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Endure and Survive (To the Edge of the Universe and Back)

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There were a couple of cars upturned on their sides about twenty feet in front of where he currently stood. It looked like one had caught fire at one point, the sides of it looking charred and black.

Stiles never saw anyone around when he’d walk around campus, and he spent his time hiding during the time everything started falling apart. He hadn’t run into any survivors either, not yet at least, but he was getting to the point that he doubted that there were any. He felt like he was the only one around for miles. It left him feeling unsettled every time that idea popped into his head, though; so he tried to ignore it, keep his mind on other things, like surviving.

He worried he was going to run out of supplies and food. He worried he’d have to venture off campus again, but he refused to think about that at all. It wasn’t like it was a pleasant thought; it wasn’t anything comforting, so why bother to dwell on it?

After the first week, after he was sure that everything had died down enough, after he thought it’d be safe enough, he had ventured off campus to walk the short distance to his apartment. He had needed clothes and food he knew was safe, so he grabbed it, only making one more trip for the rest of it. He had told himself that would be the only time he’d leave campus again. He wasn’t sure how true that statement would hold for the future, but right then, that was the plan.

The parking lot of the school looked like a demolition derby; there were so many abandoned cars. It was like panic had set in, and before people had the chance to drive away to somewhere they thought was safe, everything just stopped and things went south from there. There weren’t too many cars, it wasn’t like the entire parking lot was littered with them, but the ones that were there were destroyed. He had found that out quickly. He had hoped there was one that he could use, but that was completely impossible. He could hotwire a car, sure, he knew that much, but fixing a car was a whole different ball game.

He scuffed his shoe against the pavement, kicking up dirt into the air. There was a rock near his shoe, and he picked it up. He stared down at it contemplatively, before looking at one of the destroyed cars and tossing the rock at it with as much force as he could muster. When it hit, it made a loud clang! into the quiet that surrounded him. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and felt satisfied that he threw it that far.

--

He had a hiding spot in the northeast side of campus in one of the history classrooms. He had another in the library, one he used only if he felt his usual one may not be safe to go back to, or if he saw something he’d rather not get in the middle of. Both were perfect to hide away and keep him safe enough to get some sleep. Not a lot, but enough. Stiles hadn’t slept much since everything happened. It was kind of hard to.

There was a radio in the history room. It worked sometimes, whenever it decided it wanted to. Stiles had found it on his fourth day. It was old, a deep brown with scratches in it, like it had been dropped many times or someone had tried to carve things into the wood. There were initials cut into the back of the radio, on the bottom right-hand side, that read C.B. Sometimes it would get a signal and he’d hear people talking. He’d hear their distorted voices over the speakers and he’d wish he knew how to work the radio so he could send something back to them so they’d know he was alive and not crazy, or whatever everyone had turned into.

Zombies, Stiles’ mind always supplied, they were a lot like zombies.

--

It was midday when Stiles saw him. There was a guy in the library, walking around and looking through the stack of books. He had a good build, strong and muscular. He looked like he could easily take care of himself. Stiles couldn’t see his face from the angle he was at, only the back of him as he went through all of the books and whatever else sat on the desks. He was moving around like he had no worry in the world, like he felt relaxed and safe or something, which was bordering on completely ridiculous in Stiles’ opinion.

“Shit,” Stiles swore under his breath. “Fuck.”

He didn’t really know what would happen if the guy saw him. He could be dangerous for all he knew. He wasn’t sure if he could trust anyone. He didn’t know this guy at all, so he had no idea what his motivations were, if he would kill him, if he were a fucking zombie, or what. He didn’t know. And that was terrifying. This was the first time Stiles ever saw anyone just looking at things, and that alone was completely terrifying. He’d seen people in the distance, but that was it, and those were the ones he knew to stay away from.

He was about to walk away when the guy looked up and noticed him. Stiles stilled completely, holding his breath like he was afraid if he so much as breathed, that would be it. He really, really didn’t want to die, even if it was the end of the world and there really wasn’t much left. He felt like he needed to survive another day, like it was important.

The guy tilted his head, like he was trying to figure out why Stiles was standing on the other side of the door, like he hadn’t seen a person in a long time either. The guy had week’s worth of stubble on his face, his shirt looked dirty and torn, and he was wearing a black leather jacket that was in the same beat up state. Stiles wondered what happened to him to make his clothes look the way they did.

Stiles took a step back, then another before he turned around and bolted like his life depended on it. His heart was beating fast in his chest as he ran through the hall. He never looked back, instead focusing on everything before him. His breath was coming out quick, his lungs aching by the time he finally stopped running. He tried to catch his breath, breathing in and out slowly in a feeble attempt to do so. He braced a hand against the brick wall of the school and froze when he heard the squeak from shoes against tile. He chanced a look down the hall.

The guy from the library was there, staring right at him. He had followed him.

“Leave me alone. I don’t want any trouble, okay?” Stiles yelled. “So you can fuck off, dude.”

“You’re not one of them,” the guy said it like he was surprised, like he hadn’t seen someone who was human and normal, and not some crazed zombie-creature from hell. It caught Stiles by surprise, too. Because this guy was normal, he wasn’t running toward Stiles with the intention to kill him, or eating him, or whatever. He was just standing there, staring at Stiles. But Stiles still kept his distance, Stiles still looked at him like he wasn’t sure if he wasn’t just imagining somebody who was normal still.

“No.” Stiles stood up straighter. He cleared his throat, willing his voice into something that didn’t have a slight shake to it. “No,” he repeated, his voice firmer. “I’m not.”

The guy stuffed his hands into his leather jacket. He looked kind of like those heroes in all of the apocalypse movies Stiles always would watch, the kind of guys who could wield guns and shoot zombies’ heads off with one single shotgun blast. This guy didn’t have any guns, not any that Stiles could see at least, but he still looked like he could kick some ass. He was also ridiculously attractive, and yeah, zombie horror movie star fit.

“That’s good,” he said, and then guy was walking away, which made no sense, because he had followed him this far. Why follow him only to say one stupid sentence and then walk away afterward? Stiles wanted to call after him, say never mind, you can stay! I don’t want to be alone!But the guy was already gone by the time he got the nerve to say anything.

--

Part of Stiles wanted to go looking for the guy, but he didn’t even know where to start, because it wasn’t like he had ever seen him before. He was pretty sure he would have, given the guy stood out with his whole tall, dark and leather look he had going on. And also with the fact that the guy was actually normal and human and not zombie brain dead and looking for people to eat.

Mostly, Stiles was kind of afraid to go looking around campus for the guy because, even if the guy was normal, he didn’t know what to do if he came across something he didn’t want to come across. He had his safe zones, which were two places, and the space between those places. But everywhere else on the campus was untouched territory that he didn’t dare go near in fear of what might lurk in the dark corners.

Some places weren’t even accessible, because there were things that were too heavy for Stiles to move that blocked his way. There was one area that was caved in, blocking the way to the southeast corner of the university. He wasn’t even sure how that happened. It was almost like someone decided to bulldoze the area, leaving destruction in their wake. How did something like that even happen? Sometimes, he really wondered what else went on while he was scared out of his mind, hiding away as everything went to hell around him. There were just some things he didn’t understand, and some things he didn’t even want to bother understanding anymore.

His thoughts kept going back to the guy. He didn’t know where he came from, or how long he’d been around. He thought maybe the guy just started hanging around the school, and that was why he had never seen him before. Stiles still swore that he would have seen the guy around before because he just stood out. Nothing made sense.

Part of him hoped he’d run into him again, and part of him refused to even care anymore. Part of him still didn’t trust that the guy was even safe.

--

There was a door that led up to the roof of the library. It was locked the first time Stiles came across it, but he worked hard to pick the lock, a skill he had been perfecting since the whole end of the world thing happened. He figured if he ever needed to get inside somewhere that had a locked door, he’d need to know how to pick the lock as fast as he could. His father taught him how to do it, but he always told him, “Don’t use this to break into places, Stiles, this is only for emergencies.” Stiles always told him yes, I know, only for emergencies. Stiles only had a few emergencies since then, most revolving around the world ending because there were doors he needed to get into that were always unfortunately locked. He was glad he knew how to do it, he just needed to know how to do it a lot quicker. Speed, he thought, was something important to have.

The library was two stories high, so when he would go up to the roof, he could only see so far. If the library had more stories, maybe he could see past just the university, maybe he could see more of the death and destruction he was sure the college town was filled with. Maybe he could see Beacon Hills, but that was a long shot, even if the building was as tall as the skyscrapers in New York City.

It showed him enough, though.

“So you’re the one who broke the lock on the door.”

Stiles startled, his body jerking, going on high alert and looking up at where the voice came from. It was the same guy he saw in the library. There was a tilt to his head and he was leaning against the door.

“I picked the lock,” Stiles said, correcting him. If the lock was broken, the door handle would be off and Stiles wouldn’t have that added protection just in case. He’d be left open, vulnerable, and that wasn’t happening. “What are you doing up here? Actually, who are you? I think that’s a better first question I should be asking.”

“Derek,” the guy answered and didn’t move. “I won’t hurt you.” He said it like he thought he needed to reassure Stiles, like he could tell Stiles didn’t trust him at all. And Stiles didn’t, because he didn’t know the guy. He didn’t have anything to base trust on.

“You say that, but who can trust anyone these days?” Stiles said with a shrug. “The world has gone to shit, there’s no cell service, everything sucks. Plus it’s every man for himself, right?”

“You can’t trust anyone,” Derek agreed easily, looking Stiles right in the eyes, unyielding. “But you can tell I’m not one of them. I’m not telling you to trust me, I’m just telling you that I won’t hurt you.”

“I’m Stiles,” he told him, because if the guy was going to share his name, he may as well do the same right? Common courtesy, and all that.

Derek didn’t say anything, didn’t move a muscle except to give a short nod, like he was trying to say nice to meet you in some weird, silent way. Stiles allowed himself to relax a little, but he didn’t keep his eyes off of Derek, just in case. Even though it didn’t look like Derek was about to kill him anytime soon.

“So I’ve been wondering why I haven’t seen you before, because I’m pretty sure I would have, dude.”

Derek lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug and still didn’t move away from where he was leaned against the door. Stiles was kind of thankful he was keeping his distance, but then again he kind of wanted the guy to not stand far away like he was skittish of being near Stiles or something and just sit down already.

“I don’t like to stay in one place,” Derek said, as if that was answer enough. No why he didn’t like to stay in one place, nothing to back it up. He looked like the idea of traveling around town wasn’t completely stupid. Stiles was surprised the guy was still alive. “I still stayed around the school. Mostly on the opposite side, that’s why you haven’t seen me before.”

“So what, you thought you’d spread your wings, go snooping around my side of the school?” Stiles asked. Derek raised both of his eyebrows at that.

“Your side?” Derek asked. “I think I can go wherever I want on this campus.”

“Then why did you just start coming over here?”

“What makes you think I haven’t been around here before?”

“I would have seen you before, dude. I would have. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“I know how to get around without being seen.” Derek took a step back, looking like he was going to leave any second. “Have a good night, Stiles,” Derek added before he was turning around and jogging down the stairs.

Stiles stared after him, wondering how the guy managed to sneak around campus for six months without Stiles ever seeing him at all. “Yeah, good night to you, too,” Stiles called out belatedly. He was pretty sure the guy wasn’t even close enough to hear him anymore.

--

Stiles ran into Derek again a few days later when he was on his way to the library. It was starting to get dark. It was at that time of day where he could already see the moon but no stars yet. Derek was walking toward the library, or at least in what looked like the same direction of the library. He stopped walking when he saw Stiles, though, and looked like he wasn’t sure if he should continue walking or turn back around.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Stiles said dryly.

“Library,” Derek said, gesturing at the building in front of them.

“Same place I’m going, imagine that,” Stiles said. “My other hideout doesn’t feel safe, so.” He paused, looking up at the brick building. “I’m here for the night. How about you? What brings you here?”

“I wanted to find another book to read.” Derek was already starting to walk toward the library again. Stiles jogged to catch up to him until he was walking beside him. Derek glanced at him with the corner of his eye, like he was calculating what he should say.

“You read?” Stiles asked, which was a stupid question, because of course Derek read.

Derek snorted. “Yes, I read. Is that surprising?” He sounded like he thought Stiles’ question was hilarious, or completely ridiculous, or both. He was amused at least.

“Okay, so that was a stupid question,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes. “I knew you could read. What do you like to read? Humor? Horror? Fiction? Non-fiction?”

“I’m not too picky, but I like fiction most. If a book catches my attention, I’ll read it.” Derek shrugged and pulled the door open to the library. “I like to read.”

“Yeah? That’s awesome. I like to read too, but I’m picky. I rarely find a book that holds my attention for longer than ten minutes. If I have to read it for class, I will, but if it’s just casual reading? Yeah if I don’t like it, I’ll put it down and then forget about it until I’ve uncovered it under the mess of my stuff.” Lydia once loaned him a book that she swore was amazing, but it bored Stiles to death, and he had ended up tossing it to the side and finding it two weeks later under a pile of dirty laundry in his closet.

Stiles was suddenly hit with the fact that he was currently talking about what they liked to read, while the world was currently tilted on its axis. Everything they knew was long gone, but here they were, getting to know each other like they were talking over coffee. It felt so surreal to be able to do this. It felt like before, when he’d walk to the library or class and be on the phone with Scott while he told him about how one of his professors had a stick up their ass. It just felt so real and out of place to how everything is now.

“You don’t even try to read until the end? See what happens?” Derek asked, pulling Stiles from his thoughts.

“If it’s boring, no, because what’s the point? It’s not interesting,” Stiles said. “Yes, I’ll like to read something that’s completely uninteresting. What do you think?”

“I’ve read books I never really liked.”

“For fun? Seriously?”

“Yeah. If I start something, I like to finish it.”

“So that’s what you were doing that day I saw you, right? You were trying to find a new book to read.”

Derek nodded and said, “I was.”

They split up once they were in the library. Derek went to the right as soon as they went through the next set of double doors, going straight for the shelves toward the far side of the library. Stiles went straight to his little spot near the tables to the left, near the non-fiction section. He had a blanket fort set up, the blanket lying on top of four chairs and more blankets underneath. He eyed Derek from where he was sitting just outside the fort of blankets, watched as he went from stack to stack of books. Derek was nice, even if he didn’t talk too much, and Stiles was finding that he wanted Derek to stay, wanted to talk to him more and see what else he liked because Stiles was enjoying the company, of actually having someone he could talk to.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell Derek he could stay, because he probably had his own stuff wherever it was he stayed at during the night when he wasn’t roaming the halls of the school. He didn’t know what Derek even did to pass the time, besides read, which he couldn’t do all the time. Stiles was sure that would get boring, or Derek would eventually read everything there was in the library and be left with nothing. And obviously Derek didn’t sleep all the time either, because he said he would walk around everywhere. Stiles wondered if he’d been off campus, if he let himself wander that far away from the school, and if so how far he went. Stiles had been off campus before, but that was only a few times and he never wanted to go back for good, because he felt safer behind the brick walls of the school than the drywall of his apartment.

He almost stayed at his apartment. He actually did for a night, wrapped up in a blanket on his bed with a knife tucked safely underneath his pillow as he listened to the sounds throughout his apartment building. When he heard noises from outside, too loud and close by, he had held tightly to it and hoped nothing would happen. And when he woke up the next to, to new marks on his front door and an apartment next door broken into, he decided he felt safer at the school than his own apartment. It felt absurd then, because his apartment was a small one bedroom and the campus was a lot bigger. But that was his deciding factor, and he had packed the rest of his things that were important, and vowed to stay hidden at the university instead.

Derek had dirty, torn up clothes, but besides that he didn’t look like he’d been through any fights or gone through any sort of trouble, because his skin looked untouched. There were no scrapes or bruises from what Stiles could see, but he had no idea if maybe he had cuts underneath his clothes. It was possible, judging by the state of his clothes. But Derek never walked like he was in pain. It was weird, really, the more Stiles thought about it and it made him wonder.

When Derek left, a couple books in hand, he nodded at Stiles and waved a hand in a silent goodbye. Stiles waved back. He didn’t call after him.

--

Stiles started seeing Derek more around the campus. Sometimes, they’d talk about random things in an attempt to get to know each other. There were other times too, where Stiles would see him across the parking lot. It started happening more often, and it was nice because Stiles started feeling like he wasn’t as alone as he was, like things were a little less screwed up in the world and he had something to look forward to. And that was the thing, he looked forward to seeing Derek, to talking to him, or at least catching glimpses of him. It was just nice, really nice. And Derek was talking more, too. And Stiles just liked it a lot.

Stiles was playing with a set of cards he’d found buried underneath a pile of papers in one of the desk drawers. He was laying them out, getting ready to play Solitaire when he heard a noise outside of the room. He laid down the rest of the cards and stood up. He looked out of the small window in the door first, just to see if he saw anything, but he couldn’t tell or see a thing. So he opened the door slowly and peeked his head out, looking both ways. He didn’t see anything at all, and it was suddenly very quiet. He hesitated with a hand still gripping the handle of the door. He could leave, run all the way over to the library, but if there was really something roaming the halls, then maybe that wouldn’t exactly be safe.

So he shut the door, locked it, and then hurried back over to his spot by the desk, right where he left the cards. He picked up the deck he was dealing, took a deep breath, and then tried to tell himself that he was hearing things, that was all. There was absolutely nothing lurking just outside the door, it was just his imagination playing tricks on him. That was it.

He managed to get halfway through a game before there was a loud thud against the door, like something slammed into it or fell against it. It startled Stiles enough that the cards he was holding ended up flying every which way, screwing up the game.

“Shit, what was that?” He eyed the door nervously. He looked around, trying to find something that he could arm himself with, anything at all; hell even scissors may be useful. A deck of cards weren’t going to do shit for him, because he wasn’t Gambit.

It was probably a bad idea, but he stood up again and went by the door. He peered out of the window, erring on the side of caution. There was no way he’d actually open the door now. No way at all. There was too much of a risk to take. Who knew what caused the noise? He didn’t want to take his chances. But when he looked out, he didn’t see a single thing. It was completely quiet, and from what he could see, the hall was empty.

“Well that’s, um, weird.”

He expected to see something at least, maybe a zombie waiting at the door, wanting him to open it up so they’d have a midnight snack. Yeah, he was not going to be a midnight snack, thanks.

He settled back down, pulling one of his blankets close and didn’t touch the cards again. Instead, he stared right at the door and didn’t sleep a wink, no matter how hard he tried to will himself to do it.

--

He awoke to sun shinning through the windows of the classroom and knocking on the door. He must have fallen asleep some time during the night, probably from exhaustion. He flailed a hand out and mumbled a sleepy, “What the” into the room. The knocking continued, but nobody was saying anything at all.That managed to get Stiles to wake up enough for him to be aware of his surroundings, of where he was currently at, and what was going on.

He looked at the door like it was growing three heads or sprouting poisonous leaves. He took a few cautious steps toward it, slowly moving until he was standing in front of it. The knocking stopped and then he heard a familiar voice say, “Come on, Stiles, I know you’re in there!”

“Derek?” Stiles asked, and he was suddenly moving closer to the door, opening it up to reveal Derek standing there looking panic-stricken and breathing like he just ran a mile.

“Hurry, get inside, and close the door,” Derek said all in a rush, pushing past Stiles with a bit of force. And then Derek was slamming the door closed. There was no hi, Stiles, how are you doing this morning?No politeness, just rushing in and slamming doors closed with too much force that Stiles wasn’t sure was exactly necessary.

“Okay, what the hell was that for?” Stiles asked.

Derek was leaning against the door and he had his eyes closed, head titled back against the door. He didn’t say anything for a long time. Stiles had never seen him like this before, because Derek always had himself so composed, like he had everything figured out and knew what he was doing.

“Are you okay? Because you look awful right now, man.”

“I’m fine,” Derek said, teeth clenched. And Stiles noticed his hands were balled into fists and he looked tense. His expression was moving more toward anger and away from panic and fear.

“What happened? You look like you—“ Stiles started to say, but Derek was quick to interrupt.

“I said I’m fine.”

“Funny, because you don’t look fine.” Derek opened his eyes and the glare he fixed Stiles with could probably cut ice. “Did something happen? Did you get chased?”

“Encountered a little….problem. But I’m fine. Probably wouldn’t have been fine if you were any slower than you were.”

“Hey! What am I supposed to do? Open it without knowing if there’s something I really don’t want to see on the other side? Not a chance.”

“I was knocking for five minutes, Stiles!”

“Yeah, well I was sleeping. I didn’t actually sleep well last night because something decided to throw itself against that door. If I’m sleeping, I’m not actually going to jump at the chance to open a door for you if I don’t actually know it’s you.”

Derek seemed to deflate at that, like all of the fight just left him all at once, leaving him staring blankly at Stiles.

“Something hit your door?”

“Yeah, I don’t know what it was. I was trying to play cards when all of a sudden something just hit the door, and it happened twice. I looked but didn’t see anything so I have no idea what it actually was or anything.”

Derek pushed away from the door. Then he was surveying the door like he was looking for dents or any sign that let him know what it was. There weren’t any dents, none visible from inside the room at least. When Derek looked like he was satisfied, he turned back around to face Stiles, except he looked nowhere near Stiles. His attention was off to the left and down on the floor where Stiles’ cards were still lying.

It was almost like Derek was caring about him, and that was – that was actually really nice. They’d seen each other enough so far, that really, Stiles was starting to see Derek as a friend. He wasn’t sure if Derek thought the same or if Derek even liked hanging around him, but he liked hanging around Derek for the most part.

“You should stay,” Stiles found himself saying. “I mean, you could stay, if you want. I don’t mind.”

“Are you sure?” Derek looked uncertain, like he was trying to decide if he should take Stiles up on his offer. He didn’t have to stay, Stiles wasn’t about to force him to. But he was offering anyway, because it’d be nice to not be completely alone anymore. To have company that he didn’t run into every now and again. And maybe it’d be nice for Derek too, because didn’t the guy get lonely, too? Neither of them had anyone to keep them company.

“Yeah, I mean, we should stick together, right?”

Derek looked around the room again, looking at everything there was, all of Stiles’ things and all of the things left in the room from the teacher and students. He realized Derek had never seen this hideout of his before. When they’d see each other, it was usually the parking lot that stood between the History room and library, or the library. It wasn’t a large room, but it was decent sized and Stiles liked to create himself a fort near the desk that was at the front of the classroom. It was cozy feeling.

“Yeah,” Derek said eventually, turning back to Stiles. “We should stick together.”

A smile spread out on Stiles’ face. He wanted to pump his fist into the air and cheer, because he could officially say he wasn’t alone anymore.

--

Derek moved his things over to the history room a few days after that entire incident. He waited a few days because he said he wanted to make sure the coast was completely clear. Stiles tried his best to get all of the details out of him, because “I’m fine” and a “little problem” sounded like complete bullshit to Stiles, like Derek was trying to make it all out to be less horrible than it actually was. He didn’t know if Derek was trying to cover up for his whole bad boy image or what, but it wasn’t like Stiles would think any less of him if he said he was scared out of his mind and running away from danger. Because really, there were zombies, the actual walking dead, like they were living in a horror movie. It was scary, like reasonably scary, but to Derek, it was fine.

“Were you scared?” Stiles was staring up at the ceiling in the dark. He tried to imagine stars all over, like the ones Scott always had on the ceiling of his bedroom when they were little kids.

Derek shot back a question of his own, of course, a, “Scared of what?” like he had no clue what Stiles was even talking about. Stiles wanted to narrow his eyes at him, but it was too dark so it wasn’t like it would be effective.

“The other day, when you were banging on the door like your life depended on it? If you were scared, that’s totally cool, and a totally normal thing to happen.” He blindly reached out, patting Derek’s arm like he thought it’d actually comfort him. Derek felt solid like a rock; it was like patting a wall. Then he realized he wasn’t patting Derek’s arm, but rather his chest.

He still hoped it was comforting, because really, it was fine to be scared out of your mind. Totally fine.

“No, I wasn’t scared.” Derek’s voice was gruff, annoyed. He moved away from Stiles’ hand.

“Then what happened?”

“There were too many of them, I had myself in a bad position, I got out, I ran here to find you, that’s it.” Derek sighed. He could see Derek rubbing his face from the little sliver of light that managed to make its way into the room.

After a moment Stiles said, “Okay.” He turned onto his side, facing away from Derek. “I don’t know why you couldn’t say that before.”

“Because it wasn’t a big deal,” Derek told him.

“Okay,” Stiles repeated. “If you say so.”

Derek moved onto his side, turning away from Stiles. “Go to sleep, Stiles.”

As he was falling asleep, he wondered how Derek even found him, because he never told him where he was staying, and he had a feeling Derek didn’t check the library first. He could have been wrong about that, but part of him really doubted it.

--

It turned out Derek had gone to the school, just like Stiles, and was a grad student pursuing his master’s in Psychology. For some reason, he couldn’t picture Derek doing anything like sitting and listening to people talk about their problems. But when Derek talked about it, he sounded like he knew what he was talking about, like he was interested in how the human mind worked. And he was smart, like really smart, and it was kind of awesome just to sit and listen to him talk. Stiles was studying Criminology, because he wanted to be a detective or something. If things weren’t the way they were right now, he should be in his Criminal Law class right now.

“I only came to Stanford because I had a full ride. My scholarship paid for it.” Stiles picked a lose thread of his jeans. They were the pair he wore one day when he felt like being a little adventurous. He ended up tearing a small hole in the fabric. He started a habit of picking at it, making the hole bigger than what it was. “My best friend is in New York and I don’t know if he’s okay. And that sucks because the guy was like my brother and I can’t imagine if something happened to him. You know? That’s just awful.”

“Is that where you’re from?” Derek asked.

“Nah,” Stiles said, shaking his head. “I’m from Beacon Hills, right here in California. He went to New York because of his girlfriend, plus there was a really good school there for him. All of my friends went to New York, actually. Well most of them, my friend Danny is in Beacon Hills still, along with Ethan and Aiden.”

