When Derek Hale first met one Mieczyslaw “Stiles” Stilinski in the middle of the forest on a cold winter evening, he couldn’t say that it was a particularly good or enjoyable encounter.
For one thing, he had an arrow sticking out of his arm, a wolfsbane bullet in his thigh, and a crossbow aimed at his forehead. Red eyes glared up angrily at the young adult staring down at him hatefully, and Derek just waited for him to do the inevitable and kill him.
He didn’t know Stiles Stilinski personally, but he knew who he was aligned with, and that didn’t exactly fill him with confidence on his survival.
Stiles belonged to them. The Argents.
“Where is Peter Hale?” Stiles demanded, point of the arrow lodged in his crossbow pressed right against his forehead.
“I. Don’t. Know,” Derek snarled out, clutching at his injured arm and feeling like his leg was slowly rotting away from the inside.
“Not a good enough answer,” Stiles bit out, bending down slightly. He was holding the crossbow in one hand, but had a wolfsbane laced dagger in the other, hovering over Derek’s uninjured arm. If Derek tried to slash at him, he’d either get an arrow to the brain or another deep laceration that would likely kill him, at this point. The kid was good for someone who wasn’t born a Hunter, but Derek supposed circumstances made the person.
Something shifted in Stiles’ expression and he bent down further, pressing the blade to Derek’s throat. It burned at his skin, but Derek made sure not to wince, keeping hard red eyes locked on Stiles’ almost desperate brown ones.
“I’m not,” he bit out, baring his teeth.
Stiles’ head snapped to the left when he heard a howl, cursing and glancing back down at Derek. His expression hardened and he lowered his face so they were almost nose to nose.
“This isn’t over, wolf. I’ll see you again.”
“Can’t wait,” was Derek’s retort.
The guy could move fast for a human, because he was on his feet and running before Derek had even fully sat up, clutching at his injured arm and wincing. Now that he wasn’t being threatened, he yanked the arrow out, snarling loudly when the jagged tip went back through the partially healed wound. His leg was going to be the bigger problem, but Stiles had dropped his gun during a scuffle so Derek knew it was around here somewhere.
Scott McCall fell down beside him, grabbing at his shoulder and checking his face, as if needing to make sure he was alive and conscious, despite the fact Derek was clearly sitting up and in a very large amount of pain.
“Find his gun, he dropped it over there.” Derek nodded in the direction he’d seen the gun go, the other Werewolf rushing that way while Derek’s cousin emerged from the woods.
“Can’t stay out of trouble for even one day?” Malia Tate asked, wandering over and helping him to his feet. “You’re a useless Alpha.”
Derek snarled at her angrily, but she ignored him, the two of them watching Scott dig around until he pulled the gun out triumphantly. It was relatively slow-going getting out of the woods, and Derek didn’t realize Stiles had chased him so far into them. He had incredible stamina for a human.
Then again, revenge was a strong motivator, and he knew a lot about Stiles’ thirst for revenge. Unfortunately, it was what had led him down the path he was now on, and no amount of talking to someone that damaged was going to save him.
When they piled into Derek’s car—with him driving, because not even a bullet to the leg would let him give up control of his Camaro—they headed towards town so they could get set up in their Emissary’s clinic. He may still be around, but even if he wasn’t, he was used to showing up in the morning with people either still there or having recently been there. It was useful having an Emissary who also doubled as a vet.
“Heard a rumour the bad Argents were back in town,” Scott said quietly from the passenger seat. “Guessing that’s true.”
Derek just grunted in response, knowing that would make things more complicated for them. They were in the middle of dealing with two Omega Werewolves and a Wendigo. The last thing they needed during this obnoxious period was another enemy to watch out for.
“How did you get away?” Malia asked, leaning forward from the back seat. “I mean, you look like shit, so you definitely didn’t escape.”
He shot her an annoyed look in the rear-view mirror but she ignored it and just waited for him to elaborate.
“He let me go,” Derek finally admitted. “He didn’t get the information he wanted.”
“Which was?” Malia pressed.
Derek debated telling her the truth, knowing it would open up a whole bunch of fresh wounds, but it would be coming from him or from someone else, so he may as well just tell her now. Warn her before she found out in public.
“It was Stiles Stilinski.”
“What?” Malia demanded, eyes flashing gold. “The Stiles Stilinski?!”
“Who’s Stiles Stilinski?” Scott asked, looking between them.
Malia looked horrified, and upset. She fell back into her seat and slouched down, crossing her arms and looking out the window while guilt and anger radiated off her strongly enough to suffocate them all. Derek rolled down his window in an attempt to clear the air a little bit, his leg throbbing, and hoped they made it to the clinic soon. The dose must’ve been fairly low because the last time he’d gotten hit with one of these, he’d felt like he was dying.
“Stiles Stilinski is from Beacon Hills,” Derek explained when it became clear Malia wouldn’t. “His mother was a teacher and his father was the sheriff. There was an altercation that happened one night involving the sheriff’s family and a Werewolf.” His eyes shot to the rear-view mirror but Malia was resolutely looking anywhere but at him. “Stiles was only eight or nine, but the Werewolf killed his parents and told Stiles that if they met again, he would be next.”
“Jesus,” Scott said quietly. “What happened?”
“Gerard Argent found him. He pulled him into the Hunter’s life and taught him how to kill. He’s just like him, though. Doesn’t follow the code. He sees an enemy, and he kills it. No remorse. No mercy.”
“But he didn’t kill you,” Scott insisted. “That could be a sign that things are changing. Maybe he and Allison have met and—”
“Not all Argents are like your girlfriend and her dad,” Derek snapped, turning to glare at him. “Gerard, Kate and their little prodigy don’t follow the code, and they never have. They’ll kill to rid the world of what they don’t like, and sit on their high horse doing it.”
“But he let you go,” Scott persisted, giving him a look.
Derek turned into the back of the clinic parking lot and stopped the car, gritting his teeth. “Of course he did. He needs me.”
“Because,” Derek turned to him, frustrated that Scott was so fucking stupid, “the Werewolf who killed his family is the same one who turned you. And the only people who have any ideas on where he might be are sitting in this car.”
That shut Scott up exceptionally quickly, realizing what Derek had just said.
Peter Hale had killed Stiles’ family, and now he was back for revenge. It didn’t matter that he didn’t follow the code and would’ve killed Derek in a heartbeat. The fact of the matter was, he needed Derek right now to find Peter. Until Peter Hale was dead and buried, Derek and his were safe. From Stiles, at least.
He doubted Gerard or Kate would show them any mercy if they came across them, they didn’t have the same motivation as Stiles.
“Omegas, Wendigos and Hunters,” Scott muttered, scratching the back of his head with a sigh. “We are in for a long week.”
“If we survive that long,” Derek said, pushing open his door. “Hurry up and help me get this bullet out of my leg.”
Stiles’ head snapped harshly to the right at the blow against his left cheek, the skin stinging painfully but he made no sound and merely faced forward again to accept another. The side of his face began to throb by the third—and thankfully last—blow, his cheek hot and the taste of blood in his mouth.
He had learned very early on not to flinch or make a sound during punishments, because it only incensed Gerard Argent further when he thought one of his Hunters was being weak. Stiles was not weak, and he hadn’t been since he was nine years old and watched a monster tear his parents apart.
When Gerard sighed and reached up one hand, Stiles stayed perfectly still, the older man caressing the cheek he had just been abusing almost tenderly, staring intently at Stiles’ closed-off features.
“Stiles, I know how difficult this must be for you. Being back here, so close and yet so far.” Stiles clenched his jaw but said nothing. “You must understand that what we do cannot get out. You lost a weapon, and worse still, you lost it in the vicinity of a Werewolf you were hunting and failed to kill.”
“An oversight on my part,” he said. “It won’t happen again.”
“You know better than to go after a Hale on your own. Don’t you remember what happened to your family?”
Stiles’ eyes, which had previously been staring straight ahead, shot straight to Gerard’s and it took a conscious effort not to snap. He knew that would just earn him another smack to the face so he clenched his hands into fists, grit his teeth together, and said nothing.
That was an unfair comparison, and they both knew it. Stiles’ parents had been regular humans dealing with what they thought was a regular attacker. They didn’t know about Werewolves, or other things that went bump in the night, otherwise his father wouldn’t have tried to protect them how he did. No one would’ve had to die if they’d only known what Stiles did now.
Gerard sighed and leaned forward, giving Stiles a tight hug that he didn’t return. He had long ago begun to associate touch with pain, because that was all he ever received in the Argent household. Even the brief hugs and tender touches weren’t enough to delude him into thinking Gerard gave a shit about him. Stiles was his weapon, and that was all he ever would be.
One of his best, despite tonight’s blunder. His own fault, he knew. He’d seen Derek Hale while driving back towards town and had lost himself in his desire for revenge. He should’ve known better than to go after him with his mind clouded, but he’d been waiting almost eleven years for this. He had been fantasising about killing Peter Hale for as long as he could remember, and he was the closest he had ever been in his life.
It would kill him if someone else got to Peter first, so he had to find him before that happened. If that meant letting Derek Hale live for a few days longer until he got the information he needed, so be it.
“Go get cleaned up,” Gerard said, pulling away and cupping Stiles’ cheeks in both hands, offering him a fatherly smile. “Kate and I have an errand to run.”
Stiles knew what that meant. They were going to see his son and granddaughter, Chris and Allison. He’d only met them briefly once, but because they weren’t “respectable” Hunters, as Gerard said, Stiles wasn’t allowed to spend any length of time with them. He assumed Gerard worried about him being influenced since the other two Argents apparently only killed bad Supernatural beings.
Stiles didn’t think there was any risk of him being turned to that ridiculous notion. Supernatural beings were all bad, end of story. They were abominations, and all they did was maim and kill. The chances of him ever meeting a Supernatural creature he didn’t want to kill were slim, so Gerard had nothing to worry about.
Well, there was one thing for him to worry about, and that made Stiles wonder if that was why they’d waited so long to come back to Beacon Hills. Gerard knew Stiles only stayed with him because he wanted revenge on Peter Hale. The second Peter was dead, Stiles would go his own way. He didn’t need Gerard, or Kate, or any of the other Hunters they travelled with. He just needed his training, and a clean shot, then he was done. He didn’t know what he’d do afterwards, probably continue hunting on his own if he felt so inclined, but he’d spent most of his life with only one goal in mind, and he just needed to reach it. He needed to kill Peter Hale, and then leave this toxic mess of a family he had before it damaged him even further.
Stiles knew he was damaged—he couldn’t watch a monster kill his family at nine and not be damaged—but he also knew that Gerard did everything in his power to keep Stiles dependent. He was damaged, but not stupid, and as much as Gerard liked to think he had the upper hand in this, Stiles knew that at the end of the day, he would be the one who could walk away unscathed, and fuck Gerard Argent if he thought he could stop him.
Said individual focussed back on Gerard, realizing he’d zoned out for a minute. It had been happening a lot since their return to Beacon Hills four days ago.
“Get cleaned up. We’ll talk in the morning.” Gerard lightly slapped at the cheek he’d previously hit and then dropped his hands, moving past Stiles to head into the corridor. He heard the older man and Kate speaking in low tones before the front door opened and shut.
Stiles waited in the living room, unmoving, until he heard the car pull out and disappear down the road. Once he was sure they were gone, he headed quickly for Kate’s room and bent down in front of the locked door, pulling a set of lock-picks from his pocket and pushing the ends into the lock. It took some doing, but he finally got it open and entered her room, rushing to her computer and booting it up.
He knew he had no more than an hour, if that. It would take them ten minutes to get to Chris’ house, and thus ten more to return. They would be with him and Allison for at least twenty minutes, hopefully more, but he couldn’t bank on that. The last visit hadn’t gone so well, and they’d been back in under half an hour, but that had been when they’d first arrived so maybe everyone had calmed down enough to have a decent conversation.
Besides, it was around dinner time, maybe they’d stay for dinner.
Stiles got through Kate’s password easily, because she was an idiot when it came to creating those, and started digging through all of the details she had on Derek Hale. He only knew what he looked like because of Kate, since she had been watching him obsessively over the past few years. She boasted the most Hale kills in the family, having set the Hale house on fire when Derek was sixteen and killing virtually all members of the family save for Peter, Cora, Laura and Derek.
If she’d set the fire sooner, if she’d just killed Peter a few years earlier, maybe Stiles’ family wouldn’t have had to die, and a part of him had always resented her for missing the most important piece of that household.
Clicking quickly through the new information she’d gathered on him, he scowled when he noticed she’d already touched base with him. Apparently she had a sweet spot for him, thought he was cute or something. Stiles didn’t know how she could stomach to be anywhere close to something that vile without wanting to slash his throat.
He kept digging through what she had so far, looking for any details on Peter, and froze when he read one paragraph near the bottom.
Laura Hale deceased - Peter Hale Alpha. Peter Hale now missing, Derek Hale Alpha. Peter Hale dead?
“No,” Stiles insisted quietly, scrolling down to read more. “No, no, that’s not right. That’s not right!” he shouted at the screen.
Derek had said he was gone, but he didn’t mean gone as in dead, right?! He meant gone as in out of town, left Beacon Hills, on the run in the jungles of Africa! Peter couldn’t be dead!
If Derek Hale had murdered his own uncle before Stiles got his hands on him and made him suffer for what he had done, Stiles was going to filet the skin from Derek’s back and relish the agony on his face while he rubbed wolfsbane and mountain ash into the wounds.
Shutting everything down, Stiles made sure the room looked exactly as it had when he entered it, and then shut and locked the door. It was difficult locking a door with lock-picks, but he’d had a lot of practice at it over the years, so he managed to get it done relatively quickly. Heading upstairs to take a shower and get to bed—since the order had been clear that he wasn’t going to eat tonight—he let the words roll around in his mind, hands clenching and unclenching at the thought that someone had beaten him to Peter Hale.
If he didn’t have Peter Hale’s death to look forward to, what had he wasted the last eleven years of his life for?
Derek grit his teeth and clenched his eyes shut tightly, forcing the scream threatening to escape him to stay down in his throat. His claws bit into his hands, and he could feel every muscle tensed and jerking, sparks of electricity dancing through his body and pain exploding across every nerve and muscle.
When it left for the briefest of moments, he could finally breathe again, letting out a sharp gasp and struggling not to let his legs give way under him. Sweat coated his entire body, sticking his jeans uncomfortably to his legs, though his shirt had been discarded previously. He figured she wanted a view, she’d always been a disgusting piece of work.
“Come on, baby,” Kate said leaning forward but being sure to keep the jumper cable she held well away from the fence lest she electrocute herself along with him. “Scream for me. It’s been so long.”
Derek just gave her a cool look, having been able to keep most of himself in check so that only his claws and eyes had shifted. The rest of him was still entirely human, and he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of knowing she was getting to him.
