The woods are haunting this time of night. A mist hangs heavy in the air, thick like soup, like if he wanted to he could reach out and grasp it in his fist and pull a chunk free. The smell of wet, decaying leaves is so strong he can practically taste it on his tongue, floating in through the cracked window of his jeep.
He tries to turn the engine over again, but it just stutters, grinds, and doesn’t catch. He twists the key again, holds his breath. The same result.
“Come on baby,” he murmurs as though speaking to the vehicle will change the outcome. Who knows, maybe it will this time.
His high beams barely penetrate the fog rolling through, covering the world in grey. It’s enough that he can see that he’s alone here, on this stretch of road. It’s just a dead battery, he tells himself as he checks his phone again. Still no cell service. He gets that the wolves need space to run and train but the preserve isn’t the best for his cell service, or his poor baby—too many bumps and dips and crappy roads the city keeps promising to fix and never does.
Cursing he slides from the warmth of his jeep into the crisp night air. During the day the drive in is lit up by brilliant golds and fiery oranges as the trees change colour with fall. At night the leaves are painted black, blur together into a canopy of shadows that blocks out the stars.
He props up the hood of his jeep, pulls up the flashlight on his phone and peers inside. He’s got a basic understanding of his baby, of it’s needs, but he can’t see anything amiss right away. A bit of steam curls up from the engine but it doesn’t look like it’s enough to have overheated. They’d been in the mechanics a week ago for battery trouble, he knew the guy was scamming him, charging him extra and not doing all the work.
Derek probably could have looked it over for him, would probably have stripped down to a tank too, showing off his strong arms, broad chest, covered in grease…
He shakes himself out of that little fantasy for the moment.
The meeting spot isn’t too far away from where he broke down, another five minutes by car. He can probably make it there in fifteen if he jogs, it’ll keep him warm too. He’ll try to start it up one more time before he gives in.
He goes to shut the hood of his jeep again when a sound nearby has him freezing. Years dealing with the supernatural has him instinctively on the defense, wondering if he has time to grab his bat from the back seat before whatever it is attacks. He holds his breath, tries to catch the sound again, to figure out what it is or at least where it came from.
This time he hears it clearly.
A child crying.
“What the,” he leaves the hood and steps towards the edge of the forest, trying to peer through the thick branches. He wonders if his eye sight is getting worse or if tonight is just that dark. “Hello?”
The crying pauses, then comes a voice so quiet Stiles has to strain to hear it.
Shit. His chest tightens in sympathy at the fear laid plain in the young voice. It sounds like a little boy.
“Are you lost?” He calls out and a moment later a pale, small child pokes his head out from behind a tree. He has a shock of dark hair, almost black, and eyes that are electric blue. For a moment he thinks they’re the same blue as Jacksons, but they don’t flash and they stay just as vivid in the dim light.
“Who are you?” The kid asks, keeping his distance.
“Stiles.” He crouches down to the kid’s level, tries to look less imposing. “What’s your name.”
“Harold.” It’s a weirdly old name but who is he to judge a person’s name, right?
“Harold, where are your parents?”
“I don’t know,” he starts to sob. He’s a tiny thing, pale and thin dressed in a large sweater and jeans. He can’t be more than seven. His mind goes to the worst-case scenario, imaging all the ways a kid could end up lost in the preserve.
“Okay, uh,” he checks his phone but there’s still no service. Along with a new mechanic he needs a better cell provider. “Harold, I want to help you find your parents, but my car isn’t working. I know you probably aren’t supposed to trust strangers but my dad is the Sheriff, and my friends are nearby and they can help us find your parents, alright?”
The kid seems to consider this seriously for a long moment and Stiles is starting to worry about how he’ll get them any help when he finally nods and closes the distance between them. Up close the kid’s cheeks are almost gaunt and there are dark circles under his eyes. Stiles starts to wonder if maybe the parents had something to do with the kid ending up in the preserve.
“Okay,” Stiles tucks his cell away and reaches for the flashlight he’s started keeping in the glove box. He considers his bat for a moment before deciding it will probably scare the crap out of the kid. Besides, the pack is out in the forest tonight, making the preserve pretty safe for them. If anything shows up the pack is bound to find it first. “So, we’re going to have to walk a bit.”
A small hand curls around his and Stiles startles. The kid is silent when he wants to be. He’s cool to the touch from the brisk night air.
They set out after he locks up the jeep. It’s slow going, Harold’s legs are about half the size of his own and he has to pace himself, make sure he doesn’t end up dragging the kid along in his haste to get them there faster. Harold is a trooper though, keeping up with him without a complaint, hand holding Stiles’ tightly.
A wolf howls in the distance and Stiles glances at the kid, makes sure he’s not freaking out, but Harold just stares passively back, apparently calm so long as he has a hold of Stiles. He keeps the flashlight pointed before them. The fog feels like it’s getting thicker and he starts to worry that they’ll lose track of the road or he’ll miss the turn he needs to follow to find the others. He could shout, someone’s bound to hear him, but he’s torn between embarrassment at having to be found and worry about the kid.
Worry wins out pretty easily.
“Derek!” His voice seems to echo through the trees. “Scott!”
“They can’t hear you.” Harold says quietly.
“It’s cool,” Stiles squints into the fog. “They’ve got really good hearing.”
He can barely see two feet in front of him now. With every inhale the fog fills his lungs, makes his chest feel heavy, tight. He strains his ears but he can’t hear any more wolves. He wonders if they’re messing with him but that doesn’t seem right. If they’re tracking his heart beat, there’s no way they’d miss the kid with him.
He’s starting to regret not bringing his bat.
“We should go this way,” Harold tugs on his hand so suddenly that Stiles nearly stumbles.
“We’re staying on the road kiddo,” but he glances down and realizes the ground is uneven. It’s rough forest floor, roots poking up and trying to trip him. He stops in his tracks. Turns, peers into the grey, heart speeding up.
“Okay…” He draws it out, turning again. He’s not sure which way they were headed anymore. “Maybe we should just hang out here.”
“But no one will find us.” Harold’s voice starts to quiver and Stiles crouches quickly, taking the kids hands in his own.
“It’s fine, my friends are going to find us and we’ll get you home,” or at least to his dad who can look into Harold’s parents. “My friends are looking for us right now.”
He hopes it’s not a lie.
He fumbles through the gloom just far enough to find them an old log to sit on. The kid is cold to the touch but not shivering and Stiles starts to worry about exposure and hypothermia. He shrugs out of his hoody, feeling the chill in the air all the more and helps Harold pull it on over his own sweater. It dwarfs the kid, and he rolls up the sleeves a bit but it’s still huge. Hopefully it will warm him up. Stiles rubs his hands together, fingers numb. He sets the flashlight so its balanced against the log, pointed up and casting eerie shadows around them and then pulls his phone out. No service and his battery is getting critically low.
He’s going to build a cell tower in the preserve himself if only to get a reliable signal.
Something echoes through the night, a sound that almost reaches them. He peers into the fog, heart pounding. His fingers reach out, searching the ground for a rock, a stick, something.
He hears the sound again and this time understands it.
“Over here!” He pushes to his feet.
“Stiles?” Derek’s voice is louder now, closer. Relief has his knees trying to buckle. He locks them, glances at Harold.
“See, everything’s fine. This is my friend.”
Harold stares solemnly back.
He doesn’t see Derek until he’s a few feet away, a hazy, vague form that resolves itself into the familiar broad shoulders, square jaw, hazel eyes.
“Shit man, you have no idea how happy I am to see you.” He breathes.
But Derek isn’t looking at him. His eyes are glued to something over his shoulder, expression growing tighter, defensive, even as Stiles watches.
With sudden clarity Stiles knows that there is something terrible behind him.
But so is Harold.
He spins around, ready to grab the kid and get behind Derek but,
He can’t see anything other than Harold.
“Stiles,” Derek growls, low and harsh in the dark. “Get away from it.”
“From what?” He can’t see anything else around them. He turns back to Derek. “Dude, there’s nothing here. Knock it off you’re going to scare the kid.”
“That isn’t a child Stiles,” Derek reaches for him, his claws out, and Stiles steps towards him, trusting, before what he’s said sinks in.
“What?” He glances back at Harold, suddenly uncertain. He frowns. “Yes, he is.”
“He doesn’t have a heartbeat.” Derek grabs him, wraps a large hand around his bicep and pulls him behind him.
“Harold?” Stiles peers over Derek’s shoulder, his hands resting on his waist to ground himself.
The kid peers back at him and then abruptly starts to giggle.
It’s an eerie sound, makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. A shiver runs down his spine at how wrong it is.
When Harold grins it’s full of teeth, sharp and malicious.
And then he fades before their eyes, disappearing into the fog.
And they’re alone.
Unbeta'd and I'm in math hell so I don't have the energy to right now....thanks to everyone for reading/commenting/kudoing!! It means a lot ;)
Some how he finds himself seated on the porch of the old Hale House. It’s a burnt-out shell that looms over him even as he swings his legs, grips the edges of the charred wood and tells himself it’s just a house it’s just a house.
