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Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters

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There were some decisions in Stiles’ life that he couldn’t help but look back on and think: ‘hey, in hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have done that’.

One such decision was putting his name in the draw for Survivor.

It was going into what was supposed to be his first year of studies after high school, and his father was getting progressively more sick in spite of all Stiles’ efforts to keep him healthy and fit throughout his childhood. The sheriff always insisted to Stiles that he didn’t need to be weighed down by the small town, the ADHD, and least of all, him, but the young man never saw any of those things as weighing him down. They were a powerful duo, and Stiles was not ready to lose his last living relative if he could do something about it. Self-sacrificing Stilinski be damned. The issue with wanting to do something about anything in the world he lived in was that you needed money, and that was something which Stiles did not have in surplus. He tried all kinds of jobs from dog-walking to corporate administration to selling his body (tragically, there were no buyers on that last one seeing as pretty much everyone in Beacon Hills knew him as the sheriff’s son. That was the reason, not anything else, and anybody that told Stiles differently was lying), but that only just barely tided them over paying for the regular living bills, let alone the medical treatment that the eldest Stilinski man needed.

So, on a whim, Stiles threw his name into the draw for the probably-staged reality TV game show Survivor, because it had a million dollar prize at the end of it, and at this point Stiles really didn’t have anything to lose.

The call came through telling him that he’d made it into the running and that he should inform his employer and family that he’d potentially be away for the forty-day period over which the game is played. Stiles’ first instinct was to say ‘Sorry, take my name out of the listing because I need to be here for my dad’, but that instinct got swiped from the forefront for a moment as Stiles realised that he had the potential to win a million dollars here. He could pay for his dad’s heart surgery, his tuition, their mortgage… he could change their lives if he won, and all it would take was forty days of outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting a bunch of scrawny, nerdy strangers.

So, with a plan to organise for their neighbours to take care of the sheriff and a blind, undeserved bravado and confidence that he was going to win, Stiles declared his intention to the caller. He was going on the show, and he was going to win it for them.

That was the process, the backstory, what happened six weeks prior to lead Stiles up to his current predicament.

Now, he was on a boat heading towards an island in the middle of nowhere, and on that boat were his competition. In his head, he’d imagined the only people that tried out to be on the show would be the nerdy super-fans, some young risk-takers and maybe a few people past their prime who were looking for a new, exciting challenge in life.

Stiles was so, so wrong, because of the twenty people all milling around awkwardly on the boat currently, he was clearly the weakest link. He felt like a prepubescent kid amongst a horde of Adonis’s and amazons. Pretty much everybody had killer abs that they probably worked on specifically for the sake of the show. It was a massive oversight on Stiles’ behalf, because now the nation had the displeasure of watching his skinny little white body standing out amongst the tan models and body-builders that were going to whoop his ass in the challenges.

The cameras were getting some lingering shots of a few of the contestants as they stared out over the ocean, probably playing a segment of their interview over the footage to give the audience a bit of an idea of what they were made of. Stiles tried, oh how he tried, to hide himself in the most shadowed corner of the boat, but still they came around to him, and he just pretended like he wasn’t absolutely mortified by his answers he gave in the interview. I’m here to kick ass, he’d said, like an idiot, I’m probably smarter, definitely cooler than the other contestants. Everyone loves me, so I don’t think they’ll ever want to get rid of me. It seemed like such a good idea at the time: be confident, because confidence is everything. Only now, he could see that pretty much whoever he got allotted into a tribe with, he would be the first to go because he had no idea how he could pull his weight.

“Everyone!” the director, a kind of bizarre guy by the name of Peter, called out across the boat, loudly. Everybody else seemed to know that was the cue to stand up and gather around before him, so Stiles rolled with what the majority was doing and stuck to a few people that looked around his age.

The boat swayed in the crystal blue ocean, and the sea air was a crisp, salty tang in Stiles’ lungs. There was a drone hovering in the air a long way above the boat getting aerial shots of the landscape. The crew were dispersing a mass of random foodstuffs, survival equipment and materials for shelter around the boat, and all of a sudden the whole situation seemed exceptionally overwhelming. Stiles had given up forty days he could have spent taking care of things back home to come out here and chase a chance that as he looked more closely was becoming slimmer and slimmer that he could win a million dollars. If he didn’t win, then all of it had been for nothing. This, right here, was the moment where it dawned on him that in hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have done that.

“You’ve all probably noticed that something is a bit different this season,” Peter teased, and Stiles looked around as everybody nodded the affirmative. He had zero idea what was different, except… “There are only seven women with the majority being the thirteen men.” A few people, Stiles included, made a few appropriately intrigued noises. “But something which you probably didn’t notice is that all of you have something in common: and that is…”

In Peter’s dramatic pause, Stiles looked around at the many chiselled faces around the boat.

Across the boat to the right was a man who looked to be designed for the sole purpose of winning this game. He had dark skin that wouldn’t burn as easily in the sun as Stiles’ would, and his body was frankly enormous with muscle. He was already mingling with a busty blonde bombshell and a curly-haired, gorgeous young man. As if Stiles didn’t already feel so far behind physically, now he felt socially behind as well.

Stiles cast his eyes around more and landed on a large group of exceptionally stone-faced and/or scowly-looking people. A few standouts included a woman with open shows displaying toenails that looked sharp enough to cut through the jugular of anyone who slighted her; a man whose face and body were perhaps the most perfectly sculpted things which Stiles had ever laid eyes on; and also a red-headed goddess who wore the expression of somebody who was already calculating seven steps ahead of all the people around her.

To Stiles’ immediate right was a crooked-jaw man probably around his age. He was doing the same surveying as Stiles in that moment, and their eyes awkwardly met. For a moment, Stiles thought maybe he’d already made an enemy with just a look (it was entirely possible), but then the stranger gave him a kind smile and they exchanged an amicable nod instead.

Honestly, all Stiles could ascertain was similar about the people present was that they made Stiles feel incredibly inadequate.

“…for you to find out.” Peter finished, looking highly amused by the whole concept of the game. He was supposed to be a lot more enthusiastic and a lot less ominous, but at this point Stiles was alright to bet on bizarre new surprises. Maybe through some fluke he’d actually make it through the first day. “We’re going to split into two tribes of ten. Come forward and grab a concealed buff from the table that’ll say either ‘Wolves’ or ‘Hunters’.”

Stiles took a grand total of half a step forward before all the sculpted people around him frenzied the table in a mass of shoulders and shoves. At the end there was one buff left and Stiles tried not to read too much into how competitive these people clearly were as he slipped it from the table. He peeled back the grey cloth concealing its colour to reveal a fluoro blue bandana with the word: ‘HUNTER’ embroidered across it in gold and brown block letters. Not that it particularly mattered in the grand scheme considering there was nobody present which Stiles would put himself above in the pecking order, but it looked like the other Hunters were made up of four of the girls and five of the guys.

“So!” Peter clapped, grinning hungrily at the lot of them now that they’d assorted themselves into tribes, “Let’s get to the first challenge…”

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“Now many aspects of this season are going to differ from anything you could expect,” Peter assured, and Stiles for one didn’t doubt him for a second. “But you can bet that I would never throw away the opportunity to witness—and instigate—the blind panic and mad rush that is the raft challenge.”

Peter didn’t come across as this sadistic in all of the research Stiles had done prior to arriving on the show. It seemed like they must have edited the raw footage and avoided the wild glee in his eyes because Stiles was viscerally unsettled by the satisfaction Peter seemed to cultivate from the promised suffering of others.

Yikes.

“Around this boat are dozens of things you’ll need to some extent in order to survive on this island.” Peter swept a broad gesture across the piled up goods around them. Half of it Stiles could barely recognise, but you could damn well count on the fact that as soon as Peter said go, he was going to grab every damn thing he could. “Food, rope, tools, bamboo, logs, pillows…”

Stiles witnessed as another contestant’s lips pulled back in a kind of mocking disdain for the very idea of pillows. Message received: grab the dumb stuff like bamboo and logs which you can find anywhere before grabbing pillows. Stiles could pretend to have the same level of wilderness survival knowledge as the rest of this bunch. Pfft. Who needs pillows, anyway?

Stiles’ ass, that’s who.

“As well as grabbing as many supplies as you can, you are also racing to the island,” Peter swiped another powerful gesture to articulate his speech, indicating the expanse of forest and sand and rock in the distance which would become their homes for the next… while. Stiles’ lack of keeping track of time was going to be the death of him. Maybe once they settled in he’d end up carving tallies into a stone to remind himself. That seemed like a reasonable use of his time, god knows he wasn’t going to be able to start a fire or anything else useful like that. “The first tribe to make it to the island with their raft full of supplies will be given the gift of fire,” Peter produced a flint from his pocket, to which the group collectively cooed in reverence. Stiles just stared blankly at it, because with or without a flint he wasn’t going to be starting a fire any time soon. “Survivors ready,” Peter teased, playing off of everyone’s anticipation. Stiles was practically vibrating, already eying up the big things he could get for people to admire him for: a few cages with chickens in them, a bag of perfectly sized firewood, a small tarp. If he could get even one of those things surely he’d get some serious brownie points with the Hunters. “Go!”

Stiles leapt towards the chickens, blinked, and then a petite Asian lady was already making her way off with them. Seriously, she was quicker than a bolt of lightning.

On the spot, he pivoted to go back towards the tarp and firewood, only to see an incredibly bulky man with dark skin already lugging the damn things away like they weighed nothing.

Neither of the specimens which had taken the supplies Stiles was after were from his tribe, unfortunately, and it seemed like the rest of the Hunters were loading up on stuff further away.

Stiles felt like he could stand and watch the way each of them moved with practiced efficiency, as if they’d been a part of this team for their whole lives training for this moment. It felt like Stiles didn’t even function as a cog in this particular machine.

“Come on, idiot!” a man called out, looking like a stereotype of every bully he’d ever encountered in high school melded into one individual.

Stiles snapped back into action immediately, snatching up a stray melon or two before joining the rest of the tribe on their raft. Stiles ended up wedged near the back and a dark-haired lady who held one of the oars shoved it into his chest so hard it winded him.

“Row, row!” she screamed, as if she hadn’t just upended all the responsibility onto him even though he clearly wasn’t physically adept at rowing. “You’re gonna make us lose!”

Stiles scowled but fought through the pain and anxiety and lack of oxygen and rowed for his damn life.

“Wolves win reward!” Peter burst out, voice breaking through the pounding of Stiles’ heart in his ears. What. How was it over that fast?

Stiles looked up finally and saw that they’d practically been rowing in a circle like a bunch of idiots while the Wolves had not only loaded up more supplies than them, but also rowed faster. What a great start to the game?

“They are taking home fire in the form of flint for their tribe! This is a huge advantage to the Wolves!”

Well, Stiles wouldn’t exactly call it a huge advantage. They get fire, they stay warm. What’s the big deal?

Judging by the forlorn, broken looks everyone else is levelling the island with, it’s a big deal. Maybe everyone else here just really is that competitive.

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Water, Stiles realised later that afternoon once they’d finally made it the kilometres-long trek to their campsite. They needed to boil water. They needed to boil water to cook rice. They needed dry heat to get the moisture out of their clothes.

They needed freaking fire to survive, so Stiles can safely say that he can see the big deal now.

Most of the other players that ended up with him on the Hunters tribe are around his age, which is a pleasant surprise, albeit bittersweet, from the game which he wasn’t expecting. Bittersweet because he has people his own age to contend with, but he has people his own age to contend with. They’re all immeasurably more skilled, more world wise, more… everything, than him. It makes Stiles wonder if he wasn’t picked as some kind of comedic relief by the directors when they selected the other nineteen sports-model individuals.

In spite of Stiles’ inadequacy, though, he does find himself having a nice conversation with the man who gave him a kind smile on the boat earlier—Scott, his name is. He lives in a big city with his mum, who is a doctor, and occasionally his dad, who is a special agent of some description. He works at the veterinarian near his home and he’s on the show because he wants to raise money for animals in need and start his own sheltering program. Scott is a freaking angel.

Scott is a godsend in more ways than one, because most of the others in the tribe see him as the de-facto leader. By association, that makes Stiles on good terms with their leader, which clearly isn’t true for everybody.

After he and Scott talk that night, it’s like everybody else suddenly realises that he’s there, too. That he can be a vote for or against them if they lose again like they did today.

The rest of the conversations aren’t anywhere near as genuine and grounding as Scott’s had been, but by the end of it he knows everyone’s names and a few basic facts about their lives.

As he lays his head down to sleep for the first night on the hard bamboo floor of the makeshift shelter they assembled, he runs through the name of every other person on his tribe, knowing that to win would mean beating all of them in the game for a million dollars.

Stiles-Matt-Malia-Scott-Jennifer-Jackson-Allison-Lydia-Danny-Alan—no, correction, Deaton was what his preferred name was. Not even considering the Wolves and the other half of the people in this game, Stiles couldn’t imagine a scenario where he outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the likes of these people.

He didn’t sleep the first night because he was hungry, and thirsty, and sore, and god he felt a bit sick like he might throw up. Instead he just lay there are recounted the names, feeling like a killer recounting his dead pool.

Everyone here had stories, just like him. He’d only heard Scott’s so far and already it felt wrong to short-change him and his puppy dog eyes anything in life.

But in the end, this was a game like any other, and Stiles had to win if he wanted to do have a chance of getting his dad the treatments he needed.

At midnight when everyone else is asleep, Stiles is doing sit-ups and ignoring the buzzing of the cameras as the crew record his embarrassingly sweaty and unfit body. Maybe when he goes home first, somewhere out there someone will pity him enough to offer him a loan.

The world doesn’t work like that though, does it? You either sink or swim, and even though Stiles is carrying the weight of two people, he’ll be damned if he’ll let either of them sink.

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Stiles isn’t exactly surprised when he regrets ever exercising the next morning, but he’s also a bit proud of the fact that he had the confidence to exercise his skinny little body on national TV amongst all these people with rockin’ beach bods.

“We need to decide now on how we want our team to function when it comes to the immunity challenges,” Scott reasons as they’re all sitting around the fire he and Deaton managed to manufacture. Stiles really must be the least useful person out here. All of them, that is, besides Jennifer, who was kind enough to volunteer to fill everybody’s water bottles up at the well. She was the one who had screamed in Stiles’ face the day before with the oar, so he takes it as an apology in place of the one he’ll probably never receive.

“Nobody wants to be the puzzle-solver,” Danny declares.

Yeah, Stiles had seen in the past that a lot of the early votes in previous games were decided by who did the puzzles and who failed them for their tribes, but Stiles was really freaking good at puzzles, and it wasn’t like he could pull his weight in any other aspect of the physical challenges. So he contradicts him, “I’ll do it,” Stiles volunteers, giving an easy grin at the way everyone’s eyes track to him in almost-admiration.

“Brave man, Stilinski,” Jackson mutters, somehow inflecting just the right amount that it comes off like he’s insulting Stiles’ intelligence. Jackson Whittemore is probably the least liked by Stiles right now because he yelled at him and unlike Jennifer hasn’t done a nice thing ever before, in his entire life it seems. “They normally need two people, though.”

“I’ll do it, too,” Lydia Martin, who literally embodies everything Stiles could ever want in a person, offers. Stiles looks at her and he can practically feel the stars in his own eyes. Lydia wants to be on the puzzles with him? It feels like a privilege, somehow. Not the least of which is because, apart from Scott, Lydia probably holds the most sway with how the group thinks right now. Having her close would make Stiles feel a lot safer.

Well, as safe as one could feel in a game where the whole point is to backstab and cut other people out of the running for a million dollars.

He’s only a bit chuffed when he looks over and sees that Jackson freaking Whittemore has the same stars in his eyes as he stares at her.

Scott grins his crooked smile and leans in close. “I really think we can do this, guys,” he confides, like they’re all in this together. Perhaps they are, really, until they’re sitting on a council where they have to vote to decide whose dreams to crush. “We have a strong team.”

Stiles just hopes it isn’t his dream that gets crushed.

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They did have a strong team, really.

The challenge was to have four people haul bags of heavy wooden puzzles pieces from a buoy floating a fair way out to the shore, then once all four bags of pieces were on the shore there was a short gymnastics course for the other four of them to get them to where Stiles and Lydia would solve the puzzle.

Between Scott, Jackson and Malia it’s evident that they have some serious raw strength on their side. With Danny, Allison Jennifer and Deaton they have some nice balance between unorthodox problem solving and athletics. Then Stiles and Lydia practically dominate when it comes to the puzzle.

If only they’d gotten the puzzle pieces a bit freaking faster.

The problem? The weak link? Not Stiles, as he’d suspected, but rather the otherwise rather athletic-looking Matt Daehler. Who can barely swim, but neglected to mention anything out of either stupidity or fear until it was his turn to dive in with his pieces, and instead he just stood there, rigid on the wooden platform he’d managed to swim out to, but apparently couldn’t swim back from.

Stiles had never felt so infuriated, especially because he’d really been banking on the fact that he could break previous trends and prove his prowess at the puzzle section. Alas, they had almost a ten minute delay because Malia ended up having to swim all the way out and back again like the badass she is. And even though the toenail lady and the cute guy with curly hair seemed to struggle a bit with the puzzle, they weren’t that bad that they couldn’t still beat them with their head start.

So the Hunters lost. Again.

And now, either one of the nine people Stiles had only just met were going to be soundly eliminated from the game, or Stiles himself was going to be cut out.

He’d made a close relationship with Scott, right? And Lydia and he got along like a house on fire when they put their heads together in the challenge. Surely they’d get rid of Matt before getting rid of Stiles. The man couldn’t swim, and he was on Survivor.

The afternoon after the challenge passed in a blur of conversations that felt like they meant nothing—but at the same time that they meant everything. Names were thrown around seemingly at random, until it seemed like every single person on the tribe had someone gunning for them. Everyone except Danny, because apparently everyone loved Danny.

Deaton, who had been invariably quiet thus far, became obsessed with getting Jennifer eliminated from the game as soon as possible.

Matt wanted Scott gone because he was ‘calling all the shots’.

Lydia formed an obvious and strategically close bond with Jackson, making Stiles confident that whoever she voted for, his will would be her command.

Scott, for all of his confidence, ended up being too nice, to the point where he seemed reluctant to give Stiles a name for who they were going to vote for tonight. Kindness was nice and all, but seriously?

Allison, who looked rather unassuming and easy, was the one who eventually came up to him with five minutes to tribal council and gave him a name to write down: Matt Daehler.

Stiles was more than willing to vote out one he saw as the weak link; he just hoped that she’d already approached a majority of other people to make it a sure thing.

In all the seasons he’d watched in a marathon leading up to this moment, nothing could have prepared him for the helpless unease that consumed him as he lit his torch and sat down with his tribe opposite Peter. “Behind each of you is a torch. Grab a torch and approach the flame. Dip it in and get fire. This is a part of the ritual of tribal council, because in this game, fire represents your life. Once your fire is gone, so are you.” Stiles could go home tonight, empty-handed. He could be stuck once again in an endless loop of debt and suffering with nothing he could do. People would watch his skinny little body get about five-minutes of screen time and then he’d be forgotten, just like that.

“So, Hunters, we should probably talk about what happened today in the challenge,” Peter prompted. The light from the fire gleamed in his eyes, giving him an appropriately gleeful expression. Sadistic bastard. “Lydia, maybe you’d like to kick us off?”

Lydia sat primly on the elevated back row behind Stiles. “Scott, Malia, Matt and Jackson were the muscle; Danny, Allison, Jennifer and Deaton were the balance; and Stiles and I were on puzzle.” It was facts, and it wasn’t incriminating. Didn’t draw any particular attention to her or anyone else. Stiles could appreciate that she was smart.

“And Deaton, do you think everybody tried their best?”

Deaton was on the other side of the row Lydia was on, and he looked completely indifferent; stoic. “I do believe we all tried our best,” he affirmed, “And I think we learned how to better our team in future challenges.”

“Stiles, what do you think Deaton means you learned today?”

Silence.

Stiles almost wasn’t expecting to be asked a question. Was it not obvious enough that he wanted to be invisible? Why not ask Malia or Matt something like that?

“Well, I’m pretty sure we know he’s talking about Matt,” Stiles declared before thinking, and all nine of the others immediately went up in arms at him being the first one to name names. Whoops.

“Nice, Stilinski,” Jackson sneered right into his ear from where he was sat next to Lydia behind him.

Scott sent him an apologetic look at the same moment that Matt interjected, “I think we’re all aware of my little… problem, now,” that was an understatement, “but at the end of the day, the challenge still came down to the puzzle. The puzzle which Stiles failed to finish.”

Stiles scoffed, letting himself get riled up like an idiot, “We lost ten minutes of puzzle time because you failed to mention you can’t swim,” Stiles drawled, delivering his response to the rest of the tribe, as if he had to spell it out to them. They were probably just better at being subtle, or at least he hoped that’s what it was, because otherwise he was being left out of the loop and he really was going to be the first to go home. “There’s no telling how many water-based challenges there are going to be, and I want us to go forward with as able a team as possible.”

Wow, Stiles was probably going to be depicted as a villain at this rate. He hadn’t gotten much information out of Matt yet, so god knows what kind of tragic stuff led to his fear of the water.

But he needed to survive, no matter what. People could think what they wanted about him after the show, but he would do literally anything if it meant getting the money to help his dad out.

“Very strong words, Stiles.” Peter’s gaze was haunting as he swept his eyes over Stiles, as if finally realising he was there, “Malia, do you have anything you’d like to add to that?”

“Considering I was the one who had to literally do two people’s jobs because of Matt, I totally agree with Stiles,” blunt, to the point, in Stiles’ favour. Stiles liked Malia.

“And Matt, what do you have to say to people who want to write your name down tonight?”

Matt sat straight and addressed the tribe, speaking cryptically, “I think a few of us recognise that there is a serious threat sitting here among us who is far more important to get rid of than me being land-bound.”

Serious threat? Well, fortunately that sounded like the complete opposite of Stiles, but he couldn’t pick a serious threat out from among them. He just hoped Matt wasn’t gunning for Scott.

“Alright, well, on that note,” Peter’s stare bore hard through each of them as he enunciated the next words, “I think it is time to vote. Jennifer, you’re up.”

They went like that, one-by-one, from Jennifer to Deaton, all the way down to Lydia and Stiles, until each of them had written someone else present’s name down on a piece of paper and placed it in the urn.

“I’ll go count the votes,” Peter said, as if there was anything else he was going to do, and then they waited.

Stiles phased out while they waited for him to count the votes and no doubt put them in an order which would maximise drama. A few of the others murmured quietly among themselves, Lydia might have silently asked him who he voted for, but it was all background noise. He could be going home in a few minutes. He could be completely blindsided. These people were strangers, and Stiles prided himself on being adept at reading people, but he could trust these people as far as he could throw them, and Stiles and his skinny arms sure as hell couldn’t throw them very far.

“If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so." Pause. Nothing. Good. "Once the votes are read, the decision is final, the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately,” Peter uttered like a threat to each of them. Stiles felt it. “I’ll read the votes.”

Stiles swallowed audibly as he plucked a piece of parchment from the urn. Was that Stiles’ piece? God knows, they all looked the same.

“First vote,” he unfurled it, “Matt.”

He turned the paper around and it was, in-fact, Stiles’ parchment. He could recognise his scrawly handwriting anywhere. It mean that the other nine pieces of parchment were completely unknown to him. He could only pray that Allison and whoever else she’d told had also written down Matt’s name.

“Second vote,” he unfurled another slip of paper, “Jennifer.”

Jennifer? Stiles wasn’t expecting that, nor was he expecting the very obviously Lydia’s handwriting to be the one who cast it. What did Lydia have against Jennifer?

“Third vote,” practically unrecognisable handwriting, “Jennifer. Fourth vote… Matt. Fifth vote… Jennifer. Sixth vote… Matt. Seventh vote… Jennifer. Eighth vote… Matt.” Peter paused, “That’s four votes Matt, four votes Jennifer, two votes left.”

The good news? Stiles wasn’t going home, thank god. The bad news? If Jennifer ended up being the one to go home, it would make tomorrow very awkward as he’d practically called out Matt in the middle of tribal council as the weak link. He could bet that Matt would be gunning for him if he didn’t go home tonight.

“Ninth vote… Matt. One vote left.” Peter grinned, probably because Matt was now putting his head in his hands and repeating oh my god out loud. Bit melodramatic, but honestly Stiles can’t blame him considering he’d probably burst into tears if it were him. He just hoped Matt wasn’t relying on the show quite like Stiles was. He couldn’t think about that, though. “Tenth vote, and the first person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters, Matt. That’s six votes, that’s enough, you need to bring me your torch.”

“Wow,” Matt sighs, standing up and angrily snatching up his torch. “You guys are gonna regret that. She’ll stab each and every one of you in the back.”

Honestly, were people seeing something else in Jennifer which Stiles was missing? She’d been a bit rude, sure, but people were surely overselling it a bit if they were calling her out as being that big of a threat so early on. That being said, Lydia had cast her vote for her, and Lydia certainly didn’t give off the impression of someone who was wrong often.

“Matt Daehler, the tribe has spoken.”

“They certainly have,” Matt sneered as Peter extinguished his torch. Despite it being something so… normal; it almost seemed like Peter was holding his head underwater and drowning him as the light died from the torch and Matt’s face went dark. Fire represents your life, Peter had said, Once your fire is gone, so are you.

Now, Matt was gone.

Everyone let out a chorus of things along the lines of bye, Matt as he walked away from the council and towards the boat that would take him off the island and back home. Stiles was still struck by the surreal nature of the moment.

“Well, in this game, it’s either sink or swim, and it’s up to you whether or not you trust someone to not drag you under instead of keep you afloat.” Stiles wasn’t going to let himself get dragged under. He gave Scott and some of the others a tight smile as they all stood up, “Grab your torches, head back to camp. I’ll see you all at the next reward challenge.”

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What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I learned that it’s probably about time I went to therapy for my issues with water, especially if I want to do something like this again in the future. That was definitely by downfall here, but I don’t have any ill feelings for the other Hunters, not really.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I reckon I’d be more forthcoming about my weaknesses rather than putting myself in a situation where there was no way I wouldn’t freak out.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I think Danny Mah—whatever his last name is, has a good chance. He’s charismatic, smart, strong, and he was the only one whose name wasn’t thrown around tonight. I think Danny has a good chance of becoming Sole Survivor.”

Chapter Text

The attitude back at camp that night is… sombre.

Clearly Stiles isn’t the only one who has been struck with the reality of what just happened; that it could have been any one of them that went home.

Jennifer makes a bit of a scene as she accuses Lydia, Deaton and Jackson for sending votes her way, but apart from that, everyone is… quiet.

One down, eighteen to go.

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Stiles doesn’t wake up or bother to repeat his exercise routine again that night, instead he practically passes out from exhaustion.

He’s woken up early by a loud crack as Malia and Jackson chop up firewood, coconuts, and seemingly anything they can find with their machete. After the third thwack! of the blade Stiles gives up on any iota of extra sleep he might earn and heads to the well to fill up his water instead.

“So,” a voice cuts in from nowhere and Stiles leaps about a foot in the air. He’s far too tired to deal with this. He turns to his right and sees that Jennifer Blake apparently decided to tag along with him on this particular journey. Only something about the glint in her eye indicates that she isn’t there to get a drink. “Who are we going to get rid of next?”

What. Did Stiles miss something, or is she assuming that they’re apart of some alliance which he never agreed to be in?

“Uh, I’m hoping we’ll just win the challenge?” Stiles hazards, dodging around a branch protruding around head-height across the path. The sounds of the forest chittering and alive around them is unsettling.

“Sweetie,” Jennifer chides condescendingly, “so do I.” She soothes a hand through the thin hairs on his buzzed head and Stiles feels a thrill of relief when he catches sight of the well—something he can put between them. “I just want us to be on the same page with this. You’re here to win, right?”

Yeah, Stiles most certainly is here to win, but the cards Jennifer is laying down aren’t the ones Stiles wants to pick up. He’ll stick with Scott, Allison, Malia and Danny, thanks.

He can be assertive, though. Unlike last night where he went for Matt aggressively out of nowhere. This is a game about deception, after all. “Who are you gunning for?”

“Jackson and Lydia,” she answers immediately, eyes sparkling as if the very idea gives her immense joy. It’s oddly reminiscent of the sadistic gleam in Peter’s eyes. “And Deaton, too.”

So everybody left who cast a vote for you, Stiles almost says, but stops himself. Even if Jennifer isn’t someone he feels particularly close with on the tribe, as long as she’s writing down someone’s name other than him, that’s one less bullet he needs to dodge. “We should see how the challenge goes,” with his bottle filled there’s no more reason to stick around, but the cameramen and camerawomen are standing on the path which leads back to camp, so he figures they’re expecting this discussion to go on a bit longer. “Matt was a liability,” Stiles declares, “As long as we keep our strongest players around, we won’t have to go to tribal council again any time soon.”

There’s that glint in her eyes again, as if she wants nothing more than to go into council after council and pick each of them off like flies until she’s the last one standing, and Stiles feels a bit sick that he wasn’t one of the ones voting for Jennifer last night. Matt was right, even if he was stupid, and Stiles is sure as hell not going to be putting his trust in Jennifer any time soon.

“Whatever you say, Stiles,” she sing-songs, sounding put-upon, as if Stiles was the one who initiated this conversation.

The cameras are still on the path, but Stiles just scoots around them and walks briskly back to camp, hopefully getting the point across to her that their conversation is over.

Later, when he’s back at camp and Scott heads to the well to refill his bottle, she follows him.

Stiles is starting to see a pattern.

M|||||||||—||||||||||

“Wolves, this is your first look at the new Hunters tribe,” Peter drawls as Stiles and the eight other Hunters remaining hike their way up the incline towards where the Wolves are already waiting for them. “Matt voted out at last night’s tribal council.”

The Wolves look… smug. That’s the only word Stiles can think of. None of them seem particularly surprised by who went home, though. Figures because the only thing they’ve seen has been Matt’s monumental stuff-up during the challenge yesterday.

It’s the first time Stiles really scrutinises the Wolves as well, and maybe it’s just because they’re currently the Hunters’ faceless, challenge-winning competition, but they look… scary. A guy in the back row literally holds an unwavering, eternal scowl at Stiles for the whole time that they’re waiting for Peter to announce the rules of the reward challenge. Stiles dubs the man ‘Sourwolf’ in his head, because god knows he’s never calling him that to his face.

“So, let’s get to today’s reward challenge,” Peter claps his hands, and gestures at the enormous pit of mud which is in their wake. Without access to a shower, Stiles already feels pretty grotty, but he has a feeling that after this challenge he’ll be feeling a whole lot worse. “You’ll be split into teams of three, and will face off against the three members from the other tribe in a game of muddy basketball.” A few of the crew for the show come out and demonstrate for both the cameras and all of them how it’ll play out. Stiles’ attention is drawn to the hoops on either side of the mud pit. “For those of you who aren’t familiar, the aim of the game is to get the ball in the hoop.”

Jackson snorts, as if the very idea of someone not being familiar with the premise of the game is a joke. Lydia levels him with a sharp look and he immediately sobers. Stiles… Stiles is honestly feeling a bit left out after Lydia didn’t mention anything to him about the plan to get rid of Jennifer last night. Why can’t Lydia be levelling Stiles with sharp looks?

“If you use any force with intent to cause serious bodily harm then you’ll immediately forfeit a point to the other team, but apart from that, you’re free to use any faculties you can think of to get that ball in the hoop.”

Looking around at some of the enormous, muscular bodies on the other team, Stiles is feeling a bit like some of those faculties might not be at all in his favour. Seriously, how come nobody on this show wears a damn shirt? Even Stiles ended up abandoning his back at camp due to peer pressure, much to his own embarrassment when he inevitably watches this back on TV.

“First team to score three points wins. Wanna know what you’re playing for?”

“Yes!” the small Asian girl from the Wolves answers, calling out over everyone else’s more tame affirmations.

Peter smirks and an assistant pulls a large tarp off from over… chairs. With pillows. God, Stiles can practically already feel the lumbar support on that bamboo masterpiece. “Comfort,” he finishes, “In the form of chairs, pillows, blankets,” blankets, “And I’m also throwing in this tarp,” Peter adds on, leaving the large tarp scrunched up on top of one of the chairs, “because I’m such a swell guy. Worth playing for?”

“Yes!” Stiles shouts, emulating the small Asian girl. He’d kill for those blankets, if only that didn’t constitute serious bodily harm which would end up affording the other team points.

“Then let’s get to the challenge. Wolves, you have one extra member, so one of you will need to sit out.”

“I will,” an older gentleman declares quickly, already walking off to the side, and everyone else on the tribe doesn’t voice a single protest. Either they’re great actors, or they’re actually madly in sync already. “My perception would be a liability,” he announces, which Stiles files away for later.

“Deucalion going to sit out from the Wolves. The rest of you will be split randomly into teams of three within your tribe. Let’s get started.”

M|||||||||—||||||||||

The first round is Jackson, Deaton and Jennifer versus the three girls from the Wolves. It’s… it’s a travesty. The lady with the scary toenails slaps the ball out of Jennifer’s hands right off the bat, and then passes it to blonde bombshell, who gets it in the hoop straight away.

“Erica scores for the Wolves!” Peter shouts, and even if it was a disaster, Stiles is at least getting some names to put to faces. He can’t call everyone Sourwolf and toenail lady. “The score is one to zero in favour of the Wolves. Next round will be Stiles, Danny and Allison versus Derek, Isaac and Jordan.”

Stiles takes his place, feet squelching into the thick molasses of the mud, and he almost loses the ability to move. He’d never live it down if he got stuck in the mud on nation TV.

He and Danny make up the left and right respectively while Allison takes centre-stage. She told them she had pretty great accuracy, and from what Stiles has seen of her, he believes it. Directly opposite Stiles is the curly-haired guy he’d seen around a bit while a deadly serious looking man was braced opposite Danny. Sourwolf took his spot opposite Allison, looking for all the world like the mud sloshing around them was personally offending his sensibilities.

“Ready,” Peter drew out, holding the ball off to the side where he was going to throw it down the centre for them all to make a mad dash for, “Go!”

Stiles took one step forward—

And fell. His left foot was completely sunken into the mud and it twisted as he performed an embarrassing lunge from his stuck position.

In the blink of an eye, Allison had the ball and was wading towards the other hoop while Danny and the serious-looking man wrestled one another. Curly-hair and Sourwolf converged on Allison and

Stiles managed to break free of his mud-prison just in time for Sourwolf to snatch the ball from her and make a mad dash towards their goal while Danny and Allison got fought off by the other two. He was coming towards Stiles.

Squish, squish. Each step of ground that got swallowed up between them, the other man got bigger and bigger.

Squish, squish. Holy mother of god. Sourwolf was built. Stiles was going to die.

Squish, squish, squish, squish

“Derek goes for the shot…” Peter trailed off, somewhere far, far away, and for some reason that was what spurred Stiles back to reality.

He let out a mad shriek somewhere between a banshee and a guttural war-cry, and then pounced onto Sourwolf aka Derek before he could let loose the ball.

Stiles saw those focussed, scowly eyes widen in surprise, as if Stiles had only just now registered as a player on the field, and then Stiles was upon him, wrapping his scrawny limbs around the barrel of his chest.

“Get him, Stiles!” he heard Scott cheering from the sidelines.

Stiles wasn’t getting anyone, though. He was just clinging on for dear life as Derek thrashed around to try and dislodge him. Hah! He’d have to try better than that to dislodge a Stilinski with his mind on a—

The world went dark all of a sudden. There was a weird, wet noise, and Stiles was sinking. His left eye was completely dark, and through his right all he could see was tan skin. Huh.

Stiles was right, because, apparently, Derek was killing him. An unorthodox technique, but effective. At least his team would be awarded a penalty point.

Then, as quickly as the darkness had enveloped him, he was back above the surface, gasping, as Derek hoisted him up in a very much undignified bridal carry, only to immediately dump his ass down on the edge of the mud pit with a grunt.

“Congratulations,” he growled as he stalked away, and then Stiles’ world refocussed to things outside of himself almost being murdered.

“Nice going guys!” Scott was cheering.

“Go Danny!” Jackson added.

Danny had scored. They’d scored.

Stiles had held Derek off, and they’d actually scored.

Nay-sayers be damned, Stiles was here to win, god damn it.

In the next round, Scott, Malia and Lydia fought a long back-and-forth game, but ultimately came out ahead in the most ridiculous of ways as Lydia screamed like she was being assaulted, then used the confusion to snatch the ball from a man even bigger than Derek and sail it right into the hoop.

“Can she do that?” Deucalion had called out from the sidelines.

Peter just grinned easily and laughed, “I said you could use any faculties. A big component of this game is to outwit, so if Miss Martin here wants to howl her lungs out to score a few blankets, I will most certainly allow it.”

“Come on guys,” Stiles encouraged, egging on their first team as they took their places for their second chance. “You can do it.”

“The score is two to one in favour of the Hunters. Survivors ready?” Silence, apart from the beat of Stiles’ heart. “Go!”

M|||||||||—||||||||||

Later, as Stiles basks in the luxury of their new chairs and pillows and comfort, he clinks the coconut he’s eating from with Jackson’s.

“You did incredibly in that last round,” Stiles compliments. It’s the first time he’s really put effort into talking to Jackson, because everything about the man’s personality kind of screams to Stiles that he’s the kind of person he’d normally avoid in everyday life.

Today, though, they were a team. And the nine of them won, together. They might not win the next immunity challenge; it could have been a complete fluke thanks to Stiles’ gangly limbs and Lydia’s haunting screams; but nothing could take away from them that this was their first win as a team.

“Thanks, Stilinski,” Jackson snorts, making it sound like it’s hardly a pleasantry, but its progress.

“It’s kind of weird for me when you call me that,” Stiles admits, “Stilinski is my dad.”

The cameras are orbiting them now, as if they’re having a one-on-one, heart-to-heart scene. Stiles wonders if when they edit this for TV later if they’ll superimpose the segment of his interview talking about his dad over this moment.

“I never knew my real dad,” Jackson offers, and it’s like a reality check for Stiles to realise that the cameras aren’t here for Stiles’ story. They’re here for Jackon’s.

Stiles doesn’t know what to say to that, so when Lydia comes over and sits down with them, sidling up close next to Jackson, he pretends to not notice when their hands interlock.

“You did incredibly,” Stiles repeats, and he gives Jackson an amicable pat on the back before he heads to the well to give Lydia and him some privacy.

Reward challenges are nice and all, but the important one is coming up tomorrow; the one which decides which tribe is sending somebody home.

M|||||||||—||||||||||

“Survivors ready?” Peter enthuses as they’re each lined up in their respective stations to complete the obstacle course that is the second immunity challenge. The arena consists of a water section wherein each tribe has to row a canoe around several waypoints collecting sandbags; an array of targets which need to be hit with said sandbags to release puzzle pieces; and finally, the usual ridiculously complex puzzle.

Guess which position Stiles and Lydia took, once again.

“Go!”

“Come on, Scott! Go Danny!” Stiles screams the moment they’re mobile, rowing like mad people.

“Yes Deaton! Faster, Jackson!”

“Go Ennis!” toenail lady, who sat out of this challenge as the Wolves’ extra member, and whose name is apparently Kali, calls from where she’s watching. “Go Duke!”

For all their cheering, the canoes end up hitting the shore within seconds of one another, and then it’s down to Allison, Malia and Jennifer to start hitting their targets.

Unfortunately, the Wolves get ahead at the targets segment because Malia and Jennifer throw far too aggressively without taking the time to aim. Fortunately, Allison carries the team and hits every single one of their targets for them.

“Yes, Allison!” Lydia screams, jumping up and down and clapping excitedly.

On the other team, Erica and the lightning-fast woman whose name is Kira are already making pretty quick work of the puzzle, but they can do this. They can do this.

M|||||||||—||||||||||

They couldn’t do it. Once again, the short head start proved slightly too much for them. Add onto that Stiles making a blunder with one of the pieces being upside down, and they’re being sent off to yet another tribal council. Twice in a row.

Back at camp, Stiles catches up with Scott immediately. “Hey, man,” he greets grimly, “Whose name do I need to write down tonight?”

Scott’s wearing his own grim expression, but there’s also something serious about his face as he stares down Stiles. “I’m writing down Jackson’s name.”

“What?” Stiles splutters, loudly, and Scott immediately shushes him, “Sorry. It’s just… why?”

A few days ago, Stiles would’ve leapt at the opportunity, no questions. Now, though, Jackson isn’t just some abrasive dude he’s stuck on an island with. He’s… a person. He’s even started calling Stiles by his preferred name, which feels big for them. Not to mention, he and Lydia are like two peas in a pod, and Stiles has a feeling he doesn’t want to get on her bad side unless she’s guaranteed to be going home that night.

“I can trust you, right?” Scott checks, as if Stiles would say anything but ‘of course’, “It’s because… he’s putting the moves on Allison.”

“What?” Stiles shrieks, even louder than before, and again, Scott shushes him urgently.

“Keep it down,” he urges.

“Sorry, again, but… really? He’s so close with Lydia, though.”

Scott scrunches his face up, like there’s something else going on here that Stiles doesn’t understand. Why does it always feel like there’s some kind of conversations happening off-screen which Stiles isn’t a part of? He’s been doing alright so far, dammit. “You asked for a name,” Scott sighs, “I’m not pressuring you into doing anything,” he amends, because Scott is apparently a nice guy, even when he’s plotting cutting Jackson out of the race for a million dollars, “but he’s who I’m voting for.”

“Okay, man,” Stiles acknowledges, unsure. He doesn’t want to get rid of Jackson, but he also doesn’t particularly want to get rid of, well, anyone. Why can’t one of the strangers on the Wolves tribe go home instead? Stiles could certainly do without possible future homicide at the hands of Derek… who still scares him.

Stiles makes to step away and is stopped by Scott’s arm on his shoulder. “Stiles?”

“Yeah?”

“Let me know if it’s gonna be me, yeah?”

How awful would that be? To not have a single inkling that you might be the one who’s going home; to be completely blindsided. Stiles can’t imagine a world in which Scott goes home tonight, but people are unpredictable at the best of times. In a game like this, there’s never any telling what could end up happening.

“Of course, man. Same here.”

It’s somehow less chaotic than the previous build-up, but every name under the sun gets thrown out there.

“We’re voting for Jennifer,” Lydia tells Stiles, “And I heard she’s… she’s voting for me.”

“I want to vote for Deaton,” Malia deadpans, while Deaton is in clear hearing range, making everyone sitting around the fire splutter at her directness. “None of us know what you’re thinking,” she tells him. It isn’t even said meanly, she’s just stating facts. Deaton laughs it off and none of them seem to take it to heart.

“If you don’t vote for Danny,” Jennifer threatens, “I’ll write your name down.”

Cool, Stiles thinks, as he walks into tribal council with absolutely zero idea what’s going on.

M|||||||||—||||||||||

“Welcome back to tribal council,” Peter’s voice booms to them as they come in with their torches still lit behind them.

They each take their seats and get straight into it. There’s no point delaying the inevitable. Someone else is going home tonight.

“So, Deaton, how does it feel to be coming back to tribal council?”

Deaton’s face is stoic as ever as he answers, “It doesn’t feel good, Peter.”

“It feels like the Hunters have become the hunted, so to speak,” Jennifer adds on, sounding far too cheerful.

There’s a lapse of silence after Jennifer’s words, and Stiles suddenly feels on edge because for almost the first time since coming on the show, it was quiet. And that was unsettling to say the least.

“Lydia, what do you think went wrong in today’s immunity challenge for you guys?”

Lydia was behind Stiles in the same seat as she was last time, and as she sighed a gentle puff of air it sent a chill down his spine. One of them was going home tonight. “I don’t think anything went wrong, particularly,” she sounded tired, like she already knew what was coming. Was Lydia the one going home? God knows. “We won the reward challenge, so we proved that we have the potential for victory in us. But…” she trailed off.

“But the Wolves just… they just had us beat, in today’s challenge.” Jackson finishes.

“Is it safe to say that this tribal council won’t be as easy as the last one was?” Peter asks. Stiles wonders if there are producers in his ears telling him what hard-hitting questions to ask, or if he’s actually just good at reading the room.

“I don’t think any time we’re at tribal council is ever easy, Peter,” Scott answers at the same time that Stiles says about the same thing but in fewer words.

“I think we should just vote,” Malia drops, serious as ever, “We all came here tonight with a name we were going to write down, and I think, for all this talk, no matter what we all say it won’t change the outcome.”

Silence, again.

“Wow,” Peter surmises, “Sounds like there’s no point drawing this out any further, is there?”

“Guess not,” Danny hazards, voice sounding as hesitant as Stiles is feeling.

“In that case, it is time to vote,” Peter declares, “Stiles,” he jumps at the use of his name, “you’re up.”

Stiles writes down the name Jen and prays that he read things right tonight. He tells the cameras as much, “I hope I read things right tonight,” he says. Prays that the reason he’s so confused isn’t because he’s unwittingly going home tonight. That would… that would really suck.

As is the rule of the game, they each go up, and they each vote, and even as Stiles tries to work out who is writing whose name based on the movement of their elbows, he can only guess. Was that an S? Maybe a B? Not knowing was the worst thing.

“I’ll go count the votes,” Peter said, and he was back fast. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it,” pause, “Now would be the time to do so.” Silence. Everyone shuffling in their seats awkwardly, everyone’s eyes bouncing from person to person, waiting for somebody to pull something out of their pants.

“Yeah,” booms a voice, slicing through the silence and makes Stiles’ heart plummet, “I’d like to play this for myself, thanks.”

Jennifer steps up from her seat and hands the small, unassuming idol to Peter for him to confirm its legitimacy. “This…” pause, “is a hidden immunity idol. Any votes cast for Jennifer will not count. Once the votes are read, the decision is final, the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately,” Peter uttered the same threat, and it hurt no less. “I’ll read the votes.”

Stiles looks nervously up to Jennifer, feeling like he was staring at his death. Peter plucked a piece of parchment from the urn. “First vote,” he unfurled it, “Jennifer, does not count.”

It wasn’t Stiles’ handwriting. That meant that he wasn’t the only one completely blindsided by this. Whether that was comforting or more disconcerting? Anyone’s guess.

There was a tiny noise behind him, and Stiles turned his head slightly to catch Lydia clutching Jackson’s hand like a lifeline.

“Second vote,” he unfurled another slip of paper, “Jennifer, does not count.” Peter looked to be having the time of his life as he rapidly cycled through all of their nullified votes. “Third vote,” handwriting he now recognised as Jackson’s scrawl, “Jennifer, does not count. Fourth vote… Jennifer, does not count. Fifth vote… Jennifer, does not count. Sixth vote… Jennifer does not count.” Peter paused with his hands either side of the urn containing the three remaining votes. “That’s currently no votes to anybody,” he confirmed, just to rub it in. “Seventh vote…” his pause was telling enough that whoever’s name was on that piece of paper wasn’t Jennifer’s. “Stiles.”

Stiles’ heart stopped. Who voted for him? He whipped his head around, probably driving the viewers crazy at home with his exaggerated movements, but he could honestly not see anyone here writing his name down. None of them even mentioned him! None except… Jennifer.

His eyes landed on her, and she was smirking. She’d threatened him. She’d threatened him and he’d been too proud to take it to heart. He thought he was safe.

He was wrong.

