”You'll know,” his mother said when Cora one night asked about mates. She was inquisitive in that way five-year-olds usually are despite being almost eleven, and had gone through their books about the supernatural at an almost alarming speed. ”You'll look at him or her and you'll just... know they're the one.”
”Like dad is yours?”
”Mate is a really old word for it, but yes,” his father butted in. His mother ran a hand through his hair while he wrapped an arm around her waist, thumb casually stroking her side.
”I've always thought soulmate is a better word,” she agreed and smiled at him.
Derek remembers the fondness in her voice, always present when she spoke of his father. She was a born leader, his mom, just like his dad was born for the silent patience his carpentry required, the calm to her usually so intense presence, and it showed every time she spoke of him, even if he was in the room with her. She brought out the best in him, too, brought out his childish side and sometimes even made Derek's bearded, slightly rugged father giggle by tickling him or starting food fights at the breakfast table. Even if life was quite chaotic in such a big family where half of the kids were werewolves, she made sure each and every one of them felt loved. Even Derek, who spent most of his time in the basement with his father, helping him build furniture.
Then Kate swept into his life, like a hurricane of flowery scent, all pet names and heavy lust and her voice just as smoky as the charred remains of his life that she left behind her. He thought she was it, the way she made his normally so steady heart nearly beat out of his chest, and when she ripped it out and stomped on it he couldn't find it in him to fix it.
So he gave up. Or, simply doesn't bother to hope might be a more appropriate way to put it. Everyone he has ever loved has died and while he's surrounded by annoying teens and their even more annoying problems, none of them really care about him, but he can't leave them to fend for themselves, not when he's already caused so much death. Jackson leaves, Scott whines, Isaac slowly slides over to his side, Boyd runs away with Erica who dies. He doesn't go to her funeral, doesn't feel like he deserves to, but he visits her grave later the same night. She reminded him of Laura, little quirks and the way both of them carried themselves with pride and grace despite all the things life had put them through. Somehow it doesn't surprise him that Erica's grave is covered in purple and white dahlias, just like the ones Laura used to bring home from the flower shop she'd worked in in New York.
Derek leaves a single light pink wild rose by her gravestone, because it's the best flower he can think of. It stands out a little amongst the dahlias, but it just makes it all the more fitting.
He fights alpha packs and uncles and geriatrics-turned-zombies, reluctantly teamed up with Stiles who turns out to be magic in the same way his older brother had been, and when it all calms down he gets a one bedroom apartment, dumps all his boxes in the walk-in closet, sits down on his bed and exhales for the first time in over seven years. For the first time since he left New York he's faced with silence, silence and the loneliness of being the last of his kind. It's deafening in a way noisy New York never was, and Derek gets Laura's old speakers out of the boxes, puts them up in the bedroom and keeps the music on to at least keep the silence at bay, then buries himself under all the blankets he can find.
He expects the nightmares when they begin. The jumpiness and the pangs of nausea that hit him when old Mrs Jenkins across the hall uses that perfume, the only scent he dreams nightmares of. The first time she walks up the hall and he smells her he has to remind himself for days that Kate's long gone, has been for almost two years. It's not often it happens anymore, with the way he sometimes doesn't leave the apartment for days on end. Mostly he just lies in bed, weighed down with the absolute numbness that sometimes turns into such crippling grief that he can't even cry. For all that Scott accuses him for being built up out of anger, even the rage is seeping away from him, leaving him tired and drained on the bed in his nearly bare bedroom and the world could fall apart for all he cares.
It doesn't really feel like any of it is worth saving, anyway.
About three weeks into Derek's hibernation there is a knock on the door. He hasn't showered in days and the apartment looks worse than the train station did, but something pulls him to the hallway. The knocking is persistent but not demanding and he doesn't need to open to know who it is. 36 of the 43 ignored texts on his phone is from Stiles and he knows he'd call if it was life or death, so he's not quite sure as to why he finds himself in the hall.
Derek sighs and quietly slumps down against the wall by the door. The mail slot creaks as Stiles pushes at it, fingertips sticking into the apartment and voice a lot clearer.
”Come on, I know you're home.”
”What do you want, Stiles?”
”To know you're alive, for starters.”
”Well, I'm answering, aren't I?”
”I just...” Stiles sighs and Derek hears him lean his forehead against the door. ”Isaac's staying in our guest room, he's alright, you don't need to worry about him, okay? We've fixed a temporary treaty with Chris Argent and there was a hiccup with a witch but we're sorting it out.”
Derek hums. He hasn't thought much about the teens, not as much as he probably should've, but it all seemed too big, too unfixable. It's nice though, to know that nobody would demand he'd fix problems he couldn't even begin to care about when doing the dishes seems too big a task.
”So, do you need anything?”
”No,” Derek gets up to go to the toilet before he crawls back into his bed for another sleepless night, silently hoping the sheets haven't cooled off since Stiles' damn knocking brought him out of it.
”Seriously, I can hear your stomach growling through the door, when was the last time you ate?” Stiles persists, still through the mail slot.
”Go home, Stiles,” Derek sighs and closes the toilet door behind him.
He wakes up to yet another text message.
If I come by with food and promise not to be annoying or talk too much, will you let me in?
Derek stares at his phone, wondering why Stiles is so adamant about feeding him.
I don't have any cash in the apartment. He answers, because it's true. He's not even sure where his credit card is.
Dude, don't worry about it, comes the answer. Derek takes a moment to question the remains of his sanity, sends an okay to Stiles and forces himself to at least take a shower.
Stiles makes his way into Derek's kitchen an hour later and unloads groceries, cleans quite frankly disgusting pots and pans and while Derek watches like a hawk from the doorway.
”You can go watch TV or something, I'll fix this,” he says and furiously scrubs week old food stains from plates as if he belongs in Derek's apartment. As if he isn't the first one to enter Derek's little bubble, not even flinching at the dust and dirty laundry strewn all over the place. He even brought a towel to wipe the plates with. Derek doesn't even know how Stiles found him in the first place, but he has a hunch it might involve Danny. Something distantly tells him that this should annoy the everloving fuck out of him, but he can't even scrape together enough energy to sigh.
”Don't have one.” He shrugs and looks down at his torn sweatpants. It's quite telling how the only luxury he's allowed himself to have is a fast getaway car.
”Well, in that case.” Stiles wipes his hands quickly and hands a backpack to Derek. ”Here. My laptop. Find us a movie or something to watch. Chilli good?”
Derek shrugs again, but Stiles nods and somehow they end up watching Family Guy on Stiles' laptop, sitting on the spare mattress in the living room while eating. It's the first warm meal Derek has had in days and it tastes so good he can't stop himself before he's nearly cleaned the whole pot and how did he not notice how hungry he's been?
”Sorry,” he mumbles later when Stiles lifts the lid to find just about one portion left. Stiles' heart does a weird, drawn out whoomp and he pauses before moving the pot into the near empty fridge. He kind of wishes Stiles would turn around so he'd be easier to read, instead of trying to interpret the tension in his back as he rinses their plates. When he finally does turn around he doesn't look disappointed, like Derek expected him to, but Stiles is smiling. Small and unsure, but it's there.
”I cooked because food is a thing you need, so don't apologize for eating.” There's something more to it, but Derek is much too tired to analyse everything Stiles does. Stiles' whole existence is built out of doing things. Constantly. In abundance. ”Go take a powernap or something, you look like you're about to fall asleep where you stand.” He almost says something about the nightmares, about how he doesn't sleep anymore, but his stomach is full of food and it makes him want to curl up under a blanket anyway, so he does.
Derek falls asleep to the sound of Stiles putting things into his fridge and shuffling around things in the freezer. When he wakes up almost fourteen hours later Stiles is gone, a little note on the kitchen table telling him to text if he needs anything. Derek writes it off as a one time thing and doesn't check what Stiles put into his freezer until what's in the fridge is gone two days later.
It's full of food, food for at least a week, maybe two with how little he eats nowadays, home-made food like casseroles and soups, things Derek hasn't eaten in nearly seven years. If he breaks down over a bowl of chicken soup almost identical to the one his mother used to make, nobody has to know.
He definitely does not expect Stiles to continue coming around. He does Derek's shopping and makes sure the bills are paid when he can no longer get out of bed, when the world beyond the bathroom and occasionally the kitchen is too far out of Derek's comfort zone. When Derek refuses to come out of his room Stiles simply sits down in the living room and does his homework until Derek ventures his way out of his little bubble. The boy smiles softly, but is blessedly silent, and picks a movie for them to watch.
Stiles stays over, too, after their movie nights. He passes out on the giant sofa he somehow wrestled into Derek's apartment by himself, snoring softly. Sometimes Derek shifts fully just to keep Stiles from seeing him this vulnerable, but Stiles never seems to mind the giant wolf hogging his foot space on the sofa. He talks to him, tells him facts and complete bullshit stories, never about what the others are up to, but historic people and anecdotes and weird things his father has seen as a member of the police department. Stiles lines the apartment with mountain ash just in case and brings a flat screen TV (Derek still has no idea where he found it) so they can spend their days going through the IMDB top 250. He still doesn't go outside, but it's routine and it's good, so Stiles keeps talking to him, even if Derek doesn't shift back for days on end. He just traps his cold toes between Derek's furry, warm belly and the sofa cushions and that's that.
Sometimes Derek gets afraid he'll end up losing everything that's human about him, but then Stiles says something like ”I never actually lost any of my first baby teeth, I just kept falling on my face and they just kept falling out,” out of the blue as if they were talking about teeth to begin with and the mix between fondness and disbelief bubbling under the surface is so human that Derek barely can keep himself from shifting back.
When Stiles shows up at the full moon, Derek protests for the first time.
”Why not?” says Stiles, re-stocking Derek's fridge like it's something he does on a daily basis. Which, well... actually. Semi-daily basis. Weekly, at least.
”Stiles.” Derek sighs. The full moon is six hours away and he's starting to feel that familiar tug in his bones, but it's the first time since his anger fully slipped into sorrow that he'll have to refrain from becoming... well, a lunatic. A lunatic with a loose anchor.
”No, really? How come?”
”My anchor isn't as stable as it used to be,” he admits with annoyance and slides down until he's sitting on the kitchen floor, leaning against the cabinet. Derek watches as Stiles closes the fridge and slides down opposite of him, seated by his feet.
”Something like that, yeah.”
”I'm guessing that wasn't your first anchor?”
”Oh God,” Derek sighs and runs a hand through his hair.
”You don't have to tell me,” Stiles says calmly.
”No, it's fine, it's just... Bunnies.” Derek snorts out a laugh despite himself at the look on Stiles' face.
”For born werewolves, being dangerous kind of kicks in with puberty. New muscles, more hormones.”
”And I thought puberty kicked my ass.” Stiles snickers. Since Derek got to know him he's grown even more, more used to his limbs and grown into his skin. He came back from spring break an inch taller than Derek and Derek had to go into alpha mode (Stiles' words, not his) to stop Isaac and Scott from picking on him.
”Laura was the oldest of us. She had a bunny, this old thing called Hazel, but she loved it and cared for it every day for almost ten years. Sometimes she'd get fed up with the rest of us and go sit with her for hours. And then one day Laura got angry over something and couldn't control the shift. She tore Hazel to shreds. Mom found her covered in blood and little bits of fur, screaming.”
Stiles looks shocked, but says nothing, so Derek continues.
”I understood that being an apex predator means you have to be careful. Then after the fire I was too shocked to even shift and we had to keep moving, so I didn't really need one. After that I just didn't want to ki-” He bites back, closes his eyes. Tries again. ”I didn't want more death. Didn't want anybody else to feel how I felt. I was so angry at myself and everything else it ended up becoming my anchor.”
”The five stages of grief,” Stiles nods and sighs. They've both seen it, been through it. Heard them repeated by therapist after therapist. Stiles doesn't say anything, but they both know which one Derek's slipped into by now.
”You know, they have one thing in common.”
”The grief stages?”
”Your anchors. You don't want to hurt anybody.”
”I've hurt people before,” he argues, but it sounds weak even to Derek. Stiles looks at him, really looks at him, and it's a look so fond Derek has to look somewhere else.
”But you've never wanted to,” he says and pats Derek's ankle softly.
Everything feels a little too big, too intense for Derek to handle, so when Stiles gets up he does the same and moves to the sofa, leaving Stiles in the kitchen.
There is not one note of fear in his scent as he cooks them steaks for dinner in Derek's kitchen (How he knows how Derek likes his, he may never find out), and that gives Derek just enough incentive to not shift and run like a feral animal.
It feels a bit like the fear of disappointing someone and their hopes for him, a feeling Derek hasn't felt since Laura started poking around in the ashes of their past lives, but it's more than he has time and energy to analyse and does what he does best nowadays- ignores it and buries himself deeper into the sofa cushions. Stiles is making him watch Nosferatu, the first of tonight's black and white movies, and his running commentary is enough to keep Derek distracted. By the time the moon is at its fullest Marlon Brando is crying for Kim Hunter to come down and Derek feels a little more grounded than he has in a long time. He falls asleep not long after Stiles switches to BBC, wondering if Stiles might want a QI box set for his birthday.
He wakes up at dusk, still on the sofa and wrapped in a duvet that smells like Stiles. The boy in question is snoring softly on the other half of the sofa, covered in a blanket but his feet under the duvet, wedged in under Derek's ankles. Derek flips the pillow, drags the duvet over his head, inhales deeply and falls back to sleep.
On the table in front of Derek lands a big, green box. No bow, no note, nothing.
”What's this?” Derek pokes at it where it sits by his lunch. Stiles sits down opposite of him and grins, setting the lid aside. A moss green blanket sits on top of whatever is inside, covering it completely. He looks so happy with himself that Derek barely holds back a snort.
”This,” he says, running a hand over the blanket, “is a comfort box.”
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Derek's first panic attack hits him in the kitchen. He gets a letter from the insurance company about the money he's inherited from the family he used to have and he can't breathe. At first he thinks he's losing control of the shift, wolfing out in the kitchen, but everything feels distant instead of crispy clear and it feels like someone's poured liquid nitrogen down his throat, leaving him shivering and gasping for air on the floor. He’s shaking like a leaf, worse than he did after being nearly getting killed by Peter.
Maybe he’s dying? What if he’s fended off alpha packs and every other preternatural disaster, to die alone on his kitchen floor, like this?
It feels like hours but it may just be minutes before Stiles is there, reaching for him. Derek wants to tell him to run, to get away from him in case he loses control, but Stiles wraps his fingers around Derek's fully human hands brings them to Derek's heaving sides, talking him through the worst of it, helps him see he's not suffocating. It should make him feel indignant, being mollycoddled like he's some damn damsel in distress, but it doesn’t. He lets his head fall forward, resting it against Stiles’ shoulder as he focuses on taking big, and slow breaths and not tiny gulps of air.
”Come on,” Stiles says when the worst has passed and helps him stand up, wrapping an arm around his waist to keep him steady. Derek makes a noise that sounds pathetic even to himself when his legs won’t cooperate. ”I know, it sucks, but it'll be worth it when you get to lie down”, Stiles says and pulls him a little closer, holding him up.
He's never been so tired to the bone before in his life, too tired to explain the weariness, but Stiles seems to get it, just like he seems to get that Derek needs this, this hibernation of sorts that he's in. Needs to let his guard down, needs to process everything, needs time that kanimas and undead uncles never let him have. So Stiles makes sure Derek sees him draw fat lines of ash to protect the two of them, shuts the door like Derek wants him to, places himself between Derek and the door and keeps him company all night, talking to him just like he did the times it got too much and Derek shifted. When Derek finally falls asleep it’s dreamless and heavy.
The next day Stiles goes to do the shopping and comes back with much more than just a bag of groceries. On the table in front of Derek lands a big, green box. No bow, no note, nothing.
”What's this?” Derek pokes at it where it sits by his lunch. Stiles sits down opposite of him and grins, setting the lid aside. A moss green blanket sits on top of whatever is inside, covering it completely. He looks so happy with himself that Derek barely holds back a snort.
”This,” he says, running a hand over the blanket, “is a comfort box.”
”Dad sent me to this therapist when my panic attacks got completely out of hand, after mom? The best thing she gave me was a comfort box. She put a blanket in there, some ear plugs, a scent candle, a really crappy comedy and a gift certificate to a book store. She told me to remove or add things as I wanted, as long as it contained things that made me calm and happy. Whenever I felt too on edge or just had a bad day, I'd pull it out from under the bed, wrap myself up in the blanket and have at it.” He moves the blanket out of the way, revealing a bag of Reese’s Pieces, a water bottle and a picture of puppies so cute even Derek barely contains a squeak. There's even a Little Miss Sunshine DVD in there. Derek picks out a little jar with something pink floating around in it.
”That’s pickled ginger. Ginger is good against nausea and panic attacks, actually. Scott loves it so I know it’s werewolf safe,” Stiles smiles. “And I bought you this.” He pulls a pint of Phish Food out of the bag. ”Gotta put it in the freezer, though. Obviously.”
”How did you know that's my favourite?” Derek isn't certain if he's asking about the movie, because there is no way Stiles could have known that Olive reminds him of Cora. The ice cream he might know, but what are the odds that he'd get both right?
”My mother used to tell me to listen twice as much as I talked.”
”That can't be physically possible,” Derek sighs, unable to keep the amused tone out. ”You do remember that I can still hear your heartbeat?” There's no heat to the accusation and Stiles must hear it because he just smiles.
”Yeah, I know. I texted Isaac, told me you'd stolen his once.” Stiles stands up to put away the ice cream. ”Mom did tell me that, by the way, so it wasn't a complete lie.” Somehow the sight of him putting groceries into Derek's fridge has squeezed itself into Derek's routine, replacing the constant fleeing and fighting for his life with movie nights and Law and Order marathons, and now this. He gets up to put the box away in his bedroom, brushing up against Stiles in the narrow kitchen. When Derek halts they are squeezed in between the fridge and the counter, Derek's chest against Stiles' back. It makes him think of chlorine and Stiles keeping them both afloat, and he supposes that's what Stiles is doing now, too. He glances over his shoulder at Derek questioningly.
”Thank you,” Derek says, holding his gaze for the first time since the full moon. There is a moment of silence and Stiles leans back a little; just enough for it to feel more like a press than an accident. An armless, backwards squeeze.
It’s the first warm, steady physical contact he’s had in a long time that hasn’t been tinged with fear or uneasiness. No matter how much he tells himself he's becoming delusional, the warm pressure of Stiles' back stays with him for the rest of the day, even when Stiles goes home to his father.
Like clockwork, Stiles is back three days later, right after dinner. Derek hears him unlock the door and make his way into the kitchen, but Derek's barely slept in days and the bed is warm, so he stays in the bedroom, aiming for at least a little rest.
”Oh my God,” he hears Stiles complain from the kitchen where he's supposed to do his homework for once, the deal being snacks and a movie when he's done. ”What is that?” He doesn't sound alarmed, just disgusted.
”What is what?” Pulling his sweatpants on, Derek makes his way towards the bedroom door to see what the fuss is about.
”That smell. I think mrs Jenkins dropped her bag and killed a perfume bottle in the hallway.”
It's like walking into a sauna.
The way the air clogs up when the perfume hits his nose, thick and fucking everywhere. Kate wore it when he met her, she wore it when they fucked the first time and she wore it when she shackled him in the basement his family died in. He knew she was responsible because it lingered despite the stench of cinders and burnt flesh and family- and now his whole safe haven stinks of it. It's instinctive, the way his head whips forward and his body curls in on itself as the image of Kate standing above him with a stun baton flashes through his head.
”Shit,” he gasps and his knees give out, sending him thumping to the floor.
”Derek?!” Stiles shoots around the corner into the bedroom where Derek is lying by the bed, trying to breathe and he just can't. The words coming out of his mouth are garbled and he has no idea what he's saying, if they're even words at all. Stiles looks absolutely horrified when he kneels down, not calm like the first time in the kitchen at all.
”Is it some sort of wolfsbane?” Derek shakes his head.
”Ca-can't, the smell,” he tries, but just gets dizzier, the liquid nitrogen is back in his stomach, everything's fuzzy around the edges and he feels like throwing up. Stiles shuts the door then pushes at him, holds him up by his shoulders, hands steady and warm.
”Okay, okay. Look, Derek, did you see I put up the picture of the puppies by the door? Right there?” He says and points over his shoulder to the little frame by the door.
”Yeah, wha-?” wheezes Derek when Stiles moves him just enough to lean him against the bed and sits down next to him.
”And the frame colour matches the carpet in here, see? Here.” Stiles takes a gentle hold of his hand and brings it to the floor and glides their hands over the carpet. ”Feel that?” It's a little rough against his palms, friction warm against his cold fingers. He grunts an affirmative, closes his eyes and tries to breathe despite the pressure over his ribs.
”What else do you feel?” Kate's tongue on his stomach nails gliding along his sides, no no no.
Cool, solid wood supporting his back.
”Bed frame. Fuck,” swears Derek and closes his eyes, doing his best to breathe through his mouth and will the twitching in his neck away, but the instinct to get away is still there, his subconscious screaming at him to keep his chin down, to protect his neck, to crawl away. The perfume feels thick like molasses in the air, suffocating and everywhere. Strong, stable hands guide him when he nearly claws his way into the unmade bed, desperately wanting to lie down. Thank God he'd been smart enough to buy a low bed. He curls up on his side, still shaking like a leaf.
”I'm here, I'm here,” comes the answer, soft and calm again. Stiles pulls him further up the bed, quick and efficient, and Derek has never been so thankful for a pillow in his entire life. When he stills, Stiles sits down by his hip, watches without staring as Derek tries to hold back tears from the sheer relief of lying down. He thinks Stiles might be holding his hand, but it’s like his arms and legs have fallen asleep. He can't feel his hands.
”What do you hear?” asks Stiles when Derek's settled in a little.
”Mrs Jenkins yelling at her husband. Your heartbeat.”
”And if you push the perfume aside, what do you smell?” Laundry detergent, worn leather, old books. Green apples. Worry and affection. Something else, something too complex to figure out, weaved into the fabric of it all.
”You, I can smell you.”
”Good thing or bad thing?”
”G-good,” he manages to choke out.
”Should I stay like this or do you want me to back off?”
”Closer,” he admits, his face burning up from exhaustion and embarrassment. ”Perfume smells too much.” Without hesitation, Stiles lies down by his side.
”Like this?” He asks and motions for Derek to move closer, gently wrapping his arm around Derek's shoulder when he curls up against Stiles' side. ”Come on,” he says. ”It's okay, I get it. It's okay,” and lets Derek cling against him, from their feet all the way up to where Stiles' cheek rests against the top of Derek's head. Stiles’ arms wrap around him, not too tight, but snug enough to keep his mind from floating back to the hyperventilation and the impulse to run. The weight of the duvet over his back helps a little, too. With his face buried between the pillow and Stiles' neck the perfume is barely even noticeable, and it's not long until the worst of his panic subsides, leaving him cold and feeling like a wrung out rag, but the feeling is coming back to his limbs and the perfume is starting to clear out of the apartment. There’s a scent to Stiles though that wasn’t there before, so salty he can almost taste it this up close.
“Sorry,” Derek whispers, his throat feeling like he’s swallowed glass.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for.”
“You smell like you’re about to cry.”
“I just…” Stiles sighs and pulls Derek closer. “I wish I could make it easier on you. You really don’t deserve any of this.”
Part of Derek wants to argue, wants to remind Stiles of the mistakes he’s made and the consequences they’ve caused, but he opens his mouth and what comes out instead is a sob so loud it startles both of them. From the outside looking in, the way he’s shaking and the tension in his back probably looks even worse than the panic attack, but he’s sick and tired and exhausted and so overwhelmingly, indescribably relieved because Stiles doesn’t think Derek is the monster both the Argents and, in time, he himself has made him out to be and he just cannot stop crying.
“Of course you’re not a monster,” Stiles sounds as broken as Derek feels. “Jesus Christ.” His nose is clogged up, not that he can take deep breaths anyway, so he can't smell anything, but he can hear the wavering in Stiles' voice, knows he's tearing up, too. Stiles lets him cry until he can't anymore, then gets them both tissues and a glass of water for Derek. He even takes Derek's socks off and when he's too tired to sit up. The pants he kicks off himself. There is a line for how much humiliation he can take in one night.
“Sorry,” Derek says and tries to wipe Stiles' shirt when he slides into the bed again.
“Honestly, it's okay.”
“I meant... There's snot on your shoulder,” he admits and feels his entire face go red.
“How 'bout we watch Toy Story 3 tomorrow and I can retaliate by crying on your shoulder, huh? We can get take out, make it an evening.”
“Yeah, okay,” Derek huffs and settles down, not on top of Stiles, but still tangled up in both his arms and legs. “Okay.”
They pass out, both exhausted, and Derek dreams of Stiles, powerful and glowing with the magic running through him, chasing Kate away from the ruins of his old house. When he startles awake for the first time he swears he can smell faint traces of lightning on Stiles' skin.
Derek is surprised to find that Stiles is still there when he wakes up in the morning, stretched out next to him on top of the covers, legs warm against Derek’s through the layers of fabric between them. He’s already dressed and reading, sipping on a thermos mug of coffee. The door to the living room is open and the whole apartment smells like outside air and eggs and bacon, making Derek’s stomach growl.
“What time is it?” he asks and lifts his head from where his face is smashed into the pillow.
“Just after seven. I have to go soon.”
"Thanks. For last night, I mean." Stiles stops reading to look at him.
"Any time. Panic attacks suck, I know."
He pushes himself up a bit to look at the book. “Into the Wild?”
“Yeah, I borrowed one of yours, I need to go to the library again.”
“That was my dad’s, actually.” Derek admits and sits up. It had been his favourite, a permanent fixture in the glove compartment of the Camaro.
“Oh, dude, sorry, d’you want me to put it back?”
“No, it’s okay. It’s a good book. He wanted to try it out sometime, go live in the woods like that. He lived close to the woods his entire life. Probably would have if he'd been human, too.”
“He came back after a few days. Not much of a sport for a werewolf,” Derek smiles.
“Can’t you guys hunt bear or something for dinner then, if rodents and deer are too basic for you?”
“I told you not to read Twilight.” He flops down into the pillow again. "There are no vampires."
“Hey, you got the reference. Me pot, you kettle.” He puts the book down gently and starts making his way out of bed. “I gotta go. Text or call if there's anything you need?”
Derek nods deeper into the pillow. “Chinese for dinner?”
“You got it, buddy.” Derek can hear him trip as he pulls his shoes on while Derek himself tries to find his pants. "There's breakfast on the counter!" He yells and runs out the door, already running late.
The living room has become Stiles' closet over the weeks. Part of Derek wants to offer him one of the empty closets in his room, but the second toothbrush in the bathroom and the pure thrill of satisfaction running through him at the sight of it had been hard enough to keep at bay. It’s rare for him to feel the edges in his mind where man becomes wolf, hasn’t really happened since the fire mostly because ignoring any instinct could mean death, but if they could physically separate from eachother now it would most likely make a den out of Stiles’ clothes and blankets and never come out.
He can’t let it take over, which is exactly why he stays unshifted as much as possible whenever Stiles is around.
Derek doesn't get to keep things, no matter how much he might want to, and there's nothing indicating that this, whatever this is, will be an exception. Stiles is here for the time being, no use planning further ahead than that. He learned that a long time ago.
He grabs the shirt off of the sofa and sneaks it into the comfort box, safely hidden under the blanket. He should probably feel at least a little bit ashamed of what he's doing, but Stiles would never go through the box without Derek's permission and nobody else even knows it exists, so he tries not to. It's soft against his face, worn cotton that he's pretty sure Stiles has had since they met. It smells like coffee and the leather seats of the Jeep, chocolate and something else Derek can’t quite place. Mostly it smells like Stiles. Stiles and Derek’s soap, which should definitely not feel as pleasing as it does.
Stiles moves his pillow from the sofa to Derek's bed the same night. It should feel like a huge step, should be fucking terrifying to share his bed with someone for the first time in his life, but Stiles sets up camp on what has become his side, occupying the nightstand with (Derek’s) books and notes and the occasional crossword. From time to time, if he's is reading something especially good and Derek can’t sleep, Stiles will read to him. It starts with Stiles finding Derek hiding under the damn bed, shifted and whimpering, so Stiles takes a book out of his bag, leans back against the frame and starts reading out loud. Sometimes it takes a few pages until Derek shifts and ventures back out, sometimes it takes several chapters, but Stiles always reads until he's ready to come out.
On those nights Derek stays awake until he nearly passes out, listening to Stiles breathing and mumbling in his sleep, and wonders how he somehow snuck into Derek’s quite impressive personal bubble and decided it was a cozy place to stay when not even Derek himself wants to be there.
Stiles offers no answers, just drools on him instead.
I am slow on the updates but this was supposed to be a short oneshot and has now passed 15 k and I didn't even notice. Damn.
I laff'd at myself when I found out that the thing about Twilight and bears actually could have been canon- Hoechlin was offered to play Emmett but turned it down to play baseball.
A Saturday a few weeks later, Derek wakes up way past noon to the sound of Stiles snoring in his ear, the warmth of his body pressed against Derek's, from heel to where his face smushed against the triskele. They spent the evening watching movies and eating candy, sending Stiles into some sort of sugar mania Derek's never seen the likes of before (“Seriously Stiles, you are not turning the train station into a batcave, stop googling for blueprints and put the movie back on again.“) and then passed out cold somewhere around Batman Forever. Derek actually had to carry him to bed.
