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and after all, you're my wonderwall

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and all the roads we have to walk are winding
and all the lights that lead us there are blinding
there are many things that i would like to say to you
but I don't know how

because maybe
you're gonna be the one that saves me
and after all
you're my wonderwall

*
i could start it over and find somebody new
a beautiful distraction, just a hand to hold on to
but if you ask me, would that love be true?

i wanna taste you again, like a secret or a sin
breathin' out breathin in
there is no one else for me
but you
only you
-only you, matthew perryman jones

 

 

Stiles wakes up to complete silence. It’s so thick that it almost hurts his ears, and it takes a moment for him to remember that he’s no longer in San Francisco, but in Beacon Hills, more specifically Derek’s house out in the middle of the woods away from traffic and sirens and the bustle of city streets.

He reaches out beside him, drapes his hand across Derek’s side of the bed, where the sheets are still wrinkled from where he’d slept, indentation still in the pillow. Stiles stares at the bed absently, tries to catch up with the last few days, hell the last few weeks.

He’s in Derek’s bed. That is the most unbelievable part. He’d stopped hoping that he would end up with Derek a long time ago, back before they stopped having sex. He’d wanted Derek so badly back then, during those summers when they slid sweatslick against each other, then during the long school years when he was lonely and overwhelmed.

But Derek was different back then, and even after Derek telling him over and over that he’d been in love with him since he was 18, Stiles can’t match that with the way he remembers things, the way he remembers Derek.

He remembers an occasional smile, tender touches, long silences, and Derek’s naked form as he walked away without a word.

Stiles shakes his head and stretches. That was then, and this is now. Now he smells coffee and can imagine Derek downstairs, in pajama pants, doing…whatever it is that Derek does in the morning. Stiles doesn’t know.

There’s a lot about Derek Stiles doesn’t know.

*

“So, what’s your schedule?” Stiles asks, sitting on a stool at the kitchen island, spooning cereal into his mouth. He’s been there for two days, two days in which he and Derek have done nothing but had sex and talked. But not talked enough. They’ve been avoiding the important issues, and Stiles just knows that he isn’t ready to talk about the realities, just wants to exist in a cocoon of Derek’s arms and mouth.

“I don’t really have one,” Derek answers, pouring himself another cup of black coffee. He’s only wearing his tight boxer briefs, and Stiles hasn’t nearly gotten his fill of Derek even though they haven’t worn clothes in over twenty four hours. Derek fills the blender with the ingredients for a protein shake. “I have a deadline in a couple of weeks, so I need to make headway on the current manuscript I’m working on. The kids will be staying over in a few days, and tomorrow night is dinner at Melissa’s.”

Stiles nods, takes another bite of cereal. Derek hits the button on the blender.

“What about you? What are you doing about work?” Derek asks as he pours the mixture into a large glass.

“I took a vacation. I’ve got to go move all of my stuff, switch my bills, figure out where I’m going to live– “

“Oh.”

Stiles looks over at Derek, who’s watching him with a closed expression, and fuck, Stiles forgot how annoying that could be.

“What? And don’t say nothing, because it’s obviously something. We should start this relationship by trying to actually talk to one another.” Stiles smirks, and Derek doesn’t look impressed.

“I just thought…that you’d move in here.”

Stiles tilts his head and pushes his glasses up his nose. “Do you think that’s the best idea?”

“I guess not.” Derek takes a drink, and Stiles sighs.

“Derek.”

“I just figured you’d move in here. But I guess that was pretty presumptuous.”

Stiles puts his bowl and spoon down on the counter and adjusts the baggy pair of sweats he’d borrowed from Derek as he skirts around the island. He circles his arms around Derek’s neck, and Derek’s arms easily wrap around his waist.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“I know.”

“Do you?”

Derek leans forward and presses his face into Stiles’ neck, just breathing in. Stiles drags his nose against Derek’s hair.

“I just still can’t believe you’re here.”

“Me, either.” Stiles grabs Derek’s head and forces him to look him in the eye. “Do you want me to move in with you?” Derek nods. “What if it doesn’t work out?”

“Wouldn’t it be better to find out sooner than later?” Derek asks, his hands sliding into the back of Stiles’ sweatpants and grabbing his ass.

“What if it doesn’t work out?” Stiles whispers again. He’s been terrified since he left Christopher a few weeks ago that he’d made a huge mistake, and even now, standing in Derek’s kitchen with his hands gently kneading his ass, he’s scared. “I don’t want to lose you again. It just…I’m scared, Derek. Is that stupid? We get the happy ending and get back together, but I’m too terrified to enjoy it.”

Derek runs his fingers through Stiles’ hair, and Stiles’ eyes flutter shut at the touch. He can’t believe there was ever a time when he thought he could live without this, without Derek’s large hands touching him, Derek’s body heat constantly near, Derek’s voice soothing aches he didn’t even know he had. It scares him not because he’s afraid this won’t work out, but because of how much he needs Derek.

“I’m bad with words,” Derek says, and Stiles laughs at the simple honesty, leans his forehead against Derek’s as his body shakes.

“Is that your way of telling me you don’t know how to respond?”

Derek nods and catches Stiles’ mouth in a kiss. “Don’t be scared,” Derek murmurs against his mouth. “I love you, and I want to figure everything out with you. Whether or not you’re living with me or in an apartment in town.”

Stiles nods and kisses Derek again, and when Derek pushes Stiles up against the counter, Stiles has to laugh because he thought that maybe this time they would have gotten through breakfast without the insatiable need to be inside each other.

*

Stiles rolled onto his back, laughing. “You’ve got to be kidding. Please tell me you were joking, because the visuals…”

“What? I was a fucking little boy. I don’t get to have done kid stuff?” Derek propped himself on his elbow and glared down at Stiles. Stiles missed this when he went to college, missed Derek’s glares and their easy banter and how they never agreed on anything. It was different than the way people argued at Berkeley. Derek argued with him because he enjoyed it; everyone at Berkeley argued because they were sanctimonious assholes who thought they were right about everything and wouldn’t shut up until you agreed with them.

“Just…the Power Rangers. Really? I’m trying to picture you in Power Rangers pajamas. Or, ohmigod, a costume. Please say you dressed up like them for Halloween.”

Derek’s mouth was a hard line, but he said, “Of course I did.”

“Which ranger?”

“Green one obviously.”

“I bet you were adorable.” Stiles reached up and pinched Derek’s cheeks. Derek glared, but didn’t stop him.

“I had a stuffed Green Ranger I used to carry around everywhere, but some kid at school stole it. I almost wolfed out in the middle of a freaking elementary school, and when I told Laura after school, she found the kid and beat the shit out of him.” Derek chuckled to himself, and Stiles felt something inside him shift.

“Weren’t you embarrassed that your sister beat up the bully?”

“No. Laura was mean when you fucked with her family. She was always fierce.” A sadness crept over his face, and Stiles leaned up, cupping Derek’s face tenderly, and kissed him.

*

Stiles drives to his dad’s house – his house? He may be 27, but he’ll always consider that home. At least one of them.

The cruiser isn’t in the driveway, and he almost drives past when a thought occurs to him. He pulls his car into the driveway, gets out and opens the garage with his key. Sitting over to the side, dusty and boxes piled on the hood, is his Jeep.

He walks over to it, runs his hand along the side. It’s stupid that he’s had multiple cars since the Jeep, nice cars, and he misses the clunking piece of shit. It’s weird, but the fucking Jeep feels like a part of him, and he wants to drive it, like somehow he’s symbolically coming back to Beacon Hills.

The keys are in the bowl on the kitchen counter, and he finds them easily. When Stiles tries to crank the Jeep, it doesn’t crank immediately. It takes some coaxing – “Come on, baby, don’t be mad at me, I’m back. I love you, I’m sorry I left you” – before it finally cranks. The gas tank is almost dead on empty, so after carefully backing around his car in the driveway, he drives to a gas station.

Afterwards, when he walks into the precinct, he doesn’t recognize any of the deputies, and they don’t recognize him. He’s told he’d have to make an appointment until he tells the deputy on the front desk that he’s the sheriff’s son.

Stiles knocks awkwardly when he steps into the office. The sheriff looks up from the file he was reading, and his face is first utter surprise before it melts into happiness.

“Stiles!” The sheriff gets up and pulls him into a hug, and Stiles relaxes into the embrace. He’s missed his dad, it’s the only thing he regrets from the last few years, leaving his dad and not seeing him more than he did. His dad holds him tightly, and Stiles breathes in the familiar scents of gun oil and the cologne his mother always loved. “What are you doing here?” he asks when he pulls away. “Here for work again?”

“Um, not exactly.” Stiles looks around, realizes he should have done this differently. “When can you take your lunch? I need to talk to you.”

The sheriff stands up, locks his computer, and walks out of his office. Stiles follows.

“Sanchez,” the sheriff calls to the front desk deputy, “Radio me if you need me.” Sanchez nods as they leave.

“Did you drive the Jeep?” he asks as he gets into the cruiser. When Stiles sits down in the front seat, he realizes it’s been years since he’s been in this car, years since he’s gone out with him on a call, brought him dinner at the station, seen his father work. There was a time when Stiles loved watching his father work, had contemplated going into law enforcement himself, especially after he started working with him so closely on supernatural cases. But that, like so many other things, was something that Stiles slowly had less and less time for.

“Yeah. I left my car at the house.”

“Stiles, what in the hell is going on? Are you okay? Are you in trouble?”

“Do you really want to do this while driving?”

The sheriff grumps, but goes to a drive-thru and buys Stiles and himself salads before driving towards the park.

“I’m proud of you, Dad. Salads without me having to tell you.”

“I figured we had more important things to discuss today than my diet.” The sheriff smiles and Stiles laughs.

When the sheriff has the cruiser parked under the shade of a large tree, his radio on so he can hear any calls, he shifts in his seat so he can face Stiles. “What’s going on? I’m going crazy here, Stiles.”

Stiles sighs, his salad untouched on his lap. “I broke up with Christopher and am moving back to Beacon Hills.”

