Stiles found that he enjoyed interrogations as long as he was a witness to them, and not a participant. It came in handy that Derek was naturally intimidating.
“Have you heard of a planet called Beacon, or not? Answer the question.” Derek growled as he loomed over the small, crab-like creature.
“Tsssk, click, click…..hrrrnnnnn,” the crab clicked and grunted back, waving around long blue pincers in front of his face. Derek glared - probably more for good measure than anything else, Stiles reasoned - then turned his head towards the squat android patiently stationed between him and Stiles.
“Beep bo beep!” the android, SCTT-8, or Scott, as Stiles and then, more reluctantly, Derek, had taken to calling him, translated. Derek nodded, satisfied.
“Was that so hard?” Derek said to the crustacean, turning around and leading the group away from the table in the corner and back to the central bar of the dimly lit cantina.
Well, Stiles and Derek walked, Scott rolled his lower body along the sticky floor, while his head turned side to side, large dark vision ports taking in the seedy surroundings of the cantina. They had landed on the planet of Navaros, a Resistance controlled planet used almost exclusively as a weigh station for cargo and travelers due to its location. The transient nature of the well-traveled, yet temporary inhabitants, meant that shady dealings took place with alarming regularity; however, the planet was a beehive for information of all kinds if one knew where to look. And Derek always knew the best places to look.
“You didn’t even have to touch him and he caved,” Stiles said excitedly, waving his arms around. Derek leaned to the side, avoiding being struck by a wayward arm or hand. He barely reacted to Stiles’ flailing anymore.
“What did he say, what did he say?”
Stiles had a newly formed habit of putting people he barely knew on pedestals – Lydia, for instance; the strawberry blonde girl , currently on her own quest to train under the mysterious emissary Deaton, who looked deceivingly fragile but contained more inner resolve and determination than anyone he had met. But he really did admire the broody Resistance pilot next to him. Derek had a reputation as being somewhat sullen and not the most approachable guy; but, despite that, he was always helpful when he was truly needed, always there in a pinch, and treated most creatures with a surprising amount of respect for someone who had killed as many people as he had. From the way he talked to Scott –an android – to the way he dealt with an interrogation, Stiles was coming to realize Derek was much more bark than bite. His looks didn’t hurt either.
And he had let Stiles keep his jacket. A beautiful, custom leather jacket. It still smelled faintly of Derek. Underneath the sharp aroma of leather and engine oil, Stiles could smell a faint woodsy scent, like pine and the moss that grew in the shadows under great trees, a scent he privately thought of as Derek’s personal smell. The jacket fit across his shoulders, and was only slightly oversized in the arms and chest area. He felt honored that someone like Derek, a great fighter pilot, whose parents were war heroes as well, would give someone like him, a nobody, and a nobody former member of the Order at that, his prized jacket.
Stiles didn’t have much experience with real life heroes, but he looked up to Derek in many ways.
“Stiles, I wasn’t going to hurt him, I just needed information from him,” Derek said with a small frown, his thick eyebrows drawing inwards. “He said he’s never heard of a planet called Beacon, but there is a planet at the entrance of the uncharted territories called Beacon Hills. We should head there tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? I want to leave now, we shouldn’t waste any more time! If Beacon Hills is really Beacon, then my father will be on that planet."
“We’ve been traveling, with no break, for a couple weeks now. Let’s sleep on the ground for once, and not in the ship, and we can start fresh tomorrow.”
“But who knows what will happen the more time it will take us to get there,” Stiles protested.
“Stiles, I want to get there in one piece. We are staying the night,” Derek said, in a tone that ended further discussion on the matter.
Stiles grumbled in acquiescence. The last couple weeks of trying to track down the planet Beacon, and find his father, had been exhausting. All he remembered from when he was taken from his family by the Order, at the age of five, was the name Beacon, and the memory that his father, a faceless blur, always wore a gold star on his clothes. Information was hard to gather, and this had been their first real lead. It would be nice to sleep on a planet in a real bed for a change, and not just on the Camaro, Derek’s trusted but cramped ship.
