Part Three: Out of Here
Derek paced his cell, hands clenching into fists, arching into claws, and retracting to fists. His lips pulled back to bare growing fangs. Mirabelle huddled in her corner, plenty afraid despite her claims that Joker scared her more than Adam. Stiles worried that the walls and shadows were getting to Derek and chuckled to himself because it was too late for that. The mind games had gotten to both of them already. Stiles ran through the training exercises Derek taught him and hoped he looked less worried than he felt.
"C'mon, Beast, what's wrong? Your princess getting attacked by wolves and you can't help?" It was one of the newer voices. Stiles didn't know it well yet.
Derek growled, but his eyes darted to Stiles. "Some things could mean trouble," he said, and Stiles filled in the rest: 'It's better to hide them.'
Stiles remembered a time Derek had sensed that Scott was in trouble and become agitated like this. He had demanded Stiles ruin all of their plans so he could charge in and rescue Scott. Stiles thought it might be an alpha thing. "How many?" he asked, hoping he'd guessed right what was causing Derek's agitation and that not too many of their friends were in danger.
"None yet," Derek bit out. He must have thought Stiles wanted to know who had already died. "Close though. And near."
Stiles wanted to whoop and shout. The pack was nearby. He bit the inside of his cheek to quiet himself and wondered why he needed this to be such a secret now. A wall bounced at him, and Stiles lashed out to push it back. His fist sailed through air. Scott wouldn't fail him. Stiles brought the fist back to his side, clenched tight around the empty air and hope. Scott had never failed him.
Funny that Stiles would feel more sure if it was Derek. Scott had only been his best friend. Derek was his partner in a place where 'partner' meant life. He failed not to think too hard about cells, battles, torture, and Derek. His thoughts lingered on Derek's hands sliding wetly across his skin in the shower before he reminded himself there was a rescue to hope for.
"Is it too late though?" Stiles asked, moving three feet over so he could rest his hand against the wall he knew was harmless even though touching it made his skin crawl. He felt the wall crawl too and swallowed at the dryness of his mouth.
Derek shrugged. "If it is, then it's been for a while now." Then he returned to his pacing.
"I feel like the rest of us are missing out on something," Vic said, leaning close to Stiles' ear. "Why don't we share with the class?"
Stiles rolled his eyes and ignored Vic. He moved to the forward edge of his cell and slumped down against the bars. "Is it weird that this isn't what I expected?" Stiles asked.
"Yes," said Derek.
"I just thought it'd be me."
There was a pause. "I think that's the walls talking."
Stiles chuckled. "Yeah, they're noisy sons of bitches."
There was a soft hiss from down the hall.
"No," a voice said, "These are dangerous. They're monsters." It wasn't anyone in the cellblock, but the door hadn't crashed open.
Then Stiles considered that they slammed the door on purpose, and a lot of the weirdness of the View made sense. Especially the strange breezes.
"Dude, you're a werewolf," Scott's voice said, and Stiles thought he would melt with relief. "Besides, we're saving everyone."
"Your funeral," the first voice said. Scott groaned exactly like an exasperated teenager but said nothing else.
"Who are you?" That was a werewolf in the first cell. She missed Cory's counting now even though she'd complained before that he would drive her mad faster than the whispering walls.
"My name is Scott. I'm looking for my friend."
The werewolf laughed. "There are no friends here. Only partners and enemies."
"I'll be your friend," Stiles called down the hall.
"Look out!" Derek shouted over Stiles, and then there was a sickening crack. Scott didn't answer. Stiles hoped that crack was the sort of thing he could heal from.
"Which cell is the Beast in?" This voice belonged to the werewolf from across the frozen cellblock's way. When no one answered, she growled. "Never mind. I can smell him."
"Hey, hey, hey, angry werewolf lady!" Stiles pressed himself against the bars of his cell and reached an arm out toward her. "You know he didn't have a choice, okay. You can't just kill him for something you've also been doing for a while now."
She rolled her eyes and turned her back on Stiles. "You have a name?" She asked, settling her weight more heavily on one foot than the other. It was not a fighting stance.
"Some of them call me Adam."
"Yes, because you're an angry Disney prince. I meant a real name." She crossed her arms. Nothing in her posture signaled a threat. Stiles leaned his face against the bars of his cell and watched.
Derek frowned. "Derek."
"Ah, man, how can we uphold our secret identities if you blab to every pretty lady with a touch of contrapposto?" Stiles sighed.
"It's an art term," Vic said. "For the way she's standing." The werewolf glanced down at herself as if looking for where someone had slapped a contrapposto onto her shirt.
