Stiles can't remember if he changed when his mother died and it felt like the world had fallen and fractured and it would never be whole again. Or if he was just born this way, all uneven and mismatched, and the loss had just made everything sharper.
He is so very, very careful to keep the part of himself that can hurt, that wants to cut and bleed, far away from his dad, from Scott. Especially from Scott who, even with everything that has happened to him - his douchebag of a father, the werewolf thing, Allison, Gerard, Peter - has managed to stay whole and smooth and innocent. Even though he now has a spiderweb of tiny cracks, he is largely unbroken, and Stiles is more careful than ever to keep the hard parts of himself well away from where they could hurt Scott.
Derek is different. Derek shows his broken outline to anyone who wants to see it. Maybe that is what has always fascinated Stiles about him. Because side from himself Derek may be the most broken person Stiles has ever met. He screams it out to the world, he shoves the spikes into anyone who comes too close to him. Stiles thinks that perhaps he does it to protect the parts of him that are undamaged, like a hedgehog. Or he has just forgotten how to pull someone closer. It makes him sad to think about Derek that way, so he normally doesn't.
The thing with them starts in the summer, in the long months where Scott is strong in his heartbreak and mentoring Isaac. You two just do your sniffing thing, call me when you want to hang, Stiles tells him, being so, so glad that he can patch himself together after ... everything, without a too-attentive audience. Damn Scott, growing perceptive now of all times.
He finds his way to the Hale house, out of a mix of aimlessness and need for information, because Isaac let slip something about an Alpha Pack in one of their three-way video games tournaments and Stiles didn't let himself react to it at the time, but it's been nagging at him.
He arrives as Peter is leaving thank god and finds Derek amid glass and strange markings. They snipe at each other, throwing insults and threats, and Stiles leaves soon afterwards in a rage. But he feels so good afterwards, free somehow, and pretending to be all right for his dad in the evening is easier than normally.
So he goes back the next day. And the next. At some point he kisses Derek in the middle of a screaming fight, off centre and with enough teeth that he can taste copper, infuriated and turned on. And Derek kisses back just as passionate and lost and angry.
They don't start doing more than that straight away. At first it's just brutal kisses and Derek backing away and telling him to go. But he always comes back. Because Stiles knows, has always known bone deep, that he is selfish and unkind and ruthless if he needs to be, and he needs this. He needs it too much - needs to stay stitched together for his people out there - to not take advantage of it.
So he's there the next day, and the day after that he breaks into the subway station, and a week later he stands at Derek's apartment door looking into his weary face and saying please. Stiles isn't sure what was in his face or in his voice or what Derek thought the 'please' was for. He never asks, because the important thing is that the door is always open for him now that Derek's given him a spare key.
It's bloody and painful and fucked up between them, but with Derek he is never careful; he lashes out with everything and he knows Derek won't be surprised. He may hurt, but it doesn't matter (it doesn't, it doesn't, Derek is not one of hispeople anyway), because sometimes Stiles thinks that Derek has been hurt so much and so deeply and so efficiently that new hurt barely registers any more. But he doesn't like to think about it, because when he does he feels like he wants to put his arms around Derek, and he knows he has been many things in his life, but soothing has never been one of them.
Honestly, Stiles thinks he will never be put together right; he's forgotten how he was supposed to be, and with Derek it's the only time he doesn't feel defective because of it. Sometimes he wishes that this thing they have, that it could help. That not hiding means he could start liking himself more, because he would be more, be better. But then he has to watch the way Derek's face curls in, when he says Well, maybe we can't find Boyd and Erica because they just really want to be gone, and he knows that it is futile.
He knows that unlike Derek, he isn't kind. Because that is the thing, the thing he notices after spending so much time with him, after shoving himself into his space until he just stops trying to get rid of him. Perhaps Derek has forgotten how to touch people, how to be around them so they stay. Or he just doesn't want to try, or he never knew how. But underneath all the shouting and the grabbing lies a gentle soul. Derek, at his heart, wants to be close to people, wants to do the best he can for them, wants to protect them. Underneath all the bluster and death threats is a good person.
