Derek hears the frantic pounding of a heart long before he hears the knock on his front door.
He’s alone in the rebuilt Hale house, enjoying the rare silence by getting in some reading time with the books he bought recently. The rest of the pack is out doing their own things; Scott and Allison are on a day trip to San Francisco, a chance to spend some time alone together, Erica and Boyd are visiting Boyd’s family, Isaac and Lydia are ‘supplementing their wardrobes’ and Jackson is out of the state on vacation.
And because the Hale house is out in the middle of the preserve, Derek really isn’t expecting the sound of footsteps on gravel, or for someone to show up on his porch sounding like they’re seconds from going into cardiac arrest.
Derek opens the door without bothering to check who it is first, brow creased in concern but not a small amount of suspicion as well.
The first thing that hits him is a veritable wall of scent; pain and anxiety and hopelessness and, overwhelming everything else, thick and cloying and terrible, is a near animalistic fear.
The second thing that hits Derek is the sight of a thin, pale man, shoulders hunched and dark eyes too large in his bruised face.
Three years ago, Stiles had graduated from high school and decided to accept the offer of a full scholarship from Stanford. The pack had been so happy for him, even if the school was a day or two’s drive away, because they knew just how terribly intelligent Stiles was, and they wanted him to succeed. It meant losing him for a while, but they were willing to accept that.
They’d thought he’d return to them.
For the first few months of Stiles’ freshman year, he was good about keeping in contact with everyone. He Skyped Scott and Isaac, texted the girls, Boyd, and on occasion Jackson too, and called Derek nearly every day.
Around that three month mark, his contact started to taper off, dwindling bit by bit.
By the time his first semester was over, he hadn’t talked to anyone in the pack in over a month. The only person to have heard from him was his father, and the Sheriff said he really didn’t offer any kind of explanation for why he’d suddenly dropped off the face of the planet.
At first, everyone was worried about him, concerned. The longer he continued to avoid them though, the more bitter they grew. He didn’t even come home for Christmas.
Since Scott had been the one to help Stiles move in, he went down to the school during what should have been the human’s second semester intending to confront him, only for his roommate to tell Scott that Stiles had transferred away months before.
Dejected and feeling spurned, Scott returned to the pack to tell them the news, and their anger grew.
Stiles’ cell number disconnected, he called the Sheriff even less often, and then insisted his father didn’t share anything he said with the pack. Just as concerned about his son as everyone else, and in the know about werewolves by that point, the Sheriff hadn’t bothered trying to hide any information from them. Which would have been useful if Stiles had ever actually given him any information, but he hadn’t, and they had nothing to explain why Stiles had ditched them, abandoned the entire pack without so much as a good riddance.
The one time the Sheriff tried to trace the number Stiles called from, it disconnected the very next day, and every time he called after that the number was blocked. Then the Sheriff died, and so did their last connection with Stiles.
They didn’t try finding him again.
Three years after he first left, Stiles has become the black smear on their memories, nothing left for him but a bubbling sense of hurt and betrayal that never really got better over time, was only buried under the rest of their lives.
There’s no car in the driveway.
Derek peers around Stiles to make sure, but no, there’s no sign that the human drove here, which means he walked the entire two miles from the main road to the house. There’s no telling if he’d walked the main road too, from where and for how long, but exhaustion is definitely one of the scents rolling off of him.
For a minute, they simply stare at each other, Derek in confusion and mounting tension, and Stiles with bloodshot eyes, his body trembling minutely.
Finally, cracked lips part. “I-I…I need a p-place to stay,” he says, and his voice is wrecked and tentative.
Derek has absolutely no idea what to feel right now. That betrayal and pain is bubbling angrily up his throat, a frothy, thick mess, but looking at the man before him, smelling how his natural scent is almost completely lost under pain of his own, it makes concern well up also. The end result is a guarded wariness, instinct to protect and care warring with a scar that had never quite healed being ripped open anew.
It must show on his face, because Stiles shifts his weight and sticks his hands under his armpits, arms crossed over his chest in a huddled, defensive position.
“Please,” he near-whispers. “Please, just for a d-day. Just a day, th-then I’ll go a-again. I didn’t know wh-where else to go.”
