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It was Isaac who came first, that summer. 

He showed up at Derek’s loft with a backpack hanging on his shoulder and an expression on his face that was at once lost and heartbroken, and Derek didn’t hesitate to step aside and open the door to let him in. Isaac stepped past him, dropping his backpack on the floor by the door in the pile of Derek’s shoes, and then he plopped down on Derek’s couch, his hands in his lap and his eyes staring straight ahead. The TV was on in front of him, turned to some sitcom that Derek had been using as white noise as he cooked himself dinner, but Derek didn't think that he was watching it. After a moment, Derek remembered to slide the door closed, stepping closer to the couch and just watching Isaac, at a loss of what to do. Something about Isaac in that moment reminded him painfully of himself, and he didn't know what to do with it. In the back of his mind, he felt a nudge that felt something like his mother, and before he knew it he was coming back to his living room with a glass of water. He crouched in front of Isaac, pushing his wooden coffee table back so that he would fit in the space, and offered him the glass. Isaac took it silently, and Derek watched him with just as much noise. When the glass was drained, Isaac wrapped both hands around it and put it in his lap. Staring at his fingers, he finally mumbled, “I didn't know where else to go.”

 Something complicated twitched in Derek’s chest, almost motherly, wanting to say things like You’re always welcome here or I want to help you or I’m sorry for what a failure of an alpha I've been or, even, Stiles would know what to do. Derek thought that those might be too much, and he wasn't sure he could get any of them out of his mouth anyway. In the end, he said after a long pause, “Dinner’s almost ready, if you wanted to stay.”

 Isaac didn't say anything, so Derek stood, resting his hand on Isaac’s shoulder as he passed, and went into the kitchen to finish making dinner. It was just pasta and alfredo sauce, nothing complicated, but he made sure to put more noodles in the pot in case Isaac stayed.

Isaac did stay for dinner, and then a movie that was showing on TV afterwards, and when the movie was done and Isaac still made no move to leave, Derek hesitantly offered up his guest room. Isaac looked at him, hope flushing his cheeks and his heart a little faster, and before Isaac could respond, Derek gave him a small smile and went upstairs to make sure the sheets were clean.

 

Derek never did find out why Isaac came that first night, but he didn't really mind, because after that, Isaac was at his house almost every day. They didn't always talk; Derek was better now than he had been before, but he still wasn't particularly chatty, and Isaac usually brought a book or his laptop. After Isaac complained about how Derek had nothing except a TV, Derek bought an Xbox and a blu ray and DVD player and all kinds of things for Isaac to do all day.

 (“You didn't have to buy all this for me,” Isaac said when he saw it, running his fingers reverently over Derek’s new speaker system. “I mean, this is a lot of money to spend on just me.”

Derek shrugged. “It’s not like I have anyone left to buy things for.” Or like you've got anyone else buying for you, he silently added, and Isaac didn't mention it again.)

 

Even though he saw Isaac almost every day, it was a week and a half before Isaac brought anyone else to the loft with him.

By now, they had a routine. Isaac would show up late in the morning or afternoon. Him and Derek would make some food together (sometimes, Derek bought Isaac food if they didn't feel like cooking, and Derek took to stocking his cupboards with all sorts of junk food), and then they would clean up together, usually listening to music Isaac picked, unless he chose something that offended Derek’s ears. In those cases, they would scuffle over the iPod in the kitchen, and the winner would get to pick. (Derek usually won). After that, Derek would work on his laptop, and Isaac would busy himself. Sometimes, he roped Derek into playing video games. (Derek was, apparently, “tragically bad” at most video games, something that Isaac at once tried to remedy and found hilarious). They would cook dinner, maybe watch a movie or some TV together. Sometimes, Isaac went back to whatever foster family he was staying with, and sometimes he didn't. Derek always made Isaac text his foster parents on the nights that he planned to stay, just in case. Some nights, that meant that Isaac had to go home, which disappointed them both, but it was necessary.  

That first time, Isaac was late, and Derek realized why as soon he smelled Erica’s scent coming up the stairs to his loft. He tensed on his couch, grip white-knuckled on his book, but he didn't tell Isaac not to come up and he didn't go and hide, which he considered an improvement. He could smell the anxiety coming off of Erica, and he could hear the reassuring tone of Isaac’s voice, but he tried not to listen to what Isaac was saying, or what she was saying back. When they finally made it inside his loft, Derek had abandoned all pretense of nonchalance, setting his book on the couch and standing by the foot of it, facing the door as it swung open. He couldn't tell what expression was on his face, but he thought it might be a bit more vulnerable than he normally allowed.

Erica was wringing her hands together, and she reeked of anxiety. Instead of her usual corset-red-lipstick-heels-eye-makeup combo, she was wearing a little eyeliner and mascara, as well as a simple black t-shirt and some sneakers with jeans. It was kind of a pleasant change, but it looked kind of off on her, like something was missing. Isaac had to nudge her past the doorway, and when she opened her mouth to talk, Derek found himself holding his breath. “Look, Derek,” she began, not meeting his eyes. “We didn't mean to hurt you when we -”

Before she could finish, Derek was moving forward and smothering her in a hug. The action appeared to surprise her as much as it surprised him, but he held on, one hand on the back of her neck holding her head to his chest, his chin on her head. He breathed in heavily, letting her scent fill his nostrils (apples, vanilla, and pack). After a moment’s hesitation, she hugged him back just as tightly, breathed him in just as fully. “It’s okay,” he murmured into her hair, and she nodded against his chest. He thought that his shirt might be a little damp where her head rested, but he didn't comment, just held her tighter. “It’s okay.”

 

After that, Isaac brought Erica with him a few times a week. (That first day, once he’d stopped grinning like a maniac, he pulled Erica over to the couch and introduced her to Derek’s gaming center. He hadn't gotten much work done that day, as distracted as he was by first their squeals of delight, and then Isaac’s outrage as Erica handed his ass to him in Call of Duty.) Boyd came too, eventually, both Isaac and Erica tugging him into the room and then leaving him in the kitchen with Derek. He’d looked as uncomfortable as Derek had ever seen him, shuffling his weight a little and not meeting Derek’s eyes. Isaac and Erica were eavesdropping from the living room; Derek could tell because they weren't talking at all, and every time Derek made a noise in his cooking, their heart rates skyrocketed. He smirked a little at their obviousness; growing up in a house full of werewolves, he had learned early on the art of eavesdropping.