"Oh, yeah, I forgot about you," Stiles said to Vic. If anything happened to Derek, Vic would be free to kill Stiles. He should probably stop showing his back to the guy.
"Well, Derek, you angry-muttered at me something about revenge and your understanding of it."
"I'm sure he meant that in a purely academic sense," Stiles said.
"Now I want you to help me get it."
"You're not telling him to let you kill him are you? Because if you are, I'm going to gouge your eye out and feed it to you." Stiles wasn't used to threatening people, but it came easily enough.
The werewolf turned around just long enough to roll her eyes. "You're a freaky little idiot, aren't you? I want him to help me kill the alpha."
"There's an alpha?"
"The woman who taunted Jorge," Derek said. "She's an alpha, but not just an alpha." That explained why the werewolves had been so afraid of her. Derek gave the angry werewolf a look that implied the alpha being not just an alpha—whatever that meant—made her request more like a suicide mission than an exhilarating challenge.
Stiles licked his lips. "Okay, dude, I'm here waiting for you to tell me what she is in addition to an alpha, and you're just standing there, silent and mysterious like some kind of broody non-giving-of-answers jerkwad."
"Joker, where did you learn how to talk?" Vic asked. He'd moved closer while Stiles was distracted, so he definitely had some plans that ended in Stiles' death. He still managed a touch of exasperation and humor for his question though.
"Probably not the same place you did," Stiles answered.
"Come on, Derek, you're the only one who's ever offered to help. You're not chickening out now, are you?" The werewolf across the way shifted her weight to the other foot.
"Joker comes too."
"He's human. What's he going to do?"
Derek took hold of the cell bars above his head and leaned forward, supporting part of his weight by his arms. "I have it on good authority that he's scarier than I am. They named me after a Disney prince. They named him after a psychotic villain bent on chaos and destruction."
She turned long enough to glance at Stiles who smiled and waved even though Vic was breathing down his neck at this point. "You make a fair point," she admitted. First she unlocked Derek's cell. When he stepped out, he didn't close it behind him. Instead he pushed the werewolf across the way toward Stiles' cell, and Mirabelle crept out slowly like that would keep werewolves from noticing.
Stiles bolted from his cell the instant his door was open and stopped only when he hit Derek's chest. Then he pushed away to check on Scott. He lay on the floor just inside the door that hadn't crashed open today. Stiles checked his pulse and his breathing. Scott was fine, just knocked out. Stiles shook his shoulder until he woke.
"Joker," a voice said. "He said he was looking for a friend." It was one of the newcomers. Almost everyone here was a newcomer. Only Vic, Mirabelle, and a few others had been here before Stiles and Derek. The others had all been killed.
"Yeah, why else would someone actually break into this place?" Stiles helped Scott sit up as he struggled for consciousness. There was a wound on his forehead, but it knitted itself together as Stiles watched.
"It's you, isn't it?"
"Of course it's me." Stiles patted Scott's cheek. "Wake up, dude. We've got bad guys to kill."
Scott grinned and threw his arms around Stiles. "You're okay!"
"Yeah, but call me Joker until we're out of here." He didn't know why they'd hidden their names in the first place, but it seemed a shame to waste the effort now.
"Um. Okay. Joker." Scott tilted his head like seeing Stiles from a different angle would help him make more sense.
Stiles smiled without having to force it this time, but he still turned away from Scott eventually. "Hey, werewolf lady, does that key work on all these cells?"
"It's not a key, Joker. It's a ring of them." She held up and jangled the keys.
"Good. Unlock them."
"You do realize at least one of these people probably wants you dead, right?"
"If they try, I'll kill them. Otherwise, let's free some fellow captives."
Scott pushed himself to his feet, and Stiles followed suit. "Why would anyone want you dead?" Scott asked.
Stiles shrugged rather than explain. Scott wouldn't understand.
"Come on," the avenging werewolf said, sliding past them toward the door. Stiles grabbed her wrist before she reached it.
"Where's your partner?"
She growled and wrenched out from Stiles' grip with more force than necessary given that he was human and she a werewolf.
"Oh," he said. "Sorry." He figured he should use Scott and Derek as meat shields so he didn't wind up the same way.
"Wait," Derek said as the werewolf turned again. "The keys."
She rolled her eyes and tossed them to Derek who unlocked the cells. Scott beamed. The werewolf who used to be across the way but now stood uncomfortably close to Stiles given how little she seemed invested in his continued existence frowned and tapped her foot impatiently. The other pairs reunited. They held each other and kissed and eyed everyone else with familiar suspicion. This would have been an excellent time to escape.