“Come again?” The sheriff points his fork at Stiles, shaking his head. “I thought you two were serious. I thought you wanted me to move up there and that he was trying to convince you to buy a house.”

“All of that is true, yes.”

“So what happened?”

Stiles sighs. “Derek happened.” Sometimes Stiles feels like that should be the tagline for his life, because his life was never the same after Derek Hale stepped into it that day in the forest. Stiles was never the same; no matter where he ended up, Derek was always the constant thread in the hem of his life.

“Derek, Derek? Derek Hale, Derek?” Stiles nods. “What?”

Stiles tries to explain it to his father, tries to explain how things ended up like they did. He tells him about being in love with him, about thinking Derek didn’t love him back, about his need to get away from Beacon Hills and do something different, about how although he loved Christopher he was just trying to make something work because he couldn’t be with who he really wanted to. Tries to make him understand that Stiles never meant for any of this to happen, that Stiles is just as confused as he is.

That Stiles was happy, but there has always been a Derek-shaped hole in his life.

*

They were at the loft, but Scott and Isaac were there, and they’d been playing board games, but Derek had been preoccupied with something else. Stiles had gone over to where Derek was seated at the table in front of the window, books and papers spread in front of him. He’d nosily bent over and tried to read, but Derek put a hand over his face and pushed him away.

“Go play with Scott and Isaac.”

“Come on, tell me what you’re doing.”

“No.”

“It’s important. You’ve been working on it for hours. Maybe I can help.”

“No.”

“Derek,” Stiles said, trying to crane his head around Derek’s shoulder.

“It’s none of your business, Stiles.” Derek had turned and glared at him, and while the glare didn’t affect him, the words cut him deep. He walked back over to the Monoply game spread on the table, barely paying attention.

Derek wasn’t his boyfriend. He wasn’t even dating Derek. They were friends-with-benefits, and even that may have been a misnomer because that would require Derek being his friend. They’d been sleeping together the last two summers, and Stiles thought they were getting closer.

Derek talked to him, told him things. They texted sometimes, though Stiles always texted first. Just like Stiles always called Derek.

They had a standing Thursday night arrangement where Stiles would come over, and Derek would have take out waiting, and they’d watch TV and talk a little bit and then have sex.

Sometimes they had sex on days that weren’t Thursdays. When Stiles was feeling horny and texted. Derek never texted him and wanted to see him, but he never said no when Stiles asked.

Other times, Stiles texted and said he was bored. And Derek would respond with something like, that’s not my problem. And they’d go to the movies, or to dinner, or to toss baseballs around in the park. It almost felt like dating.

Almost.

But dating would require Derek to call him first, to hold his hand, to pay for his movies or buy him a soda every once in awhile. Maybe they were friends, then.

And really, that was more than Stiles ever expected from Derek anyway.

*

“So, you broke up with your boyfriend of two years to be with Derek?” the sheriff asks. Stiles nods. “This all just happened? Did you come back this morning?”

“Um, two days ago?”

“Two days ago?” the sheriff exclaims. “What were you – oh.” Stiles’ face is bright red, he can literally feel the heat radiating from it. “Two days, really?” He whistles.

“Dad, are we really going to talk about this?”

“I always knew you two couldn’t keep your hands off each other when you were in college, but I thought that was just a phase.”

Stiles slumps down in the seat, wanting the earth to open up and swallow him whole. “Well, that’s one thing Derek and I have always been good at I guess.”

“Are you sure about all this, Stiles?” the sheriff asks seriously. “It’s a really big change, breaking up with Christopher and leaving your life. Are you sure you’re making the right choice?”

“I thought you’d be thrilled,” Stiles says defensively.

The sheriff sighs. “It’s not that. I am thrilled. I never liked you living so far away. But I want you to be happy, and do what you think is the right thing for you. If that’s Derek, then I’m happy for you. I just want to make sure you’re thinking logically and not just following old feelings or your hormones.”

Stiles doesn’t respond. He wishes that his dad didn’t always ask all the right questions.

*

Stiles tried to gather his courage all night. He’d tried making more small talk than usual while he ate dinner with Derek, but Derek was as quiet as always.

Stiles waited until the last moment, after they’d had sex and were lying in bed afterwards. Derek was running his hands through Stiles’ hair, and Stiles was content. He imagined that it could be like this, that he and Derek could work if they tried. He’d realized over the last few weeks he’d fallen in love with Derek somewhere along the way, and now he found himself more often than not fantasizing in these moments when Derek let his guard down and showed Stiles more affection than was normal.

But then Derek’s hand was gone and he was out of the bed, walking naked across the loft.

Stiles sat up in bed and said, “So, my dad has this sheriff’s thing this weekend, like a bar-b-que at a park with hiking and free food and stuff like that. There’s even gonna be a precinct baseball team,” Stiles added hopefully. Derek came into the living room with a bottle of water, chuckling at the image. “I’m going with him, which means I’ll get dragged into playing baseball, and can you imagine watching my dad play baseball? It’s going to be hilarious. And I was wondering…”

“Sounds dreadful,” Derek said when Stiles paused. Derek smiled in sympathy. “It sucks that he’s dragging you along. Though, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the free food.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess.”

Derek took another long sip from the water bottle before handing the rest of it to Stiles and then disappearing into the bathroom. Stiles heard the shower turn on as he gathered his clothes.

His dad told him he could bring someone. He was going to ask Derek to come with him, had thought Derek might enjoy playing baseball with them, enjoy being with him and his dad since they got along really well now, enjoy doing something with him that might be more than friendly.

Well, it had been a stupid idea, anyway.

*

Stiles drives around for a long time after he leaves his father, the questions echoing in his head. He’d done a lot of thinking after he broke up with Christopher, and before that, on his drive back to San Francisco and the week after he’d returned.

He loved Christopher. He was a good man, and attractive and funny and dependable with a lot of the same interests at Stiles.

They had met in grad school, when Stiles was an intern with the Forestry Service. He’d gone to San Francisco for a conference, and he’d been at a street fair. He was looking through someone’s t-shirts, laughing at the one that said something about dying if you had to run for your life (it could be ironic, Stiles had thought) and then looking at one about ADHD and squirrels, when Christopher walked up beside him and pointed to one about sarcasm.

“That’s so me,” he said.

Stiles laughed and replied, “Me, too. Or this one,” pointing to one that said I’m not really funny, I’m really mean and people just think I’m joking.

“I guess I should watch out then,” he’d said with a smile, and it was a nice smile. Stiles immediately was attracted to him, to his strong cheekbones, his bright blue eyes, his voice.

“Maybe.”

They’d talked and walked through the street fair together, and Stiles laughed in a way he hadn’t in a long time. Christopher was funny, and actually got all of Stiles’ pop culture references. They’d ended up having coffee and talking until the place kicked them out.

Stiles went back to Claremont the next day, but he’d texted and talked on the phone with Christopher almost every day. It felt good to have someone in his life again. Before Christopher, there had been Bridget, the girl in the flat above him when he studied abroad in England, Mason, the guy he dated for a few months his junior year of college, Maria, the girl he’d dated for six months when he’d first moved to Claremont and started his master’s, and then Derek. Stiles was no stranger to relationships by that point, but it had been over a year since Maria.

Sometimes, they made the six hour drive and spent the weekend together, and the first time they had sex, it was good. It didn’t rock Stiles’ world (only one person had ever done that), but it was nice.

Stiles laughs sardonically as he drives through the preserve with the windows down. Nice. What a stupid fucking word. Every time he thinks about Christopher, that’s what he keeps saying to himself. Nice.

Nice was such a safe word, such a boring word.

*

Stiles watched Derek, his jeans rolled to his knees, the hard line of his shoulders relaxed as he let the waves wash over his feet. Derek stared at the water like he’d never been to the beach before, and Stiles wondered the last time Derek had been here. Derek stepped to the side, his feet planted wide in the sand as he wigged his toes into the wet sand beneath them. Then Derek laughed, quiet, private, meant just for him and the sand.

And Stiles felt such an overwhelming love for him in that moment that he ran forward and leapt onto his back, wrapping his arms and legs around Derek’s body tightly. Derek stumbled forward, into a wave that splashed them both, and Derek looked so put out and like a wet cat that Stiles buried his face against Derek’s neck as he laughed. He could smell the light woodsy scent that clung to Derek’s skin, pressed his face closer to try and somehow pull it inside himself. He kissed the skin, a light brush of lips, and he’s pretty sure he felt Derek shudder underneath him.

“What are you doing?” Derek asked later when Stiles grabbed his cell phone. He’d wanted to start taking pictures with Derek’s cell phone, had only taken one before this, because he thought if he left little clues about his feelings for Derek, Derek would figure it out and finally get on the same page as Stiles.

“Taking a picture. Documenting our trip. Gathering evidence that Derek Hale actually went to the beach. If you smile, perhaps I’ll have evidence that you had fun.”

After Stiles snapped the picture, he’d looked at it in shock. “Huh, you actually look happy.” Stiles couldn’t believe the picture he was seeing. He looked like he always did, big grin and boyish charm, but Derek. Derek had that rare look on his face that Stiles saw sometimes, that made Stiles sometimes believe that Derek loved him, too. Even though Derek’s one eye was towards the camera, he was focused only on Stiles, his nose against Stiles’ hair so intimate that it made Stiles ache for it to be real.

That night, Derek found a secluded beach, and they’d swum naked in the ocean, kissing and laughing as they splashed each other in the moonlight, and then they’d had sex on the blanket they’d laid out.

No, Stiles thought, it wasn’t sex. It was more than that, because two friends didn’t hold on to one another and tremble the way they had. Derek had unraveled Stiles that night with his hands, touching him gently, his fingertips like fire on Stiles’ skin. And Stiles had never seen Derek shiver when he touched him, never felt him shudder and moan breathily like he had under him, the moonlight glowing on Derek’s skin.

That night, something had happened between them, that much Stiles knew for a fact.

*

Stiles has been sitting at an overlook point in the preserve for an hour before he gets out his phone and texts Scott.