“Besides, it’s been ages since I’ve had more than one drink.”
“What’s the point of having more than one drink?” Stiles wondered. “I had a drink when we were with Lydia, and it was nice and all, but I don’t see the point.”
Derek flashed a quick, feral-looking smile. The bartender, a towering blue blob with pink tentacles and whiskers popping out of every pore, grunted at them to order drinks.
“Two Scruffy Nerf-herders, and a tin of android oil please,” Derek ordered. Stiles watched in fascination as the many tentacles sprang into action: two scooped ice while two other tentacles strained a viscous looking purple liquid so thick it had the consistency of sludge, while another tentacle grabbed a tip off the counter, and yet another tentacle poured out a small tin of oil, presumably for Scott.
The galaxy was a very large place, and while, intellectually, Stiles knew this, having spent his whole life in the very stifling, dark world of the First Order, he had missed out on many things. Drinking. He had missed out on drinking. And sex. Sex. He knew all about kissing and groping and sex, he just hadn’t experienced any for himself. The First Order kept a strict lid on behavior like that of any kind. But, as the Order had kept a large group of teenage boys and girls in close quarters for years as they trained to become soldiers, talking and sharing misinformation ran rampant, even if, curiously, no one acted on this information.
Stiles had missed out. He had missed out on friends and family and games and all sorts of things that other people in the galaxy seemed to take for granted. The Order discouraged any kind of individual thinking, or of having any type of interior life. Stiles had always known, somewhere in the back of his mind, that he was different. He had a hard time focusing on the drills and lessons the other soldiers were taught, but when something caught his interest, he would want to learn more about it to the exclusion of everything else, including sleep. He had never felt like he had fit in, and his propensity for obsessive research and learning was highly discouraged, to the point where he had learned to hack into the Order’s database if he wanted to follow further inquiries down the twisted paths his mind tended towards.
But family. Missing out on family. Family was such an abstract concept for Stiles to grasp, that it felt more like gust of wind, or a tickling in his hair; it was something he knew he had missed out on, and he should be devastated, but all that was left was a small amount of wistfulness. The fact that he had a father, at one time anyway, further strengthened his resolve to find him. Stiles was many things, but his most secret fear that he kept tightly locked away was that he was destined to become like the First Order - no matter how much he fought against it. Having a family, a family that loved him and he would love back, was one more step away from the empty white shell he had been so close to becoming.
And while killing people had never been a problem for him, killing innocent people had been much harder to swallow. As Derek said, now that Stiles was no longer drinking the Kool-Aid, it was time to live a little. Stiles didn’t ask what Kool-Aid was, but he thought he knew the gist of what Derek was saying.
This was not his first time having a drink, but this was his first time having a Scruffy Nerf-herder. As the bartender put the drink down, Stiles examined it gingerly. It was dark purple, and smoke was coming off the top.
“Cheers,” Derek said, picking up his glass and holding it up, steam floating in front of his features, blurring and softening his sharp cheekbones and harsh eyebrows. Scott opened up a small front panel on his body, reached out a silver extend-o arm, and gripped his small tin of oil. Stiles was confused for a moment, then grabbed his glass as well.
“This is an old custom, on my planet, but I think it’s even older than that. Let’s make a toast. To a peaceful journey, and finding Stiles’ father.”
“Beeeep,” Scott chirped.
“To finding my father,” Stiles echoed, and they clinked glasses, before he took a deep breath and steeled himself to choke down the purple drink.
The next morning, Stiles woke up slowly, in parts. First his brain, then his limbs, then his very, very dry mouth. His eyes were last and the most reluctant. They felt even drier than his mouth, if that was possible, and the morning light burned his retinas in a special kind of torture.
