Stiles woke up suddenly and without any sense of where he was. He almost fell out of the rather uncomfortable chair he was sitting in. Where was he? Why wasn’t he in his bed?
Then he took in the sight in front of him and remembered.
He’d been injured in another pointless fight against the forces of evil. Being the stupidly self-sacrificing idiot that he was. Didn’t he know it just made whoever he’d been trying to save feel supremely guilty and worried? He probably still couldn’t understand how much they cared about him, no matter they’d all been together over a year now.
The tick of Deaton’s clock shouted at him, forcing him to look at its glowering face.
Despite the fact that he’d just woken up, he felt exhausted. His entire body was weighed down with the weariness that came from constantly fighting with everything that he had. But what else was he supposed to do? Back down? That would never be an option. Not while lives were at stake.
He looked at the clock again. He felt like he’d lost so much time. Oh, it wasn’t wasted. But it was gone nonetheless. How many hours had he spent just like this? Sitting in a chair he was pretty sure was so uncomfortable out of pure spite, waiting for Derek to wake up and declare he was okay with his weirdly soft voice and his intense eyebrows.
His gaze moved to Derek and he was suddenly unable to move it anywhere else. He traced the outline of the Alpha’s jaw with his eyes, barely resisting the urge to reach out and touch with his own fingertips. He was so beautiful.
And so fragile. Broken pieces barely held together by ferocity and willpower.
Stiles was fascinated by him. He felt like he could be curious about Derek for the rest of his life. About what made him smile. What made him sad. What made him laugh so hard his stomach hurt. What made him think. What made him feel safe.
Stiles nearly fell out of the chair again when he realized he was staring at a pair of blue-green-hazel-gray eyes.
“You’re awake,” he said standing.
“You’re stating the obvious,” Derek rasped.
Stiles shook his head and looked away with pursed lips. Derek fought back a wince that had nothing to do with the pain. It seemed like he never said the right thing around Stiles. The boy made his head spin at the best of times, whether because of his intoxicating scent or his rapid fire way of jamming seven different points into one paragraph. He never knew how to properly interact with Stiles and it seemed like when he tried, he invariably did the exact thing to make the boy look at him with a mixture of hurt and fury.
“What happened?” Derek asked.
“You were being a martyr again,” Stiles scoffed. “Despite how many times I have specifically told you to stop fucking doing that.”
Derek would have given a scoff of his own if it didn’t hurt to breath so much. “And how many times have I told you to stay away from our battles?”
Stiles chose to ignore this. “Stop talking. It’s just causing you more pain.”
Derek watched as he walked away, fighting the urge to call him back. He realized a few moments later that Stiles was getting him a cup of water and a straw.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit messed up that Deaton has an entire cupboard stocked with cups, straws, and snacks for this exact situation? Like he literally got this stuff because we’re here often enough for him to need to have it on hand,” he said as he carefully helped Derek take a few sips. The Alpha opened his mouth to speak, but Stiles interrupted him. “I told you to stop talking.”
He reached out to brush Derek’s hair back. Unconsciously apparently, since once their skin touched, he jerked back like he’d been burned. Derek caught his wrist and moved Stiles’ hand to his chest. Stiles stared at the paleness of his fingers splayed over Derek’s more tan skin, felt the beat of Derek’s heart pressing into his palm.
“You’re worried,” Derek said.
“You’re stating the obvious,” Stiles barely managed to snark back.
Derek smirked. “Where are the others?”
Stiles shrugged, “Disposing of bodies, cleaning themselves up, sleeping.”
“So it’s just you and me.”
“Yep. You and me against the world and the forces of evil,” Stiles replied.
“Actually, I’m pretty sure we defeated the forces of evil a couple hours ago,” Derek said.
“Hm, I’m pretty sure we’ve had to defeat the forces of evil more than twice in one day before.”
“Can we stop saying ‘the forces of evil’?”
“Why? Afraid they’ll hear us?” Stiles snarked
“You’re the one that’s always talking about jinxing ourselves.”
“Saying ‘the forces of evil’ is not the same as saying ‘at least it can’t get worse.’ Like, at all. I honestly don’t understand how Scott can have been friends with me for so long and still think that’s an okay thing to say.”
“Maybe you should just give him a list,” Derek said.
Stiles’ eyebrows went up. “Of things he shouldn’t say to avoid jinxing us?”
“Yeah. Start with ‘it can’t get worse.’”
