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When Scott tells him, Stiles freezes for a few seconds. His mind goes wild with a million different questions popping out.

Why? Where? Is he ever coming back? What did he say?

His best friend drops the news as casual as possible while going through his locker; jumping from “Derek left town with Cora” to “Do you think we should tell Danny?” a little bit too fast for Stiles to process it all. It’s obvious that Scott doesn’t know the answers to these questions;  doesn’t look like he asked Derek, either. But then, maybe not even Derek knew how to answer those.

They don’t talk about it.

The only person Stiles actually talks about Derek with is, surprisingly enough, his dad.  Both of them go through unexplained and mysterious police reports about animal attacks. They sit together and go through all of his dad’s questions, sometimes Stiles has the answers, but most of the times he doesn’t. His dad is the first one to ask about Derek and that eventually leads to Stiles talking about why Derek probably left. It’s actually easy to discuss about it with his dad. Scott would understand, of course, especially because of his father, but that’s exactly why Stiles doesn’t want to talk about it with him. And once Stiles and his father start talking about Derek’s family, it becomes a different kind of understanding, the kind that his dad shows deep in his eyes; a sorrow and solitude that both of them can relate to.

Stiles can’t ignore the big lump in his throat when his father retells him the night the Hale house burned down. Stiles is older now and with his father knowing about werewolves, he makes the point of being bluntly honest about that night. Stiles can take it, he can, and that’s not the point. The point is how Stiles always chooses to forget that part of Derek’s past, but he can’t ever unsee it.

“We have each other,” his dad says. And he didn’t have anyone until Cora, Stiles completes the rest in his mind. It still doesn’t tell him why Derek left, but it’s something. It hurts, because he gets it, not because— not because he actually left. Derek and Cora both ran away from everything. It’s their right, especially after everything this town did to them.

Stiles kind of wishes he could run away too sometimes.

The thought stays with him until later that night. It’s been a week since Scott told him about Derek and Cora. Stiles can’t help but still be a bit pissed about it. Part of him would like to argue with both Hales how rude it was to skip town without saying goodbye. The other part does exactly that.

 

Asshole. I figured the times I saved your werewolf ass would qualify for at least one shitty goodbye.

- Sent 22:53

Same applies to Hale junior.

- Sent 22:53

 

Stiles throws his cellphone to the bed, not really caring if he will get a reply or not. He most likely won’t and that’s fine. He said his peace, it’s time to move on.

But thirty minutes later he’s still thinking about it, side glancing his cellphone from time to time. It feels like an itch right under his skin that doesn’t seem to go away; not even when he scratches around it. He sighs, frustrated, and reaches for his cellphone again.

 

I read that wolves tend to travel hundreds of miles from home when they’re looking for something. Hope you find what you’re looking for.

- Sent 23:34

 

It’s stupid. But before he even reaches that conclusion, the message is long gone. Stiles feels genuinely embarrassed by it that he sits up straight on his desk and googles about it. It doesn’t make him feel better, on the contrary, because he knows that technically Derek and Cora are not acting like actual wolves. Are they? Apparently, he has no idea to what extent he can compare werewolves and wolves, because if they’re the same, then maybe Derek and Cora are just hunting for a new prey or in search for a mate. Each one more ridiculous than the other, Stiles is not fooling himself with his research. He is however trying to forget that he just sent that text. Because it’s stupid.

Stiles keeps reading until his eyes can’t stay open anymore. The last article he finds actually settles his mind at ease. Just a tiny bit. Wolves don’t get lost; they have a way of finding their way back home. It must be nice, he thinks. He falls asleep thinking it must be nice to be free like that.

The nightmares start that night.

 

***

 

“Someone is cold today,” Isaac says.

“Shut up,” Stiles murmurs between his teeth.

“What’s wrong?” Scott asks him.

Stiles sighs heavily, “I’m cold. Maybe your species has some intolerance to the chilly autumn mornings, but I’m pretty much still human.”

Scott rolls his eyes, “Fine.” He throws his arms around Stiles, making him jump in surprise. Stiles tries to set himself free, but Scott doesn’t let go. The bastard starts laughing at Stiles’ failed attempts.

“Stop!” Stiles can’t help to start laughing too. “Scott, stop!”

“You two are ridiculous,” Isaac says before leaving them behind.

“Is he jealous?” Stiles asks when Scott loosens up a bit his embrace.

“I’m not!” Isaac shouts without turning to face them. Stiles notices he’s walking straight up to meet Allison and Lydia, sitting on the bleachers, watching their lacrosse practice.

Stiles turns his head to look at Scott, but doesn’t say anything.

“It’s okay,” Scott tells him. Except it’s obviously not okay. “I have work today. Wanna hang out later?”

“Sure,” Stiles replies. They start walking towards the field when he remembers; “By the way, my dad keeps asking me to invite you and your mom for dinner.”

“How is he dealing with everything?”

Stiles shrugs, “Could be better, I guess. Until all hell breaks loose again there’s no way to know for sure.”

“I hope that doesn’t happen.”

Stiles wants to remind him of what they did to save their parents, but he’s saved by the Coach’s shouts; something about how hatchlings get to the water way faster than them. The twins laugh at the joke, but Stiles’ mind can’t help but ignore the sound; recalling his nightmares and the reminder of how they’re living in a beacon that will draw even more supernatural creatures.

Scott scoffs and starts running, Stiles promptly following him. That’s what he does. He follows Scott, or at least he tries. He can live with watching his best friend’s back, as long as he’s there. Isaac raises an eyebrow at him when Stiles comes to a stop to get some air in his lungs.

There’s no one to follow in his nightmares. Not even Scott’s back.

 

***

 

Stiles is watching a movie when his phone buzzes.

 

Careful, one would think you care.

- Received 18:13

I found something.

- Received 18:13

 

Attached to it there’s a picture: a gorgeous picture of a sunset touching the calm sea further down the horizon. It was obviously taken from a balcony, unless Derek suddenly grew up some wings, which, funny enough, wouldn’t even surprise him after everything Stiles has seen until now.

Instinctively, Stiles looks at his own window. The sun isn’t completely gone, but it’s a lot darker than the picture. It doesn’t mean anything, but his brain immediately reaches to the conclusion that maybe they’re not that far from Beacon Hills.

 

That’s definitely something. How’s Cora?

- Sent 18:21

 

It’s polite to ask about her. Last time Stiles saw her she was dying, so it doesn’t hurt to ask. Neither him nor Scott know the details of how that even happened, but he knows they weren’t the only ones to sacrifice something that night.

 

How are you?

- Sent 18:22

 

Stiles decides to ask anyway.

It’s silly to keep looking at his phone from time to time while the movie keeps playing. He doesn’t have to do that, but he does it anyway. Part of him thinks he should have waited longer to reply, which is silly and childish, but the other wants to actually keep the conversation going.

The conversation seems to die long before the movie ends.

At night, he’s brushing his teeth and looking at the mirror. Stiles was never someone who stares into his own reflection. It’s weird and it makes him feel too self-conscious about himself, finding way too many flaws that would always make him want to give up on his plan of getting Lydia Martin to like him. This time he’s actually looking for something. Something that is able to justify… this uneasiness. Stiles has no idea what he’s looking for, but after watching one of his friends turn into a Kanima, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry. Last thing he wants is to turn into something that will go around town killing people.

Apart from a pimple next to his nose, he doesn’t find anything.

Back in his room, the moonlight creeps from the window and it’s actually kind of gorgeous. Without much thought, he grabs his cell phone, takes a picture and clicks send.

It takes one minute to get a reply with another picture attached. Stiles tugs the sheets closer to him and admires the image on his screen. The balcony is the same, showing the dark sky filled with little shinning dots and the moon as bright as ever.  Its light reflects back on the sea and the beauty of it all sends an unexplainable feeling of jealousy to his stomach. He doesn’t know why, but part of him wanted to mock Derek that the moon from Beacon Hills is prettier. Maybe it is, but right now it scares him. The night means he will be asleep, it means they will come back for him. Somehow the place where Derek is seems to give him some peace of mind. It’s probably not Beacon Hills’ fault; it’s definitely him and his mind and what they sacrificed. But he stares at the picture anyway, touching it from time to time to keep the screen from going off.

Right after setting it as his home screen, Stiles gets another message:

 

She’s okay.

- Received 23:27

 

He’s about to reply when a new message comes on screen:

 

Are you?

- Received 23:28

 

I’m fine, he writes, but doesn’t click send.

 

***

 

A week passes, though it doesn’t feel like a week at all. Stiles tries not to sleep, but he always fails and ends up falling asleep for one or two hours. It’s enough for them to come back, to haunt him and to make him scream on the inside.

After getting his homework done, he researches for random things just to keep himself busy. There’s no use in trying to watch a movie or read a book, because those always make him feel sleepy. He fights it as much as possible and, soon enough, avoiding sleep becomes a normal thing for him to do daily.

Stiles finds himself searching for cities next to the sea, cities that might also be next to the woods. And then he makes lists and from those lists he looks for places on sale or for rent. Anyone from the outside would think he’s looking for Derek, except he’s not. He’s really not. Stiles is looking for that balcony, that false sense of hope and security. There’s no answer for what he will do once he does find it. Maybe he won’t do anything, but for now he just wants to know where it is.

He could ask Derek, maybe he would actually tell him. Though, Stiles truly believes that Derek doesn’t want to be found. And the search also keeps him busy and being busy is what he needs right now. Being busy makes him forget that he’s human. Humans need sleep and he’s reaching his limit pretty fast.

It happens during a quiz in Chemistry.

Everyone is silently writing on their papers, while their new teacher, Miss William, is filling out some paperwork. Stiles only realizes his hand is trembling when he tries to write and he can’t. With his other hand, he tries to stop it and that’s when he realizes he’s sweating too; extremely cold sweats that flow through his entire body.

“Stiles?” Lydia whispers next to him, but her voice is like an echo. The sound of papers flipping and pens scribbling becomes more intense; it’s like they’re doing it all inside his brain.

“What’s wrong?” Lydia puts a hand on his shoulder. It’s like a shock and Stiles immediately wants to shake it off, so he stands up from his chair.

“Mr. Stilinski?” His teacher asks, alarmed. He hates how everyone is staring back at him, whispering sounds that his mind can’t understand.

He leaves, runs straight out of that classroom to nowhere in particular. Someone shouts his name repeatedly, but he ignores it and just keeps running. It feels like someone or something is chasing after him, so he tries desperately to find somewhere he can hide. He turns around and opens the first door he can find: a janitor’s closet. The smell of bleach is too strong, but for once that’s actually a good thing because it keeps him awake.

Stiles goes to the corner, curls down on his body, and counts as he tries to catch his breath. He counts until ten, but it doesn’t work. Makes it to one hundred, but the scary feeling is still there crawling under his skin. His throat is a closed door with a hundred lockets, making it impossible for the air to get inside. Good things, he tries to think about good things. Inevitably, that doesn’t work too well. It’s like his brain is being eaten alive and every good memory is replaced by a bad one. He shakes his head violently, hands trembling and pulling his hair. The way he tries to curl his own body even more causes his phone to drop on the floor and that’s when he remembers.

The closet is dark, which helps his mind to focus on what’s right in front of him. The strong white light from his phone burns his eyes, but staring at the picture of that safe place helps. It feels like a temporary escape from this so-called darkness that haunts him at night and now even during the day. Slowly, his hands stop shaking so much, air seems to come back to his lungs and his heartbeat slows down.

Stiles stays there for a while. The bell rings and not even a minute later the corridor is filled with students. He should have left sooner. His friends are probably looking for him, though it’s unlikely that someone will find him here. Maybe Scott or Isaac can track his scent, but not the others.

With the intention of texting Scott telling him to meet up at Deaton’s, Stiles ends up scrolling through Derek’s texts. They’re simple and short, meaningless and distant, but they’re there. It matters, Stiles realizes. It matters, at least to him, that the communication is not broken, not yet.

 

Maybe not.

- Sent 12:21

 

It’s a week late, but this time he clicks send.

 

***

 

“You need to find an anchor. A balance that pulls you back to the light again.”

“A connection,” Scott murmurs.

“Yes,” Deaton nods. “Something strong that keeps you at bay even when everything around you seems to fade away.”

“What if—“ Stiles stops, shaking his head.

“What?” Scott asks him.

“It’s stupid,” he snorts.

“It can be anything, Stiles,” Deaton says with a fond voice.

“Even— even a place? A place you’ve never been to before?”

Deaton frowns, clearly not expecting it. “That’s… uncommon.” His gaze turns to Scott and then back to Stiles, holding it for a moment before saying, “But I don’t see why it wouldn’t work if it is that important to you.”

“What does that mean?” Scott asks, more to Stiles than to Deaton, but the vet is kind enough to ignore it.

“As long as it illuminates your heart enough to drive the darkness away, it can be anything. A person, a feeling or… a place,” he finishes with a shy smile.

“Good,” Stiles nods slowly. “Thanks.”

 

***

 

“So… Do you want to talk about it?”

They’re inside the jeep on their way to Scott’s house, when his best friend can’t obviously hold it any longer. Stiles momentarily lets his lips curl in a small smile, turning his gaze to his best friend.

“It helps,” Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know why… It just does.”

Scott hums and waits a few seconds before saying, “We could go there. Maybe it would make you feel better?”

Stiles snorts, “I don’t know where it is.” His reply confuses his best friend even more and before he can say anything or ask more questions, Stiles reaches for his phone and shows him the picture.

“Pretty,” Scott says after studying it. “And it worked.”

“Yeah. It worked.”

Scott keeps looking at the picture, as if trying to find a reason. But besides being a beautiful picture, that’s about it. Stiles knows that’s actually what’s worrying Scott, because it might not be enough. Anyway, there’s not really an easy way of finding a strong connection. It’s definitely not something you can put up an ad on the local newspaper and expect for replies. It doesn’t work that way.

 

***

 

Stiles gets home exhausted, even though there was no practice today. His body feels almost numb as he walks upstairs and drops flat on the bed. He thinks about what Deaton said earlier, how Scott carefully tried to cheer him up, how he’s so tired and scared of surrendering to this darkness. It’s only after a few long minutes that his stomach starts rumbling and Stiles realizes he actually needs to move.

After taking off his shoes, he reaches for his phone and is taken aback with what he sees: two messages and three missing calls, all from Derek.

 

What’s wrong?

- Received 13:51

Stiles?

- Received 15:00

 

It is a surprise, all things considered. And then, maybe it’s not. Stiles knows he would have done the same if it was the other way around. Though, expecting Derek to do the same is a completely different story.

Checking the time, the last call was only ten minutes ago. The others were while he was at Scott’s watching a movie. A movie that he wasn’t really paying much attention to, but he forced himself to not check his phone the entire time. Stiles just knows that the moment he would spare a glance at his phone, his friend would wonder if Stiles was just looking at the picture. Wondering if he’s okay, and worrying. Worrying people is something that he hates to do, so why, of all people, would he even have to worry Derek?

Sitting back on the bed, Stiles contemplates replying with a text message, but even he knows that’s a dick move. It’s just Derek, he tells himself.

Promptly ignoring how his fingers slightly tremble, he clicks call.

“Hey there!” Stiles greets him as cheerful as possible.

On the other side, Derek sighs. Stiles tries to ignore how relieved Derek sounds. It’s probably more of an annoying sound than a relieved one. He’s so tired that he can’t even tell the difference.

I was about to call Scott.

“What— Why?!”

You weren’t answering your phone.” He sounds clearly annoyed now.

“Well, I’m a busy man with a very busy social life, just so you know.” It’s stupid to say it, but he does it anyway, feeling dumb while Derek is silent on the other side. Stiles stupidly fidgets with his toes on the floor.

What happened?

“Hmm— nothing happened.” Well, it’s not exactly a lie per se, but he still wonders if his voice sounds believable enough for Derek.

You said you weren’t okay. What happened, Stiles?”

This time he sighs so loud that he lets himself fall back on the bed. He doesn’t speak for a while; Derek keeps quiet on the other side too.

“I had a panic attack today,” his voice stutters for a bit. “It was— it was nothing. No big deal, really. I’m sorry that I… sent that.”

Derek doesn’t reply and Stiles actually wonders if the connection dropped or something. When he’s about to take a look at his screen, Derek finally says, “We can talk. If you want to.

Stiles stares at the ceiling for a moment, considering, “I know this is bad, but— How bad of a person am I to regret something that I did to save someone else? Someone that I deeply care about and I would actually give— I would, I would give my life, but— This is wrong,” he sighs deeply. “This is really wrong.”

So, you did something. And now you regret it.

“In a very, very selfish way… Yeah.”

Do you regret that this person lived?

“What?!” He jumps from the bed, “No! Of course not!”

Why do you regret it then?

“Why… I— I guess I’m just— I think I’m scared,” the last part comes as a whisper.

Stiles, you’re brave. An idiot, but brave,” Stiles is about to counter that when Derek keeps going anyway. “You sacrifice yourself almost daily. I’ve seen it, no point denying it.” Stiles rolls his eyes, even if Derek can’t really see him right now.

“You know, that’s not really helping,” Stiles bites his tongue right after he says it.

It will, once you know the consequences.

“What if I already do? What if that’s what— What if that’s the scary part?”

Then you find a way to fight it.

Stiles stays quiet for a while. Maybe he found it already. As Scott told him, it worked. It actually did work. It might be a stupid way to fight it, but who cares about that if it actually works?

“Thanks. I think that might help.”

Anytime.

The silence that sets between them it’s awkward. Stiles talked to Derek over the phone hundreds of times before, but never— They would always see each other later, sometimes it would only take a few minutes. But now he knows this is not a “See you later” or “Come by, I think I found something” and it’s weird. It’s weird because Stiles doesn’t do goodbyes. And considering how Derek only informed Scott that he was leaving, Stiles suspects that goodbyes are not something Derek likes to do either.

“How’s Cora?” He mentally kicks himself because it’s the second time he blatantly asks for her first instead of Derek.

Good. Trying to catch up with school.

“Oh— That’s— That’s good. It’s really good.”

Yeah. It is.

“Tell her not to slack.”

I will.

Stiles gets up and starts pacing around his room.

“Thanks for replying to those messages too.”

No problem.

“But— there was one. You didn’t reply to that one.”

Which one?

He narrows his eyes even though Derek can’t see him. Somehow, that bothers him a lot more than it should. “How are you? I mean, you sound good, but— How are you?”

There’s some noise in the background that Stiles identifies with a window opening and the distinctive sound of the wind.

I have some consequences to deal with too.

“Any solutions that don’t involve claws or any of the sorts?”

Derek snorts and Stiles can practically imagine his face on the other side.

Working on it.

Stiles can’t help but smile at that.

Talk to you later, Stiles.

“Yeah, okay. Goodnight, Derek.”

It’s not a promise, although it feels like it. And when Stiles hangs up and looks at the picture on his phone, he can’t help but wonder if that’s where Derek was at that exact moment.

Working on it, he remembers. Something in those words makes him grab his shoes, a warm hoodie and his keys. As explanations go, there’s none for what he’s about to do, but he does it anyway.

 

***

 

The last time he was here, Boyd was still alive. It’s his first thought as he parks outside the Hale house. Stiles carefully steps on the porch, his gaze on the shredded door with the alpha pack symbol still too prominent for his own good.

Not your best plan, he tells himself as he enters the house. It only occurs to him now that he came here alone, to a place that is known to attract deadly creatures to its core. Stiles breathes out heavily and goes to look for what he wants.

 

---

 

“What’s that?” Stiles asks.

Derek moves his gaze to where Stiles is looking. “The backyard.”

“I know that,” he rolls his eyes. “What’s that in the center?”

Stiles doesn’t miss the frown on Derek’s face, “You never saw a raised-bed before?”

“Raised-bed,” Stiles repeats, more to himself.

Derek smirks, “It reduces the number of weeds and extends the season of planting, also makes the roots to grow more—“

“Whoa, wait. Wait,” Stiles moves to step in front of Derek. “Are you really talking about gardening with me? Gardening? You?!”

The look on Derek’s face is priceless, like he didn’t even realize he was telling Stiles all of that. But then it quickly fades back to his usual straight face.

“It was my mother’s.”

That’s all he says before Scott starts waking up from his previous blackout caused by a very painful and burning blowtorch.

 

---

 

Everything is like he remembers, of course it is. Derek didn’t have exactly the time or the will to come back here and change things around. This was just him guessing, but as soon as Stiles steps outside to the backyard, he can’t help but silently congratulate himself for being right.

On the right corner, there’s a bench and a couple of chairs around a table. They’re broken, but still, they’re there. It could mean nothing, but it could also mean that this was a family gathering place. Stiles never had a big family, but if he had, he would like to think that they would get together like this.

Worst-case scenario, Derek will drive back home just to kill him. But, somehow, Stiles doesn’t believe he will. Kill him, that is. He still wants to believe that Derek will be back. Eventually.

Stiles sits on the floor and points his cell phone to the sky. Here, in the middle of the woods, the number of stars lying above him is immense and breathtaking. Hopefully, it can be a reminder of what home feels like. A memory that Stiles doesn’t really want Derek to forget.

After taking at least five pictures, Stiles picks the best one and sends it to Derek. It was easier to come here and dig around an abandoned house, than it is to actually find the courage to click send. But Derek’s picture helped him today; it might even help him again some other time. Stiles just wants to try and return the favor, even if Derek is ignorant to what he did for him today.

Derek doesn’t reply, and it’s okay. It’s not like Stiles was expecting a reply. Maybe he was, but that’s not the point. After weeks of nightmares, Stiles gets home feeling less restless and that alone is already a reason to celebrate. Celebration will have to be scheduled for another day, though; all he wants to do right now is sleep. Hopefully tonight, his demons will leave him alone.

They don’t.

 

***

 

You killed us!” She screams right in his ear. Stiles can’t see her face, but he knows; he knows too damn well who’s screaming.

“I didn’t— I didn’t know!” Stiles chokes on his own words. The dark trees circle around him like they’re alive; suffocating him as he desperately turns around and tries to look for her— Maybe if he finds her, talks to—

Did you tell anyone?” Another voice whispers behind him. Even though it’s softer, it still sends a shiver through his spine.

No, he whines to himself. He didn’t tell anyone.

A strong wind knocks him down to the wet ground. The earth starts moving beneath him, opening a hole and swallowing him up; then he’s falling into a much deeper darkness.

You could have saved us!

You should have told him.”

Told them!

The voices echo around him, stabbing his heart as Stiles keeps falling and falling. There’s no point in screaming; his voice fails him every time he opens his mouth.

You’re not a hero.

I should have let him die!

What have you done?

He can’t hold back the tears anymore.

“Son?”

No, he begs.

“Stiles!”

Stiles is panting loudly when he opens his eyes. A tear falls down his face and his heart feels like it’s going to come out at any second.

“Thank God! You scared me, son. Are you alright?”

“I—“ his voice is too raspy. Stiles looks around and relief hits him when he sees his room just like it was last night.

“You were screaming,” his father tells him, concern splattered all over his face as he passes Stiles the glass of water he always keeps on his nightstand.

Stiles drinks it all in one go, trying in vain to wash away the memories of his dream. “Thanks. I— I’m fine. It was just a dream,” he stops to reach for his phone, but the battery is dead. “What time is it?”

“It’s still early. You have time,” his father gives him a short smile that quickly fades away. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. I’m fine, dad. Dreams are not exactly a threat,” Stiles tries to end that sentence with a shrug when he realizes how much his muscles ache.

“Well, sometimes dreams can be too intense.”

“Oh, believe me, sometimes they’re not as intense as I would like them to be,” Stiles forces a grin.

His father makes a face, “Go shower. I’ll make you breakfast.”

“Do I really need to go?” Stiles pouts.

“Shower. Now.”

“Fine,” reluctantly, he kicks the sheets away as his dad leaves the room.

Looking at his bed, Stiles realizes how damp his sheets are, like he spent the whole night sweating. Without a second thought he takes off the sheets from the bed, throwing them to the floor. His cell phone falls along too. “Great,” he mutters.

After finding his charger, Stiles turns it back on.

No messages.

 

***

 

“You’re creeping me out, dude.”

“What?” Scott startles.

“Stop staring at me,” Stiles says.

“I wasn’t—,” Stiles frowns at Scott. “I was just distracted. That’s all.”

“Anything wrong? Or are you finally falling for me?” Stiles grins.

Scott rolls his eyes, “Nothing wrong, I was just… somewhere else.”

Stiles hums and turns back to his Economics book. He’s not really paying any attention to it, instead he just— As despicable as it is for him to wish this on his best friend, Stiles hoped that Scott would tell him that he too has been going through hell.

They’ve been in the library for two hours and every time Stiles looks up, Scott is staring back at him, even though he keeps pretending he’s paying attention to the book in front of him. At first, Stiles thought that maybe he had seen Allison somewhere. Surprisingly, he actually wished that was the case; like a refreshing comeback to their first year where he would tease the two lovebirds. But there’s no Allison, and there’s also no Lydia. It’s just them.

“It’s fine if you don’t want to be here,” Stiles assures him.

When Scott doesn’t reply, Stiles looks up, “What?”

“You seem tired. Maybe we should stop for today?”

“No, I— I just had a rough night. That’s all.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, Scott. I’m sure. You’re the one who seems tired.”

“Me?!”

“You’re day dreaming! And you’ve barely even touched your homework.”

Scott stares at his books like he hadn’t even realized. “Oh,” he whispers.

Stiles snorts, “Come on, let’s go grab a bite. I’ll help you with that at home.”

 

***

 

“Aren’t you two getting a bit too old for these games?”

Stiles gasps dramatically at his father, “How can you say that?”

Scott laughs next to him, “It is getting late, though.”

“No, we need to finish this!” He pleads.

“Stiles,” his father raises an eyebrow at him.

“Come on, Stiles. You could use some sleep.”

No, I really couldn’t, he thinks to himself.

“Traitor,” Stiles sighs as he pauses the game and stands up. “You owe me a full hour of Mario, at least two Reeses and—“

No,” Scott stops him.

“You said we were going to watch it!”

“That was—“

“When shit was going on?”

“I think you two need some time out,” his father says as he puts his hands on Scott’s shoulders. “How about you and your mom come over here for lunch this Saturday?”

“And then we can watch it,” Stiles grins.

Scott chuckles, “Fine. It’s a deal.”

“Now go home before it gets too late. We don’t want to worry your mother.”

“It’s fine. She has the late shift tonight.”

“And this is practically Scott’s second home,” Stiles shrugs, because it is. His father flashes them both a smile, full teeth and all, before patting Scott’s shoulder once more and going back to his office.

Stiles waits for him to leave the room before whispering, “What was that?”

“They seem closer now,” Scott replies. “I think it’s cool.”

Stiles frowns, “Cool, but still weird. I haven’t seen him smile like that since—”

He doesn’t really dare to finish that sentence.

“Try to sleep tonight, okay?” Scott brings him back from his thoughts.

“I’ll call you if I need cuddles,” Stiles bumps their shoulders.

“Please do,” even though he knows that Scott is kidding, Stiles can feel a bit of seriousness in those words. He frowns, thinking back to Scott’s behavior this afternoon, always extra careful with him. It’s like they’re back at being just the two of them, but not quite. Stiles doesn’t really have the mind right now to put much thought into it.

 

***

 

“Aren’t you going to sleep?”

“In a bit, just finishing this paper,” Stiles says without taking his eyes off from the screen. It’s not an important paper and it can definitely wait for tomorrow, but he can’t just— He doesn’t want to go to sleep just yet.

“I have my shift now. Call me if you need anything, okay?”

Stiles immediately turns around as his father’s worried words hit him. “I’m fine, dad. Really. I’ll see you tomorrow in the morning?”

His father nods, “Okay. Don’t stay up too late.”

“I won’t.”

Stiles relaxes as he hears the front door close. Maybe he could pull off an all nighter. With that mind, he goes downstairs to make some fresh coffee. When he gets back to his desk, his phone buzzes with a new message with a picture attached to it.

He almost chokes on his hot coffee as he clicks on it. This time he actually remembers of taking a while to reply, but something inside him just keeps saying screw it.

 

That’s just sad. You should have bought a plant or smth.

- Sent 00:02

 

Sitting back on his chair, Stiles doesn’t have to wait long before he gets a reply.

 

Then I couldn’t watch it grow.

- Received 00:12

Grow what?

- Sent 00:17

 

Stiles tries to imagine Derek actually planting something and— Nope, he can’t really imagine it. Maybe Cora— Nope, she’s even worse.

 

Matricaria chamomilla.

- Received 00:21

 

Never before has Stiles opened Google so fast as right now.

 

You’re growing tea?

- Sent 00:26

 

Stiles hits send as he keeps reading the rest of the description, swallows hard when he realizes that it’s going to take a long time for it to actually grow. That’s too fucking long, he realizes… possibly a bit too late.

 

You did your research.

- Received 00:28

 

Stiles can almost see Derek smirking like the jerk he is and a feeling of longing hits him. He groans out loud.

 

Maybe I just know what it is, asshole.

  - Sent 00:29

 

It’s a lie, but Derek doesn’t need to know.

 

Why are you growing tea anyway?

- Sent 00:30

 

He sends another message. Part of him wishes for a meaningless reason. Even though it’s none of his business, it should be meaningless. The other part of him just wants to directly ask Derek if he is not even considering coming back.

 

The picture you sent.

- Received 00:31

 

Oh. Right.

 

It’s good. You should try it.

- Received 00:32

 

Stiles does not, he does not take that as an invitation. It’s not, obviously. This is actually a way of Derek telling him that he’s an annoying little shit that can’t stay quiet. Chamomile is not going to do much for him anyway.

 

I’m drinking coffee.

- Sent 00:34

 

Stiles curses as he reads what he just sent. Nice one, he just gave Derek more reasons to make fun of him.

 

At this hour?

- Received 00:35

 

Or maybe not. Stiles bites his bottom lip as he types: I have a paper to finish. It’s a lie and this is the second person tonight he’s lied to. It hits him then how easy it was to lie to his father, but it feels weird to lie to Derek. Too weird. It’s even weirder to realize that he never really lied to Derek. Not like this.

“You sure need to check your priorities,” he says out loud to himself.

For some unexplainable reason that he doesn’t want to think about, Stiles decides to keep that weird pattern in his life and not lie to Derek. But he’s not going to tell the truth either. What good can come from it anyway? It’s not like Derek can even do anything about it. Despite everything, Stiles would actually tell him if it meant the nightmares would go away. But they won’t. He knows they won’t.

 

Going to bed now.

- Sent 00:38

 

He closes his laptop and walks to the bathroom. When he comes back from brushing his teeth, there’s a new message on his phone screen:

 

Goodnight, Stiles.

- Received 00:39

 

He smiles.

Stiles scrolls up the messages as he falls on the bed. He stares at the picture Derek sent him. It shows a window with a small raise-bed underneath it. Stiles doesn’t even have to ask Derek to know it’s the same balcony and he wishes the yellow light would illuminate the space a bit more; maybe to be able to take a little peak inside. He doesn’t even bother to ask himself why he wants to check the place where Derek and Cora are living. Stiles is just curious by nature.

I should have asked about Cora, he thinks.

Tomorrow. He will ask tomorrow.

 

***

 

“Stop!” Stiles shouts as he runs to Derek. Stiles is barefoot in the middle of the forest and it’s like the more he runs, the farthest Derek seems to be. The mist surrounds him and swallows him whole. Derek doesn’t even hesitate and keeps walking with—

“Derek! Don’t!”

Stiles keeps running, his vision getting blurrier with each step he takes. When he’s finally right behind Derek, Stiles reaches for his arm, but immediately stops in his tracks when he almost falls over a cliff in front of him.

You can’t stop him,” Jennifer scoffs from the other side. Derek stands next to her like an empty shell.

“Derek!” Stiles keeps calling him but it’s useless. Derek’s eyes don’t even seem to recognize his shouts and despair. Or even to acknowledge his voice.

Let’s go, Derek.

Seeing Derek allowing Jennifer to touch him so easily clenches something inside of Stiles. “What are you doing?” He asks, panicked.

What needs to be done, Stiles,” Jennifer tells him as she places her hands on Derek’s shoulders. They’re both standing right in front of him, with a cliff that seems to have no end between them.

Jennifer whispers something into Derek’s ear, too low for Stiles to hear, and suddenly that’s all it takes for Derek to glance up and look right into Stiles’ eyes. Before, Derek’s eyes were lifeless and empty, but now, all that Stiles can see is pure blame.

“Derek, don’t. Please,” he begs; the tip of his toes letting some rocks fall into the abyss. No sound comes out of it.

His breath is sucked out of him when Derek steps forward.

“No! Derek, you’ll fall. Stop!” He cries.

Don’t you want him back?” Jennifer mocks him.

Stiles’ eyes lock with Derek’s for a second before he sees Derek falling into pure darkness. There’s no sound, not even a scream. Stiles is left alone on the other side of the cliff with the memory of the guilt and pain from Derek’s eyes.

His vision blurs as tears fall and he screams.

 

***

 

“That’s your third coffee today,” Scott says as he sits next to him.

