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It’s a bit of a dull beginning, if he’s honest.

Derek goes to a party, a dumb house party hosted by some guy he doesn’t even know, and he gets drunk on vodka and beer and mixes drinks exactly like how his college buddies had told him not to. He gets drunk on drinks that are more alcohol than mixer and he doesn’t even know why he does it.

He gets wasted.

There’s photos online the next day, and he looks over them with coffee in hand and he nearly drops the mug over his laptop. It’s undeniable; there’s photographic evidence right in front of his face.

There’s this one picture. It’s not even of him; it’s of some couple that he couldn’t care less about. He’s just in the background. He’s fixing something, a vase falling down from a shelf, maybe, he doesn’t know. All he can see is that his shirt has ridden up and anyone can see his stomach.

He’s got fat, and he can’t believe he didn’t know it sooner.

He reports the photo for inappropriate content, and then shuts down his laptop.

Derek runs to the bathroom and all the alcohol that’s still in his system from last night comes straight back up into the toilet bowl, leaving his throat stinging and tears running down his eyes.

The internet is a fantastic resource for finding out the best diet plan for his lifestyle; what works and what doesn’t, what’s the fastest way to lose body weight. He takes a bin bag, and takes out all the junk food from his kitchen – chocolate, crisps, instant noodles, sugary cereal. Anything too fatty goes too. The bag is tied shut – double knotted – and thrown outside for good measure. He doesn’t regret it.

He walks to the grocery store, the twenty minute walk taking only ten because of the nervous energy coursing his veins. He buys vegetables, but not fruit because of how much sugar’s in them, and picks up basic proteins to get him through the day. Tuna, salmon, chicken – no red meats, too much cholesterol – and that’s it. He walks home at the same pace he got here with, aggressively noticing how the weight of the grocery bags is killing his shoulders.

 

The first week is hell. Derek’s hungry all the time and still feels like he’s fat, he’s now just fat and angry. It isn’t fun. He allows himself the luxury of a chocolate bar, and then regrets it the minute it’s in his stomach; feeling the way the sugar coats itself to his stomach and the fat sticking to his ribs. He looks at the purple wrapper in his hand, hating the way it mocks him. He catches a glimpse of the nutritional value and he darts to the bathroom, shoving two fingers down his throat violently and throwing up into the toilet. He sees the chocolate and the half-digested remains of the meals he’d eaten that day, and he wants to throw up all over again. He flushes the toilet, washes out his mouth and cleans his hands, and he goes to his bedroom to tug on his workout clothes. He goes for a run that night, at nine thirty pm when it’s dark and nobody can see how fat he is, and feels like he’s dying after twenty minutes, but plunders on for another ten minutes before he goes home and passes out on the sofa. That’s how it begins.

He wakes up the morning after the Incident, looking as shitty as he feels. He downs a glass of water and goes out for another run, managing twenty minutes before coming home and getting straight into the shower. He lets the hot water soothe him for a bit, feeling okay with the scent of his citrus shower gel and the steam curling up towards the ceiling, before becoming disgusted by what his own body looked like. He feels his blood run cold and gets out of the shower quickly, wrapping a towel around his waist and carefully avoiding the mirror as he brushes his teeth. He brushes and brushes but still can’t get the taste of bile out of his mouth from last night. He resorts to mouthwash and gets ready in his bedroom. He wears all black, because black is slimming; that’s what his sister used to say when going out. He turns away, goes to the kitchen and prepares coffee in his cafetiere. He doesn’t add sugar and milk like he used to, instead just decanting it into a mug. He downs the hot liquid and likes the way it burns his throat.

Lunch is difficult. His co-workers are going to a restaurant a few blocks down for dinner. Derek wants to go because this is a new job and he needs to make friends here but he can’t go because there’ll be food there and he won’t be able to make up a valid excuse when everyone else is eating and they’re obviously there for lunch and he doesn’t need any more food in his system. Instead, he smiles at his co-worker and tells him that he’s already eaten lunch and has a ton of work to do, and his co-worker leaves, smiling too, and Derek counts this as a win.

 

A week later, he is eating his dinner. It’s carrots and spinach and half of a chicken breast and he wolfs it down at a ridiculous pace. He’s hungry. He hasn’t eaten in three days, so he blindly cooks, not really thinking about what he’s doing, until he’s finished the plate. Of course he regrets it. He regrets it the second his fork touches his lips. He washes his dishes furiously and bleaches the countertops to get the smell of food out of the kitchen. It doesn’t go away. He balls his fists and punches a wall and glares at his now bleeding knuckles. It’s too much, so he grabs his running gear and sets off jogging for forty minutes until his legs feel like jelly and his hands are shaking with the cold. He throws up onto the sidewalk, his body not used to a huge amount of food and then intensive exercise immediately afterwards. It’s by his apartment building. He goes back inside, grabs his washing up bowl, fills it with water, and shamefully rinses the pavement of his mistakes.

 

Scott invites him to his house a fortnight later for ‘Pack Pizza Party’ as he so eloquently puts it, and Derek’s missed at least three group gatherings this last month so he feels obliged to go. He jogs over to Scott’s instead of taking the car, and turns up half an hour late.

“Hey, Derek!” Scott smiles as he opens the door. Derek smiles too, even though his heart is pounding erratically.

“Hi.” He says breathlessly as he enters the house, only to see the living room taken over by teenagers. Malia and Kira are arguing on the sofa about something to do with politics, Derek thinks. Erica and Boyd are squeezed onto the armchair and Erica is stretching her hands down to Alison, who is on the floor with her legs folded underneath her in a pretzel shape, holding Erica’s hand and painting her nails with a silver polish. Lydia perches on the footstool and is evidently the only one interested in the movie that’s currently on screen – some kind of period drama – and she has Stiles on the floor in front of her, and she’s trying to plait Stiles’ hair without much success. Malia and Kira are texting each other from across the room, Jackson is asleep, and Isaac sits next to an empty seat which obviously was Scott’s. They all look so comfortable and happy and Derek feels out of place immediately.

“We already ordered pizza and it should turn up soon.” Scott says as he walks by Derek, headed to the kitchen. “Thought you were a pepperoni kind of guy, but you’re more than welcome to swap.”

Derek follows Scott awkwardly. “Thanks, man.”

Scott looks at Derek strangely for a second, as if he’s going to ask something, and Derek’s heartbeat speeds up even though he’s fine and he has nothing to hide. Then Scott shakes his head and turns back to the fridge. “Do you want a drink?”

“Yeah, water’s fine.” Derek stands for a few more awkward seconds whilst Scott grabs a bottle of water from the fridge, and as soon as he does Derek snatches it and leaves quickly to the living room.

“Hey, Derek.” Alison says softly, the others just grunting their greetings. Derek takes a seat on the only free armchair and curls his ankles up underneath him. He leans his head against the back of the chair and closes his eyes and tries to ignore the pounding headache that is currently taking over his brain. He knows it’s because he ran in the cold but it also helps him forget about his stomach cramping from being empty for so long.

The doorbell rings not long after he sits down, and it’s the pizza delivery. A large box is shoved in front of him, and he panics. He can’t eat pizza. Pizza is greasy and fattening and yet here he is with this thing in front of him. He stalls as much as possible, and discretely scans the room. Malia, Scott, Kira and Boyd have devoured half of theirs already in true teenager fashion. The others eat slower, yet still getting through the pizza. They’re all fixated on the movie – a superhero one now; Erica changed it over earlier. Derek figures he can get away with not eating until someone realises.

They don’t realise, and when three empty pizza boxes are tossed in the corner of the room, his pizza box goes into the pile too. He excuses himself to the bathroom, and tries to breathe like a regular human being. He can’t get the sickening smell of dough and tomatoes and cheese out of his nose and he nearly throws up on that alone, but his twisting stomach stays where it is and he’s okay to go back out there. He grabs his second bottle of water on the way back and curls up back into the armchair. Stiles is the only one who looks up, and he gives Derek a strange look; one of a raised eyebrow and a frown. Derek raises both of his eyebrows in indignation, and Stiles shrugs, and looks away again.

