It’s a sixteen hour drive back to Beacon Hills, and Stiles spends the first hour and a half resolutely not speaking to Derek.
It’s easier than he thought it would be - he’s not exactly good at shutting up, but he is pretty stubborn, and the obstinance wins out in this situation over yelling at Derek. It helps that they invested in an SUV a few months ago, three rows of seating, exactly for situations like this. So Stiles can talk to everyone in the car except for Derek, especially Scott in the second row. And, apparently, his dad in the second row too.
That’s actually why Stiles isn’t speaking to Derek - the fact that his dad is in the pack emergency, someone-has-been-kidnapped SUV.
Anyway, Stiles is in the passenger seat, just as he always is. He’s an excellent co-pilot for long, stressful drives, rules the AUX cord with an iron fist and a map in the other hand. Derek pretty much always drives, unless he is otherwise injured or unconscious, in which case Stiles becomes the driver and whoever is not bleeding out or healing becomes the co-pilot. Occasionally on these long drives when the battle has been one and everyone is in more or less one piece, Stiles will drive and Derek will sleep in the passenger seat, but Stiles isn’t feeling particularly kind this time, and Derek has that white-knuckled grip on the wheel and that tick in his jaw that tells Stiles he wouldn’t give the wheel over without a fight anyway.
Scott and his dad ( Jesus fuck, his dad ) are in the second row, and the back is a bucket seat where Isaac, Erica, and Boyd are practically asleep on top of each other. Behind them is Allison’s car, which holds Allison, Jackson, Lydia, and Peter. Normally, Scott would be in Peter’s place, but, well, extenuating circumstances. Namely, Stiles’ dad.
An hour and a half in, though, and the exhaustion has settled into everyone’s bones while conversation dies down. Boyd is asleep with his head thrown back, Erica out like a light on his right shoulder and Isaac either asleep or trying very hard to be on his left. Scott stares out the window, occasionally glancing over to look at Stiles’ dad or forward to look at Stiles, illuminated by the headlights of passing cars on the interstate.
“You should sleep,” Derek says, low, and Stiles starts slightly. After the first twenty minutes when Stiles refused to respond to anything Derek was saying, the werewolf seemed to give up speaking to Stiles at all.
Stiles wants to keep ignoring him. The truth is, though, that he knows it won’t fix anything, and the longer they sit on it, the more it will fester. And, if he’s being honest, the idea of driving with only the sound of the soft rock playing on the radio isn’t a pleasant one - Stiles lives for talking, and Derek has said more than once that Stiles’ conversation makes the long drives home bearable.
“I don’t think I can,” Stiles replies. It’s an admission, a concession, still said in a flat tone because, yes, he’s speaking to Derek, but he doesn’t have to like it. “That was... a lot.”
“I didn’t plan for this to happen,” Derek says, and Stiles really wants to take that soft, yet surprisingly defensive (always defensive) tone and shove it up Derek’s ass.
“Really.” Stiles sucks in a breath, blows it out through his nose, and turns to glare at Derek. “Which part didn’t you plan for, Derek?”
“Stiles,” Derek breathes out, too, controlled like he’s counting to ten in his head. “Don’t start with me.”
“No, Derek , I want to know,” Stiles presses on, clenches his hand into a fist on his thigh. “Was it the part where I almost got ritually sacrificed again ? Oh no, we actually do have a plan for that, because that’s happened a couple times now, hasn’t it?”
“ Stiles .” Derek’s voice is still quiet, but it’s definitely annoyed now. “I’m serious.”
But Stiles has never been able to see the bridges before he’s burned them, the lines before he’s blown past them, the blinking warning signs before he goes careening off the edge of the cliff. “We’ve got a plan for me getting kidnapped, we’ve got a plan for driving across the country at a moment’s notice to rescue someone, so what exactly did you not plan for? Oh yeah,” Stiles cuts his eyes to Derek, meets that dark glare with his own before Derek is looking back at the road. “Probably my dad . Maybe you didn’t plan for my dad getting bitten by a fucking Alpha werewolf. ”
“I mean, that’s pretty hard to plan for,” Scott says from the row behind them. “And he didn’t actually get bitten, just kind of snapped at.”
“It really doesn’t even hurt,” the Sheriff adds.
“Shut up, Scott,” Stiles snaps, finally looks away from Derek to fiddle with the music again, just to give his hands something to do. “I shouldn’t have had to plan for it, because Derek shouldn’t have brought him.”
“Considering he was going to question me about your possible murder ,” Derek grinds out, talking through gritted teeth. “I think I did okay .”
Stiles itches to launch the music player at Derek’s head. “He wasn’t supposed to be involved, Derek! We agreed on that!”
