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It was another test. It felt like everything was these days, every new interaction carefully scripted and debriefed, his movements tracked and recorded for analysis. It was a constant set of challenges, seeing how far he could push and how soon he could reach the next stage before he’d be considered rehabilitated. On a day like this, it barely even bothered Scott. He didn’t even fuss with the tracking anklet wrapped around his left leg even though it chafed. It was just a short trip out of town, a few hours up the coast to see how well he’d handle unfamiliar environments, an important step to being considered “cured” or whatever they called it.

He’d call it a trip to the beach on a perfect sunny day with a jeep full of snacks, some god awful music Stiles swore was cool, and an overwhelming urge to stick his head out of the window. That one he managed to squash, he might never live it down.

It wasn’t a big deal, just a few hours away but it felt huge. He thought freedom was a garden in Eichen house, or a quiet apartment on a quiet street, but freedom was sunshine and music and his best friend, brother, love of his life. Even if his taste in music was really terrible. Scott rested his head against the window glass, watching the sky with a serene smile. He craved the feel of sunlight on his skin after so long shut away without it and he couldn’t wait to strip down and lie in its warmth. Maybe he’d risk sand in uncomfortable places for the chance to do more than just sunbathe, especially with how much sunscreen Stiles would have to use to protect his pale skin. Scott bit his lip at the thought of helping to rub it in and make sure they didn’t miss a single spot, not sure if he was amused or extremely turned on.

“How much longer until we get there? The natives are getting restless.”

___

"The natives should shut their pieholes," Stiles snapped with the sort of vehemence that guaranteed Scott would see through whatever guise he’d dug up to hide his excitement. Then - "The natives aren’t allowed to talk if they’re going to insult Philip Philips again."

American Idol was a blood-thirsty corporation that fed off the souls of its contestants while churning out terribly predictable clichés. Associating himself with the show made Stiles’ sturdy moral code shudder. That said, the official story was that he thought Philip Philips was hot in a turtle sort of way, and he’d come across his music while insulting the Billboard Top 40. Stiles had standards. They were just normally buried under his apparent lack of them.

And if he was being honest with himself, it was fun to rile Scott up. It was an old song and dance that they’d recognized and perfected years ago, egging each other on to do their worst in the most outrageous ways possible. Years and maturity had made them more responsible, as well as a lack of access to duct tape, but it - it was good. 

It was great.

It was the sort of thing a day with sun, sand and sea demanded, and Stiles wouldn’t let himself think about how long it had been since they’d had one of those days. He propped up his obnoxiously large, neon green sunglasses, the pair he’d picked up on their last gas run along with a week’s worth of overpriced junk food that they planned on devouring today, and goddammit, he was going to hum. 

He was going to kiss Scott senseless in the sand, whether Scott wanted it or not.

___

“The natives think that anyone who is named the same thing twice is either suffering from some sort of extremely unfortunate memory problem or is a really special snowflake, dude. I mean, really?” The wolf grinned and enjoyed the sniping back and forth, affection so evident beneath the barbs. “But I get why you’re into it. All you people with weird names need to stick together. Do you have a club or something, pay dues?”

Some things had changed in the seven years he’d been cut off from the outside world, but American Idol endured as strong as ever. It was a tragedy. “Lookin’ cool there, really stylish. You couldn’t find a pair of shutter shades to wear instead? I’ll bet the hotties will be all over you today.” Scott knew that at least one person would be all over him, hopefully the beach wouldn’t be crowded with gawkers when he had a whole day planned. Not that having an audience would ever stop him from pursuing what he wanted.

Scott reached over, running his fingers through the back of his friend’s hair and down his neck. It never stopped being a private little thrill that he could just touch whenever he wanted, that he had permission to get close and remind himself over and over that Stiles was here, that this was all really happening. It was the little things that struck him, the tiny parts of life he hadn’t even realized he’d missed until it was all back. “I’m still pretty sure this music counts as some sort of torture under international law, we’re going to have a serious talk about your taste in things one of these days.”

