There was a brief knock at his door. “Uh, Stiles?”
“There’s something on the back porch. I’m pretty sure it’s for you.”
“What do you mean, ‘pretty sure’? Wouldn’t you know? What is it?”
“Stiles!” His dad took a deep breath. “Just go look, okay?”
“I’m going, I’m going.” He hustles down the stairs and through the kitchen. He’s starting to get a bad feeling about this.
Throwing open the back door he finds—a dog? He leans out of the doorway, trying to see better. It’s really dark, but he’s pretty sure it’s actually a wolf. In fact, it’s a kind of familiar-looking black wolf. “Derek?” he said tentatively. “Is that you? If it’s not, I’m gonna feel really stupid standing in my back yard talking to an animal.”
Through his little monologue wolf just sits there, head cocked to the side. It gives no indication whether it is Derek or not. Stiles is pretty sure the universe is mocking him.
“You’re probably just a stray. Some wolf-hybrid, maybe?” he mumbled, scratching the back of his head. “Um, do you want to come in?” he asked, stepping back in invitation. The wolf seems to ponder that, staring intently at Stiles’ face. Then it stands and pads quietly past him into the house.
“Is that one of your friends?” said his dad, seeing the wolf in the kitchen.
“Honestly, I have no idea. Guess we’re gonna find out.” He heads back up to his room, the wolf trailing close behind him. “Look,” he said, flopping down on the bed, “I don’t know if you really are Derek, but if you are…I’m glad you’re back. We could use another ally around here.”
The wolf just looks at him for a moment, then curls up on the carpet, resting its head on its paws. It looks very comfortable.
Stiles pushes the pushes the pillows on his bed around, trying to get comfortable himself. “Well, you’re obviously sticking around, so I’m going to do my math homework. Something a nice, normal teenager would do. It’ll be a novelty. I’ll let you out before I go to bed, okay?” He tries not to listen for a response, but he does anyway.
A few hours later, as he watches the black wolf bound off into the night, Stiles begins to regret his decision. So much for hoping it was a friend.
But at the very least, a wolf showing up is a good excuse to try talking to Scott again. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Checking the door is locked, he climbs up the stairs to bed. He can’t help peeking out the window, hoping for a glimpse of the wolf. No such luck. Oh, well. Might as well try to get a little sleep tonight.
The next morning he tries catching Scott’s attention, but his friend seems distracted and keeps checking his phone. He’s probably looking for Kira. Stiles ducks his head and shuffles away. He’ll tell Scott later.
He lets the day carry him along, and before he knows it, it’s time for lacrosse practice. It’s not going well. Because he’d been so distracted during the first play, Coach had him running laps around the field until he “stopped acting like Greenburg.” But that was okay; he wasn’t really up for playing anyway. Lately, it always seemed like he was on the verge of a panic attack, with anxiety threading its way through every part of his life. He felt like he was drowning. And he had no idea what to do about it.
It was at that moment he spotted a visitor: the wolf, sitting near the trees at the edge of the lacrosse field. Knowing Coach had probably given up on him and wasn’t paying any attention, Stiles jogged over.
He found himself reaching out, like he would to pet the neighbor’s dog. Shit. He jerked his hand back. But the wolf didn’t so much as twitch. It just sat there, looking calmly at Stiles.
“Hi,” he said, and stroked his hand quickly between the wolf’s ears. Throwing himself down on the grass, he said, “heard any exciting news? Figure out any of the crazy shit that went down while you were gone? Because let me tell you, it’s a doozy.” He laughs humorlessly.
“Oh, and I’m just gonna pretend you’re Derek,” he whispered conspiratorially, leaning up on one shoulder.
Ears pricked forward, the wolf comes closer and lays down in the grass next to Stiles, nose almost touching his hand.
“Is that an invitation? I feel like I’m gonna offend you. Can I— I want to— oh, fuck it.” He digs his fingers into the wolf’s thick coat, stroking along its back. The wolf’s only reaction is to wiggle closer, so Stiles figures it’s all right.
He’s still petting him when Scott walked up. “Did you get a pet?”