“Are Mom and Dad fighting again?” He hears Erica mutter, followed by Isaac grunting an affirmative.
Stiles ignores it - he doesn’t have the fucking energy to deal with smartass Betas right now, considering everything. “You weren’t supposed to tell him anything about this!”
“About what, Stiles? What was I not supposed to tell him?” And, oh, they’re in it now, Derek’s not even trying to be quiet anymore. “ What exactly were you trying to protect him from?”
The headrest is more forgiving than Stiles really wants it to be when he knocks his head back in frustration. “Not that ,” he snaps, and then gestures around the car. “ This , Derek! We’re in fucking - I don’t even know what state this is, actually, but the point is that he wasn’t supposed to be here . We agreed!”
“No, you decided that this -” Derek gestures around the car with a frustrated hand. “ - should be your dirty little secret, and assumed I agreed with you.”
“You know, I heard a lot of divorces are because couples just don’t talk anymore,” Isaac says from the back row.
“It’s not like you said anything otherwise,” Stiles manages through grit teeth of his own. “It’s not like you gave me much of a reason to assume anything else , Derek.”
“Are you guys still talking about the werewolf thing?” Scott asks.
“ Shut up, Scott,” Derek growls. “You didn’t exactly ask , Stiles! You just walked in one day and said, ‘You know my dad will freak out, right?’ so I just figured you made that whole decision for us.”
“They’re not,” Boyd says. “They’re talking about the other thing.”
“What other thing?” the Sheriff asks, resigned and exhausted.
Stiles can handle like one thing at a time right now, and considering he’s just almost been ritually sacrificed and almost watched his father get bitten by an Alpha werewolf, Derek’s about all he can take. He can tackle the Betas and, hell, his dad later. Right now, though, they’re right - they’re not talking about the existence of werewolves anymore, even though Stiles isn’t sure when the conversation shifted.
“What do you want from me, Derek?” Stiles finally asks after a tense silence. “Because if you don’t tell me what you want, I can’t just magically read your mind to find it out for myself.”
“I want your dad to know enough that the next time you get kidnapped and possibly sacrificed, he doesn’t think I killed you!” Derek says, in that angry, frustrated tone he gets when he’s impossibly overwhelmed, when he’s spiralling down into that pit of loathing and self-deprecation. “Do you know what that did to me? Christ, Stiles, I didn’t even know if you were still alive! And then your dad comes around and demands to know what I did with your body .”
“Which I would not have asked if I would have known anything about any of this,” the Sheriff adds. “I was a little emotionally compromised.”
“It’s understandable,” Erica says. “There was a lot of blood.”
The thing is, Derek’s got a good point. If it were Derek missing, if Stiles had been the one to find all that blood (incidentally, not from Stiles, but instead from a chicken), and then someone had come around to accuse Stiles of killing Derek? He probably would have lost his shit. It probably wouldn’t have gone nearly as well as this whole rescue did.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles says, breathing out a sigh and feeling his own anger deflate like a sad balloon. “That I didn’t tell him. I didn’t want you to… I don’t know, feel pressured. I didn’t mean to make you feel like… this . You aren’t my dirty little secret, Derek.”
“Oh, they’re really not talking about the werewolf thing anymore,” Stiles’ dad says with a groan.
“Nope,” Isaac, Boyd, and Erica chorus together.
“I thought you’d tell him when you turned eighteen,” Derek says, and is pointedly looking at the road and not Stiles. “And then we just didn’t talk about it and nothing changed, so.”
“Because nothing happened until he turned eighteen, right? Right ?” The Sheriff’s voice sounds muffled, like his head in his hands.
“I didn’t know what you wanted,” Stiles says, reaches to brush his fingers along Derek’s wrist. “You don’t ever tell me, Derek.”
“Well, you didn’t ask, either.” Derek sounds almost petulant.
“You’re right.” Stiles sighs. “I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” Derek says and there it is, the little ghost of a smile that Stiles looks for after every single argument, after every time their tempers get the best of them. “I really didn’t mean for it to happen this way.”
“Can you at least turn the music up so we don’t have to hear you kiss and make up?” Scott whines, plaintive.
“Shut up, Scott,” Derek and Stiles say in unison, without heat.
“No, I agree,” the Sheriff says. “I’ve been through enough trauma tonight, I don’t need anything else to add to my stress... like my very recently underage son and his werewolf boyfriend kissing and making up.”
“We have thirteen hours left,” Scott groans. “This is all the time .”
“Deal with it.” Stiles reaches, unpeeling Derek’s fingers from the wheel to wrap them in his own.