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I know that you love me, even when I lose my head

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When Derek wakes up his skull is throbbing and there’s a pressure behind his eyes that makes it feel like they’re about to burst out of his head. He puts his hand to the spot, gingerly and feels it throb with pain at the touch.

“Ugh,” he groans, wondering what the hell happened.

Did he get hit by a football again? Or a rock?

“Derek?” an unfamiliar voice says, calling him back to the land of the conscious. “Can you hear me?”

“Yeah,” he mutters, wincing around the spikes of agony in his skull. “What the hell happened?”

“You were in an altercation with a group of hunters. You were shot in the head protecting your mate. The bullet’s trajectory was off so it cracked your skull open rather than killing you instantly. You’ve had some severe brain swelling and you’ve been unconscious for an entire day.”

Derek opens his eyes.

There’s a male doctor hovering over him and Derek reaches up to rub the aching spot above his eyebrow. There’s no bandage there but it hurts.

And the doctor isn’t making any sense.

“I don’t have a mate,” he mutters. “You’ve got the wrong person.”

“Can you tell me what year it is Derek?”

He groans again, wishing the doctor would back the hell off already so he could just go back to sleep. It doesn’t feel like he’s healing right. Though he's never actually cracked his skull open before. That's definitely a new injury to add to the list.

“Where’s Laura?” he demands, trying to sit up.

“Easy there,” the doctor says, putting a preventative hand on his chest. “Your mate is just down the hall.”

“I keep telling you,” he snaps angrily. “I don’t have a-“

The door opens and some scrappy looking kid comes flying in, tripping over the doorway and nearly launching over the hospital bed before he's followed by an exquisite woman with luscious red hair and the kind of lips that make you do a double take.

She’s staring at him calculatingly as the kid scrambles to get back on his feet and suddenly this whole mate thing is looking up. Especially when she steps forward to take his hand.

“Derek,” she says, visibly relieved. “We were so worried.”

“Look, I’m really sorry,” he says, managing a much sweeter tone for her. God, she’s gorgeous. And she smells great too. “But I don’t remember you as my mate.”

The red head’s expression changes quickly, like her thoughts are moving very fast as she glances over at the clumsy kid. The ecstatic look on his face abruptly falls away and the red head yanks her hand back like it’s been burned.

Derek’s not really used to that kind of reaction from women before. Usually they’re clamouring to get their hands on him. He knows what he looks like.

He can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment. For his mate, she doesn’t seem very interested in touching him.

“That’s good,” the girl says surprisingly. “Since I’m not your mate.”

Derek frowns. He’s getting more confused by the minute.

“Then who-?“

The lanky guy who's covered in moles and wearing a shirt that says STUD in big letters with a muffin underneath is covered in scratches, blood and dirt and there's a leaf in his hair that he doesn't seem to be aware of or has completely forgotten about. He's a total disaster but his uncovered arms are tense, muscles jumping beneath his shirt and Derek realises he's more lean than lanky.

The kid, who’s suddenly looking more uncomfortable by the minute, rubs his hand against the back of his head in a nervous looking gesture and the leaf in his hair comes free and floats onto the hospital floor unnoticed. The blood he's covered in isn't his own. It's Derek's.

“That’d be me,” STUD muffin t-shirt guy says, pushing his hands into his pockets and rolling on the balls of his feet uneasily.

His eyes seem unusually wide, and there are shadows underneath them as if he hasn't slept in a long time.

“Right,” Derek laughs, peering over his shoulder to see if someone else will be walking through the door soon.

Maybe these strangers are his friends. Or friends of his mate.

The kid winces. “That’s not gonna have lasting damage to my self-esteem at all,” he mutters, more to himself than the rest of the room.

Derek’s too busy looking over his shoulder to notice.

“He is your mate,” the doctor says helpfully. “He’s listed as your emergency contact.”

“No,” Derek says, laughing harder now. “This is a joke right? Where’s Laura?”

“Get Cora,” the kid covered in moles mutters to the red head. “She’s in the cafeteria grabbing coffee.”

The red head disappears out of the room with an expertly done flick of her hair and Derek watches her ass move in her jeans as she glides out the door. When he glances away it’s with the realisation that the kid caught him looking and is expertly concealing some complicated emotions about it.

Derek understands. He’s under the delusion that they’re mates. The poor kid’s got some shit to work through.

“Derek?” the doctor tries again. “Can you tell me what year it is?”

“It’s amnesia right?” the kid says bluntly, not even looking at him anymore.