Considering twenty minutes ago that was just a kid he’s having trouble convincing himself. Scott doesn’t look overly convinced either if the looks he keeps shooting the charred remains are any indicator. Stiles tries to ignore it.
Around them the fog has caged them in. It’s thinner here than it was out in the thick woods, keeping its distance from the house like even it can’t stand to be near it.
Derek has tight lines around his eyes, his lips curled down in a frown, but he’s been like that since he managed to find their way back to the house and out of the mist. Stiles wants to reach out and smooth the lines away, to push and poke and prod until Derek can’t help but smile, and then Stiles wants to soak in the warmth of his gaze and taste the sweetness of his lips.
Right now, though all he feels is cold.
“What was it?” Erica asks what’s on all of their minds. “A ghost?”
“I don’t know.” Stiles shrugs, wraps his arms around himself to try and keep what little warmth he has in. His hoody is a few feet away on the porch but he won’t put it on. Not now.
“What did it want with Stiles?” Lydia asks, bundled up in a thick fall coat and gloves, a human running with the wolves. “We were all out here, it could have come after any of us at any time.”
“For now we’ll have our weekly meetings at the loft.” Derek tells them, voice firm.
“Movie night.” Stiles cracks a smile he doesn’t feel but no one calls him on it.
“No one goes home alone.” He continues, rolling his eyes. “And text when you get there.”
Scott pulls him in for a tight hug and offers him a ride in Allison’s car but he declines. He watches as Allison, Scott and Isaac all climb into the car and waving, pull out of the clearing. Jackson and Lydia leave a moment later, and then it’s just the four of them.
The silence that’s left is oppressive.
“Come on Batman,” Erica tries to lighten the mood. She and Boyd climb into the back seat of the Camaro in an uncharacteristic show of generosity. Stiles shives against the brisk night air. He can’t shake the feeling of being watched but when he looks out into the fog and darkness nothing stares back.
“Here,” Derek drapes his jacket over Stiles’ shoulders, expression soft, worried in the dim light. “Come back to the loft tonight?”
He’s tempted. Even if it’s just for platonic wolf piles with the others.
But despite the anxiety that clings to his bones his bed is calling him and there’s still a feeling of safe that comes with that.
He shakes his head, but smiles, tucking his arms into the too long sleeves, feeling how soft the leather is against his skin. It’s warm from the heat of Derek’s body, smells like him, and he can feel himself sinking into the sensations.
Derek steers him towards the car and they climb in. Erica and Boyd’s conversation abruptly cuts off. It’s pretty clear who they’re talking about but Stiles ignores it, reaches out to fiddle with the radio dials.
It’s pretty hard to get a reliable station out here so Derek gently slaps his hand away. A moment later Erica has half crawled through the seats to plug in her phone and sync up the music. The tense muscles in his shoulders start to unclench as the sound fills the small space.
“I’m going to check and see if there were any deaths of children in the area.”
Derek’s hands tighten on the steering wheel for a moment before he says in a tight voice,
And Stiles wants to kick himself. He catches Boyd’s wince in the mirror.
“But,” Derek continues. “Not this kid. No one named Harold.”
“And if he isn’t some sort of spirit?” Boyd asks. “My ghosts don’t usually have teeth like a shark.”
“Then we’ll just hope it doesn’t want to eat someone.” Stiles sums up. “Especially me.”
“You’d make a terrible meal.” Erica adds tapping his shoulder along with the beat of the song. He relaxes into the touch.
“It’s true. I’m all skin and bones.”
“Well, not all skin and bones.” Derek comments and Stiles nearly chokes on his tongue. He glances over to find Derek studying the road intently. In the back Boyd’s laughing softly to himself. “Oh look, there’s the jeep.”
The betas are insistent about making a perimeter around the pair as Derek sticks his head under the hood of Stiles’ jeep. Stiles keeps an eye out too, jittery in his skin, bouncing the beam of his flashlight around, through the thick fog, wondering if what he’s seeing are trees or bushes or something else.
“I don’t see anything,” Derek admits, closing the hood with a thump that echoes through the night. “But you should probably get a mechanic to look at it.”
As though the mechanic that over charged him last week is better than the man who rebuilt the engine of the Camaro.
“Should we call for a tow?”
“No one is going to drive in this weather if they don’t have to.” Stiles checks his phone, wondering if his dads been trying to get a hold of him. He’d said he’d be studying at Allison’s while his dad was on the night shift. He’s still working out how to break it to his dad that he’s running around with Derek still. Knowing his dad, he probably already knows and they’re just both living in denial now.
“I’ll take you home.” Derek calls the betas back and they set off again.
He keeps expecting the fog to lift, over at least lighten as they drive further into the city but it stays as thick as ever, the head beams just barely cutting through the haze. A turning car nearly side swipes them, not seeing them, and Derek has to brake to avoid a collision. Stiles grips the leather of the seats.
“There’s no way this is normal.” Boyd murmurs.
Even with the music and the warmth of the car the tension slowly starts creeping back up on them. The leather creaks under Derek’s hands on the wheel. His shoulders are stiff when Stiles reaches out to touch him, to rest his hand there and give Derek something else to focus on.
It works and he starts to relax under his touch.
Out of the fog emerges a shape.
“Derek!” He shouts as it resolves itself to a small child in the middle of the road. Derek swears, unable to brake in time, he cranks the wheel, wrenches it towards the passenger side and they bounce on the curb. They weren’t going fast but it’s still fast enough that the momentum carries them forwards and into the fire hydrant lurking in the mist.
Stiles snaps forwards, his seat belt choking him, locking tight before he bounces back against the seat. His head is throbbing and he realizes he must have hit the window.
“What the fuck,” Erica groans as Boyd asks,
“What was that?”
Derek looks dazed when Stiles catches his eye. The air bags didn’t deploy in some fluke and there’s a red smear of blood from where he hit his head on the steering wheel. It starts to heal even as he reaches up to touch it, wincing at the pain it elicits.
“That was a,” Stiles trails off, the moments before the crash replaying in his head. A kid. It was a kid.
He fumbles with his seat belt. It’s jammed.
“Derek,” he starts to panic, feeling trapped. The alpha reacts instantly, reaching out and swiping through the belt with his claws and Stiles manages to get out of the car heaving in lungful’s of damp, thick air. Derek is out a moment later, gripping his arms, getting him to meet his eyes.
“I think it was him.” He manages, feeling like his chest is too tight.
Derek tenses, turns to face the fog, searching for an invisible threat.
There isn’t anything there.
“We’re not far from your house, right?” Erica asks, shifting as she scans the area. “We can just hang out there until morning. The fog should be gone by then right?”
Stiles nods, gripping Derek’s shirt tight in his hands, keeping the alpha close. But even as he agrees, he can’t help the niggling doubt in his mind that says it will be here for awhile.
Beacon Hills isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis, even during the day. With the fog thick enough that it feels like he’s wading through it, the town is dead.
They leave the car for the moment, he’ll text his dad about it once they get home and he gets a charger and a reliable signal. He’s also going to look up if fog should be messing with his signal like it is or if this is something so much worse.
Buildings loom around them like the shadows of giants. He’s having trouble spotting landmarks, street signs, something to point them in the direction of his house. He shivers, pulls Derek’s jacket tighter around him. Erica and Boyd are silent behind them and when he glances to make sure they’re still with them he sees them pressed close together, hands entwined. At least he’s not the only one feeling uncomfortable.
Apprehension gathers in his chest. Something’s going to happen. Any moment now a monster is going to lunge from the shadows and grab him and drag him away. His chest feels tight and his mouth dry. His eyes hurt from staring into the fog, trying to find the monsters before they find him.
Something does grab him then and he screams.
“Calm down.” Derek doesn’t let go of the hand he’s grabbed. Stiles flushes, mortified. “Your heart sounds like it’s going to explode.”
He takes a deep breath, tries to will the pounding in his chest to slow, to calm. He focuses on the warm hand linked with his own and squeezes, trying to draw some of that warmth, that stability into himself.
“You didn’t need an excuse to hold my hand.” He teases when he’s feeling more like himself. It’s not his best joke but Derek’s lips curl a little and he soaks up the feeling he gets whenever he can make the other man smile.
Derek squeezes his hand.
“Next time I won’t use an excuse then.” He murmurs. Erica gags behind them but she can suffer through it because his heart is starting to pound again and this time it’s not from fear.
“Does anyone actually know where we’re going?” Boyd chimes in and they slow to a stop. They’ve been following the road in what they thought was the direction of his house but now that he looks around, he realizes he has no clue as to where they are.
“I miss GPS.” Erica sighs. Stiles has to agree with her. He’s lived in this town his entire life and he’s not used to this feeling, of being lost, of being a stranger in his own home.
“There has to be a street sign around here.” Derek starts towards the sidewalk and Stiles hangs on, refusing to let him go. He doesn’t seem to mind though, towing Stiles along like a reluctant toddler as he searches for a sign. They can’t go far though before the fog threatens to separate them from the others.
They don’t find anything.
And then there’s the shriek of tires and a scream.
