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Notice Me

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He hasn’t even been gone that long, just a couple of months. Not nearly enough time to put Beacon Hills behind him, emotionally speaking that is.

But sometimes he feels like he’s right back where he started, like when he gets a text from Stiles.

Usually they’re just random things that happen around town.

New Message-
Some new family moved into town, whats the bet theyre not human?!

Or how someone from the pack has done something stupid, again.

New Message-
OMG Liam fell down a hole. A HOLE DEREK!!! How did u deal with us?

Sometimes Stiles will tell him about the new supernatural happenings

New Message-
For the record I do not like Pixies.

Lately a lot of the texts Stiles sends are about how much he hates this Theo guy.

New Message-
seriously this guy totally suspicious. I do NOT trust him but scotts all buddy buddy with him. Hes bad news Derek.

Other times, when it’s late at night and the world has gone to sleep he’ll get a text that almost makes him go home.

New Message-
I cant stop the nightmare. Cant stop seeing all their faces. My hands covered in innocent blood. It’s my fault.

Every time he gets a text from Stiles it pulls on his fraying heart strings, but he keeps telling himself he needs to stay away, at least a little while longer.

Sometimes he’ll send a message Stiles’ way. It’s never anything of great importance really; just about how he’s going on the road.

I feel like a Winchester with all these crummy motels I’m staying in – Derek

Or telling Stiles off.

Stiles, I gave you the keys to my place to look after it. Not so you could throw a party. Again. – Derek.

Some nights when he’s feeling particularly lonely he’ll text something a little more meaningful than he intended.

I don’t think I’m used to the quiet anymore. I got used to your constant talking. I think I kind of miss it, miss you. – Derek.

But then one night out of nowhere he gets a voicemail from Stiles. They’ve never called each other before; it’s always been texting so despite himself Derek’s a little intrigued. When he listens to the message however he’s instantly on high alert because it sounds like Stiles is crying, nearly on the brink of having a panic attack.

New Voicemail-
“Derek, oh fuck Derek this is so bad. I messed up, but it was an accident! Everything just fell when I was trying to get away. He was gonna kill me Derek and he was gonna kill my dad. I don’t know what to do. Shit, he’s dead, he’s really dead and I killed him. I can’t even blame the Nogitsune this time, it was all me. Fuck, fuck, fuck, I killed someone. What do I do? Derek...”

His bags are packed and he’s already on the road heading back for Beacon Hills before he even realises what he’s doing.

Yeah, he’s done enough soul searching.

 It’s time to go home.

To Stiles.

Chapter Text

It takes Derek almost two weeks to get back to Beacon Hills, if he was driving the speed limit it would have taken him an extra four days, but speed limits are the least of his worries. Luckily with his advanced senses he was able to spot the police cars before they could catch him speeding along the highway.

He felt a bit crazed as he drove, like an addict itching for his next fix.

The whole time his mind kept up a mantra of “never should have left, never should have left”. He knows he’s no hero – he wasn’t able to save his family, he couldn’t stop Erica or Boyd dying, he can’t save anyone – but if he was there then at least he would have been doing something. Instead he was on a soul searching road trip, taking his time and seeing the sights, getting perspective on his life and what not.

In all honesty he was dicking around. Having fun really, the kind he has never allowed himself to have. He’s never felt so relaxed and light in his life. For once there was no impending doom, no constant reminders of his failures and no teenagers looking at him with mistrust (Scott) or mild curiosity (Lydia and now Malia).  

He tries to feel guilty for leaving and having the time of his life while people he’s come to care about are still fighting for their lives. Strangely enough, the guilt never comes. He’s lucky he’d pulled off the road to have his lunch otherwise he’s pretty sure he would have crashed his beloved Camaro at the realisation. Maybe all that soul searching actually worked.

Damn, he owes Braeden $50.

When he finally arrives in Beacon Hills he’s suddenly unsure of his decision to return. Maybe coming back will only make things worse, both for Stiles and himself.

He drives around town for an hour or so just trying to work up the courage to do something, anything. Unsurprisingly he finds himself parked across the street from the high school. It’s almost time for school to be let out anyways, but he still hasn’t worked up the courage to talk to Stiles yet. So he makes the decision to just watch and wait. Instead of charging into a situation like he’s been known to do in the past he gathers Intel – Derek’s been watching far too many military shows lately, but really it’s the only thing on the limited TV channels in the motels anyways. 

He’s brought out of his thoughts on crappy TV shows by the school bell ringing and hundreds of teenagers spilling out the doors into the parking lot. All the faces of these teens blur together, mainly because he’s looking for one particular face. A face that has appeared in his dreams more often than not lately, but he’s trying not to think about the implication of that too much.

Before Derek loses hope, Stiles shuffles out of the blue doors behind what Derek assumes is Scott’s new pack. The usual people are there, Scott up front with a huge smile on his face, Kira has her arm linked with Scott’s and looks every bit the smitten girl she is, Lydia and Malia are next talking to each other about world domination (at least that’s the image Derek gets when he thinks about those two being friends. That’s two very fierce women you don’t want to get in the way of.). Next two younger boys come strolling out, far too young to be involved in the supernatural shit that goes on in this town, but both are smiling widely, as if nothing bad could ever touch them. Derek had only briefly met Liam, and only heard about Mason, but in a way he’s glad these kids stuck around. He has a feeling their innocence and excitement are crucial to the sanity of the pack.

Tagging along at the back, completely alone and looking like they haven’t slept, eaten or smiled in days is Stiles. Derek almost doesn’t recognise him.

This is not the Stiles he said goodbye to seven months ago.

This Stiles is older somehow, tainted by bloodshed and haunted by both dreams and reality. He is bone thin, dark purple colours the skin under his sunken eyes, arms wrapped tightly around his hunched frame and radiating an aura of misery, guilt and self-hatred.

Derek wants to howl an agonising scream for how defeated and hollow Stiles looks. This boy is a shell of his former self and worst of all, no one seems to notice. The rest of the pack goes on like nothing has changed, like everything is perfectly alright with the world.

How can they not see? How can the wolves, kitsune and coyote not smell the devastation rolling off Stiles in waves?

Suddenly Derek is angry, far angrier than he’s been in months, because Scott is the guiltiest of all. That idiot doesn’t notice how much his ‘best friend’ is hurting, he’s completely oblivious to the fact that Stiles looks like he’s ready to give up.

Derek watches as Stiles slowly leaves the group, heading towards his beloved Jeep while the others walk in the opposite direction. None of them even notice he’s gone, and Stiles looks like he expected nothing less.

While he was waiting outside the school for the bell to ring Derek had decided to wait a few days before approaching Stiles, but after seeing this he’s powerless to do anything other than follow Stiles home.

He won’t let Stiles fade into nothingness for a minute longer.

It doesn’t take too long before Stiles pulls into his driveway and steps out heading for the front door. Derek is only a minute or so behind him, pulling up in front of the Stilinski house. He gets out and just stands there somewhat awkwardly, he doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know if he’s really welcome. Adrenaline is pumping through his veins as he watches Stiles lethargically turn towards the street. When Stiles finally turns to face him everything just stops, and not in the cliché movie way but in the way that Stiles stops breathing for a moment, every limb has stiffened and his sunken eyes go as round as saucers; his heart even stutters a moment before rocketing into gear and beating twice as fast. Derek’s a little worried Stiles will have a heart attack right there on his front lawn.

The still moment seems to go on for hours but only lasts a moment before being shattered.

“Derek,” Stiles whispers, if Derek didn’t have a wolf’s hearing he never would have heard it.

It’s like all Stiles’ strings have been cut, the only thing keeping him upright, as he nearly flops to the ground in a boneless heap. Derek is there to catch him though, crossing the distance between them in mere seconds and gathering up Stiles’ smaller shivering frame. Derek’s arms are around Stiles back as the emotional teen covers his face with both hands before burying his face in Derek’s chest, where he sobs.

These are no ordinary tears of fear or pain. No, these are the gut wrenching sobs that tear their way from your chest, that uncontrollable and inconsolable weeping. It’s that deep set pain, a burning misery you’ve felt for so long it’s almost a part of your very being. That need to let everything out, all at once, where you can’t control the anguished noises ripped from your throat, where tears and mucus and even a bit of saliva come gushing down your face.

Its cathartic, Derek thinks, this great upheaval of emotions so painful they weigh you down until staying still is the only option.

So Derek waits. He rubs his hands up and down Stiles’ shaking back and cradles him as if he were the most precious of stones but still tightly enough so Stiles knows he’s not alone anymore. The large wet patch on his navy blue shirt doesn’t concern him in the slightest, not if Stiles needs this and it’s pretty clear that he does.

“It’s okay Stiles, you’re safe now. Let it out, you’ll be alright. It’s okay baby, I’m here now, I’ll protect you.” Derek begins whispering into Stiles ear, at first just simple reassurances but the longer he talks the more he means the words spilling from his mouth. He’ll stay here to protect Stiles, and it seems this kind of protection doesn’t involve fighting. He never liked fighting anyways.

It’s nearly been an hour by the time they’re interrupted, an hour of kneeling on the grass holding onto Stiles who seems to have exhausted himself out. A car pulling into the driveway is what breaks Derek out of his thoughts. He doesn’t need to turn around to see to know who it is. The Sheriff walks up to the men kneeling on the ground and from what Derek can detect the Sheriff isn’t the least bit surprised to find Derek Hale in his yard cradling his teenage son. Stilinski’s have a tendency to roll with the punches, accepting whatever weird or wonderful things life constantly throws at them. It’s an admirable quality.

“Bring him inside,” Sheriff Stilinski says, patting Derek’s shoulder and running his hand over his son’s hair affectionately.

Derek has a brief moment of panic over being caught in such an intimate moment by Stiles’ father. He quickly squashes that fear and gently picks Stiles up off the ground, still being as gentle as he can, and carries the far too lightweight teen inside. Sheriff Stilinski is already inside and removing his harness when Derek shuffles inside and places the sleeping teen on the couch, removing his shoes before placing the throw blanket over him. The wolf in him can’t resist the urge to run his fingers over Stiles’ soft cheeks, wiping away the lingering tears.  Derek pulls away after a moment, trying desperately not to think about the fact that he did that with Stiles’ father right there watching them, but when he meets the Sheriff’s eye he finds only acceptance and understanding there.

The two men leave the lounge room and head towards the kitchen, both secretly hoping Stiles stays asleep a little longer – he certainly looks like he needs all the uninterrupted sleep he can get. The Sheriff opens the fridge and pulls two beers out, offering the second one to Derek who looks at it in confusion.

“I know it has no effect on you but that doesn’t mean you won’t need one for this conversation,” the Sheriff explains and Derek takes the beer and sips on it gently. The alcohol really does nothing for him, the taste isn’t great but it’s not bad, but he’s realising it’s the Sheriff that needs to drink with someone not that he himself needs the alcohol. “I might actually need something a little stronger.”

The statement is mumbled into the beer pressed to the Sheriff’s lips, who may have momentarily forgotten about the advanced hearing of werewolves. Derek pretends like he didn’t hear it though, his mother taught him and his siblings all about human privacy.

Once the Sheriff has downed about half his beer he sits down at the dining table and runs his hand across his brow; whereas Derek stays where is he, leaning against the bench waiting for the Sheriff to say something about Stiles. The topic they both seem to be avoiding a little.

“You wouldn’t be here unless someone called you. It wasn’t me and I highly doubt it was anyone in that pack, so I’m guessing it was Stiles. I want to know everything you know Hale, there’s something going on with my son and I need information so I can protect him!”

From the way the Sheriff spat out the word pack like it was something vile leads Derek to assume Sheriff Stilinski noticed the way the other teenagers ignore Stiles. As much as Derek likes and admires the man seated before him he doesn’t want to destroy Stiles’ trust.

Plus, this whole thing isn’t his story to tell, Stiles needs to be the one to tell his father.

Derek remembers how he felt after Paige died, the utter devastation of killing the girl he loved but more than that was the guilt and shame he felt. He remembers never wanting anyone to find out, remembers how he wanted to run away, leave his family and pack, just so he wouldn’t have to face the looks on their faces when they knew he was a killer. But then his mother came to him and held him like he was precious, just as she always had, and told him he was still beautiful despite the change in eye colour. He remembers weeping into her shoulder and she held him and sang a lullaby, the ones she used to sing when he was a baby. He remembers her telling him that their family would still love him no matter what and that he had to tell them himself, because if he didn’t the wound of what he’d done would never heal.

Sure, it may have taken over a decade for him to forgive himself for what he did to Paige but he remembers feeling like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders when he sat down and told his family what had happened, how they all held him and cried along with him. That horrible experience didn’t change how his family looked at him, didn’t diminish their love for him, they were just his family and nothing had changed. As hard as it will be for Stiles, he knows the teenager needs it, so Derek won’t tell the Sheriff everything, at least not yet.

“What do you know?” Derek asks the Sheriff warily. The older man eyes Derek suspiciously, likely knowing Derek won’t give him the information he needs, but after a moment of staring the Sheriff sighs and begins talking.

“A few weeks ago there was this kid brought into the station, name was Donovan, guy was crazy and held a pretty big grudge against me for something that happened to his dad a long time ago,” the Sheriff sighs, rubbing his forehead and scent momentarily overpowered by guilt before returning to normal. “His transport vehicle was attacked and everyone inside died, but Donovan’s body was never found. A few days later a patrol car was sent to the school after hours, report of a body in the library but my guys never found anything. That’s when Stiles starting acting different. He was cagey and skittish, especially if anyone touched his shoulder, he kept asking if I’d found Donovan but it wasn’t his usual curiosity, he was really worried and apprehensive about it all. He started having nightmares again but some nights he just doesn’t sleep at all. He’s stopped eating, I bought him a bunch of curly fries and he only ate three fries. His teachers have been calling saying he sleeps during class, hasn’t handed up any assignments lately and any tests he’s had he just doesn’t write anything down. He can barely look me in the eyes anymore and he stopped caring about what I eat, I ate bacon in front of him the other day and he did nothing.”

The Sheriff takes a moment to take a large gulp of his beer, several large gulps actually, almost emptying the bottle. Watching Stiles slowly fading like that must have truly horrible for the man, especially knowing he couldn’t do anything to help his son.

“I think the scariest thing of all is that he doesn’t talk much anymore. My kid can talk for hours on end without taking a breath, and sure it may have been annoying sometimes but it was still something I loved about him. His mother did the same thing. But he’s stopped. If I’m lucky I’ll get a one word answer to my questions but most of the time he just doesn’t respond. Derek, I want my kid back. Tell me what’s going on, is it the Nogitsune again or something worse? Tell me what’s happening with son.”

It takes Derek a moment to process everything the Sheriff just told him. This Donovan must be the guy Stiles was talking about; he doesn’t know why he’s so impressed the Sheriff put together the connection between Donovan’s disappearance and Stiles’ mood change, he expected nothing less from Beacon Hills finest. No wonder it looked like Stiles was dead on his feet if he hasn’t been sleeping or eating. But the most shocking and heartbreaking thing is that Stiles isn’t talking. Derek remembers the days he wanted to strangle the teen for talking so much and then something changed. He began to miss Stiles’ babbling, would sometimes say something stupid just to get Stiles to go off on another tangent. It was almost musical the way he could flit from one subject to the next so seamlessly. The thought of never hearing that music again breaks Derek’s heart.

“It’s not another Nogitsune or anything else supernatural that’s taken him over,” Derek begins and can practically see the relief flood through Sheriff Stilinski at his words. “Something happened to Stiles about two weeks ago and he was scared so he called me. I don’t know why he called me and not you or Scott, but he was hysterical when he rang, I could barely make out what he was saying but I got the gist.”

“That still doesn’t tell me much,” the Sheriff states after a significant pause.

“I know what it’s like when something bad happens and you don’t feel like you can talk to your family about it. But family is what got me through so I think this is something Stiles needs to tell you himself, in his own time.” Derek shrugs, unsure how to reassure the older man when he himself isn’t even sure if Stiles is going to be okay.

Sheriff Stilinski stares at Derek, mind racing like he’s running through everything he knows about Derek’s life and trying to find similarities to work out what’s wrong with Stiles. It’s in that moment of silence that both mean hear the shuffling from the next room.

Stiles meanders out a moment later, hair sticking up all over the place and rubbing his swollen eyes, seemingly moving on auto pilot. The teen heaves a jaw splitting yawn before blearily opening his eyes. It seems to take a moment for his eyes to adjust and comprehend that yes that is Derek Hale standing in his kitchen. Derek’s heart breaks all over again when he notices Stiles counting his fingers as he glances up at Derek.

“I’m really here Stiles.”

Maybe it was the wrong thing to say as it looks like Stiles is going to start crying all over again. For the second time that day Derek finds his arms full of Stiles as the teen leapt to hug the life out of him.

“Thank you,” the teen whispered in his ear before hesitantly relaxing his grip and stepping away. That’s when a cough sounded from behind them. The Sheriff was looking amused and a little hopeful at the guys blushing in his kitchen.

“Stiles why don’t you go talk with Derek upstairs, I’ve got a lot of work to do down here. Derek you’re welcome to stay for dinner and we have a spare bedroom if you need it. I won’t have you sleeping in some broken down place this time, understand?” the Sheriff stated. At the mention of him staying Stiles’ scent became a little sweeter, like daisies, a smell Derek had learnt meant something akin to hope.

Derek nodded at the Sheriff, setting down his half finished beer, before following Stiles upstairs to his bedroom.  Watching as the teen seated himself on the edge of his bed Derek felt a bit like a fish out of water. He had no idea what to do now. Comforting people was never his thing, Laura was the one that always comforted him, and Cora only wanted their dad when she was upset. Derek never had to be the one to consol someone. Now he wished more than anything that he knew what to say to Stiles, knew what the right words were those perfect comforting words.

For lack of anything better to do Derek sits next to the sullen teen, probably closer than was socially acceptable but for wolves it was perfectly normal. Lacking the right words to help Stiles, relying on his more animal instincts was the only real option he had left. Their thighs were pressed together snugly and for a brief moment Derek worried that Stiles would wrench his leg away but if anything Stiles pressed in closer.

But that was it.

For the next few minutes the boys sat there in total and complete silence. Awkward silence.

Derek could tell Stiles wanted to say something; he’d open his mouth, gape like a fish for a few moments then clam up again, a confused and frustrated look screwing up his face. Lather, rinse, repeat. But finally, after what felt like a age, he found the words.

“Derek, what the hell are you doing here?”

Well that wasn’t exactly where Derek thought Stiles was going to go. It threw him for a moment, making him a tongue tied.

“I got your message,” was his only reply. Somehow he doubts that was the best explanation he could have given, but it was the simplest.

Stiles laughs somewhat hysterically for a few moments, nearly on the verge of tears again.

God, I feel like such an idiot. I never should have called you, it was so stupid. So, thanks for coming by but I’m fine, you can go back to your epic road trip now. Nothing to see here,” Stiles rushed out. The teen always had a quick tongue, it often made it difficult to determine the truth in his words, but this was fast even for him.

Derek shifted uneasily, not used to Stiles’ scent reeking of defeat, regret and self loathing, but above all he hated that Stiles was asking him to leave. While it wasn’t the most forceful way to get rid of him hearing those words hurt deep down. He considered it for a moment though. It’d be easy, really, just hop back into the Camaro and keep driving until he found something interesting. Put Beacon Hills in his rear view mirror again and forget this place ever existed. He could do it.

Then he looked to Stiles, this hopeless, terrified version of the teen anyways, and he knew he couldn’t just leave and never look back. He’d known for a while now that Stiles was his weakness – it was a big selling point for him leaving. All he big bad monsters that swarmed to Beacon Hills just itching for a fight would know pretty quickly the easiest way to break Derek Hale. The only way to keep Stiles safe was to leave, or so he thought. Looking at how tears were falling from Stiles’ bloodshot eyes without the teen even realising, Derek knew he couldn’t leave Stiles again. Especially not when the teen looked ready to pick up the closest sharp object and start slicing into his vulnerable skin. With that terrifying thought in mind Derek made his decision.

He wouldn’t leave Stiles to be all alone. Not again.

“What happened, Stiles?” he asked softly after placing his hand on Stiles’ knee. He needed to know the full story and he’s pretty sure Stiles needs tell the story, at least once. Derek honestly expected more resistance, some dodging of the question, mindless babble to confuse him, but it was like a dam had broken inside Stiles and the words came pouring out.

“This guy came up behind me when I was working on the Jeep and grabbed my shoulder. God, it hurt so much and I had no idea what was going on, all I could feel was the pain. I picked up a wrench and swung it at the guy as hard as I could. But it didn’t matter how hard I hit him, he wasn’t human. He kinda looked like a wendigo with the white eyes, but I didn’t pay too much attention, I just ran. I was hiding in the library at school and he found me. He even gave me the whole evil villain monologue. This guy, Donovan, his dad used to work with my dad and he got hurt pretty bad. Donovan blamed my dad for what happened. He said he was gonna kill my dad just like he was gonna kill me. H–he started chasing me and I climbed up some scaffolding but he followed me. He grabbed my leg and, and he kept pulling and pulling. I couldn’t get away; there was nothing I could do. But there was this, this pin, holding the scaffolding in place and I pulled it out. All these poles they just fell down and, and one of them went ri–right through him. I didn’t mean to, I was just trying to get away, I didn’t mean to kill him, I swear, I swear.”

By the end of his confession Stiles was outright sobbing, and Derek couldn’t blame him. He sat there without saying a word for a few moments, letting Stiles collect himself. Nothing Stiles said shocked him, he knew something like this was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to hear. Just hearing the pure anguish in Stiles’ voice made him want to cry right along with the teenager.

Stiles was so broken by this whole thing, it didn’t seem to matter that it was in self defence; the only thing circulating Stiles’ mind was the fact he’d killed someone, this time without the influence of the Nogitsune. Derek remembers what Stiles was like after the Nogitsune, how distraught he was over the deaths he had caused, but at least that time he knew – at least intellectually – that it wasn’t his fault; the Nogitsune was the blame, not him.

But right now, he didn’t have the safety net of being able to blame some supernatural creature, and that’s what was eating at his insides.

“I, I couldn’t tell Scott, he’s just so perfect all the time. He’s too much of a pacifist to understand what I had to do to protect my family. And my dad, I just can’t disappoint him again. Not after everything I’ve put him through the past few years; he doesn’t need to know his own son is a monster too. I, I guess I called you because I think out of everyone you’d understand.” Stiles stammered his way through explaining himself. While his voice had lost its watery edge and he no longer looked on the verge of tears he still struggled to get the words out; struggled to finally voice what’s been running ragged through his mind for weeks. “You know what it’s like to do anything, absolutely anything, to protect your family. What little of it we have left, that is,” he mumbled before falling silent once again.

“Yeah Stiles, I do understand but I think your dad would too,” Derek softly replied, only just realising he had left his hand on Stiles’ knee the whole time. He gently squeezed Stiles’ knee before drawing his hand back into his lap. Derek flushed lightly, but luckily Stiles didn’t seem to notice his blush.

“I don’t know,” Stiles croaked. It seems that not talking much for two weeks, and then talking nonstop for close to 20 minutes has taken its toll on Stiles’ vocal chords. The teen yawned again, looking ready to pass out any moment now but fighting to stay conscious.

“Why don’t you take a nap? It looks like you could use it,” Derek commented when Stiles staring swaying in place. When it looked like Stiles was about to start protesting Derek gently pushed his shoulder down so the teen fell against the bed.

Stiles’ fight for consciousness didn’t last long when his head hit the pillow. Still the exhausted boy blindly reached out and held onto Derek’s hand.

“Will you be here when I wake up?” he whispered, already well on the way to sleep.