“That’s one vote Stiles, two votes left.” He reached in for the penultimate piece of parchment and unfurled it seemingly in slow motion. Stiles’ blood was pounding in his head. “Eighth vote...” he cast his eyes across them all until his eyes landed on Stiles. He felt personally attacked. “Jackson.” He released a breath he didn’t even realise he was holding as Scott’s vote was revealed. There was one vote left, meaning it was either him or Jackson, or it was going to be a tie and revote. If there was a tie, he didn’t doubt Lydia would burn him to save Jackson in a heartbeat, so it was either Jackson went home right now, or Stiles did. He didn’t have high hopes. “That’s one vote Jackson, one vote Stiles, one vote left…”

In a moment of solidarity against Jennifer and her complete blindside tonight, Stiles turned back to where Jackson was being clutched tight by Lydia and gave him a tight smile which was returned with a smile just as tight. “Ninth vote, and the second person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters,” he turned the parchment around, and Stiles couldn’t even read what was written for a moment his vision went so blurred. Lydia let out a choking sound behind him, though, and then Peter’s melodic voice announced, “Jackson. That’s two votes, and tonight, that’s enough, you need to bring me your torch.”

“It’s okay,” Lydia tells him, and Stiles can tell as much as any person watching that whatever developed between the two of them over the past few days, whether it was friendship or something else, was real. Lydia looked genuinely hurt to lose him.

“You did incredibly,” Stiles gasped, repeating the only thing he knew to say to Jackson, and he clapped Stiles on the shoulder as he stood up and retrieved his torch. He gave a few pats on the back to others as well, like Danny and Allison, before making his way over to Peter.

“Jackson Whittemore, the tribe has spoken.”

“Seems like only two of them have, really,” Jackson jested, but the hurt was raw on him as his torch was snuffed.

“Bye Jackson,” Danny called, looking like he wanted to go over and give the man a hug. Even Scott, who Stiles knew had voted for him, looked like it pained him to see him go.

Better him than me, Stiles told himself. Maybe if he said it enough, reminded himself of why he was doing this enough, he’d believe it enough not to care about the people he was meeting here. Only one person won this game.

Jackson disappeared into the dark as he walked away from the council.

“In the real world, confidence is key,” Peter started a spiel, “but in the game of Survivor, it kills.” Very nice, Peter, Stiles thought, thanks for your input. “Grab your torches, head back to camp. I’ll see you all tomorrow.”

Jennifer looked smug as she grinned at each and every one of them, as if she proved a point tonight.

The only point Stiles saw that she got across was the point that nobody trusted her for a damn reason.

JM||||||||—||||||||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I learned that it’s important for me to be a bit more open with people when I first meet them. I know I made a few bad impressions when I first got to the island, and I think it showed. I’m proud of the relationships I made in just a few short days, though.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I don’t think I’d change anything, really. I mean, sure, I got eliminated, but it’s not like I’m not damn proud of how I played my game. Maybe I’d work a bit harder to split the votes in case of an idol play, but as far as endings go, I’m glad I went down like that.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“Lydia Martin is going to be the Sole Survivor. She’s smart, passionate, and knows how to play her strengths. I think she’s got a good chance of making it to become the Sole Survivor this season. I think Jennifer’s days are numbered.”

Chapter Text

When they’d come back from their first council after voting out Matt, the camp was relatively agreeable. Jennifer notwithstanding.

Now, before Stiles’ shaking hands have even let go of his water bottle, the tribe is up in hysterics.

“I can’t believe you, Jennifer,” Lydia hisses, breaking her prim and proper look for the first time since Stiles has known her.

“Just looking out for myself, sister,” Jennifer purses her lips up and blows a faux-kiss back at her before taking a seat, as if she has nothing at all to be concerned about. As if the whole tribe isn’t suddenly out for her head (as if it wasn’t before). “I’m not sorry for saving myself,” she says, which is true, “And for your information, I didn’t write down your little boy-toy’s name. Thought you’d be smart enough to have figured that out. You have Scott and Malia to thank for that.”

Malia. That’s who else wrote Jackson’s name down.

“Who voted for Jackson?” Danny asks, joining where the rest of them are gathered in a grand circle of frustration.

“We were just talking about that,” Jennifer says, faux-invested. “It was Scott and Malia.” She waves her hands between them, “Discuss.”

“Scott?” Allison’s voice sounds small as she turns sad eyes to him.

Stiles doesn’t say a thing, just stands there like a fly on the wall. He doesn’t trust his voice not to come out crackly, and he doesn’t have anything to add anyway. It felt like a knife through his heart to have his name written down. Is that what he put Matt through on the first council?

“I’m not sorry that I wrote his name down,” Scott confirms what they all already knew. Face hard, he adds on, “It was for Stiles.”

What? “What?” Stiles croaks out, loudly.

“When Jennifer spoke to me this morning, she was trying to rile me up so badly that it was obvious she wanted every vote directed at her tonight.”

“Scott told me,” Malia contributes. “That woman,” she pointed at Jennifer, “loved the drama too much. She knew she was safe; wanted her vote to be the only one.”

“Why Jackson, though?” Allison asks, and she sounds as shaken as Stiles feels. Maybe they’re all as naïve as one another and Jennifer is the one really playing the game. It’s like the saying goes: hate the player, not the game.

“He was pissing me off yesterday,” Scott scowled, and the old, freakishly nice Scott felt like such a fond memory all of a sudden, “Bringing up you and—and…” he pauses, “It just got personal, alright?”

“But why?” Lydia echoes, and this time, it’s Malia that explodes.

“What the hell else were you expecting, coming out here?” she snarls, “If you want to win this, then literally each and every one of us here right now besides you has to lose. That would’ve included Jackson.”

“I know that,” Lydia murmurs.

“Look,” Scott interjects before Malia can tear into Lydia any more, “I want all seven of us here to go as far in the game as we can together—”

“Eight.”

“No,” Scott address Jennifer’s interruption, “Seven, because I can’t think of a scenario where I’d want to work with you after how recklessly you played yesterday. I want the seven of us to make it far, but realistically I expect most of you to jump ship as soon as new options come up.”

“And you won’t jump ship?” Deaton checks.

“Of course I might,” Scott sighs, visibly losing much of his enthusiasm to uncertainty, “but I have as much of a clue as any of you as to what we’re supposed to do now. We’re fractured as a tribe; we’re losing. We’ve far from lost, though.”

Silence.

“I think we should go to sleep,” Lydia proposes, still looking rocked by the night’s events, but much more composed than she was before.

“We need to win the next immunity challenge,” Danny says, even as everyone crowds under the shelter. Stiles is wedged between Malia and Scott, and he’s hit by how throughout the game they’re going to have to sleep side-by-side with people that have betrayed him or the people he trusts.

“By the sounds of it, I need to win us the next immunity challenge,” Jennifer’s voice wafts over him. Stiles is just glad he isn’t being forced to sleep next to her, and wishes Deaton luck that he isn’t strangled in the night.

When Stiles closes his eyes, it’s somehow different than it was in the previous nights. The atmosphere isn’t comfortable like it once was. It felt so much easier when everyone was seemingly on the same team in things. Now, Stiles isn’t sure where he fits into everything.

He was pretty blatantly claimed as a member of Scott’s little pack, but he didn’t even vote with them tonight; didn’t even consider that somebody other than Jennifer might be going home.

When he came into this game, he purported it as a stepping stone, a mere forty days away from home that would end in him receiving a million dollars. Now, as their sixth day on the island draws to a close, he can’t even rationalise another week of this, let alone the remaining thirty-four days.

It’s for his dad, though. He has to keep telling himself that so he doesn’t think about how unprepared he was for the reality of the game.

It’s for his dad.

It’s for his dad.

It’s for his dad.

JM||||||||—||||||||||

The next day is the day of rest between tribal council and the day of the reward challenge. Stiles wakes up with a start, like he’s expecting to find himself snapping into consciousness to witness another fight between members of the tribe.

When he looks around, though, things are disgustingly normal.

Jennifer is still asleep, as are Malia and Danny. Over by the extinguished fire, Scott, Allison and Lydia are sitting down and chewing on bits of coconut and rice. Stiles’ stomach rumbles at the sight of even the slightest iota of food. He’d kill for some curly fries right about now.

Stiles stealthily disentangles himself from Malia’s wandering hands and then slinks over to join the others by the fire.

“Morning, Stiles,” Allison greets. Even though her face is tear-streaked, she looks… better. So does Lydia, though her face is devoid of tears and emotion in general. Scott still looks saddened, like he ruined something which was good, but Stiles doesn’t doubt they’ll all become numb to the emotional side of the game the longer they’re out here.

“Morning guys,” he replies and takes the small serving of rice Lydia thrusts at him as he takes his seat alongside them. They’ve been good at rationing the food thus far, but the longer they all live on such tiny amounts the more they’re going to yearn for a decent helping. “Where’s Deaton?”

“Out looking for more food,” Scott responds, “The man’s knowledge of the wild is uncanny.”

“He is a vet,” Lydia comments. “Speaking of which, I never asked for clarification about what you do, Stiles.”

Dangerous question, Stiles thinks. When they’d done the quick conversational getting-to-know-you icebreakers on the first day, he’d said he just did all kinds of jobs to support himself. It wasn’t a lie, he just didn’t want everyone in the nation thinking he was a charity case. It was bad enough that the interviewers knew and forced information out of him.

“What needs clarifying?” he dodges, shoves his whole ‘breakfast’ into his mouth.

“I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it?” Allison sounds empty. “We’re all still going to send each other home at the end of the day.”

Silence. Perhaps the most awkward silence in the history of the show.

“Stripping.” Stiles blurts, and it’s so loud in the wake of the quietness.

“What?”

“I, uh, well, stripping was one of the jobs I tried out.”

Silence. Did Stiles just admit to trying to sell his body on national television? Maybe they’ll edit it out.

“I can see that,” Lydia comments cheekily, and the atmosphere lightens a bit at the jest. Both figuratively and literally, as the sun continues to rise higher over the horizon of the ocean.

“Actually, it didn’t really work out that well,” Stiles corrects whatever weird image is currently in her head of what he does for a living, “I don’t have a set of abs or a toned stomach like everyone else on this show seems to.”

Allison casts her eyes to Scott for a second and mutters, “Yeah, very true.”

“I do not have a toned stomach!” Scott defends, as if he’s being accused of something.

Lydia rolls her eyes, “Whatever you say, sweetie.”

“Alright, maybe I do,” he acquiesces, “But Stiles has beautiful eyes.”

Half a beat of silence.

“What?” Stiles squawks as Lydia and Allison start laughing.

“Sorry, man,” Scott rapidly tries to do damage control. Once again, as if there’s been some kind of untoward accusation. “I mean, no homo?” Well that’s all good then. “It’s just, well, they’re pretty or something.”

“Aw, Scottie,” Lydia croons, easy, “that’s so cute.”

“Whatever. Allison’s eyes are still prettier though.”

“Ugh, sickening.” Stiles groans. “But if we’re talking about beautiful things it’s important that we mention the elephant in the room,” he runs his hand through Lydia’s perfect, fiery hair, “Lydia’s personality.”

“Thank y—wait, Stiles!”

She swats a hand at him gently as Danny approaches, probably woken by their conversation. “What are we talking about?”

“Lydia’s personality,” Allison answers without missing a beat.

“Oo,” he plops himself down on the other side of Lydia to sit between the two girls, “Sexy.”

“Well thanks guys,” Lydia says in faux-admiration, “but now that he’s here, we definitely need to talk about this.” She grabs the flat, perfect arches of Danny’s stomach as if it’s the kind of thing they do on the daily.

“What?” he defends, taking the serving Scott hands him and pulling a Stiles when he scoffs it down in one mouthful, “It’s from lacrosse.”

“It’s ridiculous,” Stiles scoffs. “You put some of us to shame.”

“I think Derek already does that,” Danny comments, “That man’s body is unreal.”

Something about the way he says it is serious enough that it clues Stiles into something: Danny is interested in men. Huh.

Allison perks up, “Derek?”

“Wolf from the other team. Dark hair, stubbly.” Lydia’s explanation doesn’t really narrow the suspects down, “The one Stiles latched onto in your game yesterday.”

“Oh, him! Yeah, it kind of is, isn’t it?”

“It’s not that ridiculous,” Stiles argues, just to be difficult. Yeah, Derek’s body really is that ridiculous.

Lydia scoffs, “You’re just jealous because he’d be serious competition for your stripping career.”

“What’s this about Stiles being a stripper?” Malia asks, joining their little circle.

“I am not a stripper,” Stiles assures, but in the same moment, Scott is whispering no-doubt evil things to her. It’s a lost cause, really.

“Not looking like that,” Jennifer cuts, and in the same moment Deaton emerges from the bushes holding a few handfuls of… something.

“I think Stiles could do anything he puts his mind to,” Deaton utters in that same ominous tone that oozes from everything the man says. Then he unloads his harvest into a bowl. They’re… some kind of berries. “Try one,” he directs at Scott, who does so blindly. Deaton is pretty good around camp and with the wilderness stuff, though. He starts all their fires and did the majority of the construction of their shelter. When Scott doesn’t immediately die, Stiles reaches over and takes one into his mouth as well.

They’re grape-like in size and taste, but they’re blue, and have a grossly chewy and sticky consistency.

“What are they?” Stiles asks around his mouthful of gluey berry.

“No idea,” Deaton replies, easily, just as Malia starts chowing down on one. The way her eyes widen would be comedic if it weren’t for the fact that Deaton’s words haunt him, too. “But they’re safe, and with our food dwindling as it is, I don’t think we can be picky.”

“Thanks, Deaton,” Jennifer takes one.

It’s a moment of solidarity after the uncertainty and drama of the previous night. They’re still a tribe, they still sit around the fire and talk with one another. They can backstab and yell and scream and vote against one another and they’ll still be amicable the following morning.

That’s the game, and even if it took until day seven, they’ve all realised it now.

JM||||||||—||||||||||

Day seven passes uneventfully. They don’t talk strategy as far as Stiles is aware, so he hopes nobody else is pulling any strings. They spend some time working on adding another foot of floor space to their shelter. Even though there are two less people than there were when they first constructed the bamboo scaffold, it’s still squishy when everyone’s under it at night.

Stiles wakes up on day eight and does some stretches on the beach as he watches the sun rise.

They eat their rapidly dwindling assigned portions for breakfast, and then they head off to the day’s reward challenge.

They get there before the Wolves do this time.

“So, having fun so far, Hunters?” Peter asks once they’re all standing ready on their tribes’ mat.

This is a bit Stiles never saw on TV: the waiting. It’s uncomfortable.

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be fun, Peter,” Deaton responds on behalf of the tribe. He’s probably the only one of them who could parry Peter’s puzzling speech, anyway.

“I certainly get a lot of enjoyment from it,” Peter calls out as he jogs over to take his position while the Wolves start marching towards them from down the hill. “Wolves, this is your first look at the new Hunters tribe,” Peter announces, back to narrating the bits they actually need for the show. “Jackson voted out at tribal council.”

Two of the Wolves, Ennis and Kali, nudge one another when they hear that, like they were having some kind of bet.

“So, let’s get to today’s reward challenge,” Peter gestures at the intriguing array of wooden posts and platforms set out on either side of the field of sand before them. Stiles can’t really see how it’s supposed to fit together given the massive gaps between the elevated platforms. The crew who normally demonstrate for them amble over to one of the platforms and take their positions while Peter talks. “You’ll nominate a champion who will have to make their way from one side of the field to the other.” One of the crewmembers climbs a ladder up the platform and then stands waiting at the top while four others hold up two poles a few metres high with a flat, square platform a few feet wide atop it. “The catch? You’ll have to help your champions make their way across the field by being their stilts.”

What. The crew demonstrate as the one atop the platform takes a step onto the poles being held up by the other four. The person on top stumbles around, trying to maintain their balance for a few seconds before falling the few metres to the sand with a gentle thud.

“Easy enough, right?” Peter grins, and Stiles is still caught on the sight of the crewwoman’s body falling. Sure, easy enough. “If you fall, you have to go back to the first platform and start over. Your champion’s hands can’t touch the poles, but other than that, there are no limitations to what you can do to get across. First team to make it from one side to the other wins. Wanna know what you’re playing for?”

Everyone else calls out some affirmatives, and then there’s a chorus of gasps when Peter reveals what the reward is.

Peter grins, satisfied, as the array of jars filled with edible things are revealed. Stiles’ mouth starts salivating. “Spices,” he answers the unspoken question, “You’ll get all kinds of herbs and spices to spruce up the plain rice you’ve been living on. There’s sugar, coffee, tea. I’ve even thrown in a small bag of rice so you can afford to gorge yourselves a bit more; give yourself some more energy before the next immunity challenge.” Stiles’ eyes land on what looks like salt and he licks his lips, already tasting this reward before the challenge has begun. “Worth playing for?”

“Yes!” everyone answers, though Stiles could swear the Wolves are somehow more collectively enthusiastic than the Hunters are. Maybe they’re having more food troubles over there because they aren’t haemorrhaging people.

“Then let’s get to the challenge. Wolves, you have two extra members, so two of you will need to sit out. Remember, you can’t sit out the same people in back-to-back challenges, so be sure that whoever you choose, you’re comfortable with them sitting out of the immunity challenge.” He claps and rubs his hands together, “Let’s get started.”

Danny rounds on him, “Do you want to be our champion?”

Stiles hasn’t forgotten the sight of the crewwoman falling, so no. “No, I’m skinny enough, but I’m way too clumsy.” He gestures between Allison and Lydia, “What about you guys?”

“I’ll do it,” Lydia nominates herself, “Allison is stronger. She’ll be more valuable on the ground with you guys.”

Stiles glances over and sees the Wolves in a heated discussion, probably over who they’re sitting out. Eventually, Derek and Jordan storm off to the bench. Definitely not the ones Stiles would’ve knocked out of a challenge relying on people strong enough to hold heavy poles with a person on top of them, but hey, Stiles isn’t on their tribe.

“Derek and Jordan sitting out for the Wolves!”

“Parrish!” Jordan shouts, wearing the same scowl as Sourwolf as they sit side-by-side on the sidelines. “Call me Parrish!”

“Derek and Parrish sitting out for the Wolves!” Peter repeats, without missing a beat, as if nothing at all was said. Probably because they want to cut out Parrish’s outburst from the episode.

Lydia takes her position on the platform while Stiles and Scott wrap their arms around one of the thick poles they’ll need to carry Lydia on. It’s… heavy. Between the two of them, they can hold it upright above the ground, but whether its stable or not is… another story altogether. Jennifer, Deaton, Malia, Danny and Allison appear to be having similar revelations as they each test out the weight of it.

“Just use one pole,” Lydia shouts down at them, “I have a plan, and if we go steadily enough, I won’t need more than the one foot of space.”

Across from them, the Wolves are dividing their tribe between the two poles and bracing to carry Kira across.

“Survivors ready?” Peter shouts. Stiles looks how far they have to make it to the platform, how far the fall is if Lydia’s plan doesn’t work out, how much it’ll suck if they don’t win the food-related reward and have to go into the immunity challenge against a team with bigger muscles and fuller stomachs than them. “Go!”

The seven of them hold the pole steadily up with Danny, Allison, Scott and Deaton taking the brunt of it while Stiles, Malia and Jennifer support them. Lydia steps onto the platform, the extra weight immediately apparent. The Wolves are already making their way over, fast.

Lydia evidently does some weird stance with her feet, bends her knees in a weird way in the small space available to her on the platform. Then, she screams down at them, “I’m ready, go!” and they’re off.

They walk slowly but purposefully, with Jennifer of all people setting their level pace. Maybe she really is going to try make amends after Jackson. You can’t win the game on your own, after all.

When the Wolves are about halfway there, Kira screams and tumbles to the ground and they restart.

Stiles tries to quell the relief he feels at seeing the woman fall and focusses on getting Lydia across, blocking out every other aspect of the world, just for a moment.

Step, step, step, step, step.

Step, step, step, step, step.

Step, step, step, thud!

Stiles’ attention flies forwards and he releases the hold he has by reflex. His eyes bug out of his head as he looks up.

“That’s it! Hunters win reward!”

JM||||||||—||||||||||

When they get back to camp, they don’t throw a feast or anything, but they do gorge themselves far more than any of them would have dared previously.

As soon as the first grain of spiced rice touches Stiles’ tongue, it’s like a choir of angels is singing in harmony. His whole body quakes in a good way for once. Now that he’s been reminded what it tastes like to eat something even slightly apart from bland, half-cooked rice, it’s gonna be hard to go back. Stiles doesn’t want to go back.

“Do you think we have a shot at finally winning this immunity challenge?” Danny asks with his mouth full. He’s chewing one of the gross, sticky berries and mixing it with a spoonful of sugar. By the satisfied expression on his face, Stiles is kind of tempted to try it out as well.

“I think we have a good shot,” Scott encourages, “And even if we lose again, I don’t think that necessarily reflects badly on us.”

“We’ve all tried our hardest, that’s what matters,” Lydia agrees while Jennifer nods along mutely from the corner. She doesn’t seem particularly bothered by being put decisively on the outside of their little alliance, but Stiles can see that it’s come to her notice that if they do manage to lose a third challenge in a row, that she doesn’t have any friends to fall back on.

“This is our shot to win a challenge, guys. We can do it.”

JM||||||||—||||||||||

“Survivors ready?” Peter prompts and Stiles’ eyes dart nervously between Deucalion and Scott. “Go!”

They both burst into action and start ramming their foam shields against one another, trying to knock the other off of the small circular arena and into the water. The first team to win five rounds gets immunity, and they put Stiles and his match strategically at eighth in their line-up because they’re all hoping at this point that it doesn’t end up coming down to him because he’s pretty much a guaranteed loss against anybody with Kira and Kali from the Wolves sitting out. Not to mention the fact that he got matched with Derek. He didn’t take offense to it, his pride is not worth losing another tribe-member. Plus, if either team wins before it gets to him then he doesn’t have to go through the no-doubt painful process of being emasculated by the other man.

“Come on, Scott!” he cheers, punching his fist into the air from where they’re all off to the sidelines on a floating platform looking across at them. “Pound that man!”

Deucalion clearly has some fighting experience of some kind, but Scott is holding his own pretty well. They go back and forth again and again with nobody pulling clearly ahead.

“Beat him, Scott!” Allison screams, joining Stiles’ cheer squad of one, and then just like that Scott bumps his foam shield forward hard and Deucalion loses his footing, tumbling off the arena and into the water with a splash. “Yes!”

“Scott beats Deucalion for the Hunters. The score is one, zero. Next up we have Jennifer and Ennis. Swim across and take your places on the arena.”

This was another one of their unfortunate pairings, but in their one-for-one exchange of who would go in what order, Ennis had insisted on going second. Lydia looked excited by the prospect of seeing Jennifer get tossed off of the arena into the water.

“Survivors ready?” Peter questions once they’re both standing, holding up their shields, staring one another down. Ennis is wearing a grin like he’s going to enjoy their next few moments, and Stiles can’t really fault him for that. If Stiles were that big, he’d probably enjoy a challenge like this as well. “Go!”

Ennis charges towards Jennifer with his shield raised, closes the distance and then—

And then he slips as she side-steps and he tumbles right off into the water.

Stiles… Stiles can just stare because what the hell, Ennis was perhaps the person most built for this challenge, and Jennifer of all people just beat him? What kind of sorcery is this?

“Jennifer beats Deucalion for the Hunters! The score is two, zero!” Peter sounds excited by this, probably because people at home always enjoy an unexpected result from a challenge. Keeps things interesting.

“Yes, Jennifer!” Danny cheers and claps.

“Way to go, Ennis,” Ethan from the Wolves grouches at the same time, talking over Danny.

“Next up we have Boyd and Deaton, take your places!”

They do. As Ennis climbs out of the water and onto the platform to join them, he gets a few dirty looks from the Wolves. Meanwhile, Jennifer is getting pats on the back all round. Even Lydia mutters a ‘congratulations’.

“Survivors ready? Go!”

Boyd manages to beat Deaton.

Malia and Erica end up drawing blood but Erica managed to pull out a victory.

Ethan beats Danny very brutally, and then apologises profusely when they get back to the stands.

Lydia was beaten by Jordan Parrish in a way that Stiles had to see to believe.

“The score is two to the Hunters, four to the Wolves”

Allison and Isaac’s round was the one prior to Stiles’, but because no matter what the next round would be Stiles versus Derek, they were already grieving their loss. Allison beat Isaac, barely.

So with a journey as if to his deathbed, Stiles swam over to the platform and faced down his seeming-nemesis in challenges. Stiles versus the big bad Sourwolf. He didn’t look any less terrifying than the last time Stiles had the pleasure of his proximity, if anything the way his beard had grown out just made him look all the more wild.

Over at the viewing platform, the Wolves were already smugly packing up their gear.

Rude.

“Survivors ready?” Peter calls the moment Stiles has his arms through the straps to hold his shield.

“No,” Stiles mutters weakly, earning himself a wolfish grin from Derek across from him. Smug bastard.

“Go!” he announces and immediately Derek propels himself forwards.

What the hell, Stiles thinks as he follows suit, throwing his whole body weight into the motion as if it might somehow be enough to knock Derek over.

Thud!

It isn’t. With no grace, Stiles falls flat on his back inches from the side of the arena. Inches from another tribal council, he reminds himself. Derek’s still riding his momentum, though, looming over Stiles and pressing him into the ground with his shield like he wants to squash him into it. It’s oddly reminiscent of when Derek tried to drown him in the mud pit. Good times.

“Fucker,” Stiles gasps out, uncaring if they have to bleep him swearing on TV. “You’re supposed to push me off the platform, Sourwolf.”

The words are barely a gasp, barely any force behind them, but Derek’s looming close enough to have heard them. His expression does something… weird, as if its lightening up, like that was even possible, and then he drawls out, amused and easy, while still crushing Stiles, “Sourwolf?”

Bastard, Stiles thinks as he kicks his feet wildly and somehow manages to disrupt Derek’s footing. Stiles gets about half a second of satisfaction before Derek’s weight comes crashing down onto him, this time with sharp bony, dense joints rather than the softer body of the shield.

“Oof!” Stiles gets winded and in a fight-or-flight moment uses all his strength to heave Derek off of him and off to the side.

Into the water.

“Stiles beats Derek for the Hunters!” Peter shouts, sounding almost hysterical with amusement as he does so, “The score is three to the Hunters, four to the Wolves. Scott and Deucalion, you’re back up!”

In the water, Derek gives him the most furious look Stiles has ever been subject to, and it occurs to him that’s twice now he’s beaten Derek. Once in the mud challenge and once now. They’re two-zero. Stiles is two-zero with one of the Adonis’ he was afraid of on day one. Stiles could win this thing!

This time, Derek doesn’t congratulate him, just turns and swims back over to the viewing platform, looking like his team is highly amused by the development rather than alarmed. They are still one point up, Stiles supposes.

“Survivors ready? Go!

JM||||||||—||||||||||

When they get back to camp, Stiles goes straight to refill his water bottle, because otherwise he has no idea what they’re going to do tonight.

Why?

They aren’t going to tribal council. For the first time since they arrived on the island, everyone currently on the Hunters will still be around tomorrow morning. It’s… a strange feeling, but Stiles could certainly get used to it. It’s like a massive weight off of his shoulders to know that there’s no reason to conspire or cause any drama because they’re safe.

Jennifer tries to rope him into a discussion over how he didn’t understand the reason behind her attack on him at the last tribal council, but Stiles just sticks to Scott’s side and the pair of them trade stories from home until they pass out.

Stiles still avoids the topic of his dad like the plague, but everything else… everything else he trusts Scott with, because even though Stiles didn’t want Jackson to go, Scott did save his life in the game that night. It’s nice to just speak to someone and watch the stars.

For some reason, when Stiles goes to bed that night, he’s hit with a pang of guilt at the knowledge that at the next reward challenge, one of the Wolves are going to be gone. His first thought is I hope it’s Derek, but after the initial surge of frustration, Stiles realises that he doesn’t really want Derek to go. Just like he doesn’t want Deaton to go. Because Stiles and Malia might not talk any more than Stiles and Derek do, Stiles has still interacted with them, and that has to be better than the people on the Wolves who Stiles doesn’t know as more than a name.

That being said, does he really know Derek as more than a name? A competitor? Doesn’t he have about as much of a repertoire with Deucalion, Erica, Ethan and Jordan?

But there was that… smile, or half of one, at least. That hint of lightness in his expression when Stiles called him ‘Sourwolf’. Something about that just keeps gnawing at him whenever he declares himself impassive at the idea of Derek being eliminated from the game.

He shuts his eyes and practically passes out when the thoughts just keep going around and around with no resolution.

JM||||||||—E|||||||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I don’t think I learned that much. All I really learned from this is that my tribemates are idiots who are more interested in their little buddies than keeping the tribe strong. They’re going to crash and burn, now, if they think they can win challenges without me. Idiots.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I’d squash some of the little pricks on the tribe like they deserve. Honestly, do they even know how to play the game? Ridiculous. And Mr f—friggin’ Jordan Parrish—throwing his vote away on someone who wasn’t even on the chopping block? Does he even know what’s going on here? Idiots, the lot of them. I could go on, but let’s wrap this up, I want to be chowing down on a burger as soon as possible.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“Deucalion is going to be the Sole Survivor. Even with the traitor Derek Hale and his little sheep-minions around on the Wolves, I’m confident Duke, Kali and Ethan can go far. Of all of us, Duke deserves it the most, though. I’m really rooting for him.”

Chapter Text

When Stiles wakes up, his world is no different than it was the day before. The tribe hadn’t been forced to pick off one of their own members, there was no betrayal, they just went to bed and woke up as whole as they were when they were asleep.

It’s a nice feeling. Giddy, almost.

Stiles casts his eyes over the rest of the tribe asleep around him and wonders when they all became such heavy sleepers. All except…

“Stiles,” a whisper comes from near the shelter and Stiles blinks his focus up towards Scott, who is making urgent motions to follow him.

It’s too early for whatever this is, Stiles is sure, but the cameras are orbiting Scott like something particularly interesting has happened, so Stiles quickly sobers himself and goes through the arduous process of escaping Malia’s wandering hands without waking her. If Stiles weren’t painfully aware that everyone was spooning everyone to stay warm, he’d probably be trying to analyse it.

As he shuffles off the edge of the shelter, he falls to the dirt with a loud thud. Glancing up, he’s somehow managed not to wake anyone, but Scott is still crouching nearby and looking pained by every noise Stiles makes.

“What’s—” up, he was going to say, but Scott muffles any further whispered words with a hand over his mouth and a hip-check to get him to start moving away.

Is Stiles being abducted? Did he sign up for a different show to the one he thought he was on? What the hell was happening?

Scott keeps Stiles silenced and directs him into the jungle, off-path of the route that leads to the well. If the cameras weren’t still following them, Stiles would be concerned Scott was going to stealthily murder him. Scott was weird sometimes.

Finally, when Scott apparently deems them far enough away from the camp, he removes his hand, and in a very horror-movie-like fashion, says, “You’re probably wondering why I brought you hear today.”

Stiles cuffs him gently over the head, “Duh. What was with the kidnapping? Is there something out here? Is this about the game? Did someone on the tribe say something? You’re freaking me out here, man.”

“Calm down,” Scott tells him, doing nothing to actively assuage Stiles’ stress, “It’s… it’s a challenge thingy.”

Stiles’ interest is immediately piqued. “Challenge thingy?”

Scott nods, “Yeah, I mean, kind of,” he produces a piece of parchment from his shorts and holds it out to him.

“Gimme,” Stiles snatches it immediately and starts scanning his eyes all over it. He’s so excited it takes a few tries before he can even slow his eyes down enough to read the words printed on it.

Congratulations, you have found a clue to a hidden immunity idol. It is up to you whether you share this information with anybody else.

A good start to a day if there ever was one. Stiles grins goofily back at Scott as he reads the body of the clue.

Thinner than blood, wetter than mud.
It’s good to have protection,
From friends and from foes.
It could just be salvation,
Is right under your nose.

“Wow, so it’s actually here somewhere,” Stiles breathes. Then he re-evaluates the first part of the message: It is up to you whether you share this information with anybody else. “Dude,” Stiles sighs dreamily, because he always judges people that share information like this for being gullible, but now that it’s actually happened to him he feels even more attached to Scott than he was before. And that’s really saying something given that he literally saved Stiles’ life in the game in the Jackson vote. “I freaking love you, man!” Stiles shouts as he gives Scott a manly hug. What a legend.

“Bro we need to find it,” Scott declares, laughing as he peels Stiles’ arms off of him. “The others are gonna wake up soon.”

“Right, right,” Stiles rereads the clue just once before his expression bursts into a manic grin. “I think I’ve got it.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, c’mon,” he encourages and starts bolting in the direction he’s pretty sure is towards the well. As far as riddles go, it seems remarkably simple. Scott tags along behind him like an excited puppy, and the camera crew are also keeping up with him, expressions as impassive as ever.

As soon as they breach into the opening where the well lies, Stiles is excavating the whole area.

“Oh my god, you’re right!” Scott calls out from behind him before leaping into action alongside him.

He sifts through every handful of soft earth for anything that could remotely be foreign, but his first few scoops only manage to upheave a few rocks and other detritus. That’s alright, there’s plenty of ground around here for them to scope out.

“Oh!” Scott calls out after a few minutes and Stiles rounds on him with wild excitement for a moment before both of them back up from the centipede scuttling around that Scott evidently enraged.

“I wish we had gloves or something,” Stiles muttered as he took in the many small cuts both of their hands. “Come on,” he encourages, “We’re in no hurry. Let’s just dig in the area close to the well and then if we can’t find it we can come back later. Nobody else has this clue after all.”

They do. They dig and dig and dig until it becomes difficult to try and cover up what they were doing from the next person that comes to the well.

“We should head back, I’m hungry,” Stiles announces after deliberating for a few minutes on whether or not they should continue.

“Yeah,” Scott sighs, “You’re totally right about the clue, though. It’s gotta be here somewhere.”

Stiles just shrugs as they make their way along the path back to camp.

“Is it obvious what we were doing back there?” Scott asks, “I tried to make the ground as even as I could afterwards, but it still looked so obvious, didn’t it?”

“It’s all good,” Stiles assured, “Nobody’s going to be able to tell. And if they do, as long as it isn’t Jennifer,” god forbid she find a second idol, “then I’m not concerned about someone else on our tribe having it.” That’s probably another lie Stiles is telling himself, but it makes him feel like a better person. “Where did you find the clue by the way?”

“It was tied onto the jar of sugar we got at the reward two days ago,” Stiles mouth watered nowadays at the mention of any kind of foodstuffs, “I can’t believe nobody noticed it earlier.”

“All the better for us though, right?” Stiles hazards, putting extra emphasis on the ‘us’. “Seriously, man, I know this sounds crazy to say on day ten, but—”

“Same.”

Stiles blinks, but they collectively slow their pace as they start to approach the end of the path. “Huh?”

“I want us to take one another to the end as well,” he agrees easily, and Stiles has never found himself so easily on the same page as someone before. They breach back into the shore where their shelter and the rest of the tribe is, and Scott breaks off from his side with a pat to his back, no doubt to go put the clue into his bag.

“Morning Stiles,” Deaton greets as he approaches where the rest of the men of the Hunters are gathered.

“Morning all,” he responds, taking the seat next to his usual one because Danny is occupying it. “What’s for breakfast?”

“Rice,” Malia deadpans, walking up with the rest of the girls from where they were doing… something on the beach. Probably washing up in the water, something which Stiles seriously needs to do to clean his filthy, dirt-crusted hands. And also, y’know, for his general hygiene, but that comes as a secondary motivation.

“Rice and coffee, if you’re inclined,” Danny elaborates cheerfully.

Stiles… isn’t really inclined towards coffee in his everyday life, but now that he’s got so few options of things to put in his mouth, he figures he can’t be that picky. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

“Who do you think went home on the Wolves?” Allison asks conversationally once they’ve all had their allotted mouthfuls, excluding Scott, who is knee-deep in the ocean washing himself up. Stiles is still not inclined towards coffee, but it beats the taste of plain, bland rice lingering in his mouth.

“Doesn’t really matter, does it?” Jennifer elbows Stiles like she just told a ripper of a joke. If it was a joke, Stiles doesn’t get it.

“I reckon it was that Parrish guy,” Danny guesses, “The way he blew up at that challenge the other day makes me think there’s drama there.”

“I think it’ll be Isaac,” Malia adds her two cents, “He’s the smallest guy on a team full of huge guys.”

“Cute, though,” Allison comments, and Stiles is just glad that Scott wasn’t around to hear that or he would’ve found a new nemesis.

It’s another thing that’s pretty obviously developed, but that nobody talks about: the thing between Scott and Allison. Chemistry, if nothing else, because they’re on an island together, but Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if they endeavoured to have some kind of a relationship outside of the game.

“In that scenario, normally the alpha-males would fight it out rather than picking off the beta-males,” Lydia comments, “I think Ennis or Ethan have gone home.”

“We’ll find out tomorrow I suppose,” Danny shrugs. “I’m gonna go for a swim,” is all the warning Stiles gets to brace himself before he’s shedding his shirt, throwing it at him, and running down the beach.

Danny is… frustrating.

Stiles’ sexuality has always been pretty impartial when it comes to people with nice personalities or bodies, but now that he’s been inundated with so many people that fit every individual criterion of his at once and having to watch them—

“Outta the way, McCall!” Danny cheers as he barrels past Scott and dives effortlessly into the clear, crystal blue water of the ocean, sun bathing his skin in a dangerously flattering light.

Having to watch them do that on a daily basis… it’s making Stiles awfully aware that he hasn’t had any Stiles time for over a week.

“I think it’ll have been that little Asian girl,” Jennifer declares her nomination for who went home.

“Kira,” Stiles corrects, “Maybe. Or maybe Erica?”

Stiles actually agrees with Lydia’s prognosis of Ennis or Ethan, but figures he may as well play through every single member of the Wolves to try and get a read on what the rest of the Hunters’ impressions are of them. They don’t really talk about the other tribe much apart from after the challenges.

“I don’t even know half of their names to be honest,” Jennifer acknowledges, which doesn’t really surprise Stiles.

“Neither,” Malia agrees, “but once we get to actually talk properly with them, it’ll be easier. Not that you’ll be around for that.”

Silence.

“What?”

Malia is also frustrating, in more ways than one, but she’s also a good person to have in your corner because you know she’ll be straightforward.

“I think I’ll join Danny for that swim,” Lydia proposes, to which there is a quick chorus of agreement from everyone but he and Allison.

They’re both just sitting there watching as Scott makes his way up the beach to have his serving of breakfast, though Stiles figures she’s not watching Scott with a brotherly kind of adoration like he is.

Gross. But also good on him.

“I’m gonna go for a swim, too,” Stiles declares so he isn’t subject to third-wheeling their little romance story. The cameras are also getting quite a lot of footage of the two in the same shots, so he figures it’ll be the kind of scandalous thing they’ll advertise. Two beautiful people like Scott and Allison finding time for romance amongst all the chaos of the show? That’ll make for good viewing, surely.

As soon as he’s in the water, he lets himself float away from the game for a moment and lends a thought to home.

Is his dad doing okay? Is he still alive? His heart condition was relatively stable when he’d left, but the whole reason they needed the money for the surgery was because it was unpredictable. Stiles shivered at the thought of making it through forty days of this only to find out that Stiles had spent his last days with his dad on an island in the middle of nowhere.

Someone would contact the show, he told himself. They’d let him withdraw from the game if something was wrong.

He thinks of his the kids he used to go to school with. Are they going to watch him? Are they going to laugh at him for thinking he could do this?

He dunks his head under the water for a second and then resurfaces and casts his eyes over the rest of the tribe, feeling uncannily similar to how he felt when he was disassociating on the boat on their first day out here.

He’s not even close to being as capable as any of these people, yet already he’s outlasted three of them. The timeline of major events varies from season to season, but there’s a biting sensation on the back of Stiles’ neck that he trusts enough to know that there’s something coming. They’re ten days in, meaning that they’re a quarter of the way through the game (and when did that happen, seriously?) yet there’s only been three people eliminated so far. The game is going to gain momentum the longer it goes on, and Stiles just hopes he doesn’t get crushed under the pressure.

He can outplay these people. He can beat Deaton, Danny, Jennifer, Malia, Allison, Lydia, and… Scott. He can beat Scott. That’s a thing he can do. The same way he could get meaningful with Jackson and still beat him.

Stiles wonders if the guilt lingers longer than day ten, day twenty, day forty. Does winning feel like satisfaction even though you’ve crushed the dreams of the nineteen other people you’ve fought through it with?

A welcoming revelation imparts itself upon him. It doesn’t matter how winning feels, how Stiles feels, because no matter what, it’ll all be worth it if he comes out of this with the ability to save and improve his dad’s quality of life.

“You doing alright, Stiles?” Lydia asks, and Stiles was so introspective he hadn’t noticed her wading over to him.

“Yeah, just, you know how it is,” he splashes his hand around instead of waving it to articulate his point, “the game and all that.”

“Yeah,” she agrees grimly, “It’s hard, but it is what it is.” Stiles doesn’t have anything to add to that, because she’s right, it is what it is. They signed up for this. “If you go home in two days, it’ll hurt me, but I can’t let it stop me from going on without you. If I lose Allison, Danny, Scott, Malia, and Deaton… I mean, it’s inevitable isn’t it?”

Wow, so it’s not just Stiles having a serious case of bad morale. “Hey,” he tries to pat her on the back but it’s ridiculously difficult while they’re both trying to stay afloat. He ends up splashing water onto her face but barrels on through the blunder anyway, “Saying that is like saying there’s no point in living because we’re gonna die. Just because all of us can’t be winners doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play the game.”

She smiles at him, and something about Stiles’ own words comforts himself as well, “Thanks, Stiles. For what it’s worth, I hope we go far together.”

Stiles wonders if she’s this close with everyone—with Scott as well. If they shouldn’t try and solidify a strong, rigid core alliance of three.

For now, though, none of that matters.

“I hope we do, too.”

JM||||||||—E|||||||||

Scott and Stiles revisit the well and do some more digging later in the day, but once again they turn up no hidden immunity idols. After almost being caught digging around by Deaton, Stiles asks to reread the clue and still comes to the same conclusion as he had originally. It’s disheartening and Stiles can practically feel the people at home laughing at them for not being able to find the probably-obvious idol. Where the hell is it?

After a night of restless sleep haunted by the words thinner than blood, wetter than mud, Stiles and the rest of the tribe head out to the reward challenge while excitedly chattering among themselves about who was right about which member of the Wolves got sent home.

“Hunters, this is your first look at the new Wolves tribe,” Peter announces while they walk up to where the reward challenge has been assembled for them. “Ennis voted out at tribal council.”

None of them make any reaction to that, aware of how rude that can come across to blatantly show that you’re betting on who survives. Better if it goes unspoken.

“So, let’s get to today’s reward challenge,” Peter gestures at the intricate course set out before them while the crew take their positions to show them what crazy thing they’re expected to do today. “For this challenge you’ll have three members of your tribe attached to a braided rope. They must work together to untangle themselves. Once untangled, another three members will use the ropes to drag a sled of wooden puzzle pieces from the beginning of the course to the two remaining tribe members, who will sue the pieces on the sled to solve an upright puzzle.”

Stiles could probably actually be involved in the untangling section for once instead of the puzzle, but he can already see Lydia electing to do the puzzle with him. He’s probably typecast himself at this point and will never be allowed to do a physical challenge ever in the entire game.

“Understood?” There’s a smattering of affirmations and Peter grins. “Wanna know what you’re playing for?” Everyone echoes some more affirmatives and Peter reveals what they’re playing for. “Pizza,” he announces, even though nobody had to ask. Stiles’ jaw is on the floor, because he was expecting more survival type gear, not… not pizza. He loves pizza. “This one is mine,” he says in a teasing tone, though his eyes are dead serious, “but the winning tribe will get to have each member personalise the toppings on a small pizza which will be assembled and the feast will be waiting for you back at camp.” Stiles is at serious risk of fainting at the prospect of eating pizza, after rice and weird berries and some spices to keep things interesting. Pizza… pizza was not expected, but it is highly approved of. “Worth playing for?”

“Yes!” everyone shouts, “Then let’s get to the challenge. Wolves, you have one extra member, so one of you will need to sit out. Remember, you can’t sit out the same people in back-to-back challenges, so be sure that whoever you choose, you’re comfortable with them sitting out of the immunity

JM||||||||—E|||||||||

“Boyd sitting out for the Wolves!” Peter declares. As expected, Stiles and Lydia are going to be responsible for completing the puzzle. The untangling will be done by Jennifer, Allison and Danny while Scott, Deaton and Malia pull the sled. The puzzle seems more mind-boggling compared to the ones they’ve done so far, even though the pieces are bigger. That’s predominantly because of its upright nature and the lack of a mould or outline to work with. It’s more like they’re gonna have to assemble a sculpture than solve a puzzle.

So yeah, Stiles is not looking forward to it.

“Survivors ready?” Peter shouts. “Go!”

“Go Allison! Yes Danny! Nice Jennifer!” he and Lydia cheer appropriate pleasantries as they rapidly untangle themselves. On the other team, Kira and Isaac and flying through it while Erica struggles a bit.

“Hunters are free from the rope, go Hunters!” Peter narrates as Scott, Malia and Deaton run forward and start towing the sled towards them.

“Hurry up, girl!” Kali screams. She’s standing next to Parrish near where Stiles and Lydia are. Parrish tries to say something to her and she turns and hisses something right back that seems to make him pale. Stiles decides that he’s happy he’s not on the same tribe as her and her scarily sharp toenails.

“Wolves are free from the rope, go Wolves!” Peter announces at the same moment that Scott and the others start closing on Stiles and Lydia.

“Yes, go Hunters!” Lydia cheers, clapping and jumping up and down, and Stiles figures she’s laying it on a bit thick so Kali and the rest of the Wolves get more worked up so they can’t focus on the puzzle.

Derek, Deucalion and Ethan have a lot of muscle mass between them, though, and by the time Stiles and Lydia can start on the puzzle, they only get a few seconds of a head start before Kali and Jordan are on it as well.

Stiles and Lydia lay out all the pieces first, trying to ascertain what kind of shape it’ll be. There’s a lot of white and crème colours meshing into one, lots of rounded edges, some smaller caps to it. A sphere? But how do the pieces fit together?

“I think it’s a sphere,” Stiles whispers to Lydia, hoping it helps her more than it’s helping him to understand how the hell they’re supposed to start. Luckily, across from them Kali and Parrish are just mashing pieces together in blind hope that they fit.

She nods primly after a moment and bursts into action, grabbing pieces with skinnier circumferences and putting them in order of size. Stiles sees some edges that match together right in front of him and, using her organisation, quickly assembles a number of the pieces into a portion of the sphere.

Kali and Parrish are getting yelled at by Deucalion, Derek and Ethan, and they start peaking at what they’re doing that’s working.

It’s too late, though, because what Stiles started, Lydia can finish. The rest of the puzzle rapidly comes together and before long they’re staring at a moon-like sphere about a metre in diameter. It’s probably the coolest puzzle Stiles has ever had the pleasure of doing, and now it’s also won him pizza?

Thank you moon-puzzle, Stiles thinks.

“Hunters win reward!” Peter declares, then Stiles sees the sadistic glee in his eyes as he adds on, “This is a massive loss for the Wolves!”

Stiles can’t really feel bad about that, though, because pizza, and as he and Lydia are hoisted into the arms of their various teammates, Stiles feels pretty good.

