If he listens hard, Stiles can still hear the growls and the gunfire from outside the warehouse, but he's really trying not to. Those are his friends out there, possibly getting themselves hurt or killed to provide a distraction so Stiles can do this. If something does happen to one of them, it's going to be on him, for not being fast enough, for not being good enough, and Stiles can't handle that.
So he hurries through the building as fast as he can with only moonlight and a tiny flashlight beam to guide him, and he doesn't let himself hear the cries or the shouts or the screams.
Derek is surprisingly easy to find. The hunters have gone to no effort to conceal him in a locked room or even some secret sub-basement like Stiles thought they would. He's right out in the open, chained to the ceiling, toes scraping the floor and arms stretched painfully, dangling by the chains binding his wrists. His arms have deep cuts running up and down them, gouges rent in soft flesh that are still bleeding sluggishly, not healing, and it's not hard to figure out exactly what the hunters' knives were laced with to do that. There are electrical burns on his chest and stomach and thighs. He looks like he's unconscious, and he's definitely naked, and Stiles briefly wonders which of those two facts is going to do a better job of making this even more difficult than it already was.
"Okay buddy, gonna get you out of this, okay?" Stiles nods, aware that he's talking more to himself than to Derek, who would scowl ferociously at his use of the word 'buddy' even if they have become sort-of-almost-maybe friends over the last couple years, and searches the room for something he can use as a stepstool.
There isn't much besides the low table across the room, and it's covered with all sorts of bad shit, from jars of dried plants – obviously wolfsbane – to common household steak knives to an actual freaking taser.
Hunters are seriously twisted motherfuckers, he decides, sweeping almost everything off the table (but pocketing the taser because you just never know when something like that could come in handy) so he can drag it over to where Derek's hanging out.
(He realizes after the fact how truly awful a pun that is, but the damage has already been done.)
The metal table scrapes against the concrete floor with an echo that beats against Stiles' eardrums, and he hopes and prays that all the hunters cleared out when the wolves attacked. If anyone is still left anywhere in this whole building, he's not going to have a lot of time here, and he's just a flimsy teenager who won't be able to do much against a hardened, probably-psycho hunter, especially one who doesn't follow their damn code.
Derek's skin is hot to the touch, too hot to mean anything good, but at least the cuffs can't hold for long against Stiles' mad lock-picking skills. Derek doesn't move, doesn't even twitch, until the second cuff comes off and he drops to the floor with a pained groan. Stiles winces and hops off the table, kneeling by Derek's side.
Derek is curled in on himself in a fetal position, cradling his arms close and trembling hard against the cold concrete. "S-Stiles?" he says, not opening his eyes.
Stiles has absolutely no idea what to do here, his hands flapping around without much purpose until he finally picks a spot that looks safe to touch and he tentatively presses his hand to Derek's back. "Yeah, it's me. You, uh, maybe think you can stand? We really need to get out of here, like, yesterday."
"Hear fighting," Derek mumbles. "Pack…"
"The pack's fine," Stiles says, hoping really hard they're not going to make a liar out of him by turning up dead later. "Just making a nice big distraction so someone could get you out."
"S'good," Derek swallows, his throat clicking painfully, making Stiles wish he had some water he could give him. "Good kids. Shouldn't…shouldn't…"
Stiles brain stutters, and then he decides to hell with it, they don't have time for whatever voodoo has been clearly done to Derek's mouth. He shoves his hands under Derek's shoulder and drags him up into a sitting position. Derek blinks slowly, but his eyes remain unfocused and bleary.
He's also still naked and shivering.
"Fuck my life. Just, seriously," Stiles mutters, shrugging out of his own slightly-too-large plaid shirt. With some careful maneuvering, he gets it onto Derek and buttoned all he way down. It won't do much (and doesn't hide much, Jesus Christ), but at least it's something. "Okay Derek, buddy, I'll get you out of here, but you've gotta help me a little, okay? We're gonna stand now, on three. One, two –"
Before he can say three, Derek is forcing himself to his feet, as awkward as a newborn giraffe, and the only thing that stops him from toppling right back down is Stiles hastily grabbing his arm and ducking under so Derek can lean all of his weight on him. He grunts a little, but manages to stay upright, and to keep Derek standing as well.