He turned over in the small bed. The room was tiny, just large enough for two single occupancy beds and a small table. Scott was in the corner, powered down in sleep mode, his round body still, and his lights turned off. Stiles remembered an academic article he read, after hacking into the private digital library, while still in military training school with the Order: Do robots dream of electric sheep? It was during a phase where he was fascinated with android autonomy, and researched anything he could find with the limited resources of the Order at his disposal.
He wondered what Scott dreamed of. Was it all a string of numbers, like a binary code, or did a series of images play out; perhaps scenes from his day that were saved in his server? Was it silent, just darkness all around? The thought made Stiles feel sad. Derek had recently taught him the word melancholy, a word he found to be beautiful. He tried it out; the thought of Scott being unable to dream made him feel melancholy, he decided.
In the bed a foot away from his, Derek was still asleep. He looked younger and more peaceful in sleep, as many creatures did, but his mouth was slightly parted, and he gently snored. Why did Derek come with him on this mission? Stiles knew that he had several months of downtime until his next mission for the Resistance, if not longer, but he had earned the rest. Derek and Stiles had shared the experience of escaping and fighting the First Order, and crash landing, but that was all. Derek had jumped at the chance to accompany Stiles, saying that he had the time, and Stiles needed a good pilot to help him find Beacon. Stiles looked at him a moment longer, than shook his head. The mystery of Derek was for another day. Right now he needed water, and something for his headache.
Later that morning, back on the ship and in the air, Derek turned to look at Stiles in the co-pilot seat. “How you feeling? Do you remember anything?”
“Groggy. And tired. And my head is pounding harder than a… I don’t even know. I remember having a couple drinks and then nothing. Blackness till I woke up. Is drinking always like that? Why do people enjoy is so much? It seems more like a form of punishment?”
“You had four Nerf-herders and you were gone. You’re a lightweight, Stiles, you’ve never really drank before. We’ll build up your tolerance. And the key is to get buzzed, not blackout drunk, that’s when you really enjoy it.”
“How do you feel?”
“I’ve had years to build up,” Derek smiled grimly.
“Well, I don’t know about drinking, but I can’t wait to build up my tolerance to all the galaxy has to offer. And,” Stiles said, feeling suddenly brave, “I’m glad I have a friend to experience it with.”
At that remark, Derek flashed him a genuine smile, a small one, not like the feral one last night at the bar. “The galaxy is something else. I hope you’re ready.” His smile dropped off, and the pensive look he usually wore returned to his face. Derek cleared his throat. “Now, check on Scott and grab some protein meals, I’m going to chart our course to Beacon Hills.”
“Aye, Captain,” Stiles said with a mock salute, smiling as Derek rolled his eyes. He stood up from the co-pilot chair and walked through the narrow door of the cockpit into the rest of the Camero. The ship was very modest, and different from any other Stiles had spent time on.
The Camero was designed to be a small ship, hopping from one planet to another, not for long treks across the galaxy. However, Derek and his favorite mechanic, the intimidatingly stoic Boyd, had retro-outfitted the ship with engine boosters and the strongest defense shield possible, along with long range guns. The Camero was all black, which always made it stand out in the docks amongst rows of ships in varying shades of silver and gray. The ship was square in shape, with one long hallway that created a perfect looping square inside (his first time in the ship Stiles had chased Scott as he rolled around the hallway, laughing until he saw Derek’s disapproving face; he suddenly felt very young, and stopped running), with a small deck on top. The deck swiveled all the way around (much like Scott’s head, Stiles chuckled to himself) where a single shooter could squeeze into a small seat. The rotating shooting gallery on top afforded a 360 degree view of incoming enemies, although Stiles hadn’t had a chance to test it out. Yet. Who knows what waited for them in the outer corners of the charted territories?