That right there, that was Derek’s heart shattering into a thousand pieces.

“Yeah, Stiles, I’ll be here.”

And that is exactly where Derek stayed for the next hour and a half, sitting on the edge of the bed with his hand still grasped in Stiles’ pale, bony hand. Not even the damn apocalypse could have moved him from this spot.

About five minutes before Stiles started to stir Derek heard the doorbell ring and Sheriff Stilinski answer the door. The smell of hot pizza wafted up the stairs, and even in sleep Stiles’ stomach grumbled. The word adorable flashed in Derek’s mind, but he pushed it aside just as quickly.

The Sheriff knocked lightly on the door a moment later and stuck his head around the door. Derek remembers the look on the Sheriff’s face when he sees Stiles passed out; it was the same look his father often got around any of the kids. That overwhelming fondness and absolute love, the kind only parents can experience. For the first time in years thinking about his parents didn’t remind him of smoke and burning flames.  

“Mmm...” Stiles mumbled as he blearily opened his eyes.

“Hey kiddo, pizza’s here,” the Sheriff smiled before beckoning them downstairs.

Stiles looked confused for a few moments, blinking hard several times before fully waking up. He flexed his right hand and blushed when he realised he was still holding Derek’s hand. Instead of pointing it out however Derek stood and stretched his stiff muscles before pulling Stiles up and heading towards the kitchen.

There were three place settings at the dining table when Derek and Stiles stumbled in, the Sheriff already starting in on his own pizza. Derek and Stiles sat across from one another, and Derek immediately started taking huge bites of his meat lover’s pizza, his hunger reminding him his lunch wasn’t exactly a full meal. Unless a packet of chips and an apple count?

“You’re eating meat lovers,” Stiles states mater-of-factly after nearly 10 minutes of silence, everyone enjoying their pizza too much to bother with conversation.

Derek looked up, head tilted in confusion; ready to ask Stiles why that was a problem when he realised the comment wasn’t directed at him. Stiles was looking at his father with narrowed eyes, Sheriff Stilinski on the other hand beamed widely, eyes scrunched and a little wet looking.

“Yeah kid, I am,” the older man choked out.

“Vegetarian next time dad,” Stiles replied, seeming oblivious to how emotional his father was, and went back to eating his own pizza slice – albeit his nibbles were far smaller than the gigantic bites Derek was taking of his pizza. At least the teen was eating.

The rest of the meal was spent in comfortable silence, the Sherriff sneaking glances at his son with obvious relief in his eyes. Derek stood to collect the plates; he didn’t want to seem like an ungrateful guest when the Sheriff spoke.

“So Derek, you sticking around for a while?”

Derek looked at the man then at his son, finding two sets of eyes practically begging him to stay.

Well, who was he to say no to a Stilinski.

Chapter Text

Waking up in an unfamiliar place wasn’t new to Derek. Just after the fire he and Laura would crash in any abandoned building they could find until they found themselves in New York, able to hide among the millions that pass through the city every day. On his epic soul searching road trip he slept in countless motels; some were almost bearable, others should be closed permanently with all the health violations they have.

But for once he wasn’t waking up to an old decrepit building or seedy motels that all look the same, he woke up in house.  He was warm and cosy, that deep comfort that only a real home can bring. Derek knew it wasn’t his old family home, nothing could compare to the smell of pack and the security that brought, but it was comforting all the same. Somehow, without him even realising, the Stilinski’s had become irreplaceable to him. It wasn’t just Stiles that became important to him, somehow the kid even became Derek’s anchor, but the Sheriff had started to feel like pack too. It’s been such a long time since Derek’s felt like he had a real pack. His mismatch pack with Boyd, Erica and Isaac had all happened so fast it was hard to form real pack bonds with them; but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t give everything to have them back. Even his little pack of two with Laura had been strained, both too broken to function on most days, but she was still his alpha, always will be.

The Stilinski’s were beginning to feel like home.

And that was dangerous.

If there’s anything Derek’s learnt from the past few years is that he doesn’t get to have good things, doesn’t get to save the ones he cares about, doesn’t get to have a family.

For one fleeting moment Derek considers leaving. Getting as far away from the Stilinski’s as possible and never looking back, anything he can do to keep them from suffering the same fate as others in Derek’s life. But then he remembers how haunted Stiles had looked; too thin and pale, no smile or sarcasm and how the Sheriff looked like he’d aged about 10 years. He couldn’t in good conscience leave this small broken family to wither away alone. He’d fight for them when they couldn’t fight for themselves.

Maybe Derek was poison but the Stilinski’s were made of strong stuff they could endure it.

With a great big stretch Derek climbs out of the tiny twin bed in the Stilinski’s spare room and heads downstairs to begin making breakfast. Despite the small size of the bed Derek slept better than he has in weeks. Those motel beds are always too thin and there’s always a spring digging into you making it impossible to get a good night’s rest. He figures the least he can do to show his appreciation of the bed is to cook the men upstairs a real breakfast.

He knows what those two think breakfast is. Pop tarts for Stiles and a black coffee for the Sheriff – nothing that constitutes real food. Before going to bed last night he’d snooped around in the cupboards to see if the Stilinski’s even had any food. Luckily there were enough ingredients for pancakes, some eggs and a secret stash of bacon; there was even a few tomatoes and mushrooms just to get some kind of vegetables into these guys.

He’d been cooking for about 20 minutes when he hears the first signs of life from upstairs, a bit of shuffling, the toilet flushing, and the creak of the stairs. Just as he’s taking the last pancake off the stove the Sheriff rounds the corner and just stands there blinking stupidly at Derek for a few moments.

“Perfect timing, Sheriff, breakfast’s just about ready,” he comments, hoping to wake the man up out of his stupor.

“You didn’t have to do all this Derek,” the man says after a few moments of awkward silence. He then proceeds to flop down into a chair at the dining room table; Derek thinks he’s never looked more like Stiles with the way he just collapses onto the chair. Speaking of...

“Should I go get Stiles?” he asked with a glace towards the stairs. He can hear Stiles sound asleep in his room, his breathing even, heart rate slowed, that truly deep sleep when your body needs several hours to recharge. Nothing short of the world ending could wake him up from that.

The Sheriff shakes his head, looking tired and worn out but there’s still a small smile on his thin lips.

“Nah, let him sleep as long as he can. Kid hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks,” the Sheriff rubs his weary eyes, his whole being radiating worry, and Derek not being great at feelings as he is just slides a plate stack full of breakfast in front of the man. His mother always used food as a comfort –it’s probably not the healthiest of coping mechanisms but they’d always burn off the food running around the woods anyways.

The two men eat mostly in silence, the only sounds being the scraping of cutlery and slurping of coffee. When Sheriff Stilinski finishes his breakfast he wipes his mouth with a napkin and studies Derek carefully.

“That was the best damn breakfast I’ve had in years, son.”

To Derek’s utter embarrassment, he actually blushes at the compliment. Ducking his head to hide his pink cheeks and the pleased little smile that fights its way onto his face Derek mumbles a quiet “thanks”.

Thankfully the Sheriff doesn’t comment on his sudden shyness, huffing a quiet laugh as he resumes drinking his black coffee. They’re silent for a few moments before the Sheriff finally broaches the subject that’s been on his mind since the werewolf strode back into their lives.

“You planning on sticking around?”

Despite Derek already coming to the conclusion that very morning that he would stay in Beacon Hills to better protect the Stilinski’s, he’s not one hundred percent sure if it’s the right call. What if staying meant the Stilinski’s were in more danger than they already are? What if he ruins everything like he inevitably always does?

What if he actually makes things better?

That was probably the scariest question of all.

Even though he was a bit terrified of what might happen if he stayed – whether good or bad – he couldn’t find it in himself to leave.

“If I’m wanted,” he replied finally, lifting his hazel eyes to meet the Sheriff’s blue. He felt a little offended when the Sheriff looked at him like he was an idiot.

“Derek... last night I got a glimpse of my son. The loud mouth, protective, little trouble maker that he is, it’s still there. I’d thought I’d lost that but you brought a part of him back. I know he feels safer with you here and I feel better knowing you’re here too,” the Sheriff sighed, looking far more tired than someone who just woke up should. “To be honest Derek, it was hard on us when you left. You’d become a part of this family, fitting yourself into all these little spots we didn’t know needed filling, and when you left it was like this empty space surrounded us. We missed you kid.”

Derek is shocked speechless. He had no idea the Stilinski’s felt that way about him, exactly the same way he’d been feeling about them. Humans don’t usually feel the pack bonds so strongly, but he’s said it before, the Stilinski’s are something special.

“That spare room is yours if you want it, for however long you need it.”

“Sheriff, I –“

“I think it’s about time you start calling me John.”

“Thank you, John,” Derek replies after a moment. He smiles genuinely at the older man, pleased beyond belief that he’s allowed to stay.

Derek is immeasurably happy when he notices the change in breathing upstairs; Stiles is waking up. While he’s gotten better socially and emotionally than he has been in years he still finds small talk awkward as all hell.

“I think Stiles is waking up. I’m gonna bring him some breakfast,” he states before retreating into the kitchen to fix Stiles a plate. He hears John chuckling to himself, probably all too aware of Derek’s evasion tactics.

It takes him about five minutes to get a plate ready for Stiles, in that time John has gone upstairs for a shower and Stiles is more or less conscious. Holding a full plate of hot breakfast in one hand and a steaming coffee in the other Derek uses his foot to nudge Stiles’ bedroom door open. The scene that greets him makes his heart hurt.

Stiles is awake alright, but he’s still lying curled up in bed. The blankets are cocooned around him protectively, like a kid thinking nothing can hurt him if he stays under the covers. His face is the only visible part of his body but the expression on his face is haunting. It’s clear he’s already been crying, awake for less than 10 minutes and already the water works are on. The teenager stares unseeing at his bookshelf, eyes glassy, expression vacant. Stiles hasn’t even noticed Derek standing at the end of his bed.

“Stiles,” Derek murmurs, not wanting to startle the distressed teen.

Like a gun fired Stiles shoots out of bed. His breathing is rapid fire, breathes too quick to get any real oxygen in, his eyes wild as they search his room frantically for the intruder. Even when he spots Derek he doesn’t relax, sure his shoulders slump and that wild look gets a little less crazed but he’s still terrified and breathing much too fast.

Apparently that whole ‘try not to startle him’ thing didn’t really work so well.

Panic attack. A detached part of his brain supplies. He no longer gets scared when Stiles has panic attacks, even though he’s only witnessed it about a handful of times, but he knows what to do now. Setting the breakfast on the nearby desk Derek kneels in front of Stiles by the bed and pulls the teen until his feet hang over the bed and reach the floor. Stiles’ toes automatically curl into the carpet – grounding himself to the feel of the floor. Next he takes one of Stiles’ hands and places it on his chest where he takes long deep breathes, trying to show Stiles how to breathe again. He stares straight at the teen telling him calmly that “it’s okay Stiles, just breathe with me, big breath in and out, just like me Stiles, c’mon nice and steady”. They never take their eyes off each other, Stiles’ hands are fisted in the blue fabric of Derek’s t-shirt while Derek’s hands rub circles into the teens thighs, just above his knees.

It takes a few moments, longer than Derek’s ever seen it but shorter than he expected for the turmoil Stiles is going through, but eventually Stiles’ breath evens out and he’s able to calm himself down.

Wordlessly Derek stands from the crouch he was in and goes to retrieve Stiles’ breakfast. He places the food on the teens lap and sits beside him hoping Stiles will actually eat; he’s far skinner than is healthy for a guy his age, plus the food will be something to occupy his mind instead of festering on his panic.

Stiles makes a surprised noise, staring at his plate like he’s trying to figure out how it got there in the first place. The teen stares for so long Derek starts squirming a little, a habit he no doubt picked up from Stiles, ready to tell the boy he doesn’t have to eat it if he really doesn’t want to. That’s when it happens.

Stiles practically inhales the food. The plate is completely cleaned in less than three minutes.

Derek’s a little nauseated and a lot impressed. Stiles sure can fit a lot in his mouth.

A traitorous part of Derek’s mind wonders what else Stiles could fit in his mouth. He swiftly kicks that thought back into the recesses of his mind. Thoughts like these have been slowly invading Derek’s mind for months, long before he left Beacon Hills, but he tells himself it doesn’t matter. He’s not ready for anything remotely like that and neither is Stiles.

“Oh my God, that was so good,” Stiles moans, actually moans – Derek is never going to forget that sound. “Can you cook for me every day?”

“Seeing as I’ll be living down the hall, sure,” Derek replies, smiling softly at the teens renewed appetite. He’ll cook Stiles all the foods as long as the teen keeps eating. He’d even learn to make curly fries if Stiles wanted.

Gods, when did he turn into such a sap? Oh, yeah, about the time he realised how much Stiles meant to him.

“You...You’re staying? Seriously?” Stiles asks, barely louder than a breath. He’s holding himself so tightly and so still, like a snake coiled to attack. There was that smell of daisies again, of hope, it gave Derek the courage to smile and nod. Yeah, he’d stay; as long as Stiles kept smelling of daisies instead of the grief, sadness and death he smelt of before, as long as the teen kept looking at him like he was the light at the end of a deep dark tunnel, he’d stay.

The smile Stiles graces him with is beautiful. It’s wide and bright, he’s eyes squinting with how big his smile is. It’s breath taking. Derek wants to see that smile for the rest of his life.

“On one condition though.” Just because he’s a total sap doesn’t mean he’s going to let Stiles fade away to nothing, not like the pack have done. He almost regrets speaking when that beautiful smile slips away replaced with a grimace. Stiles knows exactly what his condition is and he doesn’t like it very much. “You need to tell your dad everything.”

Stiles retreats into himself for a few moments. Staring down at his clasped hands, lost in all those ugly self deprecating thoughts Stiles’ scent grew thicker and turned rancid. Derek couldn’t sit there and watch it any longer. Gently he places his left hand over Stiles’ clasped ones, thumb rubbing along the thin skin of his hands. He heard Stiles hiccup a sob.

“What if he thinks I’m a monster?” Stiles’ voice was surprisingly even, not a hint of tears in his voice.

The question reminds Derek of a conversation long ago; a time when he tried as hard as possible not to let Stiles get too close, but the sarcastic teen did anyways. Something Derek will be eternally grateful for.

A shape-shifter, yes, but it’s – it’s not right. It’s like a-“

“An abomination.”

Since the fire Derek had always thought of himself as a monster, a cruel and hateful being, but Stiles never saw him that way – not really. Stiles has seen the creatures only heard about in fairy tales, he’s seen the good and the bad, he knows what a real monster is. So, how could he ever see himself as a monster?

“Because you’re not. You never could be a monster Stiles.”

It’s not enough, he knows that, but he’s never been good with words. Stiles seems to get it though, if the little half smile is anything to go by.

“You should take your own advice some day,” Stiles is smirking at Derek, and Derek finds the sight simultaneously attractive and annoying as hell. He scowls back automatically, his default expression around Stiles. Normally Stiles would roll his eyes, like he was fed up with everything Derek had to offer, but now Stiles keeps on smiling like he expected nothing less from the grumpy werewolf. “I’ve kinda missed your scowls.”

Before either man can speak they hear a door opening down the hall. The Sheriff – John, it’s going to take a while to get used to that – has apparently finished his shower. Derek looks back towards Stiles’ face, and while the sight breaks his heart he’s also incredibly proud. Stiles looks completely terrified, face devoid of colour, eyes as big as saucers, lips trembling; he looks ready to bolt. Underneath all that fear though is a straight spine and a deep calming inhale; determination.

“It doesn’t have to be now Stiles,” Derek murmurs. He’s clearly giving the boy an out, he doesn’t want to push Stiles too far, afraid of what that might do to the fragile teenager.

Stiles eyes snap to Derek, eyes searching his face, looking for what? Derek doesn’t know. But after a moment of staring Stiles smiles, softly, fondly, and seems to take courage from whatever he sees on Derek’s face.

“No, I can do this. If I don’t do it now I never will. Just ... can you stay up here? I, I need to do this on my own but I also kinda need to know you’re around,” Stiles looks skittish, like any sudden movements or loud noise will send him running. The fact that he’s still willing to confront his fears is inspiring to Derek and he can’t help the fond little smile that makes its way onto his face.

“I’m not going anywhere as long as you need me.”

Stiles nods, a little erratically, before almost running down the stairs towards the lounge room where his father sits. Derek stays where he is, listening intently. It’s not that he thinks John will react badly, the man is a great father and would never do anything to intentionally hurt his son, more so if Stiles needs help or encouragement. 

“Dad, I uh, I need to tell you something,” Stiles mumbles and then proceeds to say absolutely nothing for next several minutes. Derek is about to head downstairs for moral support when the Sheriff speaks up.

“Stiles, I can’t protect you if I don’t know the truth.”

There’s more silence but eventually Stiles begins his tale. Derek tunes out most of it, hearing Stiles break down once was enough thank you. It takes a long time but Stiles manages to get through it all, with a fair amount of sniffling, but he still does it and Derek is once again proud of Stiles.

“Did you really feel like you couldn’t tell me?” When John speaks it’s not with judgement or hatred or disgust, nothing like what Stiles was afraid of. The man also doesn’t sound surprised, like he knew this was coming. To be fair, the man already figured out most of the story, you don’t get to be the elected Sheriff for nothing.

“I couldn’t tell anyone,” Stiles mumbles. It gives Derek pause, if Stiles couldn’t tell anyone then why did he call Derek right after it happened?

“Did, did you think I wouldn’t believe that it was self defence?” the Sheriff implores.

“What if it wasn’t... what if I told you I wanted him dead?” Stiles doesn’t seem to want an out, he wants to believe he did something horrifically wrong. Derek sighs; it’ll take a long time before Stiles stops thinking he was the monster in this story.

“I believe you, I also believe that wanting someone dead and murdering them are two very different things,” the Sheriff sounds so calm, like he believes wholeheartedly in what he’s saying. Derek wonders if the same applies to him, he’s killed before – hell, he even killed his own uncle, for however temporary that was – would John believe he’d done nothing wrong as well?

“Well what if the judge doesn’t think so?” Stiles snaps.

“Then to hell with the judge! Stiles it was self defence, and I would destroy every shred of evidence to protect you if I had to. I would burn the whole sheriff’s station to the ground.”

John’s hear rate remains completely steady, no blips or jumps; he really would do anything at all to protect his son. Derek smiles, the Stilinski men really are something. It seems John’s statement has touched Stiles just as much as it’s touched Derek. There are no noises from the first floor for such a long time Derek would think he’s alone in the house, except for the heartbeats he can still hear racing below.

“So what, it just goes away?” Stiles whispers. He sounds so small, so fragile and broken; he sounds like a little kid needing their parents to protect them from the monsters under the bed. While Stiles’ monsters may not live under his bed anymore, they do exist, his world is full of monsters whether in his mind or on the streets.

“Not for you,” the Sheriff replies after a moment, sounding almost as heartbroken as his son. Like the thought of not being able to protect Stiles from his emotions is killing him. “Problem now is how to bury this burden; this kinda thing is not at all uncommon in law enforcement. A fatal mistake, a partner who dies, one who gets paralysed. Stiles you carry that with you. Sometimes it doesn’t truly feel okay again until there’s a kind of counter balance.”

“Like what?”

“Like instead of taking a life, you manage to save one. Something like that can help it, maybe only for a moment but the real conflict you’re having now is between your head and your heart. You head, your head knows that the only crime you committed was surviving. But your heart, your heart still thinks it was murder. So I guess you uh, you gotta get your heart to catch up to your head.”

For a moment Derek wonders how the Sheriff is managing to stay so calm and authoritative, how he knows exactly what to say, but then he gets it. This is the Sheriff, a leader in law enforcement; he’s probably had to give this speech a hundred times to his deputies. He probably never thought he’d have to give this speech to his own son, though, at least not yet.

“I feel like it’s more than guilt though, you know I feel like uh, I feel, I feel like I lost something, you know, I feel like I can’t get it back,” Stiles sounds so haunted, so lost and afraid. He wasn’t even this afraid of the Nogitsune. At least that time he could blame all the monstrosities on an evil fox spirit, this time however it’s all on him.

“You won’t... not entirely. But you get a little bit by forgiving yourself. That’s not always the easiest thing in the world to do. But I want you to know that I forgive you and I don’t blame you.”

After that there are a lot of tears, a lot of “I’m sorry”, “I love you”, and more tears. Derek excuses himself from the house, leaping out of Stiles’ window so he won’t interrupt the family scene below. There’s a more than likely chance Stiles is about to fall asleep again, the guy has about two weeks of sleep to catch up on and there’s nothing that makes you want to sleep more than a good cry.

All this family business is flooding around Derek, drowning him, so it’s no surprise that when he finally stops walking he’s standing right where his old house used to be. The council finally gave Derek an ultimatum, either he rebuilds it or they tear it down, along with a deadline. He still hadn’t made any decision by the time Kate kidnapped him and turned him into a teenager. Coming back to a demolished house was shocking in more ways than one but Derek can’t say he’s not relieved that the decision was taken out of his hands. He honestly doesn’t know what he would have chosen. No matter how much Derek loved that house he’s not sure he could have just built on top of it like the past few years never happened. Technically he still owns the land, and the surrounded forest, so one day when he’s stable enough he could build himself a home on Hale land. For now though, he’s planted an Oak tree, for strength and memory, with a plaque beside it.

“In memory of the Hale family that protected these lands. May they be remembered for ever and rest in peace knowing their lands are safe.”

“Hi guys,” he whispers, kneeling down in front of the plaque. He’s never really been one for talking to graves, believing the people that died can still hear, but every now and then he’ll say a few things – more for himself than for those he’s lost.

He sits leaning back against the Oak, by the time he planted it in Hale land the tree was already a significant size. Staring out into the preserve he can’t help but think ‘this is all mine’, and that thought in itself is terrifying. Derek was never meant to be the one to make decisions – to lead – that was always Laura’s job.

Thinking of his big sister still hurts, still feels like a fresh wound after a year and a half. Gods, he wishes she was here. She’d know how to handle everything, she’d take charge like the Alpha she was born to be and he would follow her lead without question. Not far from the Oak tree lies a small bush of wolfs bane, which his sister forever sleeps below. After that whole debacle with Scott and Stiles digging up his sister, the Sheriff allowed Derek to take the body – both halves – and bury her properly.  This time he didn’t bury her under a spiral, he had gotten his revenge on Peter, but burying a wolf under wolfs bane was a tradition.

He hopes she’s proud of him; proud that he came back, that he finally took some time to relax, that he found people he could trust again. He hopes she’s happy for him.

Derek sits by that Oak tree for hours reminiscing about his family; how his mother could run their whole pack all while stirring something delicious smelling on the stove; how his father hated confrontation but would fight till his last breath for his family; how his aunts and uncles were always so happy to see him and his sisters or how his cousins were always up for a bit of mischief; how Laura was always so bossy but had the biggest heart and how Cora always wanted to be like her older siblings. Remembering a time when things were better, far simpler and happier, a time when Derek didn’t have to question himself and everything around him.  

Unsurprisingly images of the Stilinski’s appear in his mind. Lately thinking of family means thinking of the Stilinski’s as well as his parents and sisters. They’ve become family to him, and he hopes his parents would approve of the people he’s chosen to let into his life.

He thinks they would though. He remembers speaking with his mother through her claws a few months back. While she had told him about how the Hales protected Beacon Hills she also told him other things. She had how she wanted him to be happy, and that they never blamed him for what happened to them. She said it was time for him to move on, she knew he would never get over the loss of his family – his pack – but that he needed to forgive himself and learn to live again, to love again. All his mother has ever wanted for her children was for them to be happy and safe.

