It had taken Stiles a while to get comfortable leaving his phone on silent when he was in the middle of something; the idea of being unreachable, or worse, unaware of the current threat had haunted him for months. The reality of being almost 3,000 miles away eventually sunk in and he was able to accept being temporarily out of the loop when he needed to focus. It was equal parts terrifying and freeing, a sort of nauseating relief.
So when he sees a missed call from Chris Argent after his last class before break, his heart drops immediately into his stomach. The voice-mail is maddeningly vague, but before it's even over Stiles is shoving a few last essentials into his mostly packed duffel bag and impatiently waiting the handful of seconds for Chris to pick up his phone.
Chris has barely gotten a “ Stiles ” out before Stiles rushes out “What's going on?”
Thankfully, Chris doesn't waste time with pleasantries. “There's a rumor that there’ll be an FBI raid at a location I've been looking into for some possible illegal hunting. Can you see what you find out from whatever contacts you've made there?”
“Yeah, of course. Give me a couple hours. Do we know when it's supposed to be happening?”
“Week from last Friday, so what, few days from now,” Stiles feels overwhelmingly sorry for Chris, the man must be pushing himself hard if he's losing track of the days. “I'm not sure what their interest is, possibly a human trafficking angle,” Stiles’ stomach clenches at that. The idea of it so abhorrent it makes him shiver; the fact that hunters are involved, and therefore some of the people involved are likely to be werewolves adds an extra layer of disgust, a too vivid picture of Erica, Boyd,and Derek at the mercy of unhinged hunters flashes in his head and his whole body tenses. Chris confirms the thought with his next words, “but it's not like they'll be prepared for what they'll find if my intel is right.”
“Right, I'll get back to you as soon as I have something.”
“Thanks, Stiles,” Chris says sincerely, the exhaustion in his voice obvious, and Stiles has a moment of shameful relief that he's not responsible for any of whatever is going on. It doesn't last long. Chris inhales audibly, and Stiles instinctively prepares for a blow. “And Stiles,” he begins and pauses, reluctance and regret clear in his voice and in the short silence, “You should know that there's a Beacon Hills connection to whatever we're walking into.” Before Stiles can demand more, Chris adds an apologetic “I don't know more than that right now, but I'm looking into it.”
Stiles drops onto his crappy dorm mattress, the weight of the information making his legs buckle. Stiles chokes out “I'll call you back tonight,” and hangs up.
The call to Rafael McCall takes an eternity to connect, so when he finally answers, Stiles doesn't wait for a greeting. “I need to know everything you know about a possible human trafficking raid happening in a few days that has a connection to Beacon Hills.”
“Hello to you, too, Stiles,” Rafael says in that condescending way he has always addressed others with, and Stiles is reminded that despite the man having put in a good word for him at the FBI, he was a first class asshole.
Stiles grits his teeth and manages a “Please,” letting his panic color his voice and hoping Mr McCall is having a day where he's capable of basic human compassion.
He gets lucky, because Rafael responds with “I'll see what I can find out, but no promises.”
“Fair enough, but I need it tonight.”
Rafael sighs, but agrees, and Stiles disconnects the call. Stiles spends the next two hours on the computer, finding everything he can on human trafficking, reaching out to contacts for information on hunters who've gone off the rails, and wishing Danny was there to help him find a backdoor into government files.
When Rafe calls back with a time and place, Stiles has a frustratingly small list of notes, but at least he has confirmation to pass along to Chris. Rafael has managed to get himself assigned to the team going on the raid, citing his “personal interest,” and Stiles manages not to scoff at the idea that the man has any real connection to Beacon Hills or its inhabitants. Still, Stiles says a sincere “Thank you,” before he tells Rafael firmly “I'm going with you.”
Rafe sighs out a resigned “I figured you'd say that. You'll have a seat in my vehicle, otherwise I know you'll just show up on your own.”
He's not wrong. “Thank you,” he repeats, this time, he says goodbye befits hanging up to call Chris.
Sitting in the government issue black SUV while FBI agents move with surprising stealth to prepare to storm the building is excruciating. Being told to stay in the car isn't surprising, but it makes him feel anxious and angry and helpless all the same.
While the agents surround the building, a familiar figure approaches Stiles’ car. Stiles barely restrains himself from hugging Chris,the relief at seeing him, at seeing someone from home, from his life in Beacon Hills, from his pack of misfits, is almost staggering.