“Yeah, man. It’s my therapy dog. Helps me get through the day, you know.” He tries to smile at the joke, but he doesn’t quite manage it.
“Nah, he just showed up yesterday.”
“Oh. It looks like a wolf. Somebody we know?”
Stiles shrugs. “Don’t know. I thought it might be Derek, but…he hasn’t changed back.”
“Maybe he can’t,” Scott said. “Maybe it’s like what happened with Malia.”
Stiles tries not to flinch. His and Malia’s break-up looked like it would be permanent. He hoped Scott wouldn’t bring it up. “Can you tell by scent?”
Scott knelt down by the wolf, taking a deep breath.
“Smells like the forest,” Scott said. “It smells like a wolf. I could try using the Alpha roar, if you want. That might change him back.”
“No, it’s fine. Besides, if he is just someone’s lost pet, you’d probably give him a heart attack.”
Scott smiled, and Stiles took a moment to savor it, feeling his own mouth quirk in response. “We should probably head for the showers. Practice is over.”
The wolf trailed them across the field, and nearly to the school, but veered off when they headed for the locker room. Stiles watched him go, feeling a sense of déjà vu.
They took quick showers and made small talk, Scott good-naturedly ribbing him about spending most of practice running laps. Stiles felt a burst of warmth in his chest when Scott laughed, even if was at his own expense. They walked to the parking lot together, and found the wolf waiting patiently next to Stiles’ jeep.
Scott grinned. “Guess you’re his ride home.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” He pulled open the passenger door, and waved at the seat in a dramatic fashion. “Well?” The wolf looked at him disdainfully, but jumped in anyway. “I’m heading home. See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you.” Scott waved good-bye as they drove out.
Pushing his book away, Stiles buried his face in the sheets. He just couldn’t focus. He kept startling at little noises, and he kept seeing movement at the corner of his eye. Whenever he gave in and looked, there was nothing there. It was putting him on edge, and making it very hard to concentrate on Economics.
Suddenly the bed bounced, and he felt a warm weight settle against his side. “Thanks,” he mumbled. Rolling carefully onto his side, he found the wolf looking at him expectantly. “Yeah, I’m obviously not dealing with things very well. But I don’t know what to do.” He ran his fingers along the wolf’s back. “I know I should talk to someone, but I don’t really want to. I’m afraid if I do I’ll have to relive the whole thing, and trust me, I’d love to never live through that again.”
The wolf nudges Stiles in the side with his nose, and leans more heavily against him. It’s strangely comforting. “Yeah, you’re right,” he sighed. “I should probably talk about it.”
Every night, Stiles would tell the wolf about the Dread Doctors, and all the horror and suffering they brought. He left nothing out. He would talk until it hurt too much, until his throat ached and it was hard to breathe. Then he’d pick up where he left off the next night. During the worst parts, the wolf would rest his head on Stiles’ belly, letting him scratch his ears while his voice trembled and tears slid down his face.
It took him more than two weeks to get it all out. By the end of it he wasn’t sure he felt better, but he felt like he could eventually move beyond what happened.
And through it all, the wolf was there, silent and steadfast. He stayed near Stiles, both at school and at home. And he always listened.
Sometimes Stiles would wake from a nightmare to find the wolf softly growling, gently gripping his wrist with his teeth.
Once, when Stiles couldn’t sleep, the wolf had dragged him out of bed and out the house. They’d walked up and down the neighborhood streets while the wolf kept watch and Stiles whispered his fears into the darkness.
“I just— I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m getting better, but I’m still freaking out my dad. I guess I hug him too often? He thinks I’m dying or something.” He rubs his hands through his hair. “I just want that contact, you know? I want to know that we’re okay. And things still don’t feel right with everyone and I—” Stiles’ voice cracks. He squeezes his eyes shut, trying to hold back tears.
“It’s okay, Stiles. I’ll hug you.”
Stiles’ eyes fly open to find Derek leaning against his dresser, wearing a pair of sweatpants. “Oh my god. It really is you.” He covers his face with his hands. “Oh my god, I told you everything.” He can feel his heart pounding, and his breathing is too fast.