"So," Stiles said instead, "Anyone else here think a dead alpha would be a good kind of alpha to make that one woman into?"
Someone laughed. Someone growled. Someone shouted, "Fuck yes!" And someone else yelled, "Do it yourself."
"Fair enough," Stiles said. "Onward." He motioned toward the door, and they set out. Stiles kept Scott at his front and Derek at his back. They ran off in different directions once they moved through the door. A few stayed with Stiles' group. Vic and Mirabelle were not among them.
"Do you really think we could take down an alpha?" A girl with burn scars asked. She had a tendency to laugh at jokes no one had made.
"That or die trying," the avenging werewolf said. Stiles wondered if this was an awkward time to ask for her name and decided he maybe didn't need it since she would probably fall into the 'die trying' category.
Stiles had such cheery thoughts these days.
"Of course we can do it," Scott said, but Stiles elbowed him to keep him from saying more. Everyone noticed, of course, but Stiles gave them a wicked grin until they decided not to look at his face anymore.
"Where are the others?" Stiles asked Scott.
"Probably getting shot at somewhere. There are a lot of people with guns here." Scott sniffed and pointed. "Allison's that way. Or am I not supposed to use names?"
"Too late now either way."
"The alpha's that way," Derek said, motioning opposite of Allison's direction.
"We have a better chance with a larger team," Stiles pointed out.
"We also risk losing her if we get sidetracked."
Stiles rolled his eyes. "Okay, someone howl to get the pack to follow us or whatever it is you do, and let's go alpha hunting."
Scott and Derek howled together. Stiles examined his jealousy. This place had made him accustomed to being the only person who did anything with Derek. He would have to get used to other people again, especially the flavor of other people who didn't necessarily want him dead or worry about the brutal ways he was going to kill them with his hands.
Before the howling finished, the group set off toward the alpha. Stiles hoped his friends would follow, but he wasn't sure how many of them could or who had come. Derek had never answered properly, and he couldn't know about humans like Allison anyway.
There were soldier-types everywhere. Mostly the werewolves took them out, but Stiles grabbed a gun the first chance he got, and the other humans followed suit. He looted ammo from later bodies, wondering why they were human if their boss was a wolf. When Isaac and Allison reached them, a human with black hair and a tendency to whisper sweet nothings to himself as he ran his eight-point-five fingers over laceration scars almost shot them. To be fair, so did Stiles, but he didn't have to body slam himself to send his bullets into a wall instead of his friends.
"Let's not kill the people who came here to help us."
The guy nodded, all eight-point-five fingers trembling.
"Good." Stiles stood and helped him back up.
"You're alive!" Allison jogged over and hugged Stiles after making sure his new gun wasn't going to maim or kill anyone while she squeezed her arms around him. She was so small. Her arms felt wrong around him, but he knew that was just the dependence on Derek, still leftover from the Freezer.
Stiles smiled. "And with you by my side, I may even stay that way."
He didn't miss the looks he got. No one who had been here long thought Stiles had any trouble staying alive.
"This is your backup?" The avenging werewolf across the way crossed her arms. She sounded unimpressed, probably because Isaac and Allison looked like a couple of gangly teenagers to anyone who didn't know better.
Stiles made a show of sighing and turning around. He raised a finger. "There's something I need you all to understand." He had their attention, but Stiles was starting to think he always had their attention. "I am the least badass member of my pack."
Allison, Scott, and Isaac looked pretty confused, especially at the way the others started eyeing them. Allison leaned in toward his ear but didn't bother with a proper whisper, probably because the werewolves would hear anyway.
"Just how badass do they think you are?"
Stiles shrugged. "The plan for my next fight was to take out the wolf myself."
"I don't quite understand what you're talking about."
"No, but they do." Most of the others' eyes had widened. One or two took a step back.
"You couldn't do it," the avenging werewolf said. "It's one thing to plan and another to do."
"You haven't watched him fight," the kid who nearly shot Allison and Isaac muttered. "I know he's human, but sometimes it's like he's..." Stiles grinned, and the guy flinched back. "He could do it."
His friends were giving Stiles weird looks, but they weren't the ones he'd been trying to convince. He thought the others believed him now, believed they could take down the alpha-plus-whatever the woman was. With a new smile, Stiles motioned for Derek and the angry werewolf to lead the way.
"She's going to know we're coming," Derek warned.
"Then let her know." The avenging werewolf started jogging, and the rest of them followed suit to keep up.
There were more soldier-types. That didn't surprise Stiles. The way his friends looked at him when he gunned them down did. He grumbled to himself that they were clearly enemies while Scott, Isaac, and Allison all made a point of knocking people out without killing them. The other former prisoners killed too, and Stiles took a moment to wonder if he'd have been shooting to kill before his stay here. Then a new set of enemies appeared, and he stopped thinking and started shooting.
