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Never Break the Chain

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He promised himself he would never return to this godforsaken town. Then again, he was never known for keeping his promises.


Beacon Hills, splashed out in bold font across the city border billboard, glinted ominously as Stiles passed by. His rental car having a set of truly blinding blue tinted headlights to emblazon it and the path ahead. The sun already starting to dip under the horizon of the gigantic red oaks that comprised of the counties famous woods.


He beat his hands in time with the rough and steady pounding of the drums coming from his radio. A whining guitar joined in as he bobbed his head, eyes hooded, losing focus on the steady and repetitive road. The wind was cool as it whirled around his head, blowing his hair around him. He was overdue for a cut. “And what you lost, and what you had, and what you lost. Thunder only happens when it's raining. Players only love you when they're playing,” He whispered in time with the music. The lyrics coming back to him easily. The music carrying him away as he drove past those woods.


It was the same woods, the dark and tempting wildlife, he had always loved as a child. The kind of place that teased at all the mystery and adventure a little heart could gobble up. Now, he was just left with an old heart full of fond memories. Memories of rolling down the road, his mother driving her jeep. He would lay out across the back seat, letting the sounds of Stevie Nick’s sultry yet waning voice wash over him and just watching as the branches as they sailed past his head. The same woods he promised to never be near again.


Not even a full twelve minutes into town and already he was drudging up the past like a soiled scrapbook scooped up from a flooded basement. He promised himself he wouldn’t do this. That he would be out of his head for this. He wouldn’t fixate on the past and keep it together. He would act his age, goddamnit, and not let the childhood memories reclaim the hard work his adult-self had made. Another broken promise, it seemed, to toss in his bag, next to his toothbrush, shoved into the trunk.


His rental car rolled down the road, dodging every massive pothole that seemed to plague the streets. Houses started to cut into the wild nature of the forest. They were a series of sporadic solitary spots, but slowly morphing into the dense clusters of organized chaos that was society as it took over.


The woods were the same. The signs were the same. The high school hadn’t changed. The antique shop, bookstore, veterinarian’s, grocery store, homes, and even the people all were as he remembered. Nothing had changed. The façade of a sleepy town was still in place, stubbornly frozen in time. An intentionally charming moderate sized town doing its best to cling to the roots of small-town simplicity.


It was nothing like New York City, where driving was an ecosystem. It may take forever to get somewhere, but everything had its place; had a purpose. Everything ebbed and flowed in sync with itself. Like a great organism breathing in steady meditation. Beacon Hills though, with its single-lane highways and drivers who refused to honk, was an awkward dance of slammed starts and stops, like a crack addicts’ heart.


Passing through the middle of it all, he headed north for his dad’s home. Just on the outskirts of town, bordering the well-to-do mansions of the well-heeled townspeople and the impoverished mobile homes of everyone else. The street lights started to fall away from the further from the city center he got. He knew if he headed even farther north, they would disappear altogether as the asphalt roads fed into the dirt trails of the Beacon Hills Nature Preserve.


His dad’s house, like everything else, was untouched by the ravages of time. It still stood tall, at two stories with its oddly suburban craftsman style façade. The paint was slightly washed out, dirty and even chipping off in some places. The white detail trim was in desperate need of a new coat but that had been the case since he was a child. His mom did all the painting around the house. Ivy vines that grew along the eastern walls were the only things that seemed to have changed. The ladder-like plants that he once used to sneak out had become even denser and more unruly with time as it curled around what use to be his bedroom window. The patrol car was missing from the driveway, his father still at work until dinner most likely.


Parking on the curb, Stiles pulled out his roller, duffle and garment bag, trudging up the porch. The floorboards creaked, several of them in desperate need to be repaired or replaced. Maybe now he’d have a chance and the time to do that. He would need to find something to do to keep his mind and body busy.


A welcome mat sat at the door, faded so badly from years of trampling that it was now simply reading ‘-ome’. Under that mat, like always was a spare key to the house. Honestly, as the Sheriff, his father should know better than to leave that there. Stiles actively ignored the unspoken hope that the key symbolized for the Sheriff.


The house was deathly dark and silent. Struggling with his bags through the door in the dark, he palmed the wall for the switch. Once the lights were on, one of them being burnt out and therefore another item on his list of things to do, he got a good look for a place he would never forget. Everything was the same and in its place.


The oak wood flooring was dull and scuffed for years of feet crossing over top, a small entry rug was thrown over to in an empty attempt to protect the wood. The walls were a soft honey yellow, warm and inviting. Yellow was his mom's favorite color and she demanded that the entry and living room be as cheery and welcoming as possible. There was still the dent in the wall, leftover from Stiles slamming the door open and the door handle bouncing hard off the drywall.


Nothing had moved, except for a handful of new photos from the last decade and a new coffee table in the living room. He inspected the new images seeing several of himself- in his graduation gown, in board shorts at the beach and several shots he had to ask strangers to take of him at multiple notable landmarks around the world- what really caught his eye though was the increased number of other people in his father collection. Lydia, Jackson, Isaac, Erica, Boyd, Allison, and Scott all positively beaming, dressed in matching maroon cap and gowns, holding up their high school diplomas. There were candid of backyard cookouts, posed shots of birthday candles being blown out and even the professional portraits from Lydia and Jackson's wedding. She looked beautiful and happy and radiant and Stiles was positive that the photos did her no justice for what she must have looked like in person.


Loosening his tie, Stiles tiredly staggered into the kitchen, ready to make a cup of coffee. He needed the caffeine if he even wished to keep himself going till his dad returned home. A sleeping pill and forced nap doing little to combat the effects of a 15-hour flight, skipping over 11 time zones and living through the same day for 48 hours.


He stopped though, midway into the kitchen, and just stared in shocked silence. There, set amongst an overflow of white Roses, Mums, Carnations and Blue Delphinium was a single pack of beer. A middle of the road brand meant to please and ease as many consumers as possible with as little effort required.


The box made Stiles skin itch. The old compulsion to scavenge the house, search every secret spot of any stashes that were once banned from his home for good reason, washing over him. He picked up a bottle, heading to the sink to dump it. He stopped again, hand on the twist cap poised to open it. No, he would be an adult about this. No more avoiding the situation, he would talk to his father once he came home. No more doing this behind his dad’s back like a child, he’d be the adult he kept saying was and face this head on.


Instead, he bit his tongue as he replaced the bottle back in its carrier and went about making coffee. It took a moment but he final dug out the coffee grinder from under a mountain of heart supplement bottles. Melissa had clearly been coming around and pick up where Stiles had slacked. He hummed to himself as he ground the beans, prepared the filter and filled up the kettle with water.


As the pot took care of the rest, He headed back into the hall grabbing his bags. Scaling the stairs, he mindlessly headed to his room, body on autopilot from a lifetime of doing this climb. The hall was filled with even more pictures. Apparently, his father had taken to collecting as many memories in photo form as possible. He shouldered open his old bedroom door, noting the creaking its hinges had made from years of disuse. His room still looked like the high school haven of every nerd in the internet age.


Fiction books stacked in seemingly random order across his desk and bookcase. Band and movie posters still pinned to his walls, slightly faded with age. His bed was freshly made and well cared for, awaiting his return. Everything was as he left it almost ten years ago, well except for the amount of dust you would expect. His father was welcoming home with a clean room and hopefully fond memories of childhood. He haphazardly tossed his duffle on top the bed, before gently kneeling down and carefully stowing his roller away for now. He got up and guaranteed that it was invisible from all angles until he needed to pull it out and work. First coffee, then work, then everything else.


His closet was nearly empty, it had been for years, with only the straggling leftovers still in it. Mostly sweatshirts that were too short and t-shirts that were too stained. A dozen or so hangers left unused, in their own way an invitation for him to come back and use them. Ignoring them, He hung up the black garment bag in his closet. The contents of the garment bag, like the rest of his unchanged inviting room, he was choosing to ignore for as long as possible.


He could hear the sound of the bubbling coffee pot came from the kitchen as he returned downstairs. Pulling out an old chipped Beacon Hills Sheriff Dept. mug he poured in the scalding hot drink, leaving some room for milk. Hopefully, his father was taking enough care of himself to actually do the grocery shopping.


Unable to avoid temptation he quickly perused the fridge. Praying that the old beast wasn’t stocked with every fat and red meat that a cow could offer. His heart wouldn’t be able to take that, much like how his fathers wouldn’t be able to either. However, it was bursting with greens and lean meats and fresh fruit. The lush selection made a knot form in his heart and a heated burst of hope to wash over him.


Those hours of dietary checks, nutrition lecture and honest to god fights over burgers were worth something it seemed.


Digging around he finally found what he wanted, a small carton of milk meant for a single person. Cup nearly full of coffee he poured in his desired amount of milk to cut the bitter taste. The milky white tendrils curled around the dark brown coffee, circling around in his mug in a mesmerizingly slow flow.


His dad always let him pour the creamer into his cup when he was little. Stiles loved watching it brighten up the nearly black liquid. Watching as it almost misted out in clouds deep in the cup before mixing in seamlessly to be a chocolatey brown. He always asked to pour it in and his dad always let him. Slowly though, after his mother's death, the mixers changed from cream and milk to Bailey’s and Jack and the Sheriff started to tell Stiles no when he asked to pour it.


His cell blasted to life as his ring tone demanded his attention and knocking him out of his head thankfully. Gently placing down his mug, He saw 'Sheriff' written across the top and a photo of their last selfie taken together, he swiped open his phone. “Dad, hay what time will you be home?”


He could hear the constant chatter of the police station in the background. His father’s office was so old it never really got the sound proofing it probably required. “Actually Stiles, I was wondering if you could give me a hand,” His dad sounds tired, he probably hadn’t slept for several days now, at least not peacefully. “We are having a private wake for the pack at Hale’s. I have some flowers and drinks there, on the counter for it. I was going to come home and pick them up for tonight, but work has kept me late. Would you mind bringing them up for me?”


The air got trapped in his throat, refusing to reach his lungs. “Oh, dad… I’m not sure that is a great-“


“Please,” The Sheriff cut him off somehow coming off as even more tired, like two seconds on the phone with his son had aged him twenty years. “I know it might be awkward but I promised I wouldn’t be late to this.” Stiles stood there, chewing on his lip, staring at the milk as it sank to the bottom of his coffee cup. His heart was racing, he only hoped that it wasn’t loud enough for his dad to hear across the phone lines.


His phone grew hot in his hands as he felt the teenage urge to pace come over his leg muscles. “I really don’t think-“


“Look,” He couldn’t even get a single sentence out. “you can use the back door, in and out, you don’t need to see anyone if you don’t want.” Stiles almost felt nauseous at the idea of having to hide from these people.


He honestly hadn’t planned on having to do this. He had planned to just show up, stay in the back of the room and then spend the rest of his vacation time working around his dad’s house. Now he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Forced to either let down his dad like a scared child wanting to hide behind the couch or walking right into a wolf’s den and pray not to be eaten alive. He promised to act like an adult, to not lie and let his dad down anymore. He broke a lot of promises but this felt like the biggest one that he would keep till he died.


Sighing through his nose he capitulated, promising to see his dad at the Hale house in twenty minutes. Hanging up the phone, he downed his still hot coffee in a single go, ignoring the tingle of his tongue being burnt. Grabbing the rental car keys, he gently picked up the bouquet with both hands, transporting it to the passenger seat.


Heading back in for the six pack he decided at the last moment to chuck his button up, tie and jacket onto the couch. They were rumpled and stale from the airplane anyways, looking just as nice as the grey long sleeve V-neck he wore underneath. Besides, he wasn’t planning on seeing anyone he wanted to impress or see anyone at all.


The drive was relatively short, 15 minutes being a drop in the bucket compared to the 5-hour drive from the San Francisco airport. The sun was just about to set for good that day. He was actually happy to have such hellishly bright headlights on his rental. The street lights were gone and the only thing keeping him safe and in his lane were the power of those lights. He mindlessly shuffled through his phone’s playlist, connected to the car’s Bluetooth, but unable to find anything the put his nerves at ease.


With complete muscle memory, he took a sharp right turn onto an unmarked compacted dirt road. The flowers jiggled and bounced in their seat, his hand thrown over them to try and stabilize them, as his rental rolled down deep into the woods. Massive red woods, bushes and wild flowers were thrown into sharp contrasting light and shadows from the sun streaming through the trunks.


With about a 5-minute walk from the Hale house, Stiles pulled his car over, cutting the engine and killing the lights as quick as possible. The fact it was just out of hearing range didn’t mean he was trying to hide his presence, he just wanted to be able to leave easily and not block anyone else’s path. He was being a forward planning adult damnit.


The ground crunched quietly underneath his leather shoes as he carried the bouquet and drinks up the rest of the path. His shirt was sticking to his back, molded against it by his leather car seat, and making his skin chilled as the wind rustled past. As he rounded the last bend, the sounds of music reached his ears.


The Hale house stood tall, completely untouched like the rest of the town. A half dozen cars were parked in a wrapping wall like a chain around the property. All the lights were on in the three-floor wooden shingle style mansion. It was shockingly eerie looking, like a heavy gloom hang over the entire property. The Sheriff had told him years ago about the pack’s efforts to rebuild the burned out Hale House. What he failed to mention was what it looked like and were it was placed.


Standing at the top of the hill was the dark wooden mansion that had become basically an icon for Beacon Hills. It looked identical to every photo he had ever seen of the house before it was destroyed, with its Victorian roof, massive windows and shadowed front door. An exact copy of what was once a burnt out shell. A dark and depressing icon that attracted the morbidly obsessed tourists and teenagers with ADD looking for dead bodies.


It was wrong, standing there like a fire had never happened on top the very spot that so many perished, covering it up. Stiles was almost paranoid to believe that there was some bubble around the town, freezing it in the past. Things that stayed this stagnant were doomed to fester and breed plague.

Just outside the front door, standing at the edge of the road leading up to it was Sheriff Stilinski. a smile broke across Stiles face seeing his dad standing there, his face illuminated by the light from the phone he was fiddling with. He was still kitted out in his uniform, guns and all. Picking up his pace, Stiles threw open his arms wide for a hug.


The Sheriff’s head raised just in time to see his son fling his arms around him. He was so warm and smelled of ink, laundry detergent and a musty cop car. Stiles almost gasped at the feeling of his sturdy dad hugging him back. His dad buried his face into his next, squeezing with all his might, trying to push as much love physically into his body. Stiles could almost cry with joy, he missed this so much. It had been far too long since we held this man in his arms. He felt his father dig his fingers into his shirt, gripping him and not wanting to let go. He felt like a child in the best of ways, being hugged by his dad in such a strong possessive way. 


They stood there for so long, yet not long enough. With a sniff, holding the tears at bay, Stiles finally lowered his arms, dropping the hug but refusing to step back. His dad simply smiled up at him, have become a few inches shorter than his son in the last few years. The years had not been kind to the man. He was pale, with large undereye baggage and darkness that looked like smudged makeup. He looked slightly thinner, like he lost some muscle in the last few years. Stiles was just happy to see that it hadn’t been replaced with a beer gut, but his heart ached with the fact that he had missed so much time with his father.


“Hi, Dad,” He nearly wheezed out the emotion clouding his weakened voice. He sniffed again, feeling the moister in his eyes collect along his eye lashes. “Stiles, how have you been?” His Father asked, keying him up and down. Probably taking in his lean muscles, broad shoulders and slightly sunken features. His father had seen it all in his photos but just like his dad, features could be obscured lighting and angles. “Good… Good. You?" His father simply smiled sadly and nodded, as to say ‘as well as I possibly can be’. A sentiment that Stiles had felt deeply for days now. The song from the housed changed, going from on indie relax beat to a peppier one. The playlist must be Scott’s.


Together the Stilinski men started heading up the slight slope, avoiding the front door, instead heading for the back-kitchen entrance. Biting the bullet Stiles decided to ask the question laying heavy on his heart. “Dad, why was this in the house?” The beer was a cold weight in his hands, heavier than most six packs as if it knew the metric tons of pressure that the reality of its existence pressed on Stiles' soul.


“I know what it looks like Stiles, but it was just for the party. I promise.” His father sounded honest, even as he placed a palm against Stiles back. As they crossed the yard, Stiles noticed the well-groomed herb garden against the western wall. There were your standard roses, tulips, lavender and gardenia but mixed in was the odd yet beautiful assortment of Ague Root, Alyssum, Anise Seed, Boneset Cattail and Hound's-tongue. Herbs for Protection, Moderating anger, ward making, driving away evil, and tying tongues. Whoever in the house that claimed the garden had an eclectic taste in plants.


The backyard was wide and slightly fenced but with a large gap in the back heading straight into the woods. Even more, plants spilled forth all around looking beautifully planned out yet with a wildness that nature thrived in. With complete ease of someone who practically lived there, the Sheriff opened the back-screen door, leading Stiles inside.
“How has nothing changed in a decade?” Stiles wondered aloud, placing the flowers gently down on the counter. The kitchen was brightly light and thoroughly modern, with marble counters and sleek tiles. The smell of party dishes and deserts permeated the space. Stiles could even smell something that was loaded with chocolate, sugar and elderberry baking in the oven.


“They have, son,” His father countered, placing the six pack in the fridge to cool off. “you just have to look a little closer.” He ducked back in and pulled out a soda, silently offering his son a can. Something that Stiles turned down. His diet would be ruined by all the empty calories and sugar.


