Rating: PG for language and mentions of balance.
Summary: Derek’s falling apart and nobody can see.
Author’s note: My first full-length(ish) Derek/Stiles. Please be gentle.
Title from this song which I found by a lyric search and actually really like. Thx to mithrel for the beta!
Under the full moon, the dead rise and Derek falls to pieces.
Not literally, and not observably; when he comes to, with Scott and most of his pack surrounding him in the ruins of his old house, he has a vague knowledge of what’s occurred and is quickly filled in on the rest. Peter howled to summon them all; he let them know he was alive and ordered them to choose sides, because he’d either take them in as his own wolves or he’d bite as many as it took to find his own pack, not caring who he killed in the process. He wasn’t like Derek, he’d said -- he wouldn’t be giving anybody a choice. The choice, he said, was theirs.
Derek sits up, looks around, and the first question on his mind is the one that nobody wants to answer.
Erica looks away. Boyd hangs his head. “He made his choice,” he says.
Derek growls, clawing at the slats of the floor and howling his frustration to the skies. The house shakes. His wolves back away in fear.
He fights to compose himself. “We’ll need to plan,” he says. “His aim is to break up our pack by offering you more power.”
“That’s what you offered us,” Erica says. Boyd and Derek stare daggers at her.
“He offers you more than that,” Scott says. “Something Peter doesn’t care enough to offer you.”
“Really?” Erica’s disdainful.
Scott nods. “Derek’s teaching you control, isn’t he? Peter’s not gonna help you with that. There is nothing more important than at least having a chance at actually having a life without being scared that one day you’ll change without meaning to. Trust me, you don’t want that happening.”
His tone is serious, severe, and Derek turns in some surprise. He’d thought he’d have to remind them of that himself.
“Does that mean you’re in?” he asks, trying to sound anything but as desperate as he’s feeling. Scott saying yes or no should not be as important as it is, but Scott was never meant to be this crucial to his life, anyway. Not after he had become the alpha.
“You think I’m gonna go sign up with a mass murderer?” Scott says. “Of course I am.”
Derek manages a small smile. “Good,” he says, but he means thank you.
They determine a plan -- first order of business, to keep Peter away from Lydia, Jackson and Matt (Peter controlling the Kanima is the most frightening prospect of all) -- and agree to a certain schedule of patrols to keep the town as safe as they can. It will be hard to keep Peter from killing, but they can at least protect the high-value targets.
Derek takes on the lion’s share, and when they ask if the process of descending from alpha back to beta has affected him, he growls and threatens to show them just how strong he still is. They don’t need to know how drained he feels, how the lethargy numbs his limbs and weighs down his eyelids with a near-constant need to sleep -- or how the process of tapping into his anger, which used to be so effortless, hurts again, like it did when he was first learning to control his transformations. It’s like he’s gone back to the starting gate. But back then, he had a family to guide him along the way. Now he has no one.
He considers telling Scott, but the idea is laughable, and he scoffs at himself for even conceiving of it. Like he’ll let Scott have a moment of superiority.
When he has a few minutes to himself and can shake the attentions of his pack, he returns to his old house and walks the floors, then slumps down against the staircase railing and closes his eyes. Just a few minutes without it all rolling around his head constantly. Just a few minutes.
He must have dozed, because no one ever sneaks up on him, and when his eyes open someone’s there.
He bolts awake in a flash, and his nails grow out to claws in another second before he recognizes the wholly unremarkable scent and settles back down. “What the hell are you doing here, Stiles?”
White fingers on the doorframe relax. Stiles steps into the light. “I heard what happened,” he says. “Scott gave me the Cliffs Notes version. You... uh... you doing OK?”
Derek scowls at him. “You want to see how OK I am?” His fangs start to protrude.
“Whoa, whoa.” Stiles raises his hands in wide-fingered surrender. “I didn’t mean that. I get it, you could still rip me apart with your bare hands. Never doubted that part.”
“Then why are you here?” His presence annoys Derek even more than usual.
“I, uh...” Stiles shuffles his feet. “Nothing, OK? Big mistake. Glad you’re fine. See you.”
He turns to go. A shot of desperation flies through Derek’s mind. He doesn’t know what it means, but it’s too strong not to listen to. He rises and blocks the door. Stiles stumbles back into the room.
“I asked you why you came here,” Derek says with a snarl.
“It’s stupid, really. Look, I’m not working for the enemy, if that’s what you think.”
It actually never crossed Derek’s mind -- Stiles doesn’t seem capable of that kind of subterfuge -- but he goes with it. “Prove it.”
“You should be able to smell it on me!” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. He pushes himself forward into Derek’s space. “Come on. Any trace of Peter the Wolf on me? You know who I’ve been hanging out with.”
Derek sniffs. “Just Scott.”
“Right. Just Scott. And Scott already told you he’s on your side. So would you calm your paws and let me get out of your hair already?”
His eyes are bright brown pebbles in the darkness, and staring at them for more than a few seconds hurts Derek, like they’re somehow piercing through his own eyes into his brain. Derek looks away, but he doesn’t move. “Just tell me why you’re here, Stiles.”
“It’s not important.”
“I don’t care.”
Stiles stares him down another moment. Derek can feel the gaze even with his eyes averted.
“Hmph.” Stiles folds his arms over his chest. “If you’re that keen on knowing, fine. I was worried about you.”
