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Dream of Life Again

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“What if I screw up?”

“You’re not going to screw up.”

“But I could. Real easy.”

“You’re not gonna.”

“But I could.” Stiles bends into himself, exhales against his own knees as he shakes, jittering with nervous energy. “I could screw this all up. I could kill you, I could kill me, I could burn Beacon Hills down, I could do it wrong and have to – have to fix it. Everything could go wrong and it could all be my fault.”

“Stiles.” Scott reaches over and wraps a hand around the back of his neck. He squeezes, hard, and it’s more grounding than it probably should be. “Dude, I believe in you. It’s gonna be okay.”

“Yeah.” Stiles clears his throat and sits up. “I just needed that to stop being so loud in my head. I’m good now. Let’s go find Lydia.”

Lydia’s already setting things up when they find her. She doesn’t trust them to do this right. Stiles would be offended except she’s probably not wrong. This kind of magic is beyond him. The things he can do, mountain ash and parlour tricks, they’re not really about him. Mountain ash is magic. Like, as Deaton has said once, gunpowder lit with a spark. This kind of magic is Lydia’s domain. It’s precise, exact, has more equations than most of Stiles’ homework. It suits her, honestly, and Stiles tries to stay away when she does her thing.

This time he can’t, but this part is still hers.

“You better be ready,” Lydia says as she cleans dirt out from under her nails with an antiseptic wipe. Stiles can smell the lemon scent even from where he stands a few feet away. She’s probably going to end up covered in blood in a few moments, but she likes to be in control in any way she can, so he doesn’t tease her about this. “It’s time to start.”

“I’m ready,” Stiles says and he’s pretty sure it’s not even a lie. Hopefully.

Scott, Stiles, and Lydia each sit at one point of the triskelion that Lydia’s drawn on the tarp. The center is a tight knot of some language Stiles had never even heard of before this, written in ink in tiny writing. It’s beautiful and also makes him slightly nauseated. Lydia makes both cuts, so the blood drops from Stiles’ arm and Scott’s, too, into the center of the triskelion. There’s wolfsbane on Scott’s knife, not enough to make him sick, but enough to keep him from healing too quickly.

It’s a surprisingly simple thing, after that, for what they’re doing. Blood, a few words, and a little magic.

Just those things, and, for the first time in three years, Laura Hale gasps in a breath.

 

 

Laura is wearing a pair of Stiles’ jeans, underwear and socks Lydia bought, an old T-shirt of Lydia’s and one of Scott’s hoodies. They hadn’t known what would fit her, what sizes she’d take, and there’d been nobody to ask. For obvious reasons, they couldn’t tell Derek about this. If it’d gone wrong… well, nobody needed that to happen. They had a back up plan, but Derek most definitely did not need to be that backup plan. Besides that, Derek very much believes in the balance of the universe. He believes that the universe will always find away to restore that balance and you shouldn’t interfere with that. Stiles personally thinks that the Hale family has been screwed over far too many times and maybe the universe needs a little help balancing itself.

Stiles leans back in between the front seats of his jeep. He kind of hates that Scott’s driving but he’s still a bit too shaky and Scott is… well, a werewolf.

“Hey,” he says carefully. “You don’t have to talk yet but do you need anything? Can we do anything to make this… can we help?”

Laura blinks, shakes her head. “No. I – just – Derek. I need to see my brother.”

“That’s where we’re going,” Stiles says. “Trust me, I am going to enjoy the hell out of his face when he sees you.”

He smiles at her and she doesn’t smile back, but he’s not going to force it. Being brought back from the dead after almost three years is probably confusing and traumatic. He’s seen that season of Buffy, okay? So he’d made sure that they dug her up, so she wouldn’t have to claw her way out of her own grave, had promised himself that they’d put her back if it hadn’t worked. Stiles, well, he and Scott had acted like Laura was nothing more than a body. They’d – they’d fucking treated her like she was a dead squirrel to poke with a stick. She didn’t deserve that then and she certainly wouldn’t have deserved it if the spell had failed.

Stiles likes to think he’s less of an asshole than he was when he was sixteen. He’s not always sure that’s true, but he’s also trying to offset that by actually being a half-decent person. Sometimes. He’s not always sure that’s true, either, but he’s trying.

“We’re almost there,” Scott says from the driver’s seat and Stiles settles back into his own.

Stiles goes into the house first because Derek is suspicious by nature and there are so many things that could go wrong with this if they’re not smart. If they’re not careful. They need to be careful with this.

Derek’s in the living room, hands at his sides like he’s just waiting to need his claws, and the look on his face almost breaks Stiles’ heart. “What’s going on?”

“Happy birthday, don’t freak out,” Stiles says and steps into the living room, pulling Laura with him.

The reaction is – not what Stiles had expected.

Derek turns sheet white, paler than Stiles has ever seen him, and that includes times where he was poisoned. Then he shakes his head, taking a step back, and another, until his back hits the living room wall. “No,” he says. “No, no, please.”

Laura takes a step forward. “Derek?”

“No,” he says and his voice cracks as he slides down the wall, as he covers his ears with his hands and squeezes his eyes shut. “It’s not real, it’s not real, it isn’t.”

Oh, fuck.

Stiles swears under his breath, squeezes Laura’s shoulder once, and crosses the room to Derek. Holy God, just please don’t let this end in his untimely death. Why didn’t they think of this? They should have thought of this. He should have thought of this.

“Hey,” he says gently and reaches out to carefully pull Derek’s hands away from his ears. “Look at me, hey. You’re not sick, you weren’t poisoned, you weren’t cursed. Nobody’s making you hallucinate. This is real. This is real, I promise this is real.”

How?”

Stiles grins, slowly. “Dude, I’m totally magic.”

Derek – Derek still kind of looks wrecked. But on the plus side he doesn’t look like he’s going to kill anything… well, anymore than he usually does. That’s just something his face does, though. He’s like Grumpy Cat that way. So Stiles swallows and gestures Laura forward.

“Hey, babe,” she says softly and then there are a lot of wolfy hugs going on and possibly even some very manly tears. Stiles can’t tell, but he isn’t judging.

Something eases in Stiles’ chest and he exhales, starts to stand up.

“No, you come here, too,” Derek blurts.

The next thing Stiles knows, he’s getting in on the wolfy hugging action, Laura’s arm awkwardly across his back and Derek’s shoulder pressed against his nose, Derek’s hand wrapped around the back of Stiles’ neck.

And… okay, Stiles can work with this. He can – there have been people other than Scott and his dad who’ve touched him since – Lydia, Lydia touched him. Today, even. And, yeah, okay, maybe it was to take a knife to his arm, but it counts. There was skin on skin contact. And Derek probably wasn’t going to maul him. There was that whole three years of mutual life-saving and reluctant kind-of sort-of… thing they’d had going on.

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles mumbles under his breath, reaching up to pat Derek on the back of his shoulder. “Right, yeah.”

He can feel the way Derek’s shaking, thinks that Derek would probably be squeezing him harder if it wasn’t for the ribs he’d had broken last year during the incident with the gnomes. Nasty little motherfuckers.

“You smell like magic,” Derek says, his voice muffled by Laura’s hair. “I – thank you.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah.” He clears his throat and gently pulls away. “I’m gonna give you guys some privacy. By the way, nice to meet you, Laura.”

That gets a half-laugh from her.

Derek catches his wrist as he stands up. “Stay – stay in the house. I need to talk to you later. Laura – Laura and I need to talk, but then I need to talk to you later.”

Stiles nods and stands up. “I’ll be here.”

 

 

Stiles has five days off from school between Thanksgiving, the weekend, and never having classes on Wednesdays, but he has a paper due next Tuesday and his laptop in his backpack. He plops himself down in the breakfast nook and gets a good hour’s worth of work in on it before he loses all ability to focus. It’s late anyway, though, nearly midnight, and his dad will start to worry if he’s not home soon, so he packs up.

Then he pulls the canister of loose chamomile from the cupboard behind the hot chocolate Isaac liked and the coffee only Derek drinks. French vanilla roast, Stiles had been surprised to discover the first time he’d stolen Derek’s coffee cup without asking because he was too incoherent to pour his own in the morning. He made it too sweet for Stiles’ taste, but the first coffee Stiles ever drank had been hospital coffee when he was thirteen. He’s not one for the fancy stuff. Chamomile tea, though, is good for encouraging sleep. It’s good for nerves, helps soothe nausea. Stiles used to make it for his mother after chemo. He’s not sure if it helped, but it made her smile and not a lot did those days. He lets it brew for a few minutes, drains the leaves and pours it into a mug with a tiny bit of honey. Honey’s good for sore throats.

A moment later, Stiles knocks on the living room doorframe. Derek and Laura are on the couch now, but Derek’s still got his hand wrapped around hers, like he’s afraid she’ll disappear if he lets go.

It’s not an unfounded fear, though, is it?

Stiles walks over and sets the mug on the table. “Here, this is for you,” he says to Laura. “It’s chamomile, it’s supposed to be soothing. Helps you sleep. Making with the mellow.”

She nods.

Derek blinks. “It’s late. Oh, shit, sorry. Your dad knows where you are, right?”

Stiles forces back a wince and nods. “Yeah. I should probably get going soon, though.”

“Right, yeah.” Derek nods and turns back to Laura. “Okay. There’s – the last room at the end of the hall, on the right. It’s yours for however long you want. Do you want me to show you?”

Laura shakes her head and stands, picking the mug of tea off the table. “No, I’m fine.” She leans over and kisses Derek on the forehead. Stiles bites back the urge to make fun of him mostly because he still looks kind of wrecked. “I’m fine, babe. Tell you what, maybe you can make your lasagne tomorrow? I haven’t had it in forever. And I’ll… I’ll set the table and pretend I’m not a disaster in the kitchen and we can just… we can just eat it for lunch maybe and talk for however long you want.”

“Okay,” Derek says. “Sure, okay, whatever you want.”

Laura raises the mug in Stiles’ direction. “Thanks for the tea. And the resurrection.”

Stiles salutes her. “At your service, ma’am.”

When they’re alone, Derek catches his arm and pulls him onto the couch. He isn’t at all surprised when Derek goes for the sleeve of Stiles’ shirt. He makes a face when the bandage there is revealed, but Derek’s got a frown on, aimed down at his arm. He’s always been weird about Stiles getting hurt.

“You…” Derek swallows audibly. “You cleaned this, right?”

“Lydia did,” Stiles answers and that’s enough. She’s vicious about this kind of thing and they both know it.

Derek nods. “This was your idea, though, wasn’t it?”

Stiles just shrugs.

“You do realize you could have killed yourself, Lydia, and Scott, don’t you?” Derek says, his voice hardening. “That it might not have worked at all and you could have brought back something that was never my sister. That you could have–”

“I know,” Stiles interrupts. “How much longer is this lecture going to go on?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “You could have died.” He runs a gentle thumb down the side of Stiles’ forearm. “But thank you. Again. You – I’m never going to be able to thank you right or enough for giving me back my sister. But if you ever do something like this again, I’ll rip your spleen out through your nostrils.”

Good to know.

 

 

Laura finds him about a week later. And by ‘find’, Stiles means ‘creeps up on while he’s cleaning out the Jeep’. At least she makes noise when she walks so he didn’t have a heart attack. Much. Stiles has threatened to put a bell on Derek more times than he cares to admit. It’s not natural for a man that size to move that quietly.