Music and voices could be heard through the French doors separating the kitchen from the rest of the house. Stiles did his best to not focus on any singular voice. His dad shifts closer, clearly looking like he wanted to keep the conversation going. Wanting to keep Stiles around as long as possible. “How was the flight?” He asked, standing next to his son, their shoulders brushing.


“It was good enough; 15 hours aren’t easy to do but there are so many movie options now, so not terrible.” Which was true, it had been a while since he had done a trans-pacific flight but it was easier after a decade of relentless flying. He could remember his first one where he nearly wore a whole into the seat in front of him with how much he was bouncing his knee. He was lucky there was a crying baby to take all the attention an ire of the other passengers or he surely would have been kicked off. Midflight, with nothing but a parachute and a shove.


The music suddenly became louder as the door swung open, a bombshell blonde coming in like a hurricane. “I knew it,” He hadn’t heard that femininely smoky in so long nor had he smelled that fruity perfume in just as long. “I knew I could smell you.”


Erica Reyes stood in front of him, nearly toe to toe in a pair of booted heels. She had filled out in the best ways, her hips were wider, complement by the tightness of her black pants. her faces had matured, yet somehow had softened, with subtle makeup making her look naturally confident. All her hardest edges had seemed to be whittled away leaving behind a beautiful woman who had nothing to hide.


Stiles took a moment to try and control his fear response. Breathing deeply he said, “Hello, Erica. You are looking lovely.” The smile felt fake on his lips even though part of him was truly lightened by seeing her looking healthy. She had a rosy glow to her cheeks, even with the apparent redness in her eyes from hours of crying.


“Stiles.” She countered with a teasing tone, giving him a very obvious and very lascivious onceover. “You’re looking tan.” Her eyebrow quirked up in that indefinitely sexy inquisitive way that she had in high school. Looking at him like he was a puzzle and she had it all figured out. Her softly applies eyeshadow was a glittery bronze, making her chocolaty eye look like the creamiest fondue.


“Is that the only thing about me that’s different?” He acted aghast, well slightly aghast, waving his hands in front of himself. The flailing trying in a vain attempt to highlight his thick pecks, tighter abs and slightly bulging thighs. Hell, even his hair had changed, becoming longer and lighter with how much sun it got now.


Erica just snorted, dramatically rolling her eyes in an exaggerated manner. “I have seen your photos asshole I know how much you’ve changed.” She propped her hip against the counter standing on the other side of him. His dad finished his soda, crushing the can, needing something to fiddle with.


“I have been showing them the photos you send me.” He admitted like it was some great sin that Stiles would disown him over. The fact his father was so worried about angering or estranging him made his heart crack a little around the edges. Trepidation was not a great look on the Sheriff and Stiles hated how he had been the one to illicit such an emotion. Stiles leaned in more to his Father, hoping the physical contact would put him at ease. Proving to his dad that he wasn’t leaving town, just yet.


“How do you have enough money to pay for all those wonderful trips?” She asked, brushing her own shoulder against him. A subtle attempt at scenting, he was sure of it. “Work actually, I travel for work.”


“That sounds nice.” She sounded wistful. Stiles remembered in the old days how they would sit together and whisper their dreams of seeing the world. Erica wanting to escape the pressures of living in a supernatural warzone, Stiles just wanting to see what the rest of the world could hold. Ironically, I finally got to see what was out there, it just came with a higher cost than he expected.


He didn’t like the sad, almost regretful look in Erica’s eyes, it aged her too much. “Not as much as you think,” He told her trying to sound as beleaguered as possible, “those photos are just the highlights. Not the reality.” Which wasn’t far from the truth, he would spend an hour almost every week curating his photos trying to find a set that would be acceptable enough to send to his father. Ones that’s were as full of a much sun and fun to ease the ache of his absence.


“What I’d do to be on the beaches of Fiji.” Stiles hummed in agreement with her, wanting nothing more than for her to have said experience. Maybe he could sneakily send her a pair of tickets for her and Boyd to take a vacation with. He made a note to come back to the issue sometime later this week.


“You would look just like Aphrodite rising from the sea foam.” He teased, making her flush and giggle something so girly it was charming. “You better watch the flirting mister, or else Boyd might have to come back here and defend my honor.”


“I’d rather not make a scene.” He quickly replied hoping the light hearted nature of his voice hid how his heart raced, completely terrified, “I should really be heading out.” With that, he patted his dad on the shoulder, ready to head for the back door. Erica’s hand upon his own made him pause, looking over his shoulder at her.


“Not even here more than a minute and already you’re already running away from us again, Jackass?” Her comment hurt, a lot. Surprisingly so, he wasn’t ready for the sharp stab to the heart it gave him. He couldn’t tell if she was mad at him or not. Her words were angry but her tone sounded like they were sharing an inside joke. He opted to try and keep everything as light as possible, everyone was already worse for wear. “Erica, you wound me.”


“Not yet I haven’t.” She teased, flashing her gold eyes at him. Her teeth even seemed to lengthen and sharpen like she was ready to take an honest to god bite out of him. Quickly enough those the teeth and eyes and claws disappeared, instead, she grabbed his hand. With her increased strength, Erica started to drag him in the direction of the French doors, towards the music. “Come on, I’m sure everyone would be excited to see you.”


“I actually don’t think that’s a great idea, Erica.” He dug his heels in, bringing himself to a stop, refusing to budge anywhere closer to who was definitely behind those doors. Erica looked confused for a moment, not use to having to put any effort into moving humans. She just stood there, incredulous, hold his arm with both hands and pouting like a child, “and why not?”


He was at a loss for words. He wasn’t here to explain everything away. He just wanted to come, pay his respect, not see anyone and then never come back to Beacon Hills again. Maybe, and only if he was very lucky, he could setup a system to see his father more, but not here. Stiles stared at his brown shoes, unable to see the sadness in his father’s eyes as he was about to break his heart again. “Well I was-”


Suddenly one of the doors was throws open. “How are the brownies looking?” Came an overtly chipper voice from the door way. That voice, Stiles hadn’t heard that voice in over a decade. Over a decade and it still had the power to make him feel like a small child. Nausea slammed into his stomach, that saccharine sweet voice makes the contents of his stomach curdle. Looking up as the door opened again, he saw a woman he was praying he’d never have to see again, outside of his nightmares.


“Oh fuck.” He gasped out, shocked out of his stupor he slapped his fat trap shut. Jennifer Blake look just as shocked as him. “I… I mean… Sorry. I should…. Sorry, I should go… Dad, sorry.” He quickly said, trying to remain as calm on the outside as he tried to escape the situation. He couldn’t do this, screw acting like an adult. He broke all his fucking promises so who cared if this one broke too. His dad wouldn’t let him go though. The Sheriff looked nearly desperate, like if he let go of his son than he would evaporate entirely. Honestly, though he wished that was the case as Miss. Blakes blackish brown eyes pinned him down.


“Stiles?” She was almost bewildered by his presence over everything else. She was here though, meaning the woman could comprehend werewolves but not the return of her ex-student. Her hair was shorter, with more curl, but still had her sharp perfectly shaped eyebrows, piercing eyes, and straight lips.


“Miss. Blake?” He asked, mildly proud of how steady his voice sounded even as his heart rabbited. “What are you doing here?” He wasn’t a fool; he had a perfectly good idea on why she was here but he needed to hear it. Needed to see her admit to what had happened to them years ago.


“Hale.” Erica said instead, smiling as bright as the sun. Clearly, she was happy of her Alpha, the success he had achieved, and how well the pack had been doing in the last decade.


His throat dried out almost instantly, feeling like the coarsest sand paper against itself. It felt like he could start a fire with how rough the muscles in his esophagus rubbed together. “What?”


“It’s Hale. She’s married to Derek.” His dad said, patting his son between the shoulders, offering him a very week smile. Jennifer herself looked torn between looking sad and looking proud of herself. A look that made him want to stride over and punch her square in the jaw.


“I…what?” God, he sounded like some broken record or worse a lost child unable to comprehend how mommy had disappear amongst the grocery aisles.


Erica’s prideful smile slipped, probably sensing the tension laced through his body, instead, she gave him a tight-lipped smile. She flanked him, his father on his other side, looking ready to grab him as well if he tried to break free of his father. “Yes, for almost a decade now, right Jen?” She sounded so happy for them. Completely oblivious to the sound of Stiles heart shattering. He didn’t even know that was possible anymore, he thought all the pieces had already been pulverized into a fine dust years ago. Apparently, a few pieces had been missed though.


“Our 9th anniversary is coming up soon.” 9 years. 9 fucking years. They had been married to each other for 9 mother fucking years. Stiles felt his lungs constrict at the number. That was almost as long as he had been gone. He leaves and the pack up and grabs a new member like some sick fuck and chuck. Yeah, he wasn’t here or kept in touch but it still felt like a slap in the face.


A fire burned in his chest, licking at the edges of his throat. Anger licked at the edges of his fingers as he looked at Jennifer’s hands. There settled on her long and almost bony finger was a simple ring, a silver band with a single triangular Opal. Protection from one’s enemies. He shook his head quickly, He wasn’t at work, he really needed to stop looking for trouble. Remember, be an adult, get out of your head. Be angry, you can’t avoid that, but remember, they didn’t know. No one knew.


“Well, congratulations.” He said instead, meeting Jennifer Blake… no Hale in the eyes. Hoping he conveyed every ounce of anger toward her through them. Hoping she realized what she had done and felt sorry for even a second. There. That’s what adults fucking do. They stand their ground and smile through the pain for the joy of others. Also, they made passive aggressive gestures but as long as it was subtle enough who gave a fuck. “Are you still teaching?” He asked, clearly sensing that his father wouldn’t let him leave that quickly. He tried to calculate the minimum amount of time he needed to spend on empty conversations to be respectful. Five minutes, then he would bolt, walk as fast as he could without looking like a coward, to his rental car and heading right back to his room. That should be enough for his dad, make him feel like some progress had been made to keep him here.


“Yes,” She smiled, almost over joyed at the chance to talk about herself. “but I run a little bakery on the side now.” Pulling out a pair of cartoonish werewolf oven mitts from a side drawer. Stiles almost wanted to make a snarky comment about them but couldn’t push the words past his tied tongue.


“You have to try her desserts, Stiles, they are to die for,” Erica, bounced in excitement, her golden curls bouncing into his face. “She has this one cheesecake that she puts… what was it again?”


“Yarrow.”


“Right, and it is amazing.” Erica kept on smiling, a hopeful look in her eyes. It was nothing more than a common wild flower, hell he probably passed dozens of them on the walk up the path. It was so common yet so unknown that it was puzzling to hear it used here.


“That’s an interesting ingredient.” He said, trying to hide how much it bothered him. Everyday people didn’t use Yarrow, the only places he knew you could buy it easily were at the ‘new age’ meditation centers. Usually stashed between the burning sage and love spell candles.


“I know it sounds weird but I’m a bit of a hobbyist herbalist. Yarrow, when dried has a licorice smell and bitter sweet taste. It’s a great complement for all the sugar and creaminess in the cake.” Jennifer explained, sounding like it was a common question she got that needed to be explained away. She crossed past them, making a bee line for the over. She smelled of Elder berry, patchouli and… dill? It was a weird combination that made his nose itch. She opened up the oven, pulling out the brownies from the still hot appliance. The scent of chocolate and sugar completely covered every other smell in the room. How the werewolves handled such an oppressive smell was beyond him.


“We all beg her for our own cake when she makes them.” Erica said, wandering closer to the brownies. She looked close to drooling as she sniffed the pan. Jennifer, with expert ease, dodged the werewolf’s greedy fingers, smiling at her in a teasing way.


“Werewolves. They eat you out of house and home.” She sighed to Stiles and the Sheriff. His dad nodded in agreement looking at Stiles like he would have any idea on what they were talking about. To bad he was left out of this inside joke years before his dad even knew about it.


He had seen the cook outs though, the ones his father would have every few months for the pack at his house. The photos were always candid, crammed full of the pack actively wrestling, eating, goofing off and just looking completely content with each other. They looked like a family. It took Stiles almost two years to be able to look at those photos without bursting into tears. Even now he couldn’t look at the photos without feeling like he was losing his father.


“Wow, English MA, brilliant teacher, and an amazing baker. Derek is a lucky man to snag such an outstanding woman” He complimented her, covering it all up with flirty voice and over the top lascivious wink. “You’re too good for him, how about giving me a chance?” Erica actually had the gall to laugh at his masterful flirtation techniques.


“Oh Stiles, you were always a relentless charmer.” Jennifer’s eyes sparkled, glittering like stars in the night sky.


“Well when you only have your charisma to go by, a guy picks up a few tricks.” He kept going, popping out a hip and striking a ridiculous macho man pose, wiggling his eyes brows at her. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his father rub his temple, just the smallest smile gracing his lips.


Erica snorted at his over the top actions, “Seems like you have gotten a lot more than charisma now, Batman. Been working out?” She poked him in an exposed part of his chest, peeking out from under his shirt, watching as her finger bounced off the muscle of his peck.


“Only to impress you, Catwoman.” She hooked a ruby nail under the cuff of his shirt, blatantly starting down the front of it. He let her be, not wanting to lose a hand if she decided to snap it. Erica simply hummed in appreciation, letting go, and patting down the front of his shirt. Having no qualms about feeling up the Sheriffs son in front of him, even though he was very much carrying a loaded gun.


“Erica, where are those brownies? You forget how a stove wor-“ Lydia stormed in, looking like a Fury in her all black body con dress. Her copper hair was pulled back tight into a high ponytail, making her face look even more sharply gorgeous. Her pink plush limps scowled at him, her eyes flashing deadly as they landed on Stiles. He was frozen in place as she alters directions, forgetting the brownies, heading directly towards him. Hate, pure unadulterated anger, and hate were pouring out of her emerald eyes.


“You motherfucker,” She nearly screeched, easily loud enough to be heard over the music. Stiles opened to say something, anything, when her manicured hand made contact with his cheek.


Stiles neck cracked at how hard his head was thrown to the side. The loud smack of her palm against his chick bounced off the hard surfaces of the kitchen. His face stung with what he sure was a prominent hand print and even possible scratch marks from her nails. “You should have been there.” she kept shouting as Erica quickly grabs Lydia and hulls her back. Her hair was starting to fall out of its ponytail with how hard she fighting against Erica, “you should have been there to save him.”


His dad was suddenly in his space, obscuring his view of Lydia’s smeared makeup face, inspecting his cheek. “Lydia, didn’t mean that. you don’t mean that,” He sounded desperately placating, he was frenzied in trying to make sure Stiles had no reason to leave. Still holding onto his son, he turned around to reprimand her, “you need to calm down.”


A response that only made her more volatile, pushing harder on Erica to let her go. Stiles just stood there, shell shocked, watching silently, really seeing Lydia for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. At almost 28, She looked almost exactly as she did on her 20th birthday. Still youthful and beautiful, but the vivid kitchen lighting highlighted the tear tracks across her cheeks. Her makeup was falling apart, coral lipstick was stained, mascara smudges around her eyes, here foundation was missing around her nose, she had been crying nonstop.


Jennifer turned to the enraged red head, hands on her hips looking like the epidemy of a disappointed teacher. “Lydia, you need to calm down.” Jennifer said in a soft but commanding voice, patting the younger woman on the cheek twice. Stiles couldn’t see Lydia’s face but she became infinitely quieter and her tense bicep muscles relaxed.
Stiles silently watched, ignoring the fretting of his dad, as Jennifer started to rub circles along the veins of Lydia’s inner wrists. It was an old school trust exercise, and some subtle submission technique. She was trying to calm Lydia but also show she was in control of the situation. It was the closest she could get to the wolves’ insistent desire to snuffle and scent each other.


It does little to appease his old crush. Lydia storms out in a huff, slamming the kitchen door behind her. Erica looked almost venomous at her back; her hand laid flat against Stiles stomach almost pinning him to the counter. Jennifer sighed tiredly, slowly walking past the trio, her black flats making barely any noise against the wood flooring. “Don’t mind her. She’s having a rough time with…”


“We all are.” The Sheriff admitted, barely louder than a whisper. Erica just stood there looking down at Stiles shoes, her shoulders hunched up.


“Scott meant so much to all of us”. Jennifer admitted, without even looking up as she platted the brownies. There it was, the weight of the world dropping onto Stiles brow. Put out there in black and white was the reason for his visit; it haunted him just as much as his dreams and that stupid suit in his closet. All the occupants in the kitchen became saddened and heavy as they receded into their own depressing thoughts.


The commotion set off by Lydia was loud enough though, to spill out of the kitchen walls and catch the attention of others in the house.

“What the hell is goin-” Came a demanding voice from the door way. That was it. That was the last thing Stiles could deal with on this increasingly taxing day. His heart started to race again, never over coming the bone deep excitement that would bleed through him when he heard that voice. In a fucked up Pavlovian response, he felt all his nerve reorient in the direction of that man. He never truly did figure out how to block Derek from his mind and now he was paying for that foolishness.


Derek, like everything else in this infernal town, hadn’t changed. He was as aggressively gorgeous as Stiles remembered, with his large eyebrows and groomed facial hair. He also still had all the hate in the world in his eyes, all directed right at Stiles. They flashed a bloody red as an animalistic snarl fucking ripped right out of his chest. And like a whirlwind of spite and disgust, he slammed through the door again, leaving behind me a distractingly silent kitchen.