His attention is focused on the doctor and Derek wishes the red head would come back already.

Preferably bringing his sisters. The kid did say Cora was here. Where’s Laura? She’s still in Beacon Hills while Derek’s living on Campus. It’s only an hour drive. She would have made it here if he had a head injury and ended up in hospital. She wouldn't abandon him.

Cora crashes through the door a second later, nearly spilling coffee all over herself.

“Stiles? Is he awake?”

“What the hell is Stiles?” Derek grumbles, losing his patience with all these awkward silences and subtly exchanged looks.

“Shit,” she says, staring at him and suddenly Derek notices that she doesn’t look like she used to.

She’s taller. She’s stopped wearing her hair in those god-awful Leia bun things and she looks decidedly less like a barely teenage girl than Derek remembers.

“You’re old,” he says, surprised.

“Still has the same amount of tact though,” the kid says dryly, rolling his eyes at Cora and Derek’s anger reaches a boiling point when she smirks back.

The camaraderie between them makes him feel worse. Cora’s in on this prank as well. Pretending to know this random kid they’ve picked off the street to play the role of his fake mate.

“What the hell is going on?” he demands. “Cora, this fucking kid is saying he’s my-“

“Calm down, Derek,” she snaps. “He is your mate.”

“This is bullshit,” he shouts. “He’s a guy.”

Cora stares at him, with the kind of glare that reminds him of Mom and what to expect when he’s gotten himself into a fuckload of trouble.

“Oh no,” she says faintly. “College Derek.”

“What?” the kid wonders, bemused. “You’re telling me he thinks he’s in college? Oh my god, Scott’s gonna pee himself with-“

“Shut up,” he snaps. “Jesus fucking- do you ever shut your goddamn mouth?”

The kid raises an eyebrow at him, unimpressed. “Sometimes, when it’s otherwise occupied.”

Derek’s cheeks heat up because he gets the double meaning exactly. There’s no fucking way. Because this kid is insinuating-

“Quit it Stiles, you’ll break him,” Cora warns, smirking a little despite herself.

He doesn't like that she's so amused by all of this. Cora shouldn't be enjoying herself so much. He's got a fucking head injury.

“Derek we’re going to need you to calm down,” the doctor tries, managing to raise his voice over the rest of them. “This is a very stressful situation and I think-“

“It’s 2017,” Cora says, brusquely.

Derek stares at her.

“Here,” she says, pulling out a cell phone that doesn’t look at all like a cell phone he remembers. It’s sleek and long and she taps her fingers on the screen to get it unlocked.

She shows him and on the screen is an article she’s pulled up about a movie called Hidden Figures. The date reads February 22nd 2017. Derek glares at it, head aching worse than before and wishes that he could just go back to sleep.

“Fuck,” he says. “It’s 2010.”

“College Derek has a foul mouth,” the kid says grinning but in a painful way that makes it seem forced.

“We’re not mates, Cora,” he insists. “I mean look at him-“

“Ouch,” the kid says, no longer pushing that shit eating grin.

“He’s- he’s,” Derek tries, at a loss of how to explain why this can’t be possible.

Why it shouldn’t be possible.

And why it can’t be happening right now. A rush of air conditioned air pushes the kid’s scent straight toward Derek.

“An omega,” he finishes, surprised, peering at the kid again. “You’re an omega?”

The kid rolls his eyes and turns to the doctor. “Is it normal to lose this much time?”

Derek isn’t listening to the question though, he’s staring at the kid’s exposed neck. Where a very healthy looking bite mark rests.

If the relationship between a mated pair isn’t going well the colour turns like a sickness and slowly starts to fade. He knows. Derek has grown up learning this mating stuff. But the mark on this kid's neck is dark red. A strong bond.

He feels a jolt in his stomach at the sight of it, then a deeply pleased rumble of heat courses through him that’s more instinct than anything else. Derek pushes the feeling down, horrified.

He’s mated this kid, he realises. He’s had sex with this kid and gave him a mating bite. The oncoming rush of revulsion makes it hard to breathe for a second.

“I mated this kid?” he says, finally accepting the horrible truth. “Oh god, I’m some kind of creep, aren’t I?”

“Slow down there, big guy,” the kid says quickly. “I’m twenty three. I’m like barely four years younger than you.”

Derek feels like he’s choking. “I’m twenty seven?! I was turning twenty in November!”

“Stiles, dude, stop talking,” Cora says.

