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hold on to me because i'm a little unsteady

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hold on to me because i’m a little unsteady

 

The roar of the alpha werewolf is deafening, turning Derek’s blood to ice and threatening to bring down the walls of the entire school.

His throat closes up, but Derek clutches his dislocated shoulder, eyes wide and pained as he struggles to his feet again, baring his teeth uselessly. He can smell the coppery blood from where the alpha had grazed Paige with his claws before Derek had intercepted. She’s still standing frozen behind him and he can smell her fear, so palpable in the school’s empty hallway and he tells her to run

The alpha lunges at Derek and he launches himself forward too even though the other werewolf looks like he could crush Derek’s head with just one claw, but he’s just hoping that it would give Paige just enough time to get out of the school.

He squeezes his eyes shut, steeling himself for the worst. Waits for the blow that would bat him effortlessly into the wall again.

It never comes.

Because when he opens his eyes there’s a circle of mountain ash separating the alpha from him and an arrow that smells like wolfsbane whistling past Derek’s ear to embed itself right into the bigger werewolf’s heart.

The howl of rage and pain has Derek’s eardrums ringing, but then the alpha is being thrown back against the lockers, golden strings of light flickering like a vice around the hulking werewolf.

Derek spins around to see a shadow about twenty feet away in the connecting hallway, clad in a red hoodie and face obscured, lowering a bow. A brief flash of relief rushes through him when he registers that Paige is no longer in sight before his gaze focuses back on his savior. The sparks from the shadowy figure’s hands fade away but just as Derek takes a step forward, mouth opening to ask who are you, the silhouette is gone just as quickly as it had appeared.

And then Derek’s all alone in the dark school, staring at the violent indents in the lockers and the empty space where the alpha’s body has disappeared from.

 


 

Paige moves away two weeks later.

Her voice had been soft and apologetic. She says something about her parents, about her family’s history, but all Derek can hear is Peter’s voice roaring in his ears.

I told you so.

He asks her to stay.

She’s kind but firm, shaking her head as she touches his cheek.

She’ll never love you.

“It’s not because of you, Derek.”

He doesn’t quite believe her.

All he knows is that she’s gone and it really, really fucking hurts.

 


 

There’s a new boy at school.

His name is Stiles Stilinski, a senior. The Sheriff’s nephew, Derek hears the adult pack members murmur about one day when they don’t think anyone’s listening. He seems a little bit strange, they say. His eyes seem to know a little bit too much.

They’re right about that.

The other boy’s eyes are piercing, constantly on the lookout for something that Derek can’t comprehend. He’s lanky, all long limbs and a slouched back stuffed into hoodies and plaid shirts and Derek knows that Laura would probably do anything to drag him to a mall if she could see his wardrobe, but Derek thinks it quite suits him.

Derek thinks that there’s something so familiar about the boy…but he just can’t quite put his finger on it.

Derek’s gaze tracks him through the cafeteria, and he’s not even paying attention to the other basketball team members at his table anymore. Stiles always sits in the same place, at the far end of the cafeteria near the windows. He always sits alone, long fingers tapping restlessly at his lunch tray. And his gaze is always fixed on something far off into the distance, a little lost and so, so sad.

Sometimes Stiles turns his head away from the window and meets Derek’s eyes unblinkingly, to which Derek would flush and quickly look back down at his lunch.

Somehow, the unspeakable sorrow in the other boy’s eyes only deepens when their gazes meet.

 


 

His mother is beside herself with rage when Derek finally works up the courage to tell her what had happened, dragging his feet to her room in shame.

She screams and screams at Peter for hours on end, eyes flashing red for so long that Derek’s uncle cowers.

She hugs Derek fiercely to her chest, arms tight around him, and whispers into his hair, “I am always here for you.”

She tells him that it’s normal for his anchor to slip with drastic changes in emotion, that he’ll find it again, that the pack is always here for him. Derek sniffles into her shoulder, feeling useless because despite his mother’s words, even some of the pups in the pack have better control than he does right now.

Laura ruffles his hair and then slaps him on the back of his head. “I love you, you know that right, dummy?”

Cora offers him her stuffed animals (“I think the Spongebob one would work for you, Der”), even though she knows full well about anchors. The girl is already terrifyingly cheeky and sarcastic at eight years of age. But he doesn’t mind. Because she’s family.

They’re pack.

 


 

Derek keeps seeing him around.