I broke up with Christopher, got together with Derek, and am moving back to Beacon Hills.

Not a minute later, his phone rings.

“What the fuck?!” Scott yells when Stiles answers. “You thought a text message was the appropriate way to tell me that?”

“Um,” Stiles starts. “I…Fuck Scott, I didn’t know if I could call you.”

“Stiles, you’re a fucking idiot. But we’ll talk about that later. When the hell did all this happen?”

Stiles pushes his glasses up and rubs his eyes. “I broke up with Christopher about a week, week and a half ago? I got back to Beacon Hills two days ago.”

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” Scott says, hurt evident in his voice. “I would have driven to San Francisco the moment you broke up with him.”

“You know,” Stiles says, voice tired, “It’s not just Derek I have to figure out now that I’m back. I’ve got to figure us out again.”

“Stiles, I’ll always be your best friend. I never stopped. Just because we got lives and jobs and lived in two different places doesn’t change anything. We’re adults; it’s not going to be the way it was in high school.”

Stiles smiles. “When did you get so smart?”

“I’m sorry, about Christopher. But congrats on Derek?” They both laugh. “I’ve got the night shift tonight, I’m actually about to go to work, but we can get together some time if you want to talk. I have an hour for dinner, or we can go to IHOP after my shift.”

Stiles is still smiling, the smile about to split his face open it’s so wide. Just listening to Scott’s voice feels like something has slotted itself back into Stiles’ soul, something that was there but had been used, left and discarded.

“No, it’s good. I’m good right now. I’ll see you tomorrow, I think? Apparently it’s dinner night at your mom’s?”

“Yeah. It’ll be awesome to have you there.” Scott pauses, and then says, “I know it’s selfish, but I’m glad you’re back. I really missed you, man.”

*

Stiles returns to Derek’s house around 6:30. He’d done a bit of grocery shopping before he’d come back, and he carries three cloth bags inside the house.

“Hey,” Stiles shouts when he walks inside, and realizes Derek has werewolf hearing and doesn’t need him to shout. “I’m back,” he says at a normal volume.

Derek walks in from the back of the house, wearing worn jeans, a t-shirt, and no socks, and Stiles feels butterflies in his stomach. Derek obviously doesn’t miss it because he smiles when he approaches.

“Hey.” Derek slides his arms around Stiles’ waist and kisses him. Stiles sighs into his mouth, thinking how ridiculous it is that he missed Derek even though he’d spent the last thirty-six hours with him, wonders if he’ll ever not miss Derek when they’re apart. Maybe once it truly hits him that they’re going to stay together and he gets to see Derek’s face every day for the rest of his life if he wants to.

“God, I missed you,” Stiles says when they part, and Derek smiles against Stiles’ neck where he’s nuzzling it.

“Not as much as I missed you.”

“What did you do today?” Stiles asks, reluctantly pulling away so he can put away the groceries.

“Worked on the manuscript.” Derek points to the bags. “What’s that?”

“I did some grocery shopping. I hope that was okay.”

“Of course, but you didn’t have to. You can eat my food.” Derek smiles as Stiles places vegetables in the refrigerator.

“I know. I just assumed you didn’t have a lot of the things I eat, so I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed.”

“Here,” Derek says, reaching for his wallet. “Let me pay you back – “

“Derek, I have a job. I have money. It’s cool.” Derek purses his lip, and Stiles stares at him until he puts his wallet away again.

“What did you do today?” Derek jumps up and easily sits on the island as he watches Stiles.

“Told my Dad about everything.”

“How did he take it?” Stiles looks up from the apples he’s just set in the fruit bowl. “Did he take it bad? Is he upset?” Derek asks, and Stiles thinks he actually looks nervous.

“No. He just...wants to make sure that I didn’t make a rash decision. That I was thinking big picture, not just following my cock.”

Derek’s eyebrows shoot up. “He actually said that?”

“God, no. It’s my dad.” Stiles shudders. “But he said it in a very dad-like way. So, I spent today driving around and thinking about it.”

Derek goes very still. “And?”

“And I think my cock and my heart are on the same page.” Stiles smiles, and Derek rolls his eyes. “I made the right decision. And after getting some space from you, thinking about it today, I just don’t think I want to be without you.” Stiles steps between Derek’s legs and slides his hands up Derek’s thighs. “Okay?”

Derek nods. “Okay.”

Stiles starts palming Derek through his jeans, and Derek’s legs fall open farther as he looks down with heavy-lidded eyes. “I think I want to move in. The thought of sleeping anywhere but your bed, waking up alone, I just can’t do it.”

Derek’s entire face lights up and he grabs Stiles’ face between his hands and leans down, kissing him deeply. As they kiss, Stiles unbuttons Derek’s jeans and slides the zipper down. Derek breaks the kiss and leans back on his hands as Stiles pulls his cock free from his briefs.

Derek is hot and heavy on his tongue, filling his mouth in a way that makes his jaw tired. He wonders how long it’ll take him to stop comparing things to Christopher, to stop thinking about him even though there’s no one he’d rather be with than Derek. Derek’s cock feels right in his mouth in a way that Christopher’s never did, the feel of the foreskin and the veins and the taste of his precome turning him on and making him want to beg for more like no one else ever has.

When Derek comes in his mouth, fingers gripping his hair almost painfully as Derek holds Stiles’ head down, Stiles sucks it all down greedily, not embarrassed or uncomfortable that he likes it, that he likes the idea of Derek’s come in his mouth, that it’s dribbling out of his mouth and onto his chin because he can’t quite swallow it all. He straightens and wipes his mouth with his shirt, and Derek pulls him close, growling quietly as he licks into Stiles’ mouth.

After Derek drops to his knees and blows him right there in the middle of the kitchen floor, Stiles makes them dinner.

Derek even sets the table.

*

“Stiles.”

“Yeah?”

“I can’t sleep with the light on.”

“Oh, sorry.” Stiles clicks the light off and turns down the brightness on his tablet screen. He’s scrolling through his Google reader, catching up after being offline for a few days.

“Stiles.”

“Yeah?”

“Your tablet thing is bright.”

“Can’t you turn over?”

“I don’t like sleeping on my other side.”

Stiles sighs in irritation. “I swear, I won’t be much longer.” He swipes his finger across the screen, the page scrolling.

“Go do it on the couch,” Derek grumbles, face pressed into the pillow.

“I’m comfortable. And warm.”

“Yeah, well, it’s my bed.”

Stiles freezes, and he feels Derek go tense beside him. He’s trying to be rational, trying not to let a stupid, irritated, thoughtless comment spoken in the middle of the night hurt him. But unfortunately, it does. It hurts, it fucking stings.

Stiles throws the covers back and hurriedly walks towards the door.

“Where are you going?”

“Down to your couch,” Stiles snaps, slamming the door behind him.

He knows he’s being ridiculous, but he’s tired, and Derek had been the one who wanted them to live together, and yeah, he’d only been there for two days, but still.

Stiles drops onto the couch, covers himself with the blanket that was folded underneath the side table, and starts scrolling through his Google reader again. But he can’t concentrate on it. He wants to yell and throw things, he wants to curl into a ball and cry. He tosses the tablet on the other end of the couch and crosses his arms petulantly.

Derek comes down the stairs a few minutes later. Stiles hates how it’s the middle of the night and he looks so damn cute with his bed head and sleepy face wearing nothing but his underwear. Stupid Derek.

“Come back to bed,” Derek says with an irritated sigh.

“I’m respecting your sleep. I’m doing my business down here.”

“Stiles, your tablet’s at the other end of the couch.” Derek rubs a hand over his face and drops down onto the sofa beside Stiles. “I’m sorry.” He reaches out, but Stiles pulls his arms away, just like the mature adult he is. “Stiles, please.”

“That hurt, Derek. I thought you wanted me to move in with you, and I know I only have a duffle bag here, but I’ve already started thinking about it as our bed.” Stiles doesn’t move away when Derek covers his arm this time.

“I do, too. It’s just,” Derek huffs in agitation. “I’ve lived by myself for a long time. I’ve had a few relationships over the last few years, but they never moved in. One of them kept a toothbrush here, but that’s as close as I’ve never been to living with someone.”

“Then why the hell do you want me to move in with you so bad?” Stiles asks.

“Because I don’t want to be away from you,” Derek responds. He runs his hand up Stiles’ arm and cradles his neck. “I just didn’t think that there were things we’d have to deal with, like sleeping habits.”

“You’re an idiot,” Stiles says, unfolding his arms and legs and motioning for Derek to come towards him. Derek crawls forward and snuggles against Stiles, head on his chest. Stiles combs his fingers through Derek’s hair as he closes his eyes, focusing on the warm, heavy weight laying on top of him. It was a different weight than when Christopher laid on top of him. Christopher was light and hollow; Derek is heavy and dense. He made Stiles feel like he was grounded, like something was filling him where he’d been empty before.

“I won’t read my tablet in bed when you’re trying to sleep.”

“The light bothers me,” Derek murmurs. “I can’t sleep with it on. Werewolf vision.”

“I’m just used to doing that kind of stuff in bed before I fell asleep. Christopher and I – “ Stiles feels Derek tense, and he rubs his back soothingly, “would spend hours on our laptops and tablets before we fell asleep. I’ll just have to adjust.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek says.

“Don’t be sorry. I’d rather cuddle with you anyway,” Stiles says with a kiss to Derek’s hair. “Besides, there will be plenty for me to complain about.”

“Like what?” Derek’s voice sounds offended, like there’s nothing in the world that Derek Hale can do that would be annoying.

“Well, as you know, I’m not a morning person, so if you could do your morning routine of fifteen thousand situps and pushups anywhere but the bedroom, I’d really love you.”

Derek grunts, but he nods. “Fine.”

Stiles scratches his fingers against Derek’s scalp, trying to feel positive. One compromise down, fifteen thousand to go.

