He runs because he has to, after. Not because he loves it, or to train, or for any particularly good or useful reason but because the constant motion is the only thing that keeps his mind still. Because the forest terrifies him, sometimes still, and he’s tired of being afraid. Because the sounds of his footfalls echoing back to him fill up the silence in his head that feels cavernous, in the days after his heart breaks into a million pieces.
He feels kind of stupid about it, honestly, because it’s not like Lydia ever made him any promises. It’s just that watching her and Jackson is a reminder of everything that he doesn’t have. How alone he is, at the end of the day.
So he runs. But he doesn’t run alone.
He doesn’t have werewolf senses but he’s been around them long enough to know when he’s being tracked and there was a time it would have frightened him. Maybe it should, given that they all know something else is coming, can feel it in their bones. Werewolf he’s not, but he knows his people – and he knows it’s Derek who stays just out of sight, watching. He wants to resent it, but he’s grateful for it in ways he doesn’t know how to articulate.
“You can come out, you know,” he says when he stops for air, to fill his water bottle again. “I mean, whatever, you’ve got the creeper oeuvre nailed, I don’t want to mess with your groove or anything.”
He sees Derek out of the corner of his eyes, leaning against a tree a few feet away and his lips twist up, half-smile, half-grimace. “Felt like babysitting?”
Derek doesn’t quite look at him. “You know it’s not safe.”
“Yeah, well. You and I both know nothing is, ever,” he says and immediately regrets it, wonders where the hell it came from. Derek doesn’t say anything in response – quelle surprise – but the set of his shoulders changes just a little and something about that makes Stiles ache.
It’s just that of any of them, of any of them, sometimes Stiles feels like Derek is the one he understands the most. Which is so far beyond strange there’s not really a word for it.
“Just feels a little claustrophobic sometimes, at home,” Stiles says, because it’s too quiet again and part of the reason his mouth is always running is he doesn’t understand how to be alone in his head. “But everyone has their stuff to work through, so.”
Derek nods, studying him and Stiles finds himself wanting to ask Derek if he’s grown another head or something, but he manages to bite it back, plays with his water bottle instead.
“He’s my best friend,” Stiles says after a moment, “Scott. But sometimes he doesn’t get it. I mean, what it feels like to lose your center of gravity.” He looks up at Derek. “Why the pack is so important to you, because, I mean. Family. He hasn’t lost like that. So maybe just be patient a little.”
He feels stupid as soon as he says it, like he’s admitting something but he’s not entirely sure what. Scott is his best friend but it’s true, he doesn’t know what it feels like to have virtually everything you know gone in a blink, not like Derek or Stiles or even Allison, now. Stiles isn’t sure why he feels like he has to apologize for that, for Scott’s continued rejection of Derek when half the time he’s terrified of Derek himself. But all he can taste in the days after everything changes is ash in his mouth and mostly, he just wants to believe that there’s a place for him, somewhere. That someday he’ll have someone, too.
Derek’s still watching him but there’s something so old and sad and knowing in his eyes that Stiles visibly shivers. “So, I should probably, I mean, my dad…” Stiles chews on the inside of his cheek, scrubs a hand over his face.
“I’ll walk you back,” Derek says, and he does. “You don’t need the bite to make you pack,” he says, so soft that Stiles isn’t sure he actually hears it right. Scott doesn’t get it, no, and Stiles is eternally grateful for that. There are no lengths that Stiles won't go to in order to ensure Scott never does. Derek gets it, though, and Stiles thinks maybe that’s why neither of them can walk away from the other, why the wolf makes room for the boy.
Derek waits, down the block from the Stilinski house, just outside the wash of the streetlight, eyes glimmering in the night as he watches Stiles go up the steps and inside. Nothing’s changed, danger’s coming, but Stiles isn’t running anymore.