Chapter 27 – Aftershocks
Stiles wanted to pass out. Instead he lay on the couch, shaking with aftershocks of pain. The others watched over him, even Peter. Lydia stroked his forehead and smiled down at him. It wasn't a happy smile. She looked ready to cry. Maybe she already had, but Stiles couldn't remember. Cassie sat in a chair with her legs propped up and her face twisted up in pain. She was still healing. Daemyn and Stiles' father whispered to each other across the room.
"What are they saying?" he asked Peter too softly for his voice to travel far. His throat was so raw it came out as little more than a croak anyway.
Peter chuckled and leaned in. Lydia pulled back when he did. "They're worried about your emotional state following all this. They shouldn't. You'll pull through."
"What makes you so sure?"
Peter looked at him like it was obvious. "I don't take no for an answer from just anyone, Stiles." He smirked and strolled over to harass Cassie. Or apologize. Judging by their expressions and Stiles' experience with Peter, it was probably both.
Derek burst through the door. It had already hung dangerously ajar and now fell off its hinges entirely. His eyes glowed such a brilliant red Stiles could have sworn they cast light like the garnets had. He panted for a moment, claws and fangs at the ready, checking for any remnant of danger. Then Derek was at Stiles' side and human except for the red of his eyes.
"You're alive," he said, voice breathless from running or relief.
"Usually." Stiles coughed.
"I felt you dying." He took Stiles' hand and squeezed it between his.
"That was Thera."
"She's gone then?"
"Yeah, she's gone."
Stiles wasn't prepared for Derek to smash their lips together and kiss him like they'd just watched the world burn down together. Then again, they basically had. Stiles grabbed a fistful of Derek's hair and kissed him back, ignoring the soreness and pain in his body. He also ignored his father clearing his throat loudly, but Derek jerked away like he'd forgotten they weren't alone.
"He's still under eighteen."
Derek nodded dumbly while Stiles rolled his eyes.
"It's really, really weird seeing you two kiss," Scott said. He must have arrived while Stiles was distracted.
"Weird and uncomfortable. It's like watching my big brother and my cousin make out. Oh, God, it's great to get that off my chest." Isaac let out a relieved sigh.
"That wasn't why I said it was weird," Scott pointed out. "I just have trouble imagining either of them kissing anybody."
Isaac's face froze into an uncomfortable mask of a smile, and Stiles wondered why exactly he saw things differently than Scott would. Then he remembered that Isaac and Derek lived together. And he remembered that werewolves had super senses. And he remembered exactly how he'd relieved the... emotional buildup of spending time with Derek.
"Oh my God," he said but couldn't get any further and sputtered instead. He guessed by Isaac's expression that he'd gotten it right.
Lydia snickered. She must have reached the same conclusion Stiles did. "You poor thing," she said, but laughter was clear in her voice.
Stiles laughed, and Derek scowled harder.
Stiles laughed so hard his eyes shut and his sides hurt, so he just had to imagine Derek's scowl drooping down his chin. He choked on his laughter and somehow kept on laughing even though he couldn't breathe and every shake ran through his body like getting hit by a truck during an earthquake. When he opened his eyes again, Derek's mouth had reformed to a straight line except for a small twinge at the corner. It returned to scowling the moment he realized Stiles could see him, and Stiles pushed Derek away by his face.
"Stop it, you ass."
Derek scowled. "I'm not doing anything."
"You are too."
"This is my natural face." He frowned so hard Stiles worried his face would stick that way.
"Oh my God. You're ridiculous." He wheezed past his laughter. "Your face is killing me. Literally. Killing me."
"I think it's just you. No one else is laughing."
"I'm laughing on the inside," Stiles' dad said.
"I'm just really confused," Scott said.
"I need pizza. Do you have any pizza?" Isaac walked past everyone into the kitchen. Lydia stood and followed him.
"Is he stealing our food now?" Stiles' dad asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Stiles said. "I don't know why he likes pizza so much." His throat was so dry it almost hurt to talk, but Lydia returned from the kitchen with a glass of water. She handed it to Stiles and stood with her hands on her hips.
"It's aromatic and delicious," Isaac called back from the kitchen. Then, "PIZZA!"
Stiles downed the water, then turned and eyed his father. "We aren't supposed to have pizza. It's terrible for you." Lydia took the glass and returned to the kitchen.
"It's for Daemyn. He's never tried pizza."
"I can't make him eat it alone. Pizza is a group activity."
"Stop it, Stiles. I'm the parent here."
"Or so you say."
His father got out of saying more when the rest of the pack piled through the broken doorway. They grouped around Stiles to make sure he was okay. Erica moved to check on Cassie pretty quickly, and Allison joined her once she was certain Stiles and Lydia were fine. Boyd stood by the broken window, surveying the room. He looked satisfied. Then his nose twitched, and he walked to the kitchen. Stiles couldn't smell pizza yet, but he wasn't exactly a werewolf either. Then Boyd trudged back in looking less pleased than before.
"How long does your oven take to preheat?" he demanded.
Stiles rolled his eyes. "Like ten minutes, dude. Chill."
Boyd nodded and returned to the kitchen. Lydia passed him on the way out and raised an eyebrow at him. Boyd shrugged. Lydia smirked. Stiles wondered what exactly he'd missed. Lydia brought him more water, so he opted not to ask questions.
