The guy sitting across from Stiles right now was an ugly little fucker. The red, swollen cyst on the side of the asshole's nose looked infected; it wasn't helping Stiles' stomach, which churned wildly.
Cyst-face had claimed to be a farmer from the village about fifty miles west of Stiles' derelict little bar, but he had pulled out enough rupee from his threadbare satchel that Stiles figured he was anything but a farmer. He was probably the thug who had been seen on the trails between the villages, slitting the throats of travelers for the contents of their pockets.
Stiles hated him on sight, and when he was stupid enough to bet money against Stiles' skinny frame, there was no way Stiles was going to turn away the dumb fuck's easy money.
Blinking slowly, Stiles swallowed past his raw throat to try to settle his stomach. He reached through the line of empty bottles on the table already and found one with enough whiskey left inside to fill two more shot glasses. As he poured, the alcohol splashed as much on the table as in the glasses. Luckily, this was about last man standing, not a contest of coordination.
His eyes heavy and glazed, he picked up the shot, tipped it with practiced ease against his lip and opened to let it flow straight back. The less this cheap shit ate at his taste buds the better.
Closing his eyes against the swaying of the room, Stiles fought the call to press his cheek against the table. He had a shipment coming in a week and there was a lot of money changing hands in the crowd that had gathered around their table. Stiles got a cut from every bet made when someone challenged him, and he hadn't lost in years.
He opened his eyes and the room exploded with shouts. Behind him, more rupee changed hands. Cyst-face scowled, his face a little redder in his anger. Well, fuck him for underestimating Stiles' ability to float in whiskey. He brushed his teeth with this shit when the well froze up.
Stiles nodded towards the full shot waiting on the table.
Smiling to show off his four remaining teeth, Cyst-face picked it up. The shot disappeared in a blink and he laughed. And he kept laughing, and laughing, leaning to the side until he tipped right over.
"Thank fuck," Stiles muttered.
The saloon was in chaos for a few minutes, rupee tossed back and forth as everyone settled up.
Stiles clutched his winnings in his fist and shouted, "Everyone out! Out!" He knocked Cyst-face's unconscious body with the tip of his boot. "And take this piece of shit with you."
It didn't take long for the rabble to clear out with Mahdlo herding the last of them out by the point of an axe. Stiles was left with an empty place, a crackling fire, and a couple hours’ worth of clean up.
He started on the far tables, stacking the glasses as high as he dared with how unsteady he was on his feet.
A cold Nepalese wind cut through the room; Stiles looked up to see a shadow. Expecting Mahdlo, Stiles needed a moment to take in the silhouette of the fedora, the broad shoulders before recognizing who had just entered his bar.
If there had been any doubt in his mind, the familiar voice chased it away. He took a single deep breath that did nothing to sober him; he probably needed to be drunk for this anyway.
He spun around. "Derek Hale."
Derek was older, enough change to say he would continue to improve with age. Stiles clenched his fists to stop his shaking. Derek stepped forward, his boots heavy on the gritty floor of Stiles' bar. Not dwelling on that stubbled face for more than a second, Stiles picked up a few dirty shot glasses, wiped a table as if his life hadn't just been turned upside down yet again.
"I knew you'd be back one day," Stiles said, glancing over to see Derek grin softly at his words.
The sight of it broke through the little control Stiles was holding onto, and he drew closer. He couldn't stop the wide smile on his face as he ran his fingers over the worn leather of Derek's lapels. He got lost for a moment, staring into the pale eyes he'd so often tried to remember the exact color of.
"Derek Hale," he said, fond. And he swung his fist with every ounce of hate he'd felt since he was sixteen. His knuckle landed hard on Derek's jaw, knocking him to the ground. "You left!"
Looking up at Stiles and rubbing his jaw, Derek opened his eyes wide. "If you remember, your father had a gun to my head!"
"He wouldn't have pulled the trigger. Not on you."
"Maybe he should have." Derek stood, dusting off the dirt from the saloon's grimy floor. "You were a child and I shouldn't have--"
"No." Stiles waved his hand to indicate all of this, all of Derek. Derek in his place, looking pathetic. Like Stiles should pity him. "Not this. Anything but fucking this. You and your goddamned guilt complex. Save it."
"What I did--"
"What you did was leave me." Stiles filled a glass from the barrel on the bar just for something to do, but he was too drunk already. He stared at it. The murky color of the raksi lit up, reflecting the various candles throughout the room. This hellhole didn't even have electricity. The only heat came from the massive fireplace that took up half the northern wall. "I was in love, you asshole."
Derek didn't say a word. He just moved closer so he stood to Stiles' left, their shoulders almost brushing. "Stiles, I'm looking for the Sheriff."
"Figures." Stiles let out a bitter laugh. He wasn't sure what he had been thinking. Of course Derek wasn't here for him. He pushed away from the bar, raksi forgotten, and started wiping his rag along the nearest table. "Sorry, Hale. You're about eighteen months too late."
