Stiles feels oddly exposed as they walk back to their car, fighting the urge to tug at the collar as everyone stares. He tries to ignore the snarls that turn into smirks as he walks with Derek’s betas. He’s so tense he can barely keep their pace. That’s when he sees the werewolf that attacked him last night in the crowd, and he stiffens all over.
Isaac places a hand on his shoulder, and Stiles cringes away. But Isaac squeezes slightly in what feels like a reassuring gesture, and Stiles pauses in confusion. He doesn’t have time to wonder what that was before they reach the car.
“Did you go to the bathroom?” Erica teases him as Stiles gets in the van. “It’s the last one you’ll see for a while.”
“How long is that?” he asks with curiosity. He’s been camping before, he knows what to expect from a situation like that, at least.
“With Boyd driving?” She grins. “Couple of days, top.”
Boyd is buckling in when he hears that and turns around, smirking back at her. And the way they look at each other...
“Okay, wow, werewolf pheromones,” Stiles blurts out before he can activate his by-nature defective brain-to-mouth filter.
Erica seems ready to say something, but Isaac huffs out a laugh as he sits next to Stiles, ignoring her. “I’m starting to enjoy having you here.”
Erica scowls and sits, glancing one last time at Boyd, who seems nonchalant as he starts the car.
“Yeah? Well I wish I could say the same, buddy,” Stiles mocks.
He feels the rough material of the collar around the tender skin of his neck as he speaks, and it makes him falter. He really shouldn’t be annoying werewolves. Also, he’s going to end up with a rash, he can already tell.
Derek is the last to get in his seat. He nods at Boyd and they start driving away. Stiles turns around, observing the wolf base slowly disappearing through the window, and he suddenly feels the uncertainty pressing in on him. He’s alone in enemy territory and he doesn’t even know where he’s being taken.
His head is throbbing, and his right side still feels tender where the bruises are. Closing his eyes, he rests his head on the window and tries to soothe the headache away.
A bump in the road wakes him up later, startling him for a moment. He didn’t even realize he had fallen asleep. He straightens up, stretching his sore muscles in the little space he has.
“Soooo,” he tries casually. “Where are we going?”
Erica snorts two seats to his right, breaking his hopes of getting this information the easy way.
“No, seriously,” he insists as he yawns. “Why didn’t you just ask me whatever you wanted to know about the Argents right in Beacon Hills?”
“Guys,” he huffs. “Where are you taking me?”
“Hey!” he raises his voice, suddenly very awake and alert as he looks around at the bunch of unreasonable werewolves. “We have a deal, come on, don’t be douche wolves!”
“I liked him better when he was gagged,” Boyd suddenly says, making Erica and Isaac laugh.
“Oh my god,” Stiles widens his eyes. “He speaks!”
His comment gains a snort from Boyd and more laughter from the other two betas. Derek, however, huffs, pinching his nose in a clear show of exasperation.
“We couldn’t waste more time in Beacon Hills,” Derek grunts, and Stiles suspects he’s just trying to make everyone be quiet.
“More time? You weren’t there even a day!” Stiles whines. He could still be in his hometown with the rest of the humans, instead of on enemy land with a bunch of werewolves.
“That you know of,” Isaac grins, still half laughing.
“Okay,” Stiles says slowly. “So you had to leave. Why?”
“Do you always have so many questions?” Erica asks him, leaning forward and looking at him over Isaac.
“Usually,” he shrugs.
“Great,” she says sarcastically as she leans back against the seat.
“So?” Stiles asks after a moment.
“We took a detour before visiting your town,” Isaac explains, making Derek growl. “What? He’s clearly not going to shut up,” Isaac shrugs.
“So, what? Another mission?” Stiles asks in confusion, ignoring Derek as long as Isaac does the same.
“You could say that, I guess,” Isaac pulls a face in wonder.
“Okay, look, you’re currently my favorite because, contrary to them you’re talking. But dude, drop the mysterious pose, it gets old very fast,” Stiles gesticulates wildly as he speaks.
“Your favorite, huh?” Erica appears again in his visual camp.
“Derek?” Isaac asks, ignoring the side conversation going on where Erica grins and Stiles scowls back.
Derek sighs, nodding without looking back.
“We were sent to Beacon Hills, but we took advantage of it to search for the Argents on our own.”
“You all want to find them?” Stiles raises his eyebrows in surprise. He thought the only one interested was Derek, for obvious reasons he’s not supposed to know, anyway.
“We’re a pack,” Boyd surprises him again when he speaks for the second time.
Stiles gapes at him for a moment. “Right,” he murmurs. “I know about pack dynamics.”
“That’s cute,” Erica comments distractedly, her eyes focused on the landscape.
“Wait, so you need permission to like, hunt people?” Stiles shakes his head, frowning as he realizes what all this implies.
“Don’t you humans do the same when you enlist?” Isaac inquires.
“Huh,” Stiles huffs. “I guess we do.”
“We’re a military pack; we get assigned missions, we don’t pick them,” Isaac keeps talking.
Stiles wasn’t kidding when he said Isaac was his favorite right now. Punch in the head aside, he is being the nicest. Although Boyd gave him the aspirins, but he doesn’t talk... Who of these werewolves suck the least? Tough decision.
