It starts out as nothing. Somewhere, a world away, people start dying. Ebola, they said. It doesn’t cause problems until some of those people don’t stay dead. Until people in the U.S. start getting sick. Even then, it doesn’t feel like an apocalypse, not yet, not until things get bad.
When the military moves in with guns. When the looting begins. When the body count adds up and the living dead count gets higher than that. It isn’t like the movies. It’s much, much worse.
And Beacon Hills isn’t immune.
When things get really bad, after Scott and his mom take off with Deaton to help at a medical camp up north, after Chris Argent buries his daughter and vanishes into the wind, after Lydia can’t stand the voices, after his dad hands him a gun and says ‘You kill me before I bite you, son. You need to be strong.’
That’s when Stiles leaves that poisonous town behind.
If they were smart, he and his dad would’ve gone with Scott and Melissa, but both of them refused to leave their home. The place where they had buried Stiles’s mother years before. But they hadn’t been smart. All it took was one bite from a zombie to teach Stiles that. And suddenly, he’s left utterly alone.
It’s weird how wide the world became once electricity disappeared. There’s no way he can call Scott and even find out if he’s alive. Can’t go online and figure out which places are safer than others. So instead he does the one thing he can do. He packs up all his supplies, loots the town for anything else useful that’s been left behind, then gets into his Jeep.
He decides then and there that he can’t look back.
Stiles hasn’t thought about Derek Hale in a while. Sure, when this whole thing began everyone wondered if Derek was okay, if he was safe. He’d taken off to find Cora after the whole Mexico affair but no one had heard from him since. But when things got worse, it was easy to think more about surviving then remembering the fear in your heart when you thought a certain werewolf was dying in the sand beside some run-down Mexican church.
Stiles is exceptionally good at cutting himself out of his own thoughts now.
But nearly two hours out of Beacon Hills, he almost flips the Jeep avoiding a huge black wolf that’s padding along in the middle of the road. Without meaning to, he feels something then, something strong enough that has him grabbing a shotgun and leaping out of the driver’s side door.
“You’d better have a damn good reason for nearly making me crash my car,” Stiles feels himself shaking as he aims the gun at the wolf, blue eyes glowing as they stare up at him. When the boy sees this, hope blossoms in his chest and he about collapses when the wolf turns into a man before his eyes. The very real, very alive, and very naked form of Derek Hale standing in front of him, “Am I awake?” Stiles’s voice betrays his own fear, a whispered thing, and Derek only nods, looking tired enough to fall over himself.
“Stiles…” Derek mutters his name, as if needing to hear it too before swaying dangerously. But Stiles comes to his side, supporting his weight as Derek slumps into him.
“When’s the last time you ate? Or slept?” He wants to say more, things like ‘Thank God you’re alive’ or ‘I missed you’ but those don’t matter.
“Where is everyone?” Derek asks as Stiles helps the werewolf into the car, tossing him a blanket and a package of beef jerky before getting back into the Jeep. When Derek stares at him, waiting for an answer, Stiles lets silence fill the car long enough that it becomes a physical thing.
“I am everyone.”
That’s answer enough.
“Where exactly are we headed?” Derek asks after they drive at least five hours out of Beacon Hills, dodging broken down cars, debris, and major highways. One thing Stiles realizes he missed about the werewolf is the fact he doesn’t press the hard questions. Things like: ‘Is Scott really okay?’ ‘What happened to your dad?’ ‘Why didn’t you keep them safe?’ Stiles knows that’s what he would ask, which is when he also realizes that he wouldn’t like himself if he met him.
“Anywhere that isn’t Beacon Hills. Preferably a place that has a small population of people trying to eat us.”
“North is more of the same up the coast.”
“Is that where you were looking for Cora?” When Stiles says her name, Derek seems to stiffen, close up. Stiles has a feeling he may be the only Hale left, “Did she get bit?”
“No. She just got in the way.” Stiles doesn’t push because sometimes he knows when to shut the hell up. He lets out a sigh as he presses down on the pedal, wanting to put more miles between them and the place that haunts them.
“We’re going south. South and away from all the bullshit. Okay?” Derek finally glances at Stiles and he just looks tired. How far had he traveled as a wolf? How long had he been out there alone?
Stiles turns the music up loud enough to drive back the silence and sings like it really is the end of the world.
They camp in an abandoned house at night, securing the place with furniture and making sure to make as little noise as possible. The town looks deserted enough, but that doesn’t mean much. One loud noise, or a whiff of fresh blood would bring the zombies out. So they both claim a piece of floor in the living room, deciding that sleeping in the beds was too weird, too personal.
“Did you walk the whole way back as a wolf?” Stiles says in a low voice as he eats a can of Spagetti Os he found in the cupboard. Derek nods over his can of soup.
“At first I just walked, but I ran into a swarm and shifted. They seemed less interested in me as a wolf, so I stayed that way. I had to get back so I just didn’t stop.” He’s already on his second can of preserved food and Stiles can tell he was nearly starving.
“You sleep first, big guy. You need it. You’ll need your strength if we run into any problems looting tomorrow.”
“Look, if we’re gonna travel together, you have to listen to me, no treating me like some little kid. You’re no use to me half dead. So at least pretend you’re sleeping, got it?” The firm treatment seems to work well enough because Derek finishes off his soup and curls up on the floor.
Stiles doesn’t feel accomplished until he hears snoring. It’s a start.
“DEREK COME ON!”
Looting got them some food, gasoline, spare clothes, and even some medicine. It also got them a hoard of goddamn undead assholes. Which Derek tries to fend off single handedly as Stiles makes for the Jeep with speed he’s only recently figured out he possessed.
“GET OVER HERE!” He knows he shouldn’t be yelling, but the crowd’s growing anyway, so Stiles grabs his father’s pistol and takes aim. Derek nearly falls back in shock when a bullet takes out the zombie to his right. Stiles squeezes the trigger three times and drops the zombies who’re closing in. The werewolf runs towards the Jeep and they tear out of there with a screech. Stiles breathing heavily as he dodges around the undead meandering in the road, “You have a deathwish or something?”
“You’re a good shot.”
“That’s what you have to say to me? ‘You’re a good shot?’ How about ‘Thanks for saving my life Stiles, I’ll make sure to be less of a dumbass next time.’”
“I was getting these,” Derek pulls two bags of Swedish Fish from his pocket and Stiles looks at him somewhat dumbfounded, “They’re your favorite, right?”
“I…yeah, they are.”
“Here.” Derek throws the bags in his lap and Stiles isn’t sure if he feels touched at the gesture or not, but suddenly he lets out a laugh.
“You’re fucking crazy, dude.”
“You’re welcome.” Stiles rips open a bag and starts eating the gummies, taking pleasure in those small luxuries of life. A few moments pass before he speaks again.
“We’re giving you shooting lessons, asap. I grabbed another handgun in one of those houses, you can start with that.”
“I don’t like guns.”
“I know, but I’d sleep better at night knowing you could at least slightly save my life if you had to.” The smallest of smiles turns up at the corner of Derek’s lips.
Derek wonders what exactly happened to the Stiles he once knew. He doesn’t realize it at first, but as the days pass, he notices some bit of darkness lurking within the boy that he can’t quite place. Not the kind that should be in Stiles anyway. It’s the same sort of feeling he’s always been familiar with, ever since the fire, and he wishes that this boy doesn’t have to know what that feels like.
But they’re both beginning to realize they might only have each other.
“You don’t totally suck at this, you know.” Stiles says as Derek fires off another round, hitting the target nearly each time. Today they hunkered down in a secluded house somewhere in the California forest. Derek likes the smell of the earth; it beat the scent of the dead burning his nose.
“Braeden taught me before we went to Mexico.” He doesn’t want to think about her, doesn’t want to think about anyone, all he wants to focus on is surviving. Moving forward no matter what.
“Think she’s still out there somewhere?”
“You think we’re the only ones left?” When Stiles says this, Derek hears the fear in his voice. When faced with the possibility of being the only people left alive on Earth, the reality of that is pretty overwhelming.
“There’s no way we are. Do you really think you’d be the last human on Earth? That’s pretty sad…considering.” Derek turns back to his other target of tin cans and starts shooting again.
“And what’s that supposed to mean? Considering what?”
“Considering that you’re a complete and total spaz and by some miracle you can actually walk without falling on your face 100% of the time.”
“I’ll remember that next time you need someone to save your ass,” He says it jokingly and he’s glad Stiles had that same sarcastic, slightly mean humor with him. It makes things feel almost normal. But his joking tone leaves and he becomes more serious, even his scent harder to read, “I’m not like that anymore, you know.”
“Can’t be. There isn’t a place for that version of me in this world.”
As Stiles walks away from him, emotions hardened and closed up, Derek feels sadder than he has in a long time.
He feels like someone died.
“You have to the count of three to give us all your shit…1…”
They’re stopped near the border of Nevada by a group of thieves who are looking to rob anyone with supplies. There’s about ten of them, no kids, but all carry weapons. Derek has an urge to wolf-out, but getting Stiles shot was not something he plans on doing.
“You can all go fuck yourselves,” Stiles yells out as one of the thieves hits the side of his head with police baton. He spits out blood and grins with teeth all crimson, “Lay a finger on my Jeep, and I kill you.”
“2…” The leader continues counting and Stiles starts laughing. It sounds half-crazy and it makes some of the thieves exchange glances. As if daring the boy to make a move, the leader puts one finger on the door of the Jeep. Which is a wrong fucking move.
Stiles moves so fast, Derek can barely believe it’s him. He grabs the closest man, pulls a knife from his belt and stabs him in the throat, blood gushing out as bullets start firing. Stiles holds the body as a shield before pulling out his holstered gun to start shooting. Derek has no choice but to follow suit, breaking the leg of the thief that had grabbed him before taking his gun. Stiles takes four of them down before the leader starts running off back into the desert towards their camp.
“Fall back!” He yells out, but Stiles still isn’t done. He shoots two more down, taking a bullet graze to his shoulder before crippling the leg of the leader who falls hard into the sand, “No…I didn’t mean…I wasn’t going to do anything!” Derek hears him scream and a shot follows, making the whole night go silent.
The others scatter off. When Derek approaches Stiles, he’s on his knees beside the body, shaking. He’s whispering something and when Derek tries to rest a hand on his shoulder, the boy shakes him off violently.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!” He cries out as he tries to gasp in air, looking down at his blood spattered hands, “Don’t touch me…” He says weakly and Derek doesn’t listen. He puts his hand on Stiles’s neck and rubs, trying to soothe him the best he can.
“Who am I?” He barely hears the words, but they’re there. He slumps back into Derek’s touch as they watch the sun start to rise on the horizon. The question still hangs in the air and Derek knows his answer, he just doesn’t say it.
I don’t know anymore.
They avoid Vegas because there’s no doubt that whole place is swarmed. All the big cities were. Stiles doesn’t talk about killing those thieves and Derek lets him, instead enjoying driving through the Arizona desert blaring the old The Doors cd they found in the last town they looted.
This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end, my only friend, the end.
