There are times when Stiles thought she might have some sort of precognition. Intuition maybe, like maybe that was why she was always right about just about everything, that woman’s intuition thing she used to hear so much about. It sounded stupid, so she couldn't ask anybody about it; she’d have asked her mom a long time ago if she had still been around and not just a rotting corpse in a coffin with a pretty headstone on top that she sometimes would cry over just because she missed her so much, couldn't imagine her dead and buried and never going to whisper words of encouragement to her again. Stiles loved her mother, loves her mother still, saw bits and pieces of her in the mirror every morning, her small upturned nose, the careful bow of her lips, the dark hair she never knew how to tame and style. She ached in all those moments for her, when she failed to comprehend how to actually do her hair in anything more complicated than a ponytail, or when she’d stare down at the array of makeup Allison had insisted she bought before the dance and hadn't touched since because holy shit what did all of this do? It took a lot of time to get all of it on and even then, Stiles knew she’d never come close to looking like Lydia or Allison or Erica, so she didn't even bother, left off the whole hair and makeup routine for chapstick and a ponytail, wore jeans that fit comfortably and don’t make her feel like she was being strangled, and some old t-shirt of her dad’s that was soft with twenty years worth of washes. Stiles was comfortable, Stiles was safe, if only because she kew that something bad is going to happen. She felt the tension in the air, that a storm was coming in the figurative sense and none of them were prepared for it.
The truth was Stiles would love to blame Derek for everything. Realistically, she couldn't, because she knew it was all just family stuff, that he didn't want this weight heaped on his shoulders any more than they wanted him to be leading their pack. She could sense it with him sometimes, that he was struggling to keep his head above water (which made her laugh because hey, she struggled to keep his head above water too that night in the pool with the kanima). He was in over his head with everything that had happened, and despite the way he displayed himself, he didn't have all the answers. Being an Alpha wasn’t supposed to be a learn as you go kind of job, and that’s what he was stuck doing, because he was alone. She didn’t think the pack counted entirely when he didn’t actually let them in, when he trained them the weird way that he did because he didn’t actually trust any of them, and that didn’t seem right when wolves work in cohesive packs, when wolves trust one another. A pack is a family, she read once in her research on wolf pack dynamics, and Derek didn’t really treat the betas like family. Maybe if he got his shit together and treated everyone like a real pack instead of his weird little orphans with issues program he had going on things in Beacon Hills wouldn’t be such a mess, but Stiles knew every time she thought that it was unfair. It all went back to crazy Kate Argent but then again actually seeing Gerard Argent in action more than once now; he understood how Kate turned out to be like that. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree in that case, and it just made Stiles feel kind of bad for Derek, that because of these weirdos he was alone and left with all these issues and just trying to survive. It was why she stuck around to help him out when it was about more than just Scott, because even if Derek didn’t want to admit it, he needed Stiles around, he needed someone who could help him and actually understand where he was coming from. Plus it sort of helped he was achingly attractive and she was sixteen and blossoming into womanhood or whatever and she really just enjoyed staring at him when she could get away with it. He made up a good portion of her fantasies, with his arms and his chest and the intense way he looked at her sometimes, except in those fantasies he was always well adjusted and not you know threatening to rip her throat out with his teeth. She could appreciate the sexy, the crazy not so much.
The counseling had been her dad’s idea. Stiles understood why, of course, they had just been held at gunpoint by a psychopath with a gun and that was only the part her dad knew about. She hadn’t told him about being paralyzed for hours lying next to Derek, about feeling even weaker and helpless than normal because she couldn’t even doing anything but lie there, couldn’t save him from getting hurt, or help Scott or even Derek. She’d been nothing but useless all night and her dad didn’t even trust her any more, he put Scott on that pedestal above her, like he was the son the Sheriff had always wished he had. It made tears bristle in her eyes every time the thought came upon her, choking on the thought and needing a few minutes to compose herself and get back to being the Stiles everyone expected her to be, bright and loud and annoying but always on. She wasn’t useful as it was; the least she could do was be what they expected her to be and not something else to worry about. So counseling it was. It wasn’t like the school looked down upon it, hell, they had been kind of pushing her and Scott towards it after the events at the police station because they had been the only ones to have been publicly there, there was nothing about Jackson or Allison’s involvement there. Just her and Scott and how Scott was the big hero that saved her father and his mom while Stiles did nothing, because that was what she did best. She was sick of hearing people whisper about it, sick of the looks people were giving her in the lunchroom wondering where on earth to sit because Scott was avoiding her and Allison was avoiding Scott. She hated it worse the way people stared when Lydia came up to her and dragged her back to her table, Jackson sitting there silent in the messed up way he had been since his brain got fried by being the kanima, and Danny uncomfortable in not knowing when his friends became the school freaks. (He didn’t judge them though, Stiles knew that, because he was Danny and he was really just made of sunshine and rainbows and dimples and if he wasn’t gay Stiles would have been so in love with him.) It was all just too much and made her duck out as soon as the bell rang, skipping out her next class for a session in Ms. Morrell’s office, spilling her guts about her anxiety, the crippling fear that she knew something bad was about to happen.
