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The window creaked open and Stiles quickly hit save on his game. “What’s the emergency tonight?” he said, twirling his chair to face Derek. “Kelpies? Centaurs?”

Derek’s mouth dropped open. “You can see me?”

Stiles blinked. “Yes?” he ventured.

“You can hear me.”

"Is this a test?" Stiles said, blinking at him. “Because I better be acing it so far.”

Derek was frozen, his body awkwardly posed on the sill. "Oh," he said, and ducked out. There was a muffled thump as he hit the grass, and Stiles stood to watch him run into the trees.

"Okaaaaay," Stiles said slowly, and sat back down to computer.

He told Scott about the incident the next day, and Scott nearly choked on his tater tot. "Derek was at your house?"

"For like ten seconds," Stiles said. "I'd say it was weird, but is anything about Derek ever not weird?"

"No, it's just," Scott said, "Isaac said Derek's been missing for a week. No one's seen him."

"Why are you only telling me now?" Stiles said outraged.

"We're not his pack!" Scott said, as if that was an adequate answer. "He's probably out just sulking somewhere over how much he’s the worst."

"Point," Stiles said, and gave up the conversation.

But he wasn't really, because when Stiles got home, Derek was sitting on his bed, clearly waiting.

"I'd like to lodge a complaint that this doesn't even scare me any more," Stiles informed him, slinging his bag over his desk chair.

"Why can you see me?" Derek said, staring intently at him.

"Because I have eyeballs," Stiles said. "Why is everything about our interactions strange and off-putting? You should possibly consider calling your pack. I think they think you're dead."

"I would," Derek said, frustrated. "Except you're the only one who can hear or see me."

"Oh," Stiles said. "That's...unfortunate." Derek didn't dignify that with a response. Stiles's mind started working and he dropped to his chair. "Okay, so like, you're invisible? Are you dead? Fuck, are you, like, haunting me?"

"I don't think I'm dead," Derek said.

"I think ghosts don't always know they're dead," Stiles said. "I feel like that's a thing."

"I sleep," Derek said. "I was hungry earlier. I can still feel my heartbeat."

He ticks off the list like it's been something he'd been thinking about, like he had spent some serious time pondering whether he was dead. Stiles couldn't actually imagine that train of thought, and shivered a little. "Okay," he said. "So not dead. So what, you talk to people, and they can't hear you?"

"Yeah," Derek said. "I was in the car with Boyd and Isaac and I yelled, hit them, threw shit at them and got nothing."

"They didn't see the things in the air?" Stiles said, fascinated.

"No," Derek said. "Stop enjoying this."

"Can't," Stiles said. "Did you try talking to other people?"

"I went into town yesterday," Derek said. "I went into stores, but it was the same thing."

Stiles has to fight a smile thinking of Derek standing next to a stand of oranges, begging to be noticed. "Shut up," Derek said.

"So, what were you coming in my room at one o'clock in the morning for, then?" Stiles said. "Were you going to watch me sleep, Edward Cullen?"

"To use your laptop," Derek said. "Again, shut the fuck up."

"Okay," Stiles said, clapping his hands together. "Let's go see Deaton."

Derek scowled. He always fought off going to see Deaton until it was the last remaining option. Stiles sort of found Derek's capacity to hold grudges hilarious. "Come on, Casper," he said, and grabbed his keys.

"Who said you're driving?" Derek said, following.

"I did," Stiles said, "As the only one of us who is visible to other drivers." It must have been a compelling argument, because Derek got in on the passenger side with no further comment.

When they walked into Deaton's office, the vet murmured a distracted hello, then picked his head up, frowning. His eyes fixed straight on Derek, but he had a puzzled look on his face. "What's going on, Stiles?"

"What do you see?" Stiles pressed, fighting the urge to look back at Derek.

"I don't know," Deaton said. "There's something there, but I can't focus--" He stopped, frustrated.

"It's Derek," Stiles said, giving in. "Something's wrong. No one can see him or hear him. Except me, because someone out there hates me and wants me to be miserable." Derek socked him in the shoulder. "Ow," he said plaintively.

Deaton's eyes sharpened on him. "You can see him perfectly?"

"Yeah," Stiles said. "I didn't even know anything was up until he said something."

