"I'm still not sure this is a good idea, Stiles…"
"A hundred bucks, Scott. One hundred dollars!" Stiles repeats impatiently for the third time. He slips a little on the wet ground and flails his arms wildly to keep his balance.
"I know." Scott trudges along after him, and his voice comes out a little muffled from beneath the hood of his red sweatshirt. "The Star Wars special edition box set."
Stiles nods enthusiastically. "Fame and fortune," he announces solemnly.
If he's completely honest with himself – and he isn't very often – the actual reason is neither fame nor fortune, but mostly just the fact that he wants to be right.
Stiles knows there are wolves in Beacon Hills. He just knows, all right?
Sometimes he lies awake at night and can clearly hear the howls in the woods, and he's sure that he saw one last month, crossing the street in front of him when he was on his way home from Scott's place.
And he's tired of hearing the same old tired words over and over again – 'There are no wolves in California'.
That – and he doesn't actually have one hundred dollars. He can't pump his dad for money again; not after fixing his Jeep last month cost half a fortune. So he has to win this bet against Jackson.
Well, at least Scott believes him.
"I believe you," Scott says promptly at that moment. "You know I believe you. But what are we going to do if we actually find wolves?" He sounds vaguely alarmed at the thought.
"Dude, wolves are timid animals! They're much more afraid of humans than the other way around."
"Are the wolves aware of that too?" Scott asks, sounding inappropriately skeptical.
"We'll just need a few footprints," Stiles says, breathing heavily as he runs a hand over his damp face. "Or maybe a howl that I can record." He waves his phone at Scott.
"In the middle of the night?"
"Duh, wolves are nocturnal!"
Okay, so maybe Scott isn't entirely wrong and it didn't have to be this particular night. The constant drizzle is turning the paths into slippery slides and is making his clothes stick unpleasantly to his skin. But the fact is that it's the only night where the Sheriff and Mrs. McCall both have to work a night shift and won't notice that their offspring has snuck off into the Preserve of Beacon Hills. Seize the moment! Or something.
"And you're sure this has nothing to do with the Hales?" asks Scott then, completely innocently but at the same time to the point in a way that only Scott knows how to do.
Stiles stiffens. He almost ends up tripping over a large root and only Scott's hand helps him keep his balance.
"No, it doesn't," he says without turning around. If Scott sees his face, he'd be able to tell whether Stiles is lying or not.
"Why should it?" Stiles protests.
"Just because I want to wipe that smug smirk off Cora's face? Just because her stupid older brother…"
"You know, Derek is actually pretty nice."
Yeah, to you maybe, thinks Stiles. But definitely not to me.
So maybe the Hales do have a small part in why Stiles is in such a hurry to find the ultimate evidence to prove that he's right. Possibly. Just a little.
Cora Hale is actually pretty okay. She's in the same grade as Stiles and Scott, and she and Stiles are something like frenemies. Although 'enemy' is probably too strong a word. He likes Cora. They just both enjoy driving each other up the wall.
Derek Hale, on the other hand… that's a whole different matter.
Cora's cranky older brother is the co-captain of the lacrosse team. And he never makes anyone else run as many laps as Stiles. Just because Stiles once asked him whether he's 'attractive to gay guys' doesn't mean Derek has to treat him like he has the bubonic plague or something…
It's not like Stiles asked him, specifically, whether he finds Stiles attractive. It was more of a… general, indirect thing.
The Hales are weird anyway, Stiles thinks sullenly as he fishes a few wet leaves out of the collar of his shirt. They live in the middle of the woods (in a preserve!) in their huge mansion, like… like Dracula himself! And then they still have the gall to claim that they've never seen wolves or heard howling.
And every time Stiles tries to prove to them that there are wolves in Beacon Hills, all he gets in return is mocking laughter.
"Are you still convinced of your theory that they're drug dealers?" Scott asks, and he sounds vaguely amused, like he's laughing about an inside joke and Stiles is the only one who isn't in on it.
"Well, since I've dismissed my theory of them being vampires for now…," Stiles retorts somberly.
He may have a file in his room that contains all the facts relating to the Hales being super weird. Possibly. But he would deny it in court.
But the fact is: The Hales are just really odd people. And one day, Stiles is going to figure out their secret (because he's sure they have one and he's really close to figuring it out), and then they're going to be in for a surprise. Because then… then… he's going to do something with that knowledge. He just isn't sure what yet.
Sudden cracking thunder overhead yanks him out of his vengeful thoughts. Scott squeaks in surprise.
"Shit," Stiles curses breathlessly.
A lightning bolt a mile long tears up the sky above them.
"This isn't good," Scott says worriedly.
"It's going to drift by," Stiles reassures him optimistically.
