It’s been a hundred days.
Sometimes the radio still plays music. It’s eerie, like hearing ghosts in the machine. The first time, the brick-and-mortar of the station was local and easy to find. There was no one inside, just a computer running queued up songs and commercials for tires and Taco Bell.
The second time was the same. And the third. And the fourth. They’ve stopped thinking that a radio station means other people.
The radio hums white noise until it chokes on a song, coughing up lyrics, possessed by demons of the Top 40 Hits, then gone again, exorcised into the ether.
But sometimes, luck holds and the station lasts a few miles down the road.
They were a two-car caravan. Derek salvaged CBs out of a few semis, Stiles taking pictures of the stopped traffic on the interstate, and with his finger, he carefully wrote RENO OR BUST in the dirt on a Lay’s Potato Chips truck.
‘Reno?’ Derek asked, shoving a CB at Stiles.
‘Didn’t you ever watch cartoons? Now I’ve got me a radio, I want an awesome code name. I need a trucker name. And a trucker hat. Preferably John Deere. I look good in bright green and eye-watering yellow.’
‘No, you need to shut the hell up and help me get these radios hooked up before it gets dark.’
Stiles squinted at Derek and Derek glared back.
‘Fine. But I’m still gonna get an amazing trucker name. Optimus Prime or something. You can be Megatron,’ Stiles said.
‘I will transform you into a heap of bleeding bones,’ Derek said.
‘I weep for your childhood.’
The Camaro dies. The Camaro dies because Derek drives it into a tree when he falls asleep behind the wheel and Stiles screams over the CB.
They split up to cover more ground (“great, we’re both gonna die,” Stiles says, “‘cause that’s what people do in horror movies, and guess what, we’re living in a horror movie, they’re called survival horror since you’re supposed to survive,” and Derek retorts, “Cheer up, Stiles, maybe you’ll live,” and Stiles revs the Jeep’s engine, “Fantastic, I’ll be the Final Girl, I’m ecstatic”). It’s a simple run, reconnaissance north of Beacon Hills, but they’re both exhausted, the silence is so thick and always present, it’s driving Stiles mad, so he talks more, he talks constantly, he talks until he’s just putting phrases together like beads. Derek can’t sleep, shifting to wolf at night, and Stiles can’t sleep, watching Derek stare out the window as the world does nothing but stay silent.
They’re exhausted and Stiles is talking over the radio, his hand sweating on the mic when suddenly, Derek says, “Stiles—“ and there’s a screech, metal crumpling and crushing together, glass breaking with a high-pitched shriek.
Stiles spins the Jeep around, back to the fork in the road where they separated and he can see it, a black arrow speared against a tree. He slams on his brakes and throws the Jeep into park in the middle of the road.
He screams and runs and Derek’s folded in the front seat, steering wheel jammed against his chest, blood on his forehead, blood all over the dash and windshield, and the car curved into the tree in ways it isn’t supposed to.
“You fucking sonuvabitch motherfucker!” Stiles yells and he can’t get the door open, it’s bent somehow Stiles can’t even see, hidden collision physics trapping Derek inside the lockjaw of the car. He brushes glass away from the driver’s side window, fingertips catching the tops of shards and he’s bleeding when he touches Derek.
“Derek, I do not want to have to punch you again, don’t make me crawl into that car Dukes of Hazzard style and kick your wolf ass, you wake the fuck up right the hell now and get out—“
Smoke and he can smell gas, there’s a faint dripping noise and it could be blood, but maybe not.
“Stiles, did you call me a motherfucker.”
Derek’s eyes are huge, dazed, and Stiles laughs out his shock.
Through the window, out of the car, Derek controlling his breathing, Stiles controlling his shaking hands, they make it back up to the road to collapse against the Jeep.
The asphalt is warm. Derek sighs, dark and low, as he starts to heal. Stiles wipes blood on his jeans. He isn’t crying; Derek doesn’t have a hand squeezing the nape of Stiles’s neck, nope, not at all.
The radio plays as the Jeep idles.
They have two gas cans, Stiles’s backpack, an assortment of duffel bags, three guns, several boxes of ammo, food, a few books, the one remaining CB, a suitcase-sized first aid kit, and some money.
They have Derek’s wolfliness, as Stiles calls it, and all the superpowers that come with it.
They have Stiles’s cleverness, resourcefulness, and sense of humor (“be grateful you’re stuck with me, I light up your life with the funny, it’d be a bleak apocalypse without me, I guar-an-tee”).
They have a photo of a honey-haired woman with Stiles’s eyes and mouth hugging a grinning man in a neatly pressed police uniform; they have a letter written in a curlique hand signed Laura with a smiley-faced heart; they have a high school yearbook; they have a sheriff’s badge and a leather jacket and a collection of hoodies strewn in the back seat.
It happened like this. In a lab somewhere, an organism replicated and mutated. People got sick and died. There were fires. A paranoid old man shot the sheriff and Stiles almost went crazy as his dad’s eyes closed, their father-son hands squeezing Stilinski blood between their fingers. The military took Mrs. McCall because she was medical personnel and she took Scott because he’s her son. The Argents followed because they had military connections and combat skills, and Allison wouldn’t be separated from Scott.
They couldn’t take Stiles. A soldier shoved him back into his driveway, said, ‘I will shoot you, sir.’
Stiles had two gravestones and a single casserole.
Lydia disappeared with Jackson because his family evacuated with money and means, so she bit her lip, hair like red streamers, and left.
The rest of the pack devoured itself.
Stiles sat in his room, alone, in a house that creaked when the wind blew. He sat on his bed and stared at the wall.
Then the town went quiet as he ate chips and salsa at the table in the kitchen.
And Derek appeared in wolf form, sprinting through the open front door.
The first day, Stiles called Derek and said, ‘You’re still here,’ and Derek almost wrecked the car at the sound of his voice, the way Stiles said it like it was a wonder, a sight caught in the sky that blinded him as he said you’re still here.
Stiles counts from the day the town went quiet, when Derek padded into the kitchen and Stiles was crying, tears dripping down his wrists.
He tasted like salt when Derek nudged him, nose cold to his skin, tongue licking a finger. Stiles laughed then.
He doesn’t laugh as much now, but. Sometimes. Like on the good days when they catch the radio waves just right.
It’s been a hundred days.
Stiles takes the sunglasses.
They've been winking at him from the counter next to what’s left of the gum and atomic fireballs. Cheeky, sparkly red heart-shaped sunglasses. He tears the tag off and slips them on, the hearts' points brushing his cheeks when he bares his teeth at the security mirror.
Outside, he shoves a quarter into the machine, gets a handful of Reese's Pieces, shoves a quarter into the other machine, gets a purple bouncy ball.
He climbs into the Jeep, humming, dropping Reese’s into his mouth and the whole world is red through the glasses.
"What're you wearing." Derek appears out of the gas station shadows because that's his shtick.
Stiles rolls his eyes and the world rolls red. He purses his lips, gives a fake simpery laugh and Derek scowls at him.
"You're still wearing them."
"Of course I am. You're not the boss of me. You're not my supervisor, grandmother, uncle, cousin, stepsister, long lost ghost twin, partner in a buddy cop movie, book club dictator, Bruce Wayne—"
"So, no, good sir. The glasses stay. On my face. I say good day."
"I SAID GOOD DAY."
"You know, those Reese’s are probably really old," Derek says. Stiles peers at him.
"What." He turns the key and the Beastie Boys scream out of the radio, looking down the barrel of a gun sonuvagun sonuvabitch gettin' paid gettin' rich. As he flails to turn down the volume, the bouncy ball escapes and Derek snatches at it like a pop fly. "Good catch, Cal Ripken."
"It is purple! Hooray! My glasses are red! The Jeep is blue!” Stiles waves his hands as if he’s done magic. “The gas station is a dirty shade of white! Let’s try saying the colors in Spanish! That Twinkie is amarillo! The grass is verde! You are looking murderous!”
“That wasn’t Spanish.” The expression on Derek’s face says he’s not amused, but he is, he’s totally amused, he’s amused in that little part of him that counts as a heart, Stiles can tell, Stiles has learned some of Derek’s little ticks over the past year or so, especially now that it’s just him and ol’ ruffled fur here, and.
It’s just them.
It’s. Them. They haven’t found anyone else in a hundred days. Just corpses or shallow graves or empty cars, houses, buildings, hospitals. Almost all of California is drained of human life.
