“Well it’s about time” he whispered in the dark, trying so hard to keep his voice steady. “I was wondering when you were going to show up.”
Derek’s eyes widened at the anger he heard in the other boy’s voice; his heart went out to him and his feet nearly followed. But he stayed frozen in the window frame, with one foot awkwardly on the floor of Stiles’s room and one foot on the roof outside. Derek could practically smell the fury rolling off of him and he thought maybe he should just go, but something in Stiles’s voice told him to stay, to stay and fight. It’d been stupid to come here, Derek thought. After months of running why would he jeopardize everything for one moment of comfort, of familiarity? Derek knew why, he just couldn’t quite bring himself to admit it.
“Cora’s gone,” was all he said to explain why he had crept in Stiles’s window in the dead of night.
“Good,” Stiles said bitterly, his back still to the wolf. He lay on his side, silently fuming. He was not going to turn around, he was not going to give in and allow Derek the comfort he’d sought in coming here. “She finally wizened up to your M.O., huh?”
“What do you mean?” Derek finally stepped out of the window, but not daring to move any closer.
“You’re a lone wolf Derek,” Stiles spat, “always looking out for number one.”
“You left us!” Stiles cut him off, finally sitting up. “The minute you and Cora were in the clear you left us without a second thought. Left us to clean up your mess, by the way. Do you have any idea how hard it was for my dad to explain the whole Jennifer thing? To explain not only who Kali was, but who killed her, where Jennifer Blake disappeared to, not to mention his own disappearance?! Missing persons cases and dead bodies don’t just go away because you caught the bad guy, Derek. But you don’t care about any of that do you? No, you got your happy ending and skipped town as soon as you could. What about us?? What about Scott? He has no idea how to be an Alpha, let alone lead a pack. What about Isaac? He has no one, Derek. Didn’t you think he would’ve liked to say goodbye before you left? And we haven’t seen or heard from Peter since you left, but while you’ve been road tripping with your sister, I’m sure he’s just been catching up on his reading! Yeah, the guy gets you to give up your Alpha status and then mysteriously disappears, nothing suspicious going on there! And on top of that there’s an army of supernatural creatures heading straight for the glowing target that is Beacon Hills, and you choose now to take a vacation! This is your fault Derek! If you hadn’t been so selfish none of this would’ve happened! We’re all lonely Derek, but not all of us go around banging the hot English teacher while she is not so secretly sacrificing your friends and family. You’re pathetic. I can’t believe I used to be scared of you. You’re nothing but a dog with its tail between its legs. I’ll bet she left you. I’ll bet Cora finally realized she was better off without you.”
Derek just took it. He said softly, “She’s dead, Stiles.”
His eyes locked onto Derek’s and Stiles knew it was true. The defeat in the Beta’s eyes was enough to convince him. Stiles took in the werewolf’s appearance, really seeing him for the first time. Derek looked terrible; gaunt and diminished, his normal 5 o’clock shadow was overgrown and unkempt, dark circles rimmed his eyes, and he’d definitely lost weight. He just looked smaller, and Stiles realized that Derek really was just a boy - a boy who was not much older than he was, but who’d been forced to grow up fast. Stiles always assumed that Derek had it all figured out, that he could handle everything that came his way with surliness and muscle and sheer force of will, but maybe deep down he was just as scared as Stiles was.
“Fuck. Derek-” He jumped off the bed and crossed the room, catching the older boy in a crushing embrace. Stiles just held him there. He didn’t speak, he didn’t try to comfort him or tell him things would be okay. He just held Derek against him and it was enough. Slowly, Derek’s hands came up Stiles’s back to rest on his shoulders. He clung to Stiles’s t-shirt as if it were the only thing keeping him from breaking apart. Maybe it was. Stiles’s hand found the nape of Derek’s neck and Derek let out a strangled sob into Stiles’s shoulder.
“Hey,” Stiles whispered, “let’s sit down okay?” He led Derek to his bed, sat him down and turned on the lamp on his bedside table. Derek looked even worse in the light. Stiles ached when he realized Derek was visibly trembling and he fought the urge to touch him.
“I’m sorry Stiles,” Derek murmured, “I’m s-so sorry.”
