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Went to sleep with a leg on a chair,

They don't want to see me again.

All of your lovers and all of your friends,


They don't want to know me.

- Broken Leg, Bluejuice

 

 

Derek is realising how stupid this idea is. He thought he could have fought this guy, thought it would have been easy, but the omega is more than a match for Derek. Derek is covered with scratches, and they’re only healing seconds before the next scratch is landed. He hadn’t expected the omega to be armed, though.

The omega waves the weapon in Derek’s face, and Derek lunges, trying to deflect the bullet. The omega pulls the trigger, but it only grazes Derek’s side. Derek hears it embed itself into a tree to his left.

Derek is too shocked to register the pain of the second bullet, but he feels his legs crumple from beneath him, his body plummeting to the ground. He lashes out, catching the other werewolf in the thigh. Initially, he tries to keep upright, but then he feels blood spill over his claws, and digs in deeper.

The omega yelps and pulls back. He falls backwards, ass hitting the ground with a smack and a squelch of leaf litter and mud.

When he rights himself, Derek can see the damage he has done. The werewolf is leaning heavily on his right leg, tendon most likely torn in the left leg.

Derek spits out the dirt in his mouth. ‘It’ll heal.’ he snarls.

The omega laughs down at Derek, and the sound makes his skin want to crawl. It’s far too similar to Kate’s laugh, far too similar to the sounds that have haunted him for years. He doesn’t look forward to the nightmares that will follow.

The omega spits at Derek. ‘You won’t, though.’ he hisses, pleased.

Derek finds the energy to push himself onto his side so that he’s looking up into the blue eyes that are a mirror of what were once his own. Derek doesn’t like to see himself in his enemy, but it seems like it’s becoming a habit.

He raises an eyebrow unbelievingly, because of course he’ll heal. The other werewolf laughs bitterly.

‘You’ll see.’ he says, and kicks Derek in the side.

It is in that moment that Derek feels all the blood draw away from his face. It’s like someone has stuck a needle straight into his spine. Every one of his bones feels frozen, and he is his with the copper tang of blood in his mouth. His skin is freezing, and a deep ache sets into his bones.

‘Wolsbane.’ Derek growls, his eyes focusing and unfocusing on the man above him.

The omega grins, teeth elongated and dirty. ‘Congratulations, you got it!’

Derek snorts. ‘Do I get a prize?’

The werewolf looks like he’s enjoying this, playing along with Derek’s jokes. He feigns a thoughtful position, resting a finger on his lower lip and cocking his hip. ‘Hmm… only a slow, painful death, really.’

Derek growls at that, eyes flashing alpha red. He can’t die. He can’t. He’s got Isaac, and Boyd, and Erica, and Jackson. Hell, even Scott needed him. He needed to escape, but his leg was broken, and he couldn’t fight this omega with the wolfsbane coursing through his veins.

Derek is aware of his phone only a couple of feet away. He turns slightly to the side, and he can see it. It’s right in his vision. He can reach it, he knows he can reach it, and when the omega leaves him for dead, he’ll call Stiles to come get him.

He knows he has to secure it, just in case the omega sees it while he’s gloating. He just needs to reach up, and a little to the left… just stretch…

‘Oh, no, don’t try that.’ he says, punctuation his words with a heel on Derek’s arm.

He pushes down, barely using his enhanced strength. Derek cries out as he feels a bone in his arm snap. The sickening crunch makes his stomach turn, and it feels like the pain is constricting his stomach, tying it into complicated knots under the skin. He is ready to throw up blood and dirt and bile, but he swallows it down. If nothing else, he will retain his dignity.

‘Well,’ the omega says, sounding very pleased with himself. He picks up the phone from the ground, inspects it, and crushes it underfoot. ‘Have a nice life.’

The omega turns around and starts to leave, but, wildly, Derek throws an arm out. By some strike of chance, a rare flash of good luck in a thoroughly unlucky existence, he catches the other man’s calf.

The omega curses, and tries to wrest his flesh from Derek’s grip.

‘You fucker!’ he cries, pain distorting his voice and belying his composure.

Derek thrusts himself upwards and pulls the other wolf down, dried blood mixing with fresh. There is a startled noise as Derek’s opponent hits the ground, but it is cut off as Derek slashes through the wolf’s back, a lucky claw catching the spinal chord.

The omega tries to take a breath, but it sounds wet and broken. Derek takes his final blow, and sinks his elongated teeth into the other man’s throat. He doesn’t like the way the blood is warm on his tongue, but with the final gurgle comes the knowledge that his pack is safe.

He manages to push himself off the corpse, but he can’t spit out all the blood, and he can’t escape the burn of the foreign poison. He rests in the knowledge that his pack is safe.

 

Scott’s face was tucked into Allison’s neck, just breathing in the scent of her – with a few wet werewolf kisses slipped in too. With Scott so close, Allison could feel the very second that Scott heard Derek’s howl. His entire body stilled, and his ears grew slightly. A deep growl began deep in his chest, like the warning rumbles before a thunderstorm.

‘Derek.’ he growls into Allison’s skin.

Allison sits up, her face concerned. ‘What’s wrong?’

Scott is half on his way to shifting, drawn by the powerful call of his alpha. Allison reaches out, tentative, and rubs at the deep crease of his forehead, until Scott’s face melts back into soft, brown eyes.

‘Derek’s in trouble.’

A second howl comes, and Scott feels it like an electric shock through his spinal column.

‘He’s hurt.’ Scott screws his face up in concentration, trying to sift through his senses to find the truth. ‘Near… near his property, I think.’

Allison bit her lip, worrying it between perfect white teeth. ‘Is he okay?’ she asks.

Scott shakes his head. ‘I don’t think so.’

Allison pulls her knees up to her chest, hugging them tight. Then, she releases her lip, and her eyes go serious. ‘Call Stiles. We’re going to get him.’

Scott’s face is a mix of fright and confusion, because if whatever’s out there is stronger than a born werewolf alpha, what chance do a measly teenage beta and his gangly best friend have? He digs his phone out of his jeans pockets, though, and types out Stiles’ number on the keypad. He’s got the number in his contact list, on speed dial, but he types it out every time anyway.

‘Scott, what’s up?’ the other boy asks cheerily.

‘It’s Derek.’ Scott says, voice grave.

There is rustling and a crash on the other end of the line, no doubt a result of Stiles flailing for his car keys.

‘Where is he?’ Stiles demands, tone deathly serious.

Scott bites down on his lip, feels the skin split under his teeth. ‘On the property, somewhere in the woods.’ Scott says, and his uncertainty must be far too tangible for Stiles’ comfort.

‘Thanks for the specificity, Scott!’ Stiles yells. His unease is so evident that it makes Scott wince.

‘You’re going to have to come by Allison’s.’ Scott clarifies. ‘I don’t have a car.’

‘You’re a goddamn werewolf, Scott!’ Stiles shouts, reaching snapping point.

‘Yes?’ Scott hesitantly confirms, unsure what Stiles is getting at.

‘So run!’

Then there is just a monotone beeping, signaling that Stiles has hung up.

Allison looks at Scott questioningly. ‘Do you need me to come?’

Scott shakes his head. ‘Your dad…’ is all the explanation he gives.

Allison kisses her boyfriend, whispers ‘be safe’ into his ear, and watches as he jumps out the window and into the darkness.

 

Stiles drums a nervous beat on the steering wheel of his jeep, and the only thing stopping his leg from jumping up and down is the constant pressure he is keeping on the gas pedal. It’s barely twenty minutes from here to the Hale house, and he’s probably going to get there early, but he feels the need to pull out his phone and call Derek anyway, road safety be damned.

Instead of the dial tone, he is met with an emotionless electronic voice repeating that ‘The number you have dialed has been disconnected.’

Stiles speeds up, and he makes it to the edge of the property in ten. He beats Scott, but only by a short margin, and he follows the werewolf as he searches for the smell of his alpha. Stiles can only just keep up with Scott as he runs, and he ends up crashing into tree roots and small bushes. In the morning, he will no doubt be covered in scratches and bruises, but he can’t find it in him to care.

When they find Derek, the older man is curled up on his side, one arm hanging limply over his knees. Stiles can smell the dampness of the earth, but Scott must smell much more, because he snarls.

‘Wolfsbane.’ The beta growls. ‘Derek’s been shot with wolfsbane.’

It is then that Stiles sees it – the motionless figure lying next to Derek, sticky with leaves and blood.

‘Scott,’ he croaks. ‘Take any guns and bullets, and get rid of the body.’ he gestures to the unfortunate lump of flesh that is lying barely a foot away from Derek.

Scott obliges, pulling the body deeper into the tree cover, dragging it by the fabric of its jacket.

Stiles goes to the other werewolf’s side, putting himself into full view. Derek is curled up tight, whatever undamaged muscles he has left sufficing to keep him locked in position.

‘C’mon, Derek,’ Stiles coaxes, placing a hand on the other man’s knee. ‘C’mon, we’ve gotta get you out of here.’

Stiles presses lightly down on Derek’s knee, but the other man whimpers, and Stiles pulls his hands away like he’s been burnt.

‘Sorry, sorry, didn’t realise you were hurting there.’ he apologises, voice soft.

Scott returns, obviously rid of the body, and his human face is full of concern. Stiles tries to unwrap Derek again, pushing on the other leg this time. His left arm is obviously injured, if not broken, so Stiles doesn’t touch it. Stiles presses down on the good leg again, harder this time, and manages to pry Derek’s face from between his knees. The first thing he sees is blood, all over Derek’s face, and Stiles really wants to throw up right now.

Scott places three bullets into Stiles’ open palm, and comes to crouch next to his friend. He curses when he looks at Derek’s face and sees the blood there.

‘Did Derek kill him?’ Scott asks, quiet.

Stiles nods blankly. ‘I think so.’

Stiles knows that even if Derek has gotten rid of any threat, they need to get him out, and get him somewhere safe.

‘Get him to Deaton’s.’ Scott suggests, and Stiles nods his agreement.

Stiles takes off his overshirt, and wipes most of the blood from Derek’s face. The werewolf stirs, face on the cusp of shifting back to human. Stiles tears a few strips from the fabric, long enough to wrap around Derek’s arm and his leg.

‘Find two straight sticks, okay?’ Stiles tells Scott.

He expects Scott to search the ground with his freaky werewolf night vision, but Scott just rips two branches of a nearby tree.

‘Or you could do that.’ Stiles concedes, trying to hide how impressed he is.

Scott brings over the branches, lying them next to Stiles’ thigh. Stiles breaks the branches in two with his feet, and it really isn’t as impressive as Scott ripping them right off the tree.

Tentatively, Stiles reaches out to Derek’s arm, straightening it as much as he can. Derek whimpers again, and Stiles can’t help but wince in sympathy. Tying two branches on either side of the arm, Stiles keeps it straight, hoping Derek won’t snap the splint in his attempt to pull it into his chest. Derek’s leg is much quicker work, and both seem to be holding well enough.

He signals to Scott to help lift Derek up. With some difficulty, they manage to lean the older man’s torso against Scott and sling his good arm over Stiles’ shoulders without severely jostling the broken limbs.

The walk back to the jeep isn’t far, but it’s awkward. Stiles and Scott end up sort of swinging Derek on every step, keeping the broken leg off of the ground effectively enough. About a third of the way to the car, Derek starts to come back around. He tries to move his arm at first, and Scott has to halt their slow progress to stop Derek from injuring himself further. Derek growls at his beta, but doesn’t move any more.

About ten minutes after they start to move again, Derek turns his head to Stiles.

‘Splints?’ he asks through gritted teeth. ‘Didn’t know you could do splints.’ his words are a little slurred, but Stiles gets the gist of it.

‘I’m an enigma.’ he says, and shifts Derek a little on his shoulder.

‘’S not bad.’ Derek says, and Stiles thinks he must be really fucked up if he’s dishing out compliments.

‘He was a boy scout for eight years. Got a first aid badge and everything.’ Scott tells him. Traitor.

Derek lets out an ambiguous snort, and it might be pain, but it might be a bit of amusement too.

It’s hard to slip Derek into the back seat of Stiles’ jeep, but they manage somehow. Much to Scott’s embarrassment, he has to pillow his alpha’s legs in his lap as Stiles drives, keeping any jostling to a minimum.

Stiles tries to keep the speed low, despite how much he wants to slam the pedal to the floor and gun it. They’re still on unpaved roads, though, and Stiles can hear Derek whimpering from behind him. Curse the jeep’s shitty suspension.

Stiles hears Scott call Deaton and brief him with what’s happened – Derek’s been in a fight, he’s been injured, he needs medical help ASAP. The wolfsbane bullets are heavy in Stiles’ pocket.

 

It is just as hard to get Derek out of the back seat as it was to get him into it, but the lights are on in the clinic, so getting to deadweight werewolf to the front door is much simpler.

Deaton’s face is grave upon seeing Derek, but it seems like it always is, so Stiles doesn’t know how bad a sign that is. Scott and Stiles lie him onto the steel bench and start to remove the splints. Now they are in the light, Stiles can see the bullet wound in Derek’s leg, and the strange blue smoke rising from the wound. Scott is scowling at the smoke, like glaring at it will make it go away. Stiles hopes it isn’t going to trigger the change in his friend – one incapacitated werewolf at a time, thanks.

Deaton works on Derek’s leg first, cutting through the fabric of Derek’s jeans.

‘With some fractures, the tightness of the jeans is all that’s stopping the bone from spearing through the skin.’ Deaton says, matter-of-fact, as he puts the scissors aside. The thought of Derek’s bone coming through is skin is not a comforting thought, and Stiles’ nausea returns. ‘I hope you boys were smart enough to get the bullet that Derek was shot with?’

Stiles nods, and hands one of the bullets to Scott, who bites the top off of it, before handing it to his boss.

‘Very good.’ Deaton says, and abruptly sets the contents on fire. When the smoking mixture is placed on top of Derek’s wound, the werewolf hisses in pain, eyes screwing shut. He thrashes so much that Scott has to hold him down, snapping his teeth in warning. Stiles bites his lip anxiously, blood seeping from under the cracked and dry flesh. Side affect of lack of sleep, his brain supplies, which really doesn’t help.

Deaton pulls off his gloves and puts on a clean pair with a snap.

‘I’m going to have to set the bone.’ he says. He injects Derek with what Stiles hopes is anesthetic, and starts to feel around Derek’s leg.

Scott tugs on Stiles wrist before Deaton starts to do anything, and whispers ‘You don’t want to be here for this.’ before pulling him outside and locking the door behind him.

Stiles is glad that Scott took him out, because the sounds coming from behind the frosted glass make Stiles’ skin crawl. Secondly, Stiles isn’t 100% sure that everything going on behind the door is totally natural. Scott looks uncomfortable and pale, like he’s going to be sick.

The adrenaline has almost entirely dissipated, and leaves Stiles feeling heavy and exhausted. He falls asleep slumped against the wall, head resting on Scott’s shoulder.

It must be two hours later, reaching four in the morning, that Deaton helps Derek limp out of the room. The latter of the two is now sporting two casts and a scowl that could bend metal. Stiles doesn’t know whether he’s more upset about the two broken limbs or that he’s being helped out about by a veterinarian.

The first thing Scott asks is ‘Why isn’t he healing?’

Deaton leads them out to the front room before explaining.

‘The omega who attacked Derek,’ (‘Omega, of course.’ Stiles whispers to himself.) ‘was using a particular strain of wolfsbane that slows a werewolf’s healing ability. I don’t know how long it’s going to take Derek to heal, but it may well be the same time it takes a human to heal two broken bones.’

‘And that is?’ Stiles asks, anxious.

Deaton thinks for a bit, then answers. ‘Anywhere between two to four months.’

Stiles eyes widen. Jesus, how is the pack going to be able to deal with their alpha out of commission for four months?

Derek glares at the teens. ‘Someone’s going to have to take me home.’

Stiles rolls his eyes. ‘Whatever, it’s not like I need to go to school or anything.’ he complains, he knows but he’s going to get roped into taking Derek with him anyway.

Scott takes Derek from Deaton and helps him over to the car. ‘I’ll give you a hand.’ he tells Stiles as they leave the clinic. ‘Thanks, Deaton!’ he calls over his shoulder. The door chimes as it closes.

It’s worlds easier to get a conscious Derek into the jeep, thankfully, but Scott still has to rest Derek’s legs on his lap.

When they reach the refurbished Hale house, they are met with the dilemma of getting Derek up the stairs. The result is a repeat of the woods, with Stiles and Scott swinging the unhappy alpha up each consecutive step. It is slow and grueling, but they manage it.

‘You better get home.’ Stiles tells his friend when they eventually get Derek to the top of the stairs. ‘You haven’t got a car.’

‘You sure?’ Scott asks, and he sounds exhausted too. ‘I can stay.’

Stiles shakes his head. ‘I’m good.’ he assures. ‘You go.’

Derek continues to scowl, not saying much at all. Stiles gets him into his room – one of few rooms with actual furniture, apparently – and deposits the older man into the bed. Stiles is about to head home when Derek calls his name.

‘Yeah?’ he asks, walking some of the way back into the room.

‘Bring a few books in from the library.’ Derek commands.

‘Please.’ Stiles adds sarcastically, but obliges. Derek might not be up to it now, but when he gets better, Stiles doesn’t doubt that he’ll take Stiles’ throat as collateral for any slip-ups.

Stiles knows the library isn’t much more than piles of books precariously stacked on top of each other, so he just skims a selection off one of the piles and carts them back into Derek’s room.

Derek doesn’t thank him when Stiles dumps the books next to him on the bed. His medication is also next to him, and could it have been Stiles who put it there? It must have been! Funny, he doesn’t recall being thanked for that, either. Stupid ungrateful werewolves and their stupid ungratefulness.

‘My spare phone?’ Derek prompts, indicating his desk with his stupid chiseled werewolf chin.

Stiles rolls his eyes, but slaps that on the bedspread too.

‘Anything else, sir?’ he asks, layering as much sarcasm as he can.

Derek make a noise, and Stiles thinks it might be a chuckle. ‘That’ll be all, Jeeves.’

Stiles holds back a snort, and walks out to his car. Derek tries to sleep, and he does, eventually.

He has nightmares about Kate’s smile again, like he knew he would.

 

When Stiles gets home, it’s almost six o’clock. His dad’s car isn’t in the driveway, though – he must have slept at the station. Stiles feels a stab of guilt at that thought, like it’s his fault that his dad didn’t come home.

Stiles starts to make himself some coffee, and as the water’s boiling, he gets into the shower, washing off sweat and dirt and blood.

Then, just like any other day, he gets ready for school.