“My spidey senses tell me you don’t have permission to hunt the Argents, then?”
“Shrewd,” Erica snorts.
“Okay, what’s wrong with you?” Stiles snaps back.
Erica leans forward and looks at him with her eyebrows raised up.
“Or you know, uh, I take it back?” he deflates quickly.
“You’re lucky I had my period last week,” she points out, cocking her head sassily before turning back to look through the window.
The other three werewolves groan at that. Stiles is positive he caught Derek rolling his eyes. Okay, so maybe this is normal for her? Stiles is too useless around any kind of female to be able to know. He’s suddenly so awkward he stops talking and they travel in silence.
His legs start jumping up and down in fast, short movements. He usually can’t stay still, but this is so much worse. He’s drumming his fingers over his knees when he realizes he has no idea of the time, or how long they have been on the road. He’s regretting not wearing a watch; that was a stupid decision. And his stomach takes that moment to growl.
“Do we have any food?” he adventures to ask.
“We travel light,” Isaac smirks.
“Are you serious?” he squeaks.
He hears several snorts and realizes they must be traveling without provisions. That makes him think automatically of sleeping bags and the rest of necessary camping items. Suddenly the next two days don’t seem as easy to handle as before.
“How are we going to eat?” he insists. “Oh my god, don’t tell me you’re going to chase rabbits and make me eat them raw? At least cook them in a little werewolf oven?”
“We’ll feed you,” Derek growls. “Now shut up.”
“I’m hungry now,” Stiles scowls. “And I don’t see anyone stopping the car to go grocery shopping for me in the woods.”
Boyd throws a small Doritos bag back at him without turning his eyes from the road.
Stiles fumbles with his arms, trying to catch the bag for a moment until he finally rips it open, almost spilling Doritos all over him. The moment the smell hits him, he groans and closes his eyes.
“Man, I think I love you,” he sniffs the bag. “You’re my new favorite.” And he proceeds to stuff his mouth.
“You change your mind easily,” Isaac teases.
“Dude, you never gave me food. Food wins against practically everything. The only way you’d recover your status is by having curly fries hidden in that leather jacket.”
Isaac snorts. “I’m afraid I don’t give enough of a shit for that,” he shrugs in a fake apology.
Stiles shoves the last Doritos in his mouth, licking his fingers clean before he clenches his shirt over his chest and fakes pain. “Harsh,” he mocks, still chewing.
The betas seem to be amused by him, and Stiles decides that’s better than being amused by shoving his face into places instead.
There has been a change in their attitude. He's still wary around them even when, technically, he's part of the pack now. He had no idea humans could be part of a pack to begin with. Or that slaves were considered more than just... well, slaves. He decided to cooperate because he knew there was no way he could outrun or escape from a werewolf. So if the werewolves decide to play nice, he’s surely not going to complain.
He’s still not sure about Derek. He’s been remembering things his mother used to tell him about werewolves when he was a kid, things he had forgotten. And he’s still not sure if he wants to keep remembering or if he’s angry with Derek for triggering this.
“So!” he decides to keep the ball rolling. “Military pack. That’s cool. Interesting. How does it work, anyway?”
Derek surprises him by answering this time. “I’m the Alpha. I have a pack, they respond to me, I respond to my superiors.”
“Superiors? Like Super Alphas?” Stiles widens his eyes.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Derek sounds close to rolling his eyes.
“They are all Alphas, but that doesn’t mean they have the same power or status,” Isaac adds.
“Oh,” Stiles points at Derek. “That’s what happened back there, right? They were nearly peeing themselves when you flashed that- that thingie, that round thing!” He gesticulates with his hands.
“Yes,” Erica snaps, leaning over Isaac to look at him. “Derek is a very powerful Alpha, you should be proud to be his slave, so why don’t you show your respect by shutting up?”
“Yeah, about that,” Stiles points vaguely at her, ignoring her suggestion. “What’s that all about being your slave? You were kidding, right? We- uh, we have a deal.” He stutters the last part out.
“You want to live?” Derek glances at him over his shoulder.
“What kind of question of that? I mean, duh,” Stiles open his arms wide in a what do you think gesture.
“Then, that’s the only way to take you with us without getting you killed,” Derek tilts his head slightly back, looking at Stiles.
“Right, so wait,” Stiles rubs his temple. “Why aren’t you breaking my limbs and threatening me to cooperate instead of accepting the deal? And before you answer, I want to point out I’m not complaining, at all. Not at all. I’m just... curious.”
Stiles groans, covering his eyes with his palm. Stupid defective brain-to-mouth filter.
“It’s easier if you cooperate, especially once we arrive in Wolf City,” Derek comments as he looks at the road in front of him.
“Wolf Ci- Chicago?” Stiles breaths out.
“Surprise,” Isaac fakes a cheer.
“Oh my god, I’m going to die,” Stiles freaks out.
Chicago. Where the war started, where apparently it’s like a fricking apocalyptic movie even now, if all the rumors Stiles heard are true.
“You’ll be fine,” Isaac says. “That’s why you’re Derek’s slave now.”
“Dude, don’t-” Stiles shakes his head. “Don’t say that like it’s something good.”
