Stiles suspects it might be a coping mechanism for all the utter shit Derek’s gone through, so he’s surprised when Cora calls him for help one night.
"I can’t… I can’t find him," Cora says quietly.
"You’re a werewolf and you can’t find your alpha werewolf brother?”
"He’s hiding someplace where he knows I won’t be able to sniff him out. Our senses only reach so far you know.”
"What about Isaac? Have you called Scott?"
"What do you think we’ve been doing, Stiles?”
Stiles waves an arm around, rolling his eyes.
"How do you expect me to be able to find him?”
Cora’s quiet again before saying, “He trusts you, Stiles.”
So that’s how Stiles ends up driving around, aimlessly, for 3 hours, contemplating Cora’s words: He trusts you, Stiles. Stiles calls bullshit because Derek doesn’t trust him, if anything Stiles knows he can be a thorn in Derek’s side most of the time.
And this isn’t the first time they’ve had to send out a search party for Derek. It started after defeating the alpha pack (most of them; the twins stuck around, oddly enough), after Jennifer (wait, no, Julia; Stiles can’t keep up anymore), they came by Derek’s loft just to check in when Cora pointed to the corner.
"He’s been like that for three days."
While everyone groused about it with Cora and Peter, Stiles cautiously walked over to Derek and knelt down.
"Give me any sign that you’re still there, mentally."
Stiles had waited, even wound up sitting next to Derek, declined food when they ordered in, and just… waited.
Cora had to shake him awake.
"Go home, Stiles."
Stiles looked over at Derek, fingers curling in his fur for a moment, letting go before Derek did something, like bite him.
Stiles heard Cora gasp when he reached the door, eyes widening when he looked behind him to see Derek following him. Cora and Stiles watched as Derek padded slowly over to Stiles, gently butting his muzzle against Stiles’ leg, and then walk back to his corner.
He trusts you, Stiles.
Stiles’ cell phone ringing jars his thoughts, tucking it between his shoulder and chin, steering with his fingers.
"Can you tell me why there’s a werewolf here at the station?”
"What?" Stiles says slowly.
"I went down to the storage room and do you know what I found, Stiles? I found a wolf, and not just any wolf, because from the little discussion we had you specifically told me how to tell the difference between a wolf and a werewolf. So can you tell me why there’s a werewolf that looks suspiciously like Derek Hale, here at the station?”
Stiles fumbles with his words, because Derek is hiding at the fucking police station.
"I’ll come get him," Stiles sighs.
When he shows up he avoids eye contact with his dad, bypassing the curious looks of the deputies, and walks right to the storage room. There’s a low rumbling growl when the door clicks shut, and a pair of red eyes blink out of the darkness at Stiles.
"You can’t stay here."
Derek turns around between two shelves, and yeah, yep. He’s showing Stiles his ass.
"Stop being an asshole and get out of there."
Derek remains silent.
"Look, my dad… my dad knows it’s you in here. This is his place of work, Derek. People are going to have to come in here—"
That gets him to come out, and Stiles clicks on the light to get a good look at him.
"You’re not hurt, are you?"
Derek looks up at Stiles, and he’s pretty sure Derek’s glaring at him.
"Loaded question, fair point."
Instead of going out the front Stiles leads him to the back entrance, and he assumes that’s how Derek got in, unless he shifted to human form, and wow. Stiles really hopes Derek didn’t walk in all his birthday suit glory in the place where his Dad works.
"Did you want—okay, nevermind," Stiles sighs, watching Derek lope off down the street, veering into the woods. He calls Cora, who’s relieved, and tells Stiles she’ll let everyone else know, which he appreciates because he doesn’t feel like answering any weird questions Scott might have. Will have.
When Cora calls him again a week later, he’s not surprised.
"Really?" Stiles groans.
"We think he’s masking his scent somehow."
"Of course he is," Stiles grumbles, climbing into his Jeep.
Stiles was about to cook himself some dinner before Cora called, so instead he grabs two burgers and two orders of fries from the greasiest burger joint in town.
He begins his search at the park, because he feels like walking.
After about twenty minutes he almost gives up when he gets an idea — the tool shed. The park employees keep all the garden tools in there, and it’s the perfect place for someone to hide. Like a werewolf.
The lock’s busted when Stiles approaches the door, rolling his eyes. "I knew it," he mutters, pushing open the door.
Stiles waits, sitting on a bucket eating his burger.
Derek finally shuffles out from under a table, sniffing the air apprehensively, making a snuffling noise of derision.
"Hey, that better not be a knock against curly fries. Curly fries are delicious, greasy goodness."
Stiles lets Derek do his thing, watching him nose around in the paper bag, huffing with disinterest sitting back on his haunches.
"I’m not feeding you," Stiles tells him firmly. "You need to stop doing this. Cora gets worried, and I have to be the knight in shining Chucks and plaid."
And then Derek does something Stiles would’ve never expected him to do, even in human form — he comes forward and rests his head on Stiles’ lap.
Stiles swallows, fingers gripping in his fur.