 

~~~

 

Stiles and Scott are having a well-worn debate about who would win in a fight between vampires and zombies – with a few interjections from Allison – when Stiles’ phone starts to ring. Derek’s name flashes insistently on the screen, and Stiles holds a hand up to quiet conversation as he answers the phone.

‘Hey, Derek, what’s up?’

Scott raises an eyebrow at that – Derek may be his alpha, but it doesn’t mean that Scott trusts him. At all.

‘I can’t move.’ Derek says, in place of a hello.

‘Generally that’s what happens when you break a leg.’ Stiles smiles at his friends, glad that Allison has taken up Stiles’ side in the theoretical vampires vs. zombies fight.

‘I need to move.’ Stiles likes to think he can hear the scowl in Derek’s voice. ‘Now, preferably.’

‘Where could you possibly need to go?’ Stiles asks, amused.

Derek growls, but doesn’t elaborate. Then, Stiles gets it.

‘Need to go.’ he says, stifling a giggle. ‘You’re trying to be tactful about this, aren’t you?’

Derek grunts, and it could be a yes.

‘Derek Hale needs help getting to the bathroom.’ Stiles announces, leaning back in his chair, smug. Scott’s jaw drops, which only adds to Stiles’ self-satisfaction. ‘Guess you’re not house trained yet, huh?’

Derek growls low in his throat. ‘Stiles, I swear to god-’

Stiles throws his hands up in a placating gesture, more out of habit than any attempt to calm the werewolf down. ‘Alright, alright, calm down.’ Stiles runs a hand over his short hair, trying to work out if he can skip the rest of the afternoon. There’s only two classes, and the term’s almost over, so it’s not like they’d be doing anything… ‘Okay, I’ll be there in twenty.’ he concedes.

‘You better.’ Derek grumbles, and hangs up.

Stiles allows himself a good, long laugh after he’s closed his phone. Allison raises a questioning eyebrow.

‘I have to go help Derek get to the little wolves’ room.’ he explains, packing up his lunch tray.

Scott snorts. ‘Sounds like fun.’

Stiles highly doubts it.

 

Stiles finds Derek in almost the exact same place he was that morning. He has pushed himself up a little, but only ended up slightly lopsided. With a put-upon sigh, Stiles pulls the covers off the werewolf and pushes his legs out of the bed.

‘Lean on me.’ he says, smiling a little instead of making the full-blown joke.

Derek is a pretty tall guy, and now that he is practically leaning his whole body weight on Stiles, Stiles is starting to feel a little crushed.

‘Wow, okay.’ Stiles wheezes out. Derek looks down at the younger boy, unimpressed.

When Derek and Stiles have half-walked, half-dragged themselves to the bathroom, Stiles is struck with the awkward realisation that Derek now needs to actually go to the bathroom.

‘Uh,’ Stiles says awkwardly, and if he had a spare hand, he would be nervously scratching his head.

Stiles decides that the best way to go about this will be to talk as little as possible, which will be easy for Derek, but no small feat for Stiles.

Stiles nudges Derek’s sweatpants until skin starts to show.

‘What are you doing?’ Derek asks, sounding a little incredulous.

‘Helping?’ Stiles squeaks out.

Derek gives Stiles his multipurpose eyebrow raise. ‘Don’t.’

Stiles frowns, unsure what he is meant to do.

‘Back to back.’ Derek provides. ‘I’ll lean on you.’

Stiles is surprised that Derek’s idea actually makes sense. He maneuvers himself so that Derek is leaning on him and tries not to fall over with the additional weight of a well-built twenty-something werewolf on his back.

Stiles tries to, but he can’t help the blush that spreads from his neck when he hears the splash of the toilet water. The only thing that is making this less awkward is that he doesn’t have to actually see Derek.

After a while, Stiles can feel Derek pushing against him, trying to get up. Stiles hopes Derek is fully clothed again, and slips under the arm that Derek is offering, before leading them to the sink.

Job well done, Stiles Stilinski.

 

‘Have you eaten?’ Stiles asks when he’s gotten Derek back into bed.

Derek shakes his head, and Stiles assigns himself his next job. It helps that he’s a little hungry too.

Stiles is not disappointed with the contents of Derek’s cupboard. He already knew that Derek cooked from various pack meetings, but he wasn’t expecting the veritable arsenal of food that he is presented with. Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if half of this stuff is from the farmer’s market - the one he never gets time for, because he’s busy researching, or fixing wounds and (Scott’s) broken hearts.

When he cooks for Derek next, Stiles will definitely have to bring some recipes along.

As it is, he settles with a decent chicken soup, because you can’t pass up the classics. It’s quick, it tastes good, and Derek will probably appreciate the humour. He covers the soup and puts the leftovers in the fridge for later. He and Derek eat upstairs, and they don’t say anything.

‘I’m going to tell Isaac to warm this up before he goes to school. I’ll bring dinner and maybe lunch.’ Stiles tells Derek when they’ve both finished.

Derek nods his agreement, and Stiles piles the dirty plates into the sink.

In the car, he sends Isaac a quick text – just Leftovers in fridge. Feed your alpha in the morning.

When Stiles opens the door and calls out ‘Hey, Dad, I’m home!’ there’s no reply.

Stiles crawls into his bed in his clothes, and he goes to sleep.

 

Stiles wakes up to something buzzing in his pocket. Is first instinct is to flail for his alarm, but hitting the snooze button doesn’t stop the buzzing. Instead, the clock silently declares the time to be 1:03.

The buzzing stops briefly, but starts again a moment later. Half asleep, he scrambles to pull his phone out of his jeans.

‘Hey, Derek, is everything okay?’

‘My cast is falling out of the bed and I can’t get it back in.’

Stiles rolls his eyes. ‘You couldn’t have called any of your betas?’

There’s a pause.

‘They’re all asleep.’ Derek says finally.

Stiles holds back a dry laugh. ‘Alright, I’ll be there in twenty.’

Stiles stumbles into clean clothes and gets into his jeep as quickly as he can without waking his dad.

Stiles is annoyed that he has to pick Derek’s lock, but does it anyway. There was a day when he could just slide through a crack in the wall. He swears, someone as concerned about privacy as Derek should have some better security.

Derek is indeed half falling out of the bed, and Stiles gives him a perfunctory shove before bothering to make him comfortable.

‘Perhaps we should have put you in the middle.’ Stiles muses.

‘Perhaps.’ Derek repeats sarcastically.

Stiles pushes Derek’s legs apart a little, so he almost looks like he’s making a star in the snow. ‘Good?’ he asks.

Derek shakes his head. ‘Straining my hip. Push it in.’ Stiles does. Derek still looks a little uncomfortable, a small grimace visible on his face.

‘Have you got spare pillows?’ Stiles asks. Derek points down the hallway.

Stiles returns with a pile of pillows and unceremoniously throws the blankets aside, so Derek’s cast is revealed.

Derek raises an eyebrow. ‘What are you doing?’ he asks, for the second time that day.

Stiles waves a hand dismissively. ‘Propping up your leg.’

He shoves pillow after pillow under the heavy extremity, until Derek’s face looses the pained curve of his mouth.

‘Better?’ Stiles inquires, slipping a spare pillow under Derek’s arm.

Derek nods.

Stiles yawns, and scrubs at his eyes. ‘Sorry, sorry.’ he apologises quickly.

Derek’s brow furrows. ‘Take the spare room. It’s made up for Isaac, but you can have it tonight.’

Stiles thinks it over for a second, and agrees. ‘Night.’ he says as he flicks off the light.

‘Night, Stiles.’

 

~~~

 

Stiles sends Isaac a quick text when he wakes up, telling him not to worry about Derek. Breakfast is easy, and Stiles gets Derek to go to the bathroom afterwards. It’s still awkward, but not as much, now that they both know what to do. Then, he gets in his jeep and heads off. If he’s honest, he’s only going to school today to clean out his locker.

The entire school is abuzz with the familiar last-day-of-term high. Scott, Stiles and Allison have to face the fact that next year, they’ll be seniors, in their last year of school. Even so, the classes seem to drag on, as if their teachers are trying to suck out the last dregs of their energy before the summer holidays.

‘How’s Derek?’ Scott asks during Chemistry.

Stiles tilts his head to the side, trying to gauge the alpha’s wellbeing. ‘He’s uncomfortable, but still just a much of a dick as he always is.’

Scott snorts. ‘Trust.’

Mr. Harris glares at them, and they don’t say anything more for the rest of the period.

Stiles skips class after lunch, and heads to Derek’s like he said he would.

Stiles calls out his arrival, even though Derek probably knew he was there the moment he entered the property boundaries. The first place he goes is to the kitchen, getting started on lunch. He makes a burrito that is a lot better than the one he had at school, and brings it up to Derek.

Stiles doesn’t have any homework, what with it being the end of school and all, so he’s a bit lost as to what to do during the interim between meals. Derek appears to be reading, and nothing else, if the growing stack of books he’s already read are any indication. To pass the time, he takes and inventory of Derek’s pantry, so he knows what he needs to make dinner for the next couple of days. Stiles decides to make some guacamole for snacking. He’s obviously in the mood for Mexican today. He accompanies it with potato wedges and some sour cream, and brings them up to Derek.

‘I’m still hungry.’ he announces before sitting at Derek’s side. ‘Have some.’

‘We only ate two hours ago.’

Stiles rolls his eyes. ‘Weren’t you ever a teenager? I need to eat periodically or I explode.’

Derek doesn’t look impressed, but he eats some of the wedges anyway. Stiles hopes Derek gets a little soft around the edges with all the food.

Derek scowls at the food when Stiles finishes, so Stiles shrinks away with all the plates and stays downstairs. If Derek needs anything, he can get over himself and call.

It’s getting a little dark downstairs, so Stiles tries some of the switches; and hey, actual working lights! Stiles is amazed. The house is always so dark, he was beginning to think there was something wrong with the wiring. Evidently, nothing is wrong with the lights, Derek just doesn’t know how to work them.

Even with the lights on, though, it still feels empty. There isn’t much furniture – there’s only so much one man needs, anyway – but it’s empty in a way that aches. Stiles thinks that maybe this might just be how it feels to be one person amongst a plethora of ghosts.

 

He supposes it’s time to do some washing up after that, just to give his hands something to do.

Once everything is finished, Stiles lets the water out of the sink and wipes the suds onto his jeans. Why couldn’t Derek have installed a washing machine like a normal person?

Propping himself on the counter, Stiles pulls out his phone. His fingers hover over his Dad’s number for a few seconds, unsure, but he forces himself to press down and holds the phone to his ear.

‘Hey, Stiles, is everything okay?’ the tinny voice of his Dad asks. Stiles feels a pang of guilt upon realising that his Dad’s first reaction is to ask if Stiles is okay. He really, really wishes he were a better son.

‘Yeah, Dad, everything’s fine.’ he assures. ‘I’m just calling to let you know that I’m staying at Scott’s tonight. Scary movies, popcorn – that shtick.’ he explains, the lies coming easier than the truth.

‘Okay, champ. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Stiles nods, even though his Dad can’t see him. ‘Yeah, sure, dad. See you tomorrow.’ he says, even though he’s not sure if he will. ‘Love you.’

‘Yeah, kid, love you too.’

Stiles makes sure he isn’t the first to hang up.

He makes dinner after that, and after he and Derek have eaten, he goes to bed.

 

~~~

 

‘I need to shave.’ Derek announces on Saturday.

Stiles is in the living room, reading his text for next year. Derek hasn’t called him so far this morning, so these are the first words Derek says to him.

‘Good morning to you too.’ Stiles says, hoping Derek knows how hard he’s rolling his eyes.

‘I need to shave.’ Derek repeats, and hangs up. Stiles makes his way up the stairs, into the bedroom where Derek is glaring angrily at him. He’s probably been glaring at the door in anticipation for Stiles’ arrival.

Stiles carries Derek’s the supplies out to the bedroom. He wordlessly puts it all on the bed, making sure the makeshift basin doesn’t spill, and leaves.

‘Stiles.’ Derek growls when the boy reaches the hallway.

‘What?’ he asks, exasperated.

‘I can’t do it myself.’ Derek stares pointedly at the cast around his arm.

Stiles rolls his eyes, but comes back. He tries to work out what would be most comfortable, and settles with straddling Derek’s legs. If he hadn’t already had to help Derek go to the bathroom several times, the situation would be pretty awkward. As it is, Stiles has lost a lot of self-consciousness around Derek. Not self-preservation, mind you, but self-consciousness, yes.

His face is deadpan as he pats Derek’s face with the warm towel, but the corner of his mouth quirks up when Derek’s chin is covered in shaving foam. Derek raises both eyebrows a little, which is the closest Derek gets to a smile most of the time. It’s not to bad, really.

Derek has a stupid electric razor. Stiles doesn’t really know how to work it, but he won’t let Derek know that, so he just turns it on and starts shaving. It is some kind of unspoken rule that they do not speak while this is happening – Stiles is trying really, really hard to concentrate.

Once Stiles has wiped away the excess foam, he allows himself a small snort of amusement. Derek looks a little comical with no stubble.

‘You look ridiculous.’ Stiles tells him.

Derek raises an eyebrow in question.

‘Here, look,’ Stiles says, and snaps a picture on his phone.

Aside from the streaks of light that span the middle of the photo, Derek’s chin is unobscured. Upon seeing the picture, a low rumble of disgust starts in Derek’s chest.

‘You’ve taken off too much.’ Derek is probably ten seconds away from snapping his teeth.

Stiles throws up his arms in a gesture that is universally recognised as meaning ‘What’cha gonna do?’. ‘Jeez, have I messed up the dark-and-brooding look you had going for you?’ he teases, climbing off Derek. ‘I guess you’ll just have to scowl harder now.’

Derek does not look impressed.

Stiles rolls his eyes again. ‘God, drama queen, I’m sorry. Calm down, it’ll grow back.’

Stiles gets out of the room before Derek does anything to his throat-and-jugular region.

 

Stiles is unspeakably glad when Scott turns up that afternoon. He lets Stiles know what he missed in the classes he skipped, and provides a bit of company. He, unfortunately, also eats like a horse, and Stiles ends up tied to the kitchen for a good half hour. They eat lunch upstairs with Derek, and the werewolves talk pack for a while – what Scott’s going to do while Derek is incapacitated, what the pack will do while everyone’s on holidays. Derek’s replies are short and terse, and it irritates Stiles more and more. Scott’s not a genius, everyone knows that, but he’s been trying to work with the pack, ever since the fight with Gerard Argent. He’s Derek’s second-in-command, Derek should really give him a break now and then.

Scott’s mum calls about and hour after lunch, just to ask him to come home and help with house chores. Scott puts the call on speaker, because he knows how much Stiles likes to hear Ms. McCall’s voice. She says goodbye to them both, and Scott heads home, promising to come by later to check on them both. This leaves Stiles alone with Derek yet again. They haven’t said very much to each other since Wednesday, and it’s always awkward when they have to interact. Stiles really wishes that someone was there at all times, even if that someone was Jackson. He just needs someone to break the angry silence that Derek has been exuding. Stiles fears for both his throat and for his mental health.

‘Bathroom.’ Derek demands after a while, and Stiles obliges.

Stiles sticks around for a bit afterwards, picking up one of the books Derek has finished and reading it. He’s impressed – Derek is reading some pretty heavy stuff. Not everyone can finish Name of the Rose in a day.

‘Is this all you do all day?’ Stiles asks after a while. He’s itching with the need to move.

‘Yes.’ Derek growls.

Stiles hums, thinking that one over, and tries to go back to reading.

‘You’re fidgeting.’ Derek tells him, obviously irritated.

Stiles tries to stop, tries to control it, but to no avail. It’s hard to focus on what he’s reading and the way he’s sitting is uncomfortable, and, okay, maybe he forgot his Adderall today, but he can’t help it.

‘Stiles,’ Derek intones. ‘Stop it.’

Stiles gives up, and leaves the room without a word.

 

He takes the opportunity to grab some stuff from home while Derek is busy reading. Yet again, his dad isn’t home. Stiles wonders if all the late night shifts are deliberate, but pushes that thought away before it gets to persistent.

As a brief afterthought, Stiles grabs a pack of cards and his chessboard, shoving them into his bag along with his clothes.

He makes a pasta salad for dinner, because it’s getting hotter, and leaves the cards on Derek’s bedside table.

 

Derek calls in the middle of the night again, asking Stiles to get to his room as soon as he can. There is obvious pain in his voice, and Stiles is glad that he doesn’t have to grope in the dark for his clothes before helping him. He crosses the hall, finding Derek frowning in discomfort. He flicks on the light immediately, startling both of them, and kneels beside Derek on the mattress.

‘Is it the wolfsbane?’ he breathes out, adrenaline pumping through his veins.

Derek shakes his head. ‘My back’s cramping.’ he says, wincing as he tries to move.

Stiles lets out a sigh of relief, before nudging Derek, trying to roll him over without hurting any healing limbs. He prods gently at the muscles of Derek’s lower back, feeling the tight knots there. Derek hisses into his pillow. Stiles presses down as lightly as he can, massaging out the pain in Derek’s back. When Derek’s shoulders relax, Stiles can assume the pain is receeding.

‘Better?’ he asks softly. He tests the muscle beneath his fingers, feeling it give like it should.

Derek nods. ‘Better.’

They roll Derek onto his back again, and Stiles makes sure that the casts are all where they are supposed to before going to bed.

 

Around four, Stiles gets a text from Derek.

What could you possibly be doing on the computer at 4 in the morning?

Stiles curses werewolf hearing, and not for the first time.

Stretching routine. So your back doesn’t cramp again.

He doesn’t expect Derek to reply, but he gets another text a few minutes later.

Go to sleep.

 

Derek wakes up again at five, and he can still hear Stiles typing on the computer. He sends another text.

Go to sleep. I don’t want you pissed off in the morning.

Stiles’ reply is obviously sarcastic.

Wow, sorry(!), closely followed by I’d say the same for you

Derek feels the side of his mouth twitch.

Go to sleep or I’ll find new and inventive ways to kill you. The typing is keeping me awake.

Derek hears the buzz of Stiles phone, and the abrupt cease of any typing.

 

~~~

 

Derek can hear Stiles singing. He can also hear the running of water. Derek is mildly amused by the fact that Stiles sings in the shower. Derek has heard the human’s voice a lot over the past few days – humming over the clashing of pots during the washing up, putting a tune to the recipe he’s reading, whistling along with his phone’s ringtone. Stiles sings all the damn time.

Derek does a good job of telling himself that he hates it.

With the sound of water hitting the floor, Derek feels the need to pee become more persistent. He knows that Stiles is going to be a while in the shower, so he decides to make the passage to his bathroom by himself.

Derek throws his legs over the edge of the mattress, grips onto the bedhead and pulls himself up onto his feet. He’s doing well by the time he reaches his nightstand, mostly leaning against the wall and shuffling. It hurts, sure, but not much more than it does to walk with Stiles. He grips the edge of the nightstand, but to do so, has to lean down. He feels it when his right leg gives way, and he falls down, pulling the table with him.

He hears Stiles’ alarmed squeak when the boy hears the thump of Derek hitting the floor, and the taps are aggressively wrenched off.

‘Derek?’ Stiles calls when he reaches the hallway. ‘You okay?’

‘Fine.’ Derek calls back, louder to be heard by Stiles’ human ears.

Stiles skids into the room, wearing only his boxer shorts and a towel over his shoulders. He’s tracking wet footprints onto the wood and dripping water from his hair. Derek realises it’s growing out a little, and decides he likes it better like this. Stiles’ earnest face hangs over him, and Derek has to push down the urge to grin sheepishly. It’s humiliating enough to be lying on the floor like this, he doesn’t need to help anything along.

‘Jesus, Derek,’ Stiles breathes out, getting down on his knees. Hooking a hand under Derek’s uninjured arm, Stiles pulls the other man into a sitting position.

‘I was just trying to get the toilet, Stiles.’ Derek complains.

Stiles loops an arm around Derek waist and coaxes him towards the bathroom. When Derek’s propped up against his back, Stiles asks ‘Why didn’t you wait for me to be finished?’ Derek feels the vibration of Stiles’ voice through his back.

Derek shrugs. ‘I wanted to move.’

Stiles hums, thinking this over. He leads Derek over to the sink and puts him back into the bed before he speaks again.