They take a few unsteady steps before Derek seems to get the hang of walking again, and then it gets a little easier. Stiles reaches over to pat him on the chest, careful to keep away from the burn marks. "Okay," he says. "Little further. Just to the car, okay?"
He talks like this the entire way out of the back of the building, through the cracked and broken parking lot, and onto the street where his trusty Jeep is waiting.
Derek passes out the second he's in the passenger seat, leaving Stiles to release a too-shaky breath and rest his hands on the hood until he can control how hard they're shaking. When he's as steady as he thinks he's going to get, he climbs into the driver seat and guns it as far away from this place as he can get, as fast as he knows how to drive.
Scott calls an hour later, while Deaton is treating Derek, and Stiles is pacing the front office because he thinks otherwise, he'll just talk too much and wind up being a distraction the vet doesn't need while he's busy saving Derek's life.
His fingers are jerky and fumbling when he answers the phone, but he manages to hit the speaker button as he continues his frantic pacing. "Scott? You okay? Everyone alive?"
"Yeah." Scott sounds tired, but he doesn't have that whining quality his voice gets when he's badly hurt. "Everyone's okay, we're at the Hale house."
Because the train depot Derek and his pack usually haunt won't be safe, if that's where the hunters nabbed Derek from.
"Okay," Stiles says. He breathes out, releasing a tiny bit of the fidgety tension with it. "Derek's not great, but we're at Deaton's. I'll update you when I know anything. The hunters, are they…"
"Two dead," Scott says grimly. "Erica and Boyd are taking care of the bodies. I don't think the other two will be bothering us again."
"Jesus." Stiles leans against the counter and closes his eyes. "You're going to have to talk to Chris and explain. The code –"
"Allison's already on it." Scott hasn't spoken a single word to Allison in months. Stiles wonders what it cost him to call her now, with this. "Stiles, should I come –"
"Nah, I'm good." Stiles isn't, he feels like he's going to fall over any second, but his friends are the ones who just risked life and limb. "I'll stay with Derek and I'll keep you updated. Just keep an eye on his pack, make sure no one does anything dumber than usual."
Scott snorts. "You know Jackson's with us, right?" A tiny bit of humor comes into his tone, which is good for so many reasons.
"Yeah, yeah. Don't let him and Boyd kill each other." He hangs up, letting the phone clatter onto the counter as he puts his head in his hands and just breathes, in and out, for as long as he can stand it.
Which is about as long as it takes for Deaton to poke his head out and say, "Stiles? Will you come in here for a moment?"
Stiles pulls himself together and nods, following Deaton back into the exam room, bracing himself for whatever he might find there. Deaton wasn't wearing a look of deep angst or regret or disaster, but that doesn't mean much with Deaton. The guy is basically pure Zen.
But Stiles sees that Derek is actually awake, and more than that, even sitting up. Granted, he's slumped in a chair looking like he might keel over any second, looking somehow painfully young in the baggy pair of scrubs Deaton must have had stashed away somewhere, but he's alive. This is a big step up from how he'd looked when Stiles first brought him here.
"Stiles," Deaton says. "I was hoping you might be able to take Derek back to your house and keep an eye on him. He's going to be very weak for several hours still."
"Uh." Stiles blinks. He'd assumed Derek was going to want to go straight to his pack, make sure they were okay. "Well, I mean…"
"Why don't you two talk for a few minutes, see if you can sort it out." Deaton smiles benignly and leaves the room again.
Stiles flounders. "Um. You okay, man?"
Derek glares blearily up at him. "Better than I was," he finally admits.
Hesitantly, Stiles sits down next to him. "Any reason you don't want the pack looking after you?"