Finally, Boyd cleared his throat, and Derek halted in his preparations, his eyebrows low over his eyes. “Look,” Boyd began, “I know that Erica talked to you...and I know what you said, you know, in response.” Derek nodded, trying not to smile at how uncomfortable Boyd looked. “But I just wanted to make it clear.” He wrung his hand across the back of his neck. “I’m sorry. It was a mistake to run away from you, and I understand now why you did - what you did.”

Derek nodded again, his lips tipping up at the corners involuntarily. “It’s all good, man.” He looked to the vegetables he’d left on the counter. “You wanna help me make dinner? We’re having vegetable beef soup.” Boyd still looked unsure, so he hedged, “It’s a secret family recipe, you know. I don’t share it with just anyone.”

 Boyd finally smiled, looking relieved to have gotten off so easily. He tried to play it cool by shrugging, but after a moment he let himself. “Yeah,” he said, a little faintly. “That sounds nice.” Derek’s grin grew, and he nodded and handed Boyd a knife and left a space for him to work to his right.

 

Derek almost never spent the day by himself now. Three weeks after Isaac first started coming, they were all comfortable coming on their own and just hanging out at Derek’s loft. (Idly one day, Isaac remarked, “You didn't even tell us you’d moved,” and Derek had blushed a little. He’d forgotten that he had anyone left to tell about his life anymore). Sometimes, they all came together, but sometimes, it was just Boyd and Derek sharing the couch as they read, or Isaac and him having impromptu dance parties as they cooked in the kitchen (“Loosen up a little,” Isaac said right before their first one, nudging Derek’s hip with his own), or Erica enlisting Derek’s help on whatever craft she was working on for her sister. Friday nights without fail, they all came together, touting movies and bags of microwave popcorn. They would all pile on the couch (Derek didn’t bother trying to get work done on Friday nights anymore) and settle in to watch whatever movie - or movies, most nights - they’d brought. Sometimes, they’d get done so late that instead of going their separate ways they’d just move their pile from the couch to Derek’s bed or the bed upstairs. Soon, his loft smelled like the four of them, and he forgot what it was like to be lonely.

 

The first time Derek heard Jackson’s Porsche roaring into the parking lot, he dropped the stack of papers he’d been carrying all over the floor. He left them there, going instead to the windows that made up the back wall and leaning his head against them as he listened. He heard the distinct sound Jackson grumbling and cursing in his car over the thumping of the bass in whatever song he was listening to. Three songs later, Jackson punched the button for the radio, and in the sudden silence the sound of him yanking the keys from the ignition and bursting from the car seemed deafening. He began snarling and grumbling as he paced the parking lot. Derek waited for him to come up the stairs and bang on the door, but he never did, so eventually Derek went down to him. It took him a while to notice Derek standing in the doorway to the building watching him pace (absently, it reminded Derek that he should probably work on training his betas), but when he did, he started and then scowled. He didn’t seem to know how to behave around Derek, and he looked vaguely wild. With a pang, Derek realized that it was his fault that Jackson was this way; he should have spoken to him as soon as he rid himself of the kanima, taught him what it meant to be a wolf and what it meant to be a pack.

Finally, Jackson, snarled, “I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t want to be here.”

 Derek regarded him. That may be true, but already he could feel Jackson’s energy calming. Lydia was good for him, Derek knew, helped him keep control, but Lydia was not wolf. “It’s because it smells like pack,” Derek explained. “You can’t help it; your wolf needs this.”

Jackson bared his teeth. “I don’t need anyone.” But he made no move to leave.

Derek closed his eyes. He did not need this snarling, angry beta, one so reluctant to accept help and to admit his faults. Not now, not when he’d just gotten the rest of them steady, gotten them to trust him. Still, he tried to think of what his mother would do, of what Stiles would want him to do. He opened his eyes, and saw Jackson in a new way; angry, yes, and still an asshole, but also scared and unsure in his own skin. He said, “You’re always welcome here.”

For a moment, Jackson’s face froze in surprise. His cheeks colored a little, and his hands unfisted. And then he was sneering, barking out a quick, “Whatever,” before he threw himself back in his car and sped away. Derek stood in the parking lot for another moment staring after him before went back upstairs and picked his papers up off the floor.

 

That week, Jackson was there for Friday movie night. He came late, left after the first movie, and barely talked to anyone, but he came, and Derek smiled the whole night long.

 

Stiles doesn't really sleep.

After he and Derek almost drowned, the panic attacks start coming again. He doesn't tell his dad, because he’d have to explain why, and he doesn't tell Scott because he thinks he had bigger problems than Stiles’ inability to cope. And then, after Gerard, there are nightmares, and bruises worse than the ones on his face that he hides from everyone. He doesn't really have anyone left to notice them anyway (he thinks Danny might have noticed them, one lacrosse practice, but Stiles avoids him until they go away). Derek used to be someone who noticed, but Stiles isn't - they don't do that anymore, the noticing thing.

The nightmares, coupled with chronic insomnia and an inability to settle at all when something is bothering him, mean that Stiles spends the remainder of the school year in a sleep-deprived haze, and that when summer begins, Stiles spends a lot of time trying to distract himself from how achingly tired he is. 

He reads through all of his required summer reading in a week.

He reads all the books Deaton lets him take soon after that.

He beats Skyrim.

He beats all the Lego Harry Potter games.

He researches cures for insomnia.

He researches permanent psychological damage for pathological liars.

He does not sleep.

If Scott notices all the Red Bulls and coffee Stiles is downing when they hang out, he doesn't say anything, the same way Stiles isn't saying anything about all the texts Scott is getting from Derek and Isaac and even Erica, once, inviting him to pack movie nights at Derek’s loft, or Minecraft sessions at Derek’s loft, or just to hang out at Derek’s loft. It isn't a big deal, really. Scott doesn't know the details of what happened between him and Derek, just that something had happened, and that Stiles doesn't talk about it. He knows that Scott is worried about him, but Stiles pretends so hard that everything is all right that he thinks Scott might not be saying anything purely out of respect for all of Stiles’ hard work.

And his dad is so used to getting lies that he hardly bothers asking Stiles anything at all, these days, besides, “pass the salt please,” or, “When will you be home?” He thinks his dad might have started drinking again, but it’s not like they se each other enough for him to be able to tell.

Nights when Stiles gets overwhelmed with how incredibly tired, how incredibly alone he is, when panic attacks chase one another, when no amount of TV or research can distract him, he regrets what had happened with Derek. Derek, if nothing else, had been consistent. (When Stiles is honest with himself, he can admit that Derek was so much more than consistent, but those days are getting fewer and farther between the more time he spends not sleeping).