‘We’re getting a wheelchair.’ he announces.

Derek snorts. ‘No we’re not.’

But Stiles doesn’t back down – Derek doesn’t know why he ever thinks the boy will, stubborn as he’s proven to be. ‘Yes, we are. You need one, for when I’m not here.’

Derek growls at that. ‘I don’t need it.’ he snaps.

Stiles laughs outright at that, loud and incredulous. Maybe it sounds a little angry. ‘Because you’ve proven that you can get around fine on your own.’ Stiles throws his arms up, obviously irritated.

‘I. don’t. need. it.’ Derek insists.

Stiles fingers curl into a fist, catching the bed sheets. ‘Well fuck, Derek! What good is helping you if you don’t want to be helped?’ he shouts.

‘I didn’t ask you to help me!’ Derek roars back. He feels the familiar rush that means his eyes have flashed, but Stiles doesn’t flinch.

Stiles laughs, and it sounds a more than a little hurt. ‘Because Derek Hale never needs anything from anyone.’ Derek can see the tenseness in the boy’s bare shoulders, water droplets still shining on unclothed skin.

There is silence.

‘You should go home, Stiles.’ Derek says finally, almost spitting out the words.

Stiles slams his open palm on the bed, and it doesn’t make the sound he wants it to. ‘You still need me Derek, fucking hell! You just fell on your ass going to the bathroom, for fuck’s sake!’

For a few moments, the only sound is Stiles’ breathing as he tries to slow it down.

‘You still need me around, Derek.’

Derek closes his eyes briefly, his lids stinging. He doesn’t reply, but Stiles sees it for the admission it is. Stiles is still working to keep his breathing under control.

‘We do need a wheelchair.’ Derek concedes.

Stiles nods and, wordlessly, leaves the room. Derek can hear him walk down the stairs, and for a second he’s worried that Stiles is actually going to go home. But then he hears the beep of the keypad on Stiles’ phone, and he relaxes.

‘Hey, Dad. Listen, something’s happened to Derek.’

 

Derek can feel heat scalding his skin, hot lines of pain along his back. He can see Laura in front of him, running from the blaze. The image flips upside down and back again, and he can hear the pounding of her feet in his chest. She’s racing towards a swirling forest of brown and black, and Derek tries to follow her. He tugs at his legs, but they’re heavy, like they’ve gone to sleep. He reaches down to give them a tug, but his hands won’t move either. It’s like his hands have been pinned to the ground, like nails have been shoved through his hands. He calls out to Laura, calls for her to stop, to come back to him.

He feels a hand on his shoulder, but it’s not Laura’s. It doesn’t smell like Laura’s, the voice doesn’t sound like Laura’s. He hears words, but they sound like they’re playing on a broken record or going through an echo cave. Everything is repeating, a mess of overlapping sounds and unintelligible syllables. Derek feels like he’s being dragged face first through molasses as he strains to hear the voice.

‘Shh, Derek, everything’s okay. Everything’s fine.’ The voice soothes. He feels a hand run over his chest, and then back to his shoulder, tracing paths over the skin again and again.

‘Shh,’ the voice whispers again.

‘Stiles.’ Derek croaks out, sighing in relief.

‘Yeah, Derek, it’s me. I’m here.’ The hand squeezes on his shoulder. It rubs soothing circles into the tight muscles.

‘I’ve been trapped. Jesus, Stiles, I’m trapped.’

Stiles shakes Derek’s shoulder. ‘Hey, no. It’s just a dream. You’re fine.’

Slowly, Derek wins the struggle to open his eyes. He is first aware of Stiles next to him, the weight against Derek’s side grounding him quickly. Then, unfortunately, he feels the sweat-soaked sheets bunched around his waist.

Stiles smiles softly down at him. ‘We good?’ he asks.

After a moment, Derek nods. He takes a deep breath. ‘Yeah, we’re good.’

Stiles nods, but doesn’t stop tracing slow circles into Derek’s shoulder.

‘Wanna talk about it?’ he asks.

Derek doesn’t usually, but for some reason, his mouth is opening and he’s telling Stiles what happened.

‘It was at the fire, I think. Laura-’ Derek has to stop for a moment there, but he soldiers on. ‘She was running away, and I was trying to catch up to her.’

Stiles stands up, untangles the sheets from around Derek’s legs.

‘I couldn’t, though.’ he continues, as Stiles puts another sheet on the bed. It looks a bit more difficult with Derek actually in the bed, but Stiles seems to be managing. ‘I couldn’t catch up to her, because I was stuck. Tied down.’

Stiles hums, taking it in. ‘Sounds pretty bad.’ he sits next to Derek. ‘Both the fire and Laura at once.’

Derek shakes his head. ‘It’s stupid. I wasn’t even there when it happened, I shouldn’t dream about it.’ he lets out a heavy exhale. It’s not as shaky has he would have expected. ‘It’s stupid.’ he repeats.

Stiles’ thumb returns, rubbing little patterns again. ‘Hey, don’t say that. You might not have been there, but it affected you.’ Stiles assures him. ‘Don’t ever feel guilty for your pain.’

They sit in silence for a bit, until Stiles speaks. ‘You should get back to sleep. Can’t have got much rest while you were dreaming.’

Derek nods, patting out the sheet a little. Stiles gets up, readying himself to leave, but Derek’s arm flies out and grips Stiles’ arm.

Stiles turns around. ‘Bathroom?’ he inquires.

Derek shakes his head. ‘No,’ he pauses, regretting his instinctual responses. ‘No, just.’ he frowns into the dark, but forces out the last word anyway. ‘Stay.’

Stiles is visibly surprised, but doesn’t make a move to leave. Instead, he moves to the other side of Derek’s bed, and climbs in.

It’s awkward, the way that they try to keep their distance from each other, but Derek can feel the heat of Stiles’ body next to him, and that’s enough. Derek falls asleep listening to the soft sound of Stiles’ breathing, and he doesn’t dream again all night.

 

~~~

 

Stiles is out of bed by the time Derek wakes, and probably already through the shower. From downstairs, he can hear something cooking – chorizo, if his nose is right – and Stiles’ voice.

Stiles is talking to someone, chattering away. Derek thinks it might be one of the humans – Lydia, maybe Danny. He doubts Allison would come over without Scott, but maybe.

Then, the second person replies, and, okay. Sheriff Stilinski is in Derek’s kitchen.

Derek takes his phone in hand, and waits for the pause in conversation before calling.

‘Morning, Derek!’ Stiles sing-songs into the receiver. ‘Breakfast will be ready in ten.’

‘Morning, Stiles.’ Derek replies. ‘You and your father can eat it up here.’

Stiles laughs. ‘Are you suggesting that my father and I are going to be bedfellows with an acquitted criminal?’

Derek snorts. ‘Maybe so.’

‘Feeling better?’ Stiles asks gently. ‘Want some coffee too?’

‘I’m fine. Coffee sounds great.’

‘Awesome.’ Stiles says, and hangs up.

Stiles works away on the chorizo in the pan, and as Stiles is plating up, Derek hears the Sheriff speak.

‘I’m proud of you, son. You’re being very mature.’

Derek doesn’t need werewolf hearing to hear Stiles’ peals of laughter that follow.

 

Breakfast is a quiet affair. Stiles sits on Derek’s bed, and the sheriff pulls up a chair. They eat their omelettes in relative silence, save Stiles’ initial moan of surprised pleasure when he eats the first bite.

‘This is the best omelette I have ever eaten.’ he declares. Derek is inclined to agree.

When they are finished and Stiles has all the plates in a neat pile on the floor, Sheriff Stilinski addresses Derek.

‘Now, son, how long is this going to take to heal?’ he asks. Derek is a little amused at how different ‘son’ sounds in reference to him, as opposed to Stiles. It’s stern, like he’s a delinquent getting a talking to at the station.

‘Maybe two months, sir.’ Derek replies, trying not to growl at the though of leaving his betas for that long.

The sheriff nods. ‘And Stiles will be here for all of that?’

Derek frowns. He hadn’t though of that. ‘Most of it, sir.’

The sheriff nods again, assessing the situation. ‘Very good. As long as it isn’t detracting form his studies-’ ‘Dad, it’s summer holidays.’ ‘-or his social life-’ ‘Jesus, Dad.’ ‘-then I don’t see a problem with it.’

Derek nods earnestly, pretending that having the sheriff’s approval meant anything to him.

The sheriff turns to his son. ‘Stiles, do you want to put those dishes through? I need to talk to Derek here.’

Stiles nods, biting down on a smirk. He makes amused eyebrows at Derek as he leaves, arms laden with plates. The singing from downstairs is loud enough that the sheriff can hear it too.

When the sheriff is done, he calls Stiles back upstairs. Stiles tries to glean the past conversation from the facial expressions.

‘What were you two gossiping about?’ Stiles asks, all faux-innocence and gangly limbs.

The sheriff smirks. ‘Nice try, Stiles.’ The sheriff gets up off of the bed and ruffles his son’s hair. ‘I’m heading off.’

‘Nice seeing you.’ Derek tells him.

‘You too, Derek.’

Stiles pulls his dad into a hug. ‘Love you, Dad.’ he says into the man’s shoulder. ‘See you soon.’

The sheriff hugs back with a fierceness that makes Derek’s heart ache. ‘See you soon, son.’ His grip loosens a little. ‘Love you too.’

Stiles follows his dad out to the door, and walks him to his car.

 

After a game of post-lunch chess, Stiles suggests wheelchair shopping. ‘May as well get it over with.’ Stiles tells him. They are also in need of food, with the cupboard stockpile rapidly depleting.

Derek nods, because it sounds like a good idea. He’s looking forward to a bit more freedom.

‘Alright, I’ll be back in an hour maybe.’ Stiles says, heading out.

‘What?’ Derek protests. ‘Stiles!’

Stiles snorts. ‘It’ll take an extra hour if I have to bring you along as well.’

‘I’ve been stuck in this house for the past week.’ Derek protests.

Stiles bites his lip, considering it. ‘Yeah, maybe we should.’

Stiles and Derek manage to get to the edge of the stairs without much difficulty, but the actual stairs pose more of a challenge.

Stiles chews on his lip for a bit, brow furrowing. ‘Alright, if you lean most of your weight against me and step down, we can get you down.’

Derek isn’t convinced, and says as much.

‘Well you come up with a better idea.’ Stiles prompts, edges of his lips turning up.

On about the second step, it becomes apparent that this method isn’t going to work. Derek’s leg cast doesn’t fit entirely onto the step, and he’s not balanced enough to make the next step.

‘I’m going to fall.’ Derek says.

Stiles nods. ‘Okay, we can work with this. Can you sit down?’

Mostly leaning on his good leg, Derek reaches the ground. ‘What now?’ he demands.

Stiles hums. ‘Can you slide?’

Derek raises an eyebrow in question. Stiles sits down alongside him.

‘Like this.’ Stiles says, and pulls himself down a step, landing on his ass on the next.

Derek glares.

‘Oh, c’mon, Derek. You must have done it as a kid, with stairs like these.’

Derek doesn’t stop glaring, but he slides down until he’s next to Stiles.

‘There we go!’ Stiles exclaims.

They scoot down the staircase together, until Derek’s feet reach the floor. Stiles helps the other man stand up, and walks him out to the car.

It feels nice to drive, even if it’s just in Stiles’ old jeep rather than Derek’s own sleek Camero. It’s calming to feel the road beneath him, the movement of the car over the asphalt.

Stiles pulls up outside the hospital supply store, and Derek unplugs his belt.

‘Derek, I’m not walking you in there.’ Stiles says matter-of-factly.

‘So I’m just staying in the car.’ Derek says, and it’s not a question.

Stiles nods. ‘I’ll be back soon.’

Derek is left tapping a non-sensical beat on his knee for the next half hour, and he’s beginning to think that maybe he shouldn’t have come along. Stiles arrives with a chair looped over his shoulder and a bunch of papers clutched in his free hand.

Stiles throws the chair into the back seat, and hops into the front.

‘I’m so disappointed I couldn’t get giant X’s on the wheels.’ Stiles says. ‘I asked, and all they said was “I’m sorry sir, we don’t stock those wheelchairs.” What idiots.’

‘You asked for giant X’s?’ Derek asks, raising a brow. ‘Why?’

Stiles looks momentarily disappointed. ‘Do you not know the X-Men? Professor X? With the mind reading and the balding?’ Stiles waves a hand around one side of his head in a multipurpose gesture.

 ‘Wheelchair jokes. Nice.’ Derek snorts. ‘I’ve still got my hair, though.’ he quickly corrects, hand unconsciously patting it. ‘Remember that.’

Stiles chuckles. ‘You do now, at least. You’ll go bald someday.’

Derek looks affronted. ‘No I won’t.’

Stiles throws up his hands in a placating gesture. ‘Alright, touched a nerve there. Note to self: Derek is protective of his hair.’ Stiles casts the werewolf a grin and pulls out of the carpark.

Derek is insistent that he be allowed into the supermarket along with Stiles, but the boy makes the argument that he can’t push both a trolley and Derek’s wheelchair through the supermarket.

‘Yeah, but two people can.’ Derek not-so-innocently suggests. ‘Scott could.’

Stiles rolls his eyes, gives up arguing, and calls his friend. Derek’s smirk is obviously smug for the whole time they are shopping.

 

The trip back up the stairs is harder without Scott’s help, and Stiles regrets telling his friend to go home, but it isn’t impossible. Stiles gets Derek back into the bed, and bites his tongue around the question. He pats out the bed, repositions the pillows, reorganises the bathroom sink.

‘Do you want to talk about the nightmare?’ he blurts out when he finds that he has nothing else to busy himself with.

Stiles sees Derek’s entire body still. His neck goes tense, his shoulders draw in. The slight smile that had been playing on his lips disappears. If he had been in wolf form, Stiles swears Derek’s hackles would have risen.

‘No.’ he says finally.

Stiles rolls his lower lip between his teeth. ‘You sure?’ he prompts.

Derek repeats his no with just as much conviction, and Stiles drops it, instead bringing the groceries inside.

After they eat dinner, Stiles crawls in beside Derek again. Derek doesn’t complain.

 

~~~

 

Derek’s stubble has grown back by Friday, and he begrudgingly asks Stiles to help him shave again, provided the boy keeps the razor kept at the setting Derek likes. Stiles, however, forever the most uncoordinated, manages to cut Derek just below the lip.

‘Jesus, I’m sorry!’ Stiles exclaims, pulling his hands back to his chest like he’s been burnt.

Derek swipes at the cut, examining the small spot of blood that comes away on his finger. ‘Perhaps you should turn off the razor, Stiles.’ he suggests.

‘Oh, right.’ Stiles says, a little dazed. He lies it on the nightstand, dabbing at the cut with his shirtcuff. When his sleeve stops drawing away blood, Stiles stops. ‘We good to go on?’ he asks.

Derek nods. ‘Yeah, fine.’

Stiles finishes off, and if he’s slower than before, Derek doesn’t say anything.

 

Stiles pops his head into the room when Derek is finishing The Maltese Falcon.

‘You want to come down for lunch?’ he asks

Derek’s eyes brighten, but his voice is measure when he replies with a terse ‘Yes.’

Stiles helps Derek into the wheelchair, and pushes him down the stairs. It’s a bumpy trip, and Derek white-knuckles it all the way down. He can hear Stiles’ labored breathing and sees how the tendons in his arms pop out with the effort, but they reach the floor without any major drama.

‘I’m planning lasagna.’ Stiles explains. ‘Everyone likes lasagna, even in summer. I’m good at it too, because I help Mrs. McCall with it all the time. She puts loads of vegetables in it. Do you like vegetables in yours, or are you and all-meat wolfman?’

Derek chuckles. ‘Vegetables are fine, Stiles.’

Stiles beams. ‘You gonna help me?’

Derek’s lips turn up a little, and he wheels himself out of Stiles’ grasp and over to the cupboard to get the lasagna sheets. Stiles notices that the cut still hasn’t healed, and the worry manifests like a small pebble in the pit of his stomach.

It’s comfortable while they work, and Derek lets Stiles talk about the past school year, and how annoyed he is that Harris is probably taking his Chem class next year. He talks about college, and how he wants to go somewhere close but also somewhere good. He talks about what he wants for Scott, how he knows that Scott’s a smart guy, but just not book smart. He talks about how he doesn’t know what he wants to do, but that he wants to do it well. Derek points out ways Stiles could tweak the recipe, and adds herbs Stiles hadn’t though of, but that he agrees with anyway.

About an hour later, Derek pulls a delicious-smelling lasagna out of the oven. Stiles perches on the bench to eat his, and Derek holds the steaming plate off of his lap until it cools down enough to eat. Stiles obviously enjoys the additional herbs, loudly proclaiming the quality of Derek’s tomatoes. It’s so good that Derek doesn’t even mind having the same thing for dinner the next day.

 

~~~

 

On Saturday, Isaac comes over. The way that he sticks to Derek’s side speaks volumes about how much the boy has missed his alpha. Stiles stays in the kitchen while Derek and Isaac talk in the lounge room, but he can still hear the conversations going on across the hallway. He may not be a werewolf, but years of listening to his father’s radio through his bedroom floor have really honed his hearing.

‘How were the last days of school?’ Derek asks.

‘Boring.’ Isaac mumbles. ‘Pop quiz.’

Stiles thinks Derek raises his eyebrow in that was that means Tell me more, because Isaac continues.

‘I didn’t do too badly. I revised.’

Derek hums at that. ‘Did you revise or did you read over your textbook?’ Stiles has to hold back a laugh at how much Derek sounds like his own father.

‘Read, I guess.’ Isaac says sheepishly.

There’s a silence that Stiles imagines is filled with one of Derek’s piercing stares that will ensure that Isaac prepares properly for his next few pop quizzes.

‘Paid the gas and electricity?’ Derek asks. He doesn’t sound reprimanding like Stiles would have expected, but he’s thorough.

‘Yeah.’ Isaac replies, and it sounds more comfortable.

‘Booklist?’ It sounds like Derek’s going through a mental checklist, making sure that Isaac has everything sorted out.

There’s the swish of fabric and the rustling of unfolding paper as Isaac assumedly pulls said booklist out of his back pocket. Stiles makes sure he keeps an eye on the fritters.

‘You got the money?’

There is a pause, then Stiles hears the paper folding back up again. He assumes Isaac has nodded in the affirmative.

‘Have you four been keeping up the training?’ Derek asks.

‘Yeah, we have.’ Isaac answers. ‘Erica’s a lot faster than me, but I’m more agile.’ There’s a pause. Then, begrudgingly, Isaac adds ‘Scott’s not doing a bad job.’

Derek snorts. ‘He’s lucky I’m not there to check on him.’

Isaac laughs at that, and it sounds so much freer than Stiles last remembers.

‘Stiles, the fritters are burning.’ Derek calls out, and Stiles jumps. He flicks off the stove, and as he is putting the fritters onto plates, he hears the wheels of Derek’s wheelchair come up behind him. Derek pulls himself up against the bench, his knees bumping against the back of Stiles’ thighs. Stiles goes instantly still, like he’s playing dead for a bird of prey.

‘Isaac may not have noticed,’ Derek whispers into Stiles’ ear, ‘but I heard your heart rate drop when you were listening.’

Stiles tenses further, waiting for the threat, but it never comes. Derek just snaps his teeth outside Stiles’ ear and sits himself back down.

Stiles lets out a deep sigh, and hands the plates over to the ravenous werewolves.

 

Stiles is lying straight on the other side of Derek’s bed when he next allows himself to think about the way Derek was talking to Isaac; how he was checking that his youngest beta was okay. The whole pack is a pretty protective of the kid – something about those wide, expressive eyes, Stiles thinks – but Derek more so than any of them. He’s firm with Erica, reasonable with Boyd and patient with Scott, but there’s something different about the way he treats Isaac.

‘You’re good to Isaac.’ Stiles says, looking away from Derek. He feels a little awkward saying anything – previously, they hadn’t talked before going to sleep, hadn’t even talked about the sleeping arrangements, and here was Stiles bringing up something he probably wouldn’t mention in the light of day.

There was a shifting of the sheets as Derek moved, so Stiles knew he’d heard him, but there wasn’t any reply.

Stiles turned over to face Derek, which was another thing that they’d never done. Stiles had been there, a physical presence calming Derek through the night, but they’d never looked at each other. But it’s not like Derek shouldn’t have expected their unspoken rules to be broken – his incessant pushing of boundaries was one of Stiles’ defining characteristics.

‘You obviously care about him.’ Stiles elaborates.

Derek frowns. ‘I care about all my betas.’ A pause, then a corner of his mouth curves upwards. ‘Even Scott.’

‘No, but seriously,’ Stiles insists. ‘You were great with Isaac. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as relaxed in class as he is now.’

Derek seems to contemplate this, before responding with a simple ‘That’s what Alphas do.’

Stiles raises an eyebrow, comically mirroring Derek’s default expression.

‘It’s what my mother did, it’s what Laura did. You look after the pack member who needs it most.’

Stiles doenn’t miss the way Derek says ‘who  needs it most’ rather than ‘weaker’. Stiles is sure that he’s overstepping his boundaries, but he thinks Derek needs to hear it.

‘You’re doing a good job.’

He rolls over after that, and goes to sleep.

 