Every time she showed her face, he wanted to rip it off with his teeth. She had killed his family, only because she thought they deserved to die for being different. They hadn’t done anything, they hadn’t hurt anyone. They’d just happened to be a family of Werewolves, and she had murdered them all.
Ironic, when he thought of it. Kate had killed a majority of the Hale family, and Peter had killed Stiles’ family who was now part of the Argent family. It was like an eye for an eye, except Peter had gone for someone innocent and unrelated to the Supernatural world.
Derek still didn’t even know why he’d done it. No one knew, and that was part of the problem. It was why he’d been turned away from the Pack, why he’d been exiled. When he’d returned, he had returned at the worst possible time, when the Argents had decided to make their move. They’d tricked Derek, Kate had killed his family, and he’d been left with a broken and devastated older sister, a psychotic uncle, and a shut down younger sister they’d had to leave with another Pack to keep her psyche intact.
He hadn’t seen Cora in years, and he honestly didn’t know that he ever would again. After having lost Laura, he worried too much about getting attached to someone else and losing them. He already worried enough about Malia and Scott, and he barely even tolerated them on a normal day. He just didn’t have a choice, because Malia was family and Scott’s life had been just as destroyed by Peter as Stiles’ had.
Derek let out a grunt and jerked away from the fence when Kate pressed the jumper cables to the metal surface once more. She looked like she was enjoying every second of it, and Derek knew she was. There was something that fascinated her about the way Werewolves could be cut apart and put back together again so seamlessly.
When she pulled the jumper cables away again, she set them down and turned off the battery she’d been using to electrocute him with. Then, she moved up to Derek, letting her hands run along his sweaty chest and around his neck. He growled, dropping his fangs, but she just gave him a look.
“Really? Like you could ever hurt me, Derek. You’ve always wanted to, but I know you never will. It goes against your code, doesn’t it? To hurt humans, I mean?”
“I’d make an exception,” he bit out around his fangs.
She grinned at him, and when she leaned in to kiss him, he jerked his head forward, as if truly about to bite at her and she was smart enough to back off. She kept some space between them, but her arms were still wrapped around him, fingers playing with the hair at the nape of his neck.
“You grew up nicely, Derek Hale. Too bad about the wolf thing, I’d have loved to keep you around. Then again, I’ve always wanted a pet. Dad might not mind having a Hale on a leash so long as you behaved.”
He said nothing to her, wishing he had the strength to pull free from this stupid situation he’d found himself in. He should’ve known better than to let his guard down, even in his own home. He knew she and Gerard were back in town, and as uneasy of a truce as he had with Chris, he wasn’t going to stick his neck out for a Werewolf.
At least Scott and Malia were probably safe. Small consolation, but it was something.
Kate’s phone began to ring across the room and she turned to it, exposing her neck to Derek. His mouth watered at the sight of it, wanting nothing more than to rip her throat out, but knowing the second he did, he would lose a piece of his humanity. As much as she deserved it, he wasn’t going to kill her. He would find another way to make her pay for her crimes, and he supposed that was the funny thing about them. It was what separated man from monster, and in this situation, he wasn’t the monster.
Sighing explosively, Kate finally released him and headed across the room to her phone, picking it up.
It was Gerard on the other end, asking where she was. She gave him a semi-vague response, eyes on Derek, but when he told her he needed her to deal with a rogue Werewolf, she confirmed she’d be right there and hung up.
“We’re going to hunt down your little friends, now,” she informed him.
“You’re going to hunt down the Omegas that have been in the area,” Derek corrected, knowing Scott and Malia were laying low in public areas. “Thanks for the help,” he said sarcastically.
Kate smirked at him and approached him once more, pressing her fingers to her lips and then pushing them against his cheek. She was smart enough not to go for his mouth.
“See you soon, baby. I’ll be back later.”
He watched her walk away, pulling open the large sliding door and turning off the light. When she shut it, the room was bathed in darkness, Derek’s night vision taking a few seconds to kick in. He glanced up at his wrists, handcuffed to the metal fence, and tugged before hissing.
Everything with this fucking family was coated in wolfsbane. He could probably get free, but he was likely to damage his wrists fairly badly and he didn’t know how long that would take to heal. It depended on the string of wolfsbane she’d used on the cuffs, and if the injuries affected his ability to grow claws and he ran into one of the Omegas, or worse the Wendigo, he’d be in serious trouble.
He was still debating on the best course of action when he heard the outer door open. He stared at the sliding door that led into where he was, waiting for Kate to come back and feeling like she hadn’t been gone long enough, but he heard two voices speaking quietly just beyond his range of hearing. He knew it was two of them, male and female, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying.
When the speaking ceased, the outer door opened once more and one set of footsteps disappeared beyond his range, suggesting they had left. The other set approached the door and slid it open. The light was turned on, momentarily blinding Derek, but he adjusted quickly to the change and saw Stiles standing in the open doorway, a gun in one hand and a hard look on his face.
That meant the other voice was probably Allison, since he doubted Kate would’ve brought Stiles here. That would’ve been a stupid move, considering everyone knew Stiles only had one goal in mind.
Stiles stepped into the room and pulled the sliding door shut, looking around at the various tools Kate had left lying around along with the discarded shirt in the corner. He made a disgusted face at it before focussing back on Derek, moving closer but staying well out of reach.
“Stiles Stilinski,” he responded immediately.
Stiles didn’t seem surprised or concerned that Derek knew who he was. He just tightened his grip on the gun he held, eyes raking over every inch of Derek the same way someone would look over dog shit stuck to the bottom of their shoe.
“I don’t know what she sees in you,” he informed him.
Derek didn’t deem that worthy of a response. He wished Kate didn’t see anything in him. He wished she would fucking forget about him, but somehow, every time she ended up back in town, Derek found himself the centre of her world. She had a bit of an obsession problem, was his thought.
“I am here for one reason, and one reason only,” Stiles informed him, moving a step closer but still well enough away that Derek couldn’t reach out for him. “I am going to ask you a question, and you are going to answer it. What your answer is will determine whether I leave you be,” he raised the gun, taking one step closer, and pressing the barrel to his forehead, “or blow your brains out.”
“Torture at Kate’s hand or death at yours,” Derek said evenly. “Yet we’re the monsters.”
He saw something shift in Stiles’ features but it was gone too quickly for him to fully catch. Maybe he’d struck a nerve. Maybe Stiles had never considered that before, though he doubted it. He knew exactly what he was doing.
They were silent for a long while, Stiles staring at him. The hand holding the gun was beginning to shake, but Derek knew it wasn’t because he was afraid of him. He was afraid of the answer he was going to get to his question.
Derek was pretty sure he knew what that question would be, and three minutes later, when Stiles asked it, he was right.
“Did you kill Peter Hale?”
Stiles’ eyes instantly filled with angry tears, his face contorting and his hand tightening around the gun. He pressed it more firmly against Derek’s forehead, breathing hard through his nose, a million and one thoughts passing behind his eyes as he stared into Derek’s.
Derek waited to see what he would do, wanting to know just how far gone Stiles was. Did he lose himself entirely to the Argent family, like Kate? Or was there hope for him, like there had been for Chris and Allison?
The hand holding the gun shook, tears sliding down Stiles’ cheeks, and Derek could understand where he was coming from. Stiles had spent years of his life training to get revenge, only to have missed out on the chance. Derek knew the feeling well, given he still wished every day for the strength to kill Kate, but knew he couldn’t because then he would be no better than her.
It was a hard line to walk, but he managed to stay on the good side of it.
Derek saw Stiles’ finger itching at the trigger, ready to pull, but at the last second he jerked the gun to the side and instead fired right past Derek’s head, the bullet lodging itself in the wall a ways behind him. Stiles turned away from him, breathing hard, entire frame shaking.
He smelled like a mix of rage, misery, betrayal and anguish. It looked like he was barely holding himself together.
Actually, it looked like he was seconds away from blowing his own brains out, and Derek figured only that knowledge was what made him open his mouth again.
“He isn’t dead.”
Stiles turned to him instantly, tears still staining his cheeks, but expression closed off.
“Peter?” Derek searched his face, the name having shifted his features once more. “He’s still alive.”
“You said you killed him.”
“I did. He came back. Like a cockroach.”
Stiles stared at him for a long while, then moved forward again, close enough to touch this time, as if forgetting himself. “Do you think I’m an idiot?”
“You’re the one in my personal space,” Derek informed him.
Stiles seemed to realize that and instantly took two steps back, hand closing more tightly around the gun, but keeping it at his side. He glared at Derek, searching his face as if for the lie.
“Explain,” he ordered.
“I killed him,” Derek repeated. “But he had a connection with a Banshee. She inadvertently brought him back to life. He went on the run after coming after my Pack and almost dying a second time.”
“So he’s still out there,” Stiles said breathlessly, eyes going unfocussed while he thought. “He’s not here, but he’s still alive.”
“Unless something else got him first.” Stiles’ eyes shot to Derek’s face sharply and Derek just shrugged. “He’s got a lot of enemies.”
“I spent eleven years training to kill him,” Stiles bit out. “No one is going to get to him before me. Not a second time,” he amended, remembering Derek had literally just told him he’d killed him.
Stiles turned away from him without another word, heading for the sliding door. He exited the room, slamming it loudly behind himself. Derek listened to his footsteps recede, but he didn’t hear the outer door open.
There was silence for a good five minutes barring the sound of Stiles’ rapid heartbeat. Then, footsteps returned and the sliding door opened once more. Derek just watched him while he crossed the room to the jumper cables, tensing instinctively, but Stiles didn’t pick them up. He dug around them for a few seconds and then turned to Derek, walking up to him and stopping just out of reach.
“You drop them, that’s your problem.”
Derek cocked an eyebrow, but Stiles threw a small set of keys at his left hand. Derek closed his fist in time to catch them and Stiles turned away from him, disappearing back out of the room and slamming the door once more.
This time, the outer door did open and shut.
Derek kept his hand clenched for a few seconds, wanting to be sure he didn’t drop the keys. When he felt like he could shift around enough to get them where he needed them, he carefully opened his hand and began trying to unlock the cuff around his wrist.
It took him a good ten minutes to get free, but he had his shirt on and was out the door long before Kate returned.
He was still undecided about Stiles, given their brief encounter, but if Allison had brought him down, then maybe there was hope for him after all.
Stiles should’ve known better than to go hunting while he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. It was a bad idea to go out while distracted, but even worse to go out when he was completely brain dead.
He hadn’t been able to get his conversation with Derek out of his head since they’d had it three days ago. It didn’t help that Allison was still texting him about it, telling Stiles to just come over when he had a free moment so they could chat, so she could explain about the code.
Stiles knew the code. He wasn’t an idiot. “We hunt those who hunt us.” That was the code. The real code. He knew that Allison and her father had adopted another, more along the lines of “We protect those who cannot protect themselves,” but he didn’t believe in that.
Supernatural beings could protect themselves, and they did so very well, at the expense of human lives. He didn’t want to listen to Chris and Allison insist that Gerard and Kate were wrong and that not all Supernatural beings deserved to die.
He already didn’t know why he hadn’t killed Derek. Probably because the wolf had been so ready to die, to just end it all, that he hadn’t wanted to give him the satisfaction. And then to drop that bomb after. He could’ve saved himself and immediately told Stiles that he’d killed Peter but he was still alive. Instead of doing that, he’d just admitted to killing him and had let Stiles decide whether or not to blow his head off.
And on top of that, in a fit of anger, Stiles had gotten right into his space. He’d been close enough for Derek to bite his throat out, but he hadn’t. Instead, he’d just warned Stiles that he was too close and allowed him the chance to step away.
Hell, he was sure even Kate had gotten up close and personal with Derek while he’d been tied up, but she’d walked out of the warehouse completely fine. Derek had every right to want her dead after what she’d done to his family, but he hadn’t killed her though Stiles was sure he’d had the chance to.
Derek Hale was a fucking enigma, and he hated him, which was why he’d gone out hunting despite knowing better and was now running through the woods in the dark with a Werewolf chasing him and only one arrow left.
He hadn’t been able to account for his whereabouts when Derek had gone missing, and his gun had been recently discharged so Gerard had deemed it necessary to take his weapon away from him, for his own safety, of course.
Well, now it was proving to be a big fucking problem because he was going to fucking die in a minute if he couldn’t get his head on straight and shoot properly! His crossbow had fucking jammed and it was hard to outrun a Werewolf while also attempting to fix the mechanism, so he was fairly certain he wasn’t going to get out of this one alive.
Which pissed him off, because he was so close to his revenge on Peter, and he was about to die at the hands of a fucking Omega. Embarrassing, and stupid.
He let out a shout when something tackled him around the knees and fell hard to the ground, scraping one hand against jagged stones but managing to keep a grip on his crossbow. He struggled to get free, but the Werewolf dragged him back down and flipped him over. He watched the clawed hand going for his throat, ready to take him out, and tried in vain to raise the busted crossbow to save himself.
The claws came so close to him that he felt the air whistle near his face, but before he felt any pain, there was a loud snarl and the Werewolf on top of him flew a short distance off him into a tree. Another Werewolf leapt at it and the two began to snarl and snap at one another, rolling around on the ground while trying to get the upper hand.
Stiles sat up quickly and began to frantically tug at the mechanism of his crossbow, dismantling it with expert speed and putting it back together. By the time he’d raised it and was aiming, the second Werewolf had slashed his claws across the first’s neck and it fell to the ground, dead.
Stiles breathed hard, staring at the fallen wolf, and then glanced up at the new enemy.
Unsurprisingly, it was Derek Hale.
“I had that,” Stiles informed him, still on his ass on the hard ground.
“I could see that,” Derek said. He was still wolfed out, eyes glowing red, staring down at Stiles like he didn’t know what to make of him.
When Derek took a step forward, hand outstretched to help him up, Stiles raised his crossbow and fired. Derek leapt back a step, looking down at himself, then turned when he heard a thump, the second Omega in the area flat on its face with an arrow in its head.
Turning back to Stiles slowly, Derek frowned down at him. “You saved me.”
“I saved myself,” Stiles insisted, getting to his feet on his own.
“You’re out of arrows.”
“You planning on killing me?” Stiles snapped.
“Is everything a fight with you?” Derek retorted, frustration in his tone. “I saved your life. I could’ve let the Omega kill you.”
“I could’ve shot you in the warehouse. Or left you to Kate’s mercy.”
“Yeah, why didn’t you?” Derek asked, crossing his arms and scowling at him. “You stink of hatred whenever I’m near you, but you go against a lot of things I feel you shouldn’t. So either you’re not so far gone to see that Gerard and Kate are wrong, or you’re having an identity crisis.”
“Do you want me to kill you?” Stiles demanded, turning his back on Derek, despite all of his training screaming at him not to do that. “You infuriate me!”
“You’re welcome,” Derek called after him.
