Stiles is working furiously on the soul-sucking chemistry project the class had heaped upon them when the familiar Skype sound demands his attention.
He accepts the call and Scott‘s face fills the screen. He is wide-eyed, wind ruffled and generally bloodied, although from the look of it the blood is less in the “flowing freely” stage and more in the “already healed and beginning to flake off, thanks to my mad werewolf skills, you jelly?” stage. He pants softly as he speaks, as if he‘s been running. “Stiles!”
“Hey. I thought you were busy tonight. Didn’t you have some kind of training thing going on..?” Stiles knows very well he did, because Scott had told him as they left school how everybody was meeting at Derek’s to do their whole ‘running madly around the woods in a way that somehow strengthens the pack and definitely isn’t just an excuse to take off our shirts in public’ thing they liked so much. Stiles had just opened his mouth to confirm he’d come with, when Scott had added carelessly that there was no reason for Stiles to come, really.
Stiles had taken several deep breaths as he reminded himself that Scott didn’t actually mean to imply Stiles wasn’t an integral part of the pack. Scott had probably never meant to imply anything in his life. Scott was too full of sunshine and rainbows and earnest puppy dog eyes to be anything other than a straight talking kind of guy. He probably only understood layers in the context of putting on a sweater.
The virtual Scott nods vigorously. “Dude! Stay away from Derek!”
“I think you’re mixing up our usual roles,” Stiles says pointedly. “He stalks me. I never know where he is until he’s behind me. I‘d try walking with my back to the wall but I‘m pretty sure he‘d just manage to crawl along the ceiling instead.”
“I’m serious!” Scott says insistently. “This isn’t a joke, Stiles!”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“He’s pissed off!”
“He’s Derek,” Stiles said flatly.
“More pissed than usual,” Scott replies. “Like, crazy rage. His eyebrows were going mad.”
“Yeah? What happened?”
“He threw me through a window!”
“Again,” Stiles says slowly, “He’s Derek. Have you two just met? Throwing people around is basically his first language. I‘m not saying it‘s reasonable, but it‘s not exactly unusual, right?”
Scott looks affronted, in that squinty, wrinkled-nose way he has. “You think it’s okay for him to throw me through glass?”
“That’s not what I said at all.“ Stiles pauses. “Wait. Haven’t you thrown him through walls before?”
“That doesn’t count! We were in a fight then!”
“Dude,” Stiles laughs, “I think if he’s throwing you through windows, you’re probably in a fight. What happened, though? Why was there throwing?”
“I don’t know,” Scott shrugs. “He was just…angry. We were kind of messing around -”
“ - a well known rage-trigger in the common or lesser-spotted Derek -”
“ - yeah, but no more than usual, y’know? Anyway, he was mad as soon as we got there. Normally just turning up doesn‘t make him angry,” Scott sighs, with a shake his head, then adopts his most adorably solemn expression “Look, it doesn’t matter why, okay? Just…stay away from him. I can heal. You can’t.”
“Thank you for reminding me of my puny human body‘s limitations,” Stiles says with a roll of his eyes. Scott ignores the sarcasm. Lately he seems to be doing that a lot. Stiles thinks Scott’s decided just to take everything he says literally, to see if it will irritate Stiles. It does.
“No worries. See you tomorrow.”
“Yup. Oh - do your chem homework, okay?”
Scott blinks. “What homework?”
“I am not your mom,” Stiles says firmly, then shuts the window.
He keeps working for a moment or two, before asking the room at large, “Are we going to talk about why you’re under my bed?”
“No,” replies Derek, from under his bed. He sounds sullen, and snappish. Stiles doesn’t bother looking towards him. All he would see is his bed, and by now he’s fairly well acquainted with it.
“I’m just saying, this is the perfect time. The scene has been set. This is the time for your big monologue.”
“Okay, so you’re not a fan of speeches,” Stiles agrees. He taps his pen against his teeth while he works through a problem. It takes a few minutes. As he writes down the answer he muses aloud. “I used to think there were monsters that lived under my bed, y’know. Mom and dad always said there weren’t. Now I see how wrong they were.”
“I’m not a monster!” Derek snaps, audibly aggrieved by this. Stiles spins around on his chair and chuckles in the general direction of his bed.
“You kind of are.”
“And you’re kind of speciesist.”
“Dude, I bet that’s just what the bogeyman says. Okay, so you’re not a monster,“ Stiles shrugs. “You are a sadsack who apparently has nothing better to do than to lurk under teenage beds.”
There is silence for a moment.
“Did you just suggest your bed is jailbait.”
“Because you said ‘teenage’ in a way that implied the word ‘barely’ was in front of it.”
“I’m not in a relationship with your bed.”
“No, you are in a relationship with the entire concept of ridiculousness,” Stiles laughs, and turns back to his homework.
It takes around an hour, which feels like a lifetime. When he can finally print off his paper - including the ridiculous front cover, which he has covered with as much vaguely science-related clipart as possible, just to piss Mr Harris off - he stretches, and gives in to the insistent growling of his stomach. Making dinner seems like an insurmountable task, so he decides to head towards the local fast food drive through.
“Yo. Werebed. If I get you a Happy Meal will you cheer up already?”
Stiles laughs. “I don’t think they do Despair Meals, so you’ll just have to deal. I’ll bring you something tasty and horrendously bad for you, okay?”
He gets the distinct impression that his bed is glowering at him when he leaves with a deliberately obnoxious whistle on his lips.
