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In the immediate aftermath of the fight between Jennifer Blake and Deucalion, Stiles is what could be most kindly described as ‘a hot mess’. He can’t let his father out of his sight without having a panic attack. Sheriff Stilinski has a week off from work, due to his injury, and Stiles tells him that he has to spend the entire week on the sofa. When Stilinski informs his son that this is not going to be happening, Stiles follows him around like a little lost duckling.

The others have their own shit to deal with. Scott seems to have struck up a friendship with Isaac, for reasons that Stiles personally can’t explain. He doesn’t get what everybody sees in Isaac, but to be fair, at times he has no idea what Scott sees in him, so. Maybe Scott just has questionable taste in friends. Though somehow Allison likes Isaac, too, so every time the three of them are in one room together, it’s too much sexual tension for Stiles to handle. He wishes they would just have a threesome and get it over with.

Lydia is doing better than the rest of them, and she’s really enjoying being the sane one. Stiles figures he can’t blame her for that, after the year they had. Everyone is at least marginally getting back into the swing of things, except for Stiles, who really just wants to spend the rest of his life in bed. Except he can’t, because every time he falls asleep for more than an hour, he has the weirdest, trippiest, freakiest nightmares in the history of mankind.

No problem, he tells himself. He’s just going to stay up forever. He can do that. Sleep is optional.

“Look,” Sheriff Stilinski says, after two weeks have gone by, when Stiles is brewing himself a fresh pot of coffee. “I want you to understand that this is coming from a place of love.”

“Oh geez,” Stiles says.

Stilinski walks over and removes the half empty mug from Stiles’ hands. “You have to get out of this house.”

“Dad, rude,” Stiles huffs, grabbing for the mug.

“The only time you’ve left in the past two weeks is when you’re following me around somewhere. I get that you’re freaked out because of what happened, bucko, but this is not healthy. I’ve let it go on longer than I should have. Go visit your friends, see a movie, play some video games. That’s an order.”

“Dad,” Stiles whines. His father just gives him a look. “Where am I even gonna go? Isaac is staying at Scott’s, and Isaac’s the actual worst, and Lydia’s dating Aiden, which, why is that even a thing that’s happening. My friends all suck.”

“Why don’t you go see Derek?”

Stiles nearly drops his mug of coffee. “Oh, yeah, Derek,” he says, laughing nervously. “Derek’s cool, he - he’s not a bad guy I guess, but he probably doesn’t want to see me, or want me around, I mean, why would he, right?”

Sheriff Stilinski looks like he feels a headache coming on. “Son,” he says, “please do not try to pretend that you aren’t friends with Derek Hale. I figured out around the same time I was trapped underground that you’ve done a whole bunch of stuff I wouldn’t approve of. Including sheltering him when he was a fugitive.”

“Yeah . . . that’s totally what I’m nervous about,” Stiles agrees. He tries not to think back to that horrible night at the hospital, to the way Derek had gone after Jennifer when she dangled the life of Stiles’ father over Stiles’ head, to the way his heart had leapt into his mouth at the sight of Derek unconscious in the elevator. He tries not to think about the way Derek’s hand had lingered on his arm when he left Stiles in the ambulance with Cora, or the way Derek had looked at him when Stiles punched him awake. ‘You came back for me,’ that look said, and Stiles, well. Stiles had been aware of the tension between them, he couldn’t not be, but that was the first time that Derek seemed to feel something in return.

He hasn’t even seen Derek since then, and this doesn’t really seem the time to go visit. In fact, ‘never again’ seems the best time to go visit, especially after crying all over him in front of his evil girlfriend and then throwing his first evil girlfriend in his face like that -

“Stiles,” Sheriff Stilinski says patiently, “would you at least get dressed?”

Stiles looks down at his flannel pajama pants and the T-shirt he’s owned since seventh grade. “Uh, yeah. That’s probably a good idea.”

He dons jeans and a different T-shirt, one that’s actually clean, and a plaid shirt, and then somehow his father pushes him out of the house and he winds up standing outside Derek’s loft, preparing for the most awkward reunion known to mankind. Somehow, he’s surprised when it’s Cora who answers the door. “Oh, uh. Hey.”

“Hey yourself.” Cora folds her arms over her chest. “What do you want?”

Taken off guard, Stiles blurts out, “My dad sent me over here to visit because I haven’t left the house in two weeks and I’m driving him bugshit.”

Cora narrows her eyes at him, then stands back to let him in. “I guess you think I should thank you or something, huh.”

