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And We Will Learn To Live Again

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“That’s Heather.”

The words shot around like bullets in Stiles’ head, pounding into his skull while he tried to focus his attention on the lifeless body of his childhood best friend. Her throat was slashed ear to ear and the side of her head was solidly bashed in, but her pale face looked calm and peaceful, an odd contrast to the gruesomeness of her injuries. He raised his head to look at Ms. McCall standing at the end of the table, his eyes beginning to fill with hot tears as she pulled the thin sheet back over her head.

“Stiles… I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine.”

His mind barely registered her words as he spun on his heel and walked out of the morgue, navigating his way through the long, too-familiar hallways of the hospital and out onto the pavement outside. His body was working on autopilot as he fished his keys out of his pocket and climbed into his Jeep, driving out of the parking lot and screeching out onto the empty street with absolutely no destination in mind.

Stiles felt his inner foundations, the ones he had worked so hard to build and solidify after everything that had been happening since Scott’s transformation, crumbling inside of him. Heather is dead. Heather, the only happy tie to his childhood remaining after the death of his mom. He felt the hot, burning tears beginning to work themselves back to the surface of his emptying brown eyes as he felt more and more of his control slipping away. Anger suddenly overwhelmed his body as he swerved the Jeep to the side of the road and parked, scrambling out of the car to take off deep into the woods, running quickly and breathlessly away from town.

Nothing good can ever come out of that place anymore. There’s only death and pain and loss, and Stiles has had enough of that for his lifetime. Everything keeps escalating out of his control. He kept running until the orange glow of the sunset skimming along the top of the trees reached his subconscious. Minutes, seconds, hours later, he found himself stopped at the edge of a large river just as the sun dipped below the tree line and his world plunged into darkness.

The silence in the woods was utterly overwhelming to his weak human senses. He closed his eyes and attempted to breathe normally, taking in the deep aroma of oak and moss while listening to the river quietly rush in front of his feet. His body began to move, all semblance of reasoning flitting away from his half-hearted grasp as he gasped at the feeling of the cold water rushing over his aching calves and ankles. He let his mind go completely as he took another slow step forward, allowing the darkness to reach his knees, his hips, his chest. The feeling of the water rising around his body as he continued walking deeper into the river was intoxicating and calming and exhilarating all at once.

The river felt as smooth as silk on his skin, welcoming him into its depths as Stiles waded in up to his chin. He didn’t open his eyes once, his rational side that thought of his father, Scott, and his friends pushed away deep into the darkness surrounding his heart. He brought the corners of his mouth up in a small smile before taking one more step into the river and completely submerging himself in the dark, calming relief of the water before he let go entirely and breathed in.

 


 

“Stiles…. Come on Stiles, don’t do this…”

His deep reverie was interrupted by the sound of an incessant voice shouting far away one second, yet right beside him the next. It was impossible to distinguish anything in the swirling darkness he was floating in.

Stop yelling. I’m tired. The voice only grew louder as Stiles tried to go back to sleep.

“Stay with me.”

He felt a tightness in his chest as this stranger who knew his name tried pushing oxygen into his unresponsive lungs. I’m too tired. Please stop. He felt a sharp pain over his midline where two hands were pushing on his sternum, working his exhausted heart that was too weak to pump. Stop

A white-hot flash of pain shot through his chest as he started forcefully coughing, expelling the water from his burning lungs and gasping in what felt like gallons of the dry forest air. He felt the two hands quickly roll him onto his side as he vomited the watery contents of his stomach onto the ground, one hand firmly rubbing the middle of his back to help expel any leftover water from his saturated lungs.

He stayed on the riverbank like that until he finally stopped puking, the mysterious hand never leaving the center of his back as two strong arms wrapped around him, picking his limp body up and carrying him through the woods as Stiles floated in and out of hazy consciousness.

He awoke to a bright light invading his vision and a feeling of all-over warmth enveloping his body. Stiles slowly opened his heavy eyes, blinking to adjust to the light he now realized was the sun shining through a dirty window above the bed. The bed... He looked down to his chest, examining the plain gray comforter that lay on top of his mostly naked body. Peeking under the covers, he saw that only his boxers remained on his body that was still slightly caked in dirt from the bottom of the river.

Stiles sat up quickly, the memories of last night coming back to him in one big wall of emotions. Suddenly the air was gone from his chest, replaced with the feeling of the thick slushing of mucky water. He started to gasp for air, panic taking over all of his senses as the feeling of the water in his lungs suffocated him with the memories. He closed his eyes just as the door to his room opened and the same strong hand from the riverbank was placed on his shoulder.

“Breathe, Stiles.”

The voice was deep and commanding. He knew that voice. Stiles opened his eyes to see Derek sitting next to him on the bed, staring at him with an unreadable look as he tried to collect his breathing using only Derek’s firm hand to keep him grounded. Eventually his gasping turned into deep, shaky breaths, and all too soon the hand was gone and its owner was walking across the room and already halfway through the door.

“Derek…” Stiles rasped, his voice damaged from the water.

Derek stopped and turned his head slightly, but he didn’t reply. He couldn’t look at Stiles, not yet. The rage building up at his actions would have definitely caused unknown amounts of physical harm to the boy. He took a few deep breaths, steadying himself as much as possible before he turned around.

“You drowned yourself.” He felt the anger building again at this infuriating teenager lying in his bed. “What. The. HELL. Were. You. Thinking.” He stalked closer to him with every annunciated word, taking in the growing look of fear on Stiles’ face. He stopped when his face was only inches from Stiles’, inhaling the overwhelming scent of fear rolling off the boy in waves.

Good, he thought. He should be afraid.

Out of nowhere, however, Derek was taken aback at the loud sob that choked its way out of the boy’s mouth. He suddenly felt arms around him, squeezing him tight as the boy buried his face in Derek’s shirt and opened the floodgates.

Derek grunted, not expecting the sudden tactile show of emotions and only barely managed to peel the boy’s arms from himself without causing him any pain. Grabbing his wrists, he forced Stiles’ hands down into the comforter as he stepped up, turned on his heel and walked out of the room. He decided to slam the door for good measure.

 Standing outside the room, however, he stayed and listened to the muffled sobs that Stiles was futilely attempting to cover up. He slunk his body down the wooden plane, resting on the ground for only moments before he stood back up and swung the door open.

Stiles was looking at him with a broad mix of fear and shame, attempting to pull the comforter up around his head as Derek moved gracefully back over to the bed and grabbed it from his hands. He used the thick blanket to wrap around Stiles’ body, making sure to cocoon him shoulders to toes in the warmth before bringing him into his arms.