"Wolfsbane." Derek grits his teeth. "Interrogation blend. Still in my system. Makes me talk. I can't…there are things I might say to them, that would hurt them. The pack." He sags in the chair, looking like all those words just cost all the energy he had.
Okay, yikes. Stiles can see why Derek might be extra grumpy right now to be alive. He's not a particularly open person at the best of times, and being forced to be would suck for anyone. "That makes sense," he allows. "But why not stay here then? I mean, you can't actually want to put up with me for this, right?" He actually laughs a little, but Derek only shrugs.
"Only other person I trust," he says, leaning his head back against the wall and closing his eyes.
Jesus. "Okay." Stiles rubs a hand over his face, remembering the long-ago days when he thought being a senior in high school was going to make his life easier. So much for that. "Dad's on day shifts this weekend and it's almost time for him to leave, judging by the early morning sunlight outside. So we'll wait a half hour and then go?"
Derek nods, not bothering to open his eyes. "Okay," he mumbles.
He gives Derek his bed because it's blatantly obvious that Derek needs it more than he does. Derek pretty much collapses on top of the covers, leaving Stiles to tug his shoes off and wrangle the comforter over his already mostly-sleeping form.
Sleep, Stiles knows, is the best thing for Derek right now. He doesn't begrudge the werewolf the use of his bed if it helps him heal faster.
"How long will the wolfsbane be in your system for?" he asks before he can make his retreat to his desk and his computer.
Derek's eyes are closed, but he manages something resembling a shrug as he pulls the comforter up a little higher and burrows into Stiles' pillow. "Hours," he mumbles. "Not more'n a day." He sighs a little, softly, and just like that, he's out.
Stiles stays sitting on the bed for a long moment, watching him, battling the urge to reach out and run a hand through Derek's hair because he looks disconcertingly young like this. The lines on his face smooth out with sleep, and his perpetual frown becomes far less pronounced. For now, at least, he doesn't look like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Stiles finally settles on rubbing his shoulder gently before he forces himself to pull away and cross the room to his desk.
He sits in front of his computer and does his best to ignore the wolf in his bed, even when every instinct he has starts clamoring for him to check on Derek every few minutes.
Derek sleeps like a rock for the first few hours. Stiles is just starting to make a pretty awesome dent in his research paper for AP English when the twitching starts. It doesn't even register at first, not until Derek jerks hard enough to make the rusty springs in the mattress start squeaking. Stiles starts, then jumps out of his chair and practically dives for the bed to make sure Derek is okay, not hurt, not dying –
He is, of course. He's fine, just dreaming, and Stiles has to close his eyes and count out a few deep breaths to make the panic recede. Jesus, get a grip, Stilinski, he berates himself.
Derek moves again, twisting his head from side to side, a tiny whine emerging from his throat. Stiles had hoped he'd be able to just sleep through the time that the crap in his system would be the most potent, but if it were Stiles, and it was a choice between nightmares and talking about some maybe-uncomfortable truths, he knows what he'd pick. Derek looks like he's in physical pain from whatever he's dreaming about, and that's enough to cement the decision.
"Derek," Stiles says. He smoothes a hand over Derek's brow because he can't help himself, and it seems to settle Derek a little, but he still doesn't wake, just leans into the touch in a way that makes Stiles' heart pound and his palms go clammy. "Derek," he says again, louder this time, moving his hand down to squeeze Derek's shoulder.
It takes a few moments for Derek's eyes to blink open, and then he stares muzzily up at Stiles for even longer. "Is something wrong?" he finally asks, trying to sit up.
Stiles presses him back down. "No, nothing like that, don't get up," he says. Because Derek is still pale, obviously not quite fully healed yet. "You were dreaming. It, uh. Didn't look like much fun."
Derek's eyes go distant, his adam's apple bobbing as he swallows. "Not so much," he admits after a minute. "Thanks."
"No prob," Stiles says, shrugging. "I should, um." He gestures back toward his computer. "Unless there's something I can get you? Water maybe, a book? Another blanket?"