___

A delicious little thrill of pleasure surged through him, and it was bad enough that Roscoe seemed to shake with it, too. (Or blame the road, that was totally the road; Roscoe’s axles were fine, dammit). Stiles’ expression was ridiculously fond, like part of him wanted to break out in song or drive past the state line, and just keep going, Scott’s less than stylish anklet be damned. That didn’t stop him from turning up the radio’s volume. They were gonna make this place their home or die trying.

"Your jealousy is tearing us apart, dude," he scoffed, glaring very judgmentally behind his green-rimmed glasses. He slung an arm around Scott’s shoulders, careless of what traffic behind them thought. "Me and P-squared have a history. I paid 25 cents to push his career forward, and look where he is now. Making music that would make Mozart cry with envy."

Mozart probably would cry at how much access the average musician had to new musical technology, but Stiles could lay it on thicker than his skull. “And you’re the only hottie for me, Scotty. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Houses began to pop up as they got closer and closer to the beach, though that might have been too generous a term for the quaint shacks that lined the road. Stiles could smell the salt in the air, and everything was so warm, so right. He was still humming as they rolled into the intersection. The car that crashed into them had broken the speed limit three times over. The driver flew straight out of his window, splattering safety glass and blood all over his hood. Stiles’ seat belt had gone taut around his chest. The Jeep’s horn was a blaring, obnoxious thing, but Stiles wasn’t moving off of it. Stiles wasn’t moving at all. 

___

The world went slow and silent, everything suspended for a split second of calm disaster before shattering apart with a crash so loud, it deafened the wolf’s sensitive hearing. He felt stupid and groggy, too confused to understand why his face was wet or why his leg didn’t seem to want to move or why the seatbelt cut so deeply across him that he could barely breathe. Scott scrabbled with the catch to free himself from the restraints, fingers fumbling and liquid slick with…blood? He was bleeding? He put a shaking hand to his forehead, the warm wetness oozing down the side of his face. What-?

The windshield had been completely crushed, safety glass shattered in blunt edged pieces into the jeep. Poor Roscoe never stood a chance. The bent stick shift dug painfully into his leg that Scott would bet money on being broken. He couldn’t feel his foot, he felt a little grateful for that. “Stiles?” He could barely hear himself, voice sounding far away to his damaged ears. He had to get out…he had to get out of the jeep now. Scott gave himself simple commands, easy to follow steps to keep himself from panicking. First, bend back the dash and free his leg. Metal and plastic screeched as he shoved against the twisted mass and pulled his shattered leg free, biting down on his lip to keep from screaming with the pain. Next, get out of the car. It took a few shoves with his shoulder before he was able to force the door open, gasping as hit foot it the ground and almost throwing up. The world spun and he clung to the side of the jeep, trying to get his bearings.

Get to Stiles. Scott made his way slowly around the wreck, leaning heavily against the car as he worked his way towards the other side. There were other voices; he could hear muffled murmurs from someone…the other motorists? It didn’t matter, they were too muted to understand, the only thing he needed to do was get to Stiles. The bloody corpse of the other driver stared vacantly at him from its crushed face, body sliced and bent like a broken puppet. There was no saving him, he was gone. Scott put a hand on the body just to make sure, checking for pain, any indication that he was still alive but there was nothing. Just a blood smeared pendant around his neck, a silver disk set with a spiral.

Scott was pretty sure he started screaming. Did it count if you couldn’t hear it? He clawed at the jeep, ripping the door from its hinges. “STILES!”

___

Traffic had slowed to a crawl, with more loiterers redirecting traffic than the car wrecks. There were even less people attempting to offer help. 

Roscoe was as well-maintained as a car of its age could be with Stiles’ budget. Its seat belts may have been new, but its airbags hadn’t deployed. Stiles was a present wrapped in steel and aluminum, showered with glass and adorned with jagged plastic. Scott tore his wrapping apart like a child on Christmas morning. The only thing keeping him in place was his belt. If he’d been stable enough to breathe, the stench of gasoline and blood would have made him gag.