Derek rammed his foot into a door so hard it crashed inward and flew toward the opposite wall even though Stiles was pretty sure, based on the ruined remains of its hinges, the door had been designed to open outward. The avenging werewolf charged in screaming, and Stiles assumed that was the signal that they'd found the alpha. There was gunfire, so Stiles ran toward it, ready to fire his own weapon once he'd found some sort of cover. He wound up stuck in the doorway and peeking in between rounds of bullets.
Something slammed the avenging werewolf back. That much force could only come from another wolf, and when Stiles found another chance to peek around the corner, he confirmed it.
"What the hell, Vic," he shouted. "I thought we were friends." He hadn't really, but it seemed a better line than, 'I thought you ran away already.'
"Sorry, Joker, the other side's got more leverage than you."
Stiles took another look around the doorway and caught sight of the alpha holding a gun to Mirabelle's head just inside another doorway across the wide room. "Yeah, all I've got is a gun and a grin."
"Honestly," said the human on the other side of the doorway, "For you, that's kind of enough." Then he charged in shooting. Stiles covered him as best he could, but this place taught him to fight with his hands, not a firearm.
"I call shenanigans," Stiles screamed into the room, but no one answered. They were too busy fighting. "Come on, guys, this is bull. Someone kill the alpha before I turn this car around."
Allison had taken the now-dead human's place. "They don't just lock you up and keep you for fun here, do they?"
"No," said Stiles as he tried to figure out how to reload.
Allison walked him through reloading. Stiles hadn't been kidding when he included her in the list of people more badass than he was. As soon as he could fire again, Stiles found some soldier-types and shot at them. The avenging werewolf was busy with Vic, and Derek and Scott were trying to reach the alpha. The others were fighting or dead. Isaac was fighting on top of the dead.
"I assume we're on a mission to destroy the ones who held you captive?" Peter said. Stiles hadn't noticed him approaching. He glanced to Allison who shrugged and then fired her crossbow at the throat of a guy with a clear shot at Scott.
"You wanna help?" Stiles jerked his head toward the fighting.
"I'm more of a wait in the background until the opportune moment to strike kind of wolf."
"Yeah, I'd noticed." Allison glared but only briefly before she returned to shooting.
"Are you scared, Joker? That's what they're calling you now, right?" The alpha's voice was loud and clear even over the fighting.
"Not scared. Just not bullet proof." Stiles shouted back. He knew his voice would carry, but he sort of wanted the others to hear too. His life was more about show than skill these days anyway.
"Joker? Really?" Peter had leaned forward and whispered his questions into Stiles' ear. Stiles just shrugged.
"Yes, sometimes I think we forget you're only human." The alpha followed it with a laugh. Stiles made a point of laughing with her. He grabbed Peter by his jacket and pushed him forward.
"What are we doing?" Peter sighed.
"Being baited. Come on." He shoved Peter forward, and they both ran into the battle. Peter chuckled just before he caught his first bullet. It hit him in the chest with enough force to make him grunt and stumble back into Stiles who just pushed him ahead.
A body rammed into Peter, forcing him to the ground. When the wolf who did it turned, Stiles found himself face-to-face with Vic. "We both knew this was coming," Vic said. "Though I thought we'd both have backup when it did." He caught a bolt from Allison's crossbow and laughed. "Backup from our partners, I mean."
Stiles fired at Vic's middle even though he knew the bullets would only hurt him, even at this range. Then he moved backward, firing at Vic's legs. Vic leapt at him, sending Stiles crashing to the floor under his weight. He lost his hold on the gun, and it flew across the floor. It went off once when it hit, but Stiles didn't see where the shot landed. Mostly he just saw Vic's fangs below the golden glow of his eyes.
"I'm not afraid of you like the others, Joker. I know the gasping panic we hear every night is you. I know even after your cough went away, you still couldn't breathe." He leaned in closer and growled, "I can see your scars now."
"Dude, mouthwash. Try it out," Stiles grunted, pushing Vic back as best he could. But Vic was stronger, and his fangs reached closer and closer to Stiles' throat. Stiles squirmed until he had one leg in position to knee Vic in the balls. Then he used Vic's distraction to ram the palm of his hand into his nose. He felt the bone break and knew if he'd done it right, something was supposed to shove up into Vic's brain and kill him. But Vic's teeth kept gnashing, and he adjusted his hold on Stiles as blood leaked from his nose.
"Well, I tried," Stiles said, just before a crossbow bolt exploded from Vic's throat.
