"What?" Stiles breathes, a lump lodging painfully in his throat.
"I said I don't believe you," his father repeats, pronouncing every word slow and clear, wrinkle high on his forehead. He's angry, upset and hurt, and he’s got every right to be but…
Stiles swallows, feeling the tears he's fought to hold back now burn behind his eyes. His heart is beating too fast and too hard, slamming against his ribs like it wants to break free.
"Mom would've believed me."
It's only a mumble, but the look on his father's face is more than enough proof for Stiles to know he caught every word.
He turns around before he gets to see what he knows is coming; his dad's face will darkens with pain, and he can’t deal with knowing he's the one who put it there.
Stiles turns and flees out of the kitchen, out of the house. He hears his dad calling his name as he climbs into his Jeep and starts the engine. He pulls out of the driveway just as his dad comes running out of the house, and Stiles hopes he won't try and chase him down.
He's not sure where he's heading, he just has to get away. His mind is clouded with spinning thoughts and guilt sits like a burning flame in his gut. He wipes his sleeve across his face, trying to get rid of the tears that won't stop pouring out of his eyes. They make his vision all blurry to the point where he can barely see the road. He grasps the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turns white, but he barely notices.
He hadn't been able to take it anymore; hadn't been strong enough to lie to his dad again.
The twins had ambushed him, Scott and Isaac in the locker room, and Stiles is pretty sure he wouldn’t have been as lucky to get away with only a few scratches and bruises if Jackson and Boyd hadn’t arrived. But Stiles was running out of excuses for his injuries. Lacrosse practice had worked for a few weeks, but everyone knew you didn't get claw marks from playing sports. This time his dad had demanded the truth, and Stiles hadn't had the heart to deny him it.
But he hadn't believed him. Despite the sheriff most likely being aware that his son had been hiding things from him ever since Laura Hale's murder, he still hadn’t believed it when his son was honest with him for the first time in months. He told him the truth about werewolves and all the crazy shit that’s been going down in Beacon Hills.
Stiles bites his bottom lip to forbid it to start shaking as the tears keeps coming no matter how many times he angrily swipes at them. His heart is still racing and it's getting harder to breathe.
He'd done it to protect people. He'd lied and defied his dad to protect Scott, Isaac, Derek, hell even Jackson, but also to keep his dad out of harm's way. He'd had his dad angry with him, buried his fears deep within himself, because keeping his dad safe and alive was more important than anything.
Stiles can't say when it happened, but he suddenly realizes he’d pulled the Jeep to a stop by the side of the road. His head is spinning, hurting, as well as the rest of his body. He's inhaling too fast, too desperate, and the realization of what's coming hits him like a sledgehammer.
No, please, he thinks, panicking even further. Not here, not now.
But he can't stop it. He's hyperventilating, every sharp inhale causes flashing pain in his lungs. He let's go of the wheel, noticing his hands shaking and angrily buries them in his hair, tugging at it as if to hold himself still. He hides his face and swollen eyes in his arms, pulling his knees up to his chest and curling into a ball as best he can in his seat.
He's just waiting for the panic attack to be over. It's the first one he's had in years, but it all feels so familiar. He knows it'll pass eventually; knows he just has to ride out the pain and remember how to breathe again.
Except he can't calm himself down, no matter how hard he tries.
He'd felt so guilty for shutting his dad out for such a long time, for creating a wall of lies and tension between them. And every new event; every time he had to feed his dad another lie, the wall had steadily built itself even higher. One brick for each time he had to look into his father's eyes and say he was fine when the truth was he could barely sleep at night with thoughts like Scott could die tomorrow or so could my dad constantly providing a restless night.
He'd had enough. He'd torn it down by smashing it with his fists, and all he’d gotten in return were bleeding hands and an even stronger wall because his dad still thought he was lying. Stiles had become too good at it and the sheriff was too used to his son making up excuses.
They’re too ruined, too broken. Stiles asks himself if he'll ever be able to look his dad in the eye and see anything but sorrow or disappointment again. If he'll ever look at him like that night after the game, before all Hell went lose and that stupid lacrosse game didn't matter anymore.
