The second time Stiles woke up it was slow. The fog of sleep drifted from his head and he came to. Unlike in the car, he didn't panic or cry. It seemed his emotions were finally spent. With leaving and sleeping, everything truly sunk in and left him feeling empty.
The bed he was in was comfortable, wrapping around him in soft sheets that smelled like lavender and of a linen closet.
The sun was out and bright. It streamed through the thin curtains of his windows but it somehow didn't bother him. His eyes were closed and that was enough to block out anything he didn't want to see. And Stiles didn't want to see evidence that the world existed.
He drifted in and out of consciousness throughout the day. With an empty mind and an empty heart sleep was the perfect medicine for grief. He didn't have to think about anything that'd happened or worry about responsibilities that would only seem trivial if he tried to do them.
Eventually though Stiles sat up in the bed and opened his eyes. In the light of day the forest green walls looked bright, the dark brown trim matching the mixed colors of the comforter. Stiles could see the theme the interior decoration of the entire house was striving for. Across from him was the mirror on the dresser. Even from the bed he could see how rough he looked.
Stiles stood up from the bed and walked closer to the mirror. His face was pale but splotched red from all of his crying. His eyes were hollow in his eye sockets and bloodshot. His hair was an absolute mess. Derek wasn't lying when he said he didn't look good.
Stiles rubbed his face and turned to the bathroom. Hopefully if he showered he'd look alive. He stripped out of his pajamas and turned on the water. The glass shower steamed up quickly and soon Stiles was stepping in. The bathroom was ridiculous with having a full shower and a separate claw footed bath. The water pressure of the shower was perfect. The heat stung his skin for a moment but he soon got used to it.
For longer than necessary he stood under the scalding spray. He always loved how cathartic showers were. It relaxed his muscles and washed away what you wanted it to. Eventually though he knew he'd actually have to attempt to get cleaned up. Stiles realized that he'd left all of his shower stuff in his bag, but he ended up not having to get out of the shower. There was already shampoo and conditioner in the shower with him.
It was Old Spice. Of course Derek would have Old Spice products.
Regardless it still smelled good.
When he stepped out he felt more awake, more alert. While he still didn't feel much, he felt...refreshed. Or something. He felt like he could see the world around him without crumbling like a jenga game. Stiles was well aware that he was more than likely compartmentalizing everything but he decided to ignore that for now too. He could ignore everything that wasn't in the woods.
Stiles didn't bother getting super dressed after his shower, only putting on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. He'd have to start unpacking his things soon so he didn't have to root through his suitcase every time he wanted something. But at the same time, unpacking meant something he wasn't sure he wanted to acknowledge. Stiles shook his head to try and clear his jumbled thoughts and walked down the stairs, hoping he wouldn't get lost trying to find Derek.
Thankfully the night before, after he and Derek finished their cereal, Derek had given him a brief tour of the rest of the house. There were a whole lot of rooms, doors, and hallways, but it wasn't too confusing. If he made a wrong turn it wasn't like he was instantly going to get lost.
The sunlight streamed through all of the windows and lit up all of the house. Instead of looking dark, everything looked worn and warm and inviting. It made Stiles relax. Even though he's never seen this place before, it just feels familiar. Maybe it was familiar in the way the stairs creaked, or the scratches and dents on the floor. Maybe it was the crowded surfaces that proved people did once live in these spaces once. This house had been loved and used for what it was worth. That's what made a house a home. And Stiles could definitely use a home that wasn't his own.
Different family, different rules, different feelings. Talk about paradise.
Stiles walked into the living room and instantly saw Derek sitting on the couch, his feet on the coffee table in front of him and a book in his hands.
The distracting part wasn’t how domestic Derek looked in his flannel pants and worn t-shirt. It wasn’t the way he still had bedhead, or what definitely constituted as a beard. The distracting part were the glasses. Big, hipster like black framed glasses sat nearly on the tip of Derek’s nose, tilted down so he could see the pages in front of him.
“I didn’t know you wore glasses.” He said. If it were him, Stiles would’ve jumped if someone had just suddenly disrupted the silence. All Derek did was just look up. Werewolf hearing prevented him from being startled like most people. Stiles wondered briefly why Scott still got scared, then he immediately banished wondering about Scott from his mind. He wasn’t in Beacon Hills, he didn’t need to think about any of that. Nope.
“I didn’t until a few months ago.” Derek said.
“So...is that why you always frowned at things? You were actually squinting and trying to see?” Stiles asked. Derek gave him a flat look.
“No.” He said. “I just had a lot of things to frown over.”
Stiles rolled his eyes and sat down on the other side of the couch up against the arm. He looked at his fingers. They were long and gangly and always moving in some little way. Right now he was picking at his nails.
“Have you read this book before?” Derek asks. Stiles looks up and inspects the book’s name. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
Stiles shook his head. “No. But isn’t there a movie called that?” He asks.
“Yes, but books are always better than the movies.” Derek said.
“Agreed.” The two of them went silent again.
“Do you want me to read it to you?”
“No, dude, you don’t have to.” Stiles said. “You already got a decent way into the book.”
Derek shrugged and flipped back to the first page. “Are you going to listen or not?” He asked. Stiles opened his mouth and then closed it, opting to settle further down against the couch and pay attention to the seams of the fabric.
“Clare:” Derek begins. “It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays…”
Derek reads the story about a woman name Clare and a man named Henry who are lovers that have a hard time being together. Stiles closes his eyes at the sound of Derek’s voice, light and familiar and putting expression into the words. It wasn’t a book Stiles would have read, but Derek makes the words come alive from the paper in a way he can’t help but listen to. The problems of Clara and Henry were better to focus on than any other problems going on right now.
