"To make a mountain of your life is just a choice
But I never learned enough to listen to the voice that told me:
Hate will get you every time
Don't wait till the finish line
"Put pressure on it!" Derek bellows, starting his car and peeling out of his driveway.
"I'm trying!" Isaac yells back. He's in the back seat of Derek's Camaro, shirt off and pressed hard into Stiles' stomach. He tries not to look at the blood that's soaking the fabric.
Derek is driving like a mad man, hitting at least sixty, if not more, on the dirt road, and going even faster once they hit pavement. His heart is racing, blood pounding, and the sound of the car's engine is loud, but the only thing he's paying attention to is the faint heartbeat in the back seat.
"How long till we get there?" Isaac asks, removing the shirt in favor for a hoodie he finds laying on the floor in the back seat.
"Less than five minutes," Derek growls out, pressing down on the gas even harder. At this point, he doesn't care if there are any cops on the road. Stiles is much more important.
Suddenly, Derek's phone starts ringing. If it wasn't Scott, he probably would have thrown his phone out the window. But it is.
"Scott," He answers, breathless.
"Derek, hey," He says, "Thank God you're alive. Sorry you lost us for a while there. He caught us off guard. Broke our walkie talkies, too. We found Erica and Boyd though. They're fine. Did the alpha find you?"
"Yes," Is all Derek manages to say, and it's all he needs to say.
"What happened?" Scott immediately asks, voice panicked.
"Get to the hospital," Derek says in return.
"What?" Scott yells, "Is it - is Stiles...?" He's not dumb enough to ask about Isaac. Stiles is the only one who doesn't heal. He's the one that the alpha was after. Of course it's Stiles.
"I-I don't know," Derek manages, breaking down. He's still speeding, swerving around slow cars, but tears are almost clouding his vision.
"Is he going to..." Scott trails off, and Derek is sort of glad he doesn't finish his sentence.
"I don't know," He repeats.
"Give him the bite," Scott says immediately.
"I can't," Derek glancing in the rear view mirror.
"Yes you can!" Scott yells, "He's my best friend, Derek! You can't- I can't lose him!"
"I know!" Derek yells back. He doesn't add that he'll die if he loses Stiles, too. "But it might be too late. I don't... I don't know if it would save him."
Scott suddenly understands, voice somber, "We'll be there as soon as we can." And at that, Derek hangs up, tossing his phone into the passenger seat.
"Could he be turned with a scratch?" Isaac asks, looking down at Stiles.
Derek is quiet for a long moment, before replying, "I don't know. Not that I've ever heard of. But the Argents seem to think so."
"So maybe if there's a little hope," Isaac says, trying to stay positive.
"If they're right. And if the wounds don't kill him," Derek manages, even though it hurts to say.
He doesn't even turn his car off when they get to the hospital. He just gets out, scoops him up from the back seat, and runs through the doors, Stiles in his arms.
He watches helplessly as Stiles is taken away on a stretcher.
It's a couple of hours after they get to the hospital - after Scott and everyone else gets there, after Mrs. McCall yells at all of them outside for getting Stiles into their mess and not going to the police - that Derek can finally let out a breath he feels like he's been holding since the second they got there.
"He's stable," Melissa says, walking out into the waiting room where everyone is still sitting. It's getting late and they should all probably start heading home, but nobody will leave. "And it doesn't look like the cuts turned him."
"Thank you," Derek breaths, looking up at her from where he's sitting, sandwiched in between Isaac and Erica. And he's not sure why he's so happy about it, but he's glad that it didn't turn Stiles.
"I'll deny it if you ever bring it up again," She adds, leaning in to Derek, "But if it weren't for you driving here like an idiot, he wouldn't have made it."
Derek manages to swallow the lump in his throat and smile in return.
"You love him," Erica says softly to Derek, after the majority of their group decides that it's safe to go get some food while they're waiting.
"What?" Derek snaps quietly, turning to see if anyone is listening. Jackson and Lydia are in one corner, her head on his shoulder, and Stiles' aunt is sitting a few seats down, staring at the floor.
"You heard it, tough guy," Erica says, smiling, "You're in love."
He rolls his eyes in response and goes back to looking at his hands like they're the most interesting thing in the world.