“So?” Stiles doesn’t even bother to look at him.

“Maybe you should slow it down? You look terrible, dude.”

“Well, thanks.”

“It makes you surly too.”

“If you have any more complaints you’ll have to wait, buddy. According to Miss Glasses over there, I ran out of forms already.”

“Stiles.”

When Scott doesn’t elaborate, Stiles glances up to find Scott looking at him with worry reflected in his eyes.

“I just want to help,” Scott says.

Stiles closes his book and sighs, “I know.”

“You know you can talk to me, right?”

“I know,” Stiles nods. And he wishes it could be enough. If only he could be enough for himself without pushing Scott into this weakness of his. If only.

It’s been a week and as more days go by, Stiles feels like he’s getting lost inside his own cocoon.

 

***

 

Another nightmare, another sleepless night. When it gets too intense to stay inside his own room, Stiles gets the habit of leaving home earlier in the morning.

“It’s odd seeing you here so early,” Stiles loses track of his thoughts as Lydia sits next to him on the bleachers.

“Couldn’t sleep,” he simply replies.

“Are you alone?” The question is perfectly valid and normal, but something inside him just wants to scream at her, I am. I am all alone. He doesn’t.

“Yeah.”

She hits him at the back of his head.

“Ow! What was that for?”

“You should have said, Not anymore.”

“When did you start caring about me anyway?” Lydia frowns and is about to reply, but he’s just so fucking tired. “Why don’t you go look for your murderer of a boyfriend?”

Lydia stands up and gapes at him, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just—”

“Pretend? You’re going to pretend?” He laughs sarcastically. “You’re already pretending, Lydia! And you will keep pretending until they kill someone else again.” Stiles knows he’s being harsh. But the truth hurts. This is just simply not the best time or the place, but he can’t bear this anymore. “They’re murderers. Your boyfriend is a murderer.”

Lydia looks like she’s fuming by now, but she holds in, like she always does. Stiles wants to take it all back and reach her, but he can’t. It’s like everything he touches; everything he cares about just vanishes into deep darkness.

As she walks away from the field in a hurry, Stiles doesn’t know if the sudden cold he’s feeling has anything to do with the chilly weather outside.

 

***

 

Scott and Stiles are eating lunch at the cafeteria, when a tray is suddenly placed next to them.

“Why would you do that, Stiles?” Allison confronts him.

Scott looks at her and then back to Stiles, confusion all over his face.

“You’ll have to be more specific,” Stiles tells her, even though he does have a clue of what she might be talking about.

“Lydia won’t sit to eat with us, because of you. You need to fix it.”

“What happened?” Scott asks.

Allison turns her gaze back to Scott, “Stiles decided—”

“I’m right here,” Stiles adds.

“—to butt his nose where he has no business whatsoever.”

Stiles snorts at that. “Right,” his voice maybe a bit too loud.

“Okay, calm down, you two.” Scott says. “What happened exactly?”

Stiles looks at his friend and then turns his gaze back to Allison. She’s giving him this look, like she won’t drop the subject anytime soon. Well, fuck.

“Where is she?”

 

***

 

“Lydia, wait!” Stiles shouts when he sees her down the corridor. She doesn’t even look at him as he runs after her. He loses sight of her when she enters the girl’s bathroom.

“Lydia?” Stiles stands awkwardly outside, “Come on, Lydia. I know you’re there.”

But Lydia doesn’t reply.

Stiles sighs, “Look, I shouldn’t have talked to you that way. It’s not your fault and I’m sorry, okay?”

Suddenly the door opens and Stiles flails miserably, when a girl he doesn’t know stands there clearly judging him. Stiles waves awkwardly and lets her pass.

The minutes pass and Lydia is still inside, but Stiles knows she’s not going to skip their next period, so he waits. Frustrated, he lets himself fall to the ground, back against the wall.

As soon as he does it, Lydia opens the door. She looks at him from above with fierce eyes, but quickly walks away. Stiles has only a second to react and grab his backpack. With those high heels, it doesn’t take long for him to catch up with her.

“Are you going to ignore me all day?”

“That depends. Is it going to take that long for you to get the memo?”

Stiles grunts, “Fine! I’m sorry, okay?”

But Lydia doesn’t stop. She enters their next classroom, with a few people already sitting. She quickly chooses the seat in the middle of two girls, so Stiles sits behind her.

“I said I was sorry,” Stiles presses.

She opens her notebook and picks up a pen. Stiles watches her during the whole class, but Lydia doesn’t even glance back at him. It’s like they’re back at square one.

 

***

 

As soon as it’s over, Stiles rushes to pack up his stuff and waits for Lydia by the door. She stares at him, annoyed, but doesn’t say anything as she walks to her locker.

“Come on, Lydia,” Stiles pleads again. “I said I was sorry. What more do you want?”

Lydia turns around quickly, if her murderous look is anything to go by, Stiles would be dead by now.

“How about letting me handle this?”

Stiles gasps, “Letting you— Are you serious? They killed—,” he lowers his voice, “they killed Boyd and Erica. How the hell can you handle that?”

She closes the locker door with so much force that Stiles can’t help but jump at the loud sound. Before he knows, she’s already walking away. He sighs, frustrated.

The corridors are practically empty. Everyone is always too eager to leave after the last period, so Stiles follows Lydia, in silence, hoping she will give in.

Which doesn’t happen, obviously.

“I dream about them sometimes,” Stiles starts. “Erica and Boyd…. I didn’t know them well, but— I wish I did.” He pauses briefly as he tries to remember their faces. “I— They blame me. I saw them the night they were taken and I— I forgot. I can’t believe I forgot, but I did.” Stiles scratches the back of his neck as his eyes start giving all his emotions away. “Ignorance is bliss, I guess. But you know now, Lydia. And— I don’t like it. I want you to be happy. That’s all I want, Lydia.”

As he lets those last words out, Lydia turns around and he almost loses his balance with the sudden stop.

“I know what I’m doing,” Lydia says, her eyes still furious and hurt. It sends a rush of guilt through Stiles, but at the same time there’s also some kind of amazement. I did that, he thinks. Lydia Martin is upset with him and that’s how Stiles knows how messed up his world is right now.

“Okay,” he nods. “I trust you,” yet he doesn’t. Because he can never trust them.

Lydia stares at him for a while and then nods. She starts walking again, but then suddenly stops, “And it’s not your fault.”

Stiles just follows her. This is the girl he’s been in love with for years. And he realizes how much he still loves her. There was a time when he just wanted to hold her hand and kiss her softly, while brushing her strawberry hair with his fingers. But there were times where he wanted to hit Jackson for making her cry, to give her his notes when she was home sick or to give up his umbrella so she wouldn’t get wet in the rain. He might not want to kiss her anymore, but he still wants to hold her hand, to brush her hair and tell her that it’s going to be okay. He loves her; it’s just not the love he thought it was.

They’re almost at the cafeteria, when they hear the commotion a few corridors ahead.

“What’s going on?” Lydia asks, looking at him.

He shrugs and both of them rush to see what’s happening.

As they get closer, Stiles is surprised to find Scott and Allison fighting at the school entrance surrounded by a group of students.

“How could you possibly think I’m okay with it?” Scott asks her, but it’s clearly more of an accusation.

Allison bites her lip and frowns. She does that when she’s nervous. “You said it was okay. I thought—“

“You thought that I wasn’t in love with you anymore,” Stiles doesn’t know if it’s because of the years they’ve known each other, but he can definitely hear Scott’s voice breaking at the end.

“Are you in love with him?” Scott asks her.

“Guys, I don’t think this is—“ Stiles butts in.

“I don’t know!” Allison shouts in frustration. “I don’t know,” she says again, her voice substantially lower.

Stiles looks between them, trying hard to ignore the whispers around them.

“What is going on?” Lydia asks.

Everyone stays silent for a while, apart from the not so subtle noisy audience.

“We should go somewhere else,” Stiles whispers.

“There’s nothing more to talk about,” Scott replies to no one in particular. He grabs his backpack and starts walking.

“Scott,” Allison calls him. It’s not loud and it’s obviously only meant for Scott to hear, but Stiles is still there thorned about what he should do.

“I’m going to…” Only then does Allison seem to acknowledge his presence and Lydia’s, together with the rest of the people still around them.

She doesn’t say anything, but her eyes speak volumes. Stiles nods and runs outside to catch up with his best friend.

 

***

 

Trying to cheer up Scott was a failure, but also an exhausting task. It shouldn’t be. Stiles should be at the top of his game when his best friend is still healing from a wound that keeps getting deeper.

“I’m home!” Stiles announces as he drops his keys.

He goes to the kitchen and pours himself a glass of water. His dad is settled in his office surrounded by papers.

“Anything wrong?”

“No, just—,” his dad sighs heavily. “McCall is giving us a hard time.”

“Oh,” Stiles glances down at the papers. They don’t seem to be about new cases, at least that. “Trying to clear up our tracks?”

“Something like that,” his dad replies with a short smile.

“If you need any help…” Stiles offers, but his dad quickly dismisses it.

“I’ll do my job and you’ll do yours. Which is study by the way,” he narrows his eyes at him. “Any supernatural adventures I should know about?”

Stiles bites his lip. “Nope.” Technically, it’s not a lie.

When he’s thinking about switching his Chemistry book for a movie, his phone buzzes on his desk. Stiles frowns when he looks at the screen.

“Hello?”

Hi,” Allison says.

Stiles can feel her uneasiness even through the phone and for a brief moment all he can think of is that something happened.

I—

“Is something wrong?”

No, no, nothing’s wrong,” she replies quickly. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry.

“It’s not me that you should—“

I’m not talking about Scott.

Oh. “Oh?”

Allison sighs from the other side, “I talked with Lydia and…

“She told you.”

There’s a few seconds of silence before she replies, “Yeah.”

It’s not like he asked Lydia to not tell anyone, but he can’t help to feel uncomfortable with it. He never really wanted to say anything in the first place.

“I still don’t like them,” he tells her instead.

Me neither.

“Then why—“

It’s complicated.

Stiles snorts, “Everything is complicated. It doesn’t make what they did okay. Not even the slightest.”

I know. I have my eye on them.

“That’s reassuring,” he says it sarcastically.

Allison doesn’t reply immediately. He likes that about her. She’s always thinking about the right thing to say and do. Stiles wishes he could do that too.

Love is not exactly something you can explain, Stiles.

Stiles lies down on his bed, “Tell me about it,” he sighs. “Do you expect us to just hang out with them?”

I don’t expect you to do anything,” she pauses, “Or Scott.”

“Lydia and Danny are our friends. Erica and Boyd were— well, they were something. Do you really think we’re going to just sit and watch?”

They’re not going to hurt them.

He snorts again.

Trust me, Stiles. They won’t.”

“Forgive me for not trusting them.”

Trust me then. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for talking to you that way. I didn’t know you were—

“I’m fine,” he replies, probably sounding more annoyed than he should be.

Maybe you could—

“Allison, I’m fine.”

She pauses, “Okay. If you need anything I’ll—

“Are you okay though?” Stiles decides to ask. He really can’t help to be curious about it. He knows Scott is dealing with it just fine, but he never had the chance to know about Allison and how she’s living with it.

I’m okay,” Allison replies.

Of course he had to be the weakest link of the group. As awful as it sounds, Stiles was hoping they could live with this together. Or that Scott and Allison would eventually catch up. Maybe he could even give them some advice on how to be able to survive each day. He seems to have become an expert on that field.

After hanging up, Stiles stares a long time at the picture that Derek sent him from his balcony. How many times has Derek dreamed about his family? About Erica and Boyd? Will it ever get any easier? The thought scares him and suddenly Stiles realizes he’s shaking. His palms are sweaty and eventually his cell phone falls to the side. Only now he notices how he’s lying down in his bed and gasping for air.

Stiles stares up at the ceiling, his hands holding on to the sheets like his life depends on it. He can feel the whole room spinning, like the walls are going to stumble on him and no one will be able to hear him scream. His dad is downstairs and he tries to call him, but nothing comes out. Stiles can’t even move. It’s like his body is not his own anymore and the drops of sweat falling down his forehead are cold and sticky. He wants to get away from it, leave this shell and just go, leave to somewhere else.

There’s something trembling next to him and for a moment he thinks it’s his body, but after a while he figures it’s actually his phone. He can’t look though. It’s like if he does, the ceiling will take advantage of it and collapse completely. Stiles blinks and tries to stay focused on the ceiling. It’s blue. It’s blue like the sky, like the sea, like the picture Derek sent him, like Derek’s beta eyes. Blue. Blue is good.

“Blue is good,” he keeps murmuring.

 

***

 

There’s something burning around him. Stiles can feel it, smell it. It’s so strong that he can’t help but cough, as the air seems to be sucked away from his lungs.

Before opening his eyes, Stiles realizes that he can’t move his wrists or his feet. He’s trapped and there’s a fire somewhere. Startled, he opens his eyes. It’s a bad idea, because as soon as he does the smoke blinds him completely.

“What— Dad?! Dad, where are you?” Stiles panics. “I can’t move!”

He keeps coughing more intensively as he tries to scream for help.

You should have stayed asleep,” someone says.

“Who are you?”

The person laughs, “We really didn’t have much of a chance to get to know each other. It’s a pity, but c’est la vie.”

The smoke gets darker by the second and Stiles knows he doesn’t have much time. He needs to do something.

“I can’t— Let me see you.”

The person— a woman laughs, “Demanding. I like it.

Even with the smoke, there’s no way Stiles wouldn’t recognize that face. His eyes sting, but he can’t seem to be able to close them. When he connects the dots, a lump rises in his throat making him want to throw up. Kate Argent. Fire.

Kate smiles at him like she knows exactly what he’s thinking. It’s sick and twisted how she seems to be fucking proud of it.

“I’m not a werewolf,” it’s what he manages to say.

“Oh, sweetie, I know that,” her smile widens. Stiles doesn’t understand why she doesn’t seem to be affected by the fire. Then it occurs to him that she’s dead. He’s about to be dead too.

“Then let me go!” He practically spits the words.

Her smile fades as she leans in to whisper in his ear. “Tell you what, you tell me where Derek is and I’ll let you go.

“What? I don’t know where he is. And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you!”

Wrong choice,” another voice comes from his right side. This one he knows too well. It used to haunt him every night while his wounds were still healing.

“You’re not dead,” because Stiles knows Gerard is not dead. Yet. He turns to look at Kate again and wonders for the first time if she’s actually dead. “Are you dead?”

She laughs, mocks him. He doesn’t have time for this.

Any last words?” Stiles turns his focus back to Gerard. In the middle of all the smoke he spots something shiny, but he can’t really see what it is.

“Fuck you. I’m not telling you anything!” His voice is too hoarse and he’s starting to drift off again.

Gerard smiles and Kate keeps laughing.

Stiles never sees the sword or how it cuts his legs like chop meat. All he can feel is the pain, the smell of blood mixed with ashes and the sound of their evil laughs piercing through his ears.

He screams.

 

***

 

Stiles sits up abruptly to touch his legs. He’s panting like crazy and his mouth feels dry, but what scares him the most is how dark it is. Clumsily, he reaches for his nightstand and turns the light on. There’s a small yellow post-it next to his cell phone:

 

- Shift tonight. Didn’t want to wake you. -

 

His heart is still pounding hard against his ribs but he manages to sigh in relief. Promptly, he gets up and goes to the bathroom. Stiles doesn’t even dare to glance up at the mirror, instead he washes his face the best that he can and drinks all the water he’s able to. It’s like he can still feel the ashes in his mouth.

Coffee. No way he’s going to go back to sleep or even risk it. The whole house is pitch black inside since there’s no moon tonight. Stiles lightens up every lamp he can reach until the kitchen. It’s like he’s back to being five again.

With a mug filled with black coffee, he goes back to his room and turns his laptop on. Only then he glances at his cell phone and sees the two missed calls. Stiles smiles and without much thought he calls the number again. Only after the first ring his eyes land on the clock of his laptop: 4AM

Shit,” he rushes to end the call. “Shit, shit, shit.” Stiles passes his fingers through his hair and he stares at his cell phone. “Shit.”

Stiles jumps from his chair when his cell phone starts ringing.

He picks it up immediately, “I’m so sorry, I—“

Are you okay?!” Derek blurts out with clear worry in his voice.

“I—,” his throat shrinks and he shuts his eyes for a moment.

Stiles.

“Sorry,” he says quietly. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

Stiles can hear Derek shift over the phone, “You didn’t answer your phone.

“Yeah, I was—“ He can’t say he was having another freaking panic attack. He just can’t. This is not— definitely not something you would say to someone who’s not around anymore; probably doesn’t even want to be here anymore. “I was busy.”

Silence settles and Stiles can’t help to feel like a real douche. He was busy?!

Why aren’t you sleeping then?

Crap.

Stiles laughs nervously, “I have all this energy ready to burst that I couldn’t possibly sleep anymore. I guess I forgot the rest of the mortals were still asleep. I’m sorry about that.”

Hopefully, that’s the end of it. Derek was never the one to pry or at least he doesn’t seem like the type to do it. He’s also not here, so he can’t really pick up an innocent lie like that. Right?

“Did you need something before?” Stiles decides it’s best to just change the subject. Though that doesn’t seem to work so well since Derek keeps giving him the silent treatment. “Derek?”

I’m here,” he replies. “I wanted to ask you about Isaac.

“Isaac?” Stiles frowns.

How is he?

“Well, he seems… good? I think he’s good. Did you lose his number or something? I can give it to—“

That’s not necessary. I just wanted to check up on how he is.

“Okay…” Stiles takes a sip of his coffee when he feels his insides twist. “How is Cora?”

She’s doing good.

He bites his lip and sucks in a shaky breath, “How are you?”

Everything is good, Stiles,” he wasn’t really expecting such a prompt answer from Derek, but it sort of comes out as a relief after all the nightmares about him gone and… sometimes dead.

How are you?

“How’s the plant?”

They ask at the same time and Stiles can’t help to chuckle.

“I’m fine. How’s the plant?”

Derek is silent for a moment before replying, “It will take a while for it to grow.

Stiles rolls his eyes, “I know that. It won’t help much if you forget about it.”

I won’t,” Derek says.

“Because it’s easy, you know, to forget.”

I won’t forget, Stiles.

There’s something in the way that Derek says it that makes Stiles grip his mug more tightly. He takes another sip.

“Good, that’s good. I should probably let you go back to sleep. I’m sor—“

I don’t have to get up early.

Stiles eyes widen in surprise. He bites his lip again and starts drumming with his fingers on the mug’s corners. “So… do you want to talk? I mean, I was going to browse around the internet. Boring stuff, you know. Just passing time until morning. You don’t really have to—”

We can talk.

Stiles smiles, even though Derek can’t see him.

“I’ve been doing this catalog. It’s a bestiary, but ours. I figured that having our own thing would be better, you know? But I decided to also add information about some herbs and symbols. Maybe you could help me with it?” His voice sounds a bit too hopeful, but he’s not really expecting Derek to chit chat with him about the weather or anything else. Supernatural stuff sounds like a safe bet, one that they can both play.

Sure. What do you want to know?

 

***

 

“Stiles,” Scott hisses from his seat. Stiles takes a quick look at Mrs. Patterson before turning around. Scott leans forward, “Are you okay? Your heartbeat—“

“I’m fine,” he says before settling back in his seat.

“You don’t look fine,” he hears Scott say.

A minute goes by and Scott goes again, “Did you sleep at all?”

Stiles sighs heavily, “Yes.”

Scott goes silent, but not for long, “You’re lying. Why are you—“

Stiles snaps and turns around, “I’m not lying! I slept, okay?! So what if I look tired? I just woke up earlier and maybe I took an extra coffee. Or two. What is wrong with that? I’m actually in a very good mood today, so why are you getting on my nerves all of sudden?!”

In front of him, Scott goes silent with his wide eyes staring back at him. Only after a few seconds, Stiles notices that the rest of his classmates are looking straight at him and he’s actually standing, which means—

“Anything else you want to share with us, Mr. Stilinski?”

Stiles turns around slowly, his eyes meeting with Lydia briefly. She mouths, “What is wrong with you?”, but he decides to ignore it.

“No,” he says.

“Good, then you won’t mind staying after—“

“Mrs. Patterson, it was my fault,” Scott interrupts from behind and Stiles can’t help to squeeze his eyes shut as a rush of guilt takes over him. “I was the one who called him and— it seems that I upset him a bit. I’m sorry.” Stiles knows the last words are directed at him, but he remains still.

“Well then, as honorable as that is, I’m forced to send you both for detention,” she turns her gaze solemnly to Stiles, “As for you, Mr. Stilinski, I would take your friend’s advice and sleep. You look terrible and I would hate to see your grades drop due to lack of sleep.”

Stiles bites his cheek on the inside and nods.

The detention is not that bad. Scott is silent next to him while they both do their homework. It’s better than being alone at home and feeling the sleep take over him. When the teacher tells them they can leave, Stiles takes longer than necessary to pack up his things. Scott seems to notice.

“I’m worried about you.”

“I know,” Stiles confesses. “But you don’t need to. I’m— I’m dealing with it.”

Scott nods slowly with his backpack already on his shoulder, “So… we’re good?”

Stiles glances up quickly, letting his lips curl into a shy smile, “We’re good.”

Scott pats him on the shoulder and doesn’t take his hand off as they leave the classroom. Isaac is waiting outside, leaning against the lockers.

“What are you doing here?” Stiles asks as soon as he sees Isaac.

Isaac frowns and beside him Scott looks a bit startled too, “I was waiting for Scott,” he pauses to look at Scott. “Melissa called to say she’s going to have another shift tonight and that we shouldn’t wait for her.”

“Okay. Maybe we could grab some—“

“Actually,” Isaac steps forward, scratching the back of his neck. “Allison invited me to— she and Chris invited me over to dinner. I guess, you could come too— if you want to, I mean.”

“Are you fucking serious now?” Stiles spits, stepping forward. “Are you actually asking Scott to go eat with your girlfriend and her father?! His ex-girlfriend, by the way, in case you haven’t noticed—“

“Stiles, that’s enough,” Scott moves closer to him, his hand back on his shoulder but with much more strength.

“No. This is not okay, Scott. This,” he wiggles his arms around, “will never be okay. It’s like a prank from the universe! A test to our sanity or something.”

“Scott, I didn’t mean,” Isaac starts.

Stiles is on him before he can even blink, “You, go away.”

“Stiles!” Scott holds him.

“They gave you a roof, a home, a fucking family! And this is how you thank them,” Stiles can feel his anger match with Isaac’s. His wide blue eyes suddenly filled with rage and at the edge of tears.

“If that’s—“

“No. Isaac, he doesn’t mean it. He hasn’t slept in days and—“

Something clicks in his mind. Stiles’ gaze turns back at Scott, “How do you know that?! I never told you that.”

“Just look at you!” Scott says and it’s like they’re back at square one.

“I told you not to worry about me. You should worry about him,” he says while he points at Isaac. “You should worry about the two killing machines walking around school like nothing happened!”

“Is this about Lydia?” Isaac asks, but his gaze is on Scott, not him. It’s like he’s not even there and it only makes him angrier.

What?!” Stiles almost chokes, “They killed half of your pack, the other part is gone because of them. How can you not see the fucking problem?!”

“We should go,” Scott says looking over his shoulder. Stiles follows his gaze and lands on Ethan staring back at them.

“Yes, I’m talking about you!” Stiles shouts as he tries to get out of Scott’s hold, but he can’t. “Let me go!”

“Stiles, this is not the place,” Scott hisses. “And he’s an alpha! What do you think you’re going to do?”

“I’m going to do a lot more than we’ve been doing for the past few months,” he tries harder to get away, but Scott doesn’t budge.

“Let him come. It’s not like I can’t handle him,” Ethan’s words hit him hard.

His backpack drops to the floor as he fights Scott’s hold. It’s Ethan’s smirk from afar that gives him the strength he needs to get free. But as soon as he does it, there’s a hand back on his arm.

“What’s goin—“

Stiles doesn’t mean it, but instinct takes over him when he turns and he punches the first person he sees. Danny.

He stumbles back when he sees Danny curling on the floor with Scott and Isaac beside him, Ethan brushing Stiles off and kneeling down in front of him.

Danny’s confused eyes lock with Stiles’, his bloody lip a reminder of what just happened. It makes him sick. Everything lately just makes him sick and eager to scream so loud until his lungs can’t take it anymore. He runs as fast as he can, ignoring Scott’s shouts down the corridor and the people staring back at him.

It’s only when he parks at home that Stiles realizes he forgot his backpack. His hand still hurts from the punch and it really doesn’t take long for him to run upstairs to throw up whatever darkness he can get rid of.

 

***

 

Stiles is playing with the food on his plate when the doorbell rings.

“I’ll go,” he tells his dad.

“Whoever it is, don’t think you’re getting away from dinner.”

Stiles narrows his eyes, “I’ll know if you put any vegetables on my plate.”

His dad looks affronted for a second before the doorbell rings again.

It’s not really a surprise when he opens the door and sees Scott.

“You forgot your backpack,” Scott hands it over to him.

“Thanks,” Stiles replies. “Is Danny—“

“He’s okay,” Scott nods. “It’s okay. You didn’t know—“

“You need to stop apologizing for me, Scott.”

Scott sighs, “I’m worried about you. I wish you could just talk to me.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. I already told you I’m dealing with it. It might— It might take some time, that’s all.” Stiles shifts awkwardly, “Do you want to come in? We’re having dinner, but there’s enough—“

“I already had dinner.”

“Well, then maybe you could wait and—“

“It’s probably better if I don’t,” Scott says with a low voice. “You need to rest. Just— please get some sleep, Stiles.”

It pains Stiles to see his best friend plead him something so simple and yet so complicated. “I will,” Stiles looks straight into Scott’s eyes and hopes that he’s not lying to himself either, “I promise.”

“Stiles?!” His father shouts from the kitchen.

“It’s Scott!” Stiles shouts back, “I’ll be there in a second!”

“See you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, see you tomorrow,” Stiles moves forward to give him a hug, but then abruptly stops. It’s Scott who quickly closes the distance between them.

It’s not even past eleven when Stiles is already in bed and his phone rings. Stiles stares at it for a long time; so long that the call dies. Immediately after, Derek’s name pops into his screen again.

“I wish—“ Stiles stops himself and grunts, placing his phone on the nightstand.

He doesn’t pick up.

The screen doesn’t illuminate again and he ends up falling asleep.

 

***

 

Stiles is running wildly through the forest in the middle of the night. He knows they’re somewhere, most likely chasing him. He runs and runs, not worrying about the thorns that cut his jeans and skin, making him cry in pain.

It’s like he can’t control his body anymore. The sound of their howls becomes stronger, more vivid and closer even though he hasn’t stopped yet. Stiles takes one quick glance at the bright moon up in the sky and it’s enough to miss the shape on the ground that makes him fall, face flat on the dirty wet ground.

After gathering some strength to stand up, Stiles notices that the ground is indeed too wet and he panics when he looks at the palms of his hands. Blood. So much blood. Blood all over his hands, his clothes and even his face.

Stiles turns around slowly. Denial hits him when he sees the lifeless body lying behind him, covered in dirt and blood.

“Scott!” Stiles shouts as he crawls to the body, carefully trying to ignore how he’s kneeling in a puddle of blood. Scott’s blood. “No! No, no, no. Scott, please wake up,” Stiles sobs as his hands land on Scott’s chest. “Why aren’t you healing? This is not the time, Scott. Wake up! Wake up now!” Stiles can’t stop himself from shaking his best friend, more blood tainting his clothes and his skin. Tears start to well up in his eyes. “Please, Scott. Please!”

He’s dead.”

“No, no, he’s not dead. He can’t be dead,” at this point Stiles doesn’t even care about them. His best friend will wake up any minute. Any minute now.

He died because of you, Stiles.

That makes him drift his gaze from Scott to Deucalion, “What?”

Deucalion looks behind his shoulder and, just like that, Kali emerges through the woods carrying other two lifeless bodies. Ungracefully, she throws them to the ground like two potato stacks. The twins. Dead.

“What— No, he wouldn’t,” Stiles moves his gaze back to Scott, only now he notices the deep claw marks on his chest. “He would never—“

Kill? You underestimate his loyalty, Stiles.”

“Scott would never kill anyone,” Stiles repeats, more to himself.

You wanted them dead. He killed them for you.”

“And you killed him.”

An eye for an eye.”

“But they’re—“ two, he thinks, but doesn’t dare to finish the sentence. Stiles holds Scott tighter; shelters Scott’s body against his own, hoping that he can still protect him, to try and bring him back. He shuts his eyes and believes. He’s not dead. He can’t be dead. He’s my brother. Please, don’t be dead.

This is what I admire about you, Stiles. Always so smart and so ahead of everyone else. Maybe you’ll make the right decision,” Deucalion smiles, “unlike your friend.”

“What do you want?” Stiles asks, not even bothering to hide the tears.

I want you, Stiles. Join our pack.

“Never. And I’m not even a werewolf. How could I even—“ he stops as he realizes what’s happening. No, this can’t— this can’t be happening.

Like I said… smart,” Deucalion smiles, but it quickly falls, “Hold him,” he orders Kali.

“What?!” Stiles tries to move backwards, still holding Scott’s body close to his chest. “You can’t— I don’t want to!”

We’re past that,” Kali says as she moves closer. She grabs his wrists and Stiles is shocked with the sound that Scott’s body makes when it falls back on the wet ground. It’s only after that he realizes that Kali has him trapped like an animal.

“Stop! Let me go!” Stiles shouts as he keeps kicking his legs, desperately trying to get free. It’s useless. Completely useless.

You’re going to be a good werewolf,” Deucalion says as he kneels down beside him. Stiles panics when he sees his eyes flash red and his teeth growing.

“No, please. Please, let me go!”

“Stiles!”

He keeps kicking his legs as Kali’s hold gets tighter. Deucalion’s clawed hands move to his shirt, lifting it up. Stiles screams.

“Stiles!”

Deucalion’s teeth pierce through his skin, as Kali’s claws dig deeper on his wrists. Stiles can’t hold back the tears and the screams. His vision blurs as the pain becomes impossibly stronger. It hurts so much. A stabbing pain on the outside and on the inside. He thinks of Scott, dead and drowning in his own blood because of Stiles. He thinks of bodies in the woods, split in half, and how they should have never left home that night. He thinks of sharp teeth close to his wrist, abominations that leave him paralyzed and sleeping monsters that don’t leave him alone. He thinks of pack and shuts his eyes as even this choice is taken away from him.

“Stiles!”

When Stiles opens his eyes, his dad is staring back at him with wide eyes and sweat drops all over his forehead. He’s still trapped and for a second he panics that none of it was a dream, but then he looks up and realizes that it’s his father who’s holding his wrists to the mattress.

“Thank God,” his father breathes out as he lets him go completely. He slowly sits on the bed, fingers scratching his eyes. “You scared the hell outta me.”

Stiles looks around his room before turning back to his father. His heart is still beating rapidly against his chest, he’s cold and sweating.

His dad sits closer to him, “We need to take you to see someone. Someone you can talk to.”

“No,” Stiles replies, voice raw. It makes him wonder how long he’s been screaming for.

“Stiles, this is not a onetime thing. I don’t know how to help you if you don’t talk to me. You need— you need help, son.”

“Dad, it was just a dream. I’m—“

Dreams. And you’re not fine. You’ve been screaming for almost an hour and—,” his dad’s voice stutters and his hands are slightly trembling when he reaches for Stiles’ hands, “you were— I stopped you, but…”

Stiles frowns before letting his gaze drop to their joined hands. It takes him a lot of strength to not jump out of bed. His wrists— his fucking wrists are filled with deep scratches and his nails all dirty with his own skin… and blood.

“Stiles,” his father says in a low voice.

“I don’t know— I don’t…” Stiles hates how his voice shakes.

“It’s okay, it’s okay. You’re okay now.” His dad pulls him for a hug and Stiles feels like he’s a kid again, drowning in his father’s scent, clutching at his clothes and trying hard to not cry. “I can call Melissa and see if she can pull off some strings and get you checked today.”

“Don’t tell her,” Stiles’ immediate thought is Scott. After tonight, he can’t— he really can’t involve Scott on this.

His dad sighs, but pulls him closer, “Okay. We’ll keep this between us, then.”

Stiles nods, fingers digging deeper into his father’s back.

“Do you want to skip school today?” Stiles can’t help to snort at the question, even though it’s not funny. It only makes his guilt grow; thinking about the last time his father even suggested such a thing.

He ponders it for a while, but then he starts thinking of falling asleep again and deep fear crushes his heart. “No, I’m fine. I’m fine, dad.”

It’s a small lie that they both decide to ignore, because Stiles is still trembling and seeking for his father’s embrace.

Stiles only backs away when he feels himself drifting off, “I should shower,” he says and his father nods.

“I’ll be waiting for you downstairs.”

When his dad leaves the room, Stiles looks at his cell phone to check the time and discovers a new message from Derek. Another picture. It’s a simple picture of the night sky, but Stiles’ chest still tightens against his will.