It’s just them.
His knees buckle, Reese’s skittling to the ground except for the few stuck to his palm, streaks of orange and brown, and he can hear his heartbeat loud in his head, like his breathing, harsh and thrashing, there’s gravel pressing into his face, the world is red everywhere because it’s just them.
Stiles, Stiles, hey, what’s going on, what’s happening, what the fuck is – okay, c’mon, boy wonder, c’mon, what do I—
He can hear Derek as if he’s falling off a cliff, voice echoing down at him through a rush of wind that might be his lungs grasping for air and maybe he’ll hit the ground and this will all be over.
Stiles. Open your eyes.
Open your eyes.
The world isn’t red. In fact, the world is blue, azul, and white, blanca, and Derek’s face is gray, gris. There’s something on Stiles’s chest, on his sternum; when he shifts, it’s Derek’s hand. In his free fingers, Derek fiddles with red plastic.
“You broke your glasses,” he says with a frown and Stiles nods.
“Did I pass out?”
“No, but you tried. You made an effort.”
“This isn’t the time for joking, the time for joking has passed, it was while I was going all Dora on your ass, you uncultured swine,” Stiles says, “if you don’t learn other languages, how can you expect to be as amazing as I am. I AM BATMAN.”
Derek sighs and his mouth curves as if he’s smiling, Stiles is amazing but now he’s dizzy. “I’m driving, Batman. Deal with it.”
“One day, I will bring you down. Lemme find my batarangs. JUSTICE.”
He gives Stiles a bottle of water and a KitKat and there’s some manly helping-Stiles-to-his-feet and more manly making-sure-Stiles-doesn’t-fall-over, then there’s some not at all awkwardness because for a minute, Stiles can’t get his sudden claw-like grip to let go of Derek’s shirt.
Stiles climbs into the passenger seat and tips sideways. Derek just shoves him over a little so he doesn’t sit on him.
They leave. He’s almost asleep when Derek throws something at him.
A new pair of heart-shaped glasses. Cheeky, sparkly. The world is orange, naranja.
They don’t stay in Beacon Hills.
There isn’t a reason to.
Derek watches Stiles tuck his hands deep in the pocket of his hoodie. “North or south,” he asks.
Stiles shrugs, one shoulder at a time, in a wave. He stares at the motel sign, where the I in ‘inn’ is flickering.
They can’t stay here, motels lead to nasty surprises: bodies in rooms; the rare infected insane; or once, a row of rooms, a Little League baseball team headed somewhere (nowhere), all their gear and toys left abandoned that Stiles stared at sad-eyed, clutching a striped stuffed elephant he’d picked up from a bed until Derek wanted to drop-kick the toy out into the dumpster.
They have two baseball bats now.
The infected are few and far between, thank fuck, because they aren’t human anymore; they’re crazed, dangerous, and vicious. There’s no reasoning with them, whoever they were is gone; Stiles tried to talk a woman down, they’d found her holding a tiny Iron Man backpack with OWEN inked on it; ‘think of your baby, think of your little boy,’ Stiles begged, ‘he misses his mother, we’ll get him back to you, let us help you.’
The woman almost gutted Stiles with a steak knife in the middle of a filthy Olive Garden parking lot before Derek ripped her hands off at the wrist. He broke her spine at the bottom of her skull, teeth crunching down hard, claws digging into her shoulders.
He wouldn’t look at Stiles until he’d gotten rid of the blood on his face and Stiles kept saying, ‘Are you hurt, what in the everlivin’ shit, Derek, Derek, did you just fucking infect yourself?!’
No infection, no turning, he feels his blood burn, a sizzle as if it’s cauterizing foreign antibodies, and his healing doesn’t slow.
He shakes off the shift usually before checking on Stiles.
It’s happened a few times now; he has a routine.
This motel is just a pit stop and the I in the sign finally fizzles out with a hiss. Stiles continues to stare at it as dusk gathers and the parking lot lights kick on.
They need to sleep, Stiles is practically vibrating and Derek’s vision is dark at the edges.
Stiles blows out a slow breath, hands twisting in the pocket. “Wanna check out the town?”
Shelter is always good; it’ll be full-blown night soon. Derek says, “Sure.” He turns to the motel office to see what they can scavenge.
And the wind whirs as Stiles yanks him backwards, hard, the kid is lanky but strong, he pulls Derek back so quick with all his wiry weight, Derek bites his tongue.
He’s growling, but Stiles’s voice is startled loud in his ear, “Tripwire.”
A single dull line cuts in the light on the pavement near Derek’s boot. Tracing the air with his finger, Stiles mutters, “Rube Goldberg even. Tripwire breaks, leads to other wire, leads to—“
A bundle of grenades swings overhead, almost lost in the leaves of the trees.
“Holy shit,” Derek says. They stand there in shock, Stiles’s grip tightening around his shoulders and ribs.
“Let’s skip town,” Stiles says. “Keeee-razy idea, I know, but let’s give it a shot.”
Derek swallows, takes a step back, gently, and Stiles moves with him, not letting go.
“Let’s skip town,” Derek echoes. “North or south.”
Against his back, Stiles shrugs.
“Real men do laundry,” Stiles says.
“You’re a real American hero,” Derek replies.
“I am pretty special.”
The Laundromat has a small generator; Derek hooks it up, gets it running and he hears Stiles whoop from inside as something clang clang clangs, the lights flooding out into the dark.
“PINBALL, OH MY GOD.”
“Laundry first,” Derek directs, pointing at their duffels and Stiles glares, “Yes, please, ruin Laundromat Nirvana by making me do chores.”
Derek shrugs as if he can’t change the rules of the universe, “Real men do laundry.”
Stiles throws his hands up, “oh my God,” and starts separating the clothes by color. Which is impressive. Derek tends to just wash them all together.
“You wash everything in one big load, don’t you. Of course you do, you don’t wear color.”
He looks up from watching Stiles’s hands to see he’s being stared at like a zoo animal. Laura used to pick apart their dirty clothes and on laundry day, they’d go out, get pizza, New York style, greasy, one slice almost as big as the paper plate it came on, they’d fold it in half and eat, and Laura smelled like wolf, like the earth, instead of exhaust and concrete and gutters. They’d sit in the Laundromat and play Monopoly and the board had claw marks on it from when one of them cheated, the banker, it’s always whoever’s the banker.
Clicking his tongue, Stiles rolls his eyes. “How did you ever survive to become the oh-so-menacing werewolf man you are today.”
One of Derek’s shirts is dangling from Stiles’s fingertips as he eyeballs a stain on it, blood if Derek recalls and maybe puke because Stiles had tripped over, literally tripped over a body only to land on another body and his hand went through its stomach when he tried to stand up, then he puked on Derek since that’s his life now.
He realizes this is his life now. Stiles is saying something about word ninjas, eyes like copper under the fluorescent lights, mouth moving, that mouth, Derek’s always focused on his mouth and eyes to make sense of what Stiles is saying, and outside of the sharp chemical smell of detergent, he catches a scent, warm and content, like apple pie.
They need to do laundry, right the fuck now, before Derek snaps, he can feel his teeth lengthening, his wolf restless because this is Stiles happy and for the last week, living on the road in their dirty clothes, Stiles’s scent has gotten stronger, that smell Derek can sense over a long distance, can pick out of a crowd, it’s heavy and contagious and it clings to him like nothing else has. It smells like home.
Stiles’s heartbeat clangs in his head, louder than the pinball machine, steady and flowing, and he listens, lets himself calm down, doesn’t think about how it’s been over a hundred days and it might be just him and Stiles.
The pinball machine says, “MULTIBALL MADNESS,” and Stiles laughs in his boxers and the score clicks higher on the screen.
Derek will shift, go outside and scent around, looking for humans, looking for other wolves, every fucking day.
Stiles puts his feet up on the dash and eats Red Vines.
Without fail, Derek howls and Stiles shivers as the sound echoes out, day or night.
There isn’t a reply.
Derek bark-howls again.
Silence, then softly, he hears Derek whine.
Then there’s a thud against the Jeep door; Stiles shoves it open, so Derek can scramble in, jaws shut tight, gaze and muzzle down in dejection. They can fit when Derek curls up, paws and tail tucked in, and Stiles copies him, hands and knees drawn up.
The wolf’s nose is cold against Stiles’s neck. He grabs a handful of fur.
