He remembered the first snow fall happening some time around his fifth birthday. His mother had collected some into her hands, had laid it around his head, to look like a halo, or a really shitty crown. He'd chased her through the house, until they were out, laying on the freezing ground, staring up at all the little specks, falling from the sky, wiping it all clean, and painting it white. His dad had brought them blankets, and some coffee, that he hadn't drunk any of, because he'd already been restless enough, for a lifetime or two. He'd started moving again, and she'd been too tired to follow, too comfortable between his father's arms. So he'd started running, and stopped waiting for her to follow. He hadn't waited for her since. Hadn't had the time to.
His fingers were trembling, folding, and taking too long, every time he tried easing them into an open palm, into something that could be held, and pulled, and clung to. His breath came in particles of air that mostly didn't look like anything, didn't have enough to form into a shape, like a cloud, or a heart, or his best friend's name. His upper body fell away, collapsed somewhere between the passenger seat, and the stick, that was buried so deeply into his stomach, he wondered if it had poked through, had morphed into his skin, and made something like an organ. He wondered if he was bleeding, if blood could seep through and not freeze on its way out, blocking all the holes in him, clogging all the things pouring out, like rain that didn't have time to fall before it turned to ice, to snow, to a much more collected, a much harsher version of what it was supposed to be, of itself.
" Stiles, are you still with me? Don't close your eyes, okay? You need to stay awake." The door was left unhinged, almost falling completely apart. Derek was still on the ground, unmoving, and so desperate, as he put his claws into his legs, and tried to get anything to work, to just move.
" Still here." Stiles' voice sounded all wrong, breathless, and so broken apart, every word hitting against his ribcage, like it didn't want to come out. It barely sounded like it did.
" It's almost working, I think I can feel my legs now. Just keep talking, I can never get you to shut up anyway, so that shouldn't be a problem." Something like a smile moved around Stiles' features, the air in his lungs collecting into a laugh, that didn't really make it past his bluing lips.
" There's wolfsbane everywhere. Stop hurting yourself, it isn't worth it."
" I'm starting to change my mind. Maybe I don't want you to talk after all."
Smoke was no longer coming through the crushed hood of his car, like the layers of snow had suffocated the fire right out of it, before it ever burned, before anyone could find them. Stiles thought of how the cold was meant to keep bodies from disintegrating, wondered if he'd decompose into something other than ashes and bones, wondered if it'd feel any different, if it'd hurt any less.
" How long have we been out here?" Stiles closed his eyes, tried to breathe past the burning in his chest, how thin the air was, despite everything else feeling too thick, too heavy.
" I don't know, fuck, I'm going to kill Theo. I'm going to kill all those fucking chimeras." Derek sounded distant, hazy and faraway. Stiles tried to blink, tried to focus, but things were so slow around him, like they were coming to a halt.
He thought of his toy train, how loud it was, how he'd leave it on for hours, imitating its sounds, moving around it, like he'd get somewhere too, like it'd take him away. His mother had complained about it for months, yelling about how noisy it was, how it was too much. How it was all just, too much for her to grasp at, to take in. Stiles stopped playing with it, until one day, she'd had a stupid fight with him, something about leaving traces of mud all through the living room, and he'd been trying to piss her off, to ignite some sort of reaction that would break her silent treatment, so he'd turned it on, and left the door open, just for the hell of it. He'd waited for hours, but his mother hadn't complained. Had been completely unaware, even after Stiles had walked into her room, and tried to capture her attention. There'd been nothing there to capture. It'd all become white noise to her; background sounds to the life that was passing right by her, that she was leaving, or maybe, it was leaving her. They were both leaving Stiles. And Stiles wondered, if she'd felt like he did. If he'd finally be able to understand, why she looked so carved out at the end, why it didn't look like there was anything left to her. He wondered if Derek could smell it on him, could sense the looming death, the itch of finality. He wanted to apologize, to try and morph his scent into something else, that wouldn't remind Derek of his family, or Allison, or Boyd, or Aiden, or all those people he'd loved and lost. Maybe loved was too big of a word. Maybe cared for, or associated with. Yeah. That sounded more like how Stiles fit in Derek's world.
" Stiles!" Derek's voice wavered, tired and desperate, like he'd been calling out for him for a while. If Stiles could turn his head enough to see him, he probably would have noticed the panic in his eyes, how his figure was almost vibrating with the need to do something, to help, somehow.
" They probably did this to distract us. Keep us away from Lydia." He wanted to ask if Derek could hear her screaming. If he thought she would be biting down on her lips, willing them to remain sealed, like the announcement of death was some sort of secret, she wasn't allowed to speak. Like if she kept her scream in, she'd somehow, keep Stiles there too. Like it could ever be this easy.
" My phone is in my back pocket, I can't reach it. We need to call Scott. Find your phone." Stiles looked down on the floor of his car, where his phone had been flashing for a while now. He tried to move, tried to untangle his limbs, throw them away from his core, but his leg was still squished somewhere between the steering wheel and the folded car door, and every time he tried to tug at it, it felt like it'd rip away from the rest of him.
" I can't move." He whispered, drained by the bleeding and the shivering and the strangled breathing and just- all of it. He was so fucking tired.
" Why not?" Derek groaned, and Stiles wondered how the snow hadn't eased that raging fire within. How he still sounded so steady and strong, when everything else wavered, kind of fell apart.
" Leg. I think it's broken. Ribs too. Probably concussion. And, and hypothermia."
" You're not shaking anymore."
" Body temperature dropped too low. You should have really listened during those biology classes."
" How bad? Your leg, Stiles, how bad is it?"
" I can't get it out. I think it's shattered completely, and," His breath hitched, something like a cry falling past his lips, as he tried to look away from the bones piercing through the skin, and the blood tainting his interior. He didn't think it'd ever come out. He didn't think he would either.