Somehow that didn't stop him either, but Stiles managed to get a hand free. He drove the nail on his thumb into the softness of Vic's eye. Vic howled with pain and raised hand to claw Stiles away from his eye. Stiles kneed Vic in the balls again, harder this time, and pushed him over. He gave up on that eye but climbed on top of Vic to gouge out the other one. Maybe he would heal, but not in time to regain his vision for this fight.
Something crashed into Stiles' back before he finished. It burned through him as he fell forward. Vic clawed blindly at his throat, but Stiles scrambled away. When he screamed at the pain in his back, Vic's head swung in his direction. Stiles tried to soften the harsh gasping of his breath or to still the beating of his heart. Vic shuffled forward, snarling with more rage than Stiles had imagined inside him even after watching him kill from the View.
Both of his eyes were ruined and bleeding. He fought by sound alone. There was so much noise around them that he must have latched onto Stiles the way Scott would focus his senses on Allison, but in less of an 'in love' and more of an 'intent to kill' kind of way. Stiles scrambled backward, and the slap of his bleeding palms against the floor echoed back at him. Those small sounds led Vic straight to him.
He poured all of his rage, pain, and fear into his voice. Every second he spent wondering which shadows on the floor were real, every day he had to take another life to prolong his own, every spasm of every muscle damaged by this place, and every moment he ached for Derek without knowing if he even cared for him filled Stiles and exploded in the loudest cry he could muster. It tore at his throat and left him red in the face.
The onslaught of noise stunned Vic. Stiles lunged forward. He tackled Vic and grabbed the crossbow bolt still protruding from his throat. Then he tugged. Vic screamed, clawing blindly at Stiles. His claws slashed through cloth and skin, and Stiles ignored them. He pulled the bolt out and stabbed it into Vic's neck again, aiming for the jugular vein. When he missed, he pulled it out and stabbed again. Blood shot over his face and torso as Vic faltered, then fell. Stiles continued to work the bolt into his neck to make sure he was dead. Then he kept stabbing Vic because he couldn't remember how to stop.
A hand caught his and pulled him back. Arms wrapped around him holding him still. No one told him to calm down or that it would be alright. They just held him against their chest until he stopped screaming. By the way his skin itched, Stiles knew it wasn't Derek. He first relaxed to show he was under control and then pushed away and turned to find Peter behind him.
"Where have you been?" Stiles panted. He turned his eyes to the floor and the corpses covering it, looking for a new gun.
"I got preoccupied with not dying myself."
"It can't be that bad. You've done it before." He found a weapon, but it only had one round, and the soldier-types nearby had run out of ammo. Stiles kept it anyway. One shot was more than none.
"Bad enough." He limped after Stiles, using mostly his right leg. His left pant leg was in ribbons, as was the flesh beneath it. Blood stained his sock and leaked through his shoe to pool on the floor.
Stiles stumbled forward with the crossbow bolt still clenched in one bloody hand and the gun in the other. Peter followed, and between the two of them they left a trail of blood even blind and dead Vic could have tracked. They shuffled past the avenging werewolf where she lay in a soggy, red heap, wheezing so pitifully that Stiles couldn't decide if she'd heal or die. He didn't bother to stop and find out.
"Joker, you might want to look at this," the alpha said. She had a gun pointed at Derek's head now. She must have cast Mirabelle aside as soon as Vic went down. Stiles stopped walking, grip tightening on his meager weapons.
"I don't suppose you'd consider letting him go?" Stiles forced himself to grin. He had a name to live up to, after all.
"Maybe if you use that gun to put a bullet through your brain."
"Can't. I have plans tonight, and it'd be hard to make them dead."
Peter put a hand on Stiles' shoulder, but his eyes stayed on the alpha. "When villains want to scare each other," he said with the tone of someone reciting a quotation, "They tell Joker stories." It made Stiles want to laugh, but he wasn't sure he could manage it with the way his breathing kept running away from him.
A twitch of the alpha's head and the way she stopped mid-blink to open her eyes again signaled to Stiles that Peter had startled her. Derek must have caught it somehow too because he rammed his elbow into her ribs and ducked away from the gun before she pulled the trigger. Peter dashed forward to take the alpha from the side when she turned toward Derek. Stiles hadn't seen him fight since he was still an alpha, but he wasn't surprised to find that Peter fought dirty. He attacked from behind, letting Derek take the brunt of the damage.