"It's useless trying to hide it," She presses, smiling. "Super werewolf hearing, remember? There was no missing the way your heart sped up when I said it."
"Does it matter?" Derek asks, looking at her, feeling defeated.
"Look, I know you've got this whole 'everyone I love dies' thing going on right now, and I'm sure this whole situation isn't helping that out much, but he's got that too... And I mean, neither of you are dead yet, so maybe you're meant to be... Or something." She says all in one breath, smiling like she's proud of her assessment afterward.
"Even if I knew what you were trying to prove here, what would you want me to say?" He shoots back.
She shrugs, "Nothing I guess. But you do know he loves you too, right?" When Derek just stares at her, she grins even wider, "Oh, as if you couldn't smell it on him..."
The first thing Stiles hears when he wakes up is the steady beeping of his heart monitor. The next is a woman's voice. "Stiles, honey?" It's soft, comforting, "Can you hear me?"
Though his mouth is dry and his throat hurts, he manages to rasp out, "Mom?"
"Honey," She repeats again, "It's Melissa, it's Scott's mom. Can you open your eyes?"
And despite the aching feeling in his chest, Stiles manages to open his eyes. It takes a few seconds for everything to focus – the room is too bright and he's not even sure where he is exactly – but finally, his eyes come to find Mrs. McCall's smiling face. "How are you feeling, sweetie?" She asks once he's fully awake.
Stiles manages to smile back up at her, "I've been better."
"There's the Stiles we know and love," She replies, "I've just got to check a couple of things, but then I'll go call Scott and tell him you're up. And then your visitor can see you."
"Visitor?" He croaks looking up at her as she writes a couple of things down. He knows that it's probably his aunt - of course it's her, she's probably worried sick - but part of him kind of wishes it was Derek.
She smiles, "Yup." It only takes about five minutes, but then Mrs. McCall is walking out of the room and grabbing someone's attention.
Stiles' breath actually hitches a little when that visitor is, in fact, Derek. Melissa smiles at the two of them when Derek enters the room, closing the door behind her and leaving them alone. Derek just stands on the other side of the room, arms crossed and silent, naturally, and Stiles realizes that he's going to have to be the first to talk, as usual. "Hey."
"Hey," Derek returns, a man of few words.
"I didn't know you... I mean- where's Amy?" He manages.
"Your aunt?" Derek replies, "She's out getting lunch."
"Lunch?" Stiles asks, trying to sit up so he can look around the room. The action sends a sharp pain through his body, particularly his stomach and his head and Derek is next to him within seconds, pulling his pillows up so he can lean against them.
"Yeah," Derek replies after Stiles is comfortable.
"How long have I been out for?"
Derek shrugs, "A little over a day."
"A day?" Stiles echos, "Jesus." Then it all comes back to him. That night. The woods. The alpha. Losing their friends. "Where are the others? Are they okay? Did they...? Adrian?" He asks, suddenly panicked, "Did he-"
"He's dead," Derek answers, "But don't worry about that right now. You need to rest."
"Rest. Right," Stiles says, trying to relax his body, though he's internally freaking out because the monster that killed his father is finally dead. Instead, he tries to do what he does best – distract himself. "How did you get in here?" He asks, changing the subject, "Don't they usually only let family in at first or something?"
Derek smiles a little bit to himself before pulling up a chair and sitting down next to Stiles. "You'll have to thank Scott's mother for that."
"Really?" Stiles asks, smiling back.
Derek shrugs, "It might have helped when I mentioned that I was your boyfriend."
Stiles' heart skips a beat at that. Literally. Even he can hear what Derek hears on the heart monitor and he smiles to himself at it. "Boyfriend, huh?"
And Derek just shrugs again, like it's nothing, "I said we'd talk about it when everything was over, and-"
"Yes," Stiles interrupts, "I don't care if I sound totally full of myself or whatever, but if this is you asking me out, yes."
Derek just laughs in response, but reaches forward to grip Stiles' hand, squeezing it.
