“Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but it’s on par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you’ll miss.” - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
If Stiles wasn't constantly running for his life or trying to save someone else's, he probably would have thought about it a little more.
It's just that he didn't have time to really sit down and think about how these little tidbits of Derek's life kept bubbling up from his subconscious. There was always something else to occupy his focus - Heather, the other murders, Scott, Lydia, the Alpha pack. That, and it was easy enough to rationalize away these scraps of information as they came up in conversation. It didn't matter that Stiles couldn't remember when he'd heard that Derek had spent his summer looking for Boyd and Erica, because of course that's what he was doing. He was their Alpha, for fucks sake.
There’s other weird things too, things that Stiles probably should have actually thought about instead of immediately dismissing - like why he didn't freak out when he was left alone with Peter, for example. Or why Isaac didn't flinch away from him when he tried to get him out from under the bed.
Why he felt like he was missing something. He’d look at Derek and feel - empty. Adrift. He’d always had a bit of a crush, but this was different. Derek would reach for him and Stiles would feel reassured for some dumb reason, like it was just something Derek did. It felt natural. He’d look at the bed in Derek’s loft and feel nostalgic, which made no sense whatsoever, considering he’d never even sat on the damn thing. Sometimes, he’d try to sleep and couldn’t do it until he tucked a pillow against his chest, under his arm - muscle memory that he had no recollection of obtaining. He’d wake up the next morning from dreams so real that he could almost feel stubble rasping against neck. And he'd swear it wasn’t just him that felt like something was off, there were times when he’d look at Derek and feel certain that Derek's expression was a mirror of his own - confusion and loss.
Yeah. Shit like that. It was strange, sure, but he had bigger things to worry about.
At least, he did until the hospital. Until the night his father went missing.
It’s not until after he's revived Derek, made it back to the Argent’s (at Allison’s insistence), and is trying to force himself to fall asleep ("Come on Stiles, you're no good to them if you're exhausted, just sleep for an hour or so... please?" Allison could be very persuasive when she wanted to be-) that he mentally sorts through everything that happened and remembers what he'd yelled in Derek's face.
"Your psychotic, mass murdering girlfriend - the second one you've dated, by the way..."
Stiles squints in the darkness of the Argent's guest bedroom, rubbing the bridge of his nose. It was a weird thing to throw out in an argument. He’d been too angry to think about what he was saying at the time, but even after the heat of the moment had passed, Stiles still somehow knew it was true. Derek dated someone that had killed people before. He didn't know who he was referring to, though. If Jennifer Blake was the second mass murder Derek had dated, who was the first one? The only other female mass murder Stiles knows about it Kate Argent.
He blinks. His mind races ahead, filling in gaps. God, that would actually make so much sense. Stiles knows from reading the police reports that the Hales weren't usually all at the big house. Peter and his wife had a place in town, Derek's aunt Margaret and her husband and kids lived a couple towns over. Someone had to have known that they were all there, why they'd be there on that night, specifically.
A tremor runs through Stiles, making his hands shake as he reaches over to grab his phone from the nightstand. He knows the date of the Hale fire - everyone in Beacon Hills knows the Hale fire - and scans down a lunar chart he'd downloaded. Figured it might come in handy, someday. At the bottom of the chart is a list of partial and total lunar eclipses, dating back ten years from now and forward ten years into the future. He’s already pretty certain he knows what he’ll find, but he needs to be sure.
One second later, he is, although he wishes he wasn’t.
Derek’s entire family - brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, werewolves and humans - was at the Hale house because of a lunar eclipse. Safety in numbers, right? Only it didn’t work out that way. And there’s no way Kate would have known about it unless someone had told her they’d all be there. Maybe someone young, impressionable, someone who would have wanted to be honest because the last time he hid his true nature from the person he loved, it got her killed.
Jesus fucking Christ. Stiles is gonna be sick.
Once he swallows back the bile induced by the thought of Kate using Derek like that, fucking hell, he circles back around to his original issue. How the everliving fuck did he know that?
Nobody else knows. Just as Stiles knew that it was true when he yelled it across the emergency room at Derek (and holy fuck is Stiles going to feel guilty about that later, when this is all over, when his father is home and safe) he’s equally as confident that he’s the only other person that knows the truth. He has to be. There’s no love lost between Derek, Scott, and Allison, if either knew this about Derek Stiles is fairly certain it would have come up in conversation before - hurled at each other in cutting tones, words not meant not to wound but to kill. If Cora or Peter knew, they would have talked about it the same night they talked about everything else, probably. No, Stiles is (or was, until tonight) the only one who knows Derek’s secret. He's positive.