Although, honestly, Stiles has always been slightly suspicious that Derek gets some sort of twisted amusement out of his flailing terror…

“Hey,” she says. “Can we talk?”

Stiles tosses an empty pop bottle into the garbage can and frowns at a suspicious stain. He’s not sure if he wants to know if that’s blood or mud. He’s not sure how he feels that he can’t remember which it is. “Yeah, sure. How are you doing?” He pauses. “You’re not seeing pictures turn into skeletons or weird lumps moving on your roof or anything, right?”

She frowns. “What? Wait, you’re comparing this to Buffy?”

Stiles shrugs as he gingerly pokes at the stain. “It’s not like there are a lot resources for this kind of thing. Also they weren’t totally wrong about the werewolf thing. That’s a no, right? I’m gonna need a no.”

“No. Nothing weird.” She leans against the Jeep door, looking into the backseat to see him better. “My brother won’t tell me what happened to Peter.”

“He’s dead.”

“That’s what Derek said. I want to know what actually happened.”

Stiles sighs and tosses the scrub brush into the bucket in the footwell of the passenger seat. He climbs out of the driver’s side and walks around to the back of the Jeep. It’s open to air it out and he leans on the folded down tailgate. Laura walks around to him after a moment, arms crossed over her stomach.

He runs his hands through his hair. “Peter lured you back to town and killed you. My friend Scott and I – well, my dad’s the Sheriff, you know that? And they found… they found–”

“My body.”

He winces. “Well. Yeah. But…”

She looks away. “He cut me in half. Or – Argents? Hunters? Someone cut me in half. So I wouldn’t heal.”

“Yeah. So they found – they found half of you. And then I dragged Scott out to find the other half of… you.”

Laura frowns at him. “Why?”

“Because I was sixteen and stupid,” Stiles says, staring at his hands. “I got caught and sent home by my dad. Scott got bit by Peter. Things went as well as you’d expect. Peter killed a bunch of people, tried to make Scott kill people, kidnapped me. Then we set him on fire and Derek killed him.” Stiles rolls his neck back and forth. “Then Peter started haunting Lydia and used her to resurrect himself. He came back as a beta. He was – he wasn’t sane, really.”

He takes a breath and takes his hoodie off. His left shoulder still isn’t quite right, probably won’t ever be, and it clicks when he pulls his shirt up. When he turns all the way so his back is visible, he hears Laura’s gasp despite her obvious attempt to muffle it. It’s okay. He knows what it looks like. The scars are fucking ugly. Peter pretty much tried to carve his spine out of his body, how wouldn’t they be?

“Lydia killed him,” Stiles says and tugs his shirt back down as he turns back. “She poisoned him and then she cut him in half and then he burned until there was only ash left.”

They mixed his ashes with mountain ash and wolfsbane, after, and buried the urn six feet deep surrounded by the stuff. Urns, actually. Three of them. At least twenty miles apart each and a few handfuls tossed into the ocean. There are only so many people left who have a link to Peter who can actually bring him back and the link is critical. It’s probably as safe as they’ll ever get.

Laura swallows, and tugs the hem of her shirt up and the waist of her jeans down, right at the hip. There’s a fine silvery line running across the curve of her hip.

“Oh, fuck, that should have healed.” Stiles reaches out without thinking, but Laura steps back before he can touch her. “I must have screwed something up. I can talk to Lydia if–”

“No. It’s fine. There’s no damage below the skin. I could probably force it to heal eventually. Just…”

Stiles nods. He gets it. There’s a bloody T-shirt still in an evidence bag that he stole from the police station in the bottom of his closet.

“I killed somebody last month,” Stiles says as he pulls his hoodie back on. He almost never goes without at least two layers these days. “A human, a guy I went to school with. He tried to kill Scott and he shot Allison and he had Isaac at gunpoint. I broke his skull with a brick.” He sniffs, squints at the sky. “Scott says I’m different.”

Laura moves closer and leans against the tailgate next to him. “I’ve been dead for three years. My baby brother is older than me.”

He doesn’t look at her when he speaks this time. “If this is a – you remember season six of Buffy? If it’s – if you were at peace and you can’t – you can’t do this, I can break it. It’s connected to me. I’m pretty sure I can break it if you want me to.” He picks at a ragged cuticle. “You were probably in a good place. Somewhere safe and nice and where your family probably was. And I pulled you out of there, I–”

It’s not until Laura covers his hand with hers that he realises he’s picked his skin red and raw. “I don’t remember anything,” she says softly. “Nothing. I just – your friend says you’ve changed? I haven’t. I don’t think I have. But everything else has. I’ll adjust. Just… I don’t want to tell Derek. He doesn’t need to worry more.”

Stiles nods. “My lips are zipped.”

“If he asks–”

“I’ll lie.”

“Stiles, we’re werewolves.”

He snorts. “No shit? I broke Derek’s nose last week.”

She frowns. “What?”

“That was a lie.” He runs his fingers through his hair. “Could you tell?”

After a long moment, Laura shakes her head.

“Yeah.”

 

 

It’s snowing when his bus pulls into the Beacon Hills depot a few days before Christmas because of course it is. Stiles sighs at the messages on his phone and commits himself to walking home. It’s a couple miles to his house, but his dad got called into work unexpectedly, Scott’s shopping with his mother in the city, Lydia’s not home yet, and the rest of the people he’d feel comfortable harassing into picking him up aren’t answering. 

He’s zipping up his hoodie, woefully unprepared for this – he had a growth spurt over the summer, unexpected and late, and his only winter jacket doesn’t fit anymore – when a familiar Camaro pulls up in front of him. 

The driver, however, is a surprise.

Laura’s cut her hair up to her chin, with blunt bangs across her forehead. It’s lighter than it was the last time he saw her and streaky. She’s wearing heavy eye makeup and Stiles thinks, yeah, she looks different enough to pass her off as a Hale cousin. Strangely, it actually helps that she hasn’t aged the last three years, being all, you know, dead. But everyone who remembers Derek and Laura remembers Laura being older and it works to their advantage that she isn’t, now.

“Hey,” he says when he’s folded himself into the car. He’s gotten too tall for this car, really, even with the seat pushed back as far as it’ll go. He’s a little sad. He’s got some good memories of this car. “How are you doing?”

“Good.” She glances at him for a second before looking back at the road. “Derek’s working or he would have come himself. He wants you and your dad to come over for dinner tonight. Around sevenish.”

“Yeah, okay. That’d be nice. Thanks for picking me up.”

She nods.

He sighs. “So what’s going on?”

They don’t just… chat. It’s not that they’re mortal enemies or anything, but he and Laura aren’t friends. She’s Derek’s sister and he’s glad Derek has her back, but they’re not friends. Honestly, he thinks she doesn’t really like him.

A muscle in her jaw jumps. “I think witches, maybe. Things are – things are sometimes weird. There are places in town that don't smell right.”

“I’ll put out some feelers,” he promises.

She drops him off at his empty house. He texts a few of his contacts while absently unpacking and doing homework, throws in a load of laundry because the hamper in the laundry room is stuffed and he hates doing laundry at school. He has to stay and keep an eye on his clothes – he once caught somebody trying to open the front-loading washing machine while it was on – and he always forgets to bring something to do besides whatever stupid games he has on his phone and it’s boring as hell.

His dad gets home at six-thirty and ruffles his hair on the way to the shower. He doesn’t jump when his dad touches him, because it’s his dad, and he spent months forcing himself not to, for his dad’s sake. His last roommate on the other hand… well, there was a reason his last roommate hated him. Dude never did learn that it was a stupid idea to try and shake Stiles awake.

“Give me ten minutes and then we can head over to Derek’s,” his dad says on the way by.

Derek made pot roast. It’s Stiles’ favourite and his dad likes any excuse to eat red meat. Stiles doesn’t tell him that he knows Derek buys lean cuts for these meals, doesn’t get a little bit of a flutter in his chest when he sees that Derek made the spinach salad that his dad will eat buckets of, doesn’t smile when they walk in and Derek goes still, his mouth slightly open until he catches himself.

Especially not that last one. He’s not allowed to smile at things like that, not anymore.

Isaac and Scott and Melissa are all there. Boyd’s at home with his family and Erica – well. That’s a long story. But this is good. There’s laughing and food and conversation and it feels like family.

Scott hugs him like he hasn’t seen him in ten years, not a few weeks. That’s pretty normal, though, for Scott. He’s a hugger by nature. It’s a surprise when Isaac hugs him, though, even if it is a one-armed, back-patting bro-hug. He holds his breath through it and manages not to freak out and break Isaac’s nose. And, when Melissa pulls him in before she and Scott leave, he gets a little choked up. She hasn’t always – he got her kid turned into a werewolf and completely fucked up his life forever. He wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d never forgiven him.

He’s – he’s glad he can handle her touch. She was there when he was in the hospital after – after Peter. She works the ER, and he came in on her shift. He doesn’t remember a lot of that, and he’s pretty sure that’s a good thing considering the state of his back, but he remembers her hand on his forehead, for a moment while he drifted in and out, and, vaguely, her voice.

His dad comes into the kitchen while he’s helping clean up the dinner dishes, asks, “You almost ready to go?”

Stiles reaches for a towel. “Uh… yeah, I guess. Just give me like five minutes.”

“Sure. I’ll go warm the car up.”

When the door closes behind him, Stiles turns to look at Derek. “You sent Laura to pick me up today.”

Derek packs leftover spinach salad into a Tupperware container, avoiding his eyes. “Yeah. I couldn’t get away from work… and, honestly, she’s still getting used to group things.”

Stiles nods. He knows.

“Here.” Derek hands over the container, plus a smaller one. “Your dad can take this for lunch tomorrow. The dressing’s separate in there so he can mix it up at work and it won’t go soggy on him. And there’s some chicken in this one. I thought it might be good to try with it. He’ll have to tell me.”

“Thanks,” Stiles says, and means it. He used to like to think he was the reason his dad didn’t eat like crap, but he’s not stupid. Derek’s food is the reason because Derek’s food is fucking amazing, no lie.

He doesn’t expect it, stops breathing when Derek leans in, leans up, holy crap, that’s new, and kisses him. It isn’t mean or angry or hard or anything he’d expect it to be with the way they ended, it’s just firm and warm and Derek and Stiles can’t do this.

He stumbles backwards, hands still clutching the stupid container of salad. “I – I have to go. My dad’s waiting.”

And he runs away, to the safety of his father’s car, because this isn’t supposed to happen anymore. They don’t do this anymore. He turns nineteen in less than a month, he’s in his freshmen year of college, and they stopped doing whatever the unnamed thing between them was before he even turned eighteen. The thing, you know, where they slept together for months, where Derek snuck into his house just to sleep with him – actual sleeping, not sex – just because he wanted to.

Where Stiles fell in love with him.

The thing where Derek broke up with him after Peter tried to murder him and they barely spoke for six months. The thing where regaining any sort of friendship has been painful and slow, and Stiles can barely handle looking at Derek and not being allowed to have him some days.

“You okay?” his dad asks, sending a sidelong glance his way.

Stiles kind of shrugs and nods and twitches all at once. “Yeah. Yeah, of course I am, I’m fine.”

He’s totally fine.