*

That first year at Berkeley had been hard. Graduating with a perfect GPA from Beacon Hills High had been easy, but keeping his head above water at Berkeley? That was harder. Everyone was so smart, so confident, or so smart that it didn’t matter that they were awkward. They knew things about politics and foreign policy and postcolonial theory. Stiles knew about wolfsbane and Celtic folklore and the cycles of the moon. He knew how to fight off an Alpha pack, not how to debate taxes.

He almost came home that first week. Had called Scott, and Scott had told him it was homesickness. But Scott didn’t know. Scott had Isaac and Deaton and his mom and Derek and Beacon Hills. Stiles had none of that. Just panic attacks and Adderall.

Like all freshman, Stiles drank too much. But he was good, he only drunk dialed a few times. Once to Scott, once to Lydia, and once to Derek. Very good indeed.

His goal was to have sex with someone - someone who wasn’t Derek - and he kissed multiple girls and guys. Apparently, he was cute. He’d almost had sex with a few of them, but he kept looking for muscles, kept dragging his fingers against jawlines in search of stubble.

Berkeley showed him something he’d never thought he’d discover, a world without werewolves and danger and death. He felt the coil of permanent anxiety loosening in his chest, and for the first time in ages, he laughed. He breathed.

But that didn’t mean that unknowingly Stiles peeked into every corner of Berkeley, searching in vain for little bits of Derek.

*

“You used all the hot water,” Derek complains as he steps under the spray.

“No, I didn’t,” Stiles shouts from the bedroom where he’s getting dressed for dinner at Melissa’s.

“Next time I’m taking a shower first.”

Stiles rolls his eyes and pulls a t-shirt over his head, righting his glasses after he does so. He wants to respond with something sarcastic and mean, but he refrains. They’ve been arguing all day over stupid stuff. First thing this morning, Derek got out of bed to do his workout regiment, and he didn’t see Stiles’ shoes lying in the middle of the floor and tripped over them.

“Goddammit, Stiles!” he’d muttered, kicking the shoes as he walked out of the room.

Then they’d argued about the salad – “What the fuck is kale, and why is it in this salad? What’s wrong with good old fashioned iceberg?” – and then what to watch on TV – “Dammit, Derek, why don’t you tell me you don’t want to watch something instead of huffing about it for half an hour?”

It was all stupid stuff, Stiles knew it, snags as they tried to figure out how to have a relationship, how to live with one another.

But it still didn’t mean that Stiles isn’t pissed.

“I’m using some of your hair gel,” Stiles says as he squirts some into his hand.

“That’s fine,” Derek replies from the shower as Stiles runs it through his hair. Stiles thinks about the dinner they are going to as he messes with his hair. He doesn’t know who knew he was back. His dad probably told Melissa, Scott may have told Isaac, but he doesn’t know how close they were. He actually doesn’t know anything about these people, how they interact. He knows how they used to be, when they were in high school and college. These adult versions of the Pack are strangers.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asks as he shuts off the water. He pulls the shower curtain back and reaches for the towel sitting on the back of the toilet. Stiles gets distracted momentarily by Derek’s naked body, small rivulets of water cascading down his skin. He thinks of the summers in the loft, days they spent naked and sweaty. “Stiles.”

“Do you remember those two times we showered together?”

“Huh?” Derek begins drying himself. “Like, way back then?” Stiles nods. “Of course I do. I remember just about everything from those days, Stiles.”

Stiles wants to scream at Derek, ask him why he never told him, said anything, ask him if he remembers Stiles wanting Derek so bad he hated himself and the world, why he let Stiles think he didn’t love him. But instead, he says, “I’m nervous about tonight.”

“Why?” Derek steps over the lip of the tub and starts toweling his hair. “You know everyone. You were at dinner with them a few weeks ago.”

“This is different,” Stiles says, leaning back against the sink and crossing his arms. “I’m coming back as Stiles-Derek’s-boyfriend now.”

Derek rolls his eyes, but leans forward and kisses him lightly on the lips. “Stop worrying.”

But Stiles worries all the way to Melissa’s house. Derek grabs his hand as they walk towards the porch, and Stiles feels himself calm somewhat. It feels weird to be here not as Scott’s friend, but as Derek’s boyfriend, and he feels like an outsider even though he’s walked through that door more times that he can count.

But that was a lifetime ago. A lifetime Stiles has to breach somehow.

Melissa opens the door and smiles warmly when she sees him. “Stiles!” She pulls him into a crushing hug. “Your dad told me you had moved back. I’m so glad.” She leads him inside, speaking to Derek quickly as he comes in after her and shuts the door. Isaac and Boyd look surprised to see him when they show up, and they figure things out immediately.

But no one is more surprised than Millie.

“STILES!” She screams as she darts through the house, a blonde tornado, and launches herself into Stiles’ arms. Stiles is glad that Derek is standing behind him because he’s pretty sure that he’d have landed on his ass otherwise. Millie has her arms clamped around his neck, almost choking him.

“Millie, you’re kinda,” Stiles tries to get out.

“Too tight, sweetie,” Derek says gently as he runs a hand over her head before kissing it. Millie loosens her grip and Stiles can breathe again. He readjusts her body in his arms.

“Stiles! You’re here! Mommy and Daddy and Der-der said you were never coming back and I cried but I wished really hard because Mommy said if you wish really hard – “

“Millie,” Isaac cuts in. “Calm down.”

“I’d hate to see the two of them get going,” the sheriff says as he enters the room. “Stiles and Millie together? No one would be able to keep up.”

Stiles grins and nuzzles Millie’s cheek. “I’m back, kiddo. You can’t get rid of me that easily, come on. Who else am I going to play tea party with?”

Millie leans into Stiles and sniffs his neck happily. Stiles hears Derek huff beside him. “You smell like Der-der!” Boyd and Isaac burst out laughing, and Melissa clucks her tongue in disapproval. “Are you Pack now?”

“I think so?” Stiles looks at Derek helplessly. He doesn’t want to assume. There was a time when he was basically Derek’s second, but now he’s not even sure he’s welcome back. Although, he doesn’t think he ever left, not really. Not a day passed at Berkeley, Claremont, or San Francisco that Stiles didn’t think about the Pack in some way.

“Glad I didn’t have to go through that initiation,” Boyd intones, and Isaac starts laughing again. Derek glares at him, and Stiles feels his face go red. Thankfully, at that moment, Scott arrives and the focus shifts. Millie doesn’t let Stiles put her down, and he doesn’t really mind, thinks he owes it to her.

He sits quietly beside Derek throughout the meal, listening and watching. The Pack interacts seamlessly, talking over one another, interrupting, teasing, referring to things Stiles has no clue about. There’s a comfort and a familiarity to it that even his father partakes in.

It makes Stiles ache.

Even with their group of friends, the ones he and Christopher had dinner with once or twice a week, they didn’t act like this. Stiles thinks about reaching across the table like Isaac just did to grab the last roll off of Boyd’s plate, or pushing one of them like Sarah just did when she pushed Scott to the floor, or discussing county politics with his dad in one breath and taking the piss out of him in the next like Derek and Scott just did. He could never have done any of that. Dinners in San Francisco were fun, and they laughed, but they discussed Important Things, like politics or literature or religion, or talked about work, but they never talked about those things in a way that stripped away the facades, that got down to the core of who they were and laid them bare. Stiles discussed Kafka with his friends a million times, but it was different listening to Boyd pontificate on The Trial, something there that was genuine and passionate instead of just the right thing to say.

Maybe it’s because Pack creates a different bond, maybe it was because the people around this table had fought and almost died alongside one another more times than they could count before most of them were twenty. Their alliances ran deeper than casual friends. This was literally blood.

And Stiles had given it all up. Ran away from it all.

He may have fought alongside them, stood beside Isaac as they worked together to rip apart a hag and knocked a ghoul off Boyd’s tail with his baseball bat, but a chasm lie between them now, evident by how they barely looked at Stiles, how they didn’t talk to him or ask him any questions. Stiles is a silent observer, on the outside looking in.

Derek senses something and glances over at him, drapes his arm across the back of Stiles’ chair as he leans in to place a kiss against Stiles’ temple.

Derek, the thread tying him to Beacon Hills, restitching him back into this family.

After dinner, Stiles slips onto the back porch for some air. The house is loud, full of voices and laughter, and Millie has been attached to his side as much as Isaac and Sarah would allow. But it’s nice to get some space, get a moment to think and collect himself.

He didn’t imagine this dinner would be so hard.

He didn’t imagine coming home would be this hard.

The door opens up behind him and he braces himself, but it’s just Sarah. Stiles has only spoken to her once, at her wedding five years ago. He smiles when she comes to stand beside him and leans her elbows against the railing.

“It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?” she asks, smiling at him. Stiles nods. “You don’t have to be anxious.”

“How did you – oh,” Stiles says, hand flailing towards her. “Werewolf powers, right.”

“I don’t think the others were paying attention, except Derek. He’s been watching you like a hawk tonight.”

“He has?” Stiles asks, surprised. He had thought that Derek was just as oblivious to Stiles’ presence as the rest of them, with the way he was talking and carrying on with the Pack.

“Yep. You move, he moves. When you weren’t looking, he was casting glances your way, and he had his hand on you most of the night.” Sarah looks at Stiles thoughtfully. “You really didn’t notice?” Stiles shakes his head.

Apparently, old habits die hard. He’s been missing the little things Derek does for a decade. Even when he was so desperately looking for signs, right in front of his face.

Apparently, Stiles never learned to speak Derek.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Sarah says, obviously sensing Stiles’ emotions. “Derek’s an odd duck. After Isaac and I got engaged, we fought about who was going to be our Alpha. We both wanted to stay with our Packs.”

“What made you choose Derek?”

Sarah smiles. “I’d almost convinced Isaac to join my Pack, Derek had even chewed Isaac out about something stupid that night that made Isaac sway our way. I thought it was weird, how Derek and Scott were both Alphas and had this weird Pack dynamic, but Isaac didn’t want to leave them. Then we got attacked. Couple of vampires. One of them had Isaac, would have killed him, too. Derek jumped between them, leaving himself vulnerable to the other vampire. Derek almost died, and he knew there was a slim chance he was going to survive, but he did it to save Isaac. That’s when I knew.”