The word ‘again’ makes Derek’s fingers tighten dangerously where he’s gripping the doorframe, and the wood creaks with a loud protest. The noise has Stiles flinching away, head ducked and body carrying him two steps back to the edge of the porch like he’s expecting a blow.
In the end, it’s that movement that makes Derek grit out, “Fine,” between clenched teeth and lead Stiles into the house.
He’s dubious about it, because the pack’s home is going to smell like Stiles now, and though there’s no one here at this very second, when they return just the man’s mere presence will throw all of them into emotional turmoil, much less having his scent in their very den.
Derek seriously considers telling the rest of the pack to keep their distance for a while, until he can either get rid of Stiles or wring some answers out of him.
Stiles doesn’t say anything else, just waits for Derek to close the front door and then follows him to the living room and stands awkwardly in the doorway. It’s wrong, the muted curiosity on his bruised face. He should be babbling by this point, asking questions, making a nuisance of himself or trying to talk his way out of the last three years.
Instead he just stands in that one spot while Derek sits back down on the couch, eyes flickering around the room but never settling on any one thing for longer than a few seconds.
“Stiles,” Derek eventually sighs in frustration. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He didn’t think it was possible for the human to get even more tense, but it is and he does. Stiles licks his cracked lips and looks anywhere but at Derek. “I told you, I n-need a place to st-stay.”
“Where have you been?” That’s really what Derek wants to know, and why the hell Stiles is acting the way he is, why he’s covered in bruises and dried blood. But that question only gets a jerky shake of the head as an answer.
Derek contemplates the man in front of him and realizes that he doesn’t actually believe that this is Stiles. Stiles is vibrant and intelligent and mouthy. This stranger is broken. Broken and fearful and trembling, awkward and tentative in the way he moves, nervous when he goes to speak.
He wants to bring the real Stiles back. Desperately.
“Would you like a shower?” he asks after another minute passes in silence. That gets him brief eye contact before Stiles drops it and gives a little nod. The werewolf leads him to the bathroom and shows him how the knobs work and promises to bring clean clothes for him to wear.
Maybe if Derek covers him in pack scent, that will help bring the real Stiles back.
He picks out a pair of sweats and a soft, worn Henley, both his. When he comes back into the bathroom it’s steamy and hot and Stiles stays completely quiet while Derek switches out the clothing, taking the ratty shirt and jeans he was wearing earlier to throw them out.
Stiles collapses in an exhausted heap in the guest room when he comes out of the shower. Clean, he smells of lingering pain, anxiety, something frail and soft that might be hope, and of course Derek since he’s wearing the wolf’s clothing. His own natural scent is still muddled and distant, but it is stronger than it was before, and it’s just enough to make Derek’s chest ache because Stiles.
That man standing on his front porch just doesn’t compute in Derek’s brain as Stiles. But his scent? Even covered up as it is, cannot be mistaken for anything or anyone else. It’s the ghost from Derek’s past returned, and his stomach churns uncomfortably because honestly what does he do? Does he accept Stiles with open arms? Does he demand answers? Does he kick the man out because of his betrayal?
Derek rubs a hand over his face and decides he’ll try and talk to Stiles first, figure out exactly what the situation is, why he’s here in the first place. Then he’ll make a decision. In the meantime, he texts the pack to stay away for a day or two and that he’ll explain why later. They’ve all come a long ways in trusting each other, he them, and they him, so they all give curious but accepting responses.
He’ll reveal Stiles’ presence when he actually knows what the fuck he’s going to do with the human.
When Stiles wakes up that evening, several hours later, he seems a little more like himself. He’s lost most of his stutter, and his shoulders aren’t quite so tense, though he does tend to flinch if Derek moves too quickly around him.
Derek makes dinner for them, and they sit quietly at the kitchen table while they eat. Eventually the silence gets to be too much, and the werewolf heaves a sigh and sets his fork down with a small clatter.
The noise jerks Stiles’ attention towards him, a quick spike of fear invading his scent before it begins to disperse again. There are still dark circles under his eyes, but the golden brown color of his irises is much lighter than it was when he’d first shown up, not quite so despairing.