He’d never been good at comforting people. That was a well-known fact, to absolutely everyone. But Derek could see something terrifying in the kid’s eyes, something he hadn’t seen in almost six years when Laura ate a whole wolfsbane plant a month after the fire. He looked completely blank, no trace of his usual perky and snarky persona lurking behind his golden brown eyes.

He looked like a person who had completely given up.

As the sobs began quieting and his body started to still again, Derek heard Stiles utter a single resigned sentence into his chest.

“You should have let me die.”

He was up and out of the room again, already jumping down the spiral staircase and crashing into the study as he tried to suppress the barrage of emotions he felt at that sentence. Stiles couldn’t have known, there was no way. He couldn’t have known that Laura said the same exact sentence to him after he had saved her too.

Either way, it felt like a knife in his gut.

 


 

Stiles stared at the door blankly, his eyes taking in the chipping gray paint on the wood as he listened to Derek slamming things around the floor below him. He felt no need to censor his words to Derek, no need to protect him from his feelings because he couldn’t give less of a shit about what Derek thought about him.

He was sick of lying to everyone, especially to his father and Scott. He was sick of trying to convince everyone that he was okay all of the time and sick of them always believing him so quickly. He wished someone would notice and see through his lies, because it hurt too much that no one even cared enough to realize that he was dead inside.

But in typical Stiles fashion, he would go back to pretending it was all okay and shove the events of last night in a dark hole inside himself. He wasn’t going to make anyone worry about him, no matter how much he wanted someone to, because that’s just who he is. He puts everyone before himself, every single time, unless he absolutely can’t help it. He was selfless, happy, quirky- yet simultaneously broken, tortured, exhausted, and done.

If he only ever showed three of those attributes to other people, well, he could live with that.

For now.

Stiles stood up from the bed slowly, determination set in his face as he searched for a suitable outfit in Derek’s dresser. He found a pair of dark, faded jeans that just barely fit, but the only shirts he could find were all too big. He decided on a loose black T-shirt that smelled faintly of grass before slipping it over his head and starting down the stairs.

He locked his eyes on the door, determined to get out of the loft before Derek could say anything. He was almost out, his fingers wrapping around the steel handle before Derek’s words stopped him.

“What do you think you’re doing.”

He turned around slowly, looking him dead in the eyes before replying.

“Leaving. You’ve done your civic duty to humanity by rescuing me. I’m not your burden anymore.”

“Well unfortunately for me, you still are. You tried to kill yourself. No, actually, you didn’t just try. You succeeded. And if I hadn’t been out on a patrol and you hadn’t been just a half a mile from my route, then you wouldn’t be alive right now.”

Stiles jerked his eyes over from the spot they were drilling into the wall beside Derek. “Like I said before: You should have let me die.” He turned on his heel to leave, but his elbow was forcefully caught from behind and he swung his other fist around to hit his attacker. Derek easily caught it in his other hand and began squeezing until the circulation to his fingers was cut off. He began to yell as he pushed the boy against the door.

“Maybe I should have! Maybe you’re nothing but a monumental pain in my ass most of the time, but you have other people who want you around, believe it or not. So look me in the eyes and tell me you won’t go home and just try again. Because you’re not leaving until I hear a steady heartbeat behind those words.”

Stiles wrenched his arms, but they were caught tight in vice grips and weren’t going anywhere. With each movement of struggle, Derek only pinned his arms back tighter, causing him to yelp in pain before bringing his knee up to hit him where it would count. Derek was quicker though, bringing up his own knee to block Stiles before he could make contact. With three of his four limbs pinned still, he slackened his muscles slowly and calmed his breathing.

Cold, cinnamon eyes met bright red as he practically spat the words in Derek’s face. “I won’t go home and kill myself tonight. Or any night, in the near future. Now get the fuck off of me and let me go.”

No upticks. Derek felt the familiar pull of the knife in his gut as he released his grip, watching as Stiles ran barefoot out of the loft in his clothing.

 


 

When Stiles finally got home after walking for two hours, barefoot, he was barely able to make it up the stairs and into the bathroom before he collapsed on the floor.

The rug felt nice under his face- soothing and relaxing and warm, a nice relief from the strong wind that had been pelting his face the whole walk home. He pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them before closing his eyes and allowing himself to relax for a moment. The stretch on his hamstrings felt nice, but after a few minutes he knew he needed to clean the blood off his feet.

He got up slowly, allowing his head to adjust to the change in altitude by gripping the countertop tightly with both hands. As soon as the dizziness subsided enough, he opened his eyes and looked at his reflection for the first time since last night.

The sight staring back at him made him audibly gasp. No wonder Derek had been so mad.

His eyes looked completely dull, something he had only seen in himself once before, when his mother had just died. His cheeks were flushed with windburn, and dirt was caked in the edges of his hair from where his head had rested on the muddy riverbank.

But the most shocking thing to him was the scratches. Stiles counted at least three separate sets of angry red lines contrasting deeply with his creamy pale skin, starting right below the edge of his chin on each side of his neck and ending about halfway down his chest, from what he could see under Derek’s V-neck.

He tilted his head to the right and leaned forward, attempting to get a better look at the worst set. One of the lines had re-opened slightly, either during the struggle at Derek’s or the walk home, because a drop of blood was dripping down his neck and soaking into the dark material of the T-shirt. He quickly stripped it over his head and took stock of the rest of his injuries underneath.

There were dark purple bruises over his sternum, where his chest had been pumped and cracked during CPR. Dirt was flaking off all over, settling in a thin layer of dust around Stiles’ feet as he hurriedly brushed himself off the best that he could. The ends of the scratch marks looked jagged, as if he had changed direction roughly at the very end of clawing into his delicate skin. The parts that were caked in dirt were starting to look angry and inflamed, so he turned around and started the shower to start warming it up.

Unbuttoning his pants, he pushed them down around his ankles before gently pulling his feet out of the leg holes. The soles of his feet were covered in scratches and blood from the pavement and gravel he had been forced to walk through, and he could also feel a small shard of glass sticking out of his left sole.

He sat down on the toilet seat with a pair of tweezers, giving his feet the necessary attention as the room started to fog up with steam. For once in his life his mind was completely blank, no insane thoughts racing through his skull as he focused completely on the task at hand. It was registering in the back of his mind that this wasn’t normal and he might be in shock, but no matter how hard his subconscious tried he couldn’t bring himself to understand or care.

 He stepped in the shower, allowing the scorching hot water to run over his aching muscles while he blankly watched the brown and rusty red filth flow down into the shower drain. By the time Stiles actually started washing himself, he had been in the shower so long just standing and staring that the water was getting cold. He snapped himself out of it and quickly washed his hair and body, turning off the water just as it reached arctic levels and stepping out to wrap his towel around himself.