“Uh. For what?”

“The time when you saved my life? You know, in the ambulance?”

Stiles flushes pink. “How do you even know about that? You were unconscious.”

“Yeah, but later my mouth tasted like coffee and Skittles, and you’re the only person I know who would even think about having those two things at once.”

“Circumstances were dire and it’s a good energy combo and also, it’s not like I had my tongue in your mouth!”

“Werewolves,” Cora says severely. “So thanks.”

“Whatever.” Stiles rubs a hand over the back of his hand. “To be honest, I had sort of forgotten about it.”

Cora frowns at him like she finds this suspect, but then Derek comes down the stairs and Stiles forgets all about Cora. Derek stops and looks at him like he has no idea why Stiles is even there. Neither of them say anything for a moment that’s way too long. Derek looks at Stiles and his gaze darts down to look at Stiles’ mouth and Jesus take the fucking wheel.

“Hi,” Stiles manages.

“Hey,” Derek replies.

“I, uh . . .”

“Your dad sent you. I heard.”

“Of course you did.” Stiles flushes even pinker and looks away. “Sorry if I’m, you know. Intruding.”

“It’s fine.”

Stiles looks around and for the first time, notices the two bags sitting by the door. “Oh, are you guys, uh, are you leaving? Not that I could blame you if you were, I guess, Beacon Hills is pretty much a Hellmouth and according to Deaton it’s gonna get worse now that we woke up the Nematode or whatever the hell that thing in the forest is - ”

Derek sighs and interrupts. “Yes, we’re leaving. And it’s called a Nemeton, and it’s not the same thing as a Hellmouth.”

“Right.” Stiles swallows and tries not to get upset. It’s stupid to get upset. Just because he and Derek have had a few moments or whatever he might call them, it’s not like Derek is his boyfriend. Hell, Derek’s not even really his friend. It’s just - on top of everything else, it’s too much. “Where are you guys going?”

“We haven’t decided yet.” Derek shrugs. “Just . . . not here.”

“You could go back to whatever alien planet Cora’s from,” Stiles suggests.

Cora flips him off and says, “Brazil is not an alien planet.”

“Oh my God, you were in Brazil? Did you actually just give me personal information? Hang on, I gotta call Anderson Cooper - ”

“I was staying in the Pantanal.” Cora stares him down. “One time I had to fight an anaconda for my dinner.”

Stiles considers that. “Who won?”

Cora looks disgusted. Derek, for his part, bites his lip to keep from smiling. It makes his adorable bunny teeth really obvious, and Stiles has to look away before he loses his shit. He blurts out the first thing he thinks of. “Hey, uh, what about your birth family? Have you thought about trying to find them?”

Derek looks completely blank. Not upset or insulted, just blank. “What?”

Stiles stares at him and, with dawning horror, realizes he just put his foot in his mouth all the way up to his knee. His immediate urge is to pretend he hadn’t said anything and moon walk out of the loft, but he screws his courage to the sticking place and says, “Uh, the people that the Hales adopted you from?”

“I’m not . . .” Derek looks at Cora.

Cora blinks back at him. “Are you?”

Derek’s blank look creases into a frown. He looks back at Stiles. “What are you talking about?”

“Uh, you know that I researched the shit out of the fire, right?” Stiles says, and Derek nods. “Well, there was a note in the file from a social worker about how she had contacted your birth family to see if they were interested in custody, since you were still a minor? And that they responded that they were unable to take you. I’m - I’m sorry, I had no idea I was dropping a bombshell on you, I just - figured you knew.”

Derek sits down on the hideous blue velour sofa. Cora perches on the arm of it next to him, her hand curling around the back of his neck. “It doesn’t change anything,” she says firmly. “You’re still a Hale. You’re my brother.”

“She’s right,” Stiles says. “Family isn’t about who gave birth to you. It’s about who gave you a home.”

“I’m not upset, I just - can’t believe I didn’t know. I feel like I should have.” Derek pushes a hand back through his hair. “Especially now that I’m thinking about it. I barely remember anything from before I was, I don’t know, nine or ten years old? It’s never seemed that weird to me. Kids have shitty memories and I just figured mine were worse than usual. But now that I am thinking about it, I guess it is weird.”

“Yeah, if it was normal not to remember anything before nine or ten, I wouldn’t remember my mom, and Cora would barely remember your family at all,” Stiles agrees. “Sounds like magic might have been involved. Maybe the reason you were adopted was, I don’t know, because something bad happened? And somebody removed your memories so it wouldn’t be as horrible for you.”