This is how Stiles finally falls asleep.
Stiles has low-grade panic in his spine. It’s been there since the beginning and it hasn’t gone away. Every morning, he tells himself it’s fine, he’s a big boy, he’s safe, he has Derek who uses his eyebrows for good not evil. Derek who he annoys the living shit out of, allegedly.
But Derek won’t leave him to die, the asshole can barely take two steps without getting himself killed somehow even in the middle of nowhere, yeah, Derek could get himself killed if he were dropped in the smack dab middle of a corn field with no one around for five hundred miles.
So he lets the panic sit and not do anything because if he does go crazy, he’s not taking Derek with him.
When he isn’t sleeping, he hallucinates seeing his dad. He has the sheriff’s cold weather coat, still with the BHPD patch on it, the letters S-H-E-R-I-F-F stretched across the back.
It smells like his father.
“There’s a cabin,” he says suddenly, remembering, he stops on the road so he can focus (no Adderall means his brain is everywhere at all times) and Derek waves at the yellow line (no reason to drive in lanes, why drive in lanes when there is no traffic, “c’mon, Derek, be adventurous! … or not, see if I care, stoppit, I can see you flexing your claws”) like they’ve stopped on the fucking Yellow Brick Road.
“There’s a cabin, north and and and west. We used to go fishing. Male bonding weekends though my mom would tag along, then catch more fish than we did. She knew how to clean ‘em too.” The steering wheel creaks, so Stiles lets go, the pattern pressed into his palms. “It’s on a lake, it’s remote, isolated…we could go there. Hide out. Light roaring fires and read poetry and stare into each other’s eyes.”
Derek snorts a laugh. “I thought I was the big bad wolf.”
“You thought wrong. Obviously. Not the first time.” He copies the radio’s static under his breath, sssssssssiiiiiisssssshhh, while Derek mulls it over and wears red, wait, Derek’s wearing Stiles’s biggest red hoodie, Stiles really is the big bad wolf.
He stares at the road and remembers what it was like before: running, not dying; worrying about Scott and Lydia; watching Allison take charge in ways he couldn’t; seeing Derek save him and sacrifice for the pack and make mistakes; Boyd and Erica and Isaac sharing a smirk in the trees at something he said; Scott saying something obvious; Derek sitting on his bed, leafing through his Trig text, and Derek smiling when Stiles said, ‘You wouldn’t know your sine from a hole in the ground until you tripped and fell in and left your cosine hanging out for all the world to see.’
Now he watches Derek stare through the windshield at the trees outside, eyes tracking things Stiles can’t see or hear, he watches and he also remembers the dry-mouth want, he remembers the stark fear and annoyed arousal, he remembers the adrenaline of running to save Derek, his brain in overdrive, shit shit shit please don’t die please don’t die on me no one else needs to die for me don’t leave me holy fucking shit.
He takes a deep breath; Derek’s gaze turns to him and he thinks the wolf can scent him.
So they head north and west.
The cabin is remote and isolated, Stiles wasn’t kidding. Derek drives past the sign for the lake, then follows Stiles’s directions, turn left here, see that fence? follow the fence until the blue mailbox, turn right, then we go one two three four sign posts, then turn left and cliiiiimb the mountain.
Seriously, Derek is turning onto roads that look like they don’t really exist, just footpaths cut through the forest floor and the tires slide on pine needles.
But then the trees open into a clearing perched on the side of the mountain and a huge cabin appears, brick and wood and shelter.
“Ta-da,” Stiles says tiredly. He has dark circles under his eyes, making them look enormous, he’s paler than usual, mouth a stark mark in his skin. “The key is always hidden on the feeder.”
A red-and-yellow hummingbird feeder, still full of ruby liquid, a shimmering green light floats around it.
“Hi,” Stiles says to the hummingbird. They kind of fidget at each other, the hummingbird’s black-drop eyes watching until it flits away and Stiles makes a move as if he’s going to chase it, so Derek catches his wrist and Stiles is still fidgeting, moving, always moving.
The cabin is clean and spacious, living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, bathroom, and a smaller all-purpose room with washer and dryer. The view is fantastic, all trees and the silver of the lake.
It’s forest quiet, an occasional rustle of an animal but pure-air still.
They unload the Jeep and Stiles stumbles on the porch a few times. Derek races ahead of him to the Jeep, meets him at the steps because at any moment, Stiles is going to pitch forward and break something, probably himself.
“Go sleep,” Derek says. Stiles shakes his head, stubborn, pouting, “There’s nothing wrong with me,” so Derek grabs his arm and hauls him into the master bedroom.
Pushing him onto the bed, he orders, “Sleep. Now.” He doesn’t wait for a response, just leaves to finish moving their gear.
A garage shack around the back of the cabin; it’s perfect, Derek maneuvers the Jeep in there, out of sight, they’re well hidden for now from…whatever.
Then he’s standing alone in the trees, watching clouds roll in from the northwest, dark and he can smell the lightning, the rain. He waits, lets the thunder break overhead.
He stands in the rain and breathes.
Stiles sleeps for a day. And Derek stays awake the whole time.
He’s exhausted and thinking and that’s never a good combination. Somehow, they’ve escaped Beacon Hills, escaped the reach of the infection, they’re safe.
Stiles says something in his sleep, words pushed into the pillow; Derek leaves the bedroom doorway to hook up the CB in the living room.
Stiles is something else. Stiles is other. Stiles is loyal to a fault with a protective streak a mile wide and that limitless drive to do good, to not let anyone die, that same drive his father had that made him the sheriff.
He won’t let Derek die. But he’ll want to go find Scott, find Lydia and Jackson, he’ll want to go out into the open country and find someone, another human somewhere, he’ll want to do good for anyone and everyone, if there’s anyone left.
And Derek just wants to sleep, wants to stay for more than a day, wants to stop the fear that almost makes him shift constantly, he has to force it down every day.
He wants Stiles to stop moving and just stay.
Derek sighs, dusting off the CB, and his wolf whimpers.
Stiles is other. Stiles is a wolf who shifts into a human, not the other way around, not like Derek.
Maybe they’re safest here.
When Stiles wakes, he’s in a bed he doesn’t recognize, surrounded by a musty odor, and he scrambles out of the room to realize he’s alone. Oh hell, the cabin on the side of the mountain at the edge of the apocalypse. Right.
He wanders around, scratching his belly, yawning. He’s still in his road clothes. Their meager food storage has been scattered around the kitchen. Their duffels are in a pile in the living room.
He twists the faucet knobs. Running water. That spells S-H-O-W-E-R.
The CB is plugged in. He flicks on a lamp. There’s still electricity. Electricity and clean running water mean there might be someone here in the area. Maybe. It’s a long shot. He feels the weight of his phone in his pocket, goes to charge it before he remembers. Why should he. Unless he’s going to take pictures. He has a camera for that, sure it’s a crime scene camera, but who cares. His laptop is dead weight. He misses the internet. The forest is really, really quiet.
“Derek? Gummi bear?”
(Last week, he’d started using pet names, just to watch Derek’s mouth crumple further and further into a scowl, ‘toots, cupcake face, marble abs, candy sweetums,’ his shoulders going tense as if he were just waiting, as if once Derek was set loose by the right name, he’d decapitate Stiles, Highlander style. It was a way to pass the time and it tickled Stiles pink. Rosado, even.)
A radio on the mantle and after a click, a song appears, mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone, even with someone they love.
Stiles leaves it on for noise.
The air smells like a rainstorm, the skies still heavy-looking, but he needs to be outside, he needs to take a deep breath. He pushes open the door – there’s Derek in wolf form.
Asleep, as if he’s guarding the entrance.
“Of course,” Stiles says, dragging a hand down his face. He sits down next to the wolf, watching closely to see the long, lean black sides rise and fall, rise and fall, then he props his elbows on his knees and waits.
Kicking off his sneakers, Stiles shoves his feet into boots and takes an exaggerated deep breath as if he’s getting high on mountain air. “All right, Jeremiah Johnson. Let’s go.”
They hike. Stiles checks on the Jeep. Then they circle the cabin in ever-growing outward spirals, seeing what there is to see. Derek trots alongside, rubbing his flanks against trees, and Stiles rolls his eyes.
“Yes, this is your territory. For now. I’m so happy every squirrel needs to know this. ‘Cause it’s important. Go mark that log over there, I think you missed it. Wouldn’t want the skunks to think they were welcome here. No siree.”