He carefully slips out and sits up, huffing out a fond chuckle when he feels the patch of dried drool between his shoulder blades as he stretches his arms, then shifts to push himself off of the bed.
“Where you goin’? Don' leave muh.” Stiles' hand flops onto his, clumsy fingers wrapping around his. He looks over his shoulder at Stiles who is so tired he can't even open his eyes, one side of his hair flat and the other looking like he's been electrocuted. Nobody ever gets to see him like this. Nobody but Derek.
Derek has never ever in his entire miserable fucking life wanted to kiss someone as bad as he does right now. Ever. It would be so easy to just lean down to Stiles' sleepy frown, lean in and-
He catches himself halfway down, reminding himself that Stiles like this is better than no Stiles at all, and his straightens up with supernatural speed.
“Hungry,” he answers with a stiff mumble. “Coffee?”
“Nah, wanna sleeeeeeeep,” Stiles whines and twists until he’s face down in the pillow, inhaling deeply where Derek’s head just was. Derek allows himself to run a hand down Stiles' warm, bare back then pulls the comforter up over his shoulders, smiling to himself when Stiles hums and promptly falls back asleep.
Stiles is usually up before Derek, frying bacon and eggs or sometimes baking strawberry and blueberry muffins if it's a weekend. Laura would talk long and often about how great both berries were while she studied to become a dietician, about fighting both cancer and dementia, and it doesn't take Derek long to figure out that he's not the first person Stiles has made them for. But it makes Stiles happy, and they taste good, so Derek never objects.
It's not the muffins that are slowly but surely pulling him towards the surface and they both know it, but Derek also knows just how helpless Stiles felt against his mother's illness, that nothing he tried helped. If Derek can allow him to rewrite history a little by eating them and fighting to get better, he will. He owes Stiles that much.
He owes Stiles so much.
Derek has no idea how to repay him, how to make it all up to him. Stiles has done so much and expected so little in return that it has officially passed repaying him in small favours, flown by Forever in Debt and into Comic Con-tickets territory. He's not even sure how long Stiles has been staying with him, but he's pretty sure it's well past three months. A few days ago they ventured out on the balcony, sat a blanket on the warm concrete floor and ate dinner in the sunlight while discussing Stiles' book review (“I am not going to imprint on Scott's future child, Stiles, stop reading those damn books!”). Stiles called it a picnic, Derek called Stiles a dork, Stiles retaliated with 'I know you are, but what am I' and Derek just stared at him until Stiles said something else about Twilight and they got back to arguing again.
The panic attacks are fewer and far between. He’s eating better, meaning he actually eats (Stiles looked so sad when Derek wore his t-shirt without it being too tight), and the full moons aren’t as difficult anymore. The urge to go out, to stretch and shift and run is coming back bit by bit, pulling at him and whispering for him, but he still feels.. too tired. Not well rested enough. Not yet. But he knows where he was just months ago and he knows it started turning when Stiles bribed his way into the apartment.
He should look into the Comic Con thing, anyway, Stiles would probably love to take Scott with him for a summer road trip.
Somewhere between making himself tea, huffing at Stiles’ magnetic poetry ode to peanut butter and noticing they're out of milk he discards every idea he comes up with. It either seems so small in comparison or much too big.
Stiles loves his Jeep and Derek knows it belonged to his mother, so helping him get a new car is out of the question. He has been looking up how much an iPad would cost, but it seems so... Cheap, somehow. Too materialistic.
Maybe he should buy him a library? A small one? It's not like he can't afford it. Stiles already has worked up quite the collection of books in the living room. He could get some wood, make something for him and fill it with the books from the To Read list on the fridge, maybe add some of his own favourites that Stiles might like.
Derek considers letting Stiles read the Hale bestiary for about five seconds, but the idea of someone seeing how much family history that is embedded in it makes him uneasy, how exposed it would make him and the memory of his family. Traditions, rites, dates and people and linage. The story of how each alpha came to power, the betas and the humans and all they accomplished.
He doesn't discard it, but postpones it. It's bound to happen eventually.
He's shuffling through the frozen lunches, trying to locate the muffins when he sees it. The ice cream.
It's a start, isn't it?
Derek showers on record time, scoffs at the rubber duck Stiles has drawn fangs and sideburns on that's watching him from the soap tray, shaves off his lumberjack beard (Stiles’ words, not his) and pulls on a pair of jeans for once, not just his torn sweatpants. It feels a bit like shifting, feels just as good as cracking his neck after too many nights on the sofa. He pulls on a Henley, Stiles has been wearing it but Derek vaguely remembers buying it so he has no idea whose it is.
He's been as quiet as possible, but it's nearly twelve hours since they went to bed and he's looking for his wallet when he hears Stiles wake up again. When he comes out of the bedroom, sleepy and wrapped in the green blanket, he finds Derek just standing in the hallway with the keys to the Toyota in his hand. Derek feels a bit like a deer caught in headlights, so he shrugs and tries to put on the mask he so easily slipped on just a few months ago.
Just like his old clothes, it doesn't quite fit like it used to. Stiles' face falls and damnit, Derek should have known that was the wrong thing to do. Really.
”What's wrong? Are you leaving?” asks Stiles, brows furrowed and looking just as terrified as he did after the perfume bottle.
Derek would kick his own ass if he could.
Stiles shouldn't look sad or worried, that's the opposite of what Derek wants. It's as if he can physically feel his mask crumble and fall away when a hand lands on his upper arm, tentative and unsure.
”I.. I was going to buy you some ice cream.” He looks up at Stiles who's still standing there, looking a little confused. ”I wanted to thank you but I didn't.. I couldn't.. It was stupid, nevermind,” he mumbles awkwardly and moves to hang the keys back up again.
“No, come here.” Stiles shakes his head and spreads his arms like he's getting ready to fly off, the blanket hanging off of him like wings. He's wearing Derek's torn pyjama pants despite the fact that Derek did the laundry just yesterday, including Stiles' own pyjama pants, and a worn old shirt Derek thinks might be his, too. He must've dressed for long morning and now Derek's messed that up, too.
A wave of toasty warmth comes floating towards him and Derek nearly toes his shoes off anyway, strongly considering more sleep over ice cream.
He glances up.
“Come on,” Stiles says and motions with his hands for Derek to come closer. Derek stands still.
”What?” Derek asks, because he's seen a lot of expressions on Stiles' face, but that's a new one and he has no idea what's going on. “What are you doing?”
”What am I doing? I'm trying to catch a werewolf but he's being dense,” Stiles huffs and takes the matter into his own hands, wrapping his arms around Derek and them both in the blanket. Derek's arms come up around his waist almost automatically until his palms rest against Stiles' spine.
It's the first time they've hugged outside of panic attacks and nightmares and it takes a full minute before Derek can relax into it, rest his head on the bunched up fabric on Stiles' shoulder and lets his eyelids fall shut, the sleepy warmth surrounding them. Hell, it’s the first time he’s hugged anyone since dropping Laura off at the airport, thinking he’d get to hug her again in a week. He hasn’t allowed himself the time to miss small luxuries like this, not when it hasn’t been in blind panic or near chlorine smelling death.
Sleeping close on a small bed is one thing. This? Derek has no idea what the hell this is.
But he likes it. The blanket smells like Stiles and him and maybe a little like wolf from having been on the sofa and Derek pushes his nose into it. When the arms around him tighten a bit he takes it as permission, sinking his nose in further and breathing deeper, chasing after the smell of them.
Stiles murmurs something right by his ear and Derek almost misses it, so relaxed he's almost falling asleep standing.
”My favourite ice cream flavour. Raspberry.”
”I know.” Derek speaks into Stiles' collarbone. He can't recall when Stiles told him, but Stiles tells him a lot of things and Derek just tries to remember all of it. He's getting better at it, too. Stiles squeezes Derek just a little bit extra, knowing he won’t break.
”Seriously though,” he says when he pulls pack a little, arms still resting around Derek's neck. ”You were going to get me ice cream?”
Derek nods wordlessly.
This, this wasn't what he had planned at all.
Derek wanted to repay Stiles for being as patient as he's been stubborn, for all the times he's put up with his nightmares and snappy moods and for shedding wolf hair everywhere, but now he's smiling and it's gentle and crooked and still a little sleepy and with his entire face while Derek feels like he's the one being rewarded. Something flutters inside of Derek's ribcage, softer than the pull of the moon, less demanding yet just as persistent, just enough for him to scratch his chest to make it go away.
”I'm just going to put on some pants, okay?” Stiles strokes Derek's cheek and wobbles off to the bedroom on sleepy feet with the blanket hanging after him like a cape, leaving Derek in the hallway, still scratching his chest absentmindedly, trying to figure out how ice cream could make someone that happy.
They are barely out the door before they encounter the first person Derek's seen in months apart from Stiles and his own reflection. She's tiny, dressed in floral patterns, she smells like vanilla extract and cat (-s, an entire army of them) and she's looking at Stiles like he's the best thing since sliced bread. She smiles at Derek for a quick second then turns all her attention back to Stiles.
“Hello, mrs Jenkins,” answers Stiles as Derek locks the door. It's a good thing he has his face turned away from them- he's only ever heard and smelled mrs Jenkins, never seen her, and she sure as hell didn't smell like cookies the last time he heard her pass his door. When the initial chock settles, he turns to them.
“Everything okay? I saw there would be a lot of pollen soon.”
“My nose has been a little runny, but other than that, I'm good.” It's a blatant lie, but Mrs Jenkins clasps her hands and nods, obviously believing him.
“Well, if you ever need me to get you some antihistamines while I pick up Angus' pills, you let me know, okay?”
“Of course. Thank you.”
The old lady smiles and keeps walking down the hall to her apartment.
Derek waits until they get to the elevator until he says anything about it, leaning against the wall as he watches Stiles send off a text to someone.
“You're not allergic to anything. You don't have asthma either,” he settles for.
“And she doesn't smell like...” Stiles leans against him, side warm and grounding against his before he even notices the small twitch in his neck is back. It's not panic, but the thought of the perfume alone makes him uncomfortable, so he focuses on Stiles' breathing and tries to keep his own at the same pace.
“Nope,” he says again, this time softer.
“You told her you're allergic to get her to stop using it.”
“Yeah, I did. I had Scott's old inhaler in my bag, thought it might as well be put to some use.”
Their eyes meet, and Derek doesn't see pity, like he expects to. Concern, but not pity.
“Anytime,” he says softly as the elevator chimes. The door slides open and Derek walks out into the sunlight, still shoulder to shoulder with Stiles.
Stiles has had his car keys all winter and spring and it smells a little like mud and like it’s been washed recently, still shiny like the day Derek bought it, which has to be a miracle all things considered. Outside is much warmer than he expected so he opens the door to throw his leather jacket in the back. The folded down backseat is the only visible clue that Stiles has actually used it.
“Did you move the sofa with the Toyota?” Stiles stills, then turns to him.
“I love my baby, but she barely fits one person in the back seat,” He nods to where the Jeep is parked just a few cars away. “The Toyota was just big enough to move it in parts.” He makes a face, as if to apologize, scrunching his nose up. “Gotta love Ikea, though.”
“S’okay. I just couldn’t figure out how you did it,” he admits. “I still don't get how you carried it.”
“Hey, do you wanna drive? It's your car,” Stiles says, dodging the question.
Derek considers it for a bit, then shakes his head and heads for the passenger door, slipping the keys into Stiles' hand.
“I feel a bit rusty. You drive.”
Stiles takes them to a park not too far from the Stilinski house. It's small and there's barely anybody there but it has an ice cream shop next to it so they sit down on the grass and lean back against a tree, Stiles with his rasperry cone and Derek with a cup of chocolate ice cream.
“I used to go here a lot with mom. Remember what I said about falling and losing teeth?” He nods towards the swings. “That's where I lost my first tooth.” Stiles takes a bite and sighs. “She bought me ice cream to stop the bleeding.”
“I lost my first tooth when Laura pushed me out of a tree,” Derek volounteers.
“What? How did you even get up there at that age?”
“She carried me. Cats usually keep away from werewolves so she'd never been near one until one of her friends got a Persian who couldn't smell anything, wasn't afraid of her. She wondered if werewolves landed on their feet, too.”
“I'm guessing you didn't?”
“Oh, I did,” Derek grins. “But I took a branch to the face on my way down.”
“See, that's just... That's what your face looks like after taking a branch to the mouth as a kid?!” Stiles splutters and gestures between them. “Unfair, dude. So unfair.”
“I like your face just fine,” Derek blurts before he can think to stop himself. Stiles doesn't say anything or look up at him, but he's smiling into the ice cream cone so Derek counts it as an accidental win.
”Hey,” Stiles says when they get back into the Toyota. ”Dad should be home now and I need to get some new socks, wanna stop by? We really don't have to if you don't want to.”
”You sure he won't shoot me?” Derek asks, only half-jokingly and puts his seatbelt on.
”Holding his son hostage.”
”Nah, I went willingly.” Stiles starts flipping through the CDs. ”I should probably tell you though, Isaac's still in the guest room. I'm honestly starting to think he's moved in permanently.”
”Are you okay with that?”
“Am I what?”
“Okay with Isaac living with you?”
“At first it was just a temporary solution, you know, and I guess it just kind of… grew on me.” Stiles stills and locks eyes with him. “I’ve been so used to having dad to myself, you know? Same thing with Scott, they’ve both always been mine and it took a while to get used to the idea that someone else could have them too and not take my place. It was weird and it sucked in the beginning, but I’m okay with it now.”
”Yeah.” Stiles finds a blank CD he somehow seems to approve more of than the others. ”Yes!” Stiles cheers the second Nine Inch Nails starts emitting from the stereo and Derek's glad Stiles' focus is on the road so he won't catch him staring as Stiles starts singing.
Laura would've adored Stiles even if they hadn't had the same taste in music, it just kind of seals the deal. When he looks out the window he can almost hear her sing along with him the way she used to. She wasn't much of a singer and Derek often told her so just to annoy her. 'I'm not taking critisism about my voice from someone who crushed on Ian Curtis for two years', she'd say with a grin and sing even louder.
He doesn't realize he's smiling until he sees his reflection in the side-view mirror.
There are two things in the Stilinski driveway when they arrive: the cruiser and a dirt bike, not new but in very good condition, bolts and parts of the engine lying about beneath it. It's not Scott's, so Isaac 18th birthday must have been already. Derek doubts the sheriff would buy it for him, but Isaac probably would buy it for himself when the money from his father became his.
Stiles waltzes right into the house, as he rightfully should, but Derek halts at the porch. He feels like he's put on his shoes on the wrong foot, awkward and just slightly out of place.
”What?” Stiles turns as he tries to untie his Converse.
”Nothing, it's just...”
”The first time you’ve walked through the door?” he chuckles and kicks a shoe off. ”Am I going to have to invite you in?” he says, making vampire teeth with his fingers.
”I thought that was vampires and not werewolves?” the sheriff chuckles, looking at the both of them from the hall.
”Hey!” Stiles gives his father a quick hug, then goes back to untying his shoe.
”Noah,” the sheriff corrects Derek with a smile and motions to him to come in. Derek walks in closes the door behind him and does so. ”Isaac's out back, we were thinking steaks. There's enough for all of us if you want to eat with us.”
”Steaks? Dad!” Stiles pokes his side, Noah playfully slapping it away.
”Oh, trust me, he's worse than you are, he actually likes celery. Today's ”cheat day”,” Noah says, making quotation marks with his fingers and shaking his head. He goes back into the kitchen, leaving Derek to stare at Stiles, who has not in any way indicated his father knew about the things they'd dealt with the past year and a half.
”There's a werewolf living with him now, we kind of had to.” Stiles shrugs. ”He was angry for a few days, then he was just happy we weren't hunting down a serial killer cult or something. Or in one.”
”Wouldn't put it past you.” Derek huffs. Stiles sticks his tongue out in lack of a better comeback and both of them snort.
”Is this okay, by the way? I didn't know it would turn into dinner.” Stiles asks as he steps into Derek's personal space.
”No, it's okay,” Derek answers, and is a bit surprised himself that he really means it. He's fully aware that he wouldn't have stayed for another minute if Stiles hadn't been there, but he is, and Derek will.
”You sure?” Derek nods. ”Just tell me if you want to leave, okay?” Stiles smiles and gestures towards the kitchen. ”C'mon.”
”Derek, want a beer?” Noah's halfway inside the fridge, taking out the steaks while trying not to trip over Stiles where he's getting vegetables out of the bottom drawers.
Stiles stands up and hands it to him.
“I even think you guys have the same favourite.”
Derek looks to the bottle Stiles is holding out and they do, in deed.
”Yeah, okay,” he grabs a hold of the bottle and takes a sip. It’s been a while since he had one, probably at the bar he worked at in New York, and it’s good.
Really good, actually. Noah chuckles at the look on his face and lines up vegetables on the counter.
“Isaac was out back, right?” Stiles smiles and nods, seems to get that Derek wants a moment or two alone with him.
“I’ll be in the kitchen,” he says and picks up a knife to deal with the unions.
”Oh, hey.” Isaac looks up from the grill, obviously surprised but smiling. “Didn’t know you were coming over.”
“Neither did we,” Derek admits, standing awkwardly by the doorway. “Stiles said you’ve been staying here?”
“Yeah, since January, I think. It was just because I needed somewhere to stay at first, I couldn’t stay at Scott’s, I uh.. I kind of started dating Allison? So that was awkward. Noah and Stiles offered me the guest room. We said I'd stay until I found somewhere else but we kind of grew on eachother, I guess. It’s, uh…” He pokes the coal then looks back to Derek.
“Yeah.” Isaac looks over Derek’s shoulder and into the doorway quickly, then grins. “Also, between you and me? Scott and Stiles have no idea their parents have been banging behind their back for nearly a year, they keep bribing me to keep quiet and it’s hilarious. How does Scott not notice?”
"He’s probably used to all four of them smelling like each other."
“Well, Stiles smells more like you, now, but…” Isaac trails off, frowning at the barbecue. “Why won’t this thing pick up?” Isaac grabs a hold of the the lighter fluid to add some and as soon as the jet of liquid hits the charcoal, fire travels back along it and sends the bottle flying like a goddamn rocket, hitting him square in the forehead before shooting off into the garden.
This time, Derek doesn’t even have the time to feel the panic set in before Stiles has grabbed his hand and steered him into the kitchen, away from the flames and Isaac’s swearing. Derek can hear Isaac's heart calm down and Noah chuckling, but that's the about the only good he can come up with.
”How d'you know?” he asks frantically as Stiles wraps him up in a hug and he clings back almost automatically, shoving his nose into Stiles' neck to get rid of the stench of burnt hair.
”Professional secret,” Stiles whispers and strokes Derek's back in long, slow motions until they breathe in sync, calmer and deeper.
”Dad went to help him, he's okay, one singed eyebrow and a ruined scarf, that’s it.” Stiles knows that Derek knows, he can hear them, but hearing Stiles say it, having it confirmed, makes it more real somehow.
Derek can't trust his senses and it scares him absolutely shitless.
”Did he see? Stiles, I’m his alpha, I can’t be panicking like this, I'm not supposed to-”
”He didn't, dad's out back with him, he didn’t see anything," Stiles assures him. "You wanna go upstairs and breathe for a while?”
Shaking his head, Derek closes his eyes and buries his face deeper in Stiles’ hoodie, taking deep breaths.
“Just gimme a minute.”
“Okay,” whispers Stiles and guides Derek back an inch or two until he’s leaning against the counter, pressing up against him and hugging him a little bit tighter, mimicking the pressure of the covers. Derek doesn't feel cornered, just safe and protected and held. ”We’re all okay.”
Noah walks in a while later, gives Derek a quick look over Stiles' shoulder, but doesn't seem to mind the two still hugging by the sink.
“Anything I can do?” He asks calmly.
Derek doesn't trust his voice so he just shakes his head.
“Okay. Just let me know if there is. We'll be done in about an hour.”
Closing the fridge, Noah looks at the back of Stiles' head for a few seconds, deep in thought, then shakes it off and walks back out.
It's not long into chopping up the vegetables that the next accident happens. Thankfully it's much, much more manageable.
”Ah, shit,” Stiles swears at the same time as the scent of copper hits his nose. ”I hate cutting tomatoes.”
He moves closer to get to the sink to wash the cut on his hand, leaning so close his hair tickles Derek's nose. “Sorry, it stings.”
”Wait, let me,” Derek mumbles under his breath and takes Stiles' hand in his, surveying the damage.
Papercuts and the like always make him feel uneasy, which makes no sense considering the injuries he’s survived, but he winces none the less when he sees the cut, long and shallow on the fleshy part beneath Stiles' thumb. Careful not to disturb the wound, he brings it to his lips the way his mother used to do it to his brother and cousins, gently sucks on it to get the tomato juice out while he drains a little pain.
At first he thinks he might be doing something stupid, being in Stiles' personal bubble like this, whatever this may be, but then Stiles' fingers come to rest across his cheek and he focuses on what he's doing.
"Wow," Stiles says, eyes wide and locked with Derek's and so close. Derek's actually happy his mouth is preoccupied or this may end in disaster.
When he pulls back after what seems like an eternity and looks down, the wound is gone. He expected it to stop bleeding, heal a little, but it's completely gone. Vanished. He runs a thumb carefully over the newly knitted flesh and it's like the wound never happened.
Maybe his mom knew something he didn't. Wouldn't be the first time, he thinks to himself and lets go of Stiles' hand, trying to keep his own surprise from showing too much.
”What. That's. How d'you do that?” Stiles gapes, still standing pressed up against Derek.
”Professional secret,” Derek says with the tiniest of smiles and hopes Stiles doesn't call him on his confusion.
“Stiles, can you bring out the haloumi?” Yells Isaac from the backyard.
“Go, I'll do the rest of the sallad.”
Stiles stares at him for a few seconds more, scratching his chest and frowning, before taking the cheese from the counter and walks out, mumbling under his breath all the way.
To his surprise, Stiles doesn’t want to stay the night when both food and dessert are gone, but he asks Derek to wait as he goes upstairs to have a shower, and he's left sitting with Noah on the porch. The last time he was outside he'd had to put on a jacket because of the cold, but the spring evening air is warm and actually quite pleasant, forcing him to grasp just how long he's been locked up inside his apartment. The street is empty apart from the next door neighbour’s kid, colouring the sidewalk with big crayons, humming to herself.
”You know, Derek…” Noah sighs and scratches the back of his head just like Derek's seen Stiles do a hundred times when he can't figure out how to say something. ”Werewolf or not, some things can be difficult to work through alone. I know a woman, she’s a grief counsellor most of the time but she’s worked with other stuff too. Both me and Stiles saw her after Claudia died and I was thinking I could, you know… if you want to?”
Derek almost shakes his head on reflex, thinking of the string of therapists he was sent to in New York, Laura's frustrated sadness when he couldn't open up, but then he drifts to the time Stiles has stayed by his side, how much easier the nights have been to get through. Someone believes in him, wants him to get better, and a small part of him has gone from indifferent to caring very much about what this particular someone thinks about him. Not that Laura didn’t matter, she always will, but she didn't know. He has no idea how it would have changed things, changed them. Someone still gives a shit about him despite knowing all that he’s done and caused and it has to mean something.
”Stiles told you?” he asks, and while he would have been defensive about it months ago, that was then and now is now. It's like he doesn't have the energy to be.
”No, but I know post traumatic stress when I see it.” Noah takes another sip of his beer. ”Stiles’ mother was together with this real asshole when we met. It was my first domestic abuse case. I had to carry her out of the apartment because he'd burnt the soles of her feet to keep her from leaving. We became friends during the trial and she moved into my apartment so the bastard wouldn’t dare come find her. I was there when her flashbacks started, helped her figure out how to avoid triggers, stuff like that. That’s also how I got to know dr Gorman. She worked at a safehouse for domestic abuse victims back then.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Yeah, Stiles doesn’t either, so don’t tell him. He'll probably find out eventually, but.. He deserves to remember Claudia as happy as he made her.”
It amazes Derek how happy the sheriff sounds. His wife, the love of his life, is dead, and yet he smells... Proud and calmly happy. It takes him a second to sort out the mix of amazement and envy that shoots through him, because even if Noah’s scent is tinged with some grief it’s not the heavy, demanding, blanket of it that surrounded both him and Laura for years, the one he still wakes up to most days.
“He seems to have that effect on a lot of people,” Noah says with a smile, and Derek feels a little like someone just told a joke and he missed the punchline entirely.
“How long is her waiting list?” He says instead and downs the last of his beer. A strong hand comes up to rest on his shoulder, squeezing reassuringly.
“She has a spot open on Friday afternoons.”
“You’ve already checked with her.”
“Texted her while I was out back with Isaac.” Noah nods at him and lets go of his shoulder and they sink into a comfortable silence Derek not once suspected they would even come close to. Upstairs, he can hear the muffled sounds of Stiles and Isaac laughing.
”Friday sounds good.”
“Good,” Noah agrees, rising to his feet. “C'mon, let's go in and sneak another beer each before Stiles finds us.”
Somehow this grew into a monster of a fic, meaning this is a monster of a chapter, but the next one should be up pretty soon. I apologise for the wait- turns out uni can be a bit stressy. Who knew?
Their neighbour in New York was the only person Derek spent much time with after the fire apart from Laura. He didn't even know they shared the fire escape until he snuck out one afternoon and found Traci there, reading.
“Oh, you can stay if you want to,” she hummed as he started to make his way back in through the livingroom window. “I won't be talkative, but you can stay.”
Derek just held up his copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide and sat down, leaning against the warm brick wall.
It became routine. Sometimes they'd wordlessly swap books when they were done with them and he's pretty sure that Stiles is currently reading something of hers, but they rarely ever spoke. Sometimes he'd bring her a cup of tea and she'd duck in to get them muffins, but mostly they just sat in silence, reading. He asked their old landlord when he got their things, asked if she still lived in the building, only to find out she'd moved just a week after he left.
He's never really missed Traci until now, meeting dr Gorman in the waiting room of her office. They look so much like eachother Derek does a double take- the same big, brown eyes and long, curly, dark hair, the only difference being her brightly coloured clothes when he'd only ever see Traci in black.
“Hi,” she says. Doesn't extent her hand for him to shake, doesn't crowd him in, only greets him with a smile and an open door. “Would it be okay for you to take your shoes off? I have slippers if you'd like.”
“I'm fine with just socks,” Derek says and toes his shoes off.
“I get children in here too, so I try to keep it as clean as possible,” she explains and steps away from the door, letting him walk in first.
Dr Gorman’s office is much larger than he expected it to be, high ceiling and tall windows, looking more like a livingroom than an office with the walls painted a deep blue, a comfortable sofa and a pile of toys by it and a little table with crayons and papers. Even the surprising number of plush cows makes sense, somehow.
It also smells faintly of fur and there's a chew toy on the floor by the desk.
“Just make yourself comfortable,” she says, “and if there's anything you want me to remove, just tell me.”
“You have a dog?” is the first thing that comes out of his mouth as he sits down.
“Yes, I do. Are you allergic? I asked Noah and he said no.” She says apologetically and removes a blanket off of her chair to sit down.
“No, he was right. I don’t mind.”
“I use Eddie for children’s therapy sometimes. Helps them relax and open up a little with a big old dog snoring next to them. He was trained as a service dog for soldiers with PTSD but his health isn’t what it used to be. Now he's more of a... calm, lazy center in all the turmoil.”
“We had a dog when I was younger. She was pretty much the same. Ate more than I did.”
“What was she?”
“Big dog,” she hums.
“Big heart.” She'd been so gentle to the younger ones, setting an example for the older werewolves for how to behave with their human siblings and cousins. She'd snore and drool and sit on his older brother whenever she got the chance and they all loved her. One summer she stepped on a nail and got a cut to her paw and Derek was near tears until his mother showed him how to take her pain away, helping it heal. After that she slept at the foot of his bed nearly every night.
“Do you want me to bring Eddie next time? It's entirely up to you.”
There is a brief flash of warm, dark grey fur between his fingers and he feels himself nod.
“I think I'd like that, yeah.”
She sighs a little, tilting her head as she takes him in. Her body language isn't suspiciously neutral as he suspected it would be- a little softer, toned down, but still easy to read, unlike the therapists he met with Laura.
Dr Gorman frowns a little, then sighs again.
“Before I say this, I want you to know that this is a neutral space, okay? Whatever is said here stays between the two of us unless you want someone else to know or I think you might be in serious danger of hurting yourself.”
Derek nods for her to continue.
“I knew your mother when we were little. Not very well, our mothers were close friends but she mostly went alone.” She frowns a little, thinking. “She was an... Advisor of some kind, I always forget the word she used. But I know that there is more to you than meets the eye.”
His spine goes rigid, glancing towards the door. She closed it, but didn't lock it and it has a frosted glass window he might be able to break to get out if he needs to. He's closer to it than she is.
“You're not an emissary like her?”
“No,” dr Gorman shakes her head, voice still calm and steady, yet a little firmer this time. “I don't think I would have pursued it even if I had her abilities. I can barely make a cup of tea, the herbs and stuff would never have worked out for me.” She shrugs with a little smile, and it's as honest as her heartbeat has been ever since he stepped foot in her office. “We all have our different ways of helping people. This is mine and I am happy with it as it is.” That's not a lie, either.
He nods, not really sure what to say. She has to pick up on it if her wince is anything to go by.