It does not, in fact, drift by. The deeper they go into the woods, the worse the thunderstorm seems to get. A piercing wind blows through the trees, and the leaves around them rustle threateningly. The rain is still light and drizzly but the thunder above them is getting louder with every passing boom.
The path ahead begins to rise, and Stiles starts panting. It's a narrow trail of hard-packed dirt; there are trees to the left of them, and a grass-covered incline to their right. The blue-ish light of Stiles' cell phone makes their surroundings look unfamiliar and menacing. They've only brought one phone because Scott's is broken once again. But maybe a flashlight would've been a good idea…
"Stiles, let's go back!" Scott's voice sounds hollow in the harsh wind.
Stiles stops walking. Not because of what Scott said but because of how he said it. He sounds breathless and oddly constrained.
Stiles whirls around, unsettled.
"Hey, Scotty? Everything all right?" he asks. And when he doesn't get an answer right away, "Did you bring your inhaler? Scott?"
Scott nods and pats the front pocket of his hoodie with one hand. It's so dark that Stiles can barely make out his face, but when he takes a few steps closer, he suddenly hears the soft rattling in Scott's lungs.
"Dude, why didn't you say something?" he asks worriedly.
Scott shrugs his shoulders guiltily. He fumbles clumsily with the fabric of his sweater, and that isn't a good sign either.
"Come here," Stiles says warily and holds out his hand for the inhaler.
Whenever Scott doesn't get enough air, his fingers go numb first. Then his lips turn blue. And then that horrible rattling and wheezing starts in his lungs; the one that sounds like he's trying to suck in air through a straw, and that is never a good sign.
In retrospect, Stiles doesn't know what happens first – the lightning bolt that splits the tree beside them or the crashing thunder that makes both of them jump. Their hands brush at the exact moment that the soft wet ground beneath them caves in. And then the path underneath them is gone, and with a yelp, Stiles falls. He feels more than sees Scott do the same beside him.
Darkness as black as night swirls all around them. Branches slap his face on his way down. His hands desperately try to hold onto something but the ground is wet and so slippery that he can't find purchase anywhere. It happens so fast that it feels like a fraction of a second before he hits solid ground.
"Ugh." The impact punches the air out of his lungs and for a heartbeat, Stiles sees stars.
Oh shit, fuck, shit, fuck… that wasn't supposed to happen.
His head his pounding, his ribs are aching, but apart from that, he seems to be mostly in one piece – only completely drenched.
Ow, he thinks. Ow ow ow…
"Scott?" he wheezes. "Scott!"
With shaking arms, Stiles pushes himself up. "Scott!"
He chokes and coughs out some leaves and dirt. "SCOTT!"
Everything around him is pitch black. A bright lightning bolt lights up the sky and Stiles squeezes his eyes shut instinctively; the flashing shape burns into his retinas. He fumbles for his phone with trembling hands, but can't seem to find anything except leaves and rocks. Where is he? Where is Scott?
It's a tiny sound to his right that makes him whirl around. Blindly, he throws himself forward into the darkness, ignoring more wet leaves and the pointy sticks that dig into his palms. He doesn't have to search for long before he feels something soft beneath the tips of his fingers. Scott's hoodie.
"Scott," he breathes anxiously, sliding his hands up the sides of Scott's body; beside himself with fear at the idea of finding something horrible. Protruding bones. Torn-off limbs. Bubbling blood. His imagination knows no boundaries; it's the stuff of nightmares. "Please be okay, please be okay," he whispers. "Scott. Scotty. Say something. Please!"
Stiles sobs with relief when his hands feel out his friend's face. Scott lets out an agonizing cough and Stiles helps him sit up carefully until his back is pressed against a rock. Scott's movements are slow and lethargic, like he's not fully there, and Stiles feels his own heartbeat speed up more and more.
"…happened?" Scott manages.
"A landslide or something– I don't know. Are you hurt? Are you bleeding?" Stiles asks while his hands search Scott's back and the back of his head frantically.
"…okay." Scott's voice is hollow and quiet and Stiles can only make out what he's saying because their faces are so close. "…you?"
"I'm fine," Stiles insists without actually checking.
Scott nods and coughs again, rattling and painful. And Stiles can hear it. He can hear the wheezing in Scott's lungs with terrifying clarity now; louder than the thunder, scarier than the lightning bolts that are crashing through the sky in what feels like ten-second intervals.
Scott is having an asthma attack.
"Where's your inhaler?" Stiles yells over the roaring wind. He feels more than sees Scott shake his head in response.
Stiles' heart sinks.
No, he thinks, scared out of his mind. No, no, no.
"Wait!" he shouts. "Wait here, I'll look for it."