Stiles wasn’t technically on the boy’s lacrosse team, but she hung around Scott so much that Finstock had this tendency to think she actually was. It was more like a manager job, she made sure everyone had their equipment and there was enough water and a defibrillator and first aid kit on hand because hey shit happened to other people and she wasn’t going to let anything happen to her friends. She was prepared for everything, because that was what she did, she was Stiles Stilinski, she took care of everybody but herself. What she wasn’t prepared for was the lights to go out right after they had just won the championship game, for a strong arm to wrap around her midsection and a hand to cover her mouth in the absolute darkness and drag her away, her kicking and screaming unheard and unseen in the hysteria of darkness blanketing the field. Someone was down on the field she heard someone yell, but her own cries were muffled and before she could find out exactly what was happening, her entire world was blacker than the night sky.
When Stiles came to, it looked like she was in someone’s living room, sprawled out on the floor. Her hands were tied behind her back with those twist ties she knew cops tended to use when they didn’t have handcuffs, made of practically unbreakable plastic. Her head was pounding and she tasted blood in her mouth, the team track jacket she always wore to games discarded, leaving her in just her ripped jeans and ratty t-shirt. She could still move so she knew they hadn’t paralyzed her with kanima venom just yet, but the whole DANGER DANGER KIDNAPPED thing was freaking her out just as much. Blinking back the tears that formed in her eyes, Stiles took a few deep breaths and tried to right herself, sitting up if it didn’t make her head swim too much, looking around and trying to assess her surroundings. It was definitely a nice house, one she hadn’t been in before. Not that she had been in many houses considering Scott had been her only friend until he had gotten bit by a werewolf and since opened up the gates of friendship with strange people, but still. She needed to figure out where she was, she needed to assess the situation and find a way out of there as quickly as possible, because she didn’t need to be a distraction. If she even would be a distraction, because there was that aching fear inside her that no one would notice she was gone, that no one would care enough to try to save her because she was nothing but a helpless little human, because she wasn’t worth the effort to try and save. The only person who would miss her would be her dad and he didn’t even trust her anymore, without her he could just find someone else to love and not have the additional weight of a broken teenage girl on his shoulders. That thought, that one hit her the hardest, letting her head drop and a couple of the hot tears in her eyes trickle down her cheeks, taking in a sharp breath before she steeled herself up again, readying herself to try to escape.
Really, Stiles should have known better than she wasn’t alone in a room for very long, and even if she was human, she did tend to notice things better than some other people did. She was smart and okay she had some concentration and hyperactivity issues but it didn’t mean she wasn’t observant about things. Being kidnapped and bound alone in somebody’s living room kind of seemed too good to be true, too easy to get away from. She probably should have been surprised to see Gerard Argent standing over her, should have realized this was the Argent’s house and that of course they were all behind this, what with their craziness and all. If she got out of this, Stiles was really going to push Scott into taking a long hard look at his relationship with Allison, because getting kidnapped by your best friend’s girlfriend’s scary ass grandpa was not cool at all. (Actually neither was getting taken hostage by your fantasy dreamboat’s crazy werewolf uncle, Stiles really needed to work on the whole letting people with crazy relatives into her life thing.)
“Look, I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but kidnapping the Sheriff’s kid? That’s all kinds of wrong, you know, so I mean, you could just let me go right? Let me go and I won’t tell my dad and you can keep on like... doing whatever it is you’re doing and I’ll stay out of your way okay?” Word vomit tended to be Stiles’ first line of defense, and she was quick to jump the gun on this. She wasn’t sure what Gerard knew that she knew, if maybe she was in the dark about the whole werewolves and kanimas thing, but since she had kind of been at the center of everything... well he probably knew everything anyway. Either way, she didn’t want to give him that information, but she hadn’t exactly been expecting the strong backhand across the cheek, a few stray tears leaking out of her eyes at the pain, her tongue sliding over the side of her cheek that had met with her teeth, tasting the blood there. She wasn’t letting the tears deter her though, looking up at him defiantly, nostrils flaring just slightly.
“Where is Derek Hale?” It was a demand, not a question, not with the way his hand curled into a fist with her shirt inside, pulling her in close. He smelled wrong, like too much cologne, like he was covering the smell of something else with it.
“Dude, I don’t know? I don’t keep tabs on him I haven’t seen him around, I don’t know.” Stiles was quick to speak, bracing herself for the next hit when it came. It turned out bracing herself didn’t really stop it from hurting, didn’t make her feel any better about anything. Grabbing at her chin, Gerard pulled her head up so she was forced to look at his face, to feel the fury in his eyes all aimed at her.