Being with the Stilinski’s made Derek happy and certainly made him feel safe. They made him feel like he belonged, like he had a place in this world again.

He thinks about the Hales he has left; Peter, who was once a beloved uncle, rotting away deep in Eichen House where he belongs. Cora, his strong and independent little sister, who couldn’t stand to be in Beacon Hills after everything that happened and took comfort in staying in South America – even knowing her big brother wouldn’t stay with her. He thinks about Malia, a long lost cousin he never knew he had, and how she wants nothing to do with the Hales but how he’d like to get to know her anyways.

He may not be the only Hale left but he’s done trying to make them the family he once had. His mother was right, it’s time he started living for himself and learning to be happy.

“I love you guys,” he says, his voice a little unsteady as he runs his fingers along the engraving of the plaque.

He leaves thoughts of his family behind, feeling lighter than he has in a while, and goes off to join his new family.

Chapter Text

It feels odd for Derek to be walking away from where his home once stood because he feels like he’s walking towards his home now. No matter how far or fast he ran the Preserve has always been his home, nowhere else in the world has ever felt so right.

Until now that is.

A thought occurs to him that maybe people have two homes. Firstly, there’s the childhood home they grew up in, a place that makes them feel safe and loved. That was the Preserve for Derek. Then, there’s the second home, the one they make for themselves. The Stilinski’s house is Derek’s second home, one he’s making for himself.

Derek smiles as he walks through the front door of the Stilinski’s house, feeling almost carefree. His smile immediately fades when he spots John with his head in his hands sitting on the couch. While he knew the conversation between father and son would be rough he didn’t think it would take such a toll on the older Stilinski. Derek’s tempted to just creep up the stairs so he doesn’t disturb John but that proves pointless when the man starts speaking without even lifting his head.

 “I knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth. Didn’t make it any easier to hear though,” John sighs, a heavy distraught movement. “You know, if he wasn’t in his last year of high school I’d pack up and get him the hell out of this town. It’d be hard leaving Claudia but it’d be the best thing for our son. This town’s destroyed him.”

Derek awkwardly sits on the other end of the couch; comforting Stiles when he was upset was one thing, but trying to comfort or reassure a grown man whose old enough to be your father is something else entirely. Silently though, Derek agrees with John.

Beacon Hills isn’t what it used to be when he was a kid. It’s like there was a domino effect. First Claudia Stilinski died, not only devastating her family but dampening the mood of the whole town as someone beloved and so full of life was taken from them. A few months later his family burned in their own home. After that, everything started to go wrong.

Derek tries really hard not to think about how much worse everything got when he and Laura returned.

“Where is he now?” Derek asks, more of something to say than actually asking. He knows perfectly well where Stiles is, but he’s never been good at small talk or comforting people so this is the best it’s going to get right now.

“Asleep. He fell asleep in my arms like he used to when he was a kid. I suspect the next few days all he’s going to do is sleep, it’s been a pretty emotional few weeks for him,” John absently comments, like his mind is still focused on something else. “Which is good, because that gives us some time to talk.”

Derek’s first thought was, Oh Shit. His second thought was, Ah Crap.

There is this particular look only parents can give that’s accompanied by a certain tone of voice, all rolled together basically means ‘you are in so much trouble I can’t even explain the world of trouble you are about to be in’. That’s the face and tone he’s getting from the Sheriff right now. He doesn’t even know what he’s done wrong but he’s immediately trying to figure out some worthwhile excuses.  But mainly Derek’s hoping that John has no idea how often his teenage son has starred in Derek’s dreams lately. If he did then Derek’s pretty sure there would be a few bullet holes in him right about now. He doesn’t want to think about it.

“I want to talk to that pack and I’m gonna need you. Depending on how it goes, I might need you to stop me,” John says rather ominously. Derek understands the Sheriff’s need to yell at the pack, especially Scott, but he wonders how far the man will take it. John is a good man and a respected Sheriff, he could never hurt teenagers; whereas Derek on the other hand has no problems beating the shit of the pack if needed.

Looking at the older man now, Derek can see how tightly he’s holding himself, how white his knuckles have become from clenching them and how much tension is held in his jaw. John Stilinski may be a good man, but he’s also a father. Father’s would do anything to protect their child, even if it meant hurting the child’s best friend. Derek is equally apprehensive and awed by the Sheriff; it must be amazing to care about someone so much, have them take up your whole world to the point where you can’t imagine yourself without them.

Vaguely Derek remembers what that feeling was like; he never thought he could live without his pack. It’s been a long time since Derek’s felt the bonds of family, that dangerous sense of loyalty where you’d do absolutely anything for your loved ones. In a small way Derek can feel that loyalty spread to him; John’s including him in his plan to protect Stiles. It’d feel like some kind of initiation rite if it didn’t involve the potential maiming of teenagers.

The two men talk, almost to the point of strategising. Mostly, Derek lets John rant and rave about how useless the pack is and how much they hurt Stiles. Derek’s hoping that if John lets out all his rage now then when the time comes for a face to face with the pack he won’t want to immediately pull out his gun. 

John wants justice whereas Derek just wants to punch Scott in the face – several times.

At this point, Derek can’t tell which would be worse. There’s a sensible part of Derek’s mind, one he often ignores, that’s telling him this is a bad idea and he should just leave the kids alone. Just like every time before, he decides to ignore this warning as well. For the next few minutes John and Derek discuss how they’re going to deal with the pack, especially how they’re going to do it without Stiles finding out and trying to stop them. Stiles is loyal to a fault, until his complete devastation, and while it’s admirable it’s also heartbreaking. It gives people the opportunity to walk all over him and abuse his loyalty.

New Message -
Meet me at the loft. Now. Bring the pack.

Derek sends the text to Scott. Absently he wonders if Scott would even think to message Stiles, to include him in the pack, but after a few moments of waiting Stiles’ phone remains silent. It increased Derek’s anger but it’s not surprising in the least.

~ ~ ~

By the time the loft door opened Derek had been standing there waiting for nearly 20 minutes, luckily he’s a patient kind of guy.

Scott enters first holding Kira’s hand; surprisingly they both sport huge grins when they see Derek. It’s still a bit strange, having people be glad to see him but he supposes that will change after today. Lydia and Malia follow, both looking like they’d rather be anywhere else; Malia apparently is still uncomfortable with the idea of them being cousins. Following up the rear is Mason and Liam; Derek almost wishes the two young boys would have stayed home, he knows they really can’t be blamed for what happened to Stiles. Slinking out of the shadows another teenager follows, this one Derek’s never met. Immediately Derek doesn’t trust him, he reminds him too much of Peter; always scheming, looking out for himself and no one else, that spark in his eyes that could be read as mischief but Derek knows means evil. Without conscious thought Derek knows this to be Theo, the guy Stiles complained about months ago, the one Stiles knew was bad news. Always trust Stiles’ instinct, their better than any wolfs.

If Derek thought the smiles were shocking then what happens next nearly short circuits his brain.

“Derek!” Kira exclaims before running up and hugging him. She actually hugs him like she’s missed him. Being a fox means Kira has different instincts and abilities than a wolf. The wolves in the room have clearly picked up on Derek’s ‘I’m angry don’t come near me or I’ll hurt you’ signals, but Kira can’t detect anything. Despite how angry Derek is he can’t help but embrace her back. He’d spent a lot of time with the young fox when they were dealing with the Nogitsune and he’d come to care for her. She is such a sweet and innocent girl but with the heart of a badass warrior. He respects her and can’t entirely blame her for what the pack have done. Scott’s the one he has a problem with, mainly.

“Kira,” Scott growls, wanting his girlfriend back by his side and away from the angry wolf.  Kira untangles herself from Derek and looks between the two wolves, Scott on the verge of wolfing out and Derek glaring at the young Alpha. She still looks confused but responds to Scott’s silent command and rejoins her boyfriend.

“After all I taught you about chemo signals you only notice them when it’s convenient for you,” Derek’s voice is like ice, cold and piercing.

“What’s going on Derek?” Scott warily asks, arms crossed and radiating power – well, trying to anyways, his face is still too puppy like to ever be forceful.

“This is your pack?” Derek asks, lazily looking at the teenagers assembled before him. “Aren’t you forgetting someone?”

Derek judges the faces of the teens, gauging their reactions to his pointed question. Mason looks incredibly confused, having no idea what the hell is going on. Liam shuffles a little uncomfortably but is still shrouded in confusion. Kira oozes misery and guiltily looks up at Scott from beneath her eyelashes. Lydia continues to examine her nails and looks around the loft in distain. Malia’s reaction soothes Derek’s anger slightly, the coyote overflowing with anger, betrayal and hurt all directed at Scott and a little at herself as well. The shifter Derek assumes is Theo just smiles, like he knows where this is going and loves every second of it. Derek resists the urge to punch the guy in the face, for now anyways.

Then there’s Scott. The idiot actually looks at Derek defiantly like he’s daring Derek to challenge how he runs his pack. Not a single trace of regret or confusion to be found in his scent. Derek’s almost glad for Scott’s reaction, or lack thereof, because Derek’s near feral smile feels justified.

“No. This is my pack, no one else.”

“What about Stiles? Loyal, smart, and selfless Stiles? Is he not allowed in your precious pack anymore?” Derek asks almost absently, a false calm that he knows aggravates Scott to no end.

“Who?” Mason whispers to Liam who immediately shushes him, and throws out his elbow to collide with his friend’s midsection for good measure. 

“I’m a True Alpha, I can’t have murderers in my pack.”

And there it is, ladies and gentlemen.

Liam and Mason nearly jump out of their skin in shock; clearly they didn’t know anything about this. Derek feels a little bad for them; they shouldn’t be witness to what will undoubtedly end in blows.

Kira glares a little at Scott but it’s nowhere near as angry as it should be; she doesn’t know everything but it seems like she doesn’t agree with Scott’s judgement – Derek knew he liked the fox, heart of gold that one.

With a hum of interest Lydia finally stops looking at her perfectly manicured nails. She looks around the loft inspecting the occupants like bugs under a microscope. Not once in her sweep of the area does she look concerned, more like she’d finally found something fascinating about this pack. Derek has some morals and one of them is to never hit a non-shifter female, and only then he only ever hit shifter females during sparing or if they did something horrible to someone he cared about. Right now, Derek’s wishing he didn’t live by such a principle; he’d love to take the ever so perfect Lydia down a peg or two.

An indignant huff brings Derek’s gaze to Malia, and he almost feels proud of her. Supernaturally blue eyes are glaring holes into the side of Scott’s head and he can also see a hint of claws and a touch of fangs. Malia is perceptive and smart, despite or because of her years in the woods, she’s figured out what really happened and seems to be siding with Derek on this one. Stiles did nothing wrong and Scott is partially to blame for what happened to the teen afterwards.

Chancing a glance at Theo in the back Derek isn’t really surprised to find the shifter near grinning, like everything is going according to plan – his plan.

“So being a True Alpha is somehow more important than being a friend, a best friend if I’m not mistaken,” Derek goads. No matter the title, Derek will always have better control than a selfish teenager who’s only been a wolf for a little over a year. Mainly he wants Scott to dig his own grave, to show his true colours, as it were.

“I’m not going to be an accomplice to murder. I told him there’s a difference between self defence and murder and he crossed that line. I’m not gonna pretend like what he did was okay. Killing someone is never okay but Stiles doesn’t care about that anymore. He’ll do whatever he wants, no matter who he hurts,” Scott rants and Derek is silently seething behind his calm facade.

How dare he act so high and mighty?

“You act so self righteous all the time, but I was there the night you were begging to kill Peter,” Derek sneers. Though he holds no real love for his uncle anymore, he is still family, still a Hale.

“That was different!” Scott insists, storming closer to Derek, looking for all the world like an indignant child preparing for a tantrum.

“Oh right, you wanted to kill Peter so you could be human again, all so you could date a hunter. Murder in the name of Allison is fine right Scott? What about all those times you lost control and nearly killed Stiles when you would never dream of hurting your precious Allison? How about every time the Sheriff got hurt, but everything was okay because Allison was fine?”

Low blow bringing up the dead ex-girlfriend? Oh yeah, so low Derek can’t even see his way out, but totally worth it. Going by the bright red eyes glaring at him right now Scott was well on his way to losing control and saying something he might regret later. Whether he regrets it later or not isn’t Derek’s concern, he just wants to hear Scott say it.

“Don’t you ever talk about Allison! It’s Stiles’ fault she’s dead! He killed her too!” Scott roared into Derek’s face before swinging.

The fist connects with Derek’s jaw, with all the strength of a pissed off Alpha werewolf. Being a born wolf, thus training all his life, Derek could have easily blocked the attack but figured he’ll allow Scott one hit for the comment on Allison. One hit was all the kid got though. Derek spit blood off to the side – the floor of the loft is drenched in blood anyways, no matter how many times it gets cleaned the scent of blood never fades from the concrete – and wiggled his jaw which was already healing. Scott was already wolfed out at this point, but Derek kept his shift under control – he didn’t need the extra boost to beat Scott, Alpha or not.

Derek happily retaliated, two fists to the face, a knee to the gut and then a throw right across the room to slam into the opposing wall. Oh yeah, Scott would feel that. Once Scott was struggling to his feet Derek realised he was enjoying his; it wasn’t just the fact that it was Scott he was beating to a bloody pulp – well that was a nice bonus – but it was the thrill and adrenaline of the fight. Sure, he’s never really liked fighting but it did give him some sick semblance of power.

Scott charged at him, claws out and slicing through the air. The kid had no real training, no idea what he was doing just hoping to land a hit. Derek on the other hand has been learning to defend himself his whole life, whether with fists, claws or guns he was covered. Dodging out of the way of the swipes Derek realised Scott was backing him up against a wall.

Okay, maybe not completely clueless.

Derek barely had time to register the cool feeling of the wall behind him before Scott’s claws raked down his torso. He didn’t scream, or grunt, no sound was heard from him except a breath of air leaving his lungs. The shock from the turn of events left him wide open to the attack. Scott was going all out with his claws, shredding his skin, and Derek had a flashback to holding onto Boyd and Cora as they ferociously tore into him. He’d made sure not to hurt them, but Scott wasn’t his pack mates, he didn’t need to be gentle.

Grabbing Scott’s collar Derek waited for a break in the rhythm of the claw strikes. There. Derek thrust his head straight into Scott’s; his mum always said he had a hard head, might as well use it. Before Scott could regain his bearings Derek started hammering into him. Blow after blow, hit after hit. Derek actually began to feel an ache in his right arm by the time Scott was able to break free from Derek’s grip.

Talk about low blows, Scott went right for the jewels. Ouch.

Derek doubled over in pain dropping to his knees; he’d forgotten how much getting kicked in the nuts hurts.  

“Stop defending him! He’s killed so many people and he doesn’t even care. You know I’ve been happy these past few weeks cos he’s looked dead on his feet. Bout time he realises how much of a dickhead he’s been, playing with people’s lives like that,” Scott ranted from above Derek.

Bad move Scott. Don’t talk shit about Stiles, haven’t you learnt anything yet?

Using his left hand for balance on the floor Derek swung his feet up in the air managing to kick Scott in the face. He hasn’t tried that move since the Berserkers, since he was technically in a younger body – older body’s back isn’t so happy about that move. Once Derek was upright he punched Scott right in the gut as hard as he could – without punching right through his stomach anyways – before throwing him a few paces back.

Right into Malia.

So far Derek’s been glad the other teens haven’t tried to intervene, though he can see Lydia and Mason trying to hold Liam back from getting into the fray. He’s not really sure what to expect when Scott lands practically in Malia’s arms.

He wasn’t expecting her to snarl in his face before clawing the shit out of him. Angry, feisty, tad bit anti social but inherently good underneath it all? Yep, definitely a Hale.

As Scott was too stunned to fight back or even defend himself Malia got in a fair amount of hits, nearly bringing Scott down for good. Derek noticed none of the others were exactly rushing to stop her either.

“Pathetic,” Malia growled before pushing Scott back in Derek’s direction, apparently she’d had her fill.

“He’s the pathetic one, always was! You should have seen him lately. Could barely stay awake for class but if he fell asleep he’d wake up screaming. He tried to look so innocent and upset but he doesn’t deserve it, he killed someone, he deserves to suffer! I never believed him when he used to say he killed his mum but I actually believe it now. He did kill her because that’s what he does. He’s a murderer!”

A shot rang out through the loft, loud and deafening especially to the wolves with their heightened senses, followed by a yelp. Scott lay on the concrete floor of the loft clutching his left thigh, trying to stem the bleeding. There was faint purple smoke flowing from the wound where the bullet struck, alerting everyone to the presence of wolfsbane.

Derek kept his gaze locked on Scott, making sure the idiot didn’t try attacking again. All the other heads in the loft whipped towards the stairs where Sheriff Stilinski was calmly walking down them, gun still ready in his hands.

For a bunch of supernatural creatures with enhanced senses Derek’s surprised none of them noticed the heartbeat upstairs. During their talk earlier in the day Derek had convinced John to let him handle the pack while John waited upstairs listening in to every word. John had promised to only intervene if he really got so angry he couldn’t physically restrain himself.

Saying that Stiles killed his mother? That’s apparently John’s bullshit limit.

All the teen’s faces showed their shock at the Sheriff’s arrival, Scott still groaning on the floor in pain. Derek’s almost glad no one has gone to help him yet; he knows he should feel bad for letting a fellow wolf writhe in pain – he knows all too well how painful and all consuming wolfsbane poisoning is – but Scott deserves every second of torturous pain he gets. John comes to stand beside Derek, still oozing calm authority and fierce protection.

“Derek once told me about what it was like to be a part of a pack. He said how amazing it was to always know someone has your back, to be able to feel that camaraderie and loyalty. What you’ve got isn’t even close to being a pack,” John began, staring at each of the squirming teenagers. “Stiles needed you; all of you, his friends, and you couldn’t wait to throw him under the bus. If I could I’d lock you all up for the way you treated him.”

“But – “ Scott whimpered.

“Don’t you dare talk right now Scott!” The Sheriff roared, eyes blazing at he looked at the boy at his feet. This was Stiles’ closest friend since they were children but he couldn’t even recognise the boy crumpled on the floor before him. “You’re lucky Derek went first, otherwise there’d be a few more bullet holes in you. You’re a disgrace to the friendship you had with Stiles. I don’t even recognise you. Geez, you were always a lousy friend but this really takes the cake.”

Derek was trying really hard not to smile as he stood next the Sheriff. He was proud to consider this man part of his family, part of his pack, proud of the way John defended his child and the restraint he was showing here. It took a great deal of strength to stay your hand.

“You’ve got all the power of an Alpha but you don’t deserve the title. You couldn’t give a damn about the kids you’re supposed to lead, you sure as hell didn’t care about my son. Did you know how sick he was, how sick he still is? He’s barely eaten or slept for weeks; he wasn’t even speaking and you just act like he deserves to be in so much pain, that he deserves to just wither away. You think you’re so important because of some stupid rare title, but you are nothing compared to Stiles.”

Raising his arm, and trying not to wince at the pain it causes, Derek places his hand on John’s shoulder. If he let John talk for much longer the man would only work himself up all over again. Derek would really like to wrap this all up so he can shuffle home and start healing. Scott may be just a kid but he’s still an Alpha and wounds from an Alpha always take longer to heal. All in all Derek’s pretty surprised he’s still able to stand without wanting to faint, though it’s a near thing.

“We’re just here to remind you all of the shit friends you’ve been. Mason, Liam we’re not really blaming you guys, you hardly knew Stiles. But Liam I gotta say I’m pretty impressed with the way you wanted to defend your Alpha, even if he is a dick.” He nods to the scared boys and is delighted to see Liam stand a little straighter at the praise.

“Lydia, you’re a snob nosed bitch who thinks she’s so much better than everyone else, but like the Sheriff said you’re nothing compared to Stiles,” Derek insults the red head lazily, having no time to deal with the girl that only ever noticed Stiles when she wanted something. He takes enjoyment from her scandalized expression. When his gaze turns to Kira he sees that the girl is close to tears.

“It’s okay Kira, you were just trying to be a good girlfriend. But maybe you should drop the dead weight and focus on being yourself, not who Scott wants you to be,” Derek suggested as nicely as he possibly could. Which let’s be honest, wasn’t very nice considering he was still sporting his patented glare.

“Before you start let me just say I figured out what happened but then he dumped me and I might have taken it a little harder than I would have liked. Okay?” Malia had already started talking before Derek even looked at her.

It took a moment for her words to register and a moment longer for the meaning to kick in.

Derek’s libido instantly thought: Stiles is single!

His brain on the other hand told his libido to ‘shut the hell up, more important things happening right now, but good to know’.

“Actually I was going to say I’m proud to be your cousin. You fought for what was right and that’s pretty commendable,” Derek smiled at his cousin hoping she’d believe what he was saying. He watched as her eyes widened with surprise before she smirked. That smirk was all Peter.

“As for you, Theo, you can just fuck right off.”

With that Derek threw an arm over John’s shoulders, needing a little extra help if he was going to walk out of here. All the adrenaline that was holding him up was fading quickly. A year ago Derek would never have shown weakness like this, never asked for help like this, funny how things change. John huffed in amusement as he wrapped his arm around Derek to help support him and the two men shuffled through the group of shocked teenagers towards the door. Just before they crossed the threshold John threw a casual remark over his shoulder.

“Scott you come near my son again and the next bullet won’t be aimed at your leg.”

Threats made, they headed home.

Towards Stiles.

 

Chapter Text

He was out of breath, near panting, as he ran. Running faster than he ever has because if he stopped he’d be dead. It was almost overwhelming the knowledge that he didn’t want to die, not here, not like this. Pain was something he’d gotten used to but the pain in his shoulder and the stitch in his side were hindering his speed. Stopping wasn’t an option but he wasn’t going to be able to run for much longer.

For a brief moment he paused, sucking in a deep breath so hard it hurt, and heard the sound of pounding feet behind him. He needed an escape but more than that he needed to win, by any means necessary. This monster wasn’t going to hurt anyone he cared about, no matter the cost.

Up he went, climbing higher and higher as fast as he could, but there was a tugging on his foot. The monster followed him up and was dragging him back down. No, he couldn’t lose; he had too much at stake to let the monster win.

Everything around him felt frantic and crazed but his mind was completely calm when he realised he’d have to kill the beast. Clarity came rushing in and everything went quiet. Just one tiny insignificant pin and it’d all be over. It took no effort at all to pull it out.

The quiet was shattered as dozens of metal poles came crashing down before a wet gurgling and squelching sound echoed throughout the room. Listening to someone trying to breathe through the blood filling their lungs was a sound he’d never heard before, and one he was likely never to forget. One more bubbling cough before silence reigned again. This silence was different, this was foreboding, haunting. A type of silence that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and your skin crawl.

Looking at the scene below was enchanting. Horrifying for sure but entrancing in that sick and twisted way where you can’t take your eyes off it. There was the beast, the monster at his heels, suspended off the ground by a great metal pole sticking right through his chest. Blood was everywhere, so much red coating everything. From his chest and lips ran crimson rivers, pooling underneath the beast in a perfect circle of dark blood. Copious amounts of blood were one thing but those cold dead eyes staring at him were far more disturbing than anything else in the room. Those eyes were accusing.

“You’re a monster. You killed me.”

Though the beast’s lips didn’t move he could hear his voice as clear as if they’d been spoken into his ear. The voice was thick and haggard, choking on its own blood. Those eyes still staring right at him, daring him to ever forget this face.

“You’re a murderer!”

Stiles shot out of bed gasping for breath. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see, and couldn’t tell if he was still stuck in his dream or if he’d finally dragged himself to the surface. Feeling like he’s been underwater Stiles sucked in deep ragged breaths, greedily sucking oxygen into his deprived lungs.

