Stiles' friendship with Scott went through its last death throes on his first trip home from University.
When Stiles made the decision to accept a full ride scholarship offer – rather than go to the local community college – he knew that it was inevitable that he would be excluded somewhat from the pack.
However, he had specifically chosen to study close enough to Beacon Hills so that it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to go home if he was needed for emergencies. He had told Scott this.
Scott had insisted that he understood, and promised that he would consult Stiles before attempting anything magical.
After Lydia had declared that she no longer wanted anything to do with supernatural business before leaving for Stanford, Stiles was left as the sole competent researcher the pack had. He was also the pack member with the best magical contacts, since Deaton wasn’t considered pack.
The last thing Stiles had expected to discover when he came home for Christmas was that Scott had teamed up with Chris Argent, and that together they had resurrected Gerard Argent.
Scott came over to invite Stiles to join in with the pack bowling night, which was incidentally something that Stiles had already been planning to attend, since he assumed he’d automatically be invited. Apparently not, it seemed Stiles now needed the official invite from the Alpha.
When Stiles mentioned the lack of crazy supernatural action while he had been gone, Scott had mentioned – in passing! – that Gerard had been very useful since his resurrection.
“What the fuck, dude?” Stiles said, torn between shock and anger. “Gerard was resurrected? Who the hell did such a monumentally stupid thing like that? Wait wait, he’s been helpful? You did this? What part of ‘consult me before performing any magic’ did you not understand?”
“You were better off out of it,” Scott explained somewhat testily. “You should get out of this supernatural freak show while you still can. It was best to let you settle in, make ties elsewhere.”
“So, you decided that it was up to you to make these decisions on my behalf, did you?” Stiles was vaguely surprised there weren’t actual flames coming out of his ears, his anger was so red hot. “And while you were on such an epic wonderful decision making roll, you thought it would be a good idea to resurrect a genocidal maniac?”
“We needed access to his knowledge,” Scott said, his jaw set stubbornly. “I’m the Alpha, it was my decision to make.”
“Oh my god, can you even hear yourself?” Stiles yelled, feeling helpless in the face of Scott’s obstinacy.
“Chris made sure that his father will be kept under his control,” Scott went on, as if Stiles hadn’t said anything. “We were helpless against the Furies, and we needed answers fast. Chris was back in town, so we talked and agreed that Gerard was our best option.”
“The Furies?” Stiles gaped in shock. What the fuck had been going on while he was away? It was only his first semester!
“They killed Jono – the newest member of my pack, you never met him – and passed a message through Isaac that they would be performing a ‘more thorough cleansing’ at the next full moon,” Scott explained, although he looked annoyed at having to do so. “We needed answers in a hurry, and since Deaton didn’t have any I went to Chris.”
“Scott... what did you do to the Furies?” Stiles asked, not sure he wanted to know. He’d taken his role as pack researcher seriously, and used the opportunity of being at University to expand his database and become as knowledgeable about as many things that might be headed their way as possible.
There wasn’t much information about the Furies available, but pretty much everything Stiles had been able to corroborate had indicated that the Furies only turned up once or twice a century, and that while they left devastation in their wake, they only targeted the corrupt.
The majority of Scott’s pack would have been safe already, and the very presence of the Furies was a pretty clear statement that something was badly wrong. Something that needed to be righted, that wasn’t being taken care of.
“Gerard had the information we needed to banish them,” Scott said impatiently. “Look, this has all been taken care of and I don’t want to have to go over it all again. If something was going to go wrong, it would have happened already.”
“You banished them,” Stiles said faintly. “The Furies. You banished the Furies.” Repeating it didn’t make it sound any better.
“Just from this plane,” Scott replied in long-suffering tones. “Deaton assured me they wouldn’t be hurt, they just wouldn’t be able to come back. Anyway, that’s enough. This conversation is over. Do you want to come along to the pack bowling night, or not?”
“Not,” Stiles said, looking Scott full in the face, more furious than he had ever been with him. Which was saying something, considering some of Scott’s previous stunts. Right this moment Stiles hated Scott for pushing him into making the decision he knew he needed to make.
In the end, there wasn't really much choice. Stiles knew what he had to do. He had his dad to take care of, and Scott had made it pretty obvious that he didn’t have any use for Stiles any more. “Dude, I’m clearly not part of your pack, so I won’t intrude myself on your little tea-party.”
Scott frowned. “That’s not what I meant, Stiles, stop over-reacting. Look, I don’t have time to deal with this right now, I’m already going to be late. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“I’m spending tomorrow with my dad,” Stiles said, not bothering to feign regret. “It’ll have to be another day. Hey,” he called as Scott turned down the path, something pinging in his brain. “What did Derek say? About Gerard?”
“I didn’t tell him,” Scott said, turning back so that Stiles had a good view of him rolling his eyes. “He’s not pack, and he doesn’t even live here any more. It’s really none of his business.”
Stiles let Scott go, wondering if there was any way he could fix Scott’s latest fuck up. He'd gone and banished the Furies, arguably one of the pillars holding supernatural stability together. Banished them from this plane. And Deaton had helped him.
Well, that rather succinctly proved all of his vague suspicions and fears about the infuriatingly unhelpful vet to be correct. No one with the resources Deaton had at his command, and who was as dedicated to the balance as Deaton professed to be, could pull such a moronic move. Deaton obviously had a different agenda, and Stiles didn't have a clue as to what it could possibly be. Just that balance and stability clearly weren't desirable components.
Stiles pulled his phone out of his pocket as he went back inside. Regardless of what Scott thought, Derek needed to know that Gerard Argent was up and walking around again.
Fuck Scott and his 'I’m the Alpha' bullshit anyway.
To say that Derek wasn’t pleased was a slight understatement. All right, a massive, fucking gigantic understatement. He retained just enough civility to thank Stiles before ringing off.
When Stiles tried that number again a few weeks later, it was out of service. Stiles tried to muster up the old anger, but it just wouldn’t come. He understood all too well the importance of keeping what you had left, safe.
It’s why he’d convinced his dad to leave Beacon Hills, despite the deep seated reluctance they both felt at moving away from the place where Stiles’ mother was buried.
It had taken some persuading, but in the end John Stilinski loved his live son more than he loved wallowing in the memory of his dead wife, and within a month they had both relocated to Canada. John pulled a few strings to get himself fast-tracked into a detective position in the city that Stiles had transferred his studies to.
Stiles no longer had that full ride he’d worked so hard for, but quite frankly, at this point money was the least of his worries. How crazy was it to be hoping like hell that your student debt would end up being something to worry about in a few years?
Stiles hoped, rather than believed, that he and his dad had distanced themselves enough from Scott and the Argents to escape the inevitable fallout of the stupidest decision since Fox cancelled Firefly.
It didn't take long for Stiles to discover that he was right to be worried.
The first case of zombie-ism came a mere two weeks after Stiles and his father had gotten settled. They hadn’t even completely finished their unpacking yet.
That first shocking case made international headlines. Oh, they weren’t calling it 'zombie-ism', but Stiles was no fool and he knew what the symptoms added up to.
He immediately went to the nearest supermarket – despite it being the middle of the night – and stocked up on non-perishable goods, dipping into what was left of their savings to make sure he and his dad would be as well supplied as possible.
If he wasn't so worried, it might have been funny. The store was unusually full for that time of night, and most of the other shoppers conformed to a certain stereotype.
He met the eyes of male and female sci-fi geeks of all ages with a grim recognition. There were nods of camaraderie exchanged, but no one smiled.
