The woods rang with noise and all Stiles could think about was how tired he was. They were surrounded by hunters and, at his side, Scott was mad because Allison was out there somewhere, her ever-changing pendulum of loyalty having swung back to her father again. Stiles’ leg burned, pain flickering through him like fire. He could feel it singing through his nerves, every movement pulling in his pelvis like a really bad orgasm. Derek’s arm looped around his waist and Stiles’ fingers twisted in Derek’s shirt were the only things keeping him upright. Stiles blinked, eyes heavy. He washed his sheets yesterday and knew they smell heavenly. His bed called.
They had been out in the woods since eight that morning, stalking a group of rogue Omegas that entered the Hale pack territory a little more than two weeks ago. The Omegas had already killed two drifters and one lonely old man, and Derek was not about to let his reputation and territory go down the drain. But because Allison wasn’t there to let them know of the hunter’s movements, it was kind of a surprise when all three groups met in the middle of the forest.
Derek’s pack was vulnerable; Jackson and Lydia were off in the forest somewhere still, presumably fighting Omegas, and even Derek and Scott couldn’t fight off twenty hunters, and it wasn’t like Stiles was much of a fighter, and him getting shot did not help their cause one bit.
And now they were boxed in, hunters ranged throughout the trees in a rough circle. None of them moved; they appeared to be waiting for something, or someone. Chris Argent, maybe. Stiles knew he still wanted to kill Derek, to get revenge for Kate’s death, even if Derek wasn’t the one who killed her. He could tell Derek thought the same; his eyes moved around the forest, worried. Stiles knew Derek was worried they wouldn’t be making it out of the forest this time, and his concern was catching.
Suddenly Jackson burst into the circle, scattering hunters and roaring, blood on his face. There was a long set of claw marks down his chest but his skin was already healing, pulling back together like a zipper. He was enough of a distraction that Derek made a break for it, pulling Stiles long with him. Stiles couldn’t run that well; he stumbled over his own feet, but Derek’s arm kept him upright. Barely. It was amazing, he thought, just how un-aerodynamic an arrow was after it has hit its target. He guessed he was lucky, because the tip of the arrow was probably laced with wolfsbane, and that couldn’t hurt him like it did the werewolves. Next to him, Derek looked kind of like a pincushion, and Stiles wanted to laugh, but he knew it had to hurt.
Stiles stumbled and Derek caught him, one arm hooking under Stiles’ armpit and yanking him upright. The arrow snagged on a bush, jerking the wrong way (like there’s a right way when there’s an arrow sticking in you, but it hurt). He whimpered, sweat breaking out on his forehead.
“Please be careful with me,” he said to Derek, trying to distract himself. “I’m like a porcelain doll over here, okay? Humans break easily, remember?”
“Shut up, Stiles!” Derek growled, his grip tightening around Stiles’ chest.
The hunters were spread out behind them, not as fast as Derek, but some of them had four-wheelers, which Stiles thought was cheating. Their arrows peppered the trees around the retreating pack. Stiles didn’t know why they weren’t using guns – bows were less noisy, maybe – but he probably would have lost his leg if he’d been shot by a gun, so he thanked God for small miracles.
Scott and Jackson peeled away from Derek and Stiles, circling back to the hunters. They got one of the hunters on a four-wheeler; Stiles heard the gasp and crunch of bone and metal when it hit a tree, and he couldn’t muster up the least bit of sympathy.
They reached a dip in the land that Derek cleared in one easy leap, but Stiles couldn’t jump that far even if there wasn’t an arrow jutting from his leg. He did his best but slipped from Derek’s grip, tumbling down the incline, and he couldn’t stop the scream when the arrow in his leg hit the ground and splintered, driving further into him.
Derek came sliding back down to help him up, his lips curling in a snarl when he saw Stiles’ leg damaged further. Black spots burst in Stiles’ vision as Derek pulled him to his feet, pushing him up the other side of the ravine.
Stiles paused at the top, turning to look behind them, searching for Scott and Jackson. There was a noise like someone throwing a rotten apple against wood and, below him, Derek froze. Stiles looked down at his chest, at the long shaft of the arrow sticking out of him, and something like a grin came over his face. He looked up again and Scott stood on the other side of the dip, his face gone white and horrified. Stiles gestured at his chest in a way that seemed to say, “I am really sick of this shit,” and then he stumbled backward, smacking into a tree and hitting the forest floor hard.
Derek cleared the ravine and roared like Stiles had never heard before. The sound rolled on and on and on and he was vaguely surprised the ground didn’t tremble from the power of it. The forest went completely silent but Stiles didn’t notice, because he started to drift, the trees and the ground beneath him feeling further and further away. Derek moved and suddenly there were a lot of people yelling and screaming somewhere out of his line of vision, but Stiles couldn’t really hear them. He stared up at the trees and it was like he was looking through a telescope, because they kept getting further away and more blurry as they went, until there was just nothing.
Scott cried out, scrambling across the ravine to Stiles’ side. Derek was behind him somewhere with Jackson, wreaking furious havoc on the hunters. The air was thick with the scent of blood, and a lot of it came from Stiles.
“Derek!” Scott bellowed hopelessly. He had a hand on Stiles’ chest but there was nothing beating under his fingers. Stiles’ eyes were half open, dark amber and empty.
Lydia came out of trees without warning, pushing Scott’s hand aside, feeling for a pulse.
“What do we do?” Scott asked her frantically.
“You carry him,” Lydia said, and her voice was even, but her words came just a little too fast to be calm. “I’ve got the car keys.”
They ran through the woods and they were almost to the clearing where the Camaro sat next to Stiles’ Jeep, when Chris Argent stepped out in front of them. Allison stood behind him and she looked horrified when she saw Stiles cradled in Scott’s arms. Scott glared at her, lifting Stiles toward her as if to say, “See this? This is your fault.” Allison averted her eyes, staring at the ground as if she was suddenly very interested in topsoil.
“Move,” Lydia growled at Chris.
The hunter hesitated, his eyes on Stiles. “This isn’t right,” he said. “We never—”
“Move!” Lydia snarled, her claws popping out. Chris stepped back without another word, letting them pass. Allison wouldn’t look at any of them.
They were lifting Stiles into the tiny backseat of Derek’s car when Derek came pounding out of the woods, yanking arrows out of himself. He was covered in blood; his shirt was nearly black with it, and there was a red splash all across his face. He looked wild, like a rabid animal, out of control and full of fury. Jackson came a few yards behind, less bloody and more worried.
“Get out of the way!” Derek snarled at Lydia and Scott, who scrambled aside hastily. Derek crammed himself into the backseat, pulling Stiles’ body into his lap. “Someone drive!”
Lydia scrambled into the driver’s seat, leaving Scott to take the passenger’s side. Derek shoved his hands into the pockets of Stiles’ jeans, finding his keys and tossing them to Jackson. The Camaro flew to the hospital, Lydia breaking every traffic law to get them there in a record five minutes. Derek jerked the arrows out of Stiles’ body as they drove, slamming a large fist against his chest in an effort to get his heart beating again. Scott called his mom, trying to explain the emergency without giving them all away. Melissa McCall was waiting for them at the hospital entrance and she threw her hands over her mouth when Derek climbed out of the car with Stiles folded in his arms.
In the lobby, a team of doctors and nurses descended on them, hauling Stiles from Derek’s arms and sprinting away. Ms. McCall made Scott call Stiles’ dad and he started crying when he had to tell the sheriff that his son might be dead. A nurse tried to examine Derek’s slowly healing arrow wounds, but he shrugged her off, focused on Stiles and hoping for the sound of a distant heartbeat.
Sheriff Stilinski arrived in under five minutes, peeling up in front of the hospital, leaving the door of his cruiser open and the lights flashing. Melissa led him away into the hospital, but the doctors wouldn’t let him get near Stiles and he returned to the waiting room, his face red and furious and frightened. He wouldn’t touch Lydia, and he didn’t really know Jackson, and Scott was crying. That left Derek, who he had never approved of, and so it was Derek he punched in the face.
Derek let him. He could have stopped the sheriff easily, but he didn’t because he deserved it. It was his fault Stiles was hurt. He couldn’t even think about the other possibility, even though it was loud in his ears with the absence of Stiles’ heartbeat.
The sheriff stepped back, shaking his fingers, because punching Derek was like punching a brick wall. “If he dies,” the sheriff hissed, and his voice wavered with emotion, “I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you spend the rest of your life in jail.”
Derek kept his eyes on the floor and nodded, silent, because he deserved that, too.
When Stiles opened his eyes, he was ninety percent sure he was in heaven because his mom was sitting on the edge of the bed he was lying in, a soft smile on her face. He tried to smile back, tried to speak, but there was something covering his mouth. His mom shook her head and lifted her hand, running her hand across his hair.
“That was a very close call,” she said softly, and her voice didn’t sound like his mom’s. Stiles blinked slowly, wondering why she was wearing hospital scrubs. His vision swam, and when she came back into focus, it was not his mom; it was Melissa McCall. The disappointment stung his eyes.
Stiles was in the hospital. He hated hospitals; he spent far too much time in them when his mother was dying. He hated their unfriendly smell, harsh and clean like rubbing alcohol. He hated them, but he’d been spending a lot of time in them in the past year, recovering from a variety of injuries sustained in the line of supernatural police duty, or whatever the pack was. There’d been a broken arm, broken ribs, punctured lung (his least favorite), near hypothermia, burns, cuts, and an entire rainbow of bruises.
“I’ll call your dad,” Melissa said, getting to her feet. “He’ll be very glad to know you’re awake.”
Stiles didn’t respond; he was trying to figure out how he got here, but all he could remember is a lot of jumbled yelling, and the greenery of the forest.
His dad came in some time after, and the light in the room had changed. Maybe he’d fallen asleep. Stiles felt immensely tired, like he’d been running laps for five days straight, and he still couldn’t remember why he was in the hospital.
“Stiles,” his dad said when he came into the room, and that one word had many emotions crammed into it; fear, relief, anger. The sheriff stood over his son, touching his face. “Jesus. Jesus.”
That’s not my name, Stiles wanted to joke, but he was too tired. “Hey,” he managed instead, throat hoarse. There was something crammed in his nose, something long that went down the back of his throat. It made talking uncomfortable.
“Jesus,” his dad said for a third time, and Stiles wanted to tell him that the heavenly son did not work like Betelgeuse. “You scared the crap out of me, kid.”
“What did I do?” Stiles tried to ask, but all he could rasp out was, “What?”
The sheriff sighed. He seemed to know exactly what Stiles was asking, even if he couldn’t get all the words out. “Not now,” he said. “I’ll explain when you’re a bit better. You need rest.”
But I need to know what happened! Stiles protested in his head. He wanted to tell his dad how he thought Melissa was his mom, and what came out instead was, “I saw Mom.”
He regretted it, because the sheriff flinched like he’d been slapped. His dad breathed out forcefully, putting his hand on Stiles’ head. “Get some rest,” he said, and left.
The days dragged on. It was easy for Stiles to lose track of time because he kept fading in and out of sleep, and there was no clock in his room. His dad visited him every day, usually around sunset before or after his shift started, but he was the only visitor. Scott didn’t come to see him, or Lydia, or Allison, or even Jackson or Derek. It hurt a little, until Melissa told him he wasn’t allowed to have guests in his condition, and his dad could only come in because, well, he was his dad.
Stiles and his dad didn’t talk much, but the day Stiles got his feeding tube taken out, which was the worst sensation he’d ever had the displeasure of experiencing, he asked his dad what happened, because all he could remember only came in pieces, even now.
The sheriff sighed, looking pained. “You got shot,” he said, very quietly. “Here.” He pointed at Stiles’ chest, just below his heart. “And here.” He pointed at Stiles’ thigh.
His dad’s words brought a new memory to mind; the sound of the arrow thumping into his chest like someone tapping on a pumpkin, all hollow and dull. Stiles felt sick at the memory.
His dad was watching him carefully, and he put his hand on Stiles’ arm. “What do you remember?” he asked quietly. “Did you see anyone?”
“Lots of shouting,” Stiles replied slowly, trying to get that sound out of his head. “We were in the woods.”
The sheriff breathed in evenly. “Chris Argent’s come forward. He says he shot you.”
“Mr. Argent?” Stiles asked. Stiles was pretty sure he’d been there, but he followed the Code. Even if he was willing to break it for Derek, he wouldn’t shoot Stiles…he thinks.
“He said it was an accident,” Sheriff Stilinski said, and the tone of his voice made it clear he didn’t believe this. “That’s what he said, but if it was an accident, you wouldn’t have been shot twice.” Stiles had to look away from his dad at the expression on his face. “When you get out of here, we are having a long talk about how and why you keep getting injured.”
Stiles couldn’t argue with him. He knew his dad was hurt by all the lying Stiles had done ever since Scott had been bitten, and he was sick of lying, just as he was sure his dad was sick of hearing it. Telling the truth would be easy, but it was getting his dad to believe it that was going to be difficult.
The next day, his dad brought a deputy along with him, who took Stiles’ statement. Stiles couldn’t tell him much, even if he could remember everything. Stiles’ dad looked disappointed in him, and that hurt.
Melissa brought Scott in that afternoon, his first guest other than this dad. Scott stood in the doorway for a while, looking like he wanted to cry. Stiles smiled at him weakly, gesturing for him to sit. Scott did, looking lost. Eventually, he said, “Your dad punched Derek.”
Stiles raised an eyebrow. “I’m surprised he didn’t break his hand. I’ve done that, and I thought I was going to lose my fingers.”
Scott shrugged. “Derek just stood there.”
“That’s what he’s good at.”
Scott shrugged again. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Stiles blinked slowly, growing tired. “Hey,” he said finally, because he had to know. “What happened to me? I don’t even know how long I’ve been in here.”
Scott shifted in his seat, looking miserable. “Your heart stopped,” he muttered. “We all thought you were dead. I had to call your dad and tell him—but they got your heart started again, and then you were in surgery for a while. They put you into a coma and that was like,” he swallowed, “almost a month ago.”
Stiles was too tired to be surprised. “There goes my summer vacation,” he sighed. “What happened to the Omegas?”
Scott leaned forward, looking incredibly anxious. “Dude, when you got hit, Derek just, like, roared, and the Omegas ran away. I’ve never heard anything like it. It was fucking scary and, and as a wolf, I just…it made me want to crawl away with my tail between my legs.”
“You don’t have a tail,” Stiles pointed out.
Scott frowned at him. “I know that. But jeeze, Stiles. You should have seen him. He ripped some of those hunters apart. Jackson and I went back to clean up and they were just in pieces. He was furious.”
“Shit,” Stiles muttered.
He went in for more surgery the next morning, to repair some of the torn muscles in his leg. He woke up later that night to find Derek standing over his bed, wearing his trademark frown. Stiles could barely focus on him, his mind buzzing from a cocktail of painkillers and anesthesia.
“Hey,” he mumbled. “Nice of you t’ visit.”
Derek’s frown deepened. “You are not recovering well.”
“Thanks, you too,” Stiles muttered.
“Stiles.” Derek put his hand on Stiles’ cheek, forcing him to make eye contact. Beside him, the EKG beeped faster as Stiles’ heart rate jumped at Derek’s touch. “Listen to me. This is the last straw. I can’t have you getting hurt all the time. You’re a liability.”
Stiles blinked. “What?”
“You’re going to get yourself killed,” Derek said, his voice much harsher than usual. “You can’t do this any more. I won’t let you.”
“Wait,” Stiles said, struggling to understand with a mind hazy from drugs and surgery. “Wait. Are you kicking me out of the pack?”