Derek huffs, sounding like he does in his human skin, so Stiles huffs back, he’s not going to take shit from Derek even as a wolf. Until Derek winds around him like a cat, fur pressed to Stiles’s jeans and Stiles throws up his hands, “Oh my God, yes, thank you, for that, so when I fall down a well, Lassie, you’ll be able to find me. Also, not your territory.”
A small growl and a flash of fang and Stiles thwaps Derek lightly on the muzzle. “Next time we scavenge food, you’re getting dog food. Canned. That gross, disgusting wet stuff that just slops outta the can, just all—“
A louder growl, Derek’s attention snapped away, and he goes so impossibly still, Stiles tries not to move. He resists the urge to say what is it, boy, huh.
Then Derek’s nudging him, herding him back towards the cabin, his gaze wild and intense, and shit, Stiles doesn’t have a gun on him, he’s not in the habit of hiking in the woods with a 9mm tucked in his waistband, shit hellfire.
He’s seen Derek hunt before, chase down a kill for food, though it really messes with Derek’s head; he hates losing himself, he said once he thinks he could just stay a wolf sometimes, but he has to be brought back, brought back to earth, back to his feet, the anchor works two ways. And now, Derek’s hunting, but he’s protecting Stiles, Stiles knows where the priority is, keep the human safe; he bites at his lips and follows along to the side door of the cabin.
Then Derek gives him a long stare and Stiles nods before the wolf disappears into the midday shadows, headed around to the front. Inside, Stiles finds the shotgun, cracks the barrel, loaded, he doesn’t worry about making noise, he lets the gun speak for him to whoever is out there. He really hopes it’s human.
He’s worked on his Old West swagger before for Halloween (even though Scott said it made him look like he was drunk) and now he uses it to step out onto the porch, Red Vine hanging out of his mouth, shotgun in his hands.
A tall, lean woman with dark red hair is staring at the hummingbird feeder, hands on her hips. She has two dogs with her – no, they aren’t dogs, they’re fucking wolves.
She says, “What are you doing here.”
“Taking a nap,” Stiles says. The wolves watch him lazily until Derek appears on the porch and stalks to Stiles’s side, then their gazes go cold.
The woman’s eyes go into slits as she sees Derek. “I see you’ve brought a pet.”
“I get lonely. Ol’ Toothless here keeps me company.”
On cue, Derek bares his fangs. Stiles laughs.
Shaking out her hair, the woman gestures at the wolves next to her, “Only certain people keep the company of wolves,” and for a blinding second, Stiles is reminded of Lydia and he’s almost sick for everything they’ve left behind.
He grins instead, chews on his candy.
“Yeah, we’re special snowflakes. Should probably be in a nature documentary. With good narration. I prefer British, probably David Attenborough, though I wouldn’t mind some old fashioned see the wolf in its natural habitat, this is an extraordinary treat, to see a pack hunting in broad daylight wearing bowties—“
“You talk a lot.” She throws it out there as if she’s amused, but there’s an undertow of threat, dark and red and heavy.
“Yes, ma’am, I do, and Toothless is here to make sure I live to talk a lot more.”
Derek’s better than a trained monkey, he growls and gives a sharp bark that makes the hackles rise on the other wolves.
“Calm yourself, alpha,” the woman says with a flick of her fingers. “We scented strangers. You don’t smell infected. So you’re on a probationary pass. You can stay. For now.” The wolves shift into absolute giants of men, no lie, the men are huge and naked and Stiles fits the shotgun against his body for a quicker draw. He thought that might happen, there might be a world where a woman actually keeps pet wolves, but it actually isn’t this world, and the woman continues, “If necessary, we will kill you.”
He feels a warm body against his back, Derek shifted to human, his voice low when he replies, “We understand. We aren’t looking to trespass.”
The men have already disappeared into a red SUV and the woman heads that way, saying, “In the valley. Twenty miles. No boundaries around the lake.”
They drive off in a cloud of dust.
“Toothless,” Derek says, completely ignoring the fact that he’s naked and Stiles stares anywhere, anywhere else, up, maybe he’ll stare at the sun and go blind.
“Yeah, these are the laughs, grumpy, so get to laughing.”
Of fucking course, the first contact they have in almost four months is with werewolves.
Stiles lifts the shotgun to his shoulder, takes aim at the sky.
“Stiles,” Derek says from the doorway, “did you eat all the Pop Tarts?”
He doesn’t pull the trigger.
They make a mistake.
They turn the lights on as the sun goes down.
They’re eating rice with soy sauce (or soy sauce with rice in Stiles’s case) because Stiles opened all the cabinets in the kitchen and said, ‘We have rice.’
Derek says, “What about Scott.”
Stiles purses his lips around a mouthful of rice. “What about him.”
“Do you wanna go find him?”
Stiles’s scent plummets, sadness and grief, and Derek’s about to backpedal, “Never mind, shit—“ but Stiles says, “No.” Licks his lips and says, “He’s. He’s probably happy. And safe. Got his mom, got his girl, got a whole bunch of scary competent people with guns, everything a guy could want. I don’t wanna…”
“What,” Derek says. “You don’t—“
“I don’t wanna jeopardize that.” He stares into his bowl. “The soldier, back in Beacon Hills, he told me they couldn’t take civilians. They could help civilians, but they couldn’t just drag them along—“
“Liability.” Derek feels homicidal. Stiles’s expression breaks, he looks lost, so completely young, then he’s Stiles again, rueful smile on his face.
“I’m just surprised—“
And something slams against the front door.
Three men, drunk and armed, Derek can scent them, whiskey, beer, gun powder, “we know you’re in there, you’re probably hoarding, aren’tcha, let us in and there won’t be no trouble, we just wanna be neighborly.”
A snort of laughter and one of them mumbles, “Yeah, neighborly.”
Stiles is making crazed hand motions, like he’s signaling a SWAT team and a quarterback and a landing airplane, so Derek snatches at his arms, mouths gun, and strips to shift.
There is no way they’re dying tonight.
The door smashes in as Stiles reappears with the 9mm and Derek lets his fury rise, fangs and claws long, and a man says, “Oh shit, Tom, that’s a wolf, Tom, that’s a fucking wolf.”
“Shut the fuck up, Paul. Always wanted a wolf pelt,” Tom says with a sneer, “and lookit, a boy with a peashooter. You two have any goodies? Any nice toys? Let’s have us some fun!”
The fight is vicious.
It’s all flashes, like chopped film, Tom comes at Derek with a Bowie knife, blade shining, and Stiles shoots him in the shoulder as Derek sinks his jaws into that sweat-stinking beer belly, right down to his intestines. He tastes blood and fear, drunk rage and desperation. Stiles makes a noise, then sharp cracks of bone on flesh, Paul is punching Stiles, kicking him in the ribs as he falls, and Derek rips out Paul’s Achilles tendons, crippling him so Derek has more time to enjoy the crunch of the man’s throat between his teeth.
The third guy is saying, “Tom, what do I do, what do I do,” over and over.
Stiles says, “You better fucking run,” leveling the gun at the guy, arm clutched around his stomach, blood on his face and chest, mouth a swollen bruise.
“You piece of shit! Look what you did! You fucking piece of shit!” the guy screams and he raises his arm, he has a bat, he swings at Stiles, but Derek darts in the way, catching the blow across his side and back, then a second panicked blow and Stiles is yelling, pulling the trigger again again again, the shots loud as Derek falls down, pain taking over everything.
The man runs, screaming.
They lie there, panting. Derek’s ears are ringing, he’s too hurt to shift back; he breathes slow, pushes with his back legs to inch towards Stiles.
In the garish lamplight, Stiles cries without noise, tears sliding down his cheeks, making tracks in the blood. His breathing sounds wet. Derek can smell the bruises forming on him, the wounds deep under the skin, and he gnashes his teeth against the floor.
“Well, fuck,” Stiles says. He slips a hand through the sticky red and props himself against the wall. “Fuck.”
Then he reaches out and Derek meets his fingers, Stiles’s blood smearing over his nose as Stiles awkwardly pets him.
He rolls onto his uninjured side, focusing on the expansion of his ribs. Gently, Stiles finds the tip of a fang and presses his thumb against it.
First human contact in over a hundred days. It is unbearably violent.
They get a moment of peace.
Then the CB crackles alive, “Shots fired, shots fired, anyone picking up?”