Sometimes he’s at Derek’s games, just sitting there in the bleachers—always in the far corner like during lunches—with his chin propped up in his hands and staring unnervingly at Derek. But then when he scores, he can see the other boy’s lips tug up into a faint smile and murmur something under his breath (“nice, dude”).

Derek likes to pretend that Stiles means for him to hear that.

He runs around the track after school when everyone else has left to go home, and the only people remaining are at sports practices. Stiles runs fast and hard, feet kicking up dust furiously as though he’s trying to outpace his own thoughts. Derek understands that feeling all too well.

Derek’s teammates have yell at him to get his head back in the practice match.

Derek’s never really used the school’s computer lab before but when he’s walking by one day, basketball tucked under one arm, he sees messy brown hair through the glass panel and hears swearing (“I swear to god, this name shouldn’t be that common, where does this bitch even live”). Derek pushes his way into the room and sets his things down.

It becomes a habit to study to the sound of Stiles’s steady heartbeat and distracted muttering from across the room.

And maybe he’s imagining it, but Derek hurts a little less now.

 


 

"Hi.”

Stiles’s head jerks up from where it’s resting on his arms and he’s looking warily up at Derek, eyelids heavy as he blinks away the sleep in his eyes. Derek’s cheeks redden in embarrassment for interrupting the other boy’s nap. He shoulders the backpack he’s carrying and says, “Sorry.”

“Derek.” Stiles casts a slightly nervous glance around the cafeteria, eyes widening. He's a little surprised that Stiles knows his name.

Derek can feel his teammates’ gazes on him, can hear their confused whispers. He doesn’t care. There’s just…something about Stiles, and despite his parents’ warnings (“be careful of that Stilinski boy, son, he doesn’t feel right”), Derek wants to know more. He wants to know why Stiles is always alone and why, despite the sarcastic grin that seems permanently etched over his lips, he sometimes reeks of grief and rage.

“Can I sit here?”

Stiles freezes and Derek notices the other boy’s hands curl into fists to the point that the knuckles turn white. His stomach sinks and he shakes his head, already backing away and apologizing, “Sorry, it’s fine, I didn’t mean to—”

“No!” Stiles shoots to his feet, the movement startling Derek and stopping him in his tracks. He looks wide-eyed at the other boy and Stiles’s voice is low and pleasant, if not a little nervous. Stiles rakes a frustrated hand through his hair before his hand drops back down to his side. “No, that’s not what I…I just don’t know why…it’s…yeah, yeah you can sit here.”

Relief surges through Derek and he slips the straps off his shoulder to set his bag at the feet of the table, sliding onto the bench across from Stiles. He pulls out his lunch, unwrapping it casually even as he feels like everyone in the cafeteria is staring at the two of them. The other boy’s eyelids flutter a little in bemusement but then he’s also sitting back down, watching Derek with careful eyes as though he expects Derek to break or something.

The minutes pass as they eat—Derek eats while Stiles just pushes his tater tots around his tray—before the other boy finally speaks.

“Sorry about your girlfriend, man.”

Derek looks up in surprise from where he’s picking some olives out of his sandwich. “What?”

Stiles clears his throat and flails out an arm at Derek, clarifying, “Your girlfriend, she moved away right? At least…that’s what I heard.”

Derek frowns because he doesn’t know why a senior would be tuning into sophomore drama, but Stiles is actually starting up a conversation and even though yeah, the topic is kind of touchy and really really sucks, Derek doesn’t want it to end just yet. He takes a bite of his sandwich and nods, “She’s…I really liked her.”

“…sorry.”

“What for?”

Stiles glances away, eyebrows furrowing like he’s really confused about something.

Derek goes back to eating.

 


 

When Derek climbs onto the bleachers, he sees Stiles’s entire body go rigid for a long moment before the boy turns to him. It’s a work in progress, Derek tries to convince himself. At least Stiles doesn’t bodily flinch every time he sees Derek walking towards him now.

Stiles manages a stiff smile before greeting him. “Derek.”

They sit together in silence for a long while, to the point that Stiles begins to fidget a little. Derek notices that about him. How he will suddenly move at some times and be perfectly still at others. He’s seen that before, in his uncle during pack meetings, when Peter will suddenly spring to his feet and pace the length of the floor to look out the windows after sitting for too long. Paranoia.