They both start singing in the dying light of day, letting the music carry out the open windows even though it’ll attract the dead. Stiles drives fast enough to lose them in the dust of their wake.
No safety or surprise, the end. I’ll never look into your eyes again.
Derek can smell the salt of Stiles’s tears but they don’t fall. Everything turns to orange and gold around them; the sand, the rocks, the sky. Derek lets the wind run through his hair and his eyes close. Stiles lets his free catch the wind out the window.
Can you picture what could be, so limitless and free? Desperately in need of some stranger’s hand in some desperate land.
As the light dies in the sky and the world begins to turn black, the music fades out leaving them both with the lingering feeling that they really might have reached the end of all things. Stiles takes Derek’s hand and holds it tight, not letting go even as the next song begins and they slip further into the night. The werewolf lets him.
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel...
And they keep driving.
Stiles considers himself a collector of things, of memories. Along their stops he picks up souvenirs to remember where they chose to venture. It starts off as knick-knacks, things like pens, shot glasses, business cards, personalized mugs, keychains, tiny figurines, arcade tokens. But when the Jeep gets cluttered, he sticks to postcards. He decides early on that he wants one from every state and Derek doesn’t argue.
He writes things on the backs of them, notes for reference later on. He even makes copies and attaches them to mailboxes, old cars, telephone poles, in the hopes that someone might find them and have a little insight. Feel a little less alone.
Avoid I-10 into Phoenix. Sounds fun but there’s lots of undead jerks looking to ruin any good roadtrip. Derek and I passed through on our way East. Hope to see you on the road. Stay safe! –Stiles
He hopes like hell someone gets to read them.
“Jackpot!” Stiles grins as he breaks open the basement of an abandoned sheriff’s station, a cache of guns better than any Christmas present he’s ever received. Derek finds him filling a duffle bag before going still as he finds someone’s old badge on the floor.
“He’d be proud you got this far, you know.” Derek keeps his distance because he knows when Stiles shuts himself up and throws away the key, there’s no reaching him. The way his body goes rigid tells him more than anything.
“He can’t be proud. He’s dead.” Stiles stands, grabs the bag, and heads back for the Jeep, not wanting to be in a place like this anymore. Where undoubtedly some sheriff had a son and they probably didn’t make it out alive.
“You’ll have to talk about it eventually. And I’m your only option.”
“I don’t have to do anything! And this is pretty good coming from the guy who’d rather get his teeth pulled than talk about himself.” Stiles is pissed, bitter, and he hates that Derek is right. But two can play the ‘bury my emotions’ game and he’ll be damned if he’s the one who loses.
“I wish I had someone around when everything happened to my family, but I didn’t. Laura avoided it, she ran from it…and it’s taken me a long time to accept what happened,” Stiles doesn’t respond as they get back into the Jeep, “All I’m saying is, when you’re ready, I’ll listen.”
“When did you turn into such a nice guy?” Stiles finally speaks as they get back on the road, continuing east towards Texas. It takes Derek a few minutes to answer.
“When my only friend needed me to be.” They don’t look at each other, they can’t. Instead Stiles turns up the music loud to try and burn these words into his brain as the one good thing he’s heard in a long time.
It’s in New Mexico when they share a bed for the first time. Anytime they reach a new town to loot, Derek, after finally convincing Stiles to let him go out on his own, investigates as a wolf before they go in guns blazing. More than once the werewolf shows up still in wolf form and curls up that way before going to sleep. Stiles always wakes up to him as a human again.
It’s late when Derek returns to the small one-bedroom house they secure for the night. Naturally Stiles stays awake until he gets back, hand never leaving his pistol, eyes trained on where Derek had vanished hours ago.
“Took you long enough.” Stiles mutters when the wolf returns, the boy setting up their traps and alarms in case anything decides to try and break in. He’s barely finished checking everything before Derek jumps into bed, massive wolf body nearly taking up the whole thing.
“You’re kidding, right?” When Derek doesn’t move, seemingly exhausted after pawing around for hours, Stiles decides to lie down beside him, “I’m getting you a dog bed.” All he gets is a snort in reply, but he’s too tired to fight more about it, to wonder who’s bed this was, what happened to them.
If anything, he likes the warmth besides him. It feels safe, in some way, and he hasn’t felt that in a very long time. When Stiles wakes up in the early morning, it’s beside a human Derek. He’s pulled on a pair of sweatpants, but his eyes are closed. It’s then Stiles realizes that he actively must have turned back, gotten pants, and came back to bed. The way his face grows hot is the first powerful feeling besides fear and anger he’s had in months. And when Derek stirs groggily, hair messy, an almost-inappropriate groan coming from his lips, the feeling doesn’t leave.
“You’re a blanket hog.” Stiles says suddenly as he pulls the covers close and Derek cracks an eye open to look at him, a slight frown on his lips as he scoots closer to Stiles, allowing them to both share the blanket better.
“You snore,” Derek rolls onto his back and covers his eyes with his arm, “Let me sleep.”
“Maybe I want to sleep too.”
“No one’s stopping you.” Stiles couldn’t argue with that, doesn’t want to. So instead he relaxes back down and tries to remember how to breathe normally, whatever that means.
The next town, Derek changes back into a man before getting into bed. It happens in the town after that, and after that, until it becomes a pattern, even if there’s more than one bed. Something about feeling less alone and wanting each other close.
And they don’t talk about it.
Derek worries about Stiles more than anyone he’s ever met. He realizes this when they’re in the heart of Texas, looting a supermarket for food when a display crashes over and wakes up all the undead in the place. Stiles is grinning that grin that means he’s hungry for the kill and takes one down with his wooden bat.
“C’mon dead fuckers!” He cries out and Derek doesn’t want to take his eyes off the boy. But he does. He lets his claws come out and stabs a zombie through the eyes, not caring the gore he’ll need to wash away later. He kills another one with a stomp of his boot before he hears the scream.
“STILES!” He roars his name, fury and fear in his chest he doesn’t understand. Two of the zombies have Stiles pinned, his bat on the ground as he tries to force them away. It’s when one of them opens their mouth and brings it close to Stiles’s neck does Derek let out a roar. He feels his fangs come out, eyes glow blue as he pulls out a gun and shoots them both in the head, dropping them at the boy’s feet. Stiles is breathing heavy and doesn’t speak as Derek comes over and grabs his shoulder, “Are you alright?”
“Good shot.” Stiles mutters out before grabbing his bat and heading for the exit. Derek can hear his heart beating wildly but he hides it well.
“That’s all you’ve got to say?”
“You want your Boy Scout patch now, or later?” Derek’s so pissed he doesn’t talk to Stiles all the way to the motel they crash in for the night. Or over dinner of cold canned vegetables. Or even when they crawl into bed and pretend one of them didn’t almost die today.
In the middle of the night, Stiles wakes up screaming. Derek covers his mouth to muffle the sound and pulls the shaking body close, shushing him as he tries to bite back whatever demon crawled to the surface. The werewolf knows this isn’t the first time this happened, though it’s the first he’s seen.
“Relax, Stiles. Just breathe…I’m here…you’re okay.” He tries to whisper soothing words and eventually, Stiles’s heart slows back down, his breathing evens out. The darkness is loud around them and Stiles curls up close without asking permission because he knows he doesn’t have to.
“Don’t leave me, okay?”
Derek barely hears it, but he knows the weight of those words. Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me alone. Don’t get bit. Don’t die. Don’t disappear. He holds Stiles close and knows it goes both ways.
“I won’t, if you won’t.”
Stiles doesn’t need to answer for Derek to know he’s not going anywhere.
The first time Derek gets bit, Stiles cries harder than he has since this entire shitstorm began. It’s over a month after they leave Beacon Hills and all because Stiles insists they try and see what was left of New Orleans by way of Baton Rouge. The zombie comes out of nowhere and bites Derek right on the shoulder. It isn’t enough for Stiles to shoot the thing, he destroys it. He bludgeons the corpse until it was all blood and flesh, Derek yelling at him to stop.
“Stiles, you need to get out of here!” Derek tries to force him to go, leave him to get swarmed by the undead. But that isn’t an option.
“I’m not leaving you to die alone here!”
“Stiles, go!” Stiles vice-grips the werewolf’s arm, refusing to leave without him.
“GET IN THE FUCKING JEEP!” He screams at Derek as he starts firing rounds into the approaching mass of bodies. In the end, the werewolf agrees and they tear out of town as Stiles tries to wipe the tears from his cheeks.
“You need to get somewhere safe before I change. Either that, or you shoot me now.”
“I’m not going to shoot you!” Stiles yells back at him because he really couldn’t do it again, couldn’t put down the only person he might have left in this world.
“Then I’m going to kill you!” Derek’s eyes flash blue, all angry and concerned like he doesn’t care that he’s going to die, that Stiles matters more.
“I don’t fucking care! I don’t fucking care if I die!” That silences him, silences both of them, until they find an old bar to take refuge in. Stiles nearly rips the two zombies in half that they find before securing the place, and neither he nor Derek speak while they set up their stuff.
An hour later, Stiles starts pacing. He doesn’t even look at any of his guns and instead keeps a knife at his belt. Derek sits against a wall, sweating profusely, going paler as the minutes pass. But Stiles has seen this before, watched as his dad turned right before his eyes. He doesn’t know if he’s strong enough to do this alone.
“Don’t you dare think about giving up once I’m gone,” It’s like Derek can read his mind, more like his scent, and he wishes like hell this conversation wasn’t happening, “You keep going. You take your stupid Jeep and find some good people to join with. Do not do anything to endanger yourself. Do you understand?”
“I can’t make that promise.” Stiles feels the tears well in his eyes and despite what his body is going through, Derek still manages to look pissed off.
“Come here,” Stiles obeys because in this moment, he’s pretty sure Derek could get him to do anything. The werewolf reaches a hand up and Stiles kneels beside him as a rough hand moves to his neck, thumb brushing against his jaw, “Don’t get lost in all this, Stiles. Don’t lose yourself completely…I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to save you…to come back to you.”
“Derek, shut up…you can’t die, you said you wouldn’t leave me. I can’t do this without you…” Stiles’s voice is a whisper as Derek’s eyes close, but his hand doesn’t move, “I should’ve saved you, not the other way around.”
“Things could’ve been different…if I hadn’t been so stuck in my own head. At least now, I’ll be with all of them,” Derek doesn’t have to say who he meant, Stiles knows. Maybe in death he’d be with all the family he lost in the fire. And the thought alone makes the tears spill over, “Just take care of yourself…please, Stiles. For me.”
“Okay.” Is all he says because he can’t manage much else. It’s when Derek starts growling does Stiles get nervous. He moves back as the werewolf lets out a howl, eyes blazing blue as he shifts, pain crossing his features. With shaking hands, Stiles pulls his knife, knowing it’s almost time. But then Derek’s clothes rip off his back as he crouches down on his hands and knees, transforming completely into his all-black wolf.
“Derek?” Stiles whispers as the wolf steps towards him, sniffing at his neck before licking it and he doesn’t fight the urge to run his fingers through the thick fur. The wolf curls up beside Stiles and stays that way for nearly an hour, far past the time it takes to turn. But Stiles stays and strokes his fur, hoping for some kind of miracle, hoping for anything. And then Derek changes back.