The car comes careening out of the fog, swerving drunkenly. It’s so sudden, so unexpected, that the beta’s freeze. Erica is first to regain her footing and she shoves Boyd hard.
A split second later the car clips her, spins her, and sends her crashing to the pavement. The car disappears back into the fog as quickly as it had appeared leaving Stiles wondering if it was ever there to begin with.
Erica groans, curled in on herself. Boyd’s already at her side, stricken, hovering like he’s terrified his touch will just make it worse.
Derek drops his hand and lunges over to his beta. He’s wolfing out, eyes flashing bright in the dim lighting of the fog. Panic is crawling through his chest, up his throat, trying to choke him. Oh god, he needs to help.
When he tries to follow Derek though, something stops him.
Something has a grip on his coat and for a moment he thinks he’s gotten caught on a fence. He twists, his breath punched from his chest as he spots the small hand that’s gotten ahold of the leather.
“Stiles,” Harold smiles at him, rows upon rows of sharp, deadly teeth on display.
“Let go of me!” He struggles, tries to get the coat open but his hands fumble and he can’t manage it. Harold tugs and it’s so surprisingly strong that he stumbles back, lands on his ass. A moment later he’s choking as Harold grabs the collar of the coat and starts to drag him away.
Fuck, he knew this was going to happen. His feet kick, sliding on the pavement. His fingers feel fat and uncoordinated as he tries to free himself. Air is barely getting through, he scrabbles at the collar, tries to give himself a little more oxygen and yells.
“Derek!” But he’s already there, charging through the fog with a snarl. He doesn’t bother with Harold, just slices through the leather and yanks Stiles from the jacket and into his arms. They don’t pause, don’t wait to see what Harold will do. There’s a shriek that fills the air, makes his ears pop and his skin crawl. Derek sweeps him up and away.
They stumble back into the fog and his senses get all mixed up, he can’t tell where they’ve come from, where they need to go. Derek tilts his head back and lets out a howl. It reverberates down his spine and he tightens his grip on Derek’s shirt, focuses on breathing past his panic.
There’s an echoing howl, and then another, and Derek sets off towards it.
He doesn’t relax his grip until Boyd and Erica are in sight again. She looks a little worse for wear, bloody, leaning heavily on Boyd, but her face lights up when she catches sight of them.
“You alright?” She asks as Derek finally sees fit to let him down.
“I should be asking you that.”
“Healing already,” she lifts the hem of her shirt and he can see smooth skin, bloody like there was something much worse there recently.
“We need to get inside.” Derek cuts them off, tense, gaze bouncing around them like he can spot the threats before the arrive this time.
Stiles threads their fingers back together. If Harold wants to drag him off again he’ll have a fight.
“Pick a side.” He uses his free hand to gesture around them. “There has to be something around here we can get into.”
Boyd ends up leading the way, off the road, the sidewalk, and slowly a building resolves itself before them.
“The vets?” Erica’s eyebrows raise dramatically. “How did we end up over here?”
If there was a question about this fog being supernatural, it’s dashed now. There’s too much distance between Stiles house and Deaton’s for this to not be supernatural related. Which means Harold probably has something to do with this.
The doors unlocked but the building is empty when they get inside. Not a single person or animal to be found. Stiles lets the wolves through the mountain ash barrier, then makes sure it’s sealed up again. He figures the extra protection can’t hurt.
“So what, we wait and hope it clears up?” Erica perches on the exam table, letting Boyd clean her remaining marks and blood from her.
Stiles peers out the window into the dark night. He flinches at the dark eyes that stare back.
“We could try and find the others.” Boyd comments. His touch is gentle as he wipes the blood from her face.
Derek shakes his head. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find you two again. What if this thing figured out how to mimic our howl?”
“What?” Stiles gapes at him. “You ran off when you weren’t even sure you could find them again?”
“We’re not talking about this.” Derek’s glare has never been enough to silence him.
“I think we are.” He turns from the window, goes toe to toe with the alpha. “What if you had have gotten lost too? Or Harold had have grabbed you? What if there are other creatures out there?”
“It didn’t matter.”
“How?” he throws his arms up. He’d thought they were beyond this, beyond Derek’s suicidal tendencies. It’s taken long enough.
“Because it had you .” He hisses. He grasps Stiles wrists, pulls them back down. His expression is dark, serious. Stiles swallows hard. There’s something hot, possessive in his gaze, like he’s willing Stiles to understand. And yeah, maybe he does. Because if that had have been Derek being dragged off, nothing would have stopped Stiles from charging after him.
He wriggles out of Derek’s grasp but only to take his hands, to squeeze.
“If you two are done,” Erica interrupts and he flushes. “Do we have any idea what to do?”
Stiles meets Derek’s gaze. “Police station?”
“And if it's abandoned like this place?”
“They’d still have guns. Tasers. Batons.” Stiles starts listing.
“Call that plan B.” He suggests. His gaze bounces around the room. “Deaton was an emissary, chances are he has something lying around here we could use.”
“Like something to tell us what the hell that thing is?” Boyd gestures at the window and sure enough, Harold is standing outside, about twenty feet away. He smiles when he spots them watching him. The teeth make Stiles shudder.
“Anything that can help us.” Derek pulls him away from the window. “And no one goes outside.”
“ Nothing could make me want to go back out there.”
Stiles understands the feeling all too well.
Warnings for Character Death: someone dies in this chapter... *cackles* thanks Miniatures ;)
Also huge thanks to everyone reading and reviewing! I'm in midterm hell atm so the comments really mean a lot!
Stiles sits by the window, old book on the druids propped open against the glass as he alternates between staring out into the mist and searching for anything that will get rid of their 'Harold problem'.
The Beta's are still searching for anything Deaton might have stashed, but aside from a jar of mountain ash, they haven't turned up much. He figures he might be able to make it stretch to the police station if the laws of physics have decided to take a walk. If he just keeps circling them all with it Harold won't be able to get in; unfortunately he's still working on a way to make it easier for the wolves to move and coming up empty.
"What we need is a teleportation spell." He announces to the room at large. Only Derek is there to hear him. "Or just a teleporter."
"I'll call Scotty." Derek's scanning the walls for any sign that there might be something hidden behind them. A man like Deaton doesn't leave himself unprepared. He can't help the niggling feeling that maybe this time he was, and that's why he's not there.
"I love it when you talk nerdy to me." Stiles focuses on that instead, on the way Derek's lips curve up with satisfaction.
"I'm going to check the next room." Derek finishes his circuit and crosses back over to Stiles. His hand rests briefly on his shoulder, grounding them both. "If you need anything I'll hear you."
Stiles nods, watches him leave the room and turns his attention back to the book. His eyes are tired. He rubs them, wonders what time it is, how long they've been here. The clock on his phone seems to be stuck at a little after eight. He stopped looking at it awhile ago, tossing it on Deaton's desk so he's not compulsively checking it. He's worried about the others, if they made it home, if they're stuck out there being hunted by Harold as well.
Light’s flash outside the window. Stiles startles, nearly drops the book. The cruiser that pulls up to the door of the clinic is achingly familiar, so is the man inside it.
Relief swims through him so quickly his head spins.
He tosses the book on the closest table and hurries to the door, yanking it open.
“Stiles!” His dad’s face is a complicated mixture of happiness and terror as he spots him. “You’re alright.”
“Yeah,” he sags against the door frame. It feels like his muscles have liquified, like he’s been trying for so long to keep this heavy weight on his shoulders and now that it’s gone he’s overtaxed, raw. “Sorry, I tried to get home but this fog rolled in and Roscoe died again.”
“It’s alright,” John scrubs a hand over his face. “I’m just happy you’re safe kiddo.”
The longer he has the door open, the more anxious he feels. It’s like he’s exposed, making himself an easy target. His skin is crawling, the feeling of being watched intensifying and this time it’s not just fear for himself or the wolves. His father is here, out in the open and supernatural creatures aren’t usually picky in who they grab.
“Listen dad, come inside,” he calls out, gaze bouncing around the parking lot. Is it his imagination or is the fog getting closer? Closing in on the little pocket of space they have. He can see wisps of it rolling around his father’s feet and he can’t help but picture something coiling in it, wrapping itself around his ankles until it drags him away.
“I think it’s time I get you home.” John retorts. He rests an arm on the door of the cruiser. “Let’s go Stiles, tonight is not a night to be out.”
Stiles hesitates, realizes he has a tight grip on the door frame, knuckles white where he grips the painted wood. The feeling of wrong is spreading through him. There’s something out there, something terrible.
“Dad, you need to get inside now. ” He can’t keep the urgency from his voice. He’ll go and drag him inside if he has to but he’s having trouble making his legs move.
“Get in the car Stiles.” John’s face is set like stone, cold like marble and Stiles almost finds himself taking that step out of the building.
A strong hand grabs him around the waist and stops him from going anywhere.
“Sheriff?” Derek calls out, confusion and relief evident in his voice.
“It’s not him.” Stiles stares at the false image of his father.
“You ungrateful brat,” John snarls and comes towards them. His walk is wrong , like he doesn’t understand how to and he sways brokenly.
“Mountain ash.” Derek shoves the jar into his hand even as he’s asking and he unscrews the lid, grabs a fistful and blows .