He knew what it sounded like, and the sour churn of this stomach reminded him it might even be true. Regardless, he'd let Derek think the worst for now.
The rough wood of one of his tables snagged a loose thread of the rag, and Stiles was grateful for the excuse not to look up. He didn't think back to that night very often. "We'd come to this hellhole for something to eat before heading further up the mountain. Dad had heard a rumor of a cave with some old shit."
"Old shit," Derek repeated softly, like Stiles' way of talking about his dad's obsession with archaeology brought back pleasant memories instead of painful ones.
Stiles glared. Derek had been as bad as his dad, if not worse. "A few Germans walked in just as we were finishing up. Said they had a few questions for the 'infamous Sheriff'. Dad took one look at that them and then at me." Stiles gripped the table hard in the pretense of leaning over it to wipe at a stubborn stain. "The fucker just walked out the door with them."
"And nothing. I haven't seen him since. Maybe he got sick of Nepal. Maybe he found a nice little apartment in Berlin, flying a spider flag. I wouldn't know, would I?" he said, as if he didn't care -- as if he hadn't been asking every outside traveler for word from that day since. "I was left in this frozen hell. No money, no passport." He batted his eyelashes and pretended his cheeks weren't wet. "Just my pretty face."
"That was eighteen months ago? How have you been--"
"I had to work here to pay off the dinner that night, and with rough Nepalese beg for a place to bunk." He lifted his chin to the spot by the fire he'd been allowed to curl up that night after washing every glass in the place. "Three months of working my fingers raw for a plate of cheese and a dirty corner to sleep in, the owner got an ice axe to the chest because he fucked around with one of the local's horses."
Derek snorted, rubbing his forehead like Stiles was giving him a headache. Good. "I never know whether to believe anything out of your mouth."
Stiles stared him dead in the eye. "Same."
They shared a grin, both bitter and sweet, and loaded with memories. He hated that it made his insides flip more than the shots had. Hands full of dirty glasses, he made his way behind the bar. He debated leaving the clean up until morning, but keeping his hands busy always helped.
Stiles rushed through the rest of the story, not even sure why he was sharing it. "I just grabbed the keys off the owner's dead body and started serving drinks. No one batted an eye. They still all needed a place to get pissed; it didn't really matter who poured. So that's how I got here, Doctor Hale. You come here to rescue me?"
He knew the answer to that. The pained face Derek gave him was worth the hot poker in the chest Stiles felt when he got no reply. Misery did love company.
"I'll tell you something, Hale. I learned to hate you in the last ten years. But I always knew that someday you'd walk back into my life. Something made it inevitable." Stiles hated the wistful tone his speech had suddenly taken. He tipped back the raksi he'd poured himself earlier. It was worse than the whiskey. "Why are you really here?"
He could see the warring behind Derek's eyes. There was caution there, a maturity that hadn't been there when Derek was just fresh from the halls of university. Stiles was curious what this was all about, and how important it could be to bring Derek to this hellhole.
"I needed a piece your father had in his collection," Derek said at last, and it was as good as a slap across the face.
"Oh, fuck you." It always came down to old shit. Stiles had managed to love only two people his entire life, and both of them loved archaeology more than him. It was one of the biggest fuckovers the universe had ever accomplished.
"Look, I did what I did." Derek couldn't even meet his eye as Stiles glared at him. "I don't expect you to forgive me. But maybe we can do each other some good."
"Why start now?"
"Shut up and listen for a second. I really need this piece."
Stiles childishly slammed a few things around behind the counter. "Everything that was worth anything was in the bag on my dad's back as he walked out the door. Go talk to some Germans."
"They don't have this." Derek shook his head, looking deadly serious. "If they had this… We'd all be fucked."
"Can't help you, Hale. And you can't help me." He was being pointlessly stubborn. He knew that. He was too drunk to care how important this thing had to be to drag Derek's ass all the way to Nepal. "The French call this an impasse."
"I've got money."
"Enough to get you back to the States."
Stiles looked up then, trying to hide his desperation and probably failing. "I might… I could maybe look around. There was a second bag we had. Might be in there. I don't know. It'll cost you."
Derek smirked because, deep in his soul, he was an asshole. It was strangely comforting that they still shared that. "It's a bronze piece, about this size." He lifted his hands and made a circle with his fingers. "Round. Probably broken off at the bottom. Has a little hole in it, off-center. Sound familiar?"
"It might," Stiles said, giving away nothing.
"I can give you three thousand. American."
"I'll have to think about it." Stiles clenched his jaw not to react. "It must be pretty important."
"It is." He looked around the saloon and Stiles could feel his pity. "I might be able to get you more when you get back to the States."