JM||||||||—E|||||||||

Stiles asks for curly fries and pasta on his pizza, trying to test the limits of the show, but the crew just give him unamused looks before rattling off a diverse list of toppings that noticeably excludes curly fries and pasta. He ends up going with having everything he can possibly stand (pretty much everything except pineapple, cause gross) and then feels smart when he plucks off a lot of the salads and puts them aside for the tribe to use for their dinners tonight.

“Immunity challenge tomorrow, kids,” Jennifer reminds them while she takes alarmingly violent bites of her slices. Her pizza consists of anchovies and a bunch of bizarre toppings with no cheese. Figures she’d be the type of monster to exclude cheese from a meal.

“We’ll win,” Scott moans around his mouthful of predominantly meat-covered pizza. “Holy f—” the camera crew give them stern looks, “—udge this is good.” He gives Stiles a surreptitious little glance as if to remind him about their need to do another search for the idol.

It’s not so important that they need it for themselves, because everyone on the tribe is pretty set on getting Jennifer out of the game, but it’s more that they can’t risk Jennifer pulling another one out of her pocket and forcing them to cut another one of themselves out. Stiles trusts Scott, but he doesn’t trust that Danny, Deaton, Allison and Malia wouldn’t still declare Stiles the weakest link if it came down to it. Stiles isn’t sure who he’d pick if he was forced to choose who to go home if not Jennifer.

Stiles has surely proven his worth in challenges now, right? Puzzles are his jam.

That being said, he still can’t carry as much weight around camp as people like Deaton. Who could?

JM||||||||—E|||||||||

Once again, Scott and Stiles are up bright and early the next morning to excavate the area around the well, and once again, they come up with nothing.

Still, just because he and Scott can’t find the security of a hidden immunity idol doesn’t mean they’re in any trouble at all. There’s still an immunity challenge.

In the afternoon, as Stiles lays his eyes upon the field and notices the lack of apparent puzzle-making section, it’s obvious that this challenge isn’t going to be one where he’ll excel.

“Alright, now that the Hunters are here, let’s get to today’s immunity challenge,” Peter wastes no time in getting right into it. Stiles glances across at the Wolves and sees that they do indeed look more and more malnourished every day. Perhaps the reason they dominated in the first few challenges was because they’d indulged themselves in more food, and now they’re reaping the consequences. “In this challenge, all tribe members will have to race through a series of obstacles. You’ll need to make your way over a wall and then through a tunnel of rope blockades which you’ll have to climb under and over to get progress through.” Peter gestures to said tunnel and Stiles figures at least he’s smaller so it’ll be slightly easier for him to squeeze through with some haste. He’ll need someone to throw him over the wall at the beginning, though. “Once through the obstacles, you’ll have one person throw sandbags to knock blocks off a platform. First tribe to knock all of their blocks off their platform wins immunity. The losing tribe will take a trip to tribal council where somebody will be the fourth person voted out of this season. We all know what we’re doing?”

“In general or for this challenge?” Isaac from the other team calls out and there’s some laughter.

“For this challenge,” Peter responds easily.

“Oh, good. Then yes.”

“Then let’s get to it. Wolves you need to nominate one member to sit out, it can’t be Boyd.” Ethan makes his way to the sidelines to sit out. “Ethan sitting out for the Wolves. Take your positions and we’ll get to it.”

Stiles does take his position at their tribe’s starting mark, and as with before every challenge, his body goes increasingly rigid as the adrenalin starts to course through him.

“Danny and I will help all of you guys up the wall first, then a few people help pull the two of us over. Sound good?” Scott asks, and there’s no argument brokered.

Stiles looks across at the Wolves and notices Deucalion and Derek both levelling him a bit of a look though Stiles isn’t sure what the significance of it is. Maybe Derek’s still mad about Stiles beating him in the ring at the last immunity challenge (a fact which still boggles Stiles, but which he will never, ever forget).

“Survivors ready?” Peter’s voice jars him from maintaining eye contact with Derek and he refocusses on winning this challenge. “Go!”

Just like that, they’re off, making a beeline towards the wall. It’s got a trampoline-type landing on the other side, so there’s no risk of any injury from just vaulting over it, but it towers over him nonetheless.

“Up! Up! Up!” Jennifer shrieks, wild, probably because she knows if they lose she’ll be the one they vote for. She’s working for it, though, as she flings herself up and over from Scott and Danny’s boost and then perches on the top to help pull Deaton up and over as well.

Next is Allison, and then him. He trusts himself in Scott and Danny’s arms as he manages to throw himself over the wall and bounces off the landing platform onto the ground to wait for the others.

Malia and Lydia come fast, and then they’re waiting as Jennifer and Malia work to pull Scott and Danny over as well.

“Come on!” Deaton encourages at the same instance as there’s a chorus of yelling on the other side as the Wolves fly ahead and start making their way through the tunnel. They had bigger people, but they still managed to get them over faster than them.

“Yes!” Malia breathes as Danny finally forces his way over the threshold and bounces down onto the landing.

“Hunters are across, you can go!”

Stiles barely waits for Peter to finish before he’s off. He was always pretty awful at running, but somehow he manages to beat every other member of his team to the tunnel, and he’s immediately climbing his way through without hesitation.

“Kira and Stiles both making fast work of the rope tunnel!” Peter commentates, “Meanwhile, Parrish and Deaton struggling a bit in the binds behind them.”

“Go Stiles!” Lydia screams as he pulls himself around the last few obstacles and frees himself from the tunnel. His heart is pounding in his ears, but he’s fighting for it.

“Stiles through first for the Hunters, closely followed by Kira for the Wolves.” There’s no way that both of the tunnels have exactly the same pattern of blockades in them, but Stiles could swear that there’s more rope cutting through their tunnel than there is in the Wolves’. Doesn’t matter if they’re winning, though. “The Hunters have a slight lead as Deaton and Jennifer quickly follow! Parrish is seriously holding up the Wolves, now.”

“Shut up, Peter,” Parrish grunts, much to everyone’s amusement, including the crew, and he manages to pull himself through the last section to join Kira.

“Parrish is through!”

Erica, Isaac, Boyd and Kali also manage to make quick work of it, but they can’t beat Danny, Allison, Malia, Scott and Lydia.

“Hunters are through, you can start throwing your sandbags! Go Hunters!” Peter continues to commentate, and Allison immediately starts pelting their sandbags at the blocks.

Her first throw knocks two of them clean off the platform. “Yes, Allison!” Stiles screams, hysterical, but somehow not anywhere near as excited as Jennifer clearly is. She could be their tribe cheerleader at this point cause damn.

“Go Allison!” she cheers, “You can do it! Yes, just like that! Woohoo! Smash those blocks!”

“Wolves are through,” Peter calls out over their excited encouragement as Allison dominates the throwing portion of the challenge, “You can start throwing your sandbags too! It is still anybody’s game!”

It isn’t, though, because even though Erica’s first throw hits its mark perfectly and sweeps three blocks off, Allison already has such a lead and consistent aim that it’s over.

“That’s it, their platform is clear! Hunters win immunity!” Peter announces and Allison rounds on them, jumping into Scott’s arms as their tribe coagulates into one massive group hug. Stiles only feels a little bit crushed between Deaton and Malia, but it’s worth it because they won… again!

Stiles is safe from being the fourth person voted out from the game, and it feels good.

Both tribes gradually filter back to their appropriate mats after sufficient congratulations.

“Hunters, that’s your second immunity win in a row,” Peter grins at the Wolves as he announces it, like he’s rubbing their faces in it. He pats the statue that represents tribal immunity. “You’re safe tonight, you can head back to camp.”

“Thanks, Peter,” Scott acknowledges as he steps up and takes the symbolic statue. Even though they got to appreciate its ownership for the past few days, it feels good to possess it for a bit longer yet.

“Wolves, unfortunately I’ve got nothing for you. Grab your stuff, head back to camp, and I’ll see you tonight at tribal council where one of you will become the fourth person voted out of this game.”

JM||||||||—E|||||||||

“Still can’t find the idol?” Stiles checks later that night when it’s just Scott and him left awake, sitting on the beach and watching the stars. They’ve known each other all of twelve days, but already Stiles is kind of struck by how much of a brother he’s become. Stiles just hopes that once the game is over they stay in contact, because Scott is honestly everything Stiles could ever ask for in a friend.

“Don’t use the ‘I’ word, dude,” Scott playfully shoves him, glances back at their shelter where everyone else has already passed out.

“Around here it’s like a trigger word, isn’t it?” Stiles sighs, “But I’ll take that as a no. I seriously don’t understand where else it could be.”

“You’ve got to be right about the clue, though,” Scott assures him, “Water, right under our nose, that’s the well. The only other water around here is the ocean, and I highly doubt they’d be so cruel as to hide it on the beach.”

“Keep in mind, this is Peter we’re talking about,” Stiles points out, “He’d do whatever he thought would result in maximum amusement for people watching, and I’m guessing that means making us suffer.”

Scott breathes out a puff of air and deflates a bit, “I guess you’re right.”

The waves gently wash up the shore towards them but die out on the sands long before they approach. It’s like a lullaby, like the old whispers of his mum’s reassurances. Stiles thinks she would have liked it here, that maybe his dad would like it, too. Maybe if Stiles ends up winning he can bring his dad here. He can almost see it, like a daydream, the two of them sitting here on the beach reminiscing on Stiles’ experiences here. Stiles could tell him all about Scott, and Malia, Jackson, Lydia, Allison, Danny, Deaton, Jennifer and Matt. He could tell him all about how he bested people like Derek in challenges. If Stiles manages to stick around until the merge, he’ll probably be able to tell all kinds of stories about the people on the other tribe, too, but at the moment they’re mostly just names and faces. Stiles isn’t sure how comfortable he is at the prospect of being thrown into meeting strangers all over again, but it’s inevitably going to happen sooner or later if he wants to remain in the game.

“Do you think we’ll still be friends after the game?” Scott asks, and Stiles has to glance over to make sure he wasn’t accidentally projecting his feelings onto Scott. But no: sweet, precious, perfect Scott is so much like him that he’s having the same thoughts.

Stiles just smiles kindly, “I’d like us to, if that’s alright.”

“Yeah,” Scott grins goofily, “I think my mum would love you.”

The word ‘mum’ will always hold a lot of painful but fond memories for Stiles, but somehow he doesn’t doubt that he’d like Scott’s mum, too. He approves of her parenting at the very least.

“I think my dad would probably think you’re the son he should have had,” Stiles jabs, because his dad’s always been funny like that. It’s probably the sorest difference that’s been expressed since he got sick and non-lucid: he doesn’t joke anymore. Stiles can tell he’s trying, when he does speak, to pretend like he’s alright, but it’s so, so obvious that he’s not. Stiles’ expression hardens, “I think my dad would love you, too.”

Scott rests his arm casually around Stiles’ shoulders, and it’s such an easy gesture of comfort, but it works.

The cameras are still rolling, watching the two friends find solidarity and comfort in the chaos of the game, but Stiles thinks that if they weren’t, if the crew could just take a break for five minutes, that Stiles would probably take the opportunity to open up to Scott about his dad, his mum, his… everything.

“I know,” is all Scott says, acknowledging the words left unspoken.

Stiles smiles out to the starry night, wondering if any of this footage will even make it to the final cut, or if Stiles will find himself more of a background character when he watches the series when he gets back home. “Yeah.”

JM||||||||—VE||||||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I think… I think I actually learned quite a lot. I came onto this show knowing I was a bit of a loner, more a keep-to-myself type than outgoing in any way. Meeting Derek, though, and meeting Erica and Isaac... I think we’ll stay close after the game.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“Well, it’s a shame I only made it twelve days in, but I think I’m also a little bit grateful that I didn’t stick around long enough to have to betray anyone. Die a hero or live long enough to become a villain and all that, y’know? I don’t think I’d change anything. Kali’s idol was unexpected, and it pretty much ensured that I was going home, so I don’t resent Derek or anyone else for not splitting the votes.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I think Derek is going to be the Sole Survivor. He’s such a strong person, and that translates into his gameplay. But what separates him from the likes of Deucalion is that he also really, genuinely cares about people. If he sees something that he has a moral disagreement with, he’s going to say something about it, even if it ends up coming back to bite him.”

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes up on day thirteen with a bone-deep sense of comfort. After his minor breakdowns over the first few days of play, Stiles would never have believed it were possible, but now, over a quarter of the way through the game, he feels… alright.

Stiles hasn’t felt alright in a long, long time. Between his mum’s passing and his dad falling ill, there hasn’t been much time for him to just… be. But now, in a cutthroat fight to the last person standing, Stiles feels alright.

The whole point of the game is to be taxing mentally, physically and emotionally, so Stiles isn’t naïve enough to believe that this little peaceful lull in his stress is going to last, but for now, as he wakes to the sound of waves crashing on the shore and jungle creatures mating (or whatever it is they do at this hour that’s so noisy), he feels present in a way that he hasn’t felt in years.

He has Scott, and while Stiles doesn’t like to even ponder the idea of losing the game, he’s going to come out of this game with a brother, whether or not that comes with a million dollars as well is just an added bonus.

He stretches out, working the aches out of his joints from the hard surface he slept on, and then promptly takes a tactical nap before waking up fully.

Or at least, he would take a tactical nap, except a chorus of raised voices starts to grow in volume down by the fire. Stiles is comfortable, but he’s not that comfortable that he’s not going to stay in the loop of whatever drama is happening.

As he approaches the fire around which the rest of the tribe is standing and throwing accusations, he catches his name.

“…choose Stiles over any of you!”

“Jennifer, that’s not true.” Scott’s response is diplomatic, “We’re an alliance of seven, not two. Stiles and I are just friends, same as the rest of us.”

“You have to admit you two are closer with each other than you are with us,” Danny mutters, sounding a bit anxious, like he’s afraid of them because they’re friends. What the hell was Jennifer stirring up here?

“What’s going on here?” Stiles inserts himself into the circle. If someone could catch him up, that’d be nice. Any minute now.

When Jennifer rounds on him, it’s hard to miss the mad excitement in her eyes. “Oh look who decided to turn up! Did you have a good sleep? It must be nice to feel so comfortable with your position in this game.”

Stiles blinks at her and looks around to see everyone else in their alliance looking a bit cautious. “Unless you’ve got another idol, I don’t see why any of us shouldn’t feel comfortable?” Stiles offers, but the word ‘idol’ is apparently a trigger word because Danny, Lydia and Malia start talking at the same time and with such vivacity that Stiles can’t discern a word any of them are saying.

Eventually, Allison snaps loudly enough that everyone quietens down. “Shut up!” then she turns to Stiles, doe eyes making him severely uncomfortable, especially because Stiles has no idea why he’d have to be subject to them. “Have you and Scott been looking for an idol by yourselves?”

“Wha—?” Stiles casts his eyes around, feeling flustered all of a sudden at the accusation because it’s technically true. Oops. Scott is maintaining a very unimpressed look at Jennifer, but apart from that, all eyes are on him. “Yes,” he admits, easily, but the three letters are too many, apparently, because the whole tribe suddenly erupts in hysterics.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Stiles?” Lydia stresses, and Stiles realises with a pang of warmth that without Jackson he’s become her closest ally in the game.

“Why did we have to hear about this from Jennifer?” Malia adds, gesturing to Jennifer like she’s the worst person in the world. She’s probably a genuinely alright person, Stiles figures, but she’ll also pretty blatantly do anything to make the game interesting. She’s comparable to Peter, really.

“I’m not sure you made the right decision, there, but I’m also looking from the perspective of an outsider.” Deaton comments, sounding as neutral as ever, but with just enough of a hint of accusation for Stiles to feel it.

“We weren’t going to use it against the alliance,” Scott assures, but it doesn’t seem to help.

“We didn’t even find it,” Stiles tries to placate them, but it’s like they’ve all got their hands over their ears and are only hearing what they want to.

Just when he was beginning to feel comfortable.

“After I’m gone,” Jennifer begins, “Who of you are going to be next, hm? Will it be Malia? Deaton? Danny?”

“I don’t think any of us are thinking about that yet,” Stiles says, but it’s a lie, because they’re all probably thinking about the elephant in the room through every waking moment. Stiles just doesn’t have any idea, really, and he’s hoping that somehow the Wolves can just lose every immunity for the rest of the game to prolong their time for needing to make a decision on the matter.

“But you wouldn’t let it be Scott, right?” she prods, and Stiles shrugs in a way he hopes indicates, I don’t know, she turns to return the glare Scott is still levelling at her, “and you wouldn’t let it be Stiles?”

“I also wouldn’t let it be Allison, or Malia, or Danny, or Deaton, or Lydia. You’re making something out of nothing here,” Scott bites out.

“Why was I the last on that list?” Lydia bites, and Stiles can see the hurt in Scott’s eyes as he loses the trust he’s built in this people. They’re all hurting at this point, and from seemingly nothing. Mountains and molehills and all that.

“What, you’d prefer for me to pick you first over anyone else in the alliance?” Scott roars at her, and it’s the first time Stiles has seen him angry like this. Repeat: they’re all hurting at this point. “Do you realise how hypocritical that is? I’m not playing your game for you here, Jennifer,” Scott jabs a finger at her, and on that note, Scott storms off, calling out over his shoulder, “I’m going to get myself some water, because apparently I can’t interact with anyone without playing favourites.”

Lydia is looking as shell-shocked as Stiles feels, but nobody else moves. It’s one of those situations that are so awkward that everybody just has to take a few moments to recalibrate their brains to act normally again.

“I’m going to take a swim,” Stiles offers after a while, even though the only thing he really wants to do is go after Scott. He figures now is probably a bad time to follow him, though, when the rest of the tribe is convinced they’re some kind of power-duo. And they’re not wrong, really, either, which makes it that much more disconcerting.

When he’s in the water, he sees a school of small fish get broken up by a larger fish and can’t help but relate.

JM||||||||—VE||||||||

They get summoned to the challenge area later that day, which is a day earlier than it had been so far. That should probably be the first thing to tip Stiles off to the fact that something bad was about to happen.

Correction: something worse than the drama he woke up to that morning.

“Hunters, this is your first look at the new Wolves tribe,” Peter announces while they walk up to their tribe’s mat. “Boyd voted out at tribal council.” Boyd was quite an impressive man in challenges, so the fact that the Wolves decided to eliminate him indicated to Stiles that there was some kind of power struggle going on over there. Stiles was just glad he wasn’t a part of it. “You’re probably wondering why I gathered you all here today,” Peter began, ominously, and his tone began to set off warning bells in his head. Was Peter going to massacre them all right here? Because that’s what his tone brokered, and Stiles wouldn’t put it past him to try something like that in the name of television. “There’s going to be a few little changes made to your… position in the game.” Stiles wonders if he’s reusing Jennifer’s words because he was witness to their argument, or if he just simply thinks along the same wavelength because he’s also evil.

Stiles glances over and sees that Scott and Allison are tightly holding one another’s hands again, which is good. Clearly even the outburst earlier that morning wasn’t enough to shake their bizarre little relationship. Stiles has absolutely no idea who Scott would pick if it came down to him and Allison in the final three. He’d probably abdicate, which is a funny thought.

“Drop your buffs.”

There was some mixed reactions to Peter’s declaration around him. Jennifer, naturally, was ecstatic. Across from them, clusters of the Wolves were looking to one another with determined looks, but exchanged no words. Scott and Allison tightened their hold on one another’s hands, and Stiles found his right hand being squeezed by Malia in much a similar fashion. Stiles reached over and held Lydia’s hand to she didn’t feel left out, and judging by her expression, she appreciated the gesture.

Regardless, Stiles acquiesces to the command as he’s obliged to and drops his blue Hunters buff, letting it slip to the ground, and looking back down at it longingly, telling himself that his tribe wasn’t a camp, it was the people around him. As long as they stayed together, he could persevere.

Peter steps towards the Wolves and begins the process of handing out new concealed buffs to each of them.

“Good luck,” he whispers to Stiles and gives him a loaded glance as he holds the weight of the buff and the cloth concealing its colour in his hand.

Stiles isn’t quite sure what he means by that, but figures it’s just another thing Peter does to mess with people in his day-to-day life. Bastard.

“Okay, peel back the cloth and reveal your new tribe,” Peter announces once everyone holds one, “Then step onto the mat corresponding to your new tribe.”

Stiles does as told and slowly reveals his new bandana. He barely gets a few inches before the vibrant, fluoro red is apparent. Well, apparently Stiles is no longer a Hunter.

He glances around anxiously, trying to ascertain where everyone else is going off to.

His first look goes to Scott, who isn’t destined to jump ship as Stiles is. Scott, Lydia, Malia and Deaton are going to remain Hunters. Which means…

“Oh, this is going to be fun!” Jennifer gleefully announces, practically skipping over to the Wolves’ side where four of their members are also making their way to the Hunters.

Stiles is now on a different tribe to his two closest allies, with the only unallied member from his original tribe. He still has Allison and Danny, though, which is good. It could be worse, he tells himself, I could have been stuck with Jennifer and a bunch of strangers. This is fine.

It is fine, Stiles thinks as he walks over to join the Wolves on their mat. It’s fine, but it’s not alright, not like how Stiles was when he woke up.

“Hey, I’m Danny,” Danny introduces immediately, probably recognising the predicament they’re in now that they’re stuck with four strangers and one manipulative person who hates their guts.

“We know,” Kali—aka toenail lady—responds coldly. Her sharp edges are even more intimidating up close.

Speaking of intimidating.

“Derek,” Derek ‘Sourwolf’ whatever-his-last-name-is grunts out in what’s probably a friendly manner for him, but only serves to unsettle Stiles even more. He’s responding to Danny’s pleasantries, but his eyes are focussed like laser beams on Stiles, and Stiles has never felt smaller in his life than he does in the domineering aura of this man.

“There’s no reward challenge today,” Peter adds, cutting Stiles’ attention back to him, but he can still feel two pricks of fire on the back of his neck where Derek’s eyes are, “But back at camp, you’ll find a plate of sandwiches. It might be nice to get to know your new tribemates over a nice meal.”

Stiles’ stomach should be doing a happy dance at the news, but instead all he can feel is queasy at the prospect of getting eaten alive by the people around him. The Hunter truly has become the hunted, as it were.

“Grab your stuff, and head back to your new camp,” Peter dismisses, and Stiles realises with a start that he’s left his pillow back at the Hunters camp. The first few days, before they won the comfort challenge, Stiles slept restlessly through every night. Now, he’s going to have to revert back to that suffering because the stupid Wolves didn’t win reward. They don’t even have spices for their rice, or coffee.

“Come on, Stiles,” Allison encourages, and the pair of them turn and give a wave back to Scott and the others as they walk in the opposite direction, towards home for the past thirteen days.

Well, it’s not home anymore.

“Yeah, let’s get go,” he sighs, following Kali, Ethan, Erica and Derek back to their camp and hoping that somewhere there’s a crack in the four of them, because otherwise Jennifer is going to flip and send each of the Hunters stuck with her home one by one.

“Keep up!” Kali calls back, and Danny rushes forwards to do exactly that, falling into line behind Ethan.

Yeah, Stiles isn’t alright any more, that’s for sure.

JM||||||||—VE||||||||

The Wolves’ shelter is more structurally sound than the Hunters’ was. That’s the first observation Stiles makes about their camp.

The second is that they have a much more impressive fire-pit than Stiles was expecting.

The third is that, apart from the fire-pit, there aren’t many redeeming qualities about their camp. Stiles misses the pillows, and the coffee, and the tea, and the sugar. Even as he gobbles down a sandwich, his mind wanders to how much better this meal could be if he could only throw something else on it.

At the Wolves’ camp, if he wants to throw something else on it, all he has available is plain rice and coconut water.

“So what’s life been like at the Wolves’ den?” Jennifer asks around a mouthful. They’re all sitting around the fire with the Hunters on one side, and the Wolves plus Jennifer on the other. Stiles can’t really say he’s surprised. Kali looks smug.

“Transformative,” Erica offers, swishing her blonde hair. It sounds like a bit of a cop-out answer, if Stiles is being honest.

“How about at the Hunters’ camp?” Ethan mirrors.

Stiles can hear the first syllable of Danny’s response, but the rest gets immediately swallowed up by Jennifer’s blatantly loud response. “Well, there’s a massive, tight alliance of seven that’s pretty much been out to get me since day one.”

“Jennifer,” Danny groans, sounding as frustrated as Stiles feels at her, well, existence.

“Stiles over there,” she points her finger as if they hadn’t already assigned a name to his face, “is one of the leaders of it.”

“That’s not true,” Stiles declares instantly, as each of the Wolves swivel their attention to focus it upon him.

Allison narrows her eyes at him, like even she doesn’t believe him anymore, but then Danny comes to his aid by going on the offensive. “Jennifer played an idol on day six, and she hasn’t been able to stick to a single alliance since the game started.”

“That’s because you were all too close to include me!”

“We didn’t include you because you never told the truth,” Allison emphasises, “And I think some of us need to get over what happened on our old tribes and acknowledge that we’re here with a completely new set of people now.”

Damn. Allison actually managed to shut Jennifer up.

“What do you guys do for a living?” Danny asks, hesitantly, reverting back to the icebreakers that were utilised back on day one. Kali immediately scoffs and stands up to do probably literally anything else, so do Derek, Allison and Jennifer.

Erica, Stiles, Ethan and Danny are left sitting in the wake of half of the tribe abandoning them. Stiles doesn’t feel alright, but he does feel better. Like the apparent cracks in both sides of their tribe means that there’s more opportunity for someone less outgoing like him to scoot under the radar, Jennifer’s accusations notwithstanding.

“I’m a student,” Erica puts forward, almost too-long after the question for Stiles to recognise what it’s an answer for.

“That’s cool,” Stiles nods, because it is. He’d love to be a student again one day, and winning this game would play a major role in making that a possibility. “What do you study?”

“I’m studying to become a beautician,” she sounds shy as she admits it, and it’s probably the first shred of weakness she’s shown them. Huh. So the blonde bombshell isn’t the stern, cold woman Stiles imagined her to be. Newsflash: appearances can, in-fact, be deceiving. “I know it’s kind of silly, but… I like it. I like learning about it.”

“Honey, you’re already overqualified,” Danny winks at her and she grins widely. Stiles wishes he could pull off saying stuff like that, but he always fumbles his words so it comes out wrong. At least Danny’s able to be as charming as ever. “What about you, Ethan?”

“I’m a firefighter,” he responds succinctly. When he doesn’t elaborate any further than that, there’s a lapse of silence, but thankfully Danny is on his A-game today, because he cuts the tension by being hilarious.

“That’s cool. You’ll be pleased to know that I support you guys every year by buying your calendars,” he offers Ethan the same wink that he gave Erica, but where she was quietly grateful, it’s pretty clear that Danny makes Ethan uncomfortable. Stiles and Erica laugh, but Ethan noticeably does not. “Sorry, uh. What’ve you guys been doing for fun around here?”

“Apart from yelling at one another?” Erica snarks, giving Ethan a bit of a dark look. “Mostly swimming around, waiting for our problems to go away.”

“I guess that’s my cue,” Ethan growls and then storms off to join the rest of their scowling tribe far removed from one another.

Stiles and Danny blink at one another, and then their attention is refocussed back on Erica. “So what’s really been going on here?” Stiles questions, leaning forwards eagerly because there’s a whole other half of the game which he hasn’t been privy to for the past thirteen days and now’s his chance at getting information.

Erica leans forwards as well, and she’s reverted back to being confident now that they’re not talking personally, or maybe now that Ethan’s not there she’s putting more effort into appearances. She squeezes her cleavage together so that Stiles has to put some serious effort into not letting his gaze drift. “Let’s just say that the Wolves aren’t as tight,” she punctuates the word by bouncing a bit in place and Stiles is finding it really, really hard to rationalise this person with the shy girl they were just introducing themselves to, “as the Hunters are.”

Then, like with Ethan, she stands and walks off, leaving Stiles and Danny sitting alone at their new tribe while everyone else does god-knows-what to avoid talking to one another.

Oh boy, they’ve got their work cut out for them, but Stiles hopes that Scott and the others are doing at least a bit better on the other tribe.

JM||||||||—VE||||||||

Later, after a day of failed or aborted conversations, Stiles and the rest of the tribe are eating about a spoonful of plain rice each in complete silence. Stiles can hardly appreciate silences when they’re comfortable, let alone awkward ones that drone on and on and on like this. But every attempt he makes at breaking the silence just results in him talking to himself. Even Danny and Allison aren’t humouring him at this point.

“What do you do outside the game, Kali?” No response.

“How do you get your hair so curly out here, Erica?” No response.

“New camp’s not so bad, right Hunters?” No response.

Eventually he goes for one last shot and tries to strike up a conversation with Mr Sourwolf himself. “It’s going to be weird being on the same side in a challenge for once, right Derek?”

He shouldn’t be as surprised, nor disappointed as he is when Derek doesn’t grace him with so much as a grunt.

“Alright,” Kali begins, placing the half-coconut she was using as a bowl down onto the ground rather forcefully, “I’m going to bed.”

“Me, too.” The sentiment gets echoed by everyone barring Danny, Jennifer, Derek and him.

“Night, guys!” Stiles calls over his shoulder, trying to be cheerful and likeable but probably coming off as annoying and loud at this point.

Then it’s back to the silences, only this time it’s with Jennifer and Derek, two people who probably hate his guts, and Danny, who was fine hours ago, but now looks like he’s one push away from running out of kindness and murdering all of them. It’s certainly a new look for him.

“So, Derek—” Stiles begins, trying to force his companionship on the Wolves one by one, but Jennifer interrupts him before he can continue.

“Derek, tell me about yourself,” she encourages, doing something very Erica-like and pushing her chest out.

“No,” Derek says simply, and then stands up and heads towards the shelter to join the others taking an early night’s sleep.

Stiles is only a little bit smug about Jennifer having as much luck as he had trying to get anything from the Wolves.

It must show on his face. “Whatever, Stiles. You can smile now, but you’re going to be the first person on this tribe going home if they have any sense at all. They hate all of us, but you’re both unlikeable and a strategic threat.” Stiles rolls his eyes at that, because honestly he cannot imagine people watching at home to see his gameplay and decide that he’s a strategic threat, as she put it. “Sweet dreams,” she blew each of them a faux-kiss goodnight before trailing off after Derek.

“I can’t wait ‘til she’s out of the game,” Danny sighs, “If she somehow outlasts us… if she wins this damn thing—”

“Don’t be silly,” Stiles interjects, because it’s uncomfortable for him to be seeing Danny as something other than a ray of sunshine. He’s pretty clearly shaken by the tribe swap. “Survivor is a game about numbers, and she’s got nobody on either tribe in her corner. I can’t imagine her making it much further at all, to be honest.”

“I hope so,” Danny says, grimly, and offers Stiles a manly pat on the back. Only it’s not a pat, because his hand is… lingering. What’s happening? “I’m sorry about this morning, Stiles.”

Stiles was under the impression that they were going to just never speak of it again because it was irrelevant now that their alliance was split in two. “It’s okay, man, I—”

“No, Stiles, it’s not okay. You’ve been so nice to be so far this game—Scott too—and I was far too quick to jump the gun just like Jennifer wanted me to. So I’m sorry, no takebacks.”

Stiles gives him the same pat on the back and is struck by how freaking smooth Danny’s skin is. Damn his perfect genes. “Apology accepted.”

They make their way over to the shelter because unlike with Scott, he and Danny don’t really have the kind of relationship where they’ll sit around all night having deep chats. At least not yet, anyway, and certainly not tonight. Also, the day’s events are catching up with him and Stiles really wants to go to sleep.

The catch? Everyone else has pretty strategically sprawled themselves across the whole sleep space for the tribe in the shelter. He gives a dubious look to Danny through the dark, and the other man starts climbing over people to wedge himself in a Danny-sized gap between Ethan and Allison. There’s no way there’d be enough room for Stiles to fit in there as well, though, so he scans across the floor for any iota of space that might be open.

There’s about a few feet of space between Derek and the edge of the shelter, but if Stiles fit himself there he’d end up sleeping with his body balanced rather precariously on the edge of rolling off the shelter and face planting into the ground, not to mention the more immediate danger of sleeping next to Derek. The only other options, though, are to be a massive pain and wake people up by forcing himself in or to sleep on the ground, which he’s not sure he’s capable of.

So to Derek it is.

He perches himself on the edge of the wood for the shelter and slowly scoots himself onto it until he can feel a sliver of body heat along his side from Derek indicating that he can’t go any further without risking dismemberment. He’s still pretty much half-off the shelter, but it’s better than being completely off, so Stiles closes his eyes and pretends that he’s back on the Hunters tribe with his pillow.

For the first time since the game began, Stiles dreams of his dad’s funeral with his mum’s rotting corpse standing at the podium asking where he is.

JM||||||||—VE||||||||

He wakes up with a shout of alarm as the world falls out from underneath him, arms flying out on reflex to stop his descent, and thank god he manages to latch onto something solid. He opens his wild eyes and they adjust to the morning sun slowly, but his senses are coming back and it’s quickly becoming pretty clear that he’s got an iron-tight grip on Derek’s bicep. Awkward.

The man also appears to be very rudely awakened, but aware enough to know that he’s not doing it for no reason. If anything, Stiles could swear that Derek stole into his space during the night and practically pushed him off. The prick.

Still, Stiles is willing to be the one in the wrong if it means he gets to keep all of his vital organs.

“Sorry. I’m taking my hand off,” Stiles warns, like if he hadn’t Derek might’ve taken his movement as a threat and decapitated him. It’s always a possibility, really. Regardless, he takes his hand back and stands up to put as much distance between them as possible. By the time Stiles risks turning back around, all he sees is Derek’s back as he no doubt returns to his slumber which Stiles had rudely interrupted by being, y’know, shoved out of the shelter. Repeat: the prick.

Either way, they’ve got an immunity challenge to prepare for, and Stiles has never felt that he’s needed to win as much as he does in this moment.

JM||||||||—VE||||||||

“Okay, new Wolves tribe, new Hunters tribe, let’s get to today’s immunity challenge, shall we?” Peter taunts, “First thing’s first, Hunters, I’ll need to take back the tribal immunity idol.”

Lydia obliges, stalking forwards to offer Peter the symbolic statue, but Stiles notices how her fingers linger on it, like she’s reluctant to let it go. Probably not a good indicator of how well it’s going on the new Hunters tribe now.

They’re on the beachfront for today’s challenge, but Stiles doesn’t see anything set up floating on the ocean, so it’s anybody’s guess what’s in store for them.

“Alright, for today’s challenge, each tribe is going to nominate their strongest male and female to hold barrels above the ground by tugging on a pulley. As the game goes on, your other tribe members will fill the opposing team’s barrels with water. If you drop your barrel, or if it touches the ground at all, you’re out of the challenge. Last man or woman standing wins immunity for their tribe. Worth playing for?”

Unfortunately, Stiles has no upper body strength. Fortunately, the other guys on his team do, and Stiles can dump water on people ‘til the cows go home. “Yes!” everyone agrees, because immunity is the most important thing in the game, value far beyond any food or comfort-based reward.

“Then let’s get to it. Hunters, Wolves, choose your barrel-holders, and everyone else grab a bucket and take your positions on the mat.”

They form a quick circle to discuss tactics, and immediately Ethan and Derek throw their hands in for the men at the same moment.

“I’ll do it,” Derek declares.

“Obviously, I’ll be our man,” Ethan comments, like any other option would just be ridiculously farfetched.

Stiles is practically already gravitating towards where they’re supposed to fetch their buckets before the challenge begins. Derek looks like he has more bulk than Ethan does, but really Stiles doesn’t mind either way.

“Okay, while you two decide that,” Stiles deadpans, nullifying any mass protest that was about to ensue, “Who’s going to be our female? Allison?”

“I think Kali and Erica are just as good, but I’m easy either way,” Allison responds, sounding uneasy at the prospect of being put on the spot like that. Stiles is under the impression that they’ve moved beyond voting people out solely based on their prowess in challenges, but it’s still a factor people would consider nonetheless. Stiles believes in Allison, though. While Erica, Kali and even Jennifer probably have a similar build all things considered, Allison’s proven that she has the endurance to match.

“Then its sorted,” Ethan decides, “I’ll do—”
“I’ll do the men’s,” Derek interjects, talking loudly over Ethan’s softer voice, “and Allison will do the women’s.”

There’s a pause where Stiles is convinced that Kali and Ethan are going to voice their protest to Derek’s overruling, but it the moment passes without consequence.

“Perfect.” Derek snaps, shoving Stiles toward the buckets, even though he could have shoved literally anybody else instead. Rude. “Get into your places.”

Stiles does as he’s told without hesitation, biting his tongue all the way, which is not in the least due to his pressing need to get on alright terms with some of the Wolves. A pressing need which is increasingly difficult to fulfil when he’s already designated himself as the annoying, loud one.

“We have Derek and Allison holding barrels for the Wolves tribe, and Deaton and Malia holding barrels for the Hunters tribe.” Peter announces once everyone apart from the four named have buckets and are on their mats ready to race down to the water and make their lives hell. “Survivors ready?” Peter calls, then after a beat of anticipation, “Go!”

Jennifer’s elbow connects with his stomach within the first second, a move which would be an understandable accident from anyone else, but from Jennifer it’s no doubt with an ulterior motive. Stiles wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted them to lose this challenge so she could go to tribal council again; she’d been practically twitching like a junkie without her fix after their pair of victories against the Wolves.

Stiles isn’t going to give any challenge less than his very best, though, so he bolts past her, fills his bucket in the ocean, and then makes his way back up the beach to where the others are holding their barrels in the air with the pulley, steady.

Stiles doesn’t know if he wants to pour it up into Malia’s or Deaton’s, either way he’ll feel guilty for literally adding a weight on their shoulders. Speeding ahead of him, Danny and Ethan load up Deaton’s, so Stiles follows suit under the logic that they focus one player at a time.

By the time he’s followed through on this process three times, he can see the strain in Deaton’s face as he struggles with the weight.

“Deaton struggling for the Hunters, but holding on. Malia, Allison and Derek all looking strong.”

Stiles casts a quick glance back to check who the Hunters are targeting, but they’re spreading their buckets evenly between Derek and Allison, both of which look immovable. Stiles’ eyes trail down and linger on Derek’s taut stomach for just a moment before he’s back to his mission, albeit now he feels like an idiot for perving on someone on national television. A dude, and Derek, no less, when he hasn’t even had the time to tell his dad he’s bisexual. It’d have to be a complete fluke for the cameras to catch it, though, and very easy to explain away, so Stiles keeps his eyes on the water and Deaton’s barrel for the next few rounds.

“Deaton drops for the Hunters! Malia is now holding immunity in her hands for their tribe, but her barrel is empty. Allison and Derek from the Wolves are starting to show some strain.”

“Hurry up, Stiles!” Jennifer calls, loudly, as she rushes past him. Stiles is well aware that he’s done at least one more round of water than she has, but the rest of his new tribemates still give him dirty looks.

He hurries up, that’s for sure. Even though he feels like a monster for harassing Malia with bucket after bucket of water, he’s doing everything he can to preserve his life in the game.

“Allison drops for the Wolves. It’s now a showdown between Derek and Malia!” Peter commentates, and then only a few moments later, as Stiles empties one last bucket into the rapidly-filling barrel Malia is carrying that must be about her weight, it comes crashing to the ground. “Malia drops for the Hunters! Derek wins immunity for the Wolves!”

“Yes!” Stiles hears a few ecstatic shouts, but Malia is curled up on the ground there, clutching her arms like they betrayed her. Stiles crouches next to her even as the rest of his tribe forms into a frenzy of hugging Derek.

“Hey, it’s alright,” Stiles assures her quietly, aware that anything he says could backfire on either of them back at their respective camps. “Just come back to me, yeah?”

She looks… angry, curled up like that. Her face is twisted like she wants to shout at him, but she just breathes heavily and then nods curtly at him. It’s enough.

He stands straight again and makes his way over to join the rest of his new tribe, and Derek, despite being the centre of attention, is ignoring everyone and giving him perhaps his most potent glare to date. Is he mad that Stiles missed out on the big fiesta of hugging him? It’s a nice though, but Stiles doesn’t need to hug a big, sweaty, sculpted man right now, and he’s pretty sure the big, sweaty, sculpted man doesn’t want to be hugged by him anyway.

“Wolves, congratulations, you can head back to camp and have a nice night. Hunters, fortunately you’ll be seeing me tonight, but unfortunately you’ll be attending tribal council, where one of you will be the fifth person voted out of this game.” Peter stresses it for the significance it holds. They’ve lost a quarter of the game’s players after tonight. “Grab your things, head back to camp.”

JM||||||||—VE||||||||

That night, Stiles doesn’t sit on the beach and talk with Scott. He doesn’t go searching for idols, or chat until he’s so tired he passes out.

Instead, he lays down on the hard, unforgiving hardness of the shelter and thinks of all the ways in which Scott, Malia, Lydia and Deaton can stay in the game.

Stiles imagines they’re feeling a lot like how he feels right now: perched on the edge of a shelter in the small space Derek has allowed him to have, knowing that at any time before morning he could get unceremoniously kicked off and out onto the dirt and sand.

Stiles doesn’t want to be kicked off.

Another thing which developed overnight was that Jennifer and Derek started snuggling together; something which doesn’t bode well for Stiles given that Derek couldn’t even tolerate Stiles’ hand touching him. Clearly, the old Hunters have a long ways to go if they want to hold some control in the new Wolves tribe.

AJM|||||||—BE||||||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I came into this game with a comprehensive knowledge of survival skills, and I come out with a more thorough basis of practical application. Some of the wild flora and fauna I found in my time here encourages me to return to this part of the world in a professional capacity. I think the main thing I learned in my time here was that the young blood in this game aren’t to be underestimated.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I think the only thing that doomed me here was the tribe swap. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing about my gameplay. I’m proud to have gone down facing a tyrant rather than to have lingered by betraying those I believed in.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I think there is someone here who holds true power; something which nobody else in this game can say about themselves. I can say without a doubt that Scott McCall is going to be the Sole Survivor.”

AJM|||||||—VE||||||||

Stiles is midway through a rare nice dream of his when he feels someone trying to shake him awake. He’s so invested that in the dream, things rapidly shift to accommodate the sensation. His dad is leaning over him, completely fit and healthy, and gently nudging him to get up for school.

“Hey da—” Stiles’ eyes, which were slowly prying themselves open, suddenly go wide when he’s met with Derek’s face rather than that of his father. What was he expecting? “Derek?” his voice cracks over the second syllable of his name, and Derek, apparently offended by Stiles’ existence, gives up any pretence of gently introducing him to wakefulness, pulls him out of the shelter and dumps him on the ground.

“We’re having breakfast, get up.”

Stiles pushes himself up out of the dirt and tries not to miss the peacefulness that was afforded to him when he was asleep. “I don’t mind having breakfast later, by myself.”

“Yeah, well on our tribe, we eat breakfast together. Come on.”

Stiles is tempted, oh so tempted, to defy him. It would be so easy to just mess with Derek until the end of time, and Stiles would probably get a lot of enjoyment out of it, but he also has a pretty strong sense of self-preservation, and he’s still unconvinced that Derek isn’t capable of murder.

So… Stiles does ‘come on’. The rest of the tribe is looking various degrees of acceptant of their new living situation, finally, but no less generally unhappy.

“We’re all here now, so eat.”

In this game, Stiles has never seen people look less happy to eat, but they do. Stiles is hesitant to eat his mouthful, but Derek nudges him harshly and then only when he’s finally started does Derek allow himself to eat. What a weirdo.

After the weird morning ritual, the rest of the day passes without incident. None of the original Hunters actually interact much. Stiles ends up spending most of the day with Erica, Danny with Ethan, and Allison… by herself. Stiles tries to go over and introduce her to Erica, but she’s become a changed person since the tribe swap, and keeps assuring them all that she can take care of herself. At this point, Stiles would probably have a better chance trying to hang out with Derek and Jennifer than he would at trying to hang out with her.

They don’t get summoned for another challenge, which encourages Stiles to believe that they aren’t hosting another reward challenge, and instead they’ll be thrown into two immunity challenges in a row. It’s unfortunate, because Stiles could really do with some comfort in any form at the moment, but he’s alright with having to fight tooth and nail for his life in the game instead. That’s cool.

He ends up getting water with Kali partway through the day, and tries to strike up a conversation. “So how about the challenge yesterday? Who do you think went home on the other tribe?”

He gets no response, and even as he goes to bed that night he tries to rationalise with himself that its more because she’s worried herself about who’s gone home rather than because she doesn’t see him sticking around long enough for it to be relevant for them to have a working relationship with one another.

AJM|||||||—VE||||||||

“Okay, Wolves, getting your first look at the new Hunters tribe, Deaton voted out at the last tribal council.”

It’s a sentence just like any other, but it immediately strikes something deep inside of Stiles, because they lost one of their own. The other tribe had Scott and Lydia, probably two of the strongest social players on their tribe, and yet they still ended up voting out one of the original Hunters rather than one of the old Wolves. Are they even still an alliance? If they all make it back together at the end of the game, are they still going to be a team, or have Scott, Lydia and Malia divided and found new alliances with new players on the other side? On the new Wolves tribe there’s certainly a lot less interaction between Stiles, Allison and Danny than there should be if they were still working together. Maybe Stiles should be trying to get in with Erica or Derek or Kali and Ethan instead of holding onto his old tribal ties. It hurts, but maybe Stiles was wrong in thinking that their alliance could stand the test of time. It wouldn’t be the first time Stiles was being naïve.

He makes meaningful eye contact with Scott and feels like Scott is trying to portray to him how much he is still with him. They both just have to make it to whenever the merge is, and then they can go from there. It doesn’t matter what happens in the interim. Stiles could… Stiles could probably vote out Danny and Allison if it came down to it. It would hurt, but if they aren’t working with Stiles, then they’re working against him, aren’t they? He’d rather get Jennifer, Kali, Ethan and Derek far out of this game, but if it’s not feasible, he can do what he needs to do to save himself.

“Let’s get to today’s immunity challenge, shall we?” Peter taunts, “First thing’s first, Wolves, I need to take back the tribal immunity idol.” Derek, having naturally asserted himself as the de facto leader of their little pack, goes up and hands it over to Peter with a prickly stance before swiftly making his way back over to them. “Alright, immunity is once again up for grabs. In today’s challenge,” Peter gestures behind them at the three-part course set up behind them, “There will be three parts.” Obviously. “In the first section, three tribe members will work their way through an obstacle course will harnessed onto a rope. Once all three tribe members have freed themselves from the course, they can grab a set of bag of keys and pass it on to another three tribe members. They will take one key at a time across an unsteady balancing beam and try it out on a locked cage holding a bag of puzzle pieces. If you fall off the beam, you have to go back to the start. There are ten keys in the bag, only one of which unlocks the cage.” Stiles hates challenges like this where there’s a definite element of luck rather than skill, but at least it’s indiscriminate. “Once you’ve freed your puzzle pieces, your last tribe member will use them to solve a word puzzle. First tribe to finish their puzzle wins immunity. Worth playing for?”

Nobody says ‘yes’ with much enthusiasm behind it, but Stiles figures they’ll just edit some of their cheers from the last fifteen days over it so nobody will know how tired they all are. Or maybe they’ll emphasise how they’re all exhausted, Stiles doesn’t know anything about reality television or what its producers want. All he knows is that he’s feeling pretty drained ever since sleeping next to an abusive Derek became something he does on the regular.