“It’ll keep you alive, moron,” Isaac shrugs.
"But-why? Why slaves? Are werewolves lazy by nature?" Stiles babbles as he starts freaking out. Boyd and Erica snort at the same time, which makes him giggle a little, because come on, that’s funny. Yeah, he’s definitely freaking out.
“What’s the secret? Come on, you can tell me, I’m technically part of the family.”
“It’s a matter of status,” Derek says nonchalantly. “Only Alphas have slaves. It shows their power.”
“So I’m like a trophy wife?” Stiles asks horrified. And why would he even go there? His brain is a weird place sometimes.
“You wish,” Erica snorts.
“Hey, rude!”Stiles admonishes.
“Our turn,” Derek says, startling him as he pulls the sunshade down and angles it to look at Stiles through the little mirror.
“Uh,” Stiles falters, leaning against his seat.
“The Argents,” Derek arches an eyebrow.
“S-sure,” Stiles gapes. He isn’t a werewolf but he can feel the sudden change of mood in the car.
“You said they were your neighbors,” Derek says. “How many of them were living together?”
Stiles frowns, threw back by the unexpected question. That’s the kind of information they want?
“Uh, six people?” he says, unsure.
“Are you asking me?” Derek cocks his head.
“No, no of course not,” Stiles snorts, trying to sound carefree. “There were six people living in the house. But they worked with a lot more hunters. They weren’t Argents, though. I think Allison had some cousins who accompanied her father and the rest when they were out in the woods, but I never met them.”
Derek nods. “Weapons?” he asks next.
“I guess they were especially fond of crossbows,” Stiles speaks without thinking. “I know Allison was very good with one. I remember because at first I thought it was lame until I saw the arrows with exploding heads and all the ammo they had designed and created. Man, that room was out of a Terminator movie. It was nearly indecent the amount of wolfsbane they used.”
“Did you ever go with them?” Isaac asks after an odd pause.
“What?” Stiles asks indignantly. “Are you out of your fricking mind?”
He has no idea why he’s taking the question so badly, it’s not like he cares what any of them think, although the thought of being associated with the Argents is unbearable.
“Alright,” Derek nods. “You passed.”
“Passed? What? You decided to test me after we crossed the border?” Stiles squeals.
“It wouldn’t matter which side of the border you were on if I determined you were of no help,” Derek smirks.
“Dude, there’s no need for a display of threatening skills,” Stiles complains. “I said I knew them because I do.”
“Cocky, I like that Derek,” Erica suddenly says naughtily.
Ignoring it, Stiles asks the question before he even knows he’s thinking it. “Are you trying to find Gerard?”
“We want them all,” Derek arches an eyebrow; he looks surprised for a second, even.
And Stiles nods. Good, that’s good. He has no idea where that came from, he doesn’t even want to think about it. But if they are after the Argents, and they deal with Gerard... He sags against the seat. During the five years since his mother died, Stiles has been carefully raising barriers around his memories, blocking certain ideas, denying certain emotions. But now that he slipped and thought of Gerard, and god just thinking of that name makes him choke, now all his thoughtful work is slowly crumbling down around him.
Stiles notices Derek regarding him oddly, his intense gaze studying him, and Stiles can’t suddenly breathe. He grabs his knees and squeezes, trying to hide how badly he’s started to shake.
“Derek,” Boyd warns.
Derek looks at him a moment longer and Stiles can feel his stare tearing slowly away as they discover the road ahead has been blocked.
“Shit,” Derek mutters, and suddenly the car is filled with a vibrating feeling, a mix between anticipation and excitement.
“Stop the car,” Derek orders. “Erica, with me.”
They are out in a flash, both rushing to the pile of trunks and wild undergrowth blocking the road. They’ve started to push away some of it, when they tense.
“Rogue!” Erica warns. She looks scared, which worries Stiles instantly.
Isaac is suddenly pushing him, opening the door and shoving him out.
“What are you doing?” Stiles protests as he nearly drops to his knees on the ground. Boyd is there, too. They circle him and move together to where Erica and Derek are.
“I thought we were in a safe zone for you guys,” Stiles sounds frantic to his own ears as he speaks.
“The fact that it’s werewolf territory doesn’t mean there’s no danger,” Isaac growls, yellow eyes inspecting around them.
“So what? Is this a trap?” Stiles asks as he looks around, too.
They widen the circle, all the werewolves sniff and study their surroundings. And Stiles has never felt more impotent in his life. He can’t see or hear anything.
“No,” Derek said. “This thing saw the opportunity in a neglected road and decided to lurk.”
“Thing?” Stiles hisses. That doesn’t sound good.
“Rogue shifter,” Isaac explains. He must have been silently assigned to protect Stiles because he’s not leaving his side. “They don’t care about the war, they don’t have a pack; we aren’t even sure if they are more than animals. But if he senses we’re here, he’ll try to kill us.”
“Holy God,” Stiles breathes out. “And I thought you were the worst bunch I could have had the bad luck of stumbling into.”
“Turns out you were wrong,” Erica winks, quickly turning away to keep inspecting around.
“It’s moving, we need to get out of here,” Derek growls.
