"You know, when I imagined myself dying, I thought it would be a lot more dramatic."
"Sorry to disappoint."
"I'm just saying, this is not the kinda place I wanna die in, so neither of us are going to, got it? Because, because that would just suck and I want something way cooler on my gravestone like 'died in a blaze of glory saving orphans from the new Hitler' or maybe, 'Died as he lived, helping everyone, a true hero who will go down in history' or, or-"
Stiles huffed, his breath leaving as a white cloud. He rubbed his hands together to little avail. When he'd set off this morning, trusty baseball bat in hand, he'd thought the worst of his problems would be the rogue Omega, Louis Gravel, who'd been planning to take out Derek and make his own pack here. What he hadn't anticipated was Louis to have friends, for a sudden snowstorm to hit Beacon Hills, and for said friends to split the pack up and draw them deep into the forest, deep into the blizzard. It was pure chance that Stiles had ended up with Derek, the both of them hot on the tail of Louis, and considering their current predicament, he was probably the worst person Derek could have ended up with. He hadn't even realised how far out Louis had lured them until the dude was dead, Derek was injured, and Stiles had no fucking clue where they were, or if the others were okay.
Still, at least he'd managed to drag Derek to this little cabin. Derek had been forced to break the lock, but Stiles didn't think anyone would mind. Judging from the cobwebs and lack of furniture, he doubted anyone would be coming here anytime soon.
Except for Scott, or Lydia, or Malia or… or just someone. Someone had to find them because, like he told Derek, this was not how he wanted to die.
"How're you feeling?" Stiles ended up asking, unable to bear the silence for more than a few minutes. "Wound finally healing?" He'd been worried when Derek's stomach hadn't been healing immediately from the knife it had taken, but he figured it must have just been the cold, or the accumulation of injuries Louis had landed before he got a claw to the throat. The sooner Derek healed, the sooner they could get out of here.
"Huh?" Stiles' head whipped up. "Not even a little bit?" He crossed the small space to Derek, looking down at the blood stained hand Derek had cradling his stomach.
"I think… I think there was wolfsbane on the knife. It's burning."
Stiles' mind went temporarily blank, before it was barraged by ideas, plans. Stiles may have been talking about death before, but it had always been in that 'haha this is a deadly situation but it's not like we're actually going to die' but this… this was serious. Wolfsbane meant Derek wouldn't heal. It meant they now had a deadline for help to come. Unless Stiles could think of something quick.
"We, we need to burn it out then. Which means we need fire. And for fire we need sticks. Sticks are outside so, so I should go outside and… and try to find some dry ones? You hold on here and I'll go look…"
"Stiles, wait." Derek latched onto his jacket with surprising strength. Even dying, Derek had twice the strength Stiles had. "There's not going to be anything out there. The only thing you'll do is freeze yourself."
"Okay, no one asked for your pessimism."
"Says the guy who was planning what would be on his gravestone."
"Yeah, that was back when I didn't know you'd been impaled with wolfsbane, when I didn't really, seriously think you, we, could die in here!" You'd think, after the number of near death experiences he'd gone through he'd be able to keep his voice less shrill.
A sudden shiver rippled through Stiles and he grit his chattering teeth, pulling his jacket tighter around himself. He'd been prepared for the cold weather, but just like he'd not been prepared for Louis to have friends, he'd not been prepared to get flung into the snow so hard it soaked him down to the bone. Plus, for baseball bat grip, he also hadn't bothered to put gloves on. To put it bluntly, Stiles was fucking freezing.
"You need to warm up," Derek said, watching Stiles with concern.
"I need to figure out how we're going to get the wolfsbane out of you. Or maybe how I can get my phone to get some signal."
"You're going to be no help if you get frostbite. Come here."
The corners of his eyes creasing in pain from the movement, Derek lifted his free arm upwards. The sort of move that would have been way more preferable had they been sat in the back row of a movie theatre.
"You're cold. I'm not."
"You're also severely injured and I do not think a spontaneous cuddle session is going to help that."
Cuddle session? Really brain? The minimal heat that was left in Stiles' body flooded upwards to his cheeks.
