When Gerard’s goons shove Stiles down the stairs to the Argents’ basement, his first thought isn't that he's going to die there. Who thinks they’re going to die? Well, he does occasionally, but usually that’s because someone is actively trying to kill him at the time. Namely Peter when he was a raging, murderous Alpha. And Scott that one time. Or was it two times? And Jackson when he's that crazy, mind-controlled lizard thing. So far it's been entirely limited to werewolves and were-adjacents trying to kill him, not egotistical hunters. Not geriatric old men.
Gerard threatens to kill him, of course, like any stereotypical villain. He talks about Scott finding his body and how it’ll be a message and how Stiles shouldn’t have run with wolves, but Stiles doesn't believe Gerard’s actually going to kill him. Not really. It’s just an empty threat to scare him. He’s dealt with enough schoolyard bullies—and actual predators—to know when to call a bluff. Gerard is just another teenage bully wrapped in an old man’s body.
That's what gives him the courage to spit in Gerard's face and tell him to go to rot in hell with his dead daughter.
His words trigger a nerve. That isn't unusual for the things Stiles says. It is unusual for him to be dealing with a power-hungry, enraged psychopath at the time, so he probably should have expected what had started out as a minor scare tactic to turn into a severe beat-down. Gerard goes at him again with his fists. Pain blossoms in Stiles's face, in his chest and arms and stomach. Gerard screams at him. He’s practically frothing at the mouth as he goes at Stiles.
Then Stiles's head bounces off the cement floor and there's a loud crack. Pain shoots through him, like a lightning strike straight down his spine, lighting up every nerve with electric fire. He gasps. Doesn’t even get out a scream as his body seizes up.
The basement disappears and everything goes white.
He feels light, weightless. It’s like he’s dizzy, but not. Like all sense of space and orientation have left him and he’s just adrift. There is no pain. There’s no feeling at all. There’s nothing but the bright white all around him.
This is what dying must feel like.
That's his mother's voice. He tries to turn to find it but there’s nothing there. He doesn’t even know how to turn. Movement simply isn’t an option.
"Mama?" His voice is small. Barely more than a child’s whisper. It’s not a sound he’s used to, not something that would come out of his mouth now, but he thinks it’s familiar. He thinks this is what he sounded like when he was small. Before his mother died.
His only response is the sound of flapping wings and then the light is gone. He's back in the basement. He gasps as horrible pain assaults him once more, shocking him into consciousness. Is it possible to be hyper-conscious? That’s what it feels like. He goes from feeling nothing to feeling everything—every scrape, every bruise, every aching muscle. His body arches against the cold stone floor and he sucks in a breath so deep that it makes his lungs ache.
To his left, something moves jerkily. He has to blink a few times before his vision focuses. Erica and Boyd are staring at him with wide eyes from where they’re suspended, barely two feet away. He could reach out and touch Erica’s boot. Duct tape muffles whatever Erica tries to say.
He rolls over with a pained groan and pushes himself up to stand on unstable feet. He shakes his head a few times to clear it. He sways in place. He feels dizzy. "W-what?" His voice is hoarse. He licks his lips. He needs a drink badly. There’s a table nearby. He leans on it as he gets his bearings. Gerard and his goons are gone. "They just left me here with you? Stupid."
Erica looks like she’s been crying, but Stiles imagines that has more to do with the electricity keeping her docile than anything that happened to Stiles. He hobbles over to the machine generating the current and shuts it off. He has no idea what Gerard was thinking leaving Stiles down here and not tied up like the other too. Maybe he thought the beating was enough to keep Stiles passed out.
Stiles plays lacrosse. Stiles plays lacrosse with Scott, who, for the longest time, was unable to aim for anything but Stiles’s head. Like hell a few dozen bruises were going to keep him down. He's had worse.
He heads to Erica first. Movement’s getting easier, at least. No doubt he's just stiff from lying on the cold cement floor. Erica stares at him as he pulls the tape off of her mouth and then stretches up onto his toes to get a look at the ties around her hands. They’re some kind of wire and eww, that’s totally blood on her wrists.
"I need wire cutters," he says as he turns away.
"You were dead, Stiles. I heard you die."
Stiles blinks, stills. He stares down at himself, at his pale hands. He presses two fingers to his throat, just to feel the steady pulse throbbing in his veins. He doesn't feel dead, and he says so. "I don’t feel dead. Heart's still ticking."
He pulls open cabinets until he finds a set of clippers that look like they’ll do the job.
"I..." Erica cuts herself off.
Stiles eyes her warily when he turns. He thinks maybe the electricity is frying her brain. He should get them out of there before the current does any more damage.
He snips the wires holding her up and then tries to steady her with one arm. They both almost fall as her weight presses against him. She rights herself first, pulling her hands free from the wire and then grabbing him with one clawed hand to steady him. It puts holes in the front of his jersey but he’s past caring. Once they’re both righted, he moves to release Boyd.