“What about the car?” Stiles frowns.
“Staying in the open isn’t safe,” Isaac grabs his arm and pulls him forward.
“No more talking,” Derek says pointing at Stiles before he starts jogging toward the line of trees on their right.
They leave the road behind, going after Derek. Isaac walks before him, and Boyd behind. Stiles tries to keep their pace quietly, but in his defense they are running pretty fast and it’s hard to see where his feet are stepping now that it’s getting dark. That’s why he fumbles and nearly falls a couple of times. So not his fault.
Boyd huffs behind him and a moment later he’s being thrown over his shoulder. Stiles tries not to squeal as he shoves back, trying to get back on his feet.
“Don’t be stubborn,” Boyd admonishes as he pats his butt a couple of times, like you do with babies to calm them down.
“This is the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me, just so you know. Just so you remember you’re the one responsible for this permanent trauma,” Stiles murmurs frantically. He can hear chuckles ahead and that’s it, he’s officially flushing.
They move uphill until Derek orders them to stop, and Boyd drops him.
“Thanks for the ride, I delegate you to the favorite position by the way,” Stiles huffs.
“Quiet,” Derek snaps.
That’s when Stiles realizes they moved up to find an advantageous position.
“You expect that thing to attack?” Stiles asks.
“I know he will,” Derek scowls.
That’s when a shadow jumps from behind them and kicks Erica to the ground, impressive claws tearing her jacket apart on the back.
Boyd is moving before Stiles can even blink. He kneels next to her, defensive stance ready as he tucks her immobile body in his arms.
“Boyd!” Isaac yells when he sees he left his protective position.
“What’s wrong with her?” Stiles freaks out. “What was that?”
He can’t even explain what he saw. It was so fast and it’s so dark in the forest, Stiles only got a glimpse of scales and a long tail, like a reptile. Definitely not a werewolf.
“She’s paralyzed – don’t let it scratch you,” Isaac explains, manhandling him closer to where Boyd and Erica are.
Isaac and Derek stand in front of them, claws out and ready. Stiles crouches next to Boyd; he takes a look at Erica and instantly regrets it. She looks dead, unmoving eyes open to the night, head craned oddly to one side, tangled legs folded under her. A second inspection reveals she’s breathing, at least.
They hear a screeching to their left and Isaac is suddenly on the move. He jumps, crashing against the thing midair.
“I’m taking Erica out of here,” Boyd yells, rushing into the woods and disappearing.
Derek growls, and Stiles notices for the first time he’s wolfed out. Even the second time, it’s still as impressive as the first. He runs to help Isaac, and together they try to immobilize the creature.
It’s starting to look good. Well, Stiles can’t really see how it looks exactly, they move too fast and it’s practically night already. But it seems they can contain it, until the creature uses its tail and whips them away, sending them flying against the nearby trees.
Stiles gapes. He holds his breath, praying Derek and Isaac will get up. If they are out, Stiles is screwed.
That’s when he feels reptilian eyes on him. Stiles looks around nervously. He can’t see anything, but he decides to scramble away.
Isaac is still on the ground, groaning. He’s holding his side where a branch stabbed him. Derek seems to be fine, though. He gets back on his feet and stares at his beta for a second before moving.
The creature screeches closer to him than before and Stiles panics.
“Derek!” he yells without thinking.
He stumbles and nearly falls down, and that’s when he sees it. The reptilian shifter is perched on a tree, yellow eyes fixed on him.
“Stiles!” Derek barks, but it’s too late. The shifter has leaped down to the ground and is now right in front of Stiles, showing his grotesque teeth and hissing. “Stiles, run!” Derek insists, his voice low and animalistic.
Stiles sees him leaping onto the creature’s back and he turns around, seizing the moment to run into the woods without a look back.
Running downhill helps him to move faster, but it also complicates things. One bad step and he’ll start rollingl. Stiles runs through the forest as fast as he can anyway. It's so dark he can barely see anything. His feet step on something slippery and he loses his balance, the rugged ground making him fall forward.
He crashes against a tree, uncoordinated limbs trying to cushion the impact without success. He feels the bark scratching his face and then he's hitting the ground.
Stiles groans, knocked breathless by the impact. His right shoulder took the worst of the damage. He holds it with his hand before he spins around, trying to determine if there's someone near.
Back against the tree, he tries to slow his breath. That's when he sees it. A shadow that wasn't there before. It moves slowly toward him and Stiles scrambles away, wincing as his sore shoulder bumps against the tree again.
He's using his hands and heels to crawl backwards when the creature jumps forward and lands on his feet. Stiles gapes; he's never seen anything like it. He's never heard of anything like it, either.
The creature observes him, his reptilian eyes fixed on him as it tilts its face, making Stiles frown. He has a strange feeling, like he was being recognized. But that’s crazy.
He hears a growl at his back and Stiles sags in relief. He throws his head back to look and sees Derek crouched, face completely wolfed out, red eyes flashing in the night. And Stiles feels strangely comforted. That's a creature he knows, at least.
"Get out of the way," Derek growls, eyes flickering over him a moment before concentrating on the threat again.
Stiles rolls to the right, trying to move as fast as he can away from them. He crouches and starts running.