“Obviously things are a little confusing right now,” the doctor declares in a placating tone. “Let’s not overwhelm Derek with too much information. The memories will come back in due time, I’m quite confident.”

Derek snorts at the same time the kid does. He’s startled for a second before he quickly looks away and focuses on his sister.

“Where’s Laura?” he asks.

Cora runs a hand through her hair with a sigh. “She lives in New York now. She’s taking a taxi from the airport once her flight gets in tonight.”

“She didn’t have to,” the kid tells her. “She only just started at The Plaza.”

Laura works in a fancy hotel now?

“What do you know about it?” Derek snaps, annoyed that this kid is talking like he knows what’s best for his sister.

He narrows his eyes at Derek. “Probably a lot more than you right now.”

“Stiles,” Cora hisses, grabbing at his arm. “Let’s go talk outside.”

Derek wants to insist that she stay with him. That this kid intruder who thinks he knows better than everyone else should be the one to leave. Where did that stunning red head go?

But the both of them walk out, abandoning Derek with the doctor that he really doesn’t like and would rather be left alone, but it’s not as if he’s got a choice about it.

“If you have any questions-“

“No talking,” Derek snaps, dropping back onto the bed and letting his eyes fall shut.

He can’t turn off his hearing though.

“Look I know this is upsetting,” he hears Cora say. “But you’ve got to realise. Derek in college is not at all like the Derek who loves you now.”

“Yeah, no shit,” the kid says and Derek’s mouth twitches with the beginnings of an involuntary smile.

Once he realises what he's doing, he forces his mouth into a frown, trying to ignore the ache in his skull.

“The Derek in college is still under the insistent delusion that he’s only into girls,” Cora continues and he flushes at the suggestion.

Whatever she’s trying to say, he doesn’t like it. Mating an omega guy was obviously some kind of freak accident. Like whatever happened to end him up in the hospital.

“Great,” the kid says, unenthusiastically.

“College Derek was kind of a homophobe, Stiles,” she admits. “I’m sorry.”

He shifts under the sheets, uncomfortable. He’s got nothing against being gay, Cora’s got him all wrong.

“He never mentioned it. But I shouldn’t be surprised since he’s got a particular talent for repressing everything known to man. Course he’d throw his sexuality in there as well.”

Derek doesn’t like where any part of this conversation is going. Especially since Cora and a total stranger are all but discussing his sexual preferences out in the hall where anyone can hear them. Why is Cora even talking to this guy?

“He was probably embarrassed,” Cora suggests. “You saw him in there. Couldn’t even fathom that you might be his mate.”

“Yeah, let’s not relive that a second time, thanks. I’m taking enough hits as it is.”

Derek’s not trying to be an ass, but they’re not listening to him. Frustration always makes him lash out. And why should he give a shit about some stranger's feelings anyway?

“Stiles, you should probably know- College Derek was a total frat boy.”

The kid lets out a long, drawn out groan and Derek’s temper prickles. The fact that he’d turn his nose up at that is laughable. He doesn’t even need to look at the kid to know that he’s way out of that STUD muffin’s league.

Derek has girls lining up for the smallest chance to get close to him. Or he did. Before he left college. His face and body never fails to open doors and pants, he’s always known that.

The kid’s heartbeat sounds a little strange to him, uneven, like he’s nervous or agitated. Derek wonders what’s wrong with him.

“His memories will come back,” Cora insists. “He’ll be his old self again, don’t worry.”

“Right,” the kid replies, not sounding confident. “Maybe he should stay with you for a while. Things might make more sense if he’s around someone familiar.”

He feels a swell of relief. The last thing he wants right now is to be trapped in a house with a total stranger that he doesn’t remember.

“What about the pack?”

Derek frowns. They belong to a pack? He hasn’t been in a pack since his whole family was murdered.

“We should keep them away for now,” the kid says. “It’s not like he remembers them anyway.”

“Stiles-“

“C’mon, let’s see when the doctors will discharge him. He’s probably already going stir crazy in that room.”

Derek glances down at his fingers and realises he’s tapping them impatiently against the metal support bars of the bed. Hastily, he retracts them and tries not to look like he’s fidgeting.

He doesn’t want to give that kid the satisfaction. Something about those sharp eyes says he loves being proven right.

“When can he get out of here, Doc?” the kid asks once they return, folding his arms and jutting his hips out obscenely so Derek’s eyes can't help but be drawn there.

He keeps thinking this kid must be something for Derek to choose as his mate, but every time he looks at him he doesn’t see much. He’s more obnoxious and annoying than anything else.