Stiles stormed away from him, blood boiling with both rage and shame. He couldn’t believe he’d gotten saved by a fucking beast! And on top of that, he could’ve just let the other Omega attack Derek, waited for one of them to kick the bucket, and then kill the survivor. It could’ve been three kills at once, but he’d stupidly fired at the oncoming attacker and now Derek was free to roam the woods and kill other unsuspecting, innocent humans.
Then again, he’d saved Stiles. Derek could’ve waited for the Omega to take Stiles out and then killed it while it was distracted feasting on Stiles’ insides. But he hadn’t. He’d saved Stiles and even gone so far as to hold out a hand to help him up.
Stiles was still thinking about this when he stumbled across another Werewolf. He froze, hand tightening around his crossbow, but having no arrows left to shoot it with. The other in front of him held up both hands.
“Hey, it’s okay, don’t worry. I’m not gonna hurt you.” He offered Stiles a kind smile that he didn’t believe for a second. “I’m just heading for Derek. He called about disposal duty.” He held out a hand. “I’m Scott.”
Stiles just stared at the hand, wondering if this idiot really thought he was actually going to reach out and take it. When it became clear he wouldn’t, Scott let the hand drop and then inched around Stiles like he was a wild animal ready to attack.
Unlike with Derek, Stiles turned with him, unwilling to show him his back, and watched Scott motion behind himself before turning and heading off in the direction Stiles had left Derek in. When he was sure he was gone, Stiles turned and hurried out of the forest, hand tight around his crossbow and frown on his face.
He didn’t know what was going on in this place, but he’d just met two different Werewolves who were in the same Pack, and neither of them had attacked him. One had saved him, and one had offered his hand to shake as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do to a Hunter.
Stiles really didn’t fucking get this town.
“So are we this idiot’s new protection squad or something?” Malia asked impatiently from the back seat, leaning forward so her head was between Derek’s and Scott’s in the front seat.
“He’s not in a good headspace right now,” Derek said, eyes still on the house Gerard and Kate had holed up in, since Chris had refused to let them stay with him. “I just want to make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”
“Why does it matter? He’s a Hunter.”
“He could’ve killed me twice, but didn’t.” Derek leaned back further in his seat. “Something is different about him. Like Chris and Allison. I just don’t think he knows it yet.”
He heard Malia’s eye roll even without seeing it, but ignored her for the most part. He knew she and Scott didn’t care as much about Stiles’ psyche, but as someone who’d grown up with revenge on the mind and been talked out of it by Laura, Derek knew what it was like to be confused. He knew how Stiles felt, seeing the family of the man who’d killed his parents, and wanting to hurt them for hurting him, but not being able to.
He’d encountered Stiles a few more times in the past three weeks, and every time he saw him struggling. He clearly wanted to keep to the code, kill all Supernatural beings, but he always refrained. Not once has he hurt Derek, and while he clearly didn’t trust Scott or Malia, he had never raised a weapon in their direction.
Actually, two days prior, Stiles had saved Scott’s life from the Wendigo they’d been after for months. They hadn’t even known Stiles was there at first, they’d just been fighting it in a parking lot near the industrial part of town. Scott had been struck down, the Wendigo had gone for him, and suddenly there was an arrow in its head. At first Derek had assumed it was Allison, but when he’d turned to look at where the shot had come from, he found Stiles’ retreating form on the top of a building, disappearing from sight.
He knew this was a risk for him. If Gerard found out, it likely wouldn’t end well for Stiles. Derek hadn’t missed the fact that he got hit every now and then, and it made him wonder how desperate for revenge Stiles had been in his youth to stay with someone like that.
It also made him wonder about what Kate had done to him, because Derek knew first-hand what kind of person she was and the thought disgusted him. Stiles had been through enough, he didn’t deserve whatever Kate threw his way, too.
The three of them lowered in their seats instinctively when a car passed them at a crawl, the headlights off. It stopped a few spots ahead of them, but kept the car running. Derek’s eyes shifted to the house and a few moments later, the side window opened.
Stiles climbed out onto the sloped part of the roof, closing the window silently. He made his way down the side of the house nimbly, which Derek hadn’t expected for some reason. After crouching behind Gerard’s car and looking around for any signs of being caught, Stiles rushed across the street to the car and climbed in.
Once the door was shut, the car drove off.
Derek would’ve followed, but he figured there was no point. He’d noticed the shift in Scott the second the car had stopped, so even if he hadn’t recognized it, he would’ve known it belonged to Allison.
“He’s ballsy,” Malia commented from the back seat, Derek starting the car and turning around to head back to Scott’s house so he could drop him off. “If Gerard finds out he’s consorting with the heathens, he’ll do more than mess up his face.”
“Maybe Allison is trying to convince him that not all Supernatural creatures are bad.” Scott turned to Derek hopefully. “I mean, maybe that’s why he’s mellowed out the past few weeks.”
“You don’t change your tune overnight,” Derek said. “It takes a while to change your opinion.”
“Does it though?” Scott asked. “He grew up with Gerard, but that wasn’t an easy life. And he hasn’t killed any of us, even when the opportunity presented itself. Maybe he’s not as invested in the Hunter life as he thought, but never knew there was another way.”
Derek didn’t want to think on it too much. He wanted Stiles to be out of the Argent’s clutches, but he didn’t want to get his hopes up in case it all fell apart. Yes, maybe Allison was working on Stiles. Yes, maybe Stiles was realizing that not all Werewolves were bad. But that didn’t mean he was going to drop eleven years of training, and he still had his vendetta. Derek knew that wouldn’t go away overnight, if ever. He could end up like Derek—accepting but hating it with every fibre of his being—or he could lose himself completely to his revenge and go crazy on everyone in sight, humans included.
Derek tried not to dwell on it, dropping Scott off and waiting for Malia to get into the front seat so he could bring her home to her adoptive father. When they stopped outside her house, she turned to him before getting out.
“You stink of desire, just so you know,” she informed him. “Scott’s too polite to tell you.”
Derek turned to give her a look, but she just shrugged and exited the car, slamming the door behind herself. He watched her until she entered her house, then turned around to head back to the loft.
He knew she was exaggerating, because he did not stink of desire. Interest, maybe. Stiles was interesting. And kind of adorable, in a weird, angry sort of way. He was interested in him, but definitely didn’t desire him. He didn’t have time to worry about things like that.
They’d only just gotten rid of the Wendigo, and Derek was looking forward to a bit of time to himself before the next disaster hit.
And this was Beacon Hills. There was always a disaster looming on the horizon.
He didn’t know what time it was, whether it was extremely early, or extremely late, but he did know it was still dark outside which meant it was one or the other. He wished he had the energy to ignore the call he was getting, but he knew better than to ignore his phone.
Peeling open bleary green eyes, he caught sight of the time on his phone, proclaiming it was three forty-four in the morning. But what caught his attention was more the name flashing back at him and he arched his back instantly, grabbing the phone and pulling it closer. He answered the call and placed it against his ear, one arm braced against the bed to keep him mostly upright on his stomach.
“Chris,” he said in greeting. They never spoke unless it was bad, so this had to be bad given he hadn’t heard from Chris Argent in a good four months.
“I need a favour.”
“That’s unusual coming from you.”
“Will you help me or not? I don’t have a lot of time.”
“What do you need?” Derek asked, climbing out of bed and holding the phone between his ear and his shoulder, grabbing jeans off the floor and yanking them on over his boxers.
“Meet me at the Hale house.”
Derek scowled at that, but Chris had already hung up, so he couldn’t ask for more details, and he couldn’t snap at him for calling it the Hale house. It wasn’t the Hale house to Derek, it was his old childhood home.
Shoving his phone into his pocket, he got a shirt and his jacket on, then pulled on his shoes and grabbed his keys. When he descended the stairs, his phone went off and he checked the message on his way out of the building.
Is there a reason Allison just asked me to bring my mom to your old place?
Probably the same reason Chris called me to meet him there.
This doesn’t bode well.
Derek didn’t think so, either, but he just shoved the phone back into his pocket and climbed into the Camaro. He caught up to Scott’s car a little ways outside the Preserve, and they made their way as far as they could in the cars before they were forced to stop and continue on foot.
Melissa McCall looked tired, and ready to drop, but her eyes were still alert and she clutched tightly to Scott’s hand the entire time they walked, trying to keep her balance in the darkness of the forest.
They made it to the clearing before Chris did, Melissa sitting on the front steps of the house and dozing for a few minutes. Derek assumed she’d just come off shift, if not right before the call had happened, then shortly thereafter. She was a good woman, worked hard, cared about Scott. She’d taken his whole Lycanthropy change fairly well, considering. Derek really liked her.
“Do we know what’s going on?” Scott asked Derek after a brief silence.
“Nothing good,” Derek responded, which they’d already guessed.
They both turned when they heard movement to their left, listening to two sets of footsteps approach them. When the figures drew nearer, Derek could smell it on the air, and by the way Scott stiffened, he could too.
Allison came through the trees first, walking purposefully towards Scott, eyes darting around every few seconds as if to be sure no one else was there. Chris came through next, carrying an unconscious figure on his back.
“My God,” Melissa said, coming up between Scott and Derek.
Chris just hurried towards the front of the house, carefully depositing Stiles on the porch with Derek and Scott’s help.
He looked like he was in really bad shape. His face was bloodied and bruised, one eye swollen shut. It looked like a few fingers were broken, and his shirt was a tattered mess. Blood stained the front of his jeans, and even unconscious, he smelled like he was in pain.
Derek didn’t even know it was possible for someone to still feel pain while unconscious, let alone smell it.
“What happened?” he demanded, moving aside so Melissa could bend down and look him over, cursing under her breath. This wasn’t exactly the best place for this kind of thing, but Derek figured she’d make do for now.
“I would guess my father found out a few things,” Chris said with a scowl. “I don’t know how Stiles got out of the house, but I found him passed out on the driveway when I got home half an hour ago.”
Derek didn’t want to know why Chris had been out in the middle of the night, but figured it was either Hunter’s business, or something he didn’t want to think on too hard.
“He can’t stay with us, it’s the first place he’ll check for him.” Chris looked away from Stiles then, focussing on Derek. “Can you keep him?”
“You want me, the nephew of the man who killed his family, to take a highly trained and Werewolf-hating Hunter into my loft while he’s injured?” Derek demanded, eyebrows shooting up so high he worried he might lose them in his hairline.
“He has nowhere else to go,” Allison said quietly. “We need him out of sight, and your loft is the last place they’ll think of looking for him. Like you said, Werewolf-hater, why would he willingly put himself in your home?”
Derek wanted to refuse. This was crazy, and insane. He was going to get a wolfsbane bullet to the face, or a mountain ash jar to the throat. He couldn’t take this Hunter in, he wasn’t like Chris and Allison. Stiles would feel threatened the entire time he was in Derek’s space, and it would just make things awkward and uncomfortable for both of them.
“Your uncle killed his family,” Chris said quietly.
“Your sister killed mine,” Derek snarled back, baring his teeth.
“Don’t punish him for that.”
Derek growled and looked back down at Stiles. This was a bad idea. It was stupid, and horrible, and just begged for a bullet to the brain.
“Is he armed?” he grunted out after a tense silence.
“Keep him that way,” Derek spat, bending down and shifting Melissa aside carefully. “We’ll finish this at the loft.”
He wedged one hand under Stiles’ shoulders and the other beneath his knees, standing up and readjusting him as carefully as he could. Stiles’ head lolled against his shoulder and Derek grit his teeth, angry that he was considered a monster when a human had done this to Stiles.
“Derek.” Chris’ hand fell onto his shoulder and he turned to look at him. “Thank you.”
“Just get your family out of my territory,” Derek spat, knowing Chris would understand who he meant, then shrugged his hand off his shoulder and headed back for the trees.
He, Scott and Melissa went back the way they’d come, Derek manoeuvring carefully so as not to jostle or drop Stiles. The entire time he headed back for the Camaro, he couldn’t stop thinking about how this was a bad idea. Stiles was going to be furious.
He’d gone to Chris specifically because he trusted him, and Chris had handed him over to a bunch of Werewolves. No way Stiles was going to wake up and take that revelation well.
Not to mention Derek was going to have to be careful. Kate knew where he lived, and while she might not assume Stiles would be there, she would come around before leaving to give him a farewell gift, he was sure. A part of him wondered if Gerard was aware of her infatuation with him, not that he would bring it to light given that would only fuel Gerard’s attempts at murdering him on sight.
When they reached the cars, he put Stiles into the back of Melissa’s so she could work on him a little bit while they drove. He led the way back to the loft, and left the spot closest to the door free for Scott to park. When he got Stiles in his arms again, he heard him let out a sound of pain, which was bad, because it meant he was regaining consciousness.
They got him up to the loft, and Melissa immediately headed for the bathroom, plugging the tub and running the water to a reasonably warm temperature.
“We need to get him out of those clothes and cleaned up,” she said to Derek, who was standing awkwardly in the doorway with Stiles in his arms.
“I don’t think he’ll be happy about that while unconscious,” Derek informed her. He doubted he’d even be happy about it while conscious, but chose not to mention that.
“I’m a human, and he can deal with me. If he has a problem with that, we can send him back where he came from,” Melissa said, clearly not in the mood for the Hunter-Werewolf war.
Derek just glanced at Scott over his shoulder, who shrugged helpfully. Scott was good for being useful at nothing.
Struggling not to lose his shit on these people, Derek carefully set Stiles down on the toilet lid and he and Melissa got to work getting his clothes off. He let out little groans of pain every now and then, but seemed to mostly be unconscious. When they got his pants off, Melissa froze, carefully reaching out to touch lightly at the raised welts on his upper thighs.
Stiles was no stranger to pain, if the scars and injuries on his body were anything to go by. It really felt like he’d spent more time with Gerard and Kate for training than because he actually wanted to be there.
Maybe he’d wanted to leave before but had never had the chance. Maybe this was the first time he’d actually had somewhere to go, and had decided it was worth the risk.
Derek helped hold Stiles up while Melissa pulled his jeans off all the way, and then he got him into the tub in his underwear. Melissa barked at Scott to get her kit from the car, but he was already holding it out to her before she’d even finished asking for it. She took it from him, and then shooed both of them out of the bathroom before slamming the door.
Derek looked down at himself, scowling at the blood on his clothes, and went upstairs to change. He had to rinse his arms and neck off in the kitchen since his bathroom was occupied, but he managed to clean up enough that he couldn’t smell Stiles’ blood on his skin. At least, not much. He wouldn’t truly rid himself of it until he took a proper shower.
He knocked on the bathroom door a few minutes after having changed and waited for the all clear before entering. He just set a pair of loose fitting sweats and a large shirt on the counter before retreating again, going to wait on the couch with Scott.
Scott hadn’t said much since their arrival, and now he was sitting on the couch with a frown on his face, hands folded together and against his mouth, thinking. Derek didn’t dwell on it too much, grabbing a book and pretending to read while thinking about Stiles.
This wasn’t going to end well, and he knew it. He figured the safest thing to do was to get Melissa to put a mountain ash barrier at the base of the stairs and leave Stiles in his bed. That way, Stiles would know when he woke up that there was no way for Derek to have gone up there to hurt him while he was unconscious.