Derek shakes his head. “It’s not like we can ask now. Unless that file had a name and a phone number in it.”

“No, it didn’t. It did say it was in New York City, though.”

Cora frowns at Derek. “Is that maybe why Laura took you there after the fire? Maybe she was looking for them.”

“Maybe.” Derek is frowning. “Actually, come to think of it, the first week or so we were there, we did meet with a bunch of different people. She said she was looking for someone she thought could help us. She never mentioned it being my family, but . . .”

“But she might not have, if she thought it would upset you.” Stiles frowns, thinking about it for a minute. “Do you remember any of the people you met with?”

“Not really. I wasn’t . . .” Derek’s voice trails off, but then he says, “I wasn’t really in a good headspace then. You know?”

“Do I ever,” Stiles says, but he’s flattered that Derek admitted that to him, that Derek was willing to let Stiles see that side of him.

“There was one guy, though, you could maybe find, because I’m pretty sure he was a cop,” Derek adds. “I saw his badge on his belt. He was a black guy, friendly, another werewolf. His name was, I want to say, Luke?”

“I really hate to break it to you, Derek, but finding ‘a black cop named Luke’ in New York City is gonna be a lot harder than you think,” Stiles says.

“But you could do it.” Derek catches Stiles’ gaze and holds it. “If anybody could find my family, it would be you.”

Stiles flushes bright pink. “Maybe. I mean, I guess. I could look, but, don’t . . . don’t put too much faith in me, okay? I don’t want . . .” He stops himself before he can say ‘I don’t want to disappoint you’. “I don’t want you to get your hopes up.”

“He’s right.” Cora’s brooding. “Your real family could be dead, or they could be . . . awful. I mean, they gave you up.”

“Thanks for summing it up,” Derek says, rolling his eyes. But he takes it seriously, mulls it over for a long minute. “No. I want to know. If we can find them. Anyway, I think I remember a few other things that could help. We met him at a Chinese restaurant, I know that much. And I think it was on the water.”

“Dude, in New York City, everything’s ‘on the water’,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes.

“I’d know it if I saw it. Or more likely if I smelled it.”

“Well, we were leaving anyway,” Cora says. “Why not head east?”

“I can text you guys if I find anything,” Stiles says.

“You aren’t coming?” Derek asks. He sounds a little surprised.

“I - do you want me to come?”

Derek ducks his head. “I just figured you would want to. I mean, when it comes to investigating stuff, you’re kind of hands on.”

Cora looks between the two of them and then rolls her eyes.

“Well, it doesn’t really matter,” Stiles says, and shrugs. “After everything that’s happened, there’s absolutely no way my dad is going to let me go trekking across the country.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“You should go,” Sheriff Stilinski says, and Stiles nearly chokes on the tater tot he’s eating.

“What?” he coughs out.

“I think it’d be good for you. Hell, getting out of Beacon Hills would be good for anybody. This place is nuts. And you need a break from it.”

“I can’t just leave you alone here - ”

“Stiles, I am a large, semi-muscular adult man - ”

“I never should have let you watch Firefly - ”

“I can handle myself. You can call and check on me every hour if you want, but I actually think this would be really good for you. You’ve been through the wringer this past year. You’re barely sleeping, you won’t go to school. You said the other day you were even having trouble reading. You need a change of pace.”

“So you seriously think that I should trek to the opposite side of the country with a dude in his twenties?”

“If there’s anyone in this town I can trust to keep you safe besides me, it’s Derek Hale.”

Now Stiles really blushes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Stilinski arches his eyebrows. “You’re seriously going to pretend that you don’t know what I mean?”

Stiles thinks about the right answer to that question. “Yes?”

His father sighs and rubs his hand over his forehead. “Okay, you know what, we’re just going to move past that, I think. Suffice to say, if you want to go to New York with Derek and his sister, the answer is yes. Whether you actually want to go or not. I think you should.”

“But Dad,” Stiles says. “He wants to drive. To drive! He says he doesn’t like flying, no werewolf likes flying because they’re creatures of the earth, something like that.”

“Even better,” Stilinski says. “A road trip with friends is a quintessential part of growing up in America.”

“You seriously want to put me in a car for forty hours with Derek? He’ll hate me by the time we get there.”

“Stiles,” his father says, “you need this. Okay? Do this for me. Get out of this town for a couple weeks. Distract yourself with a mystery that’s not all covered in death and get - get yourself better. I’ll be fine. I promise.”

