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Ashes, Ashes

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"Your son is going to be fine."

John's knuckles go white against arm of the phone. Marie is a wonderful, levelheaded woman whom he's worked with more than once. She is also a paramedic. "What happened?"

"There was a fire at your house- your son is suffering from some smoke inhalation, but apart from that he's mostly fine," she's trying to make her voice low and soothing, and when the cheap plastic creaks in his ear he breaths in deep.

"Mostly?"

She hesitates, and the heavy leaden feeling in his gut turns to ice. "John, just - get down here, if you can, please. Bring one of your deputies."

He listens to the dull dial tone and tries to get his heart rate to match the monotonous beeping.

He fails.

*

As soon as Stiles sees the look on his face, he's swearing up and down that it has nothing to do with him, trying to yank his hands back under the fold of the orange shock blanket as if that will make his father unsee the already forming bruises and barely healed skin, blood still oozing out and crusting out at the sides.

"Dad," Stiles reaches out instead, grabs at the edge of his father's jacket like a child, "please, stop, don't - don't do that to yourself. This had nothing to do with you."

Stiles is smart, his kid is freaking brilliant, how can he think that when the sheriff's son is handcuffed inside his own burning house it's for any other reason than that he's the son of the sheriff. He shoves Stiles's breathing mask back in place, tugs his jacket free and kisses Stiles's forehead before walking back to his deputy. Clark's lips are twisted in pity, but there's enough slow burn anger in the other man's eyes that John can resist the urge to punch the other man in the mouth.

The screeching that occurs because of the friction of rubber against asphalt makes John wince, and he flickers his gaze from a familiar Camero to Derek Hale, who's dodged around various personal to get Stiles in his line of sight, and when he succeeds he just - freezes. His face goes nearly grey and his eyes become far too big on his face. Even now, when he should be able to push these kind of feelings aside, there's a swell of bitterness in the back of his throat.

Stiles has told him more than once he "barely knows" the man, but again and again he's being thrown evidence that proves otherwise.

He wonders for a moment if Derek is just going to stare there, staring, when Stiles heavy lidded gaze finally seems to notice the other man. The effect is instant - he pulls the mask off his face, chucks the blanket to the side, and goes to his feet. He barely makes it three steps on burned, weak legs before they give out on him.

John - barely four feet away - moves to catch him but is far behind Derek, who between one blink in the next has hands clutching his son's biceps and spasming, like he can't decide between shoving him away or holding on tight.

Stiles makes the decision for him, pitching forward and locking bloody wrists behind Hale's neck, hooking a chin over his shoulders and squeezing. It doesn't take long for Derek to follow, sliding his arms behind around Stiles's waist and burying his nose in the juncture of his neck and shoulder.

This close, John can hear his son's litany of words, can hear "I'm okay, it's all okay, oh my god, Derek I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I never wanted to do this to you again, I'm sorry, I'm fine, I'll be fine, you're okay and I'm okay, and it's all okay, okay?"

John takes half a step closer, can hear the soft, shredded "I smelled the smoke before I saw it Stiles, and then I realized it was you." His son pulls back to look the older man in the eyes. Stiles looks gutted, and for the first time John remembers that this is Derek Hale, that this isn't the first time he's shown up to smoke and fire and blood.

Then it's John who feels like he's lost his internal organs, because his son - his son - is sliding his nose along the other man's to push their mouths together, pulling tighter at Derek's neck when his legs give in completely and refuse to support his weight. But Derek's hands slot around Stile's thighs to lift him, like his son isn't a solid one fifty, so that he can wrap his legs around Derek's waist.

This isn't a kiss of adrenaline, a first kiss or something new for either of them. For all its desperation, it's too practiced and easy to be anything less than the thousandth time they've been together this way.

