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“Stiles! Stiles!

Derek sounds frantic. That’s not right. Derek doesn’t do frantic. He does stoic. He is excellent at stoic. If there were awards for stoic, Derek would be the reigning champion for forever. He also does a great menacing and has intimidating down to an art. But Derek doesn’t do frantic.

You know who does a great frantic? Scott. Scott does an amazing frantic and an even better panicked. He has levels of panicked, nuances of panicked.

But not Derek. No. Frantic and Derek shouldn’t exist in the same sentence, in the same universe even.

It would be alarming if Stiles wasn’t floating.

“Stiles!”

There goes frantic Derek again and now he’s smacking Stiles’ cheek. It stings a little and Stiles finally realizes that there might be something amiss here.

In fact, Stiles isn’t quite sure where he is. The floating feeling has dissipated and now he’s definitely aware of lying on his back and whatever he is on is definitely hard and he’s cold… really cold, frigidly cold. He tries to raise an arm but his limbs are heavy. He feels lethargic, like he’s spent all day lying on the couch watching trash tv and eating junk food, but even then he can manage to roll over when he drops the remote. Now he can barely get his fingers to twitch.

“Stiles! Open your eyes. This isn’t funny!”

Stiles can’t open his eyes and a hysterical giggle bubbles out of his throat. His eyelids have weights attached to them. He should be able to lift them but he really can’t. It’s difficult. It’s like one of the labors of Hercules. Impossible if you’re not a demi-god.

“You never… think I’m funny,” he manages.

And whoa. That took an unprecedented amount of effort to spit out and it sounded so wrong to be him, so stilted. His brain and his mouth seem to be disconnected, which isn’t entirely unusual for him, but Stiles knows that it shouldn’t be so hard to shape his mouth to form sounds.

“Good.”

Derek sounds relieved and his voice is close, near Stiles’ ear, warm on his frigid skin.

“Keep talking.”

Derek never wants him to keep talking.

Something is very, very wrong.

Suddenly, Derek’s arm is strong and warm against Stiles’ shoulders, and his head is lolling on Derek’s bicep and Derek’s other arm is looped underneath his knees. And Derek is cradling him and he is a furnace. A wall of heat and Stiles cuddles closer, even though it’s weird and it’s Derek but Stiles is so cold and he wants to leach any warmth he can get.

“This is going to hurt,” Derek says, and the edge of panic is back but Derek sounds a little farther away, muffled, like he’s down a tunnel and not currently holding Stiles to his chest.

Derek grunts and then Stiles is off the ground and manhandled into Derek’s arms.

And holy crap.

Pain, razor-sharp and shockingly hot, radiates from his side. His muscles seize and he lets out a cry, high-pitched and shrill. He tries to move away from it, his spine arched, his legs twitching, but Derek clamps down on him, pulls him flush against his torso.

“Calm down, Stiles. I’ve got you.”

His eyes are watering. Each breath is a painful drag. His lungs are burning.

The pain yanks Stiles from his sluggish haze and now every sense is intensely in focus. He can hear the embarrassing pained gasps emanating from his mouth. He can smell his own blood, metallic, heavy in his nostrils and can feel it dripping down his skin.

He finally pulls his eyes open and finds himself staring at the underside of Derek’s jaw.

Derek looks frantic.

He’s breathing heavily but Stiles knows that jogging while carrying all 147 pounds of pale teenager isn’t much exertion for Derek so the panting has to be adrenaline or worry or….

Crap.

“It hurts,” Stiles whispers.

Derek glances down.

His eyes are red and his jaw is set and Stiles is bouncing slightly in his arms as his pace increases.

“I’m sorry,” he says, “but we have to hurry.”

Crap.

“I’m dying,” Stiles says because well… Derek is apologizing. Derek’s concerned and every step he takes is a nifty new jolt of pain in Stiles’ side.

“You’re not dying,” Derek barks.

Stiles isn’t a werewolf but he can tell Derek is lying.

His body is slowly going numb. His legs are draped over Derek’s arm but he can’t feel them any longer. His fingers, which had been clenching in Derek’s jacket, have gone slack and his eyes slide shut because he doesn’t have the strength to keep them open. It’s like the kanima venom slowly spreading throughout his body. He’s almost drifting again.

“Talk to me, Stiles,” Derek growls. “Come on, stay awake.”

Derek purposefully jostles him but the flaring pain is now more of a dull ache and Stiles knows, somewhere in his fuzzy consciousness, it isn’t a good sign. Stiles is sliding away, he can feel it, like something is pulling him under, a thick blanket of fog settling over him, like he’s drowning and is about to give into that last peaceful gasp.

He starts to shiver.

Derek clutches him closer and Stiles vaguely wonders if it is Derek’s way of trying to keep him here even though he’s leaving.

He’s leaving.

He realizes his dad is going to be left all alone and that aches more than any physical pain ever could. The thought rouses him.

“Tell my dad I’m sorry,” Stiles murmurs.

Derek shakes him again. “No! I’m not your messenger. If you want to apologize to your father you’re going to do it yourself.”

