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I'm Scared You'll Forget Me Again

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                He knew those blindingly white walls with their festive, "cheerful" decorations. They were the same ones they used every year in October, just so there was something to look at other than frail bodies and bulky machines. He was well acquainted with the sterile smell that burned his nose and made him feel unclean in every way you could possibly be unclean. He had memorized the steady beat of the machine watching a heartbeat almost as clearly as he had memorized the thick sound of silence. It didn't matter that he knew this place almost like he knew his own house. It didn't matter that he had so often been there--to assist Scott in an errand, to visit a friend, or, in less pleasant situations, to face the all too real reality that his mom or friends were dying on his watch. He had been there so often, but it was never a good feeling to wake up in a hospital bed.

                Stiles forced himself up, only to fall back almost immediately as his arms behaved lethargically. He laid there, stunned for a moment, as he flexed his arms, hands, and fingers. He tried again, far more successful this time, and propped himself up on his elbows. There was no one there, but a leather jacket was slung on the sorry excuse for a comfy chair. He realized, with a sinking feeling, that the jacket was vaguely familiar.

                HIs priority, though, was figuring out why he was there. October decorations. It wasn't October, but the witches, pumpkins, and ghosts saying "Boo!" so the decorations seemed out of place. A nurse had to have made a mistake. Last thing Stiles remembered was... the beginning of summer. Practicing for lacrosse with Scott and Scott using his wolfy powers against him, like usual. That would have been months ago if it was October.

                Stiles’ eyes furrowed. Something about this wasn't right. He needed to talk to someone to explain what happened to him. Had something happened while they were playing lacrosse? Was Scott okay? Stiles felt his heartbeat quicken as this thought came to mind, but he quickly put it to rest. Gerard wasn't a problem anymore and he was pretty sure the Argents wouldn't just randomly attack them while they were practicing for a school sport. If anybody else had hurt them, Scott would be just fine.

                Stiles had a feeling he should be resting--his body felt pretty worn down and exhausted--but he wasn't one for patience. He opened his mouth to speak, to call out, but only a light sound came out, and even that was feeble. He frowned, cleared his throat, and tried again. It was... better, but only by an immeasurably small amount. He repeated the process three more times before something audible came out.

                "Hello?" he managed. His voice was still so week, still paled in comparison to what could be considered soft for him, but, judging by the movement outside, someone had heard him.

                He wasn't expecting the figure that showed up in the doorway. He was expecting a nurse or a doctor, but he must not have spoken loud enough for their weaker senses. In their place, broad shouldered and almost intimidatingly framed, was Derek Hale. The absolute last person he expected to see. He regarded Derek with a shocked expression, since he didn't feel his vocal chords could be trusted.

                Derek looked... different, somehow. For starters, his face wasn't contorted with an angry, or even irritated, expression. His eyes seemed softer, his face much more relaxed than Stiles had ever seen. He wasn't looking at Stiles like he was bothering him or wasting his time. In fact, he looked... relieved, and like he was genuinely surprised and happy to see him. But, beyond that, he looked older. Not old, not at all, just older. Like he had aged a few years since the last time Stiles saw him, but that had only been about a day. He couldn't have changed that much in that short of time. Even if it was the stress from that night, he would look different. He didn't look like the Derek Stiles had known. Derek was never happy to see Stiles.

                Derek opened his mouth to speak, but he was cut off by a nurse walking in with a clipboard gripped tightly in her fingers. As she passed the doorframe, her eyes were trained down on the paper, but when she looked up, she let out a squeal of surprise and the clipboard slipped from her grasp. She stood there gaping for a moment, and then bustled out of the room and into the hallway calling out "Melissa! Melissa! Melissa McCall! Stiles!"

                Stiles didn't know how he was supposed to react. He had never seen a display like that, especially not in a hospital. Even Derek looked surprised and at a loss for what to say; whatever he wanted to tell Stiles was lost in the wake of that outburst. They were spared, though, when Melissa McCall rushed into the room.

                She seemed just as surprised as the other nurse, but her shock was far more controlled. She crossed the room to hug him, though it was an awkward embrace due to the bed Stiles was confined to. It took a few seconds, but Stiles realized she was crying. As in actual tears running down her face. She tried to hide it as she stood back up, but wiping her eyes and clearing her throat did little to mask it.

                "Stiles, how are you feeling?" she asked, attempting to pull herself back together through focusing on papers and the machines. She was looking anywhere but at Stiles, and that concerned him. What happened?

                "Fine," he replied, his voice still raspy and low, like his vocal chords were out of commission. "What happened?"

                She smiled and helped him back down as she murmured, "You're going to wear yourself out. Lay down." He allowed her to guide him back down, but his eyes never left her face. After a moment, she sighed and took a seat.