“No, Derek, I’m sorry. Everything I said - forget it. If I had known…”
“You were right,” he said firmly, sounding a bit more like his old self, “Everything you said was true. It was my fault. It was all my fault and if I hadn’t been so selfish she m-might, maybe sh-she-” his voice broke and he took a deep breath, “I did everything I could and I still couldn’t save her.”
Stiles looked at the broken boy in front of him. How could this be Derek Hale? The Derek he knew was strong, determined, and always in control. The Derek before him was just a shell of what he used to be. Then again, losing your family could have that effect on a person. Stiles had had a taste of what Derek lived every day when his father was taken. He couldn’t imagine the weight Derek shouldered walking around in the world without anyone to guide him, without his parents to teach him and love him and worry when he didn’t come home on time. Stiles had been lucky, so lucky, that he and his father had escaped Jennifer without a scratch (well, maybe a couple), because Derek’s world would’ve become Stiles’s reality and he wasn’t sure if he could handle that. And while Stiles had gotten his father back safe and sound, Derek had sacrificed his power, his pack, and now his sister, the one remaining person in the world that he loved.
Stiles dug deep, reaching into the part of his memory that he’d locked away eight years ago.
“Derek?” The wolf looked up at him with so much sorrow in his eyes, it nearly broke Stiles’s heart, “Can I tell you something my mom said to me before she died?”
Derek nodded; he knew this was something Stiles never talked about; he knew this was something precious.
“She said, ‘I may not always be here, but I will always love you. If I had my way I would stay with you and hold you forever,’” now it was Stiles’s voice that broke, “‘But when it’s time to say goodbye, remember, life ends, but love is forever.’ She knew she was dying, but she didn’t want me to be upset or angry. She died a little over a week later.”
Derek turned his head when he saw tears brimming in Stiles’s eyes, giving him time before clearing his throat, “Your mom sounds amazing.”
“She was,” Stiles pressed his palm against his eye, “That’s why the thought of losing my dad freaked me out so much. He’s all I have left, you know?”
Derek chuckled bitterly, “Yeah, I know.”
Stiles mentally slapped himself. “You’re not alone, Derek. You have me, and Scott, and Isaac-”
“Shit, Isaac,” Derek groaned, “I should’ve gone to see him first, although I doubt he’d even want to see me right now. I don’t even know where he’s staying…”
“He’s staying with Scott.” Stiles frowned, “Why didn’t you?”
“Didn’t I what?”
“Why didn’t you go to Isaac first? Why’d you come to me?
Derek hesitated, “I couldn’t face them, Scott and Isaac. I couldn’t bare the thought of coming to them for help. As a Beta.”
Stiles sensed there was more Derek wasn’t telling him, but he didn’t push it. “Der,” Derek’s heart skipped a beat at the nickname, “it’s not even like that. Scott and Isaac care about you, Alpha or not. Sure, they’re mad at you for taking off, but they’ve been worried about you, just like I have.”
“You’ve been worried about me?”
“Don’t be stupid, of course I have.” Stiles stood up and shut the window. Then he went out into the hall and returned with a pillow and a pile of blankets. Derek watched him in silence, trying to look nonplussed, but he was honestly too exhausted to commit to a snarkily raised eyebrow for more than a few seconds. Mostly he was just relieved that Stiles wasn’t kicking him out.
Stiles plopped the pile onto the armchair in the corner and turned to Derek. “Take off your jacket.”
“What,” now Derek was actually bewildered, “w-why?”
“Because I want to make sure you’re alright and I can’t actually see you underneath all of that leather.” Stiles stepped forward and forcibly removed Derek’s jacket. He stood back to assess the werewolf, “Hmmm, definitely going to have to get a cheeseburger in you first thing tomorrow. Are you hungry now? Do you want anything?”
Derek was blown away by the boy’s kindness, he knew there was a reason he came to Stiles. “N-no, I can wait til morning.”
“Okay good,” he disappeared again, this time into the adjoining bathroom, “Do you want to take a shower? I have extra towels,” he came back holding the fluffiest towel Derek had ever seen, “and since we know my clothes won’t fit you I could probably snag some of my dad’s from the laundry room without him noticing. Although I’ve bulked up a bit since you last tried on my clothes. Turns out running for your life is a good workout, who kn-”
“A shower sounds great,” Derek said with a smile; he had missed Stiles’s ramblings.