Stiles clenched his fist, wanting more than anything to feel the sting in his knuckles again as he smashed Derek Hale's jaw. Once wasn't enough, but Stiles had always been a survivor; he hadn't endured the last two years just to blow his one ticket out of here because he didn't want to be pitied.
He shook off his anger the best he could, and pasted on a false grin. "Come back tomorrow."
Derek blinked, taken aback. "Why?"
"Because I said so, that's why." The words gave him a thrill of power.
Derek grinned, reading him like a book.
"And leave the three thousand here."
Derek nodded, opening up his wallet. "I trust you," he said, handing over a wad of cash worth more than Stiles' bar, and half the farms around it, all put together.
"The feeling isn't mutual," Stiles lied as he stuffed the cash down his pants. "Now, get out of my place."
"I'll see you in the morning."
"That's what you said the last time I saw you." Stiles raised his eyebrow, daring Derek to deny it.
Derek tipped his dirty, battered fedora as if he were acknowledging that Stiles had won this round. He pulled open the door, let in a new burst of icy wind, and walked out without a backward glance.
Stiles stared after him for longer that he should have.
Tomorrow, he would be out of here, finally free -- finally able to start his search for his father. He'd been in survival mode too long; he hadn't dared to hope that he would be the one rescuing his father and not the other way around. Five thousand would get him to the States and set him up to begin looking.
The slight chance that his father was still alive, that Stiles could help him now, was overwhelming.
He sat down, popping the top buttons of the heavy tunic he always wore. Reaching inside, he lifted the thick chain from around his neck and held the round medallion in his hand.
He'd worn it since the day his father had given it to him.
"In the wrong hands..." his father had said. Then he had paused, a dark look crossing his face that still haunted Stiles. "This one-- It's not just old shit, Stiles. Not this."
At the time, Stiles had rolled his eyes and bitched about how heavy it was, how the chain rubbed his neck raw. Back then the sting of Derek leaving had been still fresh, and being a general pain in the ass filled most of Stiles' days.
That year, Stiles and his father had set up a small camp in the mosquito-infested depths of the Amazon.
They would often have his father's counterparts spend a day or two with them to catch up on one thing or another. Stiles never gave them more than a momentary glare -- usually for indulging in Stiles' share of the rations. At sixteen, Stiles was restless with this life: the constant travel, the hunger and the lack of warm bed.
More men sharing in his father's passion just fueled his teenage rebellion.
He'd just gotten back from a dip in a nearby pond -- one his father had made him promise to avoid, and it hadn't taken long to figure out why he'd been warned. He stuck his chin out and defiantly walked through the camp buck-naked and covered in leeches.
Without more than a passing glance at the stubbled stranger sitting by the campfire beside his father, Stiles grabbed the stick they had been using as a poker and stuck it into the fire. It felt like an eternity as he counted to thirty in his head. The conversation behind him fell silent and despite his hot cheeks, Stiles turned to send a cocky smirk to his dad.
Rubbing his forehead, his father grumbled his usual accusation that Stiles was the result of a cursed piece of aztec gold he'd touched years ago.
Once the poker was red-hot at the tip, Stiles began to tap each leech in turn, watching them shrivel with the heat and release their hold. The bastards wouldn't even leave a scar, he thought proudly.
"Dr. Hale," his father said like he regretted every word, "meet my idiot son, Stiles."
Stiles grinned at his dad, saying, "You love me," still not giving the stranger a look.
His father stood, having obviously reached his limits of Stiles' antics. "Good luck getting the ones off your backside, son. I'm not helping you with that."
Dr. Hale looked between them, slack-jawed and uncomfortable, clearly unsure what to do. Stiles laughed as he watched Hale finally jog after his father.
Hale stayed on with them after that, which was something that had never happened before. Stiles' dad and mom had traveled together for years, then it was just Stiles and his dad after she'd passed, but no one outside of family ever stayed with them more than a day or two.
Hale was young, just off getting his doctorate, and Stiles' dad offered to become a mentor to him. Maybe his father had been lonely? Maybe he wanted to pass on knowledge to a young person and knew Stiles would never sit still for long enough.
The reason Hale agreed was obvious: when one of the world's most notable experts offered to take you under their wing, you don't turn him down. Anyone would be a fool to think twice at the opportunity to work with 'Sheriff' Stilinski.
For Stiles, it was a cruel twist of fate; now not only was there almost no chance of convincing his father to grab an offer at a university and leave field work, but worse was that his father's attention, which had always been split between archeology and himself, was now severed into three, with the lion's share going to the only person around who actually shared his father's interests.
They were in Belize when Stiles noticed Dr. Hale's eyes linger for the first time. It was nothing like the creepy leer Dr. Canavar used to shoot him when Stiles was little -- that lech was the reason Stiles started sleeping with a knife under his pillow at age ten.
Derek Hale had an innocent air of curiosity to him back then. A love of life, a love of learning, and a passion for anything he did not yet understand.
