Derek is almost eighteen when he watches yet another person die. Stiles is ten when he becomes a metaphorical shadow.
His car is unlocked when he gets to it. Guess John rubbed off on him a bit when it comes to not locking things that should probably be locked. He’ll kick himself for it later. For now, with his heart slamming against his ribcage, he backs out of the Stilinskis’ driveway. He wishes the radio in his old car worked, maybe then the drive would be less tense. Then again, considering what he’s about to do, maybe not.
He sighs deeply, eyes staring at the road. A few cars pass by him on the other side of the street, but other than that the roads are mostly clear. The night could almost be considered peaceful. Passing under another green light, he turns right, getting more angsty the closer gets to his destination. He flexes his fingers, taking turns tightening and loosening them against the steering wheel as he tries to form out his next plan of action.
He suppresses a groan, “how the hell am I even going to figure out which room he’s in.”
“Who are you talking about?”
Derek swerves the car, almost hitting a truck in the process. “What the fuck,” he exclaims, “what the fuck.”
“Hi,” Stiles grins from the backseat, looking too smug for a ten year old. Derek scowls at him in the rearview mirror, his panicked nerves calming down. At least the kid has his seatbelt on.
“I told you to stay behind,” he grits his teeth.
“Well,” the kit drawls, looking away. “Technically I’m still behind you.”
“I thought you went into your parents’ room.”
Stiles blinks, leaning back in his seat with a smile still playing on his lips. “I did,” he admits, “then I snuck out of their window.”
“Stiles, that’s dangerous. You could’ve hurt yourself.” Derek chides, sighing. “How come I didn’t see you when I got in?” He should’ve known the kid was inside his car, before he ever even got into the vehicle.
“Hid in the floorboards and tried to be quiet,” says the kit, kicking his feet absentmindedly as he stares back at Derek through the mirror. “If it makes you feel better, I didn’t really expect not to get caught. You were just really distracted.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better, no.” Still, it’s probably is for the best if Stiles stays with him, if only to ease his mind. The last time he left someone at home…
Derek sighs, fighting back the thoughts of what remains of the Hale House. Yes, he admits, it's probably for the best.
The drive is only a few minutes, the light traffic helped, it was the parking part that was the most time consuming and annoying. Why are all the hospitals here always packed? Once they find a spot, he checks his phone to make sure they didn’t waste too much time. Relieved, he discovers they still had two hours before Claudia and John will be home and one hour before Stiles’s bedtime. That should be enough time.
“Why are we at the hospital?” Stiles asks, stepping out of the car with him. “Are we visiting Ms. McCall?”
“No. we’re visiting the man from one of the files we read. I need to ask him a few things.” Stiles holds his hand as they walk through the front doors of Beacon Hills Hospital. He leads them to the front desk on the right and tells the little one to let him do the talking. Addressing the desk man with an awkward smile, he greets, “hello, can you tell us which room Garrison Myers is in?”
The man– Adam, reads his nametag– nods with his own kind smile. “Let me check.” He types something into the computer in front of him; what exactly, Derek doesn’t know. Adam then frowns for a moment before looking back to them. “Oh, sorry. Mr. Myers isn't taking visitors right now. He's staying in intensive care and is in no condition to see anyone. Perhaps you can come back another time? He might be doing better in a couple of days.”
“Aww,” Stiles pouts, leaning forward to rest his chin on the clean desk. “You sure?”
“Yes. Again, apologies for any inconveniences.”
“Not even for a little bit? Just to say hi?”
“I– no. Sorry.” Adam repeats himself, trying to keep a professional smile.
Derek's hands curls into fist at his sides and he shoves them into his jacket pockets, trying to keep any tension out of his features. Time to change tactics. “Is Dr. McCall here then? We wanted to pop in and say hi too, if that's okay.”
Adam quirks a brow, “are you… family of McCall?”
“Family friends,” he amends, “have been since forever.” A little stretch, but sometimes it helps to exaggerate. “She's practically our aunt.”
“Yeah, she's super nice,” Stiles pipes in. “She makes really good cookies. You ever had any?”
Adam blinks over at the kid, “No?”
“We're close.” Derek draws attention back to himself, poking Stiles in warning.
Adam doesn't seem completely convinced, but he nods his head again. “All right, uh, I guess that's fine. Please be respectful and don't be too long, though. She still has work to do.” Poor Adam seems to be a bit lost, he must be new or not used to working the front desk. Derek knows he can play off this.