“I'm sorry to spring it on you like this the first thing I do, but something told me you wouldn't appreciate me bringing it up in a few weeks time either.”
Derek more or less deflates, looking away from the door and back to her.
“No, I wouldn't.”
“I don't expect you to open up to me about all of it unless you want to but you shouldn't have to worry about editing out things I already know about,” she says and rests her hands on her crossed knees. “I'm not going to lie, therapy is a difficult thing and I want you to feel like you can trust me with whatever you need to get off your chest or work through. That's what I'm here for.”
“That might take a while,” he says, running a hand through his hair.
“And that's okay.” He glances up at her. “We don't even have to talk every time. Sometimes silence says a lot, too.”
And maybe that's a good place to start. Something familiar. They watch each other for a beat or two, then Derek sighs and nods.
“Okay. What now?” he asks, rubbing a hand over his face. This was definitely not something he expected.
“We're not going to do very much today, just get to know eachother a little bit and then you'll have some time until next week to decide if you want to continue seeing me or not. Does that sound okay?”
Derek nods again, watching as she picks out a small light blue folder from the stack next to her.
“Now, if you'd decide to come back, which I really hope you will, I have a few papers for you.” She puts it on the table beside them. “Some things are easier to deal with in writing for some. As I said, anything you say to me stays within these walls. Same thing goes for writing. It's just so I know what's comfortable for you and if there's anything you want to say that you don't know how to bring up, alright? I'll bring a shredder next time so you can destroy the papers yourself.”
“Anything I should think about until next time? Colours I shouldn't wear, anything in the room you find uncomfortable or want me to change?”
“No perfume. I know you're not wearing any, but..” he trails off. She nods immediately anyway.
“You don't have to explain if you don't want to, you just have to say it and I'll make sure not to.” She writes something down, then puts the pen and paper down on the desk just beside her. “So, tell me more about that dog of yours. What was her name?”
Noah is still outside when his hour is up, leaning against his car with a cup of coffee.
“How’d it go?”
“She wants to see me twice a week.”
“And that's alright with you?” He asks, sipping the last of his coffee.
It's a little odd to be asked if he's okay with so many different things so close together when he usually doesn't really have more options than fight, flight or sarcasm.
“Yeah. I think so,” he settles on with a shrug. He doesn't trust her, not in the senseless way he used to trust people before everything, yet there's definitely a possibility he could learn to.
He silently wonders what is would have been like if she'd been his mothers' emissary instead of Deaton.
“I’m glad to hear.” Noah smiles and unlocks the car for them as Derek makes his way to the passenger side. When Derek turns back from putting his seatbelt on, Noah is holding out a packet of Reese’s to him.
“It’s, ehm… Something I used to do with Stiles. He’d get one each time he went to see her. Therapy is rough and sometimes it’s hard to see the long term good it might do, so I figured a little short term good never hurt anybody.”
Derek accepts it and holds on to it like a drowning man to a life raft, trying not to stare as Noah pulls out from the parking lot.
They’re well on their way towards the apartment by the time Derek trusts his voice enough to use it again. What it is with these Stilinski men and rendering him speechless, he’ll probably never know. He can only imagine what Claudia would have been like to meet.
He's seen pictures of her, big brown eyes, dark hair and pale skin and he can't even begin to understand what it's like for Noah to see so much of her in Stiles, if it hurts or if it's comforting to know he still has part of her.
Laura looked more like their father, just like Derek looks more like their mother. There were no mirrors in their apartment for the first three months they lived there.
“Thank you,” he croaks when Noah stops the car in front of his building, and from the look Noah gives him, he knows it’s not just for the chocolate or the ride. He smiles a little and the scent around him isn't pity or grief or sadness or anything else Derek expected.
He smells proud. It's not obvious, but it's there, and Derek really, really does not know what to do with that little piece of information.
“Anytime, son,” he answers. It doesn't really register at first, aside from the sureness of the statement and the honesty written all over Noah's face (and so often mirrored in his Stiles'), but then it all sinks in and Derek does something he's gotten way too used to over the years.
It's not even an hour later when he hears the door unlock and Stiles shuffle in, then hears him still when he sees the mess Derek made of his clothes on the way to the bed. He may have shredded some of them, he's not sure.
He still doesn't hesitate to come find him. Come to think of it, Stiles never has.
Derek sighs and pulls the comforter over his ears, yet still shifts a little to make room on the bed for a second body.
“Hey.” Stiles says softly and slides in next to him. “Sooo, my dad called and told me he may have screwed up a little. Or a lot.”
Derek shakes his head and moves closer automatically, eventually coming to rest his head on Stiles' arm. Stiles shuffles them around a little until he's all wrapped up in Stiles and the blankets, face against the soft, worn cotton of his shirt.
“He didn't?” Stiles asks, a little confused.
Derek shakes his head again.
“You don't feel like talking, huh?” he asks, smoothing out the mess Derek's hair has turned into. He's silent for a while, the only sound in the room his nails through Derek's scalp. “S'okay. I have a hunch, though. Will you answer yes or no if I get it right, just a nod?”
“Okay. This one time, dad's partner babysat me while he went to get something for a case they were working on. It was a couple of years after mom died. Everything went really well until she called me 'sunshine' and I had a panic attack so bad I threw up.”
Stiles shifts a little, curls an arm around Derek's shoulders.
“Mom used to call me sunshine in Polish all the time, but I didn't panic because it was painful. I panicked because it wasn't. It took me a while to see that feeling better about it didn't mean I was replacing her.”
Derek remembers walking into his father's workspace the night before the fire to put a last layer of paint on the tiny table he'd built for Cora's room and his father running a hand through his hair, saying “Good job, kiddo,” with a proud smile before sitting down himself to finish the last of the chairs. He's beginning to lose the memory of his father's voice, but those three words remain clear like crystal.
“Something like that?” Stiles asks when Derek sighs. Stiles scratches Derek's scalp gently, calming him little by little.
“Something like that, yeah.”
They don't speak for the rest of the day. Derek fades in and out of sleep now and then, just notices the room getting darker and darker until Stiles has to turn on the lamp on the bedside table to be able to read.
He gets up much later to use the bathroom and plucks his phone out of his jeans on his way back to the bedroom, leaving the clothes where he dropped them. He's surprised he even had the energy to get out of bed, folding clothes isn't going to happen.
Three missed calls and a text, all from Noah.
I should have known better than that. I'm sorry. Derek glances at Stiles who's still reading, completely wrapped up in his book, then taps out an answer.
Are you sure? Comes the answer before Derek even has time to climb over Stiles' legs and under the covers.
I appreciate the sentiment, even if I'm unused to the word, he replies honestly. It's as little Noah's fault as it is Derek's, after all.
Ok. Still want me to drive you Wednesday?
If you want to.
Of course. I saw this new burger place just a few blocks away that Stiles would never let me near. Lunch afterwards?
Okay, Derek agrees with an amused huff, then turns, shifting closer until his face is pressed into Stiles' side and a hand comes up to pet his hair absentmindedly. He's not sleepy as much as he is drained and a little jumpy and restless, his mind going a mile a minute while feeling like he's wading through itchy molasses.
“Faulkner or Gaiman?” Stiles says and shuts the book he was reading.
“Gaiman,” Derek hums into his hip. He feels Stiles shift around a little, drop a book on the floor and pick up another from the bedside table.
“The night before he went to London,” Stiles starts, “Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.”
He fills in dr Gorman's papers while Stiles is at school. It feels so clinical, listing dead family and Kate and New York and everything else in between on a sheet of paper, but when he's done he leans back, takes a sip of tea and exhales.
Thinks about Laura on their livingroom sofa, wearing one of his shirts the way she would whenever she was worried about him, surrounding herself in the scent of pack and family as much as she could. The way she'd pull him close until he'd stop struggling and hugged her back.
“Just talk to someone,” she'd plead. “When you feel ready. Doesn't have to be me, just... someone.”
Derek fold the paper gently, puts it in his jacket to keep the rain from getting to it and walks out to the car where Noah's already waiting for him.
He knows she'd be proud.
Eddie's big, much bigger than he expected. He doesn't jump or get too excited, just trots over to Derek and sniffs his palm, tail wagging. It wags even harder when Derek scratches behind his ears and he's missed the air of happiness most dogs carry around them.
”He's getting a little old, not much of a jumper nowadays. ”
He looks up at dr Gorman. Not only is she avoiding perfumes like she promised, Derek can't smell a single perfumed thing on her. No weird soap, no scented lotion. Nothing.
Well, she does smell a little like Eddie, but so does everything in her office.
“If you want him up on the sofa all you have to do is pat next to you, if not he'll just stay on the floor,” dr Gorman says and lets Derek in before walking in herself and closing the door. He's barely patted once before Eddie jumps up and lies down, resting his head in Derek's lap with a sigh.
“So.” She says once she's sat down. ”What do you want to talk about today?”
”I don't know where to start,” he admits after some thinking.
”How have you been since we saw eachother last?”
“Fine,” he says, and it's so obviously automatic he makes a face at himself. “Survivable. I've mostly taken it easy all weekend. Slept a lot.”
“How do you feel today?”
He pauses. She waits. It's raining outside, and it makes the silence less heavy as he tries to pull up enough emotion to the surface to sift through it.
”Numb. I guess. I'm not sure,” he settles for.
”Has it been like that all weekend?” She asks, brows furrowed. Last night they watched Dogma and laughed until Stiles fell out of the sofa, almost dragging Derek with him. He shakes his head.
”Just since this morning.”
”Do you have any idea when you started feeling numb, what you were doing?”
”After Stiles left for school, so while filled in the papers. I think.” Dr Gorman hums.
”Has it happened before?”
”I think so. Yeah. I can't really remember it. Just bits and pieces, moments that stood out, things like that.”
”How do you mean?”
He pauses to think, tries to remember what Laura told him.
”I used to freak Laura out sometimes. Sometimes I'd go back to being like I was before, before the fire. Like flipping a switch. She was afraid I was losing it.”
”How do you mean?”
”When I feel bad, at least I feel it but I'd act like I was perfectly fine sometimes. Kind of felt fine, too. It was like.... it was like sitting on the bus with music in your ears, just watching everything pass by without hearing it. It happened and I was there for it but I wasn't there. She said she could see all these emotions on my face but didn't feel them at all in my scent. It wasn't real.”
She nods, writes something down quickly.
”What? You know what it is?”
”I think so. It happens to almost everyone at least once in life, it's like a mental fuse of sorts. Something traumatic happens or we carry too much anxiety and the fuse goes. We still function, sometimes the people around us can't even tell, but our emotions shut off for a while. For some the world around them feels less real, for others it's themselves that feel unreal. For very, very few it goes much too far and becomes an illness in itself and not a symptom.”
”And for me?”
”A symptom. It's a defence mechanism- when your mind starts feeling more secure, it won't need the defence.”
”You say that like you're sure it's going to get better,” he huffs.
”You've already gotten so far on your own, but I'll help you sort things out the rest of the way,” she says, the corner of her mouth tugging up into a little smile. ”That's what I'm here for.”
He tells her about Kate just a couple of sessions later, when he's finally ready to go through the papers he's filled in. Really tells her, just throws himself off the cliff and into the mess he's been avoiding for years. He tries not to think about if dr Gorman will look disappointed or disgusted, tries not to listen to her reactions. Instead he focuses on Eddie's heartbeat, the steady, lazy thump that never changes no matter what Derek says, and it helps.
He can't plug his nose, however; can't will his sense of smell away like everything else, and he sure as hell did not expect the cloud of worry that comes rolling towards him. There's an electric hint to it, not nearly as strong as the one constantly buzzing around Stiles, but maybe she's not as powerless as she thinks. Oddly enough, it makes him feel safer somehow.
He stops talking, right around where Stiles took the necklace from Allison and planted it on Kate's dead body, and looks at dr Gorman.
”What you're feeling right now, can you name the feeling?”
”Not sure. Why?”
”Because you're crying.” She says it simply, no judgement in her voice, yet Derek wipes his cheeks quickly, embarrassed at not having felt it at all.
”Shit. I don't-” Derek has to take a breath and look away from dr Gorman.
”It's okay to be sad, Derek. Or angry. Or both.”
”I don't know what I am,” he huffs in frustration. ”I used to think I was angry in New York, I was scared when she showed up after Laura, but then I watched her die and now I... I don't know. It went from extreme to extreme so quickly.”
”Did anyone know about her before the fire?”
”My uncle did. I used to say I'd stay at school to work out and he came to pick me up once. He didn't say he knew but he hinted to it enough.” Fucking Peter.
”Would you have said anything if you'd been in his position? To your mother, I mean. I know he wasn't a lot older, but old enough to have more responsibility than you at that age.”
Derek has a brief flash of Kate talking about Scott, imagines her luring him in like he did with Derek and Derek just watching and doing nothing about it. It's not until Eddie whines and licks the underside of his jaw that he feels the fangs and the low growl in his chest.
He has to give dr Gorman some credit for barely flinching.
”Sorry, I- I just got this... She made comments about Scott. ”
”How old was he when she did?”
”And how old were you when you met her?”
”I was sixteen,” he says around the fangs that have dropped again. ”Where are you going with this?” he asks, even if he already knows.
”What she did was wrong even before the fire and fully her responsibility. It wasn't your fault, just like it could never have been Scott's if she'd done it again. She was your teacher, you were underage.”
”But I liked her,” he retorts, feeling more and more like a stubborn kid again. ”Sometimes I remember something she said or did and I find myself smiling, how fucked up is that?” He snorts, wiping at his cheeks, ignoring the heat in them and trying to preserve what little dignity he might have left. ”I don't even know how much of it was real, if it was all bullshit or if she meant some of it. Her father had a way to get into people's heads.”
”I know you liked her. And just because she wasn't who she made you think she was doesn't make what you felt less genuine,” she answers softly. ”Maybe it would be easier for you to keep the two divided? The Kate you felt a connection to isn't the same as the hunter, after all.”
”And what, hate one, mourn the other?” Derek scoffs.
”Yes.” Dr Gorman nods, sure and clear. ”I'm not saying you need to forgive her, but mourn the side of her you knew before the fire, no matter how true or false it may have been. It was still true to you, and that's what matters.” She reaches for the box of tissues on the table next to them, doesn't stare at him, just gives it to him.
”Do you really think that's a good idea?” Derek asks a few minutes later, when his heart has calmed down and he can talk without his voice breaking.
”Sometimes when we can't put things together we need to separate them to see them a little clearer,” she says. ”I think it might do you good.”
They sit in silence for the remaining ten minutes, listening to the rain pour down. No matter how much Derek likes Stiles and his constant being, there's something calm to dr Gorman that makes him slow down a little, breathe. When she lets him out, she silently follows him all the way to the door, Eddie padding softly behind them.
”Need to stop by somewhere before I drop you off?” Noah asks when Derek comes walking.
”Actually, I think I need to talk to Isaac. Would it be okay if I follow you to the house?”
”Yeah, of course,” Noah nods and hands him the chocolate. ”You staying for dinner?”
“I don't think so.”
“If you change your mind, just let me know,” Noah says and unlocks the car, letting them both in. "It's leftover day, we've got plenty."
He can hear Isaac moving around in his room already outside the house, listening to something he vaguely recognizes from the radio.
“You go talk to him, I'm heading out into the garage.” Noah pats his back a little and walks toward the door connecting the garage to the rest of the house.
He's only been upstairs a few times, but he knows which room is Isaac's already. The door is open and he makes noise to make sure Isaac has heard him as he walks through the hallway.
“I don't get how you do it,” Derek sighs, leaning against the doorframe.
“Do what?” Isaac looks up from where he's putting laundry into his dresser.
“How is your father your anchor?”
Isaac glances at him, then gets up from the floor and motions for Derek to get inside before he shuts the door behind him.
“I don't get it,” he repeats and sits down on the unmade bed, rubbing at his eyes.
It's quiet for a while, then Isaac sits down next to him with a sigh.
“He used to be a good dad. Great, actually. Then Camden died and he tipped over. I don't think I'll ever understand why. He wasn't a drinker, didn't do anything else. Just beat the living crap out of me. It's like he was two people in the same body, you know?”
“Yeah, I think I do,” Derek admits.
“I don't miss the man Matt killed, that's for sure. My dad was dead to me before then. But I do miss my dad, and that's the man that keeps me anchored. I won't let the anger take over, because my dad was a good dad until he did.”
Isaac looks at Derek, nudges his shoulder gently.
“Look, I don't know what you're thinking about, and it's okay if you don't want to tell me. I know you're my alpha and that you think it's your job to protect your betas, just remember it's my job to protect you back. Don't be afraid to let me do my job, too.”
Derek opens his mouth to protest, but Isaac just raises a finger.
“Nope. Don't wanna hear any excuses. Not gonna budge.”
“Fine. God, you sound like a Stilinski already,” Derek grumbles, earning a smile from Isaac and a gentle nudge in the side.
“Anything else you wondered about?”
“Not really,” Derek shakes his head and stands up, looks around a little. The room is nice, about as big as Stiles' with a desk and a big bed, frames of various sizes on the dresser. There's a picture of Allison and Isaac from a beach somewhere. “How are things with Allison?”
“It's, um... It's actually both Allison and Scott,” Isaac says with a blush. “We talked about it and figured why not? But yeah, it's good. A little awkward sometimes, but good. She's in their cabin somewhere with Lydia now for a few weeks.” He looks at Derek again, this time a little nervous. “You're taking this surprisingly well.”
“I worked as a bouncer at a gay club in New York that had different themes for each day,” Derek says as he moves towards the door. “Very few things shock me after working st Patrick's.”
“I'm not sure if I helped you in any way, but... You know where to find me.”
Just a year ago, Isaac wouldn't have asked if he did good. He would have wanted to, but wouldn't have asked in fear of being told he'd failed. Now he sits on his bed, relaxed and face open.
He's grown so much.
“You did,” Derek assures him before he closes the door.
The short walk home to clear his head becomes a run in the woods. He hides his clothes high in a tree, shifts fully and lets himself roam, lets the wolf take over enough that the self-doubt and blame turns into nothing but powerful muscle and keen senses and the instinct to hunt. He chases a deer for a while, promptly ignores a fox at a small river as he wades into it, washing as well as he can before heading back to his clothes.
It's long past midnight when he lets himself back into the apartment, brushing his teeth quickly before heading to bed.
“Hey, where've you been?” Stiles asks sleepily, shifting to make room for Derek when he moves towards the bed. “Your hair's wet.”
Derek just shrugs, tosses the leather jacket towards the corner and sits down next to him, still with his back turned.
He's silent for so long that Derek thinks he might have fallen asleep, then sheets move and Stiles wraps his arms around Derek's chest, pulling him back in less of a hug and more of an attempt to merge them together. He leans his head against Derek's shoulder when Derek grasps his hands, pulling his arms closer around him.
“Did you know about Kate?”
“I knew she was a substitute teacher, I knew you knew her.” He pauses but doesn't stop stroking Derek's hand with his thumb. “You said something about her when you had that first big panic attack and I kind of pieced it together.”
Which is pretty much what Derek had expected.
“I was so convinced I'd done something wrong, that I could have done something better so she wouldn't have set the fire.” Then, mostly because he can't stop now that he's actually started letting it out, he adds: “I nearly killed myself when I found out she was the one who did it. Then I realized I'd leave Laura alone and I couldn't do that to her.”
“Have you been close to trying after that?”
Derek hesitates, closes his eyes and breathes Stiles in. Thinks about the times Stiles has held and pulled and punched him away from death. How close Derek has been to walking into it willingly.
Then he nods.
“I was so angry when I woke up that night at the school. And when Erica died I just... That was it. I was done.” The arms around him tighten in a way that would probably break a rib in anyone else. “I don't want to die, Stiles. Not anymore.”
“I trust you're telling me the truth.” His voice breaks a little. “Let it be clear though that even if you would do it, I'd find a way to drag your werewolf ass back to me. I don't fucking care what I'd have to do.”
And Stiles sounds so angry, furious, but Derek knows him, knows the hurt in his scent and the fear in the tone of his voice and Stiles leans his forehead against Derek's, Stiles' fists are almost wrapped in Derek's shirt and even though it's dark Derek can smell the tears on his face. His own face is burning in embarrassment yet again, this time from understanding of just how much he would have hurt Stiles, had he done it.
“Good.” Derek answers, voice just as shaky.
“Don't think I won't do it. I have ways. And Lydia Martin.”
“So am I.”
They sit like that until Derek, absolutely exhausted and with Stiles' hand running up and down his spine, almost falls asleep sitting up.
“Come on, big guy, let's get some rest,” Stiles says and pulls him down until he can lie down on Derek's chest, head against his sternum and his fingers gently tapping Derek's heartbeat against the sheets.
“You talk about Stiles a lot.”
“He's just... always around.” He shakes his head a little, willing the bad thoughts away. “Half of the time I have to tell myself he's not considering me a charity case. When I have bad days, I'm just waiting for him to get tired of this and go home, and when I have good days I know he cares, I guess, but...”
”Can't gauge how much?”
It's not easy, being this brutally honest and open with someone who's not pack. There have been days where he's silently sworn to himself that he wouldn't go back until Noah handed him even more chocolate and reminded him that some things you can't force. Despite this, they've come a long way in just a few sessions.
Dr Gorman hums, looking at Eddie where he's draped across Derek's lap. He's big and he's grey and doesn't give two shits that Derek's an alpha werewolf when there are scratches behind the ears to be had, paws flopping around in the air and tail thumping against the sofa.
“Have you told him?” Dr Gorman asks, tapping softly between her collarbones.
It's above her heart, but he gets the point, and of course she's figured it out. Dr Gorman is as clever as she is kind and careful, doesn't push when he needs time but always gives him an in if he feels ready to talk. She's brutally honest at times, the way Laura would be when he moped around too much or was too stubbornly self-destructive, but she's gently pushing him forward and not out of balance. Doesn't judge him when he tells her about Erica, about Boyd, about how he pushed Isaac away, or the times he's woken up, wishing he hadn't.
Doesn't use words and terms he's not ready to admit even to himself, like what Kate did or what Stiles might mean.
“I don't see what good it could do,” Derek shrugs, rubbing the fur between Eddie's ears. He's taken to sprawling across Derek's lap if Derek stops petting him and starts drifting away, whining a little if Derek takes too long to respond.
They've talked about this in length, Derek disconnecting and brushing it off when things get too intense and spot on, words like depersonalisation and derealisation that Derek later sat down and Googled. Not only does make sense to him, but it also must have made sense to Stiles, judging by the amount of times the link has been clicked already.
To anybody else the shrugging answers might seem indifferent. Not to dr Gorman, who nods knowingly and eyes the clock.
“We're running a little late so I'm going to leave you with a little.. homework, of sorts,” she says and puts her glasses on the desk beside her. “Just something to think about, on a good day.”
Derek gives Eddie one of the treats he's taken to bringing to the sessions and pushes him gently off of his lap. He moves with a groan and simply falls back down where he lands on the rug, head resting on Derek's sock clad foot.
“Have you ever known Stiles to do anything he doesn't want to?”
“The dishes.” Dr Gorman giggles a little, even if she sends him a fond look saying I know you're deflecting, and Derek can't hold back a huff, himself. “No, no. I haven't. Even things he really should have ran from.”
“Who are the most important people in his life?”
“Scott and Noah.” She hums, studying him for a few seconds.
“Let's say what you feel isn't mutual. Just hypothetically, I have no way of knowing,” she adds quickly. “But if he chooses to be around you this often, do you think he'd care any less about you if he found out? Think any less of you? Or do you think he'd still care about you the way he does today?”
“I don't know if I ever want to find out,” he sighs, and it's the truth.
Noah still takes him, still waits outside until they’re done and still gives him chocolate every time. Sometimes they go for lunch, too, outside of appointments and without Stiles. Noah buys the biggest burgers he can find and Derek listens to the steady, healthy and unhindered thump of his heart every time, just to make sure. Noah tells him about the stupid things Stiles has done over the years and the even stupider things he's done with Scott. Tells him when Isaac has yelled at him for the first time, not even bothering to hide the pride and cracks in his voice because Isaac is comfortable enough with him to yell at him without being afraid of getting beaten up .
And when Noah calls him son, Derek thinks about the scent of eucalyptus wood and the calm focus of his father teaching him how to carve the smallest details of the porch swing with his claws.
It's one of the best things Derek has had in years.
They run late one day, buying dinner after his session, and by the time Noah drops him off Stiles is already back from school.
“Hi,” Stiles calls to him from the kitchen when he walks through the door. “You hungry? I was thinking about ordering someth-” He looks at the bags in Derek's hand, then sniffs the air. “Ooh, you bought Chinese?”
Derek puts the bags of food on the counter, shrugging his jacket off and throwing it back out into the hallway.
“I've been at dr Gorman’s.” He blurts out instead, but Stiles just nods a little and turns to hop up onto the counter, looking all but surprised.
“I know,” he smiles, one of those smiles that Derek never ever will get tired of seeing. It took months for Derek to realize they were fond smiles, then another month to accept they were because of him. By now he relishes knowing he put them there.
Well, on the good days, anyway.
“Come here.” Stiles motions for Derek to come closer with a small tilt of his head and Derek does, until he's close enough that Stiles can reach out to his shoulder.
“How?” Derek asks, because he was careful.
“Your clothes always have grey dog hairs on them on Tuesdays and Fridays. Your fur is black.” Stiles makes a point by running his hand gently over Derek's head. “Also you bought dog treats and you disappear the same times every week.”
“Should've known you'd figure it out. Didn't want to tell you in case it didn't work.” Derek frowns, but Stiles just smiles at him.
“That's okay. So does telling me mean it does work?”
“I think so. I didn't think I'd trust her this much,” he admits and backs away from the counter a little, away from Stiles' personal space.
“She's kind of magic in that way,” Stiles agrees.
“I think her mother was grandma's emissary. She smells a bit like magic sometimes, not like you but... like she's been around it, like someone else's perfume,” Derek says.
“Really? Wow,” Stiles grins. “Deaton said that there can be some residual magic in the children of emissaries, I guess we know who he was talking about.”
“I don't think she can use it though.”
“She doesn't really have to,” Stiles shrugs and starts looking through the takeout bags. “If it's passed on to her and faint it might just.. Make things work favourably for her, like a loaded dice. What I do is making the dice into my bitch.” He makes a face and Derek didn't even know eyebrows could move up and down that fast.
He just rolls his eyes and turns to the fridge to get something for them to drink.
“What do you-”
“Dr Pepper.” Derek looks to his hand, already hoovering over the Dr Pepper can.
“Heathen,” he sighs, grabs it and a Coke for himself as Stiles' phone signals a text. “Noah?”
“Scott. He asked if I wanted to see a movie or something.”
“When do you have to leave?”
Stiles makes a noise, somewhere between a dismissive sound and a grumble.
”You turned Scott down.” Derek says dumbly and leans against the fridge, still trying get used to the abrupt change in world order. Stiles glances up at him and nods, still texting without looking, what the hell. ”You turned Scott down?”
”Why wouldn't I, it's takeout night? Oh, and I saw Law and Order is on tonight, too.” Derek wants to ask when takeout night even became a thing, because it is, another one of those things Stiles brought with him like unmatched socks, an abundance of sarcastic t-shirts despite always wearing Derek's instead and the awful shower curtain with clown fish on it that Stiles somehow managed to hang upside down. Derek would never admit it, but he wouldn't trade it for anything.
”But it's Scott?”
”Yes, I'm fully aware, I've known him since I was eleven which is how I also know I can go see him another day instead.” He shrugs and steals a piece of chicken from Derek's box. ”I'm staying home tonight,” he says, just like that, as if ditching Scott for someone else is something he does on the regular.
Then the full sentence registers and when, when did that happen?
”What?” Stiles says. “You have this... look on your face.” He frowns, setting his phone down. "What did I say?"
After all the hesitation, months of keeping his cards close to his chest and not even shifting in fear of making it obvious just how gone on Stiles he really is, it's almost ridiculous how easy it is to move back in again. Only this time he presses his lips against Stiles', a soft lip-against-lip, almost more of a nuzzle than a kiss, breathing in deeply against his cheek.
What surprises him more, however, are the fingers almost instantly sliding into his hair, keeping him gently in place as Stiles shifts a little, kisses him for real.
He steps closer to the counter as Stiles moves back a little, following him in a synchronised sway before Stiles presses up against him, chests brushing and Derek almost dumbly grips the counter to keep himself standing.
Where he thought there would be a little hesitation from Stiles there is none. Of course Stiles would do the opposite of what he expected him to do- Stiles licks his way into Derek's mouth and bites his bottom lip gently and Derek can feel it down to his toes. It's like his heart is slowing down and speeding up at the same time and he's never ever felt anything like it, never felt so aware of everything and so good at the same time. Stiles ends the kiss with a kiss a lot like the first one, almost like a punctuation mark. Completing the circle.
“Wow, okay. Wassat-,” Stiles slurs when they pull apart just enough for Derek to see him clearly, cheeks flushed and eyes still closed. “Was that just a thing or... or was that a thing thing?”
“Because I really like you and I don't know if I could do a thing without wanting it to be a thing thing,” he says in a hurry.
“There are things, I- feelings.” Derek corrects himself as Stiles giggles near hysterically, and Derek knows that if this had been anybody else he'd probably be locked in the bathroom vomiting by now. Instead he huffs out a laugh, looks at Stiles who looks up at him, and when he nods it feels a bit pointless to delve into it further.