“Did you get in a fight?” Derek decides to ask. It’s not the most important question on his mind, but it’s something, and he just wants to see how much information, if any, the human will give up.
“No,” is all he gets in response. He resists the urge to sigh dramatically.
“You’re bruised up pretty bad.”
There’s purple swelling along his jaw and the bridge of his nose, and his bottom lip is busted and cracked. The way he moves suggests other bruises, other injuries, hidden under his clothing, and still he doesn’t say anything else about it.
Derek does sigh this time, before asking once more, “Stiles, why are you here?”
The man stills but doesn’t look up from his plate, though he does set down his fork and drop his hands into his lap.
“My father’s dead.”
John Stilinski died six months ago.
He’d had a serious stroke during a night shift at work, and was dead before the paramedics could get to him.
It had been devastating to the pack as a whole, but especially to Scott and his mother.
Stiles hadn’t shown up for the funeral.
Derek can physically feel the way his features twist in anger. The pain of losing a pack mate is too soon, too fresh, for him to be sympathetic about it.
“He died six months ago.”
Stiles turns his head away from the words, hands tightening into fists in his lap. His scent is being soured by grief so thick it could be drowned in. “I didn’t know,” he whispers.
That stuns Derek into silence before he can gather his wits about him again. “What the hell do you mean, you didn’t know?” he asks, though it comes out more of a demand, and he has to physically grit his teeth to keep from yelling anything else.
“I mean, I didn’t know,” Stiles snaps, and for that brief spark of a second, he’s his old self, confident and sure. But then he shrinks again, curling away from Derek and his accusations like a dry leaf curling from flames. “I only found out a few days ago.”
How is that possible? Had Stiles simply made himself so completely inaccessible that not even the authorities could find him in order to deliver the news? The confusion has Derek wilting a little, slumping back into his chair, his plate forgotten.
“You didn’t come to claim what he left behind so the state took it. There’s nothing left for you to inherit.”
“I didn’t come to inherit anything.”
“Then what did you come for?” There’s faint accusation in Derek’s tone and the old Stiles would have bristled at it. This one hunches his shoulders up around his ears.
“To visit his grave.”
Derek contemplates the other man and he can feel the rest of his anger beginning to slip away. There’s something unsaid, words that sit on the tip of Stiles’ tongue without actually being spoken, and whatever they are the werewolf knows they can’t be good.
“Where are you coming from?”
This time it’s Stiles who sighs. He drags his gaze to Derek’s laboriously as he says, “Chicago. Are you going to keep asking me questions?”
Chicago. That’s nowhere near Stanford, not even close.
What in hell was Stiles doing half way across the country that kept him from hearing about his own father’s death for months? That made him abandon a group of people who had considered themselves his best friends?
How the fuck did he even get from Chicago to Beacon Hills with no car?
When Derek doesn’t respond, Stiles drags his chair back and stands, only hanging around long enough to throw his unfinished food away and put his dishes in the sink. Then he disappears into the guest room and, from the sound of his slowing heartbeat, goes back to sleep.
Derek has known that Stiles was his mate since they first met.
Stiles had been way too young at the time though, a mere sixteen, and Derek hadn’t been in any place to try and touch a romantic relationship as serious as mates with a ten foot pole. He’d allowed them to draw together naturally over time, as Stiles matured and Derek healed, and by the time Stiles had graduated, the werewolf knew that he wanted to be with him.
Stiles was going to go away for college though, and Derek wasn’t going to try and tie him down when he had the opportunity to experience a normal life.
He’d been planning on telling Stiles when he graduated and came home.
Needless to say, Derek never got the chance.
He’s not sure he wants it now.
Stiles wakes in the middle of the night with his mouth clamped tight around a scream. It fights against his teeth and tears at his throat, bringing tears to his eyes, but still he holds it in and grips the pillow under his head tight to try and ride the pain out.
Eventually it crawls back down his throat and into his stomach, where it curls up and dies, leaving him feeling nauseated.
That’s when he realizes that the dark room around him is unfamiliar, and he has to fight down a sudden wave of panic too.