So why doesn’t he remember who told him? Or when?
Why doesn’t he remember when he found out that Derek was looking for Erica and Boyd? Or when he got so comfortable around people he hated (and still hates, in Peter’s case)? Why does he look at Derek and feel like something’s wrong, that there’s something missing... Things must have happened, but Stiles doesn’t remember them.
He’s out of bed and halfway across the room before it even registers he’s moving, heading down the hall to throw open Allison’s bedroom door. She’s wide awake, of course, staring at her ceiling like he’d been doing moments before. She doesn’t speak, just turns her head towards him and cocks an eyebrow. He sighs.
“Allison,” he begins wearily, “get up. We’re going to see Deaton.”
Stiles doesn’t even get through the full explanation before Deaton’s running water for the ice bath. Allison looks at it through narrowed eyes. “Do we all need to do this?” she asks, picking up a chunk of ice and flinging it back into the metal tub. To her left, Lydia finches at the small splash. Lydia knows what it’s like to have gaps in your memory, pieces missing from the whole. As soon as Stiles had told her what he thought was happening, she’d insisted on coming along.
“Not necessarily,” Deaton says. “It’s possible that only Mr. Stilinski’s memories have been tampered with.”
"Wouldn't we know if any of the Alphas had taken our memories?" Lydia asks, moving to stand behind the tub.
Deaton shrugs. "Again, not necessarily. If the Alpha was particularly strong or talented - and Deucalion is both - they'd be able to implant false memories in the place of the ones they'd taken. The memories that were stolen from Isaac were taken rather crudely, I suspect by one of the twins. Deucalion would be able to cover his tracks. You'd only sense that something was amiss the way Stiles has - a general feeling of unease, a sense that something was off, hints of the true memories pushing through your subconscious in times of stress in the form of information you know to be true, but cannot source."
Allison looks back at Stiles. “There’s... there’s things,” she admits. “That I know. Just little flashes of stuff, bits of information. Stuff that I can’t remember where it came from.”
“Then I’d strongly suggest the ice bath,” Deaton says, straightening his back. “We can try to fill in the gaps that way. See what’s missing, if anything is missing. It’s the only way to be sure.”
Allison’s still looking less than enthusiastic.
“I’ll go first,” Stiles says, trying to sound braver than he feels. He gives Allison a reassuring look. “I’ll go first, you can watch. Then you go after. Okay?”
Deaton dumps another bag of ice into the tub. “We’d better move quickly then, Mr. Stilinski,” he says, beckoning him closer. “If we’re going to go through this twice, we shouldn’t waste time.”
Stiles pulls his shirt over his head and kicks off his shoes. The huge chunks of ice rattle and bob against the edge of the bath. When he slips his foot into the tub, he shivers. He doesn’t want to do this shit - no sane person in their right fucking mind would want to relax in a freezing tub of water and ice - but he keeps thinking about his father, about Derek, about how nothing feels right and how he might have the key to figuring all this shit out already if only he could fucking get to it, and it’s enough to force his body the rest of the way in.
Lydia’s behind him, hands on his shoulders. “It will be okay, Stiles,” she reassures him. “Take a deep breath -” Before he has time to think about it, she’s pushing him under the surface.
And Stiles remembers.
Stiles remembers everything.
It’s late, and Stiles is tired, and sore, and heartbroken. The last thing he wants to deal with is more werewolf shit tonight - he’s had enough of that for ten lifetimes, thanks - but when he hears the soft snick of his window opening he doesn’t fight it, doesn’t fling mountain ash on the window sill. He lets Derek climb in, watches him warily as he shuffles over to Stiles’s desk chair and sits.
There’s silence for a moment as both of them stare at each other before Derek breaks it. “You okay?” he asks gruffly, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“Fine,” Stiles says. “I’m fine. My jeep, on the other hand...”
“Your jeep’s fine, you’re not,” Derek counters. “But you will be.”
Stiles doesn’t try and fight him. He just sits, quiet, trying to breathe under the weight of Derek’s stare.
Derek’s still wearing the same bloody shirt he had on at the warehouse. He hadn’t even gone home yet. As they sit there in silence, Derek pulls at the edge of his t-shirt, trying to scratch the blood out with his fingernails.
“Come over tomorrow,” Derek says eventually, pushing himself to his feet. “I got a new place. Isaac - Isaac needed a place. He made me buy a TV.”
Stiles narrows his eyes slightly, sizing Derek up. “I”m bringing my Playstation, and you’re buying pizza,” Stiles says finally. “Extra cheese.”