“You were never part of the pack,” Derek said bluntly, and Stiles knew that was a lie, yet Derek’s voice sounded so final. “I’ve indulged you long enough.”
“You, you can’t just do that,” Stiles said, his voice small. It wasn’t fair. He couldn’t think straight right now. Why was Derek doing this?
Derek barked out a laugh, hard and not amused. “I’m the Alpha. I can do whatever I want.”
“But you need me!”
“For research?” Derek replied sarcastically. “We all know how to use the library, Stiles. We don’t need you.”
Stiles opened his mouth, then closed it. He didn’t know what to say. He thought Derek cared. Scott had said he ripped apart those hunters! Wasn’t he angry that Stiles had been hurt?
“Keeping your mouth shut for once in your life?” Derek asked, then paused, like he knew he’d gone too far. Stiles stared up at him, his eyes burning. Derek looked down at him, not taking it back. “Don’t expect any contact from the pack,” he said finally, turning on his heel. “You’re on your own now.”
“You’re a fucking coward,” Stiles hissed, his throat aching. “You’re a coward for telling me when I’m like this. Fuck you. I’m glad my dad punched you.”
Derek paused in the doorway, his head half turning like he was going to say something, then thought better of it and disappeared.
Stiles sank back into his pillows, his heart hurting. He’d been in the pack for three years – longer than Scott, really. He thought Derek liked having him around, and he had certainly liked being around Derek. It wasn’t fair. It really wasn’t fair.
Stiles didn’t even know he was crying until he heard someone sob and realized it was him. He fisted his hands in his blankets, trying to tell himself that it was the drugs, that they made him feel everything a thousand times harder, that Derek was lying. Something, anything to make him feel a little less empty than he did at that moment.
Of course he was crying when Melissa McCall stopped by at the end of her shift, rapping softly on the open door. Of course, because his life was just amazing that way. He couldn’t watch the way her face softened when she saw him, hurrying in to sit at the edge of his bed and put her hand to his cheek.
“Stiles, Stiles,” she said softly, thumbing away his tears, “what’s going on?”
Stiles couldn’t tell her. She wouldn’t understand. “D-dream,” he replied shakily. “My mom.”
Ms. McCall’s face fell in sympathy. She had been like a mom to him since he was ten and knew him better than anyone except maybe his dad and Scott. She knew how deep the hurt of his mother’s death went, and he felt like shit for using it as an excuse now. “Take a deep breath,” she told him gently. “Sometimes the painkillers can make things seem a lot more intense than they actually are.”
Stiles nodded, turning his head and breathing deeply. Here he was, nearly eighteen and crying like a baby in front of his best friend’s mom. Awesome. Melissa smoothed a hand over his forehead, giving him an encouraging smile. “Okay? You’re going to be fine. Another few days and you should be out here.”
Stiles nodded again. Ms. McCall patted his cheek and rose, leaving him alone. Stiles took a deep, ragged breath and wiped the wetness from his cheeks. He refused to look sad when his dad came to visit.
Stiles spent one more week in the hospital before they allowed him to go home. He spent a lot of the time miserable, thinking. His dad remained his only visitor and he thought, heart panging, of Derek’s words. Don’t expect any contact from the pack. He texted Scott, his head pounding.
is derek joking about this?
He had to send it five times, in various iterations, over two hours before Scott texted him back. Just one word.
Stiles wanted to scream, simultaneously hurt and furious. He nearly snapped his phone in half from the force of his follow-up text.
really?! sorry? does 10+ yrs of friendship mean anything to you?
Three agonizing hours passed before Scott replied. its pack, u wouldnt understand
It was very hard for Stiles not to start crying again. He kept texting Scott after that, his texts getting more aggressive and name-call-y, but he didn’t reply again.
He laid in bed for a long time, staring out the window for hours, constantly on the verge of tears. He hated feeling so weak; it felt like he hadn’t just been shot in the heart, but that it had been ripped out of his chest and stomped on. The question kept repeating in his head: How could Derek do this?
When the whole bite thing had happened to Scott which was, fuck, nearly three years ago, Stiles had been afraid. He was scared of Scott, scared of Derek, scared of what might happen to him, to his weak human body during the long nights they spent running around in dark forests and empty streets. As time wore on, that fear slipped away, and he became confident. Stiles was smart, he knew that; Lydia was smarter, but he was only a few spots away from her in class ranking and he probably could have done better if he didn’t spent so much time getting himself hurt. Anyway. He was smart and he was good at solving mysteries, nudging at small clues until they collided and formed a big picture. It was a good gift to have, and had served the pack well over the past few years. All his research and quick deduction had saved their asses more than once.
And Derek…he liked Derek. Like, more than a friend like, though he would never admit it to anyone, not even Scott. It had been an interesting moment when he realized it, had been weirdly okay with it for some reason. And Derek liked him, Stiles was pretty sure. He was the only person Derek had given a key to his apartment to (Lydia’s temper tantrum over that had been pretty hilarious) and he could make Derek laugh, a Herculean task, even if Stiles could count the times it had occurred on two hands. He thought, sometimes, that Derek might like like him too, though it was hard to tell his smoldering looks apart from his angry glares, and Stiles had never had the courage to make a move.
For three years, he’d risked life and limb for a group of people that weren’t even family, though their bond with him was almost greater than his bond with his dad, and now it was gone, and it left a big hole inside of him.
Stiles couldn’t talk to his dad when the sheriff came to visit, and he knew it worried his dad. He heard Melissa talking with him out in the hall, and heard her gently suggest that maybe he needed to see a therapist. Maybe, Stiles thought, staring out the window, his brown eyes dull, but he’d never be able to tell anyone what was really wrong.
When his dad finally took him home, Stiles couldn’t go faster than a slow walk, despite the physical therapy he’d had in the hospital. There was no way he’d be staying on the lacrosse team this year which, well, maybe that was a blessing in disguise if it meant he didn’t have to see Scott and Jackson every day. The sheriff built Stiles a veritable fortress of pillows and blankets on the fold-out couch bed in the den so that he wouldn’t have to worry about the stairs. He brought him soup and then hovered over him until Stiles made a “sit down, please, you’re stressing me out,” gesture at him.
“So,” the sheriff said, sitting down on the shitty mattress uncertainly, like he was a guest in his own house. “So. How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” Stiles replied, blowing on a spoonful of soup.
“Oh. You, uh, you ready to talk? To me? About you?” Really, his dad was like the guilty one here.
“Sure,” Stiles said. He wasn’t ready; he didn’t think he’d ever be ready to tell his dad about this magical world of werewolves and ghosts and all the other shit he’d chased around the forests of Beacon Hills, but since he was apparently in retirement now, this would hopefully be the only conversation they had on the subject.
His dad blinked, like he hadn’t really expected Stiles to be so forthcoming. “All right. Where do you…” He trailed away, frowning. “I mean. Is this a gang thing or something?”
It hurt to laugh. Stiles set his bowl of soup down in his lap and said, “Wouldn’t you know if there were gangs in Beacon Hills?”
“Well, yeah,” the sheriff said. “But you—”
“It’s not like that,” Stiles said, with a shake of his head. “Just listen Dad, please. I know you’re not going to believe me about any of this, but I swear I’m not lying. Just…please don’t interrupt, okay? Because once I start, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop. Okay?”
The sheriff looked as though he had some reservations about that, but kept his mouth shut and gave Stiles a firm nod. Stiles closed his eyes, gathering his thoughts for a moment before he began speaking. He started from the beginning, telling his father of Scott’s bite, and the hunters, and how Derek formed the pack, and of all the multitudes of adventures they’d been on, like the time a kelpie took up residence in the reservoir and almost drowned Jackson, or when ghouls showed up in the cemetery and started eating all the fresh corpses. He talked for what seemed like hours, his soup growing cold in his lap, and his dad watched him silently the entire time, his face blank.
“…so I got shot and Derek kicked me out of the pack, and now you don’t have to worry about me getting hurt any more,” Stiles finished, drawing a long breath.
The sheriff sat in silence for a very long time before getting to his feet. “You done with your soup?” he asked.
“I—uh—Dad?” Stiles stared up at his dad, not sure what was happening.
“Soup,” his dad repeated.
“Oh. I guess.” Stiles handed his dad the bowl. “Dad—”
But the sheriff turned and left the room, leaving Stiles bewildered. He knew his dad thought he was making it all up and that hurt, because he wanted his dad to trust him again and didn’t know how to make him believe. If Scott was here, he’d made him wolf out, but Scott wasn’t here, wouldn’t be here maybe ever again.
Stiles pulled himself out of bed, muscles roaring, and shuffled down the hall to the kitchen, one hand on the wall to keep himself upright. His dad was standing at the kitchen sink, rubbing a hand over his face.
“Dad,” Stiles said, and the sheriff whipped around.
“Stiles!” he barked. “Get back into bed!”
“Dad,” Stiles repeated. “Please. Talk to me.”
“Jesus,” his dad muttered, marching over and putting his hand on his shoulder, spinning him around.
“I’m not lying, Dad,” Stiles said, as his dad pushed him back to the den.
“I know,” the sheriff said. Stiles twisted, trying to look at his face, but his father made sure he was back in bed before continuing. “I’ve been the sheriff for ten years, Stiles. You think I haven’t picked up on all the weird crap that happens around here? I’ll tell you; I’ve sat on the road some long nights and seen some shit moving in the trees you wouldn’t believe.”
Stiles stared up at his dad, open mouthed. His dad returned his stare with a grim smile. “I can’t say I’m happy about what you’ve been doing – the danger you’ve been putting yourself in – but I am proud of you for taking care of yourself.”
Stiles snorted. “You call broken bones and getting myself shot taking care of myself?”
His dad sighed, ruffling his hair. “Better than some,” he said.
Stiles sat silent for a while before asking, “What happened to Chris Argent?”
“He’s still sitting in county jail,” the sheriff replied. “His trial’s in a few weeks. The district attorney wants to talk with you.”
“What’s he being charged with?”
“Well, he was being charged with attempted manslaughter,” the sheriff said slowly, “but after he called in and some deputies went over to arrest him, they found that cache of guns in his house and ATF got called in, and it looks like some of them have been used in other crimes, and a lot of them were not registered to him, so he may have some charges coming on the federal level.”
“Oh,” Stiles said quietly.
His dad patted him on the shoulder. “Worry about yourself, not Argent,” he said briskly. “Get some rest, all right?”
“Okay,” Stiles muttered.
Stiles spent the next three weeks convalescing at home. He watched a lot of television and tried not to think. It was almost easy to pretend he wasn’t being alienated from everyone he cared about; he could pretend everyone had gone on vacation, leaving him the only one left at home in Beacon Hills. Easy. It was harder to feign nonchalance when his dad would come home from work and ask if he’d had any visitors. Every time he shook his head, another part of his heart broke away, and his dad seemed to notice, because he soon stopped asking.
The only other people who came to his house were a physical therapist, who made him walk laps around the house and, eventually, up the stairs, and the district attorney, a severe older woman, who asked him a lot of questions about that day in the woods that Stiles couldn’t answer, even when she kept assuring him that it wasn’t his fault and he’d done nothing wrong, still assuring him when he started crying in the middle of the interview and he didn’t know why.
School started in the middle of his second week at home and he was glad he wasn’t there for it. It was going to be very hard to go and see Scott and the others every day and pretend like he wasn’t bothered when they didn’t acknowledge his existence.
The next day, there came a knock on the door some time in the late afternoon and his dad, who was the on the night shift that day, answered it. Stiles could hear his voice, low, and someone replying, their voice high, feminine. He sat up straighter. Lydia?
But it was Allison who came through the doorway, the sheriff hovering worriedly behind her before disappearing into the kitchen. Stiles sat back against his pillows, his throat working. “Sit,” he offered, gesturing at the edge of the couch.
Allison did, hesitantly, her lips moving like she was practicing what to say. “I’m sorry I didn’t come visit you in the hospital,” she said finally. “My dad’s lawyer said it wasn’t a good idea, but I don’t think things can get worse now. And…I wasn’t sure if you’d want to see me.”
“It’s not your fault,” Stiles said automatically and then paused, wondering if he could blame this mess on Allison. She hadn’t been there that day, to tell them of the hunter’s movements. If they’d known, they could have been prepared, and maybe he wouldn’t have ended up shot. It was a selfish thought and he struggled to shove it aside. “How are you doing?”
Allison bit her lip. “I’ve been better,” she said finally. “But I didn’t come here to—look, I brought you some school work. Ms. Morrell asked me.”
Stiles made a face. “I thought I’d be able to avoid that for a while.”
Allison reached into her back and placed a pile of books next to him. They sat quietly for a few moments before she asked, “Are you okay? You’re not…you.”
Stiles tried not to laugh as harshly as he wanted to. “I just spent nearly two months in the hospital,” and he didn’t add because your dad’s friends tried to kill me, because that was just a low blow. “I’m tired.”
“Did something else happen?” she asked hesitantly.
Stiles hesitated. He should tell her that he’d been kicked out of the pack. He knew she’d be sympathetic. But admitting it out loud would be like making it real, and it wasn’t really real yet, and it wouldn’t be until the moment he tried to look into Scott’s eyes and Scott looked away. “Nothing happened,” he lied. “Thanks for bringing me my homework.”
“Oh,” Allison said, picking up on his dismissal. She got to her feet, hands twisting in her shirt. “Well. I’ll come back in a few days with more, ok? And if you see Scott, tell him I said hi?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, his jaw clenching. “Sure thing.”
After the door shut behind Allison, Stiles hunched over and had his first panic attack since his mom died. He tried to be quiet, because even though his mind was overwhelmed, the very small rational part that remained didn’t want to worry his dad. It didn’t work; his dad’s hearing was so good that he might as well be a werewolf himself, and he came striding into the den, plunking himself down next to Stiles, and rubbing his back in big, rough circles. Stiles tried to take small, slow breaths, because breathing in too deeply made his chest hurt. He focused on one point of the blanket and tried not to choke on the sobs coming out of him.
His breathing eventually returned to normal and the sheriff took his hand away cautiously. Stiles sat up, pawing at his eyes, unable to believe that he’d just cried in front of his dad. He’d been doing a lot of crying lately.
“You all right?” his dad asked.
“Fine,” Stiles breathed, closing his eyes. “I’m just going to nap before dinner, okay?”
“You do that,” his dad agreed, getting to his feet. He paused in the doorway, turning to look back at Stiles. “You’d tell me if there’s something wrong, right?”
Stiles forced himself to smile. “Of course.”
The sheriff stood in the doorway for a moment longer before nodding and heading down the hallway.
When Stiles returned to school the next week, he found himself the focus of a lot of unwanted attention; everyone in town knew that he’d been shot by Allison’s father, and no one was making any effort not to stare as he walked into school slowly after his dad dropped him off. He kept his head down and walked to his first class which, thankfully, did not contain any of his so-called friends. He didn’t think he could handle rejection this early in the morning.
Second period did not find him so lucky; AP Chemistry with Mr. Harris was a small, intimate class and Lydia was there, sitting in the front row. Stiles paused in the doorway, his heart aching. Lydia’s face was blank, her eyes fixed on the chalkboard. Fine. That was fine. Lydia Martin was ignoring him; it was like his entire childhood all over again, and he’d made it through that okay. He could do this.
Lunch was the hardest. He saw Scott for the first time, just the back of his head, sitting with Lydia and Jackson and Danny. Allison was across the room, and he thought about going to sit with her, but knew she’d ask him a lot of uncomfortable questions. He sat with Vernon Boyd instead, who always had a table to himself. Stiles sat at the very end of the table, ignoring Boyd’s raising eyebrow, and ate his lunch in silence.