“I want to do the puzzle,” Kali announces, and Stiles has to double-take because he’s always the one who does the puzzle. If he isn’t the puzzle guy, then what the hell is he? He’s too clumsy to try and do the balancing beam, and the rope segment looks like it requires even more gymnastics. Puzzles are, like, the only thing he’s good at. Kali looks like she’d be good at any of the segments, why can’t she just pick one of them?

“Stiles is good at puzzles,” Danny offers, apparently sensing his discomfort.

Even Allison pipes up for seemingly the first time in days, “He really is. And the other team’s already picked Lydia. Stiles can go head-to-head with her.”

“Kali is doing the puzzle,” Ethan reaffirms, and it’s pretty clear that there’s about to be a confrontation. Stiles isn’t even sure it’s really about him, feels like this is more a manifestation of the power struggle between old Hunters and old Wolves that’s been developing since the swap.

“I don’t trust Stiles to do it for us,” Jennifer cautions, and based on the agreement from Kali and Ethan, Stiles is guessing she’s been spreading all kinds of rumours about him to make him seem untrustworthy. There’s a certain irony to Jennifer being the one to accuse anyone of that. “What do you think, Derek?”

“Stiles is doing the puzzle,” Derek declares, and Jennifer isn’t the only one caught off-guard by his vehemence, “Because if we make him do anything else, he’ll screw it up.”

He shoves Stiles, hard, but Stiles is slowly getting used to the rough treatment. And he’s doing the puzzle, so he’s not about to complain.

“Stiles doing the puzzle for the Wolves; Danny, Jennifer and Erica doing the keys; and Derek, Allison and Kali doing the obstacle course. Ethan sitting out for the Wolves.” Peter announces, voice washing over Stiles while he looks across at Lydia and takes her look of… remorse? Did she vote for Deaton? Stiles wishes he could sit in on every tribal council just to understand what the hell everyone is really thinking. “On the Hunters we have Lydia on the puzzle; Scott, Isaac and Deucalion on the keys; and Kira, Jordan and Malia on the obstacle course.” Stiles is nervous going up against Lydia in a puzzle, but he trusts himself, and maybe if he has a bit of a head start he won’t get too overwhelmed with his nerves. “Survivors ready? Go!”

“Come on Allison!” Stiles cheers as she starts flinging herself around and under poles, following the trail of the rope through the course with precise speed and efficiency. Derek and Kali are keeping up right behind her. “Yes, Kali! Go Derek!” Stiles continues to sing praise, but Derek actually falters a bit at his name, so Stiles refocusses his encouragement to Allison for the rest of their section.

“The Hunters are through the obstacle course, they can start on trying their keys. Go Hunters!” Peter shrieks. The Hunters only have a few seconds lead, though, and soon enough Peter is parroting the same phrase with the Wolves as the subject instead. “Go Wolves!”

“Go Danny! Go Jennifer!” Stiles continues to applaud.

“The Hunters unlock the cage on their first key!” Peter screams, going ballistic at the luck of it all. A one in ten chance, and they manage that. Stiles is… in trouble. “Lydia can start on their puzzle for the Hunters. This is a massive head start for them!”

“Come on guys!” Stiles echoes, a more hysterical note to his encouragement now that they seriously need it.

Stiles can see in his periphery that Lydia is already laying out the letters to figure out what words they rearrange to spell. It won’t take her long; Stiles is pretty sure Lydia’s fluent in all kinds of dead languages, so English is probably just a breeze for her.

“Jennifer falls off the beam, she has to go back!” From bad to worse. “Erica also falls off the beam! This is a massive setback for the Wolves!” Never mind, Stiles thinks, this is from bad to worse. “Danny tries another key…” A pause, for dramatic effect, but Stiles can already see that the key isn’t turning in the lock. “It’s wrong. The Wolves are almost out of this challenge.”

“Shut up, Peter,” Derek snaps from where the four not in the challenge any more are standing off to the side.

Peter doesn’t get time to react, though, before Lydia is screaming out a victorious: “Chaos Rising! It says: ‘Chaos Rising’!”

“That is correct!” Peter announces, “Hunters win immunity! They will be safe tonight! A massive blow to the Wolves!”

Stiles… Stiles wasn’t even involved in the challenge. He just sat there at the puzzle station and did nothing but cheer loud enough to make Derek falter. He feels… not alright.

AJM|||||||—VE||||||||

At camp, Stiles tries not to look too desperate as he glances around at literally everyone trying to figure out what the hell he’s supposed to do.

“Come on, Kali,” Ethan encourages as soon as they get back, and before they’re even out of frame, Derek is doing the same with Jennifer. And Allison bolts as she keeps doing. Ugh.

Stiles wonders who the two pairs will be targeting, and more importantly, if the four of them are voting as a block or against one another’s interests. It’s important, because if they’re voting as a block then the four of them not included in that block need to do the same, or they’re just going to get picked off.

“What is going on with them?” Stiles pleads with Erica, the last non-Hunter left among them. “I know you probably don’t trust us, but we need to know what the hell is going on tonight. I want to work with you.” Stiles looks over at Danny. “We want to work with you.”

“Three isn’t enough to vote someone out, big shot,” Erica taunts, but Stiles can see that she’s shaken by how Derek went off with Jennifer. “But… Derek won’t vote with Kali or Ethan.”

“What?” Danny asks, “How do you know?”

“Because we voted out Ennis, and they voted out Boyd. Using Kali’s idol, I might add.”

That sounded… dramatic. “You said ‘we’. Meaning you and Derek are allies as well? That’s great!”

“Not quite,” Erica sighs, “Before the swap, Boyd and I were getting pretty sick of Derek’s control, so we said some… unkind things. Well, I said some unkind things, and Boyd…” Erica pretty clearly was attached to Boyd. Not unlike Lydia was attached to Jackson so early in the game, Stiles figures. “Anyway, we don’t talk any more. He won’t vote for me, he told me as much and I trust him on that, but he’s also still hurting too much to work with me again after our last vote went over so badly.”

“Okay,” Stiles acknowledges, thinking of ways in which this can work in their favour, “this is… good. I mean, we can just vote for Ethan or Kali and surely Derek and Jennifer will be on board with that as well? That way there’s only two of them and six of us. We can even split the votes in case there’s another idol.”

Erica smiles at that, “That sounds nice, but we aren’t like you guys over here. We don’t just form massive alliances of six after a few days. We’re a lot more…” Erica sighs, “Hierarchal, for lack of a better word. If Derek sees you as the bottom of the pack, he’s not going to work with you just to vote out someone he hates. I feel the same way, by the way, but I’ve had my eye on you since the beginning, Stiles.”

That makes Stiles raise his eyebrows, but before he can investigate that any further, she stands up and is off, like everyone else in this damn mess of a tribe tends to be.

Danny mumbles out a weak excuse before bailing as well. “I’m gonna go… yeah.”

Stiles feels completely isolated and frustrated at how ridiculously segregated everyone on this tribe is making themselves. They are aware of how to play the game, right? They know it’s a numbers situation? That conversations need to be had with lots of people to vote someone out?

Stiles is struck with a bit of an unsettling thought that maybe conversations are happening, only they aren’t happening with him. If nobody wants to tell you what’s happening going into a tribal council, it’s probably you.

It’s probably you.

AJM|||||||—VE||||||||

“Welcome to tribal council,” Peter’s voice booms to them as they come in with their lit torches. “Probably doesn’t feel good to be back here, does it old Hunters?”

“No sir,” Danny quips, taking his seat up next to Ethan, a detail which is not lost on Stiles’ radar as he narrows his eyes at the pair.

That being said, Stiles is sitting next to Jennifer and in front of and below Derek, so perhaps seating allocation isn’t really a strong indicator of where the votes will be going tonight.

“Alright, let’s get to it, then.” Peter claps, “So Allison, tell me, what’s it like being on your new tribe?”

That’s a question Stiles doesn’t even know the answer to, because Allison has barely uttered a word to him since they swapped.

“It’s been a pretty big change for all of us here, I think,” she replies diplomatically.

“Is that a good change or a bad change?” he elaborates on his question.

“I’d just say it’s a change, Peter,” she assures, not giving him an inch of traction. Stiles is pretty sure she thinks it’s a bad change, but Stiles wouldn’t want people to be able to quote him saying that going into a tribal council either.

“Stiles. What do you think went wrong in today’s immunity challenge? Was it how you assigned who would do each part?”

Stiles blinks at the question, because it’s reminding him of Kali’s insistence that she do the puzzle. The puzzle didn’t even become relevant, though, so he’s really not sure why Peter’s targeting him with the question when he literally didn’t do a thing in the challenge.

“I think the Hunters had a strong team, and they got lucky with their keys,” Stiles says after a moment of thinking about the question carefully. He feels it’s a pretty solid answer, though, all things considered.

Peter nods and shifts his focus onto fresher prey. “Danny,” he begins, “What do you think of your new tribemates?”

“Well, Peter, it’s like Allison said: it’s a change for us.” Danny echoes, “But I think as a whole we’re getting on alright.”

“Are old alliances still holding weight in the new tribe?” Peter adds on quickly, and it’s such a dangerous question to ask that Stiles feels bad for Danny.

“Well, that’s a bit of a hard question,” Danny sounds flustered, “I’d say… well, all I can say is that tonight, I won’t be voting for any of my old tribemates.”

The way he emphasises the word tonight seems to encourage quite a stir, and it unsettles Stiles even though he trusts Danny’s word that he isn’t writing a Hunters’ name down tonight. There’ll always be another night, though, and if he doesn’t have Danny in his pocket, then who does he have on this tribe? He doesn’t have Allison, and the idea of Jennifer allying herself with him is laughable. Stiles isn’t sure how many more tribal councils there will be with him in it before they merge into one tribe, but he hopes that he finds some friends before then, because right now he’s terrified.

“Do you think this tribal council will be harder than the ones which you participated in on your previous tribes?”

“I think it will be fun,” Kali taunts, overconfident in the back row. Stiles hopes her confidence is unfounded, because if it isn’t then she knows something which he doesn’t.

Peter asks a few more questions, but none of them are addressed to Stiles, and all of the answers are evasive and irrelevant, so he barely pays any attention.

“Alright,” Peter brings his focus back in, “It is time to vote.” Peter declares, “Ethan, you’re up.”

Stiles writes down the name Jennifer, even if he’s the only one who does, because he’s terrified that writing down an old Wolves’ name will cause him backlash back at camp which he’s not ready for. He tells the cameras his reasoning, “I hope I’m not going home tonight, but you’re the only one here who’s written my name down before,” he says. If he’s going home tonight, he’ll probably watch the episode and see that if he threw his vote one way or another he could’ve stayed, but here, in the moment, all he wants is for Jennifer to finally be gone.

They each go up and vote. Ethan, Stiles, Danny, Allison, Derek, Erica, Kali and Jennifer, and Stiles has about as much clue as to what’s going on as he does knowledge of the government’s budget. Not knowing was… not alright.

“I’ll go count the votes,” Peter says, and he’s back quickly. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it,” pause, “Now would be the time to do so.” Silence. Everyone shuffling in their seats awkwardly, everyone’s eyes bouncing from person to person, waiting for somebody to pull something out of their pants. Stiles’ eyes narrow on a suspicious bulge in Ethan’s pants, but then he catches himself and gets a little bit disgusted at thinking about what that could be if it wasn’t an idol. Ew. “Once the votes are read, the decision is final, the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately,” Peter uttered the same threat, and it hurt no less. “I’ll read the votes.”

Stiles looks across to Jennifer next to him, feeling déjà vu for when they attended their last tribal council, and hoping that she didn’t come for him tonight like she did then. Peter plucked a piece of parchment from the urn. “First vote,” he unfurled it, “Jennifer.”

It was Stiles’ vote, and the way Jennifer’s eyes rise up to meet his lets him know that she knows it. She looks smug, though, like she knows it isn’t going to be her even with her name being written down.

“Second vote,” he unfurled another slip of paper, “Derek.” Derek lets out a little grunt at that, the sound sending a thrill of panic through Stiles because Stiles is sitting in front of the big, scary man who was strong enough to hold up that barrel of water longer than anyone else. Stiles was literally sitting in reach of someone who could probably squeeze the life out of him one-handed if he so desired. “Third vote… Erica.”

Stiles shuffles a little further away from Jennifer and Derek on the bench, but on his other side is Erica and she looks pretty scary right now as well.

“Fourth vote… Kali.” What. At least Stiles can’t feel bad about not knowing who was going home anymore if everyone on the tribe voted for somebody different. “That’s currently one vote Jennifer, one vote Derek, one vote Erica and one vote Kali. Four votes left.” Peter summarises. “Fifth vote… Jennifer.” Jennifer’s smug expression at least falters at that, and Stiles can’t recognise the handwriting, so can’t figure out who else is voting for her. “Sixth vote… Erica. Seventh vote… Kali.”

Holy—what was happening?

Stiles knew the tribe was divided, but this was far unlike their previous tribal councils had been. Stiles wasn’t ready for a three way split for who was going home.

“That’s two votes Jennifer, two votes Erica, two votes Kali, one vote Derek, one vote left.” Peter retrieves the final vote, unfurls it, and holds it in his hand, looking at it with an amused look. “Eighth vote, and the sixth person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters,” he revealed the parchment, “Erica. That’s three votes Erica, that’s enough, you need to bring me your torch.”

Erica looked close to tears, paler than she normally did, but she nodded and stood up to do as told.

“Good luck,” she whispers to him, giving Stiles a quick hug that he actually genuinely needed. He also needed the luck she wished him.

“Sorry, Erica,” he whispers back, and then she’s walking around them to grab her torch. Derek intercepts her before she can walk over to get snuffed and gives her a hug as well, one which she sinks into with a sob. They share a few whispers that Stiles isn’t privy to, and then Derek sits back down again and Erica marches to Peter with her torch signifying her life in her hands.

“Erica Reyes, the tribe has spoken.” Then, wordlessly, she was snuffed. “It is time for you to go.”

Nobody else said goodbye to her, apparently after Stiles and Derek, nobody else cared enough to say anything. Stiles wondered if that’s what his elimination would be like.

“Well, this tribal council has certainly demonstrated that the tribal swap has stirred the pot. Grab your torches, head back to camp.”

AJM|||||||—EVE|||||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“In my time on Survivor this season, I learned that I need to be more trusting of people. Derek really did want the best for me, and if I hadn’t screwed up like I did by questioning his leadership, I would have swung the votes a different way tonight.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“Well, as I just said, I would have stuck closer to Derek. But apart from that, I think I’d also be more welcoming to Stiles, Danny and Allison when they first arrived at our camp. It doesn’t matter that I went down like that, because I might not have won a million dollars, but meeting Boyd, Isaac and Derek was worth more. Well, worth more spiritually, anyway. I’m bummed that I don’t get a million dollars, as any sane person would be.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I think… Stiles is going to become the Sole Survivor. I think a lot of people underestimate him, but he’s clearly very savvy to the intricacies of the game, and he’s also a very genuine and likeable person, no matter what anyone says. I think Derek will take Stiles under his wing, like he did with me, when he pulls his head out of Jennifer’s tits. Wait, I’m not allowed to say that? When he pulls his head out of Jennifer’s breasts, then.”

Chapter Text

Not even a minute into their trek back to camp with their torches in hand, the arguing starts. Stiles doesn’t have high hopes for it ending any time soon, either.

“Who voted for me?” Kali snaps, evidently unhappy, “I know one of them was Derek, you even used the same scrawl you used last time you wrote it down, idiot. Isn’t insanity doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result?”

“It was me,” Jennifer slips in, dropping her pace to fall into step beside Kali. Stiles wishes he held her confidence, “And you know, I’ll probably do it again, for Derek.”

Something about the way she drools around Derek’s name makes Stiles’ skin crawl. Even though Kali’s the one with the claws, Stiles can practically see it as Jennifer digs her metaphorical ones into Derek.

“Okay,” Derek’s voice booms through the dark of the night. Stiles trips at the abruptness of it, and plays it off like he tripped over a branch instead. They approach the camp and go about resettling their stuff, now with the absence of Erica’s bag of low, revealing tops. “There’s no point hiding anything. Let’s all say who we voted for.” He crosses his arms as he speaks, bringing Stiles’ attention to his bulging arms. Derek’s probably not happy about votes going his way at tribal. Does he think Stiles was the one who voted for him? It would certainly serve him right for all the bullying he’s been doing around camp, but Stiles thinks of himself a bit higher than to lash out at someone simply because they lashed out at him. Stiles is used to being the bigger person, thank you very much.

“Jennifer,” Stiles bites out immediately, glaring at Derek the whole time. The surprise on his face is worth it.

“Rude,” Jennifer mutters, “We all know Derek and I voted for Kali.”

“Rude,” Kali echoes, squaring up across from Jennifer, “Erica.”

“Erica,” Ethan pitches, casting a glance at Danny.

“Derek,” Danny shrugs, looking sheepish. Derek’s glare picks up heat as it turns on Danny, as if the very thought of someone voting for him was so unreasonable that they deserved malice for daring to do it.

“Erica,” Allison sighs, and even though Stiles already figured as much based on the process of elimination, it still shook him a bit that Allison voted with Kali and Ethan to remove a new friend of his from the game. She looks regretful, though, which is something.

“Why, Allison?” Danny mumbles, and Stiles has learned enough at previous post-tribal councils to know that this is the moment where everything blows up.

Instead of what Stiles expected, though, Allison simply throws her arms in the air like even she doesn’t know, crawling to her space in the shelter. Stiles follows suit.

“Hey—we can’t go to bed without hashing this out!” Jennifer tries, but everyone’s exhaustion is catching up to them, and Stiles gets a grim satisfaction from watching Derek walk away from her to join Stiles for a night’s sleep.

“There’s nothing more to hash out, Jennifer,” Ethan grunts from somewhere across the shelter in the dark. Jennifer lets out a few expletives and then Stiles catches her silhouette as it climbs across him to find her spot on the other side of Derek’s form. If there’s one thing Stiles can be grateful to the man for, it’s his existence as a barrier between himself and his enemy in the game. Though if Derek and Jennifer are allies, Stiles supposes he should be an enemy by association, right?

Stiles turns on his other side so he doesn’t have to face either of them, looking out into the jungle. It’s something he’s been fascinated by since coming here: the knowledge that there’s probably millions of creatures out here with them. Normally, it would be the kind of thing to make Stiles squeamish, but for some reason, on the island, he’s more afraid of his fellow castaways than he is of nature.

Something lands on his shoulder as he’s processing the thought, though, and Stiles’ body goes tense in panic for a moment before he realises it’s someone’s hand.

“What?” Stiles grunts, not particularly interested in whatever it is that Derek has to say for himself. Maybe the hand on his shoulder was actually intended to shove him off of the shelter again, that’d be the kind of thing Derek would do.

“Thank you,” he hears, and feels, whispered close against the back of his neck. Thanking? Thanking is definitely not the kind of thing that Derek would do. He casts a look over his shoulder and can just make out Derek’s features in the slivers of moonlight being cast through the gaps in the bamboo and pine that makes up their roof. He looks… softer than Stiles is used to. “For being a friend to Erica. I should’ve—” whatever the end of that thought was supposed to be, it gets cut off as Jennifer’s arms snake around Derek’s torso. His expression goes rigid again, “G’night, Stiles.”

Stiles blinks over his shoulder, watching Derek turn around to spoon with Jennifer, wordless. G’night, Stiles thinks, but he doesn’t want to say it. Derek’s right, he should’ve. Because if Derek was on Erica’s side last night, the vote would’ve gone a very different way, but instead he was too caught up on… whatever. Stiles isn’t pretending to understand the social intricacies of the old Wolves tribe, but he does understand that Erica went home tonight because of one vote.

For some reason, when Stiles drifts to sleep, his mind is replaying Derek’s thank you. He doesn’t let himself dwell on that, just welcomes unconsciousness so he can let his focus waver from the game, if only for a bit, while he sleeps.

AJM|||||||—EVE|||||||

Stiles wakes up before Derek and the other do the next morning, and he thinks it’s partly his body’s way of spiting him for not feeding it enough and partly his own desire to not be caught off guard being rudely woken by Derek again.

He gets up and goes for a walk on the beach, like he’s some kind of online dating profile, because there’s pretty much nothing else productive he can do this early in the morning.

While he walks, he wishes for some kind of contact with home for not the first time since coming into the game. If he could just check in with his dad, make sure that he’s okay, then Stiles would feel so, so much better than he does. It is day seventeen, so they’re approaching the midway point in the game if Stiles assumes he’ll be there until the end (he is, because assuming anything else is defeatist, and the Stilinski’s are no quitters). It feels like he’s been on the island for so long already, though. Hell, it feels so long since he’s been on the new Wolves tribe and that’s only been for the past four days. It feels like as the amount of people in the game dwindles smaller and smaller, he’s left more time to really think to himself, like now.

He only has to beat thirteen other people now in the line for a million dollars. Easy. And here he was on his first day thinking he wouldn’t last through one tribal council, and he’s survived three with only one vote cast for him. That’s pretty good, right? It’s certainly magnitudes better than what Stiles was expecting, anyway.

Stiles,” his name gets hissed right behind him. Speaking of things that Stiles was, or in this case, wasn’t, expecting: Derek trailing after him on his morning walk on the beach. Stiles certainly didn’t invite him, so who did he think he was inviting himself? He wasn’t about to burn any bridges, mind you.

Stiles rolls his eyes to the heavens for a beat before deigning to greet him. “Morning, Derek.”

“Where are you going?” Derek checks, and Stiles is confused for a few seconds before he processes what Derek’s really asking him: are you looking for an idol?

“Wow, you can’t even trust me just once?” Stiles snarks, “I thought I’d go for a walk to clear my head after last night.”

Derek looks dubious.

“Is that to your satisfaction? Or should I come back to the shelter and shiver to the side while I watch yours and Jennifer’s little spoon-fest.”

“If you’re cold you could—I could—” Derek huffs, “Look, I’m sorry, okay?” Stiles is surprised. A thank you and a sorry from Derek? Unheard of. He should buy a lottery ticket. “I don’t know why, but I feel like we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot,” bit of understatement, but based on Derek’s behaviour Stiles isn’t so sure it is the wrong foot.

“You’re mean, you’re rude, and you’re allied with my enemy,” Stiles deadpans, “I’m not sure how much clearer our relationship needs to be than that.”

“Alright, noted, I’ll try and be a bit more gentle,” Derek grits. Stiles can see that he’s trying to force his expression into something a bit friendlier. Somehow, he just adds more teeth. “I know you don’t like Jennifer for your own reasons, but you don’t understand how dangerous Kali and Ethan are in this game.”

“And you don’t think Jennifer is dangerous?” Derek’s expression makes it clear that he most certainly does not. “That’s exactly why she needs to go, because she makes you blind to what she’s really like.” Stiles isn’t expecting to flip Derek’s opinion of her with one sentence, though, so he reverts to more logical avenues instead. “Look, the way I see it, we both have people from our old tribes that we see as threats. We’ve both probably got tunnel vision at this point because we’ve had to watch both of our enemies pull out idols and flip the game on its head. I’m going to be gunning for Jennifer until the end, because I can guarantee you she’s coming for me.”

“She won’t be,” Derek assures, like he has complete control over how she votes. Exactly what she wants him to think, Stiles figures. “All I’m asking is that you and your Hunters consider voting with us if it comes to another council so we don’t have the same mess that happened last night. After that you’ll have a majority anyway, right?”

“This is exactly how she wins,” Stiles sighs, but he nods anyway. He doesn’t want another person like Erica to go home out of nowhere because Stiles is unwilling to work with someone he doesn’t like. “I mean I’m not promising anything; last night each of us voted for someone different, so I’m not even sure what’s happening with us at the moment.”

“Well, if you’re ever feeling isolated, you can always come to me,” Derek offers, and looks like he immediately wants to take it back, like he’s said too much. Stiles is absolutely shook, though, because since when did Derek even care? It’s like he went to tribal with an untameable, nonverbal brute for a tribemate and came back with someone almost… likeable.

“Thanks, Derek,” Stiles mutters, almost in awe. In the distance, back up towards the camp, Stiles can see movement indicating that some more people are waking up. His stomach is also aching he’s so hungry, so that’s probably a good indicator that he should eat his breakfast soon. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Derek just grunts in response. Back to his nonverbal communication, then, but Stiles has seen through the cracks, now. He’s seen the Derek that Erica alluded to, the one which she trusted not to vote for her, and Stiles… Stiles can kind of see how that trust could manifest. He doesn’t trust him yet, that’s for sure, but… yeah, he can see how someone might.

AJM|||||||—EVE|||||||

“Okay, Hunters, getting your first look at the new Wolves tribe,” Peter drawls as they march up the hill towards the day’s immunity challenge, “Erica voted out at the last tribal council.”

On the other tribe, Isaac shakes his head in what Stiles thinks is disbelief, maybe even disappointment, but Stiles hasn’t even had a conversation with the man, yet, so he isn’t really at liberty to be reading him. There’s still four people in the game which Stiles has had barely an iota of contact with: Deucalion, Isaac, Kira and Parrish. They look… approachable, though. Stiles hopes he looks at least a little bit approachable as well. He got manners from Derek this morning, though, so he must be doing something right socially.

“Let’s get to today’s immunity challenge! First thing’s first, Hunters, I need to take back the tribal immunity idol.”

Deucalion jogs up and hands it over to Peter, muttering something that sounds like: ‘not for long’, or some other such trash talk which Stiles just rolls his eyes at. They’re on the beach for today’s challenge, with some kind of course set up what appears to be entirely in the water. If he weren’t at risk of being knocked out of the running for a million dollars in his every waking moment where he isn’t protected by immunity, he might feel a pull to do something wholesome like build a sand castle.

“Alright, immunity is once again up for grabs. In today’s challenge,” Peter gestures broadly out at the sea, “You’ll be pushing the limits of however well you think you might be able to swim; how comfortable you are taking orders; and how much you trust one another. In this challenge, six tribe members will be blindfolded,” blindfolded. In water. Stiles is already pretty scared, but at least challenges like this make him feel better about removing Matt from the game in the first tribal council. “And will have to swim at the direction of the seventh tribe member, who will be standing on a platform calling orders for the rest of the players on their tribe. In the water, the six other tribe members will be trying to collect their tribes’ coloured buoys from various positions throughout the course. Each member will have to collect one. The first tribe to have a member on each of their buoys will win immunity. Sounds straightforward, right?” Not really, Stiles thinks, because he can already tell that he’s going to be one of the people in the water, and that he’ll be flopping around like an idiot the whole time.

“Yes!” everyone calls, anyway.

“Then I’ll get you to decide who your caller is going to be, then we’ll get to it.”

“I—” Stiles barely gets a syllable out before he’s cut off by Jennifer.

“I’m not taking orders from Stilinski. I think Derek should be our caller. Strong voice, strong all around,” her tone brokers almost reverence. Stiles cannot fathom how Derek doesn’t see her as a manipulative player. Maybe it has something to do with the way Derek puffs his chest out a bit at the comment. If all Stiles had to do to get Derek’s vote was stroke his ego, he would’ve been doing that since day one.

“Well that’s all well and good,” Kali says, sounding like it’s anything but, “but I’m not taking orders from Derek. I think it should be Ethan.”

“I kind-of wanted to be in the water,” Ethan counters, receiving a dark look from Kali.

“Guys, this challenge is all about trust,” Allison sighs. Once again speaking up for what must the first time all day, “surely we can find a common ground. How about Danny?”

What?” Danny wheezes as all attention falls to him. “Wouldn’t I be better in the water?”

“No,” Jennifer sounds contemplative, “I think I’d be okay with Danny, too.”

“Same,” Kali and Ethan agree, Ethan giving Danny an apologetic look which Danny gawks at.

Huh. Everybody does love Danny.

“Alright we’re settled then,” Derek affirms, still playing the leader role even though Stiles really doesn’t think he has as much control as he thinks he does in this game. Regardless, they all swim out to their marks, treading water or holding onto parts of the edge of the course while the crew affix thick blindfolds over their eyes.

The last thing Stiles sees before his world goes black is Danny’s panicked expression and Stiles thinks: we’re screwed.

AJM|||||||—EVE|||||||

To say that they do poorly in the challenge would be an understatement. Right off the bat, Stiles got kicked in the stomach by someone who had to be Kali based on toenail sharpness. By the time he’d recovered from that and confirmed in a panicked way that he hadn’t been gutted, he got torpedoed by an apologetic Kira as she flew past him in the water at the direction of the Hunters’ caller, Deucalion.

Meanwhile, with Stiles splashing around like an idiot, apparently Allison and Derek managed to secure two of their buoys, while everybody else did just about nothing. Partway through the challenge, Stiles heard Jennifer gloating that she’d caught one, but it turned out she’d latched onto one of the Hunters’ buoys by mistake and wasn’t listening to Danny as he told her as much.

So, once again with the bloodlust that precedes a battle permeating the air, here they were: sitting around camp in dead silence.

As far as Stiles could see, there were three sides in the tribe.

There was the side with Kali and Ethan, the side which respected the old Wolves’ alliance.

There was the side with Derek and Jennifer, the side which evidently included public enemy number one from each tribe as far as Stiles was concerned.

Lastly, there was the free agents: the old Hunters.

The thing was that Stiles didn’t particularly want to vote with either of the pairs against the other, because despite everything he didn’t half mind Derek, and Ethan was the only one who acknowledged that their performance in the challenge today wasn’t Danny’s fault. But in the same way, he could not stand each of their respective allies: Kali was a brute, and Jennifer was a witch. At this point, at least Jennifer was the devil he knew, and isn’t that quite the revelation in and of itself?

“We need to be on the same page for tonight’s vote,” Stiles implores Allison and Danny. The rest of the old Wolves and Jennifer went their separate ways, probably to give them space because they know that their lives are arguably in the old Hunters’ alliance’s hands. “We can’t pull another dumb stunt like last night and risk someone random going home.”

“Erica wasn’t random,” Danny warns.

“I said I was sorry,” Allison snaps, “And at least my vote was relevant. Why the hell did you end up voting for Derek, anyway?”

“Guys—” Stiles tries, but his allies are already at each other’s throats.

“We were a team for a long time before coming here,” Danny mumbles, tone quieter but holding just as much weight as Allison’s, “You shouldn’t have gone off on your own like you did. We had the control last tribal—we could have gotten anybody out who we wanted: three votes was for the kill.”

“We could have finally removed Jennifer,” Stiles tacks on, but Allison just scoffs.

“You know what? I think I can take care of myself.”

“Allison, wait!” Stiles gently grips her arm before she can abandon their little trio. “I know you’re frustrated, we all are, these past few days have been rough on all of us, but the merge has to be coming up soon, and if we can make it there with our old alliance in-tact then we can hold majority to the final six before having to vote one of our own out.” Stiles likes to believe that’s true, but he’s not naïve enough to think that they won’t turn on each other before then. Still, it’s a nice thought. “Just… vote for Jennifer tonight, yeah?”

She doesn’t deign him with a verbal response, but she does give a slight jutting nod which Stiles is willing to settle for at this point, before jogging off. Stiles reapproaches Danny once she’s gone.

“Are you sure it isn’t smarter to go for Kali or Derek?” Danny tries, and Stiles doesn’t miss the fact that he isn’t including Ethan in his list of potential targets tonight. Everyone loves Danny, but Danny loves selectively.

“If I’m right, the old Wolves are going to throw their votes at one another and hope that we break ranks and pick a side, but if we just get rid of Jennifer then that’s a massive thorn out of our sides. We’ve got this, Danny,” Stiles assures, “Once Jennifer’s gone, if we still haven’t merged, I think we could sway Derek and take out Kali. Either way, it isn’t going to be any of us going home tonight. I can feel it.”

Stiles doesn’t know where the confidence has come from, but he’s very excited by it. He’s half expecting the universe to come and tear him down for feeling too good about where he is. At the end of the day, it’s hard to predict the way a tribal council is going to go. If Stiles could do it perfectly, he would probably still be alongside people like Jackson and Erica.

It all comes down to the votes.

AJM|||||||—EVE|||||||

As soon as they pass through to the tribal council area, Peter’s gleeful visage greets them. Stiles has to wonder at this point how much of his days are spent lurking around waiting for the tribes to show up so he can torment them. “Welcome back to tribal council, new Wolves tribe,” Peter emphasises the fact that they’re back, and Stiles’ heart drops a little at the thought that maybe they’re just going to keep on coming back time after time until there’s nothing left of them. Stiles supposes that it’s bound to happen eventually, anyway, as is the purpose of the game.

As Stiles goes to take the same spot he was in last time, he’s already accepting that he’ll be stuck sitting next to Jennifer and with Derek breathing down his neck. Instead, as Jennifer goes to take her seat, Derek instead darts forwards and takes the seat next to Stiles instead. It’s… odd. But Stiles figures it’s a part of whatever reconciliation Derek is going through in the wake of Erica’s departure from the game. And hey, if it means Jennifer’s stuck sitting behind him so Stiles doesn’t even have to look at her then he’s not going to complain.

“Derek,” she utters simply, but darkly, as she and the rest of the tribe take their seats.

“Okay, let’s start off by talking about today’s immunity challenge. Ethan, what went wrong?” Peter begins. Stiles can see the calculations he’s making as his eyes roam over them to decide where to prod to cause the maximum amount of drama.

“It was just not our day, Peter,” Ethan replies, not casting any blame.

“But Danny was the person you nominated to call for you, right? Surely a significant amount of the responsibility has to fall on someone in a challenge like that.”

“I’m not sure what you want me to say,” Ethan shrugs, “I don’t think it was Danny’s fault any more than it was any of ours.”

“I think it was,” Kali challenges, and Stiles peeks up to check he heard right. That she’s challenging her only ally on the tribe, as far as Stiles is aware, right in front of everyone. Bold move.

“Okay, this is interesting,” Peter taunts, “So Stiles, do you think people are still going to vote based on keeping the strongest players around, or do you think there are more strategic, social votes up ahead?”

Why does he seem to always get the difficult questions?

“Uh, I don’t know what everyone else is thinking, but I don’t see anyone on our tribe as weak.” Stiles casts a look to his side at Derek and ponders Erica’s words to him.

Erica said that Derek wouldn’t care about most stuff; would vote primarily based on who he thought was the weakest link. In contrast to that, though, he’s been targeting Kali out of some kind of revenge for what happened on the old Wolves tribe. Surely he’s not going to have been so easily flipped from just one unlucky challenge. It just wouldn’t be fair for Danny to go home when he was volunteered for the position by everyone else, anyway.

“Allison? Do you see anyone on the tribe as weak?”

“I’ve seen one person here as weak since day one,” she utters harshly. Ouch, Stiles thinks, because that’s pretty clearly a jab at him. “And tonight, I’ll be writing their name down.”

Stiles’ neck whips around so fast his eyes have to refocus, but Allison is just sending him an incredulous look and indicating Jennifer with her eyes. Oh. That’s nice.

“Last tribal council there was a lot of pretty obvious uncertainty on who was going home with four people receiving votes. Do you think the same thing will happen tonight, Derek?”

“I think it’s possible,” Derek admits, “despite all of us living on an island together there’s surprisingly not much talking going on. I know who I’m voting for, and I’m hoping that enough other people are on the same page as me.” Stiles gives him a side-eyed look at that. Derek could have approached Stiles at any point before tribal council, but instead he just sat on the beach, alone because not even Jennifer was allowed near him, and… evidently, he plotted, without actually talking to anyone.

“That’s a very reasonable statement,” Peter acknowledges, “And I think that it is time to vote.” Stiles is still glaring at Derek, and the other man catches him staring and harshly bobs his head purposefully to indicate… something to him. “Stiles, you’re up.”

This time, as Stiles approaches the pen, parchment and urn, he feels… unsettled. Is Danny going home tonight? Is Jennifer? Is Derek? Stiles spent every moment leading up to tribal convinced that writing down Jennifer’s name tonight would be the right thing to do, but there’s… something telling him, after Derek’s words, that he’s supposed to vote for Kali. Derek didn’t even allude to voting for her, though it wouldn’t be surprising given he voted for her at the last tribal. Still, as Stiles writes out the ‘J’ for Jennifer, he can’t help but scribble over it and write Kali instead at the last minute. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” Stiles admits to the camera, “But I hope I’m right.”

They get called up one by one to vote, and Stiles scrutinises each and every one of them as they make their way up.

Peter gently says something about counting the votes, but Stiles has heard it enough times now that it just washes over him. He’s back after a long time, and Stiles isn’t sure whether to take that as a blessing or a curse. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.” There’s some shuffling around, and Stiles watches as Kali purposefully reaches down and takes—a sip of her water bottle. Nobody plays an idol. Is there even one in play at this point, apart from the one back at the Hunters’ camp? Has Scott managed to find it yet? If Stiles makes it to the merge, or at least to a point where he can talk to Scott again, he’s going to ask so many questions. “Once the votes are read, the decision is final, the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately,” no matter how many times Stiles hears it, it never ceases to excite a chill of foreboding from him. “I’ll read the votes.”

“First vote,” Peter began, “Jennifer.”

Stiles isn’t sure why he didn’t vote Jennifer, knowing he was the one who was pressuring his allies into voting that way in the first place, but he just hopes that he doesn’t live to regret it.

“Second vote… Danny.” Stiles can see as Danny winces at that. It’s the first vote cast for him in this game. Stiles remembers the feeling and it was not a good one. “Third vote… Kali.”

Well, it’s nice to see that they’re still as divided as ever on who’s voting for who.

“That’s currently one vote Jennifer, one vote Danny, and one vote Kali. Four votes left.” Peter recaps, plucking the next parchment from the urn, “Fourth vote… Kali. Fifth vote… Jennifer. Sixth vote… Danny.”

God, how did they always manage to do this to themselves? Stiles is going to whoop on the day where the deciding vote in a tribal council doesn’t have to come down to the final one.

“That’s now two votes Jennifer, two votes Danny, two votes Kali, and one vote left,” Peter grins, probably loving every second of this. Did Stiles swapping his vote from Jennifer result in Danny going home? Surely not. Surely his instincts weren’t that bad. A few seats up from him, he can see Danny and Allison coming to realise that he didn’t vote the way they wanted him to, otherwise this last vote would be Jennifer, but all three of their votes have already been revealed. The last vote is going to be the inscrutable handwriting which Stiles has to assume is either Derek or Ethan’s at this point. Peter reveals the last vote with a swish and a grim look on his face, “Seventh vote, and the seventh person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters,” he turns it around, and Stiles’ heart stops. “Kali.”

Stiles’ instincts were right, thank god. Though he’s still unsure why the hell he didn’t vote for Jennifer and get her out of the game, something warm settles in him telling him that he made a smart move tonight.

“That’s three votes Kali, that’s enough, you need to bring me your torch.”

Kali was holding her head in her hands for half a second before stomping to her feet and marching over to Peter with something like regret written on her stony features.

“This isn’t a tribe,” Kali spits back at them, throwing her bandana into the fire, much to the horror of Peter. Then she curls her lips like she’s about to add something more, but instead deflates, “Just do it.”

“Kali, the tribe has spoken.” Peter declares, snuffing her torch. She seems to deflate that much more. “It is time for you to go.”

“Bye Kali,” Ethan tries, sounding at least a bit apologetic, but Stiles hasn’t done the numbers yet to figure out if he was one of the people who voted for her. That wouldn’t really make sense, would it?

Regardless, she flips one of her sharp middle fingers back at them all before disappearing into the darkness, out of the game.

“Well it seems like tonight, battle lines were drawn and now it’s time to figure out if you’re on the right side.”

“Thanks, Peter,” Derek snipes, mildly impressing Stiles with his ability to have a sense of humour in a time like this. Maybe he’s really happy that Kali’s gone, but his expression says otherwise. He looks… betrayed. Stiles just wishes he knew more of what was going on so he could understand why.

Peter doesn’t acknowledge Derek, though, just farewells them with his usual parting words. “Grab your torches, head back to camp. Good night.”

AJM|||||||—KEVE||||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I think I learned to be careful of going too hard right off the bat. I learned that keeping the tribes strong isn’t really as important to a lot of the people here compared to their little social cliques. I feel like I deserved to be here more than a few of the other people on the new Wolves tribe, but it’s too late to go back and change anything, isn’t it?”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“Wow. That’s a fun question. I think I’d go a bit further if I flew a bit under the radar unlike what I did here, but I don’t regret how I played my game. One of my favourite moments included my idol play to get rid of Boyd, if only to witness the look on Derek’s face while it all unfolded. I think when I get back I’ll screenshot that frame and put it up on my mantle. I’m fine, though, really.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I have high hopes for Deucalion to become the Sole Survivor. He’s fighting against all the odds at this point. If he makes it to the end, then he deserves the victory. If he doesn’t make it to the end, it’s much the same. If any of us can, Duke can pull it through.”

Chapter Text

“Stiles!” Allison’s snappish voice slices into Stiles’ usual post-tribal council numbness and has him struck.

“Wah?” he splutters, hoisting his torch up more firmly so it isn’t dragging along the sand on their way back up the beach to their camp. “I was, uh, off somewhere else.”

“Obviously,” she seethes, tone brokering anger that Stiles is too distant to process at the moment. “If somewhere else is inside someone else’s alliance. What the hell happened tonight?”

Stiles blinks once, twice, three times, then stops walking. Allison falls into motionlessness beside him while the rest of the tribe ambles on past them. It hits Stiles then that even though tonight still worked out well enough for the three original allied Hunters, it was still a blindside, however unintentional, of his closest friends on the tribe.

“Oh,” he deflates even further.

“Yeah, ‘oh’,” her frustration is written all over her expression: fists clenched, teeth grinding, stance defensive. “Stiles, if you didn’t flip on us tonight, Jennifer would have gone home.” She takes a breath, but it evidently does nothing to quell her rage. “Jennifer,” she elaborates, “who is our biggest nemesis in the game who has been out for our heads since day 6 and will probably always be out for our heads. And yet you decided to take a stab in the dark at Kali instead.”

“She wanted Danny out,” Stiles offers, even though he’s pretty much on Allison’s side against himself at this point.

“There’s only six of us left here now. If we lose a third challenge in a row, there’s not going to be any room for miscommunication like that again.” She steps in close and Stiles can see how much the game is starting to weigh on her now. Allison’s nothing if not a strong person, but even the strongest would get worn down by the terror of uncertainty and blind trust being broken. “If Ethan votes with Jennifer and Derek against us, we need to force a tie.”

Derek wouldn’t vote against us dies on Stiles’ lips before he can even enunciate a word, because that’s really what it came down to tonight. Stiles’… fixation on Derek, whether that’s as an ally or something else is still unsure, but it’s affecting his judgment if the blindside tonight was any indication.

“Danny and I are staying tight until the merge, and I want you to be with us, but for that to happen we need to be smart. And you need to start voting with us and following through with what you say.” Her tone loses its hard edge like a switch was flipped. “Please stay with us, Stiles.”

“I’m sorry,” Stiles apologises, realising he hasn’t done that yet. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I went off rogue tonight, I’m just…” he trails off. “I’m just really sorry.”

“You don’t need to explain it to me, I know,” she gives him a quick squeeze that warms Stiles’ heart more than he would have expected. It feels like he hasn’t completely ruined everything between them. “Come on, we should see what other drama is unfolding back at camp. Can’t just be us.”

It wasn’t.

“What the hell do you mean you didn’t vote for Danny?” Derek shouts as Stiles and Allison approach the camp. There’s absolute disbelief spelled out on his features, and by the looks of it he’s laying into Ethan at the moment above everyone else. Figures, given he’s the last original Wolf left on the tribe apart from Derek himself.

“I mean exactly what I said, Derek,” Ethan snaps back, clicking the last syllable, “I didn’t vote for Danny. Kali wasn’t listening to me; she was spiralling, so I voted for her.”

The entire tribe’s surprise visibly increases by a magnitude, because if Ethan voted for Kali, then it means that not only was Stiles not the only person who went back on their word tonight, but in-fact a three-fold betrayal occurred.

“But that means…” Danny stutters out, still looking a bit shell-shocked by the very near-elimination experience he dodged tonight.

He doesn’t need to finish his sentence though, because in the same instance they all comprehend what’s happened, and all eyes turn to Jennifer.

She’s silent for a beat, probably revelling in the chaos, before her sly mouth opens. “Alright, you got me,” she looks proud whatever it is she thinks she’s succeeded in doing, “I voted with Kali tonight against Danny.”

“Jennifer,” Derek begins, sounding like he’s about to condescendingly reprimand her, and Stiles realises then that she’s played him well. So well. Because Derek has thought this whole time that she’s just some groupie he can tell what to do. “That wasn’t the plan.” Hell, he still thinks that, even after tonight’s vote drastically proving the opposite. She might be annoying, and not the best team-player, but Stiles has to hand it to Jennifer that she knows how to mess with people’s heads.

“No,” Jennifer sighs, faux-victimised, “That wasn’t your plan. Honestly, voting people like Kali out of the game this early is just going to result in another dud season where someone like Danny wins…” her eyes scan across the group before settling on Stiles, expression mean, “or Stilinski.”

“Ignore her,” Danny immediately jumps to his defence, even though he should be as mad at Stiles as Allison was before. “As someone else who received one less than lethal votes tonight, I understand the attitude.”

“Don’t talk to me about attitude, mister. You might not have voted for her, but you’re the reason Kali went home tonight. All cause—”

“Look,” Ethan interjects, “we all know what happened. We all know where the votes ended up. We talk about this every night and it doesn’t change the result. How about we all take a good night’s sleep and try and win the next challenge so we don’t have to go through this shit again.” It’s weird to hear Ethan talk so much at once given how relatively subdued he’s been in the past. Perhaps there was some friction between Kali and him that Stiles never saw. Stiles catches Danny giving Ethan a warm look and chooses not to follow up on it. None of his business as long as Danny and he are still allies after tonight. Stiles makes a mental note to talk to him and apologise as well before the next challenge. “Good night.” Ethan farewells them, falling in a heap into his spot on the shelter, which is now his alone without having to share it with Kali. Soon, Stiles might not have to perch on the edge of Derek’s space in order to get a good night’s sleep. If they keep losing big, strong people then Stiles is going to end up with more room than he knows what to do with.

Jennifer strolls off into the shelter after him, wordlessly.

“Night everyone,” Allison mutters politely, which gets a response from the remainder of them still standing around.

As Stiles goes to take his usual spot at the edge of the shelter where Derek and Jennifer spoon, he realises that Derek isn’t there. Jennifer is stretching her lithe body broadly across the space that the three of them would normally occupy. The power-couple will not be spooning together tonight. By association, Stiles is without access to his usual position.

“Oh,” Stiles mutters dumbly to Jennifer’s bare back. Further up in the shelter, Danny, Ethan and Allison are lined up like puzzle pieces that don’t fit together but are set aside, touching at the edges until their appropriate matches can be found. Stiles feels like he probably isn’t one of those matches, though the thought of wedging himself between Danny and Allison has a certain friendly appeal in the hopes that it might also represent his positioning in this game alliance-wise.

Derek, avoiding Jennifer and his usual spot in the shelter, is… looming. He’s standing off to the side like he doesn’t belong anymore; like he doesn’t feel it’s his place with the New Wolves tribe sleeping. Betrayal sucks. Stiles feels even worse about his swing vote as he realises he is a traitor now as well.

Stiles steps over to Derek silently, still undecided on where he’ll allow himself to sleep tonight.

“You okay?” he tries, but Derek doesn’t even give him a trademark nonverbal response. Just silence.