It took a moment for his breathing to settle into something vaguely normal and for Stiles to realise the reason he couldn’t see was because he still had his eyes squeezed tightly shut. Opening them was harder than he thought it should be, but honestly he’s terrified that if he opens his eyes he’ll see Donovan’s blood stained body again.

You’re fine, Stiles, you’re fine. He tells himself as some sort of mantra, trying to encourage his brain to open his eyes.

In the smallest of increments Stiles opens his eyes; there is no blood, no body, and no dead eyes staring at him. All he can see is his messy room and the barest hints of morning light shining through his blinds. For a few minutes Stiles just sits there breathing, willing the panic to recede. While he’s not on the verge of a panic attack anymore Stiles still feels haunted; claustrophobic, trapped.

Stiles unlocks his phone to check the time and groans. There is just something so wrong about being awake before 7am, especially when Stiles only really got about two hours of sleep last night. The fact that it’s a Sunday makes the early start so much worse, weekends are for sleeping in. Luckily it’s not so early that it’d be weird to see someone walking around the streets. Throwing on a grey hoodie and a pair of sneakers Stiles doesn’t care about still being in his pyjamas, his only thought being ‘need to get out, get away.’  He has enough forethought to leave a note for his dad and Derek before making his way out of the house.

When Derek Hale had magically reappeared in his life Stiles made a conscious thought to move past all the panic and anxiety that had been drowning him recently. There had always been something about Derek that made him feel safe and brave. Going for a walk when things got too intense or suffocating seemed like a step in the right direction, instead of sitting at home and obsessing in his misery. Though this is the first time he’s done it with any sort of intent – purposely trying to drown out his thoughts and find some semblance of balance. It’s not nearly as effective as he thought it’d be though.  To be fair, Derek’s only been back two days so the lack of progress shouldn’t make Stiles feel like a failure, not yet anyways.

Stiles had walked two blocks before he realised how cold the morning actually was. This wasn’t helping. Usually going for a walk cleared his mind, made everything else just float away. Focusing on each step he took, the way his feet connected with the ground, and memorizing how it felt each time he took a breath; that was what he needed right now, that mind numbing tranquillity.

So he tried again. One step forward, notice how his body moved with the momentum, breathe deep focusing on how the lungs expand. When his throat hurt from the cold air he relished in the feeling and kept going, driving himself farther and harder hoping for more sparks that made him feel. Walking up a steep hill jarred his left knee but he kept going because it was better than the alternative. Once he finally decided to look up Stiles had to stop because he had no idea where he was. He’d only been walking for maybe an hour, considering the pains in his body, but he’s pretty sure he’s never been in this part of Beacon Hills before. Nothing stood out as being particularly noticeable; it was just a normal suburban street. Beacon Hills wasn’t really that big of a town so sooner or later Stiles would spot something he recognised and he’d be on his way home. Expecting to feel a stab of panic at being lost Stiles was surprised to feel so calm.

He’d taken one step forward when everything went a little fuzzy around the edges. Everything felt wrong and distant. All at once Stiles noticed how his body was reacting – he was sweating profusely and felt far hotter than he should, his stomach was cramping and his head pounding, not to mention the small tremors racking his frame that chimed in time with the sounds of hysterical laughter he finally pinpointed as coming from his mouth. It all happened so suddenly Stiles nearly passed out from the onslaught of awareness. Without warning his legs gave way and Stiles was left in a shaking heap on the ground. If his brain was properly functioning right now Stiles would wonder when he started crying or why he can’t stop laughing. Nothing about this situation was funny, so why is he laughing so hard?

He can’t stop the tears, can’t stop the laughter, and his body is screaming out in pain. It feels like he’s dying; he’s been in enough near death situations to know the feeling by now. He’s in a fog, he’s out of control and he feels like he’s losing. Losing his grip on reality, losing the will to live, losing everything.

Stiles is vaguely aware of someone approaching him cautiously, they probably ask if he’s okay, but he can’t comprehend much more than that. He must look completely insane to them, some random kid crumpled on the ground laughing and crying uncontrollably, seemingly without reason. His body tenses all over when there are hands on his shoulders and legs, trying to untangle him from the slumped form he’d fallen into. Out the corner of his eye Stiles can see the flashing red and blue lights, figures the hands on him and the distant voices around him must be EMT’s but apart from that he’s aware of very little. As the cacophony of sounds around him fade in and out in a dizzying array, Stiles finds himself laughing and crying himself into unconsciousness where everything is blissfully dark and quiet.

When he comes to several hours have passed, if the darkening sky is anything to go by. Stiles breaks into consciousness slowly. First he’s aware of the sounds around him, that unmistakable beep beep of a heart rate monitor. Then there’s that antiseptic smell of hospitals he’s intimately familiar with and the hard uncomfortable hospital bed beneath him. For a moment he thinks he’s a kid again, sleeping next to his mother and trying desperately to hope for her recovery. Remembering that she’s been dead for almost a decade is soul crushing. A few tears escape his still closed eyes; if he opens them then she really is gone and he’ll be all alone again.

That’s when feeling returns to the rest of his body and he notices something that makes his eyes spring open needing to be sure that what he’s feeling is real. He wasn’t dreaming, it’s real, someone actually is holding his hand. Stiles’ eyes travel from the hand clasped in his up the persons arm all the way to their face. His breath hitches when it’s Derek’s face staring back at him. It’s been a long time since Derek has looked so angry at him, but Stiles is fluent in Derek Hale facial expression and knows the anger now gracing his features is hiding the overwhelming worry that must be too hard for Derek to handle.

“What happened?” Stiles croaks after a few moments of silence where they just look at each other. When Derek still doesn’t say anything Stiles starts to worry. How sick is he? Is he dying? Will he end up like his mum? “Derek?”

“They think you had some kind of severe panic attack. Your heart rate was dangerously high, you were practically hysterical and they couldn’t move you safely until you passed out. The doctor said you had a fever when you were brought in and that you’re underweight, like really underweight. They’ve had you sedated most of the day because your dad said you haven’t slept properly in weeks. They’re keeping you here overnight for observation.”

Stiles just blinks at the older man for a few moments, it’ll never cease to amaze him when Derek actually speaks at length. It’s like some gift from god that should be treasured because of its rarity. Though blinking at someone probably isn’t a sign of getting better. So he just nodded and looked away from Derek to sort through what happened and what Derek said; he purposely didn’t think about his hand still in Derek’s.

Panic attack, huh? That was nothing like the panic attacks he’s used to. He’s been having these things since his mother died, he’s used to that choking fearful experience – this was nothing like that. This felt like he was going insane, like he was already dead. Stiles knows he’s depressed – hard not to be in his situation – so the thought of really not caring if he was actually dead or not didn’t surprise him but with Derek sitting next to his hospital bed holding his hand, it made him want to give living a second chance.  Stiles wasn’t stupid enough to think that just because Derek cared about him – a notion that made his heart flutter since he’s been harbouring a pathetic crush on Derek for nearly a year now so this whole hand holding thing is really doing something to his insides – meant his life was suddenly going to  get better. Honestly, Derek was only a small part of Stiles wanting to get better, to live. Derek was just the kick he needed for the thoughts to stick. Leaving his dad all alone in this harsh and unfair world wasn’t something Stiles even wanted to think about.

He’ll live for his father because he should never be alone.

A part of him will live for Derek because he shouldn’t have to lose another person he cares about.

He’s working on trying to live for himself. For now he’s content to live for other people; doing something, anything, for himself brings with it feelings of panic.

He’ll admit the attack scared him, it was downright freaky, but he’s not sure where he’s supposed to go from here. There is no cure for panic attacks or anxiety or depression or any other number of mental health issues Stiles is currently dealing with. So what was the point in staying in hospital when there is nothing the doctors can do to fix him?

Before he could ask that question aloud his dad walked in carrying two Styrofoam cups of bland hospital coffee. Looking at him the man looked tired, ragged really, like he’d been run over a few times and left to suffer alone. It was heartbreaking and Stiles let a few tears fall just thinking about it. He’d fight this, whatever it was or wasn’t, he’d fight for his dad so he wouldn’t look so defeated ever again.

“Hey kiddo,” his dad smiled upon seeing he was awake. John handed one cup to Derek before leaning down and kissing Stiles’ forehead. It made Stiles feel like he was five years old again and it was amazing. Though his limbs were still a little sluggish he was able to wind his arms around his father and hold on for dear life. There was that feeling of safety and unwavering love that comes from holding onto his dad. When they finally release their hug John’s eyes are a little wet but he’s smiling fondly at his son.

“Sorry I scared you and that we’re in a hospital again,” Stiles mumbled once his dad took a seat next to his bed. Neither Stilinski liked hospitals, not since they lost Claudia, and Stiles couldn’t begin to imagine what his father would be feeling seeing him lying in a hospital bed just like she had.

This whole situation brings back uncomfortable memories of the last time he was in the halls of this hospital, when the doctors told his father that Stiles had the same disease that killed his wife. Ever since she passed that has been one of Stiles’ biggest fears. He hates the Nogitsune for dozens of reasons but making him and his father believe he was sick like her is something that makes his blood run cold just thinking about it. For the Nogitsune it was all some joke, a ploy to get Stiles to give in, for Stiles it was his worst nightmare. Though he tries to hide it, Stiles knows his father is having similar flashbacks.

“Don’t worry about any of that Stiles, I just want you to get better okay?  Did Derek tell you what the doctors said?” John asked softly, like he didn’t want to upset Stiles with any loud noises. Stiles wants to cry because it’s the same tone of voice he used to talk to his mother when she was in hospital, but he holds off and simply nods. “We can’t stay much longer, visiting hours are almost up, but we’ll be by tomorrow to pick you up.”

Before Stiles can ask exactly when is he being let out of this nightmare a nurse enters placing a tray on his table and leaving again with a pointed ‘you must eat this’ stare. Stiles should get Derek to teach these nurses how to glare properly, his are far more effective. Looking at the offered tray Stiles grimaces. It’s not like the food looks bad per say, it’s just steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables, but Stiles feels too nauseas to eat anything. Stiles looks up ready to make some joke about bland hospital food when he notices both Derek and his dad are staring at him in concern. He doesn’t like people being concerned about him, especially not his dad ... and now Derek.

Sighing Stiles brings the plate closer to him and picks up the fork. He gets it, he’s lost too much weight but every time he even thinks about food he feels like throwing up. Clearly he’s not getting out of another missed meal with the looks he’s currently getting. Forkful by agonising forkful Stiles shoves the food down his throat, trying desperately not to think about anything food related. With two pairs of eyes watching his every move Stiles finishes his plate in silence. He feels disgusting afterwards, like if he puts anything else in his mouth he’ll explode, but both Derek and his dad look relieved so he takes it as a win.

It’s not long after finishing his meal that they leave somewhat reluctantly. John kisses his forehead again and wishes him sweet dreams – yeah like that’s gonna happen, his inner voice can’t help but snark.

“You’ll be fine and I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” Derek says quietly looking Stiles in the eyes, like he’s willing Stiles to believe his words. After running his hand through Stiles’ hair and down his neck Derek leaves with the Sheriff. Stiles feels warm all over, he knows what Derek did. That was scent marking, that was a pack thing. Derek considers him pack. It shouldn’t make Stiles feel like his life got a little brighter but it does; it feels like acceptance, like belonging, like home.

With that thought in mind Stiles smiles and snuggles up to fall asleep. Not fearing his dreams for the first time in weeks.

 Stiles had been awake for hours by the time the first nurse came in to check on him the next morning. Sleeping last night had been better than usual but still not nearly good enough to pass for proper sleep. The nightmares remained and sometimes he’d wake up gasping for breath but Stiles took it as improvement that he didn’t wake up screaming.

He knew it was coming, there’s no way Stiles could have come to Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital and avoided it, he just wishes that the nurse bringing in his breakfast wasn’t Mrs. McCall. Both his dad and Derek had sat him down Saturday night and told him what happened with the pack. Still feeling groggy from his nap Stiles hadn’t really been able to process what they were saying. Apparently they called the pack out on being shitty friends, things were said, Scott got shot because he was being his usual Alpha-brained-Scott self and Stiles now has no friends. Though to be fair they haven’t really been friends in weeks, his brain whispers traitorously.  Maybe he should have tried harder to sort through his feelings about it all before going to sleep that night; that neglect might explain why he woke up yesterday morning absolutely needing to get out of the house before Derek and his father woke up, thus leading to his epic panic attack. Hindsight and all that, right?

Thinking about all his friends abandoning him doesn’t mess him up as much as he thought it would. Since this whole werewolf thing started Scott’s been more focused on himself – or Allison, or Kira, or hating and distrusting Derek, or being the righteous hero – than anything Stiles had to offer. Lydia was too busy with her latest conquest to bother with his issues. Kira was too worried about rocking the boat and Liam and Mason were too new to the fold. Malia was the one that Stiles regretted the most because he genuinely cared about her and he knows she felt the same. When the incident with Donovan happened Stiles retreated into himself and pushed Malia away, giving that bastard Theo the perfect opportunity to corrupt her thoughts. Some day far into the future Stiles would like to try being her friend again but he doesn’t hold out much hope.

Thinking about it all, senior year is going to majorly suck now that he’s a loner. Maybe that’s not the worst thing though, it means he can focus on studying and get into an awesome school and leave this hell hole behind. Silver linings, right?

“Time for breakfast, Stiles,” Melissa said placing the plate of eggs and bacon in front of him, before taking a seat on the edge of his bed.

Shit, now I have to talk to her, he thought as well as, this whole watching me eat thing is getting real old.

Eating is far more pleasurable than having to look into the eyes of a woman he’s thought of as family for nearly a decade, and food makes him nauseas lately so that’s really saying something. Picking up the fork Stiles starts moving his food around listlessly, he really can’t eat right now so he tries to make it look like his interested in the food at least. He knows exactly what he’s doing and knows that it’s bad but right now he doesn’t care. Having an eating disorder wasn’t something Stiles ever thought about until his dad started making comments about how skinny he was getting and he couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten. He’s known for weeks that he needs to eat proper food – instead of nibbling on a protein bar every now and then – and more food in general but he couldn’t find the energy to care. Sitting down for meals with his dad it was stupidly easy to deceive him. All Stiles had to do was pick up his cutlery and move his food around, it made it look like he’d actually eaten something when in reality he hadn’t taken a single bite. He doesn’t think this trick is going to work with Melissa but trying never hurt.

“So Dr. Haldan will be in soon to talk to and assess you... psychologically. The only things physically wrong with you are the fever and the weight loss but they can be managed at home. Mentally though, we need to know what’s going on. They’re going to send you to a psychologist no matter what but I pulled some strings so you’ll be taken care of.”

At that Stiles finally looks up to face her. And, oh, that still hurts. Melissa wasn’t a replacement for his mother, no one will ever compare to his mother, but she was an important part of his life. She was family and it hurts more than Stiles thought to be thinking in past tense. Losing Scott was one thing, something that had been slowly happening for the past year, but losing Melissa is like digging a hole in his heart that will never be filled.

“Why would you do that?” he whispers hoarsely, too many emotions clogging up his throat. She should hate him, he’s the reason her son got shot two days ago – sure he can heal from almost anything so it isn’t as life threatening as it would be for a human, but still. It was a wolfsbane bullet; Scott would have been in agony for hours, long after the bullet was removed and feeling weak well into the next day. Melissa McCall is protective and downright deadly when her son has been hurt.

“Stiles,” Melissa sighs, but she still smiles towards him, if a little sadly around the edges, “just because you and Scott are fighting doesn’t mean I don’t care about you. I don’t blame you or your dad for what happened on Saturday. We both know Scott can be a real idiot sometimes. If you and Scott never become friends again then that’s okay, but I’ll always be here if you need me.”

Stiles doesn’t know when he started crying, but he can feel the tears running down his face. Melissa has always been one of the most extraordinary people he’s ever met, and her compassion shouldn’t surprise him but it does. That woman has the biggest heart but chooses who she lets in very carefully; once you’re in though, she’ll never let you go. Her soft hand grasps one of Stiles’, the one limply holding his fork having forgotten about pretending to eat the moment she started speaking.

“You, you hyperactive troublemaker, have been like a son to me since you were in kindergarten. No matter what that won’t change okay?” she speaks so earnestly that all Stiles can do is nod back. “Good. Now you’re gonna be released at about 6pm but you’re not leaving this hospital unless you eat all the food we give you.”

She gives a very pointed look at his still full plate that makes Stiles chuckle and actually start to nibble on the eggs and bacon she’s given him. That ball of nauseas anxiety that’s been rolling around in his stomach settles enough for him to swallow his food. It’s still too much food for him to handle and every bite makes him feel bloated but if he ever wants to get out of this place then he needs to suck it up and eat.

“This lack of appetite isn’t like you, Stiles. You’re gonna need to monitor this at home, because if you lose any more weight you’ll be right back in here and we’ll have to keep you longer than one night. You understand?”

Well, that’s certainly one incentive to eat more. The less time Stiles has to spend in a hospital the better.

“Oh, and the doctors saw that wound on your shoulder. They think it’s weird but because it’s not infected they didn’t ask any questions.”

Instinctively Stiles reaches up to touch his right shoulder. It was a pretty weird looking wound but it’s not like he could tell anyone that it was a bite mark from some messed up supernatural creature that he killed. Holding his breath Stiles waits for Melissa to ask what happened and is immeasurably relieved when no prying questions come. Telling Derek and his father what happened was hard enough; he’s not sure how many more times he can tell his story before he breaks. Cracks have already begun to form around the edges; he has to tread carefully if he doesn’t want to shatter.

“Thanks Melissa, for everything. For not giving up on me,” Stiles mumbled feeling too many emotions trying to bubble to the surface. Confusion, love, gratitude, apprehension, fear, safety, foreboding. Mostly, it feels like he’s saying goodbye. “I am sorry Scott got hurt, no matter how much he deserved it.”

~ ~ ~

Walking up to the hospital entrance Derek felt like rushing; he’d spent the entire day avoiding this place which in turn meant avoiding Stiles. Derek had almost as much reason to hate hospitals as the Stilinski’s did. Wasting time was a lot harder than Derek thought, as usually he’s a man of action. Paying what few bills he had, going grocery shopping and emailing Cora only took so long. Thinking back to that email Derek wondered if he should have emailed her the day he arrived, and if he really should have gone into so much detail about Stiles.

To: Cora
From: Derek

Hey Cora,
Made it back to Beacon Hills safely. With no speeding tickets, so you owe me $20. Things around here are just as crazy as always. It’s also horrible being back, too many bad memories and I think it’s only going to get worse.
Sheriff Stilinski let me stay with them so that’s nice, no more sleazy hotels or a loft filled with bad memories.
Stiles isn’t doing well, like at all. You should have seen him when I got here. Skin and bones, looks like he’ll blow away in a strong wind. He broke down crying when he saw me. Its, gods it’s so heartbreaking Cora. He’s just fading away, he’s not the same Stiles I remember. He’s so broken and I don’t know if I can fix him.
Right now he’s in the hospital, had some kind of intense panic attack. The doctors told me that the people who found him said he’d been laughing and crying hysterically for nearly 20 minutes before the EMT’s arrived. He’s got a fever and has lost so much weight that they’re worried he’s anorexic. They kept him overnight for suicide watch. I just, I can’t. I screwed up so much when I left. What if me being here just makes him worse? Should I have even come back here?
I can feel this place sucking away pieces of my soul. This place is toxic. There was always so much going on that I never realised. But now, fuck, it’s suffocating. But I can’t leave the Stilinski’s, they’re pack.
Speaking of pack, the Sheriff and I yelled at Scott’s pack. Told them how badly they fucked up when it came to Stiles. The Sheriff even shot Scott in the leg with a wolfsbane bullet – it’s a highlight of my life honestly. Don’t tell Stiles I said that or I’ll show him you’re One Direction collection.
To sum it all up, this place sucks, Stiles isn’t doing well, I don’t know what to do and I just really hate this place.
I miss you little sister.
Hopefully things in Puno are going better than here. Try to stay out of trouble. Tell everyone I said hi.
Love Derek.

 

It’s not like Derek doesn’t want to see Stiles, it’s just he feels so helpless and seeing Stiles lying in a hospital bed brings up uncomfortable memories. He remembers sitting by Cora’s bed, watching the heart rate monitor beep away and praying that it kept beeping; Remembers wondering if she was ever going to wake up, remembers that feeling of helplessness and how desperately he clung onto hope that he wasn’t going to lose her after they’d only just found each other again.

Logically, Derek knows Stiles isn’t actively dying but those pesky doubts always find a way to creep in and plant themselves in Derek’s mind. So, he’s rushing because as stupid as it sounds he’s actually kind of missed Stiles. Four days, that’s all it’s been since he came back and already Stiles has wormed his way back into Derek’s heart.

Derek’s so preoccupied with thinking about Stiles that he nearly runs into someone standing outside the hospital doors. An apology begins to makes its way out of his mouth until he realises who exactly is blocking his way.

“What are you doing here?” he asks a little suspiciously, eyeing the flowers and gift bag their carrying.

“Um, I heard Stiles was sick so I wanted to see if he was okay and also to apologize,” Kira rushes out nervously. “If you’ll let me, that is.”

“Bit late now don’t you think?” Derek raises an eyebrow, he’s always been better at getting his face to communicate better than his words. He tries to soften his voice as he knows it’s not really Kira’s fault Stiles is here and he doesn’t blame her, but it’s hard to fight down his feelings regarding that pack especially in light of all that was revealed this last Saturday.

“Probably,” Kira agrees dejectedly, “but it doesn’t hurt to try, right? Though, I guess he doesn’t want to see me or any of us again, huh?”

Derek feels conflicted.

On one hand he doesn’t want any of that pack to ever be around Stiles again, wants them all to get out of his life for good. Then there’s the fact that Derek actually likes Kira, she has this innocence about her that hides a great deal of strength. The girl is an outright badass with enormous power but a heart of gold. Making this decision is difficult, and he feels like he’s denying Stiles the right to make his own life choices. Either Derek can do what he wants and refuse any former pack member from seeing Stiles or he can do what he thinks Stiles would want; Stiles would give every one of them a second chance because he believes in the best of people, but he still has enough common sense to be suspicious. But is seeing them really what’s best for Stiles?

This is why being an Alpha didn’t work for Derek; he doesn’t always make the best choices and sometimes his decisions have gotten people hurt, or worse – so much worse. That’s something he can acknowledge now but couldn’t see back then when he was the Alpha, back then he thought everything he did was the right choice. Oh, how wrong he had been.

What if letting the pack back into Stiles’ life just gives them more chances to hurt him again? Before any decision can be made though Derek needs some answers. Answers that will hopefully make the decision somewhat easier.  

“Why didn’t you help before?”

At that Kira looks up at him apprehensively with a great deal of guilt and hints of shame. It takes a few moments for the fox to get her thoughts in order and actually speak.

“Lately I’ve, um, I’ve been having trouble controlling the fox. I don’t really trust my mum anymore but I thought being around other shape shifters might help. But we’re not like what I thought a pack would be. Everyone’s too wrapped up in their own drama to think about anyone else.”

Derek shakes his head at hearing that. He’s known for a long time that Scott’s pack wasn’t the type of pack a born wolf would ever want to be a part of – him especially. While he’d effectively passed the torch of protecting Beacon Hills over to Scott when he left, he also knew that Scott doesn’t know how to lead a pack properly. He doesn’t know how to make pack members feel like family – how being pack makes you feel whole. It’s nothing like how his mother ran her pack. Derek could have taught Scott all the ins and outs of pack life but he never thought Scott really deserved it. Being pack was a sacred thing, it was special and honoured; Derek thinks Scott would have spit all over the idea of a pack being one cohesive unit. There’s no point in teaching someone who doesn’t want to be taught.

