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The Road Less Traveled

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"What are you, ninety? I can probably kick your ass up and down this room."

Famous last words. It's a bit humiliating that all it takes is a single slap to send him to the floor, but damn, Gerard Argent has one hell of a pimp hand on him. The man could be ruling the street corners, but instead he's all about killing Stiles's friends and not-quite-friends.

Gerard doesn't just stop with one slap, though that had been enough to prove that no, Stiles cannot kick his ass. Stiles can't even get off the floor before Gerard is punching him and it's like his entire high school career of thankfully not getting beat up by the cool kids is being corrected right now. Gerard is surprisingly strong for a grandfather and Stiles is surprisingly weak. He can't even fight back.

Stiles has never been good with pain. As much as he spews bravado all the time, now that he's actually in a fight—one-sided at best—he can't do anything. The noises of the basement—the sound of Gerard's fist hitting his flesh, Erica's muffled words, the creak of the ceiling as the werewolves struggle against their bonds—fade away, replaced by loud ringing that seems to take up all the space inside his head, leaving room for nothing else.

He remembers what Gerard said about Scott finding his body. Stiles can picture the scene all too easily but it's not Scott that he worries about. If Stiles dies, Scott will be devastated but not as much as it will devastate Stiles's father. His poor father's about to lose the only family he has left. All of the lies Stiles has been telling him will mean so much more when his father finds his body.

"You should have known better than to run with wolves," Gerard croaks, in a way that sounds entirely deranged. Stiles is starting to get the whole unhinged hunter picture. It's amazing how clear that becomes when he's bleeding on the Argent's basement floor.

"Stop," Stiles begs. He's not above begging, even with Erica and Boyd watching. They've never given two shits about him, so he shouldn't care what they think but part of him does because he cares what Derek thinks and they're connected to Derek.

"Tell me where Derek is."

"What?" Stiles blinks up at the ceiling. Since when had this been about Derek?

Gerard's hand closes around Stiles's neck, squeezing tight. "Derek Hale. His wolves wouldn't give him up but you will."

Stiles glances over at Erica and Boyd then. Erica's eyes plead with him not to tell. It's unnecessary. While he and Derek might not be friends, Stiles desperately wants to be. If he's honest with himself, and what better time for self-honesty than when he's getting the crap kicked out of him by his best friend’s girlfriend’s grandfather, he wants to be much more than friends but that will never happen. He'll settle for being part of the pack, if a somewhat useless part.

He's not going to be useless now. He doesn't know what Gerard wants with Derek. Probably to murder him for revenge after Kate and Mrs. Argent's deaths. Whatever Gerard wants, it won't be good and Stiles isn't going to give it to him.


He expects the punch that follows. He doesn't expect Gerard to stand up after and kick Stiles in the chest. Stiles bites back a scream. He bites his lip so hard he draws blood but that's better than letting any words come out.

"Tell me where the Alpha is."

He curls around his stomach as Gerard lands another solid kick there. He almost blurts out the address of the warehouse Derek has been squatting in, but he manages to change the words before they leave his mouth. "Narnia."

Gerard doesn't find that funny. He steps on Stiles' hand, crushing Stiles's fingers between the cement and his thick boot. It only gets Gerard another stupid answer.

"The Tardis."

He's bleeding. Stiles spits blood from his mouth and he knows that's a bad sign. Erica's screaming against the tape on her mouth. He's not sure if she's trying to tell him to give in or hold on. Either way, her frantic twisting against the wires around her wrist does nothing except add the smell of more blood to the stale basement air.

"Tell me!"

"Motherfucking Oz."

Gerard's foot comes down on Stiles's leg and that's the end of his stupid answers. There's a sickening crack. He doesn't scream. He's in too much pain to scream. His last thought before the world goes black is that this is such a pathetic way to die.

Stiles wakes up wishing he were dead. Thankfully he is not but he hurts so much that he thinks he's halfway there. That's what Gerard had wanted after all. Stiles is supposed to be dead, left in a ditch for Scott to find. He wonders if the fact that he's not is an oversight or purposeful.

The basement floor is cold and caked in blood. Some of it is still fresh. It's all his. He shifts, moving only a fraction of an inch but it's enough to force out the barest of groans. The sound gets someone's attention. He turns his head slowly and meets Erica's eyes, then Boyd's. There are fresh tears in Erica's eyes. He can't tell if they're tears for him or from the electricity coursing through her system. What must she think of him now? Is she proud that he stayed loyal and didn't give up Derek or disgusted with how weak he is?

He knows one thing—he can't leave them here to die. They need to escape and stop whatever it is that Gerard's planning. Stiles doesn't think he's making it out of the basement, at least not without a stretcher, but at least if he can get them free, they can bust loose and help Derek.

He doesn't want to die in a basement. No one is going to die in this basement, not if he can help it.

Stiles tries to stand up and immediately regrets it. Pain hits him like a truck the second he tries to get his right leg under him. It knocks him flat and he wakes up what he hopes is only a few minutes later with his face mashed into the floor.

Well, he knows better than to try that again. There's something wrong with his leg. He shifts slowly to stare down the length of his body at it but he can't see much from this angle. His right leg hurts insanely bad but it also feels like the pain is distant, like there's too much pain for his body to even process. It's hard for him to breathe or move the fingers of his left hand. That means something bad but he has bigger problems right now, namely the fact that he's on the floor and the source of all the electricity running through Erica and Boyd is across the room.

He crawls. It's probably one of the most undignified looking things he's ever done but Erica and Boyd have already seen him at some of his weakest points. He doesn't have much dignity left. What he does have is an insane sense of loyalty and right now all he can think about is getting them all out of the basement and saving Derek.