The following days were no better. Without the pack to hang out with, he barely talked to anyone. He didn’t know how to fill his time. He didn’t even have lacrosse; he’d gone to tell Finstock he couldn’t play – not like it really needed saying – and the man hadn’t even bothered to hide his relief. Scott was in three of his classes and when they accidentally crossed paths in the hall, Scott would usually just spin on his heel and disappear back in the direction he came from. Almost every day, Stiles came home from school and had panic attack after panic attack alone in his room.
Stiles didn’t know what to do with himself. Even with Adderall he was jumpy, anxious, unable to focus, so he stopped taking it. He’d never felt more alone in his life; it was his senior year of high school, and he didn’t know how to make friends. He’d never needed to; there had always been Scott, and then the pack, and that was all he needed. Now, on his own, he didn’t know how to talk to people. Despite his talkative nature, Stiles had never really felt comfortable in social situations.
A week after he started school he cleared off his desk, chest tightening as he dumped all the printouts about the supernatural world into the trash. The books he was less sure what to do with, so he crammed them away in the back of his closet until he could decide their fate. Some of them belonged to Deaton, and he supposed he should return them at some point.
He had to go to court a few days later, to testify against Chris Argent, and it gave him no pleasure to see the man sitting there in a good suit, already looking defeated. Stiles kept his eyes on the wood podium in front of him, and he wouldn’t talk to the reporters gathered outside the courthouse.
Even though Stiles was no longer part of the pack, he knew that something was happening with them. A month after school started, Jackson missed a solid week of classes, and Scott and Lydia didn’t eat together at lunch any more. Not that Stiles cared, of course. His dad was taking longer shifts; someone or something kept attacking people driving at night, flipping their cars with ease. Stiles couldn’t bring himself to be concerned.
He was at the grocery store one night, arms weighed down with bags of whole wheat pasta and vegetables and low-fat dairy for his dad’s heart when he spotted Derek stalking through the parking lot. It was like someone had turned up a dial in his brain, all the rage and hurt swelling in his head. He yanked a tub of blueberry yogurt out of a bag and chucked it as hard as he could at Derek’s back. Derek was clearly not expecting it, because his reflexes did not kick in and it hit him in the back of his head, exploding down the back of his stupid leather jacket. Stiles laughed out loud, for the first time in a month, and Derek whipped around, fury etched onto his stupidly handsome features.
Stiles found himself being lifted by the front of his shirt, his back slammed against the side of his Jeep. He dropped his groceries, wincing as the eggs smashed, and whimpered involuntarily, because his chest still hadn’t quite healed. Derek glared down at him, though it was kind of hard to take him seriously when there was yogurt sliding down his neck.
“The fuck do you think you’re doing?” Derek snarled, his face about six inches from Stiles’. Stiles swallowed and kicked Derek in the shin. The werewolf didn’t even flinch, but shook Stiles until his brain rattled.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Stiles snapped back, trying to clear the ringing in his ears. “Why did you have to go and ruin my fucking life?”
“I gave you a life,” Derek hissed, jabbing a finger very close to where Stiles had been shot. Stiles winced.
“You took away everything that was important to me,” he said bitterly.
“So find new things,” Derek replied flatly. “The pack is not important.”
“You don’t have any right to decide that!” Stiles snapped, the blood rising in his cheeks. “You can’t tell me what’s important! This is my life and I’ll do whatever the fuck I please!”
“You can do whatever you want,” Derek said dismissively, “but not with my pack. Go to college. This town is not important enough for you to devote your life to it.”
“Says the big bad wolf who never leaves,” Stiles muttered, dropping his eyes.
Derek made a rumbling noise, low down in his throat, like a dog warning before an attack. Stiles didn’t need to look at his face to know that his eyes were probably red now, flashing with danger and stupid machismo. He felt the werewolf move his face in closer to Stiles and Stiles held his breath. He wasn’t afraid of Derek but this…this made him nervous. He could feel Derek’s hot breath on his throat and wondered if his teeth were out.
Derek straightened abruptly. “Go home, Stiles,” he said, his voice strangely soft. “Forget about us.” He shoved his hands against Stiles and turned, stalking away among the cars. Stiles watched him go, his heart pounding in his chest. The swathe of yogurt still clinging to the back of Derek’s jacket would have made him laugh if he wasn’t so nervous.
“I hate you,” he said under his breath, knowing that Derek could still hear him.
Derek looked over his shoulder, an unreadable expression on his face. “You don’t,” he said loudly, and Stiles hated how Derek always knew when he was lying, “but I wish you did.” He jerked his head back to the front and disappeared around the side of the grocery store.
Stiles picked up his groceries and unlocked the car door with trembling fingers. He put the bags in the back seat and climbed into the car. He had to put his head against the steering wheel and breathe in slowly, fighting off another panic attack. Forget about us. Easier said than done.
Halloween came and went. Stiles told his dad he wasn’t feeling well and laid on his stomach in bed, listening to the doorbell ring and the cheerful chattering of sugar-filled kids come drifting up the stairs. He’d spent last Halloween with the rest of the pack, all of them dressed like the Power Rangers, chasing off a clan of vampires that had set up shop in one of the abandoned warehouses downtown. It was still one of the funniest things he’d ever done. Derek had been black, obviously, Lydia pink, Allison yellow, Jackson green, Scott blue and Stiles as red. It had been awesome.
He flipped over on his bed, closing his eyes and reliving the memory. He remembered Derek ripping off his mask and growling that he couldn’t breathe. Stiles thought of the way the cheap costume had clung to Derek’s muscles, not hiding anything, and he slipped a hand into his pants, jerking himself off lazily. For ten delicious minutes he forgot about how everything in his life was so fucking shitty and concentrated on the orgasm that was building in him. His back bent as he came with a soft gasp, feet digging against the mattress. He lay there for a while, basking in the afterglow before shoving off his pants completely. A little while later he was working up to a second time – he was a teenager with nothing else to do, in his defense – when his mind shifted to Derek in the parking lot the other day, and all the warmth slipped out of him, his dick going limp. Forget about us.
Stiles heaved a sigh and gave up, flipping back onto his stomach and burying his face in his pillow. Fuck. How was his life even real?
If Stiles had thought that things were going to get easier as time progressed, he was wrong. The solitude weighed heavily on him; despite his best efforts, it seemed that by senior year everyone had settled into their group of friends and didn’t like to let new people in. Boyd tolerated his presence at the lunch table, but he hadn’t taken well to Stiles’ timid suggestion that they hang out sometime. The result was a weird mix of highs and lows; there were days when Stiles decided he was fine being alone, but there were other days when his heart was so heavy it was all he could do to keep from crying at school. He felt overwhelmed by the smallest things; having to write an essay for English, or doing a group project for AP Chemistry that, thankfully, did not involve Lydia.
He drove home from school one night, having stayed late to work on said chemistry group project. Stiles wasn’t really paying attention to the road; he was thinking about how tired he was and rubbing at his eyes wearily when something outside his car make the ground rattle. He felt the vibration in his entire body, up through his teeth and he took his feet off the gas, bending to look through his windshield. A strong tingle ran through his spine, warning him and he whipped his head to the left just in time to see something humanoid and tall as a house step out of the woods and flip the Jeep like a pancake.
Probably only the roll bars of the Jeep kept Stiles from becoming a pancake. The car flipped once, twice. He saw the first flip, a dizzying blur of land-trees-sky-land and then his head smacked against the side window and everything went black.
When Stiles opened his eyes, his head felt heavy and hot. He blinked at the windshield, where the Jeep’s headlights shone on the trees, and wondered why they looked so strange. It took him a while to figure out that he was upside down. He could hear dripping somewhere, and wondered if that was him bleeding or the Jeep about to explode. He hoped it was the former and then he hoped it wasn’t serious. He was starting to feel lightheaded, and he wasn’t sure if it was because of blood loss or because he’d been hanging upside down for too long.
This wasn’t the first time he’d ended up upside down in his Jeep, surprisingly, but it was the first time he’d even been alone when it happened, with what looked to have been either a troll or a giant roaming in the woods somewhere nearby. He took a deep breath and felt around to unbuckle his seatbelt. It unclipped with a snap and he fell, hitting the ground painfully. And…wetly? Stiles dragged his fingers across the canvas roof beneath him and they came away red with blood.
Outside, something roared, the noise echoing off the trees. Stiles breathed out a swear and began scrambling around inside the Jeep, looking for his phone. Maybe his dad wouldn’t be able to help, but as least Stiles could tell him what was going on now. Dad, he thought, playing out the conversation in his head. Don’t freak out, but the Jeep just got flipped by a giant. Can you come pick me up?
Stiles’ head came up when there was an answering roar somewhere off in the forest, further up the road. He knew that roar. That was Derek. And a car came peeling down the road toward him, and when it came to a stop just a few yards from the Jeep, Scott and Lydia climbed out. Scott ran off into the woods, his face shifting as he disappeared into the trees, but Lydia ran over the car, jerking the door open. She held out her hand to Stiles and he hesitated before he took it.
“What is it?” Stiles asked, bending his head at her gesture so she could look at his injury.
“Troll,” she replied shortly. Her fingers brushed against a gash on the side of his head and he winced. “You need to go to the hospital.”
Stiles gestured helplessly toward the Jeep. “Can’t, really.”
Lydia rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll drive you.”
The ride to the hospital was uncomfortable. Stiles didn’t try to start a conversation, almost afraid to hear Lydia’s silence as a response, and Lydia made no attempt to talk either. She dropped him off at the hospital entrance and he said, “Well…thanks, I guess.” Lydia didn’t look at him when she nodded and he stepped back so she could drive off.
Inside, he received ten stitches and then had to call his dad.
“I thought you were done with this supernatural stuff,” the sheriff sighed when Stiles told him about the Jeep.
“I thought so too,” Stiles said quietly. “This one kind of came out of nowhere, Dad.”
His dad gave another long sigh. “I’m on my way.”
“Sorry,” Stiles said, when his dad showed up.
The sheriff shook his head and said, “You all right?”
“Mild concussion. Stitches,” Stiles replied and his dad sighed a third time.
They drove home in silence. When they got in, Stiles settled down on the couch while his dad called for a tow to bring Stiles’ Jeep to the mechanic’s. When he was done, the sheriff joined Stiles on the couch.
“You have any plans for tomorrow?” he asked carefully.
Stiles shrugged. “No. Why?”
His dad raised an eyebrow. “You do know what tomorrow is, right?”
“It’s your birthday,” the sheriff said, looking worried.
“Oh. Oh!” Stiles’ eyes widened. “Shit, I completely forgot.”
“Do you want to do something? I could get a cake after work. You can have Scott over—”
“I’m sure he’s busy,” Stiles interrupted stiffly. “I don’t need to do anything, Dad. Thanks.”
His father frowned. “What’s going on with you two? I may not be home much, but I know he hasn’t been coming around.”
Stiles hunched his shoulders. “I told you,” he said, throat tightening. “I’m out of the pack.”
“But Scott’s your best friend.”
“Not any more, I guess,” Stiles said, his eyes burning.
The sheriff’s mouth went thin. “I would have thought that your friendship was more important than that.”
“Me too.” Stiles shoved a hand across his eyes.
His dad watched him silently, one heavy hand on his knee. “You want a beer?” he asked suddenly. “You’re eighteen in…” he checked his watch “…two hours. That’s legal in Canada.”
“No, Sheriff,” Stiles said, trying a watery laugh and failing. “Don’t bend the rules just because I’m crying.”
“I bend the rules because I love you, son,” his dad replied quietly. He got to his feet and leaned forward, pressing a kiss to Stiles’ forehead, like his mom used to. “I’m heading to bed, but let me know if there’s anything you need, all right? I’ll drive you to school tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Stiles said quietly, watching his father disappear. He heard his heavy footfalls going up the stairs, then his bedroom door closed. Stiles got up from the couch and headed for the bathroom. He paused in front of the mirror, looking at his reflection unhappily. He’d lost a lot of weight since leaving the hospital; his cheeks looked hollow, the skin under his eyes dark. Stiles poked at the new wound on his head and it stung, making his head throb. They’d shaved off some of his hair at the hospital to examine the cut and put the stitches in, leaving him with a weird side cut. Stiles pulled out the electric clippers and gave himself a buzz cut, like he’d had in sophomore year. It made him look younger and, with the underweight hollows of his face, kind of like a skeleton.
“Happy birthday,” he told his reflection bitingly, and climbed into the shower to wash off the dirt and blood.
The next morning, Stiles’ father made him chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and let him drive the cruiser to school. Stiles tried to smile, to be happy for his dad on his birthday, but the previous night had shaken him even further from the norm. For to have been thrown about by a troll, rescued – for the millionth time – by the pack, not been consulted for help, just rushed off to the hospital…it solidified in his brain that he’d really been rejected by the pack, and not just rejected, but isolated and ignored. It was his final straw.
He was at school, getting books out of his locker for his third period class, when he became aware of a presence just behind him.
“What do you want?” Stiles ground out, his teeth clenched.
“Stiles.” It was Scott, sounding worried. Stiles didn’t turn; he pretended like he was having trouble finding something. “Are…are you okay?”
“Why do you care?” Stiles snapped, fingers tightening around the spine of his history book.
Scott made a noise like he’d been hurt. “Because we’re best friends.”
“No, we’re not!” Stiles said furiously, slamming the books back in his locker and whirling around to face Scott, who backed away, looking nervous. “You think best friends stop talking to each other for three months? Just because some asshole in a leather jacket says to?”
“Stiles,” Scott said meekly, staring at him with his big brown eyes, “it’s—”
“It’s a pack thing,” Stiles finished for him, his mouth twisting scornfully. “Yeah, I know. You picked your side, Scott. You made that clear, so leave me alone.” He swung his bag over his shoulder and pushed past Scott, ignoring Lydia and Jackson, who were standing across the hall. He made it around the corner before he slumped against the wall, heart hammering in his chest. Stiles tried to push the panic attack back before it hit, telling himself he was fine, really fine, ok? But it came over him like an ocean swell, wreaking havoc in his brain and pushing his breathing into overtime.
Stiles slid down the wall, pulling his knees to his chest, trying to hide his face. He was already a loner; the last thing he needed was to be made fun of because people had seen him crying in the hallway. He clutched at his chest, fingers curling against his skin like he could just reach into his heart and rip it out. He wished he could, because maybe things would stop hurting so goddamn much.
He became aware, dimly, that there were people standing around him in a tight semi-circle, talking amongst themselves in low voices. He looked up and saw Scott and Jackson and Lydia. None of them were looking at him but they kept him shielded from the rest of the hallway. Stiles choked on a sob and buried his head in his arms. He knew they wouldn’t touch him, because Derek would be able to smell him on them, but they were fucking protecting him. Like always. And it hurt, it hurt like hell, to have them so close and so far.
Someone touched his arm and his head came up sharply. Allison had shoved her way in between the group and sat down on the floor next to him, one arm slung around his shoulder. Stiles turned his head into her shoulder, struggling to breathe. She didn’t say anything, just clasped him tighter.
The bell had rung by the time Stiles got himself under some semblance of control, but none of the others moved. He stood up slowly, picking his bag back up, unable to meet anyone’s eyes.
“Stiles,” Allison began, but he jerked away from her, pushing past the circle of werewolves. He could feel them watching him and he didn’t turn around, because he didn’t want to see the looks on their faces. If last night was the last straw, this was the one that broke the camel’s back.