How in the hell did Derek’s life end up like this?

“Tonight,” the doctor informs them. “Tomorrow morning at the latest. He’s healing quite rapidly. Even by an alpha's standards.”

Derek sits up a little straighter, forcing a casual expression when inside he’s preening at the compliment. The kid coughs, turning his face away and Derek realises he figured out what he’s thinking and is laughing at him for it.

He curls his hands into fists and stuffs them underneath the sheet to hide them, burning with anger and embarrassment. This kid makes him feel like he’s the butt of a joke.

It’s their mating that’s the joke. Derek just doesn’t see it.

He’s still not ruling out it’s a trick yet.

“I’ll sort out the paperwork,” the kid mutters, which seems funny because he looks barely old enough to drive, let alone figure out hospital bills.

He disappears before Derek can think of something to say, the doctor following him out and he can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief once STUD muffin is gone.

“Cora,” he says quickly. “You’ve got to get me out of here. This is a joke.”

She pushes him back when he tries to swing his legs out and over the bed. “No,” she snaps. “Look I understand things seem strange now but fight your frat boy instincts on this, Derek and do not be a dick to Stiles.”

“I would never mate with someone so annoying,” he mutters. “I mean, come on Cora, look at the kid, he’s nowhere near that Lydia girl.”

Cora just shakes her head, anger curling her lip before she punches him in the arm. Hard.

“Ow. What the fuck, Cora?”

“When you get your memories back you’re going to kick yourself over the things you’ve said to Stiles today,” she snaps.

He opens his mouth to protest but she beats him to it.

“He means everything to you, Derek,” she hisses. “Everything. You took a fucking bullet to the head for him. Does that throw things in perspective for you?”

“I-“ he splutters furiously. “He-“

“Grow the fuck up. You love him and he’s got a dick. Get over it.”

His face heats up. “I don’t-“

“You’d better start playing nice, dickface, because unlike everyone else you used to walk over in college, Stiles won’t take any of your shit. And if you keep treating him like you did just now, he’s not going to stick around for long.”

Derek’s speechless.

Cora’s threatening him over this. He can still remember when she fell over last time Derek was home for the weekend and accidentally impaled her leg on a branch. She'd healed around it before Laura could pull it out and and cried because she thought they’d have to amputate it.

God, she'd been barely sixteen then. Now she'd be- twenty three. He's mated to a guy his sister's age. Derek feels faint.

And he’s never seen her look so much like their mother before. It’s terrifying.

“Fine,” he snaps, folding his arms over his chest and glaring out the window.

His head is still throbbing.



 

The kid, Stiles,- what kind of name is that?- returns half an hour later and Derek’s finally allowed to leave.

It’s dark when Cora and Stiles lead him out into the hospital parking lot and Derek passes most of that time staring at Stiles’ ass.

Does he really fuck this guy? Or does the kid fuck him? The thought sends a frisson of heat through his stomach, the sharp yank of burgeoning arousal so strong that Derek hastily pushes the thoughts away. He's not a Freddy Krueger at least. He seems fit and strong.

And he’s got a good ass, Derek can admit that at least.

For a guy.

“My eyes are up here, handsome,” Stiles calls, without turning, pointing at the back of his head.

Derek nearly trips over his own feet he’s so shocked to be caught out. And Cora lets out a bark of laughter, relishing the mortification on his face. If this kid is meant to be his mate then shouldn't Derek be curious about him?

“Shut up,” he mutters, flustered and annoyed that he’s flustered.

He doesn’t need to see Stiles’ face to know he’s grinning. They stop beside a beat up old jeep that’s parked crookedly over the lines and Derek stares at it, unimpressed.

“Whose shitbox is this?” he demands, when the kid pulls the keys out of his jean pocket.

He drops them almost immediately and Derek is starting to realise that Stiles not only walks around like he’s got too many limbs, but he’s also gracefully challenged. What the fuck do they even have in common?

Cora scoops them off the floor and shoots Derek a warning look.

“I’m gonna look past that, buddy, since you clearly realised that this is my jeep. Though technically it used to be my Mom’s.”

“Your Mom’s an idiot for not selling it for scraps sooner.”

Cora’s mouth falls open in horror and Derek’s unreasonably satisfied by the sight of Stiles’ shoulders stiffening. Nobody talks for a beat.

“She’s also dead,” Stiles says finally unlocking the doors. “But thanks, man, for that insight. Real good to know.”

Fuck.