 

Goodnight.

- Received Yesterday 23:03

 

It’s all it says, but it’s enough. Someone far away cared enough to send him a simple goodnight picture. And Stiles wishes it wasn’t from Derek Hale. He wishes— he wishes it was really just someone. Anyone except Derek, because Derek is not here. He’s not here anymore.

In the shower, Stiles tries to wash the blood under his nails, hissing as the soap slides on his wrists. His mind doesn’t keep up with the fact that he doesn’t have Scott’s blood on his skin, so he washes until his skin is red. It’s futile, though. Stiles lets his forehead drop on the tiles and stays there until his thoughts move from scary forests to starry skies.

 

***

 

Stiles can’t help spending the day at school trying to cover his wrists with his sleeves. He starts the day trying to avoid everyone, but it becomes impossible as Scott lands his eyes on him. Even Lydia doesn’t rest until she’s able to talk to him. Apparently, news that Stiles hit Danny spread fast, but Scott makes sure to take him away of prying eyes and whispers.

During training, Stiles puts his wristbands in the bathroom before heading to the locker room. Most of the team is already heading outside, leaving Scott, Isaac and Danny inside. It’s surprisingly easy to apologize to Danny and also to Isaac. Danny doesn’t seem upset or angry with him; he actually brushes it off saying it was nothing, though the swelling on his lip tends to disagree.

Thankfully, the coach doesn’t seem invested on training the benchwarmers, his focus entirely on the stars of the team. After scoring, Scott drops by the benches where Stiles is with Greenberg taking care of some of the equipment. He tries to cheer him up, saying coach is a douche. Stiles grins and tries to make a joke, though it’s really not one of his prime times. Scott doesn’t get it, and neither does Stiles, for that matter. Greenberg is the one who forces a laugh.

 

***

 

Stiles is able to dodge Scott once they get to the lockers. He waits for his best friend to move to the showers and leaves. He just doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now. Besides, it scares him that Scott will eventually see through him, possibly even smell the blood and his uneasiness. Stiles made sure to put some perfume around his wrists, even though it hurt, but after a whole day it probably faded by now.

While driving, Stiles thinks better than heading home. That’s for sure the first place where Scott will look for him. And it’s also where his father will find him in a couple of hours. He’s not ready.

Without much thought, he drops by the store to pick up some snack bars and more Red Bull. He decides to get some bread too, to avoid the looks from the cashier woman. It’s not the first time this week he drops by to buy Red Bull. It would be the worst if she thought he was partying endlessly and ran to tell his father.

Stiles drives to the preserve on instinct, right where he used to meet up with Scott and Allison. It seems like it was years ago, though it hasn’t even been a year. Settling on a rock, he grabs one of the snack bars and a Red Bull. The quiet of the woods is kind of refreshing. He plays with his cell phone, trying to get some internet service, but without any luck. Stiles resigns himself and ends up looking for Derek’s messages. It’s becoming a thing that he usually does when he’s bored. Reading through their exchange of short texts, over and over again; staring at Derek’s pictures like they hold all the answers to his problems. Stiles snorts, they really don’t. And why would Derek even want to talk to him? Maybe he’s lonely, Stiles thinks. Though, he has Cora now.

Stiles takes a picture from the view of Beacon Hills. He’s writing a text with it, when he stops to think about it more carefully. Maybe Stiles just amuses Derek. There’s no actual reason to why Derek would even care. He’s gone, right? People who care don’t just leave, especially without saying goodbye. Not to him, anyway.

“Screw it,” Stiles curses out loud as he decides to not send the picture. For a moment, he considers to just reply to Derek’s last message, but decides against it. He puts his cell phone back in his pocket and lies down.

The wind is not too chilly, but it still makes Stiles shiver every time it blows stronger. Without really noticing, Stiles finishes his Red Bull and thinks better before picking up another one.

As the sky gets darker, the noises around him become a bit too overwhelming, reminding him of his dream. The difference is… he’s now wide-awake. Stiles decides it’s time to go and grabs his cell phone to check up the time.

“Shit,” it’s way past dinnertime and he has four missed calls from his dad and two from Scott. “Shit, shit.” How long has he been here?!

His legs give in while he’s walking back to his Jeep and he stumbles upon a rock. Stiles curses loudly as he looks at his bleeding knee. The sight of blood makes him panic. The smell of dirt is too intense, the sky keeps getting darker and— he can’t breathe.

Stiles quickly gathers his stuff again and walks to the Jeep in a hurry. He’s panting when he finally sits down. It’s a fight to be able to put back the keys in the ignition, but he manages. Though, once his hands try to grab the wheel, it’s useless. Stiles counts, keeps counting, but his breathing doesn’t slow down and his body can’t stop shaking. He can almost feel his heart in his throat.

“Fuck,” it’s useless, Stiles realizes. He can’t drive.

Reluctantly, Stiles decides it’s best to call Scott. At this point, he really can’t bear to worry his father anymore and he will figure out what to tell Scott once he gets here.

 

***

 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Scott asks for the hundredth time.

Stiles sighs from the passenger seat, “Yes. I told you. It was just a panic attack.”

“No one has just a panic attack, Stiles.”

“It’s stupid. You would probably laugh at me and all.”

“What?” Scott looks at him incredulously, “I would never laugh at you getting a panic attack. No matter what. Just— you know you can talk to me, right?”

“Yeah, yeah I know.” Stiles adverts his eyes from Scott, “I thought I saw something in the woods. I think— I saw red eyes staring back at me and panicked. When I was running back to my Jeep, I tripped and hurt my knee,” he sighs as he manages to not tell another lie, not really. “It’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid,” Scott says firmly. “After all the hell we went through with those alphas, it’s a miracle that we don’t get more nightmares with them. Right?”

Stiles snorts.

 

***

 

Once Stiles got home, he immediately decided to not sleep. The nightmares are getting worse and there’s no way he’s going to have his father waking up to him screaming again.

He makes a list of possible things he can do to stay awake, but before starting, Stiles decided to reply to Derek anyway. He’s not expecting to receive a reply a few minutes later.

 

BH’s sky is still better!

- Sent 00:02

But thanks for the picture.

- Sent 00:03

 

It is.

- Received 00:11

 

Stiles swallows hard. Or tries. Whatever lump he has in his throat, it doesn’t go down. He fights the urge to call him, just— Stiles has no idea what he would say. Or feel. At the moment, he doesn’t know how he feels. Maybe it’s pity, maybe it’s sorrow or just loneliness. But he has his dad, Scott, Lydia... And a darkness that is sucking him to his core, taking away everyone and everything he cares about.

There’s no room for anyone else. He can’t bear to have someone else to lose. It’s bad already that Derek appears in his dreams sometimes, but after all the shenanigans they’ve fought together, that’s probably bound to happen once or twice.

There’s no room, or doors, or windows for anyone else.

Stiles quickly tries to advert his attention to the first point on his list: exercise. It reveals to be a difficult task with bandages around his knee, so after a few pushups he gives up and jumps to the second point: movie of great interest.

Once sleep starts kicking in, he puts on his headphones and gives a second try to exercise. The trance music is so loud, that his brain does a pretty good job ignoring the constant pain on his knee.

Another Red Bull and his stash of Reeses is all he needs right now for his second movie. Though, it doesn’t prove to be as good as he thought it would be. At 4AM, Stiles jumps to the third point on his list: bestiary.

Morning came faster than he expected, once Stiles decided to categorize everything again with colors and according to possible level of damage; he just couldn’t stop.

Stiles washes his face, like if he had just woke up. Downstairs, everything is still too quiet. The kitchen clock marks 6AM, which explains why his dad isn’t up yet, so Stiles decides to make breakfast for both of them. When his dad comes down, he has the table set with fresh coffee, orange juice, milk, warm toasts and pancakes. It’s way too much for just two people, making his father narrow his eyes, suspiciously.

“What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything, dad. Relax,” he pulls his father’s chair and waits for him to sit down. “This is much better than waking up with me screaming, right?”

His father drops the confused face, “Stiles, you didn’t need to—“

“I wanted to. Come on, dad. Just enjoy it, okay?”

During breakfast, Stiles tries to look as cheerful as possible. He tells his father that he can’t wait for the big game they have next week, which is kind of a lie. For the first time, Stiles doesn’t actually want to play. And when his father asks him if the Coach will let him go for it, Stiles promptly forces the change of subject to Melissa. He should feel guilty for knowing his father too well.

Even though it’s the end of October, the weather is still warm outside, but today Stiles feels like in the middle of December. Even after taking a shower, Stiles can’t quite hold his toothbrush, hands trembling and teeth chattering, as he feels the warmth from the hot shower quickly vanish from his body. His father eyes him warily when he gets downstairs wearing a small coat and a scarf. Stiles can feel his hands shaking even inside his pockets, so he decides against driving.

“What’s wrong with the jeep?”

“The brakes are making a weird noise, so I guess I should check those out first.”

His father sighs, “I’ll give you a ride.”

 

***

 

Scott is on him as soon as he gets to school.

“What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

Stiles frowns, “No? Not that I know of.”

“I could hear your heartbeat a mile away, Stiles.”

Attack, dodge or defend. Stiles always dodges. “Aw, buddy,” he forces a wide smile as he pats Scott’s shoulder. “You know my heartbeat?”

Scott rolls his eyes, “Of course I do. Now, why is your heart beating like a trapped mouse?”

“Trapped mouse,” he repeats.

“Yes, trapped mouse or a rabbit running for his life. Just— does it really matter?”

“Well, technically no, but I would prefer to not be compared to a mouse, thank you.”

“Stiles.”

“Also, I already do plenty of running. And it wouldn’t be surprising at all if I got trapped somewhere like—“

“Why are you dressed like that?” Lydia asks.

Stiles turns to look at her, “Morning to you too.” She doesn’t budge though, neither does Scott. Stiles sighs, tightening his scarf next to his neck. “I feel like I might be getting sick or something. It’s nothing. Probably just a cold. Satisfied?”

Saved by the bell, Stiles thinks as the loud sound echoes around school.

There’s no need for pretending that he might be getting sick after all. During lunch, Stiles can barely feel like he’s part of his body. He feels dizzy, shivering even when Lydia brings him a cup of tea. Even Scott’s hand on his shoulder feels like it’s not there at all. His best friend’s words are muffled while he’s talking with Isaac about his well-being. While one of them keeps saying he doesn’t smell sick, the other one concludes that it’s probably too soon for that.

It goes on and on for a while and it’s only when Stiles hears the words “call Derek” that they get his full attention. Gladly, he doesn’t even need to say anything.

“Will you two shut up? You’re being ridiculous,” Lydia begins. “Pyrexia is one of the most common symptoms in humans—“

“Py— what?!” Scott asks.

“Fever, if you want to name it differently. When a human’s body temperature goes above—“

“I know what a fever is!” Scott argues, “His temperature is normal, so I don’t think—“

“This is how a cold usually starts, Scott. How long have you been a werewolf?”

Allison chuckles next to her, “He just needs some rest, Scott.”

“I’m fine,” Stiles says as he stands up. His fingers tremble when he tries to pick up his tray.

“I can get that,” Isaac offers, but he’s already picking it up and walking away before Stiles can even protest or... thank him.

“You should go home though,” Allison tells him.

Stiles shrugs and damn that hurts, “I think the tea helped a bit.”

“See? Just a cold,” Lydia smiles at Scott.

Scott, though, doesn’t seem that convinced, “Tell me if you need anything. I’ll drive you home and get some medicine from my mom.”

“Thanks,” Stiles replies.

Three more periods. He just needs to survive three more periods. Once he’s home, he will figure out how to fight this. It’s not a cold, Stiles knows that Scott is right; he can feel it in every inch of his body. Every cell it’s telling him he needs to stop and shut down, but he can’t. Once his fence falls, they will come back.

The shiver that rushes through his entire body, it’s not a cold; it’s fear.

 

***

 

First thing Stiles does when he gets home is to get some coffee in his system. But after that, it’s a tough fight to stay awake. After zapping through all the channels twice, Stiles gives up and changes clothes to run outside. It takes three turns around the block to feel like he’s going to collapse.

His dad isn’t home yet, which is a blessing because even Stiles flinches when he looks at himself in the mirror. He looks like a ghost. Strangely, that’s pretty much how he’s feeling right now in his own body. A tainted and dark soul trapped in a seventeen year old body.

Showering helps. Stiles starts panting as the stream of hot water falls on his back. His skin is probably red by now, but it’s comforting. He feels alive again, whole. It’s so wicked and bizarre, as much as exciting. The pain works like a drug, a reminder that he’s no stranger to his own body. Stiles reaches a hand to cup his balls, slowly and almost tenderly; his other hand tracing the feverish skin of his chest, fingers slightly brushing his nipples. It feels good, but it doesn’t last. The steam is too thick and he can’t breathe, his own teasing only leading to frustration. Stiles bites his lower lip as he starts jerking off; he closes his eyes and speeds up his movements. He can feel it, his orgasm right at the surface, just waiting— and waiting. Stiles needs to breathe, he needs to come— he needs to come right now.

Feeling almost defeated, Stiles lets his back fall against the tiles, mouth wide opened as he tries to get some air in his lungs. He keeps pumping his cock as fast as he can. His whole body shaking so hard that he’s scared he will fall on his knees.

“For fuck’s sake,” he curses.

He’s painfully hard, but he can’t come. Angry, Stiles punches the wall. It hurts; it hurts a lot, but not much more than his swollen cock right now.

“Come on,” Stiles hisses.

Still jerking off, he trails his other hand down to cup his balls again, biting hard on his lip when he squeezes them slightly. It’s still not enough. His whole body is ready for him to come, but no matter how fast he jerks off, it’s still not enough.

The water is starting to feel cold. Stiles reaches behind himself and drags a finger over his hole. He presses slightly on that spot, wanting to feel more; a stretch that will make him feel. His eyes open suddenly when the tip of his finger slides in and Stiles can’t hold back the moan that leaves his mouth. His tight hole clenches around his finger. It’s not the first time he does this, not even the second, but damn— it’s been a long time. He doesn’t usually need this to come; it’s always rushed and plain, no time for finesse at all.

Stiles pushes his finger in, the pace on his cock fastens as he finally starts feeling the undeniable pleasure of stretching himself— He’s so close

“Stiles?” There’s a knock on the door and Stiles almost trips, “Are you okay?”

“Wh— Yeah, I’m— I’m okay!” Fuck.

“Well, hurry up,” his father says. “I brought dinner.”

Stiles turns off the water, “I’ll be down in a minute!”

When his father leaves, Stiles lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He looks down at his half hard cock and curses, “Shit.”

 

***

 

At night, Stiles tries again, but his body doesn’t cooperate. Not even when he browses for some porn. Sure, he gets hard enough when he decides for a threesome amateur video. It’s hot, filthy and fairly more interesting when the woman sits to watch the two guys kissing eagerly. But it’s not working. He jerks off, slow, fast, and slow again. It reaches to a point where it just hurts, so he gives up. It’s not even 1AM, but his body can’t take it anymore.

Stiles gets up from his bed abruptly, setting his laptop to the side. He grabs his coat and opens the window, sighing when the cold night wind hits his skin. Stiles sits down on the windowsill, one leg on the inside and the other outside. The night is quiet, as it should be. And he hopes that it stays that way for him too; that the cold wind doesn’t let him fall asleep. He needs to find a solution, there’s not much more he can take. He knows that. But between being sleep deprived or sucked by his own demons, he prefers the first option. Definitely the first option.

 

Are you up?

- Sent 00:26

 

Stiles sends the text to Derek without much thought. The reply is almost instant.

 

Yes.

- Received 00:30

 

A smile spreads across his face as he hits call.

“Yo,” Stiles greets Derek.

There’s a muffled sound on the other side that makes Stiles frown.

Hey. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

“I couldn’t sleep. So I thought—“

No.

“You don’t even know what I’m about to say.”

Something tells me I’ll regret it. So, no.

Stiles snorts, “Fine. What about—“

The answer is still no.”

“Dude, how do you expect to have an actual conversation if you keep saying no?!”

I didn’t call, you did.”

“That’s exactly the point, jerk. I was bored, so I—,” he stops.

Derek is also silent for a while, “You were bored.

“Well, yeah, but—,” there’s a chuckle on the other side that it’s making him want to laugh, but also feel plain angry. “You’re a jerk. Okay, fine. I was bored and you were the first person I called. Don’t think so highly of yourself. It won’t happen again.”

The first?

Stiles groans, “You piss me off so much.”

The feeling is mutual,” Derek says between a laugh. It’s— it’s a good sound, the playful words and the muffled chuckles. His cold fingers tighten their grip on his cell phone as a thought crosses his mind. Stiles never saw Derek laugh, not quite. And that selfish feeling of jealousy hits him again. Beacon Hills is practically a graveyard for Derek. Stiles knows that. But it still sucks that he had to walk away to be able to do such simple things as… laugh.

Stiles? You know I don’t mean that, right?

“I— Me neither,” he pauses, “It’s just— It’s good to hear you laugh. It’s good.”

Derek scoffs, “I laugh.”

“Not here, you didn’t.”

Silence settles on both sides until Stiles hears Derek sigh, “You need a reason to laugh.

“I guess,” Stiles agrees. The air is suddenly too thick and he feels like he needs a way out. “Do you think I need a reason to jerk off too? Because today I—“

Stiles!

Derek grunts and threatens to hang up, but Stiles can’t stop laughing. He missed laughing so easily like this; the way his stomach contracts and his face hurts. It feels like it’s been so long since a good laugh was pulled out of him. And the more Derek says “I can’t believe you just told me that”, the more he can’t stop laughing. At one point, Stiles has to bite his lip or he will never stop and his father will eventually wake up. Could be worse. He could be screaming. Instead, he’s laughing. He’s laughing with Derek; he’s laughing because of Derek.

 

***

 

It’s not even 6AM, when Stiles goes downstairs to pour some coffee, eats a toast and leaves a note for his dad saying he had to leave early.

When he sits in his jeep, he can barely turn on the ignition; hands trembling with his keys. Fuck, he really needs sleep. Maybe tonight he could do it. He’s so tired that he will probably sleep like a stone. No dreams, nothing. That would be good. Stiles shuts down his eyes briefly and once more decides against driving.

November is right around the corner, so the morning is pretty chilly and almost everyone is still inside their homes getting ready for another day. There’s no rush to get to school and it’s not like his body can get there faster either. So, Stiles lets himself pretend that he enjoys getting up before everyone else. Even though it’s a blatant lie. Stiles has been up for almost 48 hours, so pretending is really the only thing he can do now. Pretending to not recognize the shadow on the other side of the street though, that’s another story.

It’s not like he didn’t want to ask Derek, it just never occurred to him. But now, looking at Peter, Stiles regrets forgetting this minor detail of their lives. Peter doesn’t see him, or if he does, he doesn’t even acknowledge his presence. Instead, Peter just stands there in front of an antique shop, obviously still closed. And after one minute, he’s gone.

Stiles hesitates, but his curiosity takes over him in the end. He crosses the street and looks warily over the show window. Every bunch of crap could matter, but his eyes don’t pick up anything weird. The thought that Peter was just casually staring at an antique shop before 7AM does cross his mind, but this is Peter Hale. It’s definitely not casual.

Once he gets to school, it’s almost still empty. Stiles heads for the library, determined to find any information he can about that antique shop. When the bell is about to ring, Stiles packs up his stuff to meet up with Scott. Finding him, however, proves to be a harder task than he thought. As he gets out of the library, Stiles is overwhelmed by the noisy sounds of lockers and students talking. He drags himself to the classroom, even before the bell rings. Hands sweaty and shaking. Stiles takes off his coat, but then he’s cold again. He picks a random desk and sits down, head buried in his hands, like if he can hold his brain and order it to settle down.

A hand touches his shoulder before he can even register someone else is in the room. “Are you okay?”

Stiles looks up at Lydia, “Yeah, I’m—“

“You’re not fine,” Allison says behind Lydia.

“Stiles, you look awful. Did you sleep at all?” Lydia asks.

He stares at them both, wondering what to say, what to do.

“We’ll help you,” Allison offers as she sits down in front of him. Lydia nods and sits right behind him. It’s not much, but having them there sort of helps. Once the first class is over, they’re both standing up and helping him with his stuff. Allison and Lydia do their best to help him and Stiles does his best to follow them, class after class. But even with their help, it still feels like he’s crawling on the floor.

He doesn’t make it to the third period.

 

***

 

You don’t trust me, I don’t trust you,” something flares inside Stiles with Derek’s words. “You need me to survive, which is why you are not letting me go,” they crush his heart like sharp daggers. Stiles feels angry and desperate to prove him wrong, which is why he lets Derek go.

Derek shouts his name right before he drowns. Stiles swims away. He swims faster than any time in his entire life, but his mind stays with Derek. Just hold on a little longer, Stiles pleads.

“Scott!” Stiles shouts once Scott picks up his phone.

I can’t talk right now,” Scott hisses and hangs up.

It takes one second to be surprised, two seconds to feel hurt and not enough time to make a decision. Stiles drops his phone and dives in.

Derek’s body is surprisingly light underwater, but once Stiles reaches the surface it’s like carrying a bag full of bricks.

“Derek!” Stiles yells, trying to adjust Derek against his chest at the same time. “Derek, come on! Wake up!” He’s panting and his eyes are still wet and blurry from diving in. Derek doesn’t reply.

“Derek? Derek, come on,” The air is sucked out from him when he manages to look at Derek’s face. His eyes are closed and his mouth is open with water falling from the sides. “Derek, that’s not funny.” Stiles shakes him as much as he can, but stops abruptly when he notices more water going inside Derek’s mouth.

Stiles can barely keep himself from drowning and he keeps losing his balance when he tries to cup Derek’s jaw. Derek doesn’t even react.

“Derek, please. Please, wake up.”

He doesn’t.

“Scott is coming. I know he’s coming. I— I remember. He’s coming, okay?”

He knows that’s what’s going to happen. Derek is going to wake up and Scott will come. Scott will save them. That’s how it happens. That’s how it happened.

“I can’t— I can’t hold any longer,” Stiles breathes out as the minutes pass. Derek doesn’t wake up. Scott is not here yet and the Kanima keeps walking around in circles, mocking him for being so weak.

“Derek…” He can’t stop the tear that falls down his face. Not even the next ones that follow as Derek’s body gets heavier and heavier. Stiles knows he’s still crying when drops of salty water reach his lips.

“Go away!” Stiles barks at the Kanima, desperate to get Derek out of that damn pool. The creature doesn’t budge and neither does Derek.

Stiles’ chest tightens as he stares at Derek’s pale face. He’s beautiful and so fragile. It’s surprising to see how human he looks from this close. It crashes and burns his heart to think that this might be the last time—

“I trust you, asshole,” his voice breaks. “I want you to trust me too and for that you need to wake the fuck up,” Stiles sobs quietly as he tugs Derek closer to his chest. “You need to wake up, Derek. Please.”

More time passes and Stiles knows he can’t hold on anymore. When his grip on Derek loosens only slightly, Stiles suddenly hopes that Derek will wake up coughing and throw him the usual empty threats. He doesn’t wake up though. Stiles tries to swim to something he can hold on. Even though he’s dragging Derek’s body with him, Stiles knows that Derek is not breathing as splashes of water keep hitting his face. He’s not leaving him though. Not again. He shouldn’t have— He shouldn’t have let him go, but he did.

It’s easier than he thought to just give in.

Stiles wraps his arms around Derek and together they drown.

When Stiles opens his eyes, he’s still underwater and his first instinct is to sit down. He gasps for air and blinks rapidly as he looks around. White walls surround him and bright lights blind him. Stiles knows he’s been here before, and when he turns around he hopes to see Derek too, but Derek is nowhere to be found.

Stiles almost slips as he steps away from the bathtub. His whole body aches and suddenly he’s not so sure if he’s dreaming anymore. A sudden crushing fear hits him as he lets himself think about Derek actually dying.

He’s not dead,” a calming sweet voice says from behind him. It makes his heart stop. Stiles is dreaming. He has to. There’s no way he’s not dreaming. Because this voice— this person— she can’t be—

Stiles,” she calls him like it was only yesterday that she was standing at the door of his bedroom, while he refused to get up and go to school.

Stiles turns around slowly, scared and trembling all over. Even though he knows it’s her, he’s still surprised to see his mom right in front of him; healthy and beautiful. She’s wearing a white gown and her beautiful brown hair is resting above her shoulders. It’s not real, he thinks. None of this can be real.

Can I get a hug?” She asks with a smile, like she always did when she would pick Stiles from school. Not here, mom! He would tell her every time, even though he was already wrapping his arms around her. Not this time, not here, not ever. Because it’s not real. He can’t—

But just like before, his body reacts the same way and without thinking.

Stiles holds her tightly, letting his head fall on her neck, breathing her in. It doesn’t feel right. The smell is wrong; it’s not sweet and cozy as he remembers. It’s like—

I missed you so much,” she whispers in his ear and Stiles can’t hold back the tears anymore. His mom keeps rubbing one hand on his back; the other one gently caressing his hair as Stiles clings to her desperately. He’s not quiet about it. He knows how desperate his cries sound. He can hear himself and that’s the worst part, because he knows none of this is real.

Shh, just let go,” his mom keeps saying.

“I— I can’t, I can’t,” he cries.

His mom backs away slightly and cups his face. Stiles freezes when she forces him to meet her brown eyes. People always tell him how he has his mother’s eyes. It hurts every time.

Come with me,” she tells him. “You don’t need to suffer anymore. I don’t want you to suffer anymore, dear.

Stiles nods between sniffs and hiccups. His mom smiles and cleans the tears from his face with her small, gentle thumbs. She grabs his hand and Stiles doesn’t do anything but follow her lead.

They walk slowly through the white room, to nowhere in particular. Stiles can’t see an end to it. The Nemeton is not there either, which makes him stop in his tracks.

What’s wrong, dear? It’s not far. I promise.

“I— What about dad? I can’t leave him,” he replies.

His mom gives him a small smile, “It’s better this way. He’s suffering too, you know?” Stiles stares at her with wide eyes. “How do you think he feels when he’s watching you fall apart?”

“He hasn’t— I’ve been—“

He knows, Stiles. He’s your father. Of course he knows. And he wants the best for you. Come with me and let go. Let go of everything.

It sounds so final, like he’s—

“Am I dead, mom? I’ve been here before and I was dead. Am I dead now?”

Not yet,” she simply replies.

“You want me to die and go with you,” Stiles realizes.

His mom doesn’t answer, just reaches out for his hand again and resumes their walking. It doesn’t take a long time for Stiles to make a decision, but even though he knows it’s wrong, in the core of his heart he misses her more than anything. He knows it’s selfish to even think about the possibility of following her. But he can’t— He can’t leave his father.

“I can’t,” he blurts out and stops, head down with eyes fixed on the ground.

In just a few seconds, the air turns suddenly too cold and the lights go off. Everything is now pitch black. Stiles stumbles back, blind and scared. There’s nothing to see or to hold on to. His feet touch on something and he can feel some weird wetness flowing around them. Stiles panics once the smell hits him. It smells like death, blood. So much blood. He keeps stumbling on something, wet things. Once he falls flat on the ground, the smell becomes impossibly stronger.

Stiles,” a voice he recognizes instantly approaches him, but everything is still too dark. Stiles can’t even figure out where the man is coming from.

Quite a mess you made here,” Peter smirks and just like that, a low yellow light appears above them. “Do you need some help?” Peter reaches out a hand for him. Stiles hesitates, but he eventually gives in.

Stiles freaks out when he sees his own bloody hand and pulls back immediately, “What— I didn’t—“

Peter laughs; an awful sound to Stiles’ ears.

You can make this all go away,” Peter says with a smile. Stiles fixes his eyes on him, waiting. “Do you want the bite, Stiles? This is the last time I’ll ask you.

Stiles can feel his heart bumping in his throat. It would be so simple. He would be stronger and he would be able to protect everyone. But most importantly, no one would need to protect him. Not anymore.

You’re thinking about it. Think fast. The clock is ticking.”

And he can hear it. Stiles can hear that clock as if it’s right inside his brain. Tic tock. A constant buzz and a reminder that time never stops.

“I—,” he pauses for a second. “Yes.”

Peter’s eyes flash red and that’s when Stiles realizes that this can’t be happening. Peter is not— He can’t be an alpha. If he’s an alpha, that means he—

Too late,” Peter says before vanishing. The light flashes, blinding him for a few seconds and when Stiles opens his eyes again—

There are bodies all around him. His father. Scott. Stiles can’t breathe. Lydia. Isaac. Allison. His whole body is shaking. Boyd. Erica. Melissa. There’s a huge lump in his throat ready to come out. Derek.

Stiles crawls away from them, blood all over him and his wet clothes. He can’t stop looking at them, everyone is— They’re all— He starts screaming, taking his bloody trembling hands to his face, pushing his hair, trying desperately to get out. Get out, get out. Whatever it is that is inside his brain! Please get out! He screams and he screams. Tormented by the lifeless eyes of everyone he loves.

“LEAVE ME ALONE!”

“Stiles!”

“Leave me alone. Leave me alone,” he pleads like a mantra.

“Stiles, please!”

“I can’t anymore. Please!” he shuts his eyes as hard as he can.

“Stiles, it’s me!”

“Stiles, please.”

“Please, go away,” he cries out loud.

“Stiles, wake up.”

“Wake up, please!”

“I’m here. Please wake up!”

“It’s Scott, Stiles. Please!”

“No, no, no!” Stiles shakes away the hands grabbing him. He doesn’t open his eyes. Nothing is real. Not anymore.

“Son, please!”

“We need to put him asleep again.”

Stiles opens his eyes as soon as he hears that, the sudden light blinding him, “No, please. Please don’t let me sleep!” He begs desperately to Melissa. Three pairs of eyes stare at him, scared, probably as much as he is.

Stiles looks around, disoriented. He’s in a hospital room. It takes him a second to notice his arm attached to the IV and the white hospital gown that sticks to his sweaty skin.

His father is the first to approach him, still unsure if he should touch him or not. Stiles must start crying, because a second later his father is hugging him and pulling him to his chest. Sweet, calming words whispered in his ear as he slowly rubs Stiles’ back, “It’s okay, it’s okay. You’re safe. You’re safe here.”

But he’s not. He’s not safe because nothing inside his mind feels safe.

 

***

 

“You don’t need to babysit me,” Stiles mutters.

“It’s either me or your father. And I doubt you wish he was here,” Scott says.

Stiles sighs and rolls over to the other side. It’s already morning outside. They told him he was out for more than fifteen hours, but it feels like he only closed his eyes for fifteen minutes.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Stiles mumbles against the pillow.

“Are you going to sleep?”

Stiles freezes, “I can’t. You know I can’t.”

Scott sighs and drops the book he’s been reading, “Not really,” he settles next to him, “I wish you would talk to me, Stiles. I know you haven’t slept and the panic attacks—”

Stiles immediately turns around, “How do you know that? You mentioned this before.”

“I saw you—“

“No, you didn’t. You never saw me have a panic attack, Scott. Never.”

“That night when you called me to pick you up in the woods. You told me you had a panic attack, remember?”

Stiles nods, he does remember, but— “But you said panic attacks. That was one time.”

His best friend averts his eyes and doesn’t say anything.

“Scott.”

Scott drops his gaze to the floor and sighs, “I know you had another panic attack. Before...”

“How? I never told any—,” Stiles pauses and suddenly everything clicks. “He didn’t.” Scott doesn’t even look at him. “That fucking asshole. I trusted him!”

Scott looks at him with surprised wide eyes, “He was worried about you.”

“Bullshit.”

“He was! You don’t know how— I don’t remember seeing Derek like that, apart from Cora... He kept asking me questions. And he calls me a lot to—“

What? He calls you? A lot?”

Scott sighs and drops a hand on Stiles’ knee. Something inside him just wants to shove it away and leave that damn bed.

“Sometimes you wouldn’t pick up your phone and he would get worried—“

That would certainly explain the lack of questions and interest when he didn’t pick up the phone or replied to his texts, but—

“You’re telling me that Derek Hale decides to worry about me, me of all people, after he skips town. That makes perfectly good sense. Try again.”

“I know you two talk, and text,” Scott shifts on the bed, “and it’s okay. It’s good that you’re talking with someone—“

“For fuck’s sake, Scott. Derek is not my psychiatrist and— Yeah, we talk. We talk about random things. Do you honestly think I would talk to Derek about my problems? Of all people?!”

Scott shrugs, “I don’t know. You two have this—,” some other time it would be funny to stare at his best friend while he searches for words, but not now. Not when it’s about him and— Damn, he’s going to fucking kill Derek Hale.

“I don’t care,” Stiles says finally.

“I should tell him you woke up,” Scott informs him as he stands up.

“What? He knows?!”

Scott turns around, cell phone on his hand, “Of course he knows. He called you at least twice. Once I picked it up—“

“You told him?!”

Scott rolls his eyes, “What was I supposed to do, Stiles? Tell him you were in the shower?!”

