Affection is not something Stiles is used to.
The people who love him are either too busy or simply don’t notice how long it’s been since they’ve touched him. Stiles initiates hugs with his dad or with Scott, but at the end of the day, when Stiles is too tired to reach out first, no one reaches for him. No one wraps him up in their arms, gives him a moment to ground himself in just the pleasure of another’s kind touch.
The first time Gerard Argent hits him, Stiles is dazed. Not because of the pain—even though it does hurt—but because he realizes that was the first time someone had touched him without him initiating it in months, at least. Possibly longer.
His body hurts when he drags himself home. His dad envelopes him in a hug, relieved, and Stiles almost cries. It hurts so bad but his dad feels so warm, so solid, so kind and thankful and desperately relieved, that is makes his knees weak. He hates that he’d almost be willing to let Gerard beat him up again if the end result was the physical proof of his father’s love.
Stiles clutches at his dad’s back, burying his face in his shoulder, and holds in his tears. He breathes in his dad’s scent, feeling small and young and oh so hurt. He almost sobs when the doorbell rings and his dad pulls away to answer, gently squeezing Stiles’ shoulder and telling him to rest, that he’ll go and check who it is.
The night ends with him watching Lydia freely embracing Jackson the Jackass and Stiles feels a flash of hatred for the boy flare up. Who is Jackson to get such open affection, to be so freely held and so clearly loved, when Stiles has to practically beg for a few scraps of attention from those he loves? He wishes Jackson had just stayed dead, wondering if Lydia would’ve cried on his shoulder, and then he feels horrible for the thought. He didn’t want anyone to be hurt, except maybe Gerard. Why did everyone want him to hurt?
Peter Hale being alive was the least of Stiles concerns. Gerard getting away was one of the biggest.
“How the fuck did this happen?” Stiles growls under his breath as Chris gathers Allison and leaves, as Scott watches her with puppy eyes, and Jackson and Lydia whisper in each other ears and refuse to stop touching each other.
“It’s a mess, isn’t it?” Peter says, voice clearly intended for only him as the man steps beside Stiles.
Stiles just sighs. He’s tired. He’s hurt. His dad probably won’t hug him again tonight and he doesn’t feel like letting Scott touch him right now, not after what he did.
Stiles feels tears prick his eyes and he clenches his eyes shut, grinded his teeth. Once the wave of emotion has been ridden out, he breathes.
“Stiles?” Peter asks, quiet. His hand brushes Stiles’ arm, and Stiles doesn’t know if it’s the unexpectedness or the gentleness that makes him jerk away, startled and wary, like cornered prey.
“You should check on Derek,” Stiles says, always putting others above himself. Derek was still kneeling on the ground, clearly having his own turmoil from within. Stiles didn’t blame him. “I’ll make sure the puppies get home,” he sighs, somehow knowing he could trust Derek to this new Peter, this saner man who helped instead of hurt. Lydia and Jackson curl into his backseat, Scott takes his passenger side and won’t quit making sad puppy eyes out the window. Isaac declines a ride, chooses to stay with Derek. Looking at his jeep and her load, Stiles wishes he could too.
Scott gets dropped off first since Lydia’s car is at his house. The drive is quiet with and without him. Jackson is exhausted, Lydia is relieved, Scott is pouting. Stiles is hurting.
Lydia squeezes his shoulder when they get to his house, drawing in Stiles’ eyes with her own intense gaze.
“Thank you,” she tells him and she means it. Stiles soaks in the warmth of her touch, biting his lip at the rush of emotion. He loves her, he really does, but he doesn’t know when he stopped being in love with her. It still feels good though, her appreciation, her affection. He smiles.
“Anytime,” he tells her, and he means it. She squeezes him again, like she can tell, before herding a shivering, tired Jackson—wrapped in Stiles extra track pants and jacket that had been in the backseat—into her car and pulling away.
Stiles’ dad is heading out as Stiles comes in the door. He ruffles Stiles’ hair, kisses his head and tells him he loves him, that he got called in for an emergency, and then Stiles is alone with the burning touch of ghosts on his skin.
He climbs up the stairs, one at a time, each step sending agony up his side. He eases into bed once he makes it to his room, kicking off his shoes and just curling up on top of the covers. He buries his face in his pillow and lets the cotton soak up his tears.
Stiles wakes in the middle of the night to a gentle touch on his head, brushing through his hair. Hands ease his jacket off, one arm at a time. Stiles doesn’t fight, letting the soft hands manipulate his body, pulling his pants off but leaving his boxers and shirt, tugging the blankets out from under him before tucking him in properly.
“Sleep, Stiles,” a voice murmurs, hand back to brushing through his hair again.
“Please,” Stiles begs, slurred with sleep, as the hands leave him. A pause before they return, gentle rhythmic strokes through his buzzcut.
“I’ll stay,” the voice assures him, “until you fall asleep.”
Stiles’ lip wobbles as he turns closer to his visitor, leaning into the hands’ touch. He curls in on himself and tries not to cry.
“Shhh,” the voice murmurs, kinder than Stiles has ever heard it. “I won’t let anyone hurt you again. I promise.”
Stiles bites his pillow, nodding, and slowly the touches soothe him until he can fall into unconsciousness again.
No one’s there when he wakes up, but the paper with a phone number and PH written on it—slid under his phone that he’d forgotten to take out of his pocket and yet is now plugged in to his charger—says everything.