The instinct to hide his emotions, good and bad but especially the bad, is second nature to him now. That should make choking his panic down easier, but it really, really doesn’t.
He sits up in the bed too empty and soft to be his own, and tries to peer around him. His chest is aching with emotional turmoil, and his body twinges with physical pain with every minute shift, and it’s these things that remind him of where he is and what he’s doing here.
Stiles came back to Beacon Hills, a town he’d thought he’d never get to see again. He’s here to see his father one last time before he-
A knock on the door jars him out of his thoughts, and his body reacts instinctively by shying away from it. Before he has a chance to call out, the knob twists and Derek sticks his head inside, the hall light a golden halo behind his shadowed form.
“Stiles? Are you okay? Your heartbeat’s going crazy.”
Things with Derek have been…tense, ever since Stiles came back. And he’s only been back a matter of hours. He doesn’t blame the werewolf though; he can’t even begin to imagine what the pack thinks of him, how they must feel about him now.
“Yeah,” he replies, but his voice is shaky and soft at best, and it’s obvious Derek doesn’t believe him as he just furrows his brow.
“It sounded like this when you showed up yesterday, too. I thought you were having a heart attack.”
Stiles shakes his head soundlessly and consciously loosens his fingers from where they’re clutching the comforter in his lap. “I’m fine, just a nightmare.”
The details of which he can’t remember, but he’s fairly confident of its contents.
When Derek continues to hover for a moment longer, Stiles gathers the tattered remains of his courage and asks the question he’s had on his mind ever since he found out. “Is he buried next to my mother?”
Derek’s lips thin, but he does nod his head, and Stiles can feel some of the tension ease out of his own shoulders. He’s not sure why he was so worried about that, but he was. He wants his parents to be together, even after death, wants them to always have each other.
“I’ll go see him tomorrow. Then I’ll be out of your hair.”
Out of Derek’s hair, out the pack’s, out of everyone’s really.
But that just makes the werewolf scowl harder. “I want to know why you left the first time before you leave again,” he counters, tone just this side of harsh. It makes Stiles want to curl up to protect himself against it, but he fights the impulse as best he can.
He doesn’t want to tell Derek, doesn’t want anyone to know the story. But, if things go as planned, he won’t be around to be shamed by it so there’s only a minimal amount of damage telling Derek can do.
The room is still dark though, and there’s no light shining behind the drawn blinds.
“In the morning,” Stiles says, though he knows he won’t be getting back to sleep any time soon.
Derek looks like he completely forgot that it’s the middle of the night, but he agrees easily before leaving, the door closing quietly behind him. His footsteps fade to nothing and the hall light flicks off.
Stiles sits in the dark again.
His first semester at Stanford had been amazing right up until the end.
He’d met Garrett at a party sometime in September.
By December everything had gone to hell, but Stiles hadn’t really realized it.
Morning dawns slow and painful, light bleeding through the blinds on the window in striped increments. They stretch across the floor towards the bed, but they never do reach it. At least not before Stiles levers himself to his feet, his body protesting the movement after sitting perfectly still for so long.
When he pads downstairs to the kitchen, Derek is already there, hip propped against the counter and a bowl of cereal balanced in the palm of one hand. He looks relaxed; warm and rumpled and utterly domestic in nothing but his low slung pajama bottoms and bed head.
Once upon a time, the sight of that bare chest would have had Stiles drooling, fantasies twisting around just behind his eyes.
There’s still a bit of lust sparking low in his gut now, but it’s buried beneath too much heavy shit, compressed and too damp to really catch fire. Stiles mourns the loss of such a normal bodily reaction.
“The rest of the pack is going to be back this afternoon,” Derek tells him casually, while Stiles is surveying the contents of the fridge despite the fact that he isn’t hungry. (He hasn’t been hungry in so long.)
He can’t help the way he tenses.
God, the pack. Stiles had wondered why they hadn’t been around so far, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to face them. At all. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be.
He doesn’t want to know what they think of him now, and he especially doesn’t want to know what they’ll think of him after they find out where he’s been.
It’s pretty obvious from Derek though, that they think he abandoned them. They should, because that’s basically what he did, and having to face their anger and betrayal, their hurt, their pain? Just thinking about it makes his legs want to give out underneath him.