Trolley after trolley of canned vegetables and meat, sacks of rice... everyone was buying in bulk. The shelves were emptying fast, and the queue at the checkout took forever.
By the time his father awoke the next morning, Stiles had already unpacked and repacked the jeep several times, trying to get as much into the limited space as possible.
Half an hour later they were on their way out of town.
Less than a week later, the whole world had fallen to chaos. By then Stiles and his father were high in the Cypress Hills, barricaded into a sturdy wooden cabin that had been extremely cheap to hire, probably because it was the off-season. Not that money was going to matter much soon.
The last information they'd received from Beacon Hills was an email from Scott to Stiles’ old gmail account. Scott had sent it to notify Stiles that Lydia had taken her own life, the rising number of dead something she was unable to bear. According to Scott, Peter Hale had been found dead that same day, and while it grieved Stiles to know that Lydia was gone, he was viciously happy that Peter was no longer around.
It wasn't long after that that the internet went down for the last time and the phone lines went silent. The old hand powered radio that John had brought along wasn’t picking up much either, but that didn’t stop Stiles from cranking it each day and sifting through the channels, hoping to hear something comforting.
The only things he ever heard were too garbled for him to make any sense out of them.
Then, three months after they had gone into the mountains, Stiles and his father cautiously made their way back down.
What they found wasn’t as bad as Stiles had feared, but not as good as he’d hoped.
There were still zombies roaming the streets, even if they were relatively few and far between, given the previous population. Worse than that were the many bodies in advanced states of decomposition.
Fire had consumed a lot of the city, and the buildings that were still standing showed unmistakable signs of forced entry and looting.
They made their way through the navigable parts of the city in near silence. It didn't take long for them to come to the decision that there was nothing for them here anymore, and they headed out of town.
Stiles and his father both carried projectile and bladed weapons at all times now.
Also, Stiles was becoming disturbingly competent at head-shots. Of course, it helped that his targets moved very slowly.
Slow but inexorable, that was what the zombies were. The best way to stop them for good was a head-shot, followed by decapitation. If you didn’t remove the head, they would continue on eventually, and if you didn’t go for a head shot first, there was a chance they would get a lucky swipe in while you got close enough to take the head.
The worst were the children.
Stiles chose not to think about it.
Both Stilinski men had become very proficient at slicing through fuel lines to collect petrol from abandoned vehicles. Using whatever fuel and food they could scavenge, they slowly made their way towards the cabin John’s cousin David had in Maine, a solitary place on the edge of Caribou Lake. David had been highly enthusiastic about making his getaway as self-sufficient as possible, and hopefully it was isolated enough to still be habitable.
John and Stiles had visited it once, not long after Claudia died. At the time they had wondered why weird cousin David had bought a place so far from civilisation, but now it was as good a place as any to head for.
They'd also appropriated someone's single axle caged flat deck trailer, which made life a lot easier. Stiles had hated leaving useful things behind due to lack of storage space. He thanked providence that someone in the past had thought to have tow bar installed on his trusty jeep.
They stopped in a small town halfway through Quebec, and that was when they came across the first other living person that they’d seen since they first headed into the mountains all those months ago.
Stiles was deftly removing the petrol from a car sitting in a carpark, while John checked out a nearby restaurant to see if there was any non-perishable food still available.
The sound of another vehicle approaching was as panic inducing as it was exciting.
Stiles didn’t know if he wanted the other driver to stop, or if he hoped they could avoid each other.
It was a split second decision, and Stiles decided to hide. He’d read all of the books, seen the movies. He was perfectly aware that the chances of the person in the approaching vehicle being a ‘good guy’ were slim. In the movies the hero always risked it, and it always turned to shit.
This might not be a movie, and he was sure as hell no hero, but there was no point in ignoring lessons in sensibility just because they were taught by fiction.
Decision made, Stiles moved quickly to where his father was just starting to come out of the restaurant.
“Did I hear-” John started, only for Stiles to hush him.
“We have no idea who or what that is,” Stiles whispered urgently. “I think it's better to hide. Come on.”
John followed Stiles back inside with a shrug, and they both peered out of the window.
It wasn’t long before a huge vehicle – that more closely resembled an armoured tank than a car – was making its steady way along the road, coming from the direction that Stiles and John were headed.
Stiles held his breath as he waited for it to go past. Surely the jeep looked like just another abandoned vehicle, left by one of the billions of victims of whatever had caused the zombie apocalypse.
The truck sped up, and then came to a screeching halt, right smack bang between the two in hiding and their only means of escape.
Stiles cursed under his breath, and checked his gun, noticing his father doing the same beside him. The seconds dragged by as he waited for the truck to start moving again.
Instead, over the sound of the engine, he heard his name called in a familiar voice, a voice that he’d never thought he would ever hear again. Around the side of the idling truck came a familiar figure, one he’d never thought to see again.
“Stiles!” that voice called again, and the caller then zeroed unerringly in on the restaurant and began heading towards them at a fast jog.
“Derek?” Stiles yelped, unable to take his eyes away.
Derek looked the same. Same black jeans, same leather jacket. Distinctly more scruff than the designer stubble he’d been wearing the last time Stiles had seen him, but still very recognisably Derek Hale.
Derek Fucking Hale.
It was obvious by the speed with which he was moving that he wasn’t zombie-fied in any way, so Stiles handed his gun to his father, in too much of a hurry to take proper care of it, and practically ran outside to meet him.
Stiles didn’t think he’d ever seen Derek this pleased to see him, and that included those times when he’d saved Derek’s life.
“Stiles,” Derek almost gasped out, and then Stiles was dragged into a hug that threatened to asphyxiate him. “You’re still alive, how are you still alive? And the Sheriff? Are the others here too?” Then the ability for speech seemed to leave him, and he ducked his head into Stiles neck, taking deep heaving breaths through his nose.
After a minute had gone by, Stiles was still enveloped in Derek’s crushing embrace. Derek's nose was still buried in his neck and Stiles couldn’t get enough breath in him to answer, or speak at all really. He flailed his arms, hoping to convey the issue to either his father or Derek, only to hear his father snort.
“Well, Hale, it looks like you’ve hit upon a fool-proof method of finally shutting him up,” John said, his voice warm.
Derek finally lifted his head and released Stiles from his embrace, but only so that he could hold him at arm’s length, those big hands cradling Stiles’ shoulders. Their eyes met for a long, emotionally charged moment before Derek broke the gaze.
“It’s just us,” Stiles said, dragging his eyes all over Derek, cataloguing everything that was different, everything that was the same. “We left Beacon Hills months before the zombie apocalypse started. I honestly never expected to see anyone we knew from there ever again.”
“What about you?” John asked. “Do you have any companions you’re travelling with?”
Derek dropped his arms and looked away. The shake of his head was almost unnecessary, the rest of his body language was quite clear.
“Cora?” Stiles was hesitant to ask, but maybe it would be better to get it out of the way.
“Killed by hunters,” Derek said, his face blank. “About a month after we last spoke.”
“Fucking hell, Derek, I’m sorry.” Stiles exchanged a helpless glance with his father. “This might not be the best time to tell you that last we heard from Beacon Hills, Peter had died as well.”
Stiles hadn’t realised it was possible for Derek’s face to go even more blank. God, it looked awful. “We didn’t get much info, just that he was found dead the same day that Lydia...” Stiles broke off, unable to continue. It was all so fucking unfair.
“Lydia was unable to deal with the effect that so much death was having on her abilities,” John said gruffly, filling the silence. “She took her own life.”