He hadn’t seen Derek since he broken up with him and savagely ripped out his heart, along with a small chunk of his hip.


That’s it. Fuck this, Stiles was leaving. “I should go,” he blurted out, fisting blindly in his pant pockets for the car keys. Erica and his dad whipped their heads around so fast, looking equal parts shocked and scared. He slipped away from them before they grab him again.


“No, you don’t have too.” Jennifer said, a clear pout on her face as she watched the war path her temperamental husband just left. Her brownies were ignored on the counter, becoming cold as no one seemed to have the appetite to eat them now.


“No, I really should,” He took several steps backwards, heading for the door. He slapped on a easy going smile to put his father at ease. “I was just dropping off some things for my dad.”


Jennifer didn’t know when to give up though. “But you’re here for Scott, you shouldn’t have to be home alone right now.” She disposed of the goofy oven mitts walking after Stiles like she had plans to drag him back. He would rather chew off his own arm before letting her keep him here any longer.


“It’s okay, this is a pack party always, I don’t want to impose.” Erica actually whined at that, sounding like she had been kicked in the stomach. Stiles got his hand around the door knob, waving to say good bye. “I’ll see you at home dad.” Not even stopping long enough to commit the sad look on his fathers face to memory.


“See you at home, Son.” He rushed out into the night. The sun having gone down completely while he was in the Hale pack house. The music was still loud and undisturbed, he couldn’t see anyone from the windows and that was okay. He would rather them not see him as he made a mainly retreat. Rounding the corner, passing by Jennifer’s herb garden, a hand wrapped around his for arm bringing him to a solid stop.


Erica was grabbing him, the light from the house back lighting her making her look ethereal. She looked sad, with the corner of her eyes having unshed tears in them. Stiles, pulled his arm free, opening his mouth to spout out another series of apologies and excuses. “I get it Batman.” She said, ignoring his attempts to speak. “I do. I can understand the need to runaway," She spoke softly, trying to hide their conversation from the rest of the home occupants. Hide from Derek the fact she was talking to him. “I get it, Boyd and I have been there, but maybe you’ve run enough. Come back for a visit maybe.” She looked so shatteringly hopefully in that moment.


Stiles just didn’t have it in him to break any more hearts tonight. “Maybe. I’ll see you tomorrow,” He responded dejectedly, hoping she didn’t catch the skip of his heart belying his intentions to not see them again. “Maybe.”


Erica let him go and with a single nod headed back into the house. Heading back in to mourn with her pack. To be with her family. Stiles turned the other way and headed back down the road. Heading back to a darkened and empty home. Back to a house that stopped being a home years ago. To the fact that he was all alone while his father had found a spot among a new family.


He made back to the car in record time, doing everything short of running to it. They might not be able to see him but they would be able to hear him leave. He would be damn to give them the satisfaction of knowing how quickly he wanted to put distance between them. Getting in the car, Stiles peeled out into the lane, his wheels squealing as it kicked up all kinds of forest floor in his mad dash to leave.


The forest whooshed by in a black eerie mess as he back on the main road. He shut off the radio, unable to handle any noise over the sound of his pulse in his ears. The beginnings of a headache was starting, something he was perfectly happy to discount as a result of lack of sleep. That’s all he needs, some sleep, a shower and a hot meal. He could handle this. He was an adult and it was only for a short time.


The problem with driving down a road known by heart is that there is nothing to distract you from your thoughts wandering.


Beacon Hills was everything and nothing that he had expected. So much time had passed, Stiles had left for college, gotten a job meant for him and seen the world. He had changed, grown into a man who never could of imagined as a teenager and he was proud of his gains. He had a body he could confidently flaunt a mildly healthy self-esteem, both of which was a collapse achievement when you were surrounded by supernatural adonizes in your formative years, and his work helped people. It all gave him a purpose outside of these city limits.


All he had to give up, in exchange for a world of different, was everything in the city. He hadn’t seen his dad in years, marking all their major holidays through skype calls, souvenirs, and the rare vacation to some American tourist town. It was never in Beacon hills though, hell it was never within the state of California. The closest Stiles ever got was Las Vegas for a three-day vacation that the police department forced his father to take. That was the closest he dared to get to this town and his old life and what he had to give up.


Derek, He was married and now Stiles had to stand there and watch him… with his wife… standing over top of Scott’s… The bile rose in his throat again, his eyes becoming misty making the road hard to see. Focus on that, this was about Scott. He was here for Scott and his father and Melissa. If that pissed off Derek that wasn’t Stile’s problem. He had known Scott for longer, they were practically brothers. Even if Derek was his Alpha, Stiles deserved to be at the front of the funeral like any other family member.


He parked the car back on the curb in front of his Dad’s house. Keeping a weary eye on all the shadows in the night, he heads inside and directly to his old room. He was so tired and his bed looked so inviting but he still had work to do. Dropping to his knees, he dug out his roller bag, throwing in the four-digit combo and popping the locks. He pulled out the bag of mountain ash and a bottle of wolfsbane extract.


Grabbing an old rag from the cupboard, he started circling upper floors of the house. His fingers were already starting to numb as he rubbed the wolfsbane soaked rag against every window and door. He covered all available wood, glass, and metal to ensure nothing entered through anything but the front door. Half an hour later, content the everything was covered, he threw the rag in the sink to be soak and neutralized. He than took his bag of mountain ash, slowly spreading it around the periphery of his room, pushing every bit of intention to locking out all supernatural creatures. He repeated the processes in all the hallways, bed rooms, and bathrooms, taking extra time to hide it from his father.


He kicked off his shoes, tossing them in the duffle, and prepared for bed. Showering off the grim of the day, brushing his teeth and storing a spare knife under his pillow. He stored the rest of his supplies before pushing the now empty roller back under the bed. Plugging in his phone, it told him it was almost 8 o’clock, so about 7 am back in Abu Dhabi. The hours and activities of the day finally crashed down upon his shoulders as he laid down on the bed. It was old and a little stiff but he was asleep before his head even hit the pillow

Chapter Text

At 3 am, he heard the discernable sounds of claws against the glass. A sudden, unusual, sound that put Stiles on high alert. Tensing his muscles, readying them for sudden action, he slowly reached under his pillow for his knife. Silently he grasped it, unsheathing its poisoned blade. After several moments of scrabbling hands, the unwanted guest at his window gave out an angry growl. Clearly, his would-be-intruder was expecting him to be a heavy sleeper. They were either blindly hopeful or expecting a Stiles from the past.

Without making a sound, Stiles rolled out of bed into a crouch on the floor. The grumpy dog noises kept coming, huffing and nasally snorting, from his barricaded window as he moved closer. He could see a bulky shadow shifting between the gaps of the blinds.  Stiles fiddled the knife in his hand, feeling the almost buttery leather against his palm as he rolled it. He scowled, anticipating an annoying alpha with a pension for leather jackets and using teeth to solve his problems.

With a steady breath, Stiles pressed his back to the wall just under the window sill. He could actually feel the vibration of the growls through the wall. He gripped the pull cord, silencing any sound the weights on the bottom would have made. Closing his eyes, he took three deep breathes, feeling the energy filtering to his muscles, ready to pounce. Swiveling to face his target, he reared back to attack when….

They were gone. The lights from the street lamps suddenly blasted brightly through the slats in the blinds as whoever was on the other side of his window was gone. Quickly, he pulled on the cord, opening the blinds, for a better look. Opening his window, the wind was bitter cold against his face, making sudden tears formed in the corner of his eyes. Just outside his house, on the outskirts of the yard headed into the woods, he caught the barest hint of a figure, running.

Fucking ridiculous, not a moment of peace in this town. Slamming shut the window, he huffily laid back down.

He just laid in bed, clutching his knife to his chest, unable to sleep anymore. His mind was awake now and there was no point in trying to wrestle his body to calm down. Laying on his back, he stared at the ceiling, taking in every dimple and crack, simply meditating. Clearing his mind, he just breathed, trying to not focus too much on the funeral or Scott or Derek or Jennifer.

When work became too much and his assignments allowed him the time, he found great comfort in meditation. Giving the mental space he needed to calm his body but let his ADD roam unencumbered. It was perfect, never focusing on a single subject he could filter through endless information. There were more times than he could count where meditation had saved his ass.

Around 5 o’clock, he started his day. No matter what the time change or how long the flight, Stiles prided himself on keeping to his sleep schedule. If he wasn’t on assignment, then he was waking up at 6 to do his hour run and thirty minutes of conditioning. In the last two years, he had been so good he hadn’t missed a single day.

Cracking his neck joints, he groggily shuffled through his duffle looking for his workout gear. His dad didn’t have any of the weight lifting equipment that he usually looked for. No matter he simply would improvise using the woods around him. Pulling on an oversized red hoodie and some gym shorts, he made sure his wireless headphones, lifting gloves, switchblade, and spare house key were stored safely in his pockets. He checked himself in the mirror, just long enough to guarantee that everything was in their place and strapped down.

The house was silent as he headed downstairs, but his father's work things were on the coffee table meaning he had managed to make it home from the Hale’s. If he was timing this right, he could be home and in the middle of preparing breakfast before his father even woke up. Popping in his earbuds, he locked the door behind him, chucking the key under the mat for safekeeping before starting his run.

Polysonic piano keys started his morning in the best way as his muscles slowly warmed up. Just as the guitar rift picked up, he kicked off, gaining speed, as he entered the woods at a steady brisk pace. The sun was just on the cusp of being at daybreak, throwing the forest into an odd twilight. Bright enough for him to run without fear of tripping but with no real discernable light source, just deep indigo has that seemed to illuminate everything around him.

“Don't stop thinking about tomorrow,” Stiles started to sing, an old technique he used to know he wasn’t pushing too hard. If he could still make words than he wouldn’t have to worry about overexertion. “Don't stop, it'll soon be here. It'll be, better than before, Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.”

His mind started to relax, focusing on the steady thumping of his sneakered feet against the ground. He found the local train, nothing more than a glorified dirt path, but it was fairly even and meant he didn’t need to spend energy on dodging tree roots. The cold year was delightful on his quickly warming flesh. It refreshed his lungs as he labored in harder breathes.

The music shuffled through all his old favorites as he put more distance between his dad’s house and himself. His music was on a comfortable low setting allowing him to enjoy the sound of nature around him as well. He could hear the birds sing excitedly from their nests, the sound of his sneakers crushing dried plant life and the leaves rustle in the breeze. The fresh air of Beacon Hills was invigorating. It had been months since work had sent him somewhere where he didn’t have to wear a medical mask to protect his lungs. Sweat was cooling on his body instantly in the dry cold temperature making him feel like he could keep on running forever.

Suddenly he heard a snap of twigs behind him. It sounded like a large branch, therefore something with a fair amount of weight had stepped on it. Not slowing down his pace, he discreetly scanned between the tree trunks. Pretending to adjust the placement of his earbuds, he muted his music. He instantly heard the rustling of bushes. Whatever made that noise was behind him, and it was keeping close pace.

Just as suddenly there was nothing but silence. Not even the birds could be heard anymore as they silently spectated a predator stalking its prey.

A bend in the path was coming up, picking up speed, he hoped to goad his stalker into being reckless in its speed and stealth. He bolted around the corner, quickly pressing himself up against the biggest trunk, pulling out his switchblade. He held his breath, silencing himself to hide his location. Waiting to see who followed behind him.

As soon as he saw a shadow round the bend, Stiles lashed out. Grabbing them and spinning them around to pin them to the trunk of the tree, his knife near their face. Half a moment passed, just enough to know he had pinned a man, before he was shoved back with great force, being pinned himself. An iron fist was pressed right into the center of his chest giving him limited ability to move, not impossible but still more limited than was ideal.

Hellfire eyes glared at him. Derek was breathing tight-lipped and heavy with exertion. His hair was a mess, completely knotted from hours of raking his fingers through it. An old anxious tick of his. Just under his left eye, was a long slim cut from Stiles blade, against the highest points of his prominent cheeks. Two beads of blood rolled down it, getting trapped in the hairs of his beard.

Derek skimmed his fingers across the nick on his cheek, looking confused at the blood he found on the pads of his fingers. He wouldn’t heal for at least an hour. Good, Stiles wouldn’t be opposed to making him bleed a little more.

His nose flared as he levels Stiles with an icier glare. It wasn’t fair frankly, he was still life-shatteringly good looking even when he was looking at Stiles like he wanted to squash him like a bug.

“I upgraded from the bat.” Stiles sneered, flashing his teeth since that seemed to be the only thing werewolves, especially Derek, responded to. He might have gone and grown up but he would never pass up the chance to be a smart ass. He grabbed onto Derek wrist that was holding him down, trying to alleviate the pressure to his sternum.

“You… shouldn’t… be…” Derek all out snarled at him, the words seeming unnaturally hard to get out. He must have had overexerted himself to stalk Stiles. Whispered in a grave tone so harsh it made a shiver run up Stiles' spine. His hazel eyes caught the first flashes of the sunrise. Stiles heart rabbited, after years away, still unable to uncouple the combo of early morning light and Derek from the idea of very good things coming his way. There was a desperation to them as well, making Stiles freeze for a moment before his anger took back over. Snarling, he shoved at that infuriating fist against him.

“How fucking dare, you,” Honestly, Derek had the nerve to run away from him last night. Like a coward. Then stalk him at home and in the woods. All while they had one of the shittest days ahead of them. Self-riotous asshole thought he had any rights to place demands on Stiles? “I am here for Scott and I don’t care if it's your fucking territory,” They may have been fucking close, but it’s been ten years and they are no better than strangers anymore.

With a savage twist, he made the angle of Derek’s wrist so uncomfortable he had to move his wrist, or risk having it broken by Stiles ‘the pathetic human’ Stilinski.  Derek is a stubborn bastard though, so instead plants his hands on either side of Stiles' head and leans in even closer.  His bleeding cheek smelled of copper and Acacia. Stiles shook his head, he really needed to stay focus, an angry were wold was at his throat. “I’m not leaving till I put my brother to rest like he fucking deserves.” Stiles is pretty positive a strand of his own spit just hit Derek on the chin.

“You” Derek started to say, a sudden darker looking falling over his brow. His jaw rolled almost like he was trying to munch on the words he was going to use. Stiles stood there in silent anticipation. Derek was far too close to him to know what was going to happen. “Go.” 

Derek. He hadn’t changed. No, it was more than that, Derek had backslid. Everything in this town was the same as he last saw it, but Derek, he was exactly the way he was when he first met Stiles. Single-word sentences like a fucking neanderthal. Dark hollow eyes that only saw the pain in everything around it. Stiles didn’t need the super smelling to know that self-hatred reeked off his leather jacket like a skunk.

“Great back to monosyllables are we?” Stiles threw the sarcasm in his face. He is unable to stomach a more sensible form of communication when this close to Derek. His heart wouldn’t be able to handle any amount of emotion without becoming completely overwhelmed and falling to his knees.

Derek leaned in closer, swallowing up all the air around them. He could make the devil cry, breaking him down looking into his eyes. The smell of his cologne washed over Stiles, cardamom and bergamot with a sudden pop of lavender at the edges. It was a smell Stiles was intimately familiar with. It was the exact smell of the cologne he gave him at their first Christmas together. The thought he still wore it made Stiles' heart seize, warm confusion flushing his cheeks. Knowing Derek though, who was personal style and self-care challenged, he probably mindlessly just kept buying it because it was easy. It didn’t mean anything.

“Well lucky us,” Stiles tried to squirm his way out from underneath Derek, whose chest was pressed tightly against his. He needed space. For the sake of his heart and emotions, he needed to put space between him and Derek. “I’ll be gone in a week and then I’ll never have to come back to this festering shithole town.”

That should have been the end of it, he said his bit, Derek tried to say his and they were on the same page. Derek didn’t want him, and a part of him didn’t want to be here either. All they needed to do was go to the funeral, stay out of each other’s way and then they can put each other behind them again. Derek can go back to wife and Stiles could go back to his work and a string of one-night stands.

Infuriatingly though, Derek wasn’t moving. He was rooted leaning up against Stiles. His face impossibly close, still bleeding. Stiles could hear the deep and level breathing, almost like he was sniffing Stiles. If he wasn’t so sure that it was an animalist intimidation tactic, he would almost say that Derek was scenting him.

With a final growl of “Go or...” the else left in the empty air, he was gone.

The cold air chilled Stiles front even through his hoodie, reminding him just how much heat that man generated.  Now he was just left with the cold air and cacophony of the birds singing once more.

Sighing he bent down to pick up his dropped phone, happy for not the first time that he had spent a little extra on getting a good protective case. Even with its full tumble across sticks and roots, it had only gotten a small scratch across the upper corner of the protective screen, that and had scrambled up to his music playlist but that was survivable.

‘All I want is to see you smile. If it takes just a little while. I know you don't believe that it's true, I never meant any harm to you-‘He quickly switch off his music app, unable to stomach it. Good mood stomped to a bloody pulp under Derek fucking Hales stupid boot.

He headed back in the direction of the house, stopping off too quickly power through his work out regimen, using tree limbs to do pull-ups and hanging crunches.

The house was still quiet as he snuck back in, his father didn’t get many days off and Stiles would rather make sure he got as much sleep as possible on the rare chance.

Heading straight to his room he hopped into the shower for a quick wash. Another amenity that he took for granted until he started having assignments in regions where there was no guaranteed running water.