Their gazes cruise over the bright green of the field, watching girls laugh together and boys joke around, rough-housing in a way that Derek used to.

He feels much too old for that now. When had that happened?

Maybe it was when he and Paige had gotten together and suddenly all of that teenage blustering had lost its meaning. Paige always used to…she’d always…

His breaths come out in short puffs and he sucks in air desperately as he has to remind himself that Paige is gone, that he needs to reorient his anchor around his pack, but he can’t, she’s not here and he’s losing control yet again.

But then there’s a warm hand on his back and his breaths even out, and his attention is all on Stiles, Stiles, Stiles. Derek breathes in sharply through his nose. The other boy smells like the wilderness, like the forest just after a thunderstorm, fresh and rain-washed.  

Stiles smells a little bit like home.

“Easy, Derek.” Stiles’s other hand comes to tip Derek’s chin up and suddenly he’s looking into those soft amber eyes, eyes that blaze like torches and, if any lighter, could almost look like those of a werewolf. “Just take deep breaths, slowly. Yes, just like that.”

Derek feels his wolf gradually settle, a warmth blossoming in his chest as Stiles continues to smooth a hand down his back.

“You’re okay.”

 


 

Laura leans against the doorway and fixes her gaze on him, studying him, assessing, before Derek finally looks up from his math homework and sighs, “What?”

“That boy is in my class.” Laura says, folding her arms and Derek simply tilts his chin up to meet her eyes challengingly.

“He smells like you now.”

 


 

Derek looks behind him to see that he isn’t being followed anymore. His eyebrows furrow and he calls out, “Stiles.”

He’s looking up at Derek’s house with a strange expression, as though this isn’t what he had expected. Derek’s distracted momentarily by the other boy’s lips, all plump and pink and parted but then he shakes himself from his daze and repeats impatiently, “Stiles.”

And then his friend is next to him, shouldering his backpack and grinning at Derek with a smile that seems too wide and too forced. Derek doesn’t like it. “Yeah buddy, I’m here and ready to rumble.”

Derek rolls his eyes and mutters, “Dork.”

To which Stiles’s grin becomes so blindingly real that Derek’s heart stutters loudly in his chest. He’d learned early on that Stiles is pretty much a genius, even though his friend denies it vigorously, and Derek’s grades are okay but he really wants to make his mother proud and spending time with Stiles is definitely a bonus. When he’d asked if Stiles would like to come over—hesitantly, because it still seems like Stiles is a heartbeat away from running and hiding himself away from the world—Derek’s pleasantly surprised to hear the other boy say yes.

The front door swings open and his mother and uncle step out onto the porch, eyeing Stiles with mirroring expressions of wariness. He can hear several other pack members shuffle up to the windows as well, curious eyes bearing into Stiles in a way that makes Derek stir restlessly. He’s about to tell them off before Stiles just tips his head up, baring his neck in a gesture of submission and murmuring, “Alpha Hale.”

Derek’s mouth falls open and then everyone’s shouting, and it takes a few hours of Stiles and the adults holed up in one room with Derek pacing back and forth outside, before they can finally be alone.

They study in silence for a good half hour and Derek can feel Stiles’s eyes fix on him again and again but he doesn’t know what to feel, much less say.

“You should have told me you knew.” Derek finally says, angrily penciling in an answer on the worksheet. His gaze darts to Stiles. The other boy is lounging on Derek’s chair, legs spread apart carelessly as he holds up a paperback book—Shakespeare’s Othello—with those slender fingers of his. Derek’s mouth goes dry and he feels the pencil in his hand crack with how tightly he grips it, so he quickly sets it down.

Stiles just shrugs nonchalantly, chewing on the end of his highlighter, and replies, “And what would that have done besides scare you off? Sure, you get pretty hairy and your eyebrows disappear sometimes, but I’m not that shallow of a guy to abandon a friend wallowing in misery.”

His words and the mischievous smile that quirks up on Stiles’s lips make Derek blush furiously and he nearly drops the pencil that he’d just picked up again. “I’m not…I wasn’t wallowing…”

Stiles hmms.

There’s howling laughter from downstairs and Derek makes a mental reminder to accidentally track mud into Laura’s room when he gets the chance. He can’t think of anything to say except, “Fuck off.”

Stiles just throws his head back to laugh and Derek traces his eyes down the pale expanse of his friend’s neck, past the moles dotting his skin and down to where his Adam’s Apple bobs as Stiles swallows. Derek glowers at him.

