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I Don't Need Protecting

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- Sunday, August 14th, 2011 -

Stiles is filled with nervous excitement as he drives to Derek's loft. Tonight is the pack's weekly meeting, during which any important or urgent news is shared—like something else threatening to kill them all—and then things usually turn into a more relaxed gathering. Stiles' favourites are always the evenings when the pack ends up gathered on and around the sofas with a bunch of pizzas and a couple of movies. He feels privileged to be a part of something so good, especially since it had just been him and Scott for years. Now Stiles has many friends, more than he really knows how to handle, but he wouldn't change a thing about it.

When he thinks back on how they all got here, it seems unbelievable.

From Stiles sticking his nose where it didn't belong, to Scott being bitten by Peter and both of them being thrust into the supernatural world. From Derek Hale returning to Beacon Hills, all frowns and growls and threats of bodily harm, to them teaming up with Chris and Allison Argent to take down Peter Hale. They were such a mess back then, and things weren't any better when Gerard Argent showed his ugly geriatric face. They were actually worse, because, with Derek biting Erica, Isaac and Boyd, there were more people to try to keep safe.

Scott's betrayal at the end of Gerard's reign of terror was a tough pill to swallow, both for Stiles and for Derek, but Stiles thinks that they're all in a good place now. Scott has finally accepted his place in the Hale pack, Erica and Boyd came back and apologised for leaving when things got tough, and Jackson is actually less of a douchebag now that he has more people around him to keep him in check.

Derek is also nicer, which was shocking at first and now leads to the second reason for Stiles' excitement about tonight.

Ever since middle school, he harboured a massive crush for the unattainable Lydia Martin. He would wax poetic about her to whoever would listen, which more often than not turned out to be his best friend Scott or his dad, the local sheriff. Sometimes Scott's mother, Melissa, would get an earful as well. Recently, however, Stiles' crush on Lydia has finally waned, only to be replaced by another.

Derek is why movie nights are Stiles' favourite pack meetings, solely because he usually ends up sitting next to him, feeling the heat of his body and smelling his natural manly musk. Several times Stiles has been tempted to lay his head on Derek's shoulder, maybe even nose into his neck to get more of his delectable scent, but he has wisely managed to catch himself every time he has got the urge so far. Things have been good between them lately—dare Stiles say they've even been great, Derek smiling grudgingly at his jokes and sharing meaningful glances with him—but Stiles doesn't want to risk that he is reading things wrong and end up with his throat ripped out, as Derek has promised to do in the past.

When Stiles arrives at his destination, the takes the freight elevator up and enters Derek's loft to find it already filled with his fellow pack members. He greets them all with a wave and his signature grin but freezes just past the threshold when he sees their grim expressions. Right away Stiles knows that this meeting won't end up being one of leisure.

"Oh God, who's gonna kill us all now?" he whines.

"No one," Derek answers gruffly, his arms crossed over his chest. Today he wears a pair of jeans and a dark-purple henley, black chest hair peeking out of the V-neck.

Tearing his eyes away from said hair, Stiles meets Derek's gaze. "Then what's with the faces?"

"We need to talk."

"Isn't that what we're doing right now?" Stiles jokes, trying to lighten the mood. He flinches when Derek yells at him.

"This is serious, Stiles!"

"O-okay, well…tell me what's going on then."

While he waits for a response, Stiles walks further into the loft and approaches the sofas. There is a space open between Scott and Erica. He moves to fill it, but Erica scoots sideways and blocks him.

Stiles frowns, feeling the first tendrils of dread creeping up his spine. "What the hell?"

"You don't belong here," Derek says finally, his voice monotone.

His heart beating fast in his chest, Stiles looks at Derek wide-eyed for several long seconds, until the silence is broken by Jackson coughing uncomfortably. "What do you mean I don't belong here?" he enquires worriedly. "I'm pack."

"No, Stiles. You're not."

This can't be happening, Stiles thinks. Why is this happening?

He scans the faces of the others. They all either look away from him or stare back with unreadable expressions.

"Leave," Derek orders, uncrossing his arms.