"I just lost my pizza, didn't I?" Stiles' father leaned against the back of the couch with a sigh.
"I thought you said it was for Daemyn." Stiles smirked.
"Pizza is a synonym for quality bonding time with my grandchild. That was what I meant."
"I'm beginning to see where Stiles gets it." That sounded like Scott's mom. Sure enough, when Stiles looked to the doorway, he found Melissa McCall standing with her hands on her hips. "Who is going to tell me why I have no idea what's going on here?"
Scott's eyes fell. "Sorry, Mom."
"Don't you 'sorry, Mom' me." She strolled into the room, studying the damage done by the attack. Then she sighed. "I've got a first aid kit in my car. Is anyone who can't heal themselves injured?"
"My dad is!" Stiles piped up.
"I'm fine. Stiles is hurt."
"I think he hit his head in the window in that place where it's all cracked up but to the side of the bullet hole." Stiles pointed to the ruined window.
"I said I'm fine. Look at Stiles."
"I'll check on you both, but head injuries are serious," Melissa said. "I'm getting the kit. I'll be right back." As she turned around, she called over her shoulder. "Someone give him a chair to sit on."
Stiles laughed, and Erica bounced out of the armchair she'd taken beside Cassie to pull Stiles' father down into it. He sighed like they'd placed a great weight on his shoulders.
Peter leaned over the back of the couch to whisper in Stiles' ear. "You're injured worse." Stiles swatted him away, but Peter caught his hand before it touched him. Derek growled, and Peter let go with a chuckle. "So touchy." He shrugged and drifted away and out the door.
Stiles looked around the room. Something was off. The pack was still up to their usual shenanigans, but... Jackson and Daemyn were missing. Maybe they'd joined Boyd and Isaac for pizza, but Stiles never noticed them leave the room. Then again, he hadn't noticed Jackson entering it, or being there at all.
"Hey, where'd Daemyn go?" He asked Derek.
Derek shrugged. "He's in his room." Stiles started to stand, but Derek pushed him back down. Despite the gentle touch he used, Stiles winced at the pressure Derek put on him. "Daemyn's fine. And my uncle's a creep, but he's right. You're obviously hurt."
Stiles scowled, but Derek slipped an arm around him and almost smiled. Or at least stopped frowning. He rubbed his nose against Stiles' temple for a moment before pressing a kiss to the skin.
"I'm not going to ask about that," Melissa said. "I probably don't want to know."
"You really don't," Stiles father told her as she opened her first aid kit on the end table beside his chair.
Derek frowned at him until Stiles poked him in the ribs.
"Why are you telling me this?" Daemyn pouted even though he was obviously trying not to. They stood in Daemyn's room, but Jackson had convinced him to put up some kind of sound block so no one would overhear.
Jackson groaned internally. "I don't even know. It's not like I care."
"Then maybe you should just go."
"No, I..." Jackson tried to sort out his thoughts. "I will never admit to this, so don't go spreading it around, but I might care just a little, okay. I have... issues with my parents too. Yours are different, but being the spawn of an evil faerie is kind of unique."
Daemyn crossed his arms. Jackson supposed it was meant to look more intimidating, but Daemyn just looked like a hurt kid.
"Stiles is your dad, but he's... God, Lydia could explain this better. There's psychology crap involved, I'm sure."
"It's weird seeing you stumble around like that."
"You're just usually so sure of how much you don't care."
Jackson snarled. He felt the heat of his eyes glowing, but Daemyn didn't react to it. "You're a rape baby," he growled at him. "No matter how much Stiles loves you, assuming he does love you, he's going to see what your mother did when he looks at you."
"My father loves me."
"Good for you. I'm just saying don't hold it against him when he forgets to act like it."
"He's been good to me ever since he took me in. He's not—"
"He hasn't had a moment to breathe ever since he took you in. He was constantly either dying or waiting to die." This was the part Jackson didn't quite get. The part where people couldn't hide away their feelings. "Now that it's over, Stiles will have to face what's happened. He's not okay with it, Daemyn. There was a lot of shit in all, but you're part of it."
"What do you want from me, Jackson? Do you want me to say my daddy doesn't love me? Will that make you feel better?"
"No." Jackson had made a mistake. That was clear. He wasn't cut out for this good samaritan crap. "I'm just trying to warn you that your dad needs serious therapy and probably isn't going to admit it."
"Well, so do you. What of it?"
Jackson groaned. "Whatever, kid. I'm out." He turned, but Daemyn caught his wrist.
"No, you're not. Every time you start talking to me, you cut off partway through and just leave me there." Daemyn pulled Jackson back around, and with a sigh, Jackson let him.
"I don't do feelings. It's too much of a hassle."
"You obviously do feelings, or you wouldn't be here right now."
Jackson frowned because it rang too true. It was easier to pretend he didn't care. "I've said what I wanted to say."
"Well, I haven't." Daemyn took a deep breath. "It wouldn't hurt your image to act like you care about your friends."
"We're not friends."
"But we're pack."
Jackson felt the truth of that in the pack bond. He hated Derek for his new alpha empath shit. He'd never felt this close to anyone except... Jackson flinched away from the thought. It wasn't something he remembered clearly anyway. "Yeah," he muttered. "We're pack." He felt something strengthen between them when he said the words, and Jackson wished he could rip it out of his chest.