“I can leave before then,” Stiles says, closing the fridge quietly but never actually looking up at Derek. He can hear the way the werewolf shifts his weight though, can hear the gentle clink when he sets his dirty dishes in the sink and then runs water over them.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” the werewolf eventually says.
I think it’s a fucking perfect idea, Stiles doesn’t say.
“Where are you even going to go?”
“I told you, to visit my dad.”
“And after that?”
Stiles presses his lips together tightly and doesn’t speak, still avoiding eye contact like his life depends on it. Another habit he’s formed.
“Are you going to go back to Chicago?”
The urge to flinch away from even the idea of returning there is so fucking strong that even though Stiles tries to hold it back he knows Derek catches it anyways.
“No. Never,” he replies, and he wants his voice to be steely and strong but it just comes out sounding almost like a plea.
He can almost physically feel the way Derek’s eyes narrow on him, but the werewolf doesn’t push or prod. His dark presence at the edge of Stiles’ vision shifts and then leaves, footsteps heading towards the living room followed by the sound of a TV being turned on.
Stiles blinks at the kitchen around him, at the wooden floors and the soft lighting.
It’s early, but he could leave right now. Right this second. He has to walk all the way to the cemetery anyways, it’d be better to get a head start while he can. He doesn’t even have to tell Derek anything, can just slip right out of his life and the pack’s like he did three years ago.
He picks at the hem of the shirt he’s wearing; it’s too big on his near-gaunt frame but it’s soft and comfortable. It also belongs to Derek though, and Stiles isn’t really comfortable with leaving in it. He’s pretty sure the alpha threw away his clothes though, so he doesn’t have much of a choice. At least he still has his tennis shoes, even if the socks went missing with his t-shirt and jeans.
Slipping back up stairs, he pulls said shoes on, wincing a little at the way they scrape at his bare feet, especially the backs of his heels. It’s fine though, he can deal for a little while longer. Then he heads for the front hall, the kitchen on his right, the living room on the left.
He doesn’t even touch the front door before a large, warm hand is curling around his upper arm, pulling him to a gentle but complete stop.
“I said I didn’t want you to leave.”
Stiles doesn’t turn around. “You said you thought it was a bad idea.”
“I need to go.”
“Come back after.” It’s not a request.
Stiles glances over his shoulder at Derek, though he keeps his body angled away. The hand on his arm hasn’t moved, and the warmth of it is starting to scorch him through the fabric of Derek’s shirt.
For once, Stiles actually looks the werewolf in the face. He doesn’t meet his eyes, but he does trace the alpha’s features, studies the corners of his mouth and the way his brow is pulled low.
“Why?” he eventually asks.
It takes Derek an equally long amount of time to admit, “I want an explanation. I…we deserve to know. Where you were, what happened.”
Damn, so he isn’t going to get out of that after all. Stiles sighs and slumps under the weight of that hand, before turning back into the living room and plopping himself down on the couch.
He could go visit his dad now, and come back after like Derek suggested. But he doesn’t want to come back after; if things go to plan he won’t be able to.
Besides, if he left right now he’s pretty sure Derek would just go with him, and he can’t really have that.
The wolf sits down beside him, close enough to make Stiles a little wary, but still with a good chunk of space between them. Then he props one elbow on the back of the couch, leans his cheek against his fist, and stares pointedly, waiting.
Stiles shifts uncomfortably, eyes sliding towards Derek and then snapping away again.
God, he doesn’t want to do this.
“Would it be easier if I asked specific questions?” Derek asks when it becomes apparent Stiles can’t and won’t do it by himself. The human nods, though it’s a reluctant gesture.
“Okay, so, where did you transfer to after Stanford?”
“Nowhere?” the wolf parrots, eyebrows drawing low in confusion.
Stiles shakes his head.
“So you didn’t finish college.”
“No. Only that first semester.”
That’s the million dollar question, Stiles supposes. Because answering that means starting the story from the very beginning, telling Derek absolutely everything.
“Okay,” he sighs, rubbing tiredly at his face. “Just don’t interrupt me, okay? This is going to suck.”