“Derek almost died?” Stiles barely gets the words out. Derek hadn’t told him that, and they’d still been sleeping together then. But it was right before Stiles left for Europe, when Stiles was so wrapped up in his own shitstorm of a brain that he barely registered anything.

“They’re all glad you’re here,” Sarah says, placing a hand on Stiles’ arm. “I wish you could feel their relief, their joy.”

“Didn’t act like any of that,” Stiles grumbles.

“Doesn’t make it any less true.”

Stiles feels like that should be the motto for his life.

*

Stiles was going back Berkeley in just over two weeks, his sophomore year less terrifying than his freshman, but even more terrifying in other ways. Plus, Stiles never wanted this summer to end. There was something about this summer, about him and Derek, that had changed.

Derek had started to open up. Stiles had lain in bed, his head in Derek’s lap as Derek rested against the headboard, while Derek talked to him like he never had before. He’d told him about Kate – “You should have seen her, and heard her, she knew exactly what to say to attract a horny teenage werewolf” – and then about his family, about what they’d been like growing up, about his mom and how strong she was. He smiled when he talked about them.

But there were other things, things that chased all remnants of a smile from his beautiful face, that Derek talked about late at night after they’d worn themselves out to the point of immobility. Things like the years right after the fire, what it had been like for him and Laura. He’d lie on his side, so close to Stiles that he could only see Derek’s eyes. Then one night even later, when he had his head in Stiles’ lap while Stiles’ hands ran through his hair, Derek told him about the day of the fire. “I smelled their burnt flesh for miles. It clung to my clothes, my hair. Most of them were too burned to recognize, but I found my mother’s scent, my brother’s, followed it until someone held me back. They didn’t want us to see the bodies, but it didn’t matter. We could smell them, feel the holes where they used to exist.” Derek trembled as the tears ran down his cheeks, and Stiles didn’t say anything, just held him and listened as he let go of things he’d held in for years.

And Stiles talked, which wasn’t so noteworthy, except he talked about things he never talked about, like his mother. Like what it was like to go visit her in the hospital day after day, after school sometimes with his book bag still on his shoulders, how he’d climb up on the hospital bed beside her, all bouncing knees and flailing arms. How she would listen to him ramble about what his teacher said that day, wouldn’t admonish him if he jumped from tangent to tangent and always understood him if he spoke too fast. What it was like to watch her wither away, go from a healthy young woman to something hollow and frail, and then nothing but an empty hospital bed and a cold, grey tombstone.

On those nights, Derek held Stiles as he cried, and didn’t try to tell him it would be okay because Derek knew it wouldn’t be okay, knew that hole never got filled no matter how much you tried.

Stiles had never told anyone the things he told Derek, and he knew Derek had never told anyone what he told Stiles. Things had changed between them, shifted, morphed into something that resembled hope.

But Derek was being particularly obstinate that night, silent in a way that annoyed Stiles after so many weeks of being open, pushing every time Stiles tried to pull him in.

“What’s your problem?” Stiles had yelled after he’d had enough.

“I don’t have a problem.”

Stiles had gotten up and stalked around the loft, from the couch to the table to the bed to the little chair. The longer he paced, the more it irritated him that there was no furniture, nothing of Derek’s except a few books and a thrift store lamp. There wasn’t even a fucking television.

Stiles stopped in the middle of the loft and gestured towards the large, gaping hole. “Are you ever going to fix the fucking hole in the wall? Or buy some goddamn furniture? You still live like you’re planning on skipping town at any moment. You don’t even have a fucking job.”

“I might have to skip town,” Derek had answered, voice hard, face frustratingly blank.

“You can’t be serious. Why?”

“Why not? There’s nothing for me to stay for.”

That felt like a slap in the face. Like it negated everything Stiles and Derek had done over the last few months, reducing it to nothing but dust that was slipping through Stiles’ fingertips.

Stiles stormed out without looking back. He didn’t return until the night before he left for Berkeley. Derek looked surprised to see him when he knocked on the door, but he gripped Stiles tightly when he kissed him, and carried Stiles over to the bed, kissing every inch of pale, smooth skin.

They didn’t sleep that night. Derek trembled and shivered as Stiles touched him, unraveled when Stiles put his mouth on him, and Stiles was gone the first moment Derek kissed him. They gripped and scratched and clung to each other until after the sun came up.

Stiles didn’t see Derek again for almost two years.

*

“I still think I should come with you,” Derek says from the bed. Stiles glances over his shoulder as he rifles through Derek’s drawers for something to wear. He hadn’t packed nearly enough clothes, and they hadn’t bothered to do laundry. Derek is sitting up in bed, the sheets pooled around his waist. He still has sex hair, and Stiles wishes he was in bed with him. But this had to be done, and the sooner the better.

“I think that’s the worst idea you’ve ever had.” Stiles finds a black t-shirt that looks smaller than the rest and tugs it over his head, righting his glasses when he’s done. “Do you really think you would be okay around him?” Stiles doesn’t want to think about what it would be like for Derek to meet Christopher, to have them in the same place. Time and space was not ready for that.

“I would be fine.”

Stiles looks at Derek incredulously. “You? Fine? In the same place as the guy you’ve been trying to rub out of my skin for the last five days? In the house we shared, full of the scent of me and him and not us?” Derek’s eyes go red just at the thought, and Stiles flings his hands towards Derek. “See? Point made.”

“I don’t like the idea of you seeing him,” Derek grumbles.

“Don’t you trust me?” Stiles snaps. “What could you possibly be worried about? It’s not like he’s going to sweep me off my feet and convince me to take him back. He had his chance. Can you please fucking trust that I’m not going to leave you?”

Derek glares at him, and Stiles feels the accusation in his gaze, and it hurts. It fucking kills him. He turns back towards the drawers. “I don’t need to be reminded every goddamn day that I left,” he whispers, knowing Derek will hear.

Stiles pauses as his eyes catch sight of something in the drawer. He grabs it and pulls the cardigan out with a gasp.

“What?” Derek asks.

Stiles feels his throat grow thick as he fingers the soft grey cotton, traces over the holes on both cuffs and along the hem. He lifts it to his nose and sniffs. After so many years, it now smells just like Derek.

When Stiles turns around, clutching the sweater in his fist, Derek is looking at him in confusion. But his eyes quickly flick to what Stiles is holding, and Stiles doesn’t quite comprehend the look that flitters across his features.

“You kept this?” Stiles asks, voice hoarse.

“You left it one of the last times you stayed at my house. After you graduated.”

Stiles touches it, almost reverently. He has it now, thinks he has proof. Proof that Derek had loved him over the last few years, that Derek had been as broken and desperate as he had been. Proof that maybe Stiles could believe and use to convince himself that this was real. Years of pining and hope knitted together in grey cotton because Derek couldn’t let go, Stiles couldn’t let go.

“But you kept it. After all this time.”

“It probably got stuffed in there by accident,” Derek says.

Stiles snaps his head up and glares. He stomps over to the bed and shoves the sweater under Derek’s face, showing him the hole in the elbow that wasn’t there before, that was worn through by Derek’s need to keep Stiles close. “I didn’t wear this hole through. And it’s not moth-eaten.” Stiles shakes it at him. “You did this, Derek. You wore my sweater.”

Derek doesn’t say anything, but Stiles sees that his ears have turned red. His silence infuriates Stiles, and he tosses the sweater at Derek’s head before storming over to his duffle bag and rifling through it until he pulls out a piece of worn paper. He takes it and throws it onto Derek’s lap. Derek picks it up carefully and reads it.

“You still have this?”

“I read that fucking note every fucking day I was backpacking through Europe.” Stiles inhales and recites, his voice cracking slightly, ”You’re allowed to not know what you’re doing. None of us really do.” Derek looks up from the paper, his mouth slackened in shock. “You don’t have to figure it out right away, you can take all the time you need to figure out what you truly want from life. There’s no deadline.” Stiles feels his hands shaking, thinking about the dinner the night before, the last few days with Derek, what he was about to go do. ”Just don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” he finishes, his voice thin.

“You memorized it,” Derek says dumbly.

Stiles memorized it while walking through the Irish countryside, while sitting on a hotel balcony overlooking Tuscany, on a boat off the coast of the Greek isles, on a train running alongside the Alps. Stiles can still see where the ink was faded, where he’d spilt coffee on the edge, where the edges had frayed and tattered. Derek’s handwriting was burned into his brain.

“And you kept my goddamn sweater and wore a hole in the elbow,” Stiles counters as he takes the note back from Derek and puts it safely back in his bag. “Why can’t you admit you wore it? Why did you deny it?” Stiles asks as he turns back around. Derek’s face is guarded, closed off, and Stiles wants to punch him. “Are you ever going to accept that I’m here? I’m not going to run back into Christopher’s arms when I go get my shit. You tell me repeatedly that you love me, but you didn’t talk to me throughout dinner last night – “

“You didn’t talk, either!” Derek yells. “Isaac asked me if you were mad at everyone, if they had done something wrong.”

“No one said a word!” Stiles shouts. “It was like I wasn’t even there. You all were just talking and laughing and it was awkward as ass. Fuck Derek, my dad didn’t even talk to me.”

“No one knows what to say,” Derek yells. “It’s still a shock that you’re even here! We missed you every fucking day, we had to move on and stop hoping you’d come back because you made it perfectly clear that you didn’t want to be back here.”

“YOU GAVE ME FUCKING PERMISSION!” Stiles screams. His whole body is shaking now, and he feels the prickle of tears at the corner of his eyes, but blinks them away. “You left without saying goodbye, Derek, and I came back to this cryptic note that said it was okay I had no clue what I was doing and that I didn’t have to figure it out and to take all the time I needed to figure out what I truly want. You told me there was no deadline. And guess what, Derek? That’s what I did. I went to Europe and I had multiple relationships, and I fell in love with Christopher. Were they mistakes? Maybe. But each one of them led me here, they fucking led me back to you. And you can’t even admit that you wore my goddamn sweater.”