Stiles, as he'd been told many times, was simply baffling. Hale, on the other hand, was gorgeous and brilliant, willing to talk to Stiles, who was starved for attention, about the world outside of digs and ruins.
Looking back, it was an inevitable disaster.
One morning, he'd woken earlier than usual. Or perhaps Hale had slept in. Regardless of the reason, they'd woken at the same time and headed over to wash in the nearby stream side by side.
When they'd stripped off their shirts, Stiles recognized how deeply in trouble he was. He frantically tried to keep his eyes to himself because if young Dr. Hale was attractive fully clothed, he was a work of art stripped down. Stiles immediately headed down stream to keep some distance between them.
But Hale called out, "Stay close."
"I've been bathing in these waters since I could crawl, Doctor," Stiles said. His eyes traitorously wandered, appreciating the early sunlight glinting off Hale's perfect wet chest. "I don't need you to protect me."
"Well," Derek said, closing the distance Stiles had put between them, "I haven't. So stay close." The tiny smirk he gave when Stiles complied sent heat rushing to Stiles' face.
Stiles cupped water in his hands and splashed it against his hot cheeks, wondering if he too had run his fingers along some cursed aztec gold.
It might have gone on in a frustrating stalemate: shamelessly roaming eyes, quiet conversations long after Stiles' father had bid them a good night, nothing but the most chase brush of fingers as they shared a cigarette. Maybe after a year or two, it might have progressed slowly into more. But the Mayans were clever bastards.
They'd been climbing steadily up the mountain side, making their way through a labyrinth of Mayan ruins, when it happened. His father had only been a step ahead, and Stiles still wondered if it was his dad who'd tripped the vine that started the rockslide. Stiles never asked.
All Stiles heard was a sudden noise like a roar, then the ground trembled beneath his feet and the ruin they'd been exploring began to cave in around them. The last thing he saw was his father just outside the cave, his panicked face, and his hand outstretched, reaching for him.
Dust and rock filled the air. Strong arms wrapped around him, pulling him back.
The air was thick, making it impossible to breathe. When he tried to open his eyes, the dust made them sting and water. It was too dark anyway; there was nothing to see.
He was trembling, heart racing as the cave closed in on him until there was nothing left of it.
It would be his tomb; he'd be just another excavation for his father to uncover, more bones to clinically analyze.
"Stiles!" Hands gripped him, shaking him. "Stiles."
He was pressed against a hard body. Someone was stroking his arms.
"Please, Stiles." The shaking voice broke through Stiles' panic, as Derek begged, "Stay with me."
"Are we dead?"
Derek laughed, squeezing his shoulder. "You were having a panic attack."
"Yeah. I -- I get those," Stiles said like it was the sort of confession that hardly mattered. He blinked to try to see. It was less dusty, still dark.
"Glad you're back." Derek was still touching him, his large hands running up and down Stiles' arms like Derek thought the rocks might swallow him up if he let go. "Don't do that again."
Adrenaline had Stiles laughing at that, and the desperation in Derek's voice had him reaching forward, feeling his way to Derek's cheeks until he was kissing him.
As first kisses went, it was dustier and more frenzied than most, Stiles figured.
Derek didn't push him away or tell him he'd misunderstood. Instead, he cradled Stiles' head and his tongue licked at Stiles' bottom lip.
Stiles wondered hysterically if he tasted like the powdered remains of ancient Mayans. His helpless chuckle broke the kiss.
"You make me insane." Derek's breath ghosted against his cheek as he spoke, their foreheads pressed together. "I've never met anyone like you."
Stiles nosed along Derek's stubbled jaw. The sting of the coarse hair against his cheek made him feel alive. "We're going to die in here."
"No, we're not," Derek said. Twisting around to where Stiles guessed the entrance once was, Derek started to knock at the wall of stones with the butt of his whip.
"Stop!" Stiles screamed, tugged at Derek's arm as a cascade of rocks began to fill in the little space they had. "Fuck, stop!"
"I know what I'm doing!" Derek's voice cracked. From the little Stiles could see in the darkness, his eyes were wild and panicked.
"Hey." Stiles cupped Derek's cheeks, forcing him to turn away from the rubble. "Hey. It's okay." Growing up as Stiles did, he knew there really were worse ways to die. Falling asleep from lack of oxygen topped his list of most hoped for.
Derek inhaled slowly and nodded like he understood. But then with a grin, he pecked Stiles' lips with a quick kiss.
"We aren't going to die in here, Stiles," Derek said, with a sudden air of confidence. He turned back to work at the rocks -- less frantic now, but just as determined. "Your father would kill me for that."
Rocks and dust were everywhere as Derek attacked the wall. "Fuck it," Stiles muttered as he shifted forward to help. Dying while frantically trying to save his own life was also on his list of favorites.