There’s a shriek from somewhere in the fog.
The image of the Sheriff dissipates like smoke, the cruiser swallowed by the fog. They stumble back into the clinic and slam the door shut.
His hands are shaking so hard he nearly drops the jar of mountain ash. Broad hands cover his own, gently pry it from his fingers. Derek screws the lid back on and carefully places it on a shelf. Then he directs Stiles into one of the chairs lining the wall and crouches in front of him.
“Do me a favor,” he rubs his hands over his face feeling wrung out, feeling frustrated. “Open the window, call for the others.”
“I thought we agreed that could be mimicked.” Derek rests his hands on Stiles’ thighs, a hot brand through the worn denim. His expression is tight with fear, with worry.
“Let’s call this testing a theory.”
Derek nods, leverages himself to his feet and cracks open the window. His howl makes the glass shake, makes something tight unfurl in Stiles’ chest, as it goes on and on.
Then there’s silence.
Erica and Boyd appear in the room with them, but keep quiet as they watch the proceedings. For a few tense moments no one says anything.
They don’t hear any response from outside.
“So,” Stiles clears his throat. “Doesn’t look like he can mimic them.”
“But no one replied.” Erica’s eyes are wide with fear at the implications.
“So they could be unconscious, or unable to.” Boyd wraps an arm around her shoulders but his expression looks grim. “They were all out in the fog too.”
“Peter wasn’t.” Derek says suddenly. “He’s still recovering at the loft from that troll the other day.”
“So he should have been able to reply, unless the fog is blocking it.” He rubs his palms on his thighs, they feel damp from sweat. There’s another option he thinks, but he doesn’t know how to prove it one way or another.
“How does this help us?” Erica asks.
Stiles glances at Derek and shrugs. It doesn’t help them. All it does is solidify the fact that they’re on their own. Which means if they get separated again, chances are they won’t be able to find each other.
The internet doesn’t work.
Stiles manages to get Deaton’s computer booted up only to find that no matter what he does he can’t connect to the internet. He was hoping that using an actual line he’d be able to get some research done. Books are Lydia’s thing, he’d rather be elbow deep in the recesses of the web.
He sits back with a groan.
His stomach rumbled, reminding him he’d only had a bagel to eat on the way out to the preserve. He’d been planning on getting burgers with Scott on the way home, like they usually did, but things hadn’t gone to plan. He smooths a hand over his stomach and wills it away.
The computer screen flickers as though it’s planning on dying on him so he shuts down the system and grabs one of the books they’d found hidden behind a panel in Deaton’s office.
It’s something to go on at least, books on creatures that may help them identify whatever the hell Harold is. He’d love to be at the Sheriff’s station, to get his hands on their files and determine whether this has happened before or if it’s an isolated case.
He’d love to know his father is alright.
A chocolate bar is dropped onto the desk before him scaring the crap out of him.
Derek gives him an amused look at the way his heart must stutter before sinking down onto the chair across from him with zero finesse. It looks like the long night isn’t just taking it’s toll on him.
“I could hear your stomach from across the building.” He’d had a feeling they were all listening in on him.
“Thanks,” he grabs the Hershey bar and tears it open. The chocolate is sweet and helps him focus for the moment. It’s gone too fast, isn’t really satisfying, but it’s warmed him oddly enough and his stomach has stopped grumbling for the moment.
“What about you?” He thinks to ask only after.
“I’m fine.” Derek waves him off. Stiles calls bullshit. He keeps his mouth shut. “Any luck?”
“Unsurprisingly there’s no internet so it’s old school for me.”
“I’ll get Erica and Boyd in here, we’ll all help.”
He forgets sometimes that he can ask for help.
“It’ll go faster.” He gestures at the pile of books. “And he might not even be in here, or at least as anything we’d recognize.”
“I have a feeling he is,” there’s a tone to Derek’s voice that makes Stiles sit up and take notice.
“What do you mean?”
“You haven’t noticed?” Derek arches an eyebrow and Stiles makes an impatient ‘get on with it’ motion. “The mountain ash jar, the chocolate bar, the books,”
“You think Deaton’s helping us?” He guesses.
“Not Deaton,” Derek gestures around the room.
“The building ?”
“I found the chocolate sitting on top of one of the kennels I’d already checked.”
“You fed me magic chocolate .” He stares down at the torn wrapper, outraged.
“You’ll be fine.” Derek rolls his eyes. “This building is trying to keep you alive .”
It makes him think of standing in the doorway when he’d thought it was his father in the parking lot, how he’d been unable to move his legs, how tightly he’d been gripping the door frame without realizing it.
“Holy shit.” He breathes. He glances at the ceiling. “How about a pepperoni pizza?”
Obviously the ceiling doesn’t say anything back. Neither does a pizza magically appear for them.
“Okay, so it’s limited.” He drums his fingers on the desk. “But that’s an advantage we have.”
Derek nods, pushing to his feet.
“I’ll grab the others.” He brushes his hand lightly against the back of Stiles’ neck as he passes and Stiles shudders at the touch. It’s something he’s been doing a lot lately and Stiles isn’t going to say no to the familiarity.
“Magic building,” he mutters, forces his mind back to task. It adds to his theory at least.
The four of them are camped out in the office now, books spread out before them. Erica’s sprawled on her stomach on the floor, Boyd back against the wall, knees up and book resting on them, Derek’s back in the chair he’s claimed and Stiles, he’s slowly falling asleep at the desk.
His hand is the only thing keep his heavy head up, has been for awhile. The words have blurred on the page, illegible. His eyes keep drooping closed, lulled by the silence, by the rustle of the pages as they’re turned. Erica lets out a jaw cracking yawn.
He wonders what time it is. He wonders if it’s morning yet, it must be by now.
The adrenaline has faded, he’s crashing hard now that they’ve been forced to sit around and wait. The others must be too, must be hungry as well but no magical food has been found and Deaton’s fridge is only filled with medicine.
His bladder is starting to protest again; that feeling when you’re on the cusp of sleep but your body cools and suddenly you have to pee that drives him crazy.
He forces his head up, scrubs at his eyes and pushes to his feet.
Derek’s gaze tracks him, heavy on his back as he stumbles from the room. The washroom is right next door so he quickly relieves himself, splashes some water on his face and heads back.
He hears something.
The nearest window is just along the hallway and he crosses to it.
There’s a small figure, curled up on the concrete in the parking lot. He recognizes the dark hair, the oversized sweater.
His heart rate spikes.
“Son of a bitch.” He leaves the window and hurries back into the office.
“Harold?” Derek catches his gaze. He nods, plunks himself down into the chair and ignores the sobbing that he should not be able to hear through the thick walls.
With this thought the sobbing stops and suddenly they’re plunged back into the silence.
He meets Erica’s gaze and it looks like they’re both holding their breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
They keep waiting.
Eventually they turn back to the books. Stiles reaches the end of his with nothing. Not even a creature that could be Harold if they really reached. He closes it and tosses it into the discard pile. He’s out of books.
He groans, runs his hands through his hair and tugs on the ends, relishing the sharp bite, letting his thoughts flow for a moment as he tries to come up with something to help them. They can’t survive here forever. Sooner or later they’ll have to go back out into the fog.
The thought is enough to make him freeze before he gets it under control.
There’s a shriek then and the building shakes. They all duck, certain for a moment that this is it . But as fast as it happened it stops.
“What the hell was that?” Boyd rasps, pushing to his feet.
Stiles knows what it was, it was Harold getting their attention.
He leads the way back into the waiting room and collectively they peer out into the false night created by the fog. It’s a world of dark shadows and swirling grey and white clouds that he knows could swallow them whole. They could wander forever in them and never find the way out.
Harold appears, a shadow at first, dragging something heavy behind him.
An arm appears, wrapped in his tiny fist, then a body. His grin shows his razor sharp teeth, gleeful.
“Stiles,” he calls, childlike and innocent. “I found something of yours!”
His hands go up to the cold glass, heart pounding. He thinks no no no it’s not real even as the curls appear, the uneven jaw. Fuck . He presses his forehead to the glass and tells himself to close his eyes it can’t be real. But he can’t look away.
“Is he yours?” Harold peers down at Scott, lets go of his arm and it drops to the cement. He crouches over him, small hand cupping his cheek. There’s blood on his temple, on his chest.
“It’s not real.” He bites out.
“Stiles,” Derek sounds sick, sounds furious . “I can hear his heartbeat.”
Scott’s eyes blink open slowly, his head lolls, he looks concussed.
“Who...who are you?”
“Scott!” Stiles presses against the glass. He doesn’t seem to hear him.
“Stiles,” Harold ignores Scott’s question wraps his hands around the beta’s throat. He’s so small but though Scott thrashes against his hold, his legs kicking, hands trying to pry the pair on his throat off, he’s so much stronger than he looks. “Come out and play or I’ll snap his neck.”
He smiles happily up at Stiles even as he’s squeezing the life from his best friend.
“Scott!” Stiles shouts again, tries to pull away from the window but can’t . He’s frozen in place.
