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Guilt.

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“Derek? You alright, dude?” Stiles raised an eyebrow, not used to seeing Mr My-only-expression-is-anger look so broken and… defeated was the only other word he could come up with to describe the man stood, frozen in front of him.

“What are you doing here?” Even as Stiles watched, those walls were being rebuilt. He was trying to block Stiles out but Stiles refused to let that happen. He had thought for a while now that Derek wasn’t as strong as he let on and this (to him) seemed like definite proof, there was no way he was letting this opportunity slide.

“I came to check in on you as--” he trailed off, not entirely sure what to say. ‘As your family died ten years ago today’ just didn’t seem right. So instead he said with a vague hand gesture, “well, you know.” Tactful, he could’ve punched himself in the face, surprised Derek didn’t he just grunted and turned his back on him. “I talked to The Pack and all of them said you told them to leave you alone, they all advised me to stay away but… I couldn’t bring myself to and I mean, technically you never told me not to come so--” he bit his lip to stop himself from continuing but the damage was already done.

Spinning on his heel, Derek stalked up to the younger man with a growl on his lips, “you should have listened.” At least he hadn’t ended up with his back painfully pressed against a wall, he counted that as a win. He rose an eyebrow when Derek spoke again, “I don’t want you here.” He’d heard that before, yet refused to back down as even he could hear the lie on Derek's tongue. There was no need for the extra sensitive ears or a superior sense of smell that the bite would have brought him to tell that, especially not with the way Derek’s right hand twitched in the way it did every time he told a lie and an even bigger clue was the slight tremor in his voice – almost unnoticeable over the rage but it was there, Stiles could tell. Just like always.

“Don’t lie, it doesn’t suit your brooding personality. No, personally I think you’re more of a ‘tell the truth no matter how much it hurts the other person’ type of guy.” he hummed, unless it wasn’t to protect Stiles . “Look--” 

“No, don’t say whatever you were about to say. Go, just go!” Once again, he turned away from the pale teen and once again Stiles refused to let him get away with it.

Taking a deep breath he said, “There’s a reason you didn’t tell me and it’s either that you didn’t even think of me or you did but you wanted someone to talk to--” he got cut off again.

“Or maybe you can stop trying to analyse me and admit to yourself that I just forgot about you!” He’s deflecting, Stiles summoned all the patience he could muster knowing he’d need a lot if Derek was going to act this way. He knew Derek was upset and he knew he most likely wasn’t helping but he also understood the older male enough to know that he wasn’t mad at Stiles. In fact, he seemed madder at himself and, for some reason, Stiles couldn’t blame him.

“We both know that’s not true,” he took a slow, calculated step towards the man who had been walking away but had stopped and was now facing him again, he’s going to get dizzy. “You can talk to me, I may not have been through what you have but I know what it’s like to lose someone.”

Derek’s eyes snapped to his and it was like looking into a cesspool of hazel-green grief and anger. But there was something else in there too, hidden behind everything, buried deep: guilt. He blames himself, but no one had ever told him different so why wouldn’t he. “You think you have any idea of how I'm feeling?” Derek spat. Stiles took another careful step forward and then another and another until he was in touching distance of the alpha. They watched each other in a tense silence.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Derek stumbled back at the suddenness of the words that were said so quietly, so calmly compared to how Stiles had been talking not moments ago. Stiles watched as his face softened only slightly before once again the facade was thrown back up.

“What did you say?” His ears twitched, eyes flashed briefly and Stiles knew he was listening in to his heartbeat, watching for any sign that he was being lied to.

“I am not lying to you Derek, I promise it was not your fault.” Making sure to annunciate every word clearly, making sure to drive his point home, he stepped forward again to make up for the lost closeness. “And I get it more than you think.” He knew people took comfort in different ways, knew that some people just prefer to talk and some like advise. But, somehow, he knew that Derek needed someone to relate to him, to understand the pain and the guilt he had felt. The pain and guilt he still feels. Stiles knew he could be that person and some part deep within him – though, now that he reached for it, maybe it wasn’t as deep as he thought – wanted to be that for him. 

The man he knew and had known for three (nearly four) years looked so broken and suddenly he felt bad, bad for not checking in more often, bad for not talking to the living embodiment of suppressed emotion, bad for not seeing it sooner, taking action sooner, just bad. Although it wasn’t just that, something inside Stiles yearned to help him, yearned to provide some form of comfort for the man and he was inclined to listen. 

“I know you don’t think so, but I do get it. I understand the guilt and pain. I understand the constant nagging in the back of your head that all and any happiness you’ve ever felt, you don’t deserve. I get the nightmares and the flashbacks.” He couldn’t say the words he truly wished to say: ‘you are not alone, Derek Hale. ’ Yet he hoped that he conveyed that and hoped that he hadn’t been mistaken in thinking that Derek needed someone who was like him in this aspect.

Derek seemed to collapse in on himself, running a hand through his hair and padding over to the couch. “Why...” was the only word he seemed able to choke out, voice thick as he sat down. Though the rest of the question was unneeded, he cleared his throat and tried again, “Why do you understand?”

Stiles moved over to sit next to the older man, legs crossed, leaving enough distance between them so that he didn’t make Derek feel pressured or uncomfortable or crowded. Or maybe it was for Stiles’ own sake. He shifted, getting comfy as he knew this would most likely be a long, hard conversation however good for the both of them. “After the nogitsune, I--” he glanced up from his hands to look at Derek whose gaze was focused solely on him as if Stiles was his last hope, his lifeline. “I couldn’t help but blame myself, that was all I did – blame myself – and Scott never helped. In fact, he probably did the opposite, he joined in with the blame, he told me not to be so selfish when I tried to talk to him, he refused to look me in the eye, he called me a killer, a murderer, weak, a liability and so many other things and I took it all to heart. Especially since I had no one to tell me otherwise. But, Derek, I won’t let that happen to you for any longer than it has and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to see what’s going on behind that brooding exterior, I truly am.” 