On one of these nights, he fixates on how none of these texts to Scott are about training, just bonding. After much internal debate, Stiles opens for the first time the folder on his desktop titled “dereks pack”. He opens one of the documents and reads through it. It details a training exercise that helped develop the ability to track scents, one that him and Derek had come up with together. He makes an email to Derek, attaches the doc, and writes, simply, Derek - I hope this helps. Good luck with your pack. Before he can overthink it too much, he presses send. He has a mini panic attack right there in his desk chair, and recovered just in time for him to start getting ready to go to Deaton’s.

He doesn't get any reply, but a few days later, when Scott gets a text inviting him to a pack training exercise, Stiles says that he won’t be offended if Scott went, and he did, after he makes Stiles promise that he doesn't mind.

Stiles keeps the promise, mostly.

 

Derek wasn't sure what finally got Scott to come. Isaac was the one to first invite him anything, just to some random video gaming session, but after that Derek made a point of texting him every Friday night, and asking the others to text him periodically to invite him to things. (He thought Isaac was the only one who listened to him, but that was okay, as long as someone was). They were a few weeks into their routine when Stiles sent the email. It had taken Derek a moment to even move when he saw the email in his inbox, and an even longer time to catch his breath once he finally opened it. It wasn't like the email itself was particularly long - it was only two sentences, for Christ’s sake - but the attachment brought up memories of sitting on Stiles’ bed in Stiles’ room, Stiles laughing at him from the desk and shut up idiot, you know what I meant, and it’s not like you've got any better ideas, and by the time he finally closed the lid on that particular box of memories, his entire pack was surrounding him, trying to get close enough to touch him and whimpering. He gave into their instincts, letting himself be led upstairs to the bed, letting them all pile together, letting them scent each other and him, until he was aware enough to actually settle them. Derek got up and made them dinner, and then over creamy chicken and rice, he asked, “How would you feel if we started training again?” Isaac, Erica, and Boyd tensed, while Jackson just looked at him with a faintly puzzled expression. Guilt and shame settled low in Derek’s stomach, and he hurried to add, “Not like before. Different sort of training.” They agreed, cautiously, and he set a date later in the week that worked for all of them and told them to meet at his loft in the morning.

 Of course, the night before they were due to meet, the alpha pack delivered another message, this time to his loft, by painting the window with their symbol. When the pack - and Scott, of course this was the first time Scott came to anything - showed up, Derek was just getting ready to clean up the paint. “What’s that?” Scott asked sharply.

Isaac exhaled, coming up behind Derek to just look at it. “It’s the alpha pack, isn't it?” Isaac asked, and Derek nodded reluctantly. He could feel that he was glaring and scowling but didn't try to stop.

“What alpha pack?” Scott again, but Derek could tell the others were curious, too. “It doesn't matter,” Derek said, shaking his head. Scott opened his mouth to protest, but Derek was quick to cut him off. “If it comes to matter, I’ll tell you, but for now it’s just an empty threat.”

 Scott nodded, but he didn't seem happy about it. Derek took a deep breath, and then he said, “Give me a minute or two, and then I’ll be ready to take you guys to my family’s house.” They exchanged glances at that, but nodded, and twenty minutes later they were standing at the edge of the tree line by Derek’s family’s house. “Here’s how this exercise works. I have these two socks. You guys get one of them, and I’ll have the other. The goal is to find the second sock. I’ll be the one to hide it in the woods, and I’ll howl when it’s done. That’s when you guys head in to try to find it. Got it?” They nodded, but Scott had a weird expression on his face.

“Is that - are those the Sheriff’s socks?” he asked timidly, and Derek flushed but nodded.

“I - when I planned this - Stiles and I were -” he broke off, feeling hurt and longing in his stomach. He’d been planning to do this for a long while, had planned to have Stiles with him when he did. Stiles had given him the socks himself, saying it would be more effective if they did the exercise with a scent they didn’t know well. His betas shifted uncomfortably, and he could tell that they wanted to comfort him, but Scott nodded and dropped it, something like understanding in his expression. Derek cleared his throat. “Anyway. Are you all ready?” They were, and Derek took off into the woods.

 

The exercise went well, all things considered. It took them an hour finally find the sock, and when it finally got found, it was Erica with the sock and the others so far away from her that he didn't even bother to pretend they had been close. Derek praised Erica, and she preened more than a little. When Derek set the others fighting each other on the lawn as he watched, he saw her taunting them more than once, trying to make them angry. It worked with Jackson, but Boyd and Isaac just rolled their eyes and kept going, used to it by now. And Scott - Scott was sitting next to Derek on the porch, watching them.

“You should join them,” Derek finally said, when he became too aware of how much Scott smelled like Stiles, underneath the Argent girl.

 Scott shrugged. “I don’t really -” he broke off with a huff. He took a moment before he tried again. “I think I was actually fighting them too recently for it to go well.” Derek nodded, and didn't push; he could see the wisdom in that. “Sorry about that, by the way,” Scott added, almost as an aside, but Derek could smell nerves on him. Derek raised an eyebrow silently, waiting. Scott cleared his throat, watching the betas and rubbing the back of his neck. “About - how against you I was. And before that, with um, Peter, when I first got bitten. I was - I’m sorry.”

Derek was startled by the apology, and as Boyd sent Isaac flying far into the trees, he found that he didn't know what to say in response. Eventually, he said, “Did Stiles put you up to this?” He could feel Scott looking at him, but he made sure that his face was blank and his heartbeat calm.

“We talked a lot about it, a few months back. He always wanted me to say something, but I never did.”

“Until now.”

“Until now.” Scott hesitated, and then he said, “I don’t really know what happened with you and Stiles, and I guess I don’t really need to, but you've really - you've changed a lot, Derek. I don’t know how much of it was him, but it’s good.” Isaac came back out of the trees just then, laughing and human, leaves and twigs sticking out of his hair. Erica started cackling at him, and he ran at her and caught her around the waist, throwing her over his shoulder. She was shrieking with laughter, pounding his back with her fists and demanding through her giggles that he put her down. Jackson and Boyd were standing together, leaning against each other as they laughed to keep standing. With a wicked grin, Isaac dumped Erica in a pile of leaves, but she managed to drag him down her, and soon they were all in the pile, hooting and laughing and throwing leaves at each other.

Derek didn't realize he was smiling until Scott bumped their shoulders together, meeting his eyes and grinning back, this puppy-like thing that lit up his whole face. Derek didn't ever think the full force of it had ever been directed at him before, until now. “It’s really good.”