"Talk to me, man. Talk to someone."
Derek whuffs and pokes his muzzle in Stiles’ abdomen.
"That’s not talking, that’s being a cute werewolf."
Derek nips Stiles’ hand, a little too hard, because Stiles hisses loudly, spilling fries everywhere. Derek barrels out the door, out of sight.
“Fuck,” Stiles whispers. “You just surprised me.”
Stiles is walking back to his Jeep when he calls Cora.
"I found him, but he ran away again. Just leave him alone. He’ll come home."
"What happened?" Cora asks tentatively.
"I’ll stop by in a couple days and check on him," Stiles deflects, hanging up.
Stiles waits a week before stopping by the loft. Cora’s not there, and Peter’s on his way out.
"He’s behind the couch, moping," Peter says with a roll of his eyes.
Stiles nods, flinching a little when Peter pulls the door shut. He’s not scared, he stopped being scared of Derek a long time ago. He’s scared because he’s not sure how long Derek will stay like this, and Stiles hates to admit it but he’s starting to miss the sound of sarcasm dripping in Derek’s voice.
He hooks his chin over the back of the couch looking down at Derek.
"Want some company?"
Derek turns his head away, tucking his muzzle into his paws.
"Well I’ll be here, on the couch, if you need me."
He doesn’t mean to fall asleep, but the couch is extra comfortable, and he hasn’t been sleeping a lot since that night in the tool shed. When Derek fled at the idea that he might’ve hurt Stiles. Derek didn’t even break skin, but Stiles knows that it was the idea that freaked Derek out, and Stiles’ reaction.
Stiles hasn’t had a nightmare in a long time, but his thoughts and emotions are running rampant lately, and his mind won’t let him escape the nightmare of Gerard. His body has locked up, and Stiles is aware that he’s trying to wake up, but he can’t. He can hear growling and barks that sound distressed.
His eyes fly open suddenly, chest heaving, and Derek’s on top of him staring him down.
Derek whines, and the sound shreds Stiles deep.
"I’m okay, hey." Stiles touches his nose to Derek’s muzzle, rubbing his neck. "I’m okay."
Derek presses up against Stiles, ears flicking as he watches Stiles curiously. He remembers that night in the shed, when he nicked Stiles’ hand, and mostly on impulse he licks Stiles’ hand.
"You didn’t hurt me, you know."
Derek’s ears prick up at that, nosing along Stiles’ ribs.
"I miss you."
Derek snuffles at that, climbing off the couch, disappearing to find another hiding spot.
"I’ll find you," Stiles murmurs, knowing Derek can hear him.
Another week goes by, Derek’s still coping as a wolf, and Stiles decides to bake an apple crumble pie. Isaac volunteered to help, which was a little surprising, but he told Stiles he wanted to learn how to cook something that didn’t require bread and cheese.
"How do you find him?"
Stiles is rolling out dough for the pie crust, sprinkling flour so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin.
"I don’t know, I guess I just think of places no one would expect."
"You mean no one else would expect.”
"Stiles, you’re the one who thought to check the area of the woods where Laura was killed."
That’s true, but it was also nearing Laura’s birthday, which he remembered Cora mentioning a few days before Derek had gone missing again.
"Oh shit, I need to take Melissa her dinner." Isaac’s wiping off his hands, looking around sadly. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, dude. Thanks for slicing all the apples, it was a big help," Stiles smiles, jerking his head. "Get out of here, go do your duty."
He’s busy kneading the dough into a pie crust shape when he glances Derek sneaking (trying to) into the kitchen. Stiles pretends not to see him, humming to himself, until he feels Derek’s tail brushing his legs.
"You were hiding behind the washing machine. You always hide back there on laundry day."
Derek sits beside Stiles, looking up at him huffing and whuffing.
"I don’t speak your wolfy language, we’ve gone through this a dozen times."
Stiles smiles down at him, chuckling at Derek.
"You look like you’re licking your lips. Are you hungry?"
Stiles takes an apple slice and holds it out to Derek. Derek takes it gingerly between his teeth crunching on it loudly, licking Stiles’ fingers.
"I knew you were a sucker for apples."
"Pineapple is my favorite," Derek says.
Stiles yelps picking up a spatula. “WHOAWOW!" He’s panting heavily, staring at a very naked Derek Hale.
"You’re very observant, I’m exceedingly impressed," Derek says dryly. "Are you going to flip me to death with that?”
Stiles gulps, concentrating very hard on looking at Derek’s face.
Derek carefully extricates the spatula from Stiles’ death grip, leaning in and kissing the corner of his mouth.
"I’m going to put pants on, and then I’ll help you finish the pie."
"Okay," Stiles says quietly.
Derek tries not to smile, pecking Stiles on the lips this time, gasping when Stiles parts his mouth, giving Derek permission for more. Derek instead grazes his lips along Stiles’ to kiss the corner of his mouth once again.
"I’ll kiss you, after the pie’s done."
"Apple pie promise?"
Derek shakes his head, mouth tugging on a smile.
"Apple pie promise."