Before he can, Erica envelopes him in a tight hug. It hurts, but everything hurts right now, even his toes. "I'm so glad you're not dead."
Stiles feels strangely warm. The only people who ever hug him are Scott, Melissa, and his dad. He and Erica are not friends, but Stiles feels like they’re comrades. Fighting the same fight. "You too, Catwoman. Let's get Boyd down and then go find Derek."
A thought comes to him as soon as he’s done cut the cords away from Boyd’s wrists and he looks at the two werewolves. "Unless you were still planning on ditching this hellhole?" He shifts on his feet and looks at the floor, dreading the answer that he knows they're going to give. There’s a big pool of blood where he had been laying and he quickly turns away before he throws up. He doesn’t remember bleeding. He can check for cuts later.
"I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I’d offer you a ride out of town, but I don’t have my Jeep and I... I can’t leave. Scott’s out there and Derek’s out there and my dad... whatever Gerard plans to do, I’m not going to let him. I can’t let them face it alone and I have to try... something?" He doesn’t know what he’s going to do. He doesn’t know where Gerard ran off to. He doesn’t know where Scott and Derek are or if the kanima’s causing problems again or what’s going on. "I don’t know. I don’t even know if there’s anything to do, but when Scott needs me, I want to be here for him."
"We’re not leaving," Erica says. If he didn't know any better, he'd say there were tears in her eyes. "We’ll stay too." She glances at Boyd and some silent conversation takes place between them. "We want to help."
Stiles stares at her. She has an out and she’s not taking it. That’s... that’s huge. "Alright. Okay. So, step one, let’s get away from these psychos. Do you hear any of them upstairs?"
Erica shakes her head and Stiles takes the lead. The basement door isn’t even locked. Amateurs. There’s no one upstairs so they let themselves out the front door. Stiles doesn’t feel safe until they’re a few houses down and out of sight. He doesn't have pockets so he turns to the other two. "I don't suppose either of you have a phone?"
They shake their heads in unison and Stiles groans. "Walking it is, then."
It feels like hours until they leave suburbia and enter the edges of civilization. He makes a beeline for the first gas station he sees and then praises the gods of old, antiquated technology that the place has a payphone. He dials his dad collect, which is apparently the right thing to do because John sounds frantic when he answers. "Hello? Stiles?"
"Yeah, dad. It's me. Can you come pick me up?"
"Stiles, I need you to tell me where you are. Can you do that?"
He frowns and looks around for street signs. "Yeah. I'm at the QuikMart on the corner of..." He squints at the sign. "Cherrywood and Olmstead?"
"Good." John takes a deep breath, loud enough that it carries through the receiver. His exhale is shaky. "That's good. Stay where you are. Just stay where you are and I'll be right there." Stiles stares at the phone as the line goes dead, for once, does exactly what John says. He's pretty sure that was real worry in John's voice. He hasn't heard that since his mom died.
He glances over at Erica and Boyd, half expecting them to have disappeared while he wasn’t looking, but they're right behind him. He debates going into the store part of the gas station but it's warm enough outside and they look like they just escaped some serial killer's murderer room.
Stiles bounces on his feet and looks at Boyd, then Erica. "So, what's new?"
They're in the midst of a mutual bitchfest over how much they all hate Kafka, with an impassioned aside from Erica about how they always read books by dead white men, when the sound of approaching sirens cuts them off. Stiles's eyes get progressively wider as he realizes the sirens are heading toward them. John's cruiser nearly skids into the parking lot, not even stopping in a parking spot. John is out in seconds and striding toward Stiles like he's about to be arrested. Instead, John pulls Stiles into what is possibly the tightest hug Stiles has ever received.
John pulls away to hold Stiles at arm's length. His eyes rake over every one of Stiles's visible injuries—and Erica's and Boyd's—and a thunderous look crosses his face. "What the hell happened? Who did this?"
Erica looks stunned. Boyd remains silent, so it's up to Stiles to lie. "Just some guys from the game. I mouthed off, they jumped me, Boyd and Erica tried to help."
"I want names. Whoever did this... they’re not getting away with it."
Stiles knows the fact that they're nowhere near the school has not escaped John's notice. John doesn't question it, just squeezes Stiles tight once more and then tells them to get in the car.
John drops Erica and Boyd off at their respective homes, then parks right next to Stiles's Jeep where Stiles had left it in the school parking lot and waits, cruiser idling while Stiles clamors clumsily into his Jeep as best as his sore body will allow. Stiles waves at John from the driver’s seat but John just sits there, waiting until Stiles starts the Jeep and then following him all the way home.
When they get into the house, his dad hugs again and Stiles doesn't complain, even though it aggravates his bruises. He doesn’t know what the hell’s going on with Scott or Derek or Gerard, but he thinks that maybe, this one time, he’s done enough for one day.