Stiles would actually love to do that but instead, his body shudders and he goes ragdoll-limp in Derek’s arms.

There is more frantic shouting but he’s not there to hear it.

-

Stiles wakes in the hospital.

He doesn’t open his eyes right away but he knows it’s a hospital. He can hear the rhythmic beeping of instruments. He can feel the scratchy sheets, the heavy weight of blankets on his legs, the pull of bandages and sterile tape on his skin. His memory is fuzzy. His mouth is dry. His body is numb.

The smell of plastic and antiseptic is achingly familiar and it brings with it sense memories of his mother that cause his eyes to sting and his breath to catch. Stiles has a hate/hate relationship with hospitals but he decides not to dwell, instead choosing to concentrate on figuring out why exactly he is in one.

He knows he should be afraid but fear has been his constant companion since Scott was bitten by a vengeful werewolf and a little hospital stay is nothing compared to running in the dark away from an alpha, dodging the claws of a kanima or being in the crosshairs of a hunter’s bow. Fear is actually more of a comfort now, the race of his heart, the sweat on his brow, the rush of adrenaline all means he is still alive.

It’s weird and says something about his life that Stiles is happy he survived long enough to even make it to the hospital. Though, it would be nice to actually remember what it was he survived but all he has is jumbled flashes that don’t make sense.

It’s with a low groan that Stiles finally decides to open his eyes.

He’s not ready for the sight that greets him.

His dad is uncomfortably slumped in a chair next to him, asleep, his hand on the bed, fingers an inch from brushing Stiles’ skin. He looks haggard and exhausted and Stiles swallows as he guiltily thinks about what this has done to his dad, the memories and worry that the hospital dredges up for him.

“Dad,” he says but his voice comes out a whisper, gruff from disuse, weak to his own ears. “Dad,” he forces out again, a little louder.

His dad stirs, groggily opens his eyes, and jolts awake.

“Stiles!”

Stiles tries to raise his hand to wave but finds it restrained and looks down to see an IV poking out of the back of it. He grimaces and immediately knows it was the wrong thing to do.

“Are you in pain?” he dad asks instantly. “Do you need a nurse? I’ll get a nurse.” His dad jumps to his feet.

“No, wait, Dad,” Stiles croaks and it is enough to stop his dad in his tracks.

“Yeah, son?”

Stiles licks his lips, a million things he wants to say running through his head, starting with I’m sorry and ending somewhere around What the hell happened? but his mouth feels like cotton and there is dull but persistent ache in his side that is getting sharper with each second that passes. He goes with something simple.

“Water?”

His dad darts to the small table by the bed and grabs a cup with a straw. He holds it near Stiles’ mouth. Stiles knows he looks like the dorkiest person alive (alive!) when he uses his tongue to draw the straw past his lips but it doesn’t matter once the cool liquid hits his parched throat. He takes a few long pulls then lets the straw go and melts back into the pillows because somehow sipping water has become as taxing as a lacrosse game.

His eyelids are already drooping with exhaustion when his dad sits on the bed by his hip and hits the call button for the nurse. Stiles tries to fight sliding back into sleep because he still has so many questions, but it’s difficult.

His dad notices.

“It’s okay, Stiles. Go back to sleep.”

“You’ll be here when I wake up?” Stiles asks, slurring a little.

He feels his dad squeeze his hand. “Yes.”

Stiles sighs. “Okay,” he mumbles before drifting off.

-

Once Stiles is able to keep his eyes open for more than ten minutes at a time, he is allowed visitors. Scott is there immediately with a little stuffed wolf and the sheriff rolls his eyes.

“I’m going to go grab a bite,” he says, standing. He points a finger at Scott then at Stiles. “No excitement.”

“Don’t worry, Sheriff,” Scott assures.

“Yeah, Dad, don’t worry,” Stiles calls after him. “I’ll be boring. It will be Boresville in here. The Earl of Boredom. Bored like windows in a hurricane.”

Stiles waits until he hears the door click shut and then he rounds on Scott.

“What the hell happened?” Stiles demands. “Dad won’t tell me anything. He’s freaking out. He’s freaking me out. We’re a couple of freaks, a duo of the slightly insane.”

Scott raises an eyebrow. “You were stabbed.”

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles says, pointing emphatically to his side. “He couldn’t exactly hide that part but I don’t know by who or by what and it’s killing me - almost literally.”

“Well,” Scott answers, “you went to the grocery store and you were stabbed and Derek found you and brought you to the hospital.”

“And?” Stiles prompts. “Was it hunters? One of the Alphas? Some kind of wraith or witch or something? Please tell me it wasn’t the Abominable Snowman.”

“No,” Scott says, drawing it out. “It was just some guy. He wanted your wallet.”

Stiles slumps back against the bed, winces when it pulls on his stitches. “Are you telling me,” he says, voice low and frustrated, “that I have survived a psychotic geriatric hunter, a lizard-man with poisonous claws, a serial killing teenager and an alpha freaking werewolf to almost die at the hands of just a guy?”