“Stiles…” He’s standing naked before him, coloring normal, the bite completely healed. Stiles is on his feet before he can register he’s doing it and wraps Derek in a rib-crushing hug, feeling every warm, alive inch of him, “I’m okay. I’m okay.”
“Don’t. You. Ever,” Stiles pulls back enough to start hitting Derek hard in the chest with every word he says, pissed and relieved and amazed and about a thousand other things on top of that, “Do. That. Shit. To. Me. Again.”
And then Stiles leans in and presses his lips to Derek’s. It’s clumsy and hurried, teeth half pressed into the werewolf’s lip and so sudden that Derek nearly freezes the minute Stiles’s lips collide with his. Which makes the boy pull back immediately but Derek grabs both upper arms before he can move away.
“Sorry I…” Stiles determinedly looks everywhere but Derek’s piercing eyes, but the werewolf says something that makes his mouth hang open in shock.
“Don’t stop.” Derek pulls that bottom lip into his mouth and kisses Stiles back like they really are the last two people in the entire world.
And Stiles doesn’t stop.
They decide staying on the road is their best option, to map the routes they’ve taken that are navigable. Traversing through Mississippi brings more supplies, more postcards, and an even greater feeling of hopelessness than before. Stiles is beginning to think that the whole world has been swallowed by this plague. He wonders if anyone is searching for a cure.
At night he still curls up against Derek and pretends that maybe, just maybe, if he thinks hard enough they can be back in Beacon Hills, hiding from the rest of the pack in Derek’s loft. They’d have lazy Sundays and movie marathons, long fights about unimportant shit like who makes the best pizza in town, and exchange secret touches when no one was looking. It sounded easy and freeing, but Stiles buries those thoughts deep. Even though they cross Derek’s mind too.
In Alabama, they find a large river and strip down, finding pleasure in finally getting to submerge themselves in water, even if it isn’t clean. Derek leaves his boxers on as Stiles dives in naked, trying to somehow purify all the bad right out of him.
“We can purify it and make it drinkable. It’s not toxic.” Derek confirms with a sniff and a swish of the water in his mouth. They both make a mental note to remember this place and store as much water as they can.
“If I get poisoned, I’m blaming you.” Stiles swims around and Derek gives him a slight glare.
“I wouldn’t let you drink poisoned water.”
“I know,” Because he does. He’s starting to get just how much Derek is willing to do to protect him. The sun beats down, turning the river to crystal, and for a brief moment in the silence of it all, the world seems slightly less shitty. But the feeling doesn’t stay, not when the dead start wandering out from the trees and onto the shore, “God-fucking-damnit.”
They don’t fire their guns. Instead they make for the Jeep, dripping wet and wishing that every good thing didn’t have to get tainted. Stiles lets his eyes travel across Derek’s bare chest before the werewolf pointedly tells him to watch the road. He tries to actively avoid looking at Stiles who barely got his boxers back on before they left. It feels like they’re headed for something wildly intense and slightly dangerous.
They don’t talk about the kisses or what they mean. It’s better to take each moment as it comes.
Still, Stiles wishes he spent more time kissing Derek Hale then dwelling on that bit of darkness in his heart.
It never left.
In Georgia they meet a group of people living at an old farmhouse. Stiles doesn’t lower his gun until Derek makes him, trusting his wolf senses more than anything else. But the people are kind enough to offer them the loft in the barn to stay and get a good night’s rest. They have animals, crops, stored food, supplies…it’s the sort of place Derek would want to settle down, but he knows he’s the only one who thinks it.
“How can we trust them?” Stiles asks during the night, refusing to sleep, refusing to let anyone or anything get the jump on him. He’s restless like always and Derek’s eyes don’t stay closed.
“When are you going to start trusting people?” It’s a loaded question, he knows, but there’s only one person with the ability to prod at Stiles’s walls now and that’s him.
“I don’t trust anyone. And neither should you.”
“I trust you.” When Derek says it, Stiles tries hard not to look at him, not convey the swelling feeling that rises in his chest. Hearing it out loud makes it more real than anything else.
“Hey,” Stiles looks then and Derek sits up, pulling the boy close because he lets him, because something shifted between them that they haven’t yet addressed. He wraps an arm around Stiles and forces him to put down the knife he’s been holding, “You need to cut this shit out. This world may have changed, but that doesn’t mean you need to change with it,” Derek leans in then, touching his lips to the corner of Stiles’s mouth like a game, “Come back.”
“You don’t play fair,” He whispers, turning to meet Derek’s lips but the werewolf pulls back, trying to gauge what exactly is going through that mile-a-minute mind of his, “Don’t ask if I’m okay.”
“Just fucking kiss me…please, Derek. I don’t want to think about any of it.” Stiles’s hands fist the front of Derek’s shirt, hot breath against his jaw before the werewolf obeys. He knows he couldn’t say no. Stiles is warm and eager and alive, squirming and grabbing like he wants to tear Derek apart. And Derek lets him.
Because in a lot of ways, he doesn’t want to remember either.
They leave the farmhouse a week later. The kindness of these people did them both good, but Stiles is itching to get back on the road, towards adventure or death, if they’re even indistinguishable, he can’t be sure. But they know that good people still exist, and that’s enough to keep them going.
On the way to the Jeep, Beth, one of the little girls who’d taken a liking to Derek’s wolf stories and Stiles’s silly faces when no one else watched, runs after them. She hands Stiles a drawing of him and Derek, a wolf howling up at the moon in the distance. The smile he gives her is so genuine, so reminiscent of their past lives, Derek nearly lets out a howl.
It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.
They tape the picture to the dashboard as a memory they want to keep with them whenever the road seems long and treacherous.
They stumble upon a small, walled town next. It’s a place that doesn’t seem real, separated from the undead on the outside by thick walls and posted guards. Derek and Stiles get welcomed with open arms, but not without having their weapons checked at the gate. A woman, Sarah, guides them towards the mess hall where they’re cooking up food to feed all the people in town, and from what it looks like, the population is the biggest Stiles has seen since Beacon Hills went down.
“Not too shabby,” He elbows Derek in the ribs as he heads to get a plate, but the werewolf grabs his arm in a vice grip and has something like fear in his eyes, “Derek?”
“We need to go. Now.”
“You’re kidding, right? We just got here, I’m hungry, and I wouldn’t mind taking something close to a real shower.” Stiles moves to go forward but Derek doesn’t budge, doesn’t let go.
“You need to trust me. We need to leave.” Derek’s voice is a hiss in his ear and the people around them are starting to look, wonder who they are and why they aren’t grabbing plates. But Stiles has been with Derek long enough to know that sometimes, trusting his instincts are the best thing he can do. So they turn back around, Derek fighting every step of the way not to wolf-out as they attempt to convince the guards to return their weapons.
“Can’t do that, kid. Need to get clearance from the Mayor before I give any weapons back. Could take a day or two.” The look Derek gives the man is pure murderous, and Stiles is glad he isn’t on the receiving end.
“Fine, keep them. Open the door.” Derek’s intimidation is enough for the guy to settle with their guns and open up the gate. As they’re leaving, Stiles is grateful they hid the Jeep in the woods, and that he didn’t take his father’s pistol with him.
“Okay so are you going to let me know what the hell that was about?” He asks as they walk away from the town, still feeling rifles pointed at their backs. Derek is still just as tense as he was in the mess hall.
“I couldn’t let you eat that food. We needed to get out while we still could.”
“This whole cryptic thing isn’t as hot as you think it is,” When they finally reach the Jeep, Derek seems to relax slightly, feeling safer now in their makeshift home on four wheels. He dares to look at Stiles and the boy sees the same fear in his gaze as before, a question bubbling to his lips that he doesn’t want the answer to, “What was in the food?”
“The meat…it wasn’t animal. It was human.”
Stiles’s stomach turns and he’s never been more grateful for Derek’s super-nose, or his intimidating presence, or just him in general. They drive in silence because neither can quite comprehend what the world is becoming, what people are willing to do. The madness of it all.
So Stiles turns up the music and lets Jim Morrison say it better than he ever could.
People are strange when you’re a stranger.
For the first time in weeks, they see the coast. It’s times like these Stiles is grateful for having the kind of vehicle meant to weather most terrain. He drives over the dunes to a stretch of beach that’s deserted from even the undead. He doesn’t even cut the engine before making his way out onto the sand towards the water.
“Stiles?” Derek speaks softly before turning the Jeep off and following behind the boy. The feeling is overwhelming and the werewolf can only imagine the thoughts zipping through Stiles’s head. He smells like sadness and longing. Like things Derek wants to taste on his tongue and absorb right out of his very pores.
First his shoes go, then his socks, but he doesn’t bother with anything else. Soon, Stiles is standing knee-deep in surf, contemplating throwing himself in completely or maybe screaming out in the chance someone would yell back. But Derek’s suddenly at his side and it makes the feeling retreat.
“The last time I went to the beach was with Scott.” Stiles speaks into the waves, but Derek hears. He’s suddenly regretful he wasn’t a part of these treasured spots in Stiles’s memory. It’s a regret he knows he’ll carry for always.
“The last time I went was with Laura.” Derek divulges this little bit of truth and it hits Stiles so hard that he flings himself at the werewolf, wrapping his arms tightly around him as Derek fights against the current to keep them upright.
And then Derek is kissing him again, clinging back so tightly it’s hard for Stiles to breathe. But he doesn’t want to anyway. It’s the first kiss that has edged on inappropriate and Stiles lets himself moan into Derek’s mouth as their tongues touch. Water crashes against them, but Derek doesn’t dare let Stiles go, instead he presses into him harder, feeling every inch of him as the boy’s hands find warm bare skin and dig his nails in enough to draw blood.
When Derek’s lips latch onto Stiles’s throat, he tilts his head willing, knowing that the werewolf wants to make his mark there, claim him. He grinds his pelvis into Derek’s and hears a growl so seductive he closes his eyes and forgets. When a wave topples over their heads, Derek finally pulls away and leads Stiles back to shore. In silence they strip down to their boxers and lay their clothes out to dry in the sun.
“We could find somewhere like this to stay awhile, gather more supplies. We don’t have to stay forever,” Derek finally glances over at Stiles with a somewhat curious expression, “Unless you have a destination in mind.”
“Nope,” Stiles is quiet for a long time, one eye focused on the water, the other constantly monitoring the shoreline for signs of zombies, “It’s not like I have a home to go back to.”
“I know the feeling,” And he does, he has since high school when his whole idea of home got scorched away because of him. Stiles can’t look at him, not with the image of the demolished Hale house still fresh in his mind, “But home isn’t always a place you go back to.”
Stiles was beginning to understand that too.
He was beginning to think that home might be sitting beside him.
The longer they spend together, the more they begin to learn about each other.