Stiles wraps his arms around Derek, pulls him in and kisses his temple and Derek feels nothing but safe . He's not even nervous, which is ridiculous because he just kissed Stiles and Stiles kissed back and he should be . He should be so, so nervous, and sick, but he's just a little dazed, and even that in the best possible way.
“I wasn't sure you wanted to be here,” Derek admits quietly, muffled into Stiles' shirt. “Then you called the apartment home.”
“That's what that look was for?”
“Is that okay?” He asks, pulling away again to look at Derek. “It kind of slipped, to be honest. I've tried not to assume anything.”
“If I didn't want you here I wouldn't have let you in, if I didn't want you to stay I wouldn't have given you the key,” Derek says, sure and calm. “And if I didn't want to kiss you, I wouldn't have kissed you.”
Stiles leans down a little to kiss him again, this time slower, deeper, slowly growing a little heavier, a little more intense, but never pushes Derek's limits at all. Quite the opposite- he's floored with how unhurried and sweet it all is, Stiles is, like there's nothing he'd rather do than press soft, slow kisses all over his face, little fingers resting against his pulse points and thumbs against his cheekbones. Derek's just waiting for it to speed up, get even heavier and for the other shoe to drop. Instead Stiles smiles against him and strokes his damn cheek, takes his time.
But that's not quite it, either. Stiles' hands are moving, but only to pet Derek's hair or run down his arm, gently wrapping his fingers around Derek's wrist. It's like he's content like this, like Derek's mouth is something to be savoured and not a means to an end.
It’s almost too much, to feel this much without it being fear or anger or crippling grief or hate , enough to make his hands shake with it where they clench at Stiles’ sides. They did with Kate too; nerves would do that to any 16-year-old virgin, but not like this. Nothing, absolutely nothing about her was ever like this, and she doesn't get to be part of this too. Derek lets his hands run up Stiles' back, over broad shoulders to strong arms and just clings to them, so different that he knows who he's with, that it's not her.
And for the first time it's actually working.
Every single one of his senses scream Stiles; the taste of his tongue, the scent of his cheek, his skin under Derek's fingertips and the content sigh when he rests his forehead against Derek's.
“I've wanted to do that for a while,” Derek admits.
“Good,” says Stiles with a breathless laugh, “Me too.”
Then their stomachs growls in unison and Stiles laughs a little louder.
“Food?” Stiles asks.
“Food,” Derek agrees and backs away, letting him slip down from the counter.
Derek vetoes the renaming of takeout night to makeout night. He doesn't veto the making out itself.
Now, Derek knows that this change between them won't be a miracle cure for anxiety. It still disappoints him a little when he wakes up couple of weeks later covered in sweat, stomach churning and unsteady hands. He's just glad Stiles is at school already so he can grit his teeth through the worst without having Stiles see just how awful it gets.
He can't stop shivering. It's like he can't get warm and his skin is put on wrong, crooked and out of place.
He’s dropped his tea and cried about it for nearly an hour because what useless piece of crap can't even hold a fucking mug, Derek, picked up the pieces with shaking hands and then watched them heal from the cuts and feels like he's constantly on the edge.
Of panic or death, he's not sure.
He takes a long, warm shower, trying to make the cold in his stomach go away, even takes a few slices of the pickled ginger to see if it helps at all. When he's done he still feels like shit, but his hands stop shaking and it's easier to focus on the yellow Volkswagen bus on the TV instead of the cold in his veins, so he brings Stiles' pillow to the sofa, lies down and pulls the blanket over himself despite the warmth of the California spring.
He's still awake by the time Stiles comes home and sprawls out on top of him and the blanket, weighing him down. Grounding him.
Stiles guides his arms up, until Derek wraps his arms around broad shoulders and buries his nose in his neck, breathing in traces of Lydia and, strangely enough, dog, but most of it is Stiles and Derek's shower gel.
He takes a deep breath, too relieved to not be alone anymore to feel ashamed of it. He knows Stiles won't judge him for it.
“Have you had anything today?”
“Made tea. Need a new cup.” When Derek doesn't elaborate, Stiles just nods.
“Okay. Want me to make some soup?”
“Dunno...” Derek grunts, stomach protesting at the thought even.
“Just a few spoonfuls will be enough,” Stiles bargains, melting into Derek's frame a little more. “I'll make it non-spicy.”
Derek lets his hand glide over Stiles' back, along his spine until it rests in the warm small of his back. Nods.
“I'm just gonna cuddle you a little longer,” Stiles decides, "Then I'll get some soup, and then I'll cuddle you some more."
“Okay,” Derek exhales, feeling the tension bleed out from his shoulders and the warmth returning to his limbs.
He manages to doze off while Stiles is in the kitchen, only waking up when Stiles strokes his cheek and asks him to sit up so they can eat, then places a warm bowl in his hands. When he does, he gives Derek a small kiss, presses just hard enough for it to be there and but with such an amount of tenderness in it that Derek feels the blush spread across his cheeks.
He doesn't really know what to do with it, the easy way Stiles kisses him, or when he does things like randomly hugging him while Derek's making lunch or brushing his teeth. He's used to attention or compliments, he knows what he looks like, but they've never gone deeper than that. Stiles will say things like 'You make these adorable sighs when you sleep well, that's how I can tell' or 'You're the bravest person I know, dude', or that one time when Derek felt like shit the entire day, cleaned to keep his mind occupied and had to lock himself in the bathroom to keep from crying simply because Stiles told him the kitchen looked nice.
Stiles does and says things that break through his shell like dandelions through asphalt, that take root and make their home under his skin. Derek doesn't know what to do with himself half of the time because Stiles means it.
And Derek really, really likes it.
The next day is much better, so much better that he sends Lydia a text, asking her for a favor. She calls him back almost immediately, so Stiles must be on his way home from school already.
“So... iPad, huh? Kind of a pricey present,” Lydia says, not even trying to cover up her prying. “I have to say putting the bestiary on it is a good idea though.”
“I feel like I at least owe him that much after everything,” Derek says with a shrug and keeps stirring the sauce for dinner. He hears a car door slam in the background and then Lydia lets out an annoyed sound.
“No. Seriously Derek, if you only let yourself believe one thing coming out of my mouth, let it be this: Stiles kept your apartment clean and your fridge full, sure, but he didn't get you out of bed and into the real world. That was all you.” Lydia says sternly. “You survived and then you came back. Take credit for that, because you deserve it.”
“You sound like you speak from experience,” he says after a beat, not really knowing what else to say.
“You could say so.” She sighs a little. “Look, I know it might not be easy to believe right now, but we're all proud of you.”
“Yes, we. Your friends, your pack.”
Trust Lydia to hear the question he wanted to ask, but didn't. He figured they were on bad terms because of Peter, then one day Stiles let it slip how Lydia's been asking him about Derek continuously. Everyone else he can rationalise away on the bad days; Stiles is... whatever they are. Stiles he trusts. But the dark part of his mind takes over some days, telling him Noah and Melissa only care because Stiles does, that Isaac's stuck with a useless alpha only because Scott hasn't become one himself.
Lydia, though? Lydia has all reasons to hate him. Yet she throws the darkness for a loop, calls herself his friend.
“Just transfer the money to me and I'll fix it, I'll talk to Danny tomorrow and we'll see what he can do,” she says, starting her car. "I'll set something up with Scott, too."
“No problem,” she says, and he can hear that she's smiling. “If you ever feel like joining me for a coffee or a manicure sometime, just text me.”
“I don't think the nail people could to much with my claws,” Derek chuckles.
“Not your claws, no, but they have a very professional barber. I gotta go, but think about it?”
“I will,” he promises before he hangs up, running a hand through his beard.
Maybe some company could do them both good.
Scott drops by the morning before Stiles' birthday and kidnaps Stiles. Bro's night, he says, and shrugs at Derek as if they haven't planned it out a week in advance.
Then Scott gives Stiles a helmet with a pitch black visor.
“I don't know what he's up to,” Derek says when Stiles looks to him for help. “I take no responsibility for this. Now go, I have movies to watch and popcorn to eat.”
“That's my popcorn, asshole,” Stiles says warmly and puts the helmet on.
“I'll have him back before tomorrow morning,” Scott says as he guides a now blind Stiles out the door.
“What?!” Stiles says, and Derek can clearly imagine the look on his face without seeing it. “A whole day?! Am I going to die the day before my birthday? I thought I could trust you guys.”
“I won't wait up.” Derek says and Scott grins at him, both of them ignoring the protests from within the helmet.
“I can still hear you, you know,” Stiles grumbles as Scott closes the door.
Fifteen minutes after Scott and Stiles have left, Lydia arrives, the iPad Derek bought for Stiles in one hand and a bag of takeout in the other, her laptop bag slung over her shoulder.
“Was Danny able to do it?”
“All you need to do is put a password on the folder, if anyone tries to hack it they'll only end up with 50 Shades. First we eat, then we start scanning.”
Derek nods and takes out plates and glasses for them as Lydia sits down by the table.
“How did you know what I wanted?” He asks as he stares at his shrimp fried rice in confusion.
“Stiles told me,” she shrugs and hands him a Coke.
“Yeah?” Derek takes a spring roll and bites into it, pretending it's not the best thing he's eaten all week. “What else did he tell you?”
“Not much,” she says lightly, then looks Derek straight in the eyes. “He doesn't need to. He lights up whenever someone mentions you.”
Derek just stares at her. Of course he knew already that Stiles likes him, but he hasn't said anything about telling Scott or Isaac or someone less perceptive than Lydia and she makes it sound so easy.
Like Derek actually gets to have this.
“If you're going to pretend the dumb smile he's been wearing for the past week has nothing to do with you, don't. Scott just hasn't picked up on it because he's doing the same thing but with Allison and Isaac.”
“I didn't even say anything,” he says meekly.
“You're making the exact same face,” she sighs, but Derek sees her smile when she looks down at her plate, skilfully rearranging her sushi. “Eat, Derek, so we're done with this before we have to leave for the salon.”
He fills the iPad with things he’s found Stiles likes- random trivia apps, a comics reader, StumbleUpon, some of Stiles’ mother’s recipes thanks to Noah and the books from Stiles' To Read-list. The Argent bestiary is a given, both original text and translated copies thanks to Lydia.
He adds the Hale bestiary last, spends four hours with the sheriff’s borrowed scanner, and almost manages to convince himself it hasn't been the plan all along, even if it scares him shitless to hand over that much information to someone. There are four separate books; one for werewolf lore, a second for the magic his brother was learning and a third for other things the Hale family have ran into over the years. The last book contains their family history, traces the lineage of their blood way back to their first known alpha, a new chapter for every new alpha.
Lydia's still sitting opposite of him, working on her translation of the other reliable sources they've found. Whenever she looks towards him it's never towards the book, subtle but still often enough that he knows she's avoiding it for his sake.
The second to last chapter is penned in his mother's neat handwriting, opens on a page with the entire pack listed. The last chapter simply says Laura Hale and his name and position under it in her damn near illegible handwriting, bringing out memories of arguments over items missing from the shopping bags simply because he had no idea what she’d written.
Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. Doesn’t feel as raw.
Somehow it’s a little comforting that Peter never wrote himself in, either. Neither one of them were supposed to be the alpha. Power shifts and in theory anything could’ve happened, but his grandma chose his parents for a reason. Peter had never even been considered alpha material, just like Laura was supposed to take over when she had a family of her own. Not him.
Not like this, at least. There hadn't been a Hale killed by hunters for decades and now he's the only one left.
But he's not packless. He's not alone, something he only fully realizes when they turn up at the Stilinski house the next day and he's gently pulled into a hug by Melissa. He tenses a little at the surprise but it melts away when he glances over her shoulders and sees Scott by the kitchen door, a little surprised himself but still smiling. He even gives him a thumbs up, the dork.
“I'm glad to see you out and about,” she says sincerely, patting his back. “We weren't sure if you were coming, but we got a couple of extra beers in case you would.”
And that's what does it in the end- they aren't taking out extra chairs because he turned up.
He already had one at the table.
He might squeeze Melissa a little too tight, but she doesn't say anything about it.
“Scott, go help Noah with the barbeque,” she says instead and sets the paper plates she was holding aside without letting Derek go, hugging him fully and petting his hair, refusing to let go first. "I guess we both forget you're still so young, sometimes."
She's mom-ing him, it's a mom hug, the kind he hasn't had in nearly ten years and it should be so awkward that it's Scott's mom, but she's rocking them gently from side to side and she smells the same kind of content Noah does whenever Derek and Stiles join them for dinner.
She's not his mom, just like Noah isn't his dad. Nobody will ever replace his parents and siblings, but that doesn't make the people in the house less of a family to him. He closes his eyes and listens to Scott and Noah by the barbeque and Stiles and Allison picking on Isaac. Lydia's there too, her calm heartbeat strangely comforting despite the brief time they've spent together.
He releases Melissa and she pulls back, lets her arms drop to her sides.
“There's more where those came from, okay?”
“Okay,” he nods, kind of lost for words. Melissa just smiles and hands him a bottle of ketchup.
“Come on, let's go eat.”
Stiles is already tearing into his gifts when they get to the porch.
“Hey, I was waiting for you,” he says and holds up the iPad, wrapping paper still as perfect as Lydia made it. “Didn't wanna open it without you.”
Derek pushes back the impulse to kiss his cheek and takes a seat beside him on the bench, watching as Stiles starts unwrapping it. He looks at the opening in the wrapping, then to Derek, then back again before he launches himself at Derek.
“When did you buy this? How did you even know I wanted it?! Ohmygosh it’s perfect.” Stiles almost squeaks when he lets go of his bone crushing hold of Derek and starts poking around the apps. He gets to the bestiary quickly and tries to open the file with no success. “What’s the password?”
“Your name.” He sees Stiles type ‘Stiles’ into it.
“What do you mean ‘Wrong Password’?” He mumbles to the iPad, and then tries ‘Stilinski’. Noah smirks at Derek from the grill, silently waiting for the penny to drop. Derek looks back to Stiles and the iPad just in time to see him type in ‘Boo boo kitty fuck’.
“I knew it was a mistake to introduce you to Kevin Smith-movies.”
“Well, what else could it be, I’ve never told you my-” Stiles whips around towards Noah who’s barely keeping it together. “You! I can't believe you told them!”
“Danny thought it was keysmash,” Lydia says smugly.
Derek can’t see Stiles’ face but Isaac can’t even stand straight, Allison actually gigglesnorts and Scott is wheezing with laughter. He probably should have rigged a camera for this.
“So worth it,” Noah sits down by the table, still laughing.
“I’m voting you off this island,” Stiles squawks at Noah, and starts flipping through the pages, casually hooking his leg over Derek’s knee.
People meaning the Sheriff of Beacon Hills just three feet away and Isaac staring at them blatantly from the grill. Scott doesn’t seem to take much notice, at least he has that much to be thankful for.
Derek casually inhales, trying to be subtle enough that nobody notices, sniffing to make sure there’s no wolfsbane around, and then sneaks a hand up to rest over Stiles’ thigh, right above his kneecap. He doesn’t dare leave it any higher up because getting shot still hurts like a bitch even without the wolfsbane. Melissa just shakes her head and smiles into her wine glass, sneakily reaching for Noah’s hand under the table where only Derek can see. Noah twitches a little in surprise but hides it well, still talking to Scott and Isaac.
“You know, it amazes me how smart people can be so stupid sometimes,” Melissa says fondly and winks at Derek.
“Huh?” Both Noah and Stiles turn to look at her.
“Oh, no, I just... wondered in general,” she smiles at him. Noah squints at her, not quite believing it, then goes back to talking exhaust pipes with the others.
“Thank you for trusting me,” Stiles says later in his bed, face pressed into the back of Derek’s head and arms wrapped around his shoulders.
Derek doesn’t scan his heartbeat for lies. It has been a long, long time since he felt the need to.
“You've never given me a reason not to.”
Stiles doesn't say anything, but his embrace tightens and he presses a kiss to the back of Derek's head.
“You're being even more quiet than usual,” Noah hums during breakfast the next day. Isaac and Stiles left to buy ingredients for pancakes and left them sitting in the garden. 'Spend some quality time', Noah had said, and Derek can't help but think that he wouldn't be as friendly if he knew that the spare matress went unused last night.
“I kissed Stiles a couple of weeks ago,” he blurts out.
“Did he kiss you back?” Noah asks, mouth full of eggs.
“I- We-,” Derek takes a deep breath. “Yes, yes he did.”
“Okay.” Noah nods and doesn't even look up from the paper.
“Okay?” Derek sounds just as confused as he feels. Probably looks even worse, judging by the chuckle Noah lets out when he puts the paper down.
“I thought this was old news? Like, dating but taking it slow? Stiles has been living with you for weeks, months even.”
“And you still did all of this?” The for me is left unsaid, but Noah seems to get it. “I thought you'd put out a warrant for my arrest.”
“Again, you mean?” Noah teases with a grin. “Third time's the charm, huh?”
Derek just groans into his palms.
“Derek.” He sits up a little. “What matters to me the most is that Stiles finds someone who cares for him and helps him grow as a person. Same thing goes for you. If those people for the two of you happen to be each other?” He shrugs like Derek isn't having the worst silent crisis since finding out his mother and Claudia used to swap recipes. “I trust you. Both of you.”
“He's just a teenager,” Derek slumps in his chair. He cannot believe he's having this conversation, with Stiles' father. “I keep thinking I'm going to ruin his life, if I haven't already.”
“You're not Kate Argent.”
Derek's head snaps up. Noah exhales, puts the paper away.
“How do you two figure everything out, is it genetic?” Derek says with a resigned sigh.
Noah looks somewhere between embarrassed and very, very sorry. Fortunately it's a kind of sorry Derek can actually stand these days, less like pity and more about being protective.
“She, um.. There was a pattern to her behaviour. She was banned from substitute teaching in two states for attempting relationships with her students before she came here, the connection wasn't hard to make.” Noah says with a wince. “I looked them up and they were both okay, thank God.”
Derek thinks of Scott. Of himself, young and an easy target. The fangs don't drop, but he can feel his eyes flash for just a second or two.
Noah's expression turns softer and when he speaks, it's low and gentle like it was when he let Derek and Laura into the former sheriff's office to sleep on the couch the night of the fire.
“Point is, I've seen cases where someone's been through abuse and comes out of it as an abuser. All of them have had one thing in common: not a single one of them have ever stopped, looked at what they were doing and wondered if they were doing the right thing. Either they are way to messed up because it's been their world order for so long or they simply do not care. Claudia's ex was the first kind. Kate Argent? Probably a mix between the two. But you? We're talking about it, aren't we? That tells me all I need to know.”
“I... I don't know what to say.”
Noah smiles at him, a smile Derek has only ever seen directed at Stiles, Melissa and Scott, and half of him wants to bask in it like a cat in sunlight while the other half wants to run. Again.
This time, Derek stays.
“You don't have to say anything, son, just give me your bacon and don't tell Stiles I had some.”
Derek chuckles and pushes his plate across the table.
“I went to Erica's grave a few days ago.”
“Yeah? How did that feel?”
“Being in a pack, there's a connection between all pack members. Like when you can sense someone being in a room with you, but permanent. It's so odd to not feel that when you know they're close.”
“Did you expect to feel it?”
“Yes. Maybe. I don't know. We didn't exactly get to bury my family but I feel something at the house, like it's residual. Maybe it's all in my head.” Derek shifts in his seat and Eddie squirms in his lap. “I was her alpha and when I go there it's like there's nothing left of her there. I feel like there should be more, you know?”
Dr Gorman nods.
“I'm not very familiar with werewolf packs despite my mother,” she says. “But I am familiar with loss, and I think that disconnect happens to most who lose someone we love. We put so much into the bond we have with the person that it seems impossible for both them and the bond to be gone. I can only imagine that with a supernatural bond there, it's amplified- both the bond in life and the expectation afterwards.”
“She's been gone for a year this weekend. I'm taking Isaac out into the woods for a bit, spend some time with him. I just hope Boyd doesn't do anything reckless.”
“Do you think he would?”
“I don't know. Loss can make the calmest people do stupid things.”
“Can you sense him?”
“Not really. I don't know. He ran away after the funeral and I didn't go. When we got them out of the bank I could feel the bond faintly, but that was over a year ago. I'm not sure I'd feel it even if he sat next to me.”
“I really miss them both,” he says, voice so low it's almost a whisper.
She doesn't comment it when he starts crying, just gives him tissues sits with him in silence. Even when his hour is up, she lets him stay and waits until he's ready to leave.
Noah doesn't say anything either when he comes out twenty minutes late. Instead he gives Derek twice as much chocolate as usual and pulls him into a hug, and that says so much more than he could've put into words.
It had all happened so quickly, like he'd been thrown in the deep end then told to swim and swim well, but Derek was and still is a fast learner. He lost his virginity the very same day they kissed for the first time, Kate all pornstar moans and nails scraping all over him, but he kept up as well as he could. He was a sixteen year old boy, no matter how manly he felt having her in the backseat, him willing participant even if a little disillusioned. Somehow she always made him feel like the prey regardless of how much of an apex predator he was born as, and as much as it made him curious it always made him feel a bit like dirty laundry, hidden away from everyone. 'Our secret', she'd said with a soft smile, and despite the disappointment, he'd played along. Assumed her taking the lead was because she knew more, was older, not really stopping along the way to allow him time to think. Nicknames like sweetie or handsome, repeated to him years later when he was chained up in the very room she burned his entire life to ashes.
Eddie paws at his jaw, whining where he's flipped belly up on his lap. Derek shakes his head, resurfaces to both Eddie and dr Gorman looking at him.
“Derek?” Dr Gorman asks.
“Yeah, yeah, still with you,” he says, forcing himself to inhale through his nose and exhale through his mouth, gives himself a while to calm down.
He sits for a while longer, thinking her question through, this time trying not to get lost in a loop of bad memories. It's still hard, but it's getting easier every day.
“I'm scared,” he says, simply. “It's so confusing because I want to have him close like that and then there's a part of me that keeps insisting I can't, that I'm too damaged or that I'll panic.”
“But you said you have been intimate?”
“I've touched him, he's never touched me. Not like that. Never below the waist, nothing like that.”
"And by like that you mean..?"
"Sex. I mean sex," he says with an embarrassed chuckle.
“Just making sure.” She rearranges herself a little in her seat. "So, how come?"
“I don't know if I'm ready. Even if I am ready, how am I ever going to know? I've gone months without a panic attack, I'd like to keep it that way.”
“Does it make you feel stressed, not knowing how long it might take?”
“A little,” Derek admits. “Not too much. Stiles keeps telling me it doesn't matter to him, and I believe him. He's been with me this far.”
Dr Gorman smiles at him, beaming, and Derek's a bit thrown.
“Remember when you told me you never wanted to find out if Stiles had feelings for you or not?”
She picks up a piece of paper and a pen and draws a circle, then draws another inside it and then a third.
“This is your comfort zone,” she says and points to the smallest one, “and this is your panic zone,” and points to the outer. “In between these you have the learning zone. It's smaller, because the distance to the panic zone isn't as big as the comfort zone tends to be. But if you go outside your comfort zone and explore the learning zone little by little, your comfort zone expands.”
“When you came here the first time, that was you stepping out of your comfort zone and into the learning zone. It was a little too close to your panic zone, but you went anyway. Look at you now.”
Derek looks around himself, actually physically looks around him. He's leaning back against the sofa, legs folded underneath him and a big pile of half-snoring dog in his lap.
He hasn't felt like bolting out the door in months. In fact, he wakes up and looks forward to going.
“Would you agree that this space is in your comfort zone now?”
“And it's in your comfort zone to speak of you and Stiles with certainty now, just like you do about Noah and the rest of your pack. You've gotten better at getting into your learning zone without slipping into the panic zone.”
“What I'm trying to say is don't push yourself into the panic zone in an attempt to speed things up. You can't force healing.” She puts the paper away and smiles again. This time Derek returns it. “Just don't underestimate how much healing you've already done.”
He takes Isaac with him to the woods on the anniversary, brings a small backpack with food in it with them and something to drape across the log they end up making into a makeshift bench.
“I didn't think you'd follow me the first time we went here,” Derek admits when they've sat down in the clearing, looking out across the little lake in it. “I've been told I give off a serial killer vibe.”
Isaac laughs a little.
“It's never the obvious ones. Besides, there was pretty much nothing you could do that I haven't already survived. Erica was just excited and Boyd followed her.” Isaac steals his last piece of bread and mops up the last of the chilli from his own plate. "How come you never bit anyone else? You still need two betas, right?"
“Three pack members. I'm thinking about offering Stiles and Lydia official pack status.”
“Yeah? Bring 'em out here?”
“What do you think?”
“Absolutely. What about Scott?”
“What about him?” Derek asks carefully.
“Well, if he wanted to, would you let him?”
“Scott probably doesn't want to. But if he wants to, and is serious about it this time? I'd probably let him.”
“Probably,” Isaac repeats with a huff.
“Remember when I came by to talk to you?”
“My track record with trusting people and my autonomy isn't the best, and you saw what happened with Gerard the first time. It took a lot to even think about giving him a second chance. So no, I'm not going to bend over backwards he doesn't want to or isn't prepared to truly be part of the pack.”
Part of Derek wants to tell him just who the track record started with, but he's worked through it enough with dr Gorman to know better than to use it as a point to drive home an argument. Besides, telling Isaac when he's in a relationship with Allison who, as far as Derek knows knows nothing about what else her aunt was up to, might not be the best of ideas to begin with. Isaac seems to get the point still, understanding dawning on his face.
“Yeah, okay. I'll talk to him. Draw up a contract if we have to,” Isaac says, determined and nodding to himself. “I'll do it.”
“Don't turn this into your first fight,” Derek says jokingly and laughs when Isaac rolls his eyes.
“First?" Isaac scoffs. "Stiles didn't tell you about that thing in the cafeteria?”
“No, he did not.”
Isaac launches into the dramatized version of the Great Cafeteria Row of 2012 and by the time he's doing the voices, Derek's stomach hurts from laughing too much. When darkness descends on them Derek puts his clothes into the backpack and hides it before shifting fully for the first time in months. They set off into the woods, separate howls of grief but the pack bond between them humming with life.
"Hey you," Stiles says when Derek opens the door. "Did therapy go- Oh."
He stops in his tracks, taking in the dog bed under Derek's right arm and the leash wrapped around the left. Eddie's standing obediently by Derek but his tail is wagging like crazy, eyes on Stiles.
"Dr Gorman and her wife adopted a kid who turned out to be allergic, I couldn't not."
Stiles doesn't say anything, just sits down a couple of feet away from them. When he's settled he looks up at Derek and nods.
The second Derek lets go of the leash, Eddie is in Stiles' lap, stepping all over him and whining like he doesn't know what to do with himself.
"Who's my favourite giant lapdog? Whooo's my favourite giant lapdog?" Stiles coos and Eddie coos right back.
"Does this mean we can keep him?" Derek asks, halfway out the door to get the rest of the things but still not quite sure.
"Are you kidding, I've wanted to keep him since I was thirteen!" Stiles beams at the squirming dog in his lap. "He's ours now. Yes. You. Are."
Even if they do allow him to sleep on the foot of the bed, Eddie stubbornly sleeps on the sofa. Derek should have known.
First of all I want to thank you guys for your patience with me. This entire year has been a rough one and it's difficult writing about someone else's progress when it feels like you're heading in the opposite direction. Things are starting to clear up for me and the remaining chapters are not too far from being done.
I'd also like to take a moment to thank those of you that have reached out to me both here and on tumblr. A lot of you have mentioned feeling or going through something similar to Derek in this and I feel like I should tell you that this was what made me write this in the first place; I needed to feel less alone and I needed a way to vent. I never not once thought it might help someone else too, but I am incredibly glad that it seems to have. Much love to all of you <3
Because I am a huge fucking sap, this was written to the soundtrack of the ending scene of Legend of Korra. In case anyone wanted to know :P
Stiles is ticklish.
Ticklish to the point where he nearly brains himself against the bedside table when Derek nuzzles him too softly behind the ear, twitches a little when Derek trails fingertips down his sides.
He asks, “Is this okay?” and “Can I?” , and Stiles smiles and nods and asks in return, nibbling at his collarbone, pressing little kisses against his eyelids and palms or tracing the lines of his palms with his tongue, something that shouldn’t make him feel as vulnerable as it does.
Stiles loses the worn pyjama pants he's stolen from Derek somewhere along the line and Derek has never really bothered with shirts to begin with. Not that Stiles seems to mind.
So far though, he stays half dressed. Not that he hasn't wanted to just say fuck it and dive headlong into it, because he
, wants Stiles more than he thought he'd ever be capable of
. Has caught himself staring and almost doing so much for such a long time, but it just feels too big somehow.
Stiles never pushes, never acts disappointed. Kisses his knuckles and pets his hair, stays close without breaking ant boundaries.
Derek turns his head into Stiles' neck, following a tendon with the tip of his nose.
”Dude, your beard tickles,” Stiles giggles, giggles. Derek divests Stiles of his shirt and sets out to find what other places make him twitch despite the elbows threatening to hit him in the nose. Below Stiles' chin, not so much, but something more primal in Derek likes it, so he allows himself to linger before he moves on. The sides of his neck has Stiles giggling, the soft skin of his inner arms sighing yet again and- bingo- the side of his chest makes Stiles twitch like he really doesn't know what to do with himself.