~~~

 

It takes three days for Stiles to work up the courage to talk about their late-night conversation again. A thought had set itself up at the back of Stiles’ mind, manifesting like an itch. Stiles tried to ignore it, but it seems like the thought is in for the long run.

They’re making blueberry pancakes on Tuesday morning when Stiles brings it up.

‘When you were talking about the alphas,’ Stiles begins. Derek stops stirring the mix for the shortest of intervals, tensing his shoulders. ‘You mentioned your mother, and you mentioned Laura, but you didn’t mention Peter.’

Derek stares at the pancake mix, like it demands his whole attention. ‘He wasn’t… he didn’t fulfill his duties as an alpha.’

‘No, that wasn’t what I was getting at. I was just… what was he like? Before the fire, I mean.’

Derek continues to stir the pancake mix, not noticing that it’s probably combined already. Stiles takes the bowl from him, but Derek doesn’t meet his eyes.

Stiles is decanting the mix into a measuring jug when Derek speaks again. ‘He was intelligent. He had a Masters in American Literature, would going to do his PhD when Laura and I were out of school.’ He stops, and Stiles thinks that’s all Derek wants to say. He starts to pour the mix into the frypan, pushing blueberries in when bubbles start to form.

‘He told the best stories. Some of them were fairytales, and some were old legends.’ Derek paused, but when Stiles looked over, something in the set of his jaw said he was determined to continue. ‘When I was five, he read me Tom Sawyer every night until I fell asleep, and he made sure that we had a good library upstairs. He was good with people, too. He and my mum, they always reminded us that we weren’t better or worse, we were just different.’

Stiles nods, taking it all in. Stiles finishes cooking the pancakes in silence, and when he takes a seat on the ground in front of Derek, the werewolf takes a deep breath, as if he steeling himself for something.

‘Peter… he was my favourite uncle. We all loved him, but he was my favourite.’

Stiles swallows, but it’s not only to keep down his breakfast. Derek is glaring down at his pancakes.

‘It must have been hard, then. When he died, I mean.’ Stiles says, edging carefully around the weighty when you killed him.

Derek shakes his head. ‘No. The loss of his wife, of his kids… It sent him crazy. He wasn’t the same Peter anymore.’

Stiles chews on his pancake thoughtfully. He couldn’t reconcile the Peter Derek described and the monster that killed Laura and attacked Lydia. He’s so lost in thought that he doesn’t realise he’s finished his pancakes, that he’s chewing on his cheek.

‘I think the real Peter would have wanted me to kill him, if he knew what he had done.’ Derek admits, breaking the silence.

Stiles feels the empathy clutch at his throat, and he reaches out to grab Derek’s hand. Feeling the warmth of Derek’s palm against his own eases the aches, and he hopes it does the same for Derek. Stiles gives a quick squeeze, and takes Derek’s empty plate.

 

~~~

 

When Derek wakes up on Wednesday morning, the first things he registers are the smell of scrambled eggs and Lydia’s perfume. He sends Stiles a quick text and waits for the boy to bring him downstairs.

Lydia arrives in the door to the kitchen when Derek and Stiles start their bumpy decent down the staircase, leaning her hip against the doorframe. Her lips, shiny with gloss, are turned up at the side, her face the picture of schaudenfreude.

‘You need a ramp.’ Lydia suggests, pairing her remark with a winning smile.

Derek glares at her, but the effect is somewhat reduced now that he is actually shorter than her. That’s not to say that his glares ever worked on Lydia beforehand, however.

‘Yeah, I’ll just put one in now, why don’t I?’ Stiles scoffs.

Lydia flicks her hair over her shoulder. ‘The staircase is even enough, I don’t know why you haven’t already.’ Lydia pauses for a second, considering something. ‘I’m free this weekend. Jackson can help built it.’ She doesn’t seem at all bothered by the fact that she is taking control of both Derek’s time and his property. Rather, she makes plans without consulting him. Her panache makes Derek grin.

Stiles starts to argue, but Lydia just crinkles her nose in distaste. ‘Also, Derek needs a shower.’

Derek flashes his teeth angrily, but Stiles just grins.

‘I’ve just been spraying him with Lynx, honestly. I don’t know how to shower him.’

The side of Lydia’s mouth turns down. ‘Have you even changed his clothes?’

Stiles shakes his head. ‘Only the one time.’

Derek growls again, aggravated by the way that they seem to be talking about him like he’s not there. Stiles throws his hands up in a conciliatory gesture, but his face is insincere.

‘Whoa there, alpha, calm down.’ he says, grinning.

Derek snaps his teeth, but doesn’t push the issue. As such, Stiles continues to ignore him. The boy leads Lydia into the kitchen, wheeling Derek ahead of them. Lydia seats herself on the countertop with a flourish, whereas Stiles leans against Derek’s chair.

‘Well then, Miss Martin, how do you suggest I orchestrate this shower?’ Stiles asks, in a way that suggests he isn’t expecting an answer.

Lydia looks smug. ‘The casts need to be covered, he needs to have his clothes taken off for him,’ Derek growls at this suggestion. He would rather take his own clothes off, thank you very much. ‘he needs to sit in the shower-’

‘Hang on, if he sits in the shower he won’t get back up!’ Stiles protests, half way between distressed and pleased that he had found a hole in Lydia’s logic.

Lydia rolls her eyes, as if the solution was obvious. ‘Shower chairs. I have one from the hospital, if you really need it.’

Derek admires the way she speaks about her hospital stay. She doesn’t let the weakness of the moment get to her, doesn’t let past embarrassment hinder her confidence of the moment.

‘I’ll give your method a go.’ Stiles concedes, as if he has another method anyway. Derek smirks a little at that.

Lydia grins, straightening into action. ‘Perfect!’ she exclaims, feigning surprise, even though she knew she was always going to win Stiles over. ‘You can pick the chair up after lunch.’ It sounds like an offer, but everyone present sees it as the demand it really is. Derek respects Lydia’s commanding presence – she would make a wonderful alpha, were she not allergic to the bite.

Lydia badgers Stiles about college applications while Stiles makes the food. Derek follows the recipe vaguely, less focused on the food production and more on the way Stiles focuses on preparing it. Derek is confident that whatever Stiles does, the end product will be edible, if not pleasant, so he doesn’t feel the need to keep tabs.

 

When lunch is over, Lydia makes a beeline for the door, and Stiles is evidently expected to just follow her. Instead, he looks nervously at Derek.

‘Are you okay her without me?’ Stiles checks, sounding unsure.

Derek rolls his eyes. ‘I’ll be fine.’

Stiles pats his pocket where the fabric molds to the shape of his phone. ‘If you need me, yeah?’

Derek nods, and ushers Stiles out of the door.

 

Stiles returns about two hours later, gangly arms trying to hold a white plastic chair and about five grocery bags in just two hands.

‘Hey, Derek.’ he greets, eyes only visible through holes in the plastic.

The boy struggles his way upstairs, vision mildly impaired.

Lydia walks through the door moments later, entirely unaffected, carrying a small bell in the palm of her hand.

‘What’s this?’ Derek asks, confused.

Lydia sighs laboriously, like Stiles and Derek have been put on the earth simply to cause her great hardship and difficulty.

‘It’s an assistance bell. The amount of money you’re spending on calls to Stiles must be ridiculous.’ she tells him. Derek rolls his eyes; he really didn’t need the theatrics.

Lydia deposits the little bell in Derek’s outstretched hand and returns to her previous position, hip cocked against the wall. She does not speak for quite some time – until she does.

‘Just how much money do you spend on calling Stiles, anyway?’ Lydia asks. She’s masked the genuine curiosity she has by asking a thoroughly inane question, but Derek sees through it. But, knowing Lydia, she probably knew he would.

Derek wants to answer with ‘I’m on a plan’, but the obvious deflection sours in his mouth before he can say anything. Instead, he chooses to call Lydia out on her ploy.

‘What are you implying?’ Derek demands.

Lydia smirks minutely. ‘It must be a lot is all. You go to him for everything.’

Derek really doesn’t know what she’s implying, but his first instinct is to deny, so he does.

‘I don’t need him.’ he rumbles.

Lydia’s face is obviously disbelieving, but so it should be – the lie was so blatant that a human could pick up on it. It is only through some instinctual respect for her alpha that Lydia does not mention it outright.

Instead, she snorts, and she sounds unimpressed. ‘Need, want – it’s an arbitrary distinction, Derek.’ She wiggles her fingers in a wave. ‘Give Stiles my love.’

 

~~~

 

Derek is pretty sure Stiles spends the next day drawing diagrams as to how to get him into the shower. He hears the boy heatedly muttering about ‘stupid skin tight jeans’ and angrily rifling through Derek’s clothes, but he tunes it out more often than not. By Friday, he half expects Stiles to turn up to his bedroom door, arms laden with blueprints and elaborate pulley systems. Instead, he wakes to three packets of cling wrap, a roll of bright yellow sticky tape, and Stiles massacring Derek’s sweatpants with a pair of dress scissors

‘Shower time!’ Stiles says brightly, and beams.

‘What are you doing to my pants?’ Derek growls.

Stiles makes the final cut, and it’s so dramatic that he may as well be cutting the ribbon to the new city hall. ‘I’m making cutoffs, so that you don’t have to pull fabric down over your cast.’ The boy grins, like he’s doing Derek an unmatchable service.

Derek tries to roll over and shove his face into the pillow, but he ends up crushing his arm, and hissing in pain.

Derek can tell Stiles is holding back a laugh as he bundles the werewolf into the bathroom.

Derek is dumped onto the toilet, which is mercifully closed, and Stiles starts to divest him of his shirt. Stiles makes a disgusted face when the tee-shirt is a crumpled ball in his hand.

‘You’ve worn this for more than a week.’ he realises.

Pretending to dry retch, he throws the shirt into a corner. Derek thinks the theatrics are entirely unnecessary.

Stiles gets to Derek’s sweats next, rolling them down and over the bulky cast. Derek is left hunched over on the toilet seat, wearing nothing but his underwear. Stiles grins.

‘Yes, called it! Scott and Lydia owe me twenty bucks!’ Derek doesn’t even need to prompt the boy for Stiles to continue. ‘We had this bet running about what kind of underwear you wore, right? And I bet boxer briefs. And here you are-’ Stiles obligingly gestures to Derek’s undergarment of choice. ‘in your boxer briefs. Thus, I win the bet, and am forty dollars richer.’

Derek smirks. ‘What did the others bet on?’

‘Scott bet y-fronts.’ Stiles says, obviously distaining of his friend’s bland choice. Then he flushes. ‘Lydia bet nothing.’

Derek snorts. Stiles busies himself with covering Derek’s casts in cling wrap and tape, so Derek can’t see when the excess colour dissipates from Stiles’ face.

When Stiles is done, he helps Derek up and into the shower chair.

Stiles’ mouth works for some time, but then he flails a hand around the area of Derek’s crotch. ‘You can get those off yourself.’

Stiles slams the door, and hides behind the forgiving barrier of wood.

He has to stifle a giggle at the noise of shifting fabric that meant Derek was struggling to get his boxers off. It becomes harder to restrain laughs when Derek snarls in frustration.

Stiles stops trying not to laugh when he here the distinctive rip of tearing fabric, and another growl that could honestly only be described as triumphant.

 

About ten minutes later, Derek calls out for Stiles’ assistance. Stiles slings a set of clean clothes over his shoulder and braves an entry into the bathroom. The sudden burst of steam that hits his face makes him blink, but when he opens his eyes, Stiles is unspeakably grateful that Derek has a towel slung around his waist.

He helps Derek over to the toilet, sitting him down much like he had been before, before hanging the clean clothes over the towel rack.

‘Call out if you need a hand.’ Stiles says, and leaves Derek to get changed.

When Derek does call, he’s clean and dressed, hair sitting up at funny angles on his head. It looks uneven, assumedly because Derek only had one hand to dry with, so Stiles covers the werewolf’s head with the towel and scrub his hair dry.

When the fabric is lifted, Derek is scowling, but Stiles feels like it’s more for show than anything else.

Stiles walks them both back to the bed, and as he leaves to make his way to the kitchen, Derek calls out ‘You and Scott owe Lydia twenty dollars!’

 

~~~

 

Let it be known that Lydia never falls through on her own plans. She arrives bright and early on Saturday morning, while Derek and Stiles are still struggling through their new shower routine. By the time Derek and Stiles start their slow decent to the kitchen, Jackson, Boyd and Isaac are placing wooden wedges in between the steps.

‘What’s this?’ Stiles asks, bracing Derek against the railing to survey the progress.

‘The ramp.’ Lydia calls from floor level, where she has splayed plans on the ground.

Stiles smiles at her, pleased, and they keep on their path to the ground.

In the kitchen, Stiles cooks breakfast for six. The smell of the food carries out to the werewolves’ strong noses, and soon the small kitchen is filled with more people than it really should hold. To accommodate the influx of people, Derek is pushed up against a cabinet, wheels banging against the door with each bump and jostle he receives. He is amused to see a twenty dollar bill change hands from Stiles to Lydia. Isaac and Jackson are bickering about semantics of the design, and Stiles is trying to wile some gossip out of Boyd in regards to his relations with Erica. It is hard to pick out the individual conversations with so many people in such a tight space, and Derek feels his head swim a little.

‘Get out.’ Derek finally orders, but there is an undercurrent of fondness that overrides the actual command.

Stiles laughs from where he is surveying the tagine. ‘Only you could growl affectionately.’

There are noises of assent from the wolves, and Derek holds back a grin. The motion, the business, is a welcome break from his routine. It reminds him of when they were fixing up the house – the whole pack in one place, working together on a single project, with minimal danger to anyone’s lives.

Stiles and Derek pass much of the morning watching the Jackson, Boyd and Isaac work on the ramp. Stiles occasionally talks to Lydia – about the plans, the holidays, anything – and Derek picks up his book in between breaks. Stiles had lent him Dracula that morning, if only for the ironic value, and Derek is almost half way through by lunch.

While Stiles usually jumps the gun to feed other people, he lingers in the room as everyone starts to leave the stairs. The boys’ movements are sluggish, obviously in need of food, and they take their time in moving down to ground level. Boyd takes off his shirt, revealing a white singlet, and wipes away the sweat from his forehead. Derek sees Stiles bite his lip, roll it between his teeth, and swipe his tongue over the dry skin.

He realises why Stiles hasn’t started on lunch yet.

Derek is mildly annoyed by this revelation – Stiles is not allowed to have one of Derek’s betas; not even allowed to want one of them. It would ruin the entire pack dynamic, complicate their loyalties and their adherence to the wishes of the alpha. It’s already too complicated with Scott being Stiles’ best friend, let alone if Stiles started dating-

‘Kitchen.’ Derek barks, staring down Jackson until the teen takes control of the wheelchair handles.

Even though Stiles makes the couscous how Derek likes it, Derek doesn’t speak to him until everyone leaves, and works hard to convince himself that he isn’t ashamed.

Stiles skirts awkwardly around Derek once Lydia has taken everyone away for the evening. They don’t make eye contact at dinner, and Derek only responds to Stiles’ questions with glares.

It is around ten that Stiles explodes. They are in the living room, and Stiles slams his laptop shut without warning.

‘Out with it.’ he demands. ‘What’s wrong?’

Derek glares, but doesn’t otherwise answer.

‘No.’ Stiles says, and it sounds like he’s chastising a puppy rather than speaking to a rational adult. ‘Don’t be a dick about this, what have I done?’

Derek’s mouth twitches at the assumption that Stiles is the one at fault, before he reminds himself that that’s exactly the case.

‘You were looking at them. My betas.’ Derek accuses.

Stiles looks unimpressed. ‘Ye-es,’ he says, dragging out the word like he doesn’t think Derek would understand. ‘Is that a problem?’

‘You were attracted to him. To Boyd.’

Stiles gives Derek the most put-upon look the man has ever seen. ‘He’s attractive.’

Derek growls, snaps his teeth. ‘No.’

‘No what?’ Stiles asks, equal parts confused and exasperated.

‘You can’t have him.’ Derek says, warning.

Stiles snorts in disbelief. Derek’s words twist something ugly in his stomach. The thought of owning someone, of having a whole person, revolts him. He can’t comprehend how Derek could suggest something like that, given how many times he’s been controlled by other people, been at someone else’s mercy.

‘I didn’t know this was the 1800’s and I needed your permission, but I don’t want him, Derek.’ he says, spitting out Derek’s name like a curse.

Derek lets his eyes flash. ‘You can’t have any of them.’

Stiles is confused. Derek has always been demanding of his betas, sure, but Stiles always knew it was for their betterment. Derek was there to help them, even if it was tough love. Stiles knew it was just Derek’s way of teaching them. He learnt his lessons the hard way - the aftermath of the fire a cruel master to a young boy - and Derek was just imparting his knowledge the same way he was taught. Stiles understood that, even respected it, because he knew that whatever monster was attacking them wasn’t going to give out gold stars after a fight well done.

Now, though, Stiles can see that Derek is overstepping his boundaries, clear as day. The werewolf may as well be setting off fireworks on the other side of the line, it’s that obvious. He’s monopolizing them, one step away from manipulating them. He’s convincing himself he owns his betas, mistaking people for property. It’s the thinking of a dictator - of a tyrant - and Stiles cannot stand by and watch the repercussions of that mentality.

‘Your betas can look after themselves.’ he fumes. ‘You can’t control every part of their lives.’

Derek’s scowl deepens, until it looks like it’s etched into his skin. ‘I could.’ he rumbles.

There is a heavy silence, and it’s as if lightning is crackling between them.

‘No,’ Stiles sighs. ‘You couldn’t.’ It’s more effective than any amount of shouting ever could be. Stiles knows how much Derek seeks approval. Derek might not even know it himself, but it’s there, deep down. He needs someone to tell him he’s doing a good job – as an alpha, as a werewolf, as a person – and when Stiles sighs like he’s given up, he knows how deeply it will cut. It’s harsh, and Stiles will probably feel bad about it in the morning, but Derek needs it.

Derek doesn’t say anything more, and Stiles pushes himself off of his chair. He wants to get out of the room, out of the suffocating atmosphere that Derek always exudes when he’s angry. Stiles doesn’t want to get dragged down with Derek’s brooding.

Stiles starts to leave, but pauses at the door, giving Derek a last chance to apologise, before he literally closes the door on the conversation.

Derek rises to the bait.

‘I’ve abandoned them.’ he admits. Stiles isn’t sure if he’s imagining it, but the confession sounds a little raw.

Stiles turns around and looks Derek in the eye. ‘Is this because of your…’ Stiles waves at Derek’s body, trying to indicate the casts and the wheelchair all at once.

Derek’s eye flash red in the quickly descending darkness, and Stiles thinks he may have hit a nerve.

‘I’m their alpha.’ Derek insists. ‘I have to be strong for them.’

Stiles moves a little back into the room, but doesn’t sit down. He forces the frustration out of his voice. Derek’s hurt, has been for a long time, but Stiles is still angry with him. Derek uses his past as an excuse too much, to himself and to other people. Stiles is angry, and he knows he has reason, but he can’t approach Derek with anger right now. It won’t accomplish anything, and they’ll both go to bed with guilt weighing heavy in their chests.

‘It’s not your fault, you know.’ Stiles tells him. ‘Even a werewolf can’t dodge a bullet from close range.’

Stiles tries to make eye contact with Derek, but the other man avoids it. Stiles doesn’t know if Derek is angry with him, or doubts his sincerity, or what.

‘I can’t protect them.’ Derek spits out.

And it clicks. Stiles understands now – understands why Derek was so mad with Stiles for looking at Boyd like he did, understands why Derek is suddenly so possessive of his betas. Derek’s protective instinct is in constant overdrive, channeling what he felt for all twelve members of his family into a tiny pack half that size. It’s almost become his sole purpose, now that he’s revenged the deaths of his family and of Laura. He’s lost, invalided like this, scrabbling for a place to help, to defend. Stiles feels a short, sharp pang of sorrow, but it doesn’t overtake his anger.

‘So you control them?’ he spits, but his resolve is slowly breaking down, loosing its fire.

Derek growls. ‘It’s what I have to do.’

‘No, it’s not!’ Stiles exclaims, with a sharp, incredulous laugh. He can’t believe how absurd this conversation is. ‘That’s just shitty and cruel, and it’s not what an alpha’s supposed to do. That’s not what Laura did, that’s know what your mother-’

Derek roars then, cutting Stiles off. His shift rips right through his body, claws and hair and teeth shooting from his flesh. He hasn’t changed into his alpha form, probably isn’t going too, but he’s treading the fine line between human and wolf. His claws dig into the leather padding of the wheelchair, and he shakes it as well as he can. Stiles is momentarily worried that Derek is going to damage his healing bones like this, that they’ll snap under the speed of the change.

Stiles knows that Derek’s trying to intimidate him, trying to quash any opposition. Because he knows this, Stiles hits right where it hurts.

‘You don’t scare me.’ he says, and it’s like a mantra that he’s been repeating to Derek ever since they met. It’s viciously true, and brutally significant.

‘You’re weak.’ Derek spits, and Stiles can tell that Derek’s scrabbling for insults. ‘You think you’re a match to me, but you’re not. You’re just a boy.’

Stiles knows Derek’s angry, that he’s flinging insults with no care for where they land. Stiles isn’t hurt by the insult itself, really – he’s long since realised that he compensates for physical weakness with ingenuity and planning – but he’s a little wounded that Derek tried to hurt him. That Derek wanted to see him break down. Even when it’s out of self-preservation, that hurts.

Stiles stares Derek down, doesn’t let his gaze waver until Derek turns away. Stiles knows this is what an alpha does to exert dominance over his betas, and he doesn’t hesitate to use it now. When Derek breaks the stare, Stiles takes it as his cue to move. He takes Derek up to his room, helps him to the bathroom, and gets him into bed. Derek shifts minutely, almost unnoticeably, to the side, leaving room for Stiles to climb in beside him.

Stiles shakes his head, and departs for the guest bedroom across the hall.

 

