This kid is following him.
He's been following Derek for a few days now; constant stalking. And he’s good, is the thing. The people that hired him must know what they’re doing.
Derek keeps seeing him around, only any time he catches him, the kid manages to always duck out of sight.
Derek is walking down the street when he feels the presence at his back.
He's had enough of it.
He whips around and pushes the boy to the wall.
"Why are you following me?" He growls, pressing his arm against the boy's windpipe. "Who sent you? Who are you working for?"
"Oh, I — uh." He splutters, choked, and Derek lets up.
"Why do you keep following me?" He presses when he gets no answer.
"You’re mine?” The boy says as though it's a question, and Derek stares in confusion.
"I mean, you are — are you mine? I thought maybe you were mine and maybe you’re not mine maybe you’re someone else's but I could swear you smell like mine—”
Derek's head is getting dizzy with the amount of times this boy has said mine.
"Alright, alright." He shushes. "Jesus." He rubs his temples. "Ever shut up? Anyway I can't be yours, I'm an omega. So you can stop with the following.”
For some reason, the boy’s cheeks burst into flames at that, flushing so hard and so fast, Derek blinks with the sudden head rush.
"I, uh. Yeah, that's kind of why ... you're mine.”
Derek frowns, confused, until it dawns on him. "You're an alpha?"
The boy cringes, then lifts the side of his upper lip. "Grr." He tries, looking expectant.
Derek stares in bewilderment. “Okay." He lets him go, stepping back. "Okay." He exhales, relaxing, fluffing his hair up at the back and shaking his head. "I think you should probably go now."
"I think you should go." Derek repeats, firmer this time.
"I don't. Understand." He stutters, as though his display had somehow proven himself.
"Look, kid. I'm no good for you. Whatever you might thin— whatever we are, it's not going to happen."
The boy is staring down at the ground. "So you don't want. Do you not want—”, he coughs, clearing his throat awkwardly.
"No. It's not that." Derek says, feeling an odd twisting in his chest at the boy’s expression. "I'm trying to get rid of some very bad people. A very bad person."
His head whips up, eyes gleaming with interest. "What?"
Derek bites his lip, indecisive. "I have a lot of skeletons in my closet at the moment." He admits, then huffs. "Maybe when they're gone, I can go to Narnia with you." He laughs softly at the complete impossibility.
The boy stares hard. "I can make them go away." He states suddenly, voice changed; dark, serious.
"Trust me. This — you can't do." Derek shakes his head.
And Derek almost does.
He almost opens his mouth. And then he sees it: the ridiculousness of it, of telling this boy, as though he would somehow listen and understand, and stay, and not run. But Derek hears the words echoed in his own mind, and he shakes his head.
The boy steps forward.
"I can't." He back away, repeating the words firmly. "I want — you need to leave. I want you to go."
Brown eyes are wide and hurt, but he blinks and straightens. "Fine." He says.
Derek can suddenly smell his hurt, though, smell the way mortification seeps into the air, and increases tenfold when the boy wrinkles his nose, a little furrow appearing across his forehead before colour brightens his cheeks, his nostrils flaring as he realises what he's smelling is himself.
He shakes his head, flushing hard, and walks away.
He's halfway down the road, Derek standing rooted to the spot, unable to move, when he turns slightly, not enough to show his face, bent towards the ground, but enough for Derek to hear, "It's. Stiles. By the way. Not kid."
They're still looking for him: he sees the news reports, the pictures. They'll always be looking.
And he knows that Peter is waiting for him to give up.
Derek doesn't know how long it's been.
He can't remember not running.
He finds shelter in an abandoned warehouse, as spy-movie as that sounds. It isn't as glamorous as Hollywood would let people imagine, though, as hard as that is to believe; the wood is rotting and damp, smells of mud and dirt, and there are insects crawling along the floor.
He shivers throughout the whole night, a dirty, threadbare sheet wrapped tight around him.
In the morning, his bones are aching and stiff, his neck is throbbing, and there's a figure leaning over him.
He blinks fuzzily, frowning.
"Derek Hale." A wonderfully familiar voice says.
"Stiles." He breathes, relief coursing through him for some inexplicable reason.
"Derek Hale, twenty-seven, law student, sibling of Laura Hale and also, most unexpectedly; the murder suspect."
He stops. His heart freezes solid in his chest.
"I mean, really." Stiles folds down to sit beside him, all his long limbs twisted and tangled. "That? That's what you couldn't tell me? Of all the potential mysteries, that? How anticlimactic."
"I don't." Derek starts. "Sorry?" He tries uncertainly.
"And do you know how long it took to find you, too? I mean, seriously? You are a hard man to find. I've spent a better thirteen hours."
Derek stares. "Alright." He frowns.
The side of Stiles' mouth ticks, giving him away. He drops the act. "Okay." Suddenly he stands, and Derek has never noticed how tall he was before.