“Stiles?” He feels a soft touch at his shoulder. “Stiles?” Then he is being pulled against Derek’s chest, and warm hands run soothingly up and down his back.
Stiles sniffles and leans against Derek. “Are you wearing one of my shirts?”
“Um, yeah. I figured this would be awkward enough without one of us being naked.”
“That’s a fair point,” Stiles said. He tries to laugh, but it comes out as a sob instead.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Derek said softly.
“I…I told you everything, and I don’t want you to hate me,” he chokes out.
“Stiles, you did what you had to. You survived. That’s what matters.” Derek squeezes him tight. “I don’t hate you. I could never hate you.” He cards his fingers through Stiles’ hair. “I hope you don’t think your friends hate you. They’re worried about you, you know.”
“What? They’re not,” he said with conviction.
“When I—Stiles, you’re shaking. Come on, sit down.” He nudges Stiles toward the bed, and arranges him until he’s propped up against the headboard. Derek joins him there, sitting close enough that his shoulder brushes against Stiles.
It doesn’t take long before Stiles is turning toward him, burying his face against Derek’s neck. He winds his arms around Derek’s waist and wiggles his feet until they’re tucked under his thighs. It’s very cozy.
“As I was saying,” Derek continues, clearing his throat. “I checked on everyone that first night I was back. And they were all going through different things, they had their own issues, but they were coping. They were recovering. But I wasn’t sure you were. So I stuck around, and I watched you. And you seemed…lost.”
“What do you mean? I was fine when I was at school,” Stiles protests.
“You weren’t. You would see your friends, but you always looked away before you could see them smile at you. You’d walk away and never hear them calling your name. They were afraid they were making things worse, so they let you be, and waited for some kind of signal from you.” Derek shrugs. “But it never came.”
Stiles peeks up at Derek’s face, and the kind concern he sees there makes his heart clench. He’s pretty sure Derek is telling him the truth.
“And I felt like you needed something, but maybe not someone,” Derek said. “So I stayed as a wolf, hoping I’d be able to help you somehow. When you started telling me what happened, I knew it was important. I knew that you had things you needed to say, things you needed to forgive yourself for. So I did what I could. I listened.”
Stiles nodded. “So Scott knew it was you that day at lacrosse practice?”
“Yeah. He knew I was trying to help. I think he was just surprised I’d stayed a wolf,” Derek said.
“He probably was. I’m glad you came back,” Stiles murmured into his neck.
“Yeah,” Derek said, laying his cheek against the top of Stiles’ head, “so am I.”
Stiles wakes the next morning feeling just a little bit lighter. Next to him wolf-Derek is sprawled out on the bed, his head on the pillow. Thankfully he isn’t drooling. He pats the wolf’s shoulder, and rolls out of bed. “Hey, I’m gonna leave in a few.” The wolf doesn’t so much as twitch, so Stiles shrugs and pulls on some jeans.
You really need to talk to your friends, Derek had said last night, whenever you’re ready. So he seeks Scott out as soon as he parks Roscoe. He spots him leaning against his car, fiddling with his phone. Walking up, he makes a conscious effort to keep his shoulders straight and not evade eye contact.
He is immediately rewarded when Scott looks up and gives him a sunny smile. He grabs Stiles by the back of the neck and pulls him into a tight hug. “It’s good to see you,” he said, squeezing his shoulder before letting him go.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, ducking his head. He looks up again. “I’m trying, you know?”
Scott nods. “So Derek is helping, then?”
“As much as he can,” Stiles said. He gives Scott a quick punch in the arm. “You could have told me it was him, though.”
“Ow, dude! He had a plan, okay? He said if I messed it up he’d—”
“Rip your throat out with his teeth?” Stiles interrupted. “Yeah, that’s a favorite of his.” He rolled his eyes.
