Stiles was completely fine.
Sure, every night he had nightmares, nightmares about various deaths of people he knew, some he watched and some he caused. Sure he relived the dozens of times he had guns pointed at his head and some of them pulled the trigger. Sure he saw the listless faces of everyone who had died. And he meant everyone. Tara, Aiden, Allison, Erica, Boyd, Heather, the list just went on and on. He even had dreams inside of dreams like with the nogitsune. Needless to say undisturbed sleeping hasn't really been a thing for him.
The one constant with everything was Derek. Every time Stiles was in a nightmare, Derek would drag him out of it. He'd stay with him in his panicked aftermath and on some nights even stay with him unless Stiles asked him to leave. Stiles learned to accept the help Derek slowly tried to give him, even though sometimes he wished Derek would go back to dealing with things in the moment and then not bringing them up ever again.
But he was completely fine. One hundred percent. A-Okay.
"Do you want to talk about them?" Derek asked for the thousandth time the morning after, surprise, a nightmare.
"Talk about what?" Stiles asked innocently and smiled. He smiled a lot these days, the days that blended together from late September when Derek brought him here to the chill of October deep in the woods of Colorado.
Derek scowled at him. "Your nightmares." He said bluntly.
"Nope. I'm good." Stiles said. He looked down at the old crossword book that he'd found on one of the coffee tables in the living room.
"Stiles-" Derek started but Stiles cut him off.
"I have nothing to talk about." Stiles snapped. He clenched his jaw and took a deep breath, and then added in a softer tone, "I'm fine Derek. I have nothing to talk about. They're just dreams."
Derek frowned, opened his mouth, then closed it. "What do you want with your eggs?" Derek asked finally.
"We're going on a trip." Derek said, leaning against the door frame to the library and crossing his arms.
"In our favorite rocket ship?" Stiles asked. "Where?"
"Into town. It's October and I doubt you have any proper clothes for when it gets cold." Derek said.
"I have hoodies." Stiles defended but Derek kept talking like he didn't hear Stiles.
"We also need to get more food since two people are eating now." He said. Getting more food would probably be a smart move.
"Are we going now?" Stiles asked. Derek nodded and walked away. Within a few minutes Stiles was outside, shrugging on a green hoodie and hopping in Derek's car.
“So how far away is this town?” He asked. Derek pulled away from the house and began driving on what was a dirt road- an observation Stiles was being very generous in describing.
“With the pathways-” Derek didn’t even call them roads, “I can get there in a little under an hour. It’s not big and mainly for people coming out to a resort nearby but it has enough stores for food and other things the people who are here year round will need.”
"Cool. And does this place at least have service?" Stiles asked.
"What is it with you and service?" Derek countered. Stiles shrugged.
"It's just weird being somewhere where the only phone that would work would be your satellite phone." He said.
"Well you'll just have to deal." Derek said. They stopped talking until he realized something.
"Hey, how did you know to get me if the only working thing was a satellite phone?" He asked. Derek spared him a quick glance before looking back to the road.
"Whenever I'm in town I check my phone." He said, pulling out a phone from his pocket and putting it back. "I'll usually call Cora and catch up with her for a little bit but...but I'd listen to the voicemails I got too. I heard the last few all together when you called me to come get you."
While Derek talked Stiles looked at the dashboard. He remembered every call he placed to Derek's phone with the thought he would never hear them. Yes, he's glad that Derek did because he's nowhere near Beacon Hills, but another part of him feels embarrassed. Since he never thought anyone would hear them once he got used to talking to his voicemail he talked about nearly everything. He used Derek's voicemail as a way to express all the things going on in his sometimes too crowded head to put them somewhere else.
"And then you came to get me?"
Derek nodded. "I was already out of the house and near a little of civilization, so I just drove."
Stiles felt suddenly, heart-stutteringly vulnerable, but at the same time felt his throat close up. Not because he was sad...but because Derek came to get him. Dropped everything and came.