Derek knows he crossed a line but doesn’t know how to apologise for it. Not to mention he can smell the bitter tinge of sadness now, following the kid around like a bad smell.

Clearly he just hit a sore spot. He very nearly reaches out to take a hold of the kid's hand to comfort him but his brain catches up before he can make a complete ass of himself.

Cora looks like she wants to murder him, so Derek gets into the jeep without another word and doesn’t talk for the rest of the drive. It's easier if he blocks off his sense of smell. The instincts that follow especially in response to the kid are definitely something to be avoided.

They’re in the southside of Beacon Hills. Some of the buildings are a little familiar as they head into town but most of them have changed over seven years. Derek stares out the window, his head aching and feels more uncomfortable by the minute.

When they pull into the familiar long driveway into the woods, Derek grips the back of Cora’s headrest, claws popping free.

“Cora,” he whispers, horrified.

“It’s okay,” she promises. “We knocked it down. Rebuilt.”

“We?” Derek wonders carefully, not relaxing even as they pull around a copse of trees that he could walk through blindfolded and still not get lost.

“The pack,” Stiles offers. “We built it from the ground up and went from there. It’s our unofficial base of operations.”

Derek snorts. “Alright, James Bond."

“Would you prefer den of sadness?” Stiles retorts. “Or are you past your angst stage yet?”

“God, you’re mouthy,” he mutters. “Where did I even meet you?”

“In those woods,” he says. “Right after your uncle bit Scott.”

Derek inhales sharply. “Peter’s a comatose.”

Cora makes a contrary sound.

“He’s not?” he demands, nonplussed. “But- but- What’s he doing then?”

“In general?” Stiles wonders. “Being a creeper. Making shifty deals with powerful people he can’t handle and then running back to us when he’s in over his head.”

“He’s not in our pack,” Cora determines firmly.

“Good,” he says, sighing and sitting back again. “Uncle Peter’s a fucking dick.”

Stiles actually cackles at that and Derek turns his head, surprised. Shouldn't he want to get along with all of the family Derek has left? Or at least pretend to get along with them? He is nothing like a good mate should be, Derek knows that at least.

The kid laughs with his whole body, wild and exuberantly and there’s something strangely alluring about it. Derek turns away and lets his eyes fall shut again.

Maybe if he falls asleep this whole nightmare will be over.



 

For the time being, Derek has closed his eyes, but isn't sleeping because the crease between his eyebrows is still there. Stiles can’t help but keep glancing at him in the revision mirror. Just to keep checking he’s there. And alive.

There’s still a bandage wrapped around his skull and the damage still hasn’t fully healed yet. Derek came so close to death yesterday that Stiles can’t even think about trying to relax. He’s running on mostly adrenaline and hyper vigilance, feeling like at any moment they could be attacked again. And he definitely needs to shower. He's starting to reek.

In his defence though, he is still covered in a pool of Derek's dried blood. It's still caked beneath his fingernails despite trying to clean his shaking hands in the hospital bathroom. He probably looks like a mess and he knows the sight he made, didn't do much at all for Derek seeing him for the first time. Stiles has long since realised he doesn't need to do much to impress Derek.

But that was before. Now- it's looking a lot less certain.

The pack is still patrolling their territory in search of the two stray hunters but they haven’t been seen since Stiles and Derek came across them yesterday morning. They’re not local, so they must be roamers.

And they’re rogue too, considering they attacked without so much as a hello.

The rest of the day following that confrontation had been completely shitty. Derek had been unconscious and there was nothing the doctors could do to help the swelling in his brain when his body was already trying to heal. Stiles had nothing to do but pace around the hospital floors and wait.

Being back at the hospital definitely brought back some bad memories of his Mom in her final moments. Unsurprisingly. He couldn't even close his eyes to sleep the entire night.

And not only did Derek nearly get himself killed trying to protect Stiles, since he woke up it’s painfully clear he’s been replaced by some kind of pod person.

An asshole pod person. And not just the loveable grumpy kind Stiles thinks of with great affection. The arrogant, steal your girl just for the fun of it kind.

He’s already said a few things that have made Stiles want to smack him over the head with a rolled up newspaper. Derek’s still snarky as hell. But it’s mean snarky, vindictive snarky. That’s usually Stiles’ ballpark whenever somebody makes the mistake of hurting a person he loves.

Not only that, but this Derek seems to believe with his whole heart that being mated to Stiles is a mistake.

Stiles might have been able to handle to handle the attitude problem if that was all he had to deal with. The fact that Derek is insistent that he’s not interested in men has thrown Stiles for a loop as well.