The older man backs them up against the ambulance, lowers them down slowly enough that Stiles can reposition his legs so that he's straddling the other man instead of wrapped around him. John is one second away from pulling them apart and punching Hale until blood returns to his face one way or another when they break apart of their own accord, forehead pressed against forehead, and he sees the red of Derek's eyes, the sticky wet sheen against his face. Stiles cups Derek's cheek, presses his lips to one of those shimmering trails to kiss it away, the same as Erin had for every one of Stiles tears, from scraped knees to that last night wrapped up against her side in the hospital.

"Babe, don't, please," Stiles's voice breaks, and he smooths his thumb across the skin under Derek's eye, "I'm fine, I'm okay, no harm, no foul."

Derek's already shaking his head, slow and small so not to dislodge Stiles's hands from his face. "I can't - if you'd - I can't have any more deaths on my hands, can't have yours, God, not like this, never in anyway, but not like this, I can't, I'd rather die."

"Hey," his son's hard for the first time, hands firmer on Derek's face to make sure the other man doesn't look away, "no, the fire was never your fault, not your family's and not this one, this is the result of terrible people doing terrible things to hurt you, and none of this is your fault, do you understand? God - between you and my father, you could run Beacon Hills by misplaced guilt alone."

John doesn't think Stiles has any room to talk about misplaced guilt, but he doesn't like the direction this conversation is going, because as tight lipped as his son had been before about who did this, he's speaking now like he knows exactly what's going, and that Derek does too. So while part of him knows that there's a time and place for the talk about age and consent (not the way his son probably thinks that one will go, because his son is stubborn and ridiculous but he's always known what he wants even if he isn't always sure how to get it), and the fragility of young love, he knows now is not the time, and he should probably give the two of them more privacy.

The other part, however, is more concerned with his son's life than his heart, so he stays right where he is, and if they don't notice that he's so close that's on them.

"This was for me," Derek says, "a message, or a punishment, or a warning, but whatever it was, it was for me, and I can't - I can't be the reason you die, Stiles. I won't survive it."

Stiles makes another sound of frustration before he's kissing Hale again, and this time Derek doesn't give in entirely, keeps it slow and gentle in spite of how Stiles is trying to make it. This time when they pull apart Stiles is breathing too harsh to just be from the kiss, and John tries to track how many minutes he's been off oxygen. By the way Derek's gaze flickers he's doing the same, and that makes something come loose in John's chest.

"I was handcuffed to my desk."

Derek's eyes jerk back to Stiles's, and he makes a noise John is tempted to label a whimper.

"They handcuffed me to my desk, and I considered just breaking my thumb," Jesus, "but that actually wouldn't have given me enough room anyway, and I would have had to break both of them. But hey, I'm a cop's kid and I've spent a few long day's at the office, I can pick a shitty pair of handcuffs, and those morons had handcuffed me to my fucking desk, like I don't have paperclips on top of that thing."

"Pink and purple," Derek says, lips barely moving and face almost as pale as it was when he got here, and it turns out Derek Hale has been in his son's bedroom, he can handle this, damnit.

"Scott's mom is hilarious," Stiles continues briskly, cheeks beginning to flush red and they should really get that mask back on him, but John knows his son determined when he sees it, "but I couldn't reach them, and they were so close, just - just so fucking close and I just needed the one, but I couldn't. I tugged until I bled, until it cut through my skin, I thought I'd have to keep sawing through my flesh until I hit bone to get free, and I just kept breathing in smoke and my eyes and throat were killing me, I couldn't see and I could barely talk," Derek's crying again, and Stile's thumbs keep brushing away the tears but Derek's chest is starting to hitch like he could use some oxygen too. "But then I get one, and after that it's nothing to twist it, I can do this blind, to get out of those fucking things, and I'm free, I can get up and walk away, except I can't, because my fucking house is on fire and my head and my throat and my eyes hurt and it's been long enough that I'm surrounded by smoke and flames and my eyes are sliding shut, I fucking kid you not, because at this point it seems so fucking easy to just lie there and let go," God, John can't breathe right now either, can feel Clark's hand tight on his shoulder like's it's the only thing keeping him standing. "I thought about my dad, of course I did, thought about him alone, losing my mom and losing me, and we do nothing but fight now, it seems, but I'm his son and he loves me more than anything, if I know nothing else I know that, and I shouldn't leave him, I should get up and walk through fire for my dad, just like I know he'd do for me, but I just can't." Stiles's breaths are too short and too fast, and John should be doing something about that but he can't even move. "Then I think about you, fucking you, and your face and your smile and the way you look when I walk into a goddamn room, what you'd do for me-"