That is, until Derek moves away in the direction of the cold sand down by the ocean. As far as responses go, that one is pretty easy to interpret.

“Awesome,” Stiles deadpans, glances back to the shelter to affirm that yes, everyone else is either asleep or pretending to be. They’re really only left with each other at this point, Stiles doesn’t understand why Derek’s even trying to resist still. Before he follows he reminds himself that his alliance is Allison and Danny, and that just because Derek has caught his attention doesn’t mean he’ll let it affect his decision-making.

He heads down to the lower beach and Derek is… sitting there. Although not sitting in the conventional sense, rather he’s kneeling on the sand right at the where the waves barely lap the ground. Kneeling in the freezing ocean air, feeling the icy water nip at his legs. The image shouldn’t be as confronting as it is, but it looks like this is Derek’s way of coping—or not coping—now that the stress of the game has finally gotten to him.

As Stiles reaches the appropriate distance where he could retry his ‘you okay?’ line of questioning, he realises that Derek’s not going to appreciate it any more now than he did before. He might not be Stiles’ ally, but he’s also clearly not Stiles’ enemy like he first assumed. Rather than attempting words, he rests his hand on the other man’s shoulder gently and just squeezes lightly.

It seems intimate, but only because it’s Derek he’s doing it to. If he were comforting Scott or Allison or Danny this way it wouldn’t feel this intense—this significant—because they’re close like that. He and Derek aren’t close, though, but maybe… maybe they could be. Maybe Derek could become a minor member of their alliance to make sure they have majority going into the merge. If Jennifer’s stunt hasn’t annihilated his concept of trust, Stiles could use an ally that was as abrasive as Derek as a shield going forward in the game.

As the thought intrudes on his mind, he tries to retract his hand like it was burnt. Here he is, trying to comfort someone who is feeling isolated on the island, and he’s trying to think of ways to monopolise said isolation.

His fingers barely graze off of Derek’s shoulder before a gentle, almost hesitant grip is pulling them back to rest again, this time with a warm hand laying atop Stiles’.

The other man doesn’t say anything emotional like ‘don’t go’, but it feels just as significant as if he had. Stiles has to wonder for a moment if this is the first time Derek’s let himself be vulnerable since coming out here. Perhaps even before then.

They stand and kneel respectively in complete silence until the moon has crossed half of the sky and the waves begin to peel further away from them, every inch of Stiles’ body chilled in the air excluding the point of contact. It’s almost tempting enough to just pull the other man into his arms and steal all of his warmth for himself.

Almost.

Then, still without exchanging any words, Derek stands up, dusts off his knees, and heads back up to the shelter without looking back.

When Stiles manages to bring himself to follow, he finds that Derek’s happened upon some made space in the shelter, peacefully reclined, and that there’s a suspiciously Stiles-sized gap between him and the edge. He pretends not to notice the way Derek’s eyes snap open and then quickly shut as he takes his space—just like old times.

Despite the drama coursing through their tribe and the somewhat uncomfortable design to his old alliance now that he’s accidentally betrayed them tonight, Stiles sleeps deeply and warmly.

AJM|||||||—KEVE||||||

“Okay, Hunters, getting your first look at the new Wolves tribe after last night’s tribal council,” Stiles watches as Scott, Lydia, Malia and the other Hunters scan their eyes over their tribe. The day twenty immunity challenge is some kind of standard Survivor obstacle course set atop a taller hill than the previous challenges were set on. Stiles felt pretty puffed just making it to the challenge, so he doesn’t have particularly high hopes for how he’ll fare in the actual thing. Scott’s relief is tangible even across the many metres separating the two tribal mats when he sees that Stiles is still there. Or maybe he’s relieved about Allison. Or maybe it’s even Danny. Regardless, Stiles claims that look of relief as his own. He’s gonna need it if he wants to endure however many more hellish days there are until the tribal merge where they’ll be together again. He chooses to ignore the possibility that either Scott or he might not make it, because they have to. They’re together in this, just like they said on the old Hunters tribe. “Kali voted out at the last tribal council.”

To the right of Scott, Deucalion scowls, murmuring something indecipherable but no doubt hostile against those who voted her out. Stiles still doesn’t quite understand the entire dynamics of the old Wolves tribe that led to the immovable blood feud between two halves of the tribe, but he imagines it was just a similar twist as happened with Jennifer on the old Hunters.

“Let’s get to today’s immunity challenge! First thing’s first, Hunters, gonna need to take back the tribal immunity idol again.”

“’Again’, he says,” Ethan mutters, “As if we don’t already get it. We suck.”

“Thanks, Isaac,” Peter acknowledges as the curly-haired man drops the idol off before jogging back to the mat with the others. “Alright, so immunity is once again up for grabs.”

“Hey, Danny,” Ethan shout-whispers and Stiles turns to give them a suspicious glare.

He’s not blind to whatever is developing between the two in a very Romeo and Juliet style affair, in-fact Stiles doesn’t think anybody on either tribe hasn’t picked up on their chemistry, he’s just not sure yet whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for his gameplay to have an ally form a relationship like that. Historically, relationships would mean immediately voting out one of the culprits to prevent an unbreakable power-couple existing when it gets to fewer people in the game, but Stiles doesn’t want to vote out Danny, and Ethan voted against Kali to get her out, so he’s gradually coming around to the idea that maybe Ethan is semi-okay as well. Having allies that paint a target on their own backs could also be useful if, in the merge, they can’t find a majority somehow.

Ethan just glares back at Stiles while Danny sheepishly shuffles closer and whispers in a far more hushed tone something that Stiles couldn’t hear if he tried.

“In today’s challenge, you’ll split your tribes into a group of three, two and one.” Peter gestures to the closest set of obstacles for them to race through. It reminds Stiles of a compressed children’s playground. “First, the group of three will race through this course, tied together. Pacing yourselves for your slowest team member will be important if you want to do well.” The second set of obstacles are a duo of tunnels semi-obstructed with rope. It feels like enough of a motif of the challenges that Peter doesn’t even need to explain what they have to do, but alas he does anyway. “Once all three members are through, they will race to the mat. Once they’re there, the next two tribe members, also tied together, can race into the tunnels and climb through the rope blockades.” Peter turns to face them and points both his thumbs back at the course, “The last person on each tribe will be intercepted at the back of the course by the group of two, at which point they will have to race through the tunnels and obstacle course in reverse to make it back to the starting mat. First person to reach the starting mat again wins immunity for their tribe. The losing tribe will be seeing me tonight at tribal council where someone will be the eighth person voted out of this game. Worth playing for?”

“Yes!” everyone shouts obligatorily. It most certainly is worth playing for, otherwise Stiles will be attending his third tribal council in a row. Just cause his name hasn’t been thrown around thus far doesn’t give him high hopes that it will continue to resolve that way.

“In that case, I’ll give you a minute to arrange your tribes and then we’ll get started. Hunters, you have one extra member. Someone gonna have to sit out this one.”

The Wolves have barely convened for a second before Stiles hears Parrish declare that he’ll be sitting out. Stiles figures either they’re exuding cohesive teamwork for eight days together, or Parrish is exercising his individuality. He’ll have to check with Scott when they get reunited.

“I don’t think I should be in the first three,” Stiles offers, “I’m pretty clumsy. Can I nominate for the rope tunnel?”

“I’d like to do the last lap of the whole course of that’s alright,” Ethan checks his eyes over all of them, lingering on Danny as he continues, “I think I probably have the most to lose tonight.”

Derek nods with a grim look that makes Stiles uncomfortable. Surely Derek isn’t still gunning for Ethan after Jennifer’s move last night? “In that case maybe Allison, Danny and I should do the obstacles. Means you’d be on the tunnel with Stilinski, Jennifer.”

Jennifer looks like she’d like nothing more than to fight the decision, but she nods in a rare display of cooperation. Maybe getting votes at every single tribal council is finally getting to her. Stiles takes his position.

AJM|||||||—KEVE||||||

“Survivor’s ready?” Peter calls, and Stiles is more than ready. The challenge hasn’t even started and he already wants it to be over. It’s hot and sweaty, the tropical sun baking him like a pastry, and he’s physically connected with Jennifer with a rope that she will not stop tugging on just to annoy him. Allison, Danny and Derek look spring-loaded and ready to launch from the other side of the course, and on the other side of the tunnel, Ethan is nervously raring himself up with stretches and assumedly self-motivational words said too quietly for Stiles to hear. “Go!”

The trio of new Wolves charge immediately, led by Derek with Allison and Danny in a close formation behind him. It only takes a few speedy swings and dives around the course for them to pull slightly ahead of Scott, Malia and Deucalion.

“Yes! Come on!” Stiles encourages.

“Shut up, you aren’t going to make them go any faster,” Jennifer grouches, probably quiet enough that the cameras wouldn’t pick up on it. He ignores her and keeps clapping even more loudly for them.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Stiles bursts as they escape the course, the trio of sweaty forms charging towards them. “Yes! Yes!” As soon as they step one foot on the mat, Stiles is tugged off of his feet by Jennifer. Stiles didn’t even realise how strong she was, but he eats a mouthful of sand.

“Stiles, get up! Stiles! Come on!” her voice booms. Stiles tries to find his footing and gets tugged off his feet again just as he starts to regain his balance.

“Slow down, Jennifer!” Derek’s voice sounds further away, and Stiles is half-sure she’s dragging him through the sand at this point.

“I didn’t realise I had to baby him.”

“The Wolves had a massive lead, but it the Hunters are quickly catching up! They might even overtake them! This could be a massive blow to the Wolves attending a third tribal council in a row!” Peter narrates, and that spurs Stiles to crawl-run to his feet, blinking sand out of his eyes and just focussing on keeping moving.

Jennifer leads into the tunnel, and now that she’s proven whatever point she wanted to prove by knocking him off his feet, they’ve regained momentum.

“Ah, crap!” Stiles shouts at one point when he slides past a rope and gets a nasty burn for his efforts. He pushes through though, because surely the tunnel is almost finished.

“Come on!” Ethan’s voice sounds close, and Stiles can make him out through only a couple more lines of the thick red rope lines blocking the tunnel. “Come on!”

“Hunters have reached the mat, Malia can start going through the course in reverse!”

“Yes!” Jennifer shouts ahead of him, and Stiles realises why a moment later when he bursts out the other end of the tunnel and leaps for the mat with Ethan looking nervously ready to launch from.

“Wolves have reached the mat, Ethan can go!”

By the time Stiles has brushed the sand out of his eyes and dusted himself off a reasonable amount, Ethan and Malia have passed the tunnel and are toe-to-toe in the obstacle course. It almost looks like they might finally have a chance at winning immunity again if Ethan managed to catch up with Malia.

“Come on, Ethan!” Stiles shouts, there can’t be long left of the challenge now. It’s going to come down to the wire. “Come on!”

“Come on,” Jennifer mutters barely audible next to him, and Stiles doesn’t even want to point out that she made fun of him for doing as much earlier. She’s just as scared of going home tonight as any of them. “Come on. Please.”

“Come on!”

AJM|||||||—KEVE||||||

“Welcome back to tribal council for the third time, new Wolves tribe,” Peter greets. Stiles feels… deflated. He really thought they had a chance earlier, but it seems they’re destined to lose their whole tribe before the merge. There’ll only be five of them left after tonight. Stiles wonders if Peter would be this gleeful if the new Hunters lost as well, or if his sadism is focussed solely towards them. “Good to see you again.”

“Thanks Peter,” Jennifer deadpans, looking uniquely worried as she takes her seat. Stiles takes the same spot as last time, only this time he doesn’t feel odd about Derek sitting beside him, in-fact it makes him feel better. Derek might still be voting against them tonight, but Stiles feels like his conscience is clear, unlike Jennifer’s.

“Okay, as usual, I think I’d like to start off by talking about today’s immunity challenge.” Peter begins, “It was, as we know, your third loss on a row, so Derek, I have to ask, what keeps going wrong?”

“We were close, and I think everyone did their best,” Derek responds.

“Jennifer, do you agree?” Peter moves on.

Stiles can feel Jennifer’s presence behind him, can feel her calculating gaze on the back of his head. “I think we were well ahead until the tunnel section,” she states, which is true, “the section Stiles and I were responsible for.”

“Stiles, what do you think about that?”

“I mean, she’s right. We were ahead until the second section. Allison, Danny and Derek made such quick work of that first section, so I guess we did let the team down a bit.”

“It wasn’t our day,” Ethan says diplomatically from the other side of the bench.

“You said it wasn’t our day last time,” Jennifer points out. “When is it going to be our day? The answer is, it isn’t going to be our day until we get rid of our dead weight.”

“Wow.” Peter blinks, “Allison, what do you think about Jennifer’s talk of dead weight?”

“I don’t think anyone here is dead weight, Peter,” Allison answers, “We all do our best, and nobody’s best among us isn’t comparable to anyone else’s. I do think sometimes we don’t necessarily work as well as a team as we could be able to.”

“Danny, how are you feeling about tonight’s vote?”

“I only have one name on my mind tonight, and I guess I hope there’s three other people sitting here with the same name on their mind.”

“And whose name is that, Danny? Please tell the class.” Jennifer snaps, sounding… appropriately disgruntled by Danny’s not-so-subtle targeting of her. Stiles figures everyone knows at this point.

“Spoiler alert: their name starts with a J,” Ethan interjects sassily.

“What about you, Jennifer, how are you feel—”

“Ethan.” Jennifer interrupts Peter, turning to look right at Ethan, “I’ll be voting for Ethan tonight. If you’re smart, I won’t be the only one doing so.”

“Wow.” Peter blinks, wowed for a second time. “Let’s go back to Derek before we vote, do you think there might be hidden immunity idols in play at the moment?”

“If there are, there isn’t anything we can do about it, is there?” Derek answers.

“Alright on that note, I think it is time to vote,” Peter declares. “Allison, you’re up.”

As Allison stands up to vote, Derek tugs his arm and Stiles leans in to listen.

“I’m changing my vote to Ethan,” Derek whispers, air puffing against his ear and sending a thrill of something down Stiles’ spine. “If she has an idol, I can’t risk y—I mean, one of us, going home.”

Stiles didn’t miss his slip, and it occurs to Stiles suddenly that, whether he wanted to or not, he has becomes Derek’s ally just by being nice to him. Does he have allies on the other tribe still in the game, though, or has Stiles nominated himself to become his last ally in the game? The thought troubles him, as he gets called up to make his vote.

The pen, parchment and urn sit there ready for him to write down a name and potentially strike someone out of the running for a million dollars. He doesn’t know what will happen if Jennifer plays an idol. It would be her second idol of the game, so it doesn’t feel likely, but anything is possible. Stiles doesn’t want Ethan to go, either, but obviously of the options left he’d choose Ethan over Allison or Danny or Derek.

Whatever happens will happen, though. Stiles writes down Jennifer’s name for the third time and puts three small X’s at the bottom of the parchment. “I really, really hope this is the last time I have to do this,” Stiles tells the camera, “Please don’t have a second idol.”

The remainder of the tribe votes, with the last person to vote being Jennifer. Stiles can read that she’s nervous, but with her that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a trick up her sleeve. Stiles has been surprised enough in the past twenty days to know not to expect anything.

“I’ll go count the votes.”

Peter comes back after a minute with the urn and places it on the platform for him to read from. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.” There’s some shuffling around behind him, Stiles chooses to imagine it’s just Jennifer messing with them, though. After a moment, nobody plays an idol. “Okay, once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately,” Peter declares. He gives Stiles a weighty look for some reason in the pause he takes. “I’ll read the votes.”

“First vote,” Peter starts, “Jennifer.”

Beside him, Derek’s thigh shuffles across to become a line of warmth.

“Second vote… Ethan.” There’s a small whisper on the other end of the bench between Danny and Ethan. Considering how close the two have gotten in the past few days, Stiles figures it’s probably words of support. “Third vote… Jennifer. Fourth vote… Ethan.” Peter muses, “That means we’re currently tied with two votes Jennifer, two votes Ethan. Two votes left.” He takes the fifth vote from the urn, “Fifth vote… Ethan.”

Behind him, Stiles hears Jennifer let out a sigh of relief, maybe even disbelief. Stiles gapes at the thought that maybe other people besides Derek had the thought of swapping votes in case of an idol, and hopes it doesn’t mean the wrong person goes home tonight because of a simple mistake of communication.

“Last vote.” Peter opens it with a mean smile, “Sixth vote, and the eighth person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters…”

Stiles’ heart plummets as he turns it around.

“Kidding. Jennifer. We’re tied three votes Jennifer, three votes Ethan.”

Then returns to beating three-fold in relief. He breathes a sigh of relief to contest Jennifer’s own earlier.

“The rules state that to resolve a tie, all tied contestants will not vote, and the non-tied contestants will have to vote again, but may only choose between the tied contestants. If the revote does not break the tie, then it will be declared a deadlock vote, and the tribe will be given one final chance to unanimously decide who should be eliminated. If there is not a unanimous decision, then the tied players will become immune, and the rest of the players will draw rocks, with the player drawing the white rock being eliminated from the game.”

Peter takes the empty urn and runs it back to the voting station.

“Allison, you’re up.”

Stiles figures at this point, Jennifer must be going home for certain, that Allison or Danny swapped as well to prevent an idol and caused the tie. They did it messily, but they managed it. Stiles can’t see a resolution that doesn’t have Jennifer going home.

Jennifer’s ghostly hand lands on his shoulder and he feels her lean down close to whisper in his ear. “Don’t do this, Derek,” she says. Oh. She isn’t even talking to him. “They won’t take you with them, Derek.”

“Stiles, you’re up.”

“I know you want to bone Stilinski, but don’t let that rob you of a million dollars.”

Stiles nods, dumbfounded, and stands with Jennifer’s last words following him. His hand quakes as he writes her name for the last time, and he doesn’t make eye contact with Derek when he takes his seat, but he feels… alright. It feels like things are just finally sliding into place.

He’ll sort out everything else, if there is anything else to sort out that is, after Jennifer is gone.

“Okay, once the votes are read, the decision is final. The person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. We only need three votes. I’ll read the votes.” Peter speaks. Stiles hazards a look over at Allison and Danny quickly, but they both look to be going through the same finality that Stiles is feeling. “First vote… Jennifer. Second vote… Jennifer.” Jennifer is already standing up behind them, muttering sweet curses under her breath, “Third vote and the eighth person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters… Jennifer. That’s three votes, that’s enough, you’ll need to bring me your…” she’s already marching over with her torch, “torch. Jennifer, the tribe has spoken.”

Jennifer doesn’t have any scathing final words like Stiles expected, but she turns around to level him with a withering look that Stiles… feels. He nods at her respectfully, she played a hard game, and she did well to survive as long as she did with so many people out for her since the beginning. He’s not certain he’d survive if they crossed paths outside the game, but for now she can’t take away his chance of winning a million dollars for his dad, and that’s what matters.

Her torch is extinguished without fanfare, and she turns furiously sad eyes away from her tribe. “Jennifer, it is time for you to go.”

“None of you will win this,” she bites out, voice strained and emotional. “None of you.”

Then just like that, she’s gone. The one person in the game who wanted him gone above all others, and he’s… won. Stiles came into this game feeling like he couldn’t beat a single person, but now he’s outlasted seven and… defeated, for lack of a better word, one. He feels like his position in the game isn’t anywhere near as insecure as he imagined it would be on day one.

“Tonight may have been a million dollar decision for some of you,” Peter ominously concludes, “Let’s hope it was the right one. Grab your torches, head back to camp. Good night.”

Derek gives him a look like he wants to talk, but Stiles merely shakes his head silently. They’ll talk on their way back to camp, or when they get back, or tomorrow morning. “We’re okay,” he assures him, because they are. Stiles is… realising some things about himself that he’ll need to address, but either way, they are okay.

“Good night, Peter,” Ethan responds cheerfully, sounding overwhelmingly thankful to just still be in the game.

JAJM||||||—KEVE||||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“All I’ve learned is that the other contestants are idiots. They’re living in some magical world outside of the game where everybody wins and gets to participate, and anybody who disagrees gets the cut. I couldn’t be more embarrassed for them. I might have been eliminated, but I still beat those brats.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I think first and foremost, I’d pretend to be a little fairy like that Stilinski; maybe be a bit less forthright and competitive, even though that’s the way the game is supposed to be won. Other than that, maybe I’d try and work with Kali and Ethan instead of that hunk of meat, Derek. Lots of maybes, aren’t there?”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I’d like to say that of all the people left in the competition, I don’t think any of them really deserve it, but I’m going to say that I think Malia Tate will become the Sole Survivor. Bet you weren’t expecting that. She’s a beast in challenges, she was a part of the vote that foiled me getting Stiles out of the game, and she’s likeable in a bizarre, aggressive kind of way. I can admire her competitiveness, even though we never really worked together.”

Chapter Text

When they make it back to camp, Stiles feels the crushing weight of the past twenty days away from his dad alleviate just slightly. He didn’t even realise how much Jennifer’s presence was grating on him until she was gone. The fact that he outlasted her also feels like the biggest achievement of his game so far, a sign that maybe he didn’t come out here for nothing.

“Stiles,” Derek ambles up to walk in step beside him, torch securely over his shoulder as opposed to Stiles’ dragging a line in the sand. His voice sounds even softer than before, more nervous. It probably has something to do with Jennifer’s cruel final words, but he doesn’t even know that he has nothing to worry about. Stiles isn’t going to judge him, how could he?

In Stiles’ first years of high school, he remembered having the revelation that he was interested in… well, everything and everyone. Or at least, that he had the potential to be interested in anyone, regardless of physicality. The shocking realisation didn’t really impact his life like movies had portrayed that it might, though. Stiles wasn’t sought after romantically by any demographic of people, and his father had assured him from a young age that there was nothing he could do to disappoint him, least of all being brave enough to live his life differently. So he didn’t need to angst about it, or come out to friends or family because there was no need (and no friends to come out to, either).

As he hears the worry in Derek’s voice though, the apprehension indicating he’s fearing reprisal for… well, for whatever it is that’s there, he remembers that not everyone shares the same apathetic attitude to their sexuality as he does. He looks like he’s ready to try say something else, something besides Stiles’ name, when Allison comes to walk in step on the other side of him.

“Thought I should leave those two back there,” she indicates with her head and Stiles glances back to see Ethan and Danny being very… relieved, with the result of tonight’s council’s vote. “Also thought I should say I flipped on the first vote as well to play around an idol, just so there isn’t any confusion.”

“Ethan wasn’t offended by votes going his way?” Derek checks, voice back to its gruff and usual resonance.

“Look at him. He’s just happy to still be here,” Allison smiles back at them wistfully. Stiles remembers how close she and Scott got in the first block of days in the game. Stiles evidently doesn’t have a monopoly on wanting Scott to make it to the merge. “As we should all be.”

“What happens if we lose again, though?” comes out of Stiles’ mouth before he can swallow the words down. Asking it in front of Derek is dangerous, because it would have to be between Derek and Ethan as for who would go home, and Danny’s actions seem to indicate an unwillingness to betray Ethan, which would really leave one possible option, unless they turned on Danny too.

The three of them go silent, because they must all be thinking it.

“Maybe we’ve already made it to the merge?” Allison offers, hopeful. “There’s only twelve people left in the game. It’s possible.”

“Maybe,” Stiles offers, but doesn’t let himself really believe it. The campfire extinguished while they were at council, the last wisps of smoke dancing out into the sky as they come up to the shelter. “Is anyone else not feeling that tired at the moment?” Stiles asks, resting his torch on its side.

“I’ll stay up for a bit,” Derek says immediately.

“We’re probably going to go sit by the water for a bit if anyone wants to join?” Danny offers, but Stiles can see the offer as a nicety. He and Ethan probably just want to relish the fact that they’re both still in the game.

“I’m happy to just chill by the shelter, actually,” Stiles responds, giving them a small smile. It’s a relief to relive the feeling of actually being a tribe again. They’re together now, no rifts. Apart from maybe between Derek and Ethan for whatever went down at the old Wolves tribe, but that seems subdued with Kali out of the game at least.

“On your way back, grab some firewood?” Allison deflates and sits heavily on the shelter.

“’Course,” Ethan salutes, his glee kind of a pleasant change to the man Stiles interacted with at the start of the tribe swap.

“Good work tonight!” Danny calls back as he and Ethan make their way to the beach, then he promptly lets out a very embarrassing wolf howl. Their laughter gets further and further away until it’s just the three of them sitting in silence. Or, as silent as it can be in a tropical paradise: bugs chitter, waves crash, and the shelter sways and creaks.

“I might just go straight to sleep,” Allison declares, sprawling more on the shelter. It looks like Jennifer’s passing has had a different effect on each of them: Danny is ecstatic, Allison is exhausted, Stiles is… determined. “Don’t talk too loudly, please.”

“We’ll go sit by the fire-pit, don’t worry,” Stiles responds, Derek already moving to sit by the pit at the statement, “Night Allison.”

“Night Stiles.”

Derek stands awkwardly by the fire-pit, hovering, but as Stiles takes his seat, Derek takes his too. The circle of rocks filled with ash seems to completely enrapture him, his glare unwavering and intense. Stiles is partially surprised it doesn’t reignite.

The tropical air is still a little warm even in the night, but the breeze from the sea chills everything regardless. Stiles can’t hear Ethan and Danny’s antics by the sea, and he can assume Allison is already dead to the world with how efficiently she sleeps. It’s just the two of them… and the damn cameras.

Stiles glares at the crew orbiting around them trying to artfully capture the best angles of them and the landscape to portray the drama of the show. He wants to tell Derek so many things to reassure him, but he doesn’t want to have everyone who knows him back at home watch this and have them think there’s more to it than there really is. Most of all, too, he doesn’t want to cause Derek any trouble in his life outside of the game. Stiles doesn’t know his situation, doesn’t know if there’s even a situation to speak of, but he does know that the cameras caught what Jennifer said last night.

I know you want to bone Stilinski, but don’t let that rob you of a million dollars.

Somehow in her whole game, Stiles thinks that must have been the worst thing she’s said or done.

“I don’t care about what Jennifer said,” Stiles gently states, diplomatic. There are probably more crewmen orbiting him now than there have been for his whole time on the island, so Stiles has no doubt this will make the cut. He doesn’t know how to feel about having the attention on him for once, though. He’d seen the cameras following Lydia, Scott, Allison, Jackson and Malia a lot back at the original Hunters tribe. He’d seen the cameras follow Derek, Kali and Jennifer a lot with the new Wolves. He isn’t sure whether it’s a sign that he’s doing something right, or a sign that his days are numbered. “I think she was just throwing last punches because she knew she was going home.”

Derek barely opens his mouth to say something before Stiles cuts in again.

“It was just her making stuff up, trying to get in your head,” Derek finally lifts his gaze from the ash to meet his eyes. Stiles goes so far as to give him a severe look, something to indicate just say yes, I’m giving you an out. He knows it didn’t work when Derek’s face twists into a frown; knows he’s about to give the cameras all the drama they could ask for.

“Stiles,” he starts, still wearing a frown and words at a tone to match his expression, “I don’t want to ‘bone you’. Don’t be ridiculous.” He looks like he means it, too. Huh. Stiles isn’t sure why he feels disappointed that he was right. “I’m concerned that because of last night you’re going to fall into something with Ethan. He’s bad news for you and your friends.”

That sounds like the old Derek, Stiles thinks. Not the Derek who let himself be vulnerable around Stiles after Jennifer betrayed him, this is the Derek that tried to control everyone and boss Stiles around. “When are you going to get over whatever happened between you? He’s voting with us now.”

“Like you got over Jennifer voting Jackson?” Derek scoffs, “If he’s voting with you, and I’m voting with you, who does that leave us with to vote for?”

Stiles narrows his eyes at the man. A couple hours prior, Stiles might’ve let himself be underestimated, might’ve let the insinuation that he didn’t know what he was doing hit home, but now… now he’s proven that he can do something. “For your sake,” Stiles warns, meanly, “Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.”

Derek’s eyes widen at that, his veneer of being in control cracked. Through it, Stiles can see someone that’s… scared. Someone that is alone out here. Someone that he can relate to.

He softens his tone, “When it comes to the merge, I want the five of us to be there.” Stiles tells him, “I want us to be able to trust one another, because the new Hunters have had over a week now without us, we have no idea what’s going on. We’re going to need as strong a core as we can manage if we don’t want to get swept away by whatever new alliances are happening over there.” He offers Derek what he hopes is a slightly reassuring smile, “I want us to be a tribe now, and I think we can, without Jennifer here. Who knows, maybe we’ll already merge tomorrow?”

Derek’s expression looks sceptical, but at Stiles’ softened tone, his demeanour turns a bit less defensive. “I hope so,” he admits, looking sheepish for some reason, “I don’t really know how much longer you’ll want to keep me around if we don’t.”

Wow, direct. Stiles hates emotional manipulation, but he’s also not a monster. “Hey, we need an old man like you around to keep us kids in check, don’t we?”

Derek’s face does something… weird, then. And then there’s a strange noise as well. Derek is… laughing. It’s surprisingly not the booming, intimidating noise that Stiles had expected, but rather a gentle, light, kind-of pretty noise. It’s nice. “How old do you think I am, Stiles?”

Oh no. That’s a dangerous question if Stiles has ever heard one. He makes a noncommittal “Errr—” noise for lack of an appropriate answer coming to mind.

“Come on, you called me an... ‘old man’, was it? So how old do you think I am? I won’t be mad.”

“Fine,” Stiles acquiesces, hoping he’s a man of his word, “I thought you were like… maybe… thirty?”

“Try twenty-four.”

Yikes. Stiles winces at his very incorrect approximation. Thirty was even more on the generous side of what he was thinking. Derek looks old. Good old, though, don’t get him wrong. Stiles would rather look half as mature and developed as Derek than like his own skinny self, any day. Derek doesn’t look mad, though, just amused. And maybe even a little bit… relieved?

“What’s got you so amused?”

Derek just gently taps Stiles on the head and walks off towards the camp, “Just that you thought a thirty year old was into your scrawny ass.”

Stiles gawks at his retreating form, ignores the shadowy smirks of the people behind the cameras. He gives chase, albeit quietly so as not to wake Allison, to find Derek already settling himself down to sleep, his back to Stiles. His ass, albeit clothed, towards Stiles. He wasn’t tired until he walked himself over here. Now, with the tantalising view and prospect of being warm and still, he’s finally exhausted.

He slides in behind Derek and cautiously puts his arms around him.

“Careful,” Derek warns, voice low and dangerous. Stiles stops immediately, freezes solid.

“What is it?”

“Apparently I want to bone you, remember,” Stiles relaxes, puts his arms more firmly around Derek’s muscular form. Nothing wrong with some innocent spooning, he figures. He probably deserves it. “Big, scary thirty year old wants to bone the skinny eighteen year-old.”

“I get it, you can guess my age right, geez,” Stiles sighs, “and you aren’t scary; nor are you that big.”

Derek turns over in his arms, easily breaking whatever loose grip Stiles had on him. In the moonlight, Derek’s smirk promises nothing good, but lots of fun. Stiles really hopes they merge tomorrow, because he isn’t sure he’s ready to say goodbye to Derek yet, even if he can become a prick from one moment to the next. Stiles is ready for Derek to silently debate him; he isn’t ready for Derek to bodily flip him over like it’s nothing and spoon up behind him to reverse their positions. Stiles tries to squawk in outrage, too, but Derek silences him with a hand over his mouth.

“Allison wanted us to be quiet, remember? Go to sleep, Stiles. I’ll try to control myself,” he articulates himself by gently aligning their pelvises, “Or not.”

“Whatever.” Stiles grumbles. He doesn’t mind at all, but he’s enjoying having something to banter with Derek about. “You’d be lucky to get a piece of this,” Stiles whispers as he gently pushes his ass back into Derek’s crotch. For half a second, he swears he can feel… something, for what that’s worth. Then Derek shifts back slightly and holds Stiles still so he can’t subtly double-check. Probably for the best, because he isn’t about to do something stupid like look like he’s trying to hook up with someone on Survivor. He isn’t going to be one of those people.

“You were amazing tonight,” Derek offers candidly, a whisper, right into his ear. Just between them. “Good night, Stiles.”

“Good night, Derek.”

JAJM||||||—KEVE||||||

After a day of rest, one spent lazing about the shelter and cultivating the relationships within their tribe now that there isn’t someone causing friction like Jennifer around, the new Wolves set out for the next challenge.

Stiles, of all people, is the one leading the tribe to the area where they’ve been directed to go. It’s going to be a water challenge, or at least Stiles can assume that it will be, because it’s near the beach. Danny walks next to him, looking like he’s trying to show Stiles up for how white he really is. Damn Danny and his golden, magnificent skin.

“Okay, Hunters,” Peter shouts, loud enough to be heard over the gentle splashing of the waves and the distance as they approach the mat, “You’re getting your first look at the new Wolves tribe after last night’s tribal council,” Stiles makes eye contact with Scott, sees his relief and gives him a quick smile. Then his eyes trail over the rest of them, scans Danny and lands on Allison. If the merge is happening, then most of them have thankfully survived. The only member of the old Hunters alliance to be voted out since the swap being Deaton. Surely with the addition of Ethan and Derek, the eight of them could pick off Isaac, Deucalion, Kira and Parrish, even with a potential idol in play. And that’s only if none of the four unknowns have been recruited into the alliance by Scott and the others, too. “Jennifer voted out at the last tribal council.”

Scott visibly does a happy-dance as the news is revealed. Malia loudly whoops. Lydia smiles across at them, mouths thank you.

“Wow, quite a reaction there from some of the old Hunters,” Peter observes, “Malia, would you like to share with everyone what that was about?”

Malia looks around like she was asked a dumb question. “She was a witch. I’m glad she’s gone.”

Stiles really misses Malia and her brutal honesty.

“Fair enough,” Peter acknowledges. “Then let’s get to it. I have big news for everyone today,” he begins, and Stiles and Scott immediately make wild, excited eye contact, like two classmates asked to find partners for a group project. Or at least, Stiles imagines that’s the feeling, because he didn’t ever get to experience that in school. “And it isn’t that we’re merging,” he amends, and they turn back to him, less excited, “but today, you will be playing for both immunity and reward.”

On the other tribe, Isaac starts clapping. He looks positively rabid at the prospect of a reward. Stiles wonders if they’re starving themselves over there, actually, with how they look.

“Hunters, gonna need to take back the tribal immunity idol again. Maybe for the last time, who knows?” Kira jogs it over to him quickly. “Immunity is once again up for grabs, and along with it, wanna know what reward you’re playing for?”

“Yes!” Isaac calls, “Yes, please.”

“Okay,” Peter walks over to a table with a cloth over it. It looks food-related, and just the prospect of food more than rice and meagre amounts of other things has Stiles’ stomach rumbling loudly. “Today you will also be playing for,” he unveils the reward to be…

“Oh my god,” Stiles gasps, grabbing onto the closest thing to him, which happens to be Danny’s arm.

“Burgers,” Peter elaborates, in case anyone present was unfamiliar with the concept. “We sourced these from all kinds of joints: some ordered, some homemade, some designed based on your favourite foods listed on your application.”

Stiles spies a single curly fry peeking out from between one of the pairs of buns and feels a sense of vertigo for a moment before he comes back down to earth. “Oh my god,” he repeats.

“Worth playing for?” Peter checks, as if any reward in this game isn’t worth playing for.

“Yes!” everyone responds in unison, with Isaac’s shout just a little bit more enthusiastic than the rest.

“Then let’s get to it. In today’s challenge you’ll perhaps be getting a taste of what things will be like after the merge; who to look out for. You’ll also get to reap the benefits, or suffer the consequence, of which players you’ve allowed to make it this far in the game. Each player will take their positions atop a small plank and hold their arms up to keep a bucket of water above your head from spilling over them. Your hand drops, the bucket drops, you slip off the plank, or for whatever reason your bucket spills? You’re out.” So Stiles was wrong. It isn’t a water challenge, it’s an endurance challenge. “Last person standing wins immunity and reward for their tribe. The New Hunters will not be sitting anybody out. They will have a two-person advantage on the New Wolves tribe. Take your spots and we’ll realign each contraption according to your heights, let’s go.”

Stiles follows the tribe forward, steps up onto the plank and then, embarrassingly, falls immediately to the other side. Perhaps his tribe is going to regret keeping him over people like Kali and Erica. Probably even Jennifer had better balance than a clumsy dude like him. Stiles just doesn’t want to be the very first to drop. If he’s second, at least he won’t be labelled as ‘the first to drop in an endurance challenge’ in the players’ eyes. He’ll try his best, but he is seriously not expecting a victory for his tribe will come from him with some of the strong players still on both teams.

Stiles’ height barely changes which is a nice ego boost when he watches so many others getting lowered, a few heightened. “Thanks,” Stiles says politely to the crewman, who gives him a kind smile as well in response. Derek, who took position right next to him, clears his throat impatiently to hurry them to adjust his.

JAJM||||||—KEVE||||||

Once everyone has their arms braced and ready to go up and lift the bucket from its precarious spot, Peter takes his position in the centre of the arena, dark eyes scanning over them all, no doubt ready to relish the pain he’ll bring.

“Playing for immunity and reward,” Peter opens.

“Good luck, Stiles,” Derek offers from his left.

“Hey man, right back at you. We’ve got this.”

“Survivors ready?” Peter drops, “Go!”

There’s the gentle sound of rustling as everybody picks up their buckets. Stiles notices everyone has a different strategy. Some people are holding it with two hands above them, some with one. Some are holding it by its sides while others are holding it by the bottom. Stiles personally is doing the obvious and holding it with two hands, but his feet are already burning so he isn’t sure his prospect of not being the first to fall is reasonable at this point.

“Kira drops!” Peter announces, only to immediately follow it up with, “Danny drops!”

Now that blows his mind. Danny was one of the stronger, more versatile people left in Stiles’ opinion.

“It’s just that easy to slip, isn’t it?” Peter taunts, “Oh! And just like that, Parrish slips and falls! Immediately followed by Lydia! We’re already down to four people left for both tribes, the New Hunters’ strong advantage gone.”

Stiles’ feet slip slightly and Peter, with keen senses for anybody in distress—like a spider hearing for vibrations of prey in its web—commentates his slight slip, even though Stiles manages to regain his footing.

“Stiles makes a slip but manages to recover,” his head snaps around to someone else, “Ethan drops! Allison, Derek and Stiles are left for the New Wolves! This would be their fourth tribal council in a row if they lose. You have to give it everything you’ve got, come on!”

A few minutes pass then, without incident. After the first wave of people falling due to unfamiliarity with the position, everyone has some kind of rhythm, some kind of practice with the uncomfortable position. The downside? Now the actual pain becomes a factor. Stiles can feel his arms shaking above him as the weight of the bucket starts to feel like so much more that it really is.

Then, in an act of god, there’s a light breeze and just like that, Stiles drops. The bucket of water pouring over himself is not as refreshing as it should be, because he feels sick with the fear of a fourth tribal council; one where he’d have to choose between Derek and Ethan.

“Stiles, Isaac and Scott all drop! Just a slight breeze is enough to do it, isn’t it? That means it’s a showdown now between Allison and Derek and Deucalion and Malia. This is a big immunity and reward!”

Stiles sighs and heads over to the loser’s bench for the New Wolves. Wishes he could just walk over and sit with Scott, get some idea of what the hell they can expect when the merge finally comes. What if Scott has gone back on his promise to Stiles? What if Stiles has been replaced by someone like Isaac?

It becomes pretty evident after a couple of minutes of watching them endure that this is where the true length of the challenge is going to be. They all look perfectly steady: Derek’s face a furious frown, Allison’s carefully stoic, Malia’s… somehow more furious than Derek’s, and Deucalion’s completely relaxed, eyes closed.

Minutes pass, turn into half an hour. Peter announces some key times in multiples of five minutes, commentates on individuals whenever there’s even the slightest slip in their footing or their grip on the bucket changes.

Then half an hour turns into an hour, and Stiles has never been so bored, There’s only so much of Danny and Ethan’s cute banter he can take, damn it! Not to mention, the sun is scorching.

“Peter, can I duck into the water for a second to cool off?” Stiles calls out.

“Is it a medical emergency?” he checks, to which Stiles doesn’t even need to respond before he answers, “Then no. Oh!” Peter shouts in excitement and Stiles has been bored for so long he almost feels keen to hear Peter speaking. “Allison falls! There are three people left in this challenge: Deucalion and Malia from the New Hunters and Derek from the New Wolves. We have elapsed One hour eleven minutes. Everyone’s gotta be feeling it now. You’ve got to give it everything you’ve got!”

“We know, Peter,” Derek bites out, looking very uncomfortable, but determined.

“Malia drops!” Peter shouts out of nowhere, and Stiles snaps up in time to see Deucalion drop as well. “Deucalion drops!” Stiles’ heart stops, because that means… that means… “Derek wins immunity and reward for the New Wolves!”

“Yes! Yes!” Stiles shouts, “Burgers!” echoed by Danny and Ethan, Allison not even having finished walking over to the bench before turning right back around to help Derek down.

JAJM||||||—KEVE||||||

“New Wolves, congratulations, you can head back to camp and have a nice night of assorted burgers and be safe in the knowledge that you’ve made it another day in this game. I’ll miss you guys. New Hunters, fortunately you’ll be seeing me again, but unfortunately you’ll be attending tribal council, where one of you will be the ninth person voted out of this game.” They’ve almost lost half the players in the game after tonight. “Grab your things, head back to camp. New Wolves your food will be waiting there for you.”

“We did it,” Derek gasps, still sweating and panting in the hot sun.

Stiles gives Scott, Lydia and Malia what he hopes is a look that conveys: don’t go home as they disappear off to the other camp. They’ve all made it this far, and Stiles can practically feel the merge approaching. It would be a grand shame if they lost someone else this close to being reunited. Stiles also notices that Isaac looks particularly dejected about the loss of burgers. Poor guy must be starving, or at least be starving a little bit more than the rest of them.

“We did. Specifically, you did it, Derek,” Allison encourages. She’d been one of the more sceptical people of Derek before, but the pure gratefulness radiating off of her for not having to attend another tribal council is genuine and seems to be softening her attitude towards him.

“Go Wolves!” Ethan calls gleefully, to be responded by an enthusiastic howl from Danny.

“We did it,” Derek repeats, and Stiles only notices then that Derek’s right next to him and slinging an arm around him. He’s… heavy. And kind of gross, but they all are, so Stiles really isn’t one to judge.

“Yeah, man, we did it,” Stiles repeats, adjusting his pace and stance to compensate for Derek’s weight hanging on him too. Figures he’d pick someone scrawny like Stiles when he had so many other options to choose from. “Go us!”

The others quickly overtake them with Stiles being slowed down by Derek, giving them some semblance of privacy, if you ignored the duo of cameras on either side of them and the other two in front and behind. “Do you think you would have kept me tonight if Malia had won?”

Yes almost drools out of Stiles mouth without thinking, because that was exactly his concern going into this challenge: the choice between Ethan and Derek. At first he’d figured Derek a much easier choice because it wouldn’t risk burning Danny, but every time Stiles thinks he’s sure, the other side of his mind pipes in and makes him reconsider it all over again.

“I don’t know,” he admits, “I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted all five of us to make it to the merge together. I think if we did have to vote someone out tonight it would’ve been suicide for me to vote anyone but you.”

Stiles is ready for Derek to push off of him and scowl, do something very Derek-like. Instead, he gets something else entirely. “I didn’t ask what would have been logical or best for your game, I was asking if you would keep me tonight over Ethan if there weren’t any other consequences for doing so.” He pauses. “I’m asking if you think you trust me more than him.”

“Of course I trust you more than him,” Stiles discloses easily, “I’ve barely even spoken to the guy. Part of me thinks the only reason he came to our side is because of Danny.” Derek nods, accepting the answer for what it is. “Come on, cuddle-buddy,” Stiles teases, “You aren’t going anywhere if I have you in my arms tonight.”

At that, Derek just rolls his eyes and shoves away gently, just enough that Stiles loses his footing for a moment, before they gravitate together again with Stiles still helping hold him up.

“Who do you think is going to be sent home tonight?” Stiles asks, partly to gauge more information on the unknown tribe members on the New Hunters and partly to make conversation.

“I hope Deucalion, but if I’m wrong… maybe Isaac,” Derek offers. “Just because he looked so stressed out there today.”

“Maybe they’ve gone through all their food on the other tribe?” Stiles suggests, because Derek doesn’t sound happy at the prospect of Isaac going home. “Deucalion lasted pretty late, maybe he’ll get taken out for being a threat in challenges.”

Neither of them point out the unspoken Derek is a challenge threat because Stiles doesn’t think Derek is going to vote for him, and that means, whether Stiles wanted him for the role or not, he’s the perfect ally because people are going to vote for someone like Derek long before they vote for someone like Stiles.

In theory, anyway.

JAJM||||||—DKEVE|||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I’ve learned… that there is new blood in this game. There is a new generation of apex predators. The winner here isn’t dictated by raw power any more. I think that I’ve learned… perhaps in order for the old dogs like us to keep up with the new ‘alphas’ of Survivor, it might be necessary for us to join their game.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“Now that’s a bit of a painful question, isn’t it? Careful, now. I think I would have primarily integrated more with the younger players instead of sticking only with allies closer to my own age. I think there were some players here which I underestimated at first glance, and I think I unquestionably paid for that underestimation tonight.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I think in contrast to my first evaluation of the competition out here, one of the younger players is going to become the Sole Survivor. I think of those I’ve met, Scott McCall is the overwhelming standout. He has at his disposal a powerful combination of leadership skills, challenge prowess, likeability and strategic thinking. Yes, Scott McCall should be the Sole Survivor of this season, without a doubt. I hope he goes far in this game.”

Chapter Text

“Holy fuhuhuh—” Stiles moans as he takes his first chomp of (wait for it) curly fries and cheeseburger monstrosity. “That feels so good,” he groans pornographically, “Mm, gimme some more baby. Yeah—”

“Stiles, are you molesting your burger?” Danny checks, sounding genuinely concerned. Stiles can’t bring himself to even look away from his sweet love though, so Danny’s expression could have anything at all written on it. It seems inconsequential with the sweet taste of heaven on his lips.

“Sweet taste of heaven—what? Stiles, can you even hear what you’re saying?” Allison checks with the same intonation of concern in her voice, but Stiles can tell they’re all as happy as he is with this win. Little did Peter know that by reuniting him with curly fries he was also giving Stiles an early loved-ones visitation.

Speaking of loved ones…

Stiles’ euphoria gets decimated by the reminder of why he’s even out here. What he’s potentially missing. His dad wasn’t on his deathbed when Stiles left, but he was deteriorating from one day to the next. And that was with Stiles there, with the Sheriff trying not to let his pain show to his only son. What if his condition had rapidly declined without Stiles there to support him? Even if Stiles won this game with no blood on his hands, emerged with a million dollars and no severe trauma, it would all be worth absolutely nothing without his father. If Noah Stilinski passed without Stiles there to be with him… it would be absolutely devastating. They were all each other had left, it had been that way for a while now.

“Stiles,” Derek’s gruff voice sounds at least a little bit softened, close, and intimate. Stiles glances up to see the man right in front of him, blocking the rest of the tribe, a quizzical, empathetic expression on his face. “Are you okay?”

Stiles tries to speak, inject his tone with that same casual manner he had moments ago, but no sound comes out. Not even a strangled noise, just silence. He nods encouragingly instead.