"They told me what the bite did to you."
Jackson hissed, stepping back, but Daemyn caught his wrist again.
"I'm just saying so you know... You've known them all so long, maybe it's hard to admit things to them that you haven't before. But we only just met. You could tell me."
"I feel like this was supposed to be the other way around." Jackson twitched with his need to get out, away from Daemyn and his compassion.
"Both ways would be cool, wouldn't it?" Daemyn smiled softly. "We don't have to be friends, but pack is there for each other."
"Fine," Jackson forced through gritted teeth. "But not right now."
Daemyn nodded and lunged forward to hug Jackson. Jackson patted his back a couple times and hoped this wasn't something he expected regularly. Hugs had never been Jackson's thing.
When everyone else had gone, three Stilinskis sat on the couch, Stiles at the center. They'd spent most of the night awake with the pack, and now they were still, finally facing what had happened. Stiles rubbed sleep from his eyes and scratched an itch on his nose.
"I'm glad you two are okay," he said.
"You too." His dad wrapped an arm over Stiles' shoulders and pulled Daemyn closer so the arm reached around him too.
"Daemyn," Stiles said. "I..." He ran his tongue along the inside of his cheek. The only times Stiles couldn't think of anything to say were when he needed words most. "Sorry I killed your mom again." It came out pitifully.
"She tried to kill you first, and," he took a long, stuttering breath. "And I helped this time."
Stiles pulled Daemyn farther forward so his head rested against Stiles' shoulder. "I'm sorry." Stiles had pushed him into that, even if Daemyn had agreed. He rubbed circles against Daemyn's back and hoped it was soothing.
"We should all get some sleep," Stiles' father said, but he didn't move.
"Yeah," Stiles agreed.
"I'm afraid to sleep," Daemyn admitted.
"Yeah," Stiles agreed.
His father pulled them both closer.
Derek was waiting in Stiles' bedroom, sitting in a chair since there was no bed now. They had moved the wreckage of the old one out but not yet replaced it.
"I thought you left," Stiles said, going to his chest of drawers to pull out something clean to sleep in. He didn't plan on waking up again for a week, even if he had to deal with the door and window being repaired right next to him.
Derek shook his head.
Stiles had hoped to put it off, but he was starting to think Derek needed to hear this as soon as possible. He took a deep breath and dove in. "I don't know if you convinced yourself it was the magic or Thera, but... what I did—almost did to you. That was me."
"I almost didn't." Stiles shuddered at the memory.
"But you did."
"But I still started. I was going to rape you, Derek." Derek flinched at the word. "I didn't care what you wanted or needed. The magic let me hold you down, but it didn't make me a different person."
"It did." Stiles began to argue again, but Derek cut him off. "It was still you, but a different version of you." Derek breathed out, long and slow, with his eyes closed. Then he opened them to look at Stiles. "I'm not saying we're fine, just that we can be. Will be. Eventually."
Stiles cocked his head. "Sorry, did Derek Hale just admit to emotional problems and the need to work through them like actual adults instead of hoping it goes away if he frowns long and hard enough?"
"Don't be an ass." Derek frowned. "Everyone knows donkeys are skittish around wolves, and I don't think that's what I want from a relationship."
Stiles laughed. "You need to stop. The jokes are getting ridiculous."
"It's been a while since I had someone I could joke to." His mouth was a straight line, but his eyes were sad. "Not that Laura actually thought I was funny."
Stiles crossed to Derek's chair then and sat in his lap to hug him. They fit awkwardly in the chair together, but Stiles made the best of it, swinging his legs over the arm and pulling Derek's face to rest against his neck. He brushed a hand through Derek's hair.
"My younger cousins thought I was hilarious." Derek spoke softly against Stiles' neck. "I helped them build a little stage with curtains and a handful of sock puppets with stupid names, and they put on a show for everyone. They'd made a puppet with blue buttons for eyes without telling me and called it Derek. Throughout their show, Derek puppet would show up and say something ridiculous, and all the other puppets would laugh as the kids giggled. Peter told me afterward that I was good with kids." He wrapped his arms around Stiles' middle and held him close. "I'm not good with kids anymore."
"Shh, I'm trying to picture you as the funny one."
"I think you could be good with kids. You're just scared."
Derek growled, but the sound was weak and died off quickly.
"It's okay to be." Stiles pressed a kiss to Derek's forehead.
"Only if you'll be scared with me." Stiles didn't think they were talking about Derek's cousins anymore.
"Trust me," Stiles whispered. "I'm terrified."
It had been a long time since Stiles felt so alone. He lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling. Even though he wanted desperately to sleep, he couldn't. Instead he probed the empty spaces in his mind where Thera once lived. He kept getting up to check in the mirror that both of his eyes stayed brown. So far they had. Nothing he did found any sign of Thera, but he still almost felt her there. It reminded him of the echo of weight that stayed behind after Derek lay on his arm too long. It made him think of the things he'd read online about phantom limbs.
There was so much Stiles could do now that Thera was dead. He could get to know Daemyn. He could date Derek. He could spend time with the pack, go back to school, and try not to get killed by the next monster to visit Beacon Hills.