 

 

Stiles gets called the day after Christmas to do the posturing thing. He groans, because his dad had to work after dinner yesterday and Stiles spent the evening watching Christmas cartoons and drinking himself senseless on peppermint schnapps that he’s not old enough to buy yet. But Beacon Hills is still his town and he needs to be there while Derek glares, Scott does that thing with his jaw that he thinks makes him look scarier, and Lydia looks flawless as usual.

So he groans and puts some clothes on and drives to the middle of the Preserve where people are gathered because this stuff never happens in a nice coffee shop – or, hell, a diner where the coffee could strip the paint off the walls and yeah, that sounds good right about now. Ugh, it’s way too fucking early for this.

He stalks over to what he assumes is his side of things. His people are over here. Generally this is where he stands when they do this stand off thing, behind Scott while everybody else who’s scarier than him postures and Lydia looks flawless. “Let me guess,” he mutters to Scott. “Witches?”

Scott nods without looking at him.

Stiles sighs. He can feel a low buzz of magic from across the clearing thing – where the hell are they, anyways? He’s not entirely sure he’s ever even wandered into this part of the Preserve. “Do I need to contribute or can I just be here because I’m really hungover and I haven’t had coffee.”

“You have magic,” one of the witches says and, yay, that means he has to contribute.

He sighs. “Not really. Low-level stuff only.”

There are three of them, two women and one man. Although he’s not sure he should say it like that. The woman who’s talking looks around twenty, but the man – the boy looks like he’s maybe fifteen and Stiles would be surprised if the other girl was out of high school. For a moment, Stiles feels incredibly old for his age.

“You did something,” the woman says. She has circles under her eyes and the hollows of her cheeks look almost painful. “A few weeks ago. You did something big and we tracked it here.”

Stiles winces. “Uh. Yeah. But I didn’t do it alone and it was still more of an I was a convenient… spark… thing.”

“Oh.” The woman swallows. “I… we need help.”

Stiles takes a breath. “We can talk.”

 

 

When they sit down and talk – and somebody gets Stiles a cup of coffee, thank fuck – it turns out the witches are siblings. The oldest sister is named Edie and she’s nineteen. The younger girl is seventeen and named Nicole and the boy, Jeremy, won’t be fifteen for a few months. Their parents are dead, killed by hunters, and Stiles sees the exact moment where Derek caves.

Honestly, he’s not surprised in the slightest. Derek and Laura had a few rough years. Nobody wanted to associate with the remains of a pack that was almost completely wiped out in one fell swoop. Stiles hates that they spent years fending for themselves, alone, as fucking teenagers, but –

But.

But he understands, in the terrible parts of him that he tries to pretend don’t exist. His family – his pack – his whatever the hell they want to call themselves this week, it’s small. The group of people he cares about is small and he’s almost lost them all multiple times.

His dad is one of the most important people in his life, if not the most important person. Scott is family, Scott and his mom, even if she still thinks of him as Scott’s weird best friend who isn’t the best influence, but she hugged him at graduation and cried when he walked across the stage and lectured him for twenty minutes while he was still in his hospital bed that time he got shot with an arrow. Stiles loves Allison a hell of a lot because she's fucking amazing and he loves how she changed Scott’s world and he just… he gets, sometimes, why she went kind of homicidal back in sophomore year. Sometimes he thinks that, even more than Scott, he gets how that could happen. How a person could break like that.

Lydia is one of his best friends, honestly. He’s a little bit afraid of her still and she probably likes it that way. And he’s still one of her biggest fans – he still thinks she’s amazing – but it was never going to happen with them and he’s more glad than ever that he finally got that.

Isaac wasn’t really his friend for a long time, but he’s – Isaac probably needed people more than Stiles did. He thinks things are better like this, now that they’re not all divided and fragmented and broken. It’s not really that they’re some big happy family, but there are links between most of them, and friendships, and history. It’s like a spider web. One person moves, everybody feels it.

And Erica, he misses Erica so much it hurts sometimes.

Boyd has always been more of Derek’s friend than anything. They’re a lot alike when it comes down to it. Boyd maybe was a little more sensible, but Boyd also hadn’t lost his entire family at sixteen and spent six years constantly on the run. It wasn’t a fair comparison. So maybe they’re not close, but Stiles still isn’t going to let anything happen to the dude.

Derek – fuck, Derek is too complicated.

And these people that he cares about, he’d do almost anything to keep them safe. Scott has never grown out of the need to protect everyone and Stiles sort of hopes he never does – hell, they met when Stiles scraped half his knee off on the third day of kindergarten and Scott gave him his Batman band-aids to fix it – but Stiles can’t think like that. Stiles is the one who has to be realistic sometimes. He’s the one who has to suggest letting people die, to suggest that that killing somebody is an option. He wishes it wasn’t, but it is, and if he needs to protect his people, the people he cares about…

Well. Like he said. He can see why Allison snapped.

Stiles rubs his forehead and wishes, just for a second, that he wasn’t the person who had to say this. “This is such a bad idea.”

“It kind of is,” Allison agrees from the other side of the booth where she’s sitting next to Scott. Everyone else has left. Laura and Isaac took the witches back to Derek’s house, because they haven’t actually slept in a real bed in almost two months, and everyone else had families wondering where they were the day after Christmas.

Scott frowns down at his barely touched coffee. Stiles fights the urge to steal the mug from him, but Scott puts so much damned cream and sugar in it that it’s barely worth it. Fucking teeth rotting is what it is. “But they need help.”

Derek’s suspicious expression would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. It’s been almost three years since the Gerard thing and he still doesn’t fully trust Scott, especially when Scott agrees with him. And honestly Stiles doesn’t blame him. Honestly, Stiles gets why Scott didn’t tell Derek anything. Derek is kind of terrible at the whole plan thing. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t understand why Derek still feels betrayed. Honestly… honestly, sometimes Stiles is amazed Derek trusts anyone. Stiles would have liked to have been let in on Scott’s plan himself, but he gets it because he gets Scott. Derek doesn’t really have that luxury. His history of trusting people has ended badly.

Derek’s knee smacks his under the table. Stiles tunes back into the conversation and really hopes he hadn’t zoned out for too long. There’s a quiet moment so he talks in case people were expecting him to say something. That’s generally how it works with him.

“I think this could end badly,” Stiles says. “We kind of have a history of things going really badly. And we can’t – half of us won’t even be here by the end of the month. If they’re followed by hunters, we might not even be able to protect ourselves.”

“I know,” Derek says. “I’ve thought of that.”

Scott sighs. “We have to help them.”

“It – maybe it’s not a good idea for them to stay, though,” Allison says, worrying at a napkin. “Beacon Hills is already suspicious to almost every family I know. I mean, if it's not safe for them, let alone us..."

Derek rubs the back of his neck and slides his coffee cup over in front of Stiles. Stiles makes a happy noise and immediately takes a drink. There’s too much sugar, but it’s black otherwise, and it’s good coffee, strong and amazing and he didn’t take his Adderall today because he’s hungover as hell and he’ll get a migraine and coffee and Scott usually cuts him off after the third or fourth cup and this is his fifth he really loves this diner, okay?

“I’m going to make some calls,” Derek says. “Somebody Laura and I used to know might have room for them. We stayed with a pack up north for a while after. They might be able to take them in.”

Stiles nods. “I can make a couple phone calls, too.”

Allison looks down at her hands, makes a face, and sweeps all the little napkin pieces she’s torn up onto another whole one. She’s been trying to quit biting her nails on and off for years. Stiles gets that. He’s never met a pen, straw, or arm on a pair of glasses he hasn’t gnawed half to death. He once caught himself chewing on Lydia’s glasses. She hadn’t been pleased with him.

“Maybe I could talk to some people I know. I don’t – I’m not really well-liked in our circles anymore,” Allison says with a twist of her mouth. “But I guess there might be some people I could talk to.”

“We sound like the mob,” Scott groans.

Stiles nods, taking a long drink of his coffee. “Yeah. Oh, man, do we ever.”

Scott narrows his eyes. “How many cups of coffee have you had?”

 

 

It goes to hell the day before Stiles is supposed to go back to school.

“I hate magic,” he mutters under his breath. “No more after this, I swear. Not even card tricks. Which did you know I suck at? How does that even make sense. You, you were a good,” he says with a flailing gesture at Laura that very nearly catches her in the face. Thank God for wolf reflexes. “Even if you don’t like me.”

“I like you fine,” Laura says which is a funny thing to say considering she’s got her hand wrapped so tight around the back of his neck he’s going to have bruises for weeks. And boy howdy won’t it be fun explaining those at school. If he survives long enough to go back to school, fuck. “My life isn’t about you. Also it’s possible I’m having a bit of a season six.”

“I can get you the phone number of a great therapist if you want.” He stumbles over his own feet and nearly goes down, would have if not for Laura’s grip on him. “Knows about werewolf shit. She’s a… I don’t remember. A thing. But you gotta drive down to Sacramento. Worth it, though.”

“Sure. Just help me get my brother out of this alive first, capisce?”

Stiles flinches and shuts up.

It’s a mess. Stiles wasn’t even involved at the start. He’d been getting a ride to the bus station from his dad, felt the sudden surge of magic from the Preserve, and thought he should probably make sure things weren’t exploding. Then things exploded, in the form of him running into a hunter and almost getting shot with an arrow – again – before Laura tackled him.

When they stumble into the fight, Stiles’ heart almost stops because Derek – he can see Derek and he’s not moving.

“No,” he says and stumbles away from Laura.

A moment later when he’s falling to his knees next to Derek, a howl echoes out, and a wolf blurs past him. He vaguely recognizes Laura from the only time he saw her before resurrecting her, but he doesn’t have time to give a fuck right now because Derek isn’t moving and he’s not allowed to do this, okay? They talked about this, they had a deal. This isn’t okay.

“Derek?” He presses his hand against the side of Derek’s neck, groping for a pulse. “C’mon, asshole, talk to me.”

There’s nothing, no matter where he puts his fingers, and he’s not breathing.

Cold, a voice in his mind says numbly. He’s cold. Derek doesn’t get cold. He runs hot, like a fucking furnace. Something to do with his metabolism or immune system or something, Stiles doesn’t remember, but he’s not supposed to be cold.

The ritual to bring back the dead is incredibly complex. Certain things are needed, certain words need to be said. It needs to be done when there’s a full moon and not just any full moon and it’s not the kind of magic that Stiles is capable of on his own. He’s not a witch, really, and he’s not what Lydia is, the way it runs through her veins like her blood. Mountain ash is magic already, he’s just, like Deaton said once, a spark. Most of the things he does are like that.

So it’s probably – it is an insane idea to slice his arm open and dig his fingers into the ground, to pull at the magic in the very earth of the Hale land, this home to werewolves for decades that’s soaked in magic, to use his blood and belief to channel the wild, uncontrollable magic through him.

The last thing he hears before passing out is a single, beautiful heartbeat.

 

 

“Nnnng.” Stiles shoves his face further into the pillow, away from the sunlight that’s trying to drill its way into his skull, oh holy baby Jesus, make it stop.

“You going to be waking up any time soon?”

“Nnnggg.” Words don’t seem to be working for him, so he carefully shakes his head.

“Mm, no, I don’t think that’s the answer you want to go with. I think the answer you want to go with here is, ‘yes, Derek, I’m going to wake up now and explain what the fuck I was thinking’. Or how about how exactly I was supposed to explain to your dad what had happened if you’d killed yourself? Because that’s what happened there. You nearly fried yourself, Stiles, your heart stopped beating. Scott had to do CPR on you until the ambulance came, do you get that?” Derek makes a frustrated noise. “For God’s sake, Stiles, what were you thinking?”

