It had been eleven long years since Stiles had seen his best friend; nine since he suspected that Scott and Melissa’s leaving hadn’t been as simple as they claimed; eight since he’d redirected his considerable, often destructive energy to figuring out what really happened; four since he’d been hired by Beacon Hills’ Finest; two since he’d joined the force’s specialized werewolf unit.
They had been fifteen when Scott said good-bye, floppy-haired, doe-eyed Scott with his earnest smile and sharp wit and warm heart. He had been the most beautiful thing Stiles had ever known, and Stiles still hated that it had taken him so long to realize it.
Scott couldn’t give him a proper explanation. Stiles had been too angry to think about the anxiety issues, the inexplicable stress Scott had been under, the feverish light in his eyes.
Except, maybe now he knew.
Werewolves were rare, mysterious mutants of nature. Lycanthropy showed its symptoms in adolescence. They cropped up every now and then, and turned communities on their heads as the government struggled to find ways to manage them - and to protect them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were people hell bent on destroying them. Worse still were the people who thought that werewolves served a more suitable role as pets.
Stiles took great pleasure in dragging those people through the mud and arresting their assess.
It was during a raid on Peter Hale’s mansion, timed after months of undercover work and surveillance, that Stiles crashed through a triple-locked door, nearly taking his shoulder off in the process. In his ear, Allison Argent reported the discovery of two more victims, and Stiles was saying, “Copy that. Good- great, second floor almost clear. I just got to…”
His features went slack, taking in exactly what room he’d found.
Scott McCall was the only one who could leave him speechless.
The single word became a mantra for the wolf, repeated until it ingrained itself into his very being, more of a curse than a source of hope. Some days he wished he could just stop, give up entirely and maybe find peace again. He had tried once, years ago when the despair had overwhelmed him and he’d been so ready to stop fighting and just burn. Peter’s men had stopped him before he had a chance and the punishment had lasted months.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been here. Sometimes he wasn’t sure that he’d been anywhere but here, the rest of his life just some dream he’d made up to make the rest of this bearable. His mother had been so careful with them and Scott had tried to keep it all a secret, but learning control had been difficult and there was no room for mistakes. He could still remember the fear in her eyes when she first realized what he was and that fierce resolve to keep him safe no matter what the cost. They’d spent years on the run, trying to live quietly and unknown to avoid the hunters, but it hadn’t been enough.
He wasn’t sure why he kept fighting. Peter had been so determined to strip his humanity from him and over the years, Scott could feel it chip away to expose the animal beneath. That’s all that Peter wanted, teeth and claws at his command for his entertainment and a willing pet ready to sit by his feet and beg for attention. The things Scott had to do to survive used to make him sick but he had learned how to accept more than he ever thought possible just to keep living. It was his memories, fake or not, that anchored him and kept him going. A beautiful freckled boy that had been all but family, the one who had always convinced him to get in trouble and laugh about it afterwards. Even their last conversation when Scott had to face down Stiles’s anger over their abrupt departure and had been unable to explain why…god, he wished…sometimes it felt so real.
Scott sat up with a frown, sensitive hearing picking up the sounds of conflict beyond his door. Chains rattled as he backed himself away from the door, growling a warning and glaring out through bright red eyes. This wasn’t real, it was just another one of Peter’s sick games to try and break him and Scott wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.
When Stiles snuffed out cases with dark-haired men in their mid-twenties, it was always the same. His heart found a new home in his throat, his ribs felt too small, and he lost track of his fingers. He would start worrying when it began to ebb.
Part of him knew it was a long shot. Part of him knew that, statistically, childhood friendships weren’t slated to last, and there were thousands upon thousands of reasons Scott wouldn’t have wanted to tell him about leaving. There were things he hadn’t been able to tell Scott. But at the same time - no.
That wasn’t how they worked. That wasn’t Scott’n’Stiles. Clammy hands, and tachycardia were a small price to pay for keeping hope alive.
Right now, the bile creeping up the back of his throat didn’t feel like hope. It felt like honesty. Stiles had never wanted to be right.
His flashlight shone into the figure’s face, propped atop a tranquilizer gun that hurt humans more than their victims. For a moment, Stiles was sure the shadows were to blame. It had been so long. He’d changed so much, but not enough. “Scott-“
Barely above a whisper, stunned in a way that his training shouldn’t have allowed, Stiles gave up precious seconds before checking the binds that secured him. It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. It was. Those eyes. He shouldn’t - Scott Scott Scott SCOTT
"Can you understand me?" He asked, keeping his tone stern but soft. That was protocol. He stepped closer into the room. That wasn’t protocol.
