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to all the scars you bear

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‘’We should all go see Deadpool,’’ Erica says as they walk by a poster promoting the movie, quickly licking up the dribbling ice cream that’s trailing down her forearm. ‘’Make it a whole night thing. It’s been in the theaters for three weeks now and nobody has even suggested we go see it.’’

Scott immediately perks up from where he’s walking beside her, his sunglasses getting crooked in the process. ‘’Oh man, yes! I’d really like that, it’d be so cool. Make it one of the pack’s movie nights, maybe hang out in the diner or someone’s place before we go buy all the candies and stuff.’’

Stiles hums, already thinking of the logistics of it. ‘’I’ll probably go see it with my dad first then,’’ he comments absently, sidestepping a passerby. They’ve spent the last two hours circling the center of the town, looking for shops with midsummer sales. He’s getting tired already, and he has a shift starting in half an hour.

‘’What? Why?’’ Scott asks, his smile dropping. ‘’Why would you go with your dad first? If he wants to see it he can come with all of us. It won’t be as exciting to watch it with us when you already know what’s gonna happen.’’

Stiles raises an eyebrow. ‘’What if I wanted to go with my dad alone? It’s not like we get to spend a lot of time together outside of work. It would be cool to go with just dad and me and spend a quiet family evening. He likes being up-to date with the things the younger generation is up to.’’ He snorts at Scott’s disgruntled expression. ‘’But that’s honestly not it, though thanks for trying to include him into our outings. But I kinda need to see all the gory stuff first. You know. For Derek. Let him know what the plot entails so that he can make a decision whether or not he can come watch it with us.’’

Scott rolls his eyes. ‘’Oh. Is this about one of Derek’s, uh, issues again? Because you gotta know that just because he was diagnosed with that, uh, post trauma stress thingy doesn’t mean he suddenly has to stop watching movies with violence in them. Like, when you said we can’t watch Die Hard because of, you know, and then it kinda ruined our whole plan for the evening when we had to go through the arguments of what to watch again . I mean, aren’t you taking this whole thing a little bit too far? He’s a grown man, he can handle himself.’’

Sighing internally in disappointment, Stiles makes a face. ‘’Of course he can handle himself. He could easily come with us to see the movie and you wouldn’t even notice him gritting his teeth and bearing any and all scenes which would make him feel uncomfortable in his own skin. I just don’t want him to go through that when there’s absolutely no reason to.’’

‘’You know, we went through a lot of the same things too, and we’re not affected by any of it,’’ Erica interjects, not unkindly. ‘’Movies are just fiction anyway, it’s not like any of the scenes are even very believable. Derek can see through the special effects right away.’’

‘’It’s not a competition about who’s gone through worse things and how it affected them,’’ Stiles shakes his head. ‘’You know how some war veterans are extremely sensitive to any sounds resembling a bomb going off, but others have no problem with loud bangs or, like, fireworks. Not everyone reacts the same way to things, even with similar backgrounds. It’s a solitary experience. Something we don’t have to understand, just respect.’’

‘’Well, yeah, but,’’ Scott starts, but Stiles sticks a hand up to silence him.

‘’No buts,’’ he says firmly. ‘’If I want to prevent my boyfriend from succumbing to a hard part of his illness by watching a movie for him by the sake of scouring out all the triggering content of it, then I sure as hell will do it. And I won’t hear any whines or mutters about it. Period. I won’t have another Toy Story 3* night. That’s something that doesn’t need a repeat. Ever .’’

Erica shrugs. ‘’Whatever. But if you’re gonna go see it before we do, I will strangle you in your sleep if you spoil the movie for the rest of us.’’

Stiles grins. ‘’I wouldn’t. Unlike some others that I will graciously not name, I can hold a secret like nobody’s business. And besides, I won’t see any of you until the next pack night because I’m literally swamped with work right now after the whole grave digging debacle.’’

‘’The what?’’ Erica asks.

‘’The wendigo blurb that kept ransacking graveyards and eating people who got lost in the woods. The goddamn wave swept through multiple counties before anyone had a chance to figure out what was causing it. We managed to eliminate the whole group of them but not before they had already caused unbelievable destruction. God, I hate them.’’

‘’Derek is literally an alpha werewolf though,’’ Scott points out, dragging the conversation back to Derek. It makes Stiles bite his tongue from giving a snappy retort. ‘’He shouldn’t be afraid of a little violence on screen.’’

‘’It’s not that he’s afraid , Scott,’’ Stiles says through gritted teeth. ‘’It’s that those kind of scenes will literally make his brain go back to the time he was tortured or shot or chased, which triggers his flight or fight response. And Derek’s usually the one to fight , because he’ll protect all of us to the last inch of his life. You haven’t seen him in the hands of a strong episode, you have no idea how bad they are. So drop it. End of discussion.’’

Scott’s mouth thins in a frustrated line, and he doesn’t continue arguing. Stiles huffs a little in relief. ‘’Look, guys, I gotta go to work,’’ he says, gesturing to his phone. ‘’I’ve got twenty five minutes before my shift starts. Erica, can you text the group chat to ask about everyone’s schedule for next week? I think we’ll be getting an evening show since the movie’s for eighteen and up.’’

‘’Sure,’’ she nods, stopping to throw the napkin devoid of ice cream to a garbage bin. ‘’Do you want -- Oh hey . Look over there. Speak of the devil.’’

Stiles looks dutifully to where she’s pointing, and sees a coffee shop across the street. It has an open veranda where people are lounging, and in the midst of the sea of tables, Stiles sees a very distinct mop of black hair sitting at one of them. Derek’s clearly got company, two older women who are chatting animatedly while Derek’s nodding along.

‘’Well, well. That’s some company he has there. He’s not cheating on you, is he?’’ Erica tuts, grinning ferally. ‘’I can deliver some ass  kicking if he is.’’

Stiles snorts, waving his hand lazily. ‘’If that were the case, I am perfectly capable of doing said ass kicking myself, thank you. But, uh, no. Derek’s not built for cheating. He’s almost, quite literally incapable of it. Those people are probably some of his coworkers. Just leave him be.’’

Scott frowns, crossing his arms across his chest. He’s got that expression on his face. The one that’s always foretelling trouble. Stiles wills his brother to not do anything stupid.

Scott hasn’t been Derek’s biggest fan even after all the animosity between them got settled a year back. Derek had graciously forgiven both of them for all their deeds that put Derek through the wringer in more ways than one, but Scott wasn’t as open minded about it. His goofy childhood friend is somehow incapable of fitting himself in Derek’s shoes to see all the horror he’s been through and show the man some sympathy for it. Both Derek and Scott are civil with each other, but there is still great load of mistrust and hatred sparking between them whenever there’s any sort of argument.

And the fact that Stiles had confessed his feeling to Derek and they’d begun a relationship when Stiles had turned nineteen, taking a huge chunk out of bro-time to spend with Derek, had made his brother resent Derek in a way he hadn’t before. Stiles is absolutely sick of it, and he knows Derek is too, but there isn’t much they can do about it. They just have to endure it for now, hoping that once everyone grows up a little more, gets to finish their college experiences and have time away from Beacon Hills, they’ll eventually accept Derek as part of their circle of friends.

Or Scott will. He’s the only one still in college, his gap year spent in Honolulu reconnecting with his dad postponing his studies.

‘’She’s got her arm around Derek’s side,’’ Scott comments casually. ‘’Isn’t Derek evasive with touch even with my pack?’’

‘’Oh, he’s right,’’ Erica purrs. ‘’They’re awfully chummy with each other. Derek wasn’t that touchy feely with you until after you started dating, right? And he’s still a little reserved when it comes to touching me, or Boyd or Isaac, his own pack . So. What’s he doing now with those sleazies?’’

Stiles eyeballs the scene in front of him for a moment before shrugging. ‘’It’s none of my business. If Derek wants me to know about this, he’ll tell me. And if he’s not flinching away, he obviously must know them.’’

He doesn’t say that he knows that Derek can never again think of a woman in any sort of romantic or sexual way, not when his trauma of them is so severe. And multilayered. His aversion of touch stems from his past dubious consent issues, not only from Kate or Jennifer, but from Scott and Gerard and Chris too. Even Stiles himself has contributed to that, with the stunt he pulled with Danny. Derek’s ‘no’ is never taken for face value, nor for the meaning it stands for, and his silence is always taken as ‘yes’ , leaving him with no way to defend himself with words.

Which was why he used to be so physically violent. It was the only way he could ever hope to protect himself.

‘’Are you seriously thinking of just going to work and not even marching up there to demand what’s going on?’’ Scott asks, a little outraged.

Stiles nods. He’s starting to become a little too amused. It’s been a long time since Scott has shown any sign of overprotectiveness over him and now that he’s doing it, it makes him look like a big, neglected puppy. He’s just glad Derek’s protection charms are inked into his skin, so he knows for certain that he’s not hexed or cursed or mind whammied to be in that current meeting, which allows Stiles’ heartbeat to stay steady as he says, ‘’Derek is allowed to have friends other than us, you know? He seems pretty comfortable to me.’’

Scott flings an arm out. ‘’You call that being friends ? She’s basically in his lap!’’

‘’She’s not even close. Just keeping her arm around him. We do that sort of shit all the time,’’ Stiles points out.

‘’It’s different with us,’’ says Scott. ‘’We’ve known each other for years . Have you ever even seen pictures of these women? Has Derek ever even mentioned being friends with them?’’

‘’Well, no, but who’s to say those people aren’t some friends from his past? Or even prospective buyers for his paintings that he’s known for years? You are looking into this way too deeply, Scotty boy.’’

Erica rifles through her purse and pops a gum in her mouth when she finds one. ‘’If he’s cheating, there’s one fireproof way to test it. ‘’ She lays her sharp gaze across the street for a moment before she demands, ‘’So. Has Derek had any strange phone calls lately? Going to another room to speak to people so you won’t hear? Has he been gone longer periods of time than usual, coming late to things and having weird excuses like, stuck in traffic, lent a hand to a woman who was pregnant and went into labor etcetera?’’