Derek talks about his childhood, about being in high school. He was a jock, a slightly cocky and confident basketball player with the huge family and a secret no one knew about. Or he was, until he was about sixteen and left Beacon Hills a completely different kid. He doesn’t go into much detail about the fire, or what happened after, but Stiles imagines young Derek to be a lot like him. That maybe he woke up in panic, had a hole making home in his chest, and even when he went back to the town he grew up in, it wasn’t his anymore. And Stiles really fucking gets it.
But there’s other things he learns too. Like how Derek is a decent mechanic and proves it by resurrecting the Jeep on a few terrifying occasions. He learns how particular the werewolf can be about certain things, like keeping the Jeep clean, cutting his fingernails, always hoping to wear a pair of matching socks. How he misses reading and nearly whines when Stiles presents him with a battered copy of The Sun Also Rises he rescues from a used bookstore because he knows Derek loves anything written before 1960.
Derek learns things too, though he’s been paying attention for longer than Stiles ever has. But that’s how Derek is, always the one keeping an eye on things, which is why he was such a valuable member of the Beacon Hills pack, even if they never realized it. He picks up on Stiles’s favorite canned goods and always hunts for them. Reminds him every time he’s about to forget something important when they leave a place, like his pillow or hunting knife, and the boy always gives him a slight sheepish grin. He hears more about Claudia Stilinski and wishes he’d gotten the chance to know her, too. He understands the chaotic patterns of Stiles’s mind and how is brain in unlike anyone’s he’s ever met. They fall into a routine on most days and it makes sense.
Stiles doesn’t even ask to count Derek’s fingers when he wakes up sweating in the middle of the night. Wordlessly, he always lets him.
Sometimes, they both need the reminder that they’re awake.
Eventually, they attempt awkward fumbling while driving in the Jeep. Derek briefly mentions slight sexual encounters with other men while in New York and Stiles admits he was always sort of an equal opportunist himself. When Derek drives, Stiles is always the one pawing at him, unzipping his jeans with a questioning eyebrow like the werewolf might ever say no. Because he doesn’t.
The first time Derek’s hands get near Stiles’s dick, he nearly crashes the Jeep altogether and they pull over for one slightly uncomfortable (and quick) blow job that Stiles announces needs to happen more often. Derek tries not to smile, but it plays on the corner of his mouth, and Stiles considers it a success.
“Maybe I could win a Guinness World Record for most hand jobs given in a car.” When Stiles says this, Derek laughs softly, feeling better with each mile they put behind them because it feels like he’s getting the boy back. Like finally he’s unearthing what was buried.
“I don’t think that exists.”
“Says who? It’s the end of the world, we can make shit up as we go.” Stiles is smiling lazily, but the look leaves his face when they reach a long stretch of highway heading for Charlotte. The amount of undead near the city is enough to make it look like a dark gray sea has risen up and taken over the entire horizon. They sit stunned in the Jeep for a moment before Derek speaks.
“We need to head northwest. The east coast is going to be a mess.” He backs the Jeep up and tries to slowly and quietly backtrack a different way, an old atlas the only form of GPS they have. Stiles goes silent and his scent is one of sadness again, the kind that makes him retreat into himself.
The minute he forgets that this isn’t just a roadtrip, it’s survival, that’s when he’ll end up dead. It’s a reminder of the worse kind, but Derek takes his hand.
“Winter’s coming up in the northeast. We don’t want to be there when the snow comes. There were times in New York we got over two feet of snow,” Stiles knows that Derek’s only talking to help get his mind off things, but his mind is never really off things, “Wherever it is you’re trying to run to, let me know so I can find you.”
“I just never thought it’d be zombies. An army of kanimas, pack of alphas, supernatural assassins, the goddamn nogitsune, sure. That makes sense. We’d all be one and done, it would be our battle and we’d fight and I would die, end of story. But not like this…not everyone. Not all at once,” Stiles sometimes wished he was possessed again instead of the whole world dying out around him, “And I didn’t think it would be just me and you at the end of everything.”
“Would you rather we go find Peter?”
“Don’t even joke about that,” Stiles gave Derek’s hand a squeeze, “I’m just saying if you asked me a year ago if I thought there’d be a zombie apocalypse and I’d end up sharing a bed with Derek Hale, I’d say you were crazy.”
“Me too.” Derek said softly as he glanced at Stiles who seemed to be heading away from dangerous mental territory.
“But I’m glad, you know? Like finding you the day I was leaving Beacon Hills was fate or something. Or maybe we were heading for this sort of thing all along, what with you having a complex about saving me.”
“I needed to find someone, I had to know. I’m glad it was you, too.” Derek doesn’t tell him that he’d always harbored something deep-hidden for him, something he kept locked away because looking at it too closely was dangerous. And Stiles doesn’t tell him that he used to think about Derek late at night when he was alone, one hand down his boxers.
Like two galaxies that were meant to collide eventually, even if it took a millennia or two.
The first time they fuck, it’s completely unplanned.
They come across a gas station in Tennessee and the minute they get out, four men appear with guns pointed directly at them. Stiles keeps his hand on the pistol holstered at his hip, ready to fire even though they’re outnumbered.
“Can we help you boys?” One of them asks nonchalantly, but Derek can smell the adrenaline and tension in the air. He wants to shift to shield Stiles, but doesn’t move as the boy speaks.
“We just want to get some gas for the road. Figured we’d check this place out.”
“Better keep going then. This is our place and we don’t do handouts.”
“Look dude, we’d be willing to do a trade. We’ve got supplies and we need gas.” Stiles’s knuckles are white around the handle of his pistol and the hungry looks of these men is making the back of Derek’s neck tingle. He decides immediately that these aren’t good people.
“Go look in the Jeep,” The man says to one of his group members who heads to see what exactly might be in the vehicle, “See if they’ve really got anything worth our time.”
“I wouldn’t touch the Jeep.” It’s Derek who speaks, reacting to the anger that starts emanating off of Stiles. He knows what happened to the last person that touched the truck without permission.
“So the big one can talk,” The man walks forward and presses the barrel of his shotgun against Derek’s chest, “How about you keep your fucking mouth shut.” Derek gives Stiles a warning side glance, a look that tries to say, don’t do anything stupid, and he prays the boy listens.
“They got ammo, decent amount of food, some medical shit, couple of other guns…probably more I can’t see.” The man near the Jeep announces and the leader just nods slightly as he lowers his gun from Derek and takes a step towards Stiles.
“Maybe we can work something out,” He eyes Stiles up and down, contemplating before speaking again, “My boys have been looking for someone who can provide certain services for us. You got any special talents, boy? Good enough to trade for some gasoline?” The minute the man says this, Derek lets out a growl that’s loud enough to have every gun pointed right at him.
“Better cut that shit out or we fuck him right in front of you.”
And that’s when Derek loses it.
“What the fuck!” The leader yells as Derek’s face shifts, eyes glowing blue as he lets out a howl. Stiles only backs up, drawing his gun but not planning on using it unless Derek absolutely needs him to. Sometimes, you just need to cause a little pain.
A shot hits Derek in the shoulder, but that doesn’t stop him from tearing open one man’s throat with his claws while snapping the neck of another with his bare hands. As one tries to run, Stiles shoots him square between the shoulder blades because there’s no way he’s let one of those assholes take off back into the world. Derek saves the leader for last, whose shot has done nothing but piss the werewolf off, and as he tries to reload, Derek digs his claws into his throat and lifts him off the ground.
“He’s mine.” The growl pierces the very air as the man yells in fear before being silenced forever, body falling limp to the ground. Derek keeps his back to Stiles, trying to fight back the fury that had coursed through his very bones. But eventually, he feels a soft touch on his back.
“Derek? You with me?”
The werewolf doesn’t answer with words. Instead he turns and his lips crash into Stiles’s, swallowing the note of surprise in the boy’s voice. He doesn’t pull back, or try and analyze what exactly he just did, instead he pulls Stiles closer and he clings back just as desperately. The kiss says what words can’t, because they both seem to know what the other needs.
Stiles is pulling Derek inside before the werewolf can even register that they’re moving. His face is buried in the boy’s neck, nipping and bruising the skin there until he hears a moan. In the seconds Stiles takes to secure the small gas station and block the door, Derek growls low because right now, he needs to feel every inch of his traveling companion before he can’t stand it. He needs Stiles, and everyone else, to know that he is his.
They paw at each other’s clothes until Derek finally rips off Stiles’s shirt, nearly taking his jeans with it before the boy slips out of them. They don’t speak, instead it’s the sound of hitched breaths, soft gasps as they finally get to fully feel every part of each other. Stiles wants to live in the warmth of Derek’s skin. The werewolf is gentle at first, and when he enters Stiles he knows that this is it for him. There is no going back.
“Derek…I need you…” It’s the first time Stiles speaks, and Derek didn’t know how much he needed to hear that voice, emotions so opened up like before all this began. Like he was himself again. When Stiles pushes back into him, Derek bites down on the back of the boy’s neck, knowing they both need pain as Stiles moans in response.
They keep going until Stiles nearly collapses under Derek and both their bodies are spent. They lay beside each other, sticky, damp with sweat, tired, and finally calmed down. If he could, Stiles would chose to never move again. But that isn’t an option, not anymore. So instead he starts to get up, but Derek’s strong arm pulls him back down beside him.
“We have time. Stay with me.” Coming from Derek Hale, the request is so genuine that Stiles can’t help but curl up beside him. He wonders exactly what this all means, but doesn’t ask. Derek’s internal wolf is pleased with how his scent has finally mixed with Stiles’s.
“You know, I’m not just yours. You’re mine, too.” Stiles mutters into the crook of Derek’s arm, referring to the admission he made to the man who threatened him. The pleased sound that rumbles in the werewolf’s chest means everything.
They don’t move until the sun rises.
There’s good and bad days. Sometimes they find big caches of supplies and sleep in a real bed at night. Other times, they get into fights about stupid things, get backtracked by turned over vehicles and hordes of the undead, or spend cramped nights in the Jeep sleeping in shifts.
Derek becomes an even better shot. Stiles laughs a little more. Things begin to get as normal as they ever could. They trust no one but each other because the living are oftentimes far worse than the dead.
Stiles declares one day that he’s going to stop shaving. Derek only glares at him, but when the boy’s slightly awkward scruff begins to come in, the werewolf nuzzles against it. They both learn all the lyrics to the most popular songs by The Doors and decide it might be time to broaden their CD collection. Derek says no to all of the old Now CDs Stiles unearths, but he’ll listen to classic rock. Something is comforting about having AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Who lead you across the country.
When Stiles says it’s his birthday, after having kept tallies on a planner calendar throughout the whole trip, Derek presents him with a metal bat. It’s outfitted with chains and nails only a werewolf could get in. It’s the best gift he’s ever gotten.
They try having sex in the Jeep, but it’s difficult. Eventually they settle for a diner, which still has some food to loot, and fuck in the back face-to-face. When he cums, Stiles nearly tells Derek he loves him, but bites hard into his shoulder instead.
Some things aren’t meant to be said aloud.
It’s in Missouri all hell breaks loose.
“I’M NOT FUCKING LEAVING MY JEEP!” Stiles is screaming as Derek tries to drag him away from the vehicle, but it’s one thing that the boy refuses to part with. Except he knows he doesn’t have much choice.