Stiles left school and headed home. He took the back way through the woods, knowing that if anyone saw him out they’d call his dad, and that was the last thing he needed right now. He entered the house through the back door, considerately leaving his shoes on the mat and his bag on a chair like his dad was always asking him to do. He went into his dad’s study and opened the closet door.
Stiles had never shot a gun before but he knew, theoretically, how to use one. His dad had shown him how, a long time ago, how to load bullets and empty the chamber, where the safety was, how to hold rifles and shotguns and hand guns. Stiles tried not to think about his dad as he unlocked the gun safe, fingers trembling as they curled around the barrel of a shotgun. He lifted it from the safe and it felt unreal in his hands. He loaded it slowly, in an almost dreamlike state, chambering the first bullet with a soft click.
Stiles rose to his feet then, shutting the closet door quietly. He took the stairs slowly and paused when he came to his room. He had to stand in the doorway for a moment, bracing himself, before he walked in. He went into his closet first, pulling out the pile of books on supernatural creatures. He wrote a note that said Deaton’s before sitting for a while, flipping through the tomes. There were post-it notes stuck in them, notes scribbled in the margins. Every entry on a creature he recognized made his heart pull and his stomach tighten at the memory of another battle fought.
Stiles pushed the books away after a while, leaving the note with Deaton’s name placed on top of the pile. He went to sit at his desk, a piece of paper in front of him. He sat there for a long time, tears swelling and receding in his eyes, never quite making it past his lashes. Finally he just wrote sorry and stood, walking over to sit on the edge of his bed. He picked up the shotgun, but just held it loosely in his hands, laid across his legs.
Stiles closed his eyes and bent his head, fingers curling and uncurling around the smooth wood and cool metal in his hands. He was infinitely tired; tired of feeling like shit, tired of being ignored by the people he thought were his friends, tired of pretending like things were okay, because they weren’t. He was so far from okay he’d laugh, but it wasn’t funny.
He missed the pack. He missed them so much it made him physically ill. Their absence was the painful knot in his stomach, the shortness in his lungs, the onset of every panic attack. Stiles thought about Derek, about all the times in the middle of life-threatening moments that he’d had to resist the urge to reach out a hand and touch him. He thought about how Derek used to climb through his window, the practiced noise soft and quiet, so ingrained in his memory that he heard it now just thinking about it. Before he’d rented his apartment, Derek came in to sleep on a real bed sometimes and Stiles thought about the way his face looked when it was relaxed in slumber.
A tiny sob broke free from his lips when someone’s hands touched his, pulling the shotgun away. He could smell leather, and the clean scent of cotton, and the lush, heady smell of the forest. A rough hand touched his face and the mattress dipped beside him. Stiles didn’t open his eyes; he just leaned into Derek, a rough sigh juddering out of him.
“Why?” Stiles asked quietly, not trusting his words further.
Derek shifted. “I made a mistake,” he said, and his voice was more muted, more unhappy than Stiles had ever heard him. “We need you. I need you.”
Stiles cried then, all his misery and stress pouring out of him in a near literal stream. Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles, pulling him into his chest and Stiles let him.
He knew he should shove Derek away, because it was his fault he was like this, his fault he hurt so much inside, but the hurt inside Stiles was so great that he needed comfort, even if came from the person who had hurt him the most.
"I'm sorry," Derek said quietly, and Stiles was ninety-nine percent sure it was the first time Derek had apologized for anything his life. "I'm so fucking sorry. I didn't know - I didn't think you would take it like this. You always let the bad shit bounce right off you. I thought this would be the same."
Stiles pulled away from him, punching him halfheartedly in the arm. "You fucking dipshit," he said, voice hitching uncontrollably. "The bad shit bounces off because I know I have friends to support me if I need it. You took them away."
Derek flinched like Stiles had hit him in the face, not the arm. "Fuck."
"Yeah, fuck," Stiles agreed furiously. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"I was trying to protect you," Derek said quietly. "You died, technically. You didn't see your dad's face when he came in thinking he'd lost you, or how he looked when he found out you were alive. I didn't want to have to explain to him why his son was dead."
"You could have just said that," Stiles said miserably.
"Would you have listened?" Derek asked sharply.
"Did you have to cut me off from my best friend?" Stiles countered. "Do you know how shitty you've made the past three months?"
"I know," Derek murmured, and their eyes both strayed to the shotgun, which Derek had set on the carpet. Stiles shuddered at the sight.
"Everything you said to me," Stiles said quietly, "at the hospital, and at the grocery store. It hurt so fucking much."
"I know," Derek said again, even quieter. "I didn't want to say that shit. I didn't mean any of it. I didn't realize..." He paused before continuing. "...you are pack, Stiles. You're more than that. When you aren't around, the others don't listen. They fight and argue – with me, with each other. We should have taken care of these trolls months ago, but they refuse to work together. You're the unifier, Stiles, the peacemaker. We need you."
Stiles stared at him, lips parted. He'd never heard Derek say so much at once, and never so much about him. “Is that really true?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Derek said fiercely.
Stiles looked down at the bed, his eyes burning with tears again. “I’ve been so stupid,” he said quietly.
“So have I,” Derek sighed. He looked at Stiles, who was biting his lip, tears sliding slowly down his cheeks, and sighed again. “Lay down,” he said, pushing at Stiles’ chest. Stiles let himself be shoved against the mattress. Derek laid down next to him, his body pressed against Stiles’. “Relax,” the werewolf commanded.
Stiles gave a watery laugh. “Is this a pack thing? Is this one of your cuddle-puddles?”
“I hate it when you call them that,” Derek said stiffly. He brushed his finger against the stitches in Stiles’ scalp. “Is this from last night?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, slowly relaxing against the warmth of Derek’s body. “Hit my head when the troll flipped the Jeep.”
Derek pressed his palm against the cut and Stiles stiffened for a moment, then relaxed as warmth radiated from the wound, spreading through his body. A dull headache he’d had since last night faded away, leaving him sleepy. Derek had taken his pain once before, when he’d broken his leg and the bone came through the skin. He couldn’t heal, but he could take the edge away.
“Thanks,” Stiles mumbled into his pillow.
“How’s your heart?”
“Still beating.” Stiles thought about the gun on the floor and his pulse quickened. He’d been so stupid.
“Don’t think about it,” Derek said, like he knew Stiles’ thoughts. He put a hand on Stiles’ stomach, which was oddly comforting.
“Hey,” Stiles said a while later, when he was right on the verge of sleep. “Why didn’t you give me the bite?”
Derek stiffened. His fingers, which had been curling and uncurling against Stiles’ stomach like a cat kneading a blanket, stilled. “You don’t want it,” he said. “You turned down Peter.”
“Yeah, cuz he was a creep,” Stiles murmured. “I’d take it from you, though.”
Derek went very still, like he was waiting for more, but nothing else came; Stiles had fallen asleep.
When Stiles awoke, the room was bathed in soft yellow light and Derek's warmth next to him was gone. He lay in bed, his heart aching, wondering miserably if yesterday had been a dream. He moved his hand, touching the spot next to him, but the sheets were cold and he flipped onto his other side, pulling the blankets up to his ears. Maybe he’d gotten knocked out when he’d hit his head and was just waking up now. That seemed plausible.
He thought about yesterday, his eyes blurring with tears at the memory of the gun sitting in his hands. That had been stupid, so stupid. He could hear his dad moving around in the hallway and the thought of him coming in to find Stiles dead made him stifle a ragged sob into his pillow. Just as there came a knock on his door, it occurred to Stiles that the gun was probably still laying on the floor where Derek had left it. Stiles was stretching out of bed toward it when his dad opened the door and they both froze. All the color drained from the sheriff's face.
"What," he breathed, "are you doing with that?"
Stiles kept his father's gaze for one horrible second, then started crying. His dad crossed the room in two seconds, wrapping his arms around him so tightly Stiles thought his bones might break.
"Don't tell me," his dad murmured, sounding broken, and Stiles' heart twisted. "Jesus Christ, Stiles, please don't tell me you were going to do what I'm thinking."
Stiles sobbed into his father's shoulder, feeling worse than he had yesterday for making his dad aware of his problems. "I'm sorry," he moaned. "I'm sorry, Dad. I was so stupid."
"No, no." Stiles could feel his dad's cheek was wet. He hadn't seen his dad cry since his mom's funeral, a day he'd never wanted to relive. It made him feel worse than ever. "You're human, son."
They clung on to each other for a long time. After his tears had subsided, Stiles tried to describe how he'd been feeling over the past few months, how lonely and abandoned he'd felt. He told his dad about yesterday, about the panic attack, about the gun. His dad listened quietly, his face stony.
"I'm going to kill Hale," he snapped, when Stiles finished. "I'm-"
"Don't," Stiles said quietly. "Don't. He was the one who came yesterday, w-when--"
"All right," his dad sighed, looking bitter at the thought. He slung an arm around Stiles’ shoulders. “Guess that wasn’t a very good birthday, huh?”
Stiles gave a watery laugh. “Probably the worst.”
“So…you’re back in the pack now?”
Stiles shrugged. “I don’t know. Derek said I’m the peacekeeper.”
“He’s the one who gets you into all these messes.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “No, I am, Dad. He tries to keep me out. That’s what…that’s what this whole mess was about.”
“Hnn,” his dad grunted, looking discontented.
Stiles leaned against him for a little longer before sitting up, rubbing at his face. His dad watched him. “You’ve got to start seeing someone,” he said softly, putting his hand on Stiles’ knee. “I’m not having you like this.”
“Yeah,” Stiles agreed quietly.
“We’ll look later? Together? Find someone you like?”
“Sure,” Stiles said. His dad sighed and rose to his feet, bending to pick up the shotgun. Stiles winced at the sight of it, but something had occurred to him. “Dad?”
His dad frowned. “The guidance counselor?”
Stiles nodded. They’d figured out she was a witch some time ago, which hadn’t been that surprising, honestly. “She knows about this stuff. I can talk to her. Freely, I mean.”
“Okay,” his dad agreed. “Okay.” He turned, the shotgun clenched in his fingers. Stiles listened to him walk downstairs and collapsed back on his bed. If he could change one thing in his life, he would have moved faster, hidden the gun under his bed so his dad need never had known. He never thought he’d see such pain on his dad’s face ever again, hadn’t seen him look like that since his mom was dying. It sobered him up, as it were, made him look around with a little more clarity in his thoughts.
He stood and crossed over to his desk, crumpling up his sad excuse for a suicide note (sorry) and threw it away before his dad could spot it and start crying over that, too. He stood at his desk for a long moment, a weird feeling shifting up his spine, and when he whipped his head up to see Derek crouched in the tree outside his window, he only had half a heart attack. When he’d recovered, one hand clutched over his heart, he looked Derek directly in the eyes and said, “No.”
Derek matched his gaze for a long moment before nodding and dropping out of sight. Stiles gritted his teeth, anger washing over him, and he went to take a shower.
Stiles stood in the shower for a long time, lost in thought. Like Derek had pointed out, Stiles could bounce back from almost everything. Stiles felt things deeply, but he had the good sense – most of the time - to know when to let some things bother him, and other things slide off him like water off a duck’s back. He’d been made fun of all of his life for various reasons – his gangly body, terrible coordination, lack of sports prowess – and it didn’t bother him. He didn’t hold grudges (except maybe against Jackson for stealing Lydia from him). He didn’t form everlasting feuds with enemies. He didn’t really have enemies. Except Jackson, again, but they’d been enemies so long they’d kind of gone full circle and become friends. Kind of.
This was different. Stiles didn’t know how to feel. He understood that Derek had been trying to protect him. He knew that Derek cared about him. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t have come through the window, taken the gun from his hands, laid with him in his bed for all of yesterday. But friends didn’t just shut each other out for months, right? Stiles didn’t know; the only friend he’d ever really had was Scott, and he’d just done that very thing to him.
After Stiles got dressed, he went downstairs, where his dad had painstakingly laid out a huge breakfast for him; scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, pancakes. It looked like he’d cooked up everything they had in the fridge. Stiles didn’t have the heart to tell his dad he wasn’t all that hungry, so he sat down and ate as much as he could, pretending not to notice the sheriff sneaking pieces of bacon.
After he’d stuffed himself with as much as he could (which, let’s face it, was a lot for Stiles, even when he wasn’t hungry), he sat back, watching the sheriff fiddle with a napkin. “What’s up?” he asked quietly.
“I need to go to work,” his dad replied.
Stiles sighed. “I’ll be fine, Dad. I promise.”
His dad sighed too. “I trust you,” he said, “but also, I locked all the guns in the garden shed. Some of the knives too.”
“Did you remember all the chemicals?”
His dad smiled, but the way his eyes slid away from Stiles told him he probably had thought that far ahead.
“It’s okay, Dad, really,” Stiles assured his father. “Yesterday was a low I never thought I’d sink to, but I’m past it. I’m not going there again.”
“Okay,” the sheriff said softly, and got to his feet. Stiles followed him to the door, watched him climb into his cruiser, raised his hand as the sheriff pulled out of the driveway. He stepped back inside and shut the door, leaning against it as his breathing slipped into a harsh, horribly familiar pattern. He struggled to breathe, limbs shaking, bones rattling in his skin as he fought to clear his head. He wouldn’t let his dad down, no matter what. Not again.
After a few minutes, Stiles was able to straighten, gulping in great gasps of air. He headed for the kitchen, wiping tears off his cheeks. Stiles did the dishes, carefully drying each piece before putting it all back in the cabinets. When he went back upstairs, he found a text message on his phone from Derek. Stiles stared at the screen, hesitant to slide it open. In the last four months, the only person he’d texted had been his dad, short, unimportant stuff like can you pick up a pizza on the way home or staying late at school. Stiles opened his phone.
pack meeting tonight. please come.
Stiles reread it, biting at his lip. He couldn’t do it, he knew. It was too much, too soon.
i’m not there yet, he texted Derek back. can't.
ok, Derek replied, almost immediately. that's fine.
Stiles’ teeth dug harder into his lip, the pain grounding him. did you tell them what i did?
no. i told them you were upset. if you want to tell them any more than that, it’s your business.
your life is valuable. don't forget that.
Stiles sat down at his desk, lifting one of Deaton’s books from the pile he’d left on the floor. His phone vibrated again but when he looked down, he saw the message came from Scott. His stomach twisted. Nervous over a text. Huh.
Scott said: happy late bday. im really sry about everything. i ddint want to go along w/ it.
Stiles gritted his teeth. but you did.
i know, im sorry. i shouldnt have listened to him.
no, you shouldn’t have. fuck off.
Stiles leaned back in his chair, his stomach churning. He hadn't really been bothered when Lydia and Jackson stopped talking to him, because it wasn't like they had ever talked much in the first place, and Lydia had ignored his existence for so many years that it almost seemed normal. Derek's radio silence was a little harder to take, but he was always getting mad about something and giving everyone - not just Stiles - the cold shoulder, so he had adjusted to that, too. But it was Scott he was truly hurt by. They'd never been apart for longer than two weeks, never gone without speaking to each other for more than a day or two. Maybe he didn't understand pack dynamics, but it didn't seem at all right for their years of friendship to mean so little.
As if Scott knew what he was thinking, his phone buzzed at his side again.
stiles PLEASE. i dont know how to explain it to you but not listening to pack is like betraying your family. i COULDNT
Stiles sneered at his phone. oh? family? you mean like ME?
you dont understand!
Stiles let out a noise that wasn’t really human, so furious he could barely smash out his next message.
YOU don’t fucking understand! i was going to kill myself!
Stiles hit send and threw his phone down, breathing heavily through clenched teeth. He hissed a curse; he hadn't meant to tell Scott that. Even if they did heal the rift between them, he had never wanted Scott to know. Next to him, his phone began buzzing incessantly and he realized that Scott wasn't texting; he was calling.