It took too long for someone to call 911. It took even longer to find a brave soul willing to approach Scott with kind words and a ready tranquilizer. “Move aside, son; we’re here to help.”

Stiles’ neck wasn’t broken, but the angle it hung at suggested that would have been more merciful. One of the EMTs was lycanthrope, and she spent the ride trying to keep Scott down, the only one unafraid of bone-deep scratches and shattered bone. Dr. Tate arrived before Sheriff Stilinski, but investigations started long before that.

They tried to keep Scott away. They tried to keep him calm and secure. They worried about him hurting himself. They worried about him hurting others. They didn’t need to worry about his partner never waking up again. Scott was doing enough of that on his own.

___

Scott was still breathing, he didn’t have a right to keep breathing. If Stiles was gone, his own heart should have stopped, he wasn’t supposed to do this alone. The guard down the hall watched him with a wary eye, hand on his tranquilizer gun without any pretense of subtlety. They thought he was a wild animal, they weren’t wrong, he hadn’t been able to stop the red glow of his eyes since he was pulled away from the wreck. Doctor Tate had helped to talk him down, but clawed fingers still fisted into his hair, teeth too long to hide.

It had taken hours before he let doctors close enough to examine him. By then, his skin had healed over the glass embedded in his wounds, forcing them to carefully cut each piece free. Scott hadn’t reacted; glad for the way the pain anchored him back to reality. The ache in his shattered leg still felt distant as he rocked back and forth in the uncomfortable hospital waiting room chair. They hadn’t given him any updates yet, but Scott clung to the belief that no news was good news and found it difficult to maintain the same faith that usually came so easily.

Please don’t take him away. Please don’t leave me alone.

He rubbed his thumb in circles around the silver etched spiral on a bloody string that he’d taken from the body of the other driver. It was a message, he read the intent behind the symbol and shuddered feeling the hand of Peter Hale on the back of his neck. Scott had screamed at them that Peter had caused the accident, but everyone just thought he’d been hysterical, Doctor Tate coming close to having the hospital staff sedate him unless he calmed down. He was far from calm, but at least he was quiet now, pressing his thumb into the spiral to leave quickly fading marks into the skin. It was time to act, they’d gotten lucky twice, they wouldn’t survive another attack if the Hale was so determined. He just…he had to make sure Stiles would live before he did what he had to do to stop this. The wolf had promised never to leave, but better Stiles should hate him and live.

___

"Excuse me, sir." Scott would be approached by a team of three surgeons and one pathetically haggard looking resident. "Are you here with mister - how do you say this?"

Stiles was being wheeled to a private recovery room as they spoke. He’d suffered fractured bones, a mild concussion, possible damage to his vision, and they weren’t willing to give a definitive answer on what his hip would require in terms of long-term treatment. Rehab was supposed to work wonders, and What followed was a long conversation about finances and post-operation care that no one seemed to want to stick around for.

"You can sit with him, but he may continue to experience the after-effects of anesthesia. Some pain and nausea is normal." What it boiled down to was that when the doors to his room opened, and Stiles raised his hand in greeting, Scott would have to excuse how he drooled on half his face, while wicked gauze-work held the rest of it together. Stiles had been cracked open and pieced together with superglue and duct tape, but he was going to survive the night. He was going to survive a lot of things. He couldn’t tell which was his left and which was his other left, and the stench of vomit still clung beneath marks of medicine, but he was alive.

He was alive, and that was all that mattered.

"Scaw-" he whispered, "Nuh’it. Nuh y’wer oka…"

The bed inclined too quickly for his liking, never mind that it moved at a snail’s pace, but Stiles wouldn’t stop trying to reach out. “Wood’n say dey wood’n tell m’if y’wer oka…”

Stiles had no way of knowing that he’d never asked. All he could remember was that he couldn’t find answers, but nothing else mattered more than how clearly he could see Scott now.

___

“Just call him Stiles.”