Stiles’s eyes are light and full of mirth when he throws Derek a wink.

“By the way, you got number seven wrong, sourwolf.”

 


 

Stiles becomes somewhat of a pack mascot.

It’s a slow process at first, just like how it had taken Stiles a while to warm up to Derek and Derek has the feeling that Stiles really wants to just distance himself, but no one is able to resist the pack for long. The pups love him and even Derek’s mother had grudgingly admitted her respect when she’d found out that Stiles had been the one in the school that fateful evening. It doesn’t hurt that he manages to take down a rogue omega single-handedly, flinging the growling werewolf off to the side as Derek’s mother advances, eyes flashing red. Occasionally, Deaton comes by to watch Stiles practice and offers to train him because he’s never seen such raw magic before.

Derek is strangely proud.

Peter still watches Stiles with narrowed eyes, but Laura and even Cora take a shine to Stiles and now Derek has to be fiercely protective of the time he has with his friend even though he really doesn’t, because Stiles always seems to find time for him. Always shows up just when Derek needs him most.

Laura finds it hilarious every time Derek growls under his breath—so this only seems to encourage her—whenever she pops into his room to steal Stiles for something or throws herself onto Derek’s bed to interrupt their study sessions. Cora soon joins too and finds that Stiles’s back makes for quite a comfortable seat despite the boy’s groans and complaints.

Laura sits with them at lunch, tossing her dark hair over one shoulder and eyeing Derek knowingly. He can’t do anything about her though because Stiles gets along with her like two birds of a feather. They share a few AP classes together and Derek learns that Laura has managed to threaten her way into sitting next to Stiles during all of them. He’s secretly grateful to her for that because he sees the loneliness in Stiles’s eyes gradually fade away until it dies out completely.

Stiles starts coming to all his games, even the away games (“dude, you are a basketball champ”) and sits with his family now. When Derek walks off the court during half-time, gulping down water, he looks over to the bleachers where Stiles is holding up a large picture of Yoda and pointing at Cora’s sign.

WIN, YOU MUST

Derek laughs out loud, lifting the bottom of his jersey to wipe away at the sweat on his forehead. A soft breeze ripples against his bare stomach, cooling it nicely just before he drops his jersey back down. He could almost swear that the pink in Stiles’s cheeks intensifies.

Derek has never been too affectionate with people outside of the pack, not even with Paige when they had been together. So he’s even a little surprised at himself when he finally notices just how many times his hands brush Stiles’s arm, or how closely he stands when he’s next to the other boy, all as if to make sure that Stiles is still there.

He also isn’t blind to the fact that Stiles doesn’t seem to mind.

“Derek is in lurrrve,” Laura teases during a family dinner one day.

Derek tackles his sister to the ground right then and there in the dining room as she shrieks and shrieks for him to let her go.

His mother just shakes her head and orders them back to their seats, though takes him aside later and looks at him with serious eyes. “Are you sure that he’s the one?”

Derek says yes because he can’t imagine having anyone else as an anchor.

 


 

Their first kiss is messy, all hot and breathy and Derek isn’t used to this, isn’t used to feeling so much all at once. Stiles is gasping underneath him, thighs parting so Derek can slot between them better and press against him harder. They fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, and it’s like Stiles is made for him, all sharp angles and soft curves at the same time.

Derek tilts his head to deepen the kiss, their tongues tangling and when he rolls his hips, Stiles whimpers. The sound goes straight to Derek’s crotch. His hands disappear under Stiles’s shirt to roam all over the other boy’s skin, touching, caressing, and he just can’t get enough.

Blunt fingernails scrape down his back and Derek breaks the kiss apart, shifting his head to shove his nose into Stiles’s neck, breathing the scent of wildflowers and spring and Stiles also smells just a little bit like…like Derek. His fangs pop out against his will and scrape against Stiles’s neck, just itching to clamp down on the smooth skin beneath. It only takes Derek a second before he’s jerking off the bed in horror and pressing himself up against his bedroom wall, one hand covering his teeth. And maybe it’s irrational, maybe he’s wrong, but Peter’s mocking voice is there in the back of his head again. He squeezes his glowing eyes closed because he doesn’t want to see Stiles’s fear, doesn’t want to see the disgust over his loss of control from the boy he adores.