Derek can’t hold back the snort of derisive laughter. “Want me to bare the claws again?”
“Not your powers, dumbass. You. How are you holding up?”
The half-smile vanishes from Derek’s face. “What?”
“This has to have been really hard on you,” Stiles says. His voice is weak, but steady. “I mean, you thought you had everything, you were an alpha, you had a pack, and now this happens and --” He takes in a breath. “If it were me, I’d be miserable.”
Derek can’t look away anymore. He squints at Stiles, lets his wolf’s vision fade in and out, trying to make sense of the completely absurd concern that’s painting Stiles’ face. “I’m not Scott,” he says. “This isn’t some breakup angst.”
“I know it’s not,” Stiles says. “The way I figure it, this has to be way worse.”
A quaver rattles its way up Derek’s spine. His lips part, but he can’t think of anything to say.
“I mean, breakups I’ve had -- well, OK, I’ve never actually had a breakup,” Stiles goes on. “But I’ve had my heart broken. Constantly, actually. Since third grade. But I’ve seen Scott go through it, and -- and I know that must suck. But you actually had a piece of you taken away. Something you worked for, you, uh--” His lip curls. “You killed for. And to boot, one of yours goes scrambling for the other team. That’s got to be awful. I just thought... maybe you wanted someone without skin in the game. Ya know, to... to vent to.” He shudders. “Preferably verbally rather than the alternative?”
Derek wants to laugh. He wants to laugh really badly. “You thought I needed a shoulder to cry on.”
“Well, not in so many words...”
“And you thought you should be that shoulder to cry on.”
“Like I said, it was a stupid idea and I’d better go...”
The rage burst from him in a single, drawn-out syllable. It reverberates through the empty house. Stiles actually looks around as though he expects someone else to appear, a chorus of Dereks shouting why at him in unison. He bites his lip.
The shout wasn’t enough. Derek has more to say. “Why the hell do you care? You spent the past year trying to set me up for murder. Now you want to be best friends?” He’s breaking into bitter laughter again at the end of it.
“OK, now, first of all, my best friend is Scott, OK? That position is filled.” Stiles frowns at him. “Second of all, sure, we fought, and I may or may not have suggested we kill you from time to time, but... you know. Things have changed. You’re kind of... a buddy now.”
“I have a pack,” Derek says coldly. “I don’t need or want a ‘buddy.’”
“That’s why you could use one, you dumbass!” Stiles reaches out with both palms and shoves him.
Derek goes tumbling against the doorframe, not because he couldn’t have stood up against the anemic push of Stiles’ hands but because he doesn’t much care to protect himself against it. A few steps back is probably a good thing. A moment ago they were way too close, and that much Stiles in that short distance invites reckless action that he’d regret afterward. (Punching him or clawing him, of course, and he’d only regret it because it’d turn Scott against him. Not anything else. It’s not like he wants Stiles clinging to him for another two hours like they did in that pool.)
“You think you’re so freaking tough, you’re immune to needing friends?” Stiles rails at him. “You might have the claws and the fangs, but you’re still partway human. I get it, I do. You were betrayed, you lost people, but right now you’re weak.” He takes a breath. “You’re weak, Derek, whether you want to admit it or not, and you need people on your side not just because they have to be. You need someone there because he wants to be. And I want to be.”
“Because you care about Scott,” Derek says, and he’s only aware of how bitter it sounds after he says it.
“Because I care about you!” Stiles reaches out and shoves him again. Derek winces, and Stiles pauses, his hands still on Derek’s chest. His eyes meet Derek’s, and for the first time there’s real fear in them, not of Derek’s claws or fangs but of something bigger and deeper, something that’s honestly scaring the hell out of Derek, too.
“Why?” he asks again, and his voice is barely a breath.
Stiles sighs. His hands soften on Derek’s chest. “You ask such stupid questions sometimes,’ he says. “Don’t you think you’re worth caring about?”
Derek has never in his life even dared to ponder that question. He takes a breath in.
The breath never makes it back out -- at least, not through his lips, because in another second Stiles’ mouth is on his. Derek’s blood goes to fire, and he tries mightily to summon the strength to push Stiles off him, but his body can’t or won’t obey. He stands there, pinned against the doorframe, being kissed by a skinny, pasty little human who annoys the shit out of him, completely unable to reject it the way he should.
Stiles pulls off and stares at him reproachfully. He lifts his hand to his mouth and wipes it slowly. His face is flushed, and his heartbeat beats a quick rhythm in Derek’s ears -- outpacing his own pulse, but not by a lot.
“I-- shouldn’t have done that,“ he murmurs. “I really shouldn’t have done that.”
The urge rises in Derek to say no, it’s OK. He wonders where the hell it came from and pushes it back down, maintaining his silent glower at Stiles.
“Well.” Stiles shifts from side to side, nervous. “Look, if you change your mind. About a buddy. Or whatever. You know where to find me.”
He gives a stupid grin and pats Derek on the shoulder briefly. Pats him on the chest once. Looks pensive, as though evaluating the experience. And then he salutes and zooms through the door and out into the forest again.
Derek doesn’t watch him go. He doesn’t need to -- the fading sound of the car’s engine tells him Stiles has made his exit. It would have been Stiles’ fading scent, but now that’s all over his body.
He lumbers back to the staircase and sits, tries to shake it all off and to continue with his dark thoughts. It doesn’t exactly work. Quite against his will, he’s feeling better.