But he couldn't use magic. He couldn't defend his pack or attack his enemies. He couldn't live in fire and burn with it. Stiles pulled his blanket closer around him. He still wanted magic. Part of him clung to the hope Deaton had given him, but Stiles knew better. Thera had searched him for magic and taken any last scrap for her own. If there'd been any left, his final spell wouldn't have killed her.
Stiles would never have magic again.
He squeezed his eyes shut against that thought and gripped the blanket with trembling fists. When his breathing sped up, Stiles focused, trying to slow it down. Breath in. One, Two—it didn't help. Stiles trembled, gasping for breath. Nothing he did pushed back the panic strangling him. Stiles tried to lift himself off the couch, but he shook and stumbled and fell against the coffee table. He hit the floor, still gasping, and gave up on standing. His face pressed against the carpet, mouth open against it, sucking in tiny gasps of air and forcing them back out in pained huffs.
No one found him. It didn't pass so much as slowly leech away. If he'd had any energy to begin with, Stiles would think it'd drained him. He lay on the floor savoring the air as it passed into his lungs and back out.
"Sorry, am I interrupting?"
Stiles scrambled to his feet, pushing himself up by the same coffee table he'd hit on his way down. John Mortimer stood in front of the window, smiling.
"Not at all." His voice was still hoarse.
"I hear Thera's dead."
"As a doornail." Stiles gritted his teeth. If John decided to attack, there wasn't much Stiles could do to stop him.
"You'll forgive me if I insist on making sure."
"No, I don't think I will." Stiles backed away as John stepped forward. Something in the old man's demeanor said he meant more than a quick search for Thera. He meant to finish the job anyway.
"Pity." He reached a hand into the pocket of his coat.
"Hey, we both wanted Thera dead, and she is. Really the only reason we didn't get along before was that I was unfortunate enough to have the same body she did. That's not a problem anymore, so we can be friends now and go our separate ways. Maybe exchange emails every once in a while."
"I don't think so."
"Yeah, you're more of a snail mail slash magical instant transmission of messages guy, I can tell. Anyway, now that we're such good friends, I've got something you should have. It belonged to Chase." Stiles only hoped it worked. He began backing away, hoping he could stall long enough to lead John to his bedroom.
"Something of Chase's?" He stepped forward, following Stiles' slow movement down the hall.
"I mean, I guess I don't technically know which one of them owned it, but Chase usually handled the magic stuff right?" Stiles shrugged. "Even if we weren't such wonderful chums that I wanted to return it to you, it's not of much use to me since I have no magic." Stiles babbled as best he could, trying to keep John interested without saying exactly what he had hidden in his desk drawer.
They reached his room, and Stiles tried to hide his relief. "Come on," he said, waving John in. "It's over here. I think he'd want you to have it."
John followed Stiles to his desk, and Stiles opened the drawer to pull out the bracelet Chase had used to keep Stiles from escaping the Mortimers with magic. Stiles spun with an innocent smile on his face and clamped it onto John's wrist.
"There! Isn't it lovely?"
"What have you done?" John tried to claw at the bracelet, but its magic repelled him. Only someone else could remove it."
Stiles sighed. "I've killed you."
"No, you've only—"
The bracelet wasn't the only weapon in his desk drawer. Stiles pulled out a small, plain-hilted dagger and slid it into John's gut. The old man doubled over. Gasping with the effort, Stiles dragged John out of his room and down the hall. When John tried to shout, Stiles punched him hard enough that his jaw cracked.
His hands started shaking after that.
It felt like his insides were shaking too.
Stiles still dragged John into the bathroom and shoved him into the tub. His knuckles were white around the hilt of his dagger. His hands shook. John tried to pull something from his pocket, but he was old and weak without his magic. Stiles stopped him.
A glance over his shoulder showed both his father and his son watching.
"I need to kill him," Stiles said, surprised at the steadiness of his voice.
His dad shook his head, but neither of them could say he didn't. When he stepped forward, Stiles rammed the dagger into the old man's neck and pulled to the side before anyone could stop him. He couldn't fight John off without magic, and he wouldn't trick him again. He had to kill him.
Blood sprayed onto his face and poured over his hands. His father pulled him away from the tub and struggled to hold Stiles down. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut and willed the world away. The feel of his father's arms holding him back was how Stiles knew he was still struggling. Cool hands settled against the sides of Stiles face.
"Stiles," Daemyn said, and Stiles couldn't answer him.
"It'll be okay, Stiles. Just calm down." His dad held him tighter.
"Dad," Daemyn said, and Stiles opened his eyes and screamed at him. "Please, Dad..."
Stiles' shouts faded to sobs. He clutched his father's arms around him and pulled Daemyn forward. His hands left streaks of blood behind.
Derek and Peter took care of everything. Of the body anyway. Stiles had taken to carving the number four with any tool he could find, and they couldn't take care of that. They had taken his dagger and done away with it just like the body. Stiles' dad alternated between insisting Stiles speak to a therapist and deciding it was too dangerous.
Deaton knew Ms. Morrell at the school, but Stiles kept 'forgetting' to tell his father his secrets had a safe place with her. He also kept 'forgetting' the appointments she scheduled for him during lunch and after school. Instead, he used a screwdriver to carve the number four into the trunk of a ruined tree in the forest he'd burned down. His father knew what the number meant. Four people he'd killed.