They were outside of Lebanon when the check engine light came on. Next came the smoke. And then came the zombies. Derek said that they didn’t have the tools or the time to fix it; it was either leave it behind or die.
“Stiles we need to go! Come on!” Derek pulls on him as Stiles makes a last ditch effort to collect every bit of supplies he can logically carry, shoving ammo, food, water, and other items into a duffle bag. He throws a bag at Derek before filling another, daring to take The Doors CD, Beth’s drawing, and a handful of postcards with him.
Derek starts bludgeoning some of the undead with a hatchet they found in Illinois, grateful Stiles made him keep it. But it isn’t only a few, it’s a horde capable of overtaking them if they didn’t move fast.
“I’ll come back for you!” Stiles says to his Jeep, though they both know that isn’t the case. Still, it’s hard saying goodbye to another piece of Beacon Hills they’re forced to leave behind.
They run off in the direction of the vast forestland they passed on the road, thinking that it might make a good refuge while they figure out their next move. That Jeep had been everything. It was their shelter, their home, their safe haven. And now they have to abandon it. Stiles refuses to look back as they dart down from the highway and into the trees, making sure to stick together before slowing down where the trees thicken.
“Stiles…” Derek says his name but the boy shakes off the hand that touches his shoulder.
“Just don’t, okay? Don’t apologize, don’t even talk about it. Let’s just find somewhere to camp out before it gets dark.” Derek obeys because he knows what it’s like to lose your home, and it’s the second time in his life he’s felt that adrift feeling. But he’s thankful that the Jeep wasn’t ablaze, and Stiles wasn’t inside.
They end up at a park ranger station. Somewhere on the borders of the Mark Twain National Forest, Derek kicks open the door and the place is abandoned, locked up tight since the apocalypse began. There’s not much except for some old radios and park brochures, but there’s a chance Derek can get one of the ranger cars running, which is a start.
“I need to take a walk.”
“It’s almost dark out, don’t be stupid,” Derek doesn’t wait a beat before answering, not caring if Stiles needs to clear his head and mourn the Jeep, they don’t know the area and he won’t let him go out alone, “We got all the important stuff out and we’re alive, there’s no need for you to go and jeopardize that.”
“Don’t treat me like some whiny little kid.”
“Then don’t act like one.” Derek’s not even looking at him, instead he busying himself going through their supplies, but he feels the anger coming off Stiles in waves.
“I can’t be in here with you right now. We spend every goddamn waking minute together and the second I need some space, you can’t even give me that? You know how much that Jeep means to me, so don’t act like it doesn’t matter.”
“You think I don’t want space too?” Derek turns around then, anger starting to build in his chest, “That isn’t a luxury we get, not anymore. This is the reality of our situation and you’d better get used to it.”
“Me? You who was barely even walking when I found you. I know the reality of what this is, I always have. You’re the one who thinks that we can somehow settle down and have something normal. Well keep dreaming, Derek, because it won’t happen.” Stiles stares defiantly, and the werewolf wonders how this boy was ever afraid of him.
“You still want to die, too? I haven’t forgotten that you said that.” If anything, Derek’s spent countless hours focusing on exactly what Stiles told him when they both thought he was going to turn. It had gnawed at the back of his mind and chose this particular moment to come out.
“Fuck you.” Stiles spits back as he grabs his bat and tucks his father’s pistol into his belt.
“You can’t keep running away and you’re not going out there.” Derek says warningly, but Stiles’s hand is already on the door handle.
“Watch me. And don’t you dare follow me.” Stiles slips out into the woods then, slamming the door shut as he took off jogging. Derek considers chasing after him and physically forcing him back, but maybe he did need a minute to clear his head. This place doesn’t have a lot of zombies, so Derek tries to trust him not to do something stupid.
Nearly an hour passes and Derek gets so worried he turns into a wolf and takes off into the forest. He follows the sharp scent of Stiles’s sweat and fury into the woods until it suddenly stops. He looks around but there’s no trace of him anywhere. The scent seems to vanish completely.
Stiles is gone.
“You sure can sleep, can’t you?”
Stiles wakes up to a female voice and the smell of cooking meat. He shoots up from the pile of blankets he’s lying in and is greeted by a sharp pain in his side and a deep ache in his ankle. His head is throbbing painfully.
“Easy there, pal. You took some tumble,” He meets the eyes of a young girl, probably no more than sixteen. Her brown eyes are bright and her curly hair is cut short and wild. She smiles at him but the look in his eyes must’ve told her how frantic he felt, “Hey, you’re safe here. Your gun’s still at your side and that bat of yours is under the bed.”
“What happened?” He manages to say and the girl sets a skewer with meat beside him, which after that town in Georgia, he isn’t sure if he can trust.
“Don’t turn your nose up at it, that’s squirrel,” She takes a big bite of her own skewer and speaks again, “I was out hunting in the woods and I find you unconscious in a ditch. Looks like you slipped on some wet leaves and bumped your head pretty good. That, and maybe a cracked rib or two, plus a pretty nasty sprain. Lucky it ain’t broken.”
“What am I covered in?” Stiles realizes not only did he smell horrible, but he was pretty sure his shirt was soaked in what might be blood.
“Oh that’s just biter blood. Pour some of that on you and they leave you right alone. I didn’t want to take any chances when I towed you back here. I always keep some on me when I go out hunting,” Stiles looks from her to the small house she’s camped out in. She looks pretty well supplied, considering the state of everything. When he spies the compound bow and quiver of arrows on her back, his heart aches for Allison so suddenly it shocks him, “Name’s Mae.”
“It’s not my real name,” She nods like she gets it, like maybe Mae isn’t her real name either, “How long have I been here?”
“This is about the second day I’d say. You must’ve been real tired. I’m just glad I didn’t need to put an arrow in ya.” When she tells him the time he’d been out, his thoughts immediately go to Derek and he knows that the werewolf is probably going out of his mind.
“Are we close to that forest? Can you take me back there?” Stiles tries to stand but the whole world spins and he sits back down.
“Easy there...Why the rush, you late for something?”
“No but I’m not alone. I left my…” He pauses because he not exactly sure what to say, how to address Derek. His companion, his wolf, his best friend, his protector. So he goes with the first thing that comes out of his mouth, “My boyfriend back at the ranger station. I need to get to him.”
“His name Derek, by any chance?” Stiles’s eyes widen when she asks, worried that maybe she knows something, going to every horrible scenario before she holds her hand out,
“Easy…” She pulls an old Texas postcard from her pocket with a dancing cactus holding a lasso on front with Stiles’s scrawled handwriting on the back, “I grabbed this when I left home and headed north. Figured there can’t be many people named ‘Stiles’ wandering ‘round out here.”
“You found my postcard…” Stiles is stunned by the notion that his postcards are actually being found by living, breathing people. She smiles softly at him.
“Saw a few more travelin’ around but I left those alone. It was nice knowing that I wasn’t the only one left, ya know? Wondered if I’d ever run into y’all on the road. Figures you show up once I settle down,” Mae sets more food, a cup of water, and aspirin beside him, “I’m gonna help you find this boy of yours, but that ankle needs a few more days of healing.”
“A few more days? Hell no, we need to find him now. Knowing Derek, he’s already tore up half the woods looking for me, I can’t wait that long.” Stiles attempts to stand on the ankle and the pain that shoots through him almost discourages him. Almost. He takes a few gingerly steps as Mae just looks at him in disapproval.
“Take the aspirin, drink the water, and then we talk. It ain’t broke but it’s gonna hurt like sin for a week or more. Rest it for now and we can take it from there. We’re gonna find him, Stiles. I’m a hell of a tracker.” She smiles at him but he knows that Derek is someone who can easily disappear. And knowing Derek, he isn’t handling this well. Because if the roles were reversed? Stiles wouldn’t rest until he had his wolf back, no matter what.
“It’s not that I’m not grateful you found me before I became zombie food…”
“I get it. When you’re travelin’ with someone, they’re your first priority. Makes it hard to see clear sometimes,” The natural positivity of her personality fades slightly and Stiles knows she’s lost people. Everyone has, “Eat up, now. You’re gonna wilt away to nothin’ if you ain’t careful.” She winks at him before going to turn on her laterns as the sun begins to set.
Stiles swallows down the first fresh meat he’s had in a long time, but he barely tastes it. Somewhere, out there, his wolf is alone.
He needs to get back to his pack.
Derek rips apart at the seams.
The forest is vast and he searches it as a wolf until the day dawns, bright and unforgiving. He doesn’t stop searching until the sky grows dark again.
There are undead within the forest, but not many. There doesn’t seem to be enough to have easily gotten to Stiles, and even then, there would be something left behind, at least a scent. But there was nothing. By the end of the second day, Derek fears for the worst. Maybe someone took him, Maybe he really did get killed and somehow there was nothing left. Or maybe he was trying to teach Derek some kind of lesson. But Stiles couldn’t be that cruel.
Derek stays as a wolf because he can trust his instincts more, melt into a different mental state that’s less painful than if he was a man. But he still howls every time the moon rises in the hopes that maybe, it will lead his boy home. A sound that echoes full of sadness and he doesn’t care if it draws the undead.
He can’t stomach the thought of carrying on without knowing what happened to Stiles. He even returns to the broken-down Jeep, hoping that maybe, the boy somehow returned. But there’s nothing.
Another day passes and part of Derek wonders if he dreamt Stiles up. He wonders what life may’ve been like if this all never happened. If he would still wake up with his nose pressed into the crook of Stiles’s neck, bare bodies up against each other. He likes to think yes, but the thought alone makes his chest ache with longing.
On the fourth day, he wanders further out.
When the rain starts to fall, he fears that any scent will soon be washed away and that’s when the reality truly hits him.
He may never see Stiles again.
How many times would the things he loves get ripped away from him?
It isn’t until the fifth day that Mae gives Stiles the okay to search for Derek. He spends the days before in complete panic, being forced to eat and rest before his rescuer allows him out again. There’s a brief moment he thinks he might be her prisoner, but it passes after the nights they spend sharing stories. She’s a wanderer too, having lost her whole family before moving from Texas up north. Stiles can relate. And she can cook too.
“Take care of yourself out there. Any trouble comes your way, you get that skinny behind back here. I’ll be around hunting to make sure you don’t find yourself knocked out down the bottom of a ditch,” Her smile is laced with sadness and Stiles knows he may never see her again. He even asked her to come with them but she said no. That losing everyone she loved once was heartache enough, “Now go find that boy of yours.”
Stiles doesn’t wait to be told twice. He drives the golf cart she lent him back to the ranger station and his chest tightens when he sees the door is flung open. Bat in hand, he scans the area before limping inside, the entire place tore up like an animal was trapped. But this wasn’t an animal, this was Derek. Stiles’s heart nearly breaks when he sees the claws marks, sensing the sheer desperation his wolf must’ve felt. All their supplies are gone and he realizes it’s entirely possible Derek moved on. That maybe, after finding no trace of Stiles, just believed he was killed and carried on away from this place. If that’s the case, Stiles knows his chances of ever seeing Derek again are slim, especially since he’s not the one with the super nose and a knack for hunting. He slumps against a wall and slides down until he’s on the floor, reality hitting him so hard he can hardly breathe.