"Take her oldschool!" Derek shouted as he leapt away from her claws. Then he wolfed out for the first time since waking up here. Giving off the false yellow glow was the closest he'd come before. Now his teeth turned to fangs, his fingernails to claws, and his eyes to red. Even his bone structure shifted with the change. He lashed out with tooth and claw at the alpha. When he broke her skin, the blood was black. She snarled, teeth lengthening into points, but differently from how Derek's had. Her eyes turned yellow even though she was an alpha. They weren't a wolf's eyes. They were a kanima's.
"Oh, shit," Stiles said, backing up as scales spread out over the alpha kanima's body.
"Is that what I think it is?" Peter asked. He looked like he regretted joining the fight.
"Yes," Derek growled.
As the scales spread, wings erupted from the alpha's back. She hissed, advancing on Derek. Her tail lashed with such force that it sent her own soldiers flying. Then Stiles remembered that kanimas don't work alone. The werewolf-human pairs made so much more sense this way. Derek had told him to take out the kanima's human partner when he said, 'oldschool.' Stiles just had to find out who that was. He bolted past the fighting to the door behind the kanima, hoping his chances of finding her master were better since she'd seemed to be guarding that door until Derek made her angry.
Stiles' footsteps echoed back at him as he jogged through the halls. Even after repeated visits to Haha, No, Stiles was lost. Every hall looked the same. He rounded a corner and suddenly wasn't alone. Stiles slammed the other person against the wall and brought the barrel of the gun to their throat before he realized it was Mirabelle.
"It's me, Stiles. It's me," she sobbed.
"Sorry." He backed up. "Are you okay?"
"Vic is dead," she screamed at him. "You..." Her eyes turned to jagged shards of ice. "Youkilled him."
She didn't attack though. She just collapsed into a sobbing mess on the floor. Echoes from the fight between the pack and the kanima reached them in the hall. Stiles wanted to comfort Mirabelle—he knew how close a partner bond was here—but he didn't have time.
"Mirabelle, did you see anyone else?"
"No, Joker. That's why I came this why. I thought I could hide."
Hearing his nickname always made Stiles want to grin now, but he didn't need to scare Mirabelle. She was just a girl who'd lost her somewhat-too-old-for-her boyfriend. She didn't need—
Stiles had been ready to turn away but focused his eyes back on Mirabelle thinking about his name.
"You called me 'Stiles,'" he said.
She backed away, reaching a hand toward the pocket of her prison uniform. Stiles raised the gun again, making sure the safety was off. Its weight reminded him of his feelings for Derek. Mirabelle froze and let her hand fall slowly to her side without whatever she'd hoped to reach.
"It's you, isn't it?" He swallowed. "How could it be you?"
Kanima screams thundered down the halls, closer than Stiles thought they should have been. Mirabelle was calling the alpha to her. Stiles hoped Derek could hold her off.
"Answer me!" he screamed, hand trembling around the borrowed gun. He calmed himself, forced his breathing to slow, and steadied his hand. He only had one shot. He couldn't afford to waste it.
"They chose me. They said I was the best," Mirabelle said like it was a wonderful thing and he was stealing it away. Her eyes focused on Stiles and narrowed. "But then you kept winning. I would have beaten you because I had to and because they already chose me, Joker. Not you. You didn't stay in the other cellblocks. You weren't tested, and you don't understand."
"What did they choose you for?"
"I'm the best," she insisted, but tears welled in her eyes. "I was the best. I would have killed them before letting them take her away from me."
"Who? The kanima?"
"She's so powerful, Stiles. And she can do so much. At night the walls tell me all the things I should make her do."
The kanima screamed again. It was close. Stiles heard Derek growling and the crash of their bodies against the cement that made the walls and floors.
Stiles didn't give himself time to think. He aimed for Mirabelle's middle because he was least likely to miss that way and pulled the trigger. She doubled over. Stiles lunged forward and pressed her against the wall again so he could slit her throat with the crossbow bolt's sharpened point. The kanima's screams echoed through the halls as he killed Mirabelle the same way he had killed Vic. Then the fighting stopped. Stiles worked the bolt in Mirabelle's throat, making sure she was dead. When he reached into her pocket, he found a knife and slipped it into his own pocket. The crossbow bolt he left behind in her neck.
When he reached the alpha kanima, she was dead, probably killed while stunned from losing her master. Stiles counted six pieces of her but couldn't figure out where her left arm had gone.
"The master?" Derek asked.
"Mirabelle. And dead."
"Mirabelle?" He frowned. "She did always give me the creeps."
"She gave you the creeps?" Stiles raised an eyebrow.
Derek shrugged. "I don't think Vic knew though."
Stiles had reached Derek by this point and threw his arms around him instead of answering. Derek's warmth was still comforting, even past all the blood.