Stiles grunts, “I don’t want him to—“ care, he doesn’t finish that sentence, but the thought remains in his mind. It’s useless anyway. Why should Derek even care when he’s far away from here? No, Derek doesn’t have the right to care. Stiles will be fine without him. He has to.

“At least tell him I’m fine,” Stiles mumbles when he remembers that Scott is still writing a text to Derek.

“You’re not, though,” Scott says without taking his eyes off the screen.

Stiles tugs the sheets closer to his chest and sinks down in the bed, “He doesn’t need to know that.”

If Derek replies, Stiles doesn’t know and doesn’t ask Scott about it either, as his father arrives minutes later with a box filled with donuts. He’s not hungry, but he forces himself to eat at least two of them. It’s worth it as he sees the worry from his father’s eyes vanish with each bite he takes.

 

***

 

After being at the hospital for two days, Stiles and Scott tell their parents about the sacrifice, before Stiles is sent home. They both expect a furious speech about being irresponsible, but it never comes. And Stiles feels helpless when his father looks at him with guilty eyes. Melissa is not better, but Scott assures her that he’s doing fine. They don’t tell them about how the town is back to being a beacon to supernatural creatures that will soon strike them all; it’s bad enough to tell your own parents that you were dead for sixteen hours.

There’s hope though, his father doesn’t say it, but Stiles can feel it in each glance he throws at Scott. Part of him wants to tell him that Scott is doing fine because he’s stronger, he’s a true alpha; that Allison is doing fine because she’s also a lot stronger than him, a fierce hunter. The other part lets his father leave under the impression that his son is a hero. He’s not.

His dad takes him home on the next day. Even though he insists about not sleeping, Melissa still gives him some pills with the promise that they will knock him out for good. It’s not enough, Stiles knows it, but he accepts the gesture with a small smile. Scott is just like his mother and promises him he will talk to Deaton and not rest until they find a solution. It gives Stiles some delusional hope, even knowing there’s no way back to what they did that night.

“I have a shift tonight. Will you be okay? I can call Scott and tell him—“

“Dad, I don’t need a babysitter. And especially not Scott. If anything, I would babysit him,” he finishes with a forced grin.

Stiles considers it a win when his dad rolls his eyes and smiles weakly, “Call me if you need anything. And I mean it, Stiles.”

“Don’t worry, dad.”

His father nods, keys rolling in his hand. Stiles can feel his hesitation from where he’s sitting on the couch. “I’m considering doing a Lord of the Rings marathon. It will keep me busy for hours,” he puts some more emphasis on the last words.

“Okay. I’ll be back in the morning.”

“Bring me some fresh coffee!” Stiles shouts when his dad is about to leave.

“No more coffee,” his dad replies. Stiles snorts as the door closes.

Stiles puts the first DVD on and actually makes it to the part where the Black Riders are chasing Frodo and they meet Aragorn. There’s something about that scene that makes him click stop and search for his cell phone. Anger sweeps through him as he checks his list of missed calls from two days ago. Before he can think better, Stiles clicks on Derek Hale (2).

It doesn’t even ring and Stiles is already preparing a whole speech inside his mind. It takes him by surprise when Derek picks up right away.

Stiles?

Stiles swallows, “Yeah, yeah it’s me.”

How are you feeling?

The sudden question shakes Stiles a bit, “I know you know, so…”

Derek is silent for a moment, “Okay,” there’s another pause before he adds, “So, how are you feeling?”

“Why did you tell Scott about us talking?”

Was it supposed to be a secret?”

Stiles groans, “No, but— Look, you had no right to tell him about the panic attack. I’m doing fine and I don’t want to worry anyone with my problems.”

Yes, Stiles. You’re clearly doing fine,” Stiles can feel the mocking tone in Derek’s voice and he can almost picture him rolling his eyes, which he most certainly does not miss one bit.

“It’s none of your damn business!” Stiles shouts. “And what is that about calling Scott whenever I’m not here to talk to you? Why do you care?!” His own question makes him think about Cora asking him the exact same thing. He had the answer, right at the tip of his tongue, but refused to say it out loud. Derek though, he might have a reason that Stiles doesn’t want to hear. It’s not the same answer, he’s sure of it. “You don’t have the right to care, Derek. Not when you—“ Stiles stops, because there’s no way he can do this.

Derek doesn’t reply and Stiles thinks that maybe he went too far, and this is probably it. Whatever they had, it ends now on a stupid phone call. With Stiles telling Derek not to care; with Stiles freeing Derek from whatever obligation the werewolf might think he has. That’s what Stiles doesn’t want to hear from Derek; that all of this is because he feels responsible for it. It makes him realize how well he got to know Derek in so little time.

“Whatever you think you need to do, you don’t,” Stiles adds.

Scott is worried about you,” Derek replies, which, unexpectedly, hurts to hear.

“I know. But I don’t need you to make it worse. I trus—,” Stiles bites his lip, “My problems are not yours to tell. Especially not to Scott.”

Derek is silent for a few seconds, “Fine,” and when Stiles is getting ready to strike again, Derek continues, “But you’re wrong if you think you can solve this on your own. Scott told me what the three of you did.”

Stiles snorts, “Of course he did.”

Stiles.

“No, you need to stop,” he interrupts him. “Yes, I’m human. But I can still— This is not a fight with claws, Derek. It’s not.”

I know.”

“Then stay out of it! What do you know anyway?!”

The awkward silence that settles makes Stiles regret that last part, because as awful as Stiles dreams are, Derek actually lived some of those nightmares.

Stiles is about to apologize, when Derek speaks, “If you don’t want to be a bigger problem for your friends, then accept that you need help before it escalates.”

The tone of bitterness is loud and clear, making Stiles gulp with guilt, but it still doesn’t shut his mouth. Or his brain, “I’ll do that. With my friends.”

Derek sighs, “Take care, Stiles.”

Derek hangs up before Stiles can even reply.

He grips his cell phone tightly until his knuckles are white. He thinks about calling back, his heart beats faster as he considers that Derek might not even pick up. Crap, crap, crap, he says to himself. He throws the cell phone to the couch and scratches his head. Looking around the living room, he sees the bag they carried from the hospital on the tiny table of the hall.

Stiles fumbles with the bag and grabs the box of pills that Melissa gave him. With the box in one hand, Stiles walks to the kitchen, quickly looking for a clean glass. He curses when he lets one of the glasses fall on the ground. Thankfully, he doesn’t get hit. Without much thought, Stiles pours himself a glass of water and takes two pills. If one is able to knock him out, two better put him to sleep for an entire day.

He falls asleep long before the Fellowship of the Ring is formed.

 

***

 

Stiles wakes up startled, relaxing a bit as he realizes he’s in his own bed. He almost has an heart attack when his eyes land on the dark figure sitting in his desk chair and writing on his computer.

He gapes, unsure of what to say or do. By impulse, Stiles rubs his eyes until they hurt, because this is surely not happening.

“Dude! What are you doing here?!”

There’s no reply, not even the slightest movement.

“Funny. Go ahead. Give me the silent treatment. That’s very mature,” Stiles pauses as he sits on the bed. “I probably deserve it,” he winces to himself. “Okay, I do deserve it.”

Stiles pinches the tip of this nose and waits. He doesn’t wait long though.

“Okay, Derek. If you want to be a creep and come into my room, which by the way, welcome back, at least talk to me.”

Derek still doesn’t reply. He keeps typing on his computer, repeatedly.

“Derek, stop being a dick!” Stiles rages. He stands up and walks to his desk, shoving Derek’s shoulder. Derek doesn’t even flinch.

Stiles is about to hit him hard on the head when he glances at his computer. Whatever it’s happening, it’s not funny anymore.

“Derek? Wha—“ But Derek doesn’t look at him, he keeps typing and typing. The same words, constantly.

The tree is not dead. The tree is not dead. The tree is not dead.

“Derek! Stop it,” he shoves him again, making some of Derek’s fingers brush against the wrong keys, but Derek doesn’t stop. “You’re scaring me,” Stiles whispers. This is worse than dreaming; because he knows he’s not dreaming. Derek is here, Stiles is touching his shoulder, but Derek doesn’t— he doesn’t—

“Talk to me!” Stiles shouts angrily at Derek, turning him on the chair. He freaks out when he looks into Derek’s— those are not his eyes. Derek’s eyes are— they’re not like— like something is inside him, eating his soul. They’re completely white and— it’s like Derek is still sleeping or still— or is he—

“No, no. No, you’re not— you’re not Derek,” Stiles says as he takes several steps back; away from whatever it is that is in his room right now. Derek— not Derek doesn’t even move from where he left him. “You’re not real,” Stiles says more to himself, “You’re not real,” he repeats several times and closes his eyes. The back of his knees hit the bed and he falls on it.

Stiles freaks out for a second before he gets up on his elbows and looks up. His dad is standing by the door and there’s no sign of Derek.

“Are you okay?” His dad asks him, voice filled with worry.

Stiles knows he’s sweating and he feels nauseous too. He’s not okay.

“I think I was dreaming. It didn’t feel like—“

“You weren’t dreaming, Stiles,” his dad tells him as he slowly enters the room. There’s something in the way he approaches Stiles…

Stiles looks at him wide-eyed, “You were here? While I was—“

“I saw you standing next to your laptop. You were typing and—“

“What?!” Stiles stands up quickly and runs for his laptop. The same words repeatedly staring back at him.

The tree is not dead. The tree is not dead. The tree is not dead.

He doesn’t even notice he’s panting, until his father is there, telling him to breathe, his hands desperately trying to sooth him. Stiles falls down on his knees and so does his father. They stay like that for what seems like forever until Stiles is able to breathe again.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Stiles sobs quietly, looking at his trembling hands. But his father holds them tightly.

“You’re not alone, Stiles. We will figure this out,” Stiles nods, but he doesn’t even dare to look into his father’s eyes. This is destroying him too. Them.

His father wraps his arms around him and Stiles lets himself believe that he’s safe like this.

 

***

They have a plan. Well, what looks like a plan.

Deaton asks him all sort of questions, some of them are really weird. Scott is there with him, always by his side. And some of the questions are actually better answered by his best friend than Stiles himself. Stiles realizes how Scott has been really keeping an eye on him. Up until now, Stiles figured it was just a figure of speech, a way to be nice and supportive. But Scott doesn’t even laugh at Stiles’ ridiculous jokes about his lack of sleep or weird dreams.

Stiles doesn’t tell them most of his dreams, though. Figures it’s enough to say it involves the death of those he cares about and that’s about it. He does mention Peter and that he saw him weeks ago, but neither Deaton nor Scott seem worried about it. Deaton just warns him to not trust him, not even in his own dreams. Granted, they all know why. What does seem to perk up the vet’s interest is what Stiles apparently wrote on his laptop.

He doesn’t mention Derek, because why should he? Also, Scott hasn’t brought the Derek issue for the past three days, which means he probably hasn’t talked to Derek yet. While he loves his best friend, Stiles knows that if Derek wants to, Scott will spill the beans in a second. So, Stiles doesn’t even mention the incident from yesterday. It’s bad enough that he remembers exactly how Derek’s eyes looked, even though it was just a dream. Or a hallucination. He hasn’t figured that out yet.

The thing is, Deaton has no solution yet. He tells them he will keep looking and brings Stiles some herbs to help him sleep. Though, Stiles is not very confident those will actually work. But he refrains from saying it out loud.

Scott is silent on their way home, but Stiles can feel how jittery he gets when the radio skips to the next song. He knows Scott will talk to him eventually, but that sometimes takes days, with Scott not so subtly trying to approach the big elephant in the room. But during these past few days, weeks or maybe months, Stiles is feeling less and less patient.

“Just say it please,” Stiles groans. “You have no idea how your uneasiness is getting on my nerves right now.”

Scott startles in his seat. He hesitates for a second, but then he just gives in, “Lydia came talk to me while you were still at the hospital.”

Stiles frowns, but keeps driving, “So?”

“She was the person that was supposed to bring you back.”

“I know. I was there. And we did come back. All of us.”

Scott shakes his head, “No, that’s the thing. We came back, but they didn’t do anything.”

Stiles snorts, “Of course they did. How else would we come back?”

“Stiles,” Scott waits until Stiles’ gaze is on him, “they didn’t do anything.”

Stiles turns his eyes back on the road and is silent for a moment, “Did you mention it to Deaton?”

Scott nods, “Yeah. He said he would look into it, but didn’t sound worried.”

Figures. It’s not like Stiles expects any answers from Deaton at this point. He’s learned that much. “But why are you and Allison apparently fine?” The words come out with a hint of bitterness.

“That’s what I told Lydia.”

“And?”

“And she said that maybe they didn’t have to do anything at all. That maybe it was something inside our minds that should bring us back. An emotional connection.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means that you’re not emotionally connected,” Scott pauses, “to her.”

Stiles scoffs, “That’s insane. Come on, you don’t believe that, Scott.”

“I do, actually. Apparently, she kissed you and you didn’t tell me.”

Stiles hits the breaks as he reaches Scott’s home and turns to look at him, “Sorry, it just didn’t—”

“I’m not mad about it, but— Don’t you see?” Scott sighs before adding, “Before, you would be jumping and excited to tell me about it. You would have never shut up about it.”

Stiles scratches the back of his head, “Your point?”

“My point is… Lydia was the wrong choice.”

Stiles snorts, “She was the only possible choice! It’s not like I had a line of people outside just waiting to be my emotional tether, connection, whatever!”

They remain silent for a minute or two, before Stiles casts a glance at his best friend who looks torn between saying something or just fleeing.

“Look, I appreciate the help. I do, but— What am I supposed to do now?”

“I don’t know,” Scott says. “But maybe it’s not too late. Plan B, remember?”

Stiles can’t help but smile at him, “Plan B,” he repeats.

 

***

 

Plan B involves waiting for Deaton. And Stiles can’t really afford that right now. As a promise to his dad and Scott, he cut off a bit with all the extra caffeine, but his whole body is still too impatient and eager to do anything as similar as sitting down and waiting.

His absence from school ends in three days and Stiles is valuing more and more how school actually kept him busy. His room still looks like a Criminal Minds set, but, slowly, the reports and newspaper cuts about the Darach’s sacrifices are replaced by articles he finds on the internet about hallucinations, sleep deprivation, sleep paralysis. Stiles also starts making notes about all of his dreams, as vague as possible so that his father can’t read them. It might be useful for the future, just in case he eventually forgets about them. It doesn’t seem possible right now to forget about the livid horrors his mind has experienced, but who knows for how long he will feel sane?

Looking around this tiny room, it doesn’t feel like he’s far from losing his mind.

Before he goes down that path, Stiles writes down the names of those that were at Deaton’s clinic that night. His first thought when he stares down at the written names is that Scott would have been the immediate choice as an emotional tether.  Definitely the most obvious choice right next to his father, but that night, Scott too was trying to save the most important person in his life. Stiles grabs a green marker and makes a circle around his name, Scott’s and Allison’s.

There’s no point trying to pretend he has any attachment with either Deaton or Isaac, so he grabs a red marker and scratches both of them.

It’s not a surprise when he’s left with Lydia’s name unmarked. Stiles frowns. Lydia is the obvious choice and years ago Stiles would have been jumping with joy at the idea of Lydia sharing a connection with him. He still wishes for that connection, maybe even more now that he knows her, that they know each other. But he knows where Scott is coming from. He feels it, right there in his heart.

Stiles twirls around from his desk and grabs the phone from his nightstand.

Stiles,” Lydia greets him with fondness. “This better be good and fast. I have an expensive nail polish in my hand and only two hours before Prada gets impatient to go outside.

“Hey!” Stiles replies smiling, “I won’t take long. It’s about what you talked with Scott.”

Lydia hums, “I see. How are you anyway?

Stiles snorts, because only Lydia would be able to make him feel like he’s sick at home with a cold and not just some weirdo that died a month ago and is close to becoming insane. “I’m reevaluating my life choices.”

You called the right person. Let’s start with your wardrobe,” Lydia says. Despite the critique, Stiles can imagine her smug smile.

“I thought you liked my unique sense of style!” Stiles exclaims as if he’s outrageous with the comment. Honestly, he couldn’t care less right now, but it’s refreshing to pretend that he’s just a normal teenager trying to impress the girl.

Lydia scoffs, “What do you want Stiles?

Stiles sits on his bed as he grabs the paper with the names. “About that night,” he starts, “I don’t understand why you told Scott that you shouldn’t— you know, the whole connection deal.”

I know,” Lydia says.

“So, I looked into it and— Lydia, you were the only choice. And I don’t mean it in a bad way! You know how much I care about you. And— if you called me asking for help, I would go, no matter what.”

I know, Stiles,” her voice is gentle and caring, “and I don’t know why it didn’t work, but it didn’t. It wasn’t enough.”

“Enough?” Stiles stares at the paper wide-eyed, “How did it work with the others then? I can’t believe Allison and Isaac were—“

They weren’t. You can trust me on that.”

Stiles sighs, “Okay. Okay, I do. So how?”

Lydia is silent for a moment, “I think it might be about having something in common. That’s what creates the connection.

“But—“ Stiles frowns. “What can Allison and Isaac have in common?”

Family,” Lydia replies like it’s that simple. “Allison lost her mother, just like Isaac lost his. But Isaac is an orphan now. He might have liked Allison at the time— I don’t know— but their connection was about Allison not losing the only family she had left.

Stiles lets that sink in for a few seconds, “That— that actually makes a lot of sense,” he glances down at the paper again, “And Scott sees Deaton as a father, like Deaton sees him as a son.”

Exactly,” Lydia replies.

“So we have nothing in common?”

Lydia snorts, “Apparently not.

“That’s a lie. We have werewolves as friends,” Lydia laughs from the other side. “No, really! We should be bonding over that!”

And people we care about going away,” Lydia says, still laughing, but Stiles can feel the deep sorrow and bitterness in her voice and—

“Wait, what?!”

Derek,” she replies right away. But Stiles freezes as he lets the sound of Derek’s name sink deep in his mind, messing and twisting with his insides. “Have you tried adding him?

Stiles gasps, “What— where?”

Never mind,” Lydia says.

“Lydia…”

It’s nothing. I was just thinking out loud.”

“Why would you—“

When are you coming back to school?

Stiles groans, she’s trying to change the subject, “This next Monday.”

Have you been sleeping?”

Stiles shuts his eyes, “Yeah.”

We have other things in common, you know.

It’s not the same, Stiles thinks. But he knows where she’s coming from.

“Yeah, I know.”

Call me if you need anything.

“Thanks,” Stiles smiles. “I mean it. Thanks.”

Stiles hears her huff with fake annoyance from the other side, “Anytime.”

After hanging up, Stiles grabs the blue marker and makes a straight line from Lydia’s name to his. It didn’t work, but it still happened.

Stiles stands up and looks around for an available space on his boards. He decides to take down the newspaper article about the assault to the bank and replaces it with his paper. Everything together is more confusing than it seems, but this is a puzzle he needs to solve before he breaks. The words “The tree is not dead,” stare back at him day and night. Stiles still hasn’t figured out what it could mean. He knows it has to be related to the Nemeton, but that’s about it.

Taking a step back to look at the walls, the article about the bank falls down to the floor. Stiles bends to catch it and that’s when the idea hits him. The bank. The vault. It’s a shot in the dark, but— it might work.

Stiles rushes to his closet to grab some clothes and a backpack. His mind runs wild as he gathers everything he might need. Downstairs, he gets some food to bring with him and scribbles a note for his father.

He’s panting by the time he sits in his Jeep.

 

***

 

As he steps inside the bank, Stiles makes a mental note to himself: next time he should definitely consider his plans more carefully. He’s never been here before, but he knows what happened and who was here. For all he knows, Deucalion could have made this place his new den. And despite Scott and Derek’s mercy, some things can’t be forgotten.

Stiles is scared. Which is honestly an understatement. He’s scared shitless that he will be facing Deucalion or someone even worse, but this is something that Stiles has to try. A theory. Theories can be good, but if you don’t test them they’re as good as nothing. This one better be damn good.

There are at least three vaults on the floor he’s on and Stiles knows by memory the one where Boyd, Erica and Cora were for months. Which is the one he must avoid, because it won’t work due to Derek’s brilliant plan. “Yes, Stiles, I’m going to punch through the wall,” Stiles remembers. Part of him wants to check it, just for the sake of it, but the other part fears that stepping into that vault will cause even more nightmares than the ones he already has.

One of the other vaults is closed and as much as he tries, Stiles can’t find the strength to open it. It’s probably locked. If the other one is the same, Stiles will have to search on the upper floor and exploring this building is not on top of the things we wants to do tonight.

Luckily, the third vault is easy enough to open. Stiles points the flashlight inside and everything is as normal as it should be. When he steps inside, Stiles realizes that he will have to close the door behind him.

“Well, shit,” he mutters to himself. Again, he didn’t think this through.

Stiles tests the lock from the inside. Possibly at least ten times. It’s a risk to close it. He has no idea of knowing if it will still open once he’s inside. Stiles checks his cell phone; it’s on and there’s service, so worst case scenario he will call Scott for help. Or maybe he should call him now. But if it works— He needs to do this alone, it won’t work otherwise.

Stiles holds his breath and closes the vault.

He decides to not open it again, not now. First, Stiles needs to test his theory. If the walls made of Hecatolite stone are able to scatter the moonlight and block its effects, maybe it will block other things too. If the tree is not dead, then that’s possibly what’s messing with his mind. Maybe the Nemeton won’t be able to reach him inside these four walls. Or maybe Hecatolite only affects the moon and werewolves. It’s not like he could have googled it even if he wanted to. Maybe Peter would know. But Stiles is not that desperate yet.

His flashlight doesn’t cover the entire area of the vault, but it’s better than nothing. Besides the strong smell of dust and the low temperature, it’s actually not that bad.

Stiles sits on the corner with his back against the wall. He settles the flashlight next to him and takes out the small blanket he brought with him, dropping his backpack to the side to serve as a pillow. Stiles is so tired that when he lies down and closes his eyes, it’s actually a relief. For once, he just wishes for a good night’s sleep without nightmares to haunt him.

 

***

 

There’s a constant thud that echoes inside the vault, startling Stiles from his sleep. He fumbles with the flashlight that doesn’t turn on quite immediately. Stiles points to the door, which is still closed, but the thud keeps going as Stiles’ heart pounds rapidly against his chest.

Stiles quickly flashes the light across the room, but sees nothing.

The thud stops.

From the corner of his eye, Stiles sees a shadow and in that moment he stops breathing. He turns the light slowly to his side, but lets it drop on the floor as he sees Erica’s eyes staring back at him.

The room goes pitch black.

Stiles crawls back as far away from Erica as possible, his hands searching for something, anything at all. When Stiles doesn’t find anything, he closes his eyes and curls himself like a shell. He waits and waits, but nothing happens.

He hesitates before breaking from his defensive posture and his voice stutters when he whispers, “Erica?” But there’s no reply.

It’s cold and his body doesn’t stop trembling. His eyes can’t seem to adjust to the dark, no matter how hard he looks around to find the tiniest bit source of light.

Suddenly, Stiles remembers his cell phone is clutched inside his pocket. He has 85% battery, but no service. Stiles curses and turns on his flashlight app to illuminate what’s in front of him. Erica is still there with her back against the wall and quiet. Even with the light pointing at her, Erica doesn’t move a muscle.

“I can’t do this,” he tells himself.

Stiles stands up, always staring back at where Erica is, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but I can’t do this. I can’t—“ He reaches the door blindly, as if driven by instinct. But when he tries to open it, it’s stuck. “Fuck,” Stiles tries harder. He uses all of his body weight and strength, but the door doesn’t open.

His hands are shaking wildly when he waves his cell phone up and down trying to get service. Stiles needs to call Scott. Someone needs to get him out of here. He panics when he realizes that no one knows where he is. “Stupid, so stupid.” His note to his father simply said he would come back home tomorrow, that he would be at Scott’s. He lied. He lied and now he’s going—

Panic waves rush through his body and he can’t breathe.

His cell phone falls flat on the floor, but the light is still on. Stiles follows suit, falling on his knees as he desperately tries to breathe.

He counts. And counts. His hands are grasping tightly against the fabric of his hoodie and that’s when he notices that there’s another pair of hands on him. They’re gentle, but also strong and soothing. One rubs his back in circles, while the other one brushes his hair lightly.

Stiles doesn’t realize he’s crying until he opens his mouth to say, “Thank you.”

Minutes pass, Stiles is not sure how long. When he opens his eyes, he sees a glimpse of blonde curly hair. There’s a lump in his throat that he can’t seem to swallow. Stiles knows Erica is not real, she’s not. It’s all a sick game that his mind is playing against him, but— But right now he lets himself be embraced in his hallucination as much as possible.

Erica keeps rubbing his back in soothing small circles and Stiles lets himself relax. He gives in to her touch, letting his mind control him. At least he’s not alone, he thinks. In a delusional way, Stiles feels like Erica is with him as well. She doesn’t speak though, and his chest tightens; he misses it, misses her.

He falls asleep, wrapped in feelings like sorrow, guilt and loneliness. It’s the first time he wishes that none of this was a hallucination.

 

***

 

Stiles wakes up alone.

If it weren’t for his cell phone, he wouldn’t know for how long he’s been here. The vault is still pitch black, but the time tells him he’s been here for almost twenty-four hours. His dad is probably freaking out by now if Scott decided to visit him. He should have told Scott.

Once he moves around to get to his backpack, Stiles realizes how hungry he is. He didn’t bring much, but he can’t think right now about the possibility of staying here much longer. Still, he decides to only eat a pack of Reeses and pray that his stomach doesn’t complain much.

The worst about all of this is that his theory is wrong. Stiles lets out his frustrations as he bites a cup of Reeses.

He brought Melissa’s pills with him, so maybe he could take two again and blackout until they find him. If they find him. The pills have proven to let him sleep, at least that. Maybe he will wake up hallucinating again. Maybe Erica will come back. Stiles would like that, even though it’s not real. What has his life become? He snorts, but immediately shudders when the sound echoes from all sides.

He’s scared.

 

***

 

Stiles wakes up trembling, mumbling incoherent words and Scott’s hands trying to shake him. There’s someone else with them, but he can’t see who it is.

“Stiles? Stiles, it’s me.”

He shakes Scott’s hands away, afraid that he’s not real. He’s not. Stiles is inside a vault, alone, in the dark, for—

“Stiles, it’s okay. We’re not going to hurt you,” Allison says, her voice is calm and comforting. Erica’s hands were also calm and comforting, but she didn’t speak. She didn’t speak because she’s dead. Is Allison dead? Allison can’t be dead, she—

“We’re going to take you home,” Scott tells him.

Home. Home is good. He really wants to go home.

 

***

 

The next time he opens his eyes, Stiles is tucked inside his own bed, warm and cozy, but also thirsty and famished. He sits up straight and looks around. It’s morning outside, but the blinds are half closed. There’s a glass of water on his nightstand and Stiles doesn’t even hesitate. Once empty, Stiles puts it back and glances at his cell phone.

He remembers not being able to contact anyone, but it’s still a surprise to see the number of missed calls and messages that are waiting for him. Stiles can’t deal with it right now. He’s hungry and he needs a shower, badly.

As he gets ready to stand up, his father opens the door slowly and peeks inside. When he sees Stiles already up, he bursts through the door and hugs him tightly.

“What the hell were thinking?!” He sounds mad, but his hold is so strong that Stiles can barely breathe.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles against his father’s shoulder.

“Don’t ever disappear on me like that again.”

Stiles nods. He fights back the tears that threaten to come out. It’s as if the more he tries to solve this, the more it hurts those around him.

“You’re not alone,” his dad whispers against him.

Stiles nods again, more frantic this time, and grips his father’s sweater, “I know,” his voice so low that he has no idea if his father even hears him.

They stay like that for a while, until Stiles’ stomach rumbles loudly.

 

***

 

After eating a good dose of Stilinski pancakes specially prepared by his father, Stiles takes a quick shower before calling Scott.

Scott tells him practically the same story his father did. It didn’t take them long to realize he was missing and after calling everyone in town, that’s when they panicked. Meanwhile, Stiles explains to his best friend why he went to the bank and gets called an idiot about a million times. Just this once, Stiles will let it slide. Scott is right; he was an idiot by at least not telling anyone. Which leads to the next question.

“How did you find me?”

Scott lets out a frustrated sigh, “Dude, it wasn’t easy. Your dad had the whole station looking for you. Allison and her father set up a group of hunters to look for you in the forest. Lydia was driving around town with Aiden and Ethan to stop by the places we hang out the most. Meanwhile, Isaac, Allison and I kept trying to track your scent, but no luck…

“Sorry,” Stiles says, embarrassed.

You should be!” Scott scowls before continuing, “Then— please don’t get mad at me?— I called Derek. I had to. I didn’t know what to do.

“It’s okay,” Stiles says. He’s not at all surprised. When he grabbed his cell phone to check the calls and messages, he saw that everyone tried to contact him at least once. There were several missed calls from his dad and from Scott, but also from Derek.

I didn’t even mention you. At first…” Scott pauses, “I asked him how I could search for someone if the scent tracking didn’t work.

“So, how did you do it? Please tell me you didn’t have to go through my boxers.”

Ew! No!” Stiles laughs at his best friend’s reaction. “Since you took the Jeep, Derek said it would probably be a lot easier and faster to track it instead of you.

“Seriously?”

Yeah.

“Who would have thought? Derek Hale can be smart too,” Stiles snorts.

Don’t say that,” Stiles frowns at Scott’s offended tone.

“What— I didn’t say any—“

He was crazy worried about you,” Scott tells him. Something in Stiles’ chest tightens. “He wanted to—

“What?”

Scott sighs, “He wanted to come back. To help us look for you.

“What?! But he’s—“

Yeah, I know.

The thought of Derek wanting to come back to look for him rises a million questions. It's a warmth that spreads in the small space between his mind and his heart, echoing through Stiles' entire body. Sadly, it also seems to increase the distance between them.

 

***

 

How many times can someone scroll past the same messages for the last thirty minutes? Stiles knows that Scott already told Derek they found him. Derek knows Stiles is back home, safe and sound. Which leaves Stiles staring back at Derek’s messages and missed calls. Without a clue of what to do.

 

Scott is worried about you. Where are you?

- Received Yesterday 02:34

Don’t do anything stupid.

- Received Yesterday 03:51

They’re all looking for you. Where the hell are you?

- Received Yesterday 06:02

Glad to know you’re safe.

- Received Yesterday 17:13

 

Stiles groans, “Man up, Stiles.”

His heart feels like it’s going to come out when he hears the first ring. Stiles holds his breath when the phone is picked up.

Stiles?!”

“Cora?”

What the hell were you thinking?” Cora asks him promptly.

“I—,” Stiles takes a look at the screen to check if— No, he did call Derek. “Hello to you too, by the way.”

Cut the crap. You had all Beacon Hills looking for you.”

“You’re not in Beacon Hills, though,” Stiles deadpans.

Cora groans, growls, Stiles is not sure. “I want to punch you,” she finally says.

Stiles is about to reply when he hears her say, “He’s all yours,” but her voice seems to already be far away from the phone.

Stiles,” Derek’s voice knocks him out of his feet. “She was just worried about you.”

And Stiles doesn’t need to say so were you, because he knows Derek was worried about him. And he doesn’t know how to deal with it.

“She sure has a weird way of showing it,” Stiles says, praying that his voice remains steady. Derek snorts and— damn he missed that sound.

But it vanishes after a few seconds.

Why did you do that, Stiles?

“You mean, disappearing without telling anyone?”

Derek sighs, “Yes.”

“Not my biggest moment, I admit,” Stiles offers, in hope of easing up the mood, but Derek doesn’t reply. “It was stupid. It won’t happen again. I promise,” even his own words surprise him, especially with the amount of honesty they carry.

No more figuring out things on your own?” Derek asks.

“Dude, that’s asking too much.”

“Stiles,” Derek warns, “First, don’t call me dude.“

“What am I su—“

Second, you’re not alone. Your friends want to help you.”

Stiles whispers, “I know… but look who’s talking! You’re the last person willing to accept anyone’s help, Mr. Let’s Do It My Way.”

Derek doesn’t laugh, though. “I’m serious, Stiles.”

“I’m serious too,” Stiles tells him.

Silence stretches for what if feels like ages, but it’s probably just a few seconds. “I’m sorry I snapped. I know you were just— you know.”

Derek huffs, “I do?”

“You’re going to be a jerk and make me say it, aren’t you?”

Maybe.”

Stiles scratches the back of his head and breathes out, “Fine! I’m sorry I was an asshole when you were just worried about me. Is that alright?”

They could spend hours bickering back and forth. And as a matter of fact, that’s what happened. Stiles completely lost track of time until his father was yelling from downstairs because dinner was ready. Derek was clearly amused when Stiles flailed about the time they had spent talking.

It was nice. More than nice.

Stiles finds himself smiling once or twice during dinner. Thankfully, he doesn’t think that his father notices or if he does he doesn’t say anything. Then he smiles again when he’s doing the dishes, remembering when Cora yelled for Derek to do the dishes tonight.