 

Scott came by the next day. He seemed - light, lighter than Stiles had seen him in a long time. When Stiles smiled at him, letting him in the door (he never used to have to let him in, he used to just come in, and when had that changed? And was it Scott who’d made the change, or Stiles?) it felt brittle, like it would break right off his face if Scott questioned it. They played video games and talked, and though Scott didn't bring it up, Stiles could tell he wanted to. They were sharing a pizza (Scott was eating most of it - Stiles started to feel full half through his first slice, but finished it and half of another one just so Scott didn't notice so much) before Stiles finally sighed and asked, “So, how was it?”

Scott’s smile was immediate and blinding, and Stiles couldn't be mad at him for going if he wanted to now. “It was so good, man,” he gushed, putting down his pizza slice so he could gesture while he talked. “Derek is so good, if you’d believe it. I mean, with them. He’s, like, a real alpha now. They’re all on the same wavelength and shit now, it’s kinda weird.”

 Stiles cocked his head a little at that, leaning forward in his seat. “What do you mean?”

 Scott seemed to catch himself, like he wasn't sure if he was supposed to share or not, and Stiles tried not to feel hurt. (They used to share everything without thought, and when had that changed?). He only paused a moment before he explained. “It’s like - like, when he brought out the socks for the thing we were doing, and I asked about them, cause they smelled rank and all like your dad and stuff. He got all weird and like, hurt, and then his betas did, too, like I’m pretty sure Isaac whimpered.”

Shit. Stiles had completely forgotten about the socks. His smile was plastic, and Scott looked a little guilty, like maybe he realized what he was saying, and to whom, but Stiles powered through with effort. “That’s a good thing, right?”

 Scott’s brow wrinkled a little. “I think so. I mean, it means they’re close at least, right? Which is more than you could say for them, like, two months ago. Even Jackson was there, man! And he mostly got along!”

 “That’s good,” Stiles said, smiling, and it was. It was just - just that Stiles was supposed to be a part of it. When they’d made all these plans, and Derek had explained to him how a pack was supposed to be, he’d always been a part of it. Hell, he’d been at the head of it, the driving force, even. And now, he wasn't anything to any of them.

He forced himself to pay attention when he realized that Scott was talking again. “- apparently Friday movies are like, pack tradition or something, I don’t know. It kinda seemed like it was the shit, you know? Mandatory, or something.” Scott shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Stiles knew what question was next, and he kind of hated that Scott felt like he had to ask; he wasn't a needy girlfriend or something, and Stiles had never claimed to Derek that he was getting Scott in the divorce. That had never been a thing.

Stiles sighed quietly to himself, and then forced a smile on his face. “You wanna go?” Scott nodded sheepishly. “Then go. You don’t have to ask my permission, Scotty. It’s not gonna offend me.”

Scott looked up at him from across the table. “You sure?”

Stiles shrugged. “I’m sure. Besides, it’s not like you can stay an omega forever.”

 Scott smiled. “True. Thanks, man.”

Stiles smiled back, still a little stiff. “No problem.”

It kind of felt like it might be, though.

 

After that, Scott went to Friday movie every week, and took to spending some afternoons at Derek’s loft with the rest of them. He never came by himself, and he really only seemed comfortable alone with Derek and Isaac, but he was coming, and making an effort. It was hard for Derek, sometimes, because he smelled vaguely of Stiles, and sometimes he would say something or make a face or gesture that was clearly from Stiles, and Derek had to stop himself from inviting Stiles, or from just going to see him, talk to him. (Tell him how worried he was about Isaac and his foster family, and how he sometimes thought about just adopting the kid, how scared he was that he was just going to fuck everything up again, how he was just waiting for this to fall apart because there were days when he felt happy, and God knew what that had always meant for him in the past). But he never did, and he could tell that Scott was refraining sometimes from bringing Stiles up, or from telling a story if it involved Stiles.

Scott got along with all of them though, even it sometimes seemed like he was tiptoeing. And whenever he did snap, and lose his temper, it was always at Jackson. Derek could understand that - some days it felt like Jackson was actively trying to piss them all off - but it still surprised him, made him feel tense. He knew that in the past, Scott and Jackson had not gotten along, and that since Stiles and Scott had kidnapped him things had gotten even worse, but he was hoping that both of them being pack would smooth that over on its own.

It didn't.

In fact, it took Jackson getting in an argument with Derek for Scott and Jackson to work it out.

One day, when Derek was alone in the kitchen making homemade bread (why did they always confront him in his kitchen? And while he was cooking, no less), Jackson came in. He seemed like he always did; standoffish, tense, vaguely petulant. Without any preamble, Jackson announced, “I want to invite Lydia to pack night.”

Derek swore and dropped the cup measure full of flour on to the counter. It exploded up Derek’s front in a puff of white, and even as he was spitting it out of his mouth and blinking it out of his eyes, he was exclaiming, “What?”

Jackson frowned, absently dusting his chest off as some of the white powder settled on his shirt. “She’s pack to me,” he said mulishly.

“I know,” Derek said. He knew that he was frowning, but he felt too ambushed by the request to be anything but honest and a bit startlingly blunt at this point. “But she hates me. She’ll probably castrate me the moment she walks in the door.”

Jackson smirked, his eyebrows rising slightly. He looked like he wouldn't mind it a little if she did. From the other room, Scott piped up, “Well, you did kinda try to murder her a while back.”

Derek sputtered, talking a damp towel and wiping his face with it. “I thought she was a mass murder!”

“And then your psychotic uncle kind of possessed her so he could raise himself from the dead,” Isaac added, appearing at Derek’s elbow with the broom and handing it to him as he himself swept the flour from the counter with his hands, throwing it in the sink when he was done.

Derek scowled, beginning to sweep. “I’m aware. I just - I understand that she’s pack to you, Jackson, and I understand how important that is. And I know you've already told her everything you know about wolves. It’s just - I know she hates me. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with that - you guys all hated me at one point - but she’ll challenge me at every corner and I feel like we just barely -” learned to even get used to each other, much less trust each other, he finished silently in his head. He sighed, leaning against the broom and meeting Jackson’s eyes. They were stormy, stubborn, and his posture was the same, all crossed arms and wide planted feet. Unconsciously, Derek’s eyes flicked to the remains of the black paint still on his window from the last time the alphas threatened him. Derek didn't know if he could afford to have more people to protect.