He’s won tonight’s dinner, and he runs home in mock celebration. He doesn’t feel any better about himself.

 

It’s nearly a month later and Derek has dropped twenty five pounds. He doesn’t know how he did it, it’s just what the electronic scales say in his bathroom. He then realises he can’t trust the electronic ones – too much room for technical malfunction – and orders a mechanical set online.

He can’t see that he’s lost twenty five pounds. If anything, the mirror suggests he’s put it on. He grimaces at himself and goes to the kitchen to make himself another coffee. That’s the third one this morning; it’s eight am and he slept for about half an hour last night. At four in the morning he tried to go for a run to wear him down a bit, but that only got his knees feeling shaky and his adrenaline pumping through his veins. He downs the poorly-brewed coffee, grabs his water bottle and shoves it in his messenger bag along with the paperwork he needs for today, and heads downstairs to his car.

The drive to work has been something he’s always enjoyed. There’s this one stretch of road that crosses a perpendicular road underneath and he can see the horizon if he looks at the right moment. He thinks maybe that’s his favourite part of the day. Today it’s dark and cloudy and Derek considers it a bad omen.

He gets to work fifteen minutes early like usual, and heads to the small office kitchen to fix himself another coffee. On his way out, he sees his boss standing by his cubicle. His heart drops to his shoes, trying to work out what he’s done wrong.

“Sir, good morning.” He says softly, setting the mug down onto the coaster (Erica bought it for his birthday one year; it featured a bad pun and a picture of a kitten, so he was happy about it) and smiles at the man in front of him.

“Mr Hale, can you follow me to my office? I need to talk to you for a minute.”

Derek nods and gulps and tries to regulate his breathing as he follows his boss into the office. It’s bleak and grey and there are two leather office chairs that are cracked on the edges. Derek takes a seat in one and so does his boss. He can’t help but feel like he’s a kid being sent to the headteacher’s office for doing something wrong.

“So Derek, I’ve noticed you’re a little… distracted lately.” The boss begins. He’s mid-forties, slim, tall and greying, but he’s cheerful and logical and Derek likes him.

“Distracted?”

“You’re not as focused as you used to be. Don’t get me wrong,” he holds up his hands in honesty at this point, “you’re still a fantastic employee. Better than a lot of the people working here. It’s just worrying us.”

Derek doesn’t say anything but he looks at his hands shamefully. He lets his boss continue. “You’ve dropped weight, you’re paler, and you look tired all the time. Helen says she sees you getting coffee at least six times a day.”

“I’m… it’s just…” Derek has to think of an answer. He cannot let this, whatever this is, affect his job. “I’m not sleeping as well as I used to. There’s this… there’s a young kid who’s moved in the apartment above mine. They hold these stupid parties up until god knows when.”

His boss purses his lips and stares him down. “Have you mentioned this to the landlord?”

Derek blanches slightly. His lie is working. “Yeah, he didn’t take any notice. It’s alright, though, the kid will probably break something soon enough and get kicked out. It’s going to be better. I’ll be better; I’ll try and get some early nights and do some overtime to make up for-”

His hands are shaking and he sits on them to keep them still.

“Derek. I said already you work harder than most people here. You’re one of our most valued employees. I’m concerned about your health and wellbeing more than you doing some paperwork for me.” His boss says sincerely. Derek cannot dispute that his boss is pretty great. “I realise you’re under a lot of stress here as well.”

“It’s okay, sir, honestly. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.” Derek says, forcing a wide smile that his boss returns.

“Okay, Derek. If that’s what you say.” His boss bites his lip, and shuts his eyes in concentration, thinking of how to say what he’s planning. “If there is something more than a noisy neighbour, I need you to know that I’m here to talk if you need. If you feel uncomfortable talking to me, we have an excellent team of people who can help you.”

“Thank you.” Derek is rushing out of his seat before his boss can say anything more, and into the bathrooms to puke up his nerves. This is getting bad.

 

Fast forward to three weeks later, a further twelve pounds lost, and a doctor’s appointment. He’s sitting in the waiting room, waiting to get his routine annual check-up. The doctor calls his name. He goes in, makes idle chit-chat about the weather. The doctor checks his blood pressure (normal), his temperature (normal) and his heartrate (normal). He’s asked if he smokes (never), drinks (occasionally), and about his sex life (pretty much non-existent at this point) and then he’s told to step on the scales. He does. He doesn’t look at the number.

“So, Mr Hale. Everything seems to be alright, except you’re a little bit underweight.” The doctor says as she types something out rapidly on her keyboard. “You should keep an eye on that.”

He nods, and goes for a celebratory hour-long run. He passes out on the doormat just inside his apartment when he’s done.

 

The Sunday afterwards, he’s succumbed to a nasty cold taking over his body. The sofa is his solace today; wrapped up in a big blanket and some shitty eighties movie on the television. He’s in his favourite sweater that’s three sizes too big on purpose, some old running leggings and three pairs of socks. He’s still cold, so he throws on a beanie and turns the heating up a bit. Today he’s sticking to green tea, after reading the wonders it can do for metabolism, and figures that’s a good enough excuse to drink gallons of the stuff.

A knock on the door disrupts his aspirin-induced haze, and he grumbles as he goes to the door.

It’s Isaac Lahey.

“What do you want?” Derek asks grumpily, letting the teenager in and shutting the door behind him.

“You look like shit.” Isaac comments.

“That’s a surprise.” Derek says sarcastically, heading back to his warm spot on the sofa.

“Are you sick?” Isaac pesters as he follows. Derek just gives him a withering look in response. “Well, then. I came over to ask about Scott’s birthday, but if you’re sick, then I’ll leave you in peace.”

“It’s alright, Isaac.” Derek mumbles, muting the television and crossing his legs underneath him.

“Derek, are you sure you’re alright? This looks like more than a cold.”

“Well, it’s not. I went to the doctor’s for a check-up and some child must have sneezed on me.”

Isaac slumps down in the seat next to Derek, leaning his elbows on his knees calmly. “When was the last time you slept?” He asks, equally calmly, but Derek starts to shake.

“Why?”

“Derek.”

Derek bites his lip anxiously. “I got a few hours on Thursday. I’ve just been up all night coughing. Then I’m too hot, then too cold…”

This is a lie. He can’t sleep because his mind won’t shut off, leaving him with painful memories and angry self-hatred. He can’t sleep because he’s too hungry to concentrate on anything else. He only sleeps when he blacks out.

“I’ve got some sleeping tablets.” Isaac says, reaching into his backpack and fishing out a plastic bottle. “I get panic attacks which make it difficult to sleep sometimes, so one of these usually knocks me out for about eight hours. Why don’t you try them?”

Derek does. They must have an effect when used with painkillers, because he sleeps for twelve hours straight. The first thing he wakes up to is a hand pressed to his forehead. He furrows his brow and looks up to see who it is. It’s Stiles.

“What the fuck?” He mumbles, and the teenager only laughs.

“Morning. You’re real sick, for sure.” He says sharply.

“What day is it?”

“Monday, you asswipe.”

“Shouldn’t you be at school?”

“National holiday. You’re off work too.” Stiles grabs a pillow and helps Derek sit up properly. Derek looks the teenager up and down. His body language is all wrong; his arms are folded across his chest and he’s standing too stiffly. He’s pissed as hell.

“What did I do?” He asks timidly once he sees how frustrated the boy seems to be.

“Sleeping pills, Derek?” He shakes the pill bottle angrily. “Do you know how dangerous these things are?”

“Isaac said-”

“I don’t give a shit what Isaac says! These are dangerous, and you’re here using them with painkillers, for Christ’s sake. Not to mention you’re sick and skinnier than usual, so it’s a fucking miracle you’re perfectly alright.”

Stiles scrubs a hand through his hair. Derek stays silent. All his mind focuses on is ‘skinnier than usual’. Maybe that means he’s not that fat anymore. He mentally laughs at himself. Of course he’s still fat.

The teenager sighs, and Derek sheepishly looks up at his face. “You haven’t slept in ages, have you?”