Derek raises an eyebrow, but he doesn’t say anything, a sign of his apparent agreement to the human’s request.
Stiles fixes his gaze on a spot on the couch but then lets it grow distant, eyes glossing over as he twists his fingers nervously, picking at his cuticles with ragged nails.
“There was this party,” he starts. “At Stanford, and I don’t remember how I got invited, but I did. It was huge, there were so many people dancing and so much alcohol. I wasn’t really drinking, but it was still fun. And then I met…met this guy.”
Garrett. He’d been tall and built, leaning casually against the far wall and very obviously watching Stiles as he’d danced. Pale blue eyes, dark hair, biceps that reminded Stiles of a certain werewolf. He’d been gorgeous and the absolutely first guy to show that much interest in Stiles.
Stiles can’t even say his name now.
“We um, we hooked up. And then after that we ended up dating. He…”
The sound of a phone ringing cuts Stiles off, and he blinks, clearing the distant look in his eyes as he focuses in on Derek who’s pulling his cell out of his pocket.
“Sorry,” he says, frowning down at the screen before swiping to ignore the call. “Didn’t know the number. I’ll turn the sound off.”
Not even a second later it’s ringing again, the same number if Derek’s scowl is anything to go by, and again he swipes to ignore the call. By the third time it rings, and there’s no time in between them for the wolf to turn the volume down, he’s starting to look a little murderous.
Stiles stares at the phone in growing horror, and he can physically feel the color drain from his cheeks.
“Can I?” he asks faintly, holding out a hand.
Derek gives him an incredulous look but passes the still ringing phone over.
It’s Garrett’s number.
Stiles had been madly in love with Garrett.
He still remembers their first date, a few days after the night they’d hooked up at the party.
Garrett had taken him to this huge arcade downtown, and they’d spent hours in there playing games and laughing, competing with each other and flirting shamelessly. Afterwards, they’d walked down the street to a hole in the wall pizza joint with the greasiest, cheesiest pizza Stiles has tasted to date. They’d kissed outside the restaurant, chaste and gentle and new, so different from the way Garrett had pinned him down before and dominated his mouth.
Stiles had liked it. Hell, he’d loved it. But that gentle kiss? Yeah, he’d loved that too.
It was the first and last time Garrett was ever sincerely gentle with him.
“Don’t answer it.”
Stiles’ skin has gone chalky, and he’s trembling where he sits as he hands the cell back.
Derek glances down at the phone in his hand, and then at the man sitting before him. He doesn’t really understand what’s happening here, doesn’t know why Stiles’ scent has gone thick with anxiety and fear or why his heart has started racing and tripping over itself, beating out a desperate rhythm.
“Please,” Stiles whispers when Derek doesn’t respond, and he meets the wolf’s eyes for once. Their golden brown depths are frightened and wide, a far cry from the apathy and pain Derek had found in them this morning.
“Yeah, alright,” he finds himself agreeing. Holding down the button on the side of the phone turns it off, and the sudden silence when the ringtone cuts out is startling to say the least.
But Stiles doesn’t relax, and he’s still staring at the phone like he’s just waiting for it to jump up and bite him.
“Who was that?”
“It was him.”
“Him?” Derek repeats, until the answer dawns on him. “The guy you were dating, that was him?”
Stiles nods but doesn’t speak, and though his gaze isn’t distant like before, it’s still fixed on the small amount of couch between them.
There’s a picture beginning to form in Derek’s mind, one he doesn’t like in the least.
“Why was he calling me?”
The human visibly swallows and shifts uncomfortably where he sits, his fingers making aborted twitching motions.
“I don’t…he…he knows I don’t have anyone else to go to,” Stiles admits
“He knows who I am. Wait, did you give him my number?”
At that, Stiles does look up, surprise flashing across his features as he shakes his head. “No! No, absolutely not. He probably…right after we moved, he took my phone from me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he saved all the numbers in it before he got rid of it.”
Derek really, really doesn’t like what he thinks is being implied here. The anger must show on his face in one way or another, because Stiles shifts away from him on the couch, putting more distance between them.
“He took your phone from you?”