It did nothing for Derek’s safety, but he had to try and trust that Stiles wasn’t going to kill him. Besides, he didn’t have any of his weapons, so hopefully that was a good sign that he would survive the night.
Still didn’t make him feel better about Kate, though. He was going to be worried the entire time Stiles was in his loft.
It took Melissa a good hour to get Stiles cleaned up, and once she was done, she poked her head out to ask for help getting him dressed. Derek helped pull him out of the red-tinged water, Melissa drying him off as carefully as she could. She took off his underwear and got him into the loose fitting pants, but asked Derek to set him down somewhere so she could dress some of his wounds before getting his shirt on.
Figuring it would be best to just finish up upstairs, he brought Stiles to his bed and lay him out flat, Melissa taking a seat beside him and dressing his various wounds that required attention. Once he was as good as he was going to get without going to a hospital, she and Derek got his shirt on and then tucked him under the covers.
Scott hadn’t moved from his spot on the couch when they got back downstairs, and Derek turned to Melissa.
“Can you set up a mountain ash barrier at the base of the stairs?”
“Why?” she asked, startled.
“So he knows when he wakes up that I wasn’t going to hurt him.”
She seemed to think this was unnecessary, but followed through anyway. Derek always had some mountain ash in his apartment, despite only Deaton, Lydia and Melissa being able to use it, so they didn’t have to send her out to get any.
She opened the jar and poured a generous amount at the base of the stairs, then even walked to the top and made a line going across the top floor. When she was done, she returned the jar where she’d collected it from and turned to Derek, pulling pill bottles from her purse with a frown.
“I don’t have anything strong enough for what he’ll be feeling tomorrow, but give him some Tylenol and some Advil. Scott will pick up some food and bring it over later.”
“Sure,” Scott said quietly from the couch.
“I’ll check on him when I wake up before my shift,” Melissa said, handing over the pill bottles. “Just make sure he drinks plenty of fluids and stays in bed as much as possible.”
“I doubt he’ll listen to me,” Derek said, but he took the bottles anyway.
“Well, then he doesn’t know you very well.” Melissa rubbed his back gently, then turned to her son. “Let’s go.”
Scott still looked pensive, but he didn’t argue. He just stood, told Derek to be careful, and he and his mother left. Derek waited until he was sure they were gone before locking the loft door and wedging something heavy against it. He doubted Kate could get in through one of the windows, so really it was the doors he had to worry about.
He realized belatedly that all of his extra blankets and pillows were upstairs, so he just shrugged out of his jacket and lay down on the couch, deciding it would have to do for one night. He could get what he needed tomorrow after Stiles woke up.
Closing his eyes, Derek kept one ear out for any signs of trouble, and fell into a fitful sleep.
Testament to how exhausted he must’ve been, Derek didn’t hear Stiles until he was almost at the bottom of the stairs, at which time he wolfed out and sat bolt-upright, snarling over the back of the couch since it was aimed away from the stairs.
Stiles froze on the last step, one hand against his ribs and the other gripping the handrail in a white-knuckled grip. One of his eyes was still swollen shut, and it looked like a few injuries on his face had bled a bit during the course of the night, but he definitely looked better than he had when Derek had gone to pick him up.
Forcing the wolf back and rubbing at his face with one hand, Derek struggled to calm himself down, trying to get his brain back on track. He’d been so tired he hadn’t realized the sound was Stiles until sitting up, and now it looked like Stiles was trying to find a weapon to protect himself with.
“Where am I?” Stiles asked, voice rough but steady.
“My loft,” Derek informed him, getting to his feet and raking a hand through his hair. “You want coffee?”
“How did I get here?” Stiles asked hesitantly, still standing just beyond the mountain ash line.
“Chris,” Derek replied, pulling open a cabinet and taking down a mug. He realized he hadn’t even started the coffee machine yet and went about putting in a new filter and some grounds, listening to Stiles shift his weight on the stairs.
“Why am I here?”
Derek waited until he had the pot brewing before moving to stand in the kitchen doorway, leaning against the side and crossing his arms.
“Chris figured this would be the last place Gerard would think to check. You can’t say he’s wrong.”
Stiles said nothing, eyes shifting back and forth between Derek and the mountain ash line. He didn’t say anything about it, but he also didn’t cross it. He probably didn’t like his chances unarmed and injured against a Werewolf.
“I had Melissa set that up for you. I figured you’d feel more comfortable. Upstairs, too.”
“I saw,” Stiles said. “Why?”
“Because you don’t trust me, but you needed somewhere safe to stay.” Derek turned to check on the pot, despite knowing barely any time had passed. “Do you want food? Melissa said to keep you hydrated and Scott’s supposed to come by with some stuff, but I think I have soup.”
Stiles didn’t respond, but after what felt like an age, he finally crossed the mountain ash barrier and moved forward slowly, looking around the loft as if worried another Werewolf was going to jump out and attack him. He made his way slowly to the couch, sitting gingerly with a wince, and kept an eye on Derek.
Neither of them spoke for a while, Derek in the kitchen doorway and Stiles on the couch. After the coffee machine chirped at him, Derek went to grab himself a mug and started getting soup ready for Stiles, despite him not having said he actually wanted anything.
He sipped at his coffee while he worked, listening to Stiles out in the living room. He didn’t do anything, just sat there and breathed. His shallow breaths sounded like he was in pain, but he was too far for Derek to sniff him out, though he didn’t have any doubts he was hurting.
When the soup was done, Derek brought it out along with some water and the Tylenol, setting it down at the small table he had by the window. He figured it would be best to keep his distance from Stiles as much as possible.
“I’m gonna shower,” Derek informed him, checking the time and a little surprised at how late it was. “Melissa said she’d be by before her shift, so she should be coming around in a little bit.”
“Who’s Melissa?” Stiles asked.
“Scott’s mother. She’s a nurse. She patched you up last night.” Stiles scowled at him and Derek added dryly, “Don’t worry, she’s human.”
“I didn’t ask.”
“You didn’t have to.” Derek motioned the meal, realizing belatedly Stiles probably wouldn’t eat it. “Eat if you want. Leave if you want. I don’t care. Chris asked me to keep you here overnight as a favour. Whatever you do from this point on is up to you. Go back to your abusive Hunters if that’s what matters to you.”
Derek didn’t really believe that. He didn’t want Stiles to leave, to go back to horrible people who were more monster than man, but he also knew this was a pointless exercise. Chris felt like Stiles would be safest here, but Derek knew he wouldn’t stay. He’d spent eleven years with two people who hated Werewolves beyond all else, Stiles wasn’t going to just lounge around on the couch eating soup and hanging out with Derek.
And there was nothing he could do about that, and it really frustrated him. Derek hated not being able to help, but this was beyond his control.
He started for the stairs to grab some clothes, and paused when he realized he couldn’t climb them to the second floor. Scowling, he turned to Stiles.
“I need clothes.”
“Good for you,” Stiles replied.
“They’re upstairs,” Derek said through gritted teeth.
Stiles turned to look at him, and for a minute, Derek thought he was actually going to be an asshole and just stare at him until Derek went to shower. After a few seconds, he carefully stood, one hand against his ribs, and moved closer to the stairs, keeping an eye on Derek.
Derek himself just moved closer to the bathroom, letting Stiles cross the mountain ash to climb the stairs. He heard him shifting the powder upstairs first, likely not having wanted Derek following him up, and then returned slowly down the stairs, breaking that line as well and moving back towards the couch.
Considering Derek was doing all of this for Stiles, he didn’t thank him. He just moved to the stairs and climbed them to the second floor. He grabbed a new set of clothes and then went back down to the bathroom, disappearing into it without a backward glance. He locked the door for good measure, and got to work cleaning off the night’s events. He’d gotten most of it off in the sink in the kitchen, but that didn’t compare to a proper shower.
Once he was clean and dressed again, he opened the door and glanced over at the couch, scowling when he saw Stiles was gone. He was about to be pissed when he heard a shift to his left and whipped around.
Stiles was sitting at the table by the window, eating the soup. He resolutely didn’t look at Derek while doing so, and Derek chose to just take the win, heading back for his room upstairs to drop off his dirty clothes.
He was on his way back down when he heard a car pull up. Stiles obviously heard it, too, because he tensed and glanced out the window.
“It’s just Melissa,” Derek informed him, recognizing the sound of the car. He moved to the front door, realizing belatedly that Stiles couldn’t have gotten out anyway, and moved aside what he’d been using to wedge the door shut. He pulled it open and stood at the top of the stairs, waiting on Melissa to reach him.
She looked tired when she rounded the corner, but offered him a smile anyway.
“Did you get any sleep?” she asked him.
“A little,” he admitted.
“That’s good.” She patted his shoulder lightly while passing him, heading into the loft. “Well. Don’t you look leagues better,” she said to Stiles, approaching him and smiling, holding her hand out. “I’m Melissa, Scott’s mother. You must be Stiles.”
“Hi,” he said uncomfortably, but Derek saw him take her hand and give it a small shake.
“I just wanted to come by and check on you before heading to work, just to see if there’s anything I can help with. How are you feeling?” She was poking around at the bandages on his face and checking his shoulders through his shirt.
Stiles didn’t say much at first, eyes on Derek uncomfortably, but he eventually admitted that his ribs hurt and Melissa lifted his shirt to check them, advising they were likely bruised.
Scott showed up while Melissa was still checking on Stiles, and that made him extremely uncomfortable, probably because he was in a foreign space with two Werewolves and the mother of one of them. All enemies in his eyes, probably.
It was easy to sense his discomfort, so Scott only stayed long enough to drop off the food, then waved to his mother and left again. Derek put everything away while Melissa finished up, but she stopped in the kitchen before she left, lowering her voice.
“He’s in no condition to be leaving this place,” she said quietly. “Try and keep him here as long as you can.”
“That’s not up to me,” he insisted.
“I know, but you’ll find a way.” She smiled and patted his cheek, then turned and called goodbye to Stiles, heading out the door. When it shut behind her, Derek headed back into the kitchen doorway, Stiles not having moved from the small table.
They stared at one another for an uncomfortably long time, but Derek wasn’t exactly a chatter box and Stiles seemed not to know what to say. Derek almost wondered if that was how they were going to spend the entire day, just staring at one another, neither of them speaking.
Eventually, it looked like the silence was too much for Stiles, and he finally asked,
“Why are you helping me?”
“Because Chris asked me to.” He hesitated, then added, “And because you needed help.”
“But you’re a Werewolf,” Stiles insisted.
“So?” Derek raised his eyebrows. “There are good humans and bad humans. Why can’t the same hold true for Werewolves?”
Stiles said nothing to this and Derek got bored of their staring contest. He pushed away from the kitchen doorway and headed for the couch, grabbing his book and lying down to continue reading. He couldn’t see Stiles from his position, but he listened to him every time he shifted. His heart was beating faster than Derek was used to hearing, and he wondered if he had a heart condition.
Or maybe he was nervous, but he didn’t smell nervous. Just confused and in pain. Better than him being angry and scared.
After about ten minutes, he heard Stiles stand slowly and head for the stairs.
“I’m going back to bed.”
“Have fun,” Derek muttered after him.
He listened to Stiles put the mountain ash back in place before climbing the stairs. He did the same thing at the top, and Derek heard the bed springs creak when he climbed beneath the covers. Stiles was letting out small little gasps when he shifted, but eventually he settled and all went quiet upstairs.
When his breathing finally evened out, Derek stopped pretending to be reading and let his book fall onto his chest, staring up at his ceiling.
What was he even doing right now? Letting Stiles stay here was idiotic, not only for his own safety, but also Stiles’. He had no idea why he was allowing this to continue, he just knew that he had to keep Stiles out of the Argent’s hands because they were abusive psychopaths.
Nothing he didn’t already know, but still. Sometimes he couldn’t believe Chris and Kate were siblings, because they were nothing alike.
Derek ended up picking the book back up and reading until close to six in the evening, at which time his phone rang. The ringer was on, so he heard Stiles start awake upstairs, but he didn’t concern himself with it, pulling the phone from his pocket and scowling at the name.
“I’m still working on this last favour of yours, so maybe don’t ask for another,” Derek said in way of greeting.
“Just calling to check in. How is he?”
“Is he up? Can I talk to him?”
“Does he not have a phone?” Derek asked, irritated.
“Not on him.”
Rolling his eyes and exhaling loudly, Derek pushed himself into a seated position and moved to the bottom of the stairs.
“Stiles. It’s Chris.”
There was silence for a moment, then Stiles’ feet hit the ground and he made his way to the stairs. He descended them slowly and stopped just before the mountain ash line. Derek had to hold the phone out on the other side and Stiles reached across the barrier to take it, eying Derek briefly before putting it to his ear and heading back up the stairs.
“Stiles. I trust Derek is treating you well.”
Derek headed back for the couch while he listened in, Stiles moving up the stairs. He likely knew Derek could still hear him, but it wasn’t like he had anywhere else to go.
“I guess,” was Stiles’ response, which kind of irked Derek but he just let out a grunt of irritation and fell onto the couch again, picking up his book but not even pretending to read while he eavesdropped.
“How are you feeling today? Melissa told me she stopped by and you were still in bad shape.”
“I’m fine,” he grunted, sitting on the bed, the springs squeaking. He lowered his voice before continuing, but Derek still heard it. “I went to you for help and you brought me to a Werewolf.”
“Derek is a good man.”
“He’s not even a man, he’s a wolf!” Stiles hissed.
“My father would’ve come to collect you in minutes if you had stayed at my house. You know how he values you. Derek is your best chance of getting away from him.”
“Getting away and going where, exactly?” Stiles demanded. “I didn’t exactly have a normal upbringing. I was home-schooled and can’t get a job unless it involves killing Supernatural creatures.”
“Stiles, we’ll figure it out. For now, you just need to lay low and stay safe.”
“Yeah, safe with a Werewolf. Feeling real safe.”
“Derek is a good man, Stiles. He’ll help you if you let him.”
“His uncle killed my parents,” Stiles hissed angrily.
“Yes, and my father beat you to within an inch of your life last night. We are not our families, Stiles. Derek will help you if you let him.”
Stiles hung up without saying anything else and Derek waited to see what would happen next. He heard the bed shift, but Stiles didn’t come back down, which meant he was keeping the phone. That was fine, Derek didn’t need it anyway.
He just went back to reading his book and tried not to get angry whenever he thought of Stiles’ insulting words.
How Stiles could be more disgusted and scared of Derek than he was of Gerard Argent, Derek would never understand, but he didn’t dwell on it and did his best to ignore Stiles for the remainder of the evening.
Stiles breathed hard through his nose, attempting to be as silent as possible while he made his way down the stairs. He could hear Derek breathing slow and even on the couch, so he knew he was asleep. That was how he wanted him to stay so he could get the fuck out of there without getting mauled.