‘’Well, yes,’’ Stiles says hesitantly, ‘’but that doesn’t really mean anything. Derek’s allowed to have secrets from me, like I’m allowed to  have things I don’t share with him. Just because we’re in a relationship doesn’t mean I’m going to demand every single detail he does in a day, or people he’s met. That’s just unfair. And truthfully, very, very creepy.’’

Erica points a sharp red nail against his sternum. ‘’You’re always going on about Derek being a real misanthropist. If he hates people, why would he make friends with them? Unless he’s gaining something. Like, dunno. Drugs or.. Money... Or sex.’’

Stiles groans. ‘’Oh my god. I literally do not have time for this. Derek’s doing nothing wrong, so I forbid the two of you from storming in there and making a scene. Let him be. I have to go to work, so I won’t be able to babysit the two of you and make sure you go straight home without bothering Derek and his company, but if I hear even a tiny rumour that you two have been up to some nefarious things, I’ll string both of you up on the Nemeton from your tails. Capiche?’’

Erica snorts. ‘’Go to work batman. We’ve got your back.’’

‘’Erica, Scott,’’ Stiles warns, ‘’Promise me you’re going to go straight home after this.’’

She salutes him. ‘’You got it, bossman.’’

Stiles turns his glare on Scott. ‘’Scott?’’

Grumbling, his brother nods.

‘’Good,’’ Stiles says. ‘’I’ll talk to you guys later. Remember to notify the pack of the movie. After you guys have set a date, I’ll arrange the tickets.’’

He gives quick hugs to both wolves before he departs towards the parking lot he left his Jeep in. He knows for certain Derek hasn’t seen him, but he decides to ask about today after he gets off his shift and picks Derek up to go home with him. Whether or not Derek wants to tell him, depends on him and Stiles will be satisfied with any sort of answer. Derek loves him, and he loves Derek, and there is not a shred of doubt in Stiles’ mind about it.

Scott and Erica can stuff it if they think any differently.

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Erica watches silently as Stiles walks away. Her Batman might be blinded by love, but with Derek’s track record with women, she wants to see this to the end. If Derek is truly cheating on Stiles like she thinks he is, then there will be hell to pay.

‘’You wanna stay for awhile, see where that’s gonna end up in?’’ she asks.

Scott nods his agreement and says, ‘’To me, the whole thing smells fishy from the get-go. If Allison was having dubious phone calls and meetings that I didn’t know of with men holding her like that, I’d be so angry.’’

Erica bops her head in agreement. Derek may be her alpha, and her confidant in certain personal matters, but her high school infatuation of Stiles holds a solid place in her heart, and she’d be damned if she saw Stiles get hurt.  ‘’I wouldn’t like it if it was Boyd either. I don’t know how Stiles stayed so calm with that right in his face.’’

Scott shrugs helplessly in response.

For the next ten minutes, the two of them observe the odd meeting in front of them. Derek seems oddly shy, but he doesn’t dodge away from the intimate touches against the vulnerable part of his neck where the woman’s hand trails. When all three stand up and prepare themselves to leave, Derek hugs both women tightly and for a long time. Scott’s anger builds the more he sees. Erica shakes her head, disappointed. She didn’t think he had it in him to partake in infidelity, but apparently she’d judged Derek wrong and Scott had been right from the very beginning.

The worst part is that both women seem to be around their fifties, which makes Derek’s track record with older women to grow another notch or two. Like he hasn’t learned from his past mistakes, at all.

Derek courteously walks both women to a taxi, which the other climbs in with a final parting pat to his cheek. The other woman finds her own car before rounding in front of him, opening the door so that he can hop in, and then she drives off, presumably to her place. To do God knows what behind locked doors.

‘’He’s totally cheating on Stiles,’’ Erica hisses furiously. ‘’Did you see the way he hugged her? Scented her?’’

‘’Yeah,’’ Scott growls. ‘’I saw it, and I don’t need to see more to know exactly what’s going on. You only scent pack, or anyone you’re intimate with, and those people were definitely not pack.’’

‘’Should we follow them?’’ Erica asks. ‘’To make sure?’’

Scott snorts derisively, his expression incredulous. ‘’You want to hear what they’re gonna get up to? Isn’t this a little too clear of a situation for us to misread into it? Jesus, he hitched a ride with her. Derek won’t even let Stiles drive most of the time if we’re going somewhere together. There’s no alternative scenario for this that doesn’t end up with Derek in her bed. End of story.’’

They both stand there for a moment, angrily thinking of any sort of solution to this. On how to reveal the ugly truth to Stiles. He won’t believe either of them, if he’ll even let them finish their speech. And if they confront Derek, they’ll probably be fed a wad of lies, or justifications to his actions. Hell, Derek might even offer a punch or two.

Then suddenly Erica gets an idea. She starts grinning like a cheshire cat, eyes glinting dangerously.  ‘’Oh, I have pretty good plan,’’ she purrs, making Scott look at her in askance. ‘’On my first year of college, my roommate’s boyfriend cheated on her. We all found out after a suspicious video started circling, and then we extracted revenge.’’

‘’Revenge how?’’

Her fangs peeking out, she growls out an excited, ‘’By trashing his place entirely .’’










Stiles whistles happily, fingers tapping lightly against the Jeep’s steering wheel. He’s full of energy, enjoying the cool evening. Thursdays are his and Derek’s date nights, which they try to do something nice for each other, and Stiles has all intentions in getting Derek to share a warm bath with him. Maybe cuddle on the couch afterwards, gorge themselves on yesterday’s scraps. Watch a nature documentary from the series Derek bought last christmas, both of them enraptured with all of the episodes.

He turns to a familiar street where Derek’s office resides and sees the man already waiting on the curb. The office building looks dark and empty, everyone else already probably gone home. Expertly parking his Jeep, he stops right in front of Derek.

‘’Hey,’’ Stiles says as Derek climbs in, reaching forward to capture Derek’s mouth in a kiss before the man has a chance to even close the door.

‘’Hey,’’ Derek responds after a moment, a little breathless. ‘’You smell happy.’’

‘’I am,’’ Stiles grins. He waits until Derek’s all strapped in and all doors are closed, before he starts to cruise home. ‘’We finally got the grade A douchebags from Beacon Heights county to back off from our case. You know, the case. Since we couldn’t literally blame wendigoes for scavenging the graves, we spun a story about some cult family who kept doing rituals with the stuff that was dug up, and once we finally tracked them down, they did a family suicide and burned themselves in a stolen caravan. It’s how we could explain the burnt remains of the wendigoes to the higher ups.’’

‘’Good job,’’ Derek murmurs, bringing his hand to rest on top of Stiles’. ‘’I know they’ve been driving you up the wall  lately.’’

‘’Yeah,’’ Stiles confirms. ‘’But not anymore. The case is closed and we’re free of scrutiny. At least until the next big bad stumbles into town.’’

‘’True,’’ Derek concedes. ‘’Parrish will probably be up for some celebration after getting Officer Jonathan off his ass. He’s been texting me these past four weeks with increasingly bitter text messages. With emojis . You know he hates them just as much as I do.’’

Stiles snorts a laugh. ‘’Yeah, I know. We probably have to go take him out for a couple beers. Get him to loosen up a little bit.’’

‘’Your dad still on for that summer barbeque thing? I think it could very well go with the occasion.’’

‘’Mm, that’s not a bad idea actually. Dad has spoken about it, but I think with this case being so crazy and dragging on for so long that it must’ve slipped his mind. I should remind him of it, get everyone to relax, have fun without any pressuring outside influences.’’

Derek quietens for a moment, gazing outside while his thumb keeps caressing circles against Stiles’ knuckles. Stiles drifts in his thoughts. He changes lanes comfortably, familiar with the streets leading to Derek’s loft that he could do it in his sleep. Last year’s official summer barbeque was fun in his opinion. There was a cooler in the back of the Jeep where the wolves could get their own drinks without them mixing with the oblivious mundane, and the whole evening had been a relaxed celebration. Even Scott had taken it up with himself to keep his attitude in check around Derek, which immediately improved not only  both Stiles’ and Derek’s moods, but Allison’s and John’s too. Parrish had kept Scott busy by daring him to drink more than Boyd and proceeding to drink himself shitfaced. It had been hilarious.

Derek seems to be thinking the same thing, because after a couple pop songs go by, his boyfriend offers, ‘’I could help him set up the outdoor tables. I think I still have the spare ones in my garage from last year.’’

‘’We spent an entire week searching for convertible tables that could fit in our yard and only found some, like, a county over. You better still have them Mister Hale, or there will be hell to pay. What did they even cost? Like a hundred bucks a table?’’

Derek offers a small grin. ‘’Well, Scott and Parrish broke two of them after a couple too many drinks, so we only have four out of six left.’’

‘’Whelp. Well, I’ve spent the entire afternoon scouring out midsummer sales, so you won’t be able to drag me out to shopping for at least another four weeks.’’

Sniffing the air, Derek hums. ‘’That’s what the smell was. I couldn’t quite identify the new scent in here since you go shopping maybe once or twice a year.’’

Stiles shrugs. ‘’Yeah, and I usually have time to wash them before you find out about them, so.’’ Chancing a look at his boyfriend, Stiles assesses his mood. Derek seems happy, peaceful, and not single bit the sort of nervous he would be if he’s done something wrong.  ‘’Speaking of this afternoon… I think I saw you in that downtown coffee shop with some company I couldn’t recognize. I didn’t remember you mentioning anything about it, so I just figured they were either your coworkers or then maybe prospective customers so I didn’t want to interfere and come and say hi.’’

Derek honest-to-god blushes under his scruff, blotches of red creeping up his neck, painting the tip of his ears. Stiles sees his eyes widen before the man ducks his head.  ‘’Uh,’’ he manages in response, retrieving his hand from where Stiles had been holding onto it. ‘’I uh, contacted my, um, grandmother's best friend.’’

This surprises Stiles. He didn’t think Derek had any contacts to his old family members available, or if he did, he has never mentioned it. Though grandmother’s best friend doesn’t exactly scream familial nor pack to him, but the society and hierarchy of a born pack is so much more intricate than he can ever hope to solve. ‘’Oh. Um. Is that a good thing?’’