” Der- are you blowing raspberries ?!” Stiles wheezes with laughter, squirming underneath him. Derek shifts a little to make sure he's not crushing him, and then mercilessly tickles the back of his knees while blowing a raspberry against his ribs and Stiles is laughing so loud Derek's surprised the neighbours aren't complaining. He’s laughing just as loud, himself, face down on Stiles’ belly and his head jumping up and down as Stiles laughs even harder.
“You're such a dork,” Stiles laughs, sits up, and Derek allows himself to be lifted into a kiss. “I like it. And I like that you allow me to see it,” he hums against the corner of Derek's mouth, smiling at the embarrassed but pleased noise Derek makes.
Stiles is strong. Derek knew that.
But being this close and being allowed to openly look and touch is different, making his pulse rocket and he can barely keep the awe off his face. Stiles shifting under his hands, leaning up to meet him and tangle his hands in Derek's hair. They're still laughing and it’s a bit difficult to kiss, teeth knocking together a little too often, but they both do the best they can. They’ve solved worse problems.
He moves further up the bed, pressing Stiles back down into the mattress until his head hits the pillow and kisses him again, his whole body moving forward when he fits into the space between Stiles’ legs, his thighs a solid warmth against Derek's sides. The roll of his hips comes so naturally and it feels so good he barely thinks about what he's doing until Stiles' breath hitches against his cheek and Derek backs off like he's been burnt. Only...
Only he feels fine. No dread, no stomach ache, no cold in his veins, nothing. The need to run, it's not there.
“I'm okay?” He says it to ensure Stiles, but it comes out with so much confusion even Stiles looks confused. Not even worried, just confused. “I'm okay.”
“Are you sure?” Stiles reaches out and takes Derek's hand when he reaches out for Stiles' waist. Doesn't grip his wrist or outright stop him, just holds his hand. Slows him down a little. “You know we can stop anytime you want, right?”
He knows Stiles won't judge him for saying no, won't be disappointed if it gets too much even if he's comfortable now. Hasn't been before when Derek's made it all about Stiles, only to back off when Stiles moved to reciprocate.
And that, that right there is the only reason Derek dares doing this.
“I'm okay,” he repeats. And he is. He really is. “I know we can stop anytime I want,” he repeats after stiles, tracing a light finger down Stiles' side and making his stomach contract involuntarily, earning him a little huff. When Derek's hand reaches the dip of his hips, he slows down. Runs his fingertips along his hipbone and watches Stiles twitch. “But I don't want to stop.”
He looks up at Stiles, hears his heartbeat pick up and feels the change of pace in his breathing again. It's so difficult for him to interpret Stiles on most days, so many layers to him that make his fingers itch, makes Derek want to carefully pick them apart to see what Stiles hides, what nobody gets to see. How he works and thinks and feels and all his how's and why's.
Like this, his hair still messy from showering and then from Derek's fingers before it dried, cheeks flushed and lips parted, he's never been easier to read. Cheeks flushed, pupils dilated, slightly sweaty hand clutching at Derek's side.
His heart isn't beating faster from fear or dread, it's anticipation.
He wants this, wants Derek.
“Oh.” Stiles breathes more than says. “Yeah, okay.”
“Yeah,” Derek agrees and Stiles leans up, kissing him as they work together to kick their underwear off, taking away the last barrier between them and Derek finally, finally, allows himself to want.
Stiles scratches his thigh a little trying to pull Derek's pyjama pants off with his toes when he can't reach anymore and Derek's pretty sure he just heard Stiles' boxers land on a plant but he couldn't care less. Not when Stiles is shifting to find a comfortable way to lie down on him, warm skin against his literally from top to toe. It's safe and intoxicating at the same time, making his head spin.
“Do I just...?” Stiles asks a little nervously, shifting his hips forward just enough to get them a little friction. “Oh, wait!” He says before Derek can even get into his head that this is happening and pulls away a little to lean over the edge of the bed, rummaging through his bathrobe.
“Here we go,” he says triumphantly and holds up a tiny bottle.
“You bring lube into the shower?” Derek says when he sees the label.
“Where else am I going to jerk off? You'd be able to smell it anywhere else.” Stiles shrugs a little but the blush is coming back and that rapidly. “Didn't wanna do it in here and make you uncomfortable,” he adds, a little softer. “It kind of became habit.”
The thought of catching Stiles in the bed, their bed, spreading the scent of him all over where Derek sleeps at night?
“You're kind of.. um. Wolfing a bit, there,” Stiles stutters, gesturing to his eyes. “No, it's okay.” Stiles says a little breathlessly. “I, um. Actually kind of like it.”
Derek just huffs out a laugh and takes the lube out of his hands, makes quick work out of spreading it over both of them before Stiles sinks down against him again and kisses him just as gently as he starts moving again. It's not flawless; their rhythm is a little off and Stiles still has a sock on, but it makes it feel all the more real.
Then Stiles makes a curious noise, shifts back a little and does does this slow, thorough, devastating roll with his entire body, grinding them together from where their legs slot together to where their lips meet and Derek simultaneously bucks up and feels like all his bones are melting into the mattress.
“Like that,” he exhales, wolf maybe a little too close to the surface for his own liking, feeling his teeth lengthen a little. Stiles' hips stutter, head lolling down onto the pillow next to Derek's head, nodding wordlessly in agreement.
He shifts his grip from Stiles' shoulder to the back of his thighs to pull him in again, keep him doing the same thing.
There are no nails scraping down his back, no expert moves to throw him off, just the soft sheets against his back, warmth all around him and the comfortable weight of Stiles on top of him, so he buries his face in Stiles' neck, wraps an arm around his waist and stops holding back. T heir pace grows a little impatient, sheets rustling and breathing loud and yet the entire world goes quiet in a way Derek can't ever remember it having been.
They lie there in silence for a while afterwards, catching their breaths. Derek watches as a hickey becomes more and more visible, right below where his nose fits into the curve of Stiles’ neck the best. He doesn't even remember making it, it just feels right to see it there.
Stiles kisses Derek's forehead, hand sluggishly drawing patterns between his shoulderblades.
“Maybe we should take a shower,” Derek hums, eyes still closed and head pillowed on Stiles' arm. “My arm is sticking to your stomach.”
“We could take a bath,” Stiles suggests, words muffled against Derek's forehead. “I'm not sure if my legs are stable enough to stand yet. Sleep an option?”
“A few minutes,” Derek agrees and Stiles curls him even closer with his arm.
Stiles is standing by the wardrobe when Derek gets back to the bedroom, still naked but now dry. He's seen Stiles fully naked a couple of times before, there was the thing with the lake monster around Halloween and Gerard's acidic blood got on his clothes when they killed him. Just like being physically close to him it has always come hand in hand with mortal peril, never giving him time to appreciate it. Part of Derek wishes he could paint or was good at photography so he could immortalize Stiles like this, relaxed and at home in his own skin.
A bigger part of him is happy with the knowledge he's the only one who gets to see him like this.
“What?” Stiles says, looking perfectly comfortable despite the lack of layers he usually hides behind and the man watching him.
Derek just bites his lip to keep himself from saying something he shouldn't, and instead he just goes over to Stiles and wraps him up in a hug.
Isaac and Scott show up with movies and food just after they've dressed, Stiles still searching for his hoodie when Derek opens the door. Stiles makes no move to cover the hickey on his neck, now the size of Russia.
Not even when Isaac looks at Scott and hold his hand out towards him.
”I told you. You owe me twenty.”
“Dude.” Scott sighs and hands Isaac a lump of bills from his pocket.
“I hate you guys,” sighs Stiles. There's a faint blush slowly making its way across his cheeks and Derek has to fight back the impulse to kiss him all over. Again.
It's like once the dam has been opened, he can't hold back for shit.
”Help please?” Isaac nods to the bags of food and pizza cartons in his hands and Stiles follows him into the kitchen before Derek can damage Scott permanently by dragging his best friend into the bedroom.
”Do I even want to know what the bet was?” Derek sighs and looks to Scott.
”Probably not. Just know that we both rooted for you guys.” Scott chuckles, then goes right back to being serious. ”About that-”
”I’d never hurt him intentionally.” He shouldn’t feel nervous, he's the alpha goddamnit, but he still does. Scott smiles at this and looks almost fond, in a way.
”I'm not that worried, honestly. I kind of doubt you’d allow just anybody to help you this much, with the pack and all.”
“With the pack?” Derek asks and ignores the rest of what Scott said for his own sanity’s sake.
”Stiles didn't tell you? He's been calling the shots for months while we've waited for you to... y'know.” He shrugs.
”What?” Derek looked back at Scott, disbelieving. Stiles had been at his apartment nearly every day when he didn't have to be at school, how would he have the time to orchestrate a werewolf pack?
”It just made sense. He's the only one we all could be sure wouldn't power trip or accidentally become an alpha or something and everyone listens to him. Besides, he's a great strategist; you should have seen him with Baba Yaga.” Scott smiles, pats his shoulder and walks off into the living room before Derek can process it.
”Hey.” Stiles comes out from the kitchen with half a slice of his pineapple pizza stuffed in his face just in time.
”You called Baba Yaga 'small witch problem', Stiles?” Derek arches an eyebrow at him, trying to keep the amusement hidden when Stiles understands what he's talking about and goes wide-eyed. He ends up snorting out a laugh anyway and Stiles relaxes and swallows his food before he speaks.
”I'll tell you later. Not much happened, really. Well, Scott got Harry Pottered into a girl for three days and Isaac looks a bit too much like Hansel, but we fixed it.”
“I'm guessing the sofa wasn't what you moved in parts with my car?” Stiles looks even more busted for a couple of seconds, then Isaac butts in.
“Um, no. Not talking about that. I paid for the pizza, I want to have enough appetite left to actually eat it,” Isaac orders them both before Stiles can answer and hands him a pile of plates. “Food. Now. Gory details later. I fucking hate Baba Yaga.”
“I saw the way you oogled Scott's boobs Isaac, don't even try.” Stiles laughs, walking after him. “You're just mad you didn't get a chance at the hands-on experience.”
By the time the food is gone and they're all lazily watching Kill Bill, Stiles pokes his side.
Derek turns his head and gets a quick kiss from Stiles before he can even ask what he wanted. It's soft and warm Derek's insides feel all fuzzy until Scott makes a gagging noise, then giggles like he's five. Isaac just snorts out a laugh.
”Shut up, Scott, ” Stiles chuckles and leans into Derek’s side. His heartbeat is calm and steady and he smells like pineapple and contentment and happy. Derek knew, knew that this thing between them is a solid thing, but Stiles so very obviously has no plans of keeping Derek hidden away, and he can feel the relief run through his entire body.
He didn't even realise he'd been anxious about it.
”You okay?” Stiles asks quietly at the way Derek so suddenly relaxes into the cushions, tugging at Stiles until they're propped up against eachother from shoulder to feet, stretched out across their half of the sofa. Stiles rearranges Derek's arm until he can sink down a little more and rest his head on Derek's shoulder.
”Yeah, I'm okay.” he answers, and Isaac smiles at them again. Derek raises his eyebrows in question and Isaac raises his hand, points to Derek and then his heart.
“No blip”, he whispers low enough for Stiles not to hear, still smiling. “Not lying.”
At this, Scott smiles too.
Derek wakes up to Eddie jumping up next to him, demanding scratches. He can hear Isaac and Scott shuffling around in the hall and hushed voices and the menu to the second Kill Bill is still looping on the TV, so he must've slept through the whole movie.
“I don't know, he didn't say.” Scott.
“Well, did he seem angry? Upset?” Stiles.
“Are you kidding me? He thought you guys had been together for at least six months, mrs Johnson next door asked who the handsome young man was and your dad called him his son-in-law,” Isaac chuckles. “In March.”
There is silence for a few seconds, then Stiles sighs.
“Good. I mean, we weren't, but.. Good.”
“You've been wearing his clothes since February,” Isaac points out.
“And there's only one bed,” Scott adds. “That crick in your neck from the sofa went away ages ago.”
“Yeah, but nothing happened. With everything he's been through, I didn't want to push him into something he might not want. That has happened too much already.“
“He seems a lot better,” Isaac says. “I mean, I didn't see him for a long while but just since the barbeque-thing...”
“Yeah,” Scott agrees. “I mean we handle stuff pretty well, but I still want our alpha to be well and happy, y'know?”
Derek buries his nose in Eddie's fur, exhales slowly and listens to his betas make their way out of the building.
Stiles sits down with Scott and Derek on a Tuesday afternoon. Just pushes them down in a seat each and then sits down opposite of them, looking at them both very closely. Not even when they start glancing at eachother, awkwardly trying to communicate wordlessly, does Stiles let up his stare.
Scott tries to open his mouth once, maybe four minutes in, but Stiles gives him A Look and Scott just closes his mouth again.
“I'm not an alpha and I'm not a beta,” he says, after nearly ten minutes of silence. “I can not in any way gain from you two not getting along, agreed?”
Derek nods and Scott hums an affirmative, just happy he's finally talking.
“Can you both trust that I prioritize both of your happiness and wellbeing, and do not favor one or the other?”
“Yes,” they both say in unison.
“Good, cause I'm about to be painfully honest with you. Breaking cellphones because someone isn't listening? Not good, Derek. Also, the absence of evidence can't be counted as evidence. Third variables are a thing, and not the kind of thing you can kill because of. Basically what I'm saying is that you almost killed Lydia because of her lack of reaction, not actual proof she was a kanima.”
Derek sinks a little in his chair, eyes Scott who winces in sympathy.
“However, and I'm only going to comment on this once,” Stiles says and turns to Scott, who now winces for his own sake this time. “Gerard Argent? Really? Derek bites people with their explicit consent and you get angry, but you force him to turn the most psychopathic vigilante serial killer we know, including Peter? I love you, but dude, you're a little too biased sometimes.”
“Okay, we've both made mistakes. Where are you going with this?” Scott looks like he's five seconds from bringing on the puppy eyes. Derek almost hopes he does.
“You need to learn how to communicate, and not just with me. This includes actually listening to loud protests when someone thinks your plan has holes or is too stuffed with self-sacrificial bullshit,” Stiles says, eyes on Derek. His expression softens a bit and he tilts his head, looking at him for a beat or two. “You're doing much better, but you need to keep it up. And I'm here to help you with that, okay?”
“Okay,” he agrees, and nudges Stiles' foot with his own under the table.
“You have to keep in mind that if you join the pack, you can't make decisions and keep them to yourself like that. Even democracies have leaders for a reason, to keep everything organized and running smoothly. In this pack, that's Derek. Sometimes this will mean taking actions you wouldn't have chosen yourself, but you can't abandon ship because it's not taking your preferred route.”
“Deaton is a druid, Scott. His main purpose is to maintain balance. He's dr Manhattan post-Mars, okay? I trust him with my training but I wouldn't trust him to have my back in a fight.” Stiles sighs, thinks for a bit. “He was Talia's emissary, but when she died his job became guarding the balance of everything. He didn't even tell Derek that he'd known her until Derek figured it out himself. I know you care about the dude, and that's okay, I get it, but care and trust are two very different things.” He looks between them. “If anything I think you two should know that by now. You have the first, I'll help you with the other.”
Scott and Derek both hum in agreement.
“Okay, so does anybody want to bring something up while we're in a controlled, non-judgemental environment?”
“I should have been more patient with you. I'm sorry,” Derek says, not looking at Scott nor Stiles.
“I could've let my hormones take the backseat once in a while.” He nudges Derek's arm and Derek looks up from the table. “I'm sorry about Laura. I don't think I ever said that.”
Derek just nods, unsure what to say.
Thankfully, Stiles usually does.
“Go on, hug it out.”
“Alright, the patented Stilinski Solution,” Scott smiles and stands up, arms wide almost the same way Stiles does sometimes. Probably something they've grown into together, and suddenly Derek's filled with so much affection for them both that he finds himself smiling back whether he likes it or not.
“I thought that was to ignore the problems, not hug them away,” Derek says and wraps his arms around Scott. It probably shouldn't surprise Derek how much hugging Scott is like hugging Melissa. It does, still.
“Hey, speaking of which- do you have an emissary?” Scott asks, pulling away.
“I haven't had the chance to ask him officially, yet.”
There's a snort from the fridge where Stiles is digging around for eggs for lunch.
“I've been yours since I hid you in my room,” he says easily, sending a smile at Derek over his shoulder, but it feels like an admission of so much more.
Derek stares at him until Scott coughs and he remembers they're not alone in the room.
He brings it up with Lydia later the same week while watching Stiles, Scott and Isaac practice on the field. It's getting colder outside, enough for Lydia to sit close to him, borrowing some of his body heat.
“Derek,” she says, and somehow Lydia has learned how to turn his name alone into an endearment. She learned how to bend it and Derek learned to decode; light and quick when she needs something, Der when she's tired or sad, short and clipped when she's worried.
Or drawn out and soft when she's a little lost for words, like now.
Isaac accidentally breaks Scott's finger and they watch as they fuss over it as it heals, Isaac bending it back to where it should be while Stiles talks to Scott to keep him from panicking about it.
“I didn't think humans could be pack,” she says after a while. “I know I'm part of the group, but I always figured pack-pack was for the shifters.”
“This way any human family will be considered innocent by hunter law. We heal after torture, you don't.” Lydia says nothing, only moves even closer, leaning into his side. “Besides, Stiles is both human and pack.”
“Stiles is your emissary and your significant other. That's different.”
“And you're my best friend.” Lydia looks up at him, eyes wide.
“I know Allison is yours, I just... Yeah. You're my best friend. Of course you're pack. If you want to.”
Lydia wraps her arms around his middle and he puts an arm around her shoulders in return.
“Will it be different from how we are now?”
“A little. We'll be more close-knit, all of us. More aware of eachother. You're human so you might not feel as much of a change, but you'll feel it. ”
The alpha brings the future pack members to the set location. This may, depending on the alpha and the nature of the relationship to the potential member, happen separately or in the company of pre-existing pack. Betas, banshees and shifters are, however, advised to be embraced with the pack present to aid the growth of a stronger bond between pack members. Advisory roles like emissaries and humans who would benefit from secrecy have historically been sworn in at the most appropriate location, such as local nemetons and other places of worship (see book 3, page 416 for known locations related to the Hale pack).
Derek mulls it over for a second, flips another page to see what else he might have forgotten. His first and only embracing ceremony was with aunt Kim, and she was a beta already. He half expected humans to go through some kind of binding ceremony, but from what he can tell, it will all click naturally. Thank God his grandmother was the meticulous kind.
“Yeah?” He answers from the bathroom.
“Do you guys have anything this weekend? Track?”
“I was thinking we'd do the pack thing.”
“We're not dancing around the nemeton, are we?” Stiles says when he pops his head into the livingroom, looking a little wary.
Derek frowns at him.
“I told you the Argent bestiary is unreli-”
“I know, I know, pinch of salt, all that stuff. I just had to ask,” Stiles waves at him, heading for the bedroom to find clothes.
“Good. Deaton won't go near it, I don't trust it. So where are we going?"
“Just make sure you've packed warm clothes and good walking shoes this Friday.”
“And I know you've been hogging it, but I'll need my lined hoodie.” Stiles make a disappointed noise from the bedroom. “I bought you one too, it's on the bed.”
There's a little shuffling, the sound of a zipper.
Derek watches completely without surprise as Stiles comes powerwalking back into the livingroom already dressed in the hoodie, climbs into his lap then proceeds to kiss Derek absolutely stupid.
He picks them all up from school the following Friday, the trunk of the car filled with things to last them the night. Food, a metric ton of blankets and pillows, things to drink and Eddie's toys. The rest, for him and Stiles, he snuck over to the back of the Isaac's Saab when he arrived.
Isaac sends him a conspiratory grin as he passes Derek where he's leaning against the car, Eddie next to him. The leash he hands Isaac is mostly for show, Eddie's usually too lazy to play catch, nevermind making a dash for it.
“You know where we're going?”
“99% sure, but I'll call if I lose sight of you.”
“He's not coming with us?” Scott asks. “Why would we need a second car?”
“I'll be right behind you,” Isaac assures him and kisses his cheek. “Eddie won't fit into the car if we go all of us,” he adds, successfully diverting the others from seeing that both cars are filled with way more things than four people and a dog would need for one night.
“Yeah, okay,” Scott says, and both Lydia and Stiles nod to themselves and climb into the car.
“Ever thought of a career in politics?” Derek says to Isaac under his breath. “You're going places.”
“What can I say, I'm just that good,” Isaac says and puts his shades on. “Got your back, boss.”
They park in the same clearing his parents used to, his grandmother before that. Derek still doesn't know why it hasn't become overgrown. The entire place is humming with low-grade magic so it's kind of difficult to spot any anomaly.
“Wow, this place has old wards. Old, old wards,” Stiles says, looking around. “This is so cool.”
Or not so difficult, apparently.
They split the luggage between the wolves, Stiles and Lydia just carrying their own backpacks, then head through the foliage. It's a good thing Eddie's so big, or he'd have trouble seeing above it.
“How do you even know where we're going?” Stiles asks, hitching the backpack higher.
“It's like... it's a path, but with scents. Like, a really worn down and old path, but it smells familiar. I don't know how to describe it,” Scott marvels, Isaac nodding behind him.
“It's like going to a friend's home and recognising the scent,” Isaac adds.
“Nobody but the Hale pack have been here for a very long time.” Derek tells them.
They reach the cave and Isaac hands Lydia a flashlight.
“Walk with Stiles so you both can see where you're walking, the roof is high so don't worry about hitting your heads,” he instructs them.
When they reach the back of it, Derek makes quick work of getting his claws out, unlocking the lock in the faux cave wall in front of them. It looks like the vault under the school, works the same way. He just found out recently from reading the books that his great great grandmother had it made when they made the move from Europa. It's a heavy push, but he's still an alpha, and it only takes him a few seconds to get it open.
The clearing is not as green as it was when he brought Isaac along earlier in the autumn, the grass not as lively, but it's still beautiful. The sun shines, warming up the grass from the best place to set the tent to the stone barbeque pit his dad made when he was a kid. They couldn't have picked a better day to go, really.
Stiles lets out a whistle and Lydia and Scott hum in agreement.
“Is that lake okay to go swimming in?”
“I hope so, I was baptised in it.” Derek drops the tent and the coolers he's carrying on the ground, the rest following suit. “It's probably a bit cold, though.”
“Yeah, but like.. During spring, maybe? We can come back, right?” Scott chimes in.
“Yeah. Yeah, we can,” Derek agrees.
“So what do we do? Read from the bestiary? Wrestle bears?” Stiles asks jokingly, nudging Derek in the ribs. Then he stills. “Should I have brought the iPad?”
“This is about me proving myself a strong alpha, a good provider. Traditionally I would hunt to prove I can provide for the pack, then I and the pack would stay awake for the night and keep the new members safe. If they were already bitten by someone else I'd bring them with me to hunt to bond.”
“I'm pescetarian,” Lydia says with a frown.
“There are tuna steaks and regular steaks in the cooler. It's an old tradition, not a necessary one.”
She gives him a smile and pats his shoulder in a silent thank you, then goes to help Isaac sort the bags out.
“So we're not gonna hunt?” Scott asks. It surprises Derek when he turns to look at him, and Scott almost looks disappointed.
“We can if you want to,” he answers after a moment of hesitation. There are plenty of big horns in the area, close enough that Derek can hear them now and then.
“I wanna.” Scott lights up again.
“Yeah, okay. Um, change into something you won't mind getting blood on.”
“I think there already is, to be honest,” Scott looks down on himself. “It's just sweatpants and a shirt dude, it'll be fine. I have extras with me.”
“Okay,” Derek nods. “We'll stick close. Isaac, if there's anything just howl, okay?”
Eddie just wags his tail when Derek passes and scratches behind his ears, doesn't get up or try to follow him and Scott as they move towards the woods, leaving the others in the clearing.
The low murmurs of their voices follow Derek and Scott all the way to the creek nearby. Stiles is trying to set the tent up and, from the sound of it, failing miserably.
“Isaac mentioned you've done this before. With him. And it sounded fun, so..”
“You don't need to explain, I just assumed you wouldn't want to.”
“'S okay,” Scott says.
Derek stops by his usual tree, starts hanging up his clothes.
“What are you d-” Scott frowns, then gapes at him. “Oh my god, you've managed to shift fully, haven't you?”
“Stiles or Isaac didn't tell you?”
“No. Dude! So when did that happen?”
Derek stills, still in his jeans and a t-shirt obviously stolen from Stiles. He thumbs at the bottom of his shirt, mulling it over a little before deciding to tell Scott the truth, something he hasn't even told Stiles.
It's a peace offering and a sign of trust, all wrapped in one. He just hopes Scott sees that.
“Anger was my anchor, right?" Scott nods. "After Erica's funeral I couldn't even be angry anymore, I was just sad. It took over completely. So I locked myself up on the first full moon, just in case. Nothing happened, I just woke up in wolf form the next morning.”
“Oh, cool.” Scott nods, then stops. “Wait, is sadness your anchor?” He looks like he wants to hug Derek, which he probably does, knowing him.
“The full moon after that Stiles refused to leave the apartment. I thought I was a danger to him but he didn't.” He thinks back to the night on the kitchen floor, Stiles so wholeheartedly believing Derek would never harm him intentionally, pointing out how he'd never hurt anyone if he could help it. “My anchor is hope. At first it was the hope Stiles had for me, then I grew my own. I've survived and not gone feral for this long despite everything that's happened, I refuse to let myself down. I can do this.”
At this, Scott does hug him.
Running with Scott is... Simple. It's easy and instinct and working towards a common goal. Derek treads lightly as they close in on their prey and Scott wordlessly follows his direction, working in sync with eachother in a way they never have before.
It's exhilarating, and from the way Scott keeps smiling, it's mutual. Derek rubs his bloody muzzle all over Scott's track pants as he goes to work with the knife he brought with him, and Scott just laughs and drags a hand down his back, unknowingly scenting him instinctively.
They come back a few hours later, Derek still wet from shamelessly diving into the creek that runs into the lake while Scott washed the bighorn blood off as well as he could.
Isaac is leaning up against the stone barbecue, shades on and soaking in the sun. Lydia's gone even further, gotten a blanket out from the bags and laid it out on the grass.
There's shuffling inside the tent he's guessing must be Stiles.
“Good, we were about to think the sheep got you,” Isaac grins. “What a plot twist.”
“Dude, why didn't anyone tell me Derek could turn into a wolf?”
“You can?” Lydia sits up and looks at him. He pushes his snout into her hand, tries to keep the instinct to scent mark all of them down. “Oh my god, you can.”
“Uh, yeah!” Scott nods. “Have you any idea how cool it was to watch him take down a bighorn?”
Lydia runs a gentle hand over his head, making his ears twitch a little.
“I should have known you'd be beautiful in full wolf form, too,” she says, smelling a little bit like Allison, and a lot of happiness and contentment.
He does not preen, no matter what Stiles claims he saw.
Derek doesn't shift back until it's time to eat, just stretches out and listens to the others talk and move about, Isaac getting the barbeque going. Occasionally someone will reach out to run a hand down his back absentmindedly, or in Eddie's case cuddle down next to him and groom him, something he's done since day one. It's like he never questioned if the big black wolf was Derek at all.
They all stay on the blankets after they've eaten, talking until there is more yawning than laughter. Lydia is the first one to get up, kissing them all on the cheek before climbing into the tent. Scott follows soon after, and Stiles excuses himself.
Derek doesn't expect him to come back with his pillow in hand.
“You can go sleep, I'll be fine. It's kind of the point actually.”
“Nah,” Stiles says. “I've already warded the entire place, nothing can get in until I say so.”
“Derek.” He sighs, wrapping his arms around Derek from behind. “If you think we need you to stay awake 24 hours to know you're strong and dedicated to your pack, you're wrong. Come to bed, get some rest.”
Still, Derek doesn't move until he hears Lydia and Scott agree from the tent. He looks over at Isaac.
“Go get some water from the lake so we can put the fire out, I'll get the blankets.”
Derek wakes up first, face down in the pillow and Stiles somehow wedged under his arm.
When he brought Isaac, Boyd and Erica here, they'd all slept in the tent while Derek read outside, listening to the three of them shift closer in their sleep as the pack bond grew stronger. Erica told him how she could feel it, how different it was from when they went to sleep, and while he knew she wasn't just imagining it, he never thought the contrast would feel like this. Instead of a gradual shift it's there, fully formed and warm and strong even before he's awake enough to open his eyes.
He lifts his head enough to look at the others- Stiles is snuggled up close to him, spooned by Lydia who's a snorer, apparently, albeit lightly. Scott is wrapped around Isaac in such a familiar way Derek can tell him and Stiles grew up sleeping next to eachother just by looking at him. They're all pushed together on two thirds of the space the tent has to offer, legs all tangled together.
“Y'smell good,” Stiles mumbles, and Derek doesn't think anything of it first. Not until Stiles shoves his nose into Derek's neck and takes a big, almost comically obvious sniff. “Smell happy.”
“You can smell that?”
“Smell, feel, whatever. You're happy,” he says, as if him picking out Derek's emotions by scent is an everyday occurrence.
Before he can comment, Lydia stirs. She opens a lid experimentally looking at him over the Stiles' mess of hair.
“How is he reading chemosignals with a human nose?”
Derek just looks at her, then back to Stiles.
“'m special,” Stiles answers for him.