And Stiles laughs with blood on his teeth; Derek’s tongue lolls out like a smirk.
“Geronimo, I hear ya, I’m headed west, copy?”
“Copy, Bear, I’ll meet you at mile 16.”
Stiles drags himself standing and walks to the CB, clearing his throat, all he can taste is blood. He clicks the button on the mic.
“Hello out there, shots fired at my location, welcome to the party.”
There’s a firestorm of noise, then a voice says, “Copy. Station Geronimo requesting identification. You picking us up?”
“Five by five, Station Geronimo,” Stiles says, “this is Batman in Gotham. Clarity?”
“Five by, Batman,” the voice returns with a chuckle. “Sounds like you’ve got a mess?”
“419. Two DBs. One assailant fled on foot, over.” He doesn’t look back, but he can feel Derek’s eyes on him, so he says, “Can it, wolfy.”
Derek huffs like he’s laughing.
“Location, Station Gotham?”
“The Hotchkiss cabin, CR 205.”
“Lights are on.”
Stiles closes his eyes. A little while later, an engine prowls into the drive.
A man calls out, “Hello?”
“No one here but us squirrels,” Stiles calls back, then there are footsteps on the porch.
A badge on the man’s chest and he says, “Well, shit on a shingle, son, looks like a helluva of a party. Too bad we forgot the onion dip.”
The red-haired woman steps up behind him, walking straight through the gore and viscera. “It’s Tom Schmidt. And Paul Carmody.”
The man shakes his head. “Well, shit.” He rubs a hand over his mouth. “Knew they were gonna do something stupid. You got a name, kid?”
“Stiles Stilinski, sir.” First normal human contact and Stiles doesn’t want to start lying too much now. Honesty is best, his dad would say, though usually it was because Stiles had broken something or was busy saying ‘uh, Dad, what if—‘
“Stiles Stilinski, that’s a nice weapon you have there. May I see it?”
He says, “Identification, sir?” and the man chuckles, the same laugh from the CB.
“Deputy Sheriff John Fox.”
The deputy smirks as he unclips the badge from his pocket. “You want my police history, starting at the academy?”
“Son of a sheriff, sir. Old habits,” Stiles says. He hands over the gun as Fox nods, sniffing at the barrel before giving it back.
Derek limps closer. The red-haired woman says, “Good thing your dog was here.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He feels something curl in his chest, cold and hard, and she smiles like she can see it.
Stiles gives his statement. The men charged into the cabin, drunk and disorderly, demanding goods, then the men attacked. Yes, his dog is trained; no, he doesn’t need a muzzle. No, he’s not alone, he’s traveling with a friend who went to find provisions. Yes, he’ll come down to the town in the morning. Yes, he was a friend of the Hotchkiss family.
“Not every day we meet Batman,” Fox says.
“Not every day we meet humans,” Stiles says without thinking. He flinches, but no one seems to notice.
The red-haired woman says, “Tom Schmidt had it coming. Kept threatening to steal our supplies too. Tried to kill one of the officers last week. Paul Carmody was a brainless thug who helped Schmidt. So don’t expect much in the way of justice coming down on you.”
“I mean it, John. They did us a public service.” She crosses her arms. “There’s hardly any law left now.”
Fox nods again, slow, says, “We’ll send the doc.”
Too wired to sleep, Stiles limps around the cabin, touching things, the radio, the CB, a can of beans, Derek, a deck of cards, the duffels, his sneakers. Derek tracks him from where he’s lying on the floor, barks when he leaves the room, so Stiles sighs, “Fine, you freak of nature, fine.”
He plays solitaire.
Derek stares at the door.
The doctor is at the cabin at first light. He checks Stiles thoroughly while Derek paces nearby.
“Your dog always so nervous?”
“Yeah, he’s wound a little tight.”
Black and low, Derek growls and Stiles sticks out his tongue when the doctor turns away.
“Young man, you have a broken nose, which I’ll set, a nice shiner, pair of beat-up ribs, bruises, scrapes, and you probably bit somewhere in your mouth, but you should be right as rain soon enough,” the doctor pronounces, fingers hovering over Stiles’s nose and Derek growls again when Stiles gasps, the doctor taping the cartilage into place.
“I’ve got some cash,” Stiles starts because surely he has to pay this man, he will definitely go down into the town, they understood his story about the attack, they took the bodies away and helped clean with some spit and polish, their kindness is overwhelming, it’s making him dizzy, and the doctor has him by the shoulder, “No need, kid, no need. The world’s gone to shit. What do I need money for?”
“Then you’ll have to let me help somehow,” he presses.
The doctor watches him for a second. “You’re good people. I’ll let John know. He has all kinds of projects going up around town. But first, you rest.”
Then he pulls jerky from his pocket and gives a piece to Derek.
“I’ll see ya ‘round.”
Derek shifts to eat, hell yes it’s damn good jerky, and Stiles is laughing under his breath until he sees the bruises, long purple-black double slash along Derek’s back curving to his chest.
“Holy fucking home run, Batman, that is – you really didn’t have to—“
“I thought you were Batman,” Derek says, voice rusty from not talking for so long and Stiles flushes under his bruises and bandages.
“Does that make you Robin? You gonna run around in little green scaly panties? I might pay to see that,” Stiles is saying, hands moving with every other word and Derek scents the apple pie smell again, under all the blood and pain, a kind of float of happiness. He moves closer, face against Stiles’s side, he’s searching for it beyond the twinge in Stiles’s body, the fading adrenaline and gunpowder, he pushes up Stiles’s shirt and his nose skims over skin and bone.
Stiles holds his breath, “What, what, you heard the doc, just a coupla busted ribs, nothing too serious, guess I won’t be chopping wood or killing mountain lions with my bare hands, but—“
“Yeah, a real American hero,” Derek says, which isn’t what he wanted to say, he wanted to say something else, something that shows his amazement at who Stiles is, Stiles is other, Stiles is the wolf in human skin, he shot people for Derek and he’ll do it again, Derek knows this, he’s stuck with Derek through this cataclysm, he’s stuck with Derek, and that isn’t what he wanted to say at all.
White bandage across his nose, eyes big and ringed purple, Stiles says, “Fuck you, GQ,” then he’s dragging Derek in, that mouth warm with bruises pressed to Derek’s, kissing as if he might get bitten.
“Shut up, stop it with the eyes, y’know, that intense – you watch me, Derek, you creepy-ass stalker, you watch me and I don’t know what to do—“
Derek runs a hand over Stiles’s head, cradling his skull. “Just do this.”
They kiss and kiss and kiss like it’s the end of the fucking world because it is.
Long fingers in Derek’s hair, Stiles bumps his forehead against Derek’s jaw, slurs, “M’sorry. So tired. Went to the apocalypse and a fight broke out.” His body relaxes in the curve they’ve made on the bed.
Derek sleeps when Stiles sleeps.
He dreams of running.
This “why” isn’t something Stiles asks. He doesn’t ask “why me” or “why now” or “why this” or “really, why me, I mean, look at you, look at you, I’m all elbows and knees and sarcasm, what, this is a joke, this is a universal prank that you would even—“
No, he figures Derek is masochistic and has a type, the charming obnoxious type.
A noise and Stiles snatches himself upright straight out of sleep, his ribs collapsing together like crumpled paper, and he’s scrabbling for the sheet, he still sees the nightmare behind his eyes, he’s saying, “No, no no no, that didn’t happen,” and next to him, Derek’s instantly awake.
“Nightmare,” Derek says, “it didn’t happen, whatever it was, it didn’t happen.” Hand on the small of his back, hand on his head, Stiles lets the weight of Derek’s palms pull him down from terror.
“Nightmare,” Stiles repeats. “Shooting gallery. Guys just lined everyone up against a wall.” He chokes. “Against a wall. Scott and Allison. Lydia. Jackson, Danny. Mrs. McCall. My dad. Isaac. Boyd and Erica tried to, to bite them, the guys, and they shot them.” He sighs out hard, sweaty, and he feels so very old. “They shot ‘em.”
He turns, Derek’s watching him, those moon-chip eyes, but he doesn’t say anything, just waits on Stiles.
“They hunted you.”
A flare of teeth, white in all the darkness of Derek. “And?”
Stiles feels sick. He folds in on his knees.
“They gave me your pelt.”
Carefully, Derek twists, the movement making Stiles sway, until he’s like a comma around Stiles, a bend of warm muscle and growling. “It didn’t happen. It won’t. It can’t.”