He opened the door to the bathroom quickly and walked across the hall to his room, dumping the dirty clothes unceremoniously on the floor to blend in with the rest of his mess before sliding on clean boxers and slipping under the covers of his bed.

He partially realized that it was only four in the afternoon, but he had never felt so tired and worn in his life. He closed his eyes and attempted to fall asleep, but the silence in his head was deafening.

It took about a half hour before everything hit him, and suddenly he was clutching his pillow and sobbing as all of his emotions slammed through him at once.

He felt enraged. Enraged at this life he was living, enraged at Scott for getting him into all this, enraged at Derek for saving him. He didn’t need saving, he needed release.

He was out of bed and walking down the stairs before his mind even registered that he was up. He stalked into the kitchen, shoveling through drawers until he found what he was looking for.

Taking a deep breath, he held the blade of the box cutter up to the tender skin on the inside of his thigh, just below the fabric of his boxers. He told Derek he wouldn’t try and kill himself again… But shit, he didn’t promise anything about this.

With a slow pull of his wrist Stiles dragged the blade over his skin, applying just enough pressure to break the surface. He gasped quietly at the pain, watching as a small drop of blood rolled down the inside of his leg and dripped to the floor at the bend of his knee.

He quickly realigned the blade, repeating the process over and over again until the inside of his left thigh was covered in red, crisscrossed slices. A dull throb was emitting from the patchwork, but Stiles barely noticed as he sat down on the floor, put his head in his hands and just stared into space as the emotions left his body.

No, he couldn’t kill himself. He couldn’t protect himself, and he couldn’t protect anyone he loved. He couldn’t fight back, he couldn’t bring himself to care anymore. But this- this he could do.

Stiles stood up, cleaned the small amount of blood off the floor and most of it off himself before calmly walking back to his room, plastering a hollow, empty smile on his face that couldn’t reach his eyes anymore before climbing under the covers and shutting out the world.

 


 

Stiles woke up the next morning to the blaring of his alarm and the pain pounding all over his body. His feet were throbbing from the gravel probably still embedded in his flesh, his lungs were rasping deep in his aching chest with every inhale, his head was spinning and his inner thigh was absolutely burning.

He honestly couldn’t bring himself to care, though, because it felt good. The pain felt solid and real, and he found himself hoping that it could be something he would be able to fall back on when everything else got hazy and tumbled from his hands. Stiles sat up slowly, reaching over to grab his Adderall before relaxing back onto his pillow. He rolled the bottle absently in his hands, re-reading the label of side effects and dosages like he had hundreds of times before.

Before he could overthink it, he got to his feet and walked into the bathroom, uncapping the lid as he held the bottle precariously over the toilet. His eyes watched his hand as it tilted at a glacial pace, spilling the little orange pills into the water with little plunks as they broke the surface.

Stiles sat back on the edge of the tub, clutching the empty bottle in one hand as he watched the tablets dissolve into clouds of orange smoke and settle in a layer over the bottom of the bowl. Something in his head was screaming at him, but it was coming through a thick fog and he didn’t feel like trying to focus on it.  He sat there until every pill diffused before reaching out and flushing, ignoring the shrill sound ringing in his skull as he got up, got ready, and drove to school.

It didn’t get better throughout the day. Everything that reached his ears sounded like he was hearing it from the bottom of a swimming pool. People approached him in the hallway; people who had never talked to him before to say “Sorry about Heather!” or “If there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you,” or some other bullshit cliché that he didn’t even register. Stiles nodded periodically throughout their consolations, waiting the appropriate amount of time before he could make some excuse and walk off to the next class or the next sad, smiling face staring at him throughout the school.

By the time Chemistry rolled around, the sound in his head was reaching the point of being debilitating. He sat down in his seat next to Scott, squeezing his eyes shut and bringing a hand up to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Scott was talking; he could hear him and even make out the occasional word or two, but all of his senses were being taken over by the screeching and it hurt so much less to just block him out.

 He felt a hand on his arm but he just shrugged it off, running his fingers through the mop of hair on his head and focusing on his breathing.

 In for four, out for eight.

 In for four, out for eight.

 In for fou-

Stiles jumped, heart pumping out of his chest as a ruler slapped his desk inches from his arms. Anger was building under his skin like an earthquake as he looked up into Mr. Harris’ scowling face. His lips were moving furiously as he got closer, screaming right into Stiles’ personal space when suddenly the screeching in his head stopped and he could hear Harris’ every. last. word.

“-INCOMPETENT little children, such as yourself, NEVER making a SINGLE effort to-”

"SHUT UP!”

The room went completely silent as Stiles jumped up and stood face to face with Harris, chest heaving with anger as he stood at his full height, just short of the teacher’s. Harris only smirked as he muttered “Detention after school, Stilinski. This whole week. Make yourself useful for once in your trivial, meaningless life and walk yourself down to the Principal’s office.”

“Over my dead fucking body.”

Stiles grabbed his bag and ran out, ignoring Scott’s shouts of protest fading behind him as he bolted into the nearest bathroom and locked the door. He yanked his hoodie off, pillowing it into a ball and pushing it into his face to muffle the sounds of his screaming.

He kept the sweatshirt smashed to his face, long after he stopped yelling and after his body began starving for oxygen. Black was seeping around the edges of his vision before he finally dropped it onto his lap, leaving his hands hovering in mid-air.

Stiles wasn’t sure how long he sat there before his hands started moving. It could have been minutes or hours; time was too distant from his grasp to make any sense. He only knew that one minute he was staring into the stall door almost catatonically, and the next he was scratching deep gouges into his arms. His arms were crossed across his chest, fingers starting at the opposing shoulders before digging in and pulling all the way to his wrists before pulling off and repeating.

He didn’t bleed very much, since his nails weren’t long enough to do much more than scrape off the top of the skin, but it did the trick. His breathing began to slow and his mind stopped racing as he focused all of his attention to the pain in his arms, letting the overwhelming feeling of raw nerves being ravaged drown out everything else.

It was the sound of the bathroom door opening and footsteps padding across the hard tile that caused Stiles to snap out of his stupor. His head snapped up from where it had been resting on the back wall, and he hurried to get his hoodie back on before the footsteps stopped directly outside of his stall.

"Stiles? You in there?”

Worry was evident in Scott’s voice, and a little part of him cringed for the way he knew he had been treating his best friend all day. It was soon forgotten, though, at the sound of heavy sniffing coming from the other side of the door.

“Stiles... why do I smell blood?”

Shit. Shit shit shit. Stiles pressed his arms into himself, clearing his throat before answering.