                "You were in a coma for about three months. You've been slowly waking up the past few days, but we thought it would take you longer to speak and be more... conscious." Stiles furrowed his eyebrows as he tried to digest this. A coma? For three whole months? "You probably don't remember the past few days, though. You were mostly awake, but not really there. I know you're awake and kind of talking now, but don't wear yourself out. We'll answer all of your questions once you've recovered more. Any questions you need answered right now?"

                Stiles thought for a moment, then opened his mouth to speak. It was still difficult, and his voice was still scratchy and low. If this was going to be a consistent thing, Stiles would not be pleased. "What day is it?"

                Melissa smiled. "October fifth."

                Stiles nodded, then looked right past her, at Derek, who was still hovering by the doorway, as if he was still unsure of what he should do. Stiles didn't bother trying to raise his voice; he knew that Derek could hear him just fine. "Why are you here?"

                Derek's face clouded in confusion, as if that was the last question he expected. "Why wouldn't I be?"

                "You're kind of the last person..." he trailed off to clear his throat again as his voice grew too weak. That was too much effort? Stiles wasn't looking forward to that part of recovery. "It's not like we're friends."

                Derek's eyebrows knotted together, giving him the appearance of absolute shock and confusion, maybe even a little bit of hurt, if Stiles was reading him correctly. He probably wasn't, considering it was Derek they were talking about. Melissa made a soft, concerned sound and Stiles turned his attention back to her. Her face looked... pained, almost, as she took a seat on the bed next to Stiles’ legs.

                "Stiles, what's the last thing you remember? How old were you?" she asked, her voice soft and slow. He didn't like this. This was the beginning signs of the phrase "I have some bad news for you."

                "Sixteen. Practicing lacrosse with Scott," he answered, trying to sound sure, but his confidence faded as Derek and Melissa shared a glance. "What?"

                Melissa took his hand, probably trying to make him feel better prematurely, but all it did was make him mad. "Stiles, honey," she started with a sympathetic look that made him feel sick to his stomach. "You're twenty-four."

Chapter Text

                Derek was expecting to listen to Stiles' complain for the whole night. He was prepared to listen to his whining and groaning for missing his Junior homecoming--not that he had a date anyway--and was completely ready to bash either his own or Stiles' head into the glass if the need arose. But the situation never came up. In fact, Stiles was behaving pretty maturely about the whole situation. He was all dressed up and ready to go, despite the lack of a date, but he hadn’t uttered one word of complaint over missing the dance. He had complained, however, about being stuck in a car with Derek, but Derek couldn’t really blame him for that. It wasn’t like they were friends, or even liked each other in any way. Derek had actually been thinking the same thing. He didn’t want to be trapped in an ugly, beat-up jeep with a sixteen year old boy that he alternated between finding helpful and wanting to kill. He had even mentioned that out loud.

                “My car is not ugly!” Stiles defended, rubbing his steering wheel almost affectionately. “Beat up I’ll give you, but ugly is not right at all. My jeep has character. What does your Camaro have? All it tells the world is ‘I’m a stuck up douchebag that not only has a really expensive car, but a black one at that.’ God, Derek, do you ever think about what you’re communicating? That’s like a big ball of pretentious douchebaggery.”

                Derek rolled his eyes and tried to ignore Stiles, but that was the thing about him. When he wanted to be heard, damn it, he was heard. Whether Derek wanted to listen or not, he usually did anyway. He didn’t hold on to all of whatever Stiles was trying to say, usually bits and pieces, but still enough. Who really cared about a car that much? Especially one that was very obviously on its last stretch and not all that reliable.

                “My jeep has character. She’s seen quite a few days in her time. She’s been through a lot, mostly because of your wolfy-drama. If you dislike my jeep so much, why aren’t we in your car? Are we in Derek Hale’s Camaro? No. So that means that Derek Hale is not allowed to say anything negative about my beautiful jeep that is currently deciding whether or not we make it to our destination.” He paused in the middle of his rant to take a good look around. “Where is our destination, anyway?”
                “You’ll find out when we get there,” Derek answered curtly as he rolled his eyes again. “Turn right up here.”

                Stiles let out a frustrated noise, but followed his directions, anyway, and they rode in silence again. Stiles didn’t even make a move for the stereo, although Derek saw him glance that way a few times. Once, his fingers even hovered about an inch away from the power button, but he seemed to have decided against it, because once Derek barked out another order, both hands returned to the wheel. Derek actually wished he had turned on some music at any of the chances that he had, that way it wouldn’t be such an uncomfortable silence, which surprised him. The music would have bugged him, of course, because it would be detracting from the goal here, but at least it would offer something to listen to other than the boy’s breathing.

                “Why isn’t Scott here?” Derek finally asked, just to kill the dead air between them.

                Stiles laughed. It was a short, somewhat forced laugh, which easily gave away the contempt he felt in this situation. “You really think I could have gotten Scott McCall to walk out on a date with Allison Argent? He said he’d be here later, but I doubt it. She was just dragging him onto the dance floor when I left.”