“My family is in New York. My sisters Laura and Cora are there, along with my uncle Peter. I don’t know if they’re okay.”

“So you’re in the same boat as me, and what is with New York being the place where everyone we know is stuck at?”

“What about your parents?”

“My mom died when I was young, but my dad is stuck back at home. I don’t know if he’s okay either, but I talked to him before the lines went dead. He was at the police station, along with some of his officers and some people who found refuge there. The station is probably one of the safest places, right? So I’m trying to focus on that.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek said. “My parents—“

Suddenly, Derek leaned over the edge of the roof, peering down at the ground. Whatever he was about to say was lost. Stiles wondered, for a moment, what he was going to share, but that was lost too when he saw the look on Derek’s face.

“What?” Stiles asked, because Derek looked like he saw something. Seeing something wasn’t a good thing.

Derek held up a hand to silence Stiles. He then pointed down to the ground. Stiles crawled over to Derek, because he thought maybe crawling would be the best idea if Derek saw something on the ground. He peered over the edge and saw two zombies trying to get inside the library door. It wasn’t the door that led directly into the library, but it led into the hallway. They looked frustrated, like they couldn’t figure out how doors worked. Stiles stilled, lying frozen on his stomach, his hands gripping the edge enough his knuckles turned white.

“Fuck,” Stiles hissed out, because he figured it was only a matter of time before one of his safe places would get found out by them. He fucking figured. He had hoped it wouldn’t happen, but it wasn’t like life would have given him that much luck.

Beside him, Derek looked like he was ready to defend their safe zone. Stiles knew that was a very, very bad idea. Like, it stood on the top of the list of Bad Ideas that One Should Not Do During the Apocalypse. Also, stupid, so very stupid.

“Don’t.”

Derek looked over at him, an eyebrow raised in silent question.

“Don’t go down there and play hero or some shit and get yourself killed, alright? It’s not a good idea.”

Derek sighed. “I won’t. I’m not going down there.” He didn’t sound believing. Stiles could hear it in his tone that he was thinking about it, that he really wanted to. That wasn’t happening, because that would be a death wish.

“You don’t have anything to arm yourself with.” Derek didn’t and Stiles doubted a book in the library would help him to fight and defend their little place. He hoped Derek understood that. This wasn’t a zombie horror flick, where people could take out zombies easily and had an arsenal of weapons that they could defend themselves with.

“I don’t need to arm myself with anything, Stiles,” Derek said. “I could take them out with my bare hands.”

“Well good for you,” Stiles said. “I don’t have the muscle to take on two creepy, zombie-like people without something to fight with. Like guns. Man, it’d be really nice to have some firearms.”

Derek said, “You don’t need guns,” and then went silent. He was still focusing on the two people below, like he was still trying to decide if he wanted to change his mind and go down there and fight. Out of all of the zombie flicks Stiles has seen and the zombie video games he’s played, going right into a zombie horde was a very bad idea that got people killed. Not that two zombies were even a horde – they would probably be easier to take care of than say, ten – but it was still not a good idea. And also, yes, you needed guns. Stiles didn’t know what Derek was talking about.

Derek was suddenly standing, taking his jacket off and tossing it aside. Stiles had a really bad feeling about this.

“You’re kidding me, right?” Stiles asked.

“No,” was all Derek said, before he was opening the door and running down the stairs.

Stiles stood up, swearing and yelled at Derek’s retreating back, “What the hell is wrong with you? This isn’t a good idea!”

--

It turned out Derek could hold his own. Stiles eventually gained the courage to run down the stairs and find where Derek ran off to, only to see the door to the library open and when he went through those doors he saw Derek standing in the hallway, the front door to the building open and the intruders on their turf lying on the ground looking like someone tore them to shreds. Derek was leaning against the wall, his head tilted back against the brick. When he noticed Stiles standing nearby he looked over at him.

“What the fuck happened,” Stiles blurted out, surprised. He was pretty sure whatever Derek did just then wasn’t even remotely possible, but apparently the world wanted to throw surprise after surprise at him.

“I told you,” Derek said, like it was completely normal. “I can take care of myself.”

Stiles felt like there was more to that statement, but he didn’t say anything about that. He did say, “Holy shit,” sounding in complete awe and staring at the state Derek was in. He looked like they barely touched him. He had blood on his shirt though, and Stiles found himself asking, “Is that your blood or is that theirs?” because he honestly couldn’t tell. He was hoping it was theirs and they didn’t, like, bite Derek at all.

“Theirs. They didn’t even touch me. They were too slow; they were easy.” Derek pushed off from the wall and walked over to Stiles. “We need to leave,” he said suddenly, looking around like he was worrying there were more zombies nearby. It made Stiles feel uneasy, cautious enough that he found himself looking around, too.

“Leave? Like leave to my other little hiding spot? Or leave as in haul ass out of this town? Because option one looks like the best bet.”

“Leave as in we’re going to New York,” Derek replied in a short tone.

“No, no way, dude. If I’m going anywhere, I’m going to see if my dad is okay first, okay? I love Scott, but it's my dad, Derek. Do you get that?” He hoped he did. He wanted to go to New York and check on his friends, he really did, but he can’t help thinking about his dad.

“My sisters are in New York, I need to find them.”

“I know.”

Derek hesitated for a moment. He ran a hand through his hair, like he was battling himself on what to do. Stiles may not have known him long but he felt like they needed to stick together. They didn’t have anyone at that moment. There was no way Stiles could travel to Beacon Hills by himself, and he doubted Derek could go all the way across the country by himself, no matter how much brute strength Derek may have possessed.

“Come on, Derek,” Stiles found himself saying. “I know you need to get to New York. So do I, eventually. But if I’m going anywhere, I’m going straight to Beacon Hills to make sure my dad is all right. Maybe you don’t want to travel around with me, I get that, okay? And I don’t care. But I’m going home first.”

“I’ll go with you to Beacon Hills. It’s not safe for you to travel that far by yourself.”

“I could just stay here.” And he could. He could stay holed up in the History room, surrounded by books about faraway lands from long ago and continue to ignore the existence of everything.

No,” Derek said, insistent, stressing the word like it was important life or death situation. Maybe it was. “It’s not safe anymore. We need to leave soon.”

“Okay,” Stiles conceded. “Okay, so Beacon Hills first, then we’ll go to New York. We can do that.”

They didn’t have any form of transportation, which meant they'd have to walk all the way to Beacon Hills, which was a two-hour drive away. Going on foot would take a long time, and might be a complete suicide mission, but he figured if the zombies were invading his area already, that it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. At least he’d be moving and not be stuck in one place. Maybe everything would be okay.

--

They left in the morning, just as the sun was rising in the sky. He didn’t know what time it was anymore. He only had the rise and fall of the sun to make a guess. It was autumn, because the leaves were starting to turn colors around them, so the sun set earlier than it did at the beginning of the year. The sun was bright by the time they made it on a highway that led right out of Stanford. The interstate looked strange with all of the cars at a standstill, taking up so much space. Stiles hefted his bag onto his right shoulder, giving his left a break.

They were walking for two hours by the time his legs started to feel the pain of it. It was that uncomfortable twinge in the muscle that told him he was out of practice and needed more exercise in his life. His sides were hurting too, but that was starting to move into a faint ache as his body adjusted to all of the walking. Derek was silent beside him, his hands holding tightly to the straps of his backpack.

“This is really weird,” Stiles spoke up, because he hated silence.

Derek looked over at him, raising his eyebrows as if to say what are you talking about. It was like Derek could talk with his eyebrows alone. “What is?” Derek asked.

“This,” Stiles said, flailing a hand out at all of the nothing that surrounded them. There wasn’t even much of a breeze and it was just…. quiet. Too quiet. “There’s just nothing, absolutely nothing, and it’s weird to see all of that. It’s like I keep feeling like a car is going to drive by any second now, and it doesn’t.”

At least there weren’t any zombies. That was a welcome relief. He doubted that would last, though. Derek didn’t say anything, just looked around like he was trying to take everything in. Stiles continued talking.

“The last time I was on this road, it was packed full with cars. I was heading back home for a few weeks for spring break to visit my dad. There was an accident, so that meant the traffic was terrible as they tried to take care of it. I spent almost an hour in backed up traffic.” He had texted his dad that he was going to be late, and then he had spent all of his time bumper to bumper as he listened to music.

“You have a car?” Derek asked like he was wondering why they weren’t in said car.

“Left it at home,” Stiles said. “It needed some work done on it, so I left it there. Dad drove me back to school seven months ago. Being without my jeep is horrible, by the way. Especially now since if I had it, everything would probably be a little bit easier.” We’d be in Beacon Hills already was the main thing that ran through his mind. And then, I maybe wouldn’t have met you. “How about you? No car?”

Derek shrugged. “A Camaro that I share with my sister Laura, but that’s back in New York.”

Stiles smiled. “So you don’t really share it, do you? If it’s in New York and not here.”

Derek shrugged again. “Not really. We used to, when she lived here for a little while. When she moved back to New York after school, she took it with her. She promised me the car once I moved back to New York.”

“A Camaro, huh? Newer or older?”

“Newer,” Derek answered.

“What color is it?”

“Black.”

“That sounds like it’d suit you,” Stiles said. “You have that whole bad boy look going on. I’m not really surprised by your choice of cars.”

“Bad boy look,” Derek said slowly.

“Come on, leather jacket, muscles, a perfected glare? That car suits you. You can’t say it doesn’t.”

“That’s – Okay,” Derek said, looking as confused as ever, and looked at his leather jacket. Stiles laughed, all out laughed, because Derek’s confusion was kind of hilarious. Derek was shaking his head like he thought Stiles was completely ridiculous, and Stiles shoved at him until he saw a smile try to break its way onto Derek’s face.

It felt really good to laugh.

--

After days of travel, they finally reached Beacon Hills. The town looked like something right out of "Night of the Living Dead". It looked worse than Stanford. Stiles wasn’t sure if that was even possible, because the entire world was turned upside down, and Stanford looked bad enough. It filled Stiles with dread. He could feel a panic attack thrumming beneath the surface. His hands shook a little, his heart rate was steadily picking up and it felt like his body was betraying him. He looked around, taking in a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down but failing. All he saw was death and destruction; it was suffocating him.

Strong arms were suddenly pulling him back, tugging him close until he fell back against a chest. He’d be freaking out if it weren’t for Derek saying, “Calm down, Stiles.” Stiles closed his eyes, but he couldn’t bring himself to calm down. Derek wrapped his arms around him. Derek’s voice was gentle like he was afraid if he spoke any louder, Stiles may break. That was probably true. “Relax. Breathe. Your dad is fine. We’ll find him. Okay? Now just breathe in and out slowly.”

Stiles let out a shuddering breath as he tried to relax. It helped a little. “How’d you know?”

“Hmm?” Derek asked, like he didn’t understand the question.

“How’d you, you know, know I was about two seconds away from having a panic attack?”

He could feel it as Derek shrugged. “I have my ways. Telltale signs. Your hands were shaking. You were also just standing there, frozen. I’ve dealt with panic attack cases before, and you were showing the clear signs.”

“Right,” Stiles said. “I was going to ask about you being a supernatural creature, but I forgot about you being a psychology major.”

“Supernatural creature?” Derek asked.

“Um,” Stiles started, trying to think of ways to get the topic changed to something else, but failing to come up with anything. “My best friend, he’s a uh, werewolf.”

Derek tensed at that, which was weird. Stiles pulled away, eying Derek curiously.

“Werewolf?” Derek asked.

“Yeah, my best friend Scott, he’s a werewolf. Hairy, super strength, his eyes glow a color – all that good stuff.” Derek was still only staring at him. Stiles wanted him to say something, anything at all. “Sorry, you probably think I’m nuts.”

“No,” Derek said.

“No?” Stiles asked. Derek wasn’t moving, and it was kind of weird. “Are you—“ Stiles started, and then stopped, the gears in his head turning. When he started talking again, Derek was looking right at him, his expression unreadable. “Are you a werewolf? I was thinking that, before, because that would really explain the whole you running out after those zombies that day and not having a single scratch on you.”

Derek looked away then. “Stiles, we need to find your dad.”

“Right. My dad. I think the first place we need to go is the police station.”

Derek nodded, and then he followed Stiles.

--

The way to the police station was riddled with obstacles, but it was also riddled with perfect areas they could duck and cover. They didn’t come across many of the zombies, which Stiles took as some sort of good luck falling onto him. He needed good luck, or at least some sort of false security that led him to believe he had any sort of luck whatsoever. He’d take whatever he could get, as long as it wasn’t bad shit being thrown his way, he was all good.

Derek didn’t talk much since the whole werewolf ordeal. It was like Derek was avoiding the issue altogether. He never gave Stiles a definite answer, but the longer they were around each other the more Stiles couldn’t help believing that Derek was, in fact, a supernatural creature. The only werewolf Stiles ever knew was Scott. And then it was Isaac the past summer when Stiles went to New York to visit his friends. Isaac was quiet, liked to keep to himself, but he was pretty awesome. There was also Boyd and Erica that Scott had made friends with during college. It was like Scott went off to college and made a whole bunch of werewolf friends, people who could relate to him in some way that wasn’t Beacon Hills and growing up getting into mischievous trouble in the small town. Stiles always had thought it was nice that Scott finally had that.

“This whole not talking thing?” Stiles said. Derek glanced at him with the corner of his eye. “Really not my style. Just to let you know.”

“If we’re going to reach our goal of the police station, I think not talking would be the best idea. Making too much noise could give us away,” Derek said. Which, point. But, still.

“Ah, you see I think us just walking out in the open like we’ve been doing makes it dangerous enough. Not talking doesn’t change that fact.”

“We’re not being loud, Stiles,” Derek said. Derek stepped over a rusted pipe that was sticking out of a building. There was water dripping out of it, there was water on the pipe itself and Derek’s hand slipped, his balance wavering. When Derek righted himself, his knee bumped into the pipe, sending a sound loud enough to fill the empty streets. Derek stilled.

“What was that about not being loud because we’re just walking? Oh, right.”

Derek glared at him as he righted himself. He walked over the pipe, this time not making a single noise and then helped Stiles over it. There were too many cars in their way for them to just simply go around it.

“That was an accident.”

“Still wasn’t quiet.”

“Will you just shut up?”

“Will you just be good company for once? Talking isn’t going to kill you.”

“It could get you killed. Do you not get that?”

“Stop being so grumpy. You weren’t this grumpy when I met you. It’s like you turned completely sour, like a fucking light switch. All I’m asking is—“ Stiles was cut off by Derek’s arm pressing against his chest, stopping him dead in his tracks.

Right in front of them, probably not even thirty feet, was one of the zombies. It didn’t notice them yet, too preoccupied with whatever it was going through on the ground. It looked like paper, maybe there was a body lying there, but Stiles couldn’t tell. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

Derek held a finger to his mouth, telling Stiles to hush. He was still glaring at Stiles, but this one was more of a be quiet or else kind of glare. He pointed at the zombie and then at himself and Stiles shook his head quickly and mouthed no. Because Derek was not going to go right out there and try to - to attack this zombie and play some fucking hero. Even if there was that possibility that Derek was a werewolf, this was fucking crazy. Stiles gripped Derek’s stupid leather jacket, fingers digging into the rough material, and mouthed no at Derek again, and this time it was his turn to glare at him.

There was a fire escape to their left, attached to the same building with the rusted, leaking pipe and even if the building had a pipe sticking out of it, Stiles still thought it was better than announcing themselves or Derek running out into danger blindly. Anything was better than that. He tugged at Derek’s jacket, pointing to the ladder that he was sure Derek could reach. He knew Derek was strong enough to lift him to reach the rails of the ladder. Stiles wasn’t strong like him, but he could manage once he had hold of a railing.

“Fine,” Derek finally said. He hoisted Stiles up to reach the ladder and Stiles grabbed hold of a railing, holding on tightly and then pulling himself up. He laid down on his front, looking down through the cracks at Derek.

Derek was looking over at the zombie now. Stiles glanced over at where Derek was staring at and realized, with sudden horror, that Derek had been seen.

Blood dripped from its mouth, and its eyes were dead. Soulless. It was terrifying.

“Derek, come on, man! You need to get up here, now, before something bad happens!” He was yelling now, but he doubted being quiet was going to help them anymore. He looked around to see if there were any more standing around, ready to play back up for their fellow zombie friend.

Derek growled, which had Stiles’ attention snapping back to him. His mouth was pulled back in a snarl, revealing sharp teeth and his nails were sharp with claws. I knew it! Stiles thought, but then yelled, “Come on, Derek, get your stupid werewolf ass up here! I won’t be the one to go to New York all by myself just to find your sisters, only to tell them their stupid brother went and got himself killed!”

That got Derek’s attention. Derek was a flurry of movement, jumping to reach the bars of the ladder and hoisting himself up like it was the easiest thing to do. Once Derek was sitting down, back against the brick wall of the building next to Stiles, Stiles spoke again.

“You’re fucking ridiculous,” was what came out of his mouth. Derek’s mouth was set in a hard line, his hands were gripping his knees, and his claws were still out, but the rest of him was back to his normal human-looking self. His eyes glowed a bright blue, and it was kind of mesmerizing. Scott’s had always been a yellow color; Stiles wondered why Derek’s were different.

“I could’ve taken it. It was just one, I could have had that taken care of quickly,” Derek said angrily.

“Uh, no, you could have gotten yourself killed. Are you fucking stupid?”

“Do I honestly look like I can’t take care of myself? Really?”

“Oh yeah, you’re a werewolf. You’re fast, you have superhuman strength and you heal quickly. I get that. But, newsflash, those are fucking zombies and we don’t know if it transfers over to werewolves and the last thing we need, buddy, is a fucking zombie werewolf, all right? So no, you are going to sit your little werewolf ass right here and we’re going to survive this shithole, you got it?” Stiles’ mouth snapped shut, so quickly you could hear his teeth clang together.

Derek’s eyes were still glowing blue and he looked livid. “Fine,” Derek said.

“Good,” Stiles snapped back.

Derek looked like there was a retort on the tip of his tongue, like he just wanted to lash out and say something, but Derek turned to the window beside them and opened it. Maybe with a little bit more force than was strictly necessary, but no one said anything. He peered inside carefully and Stiles was pretty sure he was sniffing the air, making sure he didn’t smell other people or zombies, or whatever was waiting for them to go inside.

“Coast is clear,” Derek called over his shoulder. He still sounded short, angry and okay, Stiles was still angry too. If he wanted to be all quiet and pissy, then by all means. But he was far from in the mood to deal with Derek and his broodiness.

Stiles righted his bag that was on his shoulder and stepped through the window after Derek. Stiles’ pant leg, of course, caught on a part of the window that was sticking out and he tripped, falling face first in the room. Fucking ow. When he looked up, he caught just a glimpse of a smile on Derek’s face and he muttered, “Asshole.”

The room was an office. There wouldn’t be showers or spare clothes to find, or maybe even food – although, Stiles was pretty sure an office meant a break room, so maybe they’d be lucky enough to find people’s food left behind because they forgot it after a long day at work. That was saying if the food wasn’t spoiled by now. Going by Stiles’ luck, it probably was.

--

They set up camp in a room on the far end of the hallway. They stayed on the same floor they had snuck into. They scoped out the third floor, but didn’t find anything that was useful, so they just stayed on the second floor. Stiles took out his blanket and laid it out on the floor, behind a desk that was piled with someone’s paperwork, photos of a family he didn’t know the name of, and a name on the desk that read James Tedsley. The guy and his family were probably dead, and that was a thought Stiles didn’t want to go near.

Stiles sat down on the blanket, leaning back against the wall and closing his eyes.

“You’re hurt,” Derek said, and Stiles opened his eyes to see Derek sitting next to him now.

Stiles looked down at his ankle, the same one where the pant leg had caught on the windowsill and made him trip. There was blood, not a lot, but you could see some of it on the bottom of his pant leg. It actually hurt, but Stiles tried not to think about that, either. But Derek was looking at it, and then he was moving closer to Stiles and placing his ankle in his lap.

“Does it hurt?” Derek asked. Stiles shrugged and mumbled something about it not being that bad, but Derek wasn’t really listening. He tore a part of his shirt off and then wrapped Stiles’ ankle in it. He tied it tightly and Stiles winced. And then Derek was taking the pain away, dark lines in his arm standing out as he made the throb of Stiles’ ankle feel like something far away and suddenly it didn’t hurt much anymore. But he knew that was only temporary. He knew by the morning he’d be in pain again, but for right now Derek had taken the pain away and he felt a little better.

“I told you it wasn’t that bad, but that feels much better.” Derek was still holding his ankle, still had Stiles’ legs in his lap. They just sat there for a moment, just looking at each other until Stiles broke the silence. “You can stop holding my leg, your werewolf mojo cured my pain.”

Derek let go with that, pulling away from him and Stiles thought he heard an “I’m sorry” but he wasn’t sure. Stiles grabbed him by the wrist, stilling him. “Hey, it’s cool. Thanks for helping me. My ankle feels much better and you did an awesome wrap job on it. Thanks, dude.”

Derek blinked at him and said, “You’re welcome,” and then, “We need to stay here for a few days. You need to rest and we should—“

“Rethink how we’ll get where we need to go? Yeah, that’s a great idea,” Stiles finished for him.

“Right,” Derek said. “You should get some sleep.”

“You, too. And you can sleep on the blanket. We can share space, I don’t mind. It’s a little bit more comfortable than just carpet or sleeping sitting up.”

“Okay, that’s – thanks.” Derek looked hesitant, but he soon was lying down next to Stiles, his back turned.

They slept. They didn’t sleep well, but they never slept well anymore. Stiles was pretty sure a good night’s sleep was a losing battle and that maybe he shouldn’t even try anymore.

--

Stiles found maps in one of the offices. They were all rolled up neatly in one of the desk drawers. Some were maps of other states and cities, which were not useful to them at all. Not yet, at least. But there was one of Beacon Hills, and while Stiles knew this town inside and out, a map would prove to be extremely helpful, especially if they wanted to reach the police station and have some sort of plan of action. Stiles liked having plans, multiple plans if he was able to.

“I found these,” Stiles said as he walked back into their room. Derek looked up from where he was reading one of the books he took from the library.

“You shouldn’t be walking around on that ankle.”

“And I told you, you can’t make me sit around here twiddling my thumbs.” It came out a little harsher than he wanted it to and he quickly added, “I just get restless, all right? And I doubt you’d want me talking your ear off continuously. So, I went looking for maps, something that would be useful to us.”

Derek tilted his head and made a face that Stiles knew read you’re ridiculous. Which, hey, they’ve only known each other for about a month now and he doubted it was enough time that Derek could give him one of those looks. “You already talk a lot,” is what came out of Derek’s mouth.

“Oh gee, thanks.” Stiles limped over toward the blanket he had laid out on the ground and sat down without putting much pressure on his hurt ankle. He was pretty sure he had some talent of doing that, but obviously not a talent of not hurting himself all the time.

“Stiles, it’s fine, I don’t actually mind,” Derek said, and it sounded almost like that was hard for him to say, like maybe he didn’t mind now so much as if it weren’t this type of circumstance, the whole end of the world thing and whatnot, that maybe he’d find Stiles’ habits to be annoying. Hell, maybe he did find Stiles’ habits annoying.

“Maps, I have maps, very useful maps. Well except for the ones I found that are out of state and not useful yet. Here’s one of Beacon Hills, though,” Stiles said as he laid the map out in front of them. He had found a marker too when he was looking for the maps and so he took it so they could mark places. “This is where we need to go.” He drew a circle around the police station. He marked the hospital that was nearby it, and then pointed to a street. “This is where we are, which is only three blocks away from the police station. We’re actually pretty close by.”

“Can I see the marker?” Derek asked, but he was already reaching out and taking it out of his hand anyway.

“You don’t know this town like I do, Derek.”

“I used to live here.” Derek marked a place on the map. It was a line down the street they were on, and then another line was drawn down the street leading to the police station. “This is an obvious way to the station. But we can’t take obvious routes, right? So how about –“ Derek drew an alternate route, one that curved to the right that was just before the street that took them directly to the station. He drew a few more lines down streets before he reached the station. It was a longer route, but Stiles was starting to see what Derek was talking about. “And if I remember correctly, there are plenty of places we can break into if we have to.”

“I’m surprised you drew an alternate route. I thought you wanted to dive right into danger without first planning anything.”

“I’m not completely adverse to planning.”

“Could have fooled me,” Stiles mumbled. Derek gave him a very good, shut up look without, you know, saying shut up. Stiles was impressed.

They planned, plotting out what they’ll do once Stiles was in any sort of condition to leave their new hideout. They did it until the sun was setting and there was no longer enough light for them to see their map.

They lay out on the blanket, with their backs facing each other. Stiles was thinking about what Derek had said about being from Beacon Hills, having lived here in the past, and he found himself turning over until he was facing Derek’s back. Derek was sleeping in his clothes, minus the leather jacket. The leather jacket was tossed over by the maps and their bags. Stiles spent a few long moments just staring at Derek’s back before he spoke up.

“Hey, Derek, you said you’re from Beacon Hills, but I thought you said you were from New York.”

Derek turned around to face him. It made Stiles more aware of how close they were on the blanket when Derek was looking right at him. Derek’s brow was furrowed like he was trying to think of how to answer the question. They had talked back in Stanford about their lives, sharing details, but now that Stiles thought about it, he only shared a lot about his life, whereas he was pretty sure Derek only shared the bits he thought were important to talk about. He left out the fact he was from the same place as Stiles, even when Stiles did nothing but talk about this place.

“I grew up here. My family had a house out on the preserve. When my parents passed away, Laura, Cora and I left for New York to stay with my uncle and his pack. I finished up high school, and then I came back to California for college.”

“Touchy subject?” Stiles asked.

“I don’t really tell people much about myself,” Derek said.

Stiles reached a hand out until he found Derek’s and gave him a reassuring squeeze. At least he hoped it was reassuring. Even though it was dark in the room, he could see Derek looking down at their hands. When Derek laced their hands together, Stiles was shocked.