~~~

 

Stiles looks tired the next day, like he hasn’t gotten much sleep. Derek had heard him turning in the night, had been soothed back to sleep by the boy’s rhythmic pacing on the hardwood floors. Stiles arrives in the morning with clean clothes and more cling wrap, though, and makes a good show of pretending that nothing ever happened.

Derek anticipates difficulty in the shower routine, because he’s suddenly aware that he’s not wearing anything underneath the cut-off sweats. He doesn’t really have a problem with being naked around Stiles – he’s been naked around so many nameless people he’s fallen into bed with (“Fucked, Derek, just say fucked.” Laura would say) over the years he was in New York. He’s more concerned about the awkwardness it would incur, especially after their disagreement last night. It would damage their precarious dynamic, and Derek doesn’t want to have to deal with that.

But Stiles is smart, and the cut-offs are short enough and loose enough that Derek can take them off without Stiles’ help, just as easily as he put them on. Stiles has even wrapped a new pair of boxer shorts (that Lydia bought, judging by the Calvin Klein that spans the waistband) that aren’t too tight to be put on over his cast.

The service bell gets its first use then, because Stiles is talking to Lydia and Jackson, who have already arrived. Stiles is grinning easily when he gets to Derek’s room, and it’s a welcome change from the grimness of yesterday.

When they’re downstairs, Derek sets himself up in the lounge room with Stiles’ copy of Dracula. Scott, Boyd, Isaac and Erica arrive not long after that, and they all set to work. Lydia looks positively gleeful with the extra hands-on-deck.

She must be content with the work they are doing on the staircase, because she soon relocates from the base of the stairs to the living room with Derek.

Stiles brings breakfast into the room, too, and for a while they all converge there to eat. It’s more spacious than the kitchen, and not as dusty as the hallway has become. Stiles shifts Derek onto the couch after the betas have started working  again. Stiles is meticulous in making sure neither Derek’s arm nor his leg are trapped, and that he isn’t in danger of falling onto the floor. He even makes sure to sit with his back to the couch, providing a barrier between Derek and the ground.

‘You have never seen anything more amusing than Erica working right now.’ Stiles confides, when Derek is suitably propped up.

‘I heard that!’ Erica playfully calls from the hallway. Derek allows himself a huff of laughter. ‘And I heard that, Derek Hale!’

Stiles doesn’t risk a noise, but smiles at Derek knowingly.

When Derek gets back to his book, Lydia and Stiles circle around a textbook that Lydia takes out of her bag. There is frantic scribbling on paper, diagrams and arrows drawn. They mutter letters and numbers to each other that Derek can’t make sense of.

Lydia accompanies Stiles to the kitchen before lunch, and Derek makes sure he catches a glance at the title of the book. When he sees the words “AP Physics” in obnoxious orange letters, Derek is not surprised.

 

~~~

 

By Monday evening, the ramp is finished. There is something to be said about the werewolf work ethic, Stiles thinks. Or, rather, Lydia’s.

In celebration, he contemplates pushing Derek up to the top and then just letting go, watching the werewolf plummet down, but Stiles doesn’t actually want the successive potential damage that plan might cause. Instead, there is a sedate trip to the top of the stairs, and an equally sedate trip down.

It is about an hour after the completion of the ramp when Stiles realises that the other betas aren’t going home. Everyone has set up camp in the living room – which does, contrary to popular opinion, contain a television set – and they will probably start demanding food in the near future.

Scott has already invited Allison, so Stiles sends a text to his dad – just Dinner at the Hale house. Can you come? – and starts off to the kitchen.

‘Making dinner?’ Derek asks when Stiles gets up from his chair.

Stiles nods.

‘I’ll help.’

Stiles pushes the other man into the kitchen, and ponders the cupboard shelves for things to cook.

‘They will be ten of us.’ Stiles says to no-one in particular, thinking over his options.

‘Pasta?’ Derek suggests, from where he is tucked into the side of the pantry.

Stiles agrees, pulling out tomatoes and dry pasta. He’s too tired to do anything fancy, and there are too many people to make anything more than pasta and pizza a viable option.

Stiles goes to put the pasta straight into the pot, but Derek slaps his hand away.

‘No, you need to boil the water first.’ he instructs, flicking on the gas stove. ‘The pasta will take too long to cook, otherwise.’

Stiles throws up his arms and moves over to the sauce, but Derek tugs on his arm insistently.

‘Salt.’ he insists, looking at Stiles intently.

Stiles curses the small kitchen, and the fact that wherever he is, Derek can find Stiles and judge his cooking ability.

‘What?’ Stiles asks, face screwing up in confusion.

‘Salt.’ Derek repeats. ‘In the water. It boils faster.’

Stiles rolls his eyes, but puts the salt in, if only to shut Derek up. Derek watches the water like a hawk, making sure Stiles puts the pasta in on time, but doesn’t seem to comment on it. Stiles expects that Derek’s pickiness will end there, but it doesn’t.

‘Put the tomatoes through the colander. No-one likes a lumpy sauce.’

‘Fry the garlic a little before you put it in the sauce! Raw garlic can ruin a good meal.’

‘Don’t put thyme in if you already have rosemary, it’s-’

‘OH MY GOD! Just make the sauce yourself!’ Stiles finally explodes, flicking sauce on the splashback as he throws his arms in the air.

Derek glares at the flecks of red on the clean white tile, like it’s the blood of his enemies rather than pasta sauce.

‘You’re cleaning that up.’ he rumbles. Then, without missing a beat, ‘Keep stirring. It’ll burn.’

Stiles is just about done, but fortunately, so is the sauce, so he doesn’t have to listen to Derek’s orders anymore.

The Sheriff is awkwardly surrounded by the betas when Stiles starts bringing out plates of pasta. Stiles pulls Derek up to the side of the couch, and makes sure to sit next to his dad when he finally takes his seat, and he sees his dad relax in a matter of seconds. Stiles knows all to well that he got his all of his awkwardness from his dad.

‘The ramp looks good.’ The Sheriff offers.

‘Thanks.’ Lydia and Jackson reply at the same time. There is a short, amusing stare down between the two of them. Lydia obviously wins, because she continues with ‘I’m very happy with how it looks.’

Everyone is too ravenous to make much conversation while the food is there, but Erica does break the silence in between bites.

‘The sauce is really nice, Stiles.’ she says, eyes glimmering with amusement. Isaac snorts, staring pointedly at the both of them, and of course they heard everything. Hell, Allison had probably heard it too, they were that loud.

Stiles isn’t sure if that’s a jab at him or Derek, so he pushes down a response, but Derek growls and snaps his teeth, irritated.

When Stiles has cleaned up the plates – with Allison’s help, hallelujah – Boyd suggests they put on a movie. Everyone nods, until they see the DVD that Boyd pulls out of his backpack.

‘Jesus, not Godzilla vs. Mothra, please.’

‘Spare me the pain!’

‘Boyd, you do know that torture’s against the Bill of Human Rights, don’t you?’

No-one complains when the movie is actually playing, though, easily sucked in by the B grade (“More like Z grade.” Isaac grumbles) sci-fi.

The sheriff nudges his son’s shoulder about half way through the film. ‘Going now, son.’ he says.

Stiles nods, and gets up with his dad. Derek isn’t very interested in the film, so he’s easily distracted by the goings-on between the two Stilinskis.

Stiles pulls his father into a hug at the door, holding him tight. Stiles squeezes his eyes shut, like he’s trying to remember exactly what his father feels like. Derek wonders if that’s a new thing, or if he’s always hugged like that, maybe since his mother died.

‘I miss you, son.’ The Sheriff admits, patting his son on the back.

Stiles lets a small smile turn at the corners of his mouth, but it doesn’t go to his eyes. ‘I miss you too, Dad,’ Stiles says, pulling back ‘but he needs me.’

The sheriff nods, and heads out the door.

Erica puts her hand on Derek’s knee, drawing her focus back to his pack. Her face is a picture of mock pity, teasing him. She lets the claws of one hand drop slightly, showing off, and they catch on the soft cotton of his sweats.

Stiles returns not long after his dad’s car pulls out of the drive, and Erica’s hand drops like it had never been there.

Even Derek gets pulled into the film, and it passes quicker than expected, as with all films with limited plot are want to do. When Boyd pulls out the DVD and leaves the screen an unnatural blue.

‘Put on another one, Boyd.’ Scott suggests, tucking himself a little more into Allison’s hair. There are noises of agreement, nobody quite ready to leave the comfort of the pack just yet.

‘I’m suggesting X-Men.’ Isaac recommends, smirking. ‘A bunch of mutants and their wheelchair bound leader.’

‘Wheelchair using.’ Lydia corrects automatically, paying more attention to her split ends than to Isaac.

Derek snorts. ‘Stiles beat you to the Xavier joke.’ he says. ‘His was better.’

Stiles nods emphatically. ‘I even made a fool of myself in front of the hospital supply staff for it.’

Jackson snorts. ‘He would have done that anyway.’

Stiles fakes offense, and Scott reaches around Allison to slap Jackson in the back of the head.

‘Isaac’s birthday is soon.’ Erica mentions. She is now sprawled over Boyd’s back, who is struggling to put in another DVD.

‘Are you excited?’ Allison asks, just as sweet and motherly as she always is.

Isaac nods. ‘It’ll be great.’

The qualifying ‘this year’ isn’t said aloud, but everyone hears it. Stiles thinks that, yeah, maybe this will be the best birthday Isaac has had in a long time. His father probably wouldn’t have gotten as excited, wouldn’t have celebrated it like the pack will. Stiles is surprised by how much he wants to make this a good birthday for Isaac. He knows it’s not going to fix everything, not going to make up for all the shitty things Isaac’s dad did and said, but it will be at least one birthday where he’s surrounded by family.

Stiles nudges Isaac in the back with a toe. ‘We’ll make sure of it.’ he assures.

Lydia hushes them all. ‘Shut up, everyone! Serenity’s starting!’

 

~~~

 

It is four weeks after the fight with the omega that Derek has to go see Deaton to check on his progress. Deaton calls Stiles on Tuesday afternoon – calls Stiles, not Derek, which rankles him something vicious – and tells them to come in Wednesday morning, when work is slow.

Their routine is easy, with both of them getting more proficient with showering and toilet use already an accomplished feat. The ramp makes the trip down the stairs so much easier, even if Stiles does push Derek a little faster than he would have liked.

Deaton is cool and professional when he takes the x-rays, and Derek is glad that he doesn’t have to make small talk like he did on the few times when he took his human cousins to hospital. Even so, he’s glad to be out of the cramped rooms of the vet clinic when Deaton finishes up. He tells Stiles to come by later to pick up the x-rays, and they leave.

Derek likes the smell of his house, of the woods surrounding it, of his own scent –and, now, Stiles’ – but he has never been happy to be rid of it. He is surrounded by new scents – new people, new foods, new emotions – all gloriously mixed together. He doesn’t let it show, but he’s more relaxed than he’s been for weeks. He doesn’t even care that he doesn’t know where Stiles is taking him, he’s that content.

It turns out that Stiles is taking him to the park, which is more green and more populated than the woods behind the Hale property. The path is pebbled, and it shakes Derek’s wheelchair, but it feels so different to the worn wood floorboards of the house.

Stiles snorts.

‘What?’ Derek asks, vision swimming with greens and browns and blues.

‘You’re purring.’ Stiles says, amused.

Derek scoffs. ‘No, I’m not.’

Derek can imagine the expression of disbelief Stiles’ is wearing. ‘Calling: bullshit. You’re purring, dude. Like a cat.’

Derek may have to admit to himself that he’s rumbling, can feel the vibrations in his chest, but he’s most definitely not purring.

‘No.’ he denies again, but it isn’t as convincing as before.

Stiles tugs the wheelchair backwards over the small incline, and onto the grass. ‘Whatever gets you to sleep at night, kitten.’ he concedes.

Derek is seated next to the bench, and Stiles tucks his legs into his chest. They don’t say anything. Derek soaks up the sunlight that comes through the leaves, and lets the homely smell of oak trees surround him. Stiles just sits.

‘Movie?’ the boy suggests, after some time.

Derek nods. ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’

Stiles gets up, and as his shadow passes over the bench, the light catches on something shiny and golden; a plaque inlaid to the bench. When Stiles pushes Derek past it and onto the path again, Derek catches a glance of it, reading it.

 

In loving memory of Persephone Stilinski

Beloved wife & mother of W. & G. Stilinski

You are always loved

 

Stiles doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it, though. In fact, he seems more confident, like he’s drawing strength from the memory of his mother, rather than being drained by them.

The movie theatre isn’t far from the park, because it’s Beacon Hills, and nothing is very far from anything. Stiles stands next to Derek to read the electronic movie schedule, and Derek sees the moment Stiles decides on the film.

‘They’re replaying National Treasure.’ Stiles whispers, voice strained with excitement. The boy bites his lip.

‘What?’ Derek asks.

Stiles turns a shocked expression down on Derek. ‘What do you mean what? It’s National Treasure, dude, that’s what!’

Derek shrugs with his one good arm. ‘I’ve never seen it.’

There’s a shocked intake of breath. ‘We need to fix this. Right. Now.’

Derek thinks Stiles scares the chubby little cashier when he asks for two student tickets to National Treasure, but Derek is only just peeking over the counter, so he can’t quite gauge the cashier’s reaction. Stiles is almost vibrating when they get to their seats, thankfully having skipped the candy bar. Stiles helps Derek into the aisle seat, his leg hanging out into the walkway. They just have to hope there isn’t a fire, because if there is, they’re fucked.

‘This is a great movie.’ Stiles explains. ‘Well, not great – actually, it’s pretty terrible – but it’s iconic. It’s a classic. It’s so terrible that it needs to be seen to be believed. I cannot comprehend how you’ve missed out on this!’

Derek wants to justify, wants to make his own argument, but that would only encourage more word vomit.

Stiles taps his fingers on the armrest, a senseless staccato beat that gets right into Derek’s head and takes root.

It gets louder, shallow thumps on plastic sounding like the drums of war.

‘Stop.’ Derek commands, and places the heel of his palm over the joints of Stiles’ fingers, pinning them to chair. ‘Stop.’ he repeats, quieter.

Stiles nods, his whole body swaying with the movement, but with the pressure of Derek’s palm on his fingers, he settles.

‘Excuse me.’ A woman says curtly. ‘Could you move your leg out of the way?’

‘Can you go around the other side?’ Stiles asks. ‘I have to walk out that way to get him up anyway.’ he lies. The woman didn’t see him jump over the seat to get next to Derek, anyway.

The woman purses her lips, and it’s not as effective as when Lydia does it. ‘I do not have to walk all that way just because you have blocked the aisle.’

Stiles’ eyes narrow. ‘You don’t have to walk, but the guy with the broken leg does? Did you misplace your logic somewhere?’

The woman flicks her hair over her shoulder, and Derek has a moment of respect for Lydia and how well she has mastered these gestures. ‘I can get security, if you like.’