"No, but…I am pack. Right? Scott?" Stiles turns to his best friend for backup but is let down when Scott doesn't even acknowledge him.

"You're not pack, Stiles," Derek says menacingly, a thin ring of red appearing around his pupils. "You've never been pack. The only reason I let you to stick around this long was because you've been mildly useful, but now that we have Lydia, who can give the pack everything you have to offer while being a banshee to boot, that usefulness has run its course and it's time for you to leave." Derek stalks around the coffee table and gets up in Stiles' face, maintaining eye contact the entire time. "You'll never tell anyone about us. You'll go back to your ordinary life and leave us alone. You won't try and talk to anyone in the pack again, and if you do, I've already instructed them to ignore you and walk the other way. You're. Not. Pack. Now get out of here."

His eyes stinging, Stiles looks imploringly at Derek as a last-ditch effort to get him to reconsider, but Derek is unmoved. Picking up the last shred of dignity he has left, Stiles turns and walks with his head held high out of the loft. He manages to hold it together during the elevator ride and the walk to his Jeep, knowing that Derek and the betas will be able to hear him if he cracks now.

It isn't until he is behind the wheel of his Jeep and has driven a few blocks away that he pulls over to the side of the road and allows the tears to fall.

* * *

Back in the loft, Derek doesn't relax until the sound of Stiles' engine has faded into the distance, at which point he falls heavily in the seat Isaac moves aside to free up for him.

"Are you sure we made the right decision?" the beta asks his alpha, looking guilty.

"Yeah…that didn't feel right," Erica adds.

"It was what was best for him," Derek defends, running a hand down his face. He feels just as guilty as his betas—more so, probably, because he had to be the one to do it. "It's too dangerous to have him around right now."

Scott puts his head in his hands. Allison rubs his back consolingly when he takes a shuddering breath.

"Are they really that bad?" Lydia questions from next to Jackson.

"It's a pack made up entirely of alphas, Lydia," Derek answers patiently, unable to look away from the door. "There are a least five of them. Imagine facing off against five Peters, back when he was the alpha."

"Still…I feel awful."

"We all do, but it had to be done."

"The way he smelled when he left," Boyd says quietly. "It was so sad."

Derek knows what the taciturn beta means. Even now, the acrid stench of Stiles' heartbreak permeates the whole loft.

Erica sighs. "I just hope he forgives us when this is all over."

Lydia hums her agreement. "Derek especially."

Said alpha sits up and frowns at her. "Why me especially?"

"You really wanna go there?"

Derek tenses again when, under her knowing gaze, he comprehends what she meant. He had thought he was doing a good job of keeping his feelings for Stiles a secret, but apparently not. When Stiles had looked at him before striding out of the loft, as hurt and vulnerable as Derek has ever seen him, Derek almost gave in. He almost went back on everything he had just said and told Stiles that he could stay, that he was sorry and he hadn't meant any of it. But he couldn't let that happen.

You did the right thing, he tells himself. So why doesn't it feel like it?

* * *

- Monday, August 15th, 2011 -

Stiles doesn't want to get out of bed for school the next morning. He knows what the day will entail. It will be filled with him trying his hardest not to look at his ex-friends in class, them avoiding him in the halls and him eating by himself at lunch like the loser he has apparently always been to them. He'll be an outcast like he used to be, only this time it'll be worse because Scott won't be by his side.

When he hears his dad in the kitchen downstairs, Stiles reluctantly drags himself out of bed and meanders across the hall to the bathroom. He shuts the door with a soft click and then stares tiredly at his reflection in the mirror above the sink. He has huge dark bags under his eyes, which themselves are red and puffy because he spent most of the night crying instead of sleeping. He doesn't think it's just his imagination that his face also looks gaunt, his cheekbones more prominent than they were just yesterday, and his hair, which he'd been growing out after Lydia told him he should, is limp, lifeless and greasy.

In short: he looks just as shit as he feels. It will take herculean effort to hide all of this, effort he doesn't think he is capable of.