“What do you have against Lydia?” Scott asked, vaulting himself off the couch to stand behind Jackson. Jesus, he sounded defensive, too. Derek did not need this; he just wanted to finish his bread.

“Nothing.” Derek rubbed a hand down his face. If they wanted this bread with dinner they were going to have leave him alone. “Look, I know she’s beautiful and brilliant and has a heart of gold underneath the bitchy exterior, and that she’s the bravest person I’ll ever meet, but it’s one thing to know all that about her, and another thing entirely to have all of that up in my space all the time. She’s a goddamn force of nature, and I can’t have the weight of her safety resting on my shoulder, especially since she’ll resist having it there as much and as vocally as she can.”

When Derek looked back up from his examination of the scratches in the metal of his sink, Jackson and Scott were both staring at him open mouthed. Derek raised an eyebrow at him in question. “When did you start hero worshiping Lydia?” Scott breathed, and then suddenly seemed to answer his own question, his expression knowing. Derek blushed and looked away. Jackson muttered a question under his breath to Scott, still sounding confused. Derek didn’t hear what it was, but he heard Scott’s answer. “He had his thing with Stiles, remember?”

The tips of his ears were burning now, and something was churning in his gut as he brushed past Isaac - who has leaning against the counter on the other side of the sink just watching the whole time, the little shit - to get more flour for the bread. Thing, Scott said, like THING with raised eyebrows and implications, when really it’d been none of that. It’d been more like thing, like friends, like movies and books and late night confessions and saving each others lives and occasionally sharing a bed when the nights got bad. Not that Derek would have minded more but it didn't - that wasn't really an option now, he knew.

After a while, Derek became aware that Jackson and Scott were still there, watching him as he began to knead the bread on the counter. It felt good, centering, touching the bread, shaping it. He enjoyed making bread immensely; he’d forgotten. Scott cleared his throat. “It’s not gonna be like that. Lydia might not be wolf, but she can respect boundaries if she knows to.” From the corner of his eye, Derek saw Jackson nod along with Scott’s words. It didn't sound like much of an endorsement, but then Scott continued, in softer tones, “And it’s not your job to keep us all safe, Derek. We have each other’s backs.”

Elbow deep in bread, Derek paused, his throat tight. Of course it was his job. His uncle turned Scott, and the rest of them he did himself. That made them his responsibility. Anything that went wrong was his fault. (Stiles voice in his head, in memories, chastising him, they knew what they were getting into, Derek and then Derek’s feeble protests - he’d been so tired that day, so broken, so heavy with the weight of all their lives - not Scott, Scott didn’t ask for any of this shit, and how could any of them predicted this? and Stiles sighing, going to him on the bed, pulling them together in a tight hug, his fingers in his hair. Eventually, he continued, Scott could leave if he wanted to. They all could. They choose to stay. They’re in this as much as you are.) He didn’t know what to say to that, so eventually he cleared his throat, continuing in his kneading and said, gruffly, “She can come. But if she becomes a problem, she can’t become a fixture, got it?”

They met Derek’s eyes when he looked at them, Jackson’s bright and Scott with his puppy smile again, nodding, before they bounded off to play video games, chattering excitedly to each other.

Isaac came up behind him, slapping a hand on Derek’s shoulder as he covered the bread to rise. “You did good,” he muttered, and he sounded like he meant it. Derek nodded distractedly, washing his hands and trying to unstick dough and flour from between his fingers. He wasn't so sure, but he tried to take it to heart.

Jackson and Scott didn't fight so much after that - at least, no more than Jackson fought with anyone. Almost a week later, Lydia was at pack night. She smelled anxious, uncomfortable, but she walked in with her heels and her perfectly curled hair and her lip gloss and stated that if they chose a tacky action flick she was going to castrate them (Derek was gratified that he wasn't the only one to look vaguely afraid at the threat). She sat with Jackson on the chair, holding hands, and as they night went on, she gradually relaxed. She and Jackson didn't stay for the puppy pile that occurred afterwards on Derek’s bed, but she looked like she found it amusing instead of weird and promised she’d be back next week, with only something of a threat in the words when she did.

 

Allison shows up at Stiles’ door one Friday night.

It’s not like he’s not glad to see her, or that he wants her to leave - the opposite, probably (because she doesn’t know him well enough to tell that when he’s lying but still cares enough to ask and he thinks that might be just what he needs) - but he is a little surprised to see her there. Still, he opens up his door to her. She smiles softly at him as she brushes past him, her hand squeezing his arm in that motherly way of hers, settling down at his kitchen table. He’s got research spread out all over the table (some of the material is Deaton’s, old books and papers, and others are articles printed from the internet. He’s got his notebook there too, so he can write down what’s useful), and he quickly piles it up and moves it out of the way so he can sit across from her.

Stiles has maintained that he’s a very different person than he was before he got involved in this werewolf shit, but he still can’t stand uncomfortable silence. True to form, he offers, with a little flail of his hand, “Pack movie nights rough on you?”

Allison shrugs, her eyes on her hands folded carefully together on the tabletop. Stiles’ own hands are fisted underneath his thighs, slowly losing circulation. “Not normally,” Allison replies, biting her lip a little. “But Lydia went to her first one last week and...decided to go back, I guess.”

Stiles winces, then nods in understanding. He’s been out of love with Lydia for a while (since after the rave, his minds supplies, along with images of dark hair and green eyes and hushed tears in the dark. Shut up, he supplies to his mind), but he still worries about her with Derek’s pack. He understands from the little Scott has said that they all have much better control now, and a lot less anger, but he still remembers hiding her in that house and the fear that he’d felt. “I get that,” he eventually replies, and Allison looks up at him and smiles, a little sadly. She is different now, after witnessing so many deaths, but then, they all are. Her mom’s death especially did a number on her. He can forgive her for going over to the dark side, since it makes him feel slightly better about his own little stint in torturing-Derek-land (it’s not a stint if you’re still in it, his brain whispers, along with, and it’s torturing you too).

“How do you deal with it?” Allison asks, her leg jiggling under the table. Her dark eyes flit up to his, and then away again. She licks her lips, tapping her thumb on the table. Stiles doesn't think he’s ever seen her with this little composure, and it’s a little - gratifying, in a horrible way, because it makes her seem more human and helps him feel less bad about how much of a mess he is himself. He takes his hands out from under him and lays them on the table, and now their postures are identical, although for once in his life he isn't the one with the fidgeting problem (the only one, anyway). “Being alone all the time?”

