiles into a hug again, sighing happily. ‘It’s so good to see you, Stiles.’ He pulls back and claps Stiles on the shoulder with a smile. ‘Come on. I know Melissa’s dying to ask you a bunch of questions.’
Then the smile turns into a full-on grin. ‘And I’m pretty sure we can find some cake for you in the meantime – after all, it is your birthday.’
Talking to his father is a strange mix of painful and cathartic for Stiles. Five years suddenly seems like a very long time when he sees how John is looking a little stiff as he sits down, or when he remembers that in less than a year, his father will be turning sixty. It’s more than that though; it’s the sudden, shocking realisation that Melissa McCall is in his childhood home because of the shiny new wedding band on her ring finger – which apparently has been there for the last three and a half years. It’s the way the kitchen is painted a different colour, and how the photos in the house are different. It’s how his father looks healthier – happier – than Stiles remembers him looking since before Stiles’ mom died.
Still, it’s a relief to get everything off his chest. Obviously he leaves out a few parts – like the women – and edits some others – like the six months where he lived in his car – but the rest is left as it was. His father and Melissa have been aware of the supernatural (and its strong ties to Beacon Hills) since Stiles was eighteen, so he tells them about the people he met on his travels, and the things he learned.
‘And are you still… involved… with that side of things?’ Melissa asks carefully. Stiles’ mouth tightens.
‘I haven’t been practising, if that’s what you’re asking’, he says after a moment. ‘I helped out a woman in Montana a few years back, and a guy in New Orleans about eighteen months ago, but that’s it. It’s just been research other than that.’ He sighs, shoulders slumping as he rubs his face in his hands. ‘It’s just too dangerous, especially when you’re on the road. You never know whose attention you might catch. After everything that happened here… I just figured it was safer to leave that side of things alone.’ He doesn’t mention the fact that his previous activities have already drawn far too much attention to him while he was on the road.
‘That’s probably wise’, his father says with a nod. ‘Things have been mostly quiet here on that side of line, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way.’
Stiles is about to ask just exactly how quiet things have been when the sound of a key in the front door stops him. He hears the sounds of two sets of feet, and then a familiar voice calls, ‘Mom? What’s going on? Is everything ok?’
‘We’re in the kitchen, sweetie’, Melissa calls back, then turns to Stiles with apologetic eyes. ‘I’m sorry. I thought it was the best way to do this.’
Then Scott comes into the kitchen, his face as soft and kind as ever, Allison following behind him. He looks to his mother first, obviously worried by whatever she’d said to get him to come over. But it’s Allison’s choked gasp that brings his attention swinging round to Stiles, his eyes widening in shock.
‘Hey dude’, Stiles says, trying for casual and failing miserably.
He notices Scott’s wedding ring as Scott’s fist comes flying towards his face.
‘What the hell, Stiles? What the hell?’ Scott shouts, shoving him back against the kitchen cabinets.
‘Ow?’ Stiles says, because it seems like as good a reply as any.
Scott’s eyes glow golden and his teeth lengthen slightly, a growl forming in his throat.
‘Scott!’ Allison’s voice steals the werewolf’s attention for a moment, and then with another growl he storms out of the room, heading for the backyard. Allison casts a look at Stiles, her eyes concerned. ‘I’ll be back’, she says. ‘We’ll be back.’ Then she disappears after Scott, no doubt to try and work some special Allison magic – special wife magic.
Stiles gingerly touches his face, and yeah, ow, that hurts. He looks at his father and Melissa, and raises his eyebrows. ‘Well, that went well’, he says.
They make awkward conversation for the next half an hour, until the back door slams and Scott storms into the hall – and then out of the front door, slamming that too. Stiles knows he should have expected something like this, but like he’d told Derek, he really didn’t give much thought to anything beyond getting home when he’d left Dallas. He didn’t think about the consequences, and that’s coming back to kick him in the ass now.
Allison appears in the doorway, looking a little tired and a little sad. ‘He just needs some time’, she says. ‘He’s angry right now, but he’ll come round. Just give him some time.’ Then she crosses the room and wraps her arms around Stiles, as warm and strong as ever. She lets him hold her for a moment, then presses a kiss to his cheek and steps back. ‘Happy birthday’, she says with a small smile. ‘I’m really glad you came back to us.’ She quickly hugs John and Melissa, and then she leaves too, presumably to find Scott.
Stiles slumps. He can’t help it. Scott, of all people, is not who he expected to react this way. Of course, it’s not like he expected anything, but still… Scott is his oldest and best friend, regardless of everything. For their first meeting in over five years to end this way… it doesn’t feel right.
‘When did they get married?’ he asks, mainly because he’s a masochist.
‘About three years ago – only a few months after us’, Melissa says quietly. ‘I gave them my house as a wedding present.’
