I don't know if I can yell any louder,

How many times have I kicked you out of here

Or said something insulting?

"What the hell were you thinking!?"

Stiles glared back, his eyes narrowed in challenge. "I was thinking that I could help. And I did. I saved your sorry ass, so you're welcome."

There was no way Derek was ever going to thank Stiles for getting involved. They could heal. Stiles couldn't. "You nearly got yourself killed."

"But I didn't," Stiles said, like not dying was some sort of victory, something to be applauded. He spread out his arms. "Not a scratch on me."

"That's because Scott tackled you out of the way." Scott had the good sense to look guilty from where he and the others were very obviously trying to avoid being noticed. It was Scott's fault Stiles was even involved. "We don't need you."

His words obviously stung. They were meant to. "Bullshit," Stiles said. "You wouldn't have known how to kill that ghoul if it wasn't for me."

Derek grit his teeth. Stiles was right but there was no way he was going to admit it. "We would have figured it out."

Stiles snorted.

"Get out. You're not involved. You were never meant to be."

Scott opened his mouth. Erica stomped on his foot, turning Scott's glare on her. Stiles looked even more determined. "Too late. I already am."

Anger welled up. His face shifted as his eyes turned Alpha red. "GET OUT!"

For once, Stiles listened.

I can be so mean when I wanna be,

I am capable of really anything,

I can cut you into pieces,

When my heart is broken.

"No," Derek said, for the fifth time.

"But I can help. I researched this thing. I know how to fight it." Stiles had come to him alone, maybe hoping that if it was just the two of them, then Derek wouldn't have any reason to posture. He was wrong. This wasn't about posturing, it was about keeping Stiles safe.

"Then give me or Scott or anyone in the pack your research and stay out of it. You're not strong enough to fight this thing. You're weak. Human."

The hurt look that Stiles got whenever Derek said something like that cut straight through the heart Derek pretended he didn't have.

"I'm not-"

"You are," Derek said. "You're just a human. You can't do anything. You'll only get in the way and waste our time while we fight the wight and try to keep you safe. We don't need the distraction."

"Fine," Stiles said, though his tone was anything but. He pulled open his backpack and threw a loose sheaf of papers between them. They scattered like leaves across the floor. "I'll stay out of it."

Stiles slammed the door shut behind him and Derek tried to tell himself it was better this way.

Please, don't leave me

I always say how I don't need you

But it's always gonna come right back to this

Please, don't leave me

"No. No, no, no, no." The word had become his litany as he cradled Stiles's bloody body to his chest. The car would have been faster but he hadn't been thinking. He'd just grabbed Stiles and ran, left the others to fight the wight.

Stiles shouldn't even have been there. He'd promised to stay out of it, but the wight had found him first. All that research had made him a target. Who knew wights could shapeshift into librarians.

Stiles was hurt. After all his work to keep Stiles safe, to keep him out of it, Stiles had ended up in the center of it anyways, just like he always did.

He barely made it to the hospital in time.

Leaving Stiles there without being seen was the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life.

How did I become so obnoxious?

What is it with you that makes me act like this?

I've never been this nasty.

He didn't need to tell Stiles to stay away the next time something happened. The sheriff did it for him. Stiles was officially on house arrest, at least until he told the sheriff the truth about how he'd ended up in the intensive care unit. That was about as unlikely to happen as Derek telling Stiles how he really felt. Not that Stiles was going anywhere, even if he did tell the truth. Broken legs weren't conductive to fighting the supernatural.

It felt like it was all Derek's fault. He hadn't been fast enough. He hadn't saved Stiles, not in time.

His guilt didn't stop him from checking in on Stiles. He couldn't visit in person, but he lingered nearby in a way that would have made Stiles joke about him being a creeper. He couldn't help it. He needed to know Stiles was okay. He needed to see – or in most cases, hear – for himself that Stiles was still alive.

Scott wasn't even allowed in to see him, and his phone and laptop had been taken away. In effect, Stiles was well and truly cut off from them like Derek had always said he wanted.

Getting what he wanted sucked.

He missed Stiles's voice. He missed arguing with him. He missed his scent.

Derek knew he'd had it bad, but he hadn't realized how bad until Stiles was gone from his life. He was well and truly in love, deep in a way that hadn't happened since Kate and look how well that ended. Nothing ended well for him.

He couldn't drag Stiles into that.

Can't you tell that this is all just a contest?

The one that wins will be the one that hits the hardest.

But baby I don't mean it,

I mean it, I promise

Stiles showed up at his door two weeks later, ten minutes before the rest of the pack was supposed to be there. He was on his crutches and his face was set in the kind of firm resolve that said that if Derek didn't let him in, Stiles would attempt to beat him with the crutches. Derek doesn't move from blocking the door.

"What are you doing here?"

"I came to help."

Derek just looked at him and Stiles prodded him with the tip of one of his crutches.

"Move. This hurts. I want to sit down."

"Then you shouldn't have come." He moved anyways. "How did you get out, anyways? I thought you were on house arrest."

The conversation brought Isaac out of his room, but he just lingered on the balcony, watching but not interfering.

Stiles hobbled his way to the couch and lowered himself gently to the surface with a sigh. "I told my dad. Even had Scott come over to prove it. He's parking, by the way, so he should be up shortly. I told him – them, actually – just like I'm going to tell you. This is my choice. I'm going to get hurt either way. I stayed out of it and this still happened." Stiles waved at his broken leg. The cast only had one signature on it, a testament to how isolated Stiles had been. "So I chose to be involved and no one, not you, not my dad, not anyone, is going to stop me."

Derek stared at him. There was a lot he could say. He could growl, he could threaten, he could yell, but there was nothing he could say that Stiles's father probably hadn't already. It wasn't going to do any good.

If he was really honest with himself, he didn't want to send Stiles away. He wanted him near. At least then, Derek could protect him. He could keep Stiles safe. Safer, anyways.

"Fine." The look that Stiles shot him was so full of surprised pleasure that it was almost worth giving in. "But you stay out of combat."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Sure. Whatever."

He didn't call Stiles on the lie.

I forgot to say out loud

How beautiful you really are to me.

I can't be without.

You're my perfect little punching bag,

And I need you.

I'm sorry.

It was vampires this time. They wanted Stiles for their little group. They found him just as smart and brave and loyal as Derek did, but Derek wasn't going to let them have him. It only took minutes to track Stiles's scent to the vampires' lair, but it was almost a few minutes too long. They got there just as the head vampire was about to sink his teeth into Stiles's neck.

Or at least that was what it looked like, until Stiles flailed and splashed a vial of holy water in the vampire's face. The vampire screamed and it was just the distraction Derek needed to take the vampire's head off at his neck. Stiles winced as blood splashed on his face and clothes but at least he didn't have to lie to his dad anymore about where the bloodstains came from.

The vampires were nothing compared to a pack of six werewolves and three humans. Isaac and Jackson worked surprisingly well together, moving efficiently after years spent on the same lacrosse team. Lydia stayed back, using a cross to keep the vampires from fleeing out the only exit while Alison stood next to her, taking out vampires with a wooden arrow to the heart.

As soon as the room was clear, Derek turned, pushing Stiles against the wall and kissing him, deep and possessive.

Stiles laughed when he finally pulled away. "Sorry for getting kidnapped. Again."

"No you're not," Derek said with a huff.

Stiles just laughed.