He made it to the bottom of the stairs, his ribs protesting loudly and most of his body on fire. His legs burned every time the pants rubbed against the welts on his thighs, and he wished—not for the first time—that he had gotten rid of Gerard’s fucking cane. Not that he wouldn’t have gotten a new one, but Stiles had gotten hit with that cane enough times in his life to wish it would turn into firewood.
Crossing the mountain ash line, Stiles made his way slowly and quietly towards the front entrance. He realized belatedly that it would make noise opening and stopped to stand in front of it, staring at it and wondering what to do. If he pulled it open, Derek would hear and wake up, but it wasn’t exactly like he was in any shape to climb down the side of the building.
“What are you doing?”
Stiles whipped around so fast his entire body ached and his vision went black for a second. Thankfully he was still on his feet when it returned and he found Derek staring at him, still lying on the couch, eyes open and glowing red.
For a moment, he felt his voice stuck in his throat, those red eyes staring at him only reminding him of the bright blue he had once seen as a child. But Derek didn’t move from the couch. He didn’t even sit up. He just lay there, watching him, waiting for an answer while Stiles stood frozen in front of the door.
“I’m going home,” Stiles finally said.
“That place is your home?” Derek asked. “Where they beat you and starve you and treat you like property?”
“Why do you care?” Stiles demanded. “I’m a Hunter. You’re a Werewolf.”
“Chris is a Hunter. So is Allison. He is my ally, and she’s dating Scott.”
Stiles said nothing, not knowing how to respond to that. He’d been listening to Allison and Chris talk about the Pack of Beacon Hills for days now. He knew enough about them himself from their various encounters, and not once has he felt threatened by them.
Gerard’s teachings were always black and white. Good and evil. There was no in between, but Stiles wasn’t so sure now. There were bad humans, just as there were good Werewolves. While he still didn’t know if he fully believed Derek was good, he’d been around him enough times to recognize he wasn’t bad, either.
And he couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that Kate had killed his family, and still she lived. Derek could’ve taken her out many times in the past, he was sure, but he hadn’t. Instead, he let her live. Her. Someone who had murdered his family.
Stiles had almost killed Derek when he thought the other had killed Peter before he could, and yet there Derek was, living his life, with the murderer of his entire family physically in town.
“This is all I know,” Stiles finally said, defeated. “Where else can I go?”
“You could stay,” Derek offered, finally sitting up. He did so slowly, as if not wanting to startle Stiles, and turned so he was sitting properly on the couch. “Chris is working on getting Gerard and Kate out of town. Once they’re gone, we can figure things out.”
“Why would you help me?” Stiles demanded. “You don’t even know me.”
“You didn’t kill me, for starters,” Derek said dryly. “That helps. And why does it matter why I help you? I’m choosing to help you, you should take that offer while it’s still on the table.”
Stiles glanced at the loft door, feeling his palms beginning to sweat. All he’d known for the past eleven years was that the Supernatural world was bad, and Hunters were here to make sure everything remained balanced. He had learned everything he could while taking abuse and being treated like property all for the sake of finding one Werewolf and killing him for having destroyed his life.
Now, he was standing in front of a door inside another Werewolf’s apartment, being asked to stay. Being asked to trust that he wouldn’t be like the monster who’d taken his parents.
Being asked to trust that he wouldn’t be like the monster Stiles was contemplating returning to.
He’d been gone a long time. If he didn’t go back now, Stiles knew he could never go back. If he did, they would kill him. They would insist he had gone soft, like Chris and Allison. Stiles didn’t have the backing of family on his side, it was the only reason Gerard beat him but didn’t lay a hand on his son and granddaughter. He didn’t want to hurt his own family, but Stiles was different.
Stiles had come to him on a silver platter. A broken child with only one goal in mind, easy to manipulate and desperate enough to stay. But now he had a choice. He could choose to stay. He could hide here, with Derek Hale, until Gerard and Kate forgot about him. He could go and stay with Chris and Allison after everything was said and done.
He could have a semi-normal life. Maybe. He’d probably still be a Hunter, but maybe there was some truth behind what Allison and Chris followed. Protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves, whether they be human or not.
Derek Hale seemed like a good person who’d had a lot of bad things happen to him. He had suffered, and seen people die, and been tortured, and yet he still held out his hand to a fallen Hunter and asked him to stay.
Stiles looked back over his shoulder at Derek, feeling his heartrate pick up, and couldn’t help but wonder what his life would’ve been like if it had been Chris to find him that day instead of Gerard. Maybe he would’ve been normal, like Allison. Maybe he wouldn’t hate Werewolves as much as he did.
Maybe this decision wouldn’t be so fucking hard.
It was impossible to change eleven years of training in only one month, but hadn’t Derek proved in that one month just how wrong everything Gerard said was? He said they were all monsters, but the only monster Stiles saw when he closed his eyes was Gerard.
“You said you don’t know me,” Derek said softly, standing slowly from the couch. “It’s true. I don’t know you either. But if you’re willing to talk to me, we can change that.”
Stiles didn’t know what to say, and he felt like his entire world was crumbling down around him, but before he could talk himself out of it, he felt his head give a small nod and Derek nodded back.
“I’ll make some coffee,” he said, and turned to do just that.
Stiles did not sleep easily for the next couple of days. His injuries healed, and it stopped being a chore going up and down the stairs, but he woke up in a cold sweat more often than not, panicking that Gerard was coming for him.
He’d never disobeyed him to this degree before. Stiles had always been a little rebellious and he often did things he shouldn’t, spoke out of turn, left without warning, but this was different. This time, he was gone. He had been gone for almost six days, and after a very uncomfortable three hour conversation with Derek in the middle of the night, he had decided he wasn’t going back.
Derek never said anything from downstairs when he heard Stiles jerk awake. He appreciated that, because this was hard enough without Derek breathing down his neck every two seconds asking if he was okay. He very clearly was not, and Derek was smart enough to pick up on that.
He still didn’t know that he trusted him, and always had the mountain ash in place when he went up to bed, but Derek didn’t complain about it and never made any comments about sleeping on the couch. He was gone sometimes when Stiles woke up, but he always came back within a few hours with groceries or mail or other randomly normal things.
It was incredibly surreal to see Derek as a person and not as a Werewolf. He did normal people things, like take showers and go for runs and he even ate real food. Stiles hadn’t really given much thought to what Werewolves ate growing up, but he supposed a part of him had always assumed it was all raw meat and human flesh.
Derek ate neither of those things. He seemed to like burgers, but always well done, and he occasionally brought home some fish and chicken. Nothing raw or remotely human-like. He also happened to be a fairly good cook, and while they’d spent a majority of the first few days eating separately and staying in their own parts of the loft, by the fifth day Stiles came down while Derek was making dinner and sat at the table. Derek didn’t say anything and just set two plates down before taking a seat and beginning to eat.
It was weird. Extremely weird. Most days Stiles didn’t know how to handle the weirdness.
But Derek was good about that. He gave Stiles space, didn’t crowd him, and made sure he was around if Stiles needed him. It felt nice. It was different from living with Gerard and Kate, and he imagined this was what normal people were like.
Well, as normal as Werewolves could be, he supposed.
On day six, when things were a little less tense and Stiles was more comfortable with Derek, the Werewolf came home with some bags of chips and a few movies, and asked him if he would be all right with Scott coming over.
Truthfully, the answer was no, but he said he was fine with it. Thankfully, when Scott showed up, he brought Allison with him and Stiles got to spend the entire evening watching her and Scott cuddle together on the couch and feed each other chips and be generally disgustingly cute.
It was weird.
They left close to eleven that night, and Stiles was so tired that he trudged upstairs and fell into bed, only to remember the moment he awoke the next morning that he’d forgotten to put the mountain ash barrier back up.
He was still alive though, and Derek didn’t make any comments about it, so Stiles tried to pretend it had been intentional and left the path open going forward.
Derek never went upstairs without asking Stiles if he could first, and he never headed up when Stiles was already up there. It was weirdly considerate, given it was Derek’s loft, but he appreciated it all the same.
It was still another week before Chris called to confirm that Gerard and Kate were gone, and Stiles hadn’t realized how tense he was about that until he knew without a shadow of a doubt they had left without him. It felt nice being able to breathe more easily, but he also felt confused and nervous.
He didn’t know what to do with himself now, and with the Argents gone, he wondered if that meant it was time to clear out of Derek’s loft. He didn’t know how he felt about that, because while he desperately wanted to escape from the Werewolf, he also kind of liked him.
In a weird sort of way.
Derek was an interesting person. Quiet, but honest, and kind. And he and Stiles had a lot in common, only from different sides of the fight. He found that he didn’t hate being around Derek, and he actually wanted to learn a bit more about how things really were for him being a born wolf.
They talked a lot more once Gerard and Kate were gone, and while Derek still slept on the couch, he never asked Stiles when he was going to leave. Chris called every now and then to check in, but he also didn’t ask when Stiles was going to be moving in.
If no one was going to kick him out, Stiles figured he would just stay. So he did. He holed up in Derek’s loft, wearing his clothes, eating his food, reading his books. He was given access to a computer and the internet—something he’d always had to fight for in secret in the past—and learned about the Argent Beastiary through Chris and Allison.
He made friendly with Scott, which was challenging, but possible. He learned about how he’d let go of his anger at Peter for having turned him.
Stiles only knew of Hunters who’d been bitten, and the code said they had to take their own lives if they started to turn, so hearing about someone like Scott was interesting and also a little sad. He hadn’t asked for this life any more than Stiles had, and the more he spoke to the Werewolves, the more he realized how much Gerard had lied to him.
It made a lot of sense now why he didn’t want Stiles and Allison to speak. Why he’d kept Chris away from Stiles for so many years. He didn’t want him to be influenced, and while he’d believed wholeheartedly when he’d arrived that it would be impossible, he knew better now.
It wasn’t influence, it was knowledge. Truth. It was Stiles being given all the facts and told to make his own decisions about what he thought was right and wrong.
Werewolves were bad, and human were good.
But humans could also be bad, and Werewolves could also be good.
Peter Hale was a murdering asshole, and he was a Werewolf.
Kate Argent was a psychotic murdering bitch, and she was a human.
Derek Hale was kind, considerate and caring, and he was a Werewolf.
Chris Argent was comforting, protective and good, and he was a human.
The world wasn’t all black and white, it was full of greys, and Stiles was finally coming to terms with that, as difficult as it was for him to admit.
Maybe he could truly be okay.
“Hey Derek?” Stiles asked, staring up at the ceiling with his feet in Derek’s lap and his hands behind his head.
“Hm?” Derek asked distractedly, reading another one of his million books. In the month Stiles had been living with him, he’d seen Derek read at least a book a day, but he had no idea where they all came from. He didn’t seem to come home with new ones, but he always magically had one that Stiles was positive he hadn’t seen before.
“Do you think I could go to school?” Stiles asked, frowning.
Derek’s hand, which had previously been rubbing absently at Stiles’ ankle, paused in its action and when Stiles looked over at him, the Werewolf had an eyebrow cocked.
“Stiles, you were home-schooled.”
“Yeah, but I mean, I want to actually do something,” he insisted, looking back up at the ceiling and frowning. “All my qualifications are good for nothing, at this point. I barely have a high school education, no one’s gonna hire me.”
“You’re extremely smart, even without that.”
“Still, I need to get out there. Have a life. Not stay cooped up in your apartment with you all day all the time.”
“I like staying in the apartment with you,” Derek confessed, returning his gaze to his book. “We have good conversations.”
“You know what I mean,” Stiles insisted, sitting up and pulling his feet from Derek’s lap. “It’s been a month, and I still haven’t even left the loft to go to the store.”
“So?” Derek asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“So,” Stiles said, sighing in exasperation, “what am I even doing right now? I’m just... a lump. I’m just a huge lump sitting here doing nothing all the time. I need to get out, try and make friends, be normal.” He scowled. “I don’t even really know what being normal is.”
“You’re normal,” Derek confirmed, eyes back on his book. “And there’s nothing wrong with needing some time to get more accustomed to everything.”
“Are you just trying to keep me here all to yourself?” Stiles asked, a smile on his lips.
He got a real look for that one and let out a small laugh. He liked the looks Derek gave him, they were at once annoyed and endearing.
Derek was nothing like he’d ever expected that first day he’d met him in the woods. It was hard to reconcile the angry, snarling monster beneath him with the same person sitting on the other end of the couch, who’d previously been rubbing absently at his ankle.
Sometimes, Stiles thought Derek liked his company almost more than Stiles liked his. It was a nice thought, being wanted. And not because he wanted anything from him, but just... being close to each other.
Even if Derek still slept on the couch. Stiles wasn’t giving up the bed.
“I’ll talk to Chris,” Derek finally said. “I’ll see if he has any ideas. Maybe we can enroll you in some night classes at the high school, get a real grade out of you so you can take online classes at Beacon Hills Community College.”
“Really?” Stiles asked excitedly, shifting closer to Derek, eyes bright and excited.
Derek gave him a weird look. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d go for it!”
“Why not? I like it when you’re happy.”
Hearing that made a warmth fill his chest and Stiles beamed at Derek so widely it hurt his face. He fell back onto the couch, feet landing on Derek’s lap again, and thought about classes. He’d never really learned much in Sciences barring what he’d needed to learn to make weapons, so he was a little curious about that. And Economics. He didn’t get any classes on Economics, but Scott always complained about how that was his worst class in high school so Stiles was curious to know more about it.
They were silent for another few minutes, Derek’s hand back on Stiles’ ankle and the pages turning slowly while he read when Stiles spoke again.
“Can we go to dinner?”
“Are you hungry?” Derek asked. “I guess I could eat, what do you want me to get?”
“No, I mean, you and me. Outside. Together.” Stiles sat up again, feet still in Derek’s lap. “I want to leave the apartment. Go to that diner you always bring curly fries home from. Have conversations with people I don’t know.”
Derek looked surprised, though Stiles wasn’t sure why. He’d literally just been talking about wanting to leave the apartment to go to school, it made sense he’d want to start small and go somewhere else first.
Not that Stiles had been a recluse while living with Gerard, but he definitely hadn’t left Derek’s loft since arriving in it unconscious. He kind of wanted some fresh air and to go out and spend some time elsewhere with Derek.
“Sure,” Derek said, closing the book and frowning at him. “If you want. Are you sure?”
“I’ve been outside before, Derek.” Stiles rolled his eyes.
“I know, but not since...”
Stiles just shrugged when he trailed off and threw his legs back over the side of the couch, standing and stretching, then wincing.
“Maybe I should shower first, I stink. How do you live with me.”
“It’s not without its challenges,” Derek said, a smirk teasing the corners of his lips. Stiles just grinned at him and went upstairs to get some clothes. He always had to dig around to find something that fit him, since everything belonged to Derek, but this was going to be tougher given he needed actual clothes and not sweats and an oversized tee.