The pack's worry nearly drowned Stiles. Derek either hoped it would bring Stiles to his senses or would help him realize he could turn to them for help. Stiles frowned. He didn't want help. He wanted magic. He wanted to go back to before he'd awoken Thera for a do-over. He wanted his life to be a bad dream.
Since that wasn't an option, Stiles tried not to shout at Daemyn just for reminding him of Thera. He tried not to push Derek away just for caring too softly. He tried not to blame his friends for the pity in their eyes. He tried not to lie to his father too much. He tried not to kill anyone else.
Sometimes he remembered that Thera couldn't stop him this time if the person he killed was himself.
The thought always made him shudder and pull back. He'd wanted to kill Thera, not to die. Stiles scrubbed his hands over his face and breathed in deeply. This place smelled of desolation. He liked it. Its outside fit his inside. He supposed that was appropriate since he was the one who burned it.
"Interesting hiding spot," Peter said, stepping out from behind a charred husk that used to be a tree.
Stiles shrugged. He hadn't heard Peter coming, but that hardly surprised him. Peter was a werewolf. Stiles was only human.
"I bet if you asked, he'd give you the bite."
Stiles narrowed his eyes. He knew Peter couldn't read minds, but sometimes he came so close.
"You know you want it now, don't you?"
Stiles nodded bitterly. "I won't ask him."
"What? You want him to ask you?" Peter chuckled.
"If he did, I'd turn him down." He pressed his hands against the burnt ground and ran his fingers through the ash.
"I thought you wanted it."
"I do. I wanted magic too." Stiles took a shaky breath through his mouth, tasting the ash in the air. "I wanted to see the stone woman under the water. I wanted to be powerful. I wanted to burn. I wanted Derek. And I wanted to kill." Stiles voice rose as he spoke but failed him suddenly at the end. He gripped fistfuls of ash and sat trembling in the wasteland he'd made. Tears burned in his eyes, but he refused to let them fall while Peter watched.
"Yes, I'm sure you think you ruin everything you touch." Peter rolled his eyes. "But look at this, Stiles." He brushed aside some of the ash to reveal a tiny shoot of green. Just a leaf at the end of less than an inch of curving stem.
The single new sprout in a ruined land was such a familiar and overdone image Stiles couldn't help but laugh. So that was his life now: a wave of destruction and a metaphor of hope. The tears fell, but he didn't care anymore.
"I thought you'd get a kick out of that." Peter stood and walked away into what was left of the woods. "It'll be a forest again yet," he said as he left. "What will you be?"
Derek held Stiles close, listening to the beat of his heart. Stiles clutched at Derek's shirt, stretching the fabric with clawed fingers. Stiles had finally chosen a new bed. It fit the two of them more easily than the old one had. Stilinski didn't approve. He kept finding excuses to pass by the room. There was nothing to see though. Derek and Stiles were both fully dressed. They just lay together in the bed and hadn't even kissed in hours.
"I told Thera she ruined our chance to fall in love," Derek said, and he heard Stiles' breath catch. "I think I was wrong."
"Shut up, Derek." Stiles crushed his face against Derek's chest. His feet hung off the edge of the bed even though Derek lay too high up on the pillows. They were too tall to lie like this.
"Because I said so."
"Because you don't want to hear it or because you won't say it back?" It hurt to ask, but Derek felt the warmth of Stiles pressed against him and knew he had to. It wasn't something he'd have ever asked before, but it was different with Stiles.
"That's not fair." Stiles pushed him away. "You're a social and emotional wreck. You don't know how to handle yourself, much less other people. Where do you get off asking something like that?"
"Stiles." Derek frowned.
"No. Why does everyone think just my name is enough to say?"
"At least decide if you think I'm saying too much or too little."
"I don't have to." Stiles wrapped his arms around himself. "I don't have to do anything." His eyes flashed over to Derek. "Tell me something. If I asked you to, would you give me the bite?"
"Would you bite me?"
Derek frowned. The bite wouldn't help Stiles right now, and it would take better if he waited until he'd already helped himself. "Are you asking for it?"
Stiles shook his head.
"Then it doesn't matter."
"Yes it does. If I was asking, would you do it?"
Derek pulled back from the intensity of Stiles' eyes. "No," he said. "Not now." He wanted to, but he would wait. He would make Stiles wait.
Stiles nodded to himself, biting at his lower lip.
Derek tried not to frown at him. He wasn't angry, just confused. With one arm, he propped himself up to stare at Stiles, and he used the hand of the other arm to rub at his chest. He wasn't angry. That was a strange feeling. Derek had spent so much of his life angry that he forgot it wasn't normal.
"You'd make a great wolf," Derek told him. "Someday. If you did ask." He imagined running beside Stiles and wanted it so bad his heart ached.
Stiles raised an eyebrow. "Your uncle says so too. Except the someday. What's that supposed to be?"
"If I made you a werewolf now, I'm worried you'd topple me from my position as alpha."
Stiles almost laughed. It was more than Derek had expected at this point.
"I'm the alpha." Derek frowned, but he pushed his lips a little too far out doing it.
Stiles smirked and rolled his eyes.
