It was mid-December, the days were longer and colder than any other in the year. It had snowed the night before. The roads were icy and un-plowed. The trees shimmered in white frosting and the mountains showed of their new coats. White, wispy fog lay low over the ground, and a foreboding feeling leeched into the man’s pale body. The air felt still and silent. Not a sound was heard, not a sight was seen. Only the vast, white expanse of the preserve stood before him. It was beautiful in its harsh, cold way. On any other day he could have appreciated its beauty.
But there was a car abandoned on the side of the road. The door was open and the engine dead, having been left on and long since abandoned. A trail of blood lead from the abandoned jeep, deep into the snow covered forest. Footprints, stumbling, falling, desperate footprints fled deep into the thick woods, where no one ever ventured. Blood defaced the pathway that had been carved out by the runner. Sometimes in large puddles, sometimes in tiny, fleeting drops that he would have missed if it weren’t for their contrast against the snow.
The man’s stomach lurched and he turned, desperately, seeking answers. Cars, trucks and SUVs, barricaded the road. Lights flashed, red and blue, giving the snow an eerie glow. Deputy Parrish and Christopher Argent and Melissa McCall were organizing the search and rescue team. Deputy Romero was calling for search and rescue dogs. Agent McCall—when had he shown up?—was calling in back-up. Sergeant Barnes was briefing the search and rescue teams, showing them pictures of the victim—of—of his son.
Sheriff Stilinski shivered and turned back to stare at the forest. They were at the border of the preserve, where it became the tail end of a national park instead. People rarely came up here and it was only chance that they had found Stiles’ jeep to begin with. A park ranger had been out looking for two escaped wolves—from the wolf sanctuary—had spotted the car and called it in. So not only was his son out there alone and bleeding to death, it was below freezing and there was an escaped, and possibly feral wolf or two out there as well.
Barnes called everyone to attention and the people began to trickle together. Argent stood at the front of the group, capturing everyone’s attention. He put together the different search and rescue teams, giving them all their maps, and explaining the best ways to sweep the area. The teams were comprised of police officers, forest rangers, search dogs and the good citizens of Beacon Hills. As the teams headed out a few people stayed behind.
Natalie Martin approached the Sheriff, trying to comfort and reassure him. John shot her a disgusted look as she talked about how much she liked Stiles and what a good boy he was. John may not have been able to hear lies, like Weres can, but he could feel them like waves coming off of her. Her insincerity was palpable and he was momentarily disgusted with himself for ever having dated her. She had been nothing but cruel and angry with his son, and now, while his son may be dying, she recanted, trying to get in the Sheriff’s good graces.
Melissa McCall approached, cutting Natalie off as she laid a comforting hand on the Sheriff’s shoulder. John broke down and she enveloped him in a hug as he cried into her shoulder. Natalie huffed in distaste before stomping off to sit in her heated car with her coffee and wait while the others searched for Stiles. John hated that he couldn’t be out there searching for his own son, but his Chimera attack and subsequent surgeries were too recent. Just standing out in the cold was agonizing, searching densely packed woods was absolutely out of the question. It probably would have killed him, and he could find his son if he was dead. Melissa shushed him gently and stoked the back of his head and he cried.
She soothed him for a while before he was able to compose himself again. Chris Agent nodded to him from where he was manning the radio stations, keeping in contact with the groups out in the forest. Parrish frowned, pacing back and forth as he stood by the med bay. Romero was frowning and fussing over the small group of teenagers at the edge of the barricade, trying to get in. Lydia Martin was among them.
“He’s going to be okay John,” Melissa said, touching John’s cheek and turning his head to look at her. “Okay? Stiles is strong and stubborn and he is going to be fine.” John smiled weakly before he tried to turn away; he had to talk to the banshee. “No, John, listen to me. Stiles is the fucking strongest boy I have ever met.” John blinked in surprise at her strong language. “If anyone can survive this on sheer force of will it is him, okay? He’s battled hunters, demons, druids and chimeras. He can been this.” John smiled again, a real smile this time and leaned down to kiss her forehead.
Melissa blinked at him in shock and he pulled away, turning to find the wailing woman—well—girl. He lightly touched Romero’s arm, reassuring her that everything was okay and that he’d handle it. She shot them one last incredulous look before heading to confer with Argent. Parrish joined John as he talked to the small rag-tag pack.
“Anything?” John asked Lydia. She frowned at him and shook her head. “So he’s ok then? He’s not dying?”
“It’s not that…”Lydia frowned deeply to herself. “It’s like he’s hidden from me. I can’t get a good sense of him…I’ll keep trying.” She assured him. John turned to Parrish desperately.
“I just find the bodies, Sheriff. I can’t really help on the supernatural front.” John nodded and looked back at Scott and the others. Scott looked badly worn down from the last fight with Theo and his “pack”. It was a miracle the kid was even standing. Malia was shifting from foot to foot, casting anxious glances at the forest. Liam, Mason and Hayden looked worried, and beaten as hell. He shooed the kids over to the main tent to help Chris man the controls and walkies.