“Fine,” Derek rolls his eyes. He makes to leave but before he does, he rests a hand on Stiles’s shoulder.
There’s days that drift by, blurring together. There’s pizza and laughing and stupid jokes and Stiles and Derek wrestling over the remote - keeping their hands on each other just a little too long, being just a little too willing to touch one another in the first place. Nothing in particular stands out, but he can remember the feeling of contentment. He can remember the warmth.
Derek doesn’t want to show it, but he’s panicked. He’s certain the Alpha pack has Boyd and Erica, but he just can’t find them. It’s driving everyone mad.
They pick at each other a lot but they never fight, not really. It’s a way to relieve tension and stress. It helps that Derek always apologizes, not in words but by giving Stiles the last slice of pizza, by letting him pick the movie. He’s not a bad guy, Stiles thinks one day, watching Derek’s face as he pours over the maps. He wonders what it would have been like to know Derek before the fire, before he’d lost so much, before so much was taken from him. How anyone could live through that and not be certifiable is a miracle (see: Peter Hale). Derek’s no angel, that’s for damn sure, but he’s strong. He’s loyal, he’s smart, and he tries so hard to be good, even if it keeps getting fucked to hell.
He doesn’t need to try so hard, Stiles thinks. Derek is good. He has a good soul.
Derek looks up at him from the maps, and smiles.
When Derek kisses him, it’s not a surprise. Neither is the immediate guilt and self-sacrificing bullshit he tries to pull after the fact. Stiles takes Derek’s hand and puts it over his heart, asks him to listen and feel.
“If you want to walk away I can’t stop you,” he says, voice steady. “And I won’t try. I never want to make you feel like you have to do anything you don’t want to do. But if you leave, make sure it’s because it’s what you want. Not because you think it’s best for me, or because you think you don’t deserve it. If you walk away, make sure it’s because you want to walk away, and for no other reason than that. Because what I want? Is you. I trust you. And I know that you’d never hurt me.”
Derek leaning forward and kissing Stiles again, cupping his face in his hands instead of leaving - that is a surprise. But it's a good one.
They haven’t had sex yet. They’ve only been together a month, and Stiles doesn’t want to rush Derek - won’t rush Derek. They’ve got time. He’s not in it for the orgasms anyway, they’re not about that. They’re about laughing at each other’s dumb jokes and cuddling in Derek’s loft when Stiles makes him watch Firefly. They’re about trust and affection and something that’s starting to curl between them that Stiles isn’t ready to name, not yet.
It’s when they’re snuggled together on Stiles’s bed, watching a shitty movie on his laptop that Stiles learns why Derek hadn’t tried anything more than some below the belt but above the boxers action. The characters on screen start stripping clothes off and the blonde actress falls to her knees and licks a stripe up the actor’s abs, and Derek -
Derek stops breathing for a second.
Stiles is quick to slam the laptop shut. He’s never seen Derek have a panic attack but he’s had them himself, he knows how they start. Derek’s cheeks are flushed, his eyes squeezed shut, his nails poking into the meat of his palm.
Stiles lifts himself from Derek’s side and scrambles behind him, tossing pillows out of the way so he can rest between Derek’s back and the headboard. “Breathe,” he says softly, placing his palms on Derek’s chest. “Five seconds in, five seconds out. Breathe with me.” He curls his fingers in the fabric of Derek’s henley to tug slightly on the inhales and flattens them against Derek’s chest to push on the exhales. Derek’s fists clench and unclench before relaxing, his breath evening out, and he slowly comes back from whatever dark place he’d gone to.
“I’m okay,” he says eventually, reaching up and twining his fingers with Stiles’. “I just-”
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Stiles says quickly. “I mean, I want to listen, I want to know, but... if you’re not ready to tell me, you don’t have to. Not yet.”
“No,” Derek says. His voice isn’t firm, still too choked from the panic attack, but it’s close enough. “No, I want to.”
“Okay,” Stiles says softly. He makes to move from where he’s wedged against the headboard but Derek holds him in place. “Just, stay there okay?” He asks, giving a watery laugh. “I think this might be easier if I don’t have to look at you.”
Panic swoops through Stiles’s stomach briefly before Derek squeezes his hands, turns his head over his shoulder to give him a quick kiss. “Okay,” Stiles says, hooking his chin over Derek’s shoulder. “I’m listening.”
Derek takes a deep breath and begins his story in a halting, sorrowful voice. “When I was in high school, I fell in love with an older woman.”