Stiles was glad to be home, to have his family and friends around him again. And a bed. And good food. And control of the air conditioning. And doors that opened whenever he wanted them to. And the internet. But he only felt safe if Derek was there. He knew why. He even explained it to Derek, who looked at him like he was trying to explain physics to a physicist.
Understanding it didn't mean he wanted to fight it.
Stiles pressed himself against Derek's warmth even though his father didn't like seeing them together. He kept the house just a little too cool most of the time because he wanted to be comfortable close to Derek, not far from him. Derek was the only one who understood.
"It's called codependency, Stiles." His father sighed. He'd been talking to people who thought they knew anything about Stiles even though he refused to meet with them.
"I know." Stiles gave his father a flat stare.
"It's not healthy."
"I don't care."
"Wouldn't you rather move past this so you can have real, healthy feelings and a stable relationship?" He didn't say, 'with someone else,' which meant he was learning.
"I'm fine as I am." Derek shifted as Stiles spoke. He would hear the lie in his heartbeat and feel it in the way Stiles' fingers twitched around his where they laced together. "I don't want to change," Stiles corrected so Derek would still. That one was true.
"You have a panic attack every time he leaves, Stiles. He can't be with you all the time." The words tumbled out awkwardly, and then he adopted the look of a man ashamed for sharing a secret. Stiles appreciated that, but Derek already knew. Stiles had told him.
Stiles shrugged. "I'll get used to it."
"No, you won't." He let out a sigh heavy with the weight of the world, or the weight of worrying about a teenager whose fingers itched to kill as much as to run along his boyfriend's skin. "You were under intense pressure in that place. You had to adapt to survive, and you did. But it's different here." Stiles almost interrupted to remind his father of the constant danger he'd been in since Scott was bitten, but he didn't know about that. Then Stiles' father turned to Derek. "I haven't asked you before; what do you think?"
Derek frowned. "I don't want Stiles to have panic attacks."
"Then we can help him stop them."
"I don't want him to leave me either."
Stiles' father sighed again. He ran a hand over his face. "You realize the help would be for both of you, right?"
"But..." Stiles struggled. He knew they weren't perfect, and he knew they'd tried to fight becoming this. Not hard. They could have resisted longer, especially since they'd know exactly what was happening. It was just... "What if I don't want to be with him after?" He clung to Derek. It scared Stiles to imagine not needing him.
"Scott tells me you were sort of friends even before they took you."
Stiles nodded. They had been together in Stiles' jeep when they were taken, arguing about something. Food maybe. Stiles remembered being hungry.
"Then I don't see any reason you couldn't be friends after."
"You just lied," Derek said.
"Fine. There's a chance you'll be afraid and hurt and never want to see each other again, but I don't care. I just want my son to be okay." Stiles nodded, but he gripped Derek's hand in his so hard his knuckles went white.
Stiles rubbed at his arms. He sat on the couch with his feet pulled up on the cushions and his shoulders curled forward. He was slowly getting used to being alone, but this was supposed to have ended hours ago. He knew his father had a demanding job and that coming home late was normal, but Stiles itched to do something and to be with someone. His phone was in his lap. He had texted Derek. When he got no response he had called Derek. When he got no answer, he had hung up and slammed the phone down next to him, determined to wait until Derek called back.
Derek wasn't going to call back.
Stiles clawed his fingers against the side of his head, breath coming in short gasps. A nail bit into his temple, and Stiles' hands clawed madly at his skin, pulling away phantom needles with suction cups. His breath caught somewhere between his mouth and his lungs in a wad of hatred. Stiles froze on the couch except for his trembling. He wasn't supposed to be this way. He was supposed to be stronger.
The door inched inward, slowly in an attempt not to make any sound. It startled Stiles into breathing again, and getting air into his lungs broke fear's hold on him. Stiles realized he'd heard the car and its door closing, but he'd let himself become distracted. Telling himself that was dangerous didn't help because his life was supposed to be less dangerous now. He almost thought if something would attack Beacon Hills, he could catch hold of himself again and function like a real person instead of a broken doll.
"I'm awake," he said, and the door opened the rest of the way at a normal pace. It creaked less that way.
"You didn't have to wait up." His father entered with a droop to his step. He dropped his keys on the table beside the door and shrugged slowly out of his jacket.
"I couldn't sleep." He knew he'd slept without Derek in the View, but he'd still been nearby, lying at the forward edge of his cell, facing Stiles across the way.
His father winced. He knew Stiles didn't like to be alone. "Sorry. That forest fire finally died out, and we got called to a structure out there. Someone thought it was a meth lab."
"Really? In Beacon Hills?"