He frantically lunges to the side where the two of them landed after their fall. With jittery movements, he runs his hands over the ground; pushing past leaves and mud and splintered branches, and he finds everything except for that damned inhaler. It must've gotten buried beside the muddy earth that tore them down with it. A cold sweat breaks out over his skin and mixes with the rain drops clinging to him.
This can't be happening, he thinks. It can't be.
He stumbles back over to Scott.
"Scott, I…" His voice breaks and he falls to his knees beside him. Automatically, Scott lifts his hand and his fingertips reach for Stiles'.
"…okay," he manages, voice hoarse. "It's okay."
"Nothing's okay!" Stiles snaps. His voice is swallowed by another bout of thunder. In the bright flash of the lightning bolt he can once again make out how terribly pale Scott is. His eyelids are half-closed, his mouth wide open as he desperately tries to gasp for air.
The fall didn't really help, and he was already in bad shape before that.
Why didn't Stiles think of the possibility of this when he dragged Scott out of the house in the middle of the night? Why didn't it occur to him that physical strain can trigger an attack for Scott anytime? Why is Stiles such an awful friend?
And then Stiles realizes – he's going to have to make a decision.
Scott needs help. Scott needs help now.
Should Stiles stay here with him or look for the inhaler? But what if he doesn't find it? What if it's too late; so late that they're past the point where the inhaler could help Scott? It happened once before after all; when it was too late and Scott ended up in the hospital.
He makes up his mind in a heartbeat. He can't stay here. He can't wait. He can't.
He squeezes Scott's hand. It's cold and lifeless, and for a second, it scares Stiles to death. But then another lightning bolt lights up their surroundings and in the faint light, he sees Scott blink. His fingers twitch like he's trying to squeeze back.
"I'm gonna go get help," Stiles calls over the storm. "I'll be right back, okay? I'll be right back!"
Scott's looking worried now. His fingers wrap around Stiles'. His lips are moving but his voice is so faint that Stiles can only barely hear his last word when he's leaning forward. "…dangerous?"
"Nothing's gonna happen to me," Stiles reassures him around the lump in his throat. "I'll be right back. Everything is gonna be okay. I promise. Give me ten minutes. Give me five. Okay? Scott? Scott! Okay?"
Scott nods. He doesn't look happy.
"And you stay awake," Stiles says firmly before he's scrambling to his feet and running off.
There's only one place he can go to at this point.
There's only one place where he can get help in time.
He has a vague idea of where he is, or at least knows where they were before the path below them caved in.
The Jeep is miles away at the edge of the preserve – Stiles could've parked it on the moon instead and it would be just as far away. The Jeep is not an option. But somewhere to Stiles' right is the river. And somewhere to his left, if he's really, really lucky, is the Hale house.
Stiles and Scott were at Cora's birthday parties for the last couple of years, and he vaguely remembers a long path in the woods that goes past the river and leads straight to their house.
In daylight, the path looked green and idyllic. Now there's absolutely nothing idyllic about it.
Harsh lightning keeps lighting up the sky. The rumbling thunder is so loud that it feels like Stiles' eardrum is ripping. He stumbles through the darkness over roots and loose rocks; slips on wet leaves and rubble. He falls and scrambles back to his feet. His hands are scraped and wet, and in the darkness, he can't figure out whether it's blood or rain.
Halfway there, he starts calling out. Panicked cries for help in the vague hope that someone hears him over the crashing sounds of the rain and thunder. Blood rushes in his ears and his heart is pounding against his ribs. He keeps seeing Scott's pale face before his eyes, and feels the touch of his fingers.
What if he's too late?
What if Scott's already stopped breathing? The thought hits him suddenly; sharp and harsh like lightning.
What if Scott dies when Stiles isn't with him?
The mere thought almost makes his knees give out.
What if Scott dies alone in the woods during a thunderstorm, and it's all Stiles' fault?
He finds himself wishing for his dad, for Scott's mom – for anyone; any responsible adult who'll help Scott and who'll wrap their arms around Stiles and assure him that everything – everything – is going to be okay.
But there's only him.
He's the only one who can help Scott now.
"Help!" he shouts desperately. "HELLO? I need help, I–"
He trips over a root and falls to the ground. His teeth are chattering painfully and the impact vibrates through his bones. For a second, he stays on the ground, nearly paralyzed; water seeping through his clothes.
At this point, he's not sure if he really is as close to the Hale house as he thought he was. Everything around here looks the same. In the flashing, surreal light, all the trees look equally black and threatening.
Maybe he was wrong and they're in a completely different part of the preserve. Maybe he and Scott walked farther off the path than he assumed. Maybe they're miles away from everything; civilization, help. Maybe…
With surprising determination, Stiles pushes himself back to his feet.