Derek’s wolfed out next to him, eyes flashing red. He’s charging for the door before Stiles can stop him, Erica and Boyd at his heels.
“No!” He screams. Derek tries to wrench the door open but it’s stuck. He howls, tries to break it down. Boyd lends his strength and they beat against the wood but whether it be mountain ash or the building , it holds. They don’t stop trying.
Harold’s eyes gleam. In one move he’s snapped Scott’s neck. He collapses back against the pavement, still.
Stiles can’t breathe.
Mentions of violence against a child (Harold but we all know he's not actually a child...) Warnings for panic attacks and blood.
“ No !” He screams, denial lodges firmly in his chest. He wrenches his hand from the glass, swings it back as a fist. Over and over, desperation making his movements jerky, making him numb to the pain as his knuckles split and blood smears across the glass but it doesn’t break .
There’s a buzzing in his ears. It’s growing louder and louder. He rams his shoulder against it, feels his shoulder start to give instead of the glass. Switches back to his fist.
Harold stares up at him, endless eyes and smirking mouth, the kind of smugness only a child can pull off. He’s never wanted to hurt a child before, hasn’t wanted to hurt Harold before, but now he wants to reach out and tear until he finds the monster hiding underneath. That’s what it is, a monster wearing a child suit and he won’t let it get away with the pseudo innocence.
He can’t tear his gaze away from Scott.
From his best friend, from his brother lying in a heap on the pavement. And he can't even get to him. The building won't let him, Harold won't let him, he needs to be there, to be by his side.
At this moment nothing else matters. He needs to get his hands on Scott needs to find some way to fix this or to make everyone that stands between them pay .
Someone's yelling. He thinks it might be him.
A steel band wraps around his wrist. He fights it, struggles, his throat raw from screaming.
"Stiles!" Erica yells into his ear, makes him listen. Her grip grinds the thin bones in his wrist together, makes him feel the pain. "You need to stop!"
Something switches and it's his reflection he sees in the window, his eyes wild with fury, with madness, the blood smeared across the glass. Erica behind him, restraining him before he does any more damage to himself, her eyes wide with sorrow and anger. With fear.
“He killed Scott!” He roars, feeling more like a wolf, like a wild animal, than a human. He can’t break her hold.
He’ll kill that monster and then he’ll find a way, he’ll bring Scott back. Deaton must have more books hidden, darker ones, ones he can use. And wherever they are is so pumped full of magic it will be child’s play molding reality until he gets what he wants.
The words reverberate through his head.
He stops so suddenly it shocks Erica into letting go and he crosses the room, grabs the jar of mountain ash. It’s warm to the touch. He feels like a thousand jagged edges as he strides to the door. Derek and Boyd fall back, expressions momentarily dazed. The handle turns for him and he wrenches it open.
His feet make it to the top step.
“Stiles!” Harold cries, like he’s found his best friend against after so long. Stiles stares at the still form of his best friend and wishes with every fiber of his being that he’s right.
He winds back his arm and throws the jar as hard as he can.
The glee fades from Harold's face as it makes a perfect arc. It hits the pavement just short of him, shatters and the mountain ash is launched into the air.
Harold shrieks, writhes and disappears back into the fog but not before Stiles catches a glimpse of the monster underneath, of the hulking, shadowed creature out of a nightmare.
And once Harold disappears, Scott’s body does too.
The same way his father had, swept away like smoke, collected back into the fog it came from.
Stiles stares at the spot for a moment, prays that his eyes aren’t playing tricks on him.
Then he bends over and is sick all over the front steps.
Once his body has emptied itself of anything that may have been in his stomach, he stumbles back inside. The wolves are standing at the window, staring out into the night in various degrees of shock. It isn’t until he closes the door firmly behind him that they move, rushing to him, questions pouring out, most that he doesn’t have an answer for.
The taste of bile is strong on his tongue, he hopes he didn’t get any on his shirt, or his shoes, like the last time he was sick, when Scott nearly had his arm ripped off by a rogue omega…
He realizes he’s breathing too quickly. His chest is too tight.
His legs give out and he collapses, slowed as Derek reaches out and grabs him, controlling their descent. His vision blurs, hand shaking, he can’t get the image of Scott on the pavement out of his head.
Derek’s lips are moving but he can’t hear him. The buzzing in his ears is back. He reaches out, fumbles for something to pull him out of this, of this nonstop rerun of Scott’s neck breaking over and over and over again .
What if it had have been real? What if he had have been wrong?
His throat has closed up, his muscles tense. He’s going to die out here, either from a fucking panic attack or when Harold inevitably drags him off into the fog. And he isn’t ready to die, not this time, not like the other times where maybe it was alright. Now he’s not ready and that’s when he dies.
Large warm hands cup his cheeks, force him to meet Derek’s gaze. His lips move. Stiles tries to concentrate on that. The buzzing fades.
“Focus on me.” Derek is saying. “Breath with me.”
He tries, but he chokes on it, sputters, feels his vision swim. One of the hands leaves his face, grasps his and pulls it to rest on Derek’s chest. He can feel how warm he is through the soft fabric of his shirt, can feel the quick beating of his heart beneath his palm. He shudders, he’s so cold in comparison, he wonders if he could steal some of Derek’s heat, use it to thaw the numbness that has spread through his extremities.
“That’s it,” Derek murmurs. Stiles realizes he’s matched his breathing unconsciously.
He gives a shaky nod when he’s feeling less like he’s about to fall apart at the seams. Derek doesn’t go far, just slides to sit next to him, their sides pressed together, hands still entwined. He glances down at them, finally properly sees his knuckles, the split skin and blood. He can’t feel them, but that’s because of the black veins running up Derek’s arm. The window is a mess. He meets Erica’s gave, gives her a thankful smile, weak though it may be, and gets one in return.
“How did you know?” Boyd breaks the careful silence.
“He’s playing with us. With me.” His voice sounds wrecked to his ears. “And wherever we are, I don’t think the others are here.”
“What do you mean, wherever we are?” Derek asks.
“This isn’t Beacon Hills.” He tilts his head back against the wall, rests it there, gaze on the ceiling. He’s just so tired . “Time doesn’t flow, space is condensed,”
“How we ended up here when we weren’t any where near it,” Erica guesses.
“This has to be some sort of void we’re in, and the clinic is a fixed point.” He adds. Lydia would probably know more about it than he does, more than he’s guessed anyways.
“So leaving isn’t really an option.” Derek surmises. Stiles shakes his head.
“And Harold is drawing power from the void,” he adds, pushing himself to sit up before he drifts off right there. “He’s learning too. My dad wasn’t solid, but Scott was. He’s getting stronger.”
“So we should figure out how to kill it sooner rather than later.” Boyd throws in. He pushes to his feet. “Back to the books?”
“You two go ahead.” Derek keeps his grasp on Stiles. “We’ll catch up.”
Boyd nods at them and steers Erica from the room. He sighs and lets his head fall to rest on Derek’s shoulder. The Alpha presses a kiss to his hair, breathes him in, in a way that is achingly intimate.
“I really thought,” Derek breaks off, the calm tone he’d been using dashed now that the beta’s are preoccupied. “I could hear his heartbeat . I heard when it stopped .”
He shakes and Stiles twists, wraps his arms around Derek’s shoulders, holds him close and lets him fall apart for a moment. A moment is all they have.
“It wasn’t him,” he soothes, repeats it over and over for both of their benefits.
Derek lifts his head and Stiles cups his cheek, his eyes are dry but haunted, scarred by what he was certain was another death. He presses a kiss to his eyelashes, his cheek, and then softly to his lips.
And then rests their foreheads together, just breathes for a moment.
“Stiles,” Derek murmurs and Stiles pulls back, cutting him off.
“There’s not much more to search through.” He pushes to his feet, feels the throb in his hand, bone deep. “And if you’re right, it’s in there.”
He doesn’t want to hear it, whether it be a promise neither of them know they can keep, or an admittance that he doesn’t know if they can get out of there. It can wait until they’re home.
Derek leverages himself up, brushes his hand against the back of his neck, and heads off to the others.
“ Dickkopf. ” Erica announces to the room.
She throws a quick glare at him, then flips the book around so they can see what she’s been reading.
“Is that in German ?” Stiles arches an eyebrow at her.
“Which is why I’ve understood every fifth word. My grandfather’s German.” She taps at the picture on the page. “But I’ve been looking at the pictures and this one looks pretty familiar.”
It’s a child, a little girl this time but the drawing depicts the same endless stare and jagged teeth.
“And what is a Dickkopf ?” Derek asks.
“A fairy. Or a changeling.” She passes the book over to him.
“Fairies.” Stiles closes the book he’s been flipping through. “We can work with that.”
“Yeah, iron, salt, and apparently mountain ash.” They’re out of the latter but the former two they can probably come up with. He casts his gaze around the office but so far there’s no helpful container of salt or fireplace poker lying about for them. Maybe the building is getting worn down, running out of magic. He hopes not, they’re counting on it sheltering them until they can find their way out.
“And then what?” Derek asks. “We go out there? What about the fog?”
“A leaf blower would be nice.” Stiles muses. No one laughs.