Derek wandered up a few minutes later when Stiles still hadn’t come back down and let out a small laugh.
“I’ll call Scott. I guess we’ll have to get you some clothes.”
“Yeah.” Stiles frowned and turned to Derek. “How have I lived here for a month and not gotten clothes?”
“You wore mine, remember? It’s why I have to do laundry twice as often.”
Stiles laughed and followed him downstairs, figuring he could shower and the clothes would arrive by the time he was done.
Scott was still there when Stiles exited the bathroom in the jeans and plaid shirt, and he nodded his approval.
“Plaid looks good on you. I should bring by all my shirts, I don’t wear it.” He nodded towards the door. “Brought you some socks and shoes, too.”
“Thanks. Though next order of business should definitely be underwear.” He glanced at Derek, feeling sheepish for asking. “Can we stop at a store on the way and get some? Sweats commando is fine, but jeans are a little different.”
“Sure.” Derek stood and Scott followed suit. He looked almost more excited than Stiles felt when they left the loft and Stiles got a good look around the building for the first time. It looked a little run down in the stairwell, which was surprising given the loft was amazing. He supposed maybe he was just biassed because he’d been living there for a while, but it was still nice to finally step foot outside.
The air was cool against his skin and he looked around the area, seeing it in person instead of through a window and grinning. He’d missed this, but knew he hadn’t been ready. He still worried Kate and Gerard were going to appear out of nowhere and grab him before Derek could even think of stopping them, but it had been a month and nothing had happened, so he tried to be optimistic.
They split off from Scott when he waved and went to his mother’s car, and Stiles climbed into the passenger seat of Derek’s Camaro with an appreciative whistle.
“Nice car. Compensating?” he asked when Derek climbed in.
He got a look for that, but Derek didn’t comment. He just closed his door and started the car.
They drove to a store a few blocks away for Stiles to get some underwear and Derek made him get some more clothes since they were already there. He felt guilty, and hated watching the total creep upwards when they reached the cash register, but Derek didn’t say anything and just paid with his credit card before gathering the bags and walking out.
“I’ll pay you back,” Stiles told him when they were back in the car. “For everything. One day. Not now, obviously, but eventually.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Derek said, glancing over his shoulder before changing lanes. “I have the money.”
“Still. I’ve been mooching off you for a month, I feel like I should be doing more.”
“I don’t mind,” Derek said.
“I’m paying you back,” he repeated.
“Whatever you say.”
Stiles shoved his shoulder lightly and enjoyed watching the side of Derek’s lips quirk upwards.
When they reached the diner, Stiles let Derek lead the way inside and they were brought to a table. Stiles made small talk with the waitress, who was extremely sweet, and was happy to note that he seemed normal. Their conversation was normal, his responses were normal, the way he looked at the menu and ordered was normal. Everything was normal.
He’d worried he’d forgotten how to be normal, so this was a relief.
“So how come you read so much?” Stiles asked Derek once the waitress had brought him a Coke and Stiles a milkshake. “I mean, I get it, you like to read, but don’t you ever get bored?”
Derek shrugged, licking his lips after having taken a sip of his drink and setting the glass down. “Not really. I just find different things to read. Fiction, non-fiction, Supernatural related.”
“What’s your favourite book?” Stiles asked, interested.
Derek thought about it for a long time before choosing a Dickens book, which Stiles wouldn’t have expected. They argued about the writing until their food arrived, and then moved on to book-to-movie adaptations, which was easier for Stiles to win the war on given Derek didn’t seem to watch much television. He had one, and he brought home movies every now and then, but he seemed content to sit on the couch and read in silence with Stiles.
When the waitress came back to ask if they wanted anything else, Stiles glanced at Derek and hopefully asked about dessert. Derek rolled his eyes but agreed and ordered himself a coffee while Stiles perused the small dessert selection and chose the most tooth-rottingly chocolate dessert he could find.
When it arrived, it came with two spoons, and Stiles very kindly offered Derek some of his dessert, which he didn’t expect Derek to take him up on so he was surprised to find half his dessert gone before Derek had even finished his coffee.
“Sweet tooth,” Stiles said thoughtfully, licking his spoon before waggling it at Derek. “I never would’ve figured that.”
“I like it,” Derek shrugged, taking another bite of the almost finished dessert, “but it’s bad for you so I try not to eat it too much.”
“I never really got to have things like this after my parents died,” Stiles admitted, fighting Derek’s spoon out of the way to get the last piece of brownie. He was pretty sure Derek just let him win. “I think we used to come here.” He looked around while chewing on the piece of brownie, his mind picking up various things he seemed to think were familiar. “It looks like a place my dad would’ve liked.”
“I remember your dad,” Derek said quietly, and Stiles looked at him, surprised. “I only met him a few times, but he was a nice man. And your mother taught my older sister in middle school. They were good people. They didn’t deserve what happened to them.”
Stiles managed a smile, knowing that must’ve been something Derek had been trying to say to him for a while.
“Your family seem like they were good people, too,” he whispered, tapping his spoon awkwardly against the edge of the dessert bowl. “Your parents raised a good son. I’m sorry about what happened to them.”
They went silent for a few moments, Stiles clearing his throat and dropping the spoon into the bowl before leaning back. “Well, that was fun. Good share.” He clapped his hands, trying to move them out of the awkward stage but before he could think of anything, Derek’s phone rang.
He sighed, like it was a huge inconvenience even having one, then pulled it from his pocket and frowned.
“Who is it?” Stiles asked.
“Chris,” Derek replied, answering the call. “Yes?”
Silence for a few moments while Chris spoke, then Derek said, “Yeah, he’s here. Why?” Another bout of silence and Derek’s face closed off.
Stiles frowned, not liking the expression, or the way Derek’s hand tightened around the phone.
“I’ll call you back in ten minutes. No, we’re out. Let me bring him home. I’ll call in ten minutes.”
Derek hung up and looked around for the waitress, raising one hand and motioning the check.
“What just happened?”
“Not now,” Derek said. His words were harsh, but his tone was soft. “Let’s just go home first.”
Stiles didn’t argue, but he felt nervous and tense the entire time he waited for Derek to pay and drive them both back to the loft. They almost forgot the bags in the trunk, but Derek detoured at the last second to grab them and Stiles held open the building door. He followed Derek up the stairs to the loft and opened the door for him when they reached it, closing it behind him while Derek dumped the bags on the floor, let out a breath, and then pulled his phone out.
He called Chris back, presumably, because he just said, “We’re home,” before handing the phone over to Stiles.
He took it, concerned, and put it to his ear.
“Hello?” he asked cautiously.
“Stiles,” Chris said, voice sounding wrecked. “I’m gonna need you to sit down.”
“Okay,” he said slowly, moving to the couch and taking a seat. “What’s going on? What happened?”
“Stiles, Gerard is dead.”
Derek didn’t know what to do.
He didn’t know what to say, what to offer, what to fucking do.
Stiles had completely shut down after his call with Chris, and all Derek could get out of him was that he was confused about how to feel, and he only knew that because he could smell it on him.
Gerard Argent was an awful man, and had been horrible to Stiles for eleven years of his life. But he was still a parental figure, he’d still taken him in, trained him, kept him clothed and fed—for the most part. And now he was dead.
Derek hadn’t gotten much out of Chris after Stiles had shut down. There was no word on Kate, but Chris suspected she was either dead or about to be killed. She’d been bitten, apparently, and was in Mexico with the Calaveras, who were very strict with their code. She would either take her own life, or they would take it for her.
Good riddance, in Derek’s opinion, but he knew it wasn’t that simple for Stiles. While a part of Derek was thrilled Kate was either dead or dying, he was still bitter that she wasn’t suffering as much as his family had in their final moments. He hoped her death was messy and painful, and that was a part of him he hated, but couldn’t deny.
He hated Kate Argent, and was glad to be rid of her.
But Stiles didn’t have that deep-bone hatred for the Argents in him. He had some hate for them, of course he did, for everything they had done to him, but they were also his family. He’d lived with them for years, Gerard was like his father, and for him to be dead seemed to be taking a huge toll on Stiles.
And Derek didn’t know what to do.
He wanted to offer him words of condolences, even though they both knew he wouldn’t mean them. But that wasn’t the point. It didn’t matter if he hated Gerard, he knew Stiles hadn’t fully hated him. He knew Gerard was someone to him, and he cared enough about Stiles to want to offer him comfort despite hating the reason he was upset.
When eleven o’clock rolled around and Stiles still hadn’t moved from the couch, Derek sat down a little ways from him, angled in his direction, and let out a slow breath.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Derek asked.
Stiles shook his head slightly, eyes on the floor and folded hands pressed against his lips.
Derek tried for something else to ask, frustrated with himself, and settled on, “Are you okay?”
He knew it was a stupid question, Stiles wasn’t okay in the slightest, but it was all he could come up with.
When Stiles didn’t answer, Derek just sat there, not knowing what else to do, if he should say anything else, if he should just get up and leave the apartment. He wanted to help, he just didn’t know how. This was so far outside his area of expertise.
“Am I a bad person,” Stiles said quietly almost ten minutes later, “for not knowing how to feel?”
“No,” Derek said immediately. “You’re not.”
“He raised me.”
“To be property. Not a person.”
“He took care of me.”
“For his own gains.” Derek shifted a bit closer to him, bumping Stiles’ knee with his own. “Stiles, he was a bad person. I know there had to be some good in there for a time, but at the end of the day, if you’re not sad he’s gone, that doesn’t say anything about you. It says everything about him.”
Stiles didn’t respond to that and Derek stayed close to him, shifting a little so he was pressed against his side, but saying nothing.
When half past came around, Stiles finally said, “Can we go to bed?”
“Sure.” Derek stood and held a hand out to Stiles. When he took it, Derek hauled him to his feet and walked to the stairs with him. He stopped at the bottom when Stiles began to climb, but then the other turned and clenched his hand in the front of Derek’s shirt, staring at the floor to avoid looking at him.
“No, I mean—can you stay with me?”
Derek felt like his heart had just hit his feet and he had no idea why. Maybe because, despite their easy friendship over the past few weeks, Stiles had never shown this level of trust in him before. He was asking Derek to stay with him, when he was at his most vulnerable, and doing so like he hadn’t hated him a month ago.
He was asking Derek to stay with him.
“Sure,” Derek said quietly.
When Stiles nodded once, eyes still on the floor, he released Derek’s shirt and climbed the stairs. Derek went to lock the door and turn off the lights, then followed without a word. When they reached the top, he realized it had been a long time since he’d slept in his own bed. He didn’t mind the couch, it was comfortable, but it was weird to realize this was still his room when he barely spent any time in it.
Stiles pulled off the plaid shirt he’d worn to dinner and kicked off his shoes, then crawled into bed in the borrowed jeans and socks. Derek stripped out of his own shirt and shoes, but also pulled off his pants because he wouldn’t get any sleep in the rough material. He climbed into bed behind Stiles in his boxer-briefs, shifting close enough that they were touching but not crowding him. They hadn’t turned on any lights upstairs, so there wasn’t even a way for him to procrastinate this. He just lay down behind Stiles on his back, staring at the ceiling. He pressed his side against Stiles’ back in silent comfort, but honestly wasn’t sure of his welcome. Stiles was just a wave of confusion crashing over him.
Derek tried not to dwell on it and instead focussed on the other undertones of Stiles’ scent. The bed didn’t have a hint of Derek anymore, just an overwhelming smell of Stiles. Mostly good smells, like happiness and comfort and safety. There was some arousal in there, too, but so faint that it couldn’t happen often.
Some bad smells, too. Fear, anger, pain. Stiles had nightmares, and while Derek never asked him about them, he knew they took their toll on him. He wondered how Stiles would fare now knowing that the source of his nightmares was dead.
“Thank you,” Stiles suddenly said in the darkness.
“For what?” Derek asked.
Derek rolled onto his side, pulling Stiles back against his chest and pressing his lips to his temple. “You’re gonna be okay. You know that, right?”
“In time,” Stiles whispered.
“Healing takes time. I know that better than most people.”
Stiles said nothing for a moment, then asked, “Can I stay?”
“As long as you need.”
Derek slept badly that night, mostly because Stiles kept waking up in a cold sweat, but every time he did Derek just tightened his grip on him until he fell back asleep.
Knowing Stiles felt safe with him there made all the difference in the world.
They didn’t speak about Gerard the next morning, and Derek drove Stiles to Chris’ house for the first time since he’d moved in so he could spend some time with people who had the same confused feelings as him.
He spent a majority of the day cleaning the apartment and trying to organize the bedroom so that his and Stiles’ clothes fit properly. He washed the sheets and blankets, then regretted it when their combined scents disappeared, but that wasn’t a road he wanted to travel down right now.
He hadn’t realized how much he cared about Stiles until the previous night. Of course he cared, he wouldn’t have let him stay for so long if he didn’t, but it wasn’t until he’d been holding him while he slept that Derek realized how much he cared.
And that was a lot. And very confusing. And emotions he didn’t want to deal with.
When he was finished cleaning the loft, he tried to sit and read, but it felt too empty. Stiles had always been around of late, and he felt oddly incomplete sitting there reading without Stiles’ feet in his lap or his head on his shoulder. Stiles may have been mostly quiet and pensive in all the time they’d spent together, but he was still a presence. He was there, and for him to suddenly not be there was throwing Derek off.
More than once he reached into his pocket to pull out his phone to ask Chris when he could pick him up, but he knew Stiles needed this so he forced himself to just sit there and read.
When it started getting too difficult to ignore, he turned on the television instead and watched a few cooking shows. Around five, he got up to make dinner, not even sure if he should be making enough for just himself, or extra for Stiles. He settled for extras, figuring even if Stiles didn’t come back tonight, he’d still have food for the next day.
He was almost done when he heard a car pull up outside and practically ran to the window to look out of it. Stiles was climbing out of Chris’ car and Derek felt a tension he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying all day slowly seep out of his shoulders.
He returned to the kitchen to finish up dinner and was still there when the loft door opened and shut. Stiles padded towards the kitchen and moved to stand beside Derek, looking down at what he was making.
He smelled better than he had that morning, but there was still confusion wafting off him, and some guilt, too. Derek figured it would take him a while to get over his mixed feelings of Gerard’s death, but at least he smelled better.
“Miss me?” Stiles asked, a forced teasing note in his tone.
“Were you gone?” Derek asked back, turning to offer him a small smile.
Stiles snorted and pinched his side, then went to gather some plates. He set the table while Derek finished what he was cooking and then he brought the pan out to divvy it up between their plates. When he returned from setting the pan in the sink, he found Stiles poking at the food with a frown.
“This is new.”
“I just saw it on TV,” Derek informed him, sitting down and grabbing his fork. “Figured I’d give it a try.”
“You were watching TV? You must have missed me,” Stiles said with a small smile.
Derek didn’t answer, but he didn’t feel like he had to. Stiles knew he’d missed him, and considering Stiles had come back, it was obvious the feeling was mutual.