Stiles tries not to see it. Because he would have to leave, because isn't not tainting a truly good person the reason he tries to be only the best parts of himself around Scott? When he can no longer deny it, he does leave - the one time it isn't Derek leaving in a rush of panted breath and barely-concealed panic. But by then it's already too late. He justifies it to himself, Derek would think he's done something wrong, but the truth is, he has grown too dependent on the way he can just let go around Derek to stay away for good.
Because he is selfish, and even the way Derek is visibly relieved when he turns up again half a week later, hugging Stiles tight when he comes through the door, doesn't make him think otherwise. Stiles tries for a bit to be nicer around him, but Derek just looks at him oddly and finally starts an awkward talk about how Stiles doesn't need to force himself to come see him, staring straight at the wall the whole time, holding himself stiffly like he expects a blow to land at any moment ... it isn't worth it. He stops trying.
It's not like Stiles isn't aware of Derek's deep-seated intimacy issues. If their weird stops and starts hadn't tipped him off, Gerard taunting him about his pack - after he had started re-routing some of the electricity from Erica and Boyd to him, because why stop at fists when you could use the torture device already there - surely did. Stiles doesn't mind though. The way Derek is clingy and standoffish in turns, how he holds Stiles too tightly when they fuck sometimes so he has bruises the next day, or the way he says no sometimes, with this look in his eyes as if he is bracing himself for an argument.
It levels out though. Because Stiles sometimes accidentally punches Derek when he approaches too silently behind him or quietly panics when he looms over him in a certain way and the only thing he can see is dead eyes, no feelings, no conscience at all, just the unrelenting push of madness.
They are two peas in a pod, and there are the quiet times too, mostly when they're strategizing or laying in bed after; but more and more their time together is spent just talking about their days, about how Derek should go grocery shopping or how Stiles needs to clean his Jeep. It's almost comfortable.
Things start going crazy again, the alpha pack insinuating themselves into the town structure, getting people to trust them, to doubt Derek and those teenagers he hangs around with. After Jackson left, they lost their strongest ally in the not-getting-them-all-thrown-into-jail fight. They need a new advantage.
Stiles doesn't ask Derek to come when he tells his dad. Actually, he makes sure Derek doesn't even know when it happens, because he thinks the ex-murder suspect in the room is probably not going to go over well with his dad. Inexorable, Derek still comes, an immovable object in the room, an island of calm when Stiles and his dad start shouting at each other. They leave together, Stiles so, so angry, because he needs to be something aside from fucking terrified.
Derek doesn't say anything when they get to his apartment, lets Stiles manhandle him on his stomach, lets him fuck out all his rage, his terror. When Stiles start to shiver afterwards, Derek holds him, tells him stories about his father's temper, about that one time Laura had to sleep in the woods, because she had snuck away to a birthday party she wasn't allowed to go to.
His dad is at Derek's door the next day looking like he hasn't slept, looking like he cried instead of sleeping, asking to please, please see his son. They stand there holding each other for what feels like forever and Derek leaves them be, comes into the room uncomfortably a bit later, offering breakfast, and Stiles feels such an overwhelming affection suddenly, wants to reel him in and just hold this kind-hearted and unpolished man close.
Sitting at Derek's kitchen table, absently listening to the stilted conversation, he suddenly realises what has happened. Derek has become one of his people. He has joined the small exclusive circle that Stiles would watch the world burn to see safe. It shouldn't be so surprising, but it has been years since he let someone new in and it has never happened without him consciously deciding on it.
It lessens his guilt, but Derek is the first person he let himself care about in that way that knows about the barbed wire he has hidden under his skin, knows the thorns better than the rose. It leaves him terrified, because this means that the way he feels about Derek, what Derek is to him, is something entirely new, and he doesn't know how to do this. There is no guide how to behave; their dynamic is novel, unique, unpredictable. He is relieved when he gets to go home with his dad, because crisis management and damage control is something he knows how to do.
