He doesn't follow Scott when he leaves the Stilinski house. He also doesn't return to Derek's loft to try whatever it was that he did before. Instead, he just started walking. He didn't know where he was headed, but somehow, he ended up back at an all too familiar animal clinic just outside of town. He didn't know what he was looking for, going there. He'd never fully trusted the ex-emissary and certainly didn't consider the enigmatic druid to be a part of the pack with such reluctance to get involved in their matters.
Perhaps it made sense though, in a way. Every time they landed themselves in some serious trouble, a trip to the vet seemed inevitable. Now that Stiles was facing down the biggest trouble of his life—which is, his own death—it seemed almost natural to seek out Deaton. The good doctor happened to be in his back office going over some paperwork when Stiles found him.
Although Stiles had spent plenty of time in the little 'operating room' connected to the lobby, he'd almost never made it all the way to his office, and the few times he did he'd been too distracted to really take it in. Now, Stiles had the chance to really look around and was not disappointed in what he found. There were large book cases all around the office packed tightly with books. Many were medical and were there for Deaton's day job, but the books along the wall behind Deaton's desk? Those were far more interesting.
It took some time to get it down, but Stiles found that if he really focused on what he was doing, he was able to grab and open the books—even though they never moved an inch in the physical world—though it was rather frustrating that every time his attention wandered or he looked away, the book would disappear. It was a process, but Stiles settled in and began to read. It wasn't like he had any urgent business to attend to anymore, he didn't even sleep!
Stiles couldn't physically wear down, but he soon found that he could still become drained of energy. Stiles had spent hours sat cross-legged behind a busy Deaton, flipping through worn book after book, reading about herbs and poisons and solstices and rituals and all kinds of creatures. All stuff he may have learned over time if he had the time—or, let's be honest, the will—to accept Deaton's casual offer to help Stiles develop his spark and learn how to wield it for the pack.
He'd been curious before, but after all of the stuff with the Nogitsune and Scott, it had taken a backseat to staring at his bedroom walls for hours on end while dissociating, sleeping at inappropriate times during the day because he surely wouldn't at night, and half-heartedly scraping together a meal out of the few things left in his kitchen because getting groceries meant leaving the house. Though, with nothing else to feasibly distract him from the heart-wrenching experience of watching those around him without being able to tell them what had happened to him, a few musty old texts on energies and magical ointments kept him going for hours.
The sun had already set and Deaton seemed to be wrapping up his work for the day and preparing to go home. Stiles figured he'd stay behind and continue to read—that is, if he was lucky enough to find a source of light after Deaton locked up—as he'd found a passage in an old notebook detailing astral projection and several supernatural experiments. It mentioned something about the difference between humans with slight supernatural aptitude and actual supernatural creatures and how the process of astral projection for the two were done completely differently.
It might be a stretch, but if there was a chance that astral projection and 'out of body experiences' were even slightly similar to his own situation, he would spend every last day that he had left searching for a solution.
Unfortunately, Deaton didn't leave a single light on and Stiles reluctantly followed him out, unsure whether he could be trapped by a locked door or not. Even if he was coming back first thing in the morning to continue researching, he didn't exactly dig the idea of being stuck in a small dark room for hours on end while he waited for first light.
With nothing left to do and feeling far clearer headed than he had before visiting the good doctor, Stiles started walking towards Derek's. It was roughly ten at night by the time he arrived, so he was mildly surprised to see several cars parked in front of the loft instead of just the camaro. From what he could see in the darkness, they all belonged to pack members as well. Stiles let out a sigh.
"God, it's been ages since I've been to one of their little 'pack meetings.'" Stiles said as he shuffled towards the entrance. "Some things never really change." He mumbled, thinking about the last time he'd physically climbed those steps and how all he could think at the time was how he knew he wouldn't be welcomed but he worried the pack would do something horrendously stupid if he didn't go. In the end, they'd done something stupid anyways.
"What do you mean 'gone?'" The harsh tone made Stiles pause a moment from where he stood at the loft entrance, taking in the scene he'd just walked into. The pack standing or sitting around the 'living room' area, all looking tense, uncomfortable, and . . . worried? Derek stood tall, thick arms crossed over his broad chest, body completely still, and angsty werewolf glare turned up to an eleven as he stared Scott down, who looked incredibly pained. Scott's gaze dropped to the concrete floor and his uneven jaw clenched. Lydia, who seemed to be holding on to an anger of her own as she glanced at Scott beside her, stepped forward and took the brunt of Derek's glare as she spoke.
"Stiles hasn't been in school for the past week and nobody's been able to get into contact with him. Scott went over to his place earlier but he hasn't been home in days. We think something might be wrong." She stated matter-of-factly and didn't outwardly react when Derek went from confused/annoyed to furious.
"A week?! Stiles has been missing for an entire week and nobody thought to tell me?" He exclaimed with a low powerful growl carrying his words that caused a few of his beta's to visibly shrink in on themselves.
Scott, having steeled himself once more while Lydia spoke, piped up as well.