As the warm water rolled down his body, he let it clear away his tedious thoughts. He was doing so good about being out of his own head and being present in the now but it seemed Beacon Hills was determined to force him into a mental spiral around the past. Like some unhealed scab that a six your old was going to pick at until it bled again. There was just nothing to do to stop it. Unfortunately, it hurt so much more when that scab was on your heart and not just your knee.

He might need to call his manager later today just to get his head on straight.

He added it to the growing list of errands he was making to fill his day. There would be no free time, or frankly any emotional energy, to do anything other than the funeral tomorrow. So today he’d have to get groceries for the rest of the week, restock on some basic work supplies, order his own set of flowers for tomorrow and probably meal prep.

Content, clean and loose-limbed, Stiles dressed and made a quick easy breakfast of eggs and fruit, storing half for his dad to eat when he rolled out of bed finally.

He managed to cook, eat and clean up his plate before his dad even woke up. He hung back by the front door, waiting to wish his father a good morning before leaving. His dad looked worse for wear, even compared to yesterday. It seemed like he needed a lot of water and even more sleep. “Morning Dad.” His father smiled and waved as he headed straight for the coffee pot.

“Morning Stiles,” His voice was clearly horse and scratchy from snoring. “You headed somewhere?” He asked while inspecting his breakfast with a small nostalgic smile.

“Yeah, I am just going to run some errands to prepare for tomorrow.” He jingled the keys to illustrate his intention.

“Okay Kiddo, be safe. I’ll see you in a few hours,” and with that Stiles slipped out of the house and headed for the car.

The drive into town was just as boring as any other drive. The streets were as empty as you would expect for a Thursday morning, kids already in school, only mothers on maternity leave and the retirees were out taking their daily walks. He headed into the center of town, content for the first time that Beacon Hills was small enough to have practically every store within walking distance of the city center.

Parked on a side street, just off main, his first stop was coffee. He was going to bask in the ability to go to cafés all week long. So much better than the motel burnt sludge or the well-meaning, but slightly concerning, concoctions that grateful clients gave him out in the field.

He never wants to relieve the time he found honest to god ants in the bottom of his cup. The very sweet old grandmother had apparently added them because it was a family secret recipe for quick recover and youthful looks. Considering her face was a topographical map of wrinkles, he questions its effectiveness but gritted his teeth, literal, to finish the rest of the cup. The last thing he wanted to do was insult the matron of the small village, bordering the Kanas Lake, who was housing him in thanks for his help.

His extra large Mocha Madness, with three pumps of hazelnut, was heaven to drink in comparison to what he had in recent months. The sugar coating his tongue making him want to do a little happy dance. Walking down the street, he headed straight to the florist, praying he could place the order and pick up the same day.

The insides of Trapp and Company Florists was bursting at the seams with an abundance of blooms. Based inside an old refurbished cottage, the entryway was lined with metal buckets, stacked on risers, filled with a rainbow of flower bunches wrapped in brown paper. Potted plants hanged from the ceiling, vines, and leaves spilling out and tickling the tops of people’s heads as they passed. An assortment of mismatched tables was scattered across the open floor plan, each on completely covered in tchotchkes, empty vases, ribbons and over the top boutiques. In the back, in what must have once been the kitchen, were the work stations with three workers puttering away on their creations.

Stiles, licked the whipped cream off his lips as he slowly meandered the aisles headed towards the front desk. A lovely middle-aged woman was manning the desk, her bold cat eye glasses laying low along the bridge of her nose. Deloris, as her name tag said, smiled at him politely as he saddled up to the desk. “Hello, what can I interest you in today sir,” her voice was raspy from what was probably years of smoking but with the warmth of a grandmother.

“Good morning,” He gave his most charming smile, plopping his cup off to the side to not disturb her chaotic mess of order forms. “I was wondering if I could order and pick up a funeral bouquet today?” Deloris gave him a single sad smile before bending over to pick up something from under the desk.

“That depends, are you looking for a spray arrangement with a stand?” In her hands was a beat up, overly filled, green binder that had stray papers sticking out from every angle.

“No just something handheld that I can put in the casket when I pay my respects.”

“Alright yeah, we can do that if you pick from a book of predesigned options.” She opened up the binder, pressing her glasses up the bridge of her nose, her beaded glasses chain catching the light and twinkling at him.

“Okay,” He leaned forward, almost pressing his chest completely against the countertop, and craning his neck to get a better look at the pages she flipped through. “Can I request some flower additions?”

“Of course.” She slides over the binder, opened halfway to a selection of sympathy boutiques. There was all kind of price points from the tastefully simple to the outlandish set, varying in color from beautiful whites to cheerful rainbows. It didn’t take him long to pick out the set he thought Scott would like the most. It was a bouquet of all white Hydrangeas, Geraniums, Roses and Lilies domed out with lush green leaves. Plus, the name was a lovely moment for just him and Scott.

“I will take the Eternal Friendship set,” He said, swiveling the booklet around and pointing to the grainy image print out. “though, could we add to it some blue Lupines as well.” He couldn’t help but smile at his own little joke.

He remembers a few years ago seeing an article on flowers meanings, He lost it when he found that the Lupine flowers were magical at healing dogs. It got even better in early senior year when he would keep sending Scott a single Lupine every time he got hurt. Never let it be said that Stiles missed a chance to make a dog joke while handling this supernatural shit.

Noting down his preferences, Deloris rung him up and told him that they would text him when his arrangement was ready. Bidding her a good day, he took his cup and headed back out. Throwing on his aviator sunglasses he slowly meandered the streets.

He stopped at every storefront down the road, appearing to be window shopping, while inspecting his surroundings. He was looking for anything that could be an indication of trouble. His Mentor always said he was too paranoid, but then again he survived Junior year and everything else being this uptight. He’d prefer a few lost nights of sleep if it's in exchange for his life, thank you very much.

He never knew what he was looking for but years of doing it meant he would know when he saw it, or at least notice it long enough to make a mental note of it for later research. As he walked down the main street, He could see people giving him double takes as he passed, a few stays at home mom’s, a sleep-deprived college student and one or two men who were not as good of hiding it as well as they thought.

He knew he probably made a sight with his tight white t-shirt, increased lean muscle mass and a not insignificant number of scars along his arms. Beacon Hills residents probably had seen this level of the bad boy since Derek Hale first strolled into town with his growls and leather jackets.

It took about twenty minutes to walk the radius of the main street if you didn’t stop and hit the walk lights just right. Stiles, however, took it slow, weaving in and out of side streets and allies, stopping at every storefront and even ducking into a store or two for a closer look. That is why it took about two hours for him to reach his destination at the end of the road.

Mickey’s Surplus Store was a windowless cement building, trying to use blistering white paint to brighten it up. The doorbell jingled as he pushed open the grated door. Old school country music filtered through the old crackly speakers.

He quickly found the only other person in the store, Mickey the owner. He was what you’d expect out of a small-town hunting supply store owner. He had the trucker hat, weary eyes of a veteran, scruff along the jawline and even a Browning Deer logo as a forearm tattoo.  

Not wanting to waste time and bring to much attention to himself. He shuffled through the aisles, picking up what was there before heading to the desk and grabbing a few more things from the stock in the back.

The whole affair took no more than an hour, with his duffle bag filled; he waves goodbye to the kind portly owner who was honestly too lax with his background checks. He made a note to tell talk to his dad before he left. Mickey was nice, and he didn’t want him in deep trouble, but he really needed to do those checks. So hopefully, a visit from the Sheriff would push him to do the right thing.

Twenty minutes later, he was back at his car, locking his new supplies in the trunk. Checking his phone, there was still no text messages from his dad or the flower shop. Nonplussed he hopped into the driver seat and headed for the grocery store. His dad had a lot of great stuff in the fridge but it clearly would only last one person about a week. Stiles had some plans to make some of his favorite dishes from around the world for his father. All healthy version mind you, no point clogging his father’s heart with an endless feast of Pelmeni, Cong you bing, Mansaf and Shepard’s pie.

The drive left him time to meditate on his day. On Derek. How a man pulled off looking so punchable yet for fuckable would be one of life's great mysteries. Stiles understood body language. It came with the work in a lot of ways. He knew he was being hopeful but he just couldn't shake the feeling that Derek was pressing up against him for alternative reasons. Yes, there was the physical intimidation factor but there was also their history. That shit hadn't worked on Stiles in high school and they definitely didn't work now. So why keep doing them? More so the scenting the chest pressing was more indicative of their year dating than anything before.

It was a trigger almost for them back then. A neon sign to say 'I am so into right now and want those lips on me.' A request they were always exuberant in fulfilling. Images of endless moments together, spent kissing, filtered through his vision. Blurring his drive to nothingness.

It didn’t take long to cross town and hit up the biggest grocery store in the tri-county area. He grabbed a cart going over his shopping list in his phone notes. He waved hello to the store greeter and was instantly hit a weird headiness that always hit him in the store. He chalked it up to the lighting and smells all around him, it always gave him a slightly tipsy feeling. Luckily going in the middle of the day meant the store was mostly empty, giving Stiles plenty of room to bob and weave along the shelves. You know you have been gone a long time when you can’t even remember the basic layout of the only grocery store in town.

He filled the cart with lean meats, fresh greens, and vibrant fruits. Snagging a small bottle of whiskey for himself at the last minute, having the sneaking feeling that he would need it. There were only two checkout lines open with about five people each waiting to be helped. Picking a line at random, he joined it and instantly pulled out his phone to mess with. Opting to burn the time with one of the many mind games he downloaded from the app store.

Midway through his current level, 359, on a knockoff scrabble game he got a pop-up notification.

Mr. Stilinski, your floral arrangement is complete and ready

for you to pick up at Trapp and Company Florists.

We look forward to your pick up.    -Deloris

All checked out he made the mindless trip back to the city center. Unfortunately, it was high noon so every spot along the main street was taken. He had to park three blocks over and walk back to the florists.

The store was a bit busier; husbands on their lunch break desperate for an anniversary gift and mom’s taking their kid's shopping after school hoping to share their passions of plants with the little ones. Stiles had to dodge no more than three separate strollers that nearly took out his foot.

There sitting on the checkout desk was his order. It was gorgeous in its sadness. All the soft linen white flowers sprinkled with pops of indigo, cobalt and cerulean. They were wrapped in brown paper and twine, the stems still soaking in water to ensure their beauty.

Deloris stood exactly where she was when he was first here. Her space had become infinitely cleaner though, all the day's assignments been handed out. In its place was another charming spring bouquet arrangement, of glittery hydrangeas styled to look like a unicorn. She was primping it for the excited little girl and her father purchasing it. The toddler’s shoes light up with every excited jump she gave, hands way above her hands just begging to have the flowers. She was absolutely going to be a heartbreaker; he could tell she already had her poppa wrapped around her pinky finger.

Once they were closed out and happy, they left the desk allowing Stiles his turn. “Hello there Deloris, you texted me about my order,” She smiled at him, trying to dust the excess glitter off her hands. She turned around to pick up his order from the back shelf. Gently she pulled out the set.

“Hello Mr. Stilinski, would you like a bag for this?” She asked as she tapped something on her touch screen cash register.

He popped in his credit card, “No but thank you very much,” he made sure to key in a 40% tip, they really were talented people here. Once he was all signed for and had his printed receipt, Deloris made sure to stick on a company sticker to the brown paper, handing them over to Stiles.

“Thank you, Deloris, you’re amazing.” He thanked her for throwing in a wink, taking pleasure in her slight flushes and muttered: “hush you.”

Walking down the street, his bouquet in the crook of his arm, he noticed the stray bits of glitter dusting the petals. They must have accidentally come from the unicorn arrangement but he kind of loved the pop of surprise, the way it caught the sunlight.

So preoccupied with inspecting his flowers, he wasn’t prepared for slamming his shoulder into something sturdy.

A young man gave a grunt as he stumbles back slightly as Stiles did as well. “Excuse me,” He apologized to the pair of men beside him.

A young man, around his age, with a square face and buzzed hair, he had kind eyes though even with the severe facial structure. He had his arm wrapped around an older gentleman, wearing a set of glasses on his attractively aged face and holding a white cane.

“Oh, no worries my boy, Ethan you are alright?” The older gentleman said with a deep British accent. He sounded regal and domineering. if Stiles wasn’t trying to be an adult he would even go as far to call this man a daddy. I mean he was but Stiles wasn’t about to say that… out loud. The young man, Ethan, just nodded his head, looking torn between looking grumpy and smiling shyly at Stiles. “Ethan?” The man scolded, shaking their interlocked arms.

“Yes, I am fine,” Ethan answered, looking slightly up at Stiles. Stiles just smiled back, ready to keep going on his way, hopefully making it to the car without any more missteps.

“There we go." The older man went on saying, stopping stiles from leaving as he wished too. "You must forgive my nephew; he never fully developed the social skills.” The older man didn’t even try to veil his criticism. Something that clearly bothered his companion, a tired irritated expression marring his brow. Stiles was just left with nothing to say to that, but damn did he feel like he had to.

“I… I think it's fine. We all don’t need to be incessant talkers and that is coming from your resident incessant talker.” It didn’t elicit much more than an awkward silence amongst the pair, so you know… great. The downside to small towns, everyone wanted to stop and have extended chats with you and some days he couldn’t be arsed to give them even that. “Yes, well you two seem like you were headed somewhere and I have perishable groceries in the car. So if you will excu-“

“Oh, are you carrying flowers? They smell wonderful.” The older man interrupted him, dropping Ethan’s arm and pressing in dangerously close to Stiles personal bubble. The blind man had an impressive sense of smell, Stiles could barely smell anything and he was holding the flowers.  The guy reached out and fiddled with one of the silken white petals. Stiles got an eerie feeling the man was inspecting it, which he instantly felt guilty for feeling. He called it his stupid lizard brain, and it was making him annoyingly paranoid.

“Oh… uh… yes, I just bought a lovely bouquet from the store down the road.”

“Really? Would you mind showing us? My nephew and I are new to town, trying to get our bearings.” Ethan honestly looked constipated, trying to focus on anything else on the road beside Stiles or his uncle. Probably a step-uncle at best. He really didn’t want to walk them there; he seriously should make sure his dairy and meat didn’t get warm in the car. Plus, it was just his stupid lizard brain, but he just didn’t feel comfortable around these men. They stared at him for too long and got too much into his space. He was quickly formulating a polite descent to the idea, instead, he was willing to give them the detailed route he took, through the abandoned alley between the florists and the thrift store.

His back pocket abruptly started to vibrate rather violently. He smiled to the strangers as he fished out his phone, seeing a notification for a text… from Lydia. Stiles could barely control the hitch in his breath. Oh god, what would it be, another accusation, a virtual slap or maybe a complete and total denouement of their friendship? Seeing a perfect opportunity though, he turned back to the men.

“I’m sorry gentlemen, I really have to take this. I am sorry again for running into you Ethan.”

Ethan didn’t even attempt to speak, instead, his companion completely took over the situation, holding out his free hand to shake, cane tucked under his armpit. “Quite alright…” He puttered off waiting for Stiles to finish his sentence.

“Stiles Stilinski. It was nice to meet you.” Habitually holding out a hand for a shake. Shockingly The uncle grabbed his hand first before Ethan could even guide him.

“Deucalion. The pleasure was all mine Mr. Stilinski.” Deucalion, that was an interesting name. Stiles was unsure if that was his given or surname but the man must have some strong Greek ancestry in his family to have such a name. But there was not much time left to worry about it as the pair turned and headed down the street. Stiles sighed, deciding to bite the bullet and pulled up his messenger app open as he headed back towards his car again.

Lydia: We are getting dinner. The Rieger at 6:30. Be there or else.

Well, I guess that planned the rest of his day for him. He held back the bone-deep sigh as he got into his car, delicately placing the flowers beside him. He didn’t even plan to message her back. It was pretty clear that she wouldn’t accept a no, so there was no point in telling her yes.

God, he was driving too much, that was his official decision as he drove back towards his dad’s home. These roads were boring when he was a newly licensed teen, now though, they were excruciatingly dull. Honestly, he wasn’t even sure how he got home; his brain flatlined so much driving down these roads. Before he knew it he was parking outside his dad’s house, not a single moment of that drive reordered in his memories

His dad was up and watching the three o’clock football game when Stiles walked in. He walked over and bent over the back of the couch, planting a kiss to the top of his dad’s head. “Hi Stiles, how was the errands?”

“They were good,” underneath the sink was a large wide-mouthed crystal vase. He placed it inside the sink and placed the faucet over it to fill the container up with cool clear water. “I have some recipes I want to share with you, I think you will like them?”

“I look forward to it kiddo. Need any help?”

“No, I got it,” He gently placed the flowers into the jar. The florists were even nice enough to give him a flower food packet to mix in with the water, Deloris was such a doll. He took a moment to just appreciate the flowers. There was such a soft sweet beauty. Checking his phone, he had about two and a half hours to kill before he needed to head out to meet Lydia, on time at least.

“Dad, I have to meet Lydia tonight. You okay with eating leftovers?” Opening the fridge door Stiles started to organize and store all the perishables first. Meticulously, he checked every package label and made sure every fruit and vegetable were free of rot.

“Believe it or not son, I know how to cook now.” His dad teased him; eyes still glued to the tv screen. Tossing out a set of moldy raspberries, Stiles started to alphabetize what was left. Yes, it was anal and no he wasn’t wasting time. He just liked having a kitchen to actually putter away in for once. It had been a while since he had more than a mini-fridge and a microwave. Even that, was on a good assignment.