Stiles hesitated for one second before answering. He knew he shouldn't have this conversation when he was angry, but he wanted to yell, scream at someone, and he couldn’t do it to his dad. Scott was enough. “What?” he snapped
“Stiles?” Scott said, and that was all he got out before he started crying, big heaving sobs. “I’m sorry!” he wailed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Please don’t kill yourself!”
“I’m—I’m not,” Stiles managed, because he was crying too. Stiles wasn’t meant for anger, and even in the depths of his own despair, the sound of his best friend crying hurt him like a dagger through his heart. “I’m not, Scott. It was a stupid lack of judgment. I was—just stop fucking crying!”
Scott howled – not a wolf howl, but a noise of pure human misery. Stiles had to hold the phone away from his ear, hiccupping as he tried to control himself.
“I’m going to kill Derek!” Scott raged.
“You’ll have to get in line behind my dad,” Stiles told him unhappily. “Look, just calm down, please. I’m fine, I promise.”
“I’m sorry,” Scott said again, his voice watery. “I never should have gone along with Derek, I just – I didn’t want to see you getting hurt any more than he did, and we couldn’t think of any other way—”
“Does no one think I can listen to a reasonable argument?” Stiles asked, not expecting an answer.
Scott sniffled and said, “You don’t think about yourself, Stiles. You care too much about the rest of us, and you forget you’re human.”
“Thanks for reminding me,” Stiles replied bitterly.
Scott heaved a sigh. “I’m not trying to rub it in your face. You’re good at things the rest of us aren’t. You can do things we can’t. But you forget you’re not invincible, and I don’t want my best friend dead because I couldn’t protect him.”
Stiles was silent for a long time. He could hear Scott on the other end, waiting patiently, sniffing every once in a while. “I’ll see you on Monday,” he said finally, and Scott yelped.
“Stiles, you’re not—”
“I’m not going to do anything stupid,” Stiles replied. “I’m leaving that to you.” And he hung up on Scott’s protests. He looked up at his window, half expecting to see Derek there again, but the tree’s branches were bare. He set down his phone and scrubbed at his face, the salt rough on his fingertips. He pressed his fingers through his hair, grazing over the stitches in his scalp, and picked up his phone again. He texted Derek.
why did you come to the house yesterday?
He got a text back five minutes later.
lydia called after your panic attack at school. she was worried you might do something foolish. i headed to your house. your heart didn’t sound right.
Stiles set his phone down and went to the bathroom to wash his face. When he came back into his room, he texted Derek back.
i'm glad you came in.
Monday morning found Stiles nervous about going to school. He was afraid to see the pack face to face. He was sure Derek hadn’t told Jackson or Lydia what he’d almost done, but Scott might have. He didn’t want to see the looks on their faces.
In chemistry, though, Lydia seemed to understand what he needed because while she barely looked at him, she shifted her books away from the chair next to her, a clear invitation to sit. Stiles sat, breathing slowly through his mouth. Lydia’s hand touched his for just a moment before moving away, but he saw the prim smile on her lips and relaxed. He didn’t think she knew, which was more than fine with him, and he appreciated the way she didn’t try to smother him with questions and feelings.
Scott, on the other hand, spotted him in the hall and made a sad noise kind of like a wail, kind of like a dying moose, which had people’s heads turning. He threw his arms around Stiles, groaning like a banshee.
“Steady on,” Stiles said, patting his back uncertainly. “Steady on.”
Scott pulled away from him, looking miserable. “Stiles—”
“Not now,” Stiles said, tears pulling at the corners of his eyes.
Scott nodded, sniffling.
Lunch was weird. Jackson had greeted Stiles like there’d been no break in their relationship, and Lydia talked blithely of everyday things. Stiles sat quietly, ignoring the puppy-dog-eyes Scott kept throwing his way. Stiles was not ready for normality yet.
He felt bad when he looked across the cafeteria and saw Boyd sitting by himself. He missed the boy’s silent company.
“Are you okay?” Scott asked him worriedly. “You don’t smile any more.”
“I can’t just flip a switch and be happy,” Stiles replied, “as nice as that would be.”
After school, Stiles went to Ms. Morrell’s office and they had a long, long talk. Stiles told her everything and though he tried not to cry, it felt good. Ms. Morrell was impartial, and that felt important; she would listen and not judge. She taught him some breathing exercises to help control his panic attacks and he left feeling a little bit lighter.
When Stiles got home, he flipped on the porch light for his dad and went up to his room where he was unsurprised to find Derek sitting on his bed, waiting for him.
“You can’t stay,” Stiles told him bluntly. “My dad will be home soon.”
Derek stood, and Stiles thought it was weird that they were the same height. Derek loomed, even so. “I wanted to check in on you.”
“I’m fine,” Stiles said shortly. “Better than I was. Talk to the pack, not me.”
“You are the pack,” Derek replied. “I told you that.”
“I don’t trust you,” Stiles told him flatly and told himself he didn’t care when Derek stepped backward, looking like he’d been slapped. Stiles closed his eyes, pressing down on the anger. “I think I heard my dad’s car in the driveway,” he said, knowing full well that Derek had heard nothing except the uptick of his heart as he lied. “You better go.”
Derek paused before turning, sliding out the window easily. Stiles pulled it shut after him, ignoring the way Derek turned to look at him before climbing down the tree.
Several nights later, Stiles woke up to find Derek in bed with him and he flipped out.
“The fuck are you doing?” he snarled, putting a foot on Derek’s chest and shoving him out of the bed. Derek scrambled to his feet, his cheeks flushed, looking like a kicked puppy. “If this is you trying to get my trust back, you are fucking retarded!”
“I don’t fucking care!” Stiles bellowed, forgetting that his dad was asleep two rooms down. “Just get out!”
Derek paused in the window. Stiles wanted him to get angry, but he was acting so passively, like he’d been the one shut off from everyone. “Would you have done it?” he asked.
“What, if you hadn’t come in, the big hero?” Stiles snapped. “I don’t know.” He did know. The weight of the gun had been so heavy in his hands. He didn’t think he could lift it. But he wasn’t telling Derek that.
Derek moved like he was going to say something else but disappeared into the night instead. Stiles slammed the window shut, locking it for good measure. He was lucky his dad slept like a log.
Life wore on. Stiles continued to see Ms. Morrell after school. He felt mostly comfortable around Lydia and Jackson, less so around Scott, and he did not talk to Derek, though he thought about him…a lot. It seemed that even depression could not stop the raging hard-on he had for Derek Hale, but he did his best to ignore it. His initial relief and gratitude toward Derek after his dark day, as he called it, had quickly evaporated, leaving him with a bitter taste in his mouth anytime someone mentioned him.
He went to a pack meeting. Derek had invited him (by text, as Stiles was not speaking to him), as he had for every previous meeting. He hadn't gone to any of them and he wasn’t planning on going to this one either, but he went because Scott pleaded with him that they needed him. He didn’t think they did, really, despite what Derek had said, but he knew that Scott desperately wanted to make things normal again. Stiles wanted this as well, but he knew it would be a long time before things felt that way again, if ever.
They sat around in the McCall house – because Stiles refused to go to Derek’s apartment – in awkward silence. Stiles sat between Jackson and Lydia on the couch, staring at his hands while Scott ranged around the room anxiously, full of energy. Derek leaned against the doorway, his arms folded over his chest, and Stiles could feel him watching him. He didn’t lift his head.
“Sooooo,” Scott said eventually, flopping down in the recliner and leaping up against almost immediately to look out the window. You’d think he was the one with the ADHD. “The troll?”
It seemed there had been no accidents since the night Stiles had been flipped in the Jeep.
“You think it’s moved on?” Jackson pondered aloud.
“Unlikely,” Derek said shortly. “I think they’re territorial.”
“You think,” Jackson repeated, sounding unimpressed.
“Yes,” Derek snarled, his eyes flashing red.
“Boys,” Lydia said, and Derek leaned back against the doorway, his eyes on Jackson now. Stiles took the opportunity to look up at the ceiling; his neck was cramping. Lydia continued, “Maybe it hibernates. It’s getting cold now.”
“Does it need to?” Scott asked, turning from the window. “I don’t know if it’s really alive. It tasted like earth when I bit it that one time.”
“Might make sense for it to lay low for the winter,” Lydia said. “If it’s made of earth, it might freeze when the ground freezes. Has there been a hard freeze yet?”
“Couple weeks ago,” Derek said.
“Just after it got Stiles?”
Derek thought about this, his jaw tight, and nodded shortly.
“Well, problem solved, right?” Scott grinned. “At least until the spring. Who wants pizza?”
Stiles left before the pizza arrived, much to Scott’s disappointment, and he could feel Derek’s eyes on his back as he left the house. When he got home and checked his phone, there was a text from the alpha.
thanks for coming. they don’t argue as much when you’re around.
Stiles ignored it, as he did every time Derek texted him.
Without the troll to worry about, the winter slid by. It didn’t really snow in Beacon Hills; they weren’t high enough. It just got cold, bitterly cold. The heat in Stiles’ Jeep had stopped working after the troll flipped it, so Scott started giving him rides to school in the morning, even though it was out of his way. It was awkward, at first. Stiles still wasn’t ready to forgive Scott, but he let him talk on and on, mostly about Allison. It was almost normal, except that Stiles used to be the one doing all the talking. He wondered, staring out the window one morning as Scott waxed poetic about Allison’s legs, if this was how Derek had felt before, whenever Stiles had driven him anywhere.
The rides got better, though, and by spring they were almost back to normal. Almost; Stiles never invited Scott over to the house, some part of him still afraid of being rejected and pushed aside. Ms. Morrell told him that he should try it, but Stiles wasn’t ready yet. Scott was always inviting him over to his house, anyway, and Stiles accepted hesitantly once, then more frequently. He invited Boyd to sit with them at lunch though, and took solace in the dark boy’s quiet nature, even if Lydia and Jackson gave him scornful looks.
He attended more pack meetings, even though there was nothing to discuss; it seemed that everything supernatural was in hibernation that winter. They spent most of their time watching movies and eating junk food which, maybe that’s what pack was about too; just being with the other members. The meetings frequently devolved into cuddle-puddles (Stiles relished the dark look Derek gave him every time he used the phrase), which he often found himself in the middle of, despite his best efforts, sandwiched between Lydia and Jackson, his head on Scott’s stomach. He never touched Derek, and he knew Derek felt rejected, watched the way his lip curled in a slight snarl when the pack moved around Stiles and not him. This is your fault, he thought, meeting Derek’s eyes evenly. I’m the unifier. You said I belong.
He began to thaw for Derek, though, just a little. His anger had faded as he reforged his bond with the pack. He knew Derek had been trying to protect him, and he was making such an effort to include Stiles in everything, his grudge was getting harder to hold. He stopped ignoring Derek’s texts completely, answering him every once in a while, and when he was with the pack and something made him smile, he tried to include Derek in that smile.
Spring came with sunshine and fresh air and Stiles felt a million times better than he had last fall. He was graduating in a few months, with college on the horizon after that. He still had panic attacks, but they came few and far between, going from multiple attacks a day to less than one every two weeks, then one a month, if that. He felt good, and then one Friday night Derek tried crawling into his bed again.
Stiles had been leaving the window open with the warm weather; hadn’t seen it being a problem, since Derek hadn’t come to his house since the last time he’d kicked him out of bed. He woke when he felt the mattress dip and behind him, Derek froze, hearing his heart rate change as he awoke. Stiles didn’t move, fixing the wall with a dark look.
“What are you doing here?”
Derek paused before muttering, “Why do you let them touch you, but not me?”
“You know why,” Stiles replied. “You brought it on yourself.” It wasn’t such much that he was angry, but that he was afraid of being hurt again. Letting Derek within his walls seemed like a bad idea, but he was tired of being defensive.
Derek seemed to sense something had changed, because he moved again, very cautiously slipping under the sheets. Stiles closed his eyes, breathing out slowly. Derek wasn’t close enough to touch but Stiles could feel the bulk of him, warmth radiating against his back.
“Fucker,” he muttered without bitterness, and fell back asleep.
When Stiles awoke the next morning, Derek was gone, and it felt a lot like the morning after his dark day. He reached blearily for his phone and saw a group text from Lydia that said Listened to the scanner. Someone’s car got flipped last night. Our large friend’s back in town.
They met in Stiles’ living room late that afternoon, collapsing into another cuddle-puddle with Stiles in the middle while Derek sat stiffly on the edge, his back against the couch. His dad was gone for the evening, working a swing shift, and Stiles had spent all morning and early afternoon poring over Deaton’s books (which he still hadn’t returned).
“What do we know?” Derek asked. Stiles noticed how careful he was to avoid his gaze, and knew the others had noticed. Lydia and Jackson had gotten to the house first and Lydia had teased him about how he smelled like Derek, but she hadn’t pried. Lydia was awesome that way.
“Smells and tastes like dirt,” Scott said helpfully. “Hard to track?”
“Near impossible,” Derek agreed. “Next.”
“Likes flipping cars,” Jackson said.
“Attracted to shiny objects,” Stiles corrected, proud to show off what he’d learned that morning. “Like magpies. If we can lure it out, then we can kill it.”
“And how do we do that?” Jackson asked scornfully.
“Sunlight,” Stiles replied. They all looked at him blankly and he tsked loudly. “Come on! It’s in The Hobbit, for crying out loud! Trollhunter! Oh – look.” He stretched across Scott, grabbing for the Xbox controller. He flipped to Netflix and played Trolljegeren, the terribly awesome Norwegian film. The pack watched it in slightly stunned silence but really, Stiles thought, their depiction of trolls weren’t that different from the one he’d seen lurching around the forest. Someone working on the movie had done their homework.
“Okay,” Derek said, as the film ended. “That’s an hour and a half of my life I won’t get back. How do you propose we kill it?”
“Well, once we actually find it, you guys are going to have to keep it on the move,” Stiles said. “Until the sun rises.”
Scott groaned. “C’monnnnn. Isn’t there an easier way?”
“Easier way?” Stiles scoffed. “You don’t even have to touch it! All you have to do is keep it in the open until the sun rises! Could you get any lazier?”
“It’s McCall,” Jackson pointed out helpfully.
“No one asked you!” Scott and Stiles chorused together.
“Focus, children,” Derek sighed, and Lydia made an offended noise at that. “We still need to figure out how to draw it out.”
“I’ll be bait,” Stiles offered, and raised his eyebrows when all the wolves bristled at the suggestion. “What? I’ve been bait like a million times. I’ll just drive around and you guys follow me in the woods.”
“You’re not getting hurt again,” Derek snapped.
“I’ll wear a helmet,” Stiles said lightly, and Derek glared. He matched Derek’s look, staring until the alpha looked away, his ears flushing pink. Interesting.
“Your Jeep got flipped already,” Scott pointed out. “Your dad will be pissed if it happens again.”
“Oh.” Stiles deflated, then looked over at Derek.
“You are not taking the Camaro,” Derek growled.
“Don’t look at me,” Scott added quickly. “Mom needs our car.”
“Not the Porsche,” Jackson muttered.
Lydia rolled her eyes. “Fine, we can take mine. I’ve been wanting a new one anyway.”
“I’m not happy about this,” Derek announced.
“When are you ever happy?” Jackson grumbled, getting to his feet. “Anyway, I’ve got lacrosse practice to go to. Lyds, come on, I’ll drive you home.”
“I guess that means me too,” Scott sighed, pushing away from Stiles, who clambered to his feet as well.
“Wait,” Stiles said. “When are we going to do this?”