"I'm okay," Derek says, his lips quirking up a fraction, like Stiles is amusing him somehow. Which is really pretty much par for the course these days, Stiles thinks wryly. "Just rather not be alone right now." He cringes immediately after he says it, which leads Stiles to believe it probably wasn't something he wanted to say at all.
"I wouldn't want to be either," he tells Derek quietly. When Derek doesn't look at all reassured, he tries something else. "I mean, it should go without saying, but will it help if I swear on my poor shriveled soul that nothing you say here will ever go beyond this room?"
"Your soul isn't shriveled," Derek says, in the grumpiest voice imaginable.
"Of course that's what you took out of that sentence." Stiles sighs, but he's grinning when he shakes his head.
"Besides, I already know that. You'd never –" Derek stops, visibly clamping down on whatever it was he was about to say before he shrugs one shoulder. "I came here because I trusted you, remember?"
"I know. But sometimes it still helps to hear it, so I promise anyway."
Calling Derek a 'private person' is like calling a pit of lava 'warm'. Derek is secrecy personified, he takes it to levels the CIA would be proud of. Stiles can't imagine how much it must suck to know all the things he keeps buried are threatening to spill out at any moment. But the best he could offer was to stay away; if Derek doesn't want him to, then the absolute least he can do is promise not to repeat anything Derek might say while he's here. If he could, Stiles would close his eyes and stick earplugs in his ears, but somehow, he doesn't think that would help Derek any.
"Is it any better than it was?" he asks.
"A little." Derek's brow furrows, like he's considering the question very seriously. "It's not like it forces me to answer questions. It just…loosens me enough that I don't care as much. Makes me want to talk and answer questions and share secrets. The more I give in to it, the better I feel. Trying to fight it makes me feel worse. But it's not as potent now." His eyes darken. "And I've had it in my system before. My body is better at fighting it."
Stiles blinks. "Wait, what? When was this? You never told us –"
"It was a long time ago," Derek cuts in. He turns his face away. "I didn't know at the time, it was a slow process. Drugged drinks, probably. For weeks. Didn't realize. Didn't recognize it till the hunters today…" He trails off, and Stiles is horrified to see that he looks like he's seconds away from tears.
"Hey, hey, Derek, it's okay, right? I mean, you got through the last time, and this won't be any worse. I mean, you didn't tell them anything that could compromise the pack or you would've said sooner, right? So chin up, it's not the end of the world!" He's trying for the cheerful optimism that usually drives everyone from Scott to his dad batty, but he can tell by the way Derek sinks further into himself that it isn't working.
"I got through the last time," Derek grits out. "My family didn't."
Oh, fuck. For the first time possibly ever, Stiles' penchant for words fails him. He doesn't think he could make words right now if his life depended on it. He sits and gapes uselessly, his heart aching so hard for Derek he's afraid it might actually stop beating any moment.
"I never told anyone that," Derek suddenly sighs, his eyes closing. "Not even Laura."
"Derek." Stiles stands up shakily, crossing his arms over his chest. "I should…you don't want to tell me this stuff, I should really –"
"Please stay." Derek doesn't reach out, but his eyes, when he opens them again and fixes them right on Stiles, are imploring. He barks out a laugh, a bitter-sounding thing that sticks in his throat and shatters there like glass. "This sucks, but it sucks…marginally less with you here."
Slowly, Stiles sits again. "Well gee, thanks," he manages, trying for a smile that probably looks like a pale facsimile. "Are there any safe topics? Stuff you could talk about that wouldn't…" He has no idea how to finish that sentence.
Derek hesitates, looking torn. He stares out Stiles' window. "I could. Maybe I could tell you about Laura?"
There's a knot the size of a basketball in Stiles' throat. "Okay," he responds, forcing the word past unwilling vocal cords. He moves slowly, like Derek is a horse he's trying not to spook, stretching out beside Derek on the bed until they're lying side by side with Derek still partially beneath the blankets. Leaving Derek free to turn away if he doesn't want Stiles to see him, which Stiles would understand because he hates people seeing his face when he talks about his mom, and he gets the feeling it's kind of the same thing for Derek.