"It's going to cave in," Stiles said, though he didn't stop digging his fingers into the rocks and trying to push them out of the way.
"Shh." Derek stopped for a moment, resting his hand on Stiles'.
Stiles hissed, the burn of the scrapes along his knuckles and cracked fingernails so much worse once he had no distraction. "What do you hear?"
In answer, Derek grinned and started hammering the butt of his whip against the rocks again. Stiles wondered if he was delirious from rarified air. Derek grunted and gave one final two-handed shove and the rubble fell outward.
"Oh my God!" Stiles scrambled to lend a hand, laughing loudly at the stream of light poking through the growing hole.
A muffled "Stiles!" filtered through.
"Oh my God, Dad!" Stiles laughed again, not even embarrassed at how shaky his voice came out. "Dad! We're here." It was only when hope started flooding back to him that he'd realized he'd given up, that he'd honestly thought he'd never see his father again, and he had to stop digging to wipe at his cheeks.
It took another hour to get them out, but the hug his father gave him as he stumbled through the debris made him forget the scraped knuckles and bruised fingers.
His dad held him for a long time, too grateful that his son was alive to notice the stubble burn under the layer of dirt on Stiles' cheeks.
They managed to hide what had happened between them for a few months. The rockslide unveiled a possible new Mayan site to be excavated and his father was consumed with documenting every aspect before the hordes of archeologists descended.
It left plenty of time for Derek and Stiles to steal private moments without being noticed.
As it often went, the easier it got, the less careful they became.
One night after his dad bid them both goodnight and retired into his tent, Stiles and Derek were left alone under the stars. The flicker of the campfire and the music of the crickets made it all too easy to forget what they were risking.
The moment he heard the first snore, Stiles whispered, "Finally," and he peeled off his shirt.
"Stiles," Derek said, eyes darting to his father's tent. "The Sheriff--"
"The 'Sheriff' had too much wine tonight. He's out until morning. He always is once he starts snoring." Stiles climbed into Derek's lap, kissing away his complaints.
"You're going to get me killed one day."
"Not today." He wriggled, feeling Derek's interest pressed against his ass. Maybe tonight they could finally fuck. There had been too many rushed handjobs lately, never the opportunity to take their time.
Stiles pulled off Derek's fedora and placed it on his own head. Tilting it to the left ear and running his fingers along the brim like Derek did when he was lost in thought, he gave Derek a sassy wink.
Derek shook his head with one-sided smirk. "Suits you," he said, but he took it off anyway and tossed it by his satchel.
"Some day I'll walk around camp wearing nothing but your damn hat."
"Not going to happen." Derek kissed his shoulder, sucking for a moment, but careful not to mark. "God, Stiles. You're so…"
"Ridiculous," Derek decided, nipping Stiles just below the ear. Derek's hands slipped beneath his waistband and into the back of his jeans, squeezing his ass.
Stiles' hips jerked forward, grinding until he found the friction enough to send sparks through him. With a low moan, Derek pulled him closer.
"You're the best thing to ever happen to me," Stiles whispered into the crook of Derek's neck. He cringed at his honesty, but wasn't about to take it back. If Derek didn't realize how Stiles felt about him by now, he was an idiot.
They clung to each other under the stars, breathing each other's air between kisses. They were still mostly clothed, unwilling to break apart long enough to strip.
"You're the worst that's happened to me," Derek said, rocking up to grind against Stiles' ass. He bit hard on Stiles' neck, then kissed away the sting of the bite, the words.
Stiles laughed, not caring how his voice might travel in the night air. "Is that your way of saying you love me, too?"
Derek's eyes flittered over his face, open and sincere. Vulnerable. It was answer enough.
Chest aching with a rush of emotion, Stiles captured Derek's mouth again. They tumbled to the grass by the fire, rolling their hips in slow, patient thrusts like they had all the time in the world.
Lost in sensation, they never heard his father leave his tent, but the click of a safety being released rang loud and clear in the night.
They froze and Stiles' eyes flew open to see a gun pressed to Derek's temple.
"I'd like a moment alone with Dr. Hale, son," his father said, voice eerily calm. "If you could try to untangle yourself from him."
"Stiles!" his father shouted, the kind of booming voice, hard and cold, that he'd never heard from him before.
"It's okay." Derek moved off slowly, sitting back on his knees, hands up in the air.
Stiles stood, boner deflated and sweat cool enough to make him shiver even though he was standing by the fire. He wanted to stay to explain his side of the story.
"This gun is going to keep pointing at his head until you are in your tent, son," his father said, never taking his eyes off Derek. "And my finger's getting twitchy."
"It's okay," Derek said, giving him the fakest smile Stiles had ever seen. "I'll see you in the morning."