Scott could barely focus on what the doctors were saying, the only thing that his mind could latch on to was the fact he was alive. He was still alive, who cared about anything else? As soon as he was allowed into the room, he bolted to the bed, wrapping his hand carefully around Stiles’s. Black veins raced along his skin without a thought, taking and taking until he bowed his head against the hospital bed and sobbed. Stiles’s pain burrowed deep into his bones, Scott couldn’t stop pulling it into his own body like he needed the agony as an anchor.

“Looking good.” The wolf did his best to smile through the tears, putting on his bravest face as he looked into his most terrifying nightmare. “You can hardly even tell anything happened, dude. I’m okay, we’re both okay now. Just look at me, Stiles, we’re okay.” Scott wanted to kiss him and wrap his body around his human’s, to somehow knit together every broken bone and jagged wound until he was whole. He wanted his willpower to be enough, forcing the universe to give him this one thing after taking so much from him. He was owed this, he’d paid for it, he deserved something good to finally happen.

“I love you and you’re gonna be okay. All you need to do is rest, I’m gonna stay right here with you until you’re better.” Scott balled his fist into the end of his sleeve, using it to rub angrily against his own face. Stiles needed him to be strong and he was going to hold them both together. The pendant felt like it was burning a hole in his pocket, a silvered lie that was a thousand times heavier than its actual weight. Peter had won, but he could at least stay until Stiles could sleep without the iv drip and the wolf could reassure himself that everything was going to heal. “Whatever happens, don’t forget that I love you. I’ll keep us safe.”

____

"No no stoh…" Stiles protested, giving great effort towards batting away Scott’s overly generous hands, but once the pain started to leach from his body, he slumped in his seat, practically gurgling with pleasure. Scott was an awful liar when he was crying. Some things never changed, but Stiles just wanted him to be happy. They were both alive. That was all that mattered for now. He would change his opinion, probably, in the middle of the night when all the gauze and needles started pulling on his skin, but now, discomfort was a million miles away. Scott was so much closer.

He made a grab for Scott’s hand, using the arm that would cooperate to press it against his cheek. Only about half of his face felt like it belonged to him at that moment. Stiles didn’t have the strength to do anything but appreciate that. It was funny how trauma could beat the cynicism out of you.

"Lohf you… Get’ere." There were too many things coming out of his arms, things that really shouldn’t have been there. If he wasn’t too busy fighting off the drugs in his system, Stiles would have been terrified. That said, he discerned which side would be less disturbed, and edged closer to the opposite side, giving Scott as much space as he could in a tiny bed that wasn’t built to support two grown men. Pushing for a smile, he asked, "S’Roscoe oka?"

And if he could, he’d wipe the tears off Scott’s face.

___

Scott climbed into the narrow hospital bed as carefully as he could, mindful of each wire and every wound. He swallowed a whimper, trembling hands throbbing with Stiles’s pain as if it were his own, but smiled still so hopeful and sweet. The laughter came as a surprise, the ridiculous question catching him off guard and breaking through the tears. “You almost get turned into a sloppy joe and you ask about that rust bucket? Dude, what was that about your priorities again?”

He was excruciatingly gentle, never letting his weight rest against the human and keeping his hands feather light as they traced down the line of Stiles’s body. Everything was reversed, it hadn’t been that long ago that he was the one wounded in a hospital bed with Stiles’s hands distracting him from his pain. The human couldn’t heal the same way, there was nothing Scott could do to coax his wounds to heal and it was so much worse being on this side of the bed. “Roscoe looks kinda like you do right now, but we’ll fix everything.” Scott would have written off the jeep years ago before it was wrecked, but he knew that as long as some parts of that heap were salvageable, Stiles would find a way to put it back together. Frankenroscoe would live again, he only wished he’d be here to help put everything back together again.

“I need you to sleep, okay? Rest is the most important thing, you need a lot of it to get better. Close your eyes, I’m right here and I’m going to take care of us, I promise. Just…know I love you.” Scott lied, dropping kisses against his love’s forehead as his heart broke and his body trembled more with fear than borrowed pain. There was only one way to end this and make sure Stiles was safe. When he woke next, Scott was gone but the room wasn’t empty. Peter Hale lounged in the corner, smug snarl playing across his face. “Good afternoon, Detective. I was beginning to think you’d never wake up again.”