He knows they’ve been through hell and high water to get to where they are now. To be happy. But he’s not going to beg Derek to stick around if he's determined to go. Even if he desperately wants to.

Losing all his memories of them changes things, Stiles knows that. He also knows how weak it could potentially make the pack as well. Derek’s proven himself to be easily manipulated in the past. By Kate, by Peter, by Jennifer.

With Derek like this right now he’s vulnerable to being manipulated again. Even more so, when it’s clear that he doesn’t trust Stiles and probably wouldn’t listen to him. Stiles doesn’t hold out much hope for the pack either being the balancing force. Not when Derek seems to be ignoring his own instincts.

Anybody from his past could come along and try to fill in the blanks of his memory with falsehoods and fake recollections. In this state, coming from someone he trusts, Derek could believe almost anything.

It’s fucked up to be thinking of it like this but that’s what Stiles’ brain does. What it has to do if he's going to keep their pack together and safe. Stiles is the schemer here. That’s his job.

He just can’t believe how much of a dick College Derek is.

Before it used to be funny, how much of an asshole Derek could be, but that’s because he knew what he was like underneath. And they'd been through so much together. They went from begrudging allies, to sort of friends, to hooking up on a regular basis.

That Derek he knew. A jerk who’d bitch about Stiles being a liability but would still inevitably come and rescue him from a pair of angry werewolves interested in tearing him apart.

This Derek, Stiles doubts would throw a puddle of water on him if he was on fire. That’s definitely not comforting.

He’s closed off again, like he usually is around strangers but this time Stiles is on the outside. It's Stiles, who is the stranger. He’s not used to being around a version of Derek that doesn’t trust him.

Stiles pulls up to their driveway and tries not to sigh. This is going to be hard. He'll have to fight his feelings in order to give Derek the space he needs to wrap his head around everything going on right now.

But seeing Derek get shot in the head has only increased Stiles’ urge to stay close in order to protect him. Backing off will not be easy. Not that he ever had a talent for keeping things casual when it comes to relationships. His decade long obsessive crush on Lydia Martin speaks for itself.

He’s so screwed right now. This will require Scott’s help.

Cora goes to shake Derek awake but his eyes open before she can grab him and he’s staring up at the house with a frown. If he didn’t recognise Stiles, there’s no point holding out hope a home they built together is going shake the branches in his memory tree.

His seven years of lost time most likely won’t return for a while. It’s best they all start accepting that, Stiles included.

He switches off the engine and tumbles out of the driver’s seat with a frown. Derek takes a huge step to the side to avoid him as he’s passing by as if Stiles is a poisonous plant. It’s a far cry from Derek’s usual need to be as tactile as possible.

Stiles follows him toward the dark house, Cora reaching his side just to squeeze his arm comfortingly like she sympathises with the situation. Derek is standing impatiently by the door, peering at the house with interest and clearly attempting to find something familiar about it.

So Stiles squeezes into the space left for his body, noting how Derek steps back again when he reaches out to unlock the door. Before he can step through the threshold though, Derek pushes past just for the pleasure of stalking inside first.

He doesn’t think it’s a protective thing, Derek doesn’t seem remotely interested in Stiles beside the whole alpha posturing act of entering a room first. It’s such an outdated move that Stiles can imagine Derek cringing if he were watching himself right now.

Feeling slightly comforted by that fact, Stiles heads in after but makes sure to elbow Derek in the side as he slips past. Just because they're mates doesn't mean that Stiles won't be petty. The surprised oof makes him vindictively pleased before Stiles remembers that it has none of the playful edge that usually leads to him being naked.

Grumbling to himself, Stiles moves towards the wall and switches on the lights.

“I’ll take Derek up to grab some of his things,”’ he says. “Cora can you fetch the keys to Derek’s Camaro from the-“

The downstairs bedroom door opens and Scott pokes his head out, still half asleep with his hair sticking on end. Stiles is so relieved to see him that most of the stress slips out of his body.

He was at the hospital yesterday for moral support but had to leave for a sudden veterinary emergency. By the looks of it he's only just gotten home and fallen asleep. He seems as exhausted as Stiles feels. He hasn't slept a wink since Derek was shot.

“Whosere,” Scott mumbles, and it doesn’t escape Stiles’ notice that Derek steps in front of his sister first, blocking her protectively from view.