                Of course. Derek wasn’t even surprised, because of course Scott would be too wrapped up in Allison to help out in some very important werewolf business. Of course he would be more worried about getting to spend his homecoming with the hunter’s daughter instead of being part of all of this. Derek wasn’t surprised in the slightest. He was even more surprised, though, that Stiles was there. If Scott wasn’t even willing to help Derek out with the pack, why would Stiles be there? Why would he be there and not complaining about it? This was the last time Derek got mixed up with teenagers; they made absolutely no sense.

                “We’re here,” Derek finally said, not even waiting for Stiles to stop the car before he bolted out. Time was of the essence right now. He couldn’t be bothered to wait for anyone or anything, and no one else seemed to get that. If he had to do all of this alone, then fine. He could do all of this alone.

                What he wasn’t expecting, though, was for them to be ready for him. Three of the members stood before him, just as menacing in part as they were all together, and for once, Derek was questioning his plan. Maybe showing up here by himself wasn’t such a good idea. He should have brought Erica or Boyd or Isaac or, preferably, all three. Instead, it was just him and Stiles, and it wasn’t like Stiles would be much of a help in this situation. He had planned on maybe one or two. One or two, he could handle in case negotiations went south. But three? Even if this was supposed to be peaceful, they could outnumber him quickly.

                “How cute,” one of them, a female, sneered, peering into the Jeep. “He brought a human with him.”

                “Where’s your pack?” another one asked, all business. Under different circumstances, Derek probably would have liked that one. He wasn’t in the mood for games, like the girl seemed to be.

                “Not here,” Derek answered, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Why? Afraid someone’s going to sneak up on you?”

                His eyes narrowed at the remark and flashed a bright gold for only a second. Derek raised an eyebrow as he stared the man down levelly. He was about as tall as Derek was, but skinnier, not quite as built. He definitely wasn’t what Derek would consider a new werewolf; he wasn’t like Isaac, Boyd, or Erica at all. He had probably been a werewolf longer than Scott, but just hadn’t taken to it as easily.  Or he hadn’t focused as much on controlling the change. Either way, of the three of them, he was the most likely to be a threat. He stood tall and his eyes didn’t leave Derek for a second as they sized each other up. His dark hair was cut short at the sides and styled up and out of his face on top. He had thicker facial hair along his jaw that crept up his face and tattoo’s on his arms—a phrase here or there that Derek didn’t care enough to read. He didn’t want to get to know this boy, he just wanted to keep their pack at a distance.

The girl looked uninterested, bored, even. Like she didn’t want to be there. She examined her nails and picked at the polish, as if she needed a strong indicator that she didn’t care about Derek or think he was a threat. Her hair was also brown, lighter than the boy’s, but impossible to tell exactly what color in the lack of light. It was pulled up into a messy bun and she had dark eye-makeup. Two diamond studs lit up in the soft glow of the moon, but otherwise she was dressed in dark colors, which would make her a lot harder to spot if they weren’t already out in the open. If Derek had to guess, he’d say that she was the smart one, the brains behind the operation. But this wasn’t the whole pack and their Alpha wasn’t there, so he couldn’t be sure of their pack dynamics.

The third boy hung back behind the other two. He, like the girl, looked like he didn’t care to be there. He exchanged a few looks with the girl and that smug smile never left his face, though it grew bigger whenever he and the girl were looking at each other. His hair was the lightest out of all of them and there wasn’t a trace of seriousness or focus on his face, like even the girl had. Still, though, he had this air of confidence around him, like he felt he couldn’t be touched. Judging by the other two, and the others Derek was likely to see in the rest of the pack, the boy was probably right.

“What do you want?” the boy in the front asked, his eyes still holding contact with Derek’s.

“I want this to be peaceful,” Derek replied. “I want it to be possible for both of our packs to be coexisting while you are here. We’re surrounded by too many innocents and we don’t want to attract the attention of the hunters.”

All three of their eyes flashed back toward the Jeep behind him, and Derek had to fight the urge to react to that. He wanted to look back at Stiles, see how he was handling all of this. He hated not knowing what was going on all around him, but he didn’t think that he could look away from the pack before him. It was too dangerous when he was this outnumbered, especially when he had a human with him. Another part of him wanted to defend Stiles. But from what? They hadn’t threatened the kid, mentioned him, or even done anything to make Derek feel like he should be protecting him. Was he supposed to fight off every werewolf that so much as looked at Stiles? That would be ridiculous.

After a moment, though, he realized that the three weren’t looking at the Jeep. They were looking directly at Stiles, who was directly behind Derek. The werewolf realized this with a tight feeling in his chest as he heard a branch snap behind him as Stiles shifted on his feet. Why would he do something that stupid? Why would he get out of the car? Did he have a death wish? Clearly he had to have one, because there was no other excuse for getting out of the god damn vehicle in the presence of three werewolves that probably wanted to attack them at any moment already.