He felt surprised then instantly chastised himself for feeling like that. Derek, no matter all the things Stiles said, was constant. Despite all his threats and looks, he tried to help, even though sometimes he ended up with opposite results. He and Derek always had a mutual understanding of one another after the general hostility from the beginning. They'd bicker, they'd fight, and they didn't stay in a room together if shit wasn't going down longer than necessary, but they'd help if one another was in danger. It was their balance. It was just how they worked.
"Thanks." Stiles whispered. Derek hummed his response and they fell quiet.
The little outcrop of a town was quite quaint. Large and small slightly outdated buildings were stretched in a decent sized area, connected by cracking pavement. Derek explained as they drove there was electricity, but for the little town itself they had a lot of generators just in case. The lodge nearby was for the people who wanted the full forest experience while still having the luxury of being in a home in the city. Outside of the dirt road that emerged from the paths they took, they passed houses people lived in and various stores. Stiles noted that the building that was best in shape so far was a hunting and fishing store.
"So do people do a lot of...hunting sport?" Stiles asked, waving his hand in the direction of the building.
"In season, yes." Derek said.
"And when it's not?" He asked.
"Then there are still demand for what they sell." Derek said. "Especially in fall since the bears are getting ready for hibernation."
"Will we see a bear?" Stiles asked.
Derek snorted. "You won't. I'll steer you away before we even get close."
Stiles stuck out his bottom lip but wasn't actually pouting. With his luck if they encountered a bear it would decide he was the perfect before winter meal.
Derek pulled the car over by a relatively big building and parked. "Here we are." He said.
They got out of the car, Derek grabbing a lot of reusable bags and going through the doors with Stiles following. Stiles' original thought was that it kind of looked like a Walmart. He saw a section of clothes nearby, then saw a section of the building he could tell was food, and another section for various things people could need.
"You start looking for clothes to keep you warm while I go get food." Derek said, already grabbing a cart and walking off.
Stiles walked over to the men's section. He trailed his fingers over the clothes, his fingers stopping once he hit the flannel. He had plenty of clothes that he had started to unpack at the house, but Derek wanted him to get clothes for when it got cold. He grabbed a few thick flannel, a pack of warm looking long sleeves and picked a heavy duty jacket.
"I'm done." Stiles said when he found Derek. He was currently loading food into the cart. Derek looked at the few items in Stiles' arms and scowled.
"You're going to need more." He said.
"I already have plenty." Stiles scoffed.
Derek loaded up the cart with the rest of the things he wanted and dragged Stiles back to where the clothes were. He grabbed pants, more shirts, some sweaters, and even socks and a pair of boots.
“I can’t need all of this stuff.” Stiles said once Derek seemed satisfied with the mountain of things they were currently buying. He just watched as the number at the cash register kept rising and rising in a way Stiles would normally feel sick at the thought of paying, but Derek didn’t even blink at it. Perks of having money, he guessed.
“Grab some bags.” Derek said. Stiles gave him a look and grabbed all of the light bags. He heard Derek sigh behind him, then the rustle of the rest of the bags.
The little moment, for a second, urged him to try to smile genuinely.
He gripped the bags tighter so they wouldn’t fall from his shaking hands.
Stiles had always loved the Californian spring. It was his favorite season, with everything coming back after the winter and being full of color. But now he thinks fall may just be his favorite season now.
The colors are, for once, breathtaking. The trees swell with reds and oranges and yellows, which are all his colors. They were so vibrant and rich in a way he hadn't really seen outside of pictures. Fall in Beacon Hills basically consisted of the leaves getting a little bit of color and then falling on the ground. The trees here kept their leaves so Stiles could just sit out and see them.
The mornings were chilly and the afternoon barely got any warmer, but it was still really nice. The sky was clear and there was little wind. Stiles was currently wrapped up in a warm hoodie, his new shoes on and a backpack on his back. Derek was still at the house making sure he had everything they could ever possibly need. Stiles had taken the liberty to go ahead and go somewhat deep into a path he liked to hike.
Yeah. They did that now.
They never ventured too far, but each day they went longer and further than the time before. It was something Stiles latched onto. Throughout the years, even though Stiles hated exercising, with all the running to and from things helped him keep relatively fit, so the hiking wasn’t too bad. But when Derek took him off the few trails the terrain was a little more difficult. He predicted his calves would be incredible by the time he left.