‘That’s cool’, Stiles says, because what else is there to say? He stares into space for a few minutes, trying to picture Scott and Allison in their own place, putting their own pictures on the wall and maybe turning Scott’s old room into a study or something. It feels strange; jarring. He’s caught somewhere between the need to run again and the desire to go over to their house right now, to inspect every inch of it and learn every new detail.
‘Scott didn’t have a best man at the wedding’, his father says eventually. ‘And at the reception, there was a space left at their table with your name on the place setting.’ Stiles is startled into a laugh by that, but it quickly turns into a choking sob. He bites his lip to keep the noise in and breathes deeply until his eyes aren’t blurry anymore.
‘I really fucked up, didn’t I?’ he asks.
Melissa gets up then and wraps her arms around him like she used to when he was a child. She presses a kiss to his temple and squeezes him tightly. ‘You made a mistake’, she says. ‘You made a mistake, and you thought it was the right thing to do. That’s ok. Everyone does that sometimes.’ She pulls back a little and cups her hands around his face, looking into his eyes . ‘I know Scott and I know that right now, he’s angry. He’s angry and he’s confused and he doesn’t know how to feel. But he’ll get over that, and when he does, he’ll find you. And then you can tell him what you told your father and me, and it’ll be ok. I promise.’
Stiles initiates the hug this time, pulling Melissa in tightly. ‘Thank you’, he whispers. ‘For everything.’ He hopes she knows that he doesn’t just mean this. He hopes she knows what he’s trying to say. The squeeze she gives him makes him think that she might.
They pull apart after a moment and he sighs. ‘I should probably go and find Lydia’, he says, feeling considerably less excited by the prospect than he would have done a couple of hours ago. ‘I might as well get it out of the way.’
‘Stiles, stay and have lunch with us first’, Melissa says. ‘We’ve got plenty of food and it’s not like there isn’t plenty for you still to catch up on.’
‘We’ve only just got you back’, his father adds. ‘Please, son.’
And that… well that’s all it takes to make him stay.
He ends up staying beyond lunch, through until mid-afternoon, which he blames entirely on his dad and Melissa being shameless users of the emotional manipulation card. He doesn’t mind though – missing his dad was like missing Derek, just a different kind of ache. Getting the chance to hang out with his dad and just… chill… yeah, it’s pretty awesome. Still, he tears himself away after coffee and cookies (made by Melissa and more delicious than manna from heaven), knowing that if he doesn’t go soon, the news of his return will reach Lydia before he does. He knows from long experience that this would be a bad thing.
So he says his goodbyes and manfully resists the urge to cry when his dad tells him that if he doesn’t come for Christmas, there will be shotguns and pain in his immediate future. He hugs them both tightly and heads down to his truck, throwing a wave back at them as he gets in and drives off. He feels guilty about telling them he’s already got a place to stay when they offer to give him his old room, but he’s not ready for that – not ready to settle back into the old space he used to fit in. Things have changed since then.
He gets lost twice on the way to where Lydia lives these days – some new apartment building that he missed when he drove through here last night – and then struggles to find a parking spot. It’s getting close to six pm when he finally gets to the front of the building and finds the buzzer with Lydia’s name beside it. He reaches out to press it, then shoves his hands in his pockets and stares at it for five minutes before repeating the whole process.
He ends up being spared having to try and talk to Lydia via the buzzer by a guy who takes pity on him while walking past towards the front entrance.
‘Not sure if she’ll let you in?’ he asks with a wry smile, like he’s seen it all before. Stiles shrugs in a ‘what can you do?’ kind of way.
‘She’s not exactly the most forgiving’, he replies. ‘I’m just trying to work out what to say.’
The guy opens the door and waves him over. ‘C’mon – this way you’ve got more of a shot of getting her to give you another chance.’
Stiles sags in relief. ‘Dude, I owe you big time’, he says as he heads inside. The guy just laughs it off and wishes him good luck, heading in the opposite direction to Stiles, who gets in the elevator and rides to the third floor. Then he gets out, makes his way to apartment 8a and knocks on the front door, shuffling his feet anxiously as he waits for a response.
He has to knock again twice before he hears a shouted, ‘Jesus, alright, I’m coming!’ followed by the sound of a key in the lock and the bolt being drawn back. Then he’s confronted by one pissed-looking Lydia, who renders him as speechless as when he was crushing on her back in high school.
He finally manages, ‘Hi!’ and gets a slap. The door slams in his face. It reopens about thirty seconds later and he’s forcibly yanked inside, pushed up against the door and kissed. With tongue.
‘I should cut your balls off and wear them as earrings’, Lydia hisses when she pulls back, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand. ‘It’s no less than you deserve.’