"Interesting," Deaton said, and he eyed Stiles speculatively. "We should take your magical education more seriously, I think. Derek," he called loudly. "Can you hear me?"

"I’m invisible, not deaf," Derek said snottily.

"Yes," Stiles said, rolling his eyes. "He can hear you fine."

"I need to know everything about how this happened," Deaton said, pulling out a notepad.

Derek shrugged. "I was in the train car, woke up, said good morning to Boyd and he ignored me.”

“And that was abnormal?” Stiles said.

Derek flipped him off, but admitted, “I tried a few more times before I realized he wasn’t just being a dick.”

Stiles conveyed this to Deaton, whose brows furrowed farther. He fired off a few more questions, and looking less and less satisfied by the answers, promised to look into it and sent them on their way.

"Now let’s find your pack," Stiles said, when they got outside.

"Why?" Derek said. "They can't help."

Stiles stared at him. "Because they're worried and think you're dead?"

"They would know if I was dead," Derek said grumpily.

"Then they think you abandoned them to start a career on stage in Vegas," Stiles said, and immediately twisted to avoid the incoming blow. "I’m just saying, they deserve to know you're fine. I don't know why you're fighting me, it's not like being your spokesman is super fun for me."

"Fine," Derek said, and slammed the Jeep's passenger door shut. Stiles rolled his eyes and got in.

Before they had gotten more than a foot into the station, Boyd and Erica were there. "What do you want, Stiles?" Erica growled, stalking towards him.

"Aww, bad mood from missing your alpha?" Stiles said, making the fake tears gesture. Boyd's arm shot out to restrain her when she made a leap at him.

"Stiles," Derek said tightly. "Either help or let’s go."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Fine. Derek’s invisible."

Erica stopped fighting Boyd. "He's what?"

Stiles gestured to where Derek was standing. "He's right here. Whole, healthy, and with the charming personality we've all grown to love."

"Prove it," Erica said, disbelievingly.

"Your middle name is Ashley. I yelled at you yesterday for always leaving food wrappers in my car," Derek said. "Your dad hates me because you told him I was your meth addict boyfriend who just got out of jail. It pisses me off because sometimes I see him in the grocery store and I think he's going to call the police."

Stiles gaped for a second. "Okay Ashley, I just heard a meth story that's frankly pretty hilarious."

Boyd laughed, and the sound drew everyone's eyes. "Sorry," he said holding up his hands. "It's just that Derek and your dad make the same faces at each other. It is pretty good."

There isn't really much to say after that. The betas don't know how to help, and everyone's frustrated by using Stiles as a go-between. He leaves, after making them promise to tell Isaac. Derek follows, and it isn't until Derek slides back into the passenger seat before he realizes that Derek has no intention of leaving him alone.

"You don't want to stay here?" Stiles said.

Derek shrugged. "It feels weird."

"Do you want me to drive you somewhere?" Stiles said, "Your house, maybe?" Derek shrugged again and stared at him. "Fine, come home with me," Stiles said, starting the car. "But I'm not entertaining you."

True to his word, Stiles spent the rest of the night doing homework, resolutely ignoring Derek, who read quietly in the corner of the room. When his eyes began to cross at the computer screen, he sighed, stretched, and went to find a pillow and the air mattress.

"Smells like Scott," Derek grumbled when Stiles blew it up.

"That would be because he's the only one who ever uses it," Stiles said, with no sympathy. When the lights are off, and they're both settled in, Stiles said, "I would have thought this would be awesome for you. You hate people."

"No," Derek said, and for a moment, Stiles didn't think he was going to continue. "I don't hate everyone. I don't like this. Being completely cut off from everything."

Stiles thought about it, imagined it for himself and promptly felt nauseous. No wonder Derek was shadowing him. He actually couldn’t blame him.

The next morning, Stiles's dad woke him up to tell him he was going to work. Stiles stretched sleepily, and then before he could stop himself, his eyes slid guiltily to Derek. His dad's eyes followed his line of sight, then back, questioning. Stiles shrugged. "Have a good day," he said croakily. Stiles's dad gave him a weird look, and left.

Derek unfurled himself from the ball he was curled into, and Stiles had a moment of severe disorientation regarding the whole thing. Derek Hale was sleeping on an air mattress in his room, under a quilt his grandmother had made.