Weird to think that not so long ago they had been enemies.
They chatted easily during dinner, keeping the topics light and away from unpleasant things. When they’d cleaned up, Stiles went to take a shower and Derek actually managed to read a bit now that Stiles was back in the house. When he exited the bathroom, Stiles took up his usual spot lying on the couch with his feet in Derek’s lap and stared at the ceiling.
An hour later, he asked Derek for a book. Not knowing what else to do, Derek just handed over the one he was in the middle of reading and watched Stiles flip to the beginning. He stared at him as he read for what felt like entirely too long, and must’ve definitely been because Stiles eventually looked over at him.
“Nothing. You just don’t read much.”
Stiles shrugged and returned his gaze to the page. “You do it enough that it can’t be that boring.”
Derek chuckled, squeezing Stiles’ ankle, and then reached down for another book on the coffee table. He’d already read it, but he didn’t want to take the book back from Stiles so he just started it over again.
When Stiles started yawning and said he was going to head to bed, Derek just grunted to confirm he’d heard him, and felt his chest warm when Stiles paused at the stairs and said,
“I’ll see you upstairs.”
Derek didn’t go to bed for another hour, but knowing he was invited back to his own bed seemed weirdly nice. So after turning off all the lights and getting ready for bed, he climbed up to the second floor and stripped to his boxer-briefs before crawling into bed behind Stiles.
Stiles grumbled in his sleep and rolled over, burying his face in Derek’s chest before exhaling deeply and stilling, continuing to sleep. Derek smiled despite himself and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him closer and closing his eyes.
He ignored that this was definitely going to be a problem.
Derek scowled and tapped his pencil against the page of his book in annoyance, brain turning over the clue continuously. He didn’t know why he was doing this to himself, but figured it was probably because he was bored. He couldn’t read anymore when Stiles was out, and he’d already watched four cooking shows today. If he watched one more, he was liable to kill someone.
He was ready to call it quits when he heard the outer door open and let out a relieved sigh, listening to Stiles hurry up the stairs. When he pulled open the loft door, he was grinning like an idiot and it made Derek smile to see him so happy.
“How was class?” he asked while Stiles kicked off his shoes at the door and dropped his bag.
“Fine. This teacher really doesn’t like being corrected in front of the class, though. You’d think they’d make more of an effort not to be wrong if they don’t want me to embarrass them.”
Derek rolled his eyes while Stiles headed for the kitchen to grab a drink, sighing and rubbing his face with both hands.
“You know it’s awkward when I have to go down there as your guardian, right? I’m only three years older than you.”
“But you look so good when you’re playing daddy,” Stiles teased from out of sight.
Derek sometimes wondered if Stiles did things like this on purpose. He’d been making a lot of inappropriate comments of late, and Derek couldn’t help but feel like they were intentional and there to make him suffer.
Because nobody could be blind enough not to notice that Derek was seriously into Stiles. Like, seriously into him. Would bend him over the table any time into him.
And either Stiles knew and thought it was hilarious, or he didn’t know and was being cruel by accident. Derek honestly didn’t know which would be better.
He felt Stiles leaning over him from behind, chin on his shoulder before he said, “Tantrum.”
Stiles reached around him and tapped at the crossword. “Sixteen down. Burst of bad temper. It’s tantrum.”
“Oh.” Derek picked his pencil back up and wrote the word in, wondering how he’d missed that.
Stiles stayed where he was, chin on Derek’s shoulder and one arm around his side, resting on the table. He was breathing against Derek’s cheek, and the two of them completed the puzzle together, Stiles getting more words than Derek did.
In Derek’s defence, Stiles was extremely distracting.
Once the puzzle was complete, Stiles pulled away and went back to the kitchen, rooting around in the cupboards for a snack, from the sounds of it. He always ate before heading to his evening class, but came home wanting to snack on something so Derek tried to keep the place stocked with various chips and nuts for him.
Stiles returned with a handful of almonds and went to grab his bag before falling onto the couch. Derek heard him shuffling around for a little bit, crunching on the almonds, then his pen began to scratch against paper, Stiles obviously doing his homework.
They were silent while they both worked, and Derek closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling. It was nice living like this with Stiles. They were both comfortable, and happy, and that was the most important thing, in his opinion.
It had been almost three months since Stiles had moved in, and while Chris had asked once if he was ever planning on moving out, Derek had made it clear he didn’t mind having him around and Stiles seemed happy to stay with him.
They’d had a few fights in the past few months, but nothing groundbreaking and they never went to bed angry, which was the most important thing, in Derek’s opinion. It was hard living with another person sometimes, but they worked pretty well together.
They shared the chores, even though Derek had never told Stiles he had to do the laundry or clean the bathroom. He liked that Stiles took two of the jobs he hated, so he didn’t complain. Derek, for his part, did the cooking and shopping. They usually cleaned the rest of the apartment together, and took turns taking out the trash.
They still shared the bed, even if Stiles was a bed hog and Derek was a furnace, and they ate all of their meals together. Derek liked the routine, and he felt like Stiles enjoyed a little stability after the weird life he’d had the past eleven years.
It worked for them, and everyone could see it. Even Malia had commented that Derek seemed like less of an asshole lately, and she thanked Stiles for pulling the stick out of his ass. Derek hadn’t found that comment nearly as funny as Stiles had, but he admitted that Stiles had definitely helped mellow him out.
But he also knew he’d changed Stiles for the better, too. He was less hostile towards the unknown, and the previous week he had even helped a wounded Hellhound to Deaton’s on his way back from class. It probably helped that said Hellhound was in a deputy’s uniform, but Stiles definitely wouldn’t have helped him three months ago.
He was learning, and he was happy, and Derek loved that.
He loved Stiles.
His pencil froze above the page, Derek staring at it wide-eyed when he finally realized what that feeling was. He knew he liked Stiles, of course he did, but it wasn’t until that very moment that he realized he loved him.
Holy fucking shit, he loved Stiles.
“Are you okay over there?”
Derek started and turned to the couch, Stiles’ head poking up over the back of it.
“You’re breathing pretty hard.” Stiles frowned. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Derek looked back down at his crossword. “Just frustrated.”
“Need help?” Stiles teased.
Stiles just shrugged and went back to his work, but Derek’s mind reeled and he buried one hand in his fringe, tugging at his hair. This was bad. It was one thing to be interested in Stiles, he could keep his hands to himself if it was just infatuation or even liking him, but if he loved him...
That was bad for wolves. Loving someone wasn’t as easy as just having strong feelings for them and then letting them go if things didn’t work out. If he loved Stiles, it meant he would do anything to be with him, and that thought terrified him.
He’d once thought that was how he felt about Kate, but he knew better when he grew up. This feeling was ten times more intense, and it was with someone who had been lied to and kept on a tight leash a majority of his life. He probably didn’t know very much about relationships in general, and now Derek had no idea what he should be doing.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Stiles asked, head popping up again.
“I’m fine,” Derek snapped without meaning to, throwing his pencil down and rubbing at his eyes. “Just—thinking.”
“Everything okay?” Stiles asked slowly. Derek heard him shifting and hoped he wasn’t coming over, but should’ve known better. He heard Stiles’ soft footsteps approach before he fell into the chair beside him. “What’s wrong?”
“I told you,” Derek dropped his hands, “I’m just thinking.”
“You sound a little like you’re having a panic attack,” Stiles insisted, eying him with concern. “You know you can talk to me, right?”
“I know that,” Derek admitted. It was something the two of them had done a lot of over the past few months. Talking, honesty, getting things off their chests. To date they’d covered virtually every topic they needed to barring Peter, and now Derek’s new revelation.
He knew Stiles wasn’t ready to talk about Peter, and Derek... he definitely wasn’t ready to talk about this.
“I’m fine,” he repeated, keeping his voice even and picking his pencil back up. “Go back to your homework.”
“Okay,” Stiles said, stretching the word out. He smacked the table lightly with both hands and stood, heading back for the couch and falling down onto it.
Derek stared down at his crossword puzzle, but didn’t get another word out the rest of the night.
“Derek’s been acting weird,” Stiles said, frowning at the commercials playing on the large screen. Scott was beside him throwing popcorn in the air and catching it between his teeth, seeming more and more impressed with himself the more he caught.
“Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know, he’s just... different,” Stiles insisted, slouching in his seat and wishing the movie would start already. He didn’t like being in crowded places, it left too many openings, but Scott really liked going to the theatre and Stiles liked spending time with him, so he tolerated it.
He usually also got a free dinner out of it afterwards, so it was hard to argue. Though most things in Stiles’ life were free right now, but he wasn’t taking advantage of it.
He made sure that he pulled his weight with Derek, did his best to earn his keep, and always promised he’d pay him back when he could afford it. Derek never said anything about it, and Stiles knew he didn’t really care, but Stiles wanted to make it clear he wasn’t just using Derek. He cared about him, and he valued their friendship, and he would pay him back.
And when he had money, he’d also repay Scott. He’d pay for his movie ticket and take him out to dinner, and basically do everything Scott did for him now. He just needed the money first, but he would definitely do it!
“Different how?” Scott asked, finally stuffing a normal handful of popcorn into his mouth and turning to look at him. “Is he an asshole again?”
“Kind of? No.” Stiles frowned. “I don’t know, he just...” He let out a frustrated sound, scratching at his head. It was hard to explain to someone who didn’t see them when they were alone together. It was little things that had changed, and it bothered Stiles even though he knew it shouldn’t.
Like when Stiles put his feet in Derek’s lap. He used to always place his hand on Stiles’ ankle and rub absently at his anklebone. Now, he kept both hands firmly on his book, and did his best to pretend Stiles’ feet weren’t in his lap at all.
When they went to bed, Derek always slept with his back to him. Even though in the night they would both shift and end up curled together by morning, he didn’t used to start off the night pretending Stiles wasn’t there.
And he liked keeping space between them, now. If Stiles went to drape over his back while he was working on something, Derek would shift before he got that far so that Stiles couldn’t do it. He shifted his chair further away from him at dinner so their knees didn’t touch anymore, and half the time he didn’t even shower if Stiles was still in the loft, and usually left it when Stiles went to shower himself.
Something had changed and Stiles hated it. He wondered if it was maybe him. Maybe he was overstaying his welcome and this was Derek’s subtle way of trying to push him out. He shrugged that off the second he thought it, because he and Derek had been honest with each other the past few months, and he knew that if Derek wanted him gone, he would tell him so.
Maybe Derek was worried Stiles was going to leave? Maybe he was trying to put some space between them before Stiles disappeared from his life so it would hurt less? But that was stupid, Stiles wasn’t going anywhere. He literally had nowhere to go, and even if he did, he didn’t know that he would ever want to leave.
Things with Derek were good. He was happy. He felt safe, and cared for, and loved. It was a nice feeling, and he wouldn’t give it up for anything.
So what had happened? Why had Derek changed? Why was he pulling away?
“Did I do something?” Stiles asked Scott, turning to him. “Has Derek said anything to you?”
Scott gave him an incredulous look. “Derek doesn’t talk to me, dude. He talks to you, or not at all.”
“Well, I must’ve done something,” Stiles insisted, scowling at the screen once more. “I think he’s pushing me away.”
He heard Scott stop chewing his popcorn and turned to him instantly, eyes narrowed. Scott held up both hands in surrender, shaking his head and swallowing what was in his mouth.
“Hey man, he’s told me nothing, but if you think he’s doing that, maybe...”
“Maybe?” Stiles pressed when Scott trailed off.
“I mean, what if it’s about Peter?” Scott held up both hands again when he felt the shift between them. “Look, I know it’s a sore spot, and you and I have been working through it together, what with the whole murder and bitten thing, but you and Derek haven’t, you know.” Scott motioned awkwardly with his hand. “I mean, it’s his uncle. He’s still out there. Eventually you’re going to have to talk about it.”
Stiles turned back to the screen, scowling again. The commercials cut off abruptly and the lights began to dim, but now his mind was too focussed on what Scott had said to think about the movie.
What if he was right? What if Derek knew something about Peter, like where he was, or how to find him? Maybe someone had gotten to Peter and killed him again before Stiles could. And would that really be so wrong?
A few months ago, that would’ve been the end of his world, having Peter be dead by another’s hand. But now? Stiles didn’t know. He wasn’t locked away in a house with the Argents anymore. He had something now. Revenge was still there in the back of his mind, and he never went a day without hating Peter Hale, but he actually felt like he could live past Peter’s death now.
Before, it had just been kill Peter and then figure his life out. Now, well, his life was pretty figured out. He was in a good place, he was happy, he had a semi-normal life. If he had the opportunity to kill Peter, awesome, he’d take it without a second’s hesitation. But if he didn’t? If someone else killed him?
Well, it wouldn’t shatter his entire existence anymore.
It was a strange thing to realize, how much he didn’t need the drive of revenge anymore. He felt like that used to be the only thing holding him together, but now he had something else.
Now he had Derek.
Or... he thought he did. But maybe he was losing him. And that scared him quite a bit since Derek had pretty much single-handedly kept him afloat after Stiles had decided to leave the Argents.
Stiles clenched his hands together, trying to think back on when this had started. When had Derek begun to pull away? Was it because of Peter? Peter was the only topic they hadn’t voiced aloud, so maybe it was the one thing Derek thought he couldn’t voice aloud. Maybe Peter had helped raise Derek before he’d gone all crazy and now that Stiles and Derek were in a good place, it was making things more complicated because he hated Peter.
Then again, Derek had killed Peter, so that seemed unlikely.
“Do we need to go?” Scott whispered, Stiles turning to him startled, forgetting he was even there.
“We’re twenty minutes into the movie and all you smell like is anxiety and fear. Do you wanna go?”
Stiles looked up at the screen and realized Scott was right. He hadn’t even noticed the movie had started. He didn’t want to leave, it wasn’t fair when the money for the tickets hadn’t been his, but...
“Can you get a refund?”
“Yeah, come on.” Scott slapped his arm lightly and stood, shoving more popcorn into his mouth while making his way down the aisle. They walked out of the theatre and Stiles hung back while Scott got a refund. They headed out to Scott’s mother’s car and climbed in, Scott setting the popcorn down by the gear-shift between them and then starting the car, heading back towards the loft.
“Sorry,” Stiles said, feeling guilty for having ruined their night out.
“Don’t worry about it. This thing with Derek’s obviously got you a little on edge. Just talk to him.” Scott shrugged and turned to grin at him. “He actually talks to you, so take advantage.”
Stiles didn’t say anything the rest of the drive home and when Scott dropped him off, he felt nervous. He didn’t know how to broach this topic with Derek, and he was now convinced that this had to do with Peter. He wasn’t sure he was ready for the Peter talk right now, but he didn’t want to lose Derek. He didn’t want him to push him away.
Derek meant everything to him, and he knew it wasn’t dependence. He could go to Chris’ any time he wanted, he’d even been asked on multiple occasions. The only reason he hadn’t was because he’d asked Derek if he wanted him to leave, and the Werewolf had flat out told him he didn’t.