Derek looks like he doesn’t believe that for a second, but he also doesn’t press the issue. His mouth sets into a firm, unsatisfied line, but he takes position next to Stiles with his burger. Stiles forces himself to keep eating for both normality, sustenance, and the knowledge that rewards like this won’t be commonplace. He knows his dad would want him to treat this like a tactical situation, not get caught up in things happening outside the game, not get emotional, but… he’s a Stilinski. Family is everything to them, and if Stiles can’t get a little choked up about his dad, then he shouldn’t be allowed to emote ever again.

“If you want to talk, I think I’m a much better listener than speaker,” Derek offers quietly between bites. It occurs to Stiles then that Derek isn’t even trying to form a bond with even the other old Hunters. His whole strategy so far seems to circulate around clinging to one person, trusting them implicitly, and then getting burned. Part of Stiles wishes Derek were playing the game a bit stronger socially, wishes he was trying to bond with Allison and Danny, bridge his issues with Ethan. Stiles doesn’t want to burn him; doesn’t want to watch this back after the game is done and compare himself to Jennifer.

Maybe that’s why Derek’s chosen him: because he’s the least likely to hurt him. Maybe his social game is better than Stiles gives him credit for.

“We’ve just been out here for a while now,” Stiles evades carefully, because it’s a part of the issue. “I think it might be getting to me.”

“You shouldn’t have to feel like you have to hide that,” Derek informs, “I’ve been feeling homesick since day dot. I—I think…” he cuts himself off before he can finish the thought, “You’re incredibly strong, Stiles. You don’t need to put on a façade to exude that.”

Stiles gives him a careful look. He can feel tears somewhere near his eyes, but he won’t let them fall. Derek’s (probably intentionally) providing a kind distraction from the uneasy disaster happening in his head, and Stiles is clinging to it.

“You don’t have to do what I do.”

Crap, now it’s Derek making him emotional. Who would’ve thought?

“Your strength is deeper than mine,” Derek tells him, “Remember that, Stiles. If you ever think you aren’t comparable to anyone else out here, realise that the only reason you should ever feel that was is because you’re so much stronger.”

Fuck,” Stiles emits a bizarre sound between a gasp and a groan. “Where the hell did that come from? What’s got you into the inspirational speeches? Spy a cat poster out here?”

“Must be the food,” Derek smiles, averting his gaze from Stiles down to his food. “You can only deflect my praise so much,” he advises, taking another bite before raising his eyes again, much of the intensity of the moment having dissipated. “One day I’ll get to you,” he warns, licking some… ew, barbeque sauce off of his fingers before poking Stiles in the chest. Stiles lets out an indignant squawk, mutes himself as Derek leans in close, “I’ll penetrate that tough exterior. Make you feel good.”

Stiles gulps. “Still talking about emotional stuff here?” he checks. Derek still hasn’t leaned away, their faces, their lips are inches apart. The bastard.

“Of course,” Derek mouths, Stiles’ eyes zeroed in to the movement of those lips, “Why?”

“You just use particularly colourful language,” Stiles comments. “The word ‘penetrate’ always sets off my big ‘no-no’ alarm.”

“I wouldn’t want to get between you and that burger you were molesting, don’t worry.”

Stiles shoves him, gently and jovially. Just enough to get some distance and also indicate that he doesn’t need the cheering up any more. “Leave me to ravish this beauty in peace, please,” Stiles acts faux-infatuated with the half-eaten burger.

“Not that again,” Allison groans while Danny and Ethan laugh at—well, they’re laughing at something. It might be Stiles, it might not. They can’t seem to look away from one another’s eyes long enough for Stiles to ascertain what they’re even paying attention to any more.

“I love them,” Stiles defends, takes another big, exaggerated bite.

“I’m sure you do,” she sighs, “And I know we’re all very euphoric at the moment with that big victory, but can we maybe…”

“Talk strategy?” Ethan adds, looking away from his… well, whatever Danny is to him. Boyfriend? Bestie? Ally? Stiles can’t really ascertain just how deep that particular relationship goes. “Yeah, we should.”

“I agree,” Danny agrees, sounding a bit more reluctant.

“The merge has to be coming up,” Derek points out.

“There’s only eleven people left in the game,” Stiles considers, “If the jury is going to be reasonably sized, it has to happen either tomorrow or after one more tribal council. We’re getting so low in numbers now.”

“Peter is just the type of sadist to mess with us and have a ridiculously small jury, though. Keep us guessing,” Allison frowns, “I really don’t like him.”

“I don’t think anyone likes him,” Stiles takes the last bite of his beautiful burger. “He’s kind-of an embodiment of the game; our enemy.”

“Peter is our enemy,” Derek snorts, as if there’s some inside joke only he gets. “I kind of like that, actually.”

“My reason for bringing up the merge is that I want to preserve… this,” Allison gestures broadly around the five of them, “our little alliance. I think we could be the final five if we play it right.”

That shakes Stiles a bit, because he was under the impression Allison was just as deep in with Scott as he was, but here she is completely nuking that theory. He wonders what triggered this in her.

“I really like working with you guys,” Ethan wraps an arm intimately around Danny, “I think going into the merge, if we keep talking, then we can go far together.”

“Well let’s just hope it happens tomorrow,” Allison responds, stress in her expression. If there is another tribal council for them, they’ll have to go to four people, and Stiles has no idea who they would take and who they would cut out.

“Let’s hope.”

JAJM||||||—DKEVE|||||

When they don’t get summoned to the challenge area a day early, Stiles figures the worst has happened and the merge is still a couple days away. Regardless, day twenty-four comes, and with it, another challenge.

“Just one more, guys,” Stiles encourages as they walk up. “Surely it’s just one more.”

“Wolves, getting your first look at the new Hunters tribe,” Peter announces, and Stiles is panicked for a moment when he can’t locate Scott, only to have his worries assuaged a moment later when Scott’s puppy-dog face peaks up. Who’s missing? “Deucalion voted out at tribal council.”

Stiles could swear that Ethan breathes out a sigh of relief at the news. Deucalion sounded like the leader of the alliance Kali and Ethan were originally members of, so figures it would be good to have a loose end resolve itself before becoming an issue. Probably the same way Scott and the others feel with them taking out Jennifer.

After the announcement has resolved and everyone has come to terms with Deucalion being the next victim in the game, there’s just… silence. Nobody speaks, nobody moves. Peter lets the air get thick with anticipation.

“Drop your buffs.”

The command gets dropped so casually and suddenly that Stiles has to take a moment to reprocess what exactly he means. If Stiles is hearing and interpreting correctly, then…

“Congratulations, everyone. You have made it to the merge.”

There’s some shouts of hysterical joy, some quieter, controlled whooping, and others are taking it in their stride and just acting as if they are unfazed by the news. Derek is sticking close to him still, seeming uneasy with more people being introduced to their little group.

“Buddy!” Scott’s resounding shout is the only warning Stiles gets before he’s swept into the air by Scott.

“Scotty!” Stiles tries to shout as the excitement hits him all at once, too, but Scott is spinning him so wildly he can’t tell if any sound managed to come out articulately from his mouth.

After he puts Stiles down he gives him a broad smile and turns to greet the rest of the tribe, starting with Allison. Stiles chooses to ignore the surge of bro-love that he feels considering Scott hugged him before he hugged his potential future romance. They have really become friendship goals.

There are people walking over who he’s never had the chance to interact with properly: Parrish, Kira, and Isaac. They’re all new to him. He gives Malia and Lydia a firm hug for their reunion. It’s a miracle that Lydia still smells as amazing as she does after all these days out here.

“I can’t believe we all made it back together after the swap,” Danny observes as he and Malia share a very masculine hug. “Well, almost all of us.”

Parrish comes up to greet Stiles and they shake hands. “Hey, man, good to finally meet you.”

Off to the side, as Stiles exchanges pleasant greetings with everyone, even people he’s hasn’t met yet, Derek stands awkwardly. He doesn’t look like he’s people-watching, either, which would be the most acceptable excuse for not fostering relationships in a game where being alone will get you eliminated.

He’s just… not mingling. It’s social suicide. And as Stiles’ ally, he cannot stand by while he risks his game like that.

“Hey, Lydia, Malia, meet Derek.”

“Hey, Derek,” Lydia greets politely, wisely choosing not to give him a hug but instead a friendly nod. She’s good.

Malia on the other hand seems to have her default scowl deepen further. She looks from him to Stiles and back again before turning around and pointedly ignoring them. Derek levels him with a look that almost winds Stiles with the pure frustration it emotes.

“She seems nice,” Derek whispers sarcastically in his ear as he slides past Stiles to speak with the old Wolves that Stiles has just met.

Even after less than a minute back together, Stiles can see that there are a few people hovering awkwardly, probably with some kind of friction that he’ll uncover later on.

Ethan seems to stay away from the old Wolves, sticking to their new core five from the New Wolves. If he used to be in the alliance with Kali and Deucalion then figures there’d still be some bad blood there; old grudges that haven’t yet been forgotten.

Another person who seems unsure where she stands is Allison, strangely. It seems like Kira has also grown close with Scott during their time together on the other tribe; something which Allison’s cold, emotionless, battle-ready expression indicates is not okay. Damn Scott and his seductive puppy dog eyes!

“Grab your stuff, and head back to your new camp,” Peter dismisses. “You’ll be going to the Hunters beach where all tribal rewards will be stockpiled for your enjoyment as a new, singular tribe. You’ll also have to choose a new name for your combined tribe.” Peter gestures behind him where a challenge is in the makings, being set up behind him by the crew as they speak. “You’ll be coming back here later today to participate in your first individual immunity challenge. Rest up, and bring your all, because going into the first post-merge elimination, you’re going to want some security. I’ll see you all later.”

Stiles gives Derek a reassuring smile as the other man looks stoically around at all the new and old faces around them. Derek’s expression only darkens when Scott pulls him close, away from him, and coos excitedly about how they both made it to the merge together.

“We did it!” Stiles whoops. “It was a long ten days without you man.”

“Same here,” Scott assures, “No idea how I coped.”

Stiles looks back to see Derek already falling behind, just trailing after the group of otherwise excited individuals. “Neither, man,” Stiles agrees, frowning, although part of the reason he survived, or at least didn’t completely lose it, was unquestionably the very man who is now distancing himself. “Neither.”

JAJM||||||—DKEVE|||||

“Welcome to your first individual immunity challenge,” Peter greets as they walk up together as one tribe.

The attitude back at camp was… energetic. Stiles’ first thought was that with the five of them from the New Wolves and the Old Hunters alliance, they would have at least a couple of easy votes before having to haemorrhage their combined alliance members.

Stiles was so, so wrong in that thought. What he’d thought to be an air-tight alliance on day one seemed heavily strained after their time apart. There was nobody on the ‘outs’. Kira, Parrish, Isaac, all of them had become stand-ins for Allison, Danny and Stiles. So going into a tribal where nobody has a name in mind for who to eliminate, Stiles can see nothing in the game he wants more than to have that treasured immunity necklace ensuring him a spot for another day in the game.

“In today’s challenge, you’ll be playing for…” Peter pulled a cloth off of the concealed pedestal stand next to him, revealing the individual immunity necklace for Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters. It was a beautiful leather necklace with small wooden ornaments of flowers, painted blue and imprinted with wolves heads. “This. Winning this and wearing this necklace ensures you immunity at tonight’s tribal council, ensures you’ll be here for another day. Tonight’s tribal will have the most individuals present at eleven, so if there’s ever a time to wear it, do it tonight.”

Stiles’ eyes wander to Derek of their own accord, as they seem to do nowadays, and he notices Derek’s face scrunched up unpleasantly at the necklace. “Don’t look so excited,” Stiles snarks quietly with a smile.

“Of course he’d pick that design,” Derek mutters back to him, whatever that means.

“Let’s get to today’s challenge then,” Peter continues, “In today’s challenge you will each bodily spin a plank to unscrew it, releasing a sack of sandbags. Then, if you aren’t too dizzy, you will navigate a zig-zag balance beam. Fall off and you’ll have to return to the beginning of the beam.” Stiles nods along, looks towards the last section of the challenge, the part that looks like it’ll be the section that gets him. “Then you’ll empty your sack of sandbags and throw them at a trio of targets set up for you. First person to hit all three of their own targets wins immunity, safe at tonight’s tribal council. Isn’t that always worth playing for?” There’s no disagreement. “We’ll draw for spots, then let’s get to it.”

“Good luck, everyone,” Scott offers kindly. Another fact evident back at camp was that Scott was their ‘leader’. It just developed naturally, and while nobody explicitly pointed it out or treated him drastically differently, he was just… their alpha.

“Good luck, Stiles,” Derek offers quietly as he passes him on his way to take his position. Stiles gives him a grim smile in response. Derek could very easily be the person being sent home tonight if he doesn’t win; he hasn’t developed the same relationships as everyone else and, in this game, its suicide. Of the two of them, Stiles doesn’t feel like he’s the one who needs luck.

Stiles takes his place and looks around at his competition. This isn’t an endurance challenge, but a race. He doesn’t feel confident at the balance beam given how clumsy he is, nor does he like his chances at the sandbag toss given his comparably weak throwing arm. Still, he’ll fight with everything he’s got to win it. He needs this.

“Survivors ready?” Yes, he most certainly is. Or as ready as he’ll ever be. “Go!”

Stiles surges forward to his plank, wedged onto a giant screw with the pivotal sack of sandbags dangling from it. He grabs on tight and tries forcing the plank in one direction, to which it doesn’t budge at all.

“Some people are starting out very strong in this challenge,” Peter taunts, “While others are trying to screw their planks even tighter.”

“Shut up, Peter!” Malia shouts from where she apparently made the same mistake Stiles made.

Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Damnit, his dad would give him a significant eye-roll for that mistake.

Stiles pivots back around and uses all of his force to start unwinding it, following the momentum until he’s spinning around at quite a speed trying to release the damn sandbags.

“Isaac is has his sandbags free, he can start on the balance beam now. You’re going to be very dizzy by the time you have your plank released if you don’t pace yourself.” Stiles keeps flinging himself around, noticeably not pacing himself. “But that being said, if you pace yourself too much, you won’t have finished the first section of this challenge before someone else has won.” Peter always sounds too gleeful when speculating on their struggles through the game.

“Scott is free, Derek is free, Danny is free, Malia is free, Parrish is free,” Peter continues. Just as he says Parrish’s name, Stiles’ blank wobbles loose a moment before falling to the ground. Stiles almost falls himself, following the momentum. “Stiles is free. Isaac with a big early lead is unable to complete the balance beam without falling off. Allison, Ethan, Lydia and Kira are now free, everyone set to try the balance beam, but people are falling off left, right and centre. It is hard enough with full control of your faculties, so while dizzy it’s going to be near impossible.” Stiles trips two steps into his beam and has to go back to the start, wobbling the whole way. “Just like that, Derek manages to cross the beam! Closely followed by Malia! They can start unloading on their targets now.”

“C’mon!” Stiles groans, thwacking himself in the head to try and knock the dizziness out of himself, to as much avail as one might expect.

“Lydia crosses the beam! Isaac crosses the beam!” Peter’s voice booms over them all, oozing panic into Stiles with every word. “Derek smashes his first target! Allison, Danny and Kira all cross!”

“C’mon!” Stiles shouts in frustration again, this time focussing on the distant shape of Derek standing before his targets, toned body rippling as he pegs each sandbag through the air. It’s hypnotising. “Stiles, Parrish and Ethan all cross within seconds of one another! Just like that, everyone is still in this challenge! Derek and Malia are tied with one target each, everyone else on zero!”

Stiles can immediately tell with the weight of the sandbag in his hand and the distance to the targets that he’s going to… massively struggle at this. Not to mention his back is far less toned and probably doesn’t look anywhere near as good as Derek’s did. Maybe he’s still got that little image seared on his mind, too.

“Derek hits a second! Scott hits his first!” Peter’s words make it hard to keep track of everything given how much he has to commentate on. Luckily it won’t be that way for long, they’ll lose another person every few days and it’ll get easier and easier. Stiles won’t even have to put up with it if he gets sent home, so that’s a plus. “Allison and Parrish hit their first! Malia hits her second! Ethan hits his—” Peter cuts himself off, “Malia hits her third!” Damn. “Malia wins first individual immunity!”

Stiles supposes that’s good for him, that having one of his hopefully still close allies wearing immunity means that there’s less chance that he’ll be the one going home tonight, but he can see in the devastation worn on Derek’s features that this bodes nothing but bad news for him.

JAJM||||||—DKEVE|||||

Malia looks… odd wearing the necklace. The symbol of power suits her without question, but Stiles can see in her expression and the way she takes it off to hang it up immediately that she dislikes the flowers. Figures Malia isn’t a very flowery person, that’s one of the things Stiles finds intriguing about her.

Another thing that’s intriguing? The chaos that ensues back at camp.

Nobody knows who to target because everyone is either immediate allies or second-hand allies. It is a massive disaster, and after five minutes of everyone pretending to act civilised and ‘unified’, the… lying kicks in. From here on out, more than ever before, it’s an individual game, a race to see who can make it to the end.

Stiles has never been able to beat the likes of these people when it comes to races.

“Oi! Stiles! Allison!” Danny whisper-yells after the initial dispersal of the new combined tribe (which they collectively agreed to name the ‘Pack’ rather than some horrifying amalgamation of ‘Wolves’ and ‘Hunters’). It’s an ironic name, because at the end of the game, the Pack will consist of only a fraction of this group now.

It’s a good sign that people are still talking to him. “Hey,” Stiles greets. He feels more comfortable already because for the first time in what feels like forever, Ethan and Danny aren’t joined at the hip. It’s just the three of them, his most tested core alliance of three. “What are you guys thinking about tonight?”

“I want to vote Kira,” Allison puts forward. It feels like whoever goes home tonight is going to burn some bridges, Stiles isn’t sure if he’s ever going to be ready to potentially burn his bridge with Scott, though, and voting out Kira is likely to do that.

“I also want to vote out one of the old Wolves,” Danny assures, tone diplomatic, “But I was thinking Isaac was a smarter choice. He’s got less ties to people than Kira, less likely to cause a big backlash that gets us screwed over.”

Allison looks supremely disturbed by Isaac’s name being put forward. Considering they hardly know one another, it’s a bit disturbing for Stiles to witness as well. “Not Isaac,” she declares firmly.

“Have you guys heard any other names thrown around?” Stiles checks, not letting Allison’s fierce declaration linger beyond the realm of comfort.

“I’ve heard Ethan’s name dropped by a few people,” she answers, but it sounds like a counter-threat to Danny. This kind of hostility between his allies going into this vote is… not a good sign.

“Ethan isn’t going home,” Danny assures, “It wouldn’t make sense to vote him out.”

“Of course it wouldn’t, to you.” Allison snipes. “What do you think, Stiles?”

Oh no. He doesn’t want to pick a side. Think, Stiles. Think. “I don’t think the three of us can decide ourselves anyway, we should talk with Scott and the others.”

Allison rolls her eyes, “Smart. Tell Scott we’re thinking of voting out his girlfriend.”

Well that explains the malice towards Kira.

“Just see who they’re voting for, we don’t have to tell them anything.”

“Okay,” Allison accepts, though she sounds unhappy about it, “You do that, I’m going to see where Lydia’s mind is at.”

It doesn’t take long to find Scott, but it’s surprising to find his closest ally since day one conversing with Derek given he’s never seen the two interact once. It’s probably good for him to have them get along, but still… disconcerting. They’re standing in the shade of a palm tree on the beach doing the classic ‘collecting firewood’ aka conspiring for tribal council.

“Stiles,” Derek greets, turning to acknowledge him before even seeing him. Spooky.

“Hey Derek, Scott. What were you guys thinking about doing tonight?” Stiles checks, “I’m really concerned and nobody seems to have a solid idea what’s going on.”

“I want to get rid of Ethan still,” Derek admits, “But I think…” he hesitates, “I was talking to Scott, and…”

“I think Isaac is a smarter choice,” Scott drops, which is a surprise to hear. Isaac and Scott seemed pretty close. It looks like Scott himself is hurt saying it, but it’s out there now.

“Danny had the same idea,” Stiles blurts out before he can stop himself from revealing something like that. “With Danny and Ethan, that’s five of us. We need six to have majority. Can we pull in anybody else?”

“Maybe, but I’m not sure.”

“Okay, let’s scramble and find the numbers. Good luck.” Stiles gives Derek a severe look, because of the three of them, Derek is the one most likely in danger tonight.

JAJM||||||—DKEVE|||||

They cross the beaches, ascend the steps and enter the tribal council area. There’s… so many of them, now. Peter looks like a kid ready to smash what he’s constructed, ready to cut out some of them so there are a little less people sitting before him. “Welcome to your first tribal council as a merged tribe: Pack. I do like that name.”

“We came up with it together, Peter,” Scott states, “Because even though we’re from different tribes, different experiences, we’re together as one Pack, now.”

“And tonight, you’ll be sending a member of your pack home,” Peter points out.

Derek takes his seat next to Stiles, becomes a solid line of warmth. Whatever his relationship with Derek is, it’s certainly different to what his relationship with Scott is. It’s staring him in the face that it’s because of chemistry of a specific kind. He doesn’t want to believe it’s true, though, because he’s in Survivor for god’s sake. He doesn’t want to have his first proper experience of this nature to be for the whole world to see, not to mention he doesn’t need any distractions sabotaging his chance at winning this game for his dad.

“Let’s start tonight by talking about the immunity challenge, your first immunity challenge as individuals. Malia, you won.”

“I did, Peter.”

“And how important do you think it was for you to win today?”

She blinks, levels him with her blank, confused expression. “I think it’s just as important for anybody to win. It’s literally a guarantee that you’re here at the end of tonight. What kind of question is that?”

Peter sighs, “And Derek, you were close to winning immunity as well. What do you think that means for your game?”

“I think there’s a lot of competition here when it comes to these challenges, if that’s what you’re getting at,” Derek rebuts, “And I think Malia was very impressive in today’s challenge.”

“Stiles, what was the attitude at camp like after the challenge today?”

“The attitude was very different to how it’s been for the past twenty-three days for me. Normally there’s a clear idea, at least in my head, as to who is on what side; who is a target at tribal. Back at camp, I think the general idea was that everyone was on more-or-less good terms, so it was kind of a scramble to figure out who to vote for tonight.”

“Do you think that uncertainty could also be because you are the target tonight?” Peter asks, casual, but it chills Stiles’ bones.

“I… hope not.”

After that, Stiles can’t pay attention to all the questions Peter is asking them. What if he is the target tonight, if Scott and Derek are playing him? It seems farfetched, but maybe it’s possible. Maybe tonight is the end of Stiles’ game. It would be quite the anticlimax if everything ended right here, after all Stiles fought through to be here. But then, haven’t they all fought through the same length of time to be where they are now?

“I think that it is time to vote. Stiles, you’re up.”

Stiles writes down Isaac’s name on his parchment because it’s what he said he would do. Tonight he has to place trust in the relationships he’s built so far in the game to pull him through the coming tribal councils. As he slips the paper into the urn, part of him wants to snatch it back, to change his vote to Kira or Ethan or someone else whose name he heard thrown around at camp earlier, but he doesn’t.

He confides as much to the camera. “I’m sorry, but I hope it’s you tonight.” Then he returns to his seat and watches as the rest of the Pack get called up one by one to vote for someone to go home.

Allison gives him a sorrowful look as she steps up, makes Stiles’ heart go triple-time in his chest. What if he picked the wrong side.

“I’ll go count the votes,” Peter says, as he always does. Whatever he’s doing back there, he takes his time. When he knows who is going home, he comes back out with the urn and gives them all a grin. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

Every time the question gets asked, all trust drops and everyone looks around curiously to see how people respond. Nobody says a thing. Stiles has to wonder if there’s an idol hidden in the jungle, and if he should be searching for it if there is. He wouldn’t even know where to start. Scott said he had no luck finding the idol their clue indicated, which by this point tells Stiles someone else already has, or had, it.

“Once the votes are read, the decision is final, the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.” He plunges his hand into the urn and pulls out the first piece of parchment. “First vote,” he begins, “Derek.”

Beside him, Derek stiffens and Stiles lays a comforting hand on his thigh. He worries that it’s a weird, intimate thing to do for half a second before Derek’s hand comes to rest on top of his, holding on like a lifeline.

“Second vote… Isaac.” Isaac has a similar reaction, but unlike Derek, nobody goes to hold him. “Third vote… Ethan.” Once again, Ethan displays the classic discomfort of having your name roll off of Peter’s slick tongue (ew), but Danny holds him in much a similar way to how Stiles is holding Derek. “Fourth vote… Derek. Fifth vote… Ethan.” Pause. “That’s two votes Derek, two votes Ethan, one vote Isaac, six votes left.” Peter summarises. “Sixth vote… Isaac. That means we now have a three-way tie of two votes each for Derek, Ethan and Isaac.”

For a Pack, they certainly are divided.

“Seventh vote… Isaac. Eighth vote… Isaac. Ninth vote… Derek. Tenth vote… Derek.” Stiles hasn’t seen Scott’s handwriting yet, which means the last vote is likely his. If the five of them all did as they said they would, then the last vote should be Isaac, but if Scott decided to take out Derek tonight, there’s nothing he can do. Derek knows, too. He knows he’s putting his faith in someone who he’s known for all of one afternoon. Stiles trusts Scott though… doesn’t he? “That’s four votes Derek, four votes Isaac, two votes Ethan, one vote left.”

Peter plucks the final piece of parchment from the urn, reads it to himself a few times even though he must know what it says already.

”Eleventh vote, the tenth person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters and the first member of our jury,” he reveals it and Stiles deflates, “Isaac. That’s five votes, that’s enough, you need to bring me your torch.”

“Yeah,” Isaac mutters, gloomily. “Yeah.” He picks up his torch from the back, giving Kira a quick hug and Parrish a handshake before walking up to their grim reaper: Peter.

“Isaac, the tribe has spoken.” Peter snuffs his torch in the silence that falls. Stiles can’t quite tell, but he might have made someone cry. At what point does a game become too psychologically damaging?

“Well played guys,” Isaac sniffs. “Good luck to all of you.”

There’s a chorus of: “Bye, Isaac,” and then the curly-haired boy leaves the council area, and with it, the game. At least he made it to the jury.

“Well you’ve called yourselves a Pack, but tonight has definitely demonstrated that you’re less united than you might think.” Peter ominously states, “Grab your torches and head back to camp. I’ll see you all tomorrow. Good night.”

Stiles claps Derek gently on the leg, squeezes his hand, and then they stand up together and begin their trek back to the camp where four of the people among them tonight wrote down his name. Thankfully, he doesn’t look completely shattered by it, but Stiles thinks part of that is because of him comforting the man.

JAJM||||||—IDKEVE||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“In this season, I learned that… family can be anything, it doesn’t have to be blood. For a while there, especially before the tribal swap, I felt like I had more friends in this game than I do in real life. Is that sad? Sorry, I don’t want to sound like I’m more upset than I am. I had an incredible time playing this game and meeting all these wonderful people. I’m grateful that I get to be on the jury and still play a role in who wins.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I don’t think I would have changed a thing, to be honest. Obviously, I was hoping I would last a bit longer in the game, maybe even make it to the very end, but if this is how I had to go, I don’t mind. I made a lot of friends, even people who probably wrote my name down tonight, and I think when this game is over it’ll just be nice to go have a cup of coffee with everyone. Actually! I'd go for some of those burgers that I missed out on. Never forget.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“That’s a tough question, isn’t it? I think if I had to vote for someone to win right now, I’d have to go with Scott McCall. When we were on the New Hunters tribe I saw him displaying leadership, confidence and also kindness beyond anyone else in this game. The man taught me how to hunt for food in the most humane way possible. I think he’ll be tested a lot by these upcoming votes as the numbers get smaller, but I think he could definitely be the Sole Survivor. I guess we’ll see how that changes as the votes keep coming, though. I just hope everyone has a good time.”

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes up on day twenty-five in a predicament. It serves to remind him that as much as they’re separated from real life out here, he’s still more-or-less a kid; still a human.

That’s all a dramatic way of avoiding saying the far more crass syntax of he’s horny. Really horny. Other than a couple embarrassing nocturnal emissions, he hasn’t been dealing with that, and it’s really all caught up to him at once, too. It’s… awkward.

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that he’s, as has become the norm, spooned up with Derek. The other man has his arm draped heavily over Stiles’ thin form, inches away from Stiles’ problem, even breaths tickling the back of his neck. Stiles is jealous of the other man’s even breathing, because his own is becoming more and more ragged the more he crosses the threshold into consciousness. Derek is just so… warm behind him. He’s such a solid person, too. As Stiles has come to realise, he’s not too averse to having a solid person, as it were, sharing his sleeping space. In-fact, a significant part of Stiles’ exhaustion-and-testosterone riddled brain thinks it would be an excellent idea to roll over, push Derek onto his back and—

Well, do things that he just shouldn’t do on Survivor.

It’s early in the morning, so there’s just the skeleton crew of people on the night-shift still recording. For whatever reason, they’re also focussed on a different part of the shelter to the section where Stiles are Derek fell asleep. Stiles hopes when he watches this season at home he doesn’t feel or look like too much of an idiot for missing things, but judging by the ever-unpredictable camera crew, there’s something he’s missing around here. Regardless, given his current predicament, he’ll take the disdain of the show if it means not being absolutely mortified. A quick glance down proves just how little his pants are doing to conceal the issue.

Derek’s arm draped over him scoops up Stiles’ body, pulling him tight against the other man, and Stiles can’t help but let out an embarrassing squeak. Derek seems to stir more to awakening at the sound and Stiles is about ready to die. Even if he gets up right now and makes a run for it, Derek’ll be confused and ask why and he’ll just have to tell him. And while that might be preferable to the alternative of Derek finding out with his own two hands, Stiles’ excitement has him paralysed.

“Mornin’ Stiles,” Derek slurs, breathing the words directly into his ear. “Was that sound you?”

Surely he already knows the answer to that question, Stiles thinks. What he’s really asking is why he squeaked.

“W’s cute.” Derek mumbles, still sleep-drunk, and then Stiles can tell the moment Derek realises what he said because they’re close enough for him to feel his muscles tense.

“Uhh,” Stiles contributes, intelligently.

“Sorry, Stiles,” Derek whispers and his arm uncoils from around him.

“Oh,” Stiles contributes, just as intelligently as prior, perhaps more, as Derek’s retreating arm bumps into the very prominent problem.

Derek’s arm stops retreating and Stiles isn’t sure whether to take it as a positive (like his horny-mind wants to) or a negative (like his rational—well, his ‘regular’ mind does).

“Oh,” Derek eventually utters.

Evidently they’re both at a bit of a loss of what to say. I mean, what do you say to a stranger you’re attracted to, in competition with, and afraid of all at once? All while under potential surveillance? ‘Sorry for getting morning wood dude.’ Yeah, that’s something Stiles is wanting to say aloud on national television.

“Yeah, oh,” Stiles grunts, excitement not quelling in the slightest in the face of the mortification he feels.

Derek’s arm rewinds the previous motion, resettling itself around Stiles, only now with Derek’s waking-intent behind it rather than unconscious movement, and he gets pulled closer again. It’s then that something interesting happens. Something that Stiles has suspected keenly throughout every moment he and Derek spend together, but hasn’t let himself acknowledge properly until right now with concrete, solid proof: Derek is attracted to him, in some way, shape or form, as well.

“Same here,” the other man whispers as the hard line of… well, exactly what you’d expect, presses against Stiles’ lower back through layers of clothing. “Stiles, god, I’m sorry, but—” Derek cuts himself off and Stiles can still feel the tension in Derek’s body, the apprehension. Derek circles his hips, nudges his groin against Stiles and making him want to push back so he can really feel Derek closer. It’s good to know Derek is just as tightly-wound as him right now. “I—I think, uh, that I—that we—”

Thud, thud, thud. In the silence of the morning and the privacy of the almost-moment, the sound of someone else waking up and trotting loudly into the forest is deafening, and more importantly, it’s also sobering for Stiles. What does he think he’s doing? He’s known Derek for hardly a matter of weeks, they’re in a competition against one another with only a single winner, they’re on a television show where solid couples are infamously targeted at tribal councils, and then there’s the more personal matters of the Sheriff and Stiles isn’t gay.

“Let’s get up and have a swim while everyone else wakes up,” Stiles declares. They need to talk. Not as competitors in any fashion, but as normal people. As, he shudders, adults. Not now, not this morning, but… soon. Neither of them needs to have any more distraction in the game than what there already is. And god Derek makes a tempting distraction.

Derek’s quiet as they waddle in a hopefully-subtle and not at all suspicious way down to the water. Whatever he had been trying to get out back at camp he seems to have buried again.

“Can we talk later… about some stuff?” Stiles asks, getting a nod from Derek. The water’s cool and he misses the warmth of Derek’s body, but something’s off and they’re keeping a slight distance now. “Cool.”

Stiles has no idea what he’s going to say, what he’s going to do, what he’s going to decide… he doesn’t know much. They need to talk, though, of that there’s no doubt. Maybe they can finally put into words whatever it is that this tension between them is.

“Cool.”

JAJM||||||—IDKEVE||||

“Welcome, Survivors,” Peter greets the combined ‘Pack’ tribe as they walk up to the standing zone set out beside the challenge area. “Let’s get to today’s reward challenge. You’ll be split into two teams of five. You’ll then have to complete, as a team, an intricate obstacle course while tied together.” He gestures to the frustrating and, yes, intricate, structure set into the ground in the field. “Once your team have made it through the structure, you’ll race to pull your team’s lever, releasing a banner that reads ‘Victory’. Sound easy enough?”

There’s a spatter of obligatory agreement, but they all know it’s going to be a menace to actually complete. Stiles is not keen to be the one being dragged behind as his four teammates fly through it.

“Wanna know what you’re playing for?”

That gets a much more enthusiastic chorus of agreement. God, Stiles would love some food. The burger he ate a couple days back is getting harder and harder to chase the memory of the taste of. That being said, there isn’t a big table of covered, symbolic goods for Peter to dramatically reveal.

“In today’s reward challenge, you’ll be playing for…” Peter pauses, lets the tension build. Stiles wants to strut over and smack him. “A trip to the Survivor spa.”

Oh. Well, Stiles can’t say he’s too excited by a spa trip. Sure, he’d love to actually feel clean again after twenty-five days, but if he had the choice between food and a good wash, he’d definitely nominate for food every time. Even if it was something he wouldn’t normally eat, like vegetables.

“Oh my god!” Lydia and… huh, Ethan both groan out in harmony. Then, in a truly horrifying manner, they turn to one another and gasp daintily. What the hell, who are these people?

“That means showers, soaps, massages,” Peter explains, only spurring the excitement of the pair of them. Other people are excited too, sure, but Lydia and Ethan’s reactions are completely unapologetically raw. “Food.” Oh. Now that’s something Stiles can get into. “There’ll be assorted sandwiches and fruit to enjoy while you get pampered. Worth playing for?”

“Yes!”

“Then let’s get to it. We’ll draw for spots.”

JAJM||||||—IDKEVE||||

Stiles is pretty devastated when they’re heading back to camp and he has to say goodbye to Lydia, Parrish, Malia, Ethan and Kira, knowing they’re going to be enjoying sandwiches while he has to go back to a single scoop of plain rice and coconut essences. It really does a number on his mood, too, because partway through the challenge Stiles had the idea of how great it would be to have his serious conversation with Derek under the relaxing aura of the reward.

At least, despite his worries, he wasn’t a weak link in the challenge. In-fact it was only a matter of moments between their team and the other. At the last moment, Malia leapt quite magnificently at the lever and got it a second before they could pull it.

“Hey, Stiles?” Scott grabs his attention. He was just about to go have a chat with Derek, but he always has time for his bestie.

“Hey, Scotty. What’s up?”

“Can we, uh, talk over here?” he asks, transparently wanting to talk strategy. Probably a good idea given Stiles has no idea who is on the chopping block for the next tribal council.

“Sure,” he obliges and walks away from camp a bit with his friend, “What’ve you been thinking?”

“You’ve figured out what happened at last tribal, right?” Scott checks, and Stiles guesses he’s talking about who voted for who. Yeah, he figured that out, much to his own frustration.

“Yeah,” Stiles sighs. He hasn’t really wanted to acknowledge that particular issue, but considering there’s no rest for the wicked here, it’s probably about time he got over himself. “Allison, Lydia and Malia tried getting rid of Derek.”

“The fourth vote for him was Parrish,” Scott informs. This is new information. Stiles wasn’t sure if it was Parrish or Kira voting with them, but it’s out there now. That group of four is the other major alliance, evidently. The old Hunters alliance has truly been split down the middle, against everything they’d said at the beginning of the game.

“Oh,” is all Stiles can think of at first. Then, strategy. “Kira’s their fifth vote if they want to force a tie?”

“Kira and I are voting together now,” Scott tells him, “She and Isaac were just voting together on old grudges, but…”

Uh oh. Scott opened with something that meant they had majority together, but now… Stiles doesn’t like that ‘but’. “What is it?”

“She doesn’t want to vote on the same side as Ethan. I’ve tried to reason with her, tell her to speak with him about it and resolve whatever happened between them, but she just… won’t.”

“You’re scared of forcing a tie?” Stiles asks, but it goes without saying that it’s a correct evaluation. Who wouldn’t be scared of a tie? It basically means the people who everyone votes for are safe and you’re potentially throwing yourself under the bus. “Same here.”

“Stiles, there’s more. I don’t…” he turns conspiratorially back towards camp and then turns to finish the thought, “I don’t trust Ethan.”

“But you trust—”

“I don’t trust Danny, either,” Scott drops. That’s… a problem. “At least, not with Ethan around. They’re too close.”

“People have said the same thing about us,” Stiles reminds him, “But I see where you’re coming from. What do you reckon we should do then?”

“I think this next vote should be for one of them, but from what little Allison tells me nowadays, they’re still set on the same result as last vote. They want Derek gone more than anything. He’s one of the oldest people left, and honestly at the New Hunters tribe, we were pretty brutal on the older players. Particularly Lydia and Malia. Deaton and Duke barely got a word in against them when they turned on them.”

“Yeah, I guess I missed that part.” Stiles mulls it over a second, “If we even give the slightest clue that we’re gonna flip on Ethan and Danny, they’ll turn on us. There might not be any salvaging that relationship, either. This could be a big mistake, especially right now when we finally have the numbers on our side. We could take out Parrish with the six of us.”

“You know we’ll have to vote for our old allies at some point, man,” Scott reminds him. He evidently picked up on the very specific one of the four possible names he mentioned. “Isaac was that for me. We’re getting to the end together,” Scott reinforces, “But you have to be willing to make big moves with me. If we’re taking someone out of the girls and Parrish alliance, I think it has to be one of the bigger threats.”

Stiles knows Scott is right, has known it every time he watches the show. Scott would be the sort of strong, bold player Stiles loved watching while he himself would be the more flighty, frustrating type of player to watch. The type he’d be mentally compelling to make big moves when they’d always be too scared, too cautious to do it. It all becomes so much harder in the game, though. Lydia, Malia and Allison all voted against Derek last tribal, but in Stiles’ mind the people he’s known for a shorter amount of time like Parrish and Kira are people he’d be more comfortable voting for.

“Yeah, I’m with you man.” Stiles agrees, although it hurts his heart a bit to consider voting out some of the people who helped him even make it this far in the game at all. It doesn’t feel fair, but that’s the game. “We still have the immunity challenge tomorrow anyway. As long as you let me know what you’re thinking before tribal so we can agree on what to do.”

Scott nods as they part ways. The camp is pretty empty without the others there. Just Derek, Danny, Allison and then the two of them. He can’t avoid the conversation with Derek any longer, and something in his gut tells him that any amount of waiting isn’t going to prepare himself for it any better than he currently is, either.

As quickly as Scott leaves his presence, Derek joins it. He probably followed Scott and him out here, really. He wouldn’t be talking to either of the others back at camp if he could help it.

“Hey Stiles,” Derek greets, tone already telling Stiles everything he needs to know about how awkward this conversation is going to be.

“Hey, Derek.” Well, his tone isn’t so great either. His voice cracks over the first syllable of the other man’s name and his tongue starts to feel like it weighs ten times what it does. While he was comfortable having the cameras here for Scott and his strategic conversation, he’s very sure he doesn’t want them here for this one. “Let’s go for a dip in the water for a bit?”

Derek glances sidelong at the cameras and then nods silently. The silence reigns as they walk purposefully to the beachfront and then immediately wade further out, leaving the camera crew to reposition somewhere else when it’s evident they aren’t going to give them a show. Stiles swims in his shirt when he can, but Derek rips his off and tosses it into the sand before following.

Then, when it’s just the two of them; when it’s the perfect moment for him to spring all kinds of information on the other man, Derek interjects before he can get the first word in.

“I like you, Stiles.”

The sea sways, the wind blows, the sun shines, Derek’s muscles ripple… that’s it. He doesn’t continue. Instead he gives Stiles an expectant, loaded glare. “That’s it?” Derek’s expression darkens at that and Stiles amends his response, “I mean, cool. I like you too.” Still the expectant, piercing glare encourages… more. “Can we speak like we aren’t in the game right now?” Derek nods, looks baffled by the question being asked at all. “I’m… scared. And nervous.” Derek opens his mouth to speak but Stiles rushes on over anything he can say, “And confused. Damnit, Derek, I’m so, so confused. I don’t know what to think any more. Actually, I don’t want to have to think at all about this stuff because it’s so confusing and it’s all worse because we’re in a game, too. We’re in a game, Derek, and every time I have myself convinced that I’m really starting to like you in a special way, I have to pull myself back because of the damn game. Because I have to win this, Derek. I have to. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt—well, that I’ve ever felt this much because of one person. I don’t even know what it is, but if it’s something important, something special, I don’t want to pass it up because what if I never get another chance at it? What if—”

Derek ducks in and pecks him on the cheek. It’s a quick action, and Stiles can barely feel the brush of his lips before they’re gone. It doesn’t feel good, per se, but it’s the significance behind it that has Stiles brought to silence again. That, and the fact that Derek’s face erupts in a huge blushing grin. He looks far too happy with himself, and it’s kind of a new look on him. Even in Derek’s happiest moments, like when they banter, he’s never quite worn this expression.

“I didn’t say you could do that,” is what comes out of Stiles’ mouth before he can swallow the words down. He doesn’t want to chastise Derek for kissing him, though. Quite the opposite. He wants to heavily encourage much more kissing, among other things.

“I thought I’d take a risk,” Derek confides, and there’s power in those words. That’s what this is: a risk. A massive risk. Stiles hasn’t exactly lived a carefree life, there’s no question of that, but this is a very different kind of risk to what he’d normally be comfortable taking. There’s no… precedent for this. Not to mention the game, his dad, the necessity—“You’re thinking too much again. It’s making me want to come in for a second one.”

Stiles’ eyes snap back to the beach and their almost empty camp. The cameras aren’t even watching them, but rather the whole pack of them are swarming around the other three having a different conversation. Likely very different to the one they’re having. Nobody saw it happen and it’s probably best if they keep it that way.

“Maybe we can take a risk,” Stiles offers, letting Derek’s infectious, rare smile thrill him into one of his own. “Just to be one hundred percent clear, though, we’re talking about… y’know… gay things here.”

Derek’s eyes roll back so hard he almost slides underwater. “Yes, Stiles we’re talking about gay things. With each other.” He pauses to swallow and Stiles watches the bob of his throat. “Can I ask you though… what did you mean by you have to win this? Are you in trouble?”

Now that’s one way of putting it, but Stiles hasn’t even told Scott properly about this stuff. He doesn’t want to tell anyone because sometimes the pity card can be a one way ticket out of the game. If people think you have something that can one-up them in the eyes of the jury, they’re going to take you out. “No, I—” Stiles can feel the confession coming. The cameras aren’t watching. This is just between them. He can finally tell someone. “I need the money for my dad. He’s…” Stiles has said it out loud before. He said it in the interview, he said it back home, and he said it to himself in the morning sometimes to spur himself on in his most desperate moments. Saying it now feels different to every other time, though. “He’s dying.”

Derek bobs closer to him, like he’s going to try hug him, but there’s too much chance of somebody seeing them.

“No, someone might see,” Stiles says, putting his hand out under the water, although it kills him to deny exactly the kind of comfort he needs right now.

Derek grabs him anyway, though, and the moment Stiles gets enveloped, he realises he’s crying. “I don’t care if anyone sees,” Derek tells him, “If anyone asks I’ll just say you were comforting me because the game started to get to me.”

Stiles snorts, “That’s believable. Your whole tough-guy persona would be ruined.”

“Is that what you think of me, Stiles?”

The implication of the question is… right. Stiles can’t say he thinks of Derek as a tough-guy, not really. That was just a crude first impression of a human with many layers to themselves. He kind of can’t wait to just get closer and closer and learn more and more about Derek, especially now that he’s giving himself the chance to. They separate after their hugging moment comes to a natural end.

“I think you’re like my neighbour’s Rottweiler.” Again, Stiles can’t help but say the things he does. Derek’s amused expression encourages him to elaborate anyway. “Big, strong, scary at a first, shallow glance, but then the little tail starts wagging and you realise they’re just a cute puppy in a big body.”

“I see,” Derek observes, “So you think of me as a… puppy.”

Well, he isn’t going to deny it. The foundations of their relationship aren’t going to be built with lies.

“Don’t answer,” he tuts. “Why am I attracted to you so much?”

“Probably my irresistible, albeit slightly irritating, personality. Got under your skin and lingered.”

For some reason, at his extended pronunciation of the word ‘lingered’, Derek dunks him under the water.

He resurfaces just in time to hear Derek mutter ‘probably’.

JAJM||||||—IDKEVE||||

Stiles goes into the immunity challenge with a new, strange kind of energy in him. Derek and he didn’t spend a suspicious amount of time together in the twenty-four hours since their post-reward talk, but the time they did spend together was… nice. It’s a very new feeling for Stiles to have attraction not be mutually exclusive, and he really likes it. All of their conversations now feel a lot less stressful, free of what was apparently a lot of unresolved tension that neither of them were ready to acknowledge until, well, Stiles and he woke up horny and they had to acknowledge it.

That’s definitely not going to be included in his explanation to his dad if they pan out into something real. And isn’t that a scary thought.

“Welcome to today’s individual immunity challenge,” Peter greets them all. There’s something about his demeanour today that seems less… something, than usual. Where he’d normally have a glee to his tone, now there’s just method. It’s kind of unsettling to have Peter acting like a normal host. “First thing’s first, Malia, I’ll need to take back the necklace.”

Malia obliges, walks up to Peter, doesn’t help him undo the clasp, and then walks back bare-necked. The necklace looks pretty on display on the pedestal, and so attractive for Stiles in a game where it guarantees safety.

“Today, you’ll be playing for your chance to wear this at tonight’s tribal.” He claps his hand against the pedestal. “In today’s challenge, your endurance will be tested against your tribemates as each of you are made to cling to tall wooden poles.” Stiles can see the poles. They’re… thick. How are smaller people like Kira going to even wrap themselves around it? “It will be uncomfortable, it will be painful. There are several grooves in the poles for you to dig your feet and arms into, but they will hurt you too. This challenge will not be easy.” A sliver of his sadism bleeds through for a moment before it’s quashed again. Stiles misses the cruel Peter. “Last person remaining wins immunity, safe at tonight’s tribal council. Worth playing for? Of course. We’ll draw for spots and get right into it.”