He can't think like that. He can't give up. He's the only one who can get help for Scott. He promised. He…
He runs off again and instantly runs into something hard that appears in front of him, sudden and unexpected, like it shot straight out of the ground right in front of him.
A hoarse yelp escapes his throat and he stumbles backward. Only a firm hand on his arm keeps him from hitting the rocky ground again. He tries to shrug it off reflexively.
"Oh no, no, no!" he protests. "Stop! Let go of me – help!"
He's flailing wildly, hitting around, spurred on by the adrenaline coursing through him. That's just what he needs right now; being attacked by some sex maniac and dragged further into the woods. That can't happen – not when Scott needs him.
"Stiles?" a vaguely familiar voice calls. "Stiles!"
Lightning lights up the sky. Stiles blinks against the heavy rain running down his face and in the white light, he makes out a familiar face.
It's the characteristically drawn-together eyebrows that finally tell him who's in front of him. He stops moving.
"Derek," he breathes.
His knees give out beneath him. Only the firm grip on his biceps keeps him from going down.
It really is Derek Hale, Cora's awful big brother, who's suddenly standing in front of him like some sort of incarnate storm god and staring at him like Stiles is a ghostly apparition.
It's Derek Hale, and he's naked and…
It's Derek Hale.
And he's naked.
For a few seconds, Stiles wonders if he maybe hit his head a few times too many. He stares at Derek wordlessly.
Maybe it's just a dream. Or a hallucination. Like a wanderer who's dying of thirst and suddenly seeing an oasis in the desert.
"Stiles! Stiles!" Derek's voice is sharp and insistent, and Stiles only now registers that he's being shaken firmly. Derek sounds like this isn't the first time he's calling Stiles' name. "What happened? Are you hurt?"
"What…?" Stiles swallows hard. Suddenly, he's acutely aware of the cold rain on his skin. "No, I…"
"What are you doing here?!" Derek snaps at him, and even in the darkness, Stiles can tell that his face is pale with rage. "Are you crazy? You can't just–"
"I'm not," Stiles stammers. He has no idea why Derek looks so angry. He doesn't know why he's running around here in the middle of the night either – and is naked on top of everything. The only thing he does know is that his eyes are suddenly filling with tears of relief because he finally, finally isn't alone anymore.
Derek is an oasis.
Warm hands cup his face, unbelievably gentle in sharp contrast to the harshness of his voice. Derek's eyes are suddenly very close to him as he searches him intently.
"Stiles," Derek says again. He sounds upset, and Stiles almost feels dazed when Derek brushes his thumbs over Stiles' face. "You're bleeding. We need to…"
"Scott," Stiles chokes out. And then, panic rising, "Scott!"
Derek pauses and stares at Stiles with a look that suggests he's also wondering whether he hit his head and isn't entirely there. "What?"
"You need to help me!" Stiles reaches for Derek's hand and tries to drag him along. Derek is as uncooperative as a marble statue and doesn't move an inch.
"Please!" Stiles yells against the wind. Water's running down his face and it could be blood or rain or tears, he doesn't know, and it's not like it matters in the first place. "Please! It's Scott."
He's not sure what Derek sees in his face, but whatever it is, it seems to convince him that he needs to act now. He nods abruptly. "Where is he?"
The way back seems much shorter than the way there. Maybe because Stiles is running the entire time without stopping for a second. He has a vague idea of where he left Scott.
At some point, Derek grabs his arm and forces him to stop. He seems to be listening. Stiles isn't sure how he's supposed to hear anything over the pattering rain and howling storm.
"That way," he decides a moment later and pulls Stiles to the right. Stiles doesn't protest. He's lost count of how many fallen trees they've run past a long time ago.
"Why are you naked?" Stiles blurts out halfway there because he needs to get out of the panicked loop of 'Scott, Scott, Scott' that's running through his head.
"That's your biggest problem right now?" Derek calls over the wind. "Why are you here anyway?"
"Wolves," Stiles gasps breathlessly. "And you?"
"Wolves," Derek retorts after too-long pause.
Funny, Stiles thinks.
When they finally find Scott, he's not moving. His eyes are closed and his face is white in the darkness.
And Stiles thinks, no, no, no. It's a world of no.
He makes a sound; half scream, half moan, and sinks to his knees next to him. For a few long seconds, the whole world seems to stop. For a few long seconds, he can't even seem to breathe.
"Scott," he whispers. "Scotty…"
His hand is hovering above Scott's chest, too scared of what he could find if he tries to feel his pulse. Because it can't be that he finds nothing. It just can't.
"He's alive," says Derek. He kneels at Scott's other side and his hands run over Scott's chest and face. "Stiles." A hand grips his and Stiles looks up sharply. "Stiles, he's alive."