___

"Der’ee is…" Stiles grinned as much as his bandages allowed. When Scott smiled, everything was worth it, and as soon as he curled into bed, Stiles tried his darnedest to drape himself all over Scott’s body. He’d have given Roscoe over in a heartbeat, crushed it in a junkyard, and toss its remains into the ocean if it meant saving Scott. Stiles would swim that ocean if he had to, too. He didn’t care if he could die trying.

Stop stealing my pain, he should have asked. If he was a braver man, he would have, but Scott was always so good at playing the hero. If Scott had ever become a cop, he’d have medals by now. Scott could have been a doctor, too. Or a pilot. Or a prince. Or anything his pretty face wanted. 

"Eh’luhf  you," he forced out. Scott told him everything was going to be okay. Stiles believed him. Stiles always believed him, even when he was scared and nervous; even when he doubted Scott he still believed him. They weren’t okay now, but they were going to drive into a spare parts yard soon, and put Roscoe back together. Everything would be okay. "Eh luuuf you."

Please stay please stay please stay

Maybe Stiles should have asked louder.

Stiles lost the privilege of peace the moment Peter Hale stepped into the room. He sat quickly, careless of what he jolted and the pain that spread through his nerves.

"Where is he!?" He demanded, working a jaw that felt like it was wired shut, ignoring the way tape tore around his mouth, and his muscles screamed. If Peter was here, then Scott wasn’t. If Scott wasn’t here - Stiles mind refused to accept that, and the emergency call button was barely a foot away. The flasks by his bedside were plastic, and the butterfly needle in his arms was a laughable defense. The IV bar, though, he’d seen a man with one through his chest once.

Stiles had never been so afraid, and it wasn’t for himself.

___

“Careful now, Detective.”  His words were polite, but there was something too slick, too confident beneath them, like he already knew he’d won. Maybe he already had. He settled into the room like it belonged to him, claiming the space without a thought. “You wouldn’t want to tear any stitches. From what I hear, it’s a miracle you’ve survived. I wouldn’t want to give the doctors anything more to worry about.”

Peter leaned back in the chair by the hospital bed, impeccably dressed in a subtle display of power. Even though his good name had been dragged through the mud with this whole wolf business, he was still a man of means and connections. Reputations could be repaired, especially when one had the resources to do it, and there was no way the charges would ever stick. Their main witnesses would be recanting their stories soon, explaining away anything suspicious as consensual roleplay. Harmless adult fun. He already had one in hand, it wouldn’t take much for those still left at Eichen House to return to him as well.

“You’ve been making my life pretty difficult lately, I’m not too fond of all the persecution from you and your office. There’s been a lot of unfounded allegations going around. I’m just a business man, Detective Stilinski, this is a bit of a witch hunt.” The man steepled his fingers and leaned forward. “Stiles Stilinski, please forgive the familiar use of your nickname, I find your birth name a bit of a mouthful. Son of the sheriff of Beacon Hills that grew up to follow in his footsteps. Hyperactive, diagnosed with ADHD, full of promising intelligence but always so difficult to focus that mind into positive activities instead of trouble.” He listed off the information almost as a warning, showing that he knew his enemies well. “Your dedication seems to have won out over the last few years though, you’ve won some commendations for your work until recently, of course. There’s been some talk about your personal investment in this case, your emotions have compromised your work.”

Peter tisked and shook his head. “An inappropriate relationship with one of the so-called ‘victims’ of this crime, one that has the doctors at Eichen  House and your own superiors concerned for his well-being and your career. It could be seen as a way to manipulate your alleged witnesses into giving whatever testimony you want, I think your control over him has worried enough people.” Peter’s smile was cold and cruel, the pleasure he was taking in this evident in his icy blue eyes. “Rumors like that will sink your case and your career, no one will go to trial if the police can’t even follow protocol.”