“Not really. It’s difficult.” Derek admits. He doesn’t know why he’s telling the truth. Suddenly there’s warm hands on his jaw, tilting his head up slightly.

“The circles under your eyes are so dark they look like bruises. You’re not exactly subtle.”

Derek frowns and looks away. Stiles sighs again. “Get up. Get in the shower. Put some new clothes on.” Derek raises an eyebrow at the authoritative tone but there’s something in Stiles’ eyes that tells him not to argue, not now. He gets up, leaving his blanket on the sofa, and goes to the bathroom.

He brushes his teeth and washes his face, and then gets in the shower. The steam curling up to the vents is fantastic for decongestion, so he takes the longest shower he’s had in a while. Forty minutes later, he’s drying off with a towel. The mirrors are steamed up so he can’t see himself, but he steps on the new mechanical scales regardless. It reads one hundred and forty three. It’s a whole forty pounds less than when he started, but it’s still too much. His goal is to get to one thirty before the end of the month and he’s got two weeks to go. He can do this.

He wraps a towel around his waist and heads to his bedroom to get changed. He grabs boxers and sweats and a jumper and pulls them on, pulling the drawstrings tight on his waistband. He puts on two pairs of socks and tries to dry his hair a bit more with the towel, but ends up just slinging it into the laundry basket in defeat.

Stiles isn’t there when he goes to the living room, so he grabs his empty mug and fixes himself another tea. In the process, he hears his door unlock. There’s Stiles, struggling with three shopping bags and a key between his teeth.

“Stiles?” Derek rushes over to help, and with the sickening feeling in his stomach, he realises these groceries are for him.

“I tried to make you lunch, but there was fuck all in your fridge. So I got you some stuff.” Stiles explains, setting the bags on the counter and smiling slightly.

Derek grimaces at the fats and sugars and carbohydrates he puts in his fridge, but he’s quickly shooed out of his kitchen and into the living room. Stiles returns a minute later with two painkillers and his abandoned tea from earlier.

“Take these.” Stiles commands, but Derek catches his wrist before he can leave the living room again.

“What are you doing?” He asks, retracting his hand quickly when Stiles looks at it like it’s poisoned.

“Helping you.” Stiles says bluntly. “You’re sick.”

“Stiles.” Derek says, softer, because they both know this is out of the ordinary for them.

“Isaac called me, said he was worried. Said you weren’t exactly present when you were talking, you weren’t focused. Sent me over.” Stiles admits, sounding as nonchalant as his voice allows. “Now take your damn painkillers, shut up, and let me look after you.” The teenager leaves the room and Derek is stunned into silence.

Derek allows his eyes to flicker shut for a few minutes until he’s woken by Stiles hovering over him with a bowl.

“Hey. Watch out, it’s hot.” Stiles hands the bowl to Derek, who takes it in both hands and peers at the contents. It’s chicken noodle soup, and it looks homemade and not from a packet. Stiles shrugs and sits down next to him. He flicks on the television and settles in with his own bowl. Derek is stilled with shock. He doesn’t understand. How is he supposed to eat this and get rid of it without Stiles knowing? It’s got fat and carbohydrates and salt-

“Derek. It’s okay.” Stiles says quietly. Derek looks over at the teenager, notices how his own hands are shaking, and he can’t even blame it on the cold because his hands are burning. He’s embarrassed so he doesn’t say anything and eats the soup instead. He drinks most of the broth and eats a little of the chicken and leaves nearly all of the noodles. Stiles sighs when he takes the bowls out, but doesn’t say anything about it. He’s back in an instant, sitting close to Derek and letting the elder rest his head on Stiles’ shoulder.

“Thank you.” Derek says, his bunged-up nose making it sound less sincere than he means it to be.

“It’s alright, man. Anytime.”

Stiles ends up leaving at about nine in the evening, having helped Derek to bed and wrapped up the blankets around his chin. Derek falls asleep for an hour or so, and then wakes up because his mind is being too loud. He lets himself cry because he’s allowed to have a weak moment.

 

He completely gets over the cold by Thursday thanks to his decent immune system, and he’s lost three pounds due to his sickness. In reality he should be off work until the end of the week, but he’s marching into the office with a (false) smile on his face and a coffee in hand. He works way into overtime, getting home at about eight thirty, and he goes for a run instead of getting dinner. He’s proud of himself.

 

There’s a party on Saturday night. It’s Scott’s birthday and they go to a bar. Derek buys the first round. He forgets how low his alcohol tolerance, finding himself tipsy after just a few drinks (it’s vodka soda tonight, only sixty five calories for a double) and has to stop and move himself on to water.

There’s a girl.

Her name is Jenny or Jemma or something. He takes her home. She’s gorgeous, he knows. She’s got long brown hair and a brilliant smile and she’s everything Derek should want, and he does. It’s been so long that someone paid him an ounce of attention in this way and he presumes he doesn’t look as awful anymore.

Either that, or she has incredibly low standards.

He kisses her eagerly whilst she wraps her arms around his neck. It’s all teeth and tongue and there’s nothing sweet or gentle about it. He hoists her up and holds her, presses her back against his wall. His hands skim over toned thighs and she lets out this breathy moan thing that makes Derek dizzy. She laces her legs together behind Derek, he pulls back off of the wall, and he carries her to his bedroom. She sits back on the bed, and unzips the slim-fitting red dress she wore. She’s wearing this lace bra and it’s black and contrasts to her pale skin, and Derek should be turned on by that even more so than he already is at the very least but he catches sight of her ribcage pushing through skin, and her flat stomach, and sharp hipbones peeking out above the matching black lace of her panties. Derek lets her kiss him, and she pulls his shirt off too. She drags sharp, manicured fingernails down Derek’s back but this triggers Derek way too much because he knows all she can feel is his fat and he’s hurtling away from her like she’s burned him.

“You need to leave.” He says. He grabs his shirt from her and puts it on uneasily, fishing his wallet out of his back pocket and handing her a twenty. She stares at him indignantly, before grabbing her blouse and slipping it on again. “Take a taxi. I’m sorry.”

She curses at him, snatches the twenty and storms out of his apartment angrily, but he’s already locked himself into the bathroom and is throwing up as much as his body allows him. He’s so ashamed of himself. There’s black spots on his vision and he thinks about his friends at the bar. Then he remembers catching the look on Stiles’ face when Derek’d left with this girl.

He’s glad he’s already leaning over the toilet bowl, because remembering the crestfallen expression on the teenager’s face makes him throw up whatever’s left until he’s completely empty.

 

Derek goes MIA for a bit. He goes to work and he goes running but other than that he doesn’t leave the house. It’s the last day of the month, and he’s trembling as he steps on the scales.

He looks at the numbers after a minute. It reads one twenty nine. He’s done it. He doesn’t feel happiness. He’s disappointed it’s not lower. It could easily be lower if he’d tried harder. He catches a glimpse of his own body in the mirror, and although he’s covered up in a thick hoodie and jeans, he can see the fat on his body; his chubby cheeks and his double chin and his gross stomach and his fat thighs. Suddenly it’s too much for him; he’s filled with too much disgust at who he’s become, and he punches the mirror. Glass crashes across the floor and the sink and his hand bleeds like a motherfucker. He cleans the wound a bit, revelling in the way the cold water burned and stung the cut. He wraps it in bandage to stop the bleeding so he can sweep the bathroom. He’s disappointed in himself all over again.

He goes for a run, and runs as far away from his house as he dares, knowing full well he has to get back as well.

He crosses a road and trips on the curb. He’s suddenly dizzy, and his body falls to the pavement when he loses his balance. He blacks out, but he can vaguely hear someone shouting at him.

 

When he wakes up, he’s not on the pavement anymore. He’s in a hospital bed and the fluorescent lights are harsh against his eyes. He winces and moves, feels something tugging at his arm. It’s an IV, and there’s a heart rate monitor attached to one of his fingers.

“For God’s sake, Derek.” Stiles tuts, and Derek whips his head up to see the teary eyed teenager perching on an armchair.