Stiles stands up, and he’s not that much taller than the woman, but it makes a difference. His hand pivots under Derek’s, and their grip changes. ‘Yeah, why don’t you do that?’ Stiles suggests, anger growing quickly. ‘In fact, why don’t you call the sheriff’s department, and we’ll see if we can get you charged for disabled discrimination?’ His face is starting to look borderline dangerous now, and Derek feels the need to step in.

‘Pick your fights, Stiles.’ he growls, fingers tightening around Stiles’ just this side of painful.

Stiles turns to the werewolf, and shakes his head jerkily. ‘Thanks but no thanks, Mr. Miyagi. You shouldn’t have to move for her.’

Derek sighs, because he knows he can’t talk Stiles out of something he’s set on, freaky alpha eyes or no.

Stiles’ snaps his head back to face the woman, who has now crossed her arms over her chest. ‘You will walk around to get to your seat,’ he says, enunciating each word like he’s speaking to a child. ‘or I will take you up on your offer, and I will call the police.’

The woman looks at Stiles through her eyelashes, obviously disapproving, huffs, and leaves.

Derek smirks. ‘She was smart to leave when she did.’

Stiles lets out a deep breath. ‘Very.’

The ads start, and Derek lets Stiles’ fingers go.

 

‘This film is ridiculous.’ Stiles whispers.

‘You think?’ Derek replies. ‘It was your idea.’

At that point, Nicolas Cage looks at the Declaration of Independence with utter shock. ‘He’s like “Woah, how the fuck did I pull that off?”’ Stiles jokes. Derek can hear the smile in his voice. ‘It’s terrible.’

Stiles keeps a running commentary for the next half hour, most of it funnier than the car crash of a movie they’re watching. People kick Stiles’ chair and shush him in attempt to keep him quiet, but it doesn’t work. Derek tries to hold his laughter in, but he can’t manage it when Stiles does an impression of Nicolas Cage’s face.

‘Shut up!’ a kid behind them hisses.

Stiles turns around to look at who’s complaining, and snorts. ‘Respect your elders.’ He tells the pimply kid, who can’t be older than fourteen.

Derek chuckles, and Stiles continues on his commentary.

‘Shut up!’ the kid says again, actually louder than Stiles ever was. ‘We’re trying to watch the movie!’

Stiles chokes out a laugh, then folds in the middle and giggles loudly into his knees.

The kid pushes off of his seat and leans over Stiles’ seat to hiss into his ear. ‘Shut up, okay? I’m trying to watch the movie.’

Stiles wipes at his face, and Derek doesn’t actually know if he’s crying tears of laughter or if he’s just acting up to enrage the other boy.

‘Watching the movie?’ Stiles questions.

‘Yes.’ The kid grits out. He’s obviously trying to appear tougher than he actually is.

This movie? National Treasure?’ Stiles continues, slowly rising from his seat.

‘Yes.’ The kid repeats. ‘I am.’

Stiles is now standing up completely, and he shoots a wink at the usher, who is looking very worried at this point. ‘You’re telling me to shut up during this movie?’ Stiles checks.

‘Ye-’

‘YOU ARE NOT TAKING NATIONAL TREASURE SERIOUSLY, ARE YOU?’ Stiles yells.

‘Sir, I’m going to have to ask you-’

Stiles cackles. ‘This is the worst film in the history of film!’ Stiles continues, ignoring the usher and the kid’s astonished face. ‘I’m making it better, seriously!’

The usher reaches over Derek and tugs on Stiles’ arm. It shuts Stiles up, but it’s not until Derek rests a hand on Stiles’ side that the boy sits down. No-one is really paying attention to the movie anymore.

‘I’m going to have to escort you out of the theatre.’ the usher tries again.

Stiles grins, and flails an arm to indicate Derek. ‘He’s in a wheelchair.’ he stage whispers. ‘It took 10 minutes to get him into the seat.’

‘We’ll be quiet.’ Derek lies.

The usher looks conflicted, eyes flicking around the audience. One man, in his forties, balding, shrugs. ‘They can stay.’

Stiles beams. ‘Thanks, dude.’ he mouths at the stranger, and winks at the usher again.

 

They get out of the theatre after everyone else, and Stiles is still giggling long after the credits are over.

‘Why did you do that?’ Derek asks, honestly confused.

‘I’ve been stuck in the same house for four weeks. I’m making my own fun.’ Stiles says, and if Derek thinks he can hear Stiles’ heart skip, maybe he’s just imagining it.

Derek snorts. ‘You’re mental.’ Maybe it sounds affectionate, maybe it doesn’t. Derek’s a werewolf, he can do what he likes.

‘Made you laugh, though, didn’t I?’ he asks, leaning over Derek’s shoulder to grin at him.

In lieu of an answer, Derek snorts into Stiles’ face.

 

Deaton is ready with Derek’s x-rays when they get to the clinic. Stiles can’t really tell what’s wrong with Derek’s bones, because they look pretty lined up. There are a few cracks, and he knows that’s not good, but it doesn’t look like something that should keep Derek off his feet as long as it has.

When Deaton has finished sweeping his fingers over the pictures of Derek’s bones, Derek asks when they’ll be healed.

‘Your healing seems to be rising exponentially,’ Deaton explains. ‘and it might take half the time of a normal break.’

Derek nods. ‘Six weeks?’ Stiles clarifies.

‘It looks that way.’ Deaton says, nodding rhythmically.

Stiles clicks his hard palette. ‘Okay.’

Deaton hands over the x-rays. ‘It looks like any signs of a break will clear up too, Derek.’

Derek nods. ‘That’s good to know.’

Stiles swipes a finger across Derek’s shoulder, smiling. ‘Baby smooth.’

 

After lunch and some basic shopping, when Stiles and Derek get home, the textbook from the other day is on the porch, with a small post-it note on the cover. In shiny purple ink, Lydia has written ‘Work out the maximum velocity Derek will reach on the ramp’ and drawn a little smiley face. Stiles reads it over Derek’s shoulder, and grins.

‘I’ll have to test the equations.’ he jokes.

‘Don’t you dare.’ Derek growls.

They make dinner early, because Stiles is worn out from pushing Derek all around town, and Derek ends up playing solitaire in bed at around seven. Stiles reads – or, rather, Stiles naps – next to him until about half past eight, and then he pulls himself out of the bed.

‘You’re probably exhausted. Want me to turn the light off?’

Derek nods, packs up the cards and puts them on the nightstand. After the light flicks off, Derek hears Stiles’ feet whisper across the floorboards as he walks away.

‘Where are you going?’ Derek asks.

Stiles’ paces stop, and Derek’s vision adjusts so he can see him clearly.

‘To the spare room.’ Stiles answers, needlessly hooking a thumb over his shoulder.

‘Come back.’ Derek commands. ‘Stay the night.’

Stiles takes a step, hesitates, then walks all the way back to the bed. ‘You’ll still be able to sleep like this?’ Stiles says, slurring his words a little.

‘We all used to curl up the floor together when we couldn’t sleep.’ Derek says. ‘I’m a pro.’

Stiles snorts. ‘I’ll bet.’ His eyes are drooping, and he scrubs at them to keep them open. The boy tucks himself under the covers quickly. For some reason, he rubs his nose into the pillow, almost like he’s burrowing in.

‘See you.’ he mumbles into the fabric, gone nonsensical with sleep.

‘See you in the morning.’ Derek replies, but he thinks Stiles is already asleep.

 

~~~

 

Derek wakes up to the sound of the shower running. He’s not surprised that Stiles is awake before he is, because he is not a morning person in any sense, but Stiles seems to be both a morning and a night person and Derek wonders just how much sleep the boy actually gets.

Derek lies in bed, listening to the thrumming of the water hit the floor, staccato beats on tile. He could almost see the shadow in noise where the water bounced of Stiles, hear his silhouette in the space between the individual plinks of water droplets.

Fuck.’ Stiles groans, and Derek hears his body falling to one side of the shower wall. Derek is momentarily unnerved, thinking that something’s wrong with Stiles and he can’t help, because he’s stuck in this stupid cast and he can’t move his stupid leg; until Stiles’ groan sounds more like a moan and – oh.

Derek realises what’s happening, and his eyebrows rise markedly. He is briefly annoyed at Stiles, that Stiles thinks he can jerk off in Derek’s house, but then he places a more concerted effort to ignoring what is happening in the other room. Stiles is a teenager. Teenagers do this all the time. Derek tries to focus on All’s Quiet On The Western Front, but Stiles’ short intakes of breath are irregular and they shock Derek out of his reading, his protective instincts kicking in.

He gives up on reading when the space between Stiles’ noises becomes too short, and he closes his eyes, marking off each noise on a moving tickertape he imagines behind his eyes.

Stiles doesn’t cry out like Derek would have expected, but instead the boy inhales deeply, and sighs. At the very least, Derek can say that he’s received some character evidence out of all of this.

 

Stiles washes away all evidence, and he’s water-soft and smells clean when he steps out of the shower. In a pathetic parody of a children’s TV show, Stiles slaps his hands on his knees and exclaims ‘What are we going to do today, kids?’

Derek casts his eyes to the ceiling, and thinks through his options.

‘It’s Isaac birthday tomorrow.’ Derek tells the ceiling. ‘We should bake cakes.’

‘Cakes, plural?’ Stiles asks incredulously.

Derek nods into his pillow. ‘For six teenage werewolves and you? Yeah, plural.’

Stiles snorts, but they head downstairs anyway.

Almost immediately, Stiles cracks open a cookbook, looking for a good recipe.

‘Sponge?’ Derek suggests, peering over the ledge and looks into the book.

Stiles makes a noise of obvious disapproval. ‘Please, everyone makes sponge.’

Derek snorts, mutters ‘Please, everyone’s best friend is human.’ under his breath.

Stiles blows air in Derek’s face in a strange expression of annoyance, then taps the page.

‘What about this? Bye… Bye-nen-stitch.’ Stiles tries.

‘Bienenstich.’ Derek blurts out, face going entirely blank.

Stiles grins and starts flicking through to find the page. ‘Yeah. Bet most people don’t make that.’ Suddenly, Stiles is pulling things out of the pantry, muttering the name of the cake under his breath. ‘Sound good?’ he calls to Derek, when he thinks he can pronounce the name of the cake. ‘Bienenstich.’ he says again, louder.

Derek doesn’t say anything, and Stiles emerges from the pantry to look at him.

‘Derek?’ the teen asks, eyebrows rising.

The werewolf is scowling at the tiled splashback, mouth turned down angrily.

‘Woah, don’t burn a hole in the wall or anything.’ Stiles jokes, but Derek doesn’t respond. Stiles frowns himself, then, bending down a little so that he doesn’t tower over Derek so much. ‘What did I do? What’s wrong?’

‘Laura.’ Derek bites out.

Stiles takes in a deep breath. ‘Yeah?’ he prompts.

‘Her and my mother, this was one of their favourites.’

Stiles worries his lip between his teeth, before sitting a hand on Derek’s shoulder. Derek shakes it off, but Stiles would have been worried if he didn’t.

Stiles stares up at the ceiling when he says ‘We don’t have to make it if you don’t want to.’

Derek does not say anything for a long time, and they just stand their, staring at their respective pieces of infrastructure.

‘I want to.’ Derek says, and it doesn’t sound like it’s been ripped from him as much as everything else he’s said so far has. It’s more like a realization, an exhalation of emotion.

Stiles starts combining the dry ingredients, slower than he usually would.

‘Why did they like it so much?’ Stiles asks, and bites his lip until he gets an answer.

‘When Laura was two, before I was born, my parents took her to Germany.’ Derek says. It’s like wiping a hand across a foggy mirror, his responsiveness slowly returning. ‘They said that the first food you ate in a different country is always your favourite.’

Stiles listens to Derek talk about his family until Stiles knows each of them by name, age and favourite colour, until he thinks he could recognise their face by the description of their bedroom when Derek was eight. It’s not as if Derek doesn’t have difficulty saying it all, though, because he does. He pauses for long moments, but it’s a conversation format that Stiles is becoming surprisingly familiar with. It’s a somber sort of peace, and Stiles is happy, for once in his life, to just listen.

And when Stiles has pulled the cake out of the oven, Derek just smirks and says ‘Isaac doesn’t like almonds.’

Stiles rolls his eyes, but he’s already starting on the second cake, anyway.

 

Stiles has flicked flour all over Derek’s shirt and it’s spotted the floor beneath them, so when he slides to the ground after the fifth cake is out of the oven, Stiles’ ass is covered in flour too. He lets out a tired groan, and lets his head hit the back of the cupboards.

‘Can we give one of the cakes to my dad?’ Stiles asks, pushing himself up a little.

Derek nods, and Stiles slumps back against the cupboards. His eyes close, and Derek wonders just how much sleep he’s been getting, when exactly he got up that morning.

Amidst the coffee sponge, the chocolate cake, the banana cake, and the tiramisu, Derek can still smell the Bienenstich. It gets into his nostrils, soaks into his skin, and wrenches him back to that day almost three years ago. If smell is the strongest sense memory for humans, it’s like a portal to werewolves.

She got home after a particularly arduous day, just about ready to fall asleep where she stood. Derek sat her down, pressed a mug of coffee into her hands and sat beside her.

‘You must be exhausted.’ he said, laughter just moments away. ‘You can’t smell it.’

Laura stuck her nose into the coffee, then looked up at Derek suspiciously. ‘Smell what?’

Derek stuck out his tongue.

‘You’re such a child.’ she said, and Derek was struck with how true it still was. He was only twenty two, only just a quarter of the way through his life, provided he did, indeed, live to eighty. He shook those thoughts from his head, and pulled Laura out of her seat.

‘I don’t wanna.’ she complained, pouting.

He just laughed, and kept his eyes trained on her face so he could see her expression the moment that she saw the cake.

‘I made that cake for Laura’s last birthday.’ Derek grumbles.

He sees Stiles wiggling feet instantly still. He thinks Stiles whispers out a curse, but maybe it’s him.

Stiles stands up, the teeth pulling on his lip the only thing stopping his jaw from dropping completely.

‘Derek, I-’ he begins. Then there is a flurry of colour and fabric, and Stiles has plastered himself along Derek’s front, body flexing to fit around Derek. His skinny arms wrap around Derek’s neck, pulling the other man close. Stiles’ closeness apologises for him, but the boy says the words as well. When Stiles pulls away, Derek realises he’s got an arm around Stiles’ back too.

‘Right,’ Stiles says, embarrassed. ‘Should we send that cake now?’

Derek nods, and neither of them are making eye contact. ‘And the bookstore, I think.’ he muses.

‘Alright,’ Stiles says, already in motion. ‘Let’s get to that.’

 

After a cake has been left on the Sheriff’s doorstep with a handwritten message from the both of them, and Derek has bought both A Picture of Dorian Grey and Ullysses, they move upstairs. They end up eating cake and playing chess until one in the morning, when Stiles shakes the crumbs off of the bedspread and demands they get to sleep.

 

~~~

 

Derek and Stiles sleep until midday, but still manage to drink an entire pot of coffee each by two in the afternoon. This results in an obnoxious number of bathroom breaks, severely halting the attempts at decorating Stiles is making. By the time people start arriving, though, garlands are strung as high as Stiles can reach on a chair, and a large foil banner proclaims ‘IT’S A BOY’; though Stiles has scribbled ’16 year old’ between the A and the B in an attempt to fix his mistake.

Isaac grins at the sign when he sees it, and Derek wonders if maybe it was more of an accidentally-on-purpose thing than a genuine oversight.

‘Happy birthday!’ Stiles exclaims, throwing himself onto Isaac bodily. Derek’s hug is more sedate, but the sentiment is the same.

There is a slow trickle of guests arriving, and Stiles is glad he put so much food out, because the amount that Isaac and Boyd are eating by themselves is frightening.

‘We bought booze!’ Scott calls when the door is opened for him, arms flung out wide.

Boyd rolls his eyes. ‘That’s a little pointless, Scott.’

Allison shakes her head. ‘Not quite. I stole some of dad’s tranquilizers.’ Allison swings a dropper bottle, holding it by the neck.

‘It’s safe?’ Derek asks, concerned.

Allison nods. ‘Oh, yeah, of course.’

‘I tested some in the car!’ Scott exclaims, smiling dopily. There is a collective face palm.

‘Dad says it’s undetectable, so it won’t taste bad or anything.’ Allison adds.

‘So,’ Jackson says, derision evident in his face and tone. ‘it’s a werewolf date-rape drug?’

Boyd snickers. ‘Interested, Jackson?’ he needles.

Jackson glares, but there’s not much heat behind it. Jackson’s a dick, yeah, but he’s not that much of a dick, and he knows Boyd knows that.

No-one seems to be complaining, though, because for some reason they trust Allison, so the liquid is added to the alcoholic drinks right away.

‘You,’ Stiles says while Allison is mixing the drinks, pointing an accusing finger at him. ‘cannot have any. I require you to remain a responsible adult, in case of… stuff.’

Derek rolls his eyes, but it’s probably a valid point if stuff is substituted for a supernatural emergency or vengeful hunters or ill-planned drunk texts, so he agrees, but only with an appropriate amount of false anger.

 

After a few slices of cake have been distributed, it becomes apparent that Stiles is fairly drunk. He’s by no means smashed, probably isn’t in danger of throwing up or hurting someone, but he’s loose and nonsensical. He mutters to himself, grins loopily, and speaks with the conversational equivalent of a dog chasing its tail, trains of thought circuitous and rambling.

At one point in the night, Stiles ends up hanging off Boyd’s shoulder, frowning in concentration.

‘I don’t want to be an astrophysicist.’ the boy slurs.

Boyd raises an eyebrow, feigning interest.

‘’S… ‘s too big. Astrophysics makes me feel small.’ Stiles scrunches up his face, and pinches his fingers to show just how small astrophysics made him feel. ‘Very small.’

Lydia swoops in at this point, to Stiles’ cry of delight. ‘Lydia!’ his head then swivels to face Boyd again. ‘She knows that I don’t want to be an astrophysicist.’

Boyd nods stoically.

‘That’s nice, Stiles.’ Lydia lies. ‘They want you in quantum anyway. Let’s get you some water.’

When Stiles is curled up next to Scott on the lounge, dozing lightly, Lydia finds Derek, seating herself next to him. She appears to have procured a cocktail, which surprises Derek, because he didn’t recall cocktail mix ever being brought into the house. They sit in silence for a moment, both watching Stiles try to squirm into Scott’s lap over Allison.

‘It’s nice.’ Derek says finally.

‘Scott and Stiles?’ Lydia replies, doubt clear in her voice. ‘That’s a bit…’ she pretends to look for the right word, even though Derek knows she has the perfect one locked and loaded. ‘voyeuristic, don’t you think?’ she smirks.

Derek resists the urge to roll his eyes. ‘No.’ he says, and Lydia huffs.

After a while, Lydia rolls her hand in a “continue” gesture. ‘Anything else to add to that?’

Derek swipes a tongue across the bottom of his teeth, mouth closed. ‘Knowing… knowing that you can look after yourselves.’ he admits, then lets his mouth click shut.

Lydia’s eyes sparkle, and Derek knows he’s given her information he shouldn’t have. ‘Oh, I get it. This is a vaction!’ She draws out each word like she’s realised something after a very, very long time of trying to work it out. ‘You’re taking a break from the puppies, and you’re on a romantic getaway!’

Lydia is positively gleeful, and Derek wonders just how drunk Allison’s concoction has made her.