“Peter was found dead the same day?” Derek asked, his body relaxing slightly, his brows drawing together.
“Yes?” Stiles answered. “That was pretty much the entirety of the information we got.”
“It makes sense,” Derek said eventually. “Lydia was the vessel that brought him back, once she was dead his passport expired, so to speak.”
“Good point,” Stiles said, considering it. He hadn’t really thought much about it. Lydia’s death was still a sore point for him, he couldn’t help but wonder if he could have helped her in any way.
But then Lydia had cut communication with him months before he and his dad had pulled up stakes, so even if he had stayed in Beacon Hills, there was no guarantee she would have even talked to him about it.
“I can’t believe that you’re both okay,” Derek said abruptly, giving Stiles and John thorough once-overs. Stiles even caught the flare of nostrils that meant that the nosey werewolf was sniffing them, albeit more discretely than Scott ever managed.
“We headed to the mountains to wait out the worst of it,” Stiles said with a shrug. “It didn’t take a genius to figure out the probable progression once that first case was reported. To be honest, I’m surprised we haven’t come across any other survivors. The supermarket was packed with geeks preparing for the apocalypse.”
“They might not have been quite so paranoid as you are,” John said dryly. He turned to Derek. “I was ready to head back down after a week or two, but Stiles insisted we stay at least three months.”
“That might have saved your lives,” Derek said sombrely. “It was a good two months before the worst was over. It turns out that werewolves are immune to the zombie infection, so being casually exposed won’t hurt us. Get enough of them in one place though, and even a werewolf can be taken down and ripped to pieces. We’re not invincible, after all. I discovered that one the hard way.”
Stiles winced, and saw his father doing the same thing.
“Are you going anywhere in particular?” Stiles asked, hoping that Derek would say no. It wasn’t as if he’d missed the grumpy werewolf, it would just be better to have another dependable person around.
Derek looked uncomfortable. “I’ve been feeling a bit of a draw from this direction, and since it’s not like I had anything better to do, I thought I’d follow it.”
“What kind of draw?” Stiles was only made more curious by Derek’s evasiveness.
“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” Derek said with a sigh. “It was a pack draw, okay? I could feel that there was pack in this direction.”
“Can you still feel it?” Stiles was not holding his breath. He was perfectly calm, and only asking to be polite. He had nothing invested in Derek’s answer at all, thank you very much.
Derek glared at him witheringly.
“Stiles and I would be happy to have you stay with us,” John interjected, sounding rather more amused than Stiles really appreciated. “If you want to. Right, Stiles?”
Derek hesitated, looking searchingly at Stiles, as if he was expecting Stiles to disagree. “If you’re sure?” he said, sounding so wary that Stiles hurried to reassure him.
“Yes,” Stiles replied. “Of course, we’d love for you to join us. I mean, it would be safer for all of us, right?”
“Whatever,” John said. “I hadn’t finished checking out that kitchen. Why don’t you two argue over transport and whatnot, and let me know when you’re ready to leave.”
“Derek and I aren’t going to argue,” Stiles said indignantly to his father’s retreating back. “We’re both sensible adults, and of course it makes more sense for us to take the jeep!”
“Excuse me?” Derek said, his earlier hesitance gone. “In what world does taking your jeep make sense? It looks like it’s held together with duct tape!”
“Look, it may be old, but at least we know how to fix the basics if it breaks down,” Stiles replied heatedly. “What the hell are we supposed to do with that rig of yours if something breaks down? Do you know how to fix it?”
“There are trucks like these scattered all over the place,” Derek argued. “At least if it comes to that we'll have ready availability of parts.”
“Still no use if you don't know what you're doing,” Stiles said, enunciating the words slowly. He turned and began to walk back to where his jeep was waiting. “Look, we both know I'm going to win this argument, so why don't you just give in gracefully? Now come and help me sort out how we're going to stash everything.”
Derek gave a frustrated growl, before following after Stiles. “I don't know why I was so happy to see you. Obviously my memory was playing tricks on me, but it's all coming back to me now.”
Stiles felt like laughing. Maybe things were starting to look up?
It was a little bit awkward at first, having his dad and Derek share so much time together. It didn't last though, and when it was gone Stiles had ample time to mourn the initial silence.
It wasn't long before John started asking Derek innocent sounding questions about the things that had gone on when Derek had first arrived back in Beacon Hills, and Derek didn't seem inclined to be cagey.
So all of those bits that Stiles had glossed over when he and his father had sat down to talk about things after the Darach incident were gone over with a fine tooth comb.
And once they got properly talking and forgot to keep things like arrest records between them, John and Derek got on great. Stiles had never heard Derek talk this much. He'd rarely heard his dad talk this much.
Stiles was not pouting. He wasn't.
He was pleased that his dad and Derek were getting on so well. He was delighted that they both followed the same sports teams – and since when was Derek a sports nut, anyway? And of course he was thrilled that they were both Star Trek TOS nerds, and could quote whole conversations of dialogue at each other. Why wouldn't he be overjoyed?
“Oh, don't be such a buzz-kill,” John said, when he finally noticed Stiles sulking. “Sue me for being glad to have someone else to talk to for a change. I don't know if you're aware of this, Stiles, but you tend to monopolise the conversation at times.”
Stiles sputtered in outrage, but was secretly charmed by Derek's attempts to stifle his sniggering. Until he spoke up, anyway.
“I think that's the politest way I've ever heard anyone tell Stiles he's a babblemouth,” Derek said, with a lame attempt at a straight face.
Stiles glared at him in the rear-view mirror, plotting revenge.
“Come on, don't be such a sourpuss,” Derek said with a smug grin, and Stiles had to laugh.
“Stop baiting me and get the map book out,” he said, wondering how they'd managed to get to this place of ease after everything that had happened, everything that was still happening. “I don't want to get stuck in any of the towns, so we need the best routes around them.”
It wasn't until Derek had been with them for nearly a week that he asked where they were headed.
“I've been waiting for you to ask that question,” John said, sounding amused.
“It doesn't really matter,” Derek shrugged, “I'm just curious.”
“It doesn't really matter,” Stiles repeated. “What if we were headed to Ecuador?”
“Then we've been going in the wrong direction,” Derek said blandly.
“My cousin has… had a cabin near one of the lakes in Maine,” John interrupted with an eyeroll. “It's always been pretty well equipped, and there's a water wheel that can provide electricity, so long as we can keep it working. It seemed as good a place as any. Now be quiet for a while, I want to see if I can get some sleep.”
They travelled in silence for the next half an hour, until John started snoring behind them.
“So, do our plans meet with your approval, Mr Werewolf?” Stiles asked.
“Sounds fine,” Derek said indifferently. “I'm just glad I'm no longer alone.”
“How long were you by yourself?” Stiles asked. He'd been wondering, but there never seemed to be the right moment to bring it up. At least his dad was currently asleep, and Derek must be used to Stiles asking awkward questions by now.
“Since not long after it all started,” Derek said quietly, staring out the window. “I fell in with another lone wolf briefly, but he got careless. He thought we were invincible, and liked to go into high density zombie areas just so that he could have a fight.”
“Right,” Stiles said with a grimace, remembering what Derek had said when they found him. “All it takes is one miscalculation, I suppose.”
“He was too far away,” Derek said, shoulders hunched slightly. “By the time I realised what was happening, I was too late to do anything about it. Just someone else I failed, I guess.”
“Derek, you can't think that his death is in anyway your fault!”' Stiles said glancing over. Yep, that was the familiar pose of 'pretending nothing was wrong' that Stiles had gotten so used to seeing back when Derek was the Alpha and trying to keep his rag-tag pack together and alive.