--

“You know,” Stiles started to say when they were halfway to the police station. He could see the hospital nearby, and he knew they were at least another ten minutes away from the station. “You could’ve just told me you were a werewolf.”

“Not something you just tell people, Stiles,” Derek said.

“Yeah, well, I told you about my best friend. You could’ve said something after that, instead of being all broody and quiet.”

“There’s a time and a place.”

“What, like when you’re about to leap out and rip some zombies to shreds?”

Derek sighed. “You know now, just get over the fact I didn’t tell you before.”

“I could’ve been a werewolf, for all you knew,” Stiles said, completely ignoring Derek.

“No, because I would have known if you were.”

“Right, because I would’ve smelt different right, okay.” Stiles blew out a breath, thinking. “Still, it wasn’t that big of a deal. There are zombies out there. There are probably a whole lot of different shit just lurking around, and we have no idea.”

“Like what?” Derek asked.

“Vampires, maybe. Do they exist? They probably have a shit time feeding now that zombies exist.” They don’t exactly have a buffet walking around anymore, you know, if they existed.

“Vampires don’t exist.”

“You never know,” Stiles told him, completely dismissing Derek’s comment. “I didn’t think werewolves existed until my best friend was bit by a rogue alpha.”

“So he’s an omega?” Derek asked, curious.

Stiles shook his head. “Nah, some alpha in New York adopted him or something, so I guess he’s no longer a lone wolf. Haven’t met them yet.”

Derek only hmm’d at that and didn’t say anything else, and silence eventually fell between them. Stiles stuck close to Derek when he heard noises nearby, and Derek didn’t make any comments to that either. He could tell Derek was looking around, surveying their surroundings like he was making sure nothing happened, that they’d make it to the station and they’d be okay.

“Thank you,” Stiles said softly.

“For what?” Derek asked, confused.

“For this,” Stiles replied. “For going with me to see my dad, for all of it.” He shrugged. “Just thanks.”

An expression flitted across Derek’s face, too quick for Stiles to catch, and then he was nodding. He didn’t say anything, but Stiles got the you’re welcome loud and clear.

--

The police station looked completely deserted by the time they got there, like there were absolutely no signs of life whatsoever, and Stiles felt an ice cold feeling wash over him like someone dumped an ice bucket over his head. It was disheartening and frightening, and he had to stop and let himself breathe before he worked himself up into a panic attack. Being outside in the midst of an apocalypse with zombies running around really wasn’t the best time to have a panic attack, no matter if he had werewolf protection or not. There was only so much Derek could do, and if there were too many of them there would be no telling how long Derek would be able to survive.

Stiles felt a hand on his shoulder. He startled, jerking away from the hand, but calmed down when he realized it was just Derek. He wondered if Derek could hear heartbeats from this far away, and then realized he said that bit out loud.

Derek didn’t answer and started walking towards the police station. Stiles called after him to wait up.

“All right, I can do this,” Stiles said and decided if they were going inside, he would go in first, because it was his dad and he didn’t care at that moment about danger. He just wanted to make sure his dad was okay.

The inside of the police station was just as quiet and deserted looking as the parking lot was. There was destruction every which way they looked, like a tornado had ripped through the front and left nothing but debris in its wake. The tornado being the apocalypse and the debris being paper, pictures frames that were once on the walls, chairs turned over. It looked horrible. It didn’t help to calm Stiles’ fears down at all, but it was comforting to know Derek was there with him.

Stiles was looking through the desk when they heard a clatter come from somewhere to their right. Derek was on high alert, looking everywhere in case he thought he’d miss who ever had made the noise. Before either of them had a chance to do anything, Stiles found himself with his head smacked hard against the desk he was snooping through, the feel of cool metal as a gun was held to his head and a firm grip on his arms as they held them against his back. There was someone near Derek, pointing a gun at him. Derek looked two seconds away from ripping the guy’s throat out.

“Let him go, or else,” Derek threatened, his voice a near growl.

“You attack, and I’ll shoot him,” the guy holding Stiles threatened. With the way the guy was holding him, yeah, Stiles wouldn’t doubt that at all. And yeah, Stiles really didn’t want to die right now, at the hands of some crazy guy with a gun or a zombie.

Stiles heard it as the guy cocked the gun and Stiles said, “Well shit.”

“Hey!” Stiles heard suddenly and he knew that voice, knew it because, “Let them go! That’s my son you’re pointing that gun at. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Stiles was let go immediately after that, and he found himself attacked in a hug by his dad and he buried his face against his dad’s shoulder. He felt relief, felt a little bit lighter than he had in months.

When Stiles looked up, Derek was still glaring at the man who had a gun pointed at him. Derek had his arms crossed, silently daring anyone to make any sort of move toward him.

“Dad, this is Derek. I ran into him at Stanford. Turned out I wasn’t the only survivor left. He came with me to Beacon Hills to find you.” And then we’re heading across the country to find the others was left unsaid, because he wasn’t sure how to break that to his dad after they’d been reunited after months of being apart. He wasn’t sure how to say it or what to say, and he wished they actually put that bit of information in those ‘How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse books’. It turned out those books didn’t really give you the advice and help you actually needed in case of one. Would you imagine that?

“I’m glad you boys made it here safely,” his dad said, and then he turned to Derek and held out his hand. Derek took it stiffly like he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. “I’m Sheriff Stilinski. Thank you for helping to make sure my son made it here safely.”

Derek nodded and shook his hand back, saying, “Derek Hale, and it was not a problem at all.”

“I remember you,” Sheriff said, offering him a small smile. “I’m still sorry about what happened to your family. How are your sisters doing?”

“Last time I spoke with them, they were doing well. I didn’t get to talk to them before everything happened, I have no idea how they’re doing right now.”

“They’ll be okay,” Sheriff assured. “You have to think positive, am I right?”

“Yeah,” Derek said, looking like he was trying to take in what the Sheriff was trying to say, to continue hoping. Stiles placed a hand on his arm, trying to give him some sort of comfort. Derek startled at it, turning his attention to look at Stiles.

“Come on, let’s go see what’s going on in the other room.” Stiles tugged at his arm, pulling Derek along easily.

Stiles was surprised to walk into the main room where everyone was holding up camp to see Danny and the twins, Ethan and Aiden. He hadn’t seen them in months since the last time he was in town.

Danny was sitting on the floor, talking to Ethan. It was Aiden who saw him first, and he smiled, waving a hand at Stiles. Aiden nudged both his brother and Danny to get their attentions, and when Danny looked up, a grin spread out across his face. Stiles really missed his friends. He actually found himself missing the twins, too, because they kind of just grew on you.

“Hey! Am I glad to see you guys,” Stiles said. He could still tell Derek was beside him, or at least nearby, because it wasn’t like Derek knew anyone or would go and talk to people, be friendly and talkative. Except for Stiles’ dad, apparently. Stiles looked back to see if Derek was actually there, but that required stopping, and Derek ended up walking right into him. Derek’s hands found their way onto Stiles’ hips, preventing Stiles from stumbling forward.

The twins were looking at Derek curiously. Danny was looking at Stiles, and then to Derek, almost like he was thinking something but not actually voicing whatever it was.

“These are my friends,” Stiles said, because if no one was going to say anything, then Stiles would. “The twins, Ethan and Aiden, and then Danny. This,” he pointed at Derek behind him, “Is Derek. Met him at Stanford.”

Derek was looking at the twins much like the twins were looking at him. And oh right. The twins were werewolves, Derek was a werewolf, and he knew that they all knew that. Danny was still human, because he wasn’t ready for that yet, not that level of commitment as he called it, so Danny didn’t know. Nobody was really saying anything, and Stiles just wanted someone to say something, anything at all, because people seriously needed to learn how to use their words. It was bordering on completely ridiculous. Especially how Derek and the twins were engaging in some sort of werewolf death glare.

Danny raised an eyebrow at Stiles, completely ignoring the stare off amongst the werewolves in the room. Danny mouthed boyfriend? at Stiles. He was quick to mouth back no. Because, no, Derek was not his boyfriend. They were friends, sure, or at least Stiles thought they were friends now, but they weren’t together.

“It turned out,” Stiles started to say, because the whole stare off was beginning to verge on weird, and Stiles really wanted to just smack Derek and tell him to stop it and play nice, or whatever. “Derek was staying at the school, too, but for as long as I’d been there I hadn’t actually seen the guy until one day. We decided to be friends, and now we’re here.”

“Why didn’t you just stay there? Wouldn’t that have been safer?” Danny asked.

Stiles shrugged, because that was sort of a fifty/fifty thing, and he chose to leave and now they’re here, in one piece. So, it didn’t really matter anymore. “Uh, well, kind of, but not really? We had a little issue one day. They were kind of trying to get inside the library, and Derek here thought our little hideouts had been compromised. I wanted to see my dad, so we’re here.” Not the full story though, because how do you even tell people you care about that you’re going to leave, back out into zombie paradise, and risk your life to get across the country? Yeah, Stiles had no idea.

“We’re not going to be here long,” Derek spoke up, and Stiles really did smack him on the arm then. He probably didn’t even feel it. Of course. Derek turned to him with his what was that for? look.

“Not something I’m just giving away freely, yet!” Stiles hissed out under his breath. He looked around for his dad, but he was nowhere to be seen, which meant his dad was still up at the front.

“You’re leaving?” Danny asked, surprised. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“We need to get to New York,” Derek said, like he wasn’t even going to leave room for discussion. His expression was completely neutral, but Stiles was starting to see the telltale signs of him being annoyed. This was one of those times he could tell Derek wanted to be anywhere that wasn’t talking to Danny and the twins, or maybe it was mainly the twins. Stiles couldn’t tell, really, which it was.

It was probably the twins.

“Yeah? Well maybe it’s safer here,” one of the twins spoke up – Ethan, definitely Ethan. “You can go to New York. By yourself. Not that hard for you, right?” Ethan smirked, crossing his arms and looking at Derek like he dared him to say anything else.

“I’m not forcing him to go with me, it’s his choice.” Derek crossed his own arms and stared, well glared was more like it. “If he wants to go, he’ll go.”

“He’s right, I’m going because I need to find Scott and the others. Sure, it’s not safe, but I can take care of myself just fine. I was by myself up at Stanford for six months and I’m still alive, right? Plus I’ve got this big guy to help.”

Danny didn’t look like he thought it was a good idea, neither did the twins (who were still having a stare off with Derek, Jesus Christ, what was their problem even?). Finally, Danny sighed and said, “Okay. But stay for a little while. Your dad missed you. Wouldn’t really be right if you left now.”

“Don’t worry, we planned to stay for a little bit,” Stiles told him, but he had no idea just how long that would be. Stiles wanted to be with his dad for a little bit, because he missed him, and it was bad enough during school he wasn’t able to talk to him much because either he was in class when his dad had free time, or when he did have free time his dad was at work. It was always one of those shitty things that happened.

Stiles talked to them a little bit longer, catching up on all the time that was lost, until Derek had started walking away. Stiles walked with him, until Derek stopped in a corner that was furthest from most of everyone in the area.

“What was up with that, dude? You were cold to them, and you don’t even know them.” Derek wasn’t like this when he first met Stiles. Maybe Derek kept his distance, like he was trying to get to know who Stiles was from afar before they actually started hanging around each other, but Stiles was the same way. Plus, that didn’t take long at all.

“It’s nothing,” Derek said, completely dismissing Stiles like it wasn’t a big deal at all. Yeah, both Derek and the twins were kind of weird before. They all needed to get along, if only until Derek and he were gone. That would be great, because a fight breaking out would be a monumentally bad idea. For a lot of reasons. Mostly because his dad had no idea that werewolves existed, and Stiles doubted his dad knowing that zombies and werewolves existed would be a great idea.

--

There were quite a few people staying at the police station. There was a mother and her two children, the two guys who had attacked Stiles and Derek at the front, Danny, Ethan and Aiden, and a few other people who didn’t really talk much at all. It was nice to see so many survivors there, and he wondered how many more were in Beacon Hills or if this was it. He hoped for more, that there were other people out there who found themselves a tight knit group to try surviving the end of the world with.

The two kids tended to run around the room and play tag a lot. They begged Stiles to run around with them, and so he did. He’d scoop up the little girl and tickle her until she was laughing. It was nice to hear laughter and happiness. It warmed his heart, made him feel a faux sense of happiness just for a little bit. He could tell by looking at Derek that he liked it too, if the soft warm smile that sometimes found its way to Derek’s face was any indication. The first time Stiles caught it, it made his breath catch and made him stumble with whatever he was doing at the time. When Derek caught him staring, Stiles tried to hide and cover it up like it was nothing. He was pretty sure Derek didn’t believe him, but he never said anything otherwise, so Stiles let it be.

“Can we play a game, Stiles?” the little girl asked as she held up a deck of cards to Stiles. “I want to play Go Fish!”

The boy rolled his eyes. “You always want to play Go Fish. How about we play something else?”

They argued back and forth about which game they should play and Stiles eventually got them to stop arguing. “Hey, hey, how about we play both? One game of Go Fish, and then we’ll play your brother’s game next? Pretty sure your mom is over there wanting you kids to go to sleep soon anyway.”

Derek was sitting next to them, eyes trained over to the twins like his life depended on it, and Stiles kind of felt the urge to slap him and tell him to stop staring, it’s kind of creepy. Halfway through a game of Go Fish, Stiles felt something touch his hand, and when he looked down he saw Derek was holding his hand. It was a small gesture, just hand holding, but nonetheless Stiles felt a small swoop of butterflies. He ignored the feeling, squeezing Derek’s hand.

The next game, Stiles managed to drag Derek into playing. Derek was reluctant at first, but the little girl helped to talk Derek into it. Derek wasn’t holding his hand any longer, but he was sitting closer to Stiles. Briefly, he wondered what it meant, or if it was just a werewolf thing, or simply nothing at all.

--

Stiles was looking through the maps he had taken from the office building, the ones that would have never helped them reach the police station, but the ones he thought may come in handy later on. His dad sat down next to him and picked up one of the discarded maps on the floor beside Stiles.

“Where did you find these maps?” his dad asked. It was a map of the next state over; the one Stiles wondered would help them reach New York when they eventually left the station. It’d help them through that state at least, to find some route that’d take them another state closer. They needed more maps if they were ever go to reach it, and more plans, both A and B, there always needed to be a plan B.

“An office building three blocks from here,” Stiles replied, taking the pen he had been chewing out of his mouth. The cap was dented with teeth marks, almost unrecognizable now. “That’s where Derek and I were for a few days before we reached here.”

“They’re out of state maps,” his dad noted. “Why would you need those, Stiles? You’re in California, and you’re not traveling anywhere else.” It sounded like his dad was saying you’re home now and you’re not going anywhere, and it made Stiles’ heart ache in the worst ways.

Stiles shrugged. “Thought I’d grab them anyway.”

There was a route that started near Beacon Hills and would take them right out of California and into the next state and put them on the right track toward New York, and he committed the road number to memory to circle it or draw a line down the road when his dad wasn’t looking so he could find it on the other map, connecting the two together like a puzzle. He wondered where he could find more maps in the police station, or even if there were any other maps at all.

“We went for a food run earlier and found some food that was savable. If you’re hungry, son, we have it in the other room.”

He couldn’t actually remember the last time he ate and his stomach growled at the thought of food. He set the maps aside and followed his dad to find food.

--

When Stiles was a kid, he had always tagged along with his dad to work whenever his dad had allowed him to. His dad would take him along on patrols to catch speeders down the main highway that led out of town or to the preserve. Or he’d stay at the station, sitting on his dad’s desk, his feet kicking the metal of the desk as he colored in his Spider-Man coloring book while his dad talked on the phone or did paperwork. His mother had always worked long shifts at the hospital before she died, working right alongside Scott’s mother.

Stiles wondered, suddenly, where Scott’s mother was right at that moment and if she was okay. He couldn’t remember if she had gone to New York to visit Scott before everything happened or if she was still in Beacon Hills. He remembered vaguely Scott telling him about his mom visiting him soon, but he couldn’t place the exact dates. He figured if he was heading out to New York soon, he’d find out.

There was a radio sitting on a chair near the hallway that led to the interrogation room. It looked in a lot better shape than the radio he had found in the history room back at college. The dials looked newer, the body of it looked like something that was made in the last ten to twenty years instead of the last fifty. Stiles reached out to grab it and said, “Hey, you guys have a radio?” He ran his hands over it, turning it over to see how it operated. He couldn’t tell at all.

Derek lifted his head from where he had it resting against the wall. He raised an eyebrow. “A radio?”

“There was a radio in the history room I would stay in. It worked for a few weeks until there was complete radio silence. It was old and antique. I was surprised any sound came out of it,” Stiles said. “Does this one work, anyone know?”

One of the guys shook his head and then shrugged. “We tried at the beginning. We couldn’t get it to work at all. No sound came in. We tried to transmit a signal out, but since we couldn’t receive one, we didn’t know if it worked or not.”

“That…really sucks.” If it worked, if any of the radios worked anywhere in the world, they’d come in handy. Or could have come in handy. Stiles wasn’t entirely sure about that theory, but it was something. “That was kind of like the radio I found back at school. I mean, the only difference was that one there was sounding coming out of it, but I couldn’t get a signal out.”

Someone sighed just to the left of Stiles, and he looked over to see the lady with the kids. “I wish it’d work,” she said. “I feel like we’ll be stuck here indefinitely.”

“You’ll be fine, maybe it’ll decide to work one day?” he offered, even if he doubted either.

She smiled sadly. “I hope so.”

Hope was probably all anyone ever had left anymore, he thought.

--

They started looking over the maps. Well, Stiles started looking at the maps. He’d walk into one of the rooms near where everyone else stayed and he’d lay the maps out on the floor and start marking different routes. He marked one route with ‘Plan A’ and another route with ‘Plan B’. He wasn’t sure which would prove to be the best way to head out of California. He wasn’t even sure how they’d get out of the state in one piece, especially since going on foot seemed exhausting and impossible. They needed a car, they needed something that provided them with a little bit more protection and cut their travel time in half.

“Did you find anything on the maps?” Derek’s voice cut through the quiet of the room, and Stiles looked up.

Stiles shrugged. On the way to the police station, they had found a few Beacon Hills maps inside a gas station. They were more detailed than the ones he had found in that office building. It was something, at least. Stiles would take whatever he could get.

“Yeah,” Stiles said. He pointed to the map spread out to his left. It was the one he had seen a route that took them right out of California. He drew his finger down the red sharpie mark he made down a road. “See, there’s this route here that I think could take us straight out of California. I don’t know how safe that route is, obviously, but it’s something at least, right? So I think we should try that.”

They needed more resources. Stiles needed a fucking weapon, or something, so he wasn’t the completely helpless, fragile human. Unlike Derek, he couldn’t take on zombies with his bare hands. It wasn’t possible. He’d be dead before he even managed to land a punch. The thought of even punching a zombie had Stiles shuddering with gross images. He didn’t know how Derek did it.

“We could look around, there has to be a store that sold maps,” Derek said.

“That’s actually a good idea,” Stiles said. It was a great idea. “And other stores for supplies. We need a car, too, because I am not trekking across this country on foot. That’s not happening.”

“I could hotwire a car.”

That was also a good idea, but. “We could do that, but if we could get to my house, we could take the jeep. Less work.”

“How far is it?” Derek asked.

“Not far,” he replied. “Twenty minutes, give or take.”

“We can do that, then head out from there,” Derek said.

“Help me plan? I’m not sure about some of these routes. I could use a second opinion. There’s one that looks the shortest, but if we’re going to my house first and then go looking for more maps, I have no idea which way to go, dude.”

Derek nodded and sat down next to him. Stiles pointed to the first route he had drawn a line and some notes on, because it looked like the easiest one, and Derek helped him figure it all out.

--

Stiles wasn’t sure how to break it to his dad that he was leaving soon to travel across the country to look for Scott. For all the times he usually knew what to say, or when he didn’t really but went with whatever flew out of his mouth on a whim, this time he was unsure and nervous. His dad knew what was lurking just outside the safety of the walls around them. But going out and traveling thousands of miles, it would just be him and Derek and no one else, and yeah, that was kind of terrifying. After being by himself for long enough back in Stanford, he had gotten used to his life being equal amounts terrifying as well as unpredictable. It just threw everything at him and pretty much expected him to pick up the pieces and figure it all out on his own as he went. That was why Stiles always made sure he had a plan set, along with a plan B – and sometimes, very rarely, he’d manage a plan C.

When Scott was turned back when they were just a couple of sixteen year olds, Stiles was the one who researched and planned and figured everything out. Scott was scared out of his mind, not knowing what to do, but Stiles stood by his side and they managed to figure out how Scott could control himself and not go out mauling people on the full moon. If they didn’t have the plans Stiles had made, he was pretty sure everything would have gone to hell quickly.

Stiles and Derek had made it to Beacon Hills in one piece, but they were going farther now and Stiles didn’t know what to expect further out. Was it more dangerous? Was there more destruction? The whole not knowing thing was what scared him the most. He had Derek and he knew Derek was strong, but if there were too many of them, would Derek be able to protect them? He had no idea.

--

It didn’t take long for him to see that his dad took care of everyone and made sure that everyone was doing okay, that they were well set with food and other necessary supplies. It was heartwarming to see how his dad was good with taking care of other people, to see him do for others what he had helped to do for him all of his life. It was why he loved his dad so much, because he was good with other people and he generally cared a lot about others.

It was why his dad went into police work. Stiles remembers the stories his dad told him growing up, about how being a police officer was hard work, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It wasn’t just hard work, but dangerous, and no matter how badly his mother would worry about him, she still stood by his side.

And when he had gotten his promotion to sheriff, he and Stiles had celebrated. It was fun and nice, but there was still that giant Mom-sized hole in their life; the wound not yet healed after her death, still fresh in their minds like it was yesterday. They weren’t talking much about her then, but Stiles said one small thing to his dad, which was, “Mom would be proud.”

It had sparked Stiles’ interest in getting into the field of work. He still wasn’t sure about the whole being a police officer bit when he started his degree at Stanford, but he wanted to get into some sort of law enforcement. He was always leaning more toward being a detective ever since Scott was turned because he enjoyed research and figuring things out, and he figured maybe he could help solve crimes. Be the go-to guy for that type of stuff. His dad always supported his decisions, and at his graduation of high school his dad had shot back the same comment Stiles gave him when he was promoted to sheriff. “Your mom would be proud, kid.” It was a shining moment in both of their lives.

His dad was sitting down at the front of the station again, because it was his turn for guard duty. He had a shotgun lying on top of the counter, just in case anything tried to breech the front doors. Stiles had no idea if it had ever happen before. His dad hasn’t said anything about it, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to ask. Better to not know that they may not be a hundred percent safe and think that they had some sort of extra protection from the undead, right? It helped calm Stiles’ worries and nerves about the entire thing.

“It’s good to have you here,” his dad spoke up, filling the silence. Stiles sat down next to him, kicking his feet up onto the counter. If it was any other time, his dad may have knocked his legs down and told him that the counter wasn’t his table or to act a little better. “You know, I always worried maybe something happened to you back there. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

“Yeah, dad, I honestly thought the same thing for a while there. I doubted I’d ever come here, since I had no way before. Derek was that extra push.” Derek was more than that; he was the extra strength, the heightened senses, and Stiles trusted him. He may not have known that until they left the college, but it was still something.

“He watches out for you?” His dad had that expression on his face, the one Stiles always liked to call his Worried Father Look. He always used to get the look back when Stiles was sneaking around helping out his werewolf friend, or when Stiles went to a dance with Lydia and his dad worried about him getting a “broken heart” even though Stiles swore they were just friends.

“Let’s just say the guy runs out and kicks zombie ass,” Stiles said. “He doesn’t think, he just goes for it, which isn’t the best idea ever, but I mean, I can’t really stop the dude. It’s like talking to a wall.”

His dad looked surprised, and Stiles still felt the same way. “Did he really do that?”

“Yeah, once. Almost twice, but I somehow managed to keep that from happening, thank God.”

There was a hint of a smile on his dad’s face, but he still looked shocked by the fact of Derek being so willing to run out to face zombies. “I’m glad that you have someone like that, Stiles, somebody who will watch out for you and keep you safe. All I’ve ever wanted was for you to find yourself someone that’ll treat you well like that.”

Stiles opened his mouth like a fish out of water, shocked, because that wasn’t – They weren’t together, and that was the second time someone here had gotten the wrong idea about the two of them. Derek was ridiculously attractive, Stiles wasn’t blind to that fact, but they were just friends who left Stanford so Stiles could find and see his dad before they took the risky, too dangerous trip to New York City. They weren’t anything more than just friends. That was it. Stiles had no idea what to say but no it’s not like that and we’re just friends, dad, but instead he said, “That’s, yeah, dad. He’s great, stubborn, but he, uh, has the right intentions?”

His dad reached over and laid a hand on Stiles’ arm. He was smiling and looking the happiest since he first got here. “I’m glad. You deserve it, Stiles.”

He wanted to say something, to correct his father, but he wasn’t sure what to say first. “Thanks,” is what fell from his mouth, surprised.

--

“When do you want to go?” It was an important question, because he didn’t know what Derek was thinking. Derek hadn’t told him anything yet on what he wanted to do. They’ve already been here a week, now. He was pretty sure Derek didn’t want to stay much longer. Derek was getting along with the twins, now, or getting along as much as he could. He really didn’t understand the whole thing at all. They weren’t bad, they kept to themselves, and even if they weren’t a part of Derek’s pack or whatever, did that really matter anymore?

Derek was going through his own bag, separating things into two piles on the floor beside it. Stiles saw a small item that looked like a book or something shaped a lot like a book, but Derek soon had it buried back in his duffle bag. Briefly, he wondered what it was.

“Soon,” Derek said, not taking his eyes off of what he was doing.

“Define ‘soon’?” Stiles asked. “Because I need to figure out what to tell my dad. I don’t even know what to say. He’s not going to take it too lightly, because he didn’t see me for months, and the world has gone to hell, and I really don’t know how to tell him that I need to leave and go even further away.”