They draw and Stiles is assigned to take the orange set. They’re all identical, or as identical as they can be made, of course, but it’s all a part of the immersion of the game and ensuring that there is no favour granted to any players by the crew of the show. Stiles doesn’t mind where he’s put because it’s between Scott and Derek, who are probably (definitely) his two closest allies in the game.

“Okay, take your spots beside your poles, and then I’m going to count down from ten,” Peter explains, “When I hit zero, I want everyone off the ground. If you’re on the ground and the circumstances aren’t special, you’ll be disqualified. Survivor’s ready? Go. Ten…”

Stiles finds a spot on the pole quickly as Peter hits seven, but then he slips and has to scramble to regain a semi-alright position before he hits—

“Zero. And the challenge is on. Already some contestants are showing signs of stress. Kira and Parrish already trying to rearrange their footing. Remember it’s very easy to—” Stiles hears a thud. It’s quite a few feet to the ground from the second-lowest groove in the pole, and Stiles knows he’s one of the few lurking near the bottom. This is the reason why. “Just like that, Ethan drops, with less than a minute on the clock. That’s just how easy it is to fall down.”

Stiles starts to try and tune out Peter’s ramble after that. He focuses on the minutes as they pass. He thinks about all the things Derek and he talked about earlier regarding their… well, ‘relationship’. That was the word Derek used earlier to describe them, and while that’s certainly a big word for what could eventually exist between them, Stiles thinks he kind of likes the sound of that. It sets off a colony of butterflies in his stomach in the best way. Just thinking about the innocence of Derek pecking his cheek and the heat of his body as they sleep makes his skin tingle. It conveniently helps keep his mind of the less pleasant tingling of his muscles as the minutes drag on.

“Kira and Parrish drop together after twenty minutes on the pole.” Twenty minutes? Alright, that actually passed faster than he thought it would. He risks a glance over at Derek, just to see how he’s faring, and then it turns out he turned just in time to see the other man drop to the ground with a frustrated grunt and a thud. “Oo, Derek drops now. Hard. There are still six—five! Five players left in this challenge as Allison also drops. Scott, Lydia, Malia, Danny and Stiles are left after twenty-one minutes. This challenge is far from over.”

Derek makes eye contact with him from the loser’s bench and his stomach flips. Half a second later, his foot spasms and he collapses to the ground ungracefully.

“Stiles drops. There are four Survivors left in this challenge.”

Alright, maybe relying on the butterflies in his stomach to get through the pain was a flawed plan to begin with. He takes his spot on the bench and watches as Scott, Lydia, Malia and Danny fight it out for immunity.

JAJM||||||—IDKEVE||||

“Good job today, everyone,” Scott applauds as they walk back into camp as a tribe—as a Pack.

The rest of the immunity challenge dragged on and on and on, longer than Stiles would’ve thought humanly possible. Scott and Lydia dropped within a second of each other after about an hour. It was a pretty intense rivalry to witness considering Scott and Lydia are pretty much the de facto leaders of the two major alliances in the greater tribe. If Stiles picked it, he’d say Scott lasted a half second longer than Lydia did, but Parrish preached kind of obnoxiously on the loser’s bench how Lydia lasted ‘way longer’ than Scott did.

It was what happened after Scott and Lydia fell that the real challenge happened, though. Malia and Danny… they stayed on that damn pole that Stiles could barely handle after twenty minutes for a whopping (wait for it) four hours and fourteen minutes. Peter went ballistic when one of them finally went down. Which one of them went down, though? Who won?

“Congratulations, Danny,” Stiles slaps the other man on the back jovially. “You did amazingly.”

“Thanks, Stiles,” Danny grins, “Couldn’t beat her though. All hail Malia: Queen of Immunity Challenges.”

“I like that title,” Malia acknowledges, removing the necklace and hanging it up for all to see at camp. “That was… hard.”

It definitely looked hard. When Danny dropped, he curled up into a ball of agony, and the moment Peter started declaring Malia a winner, she too fell in a heap. Luckily they both had Ethan and Allison respectively to help them make it back to camp.

“Do you want to talk for a second, Stiles?” Allison invites. It kind of surprises Stiles, especially given he, Scott and Danny were pretty separated from the old Hunters in the previous tribal. Still, he’s going to listen to whatever it is she has to say to him.

She drags him over to an already-assembling council of people on the beach. Parrish, Lydia and Malia. With Allison, that makes up the four of them. Although why Stiles is being included in this little meeting baffles him. They kind of form a circle around him as they pitch their case to him. Allison looks particularly… intimidating.

“What is happening?” Stiles checks, “I’m so confused right now.”

“Danny and Ethan need to be split up,” Lydia declares, “They’re too much of a power couple together, absolutely inseparable. The fewer people are here, the more powerful those two votes locked together are going to be, and the more dangerous they’re going to become. What’s more,” she glances around at the group of them, “I think they have an idol between them.”

“Woah,” Stiles’ heart races a bit at the word ‘idol’, but it isn’t enough for him to really be sold on what they’re saying. “But why do we need to take them down now?” Stiles argues. Why wouldn’t Scott, Derek and him just work with them until the final five and then take them down three votes to two? It’d be an absolutely perfect world for that to work and have them all make it that far, but logically, Lydia’s alliance doesn’t really have anything to force the issue immediately. Right now, flipping on two of his alliance gives up the numbers advantage, and there isn’t a reason for he and Scott to do that, idol notwithstanding, unless—

“Ethan offered to work with us on the reward,” Parrish drops. “Kira and Lydia were showering and he sprung it on Malia and I. They’re going to just keeping flipping on each of us, though, which is why we’re telling you.”

“Malia?” Stiles checks. He doesn’t know Parrish, not really, apart from the obvious fact that he’s in Lydia’s pocket. Malia, on the other hand, he knows is no-nonsense and not the type to be devious with lies.

“Yes, Stiles,” she deadpans, “The dick threw out Derek’s name cause he knew we’d be interested. We were.”

“But this is more important,” Allison sighs, “Even though it stings to let Derek stay.”

“Alright,” Stiles acknowledges, although he feels kind of spacy. Where’s Scott when you need him? “Then I guess… Ethan?”

“Actually,” Allison glances at the others before refocussing on Stiles. She steps in toward him, “I want to knock Danny out.”

What.

“What? Allison, why Danny?”

“You saw him in today’s challenge,” she explains. “Of the two of them, I’d rather Ethan goes further in the game than him. Danny is a lot more dangerous alone while Ethan does his best work with someone else—a partner.”

“Okay, I’ll… I’ll talk to the others.” Stiles considers, “We’ll think about it.”

JAJM||||||—IDKEVE||||

“Good evening everyone,” Peter greets, looking far more himself than he did earlier in the day during the challenge. “Welcome to your second tribal council as Pack.” Everyone takes their seats. “Also welcoming the first member of the jury. Isaac, voted out at the last tribal council.”

Isaac comes walking into the tribal council area and sits at the jurors’ bench opposite them. He looks… good. It’s like seeing your friend who always wear ratty clothes in a suit. Stiles has to wonder what some of these people look like clean, because even on the first day on the boat in, they were all pretty hot and gross. Stiles, on the other hand, will likely horrify the audience when they witness what he looks like in real life outside of the game. He just hopes it’s later rather than sooner. There’s no offence to Isaac, but he doesn’t want to be sitting next to him any time soon.

“Okay. Once again, I’d like to talk about the immunity challenge today. Malia, once again taking home the individual immunity. How does that feel, Malia?”

“It feels good, Peter.” Malia declares, “Obviously.”

Yeah. One day Peter’s going to understand that he isn’t going to get much out of her. Evidently it isn’t today, though. The preamble before voting continues for quite a while, now, but Stiles looks to Scott and Derek and sees no change in what they’d planned to do before coming. Tonight’s tribal council is going to be… bloody.

Before he knows it, Peter’s making the announcement and it’s time for them to vote. “I think that it is time to vote. Kira, you’re up.”

When it comes to his turn, Stiles writes down someone’s name on his parchment before holding it up hesitantly to the camera. “I think this might surprise some people here tonight. I hope this doesn’t blow up my whole game.” Then he returns to his seat and watches as the rest of the Pack get called up one by one to vote for someone to go home.

“I’ll go count the votes,” Peter says, and he does. Stiles’ leg and Derek’s remain pressed firmly against one another the whole time. It’s oddly comforting just feeling the other man’s presence and, depending on how the night resolves, he might need a lot more comforting when they get back.

If they get back.

“If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.” Crickets chirp. “Once the votes are read, the decision is final, the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes. First vote,” he begins, “Parrish.”

The piece of paper even says ‘Jordan’, which everybody remembers the man dislikes being called. There’s a short hum of chuckles from the Pack and Isaac on the jury before they continue.

“Second vote… Ethan. Third vote… Ethan. Fourth vote… Parrish.” Danny turns to Scott then and gives him a look Stiles can’t see. “We’re tied. Two votes Ethan, two votes Parrish. Six votes left. Fifth vote… Danny. Sixth vote… Danny. Seventh vote… Danny. Eighth vote… Danny.” Peter pauses to summarise, “That’s now four votes Danny, two votes Ethan, two votes Parrish, two votes left. Ninth vote… Ethan. One vote left.” Peter reaches into the urn to retrieve it. “Tenth vote… Ethan. We have a tie. Four votes Danny, four votes Ethan.”

The tribe erupts in various groans of differing levels of frustration, then. Allison turns a glare at Scott and him for evidently not turning completely on Danny, meanwhile Danny and Ethan look to each other in complete horror.

“Don’t be too proud,” Scott warns them, quietly. “We can go to rocks, or you can let someone you called a threat yourselves leave.”

Allison’s hard expression softens as she looks at Scott, but then the moment ends as the voting continues.

“The rules state that to resolve a tie, all tied contestants will not vote, and the non-tied contestants will have to vote again, but may only choose between the tied contestants. If the revote does not break the tie, then it will be declared a deadlock vote, and the tribe will be given one final chance to unanimously decide who should be eliminated. If there is not a unanimous decision, then the tied players will become immune, and the rest of the players will draw rocks, with the player drawing the white rock being eliminated from the game.”

Peter takes the empty urn and runs it back to the voting station.

“Allison, you’re up.”

Stiles gets a small sense of déjà vu.

“Okay, I’m going to read the votes again. The person who receives the most votes will be eliminated and have to leave the tribal council area immediately. Keep in mind that if this does not resolve the tie, and if you cannot agree unanimously on a player to send home, you will be putting your own lives in this game at risk.” He gives a moment for that to sink in, and Stiles can feel his resolve wavering. Is he really willing to go through with something as dangerous as drawing rocks? Putting his whole game on the line for a chance? It’s like Derek said, isn’t it: you have to take some risks. “First vote… Danny. Second vote… Ethan. Third vote… Danny. Fourth vote… Ethan. Fifth vote… Danny. Sixth vote… Ethan. Seventh vote… Danny. Eighth and final vote…” Peter rolls his eyes, “Ethan.”

Parrish pipes up quietly, “Allison, maybe you should—”

“I can take care of myself,” she cuts him off.

“Okay. Because the vote has stayed tied, this is now a deadlock vote, and the tribe will now be given one final chance to unanimously decide on someone to send home. Remember, it must be unanimous, and if you can’t decide, you are going to draw rocks, and instead of Danny or Ethan being eliminated from the game, somebody else will be joining Isaac on the jury.” Peter looks more frustrated than usual at their antics here, and it’s almost like he’s addressing the frustration directly at Stiles. Or maybe it’s at Derek, he can’t really tell because they’re sitting so close together.

“I’m not changing from Danny,” Lydia announces. “If you want to go to rocks, I will,” she doesn’t sound sure, but she glances speculatively at Allison and Malia. Nobody wants to go to rocks, but nobody wants to be the side that backed down to the other, either. Still, this could be (it defininitely is) a very reckless move.

Danny and Ethan themselves stay dead silent through the exchange, probably because as long as everyone can’t agree on which one of them goes home, they end up both becoming immune through a painful twist of fate anyway.

There’s not much left to say after that, because Scott won’t back down either.

“Alright,” Peter accepts. “Fine, if you can’t agree on someone to send home, we’ll go to rocks. In this bag,” he displays said bag, “there are nine black rocks and one white rock. You will each draw a rock and conceal it. When I say, you will all reveal the colour of your rock and the player with the white rock will become the eleventh person eliminated from the game. Let’s draw rocks…”

“… Eleventh person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters and the second member of our jury,” Stiles’ heart breaks as he sees the rock, but figures it’d come back to bite someone. He’s just lucky it wasn’t him. “Allison. You need to bring me your torch.”

She gets a hug from pretty much everyone as she goes, but her hug with Scott is noticeably more emotional than any other. When they pull apart Stiles can’t tell if the tears on Scott’s face are Allison’s or his own. It hurts to watch.

“Allison, the tribe—or I guess in this case the game—has spoken.” Peter snuffs the torch as Allison gives a sob. She turns to face them all one last time: such a strong-willed competitor. Too strong-willed. He hopes all the old Hunters can still be friends after the game like they could at the beginning of the game.

“It’s alright guys. It doesn’t hurt. It’s perfect. Thank you.”

AJAJM|||||—IDKEVE||||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“In this season, or more specifically just now really, I learned that it really hurts to love someone. It hurts so much. I think this game has brought out sides of myself I wasn’t even truly aware of. This has been one of the best experiences of my life, though. I am so happy to have met Scott and Lydia and Stiles and, gosh, everyone. They’re all such amazing people and I hope we can be as good friends in real life as we were for a time in the game as well.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I don’t apologise for being a competitive person, it’s a part of who I am. I’m also not regretful of my, well, stubbornness. I think if I could go back in time, all I would do is tell my old self to not be so stressed while it was going on. I mean, come on, this game was not good for my heart. More than once I felt like I got stabbed in the back, and half the time it wasn’t even something reasonable.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“Well first of all I’m so glad I made it to the jury so I get to watch as these guys keep playing. I think… it’s kind of hard to pick, but I guess… Lydia will become the Sole Survivor. She is such an incredible woman. So intelligent and surprisingly strong for such an unassuming body. I think she has a very good chance of making it to the end and winning the million dollars.”

Chapter Text

The walk back from tribal council that night is one of the most silent walks they’ve had so far. It isn’t common for players to be so stubborn and unmoving in their stance to force a rock draw to resolve a toe vote. The particular circumstances they’re in now are extra rare, too, because they have to go back to camp with both people that are on the outs with both alliances. Everyone is so speechless that the waves on the beach feel deafening in comparison. Every now and then, Parrish coughs to clear his throat and Stiles feels like begging someone, anyone to say something. What does he want them to say? A mystery to himself as well. All Stiles knows is that he went into the tribal tonight intending to protect one of his old tribemates from elimination and ended up succeeding, but eliminating a different one instead. Allison was with him, as was Danny, when he was at his lowest point in the game. It feels… weird, not having her out here anymore. Even though they hadn’t spoken as much after the merge, at least he had the option to. Now, he can only wish he tried harder, spoke more. All he can do is reminisce.

Eventually, they reach the camp. That’s when Stiles expects the levee to break.

Instead, there’s just more silence. Stiles can’t bear it.

“I’m going to go grab some extra wood for the fire,” Stiles declares, turning after a few steps to confirm that Derek is, indeed, tailing him. The other man doesn’t even try to offer an excuse for leaving camp, just follows wordlessly. It’s probably (definitely) more within his persona to be aloof, though, so Stiles looks past it.

He grabs a couple nice, dry-looking sticks he finds, using the haunting light of the full moon to guide him, before his mouth works again.

“I didn’t want Allison to go home.”

Stiles says it with his back to Derek and it lingers in the air a moment. Then shuffling, immediately followed by the feel of Derek’s arms around his waist. His grip feels loose, hesitant, so Stiles encourages him by sinking back into the embrace. Their heights mismatch enough that Derek can’t properly rest his head on Stiles’ shoulder, but he tries, and that’s all that counts. “It’s okay, Stiles,” Derek coos, “It’s not like you even cast your vote for her.”

“I know, but—”

“And—sorry to interrupt—but I don’t think you really wanted Ethan to go home, either.”

It’s almost an accusation, but it’s true. Stiles doesn’t really want to send anyone home. He never has, apart from Jennifer where he felt truly unsafe around her. Maybe also Kali, but her malice was never fully directed at him. Regardless, even the people he hardly knows now like Parrish and Kira he would feel guilty sending home. And yet, every couple nights when they become Peter’s playthings and dance, one of them drops and they have to come back to camp one tribemate fewer. Eventually, either Stiles will be one of the few people remaining at the end, or he won’t make it that far to see it. Somehow both options seem painful.

“And yet, the game goes on.” Stiles mutters, “I have my answer right there, don’t I?”

“Yep.”

Derek squeezes Stiles’ sides once before releasing the comforting hug and letting him turn around to face him. “What if the game goes on and one of us ends up having to vote the other one out?”

Derek scoffs at that, “Stiles, nothing in this game could make me have to write your name down.” Wow. It’s like he didn’t even consider it an option. That’s true appreciation right there. Stiles… isn’t sure he can say the same though. Does that make him a bad person? “And if you’re worried about having to write my name down, I think I could forgive you, Stiles.” He says it all so… confidently.

“How?” is what he blurts out, “I’d potentially be robbing you of a million dollars. How could you be okay with that? If you aren’t here for that, why are you?”

A goofy expression steals Derek’s expression and Stiles has to stifle a laugh. “Alright. This is going to sound corny, but it’s the first thing that came to mind.” He takes a breath, turns his eyes to the sky, and then continues. “What we have could be worth more than a million dollars to me.”

First, Derek’s goofy expression slides off his face to be replaced with a grim one.

Second, the other man’s face goes a vibrant, pretty red.

Third, Stiles swoons.

Kidding. Stiles actually starts cackling like a hyena and barely manages to hold himself up by grabbing onto Derek’s forearms for support. It isn’t so much the cute sentiment that makes him laugh, but rather it’s the intensity of the expression on Derek’s face. Up until… well, more recently, Stiles wouldn’t have even considered Derek capable of making such a face, but here it is. The living proof. Derek looks entirely unamused with Stiles’ response, though. He looks as if Stiles just handed him one of his ugly, baggy old shirts from back home and told him to put it on.

Derek gently thumps Stiles on the head with a playful growl before walking off.

AJAJM|||||—IDKEVE||||

On day twenty-seven, Stiles wakes up feeling sick to his very core. His bones ache as if trying to peel themselves out from under his pale skin. His vision blurs, his muscles cramp, and the inner lining of his throat itches in a way that he’ll never be able to scratch.

“Dad…” he grunts, trying to curl in on himself but being unable to because there’s something in the way.

“Stiles?” a man’s voice—someone he recognises—mutters sleepily into his ear. Stiles only groans in response, spurring the man to echo his name, only this time with more awareness. “Stiles? Are you okay?”

He realises then that the man is Derek. He’s on Survivor. All of it comes back to him.

He’s going to die on national television.

“Everyone, wake up! Something’s wrong with Stiles.”

After that, his own awareness collapses. He hears them all speaking in real-time, can feel everything, but he can’t interact with the world. His eyes are screwed shut to block out the light.

After a couple minutes of hearing his friends yell at one another and having tangy liquids and meagre amounts of rice shoved forcibly down his throat, someone grabs a tight hold of his arm. Stiles doesn’t just mean tight either, it’s bruising. He tries to speak, groans instead, and then the most remarkable thing happens.

His agony begins to ebb. It happens faster than he could imagine and it feels so good. After what feels like eons but is probably only moments, he blinks his eyes open. Scott and Derek are crouched down on either side of him while the rest of the tribe is looming in a circle around what must have been quite the show. He can still feel the ghost of the pain in his body but it’s nothing compared to what it was.

“What the hell was that?” Ethan frowns down at him.

“Do we need to get medical? Stiles, are you okay?” Scott, bless his soul, is looking frantically at the people behind the cameras, glare fierce and willing them to do something besides just watch.

“I… I think I’m fine,” Stiles gasps, trying to sit up with the support of Derek and Scott. “What the hell just happened?”

“I think maybe it was just dehydration and hunger cramps,” Parrish diagnoses, “Ennis was already having pretty bad episodes like that in the first few days. Surprised more of us haven’t been having attacks like that.”

“I thought I was gonna die,” he looks at Derek with glassy eyes. The other man looks about as panicked as Stiles feels. “Is it gonna keep happening?”

“I mean, I’m not a doctor, but…” Parrish looks around at everyone, hesitant. He hasn’t seemed like the kind of person to put himself on the spot so far. He’s probably intending to play a more subtle, under-the-radar game and hates being the centre of attention like this. Still, Stiles is pretty grateful for the help either way. He sighs and then expounds information with the confidence of someone who may as well be a doctor. He’s probably got some kind of secret job or survival training Stiles just hasn’t found out about yet. “You need to drink plenty of water. That’s far more important than the other stuff. Maybe take an extra half share of rice today, too. If you still feel bad tomorrow then…”

Then you might have to talk to medical. He might end up getting struck from the game without being voted out. That would be… devastating.

“You’ll be alright,” Kira encourages, breaking the tense atmosphere. “You’re strong, Stiles.”

“And we’re all here to help.” Scott adds.

The unwavering stares of everyone else in the tribe sends a thrill of worry through him. It’s enough to make him stand on wobbly feet, mutter some thankful departing words and then march down to the beach. It’s still early, probably earlier than he’d usually ask any reasonable human to wake up, but he doesn’t feel like going back to sleep right now. He feels like…

Steps follow behind him and, sure enough, when Stiles turns around, Derek has padded after him like a lost puppy. It’s endearing.

A surge of… something comes over him and before he can stop himself he has his arms wrapped around the other man in a tight hug. For a moment, it’s like hugging a statue, but then the other man melts into the embrace and Stiles has the other man’s arms holding him close.

He closes his eyes and just breathes for a moment, trying to cast aside any thoughts beyond the now. Beyond right here, in Derek’s arms.

Unfortunately, when he opens his eyes, he’s staring past Derek at his tribemates and the morning cameramen all getting a good eyeful of the pair of them hugging in the middle of the beach.

So much for subtlety.

“It’s fine, Stiles,” Derek assures him, even though Stiles feels like he’s just shot himself in the foot by doing something as simple as hugging Derek. Last tribal council was centred on eliminating a power couple and Stiles doesn’t want himself or Derek to be the next ones lumped under that category and systematically eliminated. “It’s okay,” he continues into his ear, “Never feel bad for getting a hug from me when you need it.”

“But they’re going to think—”

“They’ll think you had a scary morning and that we’ve become very close friends.” Derek pauses, and Stiles watches as the tribe, seeing that they’re intruding, disperse around camp to go about their business again. Derek chuckles like he just heard something funny. “I should thank you, you’re humanising me in some of their eyes.”

Stiles scoffs, but he has to think about what Derek said a moment ago again as it registers in his brain: never feel bad for getting a hug. He shouldn’t feel bad, for sure, but he definitely feels anxious about how it could be interpreted. Their hug was on-camera, too, so his dad might end up watching it. It’s all got a lot of implications that Stiles… doesn’t want to think about right now.

He sighs and sinks further into Derek’s arms, tightens his grip on the warm, broad shoulders of the other man and tries to think about things other than the game.

Like his dad and the profound mess of angst that is Stiles’ life. Great.

“You feeling better?” Derek asks, sounding concerned.

“Yeah,” Stiles lies, feeling worse now that his mind has circled back to his dad’s condition. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re the same Derek that pushed me around and almost crushed me.”

Stiles can’t see his eyes, but he can still sense Derek rolling them dramatically. “I guess I wanted to get your attention and the only way I knew how was to pull your pigtails.”

Stiles scoffs and gently ends the hug while still staying physically close. “I’m just gonna dip in the water for a bit and then I’ll be back up.”

“Alright,” Derek seems reluctant to leave him. “I guess I’ll go check the tree-mail to see if there’s going to be a reward challenge today or if we have a day off until immunity.”

“Good idea,” Stiles pats Derek subtly and cheekily on the butt as he turns towards the sea. Gotta get ready to watch Malia win the hat-trick of individual immunities, he thinks to himself.

AJAJM|||||—IDKEVE||||

“Welcome to today’s individual immunity challenge,” Peter greets them all in a way Stiles would swear is identical—word, cadence, all of it—every single time. Excluding the days where Stiles can tell by his change in tone that he’s feeling not very, or especially, malicious. Today’s challenge appears to be a basic obstacle course leading to a puzzle station at the very end. Stiles gets a thrill at the prospect of maybe finally having an immunity challenge where he stands a chance against Malia and the other serious physical threats. “First thing’s first, Malia, I’ll need to take back the necklace once again.”

This time, Peter must be feeling more himself than he was last challenge, as he meets Malia halfway, takes the necklace, and then hangs it up on its pedestal for the duration of the challenge. Stiles catches Lydia eying her as she walks back to join the rest of them but he can’t really make sense of what the look might mean. They’re probably as shocked as anyone else at Allison ending up going home.

Peter taps the necklace and gives it an appraising look. “Today, as always, you will each be fighting for the privilege of wearing this at tonight’s tribal council.” Stiles has to wonder what the likes of him would look like with such an ornate creation draped around him. Maybe one day if he’s lucky enough he’ll get the chance to see it. Wouldn’t that be nice. “In today’s challenge you’ll each have to race through a set of obstacles which you’ll have to climb over, crawl under and dig through.” Peter grins at that. Stiles can see where it appears that they’ll have to dig through the sand to get under a log. Stiles remembers watching people do that on the show and getting second-hand anxiety when they’d get stuck halfway through and be unable to move. He shivers at the thought. “Once you’ve made it through the obstacles you’ll have to solve a wooden slide puzzle. The first person to successfully solve the puzzle correctly will win immunity and be safe at tonight’s tribal council. They will be guaranteed a one in eight shot at winning this game. Worth playing for?” There’s no disagreement. “Then let’s draw for spots and get started.”

Stiles doesn’t know whether it’s a sign or just a pure coincidence, but as he draws his spot he gets assigned the exact same colour band as in the previous challenge: the bright orange course. Unfortunately, Scott and Derek are nowhere nearby this time. Instead he has Ethan on one side, who gives him a harsh look, and Lydia on the other, who doesn’t even acknowledge him. He definitely doesn’t feel as welcome here as he did between his two closest allies days prior.

It feels like he’s left standing there, simmering in the awkward pre-immunity challenge tribe atmosphere for far too long before Peter beckons the game to continue. “Survivor’s ready? Go!”

AJAJM|||||—IDKEVE||||

Later, at camp, Stiles is beginning to concede everyone’s chances at ever winning immunity when Malia strolls past them all wearing the necklace for the third time… in a row! She’s genuinely the only person who has won individual immunity this season, and it’s really starting to grate on Stiles. Today’s challenge predominantly came down to a puzzle. And neither him nor Lydia even stood a chance. People keep getting closer to defeating her, but evidently not close enough.

“Hey, Stiles.” Scott gives him a casual nod. “Want to go grab some water with me?”

Smooth. “Of course,” Stiles grabs up his mostly-full water bottle and follows Scott onto the path into the jungle leading towards the well. He turns back to camp and Derek gives him a subtle wink which makes his heart skip a beat. He’s been spending a lot of time lately being distracted by the other man’s presence. His eyes keep being drawn to his impressive physique, his ears can’t help but zero-in on his voice, and, well, other facets of his body have quite a significant reaction to Derek as well, but he’s decidedly not thinking about that right now with Scott around. “What’s up, Scotty?”

“I’m worried about tonight,” Scott swats a branch out of the way and then holds it away from Stiles courteously.

“Why? Everyone’s wanting to get rid of Danny and Ethan again, right? What have you heard?”

“It’s Kira. She… just doesn’t seem as steady now as she was last tribal.” Stiles sips his water bottle with a frown. “I think she’s scared of going to rocks again.”

“Surely she—”

“But she—”

They both stop.

“No, you go,” Scott encourages.

“Surely she knows we aren’t letting it get that far again, right?”

“I was going to say that she believes we didn’t really mean for things to go that far last tribal, but she doesn’t trust the rivalry between the two alliances not to throw her into the crossfire again.” Scott bores his puppy-dog eyes right into Stiles’ soul. “I don’t want to lose her, too.”

Stiles does some quick counting off in his head. “If we lose Kira, then we just have the three of us. What if Lydia, Parrish and Malia decide to go for us instead of Danny and Ethan tonight?”

“I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about that, too. Without Allison here, Lydia isn’t going to just give us the majority. Maybe if Kira decides to work with them it’ll end up making them more comfortable voting out Danny or Ethan?”

Stiles shakes the flurry of scenarios out of his head. “I can’t keep track of everyone. We’re voting for Ethan tonight again, though?”

“Yeah. I’ll try and talk to Kira. Derek on board with everything, too?”

“Last I checked, yeah. Let’s hope tonight’s tribal is a straightforward one.”

When they have full water bottles, they head back to camp.

Some people aren’t present in the main area, probably off having their own little discussions. Most notable, Danny and Ethan aren’t anywhere in sight. Derek’s head turns from where he’s leaning on a tree. He gives him a smile that makes Stiles’ legs feel weak, and he can’t help but gravitate towards the other man.

“Stiles,” someone slides in front of him, blocking him from advancing on Derek. It takes him a moment to unlock eyes with Derek. “I think you and I need to have a talk,” Lydia states crisply, hooking one of her arms under his and leading him away from camp fluidly. Stiles looks back to see Derek with pouty lips and a frowny face watching after them.

“Sure, of course,” Stiles accepts dramatically, “I consent to this handling. Lead the way.”

She leads them to a part of the beach which is a bit obscured from view by some trees. “Who are you voting for tonight?” She doesn’t ask it as forcefully as he’d expect, her tone matches more of a clinical kind of questioning. Before he can retort, she offers up something of her own. “I’m voting for Danny again.”

“Why?” she shrugs and Stiles sighs, “Fine. But we’re still voting for Ethan.”

“You really want to keep Danny around? What makes him more important to keep here than Allison?”

It feels like a punch to the gut. “Allison wasn’t supposed to go home,” Stiles reminds her, “It was always supposed to be Ethan.”

“They’re both going to have to go eventually, Stiles.”

It sounds ominous. “I guess by that logic, I’m going to have to go eventually, too?”

Her face goes calculatedly neutral. “Maybe.” She looks off over the ocean for a moment before stepping close to him, right into his space. “Whoever goes home tonight, don’t forget that you aren’t stuck working with who you are right now, Stiles. I’m here to help, even if it might be hard for you to believe that.” She steps back out of his space, but Stiles is disoriented by both her words and how amazing she smells despite spending so much time out here on an island with no showers or strawberry-scented shampoo. It’s baffling. And yet, the scent is there. Remarkable. “See you tonight.”

When Stiles makes it back to camp, he beelines for Derek before anyone else can jump out and stop him.

“Aren’t you mister popular,” the other man jests. “Still Ethan tonight, right?”

“Yeah. Lydia’s group are still going for Danny, though. And Scott is worried Kira is going to flip on us. I don’t know what Danny and Ethan are doing, but I haven’t seen them since we got back from the challenge.”

“They’re probably enjoying their last night together. I haven’t seen them even attempt speaking to anyone since last night.”

“There was talk of idols thrown around the other day,” Stiles hovers a bit closer to the other man to see if how he smells. Naturally, Derek smells great, too. Perhaps even greater than Lydia did: Derek smells like the best parts of nature. It must just be Stiles stinking up the island at this point.

“What?” Derek sniffs unsubtly. Perhaps Stiles’ smell is so pungent he can’t even process sentences at such close proximity. Derek’s face isn’t a disgusted one, though. Huh.

“Idols.” Stiles retreats from Derek’s personal space to stand at a more normal, companionable distance, “If they do pull one out, it sounds like the votes are going to be split between them so someone will go home either way.”

“I can’t imagine Ethan giving up his shot for Danny,” Derek states, his dislike and distrust of the man persisting through every facet of the game.

Stiles thinks about the looks they share, though. The way they make googly-eyes at one another unashamedly. It shouldn’t bother Stiles, because tactically it’s a mistake to broadcast a close relationship like that, but he kind of wishes he and Derek could do the same. Of course, it’s obvious to everyone at this point that the two of them are close in an enemies-to-friends sort of way. But there’s a difference in Survivor between being close and being unbreakable, and that difference is characterised by many possible scenarios, not the least of which is forming an intimate, sensual relationship within the game. When he sees Danny and Ethan kiss and hug and spend every moment together, in spite of the game they’re playing, it makes Stiles’ heart lurch a little. This might not be the real world, rather a fabricated game where appearances and deceit are key features, but it’s still a testament to their bravery and devotion that they’re willing to risk so much in order to be who they want to be.

“I’m not sure,” Stiles offers Derek a smile. It’s hard not to have his mind wander to if and when they’ll be able to share affection similarly. He only has to last a week or so more and then… well, then they’ll go from there.

AJAJM|||||—IDKEVE||||

For whatever reason, the atmosphere at tribal council upon entry doesn’t feel as tense or uncertain as it has in previous nights. From the moment they’re all marching up the beach towards the tribal council area, it’s like they all have about the same idea of what’s happening tonight, which is more than can be said most every other night. It’s the easiness of it all that makes Stiles’ tummy feel more uneasy than ever. It’s not because he’s concerned that he’ll somehow end up going home, because for once, he feels like tonight will not be that night for him. It’s the anxiety of potentially sending a friend home. It’s going to happen eventually one way or another, but watching Allison go definitely brought his emotions back into play. He doesn’t want to see that same devastated look on Danny’s face as he leaves the tribal council area.

“Welcome, Pack, to your third tribal council. Take your seats and let’s get started,” Peter winks at Derek in particular then. Stiles can tell because he’s sitting next to him and they’re the end of the row. “Let’s also bring in the members of the jury. Isaac,” the man comes in with a little wave, “and Allison, voted out at the last tribal council.” Allison comes in wearing a pretty dress that Stiles can see makes Scott’s jaw drop. She looks almost happy to just see them all, though, and it makes Stiles feel immeasurably better that there isn’t bitterness or spite written across her features like he’d expected. Maybe they can all make it through this and still be friends after all.

“So, to start with, we’ll talk about the incredible effort Malia put in during today’s immunity challenge.” There’s a smattering of polite claps from everyone, including Stiles. It’s hard not to appreciate her. “That a third individual immunity challenge win in a row, the only player in this series to win individual immunity so far. That’s gotta feel pretty good.”

There’s a pause. Then, “You didn’t ask a question, Peter.” Malia bites, but it’s clear by her tone she isn’t being rude, just jesting. “But yes, it actually does feel good.”

“Moving on, then,” Peter continues. It’s unlikely they’ll ever get a grand speech from Malia at tribal council. She seems to be more sociable back at camp and one-on-one than in large groups. It’s something Stiles can definitely respect. “Danny, Ethan, you both received votes at the previous tribal council two nights ago.”

Yep. Peter definitely has his eyes on easier prey than Malia tonight. He has hardly wasted a moment before laying into them.

Stiles can literally hear the crickets chirping around the council area. Someone coughs. Then, finally, one of them speaks up. It’s Danny. “Yes, Peter,” Stiles sees he and Ethan’s hands interlock, “and I don’t think there’s been much change in attitude at camp since the previous tribal.”

“Oh? So you think there might be votes cast your way again tonight?”

“I think it’s very likely,” Danny acknowledges.

“And Ethan, you’re—”

“I’d just like to say something first,” Ethan cuts in, leaving Peter stammering. “I know I’ve had a complicated relationship with most people that interacted with me or my friends before the merge, but I’d still like to say thank you to all of you for showing me a better way to play. Even if it didn’t necessarily work out like I’d hoped, I’m glad I got to play with all of you.” He lifts up their interlocked hands and kisses the back of Danny’s palm, “Especially you.”

Stiles can see Danny mouth something back, something romantic no-doubt, but it’s lost on his hearing and poor lip-reading skills.

After Ethan’s outburst, the rest of pre-voting discussion passes inconsequentially. There’s no point beating around the bush because, unless Stiles has grossly misread the situation and is about to get completely blindsided, they all know what’s about to happen: and it’s going to end in either Danny or Ethan going home.

“I think that it is time to vote. Parrish, you’re up.”

When Stiles gets called up, he writes ‘Ethan’ on his parchment, and even though he and the other man were never close, it still tolls on him. “I’m glad we got to be a part of taking out Jennifer together, but I don’t see us going forward together anymore.”

“I’ll go count the votes,” Peter says, then returns a few moments later with the urn. “If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

There are a few shifty looks about. Lydia looks directly at Danny and Ethan expectantly, and then they unclasp their joined hands and reveal a very subtle but ornate necklace which was hidden in their shared grip. They stare at one another for a moment after revealing it. There’s some kind of silent debate happening, and neither one of them wants to back down. Finally, a single tear rolls down Danny’s cheek which Ethan kisses away. He takes the idol from their joined hands and hands it off to Peter. “I’d like to play it for Danny,” Ethan assures, but his eyes don’t leave Danny’s as Peter inspects it.

“This… is a hidden immunity idol. The rules of Survivor state that any votes cast for Danny will not count.”

Peter’s voice seems to be the last consideration of any of theirs, though. The moment is far larger than just any normal tribal council.

“Once the votes are read, the decision is final and the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately.” Peter’s voice picks up volume as he realises none of them are really paying attention for once. “I’ll read the votes,” he quickly grabs one and reads it out, not wasting time for dramatic flair now that there isn’t any anxiety for him to nurture into a panic. “First vote… Danny, does not count.”

Danny leans forward and kisses Ethan and Stiles feels so uncomfortable that they’re all just sitting there watching the consequences of their actions unfold, but he also can’t look away. They certainly aren’t ashamed, aren’t hurt, so why should any of them be.

“Second vote… Danny, does not count. Third vote… Danny, does not count. Fourth vote… Danny, does not count. That’s zero votes for anyone, six votes left.” Peter keeps cycling through parchment. “Fifth vote… Ethan. Sixth vote… Ethan. Seventh vote…” Peter pauses then and eyes them all, “Parrish.” He turns around a piece of paper that actually reads ‘Jordan’. It grabs all of their attention, although Stiles doesn’t recognise the writing as Scott’s, and he trusts Derek and him to have stuck to the original plan. “Eighth vote… Parrish. That’s two votes Ethan, two votes Parrish, one vote left.” Stiles can’t help but smile a bit that, if that was Danny and Ethan’s votes, that they ended up voting against the other alliance with their votes anyway. Peter plucks the final piece of parchment and reads it as he turns it around for them all to read, “Ninth and final vote, and the twelfth person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters and the third member of our jury is Ethan. That’s three votes, Ethan, and tonight, that’s enough. You need to bring me your torch.”

Everyone stands to give Ethan some varying degree of farewell, be it a handshake or a hug. The goodbyes are all perfunctory, with some obvious lingering embraces between he and Danny, but then finally he brings himself up to Peter with his torch. “Thanks guys,” he turns to give them all a smile, eyes watery. “I’m ready.”

“Ethan, the tribe has spoken.” Just like that, the flame gets covered and then it’s gone. Smoke wisps out in its absence, ash clatters to the ground.

“Good luck to all of you, and no hard feelings,” Ethan assures them, blowing a final kiss at Danny as he walks off into the shadows.

“Well tonight was definitely a different experience for many of you compared to previous nights. Feelings… love… can definitely complicate the game of survival.” Again, it’s like Peter is eying Derek off, “Sometimes love hurts. Grab your torches and head back to camp. Good night.”

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I think I learned a lot of things, but the most important thing I learned is to trust your heart above all else. I think a defining moment in the game for me was when I flipped on Kali to work with Danny, and the only thing that drove me in that moment was my heart, not my brain. This experience has really changed how I consider some people; people who I would normally probably not associated myself with.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I guess I wish I’d had my epiphany about playing the game with my heart earlier. It might have meant I didn’t go into the second half of the game with a stain to my name thanks to my old alliance’s brash tactics.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I think Danny has a good chance at becoming the Sole Survivor. He’s only recently started to be recognised as a threat, which is testament to his subtle gameplay when he was the person behind moves like Erica’s elimination and my flip on Kali. Yeah, if Danny makes it to the end, I’m going to make quite a speech in favour of his case. I just hope he can fly under the radar for a bit.”

Chapter Text

On the walk back from tribal council, Stiles notices that nobody seems completely willing to walk next to Danny. The atmosphere is awkward, silent and tense, like getting caught gossiping behind somebody’s back. Even though they all saw this vote coming, especially the two of them, he’s still pretty blatantly hurt by it.

When it becomes apparent that nobody else is going to do it, Stiles takes a step towards Danny to maybe try to recover at least a little bit of their prior relationship.

It’s as he takes that step that Lydia pushes past him to be that person instead.

She pats him gently on the back while saying… something. Stiles turns to Derek, who is walking alongside him, and sees the man squinting up at the pair of them.

“Everything okay?” Stiles asks, and Derek’s attention returns to him. “You’re a bit spacey.”

“I’m just thinking about where we’re going to go from here,” Derek admits, bumping shoulders with him as they walk. “With that pair split up, I don’t know who’ll be the next big target. If it won’t be…” he trails off, “I just don’t know.”

Stiles looks around at the eight of them. Eight. That’s all that’s left of the twenty people that started this game. Stiles has made it to the final eight. He’s still standing beside all these strong competitors.

Scott and Kira hang towards the back, pace unhurried, and Stiles imagines for a moment those two being the next big targets. It doesn’t seem likely, though, because they’re both generally liked by enough people, regardless of who they vote for, that they probably won’t be the primary targets in anyone’s mind. And they aren’t a power couple in the same way that Danny and Ethan were.

Parrish walks along with Malia in complete silence, the two of them having a mutual understanding and respect for quiet. Assuming Malia ever loses an immunity challenge, Stiles could see her going home. Parrish, likewise, is someone Stiles could see going home if they could muster enough numbers against Lydia, but while she has majority they seem to be protecting one another.

Speaking of the devil, Danny and Lydia appear to be getting chummier by the second. Danny doesn’t hold the same threat he did when Ethan was present because he no longer represents two votes, so Stiles can’t seem them targeting him so soon. He’s still definitely a threat to win, but at this point, they all are. Lydia is someone they all recognise as a threat, especially her allies, however Stiles doesn’t think she’ll go home at the next tribal council. She has too many avenues open to her; not to mention her unmatched ambition. Stiles feels like if he so much as considered voting for her, that he’d have some kind of unfortunate accident removing him from the game. That might be a red flag to try and take her out, but Stiles… isn’t ready for that. He may never be ready for it.

That just leaves himself and Derek. He feels like he has a relatively companionable relationship with everyone. People still talk to him even if he isn’t in their alliances. People’s opinions of Derek have also improved since the merge. Apparently, he really wasn’t joking the other day about Stiles ‘humanising’ him. Stiles can’t read minds, but he doesn’t think anyone present holds a particularly brutal grudge against him or Derek. His true fear is that he’ll end up being a ‘safe vote’ in someone else’s plans.

“I don’t know either,” Stiles answers uneasily. “Let’s just hope we both stick around for the next couple days.”

“I won’t let you go anywhere,” Derek grabs him around the shoulders—awkwardly due to their similar heights—and gives him a gentle squeeze that makes Stiles’ heart beat in double time.

How it is that nobody has called them out on their physical affection is a true mystery to Stiles. Either everyone in the game is remarkably polite or remarkably ignorant. Even after the fleeting embrace ends, Stiles just wants to tackle the other man to the ground and hold him tight. Maybe Stiles could try picking up Derek and running away with him. Or maybe he could jump into Derek’s arms—the other man definitely looks strong enough to hold his weight. All those muscles. Or maybe—

“Stiles?” Derek interrupts his quickly derailing train of thought. He hadn’t even noticed but he was gravitating dangerously invasively into Derek’s personal space. He can’t help it that the other man smells so good it sends him into a trance. “You oka—”

“You smell really good,” Stiles accidentally talks over him in the same moment, speaking shamelessly. Derek scrunches his face up weirdly at the comment and Stiles quickly rambles on to defend himself. “Yeah, I know we’re all gross or whatever but you do smell good. All… I dunno, spicy. But in a good way.”

Stiles halts as he gets grabbed roughly.

“What the—?” Derek takes a deep, exaggerated inhale of Stiles’ hair, bringing them to a stop and wow Derek smells even better up close like this, with all those muscles right there for him. He could just stick his tongue out and—

“You smell like…” Derek releases him after getting what had to be a good sniff of his head and neck. He seems to ponder it a moment before saying simply, “water.”

“I mean that’s better than saying I stink so thanks, big guy,” Stiles resumes their pace back to camp and Derek quickly falls back into rhythm beside him.

The cool night air blankets around them as the lull in conversation stretches.

“It’s nice,” Derek continues.

“Huh?”

“Your scent.” Derek scratches nervously at the back of his neck. Stiles only meant the scent comment as a passing comment but apparently Derek’s more invested in it than he realised and it’s becoming a whole conversation. “It’s… different to the others.”

“You’ve been smelling the others?” Stiles gives him a quizzical look and Derek looks oddly trapped for a moment before explaining himself. Huh. They’ve all shared a bit more personal and hygienic information with one another than is normal, that’s a part of being out here, but Derek didn’t have to be so weird about it.

“Yours is just like… something I never knew I liked—a combination I wasn’t even aware of—but now that I’ve had a hit of it I never want to stop, just get more of it.” Derek looks sheepish as he explains it but Stiles isn’t too fazed. It sounds like a compliment, albeit a weird one, and it’s also stoking that heat in his belly that grows when Derek’s voice goes deep and intimate like this.

“I’m always here for you if you need a hit,” he winks at the other man, although it’s questionable if Derek caught it in the true darkness along the strip of beach leading up to camp.

“I’m here for you, too.”

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

“Survivors, welcome to today’s individual immunity challenge!” Peter booms excitedly at them all as they walk up the sandy beach together. It’s a scorcher of a day and Stiles swears the bright sun on his pale skin is reflecting back into his eyes because even when squinting his eyes ache from the light.

Sweat constantly drips down all of their faces in the heat out here, but today is something else entirely. Stiles swears he could faint before the challenge has even begun.

“It’s a hot day today, and the crew is well aware of that, so rest assured medical is on hand and on high alert if necessary.” It was surprisingly decent of Peter to reassure everyone like that, although he was probably told to say that legally as part of some risk assessment. “Before we get into today’s challenge, I’ll have to take back the individual immunity necklace from our undefeated champion, Malia.”

Malia obliges him today, not even making him work for it, just removes the necklace and passes it over in as few steps as she can. She looks worn down today—they all do—but Stiles hasn’t had the opportunity to see her like this yet. It’s a reminder that no matter how strong they all are, they’re still human. They’re all just like him.

“Today you will be playing for individual immunity—the chance to be safe at tomorrow night’s tribal council and guaranteed a place in the final seven people in this game.” Peter pauses. “And if that isn’t enough, you will also be playing for a reward.” He looks like he’s up to some mischief going by the expression on his face. “The first person to win will be given an afternoon’s respite from the heat and weather and chaos of the game—you will be taken by boat to a resort not far from the island. Air-conditioning. Showers. Ice cream. Everything you could want on a day like today.” As he describes the reward Stiles can’t help but groan at the thought of it. If he had the opportunity, he would slather himself head to toe in ice cream right now. Maybe he’d let Derek lick it off of him, or he could slather Derek in ice cream and just run his tongue all over—

“Please let this be my day,” Parrish moans, needy, “please.”