“What happened?” His voice is rusty and sounds strange. It takes Stiles a second to answer.

“You… you were out running, and you tripped on the pavement. You fell down, and blacked out. Someone on the street saw you and called for an ambulance, then called me on your phone. Apparently, the lady who found you saw my twelve missed texts to you and figured I should be the best person to call.”

Derek tries to get an excuse out, but he has nothing.

“Do you want to know why you blacked out at three in the morning?” Stiles says with an accusatory tone. He gets up and edges towards Derek’s hospital bed.

“Don’t…”

“You’re fifty pounds underweight.” Stiles says. Derek does nothing. He can’t really understand why Stiles is mad at him. He isn’t underweight. He knows he isn’t. “Fifty fucking pounds, Derek! Do you know how serious this is?”

“I wasn’t trying to-” Derek tries, but he’s cut off again.

“Then what were you trying to do? Hmm?”

Derek looks at his hands, and they’re shaking. He’s not sure whether it’s from the nerves or the cold or the fact that he’s so hungry he could faint. “There was a picture of me. I looked fucking hideous, Stiles. I cut everything bad out of my diet. That’s it. It never meant to come to this.”

Stiles grabs his hands and steadies them, looking directly up at Derek. “You never were and you never have been obese. You were fit, and healthy, and there was nothing wrong at all. Now I’m looking at you and I’m terrified I’m going to break you. Do you get how fucked up that is? I got this call, Derek, and I was already pissed at you, but I answered it anyway, and some lady answered telling me you were bleeding on a pavement in the middle of the night. I was so fucking scared.”

“I’m sorry, Stiles. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He knows he hurt Stiles by going home with the girl. He just doesn’t understand why. It feels like he doesn’t understand a lot these days.

“Yeah, well, you did.” Stiles sniffs. “And the worst part about it, about this whole thing, is that none of us noticed.”

“It’s only a diet.”

“It’s a fucking death sentence, you moron.” Stiles protests, but his tone’s changed and he’s a lot warmer now. “I need you to answer some questions.”

Derek feels his heart pounding – hears it too, the heart monitor does nothing to conceal his nerves – but nods anyway. Stiles squeezes his hands, maybe for thanks, maybe for reassurance.

“When did it start?”

“About four months ago.”

Stiles bites his lip nervously, but carries on. “When… is there an end goal? A weight you want to stop at?” He keeps it in the present, because he knows Derek still thinks it’s going to carry on after the hospital. Stiles is going to do everything in his power to prevent that.

“I don’t know. Not really.”

“When was the last time you ate?” Stiles asks quietly. He keeps his eyes trained on Derek’s.

“Yesterday.”

“And kept it down.”

Derek has to stop, and really think about this. He doesn’t know. Mixed between the purging and the running and the restricting he can’t actually remember the last time he ate properly.

“I don’t know.” He says, his voice barely above a whisper. “I don’t know, Stiles.” His voice trembles and Stiles grabs onto his hands tighter.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay.” He says, licking his lips and continuing. “It’s alright. I’m sorry I’m asking for so much. It’s just difficult for me to sit here knowing nothing and therefore not knowing how to help you. I’m not trying to be mad at you, Derek. No one is.”

Derek has a reply. He’s going to say everything he can about how he gets it if people are mad. People get mad at him when things like hospitals happen. He wants to say about how they have every right to be mad at him. He opens his mouth to say these things, but the doctor rushes into the room, and his mouth snaps shut again. Stiles lets go of his hands and they start shaking again. Derek can’t help it.

“Hello, Mr Hale.” The doctor says cheerily, smiling at Derek and nodding to Stiles. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.” Derek says shortly. The doctor advances forward, taking readings from the heart rate monitor. She talks whilst she writes things down, and Derek’s impressed by her efficiency.

“I’m going to talk to you a bit about what’s going on and ask you a few questions, is it still alright to have this gentleman in the room with you?” She says, not looking up but nodding her head back at Stiles.

“I can go if you want, Derek.” Stiles says softly.

“No, it’s alright. Do what you want to do.”

Of course Stiles stays. Derek thinks it’s to make sure Derek doesn’t lie to the doctor. Stiles stays because he’s a nosy little fucker.

“You took a bit of a nasty fall this morning. You’ve got a couple of stitches on your forehead up here-” she gestures gently. Derek’s hardly even noticed. “- and you bruised your hip pretty bad. You’ve also managed to fracture one of your bones in your shoulder when you fell. They’ll both heal in a few weeks. The main issue here is your eating disorder.”

Derek can hear the heart rate monitor speed up when she says this. “I don’t have an eating disorder.”

Stiles rubs a hand across his face from the back of the room.

“Your BMI is currently at sixteen point one, Mr Hale. A healthy BMI is between eighteen point five and twenty five, you fall into the severely underweight category. Last time you had your weight checked at the doctor’s surgery you were at…” She looks at her clipboard and flips a page to read his medical records. “One hundred and eighty one pounds. This was six months ago.”

Derek remembers. He shredded his hand when he went flying off of Scott’s motorcycle. He had to get stitches in his palm and Scott bought him flowers to apologise.

“You’re at one hundred and twenty nine pounds now, Mr Hale. Can you tell me what you had to eat yesterday?”

“I didn’t. I didn’t have time.” He says mechanically. “I had a few coffees at work and I put milk and sugar in one of them.” A moment of weakness, really. This was at lunch. He thought he might pass out at his desk and he really didn’t have time for that.

“Okay, Mr Hale. Can you go through a normal day for you, then? What do you have in the morning before you leave for work?”

“Coffee.”

“Alright, and for lunch?”

“I don’t really have time for lunch. If it’s a bad day then I have some rice crackers. There’s a market near my office. I sometimes buy fruit from there. An apple, maybe.”

“And what about when you come home for dinner?” She asks, still jotting things down on her clipboard. Derek wishes he could read upside-down.

“I have some vegetables if I remember. I don’t… I don’t like eating in the evenings.” He doesn’t explain why. He doesn’t tell her how he can feel the weight of the food in his stomach and has to bleach the whole kitchen before bed if he cooks, because he can smell the oil and the grease and the fat all the way through the apartment.

“Do you exercise?”

“I run twice a day.”

“Okay, cardio’s good. The only issue here is that, Mr Hale, judging by the diet you just told me, you’re not getting more than four hundred calories a day, and running twice a day is going to put your calorie count in the negatives.”

Derek says nothing. That’s the point, they’re in the negatives. That’s where he wants them to be. He doesn’t look up.

“How often do you vomit after eating, Mr Hale?”

He keeps his head low. “Most times. Sometimes not on purpose. Sometimes it just happens.” Doesn’t want to see the disappointment on Stiles’ face.

“Okay, Mr Hale. I think the situation here is that you’re suffering from an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. This is a serious health issue, Mr Hale, but nothing that can’t be rectified. We’ll get you back up and healthy in no time.”

“I’m not anorexic.”

“Mr Hale, you’re dangerously underweight due to your nutrition. You’re exercising obsessively and from what I can tell by your body language, you don’t even think there’s an issue.”

He opens his mouth to contradict her, but he’s cut off instantly.

“You blacked out from running too hard. Can you imagine what would have happened if you had run in front of a car?”

“I would have been hit by the car.”

“Derek, don’t be an ass.” Stiles cuts in. Derek smirks slightly, despite it all.

“I’m going to suggest you stay in a rehabilitation centre for a month or two to get your diet back on track. I’ll recommend a few of the best in this area.” She begins to write on her papers again.

“No.” He protests loudly. “I can’t go to rehab, I don’t have the time. I’ll lose my job. I can’t go, you can’t make me.”

The doctor sighs, and crosses her legs. “No, Mr Hale, I can’t. All I can do is strongly recommend you use our outpatient programme, but if you don’t want to then I can’t force you to.”

“Good.”

“But I’m also not allowed to let you go without knowing you’re seeking professional help. If it’s not a rehabilitation centre, then you need to see a therapist. Again, I’ll recommend you the best provided by this health service, but if you wanted to go privately then you’ll have to consult your insurance.”

