Its Scott who smells it first.
Stiles’ scent is different. Different in the way that has his heartbeat racing and palms sweating. Different in the way that pricks up the hairs on the back of his neck and scares him deep down to the core.
Its not the different type of smell that Stiles gets when he hangs out with the pack for too long, or when the lacrosse team does their team end-of-practice-hugs. Its not even the overwhelming scent of Alpha that hangs on Stiles for days after Derek gets a bit too handsy with their human packmate.
This scent is the one that Scott smells whenever he visits his mom at the hospital; the one that clings to the animals at the vets office; the one that has Scott on his knees, howling in pain before Stiles can even confirm what he knows already to be true.
Stiles is dying.
His brother is dying and the only thing Scott can do is unhook his claws from Stiles’ doorframe and crawl onto the bed. He pulls himself close to the smaller boy and wraps his arms around him, hands buried under his shirt as he tries so hard to take away the pain.
Scott would give up anything to take away the pain from his best friend, his brother, the only one who’s been his rock and guiding light.
Stiles lets Scott scent him- a desperate attempt to get rid of the overwhelming smell of illness. It doesn’t work as well as Scott wants it to, but he doesn’t care. Instead he pushes himself closer, one leg tossed over Stiles’ so that there’s more skin-to-skin contact, and goes back to focusing on ridding Stiles of his pain.
His best friend says nothing the whole time, not even making an offhand comment about how Scott hasn’t even taken him out on a date yet- because this type of touching is so third date material.
He doesn’t say anything, but the silence says it all.
Scott’s howl had alerted the pack. Not even minutes after it had agonizingly slipped from his lips there are sounds of doors slamming and worried calls echoing throughout the Stilinski’s home.
Its Isaac who takes it the hardest. He knows the smell, for he had made the routine trips to the hospital and vets office to try to help others long before Boyd and Erica had decided to join him.
The original idea had been Stiles’; he always came along with them, dropping them off at the front desk and picking them up when they were done.
Never had Isaac thought that Stiles had been there for another reason. He had always assumed-so stupid had he been to assume- that Stiles left and came back. Not that he had stayed for treatment of his own.
The smell of sickness had clung to their clothing, overshadowing Stiles’ own until it was too late.
Scott doesn’t move from Stiles’ side. A low, daring growl slips from his lips when Erica tries to sneak into the bed next to him. It takes a few low hums of submission and snorts from Stiles that Erica and Boyd are both allowed on his small bed. Erica’s hands land on his neck, while Boyd grasps around his legs. The veins in their arms ebb and flow as they absorb his pain.
Isaac doesn’t move from the doorway. There are tears glistening in his eyes; his chest is so heavy with emotions he can’t exactly place. He’s locked up in a box, crawling for a way out- a way to get out and save his packmate, his friend, to save Stiles.
He’s locked up and all of these emotions are suffocating him, blocking out his air and trapping him inside.
“Hey, are you crying?” Stiles tries his best to sound abrupt and rude, but his tone falters halfway through, chest heaving as an empty cough slips from his lips.
Erica whines, burying her face into his neck, fingers flexing as she wills herself to take more. She has to take more, she has to push herself to save her Batman.
The pain is still there. They can feel it growing, even as they take more and more away from him, it just seems to flow faster through his body.
Isaac slinks closer to the bed, bowing his head towards Scott before crawling on the bed. He rests Stiles’s head in his lap and places both hands to his friend’s cheeks, thumbs brushing the tears away from his face even though Isaac’s still haven’t stopped leaking from his eyes.
Stiles eventually allows them to take his shirt off; his eyes are closed, not wanting to watch their faces when they see his pale chest and the evidence of all the weight he’s lost.
Scott’s whine is loud, full of pain and determination. He pushes closer, head resting on his brother’s chest as he listens to the rhythmic thump of Stiles’ heartbeat.
How had they not noticed? Scott wonders as he nuzzles closer and clenches back the anger he feels towards himself. A part of him blames Stiles, a part of him is so very angry at him for not telling him about this, for yet again taking the weight of the world upon his shoulders and not letting him help with the load.
Scott knows what Stiles will say. That he and Allison have had a lot to work through; that his grades have finally started to improve and that the pack was slowly mending itself. Stiles will definitely mention his mom and how the more time Scott had to spend with her and talk her through all of this, the better.