“You don’t have to come with me, Stiles.” Derek looked like he didn’t want that at all, but wasn’t about to hold Stiles back. And really, if Derek were thinking anything like that then it’d be completely ridiculous.

“Yeah, I kinda do, because I found my dad and I know he’s safe, but I still don’t know about Scott. He’s kind of like family, too, you know? And I can’t leave him out there in New York by himself. He may be a werewolf, but dude, you have not met him and he kind of needs my help.” It wasn’t just Scott. Yeah, Scott was important, but there was also Lydia, Isaac, Erica and Boyd, and Allison, and he cared for all of them just as much as he cared about Scott. “And it’s just not him, it’s the rest of my friends. I have to find them.”

“Then tell your dad soon. I would like to leave in a few days. We’ve been here long enough.”

Stiles tapped out a beat on his thigh. Okay, words. Stiles could talk. He was good at talking.

Who was he kidding though? He still had no idea what to say to his dad.

--

Stiles found a couple of two-way radios in one of the rooms, stuffed in a drawer with old case files. He turned them on and smiled when they made a noise. They worked well and both had full battery life.

“I wonder…” he trailed off. He wondered if they could use these somehow. They were leaving soon, whenever Stiles told his dad they were. He wondered if these still worked.

“What’re you doing?” Derek asked, and Stiles jumped a little, almost dropping the radios on the floor.

“I found these two-ways,” he answered, holding them up so that Derek could see. “They have full battery life. Maybe they could come in handy somehow when we leave? Maybe leave one behind.”

“Stiles, I don’t think they will,” Derek said, and it was like he was trying not to upset Stiles somehow. Which, that was nice and all, but he was fine, so Derek could cut the crap now.

“And why not? They work. I turned them on and checked. I can talk into one and the other still receives it.” He turned them over, checking them out, because he didn’t get what Derek was really saying. And then he saw on the back, where it gives all the information about batteries and how many Hertz it has, it said, covers up to 60 miles radius. “Oh.” He laughed quietly, feeling stupid that he forgot they wouldn’t be able to reach a signal being on the opposite side of the country. He was hoping that he’d have something that would connect him to his dad when he left, where he could keep in contact with him despite the miles apart. “Right, I forgot about that.”

“They don’t work that far apart,” Derek said, and then, “I’m sorry,” like he was genuinely sorry. But really, the guy had nothing to be sorry about. It wasn’t Derek’s fault that life wouldn’t cut Stiles a break, and that he had to leave his dad here.

He wasn’t sure he wanted to leave his dad now, but then he thought of Scott in New York, and he felt torn between the two.

“No, no, it’s fine, dude, seriously. I just forgot, is all, that these things don’t exactly stretch that far across the country. You’d think with all of our new technology that they’d invent ones that go a lot farther. Especially since these were given to a fucking police station. But that’s cool, you know. Perfectly fine.” He huffed out a breath, feeling irritated and disappointed. He couldn’t win, at all. That was just his life, right?

“Stiles.”

“It’s fine, it’s no big deal.”

“Your dad will be fine here. Nothing will happen to him here, it’s safe.”

“Are you sure? I mean, I just. I worry about him. I always have. He’s all I have, you know, and I don’t want to think about leaving here and then maybe coming back one day and he’s not here anymore.”

“I know,” was all Derek said, and the thing was, he did, because Derek’s sisters were currently over in New York and Derek had no idea if they were safe or not. “But your dad can take care of himself, he’ll be okay here.”

“Your sisters can take care of themselves, too, you know?” Stiles lifted his head to meet Derek’s eyes, and Derek looked like he was trying to take in Stiles’ words. “I know I’ve never met them before, but werewolves. I bet your sisters would kick zombie ass just like you do.” Stiles tried for a smile, something comforting.

A corner of Derek’s lips quirked up in a smile, a sort-of smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes but it was something. “Yeah,” Derek agreed. “They would.”

“See? Now let’s go back out there, see if anything new is going on.”

--

Danny stuck close to the twins, but he still walked around the room and talked to all of the people. He was pretty good with people too, but he had always been that way. He was friendly and nice, but witty at the same time, always having quick replies even to Stiles’ sarcastic comments.

That was something Stiles always liked about him, why they even became friends in the first place. Danny was Jackson’s best friend, and Jackson was the douche on the lacrosse team who thought giving Stiles a hard time was his favorite hobby. When Jackson moved away with his family, Danny branched out in the whole friend department.

It was kind of like how Stiles became friends with Lydia, because Lydia knew Allison. Lydia never gave him the time of day until they fell into each other’s social circles. After they became friends, they became close. They’d offer each other advice from time to time and looked out for each other like it was second nature.

“So how long will it take you two to get to New York?” Danny asked. They were sitting against a wall, going through the canned goods on the ground so they could make “dinner” for everyone.

Stiles shrugged. He had no idea, really. He knew it was far away, that it’d take time, but between the zombies and stopping before it grew dark out, it’d probably take them twice the amount of time than it would regularly. If there was still electricity and Internet, he could map it out, but without that and relying on a paper map to get there, there was no telling how to determine the time.

“A long time. I’m guessing two weeks, but really dude, I don’t have the slightest clue.”

“You promise you’ll be careful? It’s not safe out there, and I understand that you need to find them, but just promise me.” Danny looked serious, sounding more earnest than Stiles had ever heard him before.

Stiles knocked his shoulder against his, giving him a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Yeah, I promise.”

“That’s good,” Danny said, returning the same smile.

“And I have Derek, he’s built like a brick, he’ll be my back up when shit gets too dangerous.”

“That’s good, too, I’m glad.” Danny knocked his shoulder against Stiles. “And can you do me a favor when you find Lydia and the others?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Tell Lydia I miss her and that I say hi, same with the others.”

“Sure thing, man. I’ll make sure to do that right away, okay?”

“Thanks, Stiles.”

--

His dad was sitting in the front near the doors, right behind the desk with the same two guys who had threatened Stiles and Derek when they first arrived. Derek still hadn’t forgiven them yet, and still didn’t like them. He won’t talk to them much, and he tended to glare in their general direction, whether they were looking at him or not. It was funny when they actually tried to apologize to them and Derek kind of just looked at them and mumbled monosyllables until they walked away and left him alone. He pretty much exuded leave me the fuck alone like it was a general art form.

“Hey, dad,” Stiles started with. He smiled in a small attempt to convey everything is okay, don’t worry! He was pretty sure it looked forced and not at all like he wanted it to. “Can we talk? I kind of, uh, need to talk to you about something.”

His dad’s brow furrowed in a way he knew good and well was his dad being confused and wondering why Stiles needed to talk to him and couldn’t do it in front of other people. Stiles was never one to shy away from whatever it was he needed to say.

“What is it? Something happen? I didn’t hear anything come from the other room, and outside has been quiet all day,” he said as soon as they were away from the others. They may have been away from everyone, but he knew good and well that all the werewolves in the building could hear him. Especially Derek, who he hoped would come into the room if Stiles struggled enough or needed any help of talking to him about the whole going to New York thing. He really, really hoped.

“No, no,” Stiles was quick to say. “Everything is fine, everyone is as happy as one could be during everything right now, but, we need to talk. Derek and I, we’re planning on heading to New York, because Scott and everyone else are there and he needs to find his sisters. It’s important, dad, it is really important. But we came here first, because I told him that finding you was my top priority. But we’re planning on leaving soon. And I’m sorry, okay, I know we just got here and I know it’s been so long, and I know, god do I know, how dangerous it is, but we have to do this, okay? We have to find them.” His words came rushing out fast. He hoped his dad understood everything he said, because he really did not want to repeat himself. He would if he had to, but he didn’t want to. It was out there in the open. He felt a mess of emotions. Everything just sucked, a lot.

“Okay,” his dad said. “If you need to go, then you have to do what you need to do.”

“Okay? That’s it? Seriously?” He expected something a lot more than that. Not really anger, just his dad worrying and caring about his well-being and all that. But ‘okay’? He wasn’t sure what to think of that.

His dad sighed, and in that moment Stiles realized and noticed how weary and exhausted his dad looked, like he aged about five to ten years since the last time they saw each other. “I would gladly go with you, Stiles, but my place is here, do you understand? They need me here, just as much as I think Scott needs you there. I understand it if you need to leave. I don’t want you to leave, but I can’t force you to stay.”

“I thought you’d put up more of a fight than that,” Stiles confessed. “Like, a ‘don’t leave, you have to stay here’, or something, but.”

“It’s not the end of the world, son.”

Stiles laughed. “It kind of is, dad.”

His dad pulls him into a hug at that, whispering reassurances into his hair and Stiles. He missed this, missed his father telling him everything was going to be okay, telling him that he loved him and that he was proud of him.

“Go, find Scott and the others. When you see them, you tell them that I said hello. You hear me?”

Stiles laughed again, but this time it sounded more real. “Yeah, dad, I’ll do that. It’ll be the first thing I say.”

“You better, kid.”

Stiles pulled away, waving a hand at him. “Yeah, yeah.”

“You be careful out there. It’s dangerous.”

“I’ll watch out for him, Sheriff.” Stiles turned around to see Derek leaning against the doorframe, his arms crossed.

“I’ll hold you to that,” his dad said, looking serious. “And call me John.”

“I promise, John. I’ll keep Stiles safe and make sure nothing happens to him. You have my word,” Derek promised and Stiles was shocked at the sincerity in his voice, the look on his face.

--

Stiles’ house really wasn’t twenty minutes away like he thought, but it had been ages since he’d walked to the station and back to his home on foot. In reality, it only took them a little over ten minutes before they were standing before the place. He was suddenly struck with how much he missed it. He grew up in the house, and he could remember all the times that he and Scott had burst through the doors, laughing before running upstairs to play video games. When he and Lydia were standing just by the front doors, her dressed in a beautiful dress and Stiles in his tux, with Scott and Allison standing beside them as his dad and Scott’s mom took their photos just before their senior prom. There were also the memories of sitting in his room while his dad was out, bandaging himself up while Scott sat at his desk chair fretting over Stiles getting hurt.

The house was eerily quiet when they walked in. He felt uneasy walking through his house, like he was half expecting something to jump out after making them a new home in the place he grew up in. He looked, but didn’t see anything on his way to the stairs. The living room was deserted, just like the rest of the house.

“Just going to grab some stuff from upstairs really quick and then we’re leaving, okay?” Stiles called over his shoulder. “You can wait outside if you want.”

“I’m going with you,” Derek insisted.

“I’m just going upstairs, dude. It’s fine.”

Derek was scowling. He looked ready to pull Stiles right back out of the house by the collar of his shirt.

What?” Stiles asked, exasperated. “Can you hear something that I can’t? Do you know something that I obviously don’t? I’m just going to grab some things and then we’re leaving. My house is quiet, pretty sure it’s safe.”

“I don’t think it’s as safe as you think.” Derek had his arms crossed, and really, Stiles wanted to continue to tell him it was okay, that maybe Derek’s just being paranoid or something, but then werewolf. Also Stiles wasn’t sure he had any more fight in him to get Derek to back down.

“Fine, whatever, you can follow, I don’t care.” I do. “Just going upstairs. Come on, you can play watch dog up there.”

“I’m not your watch dog.”

“Watch werewolf, then?” Stiles offered with a smile.

“No.”

“Fine, just sourwolf then.”

Derek let out a long sigh. “Let’s hurry this up.”

Stiles ran up the stairs, Derek close behind him. It was quiet to him. He couldn’t hear a single thing. It even looked just like he last remembered it, like nothing had come through the house yet. It looked completely undisturbed. He wasn’t sure what it meant for the rest of the house, because he only went through the hallway and then up the stairs; he hadn’t actually seen the rest, yet.

“I have an extra bag here,” Stiles said once they made it to his room. “It’s my old lacrosse bag. I think it could maybe come in handy, if you want to use it.”

It was still lying in his closet, right where he remembered leaving it. It was empty, so he grabbed it and started filling it up. Derek was snooping around the room, looking through papers and photos.

Derek nodded his agreement, setting what he was holding back down onto the dresser and took a seat on the edge of Stiles’ bed. He was really playing the watchful werewolf, and Stiles wanted to say another quip at that, another joke or two, but he refrained from it. If only barely. Instead, he focused on packing his things. There was one other place he wanted to go in the house besides raiding the kitchen, which was his dad’s room. His dad had given him a few things back at the police station, but there was a really good, sharp knife that his dad kept in one of his drawers. It wouldn’t help against zombies, but it was enough to help them through possible tight spots or cutting through rope they may need. He thought that, at least, it’d be a little helpful to them. He had a hand gun now, placed underneath the seat in his jeep, there for protection, despite Derek’s protests that he doesn’t need a gun. It made Stiles feel safer, though, so he was pretty sure Derek could just shut up and leave it alone. It was fine.

--

“So I’m pretty sure this is the road we need,” Stiles said. He was pretty sure of it. They’d decided to stay clear of all major highways, just in case, and just go down the smaller, back roads instead. It seemed the safest bet. At least, Stiles hoped it was.

Derek was riding shotgun and so he had control of the maps. He was pouring over the Beacon Hills map that provided them with the most details, the one Stiles had luckily found at a gas station back in Beacon Hills. Derek tapped a finger against the map, where a red line was drawn down it.

“We’re on the right road so far,” Derek replied. “But we’re only taking this until we see the sign for state road 50, and then we’ll head northeast on there.”

“Are you sure?” Stiles asked. He tried to peer over to see the map, all the while still trying to drive, and he found himself being pushed back by Derek and a glare fixed firmly on him.

“You’re driving,” Derek pointed out, and he still had a hand pressing Stiles back and away. “If you want to look at the map, then pull over.”

Fine,” Stiles sighed, putting all of his focus back on the road. “Now, are you sure, absolutely positive, that we take this directly to state road 50? Because I thought we took this to some other road and then we got onto state road 50.”

Stiles heard the crinkle of paper as Derek tried to flatten the map out as best as he could. The map dwarfed the dashboard, thwarting him. Derek squinted down at it, frowning. “I think so,” Derek said, and that was that.

“I’m not stopping so we can double check,” Stiles said, stepping on the gas some more. “So if it’s wrong? Then that’ll suck. If it’s not, then great, that’ll be great. So we’ll go with that and see what happens.”

“Okay,” Derek said, even though Stiles could just hear it, hear underneath that "okay" that Derek wasn’t, in fact, okay with just going with whatever. But apparently Derek was too stubborn to actually say anything, and Stiles was too stubborn to want to listen to him anyway. So, he kept driving.

--

They managed to cross California state lines and into Nevada. They were welcomed by a stretch of desert that seemed to go on for miles in every direction. That was all Stiles could see. No nice, green forests; just dirt and hot, unbearable sun beating down on them as they drove down the road.

“It’s a shame we’re not driving through here for some Las Vegas fun,” Stiles said as he stuck his hand out of the window, feeling the wind hit his hand.

“You know, we’re nowhere near Las Vegas,” Derek pointed out.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, we’re cutting through the middle of the state and many miles away from a once-fun city where people go – or went to waste their lives and money away.” In the midst of a desert, there was a gas station. He glanced to see if they should stop or not to gas up, and noticed he was too close to E for them to chance finding another gas station. “Hey, I’m stopping here, okay? We kind of need to get gas.”

“Sure, then maybe we can look over the map.”

“Maybe stock up on more food and drinks, or whatever we find.”

“I think we’re fine with what we have.”

“You say that, but you never know. We could not run into any other places and run out of food and drinks because we became overconfident in our current supply and ability to come across stores.” They had more than enough of a food supply stashed in the backseat of the jeep, but there was no telling how long it’d last for or how much longer it’d take to get to their destination and really, overconfidence hasn’t ever gotten anyone anywhere.

Derek shrugged like he could care less and got out of the jeep. He walked up and pushed open the doors of the convenience store. They were welcomed by quiet and chaos, all wrapped up in broken chip stands and a cash register that was left wide open and empty. “You think someone tried to rob this place when the world ended?”

Derek was shaking his head and looking like he thought he was one hundred percent done with people. Which, Stiles was pretty sure the world would agree with that, since it ended. Basically was its own message to say fuck you, this is what you get. He still has no idea why it ended, what the cause of the breakout was, or anything. The professor whose class he was stuck in during the panic never bothered to turn the television on, or inform them about what was happening, but he was sure they had no idea either. They all just sat in the class, away from the windows, and hid until everything around them just kind of stood still and quiet.

It was almost as if time stopped altogether, giving the world a breather as everything and everyone started to shift and change into something scary and different, and so very empty. Everyone started to leave or change or die, until Stiles was the last one left at the campus. Until all he had were his thoughts and a hope that he’d be able to leave eventually or people would rescue him, or something, until even that hope started to dwindle. Up until he met Derek that is, up until he found out that he wasn’t as alone as he thought he was on the campus.

“I wouldn’t put it past people,” Derek said, and Stiles was almost sure he was going to say I wouldn’t put it past humans, and Stiles would have agreed with him, because humans were smart and strong in their own right, but they were also reckless and horrible in their own right, too. But he supposed that a werewolf could have just as easily robbed the store, too. So ‘people’ fit.

“You know, I still wonder how all of this happened. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that everything ended and the undead now walk the earth. It’s surreal, you know?” He kicked around potato chip bags, the crinkle of the packages loud in the quiet of the store. “It scares me. I’m scared,” he confessed, voice small.

He felt a hand on his shoulder a moment later, and then Derek was saying, “It’s okay to be scared.”

“Are you scared?” Stiles asked, even though he thought there was nothing that Derek ever needed to be afraid of, because Derek was strong, quick on his feet, agile, and could heal quickly even from a gunshot wound. There wasn’t any reason for him to be scared of anything.

“Yeah,” Derek replied. “Even before all of this, there were times I was scared. It’s okay to feel fear. After my parents--” Derek stopped short, his eyes darting to the floor before settling to look out of the large windows at the front of the store.

Stiles swallowed. “I was scared out of my mind when I lost my mom,” he confessed, voice tight. “It was hard on me and on my dad, and I was scared.”

Derek finally looked back at him. He looked like he was trying to shield away all of the bad memories he had behind an iron gate, like he was closing off all other emotion like he thought it had no place to be shown in front of others, and Stiles wanted to throw it out there that it was okay. It was okay to show emotion, to feel sadness and grief, and that no one would judge him for it. Stiles certainly wouldn’t, because he understood what it felt like to lose somebody that was close to you, to lose a parent. Anything parent-related seemed to be a sore subject with Derek, and Stiles understood that, but if it was anything that Stiles had learned was that talking about it and just remembering was a lot better than ignoring it altogether.

“It’s okay,” Stiles said, throwing out Derek’s earlier words back at him. “You know, it’s really – It’s okay.”

Derek nodded stiffly and moved away. “Yeah,” Derek said, and he wondered just how much Derek believed that, even though Derek was the one to say it to begin with.

--

Everything was going smoothly. Stiles wanted to laugh at that, because going smoothly was only going to last so long. He knew that the world wasn’t going to give either of them an easy drive across the country. No, it was going to be difficult and dangerous, and everything you’d absolutely expect when you think about zombies and the apocalypse. So he really was not surprised at all when they were driving down the road and Derek suddenly started saying, “Stop driving.”

Stiles gripped the steering wheel tighter. “Why?” he asked calmly. He didn’t take his eyes off the road, but he didn’t stop either.

“Because I said so,” Derek said, firmly and like it shouldn’t leave room for discussion. That his very word was what was important, what Stiles needed to listen to for his own good. “So, stop driving. Now.” That last bit came out more as a growl, and if Derek was trying to be intimidating? Yeah, totally not going to work.

“Not a good enough answer, Derek,” Stiles said, voice rising a little. He needed to know why. And if it was dangerous, he needed to know now. “You need to tell me why we need to stop, okay? Telling me it’s because you said so isn’t going to cut it.”

“There’s danger up ahead. There’s zombies, a lot of them, but I’m not sure how many.”

“On the road?” Stiles asked, stepping on the break, his tires skidding a little on the road from the sheer force of it. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious, Stiles,” Derek said. “You think I’ll joke about that?” Derek made a face. “Yeah, just kidding.”

Stiles’ eyes narrowed. “Ha ha, very funny, asshole.”

“We need to stay right here.”

“No shit. But I would also like to know how many there are and how long we’d have to sit here. And if here,” he waved a hand around, “is actually safe.”

“We’re safe,” Derek said. “For now.”

“Wow,” Stiles said slowly, drawling it out. “Very comforting. That calms me down a lot, thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Derek’s voice was dripping with sarcasm, enough to rival Stiles’.

“You’re trying to be funny, and I applaud your attempt, but you are not funny.” Stiles loosened his strong hold of the steering wheel, instead patting it once, twice before settling his arms by his sides. Derek was still beside him, but his presence was calming enough, the reminder that he had that little bit extra protection against the world.

“I’m not sure how many there are,” Derek told him, breaking the silence and choosing to ignore Stiles’ comment from before. “Too many to chance driving through, though.”

“It’d be a suicide mission,” Stiles agreed. His hands found themselves gripping tight to the steering wheel again. “So how long are we sitting here for?”

“I don’t know.”

Stiles relaxed back in his seat, his hands falling from the steering wheel again as he stared ahead, not sure what to do with his hands anymore or himself, for that matter. “Okay,” he said quietly. “So we’ll sit here, do absolutely nothing, while hoping by some miracle nothing comes waltzing through here in the meantime.”

“Zombies won’t waltz through here,” Derek said with an eye roll.

“You know what I mean,” Stiles said, with an eye roll of his own. A soft smile made its way onto his face, at Derek’s comment and at the mere idea of a zombie waltzing.

“We’ll be fine,” Derek said confidently, still staring ahead. It was like he was watching out for any sign of them and just daring the damn zombies to try something. “Just stay calm, remain seated, and try shutting up.”

--

It took hours until Derek said it was safe enough to keep driving. He tried looking out his window to see if he could see them. He only managed to catch a small glimpse of them. There weren’t too many, but there were a lot, enough and they were now a safe distance away from them. He knew if he didn’t have Derek, somebody who was like Derek, who could sense them so far away, he’d probably would have kept driving and would’ve drove right in the middle of them. He could be dead, if that happened.

Derek was quiet in the passenger seat. He had a book lying on his lap instead of the map. His focus seemed to be zeroed in on whatever he was reading, like he was caught up in the book so much that nothing else around him existed anymore. He looked relaxed like that, turning the page with a quiet ease that Stiles wasn’t used to. His leather jacket was off, abandoned to the backseat of the jeep and he was wearing a different shirt than usual, one that wasn’t as damaged and beat up looking and with less blood stains.

Stiles looked away, back at the stretch of road before him.

They had looked at the map when they’d stopped at the gas station. He wasn’t sure if he was reading it right, if they were on the right track or not, but when they got back onto the road, they continued forward with the hope that they were going the right direction. They’ve managed to get out of the middle of nowhere and they’d seen the occasional buildings and houses, the signs of what used to be civilization along with the aftermath of it.

He was starting to think they were definitely lost. It seemed like the road just kept going on and on for miles, and he didn’t see any signs for state road 50. “I think we’re lost,” he announced.

Derek shut his book and looked up. “Maybe.”

“I feel like we should’ve seen it by now. I know it’s hard to determine miles on a paper map, but come on, we’ve been driving for too long now.”

“Yeah,” Derek said agreeably. “We should stop, go over the map again.”

“We should go over it better though. We may have to remap out our destination.”

“That could take a long time.” And it could. It could take a whole day, maybe two, depending on how off course they already were.

“Yeah? Well it’d be better than driving on this road until we’re so far off course it causes us three times the amount of time than it should really take to get to New York.”

“We should find somewhere to stop.” Derek was already looking around to see where they could stop, what looked the safest.

They eventually found an abandoned house, surrounded by a couple more houses that were a decent distance away. It was a small, country neighborhood, like the ones Stiles had always read about in the books he found in the libraries and the ones he’d grown up reading, and all of the movies he’d watched. There was even a picket fence surrounding the house, although it wasn’t white at all, but a soft, brown color. The backyard held a doghouse and a tire swing attached to one of the trees.

Once inside, Stiles took the map out of one of the bags and spread it out on the dining room table. Derek held the red marker Stiles had taken from the sheriff’s station and he was looking at the map with sheer contemplation.

“Okay, we’re on this road right here,” Derek said, pointing at a road on the map. Just southwest of the road was the road they needed and Stiles swore under his breath, because they were really off course and lost, and it was definitely going to make their trip unnecessarily longer. It was just fucking luck. As always, it was completely shitty.

So far off course,” Stiles grumbled, and then he sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Great, just freakin’ great. This is just what we needed. How do we get back on course? I don’t even know where to start.”

“We’re not that off course,” Derek said with a shrug. “And maybe here?” He pointed to a highway, something much larger than what they’d been traveling on. An interstate, wider, open stretches of road that were more problematic but Stiles followed it with his finger, and it led him all the way to New York City. They were on state road 95 now, but it ran right into I-80. “I used to take that route all the time with my sisters,” Derek continued.

“Do you think it could be safe? I know we had agreed on smaller roads, but that’s not small at all and there’s the evident risks, right?” Derek nodded at that and Stiles tried to not think of those risks, what they’d mean, and the different possibilities. “Do you think we should go for it, though?”

Derek nodded again. “Yeah, I think we should. It may not be as bad as we fear, but there’s no telling that until we’re actually on the road.”

“Okay.” Stiles took a deep breath; choosing to go with it, go with this other route, because it wasn’t like they had much of a choice, now. And Derek sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and he wanted to trust his judgment. “Okay,” Stiles repeated. “Let’s do this, we’ll try this out.”

--

They found themselves in a city a few days later. The sign read Welcome to Salt Lake City, Utah! as they pulled off of an exit. The tall buildings looked daunting as Stiles stared up at them. Derek was at the wheel this time, giving Stiles the much-needed break from driving. He looked at the buildings with unease, the thought of the unknown bugging at the back of his mind, reminding him of what walked the earth now. They haven’t gone through big cities yet. They had stayed clear of Las Vegas, but now they were facing a city, something that Stiles was both intrigued and terrified of.

“You think we’ll run into trouble?” Stiles asked, tapping a finger against the passenger side window. He could see mountains in the far off distance, their snowy caps beautiful in the mid-morning sun.