They all looked at Derek, who pursed his lips. “Tomorrow’s the full moon,” he said finally. “I’m not taking a chance with that. Later this week. Wednesday?”
“Lacrosse game,” Scott and Jackson said together, then glared at each other.
“Thursday, then,” Derek sighed, and Stiles tried not to laugh about how they’d just made an appointment to kill a troll.
His friends – yeah, friends, he was okay with calling them that again – trooped out the door and he was left alone with Derek, who suddenly looked very uncomfortable. Stiles didn’t really know what to do with himself, so he flopped himself down on the floor next to Derek, their shoulders just brushing, and reached for the controller. “Another movie?”
“It’s not like you have a job.”
“Fine,” Derek scowled. “Can we watch something a little less stupid this time?”
“Come on,” Stiles wheedled, and it was weird how easily he fell back into this behavior if he let himself relax. He and Derek had done this sometimes, before last summer, hung out and watched movies, vegged out on the couch. If he allowed himself to be truthful, he missed it, and he wondered if Derek felt the same. “Trollhunter is awesome. How about Mission Impossible?”
“I said less stupid,” Derek snapped, yanking the controller from Stiles’ hands. “Breaking Bad.”
“Too serious,” Stiles complained. “X-Files.”
“Too close to real life,” Derek countered. “Captain America.”
“You wish you were Captain America,” Stiles muttered. “Fine.”
Derek hit play and they fell silent as the movie began to play. Steve was in army training before Derek said, “How does it feel, having the pack around?”
Stiles thought about it for a moment, watching the future Captain America selflessly leap on a grenade. “Like home,” he said eventually.
He didn’t see the way Derek’s mouth twisted unhappily. “I’m sorry I took that from you.”
“I know you are.”
“I’ve been a shitty alpha.”
“Yeah,” Stiles agreed, and Derek looked at him quickly, then away again. “I’m not going to lie to you, dude. But we’ve been a shitty pack, too, so I think we’re all even.”
“Definitely,” Stiles told him. “Now shut up and watch the movie.”
Derek did, and eventually they both fell asleep. Stiles woke up when his dad came through the front door though he didn't open his eyes, mostly because he didn't want to see the look on his face when he spotted his son and Derek asleep together. Not that anything had happened, of course. Of course. The house was quiet, the movie ended long ago, but they’d ended up slumped against each other, Stiles’ head on Derek’s shoulder and Derek’s head on his. Stiles knew his dad wouldn’t fail to notice. That was his job; he noticed things, and he was pretty good at jumping to conclusions, too.
Stiles heard his dad stop in the doorway, and Stiles wondered what he was thinking. The sheriff stood there for a long time before sighing and thumping away upstairs.
Stiles sat up reluctantly, his cheek warm from Derek's shoulder. He looked at the wolf, his face relaxed in slumber, and thought about how weird it was that Derek let his guard down around him. That was weird, right? It had to mean that Derek trusted him. Stiles' face went slack with realization. Derek trusted him enough to sleep in his presence, to relax his guard enough that he didn't even wake up when the sheriff came through the door. Stiles bit his lip. It didn’t seem fair that Derek trusted him so completely, and he barely trusted Derek at all. He wanted to stay in contact with Derek, touch his face, drag his teeth across his lips.
Instead, Stiles nudged his knee into Derek's thigh. The werewolf's eyes flickered open and landed on Stiles. His face was oddly open, relaxed, no frown furrowing his brow. Stiles swallowed.
"Uh. My dad just got home."
Derek looked up at the ceiling then back at Stiles. He raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"Well," Stiles said uncomfortable. "He, he doesn't really like you. May want to kill you, actually."
Derek nodded and unfolded himself from the floor. He stretched luxuriously and Stiles turned his head so he wouldn't stare at the strip of skin Derek's t-shirt revealed as it rode up his stomach. Jesus, just when had he become so infatuated with Derek? Oh, wait, since the first time he'd seen him, that was right, standing in the woods in the preserve, glaring at him and Scott. Stiles really didn’t like the way his brain kept flip-flopping around on Derek issue, because jerking it to the thought of him while simultaneously resenting his existence was confusing.
Derek dropped his arms and headed for the front door without prompting. Stiles trailed behind him, wondering what to say. Wondering if there was anything he should say. Derek was already halfway across the porch when Stiles said, lamely, “Thanks for coming over.”
Derek paused, shooting him an unreadable look over his shoulder. “Sure.”
“Okay,” Stiles said. “Well…night.”
“Good night.” Derek disappeared into the darkness and Stiles snapped off the porch light. He shut the front door and paused, half expecting his dad to appear at the top of the stairs and berate him about Derek’s presence in the house, but he appeared to be having a moment of clarity, or something, because he didn’t emerge from his room. Stiles shut off the tv and the Xbox, and went into the bathroom, where he quietly jacked off to the memory of Derek’s warmth in his bed, which blended into a fantasy about Derek shoving him against the mattress and fucking him raw.
Afterward, he walked upstairs slowly, mind hazy. He didn’t know what it meant that he kept dreaming about Derek, or what it meant that Derek had fallen asleep leaning against him. Maybe it didn’t mean anything. Maybe he was just horny and reading into everything way too much. He sure as hell wasn’t going to say anything to Derek about it; it seemed liked their relationship was finally starting to heal, and he didn’t want it fucked up again.
Stiles was making a huge batch of scrambled eggs when his father came into the kitchen the next morning, bleary-eyed and suspicious-looking.
“No,” Stiles said, before his dad could open his mouth. He pointed at the table, where there was already an egg-white omelets waiting for the sheriff. “Eat first, then you can interrogate me.”
“How do you know I want something?” the sheriff replied, but he obligingly sat down and began eating his omelet.
“You’ve got your cop face on,” Stiles told him, joining him at the table with a plate full of eggs and toast.
His father grimaced, but ate his breakfast before shoving his place away. “Okay,” he said. “Tell me. Why was Hale here last night?”
“We had a pack meeting,” Stiles replied evenly.
“Just the two of you?”
“Everyone else left. We were watching a movie and fell asleep.”
“I saw the way you two were sitting,” the sheriff told him, eyes narrowing. “Are you—”
“No, Dad!” Stiles said vehemently. “Don’t get my hopes up.”
“Don’t get your—” His dad sounded like he wanted to strangle something, or someone. Probably Derek. “Stiles.”
“Eighteen, Dad,” Stiles grinned, pointing at himself triumphantly. “Can’t stop me. Not that you need to,” he added hastily, because his dad looked ready to have a heart attack. “There’s nothing going on with us. It was just a pack thing. Don’t worry.”
“Hnn,” his dad grunted, looking quite the opposite. Stiles took their empty plates to the sink and wondered why he’d said that. Don’t get my hopes up. Was that true? Did he want something with Derek? He had, once, before Derek threw him to the curb, but now it almost felt like they were sliding in that direction again. He closed his eyes, remembering his dark day. Blocking the emotional memory of that day out, he thought of the way Derek had pressed his body against Stiles’, his hand heavy on his stomach. He wouldn’t say no to more of that. As for the emotional side…well…he’d just have to see how it went. At least making eye contact with him didn’t feel like a punch in the stomach any more.
When Stiles’ alarm went off Monday morning, he stretched out his arms and smacked something warm and solid. He jumped about a foot in the air and twisted around to see Derek in bed next to him, his back to Stiles. Stiles hit him again, intentionally this time.
“Dude!” he squawked. “You have an apartment, you know!” Derek grumbled something into the pillow and Stiles narrowed his eyes. “This is kind of creepy, dude. Couldn’t you ask?”
Derek turned his head to squint at him, his hair flat on one side from sleeping. “I did ask you,” he rumbled. “You giggled and tried to hug me.”
“That doesn’t sound like me,” Stiles said suspiciously, then paused, thinking about that statement. That sounded like the old him; he’d changed since last summer, less likely to say stupid things, to think without talking. He wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Derek was staring at him, anyway, so he continued quickly, “You didn’t answer my first question. Is this a pack thing again? Do you do this with Scott?” Derek’s eyes narrowed. “Jackson, then?” This earned him a dark look. “Lydia?” An outright glare.
“No to all three,” Derek said stiffly, and thumped his head back down on the pillow. Stiles leaned over him, trying to see his face.
“Are you worried about me?”
Derek frowned, keeping his eyes closed, but three years of knowing Derek meant that Stiles could interpret every frown. That was definitely an “I’m not admitting anything” frown.
“You are,” Stiles breathed. “That’s—I mean, that’s really nice of you, but you don’t have to. Worry about me, I mean. I’m okay now. Dad’s still got anything remotely dangerous locked up in the shed, anyway. Even my nail clippers.”
"How much damage could you inflict with those?"
Stiles shrugged. "I dunno, but you're not allowed to bring them on airplanes, so apparently quite a bit."
"Yeah." Stiles gave up on Derek and flopped back onto the mattress. He sighed, closing his eyes and beginning to drift back to sleep. Derek's weight next to him was comforting, even if they weren't touching.
Suddenly there was a pounding on his door. "Stiles!" his dad said loudly, "you're not missing school today! Get up so I can drive you!"
"Scott's giving me a ride!" Stiles bawled back, covering his eyes with his hands.
"I better not hear from the school that you're skipping classes again," his dad grumbled, and Stiles could hear him heading down the stairs. The front door opened and shut a minute later.
Stiles sighed. "Whatever. I don't like Econ anyway."
"I can give you a ride," Derek said.
"What?" Stiles exclaimed. "Did you park on the street? Dad's going to notice!"
Derek sighed, sounding bored. "I'm not an idiot. I parked a block over."
"Oh, good." Stiles flipped onto his stomach, burying his face in his pillow. "You drive fast. I can sleep for another five minutes."
"You can't fall asleep that fast."
"Shows what you know," Stiles said, and immediately went into hibernation mode. Let no one say he wasn't an efficient napper. He was a nap magician.
He was shaken awake by Derek ten minutes later ("I'll drive even faster than normal," he said, looking vaguely pleased at the opportunity.) and Stiles stumbled around the house, gathering his things. He hadn't done any of his homework but whatever; his teachers were still being lenient on him after his time spent in the hospital, even though that was last year.
Stiles' day was almost endearingly normal. Derek dropped him off at school and he spent first period daydreaming (definitely not about epic make-out sessions with Derek). Lydia teased him all through chemistry about smelling like Derek, which he put up with gallantly, and he ate lunch with everyone, including Allison, because apparently she and Scott were a thing again. It was a good day.
He woke up Tuesday with Derek in his bed again, and when it happened again on Wednesday morning, he tried not to read into and said lightly, "If you're going to do this every night, why don't you creep in when I'm awake instead? There’s something about waking up in bed with a dude who came in through the window that is just so 90s slasher flick."
Derek gave him a long look, his pale eyes unreadable. He didn't agree to anything, but when Stiles went into his room after coming home from the lacrosse game (they had lost - Jackson and Scott threw the games sometimes so they would arouse suspicion with three years of straight wins), Derek was sitting at his desk, reading a book. Stiles tried not to grin and threw himself on the bed.
“What are you reading?”
Derek flipped the book over. “The Sound and the Fury.”
“Oh, yeah. Tell me how it is, will you? I’ve got a paper on it due next week.”
Derek snorted and returned his eyes to the page. Stiles fidgeted for a minute before leaning over and pulling his chemistry textbook out of his bag. Derek being in his room, just hanging out, knowing that he was going to sleep with him later…it was way more awkward than Stiles had anticipated. He chewed on a pen absently, kind of wishing he hadn’t invited Derek to come in. Maybe it was some weird comfort thing for Derek, being close to pack, but for Stiles, lying in bed with another man was a sore temptation, one that he’d been struggling to resist. It had been hard enough to hide his morning wood two days in a row, though he was sure Derek could smell the arousal on him. At least he had the decency not to say anything, and Stiles was grateful for that.
Stiles’ eyes flickered over to Derek, slumped in his desk chair, one hand holding the book open, the other arm folded over his stomach. He didn’t look very comfortable.
“Hey,” Stiles said, and Derek looked over at him. “Come sit over here. You’re going to kill your back sitting like that. I should know; I’m the gold metal winner of computer chair slouching.”
“I wasn’t aware this was a competition,” Derek replied wryly, but he rose to his feet and Stiles moved some of his papers so that Derek could lean against the headboard. They returned to a peaceful silence, Stiles focusing on his homework with all the concentration of a teenage boy trying to ignore an incredibly handsome man on the bed next to him. He got a surprising amount of work done and he was surprised to look up in the middle of an essay for Econ to find it past midnight already. He twisted to look over at Derek and found him asleep, the book held loosely in his hands, head drooping toward his chest.
Stiles closed his book and placed all his schoolwork on the floor. He slid off the bed and padded out of his room, grabbing a pair of sweat pants on the way out. He went to the bathroom, changed, brushed his teeth, and when he came into the room, Derek had pushed his way under the covers. Stiles paused, his heart rate ratcheting up a notch. This was worse. This was so much worse than waking up with Derek next to him. He had to force himself to cross the room, slid under the sheets, switch off the light. He should have jacked off before going to bed; maybe it would have relaxed him. Stiles lay stiffly on his side, his back to Derek’s back, trying to relax and get his heart rate under control.
“Stop thinking,” Derek said into the quiet of the room.
“Easy for you to say,” Stiles muttered, flipping onto his other side and immediately wishing he hadn’t. Derek had taken off his shirt and Stiles was faced with his broad shoulders, his triskelion tattoo dark between his shoulder blades.
“What does that mean?” Derek sounded irritated.
“I’m not a robot,” Stiles replied quietly. “I can’t just shut my brain off.”
Derek didn’t reply. Stiles stared at his back, watching his back as it expanded and contracted with every breath. He tried to match his breathing with Derek’s and it helped him relax, lulling him close enough to sleep that his brain thought it would be a good idea to lift his hand and brush his fingers against Derek’s tattoo. Even that slight touch had Derek’s muscles tightening under him, and the werewolf flipped himself over.
“Stiles,” he said, frowning.
“Shh,” Stiles said sleepily. He lifted his hand, trailing his fingers up Derek’s neck, feeling his pulse jump under his touch. He dragged his nails against the scruff on Derek’s jaw, making a faint scratching noise, and Derek exhaled loudly.
“Stiles,” he tried again, his voice lower, more of a growl. “We can’t—”
“No,” Stiles interrupted, and moved his face forward, pressing his lips to Derek’s. Derek went stiff and Stiles pulled back, cheeks flushing, apology already forming on his lips when Derek moved against him, smashing his mouth back against Stiles’. Derek pushed him against the pillows, his mouth taking, taking, their tongues sliding against each other, teeth scraping skin. Stiles pressed back against Derek, his dick growing hot in his pants, but when he moved to fist his hand in Derek’s hair, the werewolf jerked back suddenly, looking hunted.
“No,” he said, scrambling backwards, out of the bed. “No. This isn’t—we’re not—I won’t start this—”
“Derek, stop,” Stiles pleaded, as Derek ripped his shirt back over his head and headed for the window. “Don’t. Please. Don’t—” But he was speaking to empty air; Derek had jerked open the window with such force one of the panes cracked, and was gone.
Stiles slumped back against the mattress, his chest twinging with pain. “Fuck,” he muttered, tears pulling in the corners of his eyes. “Fuck.”
Stiles was subdued at school the next day. He hadn’t slept well after Derek’s abrupt departure. His heart was heavy, and he was pretty certain he’d fucked everything up. The pack wouldn’t leave him alone, teasing him mercilessly about how thickly Derek’s scent hung around him, until he snapped at Scott, which was a bit like kicking a puppy. They all stared at him and he ate the rest of his lunch without looking any of them in the eye, though he didn’t miss all the raised eyebrows they exchanged with each other, looking irritatingly like Derek.