"Anything," Derek says, two breathes away from outright sobbing and looking absolutely wrecked, "I'd do anything for you, I love you, I'd die for you." John likes the way Derek says that phrase, easily and readily, and the way his son doesn't even blink lets him know that this isn't a first for them either.

The flush is high in Stiles's cheeks, and he softens just a bit at this, tipping his head against Derek's, and John can't tell if it's in affection or exhaustion. "I thought of you coming here, and finding me dead, of another burnt out husk of a body, something else fire has stolen from you, of you having nothing left to grasp but ashes," John can't even call that a whimper, it's clearly a whine as Derek's hands tighten against Stile's hips, as if his boy will shudder to dust at the mere mention of the possibility unless Derek's hands can hold him into one piece, "and that thought was worse than dying. So I got the fuck up, and fucking burned my legs to hell getting outside and out the door, because Jesus Christ, I know you'd die for me Derek, and I'd do the same, but I'd also live for you, understand? I did live for you, am here with my heart beating in my chest and air in my lungs just because of you, because you exist and I love you more than anything, than pain and life and death, and fuck, I'd live for you."

They're both crying now, his son and Derek Hale, and John thinks he might be a little too, as Derek moves forward, kisses his son like he's the most precious and incredible person in the world, and if there is ever a way a man should see his son kissed, it's like this.

But then Stiles is pulling back, coughing, "Fucking can't breathe, damnit, hey, you take my breath away, ha," and Derek's sliding Stiles back onto the lip of the ambulance instead of on his lap and slipping the oxygen mask over his son's face. His hands are steady, and he's starting to look more steady too as Stiles pulls him closer, clearly with not enough strength to move a feather in the wind, but Derek follows his grip, lets his arm settle over the Stiles's shoulder's so the younger man can tuck himself against Derek's side, because a man is exactly what his son has become while John wasn't looking.

Stiles finally sees him, with his back no longer mostly to his father, and jumps, looking guiltily from him to Derek, and from the way Derek follows his gaze and doesn't even twitch he's known John was there the entire time, which makes him like the kid all the more.

There's something tight and anxious in the pinch between Stile eyebrows, and John leans forward, a hand on each of their shoulders, and kisses his son there until he feels the line smooth. "We're talking about this tomorrow," he says, looking at them both, and from the jerk of his head to what remains of their home, (most of it, actually, the stair case and Stiles's bedroom was the worst of it, excusing smoke damage, everything else is near salvageable) he hopes they understand he means more than their relationship. "Watch him for me," he says to Derek, waits for the quick, jerky nod before squeezing both their shoulders and letting go.

Stiles has tucked his head under Derek's chin by the time John reaches Clark's side once again and says, "We're going to need the file on the Hale House Fire."

Clark, thank God, doesn't question him, just looks in between Hale and the smoke still lazily swirling in the sky and nods.

He's not an idiot, and while he wishes he could blame Derek just like the man himself seems to, he can't. If this was done by the same people as the Hale House fire, if this was round two in an attack against a good family, then this is all on him. He's the Sheriff, and this may not have been his case back then, but it still his responsibility, still his fault.

If he'd seen this solved properly the first time, if he'd put those responsible behind bars, there wouldn't have been anyone to try to kill his son.

Stiles can bitch about misplaced guilt all he likes - John knows his burdens and his responsibilities, that his failings in this area as a sheriff have threatened his son are going to make it impossible to sleep at night until this is over, for good.

He looks back on more time before he drives to the station. Stiles is settled in between Derek's legs and his head is resting on the man's chest, his hands clutching Derek's which are once again wound around Stiles's torso.

He's leaving his son in good hands.