“You will not speak to me as if I am one of your classmates. And you will tell me where Derek is, do you understand?” his grip was tight on her, she could feel his nails sinking in to her cheek, undoubtedly leaving marks on her skin before releasing her and slapping her again. “Now tell me where Derek is.”
“Why do you think I know where he is! I don’t, I have no idea, he just shows up sometimes I have no idea how he does it or why or where he’s staying, I don’t know, I don’t! I don’t.” Stiles’ voice was borderline hysterical, her breathing quick, no longer holding back the tears. She couldn’t breathe; the panic was rising in her chest, choking out her air. It wasn’t fair, none of this was fair, she was just a kid for god’s sake, she was just trying to help out her friends and maybe make it to junior year without dying. A sob escaped her throat as another hard slap connected with her face, but she didn’t look up defiantly this time, just letting the sobs wrack her body, bringing her knees in to her chest as Gerard walked away, shouting orders for somebody else to get the information out of her. If this really was the Argent home, where was Allison to fix this, hell she’d even take Chris at this point, Chris had his code, he wouldn’t let this happen to her. Closing her eyes tightly, she tried to block everything out, repeating that Churchill quote Ms Morrell had thrown at her in the counseling session earlier in the day. If you’re going through hell, keep going. Saying it like a mantra, she could almost block out being dragged to her feet and pushed up the stairs towards one of the bathrooms, pushed down on her knees in front of a bathtub full of water. “Fuck...” her mantra was lost for a second with the curse, knowing exactly what was coming, that maybe she wasn’t going to come out of this alive after all.
“Where is Derek Hale?” The voice behind her was gruff and male and one she hadn’t heard before, one of the hunters Gerard had brought in, she presumed.
“I don’t...” Stiles started but didn’t finish, her head dunked in the cold water in the tub, the strong arm of the man holding her down as she tried to push her head back up, trying to keep her mouth closed, doing everything she could remember to do to keep from drowning. She had just talked about it earlier in the day, and there she was, in the same place she dreaded being. The man behind her pulled her up and repeated the question. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Stiles was cold and tired and wet. She was exhausted beyond belief; hands still bound behind her back, ankles bound together, her wet t-shirt sticking to her uncomfortably. A blanket would have been nice, maybe some hot tea to make her feel a little less like dying and to soothe her sore throat. Her mom would have been the best, to hold her tight and whisper her name, her real name, and tell her that she was proud of her, that her daughter was brave and strong and that things would get better. Keep going, she could almost hear her mother’s voice whisper it in her ear, and she could imagine herself on her couch in her living room, curled up to her mom with her fingers tangled in her hair. It was so much better than where she really was, bound in a corner of the Argent’s basement, their creepy war room with maps and guns and wow if she got out of this, she was really going to ask Scott to reevaluate his relationship with Allison because this family was full of major red flags.
They had tortured her, Stiles thought so anyway. Trying to drown her for information, that was torture wasn’t it? Not quite water boarding, but the more primitive way, she thought, it counted? Not that she wanted to be, no she would definitely just chalk this up to an experience she never wanted to deal with ever again, but would her future therapists count this as torture? Or... well more realistically this was on the list of things she would never talk about again, because the minute she said something like “Oh yeah my best friend got bit by a werewolf in our sophomore year of high school so I got involved in all this drama and wound up a hostage to a crazy alpha werewolf who wanted to turn me into one then a couple months later my best friend’s girlfriend’s grandpa who is a werewolf hunter kidnapped me and tortured me for information about the new alpha’s whereabouts” she was pretty sure they would commit her to an institution. Not that she would blame them, before Scott’s bite, this would all seem out of one of those weird supernatural romance novels she read sometimes because whatever everybody had their own trashy lit reads. (Except Scott, but she was pretty sure he was like Charlie Kelly levels of illiterate sometimes.)
“Stiles?” She had been lost in her own thoughts and hadn’t realized someone was coming down the stairs, someone bathed in light from up above, but Stiles knew that voice, had heard it enough in the past few months since she had been joined at the hip with Scott.
“Allison?” Stiles’ voice cracked, throat hoarse from the whole almost drowning in the bathtub thing, but she couldn’t help but feel excited that things would be okay, because Allison was going through a tough time, but she wouldn’t make things worse for Stiles, they were friends, she was Scott’s girlfriend, everything was going to be okay. “Thank god, your grandpa kidnapped me and some guy tried to drown me in your tub and I thought I was going to die down here...” she stopped talking when Allison just cocked her head at her, standing over her and not making an effort to help her up or loosen her bondage or anything.
“Where’s Derek? Stiles, I know you know.” A sense of dread immediately came over her, extinguishing the flame of hope that had bloomed inside her. This wasn’t the Allison she had come to know, this was a darker Allison, one who freaked her out, one who didn’t have her back and wasn’t trying to help her. Stiles shook her head, her wet hair sticking to her face uncomfortably, and with her hands behind her back, she lacked the means to try and push it away.