“You were cold,” he says into the pillow. “Please for the love of everything good and holy turn the sun off.”

There’s a moment of silence. Then everything dims greatly and Stiles breathes a sigh of relief before finally lifting his face from the pillow and opening his eyes.

Derek looks pissed. He’s closed the blinds of the – great, hospital room, but his face is murderous, all drawn together eyebrows and lips pressed into a thin, flat line of anger. It’s not Stiles’ favourite face of Derek’s. Although considering his favourite was soft, cheeks flushed, mouth open and gasping as Stiles fucked him, anything else would come second anyways.

“What did you say?” he asks, his voice slightly less pissy.

Oh. Right. Focusing. Focusing on being lectured. Ugh, he really hates the lectures.

Stiles lifts a hand to rub at his eyes. “You were cold. When I got to you. You’re never cold. Your heart wasn’t beating, you weren’t breathing, I could smell the blood that had soaked into the ground around you. And you were cold.”

“So, what, you thought you’d pull off some Romeo and Juliet bullshit and–”

“I wasn’t thinking!” Stiles half-shouts, hoarse, throwing his hands down. “Okay? I don’t even remember how I cut myself because I sure didn’t have a knife or anything. Just one moment I was touching your dead fucking body and the next I was bleeding. And it took diagrams and math and Lydia and Scott and precise everything to bring Laura back so it shouldn’t have even been possible to – to – like that and yet here we are!”

Derek stalks back towards the bed and braces a hand on either side of Stiles’ hips, leans in close. “Stiles, you–”

“Oh, fuck off, Derek,” he mutters, slapping Derek’s hand away from his bed. “You’re not my goddamn father. You don’t get to lecture me. It’s not like I wanted to do this. Sorry for panicking when you were dead.”

Derek stares at him. “You almost died.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t,” Stiles says, looking away from him. “When’s my dad going to come in and yell at me?”

"When I'm done yelling at you," Derek says, but his voice has gone soft.

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Goody."

 

 

Stiles gets better. The bruises fade. The cuts on his arms heal over and after his therapist talks to the hospital, they stop making noise about him having to stay because apparently the deep slits down both his wrist said “hey, look, I’m suicidal” to medical professionals. He doesn’t blame them, not when he’s probably such a strange case. He hadn’t bled out, had mostly stopped bleeding, actually, when his heart stopped. He doesn’t think there’s a test for “human body overwhelmed by magic”.

So he knows he’s probably a bit of a medical mystery but the hospital releases him anyways and he goes home to wallow in his own bed for a while. He can’t go back to school for a few weeks, not until he stops getting dizzy when he stands up too quickly. The hospital wants to monitor his heart for a while, too, but when he does go back to school, he can just go to the student health center for that.

His dad worries over him for a long few days, even after Stiles tells him that no, he promises, he’s fine, no, he didn’t try to hurt himself, yeah, it was a magic thing, no, he won’t ever do it again, no, he didn’t know that would happen, yeah, it was important. He doesn’t blame his dad, though. The last time Stiles was in the hospital, Peter almost killed him. And hospitals weren’t good places for them before that.

Anyway. He heals. He goes back to school.

 

 

It happens when Isaac and he are playing video games. Isaac’s school is close enough to Stiles’ that they can hang out. It’s not the same as Scott, but Scott’s far, closer to home than Stiles’ school, and he doesn’t have a lot of friends here. He’s not friendly. He thinks that he was once, before, but he’s not anymore. Isaac is okay, though. He’s Derek’s pack – he’s one of Stiles’ people, safe, and good enough company.

It’s fine right up until Isaac says something, laughs, and smacks Stiles on the shoulder.

The next thing he knows, he’s on the floor with Isaac holding his wrists down. Isaac is bleeding from his nose and mouth and there are scratches all down the side of his face.

Stop,” he says, hoarse, and Stiles gets the feeling that it’s not the first time he’s said it. “Stiles, Stiles, stop so I can let you go.”

“Get the fuck off me,” he grinds out, his heart pounding so hard in his chest he’s light-headed.

Isaac drops his hands and scrambles away. “I wasn’t – you attacked me. What the hell, Stiles?”

He shoves himself upright and stares at his already-bruising knuckles. “Did Scott or Derek ever tell you about that night?”

Isaac swipes the back of his hand across his mouth. The scratches on his face are healing up already, but he’s still panting. “No. Not really.”

“Scott never told you about the fourteen hours I was gone before anyone noticed?” Stiles swallows and pushes to his feet, unsteady. “Yeah, he doesn’t like to talk about that much. Not really his fault, but there’s still fourteen hours worth of stuff that Peter Hale did to me when he was insane that we don’t talk about.”

He grabs his bag and shoves his shoes on, because he really needs to be anywhere but here, and is almost out the door before Isaac speaks again.

“My father locked me in a freezer to punish me for bad grades or broken dishes or burnt food.” Isaac clears his throat. “You can leave if you want, but you don’t have to. I won’t make you.”

Stiles drops his forehead against the door. Inhales. “Feel like ordering a pizza?”

“Your treat.”

 

 

Stiles wakes up to the sound of his cell phone ringing, his heart half-racing out of his chest. He’d been dreaming of – ugh, he’d been dreaming.

He picks his phone up off the nightstand and answers it with a flat, “What?”

“So I’m having weird dreams,” Laura’s voice says in his ear. “I thought it was stuff I’d just forgotten at first, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember not having boobs. Why am I having your dreams?”

Stiles groans. “Sorry. I don’t know. Magic sucks. Lydia could probably figure out what it is and fix it. She’s better at this than I am. I’m not really magic.”

“Really?” Laura says. “Because I seem to remember my brother coming back from the dead because of you. Just because of you.”

“No.” Suddenly cold, Stiles fixes the blankets around his legs, pulling the rest up higher over him. “It wasn’t me. Hale land is soaked in magic. It’s old and you guys have lived there for so long.”

Laura laughs softly. “Stiles, eventually you’re going to have to stop kidding yourself about that.”

“Not tonight,” he says and yawns. “Go back to sleep, Laura.”

 

 

When he walks into his dorm room – it’s a single, he doesn’t do great with strangers these days – after class, Derek is lying on his bed.

Derek who lives three hours away. Derek who never comes to visit him. Derek who he hasn’t actually spoken to since he left for school in January. It’s May and he went and visited his grandmother for spring break so he wouldn’t have to go home and risk running into Derek.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Stiles mutters and slams the door. “You’re not even supposed to be in here.”

“Laura’s having your nightmares,” Derek says, almost conversationally. “Isaac’s just plain worried about you. You yelled at Scott for basically no reason which you never do. Your dad says you’ve lost weight. You smell like you’ve been living on Monster and gummy bears. You didn’t come home for spring break. You–”

“Did you come here just to pick at my personality faults or was there an actual reason?”

Derek folds his arms behind his head and crosses his ankles. He’s not wearing shoes. Stiles tries not to let himself soften inside. “I’m worried about you.”

Stiles snorts, dropping his backpack and kicking off his shoes at the door. “No, you’re not.”

Then he crawls onto the bed and straddles Derek’s hips.

Derek frowns, but his hands came up to touch Stiles’ sides. “What are you doing?”

“You kissed me last time I was home,” Stiles whispers and bends his head to brush his mouth over Derek’s. There was a time when kissing Derek Hale was just something Stiles did, something he could look forward to, something that he craved. They used to kiss until they were breathless, just kiss, before either of them were ready to have sex, just kiss until Stiles’ mouth was hot and swollen and Derek would laugh, breathless, against his throat, and it was Stiles’ favourite thing.

Derek’s hands slide up slowly to cup his face, his thumbs pressing at the corners of Stiles’ mouth. It’s not a pressure thing to make Stiles open his mouth, really, he knows. It’s just a thing where Derek likes to touch his mouth.

“Stay tonight,” Stiles mutters as he kisses down Derek’s throat.

“Yeah, of course,” Derek mutters, and flips them easier than breathing.

Stiles loses his breath. He forgot how much he liked that, how much he sometimes – not always, but sometimes – liked being held down or moved or pulled into place. There have been – he’s kissed other people since, a couple, but there hasn’t been anybody that he’d wanted enough to sleep with and he’s never been one for casual relationships. He’s missed being touched.

He’s missed being able to let people touch him more.

“You don’t smell like me,” Derek murmurs as his hands tilt Stiles’ face up, as he presses his mouth to the pulse he’s bared. Stiles would bitch about it – Derek doesn’t own him, doesn’t have any claim to his scent – but he doesn’t sound possessive, just stupidly mournful, and it’s the single most ridiculous thing Stiles has ever thought about him.

So he grabs Derek and pulls him back up, locks their mouths together. He bites at Derek’s bottom lip and sucks it into his mouth, licking away the hurt of the bite until Derek moans. Licks into his mouth, flicks a tongue over the sensitive spot where human teeth change to fangs because he’s always liked the way Derek jumps when he does that. He’s so focused on making Derek react that he doesn’t realize how hard he’s getting himself until Derek brushes his fingers across the fly of his jeans.

“Do you want me to?” Derek asks, rubbing his thumb down the length of the zipper.

“Yeah.” Stiles swallows, hard, his hands moving restlessly over Derek’s back and sides. “Yeah, please, yeah.”

Derek grins and slowly unbuttons his jeans, knuckles brushing over him with each little movement. Tease. “Please, huh? You gonna be polite?”

“Fuck you.”

“Later if you want," Derek says absently and leans down to bite at Stiles’ jaw. “I just want to touch you right now, okay? Missed your skin. I just… you wanna take this off?”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says and reaches for the hem of his shirt. Then he stops, fingers twisting in the hem of his shirt.

Derek kisses him again, running his tongue over the inside of Stiles’ bottom lip before pulling back. “C’mon, take this off.”

Stiles swallows as he pushes himself up on his elbows. “Derek–”

“Don’t.” Derek slips his hands underneath Stiles’ shirt, hot palms smoothing over his stomach and hips. “Don’t do that. You know better.”

“You’re an ass,” Stiles says and pulls his shirts off.

And he gets tangled because there are too many sleeves going on and he should have stripped down a layer at a time, but he just wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible. Derek laughs, but it’s soft and honestly amused, and a moment later, his hands are there helping Stiles pull his sweater and the two shirts underneath off.

Stiles reaches for Derek’s T-shirt. “Your turn.”

Derek pulls it over his head in one smooth movement, baring miles of gold skin and ridiculous muscle and –

“Where the fuck did you get a scar?”

Derek blinks, looks down at the faint silver line wrapped around his ribs. “The coven that attacked us? You remember the part where they tried to gut me, don’t you?”

Stiles reaches out and carefully touches the mark. “But it should have healed.”

Derek shivers. “Yeah. I – uh. It’s – it’s fine.”

“It’s the only scar on your body,” Stiles says. He knows this. He’s spent plenty of time exploring that very body. Derek has never been fully human, has never not eventually healed when he was injured unless he was poisoned. He’s never had a scar or stretch marks or even calluses. “Did Laura talk to Lydia? Did you?”

“Stiles, it’s okay.” Derek covers his hand with one of his own. “Laura’s fine, I’m fine. Stop. Stop worrying.”

