"Just stop, Stiles. You don't even know what's out there, don't pretend you can fight it. You'll just hurt yourself."
"So what, Derek, I shouldn't be running with wolves?"
"Exactly. You can't keep up."
Stiles stares at his ceiling. He's alone in bed again; Derek hasn't been home in days, since... Since. Since they had the biggest fight they've ever had. Since Stiles picked up the phone to hear Braeden, of all people, asking for Derek. Since their lives went to hell. Since Derek decided to flee the house and leave Stiles with two terrified little boys who "just want Daddy and Papa to love each other again."
It started when Derek got home from the gym last week. Stiles was chopping up some vegetables and tossing them in a pan when his husband walked in and asked if he had gotten any calls. Not even a hello, just "Has the phone gone off since I left?"
Stiles wasn't even upset, at first. It's not as though they haven't gotten random calls before from people they used to know. But the way Derek lit up when he said that Braeden called set Stiles' teeth on edge. The worst part? Derek didn't even notice until long after Ethan and Aiden went to bed.
"Stiles, babe, your heart is racing. What's wrong?" He's not even looking at Stiles. He's engrossed in some text conversation. When Stiles glances at the contact, he's not even surprised to see the name: Braeden.
"Nothing," he snaps.
The thing is, Derek was going long stretches of time away from home, going out early, coming home late, and generally putting a lot of household stress on Stiles. Which he's used to, Alphas have to do Alpha things, like negotiating with neighboring packs and other political crap Stiles doesn't know a damn thing about. But he had his suspicions this time.
He's still angry now, staring at his ceiling in the dark while his husband is off doing god-knows-what with someone (probably Braeden, he thinks bitterly, but maybe that's just him). He's steeping in memories of every negative thing that they've ever been through, like the time when he was sixteen and Derek tried to get him to leave the supernatural world behind.
Can't keep up, my ass. He can keep up just fine, thank you very much. Ethan shifts in his sleep beside him, sensing his father's distress and unconsciously trying to help. The boys have taken to sleeping in here with Daddy in Papa's absence.
Stiles is aware that he's being irrational. He's aware that he's being jealous and insecure, but there's an ache in his chest, like a cinder-block crushing his heart and lungs. After the things he said to Derek and the things Derek did, after the way they left things last week... he wouldn't blame the man at all if he decides to just say "Fuck it" and run off with Braeden.
The thought makes him shiver. He's twenty six now; he hasn't lived without Derek for longer than a few months for ten years. And Ethan and Aiden... They saw the whole thing. If Derek decides to leave, he can't just come up with some half-assed lie until they're old enough to know the truth of why Papa left. At the same time, Stiles doesn't know how to proceed if Derek doesn't want to leave.
He runs his fingers along the five healing cuts on his right arm. Flinches at the memory.
"So what, are you planning on leaving us for her?" Stiles sneers. "After all, she's an old flame, took you from me once before. Besides, women have always been more your type, right?"
Derek grabs his arm to keep him from walking away. "It's not like that," he says simply. "It's just--"
"It's just what, Derek? What could it possibly be that you've been coming home later and later, that for whatever reason you're actually expecting a call from that bitch?" Stiles is yelling now, he's lost any semblance of control. The boys are looking at them fearfully.
"Don't call her that, Stiles. You don't know her." His grip on Stiles' arm tightens, not painfully, just enough to keep the man there.
"Oh, I see. I don't know her well enough, huh?" His voice drips with venom and Derek actually flinches; Stiles has never been this angry, not with him. "My husband is seeing his ex-girlfriend behind my back and I should get to know her?"
"I'm not seeing her like that!" Derek's eyes shine with hurt and unshed tears. "Stiles, I love--"
"Don't. You don't deserve to finish that sentence right now."
Five pricks of pain shoot up his arm. The kids start crying when they smell blood, and Stiles just looks at his arm dumbly. Watches Derek's hand flinch away as if burned. Watches his claws retract faster than Stiles has ever seen. Watches the blood well up and thinks, Well damn.
"I didn't-- I'm so-- Stiles--" Derek can't seem to finish a sentence. He sounds horrified, but he just runs out the door, slamming it behind him.
It was Stiles' fault, he knows. There was no real reason for him to get so upset; Braeden is in a visiting pack, it makes sense that she and Derek would catch up. He was stressed and he missed his husband and maybe he was projecting his insecurities onto Derek. But he wasn't prepared for the cold that would settle into his bones when the door closed. He wasn't sure how to proceed with cleaning his own wounds while comforting his somewhat traumatized children. He just didn't know what to do next. Now, a week later, he's still not quite sure. He glances at the clock and sighs. It's time to wake the boys up for school.
When he gets home, he's surprised by what he sees. Derek is sitting on the couch in sweats and a t-shirt that Stiles identifies as Boyd's. Stiles stares. Derek avoids his gaze. Neither moves.
As usual, Stiles is the first to break. He walks over and sits on the coffee table so they can see eye-to-eye. It's one of his bad habits-- one of the ones that never fails to make Derek grin. Except now, it seems. Derek won't meet his eyes, just stares at the wounds on Stiles' arm in disgust.
"If we're gonna talk about this, you're gonna look at me." Stiles isn't angry anymore, not with Derek. "I'm not mad at you, just so you know."
At that, Derek does look up. "But I... I lost control. I hurt you."
"I pushed you too far." Stiles looks steadily into his husband's eyes and tries to ignore the warmth flooding through his body.
"That doesn't make it okay. But I didn't mean to hurt you. You know that, right?" Derek sounds a bit desperate.
Stiles just keeps looking at him. "Of course I know that. You'd never hurt me on purpose, Der."
The nickname seems to make Derek relax, but Stiles isn't entirely done.
"I didn't mean to make you cry, either." Derek looks startled and Stiles can't help but chuckle a little. "Yeah. I saw. Don't worry, it'll be our little secret." He sobers up. "Seriously, though. I was out of line. I just missed you and then seeing Braeden's name on the phone... sent me over the edge."
Derek reaches for him wordlessly, and he complies, melting into his husband's arms. Derek kisses his hair and rubs circles into his back. "Next time you miss me, just tell me. I know pack business takes up a lot of time, but it can wait. Always."
Stiles breathes in the scent of leather and sweat and cologne and something inherently Derek. "Don't let me push you so far again, Sourwolf. Find a way to shut me up."
He can feel Derek smiling. "Have you ever tried shutting you up? It's not the easiest thing in the world."
Stiles looks up at him. "You're a pretty creative man. I think you can come up with something."
Derek kisses him and it's soft and tentative and sweet, the way it hasn't been between them in years. There's no heat behind it, but the warmth flooding through Stiles before was nothing compared to this-- a slow smolder rather than explosive sparks. When they part, it's as natural as breathing.
"Does this mean I can come home?"
Stiles smirks. "If you don't, I might have to scoop out your pretty eyes with a spork. We miss you. Which reminds me. You're gonna have to kiss some serious ass if you want the boys to forgive you."
Derek groans. "Babysitting duty?"
"For a week. Minimum. And a movie marathon complete with ice cream. But don't suck up too much," Stiles adds with a wink. "I get jealous easily."
"Don't worry. I'm not making that mistake again."
He drags Derek into another kiss and demands a Marvel marathon until it's time for the kids to come home. And if they nap through most of it (Stiles will never admit to liking being the Little Spoon), it's only because they're both so warm.