“We find something that can kill him first. Then we worry about going out there.” He continues. And maybe when the time comes he goes out there and the building keeps the wolves safe inside.
“I’ll search the kennels.” Erica offers with a sigh. She disappears through the doorway.
Boyd follows after her, and Derek and Stiles start searching the office. It’s surprising how few objects are made of iron now a days; they come up short and have to move onto the next room.
Despite his urge to ransack the place, to tear it apart searching for what they need, he’s careful, replaces each book, each box, as he goes. It feels like the building is watching them, and he doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds, so to speak.
His mind wanders as he searches. The others hadn’t left long before them, he wonders what happened to them, if they’re safe at home. He wonders if the fog is still covering Beacon Hills or if it was swept away with them.
He hopes there’s nothing else out there in the fog, he’s heard horror stories about fairies, about the chaos and destruction they can create.
“Do you think the others are alright?” It slips out before he can stop himself.
Derek pauses, a bin propped up as he rummages through it.
“I don’t know.” He answers honestly. He glances over at Stiles. His expression is wide open and Stiles can see the fear lurking there.
“I’m sure they’re fine.” He lies. “Scott and Isaac are probably at Allison’s right now gorging themselves on a couple of big meat lover pizzas.”
“I bet Argent would love that.” Derek replies dryly. “A bunch of teenagers in his house and he has nowhere to go.”
“You put up with us invading your loft all the time.” Stiles rolls his eyes.
“Are you comparing me to a forty year old grouch?”
“I think I just did.” He grins and for a moment it’s just them, and the world isn’t trying to crush them with its weight.
“Found something!” Erica calls out. They follow her voice to the small washroom off the hallway. Boyd’s crouching down by the old sink. They peer over Erica’s shoulder and watch as in one swift move he wrenches the pipe underneath from the wall. Stiles winces on behalf of the building, half expecting it to protest. There’s nothing though, no wall shaking, no groans, no water pouring out of the pipe.
Its magic is fading, he can feel it. But they were meant to find this pipe.
So they’re running out of time but at least they have something to use against Harold. Whether it works or not, they don’t have a choice.
Stiles stands at the window, still covered in his blood, and peers out into the gloom. There’s nothing out there that he can see, not now, but he can feel it, feel the eyes on him. He’s tense, worn out, and feeling at the end of his rope. Any moment now he’s certain that Harold will send more of his creations out of the fog, try to lure them out. He’s doesn’t think he can watch it again, watch Harold kill someone he loves.
Derek rests a hand on the small of his back. His palm is hot through the thin material of Stiles’ shirt, comforting.
“Don’t play into his game.” He murmurs.
His ears ring with the sound of childlike laughter.
“So what do we do?” Erica asks as they turn their backs on the window. The pipe is on the counter just waiting for someone to decide what to do with it. Stiles’ fingers twitch, itching to wrap around it.
“We have to meet Harold on our terms.” Derek is saying. “Go out into the fog and face him.”
That’s a terrible plan. It’s almost guaranteed to get them all killed. He keeps his mouth shut, they already know this. Reminding them of it won’t get them any closer to their goal.
“So who gets the pipe?” Boyd speaks up. The wolves have claws and fangs and their strength but no one knows if it’s enough against Harold, if it will even make a dent.
“I’ll take it.”
“ Excuse me ?” Stiles rounds on Derek.
“I can get the closest.” He defends. “I’m faster, I can take more of a beating.”
“First of all, I can get the closest.” Stiles lets his frustration bleed through, goes toe to toe with the Alpha. “Since I’m what he wants, and second, you have claws . I’m human . You’re not leaving me defenceless.”
It takes a moment for Stiles to realize what he means.
“You are not leaving me in here.”
“It’s the safest place,”
“ Screw you .”
“Boys!” Erica cuts them off before they can escalate any further. Their mouths snap shut. She glares at them. “It’s like men never learn.”
“Hey,” Boyd puts up a token protest but it’s pretty clear he’s siding with Erica on the matter. “Derek don’t be an idiot. We get it, you’re worried.”
“Stiles, you’re always talking about how we have to be smarter, so let's find a way.”
It’s a little intimidating when the pair of them team up against them like that. Stiles casts a quick glance at Derek, wondering if he feels the same. The Alpha’s focused on some far off point, but he looks over when he feels Stiles gaze. He doesn’t know what to say to make Derek realize he can’t do this without him, that Stiles won’t let him.
He clears his throat, looks back at the betas.
“Deaton has some spell books. I only glanced through them but maybe there’s something in there.They’re in his office.”
“It’s a start.” Erica sends him a grateful smile and Stiles tries to return it. He thinks he succeeds.
“Back to square one.” He jokes and lets Boyd and Erica lead the way from the room. Derek hesitates.
“Stiles,” he begins and Stiles quickly cuts him off. There’s no time for it, not now.
“I know.” And he does. He knows how fiercely protective Derek is, knows he would do anything for the other man as well. Whatever they have is complicated, could burn them, but he has faith they’ll figure it out.
He steps forwards, presses against Derek’s lips, feels the rasp of his stubble, the hint of warmth as he parts his lips. If this is all he gets, then it’s enough. Derek carefully licks into his mouth, and Stiles moans at the sensations, at the surprising heat that flows through his veins, liquid and heavy.
Their timing is terrible. He pulls back, rests there for a moment, close enough that their lips brush as they breathe, living in this micro world they’ve created where nothing can touch them.
“We better not leave the others alone.” He murmurs, though he hates himself for it.
Derek nods, noses brushing, and steps back. Together they head down the short hallway to Deaton’s office.
Stiles pauses, glances back.
“My books back there. I’ll grab it.”
Derek tilts his head and Stiles knows he’s listening to his heartbeat, but it’s steady.
“Hurry up.” His tone is gruff but the hand that brushes across his is gentle. Stiles gives into the fond smile he feels welling up.
“This won’t take long.” He promises.
He grabs the pipe off the counter and moves swiftly towards the door. He won’t have long before the wolves realize what he’s doing. With Derek tuned in to him like this, a minute if he’s lucky.
The door knob doesn’t want to turn under his hand.
It’s the only way , he thinks hard at the building. I know what I’m doing .
And then he wishes, repeats it over and over like a mantra, please .
The knob twists and he slips through the door and out into the night. He makes sure to pull it closed after him, knows the wolves are coming now, there’s no way they missed it with how on edge they all are.
Keep them safe , he pleads. The door knob comes off in his hand, a heavy weight and for a moment he’s terrified that that’s it, the magic is crumbling away. He shoves the knob into his pocket.
He glances at the window in time to see Derek burst into the room, the beta’s on his tail. He meets his gaze, wishes he hadn’t at the anguish and horror that fill his eyes.
I’m sorry, he mouths. I love you he thinks.
Then he turns and hurries down the stairs.
Being out in the fog alone is worse than when he had his friends. It’s the absolute silence. It presses in on him, a solid pressure that steadily grows worse the further he walks from the building. The fog is thick against his skin, damp and cold, feeling like an unwanted caress.
He chances a glance over his shoulder but the building is gone, despite the few steps he’s taken, disappearing into the void. He hopes it keeps them safe. He hopes they find a way out of this nightmare of a place.
He’d expected Harold to appear right away when he stepped out of the clinic but the night is still. Swirls of fog roll by, the only movement. His footsteps sound muted on the pavement. The ground feels rough and he looks down to find roots and soil under his feet. He doesn’t know where he is, knows he won’t find his way back.
He tightens his grip on the pipe in his hand. It’s warm in his damp palm, feels charged somehow. The waiting is the worst part he thinks, the creeping apprehension. The feeling of eyes on him.
In a moment of reckless bravery he calls out into the void.
“Harold! I know you’re out there!”
There’s gleeful laughter that seems to echo around him. He stops walking.
“This is what you want, isn’t it?” He yells. “Just you and me? Well let’s play!”
He thinks he sees something, a flash of movement and he swings the pipe, but there’s nothing there and he just cuts through the fog.
“Put down your toy Stiles!” Harold calls. “And we can play!”
“I think I’ll keep it.” He steps through the fog. “Come on Harold, you aren’t scared of it are you?”
The ground abruptly disappears underneath him and with dawning horror he’s walked right off a ravine. He hits the slope knees first, tumbles forwards, hits his head off something hard and feels his momentum grow until he comes to an abrupt stop against something hard and solid. All the breath leaves his body and he lays there for a moment, staring up at the wisps of grey and white trying desperately to breath as his lungs seem unable to fill with oxygen. Panic seeps into his mind, the fog’s chill seeps into his bones.
He gasps, manages to draw a breath, then another, choking and coughing.
His head is throbbing, ears ringing, his body feels like one big bruise.
He struggles to sit up, feels his chest twinge. Then he realizes his hands are empty.
The pipe is gone.
Stiles lurches to his knees, panic blazing through him as he crawls, searches desperately for any sign of the pipe but it’s gone.
And he has no back up plan.
He comes to an abrupt stop as his frantic search leads him right to a pair of small feet.