He runs without direction. He’s already out of breath and completely lost when he hears something that makes him stop in his tracks.
He must be hallucinating. What he just heard is not possible. Maybe the several hits to the head he’s received in the last couple of days are catching up to him? But he’d swear he just heard Lydia Martin.
He shakes his head, resuming the march when he hears her again. And she is calling someone. In fact, he hears her twice more. He’s sure of it.
“Uh, Lydia?” he whispers, because alright, he may be going along with an hallucination but there’s still a dangerous creature out there, so he’s not going to yell, just in case.
Turning around, he sees a shadow approaching. For a second he thinks it’s Lydia, but the shadow is all wrong for her. Stiles panics until he sees red eyes and sighs in relief.
“Derek,” he calls.
Derek is there in a second, grabbing his wrist and pulling him to the left. He stumbles trying to keep his pace, his free hand clenched around Derek’s forearm to get some support.
Derek pushes him against a tree, placing his hands on the bark on either side of him, using his body as a shield.
“What’s going on?” he breathes out.
“Shut up,” Derek mouths, his hand curling around Stiles’ neck, right over his collar.
Stiles startles, growing suddenly still. He can feel the rough material burning his skin raw as Derek’s hand moves, rubbing it around his neck, pressing slightly harder.
“W-what?” Stiles stutters out. But Derek growls right next to his ear, low and rough, and that’s enough warning to make Stiles stop.
After a while, the adrenaline starts wearing off. It’s the tension, the waiting for the next horrible thing to happen, that finally breaks him. His body starts to hurt and ache everywhere. He can barely feel his legs, his shoulder is throbbing where he hit that tree, the side of his face is burning and he can feel the blood pooling in the crook of his neck cooling down. His stomach picks up that moment to growl again, and Stiles sags, breath catching in his throat as he tries to hold back a sob. This is starting to be a little bit too much.
Derek surprises him, moving his hand away from the tree and circling Stiles’ shoulders. “Hold on a little longer,” he whispers against his head.
Stiles nods, suppressing a groan when Derek tightens his hold and his shoulder protests.
“That’s it, she contained it,” Derek sighs, stepping back.
Stiles leans against the tree, knees suddenly too weak. “What did you say?”
“We need to go back to the car,” Derek says, ignoring him.
“Derek,” Stiles insists.
“Let’s go,” Derek grabs his wrist and pulls him forward, indicating he should follow.
“What about the others?” Stiles whispers as they move through the forest.
“They’ll be there,” Derek replies, already ahead of him.
“And that thing?” Stiles finally asks.
“Gone,” Derek says without looking back.
“That’s good, right?” Stiles says, his teeth chattering.
It’s not that he’s cold; he supposes it’s more of a post traumatic effect. He can’t stop seeing those inhuman eyes and shivering
“Careful,” Derek turns, stretching his arm to offer his palm. It’s so dark Stiles can’t really see what’s on the ground, but he hears the water and imagines they’re crossing a brook.
He clasps Derek’s hand and accepts his help to jump over it. He fumbles forward when he lands, colliding against Derek who just holds him steady.
“Keep moving,” Derek says after a moment, dropping his hand and letting him go as he resumes walking.
Stiles falters less than a second before he’s going after him.
When he sees the road through the tree line, Stiles sighs in relief. He’s never been so happy with the prospect of going back to a stolen car.
Isaac appears all of a sudden, rushing toward Derek and giving him a quick hug. He doesn’t stop asking if he’s alright until Derek grunts affirmatively, pushing him toward Stiles. Isaac seems satisfied after a couple more minutes and he moves to Stiles.
Stiles will never admit how grateful he is to see this werewolf, but when Isaac holds him and helps him the rest of the way out of the woods and into the car, he almost thanks him.
Stiles drops onto the seat and closes his eyes a moment, still unable to understand what the hell just happened. He looks to his right and sees Erica next to him, body slack and awkwardly placed.
“You’re bleeding,” she says through her teeth, and Stiles suspects she can’t even move her jaw.
“You look great,” he replies, sighing tiredly.
Erica chuckles, or so Stiles believes, because the sound comes out weird.
Looking through the front window, Stiles sees the three werewolves moving tree trunks away from the road. They move so fast, Stiles can barely see them in the night.
“How long are you going to stay like that?” he asks, deciding that learning about shifters can’t be bad.
“Depends on how much poison I got into my system,” Erica grunts. “Boyd pulled out a lot, so I should be fine soon. I can already feel my toes.”
“That’s... good, I guess,” Stiles frowns. “Wait, how did Boyd- No, never mind.”
Erica snorts again. She’s starting to sound a bit more normal, Stiles realizes.
Once they have cleaned a path big enough for the van, they get back. Isaac gets inside through the other door, moving Erica to his lap, carefully placing her dead limbs in a comfortable position.
Boyd looks back at them once, and then he starts the car and they rush away from there.
“How is she?” Derek asks from the front seat.
“I’ll be fine,” Erica says weakly. “I’m starting to feel my limbs.”
“Alright,” Derek sighs, rubbing his face.