He's almost dizzy with relief. He doesn't know how Derek can tell because Scott is still deadly silent and lying like a lifeless doll in Derek's arms when he lifts him up. But Derek sounds absolutely convinced, and Stiles holds onto that certainty like an anchor.
Scott isn't dead.
Scott is alive.
They're tripping into the Hales' entrance hall in a flurry of rain, wind and thunder. Cora's meeting them half way, as if she's been waiting for them inside. Her eyes widen when she sees Stiles and Scott. "Holy shit, what…?"
"Get mom," Derek barks. "Go!"
Cora nods and disappears.
"Come," Derek says, and Stiles follows him into the living room.
"Ambulance," he says breathlessly. He whirls around frantically, looking for a telephone, a cell phone, a radio signal, carrier pigeons – anything! Water droplets fly around him like glitter dust and he's leaving wet footprints on the floor. "Hurry up! We need to call an ambulance!"
With a carefulness that you somehow wouldn't think Derek even possesses, he lets Scott glide onto the couch. His head lolls lifelessly to the side. Now, in the warm light of a living room lamp, Stiles can see that his lips are faintly blue. The rest of his face is as pale as chalk. He looks more dead than alive, and only the faint movements behind his eyelids give any indication that he's still with them.
"Derek!" Stiles snaps.
Derek lets out a breath. He shakes his head. At that moment, he really does look like he's sorry. "The phone line is down. There hasn't been reception since the storm started."
He feels his hands drop, endlessly heavy because of the wet fabric of his hoodie.
"No," he whispers. "No."
"Stiles…" Derek approaches him as cautiously as he would an injured animal. "You're completely drenched. You're bleeding. Let me…"
"No!" Stiles shoves his hands away. "Scott! We need to help Scott – don't you have a car? We can…"
Derek exhales. It sounds so defeated that Stiles feels his throat close up. "My dad has the car. He's in New York with Laura."
"What happened?" a calm voice interjects from the other side of the room, and Stiles whirls around. Derek's mother is standing in the doorway.
Talia Hale is an impressive figure. Tall and dark-haired with a relaxed facial expression, and she always looks as if she knows just a little more than everyone else. There's something about her that makes people obey her polite requests like orders. Stiles has always envied her for that. And he respects her. But all of that is pushed aside at this moment.
"Scott is choking," he blurts out. "He's having an asthma attack. He can't breathe! He needs help – please!"
Derek's hand on his arm interrupts his breathless tirade.
"Derek?" Mrs. Hale asks.
Derek gives Stiles a hesitant glance, and then looks back at his mother. "He's barely breathing," he says quietly.
With a few big steps, she's moving past them and sinks to her knees next to the couch. Cora appears behind her. Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles notices her handing her brother something to wear. But his entire focus is on Talia who gently puts her hand to Scott's chest.
"He has an inhaler," Stiles manages despite the fact that no one asked him. "But we lost it. There was a landslide and I couldn't find it. Scott needs help, please! We need to get him to a hospital! Please!"
For several seconds, everyone's silent, and the only thing he can hear is the quiet rattling in Scott's lungs. Three pairs of eyes are on Mrs. Hale while she's looking at Scott with an expression that's both pitying and resigned. Finally, she drops her hand.
"It's too late," she says. "He's never going to make it to the hospital."
Stiles feels as though someone's reaching straight into his chest and squeezing his heart. He shakes his head, nearly paralyzed with fear. "No."
"I'm sorry." She sounds quietly cautious.
"No," he chokes out again. "He can't… he can't be… please!"
He turns around to face Derek. He doesn't even know why. Maybe because of the way Derek looked at him out there in the preserve. Maybe because for the first time in his life, Derek was nice to him. "Please, you need to help him. You need to save him, please!"
"Stiles…," Derek whispers, and it sounds so much like an apology that Stiles' eyes fill with tears.
He wipes his face angrily. "No!" he snaps.
Cora's eyes are huge and she looks genuinely shocked. "Mom," she says softly. It sounds insistent and at the same time like a question, a request, a plea.
Through his veil of tears, Stiles sees Derek and his mother give each other a look above his head. And suddenly, Stiles can't take the silent communication and pregnant looks anymore. There's something they're not telling him. He knows it. He feels it. He's always known it. And he doesn't know if it's something that can still save Scott at this point, but he needs to try. He has to.
"I would deal for you!" he blurts out.
Derek's brows shoot up.
Mrs. Hale tilts her head.
"Excuse me?" she asks.
"If it's drugs. Your secret." Stiles stands up straight in front of Derek's mother. Even though she's still kneeling beside the sofa and he's looking down at her, he feels small and insignificant in her larger than life presence. "I don't care. I'll deal for you and smuggle drugs past my dad, I swear!" His breath speeds up and feels himself stumble over his own words. "Or blood."