Derek gave him a sideways glance before putting his full focus back on the stretch of road before him. “I don’t know,” Derek said, “Maybe. Probably.” And then, like an afterthought, “We’ll be fine.”

Stiles wanted to believe that, but he found himself still worrying, his bottom lip caught between his teeth and hands gripping the sides of his seat tightly as he looked ahead at the city that awaited them.

--

It seemed like the world loved to throw things at them, see what they could deal with and what would send them for a loop so fast it left their heads spinning to get their bearings on everything. Being cornered into an alleyway by zombies roaming the streets felt like the world was laughing cruelly in their faces, like it enjoyed their fear and misery so much. Being cornered had Stiles hoping to some deity that they’d get through it safely and untouched, and had fear coursing through his body and leaving his hands shaking with the undercurrent of a panic attack.

Derek had him pressed up against a wall, his presence an anchor to ground Stiles to feel some sort of security, because he knew Derek wouldn’t let him get hurt. They were pressed close, bodies only mere inches apart because there was no room to move at all.

Stiles was torn between running and staying right where he was. He knew that either option wasn’t safe, and by the way Derek was holding onto him he knew Derek was thinking something similar. He could hear them. They were close by, but Stiles had no idea where.

“My foot’s falling asleep,” Stiles said, trying to wiggle his leg free enough to relieve the pins and needle feeling crawling up his leg. It put him closer to Derek, their bodies shifting closer to accommodate his moving. Stiles stopped moving, looking up and locking eyes with Derek.

“Be quiet.”

“Sorry,” Stiles mumbled. He gripped Derek’s shirt tighter, which brought Derek impossibly closer. Derek’s hands fell to his waist as he tried to get Stiles to stop moving or to prevent him from falling away, he wasn’t sure which exactly. Maybe both. Derek’s grip turned tighter and he pressed forward more, like he was shielding Stiles away from the rest of the world, and he had no idea what Derek might hear that he can’t.

Something crashed with a clang, way too close for comfort, and Stiles held tighter to Derek and shut his eyes.

“It’ll be okay,” Derek spoke in his ear.

Stiles looked up, which put their faces a lot closer than they were. He could feel Derek’s warm breath against his face. “Yeah? You think so? You don’t think we’ll die right here?” he asked, his gaze falling for a split second to Derek’s mouth, which was partly opened. He felt a swoop of something in the pit of his stomach, and he mentally cursed himself for anything he was thinking right now.

“Yeah,” Derek echoed back.

“I trust you,” Stiles told him, and he did. He knew Derek would have his back and keep him safe, and Stiles would do the same for him.

He could see it as Derek swallowed, watched it as Derek licked his lips. Stiles moved his hand up, curling it around the nape of his neck. Derek was looking at him like he wasn’t sure, but there was an unmistakable heat to his gaze, like maybe he was thinking the same as Stiles right now. Or maybe it was just his wishful thinking, or something. But Stiles was sure, and if he was reading this right, if. Stiles just really wanted to kiss him now, for some stupid, ridiculous reason because it really wasn’t the time or place for it. But fuck it, he thought. Fuck it.

Stiles leaned forward before he lost the nerve to do it, but just as he was about to kiss Derek, a loud bang echoed around them. The sound of glass shattering and something heavy falling onto something startled them both apart.

“Shit,” Stiles swore as he bumped his elbow against the wall behind him. He rubbed at it as he looked around. He didn’t see anything, and when he looked back at Derek, he could tell he didn’t either. “I’m tired of this.”

Derek made a noise of agreement. He still had his arms wrapped around Stiles, and they were still close together.

Derek looked to his left; down at the deserted alleyway they’d gotten themselves holed up in for safety. “I think it’s safe to head down there.”

“You sure? Because it looks like hell, dude, and we don’t know what’s lurking down dark alleys here. Haven’t you heard? Dark alleys are thriving with evil shit just waiting to attack.”

“I think you mean you don’t go down dark alleys because of muggers, Stiles.”

“No, I mean evil shit,” Stiles said, because there weren’t muggers anymore, so what else would be down dark alleys? “Zombies. Flesh-eating zombies looking for braaiins.”

“Zombies are everywhere.” Derek gave him a pointed look. It was like he thought that Stiles was thinking zombies were only in dark alleys, because no, he understood they were everywhere. He’s only been dealing with this crap for months now.

“I know that,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes. “But think about it. Dark alleys, zombies – I don’t think that’s a good combination.”

“It seems safe, for now.”

“Are you sure about that? Like one hundred percent sure?”

“Yes.”

“I trust you,” Stiles repeated, not looking away, keeping his eyes locked with Derek’s.

Derek didn’t look away either. When Derek grabbed for his hand, it was like he was saying I trust you too.

--

They kept exploring the city after that incident. It didn’t deter their curiosity, but it did make them more cautious of their surroundings. Not that they weren’t before, but the whole incident of being cornered left them more cautious than usual. Stiles’ fears that cities were more dangerous than rural or small towns had proved to be correct, and he both wanted to leave the city quickly and continue exploring. Derek seemed to be the same.

“I feel like I shouldn’t have left that gun back at the jeep,” Stiles said. “My lapse in judgment may get us killed.”

“You don’t need it,” Derek said like it was some tired argument he was done discussing.

“Right,” Stiles said dismissively, waving a hand at Derek. “You have the whole strength and speed thing going for you, but what do I have?” He made a motion at Derek to hurry and answer the question. He didn’t miss the eye roll that it provoked from Derek, or the tired sigh that escaped Derek’s mouth.

“You’re human,” Derek replied.

“Ding, ding, ding!” Stiles clapped his hands together, smiling at Derek. “And as a human, I have to find other means to arms myself with so, you know, I don’t die a horrible and tragic death.” He nudged Derek in the shoulder with his hand and added, “For a pretty face, you’re—.” Stiles stopped short, unsure of where exactly he was going with that sentence, and looked over at Derek.

Derek was pointedly looking forward, and Stiles could faintly make out pink coloring his cheeks and the tips of his ears. Derek was blushing, and Stiles stared at him for a moment before diverting his gaze down at the ground. He felt the urge to move closer to Derek, maybe finally get to kiss him. It felt different than that moment in the alley. He needed to focus on the whole not dying thing, though, and not the way he wanted to know what it was like to kiss the guy he’s been traveling with.

“We should find shelter soon,” Stiles spoke eventually, breaking the silence. Derek finally looked at him, nodding his agreement. The blush was gone from his cheeks. There was a look on Derek’s face, though, that Stiles couldn’t place.

--

Stiles was pretty sure this would rank as one of his worst ideas ever, right up there with the time he thought it was a great idea to go out into the woods with Scott in the middle of the night when he was a teenager. Back when Scott got bit by a freakin’ werewolf and both of their lives turned into Stiles helping Scott control all of his werewolf urges. He’s pretty sure, though, that this idea ranked a little higher than that one, because he was staring forward as too many zombies surrounded Derek.

Derek was trapped and Stiles needed to do something, and he needed to do it fast because he didn’t know how much longer Derek would last. He had no time to rethink anything or make some better plan that wasn’t completely off the wall and ridiculous and so, so dangerous.

Years ago, Lydia had taught him that anything was possible. It was never the question of if you could do something, but if you were determined enough to get something done. She had taught him to go for it, no matter how impossible it sounded or if it seemed like the odds were against him. If it was important enough, had enough meaning that you shouldn’t back out of it no matter what, to just go for it, dive right in and hope for the best. It was a good life lesson. He was pretty sure his current situation fell into that category. There was just no way, absolutely no way, he was going to let Derek fend for himself and get attacked by zombies. He wasn’t going to hide behind something and be completely useless. He was going to do something, because Derek needed help, and Stiles was going to be that help.

Stiles looked around, his hand reaching out to feel for anything that he may not be seeing. His hand fell on a baseball bat lying partially underneath a car. It was a metal bat, silver in color with a black handle. He doubted he’d be able to take out every zombie, but hey, it was something at least. It’d at least immobilize one zombie and give Derek the upper hand again to get the entire situation under control.

Gripping the bat tightly, Stiles crawled out of the small space he was hiding in. Derek was eying each zombie with a look on his face that had Stiles gripping the bat even tighter, all thoughts of backing out completely forgotten. Because Derek looked nervous, kind of scared as he stood there, growling low in warning. Stiles could see Derek’s determination slowly slipping as the zombies continued to crowd around him. And that was not happening at all, there was no way Derek was going to lose to a bunch of zombies.

Stiles charged forward, determined with sure movement. He swung as hard as he could, the bat making contact with the back of a zombie’s head, the sound of metal hitting skull resonating in the street. A smile broke out across his face as the zombie fell to the ground and he repressed the urge to fist pump into the air, because fuck yes, he did it. It caused enough of a distraction for Derek to reclaim the upper hand, successfully taking out the remaining zombies.

Stiles’ shoulders slumped once everything had died down. He laughed breathlessly, filled with relief. He looked at the mess that was in front of him with wide-eyes. His heart was hammering in his chest and his hands shook. To say he was scared out of his mind would have been an understatement of the century. “Shit,” he said under his breath. He finally looked over at Derek, taking in the state he was in. His shirt was ripped, there were bloodstains on his shirt, and he looked like he just walked out of a huge battle (which he did, Jesus Christ) and he looked…Pissed, tired, confused, fuck he looked like a mess of emotions that Stiles couldn’t even identify. It was like Derek was warring with all the emotions he was feeling, placing them on a silver platter for the world to see. Derek’s expression quickly went to just pissed off as he crowded into Stiles’ personal space.

Derek grabbed him by the arm, his grip verging on too tight, and started pushing Stiles along. He all but dragged Stiles to a nearest building that looked safe enough. When they broke in and Derek had scoured the area to make sure everything was okay, he crowded Stiles against the nearest wall.

“What was that?” Derek demanded, his eyes flashing blue for a moment.

“That was me saving your ass,” Stiles shot back. “You know, keeping you from getting yourself killed. Or was that not clear when I swung a bat to the back of a zombie’s head?”

“That wasn’t safe, Stiles! What were you thinking?” Derek wasn’t yelling, but it was a near thing. He was pissed off, his anger coming off him in waves. And yeah, okay, it was a monumentally stupid idea to charge into a bunch of zombies with nothing but a bat and he knew there was a slim chance of said plan actually working, he knew all of that. But he wasn’t going to just stand around and do nothing, and if faced with it again, he’d do it all over again, because he wasn’t going to let Derek get killed. That wasn’t going to happen, ever.

Stiles had his chin raised, feeling defiant, and looked Derek right in the eyes. “I wasn’t going to let you fight them all by yourself, which you know, you were losing that fight, Derek. What, do you think I’ll just stand around like a helpless human? Do nothing? Watch you get killed? And then what? Run for my life screaming? Not a chance, buddy. I may be human, but I am not helpless.”

Derek blinked, and Stiles could see it as Derek calmed down a little, the way his body was less tense. He was still close to Stiles, still had him pushed against the wall with his hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “No, that’s not—“ he started to say, but Stiles quickly interrupted him, feeling it as his own anger shown through.

“No, that’s exactly what you’re trying to say. I’m not going to stand around and watch you get yourself killed, leaving me with nothing. Don’t be a fucking idiot and think you can face everything yourself, because guess what, it’s not possible. I don’t even care if you have super strength and all that other good stuff, because not always will it help you!”

“That’s not –“ Derek started again, shaking his head. He looked like he was trying to find what to say and Stiles was close to telling him to use his words, but Derek spoke up again. “But that’s the thing, you are human, and it’s dangerous. What if it went wrong? I wasn’t in a place where I could help if it did!”

“But it didn’t, and I’m fine, okay? So just get your head out of your ass to realize that even if I am human, I can take care of myself.”

Derek still had him pressed against the wall. Stiles tried to move, but Derek had him pressed pretty firmly against the wall to where he couldn’t even move an inch. Moving just brought them impossibly closer together.

“Don’t do that again,” Derek said, and yeah, not a chance. If he has to fight to stay alive, to keep Derek alive, he’ll do it.

“You can’t force me to stand back and do nothing,” he said. He looked Derek right in the eyes, kept his expression firm, and he hoped that he understood. “We have to look out for each other. You’re strong, I get that, but sometimes other things can get the best of you, and if or when that happens, I have your back.”

Derek was quiet, steadily staring at Stiles with a look between dissipating anger and something else, something Stiles couldn’t place a proper name on. When Stiles was about to open his mouth and continue talking, Derek was surging forward, pressing Stiles firmly against the wall and kissing him. Stiles was surprised for all of a second before he was kissing back, his hands scrambling to find purchase on Derek’s shirt, pulling Derek even closer. Derek’s hands moved down Stiles’ body, hands finding their way under Stiles’ shirt. He pulled away, breath heavy against Derek’s mouth, neither pulling away too far.

“Maybe we shouldn’t—“ Stiles tried to say, tried to ask is it safe here? But Derek only kissed him again, pulling him into a kiss that was slower this time. “Yeah, okay,” Stiles said against Derek’s mouth. Less talking, more kissing, he was definitely all for that.

Derek’s only answer was to start trailing kisses down to Stiles’ neck, his fingers sweeping softly against Stiles’ hipbones. “We’re safe here,” Derek said after a moment, like he could read Stiles’ mind.

“Yeah?” Stiles asked and when Derek nodded, he added, “Yeah, okay. Kissing is good, I like kissing.”

--

They passed a sign that read Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, it saying to take the next exit to get there. Stiles hummed, fingers tapping against the steering wheel.

“I wonder what animals were once there,” he mused with idle curiosity. “Think there ever were lots of wolf packs out there, before all of this?”

“Were’ or are you asking about actual wolves?” Derek asked.

“Either,” Stiles answered with an easy shrug.

“Probably, yeah,” Derek answered. “Not any werewolves. But actual wolves, yeah, they were there.”

Stiles began humming a song that had been stuck in his head for the last hour, something he couldn’t remember the name of. Eventually, the name of the area and refuge dawned on him, and his face brightened with the realization.

“Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge,” Stiles said, hitting the palm of his hand against the steering wheel. Derek looked at him sideways, his eyebrows raised in silent inquiry. “It was a crossroads for the Oregon Trail!”

A corner of Derek’s lips turned up at that, and Stiles was hit with a wave of warmth, because he really liked it when Derek smiled. It was rare and breathtaking, and he wanted him to smile all the time, if it was possible. “Oregon Trail?”

“Please tell me you played it as a kid.” Stiles clutched a free hand to his chest as he dreaded Derek’s answer. “It was only the best game ever. Pretty sure I died more times than I ever finished the damn game, though.”

“Who hasn’t played the Oregon Trail?” was Derek’s reply. “But the fact that you know where exactly the real trail went through. Not everyone knows that information.”

Stiles tapped a finger on his forehead, grinning. “I am filled with knowledge.”

“About the Oregon Trail?”

“About many things,” Stiles said. “I’m filled with useless facts about all kinds of things. I used to do all kinds of research, about a lot of stuff. If my friends needed help with something, they came to me.”

“You did research for Scott about werewolves?” Derek asked, but it came out more of a statement. Stiles nodded anyway, because he did do that, used to stay up late at night just to search the Internet for any refutable facts that would actually help them with the whole werewolf problem. “Find anything that wasn’t bullshit?”

“A lot was bullshit, but if you dig deep enough, you can find the facts. Some helped, some didn’t.” Stiles shrugged, a small raise of his left shoulder. “I’m good at research and planning. When my friend Lydia became friends with us, we did it together, because she’s brilliant. She helped a lot. Scott’s girlfriend did too, but she had access to other resources, because she was a hunter’s daughter.”

A look flickered over Derek’s face, almost too quick, but Stiles caught the flare of anger and the way Derek’s hands clenched too tightly like he was holding something back.

“Hunter’s daughter?” Derek spoke his words carefully.

Stiles nodded, “Yep. Weird, huh? With the whole Scott being a werewolf.”

“What were their names?” Derek asked then.

Stiles’ eyebrows shot up above his hairline. “You okay?” he asked instead of giving Derek the answer he wanted.

“I’m fine,” Derek sighed. “I just don’t like hunters. Bad experiences. What were their names?”

“Well, her last name is Argent,” he finally replied, looking at Derek carefully with the corner of his eye. Derek looked pretty angry at the mention of the name, and he was pretty sure he heard ripping.

“Oh come on, don’t rip the seats!” Stiles tried to reach over to slap Derek’s hands away from his precious jeep, only to stop midway when Derek shot him a glare. “Just be careful with my poor jeep, all right? I’m guessing you don’t like the Argents. They’re not always my favorite people either, but Allison is pretty cool, so don’t hate her for her family’s bad life choices, okay?”

Derek sat there quietly for a moment before he gritted out, “Fine,” like it was the toughest thing he was ever asked to do.

Stiles didn’t know what happened for Derek to have such a bad reaction toward the very mention of the Argent name, but he was sure now wasn’t the right time to go asking questions about it, so instead he tried for a reroute of the entire conversation. “So Scott being a teenaged werewolf, we were talking about that, let’s do that.”

Derek blinked. He looked at Stiles, and he looked a little relieved for the slight change of topic. “If my sisters and I stayed in Beacon Hills, we could’ve helped him.”

“What, saying my research skills aren’t good enough?” Stiles joked.

Derek smirked. “No,” he said and then his expression changed, something a little more serious. “He could’ve had us to help him out. My sister would have asked him to join her pack. She likes to help.”

“She likes to pick up lone wolves?” Stiles asked with a smile.

Derek shrugged. “If she likes them.”

--

“Maybe we should stop soon.”

Derek shrugged, never looking up from the book on his lap. “It’s not dark yet, and we’re nowhere near anything we can stop at. We have to keep going.”

“It’s starting to get dark,” Stiles pointed out, because the sun was starting to set. It was sitting lower in the sky, and he knew it’d be only a few hours until the sun began its descent, throwing everything into darkness. “Of course we’re stuck on a highway, with no exits in sight, surrounded by a forest.”

There were signs, but they only said that Medicine Bow National Forest was the next couple of exits. They couldn’t stop in a forest. He was pretty sure stopping to park just outside a forest for rest was them asking for bad shit to happen.

“We’ll probably come across a farm house eventually,” Derek said, like he wasn’t even worried at all. It was like Derek wasn’t even concerned with the fact that they might not find a house at all to stay in for the night. He was only calmly sitting there, reading his book like he had no care in the world, and Stiles wanted to reach over and shake some sort of sense into him.

“Are you not even worried about the chance that we may just keep driving and not come across anything, and then be left still driving while it’s dark out?”

“We’re in the middle of nowhere, Stiles,” Derek said. “Even if we came across all of those zombies in the middle of nowhere before, it’s not something that’s highly likely. We’ll be fine.”

“Fine,” Stiles conceded, even though he was finding it hard to not feel worried and nervous. He trusted Derek, so he was going to continue trusting Derek, even with this, even if everything in him kept shouting we need to find somewhere safe at dark! Like a big, flashing neon sign.

Derek finally looked up, closing his book quietly but leaving one finger in the book to mark his place. “It’ll be fine,” Derek assured him. “We’ll find someplace and nothing will happen.”

“Okay,” Stiles blew out a breath. “Yeah, okay.”

--

They ended up finding a place just as the sun went down. It was the only house they could see, a quiet looking farm house that was surrounded by barns and dead crops. When they approached the door, Derek stilled beside him, his eyes glowing blue in the dark.

“What is it?” Stiles asked.

When Derek went to speak, Stiles could see the sharp points of his teeth. “Something’s in the house.”

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Stiles hissed out, feeling a mix of fear and pure aggravation because couldn’t these fucking zombies give them a break, just one small break? Because Stiles was fucking exhausted and really, all he wanted was to try and get a few hours of sleep before he had to drive again. Or get Derek to drive. “How many?”

“A couple, easy to take care of,” Derek said, which was a relief.

“Should I get—“ Stiles broke off on a question of should I get something to arm myself with? Because Derek was already heading inside before Stiles had the chance to say anything at all.

Stiles hesitated, looking back at his jeep and wondering if he should go back to fetch a gun or a knife or something, but then thought better of it. He had no idea if there were more outside and nearby, and maybe he’d be able to find something inside to fight back with.

What Stiles didn’t expect, however, was to walk inside and be face to face with one of them. Derek was nowhere to be seen, and Stiles’ heart started beating faster as fear started to take up residence, all of the anger and aggravation long gone.

“Derek,” Stiles said and then louder, “Derek! I don’t know where you fucking went, but I’m face to face with one right now.” And at that, another zombie came into the room, their movements stiff as they slid one of their legs across the floor.

How is this a few? He thought as he made a run for it. He went left, down toward where stairs led up to another story of the house. He turned a swift corner and lost his balance, his body careening toward a wall. He hit it hard, but not hard enough to have him hurt enough that he couldn’t stand back up. He wobbled on his feet, and then started running again, fear and adrenaline fueling him. Another turn around a corner had his pant leg snagged onto something sharp, pain shooting up his leg as he lost his balance, falling forward to brace his fall. His arm hurt, the pain a little worse than the one in his leg, and he looked to see a gash on his arm, blood slowly soaking his shirt.

The house was big, roomy with too many rooms and he had no idea where Derek went. A few zombies were definitely an understatement. Stiles turned over onto his back, slowly trying to crawl backwards as the zombies came around the corner. He could barely make out their eyes in the dark, the light of the moon pouring in through the windows in the house. He kept crawling back until he hit against something, and when he looked up he was relieved to see Derek. He was shifted and snarling above him.

“Get behind me,” Derek growled. Stiles didn’t need to be told twice, hurrying to stay behind him. Derek took care of the few left, and afterward he turned his attention onto Stiles. Worry was etched across his features, and Stiles wanted to tell him he was okay and that it was only some minor bumps and bruises, but Derek was picking him up, careful of his injuries.

Stiles made a noise of surprise, his uninjured arm coming up to wrap around Derek’s neck as he held on. Derek was carrying him outside and away from the house, even though the danger was gone and they were fine.

“I’m fine,” Stiles said as Derek set him down on the ground. “Jesus, Derek, I’m okay.”

“You’re bleeding,” Derek pointed out as he crouched down beside him. “That’s not—You’re not okay, you’re hurt.”

Derek stood up again and began rummaging around in the backseat of the jeep. When he came back, he had the first aid kit they’d found at Stiles’ house. It had ointment to put on cuts and gauze to wrap Stiles’ arm with, something a lot better than their ripped up piece of shirt Derek had wrapped his leg in a month ago. Derek was careful to clean his gash off and wrap it. Stiles still winced when Derek pulled the gauze tight enough to stay on, but not too tight to be uncomfortable. He noticed that Derek was good at this, even though he knew Derek’s family never had to deal with getting bandaged up for cuts and scrapes. Afterward, Derek pulled him close as they sat against the jeep, Stiles sitting between Derek’s legs.

“Abandoned, quiet houses in the middle of nowhere aren’t as safe as we’d hope, huh?” Stiles laughed quietly, looking up at the night sky. He could see all of the stars clearly. Derek laid a hand against his arm while the other was wrapped around his middle, like Derek was trying to keep him safe from the world, keep out all of the dangers.

“Nothing’s safe,” Derek said quietly, rubbing a finger gently over where Stiles’ cut laid. He held a hand firmer against Stiles’ arm and Stiles looked up.

“Are you taking away my pain?” Stiles asked.

“Shh,” Derek whispered in his ear. Stiles felt a press of lips against the back of his neck a moment later. He wanted to twist around and kiss Derek, but he just remained sitting there, letting Derek take care of him.

--

Derek took driving duties after that and took them somewhere a little further away from the house, pulling up to some building that Stiles worried was less safe because it was falling apart. It looked like some abandoned building that’s been left there for years without proper care. It wasn’t just zombies that he worried about, but also how sturdy it was to let them stay in overnight.

Derek held him close the entire night, never letting Stiles out of his sights. But it wasn’t like Stiles was in any sort of condition to move around anyway, so he let Derek take care of him. He wondered, idly, what it meant that Derek was so willing to do this for him, to treat him with such care. He liked it, whatever it was, even though usually Stiles was the one wanting to take care of others. The reversal was kind of nice.

“I told you all I had were a few cuts and bruises,” Stiles reminded him. He snaked an arm around Derek’s waist and buried his face against Derek’s chest. Stiles had the blanket from the jeep, but he still felt cold everywhere he wasn’t touching Derek. Derek was like a heater, radiating warmth and Stiles just wanted to be closer, steal that warmth for his own. “You’re all warm though.”

Derek huffed out a laugh, holding Stiles tighter. He laid his chin on Derek’s chest, looking up at him.

“I typically run hotter,” Derek said, running a hand down Stiles’ back.

“It’s chilly out,” Stiles commented softly. He pulled himself up, propping himself up by his good arm and looked down at Derek. “Can I kiss you?”

“Yeah,” Derek murmured. When Stiles leaned down and kissed him, Derek’s hand came up, cupping his face gently, thumb sweeping across his cheek. It was a chaste kiss, just a soft brush of lips against lips and Stiles wanted more. But he kept it light, kissing him until Derek started pulling away and telling him to get some sleep.

--

The building was creepy during the night, often making strange noises that Stiles wasn’t sure on, startling him right before he had started to drift off into any semblance of sleep. The encounter in that house before didn’t do well to calm Stiles at all, and he was pretty sure that made things a lot worse in the unsteady building. Stiles searched the building the next day before they headed out. He doubted he’d find anything interesting or useful, but he poked around, going through items he saw and looking through different crates lying around on the ground.

There were a lot of crates for an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere. He couldn’t open most, all bolted down like they were ready to be shipped off. A few were already open, their tops lying next to them on the ground or leaned up against them. The barn-like building didn’t look like a shipping place from the outside, and he got a lot of ideas about what the place was used for.

When he looked inside the open containers, though, one of his suspicions proved correct.

He whistled lowly, pointing his thumb in its direction. “Look at this,” he said.

There were weapons stored inside it, all varying.

“I could smell them before we walked in,” Derek said and then he looked at one of the closed crates.