Derek read through the first few chapters before he put down the book. Stiles was mildly disappointed, which surprised him.
“Why’d you stop?” He asked.
“It’s getting late and I’m hungry.” Derek said. Stiles looked out the window and saw the light was a little duller than it was a little bit before.
“What time did I wake up?” Stiles asked.
“Some time after three. It’s only five now.” Derek said.
“If I slept so long why am I so tired?” Stiles asked.
“Sleeping in the car isn’t exactly the best rest someone can get. You didn’t get that much sleep to begin with anyway.” Derek explained. Stiles felt like there should be more to it but neither of them said anything.
“Are you hungry?” Derek asked.
“A little, I guess.” Stiles said. He got up and followed Derek into the kitchen.
Stiles sat on the stool and rested his head on his hand as he watched Derek cook. Derek pulled out an arm full of ingredients from the fridge. He had, from what Stiles could see, chicken, butter, broccoli, and parmesan cheese. He grabbed various pots and pans and other ingredients from a spice rack and a cabinet.
Derek was a very efficient cooker. Before he started cooking anything he got all the food prepared. He put the chicken on a cutting board, cutting off all the weird bits and seasoning it. On another cutting board He chopped up the broccoli into smaller parts and minced some garlic. He grabbed a pot and filled it with water, putting in the pasta he got from the cabinet along with the broccoli once the water began boiling. Then he turned on the heat under a pan. He put in a decent helping of butter and let it melt. Once it was sizzling he threw in the garlic and then the chicken. While everything was cooking, Derek cleaned. He washed off the cutting boards, putting one in the dishwasher but keeping one out. He put away the butter, grabbed a new knife, and put a strainer in the sink.
The smell of cooking chicken and browning garlic filled the air and it made Stiles’ stomach growl. The time on the oven said it was almost six.
By the time everything was done Stiles was starving. Derek cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and put butter and parmesan on the pasta, serving all of it together.
“Thanks.” Stiles said, accepting the bowl from Derek.
“You're welcome.” Derek said.
“I didn't know you could cook so well.” Stiles said. He took the first bite and sighed. It was really good. He just didn't know if he'd have the appetite to finish it
“I've always been able to cook.” Derek replied.
“I just never saw you cook I guess.” Stiles said. “Did you ever cook in the loft? Since that was a place that had an actual kitchen.”
“Some.” Derek said. “But nothing impressive.”
“I should've been around more often if you cooked. I could've gotten a free meal.”
Derek snorted. “I would've made you cook for yourself.” He said.
“Rude.” Stiles scoffed.
“Whatever you say.” Derek said.
They ate mostly in silence after that, only talking to make little jibes at each other. When they were both done, Derek began storing the rest of the pasta in the fridge and Stiles started putting things in the dishwasher.
It was surprisingly easy, being around each other but not needing to talk. They worked next to each other to clean everything up. The only thing Derek commented on was telling Stiles where things went when he went looking for them.
Through the windows the sun was setting, the light turning a gold color from what he could see through the trees. “Could you show me around outside a little bit?” Stiles asked. Derek looked up like he didn’t expect the question.
“You’ll need shoes on.” He said after a moment. Stiles nodded and headed upstairs to grab his shoes.
By the time he got back down stairs Derek was already outside. Stiles walked out. It was getting a little chilly for wearing short sleeves, but he could manage.
“There are multiple trails,” Derek began. “Some were made by me, others were pre-existing. There are various lakes, valleys, rivers, mountains, and cliffs. There are also various predators that could eat you.” Derek gave Stiles a firm look. “So don’t just wander off if I’m not with you. At least until winter comes, and even then.”
Stiles snorted a little condescendingly. “You don’t sound like you have much faith in me.”
“Knowing you, you’ll just stumble upon a bear getting ready for hibernation and it’ll eat you.” Derek said, like he actually believed that would happen. “Or you'll get lost. And I don’t want to be the person to have to tell-” He stopped short, but he’d already spoken enough for Stiles to tense. He could finish the sentence easily in his head. Tell your dad. Tell Scott. Tell your pack.
He had none of those things anymore.
He was alone.
Derek knew his mistake. “Stiles-” He tried.
“I’m fine.” Stiles said. His voice was clipped and shaky. All Derek did was look at him. His heartbeat was short but fast in his chest, like it was trying to escape. His fingertips tingled with anxiety but the last thing he wanted to do was panic. He wouldn’t he wouldn’t he wouldn’t.
“Do you want to read a little bit more?” Derek asked. Stiles blinked and came back to reality.
“Sure.” He said. Breathe in and then out.
He followed Derek back into the house and into the living room. They sat on the couch. Derek put his glasses back on and began to read again. Stiles tried to listen, he did, but his ears weren’t working. His mind wasn't computing anything that was being said. He didn’t have a single thought or emotion the entire time Derek read. Some part of him registered the words, but mostly they were just static like everything else.
“Stiles?” Stiles moved his eyes to Derek. It was dark.
“Are you...okay?” Derek asked.
“I’m fine.” Stiles said. His voice was unconvincing and flat. “I’m just tired.” At least that wasn't a total lie. His body felt heavy and weak. His mind was sluggish. Stiles felt like he’d gone through both a marathon and a generous beating. Sadly he knows how it feels to experience both.
“You should get some sleep then.” Derek said carefully.
“You’re probably right.” He said said. He took a deep breath and stood up, stumbling up the stairs and to the room. His skin was burning so he stripped off all of his clothes except for his boxers and collapsed on the bed, unconscious before his head even hit the pillow.