‘Please don’t?’ Stiles says, trying to make himself as small and inoffensive as possible. Lydia just sighs and rolls her eyes at him, then grabs his hand and drags him further into the apartment, shoving him down at her kitchen table. She proceeds to bustle around, grabbing mugs and saucepans and marshmallows and wow, is that cinnamon hot chocolate?
Ten minutes later he’s sipping cautiously at a mug of hot chocolate that is almost as good as the one he had this morning – it’s only slightly inferior because the marshmallows are shop bought. Regardless, his friends are the best people in the world. That is, aside from the fact that they do seem keen on causing him bodily harm.
‘I hate you’, Lydia says over the rim of her mug. ‘I really, really hate you.’ She takes a sip of her drink and scowls at him. ‘Mainly because you look really good, but also because you’re a total bastard. You do realise that I’m never going to forgive you, right?’
‘Never?’ Stiles asks cheekily, because he has a death wish. Lydia gives him a glare that could melt lead.
‘Never. Do you have any idea how much angst I had to deal with after you left? The whole town was in some kind of Stiles-withdrawal and they expected me to deal with it. And I am not a nanny.’ She examines her flawlessly-manicured nails with a bored look. ‘It’s not like anybody considered that I missed you too – they all just came and cried at me like I was the only one who wasn’t effected by you leaving. Derek was like a puppy with thorn in its paw – he even left snot on one of my favourite shirts. It was disgusting. It’s like he was born in a barn or something.’
Stiles chuckles softly. ‘I really missed you Lyds’, he says. ‘And I’m sorry, for everything. Especially Derek leaving snot on your shirt.’
‘You better be’, Lydia mutters darkly, but there’s less bite to it than there was a minute ago. ‘I had to get it dry cleaned and it cost me a fortune. He didn’t even say sorry.’
Stiles grins. ‘Well that would mean admitting to the fact that he has feelings. You know Derek can’t do that.’
Lydia arches an eyebrow. ‘His man-pain does not interest me. He could have at least given me some money and pretended it was for pizza or something.’ She sighs. ‘And I’m betting he’s pulling the whole “I’m really mad at you for leaving and I’m going to cold shoulder you until I feel you’ve grovelled enough, because I have issues and man-pain” thing, isn’t he?’
Stiles shrugs. ‘Yeah. Yeah he is.’ He sighs. ‘Then again, I did kind of go AWOL and let everyone think I was, y’know, dead for a few years. I figure he’s kind of earned the right to be mad.’
‘As have the rest of us’, Lydia says drily. ‘Just because you and Derek were fucking, that doesn’t mean we weren’t all concerned when you pulled your little disappearing act.’ She fixes him with a glare. ‘At some point, you and I are going to have a talk about that, and what exactly you thought you were doing.’ Stiles gulps.
‘I’m looking forward to it’, he says, lying through his teeth. Lydia grins at him.
‘Sure you are, sweetie. Like you look forward to having a tooth pulled.’ Then her phones chirps and she picks it up, looking intently at it. ‘Drink your hot chocolate’, she says to Stiles. ‘And stop trying to figure out what this message says.’
Years of training mean that Stiles does as he’s told, sipping steadily at his hot chocolate and minding his own business as Lydia taps away at her phone. It’s a good ten minutes before her attention returns to him, and this time there’s a small crease between her eyebrows that wasn’t there before. He wonders if it’s business problems, or something else. He doesn’t ask.
‘Derek’s coming to pick you up in a bit’, she says after a minute. ‘He knows you don’t have anywhere to stay tonight and he says he’s not going to let you stay in ‘that piece of shit truck’ you’re apparently driving. I wouldn’t bother trying to argue with him.’
‘He is such an asshole’, Stiles mutters. ‘I don’t know why I missed him.’ Lydia snorts – possibly the only moment of her life when she seems less than ladylike – and shoots Stiles a look that says ‘oh please’. He flips her the bird and scowls when she laughs.
‘Stiles, don’t even bother’, she says cheerfully. ‘There is no way that you weren’t pining just as badly as Derek the whole time you were away. I mean, he may not have noticed that you basically look like the Stiles Stilinski version of him, but I have. You’re just annoyed because you didn’t think that there would be repercussions to your return.’
And yeah, Lydia always did have the ability to hit the nail exactly on the head. It’s still really irritating. He’s saved from telling her this by the message tone on her phone going. She picks it up, reads the text and smirks.
‘The big bad wolf is waiting for you downstairs. He says you can come down, or he’ll come up here and get you himself – your choice.’
Stiles rolls his eyes hard enough to hurt. ‘Gee, that’s nice of him. Clearly I missed his transformation into a true gentleman.’ Lydia raises an eyebrow at him and he sighs. ‘Fine, fine, I’m going. I’ll see you around, Lyds. Thanks for the hot chocolate.’
