Stiles is in a tree. Stiles is in a goddamned fucking tree. He closes his eyes and clings to the branch. He's fine. He's totally fine. People climb trees all the time. Children climb trees all the time. Nobody ever died from climbing a tree. Except that probably they have. Probably, if he makes it out of this alive, he'll google "death by tree-falling" and discover that it's the 5th most common cause of death for 18-year old high school graduates. Fuck.
He opens his eyes. The demon in the shape of a tiny black kitten blinks innocently at him and meows.
"Hey there," he says. "It's okay. We're okay. Everything is going to be okay. I know this park. Nothing bad ever happens in this park. I promise."
The kitten gazes at him, yawns, then darts over his head, down his body, out of the tree, and looks up.
What. The. Fuck.
"What the fuck??!" Stiles yells down at it.
This is the same kitten that he came across as he was walking through the park to Scott's. The same kitten who was caught in the top branches of the tree, yowling piteously, looking like the world had ended. The same kitten that Stiles spent 30 minutes trying to lure out of said tree with encouraging words ("Here, kitty! You can do it!") and specific instruction ("It's okay, just climb down that big branch to the V, then head down the trunk!"). Until finally, exasperated and losing his mind, he climbed up to fetch it down.
It wasn't until he reached the branch the kitten was perched on, looking less piteous by the second, that the wind blew, the branch swayed, and Stiles remembered that he was afraid of heights.
So here he is, clinging and swaying and starting to shake, and the kitten-shaped demon is looking up at him from the safety of the ground and mewing.
He closes his eyes again. Okay. He can do this. He inches backwards. The branch shakes and sways. Stiles moans. This is a life lesson, he tells himself. This is a life lesson to look before leaping. A life lesson that the devil walks in the skin of kittens. A life lesson that no good deed goes unpunished. As soon as Superman comes to rescue him, he is going to file this away and never forget it. He can be taught.
He waits for Superman...
He gets Scott...
"Oh my god, dude. Why are you in a tree? I thought you were afraid of heights."
Stiles looks down and moans again, "I am."
"Then come down! Why are you up there, anyway?"
Scott is a doofus.
"I can't. Kitten." He grimaces and his shakes start worsening.
"Dude, just climb down that big branch to the V, then head down the trunk."
He's going to kill Scott. Right after he stops shaking and gets the hell out of the tree.
"I can't. I really, really can't" And oh my god, he's started crying. His vision blurs and he feels ill. He really hopes that if he vomits, it lands on Scott.
"Stiles? Okay. It's going to be just fine. You're hyperventilating, man. Okay? Breathe. You're fine. You're not going anywhere. We're going to get you out of there, okay? But you need to calm down."
Stiles closes his eyes again and starts counting breaths. "How?"
Scott looks up and when Stiles risks opening his eyes, the expression on Scott's face is not encouraging. He looks dazed and alarmed and worried and like he has no plan. Scott needs a plan. Stiles is in no condition to plan for him. Black spots appear before his eyes and he realizes he's stopped breathing. He gasps. Hyperventilating is better than not breathing at all.
Scott takes a breath. "I'm gonna get help," he says. "I need to get my phone. Just stay there. I mean... don't move. I mean... uh.... just... hang on."
Stiles counts breaths. 1. 2. 3. 4... 2. 2. 3. 4... 3. 2. 3. 4. His knuckles are white with gripping the branch and his leg is falling asleep. He whimpers and starts tearing up again.
This is ridiculous. He knows it's ridiculous. He's not even that far off the ground. If he just let go, he'd probably just break a leg. Or an arm. He wouldn't die. God, he's in a park! The same park he played in as a child. Bad things don't happen in this park.
He tries again to inch back, but now his leg is asleep and his hands are clenching so tightly that he can't unclench them, and his whole world is the branch underneath him and the fear.
1. 2. 3. 4... 2. 2. 3. 4... 3. 2. 3. 4.
He hears a siren, and then he hears Scott's voice.
He opens his eyes and looks down to see Scott and two firemen with a ladder and chokes out a laughing sob. He knows he'll be humiliated later. He knows that he'll never live it down. He'll be teased about this when he's 80. But right now, all he can think is 'Thank you, thank you, thank you!'
The tall, dark-haired fireman looks up and says, "You can climb down if you just inch down that big branch to the V, then head down the trunk. I'll walk you through it."