Suddenly, he's less gangly and graceless and more elegant. Almost ... strong. Fierce. Protective.
He holds out a hand to Derek. "C'mon."
Derek blinks. He realises, abruptly, that it hadn't even registered in to him to be scared. Even before he knew it was Stiles, some — some innate part of Derek knew he was safe.
That doesn't stop him from questioning, though. "How do I know I can trust you?"
"Please." He rolls his eyes, as though that's a redundant statement. Unspoken, they both know that it is.
"I'm the Sheriff's kid." He grins.
Stiles is cutting up carrots.
Derek watches him silently from the dinner table: his agile, methodical hands dicing up the vegetables. He barely looked at Stiles the first time he met him, because right now, Derek feels as if he's discovering him all over again.
"Aren't omegas supposed to be the cooks?" He asks, to distract himself from the sight.
Stiles points the knife at him. "You didn't see nothin’.” He says seriously.
Derek almost smiles, but clenches his teeth together, and raises a sardonic eyebrow. "Are you sure you're an alpha?"
"You know, sometimes, Derek." He imbeds the blade into the cutting board in one shift movement, turning to him. "Sometimes that just hurts." He leans an elbow up on it, swivelling his hips and shaking his head sadly.
Derek doesn't mean to, and he honestly doesn't even want to. But he feels the uncontrollable force of a grin splitting his mouth apart, and ducks his head down to try and hide it.
A bowl is placed under his nose.
Derek glances up quickly, to find Stiles coming to sit beside him. He brings an arm up with a flourish and holds a spoon in one hand, a silent offer.
Derek huffs and takes the cutlery. "Thanks." He murmurs.
"Well I couldn't just — hmm, anyways." He coughs, and cuts himself off quickly. "Eat your soup."
He hadn't realised how long it's been since he's eaten.
But once he starts, he's eating with more fervor, and less decorum. Derek flushes hard when he finishes and realises Stiles is watching him.
"Oh." He murmurs, wiping his mouth. "Sorry."
Stiles shakes his head, smiling. He smells of contentment, and oddly like home. Derek isn't sure what emotion that is. He inhales deeply, the scents of the kitchen and his mate—
His eyes widen suddenly, that thought piercing his mind with startling, perfect clarity. His mate.
Stiles is his mate.
It's taken him this long to realise. That was why Stiles was following him. That's why Stiles is taking care of him. He's finally found—
That thought sours as soon as it begins. Because although his waiting his over, the nightmare isn't. The nightmare he's still living. He's still running from.
"Derek?" Stiles leans forward. "Derek, are you okay?"
He shakes his head. "I forgot. Just for a moment."
Stiles is silent, until he feels fingers at his wrist, firmly encasing his arm. "Look —you don't have to worry about that anymore, I'm taking care of everything, me and my dad, we've already sorted it. We've already ‘cracked the case’." He shakes Derek's hand slightly.
"What are you talking about?"
"It was your uncle, wasn't it?"
Derek blinks. "How —”
"Of course it was Peter. He wanted her power, and he managed to frame you because of Kate. All he had to do was twist the story."
Derek stands so suddenly, the chair clatters to the floor.
"Well, you've done your homework." He laughs shakily, backing away.
"Derek, I know this is a lot to take in, but just listen to me, okay? I want to help."
He stalls. He's so close to the door, and yet something in Stiles' voice makes him calm, makes him feel secure.
But he's felt that feeling before. He's heard all this before. And he's been hurt before.
"Don't be lying." He whispers, almost unconsciously.
"Never." Stiles says. And his heart is beating.
"You ran as soon as Peter killed Laura, right? You never gave a statement to the police, but Peter did. He had all the evidence. His statement was that you murdered your family in the fire ten years ago, but she somehow managed to escape. You pretended that it was your girlfriend who had done it, and then you killed her. And now you're running."
"How can you make all that go away?" Derek says. "How can you —” he laughs incredulously.
"I have a court date. Three weeks. I've gathered evidence on Kate Argent, her history, everything. On Peter Hale, everything. I have footage of that night, CCTV footage of you trying to save your family. And the footage before the fire miraculously disappeared. I have a lawyer. And I have a witness. Allison Argent."
"Allison. I never even knew her." Derek breathes out, then he huffs. "I never knew anything."
Stiles is silent.
"She told me, before everything happened, that. That mates were overrated, they were some kind of false love. That we didn't have to be mates to be—”!Derek exhales shakily. "I still always wanted to find my mate." He admits softly. "But it had been so long, at that point. I wanted to believe her." Derek finishes quietly, and there's silence.
"Peter Hale may be able to cover a lie." Stiles begins. "But he can't smell like the truth. You smell like the truth, Derek." Stiles states. "And it's time to set things right."
He glances up. Stiles is sitting closer than he thought, and his breath catches for a moment. There's hazel in those brown eyes.
