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Stiles: You up?
Derek: It’s two in the fucking morning. Of course I wasn’t up.
Stiles: Sorry. Go back to sleep.
Derek: No, I’m good. You obviously needed something, what is it?
Stiles: Had another nightmare.
Derek: Again? That’s the third time in as many days.
Stiles: Sleep is not my friend.
Derek: Do you need me to come over?
Derek: I can be there in ten.
Stiles: It’s not that big a deal.
Derek: Of course it is. I’m on my way.
Stiles: I didn’t mean to tear you from your nice warm bed.
Derek: It’s fine.
Stiles: Really, Derek, just stay home.
Stiles: Derek?
Stiles: I mean it. I’ll feel guilty if you show up here.

He heard the buzzing before he heard the sound of his window sliding up on well-oiled hinges. Deflating, he watched Derek pull his phone from his pocket and smirk at the message that clearly arrived a little too late.

“Guilt is my wheelhouse, not yours. I’m here because I want to be.” He leaned against the wall beside the window, crossing his arms over his chest as his eyes roamed over Stiles’ face and body, looking for any signs of physical ailments.

“I have no idea why,” Stiles started, but Derek cut him off.

“You’re pack. You’re more important than anything,” he said firmly, and Stiles’ eyes widened. “Tell me about the nightmare.”

Stiles flopped back against his headboard and sighed, his eyes staring somewhere ahead of him, unfocused as he looked inward. “I watched Scott bleed out. It was after I, I mean, Nogitsune-me, twisted that sword in him, and he just kept bleeding. Even after I pulled the sword out, he didn’t heal. He was lying there in a lake of blood and it kept getting bigger, and he wasn’t getting better, or stronger. And then I was real-me again, trying to stop the blood flow, and he died.” Tears sprang to his eyes and his throat clogged.

Derek didn’t say anything, but he did push off from the wall and sink down onto Stiles’ bed beside him. He remained quiet when Stiles sniffed hard in an effort to clear his throat, waiting patiently for the younger man to get himself under control. When Stiles settled in against Derek the wolf stiffened, but leaned back into the headboard and allowed him to stay curled into his shoulder.

“I never wanted to hurt anyone,” Stiles mumbled.

“You think we didn’t know that?” Derek asked, frowning. “You think any of us actually believed you were in control of that thing?”

“Well, no.” Stiles shuddered and the motion jarred Derek’s shoulder, but he didn’t complain. “But it doesn’t matter if you believed I was in control or not. It was my body that did those things, Derek. I’m the reason our friends are dead.”

Derek was quiet for so long that Stiles glanced up at him, wondering if he’d bored the other man to sleep. Instead, he found his friend focusing inward at his own thoughts, his eyes shimmering with pain. “I know something about being an unwilling accomplice,” he said finally, his voice hollow. “I still remember how it felt to have my claws in Boyd’s chest and to watch the life drain from his eyes.”

The reminder of how the beta had died made Stiles wince, and instinctively he threw an arm around Derek’s waist and squeezed. “You didn’t do that. It was the alphas, Derek. You had no control over what was happening.”

“How is it that you can absolve me of my role in Boyd’s death, but you still believe you’re somehow to blame for what the Nogitsune did while it was controlling you?” Derek asked, his voice uncharacteristically gentle. “You were a ride-along with no power, Stiles. Allison, Aiden, Scott, none of that was you.”

“I know,” Stiles sighed. “I know, but it doesn’t matter.”

“Just like I know that what happened to my family wasn’t my fault,” Derek admitted, his voice catching. “I know Kate Argent was a sadistic psychopath. It doesn’t matter, because I’ll always feel responsible for bringing her into our lives.” Stiles let out a huff of laughter, half-choking on it, and Derek scowled down at him. “Really, Stiles? You think that’s funny?”

He shook his head, the top of it bumping into Derek’s chin. “No, that’s not it. I just realized this is the most you’ve ever said to me without threatening, or actually performing, some act of violence on me. This is the first time you’ve actually let me see that you have a heart underneath all the eyebrows and scowls and grumpiness.”

Derek scoffed. “I’ve always had a heart.”

“But you never let anyone see it,” Stiles countered bluntly, pulling away and staring challengingly at Derek. “You do things that show people you care about them, but you’d die before you actually said it.”

Derek shifted uncomfortably and his chin dropped along with his gaze. Stiles realized his arm was still around Derek’s waist and the wolf was looking right at where the pale limb wrapped over him. He almost pulled away self-consciously, but he realized Derek hadn’t said or done anything to indicate he was actually displeased by it, so he decided to leave his arm where it was and let the scene play out.

“I’m not expressive,” Derek admitted, and Stiles snorted.

“Gee, ya think?” he cracked, grinning up into Derek’s scowl.

“I’ve never been good at saying how I felt, even… before. I stopped trying afterward. It didn’t matter, there was no one to tell.”

Stiles would be lying if he said his heart wasn’t feeling a little bruised after that. “There are people now, Derek. You have a pack now.”

“I protect you guys. That’s my way of telling you I… That I care.”

Laughing, Stiles poked Derek in the ribs. “You were totally going to drop the ‘L’ word, weren’t you, you big mushball?” he teased. Derek stared at him, eyebrows drawn together in that, “he might be plotting my death, or maybe just trying to remember a recipe” kind of frown. “It’s okay, big guy. I know you love me.” He flashed a cheeky grin and wink at the wolf.

“I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t.”

Stiles stared at him in shock, wondering what, exactly, Derek had just admitted to. Wondering how Derek meant that admission. “So does that mean…?”

Derek shifted, pulling Stiles down with him until they were prone on the bed. “That means you should get some sleep, if you can. It’s quarter to three and you have school in the morning.”

“Sure, deflect. You emotionally-detached types can’t deal with getting feelings all over you,” Stiles countered, smirking, but his body betrayed him with a large, long yawn. “Okay, yeah, sleep would be good.” Closing his eyes, Stiles realized he felt more relaxed than he had in months. That could probably be attributed to the warmth of the wolf currently wrapped around him. “Derek?”

“What?”

“Are you going to stay?”

He could feel the curve of Derek’s lips against his temple. “Yeah, Stiles. I’m going to stay.”

The last remaining bit of tension eased from his body and he snuggled deeper into Derek’s arms, feeling himself being pulled under, into a blissful unconsciousness.