Even the inside of The Cameo was dark, the walls and seats and gears almost black, while the lights along the sideboards and cockpit were a dark crimson, like angry red eyes in the dark, Stiles thought. Derek kept it polished and cleaned, which made Scott look like an odd ghost, albeit a very roly-poly one, as he rolled down the tiny hallways, his white round body mirrored in the shiny walls and floor, making him appear to almost float.
“Scott,” Stiles said, almost running into the android as he rounded one of four corners in the ship. We’re going to chart a course to Beacon, or Beacon Hills, and then jump to hyper-drive, so lock yourself down in a minute, ok?”
“Beep bo,” Scott said, which Stiles hoped to be an agreement; he was still learning to translate the various chirps and beeps, yet somehow, even without direct communication, he had instantly liked Scott, and felt a rapport with the android. It was the same way he had felt an instant connection with Derek and Lydia. Stiles didn’t really know these people – he hadn’t grown up with them the way he had his fellow Order soldiers – but nevertheless, he felt closer with them in the short time he knew them then he ever did with any of soldiers he had known for most of his life.
Stiles grabbed some protein bars from the storage locker, and returned to the cockpit, sitting back down. He watched Derek consult the star maps for a couple minutes. Finally, Derek looked up, his face a carefully blank mask.
“What is it?” Stiles hadn’t known Derek for very long, but he had already figured out this was his face before he took on a serious endeavor, or was about to deliver bad news.
Derek paused for a moment. He sighed.
“Ok, our course is charted to Beacon Hills. The planet is in a system, on the edge of the uncharted territories, that has been controlled by the First Order for some time now.”
“Does that mean my father has sworn allegiance to them? Or that they have murdered anyone who supports the Resistance? Or did they just murder all citizens?” Stiles felt his stomach clench as his heart rate increased, and his breathing sped up but became shallow; he breathed faster and faster, but kept taking in less air. The thought that his family had been touched by the very thing that had destroyed countless people and planets, not to mention almost destroyed his own future, was too much to bear.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Derek looked at Stiles sternly and gently grabbed his wrist, stilling his nervous tapping against the console. “Stiles, look at me. Stiles, breathe, you have to breathe!”
Stiles gasped, trying not to panic even further, which was almost impossible in his currently panicked state. He locked eyes with Derek, seeing for the first time, even thru the haze of his panic, how his eyes weren’t the hazel he had originally thought, but were instead like a constellation; swirls of green and blue and gold all mixed together to form a living thing. Stiles tried to breathe, and listened to Derek, who had begun to count.
“Stiles. Count with me. Breathe in, breath out. One. Breathe in, breath out, two.” Derek continued, counting as Stiles gradually slowed his breathing. He didn’t touch Stiles anywhere but his right wrist, and he was careful to not crowd or lean in towards him, instead giving him plenty of space.
Stiles was finally able to breathe at a normal rate. He felt as though a weight had been lifted, yet was still imprinted, on his chest, and he felt completely drained. “Thanks,” he said weakly. “That’s never happened before.”
“You had a panic attack,” Derek said, looking at him, brows more furrowed than usual. “They say that the First Order medicates its soldiers so that they don’t-"
“Feel. Don’t feel things strongly. They want to regulate fluctuations in feelings. So they dose you guys to keep you on an even keel…” he trailed off, turning over Stiles pale wrist, still held by his fingers. On the underside, right above the pulse, are two small circular scars. “Your bracelet,” Derek said, not a question.
“Oh, my wristband? When we escaped off the Star Destroyer, the first thing I did was rip it out. I didn’t want them tracking me, or us,” Stiles said, gently turning his wrist from side to side in Derek’s grip, still feeling the ghost of the thick black band that punctured into his wrist. He’d worn a band for as long as he could remember. He looked at Derek’s fingers on his wrist, a dark tan compared to his pale skin. The hair on the back of his hands was dark. Stiles had a sudden urge to touch it.
“I don’t think that wristband was just a tracking device.”