Stiles banished any and every thought about leaving or time. He’d been very good at letting the days and nights blend together to where he didn’t know what day it was or how long he’d already been at Casa de Hale.
“Finally.” Stiles said as Derek appeared from a slight send in the trail. “You took forever.”
“I made sure I had everything. Are you sure you have everything?” Derek asked.
“If I don’t, you do.” He said. Derek scowled at him. “Let’s continue on, Sourwolf.”
“Still with that nickname?” Derek grunted, letting Stiles lead. He was excited because they were going to spend a few hours out and about and then have lunch in the forest. Stiles was eager to stay away from the house as long as he could. For a structure so big, it sure got suffocating.
“Obviously. You’re my favorite Sourwolf.” Stiles said and smiled wide.
“I’m the only one you call Sourwolf.” Derek pointed out.
“Exactly.” He said. Derek rolled his eyes and suddenly sped up to go ahead of Stiles.
“Hey! Slow down!” Stiles yelled, beginning to jog to catch up. This part of the path was steeper than the rest, and his foot caught on a root. He tripped, throwing his hands out to catch his fall. He felt the roots and rocks dig painfully into his palms. He didn’t stop his momentum, instead tumbling down until Derek stopped him.
“Are you okay?” Derek asked. Stiles hissed through his teeth and sat up slowly. His body ached, his ankle hurt, and his palms were cut.
“I’m fine.” He said, grinding his teeth. He lifted his palms to inspect and nearly threw up. Blood pooled up from his palms, not bright red, but thick in dark. Panic settled deep in his core as he shook his hands down to try to shake the blood off. It just smeared all over his hands.
“Stiles, Stiles breathe.” Derek said. He placed his hands gently on Stiles’ face and blocked him from the rest on the world.
“Breathe with me Stiles. In through the nose, out through the mouth.”
“I know how to b-breathe.” Stiles stuttered, his chest heaving. He tried to calm his breaths down but they stayed short and quick. Stiles expected a comment like “i can see you’re so able to breathe” from Derek when he failed to get a hold of his lungs, but no such comment was made. Derek just got on his knees in front of Stiles and made him look him in the eye.
“In and out.” Derek said. Stiles started mimicking the way Derek breathed, long and slow and lung aching but it helped slow his heartbeat and push the panic to only his fingertips.
“There you go.” Derek said quietly. His hand had taken to cupping the back of Stiles’ head. Briefly, Stiles felt that Derek was draining his pain. “Are you with me now?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to freak out like that. It’s just-”
“The blood.” Derek finished. Stiles nodded.
“Yeah.” He said. He refused to meet Derek’s eyes.
“Let’s clean you up.” He said. Derek got out a water bottle and washed off Stiles’ hands. Whenever he started to hiss in discomfort Derek would drain the pain. From his bag, Derek got a bandage and wrapped his hands up.
“Good thing you have everything, huh?” Stiles joked, but his voice fell flat.
“I guess.” Derek said after a moment. He grabbed Stiles’ forearm and pulled him back up.
“Thanks.” Stiles said, making his way to the bottom of the steep end, wincing as his ankle throbbed.
“I think we should head back.” Derek said. Stiles turned around and looked up at him.
“Why?” Stiles asked. He was well aware of the heat crawling into his voice but he didn’t care. His nerves were frazzled.
“Maybe because you just hurt yourself and had a panic attack not five minutes ago.” He said.
“I do not want to go back.” Stiles said. He turned his back to Derek and continued walking, so Derek was forced to follow.
“Stiles-” Derek tried.
“I’m not going back.” He interrupted.
“Then if you’re going to continue being so stubborn do you at least want to talk about it?” Derek asked, though his tone was a lot more growly and sarcastic than what qualified for an actual question.
“Talk about what.” Stiles asked, ramping up his own sarcasm. Two could play at that game.
“Anything. Everything.” Derek said, he grabbed Stiles’ shoulder to turn him around (the asshole did it gently so he didn’t hurt Stiles any more than he already was. That motherfucker.)
“I don’t want to talk about anything!” Stiles yelled.