Stiles swallows, lightly stroking his fingers across the small scar. “It doesn’t hurt or anything?”

Derek shakes his head. “No. Sensitive though. But it’s… I like it. It stayed because of you. I’ve never had something stay before.”

“You’re really weird sometimes,” Stiles says bluntly.

“I have seen you eat Doritos and drink chocolate milk at the same time. You are not normal, kiddo.”

“Shut up, that’s delicious. And fuck you, I’m awesome.” Stiles reaches up and wraps a hand around the back of Derek’s neck. “You gonna kiss me? I could say please again if you want."

Derek leans in closer, brushing a kiss against Stiles’ top lip. It’s a tease and Stiles smiles a little at it. He tries to deepen the kiss, but Derek shakes his head and draws back until Stiles stills, then comes back in and just barely touches a kiss to his bottom lip. Stiles revises his earlier opinion. Derek is a tease, not just the kiss, a cruel and unusual tease right up until Stiles groans and grabs him, hands on either side of his jaw.

Then, finally, Derek stops teasing and moves over him, presses into the space between his legs and touches like Stiles wants to be touched. Hands tight on his waist, stroking up his sides, reaching down to cup the backs of his thighs and pulling him down so his legs are splayed to better accommodate Derek, knees bent.

“You’re so fucking gorgeous,” Derek mumbles, reaching down between them to unzip Stiles’ jeans. He gives a hard tug, pulling the denim down so it wraps tight and constrained around his thighs.

Stiles groans when Derek finally gets a hand on him. He arches, spreads his legs against his jeans to feel the press into his skin.

“God, yeah. Get yours open, too.”

Derek blinks at him like he’s speaking Latin, his pupils so blown there’s barely any of that stupid green-blue-brown-impossible colour left.

“Your dick’s gonna get zipper imprints,” he mutters and reaches down to open Derek’s jeans to give him some relief. The man wears tight as hell jeans as it is. Stiles once pinned him down and spent a solid ten minutes mouthing at the red marks they left on his hips and stomach. That was a good day.

“Oh,” Derek says unsteadily. “Right. You – your mouth.”

Derek bites his bottom lip and Stiles groans again as he slides his hands over Derek’s back. Derek runs hot, his metabolism faster than a human’s. It doesn’t take long for his skin to get practically fire-hot and Stiles kind of loves that. Pulls him down, one hand on the thick muscles of his back, one on the nape of his neck, wants him close so he can press his face into the curve of Derek’s shoulder.

“There’s lube in the headboard,” Stiles mumbles into his skin.

Derek pauses his strokes. “Sorry, too much friction?”

“No but you – you could fuck me. Like this. It’d so be tight.”

Derek pulls back to frown at him. “It’d hurt.”

“So?”

“So I’m not going to hurt you, Stiles. Do you want a couple fingers?”

Stiles shakes his head and closes his eyes. He scrapes his fingernails through Derek’s hair until he shivers and moves his hand again.

“I can give you a couple fingers if you want,” Derek says softly, squeezing his hand tight for a long moment that makes Stiles gasp. “You need to be filled up right now? Want me to put my fingers in you, get that angle right for you?”

Stiles’ face burns. He’d been drunk out of his ever-loving mind when he told Derek that, told him how much he sucked at fingering himself. Derek laughs softly at him, probably at the stupid expression on his face, and leans down to rub his jaw gently against Stiles’ cheek. Nineteen or not, Stiles still has ridiculously sensitive skin and he can feel the stubble burn happening already.

“You’re a dick,” Stiles mutters, digging his fingers into the muscles of Derek’s back. “You never listen to me. You always – always fucking argue. I hate that, I hate it when you do that. You didn’t listen to me about Peter and look – and you didn’t listen about the witches and you got dead and I shouldn’t have been able to bring you back, it should have been impossible. Shouldn’t have – you shouldn’t even be here. It’s impossible. You could – you’d be dead and you’d stay dead, why won’t you fucking listen to me?”

His voice cracks, his throat so tight it hurts. He’s panting, his heart racing in his chest so hard he half-expects to see the outline of it thudding against his skin like in an old cartoon.

Derek goes still over him, his free hand moving to touch the side of Stiles’ face, to stroke his hair back from his face.

“Stiles–”

“Don’t stop,” Stiles says, half-yells, really, wrapping his hand over Derek’s and urging him on. “Come on, please, come on, don’t stop.”

“Okay, shh.” Derek presses a kiss to his forehead, still stroking his hair as he jerks Stiles off at just the right pace and pressure, not teasing anymore. “I’ve got you.”

He comes so hard that he sees stars behind his eyelids, arches up against Derek’s fist and shudders until his stomach hurts.

Then he bursts into tears.

The way Derek freezes, every single muscle in his body going completely still, would be comical if Stiles wasn’t busy covering his face with his hands and trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with him.

He hears Derek pulling tissue out of the box on the headboard. A moment later, Derek’s hands are cleaning off his stomach, gently tugging at his jeans, stripping them off and fixing his boxers. Those same hands pull the covers out from under him so he’s on the cool sheets. There’s a thud a moment later like a pair of jeans with too much crap in them hitting the floor and Derek slips into bed next to him, pulls the blankets over him and tugs him in closer. Practically contorts himself around Stiles.

Stiles will admit to shedding a few manly tears every time he watches Finding Nemo. Will even admit to tearing up when he watched Jackson come back to life because that shit doesn’t happen every day. And he’d never, ever deny the tears he cried for his mother. You just don’t do that. But he doesn’t do this, doesn’t do uncontrollable sobbing for no reason. And there is no reason that he should be sobbing into Derek’s shoulder right now.

“I’m sorry I died,” Derek says as he strokes Stiles’ back.

Stiles gives a half-choked sob. “You better fucking be.”

 

 

Derek presses a cold washcloth into Stiles’ hands. “Put that on your eyes. It’ll make them feel better.”

“How do you know that?” Stiles wipes his face with it. “Doesn’t it just heal?”

“My little sister was human.” Derek sits down on the edge of the bed. “She was four when – and I had a couple human cousins closer to my age and my dad was human. He’d do this for them when they got upset and Laura and I would get jealous so he did it for us, too. It was comforting.”

Stiles smiles a little and holds the cloth against his eyes. “My mom used to make peanut butter stars on bad days. Thanks.”

“Yeah.” Derek slips under the covers and manhandles Stiles until they’re both on their sides, Stiles’ back against Derek’s chest. “Been holding that in for a while, huh?”

Stiles breathes in slowly, the washcloth pressed to his eyes, and nods.

Derek pulls him in a little tighter.

Which is weird. When they used to steal a night together, when they could stay in a bed together without somebody trying to kill one of them or avoiding Stiles’ dad or whatever, Derek usually ended up sleeping flat on his stomach, curled up around one of Stiles’ pillows and Stiles draped over him, head on his back and a leg over his. Stiles was almost always the one who reached out to touch. Most of the time he was the big spoon, if he was going to use that phrase, and Derek was the one curling into his hands, his body. Stiles liked to touch, liked to hold and Derek liked to be held. It had worked out well for them.

This isn’t so bad, though, he thinks drowsily. It’s kind of like being wrapped in a Derek-blanket.

“You’re going to talk to me when you wake up,” Derek says behind him, his voice soft and close. “Hope you know that.”

“M’fine,” Stiles mumbles into his pillow.

Derek sighs, his hand stroking Stiles’ stomach. “I know. You’re still going to talk to me.”

 

 

“I watched Sherlock,” Laura says as she unwraps her burger. There are three patties on it and two more in the bag on her lap and probably about eight pounds of fries between them. Stiles is working on his own burger that’s practically the size of his head. There’s bacon and cheese and more bacon and it’s probably the best thing he’s eaten in months. It feels like the first thing he’s tasted in months.

“Yaf?” he says through a mouthful of food.

“Yeah, you’re right. There’s a lot good TV made while I was dead.”

Stiles swallows. “I told you that you’d like it.”

“There’s a line,” Laura says. “About looking sad when you think no one’s looking.”

Something twists in his chest. It’s not – he couldn’t watch that scene more than once. He doesn’t generally believe himself to be unable to handle that kind of thing, but that one – that one just hit a little close to home.

He nods, silently.

Laura glances at him. “You don’t notice me looking a lot.”

He sighs. “If I told you I was fine, would you believe me?”

“Possibly.” Laura takes another bite and Stiles almost expects to see fangs for a moment there. The full moon is in a couple days and it makes Derek and Laura both eat like they have a hollow leg to fill. Derek said once that their metabolisms ran a little faster around the full moon. Stiles doesn’t really know if it was true or not. All he knows is that it is a really, really bad idea to get between Laura and a good burger. “The thing is, you’re a little bit dangerous, Stiles. You brought my brother back from the dead through sheer stubbornness. And don’t give me that bullshit about it being Hale land. Nobody else has tapped into it like that in decades.”

“C’mon, you’re way more scary than I am,” Stiles says with a quick grin. “With the grr and the argh and the claws and the fangs and–”

“I got myself killed,” Laura says quietly. “I was murdered and ripped in half and my baby bro was left to deal with the fallout. I was dead for almost three years and I think – I’m not Season Seven Buffy yet. I’m still Season Six and I’m working on getting to Seven, but I’m not yet. But I’m – I want to be alive. I want to stay alive and I don’t want to die again.”

Stiles smiles at her and he thinks he means it. “Getting to Gone maybe?”

“Yeah.” She frowns. “Minus the invisibility and destructive romance. The thing is – the thing is I’m not – I am not going to let Derek die and I’m not going to leave him. That’s just not happening again. You have the potential to hurt us.”

“I wouldn’t hurt Derek.”

Laura shrugs. “I’m not trying to argue with you about this, Stiles. I’m just stating the facts here. You could hurt us. And I’m not going to let that happen. I know how Derek feels about you and I’m glad he’s opening up but I want you to know that I won’t hesitate to put you down if you go off the rails.”

Stiles looks at her for a long moment, then picks up his burger again. “Neither would I. Also, same to you.”

Laura nods. “Good.”

 

 

Here’s the thing. Scott? Scott is kind of Stiles’ favourite person. After his dad, anyway, because his dad was his dad. But Scott, Scott is Scott. Scott is kind of wonderful. Stiles knows that Scott doesn’t always come off that way to other people, but he also knows that certain people in their lives used to put a hell of a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a sixteen year old. Plus Stiles has this theory about new werewolves… ask him about it sometime.

It’s just… Scott tries. Hard. And he’s an idiot sometimes, but nobody’s perfect. And Stiles kind of loves the kid more than the sun.

Most of the time.

“Get your motherfucking elbow out of my kidney, you cock-sucking asshole,” Stiles half-shouts and flails at where Scott is using his full weight on Stiles’ back to pin him to his bed.

No,” Scott says gleefully and digs his fingers into Stiles’ ribs.

Motherfucker. Stiles shouts, elbowing backwards at him. “Scott, I swear to – to – f-fuck, st-stop, I’m gonna piss myself!”

“That’s your problem, not mine!” Scott says, all too cheerful. “Tell me tell me tell me tell me tell me.”

Stiles is crying, he’s laughing so hard, hot face half-shoved in his pillow. “Fucking fuck you! No!”

“Tell me tell me tell me tell me,” Scott says again, suddenly sticking a wet finger into Stiles’ ear.