Scott shrugs. “I don’t know what to say. I’m just glad you’re alright.”

Stiles smiles. “Thanks, buddy.”

“Yeah, I’m really glad Derek was there. My mom said it was a close call.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles says, “I remember Derek carrying me.” He scrunches his nose. “Oh my god! Did I get blood in his car? Is he going to kill me? I could totally see him doing that, you know. Making sure I was okay just to kill me later.”

“I don’t think Derek wants to kill you.”

“My best friend, ever the optimist.”

Scott’s phone rings and he fishes it out of his pocket. “It’s Allison. Do you mind?”

Stiles waves him off, thinking about bleeding out all over Derek’s car and all the ways that Derek could find to end him if he really wanted.

“Yeah, I’m sitting right here with him. He’s fine.”

Stiles makes a face.

“Okay, not fine, but well enough. His dad won’t let him have curly fries and it is making him cranky.”

“Dude!” Stiles protests.

Scott laughs and Stiles feels infinitely better hearing it.

-

Stiles has been home all of three hours when Derek climbs through his window wearing his trademark leather jacket and scowl.

Stiles tries to act nonchalant, like he isn’t totally startled, but he doesn’t know how well it works. He sighs and spins in his computer chair, not hiding the flinch when it twinges his wound. So much for getting a little laptop time in before he passes out from exhaustion from riding home in the car. And isn’t that a little bit ridiculous.

Derek stands there and after a prolonged silence, raises an eyebrow.

“I see you’re still allergic to using the door,” Stiles finally says with a smirk.

Derek glares. “I see you’re still alive.”

“Are you here to kill me for bleeding all over you seats?” Stiles asks

Derek’s brow furrows in confusion. “Are you on drugs?” he counters.

“Yes,” Stiles confirms. “A lot of them.”

“Should you be sitting in that chair?” Derek asks.

“Probably not.”

Derek takes a step further into the room and Stiles’ eyes widen. “You are an idiot,” Derek says without preamble.

“Hey! A little sympathy for the wounded here.”

Derek points a finger at Stiles. “You wouldn’t be wounded if you were not such an idiot.”

Stiles realizes he must be missing something. His dad had been tightlipped about the whole affair and all Scott knew was from what his mother had told him. Derek had been there though. Derek had witnessed whatever the hell happened but Stiles had a hard time believing that he had done something stupid. Impulsive, maybe. Curious, definitely. Dangerous, apparently so. But not stupid.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Stiles responds.

Derek sighs. “Next time, don’t get between me and the guy with the knife.”

And then it all floods back in. The grocery store and Stiles seeing Derek’s car in the parking lot. The sounds of a fight coming from the dark alley. Stiles’ proclivity for investigating suspect situations. The glint of a knife in the streetlight and Stiles acting without thinking.

“Holy god,” Stiles mutters.

“Remember it now?” Derek demands. “So I repeat. You. Are. An. Idiot. You should have never been in that alley.”

“Hey!” Stiles protests again. “I didn’t know! It could have been hunters! It could have been Issac or Boyd or Erica. I had to help.”

“No, you didn’t. You were a liability. You ended up injured and then I had to save you.”

“Sorry to put you out,” Stiles answers. He stands albeit wobbly and brushes off Derek’s hand that steadies him. “And screw you, by the way. I have been in way worse situations than a mugging or do I need to remind you.”

Derek inhales sharply, crowds into Stiles’ space. “You need to be more careful.”

“Why? Because I’m human?”

“No! Because you are important.”

Stiles gapes, heart fluttering in his chest.

Derek still looks angry. His gaze is piercing. His jaw is clenched but he also looks… he looks freaked. And Stiles remembers Derek’s voice, the frantic tone, the worry that permeated every syllable as he begged Stiles to talk, to stay awake.

Stiles swallows.

“I’m important?” he asks.

Derek seems to realize how close he is standing and takes a step back.

“Deaton calls you a spark,” he replies. “You’re important.”

“Oh,” Stiles says. “Oh.” And then his side hurts, his head starts to spin, his knees go weak and Derek has a hand on his shoulder to keep him from face planting. Derek guides him toward the bed.

“I didn’t know you cared,” Stiles shoots as Derek eases him down.

“Shut up.”

Stiles sits there on his mattress with Derek next to him and Derek is looking at him with what Stiles knows now is his constipated worried expression and Stiles grins.

“You were worried about me.”

Derek huffs. “There are very few people in this world that I trust. It wouldn’t be good to lose one.”

“Well then, I’ll have to be more careful.”

Derek stands and walks back to the window. “Get some rest,” he says over his shoulder. “You’ll be needed soon.”

“Okay, big guy,” Stiles says.

The side of Derek’s mouth lifts in a small smile and then he is gone.

Stiles lies down, tries to get comfortable and yawns so wide his jaw cracks.

As he drifts off, Stiles reevaluates what he knows about Derek. Derek does do frantic. He also does worried and concerned and maybe he does a little fond too.

But the big one, the huge one, is now, apparently, Derek also does trust.