Isaac pulls the hair away from her face, kissing her forehead as she closes her eyes. Stiles looks away, suddenly uncomfortable. There is nothing sexual between them, but their level of intimacy is perhaps worse for him than if they were just making out. He’s never let anyone in like that since... Yeah, not going there.
"Is anyone going to explain what just happened?" he bursts out, wanting a distraction.
"We told you," Isaac sighs. He looks tired. Stiles had no idea werewolves could look anything but menacing and perfectly groomed. "Another kind of shifter."
"You mean he's someone like you," Stiles corrects.
"No, not like us; this kind of shifter, they reflect what they are inside, it’s not right, they are..."
"Abominations," Stiles murmurs, receiving an intense stare from Derek, who nods after a moment.
Stiles can't stop thinking of his mother. Did she know? What did she think? Did she ever see one? Would she have defended that reptile, too? It's been a long time since he allowed himself to have this kind of thought. Wondering about the things she did, the things she liked, the things she knew.
His heart clenches painfully and Stiles curls instinctively.
"Hey, you alright?" Isaac asks, his hand on Stiles' sore shoulder.
"What's wrong with him, his heart beat went suddenly insane," Erica says, gazing sideways at him from her position in Isaac’s lap.
"I don’t know, he's injured but I don't think that's it," Isaac wonders, fingers inspecting Stiles carefully.
Stiles tries to push him away, tries to get some space to breathe. He's suffocating, the pain in his chest blinding him.
"Don't touch him," Derek says.
Isaac looks back and forth in confusion but moves his hands away, leaning against the door and bringing Erica with him.
"Take this," Derek hands him a bag.
Stiles lifts a shaking arm and grabs it. It's a big bag. His fingers fumble as he rolls it into a smaller space and places it around his mouth, breathing inside.
He’s had worse attacks, before. He keeps thinking this is mild, this is nothing. He rolls his shoulder to feel the pang of pain in his right arm and he thinks of that, tries to rationalize his body’s response. As he keeps breathing, his eyes find Derek's and they stare at each other.
Something happened in that forest. When Derek saved him, risking his own life, something changed between them. And Stiles can't help but remember those years of school when he used to observe the Hales from a distance. He sees the broody, wide-shouldered kid Derek used to be. A lot of people in his grade had a crush on him. At least before everyone knew he was a werewolf.
He reasons with himself that Derek saved him because he needs him. And that's probably the truth. But Stiles is too shaken, memories of his mother currently branded on his thoughts, and he doesn't care about Derek's reasons. He's grateful. He's alive because of it. He owes Derek.
And as he thinks all this and looks at him, the oddest look crosses Derek's face and, for a silly moment, Stiles thinks he read his mind.
He feels suddenly sick, a wave of nausea rocking him forward, gagging inside the bag.
“Stop the car,” Derek orders.
And a second later he’s opening Stiles’ door, guiding him out, where Stiles bends over and dry heaves, his whole body clenching and unclenching as it tries to empty his already empty stomach.
“There goes my Doritos,” he hears Boyd saying, and it almost makes him chuckle.
When the nausea is over, he stays there–hands on his knees, head bent down. He feels the tears in his eyes as he takes deep breaths.
“Come on,” Derek rubs his back once, twice, three times and then he’s moving away, back to the front seat, leaving him behind.
Stiles scrubs his face clean with the sleeve of his shirt and he goes back to his seat, curling against the window and away from all of them.
It had been a long time since he had a panic attack. He feels mortified and infuriated. His mouth tastes awful, and he’s thirsty and hungry. He’s mad he threw up the Doritos. He decides to close his eyes and try to forget.
Derek hears Stiles as he falls slowly asleep.
“He’s hiding something,” Derek finally says when he knows Stiles won’t hear them. He sighs, rubbing his eyes as he leans his head back.
“What do you mean?” Isaac asks in a low tone.
“I still don’t know but I can feel it,” Derek is suddenly very tired.
“We’ll find out for you,” Boyd says, eyes still on the road.
“About that,” Derek turns his head to the left, facing his betas. “You’re doing a good job, keep doing exactly what you’re doing, especially you Isaac.”
Derek can feel his beta’s satisfaction.
“Don’t be so proud because your Alpha complimented you,” Erica murmurs. “This kid is easy to manipulate.”
“Not true,” Derek huffs, closing his eyes. “Be careful.”
“Yeah,” Isaac nods. He still has Erica on his lap, constantly petting her hair. When Derek turned them he never thought they’d get along so well, and now they are like Siamese siblings.
“I’m kind of liking him,” Boyd startles them with the comment.
Derek opens one eye and looks at him sideways.
“He’s funny,” Boyd shrugs.
“I guess he’s making things easy for us,” Isaac agrees.
Erica snorts. “It’s so easy to win you two over. I still think he’s a loser.”
“No, you don’t,” Derek shakes his head, frowning as he studies the road ahead.
“Derek,” Erica admonishes him. “That’s not fair.”
“Sue me,” Derek says distractedly, body bent forward as he looks through the front window.
“Something wrong?” Boyd asks, body already taut and ready.
“There’s an abandoned farm ahead,” Derek comments.
“I–” Boyd falters. “I can’t see it.”
“Trust me, it’s there. Turn to your left and follow the path.”