“Can't argue with that,” Derek and Lydia mumble in unison.
“Fuckers,” Stiles says affectionately, pulling Lydia's arm tighter around him with one hand and tugging Derek closer with the other. “'m the emissary. Go back to sleep 'fore you wake up Isaac and Scott.”
“We better start going,” Isaac says when they've all finished breakfast.
“Remember to text me or Stiles when you get to Beacon Hills,” Derek nods.
“Wait, we're not going with them?” Stiles stops, holding his backpack and obviously ready to get going.
“We're staying another night. I just have to go get the things from Isaac's car.”
“Is this our alpha/emissary bonding session?” Stiles wiggles his eyebrows and Derek hears Scott cough loudly somewhere behind him.
“I just want to spend some time with you,” Derek shrugs and Stiles' expression softens while Scott coos at them. “You can unpack while I get the stuff.”
“Come on, Eddie! You, me, Prada and Allison are going to the park,” Lydia says and Eddie trots after her, tail wagging like crazy. “Then we're having a sleepover.”
It's almost dinnertime, and Derek is starfished on the blankets, soaking up the sun. He thought it would be weird, being naked in the middle of the woods, but it's not. Freeing, rather.
That Stiles is just as naked isn't making it any worse.
“Wait, did they take the wet wipes with them?” Stiles sighs, throwing a backpack aside. “Well, looks like we're skinny dipping.”
“That's what you get for being messy.”
“Didn't hear you complaining,” Stiles snorts and kisses him before standing up. "It's been pretty warm the entire week, maybe it's warm."
"Doubt it," Derek says, getting up as well.
He follows but stops and watches when Stiles starts wading out slowly, very obviously trying to keep from complaining about the temperature. Then makes an undignified noise when he gets to hip depth and Derek can't control his laughter anymore.
“Fuck you,” Stiles says and splashes some water towards him. “I don't see you getting into the water, wolfman.”
Derek throws himself into the water without more than a few seconds of hesitation, making sure to land with as much splash as he can right next to Stiles, and he hears him shriek even below the surface.
Scott texts him the next day while they're driving back. They've stopped at a gas station and Stiles is getting snacks while Derek gets the gas.
Next time you take Isaac with you, can I come too? Even if you're just running?
It's getting closer and closer to winter, and spending the night might not be an option for a while, but it's close enough to go just over the day, spend some time with them.
Sure, Derek answers just as Stiles climbs back into the car, arms full of Skittles and half a hot dog in his mouth.
“I was going to ask you how the hunting went, but Scotty just sent me a really, really happy text about me being the greatest emissary ever, so I'm guessing you're good?”
“We're good,” Derek nods.
“Good.” Stiles kisses him, smearing mustard on his cheek.
Derek jerks awake to the sound of someone screaming, high pitched and piercing and he wakes up standing, looking around for emitters or possible threats, fangs out and claws ready. When he sees Eddie still snoring on the other end of the couch, he stops. If someone had been screaming, Eddie would've been up. Especially if it had been Derek himself.
Then there's the possibility that someone in the pack is hurt, like when Scott was dying and Derek just knew. There are still tendrils of lowkey panic churning in his stomach, but it doesn't feel familiar the way it normally does.
So he takes a deep breath, like his mother would do if she couldn't see Cora in the yard. Lets his instincts steer him as he picks up his things from the chair in the hallway and makes his way to the car. To the woods, where Lydia's cold and scared and needs him.
Derek grabs his keys and cell phone and is out the door before he's really awake.
He gets to the edge of the road up to the cabins on the hill, treacherous and narrow on a good day, before his phone rings. Derek picks up, but doesn't slow down.
“Hi, it's Noah. Look, one of my deputies just found Lydia at the scene of a car crash. She wasn't in the crash but won't talk to anyone but you, I have no idea what happened. We're at-”
“I know, I'm almost there,” Derek says, seeing the red and blue lights through the trees and around the corner.
“I just know.”
“Right. There's room for you beside the squad car,” Noah says and hangs up, seeing him round the corner. "They know who you are so they won't fuss."
Derek's out of the car so quickly he almost forgets to put it in park, heading towards the police tape.
“Wait, Derek, wait,” Noah stops him with a hand on his chest as he's about to duck under the tape and walk up to Lydia, sitting in the back of an ambulance, bright orange blanket around her. “You can't go in yet.”
“But she's-” Derek cuts off, still not taking his eyes off the shivering girl. He can feel her anxiety and stress this up close, would have thought it his own if it wasn't a burning sensation as opposed to his own cold panic. “She's right there.”
“I know, son,” Noah says with a nod. “Medics say she looks fine, only some minor cuts to her legs and arms, they're just making sure. I'll let you through as soon as we have the all-clear she doesn't need to go to the hospital, and if she does, you can go with her. Now, we found her like this once before, when she ran away from the hospital, and when I called Stiles he said pretty much the same thing happened today. Are you guys sure Peter can't.. you know?” He makes vague hand gestures that probably mean zombie. In any other situation, Derek would snort out a laugh.
“Yes,” he says instead, short and to the point.
“Like, he's not gonna find a way out of his gr-”
“I'm not gonna incriminate anybody,” Derek says, quietly enough for Noah's ears only. “But he always said wanted his ashes scattered in the woods, before the fire.”
“Okay, got it.” Noah says, looking relieved. “So this is a her-thing, then?”
“Looks that way. She was bitten, after all.”
“That she was.”
A medic calls out to Noah, and Noah pats Derek's shoulder.
“You can go in now. I'll call Stiles.”
Derek's almost at the ambulance when Lydia looks up, bottom lip trembling.
“Derek?” She says, like she can't really believe it.
“Hey.” He climbs in, careful not to spook her, and sits down on the seat opposite of her, careful not to disturb anything in the ambulance.
“I need your help, Der,” Lydia says, voice small and brittle like he's never heard her before. “Something's happening to me and-”
She breaks off, takes a shaky, shallow breath and Derek can hear her heart race, can see her trembling despite the blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Hears the hitches in her breathing.
“Would you look at that, I took mismatching gloves,” he says, quickly looking around to find more things for her to look at that won't make her think of the accident. He comes up empty.
“What?” Lydia says quietly, but looks down at his hands. Fine, Derek thinks. I'll improvise.
“They're really warm and soft though, they feel the same.” He takes them off, offers them to her. Her hands are shaking a little too much and she fumbles with them, so Derek gently takes her hands in his and drains a little pain as he puts them on. “See?”
“Why would you need gloves?” Lydia frowns in confusion. She doesn't pull her hands away, and neither does Derek. "You're like a furnace."
“Honestly? Because they look good on me,” Derek admits with a smirk, and Lydia returns it with a brittle smile. The colour is returning to her cheeks and her heart is calming down.
“What do you smell?”
“Cold air. Antiseptic. My own shampoo.” She lifts a glove covered hand to her nose. “Eddie.”
“Good. Now tell me something that makes you happy.”
“My friends,” she says, breathing deep and steadily, even if her voice is still as little as it was when he arrived.
“What can you remember?” He asks, stroking a thumb over the back of her hand, hoping it will keep her calm.
“Stiles, Allison, Isaac and I were watching a movie. I felt off, so I went upstairs to borrow Allison's bed. After that it's just flashbulb memories. Moving. I think I ran, then... then this.” She looks down on her legs, cuts and budding bruises from her run through the woods. “The woman in the car, it's Jackson's cousin. I don't know how I know, I just do. I've only met her once.”
“I believe you,” Derek nods and pulls his hoodie off and helps her into it, wrapping the blanket around her waist instead to cover her bare legs. “Let's get you to the apartment, yeah?”
“I can't-” she says, looking at her feet.
“It's okay, I've got you.” Lydia doesn't protest when he picks her up and carries her toward the car, carefully pulling some of the pain from her worn legs as he does.
Noah follows them, holds the door open as Derek eases her into the thankfully spacey car.
He puts her seatbelt on and wraps her in the blanket Stiles insists they keep in the backseat, making sure her feet are wrapped as well.
“Let me know if you find anything out, will you?” Noah says when he's shut the door. “Stiles said he's looking. And keep an eye on her in case it happens again.”
“She'll stay at ours for tonight,” Derek agrees.
The car warms up quickly, and Lydia stops shivering by the time Derek pulls into the parking lot. She doesn't attempt to walk, just reaches out for him when he opens the door.
“Hey Lyds,” Stiles opens the door for them. His hair is all over the place and his eyes are bloodshot, still dressed despite it being nearly 3 am. “Need help with anything?” he asks Derek.
“Maybe an aspirin or something?” Lydia nods into his shoulder. “Hungry?” She shakes her head,
“Okay, I'll get you something to drink.” Stiles goes into the kitchen, letting them pass.
Eddie comes into the room as Derek helps Lydia onto the bed. His tail is wagging,
“Is it okay to borrow Stiles' pyjama pants? They're straight out of the folded laundry.”
Lydia nods yet again, and he finds her one of his bigger old t-shirts to wear.
“I'll let you change, let me know when it's okay to come back in.”
“'Kay,” she says. “Can I let Eddie up on the bed?”
“Yeah, sure. Just pat the bed.”
Eddie doesn't even hesitate, just jumps up and settles next to her, licking her face.
“I'll let you change, just say my name if you need something.”
“Thank you,” Lydia says, and Derek closes the door almost all the way, giving her some privacy.
Stiles hands Derek the iPad as soon as he gets into the kitchen, bestiary open on a page Derek vaguely remembers reading just last week. He doesn't even have to read it to know it's the page about banshees.
“You do?” Stiles keeps twisting the cap of the bottle of water he's holding, fidgeting like he always does when he's stressed.
“I heard her all the way here. She knew who was in the car without having seen her.”
“Someone we know?” Stiles frowns. “I've talked to the pack, Melissa was fine too.”
“Jackson's cousin.” Stiles visibly relaxes, then goes back to frowning again. “Wait, does he count as pack? I mean I get why Lydia would feel a connection with him if she's a banshee, but do you? Cause the bestiary says she'd be tied to the pack, not those closest to her.”
“I bit him, he's my beta, even if he's far away.” Derek shrugs. "I can't feel him, though."
“Makes sense, I guess,” Stiles says, nodding to himself. Still fidgeting.
“What?” He stops abruptly.
“She'll be okay.” Derek pulls him in and Stiles follows wordlessly into the hug. “We know what it is, and as soon as she's rested and up to speed she'll read everything there is to read and harass Deaton until he tells her even more. Nobody's controlling her, we just need to help her until she can control herself.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Stiles takes a deep breath, relaxes a little. "Okay."
He kisses Stiles' temple.
“Come on, let's go check on her.”
“What did you find?” Lydia says as soon as they open the door, then moves to sit up so she can drink. Stiles slides in next to her, closest to the door.
“Everything will be okay,” Stiles reassures her as Derek carefully steps over their legs and lies down on her other side.
The bed is just big enough for them all to fit, Eddie stubbornly climbing up again and settling by their feet.
“He never does that,” Stiles remarks. “I think he likes you more than us.”
“It's a good thing you have a big bed,” Lydia says, smiling a little despite how tired she is. She lies down again, facing Derek and Stiles behind her, casually wrapping an arm around her waist. To anyone else, anyone who has never been around a pack before, it might look odd. Bad, even. But for Lydia and Stiles, even if they know it or not, it's about comfort and reassurance. Maybe even healing too, given the circumstances.
“Look,” she says. “I know you're trying to sidetrack me because you're trying to protect me. What did you find? I checked my phone and Jackson heard me scream in London. That's not a fugue state.”
“No, no it's not,” Derek agrees, a little surprised it had reached even him.
“I'm a banshee, aren't I?” She sounds so sure, but Derek can tell she's still scared. He nods, and she exhales, closing her eyes.
“It tends to be dormant until something triggers it,” Stiles says.
“Like Peter biting me.”
“How did he know, though? He must have known. If he used it, me, to come back.” She's never scared when she talks about him anymore. Angry, sometimes, but not scared. Derek knows just how hard it must've been to overcome that, to survive someone else getting into your head like that.
Then, again, setting him on fire might have been exactly what she needed.
“My brother talked a lot about banshees, read even more." Derek tells her. "Banshees were assumed to be tied to clans but he thought it might be because packs were mostly families before the 20th century. Nowadays we're a bit more mixed. I'll go through the books tomorrow, see if I can find any banshee you might have been related to.”
Lydia nods, seemingly satisfied with the answer, then yawns.
He stays awake until both Lydia and Stiles are fast asleep. There's a bruise forming under Lydia's eye, a little scratch above it he didn't notice at first. He drains a little pain from her and she settles even deeper into the bed, body relaxed and healing.
They'll be okay.
a little short perhaps, but there is more to come. :)
It's quiet, but not eerily so. It's comfortable, warm in a way despite the cold air, and Derek's feeling oddly at peace. If it's the Christmas lights or Stiles' gloved hand in his, he's not sure. The entire street is lit up, ranging from cute little fairy lights to the abomination that is mr Johnson's homemade Rudolph in the front yard.
“Dad usually invites some of the deputies without partners tonight,” Stiles says as Derek takes a look at the sidewalk full of police cars outside the Stilinski house. Eddie's tail starts wagging as soon as he sees the walk up to the house. “It got so quiet, being just the two of us. Most of them are working tonight, though, so I think they'll leave early.”
“We spent Laura's last Christmas eating ice cream in our pyjamas, watching Puff the Magic Dragon.”
“Didn't feel like celebrating?”
“Something like that.” He doesn't mention the birthday candles she'd put in his bowl, that Puff had been his favourite when he was a kid. It wasn't Christmas, not by a longshot, and nor was is a birthday celebration like they were used to. Instead the curled up on the sofa, Laura had given him a shirt with long sleeves and thumbholes, cosy enough without being too warm for their preternatural body heat. Last year, nobody knew it was his birthday.
It's difficult enough to handle a real Christmas again, with food and friends and family. Derek's not sure he could handle being the center of attention because of the day he was born, too.
Eddie takes off into the kitchen as soon as Stiles opens the door, either for food or Noah , or a combination thereof, and Derek puts the Ikea bag full of gifts down to get his shoes off.
A slightly round, tall man in his sixties, grey Christmas sweater matching his hair, comes into the hallway from the livingroom.
“Merry Christmas, kiddo,” he says and ruffles Stiles' hair like he's been doing it since Stiles was nine. Judging from the smile on Stiles' face it might actually be the case. Derek smiles a little to himself, shrugging his coat off and hanging it by Noah's.
“Merry Christmas, Jame,” Stiles replies and passes him, carefully carrying the gifts into the livingroom. Jame turns to Derek, hand extended.
“And who might this be?” Derek grabs his, shakes it politely.
“Ah, I see you've met my son-in-law,” Noah appears in the door to the kitchen, interrupting him.
“Son-in-law?” Jame says, and for a brief moment Jame looks so shocked Derek expects dislike or even disgust. Jame grins broadly instead, shaking his hand even harder. “Why didn't you say so! So you've got to be Derek, right?”
Derek nods, looking to Noah for help, but Noah just grins.
“We're having a discussion in the living room, maybe you could help us settle it- what would you rather fight, one horse sized duck or a dozen duck sized horses, and why?”
“Ducks are fucking terrifying,” Derek blurts. “Also horses are herbivores and you could kinda..” he trails off, makes a sweeping motion. “Kick them away.”
Jame nods slowly, then turns to Noah .
“That's a good point. Give the man a beer, Noah . I'm gonna go take Schmitt down a peg once and for all.”
And with that, Jame is off into the livingroom again.
“What just happened?” Derek says, still standing there with one shoe on.
“You just met the old sheriff,” Noah says smugly and hands him said beer. “And I think you got his seal of approval. Him and Schmitt always end up arguing about the weirdest things. Remind me to tell you about the one with the goats and the superheroes sometime, it's hilarious but I am never retelling it near my child, no matter what age he is.”
“I'll keep it in mind,” Derek chuckles.
“Come on, let's go introduce you to the rest of them.”
Lunch is... interesting. There's Jame, of course, and a petite woman named Charlotte with kind eyes and a thick, southern accent who insists on calling Stiles sunshine, already dressed in her work clothes. Her partner, Emily, is just as chatty and sweet, tall and athletic in a way that makes Derek think she might be a shifter at first. She tells him about her battle against addiction, how running became her way of taking care of herself and her job how she took care of others, and she nudges his knee with hers under the table when he says she should be proud.
Schmitt stealthily steals all of Jame's potatoes as he peels them, makes inappropriate jokes and heart eyes at Charlotte. Conversation never really stops flowing, shifting from loud arguments about who did what during when to more calm, comfortable talks about books and gossip from around town, so Derek volunteers to get the dishes while Stiles and Noah catch up with the rest of them. It's nice, taking a breather in the middle of so much Christmas, especially when they're all as close as they are. It feels like less of a get-together and more like a family dinner.
They are a family, he supposes.
There's a noise behind him as he's putting the last of the dishes in the sink, and before he can glance over his shoulder, Jame clears his throat a little, signalling his presense.
“Hey,” Jame says, infinitely calmer than when he greeted them at the door. “I'm sorry for bringing this up today, but I didn't want to leave it unsaid either... I knew your mother. I'm sorry for your loss.”
He'd kind of expected it, knew at least one of them had to have worked during the fire. It was bound to come up sometime.
“Thank you, sir.” Derek reaches out a hand but quickly remembers it's covered in suds and water. Jame bats it away gently either way, grabbing the towel from the countertop with the other.
“Oh, no need to sir me, I'm retired. Just call me Jame.” He picks up the dishes Derek set out to dry, starts wiping them off. “I'm bringing it up because I was her contact at the department. I didn't tell Noah about anything because by the time I retired, you had left.”
“She said she knew someone, never who,” Derek hums.
“Yeah, well. It was me.” He lifts the last of the dishes into the cupboard, wiping his hands on the towel and offering it to Derek. “You know, if you want to, I wouldn't mind sharing a few stories sometime. There are quite a few. You should drop by sometime, bring Stiles and Eddie with you. I've an old Irish Wolfhound that could use some company.”
“Derek, can I borrow you for a second?” Noah asks, turning around the corner into the kitchen.
“I'll finish this,” Jame smiles.
“Thank you," Derek says and hands him the sponge, washes his hands. "I'll ask Stiles about visiting, but I doubt he'll mind,” Derek says, and Jame gives him a thumbs up as Noah steers him out of the kitchen and down the hall.
He leads him to a door he's seen, but never walked through, then stops and turns, facing Derek. Why Derek expected him to look worried or upset, he doesn't know. Either way he was wrong, because Noah is smiling like he's incredibly proud of himself.
“A few weeks ago I started sorting through the pile of... stuff out in the garage. We've never really used it since none of us have been good with handiwork or engines, so we threw in old furniture, Stiles' baby things, y'know,” he says, waving a hand about. “Anyway. We sorted it out and I found a whole bunch of things I forgot was even in here since it's been cluttered over for nearly twenty years.” He turns the doorknob, pushing it open.
It's unlikely, but Derek hopes dearly that Noah didn't hear the noise he made when his eyes adjusted to the darkness. When Derek doesn't move Noah places a gentle hand between his shoulders and guides him in, flipping the light switch as he does.
The wooden bench is old but sturdy, big and solid, rows of hammers, block planes, hand powered drills and chisels hung up on the wall above it. Some newer, some of them obviously over 50 years old and well cared for.
There's an envelope on the bench, leaning up against a toolbox so new Derek can smell the rubber on the handles from where he's standing even without straining his sense of smell.
“Happy birthday,” Noah says, hand still between his shoulderblades.
Of course Noah would know. Derek closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, focusing on the things around him to not let any tears escape. If he tunes in well enough he can catch the scent of acrylic paint, the traces of sawdust under the bench.
The faint scent of something flowery from the homemade paintbrush holder, dark green and obviously made and handled with care.
“Some of it was here when we moved in, some of it belonged to Claudia or her dad,” Noah says, voice low and almost a little wistful. “There were some electrical things too, but we had a leaking roof one summer and they wouldn't start when I tried them. I know the guy at the hardware store so that envelope right there is a gift card.”
“The hardware store has gift cards now?” Derek asks, trying to shake the sadness from them both, steer them away from it.
“Nope. He had a row of B&Es, I helped him catch the guy and he'll help you gear up with whatever you need.” Noah winks at him. “One of the perks of being the sheriff is people tend to like you.”
“Are you sure about this? I mean, your wife's things? Is that okay with you?”
Noah tugs a little at his arm until Derek turns around and allows Noah to hug him.
“Claudia would have kicked my ass if I left her things to gather dust if someone else could have enjoyed them.” He chuckles to himself. “She would have adored you. Stiles and I both wish you could've gotten to know her, maybe this is the next best thing.”
Derek tries to thank him, but stays silent, scared his voice will crack completely. Noah seems to understand it anyway, just pats Derek's back like he always does.
Noah leaves him, lets him move around by himself for a while, inspect the chisels and woodwork tools. He can hear the deputies leaving as their shifts begin, and it's doesn't take long for Stiles to come walking down the hallway, calm and steady steps. Derek's not sure if Noah told him about his birthday, if anything, but he walks into the garage like he knows something's up.
“He found mom's brushes? That's awesome,” Stiles picks the holder up and unrolls it, gently thumbs the bristles of the second biggest. “She loved to paint, even when she got sick. It was like the dementia wasn't even there as soon as she had a brush and a canvas. Different parts of the brain, you know.” He traces the seam on one side, a little wobbly and unpractised compared to the others.
Maybe Derek wasn't the only one was taught a skill by a loved one.
“I should show you her paintings sometime,” Stiles continues.
“I can't believe he did this.” I don't deserve this goes unsaid, but Stiles seems to sense it anyway, setting the brushes down and reaching for Derek's hand instead.
“What can I say, dude, he likes you.” Stiles takes a deep breath. “Which is really good because I'm kind of in love with you.”
He does his best to keep his face neutral, but the hunched shoulders tell of his nerves, would have been enough even if Derek couldn't hear his heartbeat thundering away.
“Just kind of?” Derek teases, and Stiles exhales, tension bleeding out of his shoulders.
“Says the guy who kissed me and told me there were things.” He steps closer to Derek, leans his head on Derek's shoulder. “Asshole,” he says, nudges Derek's side affectionately.
They stand quiet for a while, Stiles calm and smelling of happiness all the while. Everytime he's imagined this, because he has, maybe more than he'd like to admit, it has been amidst blood and pain and possible death. Last minute confessions, the kind that will only make the pain and death worse.
On Christmas, on his birthday, safe and warm and dressed in mandatory ugly sweaters is so much better than he could ever have hoped for.
“I love you, too,” Derek admits, lips pressed against the crown of Stiles' head.
"'m sleepin'," he groans.
"You gotta wake up, c'mon.” Stiles pats his shoulder, moves the warm sheets away from their bodies. He looks as sleepy as Derek feels, but there is a vague scent of petrichor in the air that can only mean Stiles is getting ready to use his magic, and not just to protect the apartment.
“Lydia?” Derek asks, shaking his head to wake up a bit more. He's only been asleep for a few hours, the clock on the bedside table telling him it's almost 3 am. They came home around midnight, full of food and Stiles a little tipsy from the eggnog.
“She's fine. Someone's at the house, I need to go check who it is.” Derek sits up at that.
“Are Noah and Isaac okay?”
“They're okay, your house. It's probably nothing, but today of all days? Probably not a jogger.”
“How do you know?” Derek frowns, blindly searching for his shirt at the foot of the bed.
“I put up wards,” Stiles says, stumbling into his sweatpants. “I texted the others, we're meeting up at the edge of the property. Wanna come?”
Derek nods wordlessly and gets up, dresses at a speed he hasn't had in almost a year.
The scent of petrichor and determination grows steadily the whole way to the preserve, Stiles focused in a way Derek's never seen him. It makes something swell in his chest, somewhere between his lungs, to see Stiles this secure in himself. To have him beside him, whatever the coming hours might entail.
It's the first time in years that he goes into a situation he knows he might have to fight his way out of without having to tamper down the roiling anxiety just to get there. Instead, he can feel the animal in him below the surface, confident and ready to spring into action.
“Up here,” Stiles says as if Derek couldn't already feel the pack nearby, and Derek takes a left, parking right beside where Allison's car is hidden behind the bushes.
Stiles is barely out of the car before Scott and Isaac appear in the treeline.
“Merry Christmas, guys,” Scott snorts, wiping some dirt from his knee.
“How many?” Allison asks, bow out already while Lydia counts the bullets in her gun. He feels a surge of pride- both for Lydia and the certainty in her fingers, but also for Allison. If anyone would know what it's like to shoulder a dynasty with too little training and too few years lived, it would be Derek. And Allison does it gracefully.
“Not many, or I would have felt it,” Stiles answers. “One, maybe two if they walked side by side. They're by the house by now, they passed the inner circle while we drove here. It's drawn from the hill behind the house to where the cherry trees used to be, so they're definitely at the house,” Stiles explains to Derek, meaning he's probably shown the others exactly where it is.
“It's better to approach from the front, they're going to see us anyway,” Derek says. “The house is built strategically.”
“Sounds good to me,” Stiles nods. “You know the drill- no claws out, but stay alert in case of. Let's go.”
It's not far to walk to the house, close enough that he can see the roof between the trees now and then. He hasn't been here in almost half a year, tried going on his mother's birthday but Stiles managed to talk him into visiting her grave instead, which was probably the better idea anyway.
They're about halfway there when Scott stops dead in his tracks, a few feet in front of them. Isaac whines the same second Derek feels it- the low hum of a bond nearly broken, still clinging to its last remaining threads.
“Wha- Boyd?” Scott asks, surprise written all over his face. “Is that Boyd?”
“It's Boyd.” Derek nods, throat closing up, instinct tugging at his entire body.
Derek and Isaac break into a run, the silhouette of the house slowly appearing between the trees, Scott following closely behind them and Stiles, Lydia and Allison keeping up nearly as well.
Boyd is sitting where his older brother would sit, watching them tousle while reading his books, leaning against the steps. He looks worn out and tired, bearded and a little thinner than the last time Derek saw him, but that's not what makes him stumble and nearly fall, no.
Running towards him, bare feet and pink cheeks and yelling his name is Erica.
He's convinced he's seeing things because Erica's dead, he carried her out of the fucking bank himself, doesn't believe it even when she collides with him so hard they almost topple backwards and wraps her arms around his neck. Doesn't believe it even when Isaac clings to her back, sobbing into her hair.
Doesn't believe it when she starts saying his name, grasping at his shoulders like she's the one having trouble believing he's there.
When Derek runs his hands up over her shoulders to bare skin he expects it to be cold, cold like the air around him, yet Erica's a furnace compared to the night air and she smells like cheap motel room soap, coffee and moss and life. When he breathes her in he feels the tug he expected at the graveyard, the feeling that never came, her heartbeat so loud in his ears, louder than the forest around them.
Derek reaches around her to grip Isaac's neck, and while attempting to calm him while crying himself might not be the easiest, he needs to have him close. They're crying, all three of them, and he can feel Stiles is without even seeing him.
Boyd walks up to them, hands in his pockets and shoulders hunched. He keeps his distance, watching them with caution like he always has.
“Found a guy in Canada who knew a woman in Alaska who knew how to get her back. I had to come back and get her and it took a long time, but I got her back.” He waits a few seconds, then carries on. “I know we left, but.. Can we stay? Just until she's gotten her strength back.”
“Of course, of course you can stay, stay as long as you need,” he nods and pets Erica's hair.
He hesitates for a while, unsure of what they'll say. Then Stiles is there, a steady hand in the small of his back and Derek can do this, can handle the possibility of them saying no.
“You'll always have a place in my pack. Both of you. If you want it. We're- I'm better now, and Stiles is helping and Scott's with us and-”
“We didn't think you'd want us back,” Erica says quietly, stopping him in his rambling. “We hoped, but we weren't sure.”
Derek grabs Boyd's shirt and tugs him in until he's squeezed in next to Erica and wraps his arms around them as well as he can, tries to breathe. Strong, brave Boyd with so much heart he smuggled the body of his dead packmate across two borders to get her back.
This is happening. This is actually happening.
He gets to have this.
“Always.” Derek repeats. “Always.”
Stiles wraps an arm around Derek's waist from behind and leans his head against the nape of Derek's neck, close to where Erica's still tucked in.
“Hi Batman,” she says.
“Hi Catwoman.” Stiles sighs wetly. “I've missed you a lot.”
The others file in slowly, finding a shoulder to cling to or a waist to wrap an arm around. Even Allison joins them after some hesitation, staying close to Scott and Isaac. They stand like that for a while, clinging until Erica says she's tired. He'd noticed she was leaning on him more and more, but she's barely keeping her eyes open when he lets go of her. They disperse, and Boyd turns his back to her so she can jump up, something they've very obviously done before. She's out as soon as they've found a comfortable position, face smushed against his neck.
“She sleeps a lot,” Boyd says. “It might take a while for her to get back her full strength.”
Derek nods. It had taken Peter a while too, and he'd only been gone for a few weeks.
“We'll keep her safe. You need to rest, too,” he says. “I can carry her if you want to?”
Boyd shakes his head, smiling a little as he shifts Erica higher up on his back.
“No, I'm fine,” he says despite swaying on his feet.
“You carried her to Alaska and back,” Derek says, steadying him by his shoulders. “Please let me help. You can stay at ours until we'll figure something out.”
Boyd looks over his shoulder, still a little reluctant.
