Derek could smell it on Stiles when he got back from college. At first he thought it was just something that was lingering from UCLA, where he'd studied Criminal Justice, something that would fold itself neatly and disappear with time. It didn’t smell necessarily bad, just different. But when the hint was still there after a few months and Stiles hadn’t even left Beacon Hills one time to visit any of his new college friends, Derek dismissed his initial thought in favor for another. He started to believe that that was how Stiles smelled nowadays. After he’d been gone for four years, it wouldn't’ve exactly been a surprise and it wouldn't be the only thing about him that had changed.
He’d got the means to grow a beard then. He usually sticked with a five o’clock shadow but when he forgot to shave, Derek noticed that that was a thing Stiles really forgot when he forgot it, it was thick and black and it looked so very different from the boy he first met in the woods. Stiles was broader then too, not in the sense that he'd actually grown more just bulked up and had actually made an effort not to be the scrawny kid he had always been. Derek complemented his upper arms once and immediately decided to never do that again, when Stiles grinned so hard it literally stuck on his face for days.
Bisexual, was the first thing Stiles had said one day, a phone call in the afternoon of his second year away. I’m bisexual. And he'd sounded so confused and somehow surprised by his own statement that Derek had had to laugh and say way to go Stilinski, finally figured that one out. The smell of Stiles sexual frustration and attractions had been very clear to Derek for years. Derek had promptly ignored it when they were aimed towards himself. But hadn't managed to hide his jealousy when Stiles had started talking about this purple haired girl he met last week or that really tall guy he goes to the same gym as and the pack who had been with him at both of those Skype calls had stared at him. He'd told them if any of you breath so much as a word I will kill you all dead. It was christmas time and Stiles wasn’t coming home over the break. Again. Derek thought at that moment that Stiles would never return to Beacon Hills. Stiles had wondered if they were even there when they didn't answer his questions. When he started to play Adele’s latest single, tension dropped and everyone laughed.
And Stiles did eventually come home. Without either girl- nor boyfriend. He was calmer when he got home. His anxiety was still very real but he had it under control now and knew better what to do when the panic struck. He didn't smell like constant misery. But that other scent. Derek didn't want to think that Stiles’s new smell was because he had changed, grown up, that would mean other things than what he wanted to ever think about.
The pull from Stiles, as a Beta to Derek’s Alpha wolf, had always been less pertinent than any of the bitten kids but he had always felt like pack, secure and smelled like it too. If this new thing meant that Stiles was drifting away from Derek, despite the fact that he was actually back, just meant that he was going to leave them eventually. It hurt. It hurt so much that Derek even cried about it a couple of nights. But he'd been wrong.
So wrong and it had been over a year since Stiles and the rest of them that graduated came back. Isaac had left the year after the rest but come home a year before anyone else. They didn't talk about it much. It hit him when Stiles had hugged him one night. There was never much physical contact between them, he was pack but he didn't have the same understanding of scenting and nuzzling and head bumps that the wolves had. Derek had been cuddling, or whatever better words to describe their pack bonding with, with Erica the same night and he could feel Stiles’s jealousy roll off him in waves. So he wasn't surprised by the hug. He was surprised by the overwhelming feeling of wrong and sick he got when he breathed Stiles in. They hadn't been this close many times since Stiles got back and now when he was, he knew. Knew all his fears about Stiles leaving had been projections and that he might leave anyway. Not by his own conscious choice.
He had hugged Stiles extremely hard back, not wanting to let him go and then he'd decided that fuck it, Stiles was almost in his mid twenties, Derek turned thirty next year and there was just not enough time. So he had kissed him, whispered I'm sorry and kissed him again and again. There was howling and cat calls coming from the living room, almost the whole pack except for Lydia and Jackson in there and Derek realized that they had probably been betting on this kiss. He could only feel some of their and Stiles’s joy though. There was things he needed to tell Stiles and he needed to get him to a hospital, ASAP.
He asked the pack to leave. At first they started cheering again but as soon as they could smell his worry, they gave him small, confused looks and Isaac even whined a little. Stiles wasn't a werewolf but he could read people better than most and even if he couldn't, he would have recognized that something was wrong either way. They all left Stiles and Derek in the den, Stiles looking wondering and longing and worried.
Derek told him, looking him straight in the eye and at first Stiles laughed. Laughed like there was nothing wrong with the world and Derek got angry. He crowded Stiles’s personal space, pressed his nose to pretty much all of Stiles’s body and then pointed out the exact area where the tumor was located. Now when he knew what it was, finding it was easier than he would've wanted. In Stiles’s tummy, right beneath the ribcage. It made Stiles freeze and finally understand that Derek was nowhere near joking. He cried in Derek’s arms for three whole hours. Derek felt utterly helpless and defeated.
They called Melissa, well Derek did, Stiles could probably not even have formed words. She was already working the night shift so Derek lead Stiles to his Camaro and drove them there in silence. Stiles was quiet the whole ride and it didn’t help Derek’s self hating. If he would have been more observant, if he had just been more near Stiles, he would've noticed much earlier. Acted earlier. Maybe it was too late already.