“Need some backup, Derek?” the girl sneered, putting her hands on her hips and taking a step forward. Derek took a step forward as well, but his was more as a warning, as he allowed his eyes to flash red. She smirked, raised an eyebrow, and took a step back again, then turned back to Stiles. “Aren’t you dressed nicely. What’s the occasion?” Stiles didn’t answer her. For once, he seemed at loss for what to say. Like he didn’t know if he should give her the truth or not. “I hope Derek didn’t pull you away from something important. How unfortunate it would be if you were caught up in all of… this.”

Derek stiffened and took a step closer to Stiles as the boy in the back grinned, flashing his teeth and even letting out a sound akin to a giggle. The girl looked very pleased with herself as she smiled at Stiles with her head tilted slightly, and the boy in the front even managed to look amused.

“We’ll consider it, Derek,” the serious boy replied, taking a step back. “We’ll talk to our Alpha. But I think you know where we stand on the matter. Beacon Hills is too small for two packs.”

Derek didn’t move until they were long gone and way out of earshot for both humans and werewolves. Even then, he waited a minute, just to be sure, before he grasped Stiles’ upper arm and dragged him back to the Jeep. He didn’t respond to any of Stiles’ complaints as he threw the boy into the driver’s side door and climbed up into the passenger side himself.

“So, what happened?” Stiles asked as he turned the ignition.

“That was a stupid idea and a waste of time,” Derek muttered, slamming his fist down on the dashboard and ignoring the little jump from Stiles as Derek “hurt” his “baby.” “I never should have listened to Deaton! Of course it’s not going to be peaceful. They hold all the cards. And you,” he pointed an accusing finger at Stiles, “why did you get out of the car? What were you thinking?”

Stiles furrowed his eyebrows at Derek, offended, and gave a half-hearted shrug. “You looked alone out there. I thought it would help.”

“It didn’t!” Derek insisted, his voice growing a lot louder than he had intended. “Do you know what she said to you? Do you understand what just happened? You just became their target. You just became the soft spot!” 

Chapter Text

So maybe he shouldn’t have panicked. Maybe he should have stayed calm, instead of letting terrified rambling take over until his voice finally gave out. Maybe if he had just sat back, acted cool and collected, everything would be fine and people wouldn’t act like he was liable to break at any moment. But he did panic and he did freak out. He spit out sentences of terrified and confused slurred sentences until his throat burned and no more sound came out. He wasn’t coherent either way, but at least at first Derek and Melissa knew he was saying words. Maybe if he had calmed down, he would already have answers to his questions. But that wasn’t what happened and he was now paying the price. Nurses refused to answer his questions or even let him speak at all, and that was getting old fast. He wasn’t being heard or listened to, and while he understood that they were just looking out for his physical well-being, no one was considering his psychological well-being.

                He made it through, though, mostly by sleeping. He was asleep most of the time the first few days. He had underestimated Ms. McCall’s statement that he would wear himself out and her insistence that he needed to rest. It was fooling of him; she was the expert here, after all. Even simple things like sitting up while he ate, getting up to use the bathroom (he put his foot down when a nurse suggested a less taxing but infinitely more gross alternative), and conversations wore him out. Each time he lasted a little longer and pushed himself a little harder, which elicited lectures from Melissa about rest and taking it easy, but these lectures were always delivered with a suppressed smile.

                He had visitors every day. At first, he always missed the visits. He was always asleep or passed out barely five minutes into someone coming to see him. That pissed him off. He didn’t want to sleep that much, but staving off sleep was almost impossible. What he wanted was answers. But even when he became more like himself—more alive, he called it—the answers didn’t come. His dad not-so-subtly avoided answering his many inquiries. When he came, there was so much off-limits. Ms. McCall had told him not to tell Stiles anything about the past eight years or what he knew about the accident (Stiles later found out it was very little, but he did know about werewolves now)/ Sheriff Stilinski had never been apt at sharing what he was feeling, either, so that went unsaid as well, though Stiles could practically see the thoughts etched on his face. But Stiles didn’t mention it and neither did the Sheriff, so their visits consisted mostly of Stiles trying to ask questions, being shot down, and then settling on talking about various sports teams, despite the fact that Stiles recognized very few names.

Scott didn’t visit until a week after Stiles woke up. It was a week earlier than expected, though, because he was supposed to be on a trip for work. When he walked through the door, Melissa chided him for not telling her, but stopped short when she noticed he wasn’t even listening to her. She rolled her eyes, promised dead air that she’d speak to him later, and excused herself from the room.