"We weren't sure at first! I mean, we haven't exactly talked a lot recently and it wasn't weird for him to miss a few days every now and then. He- . . . he called all of us a few times on Sunday night, but we were busy and I just thought he was calling about the little fight we had last week, but now . . . I don't know." Scott's voice was dripping with guilt and he refused to meet anyone's gaze. Then Scott's brow scrunched as he thought about something that seemed to have bothered him. "Actually, I don't think the sheriff even realizes Stiles hasn't been home."
Derek's growl was fierce and emphasized by his crimson eyes. "Idiot! You always answer the call of a pack member. No matter what you fight about, at the end of the day, we have to be there for each other, how do you not get that?" Derek's incredulously voiced words were yet another shock to Stiles' system, and he didn't seem to be the only one.
"Pack?" Scott sounded small and confused as he finally made eye-contact with Derek, his usual olive complexion suddenly running pale. Derek's eyes narrowed dangerously at that and he quickly surveyed the surprised and confused faces of the rest of the pack with growing apprehension.
"But he's human." Erica piped in, not sounding malicious or cruel in her statement, just puzzled. Derek's jaw clenched and for a moment, he closed his eyes and took in a heavy breath through his nose before he spoke to the pack at large.
"Pack doesn't only consist of werewolves. He might not react as instinctually as you guys do to it, but the same basic instincts are there, the same needs—especially since he's a damn spark! He might not need to scent us, but time together and physical contact will still settle him in a way nothing else can. He might not feel the physical bonds of the pack, but they bind him to us just as tightly. There were humans in my old pack and my mother always taught us that the humans were just as important as the wolves and needed special care because they can't find comfort in scent like we can, they can't feel us from a distance like we can, and that means it's harder for them to connect with us and bond with us, but it is no less important and necessary for them." Derek seemed to get angrier and frustrated as he spoke, but it didn't seem entirely directed at the pack—who were looking to be in different states of despondency and fear as they absorbed Derek's meaning.
In a softer voice, Derek said, "And I realize I haven't been upholding my role as Alpha and ensuring that everyone is alright and taken care of. For that, I'm sorry." Derek's gaze sharpened and once again found Scott. "Even if that's the case, Stiles is your friend and ignoring his calls like that is dangerous. Like it or not, he's been mixed up in this world just as much, and for just as long as you have." He glanced at the rest of the pack. "For longer than any of the rest of you have. He's been a part of it for years now and that makes him just as much of a target as any of you."
"And that's exactly why I didn't want Stiles involved anymore! He's not a wolf like us and he could get hurt!" Scott exclaimed, trying to justify his reasoning for pushing Stiles away in the first place. Stiles, for his part, felt physically pained by Scott's thick-skull. And, apparently, so was Derek.
"Quiet, Scott! Don't you see? He's already a part of it! And he doesn't have our abilities, so we needed to keep him close. I'm not saying throw him in front of you in a fight, but leaving him alone and unprotected not only makes him open to being attacked or taken by an enemy, but also vulnerable to non-physical threats! We've seen it before! There are things in this world that creep into your mind, feed on your weaknesses and turn you against yourself and your loved ones. If Stiles didn't think he was part of the pack, if he was cut off and pushed aside, I honestly don't want to imagine what could have slipped passed us and I hate to wonder what that would mean for Stiles!" Derek's words were a sharp lash across the chest, Scott looked devastated and his hand unconsciously slipped into his coat pocket where he still had Stiles' journal.
Stiles finally unfroze from his spot in the doorway and stepped closer to Derek, and wished he could sooth the enraged Alpha somehow, wished he could tell Derek that he was right there and he was just fine. But all he could do now was stand witness to the troubling scene. He'd been spiteful before, bitter for how long it might take anyone to realize he was dead—dying—but now that he was there and he had to watch the others grow ever closer to the truth, he wished he could erase himself for he never wanted to see such fear in Scotts eyes, or uncertainty in the unshakable Lydia, or vulnerability in the fearless Erica. He never wanted to see that look on Derek's face either, a look of disappointment and almost like he didn't know his own pack anymore.
In that moment, Stiles didn't feel like the pack member Derek claimed him to be, he felt like a wedge, slowly being driven into the freshly mended cracks between everybody. He felt like, despite his incredulity at Derek's confession to his importance to the pack, his death would be yet another blow and whether they were close or not, it would be hard to take yet another death so soon. Stiles was finally seeing the potential magnitude of his demise on the pack and he'd be lying if he said it didn't terrify him. His gut churned and a low ringing filled his head.
"We didn't know. . ." Scott's voice sounded so weak, yet Derek's reaction was immediate.
"'Didn't know?!'" Derek's green eyes bloomed into a violent red yet again and his teeth sharpened into dangerous points as he lunged forward, finally seeming to explode and reach his end.
"NO!" Stiles shouted and moved on instinct, he reached out and grabbed Derek's shoulder and the room fell into silence as the growl cut off and the Alpha stilled. Stiles was breathing heard, heart going a thousand miles a minute as panic flushed his system. It took a quiet beat to realize something had happened, that he'd done something! Derek's head slowly turned, his features melting back into his human form. Derek's brow scrunched as he looked in the general direction Stiles stood in, even though he knew he wasn't really being seen. Perhaps heard? Felt?