Derek's whole body was rigid as if he was fighting with himself over something, his eyes were wide and Stiles knew it was probably something to do with him so openly talking to him like this (maybe no one had ever been this open with him) but he decided the former of those two points was more important so he said quietly but with no less conviction than before, “It really isn’t your fault, you did not do anything to warrant the guilt you bare every day.” Keeping eye contact as he did so.

Derek didn’t say anything for a while, just sat there unmoving, watching Stiles carefully almost like he’s waiting for a punch line that will never come. It causes Stiles to fidget uncomfortably, not liking the silence or intense stare but putting up with it if only for the fact that it seems as though Derek needs time to think, to mull things over.

“I didn’t tell you not to come because I didn’t think you cared enough to come.” And if that didn’t make Stiles feel lousy then nothing would. How could he think that? They may not be best friends but he thought that it was known to Derek that he cared about him.

Stiles frowned, “why would I not care? I mean we’ve had our moments and you have a thing about bruising my back and hurting walls but you’re Pack, Derek. You’re more like Pack than Scott was or ever will be to me, especially not after how he treated me. Pack stick together no matter what, right?” Meeting Derek’s beautiful murky amber-green eyes again, he shivered as if a breeze had come through an open window, then something strong tugged at his heart. Derek’s expression shifted into one of what looked almost like… happiness?

“You, see me as Pack?” The thing in his heart tugged and strengthened as he nodded, knowing their previous conversation was not over just diverted.

“Yeah, yeah I do, of course, I do.” Derek smiled – he fucking smiled! – and this time the new feeling in his heart soared. Placing a hand over it, he rubbed slightly.

“You feel the pack bond?” Derek asked with a small frown gracing his lips, eyebrows scrunching in a way that Stiles couldn't help but think was adorable despite having seen the same expression thousands of times.

“Oh, that’s what that is? I guess so, yeah. That’s awesome!” Then he huffed, “how come I never felt this with the rest of The Pack?” When Derek didn’t answer he sighed. “Actually, it does explain a lot.”

Derek nodded slowly, paused, then he placed a hand over his own heart and said, “I haven’t felt one since…” He trailed off but Stiles knew what he meant. “Not even when Cora came back and never with Peter, I missed it.”

“Derek?” Stiles watched as the man in question stood up and walked away, “where are you going?” They still needed to talk as Stiles knew that Derek was still blaming himself and would continue to do so for a while. Years maybe but Stiles was determined to help him through it as no one had for him.

But Derek padded back into the room holding something in his hands, “I want to give you this, I wear mine around my ankle.” As he sits back down he hands the small object to Stiles.

The younger boy looked down at it, it was a small metal triskelion much like the one tattooed on Derek’s back, it looked almost delicate though Stiles knew better, there was a small loop at the top to thread a string or chain through. “Why are you giving me this?” Stiles ran his thumb over the intricate design and when he tilted his head back up Derek was watching him like he was about to turn and flee. God, it’s odd seeing his emotions so raw and open.

“When a wolf finds a true pack member, when they feel a pack bond form, it’s a tradition to give them The Pack symbol on a small token or something of the like.” His voice turned quiet as he continued with, “wearing them as jewellery was Laura’s idea.” 

Stiles slid it into his pocket. “I have a chain at home, I’ll put it on then.” Derek looked almost shocked as if not expecting Stiles to agree to wear it. Stiles wondered what he’d have to do to convince Derek he was not going to leave him, there was a lot he had to convince Derek of, he planned to go through it all.

“You don’t have to, there could be consequences to being so openly in a Pack.” But Stiles heard the words underneath what had been said: being in my Pack could mean you dying, just like everyone else. Maybe you shouldn’t be a part of it.

“No different than when I was in Scott’s pathetic excuse for a Pack, to be honest. In fact, I’d probably be safer, with the actual Pack bonds and all.” The crease between Derek’s eyebrows deepened. “I’m not going to leave you, Derek, I am Pack and will continue to be. Just like I will continue to remind you that what happened ten years ago is not, has never been and will never be your fault.” Just like he’ll do everything in his power to help Derek in anyway he could.

Derek’s face was so full of emotion that it made Stiles blink, “Why?”

“Because you deserve better than you have it. Because you have never once lied to me, you may have made me feel lesser because I’m human but that was a while ago and now you do the opposite. You are one of the only ones that ever give me credit when a plan goes well whereas Scott only gives me credit when a plan goes to shit. You’re smart and know when words won’t change someone's mind, you may be a little reckless but you always think about the consequences.” Though that probably has something to do with your past. “You’re a lot of things, Derek, and I want to be in your Pack, I want to be your Packmate. I like you, dude. That’s why.” 

“I like you too, Stiles.” Derek’s eyes flicked away but reconnected with Stiles’ when the young human placed a gentle hand on his.

“I’m not going anywhere, I promise.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“I don’t,” he smiled, softly as he ran his thumb in slow circles over the back of Derek's hand. 

They both decided that they'd had enough of talking about emotions for one day though Stiles vowed to himself that that didn't mean their chat was over forever, only put on hold until Derek was okay with talking once more. But, for now, he was perfectly content to just curl up on the sofa and watch Endgame which he definitely did not cry at. Nope, never.