There’s a twinge of hurt following that move but Stiles does his best to push past it. With Derek like this for an indefinite amount of time, he’s got a lot more of these moments to prepare for. Best option is to move forward with thicker skin and not to take it personally.

“Down boy,” Stiles mutters, ignoring Derek because it’s the best way to avoid getting soul crushed by the rejection. “It’s just us.”

“How’s Derek?” Scott wonders around an attractive yawn.

“Derek’s a dick,” Stiles declares cheerfully, enjoying the way Derek’s lip curls maybe a little too much.

Some of his anger has the familiar Derek edge to it and it’s very easy to fall back into past rhythms.

“Oh good, everything back to normal then. G’night.”

Stiles watches Scott’s door close and wishes more than anything that he could tell Scott how very not normal things are right now. He’s gonna need someone to talk to about this, now that his number one listener is gone.

He heads towards the staircase as Cora moves into the kitchen in search of Derek’s keys. Stiles doesn’t even realise that Derek is following until he stubs his toe on the first step and Derek runs into his back.

“Watch it,” he snaps, without inquiring to the state of Stiles’ poor battered foot.

At least before the attack, he’d snicker a little before drawing Stiles’ pain away.

“Just leave me behind,” he bemoans. “I can’t go on.”

“Oh for fucks-“ Derek hisses, shoving him aside and storming up the stairs ahead of him without so much as a by your leave.

Stiles is trying his hardest not to blame Actual Derek for College Derek’s behaviour. But this is unprecedented. At least Derek used to roll his eyes a little. Now he really doesn’t give a shit.

Reaching down briefly to rub his sore foot, Stiles starts climbing the staircase and focuses on trying to hide how he feels about this.

He’s so distracted that he runs into Derek at the top. The fact that he flinches as if Stiles jabbed him with a knife rather than absentmindedly touched his lower back, leaves a hollow feeling in his chest. Stiles drops his hand away quickly.

“To the left,” he directs, finally grasping that Derek’s waiting to be told where to go.

Derek postpones his reply until he’s led them into their bedroom. “Your friend lives with us?” he hisses sounding much more accusatory than expected.

“Our friend,” Stiles tries patiently as he flicks on the bedroom light, gesturing at the chest of drawers which houses Derek’s clothes.

Derek doesn’t move, but gives a disbelieving look that is oddly reminiscent of the Derek Hale Stiles knows and loves.

“Okay fine, maybe he was my friend first. He’s also the one that roped me into going into the woods when I officially met you for the first time. Though to be fair, I did bring him into the Preserve the night before to look for a dead body. My point is, Scott’s the one who brought us together, you should be thanking him.”

Derek’s scowling now. “Yeah. Thank him.”

He sounds more like he’d rather punch Scott in the face and this is really not doing nice things for Stiles’ ego. College Derek should not be making him feel so inferior right now.

But to be fair College Derek looks a hell of a lot like Actual Derek so you’ll have to forgive Stiles for letting his wires get so crossed.

“I’m trying to figure out if College Derek’s threats sound as bad as Sourwolf Derek. Can you scowl and say ‘I’m gonna rip your throat out. With my teeth’.”

Derek actually seems like he's internally combusting. “God, you’re a mouthy omega.”

Stiles stalks over to the cupboard and fetches the duffel Derek uses sometimes for out of town trips or going to the gym. “Those two aren’t mutually exclusive, dumbass.”

He can almost feel Derek’s anger from the other side of the room when he turns back and tosses the empty duffel bag onto the bed.

Derek hasn’t moved since then and Stiles thinks he’s having some kind of internal gay crisis where the proof of the fact that they actually sleep together is melting his brain.

It’s really not as big a deal as Derek is chalking it up to be. Stiles figured out he was bi fairly quickly in his teenage years when’s Scott’s dick had interested him almost as much as his own.

Derek had his bi awakening in college when he hooked up with a few guys at different frat parties, but it must have been in the later years since College Derek now doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word.

Stiles rolls his eyes and ducks around him to open up the top drawer. When he turns back to say something snotty, he realises that Derek is staring at the photo frame on their nightstand instead.

A photo Erica took of the two of them fast asleep during one of their many pack movie nights. In the picture Stiles has taken his sleeping-in-odd-positions habit to an entirely new level, since he’s basically hugging the front of Derek’s chest as they’re sprawled back against the armrest. He’s half perched himself on Derek’s face, with his mouth wide open in the middle of a much deserved siesta.

What’s even better though, is that Derek is fast asleep in the photo too, undisturbed by the odd clinging creature that’s permanently attached itself to him. They both look utterly ridiculous.