Stiles gasps, and kind of garbles out something unintelligible, and Scott fills in the gaps, "He's afraid of heights."
The fireman glowers. "Then why did he climb the tree?"
Stiles whimpers and blurts out, "There was a kitten. Oh my god, I'm so sorry. There was this kitten and it was stuck in a tree and it was so scared and I'm so sorry and I can't believe this because I mean I knew that I was afraid of heights and what the hell kind of person get stuck in a tree when they're trying to rescue a kitten, but I just forgot okay? I forgot that irony regularly makes me her bitch and that I shouldn't ever do good deeds and lesson learned and I'm so sorry and I'll never climb trees again but I couldn't stop myself and now I'm here and I can't move and I'm sorry so please help me!"
The fireman looks like he's trying to parse that, and then gets an expression that is somehow simultaneously annoyed and amused.
"Okay, I'm going to set the ladder up, but I have to put it further down the branch, once I get there, you're going to have to move down the branch to get to me. Are you with me?"
Stiles nods vigorously.
The ladder goes up and the fireman he's been talking to follows. The other fireman steadies the ladder from down below. Stiles looks ahead. Four feet. He can inch forward four feet. Any minute now. Yup. He wills his limbs to move.
"What's your name?"
"Stiles." Stiles replies. "What's yours?"
"Derek. Okay, Stiles, I need you to move forward to me."
Stiles nods, but his limbs refuse to budge.
Derek sighs and glares. "Sometime today would be good."
And thinks that maybe he could just live right here forever. Problem solved.
He takes a deep breath and grabs the branch a bit further up, pushing with his one, un-asleep foot.
"That's good, Stiles. That's perfect. Just keep going."
Inch by inch, he moves along the branch, eyes closed, totally focused on Derek's voice.
"Keep going. You're almost there. Keep breathing. That's it. Keep going."
He feels a hand on his own, and is so startled that he almost falls off the branch.
"Easy there. You're so close. Almost there. Just keep coming"
Stiles continues to inch forward, and then he feels Derek's breath on his neck and a warm hand on his already sweat-soaked back.
And then his world tilts as Derek unceremoniously slings Stiles over his shoulder and begins the climb down the ladder.
Stiles's breath is pushed out of his body, and his stomach is probably going to be permanently bruised from the shoulder digging into it, but his fist clenches in fabric of Derek's shirt, and in spite of being upside-down, he feels inexplicably safe.
When they reach the bottom, Stiles reluctantly releases the shirt and Derek sets him on his feet. His legs collapse under him and he hits the ground.
And holy shit. He had thought he was shaking in the tree, but now, with the ground feeling solid beneath him, his entire body quakes and he starts hyperventilating.
Scott is hovering to one side looking like he doesn't have a clue what to do, but Derek lays a solid hand on his shoulder and says, "It's okay. You're fine. You've just had a bad scare. You're fine."
Stiles doesn't really pay attention. He just keeps shaking and saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, so stupid. God, how could I be so stupid?!"
The hand disappears and returns with a small bundle of furry demon-kitten.
"He doesn't appear to have any tags. I suppose I should take him to the pound."
Stiles moves fast, snatching the kitten from the large hands and holding it protectively.
"No! No, it's my kitten! I was just taking him to get tags, don't touch him!"
Derek gets that annoyed-amused look again, and Stiles wonders how the hell he can do that.
"Then you'd best get going, the vet closes soon."
Stiles takes a breath, and realizes that he's stopped shaking.
"I…" he says. "I… thank you. I know that this is probably the stupidest thing you've ever had to do, but… thank you, because I don't think I could have gotten out of there alone and…. cookies.
"I could make you cookies." Stiles nods. "To say thank you. You like cookies, right? Everyone likes cookies! What kind of cookies do you like?"
The annoyed-amused look morphs into pure amusement.
"I like cookies." Derek says. "I have a sweet tooth. But, I'd like dinner better"
"With cookies afterward."
Stiles gapes. "Dinner?" He says again. Hoping to glean more from the word than he had the first time.
Derek steps forward, leans down, and presses his lips to Stiles's. "Dinner. Friday. 7 o'clock. Luigi's."
Stiles nods blankly, "Okay"
"Get that kitten some tags," Derek said, then he and the other fireman walk off.
"What the fuck just happened?" Scott asks.
Stiles looks after Derek, then smiles down at the demon-spawn in his arms. "I told you nothing bad ever happens in this park."