“I don’t know, I swear on everything, I don’t know.” At least Stiles’ voice sounded confident, even if she knew this was just bad news all over the place. She could meet Allison’s eyes, plead silently with her for the other girl to believe her, that she wasn’t lying about this, that this wasn’t about protecting Derek. Allison crouched down to her level, her brows furrowed, as if she was trying to determine if Stiles was telling the truth or not.
“He killed my mother, Stiles, I think you of all people should know how I feel right now.” And that hurt. That was like a punch to the throat, and Stiles could feel a fresh batch of tears warm in her eyes, even after she felt like she had completely cried everything out already. She knew what it was like to lose her mother and how completely devastating it was, but to blame Derek... it meant Allison didn’t know the whole story.
“She was trying to kill Scott.” Stiles burst out, letting the first of many fresh tears streak down her cheek, tasting the salt on her lips. “At the rave, when we were trying to stop Jackson, she hit him with her car and tried to kill him with wolfsbane and Derek had to go save him. She wasn’t innocent, Allison, she was trying to...”
“She was my mother and she didn’t deserve to be bitten, didn’t deserve to die like a dog.” Allison’s eyes were hard, her voice harder. It was kind of terrifying, and Stiles could see that she was definitely her mother’s daughter in this moment.
“She had a choice, Allison. She had a choice, and she chose to die over being there for you.” Stiles spat out and wasn’t at all surprised when she felt the harsh sting of Allison’s hand on her wet cheek. She watched as Allison spun on her heel and headed back up the stairs, pausing only for a second at the middle to look down on her.
“No one’s coming for you, Stiles. You don’t matter enough to anyone for them to look for you.” She delivered the words so calmly and Stiles knew that they were true, that losing her didn’t exactly mean losing much. Still, she didn’t give Allison the satisfaction of seeing her words pierce through her like one of her arrows, waiting until the door slammed shut to hang her head and cry.
The next time she opened her eyes, Stiles thought she was floating. It felt like floating anyway, her arms limp and curled up on her chest, warm body heat seeping through her, warming her to her bones. The touch was gentle and there were lips pressed into her hair every so often, a voice she knew telling her it would all be all right. When she found the strength, she wrapped her arms around his neck, pressed her face hard into Derek’s chest, and she cried until there was no strength left in her. The world turned black again.
As it turned out, Stiles couldn't actually get away with being kidnapped and not talking about it. At the hospital she could, because it was just a couple of hours and mostly they just wanted to make sure she was alright, but once she got home, her father gave her that look, the one that told her everything, that she wasn’t getting away without talking about it this time.
“Do you really want to know the truth?” she sighed out, slumping down on the couch, pulling her pajama covered knees up to her chest, chewing idly on her lip as her father slumped into his own chair. He seemed older, the worry of not knowing where his daughter was and then finding out she’d been kidnapped by the crazy principal who had killed one of their students already had aged him by another ten years. But he nodded and she caved under the weight of it all, starting with Scott’s bite. She was proud of herself for only breaking down once when it came to what happened at the dance and with Peter, left out the rapey kind of vibe he had been giving her when he offered her the bite. She recounted everything she could remember, making jokes about it when she could get them in, but it didn’t make her feel any better getting it off her chest, not with the way her father’s shoulders sagged and his eyes looked at her in disbelief. “Please don’t think I’m lying.” She finished, her voice small, her chin trembling, and god she hated herself for crying so much, because she was better than that, she was so much stronger than that. “I don’t want you to look at me like I’m lying, I know I haven’t made the best decisions and I got you fired, but you have to believe me, I was always just trying to do my best for everybody, I never wanted anybody to get hurt, least of all you.” Choking on the last words, she tried so hard to keep it together, her father’s face softening as he came over to the couch and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight. Maybe he didn’t exactly believe her just yet, but he still loved her, so that was better than nothing.
It was around midnight when a tap on her window distracted her from her computer, lost in a game of distractions where she could be something better and stronger than she was here. It was Derek, she knew, it was always Derek, and she owed him a thank you for saving her anyway. Getting up, she unlocked the window and moved back to let him climb in, sitting back in her computer chair, silence settling between them for the first time in a long time. She watched as he moved to sit on the edge of her bed, regarding her carefully like she was a wounded animal, which to him she probably was.
“So um...” Stiles started, chewing on her lip, swiveling the chair back and forth with nervous energy. “Thanks for saving me. Cause I mean it was only like a day or whatever, but they were pricks, and I owe you? So I mean, I guess we’re kind of even, right?” Being around Derek was filling her with conflicting emotions. More than anything she wanted to push him down on the bed and just wrap her arms around him, feel his heartbeat soothing her to sleep knowing he was there and he could protect her and he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her ever again. But part of her? It just wanted him gone, wanted him to know that none of this would have ever happened to her if it weren’t for him, that he ruined her life. That part was winning out, but she owed him the thank you, he deserved that much.