“It's okay, we've done this before. It's no big deal.” He says, all but dragging Stiles away before the conversation can continue further or the kit can put anything else in.
“Thanks,” the little one manages to politely throw over his shoulder as he's pulled away. He waves at the baffled man with a smile. A quick glance behind them tells Derek that Adam's awkwardly returning it with a half wave.
They step into an empty elevator and he lets the kit press the floor button. “We're still not going to see Ms. McCall are we,” Stiles says, watching the red floor numbers go up.
“Yeah, I figured.”
They shuffle through the hallways and the doors to the ICU, careful to avoid Scott's mom along the way. They check every room they come across, peeking in quietly at every patient. If there was even someone in the room, most were asleep and recovering. Besides one kind old lady with snow white hair and is hooked up with a mess of wires. She simply smiles and shakes her head when Derek apologizes and makes up a cheap excuse about being lost and having the wrong room. Before leaving, he cautiously asks if she heard of a Garrison Myers, a middle aged man who recently survived an animal attack. She takes a deep breath, like air is hard to come by for her, and tells them that her nurse might of said something about him.
“Just a few doors down from me, dears,” she speaks with a raspy voice before being thrown into a coughing fit. Stiles takes the empty plastic cup from beside her bed and fills it with whatever's left in the water bottle next to it. The woman smiles warmly at him with tears collecting in her eyes from the extreme coughing. She takes a sip from the drink before he sets it down on the table. “Thank you, sweetheart,” she says, cooing about how he reminds her of her own grandchildren. The two give their thanks again and wave goodbye.
“And try not to get caught,” she calls after them. She snickers when Derek turns to her, shocked. “I wasn't always an old bat,” she teases, “I was young once too, ya know.”
The comment makes him smile, and he pulls a giggling Stiles behind him as they leave. He wishes there were more people like her in the world.
After checking two more rooms, they finally find Myers, if his charts at the end of his bed are anything to go by. Beside Derek, Stiles gasps. “I know him.”
Derek jerks his head to the kit in alarm. “What.”
“He's Scott's bus driver. I think he'd be mine too, if I took the bus,” Stiles tells him. “But yeah, he drives Scott's bus. Scott says he's super nice too! Most of the time, at least.”
Derek feels like he's going to heave. Having any of this mess linked to Scott or Stiles isn't very easy to swallow. He prays it's only a coincidence. “Stiles, go wait outside.”
“What?!” Stiles gapes. “Why?”
“Go guard the door,” Derek rephrases, “make sure no one comes in, okay?”
The kit frowns, not seeming to like the idea of playing lookout, but he goes, groaning all of the way out of the room. “Fine, but let me know if something happens or if you need backup!”
Once Derek's his gaze falls onto the injured man, he can't look away. He definitely looks mauled, Derek thinks bitterly. He eyes the bandages on Myers’s head and neck, there was blood seeping through the cloth on his throat; a sign the wound is deep. He has a black eye and there's a small bruise forming on the left side of his lower jaw. Pulling up the end of the bed covers just above the man's knees, Derek finds heavy slash marks above the man's ankles. With a deep breath, he covers a man's legs back up.
He's seen enough. He knows the patterns of how a wolf hunts, he learned how a wolf hunts with his younger family members when he was a kid. They learned how to attack their prey at the ankles, mobilizing the animal. They learned to slash at the throat, before sinking their teeth into the prey’s jugular. They learn how to hunt as a pack.
A strangled gasp of breath jerks him from his trance. The man, Myers, stares at him through exhausted half closed lids. Partly in awe and other part in terror, like he's not completely sure if Derek is a hallucination or not.
“Wake up,” the wolf says firmly, but a seed of pity has already taken root inside of his chest. This man could have deserved it, he tries to tell himself. He could have wronged the wrong shifter, or done something terrible. This could have been done as an act of an honorable vengeance.
But he also could have been innocent. Derek's not sure which option could be worse. “You need to wake up and tell me who attacked you.”
Something flashes in Myers’s eyes when he finally meets Derek's gaze and his face falls in remorse.
“Hale,” he shakily breathes out.
Derek feels the rest of the world stop around them as soon as his name leaves the other man's lips. Furrowing his brows, he takes in every detail of the man's face. He tries to identify him from any memory he might have of Meyer's, but can't. He doesn't recognize him in the slightest.
Steeling his nerves, he asks, “How do you know me?”
“I'm sorry,” softly cries the broken man.
