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it's not planned, but nothing ever is anymore

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You're not sure when you became everyone's protector.

You don't mind, of course. But sometimes you wish you could understand why they turn to you.

It's not like you're anything special. You're just a teenager who got dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to search for a dead body and ended up getting bitten by a psychotic werewolf.

...okay, maybe you're a little more than normal.

But you're not quite sure you deserve the amount of trust your pack has in you.

++

It starts with Boyd on a Tuesday morning before school.

He sits on the tiled floor, his back pressed against your locker and you frown at the distant look in his eyes. But you know that Boyd is quiet and you know better than to push him. So you slide down next to him, shoving your backpack next to you, and cross your arms and wait.

A few seconds later he shifts enough that your knees are touching and glances at his hands.

"It's my fault she's dead."

You can tell by his heart rate that he truly believes it.

This isn't the first time the topic of Boyd's sister has come up. But it's definitely the only time Boyd started it.

You shake your head. "It's not. It feels like it and you don't have anyone to blame, so you turn to yourself. But, Boyd, you're one of the bravest people I know. And I know, without a doubt, that if you could have saved her, you would have. This was not your fault. It's a tragedy and I'm so sorry you had to go through something like that. But you're still here. You're still here and you have friends and family and you have me."

He meets your eyes and you hope your words conveyed the sincerity you feel. When he smiles and nudges your knee, you think they did.

++

Erica bursts into your house and sprawls across your couch before you have a chance to ask what she wants. She raises an eyebrow, as if daring you to kick her out, and maybe it's because her shoulders are stiff or because she doesn't look as confident as usual, but you let her stay. You lift her legs and slide under, letting them drop onto your lap.

She fiddles with the remote until some zombie movie that you've seen a hundred times with Stiles appears and she seems satisfied. She watches the opening scene (one you could quote by heart) and you watch her. If it wasn't for the hitch in her breathing every few seconds, you don't think you would be able to tell she's upset. But your hearing picks up on it and you know something happened. But you won't pry. She is like Boyd in that sense and you know that if you push, she'll run. 

You turn your eyes to the television just in time to see one of the main characters get bitten. Neither of you flinch at the blood splatter. It's almost laughable how fake it is after you've seen the real thing. You drop your hand to her ankle and she tenses slightly before relaxing as your thumb traces patterns on her skin.

Erica has always been like a sister to you. Well, on your end. You're not sure where you stand with her, to be perfectly honest. But even before she turned, you tried to look out for her. Your mom was usually on call when her epilepsy caused her to be rushed in on a stretcher. And sometimes you were there too. Sitting in the waiting room while she was wheeled by, curled up on the cot, wheezing.

So you just squeeze her ankle lightly and watch another main character die on your too small tv screen.

++

You're sitting on your bed, trying to study for a test that you already know you're going to fail. Biology has never really been your thing. Besides, how are you supposed to find out what makes everything else tick when you can't even figure out half the things your own body is capable of?

And then suddenly someone is flying through your window and landing on the bed beside you.

(But you had heard his heartbeat a while ago, so you don't flinch)

You just scoot over and let him tap his fingers on your sheets. Isaac's father may be dead, but it's obvious that the scars still remain. His eyes are wide and his fists are clenched and you're a little bit scared he's going to draw blood.

"It's okay. I'm here." You grip his hand until you can feel his fingers relax and you can hear his breathing slow down.

He nods and gives you a weak smile.

You think it's enough for now.

When he falls asleep a few hours later, you pull off his shoes and toss a blanket over him. The next morning, your back is sore from sleeping in a chair all night, but it's worth it when you see Isaac's grateful smile. And yeah, it also helps that the dark circles under his eyes are a lot lighter.

It doesn't stop you from wishing Isaac's father was still breathing, so you could hit him until he wasn't.

++

Allison has always been important to you.