Lydia picked him up around midnight; it was Thursday, and they had to kill a troll. They didn’t talk on the way to the old Hale house, where the pack was meeting to go over their final plan.
In the three years since he’d first seen the Hale house, it looked more decrepit and even worse for wear, especially since Derek no longer lived there. The second floor had caved into the first, and the porch sagged dangerously. They met on the ground before it, gathering in a circle beyond the cars. Allison was there, looking surprisingly chipper considering her dad was in jail for a ten year minimum. Stiles refused to look at anyone, but especially at Derek, who was leaning against a tree, his arms folded across his chest.
“So?” Scott asked, when no one spoke. “What are we doing?”
Everyone looked at Stiles and he threw up his hands. “I don’t fucking know! I drive around in circles until the troll comes out, then you guys keep it busy until sunrise!”
“Sounds promising,” Jackson muttered, and Stiles glared at him.
“You know what? I am so sick of—”
“Enough,” Derek said shortly, cutting through him. “You drive. Allison, Lydia, you ride with him. We’ll swap out every few hours until we find the troll. Understand?”
The pack nodded. Stiles glared at his feet until Lydia pressed her keys into his hand and he stomped off.
They drove around for about fifteen minutes, the tension in the car almost palpable, until Lydia broke it. Or increased it. “All right,” she said, tapping her fingers on the armrest. “Spill.” In the backseat, Allison giggled.
“Spill what?” Stiles muttered, keeping his eyes on the road.
“You and Derek. Something happened.”
“Nothing happened,” Stiles lied, unable to stop the flush creeping onto his cheeks.
“Liar,” Allison and Lydia said together, sounding dementedly happy. “Tell us!”
“Nothing happened,” Stiles repeated. “That’s the problem! I tried—and he—ughhhhh!” He ran a hand over his face. “I tried to kiss him and he jumped out the window. Literally.”
Lydia smiled primly. “Jackson owes me twenty bucks,” she said, sounding satisfied while Allison cackled from the back.
“What?” Stiles yelped. “Come on! You were taking bets? On what?”
“Who would make the first move.”
“What do you mean?” Stiles wailed. “Lydia! This was—this was all me! Derek doesn’t like me—not like that. I think he made that clear when he jumped out the window to get away from me.”
Lydia gave him a cynical, all-knowing look. “You are so dense.”
“What?” Stiles demanded. “What? Lydia, come on!”
Lydia shook her red curls, turning to stare out the window. They drove around for another two hours, no troll in sight, before Derek texted Lydia and she instructed Stiles to pull over so Scott could take her place.
Allison moved to the front to drive for a while and the three had the same exact conversation, except Scott refused to tell Stiles who he’d bet on, and what he’d wagered.
“You could have at least included me in the pot,” Stiles muttered mutinously. “I could have made some money out of this embarrassment, at least.”
"I don't know why you're embarrassed," Scott said. "Derek likes you."
Stiles inhaled through his nose. "I'm pretty sure you're wrong there, dude."
Scott frowned thoughtfully at the trees flashing by them. "You didn't see him after he visited you in the hospital. He moped around for weeks. Lydia said he looked like me when Allison and I, uh, don't get along. You could tell he was upset."
"It was his fault."
"I know," Scott agreed. "He didn't want to do it. We all told him it was a bad idea, but he wanted to protect you."
"I know; he told me," Stiles muttered.
Scott glanced over at him. "He likes you, I swear. When you guys are together there's this smell-"
"It's right," Scott said fiercely. "It smells right."
"Derek said I was the unifier," Stiles said cautiously. "Like that? Like I’m right for the pack?" Or right for Derek? He couldn’t ask that question, not even to Scott.
Scott shrugged. "Maybe? I don't know. I still don't get a lot of this wolf stuff."
"Whatever,” Stiles grumbled, and fell into a defiant nap so he wouldn’t have to hear the couple up front gushing over each other. He woke up an hour later, feeling crankier than ever.
It was nearing four in the morning when the pack reconvened at the twenty-four hour gas station downtown to eat some terrible gas station hot dogs. Stiles ate his with no enthusiasm, tired as hell and lost in thought. It was Jackson's turn to ride around with him, and Stiles hoped they spotted the troll soon, because he was not looking forward to Derek's turn to ride with him.
Jackson, for what it was worth, was actually the most pleasant to ride around with because he didn't talk, not even to tease Stiles about Derek, which was surprising. Maybe he was growing up, Stiles thought fondly, or maybe he was just pissed he'd lost the bet with Lydia. Whatever the cause; the silence was appreciated.
Sometime around five thirty, when the sky on the eastern horizon began turning grey, Jackson tapped Stiles on the arm and said, "Slow down." In the back, Allison sat up straighter, fingers tightening around her crossbow.
Stiles obeyed immediately, slowing the car to about ten miles an hour. "You see it?" he asked nervously.
Jackson rolled down the window and stuck his head outside, sniffing deeply. Stiles tugged at the back of his shirt anxiously.
"Dude, sit down! If we get flipped you're going to get decapitated, and all the werewolf healing in the world won’t grow you a new head."
Jackson pulled himself back inside grudgingly, but whipped his head around when there was a howl in the trees off to their left. "Stop the car," he said, and Stiles pulled over to the side of the road, his skin crawling as the ground beneath them began to tremble. "Get out," Jackson said hurriedly, his face shifting. "Get into the trees."
Stiles didn't need to be told twice; he and Allison slipped out of the car and darted into the trees near the edge of the road. Jackson headed in the opposite direction, toward something that was moving through the woods on the opposite side of the road, its heavy footfalls making the trees jump and dance. Stiles retreated further into the woods until he couldn't see the road, heart thumping in his chest. There was silence for a long minute before the woods erupted with noise. The werewolves howled en mass and below their noise was a deep, rattling bellow of rage from the troll. Metal crunched and Stiles winced, know that Lydia's car had just become collateral damage. Something hit the trees a few yards away from him and he ducked instinctively, breath whooshing out of him when he realized the troll had just thrown the car, and now he could hear it running in his direction, ground shaking so hard he could barely keep his footing, and he froze there, not knowing whether to stay or run. He couldn't see anything, didn't know what to do.
“Allison?” he whispered, realizing he couldn’t see her. “Oh, shit, where did you go?”
"Stiles!" someone bellowed, further away in the trees. It sounded like Scott but he couldn't be sure, because the troll was so close he could hear it rasping for breath. He didn't dare call back, but decided to take his chances and run.
Big mistake. Stiles forgot he hadn't been doing that much physical work lately, and he wasn't supposed to run with the injury to his leg. After a few steps, the fastest he could go was a wobbling sort of hobble and, worse, he'd put himself in the troll's line of vision. It gave a knee-trembling roar and Stiles could hear it behind him, could feel its damp breath on him. Stiles tripped over a tree root and while he lay there, something grabbed him by the ankle, hauling him about ten feet off the ground. He gave a very unmanly shriek as he swung through the air.
"Scott!" he yelled frantically. "Derek!"
At least the pack would be able to track him now, Stiles thought giddily. The troll moved faster through the trees and Stiles had to keep his hands over his face so he wouldn't get smacked by branches. He could hear the pack, though; they'd caught up.
"Stiles!" he heard Derek bellow. "Are you all right?"
"Just hanging out!" Stiles called back, never missing an opportunity to make Derek grind his teeth together, even in the depths of danger. "Just keep it moving! I'll be fine unless it decides to eat me."
That’s what he thought, anyway, but it was kind of hard to breathe and he could hear his pulse pounding in his ears, too slow and painful. Being upside down for more than a minute or two was not natural, Stiles came to realize, as white spots began to burst in his vision.
“Stiles?” Scott called, sounding worried, which made sense. The werewolves could hear his heart. They could probably hear it struggling to pump blood through his veins while he hung upside down, gravity working against him.
“Please get me down,” Stiles mumbled, and passed out.
When Stiles came to, he sat up so violently that only Lydia's quick reflexes kept him from smacking his head on the roof of the car. She forced him back into a reclining position, his head cushioned on her thighs. Stiles groaned, looking around the car. He and Lydia were in the back seat of Derek's Camaro, and Derek was driving. He kind of wished it was Derek back there with him, but Lydia was a good second.
"Are you going to kick me out of the pack again?" he asked, his head throbbing with every word.
Lydia looked up at Derek, who sighed and said, "No."
"That's okay, because I'm never running with you guys again," Stiles moaned. "My head hurts like a bastard."
"The troll smacked you into a tree," Lydia told him. "I don't think it meant to."
"Oh, awesome," Stiles said, raising his hand and pressing the heel of his palm to one eye. Rainbows burst in his vision and he took his hand away quickly. “I’m so fucking tired.”
"We ran around the woods for five hours while you sat in a car," Derek said, sounding highly unamused. "Shut up."
"Touché," Stiles murmured, and passed out again.
When he woke up the second time, he was slung over Derek's shoulder in a fireman's hold, being carried up the stairs in his house.
"What are you doing?" Stiles asked tiredly.
"Bringing you to bed," Derek replied shortly.
“Did you get the troll?”
Stiles closed his eyes, exhausted. Derek carried him into his room and dumped him, rather unceremoniously, on his bed. Stiles crawled under the sheets, groaning, and Derek turned to leave.
“What!” Stiles called after him. “What about my head?”
“What about it?”
“I got knocked against a tree!”
“What if I have a concussion?”
“As long as you’re not throwing up, you’re fine,” Derek snapped. “I’m leaving.”
“Are you sorry you let me back in the pack?”
“Yes,” Derek said, and the pit of Stiles’ stomach dropped away.
“You’re an asshole.”
“I’m not talking about this now,” Derek said, and it sounded like he was gritting his teeth. “Get some sleep.”
“Fine,” Stiles said to his pillow, and Derek slammed the bedroom door behind him. Stiles wanted to be angry at Derek, but he fell asleep before he could get a good rage going.
It was close to seven in the morning when Derek brought him home and Stiles really didn’t mean to, but he slept until five in the afternoon. When he stumbled downstairs, his head pounding, his dad was sitting at the kitchen table and he looked pissed.
“Stiles,” he said, without looking up from his dinner – salad, Stiles noted proudly, “why didn’t you go to school today?”
“Didn’t mean to skip,” Stiles mumbled, staggering over to the fridge. He hadn’t had anything to eat since the shitty gas station hot dog at four that morning. His stomach growled just thinking about it.
“Are you—” his dad began, looking over at him, and he cut himself off, his eyes going wide. “Stiles!”
Stiles swung his head around too fast, his temple pulsing painfully. “What?”
“Jesus!” The sheriff was out of his seat and across the kitchen in two seconds flat. He grabbed Stiles by the chin and Stiles hissed as pain flared across his face. His father let go of him like he’d been burned. “What the hell happened?”
“I don’t know,” Stiles muttered, marching down the hall and into the bathroom. He stared at himself in the mirror, wide-eyed. The entire left side of his face was scraped and bruised dark purple. “Oh.”
“Stiles,” his dad insisted, hovering in the doorway. “What did you do?”
“Uh,” Stiles said, and he knew his dad wasn’t going to be happy. “You know that troll that flipped the Jeep? We got it last night, but it caught me first. I’m not really sure what happened, but I guess it smacked me against a tree.”
“Smacked you against a tree?!” his father raged. “Where the hell were your friends?”
“Trying to catch it,” Stiles said nervously. “It wasn’t their fault. And that’s why I missed school, because we got back late. I’m sorry, Dad.”
The sheriff closed his eyes and heaved out an angry sigh. “House arrest,” he said. “One week. School and home only. No visitors, no pack.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Stiles wheedled. “At least there won’t be any more car accidents! You should be grateful!”
His dad narrowed his eyes. “Don’t push me. Say another word and it’ll be two weeks.”
Stiles huffed out indignantly and retreated to the kitchen to find some food.
Later, upstairs, Stiles called Scott, whose first words were “Where were you today?”
“Unlike you,” Stiles scoffed, “I will die if I don’t sleep. Tell me what happened last night.”
“Welllll,” Scott drawled, “the troll carried you around for a while after you passed. And – I’m sorry –” Scott laughed, and Stiles knew he wasn’t really sorry. “It looked like a kid carrying around a doll. And then it turned and you kind of swung out and smacked into a tree and it looked so shocked and just dropped you right there.”
“Thanks,” Stiles said dryly. “And now I’m so bruised I look like I’m part blueberry.”
Scott stifled a snort. “Sorry, sorry.”
“Well, Allison stayed with you and the rest of us kept chasing after the troll. We got it out by the reservoir and once it was out of the trees it was pretty easy. The sun came up and it turned to stone and crumbled…but…I don’t know. It didn’t feel right.”
“What do you mean?” Stiles asked.
“It just…You know, once we got it out of the trees we could really see it for the first time, and it looked dumb. I don’t know. I don’t think it meant to hurt anyone, it was just too stupid to know better. Killing it was almost like…like killing a kid. I didn’t like it. I’m glad you weren’t there, because I don’t think you would have liked it either. No one did. It really pissed Derek off.”
“Oh,” Stiles said quietly. Maybe that was the reason why Derek had been so short with him earlier.
Even later, Stiles laid in bed, his laptop on his stomach, watching a movie. His bedroom door hung open, but his dad still knocked on the doorframe. Stiles half-closed his computer to look at his dad.
“I’m going to work,” the sheriff said. “I have to work a double, so I’ll see you tomorrow evening.”
“Okay,” Stiles said.
His dad hesitated in the doorway. “How’s your face doing?”
“Still attracting people left and right with my stunning good looks,” Stiles snarked, and his dad sighed.
“Just behave, would you? You can have Scott over, if you want.”
“I thought I was on house arrest.” Stiles squinted at him suspiciously.
“I’m proud of you,” his dad said in reply, “for trying to take on that thing. You’re still under house arrest, but good behavior gets rewarded. All right?”
“All right,” Stiles agreed.
“I’ll see you.”
Stiles listened to his dad go down the stairs, opening and shutting the front door behind him. A minute later, the sound of tires on gravel alerted him to the fact that his father had just backed out of the driveway. He returned to his movie, tired, but not really sleepy after sleeping all day. He was wondering if it was worth getting up and seeing if there was anything to eat in the fridge when there came the all-too familiar sound of his window opening. Stiles didn’t turn his head.
“Don’t bothering coming in unless you’re actually going to talk to me,” he said stiffly.
Derek, crouched in the window, paused, then stepped into the room, gently shutting the window behind him. Stiles sighed and sat up, shutting his computer and pushing it away.
“All I’ve ever done is what I thought was right,” he said to Derek, who leaned against the wall, looking faintly uncomfortable. “I did what I thought I was supposed to do, and you keep pushing me away. That’s three times now – in the hospital, last night, and the night before. You push me away and you leave and I can’t take that. I can’t take any more abandonment. I lost my mom, and I lost you guys, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair for you to let me back in the pack and then tell me you regret it. It’s not fair for you to come in at night and sleep in my bed and then freak out when I try to kiss you. What do you want from me? What else did you fucking expect from me?” He glared across the room at Derek, who shifted uneasily, his mouth thin. “I’ve had a crush on you for three fucking years, and I’m sick of pretending like it doesn’t mean anything. Scott says that we smell right together. What does that mean, huh?”