"Not you. Me. Alpha." He beat a fist once against his chest.
Stiles laughed. "I give up. You win, alpha, you win."
"Good because you never answered my question." His chest clenched at asking it again. He could have let it lie, but he wanted to know.
Stiles was quiet for a long time. Every second ripped through Derek, leaving him raw. Then, finally, in a quiet voice, trembling with fear, Stiles said, "Because I love you too."
Derek pulled Stiles in for a kiss and then held him tightly with his face pressed against Stiles' neck. "I love you," he said even though it tried to lodge in his throat. "Please don't burn my pack alive." He couldn't decide if he meant it as a joke or not. Stiles didn't laugh.
His father sighed and pressed Stiles into a chair. Ms. Morrell watched them with a serious expression on her face and her hands clasped on her desk. Stiles sat, but he kept shifting in the seat and tapping off-rhythm beats against the chair arm with his fingers.
"Sorry to pull your father in like this," Ms. Morrell began, "But you've been avoiding me."
Stiles shrugged. His father scrubbed a hand over his face. He looked tired.
"I know your situation is different from most of the students I see."
Stiles laughed. "Are you saying you don't usually quote Churchill at them?"
"No." Stiles laughter cut off then. Ms. Morrell turned to Stiles' dad then. "I think it would be better if I spoke to him alone. Thank you for bringing him to see me. I'll do everything I can for Stiles."
His father nodded and stood. He clasped Stiles' shoulder with one hand for a moment, squeezing firmly, before stepping out the door.
"He won't be able to listen in." She smiled. "That door is... special."
"You mean magic. Why do people always try to avoid saying things straight in this town? It doesn't make you mysterious."
Ms. Morrell nodded. "It's magic." She stood and walked around her desk to take the chair Stiles father had vacated. "I'm not. Not like you were. I can learn properties of things that are innately magic on their own and use them, but I'm not any sort of spellcaster."
Stiles shrugged and scratched the chair arm.
"Your father has told me what happened, so you don't have to hide events or people from me." She paused. "But he can't tell me what's going on in your head."
"I didn't come because I didn't want to talk."
Ms Morrell caught his hand. His nail had finally begun to bite through the wood. "There are enough fours in this school. I don't need one in my office too."
Stiles flinched back from her. He'd been carving unconsciously.
"We don't have to start there. I hear you're dating a werewolf."
"Do we have to start anywhere?" Stiles had already spent so long hiding everything that he couldn't imagine letting it all out now. He knew once he started, Ms. Morrell wouldn't let him stop, assuming he could. There was so much buildup at this point, it might all rush out the first chance he gave it.
She watched him but gave no answer.
Stiles rolled his eyes. "What could we even have to say about Derek?"
"A lot. You've both been hurt and lost people, so it can't be easy."
"Is it supposed to be easy?"
"No, but that doesn't mean no one can help you." She leaned toward Stiles against the arm of her chair. "There were a few things your father didn't say, especially about Pentanthera. I don't think he could. But I picked up on them anyway."
Stiles scratched at his arm instead of the chair. "I don't know how."
"You do. There's not a wrong way to say it." That wasn't what he meant. He knew the words. He just didn't know how to share them. "It doesn't have to be about her. Or him. Anything you want." Stiles thought she knew at least how hard it would be to stop.
Stiles clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. He knew he couldn't wait her out. He was a talker. Usually he could just find something else to talk about, but his mind had been stuck ever since he killed John. Sometimes, usually when he was with Derek, he slipped out into something like normal, but it never lasted.
"Dying reminds me of a panic attack," he said.
Ms. Morrell reached forward to take his hand. She squeezed it, and Stiles knew the gesture should have been reassuring. But the dam was broken, and he came rushing out in wave after wave of misery like the trembling and pain that followed when Thera died.
Stiles hadn't spent much time in Daemyn's room. It looked different now. Daemyn had new sheets and glossy posters on the wall. There was a laptop on a desk and a new dark wood bookshelf. It looked like a teenager's bedroom now, not like an unused guest room. Stiles hadn't helped him do this. It must have been his father, Daemyn's grandfather.
"Sorry," Stiles said because he'd promised to be there for Daemyn and then spent his time hiding away with Derek.
"What for?" Daemyn turned from the book he was reading.
Stiles eyes widened at the book. "I am a terrible parent. Oh my God. What have I done?"
"What?" Daemyn shoved a bookmark into the thing of horror on his lap and set it aside. "Stiles, are you okay?"
"Where did you get that book?"
"Lydia lent it to me. She said it was funny."
"Yeah, when I'm done, I'm supposed to read a zillion page long essay on how anti-feminist the book is followed by a shorter one about why it's bad writing. And the rest of the series." Daemyn rolled his eyes.
"I'm sorry I let her subject you to that."
"It's not so bad."
Stiles narrowed his eyes.
"I mean Lydia throwing books at me, not that Twilight isn't bad. Chill out."
"Oh, good. I almost found out what parental disappointment felt like." Stiles pressed a hand to his chest and sighed in mock relief. He left out a comment on how much his dad's life must suck.
"The first 'sorry' didn't sound like a joke." Daemyn left his seat and moved to where Stiles stood just inside the door. He closed the door and pulled Stiles in.