Stiles nods miserably. “And my Jeep. My laptop. Basically everything that I owned, so that I’d be dependent on him,” he says, voice dropped down to a near whisper. “It wasn’t…wasn’t all at once, you know? It was just little stuff that built up over time. Before I knew it he was controlling everything I did, everyone I saw, and I didn’t know how to get out.
He…it was good at first, really. I loved him, or at least I thought I did, and he told me he loved me too. But he got jealous really easily, didn’t like it when I tried to talk to you guys or anything. Didn’t even like it when I tried to call my dad. I figured I could deal with it though, convince him he didn’t need to be that jealous over time. But it only got worse and I just…well, you know what happened, I stopped keeping in touch with everyone except my dad. Even then, after a while, I had to start using payphones because Ga…the guy, he’d get pissed. I couldn’t give up talking to my dad though, no matter what, he was my dad and I love…loved, I loved him. We were all each other had for a long time.
I wanted to tell him, wanted to tell you so bad, because I knew you guys would protect me in a heartbeat, but I couldn’t. I..it felt pathetic, to go running to you, tell you that I was in an abusive fucking relationship, but that I loved the bastard and I didn’t want to hurt him, I just wanted out. There’s part of me even now that still loves him, that wants him to be safe, but most of me...most of me fucking hates him, almost as much as I hate myself for letting him do that to me. For letting him get away with it for so damn long. Hell, it took my dad dying before I could finally pull away from him, and only because he’d never bothered to tell me about it in the first place. They talked to him, you know? The authorities. They called him, and I’m sure he played the sympathetic and distraught boyfriend, but he never bothered to pass the information on to me, knew I wouldn’t be content with just staying put with him when the last of my family had fucking died. But I found out, it took six months but I figured it out and I-“
The loud shrill of a phone ringing has both Derek and Stiles jerking with surprise, Stiles because he was so engrossed in his story, and Derek because he was focusing on keeping himself in check the longer the human talked. His chest is tight and painful, new anger and pain mixing with that years old betrayal to create a frighteningly strong cacophony of emotions. But despite the strength of it, none of it is directed towards Stiles, at least not now that he knows.
The home phone rings again, startling and insistent.
If it’s even possible, Stiles goes even paler. The bruises on his face stand out in ugly relief.
“That’s him,” he murmurs, and Derek is up and off the couch like a gunshot. There’s a startled cry from behind him as he stalks into the kitchen, Stiles being surprised by the sudden movement, but before the werewolf can snatch the phone off the counter Stiles is pulling insistently at his arm.
“Don’t!” he says, all panic and harsh breath. “Don’t, god don’t please don’t answer it, please please please.”
Before Derek can do much more than pause and glance at the human clinging to him, Stiles has darted in front of him and ripped the home phone’s cable from the wall, silencing it once and for all. His breath doesn’t ease those, his heart doesn’t slow. If anything both just ratchet up, faster and faster until Derek’s worried the human is just going to collapse right there on his kitchen floor.
“I have to go,” the man says, soft and dazed. When he turns around his eyes are wide and vacant, unseeing. “I have to leave. He knows. He knows, he’s going to come and I can’t…I have to…”
“Stiles,” Derek tries again, but Stiles just rushes past him, unsteady on his feet even as he heads for the front door. Ready to run without even fucking thinking about it.
“Stiles!” Derek snarls the word this time, and catches the human by the arm before he can get farther than the front foyer. It’s a repeat of what happened earlier, only this time Stiles seems like he’s on the verge of a mental breakdown. Or, well, closer to one at least than he was before. It’s distressing, to say the least.
The harsh tone seems to work though, and Stiles pauses, shakes himself a little bit. When he turns to look back at Derek, his gaze is clearer and more focused, but no less panicked.
“You have to let go of me,” he says. “You have to let go, I need to leave right now. He’ll track the number, he’s probably already on his way here. He was probably already in Beacon Hills when he started calling, he knows this is where I’d come and now he has your address and I need to leave because it’s not safe and I need to visit my dad before I…I…”
His voice trails off, his gaze going glassy, and Derek gives Stiles a gentle shake to focus him again.