Derek looks at Stiles. Stiles nods gently, folding his arms across his chest. “I’ll sort it out, Doc, don’t worry.” She looks back at Stiles, and nods to Derek again.

“We’ll have to keep you here for a few more hours for observation and for you to fill out some forms concerning your recovery. I’ll leave you two for a bit.” Derek thanks her softly as she leaves, and Stiles scoots his chair as close as he can to Derek’s bed. Derek stares at him, stares at the mess of floppy brown hair on his head, the upturned nose and the moles spattered across his face. He looks at the sharp jawline and defined cheekbones and collarbones peeking out through the collar of the flannel shirt he’s wearing, and Derek feels like he’s been hit by a train.

“I need to go to the loo.” Derek says quietly, slipping his legs to the floor and detaching the IV connected to his cannula and disconnecting the heart monitor. Stiles stares at him with a concerned look on his face. Derek scowls. “Stiles, I’m going to piss, not make myself throw up.” He uses harsh words for shock value but it doesn’t faze Stiles.

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” Stiles says quietly. His voice shakes a bit, and Derek sighs.

“You’re not coming into the toilet whilst I pee, Stiles.”

“I’ll stand outside, then.” Stiles says, squaring his jaw and rising from his seat. Derek sighs again and lets Stiles lead him to the lavatory.

Derek does use the loo (Stiles doesn’t let him lock the door) and when he’s washing his hands, he looks up at himself in the mirror. He doesn’t look like how he remembers. Despite the ugly purple bruising on his forehead and peeking up from the collar of the thin but soft t-shirt Stiles obviously brought for him, his face is gaunt and his cheeks are hollow. His eyes are sunken and the green that they used to be are now a sickly pale version of the vibrant hue they used to be. He raises a hand to his face to check that it’s real; that this body is his. The hand that rises is thin, with the wrist bones sticking out and the taut skin stretching across the fingers showing every joint and the thin bones on the back of his hand.

He gasps. He looks like a skeleton. He looks sick and he’s terrified. He shucks off his shirt and stares at himself in the mirror. The collarbones at the top of his torso stick out so far that they look as though they’re sitting upon his skin. He can count his ribs and his stomach nearly settles into a concave, the muscle on his abs too-visible against the stretch of skin. He’s covered in tiny bruises from where he pinches the fat on his body and twists harshly. The purple bruise from his hip splays along his side and dips down past the tightly tied waistband of his sweatpants. He’s got a sickly grey pallor about him and he wants to puke because he hasn’t seen himself properly and he hasn’t seen how disgusting he let himself get. He chokes out a sob and covers his mouth and sinks to the floor. Quick, shaky gasps leak from his mouth and he feels lightheaded and sick and fuck, if this isn’t how it all started those many months ago-

“Derek?” Stiles voice rings out followed by loud knocks. “Derek, are you alright?” Derek can’t reply. His voice doesn’t come out when he tries and it’s overpowered by the sobs racking his body. The bathroom door swings open, and once Stiles catches sight of the grown man curled in on himself on the floor, he shuts the door and locks it behind him.

“Derek, what happened?” Stiles said, crouching down and gingerly placing a hand on Derek’s good shoulder. Derek can’t breathe so he just points to the mirror. Stiles looks up, then down at the shirt on the floor, and then back to Derek. He takes in the bruises and the bones on Derek’s body and he pieces it together. He’s not stupid.

“Oh, Derek.” He breathes. “Can’t you see how beautiful you are?”

Derek’s brain malfunctions. He’s struggling for air but he registers warm hands on his jaw, and his breathing evens a little. He looks at Stiles, looks at how the boy is crouched in front of him, panic clearly displayed on his face, a hand pressed to Derek’s chin and the other delicately resting on Derek’s left wrist.

Stiles cares.

This isn’t fake.

“Derek, come on. Breathe with me.” Stiles says calmly, letting his hand drop away from Derek’s jawline and instead taking Derek’s free hand. He demonstrates a few over-exaggerated deep breaths and Derek watches and follows along.

It takes at least five more minutes and a few more tears to fall down Derek’s face for him to calm down completely. Stiles never lets go of his hand.

“I saw… I looked at my reflection in the mirror,” Derek begins to explain, his voice quiet and wavering. “I saw how disgusting I looked. It’s like I just crawled up through the ground.”

“You don’t-”

“This never meant to happen, Stiles. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I just wanted to be better.”

Derek’s tone is pleading, and he supposes he is pleading for Stiles’ forgiveness. Stiles must have been worried about him, and here he is; running too far and getting into accidents and not looking after himself like a functioning adult. He’s so embarrassed and so damn ashamed – what would his mother think of him? How pathetic Derek was? How did he get to this point? How can he be this old and not be able to leave the house without three layers of clothing, without downing three cups of coffee just to have the energy to drive to work and sit at his desk for thirty minutes before he searches for more caffeine in his system, without seeing a nutritional value sticker and wanting to cry a little bit at the saturated fat content? He’s a grown-ass adult and he hates himself.

“You don’t need to be any better, Derek. You’re perfect the way you are.” Stiles’ tone is soft, sincere. Derek almost believes him.

“I’m not perfect. I’m far from perfect, Stiles. I can barely look after myself; I’m crying on the floor of a hospital bathroom after passing out from trying to rectify a problem and only making it worse.”

“You know what? I’m not perfect. Nobody is. And sure, Derek, you’ve had your low points, and in three months you’re gonna look back at this and see this as one. But you’re gonna bounce back from this and carry on being that strong, gorgeous, intelligent man that I know you are. And I’m saying I’ll help you get back to that point, okay? I’m here for you.”

Derek doesn’t know why he does it.

Maybe it’s because he’s so damn touched by Stiles’ words, and maybe it’s because he’s doped up on pain medicine, but he can’t help but grab Stiles and wrap his arms as tightly as he can around the younger boy’s waist.

It’s awkward because they’re both sitting down and Stiles ends up half-laying across Derek, and it’s not quite a Hollywood-style romantic kiss, but it’s what they both need. Derek grips on to Stiles as though he’s afraid Stiles will fade away. Stiles is too afraid to hug too tightly because he’s scared Derek will snap.

“Come on, Derek. Let’s get you out of here. It’s not going to do you any good.” Stiles murmurs into Derek’s ear, and Derek lets out a quiet noise of approval.

 

Derek doesn’t remember the state he left the apartment in when he went out running, but it’s so obvious he’s barely living in it. The kitchen is spotless, almost as if it’s been untouched, and that’s because it really is untouched. Stiles knows the fridge is empty so while he was waiting for Derek to have his final vitals checked, he ordered some groceries to be delivered to the house.

Derek stumbles over to the sofa and leans his palms against the back of the couch. From behind, Stiles critically views how he can see Derek’s ribcage through the thin t-shirt he’s wearing, and how his shoulder blades pop through the fabric, and how his legs are barely supporting the weight of the man. His heart twists inside his chest.

“Do you want to go take a shower? You still smell like hospitals,” Stiles asks softly. Derek nods. “Can… is it okay if you keep the door open? Or at least ajar?”

That’s fair. Any person with an ounce of logic wouldn’t trust him right now. Derek complies, and when he strips for his shower, he could almost swear he felt eyes on him, but when he looks around, there’s no one there.

Derek is calmer after his shower. He puts on sweatpants and Stiles badgers him about his shoulder and the stitches on his face. Stiles checks the dressings are okay and then checks if Derek is okay, and Derek thinks he is.

Stiles makes him a meal because it’s nearing lunchtime – carrots, celery, cucumber and peppers cut up into little strips and then some crackers and a glass of water – and Derek manages about half before feeling like he has to vomit, so he stops, and Stiles is still smiling when he takes the plate away.

“Do you want any tea?” Stiles asks, switching the electric kettle on anyway.

“No thank you. I… I think I’m going to go and take a nap. Is that okay?” Derek asks.

“Sure, it’s your house. I’ll wake you up in an hour or so.”

Derek nods gratefully, and heads back to his bedroom. It takes him a while but eventually he’s got a sweater on because it’s fucking minus four hundred in his apartment, and he’s got the blankets pulled up to his chin.