He settles for a nod of greeting and gratefully accepts Chris’ hand on his shoulder, letting the weight of it ground him.
“Stiles,” Chris says, clearly unsurprised at seeing him there, but decidedly unhappy about it. “I know you couldn't, but damn do I wish you'd stayed away from this, kid. I'm sorry for dragging you back into this shitshow.” Stiles can see Allison’s ghost in Chris's eyes, and it hurts in a way he knows it always will.
“I don't think I could really stay out. Not forever,” he tries to reassure Chris. “Plus, if I could've helped and I didn't, I'd never forgive myself.” Chris squeezes his shoulder, but his face draws tight.
“We're moving in as soon as the FBI does, hoping the chaos gives us some cover. I wish they weren't watching this place, so we could've moved in as soon as we found this place,” Chris says as he drops his hand to check his weapon. Before he turns to move into position, he levels Stiles with a sympathetic look. “I don't want to tell you, but you should know, Derek is in there.”
Stiles freezes, he can't feel his hands for a moment, but uses his thumb to count off his fingers, hoping with all he has that this is all a bad dream. There are only five fingers, and Stiles feels icy dread rushing through his veins. Chris’s voice pulls him from the edge of panic, “Whatever you do, be careful,” he says, the words heavy between them but a strange comfort nonetheless as Chris pats his shoulder again and walks away with practiced silence.
It takes Stiles less than 30 seconds to make a plan. With determination and likely ill advised bravery, honed over two plus years of fighting monsters--human and supernatural alike--he turns on the radio scanner in the SUV and assesses the unassuming old warehouse for a good entry point.
When he finds Derek, he almost cries when Derek looks up from where he's sagged against a crumbling wall, a complicated mix of emotions playing across his face. Derek chokes out “Stiles?” and despite the confusion in his voice, hearing his name from Derek's mouth again is incredible.
Stiles takes in the room as he walks through it, a standard villain’s lair except for the heavy chains bolted to the walls, floor, and disturbingly, the ceiling. And the IVs filled with what Stiles assumes is a wolfsbane solution, considering there's one in Derek's arm. Anger and relief swirl around in his brain as he moves to Derek's side, pulling the IV from his arm with disgusted satisfaction.
He's restrained, but thankfully only by heavy leather cuffs--laced with more wolfsbane, judging by the reddened skin on Derek's wrists. Stiles takes Derek's hands, one at a time, removing the cuffs carefully and tossing them away.
“Hey, Der,” he says, cupping Derek's face with one hand and resting the other on his shoulder. “Not quite the reunion we were planning, big guy, but we need to get the hell out of here, okay?”
Derek is worryingly quiet, eyes glassy from the drugs in his system, a look of shock and something like awe on his face. “Hey,” Stiles pats Derek's cheek, not willing to slap him to awareness while he's been so abused. “Derek, we need to go, are you with me?” His thumb traces Derek's cheek as he pleads and tries to calculate how far he can carry Derek before he can't anymore. “Der, c’mon, let's go, c’mon. Please.”
Derek closes his eyes tightly for a second, and when he opens them again they're clearer. Stiles fights the urge to sag against him in relief, but it's a near thing.
“Yeah,” Derek says, voice raw (Stiles willfully ignores the knowledge that that means Derek's likely been screaming for long hours, over however many days). “Yeah, I'm with you. I'm with you. Let's go.”
Stiles breathes out heavily and gratefully, standing to help pull Derek off the floor. Derek stumbles, the wolfsbane making his movements unsteady, but Stiles catches him. He drapes Derek's arm over his shoulder, gripping his forearm firmly and wrapping his free arm around Derek's middle. They both hold on to each other tightly.
They make it into the hallway just as a team of FBI agents run down it in the opposite direction. Stiles is grateful for the vest Rafael had given him to wear, as not a single agent gives him a second glance.
Derek grips Stiles’ shirt as they struggle down the dim corridor, Stiles pulls him closer in response, taking more of his weight as Derek slips. He'd had to leave Derek once, and it had torn him apart; he wouldn't be leaving him again.
They just had to get to Rafael’s car, then Stiles could get them both far away from this nightmare. Mr McCall will understand.
A road trip should give Derek time to recover, give them time to reconnect, to decide what to do next. Plus, it sounded like a much better reunion story; they deserved a kinder story.