They got to the hospital way faster then they should have but now when Derek knew, he didn't want to waste any more time. It was a quiet night so they got to see Melissa immediately. He has cancer, Derek had said and she hadn't second guessed him or asked how he knew. She had looked concerned but not scared, even though she reeked of it. Stiles was propped up on an examination table, Derek and Melissa in front of him. She had asked if he was sure, not because she didn't trust him but because she needed to know. He had nodded and when he pointed to the spot in Stiles’s tummy where it was, Stiles had started to cry again. He hugged Melissa like his life depended on it and she told him that it's okay baby, everything is going to be fine. Derek wasn't so sure.
They called Scott around four am. He came. Stayed with Stiles for two and a half hours, hugged or held his hand for two and a quarter. Stiles had been admitted at one am and had his own little private room. He asked for the rest of the pack before Scott left for school. He said they'd all be there after last period. Derek didn’t know what time it was in London but both Lydia and Jackson was in the room, on Skype, with the rest of the pack all afternoon. They all carefully avoided the subject until Stiles brought it up, his face jokingly but his voice hoarse when he said: We've been apart for too long, there is now way I'm going anywhere. And they all broke down around him. He asked if they really believed that he would have survived high school where he, mind you, was almost dying seventeen times a day for practically two years just to die in his twenties by the big C? No way. They wiped at their tears and hugged him forcefully after Melissa told them that they should probably let Stiles be alone for a while. Stiles smiled at them all, whispered their own personal reasons for not giving the fuck up, all except for Derek got one. He continued smiling till he fell asleep, alone, not knowing that Derek was watching him. He wanted to ask why he did, how he could, because Derek felt like he could never smile again.
The doctors and nurses worked with Stiles because, as Melissa put it, the word of a werewolf’s nose isn't really something you can put in a medical file. The whole process made Derek on edge, it was so slow and he snapped so much at the pack that Scott had an intervention. They all sat in the den when Derek came home from the hospital and Derek stared at them and smelled the tension growing stronger with each of their breaths. Scott took the lead. You need to stop acting like a jerk and take care of the pack when they obviously need you. There were no such harsh words but Derek got the message and he tried so hard being the Alpha he wanted to be. As soon as he wanted to scream at them, he pulled them into hugs and he made them dinner once a week.
Stiles pretty much split his living arrangements into three; where he spent about as much time in the hospital as home with his dad and as much in Derek’s house with the pack. He had a thirty percent chance. Derek thought it was a seventy percent risk but didn’t say it aloud. Derek was embarrassed when Stiles walked in on him hugging a pillow and crying in his sleep, but Stiles only lay down next to him. I've been waiting, for what? Eight years? At least over seven, for you to kiss me so there is no way I'm leaving now. Derek huffed a choked laugh and told him Stiles was only fifteen when they first met. He’d been trying to keep his feelings at bay during all Stiles’s tests, only daring to hold his hand sometimes and hang around as much as he could. And now I'm not so get over yourself. I swear to god Derek, if you don't kiss me again- But he did. He did, he did, because Stiles was starting chemo the next day and they were both so scared that they clutched to each other all night long without sleeping.
When Stiles came home he had no hair. Derek got flashbacks all the time from Stiles’s sophomore year when he had the same cut. He had told Derek he was going to buzz it, be in control of his hair loss and everything but it still made Derek flinch. They did operate him too. Said he was lucky they caught the tumor as early as they did. 30/70, Derek thought and wondered how better the odds would have been if he'd understood earlier. How they would've been if he hadn't reacted at all, if it would have spread all through Stiles body if it had happened in college when Derek wasn't there. He thought of Stiles on a operating board, even though he tried not to. The thought of someone sticking needles and cutting into Stiles made Derek dry heave all the time. Stiles started to dry heave as soon as his treatment started and Derek couldn't keep count on the times Stiles really had to run to the bathroom and actually throw up. Too much. Which also was the answer to how much energy the whole thing drained from Stiles, which led to the whole pack being emotionally drained.
But Stiles never backed down or crumpled. He had bad days. Weeks. He would lay in his bed and try to get food through his system. Try not to die right on the spot. Derek tried to take as much pain as he could, but it became increasingly harder the more Stiles’s body reacted to the chemo therapy. The day Stiles told him to stop, Derek was sure it was the last day he'd see Stiles alive.
It wasn't the case. In reality it was the first day, Derek realized, that Stiles ate properly. The first time in months. They trusted Melissa to be honest with them so when she said everything was looking bright, they believed her.
Derek thanked her everyday, because she was right. Stiles was declared cancer free not too long after. They celebrated in Derek’s garden, the pack, the sheriff and most of the rest of the station’s staff, Lydia and Jackson flew in from Britain, everyone’s parent was there and some of their old high schools friends showed up. Scott and Allison had in the mist of everything dropped the fucking baby-bomb and Stiles had laughed and said he wasn't mad that they stole his spotlight if they named the kid after him. (They named the child Monty and Derek suspected it had something to do with Stiles’s real first name since Stiles only turned tomato red when Derek asked about it.)
Stiles had told Derek after everyone had gone home, that if he didn't fuck him, in like two seconds, he would have no choice but to break up with him.
Stiles went to regular check ups but they never found anything that suggested that the cancer was back. Derek relaxed with time and that is also the reason why he almost had a heart attack when Stiles came home one day, a year and a half after he was declared healthy, smelling nervous and scared. Derek got so wound up that he completely missed the over all excitement in Stiles scent and Stiles literally had to put the ring in his face to make him stop panicking. I was going to do it way more romantic, he's had muttered but Derek had just screamed at him for being so fucking stupid and scaring him like that, don't ever do it again and yes, yes, yes, of fucking course... yes.