After stripping out of his Spider-Man pyjamas, Stiles stands beneath the shower spray and leans his forehead against the cool tiled wall. Finding the energy to do anything is, like he'd thought, nearly impossible, but somehow he manages to sloppily wash himself with some sandalwood shower gel and put some shampoo and conditioner in his hair. When the last of the suds have eddied down the drain and the water is clear, Stiles switches off the shower, steps out of the stall and quickly dries himself with one of the fluffy white towels that are hung up on the rail to his left.

"Stiles!" he hears his dad shout from downstairs. "Hurry up! You're gonna be late!"

"I don't care," Stiles mumbles as he walks back to his bedroom to get dressed.

He selects a pair of maroon chinos and a dark-grey sweater and then braces himself when he stands at the top of the stairs, backpack in hand. He doesn't want his dad to see how pathetic he is, so he knows he has to fake it.

"Time to put on the performance of a lifetime, Stiles. You can do this."

"Stiles!" the sheriff shouts again.

"I'm coming!" Stiles yells back, a bit more aggressively than he intended.

Calming himself, he descends the stairs, deposits his backpack in the foyer and joins his dad in the kitchen. The man wears his sheriff's uniform and drinks slowly from a cup of steaming coffee, some of which Stiles thinks he could really use. He offers his dad a rictus smile on his way to the coffee maker, hoping it will be at least somewhat convincing, enough that his dad won't try too hard to question him. After he has poured himself a cup of coffee, he takes out a pot of vanilla yoghurt from the fridge and a spoon from the cutlery drawer and sits at the island. As he eats his meagre breakfast, he can sense that his dad is watching him, but Stiles doesn't show that he knows.

Hell if he is going to be the one to initiate anything.

"You okay, son?" the sheriff asks after a minute, putting down his cup. "You look tired."

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just lost track of time last night and stayed up way too late reading. You know how it is."

The sheriff hums his acknowledgement, but Stiles can still see him watching him out of the corner of his eye. His dad is evidently not entirely convinced, but Stiles must have told a convincing enough lie to get him to consider that whatever is going on with his son isn't pressing. Stiles smiles at him again and eats another spoonful of yoghurt. He can't taste it.

"Well, I'm here if you need me," the sheriff says, clapping Stiles' shoulder on his way past. "I've gotta get to work. Don't be late for school."

"I won't," Stiles promises.

He keeps eating until he hears his dad exit the house, then he drops his spoon with a clatter and shoves the half-eaten yogurt pot away. He isn't really hungry.

Stiles can't put it off for much longer without arousing suspicion later on, so he gulps down his coffee, burning his tongue and throat in the process, and walks into the foyer to put on his shoes. Once that is done, he gathers all the nerve he has left, slings his backpack over his shoulder, and leaves for what is sure to be a long and awful day.

* * *

Stiles was wrong. 'Awful' doesn't even begin to cover how bad his day has been so far, and it isn't even lunch yet.

As soon as he walked into the main building by himself, people were staring at him. There was no way for him to know how his peers had already discovered that he had been ditched by all of his friends, but they had, and as he ventured through the halls to his locker, he could feel his face turning red as other students kept pointing and even giggling at him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so humiliated, a feeling that wasn't help at all by the fact that several of his ex-friends were around to witness every second of it.

Erica, Boyd, Isaac, Allison and Scott were by Scott's locker, which is of course close to Stiles'. As soon as Stiles got near enough, all of the betas had looked at him and then swiftly turned their backs as if he was something disgusting they would rather avoid. And he knew they could hear what some of the others were saying about him, because he could hear it all clear as day even with his human senses. The fact that they did nothing to try to stop it shouldn't have surprised him—they did nothing to stop Derek from kicking him out of the pack, after all—but for some reason it did.

And it hurt. God, it hurt so much.

He'd hidden his face in his locker until the bell rang, and as soon as he left it, the books he'd had in his hands were knocked to the floor.

"Watch where you're going, loser!" the culprit had sneered at him. As he walked away, Stiles heard him gloating and cackling with some of his boorish friends.