Instead though, Derek curls towards him, his forehead resting against the top of Stiles' shoulder, knees tucked up just slightly against Stiles' legs, hands fisted together over his own chest, close to his heart like he's subconsciously trying to protect it.
"She would've liked you, you know," is the first thing Derek says, and Stiles wants to cry at how raw he sounds, but he stays silent because he thinks anything he could say right now would be an unwelcome interruption.
Derek talks for a long time after that, and not just about Laura. He doesn't seem to need any input from Stiles, just talks about whatever comes into his head. Stiles lets the words flow over him as they come, first in trickles and then in torrents. He could tune them out if he wanted to, but he doesn't think Derek wants that. He thinks maybe Derek wants him to know these things, all the stuff he's kept bottled up for so long. He thinks maybe Derek wants to not feel so alone in his grief. And because Stiles gets that, maybe better than other people would, he listens, giving Derek's words the respect they deserve.
It takes a while for Stiles to notice when the words begin to slow, long pauses between sentences, quiet moments where the only thing to hear is the sound of their breathing. When he finally does notice, most of the afternoon has somehow passed, and Derek's been quiet for a long time. "It's wearing off?" Stiles asks, even though he can already tell.
Derek nods. "Mostly gone," he replies quietly.
Stiles breathes out a soft sigh of relief. "How are you feeling?"
Makes sense, with all the healing energy he's probably used, between the torture and the wolfsbane. "You should sleep again." Stiles doesn't know when his hand started carding through Derek's hair, but now that he realizes, he thinks if he stops that would draw more attention to it than to keep going, so he doesn't. Derek doesn't seem to mind, anyway. "I was pretty freaking worried, you know, when I found you like that." He doesn't even know why he says it, except Derek's been brutally honest for hours now, and maybe he feels like he should give something back.
"I know," Derek says, sounding sleepier now. "Could hear it in your heartbeat."
"Of course you could." Stiles rolls his eyes, but he secretly likes that Derek knows the beat of his heart that well, that he can pick emotions apart like worry and fear and…and whatever else Stiles might be feeling on any given day.
"Never said thank you," Derek suddenly says, twitching.
"You never needed to." Stiles shakes his head, shutting his eyes and trying not to see Derek back there, chained up and helpless in that warehouse. Wonders how often he'll see it in his own dreams no matter how hard he tries not to. "Seriously, Derek, sleep, okay?"
Derek makes a humming sound of assent, nuzzling closer. Stiles absolutely does not feel the urge to coo over him while he looks like this, soft and sleepy and vulnerable. "Stiles…" Derek murmurs.
"Yeah," Stiles responds. Everything feels sort of dreamlike, like this, Derek curled beside him and everything quiet and muted and…still. Tranquil in a way things in Stiles' life almost never are.
If Derek is actually awake at this point, Stiles would be shocked, but he still manages to speak, even when it seems like the sandman's already dumped a bag of sleep-dust over him. He's barely whispering, quiet enough that even in the room's stillness, Stiles has to strain to hear him. "Never thought I'd love anyone again after what she did. But you make it so easy to want to…"
Stiles swallows hard, his heart skipping a few beats. Derek is too far gone to notice, the last of the tension leaving his body as he drifts off completely.
He doesn't move. He can't move, wouldn't leave Derek's side at this point even if a herd of wild kanimas tried to drag him away. Instead, he releases another slow breath and eases down a bit, curling in closer to Derek and watching the rise and fall of his chest. Not thinking about how and why and what if because those are questions for later, when the answers can be given (or not given) by choice.
Now is for healing, and for sleeping. And for breathing.
Stiles falls asleep with one hand curled over both of Derek's against his chest, his forehead resting against Derek's, their knees touching through the soft material of the blanket.
Deep in the embrace of his own sleep, Derek smiles.