On day one, Derek had thought he’d never been more terrified. He’d never seen anything so terrifying in his life.
Stiles laying quietly in a hospital bed, that is. Tubes in his arms, face still bruised. The boy was unnaturally still and completely silent. In fact, the entire room was, in exception to the heart monitor that beeped quietly on the other side of the bed.
On day one, Derek had nearly turned tail and walked right back out of the hospital room. Because he couldn’t do it. The smells were overwhelming; floor cleaner, sanitizer, the sharp tang of medicine. But Stiles’s was muted. Usually, Derek could lose himself in the scent of the boy; fall leaves, hints of cinnamon, and something electric.
They were all missing. Stiles just smelled… empty. Wrong. Everything was so wrong.
On day one, Derek sat at the side of the boy’s bed and just watched him. He fought all his instincts to move closer or maybe take the boy’s hand. Derek didn’t have that right. Because Derek hadn’t been there.
When Stiles had needed him the most, Derek hadn’t been there.
He’d never planned to return to Beacon Hills.
When he’d left, he’d promised it was the last time. Derek didn’t want the memories or the pain that came with the town anymore. There was only one reason he ever would have stayed but when Stiles came to the loft one day smelling like Lydia, Derek realized he had to leave. He had to be somewhere else.
He was a blue-eyed omega with no pack. He didn’t have a place in Beacon Hills; not anymore.
But then Derek got a call from Scott. Stiles was in the hospital.
And it was bad.
Derek had never planned to return to Beacon Hills. But then Stiles and just… Stiles. Derek had caught the first flight out of New York and headed back to the town he had vowed to never step foot in again.
He’d do anything for Stiles.
On day two, Derek finally moved his chair a little closer. He might have fallen asleep and woken up only when Melissa told him that she was kicking him out to get some food. He hated leaving. Because Derek was scared that if he left, he might not come back. He might not be able to make himself come back.
He always came back.
On day two, Derek moved his chair a little closer and fought the urge to reach out and take Stiles’s hand. He didn’t have that right. Derek had been states away when Stiles had been taken by hunters and held for nearly two weeks. He’d been gone and cut off from the rest of the pack while Stiles had suffered and been alone.
Derek had been gone. He’d been gone for nearly a year now.
On day three, Derek gave in and held Stiles’s hand.
The boy’s face was far too pale. Derek hated looking at him and realizing there was no chance Stiles was going to speak. He wouldn’t be rambling for hours on end or making jabs with a bright grin as Derek growled. He was just quiet. Calm. His heart beat steadily and Derek fought the urge to move closer and seek out more of his scent.
On day three, Derek held his hand. He threaded the boy’s fingers through his own and just studied that for a moment. Stared at nothing, feeling Stiles’s pulse beneath his fingers.
Stiles was too quiet, too still.
Derek hated it.
On day eight, he was caught by the Sheriff.
Derek hadn’t meant to fall asleep, head resting on Stiles’s blankets as he listened to the boy’s beating heart, but his sleeping hours had been thrown through a loop lately. So when someone cleared their throat behind him and Derek startled so hard he nearly fell out of his chair, he really only had himself to blame.
“So, Hale,” the Sheriff said. “You’ve been coming here often?”
“Only once or twice, sir.”
“Melissa says you haven’t left more than ‘once or twice’ in over a week.”
Derek’s face burned. He swallowed hard and nodded. The Sheriff studied him for a long moment before sighing. Turning, he opened the door and then glanced back, nodding toward it. Derek’s heart sunk and he pushed himself up slowly, plodding out of the room.
But then to his surprise, the Sheriff followed.
“We’re getting lunch, Hale.”
Derek didn’t know what to do with that. He wanted more than anything to say no but he was also much too terrified to ever consider doing that. So when the Sheriff put one hand on his shoulder and led him toward the elevator, Derek just gave in and let him.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. Maybe lunch wouldn’t be so bad.
He’d been wrong before.
