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Stiles sat down on the sofa, exactly three feet away from Derek. There was a big bowl of popcorn placed rather conveniently between them, demarking the area as essentially occupied. It was caramel popcorn, Derek’ favourite and Stiles’ second favourite. They were watching some old comedy on the TV, volume very low so that the whirr and buzz of the house rang on behind them, the pop the old fridge made, the gurgling of the basin pipe, the sound of some dog barking some distant away that could be heard from the small open window.

Little by little, Stiles scooted nearer Derek, centimetre by centimetre, inch by inch, till the bowl holding the popcorn was wedged tightly between them. Derek was sprawled out in a lazy bow over the arm of the sofa and was showing off a very non threatening stance. Stiles finally lifted the bowl onto his lap and then, by increments, crept onto Derek so that he could finally put his head on Derek’s shoulder. Once he did, he pushed in some more so that he was soon snuggling into Derek.

Derek did not clasp him back, at least not immediately. He slowly moved his hand aware that Stiles was aware of that movement if his sudden stillness was any clue and then lightly placed it on his shoulder. There was no weight behind the hand and there was no attempt to hold him either. Stiles’s eyes filled up with tears and he turned into Derek’s chest, weeping silently into it. Derek’s eyes were watery too, his lips constrained by his biting lips so that no words would come out. This was progress, this was a triumph.

Derek met Stiles through his sister Cora. Stiles’ was Cora’s classmate and quite frightened of her and her awesome right hooks that had laid many boys and two girls with busy hands flat on the ground screaming over their broken noses. It had been a weird courtship. Derek had a false reputation of being quite the bastard and Stiles had the accurate reputation of being a gaint ass nerd spazz. Their friends were initially amused at seeing them try to work, which involved Stiles trying his utmost to make Derek speak more than 10 words at a time.

But then they started to notice how Derek started wearing this faint fond smile whenever he saw Stiles and how Stiles lessened his pranks, mostly because he didn’t have the time to be diabolical when he was busy just tagging along Derek. It still wore the veneer of friendship, Stiles dating some people in the meantime, but it took Stiles one month in his dorm to get on a bus and go to Derek to proclaim his love before Derek’s stunned face and his roommates who looked on hooting. Derek could only say yes.

There was a lot of kissing after that, lots of making out, beautiful arrays of hickeys, quickie handjobs, messy sex and lots of love. Both moved in after they got out of college and shared noodles and the rare box of cookies that they could manage on their meagre income. Sheriff Stilinski did a half hearted rendition of ‘hurt my son and I will kill you’ because there was no doubt in his mind just how much both the idiots were in love. Talia was more reserved and delivered the same message but with such a chill look that both Derek and Stiles huddled together after with pinched faces that Peter took great guffawing laughs to point out. Even Chris, Peter’s husband and usually very stoic man, smirked at the look on their face.

Everyone came to their wedding, all the friends that had made at college, all the people for work and when each saw the other for the first time at the altar, Lydia Martin cried too. It was a beautiful wedding and Scott had to be consoled by his mother and Stiles and Derek for him to stop crying. Peter gave a speech too and it was not as embarrassing as Derek had feared. Laura told some of the old stories from their initial stage of dating that had Stiles laughing so much that he fell off his chair. They went to Hawai for their honeymoon and had sex on the beach.

Life settled around them within the next years. Derek’s architecture firm was taking off, Stiles’ graphic designing was doing well and they were having tentative talks about adopting. Then, Stiles demanded hot chocolate. There was no milk in the house so he just went to his jeep that had followed their whole relationship and went to the corner 24 hours open grocery store just two minutes away, blowing a kiss to Derek as he cooked the chicken they were going to have for dinner. Stiles did not return home for one month.

Eight man, hopped on something, and stinking of cheap booze had come in just as Stiles was paying for the milk and some chocolate bars. They had overcome Stiles and the boy behind the counter, and beat their head into the floor until they lost their consciousness. Stiles remembered only snatches from those two hours. Crawling on his knees on the wet tiles of the communal bathroom with blood dripping down the inside of his thighs, pain lacing his lower stomach as he felt something give each time he tried to slide away, something choking him and him trying to struggle but hands holding him down, Stiles crying and screaming and seeing his mother in the blooming darkness behind his eyes.

The next thing Stiles remembers is waking up in a sterile hospital room, his heart booming i his ear as he attempted to move, move, move fucking damnit, screaming for them to stop, fighting the hands that were trying to restrict him from tearing his tubes away. It was only the sound of his father’s voice that had calmed him enough and then he had cried again, plastered against his father, weeping, weeping and it felt like he would never be done, never have enough of the tears and then he got the sudden flash of the other boy lying on his side, eyes glass and obviously dead and Stiles vomited onto his clothes and his father.