And he'd brought up Mom. They don't speak of her anymore and Stiles knows it's because it would hurt them both too much. Because they’re both still adapting to a world without her years later; still struggling to remember she's isn’t here anymore.
Stiles knows she would've believed him because she always believed him, but on the other hand that was before he started lying on a daily basis. He never hid things like this when she was alive, never had to. She didn't know this side of him. Maybe she wouldn't have believed him.
Suddenly the door to his side is ripped open, and before Stiles can protest or pull away, he's being grabbed and lifted out of the Jeep and is sitting on the road; one of the Jeep's tires supporting his back. Someone is trying to remove his hands and uncover his face, but Stiles flinches away.
"Stiles," The familiar voice reaches his ears over the loud throbbing of his own heart, and thank God it's not his dad's. "Stiles, you need to breathe."
Stiles manages to open his eyes, vision still blurred with tears and a lack of oxygen has him gasping for air, but he’s able to recognize Derek crouching in front of him. Derek, who's wearing a softer expression than Stiles has ever seen on him.
"I can't," he gasps out desperately. "I–"
He can't get the words out, can’t explain what's happening, but Derek nods as if he understands anyway. He firmly seizes Stiles' wrists, moving his arms out of the way before cupping his face with both hands. Stiles groans at the touch, Derek's hands too warm on his cold cheeks. Derek doesn't care, refuses to move away even when Stiles pushes at his chest.
"Stiles," Derek says again, voice steady and reassuring. "Breathe."
He brushes his thumb over Stiles' cheekbone, wiping away the tears, before he reaches down with one hand to grab Stiles' wrist again. He brings Stiles' hand up to his chest, pressing his palm flat against himself, gaze never leaving Stiles' face.
"Feel that?" He asks. "Feel the rhythm of my heart and make your own match it."
It sounds like an order more than anything else and Stiles does his best to obey. He can feel Derek's heart beat slow and steady against his palm, and somewhere in the back of his mind he actually admires how calm Derek always manages to be.
"Breathe with me," Derek urges on, and Stiles wants to nod, but can only manage a full body shiver.
He presses his hand firmly against Derek's chest, feeling the rise and fall of it as he breathes. Stiles forces himself to try and get in sync with it, even with the blinding panic still raging inside his own chest. He stares into Derek's eyes, trying to shut out everything except for the two of them, the warm thump against his palm and the controlled rise and fall of Derek's chest.
It's okay, a voice in the back of his swirling mind tells him. Derek is here. It'll be okay.
A quiet sob escapes him before he can stop it, and just as he's about to cringe in embarrassment, Derek slides his thumb along his jaw line, and somehow that makes everything okay.
It takes a while, and Derek doesn't move or drop his eyes from Stiles even for a second. Stiles is pretty sure he doesn't even blink.
Eventually Stiles regains control of his breathing, and somewhere along the way he'd stopped crying. His face feels cold and stiff, but at least it's over.
Derek remains as he is for a while, even after Stiles' panic attack has subsided. Then moves the hand on Stiles' cheek to wipe at some of the dried tears with the pad of his thumb before removing his hand altogether.
Stiles lets his hand fall from Derek's chest and finally acknowledges his surroundings to realize he must have been heading for the pack's new hideout. They were only a few yards from the abandoned apartment building. Stiles hadn't even been aware that's where he'd been heading or better yet, why’d instinctively come here.
"What happened?" Derek eventually asks, and Stiles turns his full attention back to him.
Suddenly he feels exposed and vulnerable because no one but his dad has ever witnessed him having a panic attack before, and that was years ago, but there's no pity in Derek's eyes. His expression is still a lot softer than usual, but he's not looking at Stiles as if he's any less worthy or different as before.
Still, Stiles feels the need to stand and pulls himself back up on his feet with the support of his Jeep behind him. Derek doesn't reach out to help and Stiles can't decide whether he's grateful or disappointed.
"I told my dad," he starts. His voice is thick and groggy, and he clears it before continuing. "About everything. I couldn't– I didn't want to lie anymore, Derek." He shrugs lightly. "He didn't believe me."