On day nine, after the scarring occurrence of watching the Sheriff eat a burger and extra fries while knowing Stiles would be livid if he ever found out, Derek found himself back in the hospital room. He found himself sitting as close to the bed as he could, thumb rubbing over the back of Stiles’s hand.
His throat was too tight. Derek felt a little sick.
Two weeks in, he was reading to the boy. After that, he watched through all the Star Wars in one sitting, doing his best not to think about what Stiles would say. The boy would always comment on the little things. Proud of his knowledge that not everyone else had.
Scott came by sometimes. Melissa had started bringing Derek meals and blankets when he didn’t leave often enough. The Sheriff came by every other day and all but ordered Derek out of the room and made him drive them both to the nearest diner.
On day seventeen, Derek tried to talk to Melissa about the bills. She just looked worried.
“It’ll be… rough for them.”
Melissa only pressed her lips together. But Derek could read her expression well enough and he felt his heart sink.
On day twenty, he filed a payment under an anonymous name. A day later, he discussed the possibility of Stiles getting the bite.
“He never wanted it,” the Sheriff said. “And I thought you had to be an Alpha to give it?”
“Scott already offered when Stiles graduated. The kid didn’t want it then and I don’t know if Scott will force it on him. He can’t consent, Derek.”
“What if he dies?”
The man’s face twisted. Derek instantly felt bad, arms folded tightly over his chest as he dropped his gaze to the floor. There was another possibility, he knew. He’d given up his Alpha Spark for Cora and it had saved her life.
If Scott could do that for Stiles…
“I don’t know, son,” the Sheriff said when Derek risked bringing that up. “Scott has a pack. He and Stiles aren’t the children they used to be, things have changed. I’m not sure he’d give it up.”
‘For Stiles’ was unspoken. Derek ground his teeth together and glared hard at the floor. He could ask, he thought. He could try.
Derek didn’t have anything left to give up. He would, he knew quietly. He would have given the spark up all over again for Stiles. Derek would do anything for Stiles.
That realization kept hitting him over and over again.
One month in, something went wrong.
Derek wasn’t there when Stiles flatlined. But when he heard the shouting and tried to get into the room, he’d been physically restrained and dragged back out. He was pretty sure he hadn’t flashed his eyes or shifted, but he still ended up in cuffs five minutes later. The Sheriff was the one to let him out before Derek could be taken to the station and his terrified, but warning look had been more than enough.
Derek didn’t leave the boy’s room after that.
“If you woke up,” Derek said quietly, the boy’s hand held between his own. “I wouldn’t leave, Stiles. Not again.”
More than anything, he wanted an answer. He closed his eyes and touched the back of Stiles’s hand to his lips, breathing shakily.
“But you can’t die. You can’t die on me.”
Derek didn’t know what he’d do if Stiles died. That had never crossed his mind before. He’d never seen anything happening to Stiles, who was always so awake, and alive, and loud, that Derek had never seen him being the one who didn’t make it.
It just wasn’t fair.
“You’re not allowed to die on me,” Derek said again. “I can’t lose you, Stiles. Please.”
He couldn’t lose anyone else. Not again.
He couldn’t lose Stiles.
“I think I love you,” Derek said softly. ‘I think I have for a while’ remained unspoken.
He swallowed hard, eyes still closed, and just tried to breathe Stiles in. Stiles, his Stiles, outside of the hospital smells and distant scents of other people dying. He focused on the notes of cinnamon, the spark of electricity. The way that would always soften when Stiles smiled. The way it would grow even stronger when he frowned.
The scent surrounded him. So much so that if Derek opened his eyes, he thought he would see Stiles awake. Awake and looking at him, amber eyes bright as a small smile tugged at the edges of his lips.
Derek took a shuddering breath. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t lose Stiles. He couldn’t watch him die. Not like this.
On day thirty-three, Derek didn’t come back.
Or at last, he didn’t plan to. But then he got a text from the Sheriff just saying ‘Hospital’ and Derek’s stomach dropped into his shoes. He stood there for a long moment, staring at the phone, and willed himself not to shatter.
That was it. Stiles was gone. And once more, Derek hadn’t been there.