You're in love with her. You have been since the first time you saw her and you always will be. Even when she gets caught up in Gerard's revenge and tries to kill you and your friends, you still love her with every fiber of your being. And after a year of being caught up in werewolves and hunters and things straight out of a horror movie, you think she finally managed to find herself. You wish she didn't have to lose the majority of her family to do it, but you think she's still beautiful. Even if she's broken.

You would be lying if you said you were surprised when she finally snaps. Being strong for so long would take something out of anyone. Allison is strong. She's the strongest person you know. But you were more than aware that every once in a while, she would fall apart. She took the fractured pieces of herself and put them back together and sometimes the tape would fall off and she would be a little lost again.

She knocks on your door once. Just once. And you can hear the hitch in her breathing and the short sniffle from your spot in the kitchen. You open the door and let her press herself against you until you lose where she ends and you begin.

You don't tell her 'it's okay' or 'it's going to be alright' because it's not. Nothing is okay. Not when your girlfriend's mom tried to kill you and you ended up killing her instead. (Indirectly, but you've never been one for technicalities.) Not when you can tear someone apart with your bare hands without trying. (Not that you ever would, but it isn't a good feeling to know it's a possibility.) Not when Allison spent the last few months spiraling out of control because of a delusional man that said he loved her. (And she may have figured it out in the end, but it took time. Minutes and days and months that she never stops counting.)

You kiss her instead.

Because this is something you can't fix for her. You can only hold her until she forgets that she let a monster give her orders. Until she remembers that you love her and it wasn't her fault.

It was never your fault, Allison. It was never your fault.

++

You can't remember a time when Stiles wasn't your best friend. You didn't meet him until you were four, so maybe life just wasn't worth remembering until then. You think you got lucky because Stiles was a sarcastic little jerk even in kindergarten and somehow you didn't end up as his enemy. It probably has something to do with the fact that he destroyed your sandcastle and felt like he owed you.

(He totally still does)

He's sitting on your bed when you get home from dropping some takeout at the hospital for your mom. You're not surprised because this isn't the first time it has happened and it certainly won't be the last. You know he keeps his copy of your house key on a chain around his neck and to be honest, you like knowing that he has it close.

He's wrapped around you before you can apologize for being late and you squeeze him as tight as you can because you know your best friend. And you know that he can't breathe until every inch of him is touching every inch of you.

You don't mind that his hands are clutching the back of your shirt so hard they're probably stretching the fabric. Or that his ankles are hooked around yours and you're sure that if you try to move, you'll both go tumbling to the carpet.

You don't have to ask what's wrong because you know. It's the anniversary of his mom's death. And the day you've had marked on your calendar since it happened. He never asked you, but you were always there. Waiting until he was done grieving with his dad. Waiting until the Sheriff opened up the liquor cabinet and started spitting venom instead of apologies. Waiting until your shivering, heartbroken best friend wound up on your doorstep with tears in his eyes and trembling fingers already reaching for you.

This time is no different. You fall asleep with Stiles curled on top of you, his nose pressed against your collarbone and his arms locked around your neck. You fall asleep with comforting words on your lips and worry in your heart.

Unlike Isaac, Stiles isn't gone when you wake up. He's still there, settled on your chest, his head tucked under your chin, like always. Your mom has wrapped your comforter around the two of you, like always. And you don't dare move until your best friend wakes up, like always.

Not even when his knees dig into your stomach or his fingers squeeze a little too tight, like always.

He's your best friend. And he could give you more than bruises and you'd still hold him until the nightmares went away.

++

"I don't know why I'm here."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Lydia starts, looking at you in surprise, as if it never occurred to her that she came to you for a reason. As if it never occurred to her that she was upset. And somehow, that breaks the spell and she's shaking and it's all wrong. Because girls like Lydia don't shake and close their eyes and struggle to find air. Girls like Lydia push you down with one perfectly manicured nail and step on you with their heels until you're nothing but dust. But Lydia isn't like that anymore, you have to remind yourself. She hasn't been for a while. Not since Peter. And Jackson.

She's somehow managed to take up a good corner of your heart without you realizing it. You no longer think of her as the girl that Stiles fell in love with the first time he saw her. You don't think of her as Allison's best friend of Jackson's ex-girlfriend. She's just Lydia and you love her because of it.