"Sorry." Stiles looks away first. "I — sorry, I'm sorry. You don't owe me anything, or—”
"Yeah." Derek shakes his head. "No, yeah." He says, and then he's laughing, suddenly, at himself. He's laughing, and then they're both laughing.
"No, yeah?" Stiles imitates, cocking his head to the side. Derek snorts loudly, and then slaps a hand over his mouth, surprised. Stiles wrangles his arm away.
"Stiles, I — oh." A new voice says.
They both look up.
"Dad!" Stiles jumps up, and Derek copies him.
"Dad, this is him. I mean sorry, this is Derek."
"Oh." The man repeats. "It's nice to finally meet you. I must say, Stiles hasn't slept for working on this case. Sold his soul to get that court date, and earn enough money for the lawyer—”
"Okay, dad." Stiles laughs, and pushes him into the kitchen. "That’s— enough of that now."
Derek stands for a moment before sitting. He tries not to hear.
“—told him everything yet?" The sheriff is saying.
"Yes, he knows, he's still in shock, okay? Just go easy."
"Does he know what he has to do?"
"I've told him about the statement—”
"Stiles, he has to talk and answer questions in front of the jury." He hears the hissed reply.
"Excuse me?" He says softly, out in the hall, not coming into the kitchen. "I couldn't help but overhear." Derek swallows, and continues. "I've done this before. I know what I have to do."
He still remembers the case from the fire — still remembers the endless questions and trying to hold himself together; to prove he was innocent and not fall apart in the process. He ran as soon as they let him out from that stuffy room, and he's still running.
But he needs to stop. He's so tired, he wants to rest now.
Stiles swallows, as if sensing his thoughts, somehow knowing, understanding. "Derek, you don't need to-"
"I want to. I need to set this right." He gives a soft smile, echoing Stiles' words, and Stiles returns it.
The mattress is soft, warm, the sheets cool and crisp, and Derek can't sleep.
He's slept in worse conditions: in fact, these are probably the best conditions he's ever slept in.
Everything smells like home, the scent surrounding him, on his pillows, his borrowed clothes, pervading his senses. But something feels missing, lacking. He's so tired, it's been such a long day, and it's been so, so long since he's felt this warmth.
It's addictive, though. He wants more.
He's hardly even aware that he's walking down the hall to the room he knows is Stiles'.
He knocks once, and opens the door softly.
The figure sleeping sits up. "Mm? Deruh?"
"I." Derek starts, picking at the hem of his t-shirt, and realises he hasn't thought this through. "Can I come in?" He finishes lamely.
"Of course!" Stiles is quick to say. "Of course."
He comes over to sit on the edge of his bed awkwardly. "I was wondering if I could. Could I sleep with you?" He sounds like a child to his own ears, vulnerable and small, but Derek can't find it in himself to care, if he can be close to Stiles right now.
"You want?" Stiles asks dumbly. "You." His eyes are wide and bright in the dark.
He clenches his jaw in embarrassment. "Sorry, I—” and he goes as if to stand.
"No! No, please—” Stiles lifts the edge of his covers roughly.
Derek climbs in, and instantly, Stiles makes space for him.
"I was wondering." He whispers again, after a tense moment of silence. "I was wondering if you would hold me?" He swallows, and waits.
He feels Stiles' tentative arms come around him, and then Derek sighs, settling in, laying his head against Stiles' solid chest and going boneless. Arms wrap around tighter, holding him close.
"Thank you." He murmurs, bringing a hand up and stroking his thumb across Stiles' pyjama top clumsily. Everything is safe. He can't keep his eyes open.
"You're welcome." Stiles stutters. Derek, this close, can hear and feel his hammering heart. "You're welcome."
There are good people in the world. And he had almost forgotten that.
"I want you to know." He starts softly, his words welling up, spilling out. "That what you've done is ... is more than any mate would do. It's ... the most anyone has ever done for anybody, probably." He presses against him, curling his body up against Stiles' long, lean frame.
"I mean." He starts on a different tone, trying to be flippant. "It would just look rude to turn you down now. You know? So if the offer still stands, and all." He trails off.
Stiles is silent.
"I'm, I'm not actually anyone else's. I'm not." Derek takes a deep breath. "I'm not anyone else’s but yours." He finishes quietly.
He's half asleep when he feels Stiles bring up an arm and pull it back down, hear his softly cried, "ka-ching!"
Derek smiles against him, nuzzling closer.
He's stunned. He walks out in a daze, numbed with the reality.
It's over. He's gone. Peter is gone.
They believed him, they had trusted him, and now — now it's over.
"So will his record be cleared, then?”
"There are still a lot of forms, still a lot of paperwork to go through, but essentially, Derek Hale." His lawyer starts. "You are a free man.”
"So." Stiles claps his hands together. "Something about Narnia?"
And Derek laughs.