"Not today. It was..." He hesitated, and Stiles imagined him chewing on his words until they were tender enough to feed his son. "It was just a ruin, but it used to be..."
"It was where they kept Derek and me." Stiles didn't need his father's nod for confirmation.
"There's not enough left for them to know about you." He sat down beside Stiles. It always felt strange to be this close to someone other than Derek, like the thin plastic of a windbreaker after days of wearing only leather.
"You saw it?" He needed to know his father was sure.
"I saw it." His pause was heavy with pity or horror. "There are still pieces. They may piece together some of what happened."
"Just not to whom."
His father gave another unnecessary nod.
"I'm glad it burned down."
His father sighed. "No you're not."
He was right. Stiles wasn't unhappy it had burned, but he wasn't glad either. He shrugged because he couldn't bring himself to care. Something about that felt wrong. Stiles ran his fingers along the edge of his cell phone and let his father try to comfort him.
It had been a long time since they saw each other. The therapists and doctors said it was part of their therapy, learning how to be apart. Isaac was the only one who saw much of Derek anymore. Even he had been spending more and more time with Scott. Stiles started having nightmares when they stopped letting him sleep with Derek at his side, but they had mostly gone away now. He ran his tongue along his lips and pulled the bottom one in between his teeth. He knew the others were nearby even if he couldn't see or hear them. He ran his hand along the bench he sat on, tracing the places where the paint had peeled away.
Derek approached slowly and in plain sight. He had his hands shoved into the pockets of his leather jacket. Stiles felt weird, meeting him in the middle of a park instead of a normal place like one of their houses. It was supposed to happen in a neutral place though, a place he could avoid in the future if this went badly. No one had told him how much Derek did or did not speak with the therapists. Stiles wondered if he had all the same stupid explanations for everything they made him do or if he'd been sitting alone in his burned-down house all this time waiting for the phone call that meant he could see Stiles again. Hopefully not that second one. It was pathetic, even if Stiles knew Derek was enough of a mess to fall into it if no one pushed him toward something better.
He didn't say anything when Derek reached him, and neither did Derek. He just sat on the bench beside Stiles, too far away to touch the way they used to, and stared at the pathway by his feet. There were brown and red leaves scattered everywhere, and they shifted whenever the breeze blew.
"I'm scared to say anything," Stiles admitted eventually.
"They tell me you're doing well." Derek didn't look at Stiles when he spoke. Instead, his eyes followed the path of a bundle of dried leaves skidding across the sidewalk.
"They don't tell me anything about you." Stiles frowned at his sneakers.
"That's because they can't tell you I'm doing well." Derek closed his eyes and leaned back against the old park bench.
"I miss you," Stiles said. It was at least half true. He missed Derek, but he hated Derek too because he was supposed to be stronger than Stiles. He was supposed to have resisted. That wasn't true of course; it just seemed that way when Stiles was angry.
"I wish you didn't."
"But I miss you too."
Stiles gripped the edge of the bench. "I wish you didn't." Then, after a long pause, he said, "If you're not... why would they let you see me if you're not ready?"
"They let me choose. They think you're ready, and that maybe you needed to see me before you could go any further."
"But that helping me could hurt you, right?"
Derek shrugged. "I don't care. I just wanted to see you."
Stiles made himself look Derek in the eye. "You don't see much of anyone anymore." When Derek just shrugged, Stiles pushed onward. "You're supposed to be the alpha, not the hermit."
"Then tell Scott to challenge me, and he can be the alpha." Derek growled. He had to know Scott was listening.
"Yes, because throwing a little werewolf fit is definitely going to make everything better." Stiles rolled his eyes.
Derek glared at the leaves rather than respond. They sat for a long time, not sure what to say. Eventually Derek pulled one of his hands out from his coat pocket. "I brought this for you." He held out his hand and opened it. In his palm, lying on its side, was a slightly misshapen Hershey's Kiss.
Stiles rolled his eyes, but he tugged Derek forward by his jacket to kiss him. That was when his friends decided to come out and pull them apart, but Stiles didn't care. He popped the chocolate into his mouth and grinned at Derek. He didn't smile back, but he parted his lips and rubbed a hand along his pant leg in a way Stiles knew meant he was bashful. Stiles slid out of Scott's grip long enough to hug Derek goodbye. It wasn't a forever kind of goodbye, and the warmth of that was nicer than the memory of Derek's heat protecting Stiles against the cold.
A/N: I pulled this chapter title from "All Along the Watchtower" too.
Peter is quoting the Trickster from Underworld Unleashed.
Thank you every one who read and everyone who commented! I hope you enjoyed the end as much as the beginning.