                If anyone was the poster child for eight years of aging, Scott would be it. Everyone else looked a little older, but it wasn’t as noticeable. The Sheriff showed tiredness only years of working in law enforcement could show and a few more gray hairs had sprouted up, but he still looked like Stiles’ dad. The signs of age and graying fit Stiles’ picture of how he would look, so it wasn’t as alarming on his dad. Scott, though, was alarming. He still had all the features of Scott, but they were so matured that he was almost unrecognizable. His hair was short, though not buzzed like Stiles’ had always been. It was just a little shorter than Scott had worn it in high school and it looked much more well-kept, like he was putting the effort into keeping it cut, rather than waiting until his mother nagged at him to get it trimmed. His cheeks were more sallow and he looked a lot less like a puppy and more like a man. His arms, buff and tanned, were shown off with his short-sleeved shirt and Stiles had the feeling that this trend went on throughout his body. He had grown into his body and, most likely, his werewolf-ness.

                “Stiles! Man, I’m so happy you’re awake! I came as soon as I could.” His voice had even matured. It had only gone about a note deeper, but it lost the whiny edge of adolescence.

                He crossed the room to clap Stiles’ shoulder, the possibility of a typical hug completely off the table in light of Stiles’ current position. Scott pulled the chair up next to the hospital bed and looked serious for the first time in what felt like years to Stiles.

                “How are you feeling?”

                Stiles shrugged. “Fine. I’m supposed to go home soon. Or, well, leave. I don’t really know where I was living.”

                “You really don’t?” Stiles looked incredulous, but Stiles couldn’t figure out why. This obviously wasn’t the first time he was hearing about it. Melissa would have told him. What, did Scott think they were kidding? “You really thought you were sixteen?”

                “I really thought I was sixteen. And then I freaked out, so no one will tell me anything.”

                Scott looked thoughtful. “Well, I could tell you some stuff. Just don’t freak out, okay? My mom will skin me alive if I make you panic, and Derek will probably hold me down while she does it.” He paused, and then looked at Stiles with what Stiles could only characterize as sympathy. “How’s Derek taking all this?”

                Stiles raised an eyebrow. There it was again. Some connection to Derek that Stiles didn’t quite remember. Or, well, recall at all, really. Though, now that Stiles thought about it, this was strange. Derek was the only one there the first day, and then never again. Stiles hadn’t heard from or about him and if he had shown up, it was while he was asleep.

                “I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since I woke up. Why? Why would Derek care?”

                Scott smiled awkwardly and shook his head. “I’m not going to tell you about Derek. That’s his job. I don’t really want to… get into it. Just… you missed a lot in eight years.”

                “Can’t you tell me anything?” Stiles asked impatiently.

                “Nope. Derek’s job. Take it up with him.”

                Stiles huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. He stewed for a moment, looking anywhere but at Scott, who just waited patiently. The bastard. After a while, though, Stiles sighed and looked back at his best friend, pointing at the ring on the other male’s finger. “Alright, I have to know.”

                Scott’s face lit up as he looked down at the simple band on his left ring finger. Okay, so maybe he did still have a puppy-like quality to him. “Allison,” he sighed, just as dreamily as he would have if he was still sixteen. And he said it as if that answered anything. He was such a girl about her.

                “When?”

                “About two years ago. It was great. Lydia put it all together, so it was a bit… extravagant, but I didn’t have to pay for it, so it was okay. Allison looked beautiful, of course. I almost had a panic attack, but you calmed me down. Made me think I was having an asthma attack and, yes, it still worked. Then you hit me and told me I better get my ass out there because she was the best girl I was ever going to get and you were no longer a backup.” He grinned at Stiles. “I’m pretty sure we even have it on video somewhere.”

                The rest of their visit continued like that Scott told Stiles all about the major events of their lives, but mostly the ones centered on Scott and Allison. About how they got back together Junior year, right before homecoming, and had been mostly together ever since, aside from a few breakups that Scott promised weren’t important. He told him about how they had gone to Texas for school together and how Allison had won so many awards and scholarships for her archery and even helped them, the werewolves, out of a few sticky situations, that he would also get to after Stiles spoke to Derek. About how Scott proposed to Allison right after a fight, then she made him try again later. Basically, he got a lot of information about how wonderful their lives were, and how Stiles had a pretty wonderful life, too.

                He was fine with hearing about them, because he wanted to know, but a few stories that involved Stiles seemed edited. A few times Scott had paused in the middle of saying something, thought for a while, and glazed over the ending. That was, if he finished the story at all. A few times, after breaking off, he would switch to a completely different story altogether. This went on the entire visit, until Ms. McCall came in and told Scott it was time to go. He argued, but his mother won, so Scott smiled sheepishly at Stiles and promised to come back tomorrow.

                Derek still didn’t visit.

Chapter Text

                “Are you just going to sit there the whole time, not saying anything?”