“It’s, uh, it’s nothing, I just accidently cut my hand on a loose screw in the door. I’m fine!” Stiles quietly fished his keychain out of his pocket as he spoke, pulling out the smaller of the two blades on his swiss army knife and quickly digging it into the skin of his hand. He let out an inaudible hiss at the pain before jumping as the door rattled.

“Let me in, man. I can look at it, I’ve gotten a lot better at wound care working with Deaton.”

He slipped the knife back into his pocket while simultaneously squeezing his fist, watching a thick trail of blood run down the pale skin of his forearm. “Naw dude, I seriously got it. Can you just… Can I be alone for a little? I just…” Stiles trailed off, leaning his head against the stall wall and matching his breathing up with Scott’s.

Nine breaths later, Scott sighed loudly, and Stiles could picture the pinched face he knew his best friend was expressing.

“Yeah, Stiles. Just come find me if you need me, okay? You don’t have to go through any of this alone.”

If only that was the truth. “Thanks bro.”

There was a hesitant pat on the door, before the tips of Scott’s shoes disappeared from Stiles’ line of vision under the door and the taps of footfall were lost outside to the rumbling of the class change in the hallway.

Stiles didn’t cry. He sat and hypnotized himself watching the blood drip from his elbow until the last shred of his anger leaked out in a full drop, curled down his arm and then fell to the floor with a resolute splat.

 


 

Mr. Harris had told Stiles to go home that first evening when he had shown up for detention. Guessing from the pinched look on the teacher’s face that was just shy of looking guilty, he could only guess that someone had told him about Heather after he had run off. It had only been two days after Harris sent him home, but Stiles was feeling increasingly irritated as each moment passed.

He didn’t like using Heather as an excuse. Yeah, she was the proverbial end of his long, long  rope (which, bad comparison to be using right now) but there were too many things leading up to this for Stiles to even think about expanding on for anyone else’s benefit. So if he just rolled along with the excuse to get out of detention, he hoped she wouldn’t hold it against him. And he was sure she would have gotten a kick out of seeing Harris squirm, if he had ever gotten the chance to tell her about him.

The small smirk Stiles had been sporting as he left the school dropped at that thought. Nothing sobered him more quickly than the reminder of all the time he’d lost with so many people. Of all the separate ways he didn’t capitalize on the time he was given... It felt like a kick to the nuts.

He had so many chances, too. Literally endless opportunities to pick up his phone and call Heather, see how she was doing. Hang out. Maybe if they had hung out before the night of her party, she would have never been taken… They might have even dated, sealed the deal before virgin sacrificing even became an issue. If Stiles had only texted her any of the thousands of times he had the opportunity, she might still be alive.

But that didn’t even compare with how he felt about losing his mother. He was mad at her for so long after she told him how sick she was, causing her to go through chemo without the support of her son… He was just so angry that she didn’t tell him sooner, that she was dying, that she was leaving him… He wasted two whole months in his anger. 61 days with her that he was never getting back, all because he was selfish and scared and throwing massive fits any time his father tried to get him to the hospital.

He only had two weeks left with her once he finally understood how monumentally stupid he had been.

Two weeks to try and mend what he did to his mother and father before he was alone with her on a Sunday afternoon and she pulled his sleeping body closer to her, kissed his cheek and then stopped living, just like that.

Talk about lost time.

Stiles didn’t realize he was crying until his hands started shaking the wheel back and forth with the force of his sobs. He just managed to make it around the corner and pull his jeep into the driveway and into park before he dropped his head down into his trembling hands and heaved with his attempts to breathe.

He vaguely recognized the feeling of warm hands on his shoulder and side, rubbing circles into his clothing before the hands abruptly halted and dug into his flesh, shaking his body with an increasing urgency. Stiles tried focusing on his breathing, but he couldn’t pull a full breath in anymore as the black crept in around the edges of his vision. He heard a muddled voice yelling beside him through what sounded like a brick wall, but he was only focusing on his own white-knuckled hands as he was pulled out of the seat and the darkness enveloped his eyes.

"Stiles… come on bro, wake up. You can do it. Just open your eyes. Is that a twitch? Yep, okay, you’re finally up, thank GOD.”

Stiles wearily blinked one eye open, squinting into the light of his room as he took in the sight of his best friend looming over him. From what he could tell, they were lying side by side on his bed, Scott resting his body on one arm as he looked at Stiles with his trademark worried expression #11.

“Welcome back, dude. Haven’t seen one that bad in a long time.”

Stiles groaned. “How long was I out?”

“About an hour. I made you some soup, but I, uh, kind of… ate it.” Scott smiled apologetically before sitting up and fiddling with a loose thread on the off-white comforter. “So what triggered it?” He didn’t look up at Stiles, just kept fiddling with the string as he waited for an answer.

Stiles just watched his hands twirl and pluck before he spoke. “I, uh, almost hit a deer. Just really freaked me out was all. It’s been a really stressful week, and I guess things just bubbled over… You know?”

Scott raised his eyes and stared at Stiles when he heard the telltale blip of his heartbeat. Stiles shrunk down a little, avoiding eye contact like the plague before he flipped his legs around and sat on the edge of the bed. “So yeah, um, thanks bro. I take it my dad’s not home since he’s not in here with my old anxiety meds and every kind of junk food that exists?” (That was his father’s go-to plan for every time Stiles had an attack… Suffice to say it was usually pretty helpful.)

Scott stood up and walked around the bed, plopping himself down beside Stiles and turning completely sideways to face the side of his head. “Yeah, he hasn’t gotten home yet. And I won’t say anything about this to him, because I trust you to know how to get it when you need help. So you don’t have to tell me why you really had the attack, but you know you can if you want to, and you know I won’t judge whatever the reason is. You know that, Stiles. You can talk to me about anything.”

Stiles nodded, a small tilt of the head before he stood up and walked over to his dresser. He felt the residual itch irritating the skin of his arms, signaling the re-opening of what he could only guess was the deeper middle scratch he sported. He sorted around for a hoodie, pulled out his favorite red piece and turned around to find Scott standing only inches behind him.

“Jesus FUCK Scott, what are you trying to do, give me another panic attack?!”

Scott furrowed his eyebrows, grabbed Stiles’ more affected arm and started to turn the palm over. “Is this thing still bleeding? I smell blood. I’m serious, let me look at it. It could get infected.”