They needed to feel like they were helping somehow. He knew the feeling. He felt like he’d been staring at the damned forest for years instead of a few mere hours.
Five hours after the search began—eleven since Stiles had gone missing, something happened. A great wailing and howling rose from the forest. Those still at base camp froze in their track and turned back to the forest. It was undeniably a wolf howl. A desperate and scared wolf howl. Soon after the dogs’ own howls and barks filled the air, even from so far away. The cacophony of noise echoed across the trees and snow before silencing abruptly.
“That howl sounds so familiar…” Scott frowned. Malia nodded. John shuddered, there were wolves out there with his son. It could have followed his blood trail and found him by now. The walkies crackled and static filled the air. John and the others rushed to the tent for any news.
“Argent, come in, Argent? Over.” Barnes’ voice crackled over the speakers.
“I’m hear Barnes, what’s going on?” Argent asked, grabbing the walkie and looking at the Sheriff hopefully.
“We found him. We found Stiles. Over” Barnes’s voice answered. A cheer went up around the tent and Malia actually whimpered.
“Oh thank god.” John and Melissa whispered at the same time. John nearly collapsed in relief. Rafael McCall put a reassuring hand on his shoulder and squeezed it for a moment, nodding his support.
“But—” there was a large burst of static and then, “There’s a problem. Over” John’s blood froze in his veins.
“What kind of problem?” Argent growled into the microphone.
“The wolves—the ones that escaped—the feral one—it’s with him.” Barnes hissed out. Argent’s lip curled. “It—it seems to be protecting him—over.” Chris and Scott shared an incredulous look.
“Protecting him how?” Chris asked, speaking into the walkie as the others crowded closer.
“It was standing over him when we found him—freaked out all the dogs—won’t let anyone near him. Over” Chris frowned and asked for their coordinates. Murmurs rose around the camp site as everyone debated among themselves about what to do next. John was sick of waiting. He was going out there to find his son—recent injuries be damned.
He turned towards the trails to find McCall already pulling up in the range-rover. Parrish and Romero quickly began loading it full of any supplies they might need. Melissa grabbed a medical kit and dove in. Argent wasn’t far behind with a tranq gun. John turned to Parrish and Romero, telling them to stay behind to man the site, listen to the radios and make sure Scott and his pack didn’t take off into the forest on their own. Melissa was yelling instructions at Dr. Dunbar about getting the ambulance ready.
Rafael drove like a mad man through the paths and roadways that would lead them deeper into the forest, and closer to Barnes’ coordinates. Chris and Melissa sat in the back seat. Melissa checking the med kit and Chris, loading his gun. John leaned forward in his seat, anxiously looking for any sign of the rescue group that had found his son.
His idiotic son that had fled the hospital after the final fight with the chimeras and who the hell knows what else—and had driven to the middle of fucking nowhere. If—no—when, Stiles survived, John was going to demand some fucking answers about that.
After a few minutes they found signs of the search and rescue party. Their flashlights shone through the rapidly darkening forest as the range-rover pulled up as close as it could get. John thought it fortunate that they had found Stiles just off one of the small dirt roads, as he jumped from the car and ran towards the group. Melissa and the others right behind him. He broke through the mass of trees, people and dogs to find himself in a rather small clearing facing down a feral black wolf. The wolf was growling and snapping at Ranger Wilkes as he tried to approach it. At the sound of the Sheriff and the others’ approach, its ears flattened even further and its head whipped to stare them down. Ranger Wilkes saw the opportunity and took it, shooting the wolf in the side with a tranq dart. The wolf’s head whipped around to gnash its teeth at him in anger, but the dart didn’t seem to affect it.
Christ took aim and fired two more darts into the wolf’s other side. The wolf growled low and backed towards a mess of ripped up and tossed over trees. John followed his path with his gaze and saw that the trees had made a good shelter and that underneath was Stiles, unconscious, but visibly breathing. Stiles didn’t look nearly half as bad as he could have been, considering all of the circumstances. His head wound from before even seemed to have stopped bleeding.
Only part of the boy was visible though. The Sheriff squinted and saw movement and two luminescent eyes staring back. The other wolf, smaller and russet colored, was curled up around Stiles, keeping him warm. John blinked in amazement as the small wolf watched them all with intelligent eyes.
Melissa pushed past the ranger and the hunter and approached the snarling black wolf. The beast stilled and eyed her warily. She dropped into a crouch and stared it down, holding her hands up, while still holding the med-kit, to show she meant no harm.
“It’s okay, we’re not here to hurt you.” She said reassuringly. The wolf’s ear twitched and it backed up another step. “We know you’ve been keeping him alive but we need to check him, make sure he’s okay? Alright?” she soothed. The wolf in the den seemed to snort.
“The dumb beasts can’t understand you.” Ranger Wilkes snapped. The black wolf’s head whipped towards him and its eyes flashed bright, neon, blue. “The fuck?” Wilkes stepped back in shock and Chris reached for his side arm. The wolf in the den growled a low warning, its eyes flashing yellow/gold.