Derek nods, grasping his palms together in a nervous tick. ‘’When the fire happened… It scared many of our relatives into hiding. Such… Such open, cold blooded murder terrified the whole community, but especially anyone with a Hale name or connection. One of them was my grandma’s best friend, Millie. She was kind of like a second grandma to all of us kids.’’

Stiles nods slowly, keeping his eyes on the road. He tries not to sound accusing. ‘’So when the news broke out that you and Laura had survived, she couldn’t come pick you up? Couldn’t have offered any means of support?’’

Shaking his head, Derek sighs. ‘’She had her own pack, and had to protect them first and foremost. The Argents have always been notorious for being ruthless killers, something that only Chris has barely started to change. It terrified her. And as much as she loved us, loved my grandma, she knew she wouldn’t get approval from her Alpha to come get us, even if all of them went into hiding. The hunters followed and surveilled us for years afterwards, making sure we weren’t going to extract revenge on any of them. So Millie’s pack couldn’t risk taking a target on their backs. Which I understand.’’

Stiles agrees to a certain degree. He too, understands that sort of reasoning if it was to protect the people he loves the most. But at the same time, he doesn’t really get it. If this Millie loved Derek and Laura like her grandchildren, then surely she would’ve fought heaven and hell to get them to safety.

‘’Okay. So what prompted you to reach out to her now?’’

Derek’s hands ball into tight fists before relaxing. He does it again and again, relieving stress. ‘’Because I needed - I wanted … I - ‘’ He huffs out a breath. ‘’You know how my episodes have gotten worse lately.’’

Stiles nods. Oh boy, does he know.

‘’So I thought I’d … You said that after the Nogitsune, it helped you to…’’

‘’To talk to someone?’’ Stiles helps gently. ‘’A therapist?’’

‘’Yeah,’’ Derek murmurs. ‘’I wanted to start talking to a therapist, to see if, if it would help. On the long run. I know it’s not a quick fix.’’

‘’That’s good, great,’’ Stiles says softly, offering him a smile. ‘’I’m happy that you’d think to reach out to a professional like that. Though you’re right, it’s not a quick fix to anything because there’s nothing to fix . We’re only gonna correct some of the behavioural responses that your brain’s adopted. You know, point your thoughts and reactions to a right path. Is that why you contacted this Millie? So you’d have someone who was in the know of the supernatural?’’

‘’Yes. She used to work at a children’s hospital back in the days. Her husband struggled with a really severe depression and saw a therapist about it the entire time I knew him, and so I thought that maybe she’d still know someone who could work with me. Maybe.’’

‘’And her immediate response was to fly to Beacon Hills?’’ Stiles asks, a touch wary.

‘’Well, no,’’ Derek concedes. ‘’I’ve been talking to her for a couple months now. Reconnecting. It’s been ten years after all.’’

Relaxing, Stiles turns to their home street, the loft looming against the setting sun. ‘’Is that what all the secretive phone calls have been about?’’ He teases.

Derek doesn’t exactly wince, but his brows furrow in that particular way that means he’s apologetic. ‘’Yes. I didn’t know how to really tell you. I’m sorry.’’

‘’No, no, that’s not. Ugh. I’m not mad. You know? You’re allowed to have friends I don’t really know about. I mean, family is important to me, so it’d be, you know, cool if I knew about long lost relatives found, but I always figure that you’ll tell me when you’re ready. I know it must be huge for you, to have that little connection to your family back.’’ Stiles parks next to the familiar Camaro, turning the motor off. He twists in his seat to look at Derek in the eyes who immediately averts his gaze. ‘’Hey. I promise I’m not mad. I’m happy for you. And if you need me to vet any prospective therapists through the police database, I’d be more than eager to help.’’ He pauses. ‘’Uh, that is, if she’s offering you help in finding a therapist closeby?’’

‘’Yeah, she is. She’s staying in town for a couple days with a friend. You could come with me to meet with her tomorrow if you wanted?’’ Derek offers tentatively.

Stiles bops his head up and down enthusiastically. ‘’I will! I want to, yes .’’ He surges forward to kiss Derek quickly on the mouth. ‘’God, all this talk about getting you the help you need to become healthy and happy is making me horny. Wanna go inside and let me suck your dick? I’ll promise to romance you later with a bubble bath and a massage if you want.’’

Derek snorts, lifting his arms to pull the human closer. ‘’Yeah, that sounds doable.’’ He opens his mouth to devour Stiles’, kissing him deeply. Stiles moans into it, his hands coming up to grip at Derek’s hair tightly. Stiles breathes heavily into the kiss, licking at the seams of Derek’s lips, tracing the bow of his mouth. Derek responds hungrily, his palms rubbing up and down Stiles’ back.

‘’Or,’’ Stiles breaks the kiss, his heart beating fast, ‘’I could also rim you to oblivion, get you all loose and wet and make you come so hard you’ll see stars.’’

Derek hums, biting Stiles lower lip and pulling it gently. He can feel the twitch of his cock at the words. It perks up in interest, rising up to the same half chub Stiles is sporting. ‘’You could do that. And then I’d let you sit on my face and work my tongue deep inside of you, get my fingers in too. Make you moan so loudly the neighbors hear us.’’ He’s an expert in finding Stiles’ sweet spot, rubbing and rubbing it until Stiles is helpless under the relentless pleasure.

‘’Mmm,’’ Stiles approves, wiggling impatiently in place. He nudges his chin to the side and starts gently gnawing Derek’s earlobe, nibbling at the sensitive skin there. His arousal is so thick and exhilarating in the air that Derek can almost taste it. ‘’You could fuck me in the bathtub afterwards, take your time with it since we’d be both once spent by then. Work us both slowly to the peak, let the warm water wrap around us while you stretch me open. Play with my nipples the way you always pinch and roll them. I love it. I love you .’’

‘’I love you too,’’ Derek murmurs, biting at the man’s jaw. ‘’Now come on. Let’s get inside before someone walks by and reports us for doing something indecent in public.’’

Stiles laughs, baring his neck, and Derek can’t resist the temptation to sink his teeth into the vulnerable flesh. The man’s laughter turns into a groan when he undoubtedly feels Derek’s fangs pierce his skin, not flinching once. Despite Derek’s Alpha status, Stiles isn’t even a little bit afraid of getting turned by him. He trusts Derek, trusts that the only time Derek’s fangs will pierce with the intent to turn is when he literally will have no choice about it, if he wants Stiles to live.

Stiles’ erections chafes painfully against the zipper of  his jeans, so he pushes at Derek weakly. ‘’C’mon, big guy. Take me to bed so that I can stuff my face into that glorious ass of yours. And your cock too. Fuck, you should wake me up that way sometime, with your big cock pushing into my mouth, using me to get off while I’m still sleepy and warm and slobbering all over you.’’

Drek groans at the image, pushing his palm against his own hard cock, willing it to calm down. ‘’Yeah, let’s. Let’s go to bed,’’ he nods, extracting himself from Stiles’ greedy hands to open up his seatbelt. Stiles follows him, his fingers keeping their contact for as long as they reach Derek, pushing himself out of the car before Derek has a chance to.

Stiles opens the passenger side door with flourish, bowing deeply. ‘’Your ride has arrived, sir,’’ he says, making Derek duck his head to hide a grin.

‘’You’re ridiculous.’’

‘’I know,’’ Stiles says. ‘’Yet you love me anyway.’’

‘’Mm-hm.’’

Climbing out of the vehicle, Derek spares a cursory glance to his own car residing right in the parking space next to the Jeep, only to take a double take when he registers what he sees. He stops, brows furrowing into a deep frown. ‘’What the hell.’’

‘’What?’’ Stiles asks, slamming the Jeep’s door closed, momentarily crowding into Derek’s space.

With gentle, shaking fingers, Derek traces the deep scratches marring the side of the Camaro. Five long lines start from the back of the car and stretch all the way to the front. Deep gouges from claws or metal nails sink deep into the paint, at some parts dipping inside the car, breaking the material thoroughly.

‘’What the hell ,’’ Stiles echoes his shock, ‘’Holy shit, what the fuck .’’

Circling the entire car, the marks continue their quest. His tires have been impaled and emptied out, another set of similar scratches decorating the hood and the bumper, as well as the roof. The windows are all intact apart from the windshield which has been smashed into trillions of tiny pieces of sharp glass, and the front lights have been destroyed.

‘’Who the fuck would do something like this?’’ Stiles demands, inspecting the damage.

Too shaken to speak, Derek fishes his jeans for the car keys, unlocking it. The interior is mostly fine, apart from the scattered shards, but his radio has been ripped out. When he scans their surroundings, he sees it smashed against the concrete a few feet away from them.

‘’I can call my dad, let him report this in. Jesus. I haven’t had any signs of intruders trespassing  from the border either, so there shouldn’t even be unsolicited visitors that would want to harm you or any of our pack members or our friends. So either this is random vandalism, or then we’ve got something else in our hands.’’ Stiles pulls his phone out, tapping it until he’s dialing his father, and then he reaches for Derek’s hand, intertwining their fingers in an offer of comfort.

Letting Stiles do his own thing, Derek squeezes the hand in his before he starts sniffing for any scent clues. There’s hardly any new smells in the air, just trees and bushes and flora and gasoline exhaust, fumes of the heated asphalt, the scent of pack and friend-but-not-pack, as well as his neighbors and animals, too strong perfume from the woman walking by, the nail polish from floor one, the cat pee on floor two and the toxic waste from a block down and the smell of trash piling up ten feet from them and -

He pulls his senses back, his head pounding. Vaguely, he registers that Stiles is talking, and he knows John’s responding, but it sounds far away. Pulling Stiles closer, he tries anchoring himself back into present.

‘’Can’t smell anyone,’’ he mumbles, just before he ducks his nose into Stiles’ neck, inhaling deeply the rich, clean scent of his mate, comforted by the familiarity of it. Stiles easily goes with the motions, letting his hand go, but not too far, as it creeps up Derek’s neck, cupping his skull and pushing Derek’s face more roughly against his skin.

‘’No, Derek’s here with me. He says he can’t smell anything off. Look, dad, can you just, like, come by? I know you don’t usually -’’

John’s vehement argument cuts Stiles off, and he responds whenever his father takes a deep breath. ‘’Okay. Yeah. I know - I know, dad. Mm-hm. Yeah, we’ll be inside. Thirty minutes? Okay. Okay. Yeah, okay. See you then. Love you. Bye.’’