“We-e-e-e-ell . . .” Stiles sighs. “I guess it might be okay. Maybe. I don’t know.”

His father studies him for a minute before saying, “Derek Hale doesn’t seem like the type who asks for help easily. You know what I’m saying?”

“Yeah.” Stiles huffs out a breath. “Yeah, I do.”

“He’s had a pretty rough year himself.”

“Okay, Dad, I get it.” Stiles groans and dumps his plate in the sink. “But if you get so much as a hangnail, I’m coming straight home.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Cora watches quietly as Derek packs up the last of his things. He’s aware that she’s watching, but doesn’t say anything, waiting for her to speak her mind. Finally, she surprises him by saying, “Are you okay?”

He looks up at her, a bit surprised. “Yeah. Why?”

“Just . . .” Cora shifts from foot to foot, frowning slightly. “You seem to be taking this whole thing about being adopted really well. And no offense or anything, but historically, you don’t take things well.”

Derek can’t help but snort. “That’s true, I guess.” He zips up the bag and turns to face her, seeing the way her forehead has wrinkled with concern. “I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It just seems so . . . foreign. The whole idea. Mom and Dad not being my real parents, you not being my re . . . my biological sister. I can’t really . . . parse it, you know?”

“Yeah.” Cora sits down on the edge of his bed. “Hell, I remember when we were young, people always used to tell us we looked alike. Laura, too.”

“Exactly. But I guess people see what they’re looking for.” Derek sits down beside her. “Part of it’s just that . . . I don’t really know how to react yet. I have so many questions I would need answered first. Like if my parents are still alive. If they gave me up, why. Why they had my memories removed. What mom knew about it. I mean . . . whether I should be angry or upset or happy, I just . . . I don’t know. I’m just . . . I don’t know how to feel.”

“That makes sense.” Cora reaches out and wraps her hand around his forearm, giving it a squeeze. “You know, I won’t give you any platitudes like ‘I’m sure they had good reason to give you up’, but I want you to know that if you do end up angry, I will kick the shit out of whoever you want.”

Derek laughs. “Okay. Noted.”

“Also, are you insane?” Cora asks, and Derek arches an eyebrow. “What the fuck did you invite Stiles for?”

“Oh, well . . .” Derek sighs and wonders if he can beg off by saying it was just on impulse and he doesn’t want to take it back. Probably not, but he’s worried that the real explanation would just upset Cora. “It’ll be easier if he’s there.”

Cora looks skeptical. “Look, I get that he’s a good detective, and God knows I wouldn’t know where to start with this. But why does he have to be there? Why do I have to spend five days in a car with him, is really what I’m asking.”

“You could fly,” Derek tells her.

“What? Ugh, no. Answer the question.”

Derek thinks back to the elevator, thinks about waking up after what Jennifer had done to him, how afraid he had been, until he saw Stiles. Stiles, who had come back for him. Who had kept his head above water for two hours in a swimming pool. Who had given up his first lacrosse game – it was stupid but so obviously important to him – to help Derek.

He’s not sure if Stiles even realizes how much that had meant to him, that Stiles had come back to make sure he was okay, and that he got out before the police arrived. He’s smart, but so oblivious sometimes. And he can’t know what it’s been like for Derek, to be so alone and need someone he can trust so badly.

Finally, since Cora is still staring at him expectantly, he says, “Stiles has had my back. That’s why I want him to come along.”

Cora winces, immediately understanding why Derek was hesitant to tell her. “I’m sorry. I mean, I know it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t around at first, but I was a huge bitch to you when I got back, and you . . . you didn’t deserve it. I was upset about . . . a lot of things, about my life being a disaster. I took it out on you and that wasn’t fair.”

Derek pulls Cora against his shoulder. “I know. And it seems weird to say this about Stiles because he’s such a hyperactive spaz, but . . . there’s no one I’d rather have on my side. Or at my side.”

“He’s gonna talk the whole way,” Cora predicts with a sigh, “and I’m going to beat the shit out of him.”

“I’ll buy you some noise-cancelling headphones. You’ll be fine.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles is practically overflowing with nerves and anxiety when he gets into the car. Cora makes him sit in the back, which doesn’t really surprise him. He drums on his seat and snaps his fingers and asks her incessant questions about her time living in Brazil. Cora pointedly ignores him. Derek tries, but has to respond when they’re going through the Sierra Nevadas and Stiles starts perseverating on how far it is to the state line.