"Why does your dad wake you up if it’s summer?" Derek said, and his voice was scratchy with sleep.

"He sees too many juvenile delinquents and has an idea that it's connected to their sleep habits," Stiles said automatically. "Also, I think he thinks if I get up earlier, I'll go to bed earlier."

"Does it work?" Derek said, rising off the mattress. Stiles looked away from the expanse of bare skin interrupted only by Derek's boxer briefs.

"Not really." When Stiles turned back, Derek had his clothes on and was pulling the window open. "Dude, you just heard him leave. You can go out the front door," he said.

"See you later," is all Derek said, and he was gone.

Scott showed up around noon, and Stiles caught him up on recent events. "So you're just waiting for Deaton to call?" Scott asked.

"Yeah," Stiles said. "I tried hunting around for stuff on the internet, but it's Harry Potter porn as far as the eye can see.”

"Well," Scott said philosophically. "At least no one's dying, dead, or in mortal pain."

"Yet," Stiles said darkly, and turned on the X-Box.

Three or so hours later, Scott tapped out. "Isaac," he said, waving his phone at Stiles. Stiles felt like commenting on the similarities to Allison, but he waved Scott out and settled back down with his controller.

Derek slid in moments later. "Were you waiting for Scott to leave?" Stiles said, amused. Derek glared at him, so Stiles tossed him a controller and they played several vicious rounds of Mario Kart until Stiles's stomach rumbled.

"C'mon," he said, throwing the controller down. "Let's see what's in the freezer."

“You don’t have to feed me,” Derek said stiffly.

Stiles shrugged. “If you’re not hungry, I won’t.”

“No, I mean,” Derek stopped, frustrated, and started again. “I can leave. We’re not--I know you don’t have to do this.”

Stiles paused at the door. “I don’t mind. I get it. Even Lurky McLurkenson has a line of what’s too much creepy watching.”

“Shut up, Stiles,” Derek said, but there wasn’t any heat in it, this time.

After dinner, there was a knock on the front door. “It’s the betas,” Derek said quietly, rising from the table.

Stiles opened the door, and leaned on it. “Knocking, how novel.”

“We went to your window first, but you weren’t up there,” Erica said and made a face at him.

“Do you know where Derek is?” Isaac said, ignoring her. “Scott said you might.”

“Right here,” Stiles said, and swung the door open to let them in.

“Where?” Isaac said, stepping through. He looked around like maybe he could catch sight of Derek, if he looked hard enough.

Stiles gestured to where Derek was standing, fists clenched, behind Stiles’s father’s arm chair.

Isaac stepped forward, closer to the indicated spot. “Deaton said he’s still looking,” he said quietly. “He thinks someone did this to you. He seems worried.”

“Yeah, I guessed as much,” Derek said and he stepped forward, reaching out to clasp Isaac’s shoulder. Isaac’s face didn’t change, his eyes still on the spot Stiles had originally indicated. Derek dropped his hand quickly

Stiles cleared his throat. “He said he guessed that. This is, um,” and he reached out to touch Isaac, mirroring exactly what Derek had tried, “from him.”

“Thanks,” Isaac said, and sort of tensed under his hand.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Werewolves,” he said.

Erica knocked his shoulder as she brushed by him and flopped on the couch. “What are we watching?”

Derek seemed more content after that. He didn’t ask Stiles to convey messages, and the pack didn’t do more than direct vague statements in his direction, but they all seemed a little more at ease being around each other. Stiles, who had almost always dealt with them all adversarially or in forced alliances, was struck by the relaxed, almost family vibe they had. After the alphas, and Boyd and Erica’s near-deflection, he knew things had been rough. You almost couldn’t tell now, he reflected.

Having Derek breathing on the floor next to him when he woke the next morning seemed less strange than the morning before, but he was restless, tense with the annoyance of waiting for something to happen. He rose quietly, stripping off his sleep clothes right there, back to Derek, and when he turned, grabbing a towel, Derek was watching him. There was a look in his eyes Stiles couldn’t interpret, so he let it go.

“I’m going to take a shower. You can have next if you want.” Derek shrugged his consent, so Stiles headed to the bathroom, whistling. He jerked off in the shower, like he often did, running through his usual material when he thought, just for a second, about Derek rising from bed that first morning, his bare back rippling gracefully in the sunshine. He came about a second later, striping the shower wall. “Fuck,” he said to himself, and got the hell out of there.