“Before you what?” His own voice is harsh, guttural, but he can’t help that right now. He’s gotten better over the last few years at controlling himself, keeping his anger in check, but this situation is putting that restraint to the test. Having a pack member return, only to find out that he’d not betrayed them, that he’d practically been kidnapped? And rather than going after him, he and the rest of the pack had just sat back and nursed their hurt feelings like a bunch of children, jesus fucking christ. His goddamn mate, and he didn’t know he didn’t…They should have known better, they should have-
“Before I kill myself.”
All of Derek’s thought processes slam to a sudden and immediate stop, his mind white and glaringly blank for all of three seconds.
“I said I need to visit my dad before I kill myself,” Stiles repeats, whiskey eyes fixed on a point just over Derek’s shoulder, and his tone soft and almost sad. But determined too, so determined it makes the werewolf ache.
The sharp bark of the word has Stiles actually looking at Derek again. “Excuse me.”
“I said no, Stiles. I won’t allow it.” His throat sticks on the words, but he still pushes them out, “I just got you back, I’m not giving you up again so soon.”
Brown eyes flicker over his face, unsure, testing. “You…” Stiles starts, pauses, tries again, “you want me back?”
Using the grip he still has on Stiles’ arm, Derek reels him in, pulls him tight against his chest and holds him there. Stiles scent is buried under anxiety, pain, fear, but it’s still there, and he drinks it in greedily.
“You’ve always been pack, Stiles. We…we thought you left. Thought you abandoned us, that you didn’t want us,” didn’t want me, “but we should have known better. You’re so loyal. You never would have left under your own volition.”
Stiles squirms in his arms and pushes at Derek’s chest until the werewolf loosens his grip and Stiles can lean away from him.
“I did leave of my own volition though,” he protests, shaky and timid. “I left all of you, I knew what I was doing when I agreed to move to Chicago with him.”
“Did you really know?” Derek counters, unable to help himself from trailing his fingers softly down the human’s face. “You said you thought you could convince him not to be jealous after a while. You thought you’d be able to get in contact with us again, be able to visit and stay part of the pack, right?”
Stiles drops his head but nods anyways, and Derek lets out a little sigh.
“You didn’t abandon us. We abandoned you. If we had just tried a little harder we could have tracked you down, found where he’d taken you so we could get you back. But instead we all blamed you and sat around feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s not your fault.”
“If it’s not my fault,” the human says, and his heart trips at the words, like he’s not entirely convinced of them yet, “then it’s not the pack’s fault either. That you didn’t come after me, I mean. We didn’t…nobody abandoned anybody else.”
Huffing a little laugh, Derek can’t help the relieved smile that pulls at his lips, and the way he tugs Stiles forward again, holding him close like he’s wanted to for so fucking long. Slowly, Stiles arms wind their way around his neck, holding him back just as tight. Derek can’t say he really agrees with what the human was saying, because he still feels guilty as all hell for never even trying, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that Stiles knows he’s wanted, needed, and he’s not going to…it doesn’t even bear thinking about.
After a long, comfortable moment, he murmurs, “You’ll stay right, you’ll let me, let us, protect you from him if he shows up?”
Stiles stiffens, corrects him with a small, “When, not if,” but then he relaxes again, in increments. “Yeah, I’ll let you. And I won’t…won’t try to kill myself, not yet at least, alright?”
They stay that way, holding each other in soft silence, until the sound of a car door slamming makes Stiles damn near jump out of his skin. His breath hitches and his heart pounds frantically against his ribcage, like it’s trying to escape, but Derek just smoothes a hand down the human’s spine and murmurs in his ear, “Relax. It’s just the pack. It’s not him.”
Stiles gives a choked little laugh, though some of the tension does bleed from his shoulders. “I’m not sure that’s much better.”
“It’ll be okay. They’ll understand, I promise.”
Shaky hands find purchase on Derek’s shoulders, sliding down to his chest before pushing against him until he once again releases his hold on Stiles. He looks a little panicked, like he might throw up any second, but also determined.
“Right. I can do this. I can totally do this.”
Derek smiles, touches Stiles face again and says, “Right,” just as the front door opens.