Derek's silence spoke volumes to those fully versed in Derek-speak. Stiles liked to think of himself as an expert.
“I know nothing I say will convince you,” Stiles said with a sigh. “You've had so much bad shit happen in your life that I'm actually pretty impressed you're still up and moving around, to be honest. Just… cut yourself a break once in awhile, okay?”
Derek stayed silent but the next time Stiles glanced over his shoulders had relaxed slightly, the leather of his jacket losing that stretched look.
“Hey, how come you still have your leather jacket?” Stiles asked, his mind sidetracked for the moment. “The whole world burns, but the jacket survives? That's some epic shit right there. What if none of this is real, and we're all just characters in the story of the epic life of a leather jacket?”
“Shut up, Stiles,” Derek said wearily, and it was so familiar that Stiles had to stop himself from punching the air in triumph.
“No, come on, dude, think about it,” Stiles went on, feigning obliviousness. “The shit that's happened since I've met you is some bad ass fantasy/sci-fi shit. What if we're all just playing out the drama that another life form, a life form of leather jackets, is constructing to amuse itself? And Scott got a spin off, cause if you recall, none of that True Alpha stuff came up until after he'd started wearing leather on a regular basis!
“Or maybe this is all just revenge for being meat eaters? Maybe we're in all this shit cause it's really the antelope that control everything, and this is karma for enjoying steak! Or maybe-”
Stiles would have continued, but even he found it hard to talk with a hand over his mouth.
“Stiles,” Derek said, flashing his eyes at him. “Shut. Up. Eyes on the road.”
Stiles nodded and went back to watching the road, struck dumb by the fact that Derek's eyes had changed again. Even after Derek moved his hand, it was a while before he felt able to make any kind of coherent statement.
“Your eyes!” Okay, so maybe Stiles still wasn't terribly coherent, but there were reasons, okay? “When did they change again? What does it mean?”
“It happened just before the zombies started appearing,” Derek said, withdrawing again. “It doesn't feel like the Alpha power though. I can't really explain what it feels like.”
“They didn't go red, or blue, or gold,” Stiles said, fascinated. “They were the same colour as your eyes usually are, but it was like a light had gone on behind them, lighting them up. Do you have any new powers, has anything else changed?”
“I can still do both a Beta and an Alpha shift,” Derek said uncomfortably. “But the moon no longer calls to me, and my control is different. Things are less… primal? Simple?”
“If you don't feel the pull of the moon, and it doesn't make you change, are you even a werewolf any more?” Stiles' mind was turning over everything he knew about supernatural transformations. “Are you still susceptible to mountain ash and wolfsbane?”
“I don't know,” Derek was starting to sound irritated now, not that it bothered Stiles at all. “I've not really had the opportunity to find out. What does it matter?”
“Dude, don't you want to know?” Stiles asked. “If it was me, I'd definitely want to know.”
“Would you want to be treated like a science experiment?” Derek growled.
“Hey, back up, dude,” Stiles said, braking to a halt so that he could give Derek his full attention. “You are not a science experiment to me, okay? But sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring something that might either help or hinder us later is not the way to go. Whether you want to find out or not, we need to know.”
Derek didn't say anything, but his eyebrows went from glare level seven back down to three. Since his resting face was a glare, that was as good as Stiles could hope for, given the topic under discussion.
“Now, I believe it's pretty much your turn to drive,” Stiles said, unbuckling his seat belt. “Come on, switch with me. Dad's still asleep, so that means I get shot-gun. Truly, if you snooze, you lose!”
This time Derek's sigh was back to his usual Stiles-induced irritation. Stiles thought that he could probably count that as a win.
That night, they decided to have one of their infrequent stops, rather than continue driving through the night. Main highways and motorways were too obstructed by abandoned vehicles and decomposing bodies to be navigable, which meant a lot of time poring over maps to find alternative routes through back roads.
Sometimes those roads were narrow and unsealed, other times they needed to move large cars and trucks blocking the way before they could get the jeep through, and as a result they weren't making nearly as much headway as they would have if they were still able to drive the main roads.
With Derek's help, finding places to stay was much easier. Derek could not only tell if there were any surviving zombies nearby, his nose was also good for sniffing out things like candle wax so that they could have some light after dark, which meant that they could play cards. Derek had brought a pack with him, and had produced it almost shyly when Stiles was complaining of boredom one evening.
So, with the zombies rather few and far between, Stiles, John, and Derek, began stopping for the night with slightly more frequency.
Their hotel for the night was an old farmhouse. It had soft beds, warm blankets, and for the big score, a generator hooked up to the electricity.
Even as its loud clatter filled up the quiet with proof that it was still operational, Stiles was making plans to remove it and take it with them. All the travelling had whittled down their supplies so there might even be enough room for it without discarding anything!
“Right,” John said, turning to face Stiles and Derek. “I've seen a system like this before. If we light the fire in the wood burner, then that should start the water heating. It might take a few hours, but we should have enough water for a quick wash tonight, and more for showers tomorrow.”
“We could stay a few days and get some washing done?” Stiles suggested. “I know it's not a priority, but since everything we need is here-”
“We're not on any sort of timetable, are we?” Derek asked. “If we're going to stay long enough for me to process everything properly then I can bring in some fresh meat. It won't take long to set up a smoking pit, provided there's enough fuel around. Which is unlikely to be a problem, places like this tend to over-stock rather than under-stock.”
“Fine with me,” John agreed. “I'm not the apocalypse expert. If you're both happy with staying a few days, then I might as well leave ransacking the kitchen until later. Right then, get hopping. That wood burner isn't going to light itself.”
When it came down to it, Stiles wasn't happy with the idea of sleeping separately from his two companions. With a mental shrug, he pulled three mattresses off their beds and dragged them down the stairs and into the main room. It would be nice to sleep in comfort for a change.
After dinner and a rudimentary wash, they sat around the dining room table with their pack of cards and played poker for matchsticks. The candlelight cast a soft glow, and there were times when Stiles forgot about the zombies, and that they were some of the last people alive in the world.
He got caught up in the game, and the challenge of bluffing while playing a werewolf who was a pretty good lie detector. It turned out his dad was a bit of a card shark, and had counting cards down pat. And Derek was occasionally smiling.
Eventually, John shoved his entire stack of matchsticks towards the centre. “This is my last hand for tonight, I think. I'm looking forward to crashing on that comfy looking mattress. Consider me all in.”
Rather than deal the hand, Derek pushed John's matchsticks back and carefully put the cards back in the box. “I think we can leave things as they are. Who knows, we might want to play again tomorrow? Stiles and I can take watch tonight, you get some sleep. Stiles, come on. I'll show you around the perimeter. It looks different in the dark.”
John gave them the amused look he'd been giving them both lately, before saying goodnight and rolling himself into his blankets.
Stiles followed Derek outside. He knew perfectly well what his father thought was happening, and although he would definitely not be averse to having Derek fuck his brains out, he didn't think that Derek had any such intentions. Which was a pity, cause surely the end of the world and the fact no one else was around should be a good enough reason for him to want a piece of Stiles.
Unless Derek was interested in slightly more aged meat? Nah, Derek had never given any indications that he was attracted to Stiles’ dad. Of course, even if he was, his dad was straight. They'd had that conversation years ago, when Stiles had tried to set him up with the man at the health food store.
“You know he thinks we've come out here to bang, don't you?” Stiles said as soon as they'd closed the front door behind them.