"Just don't press on my stomach and it's fine," Derek said dryly and really, how could Stiles object again without seeming like an asshole? It's not like he'd had fantasies about cuddling with Derek Hale, having romantic, late night take-aways in front of the TV…
So he had a tiny, minute crush on Derek. It wasn't a big deal. He could handle having Derek's arm around him for the purely logical reason of keeping Stiles from developing frostbite, or hypothermia, or whatever. It would mean Stiles could keep enough of his wits to try and think of a way to fix this.
Carefully, Stiles turned himself around so he could lean against Derek's outstretched arm. Out of pure courtesy, he left a few inches between them but Derek was having none of it, gripping Stiles' shoulder with his hand and tugging him closer. The entire left side of Stiles' torso was now pressed against burning heat. He knew werewolves ran warmer, had known that since he and Scott had bunked in the same bed after he got bitten and Stiles nearly got heatstroke, but against Stiles' frozen skin, Derek felt like a sauna. It was intense, but not unpleasant. In fact, if Stiles could just focus on the smell of Derek's sandalwood cologne beneath the cloying scent of dust and blood, he'd almost call this cosy.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Stiles asked, shifting slightly so he could get a better look at Derek's wound. There wasn't much he could see beneath Derek's red stained hand, but he could just make out a faint smudge of black.
"No, just… talk to me."
"I thought you told me to be quiet?" Stiles said, leaning back again, his neck resting against Derek's arm. His nails picked anxiously at the loose threads on his trousers.
"So now you actually want to be quiet?" Derek asked wryly.
"Okay, okay. Fine. What should I talk about? I could talk about how we're totally gonna get out of here alive. How one of the pack is gonna come through the door any moment now, have a lighter, and burn that motherfucking wolfsbane right out of you."
Maybe if he said it loud enough, believed hard enough, it would come true. Because if he really thought about their chances, Derek's especially, he would probably end up in a full blown panic attack and that would definitely help no one.
"Something else," Derek said, and yeah, okay, that was fair enough. He needed something good, something fun, to take their minds off the horrible, deadly predicament they were in…
"Where do you and Scott keep sneaking off to?"
"The past few weeks, you've been shiftier than normal. Not hanging around the pack as much. Scott's been going with you, too. Where?"
Stiles hadn't anticipated Derek actually noticing his absences and he floundered briefly, trying to come up with a good excuse.
He blamed it entirely on the cold that all that came out of his mouth was, "Nowhere."
"Stiles. I can hear your heartbeat."
Derek's mouth curled down in that all too familiar 'grr, I'm a big grumpy sourwolf' expression Stiles hated. He hated being the cause of it even more.
"Fine! It's for your birthday," Stiles ended up admitting.
Derek's expression morphed into confusion. "My birthday?"
"Yeah, the day you were born. Happens once a year." Stiles' teeth were beginning to chatter harder and he unconsciously tucked himself closer to Derek. Derek's arm tightened around him in response. "I was planning something super cool. Scott was with me because we were looking for venues. Someplace that wasn't just one of our houses because that's not super cool. Except, turns out that venues are kinda expensive and every time I told the owners how many of us would be there, they looked at me like I was crazy."
"Why?" Derek's voice was small and Stiles turned to him in alarm. His expression, if possible, displayed even more confusion, the sort that tugged on Stiles' heartstrings. It was the kind of look that said, "Why would you do this for me?"
"Well, I didn't actually know when your birthday was for like, 2 years, and then we've always been dealing with some big bad. This was the first year that, well, we shouldn't have been dealing with anything and I guessed that you probably hadn't celebrated your birthday properly in years. You're our alpha, I, we, wanted to do something for you, for once. You deserve it."
Maybe his brain was still a bit messed up. He needed to watch what he said, before he was too honest.
"I don't really like parties," Derek said, seemingly at a loss for anything else.
"I get that, which is why I wanted a big venue for us. That way it could have the traditional party section with the food, music and games. Then it'd also have this room where people could just hang out and chill when they needed a break. And it would have an outside area when you needed a break from the chill room, and I was gonna decorate it all fancy, with fairy lights and tulips cos their your favourite and finally, the evening would end with us all watching Batman Forever. So, uh, surprise?"