He missed this. The kitchen and the fresh food, with every meal type possible, just depending on how creative he was feeling. He missed making meals for his dad and the pack and Derek. It was hard work, especially for the pack but he got joy out of it. There was something so contenting about seeing the happy faces of his friends and family as they ate his handcrafted meals. In contention with what most of the deputies thought, Stiles, did not hand deliver meals to his dad just to get a peek at what the cops were up too. He genuinely loved sitting down on the lumpy couch in the Sheriff’s office and shooting the shit with his father.

He really hadn’t had a regular chance to cook since college, especially special occasions to make his favorite polish dishes. The last time he had the chance was a we-survived-finals-thank-fucking-god friends’ meal with Lydia and Jackson, just before the summer semester started.

Maybe he could spend the time with his dad now if he was offering to cook. “If you’re such a great cook then, how about you do the meal prep for the rest of this week for me?”

“You happy eating steak or salmon every meal?” His father finally got up, walking into the kitchen, still in his pajamas, like some teenager on the weekend. Heaven forbid, his dad would probably be a hellish teenager. Stiles wouldn’t be shy about placing bets on his dad being a partier and horn dog. “Why are you meal prepping, kiddo?”

“I figured we wouldn’t be feeling very in the mood to cook after the funeral tomorrow.” His dad watched him from the doorway, Stiles set out on the floor with a half dozen condiments surrounding him.

“You were always a planner… just like your mother.”  He turned to get some water out of the sink, noticing the flowers. “These are nice, what are they for?” He brushed their glittery petals, looking at his finger pads now coated in glitter.

“Tomorrow. I am giving them to Scott.” His dad gave him a shocked questioning look, one brow raised high.

“Is that even something they will allow?”

“I don’t know who they are and even then I am still doing it. Scott was my brother.” His father’s other eyebrow joined the first, lifted up in sad surprise.

“Well… Melissa and Jennifer organized it, so I am sure it will all be fine.” That made Stiles raise a brow. Really? Their old English teacher was planning Scott’s funeral? “Jennifer has been an amazing asset to the pack. We have bi-weekly pack dinners because of her and she is honestly the reason Melissa and I are even in the pack.”

That made Stiles blood run cold. Jennifer did that? He had just assumed it was Derek or Scott, either out of spite for Stiles or genuine concern for his father's safety. Jennifer though… that made him almost sick. She took so much from him and now he discovers she decided to even take away the chance for him to come clean to his father on his own terms.

That was a nightmare of a night for Stiles a few years ago. The Sheriff calling him in the middle of the night, nearly hysterical about Stiles lying to him for ages. Stiles had actually cried and nearly vomited as his father fought between being understanding and flat out accusatory. Ultimately it took him all night to talk his dad down. Hours on the phone talking through every detail and emotion he had felt over the years that led him to decide to never tell his father. After he had half a mind to call up Derek and chew him out with every hateful thought he could muster.

Why did this nightmare seem to want to keep rearing its ugly head? Stiles closed his eyes, taking in three deep even breathes. His back to his father so the man couldn’t see the hurt expression he was trying to tamp down on. He tried and focus on the small gains what was achieved because of this. He and his father could be more open with each other about almost everything. His dad had a better time at work, now being able to know that the cases he couldn’t solve weren’t because of his ineptitude. His father even seemed more at ease now that he had his son promise to not keep secrets from him anymore. Too bad, Stiles was very good at breaking promises.

“That is… nice of… Mrs. Hale to do that for Melissa.” He gritted out, poisoned by the hate he felt at the thought of his pseudo mom spending any time with that snake in the grass. Quickly, reorganizing the fridge seemed tedious, so Stiles just put everything back and anywhere it could fit. With the door shut he, stood up, whipping invisible dust off his black jeans. “I am going to go get ready for dinner.”

With that, he raced to his childhood room to waste the remainder of his free time on pointless internet scrolling and general avoidance. If you ignore it for long enough, it goes away… more or less. He pushed that thought, waiting till the last minute he could to leave and be on time. Then decided to wait five minutes more. Lydia would be pissed he was even a minute late but that didn’t incline him to break away any sooner from the webcomic he was mindlessly browsing.

Finally, the guilt of being childless filled him up too much and he had to move. Making sure he had his wallet, keys, phone, and a small swiss army knife in his pockets, he headed out.

“Dad, I am leaving.” With that, he was gone on the streets again.

The Rieger was apparently in the old factory district of Beacon Hills, back when the town was known for its gold mines and logging. It had been revamped with modern amenities desired by all five-star restaurants. All tucked into an urban rustic chic package where the walls looked condemned but the waiters were expected to wear black ties and vests. The hostess gave Stiles an unimpressed once over at his outfit. Apparently, a t-shirt and his best set of black jeans weren’t up to snuff. However, it wasn’t a busy night and she probably didn’t really care so he was let in easily enough.

In the back, sitting in a cozy booth, framed by an enormous Mucha print hanging from the brick wall, was a quietly whispering Jackson and Lydia Martin-Whittmore. The table was set with their drinks already arrived, Jackson sipping on an old fashioned while Lydia tried not to splash her red wine with how harshly she was stirring it. Stiles was seven minutes late and he was sure he would be paying for it for the next seven months.

“Hi guys.” He said with all the confidence he absolutely did not feel, sliding into his seat opposite of them. Lydia looked up from her glass with her statement unimpressed pout, Jackson just wore his go-to sneer.

“You’re late.” He said, taking another deep drink of his whiskey, nearly finishing off the last half in his glass. Soft jazz music filtered through the speakers giving everything that classy wild feel that Jackson and his country club friends reveled in.

“I’m sorry Jackson, it truly upsets me that I missed a moment of your pretty lips sneering at me.”

“Not much of an insult when you constantly stare at them, Smellilinski.” He even gave an overtly sexy look as he licks up the stray beads of whiskey on his lips. Stiles rolled his eyes, not wanting to overly stroke Jackson’s ego, he knows he looks good and known it for a while. He wasn’t above playing along just a little though, Jackson was always more pleasurable when he had a person to verbally spar with. Stiles just chalked it up to werewolf aggression needing an outlet.

“I was being honest Jackasson.” Stiles teased, leaning over the table to try and hold Jackson's hand. “I regret every moment where I can’t be near those lips.” Almost as quickly as he made contact, Jackson pulled back his hand, to throw his arm over Lydia’s shoulders.

“You couldn’t handle all this.”

“I might be able to scrounge up some wolfsbane handcuffs.”

“Boys stop flirting.” Lydia flipped her hair back, leaning into Jackson's chest looking comfortable. She seemed almost content to watch them spat. It was one of her favorite pastimes from college, to bring Jackson to their apartment and watch Stiles and him throw verbal barbs in good nature. Stiles had the sneaking suspicion that it was some weird foreplay for them because after it got heated, they would always disappear for an hour or so.

The waiter came by and quickly took Stiles drink order, a Bee’s Knees with an interesting twist of Chamomile. The waiter asked for their food orders, Stiles just picking something up off the fly since he was late, and whisked their menus away.

Lydia and Jackson sat there, pressed up close, Jackson just barely concealing his scenting technique along Lydia’s neck. They both kind of just stared at Stiles, with interest, like he was a fine painting to be appreciated. With eyes so piercing, they were trying to annotate every detail of his being, as if worried he was just a dream they couldn’t hold onto. It was affirming, to see their desire for his presence, but made him slightly uncomfortable. Now he was more content to hide in shadows than let others inspect him. He fiddled with the silverware on the table, as he stared back.

Jackson looked more and more like his dad every day, adopted or not his father had a potent personal aesthetic that apparently was being absorbed by his son. Though Lydia made an impressive attempt to update the classic suit silhouettes with bold fabrics and pops of colors. They had come to a good compromise it seemed, and thank god. Stiles is still scarred from the hours of arguing they would do in college over Jackson's wardrobe and he wasn’t even involved in them half the time.

His drink was quickly handed to him, it was a pastel yellow with bubbles and little pieces of chamomile blooms floating through it.

“I am sorry.” Lydia blurted out, as Stiles had his glass midway to his lips. Lydia never apologized, in fact, Stiles could count on one hand the number of times he had heard her say those words. So, if she was using it now than she was being dead serious. Putting down his glass again he looked into her deeply sad looking eyes.

“What?”

“I am sorry for slapping you and yelling at you.” She said, barely above a whisper, she hunched up closer into Jackson. He was actively rubbing her arm, tacitly providing comfort and support to her. “I shouldn’t have.”

“It’s oka-“

“Don’t say it's okay.” She said, sitting up, her hair fell over her shoulders, cascading like a waterfall of molten copper. She looked so sad and so sure, the certainty in her eyes meant that nothing other than her will would be achieved. “You and I both know that we are all torn up about Scott and I took it out on you in the worst way possible.”

Stiles just sighed, it hurt him to see her hurt in any way, even by her own actions. “That’s why it’s okay Lyds. You and I both know that grief is handled differently.”

“Slapping someone is not handling it,” Jackson said in that ever Whittmorian way, completely harsh but with what Stiles assumed was meant to be supportive.

“Thank you, Dickson.”

“No, he is right Stiles.” Lydia patted Jackson’s chest eliciting a prideful smile from her husband. “I shouldn’t have lashed out like that and I definitely shouldn’t have blamed you.” Her eyes started to water up. Stiles felt powerless as his old crush normally strong as steel looked on the verge of a breakdown. Jackson squeezed her in closer, pressing his nose to the top of her head.

“None of us were there. No one from the pack was there to help him.” He finished her statement for her. These were the rare moments that Stiles saw why they worked, it was slow and subtle but they had balanced each other out. Lydia being the grit Jackson needed to accomplish his own goals and not ones just set by his parents, while Jackson has a strong enough desire for physical affection to get them both to express their love for each other.

“You shouldn’t blame yourselves,” Stiles held out his hand, silently asking Lydia to take it and hold. She did quickly, sitting there and silently taking support from the two best boys in her life.

“Easier said than done.”

“Yeah, I know.” They must look a sight, a trio leaning towards one another in a somber bubble that collapsed around them. The air pressure around them was oppressive and Stiles felt none of them to shake off the stink of despair on their beings. All three of them used their free hands to down the rest of their drinks, needing something to do besides stare or cry. Lydia’s eyeliner was smudging around the corners as silent tears collected there.

A few moments passed, about two songs worth, of them just silently collecting themselves again. Lydia blotted at her tears, Jackson whispered something to her and Stiles just breathed through the pain. It was all very oppressive and while he was here for a somber reason, Stiles would like to have at least one night that felt normal. A night to just enjoy his time in California and be with people he loves.

“My dear Lydia, I don’t think I’ve seen your makeup this smudged since our last St. Patrick’s Day together.” He hoped the smile he gave her conveyed his light joking manner. Bringing up the epic spring break they had Sophomore year. New York was throbbing with excitement for the drinking holiday. Everything was painted green and all the fraternity/sorority was having a rager. Jackson had come down from Yale to spend the holiday with them before whisking Lydia away to Beacon Hills for the rest of their break.

Jackson had an in with one of the fraternities that had enough money to through basically the equivalent of a gala, just with worse fashion and more booze. Jackson also had another use of being their designated driver since he was a werewolf. The night was a bit of a blur, but a great blur at that. All he was certain of was there was a drug-loaded backroom they avoided, Lydia broke a heel of her Louie Vuitton’s while dancing on the kitchen counter and Stile found like twelve different lipstick stains and a pair of someone else’s boxer briefs on his person the next morning.

“You should have seen it after my bachelorette than.” Stiles could only imagine that wild ride. The women of the pack were… aggressive. Which he meant in the best of ways, but yeah, he wouldn’t be surprised if they told him that the night had devolved into a werewolf-themed orgy.

“To much junk in your face?” He couldn’t stop snickering at Jackson’s possessive growl. Lydia just flipped her curls into his face, opting to ignore them both.

“I miss our place at Columbia," She said instead. Their place was a little but luxe apartment furnished by Lydia’s parents who were always happy to provide for her, at least monetarily if nothing else. A chic open floor plan two bedrooms with a massive kitchen that Stiles and Lydia whittled away hours cooking in whenever the stress became too much. They became a hit with their neighbors and classmates, always having something delicious to eat and the best booze to party with.

“You just miss all the partying and chaos.” He teased her; they had developed a habit in their old friendship of always boiling each other down to their most stereotypical qualities. Lydia would, jokingly, forever by a shallow fashionista party girl, Stiles the spastic loner with a smart mouth and Jackson was a jackass with a Porsche to overcompensate.

“Our fashion week one was legendary. I still crave those French 75s you made.” Lydia gushed, completely enamored with the memories flashing around in her mind.

They rarely threw parties between all the work but when they did it was a guaranteed success and the talk of campus the next week. Lydia being the ever-amazing hostess she is and Stiles having enough mixology experience to keep the good drinks flowing, it was a well-known fact that Lydia Martin would never stoop to serving jungle juice at her parties. He would never admit this to his face, but the good times got better when Jackson was around to man the music.

The best was their fashion week party where people showed up in over the top closet couture fashion read to drink the night away to house music. The peak of the night coming when Lydia and Stiles raced up to the rooftop with a few classmates to take photos, in the gold hour, around the rooftop pool. It was one of the most glamorous moments of Stiles life, made even between when Jackson had him candidly take photos as he jumped into the pool, carrying Lydia. She was completely enraged until she saw the photos and begrudgingly admitted that it was the fancy shit she had seen. Even going as far to get a large-scale print of it. Stiles is pretty sure they still have it hanging over their marital bed.

The only thing better than the parties was the actual quite moments. The days were hard work was actually made and they became their own little pack. They all became much closer in that apartment; nights were the twisted stars aligned and one of them would have a breakdown. Every time though, the others were there to catch them. They were there when Lydia suffered through one of her many nightmares full of death and dying. They were there when Jackson showed up in the middle of the night, about to plummet into a panic attack after having found his biological family and hearing less than loving words from them. They were there when Stiles came back to college Junior year with only tears, a shattered heart and a secret he couldn't tell them but also couldn’t stop crying over.

“God remember that spring break at Beacon Cove?” Jackson asked his wife, an excited gleam in his eyes as he remembered a good event. To bad Stiles wasn’t there, all he could do was sit there and listen.

“That was the one where we all got drunk around the campfire and actually attracted the attention of a mermaid,” Lydia told Stiles, he remembers her telling him about the event, in exquisite detail, when she came back from break. Stiles just nodded and laughed on cue, not wanting to ruin her good time, even though hearing them all having a good time without him felt like a hammer to the chest. “turns out they aren't as human looking as Disney made us think.”

“Or nice.” Jackson rolled his eyes like the event was beneath him.

“It tried to take Erica because it wanted her hair.” Lydia kept going. Their talking style had become like this about 2 months after they married, long stories were always bisected by their shared voices letting them.

“It took Boyd, Isaac, and Derek to wrestle her back from the slippery thing.”

“Here I might have a photo,” Lydia excitedly started digging through her purse. No matter how methodically organized her life was, it was guaranteed that Lydia’s purse would always be a disaster. “They looked like serious wet dogs. You would have loved it,” both men just sat there and smiled at the redhead as she quietly scrolled through her endless list of photos.

The image was honestly a masterpiece. All those buff stereotypically manly men were soaking wet and pouting. Isaacs' eyes were practically obscured under his wet curly mop. Boyd was desperately trying to hold up his ripped swim trunks while also refusing to let go of Erica. Somehow, she came off looking the most put together, even though she almost became the next drowning victim, though it was clear there was a chunk of hair that was significantly shorter than the rest. Derek, much to Stile’s ire, still looked like a fucking model with his hand racking through wet hair to get it out of his eyes, though he had by far the biggest pout looking like a child that just dropped his ice cream.

There it was, that nervous tick again. Stiles remembers always keeping one eye on him when he started to pace and rub his head. It meant one of two things, he was agitated with someone or was trying to emotionally shuffle through some shit. He had done it almost constantly for a week, driving Stiles absolutely crazy to the point he confronted the older man one night.

“Derek, what the hell is your problem!?” He demanded, slamming the door to Derek’s loft behind him as he stormed in. The man in question was sitting on the couch, with an incriminating hand fisting through his black tresses. He stomped over, purposely getting into Derek’s personal bubble. Countless experiences taught him long ago that if you wanted anything out of Derek you had to get physical.

Pressed tight against walls, holding each other in a pool or talking while paralyzed on the floor, their biggest moments growing together were when there was less the air between them. To get their blood pumping was to get them to communicate. It left Stiles hot and flushed and waiting for his next hit. It was a feeling that recontextualized his entire life.

His years infatuated with Lydia had been a soft and slow burn, a sustained delicate ache that rolled under his skin as he looked for any reason to talk to her. With Derek though, he was practically bisected by the explosion of emotion that burst from his gut. It was hot and savage and felt like home in the basest of ways, animalistic in its comfort.

Stiles stared over the man, who looked up at him like he was completely lost. “Seriously Derek. You have been driving me crazy all week with your pacing and brooding.” Stiles just kept talking, ignoring the open mouth look he was getting and how cute those bunny teeth looked on a normally intimidating man. “I didn’t even know you could do it more than you normally do.”

He had expected a fight, coming to the loft ready to be pushed around, cursed at and even being thrown out. what he got though was a warm set of lips chastely against his. Derek grabbed the front of Stiles’ shirt and pulled him basically into his lap. Derek was a furnace, a solid body of boiling heat that was now pressed along Stiles’ front.