No dignity whatsoever. But Stiles fucking loves it.

It’s them and it’s a little bit hilarious and endearing. Derek always rolls his eyes at it but Stiles knows he secretly likes the photo just as much.

College Derek, however, is not impressed.

Stiles sighs. “You want to grab some clothes or do alphas not dress themselves where you’re from?”

Derek jerks back, surprised, like he’d forgotten Stiles was in the room, which hello, also not a great feeling. Stiles realises abruptly that he can’t handle Derek acting so distant in their own bedroom. Where they laugh and get naked and cuddle more often than he can count.

It’s tainting the place somehow.

“I’ll be downstairs.”

“You like it don’t you?” Derek wonders abruptly. “My knot. Do you only get wet for me or do you spread those legs for Scott as well?”

His mouth falls open and Derek responds with a spitefully satisfied smirk.

Until of course, Stiles hauls off and punches him in the face.



 

When they come downstairs a minute later, duffel packed, Derek’s broken nose has already healed itself but there’s blood still dripping down his face. He looks like a character from a horror movie but Stiles is too angry to specify a pop culture reference.

He storms into the kitchen, knuckles rapidly bruising to a dark shade of puce with some of the skin there now cracked open and bleeding. Stiles doesn’t regret it at all.

Cora, who’s sitting at the kitchen table, instantly smells the fresh blood and rushes to his side. Stiles should never have suggested that he and Derek be alone together. After his less than enthusiastic reaction to being mated to him, that was a disaster waiting to happen.

“What the hell happened? Did Derek- hurt you?” she demands, appalled.

Stiles is too infuriated to speak and stalks over towards the sink, moving to wash away the blood.

Cora has rounded on Derek by then and is in the middle of poking him hard in the chest. “What the hell did you do?”

“It was a joke,” he snaps. “I wanted to see how he’d react if I-“

“If you what? Derek? What did you do?”

“He punched me,” Derek complains, sounding so much not like Derek that Stiles can’t help but snort.

He’s never actually hit Derek before, without the intention of bringing him quickly back into consciousness when their lives depended on it. The knowledge of what he’s done leaves a sour taste in his mouth.

His father has dealt with enough domestic violence cases to last a lifetime. Stiles has been lectured so many times on violence between mates that by now he should’ve known better.

But he wasn’t even thinking when he did it. The response had been impulsive, instinctual. Usually it takes a lot more to get a rise out of him. College Derek, unfortunately seems to have retained the skill of knowing how to push all of his buttons.

“I’ll get the bandages,” Cora mutters, intercepting Stiles on his way to reaching one handed above the microwave to open the cabinet above where they stock their medical supplies.

Stiles manages to lift his mouth at her, in a gesture of gratitude but absolutely refuses to look at Derek. He knows he should apologise, but something tells him College Derek would view that as being weak.

It’s not like he can take the punch back anyway.

“Oh whatever,” Derek mutters, coolly. “The kid probably healed by now.”

Cora looks like she wants to scream as she pulls the disinfectant out of the cupboard along with the bandages and gauze. Stiles hopes he doesn’t have to hold her back from messing up her brother.

Derek’s having a bad enough day as it is.

“Have you bothered to use any of your other senses since you woke up in the hospital?” She snaps. “Stiles is human.”

She opens the bottle in her hand and disinfects Stiles’ open cut before passing him the bandages. Expertly, he starts taping his knuckles, before wrapping them up tightly in the gauze. While he works, he can feel the exact moment when Derek steps closer to him.

If he was a werewolf, he'd probably be able to smell the guilt.

“I didn’t- look I was trying to rile you up,” he admits. “I was just wondering what you’d do if I said that.”

Cora throws a rolled-up bandage at his head. “What the hell did you say?”

“Nothing,” Stiles finally mutters. “Just take him back to your place, Cora. Please.”

“Look, c’mon I’m sorry, alright. I was out of line.”

Stiles puts the bandages and disinfectant back into the cupboard and strides past Derek without saying anything because he’s fighting every urge not to get some holy water and douse him in it.

Just to be sure Derek’s hasn’t been possessed by the spirit of some frat boy asshole and that this really isn’t happening.

Right now he just wants to shower and go to bed. And forget this.

But that won’t last long because tomorrow when he wakes up, Derek’s side of the bed will be empty and there will be nobody remotely resembling the guy he fell in love with to fill that space.

And that’s disappointing as hell.

“Goodnight, College Derek.”