“Well you’re going to have to!” Derek matched him.
“Why the hell should I?!” Stiles demanded. “I will literally not benefit from talking. I have nothing to talk about! Crying won’t do me any good.”
“Neither will not talking about it.” Derek said.
“Oh, that’s rich coming from you.” Stiles said, his lips curling. “Like you’ve ever talked to anyone in your life.”
“I didn’t.” Derek said. “And it fucked me up and then I fucked up a lot of things. Do you know what I was doing while I was away?” He asked. Stiles didn’t answer, because he didn’t know. “I was in therapy. I was talking and yes it was like pulling teeth, but I was getting better. My therapist recommended that I get away from everything, be by myself for awhile, relearn myself. I talk to her when I go into town.”
Stiles clenched his jaw and swallowed any mean comments he would’ve had. “I didn’t know that.” He said finally.
“Obviously.” Derek said.
They both went quiet after that, standing under the trees. He could hear the birds chirping overhead and the few bugs buzzing about, but any other sounds he didn’t hear. Derek probably did. He could probably hear any animal scurrying around, could hear Stiles’ heartbeat, hear the sound of the distant thunderstorm that was forecasted to show up.
“I...I can’t talk about it.” Stiles said, crossing his arms and looking at the leaf littered ground. He heard Derek sigh and felt the fight go out of both of them.
“How far are you wanting to go today then?” Derek asked. Stiles looked up at him through his lashes.
“I was hoping to that ledge you were talking about.” He said. “The one you said overlooked forever into the forest.”
“I think we could get there for lunch and then head back before the storm rolls in.” Derek said. Stiles felt his heart clench in regret at what he said to Derek earlier, and he’s still being so nice to him. They didn’t have to apologize to one another though. The change in atmosphere and topic was enough of one for them.
For the next hour they hiked, even as his ankle throbbed in protest and his body hurt with most movement. Derek pointed out a lot of things. Holes animals dug, squirrels fighting in the trees, birds nests, and at one point even bear poop (which was something Stiles didn’t want to think about. Nor did he want to think about how Derek could smell that it wasn’t fresh. Gross.)
The clear blue sky above was starting to fill with clouds by the time Derek directed him to where the ledge was. They’d abandoned the trail about a mile or so back to go freely trekking through the woods to find the place Derek had told him about.
“We’re here.” Derek said, pushing away a cluster of branches and bushes out of the way. As soon as Stiles stepped forward the breath stuck in his throat.
It was gorgeous. They were elevated above this section of the forest, the other hills and mountains stretching out in the horizon with flat land in between. All the tall trees were such vibrant colors Stiles wanted to never not see this much color. Some trees were stubbornly clinging to the green in their leaves, but other than the evergreens, the pines, and a few other trees Stiles didn’t know the names of, all the other trees had color.
“Wow.” Stiles breathed. He followed Derek to the edge that only looked like a drop-off and sat down.
“How’d you find this place?” Stiles asked.
“For the first few days I was here, I was a full wolf for most of the time. I did a lot of exploring.” He said.
“Apparently.” Stiles said. He swung off his backpack and opened it to pull out his lunch.
Stiles frowned as soon as he saw the bag that held his lunch. His perfect, carefully made sandwich was smashed all to hell, the chips reduced to crumbs, and even the pickle was so ruined all the juice went to the sandwich.
Stiles didn’t even have time to feel sad over the state of his lunch before Derek was pulling it out of his hands and replacing it with his own lunch. Stiles blinked with owlish eyes as Derek started eating his ruined lunch. He swallowed the lump in his throat over the gesture and took a timid bite of Derek’s sandwich. It was much better than what his was going to be.
“You know,” Stiles started, nudging Derek’s shoulder, “You’re not as scary as that scowl of yours leads people to believe.”
Derek scowled and Stiles had to turn his head away to keep the look of brief delight on his face from Derek, so he didn’t have to see the crestfallen one that replaced it soon after.
The storm raged on for three whole days, firmly locking Stiles inside. The only time either of them braved going outside was during the few minutes the rain stopped, and it was only time spent clearing away branches and checking if there was any water build-up they needed to try to fix.