Derek doesn't reply for a while, and at first Stiles things it's because he's angry with him. Letting someone in on the werewolf secret is not to be taken lightly, Stiles knows this, and maybe he should've discussed it with the pack beforehand. It was their secret at stake, after all.
And then Derek just nods again like he understands and not at all like he’s pissed off that Stiles gave away his secret identity to the town's sheriff.
"We'll make him believe it," Derek promises, and Stiles isn't sure if 'we' includes only him and Derek or the whole pack. Before Stiles gets to ask why he's so okay with it, Derek adds, "It's about time anyway."
Stiles is surprised by that, but not in a bad way. He and Scott already planned to let the sheriff in on the truth during the whole Kanima problem, but then they never got the right opportunity. Now, with the Alpha pack running loose all over town, it’d be more than useful to have the police force on their side.
He nods. He realizes he should probably thank Derek for helping him with getting through the attack, but he knows he doesn't really owe him that. It's a strange thing they have going; they've been saving each other's asses for over half a year now and neither of them have ever once exchanged thanks.
He's just about to say that he should probably head back before his dad sends out a search part, when Derek interrupts him.
"Do you want to come inside?"
Stiles blinks in silence for a while, totally thrown off by the offer. Sure, he's been in the loft several times before to meet up with the rest of the pack and discuss tactics and useful information before a showdown. He and Scott had even hung out there one afternoon with Isaac before Derek had come home and ordered Isaac to do his homework.
"Are the others here?" He asks, even though he’s pretty sure he knows the answer. All of the betas had their own home and families to be with at this hour, except for Isaac, but he was staying at Scott's tonight.
"No," Derek replies quietly. "Just me."
Stiles nods. "Okay."
He ends up sprawled across Derek's couch, rambling about today's attack in school and how the conversation went with his dad. It starts out as a way of holding awkward silence at bay, but also because he needs to get it out. He has to tell someone other than himself how much it hurt to bury all those things inside him, just to protect his dad as well as the pack.
Derek listens and maybe the first time ever, he sits in silence and lets him talk.
Now and then Stiles feels a little guilty and pauses because he knows more than well how his never ending conversations hadn't been appreciated by the Alpha in the past, but Derek's warm and comforting presence sort of nudges him, encouraging him to continue. So he does.
He's not sure when he falls asleep, but he wakes up the following morning lying flat on his stomach on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket with the faint memory of Derek's hands pulling it over him.
Stiles scratches the back of his head when he's about to leave, opening his mouth to ask, but Derek speaks before he needs to.
"I'll come with you."
And that's, more or less, the one single thing Stiles is absolutely sure that he wants right now.
He and Derek are barely out of the Jeep before the sheriff appears and pulls his son into a crushing hug. Stiles doesn't know what to think until he looks over his dad's shoulder and spots Scott standing on the porch. He meets his gaze with a relieved smile.
"I believe you," his dad says into his shoulder. "I believe you, son. I'm so sorry."
Stiles feels his heart flutter in his chest, finally able to return the hug. He gives Scott a thankful smile as he sighs into his dad's solid embrace. Scott’s smile gets impossibly wider.
Once his dad eventually lets go of him, he looks at Derek still standing awkwardly by the Jeep as if he hadn't acknowledged him being there until now. For a second he looks like he's either about to kiss Derek or pull a gun on him, and Stiles is beyond relieved when he simply nods and says, "Thank you."
Derek looks confused for a moment, but returns the gesture. Stiles glances over at Scott, wondering what exactly his friend told his father. Whatever it was, he seemed to at least have included the part about Derek being the one to save his life once or twice.
When they gradually retreat back inside the house, Stiles notice Derek hesitating to follow. They lock eyes, and Stiles feels his heart skip a beat at the way Derek carefully watches him. It's nothing new; they've had intense staring contests ever since the day they first met, but now it feels different because they are different. And Stiles can't say what exactly that means yet; if this is all he and Derek will ever be.
He walks over to grab Derek by the wrist and pull him along toward the house, and he can feel the werewolf's pulse against his fingertips and it's not at all as calm as it was last night. Then again, neither is his own.