                Derek didn’t even dignify that with a response. He just looked up at Stiles, raised an eyebrow, and turned back down to his book. Dull book, really, wasn’t what he wanted to be doing at all, but he hadn’t thought to bring something to do while he stood guard. Whether he actually needed to stand guard or not, well that wasn’t exactly clear at the moment. It was possible that keeping his distance would be better for Stiles, but until he was sure of that, he didn’t want to leave him alone. In a perfect world, Scott or Isaac or someone else would be doing this, but no. He was stuck with sentry duty. With an annoying teenager that clearly didn’t like having his personal space invaded. Derek couldn’t blame him, he just didn’t particularly care if Stiles liked this or not.

                “You know, if you’re going to babysit me, you could at least talk to me. Instead of pretending to read that book while I pretend to do my homework. You don’t want to be here, and I don’t want you here, so we could at least make this bearable.”

                Derek wasn’t really sure how talking would make this more bearable. What would they talk about? The fact that the other pack was probably preparing for a fight, while Derek was babysitting a teenage boy and his Betas were doing God knows what? Was he going to talk strategy with a human? He could admit that at times Stiles proved to be helpful, but he didn’t want his help right now. He wanted to be training.

                “How would that make this more bearable? I was perfectly happy ignoring you. Enjoying this book, actually,” Derek responded, keeping his eyes on the page, scanning the words but taking in absolutely none of it.

                “Yeah? Reading about Algebra II is riveting, isn’t it? Get to the part with the logs? Plot twist, am I right?”

                “Don’t spoil the ending for me.”

                Stiles let out a frustrated sigh and Derek glanced up just in time to catch the end of what had to be the most dramatic eye-roll in history. He offered the teen an eye-roll of his own, though much more subdued that Stiles’, and closed the book harshly. It made a loud snap just as Stiles scooted closer to the bed, where Derek was sitting, in his desk chair.

                “Why are you watching me, Derek? What’s the point of this?” Stiles asked, leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest. Derek had a feeling he was trying to look tougher with that posture, but it really just made Stiles look like an insolent child. He didn’t have the patience to tell this to the younger boy, though, so he just rolled his eyes again—his eyes were going to get stuck if he kept doing that particular action—and shrugged

                “You tell me, Stiles. Where’s Scott? Why isn’t he here, making sure no one gets his best friend, the human target?”

                “That’s not what I mean!” Stiles sounded exasperated, like this was taxing on him. “I mean, why does anyone need to be here with me? If the other pack was going to do something, wouldn’t they have done it by now? It’s been weeks.”

                Alright, so maybe there was some sense to that. It was almost like he had even tapped into Derek’s brain, right into the fears Derek himself had. Derek looked up at the ceiling for a moment, and then pushed the book onto the bed beside him. He shook his head a little before he looked right at Stiles, only to be a little taken aback by how intense Stiles looked. He was completely serious, which didn’t really surprise Derek so much, because he knew that Stiles could be serious, but he didn’t expect that look of… dedication. Or maybe it wasn’t dedication. Maybe it was fear. Fear that something was actually going to happen to him, or that this could actually be a problem.

                “I don’t know.” That look made him want to have a better answer. “Maybe they’re trying to lull us into a false sense of security. Maybe they’re trying to get more organized. I haven’t had contact with them, and I’m not sure if that’s good news or not.”

                Stiles nodded and pushed himself up in his chair more. Now that he wasn’t slouching, he at least looked a bit more like someone Derek could take seriously. “Then shouldn’t you be doing the same thing?”

                “I’ve tried,” Derek said, his voice coming out a bit more insistent than he had meant for it to, but he was tired of this conversation. He was doing his best as the Alpha, and he knew that wasn’t very good. They were disorganized and his Betas weren’t getting any better. Threats like the Argents and this pack were getting more and more serious, and Derek didn’t know what he was supposed to do. “It’s not like I’ve done this before. I can’t get them organized.” He pushed himself off the bed roughly, almost knocking Stiles over in the process.

                “Then you’re doing something wrong.”

                “Obviously.”

                “See, that’s your problem.”

                “What, Stiles? What is my problem? Please enlighten me with your extensive knowledge on pack dynamics.” Derek’s back was to Stiles, but he could practically feel the eye-roll coming from the teen.

                “You’re not looking at what you’re doing wrong, you’re just looking at the fact that it’s not working. It’s like you’re trying to avoid the fact that maybe it’s your problem that you don’t have control over your pack. Like, okay, we have a problem, Derek, we all know that. Because you have a group of super-abled teens that should be able to move mountains, but can’t. You don’t have control.”

                “I don’t want to control them. I’m not going to be like Peter and try to force them to kill people to get my own revenge. It didn’t work so well for him.”

                “But it almost did. Peter had control over Scott and Scott never even met him,” Stiles pointed out, rolling back to the desk in his chair. “You should be able to do the same thing. You’re not giving into your instincts. You’re too controlled. Hey, maybe you should go to Peter for help!”