" Jesus Christ, are you crying?" Derek sounded horrified, stunned, like he didn't know what to do with him. Stiles could almost envision the way his eyebrows arched, and honestly, when did he become an expert in all the things Derek's eyebrows did? He would have laughed, if he could breathe at all.
" Okay, okay, okay. Let me think. Stiles, we need to think. This is your thing, right? Come on, tell me what to do next, give me an idea, anything, Stiles, give me anything to work with here." Stiles wished he could ease his distress, make it all go away. He'd always wish he could do that for Derek.
" I'm the one who's fatally injured and I'm still expected to solve things for you, unbelievable."
" Stop talking about dying, or I swear," Stiles swung his arm enough to brush against his phone, throwing it out of the car, and letting it drop somewhere on the street. An almost blinding pain shot through his side, rested on his chest and pushed down, he felt like he was being buried within himself, like it needed to happen in pieces, because he was so incredibly apart.
" I'm still fucking paralyzed, what do you expect me to do with this?" Derek yelled, because if he didn’t, he would probably cry. Or start talking about all the things Stiles did, that he couldn't quite imagine his life without. And he couldn't do that. Couldn't do anything about any of it.
Stiles was too out of it to reply, to even register Derek's complaints. Choked sounds filled the air surrounding them, sounding like whines, or cries, or things just as sad. Derek moved his head –the only part of himself that he'd regained control over- as he tried to get closer to the phone, just enough to press a button. Stiles' phone was still vibrating, sliding against the slippery grounds, until Derek hit his chin into it, several times, before Scott's voice was finally there. Agitated and trusting and still so young, despite all the years that had passed, all the aging his heart had endured.
" Scott, listen to me. Theo and his pack attacked us. Stiles is hurt. It's bad."
" Wh- what? What do you mean bad? How bad is bad?"
" Tracy got me with her venom, so I can't get to him. And there's wolfsbane everywhere. Inside the car, around it, even on Stiles himself. So get your mum, or his dad, or just, fuck, anyone. Get everybody down here, we might need all the help we can get. But send someone to Eichen House, in case they're after Lydia."
" O- okay. Okay, yeah, fuck, what did they do to him? What happened? What am I going to tell his dad, Derek?" Derek squeezed his eyes shut, trying to breathe past the stink of so many horrible things, that kind of made him want to throw up all his grief and pain and anger, make space for what this would leave him with, what Stiles' hurt would leave in its wake.
" Tell him as little as you can. Just get here, okay? I don't know if you can sniff us out, because of all the snow, but the wolfsbane should help. If not,"
" I'll find his heartbeat, or something, we'll figure it out."
" I don't.. I don't know if his heartbeat will help. Use his phone, call and follow the sound of it ringing."
" Wait, what do you mean? He's not.. Oh my God, Derek, is he,"
" He's alive, but his heartbeat is slowing down. I can barely hear it and I'm a few meters away."
" Fuck, Jesus, okay, we'll be there as soon as possible. Just. Don't let him die, Derek. Do whatever it takes, Stiles can't- he can't." Derek had nothing to say to that, so he disregarded the phone, and focused on speeding his healing process. But there was a cracked breath somewhere, slow and quiet and so unsteady, coated in finality. There was something bitter in his mouth every time he tried to breathe. He swore he could almost taste the loss. He thought he always would.
" Stiles? Hey, Stiles, are you okay? Say something, come on, Scott is going to be here any minute. Stiles." There was a hollowness to the quiet now, it wasn't comforting, or reassuring. It was lonely, terrifying, like he'd lost one of his senses. Like he'd gone deaf. He must have, because Stiles' heartbeat wasn't there. He couldn't, for the life of him, listen carefully enough for it to resurface, to reappear.
He lost something. Track of time. Awareness of his surroundings. Control. Stiles. No, God, no, not Stiles. Not him too. He leaned against the unhinged door, that would never close quite right again, would never fall the way it was supposed to, would never fit again. He tried not to tear it away completely, not break it further, as he took Stiles into his arms that were twitching, trying to recoil away from the wolfsbane burning through him. He was shaking. Stiles was shaking along. But the motion wasn't natural, didn't look right, there was nothing really moving about him. He was so fucking still.
Derek put him down, coughed out, and pretended it wasn't almost a cry. He pushed down on his chest, cried into his mouth and hoped there would at least be some air left in there, a mantra of not yet, not like this echoing in his head. He heard things breaking, probably Stiles' ribs, or his own heart. He couldn't tell, everything was in ruins, there were too many pieces, too many bones poking through, like they didn't belong, like their bodies were trying to escape them, leave them behind.
Derek took Stiles' wooden bat –the one they'd gotten him after he'd lost Melissa's- and broke through it too, putting each of its halves around Stiles' broken –fucking shattered- leg, ripping his shirt and wrapping the pieces of it around the pathetic cast he was trying to make, to stabilize Stiles' leg, to keep it from moving. It probably wouldn't. Things still weren't moving, wouldn't move, despite how hard he'd begged. Stiles was so stubborn, always so stubborn, even in the way he left. The way he di-
There was someone howling, roaring. He could barely register that it was him, before Scott appeared, stopped, looked like he was tearing at the seams too. Mason broke the wolfsbane line that wasn't really whole any more, shoving the wolfsbane away, trying to make room for them, to do something to help, without having to take in how Stiles was in blues and reds and whites. How those should have been his least favorite colors, because they looked all wrong on him. Isaac pushed Scott until he was moving again, getting into the driver's seat, and putting his hand on his friend's leg. Derek whined, ran a hand across his face, and threw it away. He tried to recompose himself, really, he did, but Stiles' motionless weight against him was breaking his heart something terrible.