“They were probably weapon smugglers, illegal arms dealers,” Stiles guessed.

“Or hunters,” Derek ventured his own guess, eying the crates.

“Ah that’s, that’s actually a good point. Could be true.”

There was a desk in a corner of the building. It was metal and scratched up. Stiles sifted through the papers. Some were in another language he couldn’t recognize, but most were written in English. He opened up one of the drawers, pulling out a folder. He pulled papers out and started going through those as well.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, holding up the stack in his hand. “Pretty sure your guess is right. They were hunters.” There were photos of werewolves, other mythical creatures Stiles didn’t even think were real, and then a few files of the Outbreak and about the zombies. There were notes attached to the papers, tiny sticky notes with handwriting that was barely readable.

Derek grabbed the stack from his hand, going through them himself. “They knew the Argents,” Derek finally said after what seemed like forever. “Here, look,” he added, handing a single piece over to Stiles. “You said Scott’s girlfriend was Allison Argent, right? A hunter’s daughter?” His voice had a hard edge to it, tinged with anger underneath that Stiles wanted to poke and prod at to get answers, but the paper in Stiles’ hands had his full attention.

Gerard Argent was the first on the list, followed by Chris Argent. He remembered Gerard was her grandfather that she barely knew, but he knew who Chris was. Whoever these hunters were knew Allison’s family.

“We should take all of these files,” he said, moving back over to the desk and rummaging around in the other drawer. There were more files, too many to go through now if they wanted to get a good start on the road. They were already going to be leaving late as it is. “Allison might want to see all of this. I don’t know if her dad got to her, or not, or if this would even be helpful. But I think she’d want to see this.”

“They’d help?” Derek asked. “How exactly?”

“She, well. I remember her telling me at the end of last year that her dad was on one of his trips,” he made air quotes, “and she wasn’t sure where he was going. She was told a general idea; he gave her contact numbers, all of that. But she didn’t have all of the details. Anyway,” he waved a hand around, “I’m thinking maybe somewhere in this mess of stuff it could give her some idea of where he is, just in case we get there and she still has no idea.”

“Okay,” Derek said. “Then let’s pack this all up, take it with us.”

He packed up all of the files and papers he could find with the help from Derek, stuffing them underneath the seats in his jeep so they wouldn’t fly out of the windows.

--

“I don’t even know where we are anymore,” Stiles said. The only thing he did know was that they’d been driving for a few hours and were somewhere in Iowa. He had no idea where in Iowa they were, or how close they were to the next state. They’d passed Des Moines an hour or two ago, so maybe they were almost out of Iowa by now.

Derek had a map laid out as best he could, half on his lap and half on the dashboard, and Stiles didn’t even know how he could read the thing with the way it was.

They hadn’t seen any signs that would let them know they were leaving a certain town or were a certain miles away from another. They were still on I-80, but it still looked like they were in the middle of nowhere. There hadn’t been any big cities yet or many houses at all. He was dreading even finding another house out in the middle of nowhere after what happened before.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere, dude, that is about all I know.” Stiles tapped his fingers against the steering wheel. There was a house in the distance. He could see it, just barely. It was more of a blur.

“Think we should stop?” Stiles asked, lifting a finger to point in the direction of the house. Derek looked up from the map and at the direction Stiles was pointing at. “We could stop, if you want. I know we’ve only been driving for a few hours, but we kind of left late.”

The sun was still high in the sky, providing enough heat bearing down on them that it wasn’t too cold. He could still feel the wind chill coming through the cracks of his window. Every time it hit his skin, it’d send a shiver down his spine.

“We can stop,” Derek said. “Might be a good idea. We may not come across another house before dark.”

“Right,” Stiles agreed. “Better to stop now, start back up early in the morning. Maybe we can find more food we could take.”

The house was deserted when they got there. There were no signs of anything at all, not even signs of things not living. Derek searched the entire place before telling Stiles it was safe. When he walked inside, it was like whomever lived there high tailed it out of the house as soon as things started turning for the worse. There were photos above the fireplace. There were kids in most of them, all smiling at the camera and happy. Derek paused at each photo, like he was taking the time to look at them just like Stiles was, to take everything in and see the snapshots of someone else’s life.

“I wonder what happened to them.” Maybe they made it out safely, found other survivors and were somewhere right now safe and sound with lots of other people, where they could try and live their life as much as they could.

“They were a big family,” Derek said, his hand trailing over the largest photo that sat in a cabinet. There were two people that looked like parents and four kids. “My family was kind of big too. I had my parents, my sisters, my uncle and his family. We all used to live together in Beacon Hills, and then he moved all the way to New York because of a job.”

“Yeah?” Stiles was curious, because it was one of those things that Derek rarely talked about, if ever. If Derek wanted to talk, then he’d want to talk, but that’d be on his own terms. Stiles knew it wasn’t good to force someone to talk about things that were difficult.

Derek nodded. He wasn’t looking at Stiles, his attention glued to the photos that sat in the cabinet. “My sister Cora was young when they moved out, so she never really had the experience of a large pack. We weren’t the biggest family. There were others out there who had larger packs of twenty or more. My mom was a part of a large pack before she married my dad. She had a lot of brothers and sisters who stayed around instead of leaving to have families. My mom, she moved away, moved with my dad to Beacon Hills. They wanted to try something different, I guess.”

Derek went silent, and Stiles took this as his time to talk, because if he were going to give out a piece of his life, then Stiles would do the same. It was only fair, right?

“When Scott and I were kids, my mom used to take us to the pool at the Y, and my dad would take the day off work, because when my mom actually had time to just be with her family, he always took the opportunity to spend time with us. I remember when I was like seven and we went to the pool, Scott had his whole asthma problem then and he had an attack, right? And I was terrified, dude, but my mom, she was like a superhero. She took care of him, took his inhaler out, and made sure he was okay.”

Derek was looking up at him. He didn’t look like he was going to say anything so Stiles continued. “That was when I started making sure I had an extra inhaler with me, just in case he may need it. Years after that, it actually came in handy, because there were times when Scott wouldn’t think and he’d have a hard time breathing, and if it weren’t for that.” Stiles fell silent, and after moments passed with Derek not saying a word, just silently looking at Stiles like he was trying to figure something out, Stiles added, “Dude, this silence is killing me. You have to say something.”

“Thanks,” was all Derek said. Stiles didn’t need him to say anything else though, because he got it loud and clear, the unsaid thanks for sharing something with me, because Stiles understood sharing things that were hard to say. He got that. It was always hard talking about his mom, because he loved her, and hated her not being around anymore. He knew it had to be the same for Derek, and Stiles couldn’t imagine losing both parents.

“You’re welcome,” he said, because that was an appropriate thing to say, and he didn’t really know what else he could say to that. “House means bed. Man, I haven’t slept on a real bed in so long. This is going to be great.”

There were three rooms, and it was kind of weird to think they were sleeping in someone else’s bed. They both took the bedroom that was nearest to the living room, because it was closest to an exit and the window was high up. It didn’t look like a kid’s room, it looked more like a teenager’s, but there were toys on the ground, a Lego set and a racecar track with toy cars still sitting on the track, like they were just waiting for a kid to sit on the ground and play with them. Stiles found himself letting his bag drop to the floor, his body with it, as he picked up one of the cars. It was blue with fire designs on both sides. He wondered if this was one of the teenagers in the photos in the living room, and these toys belonged to the little brother or sister, and before everything happened, they were just sitting in here playing games together.

When he looked up, Derek was looking down at him with a soft expression. It was a new expression on him that made him look less like the weight of the world was weighing down his shoulders. Derek crouched down beside him, picking up the second car on the racetracks.

Stiles cracked a smile. “I haven’t played with racecars since I was a kid.”

He used to own one of those Hot Wheels racetracks and he used to play with Scott when they were around six years old, watching it as they’d roll around the racetrack in a lame attempt at racing, if you could even call it that. They’d have to push them with as much strength as they could muster to get them to go as far as they could possibly go.

“My cousin’s used to play with racecars when they were kids, I think they actually wanted to race cars for a living,” Derek said. “They wanted to do street racing, I think. Peter was all for it, but their mom wasn’t.”

“I’ve always wanted to do something with the law. Not sure if it’s because my dad’s always been a Sheriff, or what. Still not sure what I wanted to do, if you know, everything didn’t happen. Sometimes a detective, other times an FBI agent.”

“I wanted to be a teacher. I dual majored; I have a degree in Psychology and in teaching. I was going to teach High School Psychology after my masters.”

“Really? Kudos to you, because I don’t know if I could ever teach a bunch of high school kids. That would be hard.”

Derek shrugged. “I liked to teach. I was going to be starting an internship toward the end, before moving back to New York to hopefully get a teaching job.”

“No Beacon Hills High?” Derek gave him a look that said no way in hell, and Stiles laughed. “Yeah, yeah, I didn’t want to step foot back in that school after I graduated. I get it.”

“More job opportunities in NYC,” Derek said, like he was trying to make that his only reason for not wanting to go back to Beacon Hills. Stiles fixed him with his best come on now, I know you’re bullshitting me look. “I don’t think anyone wants to go back to Beacon.”

“It’s a hell zone. At least it was when I was there. I made friends, we all moved onto college and remained friends, and we never looked back. It was for the best.”

“If my sisters and I stayed in Beacon Hills after our parents died, my youngest sister would have gone to Beacon Hills High. She’s a year older than you.”

“That really could have helped Scott,” Stiles said. “Well, sooner. Aiden and Ethan started the school in our senior year. If there were werewolves at the beginning when Scott was turned? I think it would’ve been a lot smoother than it was. We had no idea what we were doing and the Internet only tells you so much.”

“My sisters and I would’ve been better help.”

“You still don’t like the twins, do you?” Stiles asked, suppressing a laugh.

“I don’t hate them,” Derek said.

“No, not saying you do, but you don’t really like them, though.”

“No, I really don’t like them.”

Stiles laughed then, because Derek looked like he’d rather be talking about anything other than the twins, like they somehow offended them. “It’s okay, seriously. When I first met them, I hated them. Now I just tolerate them. You’d get along with Scott though, because he hates them.”

Silence fell between them. Derek took a nap on one of the beds while Stiles rummaged around in the kitchen for food that was still edible. He didn’t find much, but it was something at least, and that’d mean they could save what they had stored in the backseat of the jeep. When Derek finally woke up, they sat at the dining room table and spread the food out on the table, picking and choosing what to eat.

“So, I’m really curious, why do you not like the twins so much? Scott always had his reasons, but what are yours?” Stiles asked.

“They used to live next door to my sisters and I,” Derek replied. “I never liked them. They always tried to find ways to piss me off.”

“Ah, so it goes way back, then.” That made a lot of sense, especially with the way they interacted with each other.

“Yeah,” Derek said, and then he reached across the table, snatching the bag of unopened chips. “Before they moved out, my sisters and I did a little bit of payback.”

“Yeah?” Stiles asked, trying to imagine just what he and his sisters did, and coming up with too many different scenarios. “What did you do?”

“It was mostly Laura’s plan, we went along with it, but we did a few pranks and pissed them off enough they packed their bags quicker.”

“I can’t picture you pranking people, at all, but I would’ve loved to see that.” Stiles snatched the bag of chips out of Derek’s hands, popping a handful into his mouth. When he was done, he asked, “What did you want to do? I mean, those pranks were obviously your sister’s idea. You must’ve had your own.”

“Yeah, I wanted to kick their ass and teach them a lesson.”

“What stopped you? You don’t look like the person who stands by and lets a couple of teenagers piss you off and get away with it.”

“My sister,” Derek said, as if he was disappointed he never got his second chance back at the police station.

Stiles tipped his head back and laughed, imaging a younger Derek being pulled away from the twins before he could land a single punch on either of their faces. From across the table, Derek glared at him, clearly not amused at Stiles’ reaction. “I’m sorry,” Stiles wheezed, trying to regain his composure. “But poor you.”

“Shut up,” Derek grumbled, snatching the bag back out of Stiles’ hand and hording the rest for himself.

Stiles simply smiled at him, a big grin that stretched across his features and he tried suppressed the laugh that wanted tumble out of his mouth again.

--

They stayed an extra day at the house. Stiles explored both the upstairs and downstairs, finding all sorts of things. He found a book about mythical creatures, like a bestiary, and he brought it to Derek. He was wondering if maybe that meant the people who used to live here were hunters or maybe they were werewolves. It got his mind running with all different scenarios, which led him to picturing them escaping the house. He was pretty sure anyone either non-human or who were skilled in killing anything non-human could escape a house safely in case of emergency.

Other times, Stiles just wanted to kiss Derek. They hadn’t since that night in the abandoned, unsteady building. They kept sharing glances at each other since then, aborted touches that left Stiles wanting more, Derek taking care of him and holding him close, and Derek kept looking at him with an expression that was completely unreadable, and he had no idea what he was thinking. He wanted to ask, to say so what was that but every time he almost did, some rational part of his brain said no. So he didn’t.

Derek was lying down in the living room, on the couch they’d cleared off of random crap, and looking through the book that Stiles had found. He knew that Derek knew he was in the room, but he didn’t say anything. Derek looked relaxed and at perfect ease, and Stiles liked seeing him like that. He walked over and sat down at the other side of the couch when Derek moved his feet away.

“Interesting book?” Stiles asked.

Derek peered over the book at him, “Kind of just your basic bestiary.”

“Nothing too fancy?” Stiles asked. He knew Allison’s parents had a really nice one, because they were hunters – something that still boggled Stiles’ mind, because Scott was dating a hunter’s daughter. For a brief moment, Stiles wondered how the Argents were managing in the apocalypse. They had enough weapons stored in their basement to probably fight against four apocalypses.

“I think this family may have been werewolves,” was Derek’s reply as he shut the book and sat it on the floor.

“How do you figure?”

Derek shrugged. “Just a guess.”

Derek was looking at him like Stiles was somebody important. It made his breath catch. “What?” Stiles asked.

“Nothing,” Derek said with a shake of his head. Derek sat up straighter, his hand reaching out to grab ahold of Stiles by his wrist before tugging him forward. Stiles cocked his head to the side, giving Derek a puzzled look. “C’mere.”

Stiles went willingly, until he was stretched out over Derek. His arm still bothered him whenever he moved it a certain way and it tugged at the healing skin below the bandages.

“It’s cold in here.” Stiles’ voice was quiet, soft. “I’m starting to miss California.”

Derek trailed his hands up Stiles’ back. “I can keep you warm.”

Stiles raised an eyebrow up at that. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Derek said before he was leaning up, coaxing him into a slow kiss.

--

They passed by signs a few days later that told them that if they took the next exit, it’d take them all the way to Chicago. Stiles always wanted to visit Chicago. The city always looked beautiful in all of the photos he’d seen. He wondered, vaguely, what the apocalypse did to it, what it looks like now.

“Chicago.”

“Hmm?” Derek asked noncommittally.

“Chicago,” Stiles repeated, even though he wasn’t really talking to Derek before, more to himself than anything. “Have you ever been? Always wondered what the L was like. I think it would have been nice riding around on the train, seeing the city like that.”

“No, I’ve never been there. Laura went for work a few times,” Derek answered. “She liked it.”

“I had that place on one of my to-visit lists.” There were a lot of places Stiles always wanted to visit. There was always that list thought up and stashed away for all of the what-ifs. He never had the money or time to travel anywhere, but he always hoped anyway. “I think the only places I ever got to visit that I actually wanted to was NYC, Los Angeles, my freshman year of college I actually got to go to Comic-Con – that was amazing – but that’s it.”

“My youngest sister went to Comic-Con,” Derek said. “The one in New York. She always went, every year. It was her tradition.”

“Really?” Stiles asked. That was interesting. “She sounds pretty cool.”

“She dragged me there when she was in high school,” Derek said. “Last year, she dressed up as Catwoman.” Derek paused, a look flickering on his face that Stiles couldn’t read. “I think you two would get along.”

“Yeah?” Stiles asked. It seemed like it’d be important, getting along with Derek’s family. He wanted to get along with Derek’s family. He didn’t know what any of this was, between them.

Derek nodded, a small smile finding its way onto his face. “Yeah.”

Stiles grinned, “Yeah, good. That’s good. I can’t wait to meet them.”

--

“Hey, look.” Stiles pointed at a sign. It was dented, a car rammed into it and another in the ditch beside it. But the writing on it was still legible, the Welcome to Indiana! Crossroads of America on a blue sign with the state in red. Stiles smiled. “The ‘I’ looks like a happy sun.”

“We’re almost there,” Derek murmured, his mouth curving into a smile.

“We have a few more states to go through, right? Ohio after this and then Pennsylvania. If all goes well, we’ll be there in less than a week, right?” Stiles asked.

“Less than a week,” Derek agreed. “Maybe four days, if all goes well.” Derek sounded hopeful, but there was still that what if it doesn’t hanging over their heads like some dark, little cloud following them.

There was a storm brewing in front of them. Stiles peered up at it from where he sat in the passenger seat. “Looks like it’s going to rain,” Stiles commented. As if on cue, a crack of thunder came from the distance, lightning lighting up the sky from far away.

It was getting colder outside the further they traveled east. California and Nevada were warm still, but the rest of where they were going were showing the clear signs of winter season. It was a nice change of scenery, but Stiles hoped that snow would wait to fall once they reached New York. He didn’t want to have to drive through snow, or walk through snow, or deal with it at all.

“Hopefully it doesn’t snow,” Stiles said as he reached into the back of the jeep for a blanket.

“We don’t have to worry about that yet, it’s too soon for snow,” Derek said. “Maybe in a month, but we’ll be in New York by then.”

“Freezing cold rain, then?” Stiles asked. “That still sucks if we get caught walking in it.”

“We have plenty of warm, dry clothes. We’ll be fine.”

“Alright.” Stiles wrapped the blanket around himself, picking his legs up onto the seat. “Want to stop at the next exit? Stretch our legs, maybe explore just for the sake of it? I’ve never been to Indiana before.”

--

They stopped in a town called Portage, Indiana. They drove around for a bit until they came across the shores of Lake Michigan. Stiles tumbled out of the jeep still wrapped up in the blanket. The wind was chillier here, crisp against his face. He tugged the blanket tighter around, shielding himself away from the cold.

“Lake Michigan, in all its glory. Always wanted to see one of the Great Lakes of America,” Stiles murmured. “It’s nice here.”

It looked peaceful looking out at the water, like time stood still here. It was like, right here, he could enjoy what was left of the world and not think about anything else. He wanted to lie out his blanket on the sand, stretch out and take a nap and forget about everything else. He knew, realistically, he couldn’t, because there were too many risks involved.

“You can see Chicago,” Derek said beside him, dispelling the silence that fell between them. And you could. Across the water, you could see the Chicago skyline. There was a soft, small smile on Derek’s face and he looked a little bit more relaxed out here by the water and Stiles found himself finding Derek’s hand and lacing their hands together. Derek stirred at that, looking down between their joined hands and then back up to Stiles’ face. He didn’t say anything, just looked back out at the water.

There were still boats in the Port, left abandoned by their owners. They swayed with the waves, the flags attached to some moving with the wind. If Stiles closed his eyes, he could picture a time before, when boats moved around the water freely.

“It’s really nice here,” Stiles repeated quietly.

--

Peace only lasted for so long, like the world was taunting them. Like dangling a string in front of a cat but never allowing them to catch it. That’s what it felt like, like the world was dangling them peace on a string and taking it away every time they felt a little bit of it.

Ohio started out nice enough. They got gas for the jeep a few miles into the state and grabbed some drinks and water from inside the gas station. There weren’t any signs of anything at all, and Stiles was infinitely grateful for it. But they stopped again halfway through the state, in a town Stiles could only barely make out from the sign left dangling off the pole.

The town looked deserted like everything else. There were houses and buildings that reminded him of Beacon Hills. They passed by them slowly, looking at everything as they did, trying to decide if they even wanted to stop here or keep going. Stiles was sure they were close to Pennsylvania by now, maybe a few hours away from the state. Half of him wanted to keep going, say fuck it to the darkening sky and take his chances. But the other half wanted to stop for the night, hide away in some house they deem safe enough and try for some sort of sleep.

Halfway down a street, Stiles heard something. He wasn’t sure what it was. It was too far away for him to fully make it out, but Derek looked like he could hear it clearly.

“Someone’s calling for help,” Derek said.

“Should we stop, or do you want me to keep driving?” Stiles asked. His voice was slightly shaky; he was feeling kind of freaked out, completely unsure if he wanted to run into whatever was going on. Even though someone was calling for help, the fact they may be okay, that it’d be another survivor in the mess of things. But then there was the fact that maybe they were okay right now, but they could help them, and then they’d show signs of the outbreak and then it’d be hell for them. They didn’t need that.

“Keep going,” Derek said firmly. “We may pass by them, but don’t stop. Keep going.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, resituating his grip on the steering wheel.

They do pass by the person when they turn a corner onto another street, the same street that tells them they’re headed in the right direction to get back onto I-80.

“Shit,” Stiles swore.

“Keep going,” Derek urged. “Just keep going, Stiles. Ignore them. We can’t help them now.”

The guy was lying on the side of the road, bloodied and scared, calling out for them to please help him. Stiles wanted to, he wanted to stop the car and help him, but he knew it was too late. Derek’s reminder only fueled him to step on the gas harder and get out of there as quickly as possible. Just before the ramp to get back onto the interstate, Stiles stepped on the break, stopping the car with a jolt.

“I hate this,” Stiles gritted out, feeling too many emotions at once. He felt sad, felt scared, felt upset with himself because there was nothing he could do, felt angry at the world for doing this to them, and felt confused because he still had no idea how any of this happened to begin with. “I’m so tired of this, Derek. I’m tired.”

“I know,” Derek said as he tried to loosen Stiles’ grip on the steering wheel, to pull him over onto his lap and wrap his arms around Stiles’ waist. Stiles hid his face in the crook of Derek’s neck, and tried to fight back the tears that wanted to fall. “I know,” Derek said again, voice surprisingly gentle, calming in Stiles’ ear. “But we need to keep going, we’re almost there. We can do this.”

And Derek was right, because they only had Pennsylvania to go through next and then they’d be going over the bridge and into New York and they’d finally, finally be there. “Okay,” Stiles finally spoke, and he tried to tell himself that he could do this, for himself, for Derek, for his friends waiting in New York for them. He picked his head up, resting his forehead against Derek’s and just breathed a steady in and out until he felt calmer.

--

They came across a dead end once they reached Scranton, Pennsylvania. There are cars piled up, one after the other and he couldn’t see where it all ended. It looked like it went on for a mile at least. Derek was sitting in the driver’s seat, face scrunched up like he couldn’t take the smell of the area at all. It smelt a little weird to Stiles, a little bit verging on the strong side, but it must have been a lot worse for Derek’s sensitive nose.

“I guess we’ll get off on this exit,” Stiles said. “But we’ll need to figure out how to get there from here.” Stiles sighed, hitting his head back against the seat. He was getting tired of having to going over the map again to reroute them. It was a pain in the ass.

“I’ve been here before,” Derek said as they drove into town, eventually stopping on the side of the road to go over a map.

“Well, that’ll be helpful.”

Derek hummed in reply, spreading the map out between them. He trailed a finger to find where they were currently, and then moved the finger along the map to another interstate, one that intersected with the town just like the one they were previously on. “I-76.” Derek tapped his finger on the map, and then showed where it led to Philadelphia. “We’ll take this road and it’ll lead us to Philly. We’ll go into Philly until we get to I-95 and then we’ll take that up to I-78.”

And it led them straight to New York City. They were around four to five hours away from New York now, and Stiles wanted to cry with relief.

“We’re almost there,” Stiles smiled, looking up at Derek. “We’re so close!”

“Yeah,” Derek said, and he was smiling too, a real smile that seemed to light up his entire face and Stiles melted right there in his spot. Because Derek looked better like that, he was gorgeous and Stiles didn’t ever want to see him stop smiling. Derek’s smile faltered a little and he quirked an eyebrow at him. “What?”

Stiles shook his head. “Nothing. Let’s just keep going.”

--

They drove for a few hours until they stopped in a city, tall buildings surrounding them like they were trying to keep them in, keep them safe from the rest of the world. Stiles wasn’t sure where they were at until he saw a sign that said Welcome to Philly! in big, white lettering that was fading and chipping away from years and years of being used. That meant they weren’t far from New York and they’d probably be there by tomorrow or the day after that, depending on how things went or when they left.

“They have the best cheese steaks here,” Stiles commented as they passed a little sandwich shop. They were out walking, looking for somewhere to stay and looking for more supplies, because they were running low on things they needed, like food and drinkable water.

“Used to drive over here all the time,” Derek said. “There’s a place that’s near New York that has the best sandwiches. That was where my sisters and I liked to eat the most. They made pizza too, I think.”

“New York has the best pizza, by far. Had my first slice when I first visited Scott back in freshman year of college. If it were one thing that would keep me in New York – besides my friends, obviously – would be the pizza. Seriously, it’s like it came from another planet or something. How do they do that?”

“Secret family recipes?” Derek asked with a shrug.

“Probably,” Stiles agreed. Or magic. Definitely likely. Nothing would surprise him anymore, actually.

There was debris up ahead, an obstacle they would have to either find a way around, or to climb over it, but Stiles was feeling uneasy about the whole thing just looking at it. It didn’t look safe, was the thing.

“That looks awful, dude,” Stiles said and heard Derek hmm out an agreement. Cars were piled up, part of a building was lying on top of the cars, and it looked dangerous, risky. “We’re not going over that, are we?” he asked once they were standing in front of it. He could deal with some things, but this. He just had a bad feeling, and his bad feelings usually were things that became a reality.

Derek put his hands against one of the cars and gave it an experimental shake, like he was testing to see if it would hold any sort of weight. It barely moved, except to give out a loud screech as metal rubbed up against metal. Part of the roof of the car was rusted, and the flakes of rust were stirred up into the air, falling onto Derek’s black v-neck and standing out against the material.

“You think it’ll hold?” he asked and gave his own experimental shake of the car, just to see for himself.

“Yeah, it should hold us. I can help you up. I think we should take this one at a time, and not put too much weight on it at once,” Derek replied.