When Stiles finished gathering his books, he looked up and saw Scott at the end of the hall. His erstwhile best friend had seemed torn, but because he left Stiles there to deal with it by himself, Stiles figured he was just imagining it. Maybe his peers were right. Maybe he really is disgusting, and Scott had finally realised it and ditched him now that he is settled into the Hale pack.

Now, as the lunch bell rings, Stiles hightails it out of English class, desperate not to be in the same room as even one of the pack. He hurries alone to the cafeteria and gets in line with his tray, very much aware of how he is still drawing the attention of some of the other students. He sticks out like a sore thumb, because everyone had very recently got used to always seeing him with at least one other member of the pack. Usually several.

Stiles keeps his eyes averted, staring at the kitchen behind the staff serving out lunch until he reaches the end of the line and can't avoid the crowd any longer. As soon as he faces them, he feels panic. There are even more pairs of eyes staring at him than he thought there would be, and as he searches for an empty table he is disheartened to find that there isn't one. There are at least three or four students eating at the emptiest ones, and it's this that causes Stiles to make his escape. His tray still in his hands, he tries to stop himself from running as he heads toward the doors, planning on eating his lunch in a bathroom stall like all the loners do in cliché teen movies.

Right before he leaves the cafeteria, he can't resist looking at the table usually occupied by the pack. They are all there, looking right back at him. Stiles' heart breaks just a little bit more when he notices that his seat isn't just empty but has been completely removed.

They don't need it, just like that don't need him.

* * *

Scott is beside himself with conflicting emotions. He wants to obey Derek, wants to trust that what they are doing to Stiles is the right thing and it will all work out in the end. But seeing Stiles struggle on his own made the wolf in him whimper with sadness, scratching and clawing to get out so that he could dash over to his best friend and hug him tight, tell him he didn't mean it and of course he needs him.

Of course he loves him.

The last straw is when Stiles has the guts to show up to lacrosse practice at the end of the day. Scott is shocked to see him there—he thought for sure he'd skip it, considering that four of the people who abandoned him are on the team. But no, Stiles is still determined to go on like everything is fine, displaying the inner strength that Scott has always admired.

When Coach Finstock begins putting them through their paces again, Scott, Isaac, Boyd and Jackson all do their best to stay away from Stiles, none of them wanting to make it any worse for him. A few of the other guys on the team aren't so kind.

When Stiles ends up with the ball and makes a run for the goal, Greenberg, the asshole, gives chase and tackles him unnecessarily hard.

Scott winces when Stiles hits the ground.

"Greenberg! What the hell was that?!" Finstock yells, reassuring Scott that he wasn't alone in noticing the rough treatment.

"I was just stopping him from scoring, Coach," Greenberg defends himself.

Finstock glares at him and then tells Stiles to walk it off.

Stiles takes that order and walks it all the way off the field, not listening to any of Finstock's ensuing shouts for him to come back.

Scott watches Stiles go and thinks that the salt in the air isn't just from sweat.

* * *

"We have to let him back in!" Scott screams at Derek after lacrosse practice has ended. He should be at the veterinary clinic for another shift with Deaton, but he had to make a detour to the loft first to try to talk some sense into his alpha.

"We can't, Scott," Derek says. He sits on his sofa with a book open in his lap.

"Yes we can!"

"This is what's best. When the Alpha Pack is gone, he can come back."

Derek picks up his book again like that's the end of it, which incenses Scott. He strides forward and knocks the book out of Derek's hands, just like he'd witnessed the bullies do to Stiles. The alpha's head snaps up, his nostrils flared and his eyes flashing red, but Scott doesn't back down. He may be a part of Derek's pack now, but that doesn't mean he has to take things lying down if he doesn't have to.

"Leave it alone, Scott," Derek says menacingly.

"No, I'll never leave it alone! And you shouldn't either!" Scott rebukes.

"Why not?"

"Stiles is never going to forgive us if we don't start grovelling right now. You didn't see how he was today, Derek."

This breaks through the bearded man's anger, his eyes returning to their human hazel colour. "What're you talking about?"

"He looked…destroyed," Scott explains, his voice quiet and wounded. "I haven't seen him like that since his mom died, and those jackasses didn't help."