They were covering him in blankets, but he was so unhealthily pale, so cold, and Derek thought of morgues and sheets and metal beds and coffins and graves and- he couldn't breathe. His hands were raw, almost disfigured, and they were trembling around Stiles, getting his blood on Stiles', and the red was vibrant again, alive in a way that things around it, wasn't.
" Hey, hey, Derek, he's breathing. You did good. We need to take him to the hospital, mum is waiting, okay? Let me have him." Scott had a hand on Derek's shoulder, the other on Stiles' arm. His eyes were uncharacteristically firm, authoritative. If Derek wasn't crumbling, he would have find a sense of pride in that. But he nodded, unfolding the fingers grasping Stiles, and letting Scott take him away. Derek was certain there was gaping hole where his head had rested. He collapsed, would have fallen through the opened door, if Malia wasn't there, awaiting and willing.
" I got you." She patted his shoulder, circling her arms around his waist, until he found his footing, found his balance. He tried not to lean into her too desperately, to not give her all the weight he couldn't quite carry himself. She winced as the wolfsbane on him rubbed onto her. She held on though, helping him into the back of Scott's mother's car, where Mason already was, his eyes on Stiles' figure, sprawled over Isaac in the passenger seat. Derek didn't know why it looked like Stiles was the one shielding Isaac, enveloping him in familiarity and safety and home. It kind of felt like his family home was burning again. Kind of felt like this time, he was burning with it. But that was probably the wolfsbane.
" I called the sheriff too. He's waiting for us at the hospital. He sent Parrish and Liam to Eichen house. Like you said."
" Stiles. He- he's the one who figured it out. Told me what to do." Scott's eyes moved away from the road, fell onto his friend, and his features fell onto one another so aggressively, Derek could almost hear their collapse. But Scott sniffed, looked away, before he found another thing in his friend that was damaged, or altered in a way that made it unfamiliar to him, made his friend look a little less like how he'd always known him to.
When they got to the hospital, Melissa and the sheriff were waiting by the ER door with a gurney. Stiles was carried, put down, and taken away, before Derek could memorize the sound his heart made, every time it gave an unwilling thud.
" Is everybody else okay? Did anyone get hurt?" The sheriff asked, a hand falling onto Scott's shoulder, like he needed something solid, something that would feel kind of like his son, but not quite.
" Derek was the only one with him. He has wolfsbane poisoning, but we'll take care of it. Other than that, it's just.. Stiles." Scott nodded, a silent promise to make things better, to take care of Derek, at least. Derek closed his eyes around the need for him to believe, because Scott couldn't.
" What the hell happened out there?" There were hands against Derek's arms now, present, reassuring, patient in a way that he didn't think he deserved. When he opened his eyes, they were all looking at him like he could make sense of the spiraling universe around them.
" Stiles was driving me home, because Cora took my car, for a road-trip with her friends. We were ambushed. Theo threw the car off the road. We, uh, flipped a few times, I think, I don't know how many times exactly, but Josh, I think his name was, messed with the Jeep's electricity, and." He shuddered, breathed like he couldn't. Like he still couldn't quite breathe. The hands around him latched on.
" We were going towards a tree, we'd lost all control at this point. So, Stiles, fuck, he turned the steering wheel just enough for his side to crash into the tree, instead of mine. Fucking idiot, I heal. He doesn't." Derek meant to yell, but his voice wavered, fell short, sounded panicked, more than anything. He was just trying to make a point, make them understand. The sheriff nodded, something like an attempt at a smile curving around his lips.
" What am I going to do with this kid? He's never going to change." The Sheriff sounded like he was distressed by the realization, although, the pride and love were glistening in his eyes, somewhere behind all those tears.
" I fought them off for a while, but then Tracy got my neck, and I just.. fell. They threw the wolfsbane around the car, inside it, even on Stiles' body. And. Yeah. He threw his phone towards me, because, his leg," Derek choked then, putting a hand over his mouth, to keep things from falling out, keep himself from falling apart.
" Okay, okay, son. Go take care of yourself now." Derek immediately shook his head, breathing deeply once, before willing himself to steady, to keep it together.
" I'm fine, sir. I'd like to wait for him."
" We won't know anything for a while. Melissa is with him, she'll let us know if there are any updates. And you'll be the first one to know when I do. But wolfsbane poisoning can be dangerous, and you've been subjected to it for quite some time now."
" I can't leave him. Not yet. Please, just. Just let me stay."
" Hey, Derek, okay, whatever you want. Whatever you need." He crashed into the sheriff's arms without really meaning to. It was the first time he'd smelled Stiles in hours. He thought he'd never be able to smell of him anything other than the blood and the pain and the slow death. His arms held on so desperately, he feared he'd hear something else breaking. But he didn't. He was just being held.
They moved until they were in the waiting room, Scott was pacing, the sheriff in a chair, between Malia and Isaac, and Derek leaned against the wall closest to where they'd taken Stiles. He ended up sliding against that wall, tired down to his bones. Scott fell somewhere beside him, close in a way that reeked of need, of despair. Derek let his head fall onto Scott's shoulder, his arms spread out, allowing his chest the space to rise and fall, like that would help with the ragged breathing, like it would make it sound less like he was drowning, and more like his breathing was staggering, tripping, not ceasing all together.
" Okay, Stiles is currently in the OR. His leg was completely shattered, from the knee down to his ankle, and there were cracks in his thigh as well. There was some obvious head trauma, which they'll have to wait out, observe the brain swelling, you know how that normally goes. His chest was.. there was a lot happening there. Broken ribs, four, to be exact. They'd pierced through his right lung, and he was bleeding internally, but,"
" Oh God. Oh my God, Melissa." The Sheriff was tipping forward, a collapse awaiting to happen, but she put her hands to his shoulders, held him upright.