Derek gave him that look like he was insane, and Stiles tried not to let it ruin his good mood.
“Why would I have sex with you outside when there are still perfectly good beds in this house?” Derek asked, sounding baffled, and Stiles' stomach gave a lurch.
“That's not an 'I would never have sex with you, Stiles',” Stiles said, his voice a bit higher than he would have liked. So much for sounding suave.
“Why would I say something so ridiculously untrue?” Derek said, sounding exasperated.
“You want to do it with me?” Stiles said, his voice still on the high side. “Since when?”
“That's not important,” Derek said impatiently. “I wanted to talk to you about your dad.”
“You want to bang my dad too?” Stiles asked, still fixated on what seemed to him to be a very important issue.
“Stiles, focus. Yes, I do want to have sex with you. No, I don't want to have sex with your father. Yes, your father does have a problem with his blood pressure. That's what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Stiles felt frozen in place. He hadn't exactly forgotten his father’s circulatory issues, he'd just been hoping against hope that they wouldn't be a problem anymore. It wasn't like they had access to the medication the doctors had started prescribing just over a year ago.
And most of the recommended ways to naturally lower blood pressure weren't really applicable right now. Once they got to David's cabin and could get started on growing some fresh vegetables then that should change, but first they had to get there.
“Stiles. Stiles!” Derek was shaking him. “He doesn't appear to be about to fall over dead any time soon, I just thought you would like to know that it's slowly getting worse. I think if we slow down a bit, take more breaks, try to vary our diet a bit, he'll be fine.”
“Would-” Stiles sat down abruptly and put his head between his legs, concentrating on his breathing until he felt a bit calmer. “If you gave him the bite, would that- Can you even give people the bite? Are you even still a werewolf? Oh god, I can't lose my dad, Derek. I can't.”
“I don't know if I can give the bite again,” Derek said, crouching beside him. “Even if I could, the chances of it taking drastically reduce every year over the age of thirty. If I tried to give him the bite, it's highly probable that he would die. I'm sorry.”
And he was, it was written all over his face and body language.
“No, don't make this another thing that you beat yourself up over, Derek Hale!” Stiles said, angry all of a sudden. “Like a lot of things that you take personally, this is not your fault. We've known about this for years now, since before I even met you. Why do you think I was so insistent that he not know what was going on?
“So now we know, and we can start taking steps, like you said. It's not like there's a deadline or something, we can take as long as we need to get to David's. First thing, we stay here until we're all rested. You can get the meat sorted, and I'll poke around and see what else is available.”
“Do you even know what's poisonous and what isn't?” Derek asked, rising to his feet and putting a hand down to pull Stiles to his feet.
“My mother knew everything there was to know about plants, thank you very much,” Stiles said, relaxing back into the friendly ribbing that had become so comforting. “She taught me a lot about how to recognise things that are edible, ways to check before I accidentally killed myself. Also how to harvest things sustainably, so that we do as little damage to the ecosystem as possible.”
“I bet you were a terror even then,” Derek said. “Come on, I'll show you the perimeter. It will be up to the two of us to guard it at night. John will do better if he can get some proper sleep.”
“God, I miss the internet,” Stiles grumbled as he fell into step beside Derek. “Okay then, show me our territory. And after that we can go back to the house and fuck like bunnies.”
Derek tripped over a tree root, and Stiles had to grin. They were going to make sure his dad was okay, and then he was going to get some hot werewolf action. Yep, all things considered, good day.
“Oh my god, why haven't we been doing this for years?” Stiles gasped out, collapsing on the broad, muscled chest beneath him. “This is your fault, Derek. I would have been up for this pretty much two minutes after I met you.”
“You were underage, Stiles,” Derek said, his voice a satisfied rumble. “I was already in enough trouble with your father, I wasn't going to add the statutory rape of his only son onto everything else.”
“Wait, you wanted to nail me even then?” Stiles asked, gathering his strength to prop himself up so that he could glare down at his bedmate. “All that time everyone one else was doing the horizontal mambo, and I was being cockblocked by my own father?”
“I wouldn't sleep with anyone underaged, regardless of who their father was,” Derek said, and Stiles could feel the body beneath him tense up.
“Yeah, I know. Would have been nice to know that someone wanted me though,” Stiles said with a sigh, letting himself go boneless again. Heh, boneless. That wasn't going to last for long though. Yay for being twenty! Hopefully Derek would be ready to go too.
“Are you kidding me?” Derek said incredulously. “If I'd given you any kind of indication I found you attractive, you'd have never let it rest.”
Well, that was true enough. Stiles liked to think he was self aware enough to know his own faults, and lack of persistence certainly wasn't one of them. If anything, his faults lay in quite the opposite direction. If Derek had given him even a sniff of hope, he would have been all up in his face at every opportunity.
Stiles imagined how that would have gone down in the climate just after Scott was bitten, and immediately started shaking with laughter. “Oh my god, can you imagine Scott's face?” he said when Derek made a soft interrogatory noise. “That would have been epic justice. Epic. All the drivel I had to put up with about Allison… oh god, it would have been worth it for that alone. He would have been ropeable.”
“Yeah, well Scott's an idiot,” Derek said, a smile in his voice.
“Can't argue with you there,” Stiles replied, his mirth draining away as he let himself fully consider the man who had been his best friend for most of his life. “Do you think they're still alive?”
“The zombies first appeared in California,” Derek said after a moment. “If he and the others were smart enough to stay away from the larger concentrations of zombies, they should have done fine.”
“Yeah, well Scott's an idiot,” Stiles parroted with a sigh.
“What-” Derek started, before breaking off.
Stiles could guess what Derek wanted to know. He'd yet to ask why Stiles and his dad had been living in Canada when things turned to shit. Stiles supposed that was tact at work, but personally, he felt that it was better to just ask the awkward questions and get them out of the way. Since Derek was still not terribly good at using his words, he might as well help him out.
“Aside from the completely fucked up decision to resurrect Gerard, something he did behind my back after promising he would run anything magical by me, there was also his douchebaggy assumption that it was up to him to decide what was right for me and what my choices should be. Not to mention his subsequent declaration that I should 'get out of this supernatural freak-show', no input from me required. If that weren't enough, he told me why they chose to resurrect Gerard.”
“Why was that?” Derek asked, the last of the sexy satisfaction gone from his voice, much to Stiles' disappointment. It was a nice sound. “You never told me.”
“Well, maybe I would have told you,” Stiles said, poking him in the side with his finger. “But you didn't exactly stay on the line long enough for me to go into details.”
“Forgive me for having a bad reaction to hearing that the man involved in the conspiracy to murder almost my entire family had been brought back to life,” Derek growled. “Also, that someone whose life I had saved more than once was the one responsible, and that he then didn't think it was any of my business.”
“Look, I told you literally five minutes after I found out,” Stiles replied, felling slightly indignant. “We've already agreed Scott is an idiot. Don't get all growly with me, wolfman.”
Derek deflated. “Yeah, I know. We're wandering from the point. Why did Scott want to resurrect Gerard? You said something about picking his brains.”
“Which is a really gross saying that I've come to regret ever using,” Stiles said with a grimace, thinking of all the times he'd seen birds doing that very thing since zombies had started appearing. “According to Scott, the Furies turned up in Beacon Hills, and sent a message that they were going to perform a cleansing.”
“Okay,” Derek said slowly, clearly waiting for more. When Stiles didn't oblige, he shifted them around so that they were lying side by side. “I'm not seeing the problem. Furies only go after the corrupt, so while it's a bit damaging to your reputation if they turn up, so long as you're pretty much morally upright there's nothing to worry about.”