Derek perks up, alert. "Jackasses?"

Scott feels hope blooming in his chest, thinking that he is actually getting through to his alpha. "Yeah, the bullies who picked on Stiles today because he was by himself," he apprises. "There were a few of them, pushing him around and calling him names and stuff. That kind of thing happened now and then when it was just me and him, but it died down after we started hanging out with the rest of the pack. Strength in numbers, I guess. But now it's worse. You know teenagers can be cruel—hell, I've done some shit I'm not proud of—but never like this."

"It'll blow over in a few days," Derek excuses, but he doesn't fool Scott. Now that he is looking closely, he can tell that the alpha is perturbed.

"And if it doesn't?"

Derek sighs. "Look, I ordered you to stay away from him for a reason, and I'm not going to take it back. But…I can give you guys a second order."

Scott waits for whatever solution Derek thinks he has found.

"I don't want you guys to get into trouble, but if you see someone picking on Stiles again, get them to back off."

"That's it?" Scott asks incredulously.

"That's the best I can do."

"Bullshit!"

"Careful, Scott," Derek warns, his eyes red again. "Don't push me."

The beta glares at his alpha and then storms out of the loft. Fuck Derek, he thinks as he climbs onto his bike. And fuck his orders.

He reaches a decision. As soon as he has finished up at the clinic, he is going to go to Stiles' house and throw himself at his feet. He knows that Derek is wrong, and Scott should never have allowed last night to go the way it went. He just prays that he can make up for the pack's mistake before it's too late.

* * *

Stiles is exhausted when he gets home. It's good that his dad is still at work, because he wouldn't be able to put on a half-decent act for him like he had that morning. He briefly considers doing the exact opposite, telling his dad everything that happened last night and today, but he pushes the thought aside. He isn't some kid who needs his daddy to tell the other children to stop picking on him.

Ordinarily, Stiles would be hanging out with the pack right now, maybe going to see a movie. Hell, he'd even take Lydia dragging him on a shopping trip.

But nope, it's just little ol' him.

With a weary sigh, Stiles trudges upstairs and enters his bedroom. A nap is in order, but he only makes it halfway across the room before he is stopped by a sound.

"Look what the wolves hung out to dry," says a voice, startling him.

Stiles whirls toward the voice with a hand clutched to his chest and gapes when he sees a woman standing in the corner by the window. She has long dark hair, a pretty face, and is maybe in her late twenties or early thirties. On her toned body she wears a white tank top, which looks unusually bright against her caramel skin, and a pair of tight jeans. She is barefoot, and it's this choice that leads Stiles to deduce that she is a werewolf. Her toenails are claws which clack against the hardwood floor as she begins advancing on him with a sinister grin.

"W-who are you?" Stiles asks tremulously, backing away.

"My name's Kali. Your alpha should really keep a tighter leash on you."

When his back hits the wall, Stiles fights to prevent himself trembling and meets Kali's gaze when she comes to a stop a couple of feet from him. At the mention of Derek, he narrows his eyes, his stupid heart still belonging to the man even after yesterday.

"What do you want with Derek?" he demands, his tone accusatory.

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it."

"Why are you here?"

Kali's sinister grin becomes amused. "Really? You haven't figured it out yet?"

Stiles stays silent.

"Fine, I'll tell you. It's not like it matters if you know, because you're not going to be able to warn anyone."

In a flash, Kali punches clean through the wall right next to Stiles' head, leaving a gaping hole. Out of fear, Stiles falls violently on his ass—a mistake, as it gives the werewolf even more power over him.

Her eyes red now, Kali crouches in front of him and cups his cheek almost affectionately. "Here's what's going to happen next: I'm going to knock you out, take you somewhere far away from here where your band of mutts will never be able to track you, and then me and a few of my fellow alphas are going to have a whole lot of fun with you. You're going to help us destroy your pack. If you refuse to talk, we'll make you." At this, she digs her claws into his cheek, piercing skin. "Understand?"

Stiles doesn't respond, but it doesn't matter. Kali only grins again, then fists her hand in his hair and bashes his head against the wall.

Everything goes black.