“How do you know my name?”
“I'm so sorry.”
Derek goes to say more, to demand answers and squeeze whatever information he can get out of him. When Derek's mouth opens; though, Myers’s eyes close. The faint beeping of the heart monitor stops, only to flat line. The shifter listens for a heartbeat, but can only hear his own frantic one pounding inside his chest.
He swallows, taking several sets back until he feels his back hit the door. Slowly, he turns the knob, slipping out the room, and it feels like he's throwing himself back into reality. He focuses on the noises around him; people talking, shoes squeaking against the hospital floors, the faint cries of newborns. Anything else outside of Myers’s room.
Derek blinks, looking down at the kit beside him who's tugging on the hem of his jacket.
“You okay?” Stiles looks at him with concern.
“I,” Derek takes another deep breath, “I'm fine.”
Stiles nods and starts pushing him down the hall. “We need to go, people are coming this way.”
He's right. Derek can hear the doctors rushing to them now, the heart monitor having had set them off. He takes the other’s hand and they begin to hurry down the halls. They aren't leaving, not yet. There's still a few more things he needs to check before they go.
“Derek, where are we?” Stiles asks, clinging to the wolf shifter’s arm as they trek down the basement hallway.
“The morgue,” Derek says simply.
He doesn't answer again.
They make their way to a door, slowly opening it up. He tells the child to stay on guard duty again.
“No!” Of course, Stiles refuses, glaring up at the older boy. “Batman doesn't ever stand guard, you watched the movies with me! He investigates stuff too! I wanna help!”
“I need someone making sure no one walks in on me snooping around.” Derek sighs when the kit makes another frustrated noise as a rebuttal. Cocking an eyebrow, he counters, “Does Catwoman ever stand guard?”
Stiles frowns with his bottom lip puckered out, looking down at his shoes in thought. “I don't think so,” he admits softly. “Catwoman probably doesn't stand guard for anyone. She's cool like that.”
Derek smirks. “Then let me do this part myself, Stiles. I need you to have my back, okay? Can you do that?”
Stiles huffs, but reluctantly complies. Derek ruffles his hair in gratitude and closes the door behind him. He knows Stiles hates being put on the back-burner again, but it's for the best. Derek doesn't want him to see any of this.
He takes a deep breath, watching it leave past his lips in a puff of fog, and he shivers at the cold. It's freezing inside the room to help preserve the slowly decaying bodies. His blood runs hot naturally, but even he doesn't want to be down here for long. Rubbing at his hunched, jacket clad arms, he gazes around the room. It's not as plain as it is blank, not much colors besides gray and white. Bleak and a bit eerie, with walls of drawers and tables that are long enough to lay bodies onto.
Taking a deep breath, he pulls out the closest drawer to him. He's met with a mutilated face of an older woman. She must have been another victim of the “animal attacks”. The wounds have been cleaned and treated, but the scars still run deep. Her ankles and arms had been torn at, some of the skin on her upper arms have been ripped clean off. Furrowing his brows, Derek stares at the large claw marks on her naked chest. He reaches up, fingers hovering over each mark. With every finger spread out, he's able to trace over each scratch line down her chest. Her face has similar markings. Gently, he turns to her head to check for any bites on her neck, but there aren't any.
On paper, this could be a wolf attack. Despite what most think, wolves never kill their prey instantly. Most die from shock or blood loss. There are times when a wolf might bite down on the animal's nose or try to snap their neck, but even then it's to stop the prey from struggling. They don't wait for their prey die, the meat is raw either way. Once they're down they’re a meal. Wolves don't care.
They'll eat their prey alive.
To slice into the human, even after tripping them at their feet with their canines, it's not surprising. To this degree; however, it's not necessary. She wouldn't have put up that much of a fight. Not to mention whatever did this purposely didn't attack any vital areas.
It's excessive. The monster was playing with her. Wolves always eat their prey, it’s why they hunt, unless they’re interrupted. This wasn't done for food or territory, it was done out of spite, out of anger. The creature wanted their prey to suffer.
He closes the drawer with bile in his throat, moving on. He goes through several other bodies, most dying of other things. He tries his best to detach himself from the reality that these were once living people. It's easier when he's hunting out in the preserve. Killing a rabbit or two doesn't rale on his subconscious if he can just look at them as game or food.