‘’Come on, big guy,’’ Stiles says as he pockets his phone, before he hugs Derek close. ‘’Dad says he’ll be here in half an hour. We should go inside to wait for him, so we won’t damage any evidence, like fingerprints or hair or the like. He says he’s bringing Parrish with him, since our familial ties will render his investigation moot if the higher ups find out dad’s involvement in this.’’

Derek nods, but doesn’t move. His eyes are glued to the damaged Camaro.

Laura gave him that car. It’s the last memento of her, the last concrete thing he has of hers. Laura’s boyfriend had, from the plea of Derek, emptied out their New York’s apartment, since it would’ve been next to impossible for him to stand the scent of his lost Alpha, his sister. There are still things in the trunk of the Camaro that he thinks sometimes give a whiff of her, an echo of her smell. It’s enough, usually, to bring him to his knees, to trigger his panic attacks he’s been prone to, after Kate’s last homage to ruin his life. He’s never had the chance to truly process his grief, the magnitude of his loss, and now that it’s piled up and things have been calm, he’s finally succumbing to it.

‘’Hey, hey, hey,’’ Stiles cajoles softly. ‘’Are you having an attack right now? Do you need to sit down?’’

Gritting his teeth against the feeling of suffocation, he shakes his head. ‘’I need - Inside. Let’s go inside.’’

Stiles keeps him close, not giving even a half a second without touching him as they proceed to go up the stairs. Derek’s legs are stable, and the more he focuses on his anchor, on Stiles’ steady heartbeat, the more his chest stops aching, the more his breathing stops stuttering.

As they get to the front door, he feels Stiles stiffen under his palms. He looks up from where his gaze had been glued to their feet to keep up with the steps, and sees his front door split open into two pieces.

Literally.

‘’What the fuck is going on?’’ Stiles hisses, his scent growing acid with anger. His spark surfaces on his skin like electricity, making his eyes glow.

Unfortunately, since his home, their home, has been invaded, Stiles has to let go of Derek to snatch his firearm from his side holster. The man isn’t usually packing it except when he’s at work, the gun just as much part of his uniform as his badge and shirt. Derek thanks every deity and fairy god that Stiles picked him up straight from shift without changing.

With a click of the safety going off, Stiles goes in first with his hands poised to fire, Derek tightly attached to his back, senses alert for any intruders. He doesn’t hear any heartbeats other than his own and Stiles’, and the two people living downstairs from them, and he relaxes.

Only for his body to go taut again when they walk deeper into the loft and see the extent of the damage.

The loft is absolutely trashed , in every sense of the word. The sofa has been destroyed to multiple pieces, the coffee table in front of it clearly gone through the wide flat screen TV Stiles hung onto the wall last year. The cushions have been ripped open with the plush scattered all over the floors, along with the quilt Laura had made in seventh grade that had been spared from the fire. His bed hasn’t been left alone despite its size, with the mattress ruined and sheets cut open into useless scraps of fabric. Bookshelves have been collapsed with all of the books trashed and ripped, his potted plants stomped to death near the window.

Taking a cautious step further in, Derek sees into the kitchen. The kitchen chairs and table have been broken into useless piles of splintered wood in the middle of the room. Cookware has been tinkered open and plummeted into the sink which has been filled with dishwash water, the electronics probably ruined now. There’s food scattered all around the surfaces, his fridge and freezer combo pulled down and the toxic cooling liquid is quietly making a puddle underneath the appliance.

Staring in horror at the sight, Derek can do nothing but stand there and take it in. Stiles is already furiously dialing another phone call to his father, demanding him to call the building’s security in order to get the camera footage from the front and back since the culprits had been able to get in through the mechanic fence surrounding the property. And since they got in without triggering the alarm system, they must have had the key code, which means it must’ve been someone who visits regularly.

Stiles will get the people responsible for the vandalism into court to get justice. And if he cannot do that, if the people who’ve done the deed are above law, then Stiles will get revenge by his own hands. And that will be by far a worse fate for them.

Feeling a little detached from  his body, Derek walks towards the sink and starts numbly gathering the gadgets out of the water. He does as if in a thick fog, as an automatic response, only slightly aware of his hands moving.

‘’Derek, don’t touch them,’’ Stiles says, gently grabbing his wrist. Stiles is not restricting his movements, and he keeps the motion up until he registers the words and the man’s touch, and then he stops.

‘’Good, thank you,’’ Stiles murmurs. ‘’We need to take pictures as evidence before we can clean any of this up. I’m sorry.’’

‘’It’s okay,’’ he hears himself answer, the words echoing in his mind from somewhere far. ‘’It’s not your fault.’’

Stiles shakes his head patiently. ‘’Come on, let’s. Let’s sit outside for a moment instead of here, okay? Wait for my dad and Parrish to get here.’’

With a nod, Derek follows Stiles through the living room. He feels a little like he’s floating, untethered. It’s scary, but Stiles’ warm hand keeps squeezing his wrist, so he’s certain he won’t drift away, even if it seems like it.

Gazing around the room as they walk across the apartment to get to the front door, Derek sees his family’s photo album on the upper landing of the stairs. The album is open, though upside down, half hanging down from the highest step. It pulls his thoughts to a screeching halt, the detachment of his body suddenly vanishing with full force, ice water filling his veins with weight instead.

‘’The photos,’’ he breathes, which makes Stiles freeze immediately. ‘’My family photos,’’ he repeats, louder this time. Without actively registering himself moving, he’s suddenly halfway up the spiral case, hands reaching to inspect the book. He knows that, factually, if the well hidden album is here and empty, his well kept secret has been found. Desperately needing to find out the destruction of his private studio, he abandons the album and rushes further into the space. It’s where he kept his family gadgets safe from prying eyes. Pictures he managed to salvage from the ruins. Pieces of jewelry, half burnt toys, his grandmother’s testament she’d written just days before the fire. They have to be safe, those things are the last thing - They cannot be ruined -

The devastation upstairs is just as severe as downstairs. His first try at painting Stiles has been wrenched down from the wall and ripped apart, similar claw marks to his Camaro marring the tapestry.

His breath hitches. Banging the door to his art room open, he storms inside to see what’s the damage. He’s faintly aware that the high, keening whine is coming from his throat, but - But -

But the loose floor planks near the frame of his old bed have been opened and the safety box that resided there just a day before is gone. With wide, slightly crazed eyes, Derek catalogs his surroundings quickly. He sniffs, and smells only the scent of him and Stiles and pack and Scott, and - Anger. He can smell anger. Fury that is not his own, nor Stiles’, but equally as familiar.

And water. He can smell the scent of his favorite lavender soap mixed with bathwater, so he heads to the bathroom. He doesn’t dare hope that the box will be there, unopened and intact. The album’s discovery is a hard proof of that, but just a tiny little piece of his heart is whispering to him that it might be fine, that his family heirlooms he’s kept in the deposit box are still in there and fine  

The box sits neatly on top of the closed toilet lid, unharmed. It’s open. And empty.

Empty .

For a moment, his brain cannot process the information. He refuses to admit that his cherished polaroids have disappeared when it took him so long to salvage them. To gather them from old magazines archived in the library.  To bury his hands in the ashes of his family in order to dig into the remains of their home office.

The smell of water is strong now. His terrified stomps have shaken the floor and the water inside the tub splishes and splashes gently. The tub is undoubtedly full, just barely contained.

Slowly, eerily, he turns his head to see the shower curtain pulled shut. He’s never once shut it in the time he’s lived here, nor has Stiles. But here he is, with his white curtain exposed to the world like it hasn’t been since its purchase, and Derek is terrified of drawing it open.

Because he knows.

He knows .

With trembling fingers that feel heavy like molasses, Derek pushes the curtain open. His eyes are unseeing as he takes in the view, the white bubbles restricting him from seeing the surface of the water. Spots of color dance in his vision, some of them belonging in the foam, some of them a side effect from his panic.

There’s not enough air in his lungs.

Something warm is suddenly plastered to his back, strong arms holding him up from his stomach as his vision swims. His muscles quiver, the slide to the ground inevitable as it happens. The tile floor is hard and unforgiving as it collides with his knees, Stiles dragged down with him.

Reaching out, Derek blindly starts grasping at the water, his palms immediately coming in contact with the things floating within the foam.

There’s vomit climbing up his throat, tears pooling into his eyes, though he doesn’t let the them fall. He picks up the first thing he manages to grab, pulling it out of the water. The polaroid is a blob of color, any distinctive features already blurred beyond recognition.

‘’Oh my god,’’ he hears Stiles swear in shock. The human’s heart is stuttering hard against his ribcage, and Derek feels it through his back. His own heart is barely beating at all, his lungs constricting painfully the longer he goes without breathing.

The air is thick and moist and it feels like it’s crawling into Derek’s sinuses, his throat, blocking his airways, choking him. With his mouth open, his throat wheezes as he tries to get in some oxygen. He’s getting lightheaded fast, his grasp slipping from where he’s leaning against the porcelain.

‘’Okay, okay, okay, okay,  this is not good, this is, oh my god, c’mon, big guy. We gotta go.’’

Stiles’ strong arms lift Derek up easily, the wet polaroid molding into a tiny ball within the confines of his fist, destroying what little was left of it.

He’s vaguely aware of his feet leaving the ground, Stiles’ scent engulfing him when the man maneuvers him enough to be able to carry him out within his arms.

‘’I’m gonna help you breathe in a minute, just, hold on, big guy. I have to get us out of here.’’

Clinging to the wet blob in his fist, his other hand pressed against his own sternum, Derek watches numbly at the disaster laying in their feet. The spiral staircase is a little tricky, but Stiles manages to gently guide Derek’s head and feet so that they don’t hit the railing.

As his lungs still refuse to accept his gasps for air, Derek buries his nose against the skin of Stiles’ neck, black spots growing steadily in his vision.

Just as they’re almost outside, Derek feels Stiles’ steps falter just for a moment. His grip goes slack just so Derek slips a few inches lower, before he’s propped back up properly. Stiles’ scent, that so far had been filled with confusion and anger, suddenly turns into a burning fury that tastes like ashes in Derek’s mouth.