Scott flinched back from the light that momentarily blinded him, growling louder as claws lengthened from the tips of his fingers. This wasn’t Peter or one of his regular men, someone unknown and from what Scott could barely make out behind the light shining in his face, someone armed. Just because he was chained didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous, even after all these years he still lashed out when he could against an unwary guard. Peter liked his pets bloodthirsty and there were days when Scott was more than happy to oblige.
It was the voice that made him hesitate, an impossible sound from a desperate fantasy that he clung to just to keep his own sanity. He blinked rapidly as the glow of red eyes faded back into dark brown that still glared, feral and confused. “Stiles?” His voice broke over the word, edged in fear and a hope he hadn’t felt in years.
No. No, it couldn’t be. Peter had played him before, teasing out all of his secrets and using them to cut deep to the bone. He was a master manipulator, skilled at weaving truth and lies together until Scott couldn’t tell the difference anymore and surrendered, but this? This was cruel, the jagged edges of hope hurt worse than the lies and he let the pain crystalize into rage.
The wolf snarled, springing forward and straining against his chains. “You’re not real, this isn’t real! You come any closer and I swear I’ll send you back to him in pieces. I’m not playing this game for him.”
And Stiles fired.
He handled the tranq with practiced ease, fueled with the underlying theme that sharpened every lesson of their training. ‘The ones you are trying to protect are dangerous.’ It hit its mark, low on Scott’s shoulder, just as realization gripped his thoughts, digging into every crevice and tearing his mind apart.
Scott was here. Scott was chained to the floor. Scott was in Peter Hale’s mansion. Scott’s eyes had been red, and Stiles would need to administer a 2.5 cc dose in the next three minutes as per regulation standard if he wanted him to stay asleep. Those red eyes meant more stamina, strength and speed. Those red eyes meant Scott had killed someone.
His first shot would have left him drowsy enough for Stiles to approach, even if it wouldn’t put him to rest like it would another werewolf.
"Easy, buddy," he murmured, and he didn’t care for the tremor in his words. "We’re getting you out of here, and."
It wasn’t safe. It wasn’t right. He had a little more than 90 seconds to uncap the second shot, load and fire, but Stiles knelt by Scott’s side. (Do not approach victim 60 clicks after sedation. Do not attempt to move victim until after 240 clicks. Ha ha, fuck you. Fuckyoufuckyou.)
"I will fucking rip off Hale’s arm."
He pulled the first bullet out before he injected the second one. He’d have four minutes, at the most, before Scott was completely asleep.
Scott staggered to his knees, the rush of drugs leaving him dizzy and his limbs too heavy to move. His panicked heart beat hard against his ribs. Drugs were never good, they left him too vulnerable to protect himself and he couldn’t let Peter win this time. Not like this, not by using him. Clawed hands scraped against the floor as he fought the effects, but it was impossible to stop the chemical induced exhaustion that tried to pull him under.
He watched Stiles warily through unfocused eyes, unable to do more than bear his fangs in warning as the human knelt beside him. If he could just focus, Scott could rip out this imposter’s throat and be done with it. Maybe that would show Peter that even he had limits that shouldn’t be crossed.
The voice disturbed him, different but somehow too familiar. Memories, dreams, whatever they were it brought flashing images back. Practicing lacrosse in the back yard and laughing so hard he’d had an asthma attack, listening patiently to elaborate plans to woo the most popular girl in school, falling asleep in a sprawl of limbs after an all-night study session had turned into a competitive wrestling match. The little pieces that he’d held on to so tightly to keep from losing himself entirely.
I will fucking rip off Hale’s arm.
The wolf gave a breathy laugh that sounded more like a sob as the second rush of drugs flooded through his veins, leaning forward to almost touch the agent. Coherence was quickly slipping away, his thoughts were slow and fragmented as darkness nibbled at the corners of his vision. “I’m sorry, Stiles.” He managed to say, words slurred and distorted through a mouth full of fangs.
Scott fell forward, and Stiles was there to catch him. He was holding on too tight, he suspected, tight enough to hurt, and it didn’t matter that the debate on whether anything other than silver and mountain ash could hurt werewolves was still raging on. Scott was a wall of muscle, running too hot, and achingly vulnerable. His fingers traced contours of Scott’s features, taking in the shadows under his eyes and the line of his cheek that was sharp enough to cut glass. Chains dug into his skin, threatening to draw blood if he had pulled hard enough, and fifty bucks said they were coated with silver.
This was supposed to be the easy part, then they packed up and went home.
Stiles never wanted to let him go.
He didn’t know how long he stayed there, but it had been long enough for Allison to demand a status report. The show went on.