“I liked Scott and dating him was nice but I want you to know I didn’t stick around just so I could be Scott’s girlfriend. I needed help and I thought they could help me. But they don’t care about each other and Scott really doesn’t care about Stiles, not anymore, and that’s not right. I wanted to help but if I lose control of my fox it could kill people. But you knew what I was the second you saw me and I think you know a lot more than you let on. I was hoping you could help me,” she requests tentatively, likely knowing how thin the ground she’s treading on was at the moment.

Kira looks so earnest, eyes glistening but jaw set as she looks up at him, awaiting his verdict. It’s admirable, Derek knew he liked her. He also doesn’t miss the way she speaks about Scott in past tense, he’s hoping she took his advice and dropped the dead weight.

“What makes you think I’d want to help you?” Derek raises an eyebrow and crosses his arms over his chest. Despite the soft spot he has for the fox, there are some pretences he needs to keep up.

“Because you care about people, especially when they’ve made a mistake,” Kira’s voice is firm and confident, more so than it’s been their entire conversation. Smirking, Derek nods in the direction of the hospital and the two make their way inside, Derek leading Kira to Stiles’ room.

Silence follows them as they make their way to the second floor, Kira fidgeting nervously. Rolling his eyes Derek walks in front of the fox and straight into Stiles’ room; it’s up to Kira whether she’s ready to face Stiles or not, he won’t push her.

“Yo, Derek,” Stiles casually calls when Derek sits on the chair beside the bed. The greeting is meant to be funny and light hearted but there’s a tiredness to his voice, not to mention the strained smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Wanting to get better and actually getting better are two very different things and one takes a lot longer than the other. But Stiles is trying, so Derek lets the awkwardness go.

“Hi Stiles,” Kira mumbles from the doorway.

Keeping his eyes locked on Stiles’ face Derek watches for any signs of distress. If Stiles really doesn’t want her there then Derek has no problem kicking the fox out, Stiles comes first. Shock overtakes Stiles for a few moments leaving the teen numbly gaping and blinking in confusion.

“Kira! Hi, uh, what are you doing here?” Stiles stumbles once he shakes out his shock.

 Scenting the air Derek can smell that lovely daisy smell again; that refreshing smell of hope, but it’s tiny compared to all the other emotions swirling around the space. Confusion, wariness, suspicion, disappointment and hints of anger mesh together creating an entirely new scent. At least, the scent is new in the sterilized environment that they’re now occupying. Derek can’t deny that there were times when the scent blossomed in the past before it was violently cut off, leaving only vague tendrils suspended in the air. He had shaken it off in the past, not having had time for it nor the care if he were being honest. Now though, the scent is overwhelming and he can’t help but give it his full attention. It smells a lot like rotten fruit, not the worst smell in the world but definitely unpleasant.  Deep down Derek knows Stiles wants to move on and have his friends back but there’s too much damage he can’t forget – refuses to forget because he doesn’t want to be treated like that ever again.

 Derek feels that most of Stiles’ resentment and apprehension is aimed towards Scott, and Lydia to a lesser degree, but he thinks Stiles is a little disappointed in Kira for not standing up to Scott sooner. From firsthand experience Derek knows Stiles has the ability to grant people second chances, sometimes even third chances in his case. It might take time but Derek secretly hopes Kira gets another chance. Despite Derek’s own feelings towards the girl it doesn’t mean he’s comfortable leaving Stiles alone with someone from that pack, no matter how genuine their apologies are.

Shuffling forward Kira places the flowers on the small table at the end of the bed, smiling cautiously when she passes Stiles a small gift bag.

“I wanted to make sure you were okay and to say I’m really, really sorry for everything that happened.” Everything about her screams of the awkwardness she’s feeling – the way she can’t look Stiles in the eye, her shuffling feet and twitching hands. Stiles’ apprehension is thick in the air but Derek admires Kira for ploughing through and apologising anyway.

Ignoring her apology Stiles digs into the bag. It’s not about the excitement of a present Derek thinks, more about having something to focus on that isn’t emotional. Anything would be better than having to talk about feelings.

“Whoa! Awesome, I haven’t read these yet. Thanks dude, uh I mean Kira,” though his words speak of joy his voice sounds tired and like he’s trying too hard to be ’happy’. With far less hesitation this time Stiles smiles at the kitsune, it’s small and strained but it’s there. Apparently a Star Wars and X-Men comics were the way to buy Stiles’ forgiveness, at least temporarily. His previous unease melts into the background, replaced with curiosity at his new comics. For a moment he seems to forget that Kira is there at all, though that avoidance may be on purpose, as he flips through the comics. The comics are safe, neutral territory, something to focus on that isn’t the shit show their lives have become.

 Derek smiles serenely when the two teenagers begin to talk about the comics, it’s just so normal. They discuss who the better villain was, Darth Vader or Magneto, and they joke about how all their friends resemble Wolverine. There’s a moment of awkward silence between them then as they both come to the realisation that their friends are no longer their friends. Watching the scene unfold makes even Derek feel sad, teenagers shouldn’t have to look so destroyed by their friendships. Stiles is the first to shake it off and asks Kira who her favourite characters from each franchise are. It’s incredibly forced, Stiles trying so desperately not to think about it or let the awkwardness linger. Eventually they pick up their rhythm again and nerd out together.

Derek wishes he could capture this moment, bottle it away so he can remind Stiles of this moment when things get out of control again. He wants to remind Stiles what it feels like to be a normal teenager, no supernatural creatures coming to mess up his life, what it felt like to talk about Marvel characters with a friend – well the chance at friendship anyways. Derek himself has a lot of opinions regarding X-Men, he was a bit obsessed when he was a kid, but this isn’t about him. It’s about Stiles and Kira, about them both remembering they aren’t alone in their struggles.

The teens talk for another hour, full of awkward silences and carefully chosen topics, before Kira has to leave; apparently her parents have strict rules now that she’s discovered her kitsune powers. Derek nods shallowly, both acknowledging that Kira is leaving and understanding her hint about her powers. Deciding to help her was easier than he thought; she made Stiles laugh, how could he not help her? More than that was the simple fact that Derek liked her – and Derek only honestly likes a handful of people – she was kind, brave and on top of that a total nerd. Perhaps this easy acceptance is because she’s a born creature like Derek instead of bitten. Sure, she’s only recently been aware of her power but she’s still grown up feeling this presence inside her. He can relate to her in ways he can’t with the other residents in Beacon Hills.

Not wanting to disturb the atmosphere Derek picks up the X-Men comic and begins reading, memories from his childhood flooding in making him feel warm all over. Stiles chuckles briefly before digging into the Star Wars comic. Everything feels lighter somehow, like the pressure has lifted and everyone can breathe easier. Derek hasn’t felt this relaxed since before he heard Stiles voicemail over two weeks ago.

It’s not going to be easy, and it certainly won’t be okay not for a very long time anyways, but there’s a tiny light at the end of a very long tunnel. They’re facing an uphill battle but Stiles is strong and stubborn, he’ll conquer it in his own time and Derek plans on being there for every step along the way. 

Chapter Text

Stiles has been out of the hospital for two days now and he’s been quiet, far too quiet from what Derek’s used to hearing from him anyways. Though according to John this is still more than Stiles has spoken in weeks. If this near silence is improvement then Derek doesn’t want to know what it was like for John before he arrived.

Derek understands why Stiles is so withdrawn. Being in a hospital again affects the teen more than he’d like to admit. It’s not just the memories of his mother slowly fading away that plague him, it’s also about how he felt being in there thinking he was going to die just like his mother. The Nogitsune was without a doubt an evil bastard, but Derek thinks that trick it played on Stiles was one of the worst. He remembers how choked up Stiles was when the teen told him about what it felt like to think he had Frontotemporal Dementia, how his biggest fear became reality and how devastated he was to know this disease would steal another loved one away from his father. There were many things about the Nogitsune that troubled Stiles but Derek thinks that that moment – that trick – has left such a deep scar that Stiles will never recover from it.

Derek himself may be doing a hell of a lot better mentally than when he first arrived in Beacon Hills a year and a half ago but he is by no means a healthily functioning member of society. He has his days when all he can think about is the burning flesh of his family; when all he can smell is ash and death and is struck frozen by the overwhelming feel of loss. Other days he’s overcome with a deep burning rage that consumes everything in its path. Derek still has a great deal of trouble trusting people and is incredibly reluctant to be intimate with anyone. With good reason he thinks, seeing as he had to kill his first girlfriend. Followed by the next relationship which was manipulative, abusive, and of course then Kate went and murdered his family. Then he’d spent six years repressing any and all romantic or sexual feelings which he would have liked to keep doing except he was magically forced to have sex with Jennifer. So, he thinks his reasons for being a little screwed up about relationships is valid. He likes to think he’s made progress in the last year considering the mere idea of intimacy doesn’t send him into a PTSD induced panic attack or make him want to vomit at the very idea.

So, he’s better now, but not well – he may never be well.

In comparison to Stiles though, he’s the picture of sanity. That thought more than any other is what worries Derek the most. If he’s the sane one then something must be really wrong.

Mostly, Derek’s just worried about how the next couple of days are going to go. Before leaving for work that morning John had told Derek that he had to go out of town for the weekend. John insisted he tried everything he could to get out of going but the FBI specifically requested that he speak at the conference, and as much as John wanted to be here for his son he was still the Sheriff and that entailed doing whatever the FBI wanted or risk losing his job.

Derek knew John couldn’t afford to be out of work right now. He’d seen the hospital bills, not to mention school fees, car insurance and the mortgage, on top of everyday living expenses. Small town Sheriff’s don’t make nearly enough to cover all of that singlehandedly. And as much as Derek wanted to offer John money for letting him stay he knew a man like John wouldn’t take it. John was the kind of man that doled out kindness in waves and expected nothing in return; he was one of those truly good men the likes of which don’t exist much anymore. The man was also too proud to ever accept money from Derek. Derek figured that to the Sheriff, Derek was still the helpless teenager the fire had made him become and not the grown man currently living in his house. Eventually he’d find a way to ease the Stilinski’s burdens but for now there was a more pressing issue.

Like how the ensuing conversation with Stiles is going to go.

Having had most of the day to prepare for tonight’s dinner had only left Derek with hundreds of possible scenarios on how Stiles will react to the news, ranging from a dissociative state to full on panic attack. Neither possibility was particularly desirable but Derek couldn’t figure out which option would be worse. Even before the Nogitsune clawed its way into Stiles’ mind, royally screwing with his emotions, the teenager had always been protective of his father. Usually that meant making sure he ate a proper diet – he still wasn’t having much success on that front – and hiding the alcohol occasionally as well as trying to keep him away from all things supernatural.

Before the Nogitsune Stiles wouldn’t have liked his father going out of town for the weekend but now there’s no telling how Stiles’ mental state will react. 

The house was quiet, as it had been since he first arrived almost a week ago. With his enhanced hearing Derek could hear the sounds of Stiles studying upstairs, muttering sentences to himself and mild complaints about idiot teachers, and it made Derek smile.

That was more of the Stiles he was used to, the one that just couldn’t stop talking and was highly opinionated in all things; it was proof that that rapid fire wit was slowly resurfacing. It wasn’t quite the Stiles of old but it was something. Lately something as small as muttering or a simple smile was cause enough to celebrate because of what it meant. It meant improvement; it meant getting better – however slowly – it was still progress. Any progress is worth acknowledging. Derek perhaps knew that better than anyone.

He was just turning off the stove when the front door opened and the Sheriff walked through, already divesting himself of his work jacket and weapon. Derek listened to the opening and closing of John’s safe as he put his weapon away and joined him in the kitchen.

“Smells amazing, Derek! If I’d have known you were such a good cook I would have made you move in here a lot sooner,” John chuckled, patting Derek on the back as he moved to the fridge for his after work beer.

Derek didn’t comment on the fact that the Sheriff had previously been too busy arresting Derek to be concerned as to how well he cooked. He wasn’t holding a grudge, not against the Stilinski’s or the police force – Scott, he was definitely holding a grudge against Scott –, they were just trying to protect people. While he didn’t hold a grudge, there are some things that your mind refuses to forget. He’s hoping someday it’ll be something to laugh about but Derek doesn’t think they’re quite there yet.

“It’s just Spaghetti, nothing special,” Derek blushes a little, still not used to people complimenting him. He is secretly pleased though that John appreciates his hard work. Derek tries to ignore the way his wolf preens at the praise, at the idea of being able to provide for his intended’s family, that this is just a step closer in his pursuits of courting Stiles. He resolutely tells his wolf to shut the hell up, it’s just dinner not part of some grand plan to woo the man’s teenage son.

“Hey, it’s been a long time since Stiles or I had a proper home cooked meal. Speaking of...Stiles get your butt down here!” John yelled the last part in the direction of the stairs. Derek who happened to be right next to the older man at the time barely hid his flinch. That was one of the problems with living with humans; they forgot how sensitive werewolf senses were.

There were a great number of thumps and thuds as Stiles tumbled down the stairs. Derek could tell that he was not hurrying down them in response to his father’s call nor was he panicked or excited at the prospect food. Before Derek even lays eyes on Stiles he can sense the tiredness that comes rolling off of the teen in waves. The overwhelming heaviness makes it down the stairs faster than Stiles himself does. Derek winced at every stumble and misstep but Stiles managed to make it to the kitchen without damaging himself. The teen made his way to his seat without injury, though he looked like he was ready to pass out. He kept rubbing his eyes and has seemed to have forgotten the pencil he’d placed behind his ear at some point. Derek can’t help but think that he looks kind of cute.

 “You doing okay, kiddo?” John asks halfway through dinner when Stiles’ eyes stay closed for longer after each blink. The teens plate is almost empty which Derek takes as a success, though Stiles’ plate had been about half the size of Derek’s and John’s. Even if Stiles is only eating a small amount at least he’s eating something substantial. 

“Mmm, school sucks, I’m tired and I think my brain is melting,” Stiles murmured without looking up from his plate.

The word cute flashed across Derek’s mind again.

“You can head to bed in a minute but I gotta talk to you about something first, think you can stay awake a little longer?” The Sheriff sounded fondly amused and even chuckled when Stiles stuck his tongue out at him for that comment. Derek was just thankful that Stiles didn’t tense up or start panicking at the mention of a talk. A week ago, Stiles would have been hyperventilating at the mere idea. The Sheriff paused here, taking in a breath and letting it out slowly, gauging Stiles’ reaction as he opened his mouth. “There’s this big conference in New York and usually I’d let one of the deputies go to represent Beacon County but the FBI has asked me to speak and they won’t let me back out. I’ll be leaving Friday and won’t be back until late Monday night. I have to go, but I can be on the first flight out of there if you need me.”

 Stiles sat there for a moment just blinking at John before his brow furrowed and he frowned.

“Friday as in tomorrow Friday?” he asked crossing his arms as his jaw clenched. Derek knew that look, Stiles was trying as hard as he possibly could not to let his emotions show. There was no doubt that Stiles was doing better than how fragile he was when Derek returned to town, but there is only so much progress you can make in a week. Both Derek and John pretended they couldn’t see the tears quickly forming in Stiles’ eyes.

“I’m sorry bud, I tried to get out of it, but the FBI insisted I go and speak about Malia’s case. They’ve made a big deal about how determined police work can yield results even on cold cases. I’m pretty sure this is McCall’s way of apologizing for nearly getting me fired...among other things,” he grumbled under his breath before continuing, “I’ll be on the first flight back if you need me though.”

When the Sheriff had told Derek about the conference he had mentioned that his ‘solving’ of the case had become big news in the law enforcement world. Especially since the news came that a small town Sheriff found a young girl who was missing and presumed dead for the past eight years. It seems no one could understand how a little girl managed to survive in the woods for so many years without anyone seeing her, or the fact that she had been hiding there instead of someone kidnapping her or anything worse. Everyone wanted to know how he had found her and how he knew she was even still alive in the first place, considering everyone else had already written her off as dead. The actual events of the case did involve a lot of police work; it was just the ending that was a little harder to explain. Derek knew John had to be careful when talking about the case, trying hard not to involve Scott or Stiles or mention anything about the supernatural. Luckily he was as good a liar as Stiles was; hiding the lies in half truths.

This conference would ensure the Sheriff actually got to stay the Sheriff for the foreseeable future and could even bring about more funding. It was important and John couldn’t back out of it, which was the main point. Stiles knew this as well, logically speaking, but apparently that didn’t stop him from bursting into tears. Even though Derek suspected this might happen he was still shocked when it actually did.

These tears weren’t the tears of someone in pain, grief, or even sadness. Honestly if Derek were to pinpoint it he would say these are the tears of someone so overwhelmed by the events in their life that crying was their only outlet. There was no real emotion to the tears they just came on like a raging storm and didn’t look like they were going to let up anytime soon.

“Fuck, I – I don’t eve–even know, why I’m cry–crying,” Stiles sobbed wiping furiously at his eyes. John stepped up behind Stiles’ chair and rubbed his sons back soothingly.

“It’s okay son. Cry as much as you need to, kiddo.” This is something Derek loves about living with the Stilinski’s, this show of family, of love and loyalty... and Derek would bet if Stiles were not still recovering, that there would be more than enough teasing between the two Stilinski’s to keep each other – and now Derek – on their toes. It reminds Derek of his own family. They loved each other fiercely and chose to express it in casual touches and endless amount of teasing.

Derek could almost see, like a physical mark, where the teasing and gentle ribbing would flow seamlessly into the interaction before him. However, he could also tell in the stilted atmosphere that the laughs and jokes would become mechanical and lifeless, and utterly unwelcome. He could feel his heart clench as he thought about how out of sorts the interaction had to be between the two men but he could feel a slight lift as he pictured the time when these two lovable goofballs would be free to be their unapologetic selves once more. The day would come sooner rather than later and Derek will be here when it comes.

“Come on buddy, time for bed,” John murmured to Stiles who mechanically nodded through his tears and the pair shuffled their way through the house and up the stairs. Derek watched as a father led his son to his bedroom, rubbing his hand soothingly up and down Stiles’ back and whispering reassurances to him. Lately Stiles seemed to need to know that shutting his eyes was safe, that the things he saw in his dreams weren’t real and couldn’t physically hurt him. If he didn’t have someone he trusted telling him this before he went to sleep the nightmares seemed to affect him more heavily.

Tuning out the soft conversation upstairs in an attempt to give them privacy Derek busies himself with cleaning up from dinner and putting the leftovers in the fridge. It only took a few minutes for John to return to the kitchen looking a little misty eyed and melancholic. Knowing the Stilinski’s as well as he was beginning to, did Derek understand that the earlier show of emotion from Stiles made it that much harder for John to leave.

“He’s going to be okay,” Derek commented consolingly, finishing the last of the dishes and turning to face John.

“I know,” he paused, taking a moment to breathe deep and move past all the worries his approaching travel was causing, “What about you though?”

“What about me?”

“Are you going to be okay?” John asked softly.

It threw Derek for a moment. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had asked if he was okay and was genuinely interested in his answer. He’d spent two months with Cora in Peru and not once did she ever ask if he was okay; mostly because she could sense whether he was or not without needing to verbalise it, but still. The memory of the last time evaded Derek as he stood in the Stilinski’s kitchen, staring at the Sheriff. He couldn’t even begin to explain how it felt to have someone ask that. Happiness and sadness swelled inside him in equal measure, along with a dozen or so other conflicting emotions.

“I can handle myself with Stiles for a few days,” Derek replied stiffly, deflecting as much as possible.

“I meant in general. You’ve gone through as much, if not more, than Stiles has. It’s okay if you’re not okay. You don’t have to be strong for us Derek; we can handle the bad stuff too.”

Derek stared wide eyed at the older man for a moment, just opening and closing his mouth like an idiot. Stilinski hearts hold no bounds. He’d known for a while that the Stilinski’s had the potential to be his pack members but he hadn’t realised that it had already happened. Deep inside he could feel the strings attaching him to John and to Stiles. If he concentrated hard enough on those strings, he could feel those bonds returned. The Stilinski’s call him family, he calls them pack; all in all it means the same thing, they belong to each other.

“I – I’m better than I was a year ago,” Derek finally whispers. He didn’t really mean to say anything but that feeling of pack just brought it out of him, that feeling of knowing – the same way he knows how to shift or how to howl, that bone deep assurance – that his weaknesses will be safe in the care of a pack member.

“That’s good to hear... If you ever want to talk I’m more than willing to listen, even if you want to complain about Stiles,” John’s attempt to lighten the mood worked as Derek relaxed further and huffed out a small laugh. “I’m going to finish packing though,” he paused for a moment, eyeing Derek neutrally, “I wouldn’t mind the company if you want, if not that’s fine. Either way, I’ll see you in the morning.”

With that John squeezed Derek’s shoulder and made his way upstairs to his bedroom. Derek on the other hand sat numbly in the living room for nearly two hours just stunned that he had this again. He had a pack again and it was the greatest feeling in the world for a wolf. It’s been almost a year since he’s really been in a pack, even if it was as strained and stressed as it was, he can’t believe he’d forgotten how good it felt. Even living with Cora they hadn’t reformed their pack bonds. They were siblings and that was all they were for now. One day Derek knows they’ll be pack again but for now they need time to learn who each other are all over again.

When Derek went to bed that night he did it with a smile on his face because the bonds of pack were coursing through his veins. It was a deep warmth that slowly spread throughout every cell of his being and that feeling more than anything helped settle the wolf inside him. A wolf isn’t meant to be always alone, they are pack creatures. For the first time in a long time Derek felt that pit of loneliness that had become his general state of being dissipate. He had a pack that cared about him, had the chance for a family again, and an opportunity to know happiness again.

It was a good feeling.

~ ~ ~

The next morning Derek was still riding the high from the newly discovered pack bonds, so much so that when he walked downstairs he was confused to see a suitcase sitting by the front door. It took him a moment to remember what was happening today. When he did he made his way into the kitchen where John and Stiles were already seated eating breakfast. Stiles looked disgruntled and kept sneaking glances at his father like if he wasn’t watching him the man would disappear.

“Morning Derek,” John cheerfully greeted as Derek made his way to the coffee machine. Merely grunting as he walked past Derek chose to study the two men.

The difference in emotions was startling. Firstly, there was Stiles who gave off this petulance that hid deep seeded worry, concern, and fear, along with a hint of pride that his father was finally going to be recognized as the great Sheriff he was. Secondly, there was John who looked fondly amused by his son’s behaviour but who was also filled with nerves; both for his presentation as well as for his son.

When Derek took a seat at the table with the others, cradling his coffee like a life line, John cleared his throat making Stiles sit up straight and pay attention.

“Alright you two, my itinerary is on the fridge. It has all my flight details, the hotel I’m staying at, and where the conference is being held. All the phone numbers are there but I’ll have my phone on me at all times. My flight on Monday doesn’t get back until 11pm, I don’t want you driving so late Stiles so I’m taking a taxi and I should be home by midnight. I’ve left some money on the bench for food but if you need more then I can put some in your account. Now for the rules,”

Stiles groaned loudly, showcasing his displeasure with everything.

“Dad, I’m 17 not 7, I don’t need rules.”

“Think of them more like guidelines then.”

“Ugh, dad this isn’t Pirates of the Caribbean,” Stiles groaned.

“Just, be safe Stiles,” he pleaded. “Please try and leave the house at some point, if you feel up to it try and eat something. Promise me if something feels wrong you’ll go to the station or the hospital and you call me any time you need to okay bud? Oh, and try not to give Derek a hard time.” 

Derek covered his mouth, trying to smother his laughter at the sight of Stiles pouting. It was simultaneously hilarious and adorable. Then he gulped when John turned to face him.