Lydia smiles, and gets up to let him out. She presses a kiss against the cheek she slapped. ‘It’s good to see you Stiles. Don’t be a stranger. Oh, and happy birthday.’ Then she shuts the door behind him and leaves him to make his way downstairs to Derek.
Stiles finds Derek outside, leaning against his old black Camaro.
‘Hey Sourwolf’, he says. ‘Looking broody there.’ And then he runs in the direction of his truck, jumps inside and locks the doors behind him, because he knows from experience that Derek will throw Stiles over his shoulder like a damsel in distress if he feels like it.
‘You’ll just have to follow me home in that stupid Chevy of yours’, Stiles says, knowing Derek will be able to hear him. Then he starts the engine and drives off, before Derek decides to do something like, say, slash his tyres.
Chapter 4: Aftermath
This is the fallout.
All actions have consequences.
This chapter... well it goes in quite a few directions.
Contains both violence and sexual content, as a warning. Also, more clues as to why Stiles left.
And it gets a little ugly, just FYI. Not everyone will be painted in a good light.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Stiles is angry by the time he gets back to Derek’s, for no reason in particular. Somewhere between the emotional toll of the day, his black eye and Derek’s behaviour, a spark of irritation has fanned itself into full-blown rage. Derek just so happens to be an easy target.
He slams the door of his truck when he gets out, not bothering to look back as he heads up the steps to the front door. It’s not locked (which makes sense when you consider who lives there) and he just heads inside. It’s probably not a wise move considering the stunt he pulled back at Lydia’s, but Stiles really doesn’t care by now. He goes into the kitchen and starts rifling through the cupboards for something to eat. He can feel Erica and Isaac watching him anxiously.
The front door – which Stiles left open on purpose – slams as Derek comes in. The house actually shakes a little bit. Derek’s footsteps are heavy as he comes into the kitchen. Stiles takes a perverse kind of pleasure in knowing that he’s managed to piss the Alpha off. He continues to rummage through cupboards, completely ignoring Derek even when he starts to growl. If you want to fight, he thinks, come and get me.
‘Get out’, Derek says to Erica and Isaac, his voice tightly controlled. Stiles hears them leave and the sound of the kitchen door shutting. He carries on with what he’s doing.
‘Nice to know you’re still pulling rank whenever you feel like it’, he says drily. ‘I just hope you know better than to expect me to roll over and submit like a good dog.’
Really, he should have known better. It’s not much of a surprise when he finds himself turned around and pressed against the cabinets in the blink of an eye. Derek’s hand pushes hard against his chest, claws extended and just pricking Stiles’ skin through his t-shirt. The fangs are out too, along with the red eyes. Derek looks pissed. Stiles is glad.
‘You’re a dick’, he spits. ‘I know I fucked up and I know things can’t just go back to how they were before, but you could at least try and act like a decent human being instead of punishing me like I’m a child.’ Derek snarls and Stiles laughs bitterly. ‘I guess I forgot – you’re not exactly human, are you? You’ve never known anything but the wolf. Maybe that’s why you suck so much at socialising. Or maybe that’s just Kate Argent’s mark – she really did a number on you, didn’t she?’
Derek’s teeth are sharp as they pierce his neck. Stiles gasps in pain, arching up futilely and trying to get away from the fangs buried in his flesh. He can feel blood welling up and spilling down his chest; soaking into the shirt that he suddenly remembers is Derek’s. A peal of laughter bubbles up and out of him until Derek bites down harder. Stiles’ shoulder jerks as the muscle is damaged, his left arm starting to spasm. And that’s the point where Stiles decides that he’s had enough.
He knows he shouldn’t resort to this, but he’s half-mad with pain and anger and it’s oh so easy to reach inside himself and call up the power that’s lain dormant for so long. It takes even less effort to send a charge racing across his skin that shocks Derek with several thousand volts. The wooden cabinet scorches under his body. Derek makes a noise something like a squeal and then his teeth are gone and he’s halfway across the room, his mouth dripping blood, his eyes wild.
Stiles glares at him, then sets about healing himself, willing the blood back inside his body and knitting his tissues back together.
‘Has anyone ever told you that you give shitty hickeys?’ he says angrily.
Derek laughs drily. ‘I see your attempts at humour are as pathetic as ever’, he replies sharply. ‘I guess you’re out of practice these days, what with the other talents at your disposal.’ He frowns. ‘I thought you didn’t practice anymore.’
Stiles shrugs. ‘I don’t. But sometimes whacking a dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper just doesn’t work.’ Derek snarls again and looks like he might be about to try for another round of mauling Stiles’ neck. Stiles shakes his head. ‘Oh no, we’re not doing that. You think that little shock was bad? I’ve got a world of tricks that you don’t have any idea about, and they all hurt a lot more.’
‘You’re an arrogant little shit’, Derek says, his voice still full of anger. ‘That kind of power isn’t to be messed with.’