“I don’t know that I do,” Stiles admits quietly, staring at his hands. He can feel her looking at him, but he doesn't meet her eyes. “Deal with it, I mean.” They lapse into a silence again, this one a bit more comfortable than the last. Just when the silence starts to weigh on him, Stiles stands.  “You what will solve all of our problems? Pizza. Pizza will fix everything.” He looks down at her, and she smiles at him and nods, looking marginally brighter than before. “I’m pretty sure we have frozen, but we could order in if you wanted.”

Allison smiles and shakes her head. “Frozen is good,” and Stiles pulls it out and puts it in the oven, and they move to the couch while they wait. Stiles puts on a movie (he doesn't really know why, he doesn't want to watch it, maybe he just needs the noise), and Allison snorts when they reach the title screen. Stiles raises an eyebrow at her. “This is Scott’s favorite movie,” Allison explains, and Stiles smiles a little because he knows. A thought occurs to him, but he hesitates. Allison catches the look though, and she’s making a face at him that indicates that if he doesn't share she’ll pull her crossbow on him.

“Do you two still...fondue?” Stiles asks, and then smirks because he’s a little shit.

She gives him a look that says she understood the reference and is severely unimpressed, but it still takes her a while to actually answer the question. “I broke up with him,” she explains slowly, her knees to her chest and her eyes on the wall in front of them. The movie isn't started yet and Stiles doesn't know where the remote is, but he doesn't look for it, just watches Allison as she talks. “But it - didn't stick, I guess. I was angry at my dad and we didn't really talk about anything, and Lydia was busy with Jackson and I just - didn't want to be alone when I didn't have to be, especially not when I missed my mom so goddamn much.”

Stiles wishes, not for the first time, that he could be someone more like Allison; someone strong and brave even when they were afraid, who never sold out her friends, who was strong enough to ask for help and to reach out when she needed it, who admitted her mistakes when she made them and took the responsibility. Stiles hid behind his sarcasm and his research, and he couldn't even ask his dad for more milk when they were out, much less help in recovering from supernatural trauma. “We’re not really together, I guess,” Allison continues after a long silence. “But we’re more than friends. We talk a lot, about everything. We have so many issues, but I think we both realized that it’d be better to work them out together than try to figure it out on our own.  He - stays with me, some nights. Nothing happens. We just sleep. But it’s nice, to not fall asleep alone.”

Stiles nods, his throat suddenly tight, because that’s one thing he can understand. (They never used to do anything, either, though sometime Stiles wished they had just so he could have something to hold on to, now that he’s alone at night) (so alone, so alone, he’s so so alone). When the timer for the pizza goes off in the other room, it takes Stiles a moment to push himself up and off the couch and go and get it. He comes back with the pizza, some napkins, and a can of Coke for them both. “Not spiked,” he reassures her, passing her the drink and a napkin. “Damn it,” she sighs, shooting him a grin. Hesitantly, Stiles smiles back.

“So what about you?” Allison asks, later, when they've eaten half a pizza between the two of them with the music from the title sequence playing softly in the background. (Stiles is proud of himself for the piece and a half he eats without difficulty even as he forces the last bite down his reluctant throat). Stiles raises a quizzical eyebrow at her, and she rolls her eyes and scoffs, settling deeper into the couch and digging her feet under his thighs. “Oh come on.” When he doesn't elaborate, she says - slowly, like she’s talking to a child: “You and Derek.”

Immediately, Stiles tenses, the can of Coke stopping halfway to his mouth. He can feel his chest getting tight, and he sets the Coke down so he doesn't crush it in his clenching fists. Breathless, he says, “I don’t - want to talk about that.” He tries to tamp down the panic attack he feels just below the surface. He doesn't know why he’s reacting this way. He shouldn't be reacting this way, it’s been months. (He does know why of course he knows why oh god oh god). And it’s not like the story itself is a truly spectacular one: they were both lonely and came to each other to be less so. Stiles helped Derek with his pack, and Derek helped Stiles feel safe. Stiles got scared, pushed Derek away, and then pushed everyone away, and now here they are; Derek with a strong pack that grows bigger and better connected every day, and Stiles, hiding in his house and lying to everyone he knows.

When Stiles looks up from his shaking hands (stop shaking, stop shaking), Allison is watching him with concern. “It’s okay,” she says softly, leaning forward so she can place her hand on his knee. “We don’t have to talk about it.” Stiles nods, a little desperately, and tries to get his breath back, clutching her hand like a lifeline. They stay like that for while as Stiles calms himself down from a panic attack. Stiles is grateful to Allison, who doesn't watch him as he does but lets him keep holding her hand. When he feels mostly back to normal, he releases her hand and sinks back into the couch, smiling gratefully at her. She smiles back, and then tops off the rest of her Coke. “Movie time?” she asks, and Stiles appreciates that she’s pretending that he’s fine and not pushing the issue. He nods, and she reaches for the remote.

 

 

Derek woke up to the sound of a phone vibrating.

It wasn't his own - his own he could feel digging into his butt in his back pocket, and he didn't know whose it was. He raised his head, looking down at his pack cuddling together on his bed. Erica and Boyd were both lying on their sides in a ball, their knees and foreheads pressed together. Erica’s back and tailbone were pressed against Derek’s right side, and Isaac was using his stomach as a pillow, his arms wrapping around Derek’s waist. Derek smiled down at him, at them. Even Jackson had stayed, this time, though Lydia had gone home (“You guys are weird,” she’d remarked from the door as they all settled on the Derek’s bed, but she’d sounded more fond than anything) and he’d fallen asleep sprawled across Scott and Isaac and a little bit onto Derek. Now, Derek registered that it was Scott’s phone buzzing at the same that Scott carefully started to slide out from underneath Isaac (Isaac had fallen asleep partially on Scott’s lap and partially in Derek’s - the kid had no concept of personal space. Not that Derek minded) and Jackson, so as not to wake them. The phone stopped vibrating before Scott was out of the bed, but it started again almost immediately after it stopped. Scott managed to slither out from under them, landing in a puddle at the foot of the bed. Derek closed his eyes as Scott stood, settling in the living room area before he pulled out his phone.

“Hello?” Scott whispered. Derek rolled his eyes behind his closed eyelids; if Scott’s bumbling around hadn't woken the betas, then it wasn't likely that his talking would. Still, he didn't comment because he didn't want Scott to know he was awake and listening. Their trust was a tentative thing, and he didn't want to try it yet.

“Scott,” Allison said from the other end, and from that one word Derek could tell that Scott was in deep trouble. Scott must have realized it too, because his jittering leg stilled. “What’s going on with Stiles?”