He was downstairs cooking breakfast when Derek came downstairs. “Hope you like turkey bacon,” Stiles quipped, “because that’s all we have.”

“That’s fine,” Derek said. “Thank you.”

The words seemed hilariously foreign in his mouth, and Stiles hid his smile over the pan. He served them both, and they ate in silence until Derek said hesitantly, “I have to go to the post office.”

“A million monkeys with typewriters wouldn’t have predicted that statement,” Stiles said, dropping his fork. “Do you have a pen pal? Did you order something from a catalog and have to return it? Are you operating a mail order business? Is it based on wolf artifacts?”

Derek scoffed, but his lips turned up in an amused sort of way. “I have to send a letter. It has to be done today.”

“And it involves talking to people,” Stiles said, understanding. “So you’re requesting my assistance.”

“You don’t have to,” Derek said, grumpiness returning.

“No,” Stiles said, shaking his head. “Let’s go.”

When they got there, Derek handed him the letter, along with some money. It was addressed to a lawyer, a name Stiles didn’t recognize.

“It’s for Laura’s estate,” Derek said quietly. “It’s still not settled completely.” All the ribbing that Stiles had been conjuring for this particular event goes out of him at that, as he remembered that Derek was a guy who had to bury his only sane living relative's upper body in a hole in the ground. Stiles thought privately that he’d be much more fucked up than Derek was, if it was possible.

When they get out of the post office, it’s a little past noon. “Got any more awesome errands involving you interacting with people?” Stiles said brightly.

Derek scowled at him. “I told you to stop enjoying this.”

“I believe I told you I can’t. Physically impossible. C’mon then, we’re going grocery shopping.”

Shopping with Derek was a uniquely hilarious experience. Stiles and his dad ate a lot of frozen foods, due to his dad’s schedule and Stiles being pretty inept at cooking.

“This looks disgusting,” Derek said, eyeing the bag of frozen nuggets Stiles was holding.

“Less sodium than the other kind,” Stiles said cheerfully.

“Because it has like fifty other ingredients,” Derek said, taking it from him. “None of them appearing to be chicken.”

“I don’t think I’m taking advice from the dude who eats freshly killed rabbits as a lifestyle.”

“I do not,” Derek said crossly. A beat. “All the time.”

“You don’t even have a kitchen,” Stiles said. “I can’t deal with you having opinions in this conversation.”

“I just buy fresh,” Derek muttered, and Stiles cracked up, tears coming to his eyes in the middle of the freezer aisles.

Derek scowled, but only because he wanted to laugh too, Stiles suspected.

 

They went back to Stiles’s house for lunch, with Stiles demanding Derek try one of the Hungry Man dinners. Derek’s pained face upon trying the ‘brownie’ felt like something Stiles was going to enjoy remembering the rest of his life. Then Derek picked up his head and said, “Scott’s coming.”

“Creepy yet useful,” Stiles said and got up to take out a third box.

Scott skidded into the house a moment later, happy hello bouncing off the walls. “Hey dude,” he said, and headed for the seat Derek was sitting in, clearly about to fling himself into it.

“Derek’s there,” Stiles shouted, as Derek slid sideways onto the floor in a move that would have been hilarious if Scott’s face hadn’t stormed up.

“What do you mean ‘Derek’s there’? What is Derek doing here? Are you feeding him?” Scott said staring at the frozen dinners accusingly, as if feeding Derek was the same level as building him an atomic bomb.

“I told you I was helping him,” Stiles said defensively.

“No,” Scott said indignantly. “You told me you helped him. You said you took him to Deaton.”

“I did,” Stiles said. “And then I kept him.”

“You didn’t keep me,” Derek muttered grumpily but Stiles disregarded him.

“It’s Derek!” Scott said. “He’s awful! I thought we agreed we were done with him!”

“I never said that,” Stiles said. He held up his hands when Scott’s face fell. “I’m your pack, you know I’m on your side. But dude, I’m the only one who can see and listen to him. I’m the only one he has who can even acknowledge he’s alive. You don’t get why he’d want to be around?”

“Every time,” Scott said, irritation coloring his words. “Every time lately, he finds some way to be around you, to rope you into his problems and you fall for it every time.”