"It wasn't," Stiles admitted. "I said I'd be here for you, and I've just..." He frowned.
"It's okay. You've got a lot to deal with." Stiles noticed Daemyn didn't meet his eyes though.
"Plenty of parents have a lot to deal with. That doesn't mean they can just ignore their kids."
"Do you feel like you're stuck with me?"
Stiles was taken aback. Daemyn knew what Thera had done to conceive him, but Stiles had thought... he didn't know what he thought. He still didn't know how he felt about that. "No," he said. "I knew I could turn you away. I had a choice. Jackson, of all people, made sure I knew." He chuckled at that, but Daemyn didn't look surprised.
"He didn't tell me that."
Stiles shrugged. He couldn't see why Jackson would have told Daemyn about his visit to the hospital. "I didn't choose you because I had to." Even if he had to, Stiles wasn't sure he could describe why he had chosen Daemyn. Part of it was responsibility, not just because Daemyn was his child, but because he was a person who needed help. While he'd never admit it in case it got back to Daemyn, part of it was pity too. But there was more. Something Stiles couldn't quite put his finger on. "You were pack back then too."
"I wasn't. I almost killed you."
"Maybe, but you still felt like pack."
"Sometimes I think you're a little psycho."
"Sometimes I am." Stiles grinned. He felt its truth twist the edges of his smile though.
"Yeah... I'd noticed." Daemyn looked wary. "Why don't your friends?"
"They think I'm kidding."
"Pretty sure that just makes you scarier."
"Oh, good, that'll lend to my parental authority."
Daemyn shook his head. "Don't worry, Dad, I promise to keep my room clean and be home by ten."
"Ten? What kind of a monster is your grandfather? A proper curfew is six in the evening so we can eat dinner as a family with that guy who isn't really your step-father but you kind of worry about his grumpy stares anyway."
They laughed together, and Stiles pulled Daemyn into a hug. "I'll try harder," he said.
"I'm still going to." He held Daemyn tightly, and Daemyn's arms wrapped around Stiles' middle to hug him back. "I love you, kid," he said. It wasn't like with Derek. He didn't need to get to know Daemyn because it wasn't the type of love that cared who the person was. He loved Daemyn like he loved his father. He'd never said it before though because he hadn't known. Daemyn was confusing and scary just by existing, but at least Stiles could say he loved him. Daemyn hugged Stiles tighter. Stiles rubbed a hand over his back to soothe him but didn't mention that Daemyn was crying.
"Why does Lydia need Twilight back? Why can't we just chuck it in a fire?" Stiles asked as he turned into Lydia's driveway and parked the Jeep.
"No, Stiles. She wants it back." Daemyn rolled his eyes and hopped out of the car.
"Yeah, yeah." Stiles joined him and trudged up to Lydia's door. He kept sending glares at the book, hoping his exaggerated hatred of it might cure Daemyn of any enjoyment he found in its weird glittery vampire things.
"She says there are three more," Daemyn said with a smirk.
"Don't you dare."
"But I hear there's a love triangle, and that Jacob guy hardly even exists in this book. I need to know more before I can choose sides." Daemyn rang the doorbell.
Lydia answered the door with a smile and accepted the book Daemyn handed over. "I'll just get you New Moon." Stiles groaned at that. "Come on in." She led them further into the house to a room with the entire pack crammed over a few small couches and a fair amount of floor space. Stiles turned to Lydia, but Daemyn was the one who spoke.
"I wanted everyone to jump out from behind a couch and yell 'surprise,' but Derek frowned at me and refused hard enough that no one else would agree."
"Surprise!" Scott shouted, leaping over the back of a couch. "See, you thought no one would, so it surprised you."
"I am so surprised right now, Scott, you have no idea."
Scott looked pleased. Stiles knew him well enough to know he was pleased by the smile he'd put on Stiles' face, not because he thought he'd actually surprised anyone. Stiles chuckled.
"It's not my birthday," he reminded everyone.
"We wanted a party, Stiles. Don't take this from us." Erica smiled with only a little threat behind it.
Stiles rolled his eyes but they landed on his dad at the end. "Dad!" He shouted. "What are you doing here?" His dad stood chatting with Scott's mom and Deaton by a large potted plant or small potted tree; Stiles wasn't sure the difference mattered.
"They invited me."
Melissa laughed, but there was a confused edge to it. "Scott's explanation consisted entirely of: we're pack too."
"It's not really a party with parents," Stiles complained.
"I need you to remember those words for me," Daemyn said. He followed it with a soft but punctuated, "Dad."
"Ah, yes," Stiles said, "The dreaded beginning of the teenage years." His dad was giving him a weird look. He clearly needed a lesson in humor. "I'm going to find Derek and yell at him for not surprising me like Scott did." He waved a hand and left the adults behind.
"Yeah, I'll just go read," Daemyn said with a snicker that Stiles knew meant he was getting that second book from Lydia.
Stiles let him go in favor of wandering to the back yard when he didn't spot Derek in the house. There was a figure standing by the pool, and Stiles knew by the silhouette that it was Derek.
"Come on, alpha," he said. "Party with your pack."
Derek rolled his eyes. "I don't party."
"No, you only brood, work out, stalk people, and make out with your boyfriend." Stiles smirked at the end of that, sliding his arms around Derek's waist and kissing him.