Stiles yanked his arm out of Scott’s grasp, keeping his hand in a balled-up fist as he tried to subtly put pressure on the actual source of the bleeding. “It’s fine Scott, it just re-opened or something. Seriously, I have my first-aid kit in the bathroom. God knows how many times I’ve used that thing in the past year…”

Scott’s face shifted into a determined focus as he reached out again and held on to Stiles’ wrist. “Come on, if it’s still bleeding you obviously didn’t do something right. I’m gonna bandage it, then I’ll leave if you want me to, okay?” He started pulling Stiles along into the hallway, but they didn’t make it more than two steps before Stiles twisted in a full circle under Scott’s arms, wrenching himself from Scott’s hold.

Scott spun around and blew out a breath. “Stiles, what’s-”

He stopped when he took in the expression on his best friend’s face. Stiles was suddenly fuming, eyes wide and teeth actually bared as he stood in the doorway of his bedroom clenching his fists.

“I said I got it. Go home Scott.”

Scott froze. “Stiles, I’m sorry, I didn’t... What’s wrong?”

Stiles clenched his eyes shut, taking in a few deep breaths as his demeanor began to visibly relax out of his defensive stance. “Fuck. It’s fine, it’s just been a bad day. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that…” He brought his hands up to his face, scrubbing them across his skin before sliding them into his hair and grabbing onto the longer pieces.

“I get it, yeah… Can I do anything?”

Stiles sighed. “I just really wanna be alone right now, if that’s cool. It’s not you, Scott. Never you. I… I’m really sorry.”

Scott reached out, hovered his hand over Stiles’ shoulder before he sighed and allowed himself to be pulled into a short hug. “Call me if you need anything. I’ll be home.”

Stiles nodded into his shoulder. Scott squeezed his arm once before he disappeared out the door, leaving Stiles standing in the middle of his room listlessly staring until darkness closed in and he dropped to his knees on the carpet.

He woke up a few hours later, the light from the afternoon sun casting the grayish-yellow tint that precedes the onset of a bad thunderstorm across the furniture and walls of his room. The carpet was warm under his cheek, and he rubbed it absently before stretching his limbs out and moaning. Cramps wracked his leg muscles as Stiles forced himself to stand up, swaying from the altitude change before plopping himself straight down in his computer chair.

For the first time since that Monday, he found himself mildly regretting flushing his Adderall. The effects of withdrawal were there; he could feel them fighting his senses every moment of the last three days. The exhaustion was brutal. Lacrosse practice was out of the question- Stiles was fairly positive that if he was knocked down on the field at this point he wouldn’t be able to get back up. Everything was aching, and the dreams he was having were starting to worry him with their eccentricity. They felt like what he imagined a bad acid trip would feel like, and he had woken up more than one night sweating through his sheets.

If he could get past the first week, Stiles knew how good he could feel. How good he would feel. It wasn’t the first time he had gone off his medication, but the last time he had had been so long ago he could barely remember it. The freedom from foggy thoughts and memories alone would be worth it, though.

Sometimes it was better to feel too much than to feel too little. At least when he was feeling everything he had the option to feel nothing, and he had methods now, methods to dull or to excite, depending on his mindset going into it. Pain could take, but it could also give.

He had options. And to hell if he wasn’t going to use them.

Stiles climbed out of the chair, ambling across the hallway and into the bathroom as silently as he could manage. He was in the middle of hushedly creaking open the drawer with his first-aid kit in it when the sound of the Sheriff’s snore reverberated through the bathroom wall.

John had been taking longer shifts lately, trying to cover for the lack of staff at the station from the Matt debacle. Multiple times Stiles had trudged downstairs in the late evenings and early mornings to find the Sheriff passed out on the couch, plate of food lying forgotten over his stomach from being too tired to make it to his bed. They hadn’t been able to hire as many deputies as they needed yet, and Stiles worried constantly about the stress it was putting on his heart.

But then Stiles remembered that it’s his fault that Matt was even at the station, and he felt his stomach drop from the guilt of being the cause of another person’s misfortunes.

He pulled the drawer fully open, not worrying about the noise anymore. His father was coming home off of a double and nothing short of an earthquake could wake him.

The sleeve of his hoodie was adhered to sections of his arm, causing the afflicted scratch to re-open for the third time in as many days. Stiles went to work on it, cleaning and bandaging the area faster than he was proud to admit he could. He loved the pack, really, but they had tendencies to forget he was just human. He never let on though; he would always choose to suffer in silence if it spared someone else more pain.

Stiles could handle his own pain, but he couldn’t take other’s. He got that from his mother, a fact that his dad frequently used to mumble at nights when the whiskey dug in its roots during the first few years after her death. He said a lot of things in an alcohol haze, things Stiles wished he could forget but he knew would be burned into his memory until the day he died. There were things you just didn’t tell a ten year-old kid, but it wasn’t like he could have pretended he was young and naïve anymore. He hadn’t been there for her when she needed him, and that was something that would haunt both him and his father for years.

The sky was darkening into a sickly grayish black hue by the time Stiles headed back into his room. The rumbling of distant thunder was echoing through the air, and the atmosphere was thick with humidity and electricity. He padded over to his window, opening it from the small crack he usually allowed to its full height so that he could lean out and breathe in the charged air.

Thunderstorms were something magical to Stiles; however magical in the natural sense and not the supernatural. He always loved the tingle that he felt flowing through him in the evening air before a particularly nasty one hit.

He had hazy memories of a time in kindergarten when he and Heather were out on the edge of the woods, chasing each other in some made-up game that they always used to think would be the most fun they would ever have. She had just made her way to the edge of her mom’s house, leaving Stiles only feet from the tree line when lightning from the incoming storm struck the statuesque maple directly behind him. The strike knocked him down and back, shining brighter than any light Stiles had ever seen and enveloping everything around him in white. More than anything, though- more than the shouting, the light, the trip to the hospital - he remembers the feel of the electricity running through him, taking control of his mind and motor control for the short few minutes afterwards.

Stiles had experimented with weed once before, when he and Scott decided it would be a good idea to light up a badly-rolled joint in the woods and manage to get lost only ten feet from the Jeep. The effects were nice, and he liked the feeling of blissful unawareness, but it didn’t even compare in the slightest to the way he felt during the lightning incident. He had a profound feeling that nothing would ever make him feel that way again, with the possible exception of him ever getting The Bite.

Regardless, the charged pre-storm air always hit him with modest bouts of nostalgia and excitement.

Stiles slipped on an old pair of running shoes and a waterproof phone case before heading out into the darkening skies and starting to run.

 


 

“Something’s wrong with Stiles.” Scott looked around at the pack gathered in Derek’s loft, eyeing each of them individually as if searching for some sign of guilt. Most of them just looked at him questioningly, not yet seeing what he was getting at.

Scott let out an exasperated sigh before continuing. “Seriously? None of you have noticed how off he’s been recently? I haven’t heard a single sarcastic comment from him in a week.”