That's enough to worry about for the time being.

He slides slowly across the floor, pulling himself one arm at a time. He kicks a bit with his left leg but it doesn't do much. Thank God for lacrosse and all the upper arm strength it's forced him to acquire.

The controls may as well have been miles away. He's wheezing by the time he makes it to the table, long past the stages of panting, whimpering, and crying. He's pretty sure he’s left a trail of blood behind him and it makes him feel like a mutant slug.

His fingers reach for the edge of the table. He has to roll onto his side and stretch up painfully. His entire chest feels like it's on fire but it's worth it for the brief flash of victory as his fingers close around the edge of the table.

Then he screams. He has no choice. Electric current burns through him and he yanks his hand away, curling around it with a choked sob.

Is that what Erica and Boyd were feeling? All this time?

There's noise from upstairs. Someone heard him. He curses and forces himself back on his side. There's nothing around for him to use to block the current. He briefly thinks about wadding up the thin fabric of his jersey but then the door opens and there's no time left. He grabs the table, clenching his teeth to hold in the pain and then pulls himself up. He has no idea how he does it, no idea why he doesn't just crumple to the floor sobbing—again—but he makes it. He has to use his injured hand to brace himself. He’s crying from the pain and his good hand shakes as he reaches forward, stretching toward the controls. His fingers brush against the knobs.


His hand slips, throwing him off balance. He thinks he cries out as his fingers fall away from the controls. He definitely does when he hits the floor. Pain knifes through him, stabbing at his chest, his arm, and his leg.

Footsteps echo on the cement floor and then there's a hand on his shoulder, rolling him.

"What the hell?"

If he could talk, he'd probably echo the sentiment. His vision is a little blurry as he stares up at Chris Argent, who looks just as surprised to see Stiles as Stiles is to see him. Probably more surprised since this is Chris's house and Stiles had a vague idea that Chris might be here.

"Who did this? What happened?"

Stiles laughs. He can't help it. The sound just bubbles out of his chest. "Ask your dad." His voice is hoarse and unsteady but he manages to get the words out. They cause even more confusion to cross Chris's face.

Then Chris's arms are coming under him and Stiles doesn't understand what's going on until Chris starts to lift him. "We need to get you to a hospital."

"No." Stiles shoves hard at Chris's chest, sending himself tumbling back to the floor. It hurts and Chris is looking at him like he's crazy. So are Erica and Boyd but dammit he'd made himself a promise. No one's going to die down here. "Not without them."

Erica and Boyd are definitely looking at him like he's crazy now. Chris reaches for Stiles again and Stiles pushes himself away. He doesn't go far, but it makes his point.

"Alright." Chris stands then and flips the switch, shutting off the electricity like it's nothing, like he hadn't just betrayed his own father with one turn of the wrist. He looks down at Stiles for a second before stepping up to Erica and untying her bonds.

"There was a time once when Argents would think twice about going after underage werewolves," Chris says. It doesn't sound like he's talking to Stiles. It doesn't sound like he's talking to any of them. "When we wouldn't beat a child." Erica drops to the floor. Instead of running for the door she moves to Stiles, crouching next to him with a strange look on her face. She slips a deceptively strong arm under his shoulders. "Over the years the lines got blurred. The division between monster and man isn't so clear anymore."

He gets what Chris is saying. He really does, and the ramifications of his words go far beyond the basement or even this house. Chris's allegiances aren't as solid as they once were and maybe, if Gerard weren't here, they'd have a chance to work something out.

All of that is a conversation for later though. Stiles's head swims as Boyd comes to his other side and he's lifted onto his feet. He's vaguely aware of Chris saying "Come with me" and then everything after that is a blur.

The bright lights of the hospital focus him, at least a little bit. The sudden noise helps. Chris isn't with them. He left them at the side entrance, near the morgue, but Erica and Boyd are still with him. They haven't left his side the whole way here, crowding him between them in the back of Chris's SUV while he faded in and out of consciousness. He'd babbled something about Derek, about helping him, but either his words didn't make sense or they'd chosen to ignore him. Most people chose to ignore him.

When they walk in the emergency entrance, there's a whole flurry of noise. He must look bad. There's not even a wait to be seen. Nurses are rushing over to him, maybe a doctor or two, and then he's being pushed down onto a stretcher. The lights flash above him as he's wheeled away, but he can still hear Erica and Boyd, not far away, trailing after him.

Weren't they supposed to be leaving? It's an odd thing to think about when the nurse—he thinks it's Mrs. McCall but he's not entirely sure, his vision is too blurry—is pulling his eyelids up and flashing a light in his eyes to check the dilation. He should be worrying about a concussion or internal bleeding or how many bones are broken, but instead he worries about Erica and Boyd.

Scott had told him. Erica and Isaac and Boyd. They were all going to run away tonight, during the game. Get away from Beacon Hills and the hunters and the kanima and all the other craziness that's been going on. Apparently Boyd and Erica hadn't made it far before Gerard got them and Isaac had been at the game.

They could leave now, while Stiles is distracted by the needle in his arm and the blissful rush of painkillers flooding into his system. But they aren't. He can't see them but he knows they're still there. They're not leaving.

It's his fault. He's not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. He's dragged them down with him. Scarlet nerded them.

It's selfish, but he doesn't want them to leave because Derek needs them. Derek needs his pack whole and strong. He doesn't need Stiles but Stiles wants to make Derek need him.

He wants Derek to notice him.

He wants Derek.