‘I know’, Stiles says quietly. ‘And I haven’t been messing with it, not that it’s any of your business.’
Derek roars at that. ‘Of course it’s my business’, he shouts. ‘You’re my mate! Just because you went off on some bullshit little trip for a few years doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter that you’re involved in something that’s incredibly dangerous – Stiles, people kill for that kind of power.’
‘I know!’ Stiles shouts. ‘I know! Why do you think I ran for so long? Why do you think I’ve spent the best part of six years running? Jesus!’ He drops his head into his hands with a sigh, all his anger draining out of him in seconds, leaving him feel tired right down to his bones. There’s a long pause.
‘What happened?’ Derek asks. Stiles shrugs, his running a hand over his face.
‘They came for me a couple of times – first in Missouri, then again in Virginia. I almost ran into trouble in Massachusetts, and in New Orleans… I was lucky that I left when I did.’ He shakes his head. ‘I think I lost them the last time I was in Florida. I haven’t had any sign of them for just over a year now.’
‘You should have come back here’, Derek says. ‘You should have let the pack-’
‘Let the pack what exactly? Fight my battles? Get hurt – or killed – trying to protect me from something that has nothing to do with them?’ The anger comes back in a rush, leaving a sour taste in Stiles’ mouth. ‘Not fucking likely, Derek!’
Derek has him up against the counter in a heartbeat. ‘Why are you so stubborn?’ he hisses. ‘Why do you always have to do everything on your own? Why won’t you ever let anyone help you?’ His mouth twists. ‘This pack would willingly lay down their lives for you, as would I. Why is that so hard for you to accept?’
‘I don’t want anyone to die for me!’ Stiles snaps back. ‘I don’t want any of you to become a martyr for me. I’m not wor-’
Derek’s mouth is fierce. Savage, almost. The kiss smashes into Stiles, completely shutting off anything that he was trying to say – and totally derailing his train of thought. His anger transfers itself into a different kind of passion that leaves him clutching at Derek like a life raft, hands gripping him desperately. Derek responds in kind, his fingers digging into Stiles’ hips like brands. It’s hot and it’s dirty and it makes Stiles so hard so quickly that it physically hurts. He rocks into Derek on instinct, moaning into his mouth at the friction. Derek’s teeth sink into his lower lip and he tugs at it hard enough to draw a whimper from Stiles, who scrabbles furiously at Derek’s back, trying to get closer somehow.
When Derek gets a handful of his hair and pulls, Stiles loses control. Derek bites into his neck – without the fangs this time – and it feels so good that Stiles’ eyes roll back into his skull. His hands scramble furiously at Derek’s fly, fingers fumbling on the buttons and the zipper until finally, finally, they’re undone. He barely tugs the jeans down, just enough to get his hand into Derek’s boxers and around his erection. Just enough to start jerking Derek off, his hand a little unsteady as Derek continues to savage his neck. Then one of Derek’s hands is shoving his jeans and boxers down and matching his own rhythm.
They end up kissing again, sloppier this time. It’s wetter and messier and somehow even filthier than before, which some part of Stiles’ brain vaguely registers as practically impossible. Still, between that and the (still familiar) feeling of Derek’s hand, he’s getting closer and closer with each parting second. Finally, it gets to the point where the tug of Derek’s hand in his hair is all it takes, his orgasm knocking all the breath out of him as he comes all over himself – and Derek.
Apparently that’s all Derek needs to follow right after. Stiles really shouldn’t be surprised – werewolves are kinky bastards.
Then there’s the panting, shaky aftermath, leaning heavily against each other and trying to get their brains back in gear. Stiles feels the exhaustion of earlier settling back into his body, leaving him so tired that he can barely stand, let alone keep his eyes open.
‘Fuck’, he mumbles into Derek’s shoulder. ‘Fuck.’
‘Agreed’, Derek replies, sounding a little dazed. Stiles does an internal victory dance, because yeah, he’s still got it. He carries on slumping on Derek though, because he’s pretty sure that if he doesn’t, he’s just going to fall over.
‘Oh man’, he says sleepily, ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would really like to go to bed right now.’
Derek chuckles. ‘Propositioning me, Stilinski? A little late for that, don’t you think?’
Stiles shrugs lazily. ‘This is just the start – I plan on ravishing you senseless’, he jokes, his lips brushing against Derek’s neck as he speaks. ‘That is, right after I’ve had at least nine hours sleep. Maybe ten.’ Derek laughs again, the vibration of it buzzing through his chest. Stiles smiles. ‘Nobody can resist the Stil-in-ski-i-i-i charm’, he yawns. ‘Nobody.’