“Why do you care so much about when we get to Nevada?” Derek finally asks.

“Because my dad made me promise not to call him until I’d left the state,” Stiles moans. “He’s the worst. First he told me I could check on him every hour but then he sprung that on me.”

Derek sighs. “Your dad is going to be fine, Stiles.”

“You don’t know that,” Stiles snaps, and then winces. “Sorry. I just – after what happened, I just – I can’t believe he let me go on the trip. Made me go on this trip if we’re going to be honest. If something happens to him and I’m not there, I swear to God, I’m going to lose my shit.”

“If anything weird happens, I promise we’ll put you on the next plane home, okay?” Derek asks. “Now ease off the throttle a little before my sister murders you. I promise I’ll let you know the minute we’re in Nevada.”

“Okaaaaaay,” Stiles says, slumping back against the seat. He pops back up a minute later. “So, there are almost four thousand restaurants in New York City. I don’t know how many of them are Chinese but it’s got to be one of the more common ones, after pizzerias and, you know, bars and stuff. And that’s assuming it’s still open. You can’t tell me anything else about it? Just that you think it was on the water?”

Derek shakes his head. “Sorry.”

“Well, do you remember if you had to drive a long time to get there?” Stiles asks. “New York City ain’t small, you know, if it was out at the end of Long Island, it could have taken you over an hour to get there.”

“Oh.” Derek thinks back, rakes through his memory of that awful month of his life. “I don’t remember any long drives after we got into the city. It wasn’t fast to go anywhere, traffic being what it is, but I think I would remember anything over an hour, and I don’t.”

“Okay. Cool. So it was probably within the city limits, relatively speaking, and I don’t have to worry about Long Island or Bridgeport or anything.” Stiles huffs out a sigh. “But then there’s another problem. I mean, just because Laura met this guy there doesn’t mean that he’s affiliated with the restaurant in any sort of way. So we could find the restaurant and still be at square one.”

“Well, how many black cops named Luke could there be in New York City?” Derek asks.

“You’re kidding, right?” Stiles goes off into a spiel about the ethnicity of people in New York City and exactly how difficult it would be to find anybody there without a last name, let alone a black guy named Luke. He gets distracted by his own statistics and starts mumbling and tapping at his phone, until Derek interrupts to tell him that they’ve gotten to Nevada. Then he drops everything to call his father, who, predictably, is fine.

They stop for the night in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, and Derek pulls into the parking lot of a budget motel. “Aren’t you rich?” Stiles asks.

“Yes, and that’s because I don’t waste my money on stupid shit,” Derek says, and goes into the lobby to get a room.

“Just one room?” Stiles asks, practically cringing.

Derek frowns at him. “Yes. If Cora and I shift, we can share a bed, and you can have the other. Why?”

“Nothing, just, I’m gonna call my dad and check in for the night,” Stiles says. He just won’t sleep. That’s no problem. He hasn’t really slept in weeks anyway. He sets himself up with his laptop and watches in some fascination as Derek and Cora both curl up as wolves. “Just gonna stay up and do a little research, let me know if the light from the laptop bothers you.”

It doesn’t. Within ten minutes, both of the Hales are asleep. Stiles starts compiling a list of Chinese restaurants in the greater New York City area. As he’s expected, it’s extensive. It’s nothing he’s going to be able to do quickly. But at least it gives him something to do. When he gets sleepy, he takes a cold shower and drinks a Red Bull. He brought plenty of them.

It’s safe to say that he’s a walking disaster the next morning, rambling away about what he’s found. Derek watches him with a faint frown on his face, clearly worried but not sure how to express it. They get a quick breakfast and get back on the road. Wyoming is interesting enough, but once they get into Nebraska, Stiles’ eyes start to glaze over.

“What is wrong with you?” Cora snipes at him, when they stop for a fast-food dinner.

“Nothing, I’m fine, I just didn’t sleep well,” Stiles says.

“You didn’t sleep at all.” Derek is frowning again. “Why not?”

“I was busy. Lotta research to do. Four thousand restaurants, et cetera.”

Derek shakes his head. “That’s not why.”

“Maybe it’s none of your business why,” Stiles retorts. Derek studies him intensely for another minute, and Stiles feels his cheeks flush. Then Derek nods and lets it go, taking another bite of his hamburger.

It doesn’t come up again until they get a hotel room, somewhere in the midst of boring-as-fuck Nebraska. “You can’t stay up forever,” Derek says, as he dumps his bag on one of the two beds. “Would you sleep if you had your own room?”