" He has the best doctors in there with him. Don't worry, your kid is strong, John. He always has been."
" But he's not indestructible. He's not invincible, Melissa. And neither am I. This is just.. I don't know how many times I can do this, come so close to losing him." Everything about the sheriff was wavering, coming loose. But Melissa remained collected, optimistic and kind, in a way that was almost incomprehensible.
" You're not going to. You know Stiles, he'd never let you. He'd never leave you like that. Now, the hypothermia is another factor that they need to take into consideration. His heartbeat was so slow, they put him on an IV drip with warm fluids to heat up his body from the inside out, but they couldn't wait for too long, because of everything else going on inside. I'm going back in there, and if anything comes up, I'll let you know, okay?" The sheriff nodded, falling back into his chair, as Melissa walked away. Derek hit his head against the wall behind him, pushing through it like he was trying to make a hole big enough to swallow him whole. But it made that cracking sound, and Derek thought of Stiles' ribs beneath his fists, as he recoiled away from the walls, like they'd crumble too, bury him under something else that he wouldn't try to get out of. He put the palms of his hands into his eyes, dug deep enough to draw out all stills of Stiles, all the things that looked wrong about him.
" He killed someone a few weeks ago, did he ever tell you about any of that?" Scott's voice tore at the fog of heartbeats and cries and haphazard breaths. Derek shivered, but Scott must have taken that as a shake of his head, because he went on.
" It was maybe three weeks before you came back. A month at most. Theo came to be with a bloody wrench in his hands that reeked of Stiles, and someone else. Someone that wasn't all human. He, uh, he told me that Stiles murdered him in cold blood. And we'd been furthering away from each other for a while before that, arguing about the most random shit, always yelling about something or the other."
" And you believed that? About Stiles? Seriously?" Isaac asked, all bold and upfront and curious. Scott tried to smile but it fell into something like a grimace.
" I believed it. The way Theo said it, was just so.. scary. So brutal and inhuman and cold. And Stiles and I had this big fight, I said things, that he didn't deserve. That I knew, he would never deserve. But I said them anyway, and he kept trying to fix things, kept trying to work things out, although the defeat was all over him. He didn't leave until I told him to. Basically told him to stay away from the pack, from me." Derek pushed past the hesitant sanctuary of his hands, staring at Scott, whose face completely fell, looking nothing like it was ever supposed to. The regret was folded in all the wrinkles around his features, threaded by well-hidden rage, framed with fear. Layers and layers of fear, Derek could barely find Scott, beneath it all.
" He never said anything. I never knew."
" Yeah. I didn't think he would. Sometimes, I think, everything he does, is some kind of punishment. Like he's trying to punish me, by making me almost lose him, over and over again. Like he's trying to prove the point that I can't. I can't lose him. Or he's trying to make me prove myself, prove that I'll be there, that I'll try to save him, and not just.. not just leave him to deal with it, all alone. I don't know. I don't know why this keeps happening." Scott's head shook, a sigh going past his lips, before cracking midway. Derek just watched on, marveling upon the crumbling of someone that was always so strong, so sure, so knowing.
" What happened after?" Derek opened his mouth, but he still couldn't quite find his voice or his words or the air needed to breathe them out. So Isaac asked instead.
" Everyone broke up." Malia snorted, crossing her arms against her chest. It was an odd time for them all.
" Yeah, pretty much. Stiles and I weren't talking. Malia was off looking for her psychopath of a mother. Liam was out of control because Hayden was dying. It was nuts, I don't even know how we ever made it through."
" That wasn't even the worst of it. Liam attacked Scott and tried to kill him, and when he didn't finish things off, Theo did. While at the same time, sending the Sheriff into a trap, that almost got him killed too." Malia spoke again, leaning forward and looking at Derek. He didn't know if there was a you were supposed to be here somewhere in there. He looked away anyway, and back at Scott.
" What do you mean Theo did? Like, he attacked you too?" Bless Isaac and his persistent curiosity.
" He did. He had been poisoning my inhaler with wolfsbane too. So I couldn't even fight back. Mum said it took her almost 17 minutes to, you know, bring me back." Scott was moving his hand around the general area of his chest. Derek listened to how steady Scott's heartbeat was now, and tried not to think of Stiles' heart sounding nothing like that.
" Bring you back? So you were,"
" Dead. Yeah. I don't even know if Stiles knows that part."
" He does. I think Mason told him, because he hurt his hand, fighting Liam after. He kept apologizing to your mum, as she tried to fix him up. A lot of tears were involved there, let me tell you." The sheriff's smile was so sad looking, it kind of broke Derek's heart.
" Jesus Christ, I'm kind of glad I didn't come back earlier. You people went through some serious shit." Isaac's comment drew a huffed out chuckle from Scott, who put a hand over Derek's shoulder, and squeezed a little. Derek didn't know which of them it was supposed to ground, but he was grateful, moving his own hand till it rested against Scott's thigh, and just, stayed there.
" I'm sorry I wasn't there to help." Derek whispered, when everyone else fell into their own conversations.
" You came back when it mattered. You saved his life." Scott's eyes were so wide and forgiving, Derek could fit all the blood on his hands right in there.
" I think I made it worse. His heart stopped. He wasn't breathing. And, I didn't know what else to do, other than CPR. I must have done it all wrong, though, because I could hear his ribcage cracking. I, I heard his bones breaking, and I didn't stop. I couldn't." He looked down at the hand that wasn't on Scott, and he could still feel it, pressing down, pushing against frail things, trying to put life, where there was so much death. These hands had dug graves, had buried bodies of loved ones, had even clawed through flush of people he'd considered family, pack, and why did he ever expect them to do good this time around? Why did he ever expect to find a little bit of life, between those instruments of doom?