“I knew he didn’t really mean it. He seems different now. I think he’s trying to do better this time, you know? Besides, you wouldn’t talk to me, or anyone really, so I hoped he would have better luck.” Scott looks sad for a moment, then brightens. “Because of this, I’ve decided to have regular pack meetings, so nobody ends up feeling so alone. We can all look out for each other, support each other.”
Stiles nods. “I’d be good to be pack in more than name. And I’d be nice to just relax and have fun together, instead of perpetually fighting the forces of evil.”
Scott laughs. “I’m glad you agree. So I’ll see you and Derek at my house on Wednesday for pack night. We’ll watch movies and eat popcorn and you can complain about whatever movie we pick,” Scott said sweetly.
“Um, okay. Do you really think Derek will go?”
“If you ask him,” Scott said knowingly, “he’ll definitely come to pack night.”
He found Derek stretched out on his belly on the bed, reading one of Stiles’ paperbacks. He stuck a bookmark in it when Stiles flopped down on the bed next to him. “What’s up?” he asked, lifting an arm and tucking Stiles under it, pulling him closer.
“I talked to Malia today. She’s heading out of town for a while. She’s got some stuff to deal with.” He rubs his forehead. “And she doesn’t think Scott has forgiven her for killing her mother. He has, though. I think it’s just going to take some time before they both believe it.” He huffs out a sigh. “I’ll miss her.”
“Sounds like you miss her right now."
“I guess I do. We were friends, you know? And now we barely speak to each other.”
“I’m sorry, Stiles,” Derek said, leaning his head against his shoulder. “Maybe you can try again when she comes back.”
“If she comes back. But honestly, it’s over. She doesn’t need me anymore.”
“She’ll come back,” Derek said with certainty. “She still cares about you. You’ll be friends again, just wait and see.”
Stiles just hummed noncommittally. “In other news, we’re having pack night in a few days.” He prods Derek in the side. “You’re invited.”
“Yeah, we’re all gonna howl at the moon together. It’s gonna be great.” Stiles said. Derek gives him a sour look. “Just kidding. We’ll hang out and eat food and watch movies, get in some quality bonding time.”
“Sounds like a good idea.” Derek nods. “I’m in.” Sitting up, he pokes Stiles in the belly. “I can hear your stomach rumbling. Come on, let’s go get some food. My treat.”
“Derek,” Stiles said a few nights later, “you realize the entire pack thinks we’re dating, right?” He begins to pace across his bedroom.
“Oh?” he said, sounding very innocent. “Why is that?” He sits on Stiles’ bed and kicks off his shoes.
“You cuddled with me all of pack night!”
“It was a small couch. I wanted to be comfortable. Besides, we always cuddle here,” Derek said reasonably.
“That’s not the point!” Stiles barreled on. “You’ve picked me up from school every day this week!”
“Your jeep is in the shop. Again.”
“Anyway. You keep taking me out to eat. At my favorite restaurants!” He was really getting worked up now.
“Maybe I just like good food?”
“No, definitely not. And just yesterday, as we were leaving Scott’s house, Lydia told me we were adorable. Do I look adorable to you?” Stiles yelled, scandalized.
“Yes?” Derek said, giving him a tiny smile. “Is it such a bad thing that people think we’re together?”
Stiles stops in his tracks. “That’s not what I meant. Like, you’re a catch for sure. I just meant that it’s not actually true.”
“Would you like it to be?”
“I, um, are you asking me what I think you’re asking me? Because if you are,” he steps closer, “the answer is definitely yes.”
“Good,” Derek said, putting his hands on Stiles’ hips. He tilts his head up in obvious invitation.
“Yeah, good,” Stiles said distractedly, sweeping his thumb across the stubble on Derek’s jaw. He leans down and presses his lips to Derek’s, reveling in how it feels. He sinks his fingers in to Derek’s hair, deepening the kiss as he feels Derek pulling him closer.
When they break apart, panting, Derek gives him a mischievous grin and scoots back on the bed. Then he pulls stiles forward, right into his lap. “I think,” Stiles said, kissing him again, “that we should keep doing this. You should be my werewolf boyfriend.”
Derek laughs. “For once, your plan doesn’t suck.”