“Why not.” He knots his fingers together and unknots them, his knuckles flexing flexing.
“You’d shoot ‘em first. Or trap ‘em somehow.” The mattress shakes because Derek shrugs. “You’d kill ‘em if you had to,” he says simply. “Maybe you could talk ‘em to death.”
Stiles stares at him. One hundred days ago, it was just the two of them. Now there are people, the good and the bad, the kind and the killers, and it’s not just them alone.
It’s not Stiles and Derek against the world.
Though it should be. He shot a man last night, only hours ago, he shot a man without question and he feels sick, but he knows he’d do it again. He would.
He kisses Derek. “You are a gentleman and a scholar, Derek Hale.”
“There’s something wrong with you.”
“But my awesome blinds you to all my faults.”
“Shut up, Stiles.”
The town is half a town. Part of it is abandoned, left to the woods.
The population is fifteen. And now two guests.
The expression on Stiles’s face is heartbreak. He mouths fifteen at Derek, his eyes dimming, the same look he got when they found a destroyed baby stroller. So Derek starts introductions, shaking hands and subtly sniffing the air.
The only heartbeat he can truly pick out is Stiles’s. He’d never realized that before, it’s always been that way he sees now, then Fox is ushering them into his office.
A sputtering coffeemaker, a couple of faded posters and maps of the region on the walls, a framed picture of a family at the beach.
“It’s not even really my office, I kinda moved in,” Fox says, gruff with confession. “Schmidt killed the sheriff.”
“Same shit, different day,” Stiles mutters, then catches himself, “oh, crap, I’m sorry, it’s—“
“Truth. Sing me some gospel,” Fox replies. He tilts back in his chair. “Fifteen people left. The military swanned through four months ago, taking the ‘necessary’ personnel. Left behind stranded civilians, Ranger snipers up in the hills, and rumors of Marines patrolling the roads. Camp Pendleton and the Presidio still have installations, with military families. Other bases along the coast. But everyone else evacuated east. A few infected here, a few infected there, and soon enough, there’s a big enough body count. Then. No one else is left.”
Sighing, Fox puts the framed picture facedown on the desk. “The remnants of the CDC radioed in about three weeks before you showed up. Said the infection can’t spread as fast. Once the infected die, it’ll spread less and less. Unless someone catches it under ‘dire circumstances.’ Dire circumstances, my ass. That or the infection mutates.”
Stiles makes jazz hands.
“So, 50-50,” Derek says and Fox says, “Same chances we’ve always had. Same shit, different day.”
They’re building a wall around the ruins of the town. It’s slow going, but Derek offers to help and Stiles supervises, “Hey, bandages, walking wounded, dude, not much I can do,” until Derek catches him away from prying eyes and says, “You sure ‘bout that?” and Stiles smirks, “What’ve you got in mind.” Turns out blowjobs are what’s on his mind. Imagination is a virtue.
Stiles heals. It takes time.
The cabin pantry is restocked by foraging in the nearby abandoned towns.
Two generators live in the shack with the Jeep, but they use the electricity sparingly.
And Stiles kisses Derek like he’s coming awake for the first time.
“C’mon, c’mon, the world has already ended and I am still in possession of my virginity. That’s just wrong, downright criminal, grounds for jail time and the inappropriate use of handcuffs, if you ask me—“
“No one asked you—“
“And here I am and here you are and we’re in an isolated, remote cabin with a less-than-comfortable rug in front of a half-assed fire and you know how you like to be naked, wolf boy, there should be nudity all the time, all nudity all the time, just so much nudity we’ll make the town’s collective eyes bleed—“
“That’s a sexy image—“
“Or they’ll go blind from seeing utter and complete perfection, either way, it won’t matter, they won’t be able to see anymore, thus my evil plan will work, NUDITY FOREVER.”
Derek scowls. “Have you gone insane?”
“I don’t feel any different.” Stiles pats his body as if he’s lost his keys. “Except that, oh right, no one’s naked here. Naked time. Now. C’mon.”
“When you whine, it annoys me.”
“So shut me up.”
A smirk and a challenge and Stiles can actually run pretty fast when he puts his mind to it, but Derek thinks like a predator.
They break two of the legs on the bed, so it tilts at a crazy angle, sheets sliding off the end and taking them along, so Derek pins Stiles to the floor instead of the mattress, but it doesn’t matter, it’s worth it, Stiles pliant and his mouth open in awe and pleasure, eyes dark, long pure lines of skin, his scent and heartbeat, and he talks against Derek’s throat, telling him things as if the catastrophe hasn’t happened. Warm thighs and Stiles makes noises Derek wants to eat, he licks down until he can put his teeth to where Stiles’s heart lives in his chest.
It’s this side of hard and rushed, just greedy enough to make Derek growl and Stiles laugh.
It’s absolutely fucking worth it.
After a heavy rain, Derek shoots out of bed, Stiles trailing along, sleepy and stumbling, to find three wolves in front of the house.
"Derek, I can see that."
"No, they're wolves."
“Yes, now stay in the house.”
That stubborn flash in Stiles’s eyes, “Uh, what did you just say to me?”
“You heard me,” Derek retorts, “stay in the house,” already slipping out of his shirt and boxers.
He shifts as he’s pushing the door open and the wolves watch him closely. Everyone’s noses are in the air. Stiles is nervously amused, bubbles of giggles tickling in his stomach.
The biggest wolf makes a sound Stiles has never heard before and he watches Derek’s gaze, the red following each minute movement of the wolves before he replies, deep in his throat. One of the betas (and just wow, Stiles’s life really is a nature documentary) shows teeth, testing, and Derek widens his stance.
This is his territory. This is all his.
Then the red SUV pulls up and Carrie steps out from behind the wheel, high heels digging into the ground.
“Run along, pups, run along,” she says. Her eyes flare red, like Derek’s, when the wolves circle towards her. “I said go.”
Derek gives a sharp series of barks and it’s a tense standoff, Derek’s fur bristling as the three wolves snarl and Carrie’s nails start to extend.
The alpha tilts its head down, never breaking eye contact, then swiftly turns and the three trot away into the woods.
“Guess you passed the test, hooray,” Stiles says, “great, I’m surrounded by wild animals. Where’s my life full of Disney woodland creatures? There should be chipmunks tying my shoes.”
Carrie smirks, hands on her hips, claws still out. “They aren’t a problem. They just wanted to pay you a visit.”
“Next time they can wait for an engraved invitation,” Derek says, human again, so Stiles passes over his clothes.
She stares between the two of them. “Is he your mate?” she asks.
The line of Derek’s back tenses, his jaw tightening.
“Are you asking me? Oh, of course not, you’re not asking me, I’m just the human,” Stiles says, hand slipping into the shirt, finding the triskele tattoo between Derek’s shoulders.
Those clever fingers trace over the ink and Derek closes his eyes. He's Stiles's and that's pretty much it, until the world ends again, and then he'll still be Stiles's. So it's up to Stiles to answer because Derek's instinct is to say yes, let the wolf respond to this woman who is like him, to keep pack order and lay out his claim like his blood is screaming to do.
It's up to Stiles to accept that claim.
And Stiles doesn't stop talking, doesn’t hesitate. "But I’m gonna act like you’re asking me, so yes. He's mated with a human. Special snowflakes and all that. A new glimpse at life inside the pack, a wolf has chosen a mate to claim as his own, after months of waiting. And this is never-before-seen, our cameras discover the mate is human. Now we can watch as they couple, writhing together—"
"Stop talking,” Carrie orders, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Actually, I'm somewhat offended. Maybe you should be asking the human if the werewolf’s my mate. Maybe I like the danger."
A snort of laughter from Derek, relief washing over him and Carrie tips her head as if she can sense it. She’s busy rolling her eyes though. “Whatever, the rest of the town pack will know. It will be your decision to tell the other humans. We’ll give you this territory, if you want it. You’ve…been a big help.” She looks a little pained to have to say that, then she gives a small nod. “Just don’t feed the wildlife. They might try to move in.”
“Like I need more wolves in my house,” Stiles says, “I’m just a little piggy.”
With a dismissive flick of her hair, she strides to the SUV and disappears down the mountain.
“I just love these little chats with the locals. So colorful and educational.” Twisting, Stiles catches Derek’s lifted eyebrow. “What.”
“Months of waiting?”