"Blood?" Derek repeats behind him.
Stiles whips around to face him. "I know you're vampires!" he snarls. He takes a few steps towards him, hands balled into fists. Every part of his body's screaming, 'Go on, laugh. Laugh at me!'
But Derek isn't laughing. Derek's eyes are wide and dark, and even Cora looks silent and shocked at his sudden outburst.
"I know you have a secret," Stiles continues. "And maybe it's vampires or maybe it's drugs or something else. But whatever it is – you need to help him!"
"Stiles," Derek says softly. "It isn't that easy. We–"
"I don't care!" Stiles yells. "I don't care what it is! If you don't help him, then… then…"
He's breathing heavily, and at that moment, he's all too aware that he's nothing. Nothing but a small, skinny nobody. A child.
He runs a hand over his face. "If you don't help him, then I'm going to find out what you are and… I'm going to tell everyone." His voice breaks.
The living room seems to tilt around them, and it takes a moment for Stiles to realize that it's him who's swaying.
Talia's voice is sharp. "Derek."
Big, warm hands hold on to him.
"Stiles," says Derek, his voice right beside Stiles' ear. "Stiles, listen to me."
He guides him to an armchair, right next to the couch Scott is still lying on and taking his last few breaths.
Derek maneuvers him onto the seat before he kneels in front of him. The room is still swaying gently around him and it feels like the end of the world.
"Stiles, look at me."
"I am," Stiles chokes out.
"It isn't that easy." Derek looks serious. His face is so close that Stiles can see every single one of his eyelashes. "We… we can't do this without his consent. We don't do that."
"But you could, right?" Stiles' voice is hoarse as he focuses on the one thing in that sentence that he wants to hear, like a lifeline. "You could save him, right?"
Derek hesitates. He glances at his mother, then back to Stiles.
"Yes," he says at the same moment as Talia says, "Maybe."
"Maybe," Derek corrects himself. His eyes are fixed on Stiles' face. "But it would change everything. Do you understand? For Scott. For you. It would change everything. After this, nothing would be like the way it was before. We would take something from him. And we… we'd give him something that maybe he doesn't want to have."
"Please," says Stiles. It's the only word that's still available in his head. He's never begged this much in his life. "I'll do anything. I'll be your slave. I'll get you drugs. You can drink my blood. Anything. Please. Please."
"You're consenting? Even for him?" Mrs. Hale's voice seems to come from far, far away. She sounds like she's talking to him from the other side of an endlessly long tunnel.
"Yes." Stiles nods with the last of his strength. "Yes, I'm consenting. For him. For Scott. I'm consenting."
Mrs. Hale tilts her head, like a silent agreement. She exhales.
Stiles feels dazed when she leans forward and grabs Scott's wrist. It must be a hallucination or a trick of the light, but there seems to be a red gleam in her eyes all of the sudden.
"What…?" he breathes. "What's she–?"
She smiles. Long, pointy fangs appear.
With a yelp, Stiles jumps to his feet. The room is spinning around him like a carousel. The last thing he sees is Talia leaning over Scott's arm, her long black hair like a veil around her, and bites.
Then, everything goes black.
"Stiles," says a voice above him. It seems to come from far away.
Someone's holding his hand. That's unusual. It's nice.
"Stiles." The voice sounds more insistent now.
Stiles blinks. A bright face is slowly swimming into his field of vision. Stiles sees serious eyes and cheekbones that could cut diamonds.
"Derek?" he whispers.
He's had dreams that started like this. Dreams that…
Dreams that don't belong here at all.
He sits up abruptly before he's even fully awake. "Scott?" he asks breathlessly. "Scott! Where is…? Is he…?" He can't even get the word out.
"He's alive," Derek says quickly, and Stiles feels his chest unclench as he regains the ability to breathe.
"How long was I...?"
"Not long. Scott is alive," Derek says again. "He's asleep. In the living room. He hasn't woken up yet but my mother is with him. She's optimistic."
"He… really?" Stiles breathes.
Derek nods. "He's gonna make it." It sounds like a promise and something about the absolutely certain way he says it makes Stiles believe him.
"Oh, thank God," he breathes, and collapses. He lands on something soft and fluffy like a pillow, and freezes.
"…Am I in your bed?" he asks.
Oh, thinks Stiles, oddly bashful at that thought. Oh.
An unbidden image appears in his head; how Derek Hale must've carried him through the house and up the stairs to his room like a princess because Stiles fainted like an idiot. There is no other explanation for how he could've ended up here.