Derek scowled. “Scott doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
“Well, I would ask you, but still I don’t trust you,” Stiles said, and Derek looked like he’d been punched in the stomach. The raw hurt on his face hurt Stiles, and he wished that he could take it back, but he couldn’t because it was true. He did trust Derek, to some extent – he knew that Derek would always protect him when they were out fighting supernatural monsters – but he couldn’t trust that Derek wouldn’t hurt him in more intimate, emotional ways.
“Stiles,” Derek said, and it sounded like his name had been twisted out of him. He took a step away from the wall, and then another, until he was standing in front of Stiles. He dropped down onto his knees so he could look him in the eyes. “I’ve known since I was eight, and my sister babysat you when you were young. My mom never let Laura bring you to our house because she thought the less we interacted, the better off we’d both be. She wouldn’t let me go to your mom’s funeral. I went to college down south because it just got worse when I got older, seeing you around town, and I went to New York with Laura when even that wasn’t far enough. I’m sorry for pushing you away. I’m sorry for leaving the other night. I want you to trust me, but I was afraid, because I know how good it could be, but maybe you wouldn’t want it—”
“Whoa, whoa,” Stiles said, waving his hands in an attempt to slow Derek down. His head was reeling, too many questions to ask. “What? Your sister didn’t—you knew what? You know what could be good?”
Derek looked down at the carpet, the muscles in his jaw working furiously. Stiles watched him, his heart pounding in his chest. When Derek finally spoke, his voice was low, gravely.
“You’re my mate.”
Stiles stared at him, perplexed. “I’m your…what?!”
“Mate,” Derek growled, and Stiles didn’t miss the way his fingers dug into his thighs. “Do you have any idea how fucking hard is it to control myself around you? Why do you think I disappear on the full moon? I had to leave the other night because I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from taking everything you have, making you mine. Why do you think the pack listens to you? They know. I didn’t have to tell them. It’s a chemical thing, but it’s more than that, it’s—that smell that Scott smells when we’re together—it’s us. It’s what we’re supposed to be. It’s—Stiles.” Derek closed his eyes and leaned forward, turning his head so his neck was exposed. That was the thing that made Stiles exhale shakily.
Stiles wasn’t a wolf, but he knew what the gesture meant. He’d seen the betas do it before, when they’d pressed Derek too far and he turned around snapping. Submission. Derek was submitting to him. Big, bad, alpha-as-fuck Derek Hale was submitting to Stiles Stilinski, the clumsiest, weakest human being since the dawn of time.
It was beyond overwhelming. Stiles’ mind whirled with all the information Derek had just given him, trying to process everything while Derek sat with his eyes closed, neck exposed trustingly. Fuck. Stiles breathed in for a count of four, then out for a count of eight, like Ms. Morrell had taught him, pushing away a panic attack that pulled at his chest. Fuck. He wasn’t sure how he’d reached this point, with Derek submitting before him, telling him they were meant to be together, from a few months ago when he was ready to kill himself. He wanted Derek badly, didn’t know why, or how it had happened. He forced himself to breathe.
“Is this—is this like a forever thing?” he managed to ask.
Derek’s face changed but Stiles couldn’t read his expression. He didn’t open his eyes, though, nor did he move. “Ideally,” he said evenly, “but it’s whatever you want it to be.”
Stiles breathed in slowly, trying to calm his pounding heart. He wanted it. He wanted it more than anything he’d ever wanted in his life. He had to force himself to remain seated, not throw himself at Derek. He’d seen Derek acknowledge the betas’ submission, usually with a simple touch of the hand to the neck or shoulder, but that didn’t seem right. Stiles licked his lips and leaned forward, close enough that he could feel the heat rising from Derek’s body. Heart leaping in his throat, he pressed his lips to the skin below Derek’s jaw, and he could feel Derek’s pulse jumping under his touch. Derek exhaled slowly, sounding shaken, and carefully raised his hands, putting them on Stiles’ hips.
Stiles slid forward off the bed, allowing Derek to pull him down to sit on his thighs. Stiles lifted his arms and folded them around Derek’s neck, feeling Derek do the same around his waist. He pushed his cheek against Derek’s neck, breathing in the clean scent of him. Derek pressed his nose to Stiles’ neck, breath hot and heavy on his skin.
“Fuck,” Derek murmured.
“Since you were ten?” Stiles asked.
“Why the hell did you wait so long to tell me?”
Derek sighed, his fingers tightening against Stiles’ back. “I want to tell you so badly. I wanted to explain. But I waited because I wanted you to be older, so you could understand what this really means. I didn’t want to freak you out. I was going to tell you when you turned eighteen. Also,” he added wryly, “I didn’t want your dad to shoot me.”
“You’d heal,” Stiles said. He bent his head, the stubble on Derek’s chin scraping against his temple.
“It’s the act, not the injury. You didn’t deny he’d try.”
“He probably would, but…you want my dad to like you?”
“He just doesn’t know you,” Stiles said quietly. “He’d be happy to have someone else in the house who understands football. And,” he added, his voice even softer, “he’ll like you if he knows that I like you.”
“Can I kiss you?” Stiles asked him. “I mean, you won’t run away again, will you?”
“To kissing?” Stiles joked, blinking back the tears that sprung up at Derek’s words. “Or running away?”
Derek shifted back, like he could sense Stiles’ discomfort, which he probably could, and frowned when he saw Stiles’ eyes shimmering with tears. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Stiles said, and again, more firmly. “Nothing. It’s been a long year, is all.”
“Yeah,” Derek agreed quietly. “It has.” He lifted his chin, pressing his lips to the corner of Stiles’ eye. Stiles clutched at his shoulders, heart hammering in his chest, choking back the sobs. He wasn’t crying because he was upset, or hurt, or angry, or because there was another panic attack on the horizon. Knowing that Derek wanted him, had wanted him for years, knowing that his own feelings were reciprocated was such a relief it didn’t seem real.
“Come on,” Derek said softly, gently pushing him back and pulling them both to their feet. “You need to rest.”
“I do not,” Stiles mumbled into his shoulder, though the truth was he was tired, emotionally, at least. “I slept all day.”
Stiles poked him in the chest with a long finger. “Stalker. Were you outside all day?”
“Yes. I wanted to make sure your head was all right.” Derek brushed his knuckles against his temple and Stiles leaned against his touch, feeling the warmth as Derek pulled at the dull headache he’d had all evening.
“You’re such a creep,” Stiles muttered. “At least you don’t have to keep sneaking around now.”
“Don’t I?” Derek sounded bemused.
“Ugh, is that, like, some weird kink of yours?” Stiles asked. “I mean, I guess you will have to, until we talk to my dad.”
Derek reached around Stiles, pulling back his sheets. He pushed Stiles back on the bed, not hard, and Stiles slid in without complaint, leaning back against his pillows to watch Derek pull down his pants.
“Jesus,” Stiles swallowed, his throat bobbing as Derek climbed into bed next to him. “You don’t fool around, do you?”
“I mean everything I say,” Derek replied, pressing his body up against Stiles, looping an arm around his waist. Stiles could feel his dick against his back, half hard which, okay, fine, he was at that point, too, no shame.
“You meant what you said this morning?” Stiles asked, to distract himself.
“That you regret having me back in the pack.”
“Only because I don’t want you getting hurt,” Derek replied, pressing his mouth against the back of Stiles’ neck. “I already told you that we need you. I know that, but that doesn’t mean I can’t regret it.”
“I don’t head out with the intention of getting hurt, you know,” Stiles said, goosebumps rising on his skin at the feeling of Derek’s mouth against him.
“I know,” Derek said, very quietly. The arm against Stiles’ stomach tightened, his hand slipping under Stiles’ shirt to press against his skin. Stiles was very, very comfortable. This wasn’t awkward like it had been the other night.
“Hey,” he said, after a few moments’ silence. “You never answered my question. Can I kiss you?”
“Not tonight,” Derek rumbled. “There will be plenty of time for that in the future.”
Stiles grinned into his pillow. “All right,” he agreed. “I can work with that.”
Stiles woke up feeling glad his dad wasn’t home to check in on him, because Derek was laying on his back and Stiles was half on top of him which, well, his dad knew that he liked guys – they’d had that discussion a few years back – but walking in on your son laying in bed with another man was quite a way to jump start a relationship. Which. Hmmm.
“What are you thinking about?” Derek asked quietly.
Stiles lifted his head to look at him; the werewolf’s eyes were closed, his face smooth and unworried. “Are we in a relationship now?”
Derek opened his eyes. “You’re my mate.”
“Yeah, I know that,” Stiles said, waving his hands around expressively. “And that works for your wolf bits, but what about as humans?”
Derek looked at him evenly. “What do you want it to be?”
Stiles stared back at him, his mouth going dry. Derek lifted a hand, dragging his fingers up and down Stiles’ spine, and waited patiently for his response. “Boyfriends?” Stiles answered cautiously.
“Sure,” Derek agreed easily, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“Okay,” Stiles said, sagging with relief. “Cool.”
Derek smiled fully then, pulling his fingers up Stiles’ spine, up his neck, dragging them through his hair. “Wish you hadn’t cut it,” he said.
“I had to,” Stiles replied, closing his eyes, enjoying the sensation of Derek’s nails scraping against his scalp. “They had to shave part of it at the hospital when I got stitches the last time, and I just sort of got into the habit of keeping it short.” He pulled himself up so he was fully on top of Derek, his thighs splayed out so they touched Derek’s hips. “Why?”
Derek grinned ferally. “I like having something to hold on to.”
Stiles’ lips parted in a silent oh and Derek lifted his head, pressing his mouth to Stiles’. The kiss was nothing like their first one, unhurriedly and soft. Derek moved like he didn’t want to hurt Stiles, his hand sliding back down to cup the back of his head, his touch so light Stiles could barely tell it was there. Stiles lifted his hands above Derek’s head, propping himself up on his elbows, and the kiss deepened, Derek’s tongue sliding against his teeth. His other hand slid down Stiles’ spine, coming to rest in the curve of his back just above his ass.
Stiles pulled his head back, his lips full and red. Derek watched him calmly, a smile hovering on his own lips. “Is this going to get dangerous?” he asked Derek, who lifted an eyebrow.
“The future?” he asked. “Or right now?”
“I have no doubt the future’s going to be dangerous,” Stiles replied. “I meant right now. Is there going to be a party in my pants soon?”
“There could be,” Derek conceded. “I’ll only go as far as you want to, though.” The hand on Stiles’ back slid lower, playing with the band of his boxers, testing the boundaries.
“Oh, come on, dude,” Stiles said. “It’s not all about me.”
“Today it is,” Derek replied, his easy smile fading slightly, and Stiles realized that this was Derek trying to regain his trust, giving him all the control. He appreciated that.
Stiles rolled off the werewolf and before Derek could say anything, was tugging at him, pulling him on top of him. Derek moved easily, leaning back to pull off his shirt before kneeling over Stiles. Stiles watched him avidly, admiring the smooth stretch and shift of his muscles as he moved. Derek bent his head, pushing the fabric of Stiles’ shirt up and pressing his mouth to his skin. A little moan came snaking out of Stiles’ mouth at the touch and he felt Derek grin against his stomach, tongue pushing across his skin. Stiles put his hands to Derek’s hair, tugging at him, and Derek growled deep in his chest, but moved up obliging, meeting Stiles’ mouth in a clasp of teeth and tongue. Stiles dug his nails into Derek’s side and the werewolf seemed to like that, because he growled even deeper and snapped at Stiles’ neck.
“Hey,” Stiles said worriedly, “you don’t have to bite me for it to be official, right? This mate thing?”
“No,” Derek rumbled, shoving his hands under Stiles’ shirt and yanking it over his head, Stiles lifting his shoulders obligingly to help him on his way. “My father was my mother’s mate, and he was human.”
“Okay, excellent.” Stiles whimpered as Derek’s teeth latched onto his collarbone. “No talking about parents right now, okay?”
Derek growled his agreement, biting and sucking at Stiles’ skin until he knew there’d be a huge bruise there. Stiles was achingly hard now, precome dampening his boxers, and he lifted his hips searchingly, back arching from the pleasure of the things Derek did to him. His knee brushed against Derek’s crotch and he could feel Derek there, hot and just as hard as he was.
“Derek,” he murmured, digging his hands into Derek’s hips and pulling him down. “Derek!” The last syllable came out as a squeak as Derek rolled his hips against Stiles’, and the contact was excruciating. “Oh, fuck, Derek!” Derek kept rubbing against him, his teeth worrying a spot of skin above his heart, and Stiles could feel the orgasm building in his toes, the heat building inside him, painful and powerful and pleasurable all in one. Stiles dug his fingers into Derek’s shoulders, gasping, “Shit, I’m—I’m going—”
“Yes,” Derek snarled, snapping his hips against Stiles and Stiles threw his head back, coming with a cry that was nearly a sob. Derek stilled, dropping so his chest laid against Stiles’, their hearts beating in sync.
“Jesus,” Stiles muttered, blinking back tears. Definitely the best orgasm he’d ever had in his life. “Holy shit.”
Derek kissed him gently, one thumb tracing along Stiles’ cheekbones, along his jaw line. “You smell amazing,” he told Stiles.
“Like it’s right?”
“Like it’s right.”
Stiles wriggled under his weight. He could feel Derek still hard, pressed against his thigh. “You—”
“No,” Stiles grinned, pushing on his chest, forcing him to roll over. “I want to. You said this is about me, right? Well I want to.”
Derek grinned. “If you insist.”
“I do,” Stiles said, pushing off his damp boxers. “You too.”
Derek grinned even wider and hooked his thumbs in the elastic of his briefs, pushing them down past his knees, kicking them off. Stiles licked his lips at the sight of his dick, laying thick and red against his stomach, leaking precome against the line of hair below his navel. Stiles reached out a hand and curled his fingers around the base, eliciting a soft groan from Derek. He swallowed, scooting closer, eyeing Derek.
“Tell me what you like,” he said hoarsely. “I’ve never done this before.”
“You’ll be fine,” Derek replied, his eyes on the ceiling. “I have no comparison anyway.”
Stiles sucked in a startled breath. “You’ve never…” He didn’t want to ruin the mood, but he had to know. “With anyone?”
“I’ve never slept with anyone,” Derek said shortly, but his tone was gentle. “You’re the only one I’ve ever wanted.”
Stiles stared at him, his mouth falling open. Then he giggled. “Glad I’m not the only virgin in the room, then.”
Derek gave him a dark look. Stiles distracted him by leaning forward and sliding his tongue across the head of his dick, the taste of precome bitter on his tongue. Derek’s fell back against the pillows, his breath coming out of him in a rush. Stiles felt powerful; he liked the way he could make Derek moan as he sucked him in, the way his fingers twisted in the sheets, the way his pulse jumped under Stiles’ tongue, the way his hips trembled as he neared the edge.
“Stiles,” he said quietly. “Stiles. I’m—”
Stiles pulled his mouth away with a noise so obscene it should be outlawed, his lips red and swollen. He was half hard again, just from sucking Derek off. His head felt light, dizzy. Derek put his hand over Stiles’ and they jerked him off together, until his hips jolted and his lips parted in a low groan, coming in streams across his stomach. He lay still afterward, his chest rising and falling rapidly, and Stiles pulled himself back up, their bodies slotting together like they were meant to. And maybe they were, Stiles thought. Derek wrapped an arm around his shoulder, fingers curling against his skin.
“Long time coming,” he muttered, and Stiles couldn’t could stop the giggle.
“You mean us or that orgasm?”
“Both,” Derek growled, but he soon relaxed. “Breakfast, maybe?”
“Breakfast,” Stiles confirmed. “Then round two.”
Derek grinned. “Whatever makes you happy.”
“This,” breathed Stiles. “You, Derek. Nothing could make me happier.”