“Okay, big guy.” Stiles was already moving to stand in front of Derek. He could probably do it himself, but he felt safer if Derek helped him up and over the mess of debris. He felt like he needed that extra help. “I trust your judgment.”

Derek gave a short nod, and Stiles faced his mountain of debris. He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath in and then let it out slowly. It wasn’t too high up, not like an actual mountain, which would be ridiculous, but it was high up, and he knew he had to climb onto the car first and then find a way up and over the part of a building that was lying on top. It was like the rock climbing he had to do in gym back in high school. He just had to concentrate on what he was doing, and be careful of his footing so he wouldn’t fall. Derek would be there to catch him, he was sure of that, but there were too many sharp edges that he could fall against.

Derek’s hands fell to his hips, which startled Stiles for a split second before he relaxed into it. He looked over his shoulder, like he was waiting on Derek to say something. His head hit Derek’s shoulder, and when he looked up, they were close enough he could count Derek’s eyelashes if he wanted to. He looked away, back at the risky climb in front of him. He needed to focus.

“When you get over there, you tell me. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate at all, just give me the okay so I can start my own climb,” Derek said, and then he pointed up at a point of the debris which looked like trouble, with a capital T, bold letters, Trouble. Because it looked like the part of a stack of dominoes, where if you touched it, just barely, it’d collapse. Except this was debris and dangerous, and not small tiles you’d stack up in neat little rows and formations just to see them fall and cascade all around. This was horrible. “Watch that part, okay? One wrong move and it may collapse,” Derek continued, which basically summed up all of Stiles’ fears.

“I used to climb the rock wall in high school, dude, I have this down to a science.” It was faux confidence, because he did not, at all, have this down to a science. He was nervous.

Derek’s hands squeezed where they were still on Stiles’ hips. It was a reassuring, one he could tell meant, it’ll be okay. And Derek could probably sense his unease, his fear. “It’s okay,” Derek said in his ear. “You can do this.”

Time to climb the wall of death, Stiles thought, and then took one step up with the help from Derek. There was part of the car that was opened and Stiles set his foot there, holding onto the roof of the car with a death grip. He pulled himself up, his arms straining with the effort. Derek’s hands on him felt like an anchor, something holding him and grounding him to stay focused on just climbing. When he was up on the roof of the car, his knees digging into the metal, he didn’t even bother looking down at Derek, he just kept going, kept climbing up and over.

His breath caught when he made it high enough he could see over the other side. It looked worse than the side they were on before, worse than anywhere he’d seen so far, because it looked like there was nothing left. It looked like something that wanted to rip any hope you had left, and crush it with an iron fist.

“This is…,” he trailed off as he continued to look around and survey his surroundings. He’d never seen anything so empty, so dead before.

He made his way down with a little bit better ease than he did climbing up. He fell to the ground, his arms bracing him before his face fell right into a puddle of muddy water.

“Okay.” Stiles didn’t bother turning around or getting up, just kept his focus forward, checking to make sure there weren’t any zombies around. The coast looked clear, and he was thankful for that. He was scared, more than he’d ever been in his life, but it wasn’t something he was about to admit to. Not right now. “You can climb over now.”

He rolled over onto his back, staring up at the sky. The ground hurt his elbows, but he didn’t want to move as he waited to at least catch a glimpse of Derek making it over. The cars creaked as he heard Derek start to climb. And that was when it happened, when everything decided to take a turn for the worst, because at one point it seemed like everything was going fine for him. That Derek would make it over, and they’d continue forward.

Then all of a sudden, Stiles heard something shift, heard the clear sound of rubble move. From the corner of his eye he saw it, up high on the building that looked as sturdy as stack of Jenga blocks when you’ve pulled out from the bottom and all of the blocks are about to tumble down.

“No, no way –“ The rubble shifted again and then everything was happening too fast. He barely got out a “Holy shit, get out of there, Derek!” before everything fell, piling up on top of the debris, cutting off the entire area. Stiles stumbled away, falling down and staring up with wide-eyes. His limbs felt uncoordinated and like they didn’t belong to him as he tried to stand and run over. He started yelling, his hands shaking as they made their way to the wall. “Derek! Derek!”

There wasn’t any sound coming from the other side, nothing at all, and that was terrifying. Stiles closed his eyes, leaning his head against the wall. He focused on breathing instead of panicking, because he really, really didn’t need to have a panic attack right now. Jesus. But it was hard to concentrate on anything when he was scared out of his mind, when he was worrying himself to death that maybe Derek was dead and that eventually, so would he. Because he had to face it, really, Derek protected him from all the bad shit pretty well. Even though, yeah, one time Derek was surrounded and Stiles kicked zombie ass with a bat. He doubted he could do that again, much less completely alone.

He breathed in slowly, then back out. He repeated the motion, starting to count to ten slowly, 1, 2, 3, 4…

When he got to five, he heard faintly, “Stiles?” It was quiet, muffled by the wall, but it was there. He hoped, and hoped.

“Derek?” he called out, wondering if he was possibly hearing things. He wiped the back of his hand against his face, feeling that it was wet, and didn’t even realize he was crying. “Derek?” he tried again after a few minutes, when he didn’t hear anything in return. He could have just been imagining things, his mind playing a cruel joke on him when he really didn’t need it to.

“Stiles!” It was louder, a little more clear, and definitely Derek.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked. “Please tell me you’re okay, because I was scared out of my mind.”

“I’m fine,” came Derek’s voice, distorted by the wall between them. “Are you?”

“Yes,” he said. His knee was a little banged up, there was dust from the fallen building on his clothes, and his hands were dirty from the ground. But he was in one piece, safe for now. “I’ve been better, but I’m alright. I can’t get to you, though.”

He didn’t see an opening anywhere, and even if he did, he wasn’t sure if trying to get back to Derek would be a good idea. Or vice versa. The wall was solid, putting a block between, halting everything. Life at a standstill, he thought bitterly. Perfect. He shook his head, focusing on Derek’s voice, at everything around him just in case.

“We need to find a way around, meet up. Is there anything you can see that looks like it could connect the two areas?”

Stiles looked to his left, down the deserted road and then to his right. Both were quiet, deserted, and left open too many possibilities.

“There’s two roads, left and right, both look about the same,” he said. It was a fifty/fifty really, because either way gave the option was being able to meet up with Derek, but gave him no idea how much he’d have to walk and search before finding him.

“Pick one,” Derek said. “Because that’s how it looks on my end. I think I see a stop light a block behind me. Same left and right direction.”

Stiles snorted. “Kind of wish we went with one of those options before.” They could have been a lot safer, or more dangerous. There was no telling, he realized.

“It’ll be fine,” Derek said it like he was trying to believe himself, but falling short. There was no hint of confidence in his voice, only hope and slight fear breaking its way through. He’s never seen Derek afraid of anything – there was that small instance back at Stanford, of when he’d awoken Stiles by banging on the door, frantic and loud. And he’d looked sort of like he was afraid, but Stiles had learned that he wasn’t really afraid, so much as just worrying. This was Derek verging on afraid, and that in turn startled Stiles.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” came Derek’s reply, more confidence showing through, more hope and no sign of fear at all. It made Stiles feel a little better. “Go right, and I’ll go left. Keep going until you see a street that seems the safest, okay? Try for the first one, but if not, try the second or third one you come across.”

“But are you sure about that? I mean, I don’t know –“ He broke off, trying to find his words. “I’m scared,” he decided on, his voice shaking. “What if I don’t find you? What if something happens, I don’t—“

“You’ll be fine,” Derek sounded confident and sure. “I know you can do it. I trust you.”

Stiles stared at the wall in shock at the words. He stood up straighter, looked down the street to the right of him and said, “Okay. I trust you, too, you know.”

“Go,” Derek said, voice firm. “Go now.”

Stiles didn’t need to be told again, and started down the road.

He could do this. He could walk down this deserted road and find Derek. He could.

--

Two blocks down the road, and Stiles’ fear started creeping back, letting itself be known. He could hear noises all around him. Groans and noises he didn’t want to put two and two together to know what was going on filled the places that surrounded him. There were tall buildings, office blocks, apartments and the occasional store or two. He took a deep breath, telling himself that he’ll find Derek soon, and everything will be okay.

He needed to focus on that.

He was standing in front of some small clothing store when a loud crash echoed around him. It was close by, but he couldn’t judge just how close it really was. It made him jump about ten feet in the air, looking around like he was just expecting something to jump out at him, attack him right out in the open like it was nothing. An easy attack, because he was the fragile human, easily breakable. No extra speed or extra strength. He was completely vulnerable, and that thought scared him the most.

“I’m not afraid,” he told himself. “It’s going to be fine.”

He kept walking, thinking about positive things, and focusing on his surroundings like his life depended on it, because it did depend on it; one wrong move, one instance of not paying attention, and he could be dead, lying on the cold, hard ground with his guts lying out and a zombie feasting on his innards like they couldn’t get enough of it. Stiles shuddered at the thought, shaking his head to rid himself of the images flitting through his mind. Scarring images.

Get ahold of yourself, he thought. You’ll be fine. Everything will be fine.

Focus on Derek. Derek, Derek, Derek. Need to find Derek.

“Fuck,” he whispered out, face falling. “Who the fuck am I kidding?”

He picked up his pace though, because he wasn’t ready to give up yet, not when he hasn’t walked enough. Derek believed in him to do this, to find him, and he wasn’t about to let him down.

--

He stopped at a small convenience store. There was a sign tapped to the door stating they were open and welcome to come in! The door opened easily when he kicked it in. He reached out to stop it from hitting a wall, making anymore sound that would attract any unwanted attention his way. There wasn’t any sound whatsoever in the store. The aisles were dark, the light from the midday sun sending a small illumination onto the shelves, giving him enough light to see which aisle had what kind of snacks. He was hungry, and he doubted Derek would mind much if he took a small pit stop for food and water. The coolers were located at the back of the store and he could see one that was entirely water and Gatorade. He hated warm Gatorade, but was thinking about grabbing one, because he liked water just like the next person, but he liked flavor too.

He opened the cooler, grabbing a bottle of water and a bottle of fruit punch Gatorade. He twisted the cap open on the bottle, tearing off the seal, before refastening the lid and taking a long drink from it. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked around the empty store.

He noticed quickly that there were things toppled over by the cash register. Newspapers and magazines littering the floor like there was a scuffle. He could picture panic setting in, people trying to get out of the once busy store, and people falling into things in their haste to get out as quickly as they could. He picked up one of the magazines, celebrities on the front cover with the headline, How These Celebs Got Fit! He could recognize each and every one of them from all of the movies, television shows and from Lydia going on and on about what was going on with the recent popular celebrity when it came to fashion. There were no more magazines coming out to talk people into believing that these people lost weight in 4 weeks from some fab diet, showing fake bodies and fake stories to get people to believe every word; brainwashing at its finest in pop culture. There were no more movies that these people could act in, no more television shows for people to keep up with, and no more musicians touring the world to play shows for countless fans.

He wondered, curious as he looked through the magazine, which celeb was surviving, dead for good or now a zombie. He laughed softly to himself as he tried to picture one of them roaming the streets, their movements slow and wonky, and one hundred percent zombie. He placed the magazine back onto the rack, downed the rest of his Gatorade and tossed it aside before he stepped back out of the store.

He continued forward.

--

He had no idea where he was going, but he soon found himself at his first four-way stop. He looked to his left, in the direction he hoped would meet back up with Derek. He remembered about how he said if only he felt it was safe before heading down the first street he came across. He listened closely, looking at the deserted street closely. It was quiet, not sign of anything at all. There was a small part of him that was saying not to go down the road, to find a different street instead and that it didn’t matter which one he chose, he’d still find Derek somehow, someway.

He chose the first street though. There was no sign of zombies and it was quiet. It looked safe enough. He’d always rely on his gut feelings, because those always helped him, but maybe it’d be okay, just this once. Maybe his feeling was wrong.

He managed to get halfway down the road. He could see another four-way stop up ahead, which meant that it may be a road he’d run into Derek on. As long as Derek didn’t come across a roadblock on the street that prevented him from continuing down. For all Stiles knew, Derek could either come across another block in the road, or the street he went down didn’t reach where he was at, and instead he had to find his way around, like a fucking mouse trapped in a maze.

A loud crash startled him into stopping. He looked around frantically. This one was too close by. He couldn’t tell if it was behind him, or in front of him, or to his sides. He was just close.

“No, come on,” he said into the street. He looked around again, trying to find somewhere safe to hide. There were stores surrounding him, too many places he could choose from, but with not knowing where the crash came from, he had no idea which store was actually safe to duck for cover in.

He decided on a shop for musical instruments. The door opened easily for him, and he pushed his way through the doors, stopping just in front of the counter. There were a few guitars still attached to the walls, a drum set banged up and destroyed in a corner of the store, and the rest of the store looking like something tore through it in a hurry. He looked around quick and frantic. There were several places he could hide, but he wasn’t sure which would be the best. He decided on the space under the busted counter.

A soft squelching sound from the floor grabbed his attention, and he snapped his gaze to the area of the floor nearest to the window looking out at the abandoned street.

A zombie lay on the floor, staring right at him, half of their body cut in half. He didn’t know how they were still moving, still doing anything at all, because they were missing half of their body. Fuck. He thought maybe this place would be safe, but apparently not.

He was trapped and the zombie was crawling toward him slowly, inching their way toward him. He looked around to find something to fight back with before the zombie made their way to him. He doubted he’d get lucky again and find something to fight back with like the last time, when he’d found a bat lying on the floor and helped take out one zombie so Derek could take out the rest. He wasn’t lucky like that. He was trapped, powerless and defenseless and staring death right in the face.

He felt around blindly, all the while keeping his attention glued on the half zombie slowly making their way toward him. It was leaving blood in their wake and it was gross. It was so nasty, and it smelled horrible, and he could hear the soft sounds as their body slid across the floor.

Come on,” he muttered under his breath, voice bordering on hysterics. There wasn’t anything at all, and he felt cornered like an animal facing its predator. He didn’t want to die, not now, not here.

“I am not going to die,” he spoke louder, and stared the zombie right in the eyes like a dare. A challenge.

He kicked around, hoping to kick in some sort of opening or dislodge something enough to give him a safe place to crawl away from. The place he was trapped in was caved in toward the back, blocking off the back end of the store. He needed to get out of this spot fast, and he thought maybe if he kicked enough, he’d create a way out.

“Fuck you,” he told the zombie vehemently. “Fuck this. I’m not going to die here.”

The zombie groaned unintelligibly, their hand reaching out as if to say, food! Stiles kicked harder and heard a loud screech as something moved and shifted behind him. He kicked again and heard another screech, louder. Whatever he was kicking had moved even more. He didn’t know what it was and didn’t care. He just focused on kicking as hard and much as he could. Maybe it’d be his ticket away from this zombie, his ticket to safety. The zombie was still inching their way over to him, but they were still a comfortable safe distance away, and he still had time.

Another groan filled the room just as he kicked again, and an icy feeling washed over him, stilling his movements as he froze in his spot. His eyes were wide, filled with fear. No, no, NO! His movements turned frantic as he kicked even harder, his hands fumbling to grip a nearby area so he could help himself to kick as hard as he could, to shove and push with all his might. He was not going to die, this was not going to happen, he wasn’t ready to die. He kicked and kicked, frustrated noises spilling out of his mouth as he tried and tried. The screech of whatever was behind him moving was louder, grating on his ears as it slid across the ground, like nails on a chalkboard.

“Whatever you are, move,” he yelled.

The zombie was closer, and there were at least two more in the room. He could hear them now, and he wasn’t sure where they were at, and half of him was too afraid to stop what he was doing just to look. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the panic bubbling beneath the surface, ready to crash over him like a tidal wave.

A roar erupted somewhere in the room, and his eyes snapped open. Derek. Derek growled again, angry and dangerous, and Stiles closed his eyes and waited. Hope and happiness and relief flooded through him. A few minutes later, a hand was grabbing him roughly by the collar of his shirt and pulling him out from his hiding spot. Strong arms were pulling him close.

Stiles,” Derek was saying, urgent and worried. His arms were wrapping around Stiles, holding him close like he was afraid of letting go, and buried his face in the crook of Stiles’ neck. He gasped, his hands coming up to clutch tightly to Derek’s shirt. “It’s okay, you’re safe,” Derek said against his ear.

“Thank God, Derek, I thought the worst. I thought I was going to die there, I just—“ Stiles stopped, taking in a shuddering breath before he continued. “Fuck, that was the worst moment of my life.”

Derek held tighter to him like he was afraid of letting go, and Stiles held him tighter right back. Stiles clung to him like his life depended on it, like he couldn’t believe at all that luck befell him and Derek was standing here and had protected him and saved him.

“Are you okay? I heard you yelling, I saw – I need to know that you’re okay,” Derek said. He pulled away to look Stiles right in the eyes. His gaze settled on the cut on his face, his thumb sweeping along his cheek, worry etched across his usually stoic face. Stiles hated seeing him looking like that, like someone kicked his dog and hurt him in the worst possible ways, like he was scared and thinking ridiculous thoughts, because Stiles was okay now, he was safe. He leaned forward before he lost his nerve and kissed Derek. He kissed him like he was afraid this was the only moment they’d get, like he didn’t care about anything else happening out in the world at the moment, just the two of them wrapped up in each other.

When they pulled away, still close to share breath, Stiles said, “I’m okay.”

Derek was running his hands down Stiles’ sides, like he was making sure for himself that Stiles was, in fact, okay and in one piece. Stiles was reasonably shaken up because he just got cornered and attacked by zombies, but he was okay and not hurt and they didn’t touch him, so he was pretty sure he was going to be okay.

“We need to find somewhere safe for the night,” Derek said eventually.

“I don’t know where that would be, because I think this place is surrounded with the undead,” he said.

“I think we can find a place.”

“Lead the way then,” Stiles said. “I’m not trusting my hideout finding skills right now, not when I just walked into a death trap.”

--

They found a safe place after walking several blocks down the way Derek came. It wasn’t easy and there were too many close calls, which Stiles almost doubted they’d even find a place to begin with. It was almost a lost cause, up until Derek was tugging him into a building and saying how the place was as safe as they’d ever find. The place looked eerie, despite Derek saying it was safe. Stiles was pretty sure he saw a place similar in the original Resident Evil games.

“We always find the creepiest places,” Stiles said as they poked their heads into a room. It was another office in the same state as everywhere else, except the door looked like it was in the best shape, and there wasn’t a window in this one. It seemed the safest. “I feel like we’re making a habit of finding them. It’s like we’re drawn to them, or something.”

“Nowhere is exactly in the best shape anymore,” Derek said, which was true.

“But creepy,” Stiles added, waving a hand around to their surroundings. He stopped, pointing at a smear of something on the wall, like a coffee stain of someone spilling it or water, or something. He wasn’t exactly sure. “Case in point.”

Derek rolled his eyes as he sat down with his back against the desk. “It’s a water stain, probably from a leak inside the building from possible rain in the area.”

“Okay, so everywhere is in the same creepy state,” Stiles said. “But still, we choose the places that kind of freak me out and make me wonder why we chose them to begin with.”

“I wouldn’t lead you to somewhere unsafe, Stiles.”

“I know.”

“Don’t focus on the looks of a place.”

“I’m not.”

“You are, or you wouldn’t be worrying about how creepy it is.”

“I’m not, okay? I’m just stating a fact here. Just saying that we fall into hiding in the strangest, creepiest looking places, that’s all. An observation, if you will.”

Derek gave him a look like he didn’t believe him, but Stiles’ heart was steady. He wasn’t really lying. Okay, so maybe he’s a little worried and freaked out. He just had the biggest zombie freak out of his life, because he was fucking cornered by one, so looking at a place and its sheer creepy factor got him a little scared. But mostly, it was an observation, because they did tend to stay at some shady-looking places on their trip.

“Sit down and stop worrying. I promise you it’s safe here.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, sitting down beside him. He looked around the room, anywhere but at Derek. The office was very different than the one back in Beacon Hills. There was a desk and a filing cabinet, but the colors of the room were different, as well as every other minor detail of the place. There weren’t picture frames on the desk, or even a name on the desk to state whom it had belonged to. There were just papers scattered everywhere, a stain on the wall, and barely any light to see anything at all.

Stiles startled when he felt an arm go around his shoulders. Derek tugged him close, and Stiles wrapped an arm around his waist, tucking his face against Derek’s neck. It was cold in the room, steadily getting colder as day turned into night. Derek’s body felt like a heater, and he found himself moving closer and holding tighter, trying to get closer to the warmth. All of their blankets and stuff was back at the jeep.

“We should be in New York by tomorrow.”

“Yeah? I hope so.” To be honest, he was tired of traveling. He wanted to stay in one place, to see his friends again, and to be behind the safety of sturdy walls where zombies couldn’t reach them.

“We’re not far. It’ll probably take us a few more hours of driving, and then we’ll be in the city.”

“There are bridges we have to drive over right?” When Derek nodded in reply, Stiles continued, because it was a good question to ask and he was only a small bit worried about it. “Do you think they left the bridges open? You don’t think when everything happened, that they may have cut access to them, right? Because dude, that’ll suck.”

Derek shrugged, as much as he could with Stiles in his arms. “I don’t know. I doubt it, but I don’t know for sure. I guess we’ll see. But don’t worry, we’ll figure it out when we get there.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said quietly. He closed his eyes and rested his head against Derek’s shoulder. If the bridge was closed, he wasn’t sure what that would mean for them or what they’d have to do. He had only ever flown to New York City; he had never driven there before. He knew Derek had, from the way it sounded anyway. He and his sister must have driven from Beacon Hills to New York and then back for college. Derek was more familiar with this sort of thing than Stiles, so really, he was going to trust that, whatever was thrown at them, that Derek wouldn’t lead them blind or whatever.

He trusted him, one hundred percent now.

“When I said I trusted you back in that alley that day,” Stiles spoke up, voice soft. “I meant it, you know?”

Derek’s arms tightened for a moment. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Stiles murmured.

--

The way back to the jeep was less eventful than the day before. They moved quickly through the streets, keeping a close eye on everything around them. Stiles broke into a sports shop at one point, taking a baseball bat. Derek didn’t say anything; he only silently urged Stiles to hurry up. When they were back out on the street, Stiles swung it experimentally, grinning widely at Derek. He felt better with something in his hands than nothing at all.

By the time they reached the jeep, nothing eventful had happened. They heard things on their journey back, but didn’t run into anything at all. Stiles felt frustrated as he approached the jeep. They wanted to explore the city and find a place to camp out for the night, but looking back on it, it felt like a stupid decision. They went through all of that, and it felt like it was for nothing. They could’ve chosen someplace closer to the jeep, instead of being overconfident and trying to get over a barricade in the road.

“We’re almost to New York,” Stiles said, reaching for the door handle. Derek laid a hand on top of his, stopping him. “What?”

“I’m driving,” Derek said.

“And why can’t I drive my own jeep?” Stiles questioned, because yes, he did get attacked the day before, and he walked all over Philly trying to find Derek, but he was okay. He had a few minor cuts and bruises, but overall he was in driving condition. He thought so, anyway. Apparently Derek thought otherwise.

“Because I can get us the rest of the way there, and,” Derek said, “If there’s any problems once we reach the bridge, I can possibly get us out of it.”

Stiles stepped away from the jeep, “Okay. If you say so, then drive, be my guest.”

He got into the passenger seat as Derek took the wheel, tossing the keys over to him. He grabbed the map out of the backseat, and a blanket, because he was still cold. He felt like he’d been tossed into a freezer, and he wasn’t sure if it was really that cold outside or if it was just him. He was hoping it was just cold outside.

“How long did you think it’d take us again?” Stiles asked.

Derek shrugged, “Few hours at least, if we don’t run into trouble.”

“And you think we’ll run into any trouble?”

“I don’t know what to expect once we get into the city, so we might. If it is blocked off, there’s no way of knowing just how bad, or if it’s worse there.”

Stiles nodded. It was a good point. A cut off city, with no way out, there could be more zombies, more danger, more ways that could kill them.

Or his friends could be dead. Stiles shook his head, because no, he wasn’t going to think of that possibility. His friends were fine. They were werewolves, anyway. They could take care of themselves. And even Allison, who was the only human out of the bunch besides Lydia, she could take care of herself with a blindfold. He’d seen her with a bow and arrow. He’d seen her shoot a bow and arrow blindfolded too. Lydia was smart, and he knew she could somehow get herself to safety or find some way out of a mess if she was ever faced with one.

“Stop thinking,” Derek told him as he turned the key.

Stiles forced a smile. “Funny, usually you’re—“

Derek shut him up with a kiss, holding tight to the front of Stiles’ shirt.

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles said when Derek finally pulled away. “That’s. That’s better, yeah.”

“We’ll get there, stop worrying.”

--

When they got to New York, the bridge was thankfully not blocked off and they get over it easy enough. Once inside the city, Stiles had no idea how to find everyone or where to look first. He has ideas, a few places that he thinks they may be at, but really, they’d be walking all over the city and he wasn’t sure which would be the best first.

“We can either start looking for Scott and Allison’s apartment or go to Boyd, Erica and Isaac’s. If not there, then I have no idea where to look.”

Derek stopped walking, placing a hand on Stiles’ chest to signal for him to stop as well. “Wait, Boyd, Erica and Isaac?” he asked, slowly like he was trying to take in that information.

“Yeah, why?” Stiles asked. “They’re Scott’s friends and mine, too.”

“I have people in my pack with the same names. It could just be a coincidence but I’m thinking it’s not.”

“So what, you’re telling me all this time we’ve known the same people and never knew it? So most of the time we were probably talking about the same people?”

Derek nodded and he looked kind of happy. “This will make things easier, since they’re all probably together. I’m guessing that alpha of Scott’s you told me about is my sister, Laura.”

“Wait hold up. Your sister is my best friend’s alpha?” Thinking back, it all made sense, because he remembered Scott saying that his new alpha had siblings, one who lived in New York and another that lived across the country. Scott never gave names out, or maybe he did and Stiles just didn’t remember them. “The only other one I’ve met is Cora. That’s your little sister?”