“Shhhh, everyone stop.” Melissa hissed. She peered closer to the larger wolf as it eyed everyone warily and began backing up to the tree cave. “Derek?” She asked questioningly. The wolf barked and sat at the entrance to the makeshift shelter. It seemed to gesture for Melissa to check on Stiles. The small wolf got off of the boy and backed further into the den, eyes glowing warningly.
Melissa rushed over, checking Stiles. John and the others moved to approach as well but the wolves growled warningly. Chris and the others paused but the Sheriff continued to approach, albeit at a slower pace. The small wolf remained tense, but silent, and the black wolf relaxed some, keeping an eye on the volunteers around the clearing.
“Oh, Stiles.” Melissa murmured. She checked to Stiles’ wounds and then turned to John as he loomed over her shoulder, gaze alternating between his unconscious and bloody son, and the two wolves. The large, black one—which was quite possibly Derek Hale—seemed wary of the others, especially the rangers. The small one—John had no clue who that one was—Didn’t Derek have another sister that had survived?—approached the big wolf and gently picked the tranq darts out with her teeth.
The black wolf—Derek’s ear twitched and he rumbled appreciatively but didn’t turn to look at her. John groaned, the car ride and the extreme cold were very bad for his recent wound. Derek eyed him curiously but the Sheriff shrugged him off. The wolf chuffed, before finally turning to look at Melissa and Stiles.
“He’s in much better condition than we ever could have hoped for. The wolves save his life.” Melissa smiled, reaching out to run a hand gently down Derek’s flank. Derek twitched and eyed her for a moment before moving away. The small wolf—John couldn’t remember her name—chuffed a laugh and joined her brother, allowing Chris and Raf to join them at the burrow.
Chris carried Stiles to the range-rover, Raf and Melissa supporting a weakened and in pain, Sheriff between them. The wolves followed them to the car, hoping in when Melissa opened the door. They climbed into the far back and watched as Melissa and Chris maneuvered themselves and Stiles into the car. John sat shotgun and turned to watch as Melissa and Chris made Stiles lay on his back, his head on her lap and legs on Chris’. Raf, backed up and sped back up to the base camp and waiting ambulance. Derek and Cora, in the far back, shifted to their human forms and looked over the seat down at Stiles.
“Idiot.” Derek said softly, fondly, reaching over the seat to stoke Stiles’ frozen cheek. Raf swore in surprise and swerved realizing he suddenly had two new very human, very naked passengers.
“What the ever loving fuck?” he gaped in shock, glancing in the rear view mirror as he drove.
“Long story short, werewolves.” Melissa said, doing what she could to help Stiles. Raf gaped and spluttered but didn’t voice his questions.
“How did you find Stiles?” John asked. “Did he know you were out here? Is that why he drove up here?”
“I don’t know why Stiles was up here.” Derek frowned, watching Chris and Melissa fuss over the injured boy. “I honestly don’t know. And no, I haven’t spoken to him in months. Cora and I were coming back home, but we decided to stop at the national park. We got caught when we were running full shift.”
“It took ages to escape the wolf sanctuary. Cameras everywhere.” Cora added. Raf spluttered to himself while the other adults nodded understandingly. “And then we had to dig out the tracking devices.” She frowned in distaste looking at her shoulder, which was just visible over the seat. John hadn’t noticed before but bother Hales and dried blood on their left shoulders, though no wound, of course.
“We found Stiles purely by chance. We recognized the scent of blood in the air.” Derek sighed. “Human blood.”
“Derek was the one that recognized the scent as Stiles’.” Cora but in. “After that he went a little berserk.” Derek growled at her but she ignored him. “After we found Stiles he went crazy, ripping up plants and pushing over smallish trees and generally being a dick to nature, to make Stiles a shelter.”
“Why didn’t you take him back to his jeep?” John asked as they pulled into the base camp.
“Couldn’t hear the engine.” Derek shook his head. “Stiles said he came out there looking, didn’t really say what for; he was pretty out of it, but he did manage to tell us he left his car on. It was dead by the time we found him.” Stiles sighed but nodded.
After that it was a flurry of motion as paramedics ran up to the car and Stiles was carted off to the ambulance. John and Melissa got in the ambulance with him and they rode down to Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital immediately, not chancing anything. Derek and Cora shifted back and hopped out of the car, wandering over to the remaining members of the McCall pack. Scott gaped at them in shock.
Around them the rescue groups were celebrating and congratulating one another. Ranger Wilkes was eyeing the wolves warily, fingering his tranq gun. Chris casually, but meaningfully rested his hand on his side arm and stared the ranger down. In the distance Natalie Martin was screaming at Lydia about her being there while the banshee rolled her eyes so hard they looked like they might fall out. Parrish and Romero sighed and turned off the walkies, sipping their steaming coffees.
The trouble was over. Stiles was going to be fine. And the Hales had returned to Beacon Hills.