"I'll take ‘Somewhere Close To A Year’ for 800, Alex."
Derek boggles at him while Stiles tries to smirk but only succeeds at fiddling with his hoodie, zip zip zip zip.
"Man, you are obtuse and oblivious. Not my fault." He gives a little injured sniff.
“I’m still the big bad wolf. How does that always happen?”
Frowning, Derek huffs and Stiles says, “There’s dirty fairy tale analogies to be made in there, huffing and puffing and blowing stuff. Or all the eating the wolf does. Or the ever popular ‘my, what a big—‘“
It's done without a second thought. Derek is working on the garage shack, repairing rotten planks and Stiles stops to admire.
"Good job. Nice work on nailing those nails. Such manly work, all that nailing and hammering, pounding and wood—"
"Your double entendres are terrible."
"And that is your opinion. You are not a connoisseur."
Stiles has to touch him, perfect bends of muscle, skin, bones, moving in absolute design heaven, plus there's sweat and hey, tattoo. Derek bites him for his effort.
"Ow, I see what I get for admiring a work of art," he says.
Derek scowls, that's his embarrassed scowl. "I don't—"
"The garage, dude. A thing of beauty."
He gets a kiss and a hickey for that. He snags the keys for the Jeep smelling like forest and sweat.
He heads into town for a few supplies and Derek's still at the cabin and this is the most distance put between them in over a hundred and fifty days.
He comes back with a puppy.
Derek stares at the puppy. The puppy wriggles a little, then stares back.
Stiles is going to get bitten if he tries to break it up.
Then Derek shifts and oh shit, what the—
The puppy barks and bites Derek’s muzzle, licks at his nose, tries to climb him like a rock.
That puddle on the floor is Stiles. He’s such a sucker. And he used to be such a badass. Somewhere in his imagination. Reality is much different as Derek traps the puppy with his paws and the puppy’s tongue falls sideways like it’s Christmas.
“His name is Dire.”
Two pairs of eyes stare at him. He suddenly feels like a dumbass. “Well, he’s a husky, looks a little like a wolf. So Dire like a direwolf. Don’t either of you read?”
Their gaze doesn’t change. It’s as if he’s horribly fascinating in a trapped gazelle kind of way.
“Now I have a domesticated pet and…a domesticated pet.”
Derek growls and the puppy growls because Derek growled. The apocalypse is completely forgotten.
“Just for that, you’re potty-training him. Wolf to dog. Go lift your leg on that newspaper. Show him how it’s done.”
He does get bitten, later, much later, when and where Dire can’t see, “he doesn’t need to be scarred for life,” Stiles wails.
“It’s your fault,” Derek says. “You’re such a sucker.”
When Stiles bites him back, hard, Derek laughs and comes all over him, mutters something like “do that again.”
Dire wakes them at dawn in revenge.
Dire brings Stiles dead animals. Secretly, he’s waiting for Derek to do the same thing.
The purple bouncy ball keeps Dire occupied for hours. That means he needs another toy, “he needs variety,” Stiles says. Derek calls him a mother hen, then comes back from town with a squeaky duck.
The squeaky duck lets them track him through the cabin, following the intermittent squeaks and strange high-pitched sighs whenever Dire squeezes too slowly.
It makes Stiles grin stupidly, makes Derek press his nose into Stiles’s throat.
It’s been two hundred days.
A town guard, an ex-Army drill sergeant, discovers four humans, starving and dehydrated, wandering the woods behind the wall.
The news comes over the CB, “Gotham, Gotham, four with clean heartbeats,” and Stiles hotfoots it down the mountain for the party wagon, not the welcome wagon, because “this ain’t a welcome, it’s a celebration, bitches!”
The four people are scared, tired, walking on feet they can’t feel anymore and Stiles talks to them quietly, asking inane questions and making silly jokes until the doctor can complete check-ups.
A little girl stares at Stiles the whole time, not letting him out of her sight. She pets Dire and hugs her dirty stuffed unicorn and nods when Stiles talks.
Derek finds the unicorn in the dryer that afternoon, clean and sparkly again. When he gives it back to the little girl, she smiles, missing her two front teeth. He smiles back and charms her into getting a vaccination shot, he holds her hand, puts a Hello Kitty bandaid on her boo-boo, sports one of his own she gently puts on crooked.
The population is now nineteen with two semi-permanent guests.
One night, Stiles is squinting at a box of mac and cheese when Derek walks into the kitchen, covered in oil and grease. Dire prances around, giving huffy little barks until Derek picks him up, palm covering his face. Rearing back, Dire nibbles at his fingers.
“Ooh, is it the Ancient Greek Wrestling Festival or am I just extremely lucky.”
“Stiles. I. What.”
“Never mind. Mac and cheese! Spongebob mac and cheese. Torie brought it up the mountain for me, or well rather, for you, ‘tell Derek hi for me, I’ve got some Doritos too if he wants them.’” Stiles’s falsetto is a thing of wonder. Derek wrinkles his nose.
“Starting tomorrow, we’re expanding your vocabulary.”
“Do you wanna leave?”
“Liiiike go somewhere for a picnic? Fishing? Hunting and gathering in Ye Olde Fashion? Do we have to wear loincloths? Do we get to wear loincloths? Lemme rephrase: do you get to wear a loincloth.”
The grease streak on Derek’s cheek is so dark, it makes his eyes look even lighter. “No, I meant leave leave.”
The box slips from Stiles’s fingers, dry noodles skittering like broken glass. Dire squirms out of Derek’s grasp, sniffing at the Spongebobs and Patricks on the floor.
“What makes you think I wanna leave.”
Leaning against the cabinets, Derek sighs, says, “I’m surprised you’ve stayed put for so long. With how you are.”
Suddenly angry, glittering gaze in slits, Stiles says, “How I am. You mean, deficit of attention? Can’t sit still? Don’t tell me you’re shocked I can stay in place for more than ten minutes. I think we’ve proven that theory already, break out the Nobel Prize for sexytimes.”
Derek sighs again, expression uncomfortable. “This isn’t how I—Stiles, you really don’t wanna go find Scott? There are people dying out in the country and you’re happy to stay here? Not help? You always have to help. Even when it means you might—“
“What, stub my toe? Hit my funny bone?”
“Get yourself killed.”
The air is tight. Dire stops chomping on noodles and whines.
“So, wait, you’re suggesting we leave so I can get myself killed.”
“No, no,” Derek says, clenching his jaw and Stiles’s scent is so dark, so unhappy. “You wanna rush out and, and help everyone. We left Beacon Hills. We drove and could’ve kept going. I would’ve kept going – with you, wherever you wanted to go. ‘Cause you can’t sit still if you know people are out there in danger, getting hurt, dying. Those four new people, the ones from the forest. There are more people like that out there. You took such great care of them.”
“Along with Doc George and Fox and Mildred and—“
“Yeah, but you helped. A lot.” A look passes over Derek’s face, awe, pride. “So. Do you wanna leave?”
A deep breath filling Stiles’s chest and Dire whines again, higher and longer before Stiles punches a hand down on the counter, hard, sharp.
“You listen here, yeah, it kills me that, that the world’s gone to hell and people are just—gone, there’s just fucking waste, and and and I cannot believe what one little thing did to the whole damn planet, but this is. This is. I’m not a hero, okay? In Beacon Hills, every day, I had a very large chance of dying. You know that, right? Every day, I got to wake up and think, ‘Fuck, I hope I don’t die today.’ Or ‘fuck, I hope Derek-Scott-Allison-Lydia-Jackson-Danny-my dad doesn’t die today.’ Then I had to drag myself out of bed to make sure no one died that day. But you see, the funny part, and it is funny, is that it didn’t matter. With everything happening, I was the useless human who couldn’t do anything to stop the shit from hitting the fan. I was going to die.”
“No, I wouldn’t have—“
“Shut up, Derek, we have flour in the pantry. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with it, but there’s flour. Oh, also, we have a pantry. And I can’t help the whole world. I can help the town. Maybe we’ll get more people in from the woods. Or wherever. Maybe I like it here. Maybe I’d like to be really, really, really fucking selfish and have this—“ Stiles’s hands fly between them, then in the air to the cabin, Dire, the fucking flour in the fucking pantry, “—and it’s mine and yesterday, I didn’t wake up thinking, ‘Fuck, I hope I don’t die today.’ I woke up thinking of pancakes and how much I miss butter. The point is, shut the fuck up, no, I’m staying.”