All of these things would have been compromised because of his illness, Stiles would argue. He would say that because of him, everything Scott was working to fix would fall apart again.
But, none of that mattered to Scott. All of it could wait- it would wait from now on- because his best friend’s life was on the line. Both his mom and Allison would understand. His grades were at the point where Scott could get away with a bit of laxation. The pack would obviously hold no protest.
So why hadn’t Stiles told him?
The question slips from Scott’s shaking lips and Stiles tenses up.
He takes a few minutes before responding, letting his mind slowly recall the words he had chosen beforehand to say. They aren’t coming to him, so Stiles just improvises, speaking from his heart. “Its not that I didn’t want to tell you, man. Its just that…I didn’t know how.” Scott lifts his head to stare up at him and Stiles tries his best to smile at him- its wobbly at best, but still a smile. “How do I tell my best bud that I’m dying from something so human as this? Its not a hunter’s arrow to the heart, or my body rejecting the bite. Its nothing supernatural or scary. Its just…hereditary.”
There are questions that slips from the pack’s lips that he isn’t up to answering right now. They stare at him with furrowed brows and pained eyes. Stiles wants to take away their own pain, the way they’re taking away his.
He’s so numb, so tired and at a loss on how to continue on. He knows that his time is running out. He knows the same way his mother knew. Stiles can feel his father’s sorrow and hates how the bottles in the cabinet are slowly starting to disappear and reappear in his study.
Once, Stiles had talked about drowning. He talked about how, at the end, you took in one final breath- a simple reflex- that caused you to inhale water and drown. He remembered being told to push himself, to hold off that reflex as long as he could, giving him time to fight towards the surface.
He had fought then, just as he is fighting now.
He doesn’t plan to go down without a fight- he isn’t giving up, he isn’t losing.
The pain is slowly starting to creep out of his bones and numbing him to the point that he can close his eyes and not wince in pain at the simple action.
Sleep comes easily with the pack’s heat encasing him- his own werewolf blanket. Stiles isn’t sure how long he slept for, but when he wakes he feels better than he has felt in weeks.
The pack is still there, their hands are still claiming different part of his body. All of their eyes are closed and, judging by Scott’s line of drool down his chest, Stiles infers that they had also fallen asleep.
“You knew they would find out eventually,” a deep voice comes from the other side of the room and Stiles struggles to sit up a bit more, trying his best not to stir Isaac or the rest of the pups.
“Yeah, I know.” The silence is eating at him, filling him with the guilt he had been trying so hard to push back. “I know, okay? But what was I supposed to do, huh, Derek? Just stop a pack meeting and go ‘oh, by the way guys, I went to the doctor to see what was up with this damned cough and guess what? I’m dying! Now back to your regularly scheduled werewolf news.’”
Derek’s eyes flash; they’re the only light in the dark room and Stiles knows that he’s moved closer. He’s at the foot of the bed now and one of his hands comes down to hover above Stiles’ ankle. “No. But, there were other options. There always are.”
“Don’t preach to me right now about options, okay? Because I really don’t want to hear it.” His cough ends up ruining the ferocity of his tone, shaking his person to the point that Erica stirs and lets out a tiny grunt. “Lets just- Lets just talk about it later, alright? I don’t want to wake them and I’d really like to catch up on all this damn sleep I’ve missed.”
Once again silence fills the room. Stiles knows Derek’s still there. He can feel his presence, the heat coming from where his hand still hovers above his ankle. He can practically hear the sound of the internal war raging inside of Derek’s head.