“Derek, don’t let his puppy eyes fool you, he’s full of mischief.”

“Oh, real funny dad,” Stiles mumbled, rolling his eyes at the Sheriff’s self satisfied smirk.

“I thought so.”

Derek had no idea what the joke was but smiled watching the two interact. Some of their exuberance had reappeared in their relationship, paving the way for their special kind of teasing full of affection. All too soon though it was time for John to leave and the mood of the house lost some of its light. Derek had nearly insisted on driving John to the airport but the man had made other plans, apparently Deputy Parrish was going to be driving him. While the man tried to insist the ride was for last minute work organising, Derek knew differently but didn’t know if Stiles had figured it out yet.  Derek certainly wasn’t going to be the one to tell him.

It was a bittersweet affair to watch John leave. Trying to give the Stilinski’s privacy Derek hung back a bit while they embraced. With his wolf hearing he could clearly hear their whispered goodbye full of ‘be careful’, ‘stay safe’, and ‘I love you’. The two men clung to one another like a drowning man clinging to a lifeline and in that imagery Derek went slightly cold as he saw how apt is was. Both would be lost without the other in their life and neither wanted to take the chance of losing the other.

When a horn was heard outside, signalling Deputy Parrish’s arrival, the two reluctantly parted. John cuffed Stiles’ head, trying to lighten the mood. Stiles was still a little teary eyed but he managed a soft laugh at the action; it was better than any of them could have hoped for.

Derek has never been physically affectionate, well not since the fire anyways, but pack is a different story. He remembers days when he and Laura would stay cuddled up on the couch just basking in each other’s presence. Remembers hating how they weren’t allowed to touch Peter when he was in the hospital because his burns had been so bad that most of his skin was covered in bandages. When he came back to Beacon Hills over a year ago with no pack and no alpha physical contact was the last possible thing he had wanted. Even when he formed a new pack he couldn’t bring himself to cuddle up with them like his family often did. Often he found himself having to force himself to squeeze Body’s shoulder, pat Isaac on the back, or move Erica’s flowing hair behind her ears. Wolves in general are more tactile creatures and his new wolves needed the physical reassurance as much as he did but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He had been too broken to open himself up like that again. He’d already lost his pack twice; he had no illusions of being able to keep this one. Looking back on it now Derek wishes he had hugged them more, wished he’d done a lot of thing differently.

But now, he has a pack again, a pack without an alpha and comprised of only one wolf. A little unconventional but it still works. Everything about this pack is different from what he’s used to but somehow it’s exactly what they all need. They had become a family before they became a pack – something Derek still needs to discuss with the two humans – but that makes it easier now. Without any hesitation Derek pulls John into a rough hug, rubbing his hand up and down the man’s back and quickly nuzzling his head. He’s not sure if John understands what he just did but he knows Stiles will understand. If the sudden stillness in Stiles is any indication then the teenager realises the significance of what just happened.

The Sheriff chuckles and pats Derek’s back twice before letting go and leaving the house with one last ‘be good’ thrown over his shoulder. Now they’re alone... him and Stiles... all weekend. Oh Gods.

“You... You just scent marked him, didn’t you?” Stiles whispers after several minutes of tense silence.

“Yes,” Derek replies, turning to face Stiles. He doesn’t know why but he’s suddenly incredibly nervous. His mind stuck on ‘maybe Stiles doesn’t want to be in a pack with me.’ It’s not like Derek could blame Stiles for not wanting to be a part of another pack when his last and only experience with one had left a lot to be desired. The wolf part of Derek knows how beneficial a pack could be to Stiles, even one as small and broken as theirs.

“But that’s just for pack right? It’s important,” Stiles doesn’t seem angry or wary, just curious – which is basically his natural state of being, so maybe he hasn’t just ruined everything.

“Yes. It’s for pack members... and yes it’s important.”

Derek watched Stiles’ eyes flit across the living room, scanning everything, never focusing on anything in particular. Watches Stiles’ mind work through every scenario, every possibility, and every moment. It’s endlessly fascinating how Stiles’ mind works and how clearly the process shows on his face.

“You did that to me at the hospital too.”

Well, it wasn’t the reaction Derek expected but he’s glad Stiles brought it up. It’s been days since he scent marked Stiles, when the teenager first woke up in the hospital. They never spoke of it and Derek had begun to wonder if Stiles even knew what he’d done or if he even remembered. Apparently he remembered and he knew what it meant, but his voice remains emotionless, giving no notion as to how he truly feels about it. Slowly Derek nods, trying hard not to think of anything and give Stiles the time he needs to process it.

“We’re pack. My dad, you and me?” It’s like Stiles is trying to work out how they all got to this point. How they went from cautious allies, to reluctant friends, then pack mates. There’s a slight confusion in the way he holds himself but Derek thinks all the pieces are falling into place inside Stiles’ mind.

Again Derek nods, not sure what else he can do. Stiles still hasn’t given any indication on how he feels about it; no emotion in his voice, his face blank, and even his scent is painfully neutral. Derek’s never been so nervous in his life and he’s fighting the urge to shuffle awkwardly in place as he waits for the verdict.

“Okay,” Stiles nods decisively, having come to his decision.

“Okay?” Derek asks, trying to quell his rapidly rising hope in case it all fails miserably.

Stiles huffs lightly, a small smile forming on his lips, with that kind of happy laugh where you just can’t keep it in. He moves in as if to hug Derek but pulls back at the last minute. For a moment Stiles looks troubled but quickly regains his exuberance.

“Yeah, you doofus, okay,” Stiles chuckles before pulling back slightly, resting his hand on Derek’s shoulder, “but I warn you, now you’ve got the Stilinski’s you’re never getting rid of us. We’re kind of stupidly loyal and stubborn to boot. You’re stuck with us now, buddy,” Stiles made it sound like a threat but to Derek’s ears, it was the best thing he had ever heard.

With that parting shot Stiles picks up his school bag and shoves his feet into his shoes, nearly falling over in the process.

“Good,” Derek murmurs just loud enough as Stiles opens the front door. Before walking out the teenager turns and offers Derek a small almost shy smile as a light blush stains his cheeks.

It takes Derek a few minutes to register that Stiles has left the house. That image of Stiles blushing little smile is seared into Derek’s brain. Try as he might he can’t stop thinking about it and all the temptations it brings.

All weekend.

All alone.

Just him and Stiles.

Shit.

 

Chapter Text

Ever since Stiles returned from the hospital two days ago whenever he has come home from school the teenager has looked ready to pass out. It’s like whatever energy he possessed was used to make it through the day but as soon as that last bell rings he’s left running on empty. Somehow today it seems even worse.

Along with looking like he’s two steps away from falling asleep at any time, there is this thick fog of vulnerable, fragile, misery surrounding him. The scent is so potent that Derek feels like crying in Stiles’ stead since his eyes remain suspiciously dry. It may make him sound like a horrible person but Derek almost wishes Stiles was crying; at least he was getting used to handling the tears and was learning how to calm Stiles down. Plus Derek has always believed crying to be a cathartic experience, that great release of emotion could be good for Stiles. An emotionless to the point of dissociation Stiles isn’t one Derek knows how to help.

Stiles seems to curl in on himself once he remembers that his dad isn’t home and won’t be for the whole weekend. The teen is clutching his stomach tightly as though the tighter he holds himself the more control he’ll have over his emotions. It pains Derek to see this struggle, to see how hard Stiles is trying not to cry. He knows the teen hates how emotional he’s been lately, hates the constant flow of tears, hates the fear and loneliness that engulfs him, and most of all hates how helpless he feels.

For a moment Derek struggles with indecision; does he go to Stiles and offer comfort or does he let the teen sort through his emotions on his own? Reminding himself that leaving Stiles to struggle on his own was what caused such huge issues with his old pack in the first place is what pushes Derek forward now. Stiles may like his method of ignoring a problem until it goes away but Derek can’t stand by and do nothing while someone he cares about is in so much pain. With that in mind Derek wraps the teen in his arms and steers him over to the couch. In Derek’s opinion a couch is the optimal cuddling area.

He hears tiny sniffles and the scent of salt water hits the air. Frowning Derek looks at the teen standing beside him. Stiles is crying and is trying so hard not to make any noise that Derek’s heart breaks a little. His endlessly strong Stiles reduced to this fragility was something Derek thought he’d never see, it wasn’t something he thought could happen. But even the strongest of people have their breaking points.

Once they are seated Derek arranges them so that Stiles is practically cradled in his lap, its intimate yes but in no way sexual; this is about comfort and pack. As he’s rubbing Stiles’ back he decides to try and take the teenagers mind off of, well, everything really and talks. Willingly. For the first time since the fire, Derek Hale talks.

“When I left with Braeden I don’t think I had really given it much thought. After everything that happened here I just needed to get away from it all. She was leaving anyways so I figured why not, you know? She indulged my need for escape for a while. We went to straight to Texas, she said it was the closest she’d come to a hometown. It was peaceful there, there wasn’t any supernatural creatures wreaking havoc on the civilians and no hunters out to kill me. It was great, way too hot for my liking though,” Derek paused, trying to sort through his memories and pick the best one’s to tell Stiles.  “You know I’d never actually ridden a horse before and when Braeden found out she made it her mission to teach me. They are such amazing creatures, Stiles. The one I rode was named Hazeer, he was beautiful but had a lot of attitude. It took nearly a week before he’d let me ride him, but that’s a story for another day. Anyways, there’s only so much vacation time Braeden could stand to take so after two months she left to find another job and told me if anyone needed a soul searching road trip across the country it was me.”

Stiles’ head nods slightly from where it’s resting on Derek’s chest like he’s agreeing with Braeden’s assessment. With shockingly quick clarity Derek realises he can never let Braeden and Stiles hang out, ever; they would team up and continuously force him to interact with people more, or smile more, or god forbid Braeden would recount all the embarrassing stories of Derek’s time on the road. Derek’s always been a fairly confident kind of guy but the thought of Stiles finding out anything that happened in Texas is frightening. No one wants their crush to know how dorky they really are.

Derek mentally cringes. Crush, it sounds so juvenile. Both he and Stiles are mature beyond their years having lived the lives they have, seen the things they’ve seen, and done the things they’ve done. Whatever innocence either of them had left, had long since been squashed by the harsh realities of real life.

So no, Derek doesn’t have a crush, but he acknowledges that he likes Stiles. What’s not to like, he’s insanely attractive, incredibly smart, fiercely loyal, amazingly kind and strong, damn near hilarious, and...

Well shit, it certainly sounds like a full blow crush to Derek.

He knows why that word makes him cold and uncomfortable. He’d had a crush on Kate when he was 16. It had wholly consumed him and he’d let it. Nothing good had come out of that clusterfuck. A lot of things are tainted now because of Kate Argent.

But that way lies self deprecating madness so he tries to push those thoughts away.

What the hell were they talking about? Braeden, right? Right. Derek smiles thinking of the tenacious woman. He never thought anyone could be more of a badass than Laura, but somehow Braeden pulled it off – complete with her Italian boots. Upon their first meeting Derek didn’t really think much of the mercenary. Clearly she was very attractive, not to mention good at her job, and they naturally clicked in a way Derek hadn’t experienced in a long time. Then they’d spent more time together, got to know one another, and Derek knew the tension between them wasn’t one sided. That had been a wholly new sensation for him, being attracted to someone so much that he considered sleeping with them – especially after Kate. Surprisingly Derek didn’t think too much about what he was doing when he kissed her. He’d willingly kissed her and it had felt right in a way that intimate actions hadn’t felt in a long time. Weeks of tension had finally hit its crescendo and they’d fallen into bed together. For once Derek wasn’t overanalysing everything or worrying, and not once did his thoughts stray to Jennifer and her magic or Kate and her manipulations.

It was liberating because it was the first time he’d willingly had sex in years. Once it was over Derek expected that shameful, disgusting, feeling to overwhelm him as it had in the past. But the feeling never came. Even though they both agreed it was a onetime thing and they were better as friends. He didn’t regret sleeping with her in the slightest – and that feeling more than anything is what Derek treasures the most.

 “There was this one day in Texas where it was stinking hot so Braeden dragged me to this place called Hamilton Pool. It was this beautiful place, it was almost a perfect circle with clear blue water, a waterfall, and this overhang that made it feel like you were inside a cave, the only downside was the amount of people there. I was standing on the top of the overhang just taking it all in when Braeden leapt right off the cliff and into the water below.”

 “When was the last time you jumped off something just for fun?” she had said once she emerged from the water, knowing full well Derek could hear every word from where he stood on the cliff. She was right of course, as she often always was. He’d jumped off buildings, stairways, pillars and the like but all during battle, all so he could live a little longer. But what is living without a little fun?

“She had wanted me to jump and I did. I honestly haven’t had that much fun in years; it kind of made me feel like a kid again. We spent the day just jumping off the cliff. We even tried doing some flips trying to one up each other. She, uh, she actually reminded me a little of Laura that day, they both had that competitive streak that was both admirable and super annoying sometimes. Braeden left four days after that.”

It had been hard to say goodbye to her in Texas. Realistically, Derek knew Braeden couldn’t be on vacation forever as she was someone who almost needed to work constantly.  Honestly, he’s lucky he got 2 months with her before she started to twitch. After they parted ways they still kept in touch. In fact as of now, Derek knows she’s currently in Colorado tracking some rogue hunters. Derek hasn’t gotten the courage to tell her he came back to Beacon Hills yet. He should probably get to that soon.

“She was right about me needing the road trip but I was terrified to be that alone, I knew I could go to Cora and stay with her, but I was scared of that too. I couldn’t be the brother she needed or the one she remembered. I think I needed to figure out who I was and what I actually wanted in life before I tried to fix things with her, or anyone else for that matter. I know it sounds like Hallmark crap but I really needed to understand myself. So I just drove and drove and only stopped when something looked interesting. There was some weird stuff, like the 120ft tall baseball bat in Kentucky, a giant gorilla holding up a VW Beetle in Vermont, a wall of chewed gum art in Seattle, and Cano’s Castle in Colorado made up entirely of beer cans.”

Derek more felt than heard Stiles chuckling near silently against his chest. The sound made Derek feel warm all over and gave him the courage to keep talking.

“There was this one place that, uh, that Laura always wanted to go to. She would go on and on about how beautiful it was and kept saying that when things calmed down we’d go together. But, uh, we never did.” Derek clears his throat awkwardly, talking about Laura never gets any easier, the gaping hole in his heart never heals. Every single day he misses his big sister more than words could ever describe, but if Stiles is pack now then Derek can tell him about his amazing sister – no matter how badly it hurts. “It’s called the Antelope Canyon in Arizona. Laura was right, it really is beautiful. And sometimes when the light hits the sandstone it looks multicoloured. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been... I just wish Laura could have seen it too.”

Hoping to prevent the oncoming emotions Derek quickly changes subject. He begins talking about the next most interesting thing he can remember seeing on his travels.

“There was the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, they were amazing. It takes nearly two hours to walk the trails and it just went on for what seemed like forever. They actually reminded me of a lot of horror movies where people got stuck in caves with deadly creatures, but the bats there aren’t really that deadly.”

Derek remembers how in awe he was of the caves. It was endlessly fascinating the things nature produced. The caves looked like the rock was just melting right off the walls and it was unbelievable how large the caves were. Derek may be a creature of the forest but the caves were far too amazing for him not to feel at least a little at home, more calm, there in those enclosed spaces. Derek had an almost mystical experience in the caves due to his enhanced senses which coloured the caves in everything that humans would have missed with their own dulled senses. He could feel the change in air, could sense how large the caves really were – even the undiscovered areas – and ever fibre of his being could feel how old the caves were. Derek’s always been the type of person that respects nature and understands that it’s the most powerful being in the universe and being in the caves only made Derek that much more aware, made him want to bare his throat and sink to the floor. He was the lesser being in these caves and they wanted him to know it. In all his travels he’s felt this connection to the earth but never was it more prominent than in those caves.

“I tried to go to some places my Gran used to talk about too. Those places in the world where magic was strongest, there aren’t many in the US but I found enough of them. I always thought they were just fairy tales or legends but the thought kept nagging at me so I checked a few of them out. In Wyoming there’s this place called Devil’s Tower in the Bear Lodge Mountains and it’s over 860 feet tall.

The story goes there were two girls playing in the woods when a group of giant bears started chasing them. They ran until they found this rock, and they climbed up and asked the Great Spirit to save them. The Great Spirit made the rock grow tall. When the bears caught up they tried to claw the tower down but couldn’t which left deep grooves all around it. And that’s how they say the tower was made. My Gran could always tell the story better but you get the gist.

When I was at that tower I could feel this weird energy and I felt like I wasn’t alone, not in any kind of ominous way, it felt kind of comforting actually. I climbed to the top of the tower and just sat there all night. I’ve never felt so connected to my wolf before, it was really weird honestly. I thought being born a wolf meant I knew everything about the power inside me but I was so wrong.”

Derek shifts awkwardly. Talking about ones wolf is an intimate thing, usually only shared with close family members or partners. There’s only so much personal information Derek is willing to give Stiles. Though it’s not like it seems to matter, as Stiles is well on his way to falling asleep in Derek’s arms. It’s a nice feeling Derek thinks, definitely something he could get used to.

“Stiles?” Derek asks softly, gently shaking the teenager.

“Mmm, you tell good bed time stories Der,” Stiles mumbles before nuzzling into Derek’s chest and falling right back to sleep.

Derek’s breath hitches. It’s the sleepy voice, the contented smell, the nuzzling, and the nickname. It’s all too much for Derek’s wolf who just wants to bask in the feeling.

All he wants to do is pull Stiles down until the teenager is lying on top of him and hold onto him through the night. He wants to sleep by Stiles or under him. He wants to wake up and have Stiles’ face the first he sees and press his lips to Stiles’ to say good morning without the harshness of words shattering the blissful quiet of the morning. He wants to kiss those soft pink lips that have been on Derek’s mind more than once lately. Every day it’s getting harder to look at Stiles and see him as just a friend, just a pack member. Every day Derek wants to cover the teen in his scent, he wants to kiss Stiles until his head spins, and leave marks all over him so everyone knows he’s Derek’s. It’s a lot of overwhelming urges that his wolf agrees with, making it 10 times harder for Derek to resist.

But he does.

As hard as it is he resists the impulse to claim Stiles. Instead he picks the smaller man up and carries him up the stairs to his bedroom. It might be good, a little more separation, and more time for Derek to think clearly. Carrying Stiles isn’t strenuous at all, the teen being skin and bones as he is, but Derek is pleased to note that he’s heavier than he was a week ago. Stiles may still look like a strong breeze will knock him over but at least he’s putting on weight and won’t have to go back to hospital again. That train of thought makes Derek hesitate, maybe he should keep Stiles awake for dinner. But then he remembers that Stiles still doesn’t sleep soundly throughout the night and so he leaves the teen to his slumber.

After tucking a drooling Stiles into bed Derek just watches the teen for a moment and smiles. He feels like he accomplished something today; He spoke about things he cared about, and for far longer than he’s spoken in years; He comforted a pack member; He resisted the temptation to kiss Stiles; And most importantly he made Stiles smile.

One day at a time.

~ ~ ~

Waking up in the morning is a little disorientating because Stiles is pretty sure he fell asleep on the couch last night. Well, more like he fell asleep on Derek Hale, but you know, semantics. And yet, here he is waking up in his bed, decidedly not where he fell asleep.

Stiles takes a moment to just lay there, not even attempting to leave the comfort of his bed, and think. Really think for the first time in a week.

Derek Hale came back to Beacon Hills because Stiles called him in a moment of weakness.

Derek came back for Stiles.

It’s a lot to take in, probably why Stiles has refused to acknowledge it all week. Stiles isn’t an idiot, he’s known he’s had a crush on Derek since the moment they met in the woods looking for Scott’s inhaler. It’s hard not to be attracted to someone when they are as devastatingly attractive as Derek is. Then he got to know Derek – the snarky, stubborn asshole that he was and it just made Stiles start to like him more than just something aesthetically pleasing. He started seeing Derek as more than just the way he looked. He started to see what was beneath the growly, extremely attractive face and body and Stiles started to fall – hard. Stiles himself can be an asshole so finding someone on his level is equal parts annoying and fascinating. Derek has just as much reason as Stiles to be totally screwed up and broken inside but Derek’s never let that stop him, he’s kept going, kept living, even after all the tragedy he’s faced. It’s an admirable quality. Actually, Derek has a lot of those, admirable qualities.

It had shocked Stiles a little at how well he and Derek fit together. The more he got to know the sourwolf the more he liked him. They may snipe at each other sometimes but Stiles knows it’s all in good grace, and they both respect each other and value each other’s opinions. Stiles thinks they were heading somewhere before Derek left. He doesn’t know where they were headed and any possibility of where scares the hell out of Stiles, but they were something to each other, something important.

Then Derek left, just up and left, riding off into the sunset with Braeden. Stiles had wanted to be angry, wanted to hate the werewolf for leaving him all alone, but he couldn’t. Beacon Hills was toxic, he knew that better than most, but it was especially hellish for Derek. He couldn’t blame the guy for leaving this place, not after how much he’s lost to this town. They had kept in contact, just a few texts here and there, and Stiles was perfectly content with the arrangement.

Then Donovan happened and Stiles had this overwhelming need for Derek. He needed Derek back more than he needed to breathe. Of course he’d regretted the call as soon as he’d made it but in a weird way it made him feel better. He had someone he could tell the truth to, someone who wouldn’t judge him for what he’d done, someone he could trust. Not once in those weeks after the call did he worry about why Derek never responded because honestly how do you reply when someone tells you they just killed someone?

In the lowest moment of his life, which is honestly saying a lot, Derek Hale had reappeared in his life like some damn knight in shining armour and Stiles had felt safe again. He’s never had to pretend with Derek, never had to hide, so it was easy to let down his walls and let Derek shoulder some of the weight for a while.

His little crush never went away, not even when he was dating Malia. Which, kind of a dick move, yeah, but it didn’t mean he didn’t have feelings for her. He truly cared about Malia, still does if he’s honest with himself, but they weren’t in love. He could have spent years happily dating Malia and if the whole thing with Donovan never happened they would probably still be together but he can’t help but be thankful that they ended things. They cared about each other a lot, relied on each other, but they also settled for each other. She deserved to find someone who would love her with everything they had, and so did he. Does he wish things had ended on a better note? Hell yes, but life in Beacon Hills isn’t meant for happy endings.

Just because he’s single now and Derek is back doesn’t mean he’s going to start dating Derek. First, he’s not sure Derek even feels the same way and second, Stiles is way too messed up to get into a relationship right now.

He’s not oblivious; he knows Derek would never be this protective or cuddly with anyone else but Stiles often wonders if it’s just a pack thing, if this is what a real werewolf pack is supposed to be like. There are too many questions, too many theories, for Stiles to even try solving this mystery. At least for right now it’s too much, later on when he’s a little less messed up maybe he’ll figure it all out. For now however all of Stiles’ focus needs to be on getting better.

It’s not for Derek or the possibility of dating Derek.

Mostly, it’s about his dad. He’s seen the dark circles under the man’s eyes, the concern radiating out of him and the careful way his dad watches him. John Stilinski has worn that haunted expression too many times in his life, and Stiles promises to himself that he won’t make his dad look like that ever again – not because of him.

With that thought in mind Stiles finally climbs out of bed and hits the shower. He’s mildly surprised to see its actually 10:15am; he’s used to waking up around 5am from a nightmare and just staying awake until he needs to go to school. Seeing as it’s a Saturday he doesn’t have to worry about school which is such a relief. Ever since Derek and his dad had words with the pack school has been rather depressing – though to be honest it was depressing long before things with the pack went sideways. He’s alone almost constantly now, eating lunch alone, sitting in class alone, and walking to his Jeep alone, always alone. It’s weird not having Scott walking beside him every step of the way like he has since they were little. Brothers they were, practically inseparable. Apparently even so called ‘brothers’ have their limit.