Derek was quiet for so long that Stiles started to worry he'd passed out. But no, upon checking with a small prod, it was evident that Derek was just deep in thought.
"Why Batman Forever?"
"Because you said it was one of your favourite films, but you hate watching it alone because you always used to watch it with your dad. Uh, I guess I just assumed you wouldn't mind watching it with us? You don't, do you? We can definitely watch something else if you do."
"No, I'd like to. I just didn't realise you remembered."
Stiles shrugged as much as he could. "I remember a lot of stuff," he said, in lieu of the honest answer, 'Of course I remembered, I want to know everything about you'. "Well, at least your birthday present will be a surprise."
"You don't have to get me a birthday present," Derek protested.
"I don't have to throw you an awesome birthday bash either but guess what, Derek, I want to. Like I said, after everything you've gone through, this is like the bare minimum of what you deserve. Let us celebrate you, do this for you. You're special to us, to me." Realising what he said, Stiles hastened to add, "In a totally normal way. Not normal, normal. You're a great guy, our alpha, which is cool and oh, I'm feeling a lot warmer now so I can just shift away from you a bit…"
"Stiles, shut up."
Shutting up didn't stop the tremors slide down his body in a full body shiver, completely countering what he'd just told Derek. Thankfully, Derek didn't fall for his half-assed lie for a second, barely letting Stiles move an inch from him.
"You're special to me too, you know," Derek said, so quietly Stiles almost missed it.
"This isn't some smoopy honesty time because you think you're on your deathbed, is it?" Stiles asked, because the more he focused on Derek, the more he noticed how Derek's eyes were beginning to flutter, how the skin around them was tightening. What worried Stiles most, however, was the colour of Derek's skin. It was getting even paler and the veins on his hands had a dark sheen to them. The wolfsbane, as small amount as it might have been, was moving. It was getting closer to his heart, and when it reached it…
"It's totally a word," Stiles replied automatically, his mind whirring. Maybe if he left now, he'd have time to try and find someone. God, why had he let Derek keep him here? He'd lost valuable time, all because he wanted to spend some time in Derek's arms. How selfish was he?
"Stop it, Stiles. I told you, you won't make it far out there. I'm fine."
"You are not fine, Derek!" Stiles exploded. "You're bleeding from the stomach, infected with wolfsbane which is slowly killing you, and now you're making smoopy confessions!"
"We've got through worse," Derek said, probably aiming for light but failing because the hand on his stomach was weakening it's hold. His eyes fluttered shut again, longer this time.
"This is not helping the situation at all and I swear, Derek Hale, if you don't open your eyes this minute I'll...I'll…"
"You'll what?" Derek asked, thankfully opening his eyes.
"I don't know! In every situation I've planned for, you dying has never been in them so I don't know what I'll do! So, so you're not allowed to die, do you hear me. At least, not until, not..argh!" Stiles hands flew to his hair, gripping so tightly that a few strands got ripped out. This was not how he wanted to tell Derek but how could he live with himself if he didn't and then Derek didn't make it. Even if the admission disgusted Derek, he couldn't deal with not knowing.
"Stiles? Not until what?"
"Not until I tell you I love you goddamn it!" Stiles yelled, eyes heavenword, beseeching to whatever God that it had got what they wanted. They had made Stiles say it, put him in an impossible situation. "You can't die until I tell you I love you and even then, you can't die. Even if you don't feel the same way, I need you to be alive. I need to be alive to, I don't know, avoid me forever and that would be okay, because you'd be alive and I'd be able to just, move on or something, because hell knows everyone I ever fall for never wants me back-"
"Stiles, shut up."
The rest of Stiles' monologue left him in a puff of air. "You really need a new catch-phrase," he said weakly, the fight in him gone. He focused intently on his shoes, the snow still crusting them.
"What I need is for you to, ah, listen to me."
Stiles heard more than he felt Derek move, and instantly forgetting how he was supposed to be avoiding looking at the other man, spun to him and said, "No, no, no, no moving."
"I'm okay," Derek said through gritted teeth as he lifted himself higher. The arm around Stiles moved so that they were facing each other. "I just need you to be quiet."