“Right,” Stiles said, before sighing. He rolled onto his back, refusing to meet Derek's eyes. “You know that, I know that. Only, Scott decided they were a threat he couldn't deal with, and resurrecting Gerard was his, Chris Argent's, and Deaton's answer to the problem.”
“What did Scott do to the Furies, Stiles?” Derek asked, covering his eyes with his hand, his voice dropping an octave.
“Well, he, and Deaton, and the Argents, decided that best thing to do would be to banish them from this plane!” Stiles said in a bright TV-Presenter voice. “But don't worry, Derek, Scott assured me that Deaton assured him that they wouldn't be hurt!”
Derek sat up in one fluid movement, his eyes blazing. “This stupid zombie apocalypse is Scott's doing?” The growl was fully back now.
Stile looked up at the man sharing his bed, one part of his mind committing the scene to memory, to be gone over lovingly later if it turned out that this was a one time deal. Perhaps he should be wary, sharing his bed with someone who could so easily rip him apart, but then Stiles had always been attracted to beautiful, dangerous things.
There was a delicious incongruity about the glowy eyes accompanied by sex-hair. Even with his obvious anger, Stiles wasn't sure he'd ever seen Derek look this dishevelled and unguarded. It did nothing to diminish the sheer power that he exuded.
Stiles gave a little shiver, and made a mental note to check all the bedrooms and bathrooms for proper lube. Intercrural was all well and good when your only lube was body wash, but Stiles wanted the full drill, and by all that was holy he was going to get it. So long as Derek was in agreement, of course. Regardless of his persistence issues, he wasn't some skeevy rapist.
“Stiles!” Derek growled.
Oh right. Apocalypse, Furies, Scott.
“I don't have any proof,” Stiles said, running his hand over that beautifully muscled back that he, Stiles Stilinksi, was now allowed to touch. He felt himself smile as Derek leaned into his touch slightly. “But I mean, the timing is a bit coincidental otherwise, isn't it? Let’s just say that in the absence of other theories, my money would be square on – yes, Scott did bring about the zombie apocalypse. And just how fucked up are our lives that I can even say that and mean it? And you're not trying to have me committed?”
“I should have let Victoria kill him,” Derek grumbled, before heaving a sigh and getting off the bed, taking all that naked goodness out of Stiles’ reach.
“Pull the other one,” Stiles said, sitting up and stretching. “If even I couldn't predict a dumbass move like this one, there's no way that you could be expected to. And Victoria was a psycho bitch. Hindsight's always twenty twenty, Derek. If you want to go that way, all this is my fault for taking Scott with me to look for a dead body.”
“Okay,” Derek said with the faintest of smiles. “It's all your fault. You're such a pain in the ass, Stiles, always bringing about zombie apocalypses. Apocali. Whatever.”
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Stiles said, pulling on his boxers. It was a bit grungy, but there would be showers and laundry tomorrow. Quite frankly, he was far less concerned than he used to be about things like that.
Life was tough in the zombie apocalypse.
Oh my god, maybe if he said it enough he could finally believe it was all happening.
“Come on,” Stiles said fondly as he found his shirt. “Let’s go make sure dad hasn't been turned into dinner for some passing zombie.”
“He's fine,” Derek muttered as he followed Stiles down the stairs. “I'm surprised you can't hear him snoring from here.
As Derek finished speaking, the familiar strident sounds reached Stiles ears, and he grinned.
“You get used to it. Come on, dude, flip you for first watch.”
“Don't call me dude.”
They stayed at that farmhouse a full week before loading up the jeep and moving on again. In that time Derek had gone hunting and brought two moose back and deftly processed them, along with a goat that they ate fresh.
Fresh stew made with fresh meat was incredible. Stiles felt like he wanted to weep, and he was sure he caught his father surreptitiously wiping a tear of gratitude from his eye. Okay, that was maybe a slight exaggeration. But only slight! It was like a religious experience. Stiles was expecting heavenly choirs at any time.
While the laundry was running – that generator was amazing – Stiles went foraging with his father, and while it was too early in the growing season for there to be a great deal available, they managed to find enough to give them some valuable nutrients. It was also a good opportunity to get some much needed exercise.
Stiles didn't find it necessary to inform his father about his and Derek's new habit of knocking boots. It might have been different if it was a romantic relationship, but neither he nor Derek had made any declarations of affection, and so Stiles was pretty sure that this was a friends with benefits situation.
Although benefits was a pretty tame word, really. Friends with hot, scorching, brain-melting, toe-tingling, spine-dissolving benefits. Hmmm. Stiles felt that description was still not quite grasping the scale of the amazingness. Still, it was something to ponder during those long drives.
God, Stiles wished he had someone to gloat to. He was finally getting the kind of action he'd fantasised about all those years, and the only person around to tell was his dad. Yeah, no.
Not that he thought that his dad was blind to what was going on. He and Derek continued to receive those amused looks whenever they went off alone, but Stiles couldn't find it in himself to care, or feel in the slightest bit embarrassed.
Regardless, they were back on the road again, and they'd all agreed that they wouldn't go any longer than two days in the car before finding somewhere fairly safe to stop for a day to recoup. It had been a great relief to Stiles when Derek told him that the break had done John's blood pressure good, and he'd thanked Derek profusely. And enthusiastically. Several times.
Stiles had the generator stashed in the trailer, well cushioned by some of the more threadbare blankets. The better bedding went in the back of the jeep, and it wasn't unusual for whoever was riding in the back to make use of it.
Judging by the progress they had been making so far, they only had another couple of weeks before they got to David's. Stiles was starting to feel optimistic that they would get there with no major mishaps.
Stiles cursed as he decapitated another zombie, taking the opportunity of the brief respite to check up on his dad and Derek.
The roads for the last little while had been rather light on abandoned cars, and with their petrol supplies dwindling alarmingly, the three of them had agreed that it might be worth it to venture into one of the smaller towns to stock up.
That turned out to be a big mistake.
They'd found a nice grouping of cars, and had unpacked the various containers they were using to store the petrol until they were ready to use it. Several were already full, and Stiles was loading them back in the trailer when movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.
The petrol fumes must have masked Derek's sense of smell enough that he didn't notice the slow approach. As it was, zombies were converging on them from several different directions.
There were only seven or so, not a huge number compared to some of the hordes Derek had mentioned. Still, it was more than Stiles or his father had ever faced. And shit, there were more off to the right. And the left. Fuck.
Fighting against so many made each kill exponentially harder. Stiles not only had to avoid the attacks of the zombie in front of him, but be aware of any other zombies near him. On top of all that, he was trying to keep tabs on his dad and Derek.
John was methodically taking out the zombies nearest him, and Derek was like some force of nature.
Of course, being immune to infection Derek didn't have to concern himself with avoiding stray swipes and blows, and appeared to be concentrating on using his elongated claws for decapitation. In fact, his claws looked so long they reminded Stiles momentarily of Wolverine. Surely Derek's claws hadn't always been that long?
Stiles finished with the zombies around him and had just started moving to help his dad with his last two when it happened. One second John Stilinski was fully in control, aiming his firearm in one hand with his machete ready in the other, the next he dropped the gun and the knife, his body going into a spasm.
Everything seemed to slow down. Stiles felt his body move, felt the desperation to get there, but he just wasn't fast enough. The zombie moved forward, flailing its arms and connecting with John only seconds before Derek got there, ripping its head off its shoulders with one vicious motion. In moments the last zombie was taken care of too, and then time seemed to speed up again.