Derek shakes his head. ‘No, I just need to know-’

‘that if you suddenly die, we’ll survive without you?’ Lydia interrupts. She is suddenly serious, and Derek is reconsidering his first assumption about her drinking. Her question is not really a question; rather, it is a quicker verbalisation of a logical conclusion. Derek is grateful that he didn’t have to say anything out loud, that Lydia did the work for him.  Derek clicks his mouth shut, and Lydia knows she’s right in the way he doesn’t argue back.

Lydia nods, perfect curls bouncing on her shoulders. ‘It’s not just comforting for you, Derek.’ She says, and it rings so true that he thinks Lydia means herself; but then she is pointedly looking over to the other end of the hall, to Scott and Allison and-

Stiles.

‘Who’s your second, Derek?’ she asks, suddenly sounding bored. Her voice drops to an almost indetectable volume. ‘It isn’t Scott, and as much as you want it to be, it isn’t Isaac.’

She flashes him a quick grin, and, as has become her habit, swans off without saying goodbye. Derek thinks that maybe Lydia is the personification of a ding-dong-ditch – she turns up, confuses you, then disappears abruptly, leaving a steaming pile of shit behind.

 

Isaac receives presents, of course. ‘It wouldn’t be a birthday without presents!’ Stiles proclaims. Isaac grins like a child, and pulls the table of boxes onto the floor, splaying them around him.

Isaac reaches blindly into the pile and pulls out the first present his hands fall on. For some bizarre reason, it’s Jackson’s, as proclaimed on the shiny gold gift tag. It’s a large package, and when all of the wrapping is gone, there is another, non descript, white box. Isaac opens it quickly, reaches in, and pulls out the contents. Isaac is holding two pairs of lacrosse gloves.

‘I know how quickly we go through them.’ Jackson clarifies, smiling at the inside joke.

Isaac looks pleased, and puts them to the side with a thank you to Jackson, and a knowing look to Scott.

Scott and Allison have given Isaac a joint present, which makes Derek want to throw up, but Isaac is obviously pleased with the stack of CDs they have given him. Erica’s framed picture of the three of them is almost too sweet to deal with, and it even prompts a smile from Derek. Isaac carefully props it up on the very top of his pile of presents, and hugs Erica tightly. Boyd’s kids’ sunscreen pack is unbearably hilarious, and the paler boy almost chokes on his laughter. Underneath the gag present, though, is a nice-looking collared shirt, which Isaac clutches tightly, reveling in the softness of the fabric.

There are three presents left, and Isaac goes for the one at the very top first. It’s wrapped in dark green paper, and there’s no card. Stiles’ vision is a little hazy, but he thinks the paper might match Lydia’s dress. It looks expensive enough to be Lydia’s, anyway. Isaac shows no reverence for the paper, tearing it off as he had with the other few. When the first strip is haphazardly ripped across the middle, a small USB stick becomes visible. Isaac frowns at it quizzically, before Lydia clears her throat.

‘It’s all my study notes from last year.’ she says.

Isaac’s eyes go wide. He looks up at Lydia’ fixing the full power of his gaze on her.

‘Thanks.’ he tells her sincerely, and sets the USB aside.

Isaac pulls out a present covered in newspaper next.

‘That one’s from me!’ Stiles calls out, grinning. He slaps Derek’s uninjured leg in his excitement, arms going everywhere. He makes a shushing noise, as if everyone needs to pay special attention to the noise of the paper ripping. He’s still quite drunk.

‘We don’t even get newspapers.’ Derek mumbles.

Stiles rolls his head around on Derek’s shoulder. ‘I know,’ he drawls. ‘but I bought one. For wrapping!’

Isaac pulls a copy of Catcher in the Rye out of the newspaper wrapping. He holds it in front of his chest, showing it to everyone. There’s a small smile on his lips. The copy itself is very nice, covered in coarse brown fabric and stamped with the title rather than printed. The overall impression is that it doesn’t look cheap.

‘Thanks, Stiles.’ Isaac says sincerely. ‘It’s great.’

Stiles smiles too, and his cheeks go a little redder. Luckily, Stiles can probably just pass it off as a drunken flush.

Isaac takes the last present off the pile. It’s not in a box like the others, but a plain brown bag.

‘Is it drugs?’ Scott asks. No-one can tell how drunk he is, because he’s just as stupid as he always is, and has the same tendency for excessive displays of affection.

The exact moment when Isaac sees what’s in the bag is evident in his face. He takes it out with more care than he had paid any of the other presents, and soon there is a black leather jacket lying on his lap. He lifts it up to his nose, holding the leather against his face, and sniffs.

‘Derek-’ he says, like he’s not sure how to verbalise his thoughts. ‘Is this…?’

‘It’s my spare.’ he says, and an understanding seems to pass between them.

Isaac shuffles over to his alpha on his knees, and he grabs him tightly. It’s awkward and cumbersome to hug around the wheelchair, but Isaac buries his head into Derek’s neck and grips onto Derek’s shirt until his knuckles go white, so it’s not deterring them. There is a bizarre wolf-y chuff-sniff then, and the two of them pull apart.

When they leave after a last round of cake, Isaac has Derek’s jacket hung over his arm, and they hug again at the door.

‘Thanks.’ Isaac says again. ‘It’s… it’s great.’

Derek nods. ‘I’m glad you like it.’

And even though Erica snickers at them, everyone recognises how important that moment is for the two of them, and leaves them be.

 

‘Are you and Isaac together?’ Stiles asks, almost as soon as his head hits the pillow.

Derek huffs, a little amused. He isn’t sure if Stiles is still drunk. ‘Why would you think that?’

Stiles shrugs, rustling the sheets with the movement. ‘Dunno, I just thought maybe…’ he trails off there, showing how little thought he’s given to the subject past what has already been said. ‘You were hugging, I guess.’ Stiles crinkles his nose, confused.

‘You hugged Scott.’ Derek points out. ‘You hugged Isaac, actually. Go to sleep.’

Stiles doesn’t leave it, though. ‘It’s just… he seemed really happy about getting your jacket. You gave him your jacket.’

Derek frowns into the darkness, and mutters a curse. Stiles hears it, though, even without werewolf hearing.

‘I missed something about the jacket, too, so maybe it was the one you wore when you had sex, or you wear it on dates, or-’ Stiles pushes.

‘He thought it was my father’s.’ Derek growls. He digs human nails into the sheets and his grinds his teeth in his mouth. ‘One of my jackets, it used to be my father’s.’

A soft ‘oh’ escapes Stiles’ lips, and he goes quiet. Derek hates that he has to tear open old wounds to get Stiles to shut up, but he is grateful for the quiet. He closes his eyes and tries to ignore the aching of his leg.

Stiles coughs, though, then catches the tip of his tongue between his front teeth to keep himself quiet. It doesn’t work.

‘But, you are dating Isaac, right?’

Derek rolls his eyes, and he’s a little surprised at the lack of anger in the gesture. ‘Really Stiles?’ he asks incredulously. ‘Who’s been sharing my bed for the past week?’ If he had been physically capable of the motion, Derek thinks he might have thrown up his arms in frustration.

Stiles makes a noise, like he was going to speak, but abandoned it half way through. One arm waves a little, threatening larger and more dangerous flailing if it isn’t stopped.

Derek sighs. ‘No, Stiles, I’m not dating Isaac. Go to sleep.’

Stiles seems to obey, and Derek lets sleep wash over him. He has reached the point where he can’t work out if his eyes are open or closed when Stiles speaks.

‘Why were you fighting that omega?’ Stiles asks.

Derek growls in frustration. ‘Stiles.’ he grits out.

‘No, listen.’ Stiles says, and the sheets rustle as he waves his hands anxiously. Derek can see the outlines of hands, but they’re fuzzy from lack of light. ‘I just need to know why.’ Derek thinks Stiles might be biting his lip again.

‘He was in our territory.’ Derek says, and it’s not entirely a lie. ‘He wanted to be alpha.’

Derek can feel the restlessness creep into Stiles’ body. ‘Why didn’t you ask for help, then?’ Derek doesn’t provide an answer. ‘You needed back up. You know you did, or you wouldn’t feel so guilty.’

Derek grits his teeth, and he doesn’t want to tell Stiles what his thought process was, because he can see how stupid it is now, after the fact.

Stiles must be some kind of mind reader, because the next thing he says is ‘It doesn’t matter how stupid you were, I just need to know what you were thinking.’

Derek feels a growl start to form in his chest. ‘He wanted you as a hostage, and I needed the others to protect you.’

Stiles goes still then. It’s like someone has sucked out half of the air in the room, leaving it oddly empty. There isn’t enough space between them, but at the same time, there’s too much. Derek isn’t sure what to do. Stiles’ slightly elevated heartbeat could indicate anger, or belated fear, or stress. But the emotion that hits Derek’s nose isn’t any of those – it’s guilt.

‘Right, I forgot, the helpless human needs protection.’ the boy mutters.

Derek doesn’t think he’s meant to hear it, and he briefly debates responding or not.

‘It isn’t your fault, you know. That I was hurt.’

Stiles huffs. ‘I don’t need to hear your heartbeat to know that’s a lie.’

Derek is momentarily lost. He doesn’t know how to deal with Stiles’ emotions – it’s always Stiles looking after him, and he doesn’t know how to reverse the action.

‘Stiles-’ he begins, but Stiles cuts him off. Derek feels momentarily guilty at how glad he is that he doesn’t have to continue on.

‘You can’t-’ Stiles interrupts, and cuts himself off. There is a horrifically awkward pause. Derek feels more trapped than he has since he was put into the casts.

‘Stiles.’ Derek tries again, imitating the way Stiles says his name when he’s trying to be comforting.

‘You can’t sacrifice yourself for me!’ Stiles explodes. It’s as if Derek’s words have flicked a switch, and Stiles is suddenly angry. The teen pushes himself up on one arm, so he is higher up than Derek. He stares down into the werewolf’s face, and his eyes are wild with distress. ‘You can’t do it!’

Derek tries to pull himself up too, but he struggled with one arm broken. He ends up leaning his shoulder against the headboard, crushing the bone together uncomfortably. Stiles reaches out a hand to help him, but pulls it away just as quickly.

‘You sacrifice yourself for us.’ Derek counters. He’s much calmer than Stiles, but he can feel frustration and anger prickling dangerously under his skin. ‘You put yourself in danger for the pack all the time.’

Stiles shakes his head, face going red. His eyes shine under his furrowed brow, and his breath has turned to angry huffs. ‘That’s different.’ he insists. ‘It’s my job.’

Derek wants to reach out a hand and put it on Stiles’ arm, but he can’t. Instead, he stares at Stiles, holding his gaze. ‘It isn’t, Stiles, and itt’s not any different.’

Stiles breathing is visibly disrupted, large exhales forced out quicker than they should be. Even so, he appears to be calming, the fight fading from behind his eyes. Their arguments are always like this – short and fierce, leaving traces deep in Derek’s chest.

‘Go to sleep.’ Derek suggests. ‘We’ll talk in the morning.’

Stiles lies down, and it’s like he’s deflated. Derek catches the despondent look and he lies down too. It takes longer than he would like to get to sleep.

 

~~~

 

Unsurprisingly, they don’t talk about it. Stiles complains for most of Sunday about his horrific hangover, and they spend most of the day in bed, though Derek does not shove his face into the pillow like Stiles does. On Monday, Stiles is back to his usual energetic self, and gets Derek out of bed early.

‘We’re going to have a visitor!’ Stiles exclaims, trying to encourage some excitement in the older man.

‘We had visitors on Sunday.’ Derek grumbles. ‘Why do we need more?’

Stiles gets the other man ready for his shower. ‘Because reasons, Derek, that’s why!’

Derek rolls his eyes, because whatever Stiles thinks, ‘because reasons’ is not an appropriate justification. ‘Are you going to tell me who we’re expecting?’ he asks as Stiles pulls of his shirt. In his excitement, Stiles gets it wrapped around the cast, and spends some times glaring at the fabric angrily.

‘I will burn you.’ he threatens the shirt. ‘I’m going to burn you, and replace you with hideous button downs.’

‘Stiles.’ Derek says, redirecting his attention. ‘Visitors. Who are they?’

Stiles looks back up at Derek, surprised, like he had forgotten that someone was once wearing the shirt he had been threatening. ‘Oh, right! Your firstborn.’

Derek’s eyebrows draw together. ‘My firstborn?’ he questions.

‘Yeah!’ Stiles agrees, like it’s a logical statement. ‘Your first werebaby. Scott.’ Then, Stiles head tips to the side as he considers his words. ‘Well, no, Isaac is your first werebaby, because he was the first one you turned, but…’ Stiles waves an arm, like he’s shooing away that train of thought. ‘Whatever, Scott is your officially unofficial firstborn, okay?’

Derek rolls his eyes, but surprisingly not at Stiles’ diatribe about werebabies. ‘Scott. Great.’ He draws out the last word, demonstrating how great he feels about it – which is to say, not at all.

 

Scott arrives almost as soon as breakfast is served. It’s like the boy has some kind of inbuilt sensor that alerts him to optimum times when there’s food nearby that he can eat and not pay for. They eat French toast in the lounge room, and Derek is beginning to wonder if he needs to buy a dining table. People are coming over more often now, and he really doesn’t want to have to clean food off of his couches and floorboards. He’ll have to suggest it to Stiles.

Mostly, Scott and Stiles talk video games, which is oddly childish for two boys who have seen as much as they have. Derek isn’t involved in the conversation, but he doesn’t mind. He’s close to Stiles, and he can hear everything that’s happening – he doesn’t really need to be directly involved. Over the time that he’s been in the casts, he’s learnt to appreciate the feeling of being a static point in a world of motion.  He’s relearning how to reflect on things in a way that doesn’t garner anger.

‘How was your hangover on Sunday?’ Stiles asks.

Scott smirks, obviously pleased with himself. ‘Didn’t have one. I don’t think that stuff Allison had gives werewolves hangovers.’

Stiles looks horridly disappointed. ‘Dude, that sucks! I was in bed, like, all day yesterday.’

Derek can’t hold back his amused snort. ‘It’s true.’ he interjects.

Scott is trying not to look so smug, and it’s not working. ‘Damn, that must suck.’ he says, but there’s not much sincerity there. ‘At least you’ve been sleeping.’

Stiles frowns. ‘What do you mean?’

Scott sits back onto the chair. ‘You know how when your mum was sick, you didn’t sleep? Like, at all?’

Derek bites his lip at the mention of Stiles’ mother. Stiles doesn’t talk about her often – really, doesn’t talk about her at all – and he’s surprised that Scott brought her up.

Stiles frown deepens, but Derek can see it’s more out of anger than confusion. ‘Do the words “private confession” mean nothing to you?’

Scott throws up his arms. ‘Sorry, I was just saying, I’m glad you’re sleeping.’ He stands up, then, and takes the empty plates. ‘I’m going to look for more food.’ Derek can hear that it’s not a lie, because Scott is always looking for food, but he also knows Stiles can see it as the escape it’s meant to be.

‘Thank you for this.’ Derek says when he can hear Scott rifling through his cupboards.

‘For what?’ Stiles asks. His forehead still hasn’t smoothed out, but any real anger bleed out quickly. Stiles knows Scott didn’t mean anything by it.

Derek’s words feel stuck in his throat, and he’s not sure what to say. ‘For staying here. For helping.’ He thinks that he probably should have told Stiles that a long time ago, but when Scott mentioned how worried Stiles was about his mother, that Scott thought Stiles cared that much about Derek – Derek can’t avoid it any longer.

A little bit of colour rises on Stiles’ cheeks. ‘It’s nothing. I mean, you needed me. I just did what I had to do.’ he says awkwardly.

Derek is about to leave it at that, but it’s like his mouth has lost connection to his brain, because he continues. ‘You didn’t, though. You didn’t just do what you had to do.’ Stiles looks at Derek like he doesn’t understand, and Derek’s traitor of a mouth keeps talking. ‘You haven’t… you’re not just looking after my leg and my arm. You’ve been there for me, even though I’m fucked up and terrible and-’

Derek tries to continue, but he finds he can’t, simply because Stiles has launched himself at his lips. They are, apparently, kissing.

Stiles pulls away before Derek can respond, and nervously wipes a hand across his mouth.

‘Oh god. Oh god. We – I… I forgot that I can’t do that, sorry.’

Derek frowns. ‘What do you mean, you can’t do that?’

Stiles bites his lip. ‘Look, sorry, just forget it.’

The teen turns his head away, but Derek reaches out a hand and catches his neck, short hairs prickling against his hand. When Derek turns Stiles head towards him, the boy winces, like he’s expecting to be punished. Derek does his best to kiss that wince off his face. When Stiles realises what’s happening, he lets out a shocked, happy sigh onto Derek’s lips. Derek takes advantage of, slipping his tongue into Stiles’ mouth, licking along the back of Stiles’ front teeth. Stiles’ tongue meets his, and Derek can feel the muscles in Stiles’ jaw move from where his hand is cupped around them. He can taste the maple syrup and the uncooked batter in Stiles’ mouth, and maybe a little bit of the coffee he had that morning. Derek pulls away at that, if only because it’s hard to kiss when you’re grinning.

‘You’re too hyperactive to need coffee.’ he tells Stiles, letting his breath brush across the boy’s parted lips, which quickly morph into a smile.

Stiles pushes his head up, so his lips meet Derek again. They’re both smiling, and it’s not really a kiss in the traditional sense, but they can feel each other’s smiles, and it’s so nice Derek thinks he might like to give up normal kissing all together in favour of this.

‘OH MY GOD!’ Scott shrieks.

Stiles jumps, heart skipping a beat. He turns around to see his best friend hiding his face in the crook of his arm, a white-knuckle grip on the bag of chips in his other hand.

Stiles waves sheepishly. ‘Hi, Scott.’

Scott peeks out from over his arm. ‘Hello.’

Stiles bites his lip. ‘Um.’

‘I’m,’ Scott hooks his finger over his shoulder. ‘going to go now. Bye! Have…’ he pauses, then winces. ‘fun.’

‘Bye!’ Stiles calls to his friend’s retreating back. ‘Sorry!’

When he looks to Derek, he looks a little guilty, but when Derek kisses him, it’s entirely gone.

 

~~~

 

When Stiles opens to door for Scott the day after, the other boy’s eyes are screwed shut.

Stiles huffs a laugh. ‘You do realise Derek is not attached to my face, right?’

Scott opens his eyes, and lets out a sigh of relief at the sight of Stiles and Stiles alone standing in front of him.

‘It’s not like I’ve never seen you kissing Allison.’ Stiles reasons as he leads Scott to the kitchen.

‘Yeah, but Allison is not your alpha.’ Scott counters, then sees the caramel slice Stiles had made for him yesterday afternoon. In blue icing, Stiles has written ‘Wrong Place, Wrong Time’. ‘Dude, is this for me?’ Stiles nods, grinning. ‘You’re the best! Go make out with Derek or something, I’m going to eat this all by myself.’

 

~~~

 

On Thursday, Stiles finds a card in the mail that’s addressed to him. It’s in a lavender coloured envelope, and he opens it after dinner, while the two of them are eating icecream in Derek’s bed.

 

Dear Stiles,

It’s about damn time. The dewy eyes were nauseating.

I want to officially note that I’m offended that I had to find out about this from Allison.

Cover up!

Love,

Lydia.

 

Stiles scrambles to cover up the last bit, but Derek sees it, and smirks.

 

~~~

 

On Saturday morning, Stiles isn’t there when Derek wakes up. There is, however, a quickly scribbled message that says ‘0500 hours: went for run’. Derek’s alarm clock proclaims that it is now 7am. Derek is struck by how fit Stiles is, that he can run for two hours. Then, Derek remember that Stiles runs with them, so he has to be fit. He sends Stiles a text to say that he’s woken up, and closes his eyes again.