"Could have done that without you moving but oh look, this is me being quiet."
"Thank you," Derek said, panting slightly. "I...I didn't know you felt that way about me. I said listen, Stiles." At Derek's growl, Stiles' mouth snapped back shut. "But if I had maybe… maybe we wouldn't have missed out on so much time because I feel the same way, Stiles. I have for a while now. I just never assumed you would have felt the same way about me."
Stiles didn't dare believe what he was hearing. "Really?" He asked, "Because it kinda seems like you're drawing the short straw here."
"Seriously? You care so much about everyone, about the pack. As much as I do. You make me laugh, even when the situation isn't even remotely funny. You never forget me, even going as far as to throw me surprise birthday parties. You know me, more than anyone else has known me, but aren't put off. You make me a better person, a better leader. You can be annoying as hell but I don't know what I'd do without you. Without your brain, your kindness. And I'm not going to die Stiles, because I want to be with you. I want, argh-"
Whether it had been the change in position, or just the wolfsbane making its way further upwards, Derek had paled more than Stiles thought possible. His head was bent down and he was breathing hard. The arm that had been around Stiles fell, so both were wrapped around his stomach.
"Derek? Derek, talk to me. Remember what you literally just said. You're not going to die. So, so don't. Just breathe through it, Derek. The others are nearly here, I'm sure of it. Derek? Derek!"
Derek's arms had fallen limp, his head down like a snapped puppet string. Stiles could still hear him breathing, but it was faint now.
And it would only get fainter, until it was gone altogether.
"No. No way. This is not going to be how it ends," Stiles said. With one final look at Derek's crumpled form, Stiles pushed himself upwards and opened the door. Freezing cold air assaulted him but he ignored it, pushing through it and stepping outside.
"Scott!" Stiles yelled, his voice barely making a leaf rustle in the frozen forest. "Lydia, Erica! We're here! We're in a cabin. Derek, he's dying, you need to come quickly!"
Stiles ventured further outwards. His clothes, now dry but stuck to him like a second, frozen icy skin, did little to protect him from the bitter chill that sank in him to his bones.
"Isaac, Kira!" Stiles continued to scream out the names of his friends, his pack, as he shuffled through the snow. It might be a pointless effort, but he had to try. He couldn't just sit there and watch Derek die.
The snow, which had been strong when they first entered the forest, had only become more aggressive. It was buffeting him from all sides, each icy bullet slowing him down more and more. But he kept going, kept shouting because goddamn it, they both deserved a shot together.
"Scott! Seriously, anyone!" Stiles' voice grew hoarse and he tripped on something hidden in the snow, sending him tumbling down to the ground. Stiles grit his chattering teeth and pushed himself back up. He couldn't remember what it was like to not be shivering. But, he reminded himself. Shivering was good. It was when that stopped that he should worry.
"Malia! Boyd! Guys! Derek. Is Dying! Shit!" Stiles stumbled again, his movements jerky from the loss of sensation in his feet. He fell down, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a tree. Stiles collapsed against it, trying to rub warmth into his hands but there was no way he'd be able to generate enough energy for that.
"Shit. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Derek."
What if Derek was already dead? What if he'd managed to wake up one last time, and had spent his final moments thinking Stiles had abandoned him? Tears began to slide down Stiles' cheeks as he fell to the ground, his head resting against the rough bark of the tree. Well, maybe Stiles would be joining him soon. His hands were now bright red and like his feet, had lost all sensation. Was this frostbite? Or hypothermia? Or both?
Stiles' eyes shut against his will. He should have just stayed with Derek. At least then he would have had a final better sight than this…
"Stiles! Stiles, wake up!"
Stiles felt a hand slap against his cheek and his eyes opened wide. It took a few moments for his blurred vision to clear, but he saw no one against him. Feeling pressure all around him, he looked down and found himself nose to curly brown hair.
Stiles blinked, trying to understand just what was happening. He was hot, he knew that much, and it took him a couple of seconds to realise that was because he had Scott hugging him from the front, and Malia hugging him from the back, all three of them kneeling in the snow. He struggled to remember why this was happening, when it suddenly hit him.