Derek got out of bed and was at Stiles in the blink of an eye, sweater in hand. “I wanted to burn it,” Derek whispers. “But I wore it to sleep for months because it smelled like you. Then I kept wearing it out of habit. I wore it for almost a year.”

“Why didn’t you want to tell me?” Stiles asks, looking into Derek’s eyes, trying to figure out what’s going on in his head. “Don’t push me away when I’m standing right here. We’ve done that too much already.”

“You left me, Stiles,” Derek says, looking down at the sweater in his hand. “I thought you had abandoned me. You were the one person I trusted. I love you, I trust you, I know you’re not going to leave again. But it’s going to take me awhile to truly believe it.”

Stiles slides his arms around Derek’s waist and presses his face against Derek’s neck. “I’m sorry,” Stiles murmurs. “For hurting you. I never wanted to hurt you.”

“I’m sorry for hurting you, too,” Derek says. Stiles holds on to those words, hopes Derek holds on to his words. Maybe one day they’ll stop apologizing to each other, won’t feel the need anymore.

“Why did you leave?” Derek asks. “Because you didn’t just leave me, you left your father, Scott.”

Stiles absently reaches up and touches his side. Derek’s hand covers his, then slides underneath his shirt to finger the scars. Stiles can still feel the pain, the way it felt like his insides were being ripped open. How terrified he was that he was going to be a werewolf. How for the first time in his life, it hit him that he was mortal, that he was human and would die. And he was terrified of dying, still had so much to do, fuck he was only twenty-two at the time; worse than that, he was terrified of leaving Scott, Derek, his father. He knew what dying did to the ones still living. He didn’t want to be the cause of that kind of suffering.

“I wanted a normal life,” Stiles says. “I didn’t want to die.”

Derek presses his palm flat against the scars as he pulls Stiles to him and kisses him. Stiles tries to tell him everything bubbling in his chest through his tongue, tries to communicate in a way Derek might understand. When he breaks the kiss, his forehead resting against Derek’s, Stiles says, “I didn’t think you would ever love me.”

“I’ll never stop.”

“I know that now.”

*

Stiles came back from class to an empty dorm room and a letter from Derek. He’d rushed back after his makeup exam, with two coffees and the news that they had done it, Stiles had passed. Derek had helped him, like he had so many times before. But Stiles’ dorm had been empty, a few scribbled lines that seemed like they were about more than just a test, his impending graduation, and job search.

Derek had left him and told him to take time to figure things out.

Which is what Stiles did. That last year at Berkeley had been the toughest year of his life. Tougher than kanimas and Alpha Packs and everything else. That stuff he could deal with, he’d become a pro. He could deflect and plan and research, and if he held his mouth just right, he could skirt just out of danger’s reach. People around him got hurt, but most of them healed. Most of them. And the others he mourned and moved on from. People died, he knew that. He’d learned that way too young.

But he started his senior year with a side full of stitches and pain that extended beneath the skin, to his bones, to his soul. Every time he moved, he thought about how close it had been, how one centimeter different, one millisecond, one breath could have changed everything and he’d be lying beside his mother in the cemetery, his tombstone standing in for the hole left where he used to be. He’d wondered if his dad would put his real name on his tombstone, if that was the way Scott and Derek and the others would learn it. They’d be standing at his graveside and laughing about Stiles’ stupid name and finally getting why he never shared it with anyone.

Except he wouldn’t be there to laugh with them, to tell them to shut up. He wouldn’t be there for any of it, Scott’s graduation from nursing school and when he fell in love with a woman he didn’t compare to Allison. Wouldn’t be there if Derek ever realized his feeling for Stiles, decided to make them more than fuck buddies. Wouldn’t be there to feel Derek’s skin underneath his fingertips, his warm breath ghosting against his ear, his lips tracing against his neck.

The wound took months to heal. What it left behind took even longer. Derek had trailed his fingers over the fresh pink scars that weekend he visited, had kissed and licked it almost like he could make it go away. But those scars were branded deep into Stiles, on top of other scars he’d ignored for way too long.

Stiles read Derek’s note almost every day. During his last semester when he almost gave up, didn’t think he’d graduate. Through all the panic attacks, because he hadn’t had as many panic attacks that he did his senior year since right after his mother died. It was like every night the world was pushing the air from his lungs, trying to suffocate him one moment at a time.

Things like what to do when he graduated, because he had no plan while everyone around him had fellowships and grad school acceptances and jobs and he had nothing. The fact that Scott barely called, and he barely called Scott, because Scott was finishing up nursing school and had Isaac and Boyd, and Stiles had no one, he was alone and so far away. The fact that one minute Derek might love him, but the next he was disappearing and pushing Stiles away, and it just hurt each time it happened, never got easier because Derek had seeped into his skin, written his name over all of Stiles’ bones until no one compared, no one even came close to fitting into Stiles’ life like Derek did.

But nothing attacked him at Berkeley, nothing slashed him and left him scarred and broken. He remembered the first time he tried to have sex with someone after it happened, he’d taken off his shirt and the girl had gone wide-eyed and said, “What in the hell happened?” and Stiles had a panic attack right there between her legs, half-naked and hard.

He didn’t have sex again until that night at Isaac’s wedding. Derek didn’t ask questions, Derek knew, Derek touched it and all the rest of the scars that Stiles had, knew where each one was and how he’d gotten them. And Stiles knew that night, as he moved underneath Derek, that he had to leave, he had to get away before it consumed him. Because if he came back to Beacon Hills, if by some miracle Derek loved him too, they would spiral like a storm and Stiles would drown, never knowing anything but pain and torture and death. He’d never see anything else, would cling to Derek as he waited for the storm to start again and destroy them both.

Stiles stole out of bed without waking Derek and boarded a plane hours later for Europe. He didn’t return for over a year.

*

Scott waves to Derek, who’s standing on the front porch in nothing but gym shorts, as Stiles gets into Derek’s SUV. Derek was letting Stiles use it to move his things from San Francisco.

“Plus, it’s yours now,” Derek had said. “We’re partners, right? We’re sharing a house, we’ll share cars.”

“Except the Jeep. The Jeep’s mine,” Stiles said. “And the Camaro’s yours. That’s just non-negotiable.” Derek had rolled his eyes and agreed, but told Stiles to pay attention to the point.

Scott had brought Stiles coffee, and he drinks it as they head towards the freeway. “Derek scent marked you good,” Scott jokes after a few minutes. “You reek of him. Plus, you’re wearing his clothes?”

Stiles glances down at the black t-shirt and grey sweater. “Sweater’s mine. Apparently, he stole it five years ago.”

“Did you two have a fight?”

Stiles sighs. “Kinda? It’s been a rough few days.”

“I thought you two were in honeymoon phase.”

“We’re in the ‘how the fuck does this relationship thing work’ phase.” Stiles sets the coffee into the cup holder and settles back into the seat as he drives. “We’re working out the little problems.”

“Why didn’t you get him to come with you?” Scott asks.

Stiles takes his eyes off the road long enough to give Scott his best “are you fucking serious?” look. “Derek and my ex-lover in the same room together? No. I’d like to keep Christopher in one piece. Plus, it’s going to be hard enough to move my stuff. I hope Christopher isn’t there – he has an event all day for one of his charities – but just in case.”

“Are you sure you’re making the right decision?”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that? And by everyone, I mean you and my dad.”

“Because we care. And we want to make sure.”

“Yes, it’s the best decision. But being in a relationship with Derek isn’t the easiest thing on the planet, you know. We both have a lot of issues to work out.”

Scott is quiet for a few minutes, but then he asks, “Why? I mean, why leave Christopher?”

Stiles runs a hand through his hair before taking a large gulp of coffee. “This might be the best way to explain it. I’ve been back with Derek for five days, and we’ve probably gotten into twenty small arguments.”

“Only twenty?” Scott teases.

“Shut up, I’m being serious. Tons of arguments about stupid things, like what to eat for dinner, what kind of lettuce to use in our salad, the fact that Derek leaves his fucking dirty gym socks by the back door. And those things are smelly, let me tell you. But we’ve also fought about important things and argued over how we feel about each other, why I left, why he pushed me away, you know, all the biggies.”

“Okay, so you and Derek fight. You’ve always fought. I’m pretty sure for you two, it’s foreplay.”

“Exactly,” Stiles says. “Do you know how many times Christopher and I fought in two years?” Scott shakes his head. “Like five. Maybe. We fought about work schedules, sex, and money. That’s it. Everything else, we just got along famously.”

“And that’s a bad thing?” Scott asks.

“There was no passion, it was boring. Sure, I was content, but I wasn’t happy. With Derek, I’m happy. Yeah, right now things are a bit rough because we’re trying to move beyond the past, get to know each other again, figure things out. But even when we’re fighting, even when it hurts, I’m happy. I feel something. I know he loves me, and better, he’s in love with me. Like, throw me up against the wall and fuck me till I scream, risk his life to jump in front of a rogue Omega, keep my fucking sweater and wear a hole in the elbow in love with me. And I love him just as much.”

“You kept one of his sweaters, too?” Scott smiles.

Stiles kept things, just like Derek. The letter he showed to Derek earlier, the tacky hoodie Derek bought him on their trip to the beach, the receipt from their one fro-yo date, the post-it Derek had idly drawn the triskelion symbol on one night while Stiles was watching TV before he pressed it to Stiles’ forehead. It wasn’t much, but it was a catalogue of his relationship with Derek, stolen items hidden away like the stolen moments Stiles hid away in his memory, locking them up, protecting them so he’d never forget they happened.

“No, dickface,” Stiles responds, reaching over and shoving Scott for good measure. “God, when did you get so sarcastic, or have you always been this sarcastic and I was just immune?”

Scott just smiles wider. “I missed you, Stiles.”

“I missed you too, buddy.”