Erica was the next to speak up, observing everyone from her position on the stairs. “His childhood best friend just died, he’s probably still upset about that. I’m sure he’ll be back to his annoying self in no time, so maybe we should just take this as the blessing in disguise that it is?”

Scott glared at her, eyes flashing yellow as she seemed to shrink down into her shoulders just slightly. “First of all Erica, nice. Real nice.  But no, I think it’s more than just that. It’s like he’s a whole different person. He’s barely speaking to anyone, he’s on edge whenever he does talk to me, and he hasn’t shown up to lacrosse all week. He blew up in Harris’ face when he was getting yelled at, and he never does that. This isn’t like him. I haven’t seen him even close to acting like this since…” Scott trailed off, leaving the rest of the thought unspoken.

“Since his mom died.”

It was Lydia who spoke up this time, but her voice was much quieter than usual, proving how deep in thought she was. “I can’t really see how Heather could be affecting him this much, though.”

Scott shook his head, letting his slightly longer hair brush the edge of his forehead. “She shouldn’t be. The birthday party was the first time they had really talked or seen each other in years. No, this is definitely off for him. Has anyone talked to him?”

The room was silent as everyone took turns looking at each other for confirmation. Derek sat in the back, keeping his expression blank as Scott’s eyes trailed over him. It wasn’t his story to tell.

“Where is he, by the way? Aren’t these meetings mandatory?” Allison piped up from beside Scott.

Derek simply shrugged. “They are. And if you all could pay attention to something other than gossiping for more than two seconds, you would have heard his heartbeat half-way up the steps already.”

As if on cue, the small sound of footsteps became louder as Stiles reached the top of the steps and stopped outside the door. He took a single deep breath, steadying himself before sliding open the door and quickly shutting it behind him. Everyone watched as he silently made his way to the couch and sat next to Scott before they all remembered to start talking.

Scott leaned over, speaking in hushed tones. “Stiles, what’s wrong? You’re still acting really off, and I saw you run off into the bathroom again on Thursday between classes… Is this about Heather?”

Stiles looked up, and gave Scott an off-putting smile. “I’m fine, Scott. Really, I’m over it.”

“No, you’re clearly not. Whatever is going on, you know you can tell me.”

Stiles jerked his smile higher, but it still didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m okay, seriously. You don’t need to worry.”

Scott started to argue again. “Stiles, I’m serious. Something’s up, I can tell. You don’t have to keep hiding it from me. You’re my brother, and I love you… You know that.”

Scott reached a hand out and set it on Stiles’ thigh, giving it a reassuring squeeze. The smile dropped from Stiles’ face in an instant, revealing a coldness behind his eyes that made Scott flinch. “It’s not your problem Scott. Leave it alone.” With that, he focused his attention on the meeting, refusing to acknowledge the pointed stare burning into the side of his head as he moved his leg out from under Scott’s grasp.

Scott sat back with a small huff after a few minutes, observing Stiles out of the corner of his eye.

Which is how he ended up noticing Derek, staring holes into Stiles for the rest of the meeting, apparently not caring if anyone saw him as he fumed silently in the corner.

 


 

It was Tuesday before Stiles found himself back in the kitchen, pulling the box cutter out of its drawer by the silverware and walking back up the stairs into his room.

The angry red lines on his inner thigh had faded to raised pink ridges, strewed out in cluttered, crisscrossed patterns over his pale skin. He had been hurried and rushed a week ago, needing to find a release of everything that had been building up. Today, though- today he wanted order. He wanted to feel the sharp slice of the blade as it tugged through his skin, wanted to create perfect parallel lines that would be deep and kept and admired later.

Stiles never wanted to forget these feelings. He felt like he had some semblance of control, for once being the only one to cause himself pain. He didn’t get the rush of endorphins that had been described over the internet in his research, he simply did it for the feeling of control.

Because control was the one thing he knew he didn’t have anymore.

He let his head fall backwards as he dug into his flesh for the first cut, reveling in the feeling before losing himself entirely to the splitting pull of the blade.

He lay on the floor for hours, not falling asleep but not entirely conscious as blood continued to trickle from his wounds. Every time they would begin to close he would reach his hands down and pull at the edges of the skin, re-opening the deep slices over and over until he started to feel woozy from the blood loss.

By the time evening rolled around, Stiles was still on the floor, but he had pulled up the towels he had set under his legs and used a clean one to wipe the blood from his thighs. He shoved everything but the blade in a small black trash bag, slipping it under his bed and sliding the blade under his mattress.

His head was buzzing still, but he wasn’t feeling as nauseous as he had been earlier. Reaching beside him, he pulled out his first aid kit from his bedside drawer and began cleaning and bandaging his leg just before he heard the downstairs door open and shut.

Shitttt, Stiles thought as he hurriedly plastered a large band-aid over his skin. He pulled up his pants and had just managed to crawl up on his bed before a quiet knock sounded on his door and his dad poked his head in.

“Hey, I’m home from work. Did you have any plans for dinner tonight?”

Stiles raised himself up to his elbows and peered over at his dad before replying.

“Nope, I was planning on heating up a pizza or something if you were gonna be out late. Are you home for good?”

John looked Stiles up and down once, worry knitting through his eyebrows. “Yeah, I’ll be here. Are you okay? You look kind of pale.”

“Yeah, I’m good dad. It was just a really long day.”

He stepped into the room and sat on the side of the bed before reaching a hand up to Stiles’ forehead and frowning. “You feel clammy. Do you think you’re coming down with something?”

Stiles shook his head a little too quickly and mentally berated himself with an internal face slap. “Nah, I think I might have eaten something bad at lunch. Scott spent half of Economics on the toilet, so I seriously wouldn’t be surprised. Anything happen at work today?”

His dad paused for a second before nodding his head, hesitating before opening his mouth to speak. “We, uh, found another body. A girl who went missing a few nights ago while camping in the woods with her girlfriend. She was… she was killed the same way as Heather.”

Stiles visibly flinched at that, suddenly upset at himself for directing the subject of conversation that way. John moved to put his hand on his shoulder, but Stiles slid out from under his reach and stood up in one fluid movement. He took a step towards the door, but he was still dizzy from earlier and his legs bent awkwardly as he crumpled to the floor.

“Shit kid, are you okay?!” His dad was by his side in an instant, one hand under his triceps and the other on his waist as he helped Stiles get back to his feet.

“Yeah dad, I’m good. I seriously just think it was the chicken. I mean, I really shouldn’t have ate it once I noticed that it was still bleeding in places, but I was hungry.” He said the last sentence in a whine, and it seemed to work for his father because he let out a little chuckle before walking him back to his bed.