“Hey.” Stiles’s voice is rough and wrecked from their activities and damn if that doesn’t do things to Derek’s body but he can’t, he can’t. A cool hand wraps around Derek’s wrist and tugs it away from his face, and another comes up to touch his cheek. “Derek, look at me.”

Derek shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut tighter as though Stiles would try to pry them open.

“Derek.”

He’s breathing hard, chest heaving, and jerks violently when he feels pressure against his teeth. Derek’s eyes snap open and he stares at Stiles with disbelief because Stiles is pressing two fingers against one of his canines. A soft smile works its way onto Stiles’s face. “There he is.”

The hand cupping his face moves and then there are fingers tracing one of his eyebrows, smoothing back his hair, slipping down to rest on his shoulder. Stiles’s voice is low and fierce, heartbeat steady, as he tells Derek, “You won’t hurt me, Derek.”

He tells the other boy that he’s wrong, that Derek could kill him with his raw strength, could rip his throat open with his teeth, but Stiles just looks at him, amber eyes gentle and warm and unafraid. “Yes, you could. But you won’t.

And then Stiles is stepping back and tilting his head up, exposing his neck. He reaches out a hand to tug Derek closer to him and Derek’s feet stumble forward unwillingly. Stiles’s fingers tangle in the short hairs at the nape of his neck and he presses hard so their lips meet once again in a slower dance, the tip of Stiles’s tongue tracing Derek’s lower lip. His nose finds its way back into Stiles’s neck and he breathes in again, even more deeply this time and something is still screaming at him to stop, but Stiles just whispers again and again, “It’s okay, Derek. It’s okay.”

Derek sinks his teeth into the delicate skin, biting hard, and the wolf inside him howls triumphantly.

 


 

There’s a new teacher named Kate Argent and Derek can almost see the waves of hostility rolling off Stiles’s person when she walks by them one day, but when he asks what’s wrong, Stiles just kisses him hard and fast, kisses him like he’s afraid to let him go, and that’s alright with Derek too.

Maybe it’s just Derek’s imagination, but Stiles touches him more at school now. Before the bell rings, in the hallways, during lunch, possessively, as though he needs to make a point to someone. Derek doesn’t ask why.

Stiles is rambling on about the upcoming Spider-Man movie that has yet to be released, lifting a finger to passionately explain the rich and diverse history of well-written comic villains and what counts as a good villain and “are you kidding me, metal tentacles, absolutely not.” Derek is rolling his eyes, one eyebrow lifting in fond exasperation, folding his arms in front of him to watch his boyfriend talk and talk.

Stiles reaches out to drum his fingers against Derek’s hand, still chattering away, head bobbing and swiveling as he steals a grape from Derek’s lunch.

“I love you.” Derek blurts out. And freezes in shock.

Stiles’s eyes go wide mid-sentence but then his lips curl into a slow smile, wide and sweet, and he leans in to press his lips against Derek’s. It’s chaste and brief, but Derek’s heart still thuds just as unevenly.

He doesn’t miss the fact that Stiles doesn’t say it back.

That’s okay.

Derek can wait.

He takes Stiles to his favorite hangouts, to the bowling alley where he discovers that Stiles is simply terrible at the game (“hand-eye coordination and I do not get along, my dude”), to the park where they sit in silence and read together, to the grove just behind his house where Derek steals many, many kisses from his boyfriend.

And sometimes, when they’re lying on the grass together, legs tangled and gazes aimed up at the stars, Stiles would turn his head into Derek’s neck, mumbling about his past. He tells him vaguely about how he’d lost people important to him before finding his way here, how he had been all alone before he’d found Derek again. Derek’s brows knot into a frown. Again? It’s times like these when Derek is reminded that Stiles has secrets, so many, like why he’s never mentioned taking Derek to meet his family, and some that Derek will probably never find out about. But he trusts Stiles and he knows that Stiles will tell him if he’s ready.

The days pass by and Derek notices the coiled tension in Stiles gradually loosen, as though he’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop but it hadn’t. And if Stiles notices that Derek touches him more frequently to try to make that tension to slip away faster, he doesn’t mention it.

It happens on the day that Laura and Stiles come crashing into the kitchen from outside, interrupting Derek as he glares at Peter. He still hasn’t completely forgiven his uncle just yet, but on occasion, Peter does try to make amends—though mostly half-hearted—and Derek thinks that that’s as much as he’s going to get out of his uncle.