So Stiles stayed. Because he wanted to. Because Derek wanted him to. This was all about what they both wanted, so why was this happening?
Stiles forced himself through the outer door, climbing the stairs slowly, heart pounding in his chest. He could feel his palms sweating and he wondered if maybe this was a horrible mistake, but when he rounded the corner and looked up, Derek was standing on the landing, looking down at him with concern.
“What happened?” he asked, taking a step down but then stopping, since Stiles was literally almost at the loft. “I thought you were going to the movies with Scott.”
“I did. I was.” Stiles shook his head and raked a hand through his hair. “It’s complicated. I needed to come home.”
It was a bit of a shock when he realized that home was here, at the loft, with Derek.
“Okay.” Derek didn’t seem to find anything odd in his comment, as if this really was Stiles’s home. He just stepped aside so Stiles could enter the loft, then followed him in and closed the door.
Stiles made it as far as the couch before turning to Derek and blurting out, “Are we okay?”
Derek gave him a confused look. “Yes.”
“Then why are you acting weird?” Stiles demanded, feeling his heartrate pick up again, fear beginning to spread. “You’ve been acting weird for the past week, but if we’re okay, then why are you acting weird?”
He turned away from Derek, beginning to pace, hands raking through his hair and tugging. “Look, I know things have been weird for a while, okay, and I know it’s my fault. And I don’t know when I’ll be ready to talk to you about Peter, because he’s your uncle, and I know you care about him and—”
“Stiles,” Derek said, grabbing his shoulders and turning him to face him, searching his face. “Peter means nothing to me. Whatever you think is happening, it’s not Peter.” He frowned, looking concerned. “We don’t have to talk about him.”
“But we do!” Stiles insisted, gripping at the front of Derek’s shirt since he was still holding his shoulders. “It’s the only topic we haven’t broached, and I just—I know we have to talk about it, but I don’t even know what to say anymore! Yes, I want to kill him, but if he’s already dead, that’s fine too. I think. I don’t know!” He buried his face in the front of Derek’s shirt, feeling frustrated and confused. “I had nothing but Peter before you. All I had was revenge and hatred. But Chris helped me, he taught me. Allison guided me. You saved me. I don’t need revenge anymore. I don’t need to hunt him down anymore. If he comes, so be it. If he dies, that’s fine too. I just—what happened?”
“Stiles, we’re okay,” Derek insisted, wrapping his arms around him and holding him tightly. “I promise, we’re okay.”
“Then why are you pulling away?” he demanded into his chest.
When he felt Derek tense, he knew he hadn’t been imagining it. He knew he was right, and Derek had slowly but surely been distancing himself from him.
“What did I do?” Stiles asked, still clutching at Derek, as if worried he would disappear if he let him go.
“You didn’t do anything.”
“Then what happened?” Stiles asked again.
Derek let out a slow breath and put his hands on Stiles’ shoulders. When he started pushing him back, Stiles almost panicked but managed to reign it in. Derek wasn’t pushing him away now, he wanted to look at him, and would hopefully have an explanation for him.
He stared up into Derek’s face, and saw how torn he looked. He obviously had something on his mind, but he didn’t look like he was ready to share it. He just stared down at Stiles without saying a word, and then pulled him to his chest again, hugging him tightly.
“I don’t want to lose you,” Derek said quietly.
“You won’t,” Stiles promised. “Don’t push me away.”
That wasn’t what Stiles wanted to hear.
Derek stared down at Stiles while the other slept, his hand curled against his face, and his nose buried in Derek’s chest. He looked calm, peaceful. Almost happy. The complete opposite of how he’d looked the night before, panicking and frantic in the living room.
Sighing, Derek shifted his hand so his face rested more comfortably against it, elbow propped on his pillow so he could stare down at Stiles, the light filtering through the curtains playing off his hair and skin.
He didn’t know how things had ended up this way. How he’d shown up in the forest after a call from Chris, and ended up lying in bed with someone who was begging him not to push him away.
Derek knew they had to talk about this, but he didn’t know how to bring it up. He hadn’t realized Stiles had noticed his shift. He’d just been trying to put a bit of space between them, get some breathing room so that he didn’t do anything stupid.
He liked that Stiles had started going out more. He hung out with Scott a lot, he went for dinner with Malia, he spent some time with Chris and Allison. He had friends at school, he went out bowling, he did normal people things. It was comforting, because it meant he was healing. He was getting better.
And then last night, he’d admitted he was okay without revenge. He was okay if Peter never turned up again, and that—that was huge. Derek didn’t know if he’d have been able to get past Kate that quickly, but he also knew that back then, he had been with someone who was as angry and hurt as he was. He and Laura supported each other as much as they could, but in the end there was no end to their hatred for Kate, and they fuelled that hatred for each other. It had taken him years to get over his desire to see her burn.
But Stiles was already so far ahead after only a few months. He was living a normal life and trying to find reasons to enjoy himself and keep moving forward outside of the revenge he’d allowed to fester for eleven years.
It seemed impossible, but maybe Stiles had never had anything else. Gerard would’ve fed off his anger as much as possible, making him a better Hunter, a more devoted follower. Without anyone around to keep the anger at the forefront, maybe Stiles had realized that killing Peter wouldn’t change what had happened.
Maybe Stiles had looked at Derek, seen him leave Kate alive after what she’d done and move on, and had realized how much healthier that was than to obsess.
It was a lot to hope for, but Stiles was an incredible human being, so it wasn’t impossible.
He reached out with his free hand, letting his fingers ghost along Stiles’ cheek lightly. He didn’t stir, just continued to snooze against Derek’s chest.
It wasn’t the first time Derek thought he’d like to wake up like this every day. Even before he’d realized how much he cared about Stiles, he would sometimes wake up first and stare down at him. Stiles was a solid weight against his chest, and a reminder to him that bad things happened to good people, but that everyone could be saved if given the chance.
Stiles said Derek had saved him last night, but Derek didn’t think that was true. He felt like Stiles might have saved him.
He’d been ready to live out his life fighting Supernatural enemies and dying alone in the loft, probably at a very early age. But Stiles had stumbled into his life—very painfully, what with the bullet and the arrow and everything—and now Derek didn’t want to spend his life fighting and dying alone.
He wanted to wake up every morning with Stiles lying beside him. He wanted to sit on the couch and read with him, make dinner with him, go out to the preserve and walk around with him.
Stiles meant something to him, and he liked to think he meant something to Stiles, too. And it was killing him to think that Stiles was worried he was being pushed away. Even if, technically speaking, that was what Derek was doing, it also wasn’t. It was more complicated than that.
He just didn’t know how to tell him.
“You think too loudly,” a sleepy voice muttered and Derek froze, realizing Stiles was awake and he hadn’t noticed.
Stiles inhaled deeply, burying his face further into Derek’s chest and pulling him closer, one arm around his middle and his legs tangled in between Derek’s.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said quietly.
“S’okay,” Stiles murmured. “I don’t mind.”
Derek reached down, running one hand through Stiles’ hair. “Stiles?”
“Mm,” the other said sleepily.
“I love you.”
For a moment, nothing happened, and Derek thought maybe he’d dodged a bullet. Maybe Stiles had fallen back asleep without hearing anything. But then, he heard the lurch in Stiles’ heartbeat, as if his brain had taken a moment to catch up, and Stiles’ eyes opened. He pulled away slightly, tilting his head up to look at Derek, and frowned at him.
He’d already said it, so he couldn’t take it back now. “I love you.”
Stiles shifted a little so he could lift himself up, planting both elbows on the bed and staring at Derek, his hair matted down on one side and his eyes still bleary with sleep.
“Wait, is that why you’ve been acting weird?” Stiles asked, his voice slurring a little. He reached up with one hand, rubbing at his face, as if trying to wake up a little more. “Because you love me?”
“I didn’t know how to tell you.”
“You make it sound like it’s a bad thing,” Stiles insisted, eying him. “Is it a bad thing? Is Werewolf love different from human love? Are you going to fuck me, then eat me or something?”
Derek gave him an annoyed look, wondering how he could possibly be in love with someone who could turn a tender moment into something so idiotic with just a few short sentences.
It had to be a gift of his.
“No,” he said when Stiles just kept staring at him, waiting for a response. “It does not involve fucking and eating you.”
“That’s a relief, at least.” Stiles fell back fully onto his stomach, folding his arms under his head and staring up at Derek. “So why were you worried to tell me?”
“We have a bit of an unusual relationship,” Derek said with a frown. “I didn’t want to complicate things.”
Stiles hummed in acknowledgement, gaze shifting away from Derek while he thought. They said nothing for a moment, Derek letting the words sink in for Stiles, and Stiles seeming to just think on what he’d just been told.
“You make my chest warm,” Stiles finally said. “I think I’ve loved you for a while, but never really figured out that was what it meant.”
“Stiles, you don’t have to—”
“No, I’m serious,” Stiles insisted, arching his back and rolling over so he was sitting up properly. “I mean, when I think about it seriously, we don’t exactly do things that differently from Scott and Allison. We’ve been cuddling and sleeping together for a while, and I mean... yeah, things started out weird for us, but I’m happy with you, and I think you’re happy with me, and maybe we’ve always been happy together and we just didn’t clue in that it was because we were what each other wanted.” He frowned. “Or something?”
Derek rolled his eyes again. “Only you could say something semi-romantic and then ruin it with two words.”
“It’s a talent.”
“More like a gift,” Derek corrected, and Stiles just grinned at him.
After a few seconds, the grin faded and he frowned, wrapping his arms around his knees and staring at Derek. “So now what?”
“Now what?” Derek repeated, sitting up fully as well since his arm was starting to hurt.
“Can we go back to how we were before? And I mean, move forward.” Stiles frowned. “Can we step back and step forward at the same time? Or were we already a step forward and then you took one back so really we’re just taking two steps forward to get us one step ahead of where we were originally before you took a step back and—”
Derek covered Stiles’ mouth with one hand. “Stop talking.”
Stiles very maturely licked at his hand and Derek pulled it away, wiping it on Stiles’ cheek. He laughed, batting at Derek’s face for a few seconds before falling onto his back on the bed again and groaning. He grabbed the edge of the blanket and rolled over so he turned himself into a burrito.
“It’s too early, why are you even awake?”
“It’s ten thirty,” Derek informed him, standing and grabbing a pair of jeans off the back of a chair so he could pull them on.
“Like I said, early.”
“I’ll make pancakes.”
“You’re the best,” Stiles told him and Derek just laughed.
Despite the weird morning, Derek was a little pleased that things didn’t end up awkward. Stiles had come downstairs and draped himself across his back like he normally would’ve done any other day—barring when Derek had purposefully been moving away of late.
He leaned against him and watched him make pancakes, and when they sat down, their knees bumped together beneath the table like they always did. Stiles whined about his homework and Derek told him about needing to visit Deaton, and they ate their breakfast in comfortable conversation.
Derek went to run some errands while Stiles did homework, and when he came home, he sat and read on the couch while Stiles plopped his feet in his lap and finished off the assignment he had to turn in that evening.
Stiles left for class after dinner, and Derek cleaned up and watched a bit of TV. He showered before Stiles got home, and then read for a bit while Stiles took his own shower, singing rather loudly and horrendously off-key. Derek didn’t comment on it when he exited the bathroom.
When Stiles wandered over to him, he lifted Derek’s arms so the book was a bit higher off his lap, and Derek expected him to lie down with his feet in his lap like he always did, but instead he rested his head on Derek’s lap and closed his eyes.
Derek readjusted to the position easily, holding the book with one hand off the armrest of the couch, and the other resting lightly against Stiles’ chest, fingers running along his collarbone. It was a comfortable position, and he liked the small shift. Nothing too drastic, but enough for them both to know they were moving forward.
“Do you think he feels any guilt for what he did?”
“Who?” Derek asked, distracted.
The name immediately caused all his attention to focus on Stiles, and he found him staring up pensively at the ceiling. He shifted his gaze to Derek when he saw him looking at him and gave him a sheepish look.
“Sorry. I’ve just... been thinking about him a lot.”
Derek closed the book and set it aside so he could put his other hand in Stiles’ wet hair, playing with the strands.
“I wish I could say the fire changed him, but Peter did a lot of awful things even before then. Why he went after your family, I wish I could tell you, but I think he was just... wrong. In the head. He did a lot of bad things, and I think if my mother had known how far he’d gone before she’d exiled him, she wouldn’t have let him live.”
“He was her brother,” Stiles said quietly.
“Kate was Chris’ sister,” he reminded him, and Stiles made a noise of understanding. “Peter was always like that. When he came back after the fire, I thought maybe he’d changed. He didn’t stick around for long, but it was enough for us to remember all our family hadn’t disappeared. But then he killed Laura, because the Alpha status had gone from my mother to her. So I killed him.”
“I’m sorry about your sister.”
“Me too.” Derek watched his fingers play with Stiles’ hair for a moment. “He came back. Banshee, like I said. It was a bit of a weird situation, but once he realized he had nothing left to gain here, he skipped down relatively quickly with his tail between his legs.”
“Did you ever see him again?” Stiles asked.
“No. He could be dead, for all I know.” His hand paused and he focussed on Stiles’ pensive face. “Does that bother you? That he might be dead?”
“Not as much as it used to,” Stiles admitted. “Is that weird?”
“No. It’s a good thing.”
Stiles said nothing else, closing his eyes and sighing contently. Derek just continued to rake one hand through his hair, the other playing along his collarbone. He tried to memorize every aspect of Stiles’ face, wanting to remember how he looked in this moment, and every moment after this. Wanting to remember how Stiles had felt when he’d finally let go of the last of his anger, and decided that he was happy as he was.
“We should go to bed,” he said quietly to Stiles.
“Hm,” Stiles agreed, opening his eyes. He sat up, running one hand through his hair, and turned to look at Derek. “Hey Derek?”
Stiles grinned and leaned forward, pressing his lips against his. It was a chaste kiss, and left Derek wanting a lot more, but it was Stiles who initiated it so he just took what he could get. When Stiles pulled away, Derek smiled at him and reached out to touch his face, rubbing his thumb lightly beneath Stiles’ left eye.
“You’re an idiot.”
“So are you.” Stiles let out a laugh and buried his face in Derek’s chest. “You fell in love with a Werewolf-hating Hunter.”
“And you fell in love with a Werewolf.”
“Life is fucking weird,” Stiles said, pulling back and kissing him again. “I’m glad I met you, Derek Hale.”
“I’m glad I met you, too,” he admitted with a smile. “But I definitely can’t say your name.”
Stiles burst out laughing and groaned, burying his face in Derek’s neck again and pressing all his weight against him so that they fell back lengthwise along the couch. Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles, kissing at his temple, and decided that bed could wait.
He was perfectly happy lying right where he was, with Stiles in his arms, and laughter filling the room.
This was exactly where he wanted to be.