“Laura and I had burns that didn't heal for weeks because we didn't stop running long enough to rest and let them heal, even when we found safe places to do so, and it nearly killed us.” Derek leans in, placing a calming hand on his neck. “You can stop running. It's okay.”
Boyd leans into it, be it intentionally or not, and Derek does his best to keep the flood of instincts and mybetamybetasmellswrongscentmybeta as invisible as possible. Focuses on making Boyd trust him again.
Little steps out of the comfort zone, he can hear dr Gorman say in the back of his head. Little steps.
“Just to and from the car, you can sit with her in the back. We have blankets for you, too.”
“Okay, yeah,” Boyd agrees.
Scott helps them move her over into his arms and Derek does his best not to think of the phrase sleep like the dead when she doesn't even stir, just snores into his shoulder.
Still, it feels good to carry something back from the house. New life amidst all the dead.
Stiles drops them off at the apartment and Derek heats up yesterday's chilli while Boyd and Erica shower and get changed into clean clothes, throwing theirs in the laundry. He'll take them out shopping later, figure out where they can live until everything gets sorted out, somewhere close. Maybe at a hotel, God knows he can afford it.
God knows they deserve it.
Derek really doesn't expect Stiles to return with Scott, Isaac and a ton of pillows and covers, not to mention three mattresses.
“I was going to let them take the bed,” Derek says in confusion when Stiles directs them into the bedroom, Isaac and Scott going obediently. “We can take the sofa.”
“Then we're both going to get up every five minutes to make sure we're not hallucinating when we should all be resting and Scott and Isaac won't even leave to begin with. They get the bed, we'll sleeping on the floor. It'll help them feel safe, too.”
“Yeah. Yeah, okay,” Derek agrees. “Do you want me to call Lydia and Allison?”
Stiles stops in his tracks and turns back to him just as Derek hears Erica and Boyd mumble their consent from the bathroom. He knows Scott and Isaac won't object.
“If you want? And the others are okay with it? You're the werewolves, I have no idea what pack policy is on pack cuddle piles.” Stiles shoves his hands in his back pockets, suddenly looking his 19 years and not much more.
“Could've fooled me,” Derek says fondly and pulls Stiles into a hug, only meaning for it to be a quick squeeze. Instead Stiles moulds against him, running his fingers through Derek's hair like he knows about the budding headache. They lean against eachother in the dark of the kitchen, listening to all the wolves in their pack move about in their home.
"You okay?" Stiles asks, as low as possible.
"I will be. You?"
Stiles nods, pulls him in a little tighter.
Erica and Boyd come out of the bathroom, making just enough noise that Stiles has to hear them but without disturbing the quiet of the apartment.
“Hi baby,” Erica coos, and Stiles turns in confusion.
“Oh, that's Eddie. He likes walks in the park, hogging the sofa and bananas. He has a crush on Lydia though so don't get your hopes up.”
“Sounds familiar,” Erica says, and Stiles makes a face. They're both smiling, though.
“There's some food for you in the kitchen. It's just chilli, but you need the energy. It's not very spicy, either.”
“Smells amazing,” Erica says, turning her attention away from Eddie who gives Boyd a quick sniff before heading off into the livingroom.
“I'm starving,” Boyd agrees.
There's a soft knock on the door just as Stiles and Derek are done brushing their teeth, Allison and Lydia carrying a gym bag each. They've both changed, soft clothes and hoodies. Lydia might actually even be wearing her pyjama pants.
“We figured you might be a little low on clothes.” Lydia turns to Erica. “You're about my size, right?”
“I think so. Yeah. Thank you.”
“No problem. We can go get you some underwear and stuff tomorrow.” She looks to Boyd. “I figured you wouldn't want one of my mother's dresses.”
Boyd just chuckles and shakes his head.
"We found some sweatpants for you, though," Allison says and nods to the bag she's holding. "They're kind of plain, but it's something." Boyd thanks her, and Allison sets the bag down near the bathroom door.
“Come on, let's get settled,” Stiles says with a yawn, ushering them all towards the bedroom. “I'm exhausted.”
Derek wakes up with Lydia and Stiles curled up against either of his sides, heads pillowed on his arms. Just like at the clearing, the contrast between what his bond to Erica and Boyd was when they went to bed and what it grew into during the night is glaringly obvious.
Derek tries to lean up without disturbing anybody, just to check on the two on the bed. Boyd has an arm wrapped around Erica's middle and it looks like she might be drooling on Derek's favourite pillow.
“The universe has a way of balancing things out, remember?” Stiles hums against his shoulder, pushing him down into the matress again. “They're still here. You can go back to sleep.”
He surfaces a few hours later thanks to Erica sliding down under the covers, taking up the spot Lydia must've vacated sometime earlier. Stiles is out of bed, too, his pillow bunched up against Derek's back. The entire apartment smells like pancakes and he can hear Isaac and Boyd argue about what shapes to make them.
Erica's quiet, like she used to get before she left, when she didn't have to put up a facade for anyone and relaxed. When she sees he's awake, she shuffles a little closer, steals some of the covers, then closes her eyes again.
“We need to figure out how to avoid people recognising you,” he says after a while, not really sure she's already fallen asleep. She answers quickly, a little sleepy but still awake.
“I'll dye my hair,” she shrugs. "I've always wondered what being a brunette is like."
“People will still recognise you,” he insists. Boyd can be explained away, but Erica? Erica was declared dead a year ago. She looks up at him, frowns.
“Who? I didn't have any friends, people only noticed me for a few weeks. My parents didn't care much to begin with, you know that. They moved back to Oregon, it's not like I'm gonna bump into them.” She sighs, lowers her voice. “Boyd's grandma died while he was back to get me. Everyone who knows us in Beacon Hills are in this apartment.”
“I know a guy. That can fix a new identity for you, I mean,” Derek suggests. “He helped me and Laura, we always had backups. So you can stay. If you still want to. We haven't told anyone yet, but we've been looking at this house not too far from here, you could take the apartment.”
“Boyd inherited the house, so we have somewhere to live,” she says, opening her eyes. “I appreciate it though. A lot. And we do wanna stay.” She's a little pale, like she's anaemic, a little reminiscent of how she looked before the bite. “You're looking at me funny.”
“I didn't handle it well, when you-” he cuts off, gestures to her. Looking Erica in the eyes while talking about her death feels too fucking much like talking to Laura's shadow when he first sunk into the abyss. “With all the people I've lost, I didn't really think I'd get anyone back. Not like this. I've been seeing a psychiatrist, not just because of that, but it was the last drop, I guess.”
She watches him talk, eyes tracing his face like she's looking at him in a new light.
Maybe she is.
“Wanna talk about it?” She settles for.
“Maybe later. It's a lot to talk about.” He tucks some of her hair behind her ear, squeezes her earlobe a little just to see her smile. “I should have told you some of it, before.”
“It's alright. We'll get some tea, I can bake scones,” Erica says and pats his arm where it's slung over her waist, then yawns.
“I guess it's time for me to rewrite my bucket list,” she says after a while, pulling him back from almost falling asleep again. “I'm gonna eat sooo many carbs and drink so much coffee. I haven't eaten pizza since I got diagnosed.”
“'S there anything in particular you want to do?” He asks without opening his eyes.
“We went swimming in the ocean on our way here, so that's done.”
“It's December,” Derek frowns, looking up at her.
“Mhm, and Boyd whined every step of the way, but he still did it.” She smiles at the memory. “Get my driver's license, maybe? Go to the movies and see something with explosions,” she says and scrunches her nose in glee.
“We can go tomorrow. Get some pizza afterwards,” Derek suggests. “There's a place a few blocks from the station where Noah eats when he thinks Stiles doesn't know, their pizzas are at least 75% grease.”
“Sounds like a good start,” Erica agrees, slipping back into sleep.
A few minutes more won't hurt, Derek supposes, and follows, sure she'll be there when he wakes up.
Wow. Yeah. So I've been unsure what to do with this for a while, but I like to think I got it right.
One chapter left to go, guys. Then a bunch of outtakes because I love this thing too damn much to let go quite yet. come join me at tumblr, I'm condemnedtorocknroll. write me a line or two, tell me who you are. we can talk prompts, headcanons, whatever you wanna :)
Exactly two years later, and it's finished. Wow. Thanks to all of you who stuck around despite my long breaks, I love you all.
This is for everyone dealing with trauma or depression or whatever it may be. You're all warriors, and a happy ending is possible. For all of us. We deserve it.
It's especially for K. I didn't think writing this would mean anything to anyone but myself, and I definitely didn't think I'd find friends because of this story either. I believe in you, I'm proud of you and I love you.
It happens the following Saturday, their first day by themselves since Erica and Boyd moved into his grandmother's old house. It was a pack effort, to get it ready as soon as possible, but they managed, the shifters helping Boyd sort through what to keep and what to put away in storage while the others did the shopping needed.
Stiles is watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, getting all the answers right without even blinking and occasionally eating popcorn, while Derek has settled with the Hale book on the other end of the sofa. It's like reconnecting, to read about the family he remembers, not just the historical one. Maybe Jame can help him fill out the few blanks he's found.
Stiles is wearing flannel pants, one of Derek's old t-shirts and one crooked sock, their feet piled between them on the sofa. His hair a mess from Derek's hands and he's the most perfect thing Derek has ever laid eyes on. Derek just watches him, the chaotic hair and a fading hickey on the side of his neck that sends the wolf in him rolling around, panting mineminemineminemine like the fucking dork Derek always has been.
He smiles to himself and turns a page in the book, moving on from his grandmother's honestly kind of hilarious run-in with a unicorn dead set on moving into a church downtown to his parents meeting.
Talia has been insisting for weeks that the boy who keeps picking her up for school is nothing but a friend, as if her mother and alpha wouldn't recognize a mate bond when she sees it. The boy is well mannered, patient and gentle, even if a little quiet. He will make a good werewolf, and he will surely compliment her leadership well, once my time is over.
However, this made me realize how little is written down about our history with mate bonds, partially due to the lack of distinction between them and pack bonds in earlier accounts, but also because of the unfortunately short lifespan of our kind before settlements and treaties with hunters.
What ms G suspects is that these bonds are amplified the same way regular human relationships are when they become pack bonds. This would explain why the bonds do not seem predestined in any way, but rather grow out of regular relationships, just like any other emotional bond, be they romantic or platonic. Simply a preternatural evolutionary quirk, perhaps. Our kind does need stronger bonds to stay together, and to stay together is to survive.
Mate bonds manifest in different ways, most commonly feint physical sensations, but can also range up to stronger sensations like shared pain and healing, sometimes amplified depending on proximity. Manifestations can differ depending on the nature of the mates, eg. werewolves whose selkie mates have given them the ability to breathe under water, lowered hunger in wendigos and hearing banshee wails regardless of distance.
Even humans have been known to exhibit signs of mate bonds, albeit lighter ones more in line of pack bonds. The only known exceptions to this as of this date (6/21/1979) are with multiple partners where only one is human, multiplying the normal carryover, or one mate is alpha and the other emissary, in which case the strength of the alpha will affect the power of the emissary, as seen with my paternal grandparents (see chapter twentyfive, book four for information from related packs.).
The memory of his mother in the kitchen comes back to him at the same time as the little flutter behind his breastbone returns and he watches as Stiles absentmindedly scratches his chest at the same time Derek does and he just knows. Should have known earlier, with the way Stiles doesn't need Adderall to manage his ADD anymore, how Stiles has become the protective layer keeping the world away when Derek feels like a walking, talking, exposed nerve.
It's not brand new and it's not sudden. Far from it. It’s been there for months, maybe longer, lingering, occasionally tugging at him a little and waiting for him to see through the fog of depression he’s been in and suddenly it’s so obvious he wants to smack himself in the face.
“Ugh,” he says and really does smack himself in the face.
Stiles looks up at him.
”What? There's more in the kitchen, Boyd left some?” He says, slightly unsure, and pushes the nearly empty popcorn bowl toward Derek.
Derek just shakes his head, hands him the iPad instead.
“What is it?”
“Just read it. And don't hate me for it.” He takes a deep breath as Stiles takes the iPad, looking at him sceptically.
Stiles reads in silence, his only reaction a quirked eyebrow here and a little smile there. The confusion, the signs of Stiles being weirded out never come. If anything, his mood seems to lighten ever more.
“Well that explains why Jackson could hear Lydia scream all the way to London,” he says when he finishes.
“Stiles,” Derek exhales.
“What?” He says, putting the iPad away. “How do you think I found you here in the first place?”
“Well, no, but...” He trails off, turns to look at Derek properly. “I could find you, okay? I just went out for a drive and something led me here, and when I got here I could physically feel that you were starving. Figured it was a pack thing until you had that first big panic attack and I thought we were being gassed because I couldn't breathe either. You healed me when I cut my hand, I don't get sore after practice anymore. Doesn't take a genius to figure out something's up.” He tilts his head, grins at Derek. “No offence.”
“Shut up,” Derek says, but can't bite back the smile. He sits up, untangles their legs and leans back against the back of the sofa, closing his eyes. “You're being very calm about this.”
“Are we supposed to be panicking?” Stiles' hand sneaks onto Derek's knee, thumb sweeping a calming pattern. “Cause I was already kind of planning on spending a lot of my future with you, to be honest. I don't mind.”
“I heard you ranting about how soulmates were a bad idea just a few weeks ago, I believe your exact words were non-consensual and awful.” He sighs, rubs a hand over his face. “Look, you don't have to pretend it's okay if it isn't. Just don't.. Don't lie to me.”
Stiles climbs into his lap and Derek scoots back almost instinctively to give him room, holding him steady by his hips. When Derek looks up at him, he's not still full of glee. He still doesn't smell upset, either. A little of the worry Derek had settles at that.
“Predestined soulmates.” Stiles emphasizes. “Sure, Scott and Allison fell in love instantly, but this still isn't some higher power playing matchup, Derek. It's us seeing how good we could be, how good we are, and choosing that, and the universe following our lead. I don't mind that.”
“You sure?” Derek asks, still in a little cloud of shock. He should have seen it.
“Ever since I was a kid, I've wanted what dad and mom had. Forever doesn't scare me,” he says, draping his arms around Derek's neck. “I wanna have a home with you, steal your shirts and watch you drool on my pillow.”
“I'm signing the papers for the house tomorrow, you know that.”
Stiles grins, and pulls Derek in by his earlobes, almost just breathing against Derek's lips until Derek himself moves closer, dragging blunt teeth over Stiles' bottom lip, then his tongue, tasting a little butter and salt.
“I just don't want it to just be a house,” Stiles explains. “I want it to be our home. Mornings in the breakfast nook, arguing about nursery colours, growing old on a porch swing.”
“How many?” Derek asks, suddenly more breathless than the kiss could ever justify, because yes.
“Swings?” Stiles frowns.
“Kids, how many kids?”
“Two? So they have eachother. Not too far apart in age. We handle betas, we can handle two kids.”
“We had a lot of twins in my family,” Derek nods.
“Yeah? Both my grandmas had twins, maybe we'll have twins too,” Stiles smiles.
“Stiles. As much as I'd love to, neither of us have the equipment to give birth.”
Stiles blushes a little, stops in his tracks.
“...I may or may not have looked into spells and stuff,” he mumbles.
“Trans mages have been using them for centuries, they're reversible.”
“You'd do that?”
“Have your babies?” Stiles looks down at where Derek's hand has landed, just below his navel.
It's both warming and heady, the thought of taking care of Stiles while he carries their child. Children. “Absolutely.”
He slips his hand under Stiles' shirt, places it back where it was, and Stiles shivers a little. When Derek looks back to his face, Stiles' eyes have darkened a little.
“I want that. I didn't think I would, after everything. But I do. Not yet, but I do.” Stiles nods in agreement, knows they have to much work left to do, the both of them.
“We could still, you know... Practice. For the babymaking.” If Stiles aimed for looking coy, he failed miserably. He looks absolutely deranged, with his hair sticking up and pupils blown, the smile looks as terrifying as it is endearing. “Practice makes perfect. Not to say that it's not already awesome, but-”
Derek grabs the bottom of Stiles' shirt and expertly pulls it off. Just a few months ago it would take hours of kissing and careful touching just to get Derek comfortable enough to remove clothing, now they're down to minutes.
“This is where I've chosen to lay my affections,” he sighs, then chuckles into Stiles' neck before biting down.
“Hell yeah, you did,” Stiles moans and starts unzipping Derek's hoodie.
A year after Stiles came knocking on his door, give or take a couple of days, Derek brings out the Hale bestiary from the small library in their new house at the edge of the preserve. It's in need of some love and care once summer comes along, but it gives him something to do and somewhere to truly heal. It's the first full moon of the year and after days of cooking, filling up the fridge and preparing, they're ready. The whole pack watches as he picks a blank page, writes his full name, turns another page and writes his name again, only smaller. He then pushes it towards Stiles, who carefully but quickly writes down his name. Well, not his full name. That's never going to happen, no matter how much Derek bribes him.
When he's done, he reaches across the table and hands the bestiary to Boyd, who smiles at Derek right before he writes his part, then gives it Erica. Jackson even stayed an extra couple of weeks after Christmas for this alone.
As he watches it being passed around the table, Derek thinks about Laura and his mother and the universe balancing things out. It's not near the massive pack his grandmother had, but it's his pack. He wouldn't have it any other way. As soon as it lands in front of him again, he takes a quick peek to make sure it's all in order.
Alpha Derek Hale, born wolf
Emissary Stiles Stilinski
Beta Vernon Boyd, second in command, bitten by Derek Hale
Beta Erica Reyes, bitten by Derek Hale
Beta Isaac Lahey, bitten by Derek Hale
Beta Scott McCall, bitten by Peter Hale
Beta Jackson Wittemore, bitten by Derek Hale
Banshee Lydia Martin
“Stiles, you know what to do. The rest of you, go get ready,” he says to the pack when he stands. “Allison, could you lend me a hand?” Derek asks and she nods, rising from the table.
She follows him into the study by the kitchen, to the safe where the other books are kept while the pack get dressed. She doesn't know, but Lydia brought her running clothes as well.
“What do you need me to do?”
He places the book on the desk next to them, still open on the same page.
“I'm offering you a place in my pack.”
“I wondered why I was invited to a pack thing,” she nods to herself. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?” Allison jokes.
“I thought we'd gotten past that,” Derek rolls his eyes and Allison laughs a little nervously.
“Sorry, I just.. Scott didn't talk you into this, did he? Don't get me wrong, you're my friend and I care about you,” she says with a sure smile, heartbeat steady. “But an Argent hunter in the Hale pack?”
“Scott approved of it, yes. They all did or we wouldn't be having this conversation. But it was my idea.” He reaches down to the book, flips a few pages back to his grandmother and her pack at its biggest, over 30 members strong. Allison starts scanning the page and quickly finds what she's looking for. “I found my grandmother's pack list a few weeks ago and it got me thinking.”
“That's my grandmother's name,” she says, jaw dropped.
“They made a treaty allowing my family to stay in Beacon Hills without hunters knocking on our door constantly. Since the Argent matriarch had the town under control nobody but her knew about the Hale pack. She was made an official member of the pack when her and grandma grew close.”
“How did I not know about this? None of her books mention this?” She reaches out a tentative hand, carefully running a finger over the familiar signature.
“Gerard took over when she died. I don't think he knew. From what I've read, only some in the pack knew. I had no idea.”
“So what would this mean for me?”
“Normally you'd be an advisor, like Stiles would be if he didn't have the connections to the pack that he has. If you weren't a hunter you'd be like Melissa and Noah.”
“What if something happens, if other hunters come around? I don't know how my grandmother handled everything, Derek.”
“You're the Argent leader, even if you're young. Other hunters need to ask your permission to turn up in Beacon Hills, am I right?” At that, Allison looks up. As she stands, she straightens her back, and something almost regal settles in her features as she nods.
“And I can deny them entry without having to defend myself. If they come anyway, there are rules.”
“Nobody needs to know but us and Stiles, if that would make it easier for you. If you want to think about it for a while, that's okay.” Thinking a little, he adds; “There's no wrong answer here. We won't push you away if you say no.”
“No, I've decided.” Allison nods to herself and takes the pen from his outstretched hand, pulling the book towards her.
Allison Argent, Argent matriarch fits perfectly between Lydia and Melissa's names, and she hands the book to him for him to put away.
“Lydia brought you clothes, and your shoes,” he says. “If you want to run with us tonight-”
“You'll let me?” she smiles, big and bright, and suddenly there's an armful of Allison. Derek shrugs, but can't fight of his own smile and gives her a quick squeeze.
“You're pack,” he simply says, and loud cheers erupt from the back porch, where the rest of the pack have been eavesdropping the entire time. “Now go get changed, I'll go help Melissa and Noah,” Derek says, patting her shoulder as she pulls away.
“Yes alpha.” She says, playfully saluting him before disappearing into the hallway.
It feel right to have her with them, he's not gonna lie.
Derek never had the chance to run with his family on the wolf moon since he didn't have control until after the fire, always envied the tired but happy faces they let in later that night for a midnight feast that took days to prepare. Sure, he got to be around for the aftermath, the food comas and curling up in front of the fireplace, sometimes with his mother and other times with his siblings, warm and sated. What he thought was a hunt, more like a marathon than anything else, turned out to be.... a bit different.
He's sure the pack will love it, just like his family had.
“Do you need anything else or can I..?” He asks Melissa as she hands him a bottle of water.
“Go, it's almost time,” she shoos him off and starts bossing Noah around the stove. “We'll handle this.”
Stiles invited them to join but Noah claimed a bad knee and Melissa offered to stay behind and make him company. Derek wonders if anyone else has noticed how Melissa left her eggnog untouched during Christmas, skipped the champagne on New Years and how her scent has started to change.
If they haven't yet, they will soon when she can't hide her growing belly with thick sweaters. Derek has already looked up plans for a crib, keeps the oak stored in the garage until they tell the pack in case Stiles would stumble upon it. He didn't expect little ones in the pack so soon, but he's no less happy for them. He knows the rest of the pack will be, too.
He leaves them in the kitchen and walks past the mattresses and piles of covers and pillows on the livingroom floor, giving Eddie a quick scratch behind the ears as he passes the sofa, and out towards the silence in the backyard.
It's not the kind of silence that gives a sense of calm, nor is it tense. Boyd, Erica, Isaac, Scott and even Lydia are meditating on the grass like they've been doing for months now to find better control, to tune it more finely.
Tonight is as much a test for them as it is a celebration; an opportunity for them to not just suppress the wolf but learn how to keep it in both control and use even during full moons.
It's silent in the clearing around the house despite the pack slowly working themselves up for the run ahead of them and the atmosphere is almost as good as Derek remembers it, excitement and calm all at the same time. Only this time, he'll get to run, too.
When Stiles comes walking back out of the woods the others stir, start talking again.
“Did it work?”
“Anyone trying to get into the property will forget what they went out for and go back to where they came from and none of you can get out. Us puny humans can, but you guys can't.” He stops when he's standing right next to Derek, watching the pack. “Your brother's spells are... I don't even have words for it. It's like reading Lydia's math notes but actually understanding them. I can tell he loved what he was doing.”
“I wouldn't be surprised if you find drool in there.” Derek can't hold back a smile and Stiles smiles back, putting an arm around his shoulders. “He never let it out of sight, Laura yelled at him for sleeping on it at least twice a week.”
Scott and Jackson are wrestling on the lawn, Erica and Allison occasionally yelling out weaknesses to help them learn. Erica even reaches her foot in and trips Scott at one point; teaching them to fight as well as possible is a group effort, but it's working. With all of them helping, it only took hours for Erica to find a good, stable anchor.
“So she...?” Stiles asks, nodding towards Allison.
“Yeah. Yeah, she did. Were you worried?”
“Not really. If she hadn't agreed now, it was probably just a matter of time.” He kisses Derek's cheek. "I'm just gonna go put the book away. You get the pack."
“Okay, so what are we doing?” Scott asks when Stiles, barely able to stand still. The moon affects them all differently; Derek usually gets happier, the rush almost like the first stages of a crush. Jackson becomes affectionate, cuddly almost, and Boyd and Erica only blush if you ask them. Isaac grows silent, so silent Derek worried he was trying not to lash out. Turns out he just enjoys the surge of enhanced senses, spends the whole day just taking everything in.
Scott, though? Scott gets hyper. Happy and full of energy like a child after too much sugar.
“We're playing hide and seek,” Stiles grins.
“Hide and seek?” Erica frowns.
“Kind of. Stiles, Lydia and Allison get nightvision goggles. They get a ten minute headstart.”
“Isn't that still weighted? I mean, we still see better than them in the dark,” Erica says.
“That's why we brought these.” Stiles pulls out six thick blindfolds and wiggles his eyebrows at her. “You need to learn how to use your wolfy senses. I'm a bit concerned that all of my beef jerky stopped being stolen after I hid it in a jar on the top shelf. Your noses are better than that. So for tonight, you're blind.”
He hands Allison a little bag of tricks. Derek doesn't know just what, but he guesses at least one of them will be hanging upside down from their feet in a tree before the night is over.
“Lydia needs to learn how to stay off the radar, Allison and Stiles do what they can to keep us off her trail. Whoever gets to her first gets to choose what we see when we go to the movies tomorrow.”
Erica fist pumps silently. She has a lot of reason to- she's faster than the male betas, less noisy. Learning that size and strength isn't all there is to fighting might be good for them.
Scott's the first to put a blindfold on, carefully using his hands to navigate around Allison, back towards where he was standing.
“McCall?” Jackson says, grinning at Derek.
“I'm gonna kick your ass.”
“Gotta catch me first, man,” Scott snorts, then walks right into a tree with an undignified squawk. It's probably a good thing he can't see Stiles trying to stifle his laughter.
“No claws, no wolvesbane, no permanent damage. Got it?” Derek says, and the betas all nod.
“How far can we go?” Allison asks, adjusting the goggles for both Stiles and Lydia with ease.
“Stiles knows. I don't. You ready?”
"Let's do this,” Stiles grins, and they head off into the woods.
It's not the first time he runs in these woods, but he's still unused to the paths. Mostly because there barely are any.
He's more than a little suspicious that his betas may have teamed up, and it's confirmed when he can hear them catching up to him. There are scents everywhere; clothes from the human trio scattered here and there in the woods, and even to him it takes a while to suss out what's what. Working in pairs would make things easier, strength in numbers, he knows, which is exactly why he didn't mention it; to see if they'd come to the conclusion themselves.
Isaac cries out as he throws his arms around Derek's middle and tackles him into the moss, Boyd cheering him on not too far behind.
“Go, Boyd, go! Get Lydia!” Isaac yells between laughs as Derek playfully tries to wrestle him down, refusing to give up just yet.
Jackson and Scott seem to have teamed up too, despite Jackson's threats, and Derek can hear them try to navigate past Allison's traps as he manages to slip away from Isaac's grip.
As soon as he's up, the wind changes and he catches Stiles' scent; not the old shirts hung up while he set up the perimeter, but rich and warm and a little sweaty.
Stiles smells of ozone as Derek closes up on him, tickling his nose and making him shiver. It's not the intense scent when he steadies himself for battle, growing quickly like dark clouds on the horizon, but the lighter notes of it he sometimes smells of when they brush their teeth next to each other, or when they kiss when he comes home, or when Derek's talking history with Noah. Stiles is happy.
Which is why it comes as such a surprise when he finds himself running straight into a wall of mountain ash, bouncing off of it and landing on his ass.
He hears Stiles laugh loudly on the other side of it, quickly disappearing into the woods again.
Getting around the barrier isn't very difficult now that he knows it's there, but Stiles did an amazing job with it, winding it around several trees, slowing him down making Derek climb a boulder or two. It takes enough time that Boyd catches up with him, this time to help eachother navigate past the rocks.
“Goddamnit,” he hears Jackson yell just as they're getting into a sprint again. “Scott, stop kicking at it, it won't work. Get your claws out.”
Two high-pitched shrieks and a painful thump later, Isaac speaks up.
“Idiots,” he sighs affectionately. “I can't believe you managed to get caught in the same net. Like, it's so stupid it's almost brilliant.”
They find Erica and Lydia sitting in a tree, just high enough for them to pass under, had they still been blindfolded. From the way they're sitting, Erica against the tree and a protective arm around Lydia's waist, they've been there for a while.
“Hi, losers,” Erica greets them, grinning. “I hope you like horror movies.”
“How?” Isaac pants, doubled over. “I never even heard you pass us.”
“'Cause you're way too fucking loud,” Erica shrugs. “You can't just power through everything, even if you have the muscle. Did any of you use your noses at all?”
“We did!” Scott protests.
“Yeah? Every trap Allison set tonight smelled of bowstring wax.” Then she laughs a little to herself, looking at Derek. “And while it's incredibly cute, blindly chasing after your boyfriend? You deserved that mountain ash.”
“I guess I did,” Derek says, looking towards Stiles, who's opted for sitting on a boulder below the tree instead of in the tree itself.
“Are you blushing?” Jackson teases and nudges him with a gentle elbow.
“Where's Allison?” Isaac asks, and as soon as he's said it she drops down from the tree above him, pinning him to the ground
She tssks, pats his cheek.
“You really need to work on your awareness, honey.”