Despite his size Harold looms over Stiles, his smile spreading wider and wider until his jaw seems to unhinge itself and row upon row of sharp, deadly teeth are revealed.
“Stiles!” Harold cries, gleeful. He curls two tiny hands around Stiles shoulders and forces him to sit up, to kneel before him. “Now we can play .”
His voice drops then, echoing, eternal. It makes his head throb harder, makes his stomach turn and nausea burn in his throat.
Stiles fumbles for anything, for a rock, for a stick, something that can help him break free as Harold’s grip grows tighter digs into muscle and bone until he’s certain he’ll be crushed before he’s eaten . He can’t focus, Harold’s breath is rancid, sweet like decay. Saliva drips from his lips.
“Your spark will taste so good .” Harold moans as his shape contorts, his features growing too long, distorted like an ink drawing soaked in water, bleeding down the page.
And then he remembers.
Stiles shoves his hand into his pocket and wrenches out the knob. Harold’s reaction is instantaneous, he shrieks and it sends bolts of pain through him being this close. He thinks his ears might be bleeding and warmth drips from his nose. But he’s already swinging and he hits Harold’s distorted face with the knob as hard as he can.
The smell of burnt flesh fills the clearing and Harold wails, charred flesh peeling from his face as something dark and terrifying underneath is revealed. His limbs stretch as he stumbles away from Stiles but he lurches to his feet, blinks away the way the world sways unsteadily and chases him into the fog before he can disappear. He lunges, catches Harold around the waist and hits him again and again as the monster underneath the child comes free. Blood, almost black, sprays, covers him with each hit and he gags on the smell of the seared flesh.
The rage he’s feeling, the frustration and terror, it all gets fed into it as he swings over and over until his arm feels weak, sore and heavy and he switches to his left hand.
Harold gurgle. The monster’s deformed, a mess of blood and black charred flesh, and endless eternal eyes that are slowly growing dimmer. He straddles his chest and doesn’t stop until long after the monster has gone still beneath him, his head caved in and nothing left to come back.
Then he pauses, arms heavy at his sides, chest heaving. His head swims, vision dotted with black spots. The door knob falls from numb fingers to the forest floor. He forces his head up but it’s a monstrous effort. The fog is still thick around him. He doesn’t know where he is.
With a sigh he tilts, lets gravity take him and collapses onto the forest floor next to the mess that will haunt his nightmares. But it’s grim satisfaction he feels as his eyes slip closed.
Stiles opens his eyes.
He’s not sure where he is at first, or what woke him.
Someone tugs on his leg, trying to get his attention.
His head is throbbing, body aching.
“Knock it off Scott,” he slurs, half conscious. His leg is tugged on again, harder.
It comes back to him with all the subtlety of a brick through a glass window.
And with it the realization that he’s staring up into a ceiling of fog. He twists his head, panic flushing through him. He can’t see more than two feet around him. He pushes to his feet, head swimming but stumbles, jeans catching on something.
And then the something yanks.
He slides, a hoarse shout escaping him as his shirt rides up and his side is scraped against the cold, packed dirt. A vine has wrapped its way around his leg, tiny reaching spindles hooked into his jeans, up to his thigh.
“Shit,” his fingers grasp at the vine, trying to rip it off. It yanks and he slides another few inches. He looks up. It’s a mistake.
Ahead of him is a huge hole in the base of the biggest tree he’s ever seen. Bark drops down around it like sharp, jagged teeth and it lets out a groan as it draws him closer and closer. He has no idea what the hell what’s in there but he’s pretty sure he won’t be alive long enough to find out.
The vine snaps in his fingers, but there are more and more of the little pieces, winding their way into his clothes. The tree lets an angry, echoing sound and this time the hole moves, widens, more vines creeping out.
Stiles snaps the vines faster, panic tight in his chest. His arms still feel like leaden weights but it’s this or get eaten by a killer tree.
“Fuck it,” he kicks his shoes off, jerks the zipper of his jeans down and wiggles out of them. A moment later his jeans are yanked into the hole.
The tree lets out a sound that rattles the ground. He doesn’t think it’s a happy sound. He grabs his sneakers and doesn’t stick around to find out.
Stiles stumbles back through the fog, shivering in the cold, dressed only in his boxers, shirt and shoes he’s jammed on his feet. He’s really missing Derek’s jacket right now. Or the man himself- his own personal space heater.
Derek’s going to kill him if he ever finds his way out of this. Shit, Scott’s definitely going to kill him if he hears about this.
He stumbles over something, skins his knee as he hits the ground. His hands bite into the hard, packed earth. He opens his mouth to curse, to let out some of the frustration and fear he’s feeling.
But then the earth shakes.
There’s a pause and Stiles freezes. And then it shakes again. And again. It’s a pattern he realizes, steady, constant. And then the noises come. Thuds as something heavy meets the ground, the crashing and snapping of trees as they’re forcibly moved by something strong, something huge .
His heart pounds, he’s certain that whatever is out there can hear it, beating furiously away at his ribcage screaming for him to run to escape before it’s on him.
He looks up. The ground is shaking hard enough now that he has to fight to stay on his hands and knees. He squints into the mist, holds his breath like somehow that will keep whatever it is from finding him, from tearing him limb from limb. Stiles can just make out a dark shape as it continues its slow pace past him. Black spots appear in his vision, his lungs screaming but he can’t make himself take a breath. It’s tall, he can’t see where it ends in the fog, and it has too many limbs, swaying almost like they have a mind of their own, too long, almost boneless in their movements.
And finally he can’t take it anymore and he gasps, sucks in oxygen desperately, knowing that this is what gets him killed.
But the creature doesn’t pause, just keeps going until it’s disappeared back into the fog.
Stiles stays there a long time, waiting for the ground to stop shaking, waiting for it to come crashing back realizing there’s a tasty human treat just waiting for it.
But that never happens.
Shaken, he pushes to his feet. His hand brushes whatever tripped him- cold, solid. He grasps it, hefts its weight and realizes what it is.
The iron pipe.
He feels a little giddy, the metal warming in his hand. He knows the chances of finding the pipe again, so something must be looking out for him. He’s down to his boxers, running on adrenaline at this point, and probably close to crashing but he’s at least armed again.
Stiles picks a direction and sets out. The void is probably limitless space so he’s going to need a better plan than just walk in a direction and hope for the best, but with the way his head is starting to throb again he doesn't really have one.
His breathing is loud in his ears. The fog is like a blanket, suppressing any noise. Even the sound of his sneakers is muffled. He scuffs his feet a few times but it doesn’t sound any louder.
Regret threatens to creep in, spurned on by the isolation he feels. He wonders what will happen to the clinic once the magic in it has run dry, if the others will end up back in Beacon Hills, or if the creatures outside will no longer be kept at bay, will find the building and the wolves inside. He hopes it’s the former, that they get out. He just has to find his way back to them. It sounds more and more like a pipe dream.
A strange crunching sound reaches him. Muted as it is he follows it. Dread curls tight in his stomach.
It doesn’t look like much at first, a indistinct blob on the forest floor. Stiles tightens his grip on the pipe and keeps going until he’s standing barely a foot away.
It’s Harold’s body, bloody, beaten to a pulp, head caved in. The stench is terrible . Decaying, charred flesh. His stomach rolls and he clamps a hand over his mouth, holds his breath and forces it back down. There are tiny creatures crawling all over the body, less than a foot in height, humanoid with skull like faces and hollow black holes where their eyes should be. They’re bone white but when Stiles approaches they all stop and turn, staring at him with their eyeless sockets. And where they’re not white, they’re covered in gore. Harold’s black blood. A few are still chewing as they stare Stiles down, chunks of flesh poking out of their tiny mouths, but their focus is on Stiles. They let out a high pitched, chittering sound and he winces as his head throbs with it.
He’s pretty sure they’re just scavengers but he doesn’t want to stick around and find out.
He backs away quickly and the fog swallows them up again.
Okay, he can’t be too far from the clinic right? He finds the hill he fell down pretty easily after that, following his gut as he goes. It’s rough climbing back up, but he doesn’t want to risk going the wrong way just to find an easier route. It’s hard to juggle the pipe and his hands get cut up on hidden rocks he can’t see but can certainly feel. It gets steep, steep enough that Stiles has to pause, unsure of how high he is, or of how far he’s come. Noises through the fog filter in sometimes and he flinches, aware of how vulnerable he is like this, perched on the edge of this never ending climb.
He squints but can’t see the end above him. All he knows is that if he lets go, or tries to crawl back down, it’s going to hurt more than continuing up. His arms are aching, nerves shot. The adrenaline has left his system it seems and the cold is seeping in again leaving him tired and sore. He’s a little worried he’s going to die of exposure before something tries to eat him.
And then something grabs him .
He screams, instinctively lets go of his hold on the rocks he’s been clinging to, nearly loses the pipe.
The only thing that keeps him from plummeting back down is the tight grip on his wrist.
“Stiles!” His heart skips a beat. Derek’s face appears in the fog above him.
He’s hauled up, over the edge of the ravine in one quick move and into Derek’s arms. He’s a furnace and it’s so different from the cold that’s settled into his bones that it almost hurts with how good it feels. His legs give out and he sinks, taking Derek with him until they’re sprawled on the ground clinging to each other.