It’s the little things that make him smile. Things he never noticed about Derek before. Things that are so simple and normal. Things like Derek worrying. Worrying about Stiles. His chest tightens and his heart races when he thinks about it. When did that happen?

But his chest and heart also ache.

Yes, it’s nice that Derek worries about him. Stiles doesn’t even try to tell himself that he doesn’t worry about Derek. He does. But Derek is far away from Beacon Hills. And just as the mundane things in Derek’s life now make him smile, they also make him sad. Derek is not coming back, neither is Cora. Stiles just has to accept it and file whatever he’s feeling, put it inside a box and ship it somewhere far away from his— quite possibly, from his heart.

 

***

 

It’s past 1AM on a school day, when Stiles tells Derek one of his dreams. And as he’s talking about how terrifying it was to see Scott bleeding on the floor, something inside his heart vanishes and makes him feel lighter.

Derek doesn’t push, he never does. They’ve been texting and talking regularly for the past week and only when Stiles starts to yawn, Derek tells him to go to sleep. But it’s never about sleeping. It’s about waiting and keeping Stiles’ sanity intact. Derek never ends the call with a goodbye or goodnight, it’s always call me, and Stiles doesn’t have to ask to know what he means. But when the nightmares happen, Stiles never calls Derek.

He’s getting used to it, apparently. To watch his loved ones die, sometimes because of others, sometimes because of him. Technically, it’s always because of him. He’s the one killing them, his mind, and the darkness in his heart. So he lets himself savor the moments where they’re definitely not dead. His dinners with his father, school with his friends, games with Scott, and phone calls with Derek.

Lydia and Scott often talk about his problem at lunch. Sometimes it’s like Stiles is not even there; Allison casts him knowing glances and he smiles. They want to help, Stiles knows. But no matter how many times Lydia asks Scott if Deaton knows anything yet, the answers are always the same.

At least he’s still sane, even though his grades dropped substantially. His father doesn’t comment, especially when he sees Stiles struggling with his homework. His dad brings him tea, puts a hand on his shoulder and after a few seconds walks away. It makes Stiles try harder to focus. And as he takes a sip from his tea, he always thinks of Derek.

 

***

 

One night, right after waking up from a nightmare, Stiles calls Derek.

Stiles? What’s wrong?” Derek’s voice is hoarse and sleepy.

Stiles laughs. He can’t do this anymore.

Stiles?

“Sorry, it’s just—,” he’s still laughing, nervously, possibly also crying.

Tell me,” Derek pleads, and it’s the way he does it that makes Stiles want to tell him everything. Everything that matters and everything that doesn’t, though it still crosses his mind. But it’s the way Stiles clenches his cell phone that reminds him of how distant Derek is.

“I just saw you die,” Stiles starts. “You were dead. Right in front of me. And Peter was— He—“

Stiles.

“The blood was too much. Too much...”

Stiles, I’m here. It’s okay.”

“No, no! That’s the problem, Derek. You’re not here. It’s not okay. From everyone that I see dying, you’re—“ Stiles stops when he realizes he’s being too loud, at four in the morning and with his father in the next room. “I’m sorry,” Stiles breathes out, his heart beating wildly.

You don’t have to apologize.”

Stiles closes his eyes to fight back the tears. The dream still too vivid inside his mind, but the adrenaline seems to be settling by hearing Derek’s voice.

“It’s not the first time,” Stiles blurts.

What is?

“You dying. It happened before. More than once.”

 Derek is quiet for a moment, “But you know it’s only a nightmare.

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles sighs. “But it still—“ hurts, he bites his tongue. “They’re very real. All of them.”

They’re going to find a solution, Stiles.”

“Maybe. I hope so.”

I’m glad you called,” Derek says.

Stiles scoffs.

But Derek presses, “I mean it.”

“I’m glad I did too.”

Stiles doesn’t go back to sleep. And neither does Derek.

 

***

 

Can I call you later? I’m at Scott’s.

- Sent 16:56

Sure. Have fun.

- Received 17:00

We’re studying. He’s actually helping me. Who knew?

- Sent 17:01

Be nice.

- Received 17:03

 

Stiles snorts.

“Who are you texting?” Scott asks.

“Derek.” Stiles replies without looking up.

“Derek?” Isaac asks, voice mildly surprised.

Stiles glances up to see both werewolves staring back at him, “Yes, Derek. Derek Hale. Previously an Alpha, your Alpha. Do you want me to continue?”

“They talk to each other,” Scott tells Isaac.

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Scott shrugs.

“Dude, I’m right here,” Stiles waves his arms awkwardly.

Scott makes an apologetic gesture and goes back to his book. Stiles puts his cell phone to the side and does the same.

The silence only lasts for a minute.

“But like talk talk?”

Stiles narrows his eyes at Isaac, while Scott smirks.

“Why is that so surprising?” Stiles asks.

Isaac shrugs, “You two are not exactly each other’s favorites.”

“I’m not really the favorite material type of guy.”

“I’m just saying,” Isaac adds, “it’s weird that you’re talking now with Derek that he’s gone. Do you talk to Cora too?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Stiles mutters.

That’s when Scott breaks with a loud laugh. “Come on, Stiles. At least admit that you enjoy talking with him.”

Stiles throws a pencil at Scott, “Apparently he’s a lot nicer than you!”

“Derek?!” Isaac laughs. “Damn, I wonder what you can possibly talk to him about for that to happen.”

“Shut up!” Stiles feels his cheeks heat up and when his phone buzzes again, his heart skips a beat.

Isaac keeps laughing as he picks up their Chemistry book, but Stiles can feel Scott’s eyes on him as he types a quick message.

“Let’s just study,” Stiles insists.

 

***

 

Stiles can feel his entire body throbbing. His vision is blurry. Blurry with red. He brings a hand to rub his eyes and that’s when he notices that he’s holding something. Sharp as— His eyes widen in horror. Why is he—

Stiles, no!” Scott screams, but Stiles can’t see him.

“Scott?” Stiles shouts back.

He’s in a room full of mirrors, but there’s something weird about this place. Something he doesn’t understand. There’s—

Suddenly, the mirror in front of him shows his reflection and Stiles can see himself for the first time. He’s drenched in blood, his clothes, his face, his arms, his hands… He’s holding a dagger, blood is dripping to the floor where—

Stiles looks at the other mirrors in the room. He stops breathing.

On the left mirror he sees Scott, crawling to him. Stiles’ gaze quickly drops to the floor, but Scott is not there. “No…” he whispers. “Scott!”

Stiles, please… s—stop.”

Stiles’ reflection moves, slashing Scott’s throat with no struggle.

Stiles wants to scream, but his voice never comes out.

What are you doing?” Lydia appears in the other mirror, crawling over Scott’s blood. “Stiles, what did you do!

He wants to scream and say he didn’t do anything, but his reflection speaks for him, “It’s better to kill you all.”

Tears start falling from Lydia’s eyes, “Please,” she begs.

His reflection smiles, it’s a sad smile, “You have to understand. I’m doing this for me.

Stiles wants to puke, to run and kill that person. It’s not him, it’s not. Stiles wouldn’t, he wouldn’t—

I understand,” Lydia’s voice trembles. She adjusts her knees and bares her throat. His reflection has other plans though. The dagger cuts through her heart, Lydia gasps for a second, but then she’s gone. His reflection brushes her strawberry hair, smudging with blood. Stiles wants to cut off his hands. His own hands.

The image in front of him doesn’t let him move though. He killed Scott, he killed Lydia, and he also killed Allison who lies lifeless on the floor. His father’s corpse stares at him with wide red eyes— What did he do? Why is this—

What did you do?” Derek’s figure emerges in another mirror. “Why, Stiles? Why did you do this?

His reflection shrugs, like it’s not important. Like he didn’t just kill his friends.

“Der—“ Stiles tries to say, but his reflection stares back at himself. Grins at him.

“No, not him. Don’t!” Stiles shouts.

You worry too much,” his reflection tells him. And in an instant it slashes Derek’s throat without any effort whatsoever. Blood spills from all sides. Stiles can feel it, taste it as it splashes through his own face. His reflection twirls the dagger between his fingers as Derek’s body falls flat on the floor, next to Scott’s.

Stiles stares in horror at the bodies. There’s so much blood, so much. His reflection keeps grinning, a devilish grin that makes Stiles shiver.

Red is such a beautiful color. Don’t you think?” His reflection asks, eyes fixed on Stiles as it starts creeping towards him. Stiles wants to move, but he can’t. He’s transfixed with himself. A spell that he can’t seem to break off.

His reflection tosses the dagger to the side, dropping right next to Allison’s body. Stiles flinches when his reflection leaves the mirror in front of him and cups his face. Its bloody fingers burn his skin.

“What did you do,” Stiles whimpers.

Me? We’re the same. You and I.”

“No, no. I’m—“

His reflection moves to Stiles’ back, holds his face, the grip strong and painful, “You did this,” its voice rough. His voice.

Stiles squeezes his eyes shut.

Look at them! You’re safe now. You don’t have to worry about anyone anymore,” the reflection forcefully digs his fingers in his face, “Isn’t that what you wanted?!” It screams right in Stiles’ ear, spit hitting him on his neck.

Stiles squeezes his eyes even tighter, “No,” his voice croaks, “No!” He screams.

The reflection releases him, laughs maniacally behind him.

Stiles wakes up, eyes wide open. He can still hear himself laugh inside his ears. He can still picture the blood around him. The bodies, the blood, himself.

There are tears streaming down his face. He curls himself, trying to stop his body from trembling. “I killed them,” he sobs quietly into his pillow.

Stiles lets a hand out of the sheets to grab his cell phone.

His shaky fingers manage to write, Please, come home, but his heart doesn’t allow him to click send.

 

***

 

“Hey, maybe you could send me more pictures?” Stiles asks Derek one night.

It’s 3AM and they’ve been talking for hours. Well, Stiles does most of the talking, but Derek doesn’t seem to mind. He replies to his rambling and sometimes Stiles is even able to make him laugh. Those are the best moments. But they’re also the saddest, because Stiles can only imagine how Derek’s genuine smile is.

What kind of pictures do you want?

“What kind of… Anything! I mean, not if you don’t want to. And I don’t mean anything as in— I mean, I wouldn’t be—,” Stiles pauses when he hears Derek laugh in the background. “You’re such a jerk,” he says, playful.

You still haven’t answered the question.

Stiles rolls to the other side of the bed, “Do you remember—” he bites his bottom lip, searching for words. “The picture you sent with the sunset… it sort of helped me through a panic attack,” Stiles laughs miserably, trying to cover how pathetic he sounds. “Crazy, right?"

Derek is silent for a moment before he replies, "Why do you think it helped you?"

"I— I honestly have no idea. It calmed me down and suddenly I was able to breathe again. It just— It helped."

"Do you still have it?"

Stiles grins, "Of course! It's— I set it as my background."

"You did?" Stiles can hear Derek laugh in disbelief from the other side.

"It's actually the reason why it helped me. Is that— Is that weird?"

"No," Derek replies, his voice small and soft, the only sound that Stiles is able to hear in his quiet, silent home.

"You're probably tired of that view already," Stiles says.

Derek snorts, "Not really. While Cora is in school, I like to spend the morning there reading."

"Dude, that's so weird."

"What?"

"You sitting on a chair, reading a book. I can't picture it," Stiles admits.

"Well, maybe you don't know me as well as you think you do."

Stiles' breath hitches a little, "Maybe." He thinks about phrasing that he would like to know more about Derek, what he likes, what kind of books he reads, what makes him laugh… His voice is caught in his throat, though. Derek seems to have settled in San Francisco with Cora, he seems relaxed and… safe.

The silence that stretches between them is easy and warm, familiar after so many late night phone calls. Whatever is making his heart throb against his chest is not likely to be worthy of losing this… thing they've built together.

"I would like to see it someday," Stiles blurts out suddenly.

"Me reading?"

Stiles smirks, "No, unless you do it differently than other people. Do you flip the pages with your claws or something? That sounds cool, but probably a pain for the librarians."

Derek huffs, but Stiles continues, "I meant the view. The balcony. I would like to see it."

The words are left hanging in the air enough time to make Stiles nervous and unsure if he maybe went too far, but in reality it only takes a millisecond for Derek to reply.

"Only those with a good reputation among librarians are allowed to come inside and enjoy the view."

Stiles is caught off guard with his answer, barking out a quiet laugh, "So, what? I need to bribe you with books or something?"

"Something like that."

"Well, what sort of books do you like?" Stiles asks.

That night he learns a bit more about Derek. That little bit of knowledge makes his chest flutter, but it's still not enough. And each mile away is a step on his heart, that he covers with a laugh or a smirk until morning.

 

 

***

 

The wind creeps across the nape of his neck, sending shivers through his whole body. Stiles looks around, even though he can’t see anything. But there must be something behind this fog, this unnerving stillness that only makes him more scared.

Stiles starts walking, venturing himself in the middle of the mist. There’s no one, nothing. His naked feet are numb, the cold floor freezing the tip of his toes to a point where he can barely feel them. But he keeps marching, hoping that he will find something. Or someone.

Suddenly, the blowing wind brings with it voices from afar. Some of them seem to be familiar, but nevertheless, he can’t pick up the words. Stiles starts running towards them, chasing the people attached to those voices. But it’s in vain. The voices are everywhere, surrounding him, almost as if they’re mocking his inability of finding them.

And when he’s about to give up, shadows appear and disappear in the middle of the dense fog. Sometimes they appear right after someone laughs. Other times it’s after someone screams. Or cries. Or calls for him.

Stiles runs, he keeps running until he’s breathless. And when he comes to a stop, there’s nothing but silence. All he can hear is his own heartbeat racing and his lungs desperately seeking for air. It takes him a long time before his ears pick up the sound creeping around him, but once he does—

“Who’s there?” Stiles asks.

There’s no reply. No echo. Nothing.

But the sound of a swing with the ropes and wood creaking is still recognizable in the distance.

“HELLO!” Stiles shouts.

But again there’s no reply.

He tries to figure out the direction of where the swing is, but without luck. The sound circles him, but Stiles is not about to give up now. He starts walking again and with each step he takes, there’s someone behind him who does the same. Stiles fastens his pace and whoever is behind him follows his lead. The steps are loud and clear, like his pursuer is wearing some combat boots. Stiles squeezes his eyes shut and starts running again. Whoever is trying to catch him seems to be getting closer and closer. Stiles feels like a rabbit running for his life, his predator doesn’t seem to be as tired as he is, but he doesn’t try to reach for him either.

Stiles gives up. He falls on his knees and just waits for it, his death sentence.

But nothing happens. Stiles turns around and there’s no one there. Silence creeps around him again, making him feel even more lonely. Tears are starting to form in his eyes, but he fights them with all the strength left in his body.

In front of him, the sound of the mist dissipating gets his attention. Stiles is starting to feel a rush of relief when he sees his father kneeled down just like him, mirroring his position and even his eyes, his— He’s crying.

“Dad?” Stiles voice croaks. “What— What’s wrong?”

But his father doesn’t reply, not to him.

I wish you would have told me,” his father says. Not to him, but to something in front of him. Stiles stands up quickly, curious about what’s making his father cry and deaf to his calls.

I miss you so much,” his father continues. Stiles eyes widen in horror when he sees the headstone in front of his father. It’s not —there’s no way—

How am I going to live without you? It shouldn’t be like this. It shouldn’t— I can’t live like this,” his father’s voice stutters as tears start falling.

Stiles can’t stop his own tears either, but something perks his attention — “Dad! NO!”

But it’s too late. The gunshot echoes in his brain for a long time as blood taints his clothes all over. At his feet, a pool of blood starts forming around his father’s dead body, sprawled all over the headstone that has his own name engraved: Stiles Stilinski.

Stiles stares at his father’s body in horror. He takes a few steps back, his head shaking furiously in denial. The more he walks away, the more the mist covers the scene, making it disappear as if it never happen.

But Stiles knee hits something hard. And it fucking hurts. He turns around and in that moment Stiles forgets how to breathe.

The mist lifts up slowly, revealing with it several headstones. It’s like he just walked into a graveyard. And it is a graveyard. Stiles’ feet move on their own accord. The names engraved in the headstones making him want to scream.

 

Scott McCall.

Lydia Martin.

Danny Mahealani.

Allison Argent.

Isaac Lahey.

Derek Hale.

 

Stiles stumbles backwards, catching sight of another headstone with his father’s engraved, it’s placed right next to his mother’s, surrounded by wilted flowers.

They’re all dead. Everyone is—

Stiles has no one. No one at all. Tears stream down his face, burning his cheeks and sealing his mouth. He can’t talk. He can’t scream.

Stiles stays there in the middle of that graveyard, haunted by his friends’ deaths and his loneliness. The mist doesn’t reveal anything else, but it doesn’t make that scene disappear either. And as time flies, Stiles thinks it’s not a dream. This dream has no end. He finally lost his mind in the middle of this madness. The more he wishes to wake up, the more real his emotions become. The names of those he loves forever imprinted inside his mind.

When he does wake up, what feels like hours later, Stiles turns to his left side, away from the morning light, and cries non stop. Maybe one day he will never get to wake up. Maybe one day he will be trapped inside his dreams, sinking deeper and deeper into this darkness.

It scares the shit out of him.

 

***

 

“I dream about my mom sometimes. And it sucks, because it’s never…“

Real,” Derek finishes for him.

Stiles breathes out, “Yeah, but right now—,” he pauses, “right now every dream I have it’s— I guess it’s good they’re not real.”

Are they all…

“Bad?” Stiles laughs nervously, “Yeah, they’re— but there was one time… I don’t even know if I was either dreaming or close to going insane.”

It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me,” Derek says.

But Stiles wants to. He just doesn’t know how.

“When we were looking for Erica and Boyd, I tried— I thought that if I found them, maybe they would forgive me. So, I tried—”

Why would they have to forgive you for anything? It wasn’t your fault.

“Maybe not, but— I knew, Derek. I knew they were in danger and I didn’t do anything. I went home and I listened to my dad call me a hero when I’m not.”

They were my responsibility. Not yours.

Stiles squeezes his eyes shut, “I knew Erica and Boyd before— before everything,” he whispers, “I never felt responsible for them, that’s not what—” Stiles groans. “They were friends, or at least that’s how I see them now. And it’s too late. I just wish I could have done something.”

You did. You helped me find them. It was just…

“Too late,” Stiles finishes for him. “Boyd said we weren’t friends. I was surprised at how much that hurt and I couldn’t stop thinking if Erica thought the same. In the end, I was still thinking about me.”

Stiles…

“I see them in my nightmares. They’re not dead, they’re just— blaming me,” Stiles stares at the ceiling, remembering the night he saw Erica. “Except the night inside the bank. I saw her there.”

Erica?

“Yeah. She was… normal, I guess. If you can consider an hallucination as normal,” he says sarcastically.

Derek scoffs weakly.

“She helped me to calm down,” Stiles swallows hard. “I know it wasn’t her, but— My mind is really messed up.”

“I believe she would have helped you if she could,” Derek says.

Stiles is silent for a moment, “Yeah, I think she would have.”

And she would have hit you later, telling you how stupid your plan was.

“Hey!” Stiles exclaims, but also relieved and lighter. “She totally would.”

She—,” Derek pauses and Stiles is about to tell him that they don’t need to talk about it when Derek barks out a small laugh. “Laura was a lot like Erica.

Stiles is taken aback by the words, but there’s fondness in Derek’s voice

“Fierce and beautiful?” Stiles asks, smiling.

“And stubborn as well,” Derek replies. “Cora reminds me of her too. They would probably go through the roof together.” He remains perfectly quiet for a while before saying, “But they would protect each other.”

The sorrow and sadness slowly give in to good memories, stories long forgotten or buried deep in their hearts, as they talk about the people they’ve lost.

Stiles realizes that it’s not just his heart that will live in darkness; not just Allison’s and not just Scott’s. Derek’s heart has been living in darkness for years.

 

***

 

 

“I’m not doing another one of those baths,” Stiles says firmly.

“What if it’s the only way?” Scott asks him.

“What if it’s not?” Stiles deadpans. His best friend lets out a frustrated sigh.

“Stiles,” Deaton starts, “it’s not ideal, but I believe it will work.”

“How can you be so sure? Everyone had a connection except Lydia and I. Is that why it’s affecting me more? Is that why everyone is smiling and I’m— I’m,” Stiles pants. “It’s not fair. Everyone is fine. And I’m— I’m weak.”

“Stiles, you’re not weak,” Scott’s hand grips Stiles’ shoulder. “I’ll be with you. It will work,” Scott says, confident. The worst is, Stiles can’t make himself to believe. He believes in Scott, in his heart and—

“Wait,” Stiles frowns. “But you can’t. Your heart—“

Scott shrugs, “Doesn’t matter. Not if I can help you.”

“Scott, you’re not—“

“I am.”

They stare into each other’s eyes for a while. Scott’s hand doesn’t leave his shoulder.

“Is it risky for him?” Stiles asks Deaton, ignoring Scott’s protest.

“It might. We don’t know.”

“Great,” Stiles huffs.

“You need an anchor, Stiles. A stable and strong anchor that can guide you through the darkness when things get worse,” Deaton says.

“And we found one,” Scott adds with a smile.

Stiles rolls his eyes, but at the end of it, he agrees. Selfishly, he thinks. Scott is willing to risk himself to save Stiles and no matter how many times Stiles tries to convince him otherwise, his best friend stubbornly taps his foot. He never really managed to say no to Scott.

 

***

 

Stiles calls Derek that night, after having dinner at the McCalls. The first time he tries to call no one picks up, no one at all, not even Cora. The second time, Stiles lets it ring three times before he hangs up.

He frowns.

 

Bad time?

- Sent 22:34

 

It’s still early and his father has a shift tonight, so after sending that text to Derek, Stiles goes downstairs and turns on the TV. He waits.

He doesn’t wait that long.

 

Can’t talk right now.

- Received 22:43

 

The words hit him harder than it should. It’s not like Stiles is disappointed with Derek, but he is upset that he can’t talk to him. They’ve been talking almost daily for the past two weeks. Only now he realizes that Derek has always been there for him. The thought of how much he needs Derek scares him deeply.

 

Sure. Just wanted to tell you about Scott’s brilliant plan. Call me when you can?

- Sent 22:46

 

He hesitates, but he sends it anyway. Derek would like to hear about it, Stiles knows. He’s sure of it. Derek listens to him, but it’s not just that. Stiles throws the ball, Derek catches it and throws it again. Stiles is never playing alone with Derek, because Derek might listen, but he also worries, talks, suggests. If this is wrong— If this fucked up plan is a death sentence, Derek will tell him. Derek will throw the ball and Stiles will catch it. That’s how it works.

It’s kind of ironic to think about how much Stiles learned about Derek since he left Beacon Hills. Though, some days, like today, Stiles doesn’t feel like joking about it.

It’s all about timing.

 

I’ll be out tonight. Tomorrow? Talk to you soon.

- Received 22:51

 

And they both sucked at it, or life did.

 

***

 

There’s nothing worse than waking up feeling anxious, like something terrible might happen. Granted, there’s at least an 85% chance that this will all go horribly wrong. But the remaining 15% is all about hope.

For someone who’s about to risk his life, Scott spends their day at school a little bit too keen with the idea. Allison and Lydia ask Stiles if they can come, but both Scott and Stiles agree that it’s better not to have an audience for it. Isaac will be outside during the whole time and warn them in case something goes wrong. None of them points out that no warning will matter in this case. Either Stiles or Scott will die. Or maybe both of them.

They get to Deaton’s after five o’clock, the sun already settling. It’s funny though; how Stiles started this semester fearing these moments that so many people love. Sunsets are indeed beautiful and magical, but they also mean that the night is approaching. And for Stiles that always means he will be swallowed by an immense darkness again.

Now it also means that he gets to talk to Derek, sometimes for just one hour before dinner and another one when he’s already in bed. Sometimes it’s hours in a row; with them not always talking, because it’s not just about talking, it’s about being there. It’s about listening to Derek breathing, to close his eyes and imagine his face when he smiles, when he laughs, when he rolls his eyes. Those moments take all his darkness away, like night never came for him. And there’s finally light, even if it’s unreachable.

Not today. Today he’s going to drown in darkness again, to willingly face it. He hates that Derek doesn’t know, that he never had a chance to tell him, to maybe be persuaded to do otherwise.

Doesn’t matter now. Not when he’s staring back at a bathtub filled with ice and mistletoe. He shivers just by thinking about stepping in it.

“Are you ready?” Scott asks.

“Am I ever,” Stiles replies, because if he starts being honest with himself now, he will most likely leave that room and never come back. But then he remembers the bodies, the faces connected to the bodies, his cries for help, and the worried eyes he wakes up to almost every night. And then there’s Scott.

“If anything goes wrong,” Stiles starts, looking straight at Deaton, “please find a way of saving Scott.”

“I’m not—“

“I will,” Deaton cuts in, interrupting Scott.

“Don’t listen to him,” Scott hisses at Deaton, who smiles fondly at him.

“Ready?” Deaton asks instead.

Stiles nods.

Doesn’t matter that he did this before, the pain still takes him by surprise. His body tries hard to fight it, as the cold water cuts through him like little daggers. Scott is right there behind him, both hands on his shoulders, steady and encouraging. And when Stiles sits and looks up, Scott nods. A promise that he will stay no matter what, that it will be okay. And in that moment, Stiles lets himself believe in it. He lets Scott push him down, doesn’t fight it even when the cold freezes his brain. It’s Scott, his friend, his brother. It’s them. They’re together in this.

Everything will be okay, it’s the last thing he thinks about before giving in to the darkness.

 

***

 

Stiles wakes up for the third time in the white room. He wasn’t scared the first time, he had Scott and Allison with him. The second time was a surprise, unexpected and scary. This time is no different.

The first thing he notices when he steps out of the bathtub is that he’s alone and there are no signs of the Nemeton, which surprises him. But there’s a door straight ahead of him; a white door just like all the rest of the room. If Stiles wasn’t looking for something, anything at all, he would have probably missed it.

He’s scared, but there’s something in the air that makes him feel strangely safe. Each step towards the door is a battle, though. Is it going to open and reveal him a solution? Or is it going to swallow him down into a deep abyss?

It’s now or never, Stiles thinks as he finally reaches the white door. As soon as he opens it, a bright white light and the ocean breeze hit him. It’s been years since he’s been near the sea, but he remembers it too well. The salty and fresh smell that you can practically taste at the tip of your tongue.

His feet practically move on their own, suddenly unafraid of the dangers he might still face. But as soon as he steps inside the light, Stiles knows exactly where he is. Pictures would never be enough to show him this place. And somehow, it’s like he was always meant to be here.

Derek’s balcony is just like how he imagined it would be. Next to him, the raise bed is blooming with little white flowers. In front of him, the view is breathtaking and the sound of the ocean waves is hypnotizing. Stiles places his hands on the balcony and breathes in.

Everything is gorgeous. Everything is like he imagined and even better. But it’s not enough. It’s not— There’s something missing. There’s a missing piece in all of this, the most important of all. In fact, now that Stiles is finally here, he knows this place is merely a shadow he kept seeking out. And its shape is not here. Even if he’s just stepping into another dream, Stiles can’t help to feel alone.

No matter how beautiful everything around him is… Derek is not here.

And he needs Derek, terribly so.

Suddenly, there’s a hand on his shoulder. His body doesn’t let him turn around and panic rushes through him. It’s not the first time he’s been helplessly controlled by his dreams and the thought makes him pant and sweat. But the grip on his shoulder remains strong.

There’s a voice behind him whispering in his ear. It’s a strong voice, one that he knows too well, but he can’t understand the words. Stiles wants to ask a million questions, wants to turn around and look right into his eyes. He wants to see him, badly. He’s the missing piece.

“Close your eyes, Stiles,” Derek tells him.

Stiles has met many Dereks in his dreams, sometimes they die, sometimes they’re already dead, sometimes they don’t even look at him, sometimes there’s rage and guilt. But this time, Stiles is not scared. There’s something that makes him trust this Derek and to willingly shut his eyes.

But now his world is dark and he can’t help but squirm, afraid of what might happen if he gives in to the darkness.

“Shh, it’s okay. Let it go, Stiles,” Derek’s voice soothes him. “I’m here.”

Stiles believes him, trusts him.

A long time passes and nothing happens. No one comes to terrify him, no one dies, and no one kills him. Stiles can still feel Derek’s hand on his shoulder and for the first time, in a long time, he feels safe inside his own mind.

“I’m here whenever you’re ready,” Derek says.

The words echo in his mind, in his heart.

Stiles wakes up, gasping for air as he comes out of the water. He rubs his eyes to look around him. Deaton and Scott stand in front of him and, finally, Stiles is able to turn around and see him. His eyes catch Derek’s and Stiles is sure he stops breathing. Derek is here, right in front of him, whole and staring back at him. Derek’s lips start curling, a hint of a smile just for Stiles and for him only. And that’s it for Stiles.

It only takes him a millisecond to stand up and hug Derek. Stiles holds him tight, fingertips digging against Derek’s shirt, clutching it almost desperately just to feel him, to know that this is real, that Stiles is not dreaming. Derek’s arms wrap around him, like Stiles is about to break. And he might. He might break.

“I missed you,” Stiles whispers against Derek’s skin, face buried in Derek’s neck and voice trembling from fear, from cold, from happiness. And before he does break, Stiles leans back slightly. Derek’s hazel eyes lock with his. Stiles holds his breath at the sight of Derek’s intense expression and kisses him.

His head starts spinning. The desperate pressure of their lips together sends sparks through his entire body. Stiles slides his hands from Derek’s neck to cup his face, his palms feeling Derek’s soft stubble. They’re still wet, but Derek doesn’t flinch. In fact, Derek’s body is completely still against his own.

Maybe this is not real, maybe it’s just another hallucination, another trick of his mind, but Stiles forgets all that when Derek slides his hands over Stiles’ back and pulls him closer, hands resting on Stiles’ hips, keeping him there. His rough lips move against Stiles’, capturing his bottom lip between his. Stiles’ body instantly leans closer against Derek’s. Their noses brush against each other and Stiles melts, something about that touch makes him realize how close— how close they finally are. His heart pounds with joy at the thought. Stiles sighs against Derek’s mouth, breathes him in until he’s gasping for air.

“I’m here,” Derek says against his lips when they break apart.

Stiles smiles, “You’re home.”

 

***

 

“So, how are you doing?” Lydia asks.

Stiles shrugs, as he drinks a bit of water, “It’s too soon to tell, I guess.”

“More nightmares?” Allison steps in, worried. They’re all having lunch at the cafeteria, which is obviously the perfect moment to ambush Stiles, he thinks.

“We knew they wouldn’t stop,” Stiles starts, “it’s just easier to break free from them.”

“How?” Allison frowns.

Stiles drops his gaze to his plate, “Just— I think of something nice and it’s easier.”

“Something nice,” Isaac repeats.

“You can say it, you know?” Lydia smirks, “You can say his name. We all know.”

Stiles turns to Scott, wide-eyed, “Couldn’t you keep your mouth shut?”

“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone,” Scott says.

Lydia pushes her tray to the side and crosses her arms on the table, “Spill it.”

Stiles sighs,” There’s nothing to talk about.”

“But you kissed him,” she presses.

“So?”

“So… Stiles Stilinski has a boyfriend. There’s lots to talk about!” Lydia smiles, but it’s not quite a happy smile, it’s more of a— it’s just plain scary.

“He’s not my boyfriend. We’re not dating.”

Scott coughs, “Sorry, but as weird as it was seeing my best friend kiss someone else, it was pretty clear just how much both parties were into each other.”

Stiles blushes.

“Besides, Derek Hale?” Scott teases. “Remember the time you begged me to let him die?”

Stiles shoves him, “Shut up.”

“No, no, no,” Scott flashes him a dopey smile, “It’s like a movie! The two guys who hate each other so much that the universe brings them together, thanks to the supernatural forces unknown to the rest of the common mortals,” he finishes the last part making a bad imitation of a robot, but there’s something in his voice that sounds too familiar.

Stiles stares at him in disbelief, “You— You watched Star Wars without me!”

Scott’s smile vanishes almost instantly, “It wasn’t my fault. I swear. I was just zapping and Isaac was asleep, my mom had a night shift— I’m so sorry, Stiles.”

“How could you do this to me?”

“I’m really sorry,” Scott brings the palms of his hands together and begs, “I’ll get on my knees if I need to, but I swear that if Derek comes to kill me for it—“

Stiles shoves his head to the side, “Stop trying to make jokes!”

“Wait, was that—“ Isaac starts, “Was he talking about—“ His eyes go impossibly wide, “You— Derek does—“

“Oh my God,” Stiles buries his head in his hands, “Can I die now?”

Allison laughs.

“That’s a very good question, though,” Lydia wonders.

“Please don’t,” Stiles mutters against his hands

“Let’s refrain from talking about my best friend and Derek doing it, please,” Scott jumps in, picking some fries from Stiles’ plate.