‘Come on’, Derek says as Stiles continues burrowing into the juncture of his neck and shoulder. ‘Let’s get you to bed.’ And he proceeds to tuck Stiles back into his boxers, do up both their jeans and then scoop Stiles up like he weighs nothing at all. Stiles would totally protest about being carried bridal-style, but Derek is really warm and comfy, and he’s barely awake anyway.
He manages to make some kind of snarky remark when Derek puts him down on the bed and starts taking off his clothes, but it can’t be a very good one, because Derek just starts laughing. Stiles knows he should be mad, because his sarcasm is a thing of wonder. He can’t do it though, not least because it just feels so good to hear Derek laugh again. And anyway, he can hardly focus enough to get words out in their proper form, let alone strung together in sentences. In fact, he only just registers being tucked in and the kiss Derek presses against his lips, along with a whispered, ‘Happy birthday.’
He wakes up in darkness, disoriented for a moment or two before he remembers that he’s not in Dallas anymore. He groans, looks at his watch and sees that it’s just after midnight, then groans again and goes back to sleep. The next time he wakes up, there’s faint light coming around the curtains and an arm around his waist.
An arm that is attached to a body. A warm, hard body that is pressed up against his back – that is spooning him – with great familiarity. Stiles takes a few minutes to feel indignant that he’s been made into little spoon before it clicks that this isn’t the bed in the guest room, which means it must be Derek’s bedroom, which means that the body… the body is Derek’s.
Stiles takes another few minutes to process how he feels about this, then exaggeratedly stretches and shifts like he’s just waking up. He hums sleepily, rubbing back against Derek because Stiles is kind of an asshole when he wants to be. Predictably, Derek wakes up. What is unexpected is the kiss he presses to the nape of Stiles’ neck, or the way he presses up against Stiles, his hips circling roughly as he grinds up against Stiles’ ass. And yeah, that’s a boner.
‘Morning’, Stiles mumbles happily.
He feels Derek smiling into his shoulder. ‘Morning’, the Alpha says. ‘Sleep well?’
Stiles nods. ‘Yeah, thanks. I feel a lot better.’
‘Good.’ There’s another press of hips, another spark of desire flickering Stiles’ belly. Hating himself for not just giving into morning sex – which is obviously what Derek is angling for – he turns over, his arm sliding under the covers, his hand coming to rest on Derek’s hip.
‘You know there’s a lot we still need to talk about, right?’ he says. ‘I mean, aside from the me going away for nearly six years and the whatever it is that you’re doing with your life these days, there’s also the possibility of them tracking me back to Beacon Hills. Or that someone worse tracks me here.’
Derek nods. ‘I know’, he says, his voice a little raspy. ‘And I’m not saying that things are ok between us yet – you know I already had…problems with relationships. This is going to take time, all of it. But if you’re willing to try – if you’re willing to stay… I think we can make it work.’
Stiles stares at him for a minute. ‘Who are you, and what have you done with Derek Hale?’ he asks finally. ‘No, I mean, seriously? Since when do you talk about your feelings? You always used to act like it physically pained you to even talk about how you were doing on a normal day.’
A corner of Derek’s mouth hooks up in a smile. ‘A lot of things changed while you were away’, he says. ‘Not all of them were bad.’ Then he frowns a little. ‘So what do you say? Do you think you can commit to that? To staying here and working things out?’
Stiles’ gaze skitters across the bedcovers, then the room, before finally settling back on Derek. He shrugs a little, chewing at his lip. ‘I don’t know’, he says after a while. ‘And I know that’s not what you want to hear, and I’m sorry. It’s just… I’ve been running for so long. I don’t know if I know how to stop.’ He gives Derek an apologetic look. ‘Sorry.’
To his surprise, Derek looks calm. ‘That’s ok’, he says softly. ‘I know how hard it is to break a habit. And I’m not asking for you to promise me anything, except that you’ll try; that you’ll give this a chance. That’s all.’
Stiles thinks hard for a minute or two; thinks about how lonely he was on the road, and how much he missed everyone at home, but especially Derek. He thinks about the people who discovered him, and how they chased him across states for months on end. He thinks about how they could come here, and all the ways they could hurt the people he love. And finally, he thinks about home – about every face that he’s seen so far; about just how good it feels being here. How safe he feels.
He breathes out, long and heavy. Then he smiles. ‘Yeah’, he says. ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ Then he leans across and kisses Derek, slow and sweet, morning breath be damned. ‘Can we have awesome morning sex now?’ he asks when they pull apart. ‘Because that would be awesome.’
And the only way he can get Derek to stop laughing is with another kiss.
Isaac and Erica complain loudly and vocally when they come downstairs for breakfast (although it’s practically lunchtime by then) and are generally a pair of assholes. Derek snaps at them, though there’s no real heat in it. Stiles just decides to ignore everyone in favour of making himself the best sandwich ever – which includes three different layers, ten pieces of bacon, five tomatoes, half a block of cheese, a third of a lettuce, and a whole lot of dressing. He’s about four mouthfuls in when the attention turns to him, and they watch with varying expressions of horror and fascination as he eats.