‘’I’m gonna fucking kill them.’’ Stiles snarls. The lights suddenly start to flicker and blink furiously, reacting in the human’s anger. Two electric sockets crackle and pop somewhere in the loft before Stiles calls for his spark to calm enough to be able to get out of the apartment.

As Stiles slams the entrance door of the building open, a gentle breeze caresses Derek’s cheeks, cooling him down. Wind exposes the cold sweat he’s drenched with, goosebumps starting to litter his skin.

Lowering him down so his back is propped against the wall, Stiles sits them both down onto the concrete. Together they go through breathing exercises Stiles coaxes them into, calming both of them fragment by fragment. The fuming fire in Stiles’ eyes extinguishes the more air Derek manages to inhale.

With Stiles’ warm hand sneaking under his soaked shirt, Derek feels as Stiles pushes his magic into Derek’s chest, receding the panic and forcing his lungs to expand with air.

‘’In,’’ Stiles takes an exaggerated inhale, which Derek mimics, and then releases it, slowly, gradually. ‘’And out. That’s it. We’re doing good, we’re fine.’’

His chest tingles where Stiles keeps rubbing his palm against Derek’s skin, warmth seeping into his chilled body.

Things are blurry for a while. Increment by increment, his lungs fill with oxygen, the sudden grief and loss falling muted to the background as Stiles’ magic keeps pushing comfort and affection into his system. It’s nothing permanent. Just a quick solution to the situation at hand, and Derek knows all of this will make him crash later on.

He’s got time to mourn after everything’s been sorted out.

‘’Hey, dad,’’ Stiles says sometime later, his lips pressed against the skin of Derek’s neck. At some point in the last ten or so minutes, Stiles has spread himself over Derek’s lap, breathing in sync with him. He’s a lot calmer now, no longer boiling with barely suppressed rage.

‘’What on earth is going on?’’ John exclaims, his steps hurried and sure as they tap-tap-tap on the pavement. ‘’Is there a strange pack in town that I haven’t been informed of? Your car looks like it was mauled!’’

Stiles shakes his head. ‘’Nope. Nothing of the sort going on. Did you bring the camera or is it with Parrish?’’

John points behind him where the deputy is climbing out of the car with the equipment bag. Stiles sighs. ‘’Can you or Jordan, um, go inside and take the needed photos as evidence and send them to the district attorney? And maybe send a copy of them to me so Derek can contact his insurance company, see how much they will cover. I want a full inspection and detailed reports to build a file, in case we’ll want to initiate a lawsuit.’’

John huffs angrily. ‘’Well, without knowing the intricate details, by the looks of it, it seems like a hard case of breaking and entering, as well as vandalism. I’m not sure how much of the damage on the Camaro will be covered since it was left on a public parking space instead of the private garage spot I know you have, but depending on how big the destruction inside the apartment is, the insurance should pay for pretty much everything. A break in with, you said the door was broken?’’

Stiles nods.

‘’Well, the owner of the apartment won’t be responsible if someone broke in without a key, but I think, in this case, the condominium should pay for a part too.’’

‘’Derek owns the building though,’’ Stiles points out.

‘’Well, in that case, son,’’ John directs his words to Derek who looks up at him blankly, ‘’I hope you have extensive insurance coverage. I haven’t yet seen the damage, but if it’s anything like your car, I’d imagine it being pretty  bad.’’

‘’Everything’s destroyed,’’ Stiles grits out. ‘’Absolutely everything .’’

‘’Aw, hell.’’ John’s face falls. ‘’We’ll catch the culprits. The security system around the building is impeccable, since it’s the work of you and Chris and Derek together. There’s no way there isn’t a single footage of the vandals. Or burglars. Was anything stolen?’’

Shaking his head, Derek moves a little to accommodate Stiles’ weight in his lap better. ‘’I don’t think so. I can’t be sure,’’ he murmurs.

Stiles takes a deep breath, and then moves his hands so that they’re cupping Derek’s scruff. ‘’I already know who did this,’’ he says seriously, gazing into Derek’s eyes. ‘’But I wanna make sure I’m right before I decide to do any further action. Do you want me and dad to take this to court to get compensation to the loss, or would you like me to deal with it on our own?’’

‘’I - I don’t know,’’ Derek responds a little gruffly, helpless. ‘’Who did this? Is it someone I know?’’

‘’Unfortunately,’’ Stiles says darkly. ‘’Look, can I take you to dad’s place? Let the police handle things here and we can discuss this somewhere where we won’t be disturbed. Or you can stay, if you want, but I don’t know how long this will take. And I’d rather get to the bottom of this as fast as we can.’’

Conflicted, Derek debates it for a moment. On one hand, he wants to be here, wants to be part of the investigation and see what else has been destroyed. He’s now glad he has the vault where he’s kept some of the bigger heirlooms of the family secure, like Peter’s books and his father’s pack treaties. But on the other hand, he’s not sure he can handle the news of his property being damaged, not without either succumbing to grief, or worst case scenario, uncontrollable rage.

‘’I’ll come with you,’’ Derek decides, supporting Stiles as the man clambers off of his lap and stands up, still shaky. ‘’You’ll tell me everything on the way.’’

‘’Even if this concerns your pack and my place in your pack by association?’’

Clenching his jaw, Derek nods. ‘’The truth,’’ he demands.

‘’Okay then,’’ Stiles nods. He dusts his clothes a little before turning to his father. ‘’The head of security in this place has the access to the video surveillance footage. Derek’s computer is destroyed, so he won’t be able to get them for you. I want the photos, both from the front of the house and the extent of the damage inside. I’ll call you later when I’ve changed out of my uniform and settled Derek in your place. Is it cool if we stay there until the loft’s repaired?’’

‘’Of course,’’ John says. ‘’Derek is always welcome. You can either tidy up the guest room or lug the portable bed up in your room.’’

‘’Thanks dad,’’ Stiles says, bringing his dad to a tight hug. ‘’I appreciate this. We’ll, uh, talk things through with Derek and we’ll see afterwards whether or not we’ll raise charges.’’

John’s eyebrows rise as he releases him. ‘’You’re not sure ?’’ He looks at the Camaro and back at his son pointedly. He draws Derek into a hug as well, ignoring the way the wolf stiffens in his arms before relaxing. He doesn’t linger, knowing Derek’s aversion to touch.

Stiles shrugs. ‘’It’s a little more complicated than that. This isn’t.. As much as I hate to say it, I have a strong hunch that this isn’t just a case of random vandalism. A random hooligan wouldn’t know how to get into a well secured building, trash the right car and apartment, and then write useless, misguided things in the walls.’’

Derek frowns. ‘’I didn’t see any writing anywhere.’’

‘’It was lipstick,’’ Stiles tells him. He grabs his arm and tugs Derek further along the sidewalk and into his Jeep, trying not to look sadly at the Camaro. ‘’And it was in the first wall, right where you walk in from the front door.’’

Derek obliges, letting Stiles keep the door open for him even though he could do it himself. Stiles likes to feel useful when Derek comes head to head with things that upset him, because, apart from his ever growing number of panic episodes, that doesn’t happen all that often.

He can still feel the slight tremor of his hands and the bends of his knees, but he thinks it’s just residual adrenaline. Seating himself in the passenger seat, he waits quietly until both of them are buckled in and Stiles has started to drive towards the sheriff’s house, before he says, ‘’Tell me.’’

Stiles huffs out a breath. He decides to just tell it as it is. There’s no protecting either of his friends over this stupid, reckless and thoughtless stunt. ‘’So when I saw you today with Millie and her friend, I wasn’t actually alone. Erica managed to coerce both me and Scott to come shopping with her since we hadn’t seen each other in awhile.’’

Derek shifts in his seat, glancing at Stiles when he pauses. ‘’And?’’ he prompts.

‘’And, well.’’ Stiles cringes, his hands gripping the steering wheel. ‘’There might have been some discussion of infidelity. I don’t, I honestly don’t know what they really thought, but Scott had that look in his face. You know the one. They were both pretty pissed you let, I presume, Millie touch you, since you barely allow your own betas to have physical contact with you, unless it’s for Krav Maga. I mean, they do know about your aversion to touch stems from your past, but I don’t think they understand it. So. Cheating was probably the only conclusion they ended up with.’’

‘’They thought I was cheating on you with two women over the age of 80 ?’’ Derek asks incredulously.

‘’Well, to be honest, neither looks a day over sixty. Possibly fifty,’’ Stiles says. ‘’But, that’s not the point. They voiced their concerns, and I rebuffed them, telling them that you might be in a business meeting, or seeing old friends. I told them to back off. And they promised they would, I swear to you.’’

Hurt and confusion and bafflement battle in Derek’s head. He has no idea how the two of them had come to the decision to destroy his stuff. Scott he would understand, the young alpha still isn’t happy about Stiles joining Derek’s pack, so being faced with the opportunity to retaliate in some way would definitely appeal to him.

But Erica ? His own beta, his fierce little firecracker that doesn’t take any bullshit sitting down. How could Erica partake in such thing, knowing fully well how little Derek owns of his past, and how much he values every single item.

‘’Why?’’ he asks out loud. He just doesn’t understand . How did such little misunderstanding turn into such awful plot to revenge Stiles’, what, pride ? Dignity? Even if Derek had somehow gotten a few screws loose in the head and gone and cheated on Stiles, do the two of them think that Stiles couldn’t handle beating Derek’s ass about it? Fuck, he would probably beat his own ass over it. Stiles is his anchor, his heart, his chosen family .

‘’I don’t know,’’ Stiles says tiredly. ‘’But I’m going to find out. And then I’m going to make them wish they had just heeded my advice and left this whole fucking thing be. What kind of an idiot acts on mere speculation? Fuck, I should make them taste their own medicine and do to them exactly what they did to you.’’

Derek sinks his claws into his thighs, digging deep into his skin as he tears through the fabric of his jeans. He has no idea how to handle a situation like this. He’s never been disrespected like this by his betas before. His friends before. Even when Erica and Boyd had run away the first time, he understood the reasons behind it. They were scared and driven by instinct, and with Derek battling his own demons while trying to keep everything together, he could sympathize with the teenagers in wanting to chase something less complicated. Something easy.