Stiles gapes at him, watches him eat the fries and wiggle his eyebrows like he just did the most terrible thing to Stiles. Which he did, but Stiles is not going there.

“Dude, I literally spent our first year listening to you daydreaming about Allison. I think you can listen one thing or two about my sex life,” Stiles turns to the rest of them but his pointy finger is mostly directed at Lydia, “which, by the way, is not open for discussion.”

He settles in his seat, ready for them to get back at him, but it never comes. Stiles looks at them, all awkwardly in silence, especially— Oh shit.

“Shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—“

“It’s okay,” Allison cuts in, “Right?” She asks Scott, who nods and smiles dopily at her. Allison is as dazed as he is. And Stiles snorts to himself. If there are two people that the universe will always bring together is definitely these two.

“Boring,” Lydia comments. “Come on, Stiles. Give us something.”

Stiles sighs, “We kissed! I kissed him. It’s no big deal,” he lowers his voice before adding, “and it probably won’t happen again anyway.”

“You two haven’t talked about it?” Isaac asks him.

“No,” he mutters.

“What? Really, Stiles? Really?!” Lydia sounds more worked up than he is. Though the truth is that Stiles had already enough time to think about it.

“He’s been gone for months. I’m just glad he’s back.”

“You should talk to him,” Allison tells him and Scott nods, of course he does.

“It’s— It’s just awkward. We’ve been talking all this time over the phone…”

“One more reason to talk to him,” Scott says. “Derek was always worried about you, Stiles. He had wanted to come back sooner, but I kept telling him that we were taking care of you. He didn’t hesitate when I told him you needed him.”

Stiles just stares at Scott without knowing what to say or think.

Lydia hums, “Interesting.”

“Maybe he likes you,” Isaac points out. Everyone turns to him, Allison narrows her eyes, Scott gives him a knowing smile and Lydia rolls her eyes. Stiles remains quiet, though. But he’s well aware of his heart beating faster.

“Was there tongue?” Lydia interrupts his thoughts.

What?

Lydia sighs, annoyed, “Did you slide your tongue inside Derek’s mouth? Did he?”

Stiles squeaks, Scott groans and covers his face, while Isaac and Allison burst out laughing.

 

***

 

“Stiles, wake up. Stiles.”

Stiles sits up abruptly, panting and sweating. His eyes fixed on Derek, sitting on his bed in front of him. “Are you—“ Stiles tries to swallow, “Are you here? For real?”

Derek gives him a pained smile, “Yes. I’m here,” he places a hand on his knee, covered with the sheets, and squeezes slightly. “You were dreaming.”

Stiles nods clumsily, “Yeah. Yeah, I guess I was.”

He’s still breathless and he can still hear his father’s screams inside his mind. Stiles shivers when a cold breeze hits his back. Derek gets up right away.

“Sorry, I forgot to close it,” but he doesn’t close the window completely, just puts himself between it and Stiles’ bed. Derek is wearing his leather jacket and Stiles can’t help to notice how tense he looks.

“Stay,” Stiles whispers, so low that he fears Derek didn’t even listen.

The room is dark and Derek is practically just a silhouette inside it as the moonlight stands behind him, a shape that he fears might vanish at any minute. Stiles sees his eyes though. A bright and intense blue that hypnotizes him. When Derek turns to the window, Stiles lets his gaze drop, fingers fumbling with the sheets, trying to accept that Derek will leave.

When Stiles hears the click of the window closing, he turns around and is surprised to see Derek still inside his room, removing his jacket and dropping it on his desk chair.

Stiles lies down slowly, hand resting on his pillow and palm cupping his face. He moves as further away as possible, leaving enough space for Derek to sit if he wants to. His heart pounds with hope. Stiles holds his breath as he keeps watching Derek, waiting expectantly.

Derek seems to freeze when he turns on his heels and sees the space available in Stiles’ bed. Stiles can feel his own cheeks blushing, scared that he probably went too far. But Derek kicks off his shoes and sits on the bed; legs sprawling on top of the covers and back against the headboard.

“Want a pillow?” Stiles asks looking up at Derek.

Derek seems to relax at that and snorts, “Give me yours,” he replies as he sinks down further on the bed, his thighs accidentally brushing against Stiles’ knees, still under the covers. Derek raises an eyebrow when Stiles doesn’t react. “Your pillow, Stiles.”

“But—“ Stiles doesn’t even have time to say anything. Next thing he knows, Derek is grabbing his pillow, putting it behind himself and maneuvering Stiles so that he has his head resting on top of Derek’s chest.

“Now, go back to sleep,” Derek tells him.

Stiles is still freaking out when the words sink in, “I’m not going to be able to sleep like this.” He’s rigid like a stick, suppressing even his breathing.

“Do you need anything? Water?”

Stiles turns around, resting his weight on his elbow, “Dude, that’s so not the—“ but it’s worse like this. Ten times worse. Because Derek is right there, a few inches apart. His heart jumps.

They stare at each other and Stiles is vaguely aware of how Derek’s chest is raising up and down. Vaguely, because he’s too busy trying not to freak out.

“I kissed you,” Stiles blurts out and immediately wants to cover his mouth.

Derek’s eyes widen, clearly surprised with the words. “I’m aware of that,” he says, voice calm and close, so close that it’s like he’s whispering right into Stiles’ ear.

“I’m sorry. It’s okay if you—“ but then Derek’s finger is touching his lips, pressing more than necessary. Until he lets his hand slowly move to the side of Stiles’ cheek; rough fingertips brushing his skin, tracing each one of his moles. Stiles stares into his eyes, mouth open and lungs screaming urgently for air. “I’m— It’s okay if you don’t—“

“You’re such an idiot,” Derek smiles. And Stiles doesn’t even have time to enjoy and memorize Derek’s true smile, because Derek is leaning down, cupping his jaw and closing the distance between them.

It’s a first for Stiles. A slow, chaste kiss. The intense burn of lips touching, caressing each other, hands moving slightly against their skin, teasing and sparkling every emotion that has been hiding inside their hearts. And it’s definitely not the first time that Stiles thought about firsts, his desire of sharing them with Derek only intensifying with time. He wants it so badly that his chest tightens in a non stop happiness.

When the kiss breaks, Derek is still there, inches apart from his face, fervent eyes flickering and looking everywhere, fingers skimming the nape of Stiles’ neck.

“It’s okay. It’s been okay for a long time,” Derek says.

Stiles’ heartbeat skyrockets at the words. And Derek can not only hear it, but probably also feel it because of how close they are. Stiles is practically lying on top of Derek, his hands resting against Derek’s warm chest, itching for more contact. Stiles traces his gaze around Derek’s face, eyes stopping at his lips. They’re slightly parted and the image takes Stiles’ breath away, like a temptation that he wants to surrender to. Stiles can’t help to lick his own lips as he meets Derek’s eyes again.

Derek looks at him like no one else has ever looked at him before. Stiles forgets everything. He lets himself drown in Derek’s intense hazel eyes as he feels the world disappearing around him. Around them. He leans closer, almost as if he’s being pulled, wrapped in Derek’s breath, Derek’s smell, Derek’s everything. He’s being pulled and in that moment no one else exists, because it’s okay. It’s okay to lick his lips again, a second before they touch Derek’s.

Stiles closes his eyes, tasting every bit of Derek’s lips, savoring his breath. Derek moans against his mouth, his tongue brushing against Stiles’ bottom lip, begging for more. Stiles jolts and goes bold. He kicks off the sheets, sighing into the kiss as he finally tangles his legs with Derek’s. They’re both fully clothed, but it doesn’t matter. His body moves on top of Derek’s like it’s natural and safe. Derek shields him with his arms wrapped around Stiles’ body. His hands burn against Stiles’ skin, even when everything inside Stiles already feels like he’s in flames.

As soon as Stiles opens his mouth to breathe, Derek’s hand slides to the back of Stiles’ head, fingers digging in his hair. In a split second, Derek is moving his leg above Stiles’ and rolling them over to the side.

Stiles opens his eyes in surprise when he lands on his back, staring at Derek sharply when he leans forward until their foreheads are touching and he remains there with his fierce eyes glancing all over Stiles’ face. It makes Stiles feel too exposed and vulnerable, but Derek— Derek is harmless. His ragged breath doesn’t slow down, the anticipation killing him.

“Your heartbeat is racing,” Derek whispers, with a smug tone underneath it.

The bastard. He clearly knows what he’s doing to him. Stiles wishes he could joke about it, but instead he blurts, “Kissing you is really good.”

Derek smiles, full teeth. “Yeah?” It stupefies Stiles to see him like this, so different than all the times they were in danger and fighting for their lives. But this is Derek, the real Derek.

“Yeah,” Stiles replies, voice low.

A small trickle of laughter leaves Derek’s lips before he’s leaning down again. He holds Stiles’ face with a strong grip, gently cupping his jaw, and slipping his tongue inside Stiles’ mouth. A wave of shock goes through Stiles’ entire body when their tongues touch, igniting him all over to the tip of his toes. Their tongues intertwine and Stiles can’t help but clutch Derek’s shirt, pulling him even closer. The kiss intensifies, it’s both demanding and desperate. Derek’s hand slides down Stiles’ shirt, squeezing his hip slightly. They both let out a moan when Stiles lifts his leg over Derek’s ass, holding him there. Please don’t leave, a small request that he can’t dare himself to voice out loud.

Stiles pulls away slightly to breathe and Derek takes advantage of it to suck on his bottom lip. Each intake of breath a reminder of what’s happening, of how it feels to have Derek’s hot hands tracing his body, how Derek’s lips burn against his, how Derek is both demanding and caring with him. Stiles is entranced by Derek’s body against his own as Derek leaves open mouth kisses along his neck, tongue flickering against his skin, tasting him. Stiles gasps in surprise when Derek bites him softly on his earlobe, but quickly slides a hand over Derek’s hair to pull him closer.

Derek chuckles and the sound of it against Stiles’ ear is the most beautiful thing he has ever heard. “You need to sleep,” Derek says, voice husky.

“No, I don’t,” Stiles promptly replies. He’s thirsty, incredibly thirsty for more. But Derek is pulling away and— damn Stiles will ruin himself with those hazel eyes.

“You have school tomorrow,” Derek adds, but the jerk is clearly amused with what he’s doing to Stiles right now.

“Stop being a tease,” Stiles pokes him on the arm.

“And your father is right next door,” Derek resumes and Stiles groans, because he’s right.

“Fine,” Stiles surrenders, “but— one more kiss? Please? And—,” he stutters for a while, rubbing his hand against Derek’s arm.

“What?” Derek asks raising an eyebrow.

“Maybe— if you want to, of course— you could stay? Here? With me?”

Derek huffs him a smile, “Until you fall asleep.”

Stiles’ chest tightens, already longing for Derek to be with him again, “Okay.”

In the morning Derek is still there. And Stiles doesn’t remember the last time he slept so peacefully. He snuggles closer to Derek’s warm body and waits for his alarm clock to bring him back to the real world.

 

***

 

“What about Cora?” Stiles asks Derek. They’re on their way to visit three new possible places for Derek to live, even though he’s still staying at the loft. Stiles doesn’t need to ask him why he doesn’t want to live at the loft anymore.

“She will stay in San Francisco until the semester is over, then I’ll go pick her up and we’ll both move back to Beacon Hills,” Derek replies. Just like that, just like it doesn’t mean anything, but it means the world to Stiles. He never asked Derek if he would stay, never dared too. Always scared of how he would react to the answer. He still doesn’t know how to react.

“I— I’m glad you’re staying,” Stiles manages, fingers fumbling with each other.

Derek takes off one hand from the wheel and reaches over, holding Stiles’ hand in his, squeezing slightly. He doesn’t say anything and Stiles doesn’t need him to.

They remain silent for a minute, Derek without taking his eyes off the road and Stiles trying to imprint the memory of Derek holding his hand forever in his mind.

“Wait,” Stiles stills, “Does that mean—,” he looks at Derek in horror.

“What? What’s wrong?” Derek asks, slightly panicking.

“Does that mean she’s going to finish high school here? She’s going to be our classmate?!”

Derek drops his hand and smacks him slightly at the back of his head, “Don’t scare me like that.”

“Ow! This is serious!” Stiles complains. “I don’t think I can handle that if it happens.”

Derek snorts, like it’s even funny, “I think you made a good impression on her, considering. I wouldn’t be worried.”

“What do you mean considering?” Stiles gapes at him.

Derek smirks as he turns to look at him up and down.

“Asshole,” Stiles says, huffing a smile. “Can I go too?”

“Where?”

“To San Francisco,” Stiles answers, “I’ve never been there and— I would like to visit your place too. If you— you know, want me to come.”

When Stiles turns to look at Derek, he’s not expecting to see him smiling, “Sure, I would like that,” Derek replies, reaching for his hand again, but Stiles is already meeting him halfway.

 

***

 

Stiles wakes up sobbing, a tear falling down his face to the pillow. He doesn’t scream when he dreams about his mother. The fear is always surpassed by sorrow and sadness, no matter how terrible the nightmare is.

There’s a warm hand rubbing his back when Stiles finally comes out of it and decides to open his eyes. He doesn’t even need to turn around to know that Derek is right next to him. Instead, Stiles snuggles closer to Derek’s body, who immediately pulls him to his chest, wrapping his arms tightly around Stiles.

“I’m here,” Derek whispers against the skin of his neck.

He doesn’t want Derek to see him cry, but he’s thankful for his presence, his soothing hands and the warmth of his body against Stiles. It’s comforting.

They stay like that for a long time. Stiles doesn’t even know if Derek is asleep or not. He’s thinking about the many times they spent talking on the phone and how often Stiles wished to be with Derek just like this; in his embrace where neither of them says a thing, because their bodies— together— speak something larger than words.

“Are you sleeping?” Stiles decides to ask, voice low.

Derek nuzzles his nose against the nape of Stiles’ neck, making him shiver, “No.”

Stiles smiles and turns around. When he’s facing Derek, his eyes shine blue in the darkness of his room. It makes Stiles remember about the tragic story Peter told him months ago about Derek’s past. Instinctively, Stiles reaches a hand to touch Derek’s face. His fingers tickle as he traces Derek’s stubble, but Stiles can’t help staring shamelessly at Derek’s eyes, who closes them almost as if he’s in pain.

“Don’t,” Stiles pleads, “I like them.” Stiles leans forward and leaves a gentle kiss on Derek’s left eye, making Derek flinch slightly, furrowing his eyebrows when Stiles’ lips touch his skin. Stiles’ heart aches a little with it. It’s like the lack of trust still seems to be lingering between them.

Derek must feel Stiles’ discomfort when he backs away, grabbing Stiles’ wrist. “You don’t know me, Stiles.” His voice sounds hurt and his expression is sour, but painfully serious.

“I know you now,” Stiles replies with certainty, looking straight into Derek’s eyes. “I don’t care about your past, Derek. Not if you don’t want me to. Whatever happened, it made you what you are today. And I—,” his voice gets caught in his throat. Stiles tries to swallow back his feelings, but they’ve been growing at the speed of light. And with Derek here so close to him, it feels impossible to keep them locked inside. “I like you, Derek,” his heart slams wildly against his chest, “And maybe I still have a lot to know about you, but— but the more I do—”

But Derek silences him with a finger on his lips. His hand drags Stiles’ wrist down, slowly placing Stiles’ hand on Derek’s chest. The gesture feels too intimate and it implies a huge amount of trust that makes Stiles’ gasp for air. Derek doesn’t say anything when Stiles clutches his fingers where Derek’s heart is; he simply leans forward and captures Stiles’ lips in a reverent kiss.

It’s deep and desperate, like everything in their lives, like everything about them. Derek’s body rolls on top of Stiles’, hands roughly looking for skin to touch. And it’s right when Derek’s hand finally slips under Stiles’ shirt that everything stops. Derek breaks the kiss and abruptly takes his hand away. But that’s not what breaks Stiles’ heart when he opens his eyes. Derek is not looking at him; he’s purposely looking the other way.

“Wha— Did I do something wrong?”

That makes Derek turn his gaze back at him. “No. You didn’t—,” he sighs, clearly frustrated. “There’s nothing wrong with you.”

But his eyes say otherwise, even in the dim moonlight that spreads around Stiles’ room.

“There’s clearly something wrong,” Stiles mutters, his hands completely frozen on Derek’s hips.

“You’re not safe with me.” Derek looks at Stiles like he will vanish in ashes with any sudden movement. And maybe he’s not safe. Maybe he will vanish. But if there’s one thing that leaves no rooms for maybes, is that Derek will always try— He will always try to save him.

Stiles brings his hands up to cup Derek’s face, holding him as firmly as he can, as if Derek couldn’t still hear him if they were in separate rooms. “Maybe I don’t want to be safe,” Derek tries to move away, but Stiles doesn’t budge, fixing him with his gaze. “My best friend, my brother… he’s a werewolf. My closest friends are either supernatural or constantly sucked into it. This freaking town is a literal beacon to supernatural creatures,” he snorts in disbelief. “How many times have you saved me? How many times have you saved my friends?” Stiles shakes his head when Derek is about to interrupt him. “You— Everything in my life changed since Scott was bitten and I know it was my choice to follow him. And, yes, sometimes I would think what if? But I don’t anymore. I made a choice, Derek. And you can choose to walk away or just— You can, okay? I want you to know that,” Derek places a hand over Stiles’, gripping it tightly. “I— You say I’m not safe with you, but the truth is— I feel the safest when I’m with you. And there’s no supernatural voodoo shit that scares me more than being away from you,” Stiles lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “There, I said it. Just— It sounds cliché and from a movie, but— shit. It’s real and—”

“Stiles,” Derek holds his hands. Stiles might be trembling. A bit. Yeah, he’s definitely shaking all over. “Calm down,” Derek says. He stares at him for a while, waiting for Stiles to relax. Somehow it works. Stiles only notices later that Derek is rubbing small circles with his thumbs on his hands. It helps. It definitely helps.

“Sorry,” Stiles murmurs.

Derek shakes his head, “Don’t be. What you said— Everything you said means a lot to me. I didn’t mean to…”

“Scare me?” Stiles laughs nervously. Derek nods, slowly and serious.

“I want this to work,” Derek says.

“This?” Stiles has to ask.

“Us.”

“Us,” Stiles repeats just to be sure he actually heard it in the first place.

And Derek nods, leaning forward until their foreheads are touching. “Us,” he says again.

“Us,” Stiles licks his lips, tasting the words in his mouth.

“And I’m scared too,” Derek tells him, his nose brushing against Stiles’.

Stiles can’t help to grin at that, “You like me!”

Derek backs away and gives him a look, “You’re just getting that now?”

Stiles shrugs, completely harmless at Derek’s look saying he’s an idiot.

“You like me,” Stiles repeats, smiling and trying to pull Derek closer.

Derek rolls his eyes, “Don’t make me regret it.”

“Ahah!” Stiles laughs sarcastically, “You can’t take it back now!”

“Wanna bet?” Derek challenges him with a smirk. “And keep quiet,” he hisses. “Unless you want to wake up your father.”

Stiles keeps grinning, though. “I can do that,” he wraps his hands around Derek’s neck. “I want to kiss you.”

Derek snorts lazily, but he gives in easily as Stiles starts to pull him down.

It’s different, new. Another first for Stiles. Kissing is good. Kissing is actually pretty awesome especially if both parties know what they’re doing. But kissing someone that shares his feelings is much more intense; there’s want, chase, and promise. So many promises and wishes that he can’t bear them inside.

Their lips press hot against each other, both of them urgent and demanding for more. Stiles digs his fingers against Derek’s back, trying to pull his shirt off. But Derek doesn’t comply; he surges forward, claiming Stiles’ mouth eagerly. Stiles is about to protest at the use of clothes with Derek on top of him, when Derek’s fingers slip under the waistband of Stiles’ boxers.

“Oh god,” Stiles pants, breaking the kiss and gasping for air.

Derek pulls back slightly to look at him with fiery eyes. There’s some clear hesitation lingering in the heated air between them. But it only lasts one second, maybe two. Before their mouths collide again, their tongues twirl against each other, hands clasping the undesired clothes, fingers searching for skin, for more.

One of their shirts flies first, doesn’t matter who's, because the next one is on the floor almost instantly. And it’s suddenly too much and not enough.

Stiles’ skin burns when both of their chests finally touch against each other, sweats mixing and hearts pounding. Derek licks a long strip against his collarbone, biting slightly at the end. Stiles can’t help but dig his nails in Derek’s back, making him moan against his neck.

He’s not even aware that he’s thrusting against Derek, when Stiles notices the hard evidence nudging against his thigh. Stiles pushes his body against Derek’s, his breath coming out in hot puffs against Derek’s shoulder, as Derek leaves open-mouthed wet kisses all around his collarbone.

“Derek—” Stiles hisses when he feels Derek’s teeth pressing against his skin. Their bodies working an erratic rhythm that makes Stiles whimper when he feels his cock start leaking inside his boxers. Oh god, he’s going to come in his boxers.

Derek hisses when Stiles shifts, making both of their hard erections touch against each other. Even with layers of clothes between them, the thought of being pressed against Derek’s cock is too much. They should be naked. Stiles wants, he wants— so much. He can’t control the moan that escapes his lips when Derek slides his rough hands down to cup his ass.

“Shh,” Derek whispers against his ear. “We have to keep quiet,” Derek’s voice sounds as wrecked as he looks. But quiet seems impossible right now. The panting, hitching sounds around them fill the room; it’s beautiful and dangerous. And perfect. So perfect that Stiles is torn about caring or not, so he has no choice but to kiss Derek, deep and desperate.

Derek’s tongue slides inside Stiles’ mouth, just as his hands reach down to grab Stiles’ sweatpants and boxers all together and out of the way. Stiles gasps when the head of his cock brushes against Derek’s jeans. “Those need to go”, he groans against Derek’s mouth, hands fumbling with Derek’s zipper. Derek chuckles, the sound of it making Stiles’ stomach flutter.

Stiles makes a sound deep in his throat when he feels Derek’s cock finally making contact with his, bucking his hips desperately. Both of them crushing their lips together, Stiles’ fingers twisting in Derek’s hair. The greedy movement intensifies, both of them completely lost between messy and wet kisses while their cocks ache and drag against each other, needy and leaking. Stiles wraps his hands around Derek’s back, holding for dear life. His mind is blank with pleasure, drowning in the heat of Derek’s body pressed tightly against his.

“Fuck,” Derek lets out a low groan of appreciation when Stiles’s nails scratch against his back, biting Stiles’ bottom lip and rutting forward. Knowing that he is what has Derek so worked up makes Stiles whimper, and he feels himself quickly approaching the edge.

Everything is a blur when Derek brushes his fingers against Stiles’ nipples, pressing his thumb with clear intent. “Derek, I’m— I—”

“Yeah,” Derek breathes, his raspy voice tearing Stiles apart. “I want to see you,” Derek says as he rocks harder against Stiles’ cock, stealing his mouth into a sinful and hot kiss.

Stiles bites Derek’s bottom lip when he comes, his muffled whimpering sounds are swallowed by Derek as he spills between their stomachs. Derek kisses him during the bliss of his orgasm, hot tongues sliding against each other, as Derek keeps thrusting against Stiles, seeking his own orgasm and making Stiles’ head spin.

It doesn’t last. Derek drops his head forward into Stiles’ shoulder, panting loudly against his skin, hot breath burning the same spot where he previously left a bite mark.

“Come for me, Derek,” Stiles goes limp against Derek’s shuddering body, but he’s able to move his hands down and grope Derek’s ass in a tight squeeze, making him go still as he pulses against Stiles’ cock. “Oh my God,” Stiles lets out a low moan at the sensation of Derek’s come sliding down his cock.

They remain like that for a while, both taking long breaths and savoring the blissful moment. Stiles is being squished by Derek’s body weight, but it’s okay. It’s more than okay. It should always be like this. Them together like this. “Us,” he lets it slip from his lips.

Derek lifts his head, catching him in another kiss, less rushed and fervent, teasing his bitten lips with his tongue, slow and passionate.

The minutes fly, both of them ignoring the sticky mess between them for the sake of dragging their kisses and touches. Stiles smiles into Derek’s lips when he realizes that neither of them want to break apart; neither of them want the morning to come. Even in the darkness of his room, Stiles feels safe.

Safe, he tells Derek over and over again.

 

***

 

Derek hasn’t found a place he liked yet. But he doesn’t seem too worried about it, so Stiles jokes about his pickiness as much as he can. Scott tags along one time and it’s fun. It’s actually refreshing and it brings some good memories, minus the our lives are in danger let’s run part.

The nightmares still haunt him, but less frequently. Maybe it’s because Derek visits him often, especially when his dad is not home. Derek waits for Stiles to fall asleep to get inside his room and spoon him. Stiles doesn’t mind being the little spoon, not when Derek shelters him with his arms around him, warmth spreading all over his body and soothing him. Derek knows when he wakes up, kisses him on his temple and whispers for him to go back to sleep. And Stiles does. He does sleep.

 

***

 

“You look good,” his father tells him the next day at breakfast. Stiles missed these mornings. The early mornings where his father comes home from his shift bringing hot coffee and some freshly baked muffins.

“I haven’t even showered yet,” Stiles says, even though he knows what his dad means. “You on the other hand don’t look so good. Rough night?” He asks while pouring some orange juice for his father.

His father rubs his eyes, “Yeah, you could say that.”

Stiles frowns, “What happened?”

“This antique shop, a few blocks away, was robbed last night. The glass was broken, but the owner doesn’t seem to know what’s missing. We had to do a whole inventory.”

Stiles almost chokes on his muffin, “Antique shop?!”

“Yeah,” his father’s eyes perk up, “Do you know anything?”

“No,” Stiles shakes his head, “but I saw Peter Hale creeping around there a month ago.”

“Peter Hale? What would Peter want from an antique shop?”

“I don’t know, but Derek might have an idea about it.”

“Ah. Derek.” His father says, a ghost of a smile across his lips while he takes a sip of his coffee.

“Huh. How did you—”

“Son, my job is to observe and solve crimes in this town. You really didn’t think I wouldn’t notice that my son has no more dark circles around his eyes and think nothing of it? There are no coincidences. Derek Hale being back and you sleeping again are definitely two and two that I put together easily. Also...” his father points at the collar of Stiles’ neck, a visible hickey right there.

Stiles gapes at him, “O—kay. So… you’re not mad?”

His father gives him a look, “Why don’t you tell me what happened and what’s going on? I’ll be the judge of that later.”

Stiles gulps, but he does as he’s told. He starts from the beginning, telling him about how he started talking more with Derek, how he was already helping Stiles without neither of them noticing, how the nightmares became more vivid and regular, how he realized that he wasn’t in love with Lydia anymore and how Scott decided to play the cupid for him. And once he starts talking about Derek being able to pull him out of the shadows, Stiles’ voice starts to tremble, because the thought of losing Derek one day scares him even more than going back to how he was.

“You told me that he came back because Scott asked him to,” his father says.

Stiles nods, fingers skimming through his mug, the coffee already cold.

His father sighs and lets his elbows rest on the table, “Stiles, remember when you told me that Derek left Beacon Hills?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Do you remember his reasons?”

“I didn’t know his reasons. I never asked,” Stiles quickly replies.

His father shakes his head, “But you had an idea of why he and his sister left.”

“I guess so,” Stiles says.

“He must really care about you to come back after that,” his dad smiles and Stiles finally gets what he’s trying to say, but it’s not—

“It’s not like that,” Stiles pauses, “We’re not like that.”

His father scoffs, “Do you know how your mother and I met?”

The question takes him by surprise, but he nods anyway, slowly.

“The truth is we spent a whole year dancing around each other. One of her friends couldn’t stand one of mine, so every time we met, a war was declared even in plain light.”

Stiles barks out a laugh, “I didn’t know that!”

“Yeah, your mother thought you were already sneaky enough to have her as a role model.”

“Are you saying it was her fault?”

His father shrugs playfully, “I had wanted to ask her out for months before she kissed me.”

“Ew! Can you please stop giving me images of you two— Oh God, I’m imagining it right now.”

His father laughs, “Good. That way you’ll spare me the speech of never wanting to see you and Derek or whoever else—”

“Please, stop right there!” Stiles groans, “You don’t need to finish that sentence.”

“I’m glad we’re clear.”

Stiles gets up from his chair and rounds the table to hug his father, “Thanks, dad.”

“You’re welcome, kiddo.”

They clean up the table together and when Stiles checks that he’s already late for school, he runs upstairs to get ready.

He’s leaving the house when his father calls him from the porch, “Stiles?”

Stiles turns to look at him, “Yeah?”

“When you do figure out what’s going on between you and Derek, be sure to invite him over.”

“Y—Yeah, okay. I will.”

The idea makes him awkwardly drop his keys to the floor before getting inside the Jeep.

 

***

 

“I heard Derek is back,” Ethan tells him in the locker room after practice.

“Sorry you weren’t invited to the welcoming party,” Stiles grits.

Ethan rolls his eyes, “We don’t want any trouble.”

“Who’s we?”

“Me and my brother.”

“Sure. It’s not like you two haven’t done enough already,” Stiles glares at him.

“What’s going on?” Scott asks as he leaves the showers.

“You’re going to have to drop that, eventually,” Ethan says.

“Like hell I will!” Stiles doesn’t mean to take a step forward, but he does. Scott is there to hold him back though.

Ethan turns to Scott this time, “Just tell Derek we don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”

Stiles scoffs.

“I will,” Scott says.

Scott only lets Stiles go when Ethan leaves.

“You need to stop doing that,” Scott tells him as Stiles is packing up his stuff aggressively, like his backpack did something horrible to him.

“Doing what?!” He spits the words when the turns to look at Scott.

Scott sighs, “That. You can’t challenge a werewolf like that, Stiles! It will get you killed.”

“I don’t care. I just want them to get out of my sight.”

“I care. And I’m sure Derek would mind that too.”

Stiles narrows his eyes at Scott, “Don’t use that against me.”

Scott goes to his locker to get his clothes, “I’m just saying, it’s not just you who you’re putting in danger.”

“Well, it’s nice to know you’ve got my back,” Stiles says, a bit more bitter than he intended to.

“Of course I have! I always did.”

“Thanks,” he mumbles. “I’ll be more careful next time.”

Scott smiles, “Do you want to stop by tonight? My mom is going to make casserole.”

“Can’t. I’m meeting Derek now.”

“Ditching me already?” Scott teases him.

Stiles grins, “What’s the special occasion, anyway? Your mom takes her casserole very seriously.”

Scott sighs as he sits, fumbling with his socks, “My dad is coming for dinner tonight.”

“I’m lost. Why the casserole then? Is she— you know.”

“No!” Scott shakes his head, “No, it’s not like that. I guess she wants to show him how we’re doing fine without him,” he shrugs. “Hey, maybe you could bring Derek?”

Stiles hums, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, considering his background with the police.”

“You’re right,” Scott says.

“Is Isaac going to be there?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s going to be fine,” Stiles pats his friend’s shoulder. “Besides, it’s better to just get it done with, right?”

Scott scoffs, “Let’s hope so.”

“Do you want a ride home?”

“Aren’t you going to meet up with Derek?”

“I can text him saying I’ll be late.”

Scott’s face beams, “Look at you being all considerate.”

“Shut up or you’ll be driving that thing you call bike.”

“It is a bike.”

“A sample of it, sure,” Stiles says, “Come on, I want to get lucky today, not next century.”

“Please, spare me the details,” Scott stands up right after finishing dressing his shoes.

Stiles puts his arm under Scott and whispers right in his ear, “But he’s so good.”

Scott groans and shoves him off to the side. Stiles can’t stop laughing.

 

***

 

“This is amazing,” Derek says as he keeps scrolling down the bestiary Stiles spent the last few months doing. “I can’t believe you did this.”

Stiles shrugs. He’s sitting in the middle of his bed, legs crossed as he fumbles with his lacrosse stick. They have a game tomorrow, but Stiles will probably stay on the bench considering how Coach has been so thoughtful with him. He suspects Scott had something to do with that. But he likes to be ready anyway, just in case.

“Can I have a copy?” Derek asks, not really looking at him.

Stiles snorts, “Of course you can. I told you I did this for all of us.”

Derek turns his gaze back at him, “All those nights— You couldn’t sleep, so you did this.”

It’s not really a question, or an accusation, but— there’s something in Derek’s eyes that makes Stiles stop tangling one of the ropes with his teeth.

“I wish I had known sooner,” Derek says.

Stiles scoffs. He doesn’t really know what to say to that. He could say it was his decision to not talk to anyone, but even if he did say that, it was also never Derek’s obligation to do anything. Yet, here he is. After months of being away, probably wishing he would have never come back— Stiles doesn’t know what to say, because a simple thank you doesn’t feel like enough.

He keeps his gaze down as Derek stands up and crowds towards him. Maybe Stiles could tell him how much his presence fills this room— his heart; how much he wishes that Derek would stay beside him at all times. But it wouldn’t be fair for either of them. It still wouldn’t be enough, would it?