“You were never one to turn down food when it was in front of you, kid. I once put a pen in front of you as a baby to go help your mother with something and when I came back the pen cap had mysteriously disappeared… I’m still convinced we should get you x-rayed, because I never found that thing anywhere in the house. Your mom was pretty freaked out, to put it lightly.” He sat back a little and sighed, and Stiles watched the tell-tale cloud glaze over his eyes as he got caught up in his thoughts.

“Thanks, Dad. It… you really mean a lot to me, I hope you know that.”

He focused his eyes on Stiles’ intently, shifting his gaze from eye to eye as if looking for the answer to some question in his mind. “I love you son. I know things have been rough on you lately, for whatever reason, but I want you to know you can come to me about it. Any of it.”

Stiles adverted his eyes, trying not to look too guilty as he muttered “I know, Dad. I love you too.”

John smiled before getting to his feet, glancing back once more before stepping to the door. “Oh, and Stiles? I’m going to catch the bastard that killed Heather. Don’t doubt for one second that he won’t come to justice for what he did to her and those other two kids.”

Stiles stared at the empty spot by the door where his dad had stood for a good five minutes before clambering out of bed, shutting the door briskly and barely making it back to his mattress before shoving his face in a pillow and screaming.

 


 

Stiles couldn’t pretend that he didn’t see Derek shooting daggers at him every time they convened at the loft for a pack meeting. He could, however, blatantly ignore the consistent red-tinged eyes that stalked his movements. Which is exactly what he did, until two days after his last cut when Derek yanked him backwards from walking out the door behind the others.

“What the hell Derek?!”

The man simply kept walking, dragging Stiles’ protesting body of flailing limbs angrily behind him as he pulled them both to a seated position on the couch.

“Fuck you, I need to get home. Wait, what are you doing- Hey!”

Derek yanked Stiles’ shorts up until the bottom hems were hiked up below his groin, displaying the large white gauze pad covering his left thigh. He ripped up the edge of the bandage, exhibiting the angry red slashes that had yet to heal from his last session. An audible growl worked its way from his chest before he ripped the gauze the rest of the way off, revealing not only the full collection of newer cuts but also the pink ridges of the older ones.

“You mean you need to go home so you can do this again? Not gonna happen.”

Stiles simply gaped at him, red rimming his vision before he very loudly slapped Derek across the face. Derek’s head didn’t even move, and Stiles was fighting to stand against the grasp of iron fingers squeezing his biceps.

 “Let me. The fuck. Go.”

NO.

Stiles wrenched violently to the side, and the surprise was just enough for him to wriggle out of the Alpha’s hands and vault three steps to the door before he was tackled from behind.

He hit the floor with a loud oomph, and Derek had his arms twisted behind his back before leaning down and growling in Stiles’ ear.

Stiles went still, confused as to what he was trying to do for only moments before it hit him. Oh.

“Jesus Christ Derek, I’m not one of your goddamn betas. You can’t make me submit to you.”

The growl only intensified, but before he was able to reiterate his point he felt sharp, pointy teeth bite down on the back of his neck. Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to make Stiles gasp with a completely uncalled for mixture of pleasure and pain.

“Fuck, Derek, what the hell was that?!”

The teeth stayed clamped on to his neck, but he felt the soft, warm roll of a tongue smoothing over the skin captured underneath and Stiles had to bite his lip to push back some very inappropriately timed moans. Which is when he really realized what was going on, and oh. OH.

“Come back, Derek. It’s me, it’s Stiles. Pull the wolf back. I know you can hear me.”

He felt Derek stiffen, and the teeth suddenly unclamped from the nape of his neck but the growling was still a thing that was very definitely happening.

“That’s it big guy, come on. It’s just me, I’m here. Pull it in.”

Stiles felt the moment that Derek was back, because the rumbling completely stopped and his whole body went totally limp over his own for a brief second before the weight was lifted entirely from his backside.

He wasted no time climbing to his feet, using Derek’s momentary confusion to run out the door and make a beeline straight to his Jeep. He groped his pockets for his keys, his face blanching when he realized that Derek must have taken them sometime during their struggle.

Well, fine. If Derek wanted to play that way…

Stiles took off on foot, running the 150-some feet out to the road and veering right into the alleys of Downtown Beacon Hills.

He kept running for almost twenty minutes, making sure to cross his scent through multiple buildings full of people as he cut from alley to alley, working his way back to the general vicinity of the loft after he was sure Derek would be out looking for him for hours.

Sure enough, when he got back up the stairs the door was open and Derek was nowhere to be seen. He sauntered over to the coffee table and grabbed his keys, making sure to take a piece of cold pizza from the fridge before leaving the building and driving off.

Later when he got home, he would analyze why Derek lost control to the wolf. He would stare numbly at his school work before throwing it in the trashcan and lying down. He would pull out the blade and try to think of a single reason why he shouldn’t cut into his skin.

And he wouldn’t hesitate before pressing down into his flesh and pulling to the left over and over and over as he threw his head back into the pillow and laughed.

 


 

It was dark out when Stiles opened his eyes again. Glancing down, he let out a sigh at the dried blood crusted to his boxer-clad legs. The towel over his bedspread was actually stuck to the bottom of his thigh, so he started making his way over to the edge of his bed before sucking in a sharp breath.

Glowing red eyes were peering out from the corner diagonal to his bed, irises tracking his movement as he slowly stood and took a wobbly step towards the hallway.

“Stop. Just stop moving.”

Stiles paused briefly, but mainly for the fact that a wave of dizziness chose that exact moment to overtake him. He shot a hand out to his bedpost, gripping it with a white-knuckled fist and steeling himself before turning his attention grudgingly to Derek.

“Why are you even here, Derek? Did you wanna tackle me to the floor again? Because seriously, let me set up some pillows first.”

Derek snarled. “I came here once I found my way out of the alleys and saw you were gone. Figured you might do something idiotic, and I was right.” He took three long strides across the dark room, stopping only inches from Stiles’ face, his gaze flickering back and forth between his eyes. “Why are you doing this?”

Stiles gaped at him, shocked by the quietness of the question. Before he had a chance to say anything, Derek suddenly dropped to his knees and put a hand on Stiles’ thigh. He flinched as Derek’s calloused fingers rubbed over the edge of a cut, but soon the pain was replaced by… Well, it wasn’t replaced by anything. It was just disappearing quickly as black veins snaked their way up Derek’s arms.

Stiles let out a small moan at the sensation, but when Derek put his other palm beside the first one he snapped out of his little trance and smacked the hands away.

“Don’t. Please, I… I need to feel this.”