It was one of the most passionate but innocent moments of Stiles life, still was. Sealed moist lips surrounded by rough stubble that pressed gently against his own. He could smell the citrus pop of Derek’s aftershave that tickled his nose.

They broke away and all Stiles is left with is a breathy, “I… wow.” Without warning, Stiles back hit the floor as he was shoved off Derek’s lap. He frankly was lucky that he didn’t break his neck against the coffee table. His world wobbled as he rubbed the back of his head, listless looking up at the alpha that just tossed him like a sack of flower. Derek stepped over him and started his insufferable pacing.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what. That was just… wow.” He just stayed there, spread out along the wood floor, letting it support his weight. Derek really rung his bell, with the kiss and the fall, leaving him breathless and unwilling to do more than follow the werewolf with his eyes. He looked like he was walking on the ceiling which would be funny if he didn’t look nearly feral with panic.

“I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you.” Derek nearly broke; you could see the gears grinding in his mind as he spiraled through what was probably a self-loathing mess. “I should know better,” He muttered to himself over and over ripping at the ends of his hair. Stiles was concerned that he was on the cliff edge, about to tumble into actual feral werewolf mode. The hair along his sideburns kept growing a receding burning the skin around the follicle red from the abrasion. His being was Literally tearing around the edges. He was spiraling and needed someone to drag him back up.

“You’re right,” His back cracking as he pulled himself to his feet. Derek actually took a step back in fear, his face stricken. “maybe you shouldn’t have done that. Lucky for you, I have been wanting to do that for months.” For the first time in his life, he actually crowded a werewolf into a corner. It was a weird intimidating power that in any other context would be addictive.

“Stiles-“

He pushed his hands to either side of Derek, literally inclosing the wolf into a small but hopefully comforting space, like a makeshift den. “No Derek. I’m telling you I’m okay.” He was mesmerized by Derek’s hazel eyes, they didn’t look anywhere but him, yet the colors shifted between speckled green and blood red. “In fact, I would be more upset if it never happened again.”

He whined; Derek Hale gave a full-blown whine. It was a pitiful sound reminiscent of a puppy realizing that they can’t have their owner’s dinner. He instantly looked young again, the scared 16-year-old whose heart and body were used to set his family aflame and couldn’t trust his own mind with the truth. It just hurt too much. He was in desperate need for gentle loving hands that take a lead for him. At least for a while.

“…Go out with me.” It was meant to be a question but Stiles could admit it didn’t sound like much of one. He worried his lip between his teeth, waiting for Derek’s reaction. The man had stopped gripping his hair, fisting them tightly to his side. He shook his head still looking concerned but more in control thankfully.

“Stiles I’m too old for you.” His voice was brokenly rough, dragged over a sore throat as dry as the desert. “You’re only in high school.” Stiles hummed in consent. It was true, he wouldn’t hit eighteen for almost a year and a half now.

“I’m not asking you to sleep with me.” He didn’t need that now and it honestly seemed Derek was the same. “Just come get dinner with me and hold my hand or something.” They could talk like adults, make decisions after airing out all the facts together. As far as Stiles was concerned, he liked Derek a lot and was willing to work hard to keep him around. Their lives were absolute chaos and to have something stable and innocent would be the sanctuary they desperately needed.

That’s how they started dating. They went achingly slow, exactly like they wanted. Nothing more the private dates with hand holding, hugs, and kiss in abundance. However, they were painfully aware that few would believe them when they said it was all above belt. So, they kept it secret. It was a year of hidden kisses and secret dates that made Stiles the happiest man on earth. No one knew, but then again, they didn’t need too. This was theirs, one of the only facets of their lives that was truly private and sweet and special.

Then it was poisoned.

Now he couldn’t even look at photos without feeling a vice grip on his heart.

He had never seen the photos before. Lydia and Jackson being intuitive enough to know that something in Beacon Hills was bothering him after the summer of their freshman. They limited their stories and never showed any photos out of silent respect for Stiles desire to not remember his home. He knows they never understood why but they also never pressed him on the matter. They were the best family he could ask for.

“I missed you, Stiles.” Lydia quickly admitted watching him as he inspected the photo. Putting down his phone he smiled at her.

“I’ve missed you too. Like crazy” He did, he really really did. His heart ached at least once a week thinking about how much he had missed his ‘New York pack’. His comment though only made her frown slightly, eyes brows tilting up in sadness.

“Why haven’t you come back to see us then?” Jackson held her tighter, he seemed to know why she was asking. He could probably sense her hurt, something Stiles had been very good at avoiding. All these years they were still a little bit tattered around the edges.

“I had a lot of reasons to leave.”

“Like you didn’t have any to stay?” She almost sounded angry again and Stiles was worried he would be slapped again. It was something they never talked about but he knew his abstinence from Beacon Hills killed all three of them a little on the inside. Stiles was just ‘lucky’ enough to know why they were just left with the hurt.

“I just need you to trust me, Lydia, I had my reasons.”

It was a blistering hot day when Stiles found himself in Derek’s loft begging almost on his knees. The man in question was standing against the wall of windows, silhouetted, stiff with tension.

“Please,” Stiles begged, voice cracking with pain. “I missed you. I still want to be with you” The last year had been hell, utter hell. New York was fine but he felt empty and alone missing every little thing that Derek did. How he insisted burnt bacon was the best or how he bit his lips when he read or how he could do nothing more than grumble until he had his first coffee or how he scuffed his feet on the floor when upset. He was sure doing a lot of scuffing right now.

“Stiles… I can’t…” He wasn’t even daring Stiles with eye contact as he stared out the loft windows at something. Probably a fucking squirrel.

“Why not!? I’m eighteen now, there is nothing to hide anymore.” They could act like this was a new development. That Stiles came back and they had that stereotypical summer love that became more. He had been planning, fantasizing, it since his birthday in April. So why wait now? They loved each other, Stiles wasn’t sure about a lot of things but this was one of them.

“The pack…” What a weak fucking excuse and Derek knew it. He was spitting made now, storming across the loft to force Derek to face him.

“What about them?” He demanded, wedging between the alpha and the window. “I’m sure they would be happ-“

“You are not pack!” Stuttered, his heart rattled in his ears as it came to a sudden stop. He could hear it, Derek could hear it, any werewolf in the tristate area could hear it. It felt like lighting straight to the chest, a savage crackling burn that would leave nothing but burnt flesh and deep scars. He instantly felt like vomiting, just puking an entire stomach contents worth of garbage onto the gray Henley stretched over Derek’s pecks. 

“W-what?” His eyes burned, moisture collecting in the eyelashes at the corners. Hot and misty making details hard to perceive. He couldn’t see the face Derek was giving him but it couldn’t be a friendly one. His legs shook like a baby deer. He grabbed onto Derek, seeking support, seeking for the snarky smile Derek teased him with, along with an ‘its all a joke’, and a kiss to calm his heart.

“You are no longer pack.” He all but ripped his arm away, leaving Stiles to tile and bobble. He would have crashed to the floor if he didn’t grab the window sill in time. The world tilted violently leaving him heaving on the cusp of a panic attack.

“You’re seriously kicking me out!? After everything, I did for you?” After all the nights of research, training, bandaging and comforting.

“You left!” He was desperate for air; his lungs had twisted up and refused him any grace. He had to get air but he had to get out what the truth was. He left for Derek, he left to protect Derek. He had no choice but it still broke him every day that he had too. Derek just needed the truth, if he had the truth, they could fix this. They could talk it out like they always do, bare themselves to each other and mend the tares Stiles was forced to make. They could fix this. He could fix this.

“I had too, to protec-“

“I never loved you!” Derek roared, so loud the windows shook around him. Stiles just crashed. He hit the hardwood floor as violently as his heart shattered against it. Tears streamed down his cheeks, his nose starting to run in his sadness, clogging up his airways. He couldn’t breathe. He was chocking on nothing and worried he could die. Here and now having a panic attack over the man who used to be so good at calming them. “I only wanted to sleep with you but you couldn’t even do that right.”

Bullshit. Derek was the one who demanded celibacy till 18. Derek was the one constantly paranoid that he was taking advantage of the situation. Derek was the one who wanted nothing more than kissing until he could trust Stiles with his heart. Derek was the one who always pulled away when Stiles hormones got the best of him. He wanted to say all of this but he was drowning on air. He couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, just had to sit there and listen to the lies and broken him. “Get out.”

“D-Derek... I-“

“Get the fuck out now.” Stiles heaved open the heavy rolling doors to Derek’s loft. The metal was just a bit too warm underneath his palm, making the flesh pink.

Stiles ran.

He ran and ran, for years, until he couldn’t anymore, and by then he had been running for so long it just felt like he was unable to not move. Sleeping arrangements felt confining if he was there for more than three weeks, a new city was a high his body demanded once a month and people asking him twenty questions felt like snares envisioned to tie him down.

He ran so much, he managed to run right back to Beacon Hills.

Lydia was the closest things to tears she could be in public. Tense posture and mild shuddering taking over her body. Jackson tried to work out the knots in her muscles but with little success “But why do those reasons have to be a secret? From us? We are like family.”

“It’s complicated,” Stiles hated himself for that answer. It was the shitty kind of answer his father used to give when he was a kid. The kind that made you angry and confused and hateful of adults and their insistence on secrets. Maybe that was all the proof he needed that he could act like an adult too.

“Life is complicated.” Jackson spat back, finally contributing, with all the anger caused by years of pain. Stiles could only shrug in compliance. Why fight the only real truth in this world? “I had to choose between work and here. You both know how much I wanted to travel and work gave me that.”

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

“Expanding your Chinese literature collection Lydia?” She was a smart girl and, at that moment, he felt a bubble of pride burst within him. Like a champagne bottle popping on new year’s, full of hope for the future and giddy joy of the now. Lydia smiled at him, though the edges were strained. They may be switching subjects but the issue wasn’t about to be forgotten anytime soon.

“There is a wonderful library at the pack house now. You would love it.”

Before he could reply with a question or accusation, he wasn’t sure which, the waiter saddled up to the side of their table with a put-upon smile. “Would you like another?” He asked Lydia directly, indicating her empty glass. She looked at her own glass with a dissatisfied scowl. Clearly, her beverage didn’t satisfy. “I don’t know yet.”

“Mmmm,” Stiles said between sips of his drink. The chamomile and honey providing a refreshingly sweet tang to his taste buds. “this is so good. Would you guys like some?” He extended his hand with his glass urging them to taste for themselves. Lydia plucked it from him to quickly sip, handing it over to Jackson after leaving a bright fuchsia lipstick stain against it.

“That is good, what’s in it?”

“The usual;” He answered before the waiter could get in a word. “Gin, honey, lemon but they used chamomile tea in place of lemon juice.”

“Yeah, we will take three more of those.” She ordered, making a decision for every. How Stiles had missed the days of her deciding everything. The waiter ran off the bar with their request leaving the three to pick up where they left off. The revelation that the pack was apparently closer than ever and further from Stiles than he had imagined. “So, you all seem to spend a lot of time together?”

“Yeah, ever since Jennifer started dating Derek, she pushed for us to have biweekly meals together.”  Lydia reminisced, flipping a strand of hair over her shoulder. “God how much we use to hate them. Now though, it’s a great bonding moment.” She quietly thanked the waiter as he returned with their drinks, making quick work to sip its contents. She smiled over the rim of her glass at her to best boys.

“It also gives us a chance to train together.” Jackson pointed out, picking up his own glass to drain half of it in a single gulp. A misty-eyed look comes over both of them, staring over his shoulder. Turning around Stiles saw what he thought they were staring at, it was a decent modern painting. Stiles sat back and sipped his own drink, waiting to see what information they chose to fill the silence with. It takes several moments but then, shaking her head Lydia became clear-eyed as she looked at Stiles as if seeing him for the first time. “We are all much stronger now.”

“You finally mastering the banshee?”

Her smile fell, and the good feelings were gone, “Mostly, but I… I still have episodes. I think?” She seemed confused by her own words like she wasn’t aware of the thoughts even existed in her mind. A well-manicured hand pressed against her forehead. Jackson himself had a scowl on his face, brows knitted tight, as he kept staring off into the distance.

“Episodes?”

“Lydia wandered out… into the woods” His words were slowing like mud from a trench, dredged up from the bowels of the earth. He looked at his wife, brushing away a strand of rogue hair covering her face. “Do you remember the three murders in high school?”

Ice pierced his skull, sharp and biting yet slick and smooth. He nearly snapped the stem of his glass from how harshly he slammed it to the table. “Do I remember? Lydia slept walked to the pool and found one of the victims in the middle of the night. Heather was a childhood friend of mine…” She had screamed so loud when Stiles had last seen her. Standing at the top of the stairs just moments away from protecting her. If he had been seconds sooner, hadn’t taken the detour for a beer or chatted with Scott quiet as long, he could have been there to protect her. Be there to keep her from being kidnapped out the window. Kept her safe from the psycho that decided to pull her to death. Kept her from the pain of being bludgeoned, garroted and stabbed. “I… She was waiting for me to help him in that wine cellar.”

“I’m sorry for dragging up bad memories,” Jackson said in one of his rare moments of outward compassion. “The killer never left Beacon Hills it seems.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, there is a new body about once a year.” He explained in as clinical of terms as possible, Lydia was still visibly shaken beside him and he himself had a bead of perspiration around the edge of his scalp. “There seem to be no clues the cops can follow except that they are all killed the same way.”

“Three-fold?” Stiles already knew his answer, dreaded it honestly, but it always paid to be thorough.

“Yeah, we have been trying to help the Sheriff as much as possible but…”

“Are they still going after only virgins?”

“No, none of them after the first three were. We checked.” Lydia finally said, her voice shaky as her fingers endless fiddled with the stem of her glass. Martins never fidgeted so to see her move so anxiously was a testament to the stress that the situation wrought.

“You think it’s supernatural?”

“We don’t know what to think anymore.” If fidgeting was rare than self-doubt was almost mythical when it fell from Lydia’s lips. It made stiles nerves go haywire. Whatever this thing was it put Lydia on edge and that was not something to take lightly. Understandable though, the town had apparently been dealing with a decades-long serial killer. S person in the community who was hunting down individuals for some unknown reason. Wait…“Was Scott-“

“No, no he was… was… burned… alive. It looked like a botched suicide… at a motel on the outskirts of town” Stiles felt the bile lick the edges of his esophagus. A threat of his entire stomach emptying itself on the fancy restaurant floor. He had no details and that almost made the horrific images in his head even worse. Scott burnt beyond recognition, alone in a dirt cheap motel. Alone. In pain. Scared. Did he scream? Did his werewolf genes try and regenerate? Did he think about Allison, his mom, Stiles when he lights that flame? “Lydia found him.”

“Oh my god, Lydia.”

“It was awful. The look on his face. He was terrified… completely woofed out… laying in that room, everything blackened with soot.”

Stiles couldn’t look at them. He couldn’t see the pain on their faces without throwing up. Seeing them would be a tentative confirmation that all that he was hearing was a sick truth. A truth none of them even had the barest idea on how to begin to recover from. “My…. My Dad didn’t say anything to me about suicide.”

“The pack decided to not tell many people.” Jackson downed the rest of his glass at that. Even picking up Stiles and drinking the rest of his. The glassy-eyed look took over again. Probably deep in thought.

“But Scott wouldn’t.”

“We know.” His voice was distant. Coming from a place within him that wasn’t censored by his mind. “He was acting weird all week. Getting in fights with Derek and Jennifer, he stopped coming to pack dinners, Allison said he spent all his time in the woods. He wouldn’t tell us what was going on though. He just left one night. Than Lydia found him that morning.”

In the worst timing possible, their food came and one look at his blackened salmon made him dry heave. Concerned the waiter queried about if they needed anything else and stiles didn’t pause in demand the check. They sat in utter silence waiting for their bill. They paid in utter silence. Left the restaurant in utter silence. Goodbyes were given in utter silent hugs. All the same, Stiles returned to an utterly silent house.

He laid in bed, unwilling to close his eyes for fear of what he would imagine. He just laid in utter silence, counting down the minutes until he had to stand beside to coffin of his brother. It would be closed casket. Had to be, there would be no way to show a charred corpse to the public without upset. People couldn’t handle that. They wouldn’t be able to handle the boils the scars. The burned flesh wounds or how the human eyes reacted to such heat. Little knew just how they melted in the fire, looking like scrambled eggs against parched burnt cheeks. Stiles had seen it once before and he would never forget the look of scramble egg eyes and skin literally melting off the bone.

He vaulted from his bed, racing to the toilet to puck. His dry heaving completely masking the sound of someone trying to enter his room from the window.

Chapter Text

Getting no sleep is shit. You feel like shit, look like shit and can think anything worth more than complete and utter shit. The only thing worse than that shit was the special type of hell that came with being stripped right out of the throes of his nightmare.

2:24 AM taunted Stiles, the digital clock numbers a burning red, illumined the pitch-black room. Curtains closed tight, dad asleep, there was nothing to produce light other than his old clock. When he was a little kid it would have scared him as the red light threw his room into an ominous play of shadows, as you’d see in old school horrors. Compared to his recent nightmares though, it was a sweet comfort to know he was nowhere more special than his bed. Sweat drenched sheets clinging to his clammy skin

The phantom stench of burning human fat licked at the edges of his memory as he scrubbed his sweaty face. His eyes ached something fierce like they were being assaulted with the wretched smoke that plumed from bubbling fires. His room blurred into unrecognizable reds as his eyes teared up. Crying making his nose run as well just making him a bigger and wetter mess.