‘That should not be physically possible’, Isaac says in a disbelieving voice. ‘I didn’t know human beings could fit that much in their mouths.’ Despite himself, Stiles chuckles, winking lasciviously as he crams in another mouthful. Isaac’s face goes from disbelieving to disgusted. ‘Please never remind me of the fact that you and Derek… you know ever again. Ever’, he says with a shudder. ‘It was bad enough trying to tune the pair you out last night, let alone this morning.’
Erica nods. ‘If you’re going to be doing stuff all the time, I think I might have to move. There is only so much my ears can take before I’m scarred for life.’ She shakes her head. ‘It’s like hearing your parents have sex. Maybe worse.’
Stiles puts on a shocked face. ‘I’m hurt right now, Rey – I am way hotter than either of your parents. And Derek is at least as attractive as your mom!’
As intended, this sends both Erica and Isaac into fits of laughter. Derek just rolls his eyes, leaning forward to nip at Stiles’ neck. ‘You’re lucky you’re good in bed’, he growls. ‘I’d send you back to Dallas myself otherwise.’
Stiles raises his eyebrows, takes another bite of his sandwich (or man-wich, as he’s decided it should now be known) and waves his hand vaguely in Derek’s direction. ‘Whatever’, he mumbles. ‘You’re just saying that to keep your macho-man reputation intact. You love my sense of humour – always have.’ He swallows noisily. ‘Besides, you just asked me to stick around. There’s no way you’d send me back to Dallas now, especially not when it’s Christmas in less than two days.’
Erica squeaks. ‘You’re staying?’ she asks, hope written all over her face. ‘Like, for good?’
Stiles shrugs. ‘Nothing’s set in stone’, he says carefully. ‘I might have to leave again in the future, I don’t know. But for now…’ He looks at Derek and smiles. ‘For now, I think I’ll stick around. I’m not planning to go anywhere, anyway.’
Isaac looks at him then, his face serious. When he speaks, his voice is quiet, but full of warmth. He says, ‘Why would you go anywhere, Stiles? Everything you want is here.’
And looking around him, in this lovely house, with his friends – with Derek – and his family no distance away… well, Stiles has to admit that it feels like Isaac’s right. Despite the difficulties in store and all the troubles that could have followed him back here, Stiles feels like he’s safe.
Stiles feels like he’s home.
So... yeah. I hope you liked this?
The next chapter is more of a prologue than anything else.
Chapter 5: Coda
Of endings and beginnings.
The year turns and starts anew.
Short and a little bittersweet. Ties up some loose ends.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Of course, it’s not perfect. As new beginnings go, it’s pretty fucked up in all kinds of ways. Still, it’s also pretty great in all kinds of other ways, so Stiles isn’t complaining.
One of the lower points is when he asks about Boyd and everyone goes silent.
‘He was never the same after you left. He decided he wanted to be more like Scott; a part of the pack, but more independent than the rest of us’, Erica says slowly. ‘He spent a lot of time doing his own thing and hanging out with his college friends. He drifted a lot – we saw less and less of him as time went on – but he was happy.’ She pauses, her eyes brightening with tears. Stiles’ stomach drops.
‘He was out one night on his own. Some rogue hunters had come into town and they knew he was a werewolf.’ She stops, shaking her head. A sob escapes her. ‘We found his b-body a couple of days later.’
And the blood in Stiles’ veins turns to ice.
Later, he says to Derek, ‘Did you ever find the hunters who did it?’
Derek nods, his eyes cold and hard. ‘I tracked them through three states.’
‘And what did you do when you found them?’ Stiles asks.
Derek smiles, entirely without humour or warmth. ‘I followed them out into the wilds and I tore them to shreds’, he says.
Stiles can’t help but be fiercely, savagely glad.
He spends Christmas Eve mostly hanging with his dad. Melissa is working during the day, so it’s just Stiles and the Sheriff, chilling on the couch and swapping stories. John always had known exactly what was going on in Beacon Hills, and it seems the years haven’t changed that as he regales Stiles with various misdemeanours that range from hilarious to horrifying.
Eventually though, when they’ve talked about nothing for a few hours, it’s time to tackle the more important issues.
‘I know it must be a lot to deal with’, John says. ‘I mean, if you’d been here you’d have had time to get used to the idea, but-’
‘But I wasn’t’, Stiles says. ‘And yeah, it’s a big deal, but it’s not like I really get to pitch a shit-fit about now, is it?’ He shrugs. ‘If you’re happy and she’s happy and Scott’s cool with it…’ He shrugs again. ‘Besides, it’s not like Melissa’s going to try and fit into Mom’s space, even if she has practically been mothering me ever since Mom died.’ He pauses for a moment, thinking hard. Finally, he asks, ‘Do you think… do you think you’d still have married her if I hadn’t left?’
