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lest we forget how fragile we are

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Stiles stares at the ceiling. He’d sleep, but pain has a way of keeping him awake. He left the Percocet downstairs (sometimes he’s an idiot), and right now he’s just trying to breathe his way through the claws he still feels in his gut.

He still doesn’t know what kind of creature it was. If he was feeling better, he’d start research immediately. He just knows it was green and almost-purple, with wicked fangs and claws like Wolverine’s. He’d jumped back when it swiped at him, but he’d been about half an inch off, still too close, and the claws got him right across the stomach. He felt like something had been pulled out of him in that moment, like his guts were going to spill out onto the ground and then he had this weird flash of having to pick them up and put them back where they belonged. That’s about the time he fell down, unconscious.

So it turned out he only needed stitches. Well. Lots and lots of stitches, and it would probably scar, so now he’d have three crazy lines on his abdomen that he could never fully explain to his dad without spilling everything. He’s still trying to come up with a plausible explanation.

He has time, though. Dad’s out of town on some training thingamabob. He won’t be back for days. But that leaves Stiles alone, in pain, and feeling like the weakest link in an already shaky chain. Not that chains were shaky, but he’s hurting so his analogies don’t have to be perfect.

He whimpers, because it hurts and there’s no one there to hear him anyway. He turns his face sideways into his pillow and tries to breathe. Deep breaths. Like when he’s panicked and anxious and there’s no one there to breathe with him and he’s got to get out of it on his own. Deep, cleansing breaths, but he’s got his eyes shut and all he can see is the creature and all he can feel is pain and loneliness and this is not helping.

There’s no sound but there’s a shift in the air, and someone (he knows who, he knows but he can’t quite believe it) is staring down at him.

Stiles can’t help it. He laughs. It makes his stitches feel tight and pulls his skin and it hurts, but he laughs anyway. “I can’t do anything to help right now.” Because there's no other explanation for Derek's presence, is there?

Derek looks like he swallowed something nasty. “Where are the pain meds?”

“I left them downstairs. Could you...” He sounds pathetic and needy, but pain is a funny thing like that. “...Get them?”

Derek nods and Stiles shuts his eyes in relief. He wonders what the hell Derek is even doing here, and why Scott hasn’t texted. Maybe … maybe this is it. Maybe he’s been injured too many times and he’s being benched. Permanently. Kicked off the team.

He’ll never be MVP, that’s for sure.

Then Derek is nudging his arm gently and offering a pill and a glass of water. Stiles knows he has to sit up, but when he tries, it’s just a hell of a lot of pain going on. He hisses and grits his teeth.

“Okay, hold on,” Derek says quietly, and then he’s behind Stiles, helping him sit up, so that Stiles’s back is against Derek’s chest. Then Derek offers the water and the pill again, and Stiles is in a position to take it without choking. He does, his hand shaky, and then Derek places the glass back on the side table.

Derek doesn’t move, a wall of heat to Stiles’s back, and Stiles swears he feels breath against his neck. He does feel it. He closes his own eyes and breathes with Derek because it helps, one breath, two, three, in and out and slow and steady.

It’s almost too intimate. It knocks Stiles’s mind sideways. He doesn’t know what is going on, because Derek should be yelling at him for endangering the pack and getting himself thrown out of the game and making himself useless.

Stiles doesn’t want to lean back into Derek because that would be weird, that’s not them, this isn’t happening, but Derek’s arm wraps around him and encourages him to relax.

“What happened after I passed out?” Stiles says. He should have asked when he was getting stitched up, but he’d been pretty out of it with pain and then with strong medicine.

“I killed the one that got you.” The words rumble at Stiles’s back. It feels good. “There was another one, and it went after Allison. Scott got it, but not before it got her. She’ll live, but it severed some pretty important nerves in her right arm,” Derek says this all in an even tone, but Stiles knows Derek better than that. He’s feeling guilty.

“It’s not your fault we got hurt,” Stiles says.

The arm at Stiles’s chest tightens but Derek doesn’t say anything. Stiles knows he doesn’t agree.

“We were out there of our own free will,” Stiles says. “We all know the possible consequences. I’m sorry I made myself useless for the time being, but I’ll heal.”

Derek makes a sound like he’s pained. “Fuck, Stiles, you aren’t useless.”

Stiles snorts. “Pretty much am, right now.” The Percocet is kicking in, making his head fuzzy and pushing the pain away. Making his words come out a little easier and slightly slurred. “But I’ll heal.” That’s important. He’s human and ... well, he’s fragile sometimes, but he’ll heal. “Maybe not as fast as you can, but I’ll get back to fighting shape before you know it.”

More breath on his neck, like Derek is breathing him in, slow and deliberate. Hot puffs of air that make his skin goosebump. Stiles relaxes a little more, and Derek runs a hand down one of his arms.

“This is different,” Stiles says, because he’s confused. Derek doesn’t act like this. Derek’s all rough touches and intimidation.

Derek grunts. “Go to sleep, Stiles.”

And yeah, that sounds like a good idea, because his eyelids are already drooping and he hasn’t slept in days.

“Are you gonna be here?” Stiles slurs.

“Do you want me to be here?” Derek asks.

Stiles hums and turns his head so that his face is in Derek’s neck. Turnabout and all. The Percocet is like a blanket over his mind, and Stiles knows this is new and different and dangerous, but it doesn’t stop him from taking a deep breath of leather and pine and wild-smell.

Derek says something else, Stiles can feel the vibration of it against his back, but he’s pretty far gone into sleep and doesn’t hear.