“At least it isn’t raining,” Stiles offered
“It’ll be fine,” Derek added.
“Don’t worry, I won’t get hurt,” Stiles suggested.
“We have the perfect plan,” Derek said, rolling his eyes
“There’s no way that person’s dangerous,” Stiles smirked.
“What could possibly go wrong?” Derek asked with a wry quirk of his lips, tone as dry as the desert.
Stiles laughed. Derek watched as his eyes lit up with his amusement. He leaned forward slightly and then shot straight back up, laughter cut off abruptly.
“Are you okay?” Derek asked. He couldn’t scent any blood, but Stiles was good at hiding things like that. Too good.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Stiles assured. Derek stared at him. “I just have a bruise on my hip,” he huffed, “My jeans rubbed against it just now.”
“No one else was seriously hurt?” Derek asked, shifting around carefully. He thought maybe he was almost mostly healed.
“No, just you. Which is completely unsurprising and endlessly frustrating. And stop moving,” Stiles said sharply, pressing his hand down on Derek’s chest to keep him still, “None of this ‘almost maybe finished mostly healing’ bullshit.”
Derek pursed his lips, unwilling to admit that that had been his exact thought process and a little irritated that Stiles knew it anyway. “I’m the Alpha. I’m supposed to put the Pack first. Even above myself.”
“And what exactly is the Pack going to do when you die trying to save them?” Stiles asked without missing a beat. “Where will we be then, when the Alpha that is supposed to protect us is six feet under?”
“That’s not… it doesn’t…” Derek tried to protest, but he fell silent, not really knowing how to argue against the point.
“Has it never occurred to you,” Stiles asked softly, hand still pressed to Derek’s chest, “That protecting your Pack also means protecting yourself? And vice versa?” He took a deep breath. Derek could feel the tremors shaking him from the hand against his heart, the hand that held his heart. “We need you, Derek.”
“Stiles,” the Alpha said helplessly. Fuck. Stiles had been laughing. Stiles had been laughing and now it looked like tears would be falling any second. He always fucked up. And he had no idea to explain that that was why he always did this. There might have been a bit of self-flagellation in there, yes, but it wasn’t the main reason. He protected the Pack with his body because it was the only way he knew how. He was terrible at talking to people, at communicating. He couldn’t just proclaim his love for them. He felt it. Oh, he felt it for his infant Pack. It burned in him, fueled by Erica’s passion and Boyd’s pragmatism, Isaac’s sweetness and Jackson’s eagerness to please, Lydia’s intelligence and Scott’s optimism, and Stiles’ constant, never ending loyalty. He loved them. And they didn’t know because he didn’t know how to say it. But they knew without a doubt that he would die for them. It might not equate to love exactly but they knew he would risk himself if it meant that he could keep them safe. Or at least that’s what he’d thought. He had thought they would understand. But from what Stiles was saying, it seemed like from their point of view, his actions meant he was trying to leave them.
“I need you,” Stiles whispered almost inaudibly.
Derek’s breath caught in his throat. He wrapped a hand around Stiles’ wrist, sensing that the boy would try to leave if he didn’t respond quickly enough, and there was no way he could come up with something to say to that in a few moments. He… Stiles was the most… There was no…
“I’m not trying to… I just want…” He paused. He started to sit up. It was a bit of a struggle, but not moving earlier had allowed him to heal a bit more.
“No,” Stiles said, “Derek, don’t try to…”
Derek made the noise he usually made when he wanted Stiles to be quiet, and it was so familiar that Stiles couldn’t help reacting to it. He closed his mouth for just a moment before opening it again, which was enough time for Derek to sit up properly. Derek placed his hand over Stiles’ to keep it in place.
“I just want to show you all how important you are to me,” the Alpha said slowly. “I can’t… I don’t feel comfortable saying it. And even if I did, I probably still wouldn’t say it a lot. But I want you all to know that you mean something to me. That I would do anything to keep you safe. Even if it means I get hurt.” He cupped Stiles’ face in a hand. “I’m trying to show you that I would do anything to make sure you didn’t get hurt. Even if it means that I do.”
“Derek, you… god, you don’t need to…” Stiles placed his other hand over Derek’s on his cheek. “We know you love us. You show us all the time.”