Being without Scott is hard, so indescribably hard that sometimes he can’t breathe, but it’s bearable. The longer he goes without talking to Scott the more he’s begun to realise that their friendship has been pretty one sided since Scott was bitten a year and half ago. Scott was more than happy to leave him in the dust when he became a werewolf but Stiles hung on anyways because he thought Scott needed him. All those times when he needed Scott the guy had always been too preoccupied with his own life to even think about his so called best friend.

His and Scott’s friendship ended the moment Scott was bitten, it’s just taken Stiles all this time to realise it.

Scott seems to blame him for his and Kira’s breakup because every time they’re in the same room together Scott glares at him the whole time. Kira is still technically part of Scott’s pack but it’s clear she’s not comfortable there anymore. So sometimes she’ll join Stiles at lunch or stop to say hi in the hallways. It’s weird, really weird actually, because Stiles has always seen the kitsune as Scott’s perky, sword wielding girlfriend. Yes, Stiles knows he had reduced Kira to ‘the girlfriend’ and he doesn’t feel particularly good about it, but Scott and Kira always came as a package deal. There was no separating one from the other. He’d never taken the time to get to know the girl beyond knowing she wasn’t going to hurt Scott. Now he has the chance to get to know her as an actual person instead of Scott’s girlfriend and it’s surprisingly nice. They have a lot more in common than he originally thought, mainly the love of all things nerdy and the need to research the hell out of something. It’s still awkward as hell, it can’t not be in their situation, but every conversation gets a little easier a little more natural.

He’s also seen the way Malia reacts to Scott, how she’ll snarl at him when he so much as looks Stiles’ way, or how she’ll outright punch him if he gets on her nerves. If Stiles was a better man he’d tell her to stop, but he’s secretly glad that there are still people willing to fight for him. Also, he’s never been able to control Malia, no one in the world could control the coyote and that’s perfectly fine with him. He wouldn’t want her any other way.

So school has been tolerable, lonely and huge adjustment sure, but still he’s coping. The thing that frustrates him is how he can’t concentrate in class, how every piece of information seems to leak out of his mind like it’s a sieve, how nothing makes sense and the fact that he knows he’s failing almost every class now. Stiles has always been an A+ student, now he’s lucky if he’s getting a D. At least before, he didn’t care about his grades – hell he didn’t care about anything – but now he cares and it makes everything so much harder. He loves to learn, craves it really, but nothing he’s learning in class makes any sense and he often leaves a class with a migraine from how hard he’s trying. Pretty soon the school is going to have to call his dad and tell him how badly Stiles is doing which will lead to more concerned faces which he’s trying to avoid.

In short, life is hard and Stiles is struggling and trying to hide it.

Not like his emotions care if he’s trying to hide, they do their own thing whether he likes it or not. Stiles still can’t believe he basically had a breakdown because his dad is away for the weekend. It’s not like this is the first time his dad’s ever been away and it certainly won’t be the last but because his emotions are so out of whack due to everything that’s happened recently, Stiles feels overwhelmed at the slightest of things. He feels lost – like his ability to cope has up an vanished. Like he’s lost and tying to swim against the current that’s threatening to swallow him whole. Stiles scrubs extra hard while washing his hair, hoping it will relieve some of his tension. He really hates crying, being so out of control, and it’s something he’s been doing nearly every day for the past month, he’s sick of it. So he makes a conscious effort to not cry today, to try and find some semblance of normal and cling to it like his life depends on it, because it certainly feels like it does.

Of course when he makes his way to the kitchen 20 minutes later all thought of normalcy goes flying out the window. Derek Hale is casually leaning against the kitchen counter in baggy jeans – well, baggy for a guy who normally paints his jeans on, a perfectly well fitting pair of jeans for the rest of the world – and a not so white t-shirt. He’s got a notepad in one hand and a pen in the other that he’s tapping against his lips, drawing way more attention to that area than needs be. Stiles hasn’t had his coffee yet, he can’t deal with Derek Hale’s lips right now. Then Derek has the nerve to smile at him, like seeing Stiles is the best thing that happened to him.

“Morning, I’m making a shopping list, is there anything you need?” The werewolf asks, still smiling like he’s a goddamned Disney Princess. There is no normal in this situation.

 “Did you carry me last night? Like full on bridal style?” Stiles blurts out instead of answering Derek’s question. If the guy won’t do normal then neither will Stiles. Derek stares at him blankly for a few moments before nodding slowly.“Dude! Not cool. I’m not some damsel in distress you know.”

“I know,” Derek replies quietly, like it’s some solemn promise, like it’s an irrefutable fact. It kind of throws Stiles through a loop, to be fair that might also be because he still hasn’t gotten his morning coffee yet.

“Well, okay then. You said something about shopping?” Stiles makes a beeline for the coffee, not willing to have anymore conversations without it. Fumbling with making coffee also distracts him from any and all feelings that may have been rediscovered. “Actually I think you should read me bed time stories more often, I don’t remember the last time I slept that long.”

It’s true, he’d actually slept pretty well for most of the night. He remembers a few nightmares that woke him briefly but it’s nothing compared to his sleep pattern lately. On top of the fantastic sleep he got last night he’s actually feeling hungry this morning and feels more alive than he has in a long time. It’s a good feeling, one he’d like to hold on to for as long as possible. But this is Beacon Hills, nothing good ever stays that way for long.

“I’ll read to you whenever you like and if you come grocery shopping with me I’ll make you waffles when we get back,” Derek suggests and who is Stiles to say no to an offer like that.

Fifteen minutes later the pair are perusing the aisles in the supermarket and Stiles finds it both hilarious and unbelievably adorable the way Derek inspects each piece of fruit before putting in their cart. Stiles was more than happy to follow along behind Derek and watch the wolf shop. Shopping was always such a tedious task for Stiles but for Derek it seemed to be enjoyable and relaxing. Stiles found the whole thing fascinating. Who would have thought that broody werewolf extraordinaire Derek Hale would actually like grocery shopping? 

Stiles falls into a sort of happy trance as they walk around the shop. He’s smiling like a fool and his mind is completely blank. It’s the most content he’s felt in weeks. He has no recollection of anything they buy or anything Derek’s said to him the entire trip but Stiles couldn’t care less. It’s the first time in weeks, since that horrible night in the library, that Stiles has not been haunted by the ghost of Donovan. It’s a win in Stiles’ book.

When they make it back to the house Stiles takes over. He can put away groceries like a pro. Within minutes every purchase is neatly stacked away in their appropriate places. For a moment Stiles feels proud of himself, it feels like an accomplishment. He can’t remember the last time he actually did something productive, school doesn’t count because he barely pays attention in class anymore.

Deciding to reward himself for his ability to feel normal again Stiles decides to challenge Derek to Mario Kart. Stiles drags Derek into the lounge room, giving the wolf no choice in how they are going to spend the afternoon, and turns on his Xbox. Safe to say Stiles wins at all the video games. Stiles almost makes fun of Derek for being so bad at video games until he really thinks about it. It’s more than likely that Derek hasn’t played a video game since he was a teenager, since before the fire. Once that thought enters Stiles’ mind a wave of melancholy sweeps over him, he tries hard not to let it turn into pity, but it’s a near thing. After that Stiles makes it his goal to teach Derek how to properly use the remote and talks the wolf through each game. They play for several hours, nearly missing lunch until Derek grabs some popcorn for them to share. Stiles never thought he could have this, playing games with Derek and having so much fun with the older man, never thought he’d get to see Derek laughing and being so open and genuinely having a good time. Stiles didn’t think fun was in Derek’s vocabulary when the wolf first showed up in Beacon Hills a year ago. The Derek of then is like a totally different person to the one sitting next to Stiles now. This Derek cares and laughs, he cooks and he’s finally letting people in. This Derek, Stiles concludes from what he can trust of the stories Peter tells, is what Derek might have been like before the fire. It’s a good look on him. It makes Stiles want to find Kate Argent and put a bullet through her skull for taking the light out of Derek’s eyes.

That thought brings on images he’d rather forget. Blood everywhere, cloudy dead eyes staring at him, his hands soaked in the blood of the man he’d just killed, Donovan’s voice calling him a murderer.

Stiles has to take a deep breath, so deep his lungs ache, to steady himself. In and out, slow and steady. He doesn’t want Derek to notice his struggle, but fears the wolf has already smelt his anxiety or heard his heartbeat or breathing shift or rise. Luckily Derek’s letting him deal with this on his own. Forcibly Stiles shoves those memories inside a big wooden chest, wraps it in heavy chains, and pushes it to the back of his mind. He does not give permission for those memories to ruin the first good day he’s had. It takes a few minutes but eventually his heart rate returns to an acceptable speed and he’s no longer assaulted by unwanted thoughts.

When he next opens his eyes Derek is staring at him, his brow furrowed and frown set firmly on his face. He looks worried, no actually he looks scared. It isn’t a look Stiles is used to seeing on Derek’s face but he decides right then and there that he hates it. So he smiles at the man as reassuringly as he can, hoping to ease the tension and does what he does best – he talks.

“So I don’t actually own many sports games, not really my style, but I do have the latest NBA game. You might actually be pretty good at it, wanna try?”

Ever since Scott first turned into a furry supernatural creature Stiles has tried so freaking hard not to make dog jokes or comparisons. But right now Derek looks like a dog that just got told it was going for a walk. Ears perked and tail wagging. Stiles cant suppress his smile, it’s just too cute okay the way Derek looks all excited and determined, but Derek just smiles back and any other thoughts Stiles had just floated right out the window.

They end up playing the NBA game far into the late afternoon and although sports games aren’t really Stiles favourite he endures it for the way Derek gets really into the game. He’ll yell at the screen whenever he thinks the referee made a bad call and even starts taunting Stiles. Once Derek gets the hang of the controls he wipes the floor with Stiles, losing only the first 2 games. Stiles is more than happy to lose because Derek has never looked more accomplished than he does when he ends up winning.

It’s nearing 8 o’clock by the time they stop playing and only then because Stiles’ stomach makes itself known. The noise surprises Stiles so much he just stares at his stomach for a moment, it’s been weeks since he felt properly hungry, he’d almost forgotten what it felt like to be so hungry your stomach just starts making noises.

“Dude, I’m starved,” Stiles smiles at Derek, near giddy with the thought. Hello progress!

Derek smiles back, looking relieved and hopeful. If him being hungry makes that soft look appear on Derek’s face then Stiles promises to be hungry every day for the rest of forever.

“Come on, you can help me cook then,” Derek comments before standing up and walking into the kitchen. It takes Stiles a little longer to get moving than Derek, the view is just too good to waste.

“Uh, dude you know I can’t really cook right? I mean I can bake like no one’s business and I’m great at Cabbage Rolls but that’s about as far as my cooking skills go.”

Cooking was always something he did with the women in his family. Baking was always something he and his mother did, every weekend there was a new recipe to try and dad was always their guinea pig. Neither Stiles nor his mother would take a bite of their latest concoction until John said it was edible.

Cabbage Rolls were something he’d make with his babcia every holiday or birthday, or basically any time he ever saw her. The old Polish woman was determined to make sure he knew at least one traditional meal before she decided to go back to Poland a few years ago. Safe to say Stiles is the master of Cabbage Rolls but he’s pretty sure Derek didn’t buy any cabbage at the store.

Around the time his mother died Stiles tried cooking something other than Cabbage Rolls and everything was either overcooked to the point of mush or charcoal, or it was so undercooked it was unsafe to consume. It wasn’t that he disliked cooking per say, it was more that he couldn’t be bothered to follow recipes properly. Thusly, his timing for everything was all off and nothing ever came out quite right. After the third bout of soggy pasta his dad decided it was best if Stiles stuck to what he was good at; meaning that once a month the Stilinski men ate Cabbage Rolls, any more frequently than that would have been a sickly experience for everybody involved.

“I’ve never heard of Cabbage Rolls before, but maybe you could cook them for me one day?” Derek smiled over his shoulder as he rummaged around in the fridge for tonight’s dinner ingredients.

Before Stiles could tell Derek about how often he cooks the Polish dish he paused. If Stiles didn’t know any better that sure sounded like a date. Luckily Stiles does know better. Just because he’s harbouring a major crush on Derek doesn’t mean the older wolf has the same feelings for him. Besides, him and Derek Hale? Probably the most messed up people in all of Beacon Hills. People that emotionally stunted shouldn’t date – the world would probably implode from all the angst.

“Yeah, I can do that, all depends on how well you cook tonight though,” Stiles goaded, mostly trying to dissuade the thoughts in his mind that kept playing out fantasies of himself and Derek on an actual date.

“Hey, I’m a good cook. How do you think Laura and I survived after the fire?” Derek snarked in good humour before his face stuttered close. A shadow passed over his face and his eyes turned distant and hollow. Stiles couldn’t tell if it was because of the fire that stole most of his family or the mention of his beloved older sister who’d only been gone a little over a year, or maybe it was a combination of the both mixed into a great well of grief.

Stiles lets the moment hang as he knows better than anyone that sometimes you just need to acknowledge your lost loved ones and it helps when others acknowledge it too, it’s like they haven’t been forgotten. That more than any well intentioned apology means more to him, and he think it’ll mean something to Derek too. Then again there is only so much stilted silence Stiles can endure, so when he deems the moment has passed Stiles blurts out the first thing he can think of.

“I figured because you’re both werewolves that you just munched on a bunch of rabbits or something. All those defenceless woodland animals at your mercy.”

It was stupid really, Stiles had not thought Derek was that barbaric type of werewolf you see in all the horror movies in at least a year. To be honest, Stiles had never truly thought that about Derek in general – even if he always made those comments and jabs when they had first met. But old habits die hard, and Stiles is a stickler for those classic kinds of jokes.

Derek just stares at him blankly for a moment, Stiles takes it as a good sign that he’s not scowling. Several seconds, or maybe even minutes – Stiles isn’t sure, he’s too busy holding his breath – pass before Derek huffs and a small smile appears on his face. Tension sufficiently broken Stiles laughs and looks at the counter before them trying to figure out what they’ll be making from the ingredients. Capsicum, zucchini, a whole lot of eggs, and what Stiles is pretty sure is an eggplant. Among a variety of other ingredients Stiles notices flour and butter and he nearly fist bumps at the prospects. He knows what flour and butter are used for, baking. The chance to bake makes Stiles way more excited about this whole cooking thing.

But Stiles notices something missing.

“No meat?”

There’s plenty of vegetables, eggs, sour cream, cheese and baking ingredients but no meat anywhere on the counter. Stiles prides himself on knowing all he possibly can about werewolves and from everything he’s ever read meat seems to be the main ingredient in their diets.

“Just because I’m a werewolf doesn’t mean I’m opposed to vegetables. I actually really like vegetarian meals and I figured something lighter might be better,” Derek trails off a little awkwardly.

Might be better because Stiles hasn’t eaten a proper meal in weeks is left unsaid.

Stiles shrugs off the awkwardness and the discomfort he feels, he’s been having a really good day so far and he hopes to finish the day as well as it started. He has no energy to deal with the issues of his not-quite-but-swiftly-approaching diagnosis of an eating disorder or any of the problems that led to it.

“So what are we making then?” Stiles questions lightly, forcing joviality into the situation.

“It’s called a Mediterranean Vegetable Pie; it was always a favourite back in New York.”

Stiles rubs his hands together before diving for the flour, staking his claim on any and all baking steps. Derek just shakes his head smiling, so Stiles figures its okay, and tells him to put the flour, butter, and sour cream into the food processor. That little machine was the greatest invention in the cooking world if Stiles says so himself.

There’s a comfortable silence that fills the kitchen once the dough has been set to chill. This is one of the many things Stiles likes about being with Derek, he never feels the need to fill the silence, and they can just be. As they’re cutting up copious amounts of vegetables, though Stiles has no idea how to cut up the leek so he leaves that part to Derek, he realises how much food they are actually preparing. It’s more than enough for the two of them; in fact it looks like enough to feed the whole street.

“Uh, not to burst your little cooking bubble but this is way too much food, dude, there’s only two of us and I know wolves can eat like twice as much as humans but still man, way too much food.”

If Stiles didn’t know better he’d think Derek Hale, werewolf extraordinaire, was blushing. The wolf seemed to fidget in place and looked like he’d sucked on a lemon. Embarrassed Derek may be one of Stiles’ favourite Derek’s.

“I, uh, I’m not very good at portions. In New York I’d just give the extra food to our neighbour, so it was never really a big deal. There was this old woman that lived a floor below us, only spoke Spanish, Signora Estevez. She always said that cooking for one was too depressing so every couple of days I’d bring her all of our leftovers.” Derek smiled fondly, former embarrassment forgotten in the face of happy memories. “She could talk for hours but she had the most amazing stories from when she lived in Spain. Every Sunday Laura and I would head down to her apartment and she’d cook for us. It, it was really great.”

Derek’s voice had turned soft towards the end, nearing on a whisper. Whoever this old woman was she clearly meant a lot to Derek. Stiles wondered if she was still alive but thought it insensitive to ask. That’s when the rest of what Derek said registered in Stiles’ mind.

“Wait, you know Spanish?”

“Among other languages,” Derek shrugged, like being multilingual wasn’t the coolest thing ever. Stiles himself was fairly decent at Polish but would never call himself fluent. He could follow along with conversations just fine but he didn’t have the smooth tongue like his father or babcia. “Alright we have to cook these veggies for a bit, just until they’re a little softer.”

Stiles was a little dubious about all these vegetables fitting into the frypan but Derek made it look easy. If Stiles was the one stirring the veggies they’d end up all over the stovetop, probably all over the floor too. Stiles wants to ask Derek where he learnt to cook but he guesses it would involve his family, a touchy subject at the best of times, but Stiles figures they’re at that point in their friendship where some subjects can be broached... maybe even slightly pushed.

“Where’d you learn to cook anyways?” he asks casually as he begins to whisk the eggs with the cream, parmesan cheese, corn, tomatoes, and olives carefully so he doesn’t end up covered in eggs. He also hopes that if he continues working then his question wouldn’t seem as prying as it probably was. Stiles just can’t help it sometimes, he likes knowing things.

“My parents, they would always cook together, it was like their own version of date night. They’d make the best Enchiladas, Tuna Bake, even Macaroni and Cheese. Every meal was like this big event and they’d get us kids to help stir things. On the full moon we all picked one ingredient and had to make a meal out if it. Sometimes they turned out pretty good but other times they were the most disgusting things I’d ever tasted, “ Derek shakes his head and chuckles lightly. “One time I had picked bacon, mum chose fennel, dad had venison, Laura picked pumpkin seeds, and Cora chose gummy bears. We ended up wrapping the gummy bears in bacon and baked the fennel and pumpkin seeds over the venison. It may not sound too bad but everything tasted horrible, it was sickening. But we all laughed it off and ate it anyways. Cora loved the gummy bacon though – wouldn’t eat anything else for weeks.”

Stiles frowns, trying to reconcile the image of the Cora he knows with Derek’s description of a young girl obsessed with gummy bear bacon. It didn’t really match up in his mind. He knew Cora as this tough lone wolf that never smiled. Don’t get him wrong, Stiles likes Cora. She’s feisty, grumpy, and has the sharpest tongue Stiles has ever met. Honestly Stiles was a little sad when she left, he thinks they could have been good friends. If there’s anyone who deserves to put Beacon Hills in their rear view mirror though it’s anyone with the last name Hale. 

It makes Stiles wonder about how much the fire actually stole from the remaining Hales. It didn’t just take their family and their pack, it took parts of their very beings. From what little Stiles can trust of the story Peter told him Derek seemed to be a carefree and confident kind of teenager, a far cry from the brooding troubled man that came back to Beacon Hills a year and a half ago. It’s a saddening thought to imagine the happy and cheeky child Cora once was and compare it to the angry teenager he had met.

“I have to be honest... gummy bear bacon sounds awesome.”

“Just go get the dough you weirdo,” Derek laughs and nudges him with his elbow. Stiles smiles and skips away to the fridge. At Derek’s instruction Stiles whips out his rolling pin and gets to work on the dough.

Stiles always loved his rolling pin; just the action of rolling dough and stretching it to its limits was endlessly fascinating to him and strangely soothing.

Most people think that because he has ADD that he doesn’t pay attention to anything, but it’s quite the opposite in fact. Stiles pays attention to everything, which is why he notices the way Derek watches his hands move on the rolling pin. The wolf seems almost hypnotized with the way he can’t take his eyes off of Stiles’ hands as they manipulate the wooden pin. If Stiles really took his time rolling the dough or put a bit more flourish into his twists than normal it was no one’s business but his own. He ended up watching Derek more than watching what he was doing. The way Derek was entranced by his hands and the light blush that covered the wolf’s face was a huge ego boost. No one had ever looked at Stiles like that, not even Malia and they had actually been in a relationship. Making comparisons between the cousins wasn’t good for Stiles’ weary heart; he couldn’t afford the hope that came with the possibility that Derek wanted him.

As intoxicating as Derek’s reaction was Stiles was far too proud to let it ruin his pie crust, so he stopped his exaggerated rolling and placed the dough in the oven dish Derek had laid out earlier. When he turned to ask Derek what to do next the older wolf looked scandalized and like he was waiting for the floor to swallow him whole.

“Right, um, I just gotta put the vegetables over the crust then you can pour the egg mixture on top and it goes in the oven for 40 minutes,” Derek clears his throat and won’t look Stiles in the eyes as he begins to pour in the vegetables. After he steps back, Stiles steps forward at Derek’s small nod and pours in the contents of his mixing bowl. When the bowl is empty, Stiles looks up towards Derek who has his hand out ready to collect the now barren bowl.

“Cool, what do you wanna do until then?” Stiles can’t keep the cheeky grin off his face no matter how hard he tries. It’s very validating the way Derek keeps shuffling around, moving and shifting the dishes around, clearing the counters, anything but looking at Stiles.

“I’m uh, gonna have a shower.”

And with that the wolf races up the stairs without so much as looking at Stiles. A few days ago Stiles would have found the dismissal upsetting and would constantly think he’d done something wrong. Right now however, all Stiles can do is chuckle, grin like a fool, and blush so hard there would be no patch of skin that wasn’t red. In fact Stiles is feeling so good he thinks Derek slipped him something. Surely being this happy had to have come from some drug?

However the feeling came about it lingers throughout the night and straight into morning. Stiles lay awake for several minutes basking in the feeling of carefree happiness. For the past week his sleep pattern has been gradually getting better, to the point of not waking up screaming every night. The nightmares are still a constant, he thinks they always will be, but their potency has worn off immensely. He still has trouble falling asleep and will wake up several times during the night but it’s been days since he’s screamed the whole house awake. Last night was something else entirely. It had still been hard to fall asleep but once he did he seemed to sleep though the whole night. Not once does Stiles remember waking up. That alone puts him in a good mood, the success of last night only adding to his increased mood.

Stiles thinks the cliché ‘time heals all wounds’ is just that, a cliché. He doesn’t put any stock in it – time certainly didn’t make the pain of losing his mother any less potent. So, his somewhat sudden good mood isn’t because of time, but if not that, then what?  There is definitely some correlation between his mood and the arrival of Derek Hale, but Stiles doesn’t want Derek to be his emotional balance. He’s always thought of himself as an independent kind of guy so having someone control a huge part of his being is off-putting and wholly unacceptable. On the other hand, Stiles can’t deny the fact that as soon as he accepted Derek as a pack member his mood stabilised. Maybe there’s more to the whole pack bond thing than he thought. It’s more than that though, Stiles can feel it. There’s something inside him that’s growing stronger and brighter every day.