As he tells Stiles what happened to him, what she did - Stiles can’t help but cry for everything she took away from him. By the time he’s done, Derek’s crying too, but his grip on Stiles’s hands is sure as he pulls him tighter, tighter.
Stiles pulls himself out of the ice bath, shivering. He doesn’t speak, just slips on his shirt and shoes. He’s halfway out the door before Allison calls out to him.
“Derek,” he snaps, answering her unasked question. “I have to get Derek.”
Unsurprisingly, Derek needs a little convincing. Knowing what Sitles knows of Derek’s history and what he’d just gone through with Jennifer, he’s obviously more than a little sensitive at the thought of people getting into his head, messing with what he thinks and feels. He insists they take the Camaro to the vet’s office (“It’s faster Stiles, you know it is, come on, let’s go so I can be done with this -”) and they storm into the back room just as Allison’s getting out of the tub.
Deaton sighs. “I’ll get more ice.”
Stiles makes his way over to Allison, avoiding looking at Derek as he strips. “What did you remember?” he asks her while Derek pulls his shirt over his head and Deaton dumps more freezing buckets into the metal tub. He doesn’t want to think about what Derek will remember, what it will mean, what will happen if he changes his mind; Allison is an excellent distraction.
“Lots of things,” she forces through chattering teeth. “As soon as I can feel my fingers, I’m gonna go get Scott. He’d better... he needs to do it, too.”
She shrugs, blowing a piece of hair from her eyes. “Probably all of us,” she says. “Better safe than sorry.”
“Mr. Stilinski,” Deaton interrupts. Stiles drags his eyes away from Allison and over to Derek, who’s already sitting in the tub, teeth clenched. “I need you to hold his shoulders down. Miss Martin, Miss Argent, if you could hold his feet.”
Stiles walks to the tub and places his hands - still ice cold from his own trip down memory lane - over Derek’s shoulders. “Derek,” he says softly, looking down at him. “Whatever you remember... it’s going to be alright. Okay? You’re gonna be okay.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “Let’s just get this over with,” he grits. He takes in a deep pull of air, and Stiles pushes him under.
When Derek surfaces, he flies out of the tub. It shouldn’t be a surprise - Alpha werewolf and all that - but it’s still shocking how quickly Derek’s out of the water and across the room, panting heavily, eyes red and claws out.
“Derek, calm down,” Deaton says slowly. Derek’s head snaps up, looking for the source of the voice. He snarls at Deaton, snapping his jaws.
“Shit,” Allison murmurs. She grabs Lydia’s hand and pulls her back. Lydia reaches for Stiles, but he twists out of her hold and steps forward. “Stiles!” she hisses, frantically trying to reach him, to pull him away. “It’s okay,” he insists softly, and takes another step.
“Derek, I’m here.”
Derek turns slowly. He’s not angry, he’s terrified, and Stiles knows enough about him now to know the difference. He knows that it’s all defensive, one last attempt to protect himself from having anything else ripped away. And Stiles... Stiles is scared. Derek’s out of control right now and this story could end in a trip to the emergency room.
It won’t though. Stiles knows Derek. Stiles trusts him, still. Lydia and Allison’s panicked whispered warnings aren’t enough to stop him from reaching out, from trying to comfort Derek, let him know that he’s here, he’s here. He lifts a shaking hand and eases it onto Derek’s shoulder, trying to anchor him with touch.
Allison and Lydia scream at the speed with which Derek propels himself forward, but their shouts die out when they see that he’s not attacking Stiles. Instead, his arms are wrapped around him, face buried in Stiles neck, and they’re both sobbing and laughing and clinging to each other, rivulets of ice cold water dripping between them and onto the floor.
“They took you from me,” Derek says in a broken voice. “I just felt so fucking empty, like something was missing, and I couldn’t figure out why I’d look at you and feel so goddamn alone -”
“I know, me too, me too,” Stiles chokes. His fingers twitch against the bare skin of Derek’s back and he pulls him impossibly closer. “I missed you so fucking much and I didn’t even know why.”
“What.” Allison says from the corner. “What is going on.”
Lydia shakes her head. “I have no idea,” she murmurs. “Oh God, does this mean I need to take the ice bath?”
Stiles makes a strangled noise, something halfway between a sob and a laugh, and pulls back slightly to rest his forehead against Derek's. "I’m here, okay?” he whispers softly. He reaches for Derek’s hand and puts it over his heart. “Listen. Feel it. I’m here. We’re gonna be okay.”
“Okay,” Derek says on a shaky exhale. He presses his nose to Stiles’s neck again, breathing him in. “Okay.”