“It wasn’t?” Stiles looked up from where he was staring at where he and Derek were connected. Derek was looking at him in that intense way he had, where Stiles felt like he was being cross-examined, where if Derek stared hard enough he could see into Stiles’ soul, and all the secrets he worked hard to hide. Stiles squirmed under the attention.
“No, I think it was. But I think it was more than that. I think, or, well, the Resistance has suspected for a long time, that wristbands are what keep you medicated and submissive, in order to better to serve the First Order.”
“We did get new bands put on twice a year. But I wanted out before I ever ripped my wristband out,” Stiles said. He remembered watching innocent people being shot, and suppressed a shudder. Even though he was out, the shadow of the Order was never far behind him.
“Well, you’re made of something different.”
“Are you calling me weird,” Stiles asked, looking at Derek with a sly smile.
“No, I’m calling you special,” Derek said, smiling. “Very special.”
“Ha, that I am big guy. But I’d rather be special than with the Order.”
Derek’s smile dropped, and he looked back at the window, the dark of space laid out around them like a blanket covering their ship, with nothing but small tears to let in dim star light. He didn’t say anything, but he squeezed Stiles wrist once, tightly, before letting go.
“So are we going to jump into hyper-drive or are we going to take the long way there - ” Stiles started. He was interrupted by a frantic beeping on the console.
“Fuck,” Derek growled. “Incoming, we have TIE fighters approaching.”
“What, how did they know where to find us?” Stiles shouted. “Can they track us somehow? Are the Doctor’s reading our minds now? Can they read our minds across space, is that possible -”
“Beeeeep,” Scott was letting out a continuously louder and more distressed beep over Stiles’ yelling.
“That fucking crab! Or somebody at the cantina,” Derek cursed. “Shut up! Both of you!” he twisted in his seat to include Scott. “Stiles, go to the shooting gallery and start shooting for fuck’s sake! Scott, it’s about to get bumpy, so hold on to something!”
Stiles scrambled out of his seat. “What are you going to do?” he yelled back at Derek as he raced down the dark hallway, red lights blinking eerily at him.
“I’m a pilot, what do you think? Try to out-maneuver them!”
The best pilot the Resistance has, Stiles thought proudly, although Derek would never - “BEEP” - he almost tripped over Scott. “Hold on to something, Scott!” Stiles wheezed as he ran past Scott, then grabbed onto the ladder and hauled himself up into the small space. He sat down in the single seat, and spun around, taking a look at what was headed their way. He jammed the headset on, and heard Derek’s voice.
“Ok Stiles, get ready. Two TIEs coming in, from starboard - ”
“I see them! I see them!” Stiles started shooting at the weaving fighters, trying to figure out their next move so he could meet them halfway with his guns. He missed all the shots.
The Camero took a sharp turn and started a steep dive.
“What did I tell you Stiles? Stay calm! Take a deep breath and then shoot!”
“My accuracy is fine, Derek, remember the last time I did this – ”
“Beeeep Beep!” Scott’s beeping was a background to the shuddering of the ship. One of the TIEs had gotten a shot. It had probably just glanced off a wing, but the ship’s defense shields were stuttering. The ship started beeping and making warning noises, adding to the panicked noise of Scott’s beeping, and the pounding in Stiles’ head.
“Shut up Scott, I know the ship just got hit,” Derek’s voice came in rough over the headset. “Stiles, focus, and then aim!”
Stiles was trying to hold the now familiar feeling of panic at bay. He took several calming breaths, and closed his eyes for a moment, willing his mind to go blank. He opened his eyes, and focused on the screen in front of him. He pressed a button, and a moment later one of the TIEs exploded mid-air.
“Woo, nice shot kid!”
Stiles beamed at Derek’s praise over the headset, but the euphoric feeling was short lived.
“Oh shit,” Stiles said.
“What?” Derek asked. The headset got quiet, with nothing but a low buzz. Then, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Stiles had looked up from the screen to see, in real time, over 20 TIE fighters surrounding them. The fighters had come from a Star Destroyer, which was now slowly sliding into view from the far side of the Camero.