He did see, after all, how Derek lifted Scott up without breaking a sweat. Derek and his stupid biceps could probably carry him all the way to Australia.
It's only now that he realizes that it's actually Derek who's holding his hand.
He watches wordlessly as Derek wipes dirt and dried blood off his palms with surprising tenderness. He didn't even notice his hands looked that bad. They're scraped and bloody. It looks painful but oddly enough, he doesn't feel more than a slight burn while Derek cleans the wounds.
It's strictly a medical procedure, his brain tells him. Except – it doesn't feel like it at all. It feels strangely intimate and personal. Maybe because Derek's holding his hands so carefully in his own, like he's afraid of breaking them. Which is ridiculous because Stiles really doesn't have fragile porcelain hands but large paws with long, strong fingers.
It's ridiculous, he reminds himself in his head. It still makes his heart stutter.
"Can I see him now? Scott?" he blurts out before he can follow that train of thought much more. "Wi– Is he gonna turn into a vampire now?"
Derek rolls his eyes and almost looks amused. "We are not vampires, Stiles. No one here's a vampire. There is no such thing as vampires."
"Your mom bit him! I saw it! Are you gonna deny that?"
"So… no more garlic on Scott's pizza then?"
Derek looks at him like Stiles has lost his mind.
"Oh," Stiles says, voice small. "Are you going to have to kill me now? Because I guessed your secret? Adieu, Stiles, goodbye? Wow. That's… harsh. Can I say goodbye to Scott first? Am I gonna be a blood slave in your basement? Wait… did I offer to be your slave earlier?"
"Yes," Derek replies tersely.
"What? Are you gonna withdraw your offer?"
Stiles shakes his head quickly. "Not if it'll save Scott's life?"
It's only half a joke. The other part of him is deadly serious.
Derek pauses. He looks at him for so long that Stiles averts his eyes awkwardly.
"You are really odd, Stiles Stilinski," he says finally, and for some reason, it doesn't sound like an insult.
For a moment, Stiles doesn't say a word. There are too many thoughts in his head and he doesn't know how to voice them.
Derek's holding his hands.
Scott almost died.
The Hales are vampires.
"I told you we aren't vampires," Derek sighs at that moment, like he's reading his mind.
Wait a minute…
"Can vampires read minds?" Stiles asks, horrified.
"Stiles! There is no such thing as vampires!" Derek repeats impatiently. "We are not vampires and we can't read minds."
"Werewolves," Derek says so quietly that Stiles almost doesn't catch it.
Derek breathes out and lowers the wet washcloth. He lifts his head. "We're werewolves," he says slowly.
Stiles blinks at him, not sure how to react to that confession.
"No," he says finally.
Derek gives him a look. "You had no trouble assuming we were drug dealers or vampires but you can't grasp the concept of werewolves?" Derek sounds so offended when he says it, like Stiles personally attacked him and peed on the graves of his ancestors.
"Dude, no," Stiles says. "That's not it. But… For three goddamn years in middle school I've had to listen to you tell me that there are no wolves in California! You, and Cora, and Laura – you laughed at me!"
Derek has the decency to look a tiny bit ashamed.
"Can I see it?" asks Stiles. "Your, uh…" He gestures at Derek.
Derek raises his brows.
"Your wolf," Stiles says. "Please? Just so I know what to expect during the next full moon. Is that why you were naked? In the preserve? Is that a wolf thing? Is Scott going to do that too? Can you really shift into a wolf? Do you eat bunnies sometimes? Raw?"
He pauses. "Do you want me to shut up?"
"Jesus," Derek says, and gets off the bed abruptly. "What is wrong with you? I'm a werewolf! Aren't you the least bit afraid I'm gonna tear off your head?"
Stiles thinks for a moment. "No?"
"Why not?" Derek sounds genuinely frustrated.
Stiles shrugs his shoulders. "Since you didn't do anything to me when I was in seventh grade, I'm assuming I'm safe now."
"You were terrible in seventh grade."
Derek shakes his head. He doesn't say another word and makes his way to the closet. When he turns around, he's holding a dry t-shirt and sweatpants in his hands. He tosses them at Stiles, and Stiles catches them reluctantly.
"I… hang on, I've won that hundred bucks, haven't I? No, wait." Something dawns on him. "…I'm not allowed to tell anyone that I was right. Right?"
"We'd really ask you not to, yeah."
"Oh my god!" Stiles hisses, and then sighs theatrically. "Well – great. Thanks to you I'm gonna have to beg my dad for the money or sell all my Avengers comics to get rid of my debts. Is– Is Scott gonna be a werewolf too?" he adds in a low voice.
Derek hesitates briefly but then nods. "Since he survived the bite, it's very likely. The bite's already healing."