 

Derek wakes up again as Stiles is climbing the stairs, and the smell of Stiles’ skin is overpowering.

‘Hey, Derek!’ Stiles greets, breathing heavily. He moves the bedcover down so that it’s just sitting across Derek’s knees, like he always does.

Derek smiles back, and lets his eyes slip to Stiles’ mouth. Stiles notices, if the speed at which he crosses the room is anything to go by. He is momentarily hesitant, but he leans in, quickly pressing his lips against Derek’s. Derek can feel the smile that slips onto the other boy’s lips.

‘I’m having a shower, okay?’ Stiles announces, making his way to the bathroom. Derek can see his retreating back, the soft grey shirt sticking to Stiles’ back in a few places, fabric darker with sweat. It’s amazing, the way Stiles smells when he’s sweating. It’s like he’s been amplified, like he’s brighter, somehow. His scent isn’t masked by deodorant, it’s just salt and movement and skin –

Derek has obviously been alone with his thoughts for too long, because the thought of skin, of Stiles’ skin...

The door closes, and Stiles’ skin is muffled by the wood paneling of the door. Derek does not appreciate the loss.

‘Stiles!’ Derek calls, and the boy obediently returns. He’s rid himself of his sweaty shirt, and is just standing in the doorway in running shorts and a white towel.

‘Yeah?’

‘Come down.’ Derek says, and he isn’t sure if he feels bad about the way he’s ordering Stiles around, but he doesn’t think Stiles will mind.

‘I heard you jerking off in the shower.’ Derek rumbles.

Stiles starts. ‘What?’ he squeaks.

Derek snorts, and leans closer. ‘I heard you – every breath – when you had your hand on your cock, in my shower.’

Stiles bites his lip, like he’s not sure how hot he should find that. He swallows thickly, and shuffles across the bed on his knees. As soon as he’s in range, Derek cups Stiles’ hip, pulling him closer until Stiles is forced to straddle Derek’s hips.

‘I’m not hurting you, am I?’ Stiles asks immediately holding his weight through his knees. Derek shakes his head, and guides Stiles down with his hand, until the younger boy is sitting on his stomach. It’s difficult for Stiles to reach Derek’s mouth, but he manages. Despite how heated it feels, the meeting of their mouths is slow. Stiles enables easy access for Derek’s tongue. Stiles pushes back, though, until his tongue is inside Derek’s mouth, and licks the roof of his mouth, engendering a shudder. Derek can smell the arousal thick in the room, and it’s reaching a point where he can’t distinguish which scent belongs to him and which belongs to Stiles. He lets his hand drag up Stiles’ chest then, over taut muscle and soft skin. Derek brushes a hand over Stiles’ nipple, and Stiles gasps, hips rolling down. Derek has to hold back a pleased grin so that Stiles will keep kissing him, but he flicks at Stiles’ nipple again, reveling in the way that Stiles arches into it. Then, Derek sucks on Stiles’ tongue, hollowing his cheeks around it. Stiles moans, and has to pull back to get air. It is then that Derek can see Stiles’ running shorts, gone tight around his hardening cock.

‘Beautiful.’ Derek whispers.

Stiles flushes at the compliment, and Derek tracks it down his pale chest with a sharp gaze. His hand trails back down over Stiles’ chest, running over lightly defined muscles with his knuckles. His thumb drags through the wiry hair under Stiles’ navel, following it until Derek’s thumb rests just on Stiles’ waistband. Stiles’ eyes grow wide at that, and Derek grins, before hooking his thumb into Stiles’ running shorts, under the elastic of his boxers. He looks up at Stiles, at the lust-blown pupils of the younger boy.

‘Is this okay?’ Derek whispers, voice gone raspy with arousal.

Stiles nods, before he forces his mouth to form a ‘Yes. God, more than.’

Derek secures the fabric around his thumbs and pulls, until Stiles’ shorts and underwear are stretching across his thighs. Stiles cock is left bare, and Derek can imagine how the cool air must be a shock to Stiles, because he can feel its heat from where he has a hand curled around Stiles hip. Stiles breathes heavily, looking down at Derek anxiously.

‘Come closer.’ Derek coaxes, hand slipping to curl around Stiles’ thigh and pulling him forwards. ‘And relax, okay?’

Stiles shuffles, until his cock is just about to bump against Derek’s chin. Stiles seems to know what is about to happen, because his gaze pans from his cock to Derek’s mouth and back again. Derek braces his hand against the bed, pushes himself forward, and licks. It’s just like Stiles’ scent, but stronger and warmer, concentrated into a small expanse of skin.

Stiles groans, letting his head fall backwards. ‘Shit, Derek.’

Derek hums in agreement, his lips vibrating against the sensitive skin of Stiles’ cockhead. There is a choked off noise from above him, and Derek pushes Stiles back to his perch on his stomach. Stiles pouts, but then his attention is caught by the Henley that is stretching across Derek’s chest.

‘Off.’ Stiles commands, and god does that tone send a thrill down Derek’s spine.

Stiles grips the fabric and pulls it up, efficient now that he has had so much practice. He follows the fabric with his mouth, leaving small kisses on Derek’s skin. He lets his teeth scrape over Derek’s nipple, and smiles when the flesh hardens under his attention. When the shirt is finally looped around Derek’s cast, Stiles flattens himself along Derek’s front and kisses him. Their cocks line up like this, two outlines of heat beside each other. Stiles rocks his hips minutely, but Derek can’t meet him, the weight of his cast tying him down. Sensing that their current arrangement isn’t going to work, he runs his tongue along the place where their lips are joined, and pulls away to slide back down Derek’s body. He is taking special notice of Derek’s leg, aware where it is at all times, so as not to jostle it.

‘I’ve been too scared to think about how attractive you are.’ Stiles mutters into Derek’s navel. Then, he huffs a self-deprecating laugh into the skin. ‘I’ve just realised how ridiculous that sounds.’

Then he gets distracted, because he licks across and in, swirling slightly. Derek wishes he were mobile enough to do the same to Stiles, because he thinks Stiles’ scent would be just as strong there as it is on his cock.

Stiles noses at Derek’s sweats next, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered that he has to do all the undressing here. He does pull them off of Derek’s body, rather than leaving them around a cast like he did with the shirt. As such, he is distracted from the revealing of Derek’s cock, but Derek can smell the burst of arousal when Stiles sees it. He leans over, and doesn’t lick like Derek expects him too, but wraps his lips around the head and sucks. Derek breathes out Stiles’ name, hips still trying to rise from the mattress. Stiles allows his tongue to reach down and circle the silken skin, tip flicking over Derek’s slit. Derek swears and fists his hands in the sheets. He feels Stiles lips drag outwards as he smiles. He sucks at what he has in his mouth, then pulls upwards until his lips barely circle the slit. Stiles sucks in air through his nose and blows it all through the small opening of his lips Derek moans at that, sustaining the noise as Stiles slides down to take more of Derek’s cock into his mouth. It is when giggles start to vibrate along Derek’s cock that he’s prompted to say something.

‘Blowjob.’ Derek forces out, as amused as he can manage to be with a mouth wrapped around his cock.

He can feel the edges of Stiles’ mouth twitch like he’s trying to hold back a smile. The bobbing of his head could be construed either as nodding, or as a continuation of his efforts. Derek threads his free hand through Stiles hair, but it’s a fond gesture rather than an attempt to change what he’s doing.

‘Grow it out.’ Derek commands. ‘It’s nicer like this.’

Stiles’ mouth twitches again, and – perhaps as a reward for the compliment - Stiles lets a hand join his mouth, jacking the rest of Derek’s cock that he cannot easily fit into his mouth. Derek can feel his balls tightening, and the familiar pressure at base of his lungs that says he’s about to come.

‘Close, Stiles.’ he warns through pants. ‘Very close.’

Stiles responds by quickening his pace and sucking on each upstroke. It is the combination between a light squeeze at the base of his cock and Stiles’ tongue circling the underside of his head that sends Derek over the edge. He shouts as the orgasm punches through him, a mess of unintelligible syllables falling from his lips. Stiles sinks down to catch the bitter liquid, hand stroking Derek through the aftershocks. Derek coaxes Stiles off of his cock before it gets oversensitive. Some of Derek’s come slips out the side of Stiles’ mouth, and when Stiles wipes it off, Derek expects him to rub it into the sheets, but the teen just licks it from his hand, like he can’t stand the thought of losing even a small part of this.

It takes a while for Derek to realise that Stiles is still hard, cock red at the tip, precome slick and shining.

‘Do you want me to…?’ he asks, trailing off in favour of wrapping a hand around Stiles’ cock.

Stiles moans, hips canting into Derek fist. ‘Yeah.’ he gasps out, shuffling forward so Derek doesn’t have to reach out. ‘Can you do it, though?’

Derek pulls at Stiles’ cock to show that, yes, he can. They reach a rhythm between Stiles frantic thrusts and the slip-slide of Derek’s hand. The small broken-off noises Stiles is making are intoxicating, and Derek flicks at his head to force more out.

God.’ Stiles huffs out, and bites down on his lip.

Derek lets a smile turn up the corners of his mouth. ‘Don’t do that.’ he says, looking at Stiles mouth pointedly. ‘I want to hear it.’

Stiles looks down at Derek, eyebrows furrowed in disbelief. ‘You are such a freak.’ he pants. His hips rock into Derek’s hand, though, and he doesn’t bite his lip again. Stiles’ own hand meets Derek’s and their fingers entwine around the hard flesh of Stiles’ cock. Derek lets Stiles set the pace, set the pressure, and he tries to learn it all. Derek sees Stiles’ thighs tense, muscles moving under pale skin, and Stiles comes in stripes across Derek’s chest and their joined hands.

The human sighs, legs shaking slightly, and rolls fluidly to lie next to Derek, fingers still wrapped together. He doesn’t rest for long, though, because he mumbles something into the pillow, and walks over to the bathroom. He returns with a facecloth, and cleans them up with soft, careful swipes. Derek wants to curl into the motion, let Stiles rub the warm fabric into his skin until he falls asleep. When he’s finished, Stiles unceremoniously tosses the washer away, uncaring where it lands, and curls up next to Derek. Derek listens to Stiles’ breathing even out and become regular.

‘I want you to know that I don’t own you.’ Stiles insists, without any explanation. Derek assumes he’s missed out on the beginning of Stiles’ inner thoughts and is just entering half way through. He doesn’t mind as much as he thought he would. ‘Yes, you do.’ The older man insists.

Stiles burrows further into Derek’s body. ‘No, I don’t. You own you.’

Derek frowns, really not following this conversation. ‘What are you talking about, Stiles?’

The boy huffs. ‘Just… I need you to know that. That this does not change anything.’

Derek’s face falls, and Stiles feels Derek still from where he’s curled into him.

‘Oh, no, not like that. No, it changes things, lots of things, but it’s… You haven’t been able to do much for yourself, and I want you to know that when you get better and everything, you’re still you. Okay? It changes things about us, but nothing about you and me as separate entities.’ Stiles takes a deep breath. ‘I don’t want to own you. I want…’ he struggles to explain, a feeling Derek knows all to well. ‘I want front row tickets to the show, but I don’t want to buy the whole theatre.’

Derek huffs a laugh. He didn’t understand everything, but it’s enough that he knows he agrees. ‘I think I can manage that.’

Stiles smiles against Derek’s neck, and kisses him. His lips stay pressed there long after he’s gone to sleep.

 

~~~

 

Derek wakes with Stiles wrapped around him and an unclothed erection pressing into his side. He grins, and lets his hand wander down, brushing at Stiles’ hardness.

‘Morning,’ Stiles says into Derek’s neck.

Derek holds Stiles, pace slow and languid, and Stiles doesn’t feel the need to open his eyes. He just nods, and whispers quiet encouragements into Derek’s sensitive skin. When Stiles comes, he exhales into Derek’s neck, letting the other man’s name slip from his lips.

It is not soon that Stiles blinks the sleep from his eyes and pays attention to Derek’s cock. He hesitates, considering what to do, and then licks his hand, pink tongue slipping over the skin. Derek is amazed by the sight, and the slick heat when Stiles takes Derek’s cock in his hand is even better. Derek lets out a surprised breath of air, not expecting it, and Stiles grins. He pumps it faster than Derek had, but it isn’t rushed. Stiles takes his time, watching the head of Derek’s cock come in and out of his hand. He learns Derek, watches him twitch and squirm like he’s cataloguing it for future reference. He twists his hand a little, and rubs at Derek’s slit, coaxing precome out, as as to aid the slide of his hand. Stiles’ other hand trails the lines of Derek’s hips before falling down to cup Derek’s balls. Derek feels his orgasm building then, and swears. Stiles must sense it, because he moves so that he can mouth at Derek’s hip, sucking a kiss just at the base of his cock. The hand at his balls travels down to rub at Derek’s perineum, eliciting a gasp. Stiles’ mouth shifts around the hickey he is sucking as he smiles, which almost distracts Derek from the path of the teen’s fingers. When Stiles circles around Derek’s hole, the older man comes with a cry.

Stiles pulls up, leaving a red mark in his wake, and his lips are shiny with his spit.

‘You came in my hair.’ Stiles complains, running a hand through his hair. ‘That’s gross. I need a shower.’

Stiles gets Derek ready for his shower. He brushes over the mark he’s made, eyes sparkling with awe, like he can’t believe that he was the one that put it there. When they’re in the bathroom, Derek grabs Stiles’ wrist before he leaves.

‘Stay.’ he says

Stiles hesitates, then nods. ‘Okay. I can do that.’

Stiles washes them both down, and Derek’s hair is evenly washed, for once. Stiles might pay a bit more attention to the bruise on Derek’s hip, and maybe Derek gets sucked off in the shower, but neither of them mind.

 

When they’re out of the shower, Stiles starts to giggle.

‘What?’ Derek asks, looking at the boy like he’s crazy.

‘My dad’s going to kill me.’ He replies, grinning.

Derek rolls his eyes.

‘Wait, my dad.’ Stiles says, as if remembering something. ‘What were you guys talking about, when he came over?’

It was Derek’s turn to chuckle. ‘He told me not to take advantage of you.’ Derek goes serious. ‘He showed me his gun.’

Stiles laughs, and throws his arms up. ‘You couldn’t have listened to him? I’ve worked my ass off for you these past few weeks.’

Derek smirks. ‘I think he meant sex, Stiles.’

Stiles snorts. ‘Well I knew that. Gosh, Derek, take a joke.’

Lydia knocks on the door, then, and Stiles has to make a naked dash across the landing to get clean clothes. Lydia can no doubt hear the frantic pattering on wood as Stiles races around above her.

‘Oh god,’ Lydia groans, when Stiles arrives downstairs. ‘You’re fucking, aren’t you?’ She makes a disgusted sound. ‘Ugh, I can smell it. Stiles, that’s gross.’

‘Yes we fucking are.’ Stiles chirps happily, and Derek can hear the smile in his voice. There’s a rustling of paper, and Stile says ‘Great. Can we do it upstairs?’

Lydia and Stiles seat themselves on the ground underneath the bed.

Lydia’s nose wrinkles as soon as she sits down. ‘I can smell it.’ she complains. ‘Seriously, you two are disgusting.’

Stiles bites his tongue to hold back the smile, and takes the pen and paper Lydia proffers him. ‘Shut up and do the work, Lydia.’

 

Lydia leaves after lunch, and Stiles comes back upstairs to do more calculus. Derek idly wonders if he will have finished the whole syllabus by the time the school year starts. Stiles’ shoulder are hunched, and he looks tense. Derek can see the rigid lines of muscle through the boy’s shirt. He is struck with a sudden wave of fondness; fondness for the way that Stiles talks himself through the problems, for the way he scratches the back of his neck with his pen, for the soft scent of gratification when he finishes a problem.

Derek hears Laura’s voice, clear as the day it had happened, ring in his ears. He had gotten into a fight with one of his pathetic attempts at dating during senior year. He had offended him somehow, and left it to fester, resulting in a very public breakup-turned-punch-up.

‘You know you actually need to say things out loud.’ she grumbled into the cheap diner food. ‘Even I’ve never met a mind reader, and we deal with some pretty hectic shit.’

He had stared at his food, petulantly refusing to eat. ‘Good talk. Could have done without the mind reader cliché.’

A lightening-quick hand had wrenched his chin up, and the red eyes of his alpha held his gaze. ‘Derek, seriously.’ She let her eyes fade back to their usual hazel. ‘You can’t keep expecting people to just magically understand you. You need to actually tell them.’

Derek had huffed, but he knew Laura was right. She was always right.

‘I love you.’ Derek lets out. It’s freeing, like a breath that he’s held too long. It hangs there for a moment, an oddly frightening declaration. Derek holds his breath until Stiles answers.

‘Yeah, man, me too.’ Stiles replies, distracted. He frowns into his book, circling a few numbers and linking them.

It feels like Derek has been shot. He tried, he honestly tried to talk to the boy, but nothing came of it. He growls lowly, but Stiles doesn’t seem to notice. It only adds insult to the wound, and Derek shuts down.

It is a long time in coming, but, eventually, perhaps twenty or thirty minutes later, Stiles stiffens.

‘Shit.’ he mutters. ‘Shit, shit, shit.’

He turns around, and the pen drops out of his hand at the sight before him. Derek is scowling at the book in his hands, fingernails changing from blunt human nails to the dirty yellowed ones of a werewolf and back again. The grip Derek has on the book shows how much effort he is putting into stopping the shift.

‘Jesus Christ, Derek.’ Stiles whispers.

Derek’s head snaps up at the sound. His eyes flash red, and Stiles feels the guilt set deep in his chest. Stiles shuffles over to Derek, and his hands hover over the other man’s arms, not quite touching.

‘Derek, I didn’t mean it.’ he placates, letting his fingertips brush over Derek’s arms. The werewolf pulls away.

I. did.’ Derek says, teeth descending. His voice sounds more animal than human, the wolf taking over.

The realization hits Stiles like a blast from an air cannon, and he grins. ‘Did you –Did you think…?’ Stiles holds his stomach, then laughs. It probably sounds hysterical and unhealthy, but he just throws his head back to the ceiling, because the concept of this is fucking hilarious.

Derek growls, and he lets the change fully over take him. ‘Get out of my house.’ he commands. ‘Now.’

Stiles controls his laughter then, small giggles shaking him. He wipes his eyes briefly. ‘Hush now, you don’t mean that.’

Derek snarls. ‘I will not be humiliated by you.’

Stiles lets his hands fall on Derek’s arms then. ‘I love you, Derek.’ he says. ‘I cannot believe you doubted that, and maybe I have to say it out loud to get it through your stupid skull, but I love you.’

Stiles kisses him, even though his teeth aren’t human anymore and the sides of his face are sprouting coarse hair. Stiles kisses Derek until the shift sinks back into his skin, until he’s left with a responsive, human Derek. Stiles lets his head slide down to rest in the space between Derek’s shoulder and neck, and just stays there, as soft and as quiet as he can. The breath on Derek’s neck says sorry and thank you and I love you almost as loudly as the words themselves.

‘About those tickets,’ Stiles asks after a while. ‘Still got them reserved?’

Derek turns his nose into Stiles’ hair. He hums in agreement.

'I hear they're non refundable, too.' he mumbles.

He grins. 'Perfect.'