He wondered if this would be the death of him too.
When he showed up, it was just the Sheriff and Melissa. Derek moved forward slowly, wondering if Scott would show up to say goodbye to his best friend. The Sheriff’s face was unreadable and Melissa was focused on her chart. They didn’t smell… sad when Derek moved closer. But if it was the shock—
“He asked for you, son.”
Derek froze. “Sir?”
“Your name was one of the first things that came out of his mouth.”
For a moment, it felt like the world was crashing down around him. Derek swayed where he stood and stared at the closed door, listening to the heart beating on the other side. Strong, steady. Alive. Then he was moving forward, stepping into the room, and the scent of Stiles surrounded him.
The boy was sitting up in the hospital bed. Derek nearly stumbled when amber eyes fixed on where he stood, making him go stock-still.
Then Stiles smiled and Derek nearly collapsed.
“Hey there, Sourwolf, I— oh.”
Derek was across the room in a second, face buried in the boy’s neck. Stiles chuckled nervously and Derek felt his face grow warm, but he didn’t pull back. His heart hurt. He felt woozy, like he’d taken a blow to the head or just come up above water after holding his breath for too long.
“Hey,” Stiles said again, his voice warm. “I’m alright, dude.”
Derek finally pulled back. He searched Stiles’s face and then reached out, touching his cheek. Just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. That this wasn’t some sort of cruel joke.
“Derek, dude? You’re kind of scaring me.”
“Oh,” Stiles said, chuckling. “Yeah. Heard I took quite the long nap.”
“The hunters nearly killed you.”
Stiles winced, his smile dropping. “Yeah, I don’t remember very much about that. It all just kind of blurs together… My dad said I had some bad head trauma. Might not remember things at all. Though I might be okay with that.”
“I wasn’t there for you.”
Stiles looked sharply back up. “What?”
“I wasn’t there. I’m sorry.”
For a moment, Stiles just stared at him. Then he barked a laugh and shook his head, while Derek just stared in confused silence.
“You giant furry asshole, I’m not blaming you for any of this. Sure, you left again and I was seriously pissed. But dude, Sourwolf, I’m the token human. I get kidnapped sometimes. I’m not blaming you for going to live in an entirely different state before that all happened..”
Derek stayed silent. Stiles’s smile softened.
“But uh… I’m awake now. Which means you’re not going to leave again, right?”
Derek felt his throat tighten. Panic crashed over him in waves and Stiles must have noticed because the boy threw his hands up, chuckling weakly.
“Dude, dude! Just because we’re in a hospital doesn’t mean you get to have a heart attack. I’m not… I just… ah, fuck.”
“You heard me,” Derek said softly. Stiles nodded. “You heard everything?”
“Is that okay?”
Derek didn’t know how to answer that. Because yeah, he wasn’t going anywhere now. He never would leave again. But… he swallowed hard. Stiles’s scent flared with nervousness and the boy licked his lips, shifting nervously.
“I’m sorry I scared you, Derek.”
And that was so ridiculous. Stiles was the one here looking panicked and apologizing. Especially when Derek had been the one wallowing in grief and guilt not twenty-four hours ago.
Slowly, he leaned forward and took Stiles’s hand, threading the boy’s long fingers through his own. Stiles’s heart skipped a beat as Derek moved closer, touching his lips to his forehead.
“I’m not going anywhere, Stiles. Not again. Okay?”
“I’m… here. For good.”
Stiles smiled and turned his lips up, brushing them over Derek’s own. Derek nearly melted into the touch, the feel, the scent of Stiles. It felt alive. It felt right.
“I think I love you too,” Stiles whispered against his lips.
Derek whined and kissed the boy harder. And this time, he didn’t even try to not shatter. Because Stiles was here and Stiles was okay. Derek’s human was here and Derek knew he could always rely on Stiles to put him back together again.
On day one, Derek had thought he’d never been more terrified. On day thirty-three, Derek thought he’d never been more content.
Because on day thirty-three, Stiles woke up.