But even as you're remembering the way she screamed for you when she was scared and the way she trusted you to do something when no one else could, she's still shaking, her whole body trembling as if she's about to fall apart.

"Come here. Lydia, come here."

And then there is a strawberry blonde in your arms and you're both sinking to the ground and all you can think is that you're really really sorry any of this happened. She cries and cries until your shirt is soaked and mascara runs down her cheeks like rain and you find it funny that she's still beautiful, even when she's broken.

You kiss her forehead because it works on Stiles and Allison and it works on you when your mom does it and well, it's worth a try, isn't it? You just really want her to stop crying. If Lydia cries, you know everyone else will follow. You know that everything will shatter and you'll be left standing in the wreckage, trying to figure out what went wrong.

She freezes for a moment and then leans into your touch, finally remembering how to breathe. You keep your lips against her skin until the shudders stop and her pulse evens out.

You spend your Friday night holding a wayward Lydia Martin on your lap on the kitchen floor until she sobs herself into exhaustion.

And you wish with everything you have that you could make it all go away by loving her hard enough.

++

Derek is standing behind the bleachers after your lacrosse practice finishes and you pinch yourself because this just cannot be happening. But it is and so you sit on the cold, metal bench and wait. You count the seconds and you think he is too because exactly two minutes later, he sits next to you, still as stoic and silent as ever. And you might be imagining it, but you think his shoulders relax a little too.

"I'm sorry."

You mentally list the possible things he could have to apologize for. And the list is long, but he's Derek and you never pegged him as the type to apologize for anything. But before you can say it's okay or some other empty platitude, he's speaking again, his words coming out nervous and sad and just a little bit lost, so you stop trying to analyze him and just listen.

"I never should have tried to force you to be a part of my pack. It was wrong and I'm sorry. I guess I just expected you to automatically join me because I assumed you would hate Peter as much as I do. But, god, you're just a kid, Scott. You're just a kid and we screwed everything up for you. All your friends, your family, your life? It will never be the same. And that's on us. If I were you, I would have run as far away as possible by now. I would have packed it all up and drove away until I forgot a little town called Beacon Hills ever existed."

"It's not your fault."

The words come out automatically and you flinch when he stands up, grabbing at his hair, eyes wide and tortured. "Stop! Why do you always have to be the good guy? I mean, god, Scott, your whole life got turned upside down. Because Peter wanted power and I wanted-"

"A pack."

His shoulders deflate and he sinks back down next to you, putting his head in his hands and sighing. "Yeah. I wanted a pack."

"You aren't like him. You're different. You wanted a family. Peter wanted control."

Derek looks at you for a long moment and you touch his shoulder, half expecting to get hit or something equally painful. But he just sighs again and smiles at you. It makes you relax, even if it is a little bitter around the edges. "You're a good kid, Scott. Don't let this world mess you up."

The 'anymore than it already has' is left hanging between you. He walks away and you know better than to follow him. But that doesn't stop you from riding you bike to his apartment every day after school and listening for his heartbeat. It doesn't stop you from knocking on his door a week later with a shrug and a pizza box. It doesn't stop you from bringing the pack movie nights to him and it doesn't stop you from settling down next to him on the couch close enough that your shoulders are touching.

A few weeks later, you're helping him clean up when he looks at you with a thoughtful expression.

"You were right. I wanted a family. And I got one. Just not the way I thought I would."

++

Maybe you're young and sometimes stupid and you're as far from normal as possible.

But you keep your window unlocked and your bedroom door open just in case your pack needs you. And you think that makes you something more than what you used to be.

If someone had told you two years ago that you would have anyone besides Stiles curled against you, you would have laughed in their face and walked away. But now, two years later, you're surrounded by the people who call you family. And with Allison's hand in yours and Lydia sprawled across your lap, you think that maybe, just maybe, it was worth all the pain.

And maybe, just maybe, so are you.

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