Derek stands there in front of him, their eyes locked as Derek grabs the lacrosse stick and puts it away. He kneels in front of Stiles, taking both of his hands into his, thumbs brushing Stiles’ skin in cozy weird patterns.

“I never asked you this before, because I didn’t want to push you further away,” Derek starts, eyes searching for Stiles’. “I want you to tell me everything. I want to know if something is wrong. I want to—”

“You don’t have to,” Stiles stops him.

Derek shakes his head, “I want to help you, Stiles. I need you to trust me with that.”

“I trust you.”

The words come out just like that. Simple, carefree; like goodnight or hello. It surprises Stiles and at the same time it doesn’t. But Derek looks at him like Stiles just knocked him down to the floor.

“You thought I didn’t,” Stiles states.

Derek sighs, “I guess.”

Stiles huffs in disbelief, “Well, do you trust me?”

“Of course I do. That’s not— I want you to tell me if there's anything wrong, anything at all,” Derek squeezes Stiles hands, his eyes remain fixed on Stiles. “I want you to talk to me. Don’t keep things for yourself. No more bestiaries.”

Stiles nods slowly. It seems like such a simple request. And maybe it is. Maybe he can talk to someone like Derek, someone he can share his burden with, but—

“I have one condition, though.”

Derek frowns, “What is it?”

You have to do the same with me,” Stiles leans forward, his forehead pressing against Derek’s. “If you trust me, you will talk to me too.”

Derek brings a hand to Stiles’ face, thumb stroking his jaw, gaze skimming every inch of Stiles’ face. “I trust you.”

Stiles lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, “I’m going to hold you to that, lonewolf.”

Derek smiles; that reserved and honest smile that Stiles likes to believe is for him and for him only. His chest tightens at the thought. Derek doesn’t say anything; his hand slides to the back of Stiles’ head pulling him down for a kiss.

Just like his smile, the kiss speaks volumes. The slow motion of Derek’s tongue against his bottom lip, with no rush to slip inside and just take, assuring Stiles that he’s not going anywhere. The way Derek’s hand travels to Stiles’ hip, rough fingers touching his skin, whispering that he will be there to hold him if he stumbles. The teasing bites and sucking that ask him to share his secrets, to hold his promises. Everything becomes a blur when Derek kisses him like that. It’s always too much and never enough.

Stiles leans forward, uncrossing his legs and placing them around Derek’s waist. Derek’s hands tighten on his hips, pulling him even closer. Even on the floor, Derek seems to overpower him. It’s not about strength, because Stiles is the one cupping Derek’s jaw and deepening the kiss with despair and lust; it’s how he gets under his skin like no one else. It’s not about his hands sliding under Stiles’ shirt, setting his skin on flames; it’s how Derek climbs his walls and never seems to leave. It’s not about how his heart thunders against his chest with every little touch and wet kiss that makes him shiver on the inside; it’s how scary it is to give himself to Derek so easily.

Derek moans against Stiles’ persistent kiss. Their tongues circling around each other, filling the room with obscene sounds. Stiles is breathless, gasping for air, clutching Derek’s body with his legs, pleading for more. Derek gives. He gives and takes just as much, sucking on his neck when Stiles drops his forehead on Derek’s shoulder, panting shamelessly when Derek bites.

Derek. I need—” he groans, “I need—”

“What do you need, Stiles?” Derek teases his earlobe, teeth tracing the sensitive skin, along with his hot tongue; licking and sucking. Stiles’ entire body trembles.

“I don’t— I don’t know. I just— Oh fuck.” He groans, when Derek’s hand slides under his pants to cup his ass, blunt nails digging on his skin.

“Stiles,” Derek hisses when Stiles bites his neck and sucks. Two can play that game.

But Derek doesn’t play fair. He never does. His hands move to Stiles’ zipper, making Stiles gasp and flail a little. A lot. His pants are sliding down with no struggle whatsoever. Meanwhile, Stiles struggles to figure out how to breathe and how his arms are even supposed to work. Derek Hale is standing in front of him, on his knees, hands touching Stiles with fierce intent of tearing him apart. Stiles’ stomach flips at the thought, because he would— he would let him; he would let Derek wreck him, bit by bit.

And it’s probably how this is going to end, as Derek pulls Stiles’ boxers out of the way, fingers stroking the sides of his thighs all the way down to his ankles. Stiles stares down at Derek, positioned between his legs with Stiles’ hard cock leaking between them. His heart skips a beat, or several, when Derek’s eyes turn to him, pupils blown. Their eyes remain locked as Derek leans forward, fingers skimming underneath his knees, slowly making their way up to his thighs.

Stiles is fully aware that he’s not breathing during the agonizing seconds that Derek’s fingers take to reach his cock. He dies a little when they finally do, biting his lip hard enough so he doesn’t come right there in that instant.

Derek smirks, of fucking course he does. His hand curls around the base of Stiles’ cock, squeezing and jerking at a glacial pace. Stiles is about to lose his dignity and beg, when Derek leans forward and his lips close around the head.

“Oh— God—,” Stiles drops his head back with a moan, eyes fluttering shut, the ceiling just a blur and completely spinning over him. Derek’s lips—  Derek‘s tongue twirls and moves up and down his cock, teasing over the slit and—  damn that feels amazing and painfully good. Stiles fists the bed sheets, not really trusting his shuddering body to stay still as Derek takes more of him into his mouth—  wet, warm and sucking him down.

“D-Derek,” Stiles breathes, “I’m not going to—” but Derek swallows him deeper, his wide hands holding Stiles’ hips so hard that he’s sure he will have bruises tomorrow or forever. There’s a fire flickering at the pit of his stomach, ready to burst him into flames. His hand moves at its own accord to Derek’s hair, who grunts in response, taking him deeper, wrecking him. Derek doesn’t know what he’s doing to him. But he does. He has to.

Derek moves steadily against him, taking him down and then pulling back. And down again. Stiles can’t help himself but look down at the view of Derek’s mouth taking his cock. He’s not expecting to meet Derek’s gaze, dark eyes looking straight at him, intensely. Stiles tries to swallow, but he can’t. His mouth feels impossibly dry right now, no matter how many times he licks his lips. It feels like he’s Derek’s prey. And fuck— Derek’s flushed cheeks swallowing him down will be the death of him.

Stiles bucks his hips slightly, like a jolt of electricity just passed through his body. Derek doesn’t object, he meets his thrusts eagerly, his nails digging Stiles’ feverish skin.

“Fuck,” Stiles whines. Derek moans when Stiles grips his hair. He can feel him breathing through his nose, hot and shaky puffs, hollowing his cheeks, tongue twirling around him, swallowing— and Stiles can’t stop thrusting. ”Fuck, f—fuck” He bends over Derek, both hands desperately reaching for his head and his whole body spasms as he comes. Derek keeps sucking him during this orgasm, swallowing him whole; every core of him.

Stiles falls back on the bed and Derek lets him go.

He might me dead. He feels dead.

“You killed me,” Stiles says or tries. His voice doesn’t seem to be working and fails him as he opens his mouth. His heart is still thundering inside his ears, but he can hear Derek smirk. And even though his body is feeling like jelly right now, he can still feel Derek crawling on top of him. “Pants,” he grunts. Because Derek is still wearing those and Stiles is banishing clothes for the next hours, centuries, whatever.

The important thing is that Derek obeys. He unbuckles his belt and lets his jeans slide down together with his boxers, kicking them out of the way as he crowds over Stiles, sucking gently on his hip, making Stiles squirm. But Derek doesn’t seem satisfied yet; sliding his hands over Stiles’ sides, bringing his shirt with him, taking it off and leaving him naked, making him feel too exposed and helpless. That still doesn’t make Stiles want to move, not even when Derek’s mouth moves up his torso, kissing and licking the sweaty skin. But when Derek’s hard erection touches his leg, Stiles jolts in embarrassment.

“I— Give me a few more minutes and I’ll take care of—”

Derek shuts him up with a hungry kiss, mouth hot and slick against his. Stiles moans when he realizes that he’s tasting himself on Derek’s tongue; savoring the taste of them mixed together. The smell is so intense and intoxicating that his stomach flips with burning pleasure. He breaks the kiss, breathless and pliant in Derek’s arms.

“You look beautiful like this,” Derek whispers as he nuzzles at his face, scenting him, marking his skin with his stubble. His body shifts above Stiles, eyes penetrating his soul as Derek thrusts against him. Fucking himself against Stiles’ thighs.

Stiles presses his face against Derek’s neck and breathes him in. Derek pants against his shoulder; hot, shaky exhales rasping against his skin as his rhythm becomes more erratic.

“Fuck,” Derek curses under his breath, voice rough and heated. Stiles hand grips against Derek’s muscles, feeling them flex and shudder with every movement; his other hand cupping the back of Derek’s head, pulling him closer. The sounds that leave Derek’s mouth making Stiles go insane all over again. This is it. This is Derek giving him bits of himself, his body sweating against Stiles’, uncoordinated and at his disposal. With the bit of strength he still has, Stiles tries to meet his thrusts, making him groan in response. Stiles moves his hand down, wraps it around Derek’s cock and lets him fuck his hand as he pleases. And it’s enough.

Derek comes between them, hot spurts falling over Stiles’ stomach and his cock. It shouldn’t be this hot to feel Derek’s come over his skin, painting him.

The world stops during this blissful moment; their chests rising and falling rapidly, racing hearts slamming against each other. It’s overwhelming to be connected like this, to feel like you’re drowning into someone without the urge of coming back to the surface, ever. Derek’s hand flies against his back, embracing him tightly; his other hand cupping Stiles’ jaw and kissing him. He feels cherished, loved— his chest tightens and Stiles doesn’t know why, but it hurts. It’s like part of him doesn’t want to give in completely. He’s scared, the deeper he goes, the harder it will be if— His heart aches and there’s no bit of self control left in him as he deepens the kiss.

Derek pulls away, “Something wrong?” His voice is so raw and raspy, but there’s a hint of worry and uncertainty. It amazes Stiles how Derek can be so honest and vulnerable by just spilling two words, wondering if that honesty has always been there, unnoticed.

Stiles opens his eyes, immediately wanting to close them again. The sight of Derek’s flushed cheeks and wrecked hair is too much for him. Derek’s hands pet his sweaty hair, dark eyes flickering above him, waiting. And Stiles wants to give in; to trust this man and allow himself to have this happiness even if temporary. Derek makes everything more intense, everything that Stiles never allowed himself to feel with anyone. Things like forever and always get stuck inside his mind, blurring it from reality. This is no fairytale; there are no heroes and the monsters never leave. Part of him wants to believe in fairytales, in heroes and forevers; the part that has been sucked in the moment Derek came back. The other remains at the edge of the cliff, just waiting for him to be gone again.

“Stiles,” Derek calls him, like an anchor. “Talk to me.”

But he doesn’t want to voice his thoughts. Whatever this darkness is doing to him, he plans to fight it with everything he can. Hopefully with Derek by his side.

“My mind drifts to weird places sometimes,” Stiles offers, making Derek frown. “But it helps when you’re here,” he reaches for Derek’s hand, intertwining their fingers.

Derek gives him a look, unconvinced. Fuck, not even Stiles is convinced by his own words. But Derek does it for him, squeezing his hand and leaning forward for a soft and sweet kiss, persuading him to let go and let the light enter his heart again.

“We should clean up,” Derek says when he breaks the kiss. Stiles wants to protest and stay like that forever, but the sticky mess between them forces him to agree. When Derek moves away from the bed, Stiles’ whole body shivers, cold and longing for Derek’s warmth already. Stiles doesn’t dare to move; eyes watching Derek’s half naked body disappear from his bedroom, coming back minutes later with a washcloth for him. He cleans him nice and slow, not really letting his eyes off Stiles’ body.

They remain silent afterwards, both underneath Stiles’ sheets. There’s time to stay like this. Stiles’ father won’t be coming soon, their phones stay silent somewhere inside their discarded jeans and in that moment there’s nothing like the comfort of their bodies tangled together, their fingers tracing patterns on each other’s skin. Stiles feels the tension draining out of his body, letting his mind focus on the feel of the body next to his, familiar, warm.

He’s not alone. And neither is Derek.

 

***

 

“Antique shop?” Derek frowns.

They’re still lying in his bed, Stiles is playing with Derek’s rough fingers in his hand, memorizing every inch, checking his blunt nails in awe, thinking about how claws should scare the crap out of him, yet they don’t.

“Yeah. My dad said it’s mostly junk. Old furniture, old plates, some weird boxes...” Stiles adjusts himself slightly under the covers to turn and look at Derek, “But it’s Peter.”

Derek nods, “I know. Have any of the others seen him around town?”

“Not that I know of. I’ll ask them tomorrow.”

“And I’ll see if I can find him.”

“Be careful, please,” Stiles warns him. “You know he’s up to no good, right?”

Derek leans down to give him a chaste kiss, “You should sleep.”

“You’re no fun,” Stiles snuggles closer to Derek.

Derek scoffs.

“Are you going to look for him tomorrow?”

“Stiles.”

“Fine,” Stiles buries his face against Derek’s chest. “Are you going to stay?”

“Not tonight. Your father will be home soon and it’s a full moon.”

Stiles looks up at him, grinning, “Are you going to wolf out on me?”

“Don’t be silly,” Derek knocks him slightly at the back of his head. “Peter is out there, Deucalion might be too. This is the first full moon since I’m back. I want to take a look around.”

“Shouldn’t Scott do that too?”

“Scott, like you, has school tomorrow early.”

Stiles huffs before closing his eyes and curling his body against Derek’s.

After a while, right before dozing off completely, Stiles whispers, “Just be careful.”

 

***

 

“What’s up with you and Allison?”

“What’s up with you and Derek?” Scott deadpans.

Stiles rolls his eyes, “You know that’s different.”

“Is it?” Scott knocks Stiles’ character to the floor.

“Dammit—,” Stiles curses and bites his bottom lip, “Yes, it’s totally, completely different. You and Allison are the Romeo and Juliet of this town, the star crossed lovers destined to be— Aha! Take that, sucker!”

Scott sighs, “It’s not like that. Besides, you and Derek are not too far from that either.”

“Nah, buddy. We pull off more of a Darcy and Elizabeth kind of thing,” Stiles says as he punches Scott’s char.

“Who?” Scott asks as he clicks the remote buttons non stop.

“Pride and Prejudice,” Scott gapes at him, “What? Lydia told me that. Don’t judge me.”

Scott turns back to the game laughing, “What’s up with them?”

“Well, they don’t like each other at first, in fact, they hate each other’s guts.”

“Sounds vaguely familiar,” Scott muses and kicks Stiles’ ass in the game again. His character groans on the floor with only 25% of his life left.

“Shut up! You’re distracting me!”

“This is how I know how deeply in love you are,” Scott smirks.

Stiles kicks his knee. “I’m not in love,” he mutters.

“Buddy, you so are,” Scott says as he gives him the final blow. “I win!”

Stiles curses, “I’m gonna kick your ass next.”

“You can try,” Scott sing songs.

Stiles can’t help his bad mood when he loses a second time.

“Where is Isaac anyway?”

“Allison has an Algebra quiz next week and Isaac is failing that class, so they’re studying at Lydia’s now.”

Stiles grins, “Look at you not needing to go to a study group.”

Scott chuckles, “I still have to study. And you too.”

Stiles rolls his eyes as he gets ready to kick Scott’s ass.

As the game shouts GO!, Scott asks, “And where is Derek tonight?”

Stiles sighs, “He’s trying to find Peter.”

“And you’re worried.”

“Of course I am. He’s been away since yesterday... It’s Peter. And it’s Derek. Two reasons right there to be extremely worried,” Stiles points out.

Scott promptly pauses the game, “I’m sure it’s nothing. Derek would have asked us to go with him if it was dangerous.”

“No, no he wouldn’t,” Stiles laughs sarcastically. “I wanted to go with him, but he didn’t let me. He said Peter was his business.” Stiles lets out a frustrated sigh. “So, no. He wouldn’t ask for help.”

Scott takes the remote from Stiles and stands up, “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?”

You are going home. I’m going to find Derek.”

“I’m going too.”

“No, you’re not.” Scott puts a hand on his chest to stop him, “Derek would kill me.”

Stiles huffs, “He wouldn't kill you. He would punch you, there’s a difference.” Scott gives him a look, “And you’re an alpha. You can take it.”

“Come on. I’m gonna call Isaac and you are going home. I’ll keep you updated.”

Stiles groans, but as he’s about to protest, his phone rings. He fumbles awkwardly to take it out of his jeans, but he eventually manages. He stares at it with wide eyes.

“Derek?”

Hey,” Derek says. He sounds tired.

Scott sighs in relief in front of him.

“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been trying to call you for hours!”

I ran into two omegas, my phone must have dropped when—”

“What?!”

“Is he okay?” Scott asks, voice alarmed.

Derek sighs, “I’m fine. I took care of them.”

“Are you hurt? Do you need—”

Stiles, I said I’m fine.

“Okay,” Stiles scratches the back of his head. “Okay, we’ll meet you at—”

No,” Derek cuts in. “There’s no need. Go home, get some rest. I’ll be fine.

Stiles bites his lip, “But, we should at least check with Deaton—”

Stiles.” Derek sighs. “I’m just tired. I need some time to heal.”

“But…” Scott places a hand on his shoulder, giving Stiles a knowing smile, encouraging him to do as Derek asks.

“Okay—Okay, fine... I’ll see you tomorrow?” Stiles asks, unsure. He really wishes to see if Derek is okay.

Yeah. Tomorrow,” Derek replies.

“Okay,” Stiles tries to swallow down the lump in his throat.

Stiles?

He perks up at Derek’s voice. “Yeah?”

There’s really no need to worry.

Stiles nods, even though Derek can’t see him, “I believe you.”

After hanging up, Scott convinces him to play one more game, which Stiles obviously loses again. Isaac tags along when he arrives, but Stiles decides to just sit and watch. His mind not really there at the moment. Scott side eyes him from time to time. And he actually offers to go and check up on Derek. It’s tempting, but— Stiles doesn’t want to step into Derek’s space like that. If he says he’s fine, Stiles will have to believe him. Even if part of him is not really willing to stay quiet and wait for tomorrow.

It’s a battle all the way back home. His father’s cruiser is not parked outside, so Stiles decides it’s best to just go straight to bed.

He grips his cell phone tightly to his chest. Maybe he could call Derek, and just talk like they used to. It wouldn’t be the same, but at least he would be able to hear his voice, to assure him that Derek is fine.

Stiles scrolls past the pictures that Derek sent him while he was away in San Francisco. A hint of a smile as he remembers each and every one of their calls. Reading through their messages, Stiles wonders when his feelings for Derek started growing to something more. Maybe Scott is right; maybe Stiles is in love with Derek.

There’s no point in denying that during the last month everything makes him think about Derek. Each and every single moment they spend together, Stiles’ uneasiness stops being a constant in his life. Each kiss and every touch, making him crave for more. He surrenders to Derek’s embraces; the way his warm body pulls him closer; the way he smiles at Stiles without even noticing; the way he nuzzles at Stiles’ skin, awakening his feelings and making his heart race.

Yeah. He’s in love with Derek Hale.

 

***

 

 

The woods swallow him whole as he runs further into the forest. Stiles pants as he goes to nowhere in particular. There's nothing around him besides the creepy shapes of the trees, the rustling sounds of the wind blowing around him and the dim light of the moon above in the dark sky.

He comes to an abrupt stop when he reaches a clear field in the middle of the forest. There lies the Nemeton, the tree that seems to be dead but isn't. Stiles knows that its roots are still full of life, feeding itself with their darkness and haunted dreams. Still, he steps forward. There's nothing brave about crowding towards the tree that makes him lose his mind, that sucks him into an abyss far away from everything he holds dear.

Slowly, but with steady steps, he reaches the tree. The clearing is silent as a ghost, and the wind is suddenly gone. The tree is not dead, Stiles remembers.

"You came back," a voice echoes from behind him. Stiles turns around quickly, his eyes widen in surprise as he sees Jennifer walking towards him, blood all over her clothes and dripping down her throat. "I knew you would come back."

"What are you talking about?" Stiles asks. It's not what he wants to know. He should ask why is she alive, what is she doing here, but he has learned the hard way that sometimes the questions you want to ask the most are often the wrong ones. You need answers that lead you to the next step, not to whatever happened in the past.

Jennifer smiles, "You came for him."

Stiles heart stutters in his chest. A fear crushes his spine, "Who are you talking about?" But he might know the answer already. There's not many people he would come back for.

"I can give him back to you, but you need to do something for me," her face straightens.

Stiles shakes his head. He's dreaming. This is a dream. You can come back if you want. Don't listen to her. But what if— What if the Nemeton is trying to tell him something? Stiles steps closer to her, "I'm not doing anything for you."

Jennifer shrugs, "Then you'll never see him again. Is that what you want?"

He clenches his hands in anger, until his knuckles turn white. "No, that's not what I want," Stiles replies. Because that much is true.

"Kill him," she simply orders him, eyes fixed above his shoulder.

Stiles turns around, there's a body bending over the Nemeton. It wasn't there before. Whoever it is, it’s still alive. Grunts and groans come out of its mouth as it struggles to turn around. Stiles takes a quick step back when he sees Peter staring back at him.

"What—"

But Peter's eyes promptly avert to Jennifer, deadly and raging, "I'm going to kill you."

His voice is raspy and furious, a growl of a monster thirsty for blood. Suddenly, red claws flash through Stiles’ eyes, ready to kill.

"Kill him," Jennifer orders him again, desperately. Stiles freezes, without knowing what to do. As much as he wished to kill Peter before, he's not— He's not a monster. He's not like them. And how is she expecting him to kill a werewolf?

"If you want to see him again, kill him," it's a threat and it doesn't sound like an empty one. Stiles shifts on his feet, freezing as soon as his eyes land on Peter.

Peter roars as he stands up. Something is not right. His eyes are bright red and it's not the first time that Stiles sees him in his dreams as an alpha. If Peter is an alpha then Scott—

"What did you do?" Stiles spits the words at Peter, his mind ignoring the threat of his bloody claws and pointy teeth. But Peter doesn't reply. He sprints forward and rolls over Jennifer.

Stiles turns his gaze away, trying to avoid the way they tear each other apart, blood spilling out from god knows who. His eyes catch a shadow among the trees and his heart jumps at the sight. He runs as fast as he can, away from Jennifer's screams and Peter's growls. But the shadow is running towards him too. Confusion makes Stiles stop in his tracks as he watches Derek dash past by him, shifting as he goes. He didn't see him, he wouldn't just— He wouldn’t.

Derek leaps at Peter, aiming for his throat. Stiles wants to look the other way, but he can't. His eyes are fixed on how Derek slashes Peter's throat; how Peter screams when Derek’s claws rip his skin with no regrets at all, painting everything around them in dark red.

Peter falls flat on the ground, blood spreading all around him. His eyes are still open, but there's no life reflected inside them. Derek pants loudly, staring back at Peter's body. Stiles doesn't even know if he's dreaming anymore. It's too real, too scary and— No, he has to be dreaming. Derek wouldn't just kill Peter, he wouldn't—

"You did good," Jennifer says from behind Derek, the corners of her mouth quirking into a triumphant smile. The sight of it making Stiles flinch in fear of what the hell is happening.

Derek turns around, as if he's being pulled back to her side.

"Derek?" Stiles whispers, his voice so small like a tiny mouse.

Look at me! Why don't you look at me? Derek doesn't.

Stiles wants to scream, but his lips are sealed. Pain strikes through his heart as Derek walks towards Jennifer, pliant like a doll. Jennifer lifts her arms, just waiting for him to reach her. Stiles’ whole body shudders, panic rushing in his veins.

"Derek, what are you doing?" Stiles asks again, taking one step forward.

Jennifer locks eyes with Stiles, smiling as she leans forward against Derek, tipping her head to the side and staring at Stiles intensively, cold and predatory.

Stiles darts towards them, but it's too late.

The loud scream that leaves Derek makes his heart stop.

Jennifer gashes her hand through Derek's chest, making him cry in pain. Stiles stares in horror as Derek falls into her arms, gasping for air and coughing blood. Jennifer’s eyebrows furrow as she digs deeper into his chest, a sharp smile never leaving her face.

Stiles tries to move, to run towards them and stop this madness, but his legs don’t move, something glues him to the ground, unable to do anything at all besides watching life slowly vanish from Derek. It's fucking torture to see Jennifer wrapping her arm around Derek's back as she twists her hand inside his chest. Stiles can practically feel it. He can feel her twisting Derek’s heart, squeezing it just as if it was his own. And it kind of feels like it is. She's killing him too. Killing them.

Jennifer's eyes are bright when her gaze falls on Stiles again. Derek's body is thrown away to the side like garbage, and Stiles' eyes can only follow it, wide in horror.

"You wanted him, right? But it was never enough," Jennifer says as she starts walking. Each step she takes towards Stiles leaves a trail of blood behind her. Red dark blood.

"I can give him to you," she smiles at him, knowing eyes staring back at him as she gets closer. Stiles doesn't move, his body is frozen. His heart stopped at the sight of Derek's lifeless body on the ground, bleeding out. Jennifer raises her hand and Stiles wants to vomit his insides when he sees Derek's heart beating against her hand.

"No," his voice caught in his throat. It's barely a whisper. A sound that no one can hear. No one at all.

"It's his heart, Stiles. Everything you wanted," she glances over the red bleeding heart, admiring the way it beats loudly in her hand, so alive and so wrong. Stiles bends over and throws up. There's blood coming out of his mouth, but he doesn't care. He's dead already.

Jennifer stands in front of him. Stiles looks up in time to see her bloody smile haunting over him. From this close, he can hear Derek's heart beating, but he can't hear his own. Every cell of his brain wanting to scream.

"Take it," Jennifer extends her hand, giving him Derek’s heart, like a present, a gift from the gods. And it is. It was. Fuck—

"Not like this," he rasps, but it's an empty plea. His eyes burn, tears threatening to fall. She laughs, a sound so sick and awful that twists his stomach in the worst way.

"Are you telling me you don't want his heart? But I thought you loved him!"

Stiles falls on his knees as she keeps mocking him. There's a puddle of blood forming around them. Derek's heart bleeds. And Stiles wishes he was bleeding too.

"Leave me alone," he places both of his hands on his ears, trying to shut himself down from this dream. He needs Derek. He needs Derek to be okay. "Please."

Jennifer laughs, fingers petting his hair as she crawls over him. Derek's heart keeps beating louder and louder. A sound he never thought could feel so agonizing as this.

"Please!" Stiles screams and squeezes his eyes shut.

The beating of Derek’s heart fades together with Jennifer’s laughs as Stiles wakes up panting and sweating all over. His room is pitch black and there’s no one there besides him.

Stiles clutches his shirt, trying to keep his own heart from hurting inside his chest.

It’s not enough.

 

***

 

 

Stiles is completely out of breath when he arrives at Derek’s loft. His heart slams painfully against his chest at the sight of Derek.

“Stiles, what are—”

He doesn’t wait for Derek to finish. Stiles runs for him, hands desperately clutching Derek’s shirt. Derek tries to stop him, to grab his arms and just— He can’t—

“Stiles! What’s wrong?”

But he keeps squirming against his chest. He needs to see—

“Stiles! For fuck’s sake—”

Derek holds his wrists up in the air and Stiles just lets his head fall onto Derek’s chest. As soon as he hears the beating of Derek’s heart, Stiles just gives in and starts crying his own heart out.

He doesn’t even notice the moment Derek lets go of his wrists. He’s immediately pulled in for a hug, arms tight around him. Derek whispers something against his temple, but the words are muffled by his cries.

It takes him a long time to stop crying. Derek holds him firmly against his chest, fingers petting his hair as Stiles sobs on his shoulder, trying to breathe him in. The weight in Stiles’ heart eases up a bit as the minutes pass, a culmination of feelings that bursted all at the same time. How many times has he seen Derek die? How many times has Derek almost actually died? It’s a constant crushing fear every time he imagines Derek vanishing before his eyes. He’s sick and tired of being terrified that Derek won’t come back one day.

Stiles clenches his fingers on Derek’s shirt, trying to pull him closer.

“It’s okay,” Derek says; the first words that Stiles is finally able to understand.

“Please—” Stiles whispers against Derek’s shoulder, his voice completely wrecked.

Derek tilts his head to the side, but Stiles doesn’t want Derek to see him like this.

“Tell me. You can tell me,” Derek asks him, voice soft and calm. His hand keeps rubbing behind his back in soothing circles, the other one cupping his head. Stiles feels so safe that his heart swells in his chest.

“Please, don’t leave.”

“Stiles, I’m not going anywhere,” Derek replies, but he doesn’t—

“Don’t die. You can’t—”

“Hey,” Derek places both of his hands on Stiles’ shoulders, pulling him back. Stiles fights it, he doesn’t want Derek to see— “Stiles, look at me.”

Stiles closes his eyes and breathes out, but no matter what, he can’t seem to swallow the lump in his throat or ease the ache in his chest. He looks up to find Derek’s beautiful hazel eyes staring back at him like he would give everything to mend his heart. Stiles would let him.

“What happened?” Derek asks.

There are tears welling in Stiles’ eyes as he recalls the dream. He can’t tell Derek. It wasn’t real, it never is. But it doesn’t hurt less because of it. The throbbing of his heart doesn’t go away when he sees Derek in front of him as he thinks about the day he might lose him for good.

“Kiss me,” Stiles begs, his voice rough and just as desperate.

“Stiles, you’re—”

“Please, Derek,” he grabs Derek’s arms, fingers pressing hard on his shirt, “Please. I really need you to kiss me right now.”

Stiles never felt this weak and pathetic in his life. But Derek doesn’t mock him, doesn’t pull him away or tells him to leave. He nods, slowly and unsure, tilting his head to the side and cupping Stiles’ jaw. Stiles closes his eyes, promptly ignoring the tear that falls down his cheek and Derek cleans with his thumb.

The kiss is smooth and warm, like everything about Derek. Everything about this person fills the empty spaces in his mind, in his heart. Like everything is a broken puzzle and Derek is the piece that is able to fix it. He threads his fingers through Stiles’ hair, just holding him there, tight in his arms, accepting everything about Stiles, even the broken bits.

Stiles opens his mouth, allowing Derek access, to his soul, to his heart. It makes sense to finally surrender; to allow himself to just accept that he’s deeply in love with Derek. The kiss is nothing like the others and every touch of lips and tongue is far more intense than before. Stiles climbs Derek’s arms until his hands are pulling him closer by his neck. Derek lets him. Unashamed, Stiles forces into Derek’s mouth, desperate and passionate. Derek’s hands are everywhere and it’s still not enough. Their tongues twitching and meeting hungrily half way.

“Thank you,” Stiles gasps while their mouths are still pressed together. Derek replies with a groan, keeping his hand on Stiles’ jaw and deepening the kiss. It’s everything that Stiles needs; to feel Derek alive, breathing into his mouth, tasting his lips and kissing the corner of his mouth.

Derek breaks the kiss reluctantly, hugging Stiles like he’s about to leave, “I’m not going anywhere,” he whispers into Stiles’ neck, breathing him in. And Stiles has lost count at how many times Derek has assured him of this. He believes him. He believes him every time, but the promise feels fragile and breakable as soon as he stops feeling the warmth of Derek’s body against his. Stiles’ mind is spinning as he holds on tight to Derek.

“Are you feeling better?” Derek asks.

Yes. No. Stiles doesn’t know the answer, but he nods anyway.

Derek backs away and grabs his hand, eyes never leaving Stiles’. He pulls him further into the loft, moving their way to the couch and asking Stiles to sit down.

“I’ll be right back,” Derek tells him, but Stiles clasps the sleeve of his shirt, a simple request at the tip of his tongue, a plea that he doesn’t voice out. Derek leans down dropping a kiss on Stiles’ forehead, backing away slightly and looking straight into his eyes, “I’ll be right back,” he says again.

Stiles watches him go with unease, bringing his knees to his chest and sinking on the couch. He can still hear Derek somewhere in the loft. It’s still night outside and Stiles notices for the first time that the only light in the loft is by Derek’s bed. The sheets are barely a mess and there’s an open book in the middle of the bed. Derek’s bags remain on the floor, as if he had barely touched them.

But Stiles doesn’t have much time to ponder thoughts that will make him scared again. Derek comes back holding two mugs, hot steam vanishing on the top. He hands one for Stiles with a reserved and honest smile. Stiles takes it and looks curiously at the inside. It smells amazing, so earthy and intense, just like Derek.

“Chamomile,” Derek simply says.

Stiles eyes widen in surprise, “The— I thought—”

Derek shakes his head, “It’s not the same plant. Maybe next year we’ll get a taste of it,” he finishes with a smile. Stiles’ chest swells at the word we.

Stiles smiles as he takes the first sip of his tea. It’s not too sweet and there’s a bit of lemon peel at the bottom, making it taste even better. The hot drink warms his insides, making him relax. Never, in a milion years, Stiles thought he would ever sit with Derek drinking tea, together in the middle of the night.

“You had a nightmare,” Derek says, “I always thought tea would help you.”