Derek is gone.
It’s been six days.
Derek wanders as a wolf towards Rolla and finds nothing but the undead to greet him. Even though he walks on four paws, he can’t help but be reminded of when Kate stripped his werewolf powers from him, feeling more blinded than ever before. It’s like reaching out in the dark for something just beyond his fingertips.
He curls up alone at night and dreams of mole-freckled skin, brown eyes, and eager hands. He’s never hated waking up alone more than now. When the rain begins to pour down, Derek howls up at it, willing it to stop but it doesn’t. The scent he’s hoping to chase would be impossible now.
On the seventh day, one whole week without Stiles at his side, Derek turns back into a human and makes his way to the vehicle he hid all their supplies in. There had been plenty to choose from, but he picks the bright red Jeep because he hopes it will make Stiles happy once he finds him.
Because he will find him, he has to.
For him, there’s no other option.
When Stiles wakes up on the floor of the ranger station, he decides he needs a plan.
Before Derek, when he was left alone to fend for himself in Beacon Hills, he had become a survivor. And now, despite wanting to remain curled up on the ground waiting for someone or something to find him, he knows he needs to keep going. Because Derek is out there, somewhere, because he has to be.
Stiles takes the postcard in his back pocket that Mae had given him, and scrawls down words before firmly securing it to the door of the ranger station. He tries to squeeze everything in the tiny space and does the best he can.
Stiles here, minus Derek. If you see a grumpy, scruffy, unfriendly guy traveling alone, tell him I’m looking for him. If Derek’s reading this: follow my trail, I’m headed west. I miss you, Sourwolf. I’m sorry.
He takes the golf cart, fills up the tank, and heads down the nearest road towards Springfield. The first few zombies he finds he kills quickly, slicing off limbs to rub their blood and flesh all over the cart to ward off other undead. He stops every ten minutes to reopen a cut in his hand, rub his blood on anything around, tree, pole, stop sign, to make sure he leaves a scent trail.
At night, he sleeps in an old school bus and pretends he doesn’t tear up thinking about the possibility of never finding Derek again. He isn’t sure what’s worse, not knowing if his wolf is dead or is out there somewhere and they’ll never find each other again.
He can’t stop thinking how he never told Derek he loves him.
He decides to double back on the eighth day.
The minute Derek reaches the ranger station, he knows something happened. He can smell the faint scent of Stiles and his heart races wildly in his chest. When he sees the postcard, the sense of relief that washes over him is overwhelming.
Stiles is alive. His stupid, closed-off, challenging, inappropriate, smart-ass, sarcastic, perfect, self is still out there, somewhere, and he’s looking for Derek. The werewolf takes a deep breath, standing still for the first time in days. When he catches the scent of blood on the air, Stiles’s blood, he gets back in the Jeep and rolls down every window to let the air inside, head hung out the window to breathe in the scent. He thinks about the dog joke Stile would make and he needs him there to make it himself.
The road leads towards Stiles, towards home, and he’ll follow it no matter where it goes.
When the golf cart quits out, Stiles actually laughs while he hot-wires an old Camaro. It’s the nearest car with gas in the tank even though it makes him ache a little more for the companion he’s trying to find. He stays on the road until he reaches a blockade of vehicles and no doubt more undead closer to the city.
So he parks himself on the roadside, building a makeshift camp and eating the last of the preserved food Mae had packed him. The trail behind him was covered in his blood and notes he’d left along the way.
Derek, keep heading this way, I’m traveling slow. Derek, I’m okay, head west. Derek, I’m sorry, I won’t stop looking. Sourwolf, come find me, I miss you.
They grow more desperate, more worried, that maybe he isn’t coming this way at all. His werewolf can be halfway up to Canada for all he knows. But if Derek is out there looking, it’s impossible for him not to find Stiles now.
Two days pass and Stiles is out of food.
On the third day, a small group of zombies find his camp. He bludgeons them, barely missing getting bitten, and keeps the bodies close. He knows there’s more out there and he needs to find food. The hope he has is fading slowly each day Derek doesn’t find him. He realizes that maybe he’s really in denial about him being found at all.
He decides to ride into the closest, smallest town to find some supplies. The place is quiet and the undead few. He grabs food, bottled water, and a copy of The Great Gatsby he has no plan on reading. It’s like maybe, just maybe, collecting items Derek would want could magically make him reappear. But Stiles knows that magic doesn’t quite work like that.
His pistol is already in his hand when he drives back to the camp, breaking hard when he sees a red Jeep parked near his stuff. There is no fucking way he’s letting someone raid what little he has, not after everything, and he’ll fight anyone willing to try. He cocks his gun and gets out of the car, raising the weapon as he tries his best not to limp.
“Hey buddy, get out of the Jeep. I’m not looking for trouble, but if you touch any of my shit…” He stops talking the minute the driver’s door nearly rips open and the driver comes running at him. Stiles drops the gun, completely forgotten as arms come tightly around him, nearly knocking him to the ground. But he doesn’t care, gripping so tightly to the body pressed against his he forgets everything else.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Stiles is shakily muttering against his werewolf’s neck as Derek’s strong arms nearly crush him in half, face pressed into the boy’s neck as he inhales the scent he’s missed so fiercely. He doesn’t respond, instead he whines softly against the burning of Stiles’s skin, leeching out the pain he can smell rooted within the boy, “Fuck…don’t let go.”
And he doesn’t. They remain like that, keeping each other close, upright, like letting go will make the other fall. It’s when Derek’s lips start nipping at the skin of Stiles’s throat does he shudder, knowing that the wolf needs to mark him, and he wishes they weren’t standing on the side of the road.
“Dude…” Stiles’s breath hitches and Derek draws back then, his eyes glowing blue as his fingertips gently touch the boy’s cheek.
“You were gone…” The emotion in Derek’s voice nearly chokes Stiles up, but he explains what happened, how Mae found him, how he went back to the ranger station, and Derek looks away, eyes changing back, “I started moving further out to try and track your scent. I knew you couldn’t just…” Derek stops and Stiles tilts his head to lock their gazes.
“You told me not to disappear, I thought it worked both ways.”
“It does…” Stiles lets his hands clench the fabric of Derek’s shirt wanting him closer, wanting him to know exactly what he meant, “I rubbed my blood on everything I passed for like 20 miles hoping you’d come back. You had me worried for a while there. When I saw the ranger station…”
“I thought you were dead.” Derek thinks back to when he tore the place apart, convinced that he’d failed Stiles in the gravest way possible. That there was nothing left of him to find.
“It made me realize that you and me? We need each other. Not just to survive…but something more than that. Like I really need you around. I’ve given up everything else but I won’t do it with you, not happening. So we’re doing this.” Stiles looks at him with a steady determined gaze, and Derek’s brows furrow.
“Us. You and me. Me and you. If boyfriend is too lame, then you’re my manfriend. Because I just really want to fucking kiss you right now, okay?”
“Okay,” Derek doesn’t wait for Stiles to keep babbling on before he presses his lips to the boys, the tension slipping out of him as he leans into Derek. He doesn’t need to admit that he needed to kiss Stiles too, instead he pulls their bodies close and tastes the relieved sigh on his tongue. When Derek pulls back suddenly, Stiles pouts, “There’s zombies coming.”
“Where?” He doesn’t hesitate in grabbing his gun as Derek inhales deeply, smelling the air.
“Southwest, from the city. They can probably smell all that blood you left behind.”
“Yeah, so you could find me, asshole,” He says it with a smile as he gathers up what little he had with him, knowing all along that they were getting in that Jeep, “I like red.” Stiles says as Derek hands him the keys.
“I know.” There’s a slight smile on Derek’s lips as they both get into the Jeep, familiar memorabilia scattered around that makes Stiles tear up, like coming home after being gone too long. He sees Beth’s picture taped to the dash, stack of postcards tucked between the seats, even a box filled with his random collectibles. He starts the car and reaches out to take Derek’s hand. When he hears Jim Morrison’s voice come through the speakers, he lets out a laugh.
The days are bright and filled with pain, enclose me in your gentle rain. The time you ran was too insane. We’ll meet again, we’ll meet again.
And as they drive off away from the main road, they both realized the same thing without even saying it.
They are home.
They find shelter before the storm hits, a small, deserted home that they secure in seconds because Stiles’s hands are itching to touch Derek. Ever since they got in the Jeep, the boy tries to keep close, like moving too far away would suddenly make the werewolf vanish. And Derek doesn’t mind. He follows close, pressing his nose to the back of Stiles’s neck when he locks the front door. His breath comes out shaky and he can feel the smirk on Derek’s lips.
“Dog jokes again?” The way Derek’s lips move against his skin makes Stiles close his eyes.
“Someone needs to make them,” The happiness radiating out of Stiles is infectious, layered with arousal, desire, even nervousness, and Derek wants to memorize each one, “And since I’m the one who doesn’t like belly rubs or playing fetch…”
“I don’t fetch.”
“You sure?” Stiles pulls himself away with a grin, moving towards the bedroom with a sort of sensual grace he never knew he possessed. But he doesn’t get far before Derek’s lifting him over to the bed, warm, muscular body covering his. And Stiles is reminded that all this, this is his now. That he can touch, he can have, and the way Derek grinds his hips into his proves it.
“I missed you…” Derek’s voice is a whisper, and Stiles knows it means more than their time apart. It’s the way Stiles has shed the shell he had buried himself in and the old parts of him have begun to see the sun again. Derek’s warmth, his light that he keeps hidden away, Stiles is drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
It’s the first time they’ve had sex on a proper sized bed before, and Derek draws the whole experience out. His hands are everywhere, drawing out noises from Stiles that he wants to bury himself into. When one of Derek’s hands wraps around Stiles’s dick, he nearly loses it right then and there, overwhelmed with being together again.
Stiles calls out his wolf’s name as he cums, legs going weak before hearing the growl behind him as teeth bite into his shoulder. Hard enough to bruise but never draw blood. Derek slumps against his back, finished, his heart beating wildly against Stiles’s spine. For a moment they stay connected, breathing hard in the silence, skin on skin. It’s when Derek pulls back and draws Stiles close does the boy finally speak.
“I think we should go home.” Derek lifts his head from the crook of Stiles’s neck and his brows furrow.
“Back to Beacon Hills?”
“Well, yeah…but I mean more that we should go find our pack. Scott, Melissa, Deaton, and Kira might still be out there. I know finding them is like totally unrealistic but…”
“I’ll do it.” Derek says softly and their eyes meet, a warmth in those blue eyes that Stiles knows he may be the only one who gets to see it.
“Just like that? You know this is a suicide mission, right?”
“All of your ideas usually are,” Stiles makes a face at him, but he’s quieted when he feels the touch of lips against his temple, “Haven’t you figured out yet that I’d follow you anywhere?”