If there was, Stiles didn’t really know, because he wasn’t ever the one going outside.
Needless to say, with the storm came a foul mood and restlessness. Stiles couldn’t stay still for more that thirty seconds. He was always wandering around to try to keep himself busy, and he felt like that annoyed Derek, how he always was messing with things. Of course, Derek never looked at him or said anything that would confirm that.
Even the extensive and impressive library wasn’t enough to make him concentrate. The books he’d otherwise be dying to read (some in fact, that were leatherbound, smelled like the beautiful scent of old paper, and filled with texts about all things supernatural and went into depth even more than the bestiary, to the point where there were full on volumes like the damn encyclopedias you always find in schools) sat open only a few pages in. That depressed Stiles even more, he couldn’t even read.
Derek tried his best to help keep Stiles’ bad mood away. He finished The Time Traveler’s Wife (which Stiles both loved and hated) and continued on reading the collection of poorly written but addicting romance novels. He gave Stiles space when he wanted to be alone. He even made all the food Stiles liked, even though he didn’t eat much of it. That was something that caused quite a few fights between them. Stiles had already started to lose weight even before he showed up, so Derek hated the fact that he might be losing more for his lack of appetite.
Which was what he was currently pointing out.
“It’s not healthy.” Derek said as Stiles pushed his plate away from him, still mostly full of food.
“It’s not like I’m not eating at all.” Stiles defended. “I’m just not eating that much.”
“It’s obvious that you’re not eating enough.” Derek said. “Your cheeks are hollowing out.”
Stiles refused to admit Derek was right. Between the lack of sleep that caused dark circles under his eyes and the lack of eating, Stiles avoided looking into mirrors. It wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t hungry.
“I’m just not hungry.” He said. “If I try to make myself eat, I feel sick. And sometimes I throw up.”
“If you throw up it’s because of a nightmare.” Derek said blantaly.
Stiles bristled. “You said you wouldn’t mention them.”
“I never said that. You said not to, and I never responded. You took that as a yes.” Derek said.
“Well I’m not talking about this.” Stiles said and got up from his seat. Derek stood up.
“Yes, you are.” Derek said.
“Oh yeah? Who says I have to?” Stiles asked.
“What happened to letting me talk about it when I want to?”
“Because you’re never going to Stiles!” Derek yelled. “I’ve been patient, but you’re so stubborn! You’re not going to admit you’re not okay!”
“I’m fine, Derek! God, why the hell are you worrying so much? You’ve never showed this much interest in my well being before!” Stiles yelled.
“I haven’t?” Derek asked sarcastically.
“No!” Stiles flailed his arms, anger bubbling fast and hot under his skin. His cheeks felt like they were radiating heat. “We’ve saved each other’s lives, but that’s as far as we’ve gone! We’re not gooey, we’re not friendly. Our entire relationship is built off of sarcasm and as few interactions as possible. And then suddenly, you care!”
“I’ve always cared, Stiles!” Derek walked closer to get in Stiles’ face. “If I didn’t I wouldn’t have bothered to come get you in the first place. You called me because you knew I would understand what you were going through.”
“We’re going through two different things, Derek.” Stiles spat. “You’re going through having to finally realize your family is long dead, burnt to fucking crisps. Even though you’ve had years to get over it, you still can’t even have their pictures standing up so you can see their faces. And the pack you made because you were so lonely you turned other teenagers just so you could try to make-shift a new family? They’re dead too. But me?” Stiles asked. “My wounds are fresh. These are two different situations.”
Stiles walked forward to Derek. They were almost the same height, Derek being only a few inches taller. Being wider and more fit, Derek radiated underlying anger. If this were back when he had first met Derek, he would’ve been terrified. Now though, he remembered just how easily he knocked Theo down with a punch, how surprising strength wasn’t lost on him during a fight.
“It’s not different Stiles. I’ve been in your position so many times over-” Derek started, his voice steady. Stiles was really beginning to hate how he refused to lose his temper.