Stiles was still only halfway to his father.
“Dad!” Stiles called out, terrified out of his mind.
“Stiles?” John said, shaking his head, looking confused. “What the hell just happened? Derek? What-”
Derek had ripped off John's sleeve, and was licking his arm with some urgency, using quick motions that reminded Stiles of a cat that was pissed off or embarrassed.
“Fuck.” Stiles could only think of one reason for Derek to suddenly want to lick his dad's arm. Well, only one that didn't involve sex pollen of some kind. “It connected? Derek, did it draw blood?”
Derek didn't answer, just kept licking at John's arm. But then again, that itself was an answer.
“Shit,” Stiles said, his whole body clenching, like if he could just do something this wouldn't be happening. “But, that doesn't mean it's infected, right, Derek? We might get lucky.”
Derek wouldn't look at him. He stopped licking, and just rested his forehead on the arm in front of him. “I can smell it travelling through the blood.” The words were whispered, but fell on Stiles ears like a thunder clap.
“Oh hell,” John said softly. “I'm sorry, kid.”
“No,” Stiles said adamantly. “No. This isn't happening, okay? This is just a bad dream, like the one I used to have about my pet elephant squashing you in the night. I'm going to wake up, and this won't be happening.”
“Stiles-” John said, gently disengaging his arm from Derek's grasp so that he could pull Stiles into a hug.
“No!” Stiles insisted. “This doesn't mean- Derek, what if you gave him the bite?”
“The infection works faster than the bite does,” Derek said standing up and taking a step back. “We would never even know if it took or not. Unless it somehow ended up creating a zombie-fied werewolf.”
“Stiles,” John said his voice so tender it almost hurt to hear it. “You were always going to lose me one day, you know. The alternative is too horrific to consider.”
“What alternative?” Stiles said through the tears that were choking him.
“I could lose you.”
The dam broke then, and Stiles clutched at his father the same way he had in those first days after his mother had died.
Stiles had no idea how long they stood there, he only knew that by the time he let go and moved back, Derek had single-handedly filled the rest of their petrol containers, stashed them in the trailer, and was now leaning against the jeep and studiously staring off into the distance.
“Stiles,” John began, before hesitating.
It didn't really matter. He didn't need to say anything. Stiles knew his father, knew what his next choice would be. And in a way, Stiles couldn't blame him, he knew that if it was him, he would be determined not to harm his dad, to get rid of the possible threat as soon as possible. It was something that he'd considered ever since the appearance of that first zombie.
He would have done the exact same thing.
“I love you, kid. So much. And I'm so proud of the man you've become. I know that wherever she is, your mom is proud too.”
Stiles nodded, and choked out, “I love you too, Dad.”
“Now, I want you to sit in the passenger seat of the jeep, and I don't want you to move for anything but more zombies, okay?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, doing his best to smile. “Okay.” He exchanged one last desperate hug with his dad, and then got in the jeep.
Stiles didn't hear what his dad said to Derek, but he could make a pretty good guess.
Derek's eyes were dark, his face blank. He nodded silently, and after a brief glance at Stiles, followed John off down the street.
When Derek came back two hours later, he had dirt under his fingernails and all over his boots. Stiles didn't say anything, just stared numbly out of the window as Derek started the engine.
They drove for several hours in silence, before Stiles finally spoke.
“Thank you,” he said.
When Stiles started properly paying attention to his surroundings again, he decided it would be best if they stopped for a while to reassess their plan. At this point, Stiles' enthusiasm for getting to David's place was pretty much non-existent, despite how close they were.
“Well, what's the point now?” he said when Derek queried him. “I was mostly concerned with making sure that we had a fairly comfortable place for when my dad got a bit older. Since that's no longer in consideration, I don't really care.”
“Is there anywhere you do want to go?” Derek asked.
“I suppose we could head back to California,” Stiles said after a few moments thought. “Might as well see if anyone survived, since we've really got nothing better to do. Unless there's somewhere you'd like to go?”
“No,” Derek replied, sorting through the maps in their special map box, where Derek had insisted they be kept when they weren't in use. “As you say, we might as well check. If Scott's still alive, I think I'd like a word or two with him.”
“Yeah, you and me both, big guy,” Stiles agreed. “Right, so we can either go through some of the most densely populated States of the US, hoping not to have any accidents, or we can go back up through Canada and then down through Montana or North Dakota.”
They looked at each other for a moment.
“Canada it is,” Stiles said, pulling out the relevant maps. In the main, they were the ones he and his dad had used to cross Canada in the first place. They would be pretty much retracing the route Stiles and his dad had already gone. For the first third of the journey, anyway.
Even though John's death changed everything, they didn't talk about it. Stiles knew that it was probably unhealthy, but he really couldn't bring himself to care. As it was, he was holding himself together by repressing everything during the day, and letting everything out at night.
Extremely athletic sex did wonders for his ability to sleep. Stiles would have felt more guilty for how often he was turning to Derek if he wasn't pretty sure that Derek was doing the same thing. If there was a distinct air of desperation just after… after, then that slowly settled down until things were almost the same as they were before.
So they didn't talk about it with words, but Stiles still felt like a conversation of sorts had taken place.
The one thing he did make explicitly clear was that he held no blame for Derek. Poor Derek, who would probably have even more issues to deal with now.
And thank god for Derek. Without his steady presence, Stiles might have gone insane. Or well, more insane. Even though there was a lot unspoken between them, it wasn't a silence that cut, but a silence that comforted.
At least by following the road already travelled they could be assured that there were no major blockages – except for that one time when a tree had come down across the road – so they ended up making much better time. Stiles had a pretty good memory for which cars they'd already drained, and so the trip that took nearly two months going east would probably only have taken one month going back west, if Stiles and Derek hadn't decided to stop every night.
They had still to see any other survivors, and Stiles quizzed Derek about it. Surely there were other werewolves around, even if all the humans had succumbed?
“I don't know,” Derek said with a shrug. “For all I know there's a big werewolf convention going on somewhere that I don't know about. If there ever were any multi-pack apocalypse plans in place, I never knew about them. My mother would have known, and possibly Peter. Or if he's still alive, Deaton might know.”
“We are not asking that dark wizard anything,” Stiles said firmly. “I refuse to believe that he had no knowledge on the Furies, which means he's as responsible as Scott for this mess we're in. More responsible, because I can't even bring myself to believe he didn't know the possible consequences.”
Derek was silent for a moment. “He was our Emissary, you know. For several years before the fire. He was part of the summit that my mother, Deucalion, and the others, were holding with the hunters. He was actually one of the driving forces behind it.”
“The summit that went to shit and ended up with angry Argents and the creation of the Alpha Pack?” Stiles asked dryly. “If he was your pack Emissary, why wasn't he more help to you and Laura after the fire?”
Derek said nothing, but his eyebrows telegraphed his initial uncertainty and then growing anger.
“Exactly,” Stiles said, just as if Derek had spoken aloud. “If Deaton's still alive, my vote is that we kill him.”
Derek looked at Stiles sideways. “That's a very… definite sounding suggestion. What if I think it's a good idea to kill Scott as well?”
Stiles' old loyalty struggled for a moment with his new indifference, and after a short battle the indifference won.
Currently, the only person Stiles cared about in the world was Derek. Derek, who had made his way across half the country by himself, drawn by a bond they'd forged without fully realising it. Derek, who held him when the night terrors woke him, who had made the pain go away, if only for a short while.