“There’s an obvious dog joke for that statement, but I’m not gonna make it,” The admission alone makes Stiles nearly breathless. Derek growls lightly and Stiles laughs, feeling the vibration in his bare chest, “Didn’t peg you for such a romantic, Hale, but I do have that effect on people.”
“You are such an idiot.”
“Yeah but that’s what makes me so loveable.” Stiles doesn’t think about what he said, not in the slightest, but when Derek pulls him close so their bodies press together, he understands what this all means for both of them. That wherever the roads takes them, they go together.
And it’s as good as the real thing.
The road west isn’t an easy one.
They backtrack constantly, marking down on their map which roads are impassable and which to avoid. The undead are everywhere and they haven’t seen a living person in weeks. Stiles wonders if eventually everyone will turn and leave the world nothing but a planet of the dead. Except for the werewolves.
It’s when Derek gets bit a second time, where they’re taken off guard in the middle of the night by a small horde, does Stiles finally ask the question. After the wolf shakes off the infection like it’s nothing.
“Why haven’t you asked if I want the bite?”
“I don’t see any Alphas around here to choose from.”
“That isn’t it.” Stiles stops bandaging the cut on his forearm to really look at Derek. The werewolf’s eyes are still blue from the change, but all his wounds are gone.
“I wouldn’t suggest it unless you wanted it. Or unless we had no other option,” He think about how he was born into being a wolf, and how Scott didn’t have a choice. He’s thought about Stiles with golden eyes, blue eyes for all the kills he would make, how they could turn together and howl at the moon, “I like you human. It makes it harder for you to know what I’m thinking.” Derek grins and Stiles throws a bag of gauze at him.
“You’re a dick.” He smiles back, but after a few moments, Derek dares to speak again.
“Would you want to be a werewolf?” He thinks about the specific smell of Stiles’s skin, the pattern of his emotions, the beat of his human heart. How the bite can easily kill him as it can save him and Derek is selfish enough not to want to risk it, though he’d never say it aloud.
“Honestly? No, dude, I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I like began human. It’s sorta my thing.” Derek gets up then, running a hand through Stiles’s wild hair.
Beacon Hills is just as deserted as when he left it. Although now, it’s almost sadder seeing it with Derek for the first time. A few undead wander around aimlessly, but they kill them quickly without guns. They go to the abandoned construction site around the Hale house and Stiles takes Derek’s hand. He recognizes the look in the werewolf’s eyes. It’s the same one he had when he was forced to kill Boyd.
“Come on, Derek…” Stiles’s voice is soft as he leads Derek away from the Hale property and back into town. They stop at the loft first, mostly because Stiles isn’t ready to see his house yet. When they get to Derek’s door, a note is nailed to the wood. Stiles recognizes the handwriting immediately.
11/23/2015 Derek- If you find this note, come north to Point Reyes. We have a camp up there and it’s safe. Hope to see you there! –Scott.
“No fucking way…” Stiles mutters as Derek pulls off the note and inhales against the paper, his eyes widening.
“It’s him. And the scent isn’t that old.”
“I can’t believe he was here…” Stiles feels tears well in his eyes but he focusing instead on looting Derek’s place for anything useful. While he grabs cans of food and clothes, Derek is smelling his old pillows, looking through books, gathering up the box that contains his mother’s claws. Stiles can sense how overwhelmed they’re both beginning to become, so he stops what he’s doing and goes to hold Derek’s face in his hands, thumbs brushing his scruffy jaw.
“Hey,” Derek doesn’t respond, only raises his eyebrows slightly, “I think we might need a minute to breathe.”
“Yeah…yeah you’re right.” They stand in silence, inhaling and exhaling in a place that holds more ghosts and memories than they can count. It was weird, being back here after everything that’s happened. So normal yet so surreal. But still a smile tugs at the corner of Stiles’s lips.
“Remember when you left with Cora and gave me the keys to this place?”
“I trusted that you wouldn’t destroy it, but I come home to a giant rave and an Oni battle. Never got a chance to thank you for that.” The slight begrudged smile on Derek’s lips makes the knot in Stiles’s chest loosen.
“You’re welcome, big guy,” He lets the werewolf go and they spend a few minutes packing everything up, “Ready to go?”
“Are you?” Derek knows their next stop, and Stiles nods.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
The Stilinski home remains a post-apocalyptic safe-haven, still untouched since last Stiles left it. He and his dad had fortified the place with sheets of metal and wooden stake barricades. Barbed wire circles the entire yard and Derek follows Stiles’s steps to the barred front door. It’s here they find another, longer message.
11/23/2015 Stiles- I came looking for you, guess you’ve been gone awhile. If you get this note, come north and find us in Point Reyes. It’s safe there. I miss you bro. So does my mom, Kira, and Deaton too. Sorry about your dad…I hope you’re okay. Seriously, dude, come find us. It’s boring without you around. –Scott
Stiles tears up when he reads his message, picturing Scott saying it in his head. He can imagine him there merely days ago, looking around Beacon Hills for any sign of his friends. He has been there, he’s alive, and he’s safe.
“It’s not that far…” When Derek says this, Stiles looks up quickly from the note and sees the werewolf staring out into the distance, “Maybe about five hours northwest of here, give or take. If we leave now we’d make it by sundown.”
Stiles kisses him then, because he knows it’s answer enough. Because Derek is willing to get him to Scott no matter what. They stand like that for a few moments, Stiles gripping Derek’s waist and pulling them closer, until Derek pulls away when the boy’s hand squeezes him from behind.
“We won’t get anywhere if you start that.”
“Sometimes I just can’t help myself,” Stiles is grinning then, and it’s so infectious, so filled with hope that Derek smiles back at him. One of those smiles that Stiles considers sacred and special, “Come on, dude! We’re burning daylight!”
Derek doesn’t wait to be asked twice, not when he’s intoxicated by the scent of Stiles’s happiness, one he wished he could make stay for always. And he knows that part of him feels that same hope too. That maybe, just maybe, some of their pack is alive and has been out here surviving this whole time. As they pile into the Jeep, Stiles’s scent changes, his face darkening slightly as his eyes stay forward.
“They might not be there. We might be too late.” Silence is everywhere then because Derek knows this is entirely possible, likely, even. It’s one thing to hope. It’s another to watch that hope go up in flames around you.
“We might not be,” The werewolf reaches over and takes Stiles’s hand as the Jeep rears to life, filled with items they scavenged from the town they once called home, “But either way, shouldn’t we know for sure?”
Stiles doesn’t answer, instead he presses ‘PLAY’ and turns up the Doors loud enough to drown out all his thoughts, both positive and negative.
And he doesn’t let go of Derek’s hand.
We chased our pleasures here, dug our treasures there, but can you still recall the time we cried...
“OPEN THE GATE!”
“We don’t know the…”
“I do! Open the gate!” Scott calls out as he takes off at a run towards the front gate, heart beating wildly in his chest. The Jeep isn’t gray. But it’s a Jeep. And the scent coming off is one he’d recognize anywhere.
Stiles barely puts the Jeep in park before jumping out of the vehicle so fast ne nearly face plants straight into the ground. Him and Scott collide so hard he can feel where the bruise will be but he doesn’t care. Tears spring to his eyes as they cling to each other, and Derek is close, observing everything as always, and it takes a solid minute before Scott and Stiles finally look at each other.
“Bro…do you kinda have a beard?” Is the first thing out of Scott’s mouth and Stiles let out a loud, boisterous laugh before messing up the Alpha’s hair, blinking back tears.
“Good to see you too, asshole.”
“And you found Derek?” Scott looks over at Derek, who nods, and doesn’t fight when Scott comes over and bear hugs him too. When he gets a good whiff of Derek’s scent, his eyes widen before shifting between him and Stiles, but he says nothing.
“We kinda found each other. We’ve been travelling the whole country for almost a year until we decided to go see Beacon Hills again. Scott…dude…If I knew you were all up here and okay I would’ve come after my dad…” Scott silences him then, shaking his head because he knows that in this world, things are never that simple. Finding each other again was enough.
“You’re here now, that’s what matters,” He gives Stiles shoulder a squeeze before a grin crosses his lips, “Man, just wait until my mom sees you. She’s gonna freak.”
“And they’re all…I mean, everyone’s okay?”
“Totally bro, we’ve got a pretty sweet set up. Come on, I’ll take you down there.”
Back in the Jeep, Scott explains his last year and a half to them both. How they found some other werewolves and people gathered up near San Francisco looking to move somewhere more coastal and isolated. Which is how they all ended up at Point Reyes. Miles of coastline at their backs, plenty of greenery and good soil, animals, and supplies close enough to start building. They double fenced off enough area, traps and all, to keep them safe. And they’d been there ever since.
“I wasn’t sure at first but the place IS called Point Reyes…which made me think of Erica. It’s weird, but that kinda decided it for me.”
“It’s not weird.” Derek says firmly as they drive up to a large Vistor’s Center with other ramshackle tents and RVs parked around it, a few makeshift shacks as well.
“We’ve taken over the Ranger’s Stations too. And we’ve got guards posted 24/7,” When Scott mentions ‘Ranger’s Stations,’ Derek frowns and Stiles only offers him a sheepish grin,
“We live in the First Aid Clinic, everyone should be there.”
After being reassured the Jeep would be safe, Derek and Stiles follow Scott to Clinic, a complete separate structure, and Stiles can hear Melissa before he sees her, urging someone to come back tomorrow to get their bandage changed. But seeing her in another thing entirely. She lights up the entire room and her eyes widen the minute she sees them both.
“You’ll have to excuse me, June, but I need to hug some people,” She crushes Stiles in a hug that he doesn’t know he needs until that very moment, realizing just how much he missed her. As much his mother as Claudia Stilinski, maybe even more through everything, and his heart feels so full it’s fit to burst, “You owe me a year’s worth of hugs, kiddo.”
“I…” He’s so choked up now, by her, by the name his dad always used to call him, by all of this, that he can’t speak. So she pulls back and places her hand on his cheek.
“It’s really good to see you, Stiles,” She wipes at her own tears as he nods, turning to Derek then, “I hope he’s hasn’t been much trouble.”
“No more than usual.”
“Good. Now, come here,” She doesn’t wait for Derek, instead she pulls him into a hug too, and part of him needs it just as much. He’s always been good at losing people, but finding them again, now that was rare, “You don’t get off the hook.”
“What’s going on…” Deaton appears, drying his hands as he takes in the sight of Derek and Stiles, a soft smile crossing his lips, “We were wondering when you’d show up.”
“Sorry it took so long.” Stiles says, finally able to speak.
“I’m sure you boys are hungry.” Melissa offers and Stiles answers.
“I could eat.” The look she gives him is pure ‘you think I don’t know that?’ And it’s then Stiles finally realizes he’s found his family and the tears start all over again.
“So…you and Derek?” Scott asks once they’re finally alone. Derek decides to go and wander around the park, curious about the whole settlement itself. But Stiles had expected the series of questioning to start once the werewolf left.
“Me and Derek. That’s a thing that’s happening.”
“You know he did threaten your life like a ton of times, right?”
“He saved it too. It evens out somewhere…” Stiles waves a hand around nonchalantly but he knows Scott’s only concerned. The world may be overrun by zombies, but he’s still worried about Stiles’s love life over everything. Go figure.