“I’m not falling for anything,” Stiles yelled, getting pissed. “I don’t have to chose between you two! This is me being a fucking decent human being!”

“No, this is you being a sucker for anyone who pays attention to you,” Scott yelled back. Stiles reeled back like he’s been hit and Scott’s face crumpled with regret.

“Screw you,” Stiles said furiously. “You’re such an asshole.”

Scott shook his head. “Whatever, Stiles. Do what you want. You always do.” Then he was gone, and Stiles heard the front door slam shut with force.

“Stiles,” Derek said awkwardly, and fuck, Stiles had forgotten he was there.

“Don’t,” he said. “I’m going for a run. You can come with or not. I don’t care.”

There was silence for a minute, and then Derek said hesitantly, “I’d need to borrow shorts.”

There was a trail that started from his backyard that Stiles had been running for years. He wasn’t dedicated to running, didn’t do it regularly, but he liked the trail. He’d never seen anyone else in his jogs but he knew he couldn’t be the only one who knew it, as the forest never managed to encroach over the echo of footsteps in the grass.

He pounded the ground, letting the rhythm of his steps fill his ears and block out Scott’s angry words. He would take it back later, Stiles knew, Scott always did. The knowledge didn’t make it less of a sore spot. He sped up, pushing himself faster and faster.

Derek kept up with him easily enough and reached up once to lift a branch out of Stiles’s way before Stiles even noticed it. Stiles grunted his thanks and pushed on until he reached the crest of his favorite hill and had to stop, bent over and panting. Derek stopped with him, and dropped to the ground, and gazed out over the city. When Stiles got his breath back, he dropped down next to him.

“He’s right,” Derek said quietly.

“I know,” Stiles said. “I am sort of a whore for attention.”

“No,” Derek said impatiently. “Not about that. About me roping you into things.” Stiles turned to look at him, surprised. Derek shrugged. “Not that I think you don’t like the danger as much as I do, but,” and Stiles huffed indignantly, but let him finish, “I know I wouldn’t have lived through some of that stuff without you. So I get you into it. Sometimes, it’s my fault.”

“Wow,” Stiles said. “I think that’s the most you’ve ever said to me.” Derek rolled his eyes and sighed. “I’m not kidding, there were so many sentences there. The social isolation really did get to you, didn’t it?”

“Stiles,” Derek said impatiently.

“I like having you at my back too,” Stiles interrupted. “Scott, he’s my best friend and I’d take ten bullets for him, but he’s impossible about this.” He leaned back on his palms, the warm sun on his face. “These are our lives now, and it’s stupid not to--”

Derek kissed him. Stiles felt his warm hand come up to cup his jaw, and his lips pressed to Stiles, slowly, carefully, giving Stiles the option to back out, to stop it. Surprised, “Wait,” he said, pulling back with a jerk. “Is this a weird thing where you’re only kissing me because I might be the only person you can talk to for the rest of your life?”

“No,” Derek said slowly.

“Okay then,” Stiles said, and leaned forward, bracing his hands on Derek’s thighs to kiss him again.

Derek stopped him with a hand on his chest. “Are you letting me kiss you because you feel bad for me?” he said , and his voice was hard, like the Derek Hale Protective Shell had come out again.

“No,” Stiles said. “Why would I feel bad for you? This is everyone’s dream, because I’m a fantastic conversationalist.”

Derek rolled his eyes but a little bit of the tension seeped out of his spine and Stiles grinned and leaned back into his warmth. Derek wrapped an arm around him, and bent his head to kiss him again.

There was a noise behind them, and Stiles yelped as he flailed, elbowing Derek in the face. His neighbor from a few houses down came out of the trail, jogging cheerfully. “Hello there,” she said peacefully, as if there was nothing strange about the way Stiles was positioned on the ground.

She disappeared again through the trees and Stiles groaned in despair. “Come on,” he said, standing. “I’ve had just about enough of my imaginary friend.”

“Yeah,” Derek deadpanned. “This must be really hard for you.”

Deaton looked unsurprised to see Stiles, but held his hands up apologetically. “No news yet, I’m afraid. It’s difficult work.”

“Two eyes are better than one,” Stiles said, sliding onto a stool, and made grabby hands at the stack of books.