Stiles is dripping wet and frowning, plucking at the shirt plastered against his skin. Laura’s sniggering madly but she’s perfectly dry, so Derek hazards a guess that she had somehow bullied Stiles into his current condition. He rolls his eyes and excuses himself for a second, coming back a few seconds later with a fluffy white towel and tosses it to Stiles.

“Ugh thanks, I love you so much.”

Everyone in the room stills and Derek can see his mother poke her head out from the adjacent room, eyes sharp and curious. Derek steps forward, hands itching. His throat is dry and he’s pretty much reduced to a bundle of nerves but still he presses on, “You mean it?”

Stiles lowers the towel from where he’d been drying his hair, glancing around at Laura, to Peter who snorts in derision, and then finally at Derek. He rolls his eyes and sighs, “Well yeah, sourwolf.”

Derek is dragging him out of the kitchen and up the stairs before anyone else can twitch a muscle, and Stiles is laughing breathlessly when they don’t even make it upstairs before Derek presses him against the railing of the stairs eagerly to scrape his teeth against Stiles’s neck, licking the bite that hasn’t quite healed and probably never will.

Gross.” Laura groans from below. Derek flips her off without looking even though he knows she can’t see it.

Stiles just laughs harder.

 


 

They come under the cloak of the night.

And when they do come, they are so unbelievably quiet.

Derek is staring down the barrel of a gun, terror coursing through his veins as his eyes travel up to meet Ms. Argent’s.

A twisted smirk mars her features as she purrs out, “Hello, sweetie.”

There are seven others surrounding the house and the green of the property, making sure the mountain ash circle is intact. It had been Peter, jumping to his feet and eyes flashing a brilliant blue, hissing that he could hear something. None of them had been prepared for this ambush. Derek’s mother is snarling furiously behind him, fangs and claws out and would be ripping the other woman to shreds had the teacher not been aiming a gun directly at Derek’s forehead.

“Why…” Derek’s nose flares as he catches the pungent scent of wolfsbane. “Why are you doing this?”

Ms. Argent clicks off the safety of her gun and sneers, “Because monsters deserve to die.

All of a sudden, someone comes barreling out of the woods and Ms. Argent spins around. Derek’s eyes widen in horror and he yells, “No, Stiles!”

But Stiles doesn’t listen and throws up his hands instead, coils of golden sparks tearing the weapons out of the hunters’ hands and knocking them down to the ground. He’s panting, eyes wild and furious, and Derek has never seen anything quite so beautiful.

“You’re sneaky but I still found you out, bitch.

Ms. Argent scoffs, planting one foot on the ground and straightening into a crouch all while flinging something—Jesus, a grenade?—at Stiles, but he just dodges it nimbly, ducking as it explodes behind him. She’s just as fast though and when Stiles fires an arrow from the bow he’s carrying, she rolls to the side.

Stiles reaches Derek before Ms. Argent picks up a weapon, launching himself over the circle and dragging a heel into the earth to break it. He turns towards the teacher but before Stiles can lift a finger, she’s aiming a gun at Derek, a snarl ripping from her throat and there’s a shot fired.

It happens so fast.

He can hear roars from the freed werewolves, the terrified shouts of the disarmed attackers, and his mother’s claws raking violently across the hunter’s neck, blood spurting out, but that’s not whose blood he’s looking at.

Derek pitches forward, catching Stiles before he hits the ground and lowers him into his lap, whispering furiously, “No no no no, Stiles.”

The other boy’s forehead is creased and he looks down at his chest in confusion, lips parting halfway as though he doesn’t quite understand what he’s seeing. There’s dark red staining Derek’s hand from where it tries to staunch the flow of blood from Stiles’s chest and he can smell blood leaking out the corner of Stiles’s mouth. 

A sob rips from Derek’s throat and he tugs Stiles closer to him, rocking back and forth, veins turning black as he tries desperately to take away the other boy's pain and it hurts, it hurts so much, but it’s nothing compared to the feeling of helplessness that rips and claws at Derek’s heart.

“No, no, please no.”

Stiles chokes on his own blood but still manages to speak, with difficulty, and he covers Derek’s hand with his, squeezing it in what’s supposed to be a soothing gesture. “Hey...hey sourwolf, everything’s going to be alright.”