“Eurgh!” Stiles twists away as much as he can. “Asshole! Okay, fine! You are the fairest of them all.”

“Thank you,” Scott says and leans down to blow in his wet ear before rolling off him.

 “You are horrible.” Stiles scrubs his sleeve over his ear. “That is so gross. You’re disgusting.”

“Still the fairest,” Scott says. Gloats, really, the bastard.

Stiles grumbles and wipes his face. “I don’t know why I come home to this abuse.”

Scott’s eyes go huge and shiny and damn it, he hates it when Scott looks at him like that. He is powerless to resist those eyes. “Because we miss you and when you didn’t come home for spring break, it was sad.”

“Oh my God.” Stiles plants his hand on Scott’s face and shoves him away. “I can’t even with you.”

Scott grins. “You love me. You come home because I make you waffles and you love me.”

Stiles sighs and reaches over to ruffle Scott’s hair. “Yeah, yeah. Asshole.”

 

 

It’s raining and his Jeep smells like French fries. Even from where he’s standing under the open back of the Jeep, almost completely sheltered from the rain, he can smell it and it’s making him starving.

“Are you listening to me at all or are you drooling over that weird fry smell your Jeep gets when it rains?”

Stiles startles, then snorts and lifts another grocery bag, one handed, into the back of his car. “Sorry. I haven’t eaten all day. Lost track of time and had to get to the grocery store before it closed,” he says before Derek can start to complain about it. He gets it, he does. He still hasn't gained back all the weight he lost the year after - after Peter. Derek bitches about it too much, though. He doesn't need to worry so much. “I’ll grab something on the way home, okay?”

“Good. Eat a vegetable that isn’t deep fried.”

“You’re so weird,” Stiles says fondly. “Oh, by the way, Dad said to say hi the next time I talked to you. I think he misses you more than I do. I caught him sighing over a package of spinach the day before yesterday.”

Derek laughs, soft and real. “You miss me more.”

“Nope.” Stiles puts the last bag into the Jeep and slams the back door. He grins as he pushes the cart towards the return. “I don’t miss you at all. Don’t like you at all, man.”

Derek is quiet for a second, then Stiles hears his exhale. “Liar.”

“Well. Maybe I miss you a tiny little bit.” Stiles glances at the sky and jogs back to the Jeep, extremely glad he parked near the return corral. He hops into the car as quick as he can, but leaves the door open. God, he can practically feel his stomach biting into his spine, he’s so hungry. “When are you coming home?”

“Soon. As soon as I can.”

Stiles sighs. “Yeah, I know.”

He’s not trying to be needy and awkward but this whole tentative re-attempt at a relationship-type-thing now that both participants have grown up and possibly undergone a little therapy… thing is still new and kind of shaky and – and damn it, Stiles has to back to school in a month, okay? So this week long and counting trip out of state to deal with alpha shit is really getting on his nerves.

“Better make it now,” a voice says from the backseat and Stiles screams in a totally manly way.

A second later, his head slams into the steering wheel and his world goes black.

 

 

Has Stiles mentioned that he hates being kidnapped? Because he hates being kidnapped. He really, really hates that him being kidnapped has become a thing. And he was on a roll here! He hasn’t been knocked out like eighteen months. Scott’s mom is gonna make him go get his head scanned again, damn it. And… ugh.

“You know, cable ties are really the worst choice in hostage bondage,” he says to the minion currently shoving him through the forest. “They’re really not good for the circulation at all and they leave marks that I have to explain for ages and then people give me funny looks which are really unearned considering if I was actually doing kinky bondage, I’d go for something in a nice Velcro cuff. Maybe leather.”

“Shut up,” the minion snaps.

Stiles sighs. The minions never appreciate his wit, either. That was the real shame in all this.

A second later, he gets shoved to his knees and amends his opinion. One of the real shames. The shoving and the bruising and the life-threatening is definitely another.

Werewolves seem to have a thing for leather. Stiles doesn’t know how, considering they run warmer than humans. And it’s July. He’d be melting but apparently werewolves are stupid about the leather. He once saw Erica wear a leather skirt on a 105 degree summer day and Stiles only managed to get Derek to ditch his jacket during a heat wave by making fun of him for days.

So he’s not really surprised when the guy who walks out in front of him presses a clawed finger under his chin to lift his face. The leather is a tell.

“Well, you’re a pretty little thing.”

Sadly, he’s gotten used to this, too. Apparently creeptastic insane alphas like to bad-touch him. Between Peter and Deucalion… it’s become a thing, too.

He rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, heard it before. Got a villain monologue ready yet or am I waiting for that, too?”

“No.” The guy reaches down and slices a claw through the cable ties around his wrists. “I don’t need to monologue. I just need you to do something for me.”

The guy’s not bad to look at. Big, probably bigger than Boyd, even. Good bone structure, strong cheeks, dark as hell eyes, although ten bucks says they probably go a nice deep red.

“I hate cable ties,” the guy says, catching one of Stiles’ wrists and examining the mark left. “It’s not the kind of finesse I enjoy at all. It’s Stiles, right? I’m Ben.”                                                                                              

“I don’t fucking care.” Stiles pulls his wrist away. “Just FYI, it’s a stupid idea to be making with the grabby hands around here. And you can drop the innocent act. I’m not buying it.”

The guy – Ben? – draws one claw down the length of Stiles’ jaw, hard enough to hurt but not to break the skin. “Alright then. I guess we’re doing this the hard way.”

Stiles swallows. “Guess we are.”

 

 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Stiles half-shouts, scrambling backwards. “You can’t – you don’t just dig people’s graves up! What the fuck, dude?”

Ben grabs him by the back of the neck. “You’re going to raise him. And you’re gonna do it tonight.”

“I can’t.” Stiles shudders. “I can’t, you need – it has to be a special moon and you need a connection to the person, a bite or – or being in the same line, and there’s – there’s so much math you wouldn’t even believe it and you need–”

“That’s not what I heard,” Ben says, shaking him. “You raised Derek Hale from the dead with nothing but your blood.”

Stiles shakes his head. “No, I can’t – I don’t know even how I did that. He’d only been – his heart only stopped for a couple minutes. I can’t do this.”

Ben straightens. “Right.” Then he draws back his arm and backhands Stiles across the face.

Stiles hits his ass falling backwards and gingerly touches his lip where it’s split from the blow. Reluctantly, he sinks the fingertips of his other hand into the dirt around him. He’s pretty sure this isn’t Hale land, just some random woodland area. Pretty much all of Beacon Hills is at least a little laced with magic, which isn’t at all normal – Stiles has theories about the town actually being located on a Hellmouth that nobody will listen to – but there’s only a bare spark here. “Dude, seriously, I don’t know what the hell you want me to say. I can’t.”

“Well, then. You’re going to have to figure something out, aren’t you?”

A long, eerie howl echoes through the woods and Stiles smiles slowly, ignoring the pain from his sore mouth. He knows that howl. “Figured something out.”

“Well, then.” Ben pulls his shirt over his head and tosses it to the side. “Looks like we’re gonna play a game. It’s one of my favourites. It’s the one where I eviscerate your boyfriend and your best friend and your dad and your mom and–”

Stiles’ head jerks up. “My – my mom? What?”

“Pretty brunette, curls, big smile, works at the hospital, sound familiar?”

Stiles takes a slow breath and looks down at his knees. Scott’s mom. “You – if you’re going to stalk somebody and blackmail them, you should probably do better research, dude. My mom’s dead. And if I was a betting man – which I’m not, the whole ADHD thing makes obsessive habits like gambling kind of a bad idea – then I’d bet that pretty quick here, you’re gonna be too.”

Laura isn’t supposed to be able to go full-wolf anymore. It’s supposed to be an alpha thing and technically she’s a beta now. She should be stuck with the sideburn-claw-fang-forehead thing like the others. But apparently when it comes to magic, Stiles likes to fuck stuff up. She’s a gorgeous wolf, though.

“Totally fierce,” Stiles mumbles to himself and, okay, maybe he might need that head scan after all. He might be just a little out of it.

Stiles.”

Stiles jumps and nearly falls over before he realizes it’s Derek.

Derek reaches to touch him immediately, a hand on the back of his neck, the other slipping under the loose hem of his T-shirt to rub his side, high up where his heart is thudding against his ribs. “You’re bleeding.”

“I’m fine.” Stiles runs his fingers through Derek’s hair. “You know me. Fought him off with my dazzling wit and ninja like moves.”

“Right, of course you did.” Derek glances over his shoulder and swears. “I have to–”

“I know, I know, go.”

“Yeah.” Derek starts to stand, then freezes and leans back in to kiss him. Stiles closes his eyes and kind of… melts. The last time they faced possible death and dismemberment, there were no kisses at all. It doesn’t linger, because they don’t have time, but it’s soft and sweet and a real kiss, not a peck, because they could both die and Derek actually has and Stiles just – he needs this.

Derek pulls back after just a moment and wipes Stiles’ blood from his mouth. “Yeah. Isaac, Scott, stay with Stiles.”

The guy – Ben which is such a stupid name for somebody trying to kill them – is huge in alpha form. Like Peter on steroids and holy mother of God they’re all going to die.

Stiles staggers to his feet. “Okay, yeah. I’m good. What was the plan? You guys made a plan, right?”

Scott walks over to him and nudges at his head until Stiles sighs and ducks down to let Scott examine the bump on the back of his head. It doesn’t hurt much, but Scott got his overprotective streak from his mother. He’s so going to end up getting his brain scanned tonight.

“Yeah, we made a plan.” Scott touches the bump carefully, making Stiles gasp, but the pain fades quickly and when Scott pulls away, the veins in his arm are dark with the pain.

“Aw, you didn’t have to do that. Did you make a Scott plan, a Derek plan, or a Stiles plan?”

Scott rolls his eyes. “It’s a good plan.”

“A good plan that you are not telling me the details of. Also the word plan is starting to lose all meaning.”

“This is why you get smacked around when you get kidnapped,” Isaac drawls. “Mouthy, mouthy, mouthy.”

“Blow me, freezer boy.” Stiles flips him off. “Tell me what the plan is. And stop making me say that word!”

For a moment, he expects the worst. Scott has a history of plans that kind of screw over Derek, which Stiles gets. They’ve had… issues. Quite a few of those are Derek’s fault. But it doesn’t mean he likes it. Derek has a history of making the stupidest plans ever because he’s scared and desperate and alone and – okay, so maybe Stiles doesn’t like to think about those days so much. Stiles isn’t usually allowed to make the plans. But considering raising Laura was his plan, he thinks his plans are pretty awesome.

Then Scott grins, slowly, his eyes glowing softly, as something explodes in the woods behind them. “We brought reinforcements.”

And then Isaac throws Stiles into a tree.

Okay, once his head stops feeling like it’s going to cave in any second, Stiles will admit that Isaac probably didn’t actually throw him into the tree. If he’d thrown him, Stiles wouldn’t have Isaac on top of him right now. But he’s going to hold off ceding that point until his head isn’t still pressed against the tree he just brained himself stupid on.

“You weigh a ton, dickface,” he mutters.

Isaac starts to push himself up and gasps, and the sound is wrong enough to make Stiles stop bitching and wiggle his way out from underneath Isaac’s body.

The back of his shirt is soaked in blood and, honestly, there’s not really that much of the shirt left to begin with. Or that much of Isaac’s skin.