___

Being in the same room with Peter was like swallowing raw fish, scales and bone and all. He didn’t bother schooling his features into anything other than disgust, but as the psychopath continued, Stiles found that maintaining it was the only course he could accept. There weren’t many Stilinskis in Beacon Hills, he remembered Scott saying. He wondered, as he listened to the bastard brag, if Hale had any reason to record this. He feared that there was something he’d want Stiles to listen to.

"I’m hearing a lot of bullshit, nothing that answers my question." His voice was low, something that would have been angry if not for the way his bandages stuck to his skin. Ever since Stiles had learned how to fire a gun, he’d learned to watch hands. He didn’t think Hale would resort to something that crude, but those were the hands that hired stalkers, murders. Suicidal drivers.

Scott was never going to be a witness. Stiles had told himself that. He’d stopped trying to convince his best friend about the trial long ago. They had Isaac. He was a gold mine for horror stories, enough so that even if a jury didn’t like him as much as they would have liked Scott, they’d be convinced. But Isaac would do anything for Scott. Isaac would hold his peace.

Stiles didn’t know how much he would do for Scott; he hadn’t reached that limit yet. That was where he’d slipped up. That was where he could - should have been smarter.

"Or start threatening. I don’t have all day, and you sound like you like to hear yourself talk."

___

“Threatening? You misunderstand me, Detective. I’m not the monster you believe I am.” He smiled, calm and cruel. He enjoyed the resistance and the anger, he liked pets that fought back. No wonder his pup had been drawn to this officer. “I’ve just come to ask you to drop your case. Scott contacted me after you were hurt, he had quite a few stories to tell about how you used him and manipulated him. A vulnerable and scared young man looking for someone to trust and you took advanced of that when he was weak and drugged. There’s even video evidence that somehow managed to find its way into my hands. It would be very damaging if it ever went public, you understand.”

Peter rubbed his hands together, leaning back in the chair and completely relaxed.  “He wants to come home, who am I to deny him? After everything you’ve done to him, maybe the doctors at Eichen House would be more willing to let him go back to somewhere safe where he’ll actually be protected. A few recommendations and all the paperwork is already taken care of. You’ve lost your custody, Detective Stilinski. I think it’s time you let him go. It’s clearly what he wants.”

He stood, straightening non-existent wrinkles from his suit. “I just wanted to pass along the information, I’ll hold off on making any official complaints to your superiors for now.” Leaning over the bed, Peter brushed his lips by Stiles’s ear to murmur too quietly for any of the video cameras to pick up. “He’s already been down on his knees for me, you know how pretty he looks like that?” He stepped back with a laugh. “Do feel better soon, it’s such a shame what happened. I’m glad you’ll make it through, Detective, you’re made of stronger stuff than I anticipated.”

___

His blood ran cold, and Stiles didn’t know how that was possible when so much anger left him shaking. He didn’t know what to do with his hands. He wished he’d lashed out. He wished he’d tried to kill Hale, even if it would only make sense in the moment. It wasn’t the pain that stopped him. It wasn’t as complex as needing to find Scott. Stiles was furious, but there was a treacherous part of his mind that was scared. He didn’t want to face that.

Scott was gone, and Stiles didn’t want to face that either. Hale hadn’t made demands. He didn’t need to. He’d only needed conditions to keep everything in place. He’d gotten everything he’d wanted, and that was everything Stiles had ever needed. Heat prickled behind his eyes, and Stiles couldn’t he just couldn’t- 

You know how pretty he looks like that?

He pushed his bedside table over, toppling it with a crash. That had the nurses running in, but Stiles was already trying to move, pushing useless limbs to stand, to fight, to - anything. There were too many people, and none of them were Scott. None of them mattered. 

The worst part was that Stiles wasn’t shocked, not entirely. He didn’t know he could think that of Scott.

It felt like there wasn’t enough air in the room, and that was the only thing that stopped him from screaming.