“What do you mean?” Scott asked, puppy-like confusion in his voice. Derek was tense in his bed, his arm squeezing a little too tight around Isaac’s shoulders. He wanted to launch himself from the bed, yank the phone from Scott’s hands, and demand that she tell him what was happening with Stiles. He didn’t have the right anymore, though, so he stayed where he was in the bed, eyes closed and listening.

“You have got to be kidding me.” Allison’s voice was flat, and Scott’s only response was to cough weakly. “Scott. I spent maybe four hours with him and I can see that something is very wrong. How many times a week do you see him? Don’t answer that. I’ll just get more pissed at you.”

“I’m sorry,” Scott offered feebly, and Allison scoffed.

“Of course you are, you’re in the doghouse. My point though is that something is very, very wrong. He eats like a bird - he seemed so goddamn proud of himself for eating two slices of pizza, when six months ago I watched him eat almost an entire pizza by himself. And he’s so thin now, I’m afraid he’s going to shatter the next time he walks into something. Is he even sleeping? Do you know? His eyes are practically sunken into his head, and those bruises under his eyes look painful.” Derek swallowed thickly, the backs of his eyes stinging, and forced himself to keep listening. Scott, too, seemed very tense, not hardly daring to move a muscle. “And what’s worse than all that is how subdued he is. He sits so still now, so tight. He smiles all the time but it’s so tight, and I can’t even remember if he laughed at all the whole night. He only cracked a joke once. It’s like - like he’s not even trying anymore. Like he’s given up.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Scott said eventually, having gotten his breath back faster than Derek managed to.

“Well, you wouldn't know, would you, since you aren't paying any attention. God, Scott. I know that pack is important and you’re all cuddle buddies together now, but Stiles is important, too, and you have to take care of him. You make time for me, so why can’t -”

“I do make time for him!” Scott protested, but it’s weak.

“Then pay attention,” Allison snapped. Her voice was marginally softer when she spoke next. “He needs you, Scott. He doesn’t really have anyone else.”

Scott swallowed, the sound loud in the room. Isaac squirmed a little, and Derek realized that he was still gripping him hard enough to bruise. He released his hold enough that Isaac breathed easier but Derek still got the comfort. “Okay. I will. I just - I forgot.”

“You forgot,” Allison said flatly. “Well, don’t do it again.”

“I won’t.”

When Allison finally spoke again, her voice was soft and low. “I just - I’m worried about him, Scott. We’ve never really been close, but I still care. I mean, God.” She exhaled, long and gusty. “He had a panic attack tonight, Scott.” Scott sucked in a harsh breath, and Derek froze in the bed. “It took him a long time to calm down.”

“What was it about? What triggered it?” Scott demanded.

Allison hesitated. “I - I asked him. About Derek. About what happened.”

Derek felt like he’d been punched in the gut. All the breath whooshed out of him, and he took his hand from Isaac’s shoulder to cover his mouth so that the sound didn’t leak out. Slowly, he forced himself to breathe.

“Well,” Scott said. He sounded defeated. “Shit.”

“Yeah.”

They were quiet. Jackson and Isaac had snuggled closer in the course of Scott and Allison’s conversation, and were now both laying splayed across Derek’s front, Isaac’s arm slung across Erica to pull her and Boyd closer. Now, Derek was in the middle of a beta sandwich, and it took him a moment to realize that they’d shifted closer to him because they’d unconsciously sensed his distress, and something felt tight and warm in his chest.

Scott cleared his throat, after a long while. “I’ll - do something with him. We’ll go to a movie, or some shit, I don’t know. But I’ll - talk to him.”

Allison sounded relieved. “Thank you.”

“You should go to bed, Ally. It’s late.”

Now she sounded fond. “I know, Scott. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Ally,” Scott said, and hung up.

He stayed sitting on the couch for another minute, breathing a little heavily, before he stood and  crawls back into the bed, sliding behind Jackson. Softly, he said, “I’ll take care of him, Derek. I promise.”

Derek nodded, touched and a little startled, and reached out blindly to pull Scott closer, his hand soft in the other boy’s curls. They fell asleep around the same time, and when he woke up before the other betas, soft morning light coming in through the windows behind them, he took a breath and reminded himself that he had this now, and that it was enough. Breathing came easier, and surrounded by warmth, he fell back asleep.

 

From Scott, 10:35am hey man movies on thurs? we havent seen that new marvel one yet and i know u want 2

To Scott, 10:41am really??

From Scott, 10:42am yeah man of course its been a while u wanna?

To Scott, 10:45am ….. (typing)

  …...

To Scott, 11:16am just the two of us right?

From Scott, 11:17am of course man who else???

To Scott, 11:19am ….. (typing)

To Scott, 11:51am k there’s a 1pm showing that cool?

From Scott, 11:51am yeah man let’s do it!!1!

To Scott, 12:01pm pick you at at 12:30

To Scott, 12:01pm be ready on time loser im not gonna be late

From Scott, 12:02pm yeah yeah i got it ill be on time

From Scott, 12:06pm see u then bro :)

To Scott, 12:12pm see you scotty

 

“Man, that was awesome! So many explosions!” Scott exclaims, then pantomimes an explosion with his hands, making sound effects with his mouth. Stiles laughs, shaking his head fondly as he drives. He’d missed this a lot more than he’d realized.

They spend a few more minutes talking easily (Stiles notices that Scott doesn't bring up Derek or his pack at all, though he knows that’s who he does things with the most, but he doesn't bring them up either and he appreciates the gesture), before Scott announces, “I have got to pee so bad, man. We need to find someplace to stop.”

Stiles gives him a look. “We were just at the theater, like, thirty minutes ago!” Beacon Hills has it’s own movie theater, but the theater one town over has way cheaper tickets and since they’re both broke it’s where they usually go.

“But I didn't have to go then, Stiles!” He whines, and Stiles laughs a little just at his tone. “Come on, you know how I am! I’ll be wetting myself in like 5 minutes!”

Stiles sighs. “We just barely entered Beacon Hills. We’re like twenty minutes from either of our houses, Scott. What do you want me to do? Pull into one of the skeevy gas station right on the edge of town?”

Scott shakes his head vehemently and purses his lips in thought, bouncing in the seat. Stiles smiles affectionately, facing the road. He glances back just in time to see Scott’s face light up with an idea. “I know where we can go! Here, turn right here.”