Stiles studied the medallion in his hands, tilting it towards the fire. The light caught each symbol; he'd long since memorized every line. It was all he had left of his father now. The ache he'd been burying, the guilt of so many years making his father's life miserable was bubbling to the surface. From the moment Stiles woke to find Derek's tent packed up and Derek already long gone, he'd been bitter and selfish.
He was sure his father assumed Stiles would understand in time, a little distance and maturity would be enough to let him reflect back and believe his father had made the right decision.
Except Stiles was as stubborn as they come, and Derek had taken more than Stiles' innocence -- his departure had stolen away any interest at all Stiles felt for his father's work. The turbulent years that followed wore on both of them, until they barely spoke.
He couldn't leave. Stiles loved his father too dearly for that. His line of work was dangerous, deadly, and without Stiles there to swipe a tarantula creeping along his collar… Well, Stiles wasn't about to find out how long his dad could survive. He wasn't happy -- he'd given up on that pipe-dream the day he'd given up ever seeing that damn fedora again -- but he was devoted to keeping his father alive.
He sighed, his hand closing tightly on the medallion until the edge bit into his fingers. "I'll find you, Dad," he whispered.
Standing, he draped the chain over a gnarled candle holder on the center of the table. Tomorrow, he thought, with a flicker of hope for the first time in years. He wondered if Derek understood just how much Stiles was giving up with this bit of metal, or how much he was gaining. He thought about Derek lying in bed in the only house in the village that took in strangers, and wondered if he had any clue at all what he was asking or what he was offering.
Or was Stiles just a kid he'd once known, who now had something Derek wanted.
Stiles shook off the direction his thoughts were taking; he'd drank too much tonight and it was making him sentimental. He couldn't afford that. Tomorrow, he'd be on a plane with Derek Hale back to America with pockets full enough to make his promise come true. It would be worth losing the medallion.
He pulled out the cashbox behind the counter, looking at the pathetic tally of rupee he had left in there. He added to it the crumpled pile of his winnings from Cyst-face and then the money-clipped three thousand from Derek.
He was clearing another table filled with glasses when the door to his bar banged opened again. Not looking up from wiping down the table, Stiles called out, "Go home, Mahdlo. I'll clean up myself tonight."
"Guten Abend, Herr Stilinski."
At the sound of crisp German, Stiles whipped around. Three men blocked the doorway, their faces wind-red and their shoulders snow covered.
"The bar's closed," Stiles said, and he reached for another glass.
The shortest of them stepped forward. He had a broad, ugly smile beneath his thick glasses. "We are not thirsty," he said in thickly accented English.
Stiles set down the glasses he'd gathered and turned to face his guests. "Well, what do you want?"
"The same thing your friend Dr. Hale wanted. Surely he told you there would be other interested parties."
The accent sent a chill down Stiles' spine. It was all too similar to the one that had once claimed to have 'a few questions' for his father. Stiles popped a cigarette between his lips and was glad for the liquid courage still coursing through his veins.
"Must have slipped his mind," Stiles said, talking around the unlit cigarette.
The two henchmen -- local muscle for hire, most likely -- started making their way around the bar, checking that it was empty. One walked right past the table by the fire where Stiles had left the medallion.
Stiles struggled not to check on it. It was too far to grab without being noticed. He opted to move to the other end of the bar, hoping to draw attention away from it.
The German stepped closer to Stiles, and his eyes, magnified over-large behind his glasses, were more cruel than comical. Stiles would bet money ol' Bug-eye was a Nazi-sympathizer, maybe even one of the ones who had taken his father.
"I hope for your sake he has not yet acquired it."
Instead of responding immediately, Stiles took his time lighting his cigarette. He inhaled deeply and held it, enjoying the momentary control he had over the room. Just maybe he could talk his way out of this, maybe even get some information on his dad while he was at it. He exhaled directly in Bug-eye's face.
Stiles shrugged, coy. "Why, are you willing to offer more?"
Bug-eye coughed and blinked against the smoke. "Almost certainly. Do you still have it?"
Smirking, Stiles pressed his lips down on the filter of the cigarette, inhaling deeply, but the German moved away before he could exhale in his face again. "No. But I know where it is."
The mood in the bar shifted immediately. Stiles had years of experience of pissing people off until they lashed out, and he knew he'd gone too far. Bug-eye headed across the room towards the fire, closer to where the medallion still sat on the table out in the open.
"How about a drink?" Stiles flailed a little, trying to get behind the bar and divert attention back to himself. "The raksi is nasty but I have some --"
"Your fire is dying here," Bug-eye said, carefully removing his gloves and jabbing the poker into the embers. "Why don't you tell us where the piece is right now?"
One henchmen stood about a foot from Stiles behind the bar. The other was just to his left, a machine gun clearly visible beneath his coat. "Look," Stiles shouted out, voice cracking, "I don't know who you're used to dealing with--"
With a grin more vile than Cyst-face's, the German turned back to him. "I'll be happy to show you what I'm used to," he said, raising the red-hot poker he'd pulled from the fire.