Before he dozes off (which doesn’t take long) he can hear Stiles’ conversation on the phone.

“I’m at Derek’s… because he was at the hospital this morning, he collapsed when he was running… yes, he’s okay now, I’m looking after him…” Derek’s only got half of the conversation, but he can guess it’s Scott.

“I know, Scott,” Definitely Scott. “But none of us did anything about it? We’re shitty friends and that’s something we have to deal with.”

Derek winces at that. They’re not shitty friends. They’re good, they’re fantastic – they didn’t point out ever how disgusting Derek looked and accepted him regardless. They’re the closest thing to family that Derek’s got.

 

Whilst Derek is asleep, Stiles does all the work. He cleans the apartment a bit, making it a little bit more presentable and comfortable to live in. He then sits in the living room with his mobile phone and Derek’s laptop to make some calls.

He sorts out the insurance company first and checks out what’s the best plan for Derek to get a therapist. He writes down several that are in his price range, and Derek can look over them later when he’s calmer.

Stiles then calls Derek’s boss.

“Hi, this is Stiles, I’m calling on behalf of Derek Hale?” He makes it sound like a question.

“Oh, hi. I was wondering where he was today. He hasn’t picked up any of my calls. Is he alright?” Derek’s boss sounds friendly enough, so Stiles carries on politely.

“Yeah, that’s the reason I’m calling. Derek was sent to hospital last night, after he collapsed when he was out running. He’s home now, but he’s going to need some time to recover from this. He’s hurt his shoulder pretty damn bad.”

“It’s… it’s because of an eating disorder, isn’t it?” the man on the phone says grimly, and shit, this guy must actually take notice of his employees. “He doesn’t take lunch breaks and he lives on coffee and I’ve seen him sleeping at his desk a few times. I asked him about his health a few months ago and he said everything’s fine. It’s not, is it?”

Stiles sighs. “No sir, it’s not. He’s severely underweight and I’m doing my best to help him out.”

“You do that then. I’ll see to it that he’s getting paid sick leave. Take as long as he needs, Stiles. He’s one of the most dedicated and trustworthy people I know.”

“Me too, sir. I’ll look after him.”

They thank each other and say goodbye, and Stiles whips his head up to see Derek standing in the doorway. He’s got a blanket wrapped around him and his eyes are red.

“Hey, Derek. I was supposed to wake you up in…” He checks the timer on his phone. “Forty six minutes. You okay?”

Derek shrugs, and shuffles along until he’s sitting next to Stiles on the sofa. Stiles breath catches in his throat briefly.

“I called your boss. He says you don’t have to worry about coming in for a bit, until you get better.”

Derek sighs in relief. He almost forgot about work and he’s so grateful to have a good boss. He looks over at Stiles and he doesn’t understand how he deserves to have someone as good as this teenager in his life. “Thank you, Stiles. I owe you so much.”

“It’s okay, man. It’s the least I could do.” Stiles says, smiling gently and wrapping his arm over Derek’s shoulder. Derek leans into the touch, and Stiles can tell he’s shivering. “If you’re not going to nap in your room, we’re gonna watch some shitty films on Netflix out here until you conk out.”

So they do, and Derek falls asleep thirty minutes into the first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie (Stiles’ choice). Stiles sneaks a look at the man leaning on his chest. His cheekbones are so sharp they’re almost cutting his skin, and the sockets around his eyes are so sunken they look like two bruised, black eyes. Derek rasps as he breathes, and Stiles watches as his chest slowly rises and falls.

He’s worried.

Actually, he’s fucking terrified. What if nobody had found him that night? Derek used to be that guy who had the whole Adonis/Greek god/body builder physique; all tanned skin and muscle mass and drop-dead gorgeousness. Now that man is leaning on him, skin and bones and so underweight that Stiles can pretty much see his skeleton through the pale, barely opaque skin.

Stiles is goddamn terrified and he doesn’t know how he let this get past him.

 

It’s six hours later, and it’s time for Stiles to get up and make something for dinner, so he gently removes himself from Derek’s grip (the older man just flops down onto the sofa) and goes to the kitchen so he can see what he can make.

The cupboards are bare except for a few spices and jars and Stiles presumes they’ve been there since Derek moved in. There are no snacks, no junk food, no proteins, nothing. In the fridge, he had some bottles of water and a few stalks of celery, and Stiles’ grocery shopping this morning replenished it with fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, cheese, milk and proteins, as well as fruit juices. The freezer is just as bad; a large bottle of vodka and half a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but Stiles leaves that as it is for now.

He settles on making pasta. He’s a good enough cook – making healthy meals for his father has massively increased his culinary abilities – so he gets cracking on his best-ever pasta sauce. He makes enough of it to put in Tupperware containers and into the freezer.

He’s just checking to see if the pasta is cooked properly when Derek walks into the kitchen and sits at a barstool by the island counter. Stiles looks over his shoulder, and smiles.

“Hey, Der. I made pasta.”

Derek’s smile tightens but he nods. He realises very quickly that he is not going to get away with eating as little as he had been. He doesn’t want to but as long as he can control it, keep the weight under what he was before, he’ll be fine.

The portion Stiles gives him is about half the size of Stiles’ own, and yet it’s still too much. But he tries, and he gets most of the sauce down and half of the noodles. Stiles seems pleased, so there’s that.

They watch another film (Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Derek’s choice this time) and it’s ten pm and Derek is getting tired again, despite having slept most of the day away.

Stiles doesn’t let Derek shut the bathroom door when he changes and brushes his teeth and uses the loo, and follows him to the bedroom.

“I can get to bed okay, Stiles. Go home, you don’t need to look after me. Please, you’ve done more than enough today.” Derek says softly.

“Not that I don’t trust you,” Stiles begins as he draws the curtains, “But I don’t trust that you won’t go into the bathroom and… get rid of everything you just ate, Derek.”

He’s keeping his voice calm and Derek appreciates it, but it doesn’t make him feel any less like a child.

“It’s fine, Stiles. Please.” He says, even quieter than before. Stiles bites his lip as he looks over Derek. Derek sighs and he heads over to the dresser, picking up a silver key on an empty keyring and drops it into Stiles’ hands. “Here’s a key. You can come over whenever you want. I won’t do anything stupid.”

Stiles stares at the key as if it’s going to melt through his hands, and he nods. The only way he’s gotten into Derek’s apartment before is by picking the lock (with good reason; to pester Derek) and here he is with a key.

“Okay.” He states simply. “I’ll go, you get to bed, and… and I’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning, okay?”

“That’s fine.” Derek stares at his feet and purposely doesn’t look at Stiles. “I… Stiles, I’m so sorry for this. It’s selfish and you don’t… I don’t deserve a friend as good as you are.”

“Der.” Stiles’ voice cracks a little bit, and something in his tone shifts. “Derek, you deserve the best. You’re a good person, and you can’t see how fantastic you are. You’re constantly putting other people before you and you work hard and you’re so goddamn kind. I don’t get how you can’t see any of that. Your weight, whatever it is, doesn’t define you as a person. I just want to see you happy again.”

“I am happy.” Derek whispers.

“No you’re not. I can see it in your eyes. You’re miserable, Derek. And it’s something more than what you think you look like, I just can’t work it out. You’ve been sad for such a long time.”

“I deserve it.”

“No you fucking don’t, you jerk!” Stiles almost shouts, shaking his hands frantically. “You deserve happiness and love and compassion and instead we let you live all alone and let all the times you stayed in slip by, and worst of all? Worst of all, we nearly let you kill yourself!” He gestures to Derek at this point. Derek keeps his gaze firmly on his socked feet.

“When you went to Scott’s for that night we had pizza. You didn’t eat anything.” Stiles says, and takes a seat in the worn armchair by the window. He leans forwards and rests his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands together. “I was watching you. You looked terrified when someone handed you that pizza, Derek. I watched how you waited until other people finished and then you threw the pizza with everyone else’s boxes. You didn’t say anything about it so neither did I. I should have, Derek, I should have called you out on it, and then you wouldn’t have come this close to cracking your skull on the sidewalk because you hadn’t fucking eaten in a week.”