                Derek turned around and stared incredulously at Stiles. Now this was getting crazy. Stiles was actually suggesting that Derek get help from Peter? The same guy that tried to force Scott into killing people when he first turned? The same guy that used everyone for his own agenda? He had to be kidding. But, as he looked at Stiles, he realized that he wasn’t. Stiles was, honest to God, serious about getting Peter’s help.

                “You have got to be kidding me.”

                “Why? Derek, he knows what he’s doing? Sure, he might be bad news, but we kind of have an emergency on our hands. If you can work with Chris Argent, surely you can work with your uncle. You could use a teacher, they could use proper training, and I could use some freaking privacy.”

                “None of that will help you get your privacy back.”

                “Well, it couldn’t make it any worse.”

Chapter Text

                Stiles hated physical therapy. He wanted to walk, of course he did, he just hated the fact that he had to relearn it. Apparently three months in a coma didn’t do much for your legs, so now Stiles had to wait for them to catch up with the rest of his body. Honestly, it wasn’t so bad. All he had to do was try putting weight on his legs and push a little further every time. He could do it, and at least it gave him a chance to do something other than lay in bed, waiting for someone to visit him. Which they did a lot less of, since everyone had to go back to work and couldn’t spend all day sitting with Stiles and dodging his questions. So Stiles was happy for the distraction. It gave him something to do in-between visits from friends and family.

                But he hated it. He hated the plain white room with nothing to look at other than the doctors, nurses, and other patients. Every head injury patient was put in the same place. Stiles didn’t belong with these people, though. These people were so much worse than him. They couldn’t walk at all and a few of them couldn’t even talk. A few of them were practically vegetables and a lot of people were wearing helmets. They had him in with the people wearing helmets! Stiles wasn’t wearing a helmet, he just couldn’t walk yet. He didn’t belong with these people, and the people working there didn’t seem to get that.

                And it didn’t matter who the patients were, the physical therapists treated them all the same: soft words and steadying touches. Maybe it was comforting to everyone else. Maybe it restored their faith in themselves and made them believe that they could do it. Stiles didn’t know and he really didn’t care. All he knew was it was not working for him. His physical therapist meant well, but he already felt like a toddler learning to walk, so he didn’t need her treating him like it, too. He didn’t want to be praised for every step he took and coddled and consoled for every fall or stumble. He wasn’t a child, but Mrs. Mayberry seemed to disagree.

                Mrs. Mayberry was a short woman with round features—a round face, round hands, round body. She was older, but clearly had just as much energy as someone half her age. She was always ready to go as soon as Stiles got there, and he appreciated it, but she was probably more suited for someone… younger. She had grandchildren, about five, and she talked endlessly about the youngest, Gabriel. About how he was learning to walk and he always made the funniest noises and Oh! Would you like to see a picture? It was sweet, sure, but it drove Stiles nuts. He didn’t want to talk about how much Stiles reminded her of Gabriel, especially when that always preceded stories of what happened  in Gabriel’s latest attempt to learn how to walk. He didn’t want to be compared to a child. Maybe Mrs. Mayberry thought she was doing him some good, but she really wasn’t.

                He wasn’t even acting like himself, as everyone felt like they deserved to tell him. Every few minutes, people were telling him that he didn’t sound like himself, that he sounded brasher, less happy. It wasn’t his fault that he was fixated on the fact that the food tasted like shit and Mrs. Mayberry was a bitch that seemed to think he was incapable of doing anything. He couldn’t even take a piss without someone coming in to make sure he wasn’t going to fall over. No one thought he could do anything in this whole place and none of them knew him. He missed the hospital in Beacon Hills where he knew everyone and they knew him and what he was like and what he was capable of. A few days after he had woken up, he was moved to a special hospital about an hour outside of Beacon Hills that catered more to head injury patients, but they had him in with the truly incapable one. There were levels, damn it!

                Probably the most irritating thing was the bed. It was on the floor and had bars on all four sides. The first thing he said when he saw the bed was that it looked like a fucking playpen. All he could do all day was sit in bed with his phone and try to find something to do until someone came in to talk to him or he had to go to physical therapy. He hated that bed so much. He hated every bit of it.

                It took two weeks for anyone at the hospital to like him and for his friends to start treating him like regular old Stiles again. His dad explained it a few times to him, but it just didn’t make sense to Stiles. Apparently he was aggressive and got angry about everything. He said things that didn’t make any sense and, at times, he didn’t even seem like Stiles. He seemed like someone else. There was no filter in his brain and, on more than one occasion, he had said something very rude or inappropriate or just wrong, especially to the nurses.