Stiles wakes to a blast of cold air and glowing red eyes in the dark. He startles, half-formed nightmares of Peter making him scramble away before his rational brain takes over and reminds him that Peter’s dead. The desk lamp flicks on, casting Derek’s face in soft light. The bastard’s smirking at him, like he finds Stiles’s fear funny.
"You scared me," Stiles says as he peels himself off of the wall. He shakes himself, trying to push off the last dredges of sleep. "Shit. Are you okay? I thought Gerard was going after you."
"It's been taken care of."
Stiles waits for Derek to elaborate but he doesn't. "And?"
Derek shrugs and settles into the armchair in the corner like it’s his throne. "And Erica said you died."
"What?" Stiles moves until he's sitting up on his bed, facing Derek. "Don't change the subject." He runs a hand through his hair and shakes his head. Why do people keep saying that? He keeps his voice low, trying not to wake his dad. "Obviously not dead."
"She said your heart stopped."
Stiles blinks. She hadn’t mentioned that to him. His fingers find a pulse-point on his throat. His pulse is steady still, if a little fast from his earlier scare. "Still beating."
"I know. I can hear it. She said..." Derek stares at him for a long moment. "Never mind." He turns away, staring into the shadows. Silence reigns for a several minutes. Stiles waits, knowing Derek is here for a reason, but also just kind of glad to see Derek alive and in one piece. "They were going to leave. Boyd and Erica. Isaac too. I thought I’d lost them all, my entire pack, and somehow you convinced them to stay. You brought my pack back to me."
Stiles shakes his head and stares down at his hands clasped in his lap. "I didn’t... I mean, I asked them. If they were leaving, but I didn’t say anything inspiring or anything. I didn’t try to talk them out of it. I just..." He chances a glance up. Derek is focused on Stiles and their eyes meet. "I just said that I wasn’t going to leave."
Stiles frowns. "What?"
"Why wouldn’t you leave?" Derek leans forward. He braces his elbows on his knees and stares at Stiles like he’s seeing him for the first time. "If you had a chance for a fresh start, wouldn't you take it?"
Heat rushes through Stiles, only some of it going to his face. He would be lying if he said having Derek's full attention on him didn't do things to his insides. He has to look away, so he stares at the door to his room and focuses on the fact that his dad is sleeping only a few feet away. "My dad’s here. And Scott. I wouldn’t leave them behind."
Stiles’s blush deepens. He shrugs. "With Scott comes his mom, and I guess..." His cheeks feel like they’re burning. "I guess I’m invested in keeping you alive, too." He laughs, but the sound comes out strained, hollowed out by his efforts to keep quiet. "I mean, I’ve put enough work into it. It’d be a shame to waste all that effort."
When Stiles dares to look at Derek again, he's not in the armchair. Instead, Derek is right in front of him. He doesn’t startle this time, but his mind does wander to dangerous places given Stiles’s direct view of Derek’s crotch. Sue him and his propensity for hopeless crushes.
Then Derek touches him, a light grip on his wrist as Derek raises it toward his lips, and Stiles’s whole body flushes with warmth and want. He looks up at Derek’s red eyes and his breath catches.
"Do you want the bite?"
Stiles swallows. He knows what this means to Derek. It’s a gift. Something Stiles has earned. He thinks back to Peter and it feels so very different from when Peter offered.
Stiles almost says yes. What comes out instead is "go on a date with me." He's not even aware of what he’s saying until the words are gone from his lips and it's too late to take them back. He flushes, glad that it's too dark to really see how very red he's gotten. He can feel his embarrassment in his toes. He tries to pull his wrist away but Derek’s grip tightens slightly, not painful, just holding him.
"What?" Derek looks, of all things, surprised. Stiles wasn’t even sure that facial expression existed in Derek’s repertoire but Stiles has managed to pull it out of the dusty closet Derek had stashed it in.
"Never mind." Stiles looks away. He tugs on his wrist but Derek still won’t let go. "Ignore what I said. You're with Erica anyways."
"I'm not with Erica."
Stiles's eyes widen and he turns back. "But I thought...." Erica certainly acted like she and Derek were a thing. But then she also acted like that with Boyd.
Derek meets Stiles’s eyes and then bends down to press a kiss against the inside of Stiles’s wrist. "I'll go on a date with you, if that's what you want."
Stiles is pretty sure he’s about to die from blood loss because all of his blood is in his face which means none of it is pumping through his heart. "I... I do. Want that. But only if you want that. Not, like, as a favor or because you think you owe me but-" A hand covers his mouth, mercifully cutting off the rest of Stiles’s word vomit.
Derek smiles. It’s like that smile he gave Tara at the station but this time it’s directed at Stiles and Stiles is pretty sure he’s about to pop an erection.
Derek pulls both of his hands away. Stiles feels their loss physically, the air too cold against his skin where Derek’s heat once was. "I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t want to."
Stiles nods dumbly and watches as Derek moves back to the window. Derek pauses. "I'm glad you're not dead."
Then Derek is gone and Stiles is left with the horrible and awesome realization that he has a date with Derek Hale.