He doesn't act differently after his revelation, not much - at least if you don't count his one-week avoidance strategy, and he isn't, because he needed that time to get used to the unaccustomed shift in his worldview. But he's prepared now, prepared for the way Derek is immediately included into his priority order. Surprisingly actually very little changes. Seems like his subconscious was a bit quicker on the uptake.
They finally find Erica and Boyd, definitely worse for wear but not dead at least, and that counts as a win in all their books. Having the sheriff in the know speeds up the process considerably because it means that those two don't have to come up with excuses for why they were gone so long on top of everything else. They are skittish, spending time with Isaac, Scott and Melissa mostly, and Stiles can see how Derek is a mix of happy and incredibly sad, because even though both of them asked to come back to his pack it's not their alpha they're seeking comfort from.
It results in Derek spending too much time with Peter. Any time spend with Peter is too much in Stiles' opinion, so he first resists the instinct to drag Derek bodily away from his uncle every time he sees them together. But after Derek tries to cancel on him for the fourth time, for pack time nonetheless, Stiles decides enough is enough. He tells the others to go ahead without them - they've decided on the ice rink after hours, because it is neutral and well-lit with an open ceiling, things that are of utmost importance when planning any activities with Boyd and Erica at the moment - and closes the door behind him under snickers and a catcall from Lydia.
He doesn't even let Derek try to give him a convoluted explanation; he just grabs him, shoves him on the couch and sits in his lap, shoves Derek's face into his neck and tells him that if he wants the pack to be his pack, what he needs is to spend time with them and not try to get questionable advice from his creepy undead uncle. Derek freezes for a bit, but Stiles doesn't let up his grip - he figures if Derek wants to move, he can - and then from one moment to the next he slumps, all his muscles relaxing at once.
Stiles lets out the breath he was half-holding, and before he can even attempt to get up, Derek lifts his arms, enfolds Stiles into a hug and breathes him in deeply. After a while Stiles gets antsy, not because it's uncomfortable in any way, but because they don't do this. It is too close to something Stiles is afraid to contemplate when it comes to their relationship, something real. But Derek doesn't let him move, even tightens the embrace, so Stiles gives up and just lets himself enjoy the closeness and the comfort that comes with it. They do join the others later, and for some reason Stiles can't even care about the leering smiles that welcome them, still too content.
That day at the ice rink is a last respite before the Alpha Pack moves. Stiles is sitting up in Derek's bed, still too wired, still hypervigilant even after it is all over - and it hurts to think of Ms. Morell, but not as bad as it could; he's not Scott, and she was never one of his. He's just thinking about nothing at all when Derek moves next to him.
He looks down when he feels an arm around his hip, hoping he hasn't woken Derek up when he still needs to heal. But it seems that he just wanted to move closer, to feel Stiles' skin, somehow always more honest with his needs when he is asleep. Stiles finds himself brushing his hair away from Derek's forehead, smiling slightly, when he realizes.
He is happy. Despite the stress, the constant fear of death for himself and his people, the way he is broken right down to the core. But it's been weeks since he's felt the need to pick at the scabs over his insides, months since he's thought of Gerard. He wakes up with a smile on his face more often than with his mom's face on his mind. Even though he knows that he is at best glued together, most days he doesn't feel the damage - or at least doesn't feel the need to put it under a microscope.
He has entire days where he is just content, where he can just lie in Derek's arms or argue with him or spend chaotic hours with the pack all around him - killing zombies with Scott, Isaac and Erica, while Boyd and Lydia talk about Shakespeare next to them, fighting about their pack grocery list. His life has never been so full before, more and more people populating it and it's not overwhelming and terrifying the way he had always thought it would be. Instead it is warm, he is warm from the inside out, the way he hasn't been since his mother died. He is welcome with them in a way he has never been, doesn't feel like he needs to constantly reaffirm that he has a place with them.
He smiles, ruffles Derek's hair, shuffles down, lets himself be reeled into Derek's arms and closes his eyes, thinking of all the ways he can tease Derek about being a closet cuddler when they get up.