“I know,” Derek said, “That’s what I’m saying. I…”
“No, you idiot, not by throwing yourself in front of an army of hunters. It’s stuff like putting blackberry juice on the grocery list even though literally no one except Isaac drinks it. It’s knowing which brand of makeup Erica prefers and paying enough attention to notice when she says she’s running out of something and getting her a new one. It’s walking around the preserve with Boyd for hours even if neither of you say anything. It’s noticing when Jackson needs a little extra encouragement and giving it in a way that doesn’t make it seem like you’re singling him out. It’s making sure Lydia gets a variety of gifts for her birthday that let her know we think she’s pretty and smart and strong. It’s asking Scott about his opinion on things so he never feels like he’s being taken advantage of like when he was with Peter. It’s knowing Reese’s are my favorite and bringing me packs when I’m on a research binge. Throwing yourself in danger does not prove you love us more than being with us and knowing us and supporting us does. And I get it, okay. I want to protect you, too. I want to throw myself in front of guns, claws, curses, poison, anything that would hurt you, too. But you are the one always telling me that a Pack works together, so how about you take your own advice, buddy. And about being able to say how you feel, you just need to practice. It wouldn't be as hard if it was familiar. And if you don't want to get used to saying it, that's perfectly fine just don't forget that we know even if you don't say it. And mmphrgh..."
Derek was kissing him. At first it was a soft press of lips, barely there. Then it became harder, deeper, wetter. They fell into each other, a new connection forged.
The Alpha pulled away slightly, just enough for their eyes to meet.
"Stiles?" Derek asked.
"Yeah? " he whispered.
"I love you."
"You're stating the obvious."
Derek growled playfully, yanking Stiles closer.
"Okay, okay," Stiles laughed. He cupped Derek's face in his hands. "I love you too."
"Did you just make a mmrphrgh..."
Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek's neck, pressing closer without leaning against him completely. He thought he could get quite used to this little battle of dominance they had going. Especially since it seemed like Derek didn't mind letting him win.
"Is this going to be a thing?" he asked. Derek kissed him. "You'll just kiss me instead of telling me to shut up?" Derek kissed him. "That doesn't actually discourage talking, you know that right?" Derek kissed him.
At that point, Stiles just gave in. And kissing Derek became his whole world for a little while.
"Damn, Stiles, you could have just said that you wanted to make out with Derek for a while instead of all this nonsense about cleaning ourselves up and disposal of bodies," Erica said.
Stiles relaxed against his new boyfriend with a chuckle. "Not even a little warning?"
"I was kind of focused on something else," Derek said dryly, "But I'll be sure to keep an ear out the next time I'm kissing you."
Stiles raised his eyebrows and leaned closer with a small smirk."Oh? Who says there's going to be a next time? Ten minutes and you're already taking me for granted. I can't believe it. You just mmrphrgh... Really? You mmrphrgh... Derek you mmrphrgh..."
"Wow," Jackson said. "Finally a way to shut Stilinski up."
Stiles pulled away from Derek and turned to the others." Derek has something he wants to say to you all."
The Alpha glared at him but Stiles just raised his eyebrows back and tilted his head in the pack's direction.
Derek huffed. After a moment, keeping his eyes on Stiles' pulse instead of the Pack, he said, "I don't actually have a death wish. I just want you guys to know that I'll do anything to keep you safe, even if it's detrimental to me. Because I love you."
There was a moment of silence.
Stiles couldn't sense any emotion besides surprise, but Derek was getting more tense by the second.
"Wow," Jackson said again. "Stiles being quiet, Derek communicating. This relationship is going to fuck us all up."
The others laughed and Stiles rolled his eyes. "Shut up and get over here and hug your Alpha."
Jackson scoffed, but did in fact walk over and hug his Alpha, as did the rest of the pack.
"We love you too," they chorused.
Derek looked over at Stiles and smiled. Stiles smiled back and cupped a cheek in his hand.
"Oh god, you two are going to be pathetic, aren't you? " Isaac asked.
"I think you mean gross," Scott said.
"There is definitely not even a person in this room that can match you and your girlfriend for being the cutest cute couple to ever cutely cute," Stiles shot back.
“I’m questioning all my life choices,” Derek said, looking up at the ceiling.
“Too late to act regretful now,” Lydia said. “We already know you love us.”
“Derek loves us,” Erica said, grinning.
“He loves us so much,” Isaac added with a mischievous smile.
“Can I take it back?” Derek asked the ceiling.
“Nope,” Boyd and Jackson said in unison.
“Guess you’ll just have to live with it,”Stiles said, leaning against him.
Derek looked around at the smiling faces of his Pack and laughed a little.