Things change after that. Scott doesn’t touch Stiles, doesn’t include him either. Says it’s too dangerous, that Stiles could get hurt. Stiles is rotting on the inside, uncaring for his body if only someone would touch him to make him real. Pale scars from the months after his mom died stare up at him from his wrist and he wonders if that’s what he needs again. But he doesn’t grab a razor and he doesn’t feel anything. He closes his eyes, remembers soft hands in his hair, and presses ‘call.’
“Stiles?” It’s the same voice, the same tone from that night. Stiles takes a shaky breath.
“Please,” he manages, staring down at the scars and feeling his heart bleed. “Please come over now.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes,” Peter promises.
Peter keeps his promise.
Stiles is shaking when he gets there, curled on his bed and second from hyperventilating.
“Please touch me,” Stiles begs him, looking up from where he lying on his bed, eyes overflowing and he does nothing to stop the tracks. “I need someone to want to touch me.”
Peter’s face looks concerned, something Stiles could’ve never expected to see, but he doesn’t hesitate to reach out, pulling Stiles into his arms as he sits on the bed. Stiles curls into him, into his warmth, hiding his face in his neck, hands clutching his shirt and shivering.
Peter’s hands brush up and down Stiles’ back. His breath is warm against Stiles’ shoulder. He’s solid under Stiles’ touch, alive and real. Stiles presses closer, wants to seep into his skin and never leave.
“It always hurts,” Stiles says, can’t stop the words from falling out his mouth, trembling just as uncontrollably. He’s freezing inside, empty and so so cold.
“I know,” Peter says, and Stiles knows he does. He pulls away, surprised, and looks at Peter’s solemn eyes.
“I’m here,” Stiles promises him, cupping his hands around Peter’s face, Stiles suddenly in caretaker mode. When he’d added Peter to his short list, he didn’t know, but now he knew he had.
Peter quirks a smile, pain in his eyes as he gently encircles Stiles’ wrist with his hand. “And I’m here,” he says and Stiles genuinely smiles for the first time in months.
Stiles is at the old Hale house often because Peter is at the old Hale house often. At first Derek shoots him odd looks and asks why he’s there. He’d stepped aggressively towards him once—only once—to try and scare Stiles away. Stiles had flinched, expecting pain, and Peter had tackled Derek and roared in his face within two seconds’ time. His nephew had been so stunned he hadn’t even pulled his Alpha shift out. Peter had left with Stiles, glaring at Derek the whole time.
Derek didn’t try scaring Stiles off any more after that.
When they move to the train station, Stiles shows up there too. Stiles watches Derek train Boyd, Erica, and Isaac when Peter’s busy, off somewhere, and will occasionally offer tips as they fight. The betas get better and even Derek is impressed by his insight. Stiles helps them find their anchors from the full moon, smiling proudly the first time Erica calms herself down from the shift.
The first time Erica hugs him, Stiles freezes. He stands with wide eyes, gazing at nothing, as they all hear his heart pounding like a rabbit being chased.
“Stiles?” Derek asks, wondering where Peter was, if he knew how to handle this.
Like the devil, Peter appears just as he’s thought of, cupping Stiles’ face and drawing the boy’s attention to him.
“It’s okay,” He murmurs, kinder than Derek’s heard him be in years. “No one here will hurt you. We all love you.”
“Why?” Stiles croaks, and Derek winces at the emotion cracking his voice. He can’t help but step closer, a need to comfort pulling him in.
“Because you’re Pack, sweetheart,” Peter tells him, and Derek realizes it’s true. He’s a horrible Alpha, truly not meant for it, but he can feel now the tentative bond between him and the human. He walks even closer, carefully reaching out and holding Stiles’ shoulder.
“You are,” Derek assures him when Stiles looks to him. Stiles’ eyes are welling in tears and he’s shaking under Derek’s touch.
“Yeah, Batman,” Erica inputs, stepping behind Stiles and wrapping her arms around his waist. Isaac leans against her side and noses Stiles temple familiarly. Boyd takes his elbow and squeezes in solidarity. Stiles sobs and collapses against Peter.
“I thought you guys just tolerated me,” Stiles hiccups out between sobs.
“No way!” Erica is quick to deny.
“We like having you here,” Isaac assures him, confident in that shy way of his. “You’re one of us.”
“See, darling?” Peter murmurs against Stiles’ ear, hands moving up and down Stiles’ sides familiarly. Derek stares, wondering when that had become a thing, wondering if he should be worried. “I told you. You’re Pack.”
Stiles sniffles, collects himself, and demands they have a pizza night. Stiles sits in Peter’s lap and hesitates but eventually puts his legs in Derek’s lap as they’re watching the movie. Derek can hear his heart pounding with that rabbit-fast beat, the scent of fear curdling in the air, so he just rests his arm across Stiles’ calves, hands casually massaging the muscles there. It’s almost an hour into the movie before Stiles finally relaxes under his touch, but by the time it’s over he’s asleep with a tiny smile on his face. Peter nuzzles his head, scenting him, and Derek feels gratitude, adoration, appreciation through their Pack bond along with protective instincts that swirl within Peter until the only thing Derek knows is that he pities anyone or anything who tries to hurt their Pack’s human.
Derek isn’t worried anymore.