“Shit,” Stiles mutters.

Isaac jerks in a rough, shaky breath. “Guess they bought reinforcements too. Ow.”

Stiles glances over where he was before Isaac tackled him and his stomach drops. Why are all these people so huge? Stiles has seen Derek’s Alpha form and he’s not that big. Even the Alpha pack weren’t that big, except Deucalion, and he was screwed up in a lot of ways.

Stiles pulls the remains of Isaac’s shirt from his torso and uses it to gingerly sponge the blood from his back. There are claw marks, deep and ugly, from one shoulder right down to the opposite hip, and they’re healing too slow.

And then Laura screams, suddenly, horribly, human and there is no way it’s natural that her arm is in that position.

Holy mother of God they really are all going to die.

And – Derek.

Stiles curses, drops Isaac’s shirt and starts to jerk to his feet.

Isaac grabs him. “The fuck are you doing?”

“I’m not going to let him die again!”

Isaac coughs, raspy and wet and awful-sounding. “Oh, so you’re gonna go get yourself killed instead?”

“No. Maybe.” Stiles grabs Isaac’s shoulder. “No. Stay here.”

“Stiles–”

“Isaac!” Stiles snaps and something… shocks, between them, like static electricity, like…

He looks down at his hands and then, slowly, reaches down and pushes his fingers into the earth until sparks dance across his skin.

“You smell like ozone,” Isaac breathes.

Well, okay. Stiles can work with that. Stiles can definitely work with that. Derek’s probably gonna be pissed, though. He’s not a big fan of fucking around with electricity of any kind. Stiles doesn’t blame him at all – he’s heard a few of the stories about Kate and he really, really hates reminding Derek of that. Plus Stiles caught a tazer meant for Scott once and that was just – that was not a fun day.

“Yeah.” Stiles risks a quick glance at Derek. He’s holding his own, slowly slipping more and more shifted as time goes on, but he’s not really making any headway and “by holding his own”, Stiles really means “managing not to get stomped into the curb completely”.

Isaac leans in close and whispers, breath hot against Stiles’ ear. “I’ll distract him and get him away from Derek. Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Stiles swallows against the lump in his throat. “Okay. Don’t die. Scott and Derek like you.”

“You neither,” Isaac says, pressing something into his hand and then he’s gone.

Stiles looks down at his hand and basically stops breathing when he sees the knife. Right. He doesn’t know why he’s surprised. This is the way things end, sometimes, because this is their lives. He doesn’t doubt that if he dug into the history of this pack, that he’d find dozens of “animal attacks”. Sometimes – sometimes they have to make the choice to protect the people who don’t know about this stuff, and sometimes – sometimes – sometimes he hates this.

But sometimes this is what they have to do, he thinks, as he shoves himself off the ground and creeps closer to the fighting werewolves. Almost close enough to touch because… because this is what he has to do.

Again.

“You wanna get your head out of your ass, Stilinski?” Isaac shouts and flings himself at Derek.

Who was obviously not expecting that and goes down hard. Whoops. It probably didn’t help that he’s already covered in blood, and a fair amount of it is probably his own.

Stiles is not really magic, not a witch, not anything special when it comes to magic. With Lydia, it’s a part of her even if she’s not exactly a witch. They’re not exactly sure what she is, but she’s probably not a witch. The witches didn’t even think she was a witch. But she is magic, they know that. Stiles has always known that, though. But he’s not. He’s mountain ash, trifolium, and don’t get him started on what he can do with a good handful of salt, but he’s not magic.

He’s not.

But Isaac’s on the ground, probably unconscious, and Derek is bleeding and struggling to get back up and Stiles – Stiles has always been a spark, hasn’t he?

He grabs Ben’s arm, burrows his fingers deep into the fur and waits.

The light show is kind of awesome, honestly, in a completely horrifying way. It would be cool if not for the smell of burnt fur and flesh and the fact that he’s electrifying a person.

He’s not sure how long it last. A few minutes, maybe, or a few hours. He can’t tell, but when he stumbles backward, he’s shaking and unsteady and Ben is mostly human, on his knees, and… kind of crispy around the edges. But he’s not moving much and definitely doesn’t look fight-ready. This is exactly the time to take him out.

And Stiles can’t do it. He can’t – he can’t murder somebody in cold blood. Again.

“I can’t raise anybody for you,” Stiles says. Croaks, really. He may or may not be feeling a little crispy around the edges himself. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. And you have to stop because you’re gonna end up dead just like him.”

Ben swipes his arm across his face. “Maybe that’s what I want,” he says and lunges.

Scott jumps on him mid-lunge and claws his throat out.

Blood sprays everywhere. Stiles has to take a moment to sit down. Hard. Sitting might be putting it kindly, really.

“Holy shit,” he says softly. “I really wasn’t expecting that.”

Derek touches Stiles’ shoulder for just a moment before walking past him and grabbing Scott. He pulls on Scott’s arm until Scott stumbles with him, away from the body and Stiles both, but he falls to his knees not far away. Derek drops down to kneel in front of him, hands on his shoulders. “I know, I know," he says. "Just breathe. You’re fine. Everything’s fine. Focus on my voice, you’re good. Everything’s just really overwhelming right now, I know. It’s just gonna take a couple minutes and then everything will settle back into place.”

“Loud,” Scott grits out.

“Sorry,” Derek says, softer. “You’ll get the hang of it in a minute or two. It’s just like – I guess when you were first turned? I never went through that. But when we hit puberty everything kind of intensified. Which made us lovely to be around, obviously.”

There’s a short, half-cut off laugh from Scott at that.

“Yeah,” Derek says. “It’s starting to get better now, right?”

Scott nods.

Derek scruffs a hand over the back of his head, messing up Scott’s rat’s nest worse than it already was. “Just try to pull everything in. Listen to me, not anything else. And you did good. You saved Stiles, you did good.”

Stiles shakes himself into gear and crawls over to check on Isaac. He’s still breathing, and the bleeding on his back is slowing down. They’re gonna have to clean it out, but he should be okay. He pats down that one fluffy eyebrow of Isaac’s and stumbles his feet to go over to Laura. She’s out of it still, but he makes sure her arm is back to normal and she seems okay other than that.

Laura stirs when he moves her hair to check the bruise there, reaches up her good hand to touch his wrist. “Hey, babe.”

“Stiles, actually,” he mumbles. Laura only calls Derek babe. He pretends it annoys him.

She hums. “Babe’s babe. Close enough. Okay?”

“Yeah. We’re all gonna be okay,” Stiles says.

Then he flops down on his back on the forest floor and closes his eyes for a little while because everything is all spinny and he thinks he’s gonna fall off the world if he doesn’t stop moving for a little bit.

 

 

Mrs. McCall makes him get his head scanned. And then he has to do the electrode thing again because apparently electrocuting yourself a little bit isn’t the best idea and certain doctors are being paranoid about his heart and they make him stay a bit for “observation”.

Derek pushes him less-than-gently onto the couch as soon as they get home to Stiles’ house, which is sort of counter-intuitive for a guy who’s been babying him like crazy since he got out of the hospital. Wouldn’t push the wheelchair fast like Stiles wanted, wouldn’t go through the drive-thru on the way home, didn’t even speed which is kind of saying a lot considering the car he drives and his speed-freak habits. Stiles’ father is the Sheriff. Stiles knows these things.

“I’m fine,” Stiles says as Derek piles blankets onto him. “Seriously, I am A-okay. A little warm right now, but fine.”

“Shut up,” Derek mutters and tucks pillows behind and around Stiles until it’s really more of a nest than a couch. Stiles isn’t entirely sure where he got some of these pillows. Stiles isn’t entirely sure they own some of these pillows. “You just got out of the hospital. Let me – just let me do this.”

Stiles sighs and shuts up. Derek fusses when he gets hurt. He’s one of the only people that Derek cares about who doesn’t heal almost instantly when they get hurt. He worries.

“Do you want something to eat?”

Stiles blinks. “You literally just said no takeout.”

Derek frowns down at him. “It’s not good for you. Human bodies need healthy foods to heal.”

“Oh my god, have you been googling again?”

“You make it sound dirty.”

“That’s because you look like porn,” Stiles says and grins. “But the good stuff, high quality. Maybe the artsy stuff that makes you feel just a little bit guilty about getting off to it.”

Derek rolls his eyes so hard Stiles is kind of surprised they don’t roll right out of his head, then leans down and kisses the top of his head. “I’ll make you a sandwich or something, smartass.”

“You’re my favourite.” Stiles reaches up and catches him by the back of the neck. He tugs, hard, until Derek makes a surprised noise and braces himself on the couch arm. Then Stiles kisses the hell out of him. Firm and long and wet, with teeth and tongue and all the things he doesn’t know how to say right now, because he’s been in the hospital for days and he doesn’t think Derek’s going to be in the mood for “Yay! We’re not dead!” sex, but he hates it when the asshole worries like this.

When he finally pulls away, Derek’s eyes are shut, and his mouth is red and just a little swollen, a flush riding high on his cheekbones.

“Um. Food. Yeah.” Derek clears his throat and leans back in to press a kiss against Stiles’ forehead. “Back in a minute.”

“Yeah,” Stiles manages and waits until Derek’s in the kitchen to adjust his jeans.

Then he inhales, stares at the ceiling and tries to think of anything except Derek’s ass as he walked away because, really, that’s not helping anything right now.

“Oh my God,” Derek says from the kitchen. “What have you been eating while I was gone? You ever hear of a vegetable? Oh, ramen, that’s nice. He’s gonna have a fucking heart attack,” he mutters, more to himself than to Stiles at this point, Stiles thinks. “Smells like plastic and chemicals, that’s delicious. Probably lives on Easy Mac and cereal at school. Froot Loops and gummy bears. He’s gonna rot the teeth out of his head and then have a heart attack.”

Stiles shakes with silent laughter, shoving his face into one of the – many, many – pillows and cracks up so hard his stomach hurts until Derek comes back into the living room.

“There’s something wrong with your brain,” Derek says and drops a plate onto the coffee table.

Stiles gasps for air and wipes at his leaking eyes. “Oh my God, I haven’t laughed that hard in months. I – string cheese! I didn’t know we had those! Gimme gimme.”

“Thank you for the omelette, Derek,” Derek says flatly. “I so very appreciate you scrounging enough food out of a kitchen that looks like a frat house’s to make me a decent meal after getting out of the hospital.” He shrugs. “No, really, it was no problem.”

Stiles picks the plate up and cuts a chunk off the omelette. “Thanks, jackass. Now are you gonna come here and get with the cuddling or are you going to stand there and brood all day?”

“Fuck off,” Derek says but lifts Stiles’ legs so he can slide under them, nice and close.

Stiles grins. “Maybe later if you want to try – dude, is there bacon in here? I didn’t even know we had bacon. No, seriously, did you kill and cure a pig while you were muttering in the kitchen?”

Derek snorts and reaches over to rub his fingers across the arch of Stiles’ eyebrow. “I have my ways.”

“Your ways are awesome,” Stiles says honestly.

 

 

He’s not really awake yet. It’s too early. Granted, Stiles hasn’t actually opened his eyes yet but he’s almost certain that it’s very early and not nearly time to wake up yet. He has a good sense for these things, really, he does. He knows when it is time to be awake and this is not that time.

Come to think of it, why is he awake?