“Are we stopping?” Isaac asks.
“We need to rest,” Derek answer after a moment.
“But we’d arrive tonight if we–” Isaac tries to complain.
“Not open for discussion,” Derek says sharply.
They may endure more than humans, but they still need a break. He has to look after his betas, and this is exactly what they need, even if they still don’t know. Also, now that Derek is sure this human could bring him to the Argents, he doesn’t want to lose Stiles. And Stiles needs a break more than anything.
He still doesn’t understand what triggered the panic attack, but he supposes that finding out you live in a world where creatures like that exist is enough reason. Even then, he can’t help but feel there’s something more. Something he’s not telling them. It could be anything, but Derek’s instinct is telling him Stiles’ secrets concern him.
“By the way,” Erica murmurs. “Did you hear the girl tonight?”
“What girl?” Isaac sounds confused.
Boyd doesn’t reply, but his skeptical look through the rearview mirror is indicative enough that he knows nothing about a girl.
“Derek?” Erica asks.
“No,” Derek lies. Lying to your own betas is not really that hard. He’s not sure of what he heard tonight, but there was definitely someone else out there. It doesn’t matter, though. They left the shifter and whoever was with him behind. It doesn’t concern them anymore.
Once in the farm, Isaac brings Erica inside a little barn and stays with her while Boyd goes to bring a meal.
Derek circles the car, going to Stiles’ door. His idea was to shake him awake, but when he sees him deeply asleep, something stops him.
Cursing, he grabs the boy around the shoulders and under the knees and lifts him. Stiles is not small; his limbs are long and gawky, he’s as tall as Derek, but Derek could lift the car with one hand, so it’s not really that difficult for him to carry a human.
Stiles is so out he doesn’t even wake up. He mumbles something against Derek’s shoulder when Derek lays him down in a pile of dry straw and then he’s curling in on himself, oblivious to the world.
Derek hesitates a moment. He’s taken a step away when he curses and takes his jacket off, dropping it over Stiles. He’s wearing his collar; Derek has a responsibility for him now. And that’s exactly what Derek wanted to avoid.
He leaves his two betas with Stiles in the barn and goes out, getting the empty bottles from the car and going to find the stream he heard when they arrived.
As he hikes through the camp, he remembers this morning when he ordered his betas to get closer to Stiles as part of his plan to get the information on the Argents. It feels like it happened years ago. Not because today was a long day, but also because they progressed so quickly.
Derek can tell in the way Stiles has started to relax around the betas. Even when still guarded, Stiles is starting to be more himself around them. And he can tell his betas are starting to accept him into the pack. It could be troublesome; Derek is not sure of Stiles’ fate in all this, and he doesn’t want his betas to grow fond of a human. Humans tend to die easily. But for now, he decides to let it go. Because that way he has mediators dealing with his supposedly new slave.
He has no idea what he was thinking when he had the idea of bringing Stiles as his slave.
Revenge, says a small voice in the back of his mind.
And it’s true. Derek would do anything to avenge his family. Even torturing himself, doing things, going places he doesn’t want to. Revenge is his main drive. If someone discovered he’s using time out of his missions for his own personal vendetta, he and his pack would be in trouble. He cares about his betas, he turned them himself under certain circumstances that bonded them together, but he couldn’t stop even for them. Even if that meant putting them in danger. He just can’t forget, can’t move on. He needs to find the Argents and kill them with his own hands.
Inside the barn, Boyd is using a corner where the ceiling is missing to cook the game he hunted. Meanwhile, Stiles is awake, sitting next to Erica as they seem to talk about something.
Derek pauses, observing them.
“I love that issue of Batman,” she says animatedly. And Stiles beams, he smiles openly at her, without any reserve.
“Want help?” Isaac is suddenly there, taking a few bottles away from his hands.
Derek shakes his head slightly, looking away from Erica and Stiles to regard his other beta. “Yeah,” he murmurs.
“You okay?” Isaac frowns.
“Fine,” Derek moves away to where Boyd is cooking.
“Lots of rabbits in this area,” the boy comments cheerfully.
Isaac snorts. “You mean you didn’t hunt only rabbits on purpose to spurn Stiles on, huh?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Boyd grins, turning the rabbits over the fire.
“Bring them over,” Derek tells Isaac, when the dinner is ready.
“Hey, Boyd,” Stiles calls when he arrives. “You like Batman, too?”
“No,” Boyd comments, deadpan.
Stiles looks surprised. He looks back at Erica, who is slowly walking on her own, and back at Boyd, like something wasn’t right. Shrugging, he sits down on the floor and crosses his legs.
“How are you feeling?” Derek asks him.
Stiles seems startled for a moment. “Better, I’m... yeah, better.” He rubs the back of his neck. “Uh, I wanted to thank you for-”
“No need,” Derek interrupts him. He doesn’t want to hear it.
“No, but I wanted to,” Stiles emphasizes.
They stare at each other and Derek wonders when the last time that someone met him halfway like this was. It’s not that Stiles is reckless, or fearless. He still reeks of terror from before, and Derek knows he has scared him on other occasions. He knows he’s wary of werewolves, and yet he doesn’t seem able to hold back whatever he thinks. It’s actually kind of amusing, if you ignore how annoying it is.