His aunt shows up about ten minutes later, crying about how worried she was and thanking Derek – for the millionth time – for taking care of Stiles. The rest of the pack shows up as soon as they're allowed to come see him, and Stiles makes some joke about how he feels like Frodo at the end of Return of the King when everyone piles in the room and isn't surprised when Scott is the only one who gets it. Derek smiles at him from across the room when Scott envelops him in a hug, and Stiles can't help but smile because maybe everything will be okay.
It takes quite a while for Stiles to recover fully. It's almost a month before the bruising on his face and his black eye – which looked gnarly when he first got out of the hospital – goes away. And it's another month and a half after that before Stiles can move around normally without his stomach, or the rest of his body, hurting too much. He obviously can't play lacrosse for the rest of the year, but he's surprisingly okay with sitting on the bench.
The police and the hospital, with the help of Scott's mom, chalk it up to an animal attack and after a month of no more attacks, they stop searching.
Derek and Stiles are lying in Stiles' bed one day, almost three months after that night, when Stiles sits up suddenly. "Put your shoes on," He says, sliding off the bed and – reluctantly – away from Derek's warmth. He could stay there all day if he wanted, but he has other plans.
"What?" Derek asks, even as Stiles pulls on his own shoes and grabs a hoodie.
"Get ready," He just says, waiting, "We need to go somewhere."
Derek eyes him warily, but eventually gets up and copies Stiles actions, grabbing his shoes and throwing on his leather jacket. Despite Derek asking where they're going, Stiles manages to keep his mouth shut. Instead, they both climb into the Jeep and head toward town.
Derek also questions it when Stiles insists on stopping at a flower shop, but doesn't say anything, because he's sure that he's not going to get a response.
Everything starts to make sense when Stiles turns down the road toward the cemetery, though, and Derek reaches over the center console to grab his hand when he does so. Stiles, though his heart is racing, just turns to him for a moment and smiles before turning back toward the road.
Stiles has made the walk to his mom's grave too many times to count, but he can't help but feel like it's the first time again. Maybe it's because he's not just going to see his mom anymore, or maybe it's because Derek is with him and he's never shared this with anyone but his dad, but either way, his heart is pounding when the two of them near the two headstones, hands clasped.
He doesn't say anything at first.
Actually, they both stand there in silence for a good five minutes before Stiles manages to say anything. And Derek grips his hand reassuringly for the entirety of the five minutes, waiting patiently. Stiles' rock.
"I miss you," Stiles finally manages, and the words break Derek's heart. It's silent again and Stiles takes a few deep breaths before continuing. "Both of you," He clarifies, "A ton."
Stiles glances up at Derek for a split second, and Derek smiles back at him, supportive. "You'd kill me if you were here right now, Dad," Stiles says, smiling, "I mean, you really hated Derek. But you'll have to believe me when I say that I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for him... And he makes me happy."
He clears his throat, "I know I wasn't always the best kid. I mean, I'm kind of a huge pain in the ass. And I know it took me a while to come up here and talk to you and I'm sorry, I really am. It was just hard... But I love you." Stiles uses his free hand to wipe a stray tear off of his face, "But I'm sure you already know that."
It's in that second, that Derek knows that Erica was right. He sort of always knew it, but it's in that second that he finally accepts it. That he's okay with it. He's not sure if it's seeing Stiles this vulnerable that does it for him, or if it's the fact that Stiles trusts him enough to bring him here, to let Derek see him like this, but either way, Derek finally gets it.
"I love you," He says without thinking about it.
"What?" Stiles asks, turning to look at him, surprised.
"I love you," Derek simply repeats.
Stiles stares up at him for a moment, studying his face, before he leans up, kissing him. "I love you too," He whispers back after a moment, then presses their lips together again.
"But if you hold off until that reflex kicks in. You have more time, right?"
"Not much time."
"But more time to fight your way to the surface."
"More time to be rescued."
AN: ADFL;ADLNSKLS Thank you ALL so much for reading this fic! I can't believe it's already done!
I MIGHT write an epilogue sometime in the future, and If I do, I'll let you know.
But seriously, thank you all for the lovely reviews. You're the reason I keep writing.
Also, the title of this chapter is from the song "Always Love" by Nada Surf.
There's also a full playlist for this fic on my tumblr, here: post/35226169193/drowning-lessons-a-sterek-playlist-this-is-a