He buys Derek two cheeseburgers, two large fries, and a strawberry milkshake, puts them all in a pile on the other side of his room, and leaves a trail of fries between it and the bed. “Come and get it,” he grins, settling cross-legged beside the banquet.
Derek’s thunderous eyebrows and perfectly downturned mouth make him laugh, when they appear.
“You’re being a dick.”
“You’re being a grown man who is hiding under my bed. Anything I do to mock you, you have officially invited.”
“I’m not eating your floor fries,” Derek snaps in return, and crawls only as far from under the bed as is required to snag the food and drag it back into his den. Stiles leaves him to it, and relocates to sit atop the bed. He considers himself a traditionalist.
For awhile the only sounds in the room are those of unwrapping, chewing, or slurping. Stiles is impressed when Derek manages to launch each item of trash into his garbage can without doing more than sticking his arm out from under the mattress and throwing with perfect aim.
“Am I getting a reason for your man angst now?” he asks, curiosity eventually winning out over hunger. He hears Derek chewing for awhile, before the last wrapper is flung out.
“The world. The entire world outside of this room. The universe outside of this bed.”
“Bad day?” he asks softly, and gets a grunt of assent. “Want to elaborate?”
“This would’ve been Laura’s birthday,” Derek mutters, and Stiles sighs softly.
“I’m sorry. You should‘ve said. I‘d understand,” he says mildly.
“It’s fine.” It isn’t. It clearly isn’t, but Derek seems disinclined to speak further, so Stiles tries hard to let the subject drop as he chews industriously. He knows all too well that pushing people to talk about things when they’re not ready won’t help. There was a reason attending counselling used to induce his panic attacks.
“Incidentally,” he adds, after his stomach has been beaten into submission, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t throw Scott through any more windows. I’m kind of attached to him.”
“That doesn’t make it okay!”
“Noted,” Derek mutters. That seems to be all he’s getting, for awhile, until he adds reluctantly, “He did deserve it.”
“I’m not sure how anybody could deserve being launched through a windowpane, but please, explain your reasoning,” Stiles suggests. He flops onto his stomach and dangles his head off the bed, squinting into the darkness underneath. “Tell me about your no-good, very bad day.”
Derek sighs, long-suffering to the end. “It’s none of your business.”
“It is when the result is that you’re suddenly lurking under my bed like a huge creeper,” Stiles retorts. “C’mon. Spill.”
“…You weren’t there.”
“You weren’t there.” Derek sounds uncomfortable. Embarrassed, even. “It was a pack meeting.”
Stiles blinks. “I know. Scott told me. Pack training. Werewolves scrambling around in the dirt, right? I didn’t think I had to be there. I mean, Scott told me there was no point in my coming along, even.”
“…Wait,” Stiles says, slowly figuring this out. “Scott told me not to show up to your meeting, so I didn’t, so you hurled him through a window and came to hide under my bed in a snit for hours?”
“It doesn’t sound very rational when you put it like that,” Derek admits, and growls when Stiles begins to howl with laughter. “Stiles! Shut up!”
“I can’t help it!” Stiles cackles, and only laughs harder when Derek’s face suddenly looms into view, petulant scowl firmly in place. A large hand pushes on his face, forcing him back up onto the bed as he laughs. “I’m sorry, I just - it’s just me, Derek! I can‘t even keep up with you wolves, with your freakish speed and fists of rage and legs that, honestly, I don‘t care what you all say, are made of muscle wrapped in springs!”
“You make it easier!” Derek snaps, and Stiles quietens down in surprise. “You heard what Scott said. When you’re not around, they all show up and - and tell jokes, and mess around, and don’t listen. When you’re there…” His voice trails off.
“What?” Stiles asks. Curiosity is gnawing at him unstoppably, even as Derek’s discomfort is palpable, as if he is emitting waves of embarrassment directly up through his mattress. “What happens when I’m there?”
“They listen to you! Scott, Isaac, everyone! They work together, as a pack, like they want to impress you, or -”
“Impress me?” Stiles blinks. “Why would they want to impress me? I’m only -”
“ - you’re pack,” Derek says firmly. “You’re…more than pack. You keep everyone together. I can’t explain it,” he adds, and frustration drips from his voice. “It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true. When you’re not there, all Scott does is daydream about Allison, and all Erica does is tell Scott he’s ridiculous, and Isaac defends Scott, and Boyd just doesn’t want to know, and I…”
“Yeah?” Stiles asks, softly. Derek huffs and, eventually, slides his way out from under the bed, dusty and sullen.
“I told you, you make it easier. For me,” he mutters, propped up on his elbows as he sprawls on the floor. “You make me feel…”
“Irritated?” Stiles suggests.
“Stronger,” Derek insists, and Stiles falls silent. “More controlled. More like I can lead them.”
Stiles thinks he cannot grin any wider, until Derek reluctantly smiles back, and he nearly explodes with glee. He holds a hand out and drags him up when Derek takes it; he wraps his arms around him and works on settling them both into a warm nest of blankets.
“I’ll come to every single meeting, if you want,” he murmurs, lips brushing Derek’s ear as Derek nuzzles into his chest. “I will come and watch you and your puppies beat each other up and roll around in the mud for as long as you want, if you like. If it helps.”
“It helps,” Derek says in return, and presses a smile to Stiles’ throat.
“Okay then. One condition, though,” he warns, and Derek raises his head.
“If you ever have a day like this again, you come here, and you don’t hide under my bed.”
“But - “ Derek protests, and is cut off by a finger pressed to his lips. Stiles beams.
“You hide in it.”