Stiles follows Scott’s directions blindly. He’s not as familiar with this part of town, but he knows that Allison and her dad moved after Victoria’s death, so maybe their new apartment is somewhere this way. He keeps following Scott’s directions, and it’s not until they pull into the parking lot of an industrial building that he realizes where they are (he tries not to remember the afternoons on his computer looking at apartments with Derek, and then the subsequent trips around town looking at them, about how domestic it had all been) (he fails).

Sensing his distress, Scott shoots him an apologetic look as he unbuckles his seat belt. “Sorry man, it was the closest place I could think of. Five minutes, I promise.” Before Stiles can say anything in response - not that he’s come up with one yet, he’s still kind of in shock - Scott vaults out of the jeep and practically runs into the building.

It takes Stiles a moment of just sitting and staring to pull his keys from the ignition and look around. The lot doesn't have a ton of cars in it, so it’s easy to pick out Jackson’s Porsche and the noticeable lack of Derek’s Camaro. He breathes a small sigh of relief at that, but the feeling doesn't last.

He’s here. Stiles has spent all summer avoiding this place and these people, and now he shows up a few weeks before school starts for a goddamn pee run. He’s going to kill Scott when he gets back, after he tamps down his rising panic.

When it starts to feel like it’s been a while, he checks the time on his phone and confirms that Scott’s been in there for fifteen minutes. He’s clenching and unclenching his fists and debating whether or not it’s worth it to go inside and get him, when there’s a knock on his window. Stiles jumps, tossing his phone up in fright, and looks straight into the face of Derek Hale.

He’s just standing by the car, looking in at Stiles. He’s got a paper sack of groceries in his arm - Stiles can see a bag of chips as well as some bread and eggs sticking out - and he’s got this confused and slightly dismayed expression on his face. When Stiles finally thinks to stop staring right back at him and roll down his window, Derek’s voice is wrecked when he asks, “What are you doing here, Stiles?”

Stiles flinches and tries to cover it by scratching the back of his neck. His heart is pounding and it’s worse because he knows that Derek can hear it. (He tries not to think about how Derek looks almost the same except better, less tired around the eyes and more relaxed in the forehead. He’s kind of crinkly now, frowning, and it’s Stiles fault oh god oh god he needs to leave he has t-). “Scott and I went to movie,” Stiles explains, clearing his throat and trying to sound casual. “He’s inside peeing. I’m just - waiting.”

Derek just keeps looking at him, something keen and terrible in his expression. “How long have you been waiting?” he asks, and Stiles flinches again, unable to hide it this time. He doesn't respond, just pulls out his phone and texts Scott, it’s been more than five minutes dude come on. Scott doesn't respond, and he knows Derek is still there, watching him, so eventually he looks up and says the first thing that comes to mind, which is, “You look good,” and then promptly blushes and wants to punch himself in the face.

Derek’s cheeks pink just a little, and Stiles hurries to continue, “I mean - yeah, like that, but I meant like, happy. Less murderous.” Derek’s eyes are wide now, his mouth slightly parted. God, Stiles is bad at this. He clears his throat again, looking at his hands. “It’s good,” he says, his voice subdued. “I’m happy for you. You - you deserve this.”

When he looks up again, Derek’s expression is inexplicably tender, eyes soft on Stiles’ face. He dips his head in acknowledgement. “Thank you,” he says quietly. He looks like he wants to say something else, so Stiles waits. He texts Scott again without looking down,  seriously dude please come back down i can’t be here. The light is still blinding and bright, the summer sun clinging high in the sky for as long as possible. These days, it sets sometime after 8, which makes Stiles feel like he’s not staying up so late because it’s only like or 6 hours after the sun sets, right?

Derek speaking again interrupts Stiles’s thoughts. “You - it’s good to see you here,” he says, and Stiles breath catches in his throat. He checks the time on his phone with suddenly shaking hands (God, just stop shaking), and Scott’s now been inside for over twenty minutes. His chest feels tight. He needs to leave. He needs to.

Suddenly Derek’s hand is on his shoulder, and when Stiles looks up his expression is concerned. “Stiles?” he asks, his eyebrows creased.

Stiles jerks from under his hand, trying to shove his keys in the ignition with still shaking hands. “I can’t be here, I’m sorry,” and the keys somehow get in and the ignition catches and he doesn't realize he’s still muttering, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” until Derek says, still just outside the car, “Stiles, it’s okay, I’ll make sure Scott gets home,” and Stiles just nods and nods and hardly even checks that Derek isn't in the gonna-get-run-over range before he’s pulling away.

He does however make the mistake of checking in his rear view mirror, and there is Derek, standing alone in the lot still staring after him, expression concerned and faintly wistful.

 

 

Of course it figures that his father’s cruiser is in the driveway when he gets home, so he spends a moment trying to get his breathing back to normal. His father’s cop sense must be tingling though - Stiles did just drive twenty minutes on city streets during a panic attack - because just a moment before Stiles is under control again, his father peeks through the window. His expression changes so quickly that Stiles isn't sure what it was to begin with, just that it jumps immediately to concern, and Stiles is so goddamn tired of people’s pity. He squeezes his fists so tight that his nails hurt his palms, but by the time his dad comes outside to check on him, he’s not such a mess.

“Stiles? Kiddo?” He sounds hesitant, which might be worse than everything else, that his dad isn't even sure about saying his name. “Are you okay?”

Stiles nods, not looking up from his lap, from his clenched hands. He knows that his dad will notice them, knows that once he notices something he’ll notice the other things, the knobs of his wrists and hollows in his face that go beyond his natural sharpness, but he’s just gotten his breath back, and it feels nice to be seen for once. (Not the way Derek had seen, not the way Derek had always seen him, bare and raw and utterly fucking broken, and Stiles can’t think of the first time that he’d stopped minding that intimacy, but he knows that he’s back to it now).

In the end, his father doesn't say anything, just helps Stiles down from the jeep with a tentative hand on his elbow, leads him inside. They have a quiet dinner together, and the Sheriff doesn't bring up the state that he found Stiles in, or the fact that he was supposed to be out with Scott (who had texted during dinner shit im so srry man. When Stiles had ignored it - it had taken Scott more than hour to notice, he was feeling justified - he texted again really man im so sorry ill make it up to you), or Stiles’ upcoming birthday. Instead, they sit, and eat the grilled chicken and asparagus that Stiles had prepared, and discuss the deputies at the station and the latest sports, and even if it isn't honest, it is nice, and at this point Stiles will take what he can get.

 



Several hours later, when Scott texts again, stiles please, he doesn't reply.