Stiles continues with the pattern and breaks the silence, “How could I have added more worry onto all of them? Boyd and Erica are still waiting for you to finally break and yell at them for leaving. Isaac is still waiting for the pack to finally crumble, once and for all. Scott is trying his hardest to fix everything. Plus we have Jackson, who’s still trying to find himself, and then you! You…you just up and turn back into Mr. Recluse. Not answering any of our calls or texts, canceling pack meetings for two weeks in a row. If Boyd and Erica didn’t live with you, I would have thought that you ditched out-”
It hits Stiles like a freight train right in his chest. “You knew this whole time, didn’t you, Derek?” Derek doesn’t respond and it takes all that Stiles is not to leap forward at him and poke his finger straight into the Alpha’s chest. “You fucking knew. And you didn’t say anything. Why didn’t you say anything? Is it because I’m not really pack-”
Derek’s hand clamps around Stiles’ ankle and Stiles’ whole body catches on fire. He jerks, just once, chest spasming in a way that lodges fear in Stiles’ throat. The fire spreads from his head to his toes and ripples back upwards. Just like that, his body is filled with warmth and absent of pain. “I didn’t say anything because I thought if I could just figure out a way, figure out a plan, that I could fix it. That I could fix you.” His eyes are glowing again and Stiles’ fear has evaporated into something else, “I called up every doctor I could find, I’ve talked to everyone I could to figure out what I could do to make it stop.” His grip lessens but his hand remains on Stiles’ ankle, “I thought that…maybe, just maybe, there was a way.”
“Derek…” There’s more that Derek has to say, so Stiles closes his lips and lets the Alpha talk.
“You’ve always been more than just pack, Stiles. Every day I could feel the pain, I could feel it spreading through you. I could feel the way it started to grab ahold of every part of you. I stayed away from you because I didn’t know if I could sit here…I didn’t think…” his other hand comes to rest on Stiles’ free ankle, spreading even more of the soothing warmth into Stiles' system. “I didn’t want to see you, like the way you are now, and know that its not a bad dream. Its not another one of my nightmares, Stiles. This is reality.”
Stiles lifts a hand to still a squirming Scott, “Reality really is a bitch, isn’t she?”
Derek doesn’t respond. Stiles doesn’t expect him to.
“So, that means that I’m totally pack right? Because you felt my pain, or whatever.” A part of him is soaring, pleased with the knowledge that him being human doesn’t make him less pack. That it doesn’t make him any less important.
Even though they tell him constantly that just because he can’t do what they do- that just because he’s human- he’s not any less important that them. He doesn’t doubt their words, but a part of him just can’t believe them.
Now, with Derek staring down at him with that crazy intense stare of his, Stiles feels part of the pack. He feels whole.
Derek looks away; his fingers stray off of Stiles’ ankles and the pain shoots through him so severely that even Derek hisses. “You’re more than pack, Stiles. You’ve always been more.”
“I can help,” the fire is back, spreading through Stiles’ at an alarming rate. Derek’s hands are hot on his wrists, gripping at him tightly. He doesn’t know how Derek got to his side so fast, or why Derek’s eyes are doing that creepy red glowy thing again. “Let me help.”
There’s a sort a desperation in Derek’s voice that is so unfamiliar to Stiles that he pauses, unsure on how to respond. The lurch in his chest and the warmth in his body, all caused because of Derek's words and actions, have him licking his dry lips and nodding.“Uh…okay?”
Quiet murmurs are all that Stiles hears for a few moments as Boyd moves to let Erica curl against his side, both of them taking a leg. Isaac shimmies down so that he’s laying across from Scott, his hands splayed across Stiles’ stomach and back.
Derek takes up Isaac’s spot, resting Stiles’ head in his lap and crosses his arms around him. His hands are warm, placed right at the spot right where Stiles’ heart beats against his palms.
Its the sound of Derek’s heartbeat and the warmth of the pack that lulls him back to sleep. He’s halfway there, floating somewhere in the haze between being awake and slipping into slumber that his brain decides to work again. “More,” he mumbles it sleepily, blinking eyes flittering to meet curious ones.
Derek tilts his head, silently asking for Stiles to elaborate.
“More what, Derek?” He hums, the sound of it vibrates in his throat, low and rumbling. “More what?”
Derek’s low huff of slight annoyance ghosts across Stiles’ forehead, “More than just pack. A wolf is able to help take away other’s pain. Even for a bit.” Derek’s fingers clench and unclench against Stiles’ chest, “its the same way with pack, only more…intensified. Pack can’t obliterate pain, but they can share it between them.”
“‘m not a wolf.”
“I know,” Derek looks down at Stiles; his gaze is searching, eyes glued to his. His brows are furrowed, shoulders stiff and Stiles wonders, briefly, what Derek would look like if he had a good day. “We’re different, you and I. Mates…mates are different. I can try to fix you.”