It’s not. Derek can smell the life bleeding out of Stiles but there’s nothing he can do about it because Stiles can’t heal, he’s so painfully human. His mother is kneeling next to him now, a hand on Stiles’s chest as she also draws away the pain. He looks at her, desperation in the back of his throat as he opens his mouth to ask, but her eyes are sorrowful as she tells him, “It wouldn’t take.”

Derek’s crying, fat drops of tears staining Stiles’s hoodie as he clutches him tightly. “Please don’t leave me, oh god, please don’t go.”

Stiles smiles up at him, though his eyes are unseeing now, searching slowly from side to side to try and pinpoint where Derek’s voice is coming from. He tells him, “I’ll find you again, Derek. Don’t be too sad. Just wait for me.”

Derek sniffles, burying his nose in the other boy’s neck as he breathes in and out. Stiles’s hand is warm as it rests against the side of Derek’s head, the pad of his thumb brushing back and forth against his cheek.

“It’s okay, I’m okay.”

Derek finds it ironic that after everything, here he is, still being comforted by Stiles.

“I love you, Derek.”

It’s a warm, spring evening when Derek feels the boy he loves die in his arms.

He presses Stiles’s head to his chest, his family standing guard silently, and he howls and howls.

 


 

Derek stares blankly at the cereal boxes in front of him, empty shopping basket hanging loosely from his hand. Laura had managed to manhandle him out of his bed today (“get up loser, we’re going to the grocery store”), but that doesn’t mean Derek is anywhere close to being a functioning werewolf yet because the hollow feeling in his chest is still there, empty as ever, even after an entire month.

There hadn’t been a funeral. Because his mother had come back from the police station with a strange look on her face, claiming that the Sheriff had said he doesn’t remember ever having a nephew. They had buried Stiles in the grove, where he and Derek had spent so many afternoons with tangled limbs and breathless kisses.

When Ms. Argent’s brother finds out about what she has done, he tells them that there will be no retribution for her death. He looks at Derek, who’s miserable and torn apart, and says that he is so sorry for his loss.

He still has one of Stiles’s sweaters—Derek had kept it after Stiles had accidentally left it there one time and so he’s a little selfish, sue him—and it sits under Derek’s pillow every night. It’s not healthy, he knows this, but he just can’t quite seem to let Stiles go yet. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be ready. Sometimes Cora crawls into his bed at night, snuffling and pressing her small, cold feet against Derek’s legs. She’s young still and Stiles’s scent comforts her. “I miss him too, Der.”

He sighs through his nose and is reaching up with one hand to pluck a random box from the shelf when his body jerks forward as something crashes into his legs—a shopping cart—and he hears a woman chide urgently, “Be careful, Mischief!”

“Sorry!” There’s laughter in the voice and it’s light and youthful, directed at Derek. His heart hurts a little more because the laugh reminds him so much of Stiles, and suddenly Derek’s breathing a little faster and shallower now, trying to hang on to the memory of Stiles’s voice.

Easy.

You’re okay, Derek.

Just breathe.

“Are you okay? Mom, he looks like he’s okay, I don’t think I broke his legs or anything. Can we get some Lucky Charms? Ooh, do you need help picking out cereal, mister?”

Derek sucks in a deep breath, about to tell this chatterbox of a kid to—in the kindest way possible—leave him alone, but then the scent that floods his nostrils has his head snapping up violently.

Impossible.

Green eyes meet bright amber ones and Derek’s mouth falls open.

The kid looks to be a little younger than ten, short and thin, but it’s his face that Derek’s gaze fixes on. It’s smooth and carefree with constellations of moles that Derek has memorized, has traced so many times before, and the kid beams up at Derek. The boy jerks his head down in a firm nod, having decided by himself, and takes the basket from Derek’s hands.

“I’ll give you some recs, you look like you have no idea what a good cereal is.”

He’s smiling a smile so heartachingly familiar and Derek’s wolf rumbles low with satisfaction, finally calm.

He’s vaguely aware of Laura turning the corner, opening her mouth to yell at him or something before she takes a whiff of the air and says, “What. Holy shit.”

But Derek doesn’t pay attention to her because he can’t tear his eyes away from the boy who’s dropping at least five cereal boxes into his basket in front of him. He’s scared that if he looks away, the boy will disappear just like something straight out of a dream. The seconds tick by though, and he’s still there, and Derek feels the tension leave his shoulders, a small smile gracing his lips for the first time in weeks.

It’s a bright, summer afternoon when Stiles finds Derek again.