"Guys, Derek. He's, he's in a cabin. Not too far from here. There was wolfsbane in the omega's knife. He got stabbed. I-"
"It's okay, Stiles," Scott interrupted. "Kira and Isaac are there burning it out now. We got there just in time. We heard you calling. I'm sorry we didn't get here sooner. The blizzard, it wiped out your scents and we all got dragged out so far away from you guys. But then Kira heard you and we managed to find the cabin and then you. Shit Stiles, you were so cold."
"But not now," Malia said, nuzzling the back of his neck.
The relief that Derek was going to be okay wiped out the adrenaline that had shot through him. He fell back against Malia who supported him easily and breathed out slowly. Sensations in his hands had mostly returned but he still felt like he could pass out again.
No, he had to see Derek first. Had to see with his own two eyes that he was okay.
"Take me to him?" He asked and both Scott and Malia nodded. Scott released him first, and before Stiles could miss the loss of heat against his torso, was suddenly picked up in a bridal carry. He might have objected, if not for the fact that this was not the first time Malia had carried him this way, he would probably fall over again if left to walk on his own and it was actually pretty comfortably in Malia's arms.
The journey to the cabin was short, making Stiles wonder how it could have felt so long when he set off alone. Soon enough, Scott was opening the door and Malia was carrying him into the cabin. Three pairs of eyes looked up as he entered, but Stiles only saw Derek. He asked Malia to put him down and hobbled his way over to Derek, in the space Kira and Isaac had formed for him. The scent of ash was strong in the air, and Derek was looking noticeably healthier already, his eyes wide and alert...and full of concern, and maybe a bit of fear.
"Stiles, you idiot. You could have died out there!"
"Yeah, well, you were dying and I'd say it was worth it, wouldn't you?"
Though he clearly wanted to, Derek couldn't argue with that. He sighed, rubbing a hand across his face. "Still, it was stupid."
"Stupid, heroic. Same thing, right?"
A small smile lit up Derek's face. It was the most beautiful thing Stiles had seen in a long time. "Sure."
"And," Stiles added, feeling emboldened by the fact that they were both here and alive, "since I saved your life, I think that maybe deserves a reward. Don't you think?"
Derek made a point of looking behind him and Stiles turned his head to find Scott, Malia, Kira and Isaac all trying to look busy in conversation. It could have worked, except Stiles could clearly hear Scott just going through the Taco Bell menu.
Isaac saw him watching and, with a faint blush said, "We should head back outside. Try to find the others and make arrangements for getting back. And keep watch. From outside."
Stiles could have kissed Isaac, if not for the fact that there was another set of lips he wanted to kiss a hell of a lot more. With the other four outside and occupying themselves, Stiles faced Derek, suddenly way more nervous than he had been moments ago. Stiles had kissed people before, lots more than he'd ever actually expected to, but none of those people had mattered as much as Derek did. Now he was wondering if he was even good at kissing. How did you even kiss? It was just a press of lips right? What could go wrong? Oh, that was just asking for something to go wrong. What if Derek hated it and took everything he said back?
"So, you, uh, want that reward?" The tip of Derek's nose was bright pink, the colour bleeding outwards. It was adorable, and immediately settled some of Stiles' nerves.
"If you insist," Stiles said, leaning forward. His heart was fluttering inside his chest, and he didn't know what to do with his hands, but thankfully Derek did. He placed them on Stiles face, cradling it so there was only a few centimetres between them.
"Are we really doing this?" Derek asked, his voice almost breathless. "Things will change. You will change. You'll be my second. My mate."
"I'm game if you are," Stiles replied, voice equally breathless.
"I am," Derek said, sure, and then...then they were kissing and it was possible the most glorious thing Stiles had ever experienced. Derek's lips were dry, the ground was uncomfortable, and Stiles still felt more than a little woozy but this was him, kissing Derek. Him, finally kissing the guy he loved, who liked him back. It was better than anything his imagination had conjured.
They broke apart before things got heated and rested their foreheads against each other. Derek's hand moved so it held Stiles' neck with a reassuring pressure.
"I am so, so glad we didn't die," Stiles said and Derek let out a quiet laugh.
"Me too. Thank you, Stiles."
"Anytime Derek. Anytime."