" You saved him, Derek. You almost got yourself killed, trying to bring him back. Everything else just doesn't matter. When his life is involved, it will always come first. It will always count for more." Scott squeezed on Derek's shoulder till his fingers ached, so he brought him into his chest, and clung on, pretending that he could ever fit all that was Derek, between the folds of his existence. He would try though. He would always do at least that.
It took Melissa six hours to walk out of the OR. Bloody and sweaty and so exhausted, like she was physically fighting Stiles, to keep him around. She crashed into her son's arms before anything could really seep through her. He held onto her, folding around her smaller figure, and she was almost completely submerged, disappearing somewhere within him. Derek was leaned against the metal trashcan, relieved by how cold its surface was, against his overheating body. There were trails of black where he'd last thrown up, smelling of rotten things that were unusable, well beyond their expiration dates. His skin was sickly pale now, ashy, and dead-looking. Which was ironic, because, he was pretty dead-feeling, every breath ragged and agonizing, his blood boiling beneath his skin, that was shedding, like Derek would come out of this anew. Someone other than himself. He was in so much pain, he hoped he wouldn't come out of this at all.
" He is stable. It was touch-and-go for a while there. We lost him twice, but they brought him back. They fixed what they could, wrapped up what they couldn't. He's going to be put in the ICU, at least until the swelling in his brain comes down, maybe for a little longer after that too. Anyone else, they wouldn't have made it through. It was.. it was brutal. But he's a strong kid, and he fought harder than anyone in there. The doctors are optimistic, so, we'll wait for him to wake up, and take it from there." The sheriff tried to exhale, but the air reformed into a sob, then another, and then he was somewhere between Melissa and Scott, and they could no longer tell, who was crying and who wasn't. Derek only heard bits of that, a buzzing in his ears now, like they were going unhearing. Malia and Isaac were near, trying to take some of his pain, but as soon as he was aware of it, he'd shove them away, shake his head, because this was too much. It was too much for anyone, and he wouldn't put them through it, if he could help it. If he could help any of it.
" Okay, Derek, come on, we need to get you into the showers to get that wolfsbane off you, and then see what else we can do about this. I can't believe you let it get this bad." Melissa was on her knees, easing the hair away from Derek's forehead, flinching with the radiating heat. She turned enough to hit Scott across the back of his head, but it was barely anything. He whined anyway, because, of course he would.
" He wouldn't listen to us, mum, what were we supposed to do?" Derek would have smiled, if he wasn't floating or drowning or, crashing. It kind of felt like he was crashing, into a volcano, filled with lava, and every time it'd throw him up, he'd come crashing back down, right into its core.
" I'm going to deal with you, later. Help him up, for now. Or carry him. What's the point of werewolf super strength, if you're not going to do anything with it, huh?" Derek groaned when Scott circled his arms around his torso, and tried to help him to his feet. He didn't want to move, unless it was towards Stiles.
" I- I'm fine. Wolfsbane, Scott. Y- you'll get yourself hurt. Let, let me go. Stop. Stay away. Stiles. S- see Stiles, first." He was panting between every word, sometimes even, twice to get through a word with too many letters.
" Derek, there is no way in hell anyone is going to let you anywhere near Stiles when you're looking like that. Now, you'll either let them help you, until you're all better, or I'm going to sedate you, and let the nurses bathe you themselves, with their personal loofahs and kids' shampoo and they're going to make you real pretty. Your call."
" Fucking hell," Derek groaned again, pushing into the wall behind him, to find some sort of steadiness. Scott's arms were around him, Isaac's too, while Malia stood behind, with the withering sheriff, who was so close to smiling. So close.
" That's what I thought. This way." Melissa rolled her eyes, and started walking down the hallways, to get them to the least crowded showers, knowing that they'd need a bit of privacy, with all the abnormal symptoms he was showing.
The further they walked, the less aware Derek became. He didn't know how much of his weight was leaning against Scott and how much was on Isaac and if he was carrying any of it at all. If it was all still there, or if he was shedding bits of himself in the process, if he was coming apart. When he was put under the cold water, he was completely limp. His eyes were not fully closed, but they were unseeing. He didn't know who was taking off his clothes for him, or whose hands were brushing against his skin, wiping the wolfsbane away, and helping him breathe a little. He stayed under the steady stream until Deaton told them what to do next, which was put his head under the water, let him breathe in, so that his airways would get cleared up, in case he'd inhaled any of it. He was so out of it, he didn't even fight against them. He just let them drown him. Then, he was put into new clothes –hospital clothes from the lost and found- and he was given this antinode, to speed his healing up, and wash out any wolfsbane inside of him.
It took them about two hours, until he was laid down across several chairs in the waiting room, his head in Isaac's lap, while the rest of them went in and out of Stiles' ICU unit, visiting him, one at a time. Mason had driven Scott's car to Eichen House, picking up Liam and leaving Parrish as a precaution after they'd made sure Theo wasn't there at all. Isaac went to fill in for Liam, as Scott took over Derek's recovering figure. Malia was far too impatient to sit still enough for him to sleep anyway.
Ten hours later, Derek was waking up. Deaton mentioned how strong wolfsbane had to be, to do what it did to him. He also mentioned his delayed healing, with how frayed his mental state was. His neck was aching due to his awkward sleeping position, as he moved it to get the bones to crack, the tension between them to loosen a bit. He could feel the leg beneath him, the hands that were thrown around him, but he was too.. uncertain, to deny this tiny hint of safety. He turned onto his back though, curious and awake and in need of reassurance. The sheriff was smiling down at him, looking nothing like Stiles, yet, offering the same sense of home. Of sanctuary.