In some ways the feeling is similar to how he felt when he trapped Jackson in the warehouse using Mountain Ash. He’d like to think of it as some kind of inner strength, something that is 100% Stiles Stilinski, something that no one else can touch. Maybe this pack bond kick started it but Stiles is the one that can make it grow – and that’s exactly what he wants to do. He’s sick of feeling sorry for himself and thinking he’s helpless, that’s not who his parents raised him to be. He is more than his mental illness and one day soon he’ll prove it.

For now though, Stiles will go on floating through the day relishing in his new found serenity.

The dinner he’d helped cook with Derek had been one of the tastiest things Stiles has eaten in months, and to think Derek didn’t add any salt, pepper, or other seasoning. Who would have thought vegetables could taste good?

Stiles could barely sit still while eating – and by eating he means shovelling the tasty goodness into his mouth as fast as possible, not his most attractive moment, but when the food is good all decorum flies out the window especially since he’d been too excited by the fact that something he helped make actually came out edible. Not only was it edible, it was damn tasty.  He’d wanted to go back in for a second serving but thought better of it. No matter how good the pie tasted if he’d forced himself to eat anymore he have spent the night with his head in the toilet bowl. 

Whatever had transpired between them while cooking seemed to have dissipated as he and Derek sat on the floor in the living room eating their dinner. If his dad wasn’t around then what was the need for a dining table honestly?

They’d spent the night chilling on the couch talking about Derek’s road trip, dude was gone for 7 months he’s practically gone to every state in the US so there’s many a fascinating story to be told. Late into the night Derek told him about wanting to go to Vancouver next because every TV show that needs perfect nature shots goes there and he wants to just run in his wolf form in those picturesque woods. It sounded pretty perfect to Stiles. In return Stiles had told Derek about how he wanted to take a gap year and travel around Europe but wasn’t sure if he could leave his dad for that long.

It had been so nice to just sit with Derek and talk about things that had nothing to do with the supernatural, his recent mental failings, any of the departed Hale family members or his mother, or his old pack. It felt so normal. At one point Stiles had laid down with his head resting in Derek’s lap and the wolf’s hand immediately went to stroking through his hair. It had felt like the most natural thing in the world and Stiles couldn’t help wanting to purr at Derek’s fingers in his hair.

Stiles is still feeling that same contentment this morning and wishes he could just stay suspended in this weekend forever. For once nothing hurts and everything feels right, he doesn’t want to let that go. The only way this weekend would have been better would have been if his dad was around but the man is due back tomorrow night. Stiles is hoping his good mood will continue until then, he wants his dad to see that everything will be okay, he hates it when his dad worries.

Though, he has to get through another school day before he gets to see his dad again. School still seems pointless but if he ever wants to be a cop like his dad then he needs to at least graduate high school. That dream seems to be slipping through his fingers lately though, seeing as he’s failing almost all his classes. Stiles drags himself out of bed and looks at his desk which is piled high with the past month’s worth of homework. Not a single one of those assignments was completed.

With the way his mind has been acting Stiles expects the crushing feeling of failure to devour him and send him spiralling down into oblivion again. That feeling never comes. Instead Stiles looks at the pile of work and feels determination coursing through his veins.

If he wants to get better then he needs to work at it. If he wants to be a cop like he always dreamed of then he needs to graduate. If he wants to graduate at all he needs to start taking school seriously.

If he ever wants to date Derek Hale then he needs to be emotionally stable.

Wait.

Slightly pathetic motivation? Probably, but Derek isn’t the main reason he wants to get better so it evens out somewhere.

Everything in life requires work so it’s about time he gets started. Chucking on a pair of track pants and an Iron Man t-shirt that is relatively clean Stiles grabs one of the biggest piles and slowly makes his way downstairs.

He’s been slowly chipping away at the pile of homework for hours by the time Derek finally wanders downstairs. The wolf’s already showered and dressed, seeming like he’s been awake for hours but decided not to leave his room. If Stiles was a betting kind of guy he’d put money on Derek being so immersed in a book he’d forgotten that he was supposed to eat breakfast. Stiles has never seen someone love books as much as Derek does. It’s something Stiles finds highly attractive.

“Hey so you speak Spanish right? Like fluently?” Stiles greets with a pencil wedged behind each ear and another one he’s currently chewing on.

“Good morning to you too, and yes,” Derek grumbles making his way into the kitchen.

“It’s like lunchtime dude. Since you’re so amazing at Spanish do you want to be the best packmate ever and help me with my Spanish homework?”

Stiles didn’t even register that Derek never responded as he was already working on an English paper asking him to discuss the most prominent themes in popular novels and why those themes are important. Stiles didn’t like thinking about the education system, mostly because he thought it was run by a bunch of idiots who thought teenagers were incapable of knowing anything. Like seriously, he’s a senior now, shouldn’t the work be hard or at least make him actually think?

Nearly 20 minutes later Derek re-emerged and sat on the couch, navigating his way through the stacks of papers and books that littered the living room floor.

“I won’t give you the answers but I will help you,” Derek then handed Stiles a plate that was full of what must be the most delicious looking omelette Stiles had the pleasure of seeing. It also smelt like all the best breakfast foods mixed together, mmm.

That’s basically how they spent their Sunday – Stiles trudging through a month’s worth of homework and Derek occasionally helping with Spanish or reclining on the couch reading his book. It was that mixture of comfortable silence and contented normalcy that Stiles craved. He could sure get used to weekends like this.

By the end of the day Stiles’ brain feels like it’s ready to explode and his hand is cramping something awful, but he still feels amazing. This is the most productive he’s been in a month and it feels like things might actually be getting back on track. Who knew Derek Hale would help drag him from the depths of depression?

Stiles wasn’t so sure he could keep this feeling going through school though. School sucked before all this supernatural shit entered his life – he’d been a loser, a total spaz that couldn’t keep his mouth shut and sucked at lacrosse. Getting beaten up or picked on was a natural part of his life and his only friend was equally as much of a loser as he was – now he has no friends so it’s just become even more unbearable, if that’s even possible. You’d think going from only one friend to none wouldn’t be that big of a difference, but to Stiles the loss of Scott made the world around him unsteady. Everyone’s experience of high school is either full of happiness and parties, or plagued with bullies and turmoil. Unsurprisingly, Stiles’ experience is turning out to be the latter. Maybe if he just believes that tomorrow will go smoothly hard enough it will actually come true.

Wishful thinking never got him very far before so why should it work now?

Chapter Text

Monday was a weird day for Stiles to say the least. His good mood from the weekend had continued to the school day but it was mostly overshadowed by his anxiety. He didn’t know where the anxiety came from, he’s been dealing with the horrors that high school has become all week – it shouldn’t affect him like this. Stiles has always prided himself on trusting his instincts, and right now they are saying that something bad is going to happen today. So he spends the day in a state of hyper vigilance. It’s exhausting, being so thoroughly aware of your surroundings, but Stiles would rather be tired than surprised by whatever Beacon Hills is going to throw at him next. He’s survived psychotic hunters, murderous alphas, dark druids, the Nogitsune, and most recently, Donovan. He will survive this too.

The day seems to drag on like any other, lessons are boring and he spends most of the day alone. The difference of today being that Stiles tries to actually pay attention in class, he even hands up some of the assignments he completed over the weekend and talked to his teachers to figure out how he can get his grades back up to where they need to be. It was a good feeling, getting back on track, and he could see the relief on his teachers faces too. None of those happy vibes could override the anxiety though.

It was like a crawling sensation over his spine, the constant need to check over his shoulder, his body poised for attack, and the overwhelming feeling of doom that just would not go away. He was short of breath all day but he refused to let his panic overtake him.

The one good thing about his hyper vigilance was that he noticed something he would have normally ignored.

Theo Raeken.

Ever since that guy came back to town Stiles’ insides have stayed tangled in knots. Theo makes him uncomfortable and wary. He doesn’t know how to explain it but Stiles knows with every fibre of his being that Theo is lying to them. Theo is playing his own game, with his own rules, and no one else seems to realise it. Everyone looked at him like he was some paranoid creep when he told them Theo was bad news. No one wanted to believe that the guy could be evil, they all trusted him.

But not Stiles, not once.

The fact that Theo returned to Beacon Hills as a supernatural creature was enough of a reason to give Stiles pause and to begin down his usual rabbit hole of speculation. For one thing, no one comes to Beacon Hills without some kind of agenda; it’s not like it’s some bustling metropolis. Secondly, new supernaturals in Beacon Hills are very rarely a good thing.

 So no, Stiles has never trusted Theo and he never will. Something he’s told the shifter on many occasions but the guy seemed more amused than threatened by Stiles’ declarations. Not that Stiles can necessarily blame him, it’s not like he really looks that intimidating in the first place.

He just wished the pack would have taken him seriously when he told them something was wrong with Theo. The truly crushing moment was when even Malia started trusting the guy; Malia, the one who doesn’t trust anyone, who always believed in Stiles, the one he thought he could count on. Stiles understands why Scott trusts Theo, he wants to see the good in everyone, but Malia was a whole different story. That was about the time Stiles realised he was an outsider in his own pack.

Then he killed Donovan and everything went downhill from there.

Now he has no one who’ll listen to his theories. Well, he has Derek but he’s not about to call the guy to tell him the douchebag in his class was giving him weird looks. Actually, Stiles has been getting looks all day from Theo.

The guy was always in the periphery of his vision, just on the outskirts never venturing further. It was incredibly annoying and Stiles just couldn’t understand why Theo seemed to be following him. Every time Stiles was caught looking at Theo the guy would just smirk and wave. So he wanted Stiles to know he was being watched. But why?

It’s not like Stiles is a threat to him, especially now that he’s out of Scott’s pack. So why is Theo suddenly so interested in him?

Stiles tries to reconcile the memory of 4th grade Theo with the teen he’s become now, but he can’t. Theo was just a normal kid back then, a bit shy and quiet but there was nothing sinister about him. Now however the guy just screams evil. Turning into a supernatural creature doesn’t automatically make someone evil – nor does it make them good, case in point Jackson Whittemore who was a jerk as a human, an asshole as a Kanima, and still a jackass as a werewolf – so what made Theo this way?

It’s a question that may never be answered and as frustrating as not knowing something is Stiles tells himself it’s information he doesn’t need. Theo isn’t his problem anymore – he’s the packs.

The feeling of unease and impending danger doesn’t dissipate when he’s returned home and is safely away from Theo’s prying eyes.

He mumbles a quick hello to Derek who’s seated on the couch with another book before he is spreading out on the living room floor by Derek and tries to get a start on the rest of his make-up assignments. Stiles briefly wonders what it is Derek does all day when he’s at school, but he’s pretty sure the answer to that would be, read. Stiles has come to associate Derek with books, and if the guy doesn’t have a book in hand then something seems really wrong with the world. Funny how your interpretation of someone changes once you get to know them.

It’s nearly dinner time by the time Stiles is finished with his algebra homework. It took far longer than he would have liked, but it’s not because the work is all that difficult but more because that feeling of unease hasn’t yet settled.

Something bad is heading his way but he doesn’t know what or how to stop it.

He is utterly helpless and he hates it.

The only thing that stops his mood from completely crashing is the knowledge that in a few hours his dad will be home. While this weekend has been surprisingly awesome he misses his dad more than he thought he would. All he really wants is a hug from his dad and maybe some advice on the whole Theo thing. His dad was great at listening to Stiles’ paranoid ramblings and figuring out if there was anything truly nefarious going on or if Stiles was just being unreasonable.

There was a time when John Stilinski would easily dismiss anything his own son said purely for the fact that Stiles was a teenager – most adults think teenagers are incapable of understanding anything and thusly treat them like small children. Then there was the whole ‘werewolves are real and I’m friends with them’ explanation that really did not go as smoothly as he’d hoped for. Honestly, that was one huge catastrophe of misunderstanding and denial. It took a long time after that for John to realise his son was more of an adult than anyone gave him credit for – even the Sheriff himself. The Stilinski’s relationship has been rocky but they’ve grown to a place of mutual respect and understanding. It was a hard won battle but they are all better human beings for having endured it.

“Stiles, you need to sleep. You know your dad didn’t want you staying up just for him. You’ll see him in the morning.” Derek carefully manoeuvres Stiles into a standing position and steers the teen towards the stairs. Stiles can acknowledge the truth in Derek’s words seeing as he’s dozed off about three times since they sat down to watch TV after dinner. Though his sleep pattern has improved greatly in the last week he’s still catching up on weeks of not sleeping. His body needs time to adjust and recuperate; even if that means going to bed at only 8pm. Not even his excitement at seeing his dad again is enough to keep him awake. With the stress of school and his hyper vigilance over Theo Raeken, Stiles is suitable exhausted. Maybe some sleep would do him good. 

Not that he actually gets a good night’s sleep. He may not wake up screaming or feeling terrified but he spends the night tossing and turning. One moment he’s shivering and the next he’s sweating. Lying on side is uncomfortable but so is sleeping on his stomach or his back. He’d shut his eyes and immediately feel like someone was standing over his bed watching him sleep, but he’d open his eyes to see he was still alone. That creeping sensation of eyes on him never left nor did the feeling of impending doom.

Safe to say it was a rough night for Stiles, but in between bouts of restlessness he was able to get a few hours of shut eye.

When his alarm beeps in the early morning Stiles feels like death warmed over. His whole body aches and his head has developed a steady throb. All he wants to do is stay in bed and sleep away the day, but Tuesday brings with it a full school day.

He manages to shuffle out of his bedroom with a heaviness in his limbs making every step feel like he’d already ran a marathon. Without knocking Stiles heads into his dad’s bedroom and is prepared to just collapse on top of his sleeping father.

When his eyes finally crack open Stiles freezes a few steps away from the bed.

His father’s very empty bed.

His brain is working a little slow this morning so the panic that overtakes him comes on like a wave, slowing rising, growing, until it hits its peak and crashes back down.

His dad isn’t there.

His lungs burn with the need for air, constricting tighter and tighter the longer he stares at the vacant bed. Muscles refusing to move and brain failing to come up with any decent ideas Stiles just stares.

There’s a small hopeful voice in his head saying maybe his dad is already downstairs starting breakfast, but the more rational part of his mind knows this isn’t true. Still, he concentrates on that flicker of hope and races out of the bedroom and down the stairs. It’s the fastest he’s ever moved before having his morning coffee or running for life.

He nearly crashes into the doorway of the kitchen but it’s a distant worry, his mind too preoccupied with what he sees.

An empty kitchen.

His dad isn’t up early making breakfast and he certainly isn’t upstairs sleeping. So if he isn’t here then where the hell is he?

Suddenly his mind reminds him that he isn’t alone in the house anymore, Derek’s there. Another spike of energy hits him, quickening his steps towards Derek’s room. Ignoring any manners or social decorum, Stiles barges into Derek’s bedroom and finds him already up and finishing slipping into a pair of grey track pants. While Derek still has those dredges of sleep clinging to him there is tightness in his shoulders and tension in his jaw. Apparently Derek already knows that something isn’t right in the Stilinski household, the biggest indicator being the supernatural blue tinge lighting his eyes.

 “Derek, my dad isn’t here!”

If Stiles were less panicked and the situation less dire, he might appreciate the image of a sleep ruffled, bare chest, and bed headed Derek Hale. But all Stiles can think about is ‘dad missing, dad missing, dad missing!’

Derek appears to be a better functioning person without coffee than Stiles is, seeing as it only takes him a moment to process the situation. The wolf gets the serious, determined, look on his face as he reaches for a tank top and takes the few steps separating them to reach for Stiles’ shoulder. He squeezes it gently, making sure to catch Stiles’ eye as he speaks. Stiles assumes Derek is trying to look reassuring and if he was thinking more clearly he’d probably appreciate the gesture but right now his brain isn’t really functioning properly.

 “Try calling him, I’ll check the perimeter,” with that the wolf descends the stairs and is out the door in a flash.

Stiles wants to smack himself in the forehead, why didn’t he think to call his dad? It takes barely a moment for him to rush back to his room and collect his phone, his shoulders drooping when there are no missed calls or text messages. If his dad’s plane was delayed or he couldn’t get a taxi back home he would have called.

The old saying ‘no news is good news’ does not apply here.

No news could mean his dad’s plane crashed and he’s either lying in a hospital bed or worse. Stiles really doesn’t want to think about the worse. Or he could have been taken by some supernatural creature or hunter – Stiles thinks the shifter would be preferable to being kidnapped by hunters; hunters tend to be more vicious and bloodthirsty than the creatures they put down.   Or his dad’s taxi could have been involved in a crash or someone he previously arrested could be out and looking for revenge and shot him on sight. This is Beacon Hills, every possible bad case scenario has merit. His dad could be dying right now and he’d never know about it.

So much for not thinking about it.

Stiles hasn’t even pulled up his dad’s phone number by the time Derek returns, too stuck in his worries to function.

“There’s no scent trail. He hasn’t been home yet and I can’t pick up anyone else’s scent either. Did you get through to your dad?”

Stiles feels like he can breathe easier knowing there wasn’t someone watching the house and that his dad didn’t get kidnapped right in front of their home – right under Stiles and Derek’s noses. That’s about all there is to feel good about though, there is still the possibility of him being in a hospital, or dead, or being tortured as they speak. Any number of things could have been happening to his father but if he focuses on that for more than a second he’d be curled into a ball in the corner of his room.

Shaking his head Stiles dials his dad’s number, bringing the phone to his ear. Each ring that goes unanswered sounds like a fog horn ricocheting around his skull. It just rings and rings and rings, Stiles hope sinking with each passing second.

Ring, ring…

Ring, ring...

Ring, r – Click.

“Dad!” Stiles nearly chokes on his next breath when the phone is finally, god finally, answered. His face hurts from how hard he’s smiling and his eyes are suspiciously wet but he doesn’t care. His dad is alive enough to answer his phone and that is all that matters to him right now. “God don’t scare me like that, I thought something happened to you. Where are you? Are you okay?”

Silence answers him. Absolute silence. The longer the silence reigns the smaller Stiles’ smile gets. Why isn’t his dad talking? He shoots a look towards Derek where the wolf is frowning next to him, equally as confused.

“Stiles, Stiles, Stiles, the things a guy has to do to get your attention.”

That is not his dad.

Stiles feels like his whole world has frozen in time. Every muscle in his body tenses, his breathing stops, and the room around him falls away. There’s ice in his veins and a thudding pressure around his brain. He was falling, plummeting down into the depths of the world, everything around him fading into a black, endless abyss.

Then came the fire.

A deep burning sensation that starts as a gentle hum in his chest. It melted away the ice freezing his veins, flowing like lava throughout his body until his entire being burns.  He is no longer the scared, fearful teen he was before. Oh no, now he is drowning in rage, a fierce desire to eviscerate anyone that harms his father. Images of bodies littering the streets of Beacon Hills fill his vision, bodies he put there. The nauseas feeling he expects to feel never arrives. When it comes to his father there is nothing he wouldn’t do. Even take a life, another life.

“Where is my dad Theo? What have you done to him?” he growls menacingly.

Knowing someone is evil and having that assumption thrown back in your face is like jumping into an icy lake. It is not a happy occasion; it is a plummeting freezing sensation of defeat. Stiles knew Theo would eventually turn out to be the ‘bad guy’, but he never expected Theo to go after his dad. He still remembers how devastated he felt when the Darach had taken his dad, how hopeless he felt and how lost he was without him. Last time he had to die to save his dad, he can’t even begin to imagine what he’ll have to do to save him this time.

Beside him Derek has frozen, hearing every word on the other end of the phone with his enhanced hearing. His luminescent blue eyes make their second appearance this morning as he glares at the phone cradled to Stiles’ cheek.

“Oh, don’t worry; he’s fine... for now. But he won’t be if you refuse me,” the cocky tone of voice really grates on Stiles’ nerves. It doesn’t escape his notice that Theo completely ignored his questions. He grinds his teeth in an attempt to not tell Theo where he can shove it.

“What do you want?” The asshole is heavily implied.

“You haven’t figured it out yet? Come on Stiles I thought you were the smart one.” Theo tuts like he’s genuinely disappointed in Stiles. To be fair, Stiles himself is a little disappointed. He tried to convince himself that Theo wasn’t his problem so he tried not to think about. He’s mentally kicking himself for that decision now; if he paid more attention maybe his dad would be safe. “I came back to Beacon Hills for the Nogitsune, I want Void Stiles.”

If Stiles thought his world ended before when he realised Theo had his dad, it’s nothing compared to hearing Theo mention the Nogitsune. Suddenly dying to save his dad seems like the preferable option. He can’t go back to that, he can’t let the Nogitsune in again; he just can’t. If he lets himself go down that path again he knows he won’t come out the other side. Last time the pack tricked the Nogitsune to save him, but you can’t trick a trickster twice. Even if he somehow managed to escape the Nogitsune again, he would lose himself – he was sure of it.

“If you don’t give me what I want, I won’t kill your dad. No, I’ll rip off his fingernails; I’ll break his legs and carve my name into his chest. I will leave him bleeding and broken... but I won’t kill him, I’ll just let him suffer knowing that you were the one that caused him so much pain.” Theo’s voice washed over Stiles like waves crashing against jagged rocks. Each word piercing his heart and stealing the breath from his lungs.

“Become the Nogitsune again Stiles and you can have your father back.” The voice sounds hollow and far away. Everything washes away, sights, sounds, feelings; he can’t feel anything right now. His mind has shut down, too overwhelmed with the current situation. He feels light, like gravity can no longer contain him and he’ll be carried towards the stars at any moment. Drifting away from his problems sounds exactly like what he wants to do – just to pretend like his world isn’t about to implode.

Derek must pick up on his emotional cues, or see the way Stiles is fading, either that or the guy just desperately needs to add his two cents into the conversation. The phone is violently snatched from Stiles’ limp hand as Derek growls, literally growls, into the phone.

“You so much as touch the Sheriff and I’ll rip your fucking throat out.”

With that final parting shot Derek disconnects the call, dropping the phone onto Stiles’ bed, and crowding in close to the unresponsive teen. Stiles is so numb that he can’t feel Derek’s hands as the wolf reaches out and cradles his face, he can’t feel the heat of Derek being this close to him, he can’t feel anything.

“Stiles, I will get your father back. I promise.” Derek tries to catch his gaze but Stiles is still too distant to really comprehend it.

He can’t help but imagine all the horrible things Theo could do to his father, all the bloody gory things his twisted little mind can come up with. But with those panic inducing pictures comes the image of Theo Raeken’s face. That cocky, smirking face floods his mind but he is in no way scared of that face.

He’s infuriated.

How dare that pathetically spiteful, manipulative bastard touch his father? Theo Raeken is a nobody, he’s nothing compared to all the powerful villains Stiles has faced in the past. He’s thrown a Molotov cocktail at an enraged Alpha werewolf, faced the Kanima, outsmarted the Darach, helped defeat the Alpha Pack, and survived professional assassins. Not to mention defeating the Nogitsune. Theo is a child in comparison, a child having a tantrum.

Stiles is not scared of Theo Raeken.

He’s sick of being scared of supernatural creatures that want to hurt him. It’s time he learnt to hurt them. Imagining all the ways he could make Theo bleed, all the bones he could continuously break, and the many ways he knows how to hurt and kill werewolves fills Stiles with a drive he hasn’t felt in a long time.

Slowly, with a calmness he’s never before experienced, he lifts his eyes to meet Derek’s. He sees the worry in the wolf’s gaze and the underlying fear there but it is a distant observation. For now he is solely focused on one thing, ridding the world of Theo Raeken.

“You find that psychopathic asshole and you kill him.”