“Stiles...” he started, getting off the bed slowly, looking pretty nervous himself, like he didn’t know what he was doing. At least it was both of them, she thought, not just her making an ass out of herself. He closed the space between them and reached out his hand, letting his thumb brush over her cheek gently. She couldn’t help the wince, recoiling back away from his hand, her eyes closing tightly for a brief second before looking back up at him.
“I’m sorry I mean, I owe you all the thanks in the world because wow that was kind of a horrible experience, but like um... I only got kidnapped because of you? Because they thought I knew where you were hiding and where you were and I kept my mouth shut because I don’t want anything to happen to you or your pack because they’re like... my friends now I guess?” She shrugged, because yeah, they sort of were in a weird way, not like Scott had always been, not like how Lydia was becoming, but they were part of her fold now, she cared enough about them. “But I just, I mean, I can’t do this anymore, Derek. I told my dad everything and to be honest, I think it would be better for everyone if we took a break from seeing each other? Oh god that sounded like I’m breaking up with you and like we’d have to be dating first for that and we’re not cause look at you, but my point is like... could you just leave me alone? Could we like not associate with each other anymore because I really don’t like getting kidnapped and tortured and I mean, it wasn’t torture not really, but...” she shrugged, trying to push her hair back and only succeeding in making her messy ponytail messier. Derek had this look on his face like someone had just stabbed him in the chest and she felt absolutely horrible, but it only lasted a second before he went into his big bad alpha mode, like she hadn’t just kicked him out of the life he had just saved for her.
“As long as you’re alright.” His voice was low, solemn almost, and he didn’t give her time to reply before he was out her window again, leaving nothing but cool night air in his place. Locking her window again, it only took a couple of minutes to hear a howl in the distance, and a few seconds after that, she was burying herself in her pillows, crying for what was probably the millionth time in a short span of days.
“I think you did the right thing.”
“What?” Stiles looked up from her toes to Lydia, nail polish brush frozen in motion before she remembered that this was Lydia’s bed and she’d kill her for ruining her sheets and wasting her thirty dollar nail polish and who spent thirty dollars on nail polish anyway just because it was Dior. Instead, she just returned to polishing her toes, knowing Lydia would know she had Stiles full attention anyway.
“With cutting out Derek and all of them. They were never going to be anything but bad news anyway, and now you can focus on the important things.” The like me was implied, but Stiles knew where Lydia was going with this anyway. Things were still weird, and she was trying to put her life back together and she needed stable people around her. Jackson was there for her more now, better now, but he was still recovering from the whole I’m a giant killer lizard monster thing, and well Allison was definitely out of their circle now, as much as Scott was moping about it. Stiles wasn’t even talking to him lately anyway, what with the fact that he was more upset about his girlfriend breaking up with him than trying to kill him and his best friend and his alpha. So Lydia had felt that Stiles was a suitable replacement, since she had been there for her throughout her whole crazy possessed by Peter Hale thing (which Stiles felt really bad about because how had she not picked up on the fact that Lydia had been haunted and possessed by that creeper and wow what an invasion of privacy). They were both damaged by the whole werewolf pack thing, but they were both human, and they both really wanted no further part in the crazy. So it was like instant BFFs but kind of more awesome because it was Lydia Martin and Stiles was now her best friend.
“No, you’re right, I mean it was for the best and everything, but I miss it sometimes? I miss feeling... needed.” she shrugged and leaned down further to try to blow on her toes, but that wasn’t doing anything but make her winded and crushing her boobs. “Like yeah, it was a lot of trouble and I like not having to lie to my dad as much anymore, but like...” she stretched out, careful to keep her wet toes off the comforter, just lying back to look at the ceiling. Lydia’s bed was so much more comfortable than her own; she could lay there forever and never want to move again. “I feel like something’s missing.”
“Yeah, you’re mind, because you’re crazy. Who would want to go back to that?” Lydia was right, Stiles had to agree to that much. She was on her way to popular now, best friends with the girl she had always wanted to be like, smart and actually getting noticed by boys, she was crazy to want to go back to werewolves and monsters and almost getting killed on a regular basis.
His name was Tom and he kissed her wet and hard. He held her hand in the hallways and he watched action movies with her and didn’t make fun of her when she cried sometimes. He put his hand under her dress at the spring formal and told her she was a bitch when she said no. He was cordial in the hallways until school let out for the summer because he knew he made a mistake, but she wasn’t going to let him back in.