" Feeling better, kid?" He was only a kid to very few people. He loved thinking of himself as the sheriff's kid. He would never tell anyone that, though.
" Yes, sir. How long have I been out?"
" Maybe ten, twelve, hours, I'm not too sure." Derek's eyes widened, as he helped himself into an upright position, noting the emptiness of the waiting room around them.
" Why didn't anyone wake me up? Are there any updates about Stiles?" He was standing, but there were too many hallways, too many rooms, he had no idea where to go.
" Nothing yet. Stable but unconscious. The head trauma hasn't worsened though, so that's something. I think. I don't even know, if I'm honest with you." The sheriff was rubbing his hands against his face. Derek noted their tremble, and wondered if it was just old age. He didn't think he'd ever seen the sheriff look older.
" Where is everybody?" He cleared his throat, tried to sound like himself again.
" Melissa is in there with Stiles. Scott and the rest of the kids went to get some breakfast. Isaac went to Eichen House, when Liam came down here." Derek nodded, dismissing most of what the sheriff said, as he skimmed through all the crowding heartbeats around, and tried to find the one beating with familiarity. His senses were still suffering from the previous night, so he looked at the sheriff, and willed him to understand. And he did. Of course he did.
" Go on, Derek. Try to dodge the male nurse though, he's a bit of an asshole." The frown between the sheriff's eyebrows was familiar. Derek smiled, nodded, and walked down the hallway the sheriff pointed at. Then Melissa was there, her lips moving around whispered words, her hands somewhere on Stiles' face. She looked so uncaring of the tubes doing things that his body couldn't. He didn't know how she could always look at him the same.
" Oh, Derek, you look better today. Feeling alright? Any nausea, or aching, or,"
" No, I- I'm fine." He couldn't look away from Stiles but he couldn't really look at him either. He didn't know how that worked. Melissa moved around Stiles, laid her hands around Derek's face, and moved his head just enough, for her to take in any changes in his features, of the coloring of his skin. It was such a simple thing to do, so expected, but he thought of his mother, and for barely a second, he swore he blinked her back to life.
" I'm a nurse and a mother, Derek, you can't lie to me. What hurts?" He didn't know how to tell her everything, didn't know how to tell her that it was mostly his heart, and kind of his chest area, where everyone he'd ever loved was ripped right out of. So he didn't tell her anything, he just shrugged his shoulders, worn out and defeated.
" Fine, okay. Go, sit with him. I'll get you something to boost your energy a bit, and something to eat." He didn't think he could keep anything down, but he let her release him, and walk away, let himself drop on the chair closest to Stiles, even allowed himself a closer look, where he took in the unnatural rise and fall of Stiles' chest, and how he could hear his ribs, every time they rubbed against one another, could feel their crunching beneath his fingers, which were shaking, like they were channeling all the movements Stiles couldn't form himself.
" I got you two options; a sandwich, and this salad. Some juice, a water bottle, and when that's all finished, and I do mean finished, take these two pills, got it?" Derek startled at Melissa's sudden voice, his head spinning a bit too aggressively, as he put his hands to his temples, trying to ease the pounding headache, to find a single focal point.
" Sit down, it's okay." Melissa put her arms around him, so willing to take his weight, if he was to collapse, despite there being too much of him and not nearly enough of her. He fell into that chair rather pathetically, feeling something against his lips, his head tilting so carefully backwards, until there was juice going down his throat, so refreshing, so soothing, Derek could cry. If he was that kind of person. Which, he wasn't.
" Everyone in that OR was talking about how you'd saved his life. No one could have done any better." Derek choked, on his breath, or the juice, he couldn't tell. But Melissa tilted her hand back just enough to not pour any more into Derek's mouth, she didn't pull away completely though.
" How did you, I mean, I didn't,"
" I've been doing this for a long time, Derek. During the primary examination, the doctors confirmed that his heart had stopped, and had been revived. You were the only one with him during the accident, so it couldn't have been anyone else. So, this is my professional opinion, you brought the patient back. And that cast? It probably saved his leg, Derek."
" Yeah. And as a personal opinion, I can't even tell you how thankful I am that you were the one with him. If it had to happen, I'm selfishly grateful you were there to stop what you could, to do whatever it took to keep him alive." She sounded like she could cry, like she would, and Derek swore, he wouldn't be able to keep himself from shattering along.
" I mean, can you imagine if it was one of these idiots with him instead? My God, the catastrophe that it could have been." Melissa breathed out something like a laugh. And when Derek's mouth opened, to retaliate somehow, a laugh leaped out, kind of breathless, kind of shy, but still. His eyes went wide because he'd almost forgotten, he could release other things into the world, that weren't howls or roars or sounds of agony, of loss.
" Thank you. Ms. Mccall, you, uh, yeah. Thanks." He didn't know what she saw across his eyes, but she leaned in, put his head somewhere by her neck, her head falling on top of his, and her hands, all around him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so.. held.
" You got it, kiddo. Any time." She swayed a little, planting a loud kiss into his hair, before detaching herself completely, leaving him with a kind of ache that felt old and familiar, yet, raw and fresh.
" Press the call button if you need anything. Or if there are any updates with him. I'll keep the rest of them away, and give you some space."
So Derek was left alone with the sound of the machines, chasing away all the quiet of Stiles' heart stilling. He searched between his features, for things he hadn't known about before, like the mole at the very end of his chin, and the tiny scar by his eyebrow, and the wrinkles by his hairline. The little things that Stiles never allowed him the time to take in, because he was always moving, always turning, wanting to go all those places, when Derek just wanted him to stay. Then the door opened, and people started filing in, and he gave his chair up, because every time his fingers itched for a touch, for a hold, he'd feel the cold in his palm, and the cracks of bones that weren't his own, and he couldn't risk it. Couldn't risk holding too close, or touching too deep, because what if he came out with something like a heartbeat? What if he took something else that wasn't meant for him?