Derek opens his mouth to answer, but Stiles carries on, leaving the elder man with his mouth gaping open like a goldfish.

“And when I came over, when you were sick, you were lying on the sofa, and I was so scared that you had… done something bad, because there was this half empty bottle of sleeping pills on the side. I just… I couldn’t lose you, Derek. I can’t.”

Stiles is holding back tears and so is Derek. He’s confused as to why Stiles cares so much about him. He doesn’t understand. He looks down at Stiles, sees those glassed over eyes and the trembling lower lip and his heart breaks.

“I’m sorry.” He says as sincerely as he can.

“Can… can I hug you?” Stiles ask, his voice breaking on the last word. Derek nods and in an instant, Stiles is up from the armchair, crashing into his outstretched arms and his head is buried in Derek’s chest. Derek wraps his arms around Stiles’ waist as tightly as he can.

He realises he doesn’t want to let go.

A whole five minutes passes and they don’t break away. Stiles sniffles into Derek’s chest and Derek sniffles into Stiles’ hair. It’s a fair exchange. Derek runs his hands across Stiles’ back (trying to ignore how thin the younger man is) and then begins to card his fingers through Stiles’ hair.

“Do… Do you want to stay?" Derek asks timidly, feeling Stiles go rigid in his arms. "You don't have to if you don't want to."  

"No, no, I'll stay." Stiles tilts his head and looks up at Derek. He's got glassy eyes and too much stubble and his cheekbones are poking out but he's still perfect.  

 

They wind up sleeping in Derek's bed (so Stiles can keep an eye on Derek, the younger boy says), and they both fall asleep pretty early.  

And if Derek's arm drapes across Stiles' waist, they don't say anything. Stiles just snuggles back into Derek, and goes to sleep soundly. 

 

The next few days are a blur for Derek. He's constantly miserable and he can feel all the fat from the food Stiles is making him sticking to his thighs and stomach and arms. He spends a lot of time pinching his skin to leave dark, angry bruises and to remind himself of how awful he is.

Stiles catches him once or twice, and instead of yelling at him, he just simply takes Derek's hand away and kisses the knuckles gently. It makes Derek's head spin.  

They share Derek's bed every night and Derek secretly enjoys Stiles being pressed against him. It makes him feel human again. 

  

A week later, Stiles suggests seeing their friends. Derek blanches at first but calms, knowing that they never pointed out how ugly he was before so they shouldn't do so now. Stiles grins when Derek says yes and they drive over to Stiles' home for a Scott-entitled Pack Movie Night.  

Derek wears his biggest jumper and his best fitting black jeans. He looks so bad, he knows he does, but Stiles tries to help him feel better by hugging him tightly and whispering about how good he looks in his ear. For a minute, Derek almost believes him.  

The pitying looks he gets from each of his friends as they see him make him cringe. He wants to shout at them; tell them nothing's changed, but he stays quiet and leaves a soft smile on his face regardless.

Derek sits in Stiles’ living room, on the sofa, and in an instant, Stiles is half on his lap, half leaning on the arm of the chair. Derek looks up at Stiles for an explanation but finds none; Stiles just carries on chatting as though nothing has changed.

The others treat him like he’s going to break at first, treading over subjects delicately at the beginning of the evening. Kira almost has an aneurysm asking if he wants any of the popcorn from the big bowl she offers him, and he can feel his heart break in his chest. His friends aren’t comfortable around him anymore.

Stiles does his best to set them straight though, taking the bowl off of Kira and setting it in his own lap. Close enough for Derek to grab some if he wanted but far away enough that he doesn’t have to deal with it right in front of him. Again, Stiles doesn’t make a big deal of it.

 

Derek gets up a while later for some air and he sits on the back porch for a bit. The moonlight shines on the grass outside, and catches on the drops of rain settled on the ground. It’s peaceful. He knows his friends are talking about him in hushed tones, he knows they’re asking Stiles what to do, asking how they missed it. Derek digs his fingernails into his fists and tries to ground himself using that pain and just focusing on the moonlight on the grass.

He hears footsteps and doesn’t look around to see who it is. The person comes and sits down next to him, and when Derek glances over, he realises it’s Boyd. Of all the people he didn’t want to let down, it was Boyd. He’d looked up to Derek like a big brother and Derek had tried his hardest.

That’s all put to shit now, Derek thinks, as he stares out into the back garden again.

“My sister was anorexic.” Boyd says simply. Boyd doesn’t talk about his sister much but when he does, Derek makes sure to listen. He swivels his head around and Boyd just stares out at the sky. “She lost so much weight, her heart failed and she had to have surgery. She survived, but it wasn’t easy. She could hardly breathe, and she couldn’t walk properly.”

“Boyd…”

“She was nearly seventy pounds underweight. I found her passed out in the bathroom.” Boyd shifts his weight slightly, rubbing his palms together absently. “I was so scared, Derek. It was the same feeling as when Scott called me about you. He didn’t tell me much, just that you were in the hospital, and you had an eating disorder.”

“I didn’t mean-”

“It’s okay, man. I’m just worried about you. I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. I should have noticed, should have seen the signs. I didn’t, but you’re still here. You’re gonna try and get better, right?”

“Yeah, Boyd.” Derek swallows, smiling softly at Boyd. The younger man finally looks at him, and there isn’t pity in his eyes like Derek’d expected, just fear.

There's silence for a few moments. Derek's head is reeling and he folds his arms around himself to keep warm. 

"How about you come join the gym with me?" Boyd says, a hint of optimism in his voice. He sees the look on Derek's face, and softens his expression. "I'm just saying, I'm pretty good at personal training. It'd be better for you to exercise safely instead of running like crazy. All that shit's gonna fuck up your lungs." 

Derek understands. It's not a jab at how fat he is. It's a way of Boyd watching over him, helping him to get better.  

"Yeah, Boyd, I'd like that." Derek replies, and although Boyd doesn't say anything, Derek can see him visibly relax. 

"Thanks for treating me like the same person still. Everyone else is treating me like a fucking porcelain doll."  

Boyd huffs out a laugh. "Yeah well, they're not as smart as I am. Definitely take you more for a G.I. Joe action figure type of guy."  

Derek laughs and stands up with Boyd, and he realises it's the first time he's actually laughed in a while.  

He leans in for a hug with Boyd, still not understanding how the kid can be so goddamn tall. 

"Thank you." Derek whispers sincerely, and Boyd doesn't say anything, but he squeezes tighter in reply. Derek pats his shoulder and they go back inside. 

The rest of the night is fairly harmless, and it gets easier as the night carries on. Derek’s completely engrossed in the action blockbuster they put on, and he brings his knees up to his chest as they watch the tense part of the movie. He bites his lip nervously, and then he feels an arm snake its way over his shoulders. It’s Stiles, and Derek leans into the touch gratefully.

 

Derek makes it a few weeks without a hitch. He’s fine. Stiles cooks for him and he keeps most of it down and Boyd’s got him on this new workout plan that aims to generate muscle mass instead of losing more weight and he sticks to it diligently (even if he doesn’t tell anyone about the countless sit ups and push ups he does when he’s on his own), and he’s attended the therapy sessions he’s had to sign up for. Theoretically, everything is going okay. But he still can’t look at himself in the mirror without wanting to die a little bit. Still pinches the skin on his stomach and his thighs as if the weight would just disappear. Still clenches his fists every time he sees someone on the television or in a magazine that looks skinnier than he is.

So far, everything has been okay on paper. In Derek’s head, he’s on his way to a breakdown.

Which is what happens tonight.

 

It’s a Sunday night, and Stiles has school the next morning, so he eats dinner with Derek and rushes off. Derek’s left to wash the plates up. He does so without thinking, just mindlessly going through the motions. His head’s in a different place. He can’t focus. He just can feel the weight of the rice and chilli in his stomach, feeling the way the carbohydrates are slowing him down and making everything he does feel heavy and sluggish. He needs to get rid of it.