Deaton eyed him thoughtfully, and then slid him an old leather monstrosity, held together by an old ribbon. Stiles untied it and started flipping.

Derek slid down the wall near him, and relaxed with his back against the wall, knees against his chest. Stiles glanced at him every now and then, but he seemed content.

Deaton wasn’t kidding. It was slow going, poring over each page, looking for anything that even related to the situation. He kept getting distracted by what was actually there, like the page devoted to fairies. He itched once again to have all this digitized, something he could just have at his fingertips.

So many of the answers seemed to reference will. Every spell reiterated the point that if you didn’t will something to happen, it wouldn’t. He remembered the mountain ash, and making it multiply down the length of the parking garage. He was about to open his mouth to say this to Deaton when his phone rang.

Of all people, it was Isaac. “Hey,” Stiles said, confused. “What’s---”

“Scott’s been kidnapped by hunters,” Isaac interrupted. “We’re at the warehouse.”

Stiles was on his feet in a moment, the book forgotten. Derek was snarling in the corner, and without discussion, they were moving towards the door.

“Stiles,” Deaton called after them. “There are many ways to fight.”

“Helpful,” Stiles yelled back and swung himself into the Jeep.

When they got to the warehouse, there was nothing but quiet. “Can you hear anything?” he said, eyes sweeping the windows.

“Four of them,” he felt Derek breathe into the shell of his ear. Only force of will kept him from squawking in surprise. “You got a plan?”

“No,” Stiles hissed back. “It’s your turn.”

“You hate my plans,” Derek said.

“Because they’re always so stupid,” Stiles said, but their attention was drawn back to the yard as they heard Isaac roar, and a crash from inside.

“You’re really going to hate this one,” Derek said, and without another word, he ran forward, kicking the doors wide open.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Stupid,” he yelled, even as he moved forward to follow him.

Scott was strung up in chains, writhing as he tried to pull free. Isaac was shifted, snarling as he was surrounded by hunters, who were training guns on them. Derek launched himself at the group, sinking his claws into one’s neck and....nothing. They didn’t even seem to notice, like Derek wasn’t even there. Derek roared in frustration and tried again and again. One of the hunters cocked his gun and shot Isaac, hitting him right in the thigh. Isaac crumpled, hitting the ground and Scott cried out in anguish.

“Scott,” Derek yelled, as the hunters turned towards him. His voice was panicked, and Stiles watched in horror as Derek was powerless to help him.

“Fuck,” Stiles swore. It wasn’t fair. Derek wasn’t the nicest person to exist, but he tried harder than anyone, and even now, when it was pointless, he threw himself again and again, trying desperately to save Scott. Stiles thought of what Deaton said, that there was more than one way to fight. How was that helpful? What was he supposed to do with that? Derek needed to fight, and for that he needed to come out from the grip of this spell. “Fucking end it,” Stiles yelled, not even caring if anyone heard him anymore. “Let Derek fight!” He didn’t know who he was even yelling at any longer, he was just yelling in despair. “I don’t want to be the only one who sees him, fucking end it.” He stared desperately at Derek, and for a long moment, Derek met his eyes in helplessness. There was a weird, trembling feeling in his gut, but spreading, persistent, like it was winding up through his veins. He shoved at the feeling, mindlessly, furiously, there wasn’t time for--and then one of Derek’s pointless assaults connected.

The hunter he hit startled, slapping a hand over his neck in disbelief. “I thought you took care of the alpha?”

“I did,” the other said, a look of horror on his face. “He should have been down for the count!”

They turned their guns on Derek, but not quick enough. With a roar he attacked, swiping a long, vicious tear in one of the men. He was moving like a blur, and there was nothing but screams coming from the hunters. Stiles took full advantage of the distraction, and ran to Scott’s side, undoing the chains with relief.

“Hey,” Scott croaked as he smiled at Stiles. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Shut up,” Stiles said but he couldn’t help but grin back. When he freed Scott enough for him to yank the other chains loose, he turned his attention to the fray.

Derek had the last hunter cornered, and was snarling as the man cowered in the corner, gun tossed to the side. “Please,” he said to Stiles. “Help me.”

Stiles looked at him coldly, without pity. “You deserve to die with your friends,” he said, approaching Derek’s side. “You don’t deserve mercy.” The man let out a broken sob. “But,” Stiles said, addressing Derek. “It’s an option.”