Derek looked up, eyes wide and red completely gone. “No, you don’t… Stiles, this isn’t okay. This is so far from okay. Why are you doing this to yourself?” He stood up briefly, grabbing Stiles by the elbow and slowly leading him across the hall to the bathroom before he had a chance to respond.

Once inside, Derek sat him down on the toilet seat, busying himself with wetting a washcloth with warm water and dabbing some of the blood from Stiles’ leg. It was silent for a few minutes; the scrape of the washcloth over skin being the only sound in the room before Stiles began to answer.

“It’s the only way I can breathe, Derek. I feel this crushing weight on my heart, every day. There’s only so many people I can lose before I have nothing left to live for, and at the rate my life is going right now I’ll probably either be dead or everyone around me will be dead by the time I’m twenty.” Everything that had been weighing on Stiles suddenly came flowing out of his mouth. He told Derek about losing Heather and his mom, reminded him of the fact that Jackson had died - not just once, but twice - and the guilt over his father not trusting a word out of his mouth anymore. At this point, Stiles found himself taking a second to breathe before his rant continued.

 “I’ve seen so many things, things that no one should ever have to see. I feel dead inside. Half the time I feel everything all at once and the other half I feel absolutely nothing. I’m terrified, all of the time. It’s called hyper vigilance, did you know that? The crushing fear that something bad is always about to happen. And the worst part about that? I’m completely justifiable in feeling that way. I don’t know if I’m going to wake up one day and find out that everyone I love got killed by some god-forsaken mythical creature of the night, because if that day ever comes I’m sure as hell not gonna stick around for the sunset.”

Derek stopped wiping at the cuts, instead resting his palms on Stiles’ knees as he continued to talk.

“I’m so scared. I don’t care if that makes me sound weak, because it’s the truth. You all have your abilities to fall back on, but me? I have nothing. Literally the only thing I could do in a fight is take a bullet for any of you, and I would do it in a heartbeat. For every single person in this pack. But some days I find myself wishing for a fight… just so I wouldn’t have to be the one to end it. Because fuck, Derek... I’m tired. I’m so tired of always keeping one eye open, of never being able to relax. My panic attacks are back, and it’s so sick that I actually look forward to them most nights because passing out from the lack of oxygen is the only way I can rest. I don’t have the energy to do this anymore.”

His eyes were glistening as he choked out the last sentence. “Derek, I don’t want to live anymore.”

Derek’s face was stoic and unreadable as sea green eyes stared into empty cinnamon, but Stiles heard the small, almost silent inhale of air at his confession. He was silent as he brought the wet cloth back to his cuts, wiping away the fresh blood with hands that seemed too gentle for his hard demeanor. Neither of them spoke while he applied ointment with a finger and covered the area with a large gauze pad. It registered in the back of Stiles’ mind that the bandages he was using were getting bigger and bigger every week, but he couldn’t keep his eyes off of Derek’s hands moving gracefully over his legs as he finished taping the edges of everything down.

Derek’s hands stilled over Stiles’ legs, hesitating and hovering for a few moments before he set them back down on Stiles’ knees. He looked up into blank whiskey eyes, searching for any glimpse of the strong, sarcastic teenager that used to drive him crazy with his inappropriate jokes and inability to stay out of the line of fire. Once or twice he thought he saw a flicker of something in his face, but it would be gone too fast for him to decipher what it was. Derek exhaled, dropping his head until his chin hit his chest.

“I wish none of this had ever happened to you… you’re just a fucking kid. You should never have been dragged into this.”

Stiles put a finger under his chin, lifting Derek’s head up to look at him.

“It wasn’t your fault Derek. Don’t blame yourself for this too.”

Stiles stood up from the toilet seat slowly, inching his way around Derek’s body and padding out of the bathroom before Derek had a chance to adjust. When he finally got up and made his way to Stiles’ room, the door was already shut and locked. The sound of muffled crying burned his ears as he stooped down to hole up in the closet adjacent to the room where he would wait out the night.

 


 

Sunlight streamed through Stiles’ window the next morning, rousing him into consciousness little by little. He let out a small groan, digging a palm into his eye socket and rubbing the sleepiness away before he froze and felt his stomach drop. The window shades weren’t open when he fell asleep the night before; he distinctly remembered the complete darkness that had shrouded his room.

Stiles peered out through the slit of his unoccupied eyelid, exhaled sharply and then huffed when he saw Derek trying to pry his window pane open without making a sound.

“You know, you don’t have to sneak out like that. My dad’s not even home.” Derek turned and simply blinked at him, and Stiles was suddenly hit with the vivid details of what happened last night. “Oh. Shit. Or you can. Go, I mean.” Derek moved his head back to face the window, and Stiles saw his claws unsheathe as he reached a hand out to the bottom of the wooden frame. “Wait... did you stay here last night?”

Sharp nails creaked into the sill, knuckles white and stretched over the bone from Derek’s grip.

“I had to make sure you wouldn’t do it again. Wouldn’t do… that again.”

He sat up in the bed, scrubbing his hands through his bedhead before closing his eyes and resting his face in his palms.

“I won’t. I’m… I’m sorry you saw that. Saw me like that.”

“That’s not….” Derek’s face scrunched exasperatedly before he brought his thumb and index finger up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Just don’t do it again. The pack can tell something is up, and it’s affecting their focus.”

Stiles nodded blankly. The window opened and shut quickly; Derek just a blur as he slipped out with the grace only lycanthropy can establish.

If he had stayed long enough to smell the air, he might have noticed the distinct lack of any emotion coming from Stiles. Any emotion at all.

He knew he should be feeling something after that. Derek had a bad tendency to hollow out a nice hole in Stiles’ chest whenever it came to pack business, but it was always temporary and fleeting. Stiles knew how important he was to the pack, and he knew how they really did care about him, even with their fucked up ways of showing it. They’ve proven themselves on more than one occasion.

He knew Derek was a stubborn asshole. It’s the only way he knows how to cope, and Stiles accepted that long ago. Just because he knows it, though, doesn’t mean it still sucks from time to time.

But honestly, the lack of emotion he felt at Derek’s statement made him afraid more than anything else. He always knew the pack was there for him (possibly with the exception of Erica, even though he’d been diligently working on that) which was the main reason Derek’s comments always stuck with him. He was scared of Derek’s suggestions; scared of the possibility that he might lose that trust and dependency, terrified to the point that even a hint of being alone again could carve out a chunk of his heart. He didn’t ever think he could stand to be without them. They filled something deep inside Stiles, something he hadn’t even thought needed filling before he’d been accepted in.

The fact that he didn’t feel scared of that loss anymore? Terrified him.

He was pretty sure he just lost his anchor.