                So he was mostly alone and secluded and sitting in his bed without anything to do for most of the day. He was far away from everyone and he was confused and angry and, yeah, of course he had a hard time adjusting to everything. The hospital was too far for his friends to visit often and talking over text could only go so far before even that got old. He wanted to talk to someone. He wanted answers to what was going on. After a little while, Stiles realized what he really wanted was Derek, because he seemed to be the one person that would actually give Stiles the information he wanted.

                Stiles had been in the new hospital for three weeks before Derek came to visit.

 

                Call it intuition, call it a feeling, call it whatever, but the fact remained that Stiles knew something was going to happen that day. He woke up early and insisted on taking a shower in the pitiful little corner of the bathroom that barely did any more than drip the water. He insisted on combing the hair that had grown a lot longer than he had ever been used to. Maybe it was because he wore his hair differently now, or maybe it was just because he hadn’t had a haircut in at least four months, but his hair was long and actually took some effort to make it look good, and he wanted to look good.

                The nurses were confused. They got him whatever he wanted and helped him look presentable, but they didn’t understand why he wanted to look better if his friends were definitely not visiting him that day. They humored him, but not without questioning looks and reiterations of what, exactly, he wanted.

                It felt nice. It felt nice to look in the mirror and see his own face looking back at him, looking far healthier. He had gained some of his weight back, and although he was still a far cry from his usual weight, he at least didn’t look as sickly anymore. His color was back and he looked alive, rather than a recently awoken coma patient. The nurses made comments on how much better he looked now that he was up and walking around, even if his walking was slow and required a fair amount of assistance. He had made progress and he finally felt like Stiles.

                He couldn’t tell them why he wanted to get up and fix himself up, though. He tried to find the words, to give them a better explanation, but all that came to mind was “I just have a feeling.”

                But he was right. Once he was up and had finished getting ready, he climbed into a chair by his playpen of a bed and waited. He waited for a few hours, past lunch, almost into dinner. He was losing hope, actually, because visiting hours were almost over and he knew that his visitor was going to be late if they didn’t come now. And right before he was about to give up hope, he looked in the doorway, and there he was.

                Derek looked big compared to the tiny nurses and even to Stiles himself. He stayed there for a minute, looking unsurely at Stiles as he sized him up. For once, Derek was as readable as an open book. He looked guarded and unsure, almost like he shouldn’t even be there. Like he felt like he had no place to come and visit Stiles, and to be honest, it probably was a bit like that. Because Stiles didn’t remember what they were to each other now, and everything had been changed up for Derek. He also looked hurt, which was a look that only increased as he stared at Stiles more.

                “Are you going to say something or just stand there?” Stiles finally asked, growing uncomfortable with being sized up by him.

                Derek offered a little smirk at that and walked fully into the room and sat down in the seat next to Stiles. He was silent some more as he stared at the room, but this time, Stiles didn’t feel the need to say anything.

                “You look better,” he finally mumbled.

                “Your words say one thing, but your face says another.”

                “You still don’t’ look like yourself, but you at least look like you have some substance to you now.” He shrugged and glanced around the room.

There was another awkward silence, and Stiles hated this feeling. He hated feeling like he was the only person that didn’t get something. Something that, clearly, Derek knew a lot about. He wanted to just know how he was supposed to act around Derek, because he was pretty sure that last time he checked, they hated each other at worst, barely tolerated each other at best.

                “I want answers, Derek.”

                Derek turned to him and raised an eyebrow as he sized Stiles up again, then shook his head. “You’re not ready for answers.”

                “Are you kidding me?!” Stiles asked, suddenly outraged. “Who are you to tell me what I’m ready for? I’m ready to know what the fuck it is I’m missing! Why are you here? Why were you there when I woke up? What changed in those years that I lost, and why won’t anyone else tell me? I’m tired of hearing ‘Derek better tell you’ or ‘This is a conversation for you to have with Derek’. Well, you’re here, Derek! So start telling me what I don’t know! I deserve to know!”

                By this point, Derek wasn’t looking at him anymore. As soon as Stiles started his rampage, he turned away. He wrung his fingers in his lap and stared at the wall, not seeming to hear Stiles anymore, which just made Stiles angrier. What was the point of Derek coming if he wasn’t even going to tell Stiles what was so important that it had to be him that told Stiles? Eventually, after another long silence, he stood up and started pacing, muttering to himself as if he was debating something. It felt like hours to Stiles, but probably had only been seconds, before he stopped and stared at Stiles.

                “There’s too much, Stiles. You aren’t ready to know. It’s too much at once. You’re missing eight years. Do you realize how much happens in eight years? A lot. A lot that would be just… too much for you. I’m just trying to look out for you. Let me.”

                “I don’t want you to look out for me. I want to know why no one will tell me about you. What are we to each other? I deserve to know what happened. It’s my life we’re talking about.”

                Derek ran a hand through his hair and stared Stiles dead in the face. He took a step toward the door, cast it a longing look, then turned back to Stiles with a look of resignation on his face. “We were engaged.”