But this is far different. This is attacking their alpha, their friend , for alleged things that never even had the slightest chance of happening.

Warm, long fingers settle over his hand. ‘’Don’t hurt yourself, big guy. Claws in, come on. No blood in my car, unless it’s an emergency.’’

Immediately retracting his nails, Derek huffs in agitation. ‘’I just don’t know what to do . She’s my - My beta .’’

‘’Me neither,’’ Stiles agrees quietly. ‘’But you can worry about the pack thing later, okay? For now, let’s just focus on the fact that our friends have hurt you, even if their morals for it were, kinda, eh, seesawing into the dubious line, and after we’ve confronted both of them, we can go over pack structure and how it might change after this. I mean, as far as apologies go, you don’t even have to forgive them straight away. You can take time for yourself and think about the future without anyone butting in. But this right second? You only need to concentrate on breathing.’’

On cue, Derek takes deep a deep breath. His chest is aching fiercely, and he brings his palm to rub over at his heart. He lets Stiles intertwine their fingers, holding onto the man for dear life.

Stiles sighs, squeezing his hand gently. ‘’Let’s. . . Let’s get to my dad’s place. Sleep on this. It’s past ten thirty, after all. And tomorrow, when I’ll go to work, I’ll go through the reports of this incident with Parrish, and we’ll contact the DA, get them to send us files in case we want to pursue the case to court. I’m sure that with official papers in hand, Scott and Erica will realize the gravity of their fuck up.’’

Derek nods, lifting up their twined hands and offers a kiss to the man’s knuckles. Things won’t be easy for anyone for awhile after this. This will crack the shaky foundation of trust Derek had started to build with Scott. Erica’s place in the pack too, is on probation, at least until Derek has spoken to her. It was no wonder he couldn’t scent any strangers in the loft, when it was his friends this whole time who smelled of the familiar rage.

As Stiles turns to the sheriff’s street, Derek wonders if there even is going back to the old normal after this. Only time will tell.




 



Derek rouses gently to the sounds of coffee beans grinding. Stiles is plastered against his bare back, the young man’s erection grinding into the musk of Derek’s ass cheeks. There’s some incoherent mumbling, the smell of desire and arousal thick in the air, as Stiles’ cock leaks against Derek’s skin.

Since John is slowly climbing up the stairs, Derek nudges Stiles awake. The man snorts himself into awareness with a slurred huh?

‘’Your dad’s coming up. Stop humping me,’’ Derek rasps in response, a little sad to feel Stiles’ movements stop.

‘’S’rry,’’ he smacks his lips, adorable in his half lidded eyes and rat’s nest hair. He tucks the blanket over his naked backside so his father won’t have too traumatizing things to see.

There’s a small knock on the half open door. ‘’Good morning boys,’’ John greets them with a hushed voice, head peeking in. ‘’You’ve got an hour to get ready, Stiles, for your shift. Derek you should go with him, so we can take your statements.’’

Derek nods his assent, and Stiles plops a weak thumbs up in the general direction of the door.

John chuckles. ‘’Well, I’ll be heading to bed now. I already grinded the coffee beans, so please be as quiet as you can when you leave. I’m on a graveyard duty today, so I’ll be back at the station around eight o’clock. If there are any problems with the DA or data handling, ring Tara. She’ll be able to handle it while I catch some z’s.’’

‘’ ‘fanks dad,’’ Stiles slurs, cuddling closer to Derek, his arm draping over his side. ‘’Swe’t ‘eams.’’

‘’Make sure he doesn’t sleep in, son,’’ John says affectionately, his warm gaze locked with Derek’s. ‘’The coffee takes ten minutes to boil, so if you want, you two can snooze another twenty minutes, but then you’ll have to hurry through  breakfast. I’ll take both of you to dinner later today before I get on shift, so don’t cook anything.’’

Derek nods, sighing deeply. He closes his eyes as John departs to get his own few winks of sleep. Another ten minute snooze is a good compromise.

He dozes for another couple minutes before long, deft fingers start slowly caressing the length of his arm. Humming, he turns his head towards Stiles and opens his eyes in a squint.

Stiles kisses his shoulder, making a trail of light pecks up to his neck, before he claims his lips softly. ‘’Morning,’’ he says, which Derek responds in kind.

‘’We need to get up soon,’’ Stiles sighs, turning the lights on in the room with the flick of his wrist. ‘’Face this stupid day.’’

With a grunt, Derek turns so he’s on his back, letting Stiles flop half on top of him. He curls his arm around Stiles’ shoulder, palm cupping the man’s skull. Stiles makes a pleased little noise. There’s a familiar erection poking his thigh, smearing sticky precome everywhere.

‘’You gonna do anything with that?’’ Derek rasps, succumbing to a huge yawn.

‘’Mm, didn’t think so, no. Not really feeling it,’’ Stiles says, rubbing his nose against Derek’s collarbone. ‘’Maybe later today. Or tomorrow.’’

Squeezing the younger man closer, Derek grunts, ‘’M’kay,’’ and closes his eyes, letting himself drift just a little bit more before they have to go.

It takes them another ten minutes to gather themselves, and then they already have to rush through their morning routine. Derek grabs a pair of Stiles’ sweatpants and his own maroon henley that Stiles has stolen at some point or another, preparing himself for the questioning.

Stiles is tapping away at his phone, a steaming mug of coffee in front of him, when Derek enters the kitchen.

Stiles looks up at him, waving his phone. ‘’Scott’s sent me a text last night, asking if I’m okay.’’

Derek frowns.

‘’And just now,’’ Stiles snorts in disbelief, ‘’Erica sent me a message wondering whether or not I need a hand in helping to bury a body. That she’s there for me, if I need to distract the cops. I haven’t replied to either of them.’’

‘’Why?’’ Derek asks quietly.

‘’Honestly? I just have no idea what to say or where to even begin,’’ Stiles replies, humorless. ‘’Have they tried reaching out to you?’’

Derek shakes his head. He’s not normally the kind of person that even engages in texting, preferring to talk face to face. Mostly he sends affirmations or information on when and where he wants the pack to meet.

Stiles blows a raspberry. ‘’Well. Anyway. Dad says that he booked us a slot of the conference room at nine, so Tara has time go through both of our stories. She’ll want to interview us separately, but I’m allowed be at yours since I’ll be going in first. I just can’t say anything until she’s done with you.’’

Derek nods, seating himself next to Stiles, stealing a mouthful of his coffee. He makes a face at it, since he can’t stand plain black coffee, but it helps waking him up just a little bit.

Rubbing a hand against his face, he sighs. He has no idea what to think, or even feel right now. All the material things in the loft he doesn’t care for all that much. It was mostly all replaceable, and not as sentimental in value, apart from his books. The loss of the photos, though, has him devastated, but the feeling is something faraway, detached.

God, he needs to start seeing that therapist.

Stiles places a kiss on his scruff, palm gently caressing the back of his neck. ‘’We’ll get through this, okay, big guy? Together.’’

Derek leans into the touch. ‘’The photos though. . .’’ he murmurs, staring at the table.

‘’I know,’’ Stiles says sadly. ‘’I’ll try to ask around. See if there’s anyone who could help. Maybe even Millie would be more than happy to share a few family photos with you.’’

Shrugging amicably, Derek fishes his own phone out of his pocket. ‘’I’d have to ask. She might not want to give them up though.’’

‘’I’m sure she’ll do it,’’ Stiles says confidently. ‘’If she’s anything like what you told me, she’d be ecstatic to give you something back of your family. You said she used to be part of your pack, at least, you know, by proxy, so why wouldn’t she do something for the child she loves and cares for?’’

His shoulders slumping, Derek shakes his head. ‘’That was in the past. I’m not a child anymore, not someone she knows. She’s changed, and so have I.’’

‘’Time tends to do that to people. As does loss. Doesn’t mean you can’t reconcile, reconnect. Relearn each other. It’s just a matter of asking. And if you want, I’ll even come with you. Stand in solidarity.’’

Derek hums. ‘’I’ll think about it,’’ he agrees.

‘’Good,’’ Stiles says. ‘’Now, let’s go. I’m gonna be late soon and then Tara will make me go get donuts for all of us, and I’ll be damned if dad gets a whiff of them. He’s not getting a single artery clogged if I have anything to say about it!’’




 



After it’s all said and done, Tara and Parrish team up and compile a file for them faster than Derek would’ve hoped. It’s done in five hours, including pictures and surveillance footage, fingerprints and all of the hard evidence. It’s a ridiculous case of a huge misunderstanding that blew out of proportions, and after three or four deputies proofread the case, they all shake their heads in disbelief.

They’re sitting at Melissa’s house, waiting for Erica and Scott to arrive. The case file sits innocuously on top of the kitchen table while both Derek and Stiles are nervous wrecks. Or at least, Derek is. Stiles is still seething, his fury building up whenever his eyes stray back onto the gray envelope.

Rubbing at his chest, Derek sighs. Stiles’ magic is still keeping him calm, his distraught thoughts just a muted background hum. The man’s hand is a comforting weight anchoring him, the touch seeping warmth into his chilled body. He knows his body won’t heat up to his regular temperature until he has processed the entirety of yesterday’s clusterfuck, and Stiles is well aware of this.

Melissa has read through the file and sits stone faced right next to them. She’s upset, Derek can smell it, but there’s something else in her scent that he can’t decipher. Disappointment? Depression? Whatever it is, Derek’s never scented it on her before. He’s worried.

A familiar engine turns to the end of the road, making him perk up. It’s Boyd’s car, a convenient subaru he’d let Derek buy for him when he first entered college. As the vehicle approaches, he can only hear two heartbeats. Erica must’ve asked to loan the car, Derek deducts.

Both heartbeats stutter when they realize that Derek is inside the house too. The text Stiles had sent to both of them hadn’t said anything about him, so neither must’ve expected Derek to be there.

There’s hesitancy on both of their steps as they exit the car and close in on the front door. Stiles has noticed their arrival as the car pulled up on the driveway, and the longer Scott and Erica take in walking in, the steadier his anger grows. ‘’Just get your asses inside already,’’ the man snarls.