He was always a mess after nightmares like that. His brain loved to torture him with memories of that burned out town. Never let him forget the desperate pace of his heart as he tried to dig out a trapped family. It was too late though, as he threw off the charred splinted bit of ceiling rafter only to be met by a gruesome death mask. She was only ten, almost eleven in three months, she loved to tell him that when they shared dinners.

Throwing off the covers ignoring the knotting rumble in his belly, begging to expel its limited contents. He wasn’t going to be sick; he has handled with this before. He can handle it again.

Instead, he went through a pale pantomime of his routine, he did the bare minimum to adhere to his schedule.

As he started out his run it was barely past the speeds of a fast walk. The forest trees leisurely passed by as his feet beat against the ground. He didn’t bother with music, instead opting to focus on the panting of his breath and the crunch of brittle branches.

Rustling leaves, crackling from summer parchment, came from behind him. “Again?” He whispered, slowing down to a stop in a small meadow. The sound of movement kept occurring all around him, but no one broke through the underbrush. The sun was blindingly bright in the meadow, streaming through the leaves, making it impossible to look between the trees into the shadows. The rustling kept going though, he was being followed and again his stalker was terrible at stealth.

“Derek, I know it’s you, you Stalkerwolf.” Stiles' voice bounced off the tree trunks, but no other response came back to him. The rustling stopped. Stiles just rolled his eyes in exasperation. “If you have a reason for stalking me, come out and say it.” He much rather has this issue settled in a fast flurry of fists instead of this tedious chase. No response came. He wished were being ignored… again.

It made his blood boil. Anger liking at every thought in his head. “Fine be a coward!” his voice loud enough to spook a bird from her nest. Her angry squawks were the only sounds of life around him. Undeterred he kept on talking, “I know you don’t want me here. Frankly, I don’t want to be here either.”

“Leave me alone and I will leave soon enough.” He promised, voice lowering but certain that Alpha Hale could hear him. That should make him happy, Stiles was nothing more than a passing discomfort for him and his precious pack. In less than a week, he would be nothing but a distant memory meant to be forgotten. “Just stay out of my fucking way and stop stalking me!”

Now he just felt stupid, yelling in the silent forest. Shaking his head in frustration, he kicked off and kept on running until his timer told him he could stop. The sounds of rustling underbrush never followed him after. He was alone like he liked it.

When it came time to do his weightlifting, he couldn’t be bothered to even count how many reps he did. He also started taking more time resting than actually working his muscles. His mind was too much of a mess for him to focus on anything. A jumbled pile of anger and fear and sadness. He couldn’t shake the look of Derek after years of abstaining. He couldn’t shake the stomach-churning reaction he had when he got the call about Scott. He couldn’t shake the memory of the burning smell and was near ready to vomit.

 Stumbling back home he ignored the sounds of his father getting ready in his room, locking himself into his own childhood room.

He ripped his garment bag from the closet. Tugging down the zipper to look at the all-black double-breasted suit he had bought for the occasion. It was a pretty penny to purchase and have made while in rural Ghayathi, but it was worth it. The white silk lining, meant to honor the spirits and inspire humility, even gave him something to smile about. A young mother of the tribe, hearing about the sad reason for his suit, had demanded he hand it over for one night. When he was given it back the next morning it had new lining and a note of thanks, in a child’s script, pinned to the shoulder.

Washing off the stench on his body, and brushing the acidic burning from his mouth, Stiles made quick work cleaning. Taking great care to not wrinkle anything he buttons himself into his suit. The white lining, that glistened with the patterned Arabic symbol for Allah, disappeared as he buttoned his jacket. The tie was tight around his neck, but it matched his level of emotional discomforted. It felt right for the day. With one more sad once over of his reflection he headed downstairs.

His dad was already in the kitchen as he stumbled down the stairs in his stiff shoes. His dad was clean-cut and handsome in his own all-black suit, one of his finest ones, that he wore more than he would wish too. His father had been to more funerals than most could ever fear to have to see. Attending ones of fallen officers, old war buddies and the few victims who slipped through his grasp. Each one was a wrinkle along his brow, one that aged, dignified and wholly became his father.

“You should eat, son.” He said while sliding a plate of eggs and a coffee towards him. His own already empty and in the sink to be washed later. Food seemed tasteless in his mouth, just a series of textures to be mushed up and swallowed. He and his dad didn’t speak, both contents to ‘reserve energy for later’ as his mother used to put it. The Stilinski men were much better communicators in the later hours of the day, after about two meals and three coffees.

Meals completed and dishes washed they huddled into Stiles rental, heading for the funeral home. His dad, holding the flowers in his lap, gave directions from the passenger seat. The funeral home was the largest in the region, and the most expensive. It spoke to Scotts person that it took Stiles and his father 5 minutes to find a parking spot in the swollen parking lot. People were everywhere, shuffling around in cars, pulling out children and trying to make their way into the building.

Inside the home was ornately decorated in that open-ended way that immolates hospitals and retirement homes. Walls were filled in non-offensive art of architecture, nature, and vaguely biblical portraits. Everyone was talking in low voices, shuffling amongst each other offering up tender hugs, tearful condolences, and the rare sad smile when a happy story was shared.

His father picked up a set of obituaries from the side table. Next to it was an enormous tv screen slowly shuffling through photos of Scott. Stiles just froze, watching the images pass by. He felt a gapping ache in his chest. Scott looked happy, so happy, with his arm slung around Allison and His mom, smiling like an idiot in scrubs for his first day at the vet. He had missed that. He had missed so much. Holidays with the pack at the beaches and a handful of alcohol-soaked college parties in Cancun.

Whether it was the mood of the day or an actual fact of his life, Scott looked so damn lively in every image. Candid photos catching him in mid-motion and posed portraits teeming with energy and bright smiles. Frozen memories of his hugging his mother half to death, wrestling a muddy puppy into the vet’s shower stall, planting large wet kisses on Allison’s cheeks, running, playing, singing, dancing… living. Not a single one of them had Stiles. Stiles couldn’t help but smile and cry as the images filtered through their cycles. There was so much life there, so much he had missed, and now he wouldn’t be able to make up for it.

Fire coated the lining of his esophagus as he fought down the urge to be sick yet again. sniffing, he turned his back on the photos. Ignored the proof of his absence, instead of scanning the crowd for familiar faces.

He saw her in mere seconds, standing across the black seas of sad people. Looking regal as ever, stood Melissa McCall, clad in a black refined cocktail dress. Pressed close to the corner of the front room, meeting people from all directions. With half a room and over a decade of time separating them, Stiles relegates himself to slowly tiding through the sea of acquaintances. Most stop his father, though a few took long moments to look in wonder at Stiles in his new age. It all left him feeling like he was a specimen on display. With much small talk and even more patience, they waded closer to the back wall and the large line of people hoping to have a moment with Melissa.

The pack was close by, almost picturesquely framed by a large bay window. They were huddled together, leaning towards one another, basking in the company of one another. Looking totally at ease with each other’s presence. Looking so much more like the pack they were meant to be than when Stiles was last around. Looking exactly how he had dreamed they would. He just wasn’t prepared to looking in from the outside.

The line his father and he were in brought him far closer to that pack than he would hope for. With all the determination of a petulant toddler, he stared straight ahead at the back of the head of a matronly woman who had missed a chunk of straight hair with her curling iron today. The platinum white strands, cascading like a mercury waterfall down her back. Slowly, one step at a time they got closer to Melissa and the Pack, who thankfully hadn’t seemed aware enough of their surroundings to notice his presence.

The line was moving excruciatingly slowly, people taking the time to really talk with Melisa. Which was fine and wonderful when you were the one doing the talking but absolutely dull when you were fifteen people back and just waiting in this morbid parade of people.

Suddenly, a loud gasp snatched his attention along with the sounding people in line with them.

He was met with the wide tearful doe eyes of Allison Argent. Tears stream down her face as Derek pull her in close, her head under against his neck, while Jennifer holds on tight to her arm. Stiles just stands there looking at her. Everything around them went silent as she suddenly began to silently ball, turning on her toes and rushing from the room. He could have sworn he heard Derek snarl at him as he quickly followed after Allison. Leaving in his wake a series of confused looks from random townspeople and all outglares from several pack members

He could feel dozens of eyes on him as him. His collar felt tighter and hotter than before. His dad stood close like he could shield his son from all the eyes.

“Stiles?”

“I… I think she is just surprised to see me.” He lies, voice sounding thick like molasses. Deep in his stomach is the knot telling him she was more than surprised. She was shattered to see him. An angry little voice in his head eerily like Lydia’s yelling at him ‘it’s all your fault. You should have been there.’

 “It’s okay, Stiles,” his father whispered to him, rubbing reassuring circles along his shoulder blades. He had a sinking feeling that it very much wasn’t. The look in her and Derek’s eyes made the icy feeling in his heart solidify. They hated him, were mad at him. Hell, they might even blame him.

Lydia said she didn’t mean it. He had forgiven her, said he understood that she didn’t mean what she had said, but she knew. He always knew. She meant it. Some small part of her meant it and it wasn’t insignificant. They all blamed him for what happened to Scott. What was worse though, he blamed himself.

Someone saddled up next to him and his father. “Is everything alright here Noah?” Mr. McCall stood there, looking as polished and bureaucrat as ever. Every hair had its place and not a single speck dared touch his well-cared-for black suit

“Yes, I am sure she was just surprised to see my son. It has been a while since he has been home.” His father admitted, trying his best to about sounding like he was guilting Stiles. His dad might not know why he left but he was a loyal man who let Stiles be his own. “Stiles. It has been a while.” Instantly Stiles noticed the ring gracing Mr. McCall’s left hand, so somethings actually do change it seems.

“Mr. McCall, I wish we didn’t have to meet… under such events.” Stiles said, trying his best to seem as mature and grown-up as possible. Prove that he wasn’t that useless slacker with an incurable case of ADHD that the man always claimed he would be.

“Same.” A haunted look settling just behind his eyes, far off, before sliding a mask into place. “You seem to have done well for yourself. Your father always has amazing things to say.” The two men sharing a found fatherly smile amongst them.

“You’re pen pals?” He asked with thinly veiled confusion to his dad, who simply just shrugged with no remorse. It probably shouldn’t have surprised him though, the men had more in common than naught. Both being formerly married, fathers, work in law enforcement and sons that had pensions for dusting up trouble.

“I’ve been stationed here recently. Looking into the serial killings.”

“And here I thought you were here to remember Scott.” Even as the words fall from his lips, he nearly chokes on the uncontrolled bile that it was steeped in.

“Stiles!” An iron grip wrap around his forearm. His dad ready to drag his pestering son away as he had to all through high school. “That is a horrible thing to say!” His face is ruddy with anger and Stiles’ fear of reprimand couldn’t surpass the self-loathing in him. He hated himself for putting such a broken look in a man’s eyes, even a deeply disappointing man like Mr. McCall.

“It is alright, Noah.” He lies, everything about him isn’t alright. “I am sure it is just Stiles’ fervidly loyal nature to my son still shining through.” There was a softness to his claims that made Stiles pause. Mr. McCall was a lot of things but he was never known for saying something he didn’t believe, at least when he was sober. The change in Stiles pockets jingled as he nervously shoved his hands into them. His jaw ached with how harshly he was clenching his teeth together. “Thank you for always being there to support him. Especially when I couldn’t… or wouldn’t.”

“I… I am sorry.” God, it sounded like such an empty phrase and only became emptier with each repetition. “What I said was uncalled for. You are grieving as well.” He looks at his dad hoping he can read the apology in his eyes as well.

“We all are.” A hush joins them as a companion as the three slowly follow the line closer to Melissa. His father and Mr. McCall passing the wait with quiet conversation. Stiles just watched the level of comfort that both men had with each other. How their posturers relaxed around the other, how they comfortably flowed through conversations.

“Stiles.” Melissa’s voice was soft and wet, his name sounding so special in her motherly tone. Her eyes teared up as her surprisingly strong arms wrapped around his shoulders. She had to stand on her toes but she could easily tuck her face into his neck, pressing into him. He wrapped her up and tucked his face into her hair, smelling of bargain brand soap she bought all his life. It was the smell of home. “Come here, Noah.” She summons his father in close and wraps him up in her arms as well. Three of them huddled in close. He had them, two of the most important people in his arms. It felt like he was at home.

 “Hi, momma McCall.” He whispered into her curly tresses, feeling her back shutter as she sniffed back tears.

“I have missed you so much. We missed you so much.” She said, looking up at him with a dazzlingly somber smile. She inspected his face. Hopefully, she found what she wanted as she petted down the sides of his unruly styled hair. “It has gotten so long.” She breathily laughed, tucking a strand of two behind his ears.

“My manager says I look like a greaser.” Her eyes crinkled with her smile. The wrinkles were new, but they were becoming on her. A woman aging with all the grace of the world in her pinky. She patted him down, adjusting every little detail of his suit like the fretting mother she had been for the last two decades. The content she turned to his father for another hug and hellos. Pulling away she picked up both their hands.

“I like it. You look very handsome, like a proper adult.”

“Instead of what? A hoodlum.”

“It’s about time you changed that look.” Her rueful smile made snort with humor. It would be a hurtful dig if it wasn’t for the fact that she was the one brandishing the electric razor during his hoodlum phase. “Please, sit with me.” It was a soft request, something tender with as much opening for denial as one could bare to give. His father looked as surprised as Stiles felt. He had already made peace with the idea of hiding in the back of the church. Slinking amongst the corners of the pews while the pack sat with Melissa as her family in the front rows.

“Are you sure?” His dad asked while Stiles shot a few fugitives looks to the pack. He knew they could hear them, though they played ignorant as they quietly talked amongst themselves.

Melissa nodded, refusing to let go of either man’s hand, “You are like a second son to me.” She had so much conviction in her voice it made Stiles' heart swell. Not a moment had to seem to pass where she lost any love for him. “and you are a good as family to me, Noah.”

With pronouncements like that, neither Stilinski could say no. Instead, they took Melissa by the arm each and slowly walked her down the row of pews as the church opened its doors. The chapel was crammed full of flowers, an auspicious display of blooming lilies was pressed into every available space. The casket set like an opposing mass against the front wall raised up slightly on a podium. Closed and surrounded by an explosion of flowers, the wood glimmered under the spotlights pointed at it. Placed to the wings of the podium were two large poster print outs of Scott with his most award-winning smiles. Looking every bit, the young vibrant victim that he was.

A skeletal looking bald man in priestly frock stood before the seated crowd. His voice was smoky, from a life of a carton of cigarettes a day, but he spoke with a steady assurance that people looked for in religious icons. He delivered his prayers with a softness of heart, practiced from years of burying his own friends. A few sniffles and the creaking of pews as people shifted was the only other sound in the room, while the man spoke. All attention on him and the large flower display behind him.

Melissa set herself between him and his father. Both Stilinski men taking one of her hands to hold in solidarity. Her work caused thumb rubbing circles along the tops of his palms, tracing the veins.

When the priest finished saying his speech and music started playing, a slower but not an unhappy song, from a playlist of Scott’s favorites. Leading the line, Melissa stood with the help of the Sheriff. Still clutching Stiles' hand, all three walked up to the closed casket.

She pressed a teary-eyed kiss to the lacquered wood, the closest she could get to her son now. His dad stood behind her, one hand on her at all times in support. Her hands shook ever so slightly as she traced the inlaid pattern of the triskelia.

His father took his turn, simply patting lightly against the lid just as he used to pat Scott on the back in pride. With a small somber smile, he looped his arm around Melissa and gently led her back to her seat. Stiles stayed behind, taking a moment to just stare at his own reflection in the polished wood. He had thought he would have some silent prayer or big gesture ready to do as a final goodbye. Now though he was left completely empty. Empty of emotions, tears and thought, just standing and blindly staring at the outcome the world let be.

Sighing, he gently placed his bouquets atop the casket, right over the spiral. A small dusting of glitter fell from the petals, sprinkling along the top. It wasn’t traditional, to place your own flower, but he was going to send a clear message. It was a tradition meant only for family members and Scott was his brother till the end. With one more bracing breathe, he turned to head back to his seat, catching a glimpse of the crowd.

Allison was surprisingly in the back, huddled near her father, face still stained with tear tracks. He just hoped that she was back there from coming in last and not avoiding him in the front.

Just a few rows in front of her, the pack seemed livid. Those who could look at him were giving him icy stares. People might think that Stiles had shoved wolfsbane up their asses with the sour dower scowl on their faces. Good, he might not have been here but he would be damned if they went a single day not knowing how much closer he was to Scott than they would ever be. Hand delivering flowers was meant for the family alone, and Stiles was god damn family. Melissa fucking said so herself when she let him sit with her in the front row, right beside her.

Returning to their seats, Stiles watched the rest pay their respects with placid attention. Most were up for mere seconds, giving small bows of prayer of patting the case like you patted a heaving dog.  The pack stood with the rest of their row and followed in suit, though in much closer quarters than the human visitors. Each of them seemed to wobble, seeking leverage from one another as they stepped up to the coffin. Even Derek’s burning glare softened, a foggy glaze when they landed upon the glittering white flowers set atop the wood inlay.