"Especially that last one." Derek pulled Stiles back in as he began to back away. They held each other tightly until the back door crashed open.
"Come on, boys," Lydia called. "We have cake."
Stiles laughed and dragged Derek inside.
"I don't want cake." Derek frowned.
"Our first date was cake," Stiles reminded him.
"I'm not hungry."
Stiles just tugged him along. They reached the kitchen to find most of the cake had already been served up.
Lydia rolled her eyes. "I told Isaac to wait."
"I did wait. I won't get seconds until Stiles has a slice." Isaac entered the kitchen, grinning widely. He held a plate in front of him with crumbs and a used fork on it. When the others only watched him, he raised his eyebrows toward the cake and raised the plate as if testing how much it could hold.
Lydia gave him a wicked smile and served up cake for Stiles. Derek she smiled widely at and left without dessert. As Lydia strutted from the kitchen, Stiles handed his cake over to Derek and served up another piece. When he noticed Isaac eyeing them sullenly, Stiles laughed. They moved away from the dessert, and Isaac's smile returned.
"This was a mistake," Derek said, staring sadly at the plate Stiles had placed in front of him. He'd only taken one bite. "Did you see what just happened?"
Stiles sat beside Derek and raised an eyebrow.
"Cake nearly tore this pack apart. We have to stop eating desserts." He shoved a bite of cake into his mouth and nodded to himself.
"You're right," Stiles said. "Only gruel from now on."
"No, we can have curds and whey, but only for breakfast on Wednesdays."
"I always thought it was a lie." Scott's voice came from behind them. Stiles hated how easily everyone sneaked up on him, especially since he couldn't do the same to them.
"What?" Stiles asked around his cake.
"When I heard Derek was funny." He sat down across from them and leaned forward. "Say something else."
"Like what?" Derek did not look amused.
"Go away, Scott."
The rest of the pack began trickling in, taking what chairs they could and standing behind others when seats ran out. Stiles' father sat beside him with Melissa McCall on his other side. Daemyn and Jackson stood together behind where Lydia sat, chatting freely. Stiles realized they were, somehow, friends, but it only made him more confused. Isaac sat beside Derek with a fresh helping of cake, and Boyd leaned against the wall with his own dessert. Erica, Cassie, and Allison stood together, talking and smiling even more obviously than Daemyn and Jackson. Allison kept motioning for Lydia to join them, but Lydia smiled, shrugged, and kept her seat while Allison rolled her eyes. Deaton and Ms Morrell, who must have arrived after Stiles because she hadn't been around before, stood in the corner talking softly. Given the number of people in the room with super-hearing, Stiles doubted either of them had said anything more interesting than comments on the decor. Peter leaned against the doorway for long enough to catch Stiles' eye and wink at him. After that he disappeared, but Stiles still felt his closeness through the pack sense.
Derek and Scott continued bickering until Derek finally rolled his eyes and declared, "Scott, I am literally incapable of humor. I ripped out my funny bone with my teeth and beat myself over the head with it until I had a concussion bad enough to lose access to the memories of every joke I'd ever heard." It was close enough to a joke that everyone had quieted down to see if he said something worth laughing at. He shut his mouth again without managing it.
Melissa gave him a look. "Head trauma doesn't work that way."
"Well?" Scott asked.
Derek rolled his eyes. "Melissa used Logic. It's super effective."
Stiles laughed loudly. Not everyone had gotten it—Lydia and Stiles' dad looked most confused—but Stiles didn't laugh alone. Derek smiled. It was small, but the light of it filled his eyes with an honesty even Stiles rarely saw from him. Stiles answered with a kiss and a grin. He held Derek's hand under the table even though no one there would be fooled.
After a moment, Derek leaned back in his chair, and something new reached Stiles through the pack bond. It felt like Christmas, the soft warmth that bubbled through a gathering of family and friends. They had passed through the fire alive, if not unhurt, and relief and celebration of life spread through the pack. The warmth sustained itself, feeding off the happiness it produced to remake itself as Derek cycled it through the pack. Stiles squeezed Derek's hand to tell him he'd done well. Derek answered with another smile, larger than before. The last had been a smile for Stiles, but this was a smile for their pack. Another stream of warmth and comfort joined the current, this one undercut with hollowness and nostalgia that Stiles recognized as the memory of a lost pack. This was Derek's happiness. Stiles pulled Derek over for a hug and relaxed with him into the sense of belonging and of family that filled their empty places to the brim.
Thank you all for reading! I worry I got a little too cheesy at the end there, and there are scenes I wish I'd had space to write without them feeling arbitrary (like my beta pointed out Derek and Cassie never speak, which is weird yet in character...). But overall, I'm very happy with how this turned out. I hope you've enjoyed it.
I know I've done that thing where I stop a story with the promise of healing and getting better instead of actually writing out the healing. I think it works better for the story. Since my last long story had both the trauma and the healing, I can guarantee you they are not the same genre of story at all, and the story I wanted to write was this one. I only bring it up because I know healing is frequently ignored, and I want to acknowledge that I don't think they're magically better for having a surprise party. I just think it's a way the pack found to show each other that they can still learn to be a real family even without a threat hanging over their heads.
I'm talking too much. Just, thank you.