*

Scott and Stiles throw Stiles’ stuff into boxes with no real system, just trying to get things out of the apartment as quickly as possible. The movers show up a few hours after Scott and Stiles arrive, and Stiles makes sure to take only his furniture – his bookcase and desk, the bench he uses when he brings his plants and experiments home, the table and chairs, the recliner in the living room. He doesn’t care about the rest of it. It only takes the movers a short time to load the furniture on the truck, along with the boxes they’d pack by that time, and he gives them Derek’s address.

Just after lunchtime, Stiles sees Scott tense and then he hears the key in the lock. He stares as Christopher opens the door, Stiles and Scott pausing as they pack up Stiles’ books.

“I thought you were working today,” Stiles blurts.

Christopher’s face goes hard. “So you could just get your stuff without having to see me?”

“Basically.”

Scott stands up awkwardly and takes the three newly packed boxes down to the SUV without a word. Stiles stands and stares at Christopher.

“So, you’re really leaving,” he says.

“I told you that two weeks ago,” Stiles replies. Christopher takes a step towards him.

“I hoped you’d change your mind. Come to your senses.”

That just pisses Stiles off. He glares at Christopher. “I’m not changing my mind.”

“Is he worth it? This is the guy you told me about, the one who broke your heart and didn’t love you back.”

“It was a big misunderstanding,” Stiles says. Because that’s what his and Derek’s relationship has been, one big misunderstanding after another, a constant string of miscommunication and games of push and pull.

“And that’s what you want to bet your life on, a misunderstanding with a guy you described as having the communication skills of a Neanderthal.”

“I’m not discussing this,” Stiles says. “My mind is made up. I’m in love with him.”

“How can you be in love with him? You were in Beacon Hills for a few days.”

“I’ve always been in love with him.” Stileshates the way he can see the pain on Christopher’s face, doesn’t want to hurt him but can’t lie.

“You’re an asshole,” Christopher snaps.

“I know,” Stiles says, bending down to put books into the box. He looks up when he feels fingers against his neck.

“Guess I know what you’ve been doing for the last few weeks,” Christopher says, venom in his voice. Stiles’ fingers go to his neck, passing over a mark he didn’t know Derek had put there. He’d done it on purpose, Stiles knows this. Christopher wasn’t a werewolf, couldn’t smell how Derek had reclaimed Stiles, so Derek claimed him visually, a reminder that Stiles was his now. “I looked at him on Facebook. He’s hot, anyone with eyes can see that. But that’s not everything, Stiles.”

“His looks stopped being important when I was a teenager,” Stiles says, and it’s true. But of course, Stiles thinks wryly, it doesn’t hurt.

“Oh, really? You’ve got hickeys all over your neck, and stubble burn on your face. You look fucked out, I know that look on you. I can tell by the way you’re walking.”

Stiles glares at him, wants to tell Christopher that he never even got close to seeing that look on Stiles, that Christopher couldn’t have made Stiles scream and look fucked out if his life depended on it. But he bites his tongue, doesn’t want to be cruel.

“Is it about sex?” Christopher asks, his voice more vulnerable now. “I thought things were getting better between us.”

Stiles sighs and stands up, running a hand through his hair. “What do you want me to say? That I have better sex with Derek than I did with you? Maybe that should have been our first clue.”

“What, because I don’t have huge muscles and give you hickeys so you look like some classless slut?”

“No, that we weren’t meant to be because I never felt you down to my bones, to the tips of my toes like I do Derek. That he fills the hollow places inside me, that he chases away the emptiness. Derek and I are so tangled together that we’re ruined for other people. There are things from my past, my life that you will never understand, no one will, except him.” Stiles finds his hand pressed against his side, splayed over the scars. Christopher notices and shakes his head.

“I don’t even know who you are,” Christopher says.

“No, I think for the first time you are seeing the real me.”

Christopher watches as Stiles finishes packing, Scott noticeably absent. When Stiles has the last box filled, he texts Scott and Scott immediately shows up and takes the four of them downstairs.

“Are all your friends body builders?” Christopher asks, and Stiles laughs.

“Something like that.” He stands in front of Christopher, part of him sad. “I love you,” Stiles says. “I want you to be happy. Find your soul mate, and know that it wasn’t me.”

Christopher looks like he is going to say something, but instead, he just leans forward and kisses Stiles. Stiles wonders if it’s supposed to try and woo him back, but it does nothing but say goodbye.

When Stiles gets downstairs, he tosses Scott the keys, not really up to driving. Even though he doesn’t ever want to see Christopher ever again, it hurts, leaving San Francisco and that life behind. It is a part of him, even if that part is over.

Back on the freeway, Stiles asks, “You heard all that, didn’t you?”

“Yep.”

“Do I really look like a fucked out slut?”

Scott laughs, loud and full. “You’ve always been a little slutty when it comes to Derek.”

“Good point.”

Stiles pulls out his phone and texts Derek. On my way home. Then after a moment, he sends another text that reads, Any doubt that I made the right decision has vanished.

Derek responds with, home. i like the sound of that.

*

“I want to be a bird,” Stiles said, toes hanging off the edge of the rock that hung over the cliff in the preserve overlooking the valley. “Being a bird would be so much better than being a werewolf.”

Derek snorted behind him. “How do you figure?”

“I’d be small, quick, could fly, and – “

“Peck everyone to death? Annoy them with your endless chirping?”

“No.” Stiles scanned the endless line of green trees, the dips and swells of the mountains across the horizon. “It’d be awesome.”

“If you were a bird, what could you do that would be so awesome?” Derek asked.

Stiles spread his arms wide and turned his face to the sky. He closed his eyes. “I’d fly away. Far, far away from everything.”

*

Scott and Stiles pull into the driveway around 1 a.m. Between Scott and Derek unloading the SUV and Stiles supervising, Scott leaves around 1:30, and Stiles stands in the living room, looking around at the boxes piled everywhere, his furniture just sitting in any open space in the living room and dining room. He’s feeling overwhelmed when Derek slips his arms around his waist from behind.

“You smell like him,” Derek mumbles, sniffing along his neck and then around his lips. “You kissed him.”

“He kissed me. It was a goodbye kiss.”

Derek nuzzles against his neck, and Stiles sighs into it. “So, you saw him? How did it go?”

“Not too well. He accused me of only being with you because of sex.”

Derek slides his hands under the front of Stiles’ shirt and runs his hands up and down his stomach. “Are you?”

“Not only,” Stiles answers, with a smirk. Derek chuckles against his neck. “It is much, much better, though. My sex life with Christopher had been…uninspiring.”

Derek releases Stiles and moves around so he can look at him. “What do you mean?”

Stiles sighs, feels embarrassed. “I mean, we got off. But something was always missing. We tried all sorts of stuff, me on top, him on top, toys, role play, some kinkier things, but that spark and fire was always missing. And he never felt as comfortable as I did. Sometimes he looked at me like I was some freak when I suggested something. You and I never went through that. Hell, you’ve tied me up, spanked me, we’ve used all sort of toys on each other, smeared each other in our come…it just always seemed so natural.”

“It is,” Derek says, pulling Stiles to him. “For us.”

“I’ve had great sex with other people, but you’re still the best.”

“Glad to hear it,” Derek smiles against Stiles’ cheek.

“I’m glad I’m home,” Stiles says.

“I’m glad you’re home, too,” Derek murmurs before kissing him. Derek grabs the back of his thighs and Stiles jumps up, wraps his legs around Derek so he can carry him upstairs. As they roll around on the bed, mapping each other’s mouths and skin, Stiles decides he’s tired of running. Maybe he and Derek are still only in the eye of the storm, and something will sweep in and destroy them, but he doesn’t care, not anymore.

He left Beacon Hills and saw the world, he had a life that didn’t include Pack and werewolves and Derek. A life where he was happy because he didn’t think he could have this, that he could handle this. A life where everything had been nice because there had been something missing.

That missing piece was Derek.

After their clothes are on the floor, when their hands are sliding all over each other’s bodies, Derek whispers, “I want you inside me,” and Stiles may moan as he rolls Derek onto his back. They’d done this a few times before, times Stiles can count on his fingers and remembers like he remembers his own name. He’s topped other partners, but nothing feels like sliding into Derek does, nothing hooks behind Stiles’ heart and pulls it out of his chest like the sight of Derek’s head thrown back, neck exposed as he writhes under Stiles, his face morphed into pleasure.

Maybe that’s how Stiles should have known that Derek loved him. Should have realized it the day Derek let Stiles fuck him, trusting him and exposing himself, admitting that he was in fact vulnerable and he wanted to share that with Stiles. Or maybe the night he talked him back to his dorm drunk at Berkeley, or when Derek let Stiles see him cry, or when Derek dropped everything and drove to Berkeley for the weekend the moment Stiles called him.

Or maybe when Derek gave him advice for the first time ever, wisdom left behind on a scratch piece of paper because Derek didn’t know how to use his words, had been telling Stiles with his body for years how he felt, in a language Stiles didn’t understand. That Derek loved him enough to tell him to go out and find himself, loved him enough to hold on to a sweater in hopes that Stiles would return to him one day.

None of that matters now. They’d missed each other so many times that Stiles is surprised they are together right now, Stiles buried inside Derek, Derek tight and hot around him, holding him there and refusing to let go. But finally, after years of silence, they were speaking the same language, a Stiles-and-Derek only language full of hands and mouths and slick skin and scents and silences and words they’re finally learning how to form.

“I love you,” Stiles says against Derek’s neck before he licks the salty skin.

“I love you, too,” Derek replies. He tightens his legs around Stiles’ waist, pulling him closer, like he’s trying to pull Stiles inside his body.

“I think I realized something today,” Stiles says. Derek opens his eyes and looks at him, his eyes slightly unfocused and pupils blown wide. Stiles’ breath catches in his throat, still taken by surprise by Derek’s unique eyes even after all these years. He wonders if he’ll be eighty and still caught off-guard by that gaze.

“What?” Derek reaches up and cups Stiles’ face, and Stiles smiles, wants to cry all of a sudden. Derek’s brow furrows.