A little less than two days later, Stiles was moved from the ICU, to an ordinary room, with less machines, but a figure still so stubbornly unmoving. The swelling had gone down, but they had to wait for him to awake, to test for any permanent damages. Derek didn't want to think of Stiles with less parts of his brain. Didn't want to think of Stiles with anything less of him at all. So, he stayed by the corner furthest away from his bed, and every time someone wanted coffee or food or anything, he'd be the one to leave the room and get it for them. Also, to recompose. Because he'd stopped feeling anywhere near composed, since he started thinking of Stiles, and decomposing, and.
It took him another day to wake up. Derek wasn't in the room at all; was on the phone with Cora, who wasn't even calling him, was calling Isaac's phone, to ask about that place he'd visited once with his mum, the only good memory he had of his family. She'd heard it in his voice, then, she heard it in Derek's, and he'd been trying to reassure her ever since, that it wasn't as bad as it sounded in his voice. That he was okay, wasn't spiraling, or unhinged, in any way. It wasn't like he was walking around all wrong, like one side was heavier than the other, like he couldn't remain upright, could always feel the hinges of his being wheezing with the weight of him, coming apart, painfully slowly. It wasn't like every time someone touched him, it made him think of the door to Stiles' jeep, that would never be put back together, would never fall around its hinges the way it was supposed to. It wasn't like it always felt like he was this close to falling apart.
Then, there were people running into Stiles' room and others running out, and he didn't know which crowd to chase after, so he pushed through, tripped into the room, and Stiles had his eyes opened, barely, but he was trying to pull the tube down his throat out, and Derek wished he could throw that up for him. The doctors asked a few basic questions, to make sure his memory and responsiveness were still intact. They were. Derek bit down on his lips to keep from crying out. But then, there was hugging and laughter and stories of the past few days and Derek's sadness was morphing into something more like rage, and he had to visibly stop himself from shifting, or going feral and just biting through Stiles, the way the dead weight of his body had bitten into him, taking away a good chunk of him. Derek was certain, these marks wouldn't fade away, would stay with him, even if Stiles didn't want to.
" Derek? What's up, dude? You've kind of been growling at us for a while now." Scott spoke, light and joyful, despite the slight hesitance there. Everyone in the room laughed, except for Stiles, maybe. Derek was trying not to listen too closely to anything coming out of him.
" Who's at Eichen House now?"
" Uh, no one? We're all here. And Theo hasn't made an appearance since the night of the accident," That groan was loud enough for even the humans in the room to flinch, cower away, even if they knew Derek would never truly harm them.
" Maybe we should go get some coffee."
" But I thought you said you're cutting us off the caffeine for at least two days."
" Fine, some juice then."
" The vending machine is broke, mum."
" Scott, get your sorry ass out of here, come on, go, do I need to spell everything out for you? All of you, lets move. You too, John." Everyone was scurrying away in the least graceful way possible. The sheriff looked between his son, and Derek, giving out a silent prayer that he wouldn't need to pay for any more damages after it was all said and done. He was the last to leave, closing the door behind him, before they all leaned against its surface, along with the nearby walls, eavesdropping. When the sheriff went to object, he found Melissa there too, with a hushing finger against her lips, so he rolled his eyes, and stood between Liam and Malia, and pretended he was doing it for them, not for him at all.
" Fucking chimeras, huh?" Stiles breathed out, trying to sit up a little, give himself a more in control stance, but his upper half was literally in pieces, and most of his bottom half too, so he huffed, and fell back how he was. Derek remained stoic, clinging to his anger like a lifeline, wearing it across his chest, to keep other things from spilling.
" I'm going to need more than intense eyebrow tricks this time, kind of still out of it here."
" You're lucky Cora had my car that night. You're lucky I was there." There were so many things layered there carefully, hiding beneath the nonchalance, the cockiness.
" Uh, yeah, sure. I know that." Stiles nodded, groaning when things went hazy again.
" You almost got us both killed."
" Now, this could go either way, like, did I almost get us killed, or did I save our lives so that they wouldn't be the ones killing us, even if we ended up killing our own selves in the crash? Depends on how you see it, really, but,"
" Don’t get smart with me, okay? Not yet. Not now." Derek seethed, his eyes flashing blue, before he willed them away from Stiles, breathed, until the holes his claws had dug through his palms, had healed.
" They are the ones who threw us off the road, Derek, now, I,"
" And you're the one who decided to crash your side into the tree!"
" I couldn't have fought them all off by myself, I had to make sure you could get out and keep them away!" They were both yelling now, furious and irritated and desperate for the other to understand. But Derek. Derek was something else, something a lot worse, because he was hurting and he would be damned if he didn't hurt them all along with him.
" Stop fucking lying to me. This wasn't about me, saving you. No, no, this was too irrational, even with your standards. You were dead, Stiles. Not hurt, not dying, you took it all the way and actually fucking died. Do you- fuck, what were you thinking? Why didn't you tell me when you noticed you were stuck?" The walls were cracking, and so was Derek. But Stiles would take his rage, over whatever that was about to pour through those holes. He could handle his anger, no matter how blind or misguided, but his hurt? Or worse, his utter shut down? That, he couldn't quite handle.
" Why do you think I stayed in the car when you told me to? What, you thought I actually listened for once? Thought I'd do as told and let you go out there and fight, alone?"
" I can heal, you fucking,"
" There was wolfsbane!"
