Stiles sat, fidgeting with the zipper on his sweater. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Derek staring at him intently.
"What?" Stiles snapped, a surge of anger flowing through him.
Derek softened at what he could no doubt smell.
"Nothing. I'm just —"
Worried about you . He didn't have to finish the sentence. Stiles was sighing, rubbing at his brow.
"I know," Stiles said when Derek didn't make any move to continue. "I'm worried too, I just... Don't know how to go back. I can't change any of this. Scott —" he cleared his throat when his voice cracked.
Derek reached over, giving his knee a reassuring squeeze. His hand settled there, and Stiles just stared at it for a moment.
"Scott," Derek pressed. Stiles hadn't brought this up on his own yet, and he tried his best to encourage it.
"He can't even look me in the eye. Or I can't look him in the eye." Stiles blew out a breath, shaking his head. "How badly do you have to fuck up to not be able to have your best friend for life look you in your eye, Derek?"
Derek just gave him a small, sad smile as he said, "Pretty fucking bad, Stiles."
Stiles frowned in response.
"But that... Thing. That wasn't you, Stiles. That wasn't your fault."
"Okay, but it definitely was. My fault."
"How so?" Derek's dark brows pulled together in concern.
Stiles stood up from the couch, shaking out his arms as he began to pace.
"If I had accepted the bite at literally any time that I was offered, I could have been the one saving people, and not..." Stiles cleared his throat. "Allison might still be alive. If I had taken the bite. I just..." Stiles stopped in the middle of the room, looking right at Derek. "I didn't want to give any part of myself over to the wolf. I didn't want to stop being me. For any reason at all. Even for a second. Especially because of that fucking thing." Stiles shuddered.
Derek's shoulders relaxed as he realized this had nothing to do with not accepting the bite at all. It was a confession, an apology, and a vent.
Derek stood, closing the distance between him and Stiles. He clapped a hand on his shoulder, pulling him in for a tight hug. One arm wrapped around Stiles' shoulders, the other going to his still damp hair.
Stiles was tense for a few moments, but Derek held him, waiting for his heartbeat to calm. When the first sniffle came from Stiles, the shoulder of Derek's shirt going wet from tears as Stiles held onto him, he just squeezed him in response.
As Stiles silently cried, the room filled with the scent of his anger and hurt. Derek held him through it, quietly telling him about the time shortly after the fires. How much destruction he had caused to everyone and everything that came into his path. How he had to deal with his own self-hatred even to this day, and how much Stiles had helped with that process. That made Stiles pull back, a confused look on his tear streaked face.
Derek wiped the tears from Stiles' swollen cheeks, smiling just a bit.
"That's a story for another day," Derek said.
"Tomorrow?" Stiles asked, scanning Derek's face.
"Definitely not." Derek glanced at the clock, blowing out a breath at how late it had gotten. "I'm gonna call your dad. It's probably best if you just stay here again tonight. I washed your pajamas, they're on the bed."
Derek gave Stiles one more squeeze on his shoulder before going to look for his phone. Stiles quietly left the living room, pulling himself up the spiraling staircase of the loft.
Derek watched as he disappeared, only calling once he was out of earshot.
"What's wrong?" the sheriff greeted. Derek heard keys jingling on the other line.
"Nothing. I'm just calling to let you know Stiles is staying here again tonight. He's had a rough evening."
The sheriff let out a rushed breath of relief, and Derek heard the keys drop onto the table. "Thank you for being so... Welcoming, Derek. I just... Don't know what to do."
"Neither do I, sir. But I really — I care about Stiles. I want to know that he's safe, and I can do that best if he stays here."
"Do you think he's going to harm himself?"
The question had a growl ripping out of his throat before he could stop it.
"No," Derek gritted out. He pulled the phone away from his ear, taking a deep breath before trying again. "No, he won't. He's just mad at himself, and believes everyone else is as well. He doesn't know how to go back to being himself."
Derek's throat tightened. Hearing the sheriff's response made him realize how similar his own conversation with Stiles' father had been when they were checking on his mental state.
There was no going back, but ending it had never been an option for him. He hoped Stiles felt the same way.
"— Thank you, son." The sheriff said, before hanging up the phone. He stared at it for a moment before setting it on the counter. He left it down there as he went around turning off the lights, leaving the entrance light on in case Stiles needed to come down for something.
Stiles had been here for weeks. He had spent a week at home but when Derek went to check on him it was so obvious that the boy needed rest. The bags under his eyes were darker than he had ever seen them, and Stiles was barely speaking to anyone.
The calls to the sheriff were their way of checking in. The sheriff would occasionally come over for lunch on days where the town was calm enough to allow it. As he would leave, the sheriff would give Derek a large hug. Thanking him, with tears in his eyes as he left.
A year ago, he never would have let Stiles sleep in his bed. Hell, probably not even a month ago, before all of this mess. But now... As he watched Stiles settling into his side of the bed, he needed Stiles close. He needed to be there when Stiles woke up from nightmares so bad he ended up screaming himself hoarse before he fell back asleep in Derek's arms. He needed to be there when Stiles couldn't fall asleep until the morning sun made its way through the blinds and the rest of the world woke to go about their days.
Derek swallowed around a lump in his throat, as a realization crossed over him. He absolutely needed Stiles here, just as badly as Stiles needed to be here. Stiles looked up at him, concern flashing across his tired face. A silent question passed between them.
"Another day," Derek explained as he climbed into bed. Their mixed scents made his mouth water and he had to look away from Stiles to keep his head clear. He distracted himself by turning out the light.
The room was now cast in shadows coming from Stiles’ small crescent moon night-light. Stiles could probably only see the silhouette of Derek, but Derek could see every inch of Stiles’ face as he watched him nuzzle sleepily into his pillow.
"Another day," Stiles responded before he closed his eyes. Derek held his breath as he listened, finally releasing it as Stiles fell asleep.