“But getting to today’s challenge,” Peter continues, letting the talk of reward and safety and ice cream go in favour of talking about suffering. “Today’s challenge will be completed in three separate stages. In stage one you will test your memory. Starting on one side of a balance beam you will memorise a series of symbols and then race across the beam to set them into a wooden combination lock releasing several sandbags. If you fall from the beam, you go back to the start. If you get your combination wrong, you go back to the start. The first four survivors to successfully release their sandbags will move onto stage two. In stage two, you will use the sandbags released to knock a number of blocks off of a platform. The first two survivors to knock all of their blocks off of the platform will move onto the final stage. In stage three, the two remaining survivors will use the blocks they knocked off of the platform to complete a 3D puzzle. First person to complete the puzzle wins immunity and reward, guaranteed a refreshing afternoon and a one in seven shot at winning this game. Worth playing for?”

“Yes!” everyone shouts, enthusiasm for the ice cream as much as the concept of immunity in the game. Parrish in particular appears almost ravenous.

“Then let’s get started. Draw for spots and take your positions for stage one.”

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

“Survivor’s ready? Go!” Peter roars at them and Stiles reveals the covered symbols he has to memorise. There’s a torch, a mask, a wave, a wolf, a bow and arrow, a coconut, a mask, wolf, palm tree—god there’s some double ups. People are already beginning to race across the beam to plug them in.

He reviews the ten-digit long string of symbols five times in his head before he even turns to cross the beam. He can see everyone else except for Kira are already crossing. He’s probably not as coordinated as everyone else so he just has to hope his memory serves him better than theirs serve them.

Peter’s voice manages to creep into his ears even though he’s focussing hard on remembering the sequence. “Parrish is first to the combination lock but he has the wrong sequence, he has to go back and check it again!” Stiles’ eyes drift unintentionally over to Derek’s sweaty, perfect body as he completes the beam. The other man glances quickly at him with a smirk and Stiles stumbles and falls. Crap. “Stiles falls while he’s crossing—Lydia manages to release hers! Malia releases hers! There are only two spots left!”

Stiles bails on caution entirely as he skips across the beam this time.

“Scott, Danny and Derek are trying to unlock theirs now. How good are their memories? Wow! Stiles is flying across the beam now. Everyone is still in this!”

He manages to cross the beam through some remarkable feet of acrobatics, but the lock is far more obnoxious than Stiles could have ever imagined as it barely rotates even with all his strength. How the hell did Lydia do it so quickly?

“Derek has released his! Scott and Danny have the wrong combination. There’s an opening here for Stiles if he can—” once the first few symbols get plugged in, the mechanism seems to give more when he pulls and just like that, he releases his. He did it. “Stiles releases his! Going forward in to round two we have Lydia, Malia, Derek and Stiles. Scott, Kira, Parrish, Danny, take a seat to the side. Take your positions for round two.”

While the first round is at least a battle, the second round is a complete slaughter led by Malia and Derek. Stiles doesn’t manage to knock a single block off of his platform. Lydia, exhausted by the heat, doesn’t fair much better and seems quite upset by it. Malia finishes first but it’s only by a few seconds. On the plus side, Stiles gets to see a lot of Derek’s upper body strength at work. He’s such a strong man. Stiles has to wonder what the dynamic will be when they—well, if they—

“Bang! Just like that, we’re down to Derek and Malia playing off for immunity in a puzzle challenge. Stiles and Lydia, join the others.”

“Lucky for them, we would have destroyed them both if it came down to a puzzle,” Lydia snarks, still upset about her… upper body strength? Stiles isn’t sure what it is. Maybe it’s the heat, but she looks more murderous than usual.

Before Stiles can ponder the thought too much, they’re into the final round. “Go!”

Malia starts placing pieces the moment the challenge is afoot. From where they’re sitting, they can see that it’s some kind of upright spiral. In order to place most of the pieces, you need to have the one that goes below it so that it has something to be built off of.

Derek looks like he’s hilariously far behind, but after fifteen minutes, neither of them has completed it and Malia has stopped placing pieces. She looks baffled.

“Come on, Derek,” Stiles mumbles, ensuring nobody can hear him, especially those in Lydia and Malia’s alliance. “I really want to see you wearing that necklace.”

“We’ve been going for over fifteen minutes now. The sun is high in the sky now and you’ve both come far to be here—but only one of you can be safe at tonight’s tribal council.”

Derek visibly has an epiphany. Stiles is surprised an exclamation point doesn’t appear above his head. “Yes, Derek,” Stiles encourages silently as he removes some pieces in order to start from a different angle. Just like that, he starts placing one after the other and another and another—

“Derek is making some progress now! This is a hard puzzle. Oh,” Malia shamelessly ogles Derek’s new strategy and begins following suit, rotating her spiral so a different part forms the base, “Malia is now copying Derek. I guess that’s okay. This is going to come down to the wire.”

“Peter!” Malia booms, throwing her hands up.

“Malia thinks she has it—” Peter rushes over to check it over.

Stiles feels something touch his leg and sees Scott is so excited he’s got a hand on Stiles’. Stiles taps him back to let him know it’s fine.

“She doesn’t! This challenge is still on!”

“Fuck!” Malia shouts, looking like she’s a minute away from being turned into an animal by the heat and stress.

“Peter!” Derek shouts, “Peter!”

“Derek thinks he has it—” Peter takes a look at it. Derek’s completed the spiral, but there is a missing piece which he hasn’t put in yet—some sort of wooden trinity-spiral. Stiles thinks he can remember seeing it somewhere in his books at school but he can’t remember what it means. Did the puzzle intentionally have a piece which did not fit into it? “He does! Derek wins individual immunity!”

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

“Congratulations, Derek,” Peter places the necklace on him and Derek recoils a bit at the design and the flowers, but he looks satisfied nonetheless to be wearing it. Stiles just wishes he could make his ice-cream fantasy a reality. Maybe Derek can smuggle some out for him. “Enjoy your afternoon away from the heat with the knowledge that you aren’t going anywhere tonight.” A beat. “But wait, what’s the joy in a reward like this if you can’t share it with someone special?” Peter snickers while Derek looks a mix of hopeful and murderous. “You can choose one person to—”

“Stiles,” Derek interrupts before Peter can even finish. He’s already marching towards Stiles as if to tow him personally and Stiles is struck speechless enough that he just goes along with it.

“Thank you so much, Derek,” Stiles says for propriety and gives a guilty look to the remainder of the tribe.

“In the case Derek and Stiles, enjoy your afternoon,” Peter chuckles in a way that makes Stiles uncomfortable. “For everyone else, I don’t have anything for you. Head back to camp and prepare for tribal council. I’ll see you all tonight.” As the others start to leave, Peter tacks on, “Derek and Stiles will still be back at camp a few hours before tribal council.” Then, just for them, “I hope you both have a fun afternoon.”

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

“What a weirdo,” Stiles comments as they’re being transported to the resort which they’re to spend a few hours relaxing in.

Derek hasn’t said a word since declaring Stiles his plus one, all of Stiles’ attempts at conversation falling on apparently deaf ears. He has to wonder if he did something wrong. Maybe now that Derek is safe at tribal council, he’s feeling uncertain about… them? Okay, now it’s just Stiles’ anxiety talking. But without Derek filling the silence, someone has to, and if it isn’t Stiles’ external rambling then it’s his internal rambling and that’s just self-destructive.

“Yeah, he is,” Derek acknowledges too-long after the comment was made for it to be natural. Still, it’s the first thing he’s said in a while.

“Are you okay?”

He doesn’t get a response.

He also doesn’t get a response when they’re eating an inordinate amount of ice cream—Stiles vanilla, Derek ack bacon. Bacon-flavoured ice cream. Even Stiles’ constant complaining about Derek’s choice and why it’s even a choice available to them garners no response.

He doesn’t get a response when they’re sitting in air-conditioning with the cameras on them waiting for—well, something. The camera people are visibly getting bored now, too. Stiles is too trapped in his own head by this point to even attempt to give them something they want to see. When this makes it to the TV they’ll probably cut immediately from the challenge to whatever’s happening back at camp because Derek is being as uninteresting as possible at the moment.

He doesn’t even get a response when they’re showering in side-by-side stalls and Stiles sings every wolf-related song he can think of. He just keeps thinking—did he do something wrong? All Stiles did was compete in a challenge and lose. Why would Derek choose to bring him on this reward with him if he planned to just be mute the entire time?

He rounds off the last note of his ballad and shuts off the shower with a sigh.

Derek is standing in the doorway.

Naked.

It’s a shower, why wouldn’t he be naked?

Stiles’ eyes are locked irremovably to the manifestation of Derek’s excitement pointing right at him.

Does this count as a response?

“Don’t say anything too loudly,” Derek whispers, looking serious despite the fact that his erection is bobbing accusingly in Stiles’ direction. Hah, d-ERECTION. “The cameras finally got bored enough to give us some actual time alone.”

“What?”

“Is it okay if I…?” Derek trails off as he steps into Stiles’ stall, arms outstretched and open like he’s ready to give Stiles a big ol’ naked hug.

“I’m naked,” Stiles realises out loud when he manages to process the situation further. He tries feebly for a moment to cover himself—he’s nothing compared to Derek.

Derek stops advancing. They’re just two naked, horny men, chilling in one shower stall after a romantic afternoon of eating ice cream.

Dear god were they just on a date? What’s Derek expecting here?

“Stiles, what’s going on?” Derek whispers urgently, “Are you okay?”

“Derek what do you want from me?” Stiles asks, sounding more emotional than he intends.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean what do you,” he gestures majorly at every part of his ridiculous, perfect naked body, “want with me,” he repeats the gesture but this time at his own ridiculous-in-a-different-way, imperfect naked body. “Is this something to do with the game?”

“Stiles, I want you,” Derek assures, copying Stiles’ gesture with a smile. “You are so, so gorgeous. And as for what I want with you, I want to spend quality time with you. Is that so bad?”

“But you’re naked and we’re here and this is probably going to be the best opportunity in ages for us to actually do anything and—”

“Stiles, calm down. If this is how you respond to seeing me naked then you’re going to lose it the first time I touch you.”

“That’s what I’m talking about I just—”

Derek finishes advancing on him then and Stiles is already going through the stages of panic and decision in his head when instead of instigating anything sexual, Derek encourages him to sit down on the tile. “Let’s just sit.”

He obliges, but then things are just as bad because they’re sitting side-by-side in a shower together and it feels like he’s closer to Derek’s dick than ever and he kind of wants to touch it but he’s freaking out.

“I can’t believe you ate vanilla ice cream,” Derek comments, bumping his shoulder into Stiles’ to get his attention.

“Excuse me?” Stiles takes offence.

“I wanted to talk to you about it earlier. They offered pretty much every flavour I’ve ever heard of and then some—and you got vanilla.”

“Well you won’t catch me asking for bacon ice cream. Bacon ice cream! Bacon ice cream!”

“Shh!” Derek reminds with a stifled laugh, “Remember we have to be quiet.” Stiles nods. “And to be fair the bacon ice cream was a complete miss, but at least I tried something different. You’re so vanilla.”

“I am not vanilla, thank you very much,” Stiles defends, “I am into all kinds of crazy and interesting things.”

“Oh really?” Derek inquires, “And what would they be, hm?”

“I like… Oreos.”

Derek scoffs, poking him in the side, “That’s just more vanilla between two biscuits.”

“Fine, I have a basic taste when it comes to comfort food,” Stiles concedes, “I’m a sucker for some curly fries.”

“Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love vanilla,” if Stiles just looks into Derek’s eyes it’s like they aren’t both naked, in a resort, on a TV show. Luckily, Derek’s eyes are mesmerising enough he can make it work. “But I think sometimes it’s fun to try something fun and unexpected and… new.” Derek’s eyes dart down for a second to Stiles’ blatant erection which he’s been trying to not draw attention to. “In the challenge today, I could feel your eyes on me the entire time. Even when you were competing too.” Stiles shrugs, embarrassed that Derek picked up on what he was very obviously putting down. “It made me feel so… powerful. It means a lot to me that I have you in my corner, Stiles. I hope in time you come to understand that I am in yours, too. We’re in this together, for as long as you want us to be.”

Stiles scoffs, “I think you mean for as long as you want us to be. I won’t be changing my mind.”

Derek hums at that, looking like there’s something more he isn’t telling Stiles. “I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”

“Are you alright?” Stiles asks, wishing he could read minds just so he could figure out exactly what Derek is thinking.

“Do you think I could kiss you again?”

And there it is. The energy charging the air between them. They haven’t kissed since the aborted peck Derek gave him days ago, and Stiles has been holding out for the real thing ever since. The thought of Derek touching him isn’t sending him into a panic now—now it’s sending him into… something else. He feels hungry for everything Derek can give him.

“It’s okay if you want to wait—I could tell you were freaking out just before. I have nothing but patience for you, Stiles. If it helps, all I want to do today is kiss you.” Derek looks about as conflicted about that as Stiles feels, but their respective hard-ons will just have to wait a bit longer.

“Okay,” he agrees, “let’s do it.”

For a moment, neither of them makes an action, just staring into one another’s eyes. Then, Derek slowly inches his head in and in until they’re breathing the same air and Stiles can feel the warmth of Derek’s body right there and—

It’s perfect.

Except Derek tastes like bacon.

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

When they get back to camp, Stiles feels like he can’t rub the gleeful smile off of his face. He feels such a surge of happiness and warmth in his chest every time his mind strays to their kiss, or their conversation, or Derek in general.

But the game is still happening, and the frantic scrambling back at camp is a sobering reminder of that fact. He ends up getting caught in a conversation with Scott about how the plan is to get Parrish out tonight with Kira, Danny, Derek and the two of them. His tactical reasoning was that Parrish counted as a second vote on Lydia’s side.

Stiles considered for a moment the possibility of having tonight be the night they eliminated a bigger threat like Lydia herself.

As the thought crossed him, Stiles noticed in the distance that Derek was… talking. With people. People other than Stiles. It was almost unprecedented.

Not only that, but Danny and Lydia were the ones talking to him. Danny as in the Danny that was supposed to be voting on their side tonight, not Lydia’s.

“What do you think about that, Scott?” Stiles indicates the distant conversation.

The other man shrugs though, “Even if Danny does flip it’ll only be a tie, and I don’t think Lydia will make the same mistake when it comes to drawing rocks again.” Stiles gives his friend a sympathetic look at that. They haven’t really spoken about it, but the whole Allison kerfuffle had really left Scott worse for wear.

“I guess you’re right,” Stiles acknowledges, but something still sits wrong with him as he watches Derek interacting with the two of them. Is he feeling… jealous? It wouldn’t really make logical sense to get jealous watching Derek speaking with other people in a social game—hell, Stiles has encouraged it thus far for the antisocial man—but his feelings stand the same regardless.

“I’ll talk to Danny when he’s free to really drive the point home.”

Stiles frowns and tries to regain the pleasant warmth and excitement that was dominating his emotions not long ago but to no avail. There’s a chance that amazing afternoon could be the last one the pair of them celebrate.

Derek might be safe tonight, but Stiles is not.

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

“So, Malia, today you lost individual immunity for the first time,” Peter pretends to be baffled. “You must be feeling totally different tonight without that necklace.”

“What’s your question, Peter?” Malia snarks, unbothered.

“No question, just observation. Stiles,” Peter moves on to easier prey, “at this point in the game, it is generally pretty obvious who the threats are and who… isn’t as threatening. Which category do you think you fall into?”

Stiles feels like he should feel offended, given that it seems Peter’s insinuating that he falls into the latter category, but he’s amused more than anything. “Um, Peter, this is the final eight. And even if it weren’t, I don’t think anybody here from the very beginning was harmless.”

“But surely you see some people sitting here as bigger threats than others. Think of the jury: Isaac, Allison, Ethan. Do you think they’re more likely to vote for someone who was part of the reason they’re sitting over there, or do you think they’re more likely to vote someone in particular sitting among you to be the victor?”

“I’ll be sure to ask them in a couple days,” Stiles teases and Isaac gives him a subtle thumbs up for digging at Peter. It’s nice that they can still all be on the one side even though they’re in competition.

“I think we can all agree that there are some people here that already have a strong chance of winning if they make it to the end,” Kira comments, be uncharacteristically bold.

“Oh really?” Peter seems glad to have someone thrown him some bait, teeth showing in his smile, “And who would they be?”

“Scott, Lydia, Malia, Stiles.”

“Hold on, Stiles?” Stiles asks, surprised to hear his own name.

“They’ve been the ones in charge mostly since Allison left.”

Stiles gives Scott a pleading look—trying to convey how much he wishes Kira’s outburst here was some secret plan of his. Stiles hadn’t even considered the possibility of Kira flipping—too worried about Danny’s vote. If they both flip that’s their majority lost with only Scott and Stiles available on the outs and—oh damn.

Without even realising it, Stiles may have made himself a threat.

Was he actually a threat?

Maybe he hadn’t been giving himself enough credit.

“With that, it is time to vote. Parrish, you’re up.”

AJAJM|||||—EIDKEVE|||

“If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.” Unlike the previous tribal council, tonight, there is no idol, nor is there any expectation of one. “Once the votes are read, the decision is final and the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes,” the piece of paper he reveals is Stiles’. “First vote… Parrish. Second vote… Stiles.” And there it is. Never before has the sound of his name felt like such a punch in the gut as it does tonight. After he only just got to share a sexy naked kiss with Derek, too! Damnit! “Third vote… Parrish. Fourth vote… Stiles.”

Stiles and Scott must both be able to recognise Kira’s script because Scott’s anger is palpable next to him. Derek’s been very quiet the entire tribal, which isn’t unheard of, but it adds to the finality of it all. His hand inches over so theirs fingers can barely twine together.

“We’re tied. Two votes Parrish, two votes Stiles. Fifth vote… Malia.”

Stiles prides himself on being able to pick most people’s writing now, but just like that, he wishes he was oblivious. Because Derek was also one of the ones who flipped. His Derek, who had just declared that they were in it together. Apparently not together enough to tell Stiles he changed who he was voting for. He untangles his fingers from Derek’s and just listens.

“Sixth vote… Malia. Seventh vote… Malia.” Peter reveals the final piece of parchment, “Eight vote, and the thirteenth person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters and the fourth member of our jury is Malia. That’s four votes, that’s enough. You need to bring me your torch.”

“Wow,” Malia looks stunned. She addresses a rude gesture directly at Lydia. “Can’t believe you, but I’m impressed at the same time. Good luck dealing with them without me. I guess if you can do that you deserve to win.” She then addresses everyone else, “I’ll see you guys next time.”

As she takes her torch to Peter to get snuffed, Lydia addresses her. “If we didn’t get you tonight, we wouldn’t have had another chance.”

Malia gives her a smug grin. “Probably.”

“Malia, you were a great competitor, but tonight the tribe has spoken.”

“Well played guys. I better see some more of you wearing that necklace in the future though. It’s kind of boring otherwise.” She gives a wink to the Pack and then disappears into the night.

“I think tonight was a wake-up call to some of you that in this game, a moment of vulnerability can be all it takes for you to be sent home. Grab your torches and head back to camp. Good night.”

MAJAJM||||—EIDKEVE|||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“In my time on Survivor this season I learned that I can kick ass in all kinds of different ways, but that doing so apparently gets me a bit of a target on my back. I could kind of tell Lydia had her eye on me since the Allison vote so figures it was just a matter of waiting til I lost an immunity challenge to take me out. Good on her for following through.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“I feel like I might have been more successful, survived longer, whatever, if I hadn’t been so competitive. Being the sole winner of individual immunity for so many tribal councils in a row put me on everyone’s radars. Despite that, I don’t think I would play differently if I could go back and change it all. It was how I wanted to play and I did it well.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“If I had my pick of who I would want Sole Survivor to be based on the tribe right now, I would probably say Lydia. Allison and myself may have been strong when it came to challenges, but Lydia was consistently the reason the three of us stayed in the game as long as we did. I think she has a great chance of winning if she makes it to the end.”

Chapter Text

“Stiles,” Derek tries, for about the hundredth time since they’ve been back at camp, to capture his attention. Stiles is still to raw, too shocked, to accept what has happened, though. He didn’t realise it, but Derek had become the person he trusted most out here—even more than Scott—and to have that certainty of action broken by the other man was just… too much. “Stiles, please,” there’s urgency in Derek’s tone, a whine underneath.

He knows logically he should listen to what Derek has to say. Malia went home tonight so it isn’t like Derek truly betrayed him or their alliance, but the fact that he didn’t at least give Stiles a heads up hurts him deeply. If the plan had changed, they could have talked it through.

He can’t even speak to Scott about it currently because Scott is going through the same conversation with Kira somewhere further down on the beach, although at least theirs has two sides. Stiles hasn’t managed to utter a single word yet. It seems like tonight the only happy couple is going to be Lydia and Parrish because boy did they outplay the rest of them.

“I had to do it,” Derek says, and Stiles doesn’t understand how he thinks changing the plan and then actively not telling Stiles about it can lead to them continuing to have a functional in-game relationship. Not to mention their actual relationship which is feeling flimsier and flimsier the more Stiles thinks about it. It was probably naïve of him to believe it wouldn’t be tested like this, but he’s just so… so hurt. “They were going to vote you out.”

“I don’t care,” is what comes out of Stiles’ mouth and wow is that a revelation? When did the necessity of the prize money for his father become a secondary focus?

“What?” Derek looks as shocked as Stiles feels by his own words. “You don’t want to stay out here?”

“Of course. I do, but c’mon. Newsflash, Derek: I’m not upset about the game right now.” There are cameras on them. He should be more reserved, more subtle. They should both be.

Derek grabs handfuls of his shirt and holds on like he’s afraid Stiles is going to get washed away by the waves if he lets go. “I had to protect you,” Derek sounds desperate, and the moonlight is caught in his eyes making them shine with emotion. “I didn’t want to lie to you but they had the majority so I had to.”

“You just had to tell me,” Stiles emphasises, “Just a word, or a signal, anything in any of the many conversations we had yesterday to let me know what was going on—to let me know it was going to be okay.” Maybe he is upset about the game, too. “Derek, for a moment tonight I was convinced I was the one going home. I thought I was going to have to leave you, and that hurt because it meant people had lied to Scott and I. But that didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as the moment I saw you were one of them too.” As he talks through it, he can feel his frustration beginning to ebb. Derek releases his death grip on Stiles’ shirt and lets his hands rest flat on Stiles’ chest instead. “You said we were in this together,” Stiles sighs, “those were your words.”

“We are,” Derek assures him, looking imploringly up into his eyes. For such a powerfully built man, Derek looks so small right now. “We are, Stiles. I’d do what I did tonight a thousand times to keep us together for a few days more. I wasn’t going to risk Lydia turning the vote towards you by opening my mouth about it. I care for you so much, Stiles and… it’s important to me that you see the end of this game.” Derek gives him a hesitant smile and smooths his hands down Stiles’ chest to rest at his sides in a very intimate hold. “I’m not sorry for what I did tonight, but I can promise to tell you about every conversation I have from here on out in the game.”

“I’m still not happy about being lied to,” Stiles can’t help but return Derek’s smile, “I think I’m owed a secret.”

Derek’s smile turns upside down. “A secret?”

“Yes. A secret.” Stiles repeats. “I’d prefer if it were a big one, too.”

“What kind of secrets would you classify as big?” Derek’s eyes look distant as he seeks clarification.

“Something that, if I knew about it, it might change my opinion of you,” Stiles replies, cheekily, already backing away from Derek and towards the water for the privacy that it offers. The camera crew are used to it enough from when people want to have personal conversations that they stop filming anyway. As the cold ocean water laps against his feet, Stiles looks out at how the moon reflects over the sea and appreciates how beautiful it is.

“Stiles, I’m not sure what you want to hear,” Derek looks awkward and Stiles can just tell there’s a big secret parading around his mind right now that he can’t bring himself to say aloud. He hopes that one day he’ll be able to hear it.

“Fine, just a small secret then,” Stiles acquiesces. He thinks he’s still mad at Derek for lying to him, but he’s choosing to let it go for now. At the end of the day, his intentions were good. “And to give you an idea of what a small secret is, I’ll give you one too.” He thinks for about half a second, ponders his father and unloading all of that on Derek before thinking the better of it. “I will normally wear two pairs of underwear at a time.”

Derek looks down at Stiles’ shorts with scrutiny, like he’s trying to figure out if he’s wearing more than one pair right now.

“I’m not wearing any right now, if you must know,” Stiles admits and Derek immediately averts his eyes like he’s worried he might accidentally see something pop out now that he knows that. “I wear none to tribal and generally since being here have worn one but in the outside world my crotch is usually heavily padded. Now c’mon, give me something.”

“Okay,” Derek sounds nervous, and given his aversion to secret-telling Stiles figures he’s used to keeping things strictly to himself. “One day in grade six I had no clean underwear and I was in a rush, so I wore my sister’s underwear to school.”

Silence.

“Oh my god!” Stiles bursts out laughing, stomping in the shallow water in his hysterics. “I think I need to hear all of your secrets now if they’re all that precious. Wow. Did you just hear my say underwear and assume we were sticking to a theme? Were they comfortable? Frilly?”

“Stiles,” Derek sounds and looks strained in the moonlight.

“Fine. You know I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, though. Although I can’t imagine it as being particularly comfortable for your little, uh…” okay, now he’s the one that must look strained because now he’s gesturing at and talking about Derek’s… well, “soldier down there.”

“I’m sorry, did you say little?” Derek gasps in mock-offence. “Perhaps you didn’t get a good enough look in the shower.” Stiles blushes hard. “How about this for another secret: you are the fourth person I have ever kissed.” Stiles gives Derek an appropriate look of surprise at that. You’d think a man with classically handsome looks like Derek would have kissed far more people. “Romantically, that is,” he clarifies, “and the first man, too.”

Derek looks embarrassed by the fact, but Stiles could care less if Derek had kissed a hundred or zero people before him. It only mattered that they were together now. “You’re the second person I’ve ever kissed,” Stiles admitted. He thinks of Heather and their young energy and excitement at what they were doing. He’s glad he had the maturity to save himself from doing anything further, something he’d regret, although he can’t help but wish he had some experience to draw on now that he had Derek. He doesn’t want to embarrass himself. “The first man for me as well.”

Derek hums in appreciation and Stiles thinks he looks smug that Stiles hasn’t kissed any other men. “First and last,” Derek points out with hope in his tone.

“First and last,” Stiles agrees. “Do you want to tell me about the other three or is it not the time?”

Derek sighs and sits himself down in the shallow water. Stiles follows suit, submerging himself up to just below his belly button even with the gentle waves. “First, there was Paige…”

Paige was a girl who went to school with Derek. She was shy as opposed to Derek’s (unsurprising) popularity and he took a liking to her due to her confidence in the face of his admittedly cocky demeanour at that age. They spent as much time as they could together, Derek having loved listening to her play the cello in the music rooms at school. Unfortunately, after only a short time together, Paige passed away.

“I’m sorry, Derek,” Stiles says, taking his hand underneath the water. “You can’t change these things.” Derek gives him a small, grim smile.

“Then, there was Kate…”

If Derek had been vague towards the end of his past with Paige, Derek barely goes into any detail at all when it comes to this ‘Kate’. All Stiles gathers is that she didn’t hold the same place in Derek’s heart that Paige did. There’s anger written all over his face as he talks about how she looked and other superficial things without mentioning anything deeper.

“Who was the last person?” Stiles interrupts at one point when Derek’s frustration starts to make him uncomfortable.

“Braeden.” Derek breathes.

Braeden sounds like the least painful of the women in Derek’s past. He talks about how she protected people and they worked closely together for a while before developing a romantic relationship. While the relationship ultimately ended when they mutually decided to end things when she moved away, Derek sounds at peace with the fact.

“She sounds lovely,” Stiles acknowledges, wondering if they still work together. “Another question which I can’t believe I haven’t asked yet: what do you do for a living?” Derek’s eyes go wide as he realises, too, that they’ve glossed over a massive part of the ‘getting-to-know-you’ portion of their conversations. “My prediction is… model. Wait, fireman. Wait, stripper! Wait—”

“I’m a ranger,” Derek explains, cutting Stiles off with what Stiles thinks looks like a fond smile, “I help maintain the preserve near my home.”

“A ranger,” Stiles echoes, “Huh. That’s definitely appropriately sexy for you. My man is a wolf wrangler.”

“There are no wolves in Beacon Hills,” Derek scoffs.

“I know there aren’t,” Stiles replies, giving him an appropriately confused look because what a random thing to say. “I live there.”

“No, you don’t,” Derek tells him, like he knows more about where Stiles lives than he does, “I do.”

Silence.

“Hold on and you mean the Beacon Hills in California, right?” Stiles confirms.

Silence.

“Your last name is Stilinski,” Derek processes after however long he’s known that fact. “As in Noah Stilinski? You’re the sheriff’s son?”

“Yeah,” Stiles admits, feeling raw for some reason now that Derek knows his father—potentially knows more about him than he’d like. Especially because he doesn’t know Derek from a grain of sand in the context of their town. “What’s yours?”

Derek pauses for a moment, like what he’s about to give away now is actually a big secret. “Hale,” he tells him, “my name is Derek Hale.”

Cogs start turning in Stiles’ head. Hale. Derek Hale. A ranger. The Beach Hills Preserve. The Hale house fire. Four survivors. Laura, Cora, Derek and Peter Hale. Derek Hale. Peter Hale.

“You’re related to Peter,” Stiles accuses, mouth agape, “You’re related to the guy who torments us every day.”

“Shh,” Derek hushes, “I don’t like people knowing that. It’s not like he gives me any special treatment, if anything he’s more of a prick to me than anyone else.”

“I just can’t believe it,” Stiles declares, “We come from the same town; you’re related to the guy who hosts this show; what the hell else is there that I don’t know about? Are these the big secrets you didn’t want to tell me? Cause if so, I need the rest of them immediately.” He didn’t ever meet Peter or the other Hales in his youth, only heard of them. He knows Peter didn’t stay in town, but other than that he didn’t have a clue until the idea hit him just now that the Peter Hale who used to live in his town was the same Peter Hale that hosted Survivor.

They share a long look then, sitting in the cool, shallow water. “We should probably go to bed soon, Stiles,” Derek says eventually. Stiles isn’t going to pry too hard, considering he knows now that a significant factor in Derek’s history is that an enormous swathe of his family was burned alive in a terrible house fire. There’s no doubt that Derek knows that Stiles knows; much like there’s no doubt that Stiles knows that Derek knows about his father’s condition. Derek isn’t prying about his father, so Stiles won’t pry about Derek’s family.

There’s probably a reason Derek doesn’t talk about himself much.

“Fine, you don’t have to tell me everything now,” Stiles acquiesces, retaking Derek’s hand where it slipped away, “but one day I think we both need to sit down and have a very long discussion about… well, everything.”

“And don’t I look forward to that day,” Derek drawls, but he sounds fond again, “Thank you for not being too mad at me about tonight, Stiles.”

“Thank you for keeping me in this game for a few more days.”

“I’m not sure what our play is now,” Derek admits, “This was a sure way to keep us around for that tribal council, but with Kira and Danny flipping we’ve lost our majority. Lydia can decide who goes home from here if she doesn’t lose them.”

“I’m sure Scott can get Kira to come around,” Stiles says, but he’s not sure if he can consider working with her like he was now that she’s written his name down with the intent to blindside him. And after Danny blatantly lied to them tonight, too… “C’mon, let’s go to bed.”

As Stiles moves to stand, Derek squeezes his hand gently to keep him from rising. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Stiles thinks. “Am I?”

Derek leans in to close the slight distance between them and Stiles relishes the warmth it brings before he’s suddenly too hot with Derek’s lips on his. It’s a more active kiss than the one they shared earlier and Stiles can’t help but worry that his inexperience is showing, but when Derek moans and licks into his mouth it’s hard to believe he’s doing anything but the right thing.

When the other man finally pulls back, they’re both gasping.

“Do you mind if maybe we do that more often?” Stiles asks shamelessly, already weighing up just sitting out here in the water and making out all night.

Derek shows his teeth in a grin that Stiles can only describe as hungry. “Christ, Stiles, I would kiss you all day if I could.”

“You tempt me, sir,” Stiles acknowledges, eying Derek’s lips, “C’mon, let’s get to bed before we start having one another’s babies.”

MAJAJM||||—EIDKEVE|||

The reward challenge the next day doesn’t go quite according to plan. It was for food, more specifically a feast of pasta and cheeses, with the tribe split into two teams of three and one person sitting out. Kira sits out while Scott, Parrish and Danny compete against Stiles, Derek and Lydia for a reward which makes their stomachs bubble and growl with anticipation. Scott, Parrish and Danny win, leaving Stiles, Derek, Lydia and Kira heading back to camp with nothing.

This would normally be an opportunity for Stiles and Derek to discuss with Lydia and Kira possible avenues to work together moving forward, particularly because they’re at risk of being picked off one-by-one from here on out if they can’t swing someone’s vote.

Except Lydia doesn’t give them a chance to even get a word in. The moment they get back to camp, she takes Kira and the pair disappear into the jungle to do god-knows-what girls do out here.

“Well, while the others are having their fancy pasta, how about we have some rice?” Stiles suggests, although having rice almost every day for every meal has him grimacing before every mouthful. It would be tolerable if he didn’t always end up with some sand mixed in with his.

Derek’s looking in the direction in which Lydia and Kira disappeared with a frown. “No,” he declares, “we tried damn hard in today’s challenge. I think we’ve earned something a bit more special. Come with me.”

With that, Derek disappears into the jungle much like the others did and Stiles blinks for a moment before following after him. He’s kind of hungry, but he’s sure if not anything else, following Derek into the jungle is sure to provide amusement for the afternoon.

“Hey, can you slow down jungle-man?” Stiles calls forward when Derek’s figure starts to become more difficult to follow in the sea of green. The other man has an uncannily sure foot whereas Stiles can’t help but watch his feet with every step to make sure he isn’t going to step on something jagged or a violent creature. Derek doesn’t respond, illustrating his lingering penchant for minimal communication, and if he does slow down, it still isn’t anywhere near enough for Stiles to match his pace. “If you don’t want me to fall behind, you’re gonna have to carry me,” Stiles jokes, but then as Derek finally does stop, he realises his mistake.

“Hop on,” he offers, presenting his back and crouching down in front of him.

“I was joking,” Stiles clarifies.

Derek gives him an unamused look over his shoulder before patting his back encouragingly to illustrate the hop on gesture. When Stiles hesitates, Derek continues. “If you don’t hop on willingly then I’m just going to grab you, and it will be far less comfortable.”

It takes him back, Derek threatening him. At least now he knows that they’re mostly empty and come from a place of fondness. “Alright, but if you can’t handle my weight, I’m going to take personal offence.”

The worry was for nothing, though, because the moment he has his position wrapped around Derek’s back, the man takes off like he weighs nothing. The other man feels so warm where they’re touching and Stiles has to remind himself of unsexy things to stop himself from poking Derek in the back. It’s moments like this that he remembers that while he isn’t a kid anymore, he’s still so young. He hopes it doesn’t bother Derek that Stiles is… a bit younger than him.

“You'd consider us both young, wouldn't you?”

“Stiles, I'm twenty-four,” Derek evades. “I already know you’re eighteen. And no, before you ask, it does not bother me that there’s six years between us.”

“Well,” Stiles tries to say something but Derek already covered it, “Maybe it bothers me.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Derek sighs fondly.

“Fine, it doesn’t bother me either. I guess I just need to remember to stop trying to find reasons for us to be more complicated than we are,” Stiles sighs himself, but not out of fondness like Derek, “There’s no reason we can’t be happy, is there?”

Derek’s quiet after that, simmering in something no doubt, until they emerge from the jungle into a small clearing. “We’re here,” Derek announces, but he doesn’t let Stiles disembark just yet.

It’s a nice location. The clearing is small enough that it isn’t entirely exposed to the sun, the ground is mostly flat and covered with only soft grass, and there’s something very peaceful about the whole area. Stiles can’t help but wonder why Derek hasn’t taken him here before if he’s known about it this whole time.

As if reading his thoughts, Derek continues walking them into the centre of the area and elaborates. “I found this a few days ago,” Derek explains, which is surprising because he and Stiles have been almost inseparable in every hour of every day. He places Stiles down somewhere he’s decided is correct and then lightly jogs back to the tree line for some reason, calling back to Stiles as he does, “I thought it would be a nice thing to surprise you with for the last few days of the game. I wanted to do some more work on it before showing you, but considering these might be our last days in the game I thought you wouldn’t mind.”

Work on it? Stiles looks around and then he realises exactly how much effort Derek has put into this place. Obviously, this place wasn’t well-kept like it is now when Derek stumbled upon it, he can see in patches of the ground and off in the tree line where the other man has weeded and done his best to level the ground with his bare hands. His heart starts to beat quickly as it dawns on him that Derek’s put all this effort in for them. Not out of necessity or obligation, but just as a gesture of…

“I love it,” Stiles assures, feeling breathless as Derek approaches, lugging a chunky log with him. “I can’t believe this,” Stiles tells him, watching as the man plonks it down for them to sit on. There’s food too. It isn’t fresh, just a few pieces of fruit from a couple days prior when Derek must have hijacked it from the tribe, but it’s all just… so much.

If Stiles wasn’t a human being he would be swooning at Derek’s capability as a mate. Hell, Stiles is swooning even though he is a human being.

Derek looks very proud of himself, taking in Stiles’ expression with a wide grin on his face. “You like it?”

“Derek,” Stiles sits down and picks up one of the apples to admire it before putting it back, “You don’t have to woo me, you know. I’m already gone on you. This is… the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me.”

“Bah,” Derek dismisses with a wave of his hand, flustering at the declaration, “can never be too sure.”

Stiles looks around. It’s secluded, the camera people at camp followed Kira and Lydia rather than the two of them so they’re alone. And honestly, even if they weren’t Stiles doesn’t think anyone watching at home could fault him for what he asks for. “Can I kiss you?”

Derek smiles down at him before taking his spot on the log adjacent to Stiles. “Anything for you, sweetie.”

Then they’re kissing again. They’re so close together and Stiles can taste Derek. He wants to be closer. From the other man carrying him here, to the gesture of Derek landscaping the clearing, to Derek calling him sweetie, his whole body feels tight with anticipation for… something. Derek’s hands hold his chin and the back of his neck while they kiss, keeping him in position, but Stiles couldn’t imagine ever letting this beautiful moment end.

Stiles sneaks his hand towards Derek’s groin and his fingers brush against the hard ridge of his excitement tenting his shorts. The other man groans in surprise and disjoins their mouths.

“Sorry,” Stiles apologises automatically, and for a moment the sun reflects in Derek’s eyes and they glow more beautifully than anything Stiles has ever seen. How had he never realised how blue Derek’s eyes could be?

“Don’t apologise, I’m just… really turned on right now, Stiles.”

“I’m turned on, too!” Stiles blurts and they both laugh for a moment. Then, after another beat, Derek leans in and they’re once again kissing. He feels silly because he can’t stop moaning, but Derek’s moans are driving him crazy at the moment so he just hopes his have the same effect on the other man.

“You can touch me again, you know,” Derek comments between pecks of his lips, “if you want to.”

Stiles wants to. God, how he wants to. He wants to feel Derek come apart in his hands, hold him while his body is wracked with pleasure, taste him… he’s just scared he’ll do something wrong. It’s a different concern than what went through his head with Heather because he is very familiar with the male tools at his disposal.

He ignores his worries and rubs his hand along Derek’s solid erection through his shorts. Derek stops kissing him for a moment to suck in a deep breath of air, but then he dives back in with so much enthusiasm he almost knocks Stiles to the ground. It’s hard to imagine he’s doing anything wrong so far, then.

He feels a warm hand work its way up his thigh and he freezes up for half a second. “Derek,” Stiles mumbles against the other man’s lips, unsure if it’s even properly audible or going to be misconstrued as a moan.

“What is it?” Derek pulls back and looks at him deeply. His eyes are visibly blown with lust.

“I’m…” a virgin is on the tip of his tongue, but that’s not necessarily what’s stopping him, “I’m nervous.”

Derek removes his hand from Stiles’ thigh and gives him another peck. “We’ll only ever do what we’re both comfortable with.”

“You’re sure?” Stiles checks, feeling like a prude.

“Definitely,” Derek assures, “even if you drive me absolutely insane with horniness, we’ll never do anything you aren’t completely ready for.” Stiles’ hand is still aligned with Derek’s hardness so he gives it a few perfunctory squeezes.

“What are you ready for?” Stiles asks, curious.

Derek gives him another kiss and then leans back, letting Stiles still have access to the bulge of his pants to fondle. “I’m nervous, too,” Derek informs him, “I know we’ve only known one another a few weeks and under very special circumstances, too…” he trails off, head back, eyes closed.

“Do you want me to stop?” Stiles is fascinated by how he’s affecting Derek, but it feels hypocritical for him to grope Derek after just stopping Derek from doing the same.

“No,” Derek laughs, “it’s distracting, but I never want you to stop.” He breathes, “In my experience, these things will just happen naturally when they’re supposed to. If you aren’t sure if you’re ready yet, that’s probably a good sign that you aren’t.” Stiles’ hand stills as he appreciates the wisdom in Derek’s words. “Please keep going,” Derek encourages cheekily, and Stiles smiles fondly and continues. “Just know that we’re taking things at whatever pace we’re both comfortable with, don’t feel like you need to do anything you aren’t ready for just to please me.”

“I believe you,” Stiles acknowledges, halting his ministrations, leaning in and giving Derek a sweet kiss. “I just have no idea what to expect.”

Derek rubs his thumb along Stiles’ hand. “Remember that I haven’t been with a man before,” Derek reminds him, “we’re in the same boat.”

Not quite, Stiles thinks. “I’ve never been with anyone before,” Stiles admits before he can talk himself out of it. His voice shakes a bit as he says it, but then it’s out there, acknowledged.

“I might have suspected,” Derek comments, “but that’s all the more reason to take things slowly until you feel you’re ready.”

“See, that’s the thing,” Stiles gestures to his own very apparent erection which they’ve both been politely ignoring, “I feel ready. I want to do so many things…”

Derek grins at that, gives him an impish, inquisitorial look, “And what is it you want to do, Stiles?”

His face must go bright red at that given how hot he feels. He can’t imagine admitting the things he thinks about out loud to Derek.

“It might help if I told you some of the things I’d like to do?”

Stiles nods, feeling like he’s getting whiplash at this point by how he’s oscillating between being lost in Derek’s eyes and his horniness and nervously backpedalling.

“Well, I think I’d like to touch you.” Derek pauses, evidently reminding himself how to communicate. “Your dick. I’d like you to touch me, too. My dick.” Stiles feels mortified, like they’re talking about this in the most awkward way imaginable, but he also can’t help but be enraptured. Derek’s doing this to make him more comfortable. “I’d really like you to suck me off,” Derek admits, “and maybe while you do that, I can get your ass and—”

“Okay! Okay,” Stiles interrupts, laughing as Derek bursts into laughter as well. “I think we can get to all the things we both want to do done at our own pace.”

“I’m glad you stopped me cause otherwise I was going to go into far too much detail.”

“Maybe another time you can show me some of the things you’d like to do,” Stiles teases, taking a bite of the apple he was admiring when he first sat down. “I’m definitely interested in sucking you off by the way,” he comments, to which Derek tries too hard to be nonchalant and ends up just nodding very rapidly.

“Well, I’m right here if the urge ever takes you,” Derek winks, moving forward and taking some fruit for himself. Stiles thinks if there was a banana among them one of them would’ve been fellating it by now.

“I really hope we’re both still here after the next tribal council,” Stiles projects.

Derek gives him a gentle smile, “You will be.”

MAJAJM||||—EIDKEVE|||

“If anybody has a hidden immunity idol and you want to play it, now would be the time to do so.”

Stiles knows the reward challenge didn’t necessarily go their way as far as political manoeuvring went, but the immunity challenge was more successful. It ended up being a showdown between Danny, Parrish and Scott in an endurance-based challenge wherein Scott came out on top.

Stiles isn’t sure how that bodes for the possibility of he and Derek both being around after this tribal council, but he isn’t as hopeless as he was the previous day. In the morning before the immunity challenge, Kira came up to him quickly while he was getting water and told him that Lydia was going to try and eliminate Scott tonight, which Kira was evidently not completely sold on.

Stiles knows only what Scott’s told him, that the three of them are planning on voting for Parrish and that they’re relying on Kira flipping as their fourth vote.

Especially because nobody steps up to play a hidden immunity idol for her or Derek.

“Once the votes are read, the decision is final and the person voted out will be asked to leave the tribal council area immediately. I’ll read the votes.”

Stiles looks at Derek and thinks about how much closer he’s getting with the other man, even since they’d decided to become boyfriends. They’ve started talking about actual things—about themselves. Derek’s opening up to him, and he isn’t taking advantage of his inexperience. He’s glad Scott has taken charge the past two days because he’s been completely ignorant to the game due to his focus on Derek.

“First vote… Parrish. Second vote… Stiles.” The voting opening the exact same way as the previous tribal council doesn’t make Stiles feel any way in particular because that vote didn’t go the way he expected it to at all. “Third vote… Parrish. Fourth vote… Stiles.” It almost feels like déjà vu at this point; or like he and Parrish have some kind of unseen rivalry considering they’ve been the people on the chopping block two nights in a row. “We’re tied. Two votes Parrish, two votes Stiles.”

Derek’s holding his hand, so he can’t help but feel like nothing can touch him.

“Fifth vote… Parrish. Sixth vote… Stiles.” Peter retrieves the final piece of parchment. “Seventh vote, and the fourteenth person eliminated from Survivor: Wolves versus Hunters and the fifth member of our jury is…” he reveals the name on the paper and the entire tribe laughs. “Jordan.”

“Screw you, Peter,” Parrish grunts, but he doesn’t sound upset or surprised.

“That’s four votes, that’s enough. You’ll have to bring me your torch, Jordan,” Peter grins. Parrish gives Lydia a hug before retrieving his torch, gives Danny a hi-five and Scott a handshake and a muttered “congratulations on winning”, doesn’t have anything but a polite farewell for the rest of them. “Jordan,” Peter begins fondly, “or should I say, Parrish, the tribe has spoken. We’ll see you on the jury.”

“Thanks, prick,” Parrish grins, “I’ll be watching you guys. I’ll be choosing who wins based on who is the most competitive, so don’t just be coasting by.”

As Parrish disappears, Peter address them in his farewell, “Those were strong parting words. In these final days of the game you should all be thinking about your case and what you can present to the jury at the end. If there isn’t much to your name, or you think someone else might have more than you, you should consider your options going forward carefully. Grab your torches and head back to camp. Good night.”

MAJAJM||||—JEIDKEVE||

What have you learned in your time on Survivor this season?

“I think this season I learned the importance of keeping a cool head, not getting too hot over things. I got very frustrated very early on in the game about a lot of things at the Wolves tribe, and I think ultimately some of those things led me to my ultimate fate tonight.”

If you could go back in time to when you first started on the show, what would you do differently?

“As before, I reckon I’d act a bit milder when it came to certain things. The main reason I managed to be under control in the second half of the game was because of Lydia, so I think I’d need to be more capable of regulating myself if I wanted to be more successful than I was. Maybe make it to the final six.”

Who do you think will become the Sole Survivor?

“I think Scott will become the Sole Survivor. He’s demonstrated himself on so many fronts now that I think it’ll be hard for him to lose if he can eliminate Lydia and doesn’t screw up his speech to the jury. In my best-case scenario, I would like Lydia to become Sole Survivor. She just has a helluva job to do in the meantime. I’ll be rooting for her ‘til the very end.”