“It does. Thank you.”

Derek reaches for Stiles hand, tangling their fingers. They finish their tea in silence, hands squeezing slightly from time to time.

“I remember when you told me about the plant,” Stiles starts, “I was so upset, without even knowing why.”

Derek snorts, “Why?”

Stiles shrugs, “I just thought— It was like you were committing yourself to that place, meaning you would never come back,” Derek stares at him with unreadable eyes. “Is it okay, though?” Stiles asks, voice small and frightened. “To come back? To stay?”

Derek’s fingers tighten on his mug, his eyes glancing all over the loft, “It will.”

Stiles nods, realizing that it’s not just about Derek staying; it’s about finding a place where he belongs, where he feels safe from his own demons. He can’t help to feel selfish for begging him to stay in a place like this, filled with memories and ghosts that will always haunt him. Stiles places his mug on the coffee table and buries his face in his hands, trying to breathe.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asks, quickly placing a hand firmly on his back.

“I feel like screaming,” Stiles mutters.

“Come here,” Derek offers.

Stiles doesn’t hesitate. He curls his body next to Derek’s like it was always meant to fit there. Derek kisses his temple and snuggles him closer.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles whispers.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about, Stiles.”

“I feel like I pulled you back to this hell.”

Derek huffs in disbelief, “I came back because I wanted to. And—,” he sighs, “Running away to a different place won’t make me forget about what happened.”

“But reviving those memories again won’t make anything better either.”

“Maybe,” Derek replies. “But I’m not reviving old memories. I’m building new ones,” Stiles shifts to look up at Derek, they both stare at each other. “With you,” Derek whispers.

Stiles’ mind gets clouded by Derek’s words. He stares into Derek’s intense eyes until his vision narrows to his lips and Derek is meeting him halfway.

His entire body melts into the kiss, their noses brushing together as they keep chasing each other’s mouths frantically. Derek cups Stiles’ face, rolling him over until Stiles’ back hits the couch, his body squirming underneath Derek’s, craving.

“I need you,” Stiles breathes between kisses. Derek hums in agreement, his tongue tracing Stiles’ jaw, leaving little bites along the way. Maybe Derek understands how this burn inside Stiles sets everything into flames. He just might. “I—” but the words are swallowed by Derek’s tongue inside him, a moan escapes his mouth.

His senses are electrified, a jolt of greedy pleasure washing through his entire body. Derek’s hand moves to his hip and Stiles lets his eyelids shut when Derek squeezes his thigh.

“I really need you,” Stiles clutches Derek’s shirt, shamelessly trying to take it off. Derek chuckles against his mouth, smug and carefree. New memories, new sounds, new words. Stiles wants all of those for Derek, for him, for them.

Stiles’ hands move to the sides of Derek’s face, chasing after Derek’s taste, bucking his hips until their crotches touch and they both moan. The air is thick with want around them. They’re both half hard, panting into each other’s open mouths. Hearts beating wildly as they bite and suck every inch of skin they can find. Derek slides his hand over Stiles’ chest and warmth spreads to every cell of Stiles’ body. Want, want, want; so much want for more.

Derek undoes the button of Stiles’ jeans, his strong hands rushing to his hips, grinding up against Stiles, driving him insane. “Fuck,” Derek moans against his earlobe, biting it.

“Yes,” Stiles breathes out. “We should do that. I need to feel you.” Derek pulls back, dark eyes looking down at Stiles, his cock twitching as Derek practically sits on it. “Why are you stopping?”

“Are you sure?” Derek asks, heated hands still stroking Stiles’ sides, teasing him with lust and sex.

Stiles narrows his eyes and jerks his hips. He can’t help but feel smug at the groan that leaves Derek’s mouth. “If that wasn’t clear enough. Yes, I want this. I want you, Derek. I want to have sex with you, everywhere; in the night, in the morning. I want you to fuck me and I want to fuck you. I want to wake up next to you, kiss you until we’re both breathless. And I don’t even care if we don’t have sex, because I just want to be with you— I just— Fuck, Derek. I love you so god damn much that sometimes I forget how to breathe, how to think—” Stiles’ voice gets caught in his throat, his hands are shaking as Derek remains there on top of him, his eyes flying up and down and god— he just looks so beautiful with his flushed cheeks and swollen lips. I did that, Stiles thinks; and he also just... ruined everything.

The silence that stretches is like suicide. It lasts one second, maybe two; Stiles has no idea. One moment he’s spilling his guts, the other he’s silent and waiting for the bomb to drop. But there’s no explosion, nothing.

Stiles presses his fingernails against his sweaty palms, his voice croaks when he says, “Sorry. My fucking mouth— Sometimes I say things—”

He doesn’t finish that sentence. Derek kisses him hard, full of want and desire, gripping his hips hungrily. Stiles groans into the kiss, something wild erupting in his chest as he opens his mouth and their tongues meet. Their bodies press together and neither of them makes a point of hiding the greedy thirst of being closer than this.

Everything is too hot and overwhelming. Stiles’ pants are still undone and he thanks the gods for it, because if he was hard before, his cock is aching now, brushing against Derek, seeking pleasure. He gasps for air when their noses brush together and Derek mouths around his jaw to attack Stiles’ neck with wet kisses and teasing bites along the way.

Derek—,” his body arches when Derek sucks a mark on his neck; a sweet bruise that will stay for days. Stiles’ guts twitch painfully with yearning. Everything about Derek is just so addictive, so perfect and His heart can’t help but feel heavy all over again. Stiles digs his nails into Derek’s back, holding him tightly. He wants him so much, this, them, everything. Derek’s lips find his, and he kisses him softer than before, like he knows. He must know; he must feel the spark that runs through both their bodies, a fire that boils under their skin, driving them insane with desire.

The kiss is so tentative and unrushed compared to the actions of their bodies. Their hips move against each other, rushed hands that pull and clasp pieces of fabric, while their lips try to stop time, to hold on this moment for as long as possible. Tiny sounds come out from both of them, murmurs of pleasure and uneven breaths. Both of them trying to keep their balance, trying not to fall down the cliff, not yet. It’s just an illusion though, time. Time doesn’t run in their favor. But they want it, they need it. Time to kiss, time to drown in each other, time to be them; together. Outside these walls, the night will have to come to an end and they will be forced to deal with their lives, their consequences, their demons. Not here, not now. Right now the only thing that matters is having their bodies close to each other, bending, breaking, feeling.

Derek stops kissing him, just brushing his lips against Stiles’, wet and warm. When Stiles opens his eyes, his eyelashes almost touch Derek’s skin. They stare at each other, breathing hard. Derek brings his thumb to touch Stiles’ lips, stroking them as gently as possible, his eyes tracing each move, each ragged breath that leaves Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles can’t help but stare back at him; at this man that cracked the edges of his heart and decided to burst inside, uninvited. An intruder that turned his world upside down, leaving him torn open and out of control, because love is chaos itself. He loves him so much.

“What are you thinking?” Derek whispers, so close, really close.

“Us,” he dares.

Derek’s lips curl into a soft smile, “I like when you say that word.” He leans down, burying his face on Stiles’ shoulder. “It’s good,” Derek mumbles against his skin, just breathing him in.

Stiles has said a lot of things tonight and— He doesn’t want to think about it. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t, really. Not unless he makes it into one. And no, this moment is a big deal. He will take it. Words are just— Yeah, no. Words are a big deal. But— Actions speak louder than words sometimes. He can’t confine himself to words when Derek has his arms wrapped around him, pliant and trusting. And in this case, his words only mean something because of Derek’s actions.

“It’s a good word,” Stiles says.

“It’s not just a word, Stiles,” Derek offers, his hot breath burning Stiles’ skin.

Stiles nods, but doesn’t say anything. Derek is right. It’s really not just a word.

Derek lifts his head, eyes tracing Stiles’ face intensively, “Does anyone know you’re here?”

“No,” Stiles replies, but before Derek can protest he adds, “I left a note though.”

“In the middle of the night? Where is your phone?”

“My dad won’t be home until morning. There’s no need to freak out. I said I was at Scott’s. And Scott will know I’m here anyway.”

Derek nods slowly, his hand pressing against Stiles’ side, until it settles on his hip. His eyes glance down at his lips and the way he looks at Stiles is enough for the air to suddenly become too thick and intense.

“Stay,” he says.

Words are just words, a pretext. Us and stay are as vulgar as they can be. But they carry the world when Derek infuses them with his voice, carrying a much deeper meaning than any poet or philosopher could give.

Stiles cups Derek’s jaw and nods. Their lips meet halfway, slow and unhurried, just enough to taste and feel that warmth that neither of them can get tired of. Derek disentangles himself from the couch, Stiles following suit. Both of them chasing each other’s lips as they walk, passing by the big windows that separate them from the rest of the world.

They keep kissing even when they reach Derek’s bed, taking off each other’s clothes, resuming the kiss as they throw them away. Stiles’ knees hit the bed and he falls back, Derek falling with him a millisecond later. Never leaving him, always touching his skin with his rough hands, effortlessly forcing his way deeper into his heart.

It’s the sweetest of falls, both of them groaning when their cocks brush against each other. The kisses quickly intensifying. Stiles moves his hands up to Derek’s hair, pulling him closer, making Derek hiss and suck at his bottom lip. They kiss fervently, trying to chase after each other’s taste. It’s electrifying, every thrust, every kiss, every ragged breath that leaves their mouths. Derek twists his fingers in Stiles’ hair, pulling some strands of his hair to expose his neck. Stiles gasps when Derek’s tongue touches the skin of his neck, sucking and biting.

“Derek—”

Stiles bucks his hips against Derek, making him groan and pull back slightly. He swerves for a desperate kiss, thrusting back against Stiles. Their legs entwine, hips moving fast and hard; swollen, wet lips crashing on each other.

“Fuck—” Derek moans. Stiles can feel his chest rise and fall rapidly, his heart throbbing against his. It’s fucking overwhelming. Stiles’ trembling fingers move to Derek’s cock, the pad of his thumb brushing against the sensitive skin. Derek is barely kissing him now, eyebrows furrowed, swallowing hard as he tries to breathe; so vulnerable and— gorgeous.

“I want to suck you,” Stiles says even though he’s already jerking him with intent. Want fills every fibre of his body, like he can’t help it anymore.

Derek rolls to the side promptly, freeing Stiles from his embrace. Stiles lets out a little smirk at how eager Derek looks for it. His pupils blown, staring back intensively at Stiles. It’s as much captivating as terrifying. Stiles has never done this and the fear of screwing up is right there messing with his mind. But Derek is warm against his hand, cock leaking as Stiles experimentally gives it a few more jerks. Derek lets out a few gasps when Stiles squeezes tighter, his thumb spreading the hot liquid along his foreskin.

Stiles bends down a little, his nose catching the strong scent of Derek, like an invisible thread that pulls him even further down. His body going insane by how much he yearns to taste him.

Derek’s breath hitches as Stiles’ mouth wraps around the tip of his cock, his head falling down into one of the pillows. Stilles places a hand on Derek’s thigh, the other one closing in a fist around the base of his cock as he teases the length with his tongue.

“S-Stiles— Fuck.”

Stiles grins up at him. He feels more confident now and closes his eyes, taking in as much as he can. There’s nothing in his mind besides Derek right now, his taste, the desire to please him and drive him completely crazy. His cheeks hollow as he sucks, feeling Derek’s cock throbbing inside his mouth.

He stops for a few seconds, breathing through his nose as he opens his eyes to look up at Derek. His hands are fisting the sheets, his mouth hanging out open, and eyes closed. Holy shit, he’s a total wreck. Stiles can’t even think about stopping. He tries to relax his jaw as much as possible before sinking down again, trying to twirl his tongue as he goes.

Derek gasps, his hand rushing down to dig into Stiles’ hair, “I’m going to come if— shit. Stiles—”

Stiles can’t help but reach for his own cock, the power of being in control, burning and twisting his insides. He’s going crazy too. His tongue licks the underside of Derek’s cock, making him swear again between moans, his hips bucking up slightly against Stiles’ throat. Stiles pulls back instinctively, everything feeling too dazed and hot around him. Derek stares down at him, bottom lip trapped between his teeth, dark intense eyes and sweat drops falling down his forehead.

“I never thought it would feel this good,” Stiles confesses, voice so raspy it surprises even himself.

Derek chuckles, “Come here.”

Stiles shakes his head, “I’m not going to stop.” He sinks down again, smiling predatorily at Derek, hands holding his hips as he places a wet kiss to the head of Derek’s flushed cock. His tongue swirls around it, making Derek groan loudly. There’s a strand of saliva when Stiles pulls back, eyes fixed on Derek. Without a warning, Stiles leans back in, his mouth running down Derek’s length.

“Your fucking mouth—

Stiles lets his tongue travel down to Derek’s balls, pushing his legs apart as he goes. Fuck— He can feel Derek’s entire body trembling as he licks the sensitive skin. Blood pounds loudly in his ears as he starts licking further down. Derek whimpers, but he spreads his legs further apart and it’s enough for Stiles to just know.

Technically, he has no idea what he’s doing. There are some vivid porn images inside his head, but this is not porn, this is Derek— fuck, he’s sucking Derek, kissing his balls and licking everywhere he can. It’s messy and still— so hot.

He lets his fingers press into the soft skin of Derek’s inner thighs, spreading him even more. Derek lets him— and that’s the most amazing thing ever; he lets Stiles explore his body, do as he pleases, trusting him.

Derek’s cock is leaking against Stiles’ hand. It feels like such a waste. Stiles bites his bottom lip, unsure and hesitant of what he wants to do next. He looks up to see Derek with a hand placed over his eyes, breathing loudly. Fuck.

Stiles sucks his finger, leaving it as wet as possible. He goes back down to Derek’s flushed erection, his tongue craving for that bitter taste, Derek’s taste. His hand moves to Derek’s balls, cupping them and making Derek sigh contentedly above him. But Derek’s cock twitches inside his mouth when Stiles presses a finger on his hole.

Stiles,” Derek warns. And Stiles knows it’s a warning. Derek’s breathing is more erratic than before, hushed moans and loud gasps filling the entire loft as Stiles keeps teasing his entrance, sucking his cock the best he can.

“God, you look so hot like this.” Stiles pulls back, seeking for air. He pushes the tip of his finger in, his eyes fixed on it as it slides inside Derek’s hole. He starts licking around his balls, pressing his tongue longer than necessary on the skin just below. Stiles can’t help glancing up at every moan that vibrates from Derek, mesmerized by the sight; by how much he loves to see him like this. He takes out his finger, replacing it with the tip of his tongue. It’s enough to make Derek’s entire body jolt, as if he’s been electrified.

Derek sits up quickly, pulling Stiles up and cupping his face with both hands, kissing him fervently, his tongue pushing inside Stiles’ mouth, messy and heated. Stiles lets out a moan as he realizes Derek is tasting himself inside Stiles’ mouth.

“I’m going to come if you keep doing that,” Derek breathes when he pulls back, forehead pressing against Stiles’.

“I want you to,” Stiles protests, tilting his head a bit to the side, brushing his swollen lips against Derek’s.

“Not yet.” It’s all he says before pushing Stiles down, kissing him along the way.

Stiles chuckles when his back hits the sheets, “What are you planning on doing to me, big guy?”

Derek leans down, mouth ghosting over his earlobe. “I want to eat you,” he says in a hoarse voice, biting gently on his skin.

“Oh god,” Stiles hisses, digging his nails into Derek’s arms.

A small protest leaves his mouth when Derek grabs his wrists, placing them above Stiles’ head, He moves down to his chest, tracing his nipples with his tongue. Stiles lies still, trying to breathe even when his skin feels like it’s burning. Derek’s stubble rubs against his skin, his tongue leaving a trail of saliva as he travels further down. His teeth scraping against Stiles’ skin, smiling every time Stiles lets out a little gasp.

Without any warning, Derek starts licking the head of his cock.

“Fuck—” Stiles swears loudly. Derek frees his hands right after, moving them to Stiles’ hips, holding him firmly as he sinks down on his cock, tongue twirling around it. He slides his arms under Stiles, squeezing his ass and pulling his cheeks apart, teasing his hole with the tip of his finger. Stiles can’t help but jerk his hips violently. It’s too much.

Derek pulls back from his cock, moving down to his balls, licking and kissing along the way. He places a kiss on his thigh, before going back up, stealing Stiles’ mouth fervently.

“Turn around,” his voice hoarse when he breaks the kiss.

Stiles complies, there’s no way he wouldn’t. Derek bends over him, his lips traveling down his back, stopping to tease him with his teeth. His hands take firm hold of Stiles’ ass again, spreading his cheeks apart, hot breath washing over his skin, right where—

“Oh my fucking Derek!

Derek’s tongue moves over his hole, licking him slowly. God— that feels so weird and so good. Stiles has to fight his slutty moans as Derek tries to force the tip of this tongue inside. Derek’s stubble tickling his skin and Stiles can’t stop clenching his ass, picturing how he must look for Derek, how— fuck. Derek is kissing his entrance. Stiles can feel his lips rubbing against it, so deliberate and full of want.

“Derek, please— I need—”

Derek pulls back, “Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

Stiles wants to ask him where the hell does he think he would go like this, a complete wreck; not to mention naked and painfully hard. He squeezes his eyes shut, trying to catch his breath and stop feeling so exposed. His heartbeat is so loud that he can’t even hear Derek coming back, placing his hand over Stiles’ back, caressing the skin with chaste kisses that make Stiles’ melt.

“Tell me to stop and I will. Anytime you want to,” Derek tells him. Stiles just nods. Lust is pooling in his guts, but there’s also some tension underneath it all. It all goes away when Derek’s hot tongue is back on him, licking over it soothingly, teasing him.

A finger joins Derek’s tongue and Stiles has to bite his hand.

“Don’t go quiet on me now,” Derek says.

He pulls Stiles legs to him, lifting his ass up in the air. Derek’s tongue goes back on him the second after, broad licks that go all the way down to his balls. His hands try to spread him wider when his tongue goes back to his entrance, trying to push inside.

“Fuck— you can’t just—” Stiles lets out the dirtiest of moans when Derek starts fucking him with this tongue. His entire body reacting to the intrusion, his cock throbbing painfully. Derek’s fingers dig into Stiles’ hips, trying to keep him from moving or shaking all over. Stiles has no idea. His mind is clouded with pleasure, making him lose control as Derek eats him out. Fuck, the asshole is really eating him out. Stiles wants to laugh at his own bad pun, but it’s hard to even focus on what’s around him, as Derek’s tongue fucks him with precision.

He pulls back for a second and Stiles instinctively moves his hips, chasing for the warmth of his tongue again. Damn, he’s a complete wreck.

A loud gasp comes out of Stiles mouth when Derek’s tongue is back with a finger that pushes into him easily. It never feels like this when he fingers himself, never as good as this. Derek slides his finger in and out, slowly, his tongue licking around it. His hole clenches around Derek’s finger, unsure if he wants more or for everything to stop at once.

“Have you done this before?” Derek asks.

“Y-yeah, I—”

“Fuck,” Derek’s voice vibrates against his skin, making his cock even harder. “Try to relax,” Derek’s hand is soothing on his back, “Can you do that for me?”

He tries to focus on Derek’s finger and the wet, messy pleasure that his tongue provokes every time it touches his entrance. His body arches when Derek crooks his finger inside him. His body stops fighting it, letting Derek’s finger slide in and out without any struggle. It’s not enough. It’s too good and not enough.

“Derek, please—”

Derek moves his tongue inside along with his finger, pleasured moans coming out of Stiles’ mouth with every movement. He can’t help spreading his legs further apart, feeling too open and desperate. He’s so needy, so—

More,” Stiles begs, voice muffled by the sheets.

Derek takes out his finger. The seconds that follow feel like the longest in Stiles’ life. But Derek comes with a second finger, both fingers now wet and lubed, stretching his hole. The air is too thick and hot around them, Stiles can’t fucking breathe. Derek’s tongue licks around the two fingers, making him unable to think, his body tensing up from the pleasure of it. The stretch burns a little, but Derek crooks his fingers just right. God, it feels so good. Too good.

“God, Stiles, you look so—”

He doesn’t want to know. His body is not his body right now. All Stiles can focus on right now is how he’s close to insanity, Derek’s fingers, Derek’s fucking mouth— Every time his fingers push into Stiles, a stream of pleasure shoots through his entire body.

“Derek.”

Stiles starts moving his hips, trying to get more of Derek. Fuck— It’s so good and he doesn’t want it to stop, ever. But he can’t. He needs to come. He needs—

“I need— Derek, please!

And then Derek’s hand is cupping his balls, squeezing the base of his cock. Stiles whines loudly, his muscles tightening around Derek’s fingers. More, more, more.

Derek’s tongue slides down to his balls as Derek jerks him off. His stubble scratching his skin, thick fingers fucking him and pushing against his insides, his tongue, his fucking tongue—

“I’m gonna— Derek! F-fuck, fuck—

The intense pleasure overpowers him, sending him way above the edge. Stiles bites his hand hard when he comes on Derek’s fingers, moaning desperately. His body jerking as Derek keeps fucking him through his orgasm. He lets his body fall on the bed, completely wrecked and disconnected from the world.

Derek turns him around gently, leaning down and settling between his legs. Stiles can’t even move, he really can’t. Derek’s mouth travels from his shoulder to his neck, licking the sweaty drops that slide down Stiles’ skin. He kisses Stiles, taking his time and pushing the tip of his tongue inside his mouth. Stiles is pliant beneath him, completely at his mercy.

“You made me come,” Stiles breathes. “You killed me.”

Derek huffs out a laugh, “That was the plan.” His hand moves up to grab the back of Stiles’ head, crushing their lips together. Derek’s hard cock thrusting against his thigh, leaving a trail of precome. The kiss deepens, but it’s not rushed.

Stiles lets his hand slip through Derek’s hair, “I still want you to fuck me,” he whispers, lips brushing against Derek’s.

“I did,” Derek smirks into the kiss.

Stiles runs his hands down until he can get a hold of Derek’s cock, “Your fingers are amazing but—  fuck.” Derek thrusts into Stiles’ hand. “Yeah, that,” Stiles gasps.

“Maybe later,” Derek says before kissing him with determination, sloppy hands all over Stiles’ heated body. Their mouths pull back only to meet again and again. Sex with Derek is awesome, it’s— fucking awesome, really. But kissing him is just as overwhelming. Their bodies move with want, an insatiable hunger building up between them.

Hot waves wash over Stiles’ skin, his brain is barely processing anything right now, but Derek makes him lose reason completely. His cock twitches between them, as his mouth keeps crashing with Derek’s, graceless and urgent. The world seems to be spinning around them and only after a while Stiles notices how Derek’s body is trembling, ragged breaths leaving his mouth and his hand is not—

“What—” he swallows hard when he realizes what Derek is doing. “Oh fuck! Are you—”

Derek nods, his stubble rasping against Stiles’ cheek. He looks so out of his mind, incoherent movements as he drops lazy open mouth kisses along Stiles’ jaw.

“Holy shit, Derek!” Stiles groans against him, his hand moving down Derek’s back until he reaches his ass, fingers brushing against Derek’s. “I want to see you. I want— Can I—” But Derek is already turning around over Stiles’ body, licking the head of his cock and sinking down without warning. “Shit.

Stiles stares at Derek’s ass, his hole clenching, begging to have something inside— Derek twirls his tongue around Stiles’ cock, making him arch his back and moan. Stiles spreads Derek’s ass cheeks, stunned with the view. Fuck— His balls tighten again, his cock already half hard.

Derek groans against his cock and Stiles swears at how good his hot mouth feels on him. Stiles bites his bottom lip as he teases Derek’s entrance, but it’s already slick and wet and— Fuck, is that— “Shit— Did you finger yourself with my come?”

But Derek doesn’t reply. He keeps swallowing him down, shamelessly and eager, so eager. Stiles drops his head back, staring up at the ceiling, trying to breathe and focus. His finger slips inside Derek easily, almost sucking him in. Derek moans around his cock and spreads his legs further apart. Stiles removes his finger as he leans forward, hesitating for a bit before pressing the tip of his tongue at Derek’s entrance.

Derek pulls back, “Fuck. Stiles—” He muffles a groan, chasing after Stiles’ tongue. The taste is… different. More intense and strong, but the more he tastes it, the more he wants it. Especially when Derek is practically rubbing himself on Stiles’ face, greedy thrusts as he tries to control himself. It’s such a turn on to see him like this.

Stiles brings his fingers to Derek’s hole, his thumb pressing against the stretched skin and Derek’s breath hitches, grinding back against him. Stiles moves his tongue to Derek’s balls, licking messily as he pushes two fingers inside Derek’s hole, so fucking tight. Derek’s hand comes behind him, grabbing his wrist to push Stiles’ fingers further inside.

“Oh my god,” Stiles hisses against Derek’s skin, sucking in air.

Derek takes him down again as he fucks himself on Stiles’ fingers, moaning desperately when Stiles starts moving his fingers inside him. Stiles’ cock throbs inside Derek’s mouth, the burning desire intensifying around them.

“I want to ride you,” Derek says, voice hoarse when he pulls back. He lets out a small whimper when Stiles removes his fingers.

“You want to— oh god.” Derek turns around, settling down on Stiles and spreading lube over his cock. Stiles bites his bottom lip as he watches Derek’s slickery hands stroking him up and down. Derek’s dark gaze catches his, a predatory smile forming in his face as he leans down to lock their mouths, both of them groaning as their cocks brush against each other.

Derek breaks the kiss, breathing over Stiles’ lips. They don’t break eye contact, Derek’s fiery eyes making his insides twitch, an intoxicating heat radiating from his guts. Derek brings a hand down to Stiles’ cock until his hole is pressed against the head. Stiles loses the ability to breathe, his hands squeezing hard on Derek’s hips as the sensitive head of his cock pushes against his entrance.

“Fuck. You’re so—” Stiles manages, his forehead pressing against Derek’s. His ass is so hot and tight; a sinful and constant pressure around his cock. Stiles can feel Derek’s pulse through where they’re joined, a fever flowing through his body as his cock slides further inside. Derek’s mouth is falling open, lips brushing against Stiles’. His breath is so intense that Stiles can practically taste it. And he loves it. He loves every little gasp that leaves his sweet mouth.

“Derek,” Stiles whispers.

Derek pins him with his gaze as he sinks further down. Their breaths are shallow and irregular, bodies shaking slightly as they both try to adjust to the heated feeling of being together.

Stiles pulls back slowly, feeling every muscle inside of Derek. And then he pushes inside again, just as slow. Everything is too intense. Derek whimpers above him, thrusting himself onto Stiles’ cock. Their bodies move in sync, a steady pace even when they’re both greedy for more. But Derek bucks his hips to meet his every thrust and it’s just perfect.

As soon as their movements become more impatient, Derek’s lips find his. They kiss fiercely, breathing out, pulling closer, kissing, and kissing, and kissing. A desperate urgency fills Stiles’ bones, like anything before. They breathe into each other’s mouths, wet tongues meeting between restless gasps.

Derek shifts his hips, making Stiles’ cock sink further in. He’s all sweaty and flushed, his muscles squeezing around Stiles, cock so hard and leaking between them. Stiles moves his hands to his bare back, nails digging into his skin, claiming him. Stay with me.

There’s a plead lingering in the air as their rhythm becomes more erratic. Derek’s hips move hard on top of him, kissing Stiles every chance he can, wherever he can reach. His moans soon turn into loud gasps when Stiles tries to meet his thrusts just as hard.

Derek sits down, both hands placed on Stiles’ chest as he keeps fucking on his cock. Stiles’ gaze drops to Derek’s flushed and leaking cock, reaching for it.

“Fuck—” Derek gasps when Stiles starts jerking him off.

Stiles takes him harder, pleasure radiating up and down his body as he catches sight of Derek coming hard between them, back arching, eyes squeezed shut and mouth dropped open. His hole grips onto his cock, as he keeps thrusting. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

His orgasm hits him hard, letting out a graceless loud moan. Stiles is still coming inside him when Derek collapses onto his shoulder, breathing him in.

“Whoa, that was—” Stiles breathes, or tries. Derek reaches for his fingers, intertwining them. They stay like that for a while, both trying to catch up with their breaths as the sun starts peeking inside the loft.

Stiles closes his eyes, nose brushing against Derek’s sweaty skin. Everything around him smells like sex. They smell like sex. Derek kisses his neck gently, soft chaste kisses that make him shiver. Stiles holds him close, trying to scare their demons away just for a little bit longer. If only he could stop time and just stay like this; skin against skin, hearts beating loudly against their chests, alive and safe.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t be… somewhere else,” Stiles blurts out suddenly.

Derek startles at that, lifting his head, “Why do you say that?”

“I know you don’t like it here. To be honest, I can’t blame you.”

Derek shrugs lazily, “Being in love with you is enough for me. I don’t need anything else.”

Stiles gasps, eyes wide, “What?

“What what?” Derek stares at him in surprise.

“You— You’re in love with me?” Stiles’ voice is small as the words come out, his heart pounding wildly in his chest. He can’t even stare straight into Derek’s eyes.

Derek leans closer until their foreheads are touching, his hand reaching up to cup Stiles’ jaw, fingertips moving softly on his cheek, “What am I going to do with you?” He wonders, a gentle smile on his lips. Stiles remains perfectly still, staring back as his hazel beautiful eyes, like he can finally see something behind those walls; the walls he never dreamed to climb.

Derek lets their noses brush together, his hand lifting to touch Stiles’ hair. “I love you,” he whispers against Stiles’ lips. “You’re an idiot for thinking otherwise.”

Stiles wants to protest, but then Derek captures his lips in a sweet kiss, tongues softly seeking for their taste. It tastes perfectly, it tastes like them. The kiss is slow and tender, but everything about it contains an undeniable amount of passion and love. His heart feels light and heavy at the same time, his love for Derek consuming every cell of his body, fixing him, rearranging him.

He doesn’t feel like running away anymore.

 

/ / EPILOGUE / /

 

 

“I think this is the last box,” Cora says.

“Take that one with you, we’ll bring the bags down with us,” Derek tells her.

Stiles stands on the balcony, admiring the view of San Francisco, lost in his thoughts as Derek and Cora sort out their things.

“Ready to go?” Derek asks from behind him.

Stiles glances over his shoulder, nodding, but not really moving.

“This feels like a real home. Are you sure you’re not going to miss it?” Stiles can’t help but question, it’s been bugging him ever since they got here. Derek showed him around the city and the last week has been amazing, like they’ve entered in some alternative universe where nothing bad ever happens.

Being with Derek and Cora gives him a whole new perspective of how things are now. Both of them bark at each other sometimes, of course they do, but they share so much too. Stiles can’t help but feel insanely happy for Derek when he sees them playfully stealing each others’ food at dinner. It’s the simple things, the way they’re so in sync and connected. It’s family. Derek wasn’t alone, but he still chose to come back. And Stiles can’t stop thinking that he doesn’t deserve to intrude between their long awaited peace.

Stiles feels Derek’s hand touch the nape of his neck, fingers stroking his skin gently, like he has been doing every night when they go to bed and every day when they wake up together.

“This was never my home. Not quite,” Derek says, eyes fixed on the horizon. Stiles stares at him, and how his expression is so much softer than months ago when he left Beacon Hills.

Derek takes his cellphone from his pocket, “Laura and I lost our home years ago; our family, our pack. Who knows where we would have gone if we had Cora with us?” Stiles watches him carefully, surprised at the peaceful tone of his words.

“Remember this?” Derek asks suddenly, showing Stiles the screen of this cellphone.

 

I read that wolves tend to travel hundreds of miles from home when they’re looking for something. Hope you find what you’re looking for.

- Sent 7th October 23:34

 

Stiles nods, his cheeks flush slightly.

Derek smiles at him, “Home is where you, Cora, Scott and Isaac are. It’s where the people I love and care about are,” he pauses to brush his thumb over Stiles’ cheek. “Like my mother used to say, a shelter of moments.”

“A sense of home,” Stiles whispers, hand coming up on top of Derek’s, squeezing.

They walk out of the balcony, Stiles carefully holding the raised bed with Derek’s plant, already blooming brightly. When Derek grabs their bags and starts walking towards the door, Stiles doesn’t fear leaving this masked paradise they’ve lived during the past week. They’re leaving together this time; the three of them going back home. He’s not scared of facing the Nemeton again and whatever it brings back with him. Derek will be there with him, anchoring him to the light. And he’s carrying the proof that even the smallest of seeds is able to grow into something great and beautiful.

Derek turns around to face Stiles, holding the door for him. Stiles steps in front of him, placing a quick chaste kiss to Derek’s lips.

Leaving that place behind is easier than Stiles expected. He’s leaving with the person that pulls him out of the darkness and anchors him back to the light. Derek is his anchor, and maybe, hopefully, Stiles will be his too.

Derek leans closer to him as they enter the elevator. A familiar warmth spreads over Stiles’ body. Beacon Hills or San Francisco, it doesn’t matter. What matters is this, them together. A home built with their own walls and doors. Derek’s home. Stiles’ home. Their home.

 

THE END