His name was Steve and he kissed her soft and gentle. He smelled like summer and was visiting his family for a few weeks. He laughed when she made him stay out at night catching lightning bugs in their hands and letting them go. He kissed her under the stars and made promises to come back the next summer and do it all over again, to write, to never forget her. He dunked her head under the water in Lydia’s pool one night and she told him to never call her again. He didn’t.
She went out on a date with Greenberg once.
His name was Carter and his kiss varied. He was sweet and he was passionate, and for a year and a half, he was everything she ever could have dreamed a boy to be. He didn’t have dark secrets like most of the boys she used to know, he made her laugh, he held her when she cried, he never made her feel afraid. He felt safe, he respected her decision, understood when she said it didn’t feel right and she wanted to wait. He looked at colleges with her, made plans for the future with her. Lydia said he was perfect, and Lydia was right about most things. Stiles wanted more than anything to love him, to feel like she was doing more than settling for him, but she knew that he wasn’t it, he wasn’t the one she was looking for. He took her to prom and slow danced with her and held her close. He understood when she said “this is it, huh” and kissed her softly and told her that they had a good run and he’d always have a place for her in his heart. She believed him.
Stiles always knew the weight of Derek’s stare, how it felt like the sun was shining on just her when he looked at her, and not necessarily in a good way. He was always a constant weight in the back of her mind, someone she thought of when she should have been focusing on the present, when someone else deserved her attention more than one certain sour wolf. So, she knew it was him before she even turned around, the summer breeze blowing her deep red graduation gown around her legs, heels digging in to the dirt on the field. She wasn’t going to let him ruin her day, she knew he was there for his pack, for Isaac who had no one else but Derek, for Erica and Boyd, and for Scott, who had somehow survived without her. So she turned slowly, giving him a bright smile before walking over to where he was standing on his own, her arms wrapping around his neck and hugging him close.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for you. Thank you.” She whispered the words in his ear, kissing it lightly before pulling back and walking away, fixing the Salutatorian sash on her gown before going to find Lydia, pretending like she hadn’t just done something monumental.
It’s just a summer fling, she told herself, just something because she was bored and leaving Beacon Hills come August and she had two and a half months to just be a stupid teenager and make out with an attractive guy. And Derek was definitely attractive, dangerously attractive even, and Stiles knew this was probably a huge mistake, but one she wanted to make. His house was rebuilt, something he’d been working on since the Argents became the pariahs of the town and he didn’t have to worry so much anymore, and Stiles was impressed when she saw it. She could imagine what it was like before the fire, but this was so much better, this was Derek and something he loved. She walked barefoot on the wood floor, sandals in hand, followed the sound of a table saw to the garage to see Derek working on building his dining room set from scratch. There was something undeniably sexy about it, the way his arms and shoulders looked in that dirty white tank, the way his chest moved as he pushed the wood through the saw blade. She waited until he clicked the saw off before she cleared her throat and announced her presence, caught the quick bright smile he tried to stifle immediately after seeing her.
“What are you doing here?” His gruff voice really didn’t work after she’d seen him smile, especially the way his smile had a tendency to make her knees feel kind of weak.
“I was thinking about you, thought I’d stop in and say hi. You know, check in, see what’s going on, taking in the renovations. Nice job, by the way, this place looks beautiful...”
“Stiles.” He didn’t need to say any more because they both knew he could hear her heartbeat racing. His brief delight at seeing her had obviously simmered, probably brooding on the fact that she told him to get lost two years ago and he did. But she was a kid then, she was eighteen now, she was an adult about to embark on a new journey and maybe she just wanted to revisit an old one first. Instead she just sighed and sat down in one of the chairs he had obviously finished, crossing her legs daintily like Lydia had taught her to.
“Do you ever miss things the way they were? I mean, of course you do, your family and everything and this doesn’t compare to it, but like I guess what I’m saying is that you didn’t really have to stay away all that time? I mean, I’m glad you did because I could focus on the things that mattered and I’m going to Stanford in August with Lydia and that would never have happened if you had stayed around but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I missed you? I still miss you. I miss when you needed me to do things and I could help and feel a little important and special and...” Stiles had directed most of the speech towards her feet, not really noticing that Derek had been moving closer until his hand was under her chin, lifting her face. His hands were so big, she couldn’t help but notice, long fingers and large palms and her focus was so much on that she had almost missed him leaning in, pressing his lips to hers. Finally, she thought to herself, letting her hands slide to the base of his neck, curling a hand into his hair and pulling him in closer, kissing him deeper. He didn’t kiss her like anybody else ever had, he kissed her like he had been waiting for this forever, like they would both break if they didn’t get enough of it. Nothing had ever felt so right to her, none of the other guys, not even the couple of times she and Lydia had (there was nothing wrong with experimentation, they had both decided and besides, it was Lydia, there was no other woman in the world she loved half as much). So she let him in, slipped her legs around his waist and let him lift her up, let him carry her up the stairs to his room. She couldn’t notice much else besides him, the way his body looked as he stripped off the tank, just pulled him back down to the bed by his belt buckle, fumbling with it quickly. Derek felt right, there was no hesitance in her movements, nothing inside her that told her she should stop, that this wasn’t the way she wanted her first time to be. It was just instinct driving her, telling her to do it, telling her not to stop.