Derek grinned, all out grinned, and Stiles had never seen him look so happy before. “That’s my sister, yeah.”

“Holy shit, we know the same people.” Stiles let that information sink in, and he couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. This had to have been the best news in a long while, and it would definitely make things a lot easier for them. They didn’t need to look all over the city for different people, because they were all probably together, just like Derek said they’d be. Packs stuck together, no matter what.

--

“Life hates us, doesn’t it?” Stiles asked, to Derek, to the world in general, because this shit was getting old.

There was a road block right in front of them, cars and whatever else blocking their way. They could go left or right from here, but when he looked down both sides all he saw was trouble.

“Are you fucking kidding me with this?” Stiles more than yelled, waving his arms around, frustrated as ever. “This is getting old.” He glared in the direction of the zombies headed their way and yelled, “Did you hear that, you pieces of shit? This is getting old, and I’m fucking tired of always running into you! I just want to find my goddamn friends!” The last part came out more of a scream. He was just done, with zombies, with the entire world, just everything.

Derek was grabbing hold of him by the shirt a moment later, tugging him along as they hurried to the nearest building. He couldn’t tell if it was an apartment building or a place for businesses, and really, he didn’t care anymore. He knew they just needed to hurry up and get inside somewhere quick before they were stuck with nothing to do but fight back.

What Stiles wasn’t expecting was to get inside the building and have an arm pressed against his throat, and his body pinned to the wall. The scream died in his throat as the arm pressed hard against his windpipe, cutting off all the air.

“Laura! Stop!” Derek yelled from somewhere. Stiles couldn’t see him.

The person stepped away from him quickly and Stiles fell to the floor in a heap of exhaustion, breathing heavy as he tried to catch his breath. His heart was still beating wildly in his chest, and he was both relieved and equally freaked out still.

“Holy shit,” Stiles more than choked out, his voice sounding raw and hoarse.

“Derek, oh my god, I was so worried!” the girl was saying – Laura. She sounded nice enough, besides the obvious death grip she had on his throat before.

“Stiles!” He barely had enough time to catch his breath before he was engulfed in a hug. “What are you doing here?”

“Scott, I missed you, dude,” he said, hugging back just as tight. “I’m so glad you’re okay. We came here to find you guys. Where are the others?” He barely got his question out before everyone else tumbled into the walkway, everyone saying how happy and relieved they were to see they were okay, and asking the question of why they were there to begin with.

It was Derek who managed to give them an answer, a “We needed to find you, make sure you were still alive.”

Laura shook her head after that, mumbling something about her brother that Stiles couldn’t quite hear. Derek seemed to have heard her loud and clear, though, and he only hugged his sister and told her she shouldn’t expect anything less. Derek looked relieved and the happiest that Stiles had ever seen him. Stiles has never seen him so relaxed and at ease. He always seemed so tense and reserved before. It was really nice to see.

“Hey, where’s Lydia?” Stiles asked when he realized she was the only one who didn’t go to greet them. He looked around, trying to spot her but to no avail. Dread and fear struck him, sudden and painful. He didn’t want to think that something happened to her, that she never made it. She was one of his best friends, and he couldn’t imagine it at all if something did happen to her.

Scott spoke up, obviously hearing Stiles’ uptick in heartbeat. The other werewolves in the room were looking at him with worried expressions. “She’s fine. She’s just asleep.” Scott smiled then and added, “And my mom’s here, too.”

“Thank god,” Stiles said, relieved. “Sorry, just we’ve had the worst time ever lately, too many near-death experiences to last me a lifetime, man. So, I kind of freaked out there for a moment, thinking the worst.”

“Where’s Peter?” Derek asked then, his happiness suddenly fading into worry.

“Not here,” Laura said. “And hopefully not dead, either. Before everything, he went on vacation with his wife and kids. I think to Washington or Alaska. I don’t know, I was busy, I didn’t talk to him much.”

“Your uncle went on a nice vacation? That’s nice, what did he do exactly to afford that adventure?” Stiles asked, curious.

“He owned a lot of bars in the city, upscale, fancy places,” Cora answered.

“Rich and powerful,” Scott said. “Kind of creepy at times.”

“But he’s nice,” Allison said, nudging Scott. When Scott gave her a look, she added, “Okay, so he’s not always nice, and he’s creepy.”

Neither Derek nor his sisters were protesting that at all, and that piqued Stiles’ interest.

“Creepy, werewolf uncle? Interesting. Wish I could’ve met him.” He wasn’t sure if that would have held true if he had met him, but he was still interested now, at least.

Once inside the area their friends called their hideout - which was several rooms within the building – Stiles and Derek told them their story. All of the near-death experiences and Beacon Hills and everything in-between, and they all listened, even telling their own stories afterward. It seemed everyone similar stories to tell, all dealing with too many close calls.

When everyone had walked away to do whatever they were going to do, Laura pulled him to the side. She looked apologetic, her smile faint as she looked at him.

“I’m sorry for attacking you before,” Laura said sincerely. “We just didn’t know who came in, and we had no idea if you were—“

“One of them?” Stiles interrupted, smiling. “It’s no big deal, you have to do what you have to do. I’m just glad Derek decided that was a good time to walk in, too, or you know.” He waved a hand in a vague gesture.

“I would’ve backed off eventually, there are ways to tell if someone is infected or not,” she said.

“Yeah they have that smell about them, huh?” Stiles laughed. “Seriously, it’s fine. Thanks for looking out for my friends, though. I’m glad they had help and people to stay with during all of this. It’s horrible out there.”

Laura smiled a real smile finally. “Thanks for keeping my brother company.” With that, she walked over to where Cora and Isaac were talking about something they saw the other day.

Stiles looked all around the room, taking in his new surroundings, at all of their things lying around. It looked lived in and comforting, like home. He eventually saw Derek, leaning back against the far wall, his hands tucked into the pockets of his leather jacket. Derek was looking right at him,

--

Stiles pulled Scott to the side a few hours after they arrived. He pulled him into a hug. He couldn’t believe that they’d made it and his best friend was all right. Even though he went through so much on the way here, it finally felt like it was for something.

“I’m so glad you’re okay, dude,” Stiles said, voice muffled against Scott’s shirt. “When I replied back to your text but you never answered, I was scared I wasn’t going to see you again.”

“I never thought I’d see you again either,” Scott confessed. “I can’t believe you left and made it all the way over here.”

“You couldn’t expect any less of me, man. I had to try.”

“How’s your dad?” Scott asked, moving away.

“He’s good. He’s, you know, staying at the police station. He has a small group of survivors he’s watching over.” Stiles smiled, nudging Scott in the shoulder. “He says hi, by the way. And I’m supposed to tell your mom that, too.”

“He should’ve come with you guys.”

“He had people to take care of. He was important there. They needed him.” Stiles grew quiet for a moment as he thought of his dad, what he may be doing right now or what was happening over there. “I miss him. I don’t know if I’ll see him again, but I’m glad that he’s not alone back home.”

“How many survivors are there?”

“At the station?” Stiles asked, then shrugged, trying to remember. “About ten, I think. I don’t know if that’s all that’s left of Beacon Hills, or if there are more groups.”

Scott offered a smile, nudging Stiles back. “Maybe there are others, and they’ll find your dad’s group. You never know, right?”

Stiles hugged Scott again and said, “I’m so glad you’re okay, man. I missed you. Surviving the end of the world isn’t the same without you. Batman needs his Robin, okay?”

“I missed you too,” Scott said. “But dude, you’re totally still Robin.”

Stiles laughed, shoving him away. “No, man, you’re the sidekick. I’m Batman.”

Allison poked her head into the room a moment later. “Hey, we were wondering where you went.”

“We were just catching up,” Stiles said.

She nodded, a warm smile breaking out across her face. “We missed you,” she said.

--

There were a lot of rooms in the building, all safe from everything outside and Stiles felt better than he’d felt in a long time while walking through the halls from one space to another. They’d told him that there were a few rooms left to choose from, if Stiles wanted to find somewhere to set up camp so he could sleep at night. All of the rooms for sleeping were nearby, set up that way just in case anything were to happen if they were all sleeping. Scott and Allison roomed together, Boyd with Erica, Isaac with Lydia and Scott’s mom, and Cora with Laura. That left Stiles to a room by himself, or so he thought.

“You’re sleeping in here?” Stiles asked when he walked into the room to see Derek. He thought he’d be with his sisters, rooming with them. He was a little surprised.

“I don’t have anywhere else to sleep,” was Derek’s reply. He was sitting with his back against the wall, and had Stiles’ blanket.

“Is that my blanket?” Stiles asked as he walked over to him, fully intent on taking the blanket back and telling Derek to find his own.

When he reached down to grab it, Derek grabbed him by the wrist. Stiles stilled and met Derek’s eyes.

“I’m cold,” Stiles told him, “and I would like my blanket so I can get some sleep.”

Derek didn’t say anything, instead going for the whole silent routine. He tugged at his arm then, pulling him until Stiles was stumbling forward, falling onto Derek with an oomph.

He steadied himself with a hand on the wall, and when he managed to look at Derek, their faces were close, and Stiles swallowed. He went to open his mouth, but Derek leaned forward and kissed him, successfully silencing Stiles. He kissed back, his hands holding tight to Derek’s face.

He felt Derek’s hands on his thighs a moment later, strong hands holding tight and pulling him closer. When he pulled away for a moment to reclaim his breath, panting against Derek’s mouth he said, “Making out is nice,” his voice wrecked already.

They still weren’t talking about this, or everything else, and when Derek pushed him to lie on his back, Stiles didn’t really care anymore. Derek kissed him slow, gentle like they had all the time in the world and really, they did now. There weren’t any dangers lurking close by, there was no need for hurried kisses that led absolutely nowhere.

They took their clothes off in-between sharing heated kisses. Stiles pulled him down, groaning at the feel of skin against skin.

“What do you want?” Derek asked as he peppered kisses against Stiles’ jaw, his neck, and then his shoulder.

“You,” Stiles answered breathily. “Want you.”

Derek rummaged around somewhere in the mess of their stuff beside them and tossed a packet of lube onto Stiles’ stomach and a condom. Stiles laughed, loud and bright, because did Derek seriously steal this somewhere on their trip?

“Did you seriously plan for this?” he asked through a laugh.

Derek tried to glare at him, but it fell short pretty fast when Stiles bucked up against him, eliciting a groan from him. “Maybe,” Derek told him, then, “Shut up,” when Stiles grinned up at him.

“Sorry, dude, it’s just funny you,” he ran a hand down Derek’s face, “you’re this stupidly attractive guy who, after the fucking world ended, is interested in fucking me.”

“Don’t call me dude,” Derek said. He shivered when he felt a finger circle around his entrance. Derek was being slow, too slow, and Stiles just wanted him to do something already.

“C’mon,” Stiles urged. “Don’t be an asshole about this and just—“ He broke off on a moan as Derek pushed a finger in, successfully shutting him up. Derek took his time, opening him up slowly until he was a begging mess. When Derek finally, finally pushed inside, his hands holding tight to Stiles’ thighs, Stiles felt like he couldn’t take in enough air when he looked up at Derek.

Derek’s hands squeezed where they were holding tight to Stiles’ thighs and he let out a string of curses, holding completely still. He could tell Derek was holding back, letting Stiles’ adjust before he made any movements but Stiles didn’t care, didn’t want careful and slow. “Fuck,” Derek said roughly, and then he finally moved, pulling out and thrusting back inside. He hung his head low, mouthing at Stiles’ neck. “You feel perfect.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agreed, “Yeah, perfect, definitely, fuck.”

He stopped talking after that, being reduced to quiet mutterings and moans as Derek moved. He managed to get a hand around his dick, thumbing the head and stroking himself in time with Derek’s thrusts. Derek muffled his whimpers with his mouth, kissing him. He didn’t last long after that, his orgasm steadily building until it crashed over him, spilling over his hand. He ran his hands down Derek’s back, through his hair, whispering encouragements to him as Derek searched for his own release.

Derek looked beautiful like that; his bottom lip caught between his teeth, face blissed out and fuck, kind of happy like that. And Stiles told him this, you’re so perfect like this, and fuck, so good, Derek. Derek kissed him harder; rough, biting kisses that left Stiles breathless. Derek came with a groan, Stiles’ name on his lips.

When Derek pulled out, falling to the side and chest heaving, looking wrecked, Stiles’ heart clenched in his chest. I’m fucked, he thought, feeling startled by the revelation but not at all upset about it.

--

Everyone seemed a little different than he remembered, like the whole end of the world hardened them somehow, made them stronger, more resilient toward the entire world. Scott and the others were werewolves, so of course they already had everything to their advantage, but they seemed stronger somehow. Not really strength-wise, but personality-wise and emotionally, like they grew up, grew into themselves as adults trying to survive an apocalypse.

He mostly noticed a change in Lydia. She held herself a little bit higher, not in a I’m smarter way, but more in a way that she was more confident in her ability to take care of herself in an instance of a zombie encounter, or something. In the great big room they’d all seemed to deem their hangout slash training room, she trained with Allison. He’d never seen her fight before, but she was an able fighter, elegant on her feet as she dodged Allison’s fists.

After everything he’d been through up until New York, he was pretty sure he changed too.

“Hunter’s daughter,” Stiles said from where he sat near the back of the room, watching everyone. Derek was next to him, waiting his turn to spar. “Dating a werewolf. I always found that kind of funny. Her mom hated Scott, her dad was always caught in-between supporting whatever she wanted to do, and hating the fact she was dating the one thing he spent most of his life hunting down.”

“I remember the Argents,” Derek said. There was a rough edge to his voice, an undercurrent of something he wasn’t talking about.

“Yeah? They used to live in Beacon Hills.”

“I knew her aunt. The entire family.”

“Knew?” Stiles asked. He remembered when Allison’s aunt passed away, some freak accident that nobody really understood; an animal attack out in the woods somewhere a few states over.

“Knew of,” Derek corrected. “Kate Argent and her father, they were—“ Derek stopped suddenly, like he was closing up and Stiles laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, you know it’s okay, you can tell me or you don’t have to,” Stiles assured him. “I’m not going to force you to say anything that you don’t want to.”

“She killed my parents, tried to make it look like an accident,” Derek finally said. From across the room, Cora looked at them. She looked worried for her brother, but there was anger there too. “I’m pretty sure my uncle killed her eventually for that. It always sounded like him, but he never told me about it.”

“Wow,” Stiles breathed out. He remembered that. It was something all the entire town talked about, the three Hale children losing their parents in some tragic accident. “I’m glad she’s dead. She deserves it for doing that. Killing innocent people, for what, for being different?”

Derek nodded, saying a quiet agreement.

From the middle of the room, Allison tackled Lydia to the ground and Laura called it a time out and said it was time for someone else to train. Laura beckoned Derek over with a flick of her wrist and Derek stood up.

Derek looked down at him. “You want to spar?”

“Not right now,” Stiles replied. “I think Boyd does, though.”

When Derek and Boyd started fighting, Stiles stood up and went to find Scott.

--

He’d brought the files in with the rest of the stuff when they’d first found everyone. He’d stuffed them in one of his bags so they were safer and he wouldn’t lose them at all. He hadn’t shown Allison yet, but he knew he needed to soon, because she never said her father showed up yet and she never heard from him before everything either.

He slid them across the table they were eating at one night, until they bumped against her elbow, and he had her full attention. She looked down at the papers and folders, slowly picking them up.

“What are these?” she asked, but she was already opening them, going through the contents.

“Not sure,” Stiles answered truthfully. “We found them in a building we hid in one night, found them the next day right before we left. They belonged to hunters. Some of the papers mention your dad.”

“He knew about the outbreak,” she said once she’d found one of the papers. She was tearing off one of the sticky notes, her fingers gripping the small paper tightly. “He knew?” she asked quietly, more to herself.

“Wait, he knew?” Stiles asked. “How’d he know?”

She shook the folder in her hands frantically. “This -- that’s what it says here. He and a few other hunters, along with my grandfather, they were aware of it, somehow. It doesn’t really say how they knew.”

“Does it say how it happened? What caused all of this?” This seemed like a huge revelation, all of his questions about everything finally being answered, all of it coming to light. But he didn’t understand how hunters were linked with it all, or what it even meant.

He looked up then, hearing the door creak softly. Everyone was walking into the room, like they overheard their conversation and were too curious to stay out of it.

“Answers?” Cora asked.

“What happened?” Stiles asked again.

She shrugged. “It doesn’t really give details. It just says they were watching something or someone, who was doing something they shouldn’t have. The handwriting is a little unreadable at this part, though, I can’t make it all out. But I guess something happened, or an experiment they were aware of.”

“And it led to all of this? The end of the world and the zombies? All of it?”

She nodded, looking at the papers sadly. “My dad knew something, and I think he’d know more. I don’t know.” She sighed. “This doesn’t make a lot of sense. They had something to do a few months before everything happened, it puts it all in the right time frame.”

“Hey, he might be okay, though. Don’t focus on that part. He may have been aware of it, but your dad knows what he’s doing,” he tried to comfort.

“Yeah, he might be, but I can’t believe he knew. He never told me about his trips, even though I had my ideas.” She continued going through the papers, like it’d give her more answers about her father, shed more light onto the entire situation. She gave up eventually, setting them aside with a tired sigh.

“So, the world kind of ended like in those zombie movies then, right? Something went wrong, it led to an outbreak?” Isaac asked.

“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up,” Stiles replied.

--

The city looked a lot different than Stiles remembered, but the last time he was here, it was a bustling city with too many people. This time, there was nobody, no matter where he turned to look as he stood on the roof. He wanted to look away, wanted to go back inside and just ignore the world for as long as he could now, because he was safe inside away from everything else. But at the same time, he wanted to continue staring at the city, taking in all of the new things about it, because it all looked beautiful, really, in its own way. All of trees and roots and weeds were growing up out of the concrete.

“You know,” Stiles spoke, voice soft. “I always wondered what happened. They never told us. The professor made us stay indoors and away from all of the windows. I had my theories, you know, all the basic zombie flick stuff.”

“Our professors did the same thing,” Isaac said. “Scott and Allison were at their apartment, the rest of us were at school, and Laura was at work.”

“So how’d you guys meet up? It must’ve been worse here. I can’t even imagine that, man.”

“No idea. I ran into Scott and Allison first, and then everything else kind of fell into place.”

“I was at Stanford six months by myself. Dude, six months before I ran into him.”

“So, you and Derek?” Isaac asked.

Stiles scratched the back of his neck, smiling. “Yeah, me and Derek.”

“I should’ve introduced you two years ago. Completely forgot you two went to the same university.”

“How do you forget where one of your pack goes to school at? Isn’t that something you’re supposed to know?” Stiles asked.

Isaac shrugged, shaking his head and laughing quietly. “I don’t know. I guess I never thought of it.”

Stiles laughed. “Yeah, he and I traveled miles and days together and didn’t realize we knew the same people,” he said, and he still couldn’t believe it. Derek always knew of Scott and Allison, but he guessed Derek just never really put two and two together and Stiles never thought to think about the chances that they were in the same pack. Those things just never crossed his mind before. “I mean, I knew his sister Cora, but had no idea who he was!”

“He didn’t think you two would get along,” Erica spoke as she walked up to them. She sat down on the ground beside them, kicking her legs out and over the edges of the roof. “I told him we should introduce you two, maybe Derek wouldn’t be at school all alone.” She rolled her eyes when Isaac tried to speak up. “It worked out, you two met up after the world went to hell, now you’re here. So Isaac, I guess I was right.”

“How was I supposed to know?” Isaac asked defensively.

“You should’ve trusted me, maybe they would’ve been here a lot sooner than eight months later.” She turned to look at Stiles knowingly. “So you and Derek are you and Derek?”

“No way, not giving out details,” Stiles said, raising his hands up.

“Oh come on, Stiles, I don’t want to know details. But you two are together, you both smell like each other, it’s obvious.”

“No,” Stiles started to say and then stopped, because he didn’t know what they were. They kissed, they slept together, but they never talked about anything. For all he knew, Derek maybe just wanted to be friends with benefits, or something. “I don’t know,” he ended up saying, voice quiet. “Honestly have no idea what we are.”

“You want there to be something?” she asked.

“Yes, yeah, definitely.”

“So, you should talk to him.”

“What am I supposed to even say?”

She raised an eyebrow at him, looking unimpressed. “For as much as you talk, you don’t know what to say? Cut the bullshit. You’ll think of something.”

He stood up reluctantly, looking at both Erica and Isaac in an attempt to have them buckle under his hopeless expression and feel pity for him and not send him out to talk to Derek. It didn’t work. Isaac just shrugged in a what can you do? way and Erica looked at him pointedly. He sighed and then left to go search for Derek.

--

He ran into Scott and Allison instead, who were going over things with Boyd about double checking the perimeter of the building for something strange they’d seen two nights ago. He ended up going over everything with them, giving out his own advice of what they could do. By the time they were done, everyone was either going on watch duty or going to sleep.

When he got to the room he was sharing with Derek, he saw him already lying down. For a moment he thought he was asleep, until he sat down beside him and Derek stirred, opening his eyes slowly to land on Stiles.

“So,” Stiles started with, but before he could really say anything at all, Derek pulled him down and kissed him. Stiles pushed him away, because really, they needed to talk. Erica was right; they needed to talk about this thing, whatever it was. “We need to talk.”

Derek tensed at that, and he looked like he was preparing himself for rejection. “Okay,” Derek said stiffly.

“No,” Stiles said, because Derek was starting to become confusing, and another – “I’m not rejecting you dude, or whatever it is you’ve got in your head right now, I just want to know what this,” he motioned between them, “is, because I have no idea and I’d like to know.”

“It’s—“ Derek stopped short. He sighed, closing his eyes.

“It’s what?” Stiles asked. “You know what I want? I want this thing between us to be something. I want something more.”

Derek opened his eyes at that, staring up at Stiles, and the look on his face had his heart twisting in his chest.

“What do you—“ the want fell off as Derek kissed him. Derek licked into his mouth, taking control of the kiss like he thought there was something to prove, like he was trying to tell Stiles everything in a kiss alone. It wasn’t an answer, even though it felt like one. Stiles pushed away again, reluctantly. Derek’s lips were kiss swollen, and he looked wrecked.

Derek ran a thumb across Stiles’ bottom lip and Stiles shivered. “I want that.”

“Yeah? So this’ll be official? We can put a name to this thing, and I can stop wondering?”

“Yeah,” Derek replied, brushing his lips against Stiles’, coaxing him into another kiss.

“Good,” Stiles said, smiling. “That’s good.” He moved his hand down, stopping at the zipper of Derek’s jeans.

--

“Somebody, please remind me why we’re outside to begin with,” Stiles said. At least here he was armed with something instead of, you know, winging it like he did most of the time before. He was holding a bat again, just like the one he used to bash in the back of a zombie’s head that one time. This one was better, though; it was sturdier, more reliable. He felt better holding it.

“We need supplies,” Erica called over her shoulder. She had her hair up today, pulled back into a ponytail and she looked like she was comfortable with exploring the city. She cocked an eyebrow, a smirk playing at her lips. “Scared, Stiles?”

“Let me remind you about my near-death experiences, Erica, in case you forgot already,” Stiles told her, giving her his own challenging eyebrow raise. “Me? Scared? Never. But if you’re scared, you know I’m sure Boyd here will protect you.”

Erica stretched, and then let her claws out, her eyes glowing gold. “Sweetie, I think you forgot,” she said, her grin wolfish.

They walked a few blocks, peering into a few buildings as they passed and skipping the ones that weren’t safe at all. They found a few things to take back, like flashlights and batteries, water, and some food that was still all right to eat. He wondered what was going to happen when all of the food was no longer safe to eat, when they’d reach their expiration dates and they had nothing else to choose from. He figured they’d have to leave this place, find some type of farmland somewhere and start growing their own food. He wasn’t sure how that was going to work, because he knew nothing about farming, but he knew they’d figure it out somehow.

Derek stuck close by him, their hands close together but not touching. Derek was like a body guard still, always close enough for Stiles to get help if he needed it, and vice versa. Derek seemed to understand now that Stiles may need help at times, but he could manage on his own if he had something for protection. He had that now, a bat or a gun to take along on these food or supply runs.

“I still can’t believe your pack were actually my friends the entire time,” Stiles said. “All this time, man.”

“Are you saying this was meant to happen? Finding each other and heading out this way?”

“Maybe,” Stiles said with a shrug. He didn’t really believe in fate, not really, not even after everything that happened. But it was still funny that they spent all of that time together and had no idea. He felt like, at some point, names should have come up and they would have figured it out.

They reached a Costco and stood outside, staring up at the large building. Beside them, Erica, Boyd and Isaac started heading toward the doors. Scott stayed back, looking at them like he was waiting on them first.

“You coming?” Scott asked.

Stiles shrugged, offering him a small smile. “Sure, dude,” he said. “We’ll be right in.”

“We can get a lot of food in here,” Derek said as he looked at the deserted parking lot and Scott’s retreating back.

“That, and water,” Stiles agreed. “If anything is safe still.”

“We’ll just have to find out.”

Erica, Boyd and Scott were standing up by the front doors. Boyd was trying to open the sliding glass doors. Erica waved at them, calling out, “You losers coming or what?”

“Yeah, hold on, we’ll be right there!” Stiles called back, and then turned to Derek. “So this is it, right? We’re here, everyone is okay, and we’re just going to try and make it?”

“There’s nothing much we can do, right now.”

“Maybe one day we can all head back to the other coast, check up on my dad.” Stiles scuffed a shoe against the gravel, looking around at the deserted parking lot. “I’d like to see him again, and not leave him there by himself. He’s got people, but I’d miss him too damn much.”

“We’ll see,” Derek said.

“Yeah?” Stiles asked, hopeful.

“We can try, we’ll see what happens.” Derek started walking up to the building. When he reached the doors, looking back to still see Stiles standing in the middle of the parking lot, he asked, “Are you coming?”

Stiles nodded. “Yeah, I’m coming. Let’s get this show on the road.”