Jennifer stumbled suddenly, the toe of her pointed shoe catching on the step it seems, knocking her forward. Luckily for Jennifer’s ankles, Erica was there, catching her in a steadying embrace. She was instantly pale, with a light sheen of sweat on her brow. Grief had odd effects on people, Stiles knew that all too well with his own past but she seemed almost ill. Her thank you and smile did little to conceal that shell-shocked look on her face.

Quickly she was shuffled back to their seats, assisted on each side by Erica and Lydia. Bitterness swelled in Stiles' gut as everyone around him began to whisper in hushed tones about her. Well, it wouldn’t be a Beacon Hills funeral without a bit of drama now, would it?

The rest of the service went by as normal as any. More sermons and music from the priest interspersed with an open invite for anyone to come up and talk. With devastated people trying to tell cheery stories to balm the pain. All in all, it went by entirely too slow yet was done in an instant. With the final service song playing, people were invited to congregate at the Hale house for the rest of the afternoon.

People loitered out in the lobby, politely debating the merits of going all the way to the preserve. Stiles, watched his father discuss such ideas with Melissa and a young deputy. He planned to drop his father off if need be than just wait at home, alone, until he picked the man up again. A childish part of him wanted to beg his father not to go, but that part was going to stay silent. Instead, standing in the corner, leaning between a case of urns and a potted fern. Mindlessly he flicked through a half dozen pointless apps on his phone, opening them, shuffling pages, closing them and repeat.

“Stiles Stilinski,” A familiar voice pulled his attention away from h8is phone. Chris Argent stood before him in the late morning sun, coming through the window. He looked almost identical to Stiles memory. A few more greys sprinkled in amongst the blonde, but still in identical militaristic style for almost a decade. “It has been a while since I saw you in these woods.”

“Nine years in fact,” Stiles mentioned offhandedly shoving the phone into his back pocket.

“So long? What has been keeping you away?”

“Work mostly.” Chris hummed in acceptance. The nicest part of the man, he never felt the need to know everything, never digging more than necessary.

“Stiles, you are looking good.” He opted to say instead, giving Stiles an appraising look. “Ever thought about getting work in Beacon Hills, my company could use a man like you.”

“Dad please don’t.” Allison rushed up, wrapping a hand around her father's arm as if she wishes to drag him away. Stiles, heart sunk, she was so desperate to avoid him that she wanted her father nowhere near him. She flushed looking at Stiles with a pained expression.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t… he recently finished training a recruit and has been looking for new ones.” Allison offers up a small smile, she looks sad and tired but under it all she is still beautiful and youthful in her maturity. Her dimples have only gotten deeper and cuter, she could have men hanging from her every smile now. “You wouldn’t like it much I’m sure though. Beacon Hills doesn’t have much over New York City or all those other places you’ve been to.”

“Well if you ever want a change of pace.” Chris smiled, handing a business card, crisp white and maddening vague in its titles and information, like any good business card.

“Chris has actually been helping us. His knowledge from years of hunting has been a great asset to combing the woods.” Mr. McCall walked up; arm slung over his current wife. A sweet lady with large blowout curls and a love of red lipsticks. Scott and she seemed to grow close over the months of planning her wedding to his father. By then though, Stiles was long gone so he, shamefaced, couldn’t honestly place her name. “Good to see you, Chris,” He said, shaking hands with the man in greeting.

“Rafe.” Chris gave one of his world-weary smiles “I was just catching up with Stiles.”

“You mean recruiting?” Stiles took a jab with a sly grin, ignoring his dads shaking head.

“It is only recruiting if it works,” Chris replied before turning his full attention to the older men of the group. Stiles watching comfortably as they all interacted with the ease of old friends. As their discussion washed over him, he let his eyes wander to the rest of the milling crowd. Slowly the funeral home was emptying out, a few picking up floral arrangements to help Melissa transfer to her house. Melissa herself was busy with a deluge of goodbyes and hugs, all while holding the small wooden box that now contained all the Scott.

The pack was hanging around though, in the corner again, observing the rest of the crowds as well. Isaac had seemed to finally grow into his long-limbed form, his hair cut short to accentuate his cheekbones. It all made him look rather sever as if he hadn’t smiled in years nor did he plan to break that streak anytime soon. Boyd had broadened out, looking like a posh businessman in his tailor suit. They rounded out the group, alongside Jackson, seeming like bodyguards to the president of the country rather than betas to the local Alpha.

His stomach dropped though as he realized that the girls were walking towards him

Jennifer, flanked by Lydia and Erica, walked up, looking a figure in graceful flowing black. They all looked at Stiles with a laser pointed accuracy, like they could read every move that his cells made. Erica probably hears it with how focused she was. All of them were lightly scented with Acacia perfume. Jennifer smiled softly at him, her eyes glittering, she looked beautiful even in sadness. “Stiles, Will you be joining us for the rest of the wake?”

Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. Even if his life depended on it. “Ahhh no. Thank you, Jennifer, but I think I will have to pass.” Her kind smile fell, eyes glinting.

“You sure?” Erica asked, looking at him imploringly.

“Yes, Erica. I think it’s for the best. I’ll just drop off my dad.”

“What will you do instead?” She pressed, desperate to have him around longer than he would like to be.

“Oh, work or something…” He hoped the tight-lipped smile disguised well enough how tightly clenched his jaw was. All three gave him one last imploring look, unfortunately for them, he had enough practice saying no to Scott’s puppy eyes that theirs could do very little to his conscious. The effect was also tempered by the heated glares coming from the male pack members. They all looked ready to pounce on him and rip him to shreds.

It was all enough pressure to have him pull his father out the door. With a soft goodbye and a promise to join Mellissa for dinner, the Stilinski men headed to their car.

The drive to the Hale house was dead silent. His dad seemed more preoccupied with staring out of the window. Stiles focused instead on the music softly coming from the turned down the radio. Their suit jackets were folded in the back but even with shirt sleeves rolled up the car felt stifling. The rustling of the woods surrounds them as they rolled down the road with the windows down.

Turning onto the preserve lane force stiles to slow the car to a crawl. Partly because of the bumpy woodsy road but mostly from the sheer volume of cars lining the street. A distinct feeling of Deja vu rolls over Stiles as he brakes the car in front of the Hale house. The music wasn’t nearly as loud as it was the first night, he showed up but even more, people spilled out onto the wrap-around porch.

“Alright Dad, just shoot me a text when you are ready for me to pick you up?” His father simply nodded, while patting the top of stiles hand that was on the gear shift, before popping open the door and getting out.

“Drive safe son. I will see you soon.” The car’s roof gave a hollow metallic thump as his dad shuts the door. Stiles waited only long enough to see his dad make it into the threshold, before tearing down the road like he was being chased by demons.

It was a mild-mannered evening when he finally parked at the graveyard. It would almost be pleasant weather if Stiles didn’t already feel like a dark cloud was hovering over his head. The slight bite of chill in the air felt lovely against his flushed skin. Taking a moment, he removed his tie and popped a few buttons on his shirt, trying to get as comfortable as possible, before locking the doors and heading deep into the graveyard.

Rows up rows of headstones sprawled across the grass like a series of neglected teeth. Some lusting white in the waning sunlight while others were rotting away with the decay of generations. Several had discolored fraying fabric fake flowers embedded into the ground. The grave he was looking for barely stood out amongst the backdrop of other headstones and field grass. The only thing guiding Stiles to his destination was muscle memory.

              Her headstone was not the worst cared for in the lot, but it also wasn’t the best. The number of weeds around the edges belayed how little his dad had been recent. A fact that hurt but he couldn’t honestly even be mad about it. Life moved on, sometimes it was easier for others but in the end, life always moved on. Ignoring the stains to his slacks, Stiles dropped to his knees, methodically pulling out the plants. The ground was soft so the dandelions lifted with ease, roots and all.

The rough stone was icy cold as he pressed a soft kiss against the top of the tombstone. “Hi there, mom.” He said softly, settling with his back against the grave. “It’s been a while. I am sorry about that. I have been running all over the world for work, you would love all the things I have seen.”

Leaves rustled around him as he slowly recounted the decade for his mother. “Your favorite would by far would be Iceland. All the amazing nature, nothing would have made you happier than to rent a camper van and just drive around for years. Golden fields, volcanic rock and large naturally made hot springs that you can even swim in during an ice storm.

Though, the best part of traveling has to be getting to meet so many wonderful people. There are so many women out there that remind me of you. There is one woman in Singapore I think you would absolutely adore, a botanist in the orchid garden who loves Stephen King novels. You could spend hours over tea talking about those subjects, she was just so electric when you got her started on her interests.

Though, I guess you probably have already met her. If there are two places, I am sure that you are both up there together, sharing tea and chatting. If so, I hope she isn’t to upset with me to mess up. I could have done better but at the time it was my best.

I hope you would ab proud of me. I just try to help these people. Overall it makes me just miss you all the more. I have missed yo-”

Suddenly a black mass engulfed him, blazing heat pressing into his front, pushing his back into the rock of his mother’s grave. Caught off guard Stiles tried to kick out his legs, wiggle free, but the body above him was baring down. He was hit by an all to familiar scent. Derek.

That pain in the ass!

Derek’s hands pinned his hands to the side of one of his hips. It was warm and large and threatening and protective and confusing. Derek bared down his weight to keep Stiles pinned. His face was shoved into the juncture of Stiles’ neck. With his one free hand, Derek wrapped it around Stiles back, making some bastardized hug. It was enough to knock all the air out of his lungs, better than any roundhouse kick to the chest.

Stiles squirmed, just trying to wrap his hand around the blade tucked in the back of his pants. Derek was being dead weight. He was refusing so move than, settling tight like every molecule of his being was collapsing into comfort. There was a warm rumble so strong it vibrated into Stiles' chest, it sounded animalistic. The grit of his beard itched Styles Adam’s apple.

Snarling, Stiles bites down on the small bit of neck exposed to his teeth. With a satisfying moment, digging his teeth into the muscle. The skin broke under the force with the coppery taste of blood rushed into his mouth. Derek had the gall to just grunt in frustration. He refused to move his face away from where it is pressed into Stiles own neck. For half a moment Stiles worries that he will be bitten back before remembering, turning him into a werewolf would just be a bigger punishment for Derek. The alpha would rather die than do that and give Stiles any chance to claim brotherhood in the pack.

Rearing back, the chunk of the neck being tugged away from his mouth’s reach, Stiles’ glare is met by blazing red eyes. Derek just heaves warm breathes into the tight space between them. So close the edges of their hair, mix into one another. Stiles is expecting a threat or a growl or something. All he gets is burning eyes that seem to want to scorch the deepest parts of his soul.

Stiles just spat the blood back at Derek’s, red speckling his face like freckles. “What is your fucking problem?” His voice cracked with the volume of his voice. He tried to kick out his legs again, gain any bit of leverage he could, but Derek had very effectively pinned down with his long legs. Every part of him was pressed into Stiles from the line of his hips al the way up the arms bracketing his back and pinning his shoulders to the stone behind him.

“You… leave. Alone.” Derek slowly demanded looking like all the weight of his meaning could move mountains. The fuck you that was on Stiles’ lips was swallowed up but they bruising kiss Derek laid on him. His mouth was left wide open and defenseless to the ensuing frontal attack of tongues. Wrapping, coiling and wrestling with Stiles in an all too familiar way that still felt like to sweetly nostalgic.

The arm around his back pulled him somehow even closer, lifting his shoulder up from the headstone behind him. Pressing him into the solid burning lines of Derek’s deliciously ripped abs. With pavlova results, Stiles mind goes quiet while his muscle memory takes over, turning his head and pressing back with all the enthusiasm of a teenager.

Teeth clacked together, heavy nose breathing and general dishevelment that made you feel alive course through Stiles. It had been far too long since he had done with anyone, a dry spell of about a year, and even longer since the chemistry had been so strong.

Derek gave a deep rumble that vibrates from his throat and right into Stiles' mouth. Without meaning too he returned the sentiment with his own reverberating moan. Derek’s response felt eerily like words being spoken directly into Stiles, but amongst all the other sense it was impossible to make out any meaning in them.

And like a strike a bolt of lightning the alpha was gone once more. Leaving in his wake of skidded shoe stains in the mud and a very confused Stiles Stilinski.

“What the fuck just happened!?” he heaved out, heart beating as he had just finished a two-hour marathon. The night rolled in and once the nightshift of the cemetery has gotten into full swing, Stiles finally found the drive to stand up. Quickly he made way to his car, fully intending to head back to his father’s house and never leaving until his flight out of town.

Rolling out the driveway into the road, he made it three minutes towards his destination before remembering his dad. The sheriff was still at the Hale’s house. A house that Stiles had assumed Derek would be at, hosting and generally leaving him alone. Exasperated, stiles thunked his head against his wheel. Maybe if he bashed his brains enough, he could blackout for the rest of the week.

None the less, he had promised, so wheeling the car around he headed back to the preserve. He drove fast, desperate to drive away from the confusion of Derek and the cemetery. What had just happened was starting to settle in and it left Stiles completely off-kilter. Now he was driving to the home of the man who made him feel frayed around the edges like no other.

Why the hell was Derek everywhere? Why did he follow Stiles because there was no other reason for him to be at the cemetery if he wasn’t keeping tabs on Stiles? Did he see him a threat? Pray? A chew toy to be played with? Why kiss him though? Maybe the stress of losing a packmate?

Stiles was the last one to leave the pack before Scott. Maybe seeing him now, so closely after the loss of a vital member did something to the Alpha in Derek. He had mentioned once before about how that part of him at times could feel like a totally separate entity. Maybe the Alpha, hurt and sad had sought out another former member. Stiles wasn’t some long-lost beta though. He was a useless human pushed out and told never to return without fear of pain. Yet here he was back, like the reckless asshole he was, and there weren’t angry fists waiting for him. Just angry words and kisses, though will how it was all going he might take the fists. He knew how to handle a fight like that.

The warm kiss and angry words it all made a hurricane of confusion swirling in his head. A storm that ragged in his brain the entire drive to the Hale house. Where Derek was supposed to be, not in an empty cemetery making out with his ex.

Degradingly he parked outside the Hale house again, cutting the lights and engine to limit werewolf sense from noticing him. The house was full to bursting again, but with a more subdued nature to it. No loud music just the robust sounds of a large group dog dinner guests. Sinking low into his seat, he pulled out his phone to call his father. Ringing twice, it was answered with the sound of multiple groups of people chatting over top each other.

“Dad. I am outside.” He said quickly, having sat too long already.

“Stiles, why the h-hell are you out… outside? Come inside and seee your friends.”

“I’m not going to do that.” He said after a calming breath to ease the frustration of repeating a subject over and over.

“Why?”

“I don’t want to talk about his right now.”

“You never wa…want to talk abou it. Not even to meee. Youuu just fuc-kin lef-“ His slurring words made Stiles nauseous. The implications making him want to be sick.

“Dad… are you drunk?”

“I jus had a beer or two.” There it was. Just like Derek, his dad had backslid. He was drinking again and drinking a lot. It felt like a betrayal. His father was a horrible drunk and after only years of recovery did, he finally manage to stay on the wagon. They were dark times for both the Stilinski men.

All the emotions suddenly crashed into him. All the hurt and pain and the sinking feeling of not knowing these people anymore crushed him. He was a stranger in his own home town. His eyes started to burn, a knot forming in his throat. He felt alone. Alone on a precarious cliff, about of fall and crash and burn.

“… Dad… come outside or I am leaving.”

“you are gonna leave anyway-  Why do you always have to run away?” his spiteful words radiated like fire, knocking the air out of his lungs.

“Dad-“

“Why am I not enough?” Just another knife in his chest, rounding out a horrible day. He kept sniffing to a minimum, painfully aware that any supernatural creature would be able to hear him. None the less he couldn’t stop the stray tear that rolled down his cheek.

“Dad, you are-“

“Hay!” The sound of fabric wrestling filled his earpiece, slightly drowning out the sounds of argumentative words being exchanged.

“Stiles?” A Motherly voice filter through.

“Melissa?”

“yes, darling. Everything okay?” She sounded genuinely concerned, it is what made her such an amazing mother and nurse. For a sudden second, Stiles felt infinitely worse for not coming into town to see her more as well. Sniffing softly, he cleared his emotion-filled voice.

“Yeah, peachy. Do you mind helping bring my dad outside?”

“Do you want to come in?”

“That is the last thing I want to do.”

“Okay, give me some time I will bring him out now.” Bless this woman. She was too good for this world. He thanked her then hung up as quickly as possible. Flipping down the visor mirror and making sure that his eyes weren’t overly red and wet.  It took over five minutes to drag his drunk father out of the house, being supported on not only Melissa but also Jackson. Neither of them said anything to them, wise enough to know when not to scratch a festering wound.

They quickly put the Sheriff in Stiles waiting care, Melissa gently buckling him in. As soon as the man hit the passenger chair, he promptly passed out. Leaving Stiles to fester in the pain that was left in his alcohol-soaked rampage. Offering a small thanks, that barely covered up the sadness in his voice, he pulled out of the driveway. Heading back to the house.

The rest was a blur. Bringing his father in, leaving him on the couch and laying down on the bed. Alone. Even after years, all the places he had been, people he met, he still felt as alone as the day he left Beacon Hills for the first time. Alone and aching for Derek and Dad and Mom and Scott. Nothing has seemed to change. Not even Stiles.