“You want me to let him go?” Derek said, incredulously.

“I don’t want anything,” Stiles said, and his voice didn’t shake at all. “I just want you to know your options. You could kill him right now, and I’d never blame you. Not after what he did to Isaac, to Scott, to you.” He fixed the man with a dispassionate look. “Or you could call Chris Argent. Tell him to deal with it, take the problem off your hands.” Stiles shrugged. “Up to you.”

Derek snarled again, a sound made of frustration and anger, of betrayal and pain. His claws came down, arcing towards the last hunter, and at the last second, sunk into the wall next to the man’s head.

“Call him,” Derek said, and turned around and left.

Stiles waited until Allison’s father had arrived, and together, he and Scott made clear to him the events of the night. Chris was tight-lipped and angry, as he surveyed the other bodies, but he turned that fury on the remaining hunter, still huddled in fear.

Isaac was beginning to come around by then, the wolfsbane crushed in his wounds taking effect. Scott and Stiles both took an arm, and carried him to the Jeep. They brought him to Deaton’s, and sat shoulder to shoulder in the folding chairs outside the room.

“I didn’t think you’d come for me,” Scott said.

“Yes you did,” Stiles said immediately. “Don’t front.”

Scott grinned and ducked his head. “Okay, I was hoping you would.”

“You got me, remember?” Stiles said, knocking his shoulder. “No matter what dick thing you’ve done.”

“You really like Derek?” Scott said, a little doubt still in his voice.

“Yeah,” Stiles said. “I think I do.” He eyed Scott carefully. “I think I’m gonna date him. You got that part, right?”

“Yeah,” Scott said. “I can read you, you know.” He was quiet for a minute, and then touched Stiles’s arm. “You deserve it, you know? Someone to pay attention to you. You’re not--you just, you deserve that.”

“Thanks, buddy,” Stiles said. “Are we going to hug now?”

“I think we have to,” Scott said and pulled him in with a tug.

When Stiles finally pulled into the driveway, he cast a baleful look at his window, sending wordless pleas that Derek would be waiting for him. But nothing was ever particularly easy, so he was greeted with an empty room and a shut-tight window. He flopped backwards on the bed and hated everything with a vengeance.

In the morning, as soon as his dad left for work, Stiles set off for Derek’s house. “You better be waiting for me on the porch,” Stiles yelled out the window as he approached. “If you run away, so help me god--” but he didn’t have to finish his sentence, as he caught sight of Derek leaning against against a porch rail.

“Morning,” Derek said, amused.

“Nice to see you,” Stiles said pointedly, and Derek rolled his eyes. “Where were you last night?”

“With Boyd and Erica,” Derek said, looking over Stiles’s shoulder, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Oh,” Stiles said, swallowing. “I was thinking I’d see you, after everything settled.”

“Stiles,” Derek said, and Stiles just knew, knew from the tone in his voice that he wasn’t going to like whatever came next.

“Pretty shitty to break up with me before we go on our first date,” Stiles said lightly, taking a step closer.

Derek’s eyes flashed. “I can’t watch someone else get hurt for me. I won’t.”

“That’s what you got out of yesterday?” Stiles said incredulously. “I saved you, you dumbass.”

“I know,” Derek said. “But you shouldn’t have to.”

Stiles stepped right into Derek’s personal space. He poked one finger into the center of Derek’s chest and snapped. “I shouldn’t have to do anything, but I do. I wasn’t just there for you, your ego is out of control. Scott is my best friend, and Isaac is...” Stiles hesitated, “not unlikeable. I was there for them too, and there was something I could do that none of you could. Do you know how awesome that was? It was awesome. It was amazingly awesome. I want that again, and whether or not I’m dating you, I’ll still want it.”

“You’re infuriating,” Derek said flatly, but there was something in his voice that told Stiles that he had won.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, and skated his hand up Derek’s chest to curl around the back of his neck. “But you like it.” He pulled Derek down and kissed him, warm and sweet. Derek kissed him back, and it was a new feeling for Stiles, this chest bursting moment of total satisfaction with how something turned out, but he thought he could get used to it.

“You’re going to have to work for it,” he said, pulling back a little. “I’m not easy, you know.”

“That’s one thing I have never once accused you of,” Derek said, and pulled him inside.