In a flurry of limbs, Stiles stalks out the front door, faster than Dire can chase him.
Derek knocks his head back against the cabinets as Dire cries at the door, claws scrabbling at the wood.
It isn’t until Stiles has hiked up behind the cabin that he realizes it’s night. It’s night, he’s alone without a flashlight or a weapon.
Still, he’s pissed off, so he keeps walking. There’s a rock that looks good, yeah, that rock right there, so he climbs it, perches on it and stares out over the trees, down to the lake, the town, the rest of the country he can’t save.
He pulls his hood up. His hands are shaking. He hasn’t been that angry, deep in his bones, for a long time. Since he buried his dad. Or maybe he’s just been that angry this whole time and he’s kept it deep in his bones.
Then there’s a howl out in the dark. Another howl answers it. They’re not Derek or Dire.
“Fuck, I’m going to die today,” Stiles says.
Derek doesn’t wait. He opens the door for Dire and shifts, the puppy waiting for him at the edge of the clearing. They pick up Stiles’s scent, his rage, the spiking of unhappiness, and then there are two howls.
And Derek scents the betas.
It’s the wolves, the proper wolves, the ones who truly see Stiles as a bag of meat. One stands in front of him, the other off to the side, skirting out of his peripheral.
“I know what you’re doing. I know how hunting works. I’m not moving from this rock. You’ll have to drag me off it. Which is not a suggestion. Just sayin’.”
The wolf at his feet bares its teeth in a snarl, snapping out at his sneakers. Pine needles slide a little behind his shoulder.
“You’re not herding me. I’m not running scared. You wanna kill me, c’mon, stop this creeping bullshit. I’ve been stalked by the best, you don’t scare me none.”
Which is his own brand of bullshit, but he’s not going to let them smell his fear. His hand finds a fallen branch and he thinks on how monumentally angry and stupid he is, he pulls on that.
“C’mon, c’mon, I dare ya! I just yelled at my mate ‘cause he thought I was a good upstanding citizen! I just walked out on my mate, who fucking mates for life, ‘cause I want to stay in these godforsaken woods, yelling at proper wolves ‘cause I live in a damn nature documentary, what is this shit!”
A streak of white and gray, Dire barking like a dog three times his size and Stiles screams, “DIRE, NO!”, then a black wolf spears out of the darkness, slamming into the side of the beta below Stiles.
Teeth, jaws, the other wolf abandons Stiles for the fight and Stiles jumps down, crashing to the forest floor. His leg crumples, but he’s still holding the branch, he brings it down hard on the head of the outlier, the wolf yelping, backing away, Dire biting at its belly. Stiles swings again, thinking of the baseball bat that hit Derek twice, and he connects with bone, a loud crack echoing over the fight.
The wolf drops.
The other beta has blood on its muzzle, red on its fangs. That’s Stiles’s target. It’s circling Derek, Derek’s teeth snapping at the wolf’s flank as he yanks the wolf by the leg to reach its throat.
Stiles runs into the middle of the battle, a swipe of claws and a close of jaws, he stabs the branch at the blood he sees, Derek’s blood, right at the mouth of the wolf.
The jawbone breaks at the joints. Derek breaks its neck.
“Guess who else mates for life: me. This nature documentary is over.”
His fingers let go of the branch without his say-so, his knee collapses, so Stiles decides it’s time to sit down.
Dire whines and crawls all over Stiles and licks at a specific spot on his forehead for a long while before Stiles realizes he’s licking away blood.
“That cannot be good for your health,” he mutters, then there’s movement in the trees, that telltale slip of pine needles.
Derek brings him the two dead wolves, dragging them with his teeth.
“Oh, shit, you love me,” he marvels.
“Station Geronimo, we got any nature specialists in town?”
“Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”
“Animal. Bigger’n a breadbox.”
“Copy. Yeah, Joseph can help you out. Why.”
“I’d like a couple of wolves de-pelted.”
“Five by. Bring ‘em on down.”
Derek’s tattoo looks darker than usual. “I don’t think that’s a word.”
“Oh my God, ’de-pelted’ is totally a word,” Stiles retorts. “I’m Batman. So it’s a word.”
Big hands feel around Stiles’s knee, stopping when he winces. “Stiles—“
“You have unhappy eyebrows. Those eyebrows are depressing me. I think I should say I’m sorry to those eyebrows. Eyebrows, I’m horribly, terribly sorry, I grovel at your feet, shut up, eyebrows have feet, I should bring you dead things, it’s apparently the trendy thing to do.”
Derek smiles a little, palms still cradling Stiles’s leg; he holds the knee in place to bandage it. “No. I didn’t mean that we should leave. I just wanted, I just thought you were wanting to. Go. Away. From here.”
“Hell no! I could be mayor. Does the town even have a name yet? I could name it! Gotham!”
“You’re just gonna keep saying no, aren’t you.”
“Can we have fabulous make-up sex?”
“Why the hell not?!”
“Someone thought he was Chuck Norris and ended up hurting his knee.”
“And helped kill two wolves! I deserve sex! I deserve mating-for-life sex!”
Derek smirks. Stiles squints at him.
“That’s your evil smirk, what’s with the evil smirk, you look like a deranged runway model,” Stiles says, pointing. “Get the smirk away from me!”
“Are you saying we don’t have mating-for-life sex every time?” Derek asks, as if he didn’t just say ‘mating for life’ too because Stiles is still reeling from the brutal battle love fest in the woods, how much he realizes he’s in this for good, forever, he’s mated, he’s twitterpated, seriously, he needs his Disney woodland creatures frolicking tra-la-la.
“That isn’t a knock against your prowess.”
“It better not be.”
“Your smirk is getting eviler!”
“I don’t think that’s a word.”
Stiles grabs him by the nape of the neck. “Who cares,” he says, so Derek kisses him.
Dire squeaks his duck, then barks.
A heavy chopping sound hangs dark overhead, spins on over the trees.
“Holy crap, a helicopter.”
The front door slams open, shut, and Derek stomps in, snow on his boots. “Was that a helicopter?”
It feels ominous. There still is a world out there.
They get two wolf pelts. The weather’s getting colder and the pelts make excellent blankets, even if they take some getting used to first.
It looks like snow in the air and Stiles comes back from town with supplies to discover a sign hanging by the front door.
He doesn’t shriek in unholy glee. He doesn’t. He also doesn’t drop the eggs.
The CB crackles with news of a wrecked car on the main highway. Three survivors, none infected.
The town population is twenty-four. Including the two permanent residents at Wayne Manor.
(“Okay, fine, we’ll stop calling it the Hotchkiss cabin. Now tell Derek to come entertain the kids,” Fox says. “They want him to read to ‘em. He’s charming, I dunno, Stiles, stop panicking, they like him. No, this isn’t a practical joke. Or Punked. Stiles, I’m walking away. Keep this channel clear. No, I can’t hear you. I’m going through a tunnel.”)
The town wall is almost finished. Stiles views it proudly through his heart-shaped glasses (the world is naranja) and Derek looks embarrassed to be seen with him.
Dire thinks he’s a small dog and climbs sloppily all over anyone who dares come up to the cabin on the mountain.
The flour makes a lopsided, undercooked birthday cake.
Stiles falls asleep in bed with a wolf sometimes. And sometimes, he sleeps better that way. (Derek falls asleep in bed with a human sometimes. And sometimes, he gets an elbow to the chest or a knee to the kidney because Stiles can’t sleep like a regular person.)
There are nightmares and night terrors and coaxing each other out of the shadows in the middle of the night. There are nights when they don’t sleep, they play Go Fish and wait for daylight. There are days so bleak they shouldn’t exist.
A handful of infected appear in the snow. A Black Hawk helicopter chases them down, and the rifle reports echo over the lake.
There still is a world out there.
The radio plays, you can run on for a long time, run on for a long time, run on for a long time, sooner or later God’ll cut you down.
Clouds move in, dark and thick, and Stiles sits on the sofa with his legs drawn up, forehead resting on his knees. He cries without a sound. A few hours later, Derek pushes him over, makes him uncurl, and doesn’t let him up, just blankets him with his body, teeth at his neck if he tries to move.
Derek has blood on his jaws. Human, not infected. Humans with violence on their minds and time on their hands.
He shakes off the shift, wipes away the blood before Stiles can see.
It’s been three hundred days.