Stiles was pretty sure that back in the day this would have been called an unhealthy dependence, but really, what did it even matter any more? He and Derek were each other’s everything, and if Stiles sometimes wished that Derek was in love with him, that Derek had chosen him, then that was Stiles' business.
Being Derek's everything would have to be enough. There was no point in wishing, the world had shown him rather clearly that wishes were for losers.
Still, he sometimes pretended he could see love in Derek's eyes rather than the affection he knew was there. And when he slept he dreamed of a world before the zombies, before the fire, and even before his mother died. Dreamed of knowing without a doubt that Derek loved him.
They were halfway across Manitoba, skirting around the edges of Winnipeg when Stiles felt whatever it was hit him.
If he and Derek hadn't been standing back to back and fighting a small group of zombies at the time, Stiles might never have understood the significance of it, connected it with the zombies. Or, not for a very long time.
As it was, a wave of foetid air seemed to rush past, and as it touched them the zombies all fell as if they were marionettes with their strings cut.
Stiles stood there for a moment weapons raised in case this was some weird new trick. He was just feeling that it might be safe to lower his guard, when Derek spoke.
“The smell,” he said, and Stiles turned to see him flaring his nostrils cautiously. “They don't smell like zombies any more. Just, like dead bodies.”
“You'll forgive me if I want to be certain,” Stiles said, and began to systematically decapitate the un-animated bodies lying around them.
“Fair enough,” Derek said with a shrug, and moved to help him.
When they were finished, Stiles looked around, wondering what the hell was going on.
“Was that magic?” he asked Derek as they moved back to the jeep, carefully placing his machete where it could be easily drawn.
“Maybe?” Derek replied. “It felt wrong though, even more wrong than the zombies do.”
“You don't think it's out of the frying pan and into the fire, do you?” Stiles said, starting the jeep up and continuing along the way they'd been headed when they'd come across the small group of zombies shuffling around.
“Don't know,” Derek shrugged again. “I guess we'll find out, one way or another.”
“Joy,” Stiles muttered.
As they drove, it became more and more likely that there would be no more zombies. Having missed the worst of it, Stiles had never seen the truly huge swarms, but there had always been at least one or two in more populated areas. Now there were none.
“Does this mean that the zombie apocalypse is over?” Stiles asked one night as they roasted a rabbit on a makeshift spit.
“It looks that way,” Derek said, lying on his back and looking up at the stars.
The seasons had just begun to turn again, and quite frankly Stiles thought the fact that they were heading back to a warmer climate was a good thing.
“What should we do if there's no-one left in Beacon Hills?” Stiles wondered aloud.
“Is there anything you want to do?” Derek asked, propping himself up on one elbow and looking over to where Stiles was fiddling with the spit. “Just leave it, Stiles, we don't want you accidentally dropping the meat into the fire again.”
“That was one time,” Stiles said, but did as requested anyway. He went over to where Derek was stretched out and dropped down beside him, leaning into his comforting warmth.
The stars were clear and bright, and Stiles felt like he could almost reach up and touch them. There was something reassuring in their changelessness. Nothing was as it should be, except for the stars.
Star light, star bright… all the stars I see tonight…
Derek pulled him in closer, and Stiles realised he'd said that out loud.
“It's probably a good idea to winter in Beacon Hills,” Derek said after a while. “We know where everything is, and there are a couple of sealed food stashes my family left behind that should still be good.”
“Why didn't you use them before?” Stiles asked, thinking Derek's suggestion over. It made sense, really. They couldn't keep travelling forever, eventually the jeep was going to break down. The tyres were already starting to look a bit worn, by the time they got to Beacon Hills they would be well past their use-by date.
“Didn't need to,” Derek said. “My mother made it very clear they were for emergencies only, and were to replaced and replenished on a regular basis. There was always enough money to buy food, so why break into a stash?”
“Well, they'll be at least ten years old by now,” Stiles said, happy to hear that they had a guaranteed source of food, even if it was rather aged.
Derek didn't answer, but when Stiles looked over at him he was wearing embarrassed face number three, 'I don't want to betray my sentimentality so I'm going to pretend to be as stoic as possible'.
“Unless someone who has been in Beacon Hills since then has followed his mother’s directive and made sure they were up to date?” Stiles said, sure that his guess was right when Derek's ears turned slightly pink.
“It was logical,” Derek said stiffly.
“Right, Mr Spock,” Stiles said, his tone only slightly mocking. “I'm sure that's what you told yourself even as you were doing it. You don't have to hide yourself any more, Derek. I'm not going to use your feelings against you, you know.”
Derek was silent, and Stiles sighed. Really, it was too much to ask Derek to overturn over a decade’s worth of training in only a few months.
“Well, we can make plans about our future once we see what's waiting for us in Beacon Hills,” Stiles said, and went back to looking up at the stars.
I wish I may, I wish I might…
“Have you noticed anything weird about the weather?” Stiles asked a couple of days later.
“You mean that it hasn't changed at all since Winnipeg?” Derek replied.
“Something is not right,” Stiles sighed. “Sure, it's been great that there haven't been any zombies, but I don't know what the rest of it means. Something bad, or my name isn't Gwiazdeczko.”
“Your name isn't what?” Derek asked.
“My mother told my father it was her father's name, but she told me later she just liked the sound of it, and the meaning,” Stiles said, smiling as he remembered that conversation with his mother. “She didn't realise how much trouble everyone would have pronouncing it. It was spelled completely incorrectly on my birth certificate, you know. The guy writing it got about halfway through and then stopped. And what he did write was wrong.”
“What does it mean?”
“Star. It means Star.” Stiles said. “I was given the correct name in my naming ceremony, so we pretty much ignore the legal aspect. Everyone calls me Stiles anyway.”
“I'd like to learn how to pronounce it,” Derek said abruptly. “If you don't mind.”
“I don't mind,” Stiles said, grinning as he imagined how amusing Derek's first attempts were likely to be. “But we're off topic. We were talking about the strange weather, and how it hasn't changed in ages. Do you think we might find the answer in Beacon Hills?”
“You want to pick up the pace a bit?”
“Maybe? I mean, part of me wants to get there and find out, and the rest prefers not to know,” Stiles tried to explain his ambivalence.
“We don't have to go,” Derek suggested.
“No, we probably do,” Stiles sighed. “I'd just be wondering otherwise. And maybe we can ransack the Argent library.”
“I know that Peter was building up a new archive,” Derek said after a moment. “I think it was on computer though. And then there's Deaton's collection.”
“Anything that was on hard disk may still be available,” Stiles sat up straighter. “We've got the generator, remember? And you know, I don't think Peter was the sort that was keen to store his hard won knowledge in the cloud where someone could hack into it.”
“It will be password protected,” Derek warned.
“Pfft,” Stiles said dismissively. “What exactly do you think I was doing at university, Derek, twiddling my thumbs?”
“I thought you'd be drinking and getting laid,” Derek said dryly. “Isn't that what University students usually do?”
“There might have been a small amount of drinking,” Stiles admitted. “A slightly larger amount of getting laid. But the majority of my time was spent trying to think of ways I could be of more help to the pack. Building up my own database, researching weird and wacky things that might become a problem. Taking specialised lessons in hacking.”
“I thought that Danny was your go-to guy for that?” Derek asked.
“I like being able to do things myself,” Stiles replied. “So sue me, I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to information. Which reminds me, we are going to be running tests on you over the winter.”
“Yes, Stiles,” Derek said, his tone so wearingly hen-pecked that Stiles had to laugh.