Stiles was completely wrecked when she heard a car pulling up the stretch of road that lead to the Hale house. Her knees still felt weak and she wasn’t sure where all of her clothes had gone, and Derek looked about the same, still breathing hard, although the content look on his face she had just been enjoying was gone once he heard the noise too. Cocking her eyebrow at him, she figured maybe if she spoke through her eyebrows they would have better communication, but it just lead to her clothes being thrown at her as Derek scrambled for his own, pulling everything up quickly.
“You need to leave.”
“Thanks I had a great time too, let’s do it again sometime.” Sarcasm had always been her best defense, but Derek, fucking Derek, he always knew the weak spots in her armor, had just stuffed a knife in deep to part of her that she thought she had healed a long time ago. Rebuttoning her dress, she shook out her braid and redid it again quickly; she could do artfully disheveled surprisingly well, but nothing was going to make either of them look anything less than debauched.
“Derek?” A female voice called from downstairs and Stiles shot a glare towards the older man, her heart beating faster as the hurt and anger and betrayal hit her.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Landing a punch on his bicep only actually hurt her more than it hurt him, but she felt some satisfaction in hitting him, because fuck this situation sucked.
“Go.” Derek pointed to the front door and headed for the kitchen himself to intercept the woman who had to mean something to him, and Stiles just did as she was told. She heard the yelling before she hit the jeep, but she managed to keep herself from crying until she got to Lydia’s.
“Okay, you could have told me he was with somebody. That was completely brutal and uncalled for and not to mention awful? Because oh my god, that was so awful?” Stiles narrowed her eyes at Jackson, digging her finger into his chest. To no one’s surprise, it hurt her more than it hurt him, and he just rolled his eyes, giving her that patented Stiles you are a fucking moron look he had never gotten rid of after she had become Lydia’s best friend.
“It’s not like I knew you were going to go over there and sleep with him, so don’t blame me. You were the one avoiding him, remember? You told him to leave you alone.”
“Can we just all agree that this is Derek’s fault for not telling Stiles that he was with somebody beforehand?” Lydia spoke up, holding up her spoon as the voice of reason. As usual. “Because how was she supposed to know, he should have known better.”
“It’s instinct, she was probably putting off that fuck me vibe she gets around him and he was acting on...”
“I do not have a fuck me vibe around him!”
“You kind of do, you always did, and then you blindsided him after all this time and he’s an alpha he lives off his instincts more than the rest of us...”
“Are you seriously making excuses for him right now, Jackson?” Lydia’s voice was clipped as she dug her spoon into her pint of ice cream and Stiles loved her more than ever. Jackson knew that tone of voice, knew he was screwed if he tried to say any more, so he just shrugged, stealing a spoonful out of Stiles’ pint. For once she didn’t complain, just dropped her head onto Lydia’s shoulder.
“I hate my life.”
The truth was that Stiles was pretty glad she was going away for college when she had a jealous female werewolf after her for the month of July. That full moon was a bitch.
It wasn’t like she meant to compare all the guys she dated to Derek. It was just an innate reaction, compared their kisses to the way his had made her feel. She was grateful for their lack of intensity sometimes, but she missed that, she realized that was what she had missed all along. She called Carter one night after a particularly bad breakup and between crying had asked him why they had never worked out.
“I never thought you really loved me, you know? Like you did, but not enough. Not like I loved you.” Shit, she thought. Derek had been her gold standard all along; she just never realized it until he ruined her for everyone else completely.
There was always something about weddings that brought out the best in everybody. Allison had reigned in the crazy back in high school, but by then Lydia had grown to love Stiles more than everybody else, so their group had never really included her again, and besides, she belonged with Scott and the pack more anyway. But it was still nice to be invited to the wedding, getting to go dress shopping with Lydia and know they would get to see all the old gang. Plus, Stiles had planned to look amazing and rub it in Derek’s face because he was a life-ruining jerk and she was still childish, she was still only twenty-three after all.
The wedding was sweet, a backyard ceremony at the Hale house, and it sort of reminded Stiles of back when they were kids, when all Scott worried about was Allison and you know, not maiming her with his wolfiness. She couldn’t help the bright smile on her face the whole day, hugging everybody and yelling out her congratulations and ringing their little kissing bells like a million times because she knew Scott and she knew that he loved it, and that he loved Allison, and maybe even still loved Stiles a little too. She felt it in his hug afterward, when she cried on his shoulder a little and told him how proud of him that she was, that her little puppy was all grown up. Weddings made her act like that, crazy and happy and weepy because who didn’t love two people in love and celebrating that love? It was easy to avoid Derek at first, but when everybody was slipping out on the dance floor under the tent, Stiles stayed back, heading towards the house instead. Derek was where she thought he would be, hiding in the kitchen, his best man’s tux undone, his hair a mess from running his fingers through it.