“Here you go,” Isaac hands Stiles a whole roasted rabbit.
Stiles looks at the meat with horror on his face and then he looks up at Boyd. “Very funny.”
“I cooked it, didn’t I?” Boyd grins and Stiles surprises them when he starts laughing.
They all observe him laughing for a while, until Stiles calms down and wipes his eyes. He bites straight from the rabbit’s leg and groans in appreciation.
“Man, this is great,” he says through a mouth full of meat.
“You’re feeling better,” Isaac grins as he gorges his rabbit.
Stiles only shrugs, too busy eating to speak. After that they all devour their food in silence.
“There are things we need to discuss before we arrive in the city tomorrow,” Derek says a while later, when he senses Stiles is getting sleepy again.
Stiles doesn’t even react. He looks at him from his position on the floor, hands over his stomach.
“They’ll want to know about your father,” Derek decides to explain, hoping to catch his attention.
“My father,” Stiles sits up. “What about him?”
“I’m going to report we killed him,” Derek looks him straight in the eye.
“O-okay,” Stiles stutters. “That’s good, right? That means no other werewolf will go after him, right?”
Derek senses Isaac nodding next to him. He knows that the moment Stiles realizes that because of that lie, Derek will have to kill Sheriff Stilinski the next time he gets the chance, the fragile peace they have will come crumbling down. But he hopes that by then it won’t matter anymore.
“No one else will search for him,” Derek nods, too.
Stiles sags, his arms giving in as he lies back down on the floor. He sighs, deep and slow. And Derek knows that feeling, like he’s had a weight lifted off of his shoulders.
“There’s something else,” Derek adds.
Stiles lifts his head to look at him, expectant.
“We will have to pretend in front of everyone,” Derek continues. “And we better do a good job, because the moment someone suspects anything, we’re in trouble.”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Stiles sounds confused.
“It means you will have to look like his slave for real,” Isaac adds.
“Uh okay, creepers,” Stiles stutters slightly, licking his lips in a nervous gesture Derek is starting to know. “What does that involve exactly?”
“For starters,” Boyd explains as he studies his nails, “you have to show respect.”
“I’m a very respectful-” Stiles starts to complain until he sees Boyd bring out his claws.
Derek has to duck his head down to hide the smirk when Stiles gets startled and looks at Boyd in horror.
“Never talk back,” Boyd growls. “Especially not to Derek; he’s your Alpha.”
“In fact,” Erica adds. “Never talk, period.”
“What?!” Stiles squeals. “No talking?”
“Not unless another Alpha or Derek gives you permission,” Isaac shrugs.
Stiles looks at them in disbelief and Derek just waits. This is a decision Stiles needs to make alone. If they go into the city and Stiles does something stupid because he wasn’t sure, they will be screwed.
“This is the last time we discuss this,” Derek adds. “We’re giving you one last warning. Once we’re in the city, there won’t be more discussions. I’ll have to report about the capture we made, about you,” he continues. “You will be my slave to everyone else’s eyes, and we’ll work on the Argents in secret, is that clear?”
“And then you will let me go?” he asks tentatively.
Derek pauses a moment. “I gave you my word.”
“I know,” Stiles shrugs. “I’m just making sure. I’ll stay with you while I help you find the Argents, and then I’ll be free to go. Right?”
Derek nods, not wanting to get into more details. He wonders if Stiles will grow warier when he sees the city and where they are staying. It won’t be as easy as free to go, but that’s something Derek doesn’t care about right now.
“Once we know where to go, I’ll fill out a request for permission to chase,” Derek decides to explain, to keep him as willing as possible. “That’s when you’re free to go.”
“Okay- Okay, that sounds good,” Stiles nods a couple of times.
“My uncle will be interested in my sudden change of mind when he hears I came back with a human slave,” Derek adds. “He will want to meet you, and that’s going to be tricky.”
Derek feels his three betas moving uncomfortably in their spots, clearly uneasy about the idea of his uncle.
“We’ll help you,” Derek says to reassure them more than Stiles.
“Right, you mean you’ll help me as long as that helps you,” Stiles snaps.
Derek arches an eyebrow, not even bothering to answer that.
“Stupid question, of course you will,” Stiles shrugs.
“Stiles,” Isaac jumps in. “We all need each other; you’re pack now. Even if we’re pretending, it’s very real out there. We’re not going to abandon you, and you won’t betray us, either.”
“Uh...”Stiles rubs his neck. “I’ll take that as a vote of confidence instead of the veiled threat-”
“Stiles,” Derek catches his attention. “This is important. We won’t get in the city if you’re not sure about this.”
“You decide,” Erica winks.
Stiles takes a deep breath and Derek hears his heart beating double time.
“Okay,” Stiles nods. “Okay, yeah. I think I can do it.”
“You think?” Derek arches an eyebrow.
“I know,” Stiles emphasizes.
“Good,” Derek nods. “Then let’s try to sleep, we’re leaving at first light.”
As everyone gets up to find a comfortable place to lie down, Derek notices Isaac and Erica passing Boyd a couple of crumpled bills. And he realizes this is going to be a lot more complicated than he anticipated.