They make their way to the pillows and mattresses in the livingroom, bodies sore and stomachs full, and watch movies until it's way past midnight. Some of them climb over the mess of legs and bodies to sneak away into the kitchen, getting leftovers when the wolf hunger kicks in the way it usually does around a full moon, but they all come back. Days and nights like these, they're all drawn to eachother, even moreso with the entire pack present. Lydia's casually braiding Erica's hair, who in turn is trying to work out some knots in Allison's back. Jackson sitting up against one of the sofas, wedged in between Isaac and Boyd, doing his best not to show just how comfortable he finds it, Scott on his side with his head in Isaac's lap and his legs thrown over Derek's. Even Noah and Melissa are still there, though they've fallen asleep, wrapped up around eachother. Scott draped a blanket over them a little while earlier, smiling as he did.
"Hey," Stiles says from behind him, wrapping his arms a little tighter around him. "How are you feeling?"
"Right." Derek answers honestly, and Lydia looks up at him, smiling proudly.
Wood and Nails, through the eyes of Stiles. That simple.
I had to.
“Derek's been here,” Scott says, surprise cutting through the somber silence.
“I think he's seen enough funerals to last a lifetime,” Stiles sighs and puts down the flowers he brought. Azaleas for Erica, calendulas for her mourners. Around her headstone Stiles wrapped a rope with the traditional wolfsbane, spent the late hours after the funeral with pushing it down into the ground. Every werewolf passing by her grave will know she was one of them, pay their respects, just like they have for hundreds of years. “I wonder how he's doing.”
“Maybe he left with Boyd,” Scott shrugs.
“Maybe,” Stiles says, but everything in him tells him that's not the case.
Three weeks, almost 40 texts and an irrational amount of worry later, Stiles thinks fuck it and goes for a drive to clear his mind. If he happens to check the train station, the Hale house and the loft, then it's just because it's en route.
He can't explain the wards away, but hey. Had he known how to make them six months ago, maybe things would have worked out differently. It's just in case of.
So it surprises him when he finds himself next to an old lady in an apartment house just off Main St, waiting for the elevator to reach the third floor.
“So, who are you visiting?”
“A friend. Just checking in on him.”
“Oh, who? I know everyone in the building, Angus and me have lived here longer than most.”
“Um, his last name is Hale. Dark hair, beard.”
She thinks for a while, frowning a little.
“I haven't seen him in a while. Of course I could have missed him. I'm sure he's alright, dear,” she says reassuringly, patting Stiles' arm. “I'll show you where he lives, it's in my corridor.”
She does show him where Derek's door is, but somehow, Stiles already knew. Pack bonds? Nemeton? Who even knows anymore. He just figures he should trust his gut, and knocks on Derek's door.
“Whoa, kid, what's going on?” his dad asks a few hours later when he finds Stiles filling a month's worth of lunchboxes with the most nutritious, warming, homemade food he can think of. “It's almost midnight.”
“Remember right after mom, when Melissa came over with all those casseroles? I'm paying it forward.”
Noah hangs his jacket over a chair, frowning.
“I thought the Reyeses moved?”
“They're not the only ones mourning,” he sighs, adding some more bell peppers to the stew. “Derek won't leave his apartment, I'd be surprised if he's left his bed in days,” he says, low enough that Isaac might not hear it upstairs.
“Oh,” his dad says. Considers it for a while. “Do you think it would make it better or worse for him to be reminded of his family?”
“Probably better, pack and all that. Why?”
“I've got just the thing,” Noah says, opening the cupboard where his mother's old recipes are stashed.
Derek says sorry for eating, when that was exactly why Stiles cooked for him, and Stiles' heart fucking shatters.
So Derek sleeps and Stiles watches over him, hums soothingly whenever Derek starts turning too much or makes noises and doesn't leave until Derek's slept at least nine hours, the apartment is cleaner, the freezer filled and the place as protected as Stiles can make it without Derek noticing.
When Stiles had just recently turned 13, his therapist told him about anxiety and standing horses. That horses, being prey and not predator, only sleep lying down when they have a horse or two standing guard. That Stiles' inability to sleep unless he had Scott or his dad close worked the same way.
Derek sleeps more than half of the time Stiles is over, sometimes human and sometimes wolf, and that's okay. He finds rhythm in it somehow, doing his homework at Derek's and talking to him, even if Derek rarely talks back.
The first time he cooks for them while Derek is still in wolf form, Stiles feeds him pieces of sausage and sweet potatoes by hand. Derek's incredibly gentle, almost inhaling the pieces from his hands even if Stiles made them big enough that he could easily grab them with his teeth instead. After that, Derek curls closer to him on the sofa, snout pressed into his side, Stiles' hand buried in his fur, and Stiles half wonders if it was a test. If Derek expected him to set out a goddamn plate on the floor.
Derek sleeps, and Stiles stays awake for as long as he's physically able to, watching over him.
Derek thinks he's jinxed, that eventually he'll cause death to everyone around him to the point where his anchor became his own self-hatred.
Stiles knows better.
“Isaac said you were making a comfort box,” his dad says when he comes into the kitchen, watches Stiles fitting things into a box. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I'm good.” Stiles stills, looks up at him. “It's not for me.”
“It's for Derek, isn't it.” It's not even a question.
He nods, doesn't say anything else. Slips a picture of puppies in under the DVD.
“Well, I got you a bag of these. Maybe he'll like them,” his dad says, and puts a bag of Reese's Pieces by the blanket on the table.
“Where did you get that perfume?” Allison asks at school, sniffing his hoodie. He'd just fished it off the hallway floor while leaving, having placed it there to block the perfume from getting in under the door. He was still a little too shell shocked to think about how much it smelled.
“What? Oh, someone broke a perfume bottle in the hallway last night. Why?”
“I think Kate used to wear it,” Allison shrugs.
Stiles gets another spoonful of soup into his mouth before he gets a flash of Derek blindly crawling backwards to get away from the perfume, clinging to Stiles' arms so hard he can feel the bruises form. Then comes all the things he already knew; Kate being a substitute teacher at BHS before the fire, Derek desperately wanting Scott to stay away from the Argents, Derek rather touching than being touched- it all lines up to one thing, and it's a miracle Stiles makes it to the bathroom stalls before he vomits.
Lydia brings him home to hers, makes Allison make Scott calm down, and doesn't say anything when he's barely keeping from crying in the car. The house is empty, and she tells him to go lie down on her bed while she gets some water and an aspirin for him. How she knew he needed silence and not a nurse, he has no idea.
“Now, do you want to tell me what's wrong?” Lydia asks when she returns with a small bottle of water and a couple of pills, turning the lights down when she enters.
“It's not my story to tell,” Stiles shakes his head.
“So it's about Derek.”
Lydia sits down next to him on the edge of the bed, pops the pills out of the packet.
“How is he holding up?”
“Better, sometimes. Last night was bad.” She hands him the bottle and the pills, unscrews the cork for him when his hands won't stop shaking.
“On a scale from one to ten?”
“Fucking eleven,” Stiles says, then downs both the aspirin and the water. “He had a panic attack so awful I genuinely thought he was dying.”
“Oh.” She pauses, takes the empty bottle from him. “What's an average day?”
“Maybe a seven? I don't even know.” Lydia leans against the wall and rearranges Stiles until he's on his side, curled up. It feels soothing, being cared for like this. “He does this thing sometimes, where I know he's had a shitty couple of days and I come home and he's... I dunno, off? Somehow? Just staring off into fuck knows where or forgetting we're even having a conversation.”
“Is it like he's doing things on autopilot sometimes?”
Stiles turns a little, and Lydia's frown says all he didn't want to hear.
“He's dissociating, isn't he?”
“Probably,” Lydia says, running calming fingers through his scalp. A few years ago he would have killed to be in this position, on his back with his head in her lap, Lydia petting his hair. Now it's comfort between friends, even if he does still love her. At some point it simply transformed into something less passionate, more solid and protective. “Just stick close to him, mountain ash should keep him in the apartment. He might not even remember it.”
“I don't know what I'm doing,” he admits, taking a shaky breath. “He's been put through so much shit and just when I think I know all of it, more just comes up. What if I can't save him this time, Lyds?”
Lydia doesn't say anything, just strokes his back when he turns, sobbing into her stomach.
Spitting on someone's grave might not be the most mature thing he's ever done, but he can't risk resurrecting her for the sake of revenge, however tempting it may be. Sleeping between the door and Derek is more instinct than anything else.
Anything trying to get to Derek will have to get past Stiles' wards, Stiles himself and his boiling anger first.
“Allison isn't home,” Chris says as Stiles steps into the apartment.
“I know, she's watching Scott and Isaac practice. Is anyone else here?”
“No, it's just me.” Chris shuts the door and Stiles takes a deep breath. “Is this about the witch? I thought she was gone?”
“Did you know why Kate moved here?” Stiles sighs, and it's probably the first time he's admitted to himself that he's more sad than angry. A week ago he would have screamed at Chris just to get it out, to somehow avenge young Derek by throwing it back in any Argent's face.
Chris shows him past the livingroom and into the kitchen, where Stiles takes a seat at the kitchen island.
“She moved around a lot, it was part of the job.”
“There's no good way to say this, so I'm just gonna band-aid it. Kate got sacked because she tried to get her students to have sex with her. All werewolves, all minors.”
“Christ...” He grabs a chair and sits down, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Are you sure?”
“I've found three whose last names match packs I know of. I doubt they're the only ones, though. Luckily they're all alive. I don't know if Gerard pushed her towards it or if she went willingly, but..” Stiles leans his head into his hands. “What do you think?”
Chris' eyes darken, then he nods.
“He probably found out and used it to his advantage. I doubt she resisted much.”
“How d'you figure?”
Silence descends on them for a while, Chris seemingly deep in thought.
“You told me this, and we both know this isn't about Laura. It's a big thing to tell me. I guess it's just fair I tell you something too, and everything said will stay between us,” Chris looks towards the wine rack beside them. “But I'm gonna need a drink for this.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Stiles rolls his eyes, feeling more and more drained as the anger fizzles out.
“Want one?” Chris asks, holds a glass up.
“I'm underage,” Stiles scoffs.
“It's the good kind of whiskey. I'm not asking again.” Chris doesn't joke about it, just holds up the bottle in his other hand.
“Yes,” Stiles agrees, realizing he's serious. “Yes, thank you.”
Chris heads to the freezer and brings out the same kind of whiskey stones he's considered giving his father for Christmas.
As he pours the whiskey, he starts talking.
“We both played basketball. If I hadn't known he was a Hale, I would have known what he was from how well he played. He always was a bit of a narcissistic douchebag, couldn't hold back,” Chris says, and it hits Stiles just how affectionate he sounds towards Peter. Sentimental. “I didn't think anybody knew. With practice it was easy to sneak around, we had to talk to eachother even with our family around. But I graduated and left to train, so we broke up.”
“How'd he take that?”
“We knew it was going to happen eventually.” Chris sits down again, slides a glass over to Stiles. “If not because of school, then.. You know.”
“Yeah,” he agrees.
“He met Kim a few months later, I met Victoria when her sister got attacked by an omega. There was never any bad blood between us, not for that.” Chris scrubs his beard, thinking. “I guess that's why I was never afraid he'd harm Allison. Peter knew it wasn't me who set the fire.”
“Makes sense,” Stiles nods, looking down in his glass.
“Sense doesn't happen very often around here,” Chris snorts, and they drink in silence.
“I've got to go, Lydia's picking me up. Movie night,” Stiles says after a while.
“I'll look into it, make sure it's an isolated incident and not a trend. I'll let you know.”
Chris doesn't say anything, just nods.
“Hey, Stiles?” he asks as Stiles is toeing his shoes on.
“Yeah?” he answers, looking into the livingroom where Chris has sat down again, TV muted.
“Where'd you bury him?” His voice is low, like something above a whisper would hurt him. Stiles responds just as softly.
“We spread his ashes in the woods. Small lake up north in the preserve, Derek said he'd talked about it before.”
“Maybe I'll go there tomorrow.”
“I could send you a map.”
“I spent a lot of time there in high school,” Chris says, leans back in the sofa and closes his eyes. “I know where it is.”
Stiles slips out, leaving Chris alone.
Guess what I'm doing? Stiles writes to Lydia in their Facebook chat, watching Derek soak up the sunlight like a cat, leaning against the tree.
What? Comes the answer almost immediately.
Stiles makes sure the sound is off on his phone before sneaking a picture, a bit blurry and at an odd angle but good enough.
He was going to GO OUTSIDE to buy me ice cream while I slept this morning. So we went to the park and bought some, he writes. I'm surprised I didn't cry, he adds quickly.
Lydia sends him two rows of a variety of happy emotes.
Also he apparently likes my face, he adds, and ignores the buzzing after that. She'll have enough time to be nosy at school come Monday.
Stiles knows how to kill a lot of things. He can sense things breaking his wards from miles away, knows how to stalk up on them when they least expect it. He knows what man-made weapons to use to get away with murder, how to remove any trace of a crime. He can improvise at least three melee weapons with what he's wearing at any given time, six if he has his backpack with him. He knows all identified kinds of wolfsbane, their uses and their antidotes, how many cherry pits he has to crush to poison a human being. The carotid, subclavian, femoral arteries and how to hit them, how to burn a dead body until it's nothing but ash.
He has no fucking idea how to keep someone alive if they don't want to be, short of restraints and sedation. But it's Derek, and he's willing to learn.
For now, he'll have to trust Derek wants to live.
His dad disappears for lunch every Tuesday and Friday, and it's not with Melissa or the current or former Beacon Hills' finest, either.
Then one day he has to clean the lint filter of the dryer and finds it full of grey fur.
“Motherf-” Stiles picks his phone out of his pocket, texts his dad.
I love you.
I love you too, comes the answer. Everything okay?
I know where you go on Tuesdays and Fridays. Thank you.
Not doing it for you kiddo, but you're welcome.
Derek's pulse speeds up under Stiles' fingers, the warmth of his breath against Stiles' nose and his palms glides up Stiles' back, clinging to his shoulders.
Stiles runs his fingers through Derek's hair, and he can feel the ghost of it through his own, stronger than any sensation they've ever shared, and maybe, just maybe he knows what this is.
“I'm not gonna do anything you don't want to,” Stiles rushes out later that night when Derek's just started brushing his teeth.
“With you. I'm not doing anything you're not comfortable with.” He leans against the door post. “I wanted to have it said.”
Derek spits out some of the toothpaste.
“But there are things you want to do?”
“Well, yes,” he admits. “I'd be lying if I said I didn't. Lots of things.” Stiles gets quiet for a second, imagining them in the sofa, like they'd been just half an hour ago, only less clothes and-
He shakes his head, and Derek smiles around the toothbrush when he starts blushing.
“I want to do this right.” Stiles nods to himself. “If you want to at all.” Derek's face falls.
“I can't promise anything. I don't-”
“And that's okay,” Stiles emphasizes, nipping that thought in the bud. “I don't care if all we do is hold hands and kiss on the cheek, okay?”
“Okay,” Derek says, like he's fighting between believing in him and calling bullshit.
“I have an idea of how we could work through what's okay and what's not, but we can take that some other day. There's no rush. I just don't want you to think I'll push you into anything.”
“Yeah, alright,” Derek says, a little more convinced. “I'm really tired.”
“God, me too,” Stiles groans. “Finstock is getting out of hand. I'm seriously less sore when I've fought for my life than after track. Let's go to bed, I'll read you a chapter or two.”
Derek falls asleep turned to him as opposed to spooned against him, their noses brushing and Derek's breath ghosting across Stiles' face and chest, and Stiles knows their friends will see right through him when he tries keeping his happiness down at school.
“I never thought I'd be giving you this talk,” his dad opens with the next time he walks into the house. “But hurt him, and we're gonna have a problem.”
Stiles buys him a hamburger. Positive reinforcement, he supposes.
“So. Basically. Green is what we want to do, what's definitely on the table. We can always remove or add or move stuff around, just for now, yeah?”
“Okay,” Derek nods, pen clutched in his hand.
“So, for example, I really like being the big spoon, so I'll write that down,” he says, putting it in the green column. “And I also like being the small spoon.”
Derek snorts out a little laugh. Stiles counts it as a win.
“So when we've written these, we exchange. And if you could imagine being the little spoon sometime in the near future, you highlight that with green. If you need some forking or time to think about it, use yellow. And if you never ever want me to spoon you again, you fill it in with red. So, that way we know double greens are okay, double yellows something we can work on, same thing with mixed green and yellow. Any reds, we don't do.”
“Okay, yeah,” Derek agrees. “Do we do these now, or...?”
“How about we think about it for the week? Just so we know the basic dos and don'ts, then we can do touch-ups as we go along. If you need more time, just tell me.”
Derek nods, and folds his list up, putting it in his back pocket.
It's in Stiles' bedside drawer by the end of the weekend, just like his is in Derek's favourite hoodie. There is less red than Stiles thought there would be, to be honest. Then on the other hand, there is an equal amount of green and a very big portion yellow. But Derek has been honest, and kind of detailed, and it helps Stiles to figure out how to navigate around all the bullshit Kate brought with her.
“I wanna try something,” Derek says just a few days later, hoovering over him on the bed. “If that's okay with you.”
“Is it a green or is it a yellow?” Stiles asks, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. He took a nap after school and woke up with a werewolf wrapped around him.
“I wanna... you know,” he says, flushing a little, and- Oh. There is a hand sneaking under Stiles' stomach, towards his fly.
“Are you sure? Cause it's really okay if you don't-” he asks, even if it had been one of the first greens.
“Yes,” Derek interrupts him. “If you want to.”
“I do,” Stiles admits. “I do.”
“You're... You're nothing like her,” Derek says, burrowing his face into Stiles' neck. “You smell different, feel different... I wouldn't be able to do this if you were a girl, I think.”
“I can imagine,” Stiles nods, strokes his arm.
“I tend to lose myself in it. Did. Whatever. I kind of disappear into my head, my senses dull a bit.” Derek admits.
“You're scared you won't be able to tell the difference?” Stiles assumes.
“But is this okay with you?” Stiles asks, because he needs to be sure. He has to be.
Derek nods without hesitation.
“I like this. I get to be close to you, see you, and that's more rewarding than sex has ever been for me. See how you react, knowing I'm the one who made you react that way.” He emphasizes with a slow, tentative finger along Stiles' ribs and Stiles shivers at the way his eyes take him in.
“Where are my hands allowed?” his voice is a little strangled, but he feels no need to hide it.
“Waist up is green,” Derek hums, opening his fly slowly.
“Green,” Derek pecks his lips and they both smile. “Hickeys?”
“As green as it gets,” Stiles groans as Derek pushes Stiles' pants down. “This may not take very long.”
“S'okay,” Derek says coyly. “Law and order starts in fifteen minutes.”
“Oh, talk dirty to me,” Stiles deadpans, and he never thought he'd be happy that the first person to get a hand on his dick is laughing while doing it, but he is. He really is.
Derek is more expressive like this. Maybe it's because letting the wolf in means less control of his reactions, or maybe he's more in contact with himself. Stiles doesn't know.
They figure out what works, piece by piece, like a puzzle. Stiles keeps mental listsof the red, yellow and green things they've found along the way.
Going down on Derek is a fuck no kind of code red. So are nails and touching his stomach too much with too much intent. That they learned the hard way.
Belly rubs are maybe, as long as there are clothes involved and Stiles uses open palms, round motions. It calms Derek down on the worst of days, with anxiety setting in his stomach like a bag of ice. It gets even better when Stiles finds an old reusable hand warmer.
After the first time Stiles got to reciprocate, they discover bubble baths together are good, the way warm soup and toast on winter days and sleeping in on Sunday mornings are good. Stiles puts his saved up Lush bath bombs to good use and climbs in first, wrapping his arms around Derek's middle when he's settled in too. They talk in hushed voices, about nothing and everything, Derek relaxed and comfortable against him. While Derek rarely walked around without some kind of clothing, be it a pyjamas, he'll now be sneaking leftovers before bed, butt naked like it's nobody's business.
It's one night like that, when they've dried eachother off and crawled into bed naked as the day they were born, that Derek climbs into his lap, stretching out above him like a cat and kissing him deeply.
And. Well. Stiles had expected this would happen the other way around, even if it was a yellow, but on second thought it does make sense. It's not just new territory for Stiles; it is for Derek as well. There is nothing already ruined here, nothing she's taken from him, all Derek's to give. And to watch him, usually so timid when it comes to himself, to watch him move over Stiles without hesitation? It's as heartwarming as it is intoxicating.
He's not Derek's first. He's not even sure if he'll be his last, even if he wants to be. But he's sure as hell going to do all he can to be Derek's best.
Stiles watches Derek spoil Eddie with pieces of banana, take him for runs and talk lovingly to him when he thinks Stiles doesn't hear, and slowly but surely Derek taking care of Eddie becomes Derek also taking care of Derek.
He should have known. He should have known the first time he heard her scream, should have known that nobody's immune and nobody just has dissociative episodes in the woods after being bitten by an alpha werewolf and it's so obvious. Had she been something barely even heard of, he'd might forgive himself for it, but banshees are basic. It's supernatural beings 101. He plays World of Warcraft, his faction leader is a damn banshee queen.
He should have known.
“What?” he responds, pulled out of his thoughts.
“She'll be okay,” Derek says and hugs him the way he does sometimes when Stiles feels a bit too lost, a bit too adrift. Some day Derek might see just how much he tethers Stiles to the world, that it's a mutual thing. “We know what it is, and as soon as she's rested and up to speed she'll read everything there is to read and harass Deaton until he tells her even more. Nobody's controlling her, we just need to help her until she can control herself. ”
Stiles mutters in agreement, and lets Derek steer him towards Lydia.
Stiles spends a lot of time thinking about what he could give Derek for his birthday. If he even should give him anything- the only reason he knows is because he's read all the police files.
He knows it'll be overwhelming already, knows how difficult it is that first Christmas you go from celebrating just two of you when there used to be more to a group of people. Maybe he'll celebrate Derek's birthday afterwards, just the two of them. Maybe he'd like that. Some food, a movie. Put a party hat on Eddie.
In the end, it slips out. Not to say that he regrets it, but it seems like a good time to say it and if there are two things Stiles is good at then it's talking too much and going with his instincts. His dad passes him in the hallway, smiling to himself but a little misty eyed.
“I gave him the woodwork tools, be gentle with him,” he says, then pauses a little. “I don't think you could have fallen in love with a better man. Your mom would have loved him, too.”
And Stiles does. He loves Derek more than he could have ever imagined love could be like, calm and patient and so deep in his bones he doubts there's any part of him that doesn't. So much it takes his breath away, sometimes.
So Stiles tells him. Knows Derek might not ever say it back, but there's no need when Stiles is aware just how much he shows it.
Derek teases him, defusing the bomb in his chest Stiles wasn't even aware was there, and it's everything Stiles has ever wanted.
That Derek says it back is just a bonus. A very, very good one.
Boyd came back and left before Derek could get out of bed and past the doorstep, and Stiles tried not to feel like he failed the entire pack by letting him go. Now he knows why he was so adamant about leaving.
Stiles was there, drove Derek's car with her in the backseat, helped Derek leave her where she'd be found without any animals getting to her. Helped make sure there was nothing that could tie Derek or him to her body.
Led Derek away from her when he couldn't bring himself to let go. Yet here she is. Well, breathing and alive. Not wrong, like Peter came back.
And Derek feels so much. It's like a live wire through both of them, firing in all directions, and Stiles has no idea if he can share the load with him, help him carry it, but he does his best just like he has the six months.
A hand in the small of his back calms the turmoil down and knowing Erica and Boyd will stay makes Derek sob in relief, and Stiles can't keep himself from wrapping around him.
Erica looks over his shoulder, face not too far from Stiles' and he reaches out to touch her.
She's warm under his fingertips, smiles when he strokes her cheek.
“Hi Batman,” she says. And that's all the confirmation he needs: it's really her.
“Hi Catwoman,” he responds, voice wavering and nose stuffed. I buried you. Took care of you like I should have done before it was too late. Watched your absence ripple through so many lives. “I've missed you a lot.”
“I think I'm going to tell them,” Derek says one night, right around the time they've settled in the house and there are just a few boxes left to unpack.
“Tell who what?” Stiles asks.
He rinses his toothbrush, thinks for a minute. It's a testament to how far Derek's come, that he says her name instead of her and you know.
“If you're okay with it, I think it's a good decision. Do you want me to come with you?”
“I'm gonna talk to Allison first. Probably best if it's just the two of us. But later? Yeah.”
“Okay,” Stiles nods. “I'm proud of you, you know that, right? And they would be, too.”
Derek swallows thickly, reaches out to cup Stiles' cheek.
“I'm starting to believe you.”
“Heeeeey Derek,” Stiles says, dragging the words out. There's no great way to approach this, but.. Still.
“Not much, watching TV. ”
“Good, okay. So. I'm on my way home, but I have to give you a bit of a heads up.”
“What's wrong?” He hears Derek get out of the sofa.
“Nothing's wrong. I think. I hope.” Stiles stumbles over his words and the girl next to him shifts in her sleep. “I actually think it's a really good thing.”
“Just tell me,” Derek sighs, muting the tv.
“Long story short: I went to put flowers on the graves before going to Deaton, and I found someone sleeping in the mausoleum, looking for the alpha.” Stiles pauses for a moment, looks over at her in the passenger seat. She's in need of a good week's sleep, food and some comfortable clothes, but she'll be fine. He'll make sure. Finally, he exhales, goes for it. “She says her name is Cora.”
Chapter 15: The Soundtrack
I've always wanted to put this up here, but I had no real idea how I wanted to do it. Now I've made a Spotify purely for fanfic purposes, so you're welcome to follow me if you want to :) In this case this is all the songs I've written WaN to, and these scenes especially.
Derek leaves a single light pink wild rose by her gravestone, because it's the best flower he can think of. It stands out a little amongst the dahlias, but it just makes it all the more fitting.
2. Jesus Christ
For all that Scott accuses him for being built up out of anger, even the rage is seeping away from him, leaving him tired and drained on the bed in his nearly bare bedroom and the world could fall apart for all he cares.
It doesn't really feel like any of it is worth saving, anyway.
3. Streets of Philadelphia
“Of course you’re not a monster,” Stiles sounds as broken as Derek feels. “Jesus Christ.”
4. Still a Long Way to Go
”This,” he says, running a hand over the blanket, “is a comfort box.”
5. Blue and Yellow
“I like your face just fine,” Derek blurts before he can think to stop himself. Stiles doesn't say anything or look up at him, but he's smiling into the ice cream cone so Derek counts it as an accidental win.
6. For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
He smells proud. It's not obvious, but it's there, and Derek really, really does not know what to do with that little piece of information.
“Anytime, son,” he answers.
7. In the Shadow of the Valley of Death
”How have you been since we saw eachother last?”
“Fine,” he says, and it's so obviously automatic he makes a face at himself.
8. By and Down
” I was sixteen,” he says around the fangs that have dropped again . ”Where are you going with this?” he asks, even if he already knows.
9. About Today
“I trust you're telling me the truth.” His voice breaks a little. “Let it be clear though that even if you would do it, I'd find a way to drag your werewolf ass back to me. I don't fucking care what I'd have to do.”
10. I Wanna Be Adored
Every single one of his senses scream Stiles; the taste of his tongue, the scent of his cheek, his skin under Derek's fingertips and the content sigh when he rests his forehead against Derek's.
“I've wanted to do that for a while,” Derek admits.
“Good,” says Stiles with a breathless laugh, “Me too.”
11. Back Down the Black
“No. Seriously Derek, if you only let yourself believe one thing coming out of my mouth, let it be this: Stiles kept your apartment clean and your fridge full, sure, but he didn't get you out of bed and into the real world. That was all you.” Lydia says sternly. “You survived and then you came back. Take credit for that, because you deserve it.”
12. Wish You Were Here
“I really miss them both,” he says, voice so low it's almost a whisper.
She doesn't comment it when he starts crying, just gives him tissues sits with him in silence. Even when his hour is up, she lets him stay and waits until he's ready to leave.
13. Daphne Descends
“What?” Stiles says, looking perfectly comfortable despite the lack of layers he usually hides behind and the man watching him.
Derek just bites his lip to keep himself from saying something he shouldn't, and instead he just goes over to Stiles and wraps him up in a hug.
14. Green Eyes
“And you're my best friend.”
Lydia looks up at him, eyes wide.
15. Sweater Weather
He follows but stops and watches when Stiles starts wading out slowly, very obviously trying to keep from complaining about the temperature. Then makes an undignified noise when he gets to hip depth and Derek can't control his laughter anymore.
16. Hey Jupiter
“I need your help, Der,” Lydia says, voice small and brittle like he's never heard her before.
17. Happy Home
Everytime he's imagined this, because he has, maybe more than he'd like to admit, it has been amidst blood and pain and possible death. Last minute confessions, the kind that will only make the pain and death worse.
18. the Light Behind Your Eyes
When Derek runs his hands up over her shoulders to bare skin he expects it to be cold, cold like the air around him, yet Erica's a furnace compared to the night air and she smells like cheap motel room soap, coffee and moss and life .
19. Never Tear Us Apart
”Forever doesn't scare me,” he says, draping his arms around Derek's neck. “I wanna have a home with you, steal your shirts and watch you drool on my pillow.”
Stiles smells of ozone as Derek closes up on him, tickling his nose and making him shiver. It's not the intense scent when he steadies himself for battle, growing quickly like dark clouds on the horizon, but the lighter notes of it he sometimes smells of when they brush their teeth next to each other, or when they kiss when he comes home, or when Derek's talking history with Noah. Stiles is happy .