“You know, neither of us can’t pretend we’re in the same room together. I know you know I’m here, so, it’s really fruitless to try.” Slipping out of her heels, Stiles left them by the counter and moved around the island, taking one of the wedding cake slices and a fork before pushing herself up to sit on the counter, crossing her legs at the knees so he couldn’t see anything beneath her red dress. “You’re a dick.” Stiles wasn’t sure why she felt the need to provoke him, to poke and prod at him like she was, but it felt healthy, kind of cathartic actually.
“I’m aware.” Derek grunted, lifting the beer bottle to his lips, but she knew he couldn’t get drunk, it just fit his image she supposed, one he was playing up for the humans at the wedding, the ones that didn’t know exactly what the Hale pack was. “Is there a reason you’re in here to tell me that?” He was actually communicating with words for once, Stiles had to admit she was impressed.
“You just...” she shrugged, putting the plate down next to her to focus on what she wanted to say to him, what she could actually get through to him. “I can’t have relationships because of you. Every time I try to be with someone, I think of you. Every time I think I want someone, they don’t come anywhere near close to you. I hate it, Derek, I just want to be loved and to be able to love someone, I deserve that much, but you just... since I met you, you’ve just ruined my life. I can’t have what I want because of you.” She sighed, leaning her head back against the cabinets, hairstyle be damned, nearly everyone at this wedding at seen her at her worst at one point or another.
“You’re the one who told me to leave you alone, Stiles, I was only doing what you wanted me to.” It would always come back to that, she realized, and it made her laugh, choking and harsh, eyes filling with tears.
“Derek, I was having like the worst night of my entire life because I was protecting you. I was exhausted and fed up and I just wanted to feel safe. I know I said... I know what you think I meant, but in all that time, you didn’t come back. And nobody... I tried to love other people, but nobody made me feel safer than you. Cause I always knew, you know? That as long as I was with you I didn’t need to worry, but like if I wasn’t then... and they told me that nobody was coming to save me and I believed them I guess because I’m messed up, I’ve always been, but you showed up, you proved them wrong, you saved me. I thought that like... I don’t know, that you’d save me from me?” Stiles laughed, brushing her fingertips under her eyes to catch any of the rogue tears that were starting to fall. “It’s stupid, we can’t even communicate right. I guess the bottom line was that I always wanted you and what was best for you, and I thought I was putting myself first, but I wasn’t really. And um, that day like... I saw you at graduation and I just wanted you so much and I thought like, hey I’m an adult, it’s summer, I can handle if this is a bad decision, but wow I couldn’t because I just I loved you so much until you kicked me out because your girlfriend came home and is she still here because I really don’t want to get chased out of Beacon Hills again...” sighing, she looked across the small space between them, watched his face as he took in all that she said. Rejection would be fine, she was leaving soon anyway, back to following Lydia around like a puppy because the city was perfect for her but swallowed someone like Stiles whole.
“I’ll always keep you safe.” He broke the silence that had settled in the kitchen, looking up to her slowly. Stiles let her shoulders drop slightly, biting her lip and not caring that it would ruin her lipstick. She wanted to tell him that she knew that, she wanted to say so many things, but it was better to not, better to let him talk and figure it all out before she did what she always did and said too much and ruined everything. She stayed still on the counter as he moved over to her, let her hands stay pliable when he took them in his own. “You were sixteen, Stiles. You were sixteen and I was twenty-two, and we had way too much going on. It was always something and you got in the way all the time.” She should have been offended, but there was a hint of a smile on Derek’s lips when he said that, so she let him continue, his thumbs rubbing slow circles into the tops of her hands. “I didn’t know what I was doing half the time, and I definitely didn’t know what I was doing with you. So I let you make that decision and it was hard but...” he shrugged, and Stiles had to laugh softly, because god damn communicating must be hard when you’re Derek Hale and you’re used to glaring at people to get your point across.
“So, basically, you let me be a kid?”
“Basically.” Derek nodded, looking up at her again, moving closer so her knees pressed into his waist. Uncrossing her legs, she let him slip between them, trying not to let her hesitance show on her face.
“You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend though.”
“I fucked up.” His voice was lower and she was trying everything not to give in to the way her body screamed to kiss him, to touch him, to claim him as hers. “You caught me by surprise and I didn’t keep myself in check, I just reacted...”
“Naturally.” Stiles finished for him, moving in closer so they were close to enough to be breathing one another’s air, daring each other to be the one to go for the kiss first.
“Naturally.” Derek nodded, leaning in and catching her lips with his.
Stiles caught the bouquet. Lydia never let her live it down.