Stiles still had a hand on Derek's shoulder and his heart was still racing when all of a sudden, the ringing became deafening and pain burst in his chest so suddenly it felt like he'd been shot. Stiles sucked in a harsh ragged breath and pressed his free hand to his chest while the other dug into the muscle of Derek's shoulder. The pain ebbed only for a second before it crashed back over him like a wave and he cried out. Vaguely, Stiles noticed flickering lights, but it could have been the black spots dancing in his vision. Stiles tried to suck in a desperate burning breath as the onslaught of agony continued, but it never quite reached his lungs.
Another wave and he heard something made of glass shatter. Another and wood groaned in the distance. The wolves looked around wildly. Stiles stilled and his breathing stopped and the very seconds seemed suspended as he arched back, vision filling with light and after moments of utter stillness, the very plane around him seemed to give way and Stiles felt like he was being ripped from the seams of reality and pulled through endless darkness until the world opened up around him and he was falling. Tumbling. Rolling. Hurting.
Stiles looked around him in a panic as he sucked in so much air it felt like his lungs would burst. The pain was more residual, like an echo rather than the real thing, and Stiles fought to slowly reorient himself. It became clear rather quickly that he was no longer in the loft. Looking around, he was somewhere dark and dank. The only light came from a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. Stiles took in the scene illuminated by the bulb and his stomach dropped like a stone.
A familiar white bed had its thick white duvet thrown carelessly to the side and Stiles could only catch a glimpse of his body from behind the dark silhouette of Meredith. Pushing up onto uneasy legs and shuffling closer, Stiles realized something had definitely happened. The blanket and sheets had been pushed aside and his white button-down shirt—which didn't belong to him—had been ripped open to expose his chest, there Stiles saw the glisten of residual gel and the faint red marks that matched perfectly with the shining metal faces of the crash paddles that lay at his side. Stiles also noticed that the area around his bed had gained a few familiar additions such as a heart monitor, an IV drip, a crash cart with a medical-grade defibrillator, and a ventilator that wasn't currently in use.
"Mind explaining what the hell is going on here?" Stiles' voice was low and deadly, which is allowed considering what he just went through! Meredith glanced at him before looking back down at his body, lines of stress appearing for the first time in her seemingly-flawless face. She used a handkerchief to clean the transference gel off of his chest and ribs before grabbing the blanket and once again covering him as if he were just sleeping.
"I set this all up because my magic can't sustain you forever and your body has been growing weak lately. However, I never expected to have to put it to use so soon." Meredith then looked Stiles in the eye, expression serious. "Your heart stopped and I had to resuscitate you. I said you'd have a month, I never said it'd be a smooth one." And with that, Meredith turned and walked back upstairs, heedless of the glower following her the entire way.
Stiles turned back once the door at the top of the stairs closed and looked down at his body. Sinking down onto the edge, Stiles laid a hand over the sternum of his body, hating the impenetrable barrier keeping him from slipping right back in like he'd seen in the movies. He stared at his own lax face for a long time as his thoughts swirled back and forth between the conversation he'd eavesdropped on at the loft, whatever the hell he'd done right before being transported to Meredith's basement, and the fact that he'd just actually died for a moment there and it made his month-long deadline feel far less concrete than it had before.
That night, Stiles did what he never thought he'd do and he spent the night in the same house as that monster—voluntarily—needing to be close to his physical form if only to make sure his own heart didn't stop again.
Back at the loft, the pack was looking around them, waiting for an attack from whatever had caused such a violent display of power. The air smelt of ozone and the lights still flickered every few seconds in some sort of aftermath. The glass coffee table had shattered, littering the floor in fine, glittering shards, and the large oak bookcase closest to the windows appeared warped and splintered in several spots.
The betas were all still so focused on the strange events, that only Derek seemed to notice Lydia, sat on the ground, dark tear tracks glistening down her fair cheeks, and her bottom lip clamped so tightly between her teeth he worried for a moment that she would bite right through. Derek stepped forward and knelt down, capturing her watery gaze as fear settled thick in his gut.
"Lydia, are you feeling like you're about to scream?" Derek's words brought the attention of the entire pack to the distraught banshee. Slowly, hesitantly, Lydia released her bottom lip and it trembled as she spoke, just barely above a whisper.
"Not yet, but he's in danger, Derek! We have to find Stiles!" The words resounded through the room with finality, a blood-chilling affirmation that their worst fears were coming true and that their residential human hadn't just skipped town. Scott's usually tan face was deathly pale as his hand clenched around the journal still stashed in his coat. He closed his eyes and silently begged Stiles to be okay, to come back to them and soon.
Derek rose, expression steely and unreadable. The pack looked to him, desperate for directions, for something to do!
"Let's go bring him back." The words of their Alpha strengthened them, but there was still that underlying unease and dread that this was a battle they'd already lost and they just didn't know it yet.