Tears prick at his eyes with how relieved he is, and this can’t be real, just a trick of the fog or of Harold’s and he’s somehow not dead,
“I’m real, I swear.” Derek is saying, over and over and Stiles realizes he’s said this all aloud. The tears bubble over this time and he sobs, has to catch his breath because he hadn’t actually thought he’d see him again.
Derek cups his face, tugs him in for a desperate kiss and Stiles can’t even be embarrassed with how wet it is from his tears.
“How did you find me?”
Derek runs his eyes over Stiles, frowning at what he sees. He scrubs the tears from his face, wincing at the sting from the open cuts he can’t see on his face.
“I told you,” he meets Stiles’ eyes, fierce and protective. “I’ll
be able to find you.”
“Like a pack thing?” He clarifies. There’s a vulnerability to Derek now, something he rarely shows and Stiles has a feeling it’s so much more.
“Talk about this later?” Derek suggests and it answers his question. He nods, let’s Derek pull him to his feet.
“So how do we get back?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t,” Stiles cuts himself off, ruthlessly shoves the frustration and fear aside. “So you just ran out here.”
“You were on your own.”
“But now you’re lost with me!” The helplessness gets the better of him. It’s not that he doesn’t understand, it's that now Derek is just as trapped as he is. “How did you even get out of the building? Did the magic run out?”
“I… talked to it.” Derek catches his hand, holds it tight in his own and somehow it’s grounding. It doesn’t help the tension building in him but it does stop him from wanting to scream about how unfair this all is. “It let me out. To find you.”
“So what now? We just hope it leaves us a trail of breadcrumbs to follow?” Stiles sinks against Derek’s side, exhausted.
“What happened to your pants?” He asks, pulling him close.
“A tree ate them. Don’t change the subject.”
Derek lets out a huff, the warm air ruffling Stiles’ hair. He closes his eyes, lets himself soak up the feeling for a moment.
“We should get moving.” Derek says reluctantly. “If Harold,”
“I took care of it.” Stiles glances back at the ravine, the fog hiding the sheer drop. He’d rather avoid going that way again. “With a door knob.”
Derek arches an eyebrow at him but doesn’t comment.
Stiles takes Derek’s hand and leads them out into the fog. He doesn’t really know where he’s going, just has a feeling in his chest. Derek doesn’t question it, makes quiet comments as they go, enough to fill the oppressive silence and make Stiles feel a little less like he’s trapped in his own head. For all that he wouldn’t wish this place on his friends, having Derek with him is a huge relief. Despite all the monsters, it’s that he was alone that was the worst part.
Derek squeezes his hand like he knows what Stiles is thinking.
“Did you hear that?” He breathes, praying the answer is no. Next to him Derek’s eyes flash red.
“Stilessss where are you?”
“Fuck,” he whispers, peering out into the fog. Behind them little blurred shapes are appearing in the darkness. As they come closer they resolve themselves into children, dozens of them by the looks of it. Dark, eternal eyes stare at him, expressions hungry.
“Looks like Harold has friends.” He croaks. The fear is a visceral thing, making his limbs heavy, his heart pound. There are so many of them, he barely survived one.
“Run!” Derek yanks him into movement, dragging him along as they bolt into the fog. He stumbles more than once, roots popping up to try and trip him up. It’s like the entire damn place is against him.
He clings to Derek’s hand, tries not to look back at what must be chasing them. He can hear their laughter, gleeful, malicious as it grows louder, closer.
There has to be a way out, he tells himself. Prays for a haven, begs for it. Let them find the clinic he wishes desperately. Something grasps his shirt and he pushes his legs faster, rips the fabric from their tiny hands.
A shape rises up in the fog.
For a heartstopping moment he’s certain it’s something new that wants to eat him .
“Come on,” Derek keeps running at it though.
It’s not a monster.
It’s not the clinic either.
Derek wrenches open the driver's side of the jeep, pauses only to shove Stiles in and over the gearstick and then climbs in himself, slamming the door shut.
Stiles is busy panicking over the thin walls between him and the monsters as it slowly sinks in that he’s in his jeep . Shrieks echo through the night, and he claps his hands over his ears. There are so many of them and they’re so loud, the pain is excruciating. Just when he’s certain he’s going to pass out they stop and the night is silent again.
Derek looks dazed, lowering his own hands. They peer out of the window but all they can see is the thick fog rolling by.
They sit there long enough that the fog seems to lighten, the road slowly becoming visible before them, the moon is visible overhead.
“What the hell?” Stiles croaks.
“No fucking clue.” Derek lets his head thunk forwards on the steering wheel.
Shaking, Stiles opens the door, steps out into the cool night air. He’s back on the road into the preserve. He stares into the shadows cast by the trees, searching for those dark, endless gazes. He doesn’t find anything but just to be safe he quickly climbs back into the jeep, locking the door.
Derek’s phone goes off a moment later, scaring the crap out of both of them before he gets it answered. He checks the ID before putting it on speaker, tossing it up on the dash.
“You alright?” Boyd’s tinny voice echoes in the small space. They glance at each other, a little worse for wear but in one piece. “I don’t know what happened but we’re back in Beacon Hills.”
“Deatons still.” There’s a pause and then Erica’s taking over the phone.
“Your car’s parked outside. In one piece.”
“I hate magic.” Derek mutters, scrubbing a hand over his face.
“Are you guys alright? What about Harold?”
“Dead.” Stiles chimes in. The iron pipe is still in his hand, his knuckles white from how tight he’s gripping it. He forces himself to let go, drops it and flexes his stiff fingers.
“Good riddance.” She mutters.
“Are you alright to drive? We’ll meet you at the loft.”
“Where are you guys?”
“My jeep.” Stiles feels hysteria well up inside him and bites his lip to keep it from spilling out. He rummages under the seat for the key he keeps hidden there; his wallet is long gone, along with his other keys in the pockets of his jeans. It’s going to be a bitch to replace. He passes the key to Derek, tired, resigned that he’s not going to be allowed to drive his own jeep. They agree to meet the others, and Stiles hangs up, eyes going wide when he sees the time.
“What?” Derek glances over at him, concerned.
Stiles shows him the tiny clock, watching the disbelief spread across his features. If this is right, it’s only been an hour since they left the old Hale house. It feels like hours . His stomach chooses that moment to chime in, remind him now that the immediate threat of death is gone that he’s starving .
“Drive through.” Derek offers. Stiles agrees readily. Neither of them is leaving the car until they’re safely at the loft.
A week later Derek is over at his house while the Sheriff is at work. They’ve got a movie cued up, curled together on the couch, a bowl of popcorn balanced on their thighs. They keep the lights on, the movie cheerful and the blinds drawn. Derek goes to get up, pausing the movie and a bolt of anxiety shoots through him.
“Be right back.” He murmurs, pressing a brief kiss to his lips.
Stiles watches him disappear, heart pounding a little quicker. One thing that’s left over is an overwhelming anxiety at being left alone. He desperately needs it to go away, how is he supposed to function if he can’t be left by himself without losing it? But Derek is patient with him, has his own anxieties about Stiles being out of his sight. His dad is taking it all in stride, careful not to ask too many questions when suddenly Boyd and Erica are always over, or Derek is sleeping on their couch.
Derek is back less than a minute later but the relief Stiles feels hits him hard, leaves him a little breathless. He doesn’t comment as he sinks back down onto the couch, but he’s pressed close, a wall of heat against him.
He presses something into Stiles’ hands, a small disc on a thick cord. There’s a triskelion pressed into the surface of the medallion. The weight and feel is familiar, feels almost charged in his hands.
“Iron.” Derek explains. “For protection.”
“And the triskelion?” He asks, tracing the pattern with his thumb.
Derek clears his throat, his expression uncertain for a moment before he presses on.
“If you wanted to wear it...as my mate.” He hastens to add. “Or just as it’s intended use. Omega, Beta, Alpha,”
“Past, present, future,” Stiles adds. He grins, slides it over his head, tightens it so it rests on the hollow of his throat. “Mates huh?”
Derek’s gaze is heavy, hot when he looks at the medallion. This time Stiles’ heart is pounding for an entirely different reason.
Later, when they’re dozing in his bed, Stiles hears something outside. He pushes off of Derek’s chest, shushing him when he makes a questioning sound. He pads to the window, peering out past the blinds to see if his dad is home.
There’s no cruiser in the drive yet, it’s probably a few hours until his shift is over. He frowns, wondering what woke him.
And then he sees her. A little girl with blonde hair pulled into pigtails, a pretty pink dress and dark, eternal eyes. She sees him and her smile grows, wider, wider, until rows upon rows of sharp teeth are revealed.
He stumbles back, hand flying up to the medallion. Fear hits him, makes his breath stutter, his heart pound.
No, please no...
Thank you to everyone who read/commented/left kudos on my fic! I hit a brick wall on Thursday otherwise this might have been up sooner, but I think Halloween is fitting...
There are a few loose ends that I might continue in a sequel at some point but until then hope you enjoyed!