Stiles’ mouth went dry, and he choked as he tried to swallow.
“What do we do?” he whispered.
“Stay calm,” Derek said, still over the headset. “I’ve been captured before. Just stay calm. And don’t let them break you.”
“Break me? I’m not able to handle torture, Derek. I’m fragile, I’m breakable, I’ll shatter into a million pieces, I’ll –”
“Stiles! You’re a soldier. You’ve been trained for this your whole life.”
“No, I’ve been trained to march in formation, to turn in formation, and to shoot first, ask questions later. Do you know what we are taught if we are captured by the enemy? To kill ourselves, if possible, before we can be questioned! Cowardice is what we are taught, Derek!” Stiles voice was starting to crack under the strain of his mild hysteria. He ripped off his headset and practically fell down the ladder. Derek was waiting at the bottom, and grabbed his arm to steady him.
“Who’s flying this thing?” Stiles said, blinking his eyes rapidly, feeling wetness threatening to spill out. He didn’t know what was going on, but the tight feeling in his chest and throat couldn’t be a precursor to anything good.
“We’re caught in the Destroyer’s tractor beam,” Derek said, more gently than the situation warranted. “They’re pulling us in. We have to hide Scott, ok? If they find him, they will tear him apart.”
“Beep beep beep!” Scott shrilled, rolling towards the ladder.
“Come here,” Derek said, letting go of Stiles and heading around a corner of the hallway. He touched a side of the wall with just his fingertip, and a hidden panel slowly fell open. “This panel is lined with reverse magnets and a cooling fan, so Scott won’t be detected.”
Scott hesitated, head swiveling back and forth to look between Derek and Stiles, while his body nervously rolled back and forth in front of the panel. With a quiet beep, he rolled into the compartment, and Derek shut the door.
“It opens only by my fingerprint. Here, let me program in your fingerprint as well, in case something happens to me and I can’t get back to let Scott out.” He pressed his finger against the wall, this time in a different place, then grabbed the wrist where Stiles’ band had been; the same wrist Derek had held through his panic attack.
“Nothing is going to happen to you,” Stiles said, eyes going wide.
“Stiles, be smart about this. If anything happens to me, you have to get back here and escape with Scott. Come on.”
Stiles reluctantly held his finger up to the wall, and Derek guided him by his wrist the rest of the way, until his finger was pressed against a smooth surface. The section behind his finger glowed red for a moment, and then Derek pulled him gently away. He gripped Stiles wrist again, this time rubbing his fingers back and forth against the exact area where the band had once been.
Stiles stood there, unsure what to do, watching Derek rub his wrist. Is this how friends acted before they were about to be captured and imminently tortured? Should they hug next, or grip each other by the elbow and look into each other’s eyes?
“Derek,” Stiles said softly. Derek continued to rub his wrist for a moment, as goosebumps raced up Stiles arm under Derek’s jacket. Suddenly, a loud clanging noise startled them both. Derek jerked up and dropped Stiles’ wrist. The moment, or whatever it had been, was over.
“We’re in the Destroyer now,” Derek said. The Camaro had come to a complete standstill. The two men stood there for a minute, not moving, and then they heard the doors to the ship forced open. The tell-tale marching of many steps could be heard. Stiles had spent the last several months running for his life from them, and now it was time to face the First Order again.
He looked at Derek, standing next to him, shoulders tense, and leaning forward, as if every muscles, his entire body, was aching for a fight. Stiles suddenly felt lighter. “Listen Derek, we escaped from them once, we can do it again – ”
A loud shot rang out, and Stiles crumpled to the ground, his body convulsing involuntarily; he felt like he had touched a 1000 volts of electricity with his bare hands. Spasms wracked through his body, and his head slammed into the ground.
“Stiles!” Derek shouted. It was the last thing he heard before everything went black.