"Wow," Stiles says, processing. He can't help but think about the fact that he's the one who agreed to this. He did this to Scott. On the other hand, this is better than… God, anything is better than the alternative.
"What… what do werewolves eat? Am I gonna have to feed him live mice? I could, you know? I used to have a boa."
"Human flesh," Derek deadpans. "Preferably curious boys who ask too many questions."
A giggle outside the door makes them whirl around. It's Cora; leaning against the doorframe, one hand on her hip, looking at them in amusement.
"Derek, stop flirting and get downstairs," she says. "Mom wants to talk to you."
She disappears again after tossing her hair behind her shoulder and winking at Stiles.
Derek blushes all the way up to his hairline.
Stiles opens his mouth and closes it.
"Ha," he says weakly. "Ha… ha?"
Derek looks away and folds the washcloth grimly, as if it is the one to be blamed for all of this.
"Good one," Stiles tries. "Why… I mean, why would you want to flirt with me, right? It's not like you can even stand me. Haha. Ha."
Inwardly, he kind of wants to strangle Cora for interrupting their nice and kind of private moment.
Does that mean he can't even do that anymore because she's a werewolf? Is she even a werewolf? Derek did say 'we'…
"Why do you always think I can't stand you?" Derek suddenly snarls unexpectedly. It doesn't sound unfriendly. More… frustrated.
"Uh… what?" Stiles stares at him. "Is that a serious question? Really? Do you want a Power Point presentation? Because… Because you always make me run extra laps! Whenever I ask you a question, you look like someone's forcing you to talk to an insect. You think all my ideas are stupid. You… you've never liked me!"
"I think your ideas are stupid because they're usually illegal or suggest that you're going to cause yourself physical harm during the execution."
"That's not even–"
Derek gives him a significant look.
And, okay, Stiles has to admit that he's currently not in a position to deny that. He did run through the woods in the middle of the night to look for wolves.
Possibly, Derek's not completely wrong about this.
Possibly, Stiles is an idiot.
"I think you're unbelievably frustrating," Derek says. Again, it doesn't really sound like an insult; more like… something else. "I make you run extra laps because otherwise, you'll never make an effort. But I don't want…" He shrugs his shoulders awkwardly. "I wouldn't be happy if you ended up in jail or hurt yourself badly."
That sounds suspiciously like Derek's actually worried about him. Because Stiles is an idiot.
Stiles suddenly feels a warm sensation spread through his entire body, like someone turned on the heater.
Either that, or he's running a fever because he spent half the night running through the woods in the rain.
"Uh," he says awkwardly. He clears his throat and runs a hand over the back of his head. "I, uh. I don't not like you, too."
That has to be the nicest thing he's ever said to Derek. And also the thing that's closest to the truth. Even if it's still pretty far away from the actual truth.
Derek looks stunned.
"Just for the record," Stiles adds quickly, "if we have one. On the other hand, that would be stupid because why would we?" He wets suddenly dry lips. "We… we should go check on Scott, right? Your mom wanted–"
"Yes." Derek stands up quickly. "Yeah, we should… yes."
He folds his arms over his chest defensively. "You… you should change. I'll wait for you downstairs."
Stiles nods again, feeling a little overwhelmed by whatever just happened. He reaches for Derek's t-shirt hesitantly.
"Wait," he says then.
Derek is already halfway out the door but stops. He turns around slowly; looks at Stiles expectantly.
"Am I really your slave now?"
Derek huffs. But if Stiles didn't know any better, he'd say that there's a tiny smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"See you soon, Stiles," Derek just says.
See you soon.
That sounds really nice, Stiles thinks.
When he finally makes his way into the living room, Mrs. Hale is sitting beside Scott. Derek is standing at the foot of the couch and their eyes are fixed on Scott. Scott, who fortunately looks very, very alive and unhurt. Stiles hurries closer and gets to his knees beside the couch, waiting.
It doesn't take long before Scott lets out a soft sigh. He blinks sleepily and looks around in confusion; like he's looking for something. But he looks awake and not close to choking.
Stiles feels himself go weak with relief.
"Hello Scott," says Mrs. Hale in her soft, low voice.
"Mrs. Hale?" Scott mumbles. And then, "Where's Stiles?"
Stiles reaches for his hand and when Scott turns his head, he smiles at him through teary eyes. "Hey buddy…"
Scott looks just as relieved as Stiles feels. "Hey," he whispers back. Then his brow furrows in question. "What happened?"
Stiles glances over his shoulder at Derek and his mother; then back at Scott. "It's a long story," he starts.
Scott looks at him expectantly.
"Well," Stiles says. "Let's start with the fact that I was right. I am always right, and this time, I was especially right. There are wolves in California!"