“Sorry, I got distracted.” Derek rolls his eyes but smiles affectionately, and Stiles rocks his hips slowly. “Just a minute ago was the first time that I thought about growing old with you. Thought about what it would be like to be eighty and still in love with you.” Stiles pulls out and thrusts back in, and Derek’s eyes flutter shut as his back arches. “But I think it goes along with what I realized today.”

“Which is what?” Derek’s hands slide down Stiles’ back, grip his ass, his fingers sliding along his crack. It hits Stiles that this is real, this is his life. No more nice, no more content, no more settling because he couldn’t have what he wanted.

“I think I finally accept that you love me, that this is going to work out.” Stiles reaches and grabs one of Derek’s hands, pinning it above his head as he threads their fingers. “I feel whole, Derek. I feel whole for the first time in my life.”

“You came back to me,” Derek says. “You brought all of your stuff and called this house home and you’re staying.”

Stiles kisses him, and Derek wraps both of his arms around his neck as Stiles grips Derek’s hips, thrusting into him in a frenzy of emotion. It’s overwhelming him, how much he loves Derek, and that every night Derek will be there beside him. And so will dirty socks and Derek’s brooding silences and Derek trying to pay for everything and Derek being jealous, but Stiles will buy weird lettuce and run away when he should stay and talk and read his tablet in bed and steal all of Derek’s clothes so he can smell like him. But they’ll grow old together, get grey hair and wrinkles and maybe have a few kids. They’ll sit on the front porch when they’re ninety, holding hands because they can’t do much of anything else anymore.

Derek comes first, clenching around Stiles so tight he can barely breathe, and he spreads his come on his and Stiles’ chests until Stiles buries himself deep inside Derek and comes with a shudder and a gasp. He pulls out after a few moments and lets Derek roll him onto his back and drape himself over Stiles, kissing and licking. Derek takes his come-covered fist and jacks Stiles’ slick cock a few times, then gently presses his fingers and their mingled come inside Stiles and mixes their scents. He wonders how he ever thought he could live without this, be with someone who only said I loved you through words, and not just as loud through silences or scents. It was weird, but it was right.

Stiles knows it won’t just be amazing sex, it’ll be fights and anger and disappointment and hurt, but it’ll be a life. A life he’s building with Derek. And with the Pack, and most importantly, his dad.

And really, that’s all Stiles ever wanted to begin with.

*

Epilogue

They are surrounded. Surrounded by a pack of werebears - what the fuck was a werebear, he didn’t know these things were real, much less in California - and the odds don’t look good. The werebears are large, like fucking huge.

There are three rings of protection set up – Derek, Scott, and Boyd on the outside, Stiles, the sheriff, and Isaac in the middle, and Melissa on the inside, protecting Millie and Nick, the whole Pack protecting Sarah. Stiles glances over his shoulder, sees Millie and Nick both wolfed out, but crying, sees Sarah wolfed out and snarling, her arms protectively around her protruding middle. It makes his blood boil. You don’t mess with a Pack’s cubs.

Derek and Scott are in their Alpha wolf forms, growling at a large werebear, the half-beared out (was that the right term? Stiles doesn’t know) Sleuth (that is the right term for a group of bears, he knows that) behind him growling.

Derek gives the signal, and the wolves attack. Stiles is standing back to back with his dad, close to Sarah and the kids, Melissa on the other side with a shotgun. A bear comes barreling towards him, and Stiles tightens his grip around the neck of the bat as he swings, the bat connecting with the werebear’s skull with a satisfying crack. Shots ring out as Melissa and his father shoot, and he hears the snarls and howls of the Pack fighting behind him.

A smaller werebear, a female, senses an opportunity and goes straight for Millie, who has somehow gotten away from Sarah in the fray and is crouched down, baring her little fangs and growling.

Stiles doesn’t have time to indulge in the terrifying fear that overcomes him. He leaps without thinking, placing himself between the werebear and the cub. He feels the claws tear into his back and cries out in pain, hears Millie screaming behind him and Derek howling nearby.

He lands with a thud face first on the ground, his glasses jamming into his face and breaking as shots and growls ring out from far away. His back feels split open, like he’s split in two.

“Stiles!” Millie gets out between sobs and through her extended fangs.

Stiles cracks open his eyes, looks up into her face which is right over him. “Run to your mom,” he manages, his voice weak. “Before you get hurt.”

“I’m not leaving you, Stiles!” she cries, leaning down and burying her face into his hair.

Stiles can’t see much of what’s going on from where he’s lying in the dirt, blinded by pain and fear. He can’t move, thinks maybe he’s paralyzed, that they severed his spinal cord. This is not how he wanted to go, prey to a fucking monster from Icelandic folklore. He thought it’d be much later, that he’d at least make it to thirty, and he was so close, his thirtieth birthday only a few months away.

“Stiles!” Derek’s voice cuts into the fog, and he wonders if he’s dead or alive, but the pain is still pretty fucking terrible, so that’s gotta be alive. He hopes whenever he does die, it’s pain free. “You’re not dying today,” Derek mumbles as he runs a hand over Stiles’ hair, and Stiles realizes he’s rambling aloud, his mouth moving without him realizing it. Like that’s anything new.

“Millie, Nick, Sarah?” Stiles asks.

“Fine.” Stiles feels relief before he passes out.

*

When Stiles comes to and opens his eyes, he immediately shuts them again because ow, those lights are bright. He tries again and realizes he can’t see, doesn’t have his glasses, so he turns his head to the side. He sees a big lump in the chair, guesses it’s probably Derek.

“Derek?”

He hears movement immediately, and the big blob is by his side. “Stiles,” Derek says, voice tired and weary. “Are you okay? In pain? Do I need to get a nurse?”

“God, calm down,” Stiles drones, his head pounding. “Where are my glasses?” Derek grabs them and slips them onto Stiles’ face, and Stiles readjusts them, notices they’re his extra pair, remembers the others breaking. Dammit, he loved those things. He tries to sit up, and only manages to do it halfway before there is an excruciating pain along his upper back.

“Fucking werebears,” Stiles groans as he lays back down, Derek touching him and helping him. “God, I hate those motherfuckers.” Derek laughs quietly. “Is everyone else okay?”

“You wake up in the hospital, and you’re worried about everyone else?” Derek asks in exasperation. Stiles smiles. It can’t be that bad if Derek is irritated at him.

Derek fills Stiles in on everything – how he was of course the only one who got hurt, except Scott and Boyd, but they healed in like fifteen minutes – and how he’d been in the hospital for three days. “You were lucky,” Derek says, gripping Stiles’ hand tightly. “It was too close. Why were you such a fucking idiot, jumping in front of a werebear like that?”

The Pack comes in before Stiles can answer, and when Millie runs over to the bed, eyes shining with tears, Stiles looks at Derek. Derek just squeezes his hand and kisses him.

“Are you okay, Stiles?” Millie yells, even though Isaac and Sarah try to get her to quiet down. She climbs up onto the bed beside him, stuffed monkey in her arms. She settles the monkey against Stiles’ other side as she moves closer to him.

“Yeah, Stys,” Nick says from Derek’s arms, using the name he’d called Stiles since he first started talking and couldn’t quite make out the L. The nickname had just stuck. His little fist is tight around the collar of Derek’s shirt. “So hurt.”

“Der-der said you were gonna be okay, and so did Pop-pop and Mommy and Daddy but you didn’t heal like Boyd and Scott and then I shouted at you and you didn’t hear me and – “ Millie breaks off into tears and hugs Stiles tightly, and pulls at the tube connected to his arm. He shifts so she can snuggle against him. “You smell funny.”

“Millie!” Sarah exclaims as Stiles laughs.

“It’s true,” Derek says. “Blood transfusion.” He wrinkles his nose.

Stiles visits with everyone, his dad coming later after work dressed in his uniform and looking a little rough around the edges. He sits with Stiles all night, tells Derek to go home and get some sleep because Derek hasn’t left Stiles’ side since he’d been admitted.

A few days later, Stiles gets to go home, and Derek helps him into the house and to the couch because it’s hard to walk with his back as slashed as it is. Lots of stitches, holding him together, pushing his body back together to form new scars.

When Stiles gets settled, Derek disappears and Stiles watches TV and dozes, doesn’t realize Derek is avoiding him for two days. That’s when Stiles hobbles into the garage, where his lab table covered in various plants is set up across from Derek’s home gym.

“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” Derek says, replacing the weight he’d just been bench pressing.

“You shouldn’t be avoiding me.”

Derek looks guilty as he comes over to Stiles and leads him back to the couch. He sits beside Stiles, curls up against him, head on Stiles’ shoulder.

“Talk to me,” Stiles says. “Don’t close up. We’ve been so good about it lately, don’t go back now.”

“You still smell funny,” Derek mumbles as he rubs his face against Stiles’ neck. Stiles waits, has learned to be patient, to wait while Derek figures out what to say, how to say it. Sometimes it’s immediate, other times it might take weeks. They’re learning, developing their language, sometimes readjusting, patching it up as they go along.

Derek sighs. “I don’t want you to leave.”

“Why would I leave?” Stiles asks. “In case you haven’t noticed, I can’t go anywhere. Injured.”

Derek cranes his neck to glare up at Stiles. “You left, last time you got hurt. I didn’t see you for five years.”

It all makes sense now, and Stiles wants to cry at old wounds being reopened, rips in the fabric they’ve been weaving for themselves over the past two years. He kisses Derek’s hair.

“I’m not going to leave.”

Derek pushes himself up and looks at Stiles closely. Stiles takes his hand and places it over his heart, repeats himself. “I’m not going to leave.” Stiles can feel the relief flooding from Derek, and it makes him sad. “I stopped running a long time ago,” Stiles says softly. He runs his hand up Derek’s chest and shoulders, trails his fingers along his stubbled jaw and cups his cheek. “No matter what happens, I want this life with you.”

“I know.” Derek gives him a small, private smile, and Stiles kisses him. Because despite everything, all the bumps in the road, one thing was certain. Stiles loved Derek, and Derek loved Stiles, and that was the constant thread that would always stitch their life together.

-fin