The Sheriff is quiet for a long time. Then, ‘Yeah’, he says. ‘Yeah, I think I would. It might have taken us a few more years to get round to it, but I think we’d have realised what we wanted in the end.’ He fixes Stiles with a look. ‘Son, you were the catalyst, not the cause.’
That’s enough for Stiles to breathe easily again; enough to make him ignore the pang in his chest when Melissa gets home and kisses his dad, or the way she moves around his mother’s kitchen like it belongs to her. He’s a grown man now. There’s no excuse for him not to act like one.
Christmas Eve night is spent with Derek, Isaac and Erica, sitting in the giant living room of the refurbished Hale House in front of a roaring fire, drinking mulled wine. There’s a huge (and surprisingly tackily decorated) Christmas tree in the corner of the room, with huge heaps of presents piled up under it. Stiles tries not to think about how there won’t be any for him.
As it turns out, getting cheerfully drunk on mulled wine is a good distraction, especially when Lydia turns up at about ten pm with a armful of presents and a suitcase, declaring that she’s staying the night here because it’s far too much hassle to try and get ready at her house and drive over to Derek’s early enough in the morning. Stiles raises his eyebrow.
‘We’re doing Christmas here tomorrow’, Derek says with complete nonchalance. ‘Your dad and Melissa are coming over and we’re doing it here – there’s more room and the kitchen’s bigger, for starters.’
‘You didn’t want to have Christmas without me, admit it!’ Stiles says triumphantly. ‘You’re making them come over here so you can share me.’ He giggles. ‘You’re such a teenage boy sometimes.’
Derek ends up kissing him just to make him shut up. It’s totally a win-win situation.
He starts crying at quarter to twelve.
‘Your mom always went to midnight mass, didn’t she?’ Lydia says as she hugs him. Stiles can’t stop crying, but he manages to nod into her shoulder.
By midnight though, his tears have dried and he feels happier than he can remember feeling in a long time. This is the first Christmas he’s spent with other people in almost six years.
Christmas day turns out to be awesome in many, many ways. First and foremost is the fact that it’s Christmas, which has always been Stiles’ favourite holiday. Then there’s the fact that Scott and Allison turn up on Derek’s doorstep with Melissa and John, and Scott pulls him into a hug so hard that Stiles vaguely worries about broken ribs.
‘It was a dick move, but I’m really glad you’re back’, Scott mumbles in his ear. ‘You have no idea how much I missed you, dude.’
‘I think I do’, Stiles replies. When they pull apart, they’re both looking a little teary. They head inside and Stiles nudges Scott. ‘Hey man, we’re brothers now! Like, actual, legit brothers!’
‘This is definitely better than the time you tried to become blood brothers in fifth grade and Scott nearly chopped his hand off’, Melissa says drily. Stiles has the decency to look sheepish, because yeah, that one’s mainly on him.
The day is wonderful though, from the food – delicious – to the presents (because apparently Stiles does have his own pile of presents, which is awesome) to the company. Although the absence of Boyd is blindingly apparent for Stiles, and there are the ever present spaces that could have been filled by Jackson and Danny once upon a time, this is Stiles’ family now. In the immortal words of Stitch (because Disney is the shit) “This is my family. I found it all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good. Yeah - still good.”
As the evening draws in, Stiles hands out the gifts he has for everyone. Over the years, he’s collected a good few boxes of stuff that he’s seen and had to buy, because he knew it would be perfect for someone back home. He doesn’t give all the stuff out yet – there’s plenty of time for that at a later point – but there are some things he thinks are just right for the occasion. Some of them are small – like the silver bow and arrow pendant he bought in Virginia for Allison – and some of them are pretty big, like the wooden bedside cabinet he traded for a couple of bear pelts in Montana because he thought it would be perfect for his dad.
All of them are reminders of the fact that he’s been missing home for a long, long time, as well as the fact that he was away. He knows they’re a little bittersweet, but it feels right to be doing this now – after all, he bought them for people. There’s kind of no point in keeping them for himself.
Derek sets the wolf carving that Stiles bought in Kentucky on the windowsill of his bedroom, ‘So it can howl at the moon.’ And as they lie together in the darkness, bodies pressed close, Stiles thinks that just maybe this will all work out fine.
He’s never been more glad to see the New Year in. This year, unlike so many before it, he decides to make some resolutions.
He only makes one in the end. It’s simple: stay.
And that's all for this fic, although I may develop this into a series at some point - I've had some requests to explore Derek and Sheriff's perspectives of Stiles' time away, as well as a couple ideas that I think would be fun to play around with.
But for now, this is the end. I hope you enjoyed the story and thanks so much for reading.