He ends up looking through ten bodies. For any with bullet holes or a claw marks, he writes down their names in his phone. By the time he pushes drawer number ten back into place, he’s noticed a pattern that makes his skin crawl. Both murderers, the one with the gun and the one with claws, take pleasure in their kills.
The next corpse he pulls out is a man. He's fresh, Derek notes, enough to still have his original scent. He hasn't been overly sterilized or poked at yet. His chest is full of holes where bullets once were. On his cheek is faint scratches from what looks to be human nails. Swallowing thickly, Derek gently turns the man's head to the side. He leans into the crook of the man's neck, sniffing softly. With a deep frown he pulls away to study the victim's face. The man, Derek doesn't check for his name, is a shifter, that much he can tell. If he could smell any of the other victims killed by gunshot, he's sure he could smell it on them too. He noses around the body more, cringing at the lingering smell of wolfsbane around the bullet wounds. He takes a closer look at the red lines on the man's face. To receive scratch marks, he must have gotten close to his murderer. Probably when he was trying to fend them off. Doing the best he can to be careful, Derek opens the dead shifter’s mouth. He can't see any, but when he sticks his nose inside the man's mouth, it reeks of dry blood. He's unable to tell if it's the victim’s own or the attacker's. Swallowing thickly with his stomach in knots, Derek closes the man's mouth. If it's not his, then the shifter must have bitten the murderer somewhere. Derek hopes the man isn’t an alpha, things are bad and complicated enough as it is.
If he did bite the killer, and maybe brushed up against them when they were fighting, then maybe they left some sort of distinguishable scent behind on the man. Leaning down and closing his eyes, his hand hovers over the man's bullet wounds. He breathes in every smell he can, racking through each one. The blood, the bullet holes, and– he can smell leaves and the earth– the preserve. There's other scents as well. There's a faint smell of scented hand lotion and terrible perfume. The fragrance of the perfume is especially vile and is buried underneath all of the muskier smells left behind. Yet; somehow, there's a familiarity to it he can't quite place. The perfume itself doesn't sink, its scent is rather flowery and sweet, but he feels repulsed by it. He swallows down a growl that's building up in his throat. The reason the perfume is hard to lock onto, and why it makes his hair stand on end, is because it smells similar to the man's bullet holes.
The perfume is made with wolfsbane.
“No,” he breathes, feeling his heart start to pound, the sound of its beats are loud in his ears. He slowly takes a step back, then another. “No.”
His mind races, memories flash of ice cream parlors and piercing brown eyes. Of her standing over him with a sick, wide, knowing smile. Of flames of a fire consuming everything in its path and the blood curdling screams of innocent people being burned alive. A wave of emotions slam into him and he chokes on the faint memory of smoke and the smell of burning flesh. Suddenly, he’s not in the hospital anymore. He’s back on his front lawn, arms being held down as he pleads– begs to whoever is holding him back to let him go, he needs to save them.
They're dying. Help them. Why is no one saving them.
Fire. Burning. Pack. Family. Trapped. Help.
Fire. Pack. Family. Dying. Can't save th—
“Derek!” There's a shriek. A small body rams into him, knocking him out of his thoughts and sending them both to the floor.
Derek blinks down at the trembling form in his lap. “Stiles,” he croaks, his voice worn and shaken.
“Sourwolf,” the kit quivers, sniffling as he cries. His honey brown eyes glisten as they stare up at him.
Derek wraps his arms around him, squeezing Stiles tight. He listens to the child's frantic heartbeat and quiet crying. He takes in the kit's spicy-sweet scent, the laundry soap in Stiles’s clothes, and the clean chemical smell hospitals always have. His hands grip the other's jacket, focusing on the person in his arms. He's okay. He's at the hospital, with Stiles. They're both safe.
“It's okay,” he soothes as another sob wracks through Stiles. He rubs the little one's back, resting his own wet cheek on Stiles's head. “Everything's okay. I'm sorry for scaring you.”
“Derek– you,” he gets choked up, “I– from the hall.”
“Shhh,” Derek rocks him gently. “I know. It's okay. Let's get out of here.”
“Yeah,” Stiles nods in agreement, wiping his eyes. Derek rubs at his own face before helping them to their feet.
“Hey, Derek,” Stiles pipes in again once they're back in the elevators. His hand holds onto the wolf shifter's in a vice grip.
“Yeah,” Derek asks.
“I hate hospitals.”
For the first time today, Derek laughs. His eyes crinkle in amusement and nothing about his smile is strained.
“Me too, Stiles, me too.”