Stiles backed up on instinct, only to knock into the henchmen behind him. Before he could raise a hand, both arms were pinned down by the asshole, who had the size and smell of a yeti.
"Wait!" Stiles squirmed, desperate now as he was dragged from behind the bar. "I can be reasonable --"
"That time is passed," Bug-eye said. As he approached, the glow of the poker lit his face a bright, sallow orange until he barely looked human. His eyes were dead, cold.
Stiles wondered if this was how his father died -- tortured for the location of the medallion. Had he spent days, months, in pain, refusing to direct them towards his son? Stiles hoped he would be as strong. In the end it probably wouldn't matter. The medallion was just a few feet from them; all they had to do was turn around.
"Now, you will tell us where the medallion is." He raised the poker, directing it slowly towards Stiles.
Stiles squirmed. The grip on his arms tightened. It was impossible to sink any further away. The poker inched closer.
"You don't need that." Stiles turned his cheek away from the heat, eyes springing with tears. "Wait."
"Tell me, then," the Nazi said. "Where is it? Your father's life may depend on your honesty."
The tip of the poker was so close to Stiles' eye it burned his retinae just to look at it, but it hardly mattered. His father was alive. He whimpered, hoping his will would hold out, that he'd die not having failed his father in the end. He squeezed his eyes shut, knowing he was seconds from being blinded.
Stiles' eyes snapped open just in time to catch the end of a whip curl around the poker. The next second the poker flew through the air and clanked to the floor on the other side of the room.
All eyes turned to the open door. There stood Derek Hale, hat tipped and smirk on his face.
Stiles didn't hesitate before taking advantage. He collapsed, making himself dead weight in the henchmen's arms. The second his captor bent forward to force Stiles standing again, Stiles kicked up off the floor, smacking his head into the idiot's nose.
It was just enough. The grip lessened. He dropped to the floor and crawled behind the bar.
Gunshots rang out. The room was in chaos; Stiles kept low while he tried to figure out how to get across the room to the medallion without anyone seeing him.
A flicker of light behind him caught his eye. "Goddamn it, Hale," he muttered as he stared at where the poker had fallen. The tip rested just on the edge of a long, threadbare curtain, and Stiles could see the material begin to catch.
He'd always said there was enough alcohol spilt in this place that every fiber of the building was soaked with it. The flames engulfed the threads in a matter of seconds; it would seem he was right. The fire spread quickly, helped along by a couple barrels spilling their content through their brand new bullet holes.
Derek wasn't faring so well. One of the henchmen -- the one slightly less yeti-like -- had him pinned to the bar. Broken glass shredded his leather jacket as he was held down. He caught Stiles' eye and, with an exaggerated eyebrow movement, he said, "Whiskey?"
Stiles shot a longing look at the medallion, and cursed not being able to take advantage of the perfect distraction Derek had set up. He wrapped his fingers around the heaviest bottle he could find and brought it crashing down on the henchman's skull.
A few more men stormed into the place.
The bar was an inferno. Flames and alcohol and broken glass were all Stiles could make out. From the corner of his eye he spotted the ashes his cashbox had become and cursed these fuckers all the more.
Derek took out a second henchman a moment later. The fur around the hired-gun's shoulders was already aflame as he headed right for Stiles. The next second, blood spurted out of his mouth as he tumbled to the floor at Stiles' feet. Derek stood over the body, gun still raised. He gave Stiles a nod before diving back into the fray.
Inevitably, the medallion was spotted. The bug-eyed German had taken refuge behind a table by the fireplace. The gnarled candle holder was at his feet, the chain and medallion still tangled in the smoldering wood.
Panicked, Stiles dove for a gun one of the henchmen had dropped, but he was too late.
Bug-eye had already grabbed the medallion. He held it up for a second, gripping it tightly as the hot metal smoked and seared his hand before the pain registered and he screamed. The medallion hit the floor and Bug-eye ran screaming from the bar.
Stiles had never felt so much personal satisfaction at someone else's mutilation before today.
He looked around, gun in hand. There were only three other men still standing now. Derek was in a fistfight with one guy and appeared to be winning. But the last henchmen was standing behind the bar with a gun pointed directly at Derek, ready to take him out the moment the fight ended.
With no time to hesitate, Stiles focused on the training his father had given him: hold the gun properly, release the safety, brace for the kickback, be sure that you are prepared to kill what you are aiming at, and pull the trigger.
The man never even turned around.
Stiles only had a moment to regret that he'd shot a man in the back then the body fell to the floor, and Stiles was greeted with Derek's face as he grinned, shocked and clearly grateful to be alive.
A crash of a supporting beam cut their relief short. The building was collapsing around them.
"My medallion," Stiles shouted, diving toward the place it had dropped.
Derek tried to grab for his arm. "Leave it!"