As the two of them round into the kitchen, Stiles is already pointing at the two chairs opposite of him and Derek. He’s glaring, the electric scent of his fury thick in the air. ‘’Sit. Down.’’ he demands.

Erica does, immediately, confident that she and Scott can defend their deed with the truth of what they saw. Scott takes a moment longer, instincts screaming at him to fight the order, since Stiles is not an alpha, even if he is an emissary to a one. He glares at Derek for forcing Stiles into this situation, but the older alpha doesn’t notice, his head ducked.

As Scott seats himself, Stiles grits his teeth and stares at them for a long, uncomfortable moment. He opens his mouth a couple times, only to shut it back closed.

Sensing the internal battle, Derek slowly starts to rub at the back of Stiles’ hand where he’s clasped their fingers together.

‘’You have this one chance to explain yourselves,’’ Stiles starts, after a moment of forced calm. ‘’And this one chance only. I won’t say anything, nor will Derek, as you tell us your side of the story, but you will give us the same courtesy and keep your mouths shut when I start talking. Capiche?’’

Erica nods. Scott shrugs and says, ‘’Sure.’’

‘’Okay. You have three minutes.’’ Stiles sets the timer. ‘’Go.’’

‘’Derek cheated on you,’’ Scott explains, warily eyeing the alpha in case of any retaliation. When there’s none, he’s comfortable to continue. ‘’So, as he spent time fooling around, we decided to do a little welcome home for him.’’

‘’What Scott means,’’ Erica says, sensing Derek’s misery and racking it up to guilt, ‘’Is that we saw him on a date with two women. You saw it too. You didn’t think anything was going on, but when you left, you missed the part where Derek scented the women like they were pack. He did it against their neck . And obviously they couldn’t have been, since, uh, we’re his pack, so we smelled something fishy. So we stayed to see where things would end up.’’

Scott bops his head in agreement, his eyes wide with sympathy. ‘’And then Derek went home with the other woman to do god knows what when you couldn’t catch him on it. You thought all of it was for work, but we saw it, okay, man? We’re sorry you had to find out this way, but it was the only thing we could think of, to get you to take us seriously. You trust Derek too blindly to have believed us of his infidelity otherwise. So we thought you would definitely defend him, and decided to extract a slight revenge to make Derek understand the amount of his fuck-up.’’

When it seems like neither is going to continue, Stiles pauses the timer on 2:39:88.

‘’How did you come up with cheating from just that?’’ Derek asks quietly after Stiles has pressed the stop -button. He feels wrecked to be accused like this, by his own friends, no less. Friends who are supposed to know him.

‘’You hitched a ride with her!’’ Scott exclaims, pressing further with narrowed eyes, ‘’You won’t even allow Stiles to drive when we all drive somewhere together. I’ve never seen you get into a car voluntarily when someone else is behind the wheel. Obviously it must be some sort of power thing, or, like, not trusting anyone else to do it, so why would you let that woman drive you? You must’ve gained something from that.’’

Stiles blinks in confusion, before responding incredulously, ‘’You realize that has nothing to do with my driving skills? It’s got to do with all of yours . How many times has Liam almost crashed into all of us when he does his stupid stunts with his Range Rover? Or that one time when the roads iced over by that freaky storm and you decided to try brake-sliding with your car while we were right in front of you, and then you almost crashed us when you lost the control of your vehicle? Derek drives us then because he can hear what you guys are talking about, and then react faster if he knows what’s to come.’’

Scott rolls his eyes. ‘’That was only those three times. And nobody got hurt.’’

‘’Tseh-yeah, nobody has gotten seriously hurt yet because Derek drives us, and he barely had time to dodge on the worst of those four times, and we still careened to a tree. The Toyota got totaled . If I had been driving, we’d probably be dead .’’

‘’You’re always over-dramatizing things, dude,’’ Scott says, disapproving. ‘’It’s not like Liam tries to hurt anyone. Or me. We’re just trying to have fun.’’

‘’Oh, yeah, while endangering the lives of everyone around you. You realize Liam’s wrecked four cars because of his stupid adrenaline addiction? That he got his license taken away but he still decides to get on the road, just to get the next fix of his thrill like a real junkie? Next time my dad catches him, he’s gonna have to throw his ass in jail.’’

Scott frowns. ‘’It’s not like a regular jail would hold him.’’

Smothering his scream, Stiles throws his hands up. ‘’That’s so not the point!’’

‘’Is there a point to this conversation?’’ Erica asks carefully. She’s already eyeing the official looking envelope where she’s sitting in front of it.

‘’Yes ,’’ Stiles almost shouts, ‘’Yes there is a goddamn point to this conversation. That being that you two are in the face of being charged of breaking and entering, felony and property damage, which can garner up to four years in prison and a 5,000 dollar fine.’’

Stunned, Scott’s mouth drops open. ‘’I - What?’’

‘’That’s right,’’ Stiles says furiously. ‘’We’ve compiled a solid criminal case on you from all the evidence from the apartment. Which will work against you in court, since all of your misdemeanors have been either caught on tape or you’ve left enough fingerprints on the damaged property. It was entirely too easy to pin everything to you. The fact that you are familiar with the code to the apartment and that you targeted both the camaro and Derek’s home were enough to join the two different felonies into one, big lawsuit.’’

‘’You’d raise charges against us?’’ Erica asks, suddenly pale white. ‘’But - But we only did it for you! It’s not - Derek was the one - I - You -’’

‘’Derek,’’ Stiles says, pounding his fist against the table, ‘’Has done nothing wrong here. You acted out on speculation, you went out of your way to do the very thing I forbid you from doing. I told you to stay away from it all, and what did you do? Pushed your goddamn nose into business that is in no way yours. Do you know the scale of the damage? Do you really?’’ He shakes his head, disappointed. ‘’Of course you don’t. All these years you’ve lived with Derek in the circle of our friends, and somehow you still don’t know him at all. Or maybe you just don’t care enough about him to find out.’’

He shuts down the beginnings of their protests with a twist of his wrist, efficiently quieting the two of them. ‘’So let’s make something very crystal clear. Derek wasn’t there on a date. He was there so he could scope out the possibility of finding a therapist that already knows about his kind, so he didn’t have to skirt around the very issues he and I need to talk through.’’

‘’But he scented them,’’ Scott insists lamely, though now he’s lost some fight. He can see that Melissa is hugging herself in the corner, her eyes trained to the floor. There’s a miniscule possibility that they’ve fucked up.

Stiles stares at him. ‘’Because one of them was family. An old, out-of touch one, sure, but pack nonetheless. A bond between wolves doesn’t just fade away over time. You know this.’’

There’s a moment of heavy silence, before Erica just whispers a broken ‘oh no’. Scott is cringing, his jaw set into his stubborn pose. He’s not admitting defeat yet.

‘’Is there anything you’d want to add to your defense?’’ Stiles asks gravely. ‘’You’ve still got 20 seconds left.’’

‘’Look, man,’’ Scott starts, his hands up in a placaiting move, ‘’You don’t really know what happened after they left in that car. Maybe something really did happen. Maybe Derek’s even lying to you - ‘’

‘’Derek is right here, you goddamn fuckhead,’’ Stiles snarls, ‘’And I know he’s not lying, why the fuck would he? Scott, just- Shut the fuck up before you make things even worse. Jesus christ.’’

‘’Derek,’’ Erica says quietly, her eyes brimming with tears. ‘’I’m so sorry. I- I didn’t know. I was - I was blinded for a moment of, of anger or jealousy or, I don’t know. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Or, I did, but not. Not like this. I’m really, really sorry.’’

Derek eyes her for a moment. She’s genuine, he can tell, in her apology, but. But the hurt is too deep right now. She’d go as far as she did today to hurt him on Stiles’ behalf, but he isn’t so sure she’d do it for him . It still seems so much like it was in the beginning, that Derek’s life is valued the least, always the one to be pushed aside if it’s of no use to anyone else. So he looks away.

Stiles blows a raspberry as Erica’s face falls at the obvious dismissal. ‘’So. I honestly don’t know  how to even start to unpack this. Will you two be willing to come meet us halfway and pay for the damage, as well as clean everything up, or do you want us to go straight to court?’’

‘’Can’t we just settle something in the middle?’’ Scott asks. His face is imploring, eyes sad. ‘’We’re friends. We, uh, can go ahead and say, hey, we did something stupid and then let it be water under the bridge. We can just, tidy up a bit, get some new furniture from the flea market and you won’t even notice something happened.’’

‘’Won’t even - Dude . Do you even know how much damage you did? Even if it was just the furniture, the sum would still ram up to thousands. You destroyed his side-by-side freezer combo, his dishwasher, his washing machine, all of his electronics. Not to mention the two biggest windows you shattered when you apparently threw the love seat out of.’’

Scott nods, slowly, like he’s thinking about it. ‘’We did. But. Derek’s loaded. It won’t even dip into his bank account to buy all that stuff brand new. But for the two of us, that would mean months and months of paychecks for nothing.’’

Barely containing himself, Stiles squeezes his fist to his side so he won’t reach over and slap those words back into that mouth. Deciding to ignore the comment, he forcefully continues, ‘’And then there’s the issue of both water damage on the floor, thanks to the broken dishwasher, and the cooling liquids from the fridge. And then there’s the issue of claw marks on the walls and all the broken tableware. And then- ‘’ he takes a deep breath. ‘’And then all of the salvaged photos that you managed to destroy without a shred of thought as to what losing them would mean to Derek, who isn’t able to get new ones from anywhere .’’

Erica ducks her head, her hands clasped in front of her. ‘’I’m sorry,’’ she says thickly.

A little coolly, Stiles shakes his head and says, ‘’A sorry is not good enough. I understand the furniture, the electronics, fuck, even the window. But the one thing I wouldn’t have dared to touch, knowing Derek, was the photos. But by the looks of it, you didn’t save a single, solitary picture for him. You just. Went there and thoughtlessly, cruelly, wreaked havoc on everything he owns. Even just the Camaro, you both know, you know it belonged to Laura. You wouldn't destroy my Jeep if you got mad at me, so why the fuck would you lay a finger on his car?’’