He drops the last plate as he runs to the bathroom. He must bruise his knees with the force that he collapsed in front of the toilet bowl, retching into it and forcing his fingers down his throat to try and get rid of it all. He’s sobbing, too, which makes the whole thing even worse.

By the time his stomach is empty and all that’s coming up is bile, he gets up on shaky legs and washes his hands and rinses out his mouth. He sinks to the floor again, heavily dependent on leaning back against the bathtub.

All he can think about is how ashamed he is.

He stands up again after a few minutes of much-needed loud crying, and brushes his teeth properly whilst leaning on the sink. He doesn’t dare look up into the reflection. Instead, he spits the toothpaste into the sink and rinses his mouth out, and heads back into the kitchen to clean up his mess.

And it is a mess, really, he broke the plate onto the floor and it’s shattered porcelain shards all over the place, as well as remnants of their dinner that are probably going to stain the linoleum flooring if he doesn’t get it up quickly. He gets to work sweeping up the mess, and then he finishes the washing up and puts it away. He’s crying again for some fucking reason as he bleaches the counters, and the big teardrops that roll off of his cheeks just get in his way.

He mops up but he’s right, there’s a red stain on the floor where the chilli splattered and the mop won't get it up. He finds it difficult to breathe as he gets the bleach and pours half of the bottle onto the floor, grabbing a scourer and dropping to the floor unceremoniously. He scrubs and scrubs until his knuckles are raw and his fingernails are broken, but the stain is still there. He cries louder now, the sniffles turning into full-on howling. He can't understand why he can't do anything right. He carries on like this, crying and scrubbing even though his head is pounding and his muscles are giving up on him.  

He nearly jumps out of his skin when he hears the front door open. 

"Hey, Derek. I forgot my headphones, just came by to pick them up. Can't do maths without-" 

He's cut short when he sees Derek, all one hundred and thirty two pounds of shaking man cowering on the kitchen floor. He’s wearing clothes far too big for him, and he’s got bloodied hands and tears rolling down his cheeks. 

"Oh, Derek," Stiles breathes, kneeling down and brushing some stray tears off of Derek's face. "What happened?" 

"It… I didn't mean to. Didn't want to disappoint you." Derek stutters, taking in shaky breaths and failing to calm himself down. "It was too much." 

"Did you purge?" Stiles asks and his voice is almost a whisper. He sounds like he's afraid to hear the answer.  

"It was too much. I can't handle this, Stiles, I'm not… It's too… I'm not capable of this." 

He starts bawling all over again, and Stiles pulls him into his chest, and lets him cry into the t-shirt he's wearing. The younger whispers comforts into Derek's ears.

"Come on, Der, let's get you cleaned up." 

 

They find themselves in Derek's bathroom, with Derek sitting on the sink counter (strategically placed away from his own reflection behind him) and Stiles attending to the wounds on his hands. It's nothing serious; his fingernails are bleeding and his knuckles are too, stripped raw from being shoved down his throat and then burned away by bleach. His dominant's the worst one, so Stiles applies antiseptic cream and then wraps it up in soft cotton bandages.  

Derek hasn't stopped crying, he's just doing it more quietly.  

"Have you been to the therapy sessions?" Stiles asks calmly; not being intrusive, just simply asking.  

"Yes." Derek replies, his voice hoarse and cracking.  

"And are they helping you?" 

"No.”

“Okay.” Stiles sighs, but he’s not exasperated; he’s just upset that things aren’t working for Derek. Stiles can see that he’s trying his hardest. Stiles looks up from where he’s tucking the loose end of the bandage in the fabric so it doesn’t come undone. Derek’s face is pale, but his nose is red from where he’s been crying, where he still is crying because there’s big teardrops on his cheeks and Stiles wipes them away with his thumbs.

“We can sort it out though. We can call the therapist, and find you a new one, or… or a new style of therapy that’s going to help you better. It’ll all work out in the end, Derek.”

“I’m scared.” Derek whispers. His voice is barely audible but Stiles knows and he can feel his heart break in his chest. He’s scared too, but this isn’t about him; it’s about Derek.

“I know, Der, but I also know that you’re strong enough to get over this, you know? I know you’re trying, and it’s really difficult. It’s got to be, but you’re doing so well, and you can’t let one little setback frighten you off. You’re brave enough to get better.”

Stiles uses words that ground Derek and they do, Derek’s breathing evens and he shudders as he closes his eyes.

“Hey, man. Stay with me.” Stiles mumbles, gently placing the back of his hand against Derek’s forehead.

“It’s alright, Stiles. It’s okay.” Derek sighs. “Go home, go sleep. You have class tomorrow.”

“That’s not important. You are.”

 

Stiles ends up staying the night. Derek loans him some pyjamas and a spare toothbrush and Stiles excuses himself to the bathroom.

Derek pads to the kitchen and finishes cleaning up with as blank a mindset as he can get. He then makes tea for himself and Stiles. The tea is brewing as Stiles re-enters the kitchen, this time decked out in Derek’s old clothes. His hair is fluffy and there’s toothpaste on his shirt and Derek’s heart lurches.

He can’t even feel his legs as he rushes over to Stiles and cups his cheeks and kisses him.

He doesn’t know why he does it.

Actually, he does.

It’s because Stiles seems to care about him. He listens and he’s patient and he actually tries to make Derek feel better by staying with him and not being pushy and not demanding difficult questions. He explained everything to everyone so perfectly, and made sure nobody treated Derek badly. He never judged Derek, which is one of the reasons why he’s just so goddamn perfect and here Derek is with his lips pressed to this teenager.

Stiles’ hands fly up, first in surprise, but then in comfort, and he lets them settle on Derek’s hips.

Derek breaks away, looking down, and anywhere but at Stiles.

“I’m sorry. I don’t… I’m sorry.” He coughs awkwardly. “I made tea.” He says in way of changing the subject.

There’s a beat of silence, and then, “Fuck the tea. Derek, kiss me again.”

Derek looks up bashfully, and Stiles has got pink cheeks and this dumb smirk on his face and Derek grins as he makes his way back over to him, slotting their lips together and snaking his hands around Stiles’ waist. Stiles tilts his head and runs his hands through Derek’s hair.

It’s probably the worst timing, but it’s actually pretty fantastic. At least, they think so anyway.

Romance can’t cure an eating disorder, but it’s a pretty good way of making things easier to cope. Things are less difficult when there’s two of you.

 

Fast forward to two months later. Derek’s not skin and bones anymore, but instead he’s one hundred and forty six pounds of lean muscle, and Stiles loves it. Derek’s feeling better about it now, too. He hides less, and he looks less miserable. Boyd’s helping him out in the gym and there’s no way the kid is letting Derek slack off; he’s got him training four times a week.

Derek’s back at work and his boss is sympathetic but not pitying. He explains what Derek’s missed, and lets Derek take a day or two of catching up. Nobody treats him weirdly, which surprises him. His co-workers invite him out to lunch, and he goes, and if he only orders a salad, nobody questions it. He considers it a win.

He still goes to therapy once a week, this time with a new doctor who’s not patronising and treats him fairly and he feels confident when he walks out of the meetings. He supposes that’s the best he’s going to get. He goes to Stiles’ house after every session and they sit in Stiles’ room and make out and play video games and just chat; Stiles fills Derek in about the Beacon Hills High gossip, and Derek tells Stiles about the office scandals that he eavesdrops on at work.

The pack decide to go to the movies as a surprise for Derek’s birthday. The eleven of them nearly take up a whole row in the tiny Beacon Hills cinema, but they’re all together which makes Derek’s heart swell in his chest. They watch Deadpool and Derek watches as Stiles laughs so hard he nearly cries at some parts. They share popcorn and make dumb jokes and Stiles laces his fingers with Derek’s and leans into his side, and they’re happy.

Derek still gets those days where he wants to throw everything up, or where he can’t swallow the food in his mouth because he just physically can’t, but the good days are beginning to outweigh the bad.

 

Derek’s getting better. He’s not perfect, but he’s beginning to accept that he can’t be, and that’s okay.

He’s getting there.