Stiles reaches out to the other side of the bed, and gets a handful of cold, damp skin.

Got it, he thinks, and opens his eyes. He winces for a second, because he can see the clock from here and it’s barely four in the morning, but it’s not that important. What’s important is his hands, and Derek’s back, and touching him as much as he can.

“Go back to sleep,” Derek mutters. “Don’t wake up.”

“I’m only a little bit awake,” Stiles says, continuing to rub his hand up and down Derek’s back. “Really, I’m not conscious at all.”

“Stiles–”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Derek’s silent for a long moment. Then, “You’re not allowed to die.”

Oh.

Stiles wiggles closer, laying himself half over Derek’s back and tucking his chin into the curve of Derek’s shoulder. “Neither are you. Again. Never again. ’Cause I think I’ve made it pretty clear that if you died, I’d go all Dark Willow and destroy whoever took you away from me. That’s just – that’s how it’s gonna be. It’d be messy and ugly and it wouldn’t end well so we’re not going to go there. Get me?”

Derek exhales and his muscles loosen underneath Stiles. “Yeah. I get you. Just – can you let me up? I’m gonna go grab some water.”

Stiles presses a kiss to the back of Derek’s shoulder and flops back onto his side of the bed.

“You need anything?” Derek asks, slipping out of bed.

“I’m good,” Stiles says and rolls onto his stomach into the empty warm spot Derek’s body has left. He’s a shameless warm-spot stealer, especially when it’s cold and he’s not getting cuddles.

He dozes a little while Derek’s gone, but wakes up again when Derek crawls back onto the bed. There have been times where they’ve collapsed, exhausted, after whatever monstery things are going on at the time, or sex, the day after the full moon, or days where Stiles’ ADHD is worse than usual and Derek’s anti-people tendencies make being out in public hard on him, days where they land wherever and Stiles ends up on the outside of the bed. Inevitably, though, Derek will mumble something and haul Stiles over him or under him or get up and shove him over when he gets back in bed. The first time he did it, Stiles nearly had a heart attack. By this point, he’s used to Derek putting himself between Stiles and the door.

Apparently Stiles has moved around in his sleep, though, because Derek settles into the bed behind him. He’s a warm weight against Stiles’ back and Stiles has really, really missed being touched by him. The hospital staff didn’t exactly like the idea of him crawling into Stiles’ bed.

“Missed you,” Stiles mumbles into the pillow he’s wrapped around.

Derek’s answer is a kiss against the back of his shoulder, soft. He got scruffy while Stiles was in the hospital and it annoys him past a certain point so he doesn’t even have the usual stubble going on. Don’t get him wrong, Stiles likes the stubble. It’s sexy as hell and it does all sorts of good things for him. But this is… different.

And different can be very, very good.

Derek presses another kiss to his other shoulder. “You know, right?”

His mouth travels along the soft skin on the underside of Stiles’ right arm, from his shoulder right up to his hand. Derek kisses each finger, leaves one in the center of his palm and curls his fingers shut around the spot like the kiss is something Stiles can hold on to.

Stiles exhales. “I know what?”

Derek opens his mouth against the middle of Stiles’ back. “Stiles. C’mon. Do you?”

“Oh.” Stiles flicks his tongue over his dry lips and swallows. “Yeah. I know. But I like it when you tell me.”

Derek kisses down his spine, inch by slow inch. “I’m crazy about you.” His teeth scrape over a spot low on Stiles’ back that makes him shiver, makes his fingers clench into the sheets. “I shaved earlier. Hasn’t grown back yet. Want me to?”

“You want to?”

Derek gives a soft laugh and Stiles feels his face get hot. Yeah, okay, probably a dumb question.

There kind of aren’t a lot of things they haven’t tried – Stiles has high speed and doesn’t sleep much, okay? –and there are a lot they’ve enjoyed. Derek hates being tied down, has a few things he can’t handle because she used to do them. Stiles isn’t really into any kind of pain play. At all. They don’t fit in either of their cars. Being blindfolded does nothing for Derek besides make him tense and cranky, music playing distracts Stiles to the point of not being into it at all, being expected to do any sort of dirty talk makes Derek self-conscious and blush and while the blushing does a lot more for Stiles than he’s completely comfortable with, it just makes Derek… tense and cranky.

But this… this is something they both like. It’s just… there are some places you don’t need stubble burn, you know?

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says. “Yeah.”

 

 

The thing that Stiles forgets is that Derek is a tease. And, yeah, sometimes Stiles can work with slow and long and steady. When he’s in control. He very much likes to watch Derek arch and shudder and fall apart underneath him. That is a thing he enjoys greatly. But he can’t – he doesn’t –

“Derek, come on.

A moment later, he feels a kiss brushed against the base of his spine. “You need something?”

“I am going to replace all your hair products with superglue,” Stiles snaps. “I swear to God, I will.”

“Tell me what you want,” Derek murmurs against his skin.

Instead of answering, Stiles throws the bottle of lube at him.

“Okay, okay,” Derek says with a laugh, rubbing a hand over Stiles’ hip. “Jesus Christ, impatient much?”

“Fuck off, dickhead. C’mon already, c’mon, please.” Stiles turns his head, pressing his hot face into the last cool part of the pillow. “Derek…”

Derek moves over him and lays a hot, opened-mouthed kiss right against the nape of his neck. “I know, I’m right here. I’ve got you.”

Stiles groans and twists his fingers in the sheets. They’re gonna have to get up after and fix them so they don’t end up sleeping on the bare mattress, but he desperately needs something to hold onto right now and the headboard he got after Scott broke his senior year is flat, nothing to grab onto.

“Relax,” Derek says in his ear and slowly presses one finger into him.

And that’s fucking easy for him to say. He’s not the one that’s slowly falling apart at the seams. He isn’t the one who can’t breathe and is going to go fucking insane because Stiles – Stiles has not had sex, not really, for almost two years. He is going to be a sophomore in college in a few weeks and he has not had sex since he was a junior in high school.

Stiles has freaking missed sex.

The fingers of Derek’s free hand comb through Stiles’ hair, stroking through to scratch at his scalp. That’s nice and all – it’s kind of a thing he really quite likes when they’re lying on the couch – but Derek has three fingers in him and he has focus issues at the best of times.

Derek kisses him right under the ear. “Are you good? You’re tense as hell.”

“It’s been like two years, okay?” Stiles groans and reaches up to grab Derek’s hand from his hair and hold on until his own fingers ache. They’ve been going slow, they’ve been waiting and working on things and not rushing into sex, they’ve been patient and Stiles is fucking sick of waiting. “I just – I really need you to be inside me right now.”

“Yeah,” Derek says into his skin, his breath hot and damp. “I know. Okay like this?”

Stiles nods, face half-buried in his pillow. He needs this, sometimes, the heavy weight of Derek’s body on top of his, the way Derek presses him into the mattress, how he covers Stiles’ body with his own so completely. Derek – Derek likes being pressed down sometimes, needs to not be in control, needs to be taken, and Stiles loves doing that, but he thinks – he knows that Derek gets it when he needs this.

Derek pulls him up onto his knees just a little, enough to make the angle a little easier and so Derek can get a hand around him where he’s hard and leaking against the sheets, to give him a couple long, slow strokes until Stiles groans and elbows backwards at him to try and make him get his goddamned ass in gear.

The first push into him takes his breath away. Derek’s big enough to be a stretch, big enough to make Stiles feel full, and he presses his cheek into the pillow and just breathes through the first long, slow thrust.

“Missed you,” Derek says in his ear, one hand rubbing up and down the length of Stiles’ spine. He braces the other on the bed next to Stiles’ shoulder. “You miss me?”

Stiles turns his head a little, frowning. “You know I did, dickwad.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, rolling his hips up into Stiles. “I know. But I like to hear you say it.”

“Of course I missed you,” Stiles says, reaching over to link his fingers through Derek’s. “I’m – fuck,” he interrupts himself, his hand spasming over Derek’s as he jolts. He swallows, hard. “Oh God, right there, yeah. I’m stupid over you. By the way.”

“Good,” Derek says and presses a kiss to his jaw.

 

 

Stiles leans back against the tree behind him, wiggling for a second to scratch the itch at the small of his back.

“This is private property,” Laura’s voice says from the other side of the clearing.

Stiles snorts without opening his eyes. “I’ve heard that before.”

Laura walks closer, deliberately crunching in the leaves. “Baby bro around?”

“Mm.” Stiles points to his left. “About ten yards that way crashing around in the woods like an idiot.”

Laura laughs. “Okay. What are you doing?”

Stiles rubs his palms over the grass on either side of him, feeling the flow and ebb of power matching itself to his heartbeat. Or maybe his heartbeat is matching to the magic’s rhythm. He’s not entirely sure and it doesn’t really matter.

“Communing with nature,” he says, then frowns. “That’s not supposed to be a euphemism. Did it sound like an euphemism?”

“Was it a euphemism for you getting completely high?”

He shakes his head, grinning in her direction. “Nah, just… the land and I are bonding. It’s training. Sort of.”

Untrained newly turned werewolves are dangerous. They’re stronger than they’ve ever been, faster, and quick to anger. It’s honestly a miracle that Scott managed the first few weeks after Peter bit him and didn’t seriously hurt anyone. Survival rates for freshly bitten werewolves are not exactly good. It’s too much power, too hard to control. Attracts too much attention when they’re uncontrolled.

And Allison’s family – they hunt werewolves. Limit themselves to werewolves because they always have. But they aren’t the only hunters. And uncontrolled magic…

Uncontrolled magic is probably more dangerous, honestly, if it’s like this. Like him.

Stiles doesn’t like it much. He’s not supposed to be magic. Low-grade only was his specialty and he was okay with that. But he’s not going to deliberately put himself, his father, his friends, Derek, in danger because he was stupid and stubborn.

So. He’s training.

Stiles holds out a hand. “C’mere, I can show you.”

Laura hesitates, but eventually she drops to her knees in front of him and takes his hand. This land is Hale land, soaked in the magic of their transformations, and it’s not hard to convince it to run through him to Laura, through Laura, and back into the ground.

“Holy fuck,” she croaks. “You feel that? There’s – how do you – holy fuck.

He opens his eyes, finally, and grins at the bright blue glow of her eyes. Then he pulls back the power because Laura is damn good at controlling her shifting and also he doesn’t want to give her a heart attack. That would be bad, even if she would heal.

“I’m learning,” he says simply. “How about you?”

“Hell’s Bells,” she says after a moment. “But I’m glad you brought me back.”

“You guys – you and Derek – you deserved something good to happen to you.”

Laura exhales, loud and messy, and leans up suddenly to kiss him on the forehead. They’re not friends and they’re probably never going to be. But she’s Derek’s only family and Stiles kind of loves that idiot. And they’re not friends, but he loves Laura a little bit, too.

“Gonna go find my brother,” she says when she pulls back, giving his hair a ruffle. “Which way did you say he went?”

Stiles points and closes his eyes to give her privacy. Derek and Laura both like to run as full-wolf as they can. Derek muttered something about it being closer to the woods when Stiles asked, but he wasn’t much for explaining his feels. There’s a brush of fur against his arm and Laura’s gone, off into the woods. When Stiles presses his fingers against the earth again, he can feel them, can feel Laura catching up to Derek, feel Derek slowing down to let her catch up.

Stiles leans his head back against the tree and breathes.