‘’We were just so mad, man,’’ Scott says, frustrated that his point of view isn’t seen as he wants it to be. He crosses his arms over his chest. ‘’We were so angry on your behalf - ‘’

‘’If you were that angry on ‘my behalf’, then you should have let me deal with it,’’ Stiles snaps. ‘’You should have called me or texted me and I would’ve listened, of course I would have. And I would’ve talked it out with the source and prove any misgivings for myself. But you should have never, ever, ever done what you did, even if you think you righteously fought for my pride. You fucked up. Derek deserves better than the flimsy excuse of a friendship you’ve given him.’’

‘’Look, Stiles,’’ Scott tries one more time. ‘’We, maybe, okay, overreacted. But Derek can fix it, okay? He has money to fix things. We, as a pack, need to protect each other and - ‘’

‘’And nothing , Scott.’’ Stiles interrupts him harshly. It seems that this can only go one way in order to get into that thick, alpha skull of his.  ‘’We’ll see you in court.’’ With that, Stiles stands, taking the case file and slapping it right in front of Scott and Erica, opening it. ‘’I suggest you read that thoroughly, and hire a very good lawyer. You should probably confess and ask for a plea bargain.’’

‘’I’m sorry,’’ Erica pleads, tears flowing down her pale cheeks. ‘’I’ll do anything to fix things without a court case. Please. Please give me a chance to gain your forgiveness. Please, alpha.’’

Derek looks up to Stiles’ furious eyes, the man shaking his head in disagreement. His face contorts in a sad expression, before he turns away from Stiles. He stands up and makes his way near the entrance, crowding into Stiles’ space. The man lets him, even as he disapproves.

‘’We can speak tomorrow,’’ he says quietly to Erica, keeping his distance. ‘’I won’t - I won’t kick you out of the pack. I don’t want to make you an omega. But I can’t have you close right now.’’

Nodding, Erica sniffs. ‘’I understand. I get it. I’m so, so sorry. I’ll do anything to gain your trust back. I promise. I’m sorry.’’

They both leave, putting their shoes back on as Stiles opens the door. The sky has started to paint itself in hues of purple and orange, the sun setting and the air cooling down.

‘’I think you’re making a huge mistake, Derek,’’ Stiles says softly. ‘’She won’t realize the scale of her - ‘’

‘’I know,’’ Derek says, gently placing a kiss on his mouth to stop the sentence. ‘’But she’s mine. And I want to give her a chance.’’

Stiles frowns, pulling Derek into an sideways hug as he steps over the threshold. ‘’I’ll make her work extra hard, ‘’ he cautions. ‘’I won’t let her off of this easy. Not as your boyfriend, and not as your emissary, and I advice the same thing as a deputy, a man of the law, who knows the case intimately.’’

Derek nods, accepting this.

‘’And what about Scott?’’ Melissa suddenly asks from behind them, interrupting. Both men turn to her, seeing her devastated expression. ‘’If you’re willing to give leeway to Erica, will you do the same thing with my son? Your best friend whom you’ve known since you were in diapers.’’

‘’I don’t know,’’ Stiles sighs, suddenly extremely weary. He looks over to the kitchen window, where Scott is staring at them with a mulish tint to his jaw. It’s clear he doesn’t believe that Derek hasn’t cheated on Stiles, or even if he does, he obviously wants to cling to that illusion of power he had over Derek for a moment.

The curse of being a True Alpha who rose in to power with no idea how to fully control his instincts to dominate everything. Especially a more powerful alpha who owns bonds to the land, whose property the woods are. Who he may feel weaker, compared to.

Melissa follows his gaze and looks ready to burst into tears. Instead, she steels herself. ‘’I’ll talk to him,’’ she promises. ‘’I’ll talk to both of them. I’m so sorry for what they did, for all the good that’s worth.’’

Stiles’ expression gentles. ‘’None of this is your fault, Melissa. All of this is just. Dunno. A huge misunderstanding that people read into wrong, and now all of us are reaping the consequences. It’ll take time, you know, to get over such thing. Imagine if our roles were reversed. If me and Derek suddenly came up and trashed your entire home. Would you be willing to forgive us right away? Or would you feel hurt and confused, needing distance?’’

Melissa sighs, softly, just once. She stares at her sock clad feet. ‘’I’d want distance. And time.’’

‘’Yeah,’’ Stiles agrees sadly.

Nodding her head, she concedes his point. ‘’I’ll still talk to them,’’ she promises.

‘’Thank you,’’ Stiles says, and draws her into a hug. ‘’And even if I’m not exactly on speaking terms with Scott, you’re still welcome to the Stilinski house. Dad misses you, when you’re not around, you know? He gets lonely.’’

‘’I’ll make sure to remember that,’’ she says, hugging back. ‘’I’m sorry my son can be so stubborn sometimes.’’

‘’Anger towards authority figures. Blame his dad. You’re the one who taught him to love fully, and to be kind to everyone. He just gets too caught up in things sometimes, for the wrong reasons.’’

She huffs, and Stiles releases her. ‘’None of us is perfect. We’ll survive this. Just you see.’’

‘’I know,’’ Stiles agrees quietly. ‘’I know. But at what cost?’’

 

 








The air mattress creaks when Derek shifts, the entire thing moving. Stiles grumbles from next to him, clinging as the wave rockets them slightly.

‘’Stop moving so much,’’ the man complains. Derek draws him into a quick, gentle kiss.

‘’Sorry.’’

Stiles huffs. ‘’What’s wrong?’’

‘’Besides my life?’’

‘’Yeah,’’ Stiles says, ‘’Besides this shitty thing we’re going through.’’

Derek is quiet for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He stares at the dark ceiling, listens detachedly the sounds around the house. ‘’I’m not sure how to forgive,’’ he voices his concerns. ‘’I’ve never been apologized for anything, apart from you.’’

This time it’s Stiles who makes the mattress move, as he props himself up to look down at Derek’s form. He frowns, palm settling over Derek’s heart. ‘’You deserved to be apologized to. And you don’t have to forgive them.’’

‘’I know, but. I just don’t know how . How do you decide a thing is now forgiven and forgotten? How does it feel?’’

Contemplating this for a few seconds, Stiles starts caressing the skin where his palm rests. ‘’I guess, it feels kind of like. . . Letting go? The hurt or confusion or anger, you see and you hear that the other feels just as bad and you just. Take a deep breath and let it drain from you. Replace it with something good, something warm.’’

Derek turns his head to nose at Stiles’ pec. ‘’So it just. Happens?’’

Shrugging, Stiles starts caressing down Derek’s entire front in comfort. ‘’I guess?’’ He hazards. ‘’I mostly have to think really hard about it to make it happen, but, for example, my dad forgives things very easily. He doesn’t struggle with holding onto negative things. I, on the other hand, usually pick and tear apart the reason I’m upset, and then look at it from as many angles as I can in order to see the other perspective. Dad says I hold onto my anger, but it just takes me a long time to process it.’’

Derek hums. He turns so he can wraps his arm around Stiles’ middle. ‘’In order to forgive, I must anchor myself into something good, rather than something bad. Right?’’

‘’Mmm, yeah, sounds about right.’’ Stiles pauses. ‘’But wait. You have forgiven people. Many many times. Like Erica and Boyd for leaving, Scott for saying those horrible things and using your body, and all of that crap I apologized for.’’

Derek burrows deeply into his side. ‘’I didn’t - Those times. It felt like I deserved all of it. So there was nothing to forgive.’’

Horrified, Stiles looks down on his mate. ‘’Oh, jesus, no, big guy, you did not deserve a single thing that happened to you. Okay? Not a single fucking thing. We were all horrible to you and you deserved none of it. Crap. Urgh. Why didn’t I see this before? No wonder you let us off the hook so easily.’’

He blows a raspberry before ducking his head enough that he doesn’t dislodge Derek but he’s able to nose his hair. ‘’I’m so glad that therapist thing is on its way to become a reality. It’s gonna be so tough, and it’s gonna suck, but maybe it’ll make you finally believe that you are worth the world to me. And that I love you more than anything, okay? And your words, your thoughts, have value. You have people who love you for who you are, and not because we want to gain anything from you.’’

Derek makes a tiny noise against his chest, so Stiles draws him closer, tightly holding on. ‘’You are so important to me that if anything were to happen to you, I’d be beyond devastated. Don’t ever think that I wouldn’t choose your side, because I would. Every single time. All I want you to be is happy.’’

‘’I love you,’’ Derek whispers thickly.

‘’I love you too,’’ Stiles replies, kissing the top of his head. ‘’We’re gonna rock this whole psychotherapy thing. Wrangle those episodes into compliance and banish most of the nightmares. We’ll do individual counseling and couple therapy, and once we’re proclaimed as somehow sane -’’

‘’Hey,’’ Derek protests weakly.

‘’- then we’ll have a splurging weekend where we’ll be pampered with hot baths and massages and fancy foods. We’ll live like kings, dude, for an entire weekend.’’

There’s a huff of a laugh against his skin, which makes Stiles grin broadly. ‘’Not to say we couldn’t do such weekend any other time, but at that time, it will be about celebrating us. About what we’ve overcome, what we’ve faced and survived from.’’

‘’Yeah,’’ Derek agrees.

Yawning, Stiles lets himself flop back down, attaching himself onto Derek like an octopus. ‘’But for now, before our adventure to the therapy land, how about we take a twelve hour nap?’’

With a kiss pressed to Stiles’ adam’s apple, Derek settles with, ‘’Yeah. Sounds good to me. All of it.’’

‘’Good,’’ Stiles slurs, closing his eyes and snuggling closer. ‘’Good night, big guy. Sweet dreams.’’

‘’Night,’’ Derek whispers, honing his hearing onto Stiles’ heartbeat, letting it lull him to sleep. Before the slumber fully catches him, Derek thinks groggily that with Stiles by his side? They’ll be able to conquer anything and everything. Sometimes the worst monsters aren’t the ones roaming the dark woods, but the demons they all carry inside them, whispering disparaging thoughts. And Stiles has already beaten the biggest one, the depression and self-hatred the Nogitsune left him with.

Perhaps it is time, for both of them, to truly come face-to-face their biggest and baddest thoughts, and let someone with knowledge guide them through the raging storm with confidence, and passion, and lead them safely home.

Yeah. The future’s starting to look bright. For both of them.

 

 

END