“I just don’t get it. Not that I don’t support you or anything, dude, you can like who you like.”
“I can’t really explain it…but it’s like he stopped me from going somewhere dark. If I hadn’t found him…I don’t know what I’d have become. I think I would’ve lost my fucking mind.” Once he says the words out loud, he knows how true they are, and Scott knows it too.
“I don’t think I could be out there alone.”
“It fucks with you, it really does.” He thinks about those few months without his dad, about the loneliness, and knows that finding Derek was the only reason he ever made it here.
“But hey, we’re together now. Best bros for life right?”
“Actually Scott, I don’t think we’re gonna stay.” When the realization hits him, he knows what he wants to do, and he knows Derek will have to agree, but the look on Scott’s face nearly makes him change his mind.
“What the hell, dude? You just got here! Where are you gonna go?”
It isn’t until later, still sweaty and twisted together does Stiles mention leaving.
“But what about Scott?”
“He’s obviously got a pretty sweet set up.”
“And Melissa, and Deaton, and Kira? I figured you’d finally want to settle down somewhere…” Derek trails off, his eyes back on the roof of the tent they set up. Stiles trails his hand up the werewolf’s chest to linger on where his heart beats evenly.
“I do want to settle down. I never thought I would because I didn’t get it. That whole ‘we’re the only ones left, woe is me, there can’t be a home for us’ bullshit is starting to get old,” He sits up to look at Derek who waits for the rest of his train of thought to come, “I want to settle down with you. In Beacon Hills.”
“Stiles…” He’s so taken back by the idea he isn’t quite sure what to say, so the boys keeps talking.
“I know it’s not like the most practical place for us to go. But there isn’t a ton of zombies there and we can build shit and set traps and just fucking live, you know? And it’s our home, Derek.”
“It’s not gonna be easy but like, when has anything we’ve done been easy? I mean, Christ, just the fact that we’re together proves that, right? And if it doesn’t work, we can just come back here.”
“STILES!” When Derek raises his voice, the boy finally goes quiet long enough for the werewolf to get out a sentence.
“I’m in. Let’s do it.”
“Really?” Stiles’s eyes light up and a slight smile turns at the corner of Derek’s lips.
“Really.” And just like that, Stiles’s lips are mashed against his, one hand snaking down between them, tasting the gasp on Derek’s lips as he wraps a hand around the werewolf’s dick.
Stiles’s starts badly singing the words to ‘Love Me Two Times’ in Derek’s ear and he’s more than happy to oblige.
He always is.
They spend the next two weeks at Point Reyes, passing the time sharing stories, getting an actual full night’s sleep, eating things that weren’t canned over two years ago. Stiles admits that they could live there and it would be easy, good, even. And after spending nights playing cards with Scott, making Melissa laugh, walking the beach with Kira, and discussing the undead with Deaton…he nearly changes his mind. But he doesn’t.
He wants to be back where he laid his parents to rest. And he knows Derek will find comfort in that too.
“Are you totally sure about this?” Scott asks him as they load up the Jeep with all the supplies the camp can spare.
“Very sure,” It takes only one glance at Derek to confirm that they’re making the right choice, “It’s not like I won’t see you again, dude. We’re just a few hours away and we’ll check in with each other.” Stiles pulls his best friend in for a hug and holds him tight.
“We can come back with you, help you rebuild.” Stiles pulls back at this and rests a hand on Scott’s shoulder.
“Keep this place safe for now. When we know this is gonna work, we can start moving everyone back who wants to come.”
“It’s dangerous out there just the two of you…” When Scott says this, Stiles pulls back, half-glad that the Alpha hadn’t been with them for the last months. Not with the things both he and Derek had done, had witnessed.
“I know. But believe it or not Scotty, I can handle myself. Plus I got this guy watching my back,” He dares to wink at Derek who only cocks an eyebrow. But Scott seems to understand that they need to go, “Trust me. I got this.”
“I trust you, bro. Just be careful,” Their eyes meet for a few seconds before Stiles goes to hop in the driver’s seat. Derek’s about to get inside but Scott stops him, “I don’t need to give you the ‘if you hurt my best friend’ speech do I?” Derek actually smiles slightly at this and shakes his head.
“Believe it or not I try and make sure nothing hurts that idiot.”
“Just look out for him. And look out for yourself. I know I’m not your Alpha or anything and I can’t make you…” Derek stops Scott in his tracks by reaching out to grip his bicep.
“You’re my friend. I consider that someone worth listening to,” Scott nods, smiling slightly at the other werewolf who has shown him so much, stood by him and his friends through more than they ever gave him credit for. And he gets filled with the realization that Stiles couldn’t be in better hands, “Watch out for your new pack.”
“Same goes for you.” Scott calls back as Derek slides into the Jeep beside Stiles, the Alpha waving them off as he gets smaller in the distance, Derek contemplating his words.
He considered himself a wolf without a pack for a long time. Maybe even before the entire world started to die. But now, glancing at the boy beside him drumming on his steering wheel, one arm slung out the window, smelling like calm contentedness…he realizes he’s had a pack all along.
And it’s Stiles.
It’s far from easy. Edging on barely possible. But that doesn’t stop them. The amount of undead in Beacon Hills is much more than they expected, but they clean them out in shifts, taking parts of the town one by one, always with melee weapons to prevent making too much noise. They make a perimeter of cars around the section of town they plan on inhabiting, set up spike traps, decide to turn the Hale bunker into a storage space for emergencies. They loot the hospital, the school, the stores, and map out nearby towns to visit.
And at night they curl up in Derek’s loft, sometimes pretending the world outside hasn’t fallen to ruin. But they don’t forget. Not about their past that makes Stiles wake up screaming and has Derek get shaky any time they burn the bodies of the undead to dispose of them. Not about their present when a horde will pass through and get close enough to their home it keeps them both up all night holding weapons.
One day, Stiles crosses off the date and realizes it’s been a year since he ran into Derek on the road out of Beacon Hills. He decides it’s a momentous occasion and plans on celebrating in every dirty way he can think of with his werewolf. Which is when he finds Derek outside, doors of the Jeep open, the radio turned up loud enough the music blares out.
Hello, I Love You, won’t you tell me your name?
“What’s going on?” He asks confused as Derek throws him a package of Swedish Fish.
“I know what day it is.”
“Okay…” Stiles stills looks worried and Derek lets out a sigh, wishing he was better at these things.
Stiles, I’m trying to be romantic.”
“Oh, okay. Awesome! Keep going,” The grin that spreads across Stiles’s lips is easy and his eyes widen suddenly, “Wait, you’re not going to propose are you?” Derek gives his best ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ look and Stiles takes the hint.
“I got you Swedish Fish in the first town we looted.”
“Yeah I remember, you nearly got killed because you decided to win me over with candy. Stupid, but cute.” Stiles smiles at the memory, and Derek keeps talking.
“That was the same trip you found The Doors cd and decided we couldn’t drive through the desert without it.”
“My dad always said it was the perfect soundtrack for driving through Nevada.”
“And every other state.” Derek smiles then, but it’s a nervous thing. He’s grateful Stiles can’t read his emotions like a werewolf because he’s certain his heart is pounding.
“Is your version of ‘being romantic’ bashing classic rock?”
“No, I’m…fuck, I’m trying to tell you something, Stiles.” It was then Stiles realizes what song was actually playing, and how on edge Derek looks. Everything seems to click in his head at once.
Hello, I Love You, let me jump in your game.
“Oh my god…Derek, are you trying to tell me you love me?”
“I…” He stutters out, but Stiles is suddenly in front of him, their eyes meeting.
“Jim Morrison says it great and everything, but I’d rather hear it from…”
“I love you.” Stiles doesn’t finish the thought before Derek says it, half-breathless and slightly cautiously. But Stiles is kissing him before either of them can say anything else. Derek hasn’t said the words to anyone, not like this, not since Kate. But that was a different life, a different Derek, and the boy in his arms is proof of all that.
“I love you, too. I should’ve told you like a bazillion different times but…”
“I know. It’s okay.” Derek holds tight to Stiles and doesn’t care if the boy can feel him shaking. Because Stiles’s heart is beating just as fast. The boy curls back into him and closes his eyes the moment Derek’s scruff brushes against his neck.
“Man, you really do have a problem falling for nutjobs huh? And technically I am kind of a killer now…guess I do fit your type. Good thing I’ve decided I’m into the whole, tall, dark, and eyebrows thing.” Derek pulls back then to glare at Stiles who’s grinning happily. But he smells so overjoyed, so purely like himself, the werewolf can’t help but smile grudgingly.
“Do you have to ruin every moment?”
“Have you met me? My middle name is ‘moment-ruiner,’” At the same time, the song starts replaying and Stiles frowns, “If this whole thing is a ploy for me to tell you my real name, keep dreaming, Hale.”
“I already know it,” The pleased smirk Derek gives makes Stiles’s jaw drop, “I found your birth certificate in the hospital the first week we got here.”
“You little…” Stiles gives it some thought for a minute and shrugs, “Well, you did learn from the best.”
“Yeah, I did.”
And Derek silences him with his lips.
They cover the surrounding towns in postcards.
Come to Beacon Hills Outpost. Safe from zombies, working to rebuild, looking for people to help.
Over the last months they’ve worked hard on making their town livable. Not just the loft, other homes too. They write Beacon Hills Outpost in white paint on the cars that comprise their outer wall, Derek having shot down almost all Stiles’s suggestions. They stockpile can goods, bottled water, and medical supplies. Derek hunts animals and they preserve the meat, start planting where the soil’s good, even work on purifying rain water. Scott, Melissa, Kira, and Deaton all plan on making their way back in the coming months.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” It’s the first human voice they’ve heard besides each other in a while and it’s Stiles who opens their metal gate and sees the woman standing there, a little girl clung to her side, rifle slung over a shoulder.
“Hi. Did you see our postcards?” Stiles takes over the talking, leaving Derek looking intimidating behind, sniffing the woman out.
“Are you Stiles?” She asks and the boy looks at her confused.
“How did you know? We didn’t put our names on the ones around here.”
“I recognized the handwriting,” She pulls an old Nevada postcard from her pocket, all worn and faded from time, but he remembers. It’s one of the first he ever wrote, “I kept it. It was nice knowing there were other people out there. And then when we came through town…I found your message. Are you still taking people in?”
Stiles takes in her appearance then, wondering just how far her and this timid little girl have come. They look exhausted, covered in grime, and hungry. Something tells him they ran into plenty of trouble from Nevada to here. He glances over at Derek and when they meet eyes, the werewolf gives him a firm nod.
“Yeah we are. Come on, we’ll get you everything you need.”
The smile she gives him is pure relief and as they follow him into the safe walls of the town, Stiles realizes that these people have been searching for the one thing he thought was gone.
But when he glances at Derek, he realizes that he’s had it all along. They both have. Despite the madness of what the world’s become, they found it, in the place they came back to, in each other, in their pack, in the people they would come to harbor as the days passed into months, into years.
It was home.