"Like hell!" Stiles scrambled for the rag he'd been cleaning up with and used it to pick up the smoking medallion from the rubble. A second later, Derek yanked him to standing and dragged him out into the icy snow and wind.
Stiles gasped at the clean air, coughing. "Your three thousand is gone, and you owe me, Derek."
"You owe me!" he screamed against wind and the roar of the fire, the roar of his heart because his life was ruined again. But Stiles was taking control this time. He was sick of being a victim of his own life. His father was alive; he was sure of it now.
Stiles held up the medallion, his last hope, and once again his last possession in this world. "I don't know what you need this for. But if you want your hands on it, you are going to help me find my father."
"Stiles, you don't understand. That medallion--"
"Don't fucking say it's worth more to you than it is to me. You can have it. For free. Just get me my father back."
"The Nazi's have him." Derek's voice was grim, like it was all lost already. "It won't be easy."
"Good thing I've got you then, isn't it?"
Derek laughed and it brightened his face. Made him look years younger. "You're something else, you know that?"
Stiles grinned, shivering in the cold. His jacket, like everything else, was just ashes now. Derek tugged him forward, wrapping him in a quick embrace and an even quicker kiss. It was a hot press to his side, wet and warm against his lips, then gone before Stiles had chance to welcome it or push him off.
"Come on," Derek said, as if he hadn't just done that, and he led Stiles down the street. "Can't let my partner catch pneumonia."
Masao didn't say a word when Derek showed up at the house with Stiles. He just handed them an extra blanket and pillow and added three rupee to the bill. He was probably a little pissed there was nowhere for him to get drunk tomorrow night.
The room Derek had rented was bare, except for a rickety wooden chair, a small bed and a wash basin.
Stiles snorted. "I see you got the newlywed suite. I don't think I can handle the romance."
"Are you ever serious?" Derek tossed his hat on the chair and shook the snow from his coat. "Do you even know what you are getting into? These people will kill you on sight."
Shrugging, Stiles poked at a few things around the room, trying to ignore the fact that he was a mess, that he was here with Derek -- Derek who saved his life tonight. Again. The fact that there was only one bed. And Stiles wasn't about to sit on it in his ash-covered clothes nor was he about to strip.
He opened Derek's luggage and started to rummage through it. It was easier to pretend, to block out the hurt and pain of years alone and the worry and hope about searching for his father. He slipped on the well-worn mask of indifference.
Derek's hand came down to shut the luggage. "Do you mind?"
"It's either this or naked." Stiles leaned into Derek's space, enjoying the frazzled look. "How do you want me, Dr. Hale?"
"You can't--" Derek stepped back, pulled at his hair as he tried to get some distance between them. "You can't say stuff like that."
"Why is that?"
"I'm trying not to kiss you, idiot."
The confession made him grin. "Where was this control ten minutes ago?" Ten years ago.
"Adrenaline," Derek muttered. Reaching past Stiles, he grabbed a long shirt and a pair of boxers. "Here," he said, and darted from the room.
When he returned it was with a steaming kettle, which he poured into the wash basin.
Stiles was already changed and sitting with his back against the headboard and his feet tucked under the covers already getting warm. He refused to step on the cold floor, even to wash the ash from his face.
"Well, Hale," Stiles said, looking out the window. Down the street he could see the still burning roof of his bar. "You sure know how to show a boy a good time."
Water splashed behind him, but he didn't look back. Derek had blood on his hand and face, which he guessed was worse than sleeping in ashes and sweat.
The bed dipped a moment later. "I'm not sleeping on the chair."
"I wouldn't expect you to," Stiles said, still watching the flicker of light from the fire.
"Come here." Derek tugged him down, curling around Stiles' body until his chin rested on Stiles' shoulder. "You're still shivering."
He wasn't, but Stiles let it go. It was the first time he'd felt warm in ages.
He stared out into the dark room for a long time. Sleep felt impossible. Derek's breathing never evened out so at least he wasn't alone. "Think we'll find my dad?"
"Don't-- Just know that we might not," Derek said, like he was responsible for protecting Stiles even from his own hope.
"Gosh, you're a real charmer." Stiles wriggled, suddenly needing a little space between them. Derek held him tight until Stiles elbowed him hard in the gut.
Grunting, Derek released him. Not that there was anywhere to go in the tiny bed. Also it was cold.
"Stiles?" Derek said, once the tension got more than either of them could take. "You know what?"
"It's good to see you again." Stiles could hear the fondness in every word.
Exhaling a quiet laugh, Stiles said, "You too." He'd meant it to be sarcastic, but it came out as anything but. After a moment, he shifted, inching just a little closer -- close enough for Derek to open his arms and pull him in once again.
That night he fell asleep in the comfort of Derek's arms. It shouldn't have felt right, or familiar, or safe; it had no reason to. But reason had always seemed to take a holiday when they were together.