“Why the fuck won’t you get mad at me?!” Stiles interrupted. “Yell at me! Fucking hit me! I just talked shit about your family, about Erica and Boyd! I’ve been nothing but a goddamn inconvenience to you!” Stiles shoved Derek’s shoulders, but didn’t feel any satisfaction on watching him stumble back. It only made him feel sick. “I’m fucked up, Derek! I’ve killed people! My dad died because some prick wanted me to choose between my dad or Scott dying, and I easily left Scott! He could’ve died and my dad still died. He didn’t even know that I’m a murderer !” Stiles turned to the table and picked up the glass of water and threw it against the other wall. Glass and water shattered outward, covering the floor.
Derek grabbed his arm and Stiles turned, hitting his chest over and over, his hits shaky as he screamed and struggled in Derek’s arms when they held him tight.
“Fucking just-” He hit him again. “Let me fucking just-” Each hit was weaker than the last. “Let me take his place-” Tears started to flood his eyes. “Dad didn’t deserve it. He did nothing wrong.” Stiles was crying, his knees going weak as he slipped from Derek’s arms and collapsed on the ground. He hiccuped, allowing Derek to pull him into a hug as he met him on the ground. Stiles sagged against his chest, the guilt and anger and grief hitting him like a freight train.
Stiles clutched onto Derek’s shirt. “My dad is de-dead because of me.” He cried. “Theo was looking for Void, wanting to bring him back. B-but Derek...he never left. He’s still here.” He whispered, trembling hard at his confession.
“No, Stiles, Void’s gone. You know he is.” Derek said softly into Stiles’ hair.
“But I can feel him.” Stiles said. “I felt him when I killed Donovan and I felt good about it. I felt him when Scott and I fought. I felt him when I hit Theo and wanted to keep hitting. I just- I get angry and I don’t care if I hurt someone. If- if I don’t feel him, then I’m like him.”
“That doesn’t mean you’re him, Stiles. You’ve been surrounded by death and gore and violence since Scott got bitten. You’ve been possessed and thrown into so many dangerous and life threatening situations. No one can come out of that being the person they used to be.” Derek ran his fingers through his hair that was getting a little too long.
“But Scott...he’s not like this.”
“That’s because Scott keeps his friends safe by believing he can. For him, optimism and hope keep him going. You’re just wired differently. You do background checks and are loaded with paranoia and you’re willing to do anything to keep the people you care about safe, even if it means others get hurt.” Derek said.
“Exactly! I’m willing to hurt people!” Stiles said. His breath stuck as his face twisted and more tears came from his eyes. He was crying, but he wasn’t sobbing. The difference was surprisingly worse. His turmoil wasn’t going out with his cries, but instead building inside of him, turning into pressure behind his eyes and causing his chest to feel like he cracked multiple ribs and was taking deep breaths.
“But that’s in self defense.” Derek said. “There’s a difference between that and murder. If needed, in the heat of a fight, you will hurt someone if it means the life or well-being of another is spared. That’s kind of like me. It’s...it’s not a bad thing.”
“Y-you sound like you’re trying to convince yourself of that.” Stiles said weakly. He didn’t want to believe any of what Derek was saying, but he kept feeling the coil in his gut loosen in hope anyway.
“I am.” He said. “That’s one of the reasons for the whole therapy thing.”
Derek continued holding Stiles as he cried. It was a slow process, letting all of the emotions he felt slowly drain out so he could be left exhausted and empty. Except this time he knew he couldn’t smile after this. He wouldn’t be able to say “I’m fine” and make himself believe it when the words tasted rotten.
“I need help.” He whispered into Derek’s chest. Derek held him steady, playing with his hair and giving him support while Stiles didn’t have his own.
“I’ll help you.” Derek said. “But you need to be willing to meet me halfway with this.”
Stiles sniffled and nodded. “I’ll try.” He said.
“And who knows,” Derek added. “Maybe I can help myself more too.”
“This’ll be a two way street then.” He said. “It’d be unfair if you were the only one pulling all the weight. And...I think helping someone else would help me.”
He could feel more than see Derek’s nod. “Okay then.” He said.
Stiles closed his eyes and wrapped his arms timidly around Derek’s waist. Derek adjusted them so the angle wasn’t awkward, and they held each other amongst the painful past and glittering glass.