Stiles wants to say yes, but honestly, the thought of having one of those nightmares alone is even worse than the idea of subjecting Derek and Cora to one. So he shakes his head.

“Stiles,” Derek says, and his voice is surprisingly quiet. “What is it?”

“I’ve just been – having – bad dreams,” Stiles says, trying to keep his voice even. “It’s not a big deal.”

“If you’re voluntarily not sleeping all night, that seems like a pretty big deal.”

“Yeah, just . . .” Stiles lets out a shuddering sigh. “I know I have to sleep. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He kicks off his shoes and dramatically flops onto the bed. Derek shakes his head a little and heads in to take a shower. By the time he gets out, Cora is asleep, too. Stiles seems to be sleeping peacefully, so Derek shifts and curls up next to his sister.

It’s hours later when he wakes up in complete blackness to the sound of Stiles screaming. Not small noises, either, but full-throated screams of terror. He’s out of bed and back in his human form before he’s fully processed what woke him, and grabs Stiles just before he can flail off the bed.

“What the shit,” Cora blurts out, as she manages to get the bedside lamp on. Derek looks down and feels his heart leap into his mouth when he sees Stiles’ face, sees the way his eyes are wide open but blank, the expression of panic and agony on his face.

“Stiles, Stiles!” he shouts, getting his arm across Stiles’ chest and pulling him into an embrace. He claps the other hand over Stiles’ mouth, afraid that someone’s going to call the police. Stiles continues to thrash around, but Derek keeps talking to him, low and soothing. “You’re all right, it was just a dream, I’ve got you, you’re all right . . .”

Gradually, Stiles’ attempts to shout against Derek’s hand taper off. He grabs Derek’s wrist and pulls it away from his mouth enough to pull desperately for air. “Can’t breathe,” he gasps, and so Derek pulls his hand the rest of the way away. Stiles slumps against him, panting and shaking. Derek rubs his back and rocks him back and forth. Finally, Stiles gives one last shudder and relaxes. “Okay, so. I did warn you. I’m just.” He chokes back tears. “I’m just saying.”

“You’re okay,” Derek says, smoothing his hair back from his face as Stiles curls tighter. “I’ve got you.”

Stiles nods and swallows a few more sobs. Derek just continues to hold him.

“Are they always like that?” Cora finally asks, sitting down next to them on the edge of the bed.

“Y-Yeah.” Stiles knuckles a few tears away from his eyes. “Sometimes worse, even. Dad’s usually – he says sometimes it takes an hour for him to calm me down afterwards. I don’t always remember it really well later.”

“Jesus,” Derek says. “What are you even dreaming about?”

“It’s – hard to explain. It’s like I’m being torn apart. Pulled in every direction. It hurts – ” Stiles chokes out. “Or other times it’s like an out-of-body experience, where I’m watching all these horrible things happen, and can’t do anything to stop them. Sometimes I’m the one doing the horrible things, and I’m begging myself to stop but I can’t control my body.”

Derek gives a little shudder. “Since the thing with your dad, huh?”

“Since the Nemeton. Deaton did warn us.” Stiles lets out another breath, calming down a little. “That we’d be fighting the darkness for the rest of our lives. Allison’s having bad dreams, too. Scott isn’t, but instead he sees things when he’s awake. We can’t just – I sort of hoped if I got away from the Nemeton, it would get better. So did my dad. That’s part of why he really wanted me to come with you guys. But I guess it isn’t. And, you know, it was worth it, saving my dad was so worth it, but at the same time – imagining the rest of my life with this is like – I try to do it and just come up against a wall of screaming denial. I don’t know how much longer I can live with this and it’s only been two weeks.”

“We’ll figure something out,” Derek says. Stiles just shakes his head a little. “Hey.” Derek takes him by the chin. “You’re Stiles fucking Stilinski. You’re going to find one black cop named Luke in New York City, and you’re going to get through this. Okay? You got that, you dipshit?”

Stiles tries to smile and ends up crying a little more. “Okay,” he says. “Sorry that, you know. You have to . . . put up with this.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s worth having you along,” Derek says, and when he sees Stiles flush pink, he flushes pink, and turns away.

“Yeah, it’s no big deal,” Cora says. “You’re nothing compared to a tribe of black howler monkeys.”

Stiles gives her a narrow-eyed look.

“You can hear those bastards up to two fucking miles away,” she tells him, and all three of them end up laughing.

 

~ ~ ~ ~