Stiles had to be put into an induced coma to stop the reaction he was having. All the perpetuators were in the jail and the Sheriff had been suspended because he beat two of them to a bloody pulp. In the meantime, Derek who had called the Sheriff and then had to stand by as they carried Stiles near about had a nervous breakdown, his already hyperactive guilt sending him into such a depressive fugue that Talia had to take over to make sure that he was actually eating something.

Then the sheriff had come over, angry at Derek like how tragedy angers, and when he informed him about Stiles, Derek had cried and cried and then headed to Stiles’s room, still crying and Melissa had been helpless to do anything about them. Derek refused to leave Stiles, bathing in the small bathroom that was attached to Stiles room, begging his mother to get him clothes and living off canteen fare, not that he would eat anything that Talia brought. Ten days after being in coma, Stiles was brought back up and while under severe medication, was let be more aware.

Scott come as often as he could, Melissa kept a regular eye and the sheriff, suspended from his post for the duration, and Derek never left his side. Stiles would whimper if anyone touched him, apart from Melissa who could manage a very clinical touch that did not trigger Stiles. That was of course hard for Derek and John, but they didn’t leave. Stiles was recommended therapy and lots of medicines and thankfully all of his tests proved negative. One month after he left to get milk, he stepped back into the home he shared with Derek and it felt like he was in a stranger’s house.

The Stiles who had lived in these walls was no longer alive. He had mutated, he had changed and become the broken husk of a man he was now. John could see the discomfort on Stiles’s face so he offered to take Stiles back to his house and Stiles almost said yes, but then he saw the devastated look on Derek’s face and he felt ashamed, ashamed at his attempt to run, for that is how he saw it. He promised his dad that he would drop by if things felt too weird and kissed his dad goodbye, because he still couldn’t bear to be hugged. When the door closed on his father’s retreating back, Stiles had turned to Derek and with a hard swallow had said ‘sorry’.

If Derek was devastated before, he was absolutely aghast. There was nothing for Stiles to say sorry about, not one bit of what had happened had been Stiles’s fault, not one. Derek felt like shaking Stiles to make him understand that, to make him remember how Derek would never love him less, but he couldn’t so he just fisted his hands by his side and looked to the ground. Thinking that Derek was mad at him, Stiles had started crying again and Derek had looked on, sad and angry and helpless as every time he moved his hand to comfort Stiles, Stiles had flinched.

Derek was prepared to call John to take Stiles away in the hope that he will feel a bit better in his previous home, but Stiles didn’t want to go. When he had said, in between hitching breaths that he wanted to stay with Derek, there was no way Derek could have said no to him. It took Derek a few times to realise that Stiles was getting panic attacks every time he went to the bathroom, the marble tiles white like the one at the store and so Derek had immediately broken a wall down and had a new bathroom and toilet made, very ,very, small, hardly enough to contain one man, and that was such a visible relief for Stiles.

Derek changed the layout of the house minutely, not much as he did not want to entirely change the demeanour of the house but enough for Stiles to comprehend the visible change. Stiles’ therapy was going well, and he had stopped crying every now and then. He still cried, but it was no longer with a bewildered look over how bad he was feeling. He now cried with the realisation that he was mourning. Derek had going for therapy as well, both learning how to overcome his lingering guilt over what had happened to Stiles and how things might have had been different if only he had gone that time and also how to support and be there for Stiles without suffocating him with overwhelming care.

Derek sometimes felt sad for the time before, how they were so ready to talk about family. How easy and open Stiles used to laugh. Derek missed that Stiles, but his love for this Stiles was there too. This was a slightly different Stiles. He smiled more than laughing now but his eyes still crinkled at the corners when he found something funny. He still sat across the single sofa with a book in his hand and a glass of milk or juice with a bendy straw in nearby. He still liked to eat curly fries that John, now reinstated with a warning and a hefty fine, brought over and fought for with Stiles.

He still went with Scott to walk Scott’s three dogs and bantered with Peter whenever he came over with those ridiculous priced goodie baskets, Chris in tow and looking both hardcore and a softie. He still sniffed the chocolate cake Talia would bring over and would wipe some of the icing and his lips would taste like chocolate when he would kiss Derek lightly on his lips later, and it always felt like a miracle, a real miracle to still have him, to hold him still and to be able to love him forever.