" I don't care!" There it was; the first break, the roar dying on his tongue, losing all that gave it power, gave it strength. Derek was almost completely wolfed out, his chest heaving, cracking so wide open, he wondered if he was bleeding across the floor. " I don't care what they have, I don't. I don't care. You were supposed to tell me, because then, I- I would have fought harder, would have avoided Tracy all together, and just- I wouldn't have ended up paralyzed on the ground, with you, dying a few meters away from me. How- how do you not get that? Your heart stopped, Stiles. It stopped. I could smell the anxiety on you, the fear, and your body was too drained to even react to it at all. Do you- do you have any idea what that felt like? Still, feels like? Fuck, Stiles, you were dead. You were.. dead."
The air ceased in Derek's throat, building and bubbling and when the fingers choking life right out of him, gave, all the air fell into a single sob. Then another. And all the strings of Derek snapped, as he collapsed into the chair, a pile of pieces and remains and things that nobody would want, no one could understand, or make sense of.
" Derek," The name sounded like a prayer, so whispered, cracked and raw and thick with all the air Stiles' lungs didn't take for so, so long. And Derek cried harder, throwing himself away from the chair. Stiles saw the twitch in his arms, and braced himself for the punch he could see coming, but instead, he found himself completely surrounded, enveloped and contained and, he moved his arms around Derek, left them where he knew he'd feel them. The rest of the pack started moving away from the door, from the hallway all together, knowing that they'd heard things that weren't for them.
They moved around each other, never away, until Derek was sitting by Stiles' one good leg, touching where he'd last seen blood, a hand constantly wiping beneath his eyes, every time he felt the flood coming, felt like he was going under a little. Stiles' eyes were filled with kindness and understanding and so much sorrow, as he took in the miserable hunch to Derek's figure, and thought wow, maybe it was more than just care, maybe he didn't just associate himself with me, maybe there was more to it, more to him, more to us.
" It reminded me too much of the nogitsune. Of, of all that."
" What do you mean?" God, Derek's voice was wrecked. He didn't try to clear the ruins in his throat, though. He just left it all in there, in him.
" Remember how I couldn't get warm, after, you know, I wasn't possessed anymore?" Stiles didn't wait for a response. Didn't even know why he was saying any of it. He just needed to fill the silence, before it got too overwhelming for Derek, before it started sounding how it had, in that Jeep.
" It was so cold, I was freezing my ass off. And I didn't like how, how it'd felt like that time. And then, the hypothermia kicked in, and the bleeding, and, I was losing control over my own body. I could hear you, I think I could even see you at one point, after, like, when I came back. But I couldn't react to you. My body wouldn't listen, and things weren't working, and. It terrified me. I hated it. Hated every last second of it. It's also why I fought that damn tube down my throat. Why I probably swerved the car, so that I'd have something to do. I'd have a call in the way we crashed, in, in this shit happening to us at the first place."
" That's.. so fucked up, Stiles." Stiles' eyes widened, but then Derek's lips started curving around something kind of exquisite.
" Was that.. a joke? On my account? You make jokes now, Derek?" Derek shrugged, though the motion was a bit prolonged, with his stifled laughter. Stiles snorted, shook his head, because, what was even his life at this point?
" I can't believe this. You're making jokes about me, in my deathbed, have you no-" Derek groaned, and Stiles immediately backtracked, putting his hands in the air in clear surrender.
" Okay, okay, okay. Too soon. Got it. No more death jokes." Derek huffed, and it was the most childish thing across his serious features and Stiles had to keep from laughing again, in fear of offending him back into the shell that he made out of himself.
" And for the record, I, I get it. I don't like it. But I get it." Stiles could tell, it was all he was going to get. But he didn't need Derek to speak of traumas from his past, didn't need to listen to the details of how he was used and disregarded, how he'd lost control and it'd cost him everything. He didn't need to hear it in his voice to know, that of course, of-fucking-course, Derek would get the utter dissociation with one's self. If anyone did, it had to be him.
" I get it too. What you said earlier, about death, and, hearts, and. Yeah. I get it. And I'm sorry I put you through that. I'll be more careful, next time."
" Next time?" Derek all but roared, sending Stiles into an unjustified fit of laughter. Derek couldn't bring himself to mind, all that much.
" No, but. Seriously, Stiles, you've got to stop killing yourself to save other people. You can't keep coming this close to- to going away. I don't care what the situation is, or how it was the only way out, because, one of those times, we're not going to get there on time. I. I'm going to be too late, and, I can't. Okay? I can't put another hole in the ground, can't throw any more bodies away, especially- God. Especially if it's yours. Do you get that? I mean it. Please, I don't know how many more times I can be here." All the spaces around his burned down house were filled with bodies. There was no way he could fit Stiles in there too. There was no way he could ever dig that hole and not jump in there himself, not kind of die too.
" I promise." Derek believed him, because, of course he would. He was feeling all wet and shaky again, as he ran his hands across his face, and hoped for it to look aggravated and not plain desperate.
" Also," Derek was so prepared to roll his eyes, to think of something smart and funny to say, but then Stiles spoke, and he didn't know things could fall so quickly, so easily, " Thank you. For saving my ass. For staying. Just. For all of it." Derek nodded, tried to smile, and the anything for you went unsaid.
They didn't speak of crashes or deaths or punishments, because Derek figured, there had been enough of that. They'd been punished enough. So, Stiles talked about things that happened before that night, until he fell asleep, and Derek followed his breathing, tried to memorize the rhythm of his heartbeat now that it was working again. The sheriff came in, told him about how irreparable the Jeep now was, and Derek thought that at least it wasn't just the unhinged door that would no longer work. At least it wouldn't be the one thing that fit all wrong. At least that punishment, brushed against them all, and didn't just weigh on his own heart.
The Jeep was gone, but at least Stiles wasn't. And Maybe Derek would hinge himself on that, on Stiles, and hope that it'd stick this time.